my interviewers seem like they haven’t read my resume, my coworkers keep rummaging through my papers, and more

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

1. My interviewers seem like they haven’t even read my resume

I started interviewing a few months ago for jobs and have averaged anywhere between one interview to five interviews in a week. In about 10 situations, maybe more at this point, it doesn’t seem like the person setting up the interview or interviewing me has looked over my application materials whatsoever. For example, I’ve had numerous managers seem surprised when I told them I wasn’t a local candidate during the phone interview, even though it’s explicitly on my resume and on the online application materials. Other people thought all of my work experience was volunteer, even though I Iist the salary for these positions, or had no idea I had a master’s degree.

I used to think the top candidates were contacted for interviews, but now it just seems like interviewers spend zero time looking over my application. I understand people are busy, but this trickles down into the interview where it bothers me that they seem so unprepared or indifferent. Is this normal? Am I in the wrong here? Should I not read so much into this stuff?

Well, they might have reviewed your materials in the process of deciding who to call in for interviews and just forgotten some of the details between then and now. That’s not a horrible sin; it happens. Ideally they should take the time to re-familiarize themselves with your resume right before the interview, but sometimes pressing stuff arises and ruins the best laid plans, particularly if the manager in question is busy, and most are. I’m not going to knock interviewers for that as long as they reviewed it at some point.

Or of course, it’s possible that they haven’t reviewed your materials at all at any point — but even then, someone else would have. In all but the most horribly run organizations, someone does read applications and choose who to interview based on what they read.

But when you’re talking about the person who’s just setting up the interview, they don’t really need to review your materials. Someone else selected you and this person is just coordinating logistics. So that part isn’t odd. But thinking all of your work experience was volunteer is pretty bizarre.

2. I want my coworkers to stop rummaging through my papers

I recently joined a new company, and am one of the few who have an office. I deal with highly sensitive information, so having an office is a necessity.

I’m surprised at how my fellow coworkers in the office treat my space. Last week, I went to the restroom and came back and a woman (who I had not yet met) was sitting in my office, just waiting. I could have been in a meeting or taking a break in the cafeteria – who knows how long she would have waited? I have had others come in my office and move stuff around on my desk so they could put their papers down in front of me, when clearly I’m working on a project. I’ve even had people walk in and open desk drawers, because the person before me kept candy in the drawers and they expected me to as well! I mentioned these behaviors to another person on my team, who does not have an office, and her response was to the tune of “people don’t have boundaries here and it takes awhile to get used to.”

Due to the confidential nature of my job, I don’t want people just walking in and looking at things and sitting down and getting comfortable. Also, being new, I don’t want to be the neurotic and uptight person who shuts my door and locks my office each time I go talk to another employee or go to the restroom. But I also don’t want to get written up should someone stop in and leaf through confidential information on my desk. Any advice?

I think you’ll come across as overly territorial if you object to someone waiting in your office for you while you’re away; I agree with you that it’s a little off-putting (for the reasons you say — who knows how long you’ll even be gone?), but it’s not worth saying something about.

With people moving your papers to put something down in front of you, just speak up nicely in the moment: “Oh, actually, please don’t move those — I’ve got them in a particular order.” I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it beyond that.

I agree with you, though, that opening desk drawers to look for candy goes too far. But given that you’re working on confidential stuff, I’d just ask for a desk with drawers that lock and sweep any loose papers into a locking drawer before leaving your desk. If the papers are really confidential, that’s the smart thing to do regardless, even if you weren’t working in an office of people with no boundaries — but it’s especially reasonable since you are.

3. Renegotiating salary since my job significantly changed after one month

I was hired last month to work at a medium-sized business full-time. My position consists of filling an existing job share: half-week phone receptionist and half-week employee training. My reception job is silly easy; the training job is very challenging.

Here is the issue. The full-time trainer I was hired to work with may never come back. I have taken over her position, and my manager believes this will be permanent. My manager and CEO tell me how impressed they are with my work. But I am still paid a receptionist wage while now doing 100% trainer work! I am paid $3-5/hour below industry minimum. How do I approach this? I am new, and this was unforeseen, but I believe I deserve a fair wage. I am in a three-month probation; is it okay to bring this up then? I am “due” a 30 cent raise then, but I don’t feel that is appropriate anymore.

Absolutely it’s appropriate. If you’d just been given a few extra tasks that hadn’t originally been anticipated, that’s pretty par for the course. But you’ve been moved into a whole different role: full-time trainer when you were previously half receptionist, and the wages for those roles are different.

I’d say something like this: “When we originally set my salary, we thought I’d be doing half-time receptionist work. Since I’ve ended up being moved into training work full-time, I’d like to revisit the question of salary. Can we adjust what I’m earning to be in line with what the company pays for full-time trainers?”

4. Can I sue over my delayed raise?

I live in Georgia and I have come to the realization that I was not given my annual review in a timely fashion. I started with the company in October 2012, had a review 6 months after I started. Then I was told it is yearly on my hire date. I have not had it. Can I sue for this? Now they are trying to get me retro pay, but that entails me have a huge taxation because of no fault of my own. So really I’m losing big time.

Sue for it? No. There’s no law that requires that an employer give you timely performance reviews. (And even if there were, given how much time, energy, and money lawsuits take, suing is the last step after you try other avenues to resolve a problem, not the first.)

If you have a contract that promises you raises at specific points, that might be an issue, but such a contract would be very, very unusual in the U.S. Employers are generally very careful to ensure that they’re not locking themselves into being legally obligated to give raises at specific times.

It’s good that your company is recognizing that their delay ended up costing you that increased pay, but they’re not under any obligation to give you retro pay for that period; some companies will in that situation and some won’t. What I’d recommend in the future is proactively talking to your manager if your review gets delayed and — if a raise is likely — noting that you’re concerned about delaying it going into effect.

5. Is it age discrimination to screen for computer skills?

I work in the health care field, and my company hires a specific type of practitioner. With the new government emphasis on electronic medical files, basic computer skills are becoming an absolute requirement for these jobs.

Unfortunately, my company does not screen for basic computer literacy as part of the hiring process. When I suggested that we do so, since we’ve been hiring people who don’t know how to perform very basic tasks on the computer and it’s causing problems, my boss told me she was pretty sure we couldn’t do so as it would be considered age discrimination. I feel that if computer use is a basic requirement of the job, it’s completely reasonable to screen for computer skills. What are your thoughts?

My thoughts are that your boss sucks, knows nothing about how to hire employees, and should not be allowed any managerial authority. If I had a magic wand, I would have just removed it all from her.

It’s not age discrimination (!) to require computer skills. That’s called hiring for qualifications. (And your manager is being pretty damn insulting to the myriad older people with excellent computer skills by assuming she’d be screening them out if she enforced computer literacy standards.)

{ 372 comments… read them below }

  1. nina t.*

    #1 – you have a vested interest in the interview process (not saying that the interviewer shouldn’t) and are putting your best image out there, and hope they are doing same. It is frustrating to think your livelihood may depend on someone who seems less interested or organized but i agree with Alison that it may not always be a red flag.

    Continued signs of disorganized behavior by a potential manager or company may be something to be careful of though.

  2. Katie the Fed*

    #4 – you would have been taxed that much anyway. It just seems like a lot more because it’s all at once, and if it’s in a higher bracket that’s what’s going on. Look up taxes on bonuses and lump sums for a better explanation than I’m giving

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Exactly. The difference will come out in the wash when you file your 2014 taxes. Either a bigger refund or a lower bill.

      1. the gold digger*

        But could this push OP into a higher tax bracket? That is the only way I can think that it would make a difference to get a lump sum in a different tax year. If it’s a lump sum in the same tax year, then yeah, no difference at all.

        1. Joline*

          Theoretically it could if the payment covered amounts that should’ve been paid over two years. Say it’s a $10K retroactive pay with $5K relating to 2013 and $5K to 2014. Theoretically having it all happen in one year could bump into another tax bracket or just be in a year with a different (perhaps higher) tax rate. And if she’s saying her annual review was supposed to be in October 2013 then part of the retro pay could well be for a different year.

          Admittedly, though, usually people just think they’re being taxed more – like people are saying – because payroll programs tend to extrapolate your paycheque based on the idea that you will continue to make that specific paycheque for the rest of the year so can be withholding tax based on higher rates.

          I find it easier to think of it like putting money into a savings account from my paycheque. I’m not paying taxes on every paycheque. I”m putting money into a government savings account which they will apply once I “pay” my taxes at year end with my filing.

          1. Dan*

            Payroll programs don’t “tend” to extrapolate your paycheck, federal withholding tables dictate this policy and the amounts to withhold.

            1. fposte*

              It did occur to me that a lump sum might have a flat 20% policy, though, which may be getting the OP’s back up if she’s otherwise 15%.

            2. Joline*

              Maybe they work differently in the US than in Canada but the withholding tables I’ve used (and what makes the backup for small/medium business payroll programs at least) it looks at your cheque for that period and taxes you as though you’re going to be making that for the rest of the year. It’s why you can end up remitting at a higher tax rate on a single cheque with a retro pay amount or vacation payout or something (again, in Canada at least) unless your system allows you to specify it as something more like a one-time payment. If the payroll program didn’t make some assumptions about your earnings for the rest of the year it wouldn’t be able to put you into the appropriate tax bracket.

              1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

                you are correct that you may be taxed at a higher rate for that one paycheck, but it will still come out in the wash when you file your taxes. Payroll deductions are just a temporary estimate of you will owe for the year – they don’t actually determine your tax bill.

                1. Joline*

                  Yeah. That’s why I was saying (a bit further up) that I like to think of payroll deductions as a savings account not actually as a tax payment. You really only “pay” your taxes at the end of the year – or receive your refund. I find it makes it easier to understand the “it’s a wash” concept that people are discussing.

        2. Koko*

          It could push him into a higher bracket, but only the wages in that bracket are taxed at the higher rate. So he’s possibly getting less money than if he had been paid it spread out over more tax years, where it might have stayed under that bracket change, but he’s getting more money than if they didn’t give him the raise at all! Since he can’t get a time machine and go back to get the pay earlier, I don’t really see what the alternative is. Maybe asking his employer to spread his backpay out over a couple of years to avoid taxes? Although that seems a bit silly…a bird in the hand is worth three in the bush, as they say.

      2. Leah*

        They might be taxing it as a bonus rather than the LW’s normal income bracket. Depending on the amounts involved, it would be worth talking to a CPA/tax attorney to see the best arrangement for handling the money.

    2. Graciosa*

      I’m actually pleased that the company is giving her the retro pay to begin with – so many of them wouldn’t, but would stop at correcting the pay rate going forward.

      I’m also a little disturbed that the OP’s reaction to this is to explore her options for a lawsuit.

      1. OhNo*

        Yeah, I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed that.

        OP, you’ve been working there for less than two years and already your immediate response to even the slightest setback is “I’m gonna sue them!” ???

        That’s a big red flag to me. It sounds like you should be less worried about taking them to court and more worried about looking for a different job.

        1. GrumpyBoss*

          It bothered me too. Not sure if OP is very immature, or if this is simply the sad reality of an overly litigious society.

          Regardless, it would be extremely short sighted to pursue any legal option here, even if one could.

              1. Lora*


                Involving the law is something best done when you have an absolutely airtight case of egregious wrongdoing, you happen to have a LOT of savings (lawsuits are expensive and take several years to hash out) or are part of a class action, and you don’t plan on working in that industry ever again. Otherwise, you just shot yourself in the foot. Your employer most likely can afford much better attorneys than you can, even if you go to court.

                I’ve seen it five times in my career. The only successful ones (in the sense of getting a decent settlement, not in the sense of actually winning in court) were class actions with documented horrible stomach-turning stuff.

            1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

              And they would never again offer anyone backpay. And probably make it really clear that nobody is ever “owed” a raise.

    3. Dan*

      See my comment below — in my mock court, the guy is entitled to reasonable interest on the loss of use of the over-withholding as a result of the lump sum payment.

      It’s certainly not much, and in reality, his small claims court filing fees (no lawyer!) would exceed what he’d recoup.

      I wish more Americans had even a basic understanding of the tax code. Few people do.

      1. ella*

        I wish more Americans had an understanding of laws, and what is or isn’t illegal, and what is or isn’t reasonable grounds for suing.

        Also, OP, if you don’t want that raise and the backpay, I’ll totally take it off your hands. I’m sure we can work out the IRS details somehow.

        1. AnonyMouse*

          +1. I live in another country and also have strong links to the U.S, and I always find it fascinating how quickly the conversation goes to legal/illegal in the States, when there’s not really any reason for the law to get involved.

          1. neverjaunty*

            As a lawyer in the US, I find it depressing (not fascinating) how many things are unregulated compared to many other countries. Here there is very much an ethos of making up for bad behavior on the back end via lawsuits, rather than trying to prevent it in the first place.

            1. Cat*

              Right, and other (developed) countries have better social safety nets so people have less reason to sue. Here, if you’re injured, for instance, you may have no choice to recover your medical fees. In other countries with single payer health insurance, it may not matter.

              1. De Minimis*

                And suing is not some magical process where you’ll get everything you should have…many times even when people prevail [assuming they can afford to go to court] they get nothing, or at best a small fraction of what they were owed.

                1. fposte*

                  Right, and the court doesn’t magically transfer the money for you–you still have to collect it if you win.

                2. Sigrid*

                  @fpostr — that’s HUGR, and something a lot of people don’t seem to realize. Winning a civil suit and being awarded damages doesn’t give you the money directly (from where, the magical court bank account?) , it just gives you the right to collect. You may still never see the money you were awarded, depending on the resources available to you and to whomever you are suing.

      2. Elysian*

        Yeah, I disagree. OP isn’t “entitled” to anything because she probably wasn’t even entitled to a raise. It’s nice of the employer to give her a raise and make it retroactive. But raises aren’t required and no court in the US would award interest or anything at all on the delay of a discretionary increase in pay.
        I agree with your general analysis about the lost value of the money, but I just don’t think the OP really lost anything.

      3. AdAgencyChick*

        I wish the tax code weren’t four million words, plus whatever you have to learn for your state and city, so that anyone could understand it.

    4. PEBCAK*

      Actually depends on how long the delay was…if she gets retro pay in 2014 for work done in 2013, she could end up paying more in taxes if she counts it as 2014 income AND she’s in a higher tax bracket in 2014 than she was in 2014. I have no idea if you can go back and count it as 2013 earnings (can you do income on an accrual basis rather than a cash basis?), but if there is, it’s going to be a huge pain.

      1. Red*

        You cannot go back and count income received in this tax year as income earned in last tax year. Income is taxed in the year it is received, not when it is earned. Essentially, taxation works on a cash basis, not an accrual basis. Any scenario in which someone is paid in 2014 and tries to claim it as 2013 wages is essentially tax fraud. Nor would that person be entitled to interest on “loss of use” or any other sort of scheme, absent a contract stating otherwise.

        1. Natalie*

          Wait, so how does that work at the end of each year? My paycheck for the last week or two of December is never going to be paid in that year (2014, say) – I’ll receive it in January 2015. But when I get my W-2 it will be considered 2014 income.

          1. Dan*

            How do you actually know this? The one time I cared enough to pay attention, I got taxed in the next calendar year.

            I had under withheld on my taxes earlier in the year, and was counting on over withholdings later in the year to balance it out. So this paycheck being off resulting in a bigger tax bill at the end of the year, and a short paycheck first thing in January.

            1. Natalie*

              All of my pay stubs include my YTD pay, and it matches my W-2. I’m not salaried, so this is fairly unlikely to be a coincidence.

              I did a bit of poking around online and it appears backpay is addressed by specific statutes, so perhaps the statutes for regular wages address this.

          2. Judy*

            If you got paid on January 2 for Dec 22- Jan 2, if you look at that paycheck, the year to date columns will show only that paycheck’s values. And the values in the year to date column from your last paycheck in December will be the one on your W-2.

            1. Elsajeni*

              Yeah, I think it depends on the exact timing and whether the pay period is split across years or just ended very late in December. I noticed this when I worked retail, because there was a one-week lag between the end of a pay period and the date I’d receive my check — if the weeks happened to align such that a pay period ended on, say, Dec. 28, I wouldn’t receive that paycheck until January, but (as I recall) it would still carry the YTD information for the previous year and count toward that year’s W-2. The next paycheck, though, which would cover a period of Dec. 29-Jan. whatever, would count entirely toward the new year’s income.

      2. fposte*

        Though the whole marginal tax thing means it’ll only apply to that money (or that money’s equivalent), if that’s the money that’s over the usual bracket. So even assuming that all the raise from Oct.-Dec. is exactly how much she’s into, say, the 25% bracket for 2014, it’s just paying 10% more on the raise for those three months. Assuming a 3% raise for somebody in the high 30s, that’s roughly $90 per month raise or $270 difference, and so federally the tax difference would only be $27 in pretty much the maximum impact situation. I’m not turning my nose up at $27, and I wouldn’t begrudge the OP if she wanted to make that point and ask for coverage, but it’s not a “huge taxation” even if that is the scenario OP is thinking.

    5. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      No, Katie, not necessarily.

      Retro pay gets dumped on the TOP of your existing salary – and gets taxed at the rate of the upper end of your salary.

      So getting a lump sum “I’m sorry” bonus, or retro pay – you can lose a chunk of it if it comes all at once. Let’s just say single filer.

      The tax rate on the income earned between $9076 and $36900 is 15 percent.
      Anything over $36900 up to $89350 is taxed at 25 percent.

      Let’s say OP had a salary of $30000 and was due a $5000 increase a year ago. Her base pay rises to $35000, and she still pays 15% on that $5k. But if the lump sum “retro/I’m sorry” payment is also $5000 – that bumps a chunk – $3100 – of that payment into the next bracket and on $3100 of that extra $5000, she’s gonna pay 25% on the amount over $36900.

      It’s gonna cost her $310 in extra taxes, which she would not have paid had the raise occurred in 2013.

      Perhaps she can sit down, figure the extra taxes, and get the employer to add that to the retro/”I’m sorry” pay.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        But she would have been taxed on that money regardless – if she got $5k spread out over the course of the year, an extra $3100 would still have gotten taxes at the higher rate. So whether she gets it at once or throughout the year, in the end it’s a wash.

        1. fposte*

          Artist is right that getting it in a different year on top of the OP’s regular salary could result in being taxed on slightly more of it overall. However, I 1) don’t think that’s what the OP meant (I think she was thinking about withholding) and 2) think it’s unlikely to be a significant difference even if it does nudge a bit of her pay into the next bracket. (We also haven’t factored in the raise in bracket ceilings between 2013 and 2014, so this might also work to her slight advantage.)

          1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            Withholding is largely irrelevant. Also whether you get a refund or not is irrelevant.

            What is relevant is what goes on your 1040 in April. As I said – if the lump sum retro payment comes through, it goes on your taxes for the year it comes through and can very well push you into a higher bracket, which means the retro payment is taxed at the higher bracket rate and it does not necessarily “come out in the wash.”

            Been there, done that.

            1. fposte*

              Withholding is functionally irrelevant to your total tax burden, sure, but it’s nonetheless something people respond to, and I think it’s likely the OP is responding to that.

              And I’ve agreed that it’s theoretically possible, if highly unlikely, that the OP’s raise could hit squarely in a range that would lead to different taxation this year than last year. But even if it does–which I don’t think it does–it’s not the “huge taxation” the OP suggests. Unless she got at least a 100% raise (which I don’t think people would hang around waiting for enactment on as the OP has), the absolute max difference it can make is 10% higher taxes on the pay in periods from the relevant October date to yearend. And if it’s making 10% difference, the pay scale is of a level that means the actual dollar difference in taxes isn’t very high when you’re looking at a three, possibly four-month period.

              So theoretically you could thread the needle so that the OP loses a few bucks from this, but I don’t think that’s what happened, and I would weigh whether the price of the fuss would be higher than the value of the $27 or fewer dollars.

              Now Leah made a far more interesting point upthread–if somehow her work is taxing this as supplemental income, that might be worth fighting about if she’s in the 10 or 15% brackets otherwise.

        2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          But 2013 back pay , paid out in 2014 — goes on the top of her income. Which will be taxed in the bracket of the upper reaches of her income for 2014. And it could be more.

          I fully understand how tax brackets work. I explained, I had a $5000 “bonus” once, which was actually delivered as an apology for an unfair review and a promotion that was supposed to happen but didn’t. That pushed me above the 33 line. And I paid tax on most of it at 33 percent. Had they given me the raise in the prior year, very little of it would have hit the 33 line because it would have been spread out across two tax years.

          I once worked in a place where they did a massive salary audit — in the early 1980s — and gave out goodwill payments of tens of thousands of dollars — BUT — paid them out over two tax years for that reason. They got half of the money in November and half in February.

          1. fposte*

            Right, it’s disadvantageous, and obviously if you can control it to minimize the tax implications that’s better. But at lower tax brackets and smaller pay amounts, the real dollars difference can be pretty slight–even if it happens. Even the example you’re using ends up being a difference of maybe $200 in taxes–nothing to sneeze at, but it didn’t eat your bonus whole, either.

            1. A Bug!*

              I agree. There are kind of two questions here: first, is there an actual difference once all is said and done; and second, is that difference significant enough to be worth taking action? The answer to the OP’s problem isn’t useful without taking both of these into consideration.

              Practically speaking, $300 will buy you an hour or two of a lawyer’s time, depending on location and experience. Two hours is barely enough time for a lawyer to get familiarized with your matter, let alone taking any active steps or providing any specific advice. The difference is going to need to be well into the thousands before seeing a lawyer becomes financially reasonable.

              But even aside from that, if your employer gets wind that you’re considering legal action over this amount, it’s going to irreparably harm your relationship with your employer. You’d be cutting off your nose to spite your face.

              Basically, “lawsuit” isn’t the way to go with this. Talking directly to the employer (in a non-adversarial way, without any sort of hint at legal obligations or threats) might produce a good result without harming the working relationship, but I think the difference would have to be pretty significant, and I just can’t see that being the case because of how the math scales.

      2. fposte*

        I would be delighted for the OP if she had gotten a 57% raise, which is the number you suggest. I think that’s pretty unlikely, though, and that 3 months of a 3% raise leave her closer to the $27 difference that I hypothesized as a max impact.

  3. Lillie Lane*

    #2: Wow. The paper movers/office waiters are weird enough, but the candy drawer person is beyond explanation. If there are so few boundaries, you will probably want to lock your computer screen when leaving the office as well.

    I love my current company, but the one thing I thought was weird when I started was people sharing food. If we went out to dinner, my colleagues would all start eating off each other’s plates. When our new VP started, I mentioned this to her and she was shocked. But now we all end up doing it! Even drinks. It’s kind of gross, but it’s our company culture and kind of funny.

    1. KarenT*

      The OP should put a jack in the box or some of those springy snakes where the candy used to be.

      (I kid. Sort of.)

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Economy sized box of tampons or condoms.

          Seriously though, WTF is wrong with people that, just because the previous person who used that office kept candy in a particular drawer, they think there might somehow still be candy there? Did they not notice the COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PERSON behind the desk?

          I don’t think this is so much the corporate culture here as it just happens to be the one place that, for whatever reason, won’t fire people who have no concept of personal boundaries whatsoever.

          1. Poohbear McGriddles*

            Economy sized box of tampons or condoms?

            Then you’ll pretty much guarantee that people will be rummaging thru the drawers. Plus, with a mega-size pack of Trojans, the office may even become a hook-up spot. Ew.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Maybe. But the co-workers who get on my nerves the most would be absolutely mortified by something like that. The ones I actually consider friends might have that reaction, though. Feel free to analyze that to your heart’s content. ;)

          2. Career Counselorette*

            Yeah, there is something that hints of arrested development or magical thinking or something to assume that the desk, not the person behind it, is the reason for the candy and that it’s still okay to rifle through the drawers. I would expect a five-year-old to do something like that, not an adult.

                1. Laufey*

                  Neat! I’d never heard of that.

                  …OP, do you work in the US Senate? Because now that is the only place where I can see furniture trumping the person in terms of candy.

            1. louise*

              It’s like the opposite of little kids learning object permanence. Babies are always so surprised you’re behind your peek-a-boo hands or blanket or what have you; these adults are just shocked that something *isn’t* there. Shows about the same level of developmental maturity, I’d say.

              1. Raptor*

                This is a thing for young kids, actually. Say, Mary and Tom have 2 boxes. A with candy in it, B without. Mary leaves. The adult takes the candy out of box A and puts it in box B, while Tom watches. When Mary returns. The adult asks, which box will Mary check for the candy? Tom will say box B, even though Mary could not possibly know it was switched. Young children (and animals) believe that what they know, you know too.

                This is why dogs are more likely to go through the trash when the lights are off, your back is turned, or you’re not there. Their thought is, he can’t see you, therefor, you can’t see him.

                What they are thinking (not consciously), is that because the last person kept candy and I liked it, the new person should know to keep candy too. Still, shows the same lack of maturity.

                But in the defense of most people, this is actually a very difficult concept to learn.. and the vast majority of adults still have some issues with it at some level. If you’ve ever had the thought…’It’s clear that X is true, why can no one else see that?’ Then you’re falling into a similar mental trap… just on a different level than candy in the desk.

                1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                  Great explanation! I thought about writing something about perspective-taking and Piaget, but then figured my impromptu tax class downthread was boring enough. Thank you for providing a more interesting explanation than I would have. :D

                2. Chinook*

                  “This is why dogs are more likely to go through the trash when the lights are off, your back is turned, or you’re not there. Their thought is, he can’t see you, therefor, you can’t see him.”

                  This so explains why my dog, who has gone 90% blind in the last 3 months, now tries to get away with stuff he never attempted before. He has actually tried rooting through the garbage while I stood behind him (and tried to act non-chalant when I called his name). In his mind, since he can’t see anything anymore, neither can I!

                3. Sayhellokitty*

                  Raptor, what you are describing is called Theory of Mind–the understanding that others can hold mistaken or false beliefs that are different from your own understanding. Once you have developed a TOM, you are able to lie. TOM is a particular area of study for some specialists researching autism.

              2. Erin*

                God, it’s like my Labrador. He still gets excited when we walk past a certain house on our block because there was a cat there…once…three months ago.

                1. Mints*

                  Ha, my cat does this too. If there’s a bug on the wall after leaving the windows open, he’ll chase the bug and try to eat it. Then check the same spot on the wall every day for like a week. He’ll stare intensely for days

                  So, her coworkers are about as smart as our pets

                2. dahllaz*

                  We had a horse do the same sort of thing.
                  One side of the arena fence is covered in blackberry bushes, and once a bird flew out of it while we were riding and the horse startled. All. Summer. Long. He would startle at that same spot.

                3. Mallory Janis Ian*

                  My cat does this! We left chicken bones in the kitchen trash can ONE time, WEEKS ago, and now she turns the kitchen trash can over every night to see if it will happen again.

    2. EngineerGirl*

      You know, you can say “please don’t do that”. It’s OK to draw normal boundaries. Some cultural thinks need to change, and that would be one of them.

      1. RB*

        Agreed. A simple “I know Jane kept candy in her desk drawers, but I don’t. Please don’t dig through my desk” should do it, and if it doesn’t, it’s time to start locking the desk and maybe have a longer conversation about boundaries.

        1. CoffeLover*

          I agree. I couldn’t imagine going into someone’s desk, it would be like riffling through someone else’s purse.

          1. tt*

            If OP is working with confidential information, I’m surprised they aren’t required to lock the office door when they leave. That’s pretty common from what I’ve seen. Though it’s also pretty common that there’s a master key around the general office that wouldn’t be that difficult to find…

            1. Loose Seal*

              Me too. I’m assuming confidential in this case means confidential from other employees, like salary information or something like that. If that’s so, why wouldn’t one lock the door upon leaving even if it seems against company culture?

          2. CoffeeLover*

            Hey, I just noticed we have similar names (I thought I wrote this at first :P). Would you mind picking a name that’s not as similar to the one I use to avoid confusion? I would change mine, but I’ve been using it for a couple of years on AAM.

      2. OhNo*

        I don’t even think you need to say “please” at that point. These coworkers live in the real world, right? They should be aware that this kind of behavior is not usual or generally accepted, and they should know to ask a new person before doing this weird stuff. Or at least explain what they are looking for!

        OP, if I may make a suggestion re: moving papers. Try getting an in tray, putting a really obvious sign on it, and enforcing its use. Every time someone tries to put something in front of you, say “I’m busy right now. Can you put that in my in tray?” or “Don’t move that, I’m working on it right now. If you have something for me, put it in my in tray so I know to deal with it ASAP.”

    3. tt*

      My own husband doesn’t eat off my place unless he’s asked or I’ve offered. If a co-worker did that, I just might stab them with a fork. As a kid, my mother always yelled at me for picking off other people’s plates, and this woman wasn’t stern or disciplined about anything, so I figured it must be a BIG DEAL.

      1. Judy*

        When we’re travelling for work (to other countries), it’s not unusual to share food, BUT it’s usually done right when the food gets there, and moved to other people’s plates with forks and knives before they’ve been used for eating.

      2. Red*

        Jokingly stabbing with a fork was my family unit’s way of dealing with uninvited food theft at meal-time. But everyone knows that someone else’s fries always taste better than your own!

        1. Ezri*

          It’s an accepted fact of my marriage that I can only be ambivalent about a particular food/drink item up until my husband gets some for himself.

          “You have your own soda!”
          “But I want some of yours!”

          1. Mints*

            Same! I’m glad I’m not the only one: “I’m making a quesadilla do you want one?”
            “No thanks I’ll eat in a second”
            *sits down with a quesadilla*
            *suddenly becomes the most delicious thing I’ve ever seen*
            “Can I have a bite?”

          2. Cath in Canada*

            My husband and I call this “tithing” – I want a bite or a sip of everything he has (and offer the same in return, but he’s often not interested). It’s at the point now where he’ll say “do you want a sandwich?” and I’ll say “nah, I’ll just tithe yours” – so he’ll make a bigger sandwich than he usually would. I even have a mini beer stein from a Christmas market we went to in Berlin last year that’s my designated beer tithing glass – he pours from his big beer into my little one.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        No. No, no, no. This isn’t closeness, it is boundary violation which actually inhibits closeness.

        Good boundaries mean deeper relationships.

  4. Adam*

    #1 Is there something in the water? Is it really happening that much?

    But in all seriousness I think Alison’s right and in general people doing the interviewing are probably just having occasional bouts of spaciness and forgetting some details from your application. I wouldn’t expect anyone to have it set to memory anyways.

    In regards to not realizing you aren’t a local candidate, I’ve never been responsible for hiring people but I have a hunch many who do get in the habit of not paying attention to your address at the top of your resume. Since the majority of applications they get probably are reasonably local it’s not likely to be of note to them so they could go the whole interview process without ever really knowing your base of operations address if it weren’t an issue.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      I think it’s also that our resumes feel so personal to us. But all in all, there are dozens, or hundreds, of little facts that make up a resume….it’s all clear to because it’s your life, but to the interviewer, it’s not an easy thing to memorize, especially when they’ve looked at so many similarly formatted pieces of paper one after the other. I’m not trying to learn all the details of a resume, I’m just deciding if I want to learn more about the person.

      1. Adam*

        Indeed. As job seekers many of us pour over our resumes making them as “perfect” as possible; scouring for typos that could be the one little thing that boots us from the running, and the reviewer may never even see it if they don’t pay attention to that section.

        And contrawise sometimes there’s also no telling what will be THE THING that prompts the reviewer to place you application in the “To Call” pile as opposed to the discard bin. So it all feels super personal.

    2. koosh ball*

      In my company, someone higher up (program manager or her deputy, with senior staff input) decides who to interview and then we have staff who part of their duties is to schedule the interview and find senior staff to conduct the interview. Most of the time (as senior staff) I have a few days to look over the resume, but frequently it’s, “can you do an interview at 2:00 today?” so I’m given very little notice. I have time to look over the resume, maybe formulate some questions based on it (or not, in which case I’m using questions from our standard list). There are three interviewers in each interview, and we’re always interviewing for the same position (different levels, though) so it works for us. But it may explain why sometimes the interviewer doesn’t seem all that familiar with you or your background.

    3. Trixie*

      Of all the things to take issue with from a prospective employer, this is not one of them. Kind of like meetings, necessary evil. And seriously, how bad is it to be asked to talk about yourself? If anything, this is your opportunity to really sell yourself. I may look interesting on paper, but I’m so much stronger in person when you see an articulate and thoughtful person. The kind of person you want to spend 25% of your waking hours working with.

      1. LW #1*

        Hi Trixie,
        I mentioned to someone else below, but I work in research and there was some serious “deal-breakers” that the interviewer found during the interview that should have been figured out prior to ever scheduling one (like location, degree, etc). I just find it confusing, but I’ll try to give people the benefit of the doubt in the future.

        1. Trixie*

          Absolutely. They’re probably just as frustrated that deal-breakers weren’t screened out earlier to save everyone some time. But as someone who might squeak through on a degree deal breaker, this kind of thing works in my favor :)

  5. kas*

    1. I feel the same way. I’ve been asked about things that are very clear on my cover letter or resume. Standard questions about experience etc is fine but if you’re asking me things like “do you have experience in X” when it is clearly listed shows that they barely looked over my resume. I couldn’t imagine calling someone in for an interview without reviewing their materials beforehand.

    5. I’m guessing your manager assumes this screening process will rule out an older generation/demographic which is a horrible assumption. I have no other words for her thought process.

    1. Callie30*

      kas – Sometimes interviewers ask those questions to see how well the candidate articulates their experience. It’s also difficult to memorize someone’s resume if you are looking at several others at the same time, especially if the resume is beyond a page or 2 – we are all human. Understand where you’re coming from, but it doesn’t mean they haven’t reviewed your materials. There may be several reasons why they ask particular questions with answers present on the resume/application.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, but I think this is one of those situations where job seekers have unrealistic expectations and forget that interviewers are human. Humans don’t aways phrase things perfectly. And while I know a common job seeker response to that is “but it sucks that we have to phrase things perfectly on our side,” the reality is that interviewers make allowances all the time for good candidates who don’t phrase things perfectly.

    2. EngineerGirl*

      #5 – Please tell your boss that thinking I couldn’t handle a computer because of my age is age discrimination. And by the way, computers have been around since the 60’s (before then actually) so even us geezers know how to use one.

      1. doreen*

        #5 is definitely wrong about screening for computer skills being age discrimination , and I certainly don’t believe that people over a certain age cannot be computer literate – but I absolutely do believe that screening for computer skills is more likely to eliminate older candidates. I am 51, and it’s always people my age or older that I’m standing behind saying “then press enter” – it’s never the people in their 30s.

        1. some1*

          I’m in my 30’s and can think of a couple of women my age who don’t have good computer skills but they have never worked in an office.

        2. LBK*

          I’m actually shocked by the lack of computer skills of some of my young coworkers – people in their 20s who don’t even know basic shortcuts like Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V or who are baffled by the concept of folders in email.

          1. Career Counselorette*

            Me too- a lot of the young people I work with have had more consistent smartphone access than e-mail access. You get a lot of disconnect on things you would take for granted on a computer but don’t have to account for on a phone (remembering passwords, keyboard shortcuts, attaching files, etc.).

            1. Simonthegrey*

              My sister is a bit of a technophobe. She has somehow managed to absolutely brick at least 3 laptops and a family desktop. She never uses them if she can help it, other than to watch Netflix. She is 25.

          2. Judy*

            We had an issue with vacation bible school at church this summer. The photographer for the event was a junior in high school, at the local “tech academy” high school. The VBS we used has this slideshow that it tells you to get photos of, say, kids being happy, kids playing a game etc. You then name the photos something specific and put them in correct directories, and you have a multimedia presentation for daily wrap-ups and showing in church. He didn’t know how to do that. And his photos were poorly lit, composed, etc.

            We didn’t get to have the slideshow at the end of the evening, I did the organizing afterwards and we saw them at the start of the next day.

          3. AvonLady Barksdale*

            Same here. We hired a group of newly minted college grads a few years ago, and my industry is heavily Excel-based. I remember telling all of them at different points that they should use shortcuts, otherwise they’d ruin their wrists. They didn’t believe me for a while.

            1. LBK*

              I had a few coworkers who were amazed at how quickly I could process forms – like, half the time it took them. Once I showed them that it was because I did everything via shortcuts instead of wasting time going through menus and switching between keyboard and mouse, our department productivity picked up like crazy. But they did look at me like I was a wizard at first.

          4. LibrarianJ*

            Yep. I work with college students, and I’ve noticed the same problem. They struggle with basics like shortcuts, or word processing, or even understanding how to navigate a computer’s file structure (I’m talking like, locating where a downloaded file went or browsing through folders, nothing too complex). I learned most of these things when I was 12 or so and I’m not sure how they missed it. I have to wonder if young adults just aren’t being taught computer skills the same way because it’s so often assumed that ‘digital natives’ automatically know what they are doing.

            1. LBK*

              It’s weird. I think we did have computer courses in middle/high school (definitely typing classes but not sure if there were other basics included). However, I always thought computers were pretty intuitive and stuff like folders, opening programs, etc. just seemed natural to me. Maybe it’s just in my blood since my dad was a programmer and my mom has done programming and other technical work for decades now. I imagine people raised by parents that don’t have computer-intensive jobs don’t get anywhere near the same kind of exposure and – as you state – it’s just kind of assumed that young people now know how to use computers, so no one ever teaches them.

            2. LizR*

              The computer classes that I took in high school didn’t really focus on file structures or anything useful – it was all about typing. There was a certain amount of computer stuff that people who went to high school in the last decade figured out via experimentation. You can’t really bittorrent effectively if you don’t understand file structures. But kids today are all primarily using their phones rather than pcs or laptops for computer access at home. I work with college students all the time for whom taking a picture of computer screen to save necessary information is second nature, but who can’t navigate a file structure to save their lives. And I think the fact that phones and tablets hide the file structure, and that most operating systems have great search functions plays a huge role there.

        3. Poohbear McGriddles*

          I could see it possibly being age discrimination if the job did not require that level of computer skills. But if the job qualifications match up with what the job actually involves, there is no issue (except that the lawyers have got us all running scared).

          1. AMT*

            Exactly. You could call it “disparate impact” if the job didn’t entail any computer use, just as a 50-lb. lifting requirement could be said to have a disparate impact on women if the job didn’t require lifting, but if not screening for computer skills is affecting the office, what the hell is the OP’s boss thinking?

            Someone needs to link the boss to that post about workplace practices people think are illegal, but totally aren’t.

        4. Oryx*

          You’d be surprised. I’m a librarian working with an urban population. Some very basic computer skills that I take for granted are completely beyond the skill set of my patrons, even those my age (32) or younger.

          Much of it is the surge in smart phone use as their only means of technology. When faced with an actual computer they are a bit lost.

          1. Simonthegrey*

            Also, a few schools in my area have switched to a 1:1 program where students have Apple laptops from the school, which they use for everything, or iPads. This is great, except when they are then confronted with a PC, they get lost.

      2. Joey*

        Here’s a nugget- screening for something that tends to weed out a protected age group COULD BE discriminatory, but having a BFOQ (Bona Fide Occupational Qualification) puts you in the clear. It might be discrimination if you screened for computer skills when they’re not needed since it might weed out older applicants, but not when there’s a legitimate job requirement for it (a BFOQ).

          1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

            I think we’ve got to give the boss (see OP’s post below) that she said she wasn’t sure and would check with HR.

      3. manybellsdown*

        Yes my father was also an engineer, and at 65 had better computer skills than … well, most anyone, really. I used to joke that even the toaster in his house ran LINUX. And if the power went out he could always use a slide rule. ;)

    3. Us, Too*

      re #1: I understand your frustration here, but your assumption that someone has barely read your resume is potentially false. In most professional workplaces this scenario is commonplace. i.e. An employee documents something, but someone who didn’t read their document and/or didn’t absorb the content intended needs to have that information regardless of their human failings (inability or unwillingness to read). If I had a dollar for every time I had to track down a busy exec or stakeholder or decision-maker and do a quick 1 minute version of the previous email(s) I had sent them that they didn’t respond to (or even read!), I’d be wealthy.

      Therefore, I find it best to simply acknowledge that reality and I want candidates to do the same. I want them to be able to do an “elevator pitch” for any question I ask (even if it’s redundant with something on their resume), and I want them to be able to judge my body language and response, adapting their level of detail accordingly.

      I can teach most folks a hard skill like “using Microsoft Word”, but teaching them the soft skills to deal with the scenario above is harder. Some folks just have a knack for it and I want to hire them first, all other things being equal.

    4. AB Normal*

      Heh. To me, any attempt to screen out older people asking for computer skills is moot, unless you are trying to keep people who are older than 75 from applying.

      I’m almost 50 now, and my colleagues in their 20s and 30s come to me all.the.time for help with Javascript, HTML 5, responsive design, even setting up filters for incoming messages in Gmail (we have a business Gmail account at work). And none of these things are part of my daily job.

      Heck, my mother lives in a South America country, is past 70, and (apart from video games) knows how to use computers better than most teenagers. I live in the U.S. and we only talk via Skype. She is always sharing Google Docs with me for review, and a few years ago, when I got her an Android tablet, she started using it without any training, connecting it to wi-fi from an airport that even I didn’t know had free wi-fi available. So people who try to discriminate based on age using computer knowledge is at minimum naive. It’s more likely they’ll be discriminating based on financial situation (poor people of any age will obviously have less chance to get acquainted with new technology due to limited access to it).

  6. Dan*


    “Now they are trying to get me retro pay, but that entails me have a huge taxation because of no fault of my own. So really I’m losing big time.”

    AAM, I think this is the crux of the OP’s issue. S/he is getting retro pay, so to me that solves the issue of the delayed raise. I’m surprised you didn’t touch on the taxation at all in the answer.

    OP: How much of a tax burden do you think you have as a result of this lump sum payment, and how much do you think a lawyer is going to cost? I’ll guarantee you that the lawyer is going to cost you far more than whatever is you think you’re going to recoup. You actually *can* sue — you can sue for pretty much anything. Whether you’ll get past summary judgement and win is a whole different story.

    But if you were to win this lawsuit, and I were your judge, I’d award you $100. That’s assuming you’re getting a lump sum raise — and I’m rounding *way* up.

    Why $100 do you ask? Because you really don’t have any understanding of the tax code. The taxes you pay are based on your adjusted gross income for the total year. Whether you get paid once per day, week, month, or year, it doesn’t matter. That magic number on your W-2 is the great equalizer. What is true is that a lump sum payment is going to result in a disproportionately higher withholding in the paycheck in which you get it. But that “extra” money isn’t gone forever — it’s held until you file your income tax payments.

    If you’re getting a lump sum payment of $10,000, and you’re normally in the 15% bracket, and the $10k doesn’t change your marginal bracket for the year, you’re probably getting with-held at the 25% rate. That’s an extra 10% that you normally wouldn’t pay — about $1000 that they’re taking from you now — $1000 that you will get back next year when you file.

    Since you’re getting that $1000 back later, the only real damages you have are the loss of use of that money now. The government (I think) uses a rate of 6% for interest when they calculate loss of use of money. So, even if you had that money with held in a lump sum on January 1, the most you’re out for the year is 6% interest on that $1000, or about $60.

    Me rounding up to $100 is super generous. And that $60? That pays for about 20 minutes of a lawyer’s time, which is going to get you absolutely nothing except a consultation.

    How much “big time” do you think you’re going to be out?

    BTW, I wish more Americans had a basic understanding of the tax code. The true basics aren’t that complicated, and being semi-literate would help us as a country have better conversations about how to structure tax reform.

    1. Artemesia*

      No kidding. I constantly read about how people are better off not getting a raise because the raise pushes them into a higher tax bracket and so they are getting less than before the raise. My first thought is always ‘if you think that, then you probably don’t deserve the raise.’ This error occurs on TV and in news articles not just in comments sections. Truly weird failure to understand how taxes work.

      1. ella*

        I’m in a situation right now where I was working two part time jobs (with no benefits), and now I’ve got one full time job. I’m earning more gross, because I was able to quite my lower-paying job, but signing up for benefits (even though I’m in pretty much the cheapest everything) ate away my entire raise and then some. So my net paycheck is lower. But, on the plus side, I can go to a doctor now.

          1. LBK*

            Yeah, that doesn’t really have anything to do with tax brackets. Your take home pay is lower because you’re buying more stuff (ie your insurance). It’s just because it comes out automatically rather than you paying it separately after you get your check that it feels like you’re making less money.

            1. Ethyl*

              Right — I know for a fact (I have a chronic medical condition that means I HAVE to go to the doctor regularly and can’t just not go) that paying out of pocket for medical care instead of paying for insurance that is subsidized by your employer is WAY more than that difference in take-home pay. It’s a difference between short-term and long-term costs — kind of like buying in bulk is cheaper per unit cost (provided you can store the extra food), but has a bigger up-front cost.

            1. Dan*

              But you are getting something in return for what you are paying in benefits costs, so most of us aren’t getting your point.

              To get my full 401k match I have to contribute 12% of salary to get a 10% match. Yeah it reduces my net pay a lot, but it more than makes up for it to n droves. I’d be an idiot to forgo that contribution for a larger up front paycheck.

                1. Cautionary tail*

                  I consider my 50% match of up to 6% (company gives 3% max to their own stock if I put in at least 6%) to be cr*p.

      2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        Yes. This drives me NUTS. I actually knew someone who turned down a massive raise because she said she would make less after taxes. And she was a PhD. Argh!

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          AAAARRRGGHH! Idiot! If she didn’t understand the basic math of it, why not just give the whole raise to a 501(c)(3) charity?!? Her taxable income would remain the same, but she would actually be HELPING! *bangs head on desk*

          1. LBK*

            Ha – if she didn’t understand the concept of tax brackets I’d assume she wouldn’t understand the idea of lowering hers by contributing her raise to charity for the deduction.

          2. BRR*

            I don’t believe that’s how charitable deductions work*. You take your tax bracket and multiply it by the amount of the donation. That’s the amount that is tax deductible and is the amount your taxable income is reduced by. So if her retro pay was $1,000 the max her taxable income would be reduced by is $396 (the current highest bracket being 39.6%) Also factor in you need to itemize to receive the charitable donation deduction.

            *If somebody can confirm or deny this that would be wonderful

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              No, but I can see where the confusion lies: in your example, her taxable income would be reduced by $1000, which means she pays $396 less in taxes (or gets back that much more as a refund). “Taxable income” is your gross income minus deductible expenses, like mortgage interest, 401(k) contributions, or qualifying charitable contributions.

              Let’s say Jane makes $100,000, her bracket is 25%, and she has no deductions in 2011. Her taxable income for that year is $100,000, and she owes exactly $25K in taxes for that whole year. If in 2012 she donates $10K to a qualifying charity and puts $10K in a 401(k), the income subject to taxes that year is $80,000, which in tax jargon is called her “taxable income”. Assuming (for this exercise) she was still in the 25% bracket, she would owe a total of $20K in taxes that year (by withholding as close as she can to that amount, and then fine-tuning it by paying more or getting a refund on April 15th).

              I have itemized every year for almost 20 years, first on paper, but more recently using TurboTax, so unless the IRS and Intuit have been letting me get away with doing it wrong all of these years, I’m pretty sure that it really is as simple as I said upthread.

              1. fposte*

                I think you’re doing it for clarity, but I think you’re making things more confusing by suggesting that somebody in the 25% tax bracket pays 25% of their entire income.

                1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                  They would usually pay 25% of their taxable income. That’s the point of determining what’s taxable and what’s deductible or exempt. There can be other factors, but they’re unusual.

                2. fposte*

                  I’m not seeing how that can be so–can you explain? Are you using 25% as her effective tax rate rather than her bracket? On taxable income, Jane pays 10% on income up to $9k and change; 15% on income between $9k and $36k and change; 25% on income from $36k to to $89k and change. For her 80k, that’s going to be considerably lower than 25% overall.

                  I’ve never paid my flat tax bracket on my taxable income (we mean line 43 on the 1040 for “taxable income,” right?).

                3. LBK*

                  Yeah, fposte is right. 25% tax bracket does NOT mean you pay 25% of your taxable income in taxes. That’s not how brackets work and it’s the reason people have this whole misconception about making more but taking home less due to taxes.

                4. Dan*

                  fposte is right, you only pay the 25% on the income in that margin.

                  But for clarity in a detailed example like this, you’re missing the fact that *everybody* has some deductions. If you’re not going to itemize, a single person gets the standard deduction of ~$5800 and an exemption of ~$3750. So take almost $10k off that income subject to taxation.

              2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

                Sorry Avenger – your numbers are wrong.

                A quick check of the tax table shows that someone with $100,000 taxable income pays $21,286.

                This is because the income tax is GRADUATED. You do not pay 25% of the total $100k. If you use a tax package that calculates it that way — man, that’s not correct.

                Plus – subtract four things –
                a) your standard deduction (single, not h-o-h) of $6,100; (higher if you were born before 1949 but let’s assume you’re not)

                b) your personal exemption (one) $3,900

                c) OK that $10,000 qualifying deduction

                d) if the 401k is a pre-tax, then that $10,000 comes off the top, too

                $30,000 off the top of that $100K — so your taxable income falls to …..

                $70,000. Bringing you down to $13,435 in federal taxes (2013 tax table).

                There are more deductions if you can itemize. There are more exemptions if you have kids. If you are single/head of household the benefits are greater.

                Now it’s not all roses because when you withdraw the 401K money, you’ll pay tax at that time. But still – if you earn $100k, you do not pay 25 percent.

            2. Judy*

              I’m quite sure that charitable contributions directly reduce your taxable income, within certain limits. You do have to itemize though.

              Charitable deductions only reduce your tax bill by the bracket percent, compared to tax credits that reduce your tax bill by the entire amount.

            3. fposte*

              You’re both confusing me, but then I’m not a tax professional :-). You subtract the itemized deductions from your AGI–they’re a “below the line” deduction–and then the total of that minus your exemption is your taxable income. So your taxable income doesn’t remain the same, but I also think you don’t want to just multiply by your marginal bracket, because the deduction may change your bracket. (Might work for a rough estimate of savings.)

        2. Katie the Fed*

          I hear this ALL the time. “If I get that raise it’ll push me into a higher tax bracket.” Yes, but just for a small bit of money at the top. The beauty of the graduated tax system. I have to explain this to people all the time.

        3. JB*

          My guess is that this got started based on the idea that when you start earning more, then a bigger percentage of that income would go to taxes, and so people would make comments about how it’s not worth earning that income when you get to keep such a small percentage of it. I don’t think I’m being very clear here, but I’m talking about back when the maximum tax rate for income was very high. In situations like that, you could understand people complaining that there was no point in taking on more work/earning more income at a certain point of the year because any more income would mostly go to taxes. But even then, you weren’t making less because of the higher income, you could just do a cost-benefit analysis and decide that for the amount of work you would do, so much of that income would go to taxes that you might as well turn down more jobs until the next tax year.

          Of course, you could only afford to do that if you made a ton of money, which was the only reason you were in that high tax bracket anyway. And since we don’t have an income tax rate of 80 or 90%, even those old complaints about no point in earning more don’t make sense. But even back then, it wasn’t that you would earn so much that you would make less money because of taxes. It was just that you could argue that earning more wasn’t worth the effort. But my guess is that those comments still got made after the tax rates came down, and then they were repeated by people who didn’t understand them, and then they got warped into something different.

          Or, you know, people intentionally spreading misinformation about taxes in order to justify keeping them lower for high earners. But who would do that?

          1. Artemesia*

            Bingo. It is like the misinformation about inheritance taxes. I remember one woman who phoned Dave Ramsey (who himself flogs the ‘we are taxed to much’ thing) and said she was terrified that ‘death taxes’ would take her estate and so wanted to give everything to her kids (leaving her penniless). He said ‘Well will your estate be over a million dollars?’ and she gasped and said ‘no it is $65,000’ — where he honestly said ‘there are no death taxes until you have an estate that is over a million dollars. (it is more for a couple).

            I am appalled that a PhD would be so ignorant as to think that they would earn less money if they moved into a higher tax bracket. But of course this is used by politicians to roll the gullible all the time.

            1. Dan*

              Just because you have a PhD in English, doesn’t mean you’d ever had a job in your life, or taken more math and tax classes.

            2. Judy*

              There are no federal estate taxes if your estate is less than X. But many states have inheritance taxes. My state has different percents based on the relationship to the deceased. Spouse, no taxes. First level relations (children, parents, siblings) – moderate taxes. Second level relations (grandparents, grandchildren, inlaws) – more taxes. Beyond that even more taxes.

            3. JB*

              Exactly! My parents worry about the estate tax. I have said as nicely as I can that they don’t need to worry about it because frankly, I won’t have anywhere close to the kind of inheritance that would trigger something. I’ll be lucky if there’s anything left at all. But obviously, as an attorney, I don’t know as much about the subject as some random stranger on the internet.

          2. The Cosmic Avenger*

            True, I suppose prior to the Reagan era there was more of a reason to complain about a raise that bumped you into the next bracket. These tables show how Reagan really screwed us over to kiss up to the 1%.

            1. JB*

              For real. And even prior to Reagan, you had more of a reason to complain, but not much of one! And your reason for complaining was not “oh no, I take home less money than I did before even though I earn more,” so there is some serious misinformation out there.

              If were going to get a promotion that would require much, much more of my time, but because of taxes, I’d only get an almost imperceptible amount of more take home pay, I’d probably turn that down. But with the tax rates we have, that’s basically never going to happen. And certainly you won’t be taking home LESS pay, ceteris paribus.

        4. Karowen*

          I’ll admit that I did have a moment of panic when I got my first raise and realized I’d be switching tax brackets. I called my parents and they laughed their heads off at me…And then stopped and explained it. Luckily I didn’t say anything to anyone else and I was still early 20s, but it also helped to have parents that have common sense and can explain things to me. If my parents were ditzy (like a lot of really smart people are) I probably would’ve tried to decline the raise as well.

      3. LBK*

        I think it’s because tax brackets are usually referred to as “the X% tax bracket,” which cuts out the nuance of how they work. People just hear they’re moving up to the “25% tax bracket” and assume that means they owe 25% of their salary in taxes.

        FWIW, unless you’re in some kind of finance or accounting classes, this is never taught to most people, so I don’t know how you would know unless you looked it up. Especially since most people just do their taxes electronically so you never see the math behind it.

        1. Zahra*

          There’s also the fact that some tax breaks or payments are given within some brackets only. For example, in Quebec, you get some family benefits, in the form of checks sent every three months. If your income increases, the check gets lower. There are other such benefits that go lower as your income goes up, to the point that some completely disappear after a certain income has been reached.

          A single raise can result in a net loss if you go to one bracket to barely inside the next one, but, with other raises, you do get more money in your pocket.

          1. Dan*

            In the US, I think pretty much all of those entitlement programs have graduated phaseouts, so no single dollar increase had a disproportionate affect on your pay.

            1. CTO*

              Even in the U.S. those “graduated phaseouts” sometimes can leave a family no better off, or even worse off, if increasing their earned income results in a loss of support programs like food stamps, health insurance, childcare assistance, etc. Some of them have a “cliff” where you suffer a big drop in net benefits for getting a very small pay increase. It’s definitely disincentive for a family to increase their pay if the increase isn’t going to be enough to make up for the loss of supports.

              But that has nothing to do with OP’s original question!

              1. Dan*

                Which gets into really philosophical arguments about whether “those people” are taking advantage of the system, when the system encourages a set of behaviors, don’t like the behavior? Change the system.

        2. De Minimis*

          Even a lot of accounting people steer clear of taxes, and even a lot of tax people never deal with individual income taxes….
          Heck, when I worked in public accounting tax we had a ton of people who never even worked with tax returns at all! They worked with the audit teams for the income tax portion of the audit. We had other folks who did consulting projects for clients to see if they could find additional tax credits for R&D, ways to reduce property tax bills, etc…

          From my understanding, generally with the estate tax if you’re wealthy enough to have to worry about it you’re generally wealthy enough to come up with strategies to reduce it or eliminate it.

      4. Heretic*

        I dunno though…sometimes the taxation system works in weird ways. Example: I make $20,000 more a year than my boyfriend. His take home pay each month? $3400. My take home pay each month? …$3400. This includes a minimal 401k contribution on my part and no 401k contribution on his. Neither of us pay any money for our health insurance premium or any other special deductions. So where’s the extra $20,000 going?

        1. Dan*

          How big of a refund are you getting at tax time? If you guys each came out even at tax time (meaning you neither owed money nor received a refund) you should be taking home roughly 2/3 of the $20k difference.

          What do you mean by special deductions? Does he own a house and you don’t? There’s a huge tax break there that you won’t get that he would.

          If you have taxable investments, that is also an explanatory variable that isn’t a deduction.

        2. Jacob*

          Compare your check stubs, as well as your previous year’s tax returns, assuming you were making close to the same amounts last year. The amount taken out for taxes (assuming you’re in the US) is determined by the W-4 form that you submit to your employer, and by whatever form your state uses. Did you get a very large tax refund last year?

        3. fposte*

          So how much is deducted from each of your paychecks and for what, and how many allowances are you each taking?

        4. LBK*

          Yeah, comparing paystubs will answer this mystery for you – mine shows me down to the cent how much is deduct for state and federal taxes, social security, etc. My guess is your withholding is set higher and therefore you end up getting more back on your return.

    2. A Dispatcher*

      Thank you. Was just going to post the same (though much less detailed).

      Not even glong to get into how long I feel about OPs letter because if you don’t have anything nice to say…

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, you can “sue for anything,” but generally when people ask that question, they’re asking “is this illegal?” Doing your performance review late (and thus being late in giving a non-contractually-promised raise) is not illegal, which is what I think the OP was asking.

    4. Dulcinea*

      Seriously, yes! I have a lot of problems with trying to get people to understand this when as a lawyer I talk to them about settlement agreements. Un fortunately tax advice is one of those things that, unless you specialize in tax, you aren’t supposed to give advice about for fear of malpractice suits so I have to try really hard to exain tax brackets while constantly giving the caveat that I am not a tax professional. This makes clients pretty skeptical of my advice!

      1. Kyrielle*

        What if you wrote up a spiel about tax brackets, had a tax professional review and sign off on it, and used that as your basis, so you could say you’re not a tax professional but one has reviewed this set of statements?

        1. LBK*

          Well, that set of statements kind of already exists – it’s our tax code. Which really is not as hard to understand as you might think, at least for some of the more basic stuff like income tax brackets.

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      THANK YOU. I had almost that exact rant in my head, but I knew someone would probably have gotten to it first. Loss of use/interest is pretty negligible unless you’re talking about enormous sums.

      With this kind of attitude, talking about suing and not even understanding the basic math of it, my guess is that the OP took it personally, which means they probably weren’t pleasant to deal with over the back pay, in which case the employer may just be waiting for a reason to fire them. I got back pay once; I was nicely firm about how the administrative error should not cause me a loss of $x, and my boss and the VP agreed. I had to be persistent, but I was very pleasant about it.

    6. Red*


      The best way to sum up income taxation issues for the tax-illiterate, I’ve found, is this phrase (which I got from my managerial tax strategy professor): The only number that matters is the amount of money after taxes. If income mix A is $8,000 after tax and your effective tax rate is 10%, but income mix B is $12,000 after tax and your effective tax rate is 22%, TAKE B. IT’S MORE MONEY. This example seems to be pretty digestible for those who haven’t bothered to learn anything about the tax codes to which they’re subject, in my experience.

    7. Zahra*

      One thing you can do to soften the blow is ask whoever’s in charge of the pay to spread out the retro payment over a few paychecks. Depending on how much we’re talking about, you might be able to stay in a lower bracket for those payments.

      Another point: so far, you haven’t paid enough taxes for your income this year (considering the windfall and the raise for the rest of the year). Make sure to adjust your withholding or put some money aside in case the IRS asks for a payment.

    8. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      There’s even a way to recoup the extra witholding this year– assuming you’ll be due a refund, go to the IRS withholding calculator (after the extra has been withheld, so you have your actual numbers on your paystub) and have it calculate how you can adjust your witholding. You can make it so you get more of your salary paid out to you this year, instead of giving the government an interest-free loan on it until next year.

      1. Dan*

        You technically don’t need to get a refund to do that, but if you don’t you will owe more, and if you owe too much, you can be subject to under withholding penalties.

      2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        You could also just bump your allowances up by 1 for a couple months and then change it back. Might have to fill out new W-4’s each time, but it’s pretty easy. Just have slightly less withheld from your next couple checks. Nobody’s checking to make sure that you put the “right” number of allowances on your W-4, you just don’t want to be *dramatically* off in either direction for too long.

  7. Chayele*

    On #1, I’ve noticed this for years. I think that in some organizations, it’s common for the people selecting interviewees to not actually be the ones who will be conducting interviews or the ones who will be supervising potential hires. For example, I’m a lawyer. I have literally zero experience in finance. I cannot tell you the number of interviews I went to in law school in which the first question was, “Tell me about your experience in finance.” There is not one thing on my resume to suggest that I have any such experience, nor was it mentioned as a requirement (or even a “plus”) in the job ad. The hiring tasks had been divided up so that no one knew what anyone else was doing.

    1. Wanda*

      This is absolutely the case in my company. We have an amazing HR rep who knows the industry better than many people in the industry for years (I had that thought when I was a candidate for hire and it is the single most common piece of feedback we get about the hiring process). The candidates that she reviews are discussed verbally but I never see a cover letter and may not see a resume prior to a candidate walking into my office for an interview. In reality, I am interviewing for fit because if you make it past HR you are qualified (or she and I have discussed any questions about qualification she may have).

      1. MaryMary*

        Yes, this. If the person doing the interview isn’t in HR or the hiring manager, then there’s a good chance they haven’t had much time to familiarize themselves with your materials. I hardly ever see cover letters, and it’s not unusual to have a day or less notice that I’ll be interviewing someone. In fact, it’s happened that someone else who was supposed to meet a candidate has some urgent issue come up, and I have an hour or less to look over someone’s resume.

      2. Joey*

        How in the world do you interview someone on the fly and not miss anything? I do the same-all of my in person interviewees are capable of doing the job, so I’m screening for fit, but I’m also looking at ksa’s that are above what’s required. For example, I might give someone extra points if they worked on a project that no other candidate worked on. It seems to me that screening only for fit disregards any exceptional qualifications your candidates might bring. And in those cases I would think you’d want to base your questions on the exceptional qualifications you see in the résumé. Besides, aren’t you concerned that candidates might think that they’re not important enough for you to have done your homework on them?

        1. KimmieSue*

          At current job, the company is growing so fast that we are hosting between 10-15 candidates interviewing each week. The recruiter (me) and the hiring manager, each do phone interviews. Those that move forward then will interview with 4-5 people (thirty minutes) each. Given that the interview panel is also responsible for their “day” job – it’s rare that they have time to really evaluate each candidate’s background prior to the interview. We do provide competencies and skills for each to evaluate (so they don’t all ask the candidates the SAME questions) but it’s not perfect for sure.
          If we were hosting 1-5 interviews each week, then yes, I would hope/expect that each interviewer took at least 10-15 minutes to review all materials prior to the interview.

    2. Cat*

      Part of that is because a lot of schools actually prohibit firms from pre-screening candidates. I do on-campus interviewing and I just get a list; no control whatsoever over what candidates I see.

    3. INTP*

      This happens pretty frequently, even if the interview process is not that disorganized. For example, in my past job as a recruiter/HR assistant, I would review the resumes, make calls, and do phone screens. For the people who did well on the phone screen, the HR manager would do a follow-up phone interview, and for those who passed, I’d send the resume to the key people involved in the hiring decision for approval. They were basically scanning it to make sure the required technical experience was there, because at this point they had already been vetted as interview-worthy for everything else – they weren’t reading it in detail. There would also sometimes be peers involved in the interviews who didn’t have to approve the resume. Of course, I sent every interviewee’s resume to every interviewer, but if the interviewers didn’t choose to do their own homework, there was certainly the possibility that they’d go into the interview either having looked at the resume for 20 seconds 2 weeks ago or never having looked at it at all.

      It’s very rare that a hiring manager or team member will be the person who spends a lot of time looking at each resume, in my experience – the types that do this are typically uber-picky and they’re scrutinizing every detail for signs that the person may not be cool or smart or dedicated enough.

  8. Not So NewReader*

    #5. Wow. But I have seen places do that. I am not sure why the wheels fall off, I mean she would never hire someone to do nursing work that had no background in nursing. That is weird. And her rationale is even stranger. I know 80 year old people that are more knowledgeable about computers than I am.
    I will say this, though, I had one boss who commented that the applicant pool dropped with the computerized cash register. Some people were afraid of computers therefore afraid of the cash register. Another place I worked, just asked if people could use a computer and when told yes, the interviewer never dug any deeper. This led to hiring individuals who could not even turn a computer on. That was interesting.

    I am wondering if she feels she will get less applicants? But how many applicants does she need, really.

  9. Doug*

    #1: In my office, when we get contractor resumes (the first step to full-time employment with us), we get them with a bunch of information deliberately left out to prevent discrimination. Where you live is one of those information (because you can make a whole bunch of fun and illegal assumptions based on where someone lives in a big city, or which country they live in).

  10. Student*

    #4 You should revisit the tax issue with a professional.

    You are only getting the new income NOW. Even though your company is giving it to you for work you did in the past, the income appears NOW and so you only need to worry about the tax impact of the windfall NOW. The IRS doesn’t care when you did work, they care when you got the paycheck.

    So, if you need to, adjust your withholding immediately to tackle the tax issue. If the windfall is so high you might owe quarterly tax payments on it, make sure you’re familiar with the rules and exceptions for that. Sometimes you get a grace period of a year if you’ve never owed quarterly taxes before, which means you still owe the taxes but they let you just do it on your annual return. Sometimes, you can just start the quarterly payments for the quarter that you got the windfall.

    At any rate, the tax bill should not ultimately be any different than if they’d given you your raise earlier. You shouldn’t incur a penalty – just some minor additional paperwork or a quick visit to a tax preparer.

    1. LBK*

      This doesn’t really make sense. The OP’s overall tax liability isn’t going to change from what it would’ve been if she had received the raise on time, so there’s no reason she would suddenly have to pay estimated taxes if she wouldn’t have had to before, and since her employer is doing withholding she shouldn’t have to unless she has an extremely bizarre tax situation (like lots of unreported gambling winnings or contract work on the side that would completely offset her W-4 withholdings).

      1. Judy*

        It could affect tax liability if the retroactive pay is from two tax years, and they’re close enough to a tax bracket to put them over.

        If it is paid as a lump sum, there are particular withholding rules from the IRS that don’t have anything to do with your W-4.

        1. LBK*

          I still don’t see how quarterly taxes would apply. They’re only required if you’re estimated to owe more than $1000 – so unless there’s an insufficient withholding taken from the lump sum or the OP has a lot of other untaxed income, that still shouldn’t dramatically alter the amount the OP owes.

          The multi-year thing does make sense, I guess, but that would be fixed by filing an amended return, not paying estimated taxes.

          1. Davey1983*

            You wouldn’t file amended tax returns in this situation. It doesn’t matter when you did the work or earned the money, all that matters is when you received the money.

            If my boss came to me and said the forgot to pay me for some work I did 3 years ago, and he handed me a check, that money is reported on my current year taxes. I would not go back and file an amended return.

  11. Student*

    #5 Have you tried pointing out to her that personal computers are not a new thing?

    If the “old” want to learn how to use computers, they’ve had plenty of time to do it! It’s been 30 years since the Apple Macintosh was released, one of the early mass-market personal computers (I remember that we had Macs in my grade school in the early 1990s – we played Oregon Trail). It’s been 22 years since Windows 3.1. We’ve had 19 years of commercial internet access.Wireless internet access has been broadly available and standard in laptops for about a decade. Opportunities to learn to use computers have been widely available for many years now.

    There are lots of much older computer systems, but they were arguably not something your average Granny could’ve trained on due to limited availability.

    1. Judy*

      I’ll admit I do tech support at times for my parents and some aunts and uncles. But my 87 year old aunt has email and facebook because that’s how she’ll see pictures of her great grandchildren. She keeps her checkbook in Excel and my 82 year old father does the reconciling. She reads books on her nook because she can load them from the library and not have to go to the library to check them out.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yup, totally not age-dependent. My grandfather had at-home Internet (AOL!) before I did, back in the early ’90s. I helped him set up his Chromecast. He takes consulting jobs from foreign clients and communicates strictly over email. On the other hand, his daughter, my 67-year-old mother, is a retired physician and can’t figure out how to send a text message (and she won’t ask, but that’s another story).

    2. Artemesia*

      But it wouldn’t matter if only 22 year olds could do it; if part of the job is using the computer than it is a job requirement. It is certainly true that some physical lifting requirements ‘discriminate against women’ as fewer women can meet the requirement (and fewer old people), so if it is added to a job that does not actually require heavy lifting it would be discriminatory. It is not going to be so for a job in a factory warehouse.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      Well, this average granny got her Comp Sci degree in 1985, and lots of students who didn’t get degrees were still taking computer classes. The TRS-80 was nearly 10 years old by then, and personal computers were for sale in our campus bookstore.

  12. Apollo Warbucks*

    #4 I can’t understand the thought process involved here, someone decides to give you a lump sum payment and your first thought is to sue them? Many firms wouldn’t have even tries to make up for the lost payment the fact that your firm have is really nice of them. And why didn’t you speak up and ask for your review at the time it was due?

    1. LBK*

      Because when a lot of people get into the workplace, they somehow lose sight of the fact that they work for other humans that they can speak to and ask questions of, and who make mistakes and forget to do things.

    2. Loose Seal*

      I feel as though OP is getting jumped on unnecessarily. A lot of people in the U.S. think lawsuits are their only recourse; it’s the culture that we live in. I’m willing to bet that OP hasn’t ever actually sued anyone or even seriously looked into it. Also, taxes freak plenty of people out. There was a time in my life where I was so terrified of doing my taxes that I hired a CPA to do my 1040EZ, which is the simplest form out there; I paid several hundred dollars for the service each year. I was afraid that one mathematical error would send me to prison. Now that I’ve been filing taxes for over twenty years, I do my own and they are much more complicated but I can see why the OP, if they haven’t dealt with taxes much, has gotten worried about this.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I would agree, BUT her employer is already working to get her the back pay, so there’s no reason to think suing would accomplish anything that’s not already being done.

        I know some people thing lawsuits are their only recourse, but that’s not ok and we DO need to correct that thinking. Anyone who’s ever been threatened with a lawsuit knows how terrifying that can be – those aren’t words to be thrown around lightly and you obliterate your credibility if you threaten over minor things.

  13. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


    I am crabby this morning because we are in the middle of busy season and I’ve been working 15 hour days 7 days a week, so my initial reaction was “Hey! Do you want to talk to me or not? I’m doing the best I can here, people!”

    Obviously I’m a little on edge personally (ya think?), but it’s worth remembering that your interviewer isn’t an interviewer by trade, unless they are an HR recruiter. There’s an entire business going on and in my case right now all the teapots are boiling over, making that mad whistle whistle whistle I hear in my sleep. If I’m called into an interview, I’ll give you 20 minutes of my undivided attention, which virtually nobody gets this time of year but no, there’s no prep time before that. I’m reading your resume as I’m walking to the room.

    Which! Believe me, I get what you are saying! I’m just saying, that’s all I got.

    1. Gina*

      My goodness, I doubt he knew he was making unreasonable demands on you by applying for the job you posted and showing up fro the interview you scheduled. Would you tell a potential client hey, I’m busy, that’s all I got? Right now this is a potential client to help your business make money.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          It’s truthful, though, which was my point in writing it out like that. I could make clucking noises about how terrible it is that all interviewers don’t adequately prep on each candidate before they walk through the door, or I could write the truth. The truth helps a candidate decide how to best use that that truth to their advantage. It’s not just truth in my world, it’s truth in many.

          My personal opinion is that a candidate should care more about how they are treated in the face to face. I think it’s rude to keep candidates waiting or to not focus on them completely in the time they are face to face.

          * it’s worth a note that I’m almost always ancillary to the process. I’m not the hiring manager or HR recruiter. I’m the boss’s boss that somebody says, “hey, can you pop in and talk to this candidate. I really like her. Tell me what you think.”

          1. KimmieSue*

            Exactly! I think it’s sometimes hard for some candidates to remember it’s not personal. Most interviewers are NOT the hiring manager and are assisting with the process. They are also dealing with their own responsibilities and fire drills.

      1. Colette*

        It’s not the applying or showing up, it’s expecting her to remember everything on the resume instead of being prepared to discuss and present it verbally.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Gina, I think that’s somewhat off-base, especially considering that not everyone who meets with a candidate is the hiring manager; there are other people who meet with them too, like would-be peers, the hiring manager’s boss (which Wakeen’s Teapots notes in a later comment is the case with her), and even subordinates. It’s pretty normal for those people to just be pulled in last-minute when the primary interviewer thinks someone is good.

        But even when the interviewer is the hiring manager, the reality of many organizations is that people are busy. Expecting them to have retained all information from a resume that they read at some earlier stage isn’t really necessary; they need to be prepared to focus and discuss and assess, but it’s not an outrage for them to rely on their earlier screening portion of the process to have done some of that legwork for them as long as they’re focusing in the moment. It’s not ideal, certainly, but I don’t think it warrants crabbiness from the job seeker end.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This is an interesting area of discussion and would probably make a good post, Alison. “What to do if your interviewer is clearly not prepared to do your interview.” (If you have done one, I must have missed it- my bad.)

          Maybe I’m naive, but I always figured it was up to me to fill the interviewer in on my details. “You want to consider me because I [fill in reasons]. Sometimes I would get the sense that a place was frazzled all the time and I would need to answer basic/obvious questions as part of my job. In an odd way, this would be a check for fit coming from the interviewer. “How well do you tolerate people who have no idea what it is that you are doing, because we have plenty of those types working here.”

          Of the two extremes- places that are so busy basics need to be explained OR places that are so micromanaging, everyone has time to stand over you and watch you work- I would take the former. Ideally, I would want something in the middle, but that is not always possible. So a confused interviewer is not a big deal to me, if that is the only red flag I see.
          I approach it as this person is going to go back to TPTB and say yea or nay about her interview with me. My goal is to give her reasons to tell TPTB that they should talk to me more. Spoon-feeding? Maybe. But you have to do what it takes to get/maintain a job. I try to spoon-feed in an intelligent manner so as not to make the interviewer feel awkward. Which only makes sense, I don’t want the interviewer making ME feel awkward.

      3. Bea W*

        I walked into an interview with a couple people who clearly had this attitude oozing all over the place. One was harried and I think just oblivious to how she came across. The other one just outright complained about the job. I walked out of there thinking. I was gracious on the outside, but on the inside I was thinking, “I think I’ll find another circus to join. This one already has too many clowns.”

    2. C Average*

      A few honest questions (as in, I’m absolutely in no way trying to be snarky here): Do you feel equipped to make good hires under these conditions? If so, how do you ensure that happens when you’re able to only give such a small slice of undivided attention to the hiring process? Do you trust HR and the other people on the panel to make good decisions, or does most of the decision ultimately fall on you? Do you think you make better hiring decisions when you’re less stressed and busy, or do you feel that these decisions just have to get made more efficiently (but are made equally effectively) when you have less time to devote to them?

      I’ve been on the other side of interviews that felt rushed and were conducted by obviously very busy people, and always wondered the candidates were getting a fair hearing.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Sorry to worry you, it’s all good! :)

        We’re running 30% growth at the moment and we might just all die over here at Wakeen’s.

        Nah, I have good people. Our HR recruiter is terrific about only scheduling solid candidates and I’m only contributing my opinion on candidates. The managers are making their own decisions and they are good at it.

        I think the only real risk is missing out on less-solid-on-paper candidates whom we might have explored more if we had more time. But what are you going to do? (for one thing, get back to work, now! :) )

        1. C Average*

          Thanks! This is a really interesting viewpoint. I know from your comments here that you’re conscientious and intelligent and take your work seriously, so it’s interesting to hear how you manage to balance this stuff effectively.

          No more questions from me! Get back to work, now!

      2. LW #1*

        I think this is how I feel.

        Wakeen, I work in research so usually HR doesn’t get involved with the screening process and it’s left up to the discretion of the researcher and her/his team to figure out who they want to bring in. I try to be understanding that people are pressed for time and hopeful some amount of screening went into the process, but in some of these situations (and I’m trying to be a bit vague), there was some serious “deal-breakers” that the interviewer found during the interview that should have been figured out prior to ever scheduling one (like location, degree, etc). I just find it confusing, but I’ll try to give people the benefit of the doubt in the future.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Oh don’t mind me. I was having a “I can’t please everybody!” moment. :)

          My only actual point was that with interviews during the work day, there can be so much swirling around an interviewer before she steps in the room, she may be coming into the conversation without a lot of background.

          In my opinion: It’s completely appropriate to expect that if you take the time out of your day for an interview, you’ve been selected because you already meet most or all of the job qualifications. It’s not okay, if you live in Iowa and interview for a job in Florida for the interviewer to imply that living in Iowa is new information to her and that makes you not right for the job.

      3. jag*

        In our hiring, we look over resumes pretty quickly to narrow things down. Say from 200 to a top 20. Those 20 get a lot of attention.

        But not so much attention that we can remember the details in them when an interview happens two weeks or a month letter. In fact, not so much attention that we can remember them at all – they’re read to make a decision at the time they are being read about whether or not the applicant makes a certain cut. Not to internalize the information and be able to pull it out of our head in a meeting. Those are different things.

    3. Joey*

      That sounds like a bigger problem- that you have a busy season and don’t really have the appropriate time to spend on interviewing. I would imagine that given your situation you’re probably looking for warm bodies that can contribute, not necessarily spending the time to find the best candidate.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Thanks. Our growth atm is twice what projected, and we actually have two busy seasons that tag team so no let up until about 12/15 or so.

        Good process and good people save us. We have an established system for temporary workers and good relationships + a good HR recruiter and a management team that’s worked together for over decade. We definitely don’t hire warm bodies because, that’s counter productive. If there’s a problem, it’s the opposite. We’re less likely to take chances, lest the new hire go pear shaped and cost time.

        (Anticipating the next question – yes, we have a planned training progression and people who will spend time training and we don’t just hire someone and say, here’s the phone. :) )

    4. Mints*

      I’ve had interviews where it was clear to me I talked to a bonus person. I took it as a good sign when it was after the regular person interviewed me, and then said “Let’s see if Big Cheese Wakeen has a moment” and it didn’t really bother me that they were less prepared.
      But it feels really different when it’s the main interviewer, who’d be the manager. And they make me wait twenty minutes, ask for a copy of my resume when I get in, and sit in silence as they read the entire thing for five minutes, before the interview really starts.
      I realize there could have been a fire to put out, but it could have been handled a lot better (read it in the hallway, at least, geez).
      It’s so disheartening

  14. AnonyMouse*

    #1: As others have said, often the people selecting the interviewees are not the same people doing the interviewing. At a previous job, I chose a few candidates out of many more for my boss to interview. I gave her a quick rundown of each person and a copy of their resume before they spoke, but it’s likely that she sometimes forgot some of their qualifications anyway.

    And also, especially if this is happening at in person interviews (although I suppose it’s possible for phone interviews too), sometimes your interviewer has read your resume, but has so many back-to-back interviews scheduled that it’s hard to keep track of who’s who. At the interview for my current job, the hiring manager had a printed copy of my resume and referred to it, but sometimes she would ask me a question like “and tell me about how Skill X was relevant at Company Y,” and when I gave an answer, it would be obvious that she had known and been excited by that, but simply forgot it was me who mentioned it in my cover letter.

    #5: Not age discrimination at all! If those skills are part of the job, they’re part of the job – any many older people have excellent tech skills. Not to mention, not all younger people are as computer literate as one might hope! I work with data in some fairly basic programs as part of my job, and it’s been surprising how many young people struggle with it.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Good example of talking about things that should be obvious. Sometimes we just have to do that.
      The job I work at now, there are so. many. people. I cannot keep them all straight in my head. And frankly, none of them would want me to work off of memory- it’s just so unfair. I get their file out before the conversation even starts. But I explain, “I want your file in front of me so I know I am saying the right thing to you.” I have never had anyone object yet.

      I think in years to come we are going to see more and more of this across the board, not just with interviews. It’s got nothing to do with people not caring.

  15. Beyonce Pad Thai*

    # 1 You list the salary for each position on your resume? Is this common? I’m in Europe, so maybe that’s it, but I’ve never seen this. Or is this something this particular company asked for?

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        I’m curious about this. How many professional jobs ask for an application in addition to a resume and cover letter? Is it common in very large businesses? I know this happens, but I’ve only encountered it in retail and food service.

        1. tt*

          For those companies (more and more these days) using application tracking systems, there’s usually some application materials to fill out that are in addition to the resume and cover letter. Not necessarily extensive, and not all ask about salary history.

          1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

            Ah – so some companies that didn’t use apps in the past are doing so now because it allows them to keep the info within a system. Got it. Thanks.

        2. LW #1*

          I currently work in research so I apply anywhere from universities to pharm companies. 95% of job ads require you to go through the actual careers page on each company’s website and fill out information in addition to sending research samples, resume and cover letter. In most cases, they request the last three jobs and their salary.

  16. Henrietta Gondorf*

    I just guess it’s a good thing #5 doesn’t need to hire IT personnel to support the electronic records system…

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Exactly. This is like saying that the law requires you to hire any applicant who has a disability, whether or not they are qualified for the job, because otherwise it’s discrimination.

      1. OhNo*

        God, yes. Sorry to rant a little, but I just got in an argument with someone about this yesterday, and it’s still fresh in my mind: Avoiding discrimination does NOT mean giving undue preference to the group that you are trying not to discriminate against! It means giving everyone a fair shake regardless of their status as a member of a protected class.

        (I might have yelled at someone yesterday about this. They were complaining that I had applied to the same job as them about a year ago, and I got it. They pulled the “you just got it because you’re disabled!” card, to which I ranted a bit and then pulled the “no, I got it because I have more experience than you do AND everyone on the hiring committee knows me, likes me, and has worked with me before”.)

        Anyway, to bring it back to the OP’s question – not screening for computer skills not only means you are hiring unqualified people, but depending on who you hire and how you go about it, it might actually be viewed as discrimination in the OTHER direction. As in, you are trying so hard to give older applicants a chance that you are making it MORE difficult to hire a young candidate, even if they are better qualified for the role. I’m not suggesting that’s what is happening, but it’s something to consider. (And if you really want to see the gears work in your boss’ head, try suggesting that next time they try to justify poor hiring practices as “avoiding discrimination”.)

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yeah, really. That person had a rationale that let them off the hook. “Not my fault I didn’t get the job, OhNo has a disability.” Hopefully, that person took a good hard look at their own experiences and beefed up what they were doing in their career. But, I won’t hold my breath on that one.

            1. OhNo*

              I hope they do, too, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Still, at least they seemed to realize they had made a tactical error about halfway through my rant. And they eventually apologized.

            1. Joey*

              Well there’s an argument the other way too. In a lot of engineering careers there are more men than women so there’s a concerted effort to interview women. Its sort of efforts to correct the history of discrimination in engineering against women. I’m not sure Id agree that we should stop considering things like race and gender until we’re at a point that the data shows that its a level playing field.

                1. CoffeeLover*

                  Also agreeing. The fact is that if a company wants to try and hire 50:50 men and women but 80:20 men and women apply…. I have a better chance of getting the job as a woman. That doesn’t mean I’m not as qualified as the men, but it’s a numbers game. An incompetent woman would not get hired, but if there’s 5 competent people, 4 men 1 woman, and they can only hire 2, they’ll hire the woman and one man. (I’m also in finance.)

            2. jag*

              It happens in relation to education too. I had super-high SATs, was a very high-ranked student at a super-competitive high school, had sterling recommendations, lots of extracurricular experience, and got into every college I applied to (including Harvard and Yale).

              But I got in because I was black. Right?

              1. Joey*

                There are plenty of minorities that freely admit they got where they are in part because of affirmative action. Obviously for others its not a factor.

                1. fposte*

                  I think that’s a complicated comment, though. For one thing, their perception isn’t necessarily the truth; for another, somebody who gets hired under an affirmative action program isn’t necessarily hired because of affirmative action; they can be hired because of the leveling of the playing field that would have meant they’d be hired anyway if that was the condition from the start.

                  IOW, if my 100-person organization is all male and I finally decide to hire a woman because of affirmative action, it’s not so much that she’s hired because she’s a woman (though that’s the shorthand descriptor) as she’s hired because I finally lessened discrimination against women. The 99 other people got hired for their sex just as much or more.

                2. jag*

                  Three of my four freshman year roommates were super-rich, old-school, well-connected WASPs. One was not quite rich but otherwise similar. There’s a huge “affirmative action” program for people like that, and it’s been around for at least a couple hundred years….

                3. Joey*

                  Well maybe the male went to your alma mater or you liked that he cracked a good joke in the interview. There could be endless non discriminatory reasons to hire someone that would be hard to lean on when there’s data that would lead people to draw a different conclusion.

                4. jag*

                  “Well maybe the male went to your alma mater or you liked that he cracked a good joke in the interview.”

                  Just a better “cultural” fit, right?

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          I was thinking the same thing – that it’s possible that they are potentially making it harder for younger candidates. However – age discrimination laws only apply to those over 40. You CAN discriminate against someone for being under 40, just not over. So this might be inadvertently causing their hires to skew older than they otherwise might, but it’s outside the realm of legal stuff discrimination-wise.

        2. Raptor*

          Yep. And, as a teacher, I’ve been taught that when grading things like essays, to cover up the student’s name. This way, you avoid any discrimination you might have buried inside of you (and most of us have that). To those who aren’t aware of the study, it shows that female or non-white sounding student names always get lower scores on essays than student names that sound male and white. Even if it’s the same paper.

          The best way to fight discrimination is to recognize that you carry around some cultural baggage and then not to try to overcompensate for it or to hide it. Just accept it, be aware you will do it, and try to install good habits in yourself so that you don’t fall into the trap of it.

          And, finally, ignoring that the problem that discrimination exists, puts you on the side of the discriminators. Don’t be complacent in this stuff, because it matters.

        3. Joey*

          Well not really. For example its hard to defend not hiring a similarly qualified female when your workforce is all male.

        4. Joey*

          Fwiw I can almost guarantee you that your disability garnered you some additional review. It might have turned out to be a moot point, but it’s also possible that you were the legally safest selection. Not saying that happened, just saying that protected categories are usually considered for legal reasons.

          1. Cat*

            Except that every single study on this shows that people on protected classes are less likely to be hired, not more. Telling people who did get hired that they should doubt their qualifications because of being on a protected class is not only cruel, it’s not supported by the data.

            1. Joey*

              That conclusion totally disregards affirmative action. Yes, you hire the most qualified when there’s clearly a most qualified. But what do you think happens when one of your top candidates is a similarly qualified underrepresented minority?

            2. Joey*

              I think its a bit wishful thinking to believe that being in a protected category will never give you an advantage. It clearly has to when companies care about the racial and gender makeup of their workforce.

              1. fposte*

                I think it can give you a specific advantage in specific situations, placements, and phases, but that doesn’t translate to an overall advantage in getting hired. If it did, the numbers would be different than they are.

              2. Cat*

                I find it fascinating that people who are in the over represented category always assume they’re getting jobs because of their stellar qualifications and not because their employer likes people who are like them (which the numbers seem to suggest).

                Fposte has the right substantive response I think. But if you’re one of the 85% of men at your office (or whatever) maybe you should stop thinking about how unqualified the women are and start thinking about how much your employer empirically likes to hire men.

                1. fposte*

                  I’m guessing you’re using “you” generally, but just in case, I’d say it’s worth our avoiding assuming the categories of people we’re responding to. For instance, from what he’s said previously, I don’t think Joey is posting without knowing what it’s like to be a minority.

                2. Joey*

                  I see it first hand as a minority and as a hiring manager that works for a company with an affirmative action plan. I think its a little bit idealistic to be blind to race and that it would take much longer to correct for example, discrimination against women in male dominated jobs. I think you absolutely have to give the nod to whatever group is underrepresented when you have similarly qualified candidates to correct the problem at a faster rate. I wish I lived in a era where there was a level playing field, but that’s not reality and until then I think its perfectly ethical to actively level the playing field instead of waiting for it to level itself.

                3. Cat*

                  Yes I’m using you generally.

                  Joey – I’m not disagreeing with you. I’m saying that statistically and empirically being in a historically discriminated against group is still a disadvantage. Yes in any individual case anyone may not hav gotten a job because they were most qualified. Any case. But there’s a pervasive culture of telling minorities they didn’t really deserve a job and yet that’s less accurate than t is for majorities as it turns out.

          2. OhNo*

            FWIW, given that I actually have firsthand knowledge of the situation and you don’t, I can guarantee that my disability didn’t garner me squat. What garnered my “additional review” was the fact that I had done good work (VERY good, in fact) at this same job as an intern, got along well with everyone, and was well known to every person on the hiring committee.

            And I’m definitely not the “safest selection”, legally or otherwise, because I made it clear that I have no intention of staying in this position longer than two years, but they decided to hire me anyway based on past performance.

  17. Rebecca*

    #2 – you could solve this by locking your office door when you leave. When we had an HR person on site, this is what she did, even if it was just a quick trip to the ladies’ room. This would solve any issues with possible breaches of sensitive information.

    #5 – I think screening for computer skills is a must! I am 51, and have always kept up on my skill set by learning new things, taking an online class if possible, and not just letting things ride or letting other people do them. The last thing you need in a highly computerized workplace is someone who has no clue how to use the programs or has no basic understanding to build on, young or old.

    1. Meg Murry*

      Yes, even in places I’ve workd that were otherwise completely open plan or cubicles, HR and Accounting were always in offices with doors and the door was always shut and locked if the person wasn’t there. Get a lanyard or carbiner clip for your work keys, and lock the door when you leave. Or see if you can unlock the door when you come in, then relock it and just prop it open with a doorstop. That way you can just pull it behind you when you walk out, even if you are just going to the ladies room.
      If your work is confidential enough to be worthy of an office with a door – use the door.

      1. Vicki*

        Put confidential papers in a locking drawer in any case, but try just closing your door when you go to the restroom or out to lunch. I bet no one will try the door while you’re gone.

  18. Eliza Jane*

    #5, I’m with Alison that it is incredibly insulting to older employees to suggest that screening for computer skills in age discrimination. It actually makes me wonder a bit if some actual age discrimination is going on: if the boss says they can’t test for/ask about computer skills because it would be discrimination, but computer skills are necessary, might they be giving older candidates less of a chance because of the assumption that they’re not computer literate?

    A test could actually make things much more fair, since you’d be judging actual skills and not a bizarre assumption of them based on age.

    1. Vicki*

      My spouse and I, as well as many of our friends and co-workers, have been working with computers since the early 1980s (or before). That makes us all well over 40. We’re pre @, pre .com, pre www, pre broadband, pre Mac, pre Windows, pre Social Media… (and in some cases pre Internet).

      Not all jobs require computer skills, but many do. If a skill is important to the job, ask about them. Vet them like any other skill.

      At a previous job, we hired a project manager. She had worked at a large Silicon Valley computer company for 12 years; it was assumed she had basic computer skills. She didn’t. She wasn’t familiar with Mac, Windows, or Linux. She couldn’t use any of the industry standard email programs. She’d never used Word or Excel. (She had used very specialized, internal, written-for-that-company word processing and email programs at her last job.) She had a very difficult time coming up to speed and left after 8 months.

      It’s not a question of age; it’s a question of qualifications.

  19. Bea W*

    #2 Can you lock your drawers? In addition to telling people point blank not to rummage through my drawers and files, I’d start locking the drawers everytime I’d leave, especially working with confidential information.

    For amusement you might stuff a drawer full of those springy surprise snakes.

  20. Squirrel!*

    Regarding #5, my aunt is 65 years old and has been working with computers for the last 30+ years. She taught herself how to code in many languages, and learns new ones all the time (she also knows some sys admin, networking, and security stuff too). She’s worked for several tech companies who have all loved her and she loves her work. Age has nothing to do with technological skill. I’ve met people my age (late 20s) and younger than me who have no idea what they’re doing with a computer at all.

    1. Beancounter in Texas*

      Stereotypes regarding age & computers were busted at my company after I arrived. My 75+ old boss wanted to learn how to scan documents & email them. Now, it took him a while to learn, but he did learn it! His grasp of how computers function is a bit grainy, but he can use a computer, step by step, to get what he needs.

      Meanwhile, his 27 year old son ran into the office, sweating that he needed to FedEx overnight a check to his credit card company or it would be late. His mother scoffed at him & said, “Pay it online!”

  21. Diet Coke Addict*

    Oh my goodness, PLEASE screen for computer skills! Regardless of age! Otherwise you end up with employees like my hapless coworker who is still having trouble with our basic email process eight weeks into the job and restarts her entire machine every time a program freezes up for a second and requires endless hand-holding.

    And be specific about it, too, because my coworker put on her resume that she took a class in Excel, but turned up her first day not knowing what I mean when I said “rows,” “columns,” and “functions.” Please for the love of everything, screen to protect your other employees. I’ve had coworkers who’ve grown up with the internet their whole lives who could barely open Word, and I’ve had coworkers several decades older than me who’d forgotten more than I ever knew about computers. What a weird and not-particularly-smart assumption.

    1. Artemesia*

      Exactly. I would require a computer test if the job requires it and solving a couple of excel problems if the job requires it. It is not enough to ask. WE had an older employee who ended up being fired because she refused to learn to use the computer although the job had evolved to require it; it isn’t ‘age discrimination’ if they can’t do the job.

      1. danr*

        As my old company was starting online processing (mainframe and terminals) we got an older worker who had refused to learn the new ways. We were the last dept that she could transfer to and I was asked to work with her since I had a knack for explaining things. Turned out that she was afraid of hitting the wrong key and deleting the database. Someone up the line who didn’t understand things had tried to scare the input clerks in training with that story. I explained that her login level didn’t permit her to delete the database no matter how hard she tried. With that off her mind, she mastered the system. Her comment later was “What was I so scared of? This is easy.”

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Oh my, I think you ended up with my former coworker. Every 15 minutes all day long. Finally another coworker commented to me. That’s when I put my foot down and stopped running to her rescue. This unraveling was very hard to watch, I actually liked the woman.

  22. Allison*

    #5 is baffling! Sure, I’ve met 50-somethings who can’t figure out iTunes or Excel, and in my first internship I witnessed intelligent adults struggling with a web application I found very easy to learn how to use, but working in tech I’ve also encountered plenty of people in later stages of life who are very knowledgeable about computers.

    I know there’s a concern that older adults are less willing to learn new technologies, and that they insist on sticking to outdated ways of doing things, but that’s a stereotype!

    The fact is, OP works in a field where people need to know how to use these new technologies. So the manager has two options: hire people who already have these skills, or invest in a training program to teach them, which costs money and takes time, and she’d still probably need to find people with a certain aptitude and foundation already in place. I am wondering what criteria the manager is using to screen candidates right now.

    1. fposte*

      I also suspect that some computer skills may be *more* common when you get a little older, because younger employees are accustomed to glossy interfaces and never having to look under the hood. Storing stuff in the cloud doesn’t mean you know what the cloud is.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I attended a lecture once, where the lecturer held up a black box and said, “This is a cloud.” He talked about where the term came from versus what a cloud actually is. The whole audience gasped when he lifted the black box in the air for all to see, it was a moment where the dots connected for everyone.

        1. Jen RO*

          I got flashbacks of The Internet episode in The IT Crowd. (It should be on YouTube; the series is so funny – or sad – if you’re in IT support.)

        1. De Minimis*

          I highly recommend the Chrome extension “Cloud to Butt Plus.” I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of it.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        SO TRUE. My biggest problem with some younger employees (not all, mind you) was a lack of critical thinking more than anything else. I don’t care if you don’t know how to use something, but I do care if you don’t TRY. I used to tell new hires to make mistakes and learn how to fix them. Some of them looked at me like I had two heads, but once they figured it out, they were golden.

    2. EngineerGirl*

      “older adults less willing to learn new technologies”
      Ironically, the older adults were the ones that invented the underlying technology. That’s the part that breaks my heart when I see the assumption that older adults can’t handle the computer. Not only do we understand it, we know what is going on down at a deep level that some of the younger technology users could never understand.

  23. C Average*

    I would be so, so tempted to mess with people if I had a drawer in my office that was generally regarded as the candy drawer.

    I’d procure some of those Harry Potter-themed Many Flavored Beans and pick out all the nasty flavors (booger, barf, earwax, etc.) and put them in a bowl in the candy drawer.

    I would also be tempted to put a live cat in the drawer, but I wouldn’t because that would be cruel to the cat.

      1. C Average*

        Yesterday, our admin sent out an email blast to the whole department about a stray cat she’s trying to re-home. (There are a lot of animal-lovers in our department.) A few of us got into a discussion about how we wished we could adopt the cat as our department’s mascot and have him live in the office. This devolved into a hilarious tangent about how we’d name him after our beloved but cranky director, so that we could say things like “Careful–Jason’s feeling bitey today” or “Great–Jason’s killed another mouse in the kitchen.”

      2. Ezri*

        I’d love to bring my kitty to work! But I work in a cube-forest and would probably never see her again. She’s adventurous and would love all the hidey-holes.

  24. Livin' in a Box*

    I would put a realistic looking plastic turd in the drawer. Or a remote controlled spider. I would have way too much fun with this.

    1. Allison*

      I’d fill it with realistic-looking spiders if it was small. And if it was big, I have a plastic, creepy-looking clown (Halloween decoration) that would really freak people out.

    2. C Average*

      If you take a soft brownie and roll it up, it makes a very realistic-looking turd. If you then take a bite out of it, hilarity may ensue. Don’t ask me why I know this.

      1. Windchime*

        Tootsie Rolls work for making fake cat turds. My mother loves April Fools’ Day, and she has gotten a lot of mileage out of this one.

      1. Windchime*

        One of the night housekeeping staff was taking diet Cokes from a box I had stashed under my desk, so I simply put a note on it saying, “Please don’t take these. They don’t belong to you.” I know the housekeeper saw it, because she mentioned to a coworker that she only “borrowed” a pop because her blood sugar was low. Except it was diet Coke, and there is no sugar. So…..yeah.

        But anyway, the note worked in this instance.

  25. Mike C.*

    #2 – The only office where it’s acceptable to rummage around in someone’s desk looking for candy is the floor of the US Senate. Search for “Candy Desk” in Wiki if you’ve never heard of it.

    #5 – What in the hell is wrong with your boss? The idea that testing for computer literacy is age discrimination is in and of itself a slap in the face to older folks because it assumes that they systematically won’t know how to use a computer. I wish I could smack the stupidity out of this person.

    1. Joey*

      It’s actually not so far fetched. I’m sure we all know many older folks who have a hard time with computers. Younger folks not so much. Now obviously it doesn’t apply to all older workers, but I don’t think its any secret that screening for computer literacy would tend to weed out folks who haven’t kept up with technology. That’s almost always going to be more older workers.

      1. Mike C.*

        It’s not a function of being old, it’s a function of not having been around computers. There’s no need to focus on age, especially when age >=40 is a protected class.

        1. Joey*

          Disparate impact. It’s no different than having a requirement that applicants be able to lift a lot. That would tend to weed out women.

          1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

            Disparate impact doesn’t come into play in the same way when there’s a “Bona Fide Occupational Qualification”. That’s why movie studios aren’t sued for discriminating against women when they only consider hiring men to play male roles. Perhaps outside of the legal realm here, but it’s also quite possible for people to improve their computer skills, regardless of age, especially if “basic” is what is needed for this job. That’s pretty different than not hiring people because of qualities they can’t change about themselves (race, nationality, etc.).

            1. Joey*

              Disparate impact can be on anything- requiring a car for non driving jobs when the bus or a bike will do. Disqualifying someone for any conviction when its not related to the job. It goes on and on. Your ability to buy a car or hire a good lawyer has nothing to do with it. It’s the effect of the policy and its job relatedness.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          People have the freedom to learn computers or not. It’s a choice. I have a friend (50+ y/o) who thinks the keys are too small for his big fingers. (Yeah, that actually might be a real concern.) I showed him the keyboards with the reeally big keys. “Nope. Don’t want it.” At that point it became a choice.
          I have a 20 something friend who does not do much with computers, she clearly says, “I am not interested”.

          Poverty is the only reason in my mind that would truly prevent a person from having a computer. The adaptive equipment that is out there is AMAZING.

              1. Joey*

                Any stats on poverty rates among those who are actually seeking employment? Or on those who own a computer?

      2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        That might be true, but it doesn’t mean that that it’s a legal discrimination issues. In order to get a bit more age diversity in my workplace, I have had to relax my expectations for computer skills for some positions – but I still have to maintain the bar for computer skills in positions where it’s most essential. At the end of the day, it balances out for us- the general trend is that some younger folks need extra support navigating the dynamics of some parts for the job, and some older folks needs extra support to navigate their laptop. If we have ALL people with weak computer skills, it would put too much of a strain on things, but it’s the same for having a staff who all have limited experience in the field. That said, not every business can bend on the computer skills, depending on the nature of the job.

      3. Allison*

        There is a correlation, and many of us are products of our respective generations. There are certainly a lot of baby boomers who didn’t learn to use computers in school, didn’t use computers much (if at all) when they first started working, and frequently enlist family members to help them with computer issues now. There are older people who struggle with computers because computer literacy simply wasn’t taught to them at a young age, and/or nowadays they see no need to keep with with technology; some are even afraid to do so because of hackers, identify theft, viruses, stalkers, evil robots, etc. Requiring computer literacy might rule some people who happen to be in their 40’s and 50’s, but their age isn’t a direct cause of their lack of skills, hence why it’s not age discrimination.

        It would, however, be age discrimination if you refused to even bother screening older applicants, under the assumption that an older applicant won’t be able to use the technology or won’t be able to pick up on it quickly enough.

  26. ConstructionHR*

    #5. The manager needs a huge reality check. When I got to college (shortly after the stone age) we we still using slide rules. First semester I took Basic programming, second semester I took Fortran programming. Second year there, HP came out with a scientific calculator, I bought their first programmable calculator a few years later. I’ve used MS-DOS; Windows 3.1, Harvard Graphics; Lotus 1-2-3; Word Perfect and all the Office iterations. I use Snag-It to capture images & create my own clip art. I use a Gyration Air Mouse during my presentations/training to further the professional image.

    There’s a lot of us grey panthers around.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I am cracking up. My dad used slide rulers for his design work. I learned how to use one in school myself. When scientific calculators came out my father marveled. He said he remembered computer the size of rooms that could NOT do what a scientific calculator did.

      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        Yeah, my dad will be turning 60 next year. He’s an electrical engineer. People hitting 60 right now have lived with computers their whole lives, every bit as much as those who were born in the ’90s and ’00s, even if they started out learning to type on an IBM Selectrix rather than an Apple IIe (like I did). You don’t get much more “early adopter” than people like my dad, who still uses his HP40c calculator (which he bought in college, although he actually uses the HP40c emulator app on his iPhone more often these days), who bought an Epson 8088 computer in 1986 and has been steadily upgrading (usually by building his own computer) ever since, and who learned to design circuit boards in DOS. On the other hand, my younger sister wouldn’t know how to do a basic formula in Excel, because she’s never used it.

        1. ConstructionHR*

          LOL, your dad & I could be twin son of different mothers. BTW, the HP41 emulator app is the way to go.

          He didn’t by any chance go to school in the far north of New York state?

          1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

            He’s so used to his 40c that I don’t think he’d be ready to jump to the 41. :)

            And no, he graduated from the University of Utah. He works for a home automation company now (after years of designing network audio broadcasting equipment, quite the come down, but his former company had been declining for years) and the young’uns he works with are constantly amazed by what he can do.

  27. Jubilance*

    I couldn’t imagine going through someone else’s desk drawers unless they specifically asked me to, how rude! When I have meetings with a person in their office/cube and they aren’t there, I don’t even go in to wait until they arrive. I try to respect people’s space.

  28. Allison*

    #2 The candy thing confuses me. The person before the OP had candy in drawers . . . did they invite people to go in and help themselves to candy, or did people do it without the person’s permission? To me, candy in a drawer isn’t candy meant for anyone to just take. It’s a little odd how no one in that office respects boundaries, and new people are expected to just get used to it. And even if one person had candy, why would you expect the next person to also have candy? I would feel really ridiculous going into someone’s office, opening a drawer, and then explaining to the person working in there “Lucy kept candy in here.”

  29. grasshopper*

    #1 – The intervier-er might not have reviewed your CV in depth. It is really common in my organization for the hiring manager and HR to review all the applications, select interview candidates and then bring in a third person for the interview panel. The third person receives the candidate CVs, but quite often doesn’t have time to review them until right before the interviews.

    #5 – Set up a practical test for your candidates. Either before or after the interview, sit them in a room with a computer and set them a task to do within 30 minutes. You’ll know very clearly who can use computers and who can’t, regardless of age or what is written on their CV. I’ve had candidates say that they were experts with excel/word but couldn’t do a mail merge.

    1. CC*

      Ha, I haven’t done a mail merge since I was a kid. (Address labels for my mom’s christmas card list.) In MS Works. I can’t remember the name of the database program.

      On the other hand, I haven’t needed to do a mail merge since then.

      This is, again, a case for testing the actual skills that would be needed at the actual job being interviewed for.

  30. Robin*

    OP #1: Other people have touched on this, but yes, it does indicate a certain level of disorganization or flakiness. But I don’t think it should be a deal-breaker. One of the better managers I had was this way during the interview, but it was just that he wasn’t invested in me yet, and he was the type to focus his energy and attention where he was most invested. Once I was hired, he was very supportive and attentive to my professional development. I can see that it can be a little offputting, and it does give you some information about the person, but it isn’t a complete picture.

  31. Tax Nerd*

    #5 – I’ve been using computers since 1984–starting with DOS, Lotus 1-2-3, WordPerfect, gone through numerous iterations of MS Windoes and Office, and am over the age for collecting Social Security. Put me on a Mac/Apple computer, and it would take me a day or less to figure out how it works, just as I have to do with new releases of MS Office (things get moved around, renamed, what have you, so it takes a bit to find the things I know exist, but not sure where they are hiding now).

    My father got his first computer when he was in his 70s, and became proficient with a number of programs that did what he wanted to do (he never bothered with PowerPoint, not interested).

    Either of us (well, now just me, as my father’s body died several years ago) would be Very Displeased if we were rejected from a job that required computer skills for the only reason of an assumption that we were too old to know anything about them.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      Ha! I was thinking of my dad (he’d be 90 now). As an electrical engineer he was used to working with programmable controllers. We bought him a PC and within a day he stated “That Microsoft sure has a racket going”. Then he’d get mad because he couldn’t get into the operating system very easily.

  32. OP #5*

    Thanks for the input, everyone! It’s good to know that I’m NOT crazy, and that screening for the ability to perform a basic function of the job does not amount to discrimination.

    A few background notes:
    My boss is an otherwise completely awesome manager, which is why I was so confused when I suggested that we screen for computer literacy, and she responded by saying we’d have to check with HR because it might be age discrimination I was terribly confused.

    The practitioners we hire do tend to be a bit prima-donna-ish, so I can sort of see where my manager’s concern comes from. (It’s a field where there is high demand for these types of practitioners, and some of them have gotten used to basically getting away with murder. That seems to be changing, though.)

    Thanks for all of your input! I now have a better idea of how to address this with the boss lady.

    1. OP #5*

      Uhhhh….this is what I get for trying to multi-task pre-coffee. That line should read, “My boss is an otherwise completely awesome manager, which is why I was so confused when I suggested that we screen for computer literacy, and she responded by saying we’d have to check with HR because it might be age discrimination.”

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      It sounds like maybe she went to a seminar where she learned just a dangerously tiny amount about discrimination in hiring, and now she’s scared to distinguish between candidates. But it’s really good that she said she needed to check – her concern isn’t exactly a smart one, but it’s a huge plus that she wasn’t sure she was right!

    3. Jessica*

      To do some piggyback complaining regarding #5. My workplace often seems to give a lot of people a pass on staying up to date with the technology we use, which creates extra work for the people trying to do things efficiently. Drives me crazy!

  33. amp2140*

    LW1: Also, if you’re going through a third party, they might have modified your resume.

    A few months ago I got to interview candidates from the same temp agency I used to get the job. When one handed me their resume, I was shocked to see how different it looked from the one provided by the agency.

  34. chewbecca*

    #3 – I really annoys the crap out of me that companies think that because you act as receptionist, you get a lower salary.

    I’m a part of the accounting team and 90% of my job is accounting work, but it’s also my job to act as receptionist. My HR manager all but told me flat out that I’m one of the lowest paid people here, and yet I do two(ish) jobs.

    Of course, I’m not saying I need to be on the level of managers or execs, but being paid on par with the other people of my level in accounting would be nice.

    TL;DR – I know those feels, and I hope you can get your salary bumped to cover the job you actually do.

  35. op #3*

    Thank you for answering my question. I did what you recommended (last week, as I was then placed into a full HR role (dealing with labour standard errors, hiring, and of course, managing the 400 employee training program) right from training). I was told that there would be no pay increase from receptionist wage ($35k).

    I quit that day. No regrets. What a bait and switch. I have a degree in education and have never worked in business or took business 101. I feel lied to.

      1. op #3*

        Thank you. I already start Monday at $20k more. I figured if I’m going to take on more work, might as well be paid for it.

  36. JoAnna*

    My husband’s maternal grandfather is almost 90 and he has better computer skills than my mother-in-law (who is in her 50s).

  37. AR*

    #2 I had something happen to me that is similar. I had been working for my company for a year and a half. I am both HR and Payroll, and you would think that people would realize that they can’t just go into your office an play with your stuff. I will admitt that I was warned by the last person that I need to keep my door shut when I was not in the office, but I figured that I would handle it by just setting up ground rules with other people saying things like “Hey Jane, I need to let you know that you cannot go into my office when I am not there due to the sensitive and confidential nature of the items I have on my desk” and other forms of that and then reinforced it. It worked for that first year in a half I just had to reinforce it and be very friendly otherwise plus I put a chair outside of my office for people to use while waiting for me. Then one day we hired someone who use to do payroll and office management for another company and she felt that she had every right to go into my office whenever she wanted. No amount of me telling her not to would work. She finally told me that “If you don’t want people to go into your office, then you need to lock your door.” I finally had to do that, but sure as anything, if I left my office door unlocked even once while running to the bathroom she was in my office when I was not present. Thank goodness that she left the company a year later. I can leave my door open again without worrying about it.

  38. Mister Pickle*

    #2: Wow. I know that corporate cultures differ, but you really blew my mind here. Where I work (a large multinational tech firm) any one of those ‘behaviors’ would get someone “counseled”. And perhaps even terminated. Just leaving confidential material out on your desk unattended is a violation. In practice, during the day, people often leave material out and close (and lock) their door if they need to visit the restroom (say), but after work hours, confidential material goes into a locked drawer, and the office door is closed and locked on the way out. Entering another person’s office is not unlike visiting their home: you knock and wait for some kind of signal to enter. Unoccupied offices tend to have locked, closed doors, but occasionally people leave their offices open. Even then, entering the office and sitting in someone’s chair to wait for them? Unheard of. Most people have at least two chairs in their office, the ‘owner’ chair and the ‘visitor’ chair, and if the ‘owner’ is not present, even helping one’s self to the visitor’s chair is pushing boundaries. Sitting in the ‘owner’ chair? I can’t even imagine someone doing that. The owner would probably consider it a sign of disrespect.

    Perhaps my workplace is more “territorial” than most? I don’t know. But if I were you, I’d work to stop this kind of behavior immediately. Lock the door when you leave. If someone starts fiddling inappropriately with your stuff, I’d suggest a response somewhere on the spectrum between “Excuse me, please don’t touch my stuff” and “WTF are you doing?!” If you must leave your door open, don’t leave confidential material out, lock your drawers, and have one or two obvious ‘visitor’ chairs.

  39. hayling*

    OP#1: What types of jobs are you applying for? I definitely think it’s weird that you are regularly encountering people who haven’t done any prep work. However ” between one interview to five interviews in a week” seems like a *lot* so I’m curious where you’re applying and what for?

    1. LW #1*

      Hi Hayling, I work in research so my experience might be atypical in comparison to other fields. In research, there is a tendency for jobs to get cancelled, as people often interview for positions prior to funding coming through. As I mentioned to someone above, in some of these situations (and I’m trying to be a bit vague), there was some serious “deal-breakers” that the interviewer found during the interview that should have been figured out prior to ever scheduling one (like location, degree, etc). I just find it confusing but am trying to not read into it so much.

      1. hayling*

        Oh hmm. I thought maybe they were very entry-level retail jobs or something for the number of interviews you are getting.

  40. SallyForth*

    #2 There are some easy fixes to this. Like you, I have an office rather than the cubicles others at my pay grade have. It’s all about boundaries and training people to respect yours.

    I close my door and turn the lights off if I will be away from my desk for more than 10 minutes. I think turning the lightz off is almost a better signal than the closed door. My door does not have a lock on it.

    I have a little plant on the other side of my desk so it would be pretty hard to plunk papers down onto the project I’m working on. I slide the plant over when someone is actually meeting with me.

    I had Facilities put a lock on one side of my desk so one file drawer and my two personal drawers can be locked.

    I don’t have the candy issue, but if I did, I would get a little dish and put candies in it ON my desk, gradually sliding it closer and closer to the door. And then one day I would put it outside the door. After a few weeks, I would take it away. Nobody will remember that it was once in your desk drawer. (Psych 101 does have some useful applications)

  41. Clerica*

    What struck me as so weird about #2 was that the coworkers assume that because Old Coworker kept candy in her desk for them (or maybe they never cared whether it was supposed to be for them or not), ergo New Coworker must be carrying on the tradition. If Old Coworker had been a vegan, would they be flabbergasted when the new one ordered a BLT? Old Coworker liked cosplay, so break out your fursuit? Sheesh.

  42. K*

    #1–I want to know what you’re doing to get between 1 and 5 interviews in a week! That’s way more than anyone I know, and I know several people (myself included) who have been job searching for months.

    1. LW #1*

      It’s hard for me to answer this question without getting into too many personal details. I will say that I apply to jobs in different regions and I cast a wide net, meaning instead of only applying to my “dream job”, I apply to anything I think looks like a decent fit at this point since I would consider myself pretty desperate.

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