I snapped at my boss, is it okay to use color on a resume, and more

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

1. Is it okay to use color on a resume?

I just started creating my resume using a template from a friend. My wife was looking over my shoulder and said you never use color of any kind on a resume. I really see nothing wrong with it, since the color is so subtle. Can you settle our disagreement?

It depends on the color and how you’re using it.

Loads of not-otherwise-especially-traditional hiring managers, myself included, are still very traditional when it comes to resumes and wish that everyone would just stick to a traditional format and stop trying to find ways to mess with it. That said, a little bit of subtle color isn’t going to kill anyone … as long as it’s a conservative color like red or blue and is confined to things like headlines. Be aware, though, that plenty of electronic application systems will strip it out anyway.

2. I had a weird scene with my overly fastidious, controlling boss

I am a freelancer who, for the last five years, has primarily worked with one organization. I go into the corporate office twice a week, and the other days I work from home. My boss is a kind, caring person at heart, but is highly fastidious, bordering on controlling, as well as extremely sensitive to her environment. Strange smells, changes in temperature, any kind of noise at all will start her talking about “how difficult it is” and how “it needs to be resolved.”  She is also very “aware” of the mood of the room, and seeks to constantly check that everyone is okay. I understand that she cares about others, but on another level, she is trying to control me, and others, and the cleanliness of her environment in order that she get’s her “emotional” peace and quiet (her need to have her environment very orderly seems to give her that). She doesn’t seem to be able to just ignore things.

Today I snapped over something fairly inconsequential but annoying, and I feel bad about it, as I know she is very sensitive and I don’t want her to think I’m unpleasant or against her. She picked up some folders I had placed on the floor under my desk and moved them. I asked her if there was a problem with having them there, and she said the floor was dirty. It wasn’t; in fact, the cleaner had mopped it yesterday. I responded a little bluntly that it was fine to leave them there, and I put them back on the floor. She immediately got quiet, then angry, and then upset (over a half hour period). She didn’t say anything to me during the time she was upset and angry; I could just feel her emotional state. She said a few things as if she was trying to pretend everything was okay. As I had only intended to come in for a few hours, to work on something quickly I left a short while later (earlier than I had intended), and so the situation remains unresolved.

I still don’t really know why she felt the need to move things around in my area…. whether, she genuinely thought she was doing me a favor by moving them, or if it was part of her need to tidy. I’d like to briefly talk to her about it, as it’s something she frequently does, but I’m not sure how. In some ways I think she is convinced she is “helping people.” Overall she is quite a good boss, although very highly strung and a bit of a hyper-empath. As I am a freelancer, albeit one with very steady, regular work, I guess I feel more vulnerable too. I know she is happy with my work, but I am concerned she may start to sour on me. What do you suggest?

If this is her style, there might not be a whole lot that you can do about it. As you point out, she’s high-strung, overly controlling of the environment (and the constant checking of whether people are okay is part of that), and sensitive. Additionally, you’re only there a couple of days a week, so she has “dibs” on how she wants the environment to be. Given that, I don’t there’s much you can do about the broader issues.

That said, it’s reasonable to follow up on what happened today. The next time you talk to her, I’d say something like, “I might have misinterpreted, but when I was in the office the other day, I got the sense that you didn’t like that I put those folders back on the floor under my desk. Did I misstep?”

She will probably tell you that she doesn’t like having things on the floor (I suspect she is someone who considers the floor inherently dirty, no matter how recently it was cleaned), and if that’s the case … well, it’s her call. I understand why you snapped at her about it — I’m sure your frustration has been building up — but ultimately she does get to make that call. You could try saying, “Do you mind if I keep stuff there in the future? It’s a system that works for me.” But I’m pretty sure that she doesn’t want things on the floor, and she wants you to go along with that. The bigger issue is clearing the air from the weird scene today, and hopefully raising it in a calm, non-defensive way should do that.

3. What to say to a racist coworker

We have a new hire who is very young and a bit facile. I’m not her manager, just a coworker. I have been helping train her. She is my counterpart in another program.

She makes so many ignorant and offensive comments regarding race that it puts quite a few people off at the office. The first time I heard her, I didn’t even know how to react because I didn’t think people still thought that way. I don’t think she does it out of hate, I think she does it because she’s ignorant and was raised in an atmosphere where it was accepted. It’s not accepted here and I want to approach her about it before she ends up hurting someone.

How should I approach this? One coworker ignores her, another talks about her behind her back, and another told her she was the most racist person she knew. However, none of that really works toward a resolution. Please help! Do I just let her sink and be offensive?

You must, must, must say something. By not speaking up, you’re allowing her to think that you’re okay with what she’s saying — and possibly allowing anyone else who overhears her to think that too.

Her motivations — the question of whether it’s hatred or ignorance — don’t really matter here, and in fact will only distract you from the piece of this that you need to address. What matters is that she hear in clear and certain terms that what she is saying is ugly, offensive, and unwelcome.

I’d say this: “I want to talk to you about something that’s really been bothering me. When you’ve made remarks like X and Y, I should have spoken up in the moment. Those statements are not appropriate to make here. Please don’t continue saying things like that.” (And if she does continue, you should report it to someone in a position of authority over her; your company has an interest in not letting her create a hostile workplace.)

4. Can I get copies of my past performance evaluations?

Can I receive a copy of my reviews for the last 6 years? Is that required by law in the state of Georgia? For five years, our reviews were done without getting employees’ signature, because nobody actually saw their review in writing.

Some state laws require employees to have access to their personnel records, but Georgia isn’t one of them. In Georgia, as in many other states, no law gives you the right to see your own personnel file (unless you’re a public sector worker, in which case you can both review and copy it). However, that doesn’t mean you can’t ask — plenty of companies wouldn’t object to giving you copies of your own evaluations. In your case, though, it sounds like written evaluations may not even exist; if you didn’t see them, there’s a good chance that they were never created. Not every company does formal, written reviews as a matter of course, and if you haven’t been told that your company does, I would assume that it doesn’t. (If written reviews DO exist, keeping them secret would be unusual.)

5. Why do I have to upload a resume and enter all my info separately?

It’s been a few years since I was on the job market. The last time I was applying for jobs, I still printed out and mailed resumes and cover letters. Now it seems everything is online. I don’t have a problem with this, but what is beginning to irritate me is the fact that many companies ask for you to upload a resume and cover letter and on the very next screen ask for that same exact information in text boxes. Is this just so a computer can scan through everything and mark me as a good candidate based on the words I put in the boxes? As a job seeker, this process is exceptionally frustrating and feels like a complete waste of my time. Why bother even asking me to upload a resume in the first place if I just have to re-type and re-format it on the next screen? Can you provide some insight?

Yeah, it’s annoying. Uploading your resume is good because it allows you to present your info the way you want it. On top of that, though, companies who insist that you then enter all that information separately as well are doing it to ensure that receive all of the information they want (because not everyone includes every field that their system is going to ask you for, or doesn’t include it in the format they want it in). And yes, sometimes it’s to assist them in doing early-stage screening automatically (although that’s far less common than people fear it is).

{ 224 comments… read them below }

  1. PEBCAK

    #1) If you are submitting electronically and the hyperlinks to your email and/or website turn blue, I think that’s normal and accepted. On a paper copy, it looks weird to me.

    1. ella

      I always undo the automatic formatting that underlines and blues hypertext. I hate that Word does that. When you’re in school and handing in a paper with twenty sources and Word wants to underline the URLs in all of them and you just want your bibliography to be easy to read….rawr.

      I would stick to black just because I don’t know (as Eric mentions below) if the hiring folks are printing in black and white, and you want your resume to be as readable as possible whether it stays on a screen or gets printed or whatever.

      1. Liz

        If you don’t want Word to do that, go to File > Options > Proofing > Autocorrect Options > AutoFormat As You Type and uncheck the box for “Internet and network paths with hyperlinks”. (That’s for Office 2010, but it’ll be in a similar place for other recent editions.)

        1. Lore

          Make sure you do that when you have a blank document open, though–otherwise it will only change that setting for the document you have open at the time. (And even if you do think you’re changing your default preferences, they will often revert when you do a software update. Or just because they feel like it.)

          1. jag

            I approach if differently than Liz – I allow the hyperlinks but edit the style for them so they are in the normal (black) text and turn off underlining.

            It’s usually fine that they are links, but it’s the appearance I want to change.

  2. Eric

    #1 I also would recommend against it. But if you are going to, make sure you check what happens if it is printed in black and white. I do the first-pass review of resumes printed from our black and white printer, if something is in yellow or light blue or something, I may not be able to read it or even realize that something is missing.

    1. Jessica

      yes, I was going to say the same thing. Color may show up as light grey or not show up at all when printed, so that would be bad if you are using it to highlight the most important parts of your resume.

      1. jag

        And I find it hard to imagine a red headline (which AAM suggested as possibly OK) that looks serious. Perhaps a dark, dull brick would be OK.

        But in general, avoid red for text for something that needs to look serious. On-screen it’s loud and in print it’s too light.

        1. Kelly L.

          Well, I’ve worked places where there was red in the logo and it was on all the letterhead. And it looked as serious as anything else. But I think the biggest danger is that it will print too pale if the employer uses a B&W printer.

          1. jag

            By text I meant the text of the document. If someone said “can you send me the text of that letter” do you think they mean to include the letters in the logo?

            Red in a logo is fine. Not sure if any resumes have logos though….

            1. Kelly L.

              I was definitely thinking logos on resumes too. I’ve seen a lot of people design a “letterhead” for themselves that had, say, their last initial in pretty font and some design elements at the top of the page.

      1. CTO

        I think most color-blind folks would be able to see the text just fine, but they might see it as different colors than the author anticipated. For instance, my husband is partially color-blind and can’t always distinguish between certain shades of green and brown, or blue and purple. But he can read any color text just fine.

        1. Colette

          I was thinking of something like a light color on a white or gray background – I’m not sure how that would appear to someone with various forms of color blindness. I’m hardly an expert, though – maybe there is no issue at all.

          1. CTO

            Yes, I bet a light color on a light background is hard for a lot of people to read, color-blindness or no! As much as that seems like an obvious “don’t do that on a resume” I’m sure people do it anyway.

        2. HM in Atlanta

          My last CIO was red/green colorblind, and found it very hard to read things that were in green. He could tell something was there, but not enough to read it. When printed, many times the green turned grey (which caused a different readability problem).

    2. CAA

      Some links to Microsoft’s resume templates for illustration.

      This is OK:
      http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/results.aspx?qu=resume&queryid=741a3846-e5c6-46f2-ab23-75ff648d5969&vtags=Resume#ai:TC102918880|
      or this:
      http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/results.aspx?qu=resume&queryid=741a3846-e5c6-46f2-ab23-75ff648d5969&vtags=Resume#ai:TC101794867|

      This is not OK:
      http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/results.aspx?qu=resume&queryid=741a3846-e5c6-46f2-ab23-75ff648d5969&vtags=Resume#ai:TC101773078|
      and especially not this:
      http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/results.aspx?qu=resume&queryid=741a3846-e5c6-46f2-ab23-75ff648d5969&vtags=Resume#ai:TC010192746|

        1. Fabulously Anonymous

          Just a guess, but back in the “old days” when we put paper in filing folders and put those folders in filing cabinets, all of the documents turned to the side. If there is writing on the side it’s easier to read when it is in the filing cabinet.

        2. CAA

          Hah! I didn’t even notice the name was sideways. I was just going “big orange stripe and ball — wow is that distracting and who on earth thought it was a good enough resume design to include it in MS Office?”

          I think the takeaway is don’t trust your word processing software to format your resume, apply your own critical eye.

      1. Allison

        And drop the objectives on all of those, obviously. Surprised their templates still have them.

    3. Frances

      This. One of our freelancers formats her invoice in a light blue shade that looks lovely and plenty dark enough on a computer screen, but when I print it out in black and white, you can barely read the text in that shade (thankfully the important details of the invoice she leaves in black text).

  3. K

    #2 – Your boss has all the hallmarks of an anxiety disorder. If she does things that seem odd and controlling it’s because she’s trying to calm herself down in the only way she knows how. Alison’s advice is perfect, but if your boss starts grating on your nerves you’re best off looking for work somewhere else.

    1. Chloe

      I agree. I feel sorry for both you and your boss. She is obviously very, very uncomfortable with certain things. Most people would be able to supress the urge to move your folders, that she can’t says she really is not in control of this issue.

      For what its worth, I would never, ever put folders on the floor (I personally feel that the floor is for feet and not much else, I can’t stand it when my kids throw clothes or books on the floor, but I know not everyone feels that way), but unless they were actually my files, I wouldn’t insist on you moving them.

      I wonder if it would help to think of this as something that probably rules this woman’s life and actually causes her more grief than anyone else. It might make it less annoying for you, if you see it from that perspective.

      Tricky situation though, I really feel for you both.

      1. Vicki

        The floor _is_ inherently dirty, especially in an office building. People walk on it, drop things on it, spill things on it. It may have been vacuumed last night or mopped this morning but that doesn’t make it “clean”.

        Also, if your borderline (or over the line) OCD boss moved the folders, putting them back immediately where they were can be seen as passive-aggressive controlling on your part. Don’t do that. If you really feel that you must put something on the floor, wait until after the boss leaves. (Boss, co-worker, or anyone, “I put it here; she moves it there” becomes a power game. Don’t start one.)

        1. teclatwig

          +1 on putting the files back. Your boss doesn’t want them on the floor. You put them back, why? To show her she’s not the boss of you?

          I don’t mean to sound snarky, and I can hear that this had been a challenging situation for you. But I hear a lot of judgment and an implication that she should suck it up and just let go of the various environmental things she’s trying to control. Whether she has OCD, anxiety disorder, sensory processing issues, or just a hypersensitive nervous system, these things truly bother her, and, hey, she’s the boss, she gets to set the standard. You get to set boundaries, and then decide what to do if she won’t or can’t respect them.

          With the files (which I am sure was a straw/camel situation), I can see setting a boundary of “Having control over my space and my processes is important to me; I put those files there for a reason, and if they need to be moved, I would prefer to be the one to move them. In the future, if something in my office space bothers you, could you please let me know the problem and allow me to propose a solution?”

          Don’t get me wrong, I sympathize with your frustration over her moving your files, and can imagine responding by putting them back (reclaiming power over my space). However, like your boss, I need lots of control over my space, and so my response would be hostility at the idea of someone interfering with my visual “filing” system (in true ADHD fashion, I fear losing/forgetting things if I can’t see them) for a reason that seemed petty or irrelevant.

          1. teclatwig

            Oops, I didn’t finish my thought about boundaries. If your boss’s sensitivities and compulsions are too frustrating to work with, and/or if she can’t respect boundaries regarding not actively handling your stuff, you have a very valid reason to look for work elsewhere.

    2. Kimberly

      I concur. As someone who suffers from OCD, this sounds like something I would do. There’s just a part of your brain that says “no, no this shouldn’t happen” and you can’t shut it up until you fix the problem, which for her might be getting the folders off the floor.

      For context, my brain tells me that even if I try on clothes for a few seconds, they are immediately soiled and I can not wear them again without washing them and they can not touch my clean clothes or I will have to wash those too. I totally get the “dirty by transferance, even if not technically dirty” thing.

      1. MK

        Yes, but the workplace floor being “dirty by transferance” is an objective reality, not just something this manager’s brain is (might be) telling her. Unless everyone who comes into the OP’s office changes their shoes, the floor is, well, maybe not dirty, but not exactly clean either. I might put things on the floor at my house, but not at work..

        On the other hand, the manager’s reaction was a bit OCD. And I think I understand the OP’s reaction, because the whole thing was somewhat insulting; it might not have been the manager’s intention, but she was basically questioning the OP’s cleanliness.

        On the other, other hand, unless the OP really needed the files to be on the floor, her reaction to return them there was not the most mature thing to do.

        1. fposte

          I wasn’t clear whose folders these were, either. If they’re the organization’s–in other words, the manager’s–she has every right to say that she doesn’t want them on the floor.

          1. Cat

            But I think the manager handled it poorly (which might be understandable, but still). She could have said “sorry, I’m not trying to nitpick you, but I have a *thing* about files being on the floor; I’m going to move them,” and it probably would have been fine.

            I don’t know if the manager really was upset for hour afterwards or if that was projection on the part of the OP but, if so, that’s not really great either.

            1. OP #2

              They were the organization’s files.. But I am of the mind that you ask first too! And other people put things on the floor where I work. She does this more to me I think because I am situated close to where she sits, so my area has become an extension of her area.

              1. Jazzy Red

                You poor thing – you’re working for Monk. On one hand (the really nice one), she can’t help it. On the other hand (the reality based one) it drives other people nuts. From what I’ve observed over the years, people like that do not think about other peoples’ feelings or preferences, only about themselves. Nice Hand says again, they can’t help it. Reality Hand says either accept it or get a new job/boss, but don’t stew over it every time she starts up. It’s not worth you getting tense.

          2. neverjaunty

            Sure, but there’s a difference between a manager saying “Please don’t leave files on the floor – if you’re out of room on your desk, let’s talk about getting you a storage rack/desk drawers” and a massive anxiety reaction because the files are touching something ‘dirty’.

            1. fposte

              I definitely agree that the boss should have said something rather than just moving stuff in other people’s areas. I’m not seeing a massive anxiety reaction described here, though–the OP has described the boss as being anxious, but the reaction itself didn’t seem to be massive or anxious, simply explanatory.

        2. ella

          The floor is probably dirty, but the dirt is almost certainly not going to hurt you, unless you’re immunocompromised or something. The manager’s perception of objective reality may be correct, but her perception of objective consequences to that reality sounds a little bit skewed.

          1. fposte

            She didn’t say it was going to hurt anybody or offer any consequences, though; she just said the floor was dirty.

            1. neverjaunty

              No, she just picked up and moved OP #2’s files. It wasn’t until OP #2 asked if there was a problem that the manager THEN said that the floor was dirty.

              If my boss told me “Please don’t leave your files on the floor”, I’d certainly move them, or discuss why they’re on the floor in the first place. But I’d be pretty PO’d if my boss just came in and moved my stuff around, especially if he didn’t say something first.

              I agree that it sounds like OP #2’s boss has an anxiety disorder and isn’t simply being controlling. On the other hand, imagine if she did this to an employee who ALSO had an anxiety disorder. Boss comes over and starts moving around your carefully-placed, perfectly sorted filing system?!

              1. Ethyl

                That was my immediate thought too. So Boss has A Thing about files being on the floor, but I have A Thing about people moving and touching my stuff. So I guess my boss’s anxiety disorder trumps mine?

                1. fposte

                  Yup. Especially when you’re a freelancer and the stuff is actually the workplace’s and not yours.

                2. neverjaunty

                  You keep bringing up “it’s their files” and I’m not understanding why. Even assuming the files are in fact all company stuff, it’s still odd and a little rude for the boss to just walk in and move things around. Regardless of who “owns” the files, OP is using them.

                  Office supplies and computer equipment also belong to the company, but I hope we would all agree it would be not SOP for a boss to walk in and, without a word, pick up your computer monitor and move it to a different part of your desk.

                  Also, especially as OP is a freelancer those may NOT all be the company’s files, but OP’s work product, portfolio, etc. I’m not a freelancer and I still use work I have prepared on my own or samples I have gotten elsewhere. Those things don’t become company property because they touched the floor.

                3. fposte

                  As I said, I think the boss should have said something first. But ultimately where the boss wants the files does indeed matter more than where the employee wants the files; that goes quadruple in this case since we’re talking a client and not a boss.

                  (And people move stuff around in my office with some frequency. Are there really workplaces where individual desks are inviolate?)

                4. MK

                  I don’t think the ownership of the files trumps the manager’s right to regulate the working environment. Even if the files were the OP’s, the manager has a right to demand that the material used in her office are in X condition.

                5. Jillociraptor

                  It’s not about “trumps” though, and this is not about the files. This is about two people with a communication challenge who aren’t getting what they need. Normative arguments about the fundamental rightness of files on the floor or stuff-touching aren’t helpful because what’s ultimately going to solve the problem is the OP and the boss understanding each other better: moving beyond the surface problem to get at how the OP can avoid getting to the point of extreme frustration and how the boss might communicate her concerns better so that her team understands where she’s coming from.

                6. OP #2

                  Thanks Jillociraptor. Yes, it’s more than just the specific incident that occurred last week (we obviously both had our reasons for doing what we did, and neither of us dealt with it that well) …. although I will address this with her as Alison suggested. Hopefully doing so will help both of us to chill out a bit about things that come up in the future.

          2. MK

            Except in extreme circumstances dirt doesn’t immediately cause disease; that doesn’t mean people who object to it are unreasonable. The manager didn’t claim the dirt on the files would hurt her health, she just didn’t like the idea that these files would be on the trodden-by-the-shoes-of-X-number-of-people floor and then be handed around to herself and her employees.

      2. Valar M.

        Yep. Came here to say just that, though I don’t want to assume too much based on a few sentences on the internet. She might have felt compelled to do it as a result of the anxiety, but still felt weird doing it, and you snapping at her made her feel guilty and upset. It also might make it difficult to “clear the air” with her if she is feeling weird/guilty about it, so try not to worry too much about what you can do.

      3. Gene

        Just curious, how do you buy clothes? How do you get fittings for a custom suit, something that needs tailoring, or something like a wedding dress?

    3. Andrea

      Well, the floor IS inherently dirty! That’s why it has to be cleaned every day. And no one can wear Outside Shoes while inside, they should wear Inside Shoes while inside, and Inside Shoes cannot touch outside, ever. And the dog’s paws must be wiped when she comes inside from her walk, and there’s a stack of clean, folded hand towels in the pretty basket by the door, right under the leash hook, and don’t forget to put the towel in the bathroom hamper after cleaning the dog’s feet, but only after you’ve traded your Outside Shoes for Inside Shoes before you step out of the entryway.

      That is all.

      1. Lisa

        Okay, this made me laugh.

        Re: the folders on the floor: I would have had to install a full-size refectory table in my home office if I wanted to keep my work off the floor. When I’m working on anything that’s got multiple moving parts, I end up with a semicircle of piles around me (all neatly labelled & flagged, but piles nonetheless). I’ve been known to do the same at work as well, but only when I didn’t have access to a long table… maybe OP#2 needs a larger workspace? Could she and the boss work that compromise out?

        1. OP #2

          I wish! I don’t need a lot of room really. It was just that day I needed more space…it’s her overall attitude I think that I’m just going to have to accept, because even if I were to have a larger desk she would still hover!

  4. Carolum

    1 – A little color could go a long way in branding yourself. Like Alison said, though, keep it to the headline.

    3 – How sad that racism’s still a problem. But all humans do have biases – even people who think they don’t have racist attitudes, are later found to have such attitudes (thanks to science).

    1. fposte

      I don’t think it really would succeed in branding you unless everything you did was in that color, though, and I really don’t want to read a cover letter in colored ink. And honestly, for most jobs branding yourself matters a lot less than being clear and compellingly qualified.

      1. jag

        “I don’t think it really would succeed in branding you unless everything you did was in that color, though, and I really don’t want to read a cover letter in colored ink. ”

        It’s quite possible to use color for branding without using the color on text – for example, using color in rules or as a graphic accent, such as in bullets.

        1. fposte

          Branding is admittedly a pretty vague term in these contexts, but I think it’s a stretch to consider a one-off encounter with a colored heading to have created an applicant’s brand in a hiring manager’s mind. It may feel like a brand to the applicant, who has sent out a ton of resumes in that format, but it’s not going to be strongly associated with you as an individual when I read it in the pile.

          1. Kelly L.

            I agree. And once you’re working there, you’ll be using the company’s letterhead and format, so it’ll be hard to continue that “brand” into the actual job.

            1. fposte

              I was thinking more about this and I suspect that there’s some attempt to shift “branding” in applicant terms to mean “standing out” rather than “creating an identity.” Unfortunately, I think that waters down a notion that’s already a little unsupported and risks taking it into areas that are counterproductive.

              Small touches of color on a resume are fine, but that’s as part of designing a clear and well-formatted resume, not as something that will in its own right boost your candidacy.

              1. A Cita

                This is correct. The use of color on resumes is not branding. Branding is an involved process, which requires (if it’s any good) research, brand discovery, design, testing, etc. It’s a much larger identity concept, not a decorative embellishment.

          2. jag

            Depends on the field. If someone includes a links to blog or website on their resume, and that online material is coordinated visually (in terms of color, type, etc) with the resume, that’s a win in any creative or even user-experience oriented profession.

            It shows an attention to detail, even if not obvious. We might not thing, “Oh blue-colored rules, that’s that person Jimmy” but on some level the consistency is valuable. Same reason it’s unwise to have different fonts in a cover letter and resume (assuming the cover letter is sent as an attachment).

            I know there’s a lot of dislike of the word “branding” here, but creating a personal visual style and sticking to it consistently is a good thing. And one description for that is “brand consistency” even if the brand is not known or obvious.

    2. E

      I think it’s worth remembering that many cover letters are read printed, and generally are not printed in color.

        1. Kelly L.

          It’s the same reason heavy paper doesn’t really help anymore. Most places want it emailed instead of sent hard copy, and once they get it in email, they print it. B&W on regular copy paper.

  5. Carolum

    Removed because it’s off-topic. Carolum, I try to keep comments here on the topic of the post because otherwise the comment section will become unwieldy. You can submit it as a question to me or post it in Friday’s open thread. Thank you!

  6. Newsie

    #5, I had to upload my resume, reconfigure it via the computer application, then, after being accepted into second round, do ANOTHER 12 page computer application. (This was an internal application)

    1. LisaLisa

      I once had to upload a resume, reconfigure it via computer, was then asked to send another digital copy via email to the internal recruiter when I did the initial screening interview and then got chewed out the by the HR interviewer when I didn’t bring a printed copy to the first in-person interview (that I didn’t know I was having with her — thought I was just having an interview with the hiring manager although that’s not an excuse not to have the resume, though I couldn’t fathom how they could not have a copy at that point!) They really wanted every possible version of my resume!

    2. OP #5

      Ugh, 12 pages? I did two this weekend that were about 7 and I thought that was brutal. Congrats on getting to round 2, though!

    3. Kelly L.

      The worst for me was one where I hit surprise essay questions about 10 pages in. I wanted to think about my answers, so I saved what I could and took a break. When I got back to the computer, it had timed me out. It never would let me back in to either complete or delete my app–it just left it in limbo forever and didn’t let me access it again. I did not end up working there.

      1. MaryMary

        Ugh, yes, I’ve hd that happen to me too. If you’re going to have a multi-step application including essay/short answer interview questions a) warn applicants when they begin the process, and 2) re-consider having the application time out after half an hour.

        1. Kelly L.

          Yes! If it had just said at the beginning, “This application will contain essay questions,” I would have started it when I was ready to write an essay.

      2. OP #5

        I’ve had that happen too. It was at the end of an already grueling online application. It was not appreciated. Why do employers do such things!?

    4. manybellsdown

      I get frustrated when the sites are – upload your resume, link to your Linkedin page, and then type all the information from those two places into the next 8 pages of little boxes. Especially since I’m only looking for part-time work at the moment, and many of these jobs are barely over minimum wage. It almost seems like the less well-paid the job is, the more hoops required to apply.

  7. Perpetua

    #1 – I agree with Alison that it depends on the way it’s used, although I might be more on the side of liking a touch of color on the resume, IF done well. I have an “accent” color (turquoise) on mine – used for a simple symbol-like thingy in the heading and for accentuating section titles. It looks good even when printed in black and white (appears just a bit lighter tham the rest of the text), and I haven’t heard of a system around here that strips away color completely, although it might be good to keep in mind.

    I’ve often gotten compliments on my resume and I believe that those bits of color help show a hint of personality (although they are by far less important than the overall quality and readability).

    1. Jen RO

      I also like a bit of color in resumes (black + 1 more color, not a rainbow). I always like to receive a resume that looks nice, in addition to having all the right information.

      1. fposte

        I like a nice-looking resume too, and I think Perpetua’s sounds particularly attractive. I just don’t think it provides the kind of individual identity that “branding” traditionally has meant even when I do see the resume directly–what I’m putting in my notes and committing to memory isn’t the formatting but at best a bump from being generally polished in your presentation. And then there’s the fact that a good portion of the time I’m not seeing it directly so the color wouldn’t be in it anyway.

        1. Perpetua

          I like your wording and agree that it mostly helps to add to the polished feeling. There may be another perspective here as well – as an applicant, I felt much better (even slightly more confident) having a resume I truly liked and felt even proud of, and that’s a nice feeling to have, even when you know that it may not make a significant difference.

          In other words, I’d say that not having a color is definitely not something one should worry about if they’re not interested in it otherwise, but that it is perfectly fine to use it sparingly if you like it and feel good about it.

        2. Jen RO

          Oh, I wasn’t thinking about branding in any way, shape or form. I just like pretty resumes (and having a good-looking resume – using styles instead of in-line formatting, etc – is a plus in field).

          1. fposte

            Yeah, sorry, just stuck on ideas from earlier comments. (And plus I love turquoise, so Perpetua’s notion appealed to me immediately.)

    2. AnonAnalyst

      Totally agree, although I’m also biased toward having an accent color as I have a dark royal blue on my resume for the heading and section titles. In addition to helping it stand out a little and giving it some personality (I think, anyway) , I like it because I feel like it visually breaks up sections more clearly than same-color titles would and makes it a little easier to read, particularly if you’re skimming resumes.

  8. PuppyKat

    Regarding #5: I understand that another reason companies require that you input your information (even when it’s all there on your resume) is because you add your electronic signature on the application. That way you’re signing off that it’s correct and true.

    1. Elysian

      I don’t know if that’s true, but if it is that’s silly. It’s just as easy to say that all the information you’ve submitted is true and correct, and that would include any documents you submit.

      1. OP #5

        When I’ve been submitting applications, the electronic signature page is usually a separate page. I don’t know if that makes a difference. Much of the information could be verified anyway with a quick google search of my not-very-common name.

    2. Marcy

      We do require the electronic signature but it is mostly what Alison wrote- we need information that isn’t in the resume. HR needs to know things like exact dates of previous employment and hours/week worked. They need this to determine if the applicant meets the minimum qualifications of the job as far as years of employment in the field. It also makes them tell us what their degree is in. I can’t tell you how many times I have received an application where the applicant does not have the required degree for the field and they try to hide it on their resume by calling it a “B.S.” without indicating any major. I am glad the application makes them enter the major because I don’t want to waste my time on someone who can’t be hired for the job. We don’t require a resume to be uploaded but as a hiring manager, I appreciate when it is because I can share those with my staff when they sit in on interviews with me. I don’t like to share applications because they contain more sensitive information such as criminal history, previous salaries, etc.

  9. James M

    #3: Racism is always rooted in ignorance; hatred can be related, but is not required. But really, there are two angles you can take on this issue. Either frame it a AAM suggests and tell your coworker that racist remarks are neither appropriate nor appreciated or tell your coworker that her racist remarks are causing tension and earning her a very unflattering reputation.

    #5: Go back and look at some of AAM’s “Do Not Do This On A Resume Ever!” articles… then imagine the resumes (plural) that might have prompted each bullet point. That might give you a better idea as to why online applications demand you fill 1001 text fields but may or may not accept a resume/cover letter.

    Otoh, in this day and age, I would expect an application system to attempt to prefill boxes from the uploaded resume.

    1. Helka

      #3 – Why would you suggest an either/or on those pieces of advice? They’re both entirely true, and don’t seem to create any kind of dissonance.

      1. OhNo

        While you could definitely use both together, sometimes people will respond to one better than the other. If the coworker is racist AND doesn’t think that’s a problem at all, then the second statement might work better because it focuses on the impact to them, specifically.

        I’ve definitely met some racists who have the “I don’t care if other people don’t like it, it’s ~my opinion~ and I’m going to keep saying it” kind of attitude. But when you rephrase it from “they don’t like what you’re saying” to “they don’t like YOU”, people tend to have a harder time ignoring it.

        Seriously, though, OP #3, I would give the warning once and then immediately move it up to their supervisor if I heard it again. I would also suggest give HR a heads up when I spoke to the supervisor, just in case their boss doesn’t follow through. That way you know someone is going to be paying attention.

      2. James M

        It’s a matter of perception. Certain people will summarily dismiss criticism that conflicts with their own self-image. Specifically invoking the person’s reputation (i.e. images of their self that they do not control) is one way to circumvent that tendency.

    2. Diet Coke Addict

      I’ve encountered plenty of application systems that autofill information off the resume–but never, ever one that’s done it correctly. Every single time I find an autofill I end up going back to correct every single box by hand, since otherwise it’s a garbled mess, and ultimately takes far longer than it would to just upload the resume and then fill in the application.

      1. Cautionary tail

        +1. I have to redo all my work history and education every time a system tries to auto-fill them.

      2. StellzBellz

        If you knew how much companies paid for that crappy software (and that they pay it because it’s the best we can get), you’d hate it even more.

        (This is also why a lot of recruiters don’t use the boxes to pre-screen like AAM mentioned above – you’d be surprised how many people just rush through the application and don’t redo the boxes).

      3. ThursdaysGeek

        Most of the time when I’ve encountered the autofill, it gets a large part of it right. It never gets it all right, but enough that I’m not totally annoyed at having to upload my resume first and then fill in all the blanks. I just have to correct a few places.

    3. OP #5

      One of the applications I worked on this weekend did *attempt* to pre-fill the boxes based on my resume, but messed it up so badly that I had to fix the entire thing and it probably took more time than if I’d just had to start from scratch.

    4. danr

      True, but you have to proofread everything that the computer preloads. I found that dates were a big problem and sometimes there was an autocorrect function that changed words instead of just highlighting them. I kept a plain text version of my resume to copy and paste into the boxes on the online application.

      1. NoPantsFridays

        I kept a plain text version of my resume too. I was surprised that some companies who only wanted email applications and didn’t use an applicant management software/system still wanted a plain text resume. This might sound weird but I actually like plain text and can format a plain text document to be not only readable, but aesthetically pleasing. So plain text works for me anyway. :P

      2. themmases

        I do the same thing. Once I encountered a system that asked for a plain text version of your entire resume pasted into a box. I can’t remember if they explicitly wanted the .doc/.pdf file too, or just insisted on having the plain text in addition to anything else you might have uploaded, but it was annoying. I use tables in my CV to control the formatting, then PDF the result, so there is a lot for me to undo if I paste into a text box. By that point I’d retyped lots of bits of my CV and was tired of it, so I kept the presentable plain text result. Lines from it come in handy all the time.

        However, sometimes I also use those redundant text boxes to my advantage. I don’t mind retyping a title if the other questions give me extra space to make clear what I did or that I was promoted.

  10. arjumand

    Poster #2 – I don’t if this will make a difference, but why not try some of those plastic letter trays or document trays? I use them all the time – I bought mine at a stationery, but I found some on Amazon, and they’re pretty cheap.

    They’re stackable , so you can just put one under your desk and put the folders in it – then the folders wouldn’t be actually touching the floor, maybe making it less of an issue for her.

    I don’t blame you for being a bit short with her – I’d hate for a colleague to fiddle around with my stuff.

    1. OP #2

      Yes, I’ll try that, thanks! I think I may feel more territorial than I should about my work area. I sit at a computer for very long periods, so it becomes my zone, and it feels invasive when she does things like that.

      1. fposte

        It’s one of those weird overlaps. I actually think it’s really good for people to take ownership of their work and their space, but it’s also never really ours, and it’s best to accept that philosophically and do our best with the cognitive dissonance.

        We don’t want to be the co-worker in the post I can’t find now, who pushed another co-worker’s chair out of “her place” in the break room.

  11. Chris

    #3 is something I’ve encountered before with friends.

    I think that one of the most important things to remember is that while it can be a helpful schema, saying someone is “a racist” can backfire. Most people, even those who have fairly objectively racist views, don’t consider themselves to be racists. But EVERYONE can do, say, and think racist things. No one is safe, regardless of how enlightened you think you are. Many, many racist words and actions come out of the mouths of people who would be absolutely indignant if you called them “a racist” (see: hipster racism, “lighten up, it’s just a joke”, etc).

    In this case, I actually would address the racist aspect head on. Don’t just say “this isn’t appropriate”, because I don’t think that fixes the actual problem. And a key thing here is to remember what I put above. Tell her that the statements she has been making are considered very racist by most people, certainly the people in this office. Be blunt about the fact that making statements like that are going to lead to her having a bad image, and ultimately a bad work experience. I think this is very important, because it shuts down that standby accusation of bigots, “the PC police.” This isn’t about some agenda, this is about how her coworkers (and managers, and customers) ultimately view her. I truly hope that she’s just oblivious, and not malicious. But only a conversation like this, done very privately, can confront that.

      1. JB

        +1 I was about to post that! Be sure to phrase what you say to tell her that the things she says are racist and don’t say that *she* is racist.

    1. NoPantsFridays

      This is a really good point. I’ve known relatively few people who are proudly racist and call themselves that, and relatively many who make subtly racist comments regularly without seeing that the comments are racist. Odds are, the OP#3’s coworker is in the latter group and would not take well to being called a racist as a person, but might be more receptive to being called out on racist *comments*. OP#3 might do well to call out the comments and not the speaker.

    2. Meg Murry

      I would also add – call out to her exactly what the racist statement she used was, and what about it is racist. She may be using phrases out of habit that were commonly used in her family, and not even realize they have a racial basis. For instance, someone called me once on using the phrase “I was gypped!” It was something I used all my life, just thinking of it as a word that meant “cheated” or “got a bait and switch pulled on me”. I never really thought about the fact that the root of the word comes from Gypsies, and could be insulting to someone of the same ethnic heritage. I can’t think of many other examples now, although I know there were quite a few phrases that my grandmother used to say that made me cringe as being racist to my ears but that she viewed as normal – “jewed them down” in discussion negotiating was one, referring to something as being “[n-word]-rigged” was another.

      So yes, call her out of the specific phrases she uses. Explain why they are offensive. Remind her that it looks bad on her part and it is not acceptable at your office. Its possible no one has ever told her the origins of some of these phrases, or why they aren’t ok, even if they seem obvious to you.

      1. sunny-dee

        Oh, the gypped thing is a great example. When calling it “racist,” depending on what she’s saying, it may not even be racist to her or have anything to do with race. I have heard teenagers routinely refer to their friends as “my n***as,” when neither the teen nor their friends were black. It was just a word they used. In her eyes, it is possible that whatever she is saying has nothing to do with race, and she can’t figure out why people are upset or she may misinterpret what is upsetting them.

        1. Kelly L.

          It’s a great example. I grew up with that word and had no idea it was a slur–I didn’t even realize it was spelled the same way as Gypsy. I thought it was “jipped” and was related to “ripped off” somehow. I was pretty–word of the day–mortified when I found out what I’d been saying.

        2. Biff

          When I moved from one region of the US to another, I found out that words that were unfamiliar were usually given negative connotations, that is, people assumed that terms I’d used affectionately all my life were racist, when nothing could have been further from the truth! I also found out that one word was used very negatively here when it was used positively up north. So I wonder if this might be a matter of regional dialects clashing OR the OP assuming a word is bad. It probably isn’t. But it could be.

          Another thing that might be happening is that the OP is from one era of PC speech, and the new person is from another. I grew up hearing “African American” and “Native American”, but now the preferred terms are “Black” and “American Indian/[Tribe Association]/First Nations/Etc.” If I had heard someone call someone black even just a few years ago, I would have looked sideways at them, but now it is okay.

      2. Not So NewReader

        Excellent point. I hear people use these words and I realize they have never thought about where the word came from or why it came to be used in that context. I have explained a couple times and people’s reactions are amazing (not in a good way).

        The tricky part is sometimes you have to deal with denial and sometimes you have to deal with the person thinking that they should have been able to figure it out on their own. You don’t know which one you will get. The denial people, I figure I have tried and it is someone else’s turn to tell them. The person who thinks that they should have figured it out themselves is more likely to ask questions- because they want to know what they missed. Questions can feel awkward, though, so that can be a little rough sometimes.

      3. Cassie

        I told a coworker not to use the word “retarded” which led to a whole discussion on why the word was inappropriate. His defense was that he wasn’t calling somebody retarded, just *something*. When I told him some people find it offensive, he wanted to know if I (specifically) found it offensive.

        I’m of the opinion that it doesn’t matter if I find it offensive or not – some people find it offensive and when you’re in the workplace, it’s good to be mindful of others (both coworkers and clients). I think we should be able to tell coworkers if they are saying something offensive – they can choose to continue saying it if they want but that doesn’t mean people will stop telling them they’re being offensive.

        I haven’t quite figured out what to do if I overhear a coworker is using the word “retarded” to someone else – do I just ignore it and wait until he/she uses the word in a conversation with me? What’s the etiquette here? I wouldn’t walk over to them and interrupt…

    3. Anonsie

      Agreed completely.

      “What? Why would you say that? You really think that?” “Of course not!” “Then why did you say it?”

      When people are kidding on the square with racist comments and they say it was just a joke, I have told several people it’s not a joke if they’re serious. (I’m also thinking of the bit from Louis about using epithets: “No, you can’t say it because you mean it.”)

      1. Not So NewReader

        Some folks think that if they are putting down their own race/nationality/etc it is okay.
        “Oh I am an X, so it is okay for me to put down Xs. Because I am an X, everyone knows I don’t really mean it.”

        Uh. No. They don’t know that.

  12. Michaela

    I have to refer to the point 5. Looking for a job online can save lots of time but at the other hand can be really annoying and not that effective. I was surfing internet and found out this really interesting service. It’s called REDACTED BY BLOG AUTHOR and basically you create profile with CV in their system and they upload your CV to all relevant job search websites. I’m really amazed with that.

    Note from Alison: Michaela is a marketing person for the website I’ve redacted here, which a quick look at their website showed. Michaela, marketing your company in the guise of an unaffiliated blog commenter isn’t cool here.

    1. Fucshia

      I am sure that leads to lots of spam mail, just based on how much I got when I signed up at Monster. I think someone is far better off uploading their information to the sites of their choosing.

      1. Michaela

        You are totally right! I was expecting the same. REDACTED suprised me because there is special inbox mail for emails from all the websites. You don’t have to insert your personal email address anywhere .

          1. Kelly L.

            Well, I did. I created a separate email just for job-searching because (a) it made it harder for job-related stuff to get lost in the shuffle, and (b) my usual email is named after an obscure fantasy character and I always end up having to explain it to people. So yeah, I did and sometimes still do check a separate inbox.

          2. Michaela

            No, necessarily. All the emails with job offers go to special inbox. Btw it has kinda good spam filter.

            1. Zillah

              I think that what Colette is saying is that it sounds like this is an entirely separate email address, which would be more work.

              That said, I have an email address dedicated to work-related things, and it’s not connected with my personal email. I don’t have issues with it.

      1. teclatwig

        Hee, so did I. (I only saw REDACTED, not the full phrase in the initial comment.)

        Uncool, Michaela, uncool.

  13. Henrietta Gondorf

    Regarding the racist co-worker: I love Jay Smooth on how to tell people they sound racist. He’s wonderful. http://www.illdoctrine.com/2008/07/how_to_tell_people_they_sound.html

    Transcript: [The whole video is shot in black in white, with Jay Smooth facing the camera delivering the following speech. Periodically, small clips of text in yellow font appear on either side of his face to emphasize a point.] Race! The final frontier. No matter what channel you watch, what feed you aggregate, everybody everywhere is talking about race right now. And when everybody everywhere is talking about race, sooner or later you’re going to have to tell somebody that they said something that sounded racist. So you need to be ready and have a plan in place about how to approach the inevitable “That sounded racist,” conversation. I’m going to tell you how to do that.

    The most important that you’ve got to do is remember the difference between the “What they did,” conversation and “What they are,” conversation. Those are two totally different conversation and you need to make sure you pick the right one. The “what they did,” conversation focuses specifically on the person’s words and actions in explaining why what they said and what they did was unacceptable. That’s also known as the “that thing you said was racist,” conversation, and that’s the conversation that you want to have. The “what they are,” conversation, on the other hand, goes a step further and uses what they did and what they said to draw conclusions about what kind of person they are. This is also known as the “I think you are a racist,” conversation. This is the conversation you don’t want to have, because that conversation takes us away from the facts of what they did into speculation about their motives and intentions. And those are things you can only guess at and can’t ever prove, and makes it too easy for them to derail your whole argument.

    And that is the part that’s crucial to understand. When you say “I think he’s a racist,” that’s not a bad move because you might be wrong, it’s a bad move because you might be right. Because if that dude really is racist you want to make sure you hold him accountable and don’t let him off easy. And even though, intuitively, it seems like the hardest way to hit him is to just run up on him and say “I think your ass is racist,” when you handle it that way, you’re letting him off easy because you’re setting up a conversation that’s way too simple for him to derail and duck out of.

    Just think about how this plays out every time a politician or a celebrity gets called out. It always starts out as a “what they did,” conversation, but as soon as the celebrity and their defenders get on camera, they start doing judo flips and switching it into a “what they are,” conversation. [Making a mock serious face] I have known this person for years, and I know for a fact that they are not a racist and how dare you claim to know what’s inside their soul just because they made one little joke about watermelon tap dancing and going back to Africa! And you try to explain that we don’t need to see their soul to know they shouldn’t have said all that shit about the watermelon and focus on the facts of the situation. But by then, it’s too late because the “what they are,” conversation is a rhetorical Bermuda Triangle where everything drowns in a sea of empty posturing until somebody just blames it all on hip-hop and we forget the whole thing ever happened.

    Don’t let this happen to you. When somebody picks my pocket, I’m not going to be chasing him down, so I can figure out whether he feels like he’s a thief deep down in his heart. I’m going to be chasing him down so I can get my wallet back. I don’t care what he is, but I need to hold him accountable for what he did. And that’s how we need to approach these conversations about race. Treat them like they took your wallet and focus on the part that matters: holding each person accountable for the impact of their words and actions. I don’t care what you are. I care about what you did.

    1. Chinook

      I love this explanation on how to deal with a racists comment or attitude, especially in light of the conversations we often have in AAM. I know some people may think of me as a racist whereas what I have said/done was not meant in the way it was read by others (ex: my dressing up in kimono for Halloween) but was done in a positive spirit (i.e. not meant to demean or insult). But, once it was pointed out that others may view my actions in a different light, then I am free to change my perspective and still save face.

      But, label me a racist and I will no option but to defend myself (ex: use the family picture with a Japanese woman in it who is like a sister) because, to me, there is no lower insult. My actions are no longer the issue and the focus is on my character which my gut reaction is to defend because I know what I intended and I know the accuser is wrong.

      That being said, I am also a fan of looking at someone who makes a racist comment with a confused face and ask them to explain their comment/joke because I don’t get it. Nothign makes someone more aware of a the inappropriateness of a comment than having to explain it.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        The thing is, though, that many (most?) well-intentioned people, even those with much-loved family and friends of other races, still harbor unconscious biases and can still say things that unintentionally offend. That’s not an indictment of anyone as a person, just a reality of living in the culture we live in. A different response would be to say, “I didn’t mean to offend. Can you help me understand why that was offensive? I’d like to learn.”

        1. Not So NewReader

          This is what I mean about tough questions, that I mentioned upthread. A person who is caught short of an explanation could end up very flustered at this point.

          I think that in opening up that conversation, it’s wise to have a short solid explanation for someone who says “I have never heard of such a thing!” That may not be an attack on the speaker, it actually be a question from someone who is absolutely shocked to hear this message. My point is to remain calm and have that explanation handy.

          “Yeah, I hadn’t heard this until a few years ago, but apparently it is offensive to people and here is why…..”

  14. The Other Dawn

    RE: #5

    I went through this over the weekend. I was at one job for 17 years and back then, you filled out a paper application or mailed in a paper resume. So, I’m pretty new to online applications. Two jobs I applied for over the last couple weeks pre-filled the application with the resume information, which was nice. Yesterday, however, I had to go through and regurgitate everything from the resume I had just uploaded.

    Quick question: both jobs I applied to over the last couple weeks are at the same place (qualified for both, excited about both). I got a confirmation email from the first one, but not the second. But both jobs are listed as “applied for” on my profile with that company’s site. Should I call to make sure they got the second one? I’m thinking not since they’re both listed as applied for, but I’d had to find out they really didn’t get it. Just me being paranoid, I guess.

      1. The Other Dawn

        Eh, I’m really a paperless type of person. I’m glad everything is online. It’s just frustrating when it’s a tedious process.

        Actually, I never had a resume until a few years ago when I was thinking of leaving my last job. And when I applied for my last job it was a paper application and they didn’t need a resume. But looking back at spending so much time at once place, I feel that put me at a disadvantage when the company failed and I really needed to have a resume, go on interviews, etc. But I digress…

    1. hayling

      Don’t call! HR depts these days hate it when you call when you’re in the early stages of applications.

  15. David

    #5: As someone who’s involved in a lot of user interface development, I defer to Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

    Just over a year ago my wife was job hunting and I got to witness just how absolutely horrible some of these application system’s can be. And it’s usually the result of careless development and layout that gives little, if any, consideration to the user. Optical Character Recognition (uploading the resume and having the contents drop into the appropriate fields) is tricky, particularly when there’s no standard format among resumes, so even if that was utilized it would likely leave applicants fixing every incorrect assumption the OCR software made in the first place. But when these application systems are developed, I can almost guaranty that little time is invested on how the applicant will interface with it, where certain things may be inefficient or even how some questions may be entirely inappropriate for the position being applied for. Far more time is likely spent on how application recipients (HR, hiring managers, recruiters) are using the data since they are the client for the software developer and really the only group the developer needs to satisfy. The problem, however, is that since the application software isn’t designed to get the best information appropriately gathered from the applicant, the hiring manager may not have the best information at her disposal, particularly if she’s taking advantage of some of the business intelligence built into the software that only filters out what appears to be the best applications. Additionally, since this might be the first exposure the applicant has to the business, good applicants may see a horribly inefficient and poorly designed system as indicative of operational challenges the organization may have (but that may be just us folks who focus on those sort of things).

    Either way, and back to Hanlon’s Razor, it isn’t that these employers are trying to make things intentionally difficult, it’s just that they probably didn’t put very much thought into how you would use the tool or what hoops you’d have to jump through to simply submit your application. I’d say the take away here is that any of you people reading this that are in charge of implementing software such as this spend a little time in the shoes of the front-end user to ensure that the tool isn’t overly onerous, inefficient or potentially scaring away otherwise good applicants.

    1. OP #5

      This makes a lot of sense. So many of these online application programs are just frustrating! For example, one I used this weekend instructed me to make sure that my job descriptions were listed in the correct order, but gave me no ability to move them around. And again — why is this necessary when a hiring manager could simply look at my resume and see which one was my most recent position?

      I look at resumes for student workers as part of my current position. And we will receive about 100 for every position we post. So I understand that it can be difficult to go through a pile of resumes, but … I don’t know, after awhile you just get good at scanning them for what you’re looking for. These systems just seem by and large terrible, and very off-putting to the applicant. But it seems there’s no getting rid of them now.

      1. HM in Atlanta

        When I’m in our application program, I almost never read what’s in the form. I always go to the copy of your resume that you uploaded for the exact reason you mentioned. I don’t quite know who the systems are designed for, but it wasn’t for me. I just want to see your resume info.

      2. laura

        When I review resumes, I rarely look at the form as long as your resume is complete and makes sense. But some people submit resumes that are unclear, so I might go back to the form if I’m trying to figure out a detail like what exactly your job title was, or how you were working 3 jobs at the same time, etc. As I think someone else mentioned, the system was probably designed to be convenient for the employer/reviewer, not the applicant.

    2. neverjaunty

      WHY isn’t this taught in Interface Design 101? I mean, okay, it probably is, but still.

      1. Meg

        Front-end Software Engineer here!

        So – capturing what you put on your resume and appropriating it into different form fields… not difficult if there’s a standard resume format. Difficult to account for 100+ variations.

        Work Experience field – do we look for a header called Work Experience? What about Experience? Work History? Relevant Experience? Other Experience? What about projects? Honors? Skills?

        Okay, okay, we can log them by position. Everything in the first block goes to work experience… oh wait, this resume lists skills first. Hmm. This one has a profile or objective…

        There’s no standard format for consistency. :(

        1. Ezri

          I was a webmaster in college for a while, and I quickly learned the horrors of getting data from multi-sentence text sources. Formatting aside, you can’t even assume everyone will spell things correctly.

    3. blu

      Having been on the HR/Recruiter side, I find that quite a few of these systems arn’t even easy/pleasant to use on our side either. I cannot for the life of me figure out how Taleo has such huge market saturation considering what a poor user experience it provides. I know in our case (big fortune 500 company), the system was set up by and managed by people who were in the HR department, but where not regular users of the system. It was constant issue with them changing/removing features not realizing the impact on us.

      1. StellzBellz

        This! I work for a large Fortune 50 company, and one of my team’s main goals is to improve the candidate experience – which is a LOT of work since there isn’t an Applicant Tracking System that makes the application process easy. We use Kenexa instead of Taleo, but they aren’t THAT different.

        We’ve actually had to have a third party create secondary software to make this process easier for our candidates, but this isn’t feasible for a lot of companies because of the additional cost.

        OP – While there are only a select few companies who are concerned with candidate experience on a broad scale, take some solace in the fact that (a) at least some of us exist and (b) this is a trend that is becoming “popular” in the recruiting world, so hopefully we’ll see it get better across the board over the next few years.

      2. Julie

        My husband’s company uses Taleo. Huge company all across the globe. He was a contractor and told to apply. The system wouldn’t let him apply because his personal email had been used once before to apply. So he logs into the old account and it refuses to let him apply. He had to create a new personal email to apply. Turns out they actually wanted him to apply for a more senior position that hadn’t been posted yet. He then had to create yet another new email since neither of the old ones would work. My husband is now a fairly senior IT guy with them so he casually mentioned it and it was a conscious choice; they didn’t want to be spammed with applications. Instead, they’d rather make the process more difficult and in the industries they hire for, most people will have several offers from employers. Why on earth they think they’ll get the best applicants when they want to make the process more difficult is beyond me.

      3. JoAnna

        Ugh, I can’t stand Taleo. That’s what my company uses (for both internal and external positions) and it’s just awful.

        1. Annie

          THANK YOU! Taleo is a miserable experience (it also drives me nuts that I have to make a new account for each company rather than one Taleo account that I can use for anyone who uses it)

    4. Elizabeth West

      It reminds me of the Coca-Cola vending machine I had to fill back when I worked for a food company. The engineers from Coke were really excited about it. They brought in this new machine, and installed it, and were all, “This is the future of our vending, blah blah.”

      I took one look inside and saw that they had configured it so there were two levels of product holders, one in FRONT of the other. That meant that I would have to remove all the front ones to fill up the back ones properly so they didn’t jam. Clearly the designers didn’t think about the end users. When I mentioned that, they got really fussy and “Hrrm hrrrm..” I was right, too–no matter how I tried to put the slow sellers in the back, they always ran out before anything I put in the front. If no one was drinking Fresca, when I put it in the back, they went crazy on it. Every. Damn. Time.

      End user beta testing is your friend, people!!

      1. Laura

        Prototyping is your friend! By the time you get to beta testing, you’ve done all the work of development and you think it’s solid – fixing it there is really expensive.

        Pull the end user in at the design phase or shortly after. Heck, pull them in with little paint mock-ups of what the end result will look like and discuss your way through them.

        Because by the time you have the full-size final product, changes are *really* expensive, relative to what they’ll cost when it’s just some lines on a screen or a piece of paper.

    5. Fabulously Anonymous

      I’d take it even further: it isn’t that employers are trying to make thing intentionally difficult, it’s that they see benefits (time savings) and no consequences. Until employers also know the consequences and what impact that has on their business, there’s no motivation to change.

    6. Mouse of Evil

      Sometimes it’s a bad implementation of otherwise okay software. For example: A lot of employers I apply to use PeopleAdmin, which is very popular in higher ed. Some of them have very clear instructions and useful labels in their PeopleAdmin implementation; some of them have confusing instructions and completely meaningless labels.

      One that I applied with recently had submission buttons on every page that made it look like you were about to apply for the job when you clicked the button; actually, it was just saving what you’d entered on that page, and then going on to the next one. Until the last page, which looked like you were just saving it… when you were actually submitting your application.

      The easy solution would be to label the “submit” buttons appropriately with, say, “SAVE AND CONTINUE” or “COMPLETE APPLICATION.” But I don’t know if a) that’s a customization that the institution can’t do itself and would have to pay PeopleAdmin to do; b) that’s a customization that the institution *could* do, but HR or IT or some other department won’t let them or doesn’t know how to do. Because I’ve worked with library automation software and learning management systems, I’ve seen both of those situations. :-)

      In any event, I remember the days when I could apply for two jobs in an evening, because all I had to do was tweak my resume, write two cover letters, print out all of that plus labels, and stuff and stamp the envelopes. It was even easier when it was “send your resume and cover letter as attachments to hr@this_employer.com.” Now it takes me a minimum of two hours to apply for a job, and by the time I’m done I’m so mentally exhausted and annoyed by the terrible UI/UX that I don’t feel like applying for another one for days.

  16. soitgoes

    Ugh, those Monica Geller tendencies (#2) always grate at me. People like that have odd ideas about what “clean” looks like, and it usually involves arranging things in ways that have nothing to do with how they’re used. There’s not a whole lot that the OP can do. Her boss will always see messes that simply don’t exist in the eyes of other peple.

    1. Ethyl

      ::nods:: I had a roommate once whose idea of “clean” was “surfaces are uncluttered,” so she would just sweep things into drawers or closets or cabinets willy-nilly. Including stuff like shampoo and conditioner in the shower. It was so annoying, especially since, as referenced above, I have a huge Thing about people touching/moving my stuff. Hopefully the OP can find a good compromise and clear the air with their boss/client (not sure — thought they said they were a freelancer?).

      1. Kelly L.

        I’ve lived with people whose style of cleaning is “I don’t want to see any items anywhere,” and after reading some really helpful book whose name I can’t remember, I’ve realized mine is more like “I want my items to be at hand when I’m in the place where I use them.” Caused a lot of conflict because I’d sit down to use my (whatever) and it would be missing, and it turned out to be stowed away on a shelf eight feet high or something.

        1. Anon College AA

          AH! My in-laws do this, and it drives me CRAZY! They clean up by putting things in “safe places” – except then they don’t remember where those “safe places” were. Example – my brother-in-law was staying on our couch for a few weeks when he was between places, so he tried to help us out by cleaning up when we were at work. Except he put things in the most random places – I found the manual for my car 6 months later, up in a cabinet I can only reach by standing on a chair, where we kept things like breakable Christmas decorations. He happened to be there when I found it, and said, “oh yeah, I put that there to get it out of the way.” At that point, if you don’t have a rhyme or reason for where you put things, you may have just thrown it away, in my opinion. Now I’ll admit, my system tends toward clutter everywhere – but at least I know something is where I last put it down!

          1. Jamie

            Well putting stuff in random places isn’t cleaning – and I feel for you as that would drive me crazy. But if you put things away properly you know where they are, they don’t have to be visible. Manuals would be in the filing cabinet under manuals and Christmas stuff would be in the boxes labeled Christmas stuff.

            People shouldn’t put things away if they don’t know where they go – but lack of clutter doesn’t mean you can’t get your hands on stuff when you need it.

            Clutter for me, like many people, has a significantly negative effect emotionally. I can’t be happy or even in a good mood in a chaotic environment unless I’m actively cleaning it.

            (And regarding the OP – folders on the floor would have bothered me unless you are truly so cramped you had no where else to put them and that’s a separate issue. To quote my mom, it’s a floor, not a low lying shelf.)

            1. Erica

              But would it have bothered you in someone ELSE’s space?
              I have my personal desk-keeping preferences but I can’t imagine barging into someone else’s workspace and rearranging it for them – as long as the system worked for them it wouldn’t affect me in any way.

            2. soitgoes

              I dunno, your quirk doesn’t take priority over someone else’s quirk. You want things organized. Other people want to put things where they’re easily accessible. Your “want” isn’t more valid than the “want” of the person who’s actually using the items in question.

              You have a home filing cabinet? You have a section just for manuals?

          2. NonnyMoose

            My wife “cleans” by taking stuff into random boxes and bags then puts them someplace. I have a $300 set of bicycle pedals that hasn’t been seen since 2011. And my electric toothbrush just disappeared one day and she maintains that she didn’t do anything with it. Since only the two of us live here, and there weren’t any visitors, I have trouble believing that.

            I’m not sure if it’s nature or nurture as her mother rearranges our cupboards and fridge when she visits; and also disappears stuff. Luckily, it appears both kids have avoided this trait.

        2. jersey anon

          Gaaahhh! My husband is the “I don’t want to see items” person and I am the “I want my stuff where I need them to be” person Has caused many an argument!

          1. Zahra

            Same here. After more than 10 years together, we’ve learned to pick our battles and we’ve both changed a bit. I get intolerant of clutter on my desk much more quickly and he has a higher threshold of “this is messy”. I’m still not going for paperless bills (I gotta see it to pay it), but I may do it in 6-12 months, if my new system works out.

        3. Ezri

          I like having things around as well – I leave piles of books everywhere except the bookshelves, and it never makes me think ‘agh, dirty!’. My organizational system is completely comprehensible. To me.

      2. Anonsie

        God help me, I live with one of these. The kitchen gets “cleaned” after he cooks and I find everything stuffed randomly into cabinets and drawers (rolling pin in the coupon and receipt drawer? Why not!) so the counters have nothing on them, only they’re still covered in dried up spills and bits of food that fell off the cutting board.

      3. Cath in Canada

        Reminds me of a former roommate who was cleaning obsessed. She bleached all the kitchen and bathroom surfaces multiple times a day, and would totally freak out if anything was left out – even if you’d *just* finished cooking and were soaking your pots and pans while eating your dinner, she’d come in and start sighing and clattering all the pots around as she scrubbed them with bleach, shooting daggers at you even when you explained that you were going to wash them, as soon as you’d finished eating. That was a fun few months – thanks, University accommodation assignment office!

        1. soitgoes

          And the people who don’t get it when you say, “Okay, I’ll put the dishes away after my show.” They need everything done NOW.

  17. Zahra

    #2: I’m surprised no one mentioned it yet, but:

    “I am a freelancer who, for the last five years, has primarily worked with one organization. I go into the corporate office twice a week, and the other days I work from home. ”

    That means that you don’t have a boss, you have a client. Treat her like a client. If you have a boss, then you’re not a freelancer to them (you might be a freelancer to other clients on your spare time, though), you’re an employee. Make sure you’re classified correctly, because getting caught in the middle of an IRS investigation can be really, really hard on your wallet (paying back taxes, etc.) and your client’s.

    1. Meg

      Contractors fall into the murky area of “freelance” vs “employee”.

      Sounds like OP is a contractor with a client who works on-site, and still reports to a manager. The organization is the client, the manager is still the “boss.”

      1. AVP

        Still, that slight shift in perception can make a large difference in how you treat people, and if you get rehired.

      2. OP #2

        Yes, indeed I am more of a contractor, and I report to her as a manager. There’s a rather strange management culture there which overall I find a bit difficult. I think my boss is unfairly victimized by some people, which contributes to her anxiety, so half of me is sympathetic and half of me is frustrated!

      3. Zahra

        Sure, the boss is the boss in the sense that she decides what stuff must be done and, if you’re working at the client’s, they get to decide how the space must be used. However, you should still have more autonomy than a standard employee and the relationship should be more egalitarian than employee-manager. It should be more like two companies doing business together.

  18. Jess

    #3- I’d be really curious to hear from the OP how her co-worker reacted when she was told she was the most racist person someone knew. Although I agree that that probably isn’t the best way to resolve the situation with the co-worker, I also think that if I were in the co-worker’s shoes (and if my comments really did stem from ignorance so much so that I was unaware how inappropriate they were), being told by a colleague that I was the most racist person they knew would be a pretty big and unsubtle hint that there’s an issue here. And even if I were defensive and thought I did nothing wrong, it would probably serve to make me more careful with my words just so as not to be misperceived in the future.

      1. Hmm

        Maybe simply telling her, “You shouldn’t say things like that.” No long sit down drama required.

      2. Chinook

        Whereas, if someone told me that I am the racist person they ever knew, I woudl say I am not racist, burst into tears and never talkto anyone there again while looking for another job. To me, there is no worse insult someone could hurl at me. Now, if someone said “you shouldnt say things like that” I would be much more open to their criticism.

        1. Astor

          I am trying to think of a not-blunt way to say this, but I’m failing. By repeatedly explaining that being called a racist is the worst insult, you’re saying that it’s worse than any racist thing you might have accidentally said first. In the future, if you want other people to understand that you didn’t intend to hurt them, then you could think about why your comment comes across as a disproportionate response and resolve not to repeat that initial action.

          1. Jamie

            She said it was the worst insult someone could hurl at her – not the worst insult that someone could hurl at anyone.

            1. Astor

              I’m choosing not to rephrase, because I don’t think it will affect my overall point. (Usually I am all about being pedantic!) I responded in the first place because I respect Chinook from other comments and thought she’d want to know how it appears when she brings up that being called a racist is the worst insult she deals with, without seeming to recognize how it fits in to the discussion about racist behaviour.

              Knowing that other people are sensitive to being called racist is important because it can help make criticism more effective. Knowing that you’re sensitive to being called racist is important because it’s a disproportional response that you can work on minimizing.

        2. Just Visiting

          I’m going to be gentle here and say that if bursting into tears and getting defensive is your reaction to being called a racist, you might want to engage in some careful self-reflection. It’s not about you.

        3. Erica

          EVERYONE in the US is racist to some degree. (OK, maybe excluding children under a year or two of age, or people with certain very strong mental differences.) We are born, raised, and acculturated in a racist society, and absorb racist messages constantly subtle as well as obvious ways. There is no way to avoid it. We can choose to respond in one of two ways: one, we can deny this fact because it clashes with our self-image or conscious ideology, therefore failing to ever improve. Or two, we can seek to constantly be aware of our racist tendencies, educate ourselves, and examine our “common sense” thoughts and reactions with a critical lens. #2 is a lot more useful than denial and avoidance.

      3. Jess

        Is that how most people would really respond to that comment though? If I were on the receiving end, yes, I think my first reaction in the moment would be genuine confusion and defensiveness. But after the initial surprise passed, it would certainly give me pause (even if it were coming from someone whose opinion I generally had reason to discount) to think of what I could possibly be doing or saying that would give someone that impression.

    1. NoPantsFridays

      I agree with this. I think (hope?) it would be a wake up call. It’s not just “you’re racist” which I might dismiss saying I’m not, but that “you’re the most racist person I know” in the superlative. Everyone can’t be the “most” racist person you know. That I am more racist than any of the other people this person knows would be a huge hint. If someone said that to me, I’d be horrified at my own behavior.

      If one of my coworkers said “you’re the smelliest person I know”, I’d be horrified not because of the perceived “insult”, but because I might actually be the single smelliest person my coworker knows.

      In both cases, being told I was superlatively bad, the worst of them all, would be a huge indication that I need to change my behavior.

      1. chump with a degree

        The problem is that calling someone racist is the nuclear option. There can be no genteel discourse after that.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          That’s so wrong though. We’ve all internalized various types of racial bias from growing up in this culture, no matter how well-intentioned and well-meaning we are. Refusing to talk about it out of defensiveness just shuts down the conversation, and is incredibly frustrating to people who are hoping to minimize the impact of that bias.

          1. Kelly L.

            This. We’ve somehow gotten to a place where saying something is racist is considered offensive by some–more offensive than the actual racist comment–and where calling out racism is sometimes itself called racist. I don’t know how we got there, but it isn’t helping us as a society discuss and deal with the issue.

            1. Mints

              Agreed. I don’t believe it’s true that everyone’s racist, but using that rhetoric might help some of that defensiveness. I think it’s important for people to realize that anyone can do things that are racist, even if they’re on the nearly harmless end of the spectrum, like being ignorant of privilege, or microagressions that can easily go unnoticed by the dominant group. The right reaction is always “I’m sorry. Could you tell me why?” (If they want to explain). It’s a nuanced issue

        2. NoPantsFridays

          There can be — at least for me, and a number of other people I know. It depends in part on whether one’s first reaction is to deny it or to think hmm, it might be true, I might be racist.

          I do think it’s better to call the *comments* racist rather than the *speaker*, i.e. address the behavior and not the person’s character.

          But calling someone racist shouldn’t be perceived as an insult; IME, it’s usually a statement of fact.

    2. Jillociraptor

      One important thing to remember though is that racist thinking is really ingrained, and constantly received. We really don’t often hear about the stories and experiences of people of color to learn the “logic” I guess of antiracism, so I have often seen other White people get really paralyzed and start to think, “Crap, no matter what I say, it’s always racist!” Many people are able to get from there to, “Ah, it’s because racism is a system of oppression that permeates all of society! I need to change how I look at the world!” but some get huffy and frustrated and disengage, while others try to “own it” because they perceive that there’s no way they’ll ever shed the label.

      So, you would think that being told that you’re the most racist person someone knows would be a wake up call…on the other hand, White people have a lot of defense mechanisms for dealing with accusations of racism, and NOT a lot of positive models to rely on when trying NOT to be racist; we just don’t teach White people how not to be racist! It makes the job of undoing racist thinking so much harder.

      In that light, I also want to send a lot of warm feelings toward OP #3 for feeling on the hook to do this. It’s important.

      1. afiendishthingy

        +1
        The last class of my masters this spring was a “cultural diversity in counseling” class which was only peripherally related to my education degree, and I thought it was going to be a waste of time as I have a bachelors in anthropology and think of myself as generally pretty culturally aware, but it was actually pretty eye-opening. I ended up feeling like every one should have to take a class like that to force them to really examine their own biases and see how oppression and privilege have shaped their lives.

        I started a new job a couple weeks ago and one of the first days I was sitting in as my boss did a check-in meeting with a very senior employee who does the same work as me and the employee made a very racist comment in which she heavily implied black men were more likely to molest a child than white men. Since I am new and was just sitting in, I said nothing, but I was really offended. Luckily this woman works in our other office several towns over from mine but we do have meetings together once a month and I’m not sure I can look past that remark in future interactions.

  19. Student

    #5 – Do hiring managers read both the uploaded resume and the text in the electronic system, or do they read only one of them?

    I’ve always assumed the hiring managers probably just print out resumes and flip through them while watching TV in the evenings. They might use the electronically entered info to search for keywords or implement filters to cut down the quantity of resumes they need to review. I know that’s what I would do.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Most use the uploaded resume, not the text box version. Many read them online rather than printing them out (I read them online now, although a few years ago was still printing them out). Few of us do it in the evening watching TV; it’s part of our workday like any other part of the job :)

    2. Jazzy Red

      I always thought they pinned all the resumes up on a wall, and threw darts at them. And that’s how the decided who to interview and eventually hire.

    3. Penny

      I usually glance at the text box first to decide if it’s worth looking at the resume. I only print resumes if I’m going to interview the person- otherwise I’d be wasting a lot of paper. And the last thing I wanna do while watching tv at night is look through resumes!

  20. Gene

    Re #5 (and anyone having to deal with these systems)

    I’ll preface this with not having had to job hunt for over 20 years, so I’ve never filled out an online application. What I would do before starting applying is to write up various versions of my experience/skills/education/certifications in a plain text document and keep that open while filling out the online applications so I could copy and paste to thye appropriate text boxes. This would be in addition to my resume. Save it somewhere handy so it’s easy to find and open it up before you start a session of applications.

    But that’s just me; I have similar things for my notices of inspection and notices of violation; I just open the boilerplate, copy and paste it into a new document, plug in the info and I’m finished. A cow-orker who does the same job as me writes every one from scratch and (in my mind) wastes hours doing it that way.

    1. JoAnna

      My husband is job-hunting and he does this — he has a resume saved in .doc format and one saved in .txt format. He uploads the .doc version when it’s called for and uses the .txt version for the copy/paste portion of the application.

  21. Lisa who had to admit she is highly sensitive

    RE: #1: It sounds like the manager is highly sensitive, an trait found in 15-20% of the population. She seriously can’t help her reactions to noise, odor or chaos – it is hard wired in her. There are many books/websites about this trait; the definitive book is The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron, which I read. Elaine also wrote Making Work Work for the Highly Sensitive Person, which I have not yet read. Knowing about the HSP trait is very helpful for HSPs AND the people who have to deal with them (like my husband!).

    1. OP #2

      I’m familiar with that book – and I’m probably “highly sensitive” too – hence her sometimes invasive behaviour can be hard for me! (but as many people have pointed out – it would probably be hard for anyone).
      She is definitely a classic example of a HSP, I would say she is actually fairly high functioning for the most part, considering how stressful her job is.
      I’m not obsessive about tidying or cleanliness, but I’m neat and tidy for the most part, so her hyperfocus on this stuff both flummoxes and offends me a bit…if I was a slob I’d understand!
      Overall I think myself and others who work closely with her are very supportive of her quirks…others not so much, which is understandably difficult for her. (BUT – she can be self-pitying, which turns people off too, because she puts herself in situations where she stresses herself out more – taking on work that isn’t hers, and trying to ‘perfect’ everything to an excessive degree.)

      1. fposte

        Right, you both respond strongly to fairly mild stimuli. So Alison’s conversation suggestion sounds like a good start–do you think you’ll be able to do it?

          1. OP #2

            It’s good to hear others opinions on the matter and to look at all sides…and it always helps when Alison offers concrete things to say. So I hope to broach it when I’m back in the office this week.

            1. fposte

              Excellent! It sounds like there’s a good chance she’s a reflective type as well and will be relieved to have this all smoothed out, too.

  22. SallyForth

    #3 Thank you for this line-
    I should have spoken up in the moment.
    It is absolutely perfect.

    Viv

  23. karis

    RE:#3
    First, of all I want to say that I absolutely love my new job, the atmosphere is very relaxed and everyone is nice here, but I’ve run into this problem. It is terrifying to speak up when the people who are making racist/homophobic/politically charged comments are your superiors. The first instance I heard a supervisor use the word “beaner” to refer to our Spanish speaking customers. I wrote him an email immediately and asked him to not use that type of language. Ever since then, he’s been a lot more mindful and we are really good speaking terms. He has made other less offensive remarks but is usually quick to backtrack, which I appreciate. The second time another higher up said “fag parade” again, terrified I let him know that I found this word upsetting. I am very much aware that I am the minority view in this office. I wonder if anyone here has had to deal with a supervisor or higher up who makes remarks, what happened?

    1. claudia

      I had this happen once. I am Mexican and the person, my supervisor at the time, making the comments referred to an area near where we work as being problematic because of all the Mexicans. Highly offensive and I did say something.

  24. claudia

    #5 – from working in an IT dept I can tell you that the information you enter in text boxes makes it easier for the hiring staff to roll your applicant information right in to their personnel database without re-typing it. You are really just saving them the admin work.

  25. Cassie

    #2: There are some cultures where the floor/ground is inherently dirty (I wrote an anthro paper about it in college). My dad is of this opinion (also – feet). I’m a little picky about stuff – I can’t imagine putting files on the floor at work. Maybe if the floor was carpeted, I’d feel a little less weird about it, but it would not be where I would normally put files. (I also hate it when people put stuff on my chair).

    Come to think of it, my coworker has boxes of files on her floor – she simply does not have enough desk/shelf space for all of the paperwork that her work requires. She barely has any floor left! It would drive me absolutely batty :)

  26. Gene

    My office is at a wastewater treatment plant and our floors ARE inherently dirty. That said, if I need the room I’d have no problem plopping file folders onto the floor. The floor is dry, the folders are dry, any pathogen transfer would likely be undetectable. And dry paper is not a hospitable environment for human pathogens anyway.

    Of course, food is an entirely different matter, there’s no 5-second rule around here. If it hits the floor, it’s trash.

  27. Anonymous

    Also, I am a pretty strong woman, but some of our legal file boxes are so heavy that I can barely lift them down and not at all back up. So they stay on the ground until the Arrowhead guy comes by (I work in an office with three women including me and I am the strongest) and I do tip!

  28. Fruitfly

    On the side note, I wanted to ask if it is okay to leave out my address in my resumes. I plan to do it like this if I am giving my resume to network or just to have a talk with a professional.

    However, if I am really applying for a job. I will include my address.

    What do you all think?

  29. OP#3

    I just thought I would give an update. I read through many of the comments and was deciding how best to approach the co-worker in question when another co-worker busted her out publicly. She told her she was the most racist person she knew in front of quite a few people. The girl was mildly horrified, and doesn’t say anything that could be connected to race anymore. She is a bit less talkative, but she focuses on her work more now. Either way, she learned her first real world lesson (this is her first real job outside of college), and I think everything will be ok. I will heed much of the advice provided if it starts becoming a problem again (in probably a more quiet one on one than my other co-worker), but for now I think she has been given a reality check.

    Thank you, Alison. Also, thank you everyone else for your input.

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