dealing with a lazy and difficult coworker, bringing kids to a job interview, and more

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

1. Dealing with a lazy and difficult coworker

I have a coworker who’s become comfortable in her job, meaning that she knows she is retiring in several years and seems to have thrown in the towel. My problem is the unprofessionalism in the office. Her job is to great visitors, but she sits at her desk with ear buds in and a scowl. Everyone now comes to me. We are to open the office at 8 am, and she arrives at 8:07-8:15 (mind you, I get a 1- and 3-year-old ready, to daycare, and still arrive 10 minutes early). She has a flex schedule that allows her to work until 4:30 instead of 5:00 every day. I could use that schedule to pick my kids up early (I leave early twice a week). She is unfriendly, and I’m receiving complaints from others, to the point that people won’t even deal with her. She also has long, long personal calls at her desk that take me off tasks throughout the day.

I’m spoken with our supervisor and asked for him to do something. Others have as well, and nothing is being done. This morning I was stuck behind a five-car accident, and I had to call our supervisor and ask him to open the office because I knew she wouldn’t be here. I was still able to make it into the office before her. This is the final straw, and I said something to her about showing up late. I’ve also talked to her in the past about her attitude. Right now I’m not getting anywhere. I have written an email to send to her so I have documentation, but should I do that? Nothing is working and the boss isn’t doing anything. I love everyone in the department and don’t want to find a new job, but when you sit next to a negative person who doesn’t do their job, it starts to drive you insane.

The issue is your boss. Your boss is the one whose job is to manage her, hold her accountable for her behavior, tell her when something isn’t acceptable, and enforce consequences (including firing her) if she doesn’t meet a reasonable bar for performance. Your boss knows about the problems and knows how frustrated others in your office are getting, and he’s still choosing to do nothing. Apparently, he’d rather deal with everyone else being frustrated than have a difficult conversation with your coworker. Your manager sucks, and this is on him.

As for what you can do … I don’t see any point in emailing her to create documentation. You’re not her manager and don’t need to document performance conversations you’d had with her. And her performance isn’t in dispute; everyone seems to know that it sucks. Your choices are really (1) find a way to live with the situation, (2) push your boss harder to address the problem (doesn’t sound likely to succeed, but it’s possible), or (3) decide you’re not up for working somewhere that allows this kind of thing and look elsewhere. But as long as your boss doesn’t care enough to take action, your coworker is unlikely to respond to pleas from you.

2. Staffing firm lied and sent me to an interview that didn’t exist

This morning, I showed up to an interview with Siemens, the huge energy company. A staffing firm had sent me there, but security told me I was not scheduled to interview and that I was the fifth person sent to them unsolicited.

How can I protect myself from this in the future? The agency claimed that Siemens is their client, which is clearly untrue. The job description was choppy, and it did not make sense or flow in a logical manner. When I inquired, the agency did not have a response. Now looking back, it is quite possible the agency made up the job description or fished it from somewhere. Apparently, there are staffing shops that find opportunities and send qualified candidates unsolicited hoping to force themselves on companies and gain business.

Is this a thing? I can’t imagine how it would ever work to their advantage; companies aren’t likely to interview a random person who shows up claiming to have an appointment, when they’ve never heard of them. It’s so likely to be ineffective that I really don’t think you need to worry about protecting yourself from it in the future; I’d write this off as one awful agency and just not work with them again.

3. Who should call who for a scheduled phone interview?

I was contacted by email for a phone interview. In the email, the interviewer’s assistant confirmed the date/time and gave me the interviewer’s direct office phone line. There was no specific mention in the email that I was to call him rather than him calling me (and I assumed she was providing the number as a just-in-case). I followed up with an email for clarification, and she confirmed I am to call him.

Part of my role in previous jobs was as a hiring manager for our department, and I always called the candidate. For previous interviews, the interviewer always called me. Additionally, I noticed from his LinkedIn page his career has been in HR/talent management (approximately 20 years). My question is if this is unusual for the interviewee to call the interviewer?

Nope. Different interviewers have different preferences. I prefer to call candidates so that I control the time to the minute, but plenty of interviewers out there prefer to be called. That’s not terribly unusual.

4. Bringing kids to a job interview

I thought you might be able to help me understand or deal with a common situation I encounter. I am the general manager of a maid service, and I interview job candidates frequently. Most of the candidates are in their 20s but have varying education levels, family situations, work history, etc. I have found it alarmingly common for this age group (no matter their background) to bring their young children to interviews with them! Am I being overly critical for thinking that that is unacceptable? Whenever an applicant comes in with their child, I immediately cross them off my list. Should I say something to them about this being poor etiquette? Just today, a candidate emailed, saying that she is available for an interview tomorrow and will probably bring her child. Is it rude of me to tell her never mind? I feel I should educate these people, but at the same time maybe it isn’t my place? What do you think of this and how should I handle it?

I agree that it’s unprofessional and not something candidates should do. However, this might very well be part of part of the deal when you’re hiring for low-wage jobs that tend to be heavily staffed by women of child-bearing age and who — until they get work — literally may not have any other options and may need to choose between interviewing with kids in tow or not interviewing at all.

I’m just guessing here since I’ve never hired in that industry, but I think this is something where you’d want to know the norms in your field before writing candidates off.

5. What do these job titles mean?

I’m looking at entry-level jobs, and all the various titles for positions can seem really arbitrary…between 5 jobs that I meet the qualifications for, some will be called teapot specialist, some teapot controller, some teapot associate, and some teapot analyst. Do any of these titles have fixed meanings, or does it depend on the organization? Is there an online glossary somewhere of job-search/professional jargon?

Some background is that I’m truly looking for an entry-level job, something that I only intend to be at for 1-2 years, so I’m trying to figure out which of these is the entryest of entry level. (I can’t start applying to jobs in my field until I complete my degree and am approved for ordination; most people in my denomination will work in an entry-level position at a nonprofit for a year or two after getting their degree while they complete the ordination process and find a church to work at.)

It really does vary by organization. You’ll hear people tell you that specialist definitely means X and associate definitely means Y, but the reality is that different organizations use titles differently.

Your best bet is to really analyze the job description and the qualifications they’re asking for and get a sense that way of how entry-level the role is. But also, if you meet the qualifications and you’re interested and think you’d be good at it, go ahead and apply even if it’s not the most entry-level of entry-level jobs. It might end up being a match for you anyway, and two years is a respectable amount of time to stay at your first job. (One year can be less so, depending on your field.)

{ 538 comments… read them below }

  1. Cynical Lackey*

    A maid, once hired will be assigned to clients homes, and will likely be working unsupervised. If they bring kids to the interview, will they bring them to work? I think “no children at the interview” should be part of the appointment setting script.

    1. Mike C.*

      Why do you think the two are linked? Having a regular job is easier to plan childcare around since it’s not an ad hoc situation, and they’re employed.

      1. That was my exact thought*

        I agree with you. If they bring along a child it’s fine to clarify that the working hours will work out with their childcare, but there’s no need to assume they they won’t get childcare once they have a regular schedule and steady paycheck.

        That said, this question did remind me that my grandparents and parents used a maid service when I was growing up (actually, my father still uses that same service). She would occasionally bring along her grandchildren and they would play in the backyard while she worked.

        My mother also hired a housekeeper when we were young. She had a daughter who would occasionally come with her and do homework / play with my siblings during the after school hours.

        I never thought to ask at the time, but I assume these arrangements must have been clarified beforehand. That said, given the nature of the work and the fact that the kids were all (to my memory at least,) well behaved enough to not interrupt and take care of themselves….it never really became a problem.

        1. That was my exact thought*

          Added disclaimer: I in no way mean to imply that OP should allow her employees to bring along their children to work with them.

          Rather, bring up my (limited!) experience with this line of work, which suggests that there may be a different culture in terms of this sort of thing than one might find in say, an office setting.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            I could see that being an ok arrangement once in a while, but I presume there are liability issues for the company this could cause, like if the children were to get hurt while on the job with their parents.

            1. Jazzy Red*

              You’re probably right about liability issues. Way back when, people never even thought about liability and parents often had their kid(s) with them on the job. Some of these kids “apprenticed” with their parents and so had experience when they applied for jobs later on.

          2. Just another techie*

            There’s also a difference between being employed directly by the person whose house you’re cleaning and being employed by a large cleaning company.

        2. JC*

          Yes, I’ve seen the woman who cleans the common area of the building I live in bring her child while she works. If it’s something that the OP doesn’t want, she should definitely make that clear to the people she hires.

          1. Bend & Snap*

            I had a contractor bring his kids to my house while he was working on it…I walked in to find them jumping up and down on the couch and I was NOT cool with it. The liability of a child getting hurt on my property made me nervous. This would go for a cleaning service also.

            In this case, bringing them to the interview may just be something the OP has to live with, but bringing them on the job should be off limits.

            1. JC*

              I didn’t mean to imply that this was a universally ok thing to do. I can definitely see where this can lead to liability issues, and I would not want a cleaning person to bring their child into my apartment. In this case, the cleaning person is cleaning the stairway of the building where there is little the child could damage. The child is older and standing around while her mother cleans. As condo owners, I think we have all turned a blind eye to it for that reason, although I suspect our management company who hired her maid service has no idea and I wouldn’t be surprised if her employer did not know either. Just posted as an example of how some women in this position do bring their kids on the job.

      2. Colette*

        Arranging childcare can take time, depending on the childcare situation where you live. If there are no spaces/people available to watch the children, it may not be possible to arrange for care in a few days or weeks – and successful applicants may be working without supervision, which makes it tempting to bring the child along.

        It may not make sense to automatically disqualify the candidate, but it’s certainly a sign that you need to seriously discuss acceptable childcare arrangements on the job.

        I lik children, and they are welcome at my house, but if I hired a maid and she brought her children along to work without my agreement, that would be the last day she worked for me.

        1. sunny-dee*

          Also, childcare is expensive. If I take my kids along for, say, a month because I haven’t found daycare yet … why wouldn’t I just keep bringing them instead of spending $500 a week on daycare?

        2. Mishsmom*

          arranging childcare can be impossible sometimes, not just take time. last-minute places are more expensive, and really, these are children, so you don’t just want to leave them any old place that’ll take them, and sometimes there is just no other choice – you cannot find anything or anyone. especially if you don’t have family around. affluent people have more choices. middle class and down – really we do not. i can’t tell you how many times i’ve had to take vacation days because there is no childcare i can afford for school vacations even. and i’m lucky – i have vacation days that are paid. not everyone has that.

      3. INTP*

        I wouldn’t assume that no one who can’t get childcare for the interview will be able to get childcare for the job. However, I think the possible disruptiveness of an employee who can’t get childcare for the job is great enough (employees calling out for the day, bringing the child along to clients’ houses, who has liability if a child gets hurt in that house, etc) that it’s okay to factor the child at the interview into the final decision. I won’t say it should be a complete dealbreaker for a candidate who otherwise seems extremely together and responsible, but between two equivalent candidates, it could be a decision maker for me. And frankly, I would think that if it were far out of the norm for someone to bring their child into a professional situation, they would pre-emptively apologize and explain. If they think it’s normal to bring the child to an interview in an emergency, will they think it’s normal to bring the child to work when daycare is closed or the child is sick?

        That said, I have no experiences in any sort of domestic services field so I could be completely off base here.

        1. AMT*

          I think you hit the nail on the head with the last couple of sentences. Saying, “I’m really sorry, but my sitter cancelled at the last minute — could my kid wait in the lobby?” sets a much more professional tone than showing up with a kid expecting the interviewer not to be weirded out.

      4. Kyrielle*

        Not only this, isn’t childcare assistance for low-income people limited to helping with work time? No job, no free/reduced price child care. It may be literally out of their reach until they have an actual job.

        I may be wrong, I’m just vaguely remembering seeing some info about childcare assistance before….

        1. Lizzie*

          That’s true in my area. There’s actually a sitting service in my area that offers free or reduced child care for unemployed mothers going on interviews because of this.

    2. RHo*

      I prefer AAM’s advice to take a closer look first at the norms of the field — it seems necessary here especially, as the OP otherwise is apparently just writing a large number of candidates off.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Right. If it’s “alarmingly common” for this to happen, maybe OP should consider why that is so common? People generally don’t bring their kids to job interviews for kicks.

        1. Potato*

          I’m the OP of the children in interviews question. I have always assumed, because of several factors, that the candidates who bring their children are doing it in the hopes that it will help them land the job, like, “I have a child to support so I deserve this job.” Almost always, they don’t apologize for bringing their children and often they try to include the children, drawing even more attention to them. One time, a candidate came with her mom and her baby. The mom waited in the lobby but the baby came in for the interview. There have been a few cases when the childcare fell through at the last minute and the candidate had bring their children along. They apologized and made sure the children had activities to stay quiet. In both of those cases, I did actually hire the candidates. However, in most cases, I find that the candidate thinks that bringing their children might help them or is just completely normal.

          1. Potato*

            I also wanted to add that, while it is a maid service, we don’t typically interview candidates with experience in the industry (it’s hard to retrain them). So, I don’t necessarily think it has to do with the industry norms.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I think it’s about industry knowledge per se, but more about the types of workers that maid jobs attract — they’re likely to be low-income women of the age to have young kids, and without a ton of financial options.

              1. catsAreCool*

                And daycare tends to be expensive – a maid who isn’t employed yet mighf not be able to afford it without a job.

              2. ImprovForCats*

                I’m also remembering the woman who got picked up by children’s services for leaving her child in the car while she interviewed. . .obviously that’s not something you want to do, but I really doubt most of these women are bringing along their kids for the fun of it, or as some kind of strategy.

          2. neverjaunty*

            You’re kind of assuming and guessing a lot here? And I admit I’m a little puzzled at the idea that bringing a child along is a way for a mother to get a leg up on work – since at least in the US it kind of works the other way around. Maybe try assuming instead that not every candidate is going to tell you up front you that that their childcare fell through or their three-year-old has decided today is International Mommy Can’t Be Out Of Line Of Sight Day? If they’re rude people or are unwilling to follow the norms of the potential job, you can suss that out without writing them off for being “rude” because they have a child in tow.

          3. Meg Danger*

            This sometimes happens in my (unrelated) industry, and in my experience it is most frequently Latin American applicants who bring family members (parents, children, spouses) to interviews. I work in HR, and I personally do not find it especially disruptive when this happens (when we are hiring for entry-level, blue-collar positions, versus professional admin positions where it would seem out of touch with professional norms), I invite the family member(s) to wait in the lobby (if they are old enough to do so alone) and offer them tea or water. In my opinion this is part of hiring from family-centric and working class applicant pools – where it is more common to share transportation and rely on relatives for childcare. In my office, bringing a family member to an interview is not a deal-breaker, and I do not recall any problems with people bringing their children to work after being hired. When I read your question to Alison, I wondered about the percentage of people of color applying for jobs with your organization, and I also wondered about your experience (or bias) with generational poverty. I second the advice above: if you have a concern about a potential employee bringing a child to work once hired, talk about your expectations during the interview.

            1. Ad Astra*

              I had definitely wondered if there was a cultural difference at play here. Yes, it’s true that they probably don’t have a better option, but the candidates’ lack of concern about it may be because they come from a community where everyone brings their kids to interviews.

            2. A Minion*

              This is so true! I remember back in my much younger and far more ignorant days, I didn’t have much money (my husband made $6.50 per hour at a local factory, I stayed at home with the kids), I was not 20 years old yet and had two children, no high school diploma and one car between my husband and me. At the time, I could see the possibility of having to take one or both my children to a job interview, though I never actually had to. I had family reasonably close that could help me out in a pinch, but many people in that situation don’t have that help. I imagine it would have embarrassed me horribly had I taken my kids to an interview and realized that the interviewer thought I was “rude” or trying to use my kids to get the job. I was already embarrassed enough just at my situation in general; that would have really added insult to injury.

            3. INTP*

              Good points. If these women are from more family-centric cultures and without much professional experience outside their own cultures, they might also assume that the OP will be interested in their babies. What comes across as trying to gain favor by showing off a baby might really just be an assumption that other women will want to engage with the baby because they are used to being around women that do.

          4. Underemployed Erin*

            I think that this may not be uncommon in the field.

            Before I had my own child, we had a person cleaning our house, and I am pretty sure she brought her children along at least occasionally (even though we were never home to see it at the time) because one time we had unexplained marker lines on our table that eventually faded away. (They were Sharpie marks on a dark colored wood.)

            After we had our own child, my husband worked from home; and the husband of our house cleaner stayed in the truck with her children while his wife cleaned our house if the children were not in school.

            Currently, we have a team that cleans our house, and they do not usually bring kids along, but there is occasionally a school holiday or a sick child that cannot be left home alone. This has happened twice in the last two years near the winter school holidays.

    3. Cat*

      I’ve had people from cleaning services bring children with them. I agree in an ideal world it wouldn’t be done, but knowing how hard and expensive reliable childcare can be to find in this one, it has never bothered me. (Though never tiny children which I imagine would just be logistically complicated.). I guess some leeway here makes sense to me.

      1. Cat*

        SA. Though I’m not saying OP should allow anything goes – just that I think some norms are different here.

      2. LBK*

        FWIW, this wouldn’t be wildly unusual in plenty of other industries. I’ve had a few coworkers bring kids into the office (which I don’t love because I’m just not a kid person, but I get it especially if it’s a last minute thing).

      3. AnotherAlison*

        Former neighbors of mine owned a cleaning business and the older ones of their 6 home-schooled kids worked with them (older, but like 10-12, not 16+). It was a little different because their main business was cleaning apartments after people moved out, but from my experience, it’s not completely unheard of in the industry. (My MIL used to take her kids with her to clean houses, too, of course that was 40 years ago). I think it’s more common when it’s Jane cleaning houses for these 3 people as an independent contractor, not for employees of a large service.

        1. Elsajeni*

          Yeah, I also think it’s much less acceptable in a maid service situation than with independent cleaners. Jane knows her 3 clients pretty well and can have a conversation with them about when/if it’s okay for her kids to come along; her sister Jean who works for a maid service might be seeing a different set of clients every week, and her relationship isn’t with them but with her manager at the service.

        2. INTP*

          I would imagine that liability concerns would be an issue for large, corporate services. Houses without small children are of course not going to be childproofed, and there are cleaning chemicals around, and the employee should be working rather than closely watching the child. If a child were injured at a client’s house, would the parent be able to hold the employer or the client liable? Whereas if it’s an agreement between an independent contractor and their client, everyone has presumably agreed to the situation. (I wouldn’t be happy if my cleaning person brought a child into my home without telling me that might happen, though based on reading these replies it might not be an uncommon thing, so I should probably bring it up if I ever actually hire one.)

      4. Hiring Mgr*

        Yeah i was thinking this too…As long as they did a good job, I wouldn’t really care if our cleaning people brought their kids or not.

        1. JoJo*

          You could potentially be liable if one of the children gets hurt, or damages the property, or someone rats them out to CPS.

      5. Manders*

        Yes, my parents having been hiring the same maid for years, and she sometimes brought her children with her to the house. My parents are also in a field where taking your kids to work on occasion is one of the perks of the job, so I don’t think it ever struck them as weird. They were well-behaved kids and they’d play quietly or watch TV while mom worked.

        I don’t think she would have brought them to an interview, although by the time I knew her, I think she had a pretty successful business and could have afforded childcare in a pinch. Women who are currently unemployed, going through a service that will take a cut of their wages, might not have that option.

        1. Marian the Librarian*

          > “Yes, my parents having been hiring the same maid for years, and she sometimes brought her children with her to the house.”

          My parents have hired many different maids over the years (just because they have moved a lot, not because they haven’t been satisfied with their service) and all of them have been mothers (mostly single mothers) who sometimes brought their children to work. The kids were all generally well-behaved, and I’ve always thought that maids bringing their children to work was completely normal!

        2. Jen S. 2.0*

          Early on, I told my housekeeper that it was fine with me if she brought her two adorable young kids, and I even keep toys around for them (her little girl is obsessed with my fuzzy kitty slippers). But we discussed it first.

          Had she made a habit of it without my okay, that would have been different.

          Also note: I love kids, studied child psychology, and have many awesome young friends although no kids of my own. I would understand if someone else felt differently.

    4. BananaPants*

      In the US, a parent usually can’t even apply for child care subsidies unless they’re already working (or have an offer letter) or are attending specific state-approved and -funded training or educational activities. Job hunting usually doesn’t get you jack squat. If a family member or friend can’t babysit and the candidate can’t afford to hire a babysitter for a couple of hours, they’re stuck. My guess is that these women looking for maid jobs are not highly-skilled and are likely low income and would struggle to pay for decent childcare when they’re not making money. But you can’t leave a 2 year old alone while you go to an interview, so how are you supposed to go on the interview to get the job?

      1. Meg Murry*

        And in this case, the person said she was able to come in the next day for an interview if she brought the child. I am wondering if she would be available later in the week if she had more time to make arrangements for childcare, and that is what she was implying, but didn’t want to lose her chance at an interview by saying “no, I can’t come tomorrow”.

        OP, did you give her a choice of times to come in for an interview, or did you just say “can you be here tomorrow for an interview?” If you want to see the applicants without their children, you probably have to give them more than 24 hours notice for an interview – and giving them a few choices (could you come in Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday at either 9 am or 1 pm) would go far in your favor. When I was unemployed, we pulled my son down to part-time daycare, because we wanted to keep him in a routine (and not lose our spot entirely), and I would have been scrambling to find someone to watch him with less than 24 hours notice for an interview if the next day wasn’t a daycare day. I am lucky enough to have a husband with flexibility at work and family nearby that could help, but not everyone has that.

        1. Kara*

          Agree with both of the above comments.

          I have to admit I found the OP to come across as callous with the “I immediately cross them off my list” comment. As BananaPants said above, you’re talking about likely low-income, unskilled labor who probably need the job and have no other options.

          Just writing them off without giving them a chance seems pretty cold to me.

          1. pieces of flair*

            I agree. If I were hiring for this type of position, I don’t think a candidate bringing their child to the interview would faze me. I would just want to make it clear that the child couldn’t accompany them to work.

          2. Potato*

            Sorry about that. When I wrote the question, I was specifically thinking of the candidates who try to include their children in the conversation. I have actually hired a couple people who came in with children but those two each came in prepared with coloring books and toys so the children wouldn’t be a distraction. I guess the problem is less that they bring their children and more that they create a large distraction.

            1. Green*

              You said in the question that you wanted to “understand” the behavior, but you made a lot of assumptions about the women that you seem unwilling to consider changing (i.e., that they bring the children to demonstrate they need the job and guilt you into hiring them?). Worth considering whether you wanted validation or sincerely wanted to understand.

              1. Potato*

                I am more curious about whether or not this is becoming a common and accepted practice. For the first two years in my position, I never saw children coming to interviews. Now it is becoming increasingly common. I am in my 20s and I’m noticing that a lot is changing, especially in terms of careers, with my generation, from previous generations. What used to be unacceptable is now perfectly fine.

                1. Meg Murry*

                  Maybe your new interviewees are being recruited by your current staff? I could see a conversation going something like

                  “Hey Sue, are there any jobs open at [the maid service] where you work?”
                  “Yes, put in an application!”
                  “Ok. But if I get called for an interview, what should I do with my kid? I don’t have a sitter”
                  “Oh, if he’ll behave you should just bring him along if he’ll sit quietly. I see people going in to interview with Potato all the time with their kids.” and/or “I took my kids with me and I got the job, it will be fine, just bring a coloring book.”

                  and now it becomes self perpetuating.

                  Or, alternately, there might have been a free or low cost drop-off center or sitter service or preschool that was in your area that has closed in the last 2 years. I know in my state the funding for low income childcare vouchers has dropped like crazy, and the income levels and cutoff rates went way up, so some of the centers serving these populations have had to close.

                2. Green*

                  Regardless, I think you should ditch your presumptions about the intent of women bringing their children. If you have a question, it would be much kinder to ask than to assume that they are trying to be manipulative.

            2. Rana*

              I can see how including the children in conversation might be distracting, but do keep in mind that children are people, too. As the parent of a child who likes to chat, I can say that if I’m allowed to respond to her questions briefly, it’s more likely she’ll go back to her play than if I ignore her.

              Also, if the presence of children at interviews is as common as you say, it might be worth a trip to the dollar store for a few toys and coloring books to keep on hand, instead of relying on the interviewees to do it.

              But this is all assuming that you want to work with such candidates at all. If not, you should probably specify “no children” when setting up the interviews, and accept that you might be losing otherwise competent people as a result.

        2. Potato*

          I ended up replying to that candidate saying that I didn’t want her to be distracted during the interview so if she would have childcare another day, let’s do that. If not, she can come in with the child. She also mentioned that she would have childcare when she began working.

          1. Ad Astra*

            I think if you’re willing to bring it up with these candidates, you’ll usually be able to come to an agreement about not having children present at the interview or when doing the actual job, so being up-front about this may solve most of your problem. I think Alison and others are right that this kind of work attracts young, lower-income women who may not have other childcare options.

            It’s also possible that some of them come from a cultural or socioeconomic background where bringing kids to interviews is acceptable. Or they may come from backgrounds where they weren’t taught anything about professional norms because everyone they knew was, say, a farmer or a rancher or a babysitter.

          2. OhNo*

            It sounds like there is a pretty easy way to take the kids out of the equation, which you’ve already found. Just tell them that you can’t (or would prefer not to) have kids in the office during the interviews.

            If they mention when setting things up that they are bringing their child to the interview, just respond and say, “Actually, we’re not set up to accommodate children in our office. Would another time be better, so you can arrange child care?”

            If they just show up with a kid (without having mentioned it beforehand), say the same thing. “Actually, we’re not set up to accommodate children in our office. Why don’t we reschedule this interview for another time, so you can arrange child care?”

      2. Prismatic Professional*

        This. This really sucks and makes childcare one of the largest barriers to employment among my clients. It isn’t the most common, but it is something I am unable to help with and it drives me nuts! They come in looking for help because they want to work, but they have to be working 25+ hrs a week to even apply for childcare subsidies. It is a horrible catch-22. :-/ I’d love to hear how other communities help out with this situation!

        1. catsAreCool*

          “They come in looking for help because they want to work, but they have to be working 25+ hrs a week to even apply for childcare subsidies.” Wow, that just doesn’t seem fair.

      3. Lynn Whitehat*

        Yup. I was laid off when my youngest was a tiny baby. I’m a middle-class, white-collar worker, and even so, I remember realizing I was completely effed if I couldn’t find work quickly. No job –> no money for daycare –> no ability to interview –> no job ever.

        1. BananaPants*

          We racked up a ton of credit card debt when my husband was out of work and job hunting – if we pulled the kids out of daycare he couldn’t go on interviews, and if he got a job we couldn’t get them back in quickly enough if they wanted him to start soon, and care by another family member for more than a couple of days wasn’t an option. Eventually we had to commit to him staying at home for 6+ months so that we could get them out of daycare.

          My husband did get back into the workforce after almost a year as a SAHD, but he was only able to interview to begin with because my job had enough flexibility and PTO that I could work from home with the kids, or I would just burn a half of a vacation day so that he could go on interviews (often with only a day or two of notice). He had to go back basically at entry level.

      4. acallidryas*

        Yes, and just off the top of my head I can think of two cases in the last year where a woman was arrested and child services contacted for leaving their children at a playground across the street or in the car with windows down during an interview. For a lot of women looking for low wage jobs, currently out of work, they really don’t have any childcare choice.

        1. Lindsay J*

          One woman around here was arrested for having her children at a different table (in her line of sight) at the mall food court where she was interviewing. :(

        2. ImprovForCats*

          I mentioned this before I got this far down into the thread. . .those cases immediately came to mind for me, too. I think a lot of people are really not aware of or acknowledging how truly no-win this can be.

    5. the gold digger*

      Back in the glory days, I had a cleaning lady once every three weeks. She did windows and laundry and it was wonderful. She also brought her toddler with her, which was fine until the day when the little girl took a ballpoint pen (none of the pens at my house were at toddler reach level, either) to my white sofa and the white cushions. (I know – how dumb was I to have a white sofa?)

      It wasn’t even that the kid had scribbled on my furniture – it was that my cleaning lady tried to hide it. She flipped the three pillows over so the scribbling was not visible. It was not an accident – the odds of all three pillows being flipped accidentally were (1/2)*(1/2)*(1/2) or something like that, so only 12%. Statisticians, please feel free to correct me. I am an English major.

      Anyhow – I didn’t care that she brought her kid. I cared that she brought her kid and did not supervise her.

      1. De (Germany)*

        Well, could have been the kid trying to hide it. Depending on the age, she might have known she wasn’t allowed to do such things while her mother worked. Toddlers can be pretty good at covering their traces.

    6. Ankh-Morpork*

      The thing that bothers me isn’t so much the woman would said she could come in IF she brought her kid – but the people before her who brought their kids without asking. I feel like bringing a child to a Job Interview without asking first, or at the very least telling someone that they are bringing one is a big red flag.
      Yes – it can be very hard for these woman to get child care – and they might have much better access once they have a job BUT they should at least be aware that bringing a child to a job interview not a normal thing to do and does not look professional. Just bringing a kid without saying anything really makes it look like they might just think they can bring their kid with them all the time including on the job. I would probably discount those people.
      However, if someone asks if they can bring their kid – or even apologizes for bringing their kid and acknowledges that they had a problem finding child care and implying that this is out of the norm – I would probably use that as an opening to ensure they had child care and understood they could not bring the kid with them while at work.

      1. Potato*

        I wanted to clarify, she actually said she can come in tomorrow AND will be bringing her son, not she can come in tomorrow IF it’s okay to bring her son. The second, I would be understanding about. Also, she chose the interview day and time. It wasn’t in response to me asking if she is available tomorrow.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        That was my initial reaction, too. However, I really think this is an industry-cultural thing. House cleaning is a domestic service much like childcare, and sometimes they’re done together. So maybe it’s just a thing where they think it’s ok to do? But if it is, I would think the Op running a business in the industry would know/understand that.

  2. Anon the Great and Powerful*

    #4 This is fairly common in low wage jobs. Most women already know it’s unprofessional, but what are they supposed to do when they have to interview on short notice? Leave their kid in the car (and have the cops called on them)? Leave their kid at home alone? Pay for a babysitter and then not have money for food? All of their options are equally shitty.

      1. Calacademic*

        That’s overly picky about the language — we’ve been asked not to nitpick language. I think it’s fine in context.

        1. neverjaunty*

          It’s the context that made me “wow”. OP comes across far less as being concerned about professional norms than about “etiquette”, as if these young women were being deliberately rude to the OP. That… seems problematic, especially as OP does not seem to have noticed that this is a pattern rather than one or two applicants doing something wacky.

          1. LBK*

            I’m assuming that the OP just isn’t thinking about the context, not that they have some sort of disdainful or malicious intent; if this were 95% of other industries, we’d probably all be in agreement that it’s wildly inappropriate to bring a child to an interview. I’m wondering if the OP is someone who came from one of those other industries and isn’t accustomed to the difference in professional norms. This seems like a norm that’s very specific to cleaning services, since even in other low wage jobs it’s not incredibly common (Retail Lifer noted below that she doesn’t see it in retail, and I didn’t either when I was working in that industry).

            Let’s not assume the OP feels personally affronted, but is rather just kind of baffled by a trend she’s not used to and is trying to be nice to people by offering to coach them on interview norms without realizing she’s the one who’s out of sync with her industry. That seems like a reasonable assumption given that she’s writing into an advice column to ask for a second perspective.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Again, I’m not assuming (and based on comments below others have as well) but going by the overall tone of the post, as well as the fact that the actual question was not ‘is this normal’ or ‘am I overreacting’ or ‘how do I weed out these applicants for interviews’. The actual question was whether the OP should ‘educate’ them on why their behavior was rude. YMMV, of course.

              1. LBK*

                But we get questions from hiring managers wondering if they should give feedback to candidates who exhibit unprofessional behavior all the time. This isn’t an unusual or inherently classist question.

              2. LBK*

                Is it rude of me to tell her never mind? I feel I should educate these people, but at the same time maybe it isn’t my place?

                This is the OP’s exact question, which is just like every other question we get about coaching interviewees on hiring norms.

                She’s writing in for advice, let’s not rake her over the coals just because you can’t believe she wouldn’t already know the answer. At least she’s asking the question.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  Look, if you want to continue beating this to death, please carry on, but as I said, that was how I read the comment (as did others) and obviously YMMV. Nobody is raking the OP over the coals.

                2. LBK*

                  You started it, but okay. I just think it’s wildly unhelpful for comments on an advice website to assume the worst possible reading of every situation, which I’ve seen from you a couple times in the past few days.

    1. LisaLee*

      Agreed. As long as the children are relatively well-behaved, I would let it go. There have been so many cases lately where poor or homeless women have been arrested after leaving their children in the food court/park/etc while they go to a job interview that it really is the kind and moral thing to do. In that line of work you’re going to be interviewing at least one person who really has no other options.

    2. pony tailed wonder*

      Can you use the fact that the children have been brought to the interview to ask what are they going to do for childcare if they get the job?

      1. Neruda*

        I think the issue for me would be that they are not checking before hand if they can bring their children with them. I’d be much less concerned if someone I was interviewing let me know that child care was an issue so I could try to organise something rather than just bringing the kids unannounced. Having said that I work with kids so I could probably get someone to watch the kids without too many hassles.

        1. Vorthys*

          If they check, they’ll likely be told to not bring the children. If they don’t have another option, they’re forced to decline the interview altogether.

          The forgiveness rather than permission route likely results in a slightly higher chance of getting a job. Someone that might normally say no to bringing the kids along to the interview could still be sympathetic.

          1. TheLazyB (UK)*

            Especially an issue for those who have to demonstrate they are actively job seeking for unemployment benefits.

            1. LQ*

              Considering that unemployment is usually much less than you were making when you were fully employed (and normally only something that someone can get when they had been previously employed) I think this is a red herring (and one that people have been tossing around a lot lately). Most people who are collecting unemployment benefits do actually want to find another job, especially since unemployment benefits run out, they don’t last forever.

              1. Kelly L.*

                I don’t think it’s a red herring in this case–someone on unemployment could end up needing to go to a lot of interviews and could end up needing a ton of childcare to go to those interviews. Even if they’re a million percent sincere in their job search.

                1. LQ*

                  I agree on this, that you have to go, but not just because you’re on unemployment but because you are unemployed and need a job. Completely sincere and absolutely in need of a job, but limitations (like not having child care when you aren’t otherwise employed) make it difficult.

              2. AVP*

                I think what TheLazyB meant was that it’s hard for people on unemployment to turn down interviews for appropriate jobs without risking their unemployment checks. Even if it means you have to bring your kids, it’s better to show up and risk looking unprofessional (but also maybe get the job) than to just say you can’t go. Not like, they’re going on the interview and purposely tanking it to stay on unemployment.

                1. Merry and Bright*

                  +10 Also, in the UK you have to apply for a crazy number of jobs each week. Which means you have to apply for random jobs just to make up the numbers while you carry on with your real jobsearch alongside. If by chance you get an interview for one of the makeweight applications you pretty much have to take it unless you have a darn good reason not to.

                2. TheLazyB (UK)*

                  Exactly what AVP said.

                  Also yes to Merry and Bright. In the UK you have to demonstrate that you’re spending 35 hours a week job hunting. How on earth, I’ve no idea.

              3. TheLazyB (UK)*

                I don’t get how this answers my comment? I was presuming that the job seekers were genuinely looking for work. That was me recently. I couldn’t have afforded to continue to pay for full time childcare for very long but you need it to be available, somewhere you trust to look after your children, and it’s catch 22 and it’s scary.

        2. Potato*

          I absolutely agree with this. If I ask a candidate to come in and they say yes but I would need to bring my child, I would be okay with that. That’s rarely what actually happens.

      2. Meg Murry*

        I think OP should probably address this issue with all candidates, but not by asking about it, just informing them of the rules and policies. Its not her job to ask the details of their childcare, just to inform them that it is necessary.

        For instance, she could say something like:
        “In order to hire you, you would need to be able to comply with our rules and policies.
        -You would need to be at our office at x:00, in your uniform shirt, ready to work.
        -You would be scheduled to work X days per week for Y hours per day (if fixed, otherwise, give a range).
        -Your pay rate would be $Z per hour.
        -To do this job, you need to be able to lift and carry up to X pounds, and work on your feet for Y hours per day.
        -There is no smoking at client sites (if applicable).
        -You may not eat or use your cell phone during your shift, except during your scheduled lunch break.
        -You can not have children, friends, pets or anyone else along with you to the office or to client sites, even if the schools are closed or your child is sick.
        -We do not close for snow days unless a weather emergency of X is called.
        -Attendance is important. We need you to come to all scheduled shifts. If you can not come to work, you need to call this number within (policy). If you call off more than X times in Y time period, you will be fired and not eligible for re-hire.
        -Any other info on the drug policy, when they are eligible for sick days, etc etc”

        And even better would be for OP to send the rules in writing to candidates she is emailing, so they can self select out if they can’t meet them – although she should go over them again during the interview itself, so there are no misunderstandings.

        1. OhNo*

          This seems like a great plan. Your list might be a bit too long for a standard set-up-an-interview email, but it’s certainly reasonable for the OP to mention a few of the main sticking points they see with candidates up front, just to make sure they are on the same page.

          My suggestion would be to call out the important things like hours, pay, physical ability (lifting, standing, etc.), no kids, and maybe one or two other things that past interviews have indicated might be an issue. Other details can be addressed later in the hiring process, but those big ones can be pointed out right away.

      3. Recruit-o-rama*

        Asking about childcare in an interview opens the company to legal issues since familial status is a protected class. I understand your thought process, but this is not a good idea.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Family status actually isn’t a protected class at the federal level, although the EEOC has ruled that questions about marital status and number of child can be seen as evidence of intent to discriminate against women with children. Slight difference, but I wanted to correct that!

          1. Meg Murry*

            Yes, there was a lawsuit where the employer said “I don’t hire women with young children” and was found to be in the wrong, because he discriminated against women with children but did not ask the same questions about children and childcare of men – so it was an issue of gender discrimination. However, if he had said “I don’t hire employees with young children”, technically this would have been allowed.

            I heard about the case on NPR (or maybe PRI), but now I can’t find the specific source – anyone better than me at Google or remember more details? I thought the case was in Pennsylvania, although I could be wrong

          2. Natalie*

            It’s also a protected status for housing (unless it’s a designated 55+ community), which I think causes some of the confusion.

        2. neverjaunty*

          If they’re bringing their children along, the family status is kind of out of the bag, isn’t it?

          I don’t see how it would violate any law for the OP to inform applicants that one of the requirements of the job is that workers cannot bring children or other family members to jobs with them. I’m sure that applicants would rather know that up front, rather than assume it’s okay to bring their children (as is sometime the case in cleaning work) and then get fired.

    3. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Maybe OP could see if there is a drop in child care service in her community she could mention to applicants? We have one that is available to parents who are going to interviews. There is no cost, and it’s run by a large and reputable nonprofit. I’m pretty sure they can continue to use it for the first two weeks at a new job so they have a chance to find childcare.

      1. Potato*

        This would be a fantastic option! I have had a couple applicants come in with a friend or family member AND their toddler. The friend waited in the lobby and the toddler came in. Sometimes, I just don’t think it’s a problem of lack of childcare.

            1. Green*

              There could be lots of reasons. The other family member or neighbor is just serving as transportation and can’t watch the kids, maybe they have mobility issues, maybe the kid will scream, maybe it’s raining outside. I think if OP has questions, it would be a huge improvement to just ask the candidates rather than assuming that they have some weird intention.

          1. Rana*

            That’s what I thought, too, Green.

            SerfinUSA, it depends on the child and their age. My daughter’s pretty good at being left with relatives now, but she did go through a 2-3 month stage where my leaving her sight – even just stepping out of her room – usually resulted in panicked crying. And some days she was fine with it, and some days she wasn’t. So I could imagine this candidate hoping that it would work this time, realizing that it wasn’t going to happen, and picking the least terrible of two bad options.

      2. Noah*

        There’s a drop in daycare center that is in the shopping center by me. I walk past it on my way to the grocery store sometimes. Their prices are very reasonable ($5-7 per hour) depending on age. Could the OP find something like this and either mention it or even setup an account and tell the prospective employees to drop their child off there and then come to the interview and the company will cover the one-time cost of childcare for the interview?

        1. OhNo*

          If the OP’s company would be willing to cover the cost of child care for the interview, I would be so impressed. That seems like a really nice thing for them to do for potential employees – and would probably create a lot of good will towards the company. It’s probably not feasible cost-wise (sadly), but it would be so nice if it was.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        That sounds amazing, I could have really used something like that back in the day when my kids were little.

    4. Retail Lifer*

      Really good point. I’ve never had to deal with that interviewing for retail employees, but I’m really surprised that I haven’t.

      1. Hlyssande*

        I think that people who would bring their children to an interview have probably exhausted those options already. Maybe not always, but for the most part.

        There may be no neighbor they can trust – or they may be homeless. They might not have friends who are capable of it, even for an hour or two.

        I really feel for this candidate.

          1. Colorado*

            Yup, I completely agree and I would really feel compassion for this person too. Just make it clear the kiddo’s can’t go to work if she does get the job but kids coming to the interview? I would be okay with that in a lot of circumstances.

        1. Potato*

          I agree. There are certainly times when there is just no other option. I would be very hesitant to leave my child with a neighbor so if I didn’t have family available the kids would have top go to the interview. I would definitely make sure they had quiet activities though so they could be as little of a distraction as possible. There are definitely cases when if has to happen but it needs to be handled in a way that makes it not distracting.

    5. Just another techie*

      I’m remembering that story about the woman who let her nine or ten year old play on a playground on the same block as her job interview, and she had her kids taken away for neglect and endangerment :(

      1. Colorado*

        You just can’t win sometimes. I recall that too. And the woman who left her kids in the car while she interviewed. I thought there was a Go Fund Me for that one.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        When I was ten, we walked all the way from the park to downtown BY OURSELVES from the pool in summer. Nobody ever bothered us that I can recall. Granted, this was a small town, but these days my parents would be arrested for letting us do that.

        In fact, we ran all over town by ourselves–I used to walk from school to the library and then to my parents’ shop on the town square completely alone. The only times anything ever happened to me walking alone was after I was an adult (not in that town).

  3. Rev*

    #5– I know the joys of entry level job hunting while going thru ordination. I’m going the lpc/chaplain route, so my entry level job really helped pay those bills during this ordination and certification process. Something that helped me was informational interviews and networking thru LinkedIn. The informational interviews were really helpful in helping me better learn what teapot analyst jobs really are in various organizations. Also, the denomination itself can be a huge help; members of your sponsoring congregation are part of a large and diverse network.

    1. Amy (OP 5)*

      Ah! I had never even thought about using my denomination/sponsoring congregation for networking, that’s a really helpful suggestion!

      My ordination process is extra fun right now because the chair of my Committee on Ministry recently told me they may just make me wait another year before I can have my ecclesiastical council, since the Member-in-Discernment process is usually 3 years long but I completed my requirements in 2. Feels arbitrary but at least it’ll give me some more time to get experience in the non-profit field before I begin parish ministry (my ultimate goal is to work in the national setting of my denomination (UCC))

      1. Rev*

        Ah, I love the UCC! I had a similar situation (I’m CBF style baptist) with my process, just hang in there. And I know you’re aiming for parish ministry, but a chaplain residency might not be a bad idea if you’re near a large university hospital with an acpe accredited program. Looks great on your church cv and a big boost in credentials for denominational leadership.

  4. Jim Winstead*

    Yes, an agency sending unscheduled candidates does happen, but probably more to small or start-up companies. I think the hope is that those will be less organized in their hiring, and more willing to take pity on a candidate who was sent in without an appointment. When it happened to us, we sent the candidate packing with a very clear explanation that the agency they were working with were scumbags.

    1. Merry and Bright*

      +100 for the observations on scumbag agencies. Thank goodness for the good, professional ones you come across.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Yes, it’s really a shame there seems to be more and more of them lately. My friend just had one that told her to combine two short-stint jobs into one. I said omg they just told you to flat out lie, Run!

    2. AshleyH*

      I used to do the hiring new for a well known public attraction- we’d regularly have people walk in and say someone from our office had scheduled them for an interview after they had applied in craigslist. Two problem: we never posted anything on cl, and I was the only person who did any interviewing/hiring.

      We did some searching and it turns out there was just some random person, advertising themselves as us on CL with phony job ads. We never got the why, but we did get the postings removed. So weird.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      After four or five of these unscheduled “appointments,” the company should let this agency know in no uncertain terms to never send referrals from them again, and report them if necessary (to whoever).

  5. Zoe*

    Re interviewing for a maid position: you’re not hiring a clerk or admin assistant. Being a maid is the female equivalent of day labourer. It’s mostly women who don’t have formal education or are in need of work, any work. But, even using labourer job-interview standards (which are pretty low) isn’t going to be appropriate, because women are often the primary caregivers of children. In short, “professionalism” is not what you need to be assessing for: you’re assessing for basic skills. Will they show up, will they do a diligent job, will they follow procedure, will they be honest, can they understand an MSDS label (or whatever the US equivalent is)? As anon says, low wage earners can’t afford childcare if they don’t have a job, and you’re going to have to adjust your standards to dealing with women who don’t have a lot of options or choices.

    1. Calacademic*

      I would actually be surprised if understanding a MSDS (yes, we have those) is a requirement.

      1. Mookie*

        Janitorial staff working in public facilities usually cover parsing the important bits of MSDS with other occupational health and safety issues during training, and in industrial cleaning and maintenance safety training, testing, and certification is mandatory and on-going. House and office cleaning franchises normally skirt / are exempt from OSHA, aren’t they?

        1. Sunflower*

          I worked for a cleaning service one summer cleaning beach houses and the only training we got was ‘use X for this surface and ‘use coffee filters to clean mirrors’

      1. Mephisto*

        I meant to agree with Zoe’s response. And I’ve only seen MSDS used industrially, I think the equivalent for household use is a warning label.

        1. neverjaunty*

          They are likely using commercial-grade cleaners, but that aside, I would be pretty astonished if they were asked to review an MSDS.

          1. Mookie*

            It probably depends on oversight. I shifted the dust office furniture and computer terminals in a community college four nights a week — so, far less labor and expertise required than that of housecleaners and “maids” who’ve got to contend with actual grime and at a rigorous pace for peanuts — and my supervisor made sure the crew knew how to read one.

            1. LadyCop*

              “Actual” grime or not, is irrelevant. MSDS information would be kept at the place of employment (or the main office as, the maids may clean in private homes, or bring supplies/equipment owned by the employer). In addition, information is often printed on the container by the manufacturer, as they often sell both the cleaning agent and the containers. Lastly, NO. They do not get to ignore or “skirt” OSHA. That is nuts. Accidents are extremely common, and should always be taken seriously.

              1. F.*

                I work in an industrial facility, and we are having a problem with the cleaner bringing a young child when they come to clean. This person is supplied through a cleaning service. They put the child in our accountant’s office and let them play with papers, pens, markers, our stampers and stamp pads, etc. apparently unsupervised while the cleaner cleans the offices. Our accountant comes in on Monday morning to a mess all over her desk. My biggest concern is that the child will get hurt in the industrial portion of our facility, which one has to pass through in order to get up to the offices. We have twice asked the cleaning agency to tell the cleaner to reschedule our weekly cleaning to another night rather than bring a child, but it continues to happen.

                1. michelenyc*

                  I would be more upset with the cleaning agency than the actual cleaner. They clearly aren’t dealing with the issue on their end. My guess is that they haven’t even spoken to her about making arrangements for her child. Can you lock your accountants office so she can’t use it. I know it probably needs to be cleaned but it might be the only thing you can do to make it stop.

                2. neverjaunty*

                  Agree with michelenyc – you can’t risk having a child in an industrial area, even setting aside the accountant’s office getting trashed. At this point, if you don’t want to just fire the cleaning agency outright, do you think it would be helpful to call up whoever is the manager and explain that this KEEPS happening and it’s unacceptable, and you expect it to stop? Possibly they’ve told the employee, who figures nobody’s there to watch and keeps doing it, but it’s also possible they don’t care. It might be wise to not only call but send a formal letter explaining that this is unacceptable and exposes both you and the cleaning agency to liability if the child were to become injured on your premises. That might wake them up.

    2. Noah*

      A maid service should have a HazCom program, including SDS (formerly MSDS) information, to complay with OSHA standards. Even if they are using normal consumer products they are using them far more often and therefore the exposure is different. However, I have found that even large companies don’t always understand the regulations and I can see where small companies wouldn’t even know it exists.

      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        I worked in HR for a movie theater chain, and we had mandatory HazCom training for all employees, including how to read an MSDS, how to use a fire extinguisher, etc. Anyone working with chemicals should have similar training.

    3. Potato*

      I wasn’t very clear on this, sorry. It is a maid service but the “maids” on staff are more than just laborers. It’s a detail oriented and skilled position that requires several weeks of training. Also, they make 35-40k + benefits, which is a very livable wage in the town. Most of the applicants are coming from similarly paid jobs.

      1. Kara*

        I’m not sure you can consider being a maid to be a “skilled” position. Detail oriented? Absolutely. But it’s not a skilled trade. And $35k a year is is $16.80 an hour, which, overall, isn’t what I’d call a high salary, especially if you’re trying to support kids.

        1. Potato*

          The overall category of the company falls under “maid service,” but we also provide other services that I won’t get into. That is the “skilled,” part of the job. And it’s true that $35k isn’t what most call a high salary but living wages are relative to what area you’re living in. In my town, a 2-3 bedroom house in an average neighborhood rents for under $700 per month. When the cost of living is so low, people have a very different idea of what is a high salary.

          1. Biff*

            Maid work itself really is skilled. Also — wow, I have a home in a cheap place to live, and that’s still impressive rent for a bigger home. My 2-3 bedroom house would rent for at least 800. I couldn’t go as cheap as 700.

        2. Biff*

          Are you serious? Cleaning isn’t that basic, you’d be shocked how many people are utter crap at it. The difference between a skilled maid and an unskilled one is huge. 16.80, also, is very good pay in lots of places in flyoverland.

          1. Kara*

            The fact of the matter is, no matter how many people aren’t good at it, it’s not a skilled trade. It’s not a job for which you need a lot of training or a certificate or any set level of education. It is one of the few jobs out there that you can apply for and have some kind of reasonable expectation of getting hired, even if you’ve never worked a day in your life before.

          2. Amy UK*

            “Skilled trade” means that you need extensive formal training or apprenticeships for . It doesn’t mean “takes some skill to do”.

  6. Amber*

    #5 For my industry (computer games), Associate/Junior = entry level. Senior = very experienced, do not apply for these yet.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I don’t think anyone is confused about the difference between junior and senior; those labels give a fairly accurate picture of what the job level is. It’s the proliferation of different meanings for terms such as specialist, analyst, assistant, associate, etc. that make those titles hard to decipher.

      1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

        Non-profit job titles are ridiculous. I know organizations where every department has a director, even if it’s a team of one, so they have a person who is 1.5 years out of college as their Director of PR.

        I know another org, that has a woman who leads a $20m a year fundraising effort whose title is Program Associate.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Truth! Titles are really meaningless. But at least in my case, I’m very serious about the requirements listed in the ad, so you might not have any idea when you see “Associate,” but when you see “3 years of relevant experience,” that should be a clue.

          Of course, on the flip side, I would never have applied to my last job if I didn’t have an inside connection, because the posting said “3-5 years experience,” and I have 10+ and assumed the job wouldn’t pay enough. But it did!

          Anyway, I guess my point is: Sorry, OP, but it’s almost impossible to figure out.

          1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            Yup…my job at most other orgs would have a completely different title and if someone hadn’t directly sent me the position, I would have never looked at it.

        2. Koko*

          It’s tricky with a small org, though. I was a 26 year old Director of a department of one early in my career. In one sense it seems like title inflation, but in the other sense I was completely managing all aspects of that department, from budget to strategy to execution to supervising temps and interns. Calling me an associate or specialist just because I was inexperienced wouldn’t have reflected the autonomy and high-level strategic decisions I was making, or the fact that I was the primary person representing our organization to the public, vendors, and partners. They hired me with very little experience because they had a small budget and couldn’t pay for an experienced candidate, not because the role was entry-level.

          I think in your two examples above the first is way more accurate than the second. When future hiring managers interview you, they understand that a Director in a 4-person business is different from a Director in a 50-person business which is different from a Director at a multinational corporation. My next role was as a mid-level manager where I had autonomous responsibility for a program that had a comparable size and budget to the entire organization I had just left.

          1. Katie Pi*

            Wow, are you me?

            Sometimes I worry that my resume might look like it took a funny path because I started out just after college at a small organization (non-profit radio) where I was Director of Finance and Administration, then when I moved on years later it was to a larger place where I was Payroll Specialist. But the Direct title made sense, as I was literally the only person handling the entire org’s finances, budget, compliance filings, etc. Everyone else were in radio roles. Thankfully the disparate titles on my resume have not seemed to hinder me and I’ve moved well in my career, but wow, it’s funny to look back on the autonomy I had in that role at such a young age. But, wow, what great experience!

          2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            For the org I was referring to, this person definitely does not have that kind of authority or autonomy …they just feel like it “looks better” to have directors.

            But I know a lot of people around town who are Directors of departments of one because the organizations budgets are small. It’s pretty common to see “Director of Teapot Polishing” and 1-3 years experience as a requirement.

        3. non-profit manager*

          Seriously. Our organization has a director of a minor but important function with .5 employee (important meaning no more and no less than other functions). I am a manager (lower) of a separate important function with a team of three and responsibility for the entire organization. Makes no sense.

      2. Not Karen*

        Yeah, I work in research and I’ve seen jobs for Research Associate that were entry-level at one place and required a PhD and 10 years experience at another.

    2. Sparty07*

      My last company had associates, sr associates, analyst, sr analyst in that order of rank. The company before only had analyst. Different companies have different labels and associate may not be the same as analyst.

      1. hermit crab*

        That’s funny — we do approximately the same thing, except it’s flipped so that analysts are entry-level and associates are mid-level.

        1. non-profit manager*

          My previous company did the same: research assistant, analyst, senior analyst, associate, senior associate. Research assistants were super entry-level, like right out of undergrad. Entry level with graduate degree or 1-2 yrs experience plus undergrad was an analyst. The idea being you needed to develop and hone your analytical skills before you could take on larger aspects of a project and client interaction, which was done in varying levels by associates and senior associates.

      2. EW*

        I totally sympathize! Job titles are hard to decipher, and vary hugely from place to place. From what I’ve seen, assistant is generally the most junior, followed by associate and then analyst. (In my old job my titles went just like that over 5 years: teapot assistant, teapot associate, teapot analyst.) I suppose manager, director, vice president, etc would follow. But you really have to know your industry and even the particular organization. In a lot of research contexts, “Research Assistant” means something along the lines of an entry-level job for someone with a Master’s degree in that field — so not at all the same as a “real” entry-level job, meaning after your BA.

        So with all that in mind, one suggestion is to peruse the current staff list of any organization you’re looking at. How big is the staff, and what are their titles? If they have bios available, read the bios of the people with job titles similar to what you’re looking at. Do they tend to have experience or advanced degrees? Or did they graduate recently from college? Plus, of course, the actual job description of what you’re applying for. If you’re qualified, go for it!

    3. Lily in NYC*

      I think OP can be confident that titles with “assistant” or “coordinator” are often entry level. Not always (executive assistant, for example), but often enough that I wouldn’t feel weird applying for them depending on the description in the ad.

      1. KatSD*

        Coordinators in my organization are actually senior supervisors – so it’s not always entry level.. our entry level positions are called “techs” – but are basically clerical in nature

        1. non-profit manager*

          And coordinators at my organization are not necessarily senior, but they are not entry level. They have responsibility for a specific program or function within a department and work independently. Not quite managers, but close.

          Our entry level employees are assistants and technicians.

  7. neverjaunty*

    OP #1, it’s good that you have a strong work ethic and want to make sure the business runs, but since your boss doesn’t, why should you? If Slacktilda opens the business late, let her; don’t call ahead or open it for her. Since your boss is incapable of saying no, explain that you would like a similar flexible schedule two days a week – it doesn’t look like he’ll do a damn thing if you leave early!

    If not opening the business causes problems the boss doesn’t like, maybe he can do something about it. If not, it’s her job that isn’t getting done, right?

      1. Artemesia*

        Time to send them to the boss. This is a boss who won’t act unless it impacts his lazy non managing self. So let it. I agree let the place open late, let people who are disgruntled go to the boss.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Yup, it’s affecting the OP’s job only because she’s putting out fires and trying to manage this problem coworker instead of referring all problems to the boss.

      2. Julia*

        This. Plus, often bosses are ONLY flexible with the slackers and hard on the conscientous employees because they know who will throw a tantrum.

        1. Merry and Bright*

          +100 Also, (some) bosses just get used to the slacker’s behaviour especially when others are filling the gaps. Then when the competent employee is only on time and not early, or doesn’t bust a gut to open up the office instead of the slacker, she will get called out on it instead because her actions will stand out more. This Stuff Happens.

        2. Annoyed CoWorker*

          I agree, slackers are always taken care of. My boss is newer, previous boss was the same way with this person. I’m not understanding why they won’t deal with it. UGH

          1. LBK*

            Because good employees care too much to let things slide, so they cover for the slackers and it’s easier for a lazy manager to just let that continue than make the effort to improve the slacker.

            1. KatSD*

              I agree.. stop covering for the slacker and try and stop feeling like you have to step up when she’s slacking.
              Had a similar situation in a job years ago – in that a co-worker and I had to cover for the receptionist when she went to lunch – on alternating days. The other co-worker would sneak out of the building every time it was her day so when I went to leave for lunch I was stuck. One day I had an appointment – and as it was her day – just walked out.. Don’t know what happened but she never tried that again..

              1. Happy Lurker*

                Agree with Kat…I previously had both the dreaded reception desk coverage and a jerk of a coworker to share it with. It was murder on my output, the constant interruptions, just as you get a grove going, and then the the dreaded “sick” calls. I do not miss that job.
                OP learn from us, sing like Elsa “let it go”, send it up to the boss and stop caring so much. I know it is easier said than done, but it will be better for your well being.
                Maybe your boss can move your desk away from the slacker?’
                Best of luck.

                1. Annoyed CoWorker*

                  LOL, Let it go. I think after reading these today I have a different view point and I feel much better. I have brought up the move, there isn’t any place for me to go. :( I stuck.

      3. hbc*

        It’s unclear to me whether the complainers and redirected people are customers or other employees, but either way, OP can cut way back on how much it affects her. No calls about running late since opening time isn’t her business. Send everyone internal back to the bad employee. Give everyone who complains the contact information for the manager.

        If somehow that all comes back on her, that’s even more proof that she needs to get out. But most managers who wouldn’t push back on someone who’s demonstrably not doing her job isn’t going to start writing PIPs for the OP failing to do all of her job and half of another.

        1. Annoyed CoWorker*

          I agree, I think that’s a great idea, however people just keep complaining and never move beyond me. Its co-workers and customers that complain. I do also need to open the office as well (I’m also her back up if she is out), what annoys me is that I can’t depend on her to be here in case I have a issue getting in. I do like the idea of not calling anymore, let’s see how they like it. Only trouble with this is I’m very rarely late.

          1. These are the droids*

            when it’s customers, transfer them to your manager if they call in or forward the email if it’s written complaints

            1. Elizabeth West*

              This. Also, customers are more likely to complain to the manager if given the information than employees are, but if they don’t, it’s acceptable to forward it.

          2. neverjaunty*

            Sounds like it might be time to take a “sick day”! Let’s see how she does without you running around covering for her.

            As for people not moving beyond you, tell those people louder and slower “I’m sorry, but I’m sure Co-Worker can assist you with that” or “I can certainly refer you to my manager if she hasn’t been able to resolve your issue”.

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        I’d send them back to Slacktilda. “Sorry, I’m off to a meeting/call/break, Slacktilda there will help you”.

    1. BRR*

      I’ve thrown this out before but if you don’t like behavior, why mimic it? Sometimes you have to operate at a higher standard than others because you’re personally better than that.

      I also totally agree with Julia that they know who will throw a fit. But I go back to that people want to hold themselves to different standards. I wouldn’t want to be thought of as a slacker even if I could get away with it.

      1. Natalie*

        I don’t think the LW dislikes the behavior of flex time on its face, just the way that this current arrangement seems unfair because the coworker already shows up late.

      2. LBK*

        I don’t think the OP has to start completely slacking like the coworker has, but there’s an argument to be made for just letting the chips fall where they may if the coworker screws up rather than scrambling to cover for her. After all, from the manager’s perspective there isn’t really any impact right now – Lazybutt does 20% of the work, OP does 80% of the work, so all the work is still done. If the OP sticks to doing her 50% of the work and lets the 30% that Lazybutt should be doing slide, it could force the manager’s hand into doing something about it.

        This approach doesn’t come naturally to me because my inclination is to make everything look good to the client no matter how much of a mess it is internally, but sometimes I think it’s the only way to get changes made. You have to balance your empathy for the customers that are going to get a bad experience with self-preservation for your job satisfaction and sanity.

        1. F.*

          Unfortunately, the OP will probably be called out as “not a team player” by LazyBoss, and their performance reviews will suffer, even if they are doing their FAIR share.

          1. LBK*

            I don’t actually think that’s true, because it seems apparent that the boss doesn’t give a shit how much work is getting done. Otherwise Lazybutt would’ve been fired by now.

            1. F.*

              But the work IS getting done, just not by the slacker. When the work is NOT getting done, the boss will come down on the person they perceive as the easiest to “persuade” to pick up the slack. Since the OP is the official backup for the slacker, and since LazyBoss has proven they don’t want to deal with the slacker, they will come down on the OP. Been there, had that happen to me.

              1. LBK*

                Yeah, I can see how that might play out. I just don’t see the alternative other than quitting or slowly going insane.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                It’s possible, but certainly it doesn’t always play out like that. It’s a viable option for the OP to try if it appeals to her more than the other three I listed in the post.

              3. neverjaunty*

                Yep, there are absolutely bosses who do this. But there are also bosses who simply don’t have spines. If it turns out that OP’s boss is going to yell at her for not doing everybody else’s work for them, then OP’s best option is to find work elsewhere. But it’s worth seeing what happens when she lets go of the rope.

                1. LBK*

                  Yes, precisely. There’s different reasons bosses give a pass to lazy employees and they won’t all react the same way to this tactic; it may not work, in which case the OP probably just has to quit anyway, but there’s a chance it will work and I think the potential benefits outweigh the risk.

          2. HM in Atlanta*

            With lazy/ineffective managers, this is the scenario I’ve seen play out time and time again.

      3. neverjaunty*

        Nobody’s suggesting the OP “mimic” the behavior – by coming in late, being rude to customers, not doing her own work, etc. What OP is being effectively pushed to do is to cover for her lazy co-worker and to do things beyond her own work (e.g. handling customers when that should be the co-worker’s job).

        Sometimes enabling people makes them worse, not better.

    2. Koko*

      Yes, I think there’s a lot OP could do to distance herself emotionally from her coworker. She’s letting herself stew in resentment, which is completely understandable, but not in her own best interest. She’s punishing herself by resenting her coworker; her coworker is carrying on oblivious.

      For the sake of her own mental health she needs to stop monitoring when her coworker arrives and leaves and how much work she’s doing and what her facial expressions are like. If coworker is going to fail, let her fail. If OP wants to leave early to pick up her kids, ask boss about that and leave coworker out of it. If people ask OP to do coworker’s job, redirect them back to coworker.

      1. KatSD*

        Totally agree with Koko. The OP could just concentrate on her work – referring those who come to her back to the coworker and take herself out of the middle of the issue. The others who are frustrated with her need to bring it up with the manager. Hopefully, if the manager is having to field all these complaints and answer to issues with the lazy coworker, she’ll be motivated to do something about it.

  8. pony tailed wonder*

    Do you always cover for her? Then get those job descriptions into your performance agreement and review and see if this can translate into a raise.

  9. Blurgle*

    OP 2, by any chance did you pay the agency for the referral? If not, did you give them a credit card for “identification” purposes?

  10. MK*

    #3, given that the person who calls is the one charged for the call, I think it’s bad form to have the candidate do it. I know the amount is likely very small, but it’s the principal of the matter.

    1. sixthlight*

      If it’s in the US, then you’re charged minutes whether you’re making or receiving cellphone calls, making it a bit of a moot point. (I know this isn’t true in all countries.)

      1. MK*

        Seriously? You get charged every time a telemarketer calls your cell or someone misdials a munber? And “direct office phone line” sounds like a land line to me. Anyway, I know it’s a pretty petty concern, but I simply see no reason to have the candidate call; I mean, why would a hiring manager prefer that?

        1. sixthlight*

          I don’t know! Doesn’t make sense to me either, but apparently some do prefer that. I just meant to say that given interviewees will be paying either way if they’re using their cellphone, the cost of the call isn’t going to register as an argument for most US-based people.

          (As for that fact of US phones – yeah, you do get charged for calls even if it’s a call you didn’t want; it’s one of the reasons why Americans (in my experience) are so militant about only picking up if they recognise the number. Although most cellphone plans now offer unlimited or a very high number of minutes, so it’s becoming less and less relevant.)

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Yeah, now that I’m on an unlimited plan, having a cell phone is comparable to having a landline phone in that I pay a monthly fee regardless of the number of calls placed or received.

          2. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Although they usually don’t count the first incoming minute, or at least they used to do that, so that users can’t claim that they’re being gouged for wrong numbers and such. Is that still a thing? It’s been so long since I’ve had to worry about minutes.

          3. Cleopatra Jones*

            Oh no, we’re not militant about not picking up on an unrecognized number because of cost, we’re militant about it because we know it’s probably a telemarketer or some kind of phishing call. :-)

            1. Koko*

              I thought it was because millennials lack non-digital social skills/have chronic social anxiety about non-digital social interactions.

                1. Koko*

                  Half and half :) It’s a bit of an exaggerated trope but I do know a lot of people in my cohort with phone phobia.

              1. Karowen*

                I mean, that’s why I avoid calls. I have a phone phobia. If I have to call someone I don’t know well, I write a script out first.

          4. Ad Astra*

            I use probably less than 50 minutes a month, so I honestly don’t even know if my plan is unlimited or not, and I never worry about using up my minutes. But I think people who are on pay-as-you-go plans and have a tight budget are probably more conscientious about using their minutes.

          5. Elizabeth West*

            Unlimited is not truly unlimited though, especially when it comes to data.

            I got rid of my landline since I wasn’t using it and the internet on it was abysmally slow, more like dial-up. Everything has a cap and it’s hard to find out what that is sometimes. (Disclaimer: I’m with T-Mobile now and they seem to be pretty generous; I pay the same every month and didn’t have much increase when I used my phone in England. Also, no contract. :D )

            During my unemployment, I still had Net10 and had a set number of minutes every month–I was far more careful about picking up for that reason. Now, I ignore calls if I don’t recognize the number because I just can’t be arsed to answer misdials all day.

          6. Kyrielle*

            And conversely, if you’re calling from a landline and it’s a local number, there’s no charge to either party. Only if the candidate has a land line and is *not* local to the person they are calling do they pick up a cost, here.

            1. Rana*

              They are, but they’re not necessarily the default. Before I got my iPhone upgrade (which came with a mandatory unlimited data and texting plan – my cell service doesn’t let you do partials for that level of smartphone) I had to keep reminding family and friends to not send me texts except in emergencies. I couldn’t justify the extra per month needed to make it unlimited, but it also sucked paying for the individual ones.

        2. Natalie*

          FWIW, most U.S. cell phone plans are unlimited talk time now, although this is still an issue for people who use pay-as-you-go phones. The big money for telecoms is in data charges these days.

          1. LBK*

            Although I wonder if that has a disproportionate impact on low income people in the context we’re discussing, since they tend to be the ones buying prepaid instead of contract (at least from my anecdotal experience as someone who used to work in an electronics store that sold a lot of prepaid phones).

            1. RG*

              Pretty much. Like payday loans, or debit cards that aren’t connected to an actual bank and may or may not be insured by FDIC. You ask, “Well, who would choose that option?” The answer: poor people.

            2. Ad Astra*

              I would suspect that it does have a disproportionate impact on low-income people, and also probably on that sect of people who are on the cusp between low- and middle-income and trying to climb their way up. One of the greatest advantages I had early in my career was that my grandmother paid my phone bill.

    2. MLT*

      Letting the candidate initiate the call means that the candidate has more control over the call. This could be an issue if they are trying to make the call during a break from work and they get momentarily delayed in taking that break.

      1. Noah*

        This is why I appreciated it when I was job searching. I was usually running out of the open plan office to my car to make or take the call.

  11. SCR*

    Completely disqualifying women for not having childcare for an interview seems really unfortunate. I can think of some better words to use but I don’t want to be rude to the OP. Women have been getting arrested and their children taken for letting them play for 30 minutes in a park while they interview. Or for leaving them in the car — not in a hot car, and with a window open. Affordable childcare is a major issue in the US and in these low-paying jobs I’m failing to see why this would be seen as such a huge issue to you, OP.

    1. Artemesia*

      Exactly. This is a nasty country for poor women trying to support children. They are sluts for having them. They are irresponsible if they don’t supervise them every moment. They are lazy no goods if they aren’t working to support them. A woman without a job and money has few options when it comes to supervising small kids and applying for maid work. Making clear that kids can’t go on the job is fine — but it is pretty callous to write everyone off who can’t already afford day care for the interview.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Don’t forget, if you get a job, you’re a bad mum for leaving your kid with someone else all day and depriving them of those precious bonding moments. You can’t win.

    2. LadyCop*

      Yes, they get arrested because it’s a bad decision, and a crime. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel bad for people in those situations, but there are countless people out there who can’t afford care and find legal ways to have children cared for while they interview. Not to mention that many people just leave the kids unsupervised at home where no one will notice…compared to a public place like a car or park.

      I understand why it’s an issue for the OP because it is unprofessional. It may be more normal for the industry (I find that likely to be the case) but that doesn’t mean the OP should have just jumped on board and looked the other way. Why do you need to brow-beat someone for asking Alison a legit question?

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Why do you need to brow-beat someone for asking Alison a legit question?

        I don’t think anyone is brow-beating the OP, but I do think it helps to raise awareness of the real obstacles that disadvantaged people face, which might inspire greater compassion for them.

        1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

          That’s actually really interesting. I also think it highlights a really huge cultural shift in the last 30-50 years. Thanks for sharing!

        2. Biff*

          I really think that this is overboard. I played outside by myself all the time when I was 8. Most people I knew then did. 9 is od enough to spend some time at the park by themselves. Or even ride their bikes to the store and buy some candy.

          1. Rana*

            It is and it isn’t. Given that the culture of parenting has shifted considerably since we were children, many kids don’t actually have the experience of looking out for themselves to draw on. And there are also fewer adults quietly keeping an eye on them, or available if they need help. Instead, they are ignored, or viewed as potential criminals, or their parents are considered negligent.

            It’s something that I find frustrating as a parent who wants to raise a competent, independent child: if I give my child opportunities to develop those skills, I’m at risk of getting a call from CPS; if I don’t, then she’s going to be an adult unable to function in the world effectively. It’s pretty shitty, honestly.

      2. Artemesia*

        yeah yeah a bad decision and a crime. and if they don’t get work, they can’t support their kids and if homeless lose their kids and not everyone has family to watch their kids while they apply for work. it is a callous country with little concern for the real struggles of people in a difficult situation. why make it tougher by pretending they have lots of good options and it is all about them being ‘not professional.’

      3. PontoonPirate*

        Is it a bad decision, though? What should make it a crime? Why do we continue to shame women who need help?

        Was it a bad decision when our parents let us play in a park for hours, unsupervised? By the way, there has been no statistical uptick in the percentage of crimes against children over the decades, just in the reporting of it. Don’t fall victim to media framing.

        Back to the matter at hand, I think we’re asking OP to consider if there’s a way she can figure out a way to create a solution that doesn’t involve immediately cutting out, say, half her applicant pool. Can she help prepare candidates by letting them know there’s no place to accommodate children in the office? Can she partner with a local nonprofit that might run a daycare? Is she willing to be more flexible with the interview schedule in case an applicant can find a relative or friend to watch her child at a specific time? This may be something she has to become comfortable with if it is the norm of her industry … it doesn’t rise to the level of unprofessional for that industry if that’s the norm for that industry.

      4. Angelinica*

        So, people in this situation are screwed, I guess – if they turn down a job interview because they don’t have chldcare, they’re lazy, welfare-stealing cheats, and if they leave the kids semi-unsupervised, they’re committing child neglect, terrible people, and should be arrested?

        1. Kara*

          And if they show up to the interview with the kid, they’re unprofessional and not worth talking to.

      5. LBK*

        Not to mention that many people just leave the kids unsupervised at home where no one will notice…compared to a public place like a car or park.

        Can you clarify this for me? It seems like you’re suggesting that it’s fine to leave the child alone as long as it’s not anywhere that you could get caught doing it…which sends a very mixed message about whether you actually care about the children being watched or if you just care about trying to get their mothers arrested.

        1. Allison*

          Slightly OT, but this thread’s making me think of the movie Riding in Cars With Boys, where the kid comes running outside and goes “you’re not supposed to leave a kid alone! it’s dangerous, I coulda choked!”

          Slightly more on-topic, she missed out on a scholarship because she had to take her kid with her to an interview. Her husband was supposed to watch the kid but then he was nowhere to be found the day of the interview.

        2. Blue Anne*

          This bothered me too. Remembering being a kid, I think I was a lot safer when my mom took me on errands and left me in the car than if she’d left me at home alone, where I had a tendency to play with electricals and climb on things.

          I could maybe see it if the kid is 9 or 10, for an hour or so – a lot of kids are better behaved than I was. But what are you supposed to do if the kid is 5? 4? 1?

          This suggestion really seems to prioritize not getting arrested over the safety of the kids.

        3. Koko*

          I think it was less a suggestion and more meant to highlight the hypocrisy/inconsistent standards applied to child safety.

          FWIW my mom left me in the car all the time when I was an elementary-aged kid. Instructed to keep the doors locked, and never in the summer, and probably never for more than 10 minutes at a time. I played GameBoy or read a book, my mom got in and out of the store quickly, and I was fine. Yes, on warm days it’s dangerous. But the well-intentioned warnings about leaving kids and pets in the car in the summer have gone too far if it becomes zero-tolerance for ever leaving anyone in the car for any amount of time. For about 3/4 of the year (in most climates), assuming the kid is at least 5 or so (old enough to understand instructions to keep the door locked), it’s really not a big deal.

          1. LBK*

            Oh yes – if I was in the middle of playing a game, my mother would’ve had to drag me kicking and screaming out of the car to get me to come into a store with her. Much better for all involved if I just stayed there.

          2. Allison*

            Yeah, this was me too. Sometimes I wanted to stay in the car, and sometimes they wouldn’t let me, but honestly, as long as it’s not warm out and it’s in a relatively safe area, it doesn’t seem like a big deal to me.

            But the hot car thing, man, people are sensitive about it for good reason. The stories you hear . . . and it’s such an awful way to die, not only it is slow and painful and you’re trapped, but imagine being a kid and being in that kind of distress because someone who’s supposed to take care of you left you in there.

      6. AnotherAlison*

        A crime? The age a kid can be left alone varies by state. Obviously, a 4-year old can’t be left alone. I’m assuming in the OP’s situation, the kids are under elementary school age and can’t be left alone to supervise themselves.


        In my state (AND MANY OTHERS) there is no state law on how old a child has to be to be left home alone.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          In Illinois a child has to be 14 to be left alone. But they can get a permit to start driving at 15. *sigh*

          1. Koko*

            That’s insane! Are all two-income families without daycare just staying out of jail/in custody of their kids at the largess of a police force that looks the other way when they want to? I was a latchkey kid from the age of 8 or 9 and was far from the only kid in my grade who was alone for a few hours between the end of the schoolday and my first parent getting home from work.

            One of the most dangerous things in a civil society is a law remaining on the books that is rarely enforced – it means that enforcement will be used to target people who hold unpopular/dissident opinions and people who lack social or economic power. Poor Hispanic families or the neighborhood political agitator have to weigh the risk of getting arrested or having their kids taken away while their white affluent neighbors can freely engage in the same behavior risk-free.

            1. neverjaunty*

              It’s one of those laws that’s used after the fact. Your kid was home alone and something happened? Slap on a charge for not having them supervised. And yes, it’s one of those laws that targets the powerless.

              1. Rana*

                This. If you read the law carefully (as a parent in Chicago, I have), it’s meant to be applied in situations of clear neglect – children left at home unsupervised regularly, not occasionally – but not everyone’s going to do that.

                The big problem with laws like this is that they tend to become self-perpetuating. They exist because there’s the assumption that a 12 year old isn’t capable of looking after themselves safely… but if laws like that are on the books, and parents abide by them (willingly or not), children never get the experience and practice needed to be capable.

          2. Hlyssande*

            Good lord, that’s ridiculous. I was playing unsupervised with other neighborhood kids or on the school playground from like. 6 on. And biking across town by 11.

          3. AnotherAlison*

            From what I looked up, IL is definitely an outlier. Most states don’t have a legal minimum. It looks like half of a guideline, but not an enforceable minimum.

            I actually had a restricted driver’s license at 14. I started staying home alone (including limited time supervising a 1-year old) when I was 9. TBH, I trust a 10-14 year old home alone probably more than a 16-17 year old. My kid never had an unauthorized party until he was 16, lol. (Ummm, we have security cameras, don’t be a moron.)

            1. Creag an Tuire*

              Great to know I’m stuck in the “outlier”. Now if only I can convince my Brave Defender of the Taxpayer and Slasher of Government Governor to repeal that asinine law -before- he cuts off access to affordable childcare…

          4. Tris Prior*

            Wow… I was babysitting at age 12 – and I’m from Illinois! I wonder how long that law’s been on the books… or if everyone just ignored it back in the 80s?

          5. Tara R.*

            What?? I’m a kid of this generation and I was babysitting my baby brother by the time I was 10.

        2. Not me*


          It’s a crime in my state to leave a child in a hot car, which is what happened in at least one of these cases, because that can be deadly. But leaving a child at home? No laws on that AFAIK.

        3. Ad Astra*

          I think in my state the law says kids must be 12 before being left unsupervised, but I was coming home from school and watching my baby brother by the time I was 9, I think. And I was playing unsupervised in parks by 6 or 7. When I was 4 or 5, my mom would occasionally leave me in the college campus book store while she was in class (she did tell the employees what she was doing and where she would be, and there was never any problem, but this still probably was not a great idea).

          I’m sure some women do unsafe and illegal things because they don’t have childcare, but a lot of the cases I hear about sound like fairly reasonable decisions under the circumstances.

          1. Ad Astra*

            Also, I was FLYING UNACCOMPANIED ON A COMMERCIAL AIRLINE at 4, though I hear they’ve bumped up the minimum age since then.

        4. Elizabeth West*

          It also varies as to the maturity level of the kid. Some kids are not able to handle themselves well at 10 or even 12. Others can be left alone for an hour or so when younger than that, especially if there is a neighbor nearby and they’re taught how to get help in emergencies.

        5. SerfinUSA*

          Holy moly!

          I was the neighborhood babysitter at 11 and had been taking care of my siblings since 8 or 9. I guess being the oldest of 6 sets one up for that sort of early maturity though.

      7. neverjaunty*

        “Not to mention that many people just leave the kids unsupervised at home where no one will notice” – until the kid gets hurt or goes for a walk or sets something on fire, and then you can add ‘criminally negligent’ to Artemisia’s list there. (Mothers only, of course. Nobody seems to ask ‘why couldn’t the father have watched them’ or ‘well where was dad when all this was happening’?)

        OP didn’t ask whether this was a norm for other agencies, or whether it made sense to cross those applicants off her list, or whether she should reject them outright because of concerns they would bring the children to the workplace. Everything in her letter seemed to take this behavior as a personal insult, and her question was whether she should or shouldn’t “educate these people” about how rude they were being.

        (Also, it’s kind of baffling me how many people are posting comments saying ‘this is terrible behavior by the applicants, of course I have no idea what norms are like in that industry’.)

        1. ImprovForCats*

          And if (God forbid) the father hurts or neglects the child, that seems to be the mother’s fault, too, especially if she’s not married to him.

      8. Just another techie*

        I wanna push back on the assumption that leaving kids alone is always a bad decision. When I was a child, I was baby-sitting other children when I was 10. When my mother was a child, she was not only babysitting at 8, but also doing things like cutting down trees on the farm unsupervised. The current generation of parents is obsessed with watching children and controlling their actions every single minute of every day, to the detriment, I think, of the children’s well-being and development into healthy, productive members of society. That anyone would think leaving a ten year old alone for an hour or so is so dangerous as to be criminal blows my mind, and makes me terrified of ever having children of my own.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Good news; as soon as you start talking about ‘these days’ or ‘the current generation of parents’ around the same topics our parents and grandparents did, you are sufficiently old and mature enough to consider having children. ;)

          When I was a kid the pendulum was in the opposite direction: Latchkey children! Kids having sex and drinking and doing drugs in that ‘alone time’ between school letting out and the parents coming home from work! The terrible side-effects of mothers working full-time instead of being home all day!

    3. AndersonDarling*

      The last few interviews I was on, I was specifically told “Please do not bring anyone with you to the interview.” I think that covers children, helicopter parents, SOs, and anyone else the candidate may consider bringing along. These weren’t entry level positions, so these statements have become a standard in some organizations.
      OP, if this is a deal breaker, just give a heads-up to your candidates when you ask them to come in for the interview. That’s all it takes.

      1. Potato*

        This is a great idea. I hadn’t even thought of that. I’ve actually had just as many candidates bring a friend, boyfriend or parent. Those are all weird but much less distracting than children.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          We had applicants bring people with them at Exjob. Kids, SOs, etc. Or, they couldn’t stay off their phones long enough to fill out the app. They’d start writing and then BEEP! “Hey, yeah…what’s up? Nothing, just filling out an application…..yeah, blah blah blah blah [insert a bunch of lame junk here that the entire office could hear because proximity]. Cool, later.”

          You have caller ID and can see it’s your buddy–just let it go to freaking voice mail!

        2. I'm a Little Teapot*

          I’d say that’s a quite different situation from the childcare thing. Boyfriend/helicopter parent/whoever doesn’t need to be supervised, unlike a child, and it’s 100% reasonable to prohibit adult tag-alongs.

  12. CasidyYates*

    #4…since this is a common thing, especially for the reasons that Alison mentioned, maybe you should put ‘do not bring your children to the interview.’ Or you could be a really good person and show respect to your potential future employees by meeting them halfway and understanding that they probably don’t have other options. Are the children really that disruptive?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, I think there’s something to be said for recognizing that this isn’t uncommon in that industry (assuming that it’s not, which I do think is the case) and just setting yourself up to roll with it. Set up a corner with crayons and paper and toys, and you’ll (a) minimize the disruption it causes and (b) do a kindness for people in a tough situation. Obviously it’s still reasonable to make it clear that kids can’t come to the job itself, but I do think bringing them to interviews is something to expect in that field.

      1. Lisa*

        I think you could also argue that there is a potential benefit to being open about being a kid-friendly employer/interviewer if you are able to be because in theory that will screen in people who might have to otherwise screen themselves out because of a lack of childcare. Some of the people this would include are parents who can’t or won’t leave thier children alone – ie responsible employees. I know this means you’d have to screen out potential employees who would abuse the privilege with badly behaved children but you’ll have to screen those people out either way and being actively welcoming might bring you some awesome candidates. As someone who hires cleaning staff for her family I’d definetly pick a company that I knew had these kind of employment practices.

    2. Potato*

      Unfortunately, the candidates who sparked the question try to make the children part of the interview. I’m very understanding if an applicant brings their children, apologizes and keeps the children quiety occupied- which has happened and those applicants were hired. But more often candidates come in, introduce their children and then tell me stories about the children, have the children tell me stories, dance or little tricks and continue to do this throughout the interview. It’s like they’re using the interview as show and tell. The problem is less that they are bringing their children and more that they are including their children in the interview.

      Also, by common, I would say that about 1 out of 40 bring a child. I interview a pretty large volume so I’ve seen a lot of kids.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        But more often candidates come in, introduce their children and then tell me stories about the children, have the children tell me stories, dance or little tricks and continue to do this throughout the interview.

        I like kids and would be inclined to do what Alison suggests re crayons, etc., but that would irritate the living hell out of me. I’m interviewing you for a job, not your children.

        1. Potato*

          Yes, sometimes the kids are great but the parents make everything so weird and awkward. I just want to hire the kid instead of the parent.

      2. Rana*

        Uh, no. Yeah, that would be pretty annoying!

        You might have to beef up your ability to say firmly, “Excuse me, but we need to stay focused on discussing the job here. Little Wakeena is very charming, but I want to know more about your skills and background here. There are some crayons and toys in the box there for her, so we can get back to talking about the position.”

        And then any candidate who’s not immediately apologetic can be crossed off the list.

  13. Lexi*

    I think the interviewer should always do the calling. I had an interview where as the job seeker I was supposed to call. I called right on time and the number was out of service. I called it 3 more times in case I dialed incorrectly, but no luck. I then sent an email to the recruiter telling them that the number in their email was wrong. I heard nothing back until 15 minutes later I got a nasty email from the scheduler telling me that since I hadn’t called, they were assuming that I was dropping my application, professionalism is important to them and not calling was horrible of me, interview slots were limited and numerous other lectures. I immediately replied to this person that the number was wrong and was able to reschedule the interview where I soon learned the job was paying $40K below market…sigh.

    Since looking for a job is stressful enough, I think the interviewer should call. If the job seeker messes up the contact info, then that’s their problem.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      That’s crappy, but someone could just as easily make an argument for doing it the other way. I think this one needs to be chalked up to personal preferences. We always have candidates call us for phone interviews because we want to see if they call on time. And because our bosses are so busy they would probably call 15-20 minutes late, which I think it not nice to do to the candidate. But if I go up to them and say XX is on the phone they will stop what they’re doing to take the call.

  14. Emma UK*

    4. – I’ve read several stories of women in the U.S getting into trouble with the police for leaving their children unattended while attending job interviews. All of the women were desperate for a job and had no-one to look after their children. I would give them the benefit of the doubt. My understanding of the US is that once you get a job, if it is low-paid, you can get help towards paying child-care so it doesn’t have to be a negative.

    1. John*

      I would try to look at it from the perspective that I am hopefully helping connect these women to opportunities that will make their struggles a bit easier. Many of these situations are families in serious need.

    2. LBK*

      Yes, there was a fairly high profile case about this in the US recently (look up Shanesha Taylor). It’s disturbing how often the people who condemn actions like hers overlap with people who think everyone should pull themselves up by their bootstraps and no one should have government help (like, say, government-funded childcare for women who are interviewing so they don’t have to leave their kids in a car to get a job and then get arrested for it).

        1. LBK*

          Yes, I saw that she’s now back in court for misappropriating the money. Doesn’t make the original arrest any less shitty.

  15. Jean*

    >Or you could be a really good person and show respect to your potential future employees by meeting them halfway and understanding that they probably don’t have other options.

    Yes, this! To elaborate: also provide a quiet, safe corner for the children to wait. Also, why not invest in a few children’s books and some crayons and blank paper* to keep the children happily occupied?

    * Off topic, but this is a pet peeve of mine: Children should be encouraged to do their own original work, even if it’s “just scribbles,” rather than encouraged to stay within the lines of an image designed by someone else.

    1. Purple Dragon*

      “* Off topic, but this is a pet peeve of mine: Children should be encouraged to do their own original work, even if it’s “just scribbles,” rather than encouraged to stay within the lines of an image designed by someone else.”

      I agree – when I was in about 1st grade I was bored with having to draw shapes within the outline, they had like an arc and you had to draw an arc between the lines. I drew a wavy line, but stayed within the arc lines. My parents were called to the school for a big conference ! I look back on it now and can’t believe it was such a huge thing.

      Hopefully times have changed :)

        1. anonanonanon*

          I wouldn’t call it the teachers so much as the administration or state standards. My mum is held to really, really strict guidelines for teaching in her classroom that give little to no room for creativity for students. I’m sure some teachers are still like this, but a lot of them are held to ridiculously strict standards by school boards.

      1. JMegan*

        When my daughter was in JK (age 4), she was given an exercise with a bunch of crayon outlines and a colour word written inside – she was supposed to colour the crayon with the blue label, blue; the orange label, orange, and so on.

        Well, she decided that was too easy for her, so she set out to colour all of the crayons a *different* colour than what they were labelled. She coloured the blue one orange, the orange one green, and so on. The teacher was decidedly unimpressed, and we had a very stern conversation about The Importance of Following Instructions. (I followed that up with a private conversation with my daughter about how some instructions could be safely ignored, and that I was very proud of her for finding a way to make her own work!)

        So yeah – unfortunately things have not changed all that much.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Kids haven’t changed much, even if schools somewhat have.

          When I was young, I had a speak’n’math and was doing addition on it while we visited my grandparents. After listening to me get every one of 10 math problems wrong, Grandpa said something to Mom about my not being very good at math yet.

          Mom, meanwhile, was laughing. She knew I’d been finding the problems it gave more and more boring of late. And I’d gotten the first one off by one over, the second off by two over, and so on….

    2. Rat Racer*

      This is off-topic and I feel bad adding to the distraction, but I did want to point out that teaching young children how to color in the lines is a good way to help them refine their small motor skills, which prepares them for writing. I think both/and is a good way to balance fine motor skill development and imaginative freedom.

        1. Rana*

          I love drawing, but I also love coloring. It’s very soothing. Have you seen some of the “adult” coloring books out there now? So amazing.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      Continuing O/T . . .your view is actually a huge pet peeve of mine. My parents didn’t allow coloring books. Is it such a big damn deal to let a kid have a My Little Pony coloring book once in a while? I liked to draw and color my own original works, for sure, but sometimes a kid just wants what normal kids have.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yeah, I don’t see them as mutually exclusive. I colored Barbie and I drew my own pictures. Often in the same session of coloring.

      2. Kyrielle*

        Yes this. Also, if you provide pages that have coloring pictures or games or whatnot on one side and are blank on the other, I think most kids will turn them over if they want to draw their own creation. Or you can add blank paper just to encourage that for those who want it. :)

      3. Katie Pi*

        Right. I’ve always been very analytical, with just a dash of creativity, but unfortunately my creativity is fairly limited. Hand me a crayon and tell me, “draw something”, and I’ll stare blankly at you. Hand me a crayon and tell me, “Draw a horse”, and I’ll draw something that at least resembles a horse. Hand me a crayon and an outline of a horse and tell me, “Color in the horse”, and I’ll be happy as a clam.

        There’s nothing wrong with coloring books–just don’t criticize a kid when they do “go outside the lines”, or draw a masterpiece on the inside cover. Let kids “create” how they will.

        1. Oryx*

          Yup. I’m very creative with a dash of analytic but I can’t draw for the life of me. Tell me to draw a horse and it’ll look awful and I’ll feel bad and be embarrassed, but I can get super creative coloring in a horse in a coloring book.

  16. nofelix*

    #4 taking a proactive approach to children at interviews would seem fair. Lots of jobs actually provide childcare because they’re aware of the burden it puts on parents. You could include something in the invite like:

    “We are aware that arranging childcare for interviews can be difficult. Please let us know in advance if you need to bring children to the interview. We have a lobby area they can wait. Please understand our staff are not carers and children will need to be well behaved; please bring snacks/books etc. to keep them occupied if necessary. Interviews should not last more than 45 mins. If you are offered the position, please be aware children are not allowed to accompany you at work and childcare arrangements will need to be made.”

      1. nofelix*

        Thanks! The main thing imho is asking that they let you know in advance. This sorts between the organized professional applicants and those who just assume bringing kids is okay.

    1. tango*

      No, this would not work for me. I would not want responsibility for any unsupervised kids in my workplace. Just because you ask that kids be well behaved does not mean they will be and what is the staff to do if a 3 year old is running around the lobby screaming? I’d prefer that the kids come into the room with their parent for the interview. Yes, it can be be very distracting. But with the parent there, they can assume responsibility for their kids in the event they act up, cry, misbehave, get afraid, etc. It’s just a liability issue.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes, I agree with this, unfortunately. School aged children could probably be left in the lobby, but leaving a 2, 3 or 4 year old alone for 45 minutes is just asking for trouble. I would not bring my kids with me to a job interview, but if I have to take them somewhere like my doctor’s office or the bank, I can generally control them as long as they can sit on my lap or next to me – but leaving them in another room? For 45 minutes? Not a good idea. At best, my 4 year old would be climbing the furniture. At worst, well, lets not even get into the worst, except to say that he can’t be trusted to ask a stranger for directions to the bathroom ….

      2. nofelix*

        “I’d prefer that the kids come into the room with their parent”

        Okay so say that instead? :(

        My rationale would be that if taking responsibility for kids for half an hour gets the best chance for the best candidates, then it’s worth it. If it’s not worth it for you, well I’m not your boss…

      3. Ad Astra*

        It might need to depend a bit on age. If a candidate has a newborn, of course it makes the most sense to just hold the baby during the interview. A 10-year-old with a book or a tablet or something will be fine in the lobby. It doesn’t make sense to accommodate kids at all offices, but it seems worthwhile for this particular business to adjust.

    2. 42*

      Yup! OP, be the company that turns the whole hiring process 180°. Make it part of you hiring profile that you welcome kids. (While stressing that it’s just for the interview only, etc.)

      Have you ever gotten a feeling for the number of interviews that were cancelled at the last minute because an applicant couldn’t get childcare for the interview?

      I bet you’d open yourself up to a lot more applicants if you made the interview process easy and welcoming for women who are strapped for child care resources while interviewing. Could be a nice twist that sets you apart from the competition.

      1. Colorado*

        Love this too! And on another note, I really, really like how this blog is supportive and offers positive, forward thinking advice as opposed to negativity and bashing.

    3. Potato*

      This is great, thanks! If I were aware that children were coming, that would be very helpful. Our office is not very child safe so this would allow us some time to prepare. And having activities ready might prevent the candidates from trying to include the toddlers so much.

      Also wanted to add- usually candidates bring young children, 2-3 years old. I’m not sure how to keep that age group occupied.

      1. Rana*

        A bucket of large blocks (tiny ones will get all over) and some wheeled toys will go a long way with that age group. Toss in a couple of plastic animals, and maybe a few plastic stacking bowls or cups with some measuring spoons, and there you go. (You’ll want to avoid soft toys – they’ll get disgusting fast – and balls – which will be thrown – and anything that makes noise.) Get a tub with a lid so you can just dump the toys into it after the interview’s over.

  17. Mookie*

    OP 4,

    Being loyal to etiquette for the sake of etiquette isn’t practical; etiquette without function or a tangible benefit is just snobbery. As Alison says, you ought first to know that bringing children to an interview is aberrant in your industry and for the level of applicant you want to attract before you punish applicants who do so. Besides which, you don’t really say why you object or what trouble it’s caused you, other than It’s Just Not Done (as far as you’re aware). There’s good information belowthread about why this is common and sometimes inevitable for working-class adult women.

    Another misconception you have is that you’re obligated to “correct” erring applicants. You don’t need to, and you probably shouldn’t. They’re not lacking worldliness. They’re not obtuse. They understand that most recruiters don’t or won’t approve, and they know it’s going to be perceived as an inconvenience. They demonstrate that they know by informing you in advance that they’re bringing their children, giving you an opportunity to decline an interview. Please decline. Don’t waste people’s time if you’ve already decided not to hire them. It’s an injury on top of an insult.

    This is such a gendered and racialized issue. My mother supported our family, although on occasion and only after we were old enough to attend school, my dad would pick up the odd part-time, late morning retail shift (to keep busy, to distract himself from loneliness without his children’s company). While she would never have even considered bringing us to an interview, he almost invariably would. And it worked wonders, no matter how long he’d been unemployed and not seeking work, no matter how little education and experience he had: he was received as someone honorable, moral, and hard-working, more worthy of the job than other applicants (often youngish mothers) because he had kids to feed, because men’s income is automatically valuable (no matter that in his case it was a tiny, infinitesimal percentage of what my mom was earning) while women’s is optional and sometimes even selfish when children are involved or when competing for a posting with a “family man.”

      1. Headachey*

        Particularly in contrast with the OP’s (Potato’s) assertion above that she believes candidates are bringing children to the interview to demonstrate their need for a job: “I have always assumed, because of several factors, that the candidates who bring their children are doing it in the hopes that it will help them land the job, like, “I have a child to support so I deserve this job.” Almost always, they don’t apologize for bringing their children and often they try to include the children, drawing even more attention to them.”

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yep. I mention below that I think my dad, specifically, was using it as a tactic, but that’s based more on knowledge of my specific dad. :D

          1. Ad Astra*

            It’s a great demonstration of what studies have been showing, which is that men’s careers benefit from having children while women’s careers often suffer. We can’t seem to let go of the idea that fathers are primarily responsible for financial support.

          2. Potato*

            My dad has also done similar things! I specifically remember him using me to get dates when I was a kid.

    1. Mookie*

      There’s also the awful assumption that men with children are more liable to keep and succeed at their job (mouths to feed) while women with children are more likely to be “flaky.” There’s a sliver of truth in the assumption that some women are forced to prioritize children (and ailing parents) over work, but that’s because single parents are more often women and because of the disproportionate division of labor, including child-minding, in most 2(or more)-parent homes. It’s easy to be a Rock Star™ or Disruptor at work when your home life is leisurely and your basic needs are being met.

      1. Allison*

        This double standard comes from the assumption that the man has someone at home taking care of the kids, or at the very least prioritizes the kids over their job so he can focus on work.

    2. Kelly L.*

      Your post shook loose a memory of being brought to one of my dad’s interviews when I was a kid. He brought all of us kids. This wasn’t a matter of my mom not being available to watch us–he brought her too! We all just sat bored in the lobby for what felt like an eternity. This was around the same time as he was listing all our ages on his resume. I think it might have been a deliberate ploy for sympathy in his case.

      1. Mookie*

        I think he was mostly oblivious about it, but my dad was haled as a modern-day hero wherever we went. He changed diapers! He warmed-up frozen dinners! What a guy! (He was and is a great dad. Everyone should be lucky enough to have someone like him. But the sycophancy was condescending and my mother “kept house” on top of a 50-hour work week.)

        The whole thing is sort of the mirror opposite of Carol Kane’s experience in Dog Day Afternoon. Her husband phones up the bank to ask her kidnappers if they’re going to be “through” soon because she needs to scurry home pronto fix him his dinner.

    3. Potato*

      Most of the time, applicants who bring their children seem like they want their children there. Several months ago, a woman came in with her 2 year old. The woman’s friend waited in the lobby. The child was VERY well behaved and quiet but throughout the interview, the woman would answer my questions, then say, “right Connor?” To her son in a baby voice. Then she would stop to tell her son that he was cute and try to get him to show me something he could do like wave or dance. He was adorable and would haved loved to talk to him if I weren’t trying to conduct an interview. Every once in a while I’ll have an interview where the candidate just had no other choice but to bring their child and makes sure the child isn’t a distraction but a lot more, I see things similar to this woman who wanted to show me how cute her son is (he is adorable by the way).

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Since you know you’re dealing with a population of candidates who do this, I’d head it off from the start. When someone shows up with a kid, say, “I’d like our interview to be just you and me, of course, but there’s a table in the corner here with crayons and toys, and your son is welcome to play there while we talk.”

        1. Potato*

          This is a good point. In the first 2 years in my position, I never saw this but now it is becoming increasingly common. I guess I can safely assume that the trend will likely continue and rather than try to change a population, I should just be prepared for it when it inevitably happens in the future. The way that people view careers and what is and isn’t acceptable has changed so much in the past decade and I’ll need to change my views if I want to keep my sanity.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        See, that’s inappropriate. The friend could have watched the child. I hate when people use their kids for stuff like that–to impress people, to cut in line (yes, that happened), etc.

        1. Rana*

          I agree. Even if the child needed to stay with her, she shouldn’t be treating it as a social visit. I love my toddler, and think she’s a wonderful little person, but even at not-quite-2 she herself knows that there are times for socializing with Mama’s friends, and times for playing (hopefully quietly) by herself.

  18. Knitting Cat Lady*

    The agency in #2 is mind boggling.

    Doing this with a small local company? Weird and potentially career damaging for the applicant.

    Doing it with a company like Siemens? With ~350000 employees world wide, doing anything from actual product work (electronics, medical technologies, electricity production,…) to all the other stuff needed for a company (accounting, legal, hr,…)?

    Honestly. There is no way in hell that you’d even get in the front door (or gate, if there is a campus).

    LW, your agency sucks. And I’m sorry this happened to you.

  19. Workfromhome*

    As others have mentioned the problem here (besides the lazy coworker) is the Supervisor who is not doing anything about it. he problem is also the OP who is enabling this. Why? Covering for someone because they are incompetent is no different than endorsing their behavior. If a co worker is sick or makes an honest mistake and you need to cover for them for the good of the company by all means cover for them.That’s what good employees do . If someone wants to be lazy and get you to do there work because they know you will do it while they sit and be lazy…heeeelll no.
    The boss isn’t acting because there is no consequence for them other than the occasional complaint. They don’t have to do anything uncomfortable like talking harshly to the poor employee or firing them. The work still gets done and the day goes on for the boss.

    Stop covering for the lazy person ASAP. If its not YOUR job let it blow up. You may want to keep a personal trail of documentation to cover cover yourself. “Thursday Arrived at office at 8 am no reception coverage until 8:30 due to Jane absence” Eventually when stuff doesn’t get done it will come back to the boss who will need to find out why.

    The other thing to do is have everyone OP and coworkers pepper the supervisor with complaints . If the complaints will become a problem for the boss they will be forced to take action to stop getting annoyed by them. either the supervisor will address the the lazy employee and solve the problem or will try to solve it by forbidding complaints about the lazy person. If they choose the 2nd option its time to look for a new job.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      From someone who has been in very similar situations you feel guilty that when the front isn’t covered clients aren’t being served, when she isn’t doing important tasks it affects clients and you don’t want it to harm the client, etc.

      At my last job we talked to my supervisor constantly about our slacker and he finally exploded on us. “Stop complaining about Bob! I don’t want to hear it” but wouldn’t address the issues or fire him. In our case the slacker wouldn’t show up for work, to client appointments, or complete work so it was reassigned to other staff. It definitely affected others’ work. So OP may want to be prepared to look for a new job.

      1. Workfromhome*

        I am in a similar situation and it continues to this day. We have people in our organization that don’t do the right things or aren’t competent at certain things. Despite complaints internally all that ever happens is a blanket email to the entire department saying “we all need to follow process” everyone knows who its targeted at but these people are not called out individually.
        My boss never exploded and said stop complaining but kind of throws up his hands and says yeah but I know I can count on you . So now we have resorted to throwing these people under the bus. When something goes wrong we don’t fix it. We let it blow up and let clients complain and make sure it points back to the slackers. This ticks off clients but has resulted in a couple of the slackers being reassigned or even let go. Its a terrible way to have to operate but if the boss won’t do what needs to be done you have to have someone who has power force them to do it and that someone happens to be the poor clients.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I wish there was a karma fairy. And you could write the bad manager’s name on a piece of paper and put it under your pillow and the fairy would do something to scare the living hell out of the boss so he/she would handle stuff. Kind of like a cross between the Tooth Fairy and A Christmas Carol.

          I’m not entirely sure Bob Cratchit didn’t do something like this.

          1. Anonymous for This*

            I remember a long time ago someone said something about writing a person’s name on a slip of paper, then placing the paper in your shoe, and literally walk on that person’s name all day. That would work for me.

    2. John*

      Depends on the expectations of the boss. Enabling is something we choose to do. If the boss has established that OP is the backup and/or should be stepping up to assist folks when Bad Employee isn’t available, that is not enablement, that’s the OP’s job, like it or leave it.

    3. Annoyed CoWorker*

      I like this, thank you. I have documented her long calls, her late arrivals and her late departures. I can’t change the office opening time because thats also my responsibility, however I get annoyed that I can’t depend on her.

      You’re right, I need to stop covering and telling her when she is screwing up. I’ll cover myself and do what I’m supposed to do. I will also start talking to the boss more.

      Thank you

      1. JMegan*

        You’re right, I need to stop covering and telling her when she is screwing up. I’ll cover myself and do what I’m supposed to do. I will also start talking to the boss more.

        That sounds great. And also, can I suggest that you stop documenting her behaviour? You know there’s a problem, the boss knows there’s a problem, and I’m going to guess that even LazyButt knows there’s a problem – she can’t be leaving work every day thinking what a great job she’s doing.

        Documenting absolutely serves a purpose under certain circumstances. But at some point, it ends up just feeding the issue in your own brain, and causing you to focus on the issue to a point that’s unhealthy for YOU. I would practice letting it go. Say to yourself, “Oh, LazyButt just did X, so I need to do Y in response.” Where Y is tell the boss, redirect a customer, or even remind yourself that it’s not your job to make sure the store is open. Then do Y, and move on with the rest of your day.

        It won’t change her behaviour, of course. But changing your own reaction to it can go a long way to making things easier for yourself. Good luck!

        1. Annoyed CoWorker*

          I see what you mean. I was just telling my other coworker about this comment. You’re probably right in the sense it just fueling my anger. Thank you for your response.

  20. Cautionary tail*

    Op #2

    The same thing happened to me so Alison it’s a thing.

    A staffing company in New Jersey sent me to an energy company in Baltimore, as it turned out to stand in the lobby for several hours, to interview for a position that didn’t exist with anyone who would interview me. I had a job description which almost exactly matched my experience and perhaps it was because they created a job description from my resume. It became obvious that the Baltimore company was the object of this scheme in the past because nobody would come down to the lobby and security appeared to have been instructed to not let me beyond the lobby. I eventually just left.

    The staffing company wanted me to do a few other shady things tangentially related to this and so I put them on my spam list.

      1. A Dispatcher*

        But also kind of terrible on the part of the energy company – why not inform you that you had been given bad information from the staffing company rather than make you wait around in the lobby for hours being watch by security. How awkward.

        And it would definitely make me think twice before applying to that company should a real job posting come along…

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          I don’t think the energy company shouldn’t have to deal with nonsense that isn’t caused by them, and shouldn’t have to interrupt their day to speak to someone they haven’t invited to the meet them.

          1. PontoonPirate*

            But it wasn’t the applicant’s fault she thought she had an interview? How many seconds does it really take a security guard to say, “We don’t have an interview with you scheduled. This has happened a few times before, but unfortunately without a verified appointment we can’t let you in.”

            We all have to deal with nonsense caused by other people sometimes.

            1. LBK*

              I’m kind of confused about how the situation played out – wouldn’t it have been readily apparent within a few minutes if no one was saying “Oh yes, that’s my interviewee, I’ll come get them”? I’m confused how you could spend hours sitting there just aimlessly waiting for someone to show up.

              1. Kelly L.*

                I think if it were a big enough company, the whole thing could get bounced around from department from department for a while. “Welp, we don’t have an interview with Cautionary Tail…maybe Accounting does?”

                Anyway, it’s a horrible practice by the staffing agency. What on earth do they think is going to happen?

        1. LBK*

          I think the hope is that someone will take pity on the candidate, interview them, fall in love with them and then the staffing agency will have an in to say “We sent Jane to you, so you should continue to use our services because she was so great!”

          I seriously, seriously doubt this actually works, or at least not often enough that it would be an effective business practice, but I’m sure that doesn’t stop desperate/shady agencies from trying.

          1. AtrociousPink*

            This has to be it. I’d never heard of this particular practice before, but I have seen individuals trying to break into the staffing agency business and just kind of bumbling around, throwing stuff at the wall and hoping it sticks. I was cold-called by one once, years ago, and it took me some time to figure out how she even got my resume (she wouldn’t say). I never was actually sent on a bogus interview, but my industry doesn’t include large companies where one might expect LBK’s suggested scenario to play out. But I do see agencies in my industry routinely post what I’m pretty sure are fake jobs, just to draw in resumes for their files.

        2. Kelly L.*

          While her post is weirdly confrontational, I think the LW may have nailed it below–they’re trying to entrap the business into paying them. Candidate shows up, and if somehow they do get in–whether the hiring manager thinks “oh, what the hell” or wonders if she really did schedule an interview and forgot it–and if somehow they do hire the person, then the agency gets paid. Never mind the toll on the poor candidates. If it works even once, it might be financially worth it to an unscrupulous agency.

        3. MLT*

          Maybe they aren’t an agency at all. Maybe they are scoping out your house while they know you are away… Maybe they are fronting as an agency to get you to give them all sorts of personal information that they can use in nefarious ways, and getting you a supposed interview buys them time and makes you trust them…

          My mind has gone to the dark side this morning!

        4. RG*

          Well, they’ve sent applicants to this company, technically speaking. If someone asks whether they’ve placed someone there, they can just say, “Oh, unfortunately they weren’t able to accept the offer,” or that the position was closed or something, but they can say that they’ve sent applicants to that company for an interview. If you’re trying to increase credibility, it is an easy way to “expand your reach.”

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Do you have any insight to their motivation? I just don’t get why anyone would do this (but I believe you!). Did you have to pay them in any way?

      1. Cautionary tail*

        I’m not the letter writer but here’s a little detail on my situation…

        In my case, I was out of work and the staffing agency told me that they didn’t have the name of the person I would be interviewing with but that it was at the front desk in the lobby. As you can see from what I wrote above there obivously was nothing at the front desk. I drove a four hour round trip to this energy company across the street fom the Baltimore National Aquarium, paid about $40 in tolls, and paid for parking, all as essentially a setup. I called the staffing agency several times while I was in the lobby and they said just to wait and see if an employe came down inquiring about someone to interview…that was supposed to be my person. Eventually I gave up and told them I was leaving.

        I did not pay the staffing agency but they kept wanting me to set up my own business so they would just pass the work to me and take a finder’s fee. They also wanted me to sign an exclusicve agreement with them as my sole client in my to-be-formed company. I knew that as soon as I set up my own business I would lose unemployment benefits that I was then currently relying on. Now that I’m wiser it appears they also wanted me to do this to absolve them of any liability.

        1. Steve G*

          I work in energy. I know some people who worked there! Small world. Well, they’re a big co so many people have passed through them

  21. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

    As far as bringing kids along, we’ve learned that for some very entry level positions (in our case, internships) we need to give more instructions up front about what we want from candidates since they not be aware of norms. For example, we’ll include in the job posting a basic idea of what should be in the cover letter. I would never be so specific when hiring a senior person, since I truly need someone very aware of norms. Some people really don’t know, and as long as they comply after they do know what’s appropriate, that’s fine – everybody has to learn somehow. Maybe when you confirm the interview time, you should include a polite note requesting they not bring children. And don’t schedule interviews with short notice so that candidates can make arrangements.

    As an aside, the extra instructions have increased the diversity of our interns.

    1. A Dispatcher*

      “As an aside, the extra instructions have increased the diversity of our interns.”

      In terms of who is actually successful in being granted an internship, or in terms of your applicant pool in general? I’m assuming the former but was curious.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        Who actually gets an internship. It appears that many of the candidates who weren’t getting an interview because of less-than-okay application materials were people of color. We loosened up the screening and provided more instruction, and have many more people of color as interns. We didn’t know we were eliminating so many people of color upfront since we can’t tell race from the materials.

        1. Sigrid*

          Oooh, that’s really interesting, completely unsurprising now that you describe it, and really important to think about.

        2. LBK*

          Wow, that’s really interesting. I’m curious what drives that now. My inclination is to think of the post we had about people who were raised by blue collar workers and didn’t grow up learning white collar professionalism standards; given the income disparities and classism that aligns with systematic racism, that seems like it might be part of it.

          1. Natalie*

            Beyond your parents to your community as well. Decades of active housing discrimination have meant that Black Americans are substantially more likely to live in poor communities no matter their household income. A white person in a blue collar family is much more likely to live in an economically and professional diverse area where they might pick up white collar norms.

            TNC’s essay “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration” covers this is in a nice digestible format, and is also just a good read anyway. Our best public intellectual, IMO.

    2. xarcady*

      My old job used to hire high school students as interns for the summer and after-school hours. The office was in a rural office park, far from any public transportation. The kids would usually be driven to the office by their parents, and the parents would stay in the car or go somewhere for a coffee, while the student came into the office for the interview. But if a parent had come into the office, I wouldn’t have been very surprised or seen that as a sign that the student couldn’t do the work–the parent might have just been checking us out, or something like that–no one in the area knew the company existed (I knew the owner through church for three years, and had no idea about her company or what it did until a friend told me about the job opening). And some of the kids came to us from a high school program designed to help them enter the working world–they always showed up with a counselor from the high school, who sat in the waiting area while they interviewed. Again, not an issue.

      But the middle-aged woman who showed up for a job interview, for a senior position, who had her husband come into the office with her? Nope. An adult should be able to deal with an interview without a spouse present. It was disconcerting to see him in the waiting area, and raised all sort of red flags about the interviewee.

      Completely different expectations for two different groups of candidates.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Did he go into the interview with her or he just sat in the waiting area? I agree it’s a little weird but I can see some reasons for it – like they share a car and had someplace to go right after the interview and the guy didn’t realize he should just wait in the car or something.

  22. LadyMountaineer*

    Here in Colorado you cannot receive Child Care Assistance Program dollars until you are working and job searching is not concidered ‘working.’ They likely don’t have a choice right now but will have a choice once hired. Why not just ask about their child care arrangements once hired?

  23. Allison*

    #2, That’s really, really weird. I work on an internal recruiting team and I’m no stranger to staffing companies sending us unsolicited leads for jobs we’re recruiting for, but they just send a resume, not a person. I have no idea why these firms think this is a good strategy, do they really think the internal recruiter will just go “oh my, the perfect candidate showed up at our doorstep, it’s a miracle!” and drop everything to interview them? No, they’d probably go “Uh . . . this is weird. Is this for real? Should I talk to him? I have back-to-back meetings and phone screens . . .”

    #3, in my experience, it’s always been the interviewer.

    #4, I’d cut these women some slack. It’s not ideal for you or them, but as others have said, childcare is really tough when you don’t have a job, it costs money they probably can’t afford to spend and it takes time to make arrangements, even with family or friends. It’s fair if you tell them they will be expected to find reliable childcare since they will not be permitted to bring their kids with them on the job, but I’d let them bring the kids to the interview as long as they’re well-behaved.

  24. PhoenixBurn*

    #4 – Not to get all legal, because I’m certainly not a lawyer, but as an HR professional I’d be concerned about the possible disparate impact* this would have on your candidate pool. You may not intentionally be discriminating based on a protected class, but what happens if you surveyed the pool of people you turned down and it turns out that the majority of them belong to a protected class, while the people getting through are not?

    For arguments sake (please understand I’m not trying to stereotype or assume, but am just demonstrating how this works), you may be turning down candidates because they bring their children and hiring the candidate that do not. This logic makes sense to you, but when you actually look at the pool of candidates that you’re working with, the ones you hire are 85% white while the ones you turn away are 90% African American, then you will probably have to consider that your candidate pool has a good argument that your hiring practices have a disparate impact.

    If you’re unaware, “disparate impact holds that practices in employment, housing, or other areas may be considered discriminatory and illegal if they have a disproportionate “adverse impact” on persons in a protected class. “

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Just to clarify, since I see people use “the person is in a protected class” language a lot: everyone is in a protected class. For example, race is a protected class. The law doesn’t just protect people of Race X or Race Y; it bans discrimination based on race, period. Everyone has a race, so everyone is in a protected class. Same is true for the other classes, like sex, religion, national origin, etc. The only class where this isn’t true is disability.

      I’m distracting from your point here, but I want to make sure people realize that.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              I don’t know for sure, but I have a good guess. Demographically, Atlanta is 54% African American and young African American men have a disproportionately high unemployment rate.

              1. neverjaunty*

                That makes sense, but if it applies only to men, I can see it running smack dab into Constitutional issues.

              2. Laurel Gray*

                This is a reasonable guess but 5 minutes on Google and I found nothing to back up HM’s statement. Another reasonable guess could be that Atlanta also has a considerable population of young AA homosexual men. But again, I rather see a credible source for something like this when it is stated because the first thing I thought of was “so once you step outside Atlanta city limits, anything goes?” so I am skeptical until a source is provided.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  I couldn’t either. HM, could you weigh in? Atlanta’s nondiscrimination code and an admittedly brief review of the city ordinances shows that “age” is a protected class, but not that men aged 19-26 get special protections.

              3. Ad Astra*

                Anecdotally, I’ve heard young black men are often up against a sometimes deeply-ingrained stereotype as lazy and criminal, while many racist idiot white people see black women as heads of household with a good sense of hustle. I don’t want to speak to an experience that isn’t mine, but if the anecdata is accurate, I can see why young black men might be disproportionately affected specifically when it comes to employment.

  25. Wolfman's Brother*

    #5 I think you just need to go off the job description. I work in an academic library and here our entry level would be a library assistant. If you go to another library on the same campus they call their entry level a library specialist.

    I am having the same problem right now where I see jobs posted as Assistant Director and Associate Director, but I can’t tell what difference there is between the two titles.

    1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

      When I worked at a university the difference between assistant and associate was often pay-grade.

      I have friends that do the same work I do around town and we all have different titles.

    2. Judy*

      I worked for a large company where the engineering levels were:

      Associate Engineer – Project Engineer – Senior Engineer – Lead Engineer – Principle Engineer – Staff Engineer.

      A Principle Engineer was the technical equivalent to a Manager, a Staff Engineer was the technical equivalent to a Director.

      The company bought a competitor. Their levels were:

      Associate Engineer – Staff Engineer – Project Engineer – Senior Engineer – Lead Engineer – Principle Engineer.

      Their Lead engineer was on the same level as a Manager, while the Principle Engineer was on the same level as Director. Lots of confusion.

    3. Sunflower*

      At one university I browse postings for, I see associate director jobs posted for people with 3 years experience. In some companies, that could take decades to obtain that position. So I agree, go off the job description.

      Also pay attention to other job postings or check out the company LinkedIn page and see what their employees titles are- you can even check out their work experience to see if yours aligns or is close with that

  26. Katie the Fed*

    #4 –
    You’re interviewing people (primarily women) for maid positions. We’re talking women without a lot of money who are looking for work (low paid at that). As much as possible, I’d try to look the other way and tolerate it. You’re not hiring a CEO. You’re talking about poor women who probably don’t have a lot of options. Sure, it’s not terribly professional but is it going to affect their work?

    If your concern is about them bringing kids to job sites, make it clear that that’s not allowed. But for the interview? I wouldn’t disqualify based on this alone. You have an opportunity to help people who might really need this opportunity. Think of it as your mitzvah :)

    1. Retail Lifer*

      I hire low wage workers myself and I’ve never had anyone bring their kid to an interview. If that had happened before reading everyone’s thoughts on this, I probably would have immediately written them off for being so unprofessional. This post has been a real eye-opener.

  27. Retail Lifer*

    OP #3, interviewers usually call you, but at one of my previous jobs, my boss has interviewees call him. It was an easy way to weed out people who weren’t punctual. Call late = you’re out.

    OP #5, before I became a store manager, I was an assistant manager, co-manager, and associate manager. Sometimes an assisstant mananer was #2 in charge, sometimes they were #3. And co-manager and associate manager seemed to usually be interchangeable, but at some places one was higher than the other. Every place has their own heirarchy and they all seem to prefer different names for the same job.

    1. Allison*

      #3, that’s so funny, because pretty much everyone who’s ever called me for a scheduled phone screen ended up calling at least 5 minutes late. If I had to call, I’d worry the interviewer would still be in a meeting running late.

      1. Interviewee*

        I’m the interviewee in #3. I’m very relieved I didn’t make an assumption he would call me! I do agree I’ve rarely had a phone interview where the person interviewing me called on time (usually about 5 minutes after the scheduled time). I also understand the idea of seeing if the interviewee is punctual.

  28. Jerzy*

    #5 – In the U.S., these terms are used differently, not just industry to industry, but company to company. Some other countries with stricter guidelines have a standard title scheme, but the U.S. is pretty haphazard about the whole thing. OP< I wouldn't worry about trying to figure out which jobs are entry level by the title alone. Look at the descriptions, and see how well they mesh with your experience and knowledge. Also, many will say "entry level," which ought to be a bit of a clue.

    Good luck on your job search!

    1. Katie the Fed*

      That’s exactly what letter #4 made me remember. I think it’s hard for those of us who have never felt that kind of desperation to relate.

  29. Squiddy*

    OP1 – having two young children does not make you any more qualified or deserving of a flex-time schedule, nor does it make it any more impressive that you get to work on time. You have no idea what your coworker has to deal with in the mornings so please don’t assume. And saying things like “I could use that time to pick up my kids” just makes you sound unbelievably entitled. Your coworker can probably put that time to good use, too, and as you’ve stated, she’s only a few years from retirement – if she’s been at that company that long, she’s probably earned that schedule! You don’t automatically get to have it too just because you have kids. You accepted your current position with its current hours – if you want a job with flex time, then job-hunt for a job with flex time. Alternatively, see if you can negotiate for one with your boss, but don’t begrudge your (senior) coworker for having one just because you want it too.

    1. LBK*

      But as things stand now, the OP is the one earning the flex schedule by going above and beyond to cover her coworker being a lazy mess. Years of good behavior don’t qualify you for flexibility in perpetuity – the coworker may have earned that flextime in the past but it doesn’t sound like she still deserves it now, and you never earn the right to stop being performance managed if you’re being a crappy employee.

      I’m usually the first to call out people using children as an excuse for special treatment, but I don’t think the OP was saying “I deserve flextime because I have a kid”. I read it as “I’m doing all the work but I’m not the one getting the benefit that would drastically improve my work/life balance”.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think that’s a bit harsh. The OP is frustrated not because her coworker has a flex schedule, but because her coworker sucks and doesn’t do her job. It’s human nature in that situation to think, “wow, I could really use that flex schedule myself, and I’m actually a good worker who has earned it.”

      1. SallyForth*

        I think it’s fine to be frustrated about the differences in schedule, but when speaking to the annoying coworker or the manager, it shouldn’t be part of the conversation. It’s like asking for a raise because you just got a new car. Not part of the discussion.

        NO: Annoying person, you are late every morning. If I get here on time, you should be able to.
        YES: Annoying person, when you are late, it affects my ability to do my job because I am picking up the slack.

        NO: Manager, annoying person is late every morning. I have kids and make it on time.
        YES: Manager, annoying person’s lateness affects my ability to do my job. I can’t keep picking up the slack and also do my job effectively.

        NO: Annoying person, your long personal phone calls are a waste of your work time. I don’t take personal calls and I have two kids.
        YES: Annoying person, your long personal calls affect my ability to do my job when I have to cover for you during your work hours.

    3. Dot Warner*

      I get irked when people say they deserve flextime solely because they’re a parent*, but that’s not what I’m hearing from OP1’s letter. Her coworker may be senior to her and may have done great work in the past, but in the here and show, coworker goofs off and is rude to everyone and still gets special treatment. Meanwhile, OP1 is going above and beyond but does not getting any benefit from it. That’s extremely annoying, regardless of whether or not one is a parent.

      *This is mainly because I work in a field where evenings and weekends are the norm and one shift can’t leave work until the next shift arrives.

    4. neverjaunty*

      I don’t think being at a company for X years entitles anyone to be lazy, rude or dump their job on their co-workers.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but flextime doesn’t include regularly not showing up to open the office if that’s part of your job. Which is what the OP’s coworker is doing–she’s supposed to open up at 8 but is coming in after that. If she negotiated that with the boss, then fine, but I doubt it.

  30. Annoyed CoWorker*

    Yes, I do know how her mornings at home are because I hear about this all day. I get stuck for 45+ minutes hearing how her husband didn’t get up and make her coffee. I then get the privilege of hearing her phone call about it as well. Some days she will openly admit that she just didn’t get up. I know way to much about my coworker and her life outside of work, that’s part of the problem.

  31. Mike C.*

    You know what, story time.

    My mother cleaned houses for a living to supplement our income. Did my brothers and I come along during the summer? Hell yeah we did, and we were put to work. It wasn’t a big deal, the owners were aware of it at the time, and the three of us knew how to act.

    Seriously, this really isn’t that big of a deal. Families have to do what they can to make ends meet, and maybe we should be a little less judgmental about that.

    1. Mike C.*

      Oh, and this usually lead to us kids being hired to do yard work, babysitting (not me, hell no) or setting up/fixing computers.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I’d be fine with this. (Assuming I could afford a housekeeper.) If I had expensive breakable treasures, they’d be in a special cabinet and I’d dust them myself.

    2. Anon Accountant*

      Same here. When I was old enough I was assigned tasks like dusting coffee tables and mom supervised me. The homeowners knew ahead of time, I was a well behaved kid and she didn’t have many childcare options as some low income families don’t.

      Once someone is hired they’re eligible for childcare financial assistance in our area. No job with verifiable income = no financial assistance until verified income proof is provided. Otherwise if you have no babysitter you are out of luck.

      I can see making rules about no kids on job sites but please cut some slack for low income workers that may have no childcare options, even for a short interview.

    3. Ad Astra*

      I was definitely under the impression that it was pretty common for domestic workers to bring their kids to work, especially if they had long-term, regular clients.

    4. Lindsay J*

      Not exactly the same thing, but my dad works in the restaurant business, and my mom was a bartender at the same restaurant my dad worked at when I was young.

      Often, my grandmother watched me while they worked, or one parent watched me while the other was off.

      Sometimes, though, that wasn’t an option. So I went to work with them. I would help at the beginning of the day by refilling ketchup bottles and salt and pepper shakers etc and wiping down tables. Then when it opened I would sit at a table or at the bar, drink Shirley Temples, and read or color.

  32. Bostonian*

    I have to say, the response of the commentariat to OP#4 is reminding me how great the readership here is. The readers here slant towards white collar office workers, I think (those of us who sit in front of computers all day are more likely to be on the Internet, for one thing), and I’m impressed with the level of empathy for people interviewing for jobs in pretty different and difficult circumstances.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      I agree it’s really nice to see, I think there are two reasons for it:

      1 – There’s a great community hear and for the most part people are normally really kind and considerate.

      2 – People current job doesn’t always reflect there up bringing, I work in an office but my mom was a single parent with me and my siblings to raise on a low paying job with a pretty brutal schedule, so I can understand the massive headaches that come from balancing work and family life.

    2. Laurel Gray*

      This is why I love this place. There are so many well meaning and/or well written articles about issues involving career and the working poor, single moms, ex convicts etc but the comments section is a war zone with zero support or empathy.

    3. De (Germany)*

      I think it’s an… interesting contrast to some of the comments I read yesterday, which were less forgiving towards parents who might want to leave early because they need to pick up their kids. Those “well, you wanted children, so now deal with it without bothering me” comments are always a culture shock for me, because that’s not how it works over here.

      (Not trying to start that discussion again, just noting the contrast)

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Leaving early to pick up a kid from a $1200 a month daycare or elementary school is just not the same thing.

        1. De (Germany)*

          That… wasn’t actually supposed to post, because then I realized you probably didn’t mean the money qualifier for both of those.

          In any case, I don’t see the big difference, but that is, as I have come to understand from comments here, a cultural difference.

          1. RG*

            Granted, I don’t have kids, so I’m probably not qualified to answer this, but I think for some people it might be that the person who always wants to leave early never wants to come in early or make up the time somehow if necessary. Like, if you always leave at exactly 5, and we have something that needs to be finished that day, then I’ll do everything I can to get it done before then. But if I can’t, and I need you to decide what the next step is our file something, just don’t leave me in the lurch! Let me make the decision, or file it, or something that enables me to get it done. So that’s one thing. Another is that leaving early in certain contexts is more of a perk, and not something that should only be restricted to parents – I don’t have kids but I still have a life too.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Another is that leaving early in certain contexts is more of a perk, and not something that should only be restricted to parents – I don’t have kids but I still have a life too.

              THANK YOU

            2. neverjaunty*

              I am, again, wondering where these workplaces are that only parents get to have special short hours, because none of the parents I know work at any of them!

  33. Meg Murry*

    RE: #4
    FYI, for a very interesting perspective on the struggles of people working for a cleaning service, I highly recommend reading “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America” by Barbara Ehrenreich. In it, she takes a variety of low wage jobs, of the variety available to those with little education or training, and documents the struggle to survive on those wages. One of the jobs she takes is with a maid service (it was Molly Maids or Merry Maids or The Maids, I think). I’d recommend the book to anyone interested in the study of the labor force or poverty.

    One part that I remember clearly that she mentioned is that the maid service advertised for workers by claiming they offered “mother’s hours” as a “benefit” – as in, they could be home by the time school let out. Whether or not this is actually a benefit is debatable (as mentioned in the book), but anyway OP, if any of your advertising is aimed directly at working parents or has any kind of “family friendly” information in the description, that may be why some applicants are mistaken in thinking it’s ok to bring their kids along. Or as others have said – they probably do know it’s not a good idea, but are desperate for work and have no other choice.

    1. MLT*

      +1000 for the “Nickeled and Dimed” recommendation – what an eye-opening book!!!

      One time I came in to work and it was apparent that one of our cleaners had brought a child in to work over night because all the papers on my desk had been stapled and taped together. Remembering the stories from this book, I chose to be amused at the thought of some child playing office at my desk and happy that his mother was not going to be in trouble for having to bring him with her that night. How blessed am I that I have never had to choose between taking care of my child and possibly losing my job for missing work?

    2. Potato*

      I’ll definitely look into that! It sounds like it would give an interesting perspective. The company that I am part of is more specialized and doesn’t work like other “maid,” services. Our “maids,” are paid 35-40k + benefits, which is a very livable and desirable wage in my town. We mostly get applicants that come from similarly paid (non-maid) jobs. About 75% of the applicants we get are currently employed as well.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I read that. The big takeaway for me from the Merry Maids part was that one of her coworkers was working a full shift on NO FOOD. That killed me, because I’ve done it. And it SUCKS.

    4. EmilyG*

      I read this book when it first came out, and it was hugely perspective-changing for me. I had a privileged upbringing and she really brought alive how expensive it is to be poor in a way I hadn’t imagined earlier. She is such an entertaining writer, but also angry… and this was all well before the great recession. It’s scary to imagine how much worse things have gotten.

      1. Nonessential Personnel*

        I read it when it came out too, and just the other day I was wondering how much worse the situations she voluntarily put herself in would be these days. I loved it, too, that throughout the book she stresses that she has other resources–if she really has to, she knows she can call her husband or a friend, and they’ll come rescue her–and that the people she meets while she’s doing this don’t have those resources.

  34. Teri*

    Thanks for responding to question 2. The response is a bit flippant. The reason I say this is because yes, I do need to ensure I don’t go thru this again. You may be out of touch with the emotional roller coaster of being unemployed and when a staffing agency presents a very promising opportunity only to find out it was phony, yes, it is a big deal especially since the good pickings are few at the present time in my city.
    Let me break this down for you because it appears you have a disconnect: I invested time to prepare for this interview, I wasted gas, time and emotional energy to show up and be present for an opportunity that I was not even presented to and for all I know, may not even exist. Yes, I am not imagining this as the supposed client had never heard of me. Perhaps your time may not be valuable to you but as it’s often said: “time is money” and time wasted during a job search is detrimental to anyone’s livelihood.
    Also, not sure what you mean by your “is this a thing?” comment but the company who was the supposed client told me that I was the 5th person to show up unannounced from this agency so yes, it is a thing. Your response is not helpful and like I said, it’s a bit disregarding for someone that is eagerly seeking gainful employment.
    Let me explain what the crappy agency gains: they bully a company by sending an unsolicited candidate hoping the company takes a chance and interviews. The company “falls in love” with the unsolicited candidate and now they have to pay. That’s what the crappy agency gets. This is how they operate because they don’t have good business development.
    Lesson learned for me from me: go with the national agencies that have been in business for 30+ years and avoid the “boutique” shops.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Dude, this is unnecessarily rude. My response wasn’t intended to be flippant. I’ve never heard of this happening, and it’s obviously terrible practice. A couple of other people in the comments have mentioned it’s happened to them, so it obviously is something that happens some places.

      But as for what you can do to protect yourself, I don’t think there’s much that can be done beyond investigating the reputation of the agency you’re working with, since reputable agencies don’t work that way.

      I’d suggest dropping the snarky attitude to strangers who took time to respond to you though. Or I suppose you could ask for a refund.

      1. Winter is Coming*

        Yikes. I didn’t ready ANY of that into your response. Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed.

        1. Jerzy*

          To be fair, OP obviously is under a bit of stress and might be a bit sensitive about feeling as though they were being taken for a ride. I agree that doesn’t entitle her to go after Alison for her response, especially since it sounded to me like she was honestly taken aback that something like this even happens.

          Let’s all take a collective deep breath.

        2. AW*

          What happened here is that Teri legitimately didn’t know what “is this a thing?” actually means and thought Alison was accusing them of lying. Their response was incredibly rude but from their POV at the time they wrote it, Alison was rude first.

          What should have happened was for Teri to just ask what “is this a thing” means without making accusations first. Even just calmly asking why AAM thought they were lying would have allowed people to explain without offense.

          1. Ultraviolet*

            I agree that “Is this a thing?” landed much differently with the OP than intended, and that was the root of the problem. If you continue reading the post from there in a defensive mindset, it really can seem kind of disbelieving. Honestly, I think if a commenter (at least, one who isn’t a highly regarded regular) had posted that response, some people would have read it as dismissive.

            (And yeah, responding rudely to free advice wouldn’t be constructive even if the advice-giver were deliberately flippant. I just wanted to chime in as another person who sees this as starting with a genuine misunderstanding.)

      2. Prismatic Professional*

        I didn’t see the response as flippant. I also saw the (is this even a thing?) part as you genuinely not knowing. :-)

    2. Laurel Gray*

      Whoa there Teri, bring it down a notch. I think you’re being a little unfair and too emotional about this. I think the advice was solid. Interviewing sucks, we all been there. It sucks and is an emotional and energy suck – if you let it be that. I really advise you to read through the archives under “interviewing” – the letters, responses and comments. I also advise you to get a hold on your emotions and your attitude. It’s very telling. Seriously. One of the best things I learned from reading AAM for a year now is to stop being so emotionally invested in the process.

      Random, but have you thought about contacting your local news that has a good Investigative team? You say this also happened to 5 people on the same day but there could have been hundreds over a span of time. They may get to the bottom of this and expose this staffing firm for good.

      1. RG*

        Seriously, expose them. This is not OK. They’ve been operating in the dark, now it’s time to shine a light on them.

      2. Ad Astra*

        Yes, I think exposing this company might be satisfying for you, Teri. I think we all recognize how frustrating it would be to get ready for an interview only to find that company’s never even heard of you. I would be livid, and so would every other commenter here, so please don’t think we’re trying to minimize your feelings about this.

    3. LBK*

      I think the point was that this is such a weird, uncommon thing to do that you probably don’t need to worry about it happening again. That’s what “is this a thing?” means: “is this actually a thing that’s a norm in the industry?” (with the implied rhetorical answer being no, it isn’t).

      The question is kind of like “I went to a hairdresser and instead of doing what I asked for, she shaved all my hair off. How do I make sure that doesn’t happen again?” The answer is, uh, well, you don’t, because that’s not normal behavior and there isn’t really a way to screen for wild outliers to standard practice.

      1. LBK*

        If you did want to attempt to screen for it, I suppose you could ask more digging questions like specifics about who you’ll be interviewing with in an attempt to trip up the staffing agency and catch them in their lie, but I doubt that will be effective since companies that use shady tactics are usually prepared to hide them.

        1. AH*

          Asking for a contact/name of who you are interviewing with was my first thought. I wonder if you spoke with someone at the agency to ask for an explanation as to why they sent you there (but ask professionally and take out the emotion from it)? Either way, the situation sucks and was wrong, but all you can do is learn from it and refocus your energies on the next opportunity.

          1. LBK*

            Unfortunately I think the problem is that it’s easy to get around that by just being vague and saying the client didn’t provide them with that kind of detail, which I believe is something a legit agency might say anyway (I haven’t used one myself so I can’t say for sure if it would be normal for them to not have info about the interviewer beyond “the manager of the accounting department” or whatever).

      2. Phoebe*

        Lol! Believe it or not I know someone that this actually happened to! He went in for a trim and the hairdresser mistook him for a regular client who has his head shaved regularly. He was a good sport about it though and they both had a good laugh.

    4. Erin*

      I read the “Is this a thing?” comment to say, “Hey readers, I’ve never heard of this before ever, has this happened to you?”

      On occasion Alison will defer to readers or ask for their input. I mean in general, I’m assuming, it’s part of the point of the blog. You may have read her answer as flippant – which I would disagree with, but for argument’s sake let’s say it’s true – but what she did do is post your question (not all get posted) to open up a dialogue, allowing you to converse with other readers who may have had the same experience as you.

      You’re obviously very upset about what happened to you, but please take it down a notch as Laurel Gray said. Don’t attack the person who is trying to help you.

      That aside, my personal thought is: I think you need to accept this is apparently a risk, hopefully a minor one, but a risk to take when job searching. If jobs are as hard to come by in your area as you say, you should probably take any opportunity you’re able to. Research these companies beforehand or seek out people who have worked with them to gauge their experience as Alison suggested – there’s no other way to really “protect” yourself. Look into them as much as you can, if it looks good, take a shot it’s real and go on the interview. Good luck.

    5. Apollo Warbucks*

      Why so rude? no one here has said it’s a good thing to have happened to you and no one has said that being messed around like that is OK.

      But you don’t get to ask someone for advise and they berate and patronise them!

      1. Steve G*

        You just made me burst out loud laughing in my office. After 10 hours of spreadsheets today I am enjoying reading this banter.

    6. PontoonPirate*

      I imagine you must be feeling wildly frustrated right now. I would be, too, because you’re right, it is an investment and if you’re desperate, it can be so difficult to hear someone say, “Sorry, but you have to write this one off an move on.” It doesn’t feel like there’s any justice in that answer.

      That’s the unfortunate reality, which is why we as a community here encourage each other to view interviewing as unemotionally and objectively as possible. I hope once you’ve had a chance to gain some distance, you’ll realize it’s not Alison’s or the commentariat’s fault that she doesn’t/we don’t have a better answer for you. The response you got isn’t helpful to you yet because you’re looking for a response that isn’t possible, which is that the company will interview you anyway and the agency gets its comeuppance.

      It’s not okay to talk to folks who are trying to offer you sympathy and a sense of camaraderie vitriol, but I hope you feel better soon.

      1. Prismatic Professional*

        This is one of the most understanding responses I’ve read today (and I’ve been reading AAM!). I think you hit the nail on the head with the desire vs reality of the situation. :-)

    7. AW*

      The company “falls in love” with the unsolicited candidate and now they have to pay.

      No, they don’t. The company has no business relationship with the agency. There’s no contract and no agreement to pay the agency anything. How’s the agency going to enforce a contract that doesn’t exist.

      This may be what the agency thinks is going to happen but I don’t see a way for the agency to prevent the company from hiring the candidate.

      1. Allison*

        At my last job, my manager actually put in job descriptions that while we appreciated what agencies do, any submissions we got from an agency we didn’t have a contract with would be considered “free leads” and we weren’t going to pay the agency if we decided to hire the person. They tried this workaround where they send us resumes with no name or contact information, but we’d try to find the person online anyway.

    8. HM in Atlanta*

      I’ve seen this happen for the past 20 years, across the US (midwest, west coast, southeast, and new england) and western Europe. It happens enough that I have a philosophy on how to deal with these applicants so we at least treat them respectfully.

      The best way to feel more confident about the opportunity: If you are going to the employer site to meet with someone in person, they should be able to tell you –
      1. First and Last Name of the person you’re meeting with
      2. That person’s title
      3. Work that happens in the department
      4. Why the position is open
      5. What the position is beyond title
      6. You can always chit-chat the “recruiter”. In a very conversational and friendly tone, you could ask some of these questions: Do you work with this company often? What do you see that they like? How do you think I should prepare for the interview? What work of mine should I make sure to bring up? Are there skills that aren’t specific to this job that the company values?
      *REAL* recruiters will be able to answer all these questions and give you valuable information. Bad/fake ones will give you non-answers, double-speak, and sometimes contradict themselves.
      You should have time to look at this person on LinkedIn, check out the company (and their hiring process/open positions they have), and do your other basic research. You can also check out the agency and it’s reputation.

      When I was interviewing in the past, the search was confidential (I was replacing someone they hadn’t fired yet). I was still able to figure out the company before I ever got to the in-person interview stage – based on the information the recruiter gave me.

      One last request – please share feedback on this staffing company on Glassdoor. You’ll help out someone else that they might put in the same situation.

      1. Sunflower*

        I agree with this.

        One another note, I’ve pretty much stopped working with staffing agencies because they’ve all been terrible- at least in my experience. I would apply for a job, come in and interview with a recruiter and then I’d never hear from them again. I’d apply to job after job and nothing. On the off chance I was contacted, they would disappear at some point in the process. And these are reputable staffing agencies. Given nothing as bad as what you went through but annoying and time wasting still.

        I have a close friend who is a recruiter for a staffing agency and only her or people she recommends are ones I will work with. Even then, I’ve still been hit with some similar experiences. I’m not saying all staffing agencies are bad because I know they do work but for me, it became more bothersome than worth it.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This happened to me with temp agencies. I’d either hear nothing, or get hit with repeated requests for work that was wildly out of sync with my experience. I had good luck with Express at one point–even working for them directly to cover their receptionist–but after they moved offices and changed some personnel, it became a wash. :(

    9. Noah*

      I still don’t understand how an agency thinks they will get anything from the company. Someone send me an unsolicited candidate they are not getting a dime. I don’t have a contract with the agency and I don’t owe them anything.

  35. Juli G.*

    Everyone on here is extremely compassionate to the low income worker but I find that this isn’t exactly commonplace attitude. I think that a lot of people are turned off by kids at an interview. Is there anyway to tactfully give that feedback to someone that you hire who brought their kids?

    1. Anon the Great and Powerful*

      No, there isn’t. These women already know that bringing their kids isn’t acceptable, but pointing it out comes across as “Hey, try to look less poor, it’s gross.”

      1. Juli G.*

        I guess I’m coming from a place where we do career coaching for GED students in low income areas and they often don’t know until we tell them. And it probably does have to do with being poor and maybe not having professional expectations placed on them. Not because I think they’re gross or stupid – I just am throwing out the idea that it’s not something they’ve been exposed to.

        1. fposte*

          I think it’s a reasonable idea, but I personally would avoid it in most cases. I think “Some people wouldn’t like your bringing kids to an interview” would read as code for “I don’t like your bringing kids to this interview,” and I also think it’s really complicated to coach and hire at the same time. I do it sometimes with student hiring, but I generally coach in followup discussions after the hiring process is over.

        2. AW*

          I’m going to have to agree with fposte. It makes sense to say so as a career coach but trying to give any interview advice after you’ve hired them is going to be kind of weird. You might be able to give them some advice when they apply for promotions internally but at that point it’s really unlikely they’d bring their kid in for that.

        3. Ad Astra*

          It’s definitely something you should bring up when you’re coaching GED students in low-income areas, because they really might not know. If they truly don’t have a better option, at least they’ll know how it comes off and can maybe try to explain to the interviewer. But yeah, I can’t think of a tactful way for the interviewer herself to share that unsolicited feedback.

      1. Juli G.*

        No, I mean that maybe someone doesn’t want to be a maid long term. I’m not saying that they suddenly become a CFO but let’s say they get some good work experience and want to apply to become a bank
        teller. A bank manager is less likely to be compassionate about kids.

        Also, not everyone knows and is just low income with no child care. Some Why we see children continue a cycle of poverty in this country is that they may not see a lot of professional norms – people on this site have said that they had difficulty transitioning to white collar work after being raised in blue collar families. There are people that just might not know because no one ever told them.

        1. Allison*

          Right, but here’s the thing, these women might not understand professional norms, but it’s much more likely that they need to bring their kids because they don’t have any other safe, affordable childcare options.

          I have to wonder, is there anyone out there who takes their kids to work or an interview just because they want to? I kinda doubt it.

          1. Juli G.*

            The school system really falls down on this.

            My husband is in a skilled trade via a working apprenticeship. His dad and mom were both manual laborers and his stepdad was actually the person that trained him in his trade (not a family business). He went from low-income to a lower middle class upbringing. I had an upper middle class upbringing – Dad got an associates and a job 35 years ago when that meant something.

            We were talking about our preschool and toddler boys and he commented that since the one isn’t an athlete, he’ll have to pick up the trade. The thought our kids would go to college and enter a white collar career was so totally foreign to him even though he lives with a college grad who works for a Fortune 500.

            And there is so little understanding that upbringing influences so much of what the privileged think is “common sense”.

            1. catsAreCool*

              “The school system really falls down on this.” This!

              I tend to think that part of the point of public education should be so that kids who are in lower income homes can get a decent start in life. My parents were in the lower income class, but they are college-educated, use good grammar (and corrected us gently when we didn’t), and could help us if we didn’t understand a homework assignment. Not everyone is lucky enough to have parents who are that helpful.

  36. Mimmy*

    #3 – Just as everyone else has mostly said, the interviewer has always called me for a scheduled phone interview. This was at a nonprofit.

    #5 – Yup, these job titles vary widely. I had a job where I was a data entry clerk, but the official job title was Teapot Data Coordinator. Our manager, though, often referred to us as “data clerks”. A little demeaning, but more accurate, lol.

  37. Erin*

    #5 – Yeah, in my experience job titles mean absolutely nothing. Go by the job description itself.

    #4 – I guess after reading Alison’s response and the comments the big question is – how common is this in your industry? I’d suggest you specifically seek out people in your exact role and ask what their experience is.

    That aside, I think the communication about the kids beforehand is crucial. For instance, the woman who emailed you recently who mentioned she needs to bring her child – this is what would make it or break it for me. If you give me a heads up, fine. If you just show up with your kids? That seems pretty bold.

    Semi-related personal anecdote: I have a friend who moved across country when her husband got a job. When interviewing she didn’t have childcare yet, and obviously her husband was working – she was up front about this beforehand to interviewers. (She’s in nursing/home health care/midwifery if it matters.) I know in one case her in-laws were flying out a few days after an interview was to be scheduled, and she communicated her situation – she was able to postpone the interview until her family was in town to watch her daughter.

    Maybe if someone mentioned the kids beforehand as at least the one woman did, you could try to see if you could work around their schedule, to have the interview at a better time for them when they can get a sitter. As others mentioned, maybe that is literally not possible, but at least you could open a dialogue about it and attempt to work with them on it. Again, they’d have to communicate the kid thing to you beforehand, though.

  38. Chriama*

    #4: given the fact that multiple people do this and don’t seem concerned about it, isn’t it possible that this is the norm in your industry? I bet other cleaning services (and similar home help services) are allowing them to bring their kids along, or even encouraging it as part of the job. A lot of the traditionally female domestic positions (especially when an individual is advertising on craigslist for their own household) will offer free room and board or the opportunity to bring your kids along as if it’s some kind of perk — and for certain people, it probably is.

    Bottom line is, I would consider your candidate pool and what other people in your industry are doing before writing these applicants off. And if for whatever reason the childcare thing is non-negotiable for your specific company (you do executive cleanings instead of middle-class families, whatever) you probably need to make it clear in your job ad — at least then you’ll be weeding out people who don’t follow directions rather than writing off people who are victims of poverty and social constructs.

    1. Allison*

      Thing is, this may not be a dedicated housekeeper or live-in maid situation, I actually assumed it was one of those cleaning services that sends a van full of maids to different houses over the course of the day, to people who sign up for one-off or weekly cleaning visits. And just because a woman needs to bring her kid to an interview doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll also need to bring the kid to work, or require employer-provided childcare, if hired.

  39. Liz T*

    Between #1 and #4, this entry is going to have me depressed all day.

    #1: I can’t get a second interview for an admin job but this lady is set until retirement?

    #4: I’m so appalled that there are employers out there who can think of no reason a woman might bring kids to an interview besides “she’s generally unprofessional.” It’s so depressing to know there are employers out there who will cross women off their lists because they have children but no access to childcare.

      1. Jennifer*

        No, more likely they won’t replace the retiree and then you end up even more short staffed.

        Seriously, I am so sick of short staffing. When the hell will anyone make enough money to start hiring people again?!

  40. AW*

    #4 – All I can think of is that poor woman who was arrested for leaving her kids in the car for 30 – 60 minutes so she could do a job interview.

    1. JoJo*

      30-60 minutes is enough time for someone to die of heatstroke. She left a toddler and a baby in the car in Arizona heat. What where the police supposed to do?

  41. RVA Cat*

    “She also has long, long personal calls at her desk *that take me off tasks throughout the day.*”

    That right there is what you need to stop. You are her back-up. That means you cover for her when she is legitimately out of the office or busy with other tasks. You are under no obligation to cover for her when she chooses not to do her job, and that is a reasonable boundary for you to set and defend.

    I admire how conscientious you’re being, but your job comes first. If a customer comes to you after she has ignored them, you can help them if that is more urgent that whatever you are doing at the moment (and if not, it’s reasonable to ask them to wait a few minutes while you wrap up your task). Personally I would stop helping co-workers though, I would direct them back to her or to your manager. This is a hard habit to break, but remember, this is Slackzilla & the company’s problem, not yours.

  42. Krystal*

    @LW1: why not pop in earbuds, so others have to go to your coworker? I stopped being helpful when I realized that people were trying to get me to do secretarial tasks that are not part of my job – the secretaries loved it, but I’m not an assistant and don’t want to be seen as one. I’m a teapot maker, not a teapot assistant, darnit.

    I’m not sure if this is feasible for you, but I also requested a private office instead of an open workstation, so people get the message that I’m not a secretary. I would also stop opening the office, and not take it on as a thing you need to care about, unless it’s part of your job.

    At my last position, the receptionist would come in an hour early and take care of personal tasks until we started work, and she was happy to open the office. I refused to come in early on her days off, unless I was compensated for the time (because I would have been working, not writing out checks for bills, etc.), which irked our Big Boss when he arrived 45 minutes early one day without asking someone to be there, and without bringing his keys to open up. He gave me attitude about it, and I pointed out that I wasn’t able to clock in, per their instructions, until X time, so I planned to be there 15 minutes prior to X time. (He was angry, but, at the same time, this was a workplace who wrote you up if you accidentally accumulated 15 minutes of OT in any given week. I refuse to work for free for people who will happily nickel and dime.)

  43. NicoleK*

    OP#1. Yep, totally relate and sympathize. Your supervisor ignores the issue. You keep bringing it up. You get labeled the “problem employee”. I’m now seen by my supervisor as someone who doesn’t “deal well with ambiguity” (this was because I informed my supervisor that the new coworker wouldn’t work on projects with me).

  44. Potato*

    I just wanted to clarify the situation for #4. Most of the time, applicants who bring their children seem like they want their children there. Several months ago, a woman came in with her 2 year old. The woman’s friend waited in the lobby. The child was VERY well behaved and quiet but throughout the interview, the woman would answer my questions, then say, “right Connor?” To her son in a baby voice. Then she would stop to tell her son that he was cute and try to get him to show me something he could do like wave or dance. He was adorable and I would have loved to talk to him if I weren’t trying to conduct an interview. Every once in a while I’ll have an interview where the candidate just had no other choice but to bring their child and makes sure the child isn’t a distraction but a lot more, I see things similar to this woman who wanted to show me how cute her son is.

    I’ve also had cases where the candidate brought a friend to watch their child outside or in the lobby but either before or after the interview, they bring their child in so I can meet them. I’ve also had parents bring their teenage children with them. Due to these and many similar factors, I don’t believe that, in most of the cases, the candidates did not have childcare.

    In two cases, the candidates informed me beforehand that their usual childcare provider is unavailable for the week and they would need to bring their children or have the interview later. They told me the situation, they asked if it was okay and they were professional about it when they got there. They had quiet toys and paper for the children and it wasn’t a distraction at all. In both of those cases, I hired the candidate. I don’t think that bringing the children is unprofessional, but rather, the way the candidate acts with the child is unprofessional.

    As far as how common this is, I see children coming in with their parents about once every other month or so. It’s usually about 1 in 40 or 50 applicants. I’m sure it’s more common in lower wage jobs. Typically, our full-time cleaners make 35-40k + benefits and are coming from similarly paid, non-cleaning, jobs.

    I really like the suggestion to ask that the applicants not bring anyone with them to the interview. This would also prevent boyfriends and girlfriends from tagging along. If I mention that and the applicant was already planning to bring their child, that would at least give me some time to prepare the office and make sure that someone else is in the office to help keep the child occupied.

    1. LBK*

      I think you could maybe split the difference by saying that no one else is allowed to come into the interview and other guests will be expected to stay in the waiting room during that time. It sounds like for a lot of these, they could’ve left the child in the waiting room and it wouldn’t have been a problem – it’s the fact that they unnecessarily involved their child in the actual interview that’s an issue.

      1. Potato*

        Haha! The son was actually very professional in the interview. If he weren’t a toddler, I would have hired him.

        1. fposte*

          “We regret that we currently have no suitable opening for you, but we hope you will consider reapplication once you have mastered tying your shoes.”

    2. Kyrielle*

      Yeah, this definitely changes the picture quite a bit…the talking to/with the child (other than to comfort/distract them from interrupting) is especially bothersome. (And a little bit having the friend along and not leaving the child with them – although at that age, a child may in fact not be willing to go to someone they don’t know well and a screaming meltdown in the lobby or outside would be distracting – but in that case, was the friend there as transportation or what? That scenario is just odd.)

      1. Potato*

        Good point about the child’s age. I hadn’t even considered that children at that age may not want to be left with a friend. But yeah, it was still weird that the friend was there.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Yes, I think this may have been a one-off weird situation with an overall unusual applicant.

          It is also possible she was talking to the 2 year old like that either out of habit (after a few weeks as a stay at home mom I sometimes felt like I forgot how to talk to adults!) or because she was noticing him getting fidget-y and knew that “including” him in the conversation would keep him from interrupting or trying to wiggle away, etc. Maybe the friend was there in the hopes that the kid would go with her, but it was a no-go at the last second? Or the friend drove her and it was too hot or cold to wait in the car? But yes, that sounds like an exceptionally unusual one. But I guess if you interview 20 or more candidates a month (if I’m doing the math right) you probably see your share of unusual interviewees – after all, that’s part of why we interview and not just hire based on the paper application.

    3. Allison*

      All right, this does change things. In your initial letter you said that when applicants ask if they can bring their kids you’re tempted to tell them not to bother, I think that’s what a lot of people here are getting hung up on. I can see how it would be annoying for people to have their kids participate in the interview or bring a friend along and then bring the kid in anyway, even though they have someone who can supervise the kid.

      Basically, you need to find a way to inform candidates that you’d rather they not bring their kids unless it’s absolutely necessary.

      When setting up interviews, do you ever send people an e-mail with the information, confirming the time and telling them how to get there? If so, this might be a good place to say “We understand many of our potential employees are mothers, but we ask that you try to arrange for childcare during your interview; if you must bring your child, we ask that the child be kept occupied with a quiet activity” or just “we allow interviewees to bring their children on an as-needed basis.” Or you could just say that if and when they ask.

      1. Potato*

        In trying to keep my question short, I ended up leaving out a lot of the details. I am tempted to tell them never mind when they tell me their child is coming because of how poorly that situation normally turns out. But I really could be missing out on a good candidate if I don’t give them a chance. Most of the unprofessional candidates who brought their children would have most likely acted unprofessionally even if their children weren’t there.

        I do send them an email with directions to the office and encouraging them to look over our website, etc. It would be pretty easy and fix a lot of problems to just add a little bit about not bringing anyone else to the interview. That way if they for some reason NEED to bring a friend or child, I will at least know about it ahead of time.

        1. Kyrielle*

          I will say that if you use Allison’s verbiage above, I’d change “mothers” to “parents”.

          Other than that – they probably would have, but in a way they’ve done you a favor by putting it on display before you hired them, at least.

  45. Noah*

    The woman who cleans my home twice a week brings her son and daughter along. They are both elementary age. She did ask me first. Apparently my place is close to their school and it works best if she can pick them up from school and then come clean my place. It also allows her to fit one more home into her schedule for the day.

    The kids seem well behaved. The one time I was there when she was cleaning they were at the table on the balcony working on homework. Normally I’m at work and just come home to a clean apartment with no sign they were even there.

    This isn’t a Merry Maids like company though. She works for herself and doesn’t have any other staff. She also does an amazing job.

  46. Biff*

    I gotta be honest, I completely disagree with the sentiments running around regarding children at the interview. This is NOT something the business should be obligated (legally, ethically, morally) to accommodate in any way. We’ve been pretty consistent on this blog that fulfilling a basic biological function (having kids) doesn’t privilege people around the office.We’ve also had several letters in which people abusing the fact that their company was family friendly was roundly censured. I think that if a man was writing in, about men bringing their children to construction or day-labor interviews, people would be rightly appalled at his lack of professionalism or concern for his kids.

    If it’s not okay for a man, it’s not okay for a woman. The fact that the industry is dominated by women or that the work happens within homes does not make it somehow inherently more safe than a construction zone or factory. In fact, being held to no standards, it might be more dangerous.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d say the exact same thing about a man in this industry or day labor. It’s not about women; it’s about understanding your labor pool for your particular field.

    2. JoJo*

      I’m with you Biff. Just wait until a child spills caustic chemicals or damages or breaks expensive items, or someone reports that children are working. You’d be opening yourself up to a tremendous liability. If they bring children to the interview, I’d assume that they don’t have daycare and will bring the children to the workplace. That would automatically disqualify them as far as I’m concerned.

      1. Biff*

        I think Alison is imagining a nice lobby area or a very generic office. When I’ve interviewed for positions like this in the past, the ‘lobby’ has been a plastic chair or two in the receptionists office – no place to put a child’s table, and sometimes not even that. I’ve also been in offices that are more semi-private supply closets. Now, it’s possible a nicer agency has a small lobby area and a private office, but I don’t feel that should be an indication that a child would be welcome or safe there.

      2. ImprovForCats*

        Or they don’t have daycare because they can’t afford it (or get subsidies for it) until they get a job. Or they can’t arrange daycare to cover the erratic schedule of interviewing vs. a more regular job schedule.

        And the vast majority of posters are talking about children being present at an interview, not children being present on the job, especially from a maid service (as opposed to an individually hired person).

    3. Kara*

      The difference is that men aren’t pigeonholed as the primary childcare givers in the family, most of the time. That has been addressed in this thread multiple times.

  47. Today's Satan*

    I am waaaay late to the party and probably no one will see this, but I wonder if it’s just a cultural thing to have the whole fam-damily along and not just a lack of childcare.

    I had my hips replaced at the local county hospital a few years back. At my follow-up appointments for x-rays and staple removal, there were always clumps of families in the waiting room [taking up every available seat] that consisted of the older / elderly-ish parents, the patient (who was also there for x-rays and staple removal), 1-3 people near his/her age, plus several children ranging in age from infant to very pre-teen. Surely, I thought, one or two of the adults could have stayed behind with the kids. I never understood why Every. Single. Member. Of. The. Family. had to be there for someone’s follow-up appointment. As long as I could drive myself, I always went alone. Otherwise it was just me + driver. So I chalked it up to major cultural differences.

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