my company just hired back the person I replaced, how to choose who to take to a conference, and more

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

1. My company just hired back the person I replaced

At a recent staff meeting, my boss announced that our organization is rehiring the woman who I was hired to replace. From my boss’s remarks, it seems that this was not her decision, but that the former employee went directly to the CEO, with whom she is on good terms. Although my boss assured us this was not going to have any effect on our positions (they are giving her the promotion that she turned down last summer), I’m still nervous about how this is going to affect my job.

My first instinct is to begin looking for another job, but I’ve only been here for five months and most of my previous professional experience has been temp work with gaps in my employment history. When I was hired for this position, I was given the impression that the organization was interested in nurturing my professional development. Is there a way for me to bring my concerns up with my boss? And if it does seem like I should start looking for a new job, how do I explain why I was here for such a short time?

They’re hired her back, but not to replace you — she’s not being hired back into her old role/your current role but into a totally different one. Unless you have reason to believe that she’s going to meddle in your work, I don’t see any cause for alarm here and job-searching absolutely isn’t warranted. Hiring former employees into higher level roles isn’t unusual or bad practice; in fact, it’s actually often a good sign that former employees want to return.

That said, if you’re concerned, you can certainly ask your boss about it. I’d say something like this: “Will Jane’s return impact my role in any way? Do you expect her to become involved again in the projects that used to be hers but have since moved to me?”

2. How to choose who to take to a conference

I’m the senior-ranking member of a group of analysts in my company. As such, I’m responsible for training, some general oversight, and being a first escalation point for questions or issues. There are four other analysts on my team. Two just started with the company within the last quarter, and two have been on my team for about two years.

I recently discovered that the company who created my business’s primary tool is hosting a conference this spring. When I asked my manager about budget to go, she enthusiastically said yes and then asked me who I thought should go with me.

I’m stymied. It would be good for all of us to go, but it would likely be cost- and coverage-prohibitive. All four are technically savvy (the newer ones slightly less so but we’re training them from scratch). Should I pick the two who’ve been here longer, and assume the other two can go next year (it’s the first year of the conference)? What criteria do you recommend?

Well, since you don’t sound entirely certain that you can’t take everyone, figure that out first — because if you can, that would be good to do. But if you can’t, it’s reasonable to offer to take the two most senior people, and explain to the other two that the budget only allowed for two people so you’re taking the two most senior — but that you’ll be looking for other opportunities for the in the future (and then do that).

3. “Tell us what makes you unique in 150 characters or less”

I am in the process of filling out a general application to a company I am interested in. It’s a tech start-up and I feel like I have crafted a great cover letter. However, this is the last question on the application:

“In 150 characters or fewer, tell us what makes you unique. Try to be creative and say something that will catch our eye!”

*Cringe* I feel like this may be a case of style winning over substance. What are your thoughts on this? Some quick research showed that this is not unique to this company and is just a hallmark of the Resumator service. It’s your typical young, edgy start up, so I am wondering what the deal is. I guess I better get started writing a haiku about why I’m awesome.

I could have sworn I answered something like this recently but I can’t find it, so: Yes, it’s gimmicky and a bad way to hire, unless the job involves writing very short, catchy snippets of text. And even then, they should come up with something other than “what makes you unique” — ugh. What matters in hiring isn’t what makes you unique; it’s what indicates you’d excel at the job, which may or may not be unique to you. And asking you to answer in 150 characters or less is an attempt to reference microblogging platforms like Twitter and look hip, so yes, style over substance is a good way to put it.

4. Should I be paid for my whole resignation period if my employer has me leave earlier?

If you submit a written resignation letter with a last date included and your manager lets you go before that date, are you supposed to be paid through the date on resignation letter?

It’s up to the employer. The law only requires that you be paid through the date you actually worked. However, in many states, you can apply for unemployment benefits for the time between when they had you leave and the date you intended to leave (since in the unemployment agency’s eyes, you were involuntarily separated from employment for that period, even if it’s just a couple of weeks).

5. How to handle less relevant jobs on my resume

Say I’m applying for a job and I have relevant work experience, but it was several jobs ago. Including all of the in-between job information would significantly increase the length of my resume and, I fear, “water down” that relevant experience because there’s more text and details to absorb. Leaving them off, however, makes it appear as though I have a gap in my resume.

I’d do a Relevant Work Experience section with the relevant stuff, followed by an Other Experience section with the rest of it. Also, you don’t need to go into a ton of detail about those less relevant jobs; depending on your resume as a whole, it might even make sense to just list job title, employer, and time periods for those.

{ 170 comments… read them below }

  1. JMPCO - Question #3

    So, I am the one that asked the question about the 150 characters (#3). I almost wrote back immediately when I came across another application that uses the same service, but has the added request, “Tell us a joke! We love to laugh!”

    I’ve done a little more research because I keep coming across them and apparently this question is actually something some people care about. I guess that’s obvious, because why else would they put it on there? Check out item 5 on this article.

    http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/236109

    The worst part? All of these questions have the asterisk that indicates they are required!

    1. JMPCO - Question #3

      I should add that I am specifically looking at a certain type of company… less corporate, more culture. I also live in an area where there’s a glut of these companies. But after days and days of looking at their websites (which all look exactly the same), reading about their products (which all sound exactly the same), and hearing how they hire smart, passionate, talented, driven people (always passionate), I’m starting to find it laughable how unique they all think they are!

      I am still going forward because I feel like the potential for growth and independent work are really high (and these are really important to me), but I am getting a little quirkiness fatigue. They all think they are different, but they all sound the same!

      One more thing… does anyone here have experience applying to or working at startups? I’d love some insight into the hiring process (if they have any) .

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        One more thing… does anyone here have experience applying to or working at startups? I’d love some insight into the hiring process (if they have any) .

        Actually, it would be better to post the start-up question on the open thread later today so it doesn’t take us too off-topic from the post. (And I’ll ask people to put any responses to that over there instead of here.) Thanks!

        1. JMPCO - Question #3

          They so do! That awful template that makes you scroll all the way through the entire website to find anything.

          1. voluptuousfire

            JMPOC, do not get me started on that! :)

            As for the 150 character blurb, I made up a random one that shows my sense of humor and I copy and paste it in as needed. If I can’t be bothered with that, I type in a period and that will let you submit it.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian

              I think I’d have to have someone else write one for me; writing something like that about myself is just too outside my ability. Now, if they wanted an actual paragraph, thoughtfully written, I could be all over that . . .

      2. voluptuousfire

        It truly depends on the start up. I’ve primarily interviewed with start ups in the past 10 months and I’ve interviewed with a mix of people. I’d only say about half of them had any sort of HR/recruiter type person. The rest were various office or operations managers/co-founders or any other random person tasked with hiring for this role.

        For the majority of them, culture fit was a very large part of it. I worked with a start up that offered co-working space to other start ups and I was hired within a week (no references checked either) by the manager and director of my former department. There was a lot of flux and that can be difficult to handle if you’re used to a more structured environment. Also expect long hours and possibly lots of stress. Some start ups (especially with those that appear to have much younger employees) are of the “work hard, play hard” mentality and long hours come with the process. Some of them are much better about work life balance. If you find one you really like, stress the importance of your passion for it. They love that.

        One thing that’s really big in start up culture is community. Lots of “forced fun”–happy hours, parties, movie nights, etc. It can be fun if you’re into that type of community thing. Also one thing to keep in mind: some of them may be rather snobbish in that they may act like it’s a privilege to work for them. One job I saw for a recruiter for a start up had a title of “recruiting minion” and talked about acting as a gatekeeper to only bring in stellar candidates. It was meant to be tongue in cheek but it failed miserably.

        I’ve focused primarily on start ups in my job search because I rather like the excitement of them; new ideas coming up and no day is like the other. Also if you have an eclectic background like mine, it’s a plus. I also got a lot of exposure to Nordic tech companies (which is a plus for me because I’d love to move to Scandinavia one day), so it was a bit of a treat. On the other hand, if it’s not well run (there are slews of start ups that are run by snotnosed kids barely out of college who have no idea to relate to others, let alone run a business), it’s a mess to work for. If you can, try to go for a start up that’s been around at least 5 years. Check out Crunch Base, which is essentially the Bloomberg for start ups. It gives you a great idea of what they do (which can be tricky with some of the start ups because their products or services only make sense to those in their industry) and will give you their address, exec team, links to social media and any relevant press, etc.

        One thing that can be an issue though: not all start ups are great for those who are mid-career. My last company wasn’t great for that. Also not all of the start ups know exactly what they’re looking for. It’s a lot of “I know it when I see it” type stuff. A lot of fickleness and indecision. A lot of the job ads for start ups I’ve applied to didn’t necessarily go much into exact requirements, more like vague qualifications/personality traits. That can make asking more pertinent questions more difficult, especially if you have to directly ask about the day to day duties of the role. I’ve had to do that in some of my interviews and those are usually the ones that didn’t fare well.

        Hope this helps!

        1. neverjaunty

          Serious question: if a company’s been around for five years, how is it a “startup”?

          And yes, what you said about so many of them not knowing how to run a business. They’re a cash cow for my colleagues in the employment-law business. Too many trustafarian tech bros who don’t understand what “professional environment” means.

          1. JMPCO - Question #3

            I just applied to a “startup” that has been around 35 years. They rebranded and say they have the benefits of an established company with a startup mentality. I wonder if it’s all in the mentality.

            1. Anon for this

              I work for an organization that has been around in various forms for > 15 years at this point, and recently went through a successful rebranding type effort to a more startup-like entity. (The new outlook embraces some aspects of startup culture–strong workplace culture, innovative, etc. and recruits people with similar traits as described above.)

              I think that the things that made the transition work were strong and consistent leadership (while some management left, many well-respected team members stayed in place or were promoted), honesty about the reasons why the changes took place, and transparency about the changes and what to expect going forward. All in all, and I say this as a long-time employee, it was a positive experience.

              I don’t think the rebranding itself is a red flag–but I would probe more deeply into why and how the change happened during the interview process. It could be all flash, or it could be driven by something real.

          2. voluptuousfire

            TBH, I have no idea. There are plenty of businesses that call themselves start ups and that are still getting funding after being in business for nearly half a decade. I know nothing of how that works but one would stand to reason that if you’ve been in business 5 years and you’re still getting funding from angel investors and the like, that may be a problem.

            1. JMPCO - Question #3

              Yes, I think that’s very true on the funding side. And a lot keep that startup atmosphere until they go public or are acquired.

            2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

              Absolutely — wayy–yyyy-yyy way back at the turn of the 21st Century – we all heard about the “dot coms” — funded by VCs, who were so impressed with internet technology (“oh look, I can see anything on this thing, from the sports scores, to stock quotes, to porn! Wow! How much money do you need? ) that they’d throw money into it.

              Many were set up to funnel that VC into the management’s pockets until the third round of funding – when the investors got wise to what was going on. When the money ran out – and the company failed, or was sold, or “merged” or whatever, the ringleaders would take a hiatus of several months to a year, and play a little golf, or do a little exploration of the world, and then get together and try it again.

              I learned recently what “Series D” funding is.

              However, I did – once work for a “startup” whose funding came from the directors themselves – they knew the business and watched it like a hawk, and emphasized PROFITS. We made profits. Big ones. The company went public a few years later. Not a “startup” in the dot com sense.

          3. Stephanie

            And yes, what you said about so many of them not knowing how to run a business. They’re a cash cow for my colleagues in the employment-law business. Too many trustafarian tech bros who don’t understand what “professional environment” means.

            Ha. Friend used to work for a BigLaw firm that had a lot of startup clients. “They’re good for billing hours, but they have no clue how to run a business sometimes.”

          4. Julia

            If you haven’t had an IPO, if you still have venture funding rounds, if you’re still trying to figure out how to actually be profitable- these can keep a company at start up level after 5 years.

            As for a 35 year old company calling itself a start up- that seems silly.

        2. JMPCO - Question #3

          It SO helps. You are touching on so many things that I’ve seen. The “Rock Star” talent vibe. The forced fun. The long hours. I’m OK with long hours, but I would like some of those long hours to be at home.

          Luckily, I”m pretty early career, even though I’m not a recent grad. I had a child pretty young and was out of work for a while. I’ve worked since then, though, so it wouldn’t be my first job “back”.

          I am also reaching out to some companies that aren’t really hiring yet, or are only hiring tech jobs. I just send a quick email, tell them how I heard about them, congratulate them on their success or something like that, maybe give them a heads up on potential business. I am now wondering if that would be considered obnoxious since they *are* busy.

          1. Joey

            Eh, to me it’s really the “you’d better do a whole lot for me for not much money” with lipstick on it.

            I worked for a small business owner once and the ever dangling carrot of opportunities tied to company growth was always in the owners back pocket. Problem was the opportunities weren’t proportional to the growth.

        3. Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands

          That’s a very good description based on my recent experience. In my 50s, I’m not sure how I passed the culture test, but I can tell you that the pace in a start-up is exhausting. Work-life balance is nonexistent and the idea of it is dismissed. The jargon is sometimes incomprehensible. Much like the military or medical school, there’s a reason they want very young people who can be indoctrinated.

      3. Artemesia

        Whatever you do don’t work at a start up for ‘equity’. I know several people who basically were squeezed like oranges and then cast aside literally a day or two when the stock equity would vest. If you agree to work for equity don’t let me be more than a couple of months before it vests — I saw someone built the entire web presence of a start up for a year to have his labor stolen.

        1. JMPCO - Question #3

          Oh wow, that is terrible. I’ve heard of this happening. Unbelievable.

          Not a lot are offering equity. I wonder why?

          1. Agnes

            Equity is permanent ownership of the company and its profit, that’s why. It’s cheaper to pay a salary and keep the equity for your own control or to sell for investment, assuming the company does well. Also, for the employee, equity is a gamble, as we’ve seen.

      4. Julia

        I used to work at tech start ups and I both applied and hired someone else using that application. (Is it from Resumator? Ours was.)

        When I was hiring someone, I had a lot of fun reading the 150 character question, but it in no way swayed my opinion of someone in either direction really. I remember one person quoted Parks and Rec, which is my favorite show, so I loved the quote. But their resume was not good and they didn’t include a cover letter, so the 150 characters was meaningless.

        The person I eventually hired had put someone silly in for the 150 characters, but who cares?? Her resume, cover letter and interview were all great.

        The one best thing I did with the Resumator template was I made the cover letter optional. That was an AWESOME way to weed out applicants that didn’t feel the need to take the time to include a cover letter. So keep that in mind as you’re filling out these forms.

        One last thing I recommend for applying to start ups- the email address of the person you will work under/with or the hiring manager can often be found right on the website, and they also often go by the structure of firstname@companyname.com so I would always do the online application but then I would also email the my resume directly to the hiring manager along with my cover letter (sometimes the cover letter was even more personalized for that particular person.) I did that for the start up job I had for over 2 years. The woman who hired me contacted me a few hours after I emailed her and confessed that she never even looked at the Resumator application page to see applicants because it “overwhelmed her”. If I hadn’t emailed her she probably would have never contacted me.

    2. JayDee

      For the joke one, I would just type “Knock knock.” If they want the rest of my joke, they can give me an interview.

    3. Joey

      Jmpco,

      Know why they ask about unique?

      Cause they suck at hiring. I did the same thing when I got thrown into the deep end and had to hire someone without knowing crap about hiring.

      I got a big wake up call when someone talked about battling through a disability and told me how their religious faith got them through it. Wonderful story and super “unique”. But even I wasn’t dumb enough to continue doing that.

  2. Stephanie

    #3 – Ick, Jobvite? I’m always at a loss what to answer in that section as well. Usually, I’ve submitted a cover letter and answered questions about why I want to work for the company and in that role, so I’m out of things to say (especially with that really short character limit). I just end up sticking in some general summation like “I’m a technical person who enjoys writing” or a random fact like “A hobby of mine is hula dancing.”* I haven’t been successful with any of those applications, so I have no clue if that’s because my unique fact wasn’t unique enough.

    #5 – In a similar situation. So then it is better to have the more recent stuff first or the more relevant (but older) stuff first?

    1. JMPCO - Question #3

      #3 – No, Resumator, but Jobvite does the exact same thing. Those two seem to be heavily favored by the startup community. I feel like a freaking expert on them after seeing them over and over again. Seems like hobby is the way to go (if there IS a way to go).

      I’m starting to avoid companies that make me jump through those stupid hoops and go for the ones with a traditional set-up or just an jobs email. I very much get a “Boy Kings of Silicon Valley” vibe when I see that, like they are just playing at running a business.

      1. voluptuousfire

        Jobvite is my favorite out of the newer breed of ATS systems. I’ve not seen the blurb bit in any of the applications I’ve submitted through those site. I like how it allows you to see the status of your application in real time. Why other ATS systems have not done so, I’ll never know.

        Greenhouse is my second favorite. It’s really user friendly and doesn’t do any of the silly cluttered crap Resumator does.

        1. Onymouse

          Yes! I also love how it allows me to see my “pipeline” of applications, as it were, just like how companies can look at theirs. It’s a shame I still need to keep a spreadsheet for all the non-Jobvite companies.

      2. Audiophile

        They both do it. I posted it in a recent open thread. It’s incredibly annoying. I see it more often in “hip, tech” companies (you know who you are).

  3. It's a brand new me, I got no remorse. Now the water's rising, but I know the course. I'm gonna shock the world, gonna show Bad Horse. It's a brand new day.

    In re #2: I’d suggest the first course is to simply ask who wants to / who can go. You may find that one or two of your people have prior obligations (a wedding, say). This could simplify – perhaps even eliminate – the problem of choosing.

        1. Jen RO

          I found a recent one intriguing and I googled – turns out it was not a lyric, it was a book quote… surprisingly, a very good quote from a book I’ve always disliked (Gibson’s Neuromancer).

    1. JMPCO - Question #3

      Yup, I’m going to have to agree. I’ve worried so many times about figuring out scheduling and invitations and it turned out the people couldn’t even come in the first place and I’d stressed myself out for nothing.

    2. MK

      I think it would be better to offer it to the senior people first, making it clear it’s optional. If the opt out, you can ask the newer employees.

    3. OtterMom

      OP here -this is a great idea, thanks! The conference is also immediately after a holiday weekend which makes it even more likely to work.

      1. PEBCAK

        I’d also recommend looking for local opportunities. For example, I went to the annual Big Software Company conference, which involved expensive travel, but there the Big Software User Group had a local one-day conference that the entire team could go to for just the cost of lunch. It was always on a Friday, and we’d be done around 2pm, so it was a little bit of a treat to get an early start on the weekend.

        Also…it’s probably too late for this year, but does the conference accept submissions for presentations? I’ve gone to a few conferences as a speaker, which meant the registration was free, which sometimes meant a pretty significant savings.

        1. OtterMom

          It’s the first year of the conference, so I asked my boss if I could go and scope thepresentations with an eye to giving one next year, or giving everyone the opportunity to do so. Great minds think alike!

    4. Jubilance

      I was just going to suggest this. The two senior people may have no interest in attending or have prior commitments. See who wants to go first and then whittle down based on that.

    5. Joey

      I hate to be Debbie downer but although your names are pretty entertaining I find myself paying much more attention to them than your actual comments.

      1. Andrea

        I agree. I find they break up the flow of conversation because they are more like sentences than a proper noun. I usually skip any thread with them in it, at this point, since it’s clear they aren’t going away.

        1. Loose Seal

          Yes, and half the thread is people commenting about the name/lyric rather than the actual comment (yes, I know; just like me here). I know Alison has said this commenter can keep doing this but IMHO, it gets really close to (probably unintentional) derailing.

        2. Another Ellie

          Yeah…to be honest I am starting to skip over threads with these “names”, especially since I have so far understood zero of the references since I’m really not that into modern music.

      2. Lily in NYC

        It was amusing for one day and now it’s simply distracting. I don’t even bother to read the comments from whomever it is anymore.

      3. Ask a Manager Post author

        Objection noted, but I’m not going to micromanage people’s user names (and in this case, I actually talked to this commenter behind the scenes and think his whole thought process for it is actually pretty cool). In any case, I’d ask that we not sidetrack the commenting section on it. Thank you!

  4. Lynn Whitehat

    For #2, if not everyone can go, can you have the people that can go have a Lunch and Learn or mini-conference for the others, summarizing what you learned that is immediately applicable?

    1. Graciosa

      This should be a requirement when you get to go to special training – you must come back and share something of what you learned.

      Added benefits include honing your presentation skills (even if it’s five minutes in the staff meeting) and demonstrating to whoever approved the cost that the money was well spent (thus encouraging more spending on development in the future).

      1. OtterMom

        OP here – this is also a great idea. We already have weekly touchbase meetings where we troubleshoot and do knowledge sharing so this is a perfect fit.

        1. Judy

          I’ve worked in environments where there were 20+ of us in the same roles. Usually 4 to 6 of us would be able to go to a conference. They kept track year to year, so it rotated. After the conference, we were expected to share the things we learned. (It helped that you got the presentations from the conference on a thumb drive as part of your registration.)

  5. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

    #3

    This is the spot where C Average can mention her crane operators license!

    We don’t do online applications (either because we don’t find them personal enough or because we’re too lazy to set up a system), and if we did we’d resist awkward hoops for applicants to jump through BUT if we had that:

    I’d be interested in reading the 150 words.

    We hire for culture match and we hire people who we think will have an aptitude for teapots. AND, we hire people without a lot of work experience. The teapot business is so random, so eclectic…really odd industry you have to learn from the ground up, that we’ve ended up with quite a collection of Unique Individuals. People with non linear backgrounds and multiple outside interests do well with us.

    Point being: we seek out the information in that 150 word box in order to make hiring decisions. I think that’s better done in person vs using it as a screening tool, but, I get why the question was written to begin with.

    Anecdote: my all time favorite thank you note from an interviewee came with instructions on how to create the bird house that we’d discussed in her interview, since making bird houses is a hobby of hers. We must hire her right now, said I.

    1. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

      But it’s not 150 words, it’s 150 characters! That’s the length of a tweet! I totally understand where you’re coming from, and if it was 150 I could mayyyyyyybe get behind it in the initial screen, but I just struggle to think of anything someone could write in 150 characters that would be able to sway my decision on whether to bring them in for an interview or not.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        Ha ha, I read that wrong.

        That’s so gimicky!

        I’m an excellent writer, darn funny, and hold a crane operator’s license. #uniqueaboutme

        1. JMPCO - Question #3

          OP for #3 here…. Oh my gosh, these are all great!

          So it seems that since I can’t get around this dreaded, required question, I should just go for being funny.

          I don’t know how many websites said, “Break your response into three parts. Describe yourself, why you’ll be good, and a quirky fact.” NOT helpful. I am loving these responses.

    2. Helen

      I recently applied to work for a start up that had a short answer questionnaire as part of the application, and I think it helped my candidacy. As hard as I try to sound like myself/human in my cover letter and resume, I still find it hard to express various parts of me that would make me an asset. I was selected for a phone interview, and the interviewer told me how much she loved my application. I definitely don’t think I would have made it to that round if not for the short answers.

      I’m someone who *loathes* online application portals–but I think having a chance to express extra information in a somewhat less formal way (not just regurgitating the resume) can benefit the candidate as well as the employer.

      1. JB

        Yeah, I can see where that could help someone, but I have a hard time seeing how 150 characters could have that same benefit.

    3. Sydney Bristow

      My go to fact about myself in ice breaker games is that I can drive a forklift. I think I’d use that one in this situation too.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        Terrific!

        I’ve got the fork lift and the crane taken care of, who has a CDL? I’d like someone who can operate one of those cement mixers too…………… wait…………. demolitions!

        Demolition expert, please.

    4. C Average

      Squeeee!

      I have to admit I would SO dig a job application that asked me stuff like this, because C Average is my name and wordplay is my game. Thus far I have not even considered expanding my job search beyond my company–I’ve been here nearly 8 years and aspire to be a lifer–but maybe I need to give startups a look. God knows there are enough of them around here.

      I’m wondering if putting stuff like this on the application is a shortcut around having a look at the applicant’s social media presence. When I’ve been on panels for my company in the past, it’s been pretty standard to explore applicants’ Facebook, Twitter, any blogs, etc. Not in great detail, but just to get a sense of things like, “Is this person well-written and quick and clever and possessed of good judgment? Does this person have an original and engaging voice?”

      This process can feel a bit unfair, because some very talented people don’t have a social media presence, while others do. Basically putting a “tweet here” field on the application is one way to get a sense of that person’s style of expression and personality, which can be useful, in a way that levels the playing field for applicants and makes the process more efficient for the hiring panel.

    5. Jane Elliot

      I haven’t had to do this for a job interview, but on other sites when I give a one line summary of myself, I’ve said, “I like to rollerskate and eat cheese. Not at the same time.”

  6. Merry and Bright

    #3 Hate questions like that. It is akin to “What can you bring to the organization that the other applicants can’t?” I mean, I may have X skill or Y experience but how do I know Horatio and Gertrude who interviewed this morning don’t have them too? As Alison said, it should be about why you could excel.

  7. super anon

    #3 – I filled out one of these and wrote my 150 character “unique” message in Korean (I made sure it was gramatically perfect so it could be google translated properly), because what’s more unique than writing in a language no one at the company can understand?! If I remember correctly, it said something like “I can speak Korean – that’s unique, right?!”. I didn’t get a call, so I’ll assume they didn’t find it as charming as I did.

    1. JB

      Maybe they already had employees who spoke 한국어, 그래서 it wasn’t that unique for them.

      I like how optimistic you are about google translate’s ability to properly translate grammatically perfect sentences. :)

      1. super anon

        i’m very late so you’ll never see this, but i wanted to clarify that i ran it through google translate myself before using it, to make sure that it could actually translate the sentence and not give out complete jibberish like it so often does.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian

      Stealing this for future reference. Although from reading this post, I strongly suspect that I am not startup material.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        I was thinking the same thing!

        “My DNA. Well, except for my twin. And no matter what he says, he’s the evil one, I swear.”

  8. Not an IT Guy

    #5 – Is it ever ok to split “relevant” and “other” work experience if it’s with the same company on your resume? For example if you’ve had different roles within the company, is it ok to put positions A, B, D, and E under “relevant” but put position C in “other”?

    1. Arjay

      This sounds a little odd to me, since it would break up the dates of employment at that one company. I’d keep it all under relevant experience, but the less-relevant position would only get a line with job title and dates and maybe one brief descriptor.

  9. plain_jane

    #4 – IANAL
    In Canada the employer is responsible for paying out the two weeks (or otherwise required amount of notice), even if you are sent home directly and not asked to work out the time. Basically it’s like you gave notice and in lieu of you working the time, they fired you – so they need to pay the termination amount (or severance? the one that is smaller).

    However, if you gave _extra_ notice above the required 2 (or whatever) and they send you home early, then they only need to pay you out for the required amount, not the full 6 (or whatever) weeks you gave.

    In any case, they are still required to pay out any vacation days you had accrued and not yet used.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian

      I don’t know why, but “IANAL” is one of those acronyms that I can never remember what it means; I always read it as ” I am now a llama”.

      1. Not So NewReader

        You planted a seed. I am now in trouble, this will always be about the llamas from here forward.

      2. Lily in NYC

        Wow, I see something completely different (and naughty) when I read it. But I have a dirty, dirty mind.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian

          Thank you for spelling that out; I was like, “naughty? What’s naughty about it?” I would have figured it out eventually . . . :)

      3. SerfinUSA

        Just don’t add a <3 between the first IA, unless of course that is your inder-150 character quirky factoid.

    2. Lisa

      Would love to have a list of US States that unemployment will pay for the remaining notice period. Google is letting me down.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        Hey! This is less than 150 characters — OP 3 could totally use it!

        sorry. couldn’t resist.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian

          This was supposed to go under Serfin’ USA’s comment. Bad karma for saying something so naughty.

  10. Allison

    #3, I can see this question being applicable for some positions at some companies. At my company we hire entry-level sales people all the time, and we hire people from many different backgrounds, so someone who could both tell us why they’re unique AND sell his or her self in a brief format would be an ideal candidate. Might also be good for social media marketing positions, where you’re always writing short blurbs about why the company is awesome. I can’t see it being relevant to anything else though.

  11. INTP

    For #2, couldn’t a business case be made for bringing the more junior staff who presumably have more to learn? Especially given that as analysts, they’re probably primarily there to learn rather than network (versus, say, business development employees).

    Or is it so traditional to give perks like that to more senior people that you’d risk alienating those staff members by not choosing them?

    1. fposte

      Yeah, I was thinking along those lines–also, senior people tend to have budgets to get to conferences on their own if they want to, whereas juniors don’t. So I think this is very industry/org dependent.

    2. BRR

      I thought so as well but then I thought it really depends what is going on at the conference. It could be too advanced for the junior people or too basic for the senior people.

      1. OtterMom

        This is the first year of the conference and they haven’t released the agenda yet, but it was definitely something I was thinking about. Once the call for speakers closes and the agenda is released, we’ll know better what level the information is at. Of course, that’s also after the discounted registration fee goes up :(

        1. RVA Cat

          Just a thought, but it may make sense to bring 1 senior person and 1 junior person. This could also maximize the value you get out of the conference as they may want to attend different panels, etc., and you are also in a better position for coverage as you don’t have two rookies left on their own.

    1. Persephone Mulberry

      A true functional resume doesn’t associated particular skills or accomplishments with a particular job; the top half is all “here’s how I’m awesome”, usually separated into categories (sales, tech, management, etc) and the bottom half just lists positions held (Senior Teapot Analyst, Chocolate Teapots Ltd) often even without dates(!!!).

      1. EmilyG

        This is a great distinction because I’ve been using a “relevant jobs after grad school” section and a “not so relevant jobs before grad school and some recentish freelancing” section–with dates and duties and everything–and had been beginning to wonder if this was a bad idea. I didn’t understand why this could be considered obfuscatory, but now I get it.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          No, that’s totally okay, assuming that I’m understanding correctly that you’re listing work accomplishments and responsibilities under the job they belong to and including clear dates for those jobs.

          What’s considered obfuscatory is when people just do one long list of accomplishments and responsibilities without making it clear what job they’re connected with and what dates.

    2. Blue_eyes

      A functional resume may also entirely leave out jobs that aren’t relevant, creating gaps in the employment history. What Alison suggested still includes all the jobs, with dates, they’re just sorted a bit to put the most relevant stuff first.

  12. Not So NewReader

    #1 Hang on to Alison’s wait and see advice. Try to assume that this person wants her new position to go well for her and she will accept you because it’s a part of making the job go well. I would play it as “I am here to help”, until I saw strong reasons to realize that there were going to be a lot of problems.

    Food for thought: She left for a reason. Maybe you know what that is or maybe not- I don’t think you should share that here, anyway. However, she left and the company thought enough of her to hire her back at a new level. Hopefully, this means she is a good worker annnd you actually have a good company as an employer. It could be that the company thought through her reasons for leaving and eventually saw that there was enough going right there that they wanted her back.

    It so easy to think “Oh, she is the CEO’s husband’s cousin’s niece and that is why she got the job back”. And this might not be the case at all. It could be that you are working with thinking people who reconsidered their relationship with her and decided to build a better one because her work is actually worth it. I would try this line of thinking if for no other reason than to hang on to my sanity. Sometimes we see nepotism and other forms of favoritism and it really does us no favors to dwell on it. But it’s such an easy pit to fall into.

    1. Sharon

      Agree, but I would also deal with this person with kid gloves because it sounds to me like she is protected by the CEO. (The OP’s description sounded like the CEO rehired her despite the manager’s feelings in the matter.) Which means that even if she’s the best and most professional person around, in any conflicts she will be the winner. Talking politics here, and I’ve seen too many protected people in my travels. You never win any battles with them, large or small.

    2. Bwmn

      I had a similar experience as OP#1 – and it definitely was really difficult. Because I knew my predecessor would only be there temporarily for a campaign, I wasn’t very proactive in speaking up about the situation and that was problem. Ultimately it only created one significant toe stepping situation, but I do wish I’d been more proactive in setting up communication between me and my predecessor and my boss.

    3. LW #1

      LW #1 here! I do have concerns that weren’t mentioned in my email. The biggest red flag was that my coworkers were not excited about this woman’s return. One rolled his eyes and let out an “Oooh, great” at the announcement that she would be returning. I also have a friend who works with her at her current job (it’s a small industry) who gave me some warnings about her. The general impression that I got from both my coworkers and my friend was that she is not a team player. There is also general instability and a high turn-over rate at the organization that I didn’t know about when I accepted the position. So all these factors combined are really giving me pause.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        This is really a wait and see situation though, not something that should prompt you to be job searching before you even see how it plays out. You might have a different take on her than your colleagues, or no interaction, or all sorts of other possibilities.

        1. LW #1

          Thanks, Alison! I’m not going to take any definite steps yet, but I do want to be proactive about this situation.

          1. Emily

            One strong word of advice: don’t let other folks’ beef with this woman become your beef. A good workplace goal is to have as few beefs as possible. It can be tempting to take sides when a lot of your favorite coworkers all dislike someone, because by taking their side you’re strengthening bonds you have with the coworkers who dislike her, but in the end it will serve you better to remain neutral towards the rehire unless and until she does something that directly impacts you.

      2. Not So NewReader

        I had a situation where my boss was hired back after leaving. People were crying after hearing the news of his return. I have no idea what went on, maybe someone spoke to him. Long story made short, the guy was not as bad as rumor mill said. PLUS, I think he kind of realized he walked into a hornet’s nest in that no one wanted him there. He dialed down from what he once was.

        It ended up being challenging sometimes, but not unbearable.

  13. Swarley

    #3

    Here’s what you should submit:

    I’m a good worker.
    This assignment is awful.
    Go jump in a lake.

  14. Blue_eyes

    #3, I hate those questions as well. I’ve named them “the Twitter Test” and I never know what to say. Especially because something that might seem funny and cute to me could be seen as annoying by the reader. I applied to one company who’s name is a common word, but with a unique spelling, let’s say it’s Wroam (W + roam). I wrote my Twitter Test all in words that started with “wr” that described me – Writer, wrestler, wren, Wroamer. I thought it was clever. Never heard back about that application though.

  15. Joey

    #3. Exactly what qualifies as interesting? I thought the whole point of hiring a diverse group is to maybe find people who have different interests. For example, binge watching breaking bad is a bore to me, but I’m sure there are plenty of people who’d find my affinity for playing a new golf course equally as bland and boring. Hiring isn’t about finding people that you think are interesting, it’s about finding people who have the skills, attitude, and work ethic you need. After that it’s accepting people for who they are, not picking and choosing which ones share your tastes.

    1. JMPCO - Question #3

      Yup. It’s definitely a case of “We’re all unique, but we don’t realize we are all unique in the same way.”

      Don’t get me wrong, I love most pop culture and can throw down references with the best of them. But it’s really caused me to pause and say “Do I actually want to work with people this narrow-minded?” People that say, “Must love dogs, home brew, and Battlestar Galactica” as nice-to-haves. Luckily, I DO like those things, so I would fit in just fine, but it’s so homogeneous. That’s where I take a step back and see if I’m being blinded by great benefits, perks, and “fun” culture.

    2. Stephanie

      This. Plus companies would need to be cognizant that they’re not screening out people who don’t have the time, inclination, or finances to have “interesting” hobbies (although startups may be doing that intentionally to get a certain type of candidate or employer). I’d imagine if you’re looking for people who have the time to go rock climbing four days a week, you’re going to screen out someone who has kids (but may be the electric teapot wiring specialist you need).

  16. edj3

    Hey Alison, off topic but you’ve got an ad for Temptations cat treats that’s an auto play video. That’s more than obnoxious and also not cool for me at work. I don’t know if you have any control over the video ads or not but if you do, oh please, please ax the auto play.

    1. De Minimis

      I think it just is a blank on my page, but yeah, that might end up being an issue for me at work too–not so much because I’d get in trouble [though streaming media is prohibited] but because it might eventually cause the page to not come up on my computer here.

    2. Artemesia

      Always have the sound off on your computer if you don’t already, then this kind of annoying stuff at least an be aborted without alerting anyone actually looking at your screen.

      1. edj3

        Normally that would be a great suggestion–as someone else has already posted, I actually need sound on for the work I’m doing.

    3. JMPCO - Question #3

      So I hate those autoplay videos too, so I set it up so they had to be clicked on to play. I use Chrome exclusively, but you can do it in every browser. Anyways, here’s the steps for Chrome:

      – Chrome –> settings –> advanced settings –> content settings –> scroll down to Plug-Ins –> select click to play.

      No more auto-playing videos! Hope that helps!

      1. edj3

        We are locked down ridiculously tight on work PCs. No ability to change those settings here at work (home is different altogether and oh yes, auto play videos are all disabled muahahaha!

        1. JMPCO - Question #3

          Darn it! I remember trying it at work too and was foiled by the lockdown. Looks like low volume is the way to go!

    4. Gwen

      +1 I also experienced that ad (and I do need to watch videos for work regularly, so my volume is usually on low)

    5. Ask a Manager Post author

      Is it auto-playing sound too or just video? My ad network does use auto-play videos, but there’s not supposed to be any sound. If there is, I’ll have them track it down and remove it.

      1. edj3

        Sound also. I wasn’t sure where it was coming from so I scrolled down until I found it and muted it. Thanks for following up.

  17. JC

    That whole “150 characters or less” application style makes me so, so glad that I don’t work in the tech/startup/new media worlds (or whoever else does this). While I’m at it, I am also not a swiss army knife nor a ninja. Let me crawl back into my snapchat-free, twitter-free, yolo-free old lady hole.

  18. Mr. MakingUsmile

    Question 1. A person getting rehired can be a scary situation. Serously ask the question to your management about the job duties of the person returning to you will feel comfortable. If you are doing a great job you shouldn’t have to worry. If you are not doing a good job I’m sure you would have been counseled on your performance.

  19. hayling

    We use The Resumator and it’s great software. However I hate the WMYU question and never have candidates ask it. I remember it giving me anxiety when I was applying for jobs!

    1. Stephanie

      Yeah, I like The Resumator and Jobvite. I think they’re definitely some of the best ATSes out there since you can do a resume and cover letter drop and answer straightforward questions about your interest in the role/company. But that question is annoying, especially with the 150-character limit (I could probably write a few sentences, but a few words is tough).

  20. AW

    #3 It’s your typical young, edgy start up, so I am wondering what the deal is.

    I think everyone else already has this covered but the deal is they’re a start-up. I looked at a few job postings that were for start-ups the last time I was job hunting but it I soon started avoiding them because:

    1) Start up job postings are as bad as, if not worse than, other small companies at expecting IT folks to know everything under the sun…for entry-level positions. Start ups just have nerve to also refer to such a person as a wizard, ninja, or rock star while they’re at it.

    2) As LW#3 has already stated, they act like it’s an honor to work for them. Which means you’re supposed to jazzed about working 80 hours weeks, the low pay, getting paid in stock, etc. It’s one thing to say those are the conditions you’re working under, it’s another thing to act like they’re doing you some huge favor with that.

    3) They are blatant about using “culture fit” as an excuse to require job applicants to be exactly like them. In the bulleted list titled “The ideal candidate is:” there’s one, maybe two things about skills and then a laundry list of likes, hobbies, and such. It’s clear they have a very specific idea about what IT people are like and they want to hire that stereotype, not just someone with the skill set they need. But let’s all act surprised that the tech industry has a problem with diversity.

    1. JMPCO - Question #3

      Duly noted! So many postings are for IT positions, and I have no frame of reference for those because they it’s like they are speaking a different language. I look at the customer service, HR, operations type jobs and those all seem pretty standard. And I am pretty low level.

      However, I’ve pretty much stopped looking at certain types of companies altogether after reading all the posts. I was on the fence about whether I wanted to go that route and I now looking to more established companies with a strong, proven management team that happen to have good benefits. I originally thought it would be good to get in on the ground floor. Of course, everyone thinks they are the next Google.

      Getting back to the 150 character question that started all this, and the type of person that thinks this is a good idea, it’s exactly what you said. It’s a way of narrowing down by using a ridiculous metric. Is my answer witty, urbane, and esoteric enough? Who knows, and I don’t even want to put in the effort anymore for something someone thought was cute on a whim. Thanks for opening my eyes!

  21. Person of Interest

    #3 – I faced the same question on an application a few days ago — now I wish I had checked here first for some clever ideas! The real irony is, I can’t remember which of the several orgs I’ve applied to lately is the one that asked this question.

    1. CMS

      I remember the one organization that did ask this question. It said that the general consensus were Star Trek loving geeks. My boyfriend named his cat Gul du’cat and I was thinking about putting that as my answer: “I named my cat Gul du’cat and I plan on naming my next cat Lokitty,” but I really didn’t. He’s the DS9 fan, not me.

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