can I recover from a bad phone interview, a recruiter changed my resume, and more

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

1. Can I recover from a bad phone interview?

Recently my husband and I moved across the country to carve out a better future for our child before starting school. My husband is a stay-at-home dad while I work in various creative fields. With all the changes to our lives in the past few years, I really feel out of my element.

I had a phone interview with a nonprofit group that did not go as well as planned. Our toddler was up late and then my alarm didn’t go off and I woke up only minutes before the call. I rambled and worded some questions oddly to very intelligent board members.

After sending a nice thank-you to the office coordinator who set up the interview, I still keep going over all the mistakes I made. I really wonder if I still have a chance to get this position. I would really love to know your opinion on disclosing my family situation, considering my husband tends to all the usual parent functions as well.

I’m torn on this. Leaning toward not doing it, but torn. If they thought you did fine, you risk introducing some real weirdness to the process by announcing that you didn’t, and either way, you risk making them uncomfortable if you get into details about your child care arrangements. Ultimately, you really just get one shot at the apple in most interviewing situations and you can’t generally ask for a re-do.

That said, the reason I’m torn is because I’ve certainly had times where, after interviewing a candidate who had seemed promising but who under-performed in the interview, I’ve wondered if there were some sort of extenuating circumstances, like sickness or nerves, that would explain the poor performance … and in some of those cases, I would have been open to hearing that and trying again. It’s a risky move though, and it’s hard to say “go for it” without really knowing specifics of what you said and how you came across. (How’s that for unhelpful?)

2. Offering six months notice when having to move out of the area

My husband is in the military and we moved (again); we were supposed to be here for 3.5 years. I got a job in my home health care field and I disclosed during my interview that I was committed to live/work in this area for 3.5 years. I was promoted to interim manager and then branch manager within 3 months. Then, a total of 5 months into my employment, my husband sustained an injury and the military is releasing him from his contract for medical reasons. We do not want to stay in this area. I would love to quit and move immediately because we have no family around here.

However, this company has been really great to me, so I would like to give them 6 months notice.This branch of the company is only one year old, and they have only had some management structure for 5 months (me), plus all the staff have been in this industry for a year or less. I wanted to give them such a generous transition period since I feel I have been valued here. Will this increase my chances of a good reference or is this just a desperate overkill maneuver?

Well, first talk to your manager and explain the situation. Say something like, “I feel terrible about this, as I know I made a different commitment to you when you hired me, but at the time I didn’t foresee my husband getting injured. I’d like to do whatever I can to make the transition easier, including staying for several more months if that would help. I’m prepared to give up to six months notice if it would be helpful, but I wanted to talk with you about what would make most sense.” You might find out that your manager would be equally happy with only two months notice or something like that, especially since it might make sense for them to make the change sooner rather than having you continuing to put down (what will be temporary) roots in the role.

You could also leave out the mention of six months altogether and just wait to see how your manager responds, and there’s no need to offer six months if you prefer not to.

But yes, in most workplaces, doing this would definitely help the type of reference you get. It could take it from “well, we only had her for five months, although it wasn’t her fault” to “she was amazing when it turned out that she needed to move out of the area, and was incredibly accommodating with her notice period.”

3. A recruiter changed my resume without my permission

A recruiter submitted me to a position at a major, giant, local company that I really want to work with. I have a phone interview today and the agency emailed me the details last night, along with the version of the resume they submitted. They changed my job titles and other details without my permission or advanced knowledge. I feel this is resume fraud and puts me on the hook because I actually want to work for this company, they dumbed down my resume so I have less to negotiate with if made an offer (now or in the future), and if this major, giant, local company finds out this is fraud, I’ll never work with them. I would never lie on my resume and, frankly, I don’t need to. Do I go through with the interview? If not, can I apply to this company another time via a different recruiter or myself?

Yeah, recruiters do sometimes change candidates’ resumes, in ways that they think will make them more effective. Often they’re correct; sometimes they aren’t. But they shouldn’t do anything that’s inaccurate, such as changing your titles.

In any case, I’d talk to the recruiter about your concerns. If the recruiter works with this company regularly and is reasonably competent, she might be able to give you useful insights into the changes she made and why, and might even be able to assuage your concerns. Or not — but it will be a worthwhile conversation to have.

As for applying with this company in the future … you’re not going to like what I’m about to say. Depending on the specifics of the recruiter’s contact with the company, it’s likely that the recruiter now “owns” your candidacy with them, and that while you could apply directly with them in the future, their systems might have you linked with this recruiter for at least the next six months (for commission purposes).

4. Should I list being a clinical trial volunteer on my resume?

On first impression, which would look better or throw up less red flags on a job application: “paid healthy clinical trial volunteer” or “music producer – independent contractor”?

I’m not applying for a job in the music industry and neither is fluff, I’ve been doing both. I’m thinking that with the trial volunteer, the person looking at it would at least know that I’m healthy, a non-smoker and not on drugs or an alcoholic. With the music producer, I’m thinking they might get a vision of some scum bag. I need an outside perspective.

Don’t put the clinical trial volunteer work on your resume. It’s not work where you’ll have the sort of skill or accomplishments that belong on a resume, it’s inappropriate to allude to your own health status on a resume (and will make many employers uncomfortable), and it will look, frankly, a little weird to include. It’s too similar to including something like plasma donation on a resume, which you also shouldn’t do.

Music producer is fine, assuming it’s real work; unless you present yourself a scumbag, most people won’t be concerned that you’re one simply because of the industry.

5. Juggling job offers when you’re not sure if you’d accept one of them

You have previously addressed a situation where someone gets a job offer but is hoping for a different job offer and wants to speed up the process with the other company. However, what if you truly don’t know whether Company B would be your first choice? What if it depends a lot on what salary Company B is willing to offer you, but you won’t know that until you actually get an offer from Company B? In that case, is it still appropriate to ask Company B to speed up the process or will it burn bridges with Company B if it appears that you had accelerated their process only to turn down their offer (if the salary doesn’t turn out to be as good)?

You want to be particularly interested — you wouldn’t want to do this for a random job that you had no special interest in or belief that you were especially suited for. But you don’t need to positive that you’d accept their offer — because it will depend on the details of their offer (salary, benefits, etc.), of course, as well as details that you learn about the job and company during your conversations with them.

{ 165 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Hi everyone — not sure where to stick this, so I’m saying it here. I’ll post it on other posts if there continues to be a need.

    There’s been a fresh outbreak of snarkiness / adversarialness in the comment section this week, so I’m asking everyone to take a deep breath and revert to your usually kind, friendly selves: assume good faith on the part of others, don’t engage with people you think are rude (it makes it worse), and be kind when you disagree with someone.

    Due to a current crazy workload, I haven’t been as active in the comment section over the last week as I normally am, and maybe that’s played a role in the snarkening (it’s a word!) that’s happened; I’m not sure. But it sucks to glance in during a break between meetings and see people snarking at each other, and even more so to then see it again later that day. We had a really good run of civility after the last time I mentioned this, earlier this year, and I’d like to enlist your help in returning to it. I don’t think it’s a lost cause. Thank you…

    1. Stacy*

      So, I’ve actually noticed this a lot in the “real world” this week as well. I almost had to call the police on a gentlemen in front of my playground full of K-5 students Monday afternoon. So that was fun.

      I had asked him to keep his dog with him (he totally leashed his dog to a tree stump on our field and started to run on the track away from his dog in front of my 20 students who were on their own school property and had to stop & freeze!), he gave me attitude and I asked him to leave. He refused at first. So that was super fun.

      People suck sometimes.

      Anyway, not to get off track in your comments section. But I totally think this is one of those “it’s not me, it’s you” things as well as…what? Planetary alignment? Full Moon? Werewolves? Hope the week gets better!

      1. Allison*

        We did have a “supermoon” on Monday, so maybe that’s it. Or people are getting cranky because summer is ending, weather’s getting colder, school is back in session, etc.

        1. Mimmy*

          Agreed with all of this. I know I was extra-cranky over the weekend!! (FTR: I’ve been away so I didn’t read much of last week’s threads).

        2. Gene*

          As Neil deGrasse Tyson says, the difference between a regular moon and a super moon is like the difference between a 16″ pizza and a 16.1″ pizza.

      2. The Real Ash*

        I hope this isn’t taken as snark, but it’s a pet peeve of mine when people try to propagte the “lunar effect” thing or blame events that have happened on it when there is no basis in reality for that. People’s behavior is not changed or exacerbated or affected negatively by any part of the lunar cycle.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Agreed, but with a supermoon, people may have stayed up late to get pictures of it (there is always a rash of them on Facebook after one), and that probably made them cranky!

        2. Lily in NYC*

          I get insomnia every single full moon. When I worked in law enforcement, the crazies really did get worse during the full moon. Even if there is no proof it happens, I’ve seen it enough in my own life to believe it.

          1. Evan*

            I’m guessing wildly here, but I’ve found I usually sleep better when my room is completely dark. Since the full moon does light things up significantly, you might try blackout curtains or wearing something over your eyes?

            1. Lily in NYC*

              I have blackout shades. It is pitch black in my room. It’s like clockwork – I get insomnia two days before the full moon and it ends one day after. Every single month and there is absolutely no light shining through my shades. My mom is the same way and I swear we are not werewolves.

              1. Cath in Canada*

                Worsening insomnia during the full moon is a real thing, and isn’t anything to do with the amount of light in the room!

                There was a study that came out this year that was really nicely done. The scientists were studying people’s sleeping habits in completely dark rooms for an entirely different reason that had nothing to do with the lunar cycle (this is important because it means they didn’t unconsciously bias their results, for example by acting differently around study participants during full moon periods). Then, a while later, one of them heard the “anecdata” about people not sleeping well during the full moon, and realised that they could test the hypothesis using their existing study results, by looking up the moon phase for every date on which they tested people. They found a real effect!

                (Sorry for the sidetrack, but I totally geek out about elegant study design, even if it’s inadvertent! And I totally sleep better when there’s no full moon, even though I sleep wearing an eye mask).

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      The Snarkening. Wasn’t that the terrible M Night Shyamalan movie where the trees caused everyone to snark at each other?

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      Thank you for saying this, Alison. One of the things I’ve always loved about this blog is the thoughtful, informed, and civil comment section. I’ve hated seeing the recent “snarkening” towards letter writers and fellow commenters.

    4. iBex*

      Thanks for this note. Your comments sections are usually some of my favorite things to read and I have definitely noticed the snarkening. Your regular commenters have been doing a good job of keeping people on-topic, so thank you to them!

    5. QK*

      Yeah, the snarkiness really bums me out too. :( I sort of give up on reading the comments for a few weeks every time it happens. Thanks for calling this out, Allison.

  2. Rocky*

    Re No.1, as a mother of young children myself, I would not contact the employer and explain your family situation. As Alison said, they might not have been put off, so you don’t want to assume they were. And if they were, they might not see your circumstances as sufficiently extenuating. I’d sit tight. Perhaps if they’re having trouble deciding between you and another candidate they will contact you and say “We didn’t get quite what we wanted in the phone interview, can you flesh out a bit more on X?”. The other issue is if you did decide to contact them I imagine you’d have to go via the office manager who arranged the interview. He/she may not feel comfortable being an intermediary on this.
    I may be over-sensitive about this, but I try very hard to avoid any mention of my kids that can be seen as an excuse…only because I fear it could give ammunition to those dinosaurs who see mothers of young kids as a ‘bad bet’ in the workplace.

    1. BRR*

      I agree with your thoughts on avoiding the mention of children as an excuse but for a different reason. When an employer only has one impression of you and it’s when you’re supposed to be on your best behavior it worries me that this is the rule, not the exception because it’s the only interaction I have had with you up until this point. It makes me wonder if this will always be the situation. It’s like the old saying goes, “that’s the problem with first impressions, you only get one.”

      I think the OP shouldn’t reach out. I think there’s more potential to harm their candidacy than improve it in this situation.

      1. Sarahnova*

        I tend to agree. I’m not sure there’s much upside, because you can always have a bad night with the kids before work; it’s not quite as extenuating as “coming down with the flu” or even “interviews badly because nerves, but great in a role”. Plus, by the OP’s obsessing over what she “did wrong”, I wonder if her perspective on it is totally clear and perhaps she did better than she thinks, in which case reaching out is an own goal.

        OP, it would definitely suck if you missed out on this job because of bad luck/ a rough night with your child, but I think what’s done is done here, and you need to follow Alison’s suggestion of considering it gone and putting it out of your mind. I also suspect you tipped us off to the larger issue in your first few lines: “With all the changes to our lives in the past few years, I really feel out of my element.” I think you need to try and get your balance back somehow in a broader sense. Maybe that means more time for you, maybe it means a serious talk with your husband about how things have changed and both your roles, maybe it means therapy for you or maybe even a few joint sessions with your husband. But I think your obsessing here is maybe part of your broader feelings of being out of control, and trying to take some control back could help you.

      2. MK*

        Also the potential gain is questionable. The OP would be basically telling them “I am much better than I showed in the phone interview, believe me”. Even if they decide to take her word for it, they don’t have much incentive to invest more time and money in interviewing her again, unless she is very sought after or the job is hard to fill. But in those cases they would probably call her again anyway.

        1. Artemesia*

          I used to always have a phone interview as a step in the hiring process and I would have been pretty put off by someone using kids as an excuse for doing badly; it is the ONLY experience I would have had of the person and already they are unreliable for personal reasons? The phone interview was decisive for us in moving from our top 5 or 6 to our top 2 or 3 candidates to bring in for personal interviews; if we had a bad interview then that would have been the end of that candidacy.

          I’d assume that this job has sailed and stop thinking about it and vow to be better prepared for the next interview experience; if it turns out you are still in the running, great, but I cannot imagine using a child as an excuse at first interaction is going to advance the candidacy. Hope you are imagining that it was worse than it really was.

    2. MK*

      I agree. It would maybe make sense to offer an explanation if the reason for your not-great performance was a totally unexpected one-off event, like illness or a death in the family. Having a child, even if your husband is the primary caregiver, is not in that category; and I cannot imagine the alarm malfunction explanation ever going well with a prospective employer. You will sound as is you are making excuses.

      It is a fact of life that your performance on one particular day can affect your life disproportionately. It works that way with exams, interviews, etc. No, it’s not totaly fair, but you can’t expect only to be judged on your best days.

      1. fposte*

        This is what I was thinking–if the reason given for performance problems is something that’s going to exist while you’re working, it’s going to suggest that this is recurring, not a one-off that should be cut special slack.

    3. jag*

      If I wanted to try letting them know, it’d be along these lines:

      “I wanted to let you know how much I appreciated our conversation, though frankly feel I wasn’t my normal self. As I mentioned, I just moved to PLACE, and we are facing a few glitches in getting settled. I expect things to much better within the next two weeks. …(then some stuff related to the interview or job).”

      1. AnonyMouse*

        Yeah, personally I would just let it go, but if the OP feels it really went badly enough to merit an explanation this is how I’d handle it. Just wrap something generic about being a little off your game due to issues with the move into your standard thank you for the conversation/follow up on what you discussed. Maybe thank them for their patience as well as their time. But you probably did better than you think, OP – I thought I had a terribly awkward interview recently and ended up getting an offer!

    4. Cindi*

      What I would do is write them an email along the lines of “I’ve been thinking about what we talked about and wanted to expand on a few things …” That way you’re not saying you screwed up, but you have the opportunity to tell them the things you wish you’d said during the interview. Keep the email short, but hit a few impressive points that expand on things they mentioned and show how well your experience lines up with their needs.

      If the email sounds professional and enthusiastic, it may negate any concerns they have about the initial interview.

      1. Manager Anonymous*

        This. I did this. I had a horrible migraine. Was up the whole night before an all day campus interview. I barely made it to the job talk on time due to issues related to nausea (where’s the candidate?…in the bathroom) then a full day of committee interviews and I actually declined a tour of the facilities (a big no-no) Pretty sure I screwed this up.
        I sent a note to the hiring manager and to each of the committee members that started with…
        I given further thought to your question about…….
        and gave a more complete thoughtful response to the issue.
        I did not mention extenuating circumstances.
        I was offered the position and accepted it.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Ugh, I cannot imagine a full day of interviews with a migraine, or even in the drained state i get post-migraine. I feel for you.

          1. Manager Anonymous*

            seriously. It was really a nightmare. I was afraid to take the Imitrex as I can feel stupid and hungover the next day. Job talk was at 8:30 am. I took a big dose of Aleve and strong cup of tea in the morning and just powered through. I did take a “bathroom break” at every opportunity. By three o’clock, I just wanted the whole thing over with and that’s when I declined the facilities tour. I don’t even remember the last “wrap up meeting” The meeting room where I gave my job talk is used for a lot of training. Every time I walk in there I have flashbacks.

        2. QK*

          Yes! This +1! When doing an initial phone screen for my current job, I felt like I had bombed a question. And I didn’t even have a good excuse other than I was a little nervous. In my thank you note, I mentioned that question and that I had already been thinking about it, but didn’t express my thoughts well. Something like:

          Thank you very much for your time in our phone interview… I’m particularly enthusiastic about the position because of xyz (which were very true things I was excited about which were discussed on the call)…
          Also, I feel I didn’t articulate my answer very well to your question about abc. It’s something I’ve been thinking on a lot and would love the chance to speak more about it during (hopefully!) an in-person interview.
          Thanks again for your time!

          When done right, I think such an email can come off as pleasantly self-aware–like you’re a positive person that’s always striving to improve–rather than low-self-esteem-ish. But to answer OP #1’s original question, I wouldn’t go into the details of childcare and the alarm clock. That would feel a little over-share to me (and I tend to be an over-share-er as it is :) ). I think simply acknowledging there was a question you’d welcome the chance to better express your thoughts on is the way to go. To be fair, I felt my phone interview went decently other than that particular question, so your mileage may vary with this technique depending on how the interview went as a whole?

  3. Seal*

    #1 – During my first phone interview while job hunting fresh out of grad school I had a panic attack and started giving what I thought were nonsensical answers to their questions. It was so bad that I wound up seeking psychiatric treatment for what turned out to be severe performance anxiety (otherwise known as stage fright). I now control it with medication and breathing exercises.

    Yet despite my embarrassingly bad phone interview, much to my surprise I was invited for an in-person interview. Although they ultimately chose not to hire me, I was told that overall I made a very good impression on them. So I would suggest that the OP not worry about the phone interview or say anything about her family situation at this stage in the process – chances are she came off far better than she thinks she did.

    1. Dan*

      Honestly, I *know* when I tank phone screens. I’ve never been wrong.

      But I’ve also not been sure how I’ve done, and been surprised to get called in for the real deal.

  4. Amber*

    #1 I’d suggest two things. First get an alarm that you don’t have to set daily so there is no remembering. Second, get a backup alarm. For me I use a very loud alarm that is set to 8:15. Then my phone (which I set to always sound on weekdays so it doesn’t require daily setting) to go off at 8:25. That way if for some reason I turn off or sleep through the first alarm, the 2nd one will get me up.

    I hate to say it but “my alarm didn’t go off” is BS, accept responsibility for waking yourself up. You chose to only use 1 alarm, if it didn’t go off that either means it’s broken and go buy another, or you power went out and you don’t use batteries. All of which is under your control.

    1. K*

      While you do make some good points, your second paragraph comes off as adversarial. Like Alison posted above, be kind.

      1. Amber*

        You’re right, sorry about that! Let me re-phrase that 2nd paragraph to be less harsh & rude.

        #1 Rather than seeing your situation as something to stress over, see it as something that can be fixed so your interviews in the future go smoother. That probably means finding a better alarm that suits your lifestyle. After googling looking into reasons alarms don’t go off, its possibly a phone set incorrectly or you were so tired that it did go off and you simply don’t remember turning it off.

        Another option when doing phone interviews is to schedule them a bit later in the day. Most recruiters will try to work within your schedule to set up the meeting. They dont need to know why.

        1. BRR*

          I think it’s an unfortunate lesson in how much one should really over prepare for job interview logistics. Set multiple alarms, leave the house super early to compensate for traffic, have someone call you 15 min before to make sure things are working, I was in a new city and did a practice drive from the hotel to the office the night before. I interviewed someone earlier this week who’s cab went the wrong way. Thankfully she was tracking where they were going on her phone so she corrected him.

          1. Dan*

            The recruiter for one job sent me directions to the office.

            When I followed them to a T, I was puzzled when I got to an unexpected dead end.

            It turns out that she sent me directions from “I75N” when I was coming from “I75S”. I didn’t notice that, and TBH, when someone gives me directions, I know better than to trust the GPS/google maps, because they can be wrong.

            I was late, explained the situation, and got the job.

            On one hand, sure, my mistake. OTOH, I want to work with people who set me up for success, not failure. If you’re going to sabotage my ability to succeed and tell me it’s my fault for not being more careful, what are you going to be like on the job when you give me vague or actually wrong directions and I follow them and do the wrong thing? Is that my fault too, and I have to suffer (and ultimately quit) because you don’t handle your own mistakes well?

            1. Sadsack*

              One could say that this goes back to being well-prepared. When given directions to an interview, one should review them carefully in advance. It is difficult to blame that on someone else.

              That being said, I once did a practice run to a place where I had an interview scheduled. Great, easy drive! Then the day of the interview, I was so nervous that I completely spaced out and drove right past the place! I didn’t even realize it until I got well past it and realized that I had no idea where I was. I turned around and arrived exactly at the interview time to find the HR guy standing in front of the building waiting for me. That was embarrassing, but I got hired anyway!

            2. Oryx*

              I was once driving to an interview and gave myself plenty of time but because of the weird wording of a sign on the freeway completely missed my exit and all of that extra time was lost being, well, lost. I was probably 10 or 15 minutes late and that totally threw me off my game but I ended up getting hired

            3. books*

              My first job, I got a little lost on the way to the interview (and I was coming from another interview, so I didn’t have a whole lot of spare time to get from A to B. I got the job and it turns out I had a few other coworkers who also got lost on their way to the interview.

          2. AdAgencyChick*

            Agree. When you have a relationship with a manager already because you’ve been working there for a while, it’s no big deal if you oversleep once in a while, because the manager knows your track record and factors that in. With interviews, you’re giving them one data point to go on, so it HAS to be a good one lest the manager question whether your miss is out of the ordinary or an indicator of a recurring pattern.

        2. Anonyby*

          There could also be issues with recharging phones. Just last night I plugged my phone in to recharge while I slept, and I had a second, single-time alarm set to go off at 7. My normal alarm is at 8 for me to feed my cat, but I was filling in at a far-away office today and needed to leave by then. For some reason, even though I had checked to make sure it was recharging before I went to sleep, it still somehow stopped recharging and the battery died.

          Luckily my cat woke me up early (about 7:40) and I was able to rush getting her fed, getting ready, and out the door with plenty of time to be on time for work. Sometimes things just go wrong despite every precaution you take.

    2. Dan*

      I donno. Shit happens. My ipad alarm automatically sets the second I click off the area where I set the time. And it sets for the appropriate date. (Like if I set my alarm for 9am, it will set it for today, but 1am sets it for tomorrow.)

      I have another alarm that even though I set the time, doesn’t actually set until I swipe the “set alarm” button. Drives me nuts, because sometimes I forget to. The nice thing is that one I can set to repeat on a daily basis, so most of the time I don’t have to worry.

      1. Kelly L.*

        What was that glitch a few years ago where all the phones of a particular model didn’t “spring forward” when they were supposed to? Stuff of nightmares!

        1. Anonsie*

          YES. This happened to me! It was recurring alarms on iPhones– only I’d had mine for years and it had never done that before, so I never would have suspected any reason not to trust it. The alarm would go off an hour later than the time it was actually set for. I was late and extremely confused.

      2. Bea W*

        More good reasons to have back-up alarms, although the main reason I do it is because I just suck at getting out of bed.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This is why I set my alarm for nine minutes before I actually have to get up (it has a nine-minute snooze). It allows me to hear the alarm, shut it off, and then take a few minutes to orient myself before I get out of bed. It’s especially useful now that the days are shorter and it’s becoming pitch black in the early morning again.

          1. Laura*

            I have an alarm on my phone set for ten minutes before I have to get up. My phone has a 9-minute snooze.

            And I have my reminder to take my antihistamine set to go off at the time I should get up (because I should immediately go take it).

            Snoozing once is profitable. Snoozing twice is not, I end up with another alarm a minute later. It does a surprisingly good job at quelling my urge to re-snooze.

      3. Colette*

        Technology can have issues, but you’re also choosing to depend on products you know have issues. On an average day, it may not matter much (or at all), but if it’s important and you know those issues exist, it’s up to you to make sure you have a plan to mitigate whatever could go wrong.

        1. LBK*

          I had a regular alarm clock that went batty on me suddenly and would only go off at random times – it’s not just phones that can have alarm issues. I suppose the only reliable solution is to create a Hook-esque room full of clocks so that you can be sure at least one will go off.

          Kidding, but really, there’s potential for errors with basically any system. The only way I’ve found totally safe is to have one alarm on my phone and one on my clock, but it does kinda feel like overkill on the 99% of days where they both work.

          1. Colette*

            Oh, I agree any technology can have problems, but if you know the one you’re using has problems, it’s not a valid excuse for it not going off – you need to figure out a way to reliably work around its shortcomings or find a new solution.

    3. Anonsie*

      I hate to say it but “my alarm didn’t go off” is BS, accept responsibility for waking yourself up. You chose to only use 1 alarm, if it didn’t go off that either means it’s broken and go buy another, or you power went out and you don’t use batteries. All of which is under your control.

      What timing! And what did Alison just say about being needlessly snarky? I’d like to live in your world where nothing ever goes awry as long as people are minimally responsible.

      I use two alarms every morning, and today my system failed for no reason I can surmise. It’s on so I didn’t forget to set it or turn it off in my sleep, it’s set for the right time, and all seems in order. Only it didn’t go off. I’m going to set my other clock but leave this one out of curiosity and see if it goes off tomorrow (my schedule varies every day so I won’t be relying on that time tomorrow) or if it just decided that’s not a thing it wants to do.

      1. Anonsie*

        See now I’m being unnecessarily snarky. I’m still on edge from waking up and seeing the time and losing my mind

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Amber recognized it and reworded, which I totally appreciate. But that aside, I really want to ask people not to reply to snark with more snark. It makes it a lot worse. One snarky comment is a fluke. A string of them is a characteristic of the website. And I don’t want to be that website, so I need your help (everyone) in that. (I don’t mean to pick on you, Anonsie! I really value your comments here.)

          1. Anonsie*

            I usually ignore snippy comments as snip begets snip, but the temptation was too great this time since this happened to me a whole two or three hours before I came by here.

      2. LBK*

        This happened to me a couple weeks ago! My alarm was set correct as far as I can tell, it was on (it’s set to automatically repeat so there’s no chance I forgot to enable it), right time, went off the day before correctly and I didn’t touch it in between…my only explanation is that I did wake up when it went off but I was so out of it still that I managed to turn it off and immediately fall back asleep, without even remembering being awake.

        1. Anonsie*

          The way mine is, though, is as a one-time alarm, so if it goes off and you turn it off like normal it’s nolonger marked as “on.” My schedule changes frequently so I have to set a new alarm most nights. Set it last night… Nothing. It’s marked as “on” and the time is correct (no AM/PM mix up or something like that), I can’t figure it out.

  5. Gene*

    For #3, assuming the recruiter can’t give any valid reasons, and the changes really are significant, what’s wrong with telling the interviewer
    what happened? “Without my approval, recruiter X changed the following on my resume, here’s a correct copy.”

    That will be one major burned bridge with the recruiter, so only do it if the changes are something like “Veterinarian” to “Cat Sitter”.

    1. Kerry*

      Yeah, I was thinking of bringing along your usual resume to the interview, too. Although the recruiter still might have changed it for reasons you don’t know about – so I’d maybe call them up like Alison suggests to find out why they did it, then bring your resume to the interview if their reasons don’t hold up for you.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        That actually happened to me – I didn’t know the recruiter changed my resume (why in the hell did she decide to remove the fact that I had been promoted twice in 5 years??) but I also handed the interviewer my own copy and she realized very quickly that it was changed and she was pissed (at the recruiter). And then the recruiter got mad at me. I was perplexed. I came very close to telling her off and I’m glad I didn’t because she ended up getting me a great job.

      2. Mike B.*


        Call the discrepancies out when providing the real resume, so no one wonders whether you’re the one trying to put one over on them.

        And distribute your resume only as a PDF in the future so recruiters can’t make changes without your approval.

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          I wouldn’t be surprised if a recruiter has the full version of Adobe Acrobat specifically so that they can edit PDFs.

    2. Raine*

      Also, isn’t the recruiter potentially putting the employee’s job at risk? I’ve had jobs where the company made clear that “lying on the resume” can get you fired, sometimes even if it’s not discovered until years later. It never even crossed my mind that a recruiter might make arguably factual changes (such as to titles) and never clear that through me first.

      1. James M*

        I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about recruiters getting creative with resumes. I don’t know if this is true, but IT and related fields seem particularly prone to this, perhaps because of all the TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) that get tossed around.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This whole letter and the ensuing conversation makes me feel vindicated. During my most recent unemployment, a relative who used to be a recruiter suggested I completely change the title of my last job. I was horrified–she replied with a flippant, “Oh, everybody does it. My friends do it all the time and then get hired and fake their way through until they learn the job.”

          Yeaaaaah I’m not asking for YOUR advice ever again. :P One phone call to my former employer and the jig would have been up. “Oh, they never call.” WELL YES SWEETHEART, THEY DO.

      2. Mabel*

        I just got an email from a recruiter which said that if I was interested, I should send a Word version of my resume. I assume that’s because they want to remove your contact information so the company has to go through them, but it really had not occurred to me that they might change my resume. As far as I know, that hasn’t happened with mine, but it could have, and I wouldn’t necessarily know if I didn’t get an interview.

  6. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    The recruiting company owning a candidacy leaves me a little baffled. If I were HR at a company and found out a recruiting firm we’d contracted with had been lying about candidates, I’d feel appalled about the idea of having to pay them if I then hired someone who had worked with them. Could the recruiter’s behavior ever negate such a contract?

      1. jag*

        It’s easy to sever ties with a recruiter – just stop using them.

        The issue is the ties between the recruiter and the employer – that’s what what prevents a direct application to the employer from working.

        1. B*

          I don’t think it is always as simple as “severing ties” – recruiting/staffing companies often have contracts with the employers that they are hiring for. Unless there is a clause in the contract that names presenting candidates inaccurately, there would probably be legal issues.

          I know a lot of commenters really loved the interview with the brothel receptionist and asked for more like those – an employment lawyer would be a really informative interview!

          1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

            I wonder if that’s a common clause that companies put into their contracts with recruiters. If not, it should be! If I were a company, I would definitely want the option of never paying another dime to an unscrupulous recruiter, and I’m glad this question came up, because in the event that ever happens, I’m definitely insisting on that in the contract!

            Also, I second the call for an employment atty interview. I think there was one some time ago with Donna Ballman… maybe we can do a second one?

        2. Colette*

          I assume you can sever ties going forward (i.e. no longer accept submissions from that recruiter) but not retroactively, so you’d still be bound by the existing contract for any submissions you’ve already receive.

          I would suspect that misrepresenting the people you’re proposing the company hires would not be enough to make the contract void.

  7. Erik*

    #3 – I’ve seen my share of recruiters going above and beyond just removing my contact information. I had one job interview where they were interviewing me on A, but my experience was in X. The interviewer said, well, it’s on your resume.

    I asked him for a copy of what we was provided. My jaw hit the floor with the “creative editing” that was done. They outright lied about my experience in areas I never touched. I gave him a copy of my real resume and advised them to avoid working with that agency ever again.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Oh my god! I can’t believe this really happens!

      (Not “I don’t believe you” — just “I’m flabbergasted!”)

    2. Labratnomore*

      I had a recruiter once tell me that the main areas of for a job were X (which I had a ton of experience in) and that Y(that I had only limited knowledge of) was just a small component. He apparently told the hiring manager that I was experienced in Y, and it turned out that that was the main thing they were looking for. If I had known that I would not have applied because I knew I wasn’t what they were looking for. It took less than 15 minutes of a phone interview for the hiring manager and I to determine that I was not a good fit. She ended the interview verifying the recruiter I had gone through, and I could tell by her tone that they had other issues with this recruiter. They are sales people and they only get paid if their candidate gets hired, so many of them will do everything they can to get that done, even if it wouldn’t work out well for the company and the candidate in the long run.

  8. Erin*

    #2 – From my experience I would suggest NOT giving 6 months of notice unless you are totally, 100% sure it will be appreciated and well received.

    I worked for a non-profit with a staff of 4. I received a ton of positive feedback, and heard multiple times from the Executive Director how much she appreciated my knowledge and skill (she even told me several times that when she retired she thought I should be the ED)… Until my husband (an academic) received a job offer in his field in our home country. I thought I’d prepared them for this well – they knew I was on a work visa that would expire and they knew my goal was to move home within the time frame he received the offer.

    The day I told them he got the offer (6 months in advance of our move) everything changed. I stopped getting projects. No one consulted me on decisions anymore. My opinions about programming were not listened to or respected. My husband basically experienced the exact same thing at his job – he was left out of important research discussions and not included on papers directly related to his research. It got so bad that after a month, we actually decided to move up our departure by about 3 months. In retrospect, I honestly think both of our employers were a bit relieved, even though we were both awesome employees.

    I’m not saying every employer will be like this… I’m just suggesting you don’t underestimate the awkwardness of telling your current employer you intend to leave, and then planning to live with that for 6 months. In my experience it can completely alter the way they see you. Even if you feel a deep allegiance to them (I did!) it doesn’t mean they’ll feel a deep allegiance to you after you announce your intent to leave.

    1. Dan*

      My boss is leaving at the end of the month. He gave one month’s notice. I’ve been having some issues with him, so I’m not exactly disappointed in his departure. I have someone else I report to regularly who is in charge of my technical activities. Boss likes to throw crap on my desk that isn’t inline with the workflow of my day to day activities.

      Honestly, it’s way too easy to assume he’s short-timing it, and not worry about keeping *him* happy. If he were giving six months notice, and some point he’d stop being an effective boss. When he doesn’t supervise me on a daily basis, it’s easy to keep kicking the can down the road.

      Oh, and this guy, when I tell him what he’s asking for isn’t simple and is a bit of a disruption to what I’m doing, doesn’t say, “oh, I didn’t realize it.” What he says is “oh, find a way to get it done.” That’s not managing, that’s giving orders.

      In your spot, as your time to leave draws closer, you’re less and less personally responsible for the fallout (good or bad) for your suggestions. It’s likely that the people boxing you out wanted their agendas front and center, because they’re the ones who have to deal with the potential failures of stuff down the road.

      1. Jen RO*

        My team lead was laid off and given a last day that was 7 months away… I can understand the reasoning, since he has a lot of knowledge and everyone else is new with the company, but of course he stopped caring about most things as soon as he was told. I am going to be his replacement (sort of) and it’s been hard to get info out of him.

        1. jag*

          We’ve had a number of three-month notices where I work, and a bit over six months a number of times – particularly for people going to grad school or moving. No problem with any of them.

          It depends on the place. The concept of “of course…stop caring” wouldn’t happen with people who like working with us but leave because of new, better opportunities. It’s a job where people care about the work and their reputation. And if someone really did totally check out, they might be fired.

          Heck, we have someone leaving in four weeks due to a sudden opportunity that’s great for her (closer to fiance) who was taking some serious training yesterday that’s important to her work now, and will be helpful to her in her career. She’s with us, the training was scheduled, so it goes on.

          1. De Minimis*

            I’m trying to figure out how much notice to give if I do end up needing to leave. There’s a house sale involved so I may be able to give a few months’ notice—but maybe give a caveat that if a job opens up in the new location, I’ll have to leave sooner.

            There’s really no ideal time for me to leave, in a few weeks I will be the only one who performs these functions, so if I leave they will be in a bind, but I still want to leave on as good terms as possible. I’ve recently learned though, that other facilities in our organization have gotten by short-term with no finance/accounting people, so there’s no reason that can’t happen here.

          2. OP 2*

            Thank you for all your comments. I do not have another position waiting for me when I leave. So I am counting on the reference. And since I am the “expert” in the office, with ten years experience, I would like to think I am valued. Previously, my company was looking to shut down this branch because of a lack of knowledgeable staff. Then I moved to this area and applied out of the blue. They halted those plans and now the branch is profitable. That was what was in mind when I contemplating the 6 months notice.

        2. Bea W*

          I got 9 months notice when I was laid off. It was good and bad. Good that I had time to plan financially and find another job, bad that it was 9 months of knowing I was losing my job. When I was told my reaction was “GAH OMG I have no job!” then overwhelming relief when told when my last day would be to the point I thanked the person delivering the news. It was very much a roller coaster.

    2. Cucumber*

      Yes. A million times yes. An eon ago, I made the mistake of giving multiple months’ notice for an academic job, and went through much of what you discussed. I would say that academic positions are probably more likely to do this because of many faculty and staff’s lack of experience “working on the outside”. I worked with far too many people who had segued from being an graduate student straight into working for a college, and had no understanding that in the “real” world, people leave jobs, and it’s not personal.

      Some of my coworkers acted personally betrayed by my choice to leave, even though I had deliberately given them the time, out of respect, caring, and professionalism, so they could find my replacement earlier. I was amazed at how coldly I was treated by people I thought were my work friends.

      Things just got weirder and weirder, but it also helped when one of my counterparts also quit – without as much notice – and then the grudge was turned towards her. Still, a coworker (but not someone I directly reported to) then badgered me to leave my on-campus apartment early, during the summer, threatening to have my replacement moved in early. I wish I’d had a resource like Ask A Manager then.

  9. Dan*


    See my comment to Erin, above. Long notice periods only make sense if you’re an independent contributor who can easily be replaced at any time.

    Otherwise, if you do project based work, the appropriate notice to give is however long it takes to finish up your current project. If it takes 4 months to finish up your project and you give them 6, they’ll scramble finding something that you can do in exactly 2 months. Or they could just get rid of you then and replace you with somebody who can see through whatever work they need.

    If you’re involved with strategy, people are going to see you as a lame duck, rightly or wrongly. You won’t be there to answer for the recommendations you make, and people may resent that. Also, there are going to be people struggling for control (or a promotion or whatever) of the work that you are leaving. The closer you get to your departure date, the more irrelevant you become, so you’ll get ignored more and more.

    Finally, if your job is hard to fill, say they launch a job search three months in advance of your departure. They get a few qualified applicants, but only get serious with one. What happens if he says he needs to start in two weeks, or he’s gone? They might cut you early to get him in the door.

    1. Jamie*

      I think they also make sense when you are in a unique position in the company and are willing to train your replacement.

      The woman for whom I took over gave several months notice and so I had a couple of months to work with her and train and also transition to the job where I had someone who could answer questions. That was beyond helpful.

      If there are parts of your position that no one else in the company is qualified to do long notice periods can be great. But since they aren’t always possible, it’s not the obligation of the one leaving to give more than a reasonable period because tptb should have built in some redundancy.

  10. Bend & Snap*

    #5 I was fortunate to get an offer for a job I didn’t want while waiting on an offer for a job I did. It helped speed things along for my first choice and they were more negotiable because of the other offer.

    I knew I wanted that job and using the leverage I had helped me get the offer I wanted too.

    I was always 100% sure I wasn’t accepting the other offer and didn’t negotiate with them.

    1. Dan*

      I had an offer from a job I was willing to take while interviewing for a job that I wanted really bad. As you say, it was great to have that leverage.

      It was also really nice to be able to talk $ up front without screwing around. My manager told me he’d be the offer I had on the table, and he did. In pretty much every way.

      I sorta felt bad turning down Offer A, but it really was rather inferior. They weren’t happy when I turned them down, either. Sadly, their only pitch was “they big company, we small company. They have big company politics.” That’s really the best you can do? (Offer A knew I was considering Company B, but while I didn’t have an offer at that point from B, A could have upped the ante. B is a well-known player in my field, A is a run-of-the-mill contractor.)

    2. Jen RO*

      I also got an offer for an okay job while waiting on an offer for a great job. I told Okay Job that I needed a few days to think about it (until the following Tuesday). Then Great Job called (on Friday) and wanted me to have another interview. I told them that I had another offer pending, so they scheduled the interview for that same Friday and on Monday I had the offer.

        1. Jen RO*

          And less than a year later, new management ruined Great Job (layoffs + lots of people quitting), while Okay Job is still going strong (a former coworker took that position). So it was nice… for a while.

    3. Original Poster on #5*

      All of you are talking about using an actual offer from a lesser position to leverage for a better position, but what if you seriously do not know which offer you would want more? I’m looking at two places that are in similar fields, doing similar work, one is close to giving me an offer, while the other one is slow in getting back to me (and might be willing to pay more – I have no idea).

      Also, did you tell the other place what you received as an offer, or did the fact that you had an offer by itself provide you sufficient leverage in the negotiations?

  11. Puffle*

    #4: I would find it really, really odd to read a section about being a clinical trial volunteer on a resume. To me, it’s like writing that you have children or you enjoy skydiving- I’d be thinking, “That’s nice for you, but how is this relevant?”

    Also, being a trial volunteer doesn’t necessarily mean that you fit into a specific health demographic (i.e. non-smoker, non-drug user). If the trial is to investigate the effects of taking medication A on people who have condition B, then obviously the people conducting the survey are going to want to recruit volunteers with condition B. I wouldn’t automatically assume that a volunteer is a non-smoker, etc

    1. De (Germany)*

      I think the OP means that they were in the control group of people without a certain condition. However, calling it that wouldn’t mean what the OP seems to want it to mean – clinical trial volunteers in medical studies that are put in the control group can have any number of conditions and depending on the trial may be allowed to smoke / drink alcohol etc. because medication also needs to be tested on “regular” people. So “healthy”may not be a good term to use and “control group” does not mean someone who is healthy (whatever that means…).

      1. Eliza Jane*

        Paid clinical trial volunteers (who support themselves at it) are, in my experience, often working in Early Phase (first in man) trials, where the tests are to see whether the drugs are going to kill you/make you sick, and to test absorption and elimination rates. For those, they choose healthy people and keep them in a hospital for days at a time, then follow up for a while. In the communities where research centers are based, there are college kids and discharged veterans who will cycle through trials and can make a decent amount of money.

        Later phase studies, where they are testing on actual patients, the research groups don’t actually deal with the patients directly most of the time. They recruit hospitals and other doctors, who report back on their patients.

        1. Eliza Jane*

          I should have said usually and not often in the last post. I worked for a clinical research organization for a few years (conducting research for pharmaceutical companies), and to my knowledge, we never paid for later phase studies and always paid for early phase, both for the risk factor and the inconvenience of spending the time in the hospital (and often bored out of their minds and really uncomfortable).

        2. Bea W*

          Exactly. Phase I is the only phase that uses healthy volunteers. They get paid because that’s really the only way to recruit healthy people into participating, and these people stay overnight at the clinical site and have to undergo frequent blood draws (for PK testing this can seriously be every 15 min – immediately after dosing) and possibly other unpleasant testing that they would normally not be subjected to as a healthy person.

          Phase II-IV are for people who actually need treatment for a specific condition, and participating gives them other tangible benefits. They do sometimes get payment or some token for their participation. It depends on the funding. I worked on one long term late phase study where we had a small budget built into the contract to give something to participants each year, enough for a gift card or movie passes. It was less a payment for participating and more a “We appreciate you for sticking it out!” It depends 0n who is funding the research.

          In both cases, participating sites always get paid, though there are different payment structures for that. Phase I studies are often pharma industry funded since it’s often private companies who are developing new drugs (at least in the US), and they do have to contract with research sites (often research hospitals) to conduct the actual study on the subjects, but it could easily be just one site instead of multiple sites. Around here we have a ton of research hospitals. So there’s no shortage of opportunities for healthy volunteers.

          From my end – it’s all the same amount of work. :p

      2. Bea W*

        In the US, we have Phase I trials that are done exclusively on a small number healthy volunteers. This phase is required to prove to the FDA the drug is safe enough (and in what dosages) to move onto trials testing the treatment on the actual condition. This is different than having a control group. There is often no control group at this stage of testing. The focus is on collecting adverse events and measuring through frequent laboratory testing how the drug is processed by the body. Control groups are used in later phases, but are most likely to be people with the condition who may receive a placebo or nothing at all, not healthy volunteers. The OP’s terminology is correct for the way pre-approval clinical trials work in the US. Inclusion criteria for “health volunteers” is usually pretty strict, probably out of liability. They want people without known health risks or issues because it’s considered less of a risk for complications, especially at the stage where there drug has never been tested on humans.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      +1. Just because you’re being paid for something doesn’t mean it’s a job. The work requires no skills or achievements — just a willingness to show up for appointments and take a medication.

      The only exception I might make is if you’re applying for a job with a patient advocacy group or other organization that is closely connected to the medical condition for which you’re in a trial. In that case I might mention it in a cover letter as something like “I care so much about research in this field that I’m participating in it myself.” But I still don’t think I’d list it on a resume.

      1. PEBCAK*

        LOL at your first sentence…”I receive alimony!” “I won $1200 at the racetrack!” “I sold my car on Craigslist!”

        1. Jamie*

          Ha – even when the skills do translate some things you just can’t put on a resume.

          I did my own divorce, no lawyers – paperwork, research, filings, etc. Mediator didn’t have to change anything – it was perfect. I think that speaks to my ability to research the hell out of an unfamiliar topic and complete a project effectively with said research…but I would look crazy to put it on my resume.

      2. Anonsie*

        Honestly, as someone who does all the back end work trying to get the participants in for said appointments, this is actually a huge deal. I would actually see someone who was a healthy control on an extended trial as someone who is really really dependable and willing to go above and beyond. You’d think “show up” would be a simple thing that most people do, and you would be very wrong.

        At this point I’m impressed when someone does anything I ask under any circumstances. If they so much as answer the phone at the time they asked me to call them, I’m pleasantly surprised. The overwhelming majority of people do not, even when they stand to benefit health-wise from the study. For healthy controls I am exponentially more surprised.

    3. The IT Manager*

      I agree with Puffle. In addition to being wierd to mention on a resume (because its not work experience), it doesn’t necessarily convey the message of “clean living” that the LW seems to think it does and to some people may portray the opposite. You could well be vounteering for a trial related to specific medical conditions.

      1. Muriel Heslop*

        My admin and her spouse are doing a trial right now for which they qualify due to high blood pressure. I would never assume the participant was healthy but I would assume that they don’t know what belongs on a resume.

  12. De (Germany)*

    #4: As far as I know, being a clinical trial volunteer means that you get regular check-ups and have to answer questions regarding your heath and activities – it really wouldn’t strike me as anything close to a full-time job and thus reads like a filler.

    1. MK*

      I think the OP did mean it to be considered work expierience; as I understood it, she wants to include this to negate the possible “” sex, durgs and rock ‘n roll” image that an employer might get when she reads that the OP used to work in the music industry.

      1. fposte*

        And to me it seems too close to plasma donation to do that; I wouldn’t put on anything where the merit was what science did to my body rather than what I did.

        1. Tinker*

          Yeah, something about it kind of makes me think “I sold my body to science to get my guitar out of hock” — it seems like an unflattering sort of oversharing to have it in the resume.

      2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Yeah. Though if OP has an employment gap, do you guys think it would be an acceptable alternative to nothing? Obviously like volunteering or something would be better, but I could see including it to fill a gap as portraying a sort of “scrappiness;” like, people need money, and this person maybe thinks outside the box when they need to?

        Not sure if I believe that, just tossing it out to see what others think!

        1. HeyNonnyNonny*

          I get the idea of that– you want to show the company that every day you’re hustling…but I wonder if that would be more of a cover letter or interview point instead of resume then.

          1. Eliza Jane*

            Yeah, I’d say interview point. If asked about the gap, you can explain that you were doing this. It doesn’t bring anything to the table, but it might offset a negative if people are concerned.

        2. Jamie*

          Not for me – there is no workplace, resume, interview scenario where this wouldn’t make me uncomfortable and question the judgement of bringing it up.

  13. UK Anon*

    #1 – I’m afraid this doesn’t really help the OP, but in terms of “That said, the reason I’m torn is because I’ve certainly had times where, after interviewing a candidate who had seemed promising but who under-performed in the interview, I’ve wondered if there were some sort of extenuating circumstances, like sickness or nerves, that would explain the poor performance … and in some of those cases, I would have been open to hearing that and trying again.”:

    I once did an interview where they opened by asking if there was anything which I felt would prevent me from interviewing as well as usual that day. I actually really appreciated it, because after I’d booked the interview, my partner got a hospital appointment and we had to be up super early to get there, so by the afternoon interview I was just wanting to curl up for a nap. Knowing that they knew that really helped me to get over the ‘what if I do badly because I’m so sleepy?’ nerves, and hopefully reassured them as well. (Plus I was so relieved not to have yawned during the interview! I really was worried about it happening…)

    1. JMegan*

      Oh, interesting – what a great idea! Because people do run into bad luck combined with bad timing, but not considered good form for the interviewee to bring it up. But still, it’s an important data point for the interviewer, to know if this behaviour is usual for the candidate. It’s definitely helpful to differentiate between “just nerves” versus “my kid was up all night vomiting” versus “a generally disorganized person.” And I imagine a good interviewer would learn the difference between an excuse and a valid reason pretty quickly.

    2. Mike B.*

      That sounds like an interesting idea, but I’d be afraid of opening up a can of worms there. To provide a meaningful answer rather than a simple yes or no, the candidate might feel she has to disclose something about her personal life that should not be part of the interview (eg, pregnancy, chronic illness, fasting for religious observance, the hospitalization of a same-sex spouse).

  14. 30ish*

    OP 1: I think it’s too risky to say something. Firstly, the interview might not have been as bad as you thought it was. It’s much easier to feel like you’re rambling on the phone than in a face-to-face situation. A phone interview is a situation where you naturally focus on every single word you say, in a way you wouldn’t otherwise. Plus, YOU knew you had just woken up and your memory of the interview is probably colored by that, but they didn’t know that. I bet the board members had a better impression of you than you believe. Secondly, since it’s a board making the decision, it’s probably more difficult to get the message to all of them and it’s also less likely they could even organize a second interview. Thirdly, performance in the phone interview is really just one factor among many. If this was just a pre-screening interview and they have in-person interviews planned afterwards, you might still get another chance.

  15. Not So NewReader*

    OP 1. I think the big move that you made stands alone for feeling a bit off kilter. I made a much smaller move with NO children and it took me a bit to get into the swing of the new area and feel anchored/settled in this new area. And as you are illustrating here, I found that when things went wrong, it was never one thing at a time but rather several things at once. I can remember one interview where the oil leaked out of my car and the snow plow filled my driveway back in just as I was ready to leave for my appointment. Fun times. Yeah, I was a bit shaken at that interview.

    The story running in the back ground was that I felt kind of lost in my new area. I did not have much in resources such as friends/money/knowledge of the locale and I missed not having all that. It was a triple hit for me. It does get better and it does get easier, but it takes time. For the short run, my life was very complex for even simple matters. Ex: I needed a loaf of bread, now where the heck is that nice grocery store I saw the other day??? (Pre-internet times.)

    What helped here? I had to go easy on myself when things went poorly. (Things went poorly OFTEN.) I had to allot extra time for everything. And I felt that I had to double check the important stuff to make sure those things were okay.

    You don’t indicate how the interview ended. If it did not end suddenly or feel a bit too short, my guess would be that you might have done a bit better than what you think. Personally, I never explained to anyone why I was a bit off beat. Explaining it seemed to make it worse and seemed to keep it at the forefront of my thinking. I was very eager to settle into my “new normal”, the quickest way to get there, at least to me was a “fake it until I make it” approach.

    It’s been 30 years since the snow plow blocked my driveway. I still look back on that time period as a point in my life where I felt very, very stretched. I think what is happening to you is pretty normal considering all the changes you have in life.

  16. Elysian*

    #3 – Its hard to tell from what you wrote how serious this is, so you’ll have to use your good judgment. But I can imagine some changes that might upset a person, but wouldn’t be really “fraud.” Its one thing to change a title from “Secretary” to “Receptionist” and other entirely to change from “Secretary” to “Paralegal” or something like that.

    But either way, I don’t think this should impact your ability to negotiate. In the interview you would obviously talk about what you did – what you actually did, not the recruiter’s version of it – and THAT is the kind of information you want to use to negotiate, if it comes to that. It would be really ineffective negotiating to just point to something on your resume after the in-person interview and use that as support for higher pay (unless its years of experience and you frame it with something else). Talk about your actual work and duties when you go in for your interview, and then lean on that to negotiate.

  17. Allison*

    1. I would’ve addressed it in the thank-you note, and said something along the lines of “I’ll admit wasn’t quite myself that morning, so I hope none of my answers sounded too strange. Let me know if there’s anything you’d like me to clarify.” Doesn’t get into specifics or make excuses, but does acknowledge that if they do felt you under-performed, it was a fluke and not how you usually are.

    Once you send a thank-you note, it seems weird to send any further communication beyond a simple follow-up if you don’t hear from them for a week or so, and I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to address any interview flaws at that point.

    1. Sadsack*

      “I wasn’t quite myself,” is an excuse though. I think it would be strange to put that in a cover letter. Better to just follow-up to some other things from their conversation and ignore the strangeness.

      1. Sadsack*

        sorry – meant thank you note, not cover letter. And like Allison said above, after the thank you note, further communication besides a follow-up regarding their timeline would be inappropriate.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          I was thinking this as well. If OP #1 knew the phone interview didn’t go well, why not lightly address it in the thank you note. Maybe “I realize I may not have sounded my best over the phone yesterday, but I am very much interested in the position and would like meet in person to discuss aspects of x and y in greater detail.” or something along those lines.

          But of course if the note was already sent, this would be too awkward to revisit.

  18. Bea W*

    #4 – Do not put clinical trial participation on your resume, but if you ever interview for work on clinical trials you can work it into the discussion (but only as a phase I/healthy volunteer because discussing actual health issues is still not a good thing to do).

    1. Jamie*

      Mileage will vary on this, I would find that really odd if someone brought it up in an interview. There is no benefit to it as it won’t impress me. It could be a neutral in some scenarios but my only reaction to that in an interview would be, “why are they telling me this?”

        1. Bea W*

          Totally not weird in that setting. I would totally ask follow-up questions about how you might consider that experience when working on a clinical trial. Would it make you think differently than if you had never had that experience? I don’t even work with subjects ever.

  19. Allison*

    4. I agree with AAM, being in a clinical trial is one of those things that you do, and it something that indicates good character and personal qualities, but it’s not work experience and isn’t really relevant to your work-related skillset.

    While I’m at it, here are some other things I see on resumes and LinkedIn profiles that really don’t belong in the “work experience” section:

    – being a member of a support group
    – playing in a band in your spare time
    – being a customer of a particular cell phone company ( . . . yup)
    – playing online poker

      1. Poe*

        I had not finished my hot chocolate, and in an effort to save my computer screen, I spit it down my shirt. Thank goodness I am at home right now!

      1. Allison*

        Not sure, but I’d imagine that’s how he paid the bills during those 3 years where he wasn’t working. All I remember is he claimed to have lots of analytical skills and risk management techniques from the experience.

        1. LBK*

          FWIW, some people DO make a career of playing poker…I mean, professional poker players are a thing. But I really don’t know how you’d argue that it counts as “work experience” any more than, say, being on a professional sports team. It’s not exactly a comparable set of skills.

  20. soitgoes*

    I don’t think that “I have a child and also I slept through my alarm” are extenuating circumstances. If anything, saying that would make the OP seem like someone who makes a lot of excuses and possibly also the type of employee who’d cry PARENTHOOD every time he or she wanted the day off.

  21. Anna*

    #3 – The question of recruiters owning your candidacy is one I was thinking of writing in to Alison. Alison, is the six months you mentioned a standard time period, or does it vary widely by the contracts the recruiting company has with the client? And does this apply for different job openings and different roles within that same company? I’m wondering how long I may need to wait to apply for another position with a company through a different recruiter.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It varies, but six months and company-wide is pretty standard. You could absolutely raise this issue with a recruiter and ask them how they work it, though.

  22. Kimberlee, Esq.*

    On #3, I agree with Alison’s advice, but would take it further. The recruiter may well be able to assuage your fears, but if not, OP, I think you should tell the hiring manager (hopefully before the interview!) that you feel like you were dramatically misrepresented, send them your actual resume, and tell them that you understand if they want to cancel the interview. You’re clearly alarmed by the level of misrepresentation happening, and if that’s the case, not raising means making yourself complicit in it. If it were a couple minor things and you were on the fence, it would be different. But you’re pissed off, and (for me) that would make me feel like I needed to set the record straight.

    I think it also protects you for the future. If you think this company would be upset at the fraud and refuse to hire you later, that’s bad. But I can’t imagine them feeling the same way if you are forthright and honest with them. If I were the hiring manager, I’d feel very good about you as a person, such that even if this ended up not being the right job for you once the changes were known, you’d be on my radar in a real way for a position that would be a good match.

  23. Dani S*

    #2 – I think it’s really thoughtful and generous of you want to give such long notice, but I would only offer a specific time frame if you’re reasonably certain you would actually be willing/able to stay that long. Obviously I don’t know any of the details of your situation, but a couple questions come to mind: If your husband gets a new job in the place you’re moving to, would you be willing to live apart for a while? Are you going to be able to resist the urge to start job searching immediately and really be able to stay mentally present? Would the military do your final move/reimburse you if you wait six months to move?

    On the flip side, I know you’re eager to be near family, but would it be wise to wait to give notice until one of you has something lined up at the new place?

  24. Jamie*

    Regarding the long notice, I totally understand the impulse, but Alison is right – just talk to them before promising them the moon.

    You went from new hire to their only manager in 5 months – looks like they are pretty good at getting people up to speed if they have the right candidate.

  25. Nonna*

    Re: #3 – I had something like this happen to me, too. I wish I had been more confident in my abilities to stand up for my skills. I had worked for a small company (Boss, me, three others below me) and my title changed from Account Manager to Sr. Account Manger to Assistant Vice President to Senior Vice President by the time I left. But, the recruiter told me those titles didn’t mean anything because the company was so small and that I should be marketing myself as an Executive Assistant, mainly because I assisted the president of the company.
    Well, if by assist you mean managed the people below me, managed multiple accounts, managed the office, cleaned up after the president when he over-promised stuff to our clients (“We’ll have 60 sets of books to you tomorrow!” when it takes a week to order the books from our supplier), worked 60 hours a week, etc. etc.
    None of that mattered, though, because I booked our travel to national conferences. And because I booked our travel, that meant that I was an Executive Assistant. Never mind the fact that not only did I attend and work these conferences, I did all of our set up prior (paperwork-miles and miles of paperwork for multiple states; bossman only had to sign where I told him, after I filled everything out) but I took care of registration, and follow-up to all of the attendees.
    I was an account manager, an event manager, an office manager, a Jill of all Trades. In reality, I was not an Executive Assistant. But the recruiter told me he couldn’t market me as anything other than an EA. And I believed him.

  26. Frances*

    Interesting comments. I recently had a last-minute phone interview with a long-distance recruiter (who was trying to fill for a full-time remote position), and it so happened that my baby, who is normally in full-time off-site daycare, was at home with me that day, because my mother was visiting. My mom knew I had the interview and, of course, offered to watch the baby while I had the interview. I took the phone downstairs, but during the interview (which was brief), the baby started screaming, and my mom was trying to comfort her but did not take her outside (which is what I was hoping she would do). I don’t know if the recruiter could hear my baby crying, but despite two follow-ups on my end, I haven’t heard from him again. I did wonder if he thought I wouldn’t be a good remote-work candidate because the baby would be home with me all day (which is not the case).

  27. Frances*

    PS Regarding the moon, the assistant manager at a bookstore I worked at years ago absolutely REFUSED to work on a full-moon evening. I can’t blame him; everyone who walked in the store on those nights was totally rude or disagreeable in some way. And the REALLY weird folks tended to come in, too. “The freaks come out at night!” :)

  28. Questioner #3*

    I’m the #3 question writer. Here’s how it turned out:
    The morning of my phone interview, I called the Sr. recruiter represented on my resume (not the recruiter I’d been working with at that same agency) to ask if she can “help me understand” the title changes (and by default an entirely different department), especially since they were bumped down in level (“coordinator” from a “manager”). The original Jr. recruiter returned my call via voicemail plainly admitting that she wanted “to more closely align” me to the role, la-de-da. (I was already more aligned in reality than the ignorant changes she made.) Since both Jr./Sr. recruiters heard my question/complaint, admitted to it casually, felt no reason to change it or address my concern, and were obviously unaware that such intentional misrepresentation on a resume is fraud and illegal (despite it their job to know), risks my employment and reputation, reduces my credibility, compromises my negotiation leverage, and disrespects the effort I’ve spent on writing/designing my resume as well as the accomplishments I’ve worked damn hard to achieve, I emailed their district manager and said that I wanted an explanation on her employees’ actions and for my real resume sent to their client before the phone call in a few hours.
    I got a call right away from a far more professional person who explained that while they’re encouraged to modify resumes (explain acronyms, highlight skills, eliminate irrelevencies, and otherwise normal, understandable, and legal modifications) changing job titles isn’t their practice. He didn’t want to address the legality of it, but he made sure that my real resume got to the hiring manager.
    I had a great call with the manager who had my real resume in hand, and she fell all over herself to say she wants to take it to the next level and even gave me tips on how to handle the next round so that I get the job. She clearly stated I was exactly who she wanted.
    As another commenter said (although regarding a different topic), I don’t need anyone sabotaging my career. I would rather burn a bridge with a recruiter up front than have them mess up my career with their client later. It’s not worth the risk.
    Footnote: At the same time, I was recruited for a second job which was much closer to my ultimate personal and career goals. I interviewed for that, was offered the position a few hours later, and accepted. I didn’t have to deal with being tied up with this unscrupulous agency after all.

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