manager makes us say how we would do better than our coworkers, employers don’t think I’m an adult, and more

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

1. Manager makes us say how we would do better than our coworkers

I used to do tech support for an IT company and we would have “peer review” meetings every 2 or 3 weeks where the boss would get a work order that somebody made a mistake on, such as taking too long to complete or not fully fixing the problem, then go over the whole thing in front of the group, then make us go around the table and tell how we would have handled things differently (with the benefit of hindsight, of course).

I always hated these meetings and brought it up in my exit interview, when asked if there was anything they could do to improve things. To me, all it did was single out one person and then let the whole group try to one-up them by telling how much better of a job they would have done. During the exit interview, my supervisor actually started to argue with me that it was a great teaching tool so I let it go.

Have you ever heard of such a thing? Do you think it actually helped? I know all of us techs resented it every time we had those meetings. It seems to go directly against the adage of public praise and private criticism.

I suppose it could be possible to do this in a way that was truly helpful and didn’t feel like public criticism, but it would take a very healthy culture and a manager who was great at facilitating that kind of conversation. That clearly wasn’t the case here. And “explain how you would have performed better than your coworker” is really, really not likely to go over well.

Even if your manager had different intentions for how these meetings would go, once he saw how they were actually playing out, he should have revamped them or called them off.

2. I have a job offer but still have tons of questions

I have a job offer, and on paper it’s a good offer. The salary is actually higher than I expected, the benefits are solid, and the job itself is exactly the kind of new challenge I was looking for. But I’m not sure the organization is the right fit, and I can’t believe they already made an offer! So far I’ve spoken to an HR rep for 10 minutes (phone), the department director for for about 20 (phone) and the two other senior folks on the team for just over an hour (in person). They’ve seen a couple of writing samples as well. That’s it!

I haven’t had any time to talk to the director in person. I haven’t done any work samples for them, which is typical for my field. I haven’t met any of the people my work would intersect with outside of my team, or even the entire team. And I really don’t have a sense of some pretty important things, like how we’ll measure my success, or what the director’s management style is like, or what kind of funding is available for professional development. I’m a pretty junior person (been in the workforce full-time for under four years) but I take these things pretty seriously.

I asked for a couple days to think about it, and I’ve been pulling together a long list of things I need to ask about, partially by digging through your archives for help. How do I approach these questions? Some of them I could just email about, but is it unreasonable of me to want to sit down and talk to the director in person before I accept?

Nope, it’s not unreasonable. But reach out ASAP; don’t wait for the end of the few days you asked for. Say something like this: “I’m really excited about this offer and very, very interested. Since you and I only had a chance to talk briefly earlier, would it be possible to set up a time to talk a bit more? I have some questions I hoped we could discuss to help me learn more about the role. I’d love to meet in person, but I’m sensitive to your need to get an answer quickly, so if talking by phone makes more sense, that would be fine too.”

3. I need to let employers know I’m an adult

Reading your advice, you have come down firmly on the side of not putting your age anywhere on your job application. So I am wondering how to address a dilemma I’m having in my current job hunt – prospective employers think I’m very young. I’m a 28-year-old man, but thanks to illness and genetics I look a decade younger. (Maybe more, I was recently asked if my 16 year old nephew was my older brother.) I have light hair, can’t grow a beard, and am built like a jockey. My life would be much easier if I could ride a horse.

I didn’t think this was a big deal, until I was turned down for a job partly because the HR person thought their clients would relate better to someone a little older. I scoped out on Linkedin as to who actually got the job, and it turns out she’s two years younger than me.

I attend interviews in a suit, but I don’t know how to hide the fact it was bought in the childrens’ department of a (fancy) department store then tailored.

Putting my date of birth on my resume seems an easy way to broadcast the fact I was born in the 80’s – but I’m unsure of the legalities around this and I’m wondering if there’s another way?

(You’d think the fact I have a bachelors degree, a graduate diploma, and three years working all on my resume would indicate I’m over 21, but my face seems to override that with “child prodigy” or something.)

I was going to say to put the date of your college graduation on your resume, which should signal age — but yeah, if that’s just making them think child prodigy, that’s not working.

I worry that putting your birth date on your resume will look pretty strange. When I see stuff that definitely doesn’t belong on a resume — age, names and ages of children (yes, some people really do that), health status (yes, that too), Social Security number — it tends to be a flag the person is out of touch with professional norms in a way that often manifests in other, more problematic ways too.

So I was going to suggest that you just address it head-on when you’re schedule an interview, saying something like this: “By the way, I’ve found it’s better for me to mention up-front that I look incredibly young. It sounds silly, but it’s the kind of thing that can throw off job interviewers. I’m actually 28 — and figured I’d head it off before you start wondering!” … but that wording isn’t great and I can’t come up with anything better.

What do others think?

4. Should I leave my degree off my resume?

I was wondering about listing education for a government job. It has been 15 years or more years since I went to college and I am don’t have a transcript to support the time in college. I was going through some crazy things, so I did not do well at school and have a very low GPA. So I am wondering if I should list it or not on my applications, and if I was lucky enough to get called in, would a background check pick it up?

You should absolutely list it. Looking like you have no degree at all will hurt you more than having one with a low GPA. Also, it’s quite likely that you won’t even be asked for your GPA at this point in your career (and you certainly don’t need to and shouldn’t proactively list your GPA on your resume). It doesn’t matter if you don’t have transcripts; you’re unlikely to need them, and if for some reason you do, you’d request them directly from the school at that point anyway.

5. Laid off, but now job status is in question

I work for an organization that has announced its intention to close. Shortly after the announcement, my husband accepted a new job in another state. He moved to the new location two weeks ago and I remained here to sort out our affairs and possibly work until my layoff date. However, I’ve been applying for jobs in the other state and would quit before my layoff date if I got a new job.

Here’s the problem: There is now a slim, but very well publicized, chance that my organization won’t close. Several hiring managers have said I’m a very strong candidate but since the organization might not close they don’t want to pull me away. How do I address this? I know you aren’t supposed to mention your marital status but bringing up my husband would allay that concern. Saying “my family has already made the move” makes me feel like I’m saying I still live with my parents, and saying that I’ve already bought a house seems fiscally irresponsible if I can’t mention my husband’s employment. How can I address this professionally?

You’re not prohibited from mentioning a spouse. You don’t want to mention your marital status on your resume or anything like that, but there’s no reason that you can’t acknowledge the existence of a spouse when it’s relevant, and in this case it’s highly relevant. It’s fine to explain that you’ll be moving regardless of what happens with your current organization because your husband has accepted a job in (city).

{ 244 comments… read them below }

  1. Engineer Girl*

    #1 – I had a supervisor like that. She claimed it was a teaching tool too! The only thing it taught people was to hide their mistakes so they wouldn’t be the target of one of her teaching sessions. That meant mistakes were hidden until the thing blew up in people’s faces.
    The real issue is process improvement. If X type of mistakes keep happening, then the team may want to have some discussion on how to prevent those type of mistakes. But singling out individuals? No, No, No.

    1. moss*

      The only possible way I could see this working is as an anonymous case study. I think it’s interesting to see how different people program but I wouldn’t care to see their names.

      1. Judy*

        I’ve always worked in engineering groups where design reviews (for all of the design) and code reviews (for software specifically) were common practice. Having the entire team review one person’s work and critique it is very common.

        Did you consider X when picking Y? Did you complete Z analysis of this part? How do you plan on passing A, B & C tests with this type of power supply, we’ve never been able to pass those tests in the past?

        Usually the hardware engineer would have the software and mechanical engineers from the project, plus some number of hardware engineers not associated to the project involved in the design review. The software design review is similar, while the code review only had software engineers in it.

        1. Koko*

          I could see that working for coding and designing with a product that hasn’t gone live yet. But for tech support, with a real-world case that’s already happened and been mismanaged? Totally different.

        2. Kyrielle*

          We do these things too, and they are awesome. But they are usually intended collaboratively, equally shared, and not done after-the-fact when something turns out to be wrong as a “how would YOU have done this better than HE did” sort of thing.

          The latter seems poisonous to the goal.

          1. Bee Eye*

            Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. When you don’t have to go through the troubleshooting process and already know what the fix was, then “what would you have done differently” isn’t a fair question at all.

            1. AVP*

              I think it could work if they picked a scenario, took all the names off, and just presented it to the group without the group knowing how it worked out – sort of like, “You get a caller that says THIS, let’s talk about how we would handle that, any ideas on how you would approach it?” To me, thats a coaching tool that could work, but it hinges on not knowing the real outcome and not knowing which team member handled it (ideally you would use examples of calls from a different team or a different shift).

    2. jhhj*

      I think #1 sounds like someone heard about what pilots and doctors do after accidents/deaths and thought it sounded like a great idea but didn’t look into the details of what makes it a great idea in the aviation industry. “How can we do this better in the future?” is different from “How come so and so is such a screwup?”

      1. AntherHRPro*

        I agree that the manager is trying to apply part of an After Action Review (AAR). The problem with that is that an AAR should is more than just focusing on what went wrong. Here are the actual questions that should be asked to analyze a situation:

        – What was supposed to happen?
        – What actually happened?
        – What worked?
        – What didn’t work & why?
        – What would you do differently next time?

        The power of this is not just focusing on when things didn’t work, but also when they did and in all situations what could have been done differently. It shouldn’t be painful, blame filled.

        1. Michele*

          I think too often, the steps to point out anything positive are skipped. I have seen these things happen, and it goes straight to a blame game where everyone piles on the person who made a mistake, then that person gets defensive.

          1. Bee Eye*

            Right, because we never once had the kind of meeting where something was handled quickly and effectively and a positive example was set to show the right way to handle something. It was always always ALWAYS negative.

        2. mskyle*

          We do something similar to this in the software company where I work – the Agile “retrospective.” It’s good for identifying trouble areas and being aware of them for the future. Like, in a recent one we noted that certain types of work end up being bottlenecks. There’s not even a whole lot we can do about that in the short term, but we can be aware of it and take it into account for our future estimates of how the work will proceed, and we can maybe take long-term steps to mitigate it in the future.

          I do think this approach requires a fair amount of trust in your coworkers, though. And for what it’s worth, my manager generally does not sit in on these meetings – we just tell him (and members of the team who were not directly involved in the project) our findings afterwards.

        3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Yeah, I’ve often used a tool like this after a bad outcome, structured like a M&M (morbidity and mortality) conference.

        4. Connie-Lynne*

          Yeah, this sounds like a manager who doesn’t understand how to do proper Incident Analysis. I’ve been in charge of running (and teaching others how to run) incident reviews at several different tech companies and it’s so important to remember that the point is to look for and fix flaws in the system, not in any single person’s individual response. Just as important, if not more, is celebrating and reinforcing the things that went right.

          It starts with making sure that you’re using language designed to teach positivity — I announce at the beginnings of the review that we are specifically here to evaluate the system as a whole, and that while taking responsibility for mistakes is welcome, casting blame is not. Then I reiterate that it’s likely any mistakes that happened were the result of processes or systems that we can fix. I ask the following questions, which you can see are aimed to point out the positive:

          * What happened?
          * Did process or tooling catch (or resolve!) an error?
          * Was the infrastructure resilient?
          * Did documentation to cover the situation exist and was it used?
          * Were any caught errors reverted quickly?
          * Were critical staff able to be reached easily?
          * Was a product launch calm and quiet?

          We don’t just do incident reviews for failures or errors, either. We review successful projects to figure out how to have more successes.

    3. Kyrielle*

      Yeah, the functional variation of this I’ve seen is in our team meetings where people bring up issues _they had_ and ask for help with figuring out better approaches in the future.

      If it’s competitive / criticizing rather than cooperative/brainstorming, people will resent it and shut down.

    4. Bee Eye*

      I am the OP of #1 and you’re right about hiding mistakes. It also made co-workers more likely to throw another one under the bus if they could avoid this kind of meeting. It was completely anti-teamwork and only created resentment. Often with tech support you have to spend a lot of time troubleshooting an issue until the answer is found because they are so many variables involved.

      1. puddin*

        How about pro actively collaborating during the calls? Have everyone take turns listening in to each other’s calls to learn the great ways they do things – best practices – that can become dept process. Then you also have an opportunity to learn better ways on the spot directly from a peer without the group humiliation.

    5. Mike C.*

      Seriously, you’re supposed to look at processes and environment, not individual people.

  2. Uyulala*

    #3 – what about working it into the cover letter in an offhand reference. Something about accomplishing a lot in your 28 years and hoping to continue to move up, maybe?

    1. Treena Kravm*

      I think that would actually work better in person. Ooh! What about in response to the “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” question you say something like, “Well in 5 years I’m hoping to be working on advanced dark chocolate teapot projects, so if I were picking an ideal timeline, I’d be working on intermediate dark chocolate projects in a couple of years by the time I’m 30.” Normally that would be a really awkward thing to say, but I’m sure interviewers will pick up on why you’re saying those specific phrases. I would interject a few into conversation.

      Without having any reason to say this, it might be a good idea to work on how confident you seem. I’ve known a couple of child prodigies and they were more nervous and socially less confident. So a strong handshake, eye contact, all that normal stuff becomes triply more important because they’re looking for cues to confirm your age in their head. Although it may seem tempting, don’t try to lower your voice too much because it usually reads as really fake-sounding.

      1. Benjamin Button (OP 3)*

        I stopped trying the voice thing at about 19, because I could tell how silly I sounded. Sad that it took two years to realise!

        I have worked quite hard to dampen my natural enthusiasm (I think the world is exciting and I tend to geek out at every opportunity) because I was coming across as childish rather than energetic – I’m awkward but not anxious.

        I hate that 5 years question! I love the work I do and have no interest in climbing the career ladder – I want to continue to do good work that I enjoy, not spend time managing people who get to do the work. I suppose I could say something like “as I move into my thirties I want to keep raising the standards I set…” It’s a little clunky, but not too bad.

        1. AntherHRPro*

          If asked about your biggest weakness, you can say something like, “I find that at times my natural enthusiasm and young appearance – I’ve been told I look much younger than 28 – can make people underestimate my maturity.”

          1. Camellia*

            I really like this. And you can look for an opportune time to say it anyway, in case they don’t ask the ‘biggest weakness’ question.

            1. Chloe*

              I used to (and sometimes still do) run into this often. Even though I am a little young for my role. Anyway, I would suggest weaving into the interview something about post-college and making it obvious that you had to think about how many years back that was.

              Example: Tell me about one of your biggest successes.
              You: That’s a great question. It must have been in my first post-college job, which was what? Wow, more than 10 years ago now. I was at “XYZ company” and…

              Also reiterating the years that you’ve been in the work force using language like “In the past seven years in the teapot industry, I’ve most been intrigued by the nature of how quickly teapots change from customer to customer.”

              Lastly, BE CONFIDENT!! Sit up straight, have a firm handshake, be authoritative… I look young, but am often told that people think that I’m older than I actually am because I speak with authority. (For the record, I’m 27, so pretty close to you!)
              I also second the weakness question tactic – that’s a good one!

        2. John*

          Have you tried glasses? I used to look much younger than my years so wore heavy frames to give me some gravitas.

          I know…not a magic bullet.

          I really do like the idea of finding opportunities while answering questions to insert some age references. “In my 28 years, that’s the first I’ve heard that one!”

          1. Treena Kravm*

            That’s a really good option if it comes up naturally. I would come up with 5-8 scenarios/responses, and then hopefully 2-4 happen in the interview.

          2. neverjaunty*

            That’s a really good idea.

            OP #3, I’m not sure I would go about mentioning your age in cover letters or whatever – it sounds a little forced, honestly. But ‘dressing older’ will probably help you quite a bit.

        3. Treena Kravm*

          Good for you! My little brother’s been doing it for 5+ years to stop and there’s no end in sight =)

          And yea, I’m the same way and geek out a lot, so people tend to think I’m 4-6years younger than I really am. It’s tough, but I guess I just think of myself as a super serious, fancy person at a super serious, rich people fundraiser. My vocabulary becomes a bit more refined (less, “That’s soo awesome!”). I wear a nicer watch, things like that, and I think (hope!) it projects more of a calm confidence.

          Maybe for the “tell me a time” or the problem-solving/disagreement with a co-worker questions, you can start it with “back in my mid-20’s, I didn’t immediately realize that X was important.” Still a little clunky, but I think it’s better because it’s referring to a past age, rather than somehow saying, “I’m 28!”

          1. Armchair Analyst*

            I like this. Talk about stages of life, like, “as I move into my mid-career phase…” as opposed to age.

        4. AMG*

          I know when I have encountered coworkers who seemed really young, I looked for clues that would indicate whether they were really as young as I thought. Do you fidget, hold your head up, come across as shy in certain situations, are your clothes wrinkled versus every other pressed shirt worn by the other men?

          Being self-possessed, confident, and strongly capable are the best things that you can do. The phrasing will help to solidify how 0ld you are in other people’s minds though. I have shifted my perception from looking at certain people as someone younger that I would have to help train on a project, to someone whose professional performance I admired and looked to them for assistance on things because of their demeanor and talent.

        5. Mephyle*

          One more tip: a speech therapist, if you want to try it. I used to think that speech therapists were only for correcting speech impediments, but actually they can do all sorts of other things for clients, like coaching you to speak more “maturely” without an artificial lowering of the voice. A voice coach is another alternative that can help in a similar way.

      2. Fee*

        I was thinking something similar for the interview. When talking about your previous experience (which is where most interviews start), maybe work in a reference to being x age in a previous job x years ago – in a meaningful context, like what you didn’t know at that age or how your approach to projects has changed since then.

        I look young for my age too; not as dramatically as the OP by the sounds of things, but people are often very surprised when they find out, and guesses are generally -10 on my actual age. Where it inevitably comes up is when I make a reference like the above – either to how long I was at Old Job or how long I’ve been with my partner. Usually we carry on talking and after a few moments I get ‘Wait… so you must have started there/got together when you were reeeeeallly young?!” So I can tell you, people do the math automatically, especially if they’re already thinking ‘this guy looks super-young’.

    2. Holly Olly Oxen Free*

      I did exactly this. I went to college late and graduated at 28 years old. When I went to interviews employees seemed shocked that I wasn’t a 22 year old graduate and there were concerns about what the hell I’d been doing. So I addressed it head on in my cover letter and phrased it as a positive, which worked really well for me.

      1. Awkially Socward*

        Pretty much what happened to me, and I work(ed) in a profession that has a lot of women upgrading to undergrad level once their children are old enough. Somehow, being male means that there’s no excuse to delay University.

        The idea that *not* going to University is perfectly normal in some sections of society seemed to have escaped interviewers time and time again.

    3. Sunflower*

      I would shy away from offhand references. I think that makes it easier for it get lost in whatever you’re saying. Interviewers pick up a lot of information during interviews and your age or in how many years your age will be could go right over their head.

      Also, I feel like your age is probably the elephant in the room. I’d imagine it’s easy for your interviewers to have that on their mind during the interview. I vote for saying it up front, first thing in the interview.

      1. puddin*

        I think so too. Be upfront, open, and exude positivity about it.

        Be certain to smile while you are saying it, perhaps include a little self deprecating humor/charm if feel you can do so without awkwardness.

        You want to make sure this comes across as a nonchalant comment addressing a likely question the interviewers have in their heads and not a defensive dig against ageism.

        Practice a little and I am certain you can pull it off and successfully address the issue to everyone’s satisfaction – most importantly your own :)

  3. Ann Furthermore*

    #1: What an awful way to handle that kind of thing.

    I’m not sure how the help desk does it at my company, but I know that they do use calls or incidents as case studies and incorporate that into their staff meetings and training sessions. But it’s not done in a personal way like this is.

    About a year ago, I spilled water all over my laptop keyboard while working from home (ugh). I immediately poured out all the excess water that I could, wiped it off, and had a couple of fans blow on it for about 15 hours to dry it out overnight. It wouldn’t power up on its own the next day, but it did when I put it onto the docking station at the office. The guy at the help desk told me to come down later in the day, drop off my laptop, and pick up a loaner. So that’s what I did. Turned out my laptop was completely fried. The engineer who built my new machine told me that they’d updated the help desk training documentation to instruct the specialists to tell anyone who reports any kind of liquid in any device to bring it to the help desk immediately without trying to turn it back on. Then he told me that working with that laptop on my docking station had been a potentially dangerous situation. So they took the help desk guy’s mistake, and used it as a teaching exercise for everyone else in the group. But not in a way to single him out.

    Now honestly, I should have known better than to try and power it up….but I was 2 days away from the mother of all deadlines on a project that had visibility all the way up to the C-Level executives. So I was freaking out and obviously not thinking clearly.

    1. the gold digger*

      The only good thing about killing a keyboard with coffee or the liquid of your choice is you can save it for parts when you cats sit on the new one, dislodge the tops of the keys, and bat them under the fridge or who knows where. It’s nice to have a few spare “4” keys, as that seems to be the one most hit.

      (How many times does this have to happen before you remember to push your keyboard under the computer when you step away for more than three seconds? Well, more than once or twice, sad to say.)

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Ha! When my daughter was just learning to walk, move around, and get into everything, I was working at home on my laptop one evening. I went to get something and when I came back she’d popped a bunch of keys off the keyboard. After I freaked out thinking she’d swallowed one, I thought it was pretty funny.

  4. Revanche*

    OP3: I sympathize with your plight. It was a problem for quite a long time for me as well. I looked 13- 15 until I was about 28, myself (waitresses trying to make conversation would ask if I was starting high school this or next fall) and I couldn’t wear makeup worth a darn to disguise it or age myself appropriately which is the usual recommended route a petite, youthful looking woman would take.

    My compensatory tactic was to wear fairly formal clothing and act older. I’m trying to think of how to quantify it. I recall that at one of my interviews I almost didn’t get the job (I did, though) because I sounded too formal/professional, but that actually helped offset my appearance and directed their focus onto substantive stuff like personality fit and performance. I suppose it might have helped to have references from respected professionals in the industry who could attest to my professionalism and work quality which goes a long way to defusing the real question of whether you can do the job or not.

    I wonder if you could, rather than adding any age references to your cover letter or resume which would make me think twice about speaking to you, slip an appropriate 80s reference in the conversation with your interviewer once you’ve met? I recall starting a conversation that anchored my age upward in one such interview, I think it might have been a He-man/She-ra crack or something about Air Wolf that opened the door to subtly letting the interviewer know I was born a decade earlier than they guessed.

    My work history also made a difference too but I find that people are able to adapt better to the age assumptions when you give them something to work with in person and that’s slightly memorable without being too off the rails. I personally wouldn’t mention what I look like ahead of the interview but that’s a personal preference. I’d rather let them get to know me a bit first and see if they can get past it.

    1. Amy*

      I don’t know about an 80s joke because it’s so easy these days to delve into past popular media with the resources on the internet, and 80s shows seem to be getting popular in a retro kind of way with younger people today (references on t-shirts, etc.) Personally I’d be more upfront about your age. I look young, too, although not to the same extreme. I’m often asked what I am studying in college, while I’m actually about to turn 30. When I tell people that, they always say that I’ll be glad when I’m older. Well, maybe I will, but I’d like to be treated like a professional adult today!

    2. manybellsdown*

      I tried that with the formal clothing – but I just looked like a teenager in her mom’s clothes. I sympathize with you and #3 so much, because it’s taken until my 40’s to even start to look like an adult – and I still don’t manage it a lot of the time.

      Fortunately it hasn’t been too much of a problem for me career-wise, but I do feel like I’ve been treated poorly by some of my daughter’s schools because of my perceived youth. I was once mistaken for a 5th grader while volunteering at her elementary school. I was 33.

      1. Revanche*

        I’m sorry, this made me laugh as it reminded me of my mom. She was 33 as well, with 2 kids, and when she answered the door for the electrician one day, he paused, then asked, “Is your dad home?”

      2. Pennalynn Lott*

        When I was 13, I looked like I was 19. Which was great for getting into clubs and buying alcohol. I then stayed looking about 19-21 for the next three decades. I finally quit getting carded about 3-4 years ago. I’m 48 now, and everyone I meet thinks I’m in my late 20’s / early 30’s. (Doesn’t help the OP, just remarking on how weird “aging” can be in individuals).

  5. Panda Bandit*

    #4 – Definitely address it in the interview like Alison suggests. There’s also a few tricks you can do with your appearance to seem older. Try a haircut ( and color, ask the stylist for advice) that’s a little more mature-looking. Glasses can make you look older. Also carry yourself with as much confidence and calmness as you can, those are really good at making you seem older than you actually are. Did you ever notice how Adele and Taylor Swift are only a year apart in age, but Adele seems older? A lot of it comes from the personality she projects.

    1. Benjamin Button (OP 3)*

      I don’t have much choice with haircut – I manage to keep the mop of curls neat, but even that takes a trip to the barber every two weeks. I’ve looked at dyeing it brown, (naturally red-blond) but my mother and boyfriend both told me no way.

      I don’t need glasses and I think I would feel fake wearing a pair. I try and act slower and more sensible during interviews, but it’s hard to hold up if I’m nervous.

      I feel like I should address that I am an adult, rather than try and pretend I can make myself look older – I’m literally wearing children’s clothes (I wish men had a petites section) I know I am going to look young.

      1. CatDog*

        Have you thought about getting a local tailor/seamstress to make you a suit? It shouldn’t be too expensive if you stick with someone local that you can find in the phone book, and would be worth the investment as the suit will fit perfectly and give you more confidence. I’m a tiny, baby-faced female who struggles to find clothing, so I really sympathize.

        You don’t say how long your hair is. If it’s very short, you could try growing it an inch or two longer, then kind of style it into a preppy wave (eg Bradley Cooper), have a side parting or style it in a way you prefer? I’m not a men’s barber, but I’ve noticed that kids often have hair styles that are just ‘there’, while a lot of grown guys have awesome styles that can ‘make’ their whole appearance, eg Colin Firth. Not only do they look good, but it’s clear they put effort into maintaining the style, which adds to a smart appearance. With your curly hair, it may be worth getting some product or blow-drying it into a style in advance of interviews if it’s THAT curly.

        1. Development professional*

          Yes, a tailor who can make or alter a suit is a good idea. On clothing, I would also make sure that it’s very very current in terms of style. Nothing says “my mommy bought this suit for my graduation” more than a suit and tie that’s 15-20 years out of date in terms of style. It might be counter-intuitive, but if you’re a small guy, make sure your clothes fit really close, both because a slim close fit is very much in style and also because even the hint of “too big” will make you look juvenile. Same with the tie – is it narrow enough? A current print and color? No 80s/90s throwbacks for you in the tie department. Also, what kind of watch are you wearing? Get the best watch you can afford, and be careful with size – not too big. Same with shoes. A good watch and good shoes really help make you look mature.

          1. BadPlanning*

            I wonder if some lifted/taller shoes might help? It’s tricky with men’s shoes, of course. Perhaps a neutral cowboy boot where heels are expected? I’m on the short side and even somewhat taller shoes make me feel tall regardless if I’m particularly taller.

            Perhaps a tailor would also be able to customize the shape/style of the suite to give a “larger/taller” appearance.

              1. AMT*

                True, but he said it was tailored from the children’s section. A tailored boys’ suit isn’t going to look as professional as a men’s suit. Not sure what the OP’s price range is, but there are options online from $400-$500 for a completely custom suit.

        2. AMT*

          I second this. I used to be much younger-looking — I’m a trans guy and, though I’m tall, I had a major baby face for years. Although my perceived age has gone up a lot just thanks to the passage of time, buying more tailored/fitted clothing helped a lot in the interim. In my first (very cheap) interview suit, I tended to look like a young Mormon missionary fresh from Sears, so I switched out for fitted blazers and chinos, which is pretty standard for interviews in my field. I also started buying slimmer pants and shirts for everyday workwear so I didn’t look like a teenager in ill-fitting grandpa clothes.

          Maybe it would be a good idea to buy pants in the smallest men’s size at J. Crew or Banana Republic, which carry XS sizes, and then have them altered for length, or even learn to DIY them if you’re handy. There are also several online stores that have popped up in the last few years that sell made-to-measure suits, shirts, and pants.

          Oh, and Reddit can be enormously helpful for stuff like this. Check out /r/malefashionadvice and /r/short.

      2. Ani*

        As I’m reading suggestions to you, it strikes me for so many other situations one response would be simply “Be direct!” I’m not sure why most of the advice seems focused on the opposite. It’s not your fault, and it’s partly due to illness — I know for other appearance issues based on medical issues the approach suggested on this forum is usually some variation of bringing up at the interview what is obvious and saying one or two sentences. I might go back and look at those types of questions here again (because it strikes me that you’ll be in contortions trying to figure out ways to weave your age into the interview a couple of times — please don’t, it will be even stranger than just something simple upfront and it will dominate all of your energy and focus).

        1. Treena Kravm*

          I think most of the advice trends that way because this is a type of situation where it’s really, really awkward to be direct. A couple of people have shared when they were direct, but it’s only after the interviewer brings it up first. Everyone else has been sharing how they slip age references in. It could be argued that directness is more effective, but from what we’re hearing here, it’s preferable to make a reference vs. obvious remark.

          If he thinks of it as another piece of information he wants to get across to the interviewer (like his specialized experience in swirled chocolate teapots or the fact that he worked with all types of clients) it won’t be stressful to include it, just another data point he wants the interviewer to know.

      3. Michele*

        I was wondering about dying your hair, too. It doesn’t have to be really dark, but most people naturally get darker hair as they get older until in reaches the point that it goes gray, so maybe you could just go a couple shades darker. I remember watching a makeover show where a woman was having a hard time being taken seriously, so they gave her “low lights” too deepen the shade of her natural color.

        I also think that purely cosmetic glasses might help.

        I have a naturally high, childlike voice, and when I was starting out, people tended to not take me seriously. It didn’t matter than I have a Ph.D., they just saw a short woman under 30 who sounded like a little girl. One thing that helped was learning to speak in a voice that is slightly deeper than more normal speaking voice. Obviously I don’t know what you sound like, but learning to project a more mature voice might help.

        I wish you the best of luck. It is so frustrating to not be taken seriously when you know that you are up to the task.

      4. MAB*

        I had the same problem though not to your degree, I am now getting asked what is my major rather then what year in high school I am (I’m also 28 btw). I agree with the people below that a good suit would help a lot. A tailor or seamstress will run around $30-$50/hour and some will charge the cost of materials. Pick a classic color that will last you a long time but isn’t too harsh. I am a fan of grey suits personally. Keep your ties in proportion with your body, think skiny ties rather then regular sized ties. If you wear a watch also keep that in proportion with your body. Basically avoid anything that will look oversided.

        Now as strange as this may sound for your interviews consider lightly filling your eyebrows (if they ar eas light as your hair) and using a brown eyeliner to darken around your eyes if your lashes are as blond as mine. They help with your expression and preseption. But don’t go crazy, just enough to be noticable if someone knows you but not too strong to put their finger on why you look different.

        But generally just be confident. You have your degree and three years experance. Let that shine through more then anything else. I hire baced on confidance, personality and experance. I don’t care if you look 100 or look 12, just as long as I feel you can get the job done.

      5. Panda Bandit*

        This isn’t about pretending you can make yourself look older, you actually can make yourself look older depending on your styling choices. People do it all the time.

      6. Kathryn T.*

        With clothes, if you live in or near a city that has a large enough Asian population, you may be able to find a retailer that makes clothes for men of small and/or slight stature. The ones I’m familiar with are all in large complexes anchored by an Asian grocery store, and specifically advertise themselves that way. It’s a frustrating problem to be sure.

  6. Joolsey woolsey*

    #3 I’ve had a similar problem in the past, even though it’s clear from my resume that I’ve got a degree and worked abroad for several years I had an interviewer comment that I seemed very mature, so I asked her how old she thought I was and she got quite defensive and said she wasn’t supposed to ask about age so I just said ‘I’m 28, if you were wondering’ and it turned out she’d assumed I was 22 because I look quite young.

    I’d say either just address it head on if it’s something you think will be held against you, like ‘I know your not supposed to ask about age but I’ve been told I look younger than I am, so I don’t want you to think I’m not mature enough, I’m 28’.

  7. Snoskred*

    #1 – My best ever manager had the entire call centre working super hard not to make any mistakes. When we did make one, because we cared about the quality of the work and we did not want to let her down ever, we made sure to tell our coworkers about those mistakes.

    The telling was made difficult because we all worked wildly different hours, some of the people I never saw face to face. So Manager would send out an email about the mistake without saying who made the mistake. She never once identified who made them because that was not how she rolled.

    Sometimes we might see someone else heading down that same road while on a call, we would often react quite violently to that, even sometimes jumping up, running to the other persons desk, motioning frantically to put the person on hold, so we could fill them in on the “what not to do” we recently did so they would not make that mistake themselves.

    I think a peer review session for us would have been people telling the story of their mistake themselves. Maybe at the end of that others might have chimed in with thoughts on how to avoid getting to that same place. However due to the “cast of thousands” as she loved to call it, and the working hours, we never got a chance to have meetings like that, so instead my manager would try to keep us all in the loop with mistakes via email.

    I deeply miss working for her. :( I wish everyone here could have an amazing manager like she was. She went off and started her own business which does not need employees. After experiencing a couple of terrible managers after her, I did that myself because their terribleness was impossible to tolerate once I knew how good a manager could be. :)

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Great story.

      I like to think we have the same environment. We hire for people who care about quality and attention to detail and weed out mis-hires quickly. What we end up with is a whole bunch of people who hate to make mistakes, especially those that disappoint a customer. The nature of our business is that mistakes happen, so sorting for error cause removal is vital. We do post-mortems constantly.

      Group problem solving to remove errors in process is good, not bad, imo. It’s much better to involve the people who actually do the work than for a Management Person to look down and tell people how to do their jobs better.

      We had a huge order blow just the other day, one we had plenty of time on, delivered to the customer in the nick of time through prayer and miracle (and an extra $1000 or so in expedited freight). The root cause of the issue was a clerical person filing a job jacket in the wrong follow up date. The obvious answer is: don’t file job jackets in the wrong date! More obviously, though, since mistakes are going to happen, there’s a systemic problem if one mistake simple mistake can nearly trash the largest order of the month.

      I don’t disagree with the meetings that the manager in OP1 is having, but he needs to look at his own results. Are these meetings actually solving problems and improving quality? If what they are doing is pissing people off and making them hide problems, then, his process is broken and he needs to improve his own process. If the meetings are effective and it is only one or two team members who aren’t comfortable, then those team members may not be right for the environment.

      (My guess is that he probably hasn’t done the work in the culture to support that kind of ego-less pulling apart of issues publicly and he needs to modify, but I’m just guessing.)

  8. Jen RO*

    #2 – That doesn’t seem so out of the ordinary, in my opinion. I’m in a field where writing is the most important part of the job… yet the company won’t let us give writing tests; writing samples are iffy, but we got permission from HR to request them from time to time. The hiring process is HR interview -> team lead interview -> big boss interview, without meeting anyone else. It’s been similar for most other jobs I’ve interviewed for… so I wouldn’t say that anything you describe is a red flag.

    (I *will* say that asking to meet the team would mark you as slightly high maintenance in my company; on the other hand, I’m in a different country, so maybe the norms are different!)

    1. Ani*

      Someone who has only been in the workforce 3 years (OP hasn’t been in it four yet) would also raise eyebrows with that request everywhere I’ve worked, especially as OP already had a 20 minute talk with the director and had met in person with 2 senior members of the team.

      1. Felicia*

        That request would also raise eyebrows anywhere I’ve worked and I’ve been in the workforce about as long as you …mostly because it seems like the OP has already met with the right people at least somewhat, where I would have thought they’d have time to ask what they wanted? It just seemed like the things they want to know, i already would have asked in the amount of interviews they described. I work in a field where doing a writing test for them is common, but not universal so I’d notice not being asked for one, but it wouldn’t bother me because enough places don’t ask that it’s not that weird. When the OP was describing what they had to do before the offer as “only” I kept thinking of it as enough/standard. Before I got to the end my thought was “what else would they want?” I think because I expected those questions would have come up before.

    2. Colette*

      That seemed like a lot to name, too. And some of it I’d expect the OP to know already – she’s spent 20 minutes with the director and an hour with some team members, so I’d expect her to have asked questions about management style if that’s important to her. I wouldn’t expect to meet the entire team or the people she’d be working with outside the team – there may be jobs where that makes sense, but in most jobs that’s a big investment for the company to make.

      I think the OP should think about which of these questions are really deal breakers for her before she goes back to the company.

      1. southern commentator*

        I wouldn’t ask to meet the entire team and especially team members outside of your current team. For my organization it would set you up as someone who lacks flexibility. We might not revoke the offer but still could and in fact I have not offered someone a position because they asked too many of these types of questions during the interview process. It was too big of a red flag that they would be challenging to work with. I agree with the advice to ask the things that are really “make or break it” type of questions only. Are you really not going to take a position because you don’t 100% understand how the supervisor defines success? Maybe the answer for you is that you won’t take the position but I’m guessing that even if you get an answer, that the “real” answer will evolve as you’re employed there. I do think that a “share with me the benefits including health insurance, vacation, professional development, etc. would be appropriate.

    3. Sheepla*

      Agree. Sounds to me like you interviewed with all of the right people and should have already had an opportunity to get most of your questions answered. Sure, set up another meeting if you need to, but nothing about the process you’ve been through so far raises any red flags with me.

      1. La munieca*

        I had a similar situation recently. I was quickly handed off from one person to another in the hiring process and didn’t feel like I had a good handle on some key questions (nearly identical to the questions you list). I sent an email to the hiring manager asking if she could hop on the phone for 30 minutes to answer a few additional questions, enclosing the questions in the same email, and she was happy to oblige. I came out of that last phone conversation realizing that the reason my questions weren’t answered was because she had no idea what success would look like in the role and wasn’t a clear communicator in general-but she sure was charismatic and a good saleswoman. I chose to turn down their offer.

  9. Shell*

    #1: Why not work it into your interview answer?

    “Tell me about professional challenges.”
    “Well, one challenge I face is that I look significantly younger than I am. I’m 28, but people often think I’m in my teens and thus feel like they don’t work with me because I don’t have enough experience. I address this by…”

    Working against people’s first impression of you is a classic answer to these kind of questions. Since the OP has great credentials and seems like he’s getting interviews, drawing attention to his age on his application could possibly get him less interviews because it goes against the norm. Address it in the interview instead.

    1. Benjamin Button (OP 3)*

      One of my old references has told people that I use my appearance for “the best kinds of evil” because when I worked for him I got to talk to a politician who was saying no comment to everyone else because he thought I was writing for my school paper, not as a researcher for a journo in a major daily. The politician even told the editor my appearance was unethical. Sadly I moved out of journalism, and had to drop that reference because he has become a polarising figure.

      1. Expendable Redshirt*

        I like Shell’s suggestion. The OP sure has a professional challenge!

        I know an individual in a similar situation to the OP. He’s very small an looks young. Due to this, people often think he’s a kid. I correct these comments with an offhand “Bob is actually older than me.” (I’m in my late twenties).

      2. Andrea*

        I’m wondering if there is anything your references could do to help? If I was giving a reference in this case for one of my staff, and I had a connection at the interviewing oganisation, I would offer to reach out proactively and try to help. I know that it totally depends on the individual relationships but in my industry (alternative Ed/culture/non-profits) most orgs have at least some social pressure to be inclusive if not an institutional mandate and many of my colleagues would handle the info discreetly and respectfully.

      3. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Your *appearance* was “unethical”? Wow. Just wow. What did he expect you to do about it? What are you supposed to do if you “look unethical,” talk to people with a bag over your head?

        1. Benjamin Button*

          I think he assumed I was actually a teenager hired to find his weakness (because he was full of himself – no paper wants to try that hard over anything except Watergate.)

    2. Jessica*

      That was exactly what I was going to say. Speaking as someone who looks very young, is pretty peppy, and graduated in the dreaded 2008-2010 period, which meant many years of retail and unpaid internships, the triple whammy makes interviewers first impression of me as less mature and thoughtful. It’s also a little tough to counteract that within interviews because of nerves, but I’ve definitely discussed not being taken seriously as a professional challenge before and it’s gone over very well. I also spent a lot of time trying to tamp down my nervous ticks (playing with my hair did NOT help).

      Being very upfront about it and not nervous about that impression helped a lot, though. It shows that you know people will see you as significantly younger and are able to address the misconception in a professional manner without being offended.

  10. Student*

    #3 This is one of the primary functions of make-up. Just because you’re a man doesn’t mean you can’t use make-up to alter how you look to better present yourself. It’ll just take a little extra effort to find some well-suited to you and learn how to use it. You can ditch it once you get hired, or only use it for a handful of occasions.

    Also, try doing your hair differently. Neatly trimmed, or slicked over with hair gel, probably would make you look older. Carry a brief case instead of a backpack? Get more serious-looking glasses? Lose all jewelry except for a big watch? Talk about things that make you sound old, like children, wife?

    Voice coaching might also be a thing to look into if you “sound” young.

    1. Benjamin Button (OP 3)*

      I don’t wear glasses or jewelry, and any watch small enough to fit my wrist has numbers in four colors to teach the time. I try not to bring up relationships, because mentioning my boyfriend has a whole other set of issues attached.

      I think I look as old as I can, it’s now at the point I need to address age up front, but somehow without looking clueless.

      1. Snoskred*

        Benjamin Button – might it be worth consulting with a jeweller or watchmaker in order to get a nice watch that will fit you?

        I have a Korean friend who has tiny wrists and feet which is not a huge problem in Korea because a lot of people have tiny wrists and feet there. Now that she has moved to Australia, this has been a massive issue for her.

        When her watch band broke, she tried on a huge amount of watches and nothing fit. She took the broken watch to a local specialist watchmaker and they were able to custom size a watch band to fit her.

        It might cost you some money but this might be a worthwhile long term investment. :) Anyway I thought I would post this to say you’re not alone in this area, and maybe seeking assistance from a specialist watch place might solve this for you. :)

        Shoes, she has to get shipped in from Korea, because the only shoes available in her size here are kids shoes. And I thought I had it bad with size 10-11 feet, at least I can usually find something in the stores.

        1. Benjamin Button (OP 3)*

          The only good thing is that kids shoes light up and come with velcro. (I actually have light up sketchers but they are strictly off hours.) Shoes are actually easier as a guy because a pair of black ankle boots are easy to find in any size.

          A flash watch will probably have to wait until I get a new job, unless I dump the boy and get a sugardaddy. Something of a catch 22 really.

          1. Meow*

            I second the recommendation to get a tailor to hand make you some clothes. I face a similar set of issues regarding clothing fit, and early in my career I try to take an expensive route by finding things off the rack and having them tailored. Ultimately, they never look as professional as something that a tailor makes for you. My other caution is not to go with the least expensive person you find. I did that twice and found that I sunk a lot of money into clothes that were no better than what I had tried to avoid, although the problems with them were different.I realize it is a huge investment for someone relatively early in a career, but in hindsight it would have been a big money saver for it will, and would ultimately have been worth it to go for one really nice handmade suit.

          2. LisaS*

            Maybe, “Just a heads up – I’ve been told I look like there’s a portrait of me growing old in a closet somewhere”…

            1. AdjunctGal*

              You could try looking at Zara. My husband is what I would consider a fairly slight guy, always buying small shirts and a 28-29 inch waist pants, but at Zara, he has to try on the large sizes. I usually see smaller Asian men trying on suits and looking quite dapper in them.

            2. Benjamin Button*

              I tell barmen and bouncers that I bathe in the blood of my defeated enemies, which keeps me young. Or that I’m a highlander. Or that I’m a vampire.

        2. K*

          I don’t know about men’s watches, but in women’s watches the word “petite” is used to identify watches with smaller wristbands and faces (I have a disproportionately tiny wrist).

          1. Anonicorn*

            I feel like I shouldn’t have to pay full price for watches based on the number of links they have to take out to fit my wrist.

            1. AdjunctGal*

              Same problem. My wrists are tiny, and my hands are smaller than those of 12 year olds.

      2. CatDog*

        Something I do is state in my cover letter’s opening statement that I have “X years of experience in tea pots, covering the areas of spout construction, quality control and label design”. I then elaborate on my experience, but saying how many years experience I have is a great way to explain that I’m a professional but everyone thinks I look 17. In interviews, I make sure to work in at some point in my answers that what makes me a great candidate is that I have x years of success at x and y, plus a relevant masters degree. It’s clear at that point that I’m around 30, with a lot of experience in my field.

        1. CatDog*

          I wouldn’t bring up the fact that you look young. It may seem like you’re apologising for something you can’t control, especially as your illness is partly to blame. It could come across like you lack confidence (I know you do, but the trick is to remember that looks won’t help you do the job), seem slightly negative and don’t fully understand business conventions which, ironically, could make you appear even younger. By business conventions I mean that, for example, a very overweight candidate or someone with obvious alopecia would never apologise for having a non-standard appearance, as they are there to discuss their skills, not how they look.

          Now, if THEY bring it up at any time, just laugh it off and and say something like ‘I know’ with a smile, then move on to the next conversation point.

          1. Myrin*

            I don’t see how preemptively bringing up you look young automatically translates to apologising. It certainly can go that way but not it doesn’t have to if you go about it in a relaxed, friendly manner, maybe injecting a bit of humour in it. As I said above, I actually liked how Alison framed her example sentence and I don’t think that one comes off apologetic at all.

      3. periwinkle*

        Vintage watches could do the trick. Men’s watches from the late 1940s to mid 1950s tended to be rectangular and smaller. Check eBay for quality brands from that era – Hamilton and Elgin were classic American brands. I collect Hamiltons and often wear men’s watches from that decade; I’m a 4’10” female and these watches are the perfect size!

        1. Shell*

          Sadly, I don’t think anyone has even noticed my fountain pen usage at work, so I don’t know if that’s noticeable enough.

      4. Student*

        Get an adult women’s watch, then. They have variants that aren’t bright pink and bedazzled that would probably look good on you.

        Since you can’t easily talk about your SO without running into more problems, is there anything else you could drop into small talk that screams “adult”? Nieces and nephews. The housing market. The stock market. Sports. Cars. Elderly parent issues. Historical trivia. Favorite museums. Home improvement projects. Gardening – nothing screams “boring old fart” like talking about how your tomatoes are coming in this year (…I say as I fret over my pepper plants getting enough sun…).

      5. Awkially Socward*

        Springboarding on from the mention of a Korean friend by another commentator – you might want to check out retailers that specialise in clothing for Asian populations.

        Failing that, a pocket watch can make a snazzy addition to any suit as well as solving the size issue. Obviously, fashion trends in your area may dictate otherwise.

    2. Mike C.*

      Wearing makeup for a guy sounds like a great idea until you run into someone who has strict standards regarding masculinity and suddenly thinks you’re a pervert or something stupid like that.

      1. Liza*

        Makeup can be done subtly enough that you see the effect without noticing it’s caused by makeup, and I think that’s what is being recommended. It takes a lot of skill, though.

        1. AMG*

          Yeah, this is what I am wary of. Skill, and lighting. Someone might not notice in one light, but in another room it’s more obvious. If one person catches it, now you’re the boy who wears makeup. Best to avoid it.

          1. Benjamin Button*

            Having been through my “I want to be David Bowie” phase, I can safely say I do not have the fine motor skills to do subtle makeup.

            Now I just want to be Bowie in his non-makeup-wearing years.

    3. s.b.*

      Why do you assume he’s carrying a backpack and wearing jewelry? And why would you encourage someone to talk about familiar status in a job interview?

        1. Student*

          I don’t know anything about him, so I’m going through trendy things that make old people think someone’s young. Backpacks are very popular in the tech sector, and jewelry of all sorts is popular all over the place among the younger crowd.

          And the advice to talk about familial status was because I didn’t know what he had to work with there. Dropping a reference to your children is a huge clue as to what your age is, and will generally clue people in that he’s at least in mid-twenties. If you’re married, people will assume you’re at least 25, because it’s unusual to be married before that age now. Since he’s a guy, he doesn’t get any social stigma from it like a woman would – men actually get a pay boost from having kids and a wife, whereas a woman would get a pay penalty. Then he mentioned later that he’s got a male SO, so that advice flies out the window because he’s right that it’s a huge risk to mention in the current social climate. If he can find another age-setting family reference to use in small talk, the general idea can still work. “Took my nephews to the ball game last weekend! Weather was great for the game.”

      1. Higher Ed Admin*

        I understood the reference to familial status. My first thought was “does he have a spouse or kids?” I look young, but people tend to guess me closer to my real age (30) when they know I’m MWC than when they don’t. In general it may be worth the risks that come with mentioning family to plant that “grownup” image in the interviewer’s mind. I still think mentioning spouse and kids if you have them could work regardless of the gender of the spouse, depending on the culture of the area and comfort level with discussing one’s personal life with an interviewer, but the OP indicated that in his particular situation he’d rather go with a different angle.

        1. Elysian*

          OP#3, would you be able to wear a “wedding” band? If you stick a gold band on your left hand ring finger, people might assume you’re married/older.I did it all the time when I was waitressing to ward off creepos, and its pretty surprising how well it works.

  11. Marvel*

    #3: I have the same problem. Personally, I don’t mention it separately and individually because I don’t want to create an awkward or weird moment; I just slip it in while I’m talking about something else.

    If you find yourself talking about an event that happened in the past, for instance, you can say offhandedly, “I was 22 at the time, and I’m 28 now, so obviously that was a while ago…” That’s not a great example, but it really depends on the kind of questions you’re being asked. Another person upthread suggested mentioning it if you get a “where do you see yourself in 5 years” type of question, which I think is great.

  12. Kethryvis*

    #4 i graduated from college 10 years ago, and got a graduate degree two years ago. i’ve never been asked for a GPA ever. It seems to be a touch more common with law school than other degrees, but even still that’s more for brand new just-graduated lawyers than those with work experience. i’ve never been asked, and i’ve never worked anywhere that asks. GPAs really only count in school, and then if you’re going for higher degrees.

    Don’t worry about it. Your current work experience is worth more than a GPA from when you were (i assume) 22.

    1. Felicia*

      I wish my GPA counted because it was great, but I agree with this, I’ve never been asked my GPA and doubt I ever will be . Employers just cared if I had a degree. My friend used to have a motto “Cs and Ds get degrees” which i didn’t believe at the time, but it was accurate. Now my program was somewhat practical so if you did get Cs and Ds in certain courses,, it could indicate that you weren’t very good at certain aspects of related jobs, but no one asks for grades, and would presumably see that in your work if that were the case.

      1. Sans*

        I’ve never been asked for grades or transcripts. Ever. Not even my first job out of college. There are certain fields that care, but not 10 years later.

      2. Mike C.*

        Cs and Ds could also indicate that the student attended a school that didn’t inflate grades or piled on a ton of work all at once.

    2. Solid B student*

      I have been practicing law for over 20 years and have expert level skills in my area of practice and I STILL see job announcements/applications that indicate that GPA is required on the application. Please HR people, stop it.

          1. Pennalynn Lott*

            Is that even a thing? I went to high school in San Francisco and Dallas, and neither one offered “majors”.

        1. Windchime*

          But how will we know what your high school major was if we don’t ask which school?

  13. lulu*

    #4 the wording makes it sound like the OP didn’t graduate, just attended college for some time. Not sure if that changes the answer though.

    1. GovHRO*

      #4 for any government job that requires a degree or certain number of credit hours in certain classes, you’ll be required to provide transcripts. So get those transcripts. If it’s a job without educational requirements, you’ll just need either general or specialized experience–the job posting will say specifically.

      1. C Average*

        Yeah, this. And honestly, they’ll probably want sealed transcripts, meaning you’d need to contact your alma mater and have them sent anyway. I’ve had to do this a couple of times. It’s really not a big deal. You go to your school’s website, search for “order transcripts” (it’s usually in the registrar’s office section), and follow the directions. It might not be a bad idea to order a set for yourself just to have them and to see how the process works and what the turnaround time is. This shouldn’t be a barrier to applying for a job, because it’s really not difficult or costly.

        I am a fellow “Cs get degrees” exemplar. (My screen name is no accident.) I think at some point the fact that you got the degree matters a lot more than the GPA and the fine print. Sure, it’s not great to have a mediocre GPA, but it’s not necessarily going to be a factor at all in hiring decisions if college was many years ago and you’ve accumulated experience and accomplishments in the intervening years.

        1. De Minimis*

          For the federal jobs I just needed to scan s copy. I’ve never needed a sealed copy for anything other than for something like graduate school.

        2. AMG*

          I had to deal with this from high school transcripts when I was in college applying for internships. I said something about how I didn’t value my education as seriously as I do now, so please consider X and Y when evaluating my ability to contribute. Got my dream internship!

  14. Benjamin Button (OP 3)*

    I just want to say how amusing it is that my question was posted on the same day as that ‘how old do you look’ thing. I tried six photos – five came back between 12 and 16, and on the other it decided I look like a 54 year old woman. Not sure that’s an improvement!

    (Also thanks for the empathy and advice everyone. )

    1. BRR*

      Do you list the years you graduated on your resume?

      Can you grow a beard or maintain some sort of facial hair?

      1. Benjamin Button*

        Yes and no. I await the day the facial hair fairy arrives with bated breath.

    2. Sunshine Brite*

      It sounds like custom tailoring and products vs. children’s clothing and products sounds like the way to go. It’s spendy but sounds like it would be worth it. Always dress up that extra step. I know I need to remember that myself. I tend to fit into the casual part of my office, but I always need to remember that given my experience/appearance I need to keep it that step up more towards the business side of business casual vs some of my coworkers.

      I like Allison’s upfront approach and would time drop like others suggested in case the scheduler doesn’t pass the info onto the interviewer. Like oh yes, back in 2009 when I was doing xyz.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I feel for you. I have a cousin who had a malignant brain tumor when he was 12 and it permanently stunted his growth. He’s in his 30s now, but he will always have trouble growing hair and he will always look really, really young. I wish he and I were close enough so I could ask him what his strategy has been! He’s also the most upbeat and friendly person I’ve ever met, so I can totally picture an interview situation where he just barges in, hand outstretched, introduces himself and gets started. His clothes have definitely helped; he and his parents invested in very well-made and well-tailored dress pants, shirts, suits, etc., and because everything fits him well, he doesn’t look like a kid playing dress-up.

    4. Buggy Crispino*

      Do you have a LinkedIn profile? Perhaps if you put that link on your resume and/or have the link in your email signature. Add a picture and some details on your profile so that prospective employers will see your youthful look before they meet you in person. Also (I may be wrong about this, but…) I think that a LinkedIn profile would allow you to list dates and ages of your accomplishments that you wouldn’t normally have on a resume. You could like or repost articles or join groups that might give them the understanding of where you are in your life. Perhaps even link to an article and add your own comment along the lines of “I found this article interesting since I occasionally run into people who think I look very young.”

    5. Michele*

      OK, the 54 year old woman thing made me laugh. How bad is that recognition program?!

      1. Anonicorn*

        That scene in Mrs. Doubtfire where Daniel goes to his brother for an old lady face is playing in my head.

    6. moss*

      I met a jockey from England who was a soccer hooligan (& some sort of enforcer, like straight out of a Guy Ritchie movie) before becoming a jockey. He was tough as nails. Being a jockey was a safer profession for him, comparatively. Small physical size, HUGE personality and presence. He didn’t look young though. Perhaps consider getting in a few fights and pick up some bad habits?

    7. Red Rose*

      OK, I resemble that remark (yes, I am a 54 year old woman). And while I can see how that would be problematic for a 28 year old man, we aren’t so old and decrepit looking as all that! Although I don’t think I have seen any 54 year old woman who could be mistaken for a young teen boy.

    8. Andrea*

      I’m really reluctant to suggest this because I believe that people are happier when they get to be more of who they are, not less, but – if you haven’t already trained in dance/yoga/drama you might find ways to change your physicality to make you seem older, while still allowing you to preserve your voice pitch/inflection/rhythm/cadence.

    9. Musician - Not a Dancer*

      I see multiple people have given tips on appearance, but have you considered an acting coach? Or watching movies/TV and studying how someone older moves, then practicing that? I’ve found that “channeling” specific actors or actresses can really change how I move; even sitting in a certain manner with a certain attitude can change people’s impression of your age.

      Just a thought.

    10. manybellsdown*

      I swear that thing is a random number generator. I tried 4 photos and I’m either a woman in her late 20’s or a man in his 70’s. My 17 year old got tagged in one as 84.

    11. Ellie H.*

      I don’t think there’s a better way than mentioning it directly in an offhand way. When you are talking via phone or email to set up the interview, as an aside before you conclude the exchange, why not just say “Just to let you know, I look significantly younger than my actual age, so that you’re not surprised when we meet in person. I’m actually 28.”

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        I like that, but I’m not sure the age itself is even needed. “Just to let you know, I look significantly younger than my actual age, so that you’re not surprised when we meet in person.” That seems like it should be enough.

    12. KatJ_NZ*

      My two cents worth: as an interviewer across a number of roles, I would not think it weird if you just addressed your age up front. I’d probably rather that, than try and guess! But as you’ve got your college years listed on your resume, I would just assume you looked young for your age (and again, wouldn’t see that as a problem).

      I’m only one person though, so I imagine other managers may respond differently. Wishing you luck – this is a tough one!

    13. BobcatBrah*

      I realize that this is a year late, but if you want to look older, I’d suggest weightlifting. You can still stay lean and small (assuming you don’t start eating like an actual teenager), but the regular resistance training will boost your testosterone and age your face.

  15. Claire*

    #1 I work in healthcare in the UK and this type of meeting is very normal (if not compulsory) for medical teams where they are called morbidity and mortality meetings. They are meant to be blame free and focused on lessons learnt in order to prevent the preventable from happening again.
    It is true that their success does depend on how they are chaired and the culture within the team.

    1. MaryMary*

      My best friend is a doctor (US) and they have monthly morbidity and mortality meetings as well. Although sometimes the discussion focuses on what went wrong or what the doctor/team could have done differently, other times the meeting focuses more on an unusual condition or diagnosis. It’s still terribly stressful, but it’s meant as a teaching tool, not necessarily “look what this doctor did wrong.”

    2. Bee Eye*

      I can see how that would be important in healthcare. Learning how to not kill someone is a bit higher priority than how to spend less time getting somebody’s printer working. :)

  16. Internet randomer*

    #3 is ROUGH. I don’t even have any useful I can input, unlucky mate.

    Maybe the rejecting company was right though? You can’t go around telling everyone you meet you’re actually old; anything with a customer focus might be out of reach, unless you’re lucky?

    1. Koko*

      As I read OP’s letter I wondered if the issue wasn’t that they didn’t realize he was older, but actually just that they thought clients wouldn’t relate to him because of his perceived youthfulness. That seems a somewhat more likely explanation given that his degree & etc are on his resume, that they’d be concerned that clients would read his age wrong rather than thinking he’s a child prodigy.

  17. jag*

    #3 – I really don’t like the word “incredible” and its variants in formal/professional settings unless something is unbelievable. I think “very” and “extremely” are better.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, I think that’s really just about personal style. I use “incredibly” and its variants all the time and people think I’m reasonably professional. I actually hate “extremely”; it’s a filler word to me (which just goes back to it being personal style and not something people need to worry about much).

      1. jag*

        “Very” is much more than normal. “Extreme” is a level beyond that. I didn’t mean to suggest it’s the same as “very” – it’s more so. We shouldn’t use either as filler but rather to suggest degree.

        “Incredible” means so extreme that some people may think it’s not not true. My dictionary says “So extraordinary as to seem impossible.”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Right, but it’s perfectly acceptable to use it and have people understand you’re not using its literal meaning. There’s really nothing unprofessional about it.

          I wouldn’t use it in, say, a dry legal brief. But there are a zillion other professional contexts where writing can — and should — be more conversational, and where in fact good writing does have a voice and a personality and a lightness.

  18. James M*

    #3: I cannot imagine how frustrating your situation must be… but I am deeply sorry that I imagined you have a leprechaun in your family tree. I suspect that your ‘presence’ (not physical volume occupied, but an air of wisdom/authority) will be the key to reducing that awkwardness. Confidence and poise go a long way, tricks and tidbits do not.

    1. Purr purr purr*

      I wrote my reply below before reading this comment. Confidence and poise doesn’t indicate age at all and it doesn’t work yet it’s the first thing people suggest to others with this problem!

      1. Just Ducky*

        That’s true. People who are judging your appearance do so before they’re able to notice confidence and poise. Besides that, do you think everyone who has this problem is acting like a kid?

      2. James M*

        The fact of the matter is that people are going to judge by appearances no matter what you do. If you learn how to instantly command respect, there’s a lower chance they’ll decide to embarrass you both. On that note, it’s entirely up to you to decide whether to be embarrassed by their faux pas or to throw it back on them by calling out their misconception about your age. That’s where confidence and poise helps.

  19. GIS Julie*

    4. In the bizarre world that is federal govt hiring. They seem to require transcripts with applications. If you cannot document it does not exist. I was able to get ones from my college’s website and I graduated in 2001.

  20. costume teapot*

    OP3, I had a woman at the animal shelter ask me whether the kind of animal I was adopting I had owned as a child. She was mortified for thinking I was in high school when I said I did when I was in college, and just about burned her face off blushing when I revealed I am in my later twenties. She thought I was 14. Sigh.

    Anyway, I struggle with this as well, compounded by the fact that I am also new in my field/out of professional school. The company I work for now is a great fit for me–a lot of our principles and officers ARE pretty young. Our corporate culture is very much based on your skillset, and people arent judged for appearing younger. My point is, maybe a company who won’t judge or be concerned by your age is going to be a better fit.

    Also, dump the kids’ suits. I know its waaaaayyyy more expensive, but you’re better off in the long run getting something tailored or custom. The proportions of children’s bodies to adult bodies–even jockey body type–are different. Short of reconstructing the whole suit, there is no way for a tailor to disguise that. Also there are certain things that, unless you’re spending the money on high street designer clothes, are going to be apparant were not for adults.

    1. Just Ducky*


      There are clothes for short men. Harder to find, but they’re out there. Google “short men clothes new york times” for a 2014 article and some earlier ones.

    2. BRR*

      I think it depends on how the suit looks. But if the OP needs something custom there are a number of online places where you can do made to measure that are semi-affordable (as far as suits are concerned).

    3. BethRA*


      I think you could either use the direct approach in an interview, or the off-hand strategy (either in your cover or the interview), depending on what feels the most natural to you. I might personally be a little startled by a direct statement about your age in an interview, but I’d get over it quickly, especially if you pivoted directly into your qualifications.

      But it might help to do a fashion consult with someone who can recommend clothing styles that will help you look older and more mature. Because from your example, you’re not just dealing with people thinking you’re too young, but employers worrying their clients/customers will think you’re too young.

  21. Purr purr purr*

    OP3, I sympathise! I also look young for my age and when I explain the difficulties I’ve had in my career as a result, I get shut down for ‘humblebragging.’ I don’t think people realise that it’s not humblebragging and they probably don’t understand the impact it can have when you look younger than you actually are. To share my own story, I’m 31 but just a few months ago I went to an attraction and the woman at the front desk tried to sell me a child’s (under 18) ticket and didn’t believe me when I said I was 31! I’m constantly being mistaken for someone in the age 21-24 range with a few younger outliers. This has affected my career because, although I have eight years experience, most people assume I’m a recent graduate and talk down to me. Even an email from my manager outlining my experience (he does this every now and then for everyone to remind us of people’s professional backgrounds should we need their expertise gained in another area) hasn’t really helped dispell the notion that I’m a young’un. It’s particularly galling in client meetings when a client assumes that I’m a trainee and my (male and much younger) trainee is my manager!

    As to what to do? I haven’t found anything that works! I’ve tried changing clothing style, doing different things with my hair and makeup (and also no makeup) but the fact remains that both you and I look young and we can’t change that. Some people have said, ‘Carry yourself with confidence!’ as though confidence is only something found in older people. If anyone else has hit on ideas, short of yelling out your age, then I’m all ears.

    1. costume teapot*

      Honestly, when already in a job, I have found it effective to literally say it. “Fergus, when you tell me things I already know, it makes me feel you think I lack the experience and knowledge to do my job. I am 31 years old and have been in the industry for 9 years. Do you have reason to doubt my abilities?”

    2. Allison*

      I hear that, I hate being talked down to at work. I may look 16, but I’m an intelligent adult and I know how to do my job, stop treating me like an intern!

      Oddly, for the past couple of years my managers have treated me with respect, it’s my coworkers who seem to think I’m some teenage bimbo.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        I’m not unusually small, but I did look young when I finished college (I still look a bit younger than I am, but I’m not complaining now that I’m much closer to 40 than 20). I worked at a college and was constantly being re-directed away from the faculty seats/section/line and toward the student section. I found myself sitting in the student section at graduation because I didn’t realize I was being mis-directed. Very awkward when my name was never called! It didn’t help that my boss called me her assistant, even though I was a full-time instructor (just a less senior full-time instructor than she was).

        Honestly, I’ve always felt like trying to dress older than I am makes me look younger – probably because I feel uncomfortable – like I’m wearing a costume. I’ve settled for just being me and rolling with it.

        As I get older, I realize that there’s some sort of perceived cut-off for asking people how old they are. I am asked how old I am All. The. Time. – which I’m pretty sure happens only because people think I’m in my 20s.

        OP, once you get your foot in the door somewhere, focus on being a fantastic employee, and then you can use connections with people who know how awesome you are to move up in your career. After that first step, people will focus less on their impressions of your appearance.

        1. Jennifer*

          I’m 37 and apparently got mistaken for 17 on Sunday.

          I really don’t think there is much I can do to “look older.” Pulling back my hair, wearing glasses, wearing ugly business clothes, makeup, etc. really has no effect on being short with a baby face. I would imagine it’s the same for a guy. I have a friend who’s in a similar boat to Benjamin Button and…yeah, really, there isn’t much you can do beyond make the occasional time reference. Your resume dating back to whenever is about as good as that can get.

    3. Artemesia*

      I have had the experience of having my younger male assistant be assumed to be the ‘boss’ and so when working that way, made a point of taking charge of the meeting and introducing my assistant on the front end or in the case of a trainee saying that ‘This is Lancelot who is interning with our organization and assisting me on this project”

      Oddly when I worked in the Middle East with a male assistant — I was 50 or so and he was about 38 and balding, so not a young student, I was always deferred to. I had brought him partly because I was aware of attitudes towards women and thought having a male member of the team would be helpful to me in some situations. But interestingly they were very hierarchical and so absolutely deferred to the person of authority ignoring gender roles. I had much more trouble in the US where a male subordinate might be accorded more attention or respect especially before roles were made clear.

      1. Benjamin Button (OP 3)*

        Yes! And it’s not like I’m going to get extra time tacked on the end of my career to make up for the opportunities missed now.

        I don’t think it’ll be much better being five foot nothing at 40 than now, really.

        1. Connie-Lynne*

          I give you permission to slap anyone who says “you’ll appreciate it when you’re 40” right in the face.

          Because, lemme tell you. I don’t even have a medical condition or look _that_ much younger than my real age, but I do not appreciate being mistaken for a callow youth. Nor did I appreciate the 25 years of constantly being weirdly evaluated due to how young people thought I was, or not being allowed to drink or buy magazines because my new license hadn’t yet arrived in the mail, etc etc etc.

  22. MaryMary*

    OP 1: I’ve been in some difficult, very awkward project debrief meetings where we talk through why the project went wrong. But I think it’s better to have those difficult meetings than to never review an organization’s failure. At my current job, the account execs are supposed to give a reason when we lose an account. It’s a standing joke that the loss is either uncontrollable (client went out of business, client was acquired by another company who will use their current vendors), or the reason is that the client is an asshole. It would really be better if we talked about lost business and were honest with ourselves about the loss, even if the meeting was painful.

    1. IT Kat*

      I think that’s a little different than having a set meeting to call out people on mistakes, though. I work in IT and I’ve had both types – and what you describe is exceedingly useful, even if painful. What the OP sounds like he’s explaining is more along the lines of “Sarah took this ticket about a user’s mouse not working. Turns out it was the USB port on the computer and we didn’t need to buy three new mice to test. Let’s go around the room and say what we would have done differently in Sarah’s place.”

      That example is probably overly simplified but….

    2. Mephyle*

      Here is the key difference, though: you mentioned “review an organization’s failure.” Apparently what OP#1’s work was doing was to review employees’ failures.

      It’s the difference between ‘what was the cause of this loss – was it uncontrollable? If not, how can we improve the process so it won’t (or is less likely to) happen again?’ and ‘How did Jane screw up to cause this? Let’s take turns saying how each of us would have done better than her.’ In the latter case, the pain is not a productive pain.

  23. Sunshine Brite*

    OP1: I would have a really, really hard time with those meetings on either side. It’s one thing to teach from mistakes and seeking consult from others about how to do things differently and what you describe.

  24. Carrington Barr*

    #5 — A while ago, my own workplace was slated to close. However, another (foreign) company started to express interest in us … they flew in people to vet our finances, HR, facility, review employee files, the whole nine yards. It was looking so much like a done deal that the bigwigs had even booked their flights to come over and make the announcement to the employees.

    Then our parent company changed the deal.

    New Company decided they weren’t cool with that, and refused to play along. Parent Company refused to budge. And so, after getting all our hopes up, the deal was dead. Several months later we were all unemployed, as planned.

    Just a heads up that these things happen.

    1. MsM*

      Yeah, if you don’t want to get into your husband’s plans (and I agree that shouldn’t be a problem), I don’t think it’d be out of line to say that thinking through what you’d do if the company were to close has made you realize it’s time to make a change anyway, and you’re committed to the move.

  25. Sunflower*

    #3- Address it early on, head on. Trying to slyly disclose how old you are is risky. If I was the interviewer and you threw in other references to how old you are, they would just go over my head. Or I’d wonder why this person was throwing in a bunch of strange references that don’t seem to naturally fit in the interview. You want the interview to be an opportunity to show your best self and if the interviewer is thinking the whole time ‘seriously how old is this kid’, it’s difficult to accomplish that. Address it at the beginning of the interview, quell the interviewers concerns and then you both can have the kind of interview you’re hoping for.

    For what it’s worth, I think the interviewers will be grateful that you’re so upfront about it. Esp if they don’t think you’re 18, that brings up a slew of work labor issues that they might not want to deal with.

  26. D*

    Disagree with OP #2.

    Of course having all of that information would be great but I think, especially as a junior employee, asking for more time to consider all of those things and have an additional conversation with the director comes off as high maintenance.

    The director is going to be busy, and as a junior person, I imagine OP2 won’t be working with someone that senior on a regular enough basis to be concerned about management styles.

    Asking to meet other people in the team or business is also a bit overkill. Sure, it’s a nice-to-know, but is it REALLY going to impact your ultimate decision? I think most people just hope their colleagues are friendly and competent but it’s weird to place too much emphasis on that. They could get fired, laid off, or quit the day you start.

    And funding for professional development? Again this is a plus in most places, not a given.

    That kind of stuff can change, but your salary, the job itself and your direct managers are less fluid, so I would probably focus more on that rather than the peripheral stuff, especially when you’re junior and probably can’t be too picky.

    Sounds like OP2 has been TOO thorough with the AAM archives and is determined to ask every question and consider things from every possible angle! Which is great, but it sounds like with a high salary and a job that is “exactly” what you’re looking for, this job is already pretty great. Unless your acceptance hinges on professional development opps or colleagues, I wouldn’t push for more info at this point.

    1. Spooky*


      My thoughts exactly. “Funding for professional development?” Gee, must be nice…

      1. Treena Kravm*

        I got something like $500/year in professional development funds in my first FT job out of college, and at least $2-3k/year in my second job. I think this is very field-dependent. My whole field exists because we label ourselves as the experts in an always-changing field, so anyone employing us would want to ensure we’re up to date. Same with anyone with a license. They know you have to do prof dev to keep your license, but lots of places pay for it.

    2. LBK*

      I agree, especially since the OP has already had an hour-long interview. It seems like that was the moment to ask these kinds of questions, which sound pretty general to me and not something you’d realize after the fact that you wanted to know (as opposed to a more specific follow up question that might not occur to you until you’ve reflected on the interview for a few days).

      While it’s certainly great to have a specific vision of what you want out of a job and to be picky about finding somewhere that’s going to fit you just right, I also think it’s a bit out of line with what you can reasonably probe about after an offer has been made for a junior role (and specifically after the offer – they wouldn’t seem that odd to me during the course of the interview, but something about taking place after the offer makes them seem like more of an imposition).

    3. Not Today Satan*

      Hmm, I don’t know. We’re discouraged from asking too many questions about things that might benefit us during the interviews, so we’re sort of forced to have an additional conversation after an offer.

  27. Spooky*

    #2 – I’m stunned that this person doesn’t think three interviews with four people is enough. The most I’ve ever had was two interviews, and I’ve been offered jobs based on just one. I guess this is an industry thing…?

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Yeah, I’ve usually only had one interview before a job offer, and usually the interviews are about an hour, sometimes less. And I’m a geek!

  28. gorillaz*

    #4: I don’t know which government you’re applying to, but if you are using your educational experience as a reason for why you are qualified for a job, you will definitely need your transcripts to back that up. If it’s just on your resume, you (probably?) don’t need them, but it’s still a good thing to have. If your college still exists, I’d get in touch with them about getting a copy of your transcript. Because, yeah, government jobs need to click off checkboxes, and if you say you have a certain qualification, you need to provide documentation. Your GPA doesn’t really matter at this point, they want to know that, if you are using taking a class as a qualification, you took the class, and if you say you have a degree (since it sounds like you graduated?), that you actually have it.

    It doesn’t matter if you don’t have transcripts; you’re unlikely to need them, and if for some reason you do, you’d request them directly from the school at that point anyway.

    If you are applying on USAJOBS and using your degree as a qualification, you need to include your transcripts in your application. I don’t know about any government (local, non-US, etc) job.

    1. De Minimis*

      Exactly right. If you are looking at government jobs you should just get your transcripts now.

      When I was applying to graduate school I had to get transcripts from every school I’d attended. I’d transferred schools a lot as an undergraduate and gone to others just for summer school so I had 4 different colleges I needed transcripts from. And all of this was from the mid-90s, well over a decade ago.

      The whole process was pretty fast, and the only reason it took any time at all was because I’d been to so many schools. I know it probably varies, but my guess is these days it’s not that difficult for most people to get transcript, so why not do it?

      1. Artemesia*

        Limited experience here but the only places I ever applied to that needed transcripts required them to be send directly from the colleges and not passing through my hands. These things are so easy to manipulate if the candidate has the copies.

        1. De Minimis*

          I just know for federal [and I’ve gotten a federal job so what I’ve done apparently has worked at least for me] they have never asked for official copies from the school. But…I’ve seen that it can vary depending on the job, the agency, and the individual office.

          I imagine also if a job had a higher clearance level you might need an official transcript.

        2. themmases*

          I ordered some recently and it was pretty easy. Since I graduated in 2009 I’ve had to get them for an employer (2010-ish) and for grad school (2009 and 2014). In that time it’s gotten noticeably faster and easier to order these, but even back when I had to sign a physical form and mail it in with a check, the turnaround time was pretty good (I went to a large state school).

          Now my former schools have added the ability to just order and pay online, ability to view an unofficial transcript online if you just need to enter the grades somewhere yourself, and ability to have an official electronic copy sent– usually as a PDF– directly from your school to some other organization. I haven’t done that last one yet but I’ve heard good things.

          I’ve never needed to do it, but my understanding is that official copies of transcripts can be given directly to students for students to give out as they wish. What makes them official is (at least in part) that they’re sealed and often have a stamp or something from the records office across the flap in an effort to make it clear that that copy couldn’t have been tampered with by the student. Other than that I’m not aware of them being different from what a student could order for herself, and I’ve never heard of a place not accepting transcripts issued this way as long as the seal is intact.

  29. RVA Cat*

    OP #3, that must be so frustrating!
    One thing you didn’t mention that could help – how does your voice sound? If you could deepen it without it sounding too artificial, that could convey your maturity. It would also help your phone presence.

    Obviously he’s in a different situation, but listen to Peter Dinklage and how much presence (and sex appeal…) he has. Unfortunately, Tyrion-style drinking & wenching on the job would probably convey the wrong kind of maturity ;)

    1. Benjamin Button (OP 3)*

      I know I surprise people who see me first and assume I’m a child because my voice has broken, but it’s lighter than most men.

      As much as Tyrion Lannister is awesome, he may not be the ideal role model. The womanising in particular would be difficult to emulate. #teamTyrell

  30. Partly Cloudy*

    OP#3/Benjamin Button:

    I don’t think anyone else has brought this up; don’t most job applications ask if you’re 18 or older? I know that’s still a 10-year discrepancy but hopefully at least rules you out from being a minor (assuming that interviewers are actually reading the application).

    I think you’ve gotten some good advice and I don’t really have anything new to add. I just wanted to say that I like your positive attitude and you sound awesome. :)

  31. C Average*

    This may turn out to be a bit of a novel, but I have a lot of thoughts on #1.

    I’ve just recently left a job at a company that, in my opinion, didn’t handle making mistakes well. We often operated under a pretense that nobody here makes mistakes, period. This led to a culture of fear. Mistakes were hidden if possible. Blame was shifted if possible. Throwing another person or department under the proverbial bus to make yourself or your department look blameless was common.

    When I moved to a different team three years ago, I made a conscious decision that I’d own my mistakes. I was new to the role and knew I’d make some mistakes; I also had enough tenure and respect from my colleagues that I knew I had the political capital to change that aspect of the culture in my own team.

    If there’s anything I am proud of about my time in that role, it’s that by owning my mistakes, talking about them, and letting others know they were free to talk about them, I was able to help transform that team into a team that embraced postmortems and treated mistakes in a straightforward, non-judgmental, non-defensive way.

    I can see why the OP didn’t love the way this initiative was carried out, but I’d encourage her and her colleagues to see if they can check their egos and embrace the idea of talking about mistakes.

    In this scenario, I think the most helpful thing would likely be for the person who made the mistake to be the one to describe the mistake to the team and to describe what she’d do differently if she had to do it over again. Frequently, the person who erred is the one who best learns how NOT to make that mistake. Assuming that everyone on the team has to take a turn in the “I goofed” position, this could be a really good learning exercise for everyone.

    1. Bee Eye*

      I am the OP on #1, and the thing about our meetings is that nobody knew what mistake was going to be discussed until we walked into the conf. room and shut the door. You were blindsided by the issue and had no time to prep for discussion. Often what were considered “mistakes” were really just issues that took too long to fix for a variety of reasons.

  32. Tasha*

    It’s not clear, unless Alison deleted it from the email exchange, that #4 actually obtained a college degree. There are tips in the archive here for how to show, on your resume, time in college but no degree. I would list it like that, but obviously omit the GPA. If offered a job, you will have to supply certified transcripts from the institution, but a low GPA at that point is unlikely to disqualify you, as long as you haven’t overstated what you did.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. I read it also as no degree. But several years of college is of value even without a degree and GPA should never be listed on a resume — omitting it is not a red flag. If one were a Summa cum Laude or better grad and it was on the first resume out of school than noting latin honors or GPA is not a terrible faux pas, but very many years out, it would not be on the resume. So list University of Virginia, June 1998-September 2000 studying morphology of butterflies.

  33. AmyNYC*

    #3 – I’m young looking so I feel your pain, and suggest addressing in up front at interview rather than listing your birth on a resume.
    Now for the slightly off topic reference… did anyone else read the Lois Lowry “Anastasia” books? There’s one where she’s hired as a housekeeper after school and puts baby powder in her hair to appear older. (I’m not recommending that!)

    1. Allison*

      I loved those books! I remember when she got a job as a housekeeper, but I don’t remember her putting baby powder in her hair.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I also remember her using an old picture of her mom to place a personal ad, and the guy eventually turned up in the flesh (I think he came to the same wedding the family attended–I remember her trying awkwardly to make conversations about sailboats) and kept giving her mom weird looks because she looked familiar to him.

    2. Kelly L.*

      And then she put a spoon in the garbage disposal, and it got mangled, and the lady she was working for called it a “debacle,” but Anastasia didn’t know that word, so she thought “bockle” must be a fancy word for fork.

      1. Partly Cloudy*

        Yes! And she eventually got called out on her middle-aged woman disguise by the lady’s granddaughter, who was her age.

  34. Graciosa*

    For #1, when the boss started arguing against the negative feedback in the exit interview, I would have been strongly tempted to point out that his behavior was the perfect example of why this process does not work.

    His reaction upon hearing negative feedback was not to have an “Aha!” moment but to dismiss it. The problem is only compounded when there is an audience and a bigger challenge to the listener’s ego.

    This does not lead to performance improvement.

    1. Bee Eye*

      Exactly. It should come as no surprise that this place has an extremely high turnover rate.

  35. Judy*


    Several hiring managers have said I’m a very strong candidate but since the organization might not close they don’t want to pull me away.

    I’m wondering if the hiring managers are trying to understand how committed to changing jobs you are. Most hiring managers aren’t concerned that much about your current organization. If you’re using “my current organization is closing” as the only reason you’re looking, and now they know it’s not, maybe they’re asking if it is worth talking to you.

    1. Steve*

      If more than one hiring manager has turned down OP#5 for this reason, they need to look at what they’re saying about their current (well, it’s been a year, at this point former) employer, specifically her reason for leaving but also any other current-employer-related statements, e.g. going on and on about how much you’ve loved it.

  36. Artemesia*

    Re youthful looking job seeker. I think if you look just a little young then working it in to the conversation as suggested here works, but it sounds like this is a dramatic departure from the norm. Because of medical issues you are both small and very young looking; for this, I would confront it head on at the start of an interview. I think it makes it a little harder to discriminate and be dismissive when the candidate has acknowledged up front that he knows this is an issue and so sets the record straight. And being calmly straightforward about it also establishes maturity/gravitas a bit — and it makes it possible to discuss. Dressing well and as expensively as possible, developing a confident demeanor and being able to dazzle them with your competence all help communicate ‘grown up’ in spite of the outward appearance.

    1. rphillips*

      I agree with this. If you can confidently and satisfactorily address the issue up front with the interviewers, that may reassure them that you will also be able to confidently and satisfactorily address the issue with future clients. Since that seemed to be the concern expressed in your recent interview, that seems like where you’d want to focus.

  37. Amber Rose*

    OP 3: I haven’t changed since I was 13, except that my hairstyle is different and I’m maybe 3 inches taller. I regularly get asked when I’m returning to school, and one astonished cashier claimed she couldn’t believe I was older than 15.

    I am your age.

    I often address this in any part of an interview where I am free to say whatever, such as the part where I ask questions or some sort of tell me about a time you exceeded expectations kinda thing. “I know I look younger than I am. I want to assure you I have X number of years experience in this role and that my skill exceeds any obstacles created by my appearance. For example, I once [some achievement].”

  38. M*

    #3 I totally disagree with the advice of addressing an age issue in an interview, even throwing it in there off-hand with an ’80s reference or whatever, is just not cool. Age is one of those things you’re not supposed to mention in an interview and by bringing it up, it’s going to make your interviewer uncomfortable. I also see this as humblebragging. They can see your resume and see you have experience. That’s all they need to know.

    And I totally get where you’re coming from because I deal with this myself, as a 36 year old women who looks like a high schooler and just this week, was mistaken for a summer intern :( This ‘looks very young’ issue has gotten much worse as I’ve gotten older, and I suspect it will for you too. The best thing you can do is to be confident.

    I have been tempted to do this myself in interviews, but I won’t. I’ve gotten side-eye’d before in in-person interviews when they see on my resume that I started working professionally in 2001. I’ve even thought about using it as an answer to “What’s your greatest weakness?” because in reality, it IS my greatest weakness, as looking young HAS hurt my career, especailly in my 20s. But I NEVER bring it up. I’m now much more confident than I was in my 20s, and thus, my career has taken off.

    I’ve given up on how to “fix” this issue (ie, trying to look older). It’s not going to happen. No amount of make up or hairstyle is going to fix this (I’ve tried, too – as my sister is a stylist). I’m not going to dress up in a suit every day because that would look ridiculous at my business casual office (and, not to mention, I feel like a kid playing dress up in mommy’s suit – STILL, at 36.)

    This has gotten much worse as I’ve gotten older. No one believes me when I tell them my age and people are flat out shocked. But you know what? It’s a blessing. I am thankful I have excellent genes (this all comes from my mom’s side, where most of the women, including my mom, look much younger than their age. My mom looks early 40’s and she’s in her 60s) and take great care of my health. Be happy you look young.

    1. LBK*

      I’m a little confused how you see it as humblebragging to state your age? If anything it’s the opposite – it makes the achievements on your resume less impressive if they’ve been accomplished by the time you’re 28 instead of 18. Unless you meant bragging about looking youthful, but I’m not sure anyone would take it that way. If anything appearing young is a detriment in the business world even if it’s a generally desirable trait in terms of beauty standards.

      1. Benjamin Button (OP 3)*

        I think there’s a difference between looking youthful (but still adult) and sitting down to an interview and realising your feet don’t touch the floor in the chair. Or like in my last interview, which was conducted in those giant lazy boy style boardroom chairs, that if you sit without slouching, you can actually see your feet because your knees don’t make it over the edge.

        I also know this is a gendered thing – women are told their value is in their youth, men are told their value is in their experience.

  39. Us, Too*

    #3: In addition to the above suggestions, I’m going to recommend you consult with a professional image consultant. It’s very difficult to offer specific suggestions without actually seeing you in a suit, talking, making gestures, etc. A professional could note things in person that we can’t in an online context.

    An image consultant may recommend things like a custom suit, glasses, a different hair style, accessories to help you look more imposing, etc.

    He or she could also determine if voice/speech coaching, mannerisms/body language coaching and the like could help you have more impact or seem more mature.

    I feel for you, OP, and hope you find a solution.

    1. HR Pro*

      Good idea. And if that’s too expensive, you might at least try a personal shopper at Macys or another department store. I’m told they don’t charge money (but might appreciate that you bought some of the clothes they recommend).

  40. blackcat*


    I don’t think anyone has made this suggestion yet: acting lessons and classes. Not to change how your present your personality in interviews, but to change how you carry yourself and possibly make slight alternations to your speech pattern. This can make a huge difference. The Alexander Technique is particularly useful for this.

    When I was a teen, I looked like a teen. I was also doing volunteer work for a non profit, doing pretty high level administrative stuff including grant writing/fundraising/etc (there wasn’t money to pay a real staff person, and I did the job well enough to eventually get enough money that the org hired someone–the first employee other than the director–to do my job). I also was a serious theater kid, and so I knew how to “act older” in a way that did not seem or feel artificial. I had more than one meeting with foundation big wigs, where they asked me where I went to school–thinking I was a 20 something recent graduate (probably because I had yet to figure out professional clothes 100%. So they knew I was young, just not how young). That was always awkward. BUT they in no way suspected I was actually a kid and were quite surprised when they found out that I wasn’t a grown up.

    Evidence that I did not actually appear older: more than 10 years later, while taking high school kids on a field trip that necessitated outdoor work clothes, EVERY ADULT I ENCOUNTERED thought I was a student. Because I was dirty, sweaty, and looking like someone doing manual labor, not making an effort to appear older.

    1. Career Counselorette*

      HA, I have that happen too, with people thinking I’m a lot younger (I’m 31, but I’ve been put as young as 22). I accompanied a group of students to a job-shadowing event recently, and I was trying to engage my students by asking really detailed questions and making jokes, and I only discovered at the end that the facilitators thought I was just another obnoxious Max Fischer student, and not actually the chaperone.

      It happened again in a group I volunteer with, where we had a guest speaker who could not tell apart the students and the adult volunteers, and he kept calling on adults and ignoring students, which was actually really hilarious. I was like RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU’RE A KID, which totally didn’t help him tell the difference.

  41. paddlepickle*

    Are you not supposed to have your GPA on a resume in general? Mine is on there because at some point someone told me to, but now I’m wondering if that’s weird.

      1. Evan Þ*

        On a related note, can I leave on indefinitely “Bachelor of Teapot Manufacturing with High Honors,” or should I just say “Bachelor of Teapot Manufacturing”?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Eventually you should take it off because it’ll look like a dated accomplishment when you have years of professional experience. I can’t say precisely where that line is, but I’d take it off after 10 years for sure.

  42. LibbyG*

    For OP#3/BB: The only idea I can offer is that maybe your references can help. I’m in a field where references are called prior to the interview, so if you have anything you want said that you don’t want to say, you can ask them to convey it. Like, in discussing your strengths, they could mention how graciously you’ve dealt with people’s assumptions about your age. But they might not get called until really late in the process.

    What a drag! I wish people weren’t so quick to make assumptions.

    1. Benjamin Button (OP 3)*

      Annoyingly, I work in an industry where most places don’t call your references at all! My last job (which I loved but the agency never got off the ground and was eaten by a big firm) was offered to me after one interview and a writing sample, and the age thing was easy after the interviewer realised he had volunteered at the same place as my boyfriend.

  43. Mena*

    #1: Odd that your manager conducted your exit interview – for exactly this reason. I’ve only ever had them with HR, e.g. someone a bit removed. Not surprising that your manager became defensive when his/her approach was (rightly!!) criticized but exit interviews are a request for feedback – don’t ask for feedback and then argue with it.

    Sounds like you made the right decision to move on.

    1. Bee Eye*

      Agreed. They asked me for suggestions for improvement, I game them, and then they argued. I let it go and walked away. No need to make a stink when I already had a new job lined up.

  44. Jo*

    OP 3, I don’t think you need to work your actual age in anywhere.

    If I were meeting you for the first time in person and trying to reconcile your appearance with your qualifications/my requirements, it would be enough to hear this: “By the way, I’m significantly older than I look. The education and experience on my resume are good indicators of my actual age – much more so than my appearance!” And then move right along.

    I really don’t see any need to couch it in the “softening” language Alison suggested (I’ve found it’s better for me to mention up-front … It sounds silly, but … before you start wondering …). Alison, respectfully, I think those phrases have too much potential to sound defensive or apologetic over something that doesn’t require apology, and would weaken the confident self-presentation the OP no doubt wants to create!

  45. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

    Lots of good advice for Benjamin Button here. I think what I would do in his situation would be to place A LOT of time markers in my interview answers.

    It’s pretty typical for an interviewer to ask the candidate to talk through his/her resume and give more info about each role held. So I’d say things like…

    After graduating from college in 2002, I got my first job in the industry at Teapots Inc, which was a terrific place to learn.

    It’s so funny how you think you know everything when you’re 21 and a recent graduate, but I discovered quickly at Teapots Inc. that college wasn’t like the real world.

    My three years there really paid off, and by 2008 I was ready for a bigger challenge, and I moved on to Big Teapots.

    I had a great team at Big Teapots, and even though it was seven years ago when I launched Big Project, I still use the lessons I learned from that time period on a daily basis now.

    After three years at Big Teapots I wound up taking a role at Super Awesome Teapots, that was in 2012.

    I have thirteen years of experience in the teapot industry, with my five most recent years being spent focusing on chocolate teapots.

    Oh, gosh, let me think, my [biggest challenge/time I made a mistake/other job example] was probably about six years ago, when XYZ happened.

    One of the reasons I’m looking for a new position is because, after thirteen years of experience, I feel like I really…

    Anyhow, you get the picture. Practice throwing those phrases into conversation so that they don’t sound awkward or weird — it should be easy to make them fit naturally into your speech since interviews so often follow a linear timeline.

    Good luck!

  46. Mz. Puppie*

    OP #3 the magic phrase you need is “bespoke suit”. That’s the nomenclature for a custom-made men’s suit. If you can find someone who does that in your area I think you’ll really like it.

    1. Jennifer*

      My friend who’s 4’10 orders hers from freaking Hong Kong for thousands of dollars. Apparently they’re hard to find.

      1. Benjamin Button (OP 3)*

        Yeeeeah, that’s about what I’m looking at. Most places anywhere near me don’t actually do bespoke suits, they do made-to-measure which involves sending your measurements away to one of two or three manufacturers, who adjust a pattern to fit. If you are dramatically outside their patterning, then they charge a lot more (on what was already expensive.) The one tailor in driving distance who specialises in suitmaking runs to $4000 and has an 18 month wait list.

        I have seriously considered traveling to Asia to get clothes made, and I have several shirts from when my mother went to Vietnam and took my measurements with her. They needed a little adjusting when I tried them on, but ended up being cheaper and just as nice as the bespoke shirts here.

  47. Mel*

    I have the problem of looking way younger than I am too (When I was 24 I was told I needed parental consent to apply somewhere because they thought I was that young!). What I started doing in the interviews was tie my answers into something I did at one of my first jobs which was when I was 16. Basically, “Well about 10 yrs ago, when I was 16 and working at Dr. Teapot’s office, I was promoted twice.. more recently, I was able to.. so on and so forth…” So without awkwardly just saying “I know I look 14, but I’m actually 26” I had told them my age without directly telling them my age AND I used it in a more natural way. It’s not ideal, but it worked for me!

  48. JMW*

    #3 I interviewed a woman once who told me at the time I scheduled the interview that she had young face and that people sometimes mistook her for being younger than she was. I thought this was the perfect way to handle it. She didn’t bring it up too early (cover letter) or too late (after I had seen her and started to wonder). Best hire I ever made!

  49. Caleb Wong*

    Is the organization that’s closing Sweet Briar? If so, my condolences to you and the college? I’m sad it’s going away…

  50. leila*

    #3 – I’d find it hard to be really direct at the start of the interview and just come out and say, “In case you were wondering, I’m 28”. I get the idea of just getting it out in the open but it feels kind of awkward to me, and a little defensive.

    I’d agree with the suggestions about mentioning it if you get asked a question about your weaknesses, or the challenges you face (surely most interviewers will ask something along these lines?). Just something like, “One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is that of exerting authority/commanding respect/being taken seriously (delete as appropriate) because of my naturally youthful experience. I’m 28 but people tend to think I’m a lot younger and that sometimes affects the way people see me. I tackle this by…” Then talk about how good you are at whatever it is you do (maybe something about being tactful and building relationships and letting your work talk for you?).

    If you do that then you’re a) letting them know how old you are, b) acknowledging that they probably think you’re younger and that that might affect how well they think you can do the job, and c) telling them what actions you take to reduce how much of an issue it is.

    Other than that, I’d try not to worry about it too much. Dress smartly, then stop thinking about your clothes. You want to feel as comfortable as you possibly can so if make-up or jewellery or glasses are weird for you, don’t use them. You just need to look smart, clean, tidy and interview-appropriate.

    Attitude is important too. As a young-looking woman in an industry dominated by middle-aged men, I’ve found strict professionalism to be helpful. You don’t want to be humourless, dull or without personality, but you can radiate competence. That comes from the way you carry yourself (straight back, shoulders down, firm handshake, smile) , really knowing your stuff (being organised, having everything you need to hand, asking intelligent questions) and being confident (maybe the hardest part: once you’ve done everything you can, stop worrying about your age or your appearance. Focus on your skills and experience. Act like the age you look has no impact at all on your ability to do your job, and hope they follow your example).

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