my new job worries I’ll steal, being told an “exceptionally qualified” candidate beat me out, and more

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

1. My new job wants me to sign a paper agreeing they can dismiss me without investigation if they suspect theft

I recently took a position that I’m very excited about and am about a week into the two-week training process. When the company ran my background check, they found a nolle prossed (dropped) misdemeanor charge from when I was barely 18 and got into a bit of trouble, thanks to my high school friends. (I haven’t expunged or sealed it because I can’t pay for an attorney.) I provided them with paperwork and even a copy of the report indicating that I was only charged per the policy of where we were at the time (along with several others) and had not engaged in the activity, explaining the entirety of the situation and indicating that I hoped all of my accomplishments since then hopefully spoke more to the person that I am than something that happened by association more than a decade ago. They agreed and made an offer knowing about all of that.

Today one of the trainers informed me that an HR person was looking for me to get me to sign a form but we kept missing one another. After a little inquiry, the trainer told me that it is a form stating that if there is even a slight suspicion of theft, I can be terminated without investigation and that I can’t sue over it if it happens.

I’m not going to do anything I shouldn’t, obviously, but I’ve never been asked to sign this sort of agreement and have had several positions in the last decade. Is this a standard thing that I have just somehow avoided? If it is (or even if it isn’t), I’m wondering if I have any protection at all in this situation since they won’t even do an investigation to confirm their suspicions before terminating me.

No, it’s not standard. I would say this to the HR person and/or your manager: “I’m confused by this, and concerned. We discussed this before you offered me a job, and my understanding was that you agreed that something that happened more than a decade ago when I was a teenager, and where the charges were dropped, wouldn’t be an obstacle to my employment here. I accepted the job based in part on your assurances of that. Can you help me understand where this is coming from now?”

You may also want to check your state’s laws on use of criminal records in employment, because many states prohibit basing employment decisions on arrests that didn’t lead to convictions and/or misdemeanors from over five years ago.

In general, though, an employer can dismiss you (everyone, not just you) without an investigation if they suspect you stole (or if they dislike your shirt or they object to your love of CBS family comedies, or pretty much any reason that isn’t about illegal discrimination or retaliation). What they can’t do is defame you by telling people that they fired you for theft, unless they can actually prove that you were guilty.

2. I switched jobs to make more money, and then everyone in my old job got raises

About two years ago, I started as an editor for my department. When I began, our supervisor told us she had been pushing for a higher salary for editors with HR. Around my two year marker, the approval from HR still hadn’t come through and I found the pay unsustainable as I accrued more bills, so I began seeking out other jobs.

I have since moved into another position within our department that I primarily took because of the pay increase it promised. It was a small raise that came with a massive increase in work, but I took it because I needed the extra money (and lo and behold, I’m actually much happier in this role). Because the job requires a lot more work than I had as an editor, it obviously makes sense that I would be making more in this position than I did as an editor.

Here’s my conundrum: the supervisor’s proposal was approved through HR after I left. This means that some of the editors who started at the same time I did are making more money than I am now, and I’m still doing a lot more work. Because I previously earned more in my current position, would it be completely unreasonable of me to ask for a raise? I’ve only been in this position for four months, so I am hesitant, but I also feel it wouldn’t be out of line because of my above average performance (I’m not saying that to be conceited; I’ve heard around the office that my boss brags about me quite a bit), and because the major reason I took this job was to make more money than I was in the previous role. But if people in my previous role are now making more money than I am in the new role, wouldn’t it logically follow that my salary should be increased as well?

I know that if I ask for a raise, I need to do it based off merit, but is this something worth mentioning in a salary negotiation when I wouldn’t otherwise be asking unless I’d been in my new role for at least a year?

No. The fact that the people in a job you’re no longer doing got raises doesn’t really have any bearing on what the job you’re currently doing should pay. It does absolutely suck that if you’d stayed where you were, you’d be making more money than you are now and doing less work. But you can’t argue that your pay for what you’re doing now should be based on the pay for a different job. I’d focus on the fact that you were happy with the salary when you took the new job, and you turned out to be happier in the job itself — and work toward being able to make a case for a raise after a year.

3. I was invited to interview but then told they’d hired an “exceptionally qualified” candidate before I could

I recently applied to an administrative assistant position online, and someone from their HR department emailed me on Monday and set up a phone interview with me for that Thursday. On Wednesday, I received this email: “I am sorry to do this, but I will need to cancel our phone interview scheduled for tomorrow. We have offered the position to an exceptionally qualified candidate and she has accepted. Thank you so much for your interest in Teapot Inc. We will keep your resume active for 6 months, but please also feel free to reach out to me should you see a position of interest on our careers site.”

Is it just me, or is using the phrase “exceptionally qualified” kind of demeaning to a job seeker? Should I respond and say I would have loved the opportunity to interview? Not respond at all?

It’s not demeaning to explain to you why they decided to short-circuit the interview process and hire someone before finishing talking to everyone they intended to talk to. I know it’s tempting to analyze every word employers choose to say to you in a hiring process, but this is just someone trying to explain a decision in a way that they hope will be understandable to you. They’re not saying “you suck.”

Respond and be gracious (which means you shouldn’t say you would have loved the opportunity to interview, which sounds a little too let down or even chastising). For example, you could say: “Thanks so much for letting me know. The job sounds great and I’m glad you were able to find the right person for it. I’d love to remain in touch and hope we might have an opportunity to connect in the future.”

4. Mentioning that I took an interviewer’s certificate recommendation

I am wondering if there is an unobtrusive, non-annoying way to mention that I’ve enrolled in a program recommended to me by an interviewer in a follow-up email. Last week, I had my second interview for a position that I am very interested in. During the interview, a post-graduate certificate program was recommended to me by the hiring manager.

Whether or not I get the job, I appreciated the recommendation, as I’ve been trying to get my foot securely in the door of my desired profession. After some research, I decided the recommended program looked great and I enrolled.

Now I am seven days post second interview and it is time to follow up. Is there a graceful way I can mention that I am pursuing the advised program without seeming presumptuous or should I leave that out?

Sure. You can say something like, “I also wanted to thank you for mentioning the X program. I did some research into it and it looked exactly like what I’m looking for, so I’ve enrolled. I’m grateful to you for mentioning it to me.”

5. Should my resume include a job I quit after a month?

I’m an ER nurse. I started at a new job just a few weeks ago. I haven’t yet completed my probation period, but I don’t think I can in good conscience work at this hospital any longer, because I’ve observed some really serious safety problems. (A full explanation would be long and technical. The short explanation is that they don’t have the right equipment or the right policies to provide safe patient care, and management encourages staff to take unsafe shortcuts and “find workarounds” instead of enforcing good practices.) I don’t think my input could significantly change the ingrained systemic problems, so I’ve resolved to quit and find something else.

My concern is about whether to keep this short-lived job on my resume. My impulse is to leave it off, because it could look bad that I bailed out from a job so quickly, and because anything I did there wouldn’t mean much in terms of experience gained. But on the other hand, would it be considered dishonest not to mention it?

Nope, it’s fine to leave it off (and in general, you should leave off jobs that you left after only few months, unless they were specifically designed to be short-term jobs from the start). A resume is a marketing document; it’s not required or expected to be a comprehensive listing of everything you’ve ever done. It’s not dishonest or even unusual to leave something off your resume that you don’t want to highlight.

{ 284 comments… read them below }

  1. neverjaunty

    OP #1 – do not sign. As AAM says, you probably live somewhere that you could be fired if they even suspected theft anyway. All they are doing is trying to get you to waive your right to sue them.

    So, let’s say that your boss makes a pass at you, or your wages are illegally withheld. And they fire you. Then you want to do something about it, and they claim that actually, they suspected you stole something – good thing they were mistaken, but one can never be too careful! – and therefore they were completely right to fire you and you’re not allowed to sue them for anything.

    (Yes, the waiver is probably BS. But you would have to go through a lot of nonsense to show that.)

    1. HR Caligula

      OP can refuse to sign but they will most likely will terminate for refusal to do so.

      If OP is illegally harassed or withheld wages they have every right to pursue legal remedy waiver or not.

      1. neverjaunty

        I don’t know why we are assuming OP will be fired for refusing to sign it.

        And yes, she has legal rights. This is a document designed to make it that much harder for her to enforce them.

    2. MK

      It depends on the wording of the waiver, but my understanding is itbwould stop the OP suing if they were wrongly terminated for theft, not for anything else. Waivers that are too general usually cannot be enforced.

      And if it comes to suing, the OP will already be involved in a legal battle with “a lot of nonsense”.

      1. fposte

        I think such a waiver works mostly by discouraging suit, though, not by holding the employer harmless in the event of a suit. Noncompetes can be a good example of that one in some cases.

        1. MK

          Frankly, they mostly work by convincing the one who signs them that they have no legal resource at all, so that they don’t even talk to a lawyer.

          1. RVA Cat

            OP #1, it would be perfectly reasonable for you to request that your attorney review the document before you sign it. Major red flag if they don’t allow that.

            I know you say you can’t afford an attorney, but it’s probably worthwhile to have that record expunged for your career going forward, esp. if you work in a highly regulated industry (banking, for example).

            Another thing – you should also ask HR if they have required other employees to sign this document in the past – esp. if for example you are a minority. Major manure-storm if it turns out they ignored similar circumstances in a white employee’s record but put you under the microscope.

            1. sstabeler

              not to mention that if you can’t afford an attorney, considering it’s about as open-and-shut a case as you can get ( the only way it would be more open-and-shut is if it was the prosecutor’s office applying for the record to be expunged) it might be worth looking into either an attorney willing to work pro bono ( or at a discounted rate) or doing it yourself. ( it is NOT difficult- you literally have to fill in a form, pay a fee, and hand it over to the court)

              1. Stranger than fiction

                I second the filing for expungement herself, and RVA’s suggestion of having a professional look over the document. Maybe she can have a legal aid society or law school student look at it for a reduced fee or free. (The employer doesn’t need to know that part) But, over all, I’m wondering what type of theft it was (a bunch of kids stealing from a convenience store?) and also what type of business her new job is, is it retail?

                1. OP #1

                  It was one kid out of several stealing something from a store that is generally in every mall, and everyone getting in trouble for it per the store’s policy. I have worked in retail since it happened, but this is not a retail position.

            2. Jaydee

              If you cannot afford an attorney, contact your local civil legal aid organization. You can look up the one that serves your state/county here: http://www.lsc.gov

              Also, not every state has expungement processes, and if they do they often vary a lot from state to state in terms of what exactly expungement means/what types of cases or records it applies to. Definitely talk to a lawyer – criminal defense or civil legal aid are your two best bets.

      2. neverjaunty

        And then the OP would also have to litigate the issue of the waiver, and a whole additional level of whether the firing was a pretext.

        If the waiver was redundant, why have OP sign it? And if all it is, is an acknowledgment by OP, why waive her right to sue?

        RVA Cat is right that OP would be wise to take this to an attorney to review.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          If the waiver was redundant, why have OP sign it?

          Well, same reason lots of employers have people sign unenforceable non-competes: Because they don’t quite understand that themselves and there’s still an effect because many people don’t challenge them.

          1. neverjaunty

            Sure. What I mean is that the argument for signing these sorts of dumb agreements is “oh, it’s just a piece of paper, it doesn’t mean anything really”. If it’s just a piece of paper with no meaning then I don’t need to sign it, do I?

            But even if it’s not enforceable (and none of us know where OP is located or the laws there about waivers specifically), it’s a huge hassle in pretty much every way if OP signs this. I agree, it sounds like somebody in HR got their shorts in a twist and wants to play amateur lawyer. Your advice on handling this is entirely correct…but unsurprisingly, I still think OP ought to talk to a lawyer.

            1. OP #1

              If it helps at all, I am located in Florida. I’m not sure if that would make a difference (but then again, there is a reason I am not in a legal career!).

        2. Mpls

          And when you take it to the attorney, be sure to bring up the fact that you are having to sign this after you have already started. There are contract principles that could be at play, and the employer doesn’t seem to be offering any compensation for the waiver of your right to sue. If it had been part of the onboarding and terms of the offer, than the compensation would have been the new job. But OP already have the job, so what additional thing is being provided? Not losing the job, I guess, but that’s another angle, in addition to considering the extent of the rights being waived.

      3. INTP

        Not a lawyer, so I probably don’t know what I’m talking about here, but it sounds like the waiver specifies firing over “even a suspicion of theft.”

        So, say in a few years, the OP is pregnant, and some equipment goes missing. If the waiver is binding (and I have no idea whether it would be or not), theoretically they could replace the OP with a man or an un-pregnant woman before her maternity leave, and cite “suspicion of theft” to leave her without recourse. It’s an extreme situation, but begs the question of why the company is trying to protect themselves against extreme situations. (Since as Alison mentioned, the company can almost certainly fire her for whatever reason they want other than illegal discrimination, and OP wouldn’t be able to successfully sue them without a case for that anyways.)

        1. neverjaunty

          It likely wouldn’t leave her without recourse, but it would be one more complication that OP doesn’t need to deal with. There is literally no reason for the existence of this waiver other than to limit OP’s rights.

  2. anon for this one

    #2 Is this an older letter? I feel like I wrote it, but a while ago. If not, someone else had a bizarrely eerily similar experience to me…

  3. fposte

    On #1–I believe they can, however, tell people they fired you because they *suspected* you of theft (presuming they did). Not a ton better.

    1. Mike C.

      Doesn’t that still fall under defamation issues? I don’t know enough to complete the chain of reasoning (so please correct me!), but it’s my understanding that I can’t go around saying things like “I suspect So-And-So is a child abuser” because that could cause serious harm to their reputation and person based on nothing more than my gut.

      Which makes me wonder, when AaM states the following:

      What they can’t do is defame you by telling people that they fired you for theft, unless they can actually prove that you were guilty.

      What standard of “prove” do you mean here? As in “was convicted”, possess strong evidence (caught on tape, admitted it while not under duress), something less? Did you mean “prove” colloquially or is there actual law about this sort of thing? How complete does an investigation actually have to be?

      This isn’t a major deal for me, the question just popped into my head and I’m really curious now if there is settled law on this issue, given that most other aspects of the running of a business are at the discretion of owners/management.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

        I assumed it was the “you can prove it when they sue your ass and you you’re in court” level.

        We’ve never fired somebody for suspected theft. We’ve fired them because, say, we found the eBay listings for the crap they stole, under their eBay account with pictures taken on the their actual work desk (true story) level of theft. Or Amazon purchases for kitty litter delivered to their home address (true story) level of of theft.

        1. Beezus

          A local big box store in my area fired an employee for stealing merchandise and listing it on the local For Sale group on Facebook, with photos of the items obviously propped up against the side of their building, under his own Facebook account. The building is painted a unique color that is immediately identifiable by anyone frequenting the chain.

        2. Mike C.

          We had a soon to be ex-wife call us once with the combo to a storage unit filled with tools. That was pretty hilarious.

            1. Natalie

              Ages ago when I worked for Best Buy, a loss prevention supervisor got busted that way. His ex got some money, too – they had some kind of reward system based on the dollar value of the theft.

      2. fposte

        We’re getting into the territory of real lawyers, which I am not. I suspect that this would come down to case law and I also suspect that there’s very little in this area because this stuff is expensive to litigate and tough to prove.

        My guess would be that the question of malice would be considered when it came to publication (who gets told) and that documentation of the perception (not necessarily its truth, just that the defendant really believed that–disciplinary actions that would fall short of the law might be relevant there) might come into play. But it’s also worth noting that there have been legal actions based on the concept of “negligent referral”–when an employer *doesn’t* mention a bad thing and gives either a good or even a neutral reference and then something bad happens at the new workplace. (The examples I’m seeing come from victims of subsequent crimes by the employee.)

        So my takeaway is that a reasoned truth is still your best practice.

      3. sstabeler

        it’s the law of libel/slander/defamation that matters here, so the standard is the civil standard- if you can prove that, on the balance of probabilities, the person stole from you, then you are free and clear mentioning it. I’m not a lawyer though, so you may want to ask an actual lawyer.

    2. AndersonDarling

      Yes, the *suspected* part is what is sketchy.
      If you take two pieces of pizza instead of one at the pizza party you could be walked to the door. The HR rep could have a dream about the OP stealing and call that *suspicion* of theft.
      What the contract really says is “we can fire you anytime and you will have no recourse.”
      I would ask if the organization has a policy on stealing. If not, that is the route they should be taking.

      1. LQ

        I don’t think you need a policy on stealing. Even for Unemployment in many states that person wouldn’t be eligible. Someone steals, it’s a perfectly reasonable reason to fire someone.

        You don’t have to put into your employee handbook that it isn’t acceptable to steal or punch your boss or burn down the building.

        1. Anna

          I remember having a conversation about this about doping in baseball. In the 90s there was nothing written in the policy handbook about doping, so players who doped used that as a defense. I was flabbergasted.

          1. Creag an Tuire

            That reminds me of when the Mayor of San Diego responded to persistent and repeated sexual harassment allegations with a defense that he had never received harassment training. Seriously, dude?

            (He was pushed to resign anyway, needless to say.)

  4. copperbird

    “Exceptionally qualified” does sound a bit odd for an entry level type admin assistant job. But don’t lose sleep over it, at least it saved you some time and effort if they’d already decided they liked someone else better.

    1. Allison

      Not all administrative assistants are entry-level. And even if it was, they still could’ve found someone they really, really liked who was willing to accept the pay they were offering.

    2. Red Rose

      Well, it may or may not be entry level, but “exceptionally qualified” might mean the candidate is the CEO’s niece. I think it was actually polite of the interviewer to not waste the OP’s time and I wouldn’t hold it against the employer.

      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

        I find it interesting that multiple people have equated “exceptionally qualified” with nepotism. Never in a million years would I have read the reply that way.

        1. Allison

          Agreed! I mean, it’s possible, especially for that kind of role, but to assume? Yes, it sucks that OP didn’t get a chance to interview, but to say that it had to be some unfair reason like nepotism is jumping to conclusions here.

        2. Maeve

          I recently canceled interviews at my job because we decided to offer the position to the first person we interviewed, who was uniquely qualified in ways that no one else we were planning on interviewing was, which we knew from their resumes. (Then after she accepted the position she backed out and then we rescheduled those interviews…awkward.) We didn’t want to lose her to another position by waiting a few weeks and we didn’t want to waste anyone’s time. She wasn’t related to anyone, she was just a great candidate!

      2. Koko

        Or perhaps comes from a recent executive assistant job where they’ve been supporting VPs and CEOs and handling confidential information for the past 10 years, whereas all the other resumes had experience as a admin assistant who was shared by a few mid-level managers.

        1. Rowan

          Or has been doing the job part-time in the department next to theirs for five years and is a rock star who wants to go full-time or or or…

          There are a ton of situations where they could know that there isn’t any point interviewing the other candidates because they’re fools if they don’t take this one. Not remotely demeaning.

        2. some1

          This is what I guessed. Any admin who’s looked for a job recently can tell you that an administrative assistant can mean many different things at many different organizations. It can mean anything from being the Receptionist to being the Office Manager or Excutive Assistant.

    3. Cassie-O

      I do not think that calling the candidate “exceptionally qualified” is even 1% demeaning to you. Would you feel differently if the HR person had simply said, “We offered the job to another qualified candidate?” or just “…another candidate?” If they found a great person to hire, why should they go through the rigmarole of additional, unnecessary interviews? Are you offended that they were mildly inconsiderate by scheduling your interview before they were 100% certain the job would still be available come your interview time? I do not really get the offense here.

      1. OP #3

        now that I’m reading it again, I don’t think demeaning was the right word. I just thought it was strange she chose to use those words vs. just giving me a generic rejection, that’s all.

        1. sstabeler

          actually, I’d prefer what they said. Think about it- they are effectively saying “we would have interviewed you, but we found someone who was the perfect fit for the job already” while a generic rejection could easily mean “you aren’t even worth interviewing” and I know which one I’d prefer.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian

            Yeah, I would prefer what they said, too. It indicates that there was an extenuating circumstance wherein they found someone extraordinary, not that they were necessarily “meh” about me. They could still think that OP is great and would eagerly hire her for something else in the future.

          2. Elizabeth West

            Yeah, it’s like the difference between a query rejection that has actual feedback (gold!) and one that is quite obviously a form letter that makes you wonder if they even got past the first sentence.

            Here’s the thing about exceptionally qualified–it only means that they think the person they chose is a fit for them, not that you suck. Kind of like dating. They also could be horribly wrong but that’s their problem now, innit? ;)

        2. OriginalYup

          If it helps, I read the wording as “we had a candidate who is so right for us that it wouldn’t be fair to bring you in to interview because our decision is pretty much made at this point.” To me, the ‘exceptionally qualified’ wording was trying to convey that you did nothing wrong for them to reverse course, it’s just that the circumstances are unusual.

          1. Arjay

            Yes, that’s how I read it too. I felt like it went along with the apology, implying that the cancellation wasn’t the way they’d normally do business and treat job candidates, but in this exceptional situation, that was the action that made sense.

        3. Not the Droid You are Looking For

          My take was they were actually trying to be kind and like OriginalYup said really trying to convey that there was nothing you did wrong rather then sending you a generic reply.

            1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

              During my last job search I spent more time than I would care to admit sending my BFF (who is an HR director) snippets of emails asking “but what does this mean??????”

              I think sometimes a different perspective can help!

            2. Formica Dinette

              Even though their response isn’t a reflection on you, it still probably feels like getting the rug pulled out from underneath you.

              I hope your job search improves soon! :)

          1. Heather

            This. I actually think it was really nice of them, given how many places don’t even bother to send rejections at all.

        4. Allison

          They wanted to emphasize that they don’t normally cancel interviews once they interview someone they like, but in this case someone they spoke to was so “exceptionally” qualified, and probably had some other offers brewing, that they knew they found their person and needed to move fast to get them.

        5. T3k

          Heh, your letter reminded me of a story I heard of a friend who got this one position (and now been at for several years). She interviewed, but they were still doing interviews after her, but apparently she did so well, the next day of interviews after her’s one of the managers went something like “Wait! I want the other one!” So at least you didn’t have to deal with that if you had been interviewed.

    4. Stranger than fiction

      Yeah, maybe it’s not the best choice of words and is their way of saying “You’re well-qualified, but we found this exceptional person we couldn’t pass up”. It’s surprising to me, however, that they didn’t take the time to interview you and any other candidates they had scheduled, though. They may have found you are actually exceptional too! Oh well, I guess they were just in a hurry to fill the spot and once they found someone good, they went with it.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Sometimes you really just know — your experience tells you that Candidate A is so unusually strong a fit that it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to find someone better. Or Candidate A was already the strongest candidate in the pile, and the interview cinched that (and you can tell from everyone else’s resumes that it’s not going to be a question). In that case, it’s most polite not to make the other people take time off work just to jump through a hoop that won’t lead anywhere.

      2. T

        When I interviewed for my current job, they also canceled the remaining interviews. It was for a remote branch of a recent acquisition that would eventually get closed (just the IT department, not the entire branch). They used ten different enterprise products and I was either average or expert level in all ten. The tasks of migrating and/or eliminating these products was almost identical to what I had just done in my previous contract job that had just ended. They were only looking for candidates who lived in X but were willing to move to Y after the migration was complete. I initially turned down the interview because even though I lived in X, my ultimate goal was to move to Y so I wasn’t interviewing for local jobs. On top of all that, the previous person quit with no notice and I was available to start the next day. I was literally the perfect candidate for this job in every way.

    5. TootsNYC

      I actually think the “exceptionally qualified” was intended as a sideways compliment.

      They’re saying, in essence, “You were a very reasonable candidate–you have the skills that should have gotten you this interview, and in other circumstances might have gotten you this job (though of course we’ll never know). The ONLY reason we would pass up a chance to interview you is if someone w/ exceptional qualifications popped up.”

      If you reply as Alison suggested, you may find yourself getting a call to interview for the next opening before they even post it. Because they’ll remember you positively.

      Consider this “exceptionally qualified” as a compliment to someone else. And that, of course, has nothing to do with you. If someone says, “Nice dress!” to your colleague, do you think that means they think your clothes are ugly? Nope.

    6. MissDisplaced

      I could be wrong, but in reading this is sounds as though they hired someone internal and they accepted.
      Otherwise, it seems odd they wouldn’t follow through with interviews.
      Either way, you’ll never know and it’s best to simply move on.

  5. Chocolate Teapot

    3. I have been in a similar situation before, and it be can be disappointing, however the only thing to do is move on. Although sometimes you can’t help wondering if “Exceptionally Qualified” means related to the CEO!

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

      I read it more as someone who had all the required skills, all the preferred skills, and could handle some of those extra tasks no one in the office can do, but we need done.

      But, I swear “exceptional qualified” candidate was on a template rejection email awhile back, because several people I know recieved that phrase along with the usual “six months on file” and “best of luck.”

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

        I would read it that way too. The person was such a good match that it didn’t make sense to carry on with more interviews.

      2. Shan

        Yeah, it seems standard. Whether the candidate was exceptionally qualified due to skills, relation or personal reasons, we won’t know. It sucks, but I’d rather get that email than waste my time going through with the interview anyway, or have them cancel my interview without giving me a reason at all.

        It’s happened to me, and for what it’s worth, one time a company actually did follow up with me later when a new position opened up. I already had a new job at that point, but it was nice to see they still thought of me.

  6. Three Thousand

    your love of CBS family comedies

    Eventually you just can’t take any more rambling plot synopses of Mike and Molly episodes.

  7. Betsy

    Whoa, you can be fired for anything? And most people don’t have contracts? That’s nuts. (Not from the US, hence my reaction.)

    1. marghini

      Yeah I am so glad I don’t work in the US! Good old Europe may be boring sometimes but labour laws here are really nice!

    2. MK

      You can be fired for anything (unless it qualifies as unfair dismissal) in Europe too; but they have to pay you severance.

      1. Jen RO

        Nope. I mean, it might depend on thr country, but in mine there is a lenghty process that is mandated by law. It can get even lengthier depending on company policy.

        1. MK

          Obviously it varies by country; in mine, the employer can a) fire you with cause without severence or notice or b) fire you without cause, but with severence (a considerable amount of money, calculated according to how long you worked for them and your salary) and sometimes notice. What they cannot do is fire you for “unfair” reasons or on a ridiculous pretext.

          1. De (Germany)

            I seem to remember you are also in Germany? If so, that “what they cannot do is fire you for “unfair” reasons or on a ridiculous pretext” is a huge caveat. They basically can’t fire you without a good reason if it isn’t for downsizing the company. They might have to explain their reasoning in court and take the employee back if the reason isn’t good enough.

            For example, firing someone for low performance requires at least one written warning. And even then a firing might not be okay, because the employee only has to try to fulfil their duties as best as they can. Even if that’s not good enough.

            It’s incredibly hard to fire employees here in accordance with employment law, and that’s not just positive.

            1. MK

              EU, but not Germany. And I understand what you mean about the caveat. Here you can fire for no reason, no process required, as long as you pay the severance.

            2. TootsNYC

              In the U.S., in some states (mine, for instance), if a company has a firing policy (and a very, very common one is: three written warnings, though sometimes only one), they must follow it or you can sue them.
              And they can end up with an enforceable policy even if they don’t write it down, as long as they always use it.

              Though most companies probably have a statement somewhere that says, “We can fire you at any time, even if we don’t always fire people for not doing their jobs well.” Not sure how enforceable that is in my state; a similar clause about pets was ruled unenforceable in NYC.

          2. HM in Atlanta

            I have an employee in Germany that cannot be fired for any reason. We’ve stopped operations in Germany, and we basically still have to pay him for the rest of his life.

            1. Anna

              I have a feeling this is more about misunderstanding the law or being afraid of the legal ramifications rather than an actual legally required situation. I know plenty of people in Europe who have lost jobs because US companies moved operations or went out of business, etc.

              1. De (Germany)

                Yeah, downsizing is one of the classic situations where you can totally fire people here (with appropriate notice).

    3. Brightwanderer

      I’d suggest reading through some of the archives to familiarise yourself with the US laws on this – while I understand the impulse, as a UK reader, to comment on the US setup, it’s not very helpful, as US readers/workers can’t change the laws on a whim. I’m pretty sure most of them are aware by now that there are more worker protections in other countries!

          1. De (Germany)

            Oh yes. And it’s alway rather one-sided and doesn’t acknowledge that those “European” (because all of Europe is the same?) laws also have disadvantages. I certainly wouldn’t want to open a business in my country…

            1. Anna

              I have to remind people that there is no utopia whenever they start waxing romantic about Scandinavian countries, etc.

            2. Tau

              Yeah… my mother (a manager in Germany) talked about how frustrated she was with an employee who’d basically used certain legislation to force his way into a job with them and now could not be fired and basically had a job guaranteed until old age. Having read AAM religiously, my head basically exploded at her story.

              And on the flipside, there are *also* worker rights violations or unfair but legal situations in EU countries, which patting ourselves on the backs about how great we have it in comparison to the US misses.

            3. Betsy

              I’m in Europe now, but I’ve actually lived in four different countries, so my comment wasn’t reflective of “Europe”. I most certainly don’t think where I live right now has a healthy set of workplace regulations… There’s some massive projection going on here.

        1. Not me

          +1, not constructive, usually involves generalizations about the U.S. and not-specified European countries.

      1. Betsy

        I’ve already read through the archives before, and Wikipedia’d “at-will employment” as soon as I read this. I’m not sure where or how I implied that US workers are somehow responsible for laws they didn’t create, and in fact felt sympathy for them.

        I’m also not sure where you get the impression I was trying to inform US readers of work contract differences between their and other countries, as I was obviously expressing surprise at something I didn’t know. So your defensiveness is really unwarranted.

        1. Sans

          I agree that “at will” employment can suck. However, the reality is that most decent companies do have their own rules and regulations they follow. They don’t do it out of the goodness of their hearts; they do it to be consistent, to create a paper trail, to avoid being sued for discrimination, and to maintain a reputation that will help them get well-qualified employees.

          I have seen companies treat their employees like crap. In all but the worst economies (2009-2010) they end up with high turnover, which is expensive. Most companies I’ve been with will put an employee on a PIP, documented in writing, with specific requirements and timelines to be met. They give severance for layoffs. They only abruptly fire someone for theft, violence, etc.

          Yes, I know there are plenty of horrible employers out there – but I don’t think the vast majority wake up one day and say “I don’t like the color of Wakeen’s shoes today – fire him!”

          1. Betsy

            Yes, that was part of my surprise when learning more about at-will employment – the letter of it seemed to be fairly incompatible with my impression of your work culture. Not like people in the US seem to get fired for *any* reason, though it gives some necessary context to those stories about hyper-demanding bosses (a la Devil Wears Prada).

            (And thank you for that last part, I snorted)

          2. MissDisplaced

            Plenty do though! Especially smaller (<50 employees).
            The owner of my former company fired a woman because he smelled smoke on her. Note that no one saw her smoking, or had proof she had been smoking. But he was an A-hole that way.

        2. MegEB

          Your comment didn’t come off as though you were implying that US workers are responsible for our laws, but it’s annoying and frustrating to hear it on a regular basis. This isn’t directly solely at you, it’s more that we’re constantly hearing it from non-US workers – aside from AAM, I’ve heard it on several other blogs and social media sites, and it’s not actually a productive statement, so constantly having to discuss your own country’s labor law shortcomings can be exhausting. Trust me, we’re all aware of just how much work needs to be done to update our labor laws.

          1. Bagworm

            I understand the frustration and it is tiresome to hear repeatedly that US labor laws are not great but I think it’s totally reasonable to express surprise if you learn something new (about labor laws, culture or really any other variances between countries). I also do appreciate the conversation (although I understand if others are annoyed at this point by its frequency). I think it’s interesting as long as it’s productive; e.g., explaining how labor laws are in different countries and how that impacts both businesses and employees versus just ranting about America’s shortcomings.

            1. MegEB

              Surprise is one thing, but adding “That’s nuts” at the end of it comes off as quite judgmental. That judgement may be entirely warranted, mind you, but hearing the same thing week after week can be tiresome, and I think that’s what Brightwanderer (who was extremely polite, btw) reacted to.

              It’s sort of like how you and your family are allowed to criticize your own relatives, but if a stranger came in and started insulting Aunt Mabel as well, you’d get defensive and angry. It’s not that they’re wrong, but you don’t necessarily want to hear it from an outsider.

                1. MegEB

                  … really? In no way was I saying Bagworm can’t express his/her opinion, I’m just trying to explain why people reacted defensively. I’m trying to help foster a productive conversation here, for Christ’s sake.

              1. Bagworm

                I understand. And, I’m sorry if I came off as critical of Brightwanderer. I didn’t intend that. I agree that they were polite, giving a good suggestion (there is lots of good info on this in the archives) and expressing an understandable frustration with the perceived criticism. I just wanted to share my thoughts, too, which just varied.

                I very much like your analogy to criticizing family, too.

                1. MegEB

                  No worries! And yes, I’ve used the family analogy in the past before, it’s pretty useful. I have some, er, colorful characters in my family so I’m occasionally caught in the awkward position of feeling like I have to defend them because I’m related to them, but not really wanting to. So it’s an analogy that speaks to my personal experience :)

        3. Bagworm

          I agree that your comment wasn’t along the lines indicated. I the reaction is likely a misdirected frustration at the amount and productiveness of these discussions here and elsewhere (although, as I mentioned in response to MegEB, I enjoy learning about the differences but maybe I’m in the minority).

          1. dancer

            I like hearing about the differences as well, but the expression of surprise without further comment or discussion isn’t the most productive.

        4. Brightwanderer

          Hey, now. I wasn’t suggesting you implied either of those things. I was explaining why these sorts of surprised/shocked comments from non-US people can be unhelpful. If you’ve read the archives, you must have seen this come up over and over again? The thing about commenting on the internet is that you have time to think about what you’re going to say. You don’t have to express surprise, however genuine, in a knee-jerk way like that.

          Watching myself and other non-US commenters, I feel like we react against US working conditions sometimes in the same way we might react to watching someone in a bad relationship explain why this is ‘the best they can expect’. We feel like people in the US might not actually realise that their ‘normality’ isn’t normal for a lot of other people in the world, and we want them to understand they can ask for better. But the asking for better part is a big, generalised, social change conversation, and does no-one any good on an individual case-by-case basis. That’s why I don’t think it’s helpful to just make comments about how surprised a non-US person is about US law, or say “it’s not like that where I’m from”.

          1. Betsy

            Just so it’s clear where I’m coming from: I think the labour market where I am from in the EU is incredibly over-regulated and constraining. It actually protects the employed and those who are senior. I read AAM on a regular basis and am constantly impressed with how professional Americans are. I think it makes for a more pleasant and rewarding professional life and I’ve considered relocating. I’ve worked with Americans and *prefer* them for exactly that reason. Europeans seem more invested in maintaining a certain social hierarchy.

            I’ll be more mindful when I comment next time, in any case. Or I could present you with some ridiculous legislation from where I live and you can tell me how nuts it is too (because it is). Then we can be even!

        1. Betsy

          Well, geez. If you have an international audience I think it’s rather unavoidable that we are going to comment and occasionally criticise cultural and legal differences, and it is going to be repetitive, though I don’t read through your comment section regularly. I do like your website very much (and your book) and probably so do many international readers, so you could be a bit more generous with us.

          And if I may: (some) Americans may complain about other people coming to their blogs criticising their culture, but blogs from many, many other countries don’t get an international audience and platform at all. It’s an immense privilege, in my opinion.

          Anyway, I still will be reading, even if you don’t like my comments. FWIW I like working with Americans. I find you exceedingly driven, pleasant and professional. Hence why I (clumsily) expressed sympathy.

    4. Melissa

      It’s called at-will employment, and ideally it benefits employees too, on the basis that they can resign at any time for any reason with or without warning.

      But a fair number of people view it as unjust overall because of an unbalanced employer-employee power dynamic.

      1. MK

        As far as I know, even in countries that haven’t at will employment, the employee can resign at any time. Forced labor (even paid) is something generally frown upon by constitutions.

        1. Myrin

          Yes, that’s what it’s like here (unless there are specifics spelled out in the contract that only allow for resigning twice a year or so, that probably exists). Three months notice is the norm here but there’s usually no restriction to handing that notice in whenever.

          1. LBK

            Do employment contracts usually come with any stipulations if you quit before the contract is over? Or is it just the extended notice period that’s required and beyond that there’s no impacts to you financially or otherwise?

            1. ExceptionToTheRule

              I work under an employment contract in the US, so this might not be the answer you’re looking for. My company can only terminate me for cause and if I want to quit mid-contract, there’s a buy-out provision. Nobody will fess up as to what the buy-out is because they have to sign a NDA, but the rumor is it’s about $1,000 per remaining month on your agreement. I tried to negotiate an out after one year for a specific situation, but the company wouldn’t agree to it.

              1. Charby

                I hope the NDA only means that you can’t tell other people, and that it doesn’t mean that even *you* only find out how much you have to pay them to quit when you actually do leave.
                If the latter, that seems a little steep. How are you supposed to prepare for it if it could theoretically be any number?

                1. Apollo Warbucks

                  I’m sure it’s means the person knows but can not tell anyone else, otherwise that would be crazy.

            2. Myrin

              Okay, take this with a grain of salt since I’ve only ever held part-time positions (I’m a uni student) and everything I know about these topics is from friends and family (and to a lesser extent the general “culture” – it’s normal and widely known that the notice period is three months, for example) but oftentimes, contracts don’t have a fixed duration. You have this contract that spells out all kinds of conditions and declarations infinitely and it ends (three months from) when you quit or are let go. With contracts that do have a fixed end point, I have no idea, honestly. I can imagine there are stipulations but that would have to be answered by someone who’s actually been in that situation, sorry!

        2. Finding a Name

          You can resign at any time, but you have to fufil the notice period as agreed in your contract, otherwise your employer might have to be reimbursed with you.

          But from reading AAM I’ve started to think that whether its in the EU where you have contracts, or in US where it’s at will, nice sane reasonable bosses won’t just throw you out with no warning, even if they technically can, and the horrible toxic bosses can find a way to get around any law or policy if they want to. It’s pretty easy to make up a “legitimate” reason to get rid of someone, and even with a contract you might have no recourse because it’s difficult and expensive to challenge a firing, and it makes you look suspect to new employers.

          Actually, from reading AAM I feel like the real beneficial differences is how layoffs/redundencies are treated, as in my EU country, there is a statutory amount that an employer has to give you, they often give more, and if they can’t pay it, the government has it. Plus you automatically get unemployment based on what your salary was rather than it being means tested. I got the feeling this is different from the US and though there are some laws they aren’t so stringent.

          1. LBK

            I believe unemployment is also based on your former salary in the US but it’s not automatic even if you get laid off – you still have to file, although I believe it’s pretty easy to get it approved and it’s rarely disputed unless the company tries to argue that you quit. There is definitely no federally mandated severance pay in the US, although I believe it’s still given the majority of the time. Even when I got laid off in retail due to my location closing everyone got some form of severance, which I wouldn’t have expected since retail isn’t usually well-known for having good benefits (particularly for part-timers).

            1. Elizabeth West

              I’ve been laid off twice and I only got severance once. It was six weeks at my normal pay rate. Once it ended and I went on unemployment, the amount dropped quite a bit. It really helped, as it delayed the onset of unemployment payments. If I hadn’t had that severance, I would have run out of benefits well before I found a job.

          2. MK

            In practical terms, though, even of there is a mandated notice period for the employee, few employers are interested in enforcing it to the letter, or seek monetary compensation. I can’t speak for Europe as a whole , but in my country the culture seems to be “you want to leave? OK, have a nice life”, unless there are special circumstances, like stealing clients and going to a competitor.

          3. Bagworm

            I think you’re right that the actually companies, bosses, coworkers and cultures are what make a work experience wonderful or terrible in the end. While I think it would be nice (and reasonable) to have more protections in the US (e.g., in relation to layoffs), I know that each of the systems come with their advantages and disadvantages.

        3. Tau

          I work in the UK and just grabbed my contract to check what it said on the matter. There’s a section about when and why they’re allowed to make deductions from my salary etc., and one of the reasons given is damages incrued by a failure to work out my notice period. I also wouldn’t be surprised if you could be fined for breach of contract if you didn’t give adequate notice.

          No one’s going to show up at your door in the morning and force you to show up at work, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be penalties.

    5. None

      Actually, I think it gives you a lot of freedom since you can walk out the door as well. (The movies where they show people saying “I quit” and walk out, totally true).
      The truth is very few managers are actually comfortable with firing somebody. They will try to make hints that you are not doing way and hope you will find something else.
      On the other hand, I do not understand the practice in a lot of European countries (I’m originally from Europe) to do not have performance reviews and not have bonuses based on performance.

      1. MK

        I seriously doubt the disadvantages of your employer being able to change the terms of your employment on a whim and fire you for ridiculous reasons is outweighted by the freedom to resign on the spot (which non-U.S.A. employees usually have anyway, they just have to give notice). Especially since in practise this so-called freedom only applies to the minority of employees who can afford to quit their jobs without having secured another one and even then comes with negative consequences, like burnt bridges and bad references.

        1. Oryx

          “(which non-U.S.A. employees usually have anyway, they just have to give notice).”

          But if they have to give notice then it’s not really the same thing as saying “I quit” and walking out the door, never to return, which I think is None’s point.

          I’m not disagreeing with you on whether or not that’s a so-called advantage that US workers have, I’m just saying there is a difference between being able to resign at will with notice and being able to quit on the spot.

        2. None

          So you basically prefer an employer that would make your life hell because it’s too costly/too long to fire you and would force you out anyway? Some countries require 90 day notice before you leave your job.

          Another thing is that they “let you go” as in lay off. Firing is only for a cause so it can’t be done on a whim. And you get unemployment when they let you go. Not sure that this is such a bad deal.

          I have been let go, took me a month to replace the job with way better one. Nothing to do with my work, more to do with my big mouth. It’s not a stigma.

          1. LBK

            I’m a little confused here – are you talking about in the US? Firing absolutely can be done on a whim and without cause – or rather, the cause can be anything they like as long as it’s not your race, gender, religion or another protected class. There’s nothing in the US that stops you from being fired for the shoes you’re wearing or the color of your hair.

              1. MissDisplaced

                Not some of the places where I’ve worked! Smaller companies are especially horrible for doing this. Larger, global entities not as much.

          2. MK

            Judging by this blog, there is nothing stopping at will employers making your life hell and then firing you. And most people don’t just find a better job with a month from being let go, that was kind of my point.

            Being laid off happens here too, in which case you also get severance. And you must a crime or something to be denied unemployment.

            1. Stephanie

              In the US, where an employment contract does not exist (they often do in certain industries or when there are unions) an employer may in fact fire an employee with no reason and without severance. HOWEVER, an employer would then be liable for paying unemployment to that employee should they file. Also, and employer would then be putting themselves at a potential liability should the employee make the case of discrimination based on a protected class.

              So everybody calm down a little bit… employees CAN be fired for no reason, but it’s not that common because of the consequences. It’s definitely not a consequence-free course of action.

              1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

                I’ve worked in a couple at-will states where people are overly paranoid about “being sued,” and will actually hang on to problem employees for eons while they “gather documentation.”

              2. LBK

                That’s not quite how unemployment works – the company pays unemployment taxes that contribute to a pool of money used by the government to pay out unemployment when people file. A company’s unemployment taxes do adjust relative to how many of their former employees collect, but that’s not recalculated each time an employee that leaves, so there’s no immediate impact to a company’s financials if a former employee files.

                I do agree to an extent about companies being worried about litigation and therefore hesitant to fire people for less-than-clear reasons (sometimes too hesitant, to the point that any employee who’s a minority becomes weirdly untouchable), but that doesn’t mean it’s not technically legal.

                1. JiraMaster

                  I’m sure it depends on the state, but it definitely adjusts each time an employee leaves if the company is small enough. My last job was with a very, very small company (4-5 people), and the person in my position before me had been fired. Two years later, we were finally able to get our unemployment rate back down to the minimum level.

                  This meant that my boss, the CEO, was very, very unwilling to fire anyone else and instead used the tactic of making people miserable until they quit, so he wouldn’t have to fire them and have his rate go up again.

                2. LBK

                  It does adjust, but according to the resource I’m looking at it doesn’t adjust instantly – it’s factored in when your new rate is assigned on an annual basis. So if you fire someone in February, there’s no financial impact until next January (or whenever the rate is assigned, but you get my point). A small business might start saving ahead of time if they know their rate is going up next year to make it easier to pay, but it’s not reuqired.

              3. neverjaunty

                It is actually pretty common. Not in the “I don’t like Wakeen’s shoes, therefore he is fired” sense, but for every story you read about an employer terrified of a lawsuit, you read about employers firing people because they wanted to hire a relative, or because the “culture fit” wasn’t good.

            2. Myrin

              Not to mention that the “I won’t put up with an employer who makes my life hell” attitude is not enforcable for many people who actually absolutely need a job, any job. I can absolutely imagine a scenario that is the same in the US and in a European country only that the American suffers in silence for three months while looking for a new job and then quits on the spot while the European hands in their notice, suffers in silence for three months while looking for a new job and then leaves once the notice period is up. We see so many letters here where people stay in an abusive or just not very good environment far longer than 90 days – it’s not like a contract and notice period is the only thing keeping people at their jobs for that time.

        1. Stranger than fiction

          True, they didn’t do reviews at my last job or current job, and at my last job, bonuses had been taken away due to the economy, but I get a yearly one now. I believe a lot of smaller companies have away with formal performance reviews for some reason. Reading all the nightmares about metrics here, I’m glad.

      2. dancer

        I’m not in the US and my country has some pretty solid labour laws, but I’m pretty sure I can still quit without notice… I mean it would burn some bridges, but I don’t think there’s anything legally preventing me?

        1. None

          So you basically prefer an employer that would make your life hell because it’s too costly/too long to fire you and would force you out anyway? Some countries require 90 day notice before you leave your job.

          Another thing is that they “let you go” as in lay off. Firing is only for a cause so it can’t be done on a whim. And you get unemployment when they let you go. Not sure that this is such a bad deal.

          I have been let go, took me a month to replace the job with way better one. Nothing to do with my work, more to do with my big mouth. It’s not a stigma.

        2. De (Germany)

          If you have a contract that spells out this notice, you’d usually be in breach of that contract and, depending on the country, the u employer could sue you for damages because you didn’t work your notice period.

          1. dancer

            Sure, but if things are so horrible that you feel the need to walk out, I’m sure other protections for workplace treatment will apply, no?

            1. De (Germany)

              Maybe, but not necessarily. Then you’d have to start doing things like talking to lawyers and having them write a letter specifying why they think leaving without notice is justified etc. Not something that would go over well with an employer who has already led you to *wanting* to quit without notice.

      3. Creag an Tuire

        I don’t think it’ll illegal for a European worker to just walk out and quit either (though it would probably have the same negative consequences as a US worker doing so), so I don’t think that’s a strong counter-argument.

        Now I have heard that at-will employment is supposed to benefit job-*seekers*, and that high youth unemployment in, for example, France, is because an employer that can’t fire people easily will be much more conservative in hiring in the first place. Not sure I agree but I can at least see the logic in it.

        1. Betsy

          I think it depends on the country. Mine is known for having pretty strong labour protections. With the contracts I’ve had, you have a certain probation period in the first half (if it’s limited) or about six months (if it’s permanent) where you’re allowed to quit, or your employer can fire you, for any reason. If you’re in a temporary contract you need to pay compensation to be able to quit, while on a permanent contract you need to give a fairly prolonged notice period (and vice versa for your employer). I could be getting the details wrong since I’ve never been on a permanent contract.

          If you’ve been in the company for long time, firing you can be very expensive, which results in having fairly incompetent, overpaid senior employees hanging around because it’s less costly than firing them.

          I would agree somewhat with your assessment of youth unemployment. Work culture in a lot of European countries is very conservative and seniority is often valued for its own sake. It can be exhausting.

        2. De (Germany)

          Well, first of all, Europe has over 30 countries, so it’s probably not the same everywhere, but in Germany, if I just walked out, I would be in breach of contract, just as my company would be if they just told me “hey, don’t come back tomorrow, and we won’t pay you from now on”. Because in that contract, they guarantee me employment and wages and I guarantee that I will work for them. They could sue me and I could have to pay a fine.

            1. De (Germany)

              The first six months are usually a probation period where both parties can end the contract with none or a very short (2 weeks) notice.

              Other than that, well, there’s the strong worker protection laws. So you could quit without notice for discrimination and so on, but you’d need to be prepared to defend it legally.

        3. Laura

          Re the logic about benefiting job-seekers: that’s the usual justification given for keeping minimum wage as low as they are. Supposedly it helps reduce unemployment but then you have to wonder how much good that’d do if people aren’t making enough to live on.

    6. Ad Astra

      The flip side is that you can quit at any time, which I understand is generally not the case in other countries, right? Not sure it’s an even trade, but it’s something.

      1. MK

        As mentioned above, you can quit at any time too. But if there is a contract or a law-mandated notice, there might be consequences. Then it becomes an issue of whether your employer would insist on you working out your notice period (not all companies are interested in employees who don’t want to be there) or take you to court for compensation (the hassle is rarely worth the effort, and there is a chance they won’t win).

    7. Mike C.

      HAHAHAHAHA holy crap my friend, you have no idea the many ways employees can be screwed over in the United States.

      Not only can you generally be fired for anything, you’re generally fired for NO REASON GIVEN. In some places, they don’t even fire you – they just don’t put you on the schedule and expect you to take the hint.

  8. Juli G.

    The fact you were asked to justify a nolle prossed charge for theft a DECADE ago is outrageous enough. Anything short of a violent crime with that outcome wouldn’t even be mentioned in my world.

    1. Apollo Warbucks

      It does seems excessive and over the top it really bothers me that such a minor incident when someone is young can be held against them a decade later.

      1. HRChick

        It depends on the security clearance requirements of the position, I guess, but in my experience, 7 years is the max they will go back. An 18 year old mistake (or accident?) being used against you is just odd and unfair

        1. Beezus

          I think it’s reasonable to ask, in some circumstances, just to understand the candidate’s attitude about the charge and how they respond to mistakes and adverse situations. I’ve asked in a very broad manner, just to see where they take it. There’s a difference in how I’d view a response along the lines of “I made a mistake when I was young and stupid and in the wrong crowd” vs. focusing on “the charges were total BS and someone had it in for me”.

          1. Recruit-O-Rama

            100% on this- the attitude regarding the charge is far more important to me than the actual charge in most cases.

          2. Ad Astra

            But, if I’m understanding nolle prosequi accurately, isn’t it entirely possible that the charges were total BS and someone had it in for them?

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

      I do hire people with criminal records (currently 20% of my employees have something on a background check) because I think it’s wrong to exclude people form work forever because of past mistakes (and because I work in a human services field where it makes sense to hire people who have life experience similar to the clients). However, I always have a conversation about it with the person. If it ever comes up, I’m prepared to handle it and explain the reasoning. Typically, thus conversation also addresses all my concerns. I have said no before, but it was because of current charges where it looked likely the person would be back in prison within a few months (there are certainly other situations I’d say no to as well).

      I think it’s reasonable to ask, but they are contradicting themselves by carrying on with a written agreement. Either they trust OP enough to hire her, or not.

      1. Yep

        I’m happy to read this. I believe strongly in rehabilitation and giving parolees and etc. a second chance. My husband is a hiring manager and currently has an employee who has to go to jail on weekends, and he says he’s a great employee.

        I also agree with your assessment on the OP (whose charges were dropped) – either they trust him/her, or they don’t.

      2. Recruit-O-Rama

        You base employment decisions on current charges, as in arrest but not conviction? I would be very careful about that since they have the presumption of innocence until otherwise proven guilty in court and it is explicitly illegal in most places to base employment decisions on arrests.

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

          Well, not generally. But in this case it made sense. The person was supposed to be a mentor for young teens involved in crime. To qualify for the job, he needed a similar background to the clients, to live in the same community as the clients, to show that he was no longer involved in criminal activity, and to demonstrate that he was able to build rapport in the community. It turned out that the potential employee had new felony charges, and there was an arrest warrant because he didn’t show up at court. He was on probation, so it was pretty clear that he was going to back to prison (according to him once all this came to light – and he was, in fact, in prison 2 weeks later). As a mentor, he wouldn’t be able to build rapport with youth, their families, and the police in this kind of situation. Also, I can’t ethically hire someone who is currently involved in violent crime to spend time one-on-one with other people’s kids.

      3. JGray

        Wonderful that you can hire people with criminal records. I think that the thing that bugged me the most about this situation is that the OP explained the whole situation about what happened and that the charges were dropped before the background check and the company hired them and now is asking them to sign something.

    3. Traveler

      If the person has to do international travel, even crimes without prosecution can prevent entry into certain countries. I have no reason to believe that’s the case with OP, but there are plenty of places where this is reasonable to discuss.

      1. Zillah

        I’d argue that the vast majority of jobs do not involve international travel, though. “Plenty” is an overstatement IMO.

        1. Traveler

          Which is why I said “IF the person has to…” For example: international can mean Canada. Conferences in and business with Canadian companies isn’t that rare. And Canada is a great example, since they have some strict laws about entry into the country with certain marks on your background.

          “Plenty” to me just means enough that it wouldn’t be unreasonable in some sectors of business/levels of career.

          1. Zillah

            Maybe we have differing meanings of “plenty” – for me, that indicates a pretty sizeable number, and I’d be surprised if even one employee in a hundred in the US is required to do international travel – and for most of them, an arrest for theft a decade ago won’t bar their entry into the relevant country or countries. I’m not trying to parse your words, but I think that this would be unreasonable for such a large majority of positions that it’s important to qualify it accordingly if you’re going to bring it up at all.

            1. Traveler

              I see your point. And for sure – the vast majority of employees in the US are probably in jobs that won’t require outside travel. From my anecdotal experience with friends and acquaintances, who are a pretty wide cross section of government/corporations/non-profits – it’s not that rare at all. Once a year for a conference, research, or a meeting is pretty common. So I’m operating from that view point and wouldn’t find that sort of question that out of place. So its relative, as with most things I suppose.

        2. Chinook

          “I’d argue that the vast majority of jobs do not involve international travel, though.”

          While I do agree, there are times when the ability to travel internationally may come up and you need to be aware if there are limitations to your ability to travel. I still remember having to deal with booking travel for a computer programmer colleague to a Chinese factory. He mentioned off hand that he hadn’t been back since he was a child and I did some research. Turned out that, if he was sent to mainland China for work, he could have been forced to stay because, even though he is a Canadian citizen, he was still considered Chinese in the eyes of Chinese government. Luckily, he only had to go to Hong Kong (or somewhere else where there was exception) and was able to go. But, if he hadn’t mentioned something early on, he and the company were taking a big risk for the sake of a business deal.

      2. MK

        The only circumstance I can think of when only the accusation for a crime will prevent you from traveling abroad is if there is an outstanding arrest warrant against you.

        1. Traveler

          There are other cases, too. It often depends on what country you are coming from, and which one you are going to. Canada for example, from the customs and border patrol website: “As a general rule, Canada does not allow persons with DUI’s to enter their country…”

          1. Zillah

            How does this work in practice, though? “Generally” indicates to me that there are some exceptions. Can you give any other examples? I’m curious bc I’ve never even heard of this for petty crimes.

            1. fposte

              Might also be a CYA phrase for all the times they don’t know. I’m not even sure how they do the check, but I’m guessing it’s based on your ID, and if it’s a driver’s license from a different state that missed the DUI news (it happens) Canada might never know.

              1. Chinook

                ” I’m not even sure how they do the check, but I’m guessing it’s based on your ID, and if it’s a driver’s license from a different state that missed the DUI news ”

                This part I do know – Canada Border Security interfaces with the national police database which lists all interactions with police. This information is then shared with US Border Security who, in kind, share their national database. Then, when you present your passport, they run you through the system to see if you are eligible for visitor’s visa. I think they aren’t given details at the booth, just a “free to visit” or “further investigation needed” (the latter of which can also happen randomly).

                They key, though, is to be polite and honest with the border guards when they ask you questions. They pull over anyone who is suspicious, including DH who, as a recently badged police officer, took a short cut through the states to get back home and raised red flags because a) he travelled through the border twice in a short period of time and b) was carrying a weapon. They thoroughly inspected his car at the Canadian border before letting him back in.

            2. Chinook

              IANAL or a Canadian Customs Official (but I watch a lot of a particular reality show about them) and there is some leeway with customs officials depending on the severity of the crime by Canadian standards (i.e. a DUI in some parts of the states or by some drivers doesn’t seem to be taken as seriously as it is here, atleast from the attitudes presented of those on this show), how long ago the punishment was served, how truthful the person is about it before border guard runs his background check and whether or not any other red flags are raised in the interaction with that person. Plus, if you are refused, you can either be banned from re-entry for a number of years or be allowed to withdraw your application for entry so that you can fix the paperwork mistake and enter in the future.

              1. Cath in Canada

                I love those shows too!

                Before I had my permanent residence status, so I had to go into the actual building for secondary screening every time I came back into the country. There was always some very interesting eavesdropping and people watching to be done. One time, there were some American teenagers who looked to be between the legal drinking ages of the two countries. They were expressing surprise at not being allowed into the country, and the Canadian border guard was going down the line saying “well, you have two DUIs, you brought a gun, and you smell like pot”. They were astonished that these were grounds for refusal!

                1. Chinook

                  Border Security: Canada’s Frontline. At the Toronto and Vancouver airports, there are actually signs in customs and baggage pick up stating that you may be filmed for a tv show (though, if you don’t sign the waiver, they just blur out your face). The union for border guards support this and I will admit that it is educational to see what is and isn’t acceptable behavior when dealing with border security. The guards have about a 50/50 spilt between handing out fines and sending people to the RCMP to be arrested and giving warnings or just clearing people of wrong doing. The biggest factor for being able to walk away is a)not lying and b) not being a jerk.

                  There is an Australian version of this show as well which I think may be the original version.

                2. Sonya

                  Aussie Border Security is occasionally about people secretly coming to work or smuggling drugs. More often, though, it seems to be about foreigners being terrified that we don’t have food in this country. Whole suitcases full of undeclared food!

                  (We have incredibly stringent quarantine regulations here – it’s why we don’t have a lot of floral or fauna pests.)

            3. Traveler

              I’ve known people expelled from Canada for having a record of alleged, and for actual DUIs. As in, they were deported on site from the country. That’s why I pointed it out above. You can argue your case, and go back through the records and fight it. I’ve known people that have successfully gained entry after as well – but its a lot of red tape. Some employers are going to see that as something they don’t want to deal with.

      3. Observer

        Not relevant here, though. The OP was hired even though they knew about the issue, and the HR person is not talking about travel issues but suspicion of theft?

    4. Ad Astra

      I thought this was really strange, too. I thought charges like that didn’t even show up in most standard background checks. I’m surprised it even has to be expunged in the first place. Maybe the OP is in a heavily regulated industry? She’s basically being penalized for being suspected of a misdemeanor 10+ years ago. That’s insane.

  9. Workfromhome

    #2 Something similar happened at our company and I’m sure it sucks for the OP and no way should you ask for a raise in a new job based on what happens at your old job after you leave. Your former coworkers should probably be sending you a thank you note. Your leaving may very well be what caused the raises. It does suck that you got the short end but with today’s short sighted companies this is what happens.

    We have a small group on employees (around 10) in one department mostly long time employees (many over 10 years) that have been vastly underpaid and salaries frozen. People have been complaining for a number of years getting to the point of becoming very vocal. The answer if there even is a response was the same (company didn’t meet goals, corporate policy etc etc) Recently one great new hire left after only a year and another 10 year plus rockstar both left ( for substantially more money) This of course threw things into chaos chopping the capacity of the group by more than 20%. within a month what happens? BOOM some substantial raises. Its horribly shortsighted by companies to not do the right thing until they are forced into a panic but hey that’s how the world works.

    Hopefully the OP didn’t burn bridges and maybe in a year his old company may realize they made a mistake and make an offer to come back which can be accepted or used as leverage for a raise.

      1. OP #2

        I am indeed in the same department. So it’s unfortunate because the raise I received in changing positions is meager compared to what the editors are now going to be making. It also gets a little frustrating and complicated because even though our workplace is highly secretive about what everyone makes, my roommate is one of the current editors, so I hear all about changes still taking place in that division.

        As Alison highlighted, though, I am much happier in this position. I think that’ll be enough to get me through to the year mark when I can actually ask for a raise.

        1. Jenny Next

          OP #2, does your organization have a setup for equity increases?

          I work for a large organization that doesn’t believe in giving step increases or merit raises to the non-unionized workers, but they will move to adjust ranges or individual salaries if things get too out of whack. For example, they recently upgraded two entire non-represented job titles (Teapot Analyst 3 & 4) by 2 grades (21%) when the lower-level but unionized jobs (Teapot Analyst 1 & 2) started paying more at the upper ranges.

          1. OP #2

            Unfortunately not :( That’s a huge drawback of my workplace. The larger conglomerate (and HR) doesn’t seem to believe in paying people what they’re worth, so we start out at pretty meager salaries and have the opportunity for merit raises in certain positions.

            Other jobs in my department actually start at the top of their salary range, so once they’re hired, they can’t ever get a raise. I guess when I look at it like that, I’m just grateful to even be able to get a merit raise in a year, but I do wish they’d take a look at our salaries. They’re just not on par with market value.

    1. Prismatic Professional

      That’s horrible. :-/ I wish companies would think about the value the employees are bringing before they leave…

  10. Not an IT Guy

    #5 – So what’s an acceptable length of time for a job to be worth mentioning on a resume? And what happens if leaving it off makes you look worse in the eyes of the interviewer? Currently my employment timeline starting with my 3rd job looks like this: 3rd Job (4 years) > 4th Job (6 months, until fired due to manager’s sabotage) > Unemployed (5 months) > 6th Job (7 years and counting). If I don’t mention that short-term job, it will look like I was unemployed for 11 months and left 3rd Job without having anything lined up. What do you do in this situation when both scenarios make you look equally as bad?

    1. Urban_Adventurer

      I do think I’d leave the 6 month job on there, it’s sandwiched between 2 long stints so obviously you’re not a job hopper. You will need to come up with a different story for why you left though :)

      1. Zillah

        But there’s not much she can do about the story – lying or misleading is worse than either other option.

        1. Kyrielle

          Depends on how the manager sabotaged it! Lots of forms of sabotage give really handy explanations such as “the scope of the position changed significantly from what it was when I was hired” – and failing that, “It just wasn’t the right fit” is probably a safer bet than saying “manager sabotage” (when talking to a hiring manager, here honesty about it is a better case).

          1. Not an IT Guy

            So what would your response be if the explanation was “manager admitted to purposely destroying data needed for an assigned project and then fired me because the project would not have been able to be completed?”

            1. Liz in a Library

              There’s no way that’s not going to sound seriously defensive in an interview though, even if it is 100% true.

            2. Kyrielle

              What they said. That may be objectively true, but the person interviewing you doesn’t know if it is, or if that’s the first sign that you’re someone who can’t deliver and blames it on others. It’s a big red flag, since it’s one of the first things they learn about you.

              And working for a manager who will do that is /definitely/ not the right fit, so there’s truth in the fit statement in any case. (Actually, unless they included ‘magic worker’ in the job duties, ‘scope of the position changed’ is also true, but I wouldn’t use it in this case because if they ask for an elaboration of what duties changed, you’re back to the difficult place of telling them that, and it sounds facile. Not the right fit is a safer way to go on this one.)

    2. Ad Astra

      I don’t think an 11-month gap on your resume would raise too many flags if it was 7 years ago. If you were currently unemployed and wondering if leaving the 4th job off would help or hurt, I think it depends on the circumstances of your firing and the value of the skills you demonstrated in that position.

  11. AMB

    OP # 1 – I’d be wary of signing the policy that takes away your right to sue, it may be overbroad. Such waivers are not always enforceable, but it could cost you a lot in legal fees and time if you need to get over that hurdle if you were to sue for some other reason.

    1. fposte

      And she didn’t have a right to sue in the first place, at least not for termination for perceived thievery. So it’s weird.

  12. RVA Cat

    OP #3, to me “exceptionally qualified” sounds like the successful candidate had personal connections. I’m not saying there is nepotism, etc., involved, but to short-circuit the hiring process like this makes it sound likely.

    It is completely beyond your control if, for example, they hired the VP’s nephew or the boss’s sorority sister. Think of it that way and move on.

    1. Amtelope

      To me, that’s a weird reading of this statement. Wouldn’t it make more sense to take them at their word that they got an applicant who was such a good fit for the job that they hired her before the rest of their interviews were complete? I mean, sure, personal connections could be the reason, but so could the person they hired having significantly more experience than the rest of the applicants, or having done exactly this type of work in the past, or being an internal applicant who everyone already thinks is great, or any number of other factors.

        1. Koko

          I’m really surprised how many commenters jumped straight to that interpretation instead of the literal one – that the candidate had exceptional qualifications, not exceptional connections.

          1. Myrin

            I thought exactly the same but English isn’t my native language so I thought I might be missing some cultural context around “exceptionally qualified” being a generally used euphemism for nepotism – I’m glad to hear that’s not the case!

    2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

      Or they really could be a rockstar.

      We had a situation where we knew immediately the first person we interviewed was our hire. There was significant debate over handling the rest of the interviews because we knew we had found our “unicorn” and no matter how amazing other candidate were they couldn’t compete.

      Because all interviews were scheduled within 36 hours of each other and we knew we would ultimately be looking at an additional role in the next 3-6 months, we kept the interviews. But had there been more time in between or had there been no position on the horizon we would have cancelled them.

      1. Bagworm

        Not that you didn’t know for sure that you had found “the one” but I think a lot of times you can’t really determine the best candidate until you have looked at the entire pool (in equal depth) because “best” is a comparative statement (which I realize you didn’t say your hire was the best of the candidates, it’s just what most hiring managers are looking for, the best candidate from their pool of applicants) . The next person you interviewed could have been a flying unicorn. I think it takes someone really, really exceptional to actually short circuit the entire hiring process. I think that’s why so many people are thinking nepotism (or I think, optimistically, more likely another type of exceptionalism: e.g., internal candidate, former employee, well known through professional network).

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

          It’s hard to explain with out giving too much about me (and the hire away) but it was for a creative position, so we already had portfolios and sample work. The person we hired was number one going into the interviews.

          Also let’s say there were 4 skills that Teapot Polishers need: A, B, C, and D. My current Teapot Polisher was excellent at A and C, and could do a good job at B and D. The Candidate was excellent at B and D, but could do a good job at A and C — plus for a field where creatives can be difficult, had an excellent client services reputation. It was absolutely a situation of all the stars aligning for us to have had the perfect person walk through the door.

          Because we kept the interviews, I was able to confirm that I had been right from the beginning. The only positive was that when a Teapot Polishing position opened up in another department we were able to send over their resumes and work and say, “we met with these two great candidates when we hired Tyrion, both of whom would be excellent for your role.”

          1. Bagworm

            That makes sense. As I mentioned downthread, I clearly had not thought through all the possibilities. I appreciate it everyone with more hiring experience than me are sharing their insights.

    3. Fact & Fiction

      I don think we can assume they short circuited the hiring process. The job could have been posted for some time, with OP being a later applicant than the candidate who accepted the job. I think it’s great they didn’t waste her time and let her know. I also don’t understand why people tend to get so personally insulted by obviously “formlike” language like “exceptional candidate.” They found s great fit who meshed with them–they’re not saying you aren’t exceptional, too.

      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

        That’s a good point. Because of my own experience in hiring I assumed it was short circuiting the process.

        But on the applicant side, I applied to a job a bit above my pay-grade because it had been open for months and my ill-informed friend who works their said they had recieved “no applications.” I got an email within 24 hours of my online submission that said something along the lines of “we’re ending the hiring process because we have found our new Teapot Polishing Manager.”

        Turns out they were in final interviews with the top two candidates when I had applied.

      2. Bagworm

        I agree that it’s great that the employer didn’t waste the applicant’s time but it still seems to me that they somehow circumvented their normal hiring process; otherwise, why would you schedule an interview you never intended to conduct? If they were far enough along in the process that they had already interviewed this person, they would have known she was exceptional and that they were going to make her an offer. If they hadn’t interviewed her yet (even once, since this appears to be a first-round interview), I think it is unusual to stop any other scheduled interviews. Since hiring is usually a comparative process, it’s not routine (but not unheard of) to know for certain that a particular candidate is the absolute best person for the position without looking at the other candidates.

        1. Revolver Rani

          “They would have known she was exceptional and that they were going to make her an offer.” But they didn’t know that she was going to accept that offer. There’s no reason not to keep the pipeline moving until that happens (I said more about this in my comment below).

          1. Bagworm

            Good point. I obviously hadn’t thought of it in those terms. Although I do still think that this could be because of some unusual scenario and it did vary their usual hiring practices, but obviously that isn’t the only possibility and either way there’s not point in speculating on it since that would likely just lead to more frustration.

            And I guess I should have said earlier that I agree that it wasn’t a personal slight at all. I think the business handled it very professionally and fairly. I can just understand the disappoint and sometimes it’s too easy to take things personally when job hunting. I hope the OP gets some re-assurance from AAM’s answer and the comments so she can move on and maybe not see things as so personal in the future.

          2. Amtelope

            And, in a lot of businesses, getting from interviewing someone you want to hire to actually hiring them is a process involving a lot of internal discussion and sign-off by third parties — the person’s eventual manager might conduct the interview, but that’s not the person who has the authority to actually hire the person or make a salary offer or agree to any salary negotiation. It could take a week or more. Meanwhile, you keep on interviewing people, because you never know.

      3. Revolver Rani

        Agreed. When you are hiring it’s totally normal to keep screening and interviewing candidates even after you have extended an offer to someone! Because the person might not accept the offer, salary negotiations or start-date negotiations may fall through, etc.

        So it’s a completely reasonable scenario, not a short-circuit at all, that the company interviewed candidate A, and decided to extend an offer to candidate A, while candidate B was just a little further back in the pipeline. Then candidate A accepted the offer, and candidate B (and maybe C and others), who would have been interviewed otherwise, is notified that the search is completed, thanks anyhow.

        Not a personal slight, just how the hiring process works sometimes.

  13. Erin

    #1 – It sounds like the people making the hiring decisions liked you and didn’t consider this a red flag, but that one HR person or whomever balked at it and is insisting on this stupid contract – that’s the best explanation I can think of for why everything was okay when openly discussed, but then later on they’re suddenly not so okay with it.

    But even if you end up losing this job, I don’t think you should sign it (or anything you’re not comfortable signing). Obviously, you’ve found other employment during the past decade, and you will again if this ends up not working out.

  14. Punky

    What if I DO want to highlight I job I had for only a few months? I was hired to do one thing, but after four months, it became very clear that they actually needed someone to do something different and more advanced. But I learned so much in those four months and am very proud of the work I did. Do I still have to leave it off because it was so short?

    1. Zillah

      Others may differ and I’m not a HM, but I think that it depends. If you’re early in your career or switching into that field, I’d keep it on. If you’ve got a lot of other experience, though, leave it off.

    2. Charby

      I think if the experience is really phenomenal and your work history is otherwise stable I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having one four-month job.

    3. CrazyCatLady

      I think it’s rare that you’d have accomplishments worth mentioning in such a short time – that said, I have a short job (5 months + consulting after) where I had significant accomplishments so I leave that on – and there is a good reason why I left that would be understandable to any reasonable employer.

      1. Punky

        I am actually in the process of trying to start down a different career path. That four month stint was my first professional experience in that field. I actually did have two big accomplishments during that time that I am very proud of.

    4. Ad Astra

      It sounds like you got promoted within the same company, which is something I would definitely leave on the resume.

      1. Ad Astra

        Nevermind, I think I misread your post. Still, if your accomplishments are solid and you don’t have a ton of other experience in that area, it’s worth putting on your resume. If an HR rep or hiring manager asks about why you were only there 4 months, you can easily explain that the company realized it needed something different.

  15. DebbieDebbieDebbie

    #1: Though it is aside from your main question, you mention the cost of an attorney as a barrier to seeking sealing/expungement of your record. Please know that you may be able to care for this yourself through the county with jurisdiction without an attorney. Many court websites have the forms with instructions – hope this is the case for you because the anxiety of going through this with subsequent background checks should be unnecessary.

    1. neverjaunty

      This is an excellent point.

      OP, in the US you can call Legal Aid or your county bar association. They often have referrals to pro bono (free) or affordable legal help to assist people with expungements.

    2. Koko

      Yes, I came here to say exactly this! You don’t need a barred attorney to submit expungement paperwork in most states, and court filing fees should be under $100. (In Maryland it’s only $30.)

    3. Prismatic Professional

      Local Large University does free expungements each semester so their law students get practice. You might see if there is a similar program near you. :-)

  16. Stephanie

    #1 — This is an area of HR law where I am a little fuzzy, so I’m not positive this applies, however there are laws that protect employees from illegal contracts. There are certain rights (and this may be one of them) that employees cannot waive, even if they sign a contract. If this falls in that category, the contract could not be held up in a court of law.

    But regardless, I would take this as a red flag and sit down with your HR or manager and ask them for their reasoning behind it.

  17. Safety Concerns

    #5, are you going to report the experience to the Joint Commission or a local news team? It’s not fair to the patients who don’t know any better and are receiving substandard care.

    1. OP #5

      I have reported problems to the appropriate authorities. In this case that means the Joint Commission, the state Board of Nursing, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

      Calling local news seems like it would only create more noise without actually affecting things. The agencies in charge do have a lot of power to enforce changes.

  18. Squirrel

    OP#1, just because you can’t afford a lawyer doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t have your record expunged. Depending on your state, the process could be something as simple as submitting some forms, paying an administrative fee, and talking to a judge. It would really serve you to look into the process, as you will never have to mention it to an employer or list it on an application again.

  19. Dr. Pepper Addict

    The answer to #5 is something I’ve been wondering for a long time. I wonder where is the line drawn where if you have a job and it’s something you don’t want to highlight, but you were there for a while, when is it not ok to leave it off? Like if you were at a place for 5 years and ended up getting fired and prefer your new potential employers not know that info, if you leave that off and have a 5 year gap, is that ok? (Not that I have that situation personally, just trying to get my head around what is and isn’t ok).

    1. Lily Rowan

      I think the way Alison describes it as a marketing tool is the way to think about it — what is this going to look like to the person seeing it? Of course anyone will wonder why you weren’t working for five years, and ask about that. It’s much less likely to come up if the gap on your resume is 6 months or less. I don’t think I even have months on my resume anymore, so it would totally opaque.

      It’s not about OK or not-OK, it’s about the story you are telling about yourself.

  20. Baxterous

    #3 – I think that by saying “exceptionally qualified”, they were trying to convey “We know how rude it is to schedule an interview and then cancel, but this candidate was so fantastic, we just had to do it anyway”.

  21. John R

    #3: Whenever possible, try to schedule interviews early on for the very reason that they might fill the job before getting around to interviewing you!

    #4: What is the hospital–I want to make sure I don’t go there. I’m only half kidding.

  22. OP #1

    Hello everyone! Thank you so much for your comments so far, and thanks to Alison for posting it. I’ll reply to some of the common comments in this one.

    A few of you have brought up filing myself and free legal aid, and I wanted to address that first because I probably should have mentioned it but wanted to keep my e-mail to Alison brief to save her some reading. I have looked into the process of doing it on my own but I have been having trouble understanding the process and whether or not it is better to have it sealed or expunged (sealing seems to be quicker in my state, but I’m unclear as to whether or not there are differences in who can see sealed records vs those that have been expunged). After reaching out to the county clerk to get clarification a few years ago, they just told me to get a lawyer to consult with and help me do it to ensure that I did it right the first time.

    I did look into civil legal aid organizations through LSC (mentioned in Jaydee’s comment above), and only one organization seems to be in my area … and they do not do expungements or record sealing. My impression from looking around is that these services are meant for individuals and families with critical legal needs such as those involving protection orders, predatory lending, guardianship, etc. and that they will not assist with expungement or sealing of records. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong about this, though!

    Finally, my position does not have a clearance level (and funnily enough, I don’t even handle money/budgets in this position!) but our company does have contracts with the state for a few things, if that makes a difference to how weird they’re being about this.

    I have not been able to get the HR representative to say whether or not I’ll be terminated if I don’t sign, although I did try to feel it out. My gut tells me I will be.

    1. Squirrel

      I think it’s worth it for you to get back in touch with the county clerk’s office and get some real help. Just straight up say you can’t afford a lawyer and would appreciate it if they would take the time to explain the differences to you. This will not be the only job that will be impacted by your record, and it is a good idea to get it taken care of.

    2. Observer

      What is the position of the HR person who you are talking to, and who authorized this document? Is there any way you can kick this upstairs? Especially if this is a lower level HR person without real authority, this might be your best bet.

  23. Public Enemy #1

    Letter writer #1, I was in a position such as you’re in a few years ago. I was shopping at a big store that rhymes with, say, “Wosco”. They had a food court in the front of the store with the world’s best pizza so I decided to grab a magazine from the rack and read it while I sat down and enjoyed my pizza! Well, let’s just say that there must not have been much going on crime-wise in Baltimore that evening because practically everything but the SWAT team showed up to take this dangerous magazine reading dirtball off the street. Anyway, 6 months later I’m in court and by the time I even made it to the front of the room to get next to my lawyer, judge had already rolled his eyes, shaken his head and said the words nolle prosequi and I was free, just like you are! But now you need to do what I did. I got an expungement form from the court clerk that very day, paid $35 and within a month I got notification that the incident never happened. Do yourself a favor and get the expongement. Don’t let a youthful case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time define you for the rest of your life. Goodluck!

  24. VX34

    The “exceptional candidate” thing doesn’t seem demeaning to me, only because it was in the context of “Hey, we’re really sorry, we were going to interview you, but now we aren’t, because someone blew our minds”.

    Had the OP received a generic form letter rejection after an interview saying they’d hired an “exceptional candidate”, then yeah, I’d feel really pretty mad about that one. Because my immediate thinking would be “Well of course you hired someone great, and it wasn’t me, so @$^@$^%&*@%#&*% to you.”

    But I am a bit perplexed as to how such an “exceptional” candidate could have been found and interviewed on, presumably, Monday or Tuesday prior to the rejection Wednesday…and the company in question would not have already known about this “exceptional” candidate prior to scheduling other interviews?

    I mean, most hiring processes aren’t super swift, and it’s routine for people to booked for interviews days, or even a week-plus out from the interview itself…so how did this “exceptional” candidate not immediately stand out to them prior to the scheduling of other interviewees? Even if they hadn’t spoken to someone before, their resume should have helped to sow those “exceptional” seeds, yes?

    Commiseration to that poster, as I know all too well what job searching and rejection can be like.

    I would, however disagree with Alison’s suggestion on any lines to the effect of “I’m glad you found the right person for the job”. Are you? Would any job hunter, who was just rejected from a job they applied for – and thus felt they were the right person for the job – offer up those words and mean them after being found to be *not* the right person for the job? Being gracious is great, and being polite and professional is a must. But there’s no way I’d essentially lie to a company and tell them I thought it was great they found someone who wasn’t me for the job I thought I’d be great for.

  25. kensie

    Re: 5. Should my resume include a job I quit after a month?

    If you leave a job off your resume, do you tell the interviewer you left a job after a month when they ask you about the gap in employment?

  26. rdb0924

    I have a question for Alison re short answer #5 (or the assembled multitude here, if you’d like to weigh in ). Alison says that a job you’ve had for only a few months – that wasn’t intended that way – can be detrimental on one’s resume. I have such a position, which begin in August 2011 after a four-month period of unemployment, and ended by my choice in January 2012, and preceded another six months of unemployment. (As an aside…I don’t recommend this, especially if you’re the primary breadwinner. I will never, ever catch up financially, and I can never retire.) So, leaving this job off my resume leaves me with what looks like a year-long idle stretch in my employment history. Keeping it on my resume and listed as I list all my positions (year-to-year rather than month/year to month/year), it looks as if I was with that employer for a year, when I was there barely five months. And then there are the internet job apps that do insist on month/year entries. So, what’s better? Looking like I didn’t work for a year?

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