should I hire a coworker’s fiancé to work on my car, using a work email address to apply for jobs, and more

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

1. Should I hire a coworker’s fiancé to work on my car?

I have a question about having a business transaction with a coworker. My car needs some body work done to it and I had mentioned it to her in casual conversation. She mentioned that her fiancée did car bodies and I asked her if she thought she knew how much it would cost.

She took a few pictures and came back the next day saying her fiancé was coming to look at the car. He looked at it and said that he could fix it for $—, which is about half the normal cost of the work being done. (Although my insurance would cover this, I would rather not go through insurance for premium reasons.)

Do you think it would be a good idea to do something like this? While I would pay up front so there’d be no issue with the money, I simply would rather take caution before engaging in a business transaction with a coworker. We do have a strong rapport with each other currently and while I don’t foresee any problems on either end, if something does go wrong on either side, it’ll be mighty unpleasant since neither of us plan to leave this company any time soon.

Yeah, that’s always the risk with something like this. If it goes awry — you’re unhappy with the work, there’s some kind of dispute, it develops an issue right after he works on it and you think he’s responsible but he says he’s not, or whatever — will it impact your relationship with your coworker? It’s really just a risk management question — how high or low of a risk do you think that situation is, and are you willing to risk it in order to get the lower price? I can’t answer that for you; it’s really about your own personal tolerance for risk, as well as how skilled and trustworthy this guy seemed to you.

2. Using your work email address to apply for jobs

I am taking applications for a department head position. I just got an email from someone who is obviously sending their application from their work email. Do you think I should suggest to them that they switch over to a non-work email address, or just ignore where it is coming from and communicate to them about the position and additional forms they need to complete things via that email they are using?

I personally find it distasteful and bad form to use a work email to search for jobs, as there are so many websites that allow you to get free email addresses, but should I worry about it?

Yes, it’s incredibly poor form. First, they’re using company resources (and maybe company time, depending on when they sent it) to apply for jobs. Second, it’s dumb, since work email isn’t private. Third, it’s also dumb because they could be laid off tomorrow and lose access to that account and any replies from employers sent there.

I wouldn’t email them and tell them to switch to a different account; that’s not your call, it’s theirs. If they’re otherwise a very strong candidate, I’d continue in the process with them and at some point ask, “I noticed you applied from your work email account. Am I right in thinking that that indicates that your employer knows you’re looking?”

3. Did my coworker have a conflict of interest in this hiring process?

A staff member at my office posted a position. This same person wrote the job ad and would see the resumes and answer questions about the job.

I applied for the position as an internal applicant. The staff member told other employees I applied and then applied for the position after I did. Is that even allowed?

After she applied, they extended the posting date and changed the contact person, since she applied.

We were both interviewed, and since she worked at the job longer, she was hired over me. What actions can I take if any?

Well, none, really. None of this was illegal. She did pull a bit of a Dick Cheney in deciding she wanted the job she was hiring for, but that’s not outrageous. It sounds like once she decided to apply, someone else took over the search and presumably she didn’t decide to hire herself; someone else made that decision.

I think you’re seeing a conflict of interest because she was involved in the process, but this isn’t terribly unusual.

The one thing potentially wrong I see is that she shared with others that you had applied. If she shared this with people who didn’t need to know (like others involved in the hiring process, or your current manager), she was out of line and you could request that someone talk to her about confidentiality. But that’s an internal management issue, not a legal thing.

4. How do I tell my references that I changed my mind about grad school?

I applied to, and was recently accepted for, a competitive graduate school program for matriculation in the fall of 2015. (I graduated undergrad last spring.) The program is primarily competitive due to its great financial aid packages in a field with relatively low pay. However, I’ve recently decided that I don’t want to attend that program or, in fact, any program in that field. I registered for an evening course in the program which started around the same time my application was due, thinking that if I was accepted I could apply that credit to my degree. However, after taking the class, I have realized that this field is not right for me. To be frank, I hated the class, and was thoroughly unimpressed by my classmates and the school’s admissions department. This seems like a terrible place for me to spend two years, as I grew to dread attending class and dealing with poorly designed coursework and my incompetent classmates. The issues I have seem to not just be limited to the school but rather the field – academic papers we were assigned to read were often misspelled or illogically organized with a poor understanding of statistics.

How do I convey my 180 degree switch to my references, who were so helpful and supportive throughout the application process? I still keep in touch with them, and don’t want to have wasted their time. I only applied to this one program at the time due to financial reasons – it would be economically unfeasible to attend any of the other similar programs at other universities in my city as their tuition is much higher, and compensation is very low in this field. But now this experience has soured me not only on the program but on the whole field. How do I tell them, “Whoops, sorry, I actually don’t want to be in this field anymore despite my acceptance to this program” politely? And should I still ask them for references in the future for different programs or jobs, or would that be placing too much of a burden on them?

People understand that this kind of thing happens. If anything, they’ll be happy for you that you figured it out before spending two years in a program that wasn’t right for you. Tell them what you realized and why, and tell them how much you appreciated the help they gave you in the process.

I might be wary of asking them for recommendations to another graduate program in the near future (writing those letters can be time-consuming and you risk them wondering if you’re sure this time), unless you’re very close with them / know that you have a lot of capital with them / they’re encouraging of you in the new field. (And of course, make sure you really need grad school if you try going that route again.) But I definitely wouldn’t worry about using them as job references.

5. Can I ask a board member of my current employer to talk to me about grad school?

I’ve been working as an admin at a small nonprofit for less than a year. I would like to eventually work in public policy or academia, but in the same field. One of our board members is a professor emeritus at a graduate program that I would love to attend. We have a good relationship, and she has complimented me on my work more than once. Is it appropriate to ask her for coffee to get more information about this particular graduate program and the larger field? I don’t want this to seem like a conflict of interest, as I would most likely leave this organization if I attended graduate school.

It’s fine as long as you wouldn’t mind if your boss knew about it. You don’t want to put her in an awkward position where she has information about your likely tenure in the job that your manager doesn’t have — she’s part of the organization’s leadership and might feel obligated to share that information.

That said, if you could frame it as “this is something I’m thinking about for the future, but not immediately,” that’s going to be less of a concern than if it’s “I’m thinking about applying soon.”

{ 96 comments… read them below }

  1. Graciosa*

    Regarding #3, I think I’d be cautious about raising the confidentiality issue (if there is one – it depends on the recipients of the information) if you can’t do it without having it sound like a complaint about losing out on the job. Remember that it wasn’t yours to begin with in the absence of an offer.

    Keep in mind that your co-worker may have been hired for reasons other than mere tenure (it’s clear that she was valued and trusted if she was given responsibility to managing parts of the hiring process). If that’s the case, you want to demonstrate that you understand that and respect the hiring process, even when you don’t end up with the job.

    There may be other jobs opening up in the future, and you want to continue to impress the hiring managers in your company with how professional you are. How you handle *not* receiving an offer may determine whether or not you receive one in the future.

    Good luck.

    1. snuck*

      I think on #3 you are best placed to smile and move along…

      Was she a better applicant than you? If you sit and think about her and the rest of her work knowledge, experience and professional behaviours… is she a good hire in the role?

      Sometimes stuff like this happens and it can feel really unfair, but in reality they might well have hired the best person for the role and it’s not personal… if you weren’t internal you wouldn’t know how it all panned out, if you hadn’t applied she probably would still have applied, and won the position…

      I would say she shouldn’t be sharing information with other parties about who has applied for roles… and she should have removed herself from handling the vacancy as soon as she realised she wanted to apply herself… but we don’t know that she didn’t do that in this instance. Personally I’d have been very pedantic about her application and interview to make sure she didn’t have an unfair advantage having seen other applicants, and we can’t know if this happened in your workplace too.

      If it’s all gone south and you can’t resolve it in your heart then you’ll have to work out if you can keep working there professionally… and if it’s worth holding such emotional and personal attachment to then that’s the way you feel.

      1. MK*

        What kind of unfair advantage would she get by knowing about the other candidates? I mean, sure, it gives her insight into the hiring process, but what exactly could she do with the knowledge, except perhaps be able to highlight her own strengths? The only issue that would be if she had any kind of deciding role in the process; if she did screen candidates, she would be able to eliminate people she viewed as threats. But that doesn’t really make any difference for the OP.

        1. snuck*

          It depends… I would be aware that she’s seen all the other candidates applications and has potentially a good grasp on what they bring to the table… I’d want to know why she waited until the application process was well and truly underway and she’d had a chance to see all this stuff coming through before she applied herself.

          It might be that she didn’t realise that she had the qualifications and when she saw the quality of the applicants realised she had a good crack at it. Fair enough to some extent, but that’s not really fair is it? It’s using ‘inside information’ to make your decision – knowing you have more than the other candidates thus putting you in a good position… I’d want to know why she didn’t apply until she had that information…

          It might be that she had an inkling all along she wanted to go for the role but was waiting for the ?moons and stars and her pet rock? to confirm her decision… in which case I’d be aware that she should have self selected out of handling them earlier – and I’d be talking to her about the way she’d handle things in future where there was potential conflict – basically put her on notice that if there was a whiff of conflict of interest again I’d be taking it very seriously. If she thought she wanted to apply for the role but wasn’t decided, then she should have said something and NOT handled everyone’s applications.

          If she’d known all along she wanted to go for the role I’d seriously reconsider my decision, and look at when she raised the issue and removed herself from the process… It looks like she raised the issue late in the piece if they had to extend the application date and change the process. It also looks like this is a corporate or government / formal hiring process type environment.

          We don’t know what sort of role this is for – if it was for any kind of people management or HR types of roles then this sort of understanding of the protocols is important. Given she was writing the JD or add, advertising, main contact and application receiver I would have assumed she should have some understanding of the seriousness of not speaking up.

          Unfair advantage can be everything from knowing the candidate pool is generally low quality (and deciding to apply when they see there’s no stellar applicants and then feeling confident they can stretch to get the role), to reading the other application letters and seeing what they are emphasising and gleaning wording and emphasis from those applicants (particularly if you weren’t a confident applicant at the start), to having an email exchange or water cooler discussion with the overseeing manager and discussing what is missing from all the current applicants and thusly knowing what to put in your own… etc. She wrote the JD or job add (the english/grammar isn’t clear in the OP’s letter), she has an extraordinary level of knowledge relating to the role – and yet she waits until she’s had the chance to read everyone else’s applications before applying herself….

          1. MK*

            Being a stronger candidate gives you an advantage. Knowing that the other candidates are weaker doesn’t really give you any advantage as far as getting the job goes; maybe it gives you more negotiating power ta ask for better compensation, but that’s irrelevant here (as it has nothing to do with the other candidates). So she knows their qualifications; so what? She can’t change what they are one way or another.

            Why is it “not fair” if this person decided to apply because she saw the low quality of the candidate pool and figured she might as well try herself?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yeah, I’m picturing this happening with a position I was hiring for, and if the person was a good candidate (and she apparently was, since she was hired), I’d just be happy that someone who was a known quantity who knows a lot about the job was interested.

              I don’t see it as unethical or a conflict of interest, assuming she wasn’t rejecting strong applicants to give herself a better chance. (Once she decided to apply, I’d remove her from screening other applications, but that’s the only precaution I’d think necessary). It’s not like there’s a line that she’s cutting in front of or something.

              1. snuck*

                To me it all comes down to when the applicant realised they might like the job… if it was before she handled the resumes she should have opted out… if it was during then she should have spoken up swiftly (and might well have done).

                There is an awful lot you can glean from applications and seeing the various qualities of applications might just be enough to help this person present more strongly. There is a lot you can influence in questions about the role too.

                It also might be that this person is actually incredibly well qualified for the role and a perfect fit – great if that’s the case… without knowing anything about the role and the person it’s hard to know if there’s been any impact from them having access.

                I think it’s important to note to the OP that even if all this was a bit messy and not handled smoothly it doesn’t mean the OP would have gotten the job, that they were more likely than another different candidate, and that obviously the management where you work is aware of the situation and happy to employ their chosen candidate even with those facts in place (whatever they may be). There’s not a lot of point holding a spot light on this into the future as a peer or subordinate … unless you plan to apply for something this person will apply for again – then just keep it in mind.

                1. snuck*

                  Addendum… we’re assuming this is a professional/white or pink collar type role… where there would be hiring norms and processes and an expectation of professional behaviours around those.

                  Maybe it’s a less skilled/lower experience job – a shift lead in a factory environment with minimal supervisory roles, a one off position working away from the production line, the role of sandwich wrapper instead of sandwich maker… I have no idea what I’m talking about exactly here… but in these roles it might be not the norm to have processes and transparency or even concerns particularly around the hiring of the applicant… (And yes, some manufacturing roles are highly skilled and trained etc… Some are also just a lot of manual handwork like the print finishing factory I worked in at one stage that was literally just doing what machines couldn’t to printed materials – lots of sticking tape on here and gluing that flap there or sorting these giro forms etc. In that environment a job might have been posted on the lunch room board for a ?person to assist the supervisor? or ?go on the delivery trucks to delivery products? and it might have been handled like this was.)

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            I just don’t see any unfairness there. What if she didn’t apply because she didn’t think she was qualified, but then when she saw who was applying, she thought, “wait, if this is who is applying, maybe I’m qualified after all.” Why is that unfair? Someone less qualified should get the job because they applied immediately? That makes it sound like you think we should be able to call dibs on job openings, and whoever calls it gets it regardless of who was qualified. Her knowing who was applying did not make her more or less qualified. As long as she wasn’t weeding people out who were competitors, what does it matter? Why shouldn’t the best person get it?

            Think about it, what if at your job a new position opened up, and from the title you thought there’s no way you’d get it, so you didn’t apply. But then you saw what internal applicants were getting interviews, and you realized that this job, which was definitely better than your current position, was something you were actually qualified for. You wouldn’t apply just because you knew who else had been interviewed?

            1. Not the Droid You are Looking for*

              The situation you mentioned happened to me. My former boss had just started with Teapots Unlimited as the Assistant Director of Polishing, when the Director of Polishing announced she was leaving. I was an external candidate who applied for the Director position, and after my (and other candidates interview process) the Assistant Director noted that she had the same level of experience as the candidates and threw her hat in the ring.

              For the Vice President of Polishing and Buffing, it made a lot more sense to promote an internal candidate to Director and offer me the Assistant Director position.

    2. Jerry Vandesic*

      It wasn’t illegal or necessarily against policy, but it was slimy. The person who got the job showed what they are made of, and it wasn’t a strong sense of integrity. You would be best to keep your distance going forward, and watch out as they seem to be looking out for themselves.

        1. Jozie*

          I think the fact that she was telling others about OP applying is a bit sketchy, though it wasn’t clear to me who the others are (HR who would need to know this information at some point anyways, or someone else with a similar need to know, maybe her boss?). If the other employees are those with the power to influence the decision, I would be concerned she could have poisoned the water, so to speak. What if she told someone “casually” who strongly dislikes the OP but is close with the decision-makers? It sounds like there’s a lot of room for undue influence. That may sound unnecessarily paranoid, but I guarantee that type of stuff happens. Heck, it may not even be intentional.

          As far as her actually applying for the role later, I think snuck above made good points. Really I consider it “unfair” in the way of the old lament of why do bad things happen to good people (not trying to apply this here) – rotten luck really, not something that demands recourse.

        2. Jerry Vandesic*

          I have to disagree about it being a conflict of interest. To me it’s clearly a conflict. If it is your job to process applicants for a job, you should not be applying for that same job. There’s nothing to indicate that the other person took the job in order to obtain confidential information about the other applicants, but it happened. Once the conflict was created, the person processing the applications should not apply for the job. They can wait until the next opening happens, and make sure that they are an applicant rather than the person processing applications.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            In a smaller office or on a smaller team, it wouldn’t be practical to say “we’re going to pass up a really strong internal candidate until the next time this role opens up” – that could be years away. A hiring manager needs to hire the best person for the job, and if it turns out to be the person who was initially processing the applications, as long as the person didn’t deliberately play games about it, I can’t see passing that person up.

            1. snuck*

              I agree with you. To me the critical point is WHEN the applicant realised she had a strong desire to apply… We obviously will never have that information here.

          2. LBK*

            How do you envision HR people moving up, then? If there’s an HR position opening up, who else would be screening?

            1. snuck*

              Normally even in large corporates (that I have worked in, in Australia – national telcos and finance) HR might approve the wording of the job advertisement and description/documentation, put it through the process of advertising, collect the applications in receipt only etc… and then there’s a person within the team or work unit that will actually vet applications and answer questions. Generally a supervisor or similar of the role that is being recruited for – so the chances of them wanting to apply for a job they supervise themselves already is usually low.

              In HR I imagine it’d be the same, with the only exception where a person might be handling applications and applying for the next position up the chain… then they might arrange someone else to handle the applications, but the scenario is rare I imagine.

  2. NW Cat Lady*

    #2 – I’d have serious concerns about this person given that it’s a department head position. This shouldn’t be someone new to the work world, and the fact that they think it’s appropriate to apply from their work e-mail would raise serious doubts about their lack of understanding of business norms (and, frankly, their lack of common sense).

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Would you feel the same way if her current employer knew she was looking? I did this exact thing much earlier in my career (and my office knew). I wouldn’t do it now as I’ve learned more about the work world, but only because of this very reason – that it might look bad to someone who didn’t have all of the info. I think I just answered my own question! Bad idea all around.

    2. Kelly O*

      The only exception I can come up with is if it’s an email that was sent from a mobile device that might have two emails on it – a bring your own device environment – and the sender accidentally chose the wrong email or sent without changing a default.

      I don’t know that I’d count that against someone. Now, if they’re putting their work email on their resume or using it to register on a career website, that might be reason for deeper questions.

      But if they accidentally sent it from the wrong email, the candidate might even know and just be this side of mortified about it, but not want to draw additional attention to it by resending from another email. It could be worth delving into if it’s that important to you, but the context of how the work email was used might be important to the bigger question here.

      1. Ad Astra*

        This is what I was picturing. I’ve accidentally selected the wrong email address plenty of times on my phone. But without knowing the application process, it’s hard to tell if that’s plausible in this specific instance.

    3. Richard*

      NW Cat lady-

      Poster here. Exactly! And here I thought I was just being overly sensitive.

  3. Ann Furthermore*

    #1: I’d advise against this. It sounds like the co-worker’s fiance does this as a hobby. My assumption could be incorrect; since she said he came to the office to inspect her car, and the quoted cost was so low, that’s how it read to me. This is fraught with potential complications, like Alison said. What if the work is shoddy? What if something happens later?

    My husband is really handy, and has done all kinds of remodeling in the houses we’ve owned. He does excellent and impeccable work. My boss asked me once if he’d be interested in doing some tiling and plumbing work in one of the bathrooms in her house. He said no, first because he’s not actually a licensed contractor (even though his work is better than many of them that are out there), and second because it was my boss, and if he did happen to make a mistake, it could have potentially made things really awkward between her and me.

    1. Rebecca*

      I came here to say just this. At my first job, I worked with a woman whose husband is a chiropractor, and she drummed up business for him at every opportunity. One of her coworkers went for an adjustment, had bad complications (involving hospitalization) and it was very awkward between them after that.

    2. neverjaunty*

      Yes, especially because the cost is half of normal – there’s almost certainly a reason for that.

      1. Friendly Reminder*

        I’ve had my car worked on by “backyard mechanics” many times, and this is normal pricing, anywhere from 1/2 to 1/4 of what it’d cost you at a big name repair shop.

        1. MK*

          My father does this, but he was trained as a mechanic himself (a century ago, but still) and has a lot of contacts in the trade, who can advice him who to trust and who to avoid. I think it’a a bad risk for someone who knows nothing of cars to hire someone whose work quality they know nothing about.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Exactly. Sometimes you’re getting a discount because the person is doing professional work on the side, but sometimes you get a person who is using you for practice or has no idea where it’s bad to cut corners.

            We have a classic car that we dubbed the “rescue Cadillac” because of all the stupid DIY crap done by the previous owners who thought they were great shadetree mechanics (they weren’t).

    3. Rat Racer*

      Just want to say WOW I am so jealous! My husband and I can barely keep the plants alive in our garden, let alone remodel our house! We just did some remodeling that came in at, oh, 250% over budget – thank goodness our relationship with the contractor was business only or that could have been really awkward. Sorry – off topic.

    4. Partly Cloudy*

      I totally see your point. I guess I’ve been lucky because I’ve used a co-worker’s mom for tailoring (nothing major, just hems and repairs) and a co-worker’s brother for body work (repaired a huge scratch on the side of my car for about 2/3 the price I was quoted elsewhere) and I was happy with them. If you’re friendly with your co-workers and have testimonials, I feel like this is a type of networking. But I can definitely see how it could get awkward if something goes wrong.

  4. Not in the US*

    I’d just like to point out that in some countries and indeed workplaces, moving on in ones career is not something that is done with the high levels of secrecy I see mentioned here. Referees are asked upfront and early in the job search. Work emails are used, especially for internal positions. I guess it’s just a cultural thing.

    Having said that, I probably wouldn’t use work email unless it was an internal position. But I’m a bit paranoid.

    1. MK*

      I don’t think anyone ever suggested that it’s wrong to use company e-mail when applying internally. I am not from the U.S. either, but applying for another job from your company e-mail feels gauche to me. It’s not about keeping the job search confidential.

  5. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    Using your work email for hiring signals either being unclear on professional norms, or unfamiliar with (at this point very basic) technology. Neither is good for something above an entry-level job.

    Side note: Alison, #3’s title is rather piratical at the moment (“me references”). I like its jauntiness but… :-)

        1. Roly Poly Little Bat Faced Girl*

          My co-pirate isn’t swabbing his share of the deck. Should I tell me captain or is that tattling?

        2. Pill Helmet*

          “Another pirate on my ship stole my parrot and is passing it as his own. I spent a lot of time training this parrot. Years, in fact. When he says “aargh!” it’s identical to my own intonation. The other pirates know he’s using my parrot but none of them ever say anything. I’m not good at confrontation (odd for a pirate, I know), and frankly, he’s a bit of a Davey Jones wannabe so I’m a bit scared that if I bring it up I might end up taking the plunge. Captain is also aware of the problem but seems unwilling to rock the boat. I need my parrot so I can do a good job up in the crows nest. How can I get him to give me back my parrot?”

        3. Lily in NYC*

          My coworker has scurvy and won’t stay home. I want to go to HR but I’m worried they will think I am singling him out because I already complained that he makes fun of my peg-leg and eye patch. (thank you all for the good laugh this morning).

  6. Maude*

    #1 I once needed new flooring in my kitchen and a co-worker told me her fiancé did this type of work and would do my floor as a side job. He came over one Saturday morning and started the job. I left and came back later that afternoon to find him packing up. The job was not completed and he had made a huge scratch down the front of my new refridgerator. He basically told me the job was bigger than he could handle and he had damaged my refridgerator and would not be able to charge me so he was leaving. It was very awkward for me because I was very upset but didn’t know how to handle it knowing I was going to have to continue working with this co-worker. The once good relationship I had with my co-worker was permanently strained. I just came here to say, it’s not worth it.

    1. Daisy*

      “He basically told me the job was bigger than he could handle and he had damaged my refridgerator and would not be able to charge me so he was leaving.” I don’t want to be hyperbolic, but he sounds like the worst person in the history of the world. What an absolute tool.

    2. Artemesia*

      A coworker of mine hired my first husband to do some legal work and he took way too long on what was fairly simple and the firm charged by the hour and so the cost was way more than expected. By the time they were billed, I had left the guy and he had been fired from that firm. My co-workers wife did her best to run interference on the co-worker’s anger but it really made for a terrible work relationship. If I had not been poor as a churchmouse, I would have given the guy the money. Terrible.

      Be sure the fiance is a really good bodywork guy or be prepared to roll with whatever you get. At least if you hire some fly by night person off the net, you don’t have to then continue to work with the person who recommended them.

    3. mel*

      Sometimes you don’t get any better luck with professionals! I remember this one time a tech installation guy from one of our major cable providers (ok, it was Shaw) came to the apartment to install some cable internet. He went onto my roommate’s computer, and changed some settings in the registry that he really shouldn’t have touched. The computer crashed and refused to start up again. He literally just said “Huh. Something went wrong and I don’t know how to fix it, so I’m just going to leave now,” and left us with a broken computer and no internet.

      At the time, it was actually pretty hilarious.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        Right, anyone could do a bad job, but it’s having the other connection that makes it so much more difficult. You can complain about the cable company guy and it’s not awkward because you don’t have to work with his fiancee every day.

  7. ExceptionToTheRule*

    #1 – ask for references and then check them. The same as you should do if you were hiring anyone else to do work on your car or home.

  8. Pill Helmet*

    #1 – Why don’t you just have a conversation about this issue with your coworker beforehand?

    “Hey, I’d be really happy to have your fiancé do the work on my car. While I’m sure he’ll do a great job, I want to make sure we don’t encounter any issues in our professional relationship. Can we talk about what we’ll do if one of us has a concern?”

    Usually if you just have a policy to talk openly about any problems that arise and agree to find a way to work them out (instead of letting them fester), you can keep your relationship in tact.

    1. MK*

      Is it really worth it to start a negotiation about this? Not to mention that the coworker might resent the implication that her fiance won’t do a stellar job and the relationship could damaged anyway. In any case, no matter what either of them says beforehand, it’s pretty unlikely that their relationship won’t suffer if the fiance does a crappy job (or the OP doesn’t pay on time).

  9. Alis*

    #2 – This might be a silly question, but does this rule apply to internal jobs as well? I’m looking at internal permanent positions (I’m currently an on-call casual), should I be using the internal contact e-mails instead?

    1. Nashira*

      Your company may have policy about internal applicants being required to use their work addresses for the process. Mine certainly does, with a side of making sure your manager is aware of any applications you make.

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking for*

        We had an internal candidate who went by a nickname (think of an Avery Jake Smith going by Jake). There was a bit of a roundabout as I said to Other Department Manager, “hey, Jake asked for clearance to apply for your position. I’ll be sad to see him go,” and ODM replied with, “Oh I don’t see Jake in the system, but let me know when he applies.” The initial screen shows name, email address, and phone — you have to click to get resume and application.

        So I followed up with Jake who said he applied, and I said “ODM said you didn’t, are you sure it went through.” HR thought we were all nuts!

  10. Brett*

    #2 Be aware that different industries have different norms. For my public sector job, I _must_ inform my employer that I am applying to another job. It is a legal requirement, particularly for high level employees and positions, with criminal penalties. A manager in are department two levels below department head was recently sent to _prison_ over this (he ended up moonlighting without permission, which elevated the deception to a felony).
    As well, if I am communicating to another sunshine law eligible entity, so say I was applying for department head at another government or to a non-profit that accepts state or local government grants located in out state, the state sunshine law is applicable. Not using my work email address to apply is evasion of our sunshine law and could be subject to fines and other penalties.

    Unlike a private sector candidate, I have a right to continuing access to my email if I am laid off tomorrow thanks to the sunshine law. That, and I get 5th amendment due process and a Loudermill hearing, so I will know the layoff is coming for months ahead of time. I would have to commit a criminal act (like applying for a new job without informing my employer) to be fired immediately.

    The point of this wall of text… do not assume your business norms are the same business norms everywhere.

      1. Brett*

        If you fail to report your application to a new job and then moonlight as well, every cent earned is considered theft of public funds which is a form of embezzlement under state law. $500 is the felony threshold, so odds are you are up to felony levels after your first paycheck. If you reach $25k in earnings, you have to pay a fine equal to double the value of what you earned and a _minimum_ 5 years in prison (not mandatory sentence, but minimum of 5 years served).

    1. Richard*

      Poster here again. I have been in the public sector for a while and have never run into that. I do usually let my elected officials know I am applying places, just to be nice, but the sunshine law doesn’t really apply for applying other places for me. We do have a form to ensure confidentiality for applicants until the final candidate list is made.

  11. BRR*

    #1 I’d advice against it If you do do it, mentally prepare for it to go horribly like he asks for more money, he doesn’t do the work (this is why for other body shops you don’t pay up front), he does a poor job, he makes it worse etc.

    #3 I’m sorry you didn’t get the job. Are you sure your coworker got the job because she worked there longer? And by that I mean has somebody specifically said to you, “Jane got the job because she has been here longer.” Imagine you were in here position, what advantage would it offer you? The only advantage she had was seeing some applications and knowing she was a strong candidate.

    Even though she wrote the description it doesn’t sound like she was the hiring manager and the hiring manager knows what they want for the position regardless of the posting.

  12. Jenny*

    Questions about using a work e-mail address for job applications are always interesting to me, because I only recently became aware that you shouldn’t do it (and now it seems so terribly obvious why that’s a really bad idea). But, I’ve read in other advice columns/been told by career counselors that using a personal e-mail address on applications is unprofessional (even if it’s just something like firstname.lastname@gmail). Is there any truth at all to that belief?

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      I don’t see much wrong with using a work email myself, but it’s good to see how it looks to other people and it’s something I’ll do differently in my next job search.

      As for personal addresses being unprofessional, that’s nonsense if it’s fist name last name that’s perfectly reasonable to use. There was some discussion in a comment thread here awhile ago that some addresses are more date than others (hotmail for one) and might make someone look out of touch with technology.

      1. Artemesia*

        I have always wondered about that. I have a friend now retired who directed IT operations for major corporations and has always used a personal hotmail address. What exactly makes it ‘dated’ or out of touch with IT? I know it is ridiculed but I am not sure why.

        1. Sparkly Librarian*

          It’s aging technology. Hotmail was replaced by the web version of Outlook in 2013 and users could migrate their accounts to addresses (but not everyone did); even the website redirects to Gmail has become ubiquitous, at least in my neck of the woods (SF Bay Area), and Yahoo is also acceptable (I use a Yahoo address — one of several personal emails — on my own resume). However, I’d consider Hotmail in about the same light as an AOL account/email address – it might be functional, but it would be really weird for someone applying to an IT role to use it.

          1. Artemesia*

            My friend whose career was in fairly high level IT keeps the hotmail account I think as a sort of FU to those who gig him about it. He is the only one of my acquaintances who still has one; it seems to work fine for him though.

          2. bkanon*

            My hotmail address is old enough to vote! (And my Yahoo email is in high school by now.) I’m not giving it up, even if I use Gmail most often. (Though I do have a “professional” Gmail when needed.)

          3. Cath in Canada*

            I was in charge of recruiting and managing some undergrad volunteers for a conference last year, and I was astonished at how many of them gave hotmail addresses as part of their contact info! Maybe it’s retro hipster cool again now…

    2. Nashira*

      You shouldn’t use for nob applications, obviously, but people recommend against firstnamelastname formats too? That is baffling to me and seems very out of touch on their end. Making a firstlast email was the first thing I did when I began job hunting.

      Though I was bad and converted my middle initial to its base 10 value, so there’s a nerd joke in it, but with a common name you sometimes end up with numbers anyway.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      What?! No, that’s totally crazy, seriously. That’s the sort of email address that 99% of job applicants use. There’s nothing wrong with it. Who on earth is spreading the idea that there’s something wrong with it? (No one who actually hires, that’s for sure.)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        And what are they suggesting you do instead? I don’t even understand what options that leaves you with, unless you register your own domain, which most people don’t need and would be ridiculous to do just for job-hunting.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I just went searching for something that made this claim and I couldn’t really find anything — except for a Brazen Careerist article saying that “One way to prove initiative and entrepreneurship is to buy your own domain name! ” Sigh. It’s from 2009, which is when their career articles were mainly written by people right out of college who had zero hiring experience (not sure if that’s still their model or not).

          1. Jenny*

            Thanks for answering Allison! Their suggestion was to use a current work e-mail rather than a personal address.

        2. Amber Rose*

          I remember being told free email was not ok, and to pay for one from an ISP.

          So I used an email but then the issue came up where I switched ISPs every few years and I’d lose my email. Very frustrating. I was super relieved to find that nobody minds Gmail accounts.

        3. Artemesia*

          Agreed. Weird email handle was one of the first clue that an otherwise fairly impressive applicant might be squirrel. By the time the hiring process was over and we had avoided that ticking time bomb we had lots of other red flags but the first one was the silly (for a grown man) email handle.

      2. Brett*

        I’m not sure this is a “that will look bad” suggestion as much as it is “that is a bad idea for important time-sensitive things” suggestion.
        A small part of my job is mass notification systems. Because of my worn on these systems, I’ve learned that some of the free email services are very inconsistent with receiving mail from outside their system. One of the most popular free email providers consistently drops about 1 in 500 emails and will delay about 1 in 10 by 24 hours or more. This has to do with how they filter spam.
        Sending is normally safer, but emails from one free service to another have particularly bad drop and delay rates. Gmail seems to be most dependable out of the major free services.

  13. Kara*

    #1 – I think for me the kicker would be if the fiance does this professionally or if it’s a “side job”. If you can see examples of his work, maybe call a few references, find out if he has a business licence and the appropriate insurance to cover damages – then I would do it. If he doesn’t have those things (even a part timer should have insurance and a biz licence), then move on.

    #2 – I think this really depends. I work for a contracting firm and about 18 months ago when we had to let 1/3 of the contractors on one of our teams go, we gave them a month’s notice and told them that once they’d rolled up their current projects, they could continue to come into the office and use office resources to look for a new job. I assume many of them used their work email and that was perfectly acceptable. I’d caution passing snap judgments based on something like that.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Even in that case, I really wouldn’t recommend using a work address. There’s no reason to — they could still access gmail from your office, presumably — and plenty of employers will take more than a month to respond, at which point the contractors would presumably have lost access to that address. (Even if that weren’t the case, though, they should be aware of business norms and how it looks.)

  14. Dani b*

    If your insurance is going to cover damage to your car, USE YOUR INSURACE.
    I work in claims and before that, underwriting.
    Several reasons why you should file:

    1. You were in an accident. Per your policy contract, you be reporting it every time your car is damaged through collision or non collision events.

    2. You were in an accident, and you are at fault. Reporting it protects you from the other party having to go after you for any damages. Insurance is a buffer between you and the crazies that think a low impact fender bump is 4k in car damages and 234k in medical bills. Without filing, that’s all on you.

    3. Most insurance companies either have shops they recommend or guarantee. That means you can go to a legit shop and have any repairs backed by a warranty. Also, having a damage adjuster look at your vehicle will give you a no nonsense estimate.

    4. Based on what you mentioned about premium, it sounds like you think you were in an accident where you were at fault, or you think that by filing a claim, any claim, your premium will shoot up. Not how that works. I can tell you at fault accidents are rated higher than non fault, but there are a billion things that go into your premium rating. You could avoid filing for an accident and still see a change. Maybe you moved to a different zip, added a driver, got another car, etc.

    Long point short…file if you know you’re covered. That is what insurance is for. Avoid backyard mechanics. Do not go through a coworker.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      Yeah, but you can’t honestly say that making claims on your policy never has any effect. Sure, other things have an effect on premiums, too, but it’s not like people who have never had claims don’t have better rates, all other things being equal, than people who do. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that’s what insurance is for, but there are times when it’s understandable not to claim it.

      For minor stuff that wasn’t my fault, I’ve just paid out of pocket before because I would rather pay than deal with the hassle of going through insurance, but that doesn’t appear to be the OP’s concern.

  15. Underemployeed Erin*

    #4 It seems like you have made up your mind, but you really should ask to sit in on a class during the day time instead of making your decision based on evening courses. Evening courses, even at really good universities, are not necessarily taught by the full-time faculty, and the people taking them are often doing this while holding down jobs so the curriculum is watered down in some way. These courses contain some of the most essential information, and the tests and homework are typically very much based on what goes on in the class. (There are no trick problems to make the students really think hard about the problems.) Summer courses are a little bit like this as well, but that is due to time constraint. Since you mentioned that you just graduated, I thought that this might be a point that you might not be familiar with.

    1. OP#4*

      I actually did ask my professor whether the evening class I took was similar to a daytime class of the same designation, and he informed me that it was exactly the same in terms of course design and assignments. There were even some full-time students in the class with us, although it was primarily made up of part-time students. I agree that the classmates might be different during the day, but as far as I know almost everyone in my class was accepted and will be attending the program in the fall. Perhaps I just came in at a particularly bad time for admissions or something, but the experience has definitely soured me on the program.

      And my professor (though he was an adjunct) was actually my saving grace in that class- he was a great teacher, helpful and knowledgeable. I had more issue with the administrative/admissions staff, course design, and lack of professionalism my classmates exhibited throughout the class than anything else.

    2. Dr. Speakeasy*

      A lot of grad programs run their graduate classes ONLY in the evenings – either so people can hold down jobs during the day or be available for teaching assignments.

    3. The Strand*

      Here to echo Dr. Speakeasy. In masters’ programs that attract working professionals (eg health science, education, business), where classes are generally offered after 3 or 4 pm through 11 pm daily, they’re not automatically watered down and missing trick questions so that students don’t have to think too hard. Several Top 20 MBA programs that are held on the weekend or in the evenings are exactly the same as the full-time with the same professors.

      Adjuncts do usually have to teach the crap classes, though, and often aren’t able to influence the course design with the limited time they get the class.

  16. Oh This Situation :)*

    OP #1; Since you already asked the ‘how much’ question and the person already came and looked at the car whether you go ahead or not it may already cause some sensitivity. Is it possible to ask for more information about how he is qualified to do the work and maybe even references (in a normal this is business way, not an I doubt your fiancé way) as you would if you took the car to a body shop. Even insurers either have pre-approved body shops or they ask for more than one quote so from a strictly business perspective it is reasonable to ask for this.

    If you keep it business like, approach the decision as you would if the co-worker wasn’t engaged to someone who does this work, then whether you opt to go with the fiancé or to a body shop it should help keep things from becoming too personal.

  17. The Cosmic Avenger*

    I’m going to advise caution with #1, but I’m also not going to unilaterally warn you not to do it. I had a coworker who I hung out with all the time, and he used to work in a body shop before he worked with me. When this poor kid banged into my car in a parking lot, her dad offered to pay me cash for the repair estimate to not report it. Since I was young and poor, I told the dad I would accept the lowest of three estimates, but I might decide not to have the repair done. My coworker said he could do the repair for me just for the cost of the tools and supplies, which he would get to keep, and that was still considerably less than the lowest estimate. It helped that it was something of an old beater, all I really cared about was having it in OK shape, but he did a great job, partially because he knew me well enough to want to do a superior job for me. I had also recently sold him a hatchback well below Blue Book because I had been gifted a slightly newer used vehicle by my in-laws when they bought a new vehicle, so my coworker was still pretty grateful for that.

    So, tl;dr version, talk to the fiancé first and see how you feel about him, and then talk about what you expect…do you expect it to look like new under close inspection, or do you just want it to not stand out as smashed-up? What about the paint? And ask things like, how would this hold up if you were hit again? I actually would hold back part of the payment until the job is done, just as you would with a home repair, so that you have some recourse if you’re not happy with the job. (I didn’t do that with my coworker, but I had a very high level of trust with him, I knew his wife and kids.)

  18. Kathy - Modern Career Advice*

    Regarding the first comment, I would be really careful about doing business with any of your co-workers especially if you are working closely with them. While I agree that the deal was probably a great. But I agree also that it is a risk. I would weigh this against how much you would of paid versus how much you lose if the job is done badly.

  19. OP #5*

    Thanks so much for answering my question, Alison! This is exactly the blind spot I wanted to cover. Unfortunately, there really aren’t any opportunities for upward movement within my current org, and my position is relatively low level, so I don’t think it’s generally expected to stay for more than a few years. I’ve talked to my ED about this, and he knows that unless a new position was created or I could continue as a consultant and therefore pursue grad school or another project, my career will likely take me elsewhere soon(ish).

  20. Laura*

    #4 I disagree with the advice to hold off on, or even just to be cautious about, asking for future letters. As a faculty member, writing letters for former students is literally part of my job! Don’t decide for me if it is an inconvenience. (If you’re applying on super short notice I do appreciate acknowledgement of that and explicit asking if I can accommodate the time frame.) And once I’ve written a letter for someone, updating it – even for a totally new field – isn’t nearly as much woke as writing a new letter.

    I would be thrilled to hear a student had changed their mind before getting into a bad position. All you need to say is “I was excited about the program, but having taken a class there now I no longer think it’s a good fit.” You don’t need to say you’ve written off the entire field. If you end up deciding to apply to grad programs in a different field, you can later update and say “I learned that I don’t think X element of this field is a good fit, and I’m excited about Y because …”

    Seriously this happens all the time.

  21. Mike B.*

    #4 – Please, please, please recognize what a bullet you dodged here and refrain from eyeing any other graduate programs for at least a few *years*.

    Graduate school is for people who have a crystal-clear idea of what they want to do and a realistic idea of how another degree will allow them to do it. The last thing you need is to spend a great deal of time and money obtaining a credential that doesn’t grant you access to a lucrative career that you enjoy, and that’s far too often the case.

  22. Dr. Speakeasy*

    #4 – It wouldn’t bother me at all if a student tried out a grad program and decided it wasn’t for her and then asked for a letter for a different program the following year. My letter probably isn’t going to change all that much because the things that matter in grad school transfer pretty well from program to program. My one concern I would convey for the student would be that she may need letters from people specifically in the new field. At the PhD level and certain other terminal programs – WHO the letter comes from is weighted more heavily than WHAT it says. At the MA level, what might matter more but then the qualifications are more general.

  23. Lanya*

    #1 – Based on experience, my personal advice is to never do business with someone you have a relationship with, whether the relationship is that of a coworker, a friend, or a family member. As a graphic designer, I frequently get design requests from people I know. Most of the time, these projects have just bred resentment on my part, usually because people who are not designers do not understand the amount of work that is involved and I wind up feeling used. So I just don’t do this kind of work anymore for friends and family. Even when it’s paid. It’s just not worth messing up a relationship over a logo design. I hope if you go with this guy for your car repair, everything will turn out fine.

  24. Kingsley*

    #1 I understand perfectly what you are going through. You are afraid that if the guy does a bad job that you will not like it and might react in a way that might ruin the relationship you have with your co-worker who is the guys fiance. All am saying is that you can go and supervise the work the guy has done and see how good he is and then ask questions, dont be sentimental about this, then if you are convinced you can go ahead but if you are not then just back out now to avoid any regrets.

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