my interviewer asked me about personal items from Facebook, coworker insists on special email subject lines, and more

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

1. Interviewer asked me about personal items from my Facebook page

I’ve recently started a job search. I had a scheduled phone interview with an attorney for an executive assistant position. When she called, she put me on speakerphone with herself and a colleague. The first thing out of her mouth was, “Do you like horeseback riding?” I said, “How do you know that?” She didn’t answer and proceeded with more questions, like, “Describe yourself in three words” and “Where do you see yourself in 3-5 years?” I was surprised and not prepared because I haven’t heard that question in about 15 years! They asked some other questions and she ended by saying, “Well, it matters if you can make a good potato salad.” I was so dumbfounded I didn’t know what to say!

It was only after I hung up that I realized she went to my Facebook page and was commenting about a horseback riding trip I took recently and a picture from about 10 years ago about potato salad. I was so weirded out. Where do we draw the line? My Facebook/personal life doesn’t have any reason coming up in an interview! It’s not relevant! My Linkedin does, not Facebook. Where are we going with technology and the professionalism of interviewers?

She was a bad interviewer; I wouldn’t read anything into it beyond that. (Well, actually, I’d also read into it that you might want to adjust your Facebook privacy settings.)

The “where do you see yourself in 3-5 years” question is a little hackneyed, but not terribly shocking; that’s one I’d be prepared for when interviewing because it’s a common one.

2. Colleague wants me to use special subject lines in every email I send her

I am working on a new project, which requires me to work with a contractor who has been working with my new client for years. Its been made clear to me that the contractor feels like I’m imposing and stepping on her turf, but I’ve done my best to be professional and polite.

I’ve noticed that she seems to be missing many of the emails I send to her, which are generally replies to emails from her or our client. When I followed up with her today to alert her that she missed an email, she responded by asking me to change the subject line in every email to her which requires action. She said my emails are getting lost in her inbox and that the new subject line will be easier for her.

Am I wrong to think this is a crazy request? I understand doing this for urgent actions items, but it seems ridiculous to do for every single email. 99% of emails I send to her have some kind of required action! And this totally defeats the purpose of replying to an email chain to keep all emails on the same subject together. How do I respond to this request in a way that is understanding and accommodating to her, while also explaining why this isn’t an ideal system?

It’s probably crazy. But your’e a new contractor and she’s a long-time contractor and unless you’ve come in at a much more senior level than she is (or unless the client has already expressed reservations to you about her work), you probably just need to suck it up and do it. But you can certainly say, “99% of what I send to you will have a needed action attached. I can try to do this, but can’t promise I’ll remember each time and it would probably be more efficient for us both if you assumed our emails will usually be things to take action on.”

3. I have a job offer in email — should I push for something more official?

I accepted a job offer yesterday from Company X, but haven’t put in my resignation to my current job yet. About a week ago, I was sent an offer from Company X through email stating that I’m being offered the position and the amount it pays annually, with some details on orientation date and first date in office. They also mentioned that their HR would be contacting me regarding next steps. All this was written in the body of the email.

From conversations with the hiring manager, I have been told that it’s an exempt position with benefits but I have nothing in writing. When I accepted the offer, I asked whether I will receive a formal offer letter. The hiring manager told me that her email is the official offer.

I’m afraid to ask her again to send me an official offer letter because I fear this will start off the relationship between us on the wrong foot – she’s already a bit condescending towards me. However at this point I’m very hesitant about leaving my current job and moving cross country for this position. What to do?

You already have the official offer — the one in email. That’s perfectly sufficient and there’s no need to press them for more. There’s nothing about one written in a separate document that would be any more official. You have the details in writing, and that’s what matters. The point of getting an offer in writing isn’t to create a binding contract — because it doesn’t do that — but rather just because it reduces the risk of mistakes or misunderstandings. You have the details in writing, so you’re covered there. (And this is a pretty common way to do it.)

That said, I’d think long and hard about whether you want to move across the country to work with a manager who’s already condescending to you. This is usually when people are on their best behavior, on both sides.

4. Is this mileage reimbursement policy weird?

I have a question for you about mileage reimbursement policies. I work for an agency that commutes about 50 miles away once a week to work onsite at the client’s office. Our company recently let us know that we are eligible for get reimbursed for this mileage when we use our own vehicles.

However, here are the details of the policy they just sent us: “If an employee business travels to a client that is a 40 mile one-way trip, the employee should deduct from this, the number of miles that represents a normal commute from home to the agency’s office. Thus, if a normal commute from home to the office for a given employee is 10 miles, the employee should submit an expense claim for the net of these two figures, which is 30 miles.”

This just seems…weird to me. I never drive to our office, and don’t expect to be reimbursed for regular commuting costs, but a 100-mile roundtrip drive once a week is very out of the ordinary. Also, my home is closer to the client’s office than the agency’s office. I don’t see why the two should be related at all, in this case. Is my company’s policy legal? Or just a way to save a little money?

Perfectly legal, and very common. The company is saying that they’ll reimburse your mileage for these trips, minus whatever your normal commute might have been. In other words, they’re paying for the portion of your drive that’s over and above what you would have doing anyway. It’s actually pretty fair.

5. Including work info in my email signature when applying for jobs

I am emailing potential employers my resume and cover letters. I was wondering what you think about email signatures in this situation. Specifically, should I include my current title and employer? In this case, it relates to the position I am applying for.

No. You’re not applying as a representative of your current employer, which is what signing your email with your title and employer would convey. You’re applying as a private individual, so you do that from your personal email account, without your work info attached. (And they’ll of course see your work info in your resume, which is the appropriate place for it.)

{ 258 comments… read them below }

  1. Eric*

    #4, I think the answer kind of misses the point. It sounds like the OP does not ordinarily drive in to the office. If she didn’t have to go to the client site that day, she would have worked from home ( ” I never drive to our office,”). So in this case it sounds like her normal commute is 0 miles (or at least not influenced by where the home office is). So while this policy can make sense for most employees, I don’t think it does for remote employees.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think “I never drive to the office” necessarily means that she works from home; it could mean she takes public transportation. Regardless, though, if she did work from home and her normal commute is therefore 0 miles, then under this policy she’d be eligible for mileage for the entire drive to the other site.

      1. Megan*

        I was thinking that the OP went to the office as normal, then got in a car for the journey to the client. Then, back again to the office before going home (this is normal for me anyway, in social work).

        That being the case – surely all mileage should be paid? Since she’s going from the office to client to office? Not home client home?

        1. MK*

          That doesn’t make much sense; how did the OP’s car get to the office? And if it’s not their own car, the matter doesn’t concern them. We don’t know if they are required to go to the office first; it’s probable that they go to the client’s directly. That is the only way I can think of the OP having a point: they usually don’t go to the office by car, but on those days they are forced to, because they will have to go to the client’s next.

          1. Megan*

            I meant if the OP drives her own car to the office first then the client then the office then home. As opposed to driving from home to client to office/home.

          2. Megan*

            OP, would be great for you to weigh in – how do you typically get to the office, are you required to drive via the office first before seeing the client and so on

        2. Apollo Warbucks*

          I took I never drive to the office to mean the op took the bus or train. The policy only asks that the standard commute is taken off the claim so all mileage from office to client and back to the office would be paid.

      2. My 2 Cents*

        BTW, not only is the policy fair, it’s also required by the IRS. It’s an IRS requirement that you deduct that normal cost of your commute from the reimbursement amount before being reimbursed for it.

        1. Zahra*

          But if you take public transportation to work, then your normal commute cost would be in the few dollars, which you could substract from your mileage allowance, right? Let’s say my per use cost of public transportation is 3$. If the trip is 40 miles at 0.50 cents/mile, then I’d substract 3$ from 20$. Would that be accepted?

          1. Bea W*

            It’s an imperfect policy that assumes people would also drive on their normal commute, but if you start getting into details and different rules like if you commute by public transit but are driving off site then it becomes too convoluted and difficult…like a lot of other rules that fall under the IRS.

        2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          That sounds like it might be the case for if you’re deducting mileage as a business expense from your taxes, but generally businesses are allowed to reimburse however they want. If they wanted to reimburse for the whole trip, there’s nothing that would prevent them from doing so.

        3. JR*

          Yup. When I worked for a consulting company, I was flying halfway across the country every week, and going into my local office about one day every 4 months. I had thousands of dollars in travel expenses every week. I would get reimbursed the actual amount spent, minus the amount it would cost me to come into my local office every day. For me, I happen to be within walking distance of the office that I almost never went to, so it didn’t matter, but other people were getting weekly reimbursements along the lines of $1500 less $25 for bus fare.

      3. Turanga Leela*

        I read it as public transit too. I understand why the OP doesn’t like the policy. If she usually takes the train to get to work (and has a monthly pass or whatever), but she needs to drive to get to the client’s office, all of her gasoline and wear and tear are additional expenses, even if the client isn’t much further away than the office would be.

        That said, the policy is totally normal.

    2. TheSnarkyB*

      I think if OP #4 usually takes public transportation, they could at least *ask* if they can reimburse the whole trip distance, from home to wherever they’re going, if no portion or distance is normally driven for regular work purposes.

      1. Natalie*

        That wouldn’t cut it tax-wise, though – mileage from home to the office isn’t tax deductible even if you don’t normally drive.

    3. Karowen*

      I was coming here to say something similar – It sounded to me like the employee is concerned that she would get $0 reimbursement because her commute to the office is particularly long. I think the focus of the policy (or at least how she should interpret it) is the normal commuting time, not commuting to office time.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Just to clarify the policy a little more: They’re saying, “We want to reimburse you for expenses that you incur over and above your normal commute. We’re not going to cover your normal commute to work, because employers don’t typically pay for that. But on days when work requires you to do extra driving, we’ll pay for that extra part.”

        That’s pretty reasonable.

        1. cuppa*

          That’s pretty nice. My employer won’t cover any travel from home to a worksite, even if that office is farther away from your normal office.

    4. Mister Pickle™*

      #4: Given

      … we are eligible for get reimbursed for this mileage when we use our own vehicles.


      I never drive to our office …

      If OP is driving their vehicle on “remote client days”, then it sounds to me like they’re eligible to be reimbursed for the entire round trip.

    5. LiteralGirl*

      At my company we’re reimbursed the same way as #4. The round trip mileage from the office to the meeting site is what is reimbursed. However, because I normally take transit, my parking is reimbursed as well.

      1. De Minimis*

        I’m running into complications with this at my job, I believe it is supposed to work the way LiteralGirl describes it, but a lot of people at my work seem to expect reimbursement for the entire distance from their home to the offsite location. I’m suppose to authorize these requests, but I don’t think I’m really supposed to examine that part of it. My role is supposed to be only to certify that funds are available.

        Think I will ask about it the next time that type of authorization comes in…however, I’m not the last person to review these and maybe I should just assume that if it’s okay with the subsequent reviewers it should be okay with me? It’s selfish, but the main reason I’m concerned is that when I do travel for work, which is very rare, it seems like I’m the only one who tries to do things correctly, while everyone else is getting reimbursed for 2-3 times as much.

  2. Rose*

    Op 1: this is extra weird. It’s one thing to be concerned about inappropriate pictures on facebook, or bring up a hobby to get to know someone a little better (although facebook stalking them to think of a topic is pretty odd). Did it sound like they were having a laugh at you? Did the interviewer seem socially awkward? I just can’t fathom a situation where this would happen.

    1. en pointe*

      #1 is so freaking weird hahaha. I’m guessing OP doesn’t use Facebook much if the interviewer found something from 10 years ago (although they do just start showing ‘highlights’ the further you go back). Either that or this interviewer has wayyyy too much time on her hands.

      But I think often (or at least in my observation), the people who use Facebook the least tend to be the ones who either don’t really understand or are lax about privacy settings, just because they hardly ever post. So OP, you should definitely maximise your privacy settings if you don’t want randoms looking at your personal stuff. Also, try and monitor it a bit or ask someone else who does to keep you updated, because Facebook’s a bitch about changing things without telling anyone.

      I know it’s super weird the way this interviewer brought it up, but my understanding is that it’s not exactly uncommon for people involved in a hiring process to look at an applicant’s online presence. So have a think about whether or not you’d be okay with her seeing that stuff if she’d kept it to herself, and adjust (or not) your settings accordingly.

        1. Glor*

          Could we not use mental health diagnoses as a way to label someone who is acting outside the norm? Please and thanks.

        2. Taz*

          No, the interviewer was just pulling up more than one Facebook page of people in the area with the same name as the candidate and wanted to put the correct face to the person on the other end of the phone.

          1. Emma G-OP*

            Taz, NO, that’s what Linkedin, a PROFESSIONAL site is for. She could see my photo, and check that my resume was the same as the one I sent

        3. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I completely disagree. She sounds awkward and maybe rude, but I look up my interviewers on FB and I expect people to do the same. The only bizarre part is that she mentioned it and in such an awkward way. My privacy settings are tight, but if an interviewer noticed that I have a beautiful dog, it’s not like she’s stalking me.

          1. yasmara*

            My husband was interviewing candidates for an open position at his company. He took a look at the social media presence of the candidates. On one guy’s Facebook page, the most recent and most prominent photo was of him shotgunning a beer. Talk about a guy who needed to know more about privacy settings!

          2. Sadsack*

            I think the strange way the interviewer brought it up makes her seem weird and sadistic. Why not just say, “So, as part of our research we review online profiles and yours indicates that you have some interesting hobbies outside of work,” or, “So, tell me about some of your hobbies outside of work…do you travel much,” etc. Instead, the interviewer used data she found on the FB profile to just drop bits of info as if to show that she has info on the job candidate, but she does not come out and say when asked where she got the info. I think that goes beyond being socially awkward or a bad interviewer. That is someone playing games.

          3. HeyNonnyNonny*

            Yeah, I read that as the interviewer just did a cursory search but then brought it up awkwardly.

            1. Smallest Red Chair*

              I’m not sure why the interviewer needs to bring it up at all. I understand employers are looking at my online presence and I have no problem with it. I wouldn’t really mind if they brought something up during an interview, unless it was completely inappropriate, but why would someone need to unless its to address a concern?

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Well, because interviewers are human. They comment on things they see and find interesting, they make awkward small talk, etc. (Totally not defending this interviewer, who sounds incredibly awkward at best, but I also think it’s fruitless to assess interviews from the “why would they need to bring that up?” perspective.)

                1. Smallest Red Chair*

                  Ok. I see what you are saying. I wasn’t really intending to assess her. I was just thinking that usually interviewers bring up things that are relevant and if they are just making conversation they at lease develop the conversation. So, I was imagining that she was bringing it up with a purpose and I couldn’t see what the purpose was. But you are right, it may have just flew out of her mouth with no specific intention.

          4. Jen*

            I do this too. Usually just to put a face to a name. Only once have I found anything concerning that caused me to not bring someone in for an interview (young guy, recent photo from earlier in the year with a bong and smoke coming out of his mouth and then a few other 4/20 posts). Otherwise though I’m pretty easy on it.

            My job somewhat involves social media so I do the checks to moreso make sure they’re not stupid enough to post dumb stuff on Facebook or Twitter so that the world can see. I do remember once though really liking a candidate and an older man was offended when he looked through her FB because she was holding a penis shaped cake and laughing in one shot. I was like “That’s obviously a bachelorette party and she’s tagged in someone else’s photo, this isn’t concerning to me” but he was highly offended by her dirty baked goods.

          5. Elizabeth West*

            In this day and age, I expect that companies will look at candidates’ social media (if they have it). When I was job hunting, I asked all my Facebook friends not to tag me in anything and kept the setting where I have to approve tags. Their pages might not be as locked down as mine, and I didn’t want my name popping up on something questionable.

      1. Tenley*

        The lawyer sounds like she has a strange sense of humor — and honestly, it doesn’t sound like a good fit personality-wise. But as for looking at a person’s Facebook page in this day and age? It’s public information you put out there yourself. What would be shocking is to think someone hiring wouldn’t look at it or even bring it in to the interview conversation (especially someone hiring who you know has a job involving digging up information, like maybe a lawyer or journalist, but anyone really).

        1. SJP*

          Tenley, yea Im gonna agree with you.. If you don’t want potential/current employers to see stuff, don’t post it on facebook.
          Not the OP 1 was putting bad things on facebook, but if it’s public, then anyone can look at it.
          I was with an employer who looked at people’s facebooks before they interviewed them, cause by being associated with the company, you represent them on some level…

          But yea, it seems like they aren’t necessarily sticking to social norms/being very nervous or awkward/ or just having a weird sense of humour.
          I don’t think they were necessarily trying to take the piss out of you, but perhaps she just didn’t get the friendly comment across in such a way where it seems friendly, but awkward.
          We’ve all been there, nervous for whatever reason, thought of something funny or witty to say in your brain and when it comes out its not how you imagined it at all and is awkward and you want the ground to open up and swallow us. Maybe that was kinda how it was in this instance.
          No offense to the OP1 but sometimes how you remember it, isn’t quite how it was. Maybe it was worded in a different way and by being taken off guard by it, you remember it differently?

          Theres no real way of knowing without asking the interviewer about it.. so….

          1. Sadsack*

            We have to take OP’s word for how the conversation went. Interviewer asking about or bringing up obscure details from the OP’s FB with no explanation or frame of reference, even when asked, makes the interviewer seem like she was playing a game at the OP’s expense. That is not someone I would want to work with/for.

          2. catsAreCool*

            “If you don’t want potential/current employers to see stuff, don’t post it on facebook.” This!!!

        2. Sans*

          I think it’s ok that she looked at the FB page. But to mention horseback riding right off the bat and then that offhand comment about potato salad? That’s just weird. There’s no legitimate reason I can think of for her to include that in an interview.

        3. Ted Mosby*

          It’s one thing for me to expect people to look me up online. It’s another for an interview to begin and end with strange illusions to random activities.

      2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        It also could be that the OP does generally keep her privacy settings pretty tight, but over the years has left a few photos/posts public, either by mistake or because they were so innocuous (like potato salad). So someone who was Facebook friends with OP would have to scroll and click a lot to find the potato salad post, but the interviewer saw it straightaway because almost all the posts since then have been hidden.

        1. Emma G-OP*

          Elizabeth, I’ve actually never hidden anything on Facebook because I don’t have anything to hide. And being a professional person applying for an Executive Assistant position with an attorney, and with the impressive background I have, I have obviously, mistakenly assumed that anyone I’m interviewing with will go to my professional site to confirm my identity and resume, and that’s through Linkedin. I’m suddenly feeling very old!!!
          So YES, she had to dig deep into my albums to find that potato salad photo, because I have a ton of albums, they’re all public. Which tells me she wasn’t on my Facebook to verify me, or make small talk. She could have done that by just looking at my recent Oregon trip photos, (which she did with the horseback riding comment) which were probably still on my “front page”

          1. jordanjay29*

            “Elizabeth, I’ve actually never hidden anything on Facebook because I don’t have anything to hide.”

            That’s not how Facebook works. Everything you do there is mined and used to someone else’s advantage. Your posts may seem harmless on their own, but a good profiling program can take them all, find trends and patterns that reveal information that you may not want exposed and didn’t post in the first place.

      3. Emma G-OP*

        en pointe, I do use Facebook, on a daily basis. Which means to find the potato salad photo, she had to go way deep into my albums!!
        I’m a professional person. I don’t have anything to hide about my life, and maybe I’m old, but I certainly NEVER expected another professional person to look deep into my Facebook photos to make inane comments in an interview!!

        1. jordanjay29*

          Welcome to the 21st century. If it’s on the Internet, even if you didn’t put it there, it’s fair game. And worse, whatever is on the Internet will never, ever leave. If you think you have it bad, consider the current generation of teenagers who are broadcasting their lives to the world. When they start applying for jobs, oh boy…

    2. majigail*

      It sounds to me like the interviewer wasn’t aware of the social norm of not mentioning that you Facebook stalked candidates. Job seekers need to know that potential companies are looking at you on all social media. If you don’t want future boss to know it, lock down those privacy settings… but not too much, it’s weird not to be able to find anything on someone in this day and age.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Perfect. That’s exactly it.

        I google everybody, job candidates through vendors through prospective clients. Absolutely everybody.

        The social norm is that you don’t outright mention that you’ve googled them. That’s what made the conversation awkward.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Or at least preface it with “Hey, we saw you’re on Facebook! My daughter also loves horseback riding, do you ride at Friendly Farms, too?”

          There has to be some relevance, and there should be a reason to mention it, like my inquiry, or else it’s completely stalker-y and creepy to just drop those discovered facts in there.

          I agree, it’s best not to mention it, but if you do, you need to give some sort of pretext instead of just dropping personal facts. “Don’t eat that!! It’s got oregano on it, you’re allergic to oregano!!”

          1. LBK*

            Exactly – it’s the contextless personal comments that make this extra weird. If the interviewer had just said she looked up the OP on Facebook and then asked about something that caught her eye, it would’ve been much less uncomfortable.

          2. Sadsack*

            Exactly what I wrote above. Interviewer was playing with the OP, even when Op asked directly where the interviewer got her info. To me, this indicates that the interviewer enjoys being in control to some extent and is sadistic.

            1. Emma G-OP*

              Sadsack, I agree, to a degree. I think she was purposefully trying to throw me way off guard. I actually wrote her an email an hour or so later and said “If I’m on your call back list please take me off, and this is why” and explained that she was totally unprofessional, and her questions made her sound nuts!

        2. puddin*

          I was not aware that it was outside the norm to mention that you checked out a candidate’s social media profiles. Is it really that awkward to say something like, ” I saw your facebook profile and noticed you like old movies. What is your favorite?”

          I google everyone I come across as well. I sometimes do mention it similar to the above line. Although I do not interview for job postings, so no opportunity there. I guess I will be changing my tune a bit on that one…literally had no idea…

          1. Apostrophina*

            See, I don’t think that sounds weird the way you say it, but it sounds like this person dropped a personal fact about the OP, tacitly refused to reveal how they got it, and then launched into what most of us think as Interview 101 cliché questions, which seems like a strange way to do things. (Unless the idea was to keep the interviewee off-balance for some reason? From what I’ve read here, I know some people enjoy mind games.)

            1. puddin*

              Oh yeah that interview was from weirdtown that is for certain. I am surprised OP did not get asked questions like, “So why did you break up with Alphonso, he was so cute?!” Or “Hope your sister is fully recovered from her car accident,” or some other too personal stalky inquiries.

              People who use the ‘make the interviewee awkward’ model have no truck with me. I don’t embarrass easily, and I like to think that I would not work for someone misguided like that.

            2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

              Though, to be fair, I do think that OP probably helped make it a little weird by asking “How do you know that?” When the answer is presumably obvious… they Googled you and it was online somewhere. Perhaps the interviewer was trying to awkwardly work it in, and was not expecting OP to be taken so completely aback? It totally depends on the tone used by both the interviewer and OP, though.

          2. Judy*

            I don’t find what you say weird, but if someone said “Do you like old movies?” as the first question in the interview, that would be weird.

          3. INTP*

            Some people still act like it’s a terrible violation of privacy to google a name and click on public content, so when I was a recruiter I never revealed that to candidates just in case they were the type to get weird about it. I think some people imagine that you are scrutinizing every detail for an excuse to condemn them as unemployable – I just a) needed to make sure there was nothing OTT weird in case the client googled the candidate and it made me look like I had dropped the ball on vetting them (one guy had a blog linked to his name about his beliefs about the Earth being colonized by aliens, for ex.) and b) wanted to see if they had any industry-related social media accounts which would attest to their passion for the work.

    3. Cherry Scary*

      This is pretty much the norm, but the way it was handled was weird. I found out after I was hired that my entire team (4 people, including supervisor) had looked at my Facebook before my interview. My security settings are fairly tight, but since I work in communications, I have it set so I have some presence on the site to a stranger. I would expect that most employers are looking at at least your Facebook. I’m pretty sure my Facebook represents me better than LinkedIn! (I’ve tried with that site, but I don’t think I have enough of a professional life yet to make it work for me.)

      1. en pointe*

        Yeah, we do that too – whole team, actually. (It’s a really small company). When I was interviewing, they either couldn’t find my Facebook or couldn’t see much detail, so our office manager actually interrogated her friend’s daughter, this random girl I’d just finished high school with (and barely spent time with, due to polar opposite social groups), about what I was really like. I did find that pretty weird.

        1. Cherry Scary*

          Ok, that’s strange.

          This was slightly weird to me just because my BF also works for this company (different department/different building) He also was the one to refer me (there’s a $ bonus for a successful hire, I owed him money from breaking his laptop) but I didn’t want to play up our relationship when the referral came up in the interview. I kept referring to him as a “friend from college” when I’m pretty sure the manager knew otherwise. Fortunately, there’s a lot of inter-company dating here, so I doubt it would have been a strike against me.

    4. Smallest Red Chair*

      Don’t know why, but it gave me the impression that the interviewer was poking fun at the interviewee. Like they found the horseback riding photos and potato salad funny for some reason and had a laugh in private. Then when OP 1 came for the interview it was like a little inside joke. I’m not basing that off of anything really. Perhaps that they just made these random remarks and then didn’t continue the train of thought out loud. It made me picture the two interviewers smirking secretly at each other about it. I don’t like it.

    5. Mister Pickle™*

      #1: I interpret this as a somewhat childish ‘dominance’ ploy on the part of the interviewer. Like: “nonny nonny boo boo / I know something about you-ooo / and you don’t know anything about me-eee!” I shouldn’t generalize, but – she was an attorney? It would fit.

      It doesn’t necessarily mean the interviewer is a bad person. Phone interviews can be awkward – my guess would be she’s inexperienced and thus not overly “smooth”.

      1. Emma G-OP*

        Pickle, I totally agree with you. And phone interviews are the WORST. I’m at a total disadvantage. I live on a busy boulevard, and even with double paned (?) glass the other day I’m on an interview and an abulance goes by and sets off all the car alarms. I was totally distracted!

    6. INTP*

      It was awkward but I don’t see it as being that bad. Maybe she’s a socially awkward person or a new interviewer who wants to develop a rapport with the candidates and see their personality, and visiting their Facebook for topics was just a misguided strategy for doing that?

      It’s not the best interviewing tactic to let the candidate know you’re looking at their Facebook, but what she did wasn’t awful by any means. I assume that anything without a privacy restriction on it is scrubbed and public-friendly. I don’t really understand people who make their stuff publicly viewable and then feel violated when the public views it. It’s not a violation of privacy if your potential employer googles your name + city and clicks on the first few links they see.

      1. Emma G-OP*

        INTP, I’m in no way suggesting that I feel “violated”. If I wanted my life to be private, I’d have security settings set to that. I’m trying to get a sense, as someone who is starting the interview process after having been out of the loop for awhile(haven’t had to interview for 5+ years) of where are people going with this? Where is social media taking this planet? I mean I don’t want to think I’m SO out of it that I think it’s totally bizarre that this womans first question was “Do you like horseback riding” and no answer to my question of “How did you know that?” And her last comment is “We’ll be making call backs in the next few days, and it counts if you can make a good potato salad”
        I just wonder about the generation of people coming up, who are professionals, who conduct themselves in this way!!
        I guess I’m just trying to get a grip on Is this the norm now?

    7. Emma G-OP*

      Rose, I wouldn’t say they were having a laugh. The interviewer did seem “green” specially when she started asking interview questions I haven’t heard in 15 years, coupled with CREEPY comments about Facebook photos. But her collegue that she sprung on me via speakerphone (which I thought was really inappropriate) seemed, (after I thought about it) more “seasoned” as an interviewer, and after the fact I felt he was sort of maybe there to observe her “technique”
      I actually looked HER up on Google after, and realized she graduated in 2012, soooooo….lesson learned, look up before hand

  3. Sophiabrooks*

    The mileage policy makes more sense than at my work- they only pay the mileage from the office. So if you go from your home, they will pay you for the mileage from the office, even if your home is closer!

    1. doreen*

      If I a trip starts or ends at my home, my job pays for the “lesser of” the mileage from the office or home.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        That sounds fair. I drive right past my own office if I go to my client’s office, so if I head there straight from home or head straight home after meeting with them, I only put in for reimbursement from my office to theirs and back. I haven’t been told that that’s policy, it just seemed like the fair way to do it…unless it’s on a day where I would normally telecommute, in which case I’d put in for the entire round trip distance.

        But IMO if the OP normally takes public transportation (which seems likely based on their post), I’d say they should point that out and ask to get reimbursed for the full round trip. Part of the reason the Federal reimbursement rate is roughly the equivalent of 6 or 7 miles per gallon is that it’s supposed to cover wear and tear and prorated maintenance and insurance and such. If you take public transportation, you probably enjoy lower car insurance rates, lower maintenance costs, and you can keep a car in good running condition for years longer.

    2. puddin*

      Old Company had the policy where the reimbursement starting point was the office location. They even calculated and posted the exact mileage you should claim from the office to the local airport to make sure that everyone used the same number for that claim.

  4. MM*

    OP 2: this is idiotic. She’s basically telling you she doesn’t want to bother reading your emails, but that’s not really her fault. There are SO many ways to sort or categorize emails. I have everything from my boss in hot pink so I don’t miss it.

    One tiny thing. Are you someone who emails back things like “ok good,” or “great, thanks!” If so, maybe she’s started skipping your emails because of it. I still don’t think this would be the best way to handle the problem if it was what was bugging her, but it’s a thought.

    If I were you, I would start marking anything with an action item as urgent. It will get annoying for her really fast, but maybe she’ll realize that she just needs to read her work emails, even if she doesn’t want to. Or maybe she’s so disorganized that it will actually be helpful.

    1. Kyrielle*

      My only concern is that OP #2 said some of these emails are copy the other contractor *and the client*.

      If I were the client, I’d probably be confused, possibly concerned, by either an influx of changed subject lines, or by an influx of items marked urgent (that weren’t urgent for me).

      1. Monodon monoceros*

        That might be a good excuse that the OP could use to tell her she’s not going to change subject lines. When I know there’s a string of emails about something, I usually skim the subject lines to find that string, so if I was the client I’d be really irritate that the subject lines were changing on the same string of emails. It’s just weird.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Oh, good catch — and great point. Yeah, that makes me think the OP should push back a bit and say, “You know, I just don’t communicate with the client that way and they’re included on many of these emails, so let’s figure out a different way to address this.”

      3. puddin*

        Outlook conversation threads and folder clean up would break entirely.

        As a matter of fact, if the OP uses those tools maybe there is a way to respectfully demonstrate them to the other contractor as a possible solution…?

      4. Monodon monoceros*

        Coincidentally, I just received an email from a company that said “it is important that you keep the subject and include all previous text for further inquiries.”

    2. sally-o*

      It sounds like the other contractor doesn’t know how to use Gmail and loses some of the emails that are contained in conversations.

      1. OP #2*

        I think this is exactly the problem. And I’m sympathetic because I understand how annoying gmail can be. But at the same time, I don’t want to have to completely change my system just because she is having issues with gmail.

    3. OP #2*

      Thanks, Alison for answering my question and thanks for everyone else’s feedback! I want to be accommodating and help the contractor because the last thing I want is for her to miss emails from me, but as you pointed out – I also don’t want to be confusing my client…or messing up my own email organizational system.

    4. Vicki*

      #2 – As you are _replyiong_ to messages _from her_ in the first place, the “Re:” at the beginning should be a very big hint.

      Most modern email readers do threading Nothing should “get lost” in her Inbox.
      She’s making an excuse. It’s a poor one.

  5. en pointe*

    #3 – I don’t really know how this works, but does mean that it’s not necessary to get things like exempt status and benefits in writing? OP says all she has is annual salary, orientation date and start date, so if there’s nothing in writing on benefits, what if they’re different (or non-existent) when she starts, with no record to refer back to?

    1. Ted Mosby*

      My (super limited) understanding of benefits is that they’ll be uniform throughout the company (more or less) or at least in one pay scale. Things like salary or job title, they might pull a switcheroo on you, or you might misunderstand. But benefits are more cut and dry. As far as exempt/nonexempt, that might be listed in the job description. I might be totally off base here!

      I’m not off base here, though: think twice, neigh! three times, about taking that job. I’ve talked myself into taking dream jobs even though the red flags were there from day one. Those bosses NEVER turned out to be better than I expected. Ever. And a bad boss ruins even the best of jobs.

      1. JustMe*

        Well I once took a job where I didn’t know I was non-exempt- which I didn’t care too much about…until I found out that only exempt employees were allowed to take 4 hrs off as needed and by supervisor’s permission, without it coming off of their annual or sick leave. In hindsight, I would have probably not declined the offer because of that but it would have been nice to know the classification and privileges before I booked my airline ticket.

      2. Winter*

        Original OP here- so I’m feeling very conflicted about this position. I can’t get past the fact that my future supervisor already has an attitude with me. I’ve been nothing but cordial to her. I’m not expecting her to bow down but respect is expected. More odd is that when she met me (with her boss there too), she spoke little but was nice. Even in her email correspondence she’s okay. On the phone, it’s another story.

        I’m almost considering going back on the acceptance asap- I know very unethical but I also don’t want the job at the sake of my respect.

        1. Lillie Lane*

          How is she on the phone? Is she condescending in tone, or is it something else?

          Trust your instincts. (Though I’ve known a couple of people that are impatient/standoffish on the phone but fine in person. This could come off as condescension.)

          1. en pointe*

            Mmm, OP, is this a trend across multiple phone conversations? This is tricky because she might just hate / be uncomfortable on the phone… or she might be one of those people who’s only nice when they’re accountable (i.e. email or face to face with witnesses), which I sure wouldn’t want to move cross-country for.

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          People get over going back on acceptances. The sooner you do it the better for karmic purposes.

          Is it possible that the cross country move itself is what’s giving you cold feet? You *do* have a job offer in writing. Moving across the country is a giant deal (never done it, never want to). Maybe you don’t really want to do it or maybe it’s such a big deal you are extra nervous/uncertain?

          I think the supervisor condescension part is a separate issue. If you’re sure that it is her and not you (either skewed perceptions from you or a reaction to you being nervous and her not having time to hand hold), if you’re sure, well you don’t want that job so see first sentence.

      3. HeyNonnyNonny*

        (Dear Ted Mosby, I just heard this entire comment in Ted Mosby’s voice. So thanks for that this morning!)

      4. My two cents...*

        I read #3’s ‘concerns about condescension’ with a grain of salt. It sounds like they’re nervous about making the move, and a little like they’re grasping at reasons to not accept. It’s easy to feel like they’re pressuring you or to feel like they’re maybe rolling their eyes when you ask them repeatedly for this physical written offer, but chances are good they’re just trying to get stuff done. It’s fine if the move isn’t right for them right now, but it’s also important to take a step back and make sure they’re not just talking themselves out of an opportunity.

        As far as I know, an emailed offer is absolutely fine. That’s how any offers I’ve ever received have been communicated to me, and I know the offer for my job out of college didn’t explicitly state I was exempt. But they should make sure the prospective employer understands how long they need to accept/deny the offer, as it’s a difficult decision to up and move to another city. The prospective employer should understand (within reason) that the decision might take longer to make than for a local candidate.

        But they won’t wait forever…and the prospective employer shouldn’t have to wait and make the call FOR them.

        1. My two cents...*

          Oh. The OP already accepted. OP’s ‘concerns’ sound like classic cold feet to me.

          But again, it’s OP’s call to take it or not…to actually follow-through on the move or to stay where they’re at.

      5. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, a written offer that does mention benefits is usually only going to give basic details (like “benefits-eligible” or list the categories of benefits, which will be the same for every employee at that level unless she negotiated something different). But if she’s concerned, it’s totally fine to send an email saying something like, “Just want to confirm my understanding that this position is exempt and includes (list benefits).”

    2. tt*

      I don’t think the lack of benefits info is unusual. None of my offers have ever specified the details about benefits, other than to say things like “this position is benefits eligible” or something to that effect. That info was laid out by HR, either in print materials or on the website.

      1. Judy*

        What I’ve generally seen is something like “Health Insurance, Vision Insurance, Dental Insurance, Life Insurance and 401k match per company policy” and that I’d been given at least some brochure information by HR during the in person interview. (Not as detailed as you get as an employee, and no costs, but maybe a 1 page on each benefit, like the one you might get a month before the enrollment package comes out as an employee.)

      2. Monodon monoceros*

        But isn’t it not a great idea to accept an offer without knowing something more about the benefits? I mean, how do you know if its a good salary until you know, say, how much the health insurance is going to cost, whether dental is included, are they putting into a 401(k) etc. etc. I wouldn’t accept a job without more detail on the benefits.

        So unless the OP already has those details (if they are standard and they gave them out at the interview, for example), if I were the OP I’d say something along the lines of “I know I’ve accepted the offer already, but I’d actually like to have more details on the benefits before I make this commitment. Can you please tell me more about those details?”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I wouldn’t say “before I make this commitment” because that’s essentially rescinding her acceptance of the offer and is going to cause huge alarm bells for the employer. But it’s totally reasonable to say, “I realized I didn’t get full details on the benefits — can you send those over in the next few days?” You could come up with a reason to make it time-sensitive, like “I need to make some choices about my current health insurance in the next few days” or something like that.

          1. Monodon monoceros*

            I agree that sounds better. What if there are huge problems with the benefits, such as you find out they don’t help pay any of the health insurance? I know it sucks to back out on a job acceptance, but it would also suck for the OP to be trapped in a job with terrible benefits because they weren’t clear up front.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Totally. Ideally this would have happened before accepting the offer, and it’s a good reminder to people to make sure you know the actual details of benefits plans before you say yes!

      3. dawnofthenerds*

        The only time I’ve seen benefits outlined on a job offer is my current job. They make it really clear that you’re not eligible for benefits for a full year after your hire date. Which is kind of awful and not usual, so I’m glad they’re really clear up front. (Really high turn over apparently meant they kept misfiling paperwork, and the whole franchise, not just this one branch, now has this policy. I think it’s complete bullshit, but I needed the job, and I live in Canada so I’m not completely screwed.)

        Mind, my other jobs have all been summer jobs, and I think only one of them actually made me fill out official paperwork.

    3. Lisa*

      So why hasn’t HR come back with next steps? HR can say by email whether she is exempt as well as benefits, relocation costs, etc.

      a) you don’t seem to have all the information yet.
      b) you can’t accept or deny until you know if benefits would equal or be under what you get now for the premiums you are paying vs. what current and new employer pays.
      c) depending on the extras (benefits / 401k / vacation / holidays / sick time) –
      – “we offer holidays” may mean only 2 while current employer gives 12), you may opt to negotiate for more salary
      – “we have a 401k” does not mean they match anything, or it might mean 5 years vested, ask
      – “you’re eligible for up to 4 weeks vacation” could mean not for another 7 years, ask
      – get detailed benefits info including the name of the plan, “we have blue cross and pay 50%” doesn’t tell you co-pays, how much the premium is, what prescription tier your current meds are, or deductibles
      Ultimately, you can’t make a decision without all the info. So go through HR for that missing info about exempt by specifically asking for them to confirm it in your email to them when you are getting premium info on insurance, etc. The manager’s offer is only an offer of a job with salary info. That is not the complete offer, and if HR hasn’t got back to you, email the manager saying that HR hasn’t contacted you and write out all of your questions.

    1. Judy*

      Yes, it sounds like things are being assigned in email. That’s all well and good, but how do you track what has been assigned and what has been completed. It may be that the OP is not working off of one “master task list”, and that is causing issues for the contractor.

  6. Elizabeth*

    #2, depending on the email client your colleague uses, there could be a way for her to have messages from you tagged as urgent when they come in. Gmail especially has a good method for this. It miiiiiiight work to send her directions for how to do that.

  7. Apollo Warbucks*

    #4 That’s a very normal policy the purpose is to make sure the firm isn’t paying you for your standard commute to work and there are two reasons for that

    1 – your commute to work is not a cost of doing busines that your employer should meet

    2 – the company can not legally claim a tax deduction for the expense of your normal commute to the office. (That’s true in the UK I’m not sure about the US)

    As the policy only exists to stop employees profiting from their commute and to serve as evidence to auditors / the IRS that the right accounting treatement is being applied to mileage claims, you could certainly talk to your boss and say something like “I normally catch the bus or train to the office so for me ever mile I drive is an additional cost, so it seems only reasonable I calculate my claim from home” If you have a weekly / monthly or annual ticket that will strength your position an you can tell your boss you’ve already paid once for your commute so on the days you have to use your car your in effect paying twice and that’s the point to stress, “I’m just trying not to be left out of pocket for the times I use my car for work”

    The policy is well intentioned but fails the real world test, your circumstances wouldn’t have been thought of when it was written. The overriding principle is employes don’t pay for costs of doing business so as long as your boss or the finance department are even a little understanding you should find a way round it.

  8. CoffeeLover*

    #1 To me it sounds like she was trying to point out the fact your profile is too public. Simple as that. A friend of mine met with someone for an informational meeting (the guy asked him to meet). My friend is very blunt, so he told the guy, “you need to change your profile picture and privacy settings on Facebook.” I feel like this is a circumspect version of that. She was very awkward, but to mention something from your profile twice in a very pointed way is trying to send you a signal. I actually don’t think it’s weird; it’s just an inept way of communicating a message.

    1. jag*

      ” trying to point out the fact your profile is too public.”
      Which is BS unless the OP is doing something very controversial or reckless.

      All sorts of people have an online presence about hobbies and personal activities without any sort of privacy settings at all, such as via blogs, photo albums. We shouldn’t buy into the idea that personal stuff must be hidden and that not hiding your personal life from someone looking for that info is somehow wrong.

      People should have the ability to keep their personal life private, but shouldn’t be viewed as doing something wrong if they don’t.

      1. en pointe*

        But potato salad is oh so scandalous! Nah, in all seriousness, I totally agree. The OP’s posts sound innocuous enough to not demonstrate bad judgement by being visible, so I don’t see why the employer should care.

        That said though, the OP did express indignation that someone looked at her Facebook and commented on her posts, so in her case, she should probably consider adjusting the settings. If you mind people seeing / commenting on something, it probably shouldn’t be publicly visible on the internet. But I do agree with you generally that we don’t need to be judging people over the visibility of their potato salad.

        1. Brittany*

          I think the indignation came from the way it was mentioned to her in the interview, which was in a really roundabout, odd way. The comment about horseback riding is fairly innocent, but the potato salad comment would be the one making me question if this person is a loon. It’s one thing to look at someone’s Facebook profile prior to an interview but it’s quite another to essentially stalk an entire decade’s worth of posts. That would creep me out, so yes, OP definitely change your privacy settings!

          1. en pointe*

            Oh, I agree it’s super creepy and I would be indignant too. Regardless though, the interviewer was only doing what OP’s privacy settings allowed her to do. Irrespective of whatever roundabout, odd way they mention it, if you’re indignant about someone doing what your privacy settings allow them to do, it’s probably time to change your privacy settings.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Eh, I disagree. The OP was probably indignant because the interviewer showed a lack of respect for personal boundaries, although the OP may not have been able to articulate it that way. Yes, I make public posts, but those are things that I don’t mind other people knowing. However, I would expect someone to make small talk about it and be clear how they found the information: “[OP], I saw on Facebook that you make a mean potato salad! We have a staff picnic every summer, and I hope you’ll consider bringing some!” (Assuming they’re ready to make an offer.)

              But then, I lack some gland that makes me embarrassed about others finding out that I poop and fart and pee and sleep just like everybody else in the history of humankind. I also figure everyone has a right to an opinion, and expressing yours online is only embarrassing if it’s an opinion you wouldn’t state in public.

            2. Natalie*

              That doesn’t mean the OP can’t find it weird, IMO. My address is public and I wouldn’t consider it inappropriate for a prospective employer to know that. But it would be weird for them to randomly comment on my landscaping or trim color.

            3. Ted Mosby*

              I slightly disagree with this. She was being really weird and violating social norms; I don’t think it has much to do with facebook. I think it’s more akin to me wearing a blue shirt to an interview and the interviewer saying “So you really like blue, huh? Is blue your favorite color? We welcome blue lovers around here!”

              OP never complained that they looked her up. It was what they did with the information.

              1. Bea W*

                The OP says in her letter that she didn’t even make the connection to Facebook until after she got off the phone with the interviewer. So in the moment she couldn’t have been indignant about being looked up on Facebook since she had no idea where those comments were coming from.

          2. KerryOwl*

            It’s possible that most of her photos ARE set to private, and that the interviewer only had to go back a few public photos to get to a decades-old picture of potato salad.

          3. Carrington Barr*

            I need to clarify something — the post about the potato salad is NOT 10 years old. Remember, Facebook has only been open to the non-university masses since 2007.

            The *picture* itself was a decade old. The post, however, could have been made last week.

            Not to be pedantic, but just to add a little more context.

            1. en pointe*

              But who posts a years old picture of potato salad on Facebook? She said “about ten years ago”, so I think it’s more likely that she posted it years ago, but just either estimated incorrectly or was being hyperbolic about exactly how many years ago.

              1. Cleopatra Jones*

                You would be surprised at the pictures that people post on FB.
                I have a friend on FB from high school that posted a picture of me that I want her to take down but I’m not sure how to phrase the request.
                It’s actually kind of tame if you know the context of the picture. We were in an advanced biology class in HS and we dissected cats (Sorry to all of the cat lover’s on this site. Also, I’m not sure why and how we were allowed to do this). We were allowed to take the cat home to study for exams. While we were studying she called my name and snapped a pic of me over the dissected cat.
                Although, it’s been 20+ years since HS I would rather that not be the image that a prospective employer sees if they search for me (yes, I’ve been tagged in the photo). If you know the context then it’s fine but if you just see the picture, then I am sure you are wondering WTF is going on.

                I’ve actually had other friends call me and ask about that picture then I have to explain so I can’t even imagine what I would do if I was asked about it in an interview.

                All of this to say, the old picture might have been posted by someone else and she was tagged in it.

                1. Ted Mosby*

                  THEY GAVE YOU A DEAD CAT TO TAKE HOME???

                  That is absolutely so weird and gross. I’m cracking up.

                2. Cleopatra Jones*

                  Yep. The biology teacher gave each group a dead cat. We had to study the cat for a whole semester (I think 16 weeks). We had weekly exams and had to sign the cat out to take home to study. If you didn’t, well you didn’t pass the class as there was no other way to study for the exam.
                  My friend drove on the days we took the cat home to study because the bus driver wouldn’t allow us on the bus.

                  WARNING: Do not read if you gross out very easy:

                  At the end of the semester, you could take the cat home and boil the cat in an acid (the Bio teacher provided us with a recipe) and sort through the ‘mixture’. You then had to reconstruct the skeleton and bring it into class. This was a bonus assignment (I think worth about 50 points). If you chose not to do this, the Bio teacher disposed of the remains.
                  The Bio teacher told us that they received the cats from some kind of lab, so I’m not sure how the lab got the cats.
                  I’m sure the class was to prepare us for careers in medicine and science, so if you look at it that way-it’s not so gross. Although, the Bio teacher did tell us she tried to get us human cadavers but the school wouldn’t allow it and she didn’t have a place to store them.

                  In retrospect, my public school education was pretty interesting…

                3. Elizabeth West*

                  We did frogs. Correction: I had to do the frog myself, because my lab partner, who had spent days bragging about her aspirations of becoming a nurse, wimped out when I did the autopsy cut and did not look at it once throughout the entire dissection.

                4. Case of the Mondays*

                  Why don’t you reply to the picture to give it context? Post, OMG, I can’t believe our high school required us to dissect cats! Imagine the backlash if students were required to do that now?” Then people who see it will know you weren’t torturing a cat.

              2. jag*

                Well if she did post an old photo of potato salad on Facebook that’s a HUGE red flag. HUGE and RED. Who does that? Old potato salad photo = kiss of death from hiring managers.

              3. Emma G-OP*

                I feel like I’m answering peoples questions and they’re not being read, but I’m new here. To clarify. I was not mad that someone looked me up on Facebook. I don’t have anything set to private because I don’t have anything to “hide”
                I did guesstimate the “10 years ago” thing wrong. When I first joined Facebook (in 2008) I posted said potato salad picture. It was in one of my very first albums, I have a TON of them. So she REALLY dug deep to find it, and why? How many of my photos and albums did she have to go through to find that one random photo? Creepy.

            2. blu*

              I don’t think that clarification is necessary. I have had Facebook since 2005 since I was in college at the time. It’s quite possible that picture was loaded 10 years ago and so I think we should take OP at her word.

      2. sally-o*

        +1. No one criticizes people for using Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest,, having a blog or a personal website, etc. but we get all holier-than-thou when it comes to Facebook privacy settings. What’s up with that?

    2. Daisy*

      The privacy setting a lot of people seem to have is that non-friends can see only profile pictures, which seems like it might be the case here if the interviewer saw two photos ten years apart. I don’t think that’s unreasonable to have public, but still a bit odd for the interviewer to mention.

    3. sally-o*

      I agree. It sounds like the interviewer has very strong opinions about Facebook privacy settings, and was passive-aggressively giving the OP a “gotcha!!”.

  9. Tenley*

    It read #1 as an interview conducted over the phone, and the attorney immediately asking the “do you like horseback riding?” question to make sure they were looking at the right person’s Facebook page they had pulled up. I mean, it was a phone interview; they were almost certainly looking at it in real time just as much to put a face to the OP as anything. (I’m sorry it caught the OP off guard. It’s pretty clear the interviewer thought it equally weird that the OP was taken aback and took the horseback riding question the way she did — “How did you know that?” instead of something more along the lines of saying yes, you’ve got the right Teapot Sally (pulled up on your screen) — and either amused or not impressed that OP was still confounded by the end of the interview by what might be happening on the other end of the phone line.)

    1. Colette*

      Yeah, I thought that response from the OP was a little odd, and it could have adversely affected the tone of the interview. There are lots of ways the interviewer could have known that, and there’s no reason the OP couldn’t have said “Yes, I love horseback riding” or “actually, I just went to the first time last week”.

      1. LBK*

        There are lots of ways the interviewer could’ve known that? Like what!? Nothing I would consider reasonable, especially without the statement being prefaced by the source. I would be extremely uncomfortable if a complete stranger just started chatting me up about my hobbies.

        1. Colette*

          They could have seen her (or her name) at a related event, it could be alluded to on her resume if she’s done related paid or volunteer work or they could have a mutual acquaintance who mentioned it, for example.

          1. OhNo*

            It’s also possible that they were one of those employers who contacts references ridiculously early in the process and a reference mentioned it. Or maybe they just googled the OP’s name and it showed up on a horseback riding website, or listed in a directory of people that own horses, or under a photo of OP or their horse on a stable website.

            My point is that immediately jumping to “How did you know that?” is a little bit of a weird response in this day and age. There are a ton of different ways that they might have heard about or figured that out. A better response might have been to answer the question and perhaps follow up with, “Why do you ask?”

            1. esra*

              Online to in-person etiquette is still kind of a new landscape, but I think you’d treat something you find online the same as if someone else had told you something about someone. So if say, Jane tells me Pete loves donuts, I might start chatting about donuts to Pete and let him know Jane says he loves them. I won’t just creepily/randomly start listing off his favourite toppings.

              1. LBK*

                Exactly. It’s not discussing specific hobbies that I necessarily have a problem with, it’s not providing the context for how you found out – and that’s why I think “How do you know that?” is a reasonable on-the-spot response.

                1. Koko*

                  Tone matters a lot when what we’re doing is reading why someone asked a question in order to judge the meaning of the question. You can be pleasantly surprised and say in a curious/impressed voice, “How did you know that??” Or you can be defensive and say in a hostile/accusatory voice, “How did you know that?!”

        2. Worker B*

          It’s been said a few times here — the interview took place over the phone, it’s almost a certainty that the interviewer had a few Facebook pages pulled up of people with the same name as the candidate’s because she wanted to put a face to the person she was talking to, and so immediately came out of the gate asking “Do you like horseback riding?” because she had (correctly) narrowed down who the OP must be. When OP immediately responded “How do you know that?!?” the interviewer must have rolled her eyes and probably wrote off the OP right then and there.

    2. Emma G-OP*

      Tenley, I guess I just assumed that since I was interviewing with a professional person, that the interview would be conducted professionally, and that she would have verified me by my Linkedin, not going through every one of my albums and photos so she could make some inane comment about potato salad posted 6 years ago

  10. super anon*

    Am I the only one that uses a completely separate email for my facebook account, in addition to a fake name? I also have it set not to index in search engines, and locked down as tightly as the privacy settings will allow me to, because, while I don’t post anything untoward on my facebook, I definitely don’t want an employer finding my online presence at all. I regularly google my name to make sure nothing about me comes up – especially not social networks that they can stalk. Maybe I’m just crazy.

    1. misspiggy*

      No, not crazy – but many of us set up Facebook accounts before it was known how little privacy you’d have.

      1. en pointe*

        Sure but, aside from the email address, there’s nothing stopping people doing those things if they want to, now that they do know how little privacy they have, right? You don’t have to stick with the privacy settings you had when you first signed up.

        1. Ludo*

          You can change the email associated with it. I keep mine locked down. I use my real name but that is it. So you can search me on Facebook (now that they forced me to be searchable – thanks, Zuck!) and you’ll see my name, my cover photo and my completely innocent profile picture. But, you cannot see any of my posts, my city, my birthdate, my employer, my likes, nothing. I regularly go in and check to see how it looks to someone I am not friends with.

          I’ve had comments on this while job searching. Mostly shocked. I always explain that I use LinkedIn for networking but I try to take my privacy, and the privacy of my friends seriously and so I opt for a closed network on Facebook. Everyone seems to readily agree this is a good idea.

            1. Monodon monoceros*

              Yes, and it is super annoying that FB keeps asking me to put in my high school, hometown, etc. Get over it FB, I’m not answering you!

          1. en pointe*

            You can add an email address and change the primary address that they sent notifications, etc. to, but you can’t actually remove an email address from the account, right? At least I don’t think you can at the moment.

    2. en pointe*

      Only as crazy as me :) I do all those things too, except I use first and middle name so not technically fake. I also monitor privacy setting changes obsessively because mine is soooo not employer-friendly.

    3. Cherry Scary*

      I have a friend who is registered under a fake name because she teaches, and can’t have students looking her up. She warned us all when she did it (and her obsession with a particular coffee franchise is referenced, so its perfect for her.

    4. Joey*

      see to me that would be a little strange; that you go to such lengths.What’s wrong with an employer seeing your LinkedIn profile.

      1. Ludo*

        I didn’t see where they don’t want the employer seeing LinkedIn, but rather Facebook. For me? I’m …. politically active and opinionated, to say the least. My friends and family know and accept this. My employer doesn’t need to know these opinions and certainly not someone I am interviewing with.

          1. super anon*

            I have a linkedin, but I rarely use it. I am uncomfortable with so much of my private information being made public (I have a very uncommon name, and am estranged from half my family so even having them know the city in which I live is a bit disconcerting for me). It’s not like I’m an old fuddy duddy either, I’m in my early 20s – I just take my privacy very seriously. Additionally, I am very good at finding people on the internet through the breadcrumb trails that they have left, that I am extra careful about how much information is searchable about me. That comment was more pertaining to twitter, tumblr, instagram, etc. I live a relatively boring life, but I still don’t want potential employers poking around in it.

        1. catsAreCool*

          I’ve got some friends who are politically opinionated, some on both sides. It can get tiring, and it’s smart not to show that to your employer.

    5. The IT Manager*

      I use a sort of fake name. I used nickname that no one actually calls me as my first name because I was shocked – shocked I tell you – that facebook insisted on our real names when I joined. But years later I am planning to change it and use my real name. (1) Because a fake name makes it harder for people to find me/know who I am. (2) People calling me by my nickname (which is not a name I go by) in comments to link to my account is just kind of wierd – that’s not me.

      Somehow “The IT Manager” is me, but that nickname on facebook is not me!

    6. Ted Mosby*

      I just don’t post things online that I wouldn’t show my boss and my grandma.

      Freshman year of college all of the student athletes had a mandatory seminar where they showed us that it’s insanely easy to view someone’s entire profile regardless of fake names, privacy settings, and untagging.

      If I don’t want the general public to see something/know something, I keep it off the internet. It will never be truly private.

      1. catsAreCool*


        The trouble I have is to remind myself not to click “like” on political/religious things that might irritate people with different feelings.

    7. Koko*

      I want people to be able to find me on Facebook and recognize who I am when they see me in their feed. I just don’t post anything super personal or inappropriate.

      I actually have taken to deleting people who use a fake name and a profile photo of anything other than themselves. It’s too hard to keep up with which 25 of my 700 friends are calling themselves Nate Sdrawkcab or Middlename Nickname or Cranky Dustypants this week, and I don’t have time to click to someone’s page and sift through their posts and photos trying to figure out who they are every time I see one of these names I don’t recognize in my feed.

  11. Not an IT Guy*

    #1 – The “where do you see yourself in a few years” question is pretty standard, but I’d be very careful how you answer it. I would have answered this question a lot differently the last time I was asked had I know the answer I originally gave was going to ruin my career.

    #4 – This is a very normal reimbursement policy which most places I’ve worked for follow. Just be sure your company doesn’t take several years to reimburse you.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I hate that question so much. It makes me feel like a slacker for not having a 5-year plan. I’m much more of a “let life happen” type of person. May I ask how you answered it the time it had a negative impact for you?

      1. C Average*

        Cosigned. In five years I will be wherever serendipity takes me. I hope it’s good.

        Five-year plans didn’t work out so well for Stalin, and he had WAY more resources than I do.

      2. Not an IT Guy*

        I was 3 years in temping in my company’s IT department when I was asked that question by the manager (the position was supposed to become permanent after 90 days but that never happened, so I never had a position or job title). When asked I replied that I saw myself down the line in more of a marketing/inventory role, which is more in tune with my background. A few days later he informed me he was moving me to inside sales, which I knew I would struggle with but had no choice…this manager expected me to keep quiet about any work issues I was having. So I was effectively kicked out of the IT department with a three year gap on my resume since I had no position, all because I answered that question.

        1. Judy*

          You didn’t have a gap in your resume, you can put “temporary position at XYZ company through ABC staffing”. Then list your responsibilities and accomplishments.

          1. Not an IT Guy*

            Only thing is that it wasn’t through an agency, it was a promotion in my company in which the manager said he’d work out the details within 90 days which he never did. Not to mention I wasn’t allowed to get involved with anything IT related (in the traditional sense) and accomplished nothing during my time in that department.

      3. Joey*

        are you working towards anything? Gaining experience in certain aspects of your job, working towards more responsibility, to be in a position where you can contribute more either in your current role or not. It doesn’t necesarily have to be a job title. Most people that ask that are essentially asking “how does this job fit into your career plans?”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But that’s not why they’re asking. They’re basically saying, “Talk to me about how this job fits in with your larger, medium-term goals.”

  12. BRR*

    I read coke does something like this. In the subject line they put, just a heads up, requires action by, etc. It’s actually something I would love to implement but as an entry-level person in a 150 department my powers are nonexistent.

    1. C Average*

      When I delegate work to my geo-specific counterparts (which happens on a pretty close to daily basis) I use a standard subject-line format, “[specific acronym] – Action item (due 10/31/14): [one-line description of content].” That way they and I can search our inbox for the acronym and see all action items in chronological order. It works great. We had a conversation about it first, to assuage any feelings about it being cold and unfriendly-looking, and now we all just do it as standard practice. It works great.

      tl;dr: if you delegate to or collaborate with someone regularly, have a conversation with them about how to standardize your subject lines in a way that prevents balls from getting dropped. It only takes a moment, and it can really help.

    2. LBK*

      I know I’m a crazy email responder, but is it really THAT hard to comprehend the context of an email with a 10-second glance over it? I can usually tell quickly if I need to do something with an email now/later/at all. I don’t understand people who don’t even look at emails that come in, like the woman in the OP’s question who is apparently just totally disregarding anything she receives unless it’s marked as requiring action. It’s baffling to me.

      1. C Average*

        My guess is that this person receives a lot of email that DOESN’T require action, and is looking for a simple way to flag and prioritize the email that DOES require action. It’s not so much about it being hard to scan an email; it’s about the frustration and pointlessness of scanning 50 no-action-required emails that were sent to you because you were on a list, for CYA purposes, etc., just to get to the one important email that you wish you would’ve known to read first. An attention-getting subject line would ensure that you actually got to that important email first, took the action required, and then shuffled through the rest of the slush pile.

        1. LBK*

          I think it’s hard for me to gauge because I am an as-they-arrive email reader. I give everything a glance over as soon as it comes in, so there would be no issue of me missing something that was obviously urgent or required action. I’m also not in a role where I get a lot of stuff I don’t have to at least look at and be aware of (which I consider as “requiring action”). It’s hard for me to grasp the concept of the majority of my emails being things I won’t ever need to read unless it comes up later on.

      2. Judy*

        I get copied on emails where it is not unusual to have 15-25 emails in a chain, where everyone has written 2-3 paragraphs. There have certainly been times I’ve read the first 2-3 of them, they dive down a rabbit hole unrelated to my job, so I don’t read them. And there have been times that the rabbit hole they took leads back to one I need to know about. There are usually 5-10 active email chains going on in my inbox at any given time. Some of my coworkers may be composing a thesis in these emails.

      3. catsAreCool*

        Sometimes I read an e-mail, realize it will take some time to work on it, don’t have the time right now, and leave it in my inbox to remind me to deal with it. This only works if I go back over my e-mails later though. Maybe that’s the problem.

        1. HR Pro*

          I do the same as catsAreCool, except my problem is that sometimes when I go back to find it, I can’t because of a lame subject line (and because I have so many emails in my inbox). If the subject line is something like “update” or “project” or even a generic thing like “teapots” (where my team and I work on teapots, teacups, and tea cozys, but we have 8 varieties of teapots that we’re working on at the same time, and so the subject line “teapots” is just ridiculously nonspecific), I will have a hard time finding that email later, or remembering what it was about just based on the subject line.

  13. Persephone Mulberry*

    Am I the only one who read #1 as “this interviewer is interested in establishing a personal rapport with me” rather than “my personal life is none of your business, you crazy stalker”?

    1. BRR*

      It could have gone that way but the interviewer ignored any follow up and moved on. I have a music degree and when I interviewed for my position the interviewer commented on that and mentioned the local symphony was good despite it’s size. To me that’s rapport.

      1. Bea W*

        Yes. It was the way the interviewer brought those things up without any relevant context that made it come across as weird. The potato salad thing was just bizarre.

    2. OhNo*

      I read it that way too. Admittedly, the interviewer’s approach sounds kind of awkward, but my first response to similar lines of questioning would have been less “why are you stalking my facebook” and more “oh, does this hobby interest you, too? neat!”

    3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I totally agree. I think the interviewer was trying to build rapport, and was completely taken aback by OP’s response, and just tried to move on quickly. And then probably thought they’d give a humorous try with the potato salad later on, and also hit a brick wall. This kind of thing happens all the time, especially in phone interviews, where you can’t see facial expressions and don’t get as much tone and body language.

      1. Bea W*

        I enjoy building rapport but if someone suddenly mentioned something I did once 10 years ago or a hobby or trip I took that I hadn’t mentioned anywhere I’d be a bit surprised. The interviewer could have explained the context without sounding stalkery but instead didn’t say anything which can come across as weird. From the OP’s letter it seems she didn’t even figure out the connection until after the interview. So in the moment, not knowing where the interviewer knew these things is odd at best if not unsettling.

    4. Ted Mosby*

      I agree that’s likely what she was going for. It just obviously got really weird at the potato salad point.

      To be fair, I don’t really think OP did either of these. How did you know that can come out as pleasant/surprised or suspicious/angry. It’s hard to say without context.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        Considering the tone of the note was “how dare this interviewer bring my personal life into this professional setting,” I’m guessing that’s how her “how did you know that” comment came across in the interview as well.

    5. esra*

      I’m kind of surprised that more people wouldn’t be offput by someone you’ve never met mentioning something like this out of the blue. I think it’s human nature to wonder how they found out about your penchant for the Raptors and pumpkin pie.

      1. catsAreCool*

        I’d be put off by it. If the interviewer had said something about googling me or checking Facebook, that would be different, but having info about me just thrown at me with no context feels weird.

    6. teclatwig*

      This is my thought. I also find myself remembering a recent thread re: lawyer resumes & interviews, and how “what are your hobbies?” us actually a significant and important part of the process. (IIRC, this is because most newly minted law students have similar training and little actual experience.) With this context gap, the lawyer might have been expecting OP to assume they would discuss private interests as displayed on social media.

      So, if we assume this lawyer is a bit socially awkward and perhaps not that experienced with hiring support staff, then perhaps she was thrown by OP’s failure to recognize a prompt and engage the way a prospective associate would.

      In this scenario, neither the OP nor the lawyer are in the wrong in terms of actions, but perhaps both were a bit awkward when their assumptions were confounded in uncomfortable ways.

      1. teclatwig*

        To clarify, “this is my thought” was in response to Persephone Mulberry in re: this reading like a (failed) attempt to establish rapport.

      2. LBK*

        I don’t think “what are you hobbies?” would have been a weird question, but jumping right in to asking an interviewee about a specific hobby you know they enjoy? That would freak me out.

      3. bridget*

        I agree; a LOT of associate interviews start with a similar question (“so you like mountain biking?”). They are just 1) phrased less weirdly, and 2) usually come from the “interests” section of the resume, not social media. I think this could easily be chalked up to awkwardness/bad personality fit rather than creeperism.

  14. Lily in NYC*

    #5 – Alison was spot on with her response, but I would also like to suggest making sure you always have your contact info on your cover letter as well as your resume. So many companies use glitchy job software (we just got rid of Taleo, YAY!) and it’s dismaying how often the resume doesn’t load properly. If there’s contact info on the cover letter, then I’m able to email and ask the person to resend their resume.

  15. Smallest Red Chair*

    #2 – It sounds a bit like she doesn’t want to read all your emails and wants you to indicate the ones that are most important so she can skip over the others. The question is whether she doesn’t want to read them because she has some sort of an issue with you or whether she actually can’t read them because she is completely swamped and is trying to find a way to prioritize.

    Perhaps those email chains you mentioned are out of control. You may not be getting all of the same emails on an email chain that she is and she’s so busy that she simply can’t sit and read them all. But she knows your emails are typically actionable and if you mark them in some way it would help her wade through all the others.

    I worked for a large enterprise company (about 30,000 employees) as an admin and directly supported about 75 very busy people who had varying ranges of contact with many other employees. I ended up on email chains that could become quite lengthy and not at all required for me to read every one of them. I could have hundreds of emails first thing in the morning. I really appreciated when someone slightly changed the subject line and then indicated my name in red when there was something for me to action.

    Perhaps you could try pairing down your emails to her. Instead of sending multiple emails a day with actionable requests, reduce them to one or two emails and simplify the text so she can just jump to it without wading through emails to find them. If it is time sensitive, then send it right away and change the subject line as she requested and remark that it is time sensitive. I also suggest highlighting to do items clearly in lengthy emails.

    If you are using outlook there is a way to send it with importance marked and you can also add a calendar task for HER. It would remind her that she has to do something by a certain date. I wouldn’t just do that, as she might find it obnoxious with no explanation. But you could mention to here that there is this function and ask if doing that would help. I did this when sending action emails to engineers because I never got their results back on schedule. It worked pretty well, but I admit they found it annoying. I didn’t care though because one of my job duties was literally to make sure other people do their jobs.

    1. C Average*

      Yes, this. If you get a lot of email, especially if you’re by necessity on a lot of lists, it can be SO HARD to find the signal in the noise.

      Also, she may be saying something about the kinds of emails you send. I work with some people who love to loop me in on long threads or forward me documents or email chains and just throw an “FYI” or a “+C Average and team” or whatever at the top. In some cases, if I were to read through the chain, there probably WOULD be an action item for me, but often there isn’t. These frustrate me no end. I generally reply to them with a “can you help me understand the ask here, please?” or similar. I’ve had to have more direct conversations with people who do this regularly, explaining to them that I get a lot of email that DOESN’T represent an action item and that it helps me tremendously if they can flag the ones that ARE action items as such so they don’t get lost in the shuffle. Your collaborator may be expressing some frustration that you’re not making your asks clear as asks.

      1. My two cents...*

        But, that coworker could be sorting her inbox by sender…and then adding that cute little task flag on stuff she needs to follow-up on.

        Who knows if that coworker is wading through tons of legit emails, or just can’t find OP’s emails among the store ads and email forwards she gets.

        1. Smallest Red Chair*

          We don’t know, and we aren’t going to know. What we do know is that she asked OP to help her identify the emails more easily. I really only takes a second to add a flag to your email before sending it or typing something in the subject line. And sorting your inbox by sender is a total nightmare if you have a lot of email coming in. It makes it next to impossible to address emails in the order in which they came or to follow a thread with many different senders. I think this only works in some very specific situations.

          I understand that OP wants the subject line consistency. Its really aggravating when one conversation is broken up into a million threads because people inexplicably change “SUBJECT: X Project Timeline & Details” which deals with say, product 123XYZ, to just “SUBJECT: 123XYZ”. That was especially aggravating to me as an admin because I wasn’t always familiar with 123XYZ but I was familiar with the project name or the people working on it. Or I would have correspondence for multiple projects concerning 123XYZ and when people go changing the subject line they could get confused.

          However, there was really nothing I could do about it with so many people in the mix so I had to find another way to organize. I ended up using folders and color coding emails so I could easily keep them organized. The person OP is working with could be trying to find a way to organize herself by asking for an easily identifiable note in the subject line.

          1. My two cents...*

            Is sorting by sender really THAT crazy? I guess I just can’t wrap my head around the notion that people have such a hard time handling their inbox in a way that they’re self-sufficient. I realize that many people will sort their incoming email into various folders…as they come in. But, that’d also mean your inbox would be only ‘new’ emails that you have to sort through.

            Our company email is set up that everything auto-archives after 6 months. The archiver sucks to search through (maybe that’s the ultra-slow search people complain about?) but at least it keeps everyone’s email in order. Before we were acquired, we didn’t have any ‘rule’ like that set up, and a few of us were constantly pinged about having GIANT inbox sizes…not due to quantity, but mostly due to attached software files or videos of customer issues. Maybe it’s that these posters writing in about email woes have several members of their team who aren’t archiving items or removing their giant attachments?

            It still sounds like OP’s coworker is trying to pass the buck, so they don’t feel so helpless or flighty about tending to their emails. Yeah, OP can try and help. But if that coworker is really that frazzled by their inbox, it’s not going to help a whole lot.

            1. Smallest Red Chair*

              I agree with you that the coworker does sound a bit like she is trying to pass the buck. It’s hard to say so I was giving the benefit of the doubt.

              Sorting by name can be difficult if you have a lot of different names coming in. Like I was saying about my last position. I was supporting about 75 people. So even just sorting by name there they wouldn’t all fit in my email window. I’d be copied on emails with 30 other people copied on it and those 30 people would reply all and now I potentially have 105 different names in my inbox. Not to mention that each person I supported would have additional people copied for whatever projects they were working on. Plus it was a global company that was working with a lot of other global companies, so we were dealing with different timezones and I literally came into email contact with hundreds and hundreds of people. Sometimes just for a little thing or I was just in a reply all that I didn’t need to see. But there were A LOT of names so it would be tough to sort that way and stay on top of things.

              For example, Martha T. might respond first and then Christina Z. followed by John B. If I sort by name I then see John B’s email first. Which is sometimes ok because the whole thread is usually in the emails so I can scroll down and read up. But sometimes there are divergent threads. John B might reply all and write a lengthy email and in the time he’s writing it, several other people have replied about the same email and those emails are sitting in his inbox which he doesn’t see because he is typing away. He hits send and now his email doesn’t include any information from the later emails. John B is very busy, so he may not have time to even look at the emails that came in while he was writing his initial email. So if I read his email first because I sorted by name I am missing information and could potentially do my job wrong. It’s best to read them in the order they arrive.

              I could have people communicating about a couple hundred different releases at a time, some of which could go back more than a year. So the auto archiving function wasn’t an option either.

              I realize not all email is like this. If she’s only getting email from 5 or so key people, sorting by name might work very well.

              1. Layla*

                I feel traumatised reading about your emails.
                My current job’s emails are not as simple as some other commenters have suggested suggestions to , but thankfully not as complicated as yours

    2. OP #2*

      Thanks for the suggestions. And I definitely want to find a way to make this work for both of us. Our email chains are generally pretty short and often times the emails in question are just direct responses to an email she sent me. So, in those cases – it seems silly when she asks me a question via email to respond to that question with a new subject line. Even though we aren’t sending a ton of emails, I think starting a daily recap email may be the way to go.

      1. Smallest Red Chair*

        Yes. In that case it is very silly. It sounds like maybe she is making excuses. It could still be that she has a ton of email from others and the differentiation might catch her attention, but that also seems a bit ridiculous. In any case, I think you’re on the right track with the daily recap and perhaps flag things that are time sensitive so she sees that indicator when the email comes in.

  16. Bea W*

    #4 is pretty standard. The company is reimbursing you only for the mileage above and beyond your normal commuting distance which is reasonable since you don’t get to claim mileage for your usual commute.

  17. soitgoes*

    1) By now, everyone knows that employers google candidates before interviewing them. It almost sounds to me that the interviewer was mocking the OP. I also somewhat agree that “Where do you see yourself in 3 years?” isn’t an entirely appropriate question for a candidate who (I’m inferring) is in her mid to late 30s.

    3) This is one of those questions I don’t quite “get.” I don’t think it’s super common (at least among me and my peers; I’m in my late 20s) to receive any kind of formal job offer in writing. That seems to be trickling out of fashion, at least in certain industries. We mostly get phone calls. But we also know that in most cases, an email is as legally binding as a signature.

    1. Sans*

      I agree that an email is the same as a letter sent through the mail. But it’s interesting when people say they never get a formal job offer in writing. I’ve ALWAYS gotten one and the companies seem to take it for granted that they will send one and that I’d want to get it before I gave notice at my old job. I’m in marketing, but I’ve worked in several different industries; it’s been the same everywhere. There is no way in hell I’d quit one job without something in writing from the new place. I know it’s not legally binding, but it’s good to get everything (salary, start date, at least a general mention of benefits) on paper.

      1. Zahra*

        Yeah, my current employer told me they don’t do formal offers. I told that an email with the main details would be fine, that I just wanted to have the details on hand and be sure we were on the same page. They sent me that email, I kept it and now I’m working there, since I accepted their offer.

      2. soitgoes*

        I think it’s another one of those norms that’s going by the wayside as more and more people launch startups.

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      Reply to your point on #1 – While the question could have been worded a little more interestingly, I think it’s fair to ask at any stage of a career, particularly for a support position. It’s important to know whether the applicant sees it as a career role or as stepping stone.

  18. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-The moral of the story is if you don’t want people to ask questions about your life that you post online don’t leave your profile so open than anyone can see anything worth asking about. I wouldn’t have been taken aback by the question even badly asked. Why didn’t you just answer it? Sounds like it might not have been the best fit job but it wouldn’t have hurt you to say, “I sure do.” The other questions aren’t the best but they weren’t horrible.

    1. soitgoes*

      I think the issue is that the pictures of horseback riding and potato salad were so old (as in, the interviewer clicked through every single picture on the OP’s facebook) that the OP didn’t even remember that the pictures existed, let alone that she had ever posted them. The questions came off as weird and random, not as follow-ups to things that she had posted on facebook.

      1. Ted Mosby*

        Exactly . The issue here wasn’t that she didn’t want anyone to know she went horseback riding once and made potato salad once. It was that these were really weird, out of context questions.

    2. Jillociraptor*

      Ehh. I mean, there’s all kinds of information that’s available to you, but there are equally all kinds of basic decorum considerations that dictate how you use it. If I’m a public employee, perhaps my salary is public. Just because you can access it doesn’t mean that you should start a conversation with, “So, I see you make $53,035 per year; how’s that treating you?” Mere access really doesn’t suggest, “whelp, now I get to do whatever I want with impunity.”

  19. HR Manager*

    #2 – I guess I’ll be the one to step up and defend that this practice isn’t weird at all. I know myself and others have inundated email inboxes (200/day is not unusual), which a lot of time requires us to comb through to find the high priority ones. She’s offering a way to help her sort through and find your emails quickly – why not accommodate? Unless she’s asking for a header that takes 10 minutes to type in – then I don’t consider it strange at all.

    In HR, we also often send out a lot of information via email that gets jumbled in with IT maintenance notices, general announcements, external spam, etc. So when I need employees to read or do something important – I put in the header in all caps _ IMPORTANT_ or _ ACTION REQUIRED_. I have not received push back from employees on this – I get a sense it’s appreciated to cut through the email deluge. I’ve also used a project header to highlight what may be an urgent project email to a boss or peer (if you’re on Outlook, you can sort by header and quickly get all project related emails grouped together). I personally find this to be a very effective method of sorting through email.

    Could the feedback the OP received on this contractor be coloring how this request is being viewed?

    1. Emailer*

      Yes, I have also worked in offices like this, and I don’t find it strange.

      I also wonder what the original subject lines were. If the subject line is something useless or irrelevant it would make it very hard to go back and find important information or tasks from the emails later on. I have a colleague who constantly sends emails with subject lines that are just “FYI” or “Question” and it drives me batty. A little information about the SUBJECT of your email really needs to be in the subject line. “Question about Boston trip” or “FYI – speakers for next week’s conference” would actually be functional.

    2. OP #2*

      I want to be accommodating, but I also get a high volume of emails (more than 400/day) and replying as part of the same email chain is the best organizational system for me. Plus, as I mentioned above – many times the emails I’m sending with action items are in direct response to questions or emails from her. So in my view, it seems silly to respond to an email from her with my feedback and change the subject line.

      But, I definitely see both sides and I’m hoping I can work with her to come up with a solution that works for both of us.

      1. Darth Admin*

        You might try leaving the subject as-is, but taking on a verb or word that somehow indicates to your coworker what’s needed. So if the original subject was “Chocolate Teapot Handle Redesign” you could leave it but when responding to her (and clients) change it to “Chocolate Teapot Handle Redesign – COWORKER ACTION” or something.

        1. HR Pro*

          Yes, I do what Darth Admin is suggesting. Generic subject lines drive me crazy and I find it much easier to keep on top of email when the subject lines are pretty specific.

  20. Allison*

    Doesn’t matter if OP #1’s Facebook profile had public information, it was weird for the interviewer to reference it that way. Think of it this way: when you meet someone you want to date, you probably look them up on various social media sites – their Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube profile, whatever you can find – to get a sense of what they like and dislike. You may use that information to determine what topics to bring up when talking to that person, and which aspects of yourself to show or hide, but you wouldn’t actually say anything that would let them know you looked at their social media. Unless of course there was something you had to bring up, but then you’d preface it with “I’m sorry if this sounds weird, but I looked at your Facebook and saw X”

    Also, you never admit to looking far back, ever. People who “like” 3-year old pictures right after you accept ther friend request are so gosh darn weird.

    Same with the interviewer, but since looking at someone’s Facebook page before the interview process is still sort of taboo, it wouldn’ve been better if she didn’t mention the hoseback riding.

    1. Joey*

      Dating really isn’t a good comparison. employers are a whole lot less likely to make you feel unsafe. Still weird though in a sort of guess what we joked about before we called you kind of way.

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      I don’t disagree that it was awkwardly handled (and oddly specific) on the part of the interviewer, but I do think the OP’s take – that personal interests have no place in an interview – is off-base.

  21. Aam Admi*

    #3 I once had an interview with a Govt Agency outside the province that involved moving 2000 km. The manger paid for me to travel to the city for the final interview and she gave me a verbal offer for the position. But she never told me that the written offer and HR package would be given to me on my first day at work. I was afraid to ask and jeopardize the offer. So I waited for a formal letter from HR that never arrived. I had nightmares that I would move 2000 km, report to work on my first day and find that the manager was gone!
    I had to rent an apartment in the new city and the landlord wanted employer verification that my salary would cover rent. I wrote to the hiring manager and she faxed a letter to the landlord, which eased my worries a bit.
    It turned out well in the end. I was thrilled when the manager handed me the offer letter and HR package on my first day at work.

  22. C Average*

    Re #2

    My thought, as I’ve mentioned in a couple other responses, is that the contractor’s request may not be a bureaucratic dictate; it’s more likely a cry for help. She’s asking for a different approach because the current one isn’t working. Here are some possible reasons why. You might want to ponder these and see if some of them apply:

    –Your subject lines don’t make it clear what the email is about, and she’s proposing a standardized format for better clarity.
    –Your emails don’t make it clear what is and isn’t an action item, and she’s proposing a way for her to be able to see at a glance what is and isn’t an action item so she can prioritize. (I deal with a lot of email chains that contain an action item buried in a bunch of extraneous stuff, and these are MADDENING.)
    –Your email chains meander from one subject to another, taking in a whole range of action items and non-action items, and she’s looking for a way to pull the action items out of these chains without having to dig through them.
    –You’re burying her in information she may not actually need, and she’s looking for a way to identify the truly important.
    –She’s dealing with people (not necessarily you) who are guilty of some or all of the above, and it’s simpler to propose a standardized approach to subject lines than to deal individually with the people who are creating inbox chaos for her.

    Or, conversely, she’s just high-maintenance about her email subject lines.

    But I’ve found that generally when people want to create guidelines for email subject lines, it’s because their correspondents are doing things that drive them nuts and interfere with their ability to do their job effectively, and that could be easily remedied with a minor subject-line tweak.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      And here’s an idea for #2 to consider, a way to leave the subject lines the same AND change them at the same time.

      You get an email with a subject ‘Project XYZ’. You reply with some additional information with ‘Re: Project XYZ – FYI’. Someone else replies, so you get ‘Re: Project XYZ – FYI’. And this time, you need an action item, so you send it on as ‘Re: Project XYZ – NEED ACTION Ms. Boss’.

      In other words, keep the beginning of the main subject line the same, and therefore sorting by subject will still work. Reply to the email, and any automatic chaining might still work (depending on the email client). And change the end of the subject line to indicate whether it is an action needed, a FYI, or something else, so the boss can see right away if there is something she needs to do with the email.

  23. HM in Atlanta*

    #2 – Is the OP another contractor or an employee of the company providing service to the client? In the question, it didn’t seem like the OP was a contractor too (and that would alter options for handling the situation).

    Regardless – if they are emails that the client is copied on, I wouldn’t change the subject line.

  24. K*

    I’ve been asked some version of “Where do you see yourself in 3-5 years?” in every single interview I’ve been to… I was once even asked “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” I was 20 at the time.

  25. Iulia Iantoc*

    As long as your Facebook privacy settings are set as Public, you shouldn’t be surprised. Curiousity is a very powerful thing and people would go a long way to find out things about someone they are interested in. The only thing that is important here is where you decide to draw the line. If you treasure your personal life, adjust your privacy settings and think of what happened as a good thing. Ask yourself if you really want to work for someone who clearly doesn’t value privacy!

  26. FD*

    #2: I get where this manager is coming from. My manager gets deluged with 100s of emails every day, and we’ve worked out that it works best if I put fairly good details in the subject line

    For example, some things she just wants to be looped in on, so that might be “FYI re: Chocolate Teapot lease renewal”

    Other things I need a quick answer, so it might be “Need y/n approval on 2pm for mtg with Choc Teapot”

    And other things might be more long answer, or something that I need her help with. “What do you think about this Chocolate Teapot proposal?” with more content inside.

    As others have said, there’s no reason you can’t forward within an e-mail chain and just change the header on it.

  27. Bunny*

    Re: LW 1.

    The interview content was weird and a little creepy, but while commenting on the content of your FB page in an interview is unusual, interviewers *looking for and reading* your facebook and social media pages is not. It’s generally a good idea to keep your private life safe online – I use a fake name for my personal facebook page – it’s recognisable by friends and family who want to find me, but not something anyone would find by googling my name. In addition, I have my privacy settings set high, and a separate FB page under my real name that I only update occasionally. Interviewers looking me up online will only see what I want them to see.

    I recommend googling your own name to check what comes up, and adjust privacy settings on anything as needed.

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