a sketchy assistant with a fancy watch, wearing lots of wigs, and more

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

1. Assistant might have bought himself a fancy watch on the company credit card

I recently took over Operations at a small applied engineering company. In the time between when the old operations manager left and I started, the owner’s assistant took over some of the operational and financial responsibility. He recently bought a very expensive watch from a local jeweler and used the corporate courier account to have it delivered to the tune of $100. When it arrived, he implied that the company bought the watch “as a birthday present.” We don’t really buy gifts for employees, and he hasn’t been here long enough to get a milestone anniversary gift (he’s been here just under 1 year). The trouble is: I can’t prove that he used the corporate card to buy the watch, since one of the responsibilities he took on was managing the corporate cards!

My coworkers have warned me that the owner has a soft spot for his assistant, and that he lets him get away with a lot. I want to nip this behavior in the bud, but I don’t want to step on toes if the owner has some agreement that he could use the courier account to have personal items delivered, or if I’m completely misreading the situation. I want to recommend that better checks and balances be put into place for company cards without immediately accusing the golden child of stealing from the cookie jar. Is there a way to gently tell my boss I think his friend is stealing from him?

You can be direct in asking the owner about it without sounding like you’re criticizing his favorite; the key is to ask in a neutral tone, one that sounds curious rather than judgmental. I’d just say something like, “Did you by chance approve the purchase of a watch for Rupert?” If he says yes, well, he’s the company owner and he can do that if he wants. But if he says no, let him know what the assistant told you. Here too, avoid judgment in your tone since he has a soft spot for the guy; your tone should be neutral/concerned.

Separately, you can ask, “Can you fill me in on how the courier account works? I might have misunderstood, but I got the impression an employee had used it for a personal item — is it okay for people to do that or something that I should stop if I see it happening?”

Beyond that, if it’s in your purview to come up with a better system for company credit cards, you should do that — and it should include having someone other than the assistant review and approve purchases. And keep an eye on this guy more broadly too in order to get more data (since currently this is more suspicion than fact).

2. I was offered a job that never panned out

I’m hoping you can help me make sense of this. Back in September, I was first contacted by the owner of a publishing company for a desk job – data entry, customer service, and the like. After three interviews, I was hired in early November. And, on that third interview, was asked if I could stay for a few hours to do some work. I said yes and just helped file a few things around the small office, since they were transitioning the work areas still.

After that, and signing a W-2 and other papers, I was told to come in after the Thanksgiving break to start officially as a part-time employee, then full-time once the first of the year rolled along.

The first workday after Thanksgiving, I was up, getting dressed when I received a call at 7 a.m. from the owner’s secretary saying things have been put behind and to come in after the first of the year.

I thought no biggie, I can hold off a month, but I was getting antsy so I still pursued other jobs. First of the year rolls around, and this time I call in and get the same response. So, I partially give up on it, seeking other work.

A month after that, this is where it gets interesting. I went to a local job fair and guess who I find, but the guy who hired me so many months ago. I asked him if he remembered me, gave him my resume, and said, “Y’know, you hired me once already, but if you want to go over my qualifications again, I’m here.” He laughed and said he’d look into it.

Each Monday after that, I called leaving messages only for his secretary who consistently said he was out and finally I emailed him to his own personal email only for him to say that they went with someone else with sales experience. I responded with, then why did you hire me, to begin with? No response. At this point, I’m just flabbergasted as to what to do about this, or if I should even bother. What happened and CAN I do anything about this?

I have no idea what happened — it could be anything from simple flakiness on their side to having concerns about your qualifications that they didn’t fully process until after offering you the job to finding someone they thought was better for the job. Regardless of what it was, they owed you a phone call and an explanation (and an apology).

As for whether there’s anything you can do about it: No, not unless you had a contract, which most U.S. workers don’t. The most you could really do is to let them know that you held off looking for other work because they hired you and that you’ve suffered financially as a result, but these sound like people who won’t even bother responding to that.

If it helps, keep in mind that they showed you something useful about themselves — that they’re rude and unwilling to tolerate even minor discomfort on their side in order to spare you major inconvenience (and possible financial harm).

3. Wearing wigs — lots of wigs

I was recently diagnosed with a medical condition that causes hair loss. Not just a little thinning, but giant bald patches all over my head. There are other aspects of my illness, but I’m working with a doctor on those symptoms and they are well-controlled, so they don’t impact my work.

I’ve been wearing my hair up a lot at work to cover the worst of it, so it’s gone unnoticed, but my hair is now mostly gone and there’s no clever way to hide it anymore.

I’d like to start wearing wigs, and people in a disease-oriented support group recommended getting a few different colors and styles to help cheer me up and make this part of the the illness fun. I do like this idea–being blonde one day, redhead the next–it takes the “omg I have to wear a wig” feeling out a bit.

Do you have any indication about how an employer would feel about this? I work for a 100+ person organization that leans on the side of conservative, but is very kind in its approach to employees. Would most employers prefer I choose one neat and simple style and color and stay with it? Or do you think more employers would be open to different types,as long as they fell within the “neat and professional range”?

I could see a conservative employer objecting to someone doing this if it weren’t for a medical condition — but being fine with it if they understood that it was. So I think it comes down to whether you’re comfortable sharing that piece of it; if you are, I say go for it.

4. Should I complain to an employer about their hiring process?

I went through a lengthy process with a potential employer, spanning about two months. The company is a start-up of three years in my field. My first point of contact was with the person I would be reporting to. I interviewed with her (after several last-minute reschedulings on her part). It went well, so she gave me an assignment to complete. This was a fairly large assignment that I worked on for the better part of a week. She was so impressed she sent it to the CEO and arranged interviews with the CEO and other department heads. They went well, so she asked for references. She called one, who–I’m as sure as you can be without hearing the conversation–raved, then she told the others conversations weren’t needed (after reaching out to them originally).

I heard nothing, so followed up the next week. She said they had chosen another candidate and best of luck with future endeavors. (I should note that the CEO mentioned during my interview with him that I wasn’t up against another candidate per se, as they were growing and just looking for new people.)

I feel that their process treated me poorly, and since the CEO talked about how bad management typically is at other firms in this industry, I feel I should tell him so. Agree? It won’t help me, but if it improves their process it might help someone else. (Do some good in the world!) I think that if a candidate undertakes a substantial written project, and the employer contacts references, something more than “no thanks, but best of luck” is called for. Or should we just accept that employers can do whatever they want because they have the leverage and candidates should just accept it?

It sounds like you think they treated you poorly because they gave you the impression that you were likely to be offered the job, and then that didn’t happen. But that’s not a reasonable complaint — they retain the prerogative to offer the job to someone else or to no one, right up until the point that they offer it to you. If you complain that they led you on, you’ll look silly and it won’t have an impact.

The one thing I see that went wrong here is that you spent “the better part of a week” on an assignment that I assume was unpaid. That’s not appropriate. I don’t know if they knew it would take that long or if you just chose to put that much time in to really excel at it, but while giving candidates a short assignment is a really smart way of assessing their candidacy, it’s not in any way okay to expect them to put a week of work into something for free. It still doesn’t put you in a position where you can now complain that they didn’t hire you (they never promised you they would, after all), but you can certainly remember for the future that you shouldn’t do that kind of significant work in this context.

5. Should I send a thank-you when I’ve already been offered the job?

I went in for a teaching position interview this afternoon. I felt like the interview went okay, and I hit it off with the department chair, but I didn’t feel like it was stellar.

Anyway, I went home and was trying to talk myself into moving on, when my phone rings and it’s them with an offer. I accepted immediately as I was really hoping for an offer in the district for several reasons.

Should I still send a thank-you letter for the interview, or include some words about being excited to start at the school (because it’s true!) or what? I’ve never encountered an offer this quickly, so I’m not sure how to proceed, but I don’t want to not send anything!

Sending a traditional post-interview thank-you would be weird, since you’re already past the stage where that normally happens; they’ve already offered you the job and you’ve accepted it. You can certainly send your new manager a note telling her how excited you are to start if you’d like to, but it shouldn’t be a thank-you.

{ 351 comments… read them below }

  1. BadPlanning*

    On OP #3, at the risk of over assuming — I would guess that some of your more observant coworkers may have noticed your hair even with the alternate hair styles so swapping to a wig might not be that confusing (if they weren’t nosy enough to ask before, they might not be nosy enough to ask with a wig). If you are concerned about the workplace, I might get a wig that was close to my original hair to wear at work and then save the different ones for the weekend. Unless you are highly likely to see your coworkers on off hours and just confuse them!

    1. KT*

      I’m sure coworkers have noticed my spotty hair at this point…I’ve been wearing a couple of extension wefts and fake ponytails to cover up the worst of it to get me through the summer, but I’m sure most have caught on to my growing baldness :)

  2. Dan*

    #3 you don’t really say how often you want to change your hair, but if stuck with the save hair she for a month at a time, I don’t think anybody would care. If you changed it every day, I think you’d get a raised eyebrow or two. Double those those times if you are costumer facing.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Or use the same wig for work, and then do all the fun stuff for after work and on the weekends.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        That’s what my favourite Auntie did when she was undergoing breast cancer treatment (12 year survivor now, hurrah!). She got one wig that was a close match to her natural hair, for workdays, and an assortment of other colours and styles (including one very fetching purple one) for evenings and weekends. She also experimented with various shaped painted-on eyebrows, but luckily settled on a shape that was a little less startling than some of the experimental ones.

    2. Dasha*

      This or what about the same color wig in different styles? And yes, like Dan said it might depend on if you’re customer facing or not. Also, #3 it sounds like you are dealing with this quite well!! Wishing the best to you!

    3. SystemsLady*

      I think a customer who is also a costumer would be in full support of the OP changing her wig daily :).

    4. JB (not in Houston)*

      I would kind of love it if one of my coworkers came into work with a different colored wig every day. It’s not like there’s anything in particular that’s not professional about changing your hair color or style, so the only issue is whether changing it frequently is unprofessional. And I just don’t think it is, or at least I wouldn’t think that of one of my coworkers. And it would be fun!

    5. WigWearerToo*

      You might also be amazed at what people DON’T notice… hair gets long ,short, curly, red, blond… some people pick up on even the difference between two “identical” wigs, some people don’t notice anything.

  3. anonymous daisy*

    I worked with student assistants who would sometimes wear a wig and sometimes not. Their hair color would stay the same but the length and curliness would change. No one ever batted an eye and we were all pleased when one of them asked our opinion on which style to buy next (everyone liked being thought of as having a worthy fashion opinion).

    1. BRR*

      I was going to suggest something similar if you don’t feel like disclosing to everybody about your symptom or condition. If you want to change frequently you can get multiple styles in the same color and save other wigs for the weekend.

      1. Miriam*

        I wear a wig at work for religious reasons, and I agree with this. The only times I was ever asked “did you change your hair?” was when I changed from an almost black wig to a light brown wig, and when I changed between two wigs of the same color that were several inches apart in length. For the past several years I’ve been wearing four wigs of the same color but different styles, and no one at work has ever said anything. No one knows I wear a wig, either–or if they do, they’ve never asked me about it.

        The main thing to watch out for, from one day to the next, is stark differences in length (middle-back length hair to chin length, for instance) and differences in color (differences in shade are usually okay). Try to get a human hair wig if possible–they can be styled with a curling iron and tend to last longer and look more natural, plus they don’t smell plastic-y in the summer like some synthetic wigs do.

    2. Charlotte Collins*

      Wigs were really popular back in the 50s and 60s – my mother kept her wigs from her mod days, and my sister and I played with them for dress up. They did not all match in terms of color and style, so I assume that at one time it wasn’t that uncommon for women in office settings to change their hair as the mood struck them.

      I currently work with a woman from that generation, and she often wears wigs when she doesn’t feel like styling her hair. They’re very nice – I didn’t realize they weren’t her natural hair until I complimented the style of one and she told me it was a wig!

      And can I put in a plug for the charities that make wigs for people in your situation? Anyone who has long hair that they plan to cut, please arrange to donate it to charity. Human hair is very expensive and does make the best wigs. Not all the donations are used in wigs, but there are industrial, so unusable hair is sold to companies to help fund the work. A lot of salons nowadays will even handle the donations for you. I’ve donated hair twice, and it really is a great feeling that you can give something like that to others.

      1. Helka*

        Industrial? I’m curious, can you expand a little more on the uses for un-wiggable hair?

        I’ve donated my hair a time or two myself, and yes, it is definitely a fantastic feeling :) I cut off bum-length hair to a pixie-ish cut when I left for college, that was a heck of a ponytail my stylist sent off!

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          Oh, I’d have to find the Scientific American (possibly American Scientist) article about it. I remember that it was fascinating (had to do with how hair that is cut off as part of a traditional temple visit is used – the women’s long hair goes into wigs and the men’s short hair is processed and used in industry).

          I did find this article that includes the basic information: http://womensenews.org/story/business/060709/indian-temples-do-brisk-business-womens-hair

        2. KT*

          Hair that has been previously dyed or has gone through regular heat styling cannot be used in wigs–they can’t stand up the harsh wig-making process.

          If colored or heat-styled hair is donated, it is typically sold to salons or beauty supply companies to be made into hair extensions and hair pieces.

        3. Cath in Canada*

          There was a fuel spill in Vancouver harbour earlier this year and they were using booms made at least partially of human hair to help soak up some of the oil

    3. mskyle*

      I used to have a coworker who sometimes wore wigs – the first time she came in with hair 6 inches longer and way straighter than it had been the day before, I had a moment of confusion/disconnect, but then I got over it. I think when she started wearing them, there was a bit of gossip about it in the office, but overall it was no big deal.

      So I would say go ahead! So long as you don’t mind people noticing and maybe commenting on it. If you’re very private about it, then you’ll want to go more naturalistic/single color.

      I guess the only time I would advise against it would be if you frequently interact face-to-face with people who don’t know you well, and the wig changes were sufficiently different that it would make you hard to recognize.

  4. A Dispatcher*

    #2 – I’m wondering if they owe LW wages for the couple of hours of work she did while she was presumably hired? It may not be enough to be worth pursuing, but I’d think that especially since she had filled out W2 paperwork, she has a pretty good case for saying she was indeed on the clock, even if it was just a few hours and light duties.

    1. UKAnon*

      This was my thought – it sounds like pretty cut and dried work to me, so if OP hasn’t been paid she should chase that up with them.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      It sounds to me like she signed the W-2 AFTER the 3-hour post-interview work. Makes that one tricky, I think, though no less shady.

      1. Ad Astra*

        IANAL, so I would welcome a comment from someone who knows more than I do, but my impression is that employees have a couple of days to get their W-2 paperwork in order for a new hire, but they still have to pay employees for any work they do in those first couple of days.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        At least in my state, you have to have been at that job for a certain amount of time (90 days, I believe) to qualify for unemployment.

    3. JenGray*

      I agree. This wasn’t just a job offer that didn’t pan out it0 they actually hired her. If she hasn’t been paid for the hours that she did work I would recommend contacting her state department of labor to get the wages she is owed. I know in Montana you can file a wage claim (I assume you can do something similar in other states) and the employer can be hit with penalties & fees for not paying an employee. This could prove difficult though if the employer claims she was never an employee- which it sounds like they might- but to me this whole situation seems beyond weird.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yes; OP should claim those wages; when the paperwork was filled out doesn’t matter. However, whether or not she meets the qualifications for UI would depend on the state regulations.

    4. Lillie Lane*

      Agreed. Though having to deal with the tax filing now (which should have been technically due a few months ago) would likely be a huge headache and not worth it.

      1. Mae North*

        Wages are taxable in the year in which they’re paid, so any back wages she got would be 2015 earnings, and should be included on her 2015 tax return filed in early 2016. No need to amend the 2014 return.

    5. Stranger than fiction*

      That’s the first thing that crossed my mind too. The second thing was to suggest the Op post a nasty review to Glass Door asap. The whole thing is just, so rude, messing with someone’s livlihood like that. If I were a braver person, at that job fair, I would have stood at their table/booth the rest of the day and told other applicants to proceed with caution right in front of that guy.

  5. Apollo Warbucks*

    #3 I really can’t imagine any problem with wearing a different style or colour of wig, as long as the style and colour doesn’t breach any dress code or is to far outside what is typical for the office.

    I do wonder if constant changing hairstyles might lead to some of your coworkers asking you well meaning questions about it, so it would be worth considering your personal comfort level with dealing with those sorts conversations before deciding what you want to do.

    1. UKAnon*

      I agree. For me this falls close to “can I wear different hairstyles to the office or do I have to choose a bun and stick to it forever”. If that’s how OP wants to look and it’s professional each individual time I don’t see where there would be a problem.

      1. LQ*

        The problem with sticking to one hair style is that if you ever deviate at all people really notice. (Especially if your hair is in a bun normally and you wear it down at some point.) Variation makes people less likely to notice variation I think.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          If the OP comes in with blond hair one day and red hair the next and later in the week that’s going to be fairly noticeable, not that she should do it just it might prompt some questions.

          1. TootsNYC*

            People without hair problems color their hair. They go redhead, or pick a particularly darker haircolor. And theyc an get comments on it–I did, not from everybody, but from a few people.

            I also got a drastically shorter haircut last weekend. I’ve had this cut before, but I’d let it get long so the change was dramatic. I got several “did you get a haircut?” comments from people I don’t generally chat with.

            Of course, in these cases people don’t usually change several times in a month or week.

            But I think once the OP allows for an adjustment period, people will stop reacting much. Their comments will be more on the line of what people like me get to the fashion & style changes we make.
            “Oh, the turquoise shoes! Nice.” = “The auburn wig–I like this one.”
            “Did you get a haircut?” = “Is this a new wig?

            People will take their cues from her–if she acts like this is perfectly normal, they’ll pretty much go along with it.

            1. Apollo Warbucks*

              I agree with you entirely, it doesn’t seem like a big deal and I’m sure it wont be a problem however the OP wants to handle it.

              My thoughts were that because the reason for the change is due to medical issues the OP might not want to keep it low key, but that completely depends on their personal preference.

              1. Charlotte Collins*

                Weirdly, I know someone who works with college students. They change their looks all the time, but if someone their parents’ age or older does it, they freak out! We’re talking differences in hair length, nothing unusual. It’s like they think once you reach a certain age, you don’t want to change your hair or anything.

        2. MK*

          Eventually, yes. I mean, once it becomes known that the OP is always changing hairstyles, the people who work daily with them will become accustomed to this ever-changing appearence. But for the first weeks (or minths) it will cause more talk.

          1. LQ*

            Yes. But if you want to change it up, you can overall get fewer questions by changing it up often. (not daily, but if it is rare people want to comment) Basically it will become the norm quickly. And if the OP is ok talking about it for a little up-front then changing it up will cut the questions later. (which also might mean not getting questions on the days that are harder to take the questions later on)

        3. Renn*

          I don’t know — one employee notices and comments on every tiny change I make to my hair, and I make a lot of changes. Everything from major color overhauls to tiny highlights to the addition of just slight new layers that no one should consciously notice to blowing it out v. using the diffuser.

          1. Renn*

            My point to the OP is: Most people in the office won’t know what difference there is to your hair, even if it’s dramatic and often — they might actually say “Did you do something different with your hair?” but clearly not be certain, even if you just went from long hair to short. And then there likely will be one or two people who will comment on every tiny change, and that’s more a personal thing with them, don’t worry about it.

        4. Applesauced*

          Very true. I had a teacher in high school who ALWAYS wore her hair in a neat bun. And then one day she cam in with pigtail braids. But after that it was back to the bun for the rest of the year. 10 years later, I’m still curious about it!

        5. lawsuited*

          I think if you’re happy to wear one wig for a week or two, there shouldn’t be an adverse reaction. We have an assistant in our office who changes her weave every 2 weeks (although she doesn’t tend to drastically change her hair colour) and nobody thinks anything of it. I can find changes around a person’s face very jarring (to this day, I’m uneasy for a few days when men in my life shave off facial hair after growing it for a while), but usually when someone cuts or colours their hair, there’s time to get used to it because most hair cuts/colours last a few weeks or months.

    2. KT*

      This is true. Most have noticed my bald patches so it wouldn’t be a shock once I came in with a wig.

    3. Liza*

      OP # 3: I agree with Apollo Warbucks here–I wouldn’t expect it to be a problem but you should prepare for people to ask you about it. I used to have a coworker who wore different wigs all the time. She also had a very flamboyant fashion sense and I always thought the wigs were an extension of that, but now I wonder if she may have had hair loss too. Don’t know, doesn’t matter, not my business. Anyway, it was fine for her, and I expect it will be fine for you too.

      Plus, if you have to deal with all the downsides of your medical condition, you might as well get some fun out of it where you can!

  6. Apollo Warbucks*

    #1 What is it with people abusing expense accounts recently?

    I wouldn’t be too concerned about what has occurred previously if you’ve got the mandate to draft new policies and enforce them use that to clamp down on this type of thing.

    If you do want to riase it with your boss indirectly then you could make an effort to analyse our personal expenses and present it to your boss as a list of expenses youve stripped out of the accounts as they are not business related so deductions can’t be claimed at tax time.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I mean really. And it’s from bad practices. What’s with the guy approving the credit cards, at assistant level and there less than a year, also being the guy walking around with a watch and no double check. I kinda gasped.

      If what I am reading is correct, dude purchased watch at $unknown and then spent $100 (known and on company money) to have the watch couriered. It’s not known for sure if the company bought the watch but known for sure the company spent $100 for him to receive it.

      What the what? If this is so, then I guarantee you there’s a lot more money flying out the window. I wouldn’t attack the problem as dude bought watch, I’d attack it as need entirely different procedure for card approval and written policy for use of courier and shipping accounts. I’d use dude bought watch as the fodder for making that case.

      Unless the owner doesn’t care. Which, would be nuts because next up there’s a yacht on the company card, but you can’t make people care if they don’t.

        1. The IT Manager*

          THIS needs to be the new policy. At least two people check all purchases, and no one gets to handle the bills first to hide things before the second person sees it. This is just a best practice and can be presented as such.

          1. Artemesia*

            I know two people who have had their small businesses nearly brought to bankruptcy through embezzlement by trusted friends who worked for them and I was once the member of a professional association with a similar problem from a long time ‘trusted’ CFO. Any business that has the assistant buying personal items and also in charge of approving them and who also brags about it is probably not long for this world.

            The trick is to bring this up in a way that doesn’t get the owner to knee jerk defend the assistant. So approaching it as needed business controls first and then use the courier incident to illustrate. As in people using courier service for personal errands.

            I’d be nervous I wouldn’t have a job long if this is the way they run this company. Any chance this guy is more than the ‘assistant’ because I cannot imagine a pricey watch as a gift including courier service for anyone but a lover.

        2. Apollo Warbucks*

          Absolutely segregation of duties is an essential part of running a secure accounting function

          1. Anlyn*

            This is the exact example I use when people ask me to describe segregation of duties–“Basically, you can’t write the check and approve it as well”. Pretty sure this also violates SOX laws (not sure if there’s an minimum employee requirement before SOX kicks in).

            1. sunny-dee*

              SOX only applies if you’re incorporated (not LLC) and if you’re publicly traded. There are some very very small parts that apply to everyone (like you can’t destroy certain types of data if you’re being investigated by the federal government), but in general, SOX is just for large companies. The accounting costs associated with SOX compliance are about $6 million or more per year.

              1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

                SOX also has implications for nonprofits (which are governed by boards, but not publicly traded)

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  It took me a minute to figure out what they were talking about because we always call it SarBox. I forgot other people call it SOX.

            2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

              Even if SOX doesn’t apply, the primary principles of governance and gating do. The same person should not complete the transaction AND approve the transaction. Checks and balances exist for a reason whether legally mandated or not.

        3. Sammie*

          At my former employer a husband and wife were in the A/P and A/R roles. When I mentioned that “might not be the best practice”–I was written up. SMBs can be chock-full-o-crazy.

      1. Snowglobe*

        A basic tenet of financial management – segregation of duties. Anyone who has access to a corporate credit card should not be put in charge of paying the credit card bill; the person who signs checks should not be in charge of balancing the checkbook. If OP is responsible for updating procedures, it should be fairly easy to bring up these issues without pointing the finger at anyone.

        1. the gold digger*

          I had a boyfriend who was a gate manager for an airline. This was when the flight attendants would accept cash for beer and snacks. The flight attendants would drop their cash bags at the airport to be put in the airline safe.

          My boyfriend had one of the keys to the safe. His boss wanted him to have both keys. They were not duplicate keys – they were two keys that had to be used together to open the safe. The boss didn’t want to deal with it and didn’t understand why my boyfriend protested so vigorously against the idea.

          1. Snowglobe*

            I was once on the finance committe of our church. The safe that held the offering cash had two keys. Until someone went on vacation and gave their key to the person who had the other key. !?!?!? The auditors caught it a few months later, but really?

            1. Artemesia*

              But what could happen at a church? That was of course why the non-profit I was a member of got skinned over 20 years and finally brought to dire financial straights — I mean who would steal from an organization that does so much good? This is an area where ‘it isn’t personal, it is business’ should hold entire sway. One has these cross checks because it is good practice period, not because one doubts the integrity of Huron. (yeah I had a great uncle named Huron.)

              1. Snowglobe*

                You would be surprised – there have been quite a few instances of bookkeepers at churches that embezzled funds. There was one case in another church in our county. That was the problem I was dealing with – everyone thinks that since it’s a church, no one would ever steal money, so they didn’t bother following the procedures.

      2. TootsNYC*

        You’re head of Operations.
        Credit card approvals and expense procedures are Operations–no?
        I don’t understand why you can’t ask to see all the expense reports from the last year, to see what sorts of patterns there are, and what sorts of needs (for office supplies, meals, travel, gifts) there are, in case there’s a more economical way to get it.

        So I like Alison’s questions, but I’d also personally frame them in a “establishing a Best Practices and official procedures.” So everyone knows how they can spend the company’s money.

        And I’d point out that it’s really bad for the assistant to have the impression left that he’s bilking the company and taking advantage. It’s horrendous for work morale, people won’t trust him, and his reputation will leak out beyond the company. And if you let someone get away with a $100 corporate courier (really? FedEx wouldn’t have done?) and a watch, you’re placing a pretty big temptation in front of them–that’s not particularly fair.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        Um, has anyone else wondered if owner and assistant are having a relationship?

        1. Mike C.*

          Then maybe the owner is buying personal gifts and trying to write them off as business expenses…

    2. Ad Astra*

      Even if there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation behind this, it’s not unreasonable to ask about it. The boss would have to be a special kind of crazy to take offense to someone noticing a highly unusual situation and asking about it. All the OP needs to do is watch her tone.

      1. Artemesia*

        But a boss who would let his assistant buy a fancy watch and brag about it around the office is probably a special kind of crazy.

        1. TootsNYC*

          And how is it that he doesn’t know? If the OP knows from casual comments, the boss has to be aware.

          So either: a) there’s some sort of emotional relationship (surrogate son, lover)
          b) the boss is intimidated by him and can’t figure out how to stand up to him (which is where your “best practices” Operations procedures can help)
          c) the boss doesn’t have a good idea of how to reward valued employees (best practices/Operations to the rescue again)
          d) the boss is completely out of the loop and doesn’t even know this stuff (best practices Operations is a good way to keep this company from going under)
          e) other (it’s smart to always put this in)

          1. Ad Astra*

            My gut tells me there’s some kind of romantic or emotional relationship happening here. Or blackmail.

    3. JenGray*

      The accountant in me immediately went NOOOOOOO when I read this. Even the smallest of companies can put in internal controls -I once worked for an organization with 5 employees- and it does require sometimes require offsite help (i.e. an outside accountant/bookkeeper) but it can be done. Given the fact that this organization has an operations manager makes me think its got quite a few employees so putting in some internal controls should not be unreasonable. I think that the OP should have a plan of action to go to the owner with (i.e. who approves purchases, who looks at credit card statements, etc.) and try to mostly just focus on the future going forward & the positives of this plan (i.e. company money is only spent on valid company expenses). If the assistant has been making personal purchases than the internal controls can help put an end to those.

  7. Jozie*

    Regarding OP #2, it sounds like they were asked to do work for a few hours for that company post-job offer (the filing mentioned). I couldn’t tell from the letter whether OP was paid for this part or not. If not, is there still nothing that can/should be done?

    I am definitely no expert, but it seems to me that asking someone to do filing work for a company, something that the company would presumably pay someone to do, is akin to when companies ask prospective candidates for a position to produce usable work for the company as part of the application process, that the company does actually take and use.

    I don’t know what can be done here, though, since it seems harder to prove OP did this work and a chunk of time has passed?

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      And I’m wondering if by doing that, it would constitute some sort of agreement/contract? Any lawyers out there?

  8. Apollo Warbucks*

    #2 Yeah it sucks, but I don’t anything positive coming out of pursing a complaint, it would be far to easy for them to dismiss you as a disgruntled rejected candidate, not saying that’s right but just realistically I can’t see you getting the outcome you want.

    1. MK*

      And, when it comes rigth down to it, what outcome does the OP want? Presumably they don’t want to work for this company anymore. I think it would be hard to make a case for damages, unless the OP can actually prove they lost other job opportunities while waiting for this position. Compensation for the work they did do might be possible, but is it worth pursuing, since it’s only a few hours work and presumably a small sum of money? An apology would be nice, but ultimately meaningless.

    2. OP #4*

      Honestly, I wouldn’t expect any outcome–I really just would like to prevent other people from dealing with a bad process if I can.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        I saw your comment further down tread and they are all reasonable objections to the way you were treated, but as an outsider and rejected candidate I can’t see the benefit of you spending your time or effort tilting at that particular windmill.

        Maybe leave a review on glassdoor it’s more likely to have some impact and inform the thinking of potential candidates.

      2. MK*

        OP, I think you are giving these people too much credit for cluelessness. This isn’t a case of them doing something thoughtless without realising it (and might correct their behavior in the future if you point out their mistake); unless they are downright stupid, they must know they treated you badly in not letting you know that the offer was rescinded. They did so, either because they are completely disorganized, totally indifferent to your situation or cowardly determined to avoid an unpleasant conversation (or possibly all three).

        I suppose you could reach out to them and say “I realise that sometimes job offers fall through, but I think it would have been the correct behavior on your part to let me know in a timely and polite manner”. But, frankly, I don’t see it working out; no one likes to be corrected in their behavior, even if (or especially if) they are in the wrong. I doubt they would be willing to admit fault to a random candidate and apologize; if they were the sort of people who would, they wouldn’t have behaved like this in the first place.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But this wasn’t even a job offer falling through; there was never an offer (assuming we are talking about #4, not #2). The OP felt she was likely to get an offer, but the job went to someone else, which is really normal. The only thing the company did wrong here was the overly-long assignment and not informing the OP of their decision until she contacted them (and even then, it’s possible they would have contacted her if she’d waited a couple more days — we don’t really know).

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            That, and the CEO did all but say she got the job. Interviewers need to be careful what they say so they’re not leading candidates on too much. I hear of that happening a lot. It’s well-intentioned, usually, but put it in the category of bad interviewer behavior.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              But “all but said she got the job” isn’t a job offer; I’d put it in the candidate of “not great candidate behavior” too if they counted on that.

      3. RVA Cat*

        What you may want to do is take your story to whoever sponsored the job fair. It’s possible this is a pattern for them and if so, any reputable organizer would ban them from their events.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Actually, in terms of preventing them from screwing over other people, this is a very reasonable thing to do.

        2. College Career Counselor*

          +1 If this was a university-sponsored job fair, the Career Services people would want to know this. Regardless, make sure you stick to the facts when reporting it, otherwise you could come across as looking like a sour grapes applicant. I don’t think you are; this is terrible behavior by a hiring organization.

          1. Judy*

            I think everyone is confused. #2 who was offered the job and then it got delayed and later rescinded, saw the company at a job fair. #4 who was given lots of signals they would be hired, but wasn’t, didn’t mention a job fair.

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            The most outrageous part, in my opinion, is that they actually called and postponed her start date a couple of times, while they were clearly looking for someone else who could do sales, leading her on until they did.

      4. Ad Astra*

        Is this company on Glassdoor? A detailed review of their interview process is probably your best recourse. I don’t think your feedback is likely to change the way this company does interviews, but it could influence future candidates to steer clear of this process.

        1. Caveat*

          I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but just in case the OP isn’t aware: Glassdoor reviews can be edited. It’s in their Terms of Service/Agreement- at least it was a couple of years ago. I experienced a horrible, demeaning and sexist interview process from a local store of major sporting goods chain (ironically known for being a good place to work- haha!) & my review was edited beyond belief to the point where meaning was lost. I take Glassdoor reviews with a huge grain of salt now.

          1. Ad Astra*

            Yeah, I’ve heard this a couple of times and I’m a little surprised. My Glassdoor review was accepted verbatim, and it definitely wasn’t 100 percent nice. There’s probably an explanation for why yours was edited and mine wasn’t, but I’m not sure what it would be. I run my company’s Glassdoor profile and as far as I know there’s no option for me to edit it.

          2. anonanonanon*

            My last company’s CEO encouraged people to post reviews on Glassdoor after our yearly town hall. Morale was low and the reviews were scathing. Some of the more negative ones that talked about slashed pay, raises being taken away, and the company’s financial trouble (filing for bankruptcy, but big bonuses for the top execs) were deleted within a few days. Then, all of a sudden, there were a bunch of glowing recommendations on the company’s Glassdoor page. We all suspected that the CEO had a bunch of people write positive reviews to boost the numbers.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              Yes, in my experience, a couple companies I sort of follow, they have PR people and new hires post glowing reviews to offset the negative, so I would think if they could just edit the bad ones in the first place, why would they go to the trouble to post the fake ones and the ones from new hires?

            2. Renee*

              This happened with a company I reviewed. I was encouraged by a review that pointed out the same issues I had with the company, so I posted my own. A few months later, the company becomes active on Glassdoor and that first review disappeared. 5-6 positive reviews appeared about how things are changing, new management, blah blah blah. Now whenever a negative review appears (confirming that things are just as bad as they ever were) a positive one appears within days. I don’t know how the review disappeared, but the posting pattern looks as fake as it no doubt is. I’m pretty good at sorting out the fake from the real, but I now question any positive review whenever a company is an “engaged employer” or whatever terminology GD uses to indicate the employer is active on the site.

          3. Three Thousand*

            This is one reason I actually find Yelp valuable, or at least the company Yelp claims to be. If someone posts a false or unfair negative review of your business, there’s nothing you can do except publicly respond to the review. You can’t edit it or take it down. As a small business owner, I’m as predisposed to hate and fear Yelp as any other small business owner, but there’s absolutely a need for it now that organizations like the Better Business Bureau have been rendered completely useless.

              1. Three Thousand*

                The “extortion” case specifically was dismissed in September 2014. It’s certainly possible Yelp has been lying this entire time about the way they treat bad reviews, but at least one court has decided they’re legit.

                I’m no fan of how Yelp deals with advertising; they’ve called me numerous times trying to sell me stupidly overpriced ad packages and been evasive about telling me the exact benefits of advertising with them. I would never actually give them a dime for advertising or anything else. But I don’t automatically subscribe to the conspiracy theory that they manipulate reviews based on whether or not you advertise with them, since the way reviews do get flagged and removed has in my experience been pretty straightforward.

                I understand it’s scary to think about how much power Yelp has over small businesses. That in itself doesn’t make them evil.

            1. Cath in Canada*

              Yelp does seem to bury or hide some reviews though. I once posted a review of a place that served me raw chicken (not undercooked – raw), and it was there for a couple of days and then disappeared. After reading around I guess it’s because I’m not a regular review writer…?

              1. Limepink22*

                I yelp alot. If you don’t, they think you’re a disgruntled one-off or even the same person making multiple accts to harass a business. The more you yelp the more “verified real” you are, so your good and bad reviews will show. Its supposed to help the businesses and encourage more active participation

      5. Chickaletta*

        #4, you must have interviewed at the same place I did a couple months ago. Such a similar situation: New start up, really excited about me as a candidate, lengthy assignment, praises all around, then all the sudden nothing. It’s been over two months since my initial interview and I still don’t know if they got around to hiring anyone yet. Fortunately I got another job offer that I’m really excited about, so I don’t care too much, except that I’m keeping an eye out on their website to make sure they don’t use any of the materials I created for them. I chalk it up to them being a new company that’s run by a bunch of people who aren’t used to running a company and they’re experiencing a learning curve. Normally I wouldn’t mind that, but they seem to have no problem using applicants as the road to get them there and that’s the problem.

        Hope you find something better!

        1. bob*

          That would piss me off enough to send a bill for the time I spent on some ridiculous assignment! They probably wouldn’t pay it but it might get someone’s attention.

  9. KSM*

    Re: wigs. If you believe this particular symptom will stick around in the long-term, and want high-quality wigs, see if you can find the information for a local sheitel macher (sheitel = wig, macher = seller, lit. ‘doer’). Married, Orthodox (and observant) Jewish women have to cover their hair, and the dominant way of doing so in the US and most of Europe is wigs (they only have to cover THEIR hair, specifically, after marriage; the practice dates to a 18th century wig craze in Europe). As a result, sheitel machers carry expensive (and I do truly mean expensive; try googling “Niche Market | The Sheitel Macher” for an idea about price ranges), but very good, real-hair wigs meant to withstand everyday wear for years.

    If the hair loss is localized to the back of the head, try looking into a wig style alternatively called a ‘fall’ (generally used in Jewish circles), a 3/4 cap (the most neutral term), or a ‘half-wig’ (generally used in Black hairstyling). It will work with your natural hair, so must match closely.

    Please note: the $20-30 wigs will have visible wear after 1-2 weeks.

    I also know a woman who has a wide variety of blonde sheitels for her conservative, legal job. Some curly, some straight, some a shortish bob, some long. Different shades of blonde, to boot. Her boss never notices; the women in the office often do notice, but she hasn’t gotten any guff about it.

    1. BRR*

      In the drag queen community they call the $20-$30 wigs, shake and go wigs (and it’s not a compliment).

      1. K.*

        Yes. Cheap wigs look cheap and REALLY obvious. I have friends who wear wigs for fun and another friend who’s a theater hobbyist and has a lot of wigs for that. I also have elderly relatives who wear wigs and one of them used to make fun of famous people who wear cheap wigs – “I know my wigs are cheap but I’m on a fixed income! She has millions!” You can get a wig at any price point, but you do get what you pay for.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Very, very good advice. One of my cousins was diagnosed with alopecia universalis at 4 years old, and her mother immediately took her right up to Manhattan for the best sheitel money could buy (we’re Jewish though not Orthodox, so we knew they existed!). Because she was a kid and didn’t want to stand out too much, she always got the same color (I think they kept her on file), and honestly I didn’t even know about the alopecia until I was in high school and my cousin was in fifth grade. Twice a year, my cousin and her mother took the train to NYC (about a 3-hour trip each way) to get the wig styled and thoroughly cleaned.

      Anyway, besides all that, the money spent seems so, so worth it. The quality of the wigs is excellent, and I’m pretty sure they offer maintenance as well. And you have the bonus of being around people who wear wigs all the time so it’s both no big deal and something they know how to work with.

      1. MicheleNYC*

        +1 I live in Brooklyn right in the middle of a huge Hasidic community. Their wigs are beautiful.

    3. KT*

      I’ve looked into this actually! But I think way too expensive/high maintenance for my needs. Such high quality wigs really need extensive care.

      The wigs I’m looking at are a better synthetic (in the $200-300 wage) that are easier to care for and hold their style–which for simple ease appeals to me

      1. KSM*

        Better synthetics are great, too! I wish you luck in your treatment and wig purchasing.

        From what I’ve seen of my frum (Jewish and observant) professional acquaintances, most people won’t care about wig-wearing at all!

      2. TootsNYC*

        Depending how long this problem lasts, there’s always the option of getting one really high-quality wig in your favorite (default) hairstyle, and then having other, less expensive wigs when you want to have fun.
        Sort of like people recommend for clothes–buy classic styles in designer quality for your most important clothing, and get this season’s fads somewhere inexpensive.

        1. KT*

          I will eventually invest in very high-quality wig…but since this is still so new and I’ve never worn wigs before, I want to start with cheaper versions so I can play around with styles, how to secure them, wig grips, how to care for them, etc to lessen my chances of destroying a wig that costs thousands!

          1. tesyaa*

            This actually makes a lot of sense. Although observant Jewish women look great in their wigs, the backstory is that almost every woman has a story of buying an expensive wig in the wrong style/color/texture and hating it. Since they’re custom items, it’s very hard to sell them used and get a decent amount of money out of them.

    4. Ad Astra*

      How interesting that they can show hair in public, but not their hair. I had never heard that before.

      1. KSM*

        Yup! And no hair covering is required before marriage, only after marriage. Not all communities deem wigs acceptable and those communities will wear scarves instead; some allow wigs but insist on small hats or headbands on top of the wig as a sign to say “this is a wig.”

        Scarves are more popular in Israel where everyone understands why they are being worn, as the way of wearing a scarf to cover hair only is often considered unprofessional-looking, ‘hippie-ish’, or grandmotherly in the US and Europe.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          Scarf-wearing after marriage used to be common among Polish-Americans of any religion. My grandmother does not go out without a babushka. However, among Catholics, the scarves can be removed once you’re indoors. (But you used to have to wear them in church. Read “Kitty in the Middle,” not just for the great example 1940s girlhood, but also for the wonderful scene where one of the girls forgets her veil and makes do with a tissue.)

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Interesting. Off-topic, but I remember wearing head coverings (mantillas) in church (Catholic). That was in the late 1960s-early 1970s in Kansas City. My mum definitely did during her childhood. It doesn’t happen around here that I’ve seen–I don’t know if that’s changed over time, or if where I’m living now is less formal. I only go to church on Saturdays if I go at all, so that might make a difference too.

            The only other thing I’ve been to that is close was an Anglican service in London–but that was VERY casual, as it was literally tourists sitting on folding chairs (it was a St. George’s Day service at St. Paul’s Cathedral). I have no idea if it’s common or was common in that church at that time or now, but it would be interesting to find out. UK’ers? Anyone know?

    5. Sigrid*

      Oh, that’s fascinating, I had no idea! My mother is losing her hair because of a medical condition and has been looking into wigs; I will mention this to her. Thank you for the information!

    6. TotesMaGoats*

      As an aside, my grandmother had a small wig to cover a perceived bald spot. she called it her wig-let.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        My mother and grandmother both have many different styles of “falls”– losing our hair runs in our family. My mother has three or four different pieces, my grandmother has one big one that gets styled twice a week. I have never seen my grandmother without her fall (it’s not a complete wig), even when she was in the hospital. Most people have no idea.

  10. Not Today Satan*

    #4. A year later, now that I’m happily employed somewhere else, I still consider “reporting” the HR person at another employer (in addition to being a no-show for 2 phone interviews, she literally sent me a page long email about how I was only being offered an interview because I was “so persistent” and because I had two contacts at the organization). The org is actually a really big/prominent nonprofit and, if she treats other applicants like she did me, she’s causing them to lose a lot of donors.

    But as the saying goes, not my circus, not my monkeys.

    1. OP #4*

      But wouldn’t it be a good thing on your part to “report” that bad behavior? It could help other candidates, and the organization.

      Also, I’ve never heard that saying, but I’m going to use it in the future. :)

      1. fposte*

        It’s not likely to get anything like the reaction you hope, though; they’re not likely to say, “Oh, that’s terrible–I’ll make sure she’s spoken to.” More likely it will be “a disgruntled applicant is trying to school us.” You’re not a customer, and they’re not keen to know how you think they’re doing; it’s also not likely to do you any favors if you apply again.

        That doesn’t mean that you can never do it. But you’re treating it as if it were a common step in the application when things meet a fairly low bar of unpleasantness, and it’s not.

      2. MK*

        I think what people are trying to say is that the chances of them listening to your complaint in good faith and correcting their behavior (thus helping other candidates and the company) are almost ono-existent. You have no standing with them, so it’s unlikely that they will consider your critisism of the way they do bussiness. Save yourself the grief.

        1. OP #4*

          Yes, I suppose there’s no point. I guess for the purposes of this forum, it’s just satisfying to give voice to the situation and see agreement that there really should be more expected from employers.

          1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

            I appreciate your impulse there. I had a candidate several years ago who applied, and (not on purpose!) was sent a rejection 15 minutes later saying that we’d already hired someone. We had left our posting out there because we didn’t know if our top candidate would work out – which is both reasonable and essential. He had put a good bit of effort into his application, and was pretty frustrated that we obviously had not reviewed it. He called me and very tactfully explained his frustration, and said that he knew we wouldn’t want to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. I actually brainstormed with him for a while about how he has seen this done well at other places. We now do one of two things:
            1. We clarify that our hiring process is rolling and that we are interviewing as we go, with no promise to consider all resumes equally depending on where we are in the process. Something like “applications will be considered on a rolling basis until a suitable candidate is hired”
            2. We sometimes list an “initial deadline” – we review all resumes we receive before the “initial deadline” and then we review anything received afterwards if, and only if, we don’t find a candidate in the first pile (in reality, we always give the new apps a look so we don’t miss a rockstar, but don’t look as hard if we think we’ve already found what we need). Our posting says “the initial application deadline is July 15th. After the 15th, applications received may be considered on a rolling basis”.

            We are also very careful to be sure that when we sit down to send out rejections we don’t send a rejection to anyone who applied less than 2 days ago. It just feels mean (“we took one quick look at you and found you very easy to reject!). So we do a second or third round of rejection e-mails later. Usually it’s an admin sending out the rejections, so we learned that this person needed more training in how to do it thoughtfully instead of just sending a “dear____copy+paste” to everyone in that e-mail folder.

            His feedback did help, but he approached it exceptionally well, and didn’t dwell on his own feelings and experience too much – which probably would have led to us dismissing his as just a disgruntled candidate.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              See, that’s one of those perfect world scenarios we all hope will happen in these situations. Nice to know something good can come of it in situations where both parties are mature and receptive.

            2. OP #4*

              That’s great to hear, and is exactly what I would hope to achieve with feedback. Kudos to you for listening!

  11. hbc*

    #1, you have three issues: Who should primarily be responsible for the financial monitoring, what the procedure should be, and whether this sketchy purchase goes against current policy. If you start your approach on one of the first two, it’s less likely to look like you’re going after the boss’ pet. For example, you could go with “I was wondering if we had a documented or even generally understood procedure for dealing with the corporate cards. Best practice is to do X, but I think that might be too much work for a smaller company, so maybe Y or Z would be better. I’m trying to protect us from a situation like [relevant scare story, either from past experience or this site].”

    Then you can come up with a few scenarios that you know of and confirm how they would be handled in the future under the new plan. “So when Engineer goes on a Home Depot run for more than $250 worth of supplies like he did last week, that receipt will now get validated line by line by me or Assistant. And in the case of personal gifts like Assistant’s watch, someone other than the recipient has to make the purchase and shipping arrangements.” That leaves you neutral wherever he falls in his reaction, from “He did what?!?!” to “Sure, okay” to “No, I want to keep letting Assistant spend my money however he wants, adjust the procedure accordingly.”

    1. TootsNYC*

      Another reason to argue for more transparency (and someone from Operations) to go over expense reports is, you may find a less expensive way (time or money) to get the stuff you guys need (maybe Engineer shouldn’t be making runs to Home Depot every time he needs a widget but instead buy widgets in bulk from a widget supplier and reorder when the supply runs low).

  12. OP #4*

    To clarify, I didn’t and don’t think a job offer is guaranteed. That’s not why I think their process was shoddy. I have three issues (not including the repeated late rescheduling, which, while not ideal, happens.)

    1) The project should have been further into the process, since it obviously wasn’t determinative. Yes, the work was excessive, but would have been acceptable at the end of the process.

    2) I consider it a rather large favor for a reference to take the time to speak to a potential employer on my behalf. I believe, in the vast majority of cases, references should only be contacted as final, confirming, step.

    3) The last point is my primary reason for asking the question. If a candidate goes through the number of steps that I do, something more is required than a “we’ve gone in another direction, good luck” email (only sent in reply to my inquiry). I’m sorry, but it is. And it’s not an excuse for HR managers to say, well, if we give a reason, the candidate will argue with us. Arguing back would be a misstep on the part of the candidate; but the possibility of someone acting inappropriately doesn’t excuse inappropriate behavior on the employer’s part. There’s such a thing as manners.

    1. Snowglobe*

      Regarding #2, it’s not uncommon for an employer to have two very strong candidates, and to use the references as additional information to help decide which of the two would be a better fit. (Even if both candidates have glowing references, the specific statements may indicate that one candidate will fit in better with the culture.)

      And for #3, while the response may not have been very satisfying, I don’t see that as an issue worthy of contacting management and complaining. So many people complain that they just don’t hear anything at all (see letter #2). They let you know that you weren’t selected, and wished you well. That isn’t bad manners, it’s just not what you wanted.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        Yes – I have frequently called references for two or three candidates. Sometimes it’s because all of them are great and I’m looking for input that will help me distinguish between them. Other times, it’s because I want to make sure that there are no major problems before I lose other viable candidates. It is a favor to give a reference, but if you’re job hunting, you should expect that your references will sometimes receive calls for jobs you don’t get.

        1. Retail Lifer*

          Exactly. When I’m down to two or three finalists, I check their references even though only one person is going to get the job. When there’s only one strong candidate it’s just a formality, but sometimes it really is a factor in the hiring decision when you’re down to the last few people.

    2. Chris*

      Honestly, I agree with you. No, technically the company owes you jack, because you didn’t have a contract. But I do think that, in the sense of basic politeness and decency, some level of notification must be in play. ESPECIALLY when they didn’t contact you directly. If they just said “we’ve gone another direction” in an email, that might be insanely frustrating, but at least it would be a response, but to not even do that?

      That said, who would you complain to? It’s not like there’s a Department of Corporate Manners you can report them to. I say, just tell your friends and colleagues about your bad experience, and there’s little else worth doing. Anything else, including directly contacting the company, makes you look petty (even if you’re not)

      1. Applesauced*

        I would be wholeheartedly supportive of starting a Department of Corporate Manners, so long as it it located next to the Ministry of Basic Decency and Letting People Off the Train Before You Push Your Way On, and in the same neighborhood as The Center for Re-Learning Basic Courtesies from Kindergarten.

        1. Myrin*

          What is it with people pushing their way on the train when half the people on it are still trying to get off it?! I always wait until everyone who seems to want out really left before boarding myself and even that gets nasty shouters from behind me all the time. Like, dude, the train is not going to leave right this second, especially if there are ten people at every door still trying to get in, would you relax already?!

          1. TootsNYC*

            plus–we won’t all FIT until all those people get off the train!

            Just yesterday the automated recording said “Please allow people to exit the train doors,” and I got nostalgic for the conductors bawling out, “LET ‘EM OFF!”

          2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

            Also, when someone was the first person waiting for the elevator, and then so many more people show up that it’s more than an elevator-full, don’t push that one person out of the way and make them wait for the next elevator when you just showed up.

            1. potato battery*

              Yes! This also happens at bus stops sometimes. Let the people who’ve been waiting 15-20 minutes on the bus!

          3. SystemsLady*

            All of these (including two guys with huge bags all but torpedoing in front of me to beat me to the elevator) and people standing right in front of the baggage claim at a large airport and refusing to move, acting like they don’t notice, when somebody behind them sees their bag!

            I wish people would just step back in the first place unless you were on a tiny flight, but good luck getting the average flier to be considerate and pay attention to their surroundings…

            (Can you tell I have experienced all of these at the same airport?)

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              Don’t even get me started on plane de boarding… Ugh people are so rude trying to shove past people in rows in front them trying to get out… Go in order people you’re just making it take longer!

          4. BabyAttorney*

            I’m always amazed when the conductor slams the doors shut before everyone is even off. I get off at one of the busiest rush hour stations in the area and one day the conductor must not have had her brain turned on or something. I was maybe the fifth or seventh person to get off and she almost caught my (very short!) hair in the door!! D:

          5. I'm a Little Teapot*

            Also, what is with people in aisle seats who refuse to move over when the window seat is empty? Or stand blocking the aisle of the bus/train so other people can’t get past – sometimes even when there are seats available.

    3. Colette*

      I agree they should proactively tell you they’ve gone with someone else, but I do not think they owe you a reason. sometimes the reason is that they had to choose between two great candidates and they chose the other one, sometimes it’s that you were rude to the receptionist, and sometimes it’s that you didn’t read their mind. It doesn’t really matter – all that matters is that they didn’t hire you.

      Similarly, checking references doesn’t mean you have the job or that they owe you anything other than letting you know whether you’re advancing or not.

      But a week’s worth of free work is excessive, and not something you should do – that might be why you are more invested than you should be in getting the job.

        1. OP #4*

          There are plenty of conversations we’d rather not have in life, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have them. An email would work too.

      1. OP #4*

        Disagree that it doesn’t matter–I think more complete and open communication is a basic courtesy after such a lengthy process. If the candidate was rude to the receptionist, then say that.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Many, many people say they prefer being rejected over email than by phone because phone is too awkward.

          And really, employers are under no obligation to give feedback, especially if it would be an awkward piece of criticism to deliver. That’s just not part of the social contract we have around hiring.

          1. OP #4*

            I think a communicative email elaborating on the decision is acceptable too.

            But I thoroughly disagree with you on the “social contract” sentence. According to who? I see how that makes employer’s and HR’s jobs easier, but I don’t think that should be the paramount consideration. We should endeavor to treat each other with courtesy and respect.

            Yes, if we reduce everything to what our “obligations” are–almost implying a strictly legal context–than yes, employers aren’t under any obligation to give feedback. We aren’t obligated to do lots of things that we should do.

              1. OP #4*

                Always good to examine how stuff normally works.

                Sometimes it shouldn’t work that way. :)

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Sure. But as I said below, when you’re proposing a wholesale change in business practice, it doesn’t make sense to be surprised that something happened that’s in accordance with conventional norms.

            1. TootsNYC*

              It is respectful to tell people who gave your their time in an interview that the job search is over and they didn’t get the job.

              But it’s actually a great kindness and investment of energy to provide much in the way of detailed feedback or elaboration. I’m not going to deliver that to everyone. I don’t have a strong enough connection.

          2. TootsNYC*

            I give explanations to candidates I really, really liked. The close second.
            Or sometimes I give it to someone that I personally liked and feel could grow, and might be open to feedback and growth.
            It’s a huge compliment when I bother. I don’t do it often. Because I’m busy, and I don’t want to be your job coach.

            1. OP #4*

              Sure, everyone’s busy. But explaining a decision at the end of a two-month process should hardly be considered a “huge compliment.” It’s basic courtesy.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                But it’s not. It’s not generally accepted as a thing that’s supposed to be provided. You want it, and that’s fine, but that doesn’t make it a basic courtesy.

                1. OP #4*

                  Correct–“should be” a basic courtesy. Unfortunately, “common courtesy” is anything but.

                2. TootsNYC*

                  I actually disagree that it “should be” a basic courtesy.

                  Basic courtesy is telling you, once the decision has been made, that you didn’t get it.
                  OP#4, I don’t think your company had enough time for you to claim they were rude. It was only one week after your interview. That’s a blip in every hiring process I’ve been part of; people still have their day jobs to do, sometimes w/ deadlines.

                  But why? There’s one answer: someone else beat you out. More than that would be more than you are owed. They ‘re not your job coach.

                3. Colette*

                  @OP #4 – you seem to be missing the fact that the “common courtesy” you’re advocating for isn’t common because it requires work, invites negative responses, and, in fact, isn’t courteous. Did you ever hear “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”? That is not appropriate in all situations, but it always applies when giving unsolicited feedback to a virtual stranger. Different people react to feedback in different ways. You seem to default by digging your heels in and insisting you’re right, but others take feedback (particularly of the “we liked someone else better” variety) very hard, and it can negatively affect their mood and job search.

                  I’m concerned that you seem to have trouble grasping the flaws in your preferred approach and do not even seem to recognize that there are flaws.

                4. OP #4*

                  Colette: As I noted elsewhere, you’re right–common courtesy is sadly all too uncommon, given as it “requires work” among other things. And the cliche about “not saying something nice” wouldn’t be remotely applicable here.

                  I would suggest you examine your own “digging in of heels” when a plea for better manners in society causes you such angst. You’d be better off focusing your concern inward.

        2. Colette*

          Why? You seem convinced that it matters, but how would hearing “we’ve decided to go with another candidate because we like her more” help you?

          Similarly, if you ask someone over for dinner, they don’t have to justify why they say no – all they owe you is a polite answer. Providing an explanation is not actually a part of common courtesy, and runs contrary to it in many circumstances. Courtesy is about making the other person comfortable, not about being 100% honest.

            1. TootsNYC*

              I think they are.

              In fact, I’d say that someone who has opened the hospitality of their home to you might be more entitled to an explanation (though I don’t believe that they are) than someone who has offered you the opportunity to engage in a business conversation to explore whether it might be to your mutual benefit.
              Nobody’s doing anybody any favors in a job interview. It’s a mutual thing.

              1. OP #4*

                “It’s a mutual thing.” Eh….not really.

                The employer has far more leverage in the relationship most of the time.

          1. Koko*

            In fact, the entire domain of “etiquette” and courtesy is based around, “What rules can we agree to that will make this social situation flow as smoothly as possible with the least amount of awkwardness?” It’s not at all about being nice – although in many cases being nice is will what will make the situation flow smoothly, in other cases, the kinder thing to do may also be the more awkward thing to do, and in those cases, etiquette demands we avoid creating the uncomfortable situation.

    4. fposte*

      1) the project was too long in general. I’m not sure where you were in the process–it seems to have been post-interview–so I can’t speak to whether it was appropriate at that state, but it’s not inappropriate to make people do various tasks at fairly early stages.

      2) they didn’t handle the references thing great, but you had actually interviewed with them at that point, so it does seem like you were a finalist when your references got called.

      3) they should contact you to let you know that you weren’t selected, but they certainly don’t owe you anything beyond that, and you often won’t get that, even after an interview. They don’t even owe you that if they’re breaking up with you, and they’re not breaking up with you–they were never with you. It sounds like you felt the rug was pulled out from under you and that you deserved an explanation. But they never had the rug under you in the first place.

      I think you’re setting yourself up for a lot of unhappiness; you want hiring to be a way that overall it often isn’t, and you’re going to feel hard done by if it doesn’t reach that standard. It’s more like rush-hour traffic; you’re going to get cut off, you’re going to have people not signal when they change lanes, and so on, but it’s never going to change, and if you get indignant about it your head will explode on your first commuting day.

      1. fposte*

        Actually, I take it back on #2; if they’d decided they didn’t need the other references, it makes more sense to notify them to that fact than to take up their time unnecessarily. It would be great if they had known it wasn’t necessary before contacting them, but if you try to pin down one reference at a time it’ll take you weeks to get past that stage.

        It’s also possible they had decided you weren’t what they were looking for at that point, either because of the reference (no matter how wonderful you may think it) or for other reasons, and that’s why they didn’t pursue the other references.

        1. TootsNYC*

          They were indeed polite to your references.

          They SHOULD have been that polite to you.

          And also, I’d check to be sure about that reference, and how great it was. (Though fposte is right–it may have been that there was some skill/experience they were zeroing in on, and your reference’s comments made them realize you weren’t that deep in that particular aspect, even if you were great all around.)

          As for there not being other candidates–you have no idea who popped up after you. Or the CEO wasn’t in the loop on the résumés in the stack.

          1. Colette*

            I’m not actually convinced that they didn’t intend to tell the OP that they’d gone with another candidate. It’s possible she contacted them as they were making the decision, or that something about the way she contacted them (e.g. Following up before the timeframe she’d been given, multiple follow ups in a short period of time, repeated phone calls without leaving a message, etc.) helped them to their decision.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes, that’s my thinking too. We really have no way of knowing. They made have made the decision in the last 24 hours and have been planning to contact her, but she reached out first.

            2. OP #4*

              I followed up more than a week after my references had been contacted.

              And I should point out that them not contacting me until I contacted them isn’t even among the problems that I cited. But I suppose it wouldn’t be considered a positive for them either.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                It’s possible that they made the decision the morning of the day you contacted them; we don’t know. Decisions aren’t always made immediately after reference checking.

                I get that you’re pissed off about the situation, but I think you’re interpreting all of their behavior in the worst possible light; a lot of this could be perfectly reasonable on their part.

                1. OP #4*

                  I’m really just interpreting it neutrally, to be honest. I don’t argue that they may have been planning to get in touch–in fact, I would assume that were.

              2. Colette*

                A week is really not long at all. You have no idea what happened in the background – was someone sick? Did they have trouble getting in touch with another candidate’s references? Did they have an offer out that hadn’t been accepted?mwere they reconsidering the budget for the position?

                Since you say you think they would have told you if you hadn’t contacted them first, is your complaint that they didn’t move fast enough for your timeline?

                1. OP #4*

                  Checking…it was 11 days. And again, that isn’t one of the points I raised as being a problem–although I think you’d be hard pressed to spin it into a positive for them.

                  No, my complaint isn’t that “they didn’t move fast enough” for my timeline. I’ve explained the problems I had with the process several times.

          2. Retail Lifer*

            THIS. I was very close to getting a job but someone else snuck in at the last minute, and they were apparently better. It sucks, but it happens.

            1. OP #4*

              And if that’s the case, a brief email and/or phone call saying that would be all it takes to do the right thing.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But you are wanting/expecting something that just isn’t usually done, without acknowledging that you want something that’s very, very out of sync with business norms.

              1. OP #4*

                I’ve certainly seen it done, have done it myself. My point it about what’s right. Things that are accepted can be wrong, and can be changed–we’ve seen big examples of that lately.

                1. fposte*

                  I think you’re not seeing the difference between “what I want” and “what is right.”

                  You want an explanation, which is fine. It is, however, perfectly right not to give you one.

                2. TootsNYC*

                  Have you noticed what a minority you are? I think you’re the only one who’s arguing that it’s reprehensible to not give more detail when turning down or rejecting a job candidate.

                  I’m not the job coach. I’m not getting into the details of why I made *my* decision with anyone I don’t want to. If I liked you, if I felt you did a lot, if I felt it would make any difference to you, I might tell you.

                  But you’re coming across pretty argumentative here (which is admittedly a place in which this sort of discuss is appropriate), and so if there were any hint of that in real life, I would never tell you anything other than, “We went with someone else.” Even if we hadn’t made a decision and had just rejected you, even after we’d been impressed in one arena.

                3. OP #4*

                  Toots: As for being in the minority, many commentators here are coming from the HR side, so it’s not surprising.

                  And as I said, questioning the explanation would be inappropriate. Discussion here is not.

      2. OP #4*

        “I think you’re setting yourself up for a lot of unhappiness… It’s more like rush-hour traffic; you’re going to get cut off, you’re going to have people not signal when they change lanes, and so on, but it’s never going to change”

        What you’re saying here is that people behave badly, and you’re better off just accepting it. I don’t disagree, but I think that reasonable people should be able to agree that bad behavior is bad behavior, and not excuse it by saying something better “isn’t owed” to us.

        1. jennie*

          It seems like you’re taking this personally but for them it’s almost certainly not personal at all. They chose the candidate who was the best fit for them and informed you of their decision.

          From your responses, I can’t figure out how they could have rejected you in a way that would have satisfied you. The reason could be anything or nothing and they don’t owe you an explanation for their decision. There’s no business case for spending time crafting candid but sensitive unsolicited feedback for candidates when rejecting them. It’s time consuming and can cause the candidate to argue or become defensive. That’s why a lot of employers use canned rejections. It’s not personal.

          1. OP #4*

            It shouldn’t be particularly time-consuming, because there should be few candidates who went through as many steps as I did. If there are, then their behavior is even worse.

            1. jennie*

              I understand that you see it that way, but if it takes 10 minutes per finalist to compose an email with substantive feedback, and you have 3 unsuccessful finalists for 50 jobs a year, that is a lot of time. I do see your point of view, but try to see the employer’s. They are busy people and this task offers virtually no return on investment.

              If someone is a superstar who I definitely want to consider in the future and/or has particularly hard to find skills, but didn’t quite fit for this job, that’s when I’ll spend the extra time on a personalized rejection because I want to build a relationship for the future. But that happens very rarely. Usually I don’t have much incentive to build a relationship with someone I’m rejecting because I’m not going to hire that person.

              1. OP #4*

                Without getting too lost in the weed of the numbers game, in this case there assuredly were not 150 emails that needed to be sent.

                1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                  Have you ever been involved in hiring? Have you reviewed the number of resumes that come in for a position, conducted multiple interviews, collaborated with people on a decision, and then be the one to communicate to all candidates?

                  I’m going to guess no. Until you have that experience, don’t try to assess the number of resumes and the time it takes to review and contact everyone. You clearly have no idea how long that actually takes.

          2. TootsNYC*

            “…and can cause the candidate to argue or become defensive.”

            Much as OP#4 has done. I don’t want to get into reasons, because there’s no arguing. I might have something short to say to someone I otherwise liked. But if it’s something sensitive (“you’re annoying and too persistent” maybe), I’m not going there.
            Otherwise, what good is it to say, “We hired someone whose presentation was better than ours” or “we went with someone who has certification in XYZ field after all.”

            1. OP #4*

              Incorrect. I wasn’t provided the explanation that I have made a point of providing to the candidates I haven’t selected in the past. And as I mentioned before, it would not be appropriate for the candidate to then argue the point. But potential bad behavior from someone else doesn’t excuse your own bad behavior.

              1. Colette*

                But you’re arguing with the feedback you’re getting here. You believe you’re right and that your view of courtesy is correct, and I’m not seeing any attempt to understand the other viewpoints people are sharing.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          But it’s not owed to you. They don’t need to give you a reason. You want a reason, and you think you deserve a reason. That’s understandable. But that doesn’t mean they did anything wrong by not giving it to you.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              That’s certainly your prerogative, but I think you should recognize that what you’re saying is contrary to how this generally works and that you’re proposing a wholesale change in business practice. Which is fine, but usually can’t go hand in hand with being surprised that something happened in accordance with conventional norms.

              1. OP #4*

                I can’t say bad behavior surprises me…more that I think it’s better if we don’t accept or excuse it.

                It’s somewhat like voting–our single vote won’t matter most likely, but we still do what we can to do what’s right.

                1. jennie*

                  I understand the impulse to want someone to “pay” if you feel they wronged you, but hopefully you can see from these comments that the bad behaviour you describe is not considered particularly bad by most people, and is actually pretty normal.

                  In my job, if you complained to my boss about this, she would ask me if I sent you a rejection letter, I would say yes, and she would say good job following the process and probably bullet dodged by not hiring someone who doesn’t understand business norms/takes things too personally.

                  It doesn’t do you any good to dwell on this and keep being offended. They gave you the information you asked for by letting you know you weren’t the successful candidate. As far as I can tell you didn’t ask for additional feedback so you can’t hold it against them for not providing it.

                2. OP #4*

                  Jennie, I’m not looking for someone to “pay.” Nothing so vindictive. On the contrary, I’m just hoping people’s behavior can change.

                  Again, clinging to “business norms” doesn’t excuse bad behavior…”the way we’ve always done it” and “this is the way things have always been” are often red flags, in business, and in society.

                  And I don’t “keep being offended.” I’ve already received another offer. I’ve posting on a message board in the hopes that some might read and think about if they’re really behaving as well as they could, or should.

                3. fposte*

                  @OP–I don’t think that’s the effect, though. Proper behavior is something that gets decided by broader cultural consent, not by an individual wish, so it just looks like you’re setting yourself up as the arbiter of something you don’t have authority to do.

                  You can personally consider it rude not to be kissed by the grocery store clerk, included in the process when your significant other decides whether or not to dump you, or rejected from a job with no explanation. But those are transparently individual and self-serving desires rather than rails against general rudeness, and I don’t think they’re going to effect a change.

                4. OP #4*


                  People can learn good manners. That’s the hope. And over time, “broader cultural consent” will hopefully follow, as we’ve seen throughout history.

                  I suspect that the often shoddy behavior we see in hiring today will be looked back on with some regret.

                5. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  @OP: But the way you are defining good manners is arbitrary and based on your own desires. It’s not really reasonable to assert that good manners are just the way you want people to act, when most other people disagree that that’s right.

                  I’m going to to stop engaging on this at this point because I get the sense you’re not actually processing other people’s input, but just defending your own viewpoint.

                6. OP #4*

                  @Ask a Manager

                  It’s actually not arbitrary at all, but it is contrary to what might be commonly accepted in the field. And I suspect that outside of this enclosed space, “most other people” would agree with my take.

                  But I agree that it’s probably best to leave it be. I appreciate everyone who took the time to respond. I think the defensiveness my points have been met with by some is understandable, as it’s never easy to challenge our comfortable assumptions. But hopefully the dialogue has generated a little more awareness about how the employer/candidate process should go.

        3. Stranger than fiction*

          I can relate to your frustration. I once went through 3 rounds of interciewing and during the very last one, the hiring manager literally said he wanted to make me an offer and I should be hearing from HR (in another state) soon. Never ever heard from them, weeks went by emailed corp recruiter, no answer. It gnawed at me for like two years after because I just never found out what happened or got any closure.

          1. OP #4*

            Exactly–that’s simply appalling behavior. And saying “they’re not obligated to you” or “well, that’s the way it works” doesn’t begin to excuse it.

            1. Koko*

              There’s a word for people who feel that others should give them things out of “basic courtesy.”

              It’s “entitled.” Entitled people always think that when they aren’t being given what they think they’re entitled to, the other person’s manners are at fault. They never suspect its their own expectations that are out of whack.

        4. TootsNYC*

          It’s not necessarily bad behavior. It’s self-focused, sure, but it’s not necessarily bad behavior.

          And a week is a very short time in my hiring process. It’s just complicated, to fit all the candidates in among the work that is already being done in my normal business day. So not calling you for a week is totally normal.

          Sure, there’s bad behavior out there. And a person doesn’t have to complain about it constantly to believe it was bad behavior.
          (I believe that when one person complains about someone/thing, and the other says, “That’s just the way they are/it is,” the underlying message is, “I’m tired of you complaining to me about it. What do you want me to do about it? Some thing you just have to live with.”

          “Accepting reality” isn’t the same thing as condoning it.

        5. TootsNYC*

          Here’s the problem:

          “reasonable people should be able to agree that bad behavior is bad behavior,”

          I’m a reasonable person, You are presumably a reasonable person.

          We don’t agree that this is bad behavior. I think it’s perfectly reasonable behavior. I wish they’d called you first, but it was only 11 days in a pretty open type of job search (just looking for new people). And with an HR person whose schedule was really pressured (lots of last-minute reschedulings).
          Those were big indicators that this was going to be slow, so I can’t get with the “11 days was so long!” mindset. (I will say, I personally warn candidates that it will take me a long time.)

          So how are we ever going to achieve your “should be able to”?
          Because we DON’T agree. And I’m not the only person with my point of view.

          I only owe you for this application. I don’t owe you “personal development” time and energy.

          1. OP #4*

            I didn’t say 11 days was so long. I didn’t comment on the time of response at all, I don’t think. That was just describing the situation.

            To review: I interviewed with a half dozen people, and undertook a large project. My personal references took the time to respond and offer feedback. The process was two months. I feel an email beyond, “thanks but we picked someone else” in response to my inquiry is insufficient.

            You disagree, and think their response is fine. “I’m busy, I’m not your job coach.” You think that is perfectly reasonable. I disagree.

    5. YandO*

      Ok, now I see what your objections are

      1) I just went through 6 months of job search. I object to assignments given BEFORE I have a chance to speak with anyone. That is rude. If I have had a chance to discuss the position and establish basic interest, then I think assignments are fine. Also, it i sup to you to decide how much time you will spend on an assignment.

      One time a company asked me to read a short book, make a power point presentation on the book, read their research paper, be prepared to “discuss” (aka present/apply), then a writing assignment in the moment after presentation. It probably took me 15+ hours to make all that happen. I don’t think most candidates took that much time and it showed. They were extremely impressed (it was clear by the questions they asked and the feedback I got) and offered me the job (which I turned down eventually for unrelated reasons). I felt it was a great way to test not only my analytical skills, power point skills, and general learnability, but also my thoroughness, time management, ability to present. Honestly, I loved it and if I am ever a hiring manager, I would ask for similar assignments.

      2) I think it’s a huge favor for my references to speak on my behalf, but it is no guarantee of a job. I know it. They know it. It’s just a step.

      3) After all that, a phone call would have been nice, but it is really not something worth bringing up with them. They did let you know eventually.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I give a test–probably 45 minutes before I interview people.
        The skills I need are easily testable. Why waste your time and mine if you can’t pass the minimum?
        Of course, it’s short.

        I think the length of the test should be related to the seniority of the position. Lower level stuff like mine–that should be a relatively short test. Higher level things can be a little longer.

        1. YandO*

          Sorry, I really dislike it.

          I think I deserve a chance to ask questions and speak to a real human before I invest my time, energy, and effort into a test.

          I understand that it is employer’s prerogative, but as an employee I am a lot more likely to skip over an employer who expects that

          1. TootsNYC*

            And I think I deserve to know concretely what your skill level is before I invest MY time, energy and effort into an interview.

            In other fields, you might need info from the interview in order to do a decent job on a test. Not in mine. It’s like an English test. And those hard, testable skills are absolutely mandatory. There is NO fudging. I can’t train you–you have to know this stuff before you come in.

            It’s sort of like an administrative job that has lots of typing. They don’t want to hire anyone who can’t type 55 wpm. So they give you a test before they talk to you. Because why talk to you and find out how smart you are, if you can’t type 55 wpm?

            I think this is a little bit different from the OP–it sounds like her test project was way more “soft,” and some of those I wouldn’t do without an interview first.

        2. Ad Astra*

          Do you give candidates a heads up about the test? I would be a little peeved if I showed up and had to spend 45 minutes taking a test before I could even speak with someone. When I schedule a job interview, I don’t expect to be there much more than an hour total.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Really?! I’m not even a manager and I’ve been on plenty of interviews that go 2-4 hours.

          2. TootsNYC*

            It’s absolutely expected in my field. It’s a testable field in a way that few others are. It’s like English class. It’s SO expected that most people who contact me say in their initial contact, “I’d be happy to take a test.”

            It doesn’t matter how nice you are, or how knowledgeable you are. If you can’t catch the errors in a test in my field, you won’t get hired. Period.

            I’m not spending my time–or yours even–talking about a job that you haven’t got a prayer of getting. And I can tell whether you’ve got a chance by sending you a 45-minute test. If you have the hard skills, then we can meet to see if I like your soft skills, and to see if you like the idea of working for me personally and like the idea of working on my difficult project.

          3. TootsNYC*

            Heck, I send it to them to do at home and send back to me. Because I have to GRADE it before I can schedule the interview.

        3. over educated and underemployed*

          What’s the cut off for acceptability? I just encountered this for the first time last week,, being sent a test right after applying to a job, with no other communication about whether my application was being considered for an interview. It had 2 parts with instructions to spend 2 hours on each. I wound up just never doing them because 4 hours was more time than I had with my job and (it so happened) a major family event that weekend, and I didn’t even know whether that was a job I wanted.

          An hour doesn’t seem so bad, but half a day? What’s the reasonable limit here?

    6. TootsNYC*

      A reference can’t be just a confirming step.

      I have to be able to use what they say to change my mind. Otherwise, why the heck am I wasting their time.

      I’ve been in the position where I had two really, really good candidates. It came down to the reference. The reference for one of them gave her a generic good reference (skills focused) when I called her, then asked for my home number. And called me at home (so she wasn’t in her company “hat”) to tell me that this candidate had great, great skills but a personal habit that was really hard to work with.
      It made the decision for me.

      I’ve also had a situation where the two were mostly tied, and a GREAT reference made me pick the one who was lagging a little bit, partly because the person specifically mentioned an aspect of her skills that I particularly wanted at that time.

      People calling your references is a good sign, yes–and people shouldn’t bother your references as their first step. But they have to be able to decide “no” after they speak with the references.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep — a smart employer isn’t going to use references to rubber-stamp a decision they’ve basically already made; they’re going to use them as part of their assessment process and for help in making that decision.

        1. OP #4*

          In principal, I suppose I agree as far as it goes. Speaking personally, I never contacted a candidate’s references who I didn’t then extend an offer to; and I think that those who say two (or more!) candidates are “tied” before contacting references probably just aren’t looking hard enough. But I can agree in theory that references could be contacted and then have an offer not be forthcoming.

          But again, if the process goes that far, then something more than an email saying “no thanks” is called for. On that I feel strongly.

            1. OP #4*

              I agree that expecting bad behavior will definitely reduce disappointment. It’s still poor behavior, though.

          1. TootsNYC*

            “I think that those who say two (or more!) candidates are “tied” before contacting references probably just aren’t looking hard enough.”


            I’m wondering how much hiring you’ve actually done.

    7. insert pun here*

      Regarding item #3: in my most recent round of job searching, I had three full-day (or multi-day) interviews (requiring travel) as a finalist for jobs I was eventually rejected for — after extensive phone interviews, assignments, etc. I got two very polite, kind rejections and one one-line brush off. My industry is a small one, and I’ve since learned that the place that rejected me with a one-liner is a terrible place to work, and the other two are pretty good. So yeah, I agree with you that it’s really not that hard to be polite, especially to a candidate you’ve already invested a lot of time and money in. If you can’t manage that, well, now I know something useful about you. (I did also make a point of telling the nice rejection people that I appreciated that they’d written me a nice rejection.)

    8. Erin*

      Well put. I pretty much agree with everything you said, and understand the urge to prevent this from happening to someone else. Unfortunately when it comes down to it I still don’t think it’s your place to say anything.

    9. Artemesia*

      Actually I don’t think they owed more than ‘we have decided to go with someone else’ but they should have initiated it and not make you beg for it. I usually wrote a somewhat flowery response to our rejected finalists (we usually interviewed 3 people at the end and it took awhile before the decision was finalized.) BUT I didn’t provide reasons for the choice — usually the reason is ‘we thought the other person was better, although we thought you were very good because we chose you as a finalist for the position.’

      But then I don’t think when a fiance, or boyfriend or girlfriend breaks off a relationship they need to give a reason either. The reason is ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’ and that is sufficient. It should be gracefully delivered preferably without personal criticism, but ‘reasons’ don’t come into it.

    10. TootsNYC*

      1) The project should have been further into the process, since it obviously wasn’t determinative. Yes, the work was excessive, but would have been acceptable at the end of the process.

      You have no idea if it was determinative or not. Sure, you have every indicator that your project was well received. But someone else’s may have been as well. Or, something else may have overridden the impact of that well-received project.

      I’m curious about whether the project took that long because of them or because of you. Maybe they were expecting a more “broad overview,” and you did more detail. Maybe they’re really new to this (sounds like it, actually), and they thought the test they’d sketched out was going to result in a less involved result–and they’re learning as they go, with you as the unfortunate test subject.
      I don’t think a project or test should be terribly involved or lengthy—though if you’re really a serious candidate, it might be, so yes, giving a lengthy assignment isn’t really fair until after you’re a serious finalist. But that still doesn’t guarantee you the job. Which it sounds like is your beef.

      You knew it was a big test considering that you hadn’t even interviewed w/ anyone but HR–you can speak up at that point: “This is pretty involved–normally I’d only do this large of a test once it was clear that I was a serious contender. Could I wait to start this until after I’ve met with the hiring manager? Or could I do a smaller part of this first?”

    11. AnonAcademic*

      Given how defensive you are acting in response to feedback here, I have to wonder if the same stubbornness 1. came through in your interviews somehow (maybe in response to feedback on the project you worked on?); 2. motivated the interviewer to give minimal feedback to avoid the exact reaction you’ve given all of us!

      You are not entitled to feedback in the first place, but even less so when you have a demonstrably history of not being able to handle criticism…

      1. OP #4*

        What an absurd comment. Since when did having an opinion on something and responding to feedback equal defensiveness? If anything, comments such as yours raise a kettle/black question.

        And I love the “you are not entitled to feedback.” Sounds like a bit of an authoritarian streak you have there.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            I’m not really surprised the company went in a different direction or that they chose not to give a reason, if this is how the person reacts to disagreement or not hearing what they want.

            1. OP #4*

              Actually, what I’m doing on this forum is paying people the courtesy of responding to them if they’ve taken the time to post. Pretty simply, really.

    12. BananaPants*

      I’m really late on this, but unfortunately that isn’t how things work in the job market for far too many employers these days. My husband has done a lot of job hunting in the last 2.5 years and it’s actually notable when a company bothered to send a rejection AT ALL to him as an interviewed job candidate – much less anything more detailed than “Thanks for your time, but we’re going in another direction.” This includes at least 4-5 occasions where he made it through multiple interviews and had been told he was a final candidate, and they never even let him know he was no longer in the running (twice he figured it out when a new hire showed up on LinkedIn with that job title!). It’s sad that the job market in the U.S. has reached this state, but it’s reality.

      I do think it’s extremely rude when an interviewed candidate is not even given a polite one-line rejection email, but you aren’t entitled to anything more than that.

      The way I see it, they aren’t going to hire you for this job, so why waste everyone’s time with them trying to explain diplomatically that you didn’t interview well or that you didn’t have the skillset they were looking for, or even that you were a very strong candidate but someone was just flat-out better than you? It’s not like it’s going to change anything at that point.

  13. cardiganed librarian*

    OP #3, one small problem I can think of is some potential awkwardness if you work in a place that’s big enough that people might have trouble recognizing you with dramatically different hair. I’m really, really bad with faces and if I didn’t work with you every day, I probably wouldn’t recognize you if you were going between a red pixie cut and long brown hair! (Of course, my poor facial recognition skills are my problem, but I’m getting the vapours thinking of a hallway chat with someone who apparently knows me but I can’t place at all.)

    1. Meg Murry*

      Yes, I wondered about this as well. If OP is going to shift through dramatic styling changes from day-to-day, it could be awkward for people not to know who she is. I’d plan to stick to either the same color but different styles (short vs longer, curly vs straight, etc) at first. Maybe slight variations on the color (brown with golden highlight vs darker brown) wouldn’t be as obvious, but blonde one day, redhead another and brown a third would be confusing to me.

      I also agree with others upthread that if you don’t want to talk about why you are wearing wigs, wearing lots of dramatically different ones will draw attention to it – and it will either cause people to ask you awkward questions about it or start gossip. So if you are cool with saying “I wear a wig for a medical condition, and as long as I’m going to do that I might as well have fun with it” then go with it – but if you want to hide this from your co-workers dramatic changes aren’t the best way to hide it.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        The line for me is when your look comes across as a costume. I had a discussion with a peer at one point about a new employee (a man) who showed up to work with kids at a school wearing a dramatic 80s prom dress . She wasn’t sure what to do because she certainly was not going to tell him that his outfit had to match his gender, and couldn’t put her finger on how to explain the problem without coming across as trans-phobic. She finally realized that when she saw him, her first thought was “this is not Halloween”. It wasn’t an issue of gender, it was an issue of not wearing a costume in a professional environment. Have your own style, sure – but don’t cross the line into playing dress-up.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Heh– I get this, believe me, but the OP might encounter this issue even without the wigs! I have very curly hair that I used to get blown out after every cut. My hair looks completely different when it’s straightened. There are SO many co-workers who didn’t recognize me because they knew me as the girl with the curly hair. It might have been awkward for about two seconds, but we all usually got over it.

      Also: when I expressed my annoyance with this to a co-worker, she said, “Better to be recognized for big hair than for a big ass.” This is true.

      1. KT*

        We’re fairly small–a little over 100 people–I’m mainly at my desk (we’re a meeting-light company) so being unrecognizable isn’t a big deal. Besides, people used to get confused when I would wear my hair up versus down *bangs head in*

        I’m okay saying I’m wearing wigs for a medical condition–while I’ve been creative hiding my bald spots, it’s in no way 100%–several people have commented on it.

        1. TootsNYC*

          They may find it a bit of a relief, actually–there’s some anxiety produced when someone you know exhibits obvious signs of illness, etc.

          1. KT*

            This is absolutely true. A lot of people seem more squicked out about it than I am–they’re okay with me being sick, but LOOKING sick makes them nervous I’ve found

            (this isn’t saying anything bad about my coworkers–I get it–illness is scary. I can do my job, and if I LOOK like I can do my job, it makes everyone more comfortable)

            1. TootsNYC*

              There’s also the “it looks messy–straighten it up!!” instinct that kicks in for people (collars awry; kids with their bangs in their eyes; if you drop something; that sort of thing). It’ll just create “visual calm” and “visual smoothness.”
              I think it’ll be a win for everybody! I hope it goes well for you.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          Try wearing contacts and then having to wear your glasses one day because of an infection. People are really fascinated by thick glasses… (I already knew this from my childhood, but it surprised me a bit that adults were like this.)

          Off topic – Why do people ask how you can see with such thick glasses? A better question is how do you find them once you take them off?

          1. BabyAttorney*

            People don’t even know what poor eyesight is. People with 20/20 seem to think poor eyesight literally means your vision is blackened until you out glasses on. I have poor vision, not blindness. If only it was that simple!

            For #2, I always put them in the same place, that’s how. XD if I don’t, my boof has to put on his glasses to go find mine. I actually have lost mine from putting them in a place I don’t usually.

            1. Myrin*

              People who see perfectly really do have a weird understanding of eyesight sometimes! My eyes are pretty bad but I still see surprisingly well without my glasses – on a very general level. I don’t bump into things (unless they’re small and appear out of nowhere) and can walk through the streets just fine, it’s the little things that are the problem. Yet many people think not only must I see nothing at all once my glasses are off but I also lose the ability to walk and react to noises.

              1. Charlotte Collins*

                Also, to me there are two types of vision: lens-corrected vision is pretty close to what everyone else sees. Non-corrected vision means I know what things are in familiar surroundings, but would be an alien world to those who aren’t used to it. It’s not like I forget the layout of my home or what the fridge looks like without glasses, but something new or out of place will be different and might need more scrutiny.

                Also, for some reason I can see light really well without my lenses, which surprises people.

          2. TootsNYC*

            A better question is how do you find them once you take them off?

            oh, yeah! I don’t even have the world’s thickest glasses, but when I take them off, I’m in trouble–they’re small enough that they can be hard to see. That’s part of why I didn’t get rimless this time.

          3. ancolie*

            If you have a smartphone, open up your camera app and look at the screen while you use the phone as your “eyes”. You’ll be able to see almost like when you have your glasses!

      2. the gold digger*

        Better to be recognized for big hair than for a big ass.

        I was looking at my butt in the full-length mirror in the women’s room at work and sighing in despair. One of my few female co-workers, who is Bosnian, noticed and said consolingly, “Is OK. Men like big butts.”

        1. lawsuited*

          I was once watching some weight-loss makeover on Oprah and complaining about the pressure placed on women to be thin so they could find a man, etc. My dad told me: “Nope, honey, you just need to find a man to fit the butt you got.”

          1. Case of the Mondays*

            Not that being fetishized is great either but the whole BBW genre does exist because many men are attracted to bigger women. Unfortunately, many of those men aren’t man enough to publicly date these women, hence the Craigslist hook up scene. A very overweight friend of mine worked in an adult toy/video store. She was shocked at the number of dudes buying BBW products and called a few out (nicely) that it shouldn’t be so hard for her to get a date when so many of the dudes were clearly into it. No need to keep it secret dudes. Let’s start changing societies expectations of beautiful since your private purchases suggest you don’t agree with Hollywood’s definition. :)

      3. Cath in Canada*

        My sister has really curly & very long hair and was once featured in a book about hairstyling (she works in publishing and the author she was working with practically begged her to model as well as edit the book!). They did one photo with her normal hair, one with “optimal” curls, and one with completely straight hair. Apparently it took about 5 hours. She met someone she knew quite well on the Tube on her way home, and he didn’t recognise her, even when she started talking to him! When the book came out, it even took my parents and I a while to find the right photo. It was eerie.

        I wish my hair was as curly as hers. Mine’s pretty curly, but doesn’t hold its curl – or curl when it gets longer than shoulder length – the way hers does.

    3. Amy*

      Yep, this would be the main problem with me… I am bad with faces to the point that I think I might have mild face-blindless. I can recognize people I am very close with, of course, but for people I don’t know as well, hair is actually the main identifier with me. If someone drastically changes their hair it throws me off completely. If you’re client-facing at all, or even if you need to interact with more distant departments on a regular basis, I’d consider this. Sure, people without wigs dye and style their hair all the time, but if you’re switching between drastically different wigs on a daily basis it might really confuse people. Like some others suggested, maybe keep to one wig for work (or switch it up monthly or so), and have a couple more for going out on the weekend or in the evenings?

  14. And we danced from the ocean*

    #3: wigs? Not a problem. I might ask if you played in a Tool tribute band if I felt the need to break the ice, but – most people would probably figure you had a medical issue. If I were your manager I might take you aside for a private chat and ask if this is the result of chemotherapy or alopecia areata or what, just so we can discuss any possible accommodations. If you had a significant customer-facing role, someone might ask you to have a “vanilla” wig for customer interaction (there’s a reasonable argument to be made for maintaining a consistent appearance for persons you only see irregularly). Other than that – no real problem.

    1. KT*

      Thanks–that helps. I was planning on getting 2 wigs (so one is always ready) in a color close to my hair’s current shade and length, but then maybe one or two in a different color cut (blonde bob, for instance) for days when I’m feeling blue over having to corral a wig onto my head and need a little pick me up.

      1. fposte*

        Did you ever read Garlic and Sapphires, the memoir of NYT restaurant reviewer Ruth Reichl? A lot of it is about the necessity of changing her appearance, including wigs–which get talked about in some detail–to be able to eat undercover, and the psychological effect of the different personas. It makes me totally think you should get something fun to change to!

    2. Observer*

      Keep something in mind. If you want this to fly under the radar at work (totally your choice) all you need to do is get a couple of GOOD wigs in a color close to that of your own and similar enough in style that it could be the same “head”. Even people who notice something “different” are highly unlikely to notice that it’s a wig.

      And, unless the wigs are long, they don’t have to cost an arm an a let. You can’t really cheap ones, but you should be able to get something nice fo4 $300 -400

  15. OriginalEmma*

    A friend of mine started wearing wigs when styling her own hair was becoming too damaging (chemical straightening, etc.) They look very nice and I was jealous of the versatility. One length this week, one length the next. They always looked fine for an office environment. Additionally, where I used to live, there is a large Orthodox Jewish population, many of whose women wear wigs. The wigs appeared to be of such high quality that I honestly did not notice they were wigs until I really looked. So I imagine that as long as you purchase as high quality wigs as you can afford in whatever colors and styles appeal to you, they would look quite professional.

  16. Altoid*

    OP #3: I have a staff member who has different hair about every week other week or so. I think she has great style and I look forward to seeing what she will do next, and I try to compliment my favorites. On some of our downtime she will ask my opinions for her next style, and I actually really enjoy getting to know her better that way. I think you might be able to have fun with it, just like your group said. As a manager, I think its great as long as she keeps it professional, which she has without any prompting from me. I wouldn’t over think it. Best of luck to you!

  17. And we danced from the ocean*

    #1: I wonder what kind of watch he got? I’m not really into watches, but I’d assume that when someone gets a nice new one, they tend to show it off to people? Speaking only for myself, I’d feel different levels of outrage over a $200 Fossil versus a $30K Rolex.

    (What is it with expensive watches, anyway? Is it some kind of special code thing that wealthy people use to know when they’re among their own kind?)

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      I think it might be. My company’s VIPs have watches where the price tag is usually about the same size as the watch itself.

    2. MK*

      Like most extravagantly priced objects, it’s a status symbol. After all, a watch that cost 10 euros tells the same time as a Rolex that cost thousands. And I cannot say that I see much difference in appearence between an expensive, but reasonably priced watch and one that cost the earth. But the same point could be made about all clothing and accessories, cars, furniture, etc. After a certain price point, it’s indirect bragging.

      1. fposte*

        There’s a reason watches often get put in the same department as jewelry–that’s basically what they are. So it’s kind of like the way that a dimestore ring could tell people you’re engaged or married, but that’s not going to do it for a lot of people.

        1. MK*

          In my mind, jewelry is inherently different, because it doesn’t lose (and sometimes increases) its value over time; my mother often sold jewelry she no longer wanted for the price of the gems and metal and sometimes got more money than she originally paid. A watch, unless it reaches precious antique stage, is losing value from the minute you buy it.

          And I did say that it’s after a certain point that it becomes senseless. I understand why someone would want real gold for their wedding rings. But you can get those from your neighborhood jeweler for a reasonable price, or you can get Cartier and pay thousands for the same quality, plus the brand.

            1. MK*

              Eh, is there a reason for someone to buy a used luxury watch for the same price as a new one would cost? Why not go to the store instead? Unless it’s not available in your locality, I suppose.

          1. cbackson*

            Actually, the luxury watch resale market has been very strong, particularly in the last few years. Jewelry tends to depreciate fairly severely due to changing tastes and fluctuations in the value of gold and stones.

            1. MK*

              I admit my information is anecdotal, but I have never heard a used watch fetching its original price, unless it qualifies as an antique, while you can actually make money from jewelry if you catch the price of gold at the right point. Mostly, I think jewelry will always be worth something, while you could end up with a worthless watch.

              1. And we danced from the ocean*

                I don’t know, but I think that models get introduced and then are retired. So an older watch might be “vintage” and can be worth a lot to the right person.

                (It happens with synthesizer gear, too – the ARP 2500 that was used in the movie _Close Encounters_ sold not long ago for some incredible amount).

          2. fposte*

            Jewelry decreases value like crazy over time! Have a look at all the people who thought their diamond was an investment and tried to resell it.

      2. Mike C.*

        You’re also getting sturdier materials and higher quality craftsmanship – after all that 10 euro watch isn’t getting passed down to your kids.

          1. MK*

            Insane is the word. That’s pretty much what I meant; a watch like that is basically announcing to the world that you can afford to wear something that needed more work put into it than the average bridge.

            Also, don’t bet that you get something that will last for generations. Most luxury items are pretty sensitive.

            1. fposte*

              But that’s the same for anything where you’re paying beyond basic functionality. It’s just that some people really like a very nice watch, a diamond necklace, a fancy car, a beautiful work of art, or an elaborate house. All of them can make sense to buy if you can afford them and get proportionate enjoyment out of them, but none of them are rational investments.

      3. Artemesia*

        Sitting here feeling smug about my very pretty watch that keeps perfect time that I got for 10 Euro at a Vide Grennier in Paris.

      4. SevenSixOne*

        This comment thread sent me down a watch-shopping rabbit hole.

        I found a $60,000(!!!) Rolex, a $1,000(!) watch that was clearly a knockoff, and a $100 watch that was a knockoff of the knockoff… but if you covered the logos, I’ll bet most people can’t tell the difference. I know I can’t. It’s definitely a status symbol.

        1. Trix*

          You can definitely tell an authentic Rolex if you handle it; they’re extremely heavy for the size. I know this because I have several of them. Okay, I tried one on in a jewelry store :)

          1. And we danced from the ocean*

            For awhile I’ve been casually searching for a cheap but authentic Rolex knock-off. I’d like to wear it around and see if people treat me any differently. Maybe it’ll be like that Eddie Murphy short “White Like Me”: I’ll walk into a bank wearing it and the loan officer will just hand me wads of cash. But probably not.

            In my limited understanding of Rolex watches, a real Rolex has a “sweep second hand”, ie, it moves in a continuous arc (versus moving from one discrete position to another). I’m more of an EE than a ME, but – I’ll bet that took some effort to make that work reliably and on such a small scale.

      5. BabyAttorney*

        I like to think certain items, ahem sunglasses, are a little different. Im totally biased because I used to work in the industry, but the level of actual, real protection in a pair of $2 glasses is totally different than say a pair of $200 Maui Jims or Revo. I don’t believe in “designer name” sunglasses (like Dior or D&G or whatever) but I do think there is medical grade difference and longevity in the more expensive brand shades from a company that only deals in glasses.

        That said, I totally understand people who only have the cash for $2 glasses because they lose or drop them all the time. The fact that I spent more is what makes me protect mine, but EMMV.

        1. Judy*

          I was told by an eye doctor that once you’re past a particular price point (that was $25 in 1992), there is no medical difference in sunglasses. He told me to not buy $5 sunglasses, but anything above $25 would serve the same purpose. (A calculator tells me $42 today)

    3. Mike C.*

      There’s always going to be social signalling when you’re talking about luxury goods, but on the other hand I could understand someone who wanted a nice looking mechanical watch that was made to last for decades.

      Also, if we’re talking about men, we don’t really have a lot of options for jewelry.

    4. Ad Astra*

      I’ve never liked wearing a watch. I did once try on a Rolex and decided that I’d be willing to wear a Rolex if I ever had the chance, because they’re that spectacular. Though I probably wouldn’t spend $30K on one even if I had it to spare. You will never catch me in a Fossil or Michael Kors watch or whatever; that’s money that could be spent on clothes and shoes.

      1. GH in SoCAl*

        I got a Tag Heuer as a professional gift. Before that I wore $40 Swatches (and replaced them frequently), and didn’t “get” the whole Quality Watch mystique. I’ve now been wearing that Tag for almost 20 years and it really is a different feeling. I hope I never lose it because I don’t think I could justify the cost of replacing it ($2,000-3,000!!!), but I would really miss it.

    5. Anon for This*

      My husband is a lawyer and watches are definitely a topic of conversation among his colleagues and clients. Not a pervasive topic but I know they notice and talk about watches.

    6. anonymous daisy*

      I used to date a guy who would read a magazine that was devoted solely to extremely high end watches that often cost more than a car or house would. I was just amazed at all the panting, heavy sighs, and actual caressing of pages those magazines would get.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        How to Spend it, the Financial Times’ colour magazine often has articles on high end watches, including the ones with “Price on application”.

        Mind you, I always like to read How to Spend it, when I need a good laugh.

    7. Stranger than fiction*

      Yeah it’s like a car. And I’m not sure but I don’t think one would pay $100 for delivery of a $200 watch, but hey who knows the whole fact he did it is bizarre.

  18. Ad Astra*

    OP #3, keep in mind that even if your office doesn’t like the idea of you switching up your hair color so often, or if you decide you’d rather not reveal your condition to coworkers, you could still buy a few different wigs to experiment with different looks on the weekends or at night. If it’s going to make you feel better, it’s worth doing.

  19. Menacia*

    OP #3 – Unfortunately (or fortunately) where I work, any *minor* change is not only noticed, but discussed, ad nauseam about the change, how good it looks (or not!). I came in wearing a skirt one day (I’m a woman, and I prefer dress pants to dresses or skirts) and it was the talk of the office for the day…! Then again, I work in a dysfunctional family type of environment…only 10 more years, only 1o more years…!

    I liked the idea of perhaps being more conservative at work, and then letting loose on the weekends. I also work with African American women who proudly wear wigs, weaves, extensions, etc., I don’t think it’s completely out of the norm and it if makes YOU feel good, then do it!

  20. YandO*


    I don’t understand why you think their hiring practices are poor. I think they are perfectly and even better than most. Just because they asked to complete an assignment does not mean they will hire you. I am really confused hwy you feel slighted


    I disagree. I think sending a note thanking for the offer/opportunity/insights/whatever else is always good. I do it after almost every conversation I have, including after the offer has been made.

    In fact, I had interviews with 4 people and the end of which I received an offer that I accepted. I emailed thank yous to all four.

    Yes, this job search taught me to say thank in more ways than I thought was possible.

    1. OP #4*

      I didn’t feel slighted because they asked me to complete an assignment. It was where the assignment was in the process, particularly in light of its size.

      What it comes down to is what I asked in the initial post–is it that candidates simply have to accept these things because they have no leverage. The answer coming back appears to be yes.

      I suppose I view things differently; I’ve hired many people, and have been very happy with every hire. My process? Calling in those whose background and experience appeared to be a good fit and speaking to them. And every candidate who has asked me for additional feedback who I didn’t extend an offer to has received it.

      Again, good manners. But good manners are apparently not common. Which I guess I knew, but I’ll still do what I can do point it out.

    2. OP #5*

      In the end, I decided to send a quick email thanking the principal for the interview and quick decision, which I was happy to accept.

      Now it’s just waiting for the back to school week to start– in early August!

  21. lawsuited*

    #2 Please review the would-be employer on glassdoor.com or similar. As Alison says, the only upside is that you learned never to involve yourself with this employer again, but it would be great if you could save others from having to learn the hard way!

  22. AthenaC*

    #2 and #4 – What if you sent them an invoice for your time? You both performed work that wasn’t paid for. Granted, I doubt they would pay it (or maybe they would!), but it might make you feel better.

    1. fposte*

      I think you’d look like a loon, though, especially in the second case. Having a finalist prepare something is a pretty standard part of the hiring process. The first case sounds dubiously legal, but sending an invoice isn’t how I’d address it–for one thing, they didn’t agree to take you on as a contractor so you can’t just bill them retroactively.

      1. HB*

        Yeah, certain industries require some “prework” and that’s just how it’s done. I’m an accountant and no one has ever asked me to do work before interviews, but my husband is a software engineer and he’s had to program a small something so they can evaluate his “style” or whatever.

  23. Erin*

    #4 – I hate that they implied to you they’re hiring several people and otherwise indicated you’d likely be hired. But, you’re not really in a position to say anything about their hiring process. They really had no obligation to offer you the job at any point. Sorry this situation sucks.

    With regards to the assignment – if they actually used what you did and presumably made money off it, then you need to get paid. If it was for training purposes only and was not used, then you can’t. Again, suckage.

    #5 -Thanks for asking this question, because it’s something I’ve never thought of. I don’t know what your usual protocol is, but I typically go for a hand written thank you card after interviews. In this case, maybe a quick email would suffice.

    I might disagree with Alison that you shouldn’t say thank you, I would just be quick and somewhat nonchallant about it; don’t reiterate what your qualifications are like you might otherwise. “Hi Jane, thanks again for taking the time to meet with me yesterday. I’m glad this seems like a great fit, and I’m excited to get started!”

    1. OP #5*

      That pretty much what I did, and it was received with a kind response!

      All in all, the teaching world can be a bit different from business, but courtesy never goes out of style.

    2. Hollis*

      I don’t see a clear distinction between Alison’s suggestion of a note saying how excited you are and the thank-you she’s discouraging you from sending.

      To me, those are two halves of the same note: “Dear Siobhan: I really enjoyed meeting with you, and I’m excited to work together knitting the next generation of teapot cozies. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity. Cordially, Fergus.”

      If it’s just a fawning note of “thank you thank you oh thank you thank god I finally got a job thank you you are the wisest and most influential of teapot cozy executives”, that’s probably bad. But thanking people when they’ve done something for which you’re grateful? To me, that’s a part of basic civility that never goes out of style.

  24. Jennifer M.*

    #4 I think I have to agree with a lot of the other posters that other than the project work, which is absolutely problematic, there is nothing particularly shoddy about their process. Maybe they started checking your references because you were their choice and a last minute application blew them away so they stopped the process on you. Or maybe there was something in the first reference call that was a huge red flag to them and made them put on the brakes – it isn’t even something bad, just an indication of potential lack of fit which doesn’t reflect poorly on either candidate or employer, just a clash of personalities. And what do you want them to tell you when they let you know you didn’t get the job – “oh you were great, but the person we hired is just so much more awesome than you”? That isn’t helpful to you.

    I think it is fair in your situation to say “sorry to hear that. Is there any feedback that you could give that would make me a stronger candidate?” And they may or may not answer you. No one owes you any more explanation than we decided you were not the right person for the job. Is it nice to get more? Absolutely. Is it required? Absolutely not.

    1. Retail Lifer*

      Yeah, aside from the apparent complexity of the project, isn’t this the way hiring normally works? I’ve had reference checks done on me and still not gotten the job; I’ve done them on people and not offered them the job. And I think I’ve only ever gotten a few really nice rejections. The rest were pretty brusk, or at least generic and not very sincere.

    2. OP #4*

      I would hope they would be able to use more nuanced language than “they are more awesome than you,” but yes, an explanation would be more respectful.

      And again, saying something isn’t “required” is a woefully low bar for us to set in society.

      1. Jennifer M.*

        I guess we just see things very differently. I simply don’t see a single thing disrespectful about their rejection. Disrespectful would be not even bothering to give you a rejection. An explanation could be helpful, unless the reason was simply that someone had a gut feeling about candidate A vs B. That doesn’t give you anything to work with because the gut feeling could be wrong, or even if it is right is so situation specific that it doesn’t provide you any tools for future jobs (as a hiring manager I have rejected candidates because I know 100% that they will not get along with the individual who would be their supervisor, but that doesn’t mean that there is a single thing about themselves that they should change. It just means that the supervisor was a bit of a jerk but so crazy good at his job and always genuinely trying to do the right thing for the company that those above us decided that on balance it was worth it to put up with him so we had to hire around his personality). I think the project work they had you do was excessive and that would be a reasonable thing to complain about, but that is it.

        1. OP #4*

          Thanks for posting. I agree it would be far more disrespectful not to respond at all–and honestly, I think it would be a sad commentary if anyone disagreed with that.

          But disagree this was OK. Given the totality of the process here, something more was called for–if one is embracing good manners–than an email in response to my inquiry saying thanks but no thanks.

  25. Blamange*

    #3 I have Trichotillomania. People always mention how I change and dye my hair too much but I have to for balding reasons too.

  26. Joss*

    The only thing I would suggest with the wigs is that if your role involves meeting with clients, picking one client wig and sticking with it to avoid confusion on their part. I work in admissions and just dying my hair a different color was enough to have several applicants thinking I was an entirely different person.

  27. OriginalYup*

    #2 I am gobsmacked at the company’s behavior. Like, outright stunned at their “eh, whatevs” attitude about someone THAT THEY ALREADY HIRED. What the actual f-ck.

    Anyway, I agree with Alison that there’s really nothing productive you can do at this point. Looking back, at a certain point (maybe late January), you could have emailed the boss’s company and personal emails and said, “I’m repeatedly being told not to report to the job you hired me for. Unless you’re able to give me a firm start date, I’ll have to understand this as a retraction of your original job offer. If I don’t hear back from you otherwise this week, I’ll take this as confirmation that I’m not an employee of XYZ and I will continue my job search.” That at least would have given you the power and the closure to cut the cord.

    And you were awfully polite about it when you saw the guy at the job fair. I probably would have been much more confrontational — “Hi Steve. I was really disappointed that I didn’t get to actually work for you after you hired me. I hope things are going well in your search, bye now.” I’m not criticizing you at all, I’m just genuinely surprised that you were so easygoing. I think visible steam would have been coming out of my ears at that point.

  28. Jenna*

    #4 – My husband worked in an industry that required week long tests. The candidates could spend as little or as much time as they liked but would be given anywhere from a few days to two weeks to complete the assignment. He WAS a game designer, so the assignments would usually be something like designing a level, writing a design document for it, or some other really extensive task. The worst part was that these game companies would require a test to be completed before they would even give a phone interview. So it was talk to HR, take test, then maybe talk to a manager on the phone IF they liked the test results. It was stupid and such a waste of so many weeks while he was job searching. He was a Game Designer for 15 years and we are both so happy that it’s over. Good luck #4! Companies who think your time is not valuable aren’t worth it, I promise!

    1. SystemsLady*

      Game designing gigs (and quite a lot of startup gigs) infamously suck their actual employees dry to such a level that I’m not surprised they try to make their applicants do work for them, too.

      I’m glad it sounds like your husband has found a way out.

    2. Naomi*

      Huh, really? I’m in the games industry as well and I didn’t usually get assignments when I was job hunting… but then, I’m a programmer, so I was being judged more on my technical background. Or maybe it depends on the kind of companies you apply to. I’ll have to ask some game designer friends about their hiring experiences.

  29. Mimmy*

    #2 – I’ve learned from this site that job offers can fall through – it stinks, but it does happen. But the fact that you actually filled out paperwork, including a W2, only to be put in limbo without any explanation is really strange. Bullet dodged. You were smart to keep looking in the meantime.

  30. Jake*

    As the husband of a cancer survivor, I say do whatever the heck you want. Seriously, anything that eases what you’re going through is way more important than your employer. Telling them what you’re doing and why would be nice, but hardly necessary.

    1. MegEB*

      When I worked in patient care at a cancer hospital, we had this one patient who was an absolute riot, and would make a point of buying the most outlandish wigs/hats she could find. She’d call me on a regular basis and ask me which wig I thought she should wear to her next appointment. It was a lot of fun, and I think it helped her make something enjoyable out of a not-so-fun situation. I think a quick heads up to the employer (“I have a medical condition that causes hair loss, so I’m wearing wigs”) would be courteous, but if they have a problem with it, they’ll look like ogres.

  31. AnonMarketing*

    As a wig wearer for medical reasons, I tried to hide it, but my boss is neurotic and remembers EVERYTHING and she came out with, “Why is your hair so different?” and just straight up said I was wearing a wig. It’s not uncommon as you may think, and if you’re not changing it every day, no one really cares. Just wearing a wig in general is more common than you’d think. I now wear mine without a care in the world and just slap on a different one the next day when I feel like it. I feel as long as it isn’t a party wig or something some strange color, you won’t really have a problem. After all, your hair should really be the last thing anyone is judging at work.

  32. Newbie*

    #2: It sounds like the whole situation was handled very badly on their end. You may also want to Google the publishing company in question. Writer Beware or Preditors & Editors (that’s not misspelled) might be able to shed some light on the situation. Both of those are geared towards writers, to help them avoid publishers that are questionable, shady, or downright illegal. It’s possible that something came up—they had to restructure, they were acquired by another publisher, someone left suddenly (in which case, you are owed an explanation)—or they’re just a terrible business, all of which is possible in publishing. Otherwise, I second what others said about getting paid for the hours you worked and be glad that you dodged a bullet.

  33. carafein*

    #3 Ugh…hair at work. I think I would be more inclined to wear the same wig every day at work and if looking for change and fun – switch it up on evenings and weekends. I never knew how personally invested my co-workers were in my day to day appearance until I started the process of lightening my fairly long hair from jet black to a dark strawberry blonde. As you can imagine, it went through multiple stages of colors – each lasting approximately two-three weeks until I got it the level I wanted. The number of (mostly male) co-workers who approached me with, “So..is that the color it’s going to be from now on,” and “What color is that anyway,” and “What…did you give up on the red?” comments was astounding. How could they be that interested in my hair color?

    1. Judy*

      As my cousin’s hair was growing back after chemo, it had a life of its own. Originally straight and brown, it grew back in blonde and straight, then darkened into a reddish brown that was wavy/curly before settling back into straight brown. Some of her co-workers thought she was having fun once she had hair again.

  34. Anon for this*

    As someone who also wears a wig for medical reasons, I advise changing it as little as possible, at work and anywhere else you regularly go, unless you are *very* open about your condition and completely impervious to intrusive questions, rude remarks, and unsolicited advice. I’ve had people say:

    -“Why are you wearing a wig? It’s ugly.” (This, believe it or not, was from the owner of a small local craft store where I was shopping. I gave her a poisonous glare and no other answer, and never went back.)

    -“You’re losing your hair because you’re pulling it out.” (after I repeatedly explained this was not true; she simply decided I was lying)

    -“OMG, she’s wearing a wig!” (Two feet away from me.)

    I also constantly worry I’ll be judged negatively for wearing it by “feminists” who’ll tell me to ~looove my body the way it is~ and think I’m cowardly/tacky/giving in to sexist expectations. (Likely normal-looking, able-bodied people who never have to deal with the reality of being treated like a freak themselves.) Note the scare quotes; I consider myself a feminist, but self-righteous, preachy “body positivity” enrages me.

    If people ask about my hair now, I simply lie, but I’m always rattled.

    Sorry to be a lot less positive about it than everyone else on this thread, but some people are incredibly rude and thoughtless and I feel I need to warn you to be prepared for that.

    If you still want to have fun switching wigs every day, go for it – I admire your courage – but keep in mind that some people are awful and their awfulness can truly hurt. I hated my body and myself so much at one point that I made a serious plan to kill myself, and there are still a lot of things I won’t do because they might reveal that my hair is a wig or require me to go without it in front of someone.

  35. not telling*

    I feel like AAM missed some seriously important tax implications in #2 & 4.

    For every W-2, there is a W-4. OP #2 wasn’t offered a job, they were actually hired. That means they are required to receive a W-4 next April 15, even if the numbers on it all say $0. OP, if you don’t receive one, be sure to contact the IRS and follow their recommendations. I guarantee the IRS would look very closely at a company that hires people but doesn’t report their work on their tax returns.

    As for #4, again AAM implies that it is poor etiquette to demand usable work product from an applicant. It’s not–it’s illegal. Employers can issue tests and assessments to verify your qualifications, but if the result is something they could use to benefit the business–marketing proposals, designs, market analysis, writing samples, databases, etc–then it MUST be paid for. Either via an employee’s wages or via a contract labor agreement. OP may want to discuss this with a tax attorney if the estimated value of their work is high, but probably the best approach is to send them an invoice for your services.

    Another strategy is to look at copyright. Anything like a design, writing, analysis, reports, etc–anything that was produced with original thought–has an owner, legally speaking. You don’t have to file with the patent office to own the copyright, it’s automatic. If you are employed when you produce it then the company automatically owns the copyright. If you are merely an applicant at the time you produce it, then YOU own the copyright. And if you own it, and the company didn’t pay you for it, then they are stealing. The first move in dealing with this kind of issue is usually to write up a quick ‘cease and desist’ letter informing the company that they do not have your permission to use your copyrighted material. You can hire a lawyer to do this or you can find examples online and do it yourself. If they ignore that, then you can legally sue (given the estimated value of your work, you may be able to do this in small claims court without a lawyer and for relatively little fee).

    Maybe you don’t want to take it to that extreme. But I just want to point this out that you do have rights, and you do have options–it’s not just a matter of ‘oh well that employer was rude there’s nothing I can do’.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Under no circumstances should the OP send an invoice for doing a hiring exercise; it’s hard to imagine something reflecting worse on her than that would.

      We have no information that indicates this was anything other than a normal hiring exercise or that it’s something the company would or could use for purposes other than assessing his candidacy.

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