keeping visitors from wandering our office, flooded with employee referrals for bad candidates, and more

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

1. How can we keep salespeople from wandering about our office after their appointments?

I am the receptionist for a company that has about 70 employees in this facility. 99% of the people entering the office will stop and sign in. The problem I have is that when a salesman has an appointment with an employee, after he is finished with the meeting, he walks around the office “popping his head into other offices.” It is disturbing to the assistants too. These salesmen will sometimes will stop and stare at the papers on the desks and interrupt people’s work. How can we put in place some type of system/policy to assure that once the appointment is completed, they return to the reception area? Even if they have another appointment with another person, they need to sign in again.

The most effective way of doing it would be to enlist the employees who the salespeople are meeting with. Ideally, when the meeting is up, the employee would say, “Let me walk you back up front” and actually accompany the salesperson back to reception. That makes it less likely that the salesperson is going to try go back and wander through the offices … but if they do try to, at that point, you can speak up and say, “Did you have another appointment?” and if the answer is no, “I can’t let you go back unaccompanied.” (Stand up when you say this if they look like they’re going to just head back anyway. Standing up tends to carry a subtext of “I’m about to block your way.”)

2. I’m being flooded with employee referrals for mediocre candidates

Where I work, our employees seem to want to get every single person they are acquainted with a job at our company. On a normal day, I have around five employees approach me to give me the name of their friend who applied. It gets very tiring because 99.9% of the time, these referrals are not exactly up to par. How can I tell employees that their friends/family will not be receiving a phone call to come and interview without telling them why?

Be direct: “She didn’t meet the qualifications for that position, but thank you for sending her our way.” Or — if you haven’t reviewed the person’s application yet — “I’ll definitely take a look. I know we have a competitive pool for that position, but if she’s a strong candidate, we’ll reach out to her.”

Because it’s a chronic problem, you might also consider giving your staff as a whole more information about what it takes to get an interview. You could say something like, “I’ve noticed that we’re getting a lot of referrals — and it’s great that you’d like to see your family and friends work here — so I wanted to share some information on what we’re looking for in candidates. First and foremost, if someone doesn’t meet the posted qualifications, it’s very unlikely that we’ll interview them, so you should encourage anyone you know who’s applying to make sure they’re well matched with the role and that their application materials make that clear. We also really put a premium on good communication skills; we get a lot of candidates with sloppy written materials or no cover letter or who don’t follow application instructions, so you might encourage your referrals to pay attention to those things as well.”

The other thing I’d look at: Are you offering referral bonuses, as some companies do? If so, it might be encouraging people to refer candidates willy-nilly, and it might be worth looking at whether it’s causing more harm than good.

3. My company wouldn’t interview me for an internal position that I’m qualified for

Recently, I applied for an internal position within my company that I know I am fully qualified for, but was passed up for an interview because I’ve only been here a little over a year. The company I work for uses Nowlin testing to help determine who is compatible and I tested extremely well.

According to what they were looking for in a candidate, I met all the qualifications as far as education and skills, and I had some experience with the software program that they use. When I asked our HR coordinator why I was passed up on for an interview, she stated she had two candidates who were here longer than I was, and they were being slotted for interviews. I later found out that one of the people who was interviewed had only been here about four months longer than I have been here, and additionally, I know she doesn’t have the educational qualifications requested on the job posting. Do I have any rights, legally or otherwise, to make sure I am able to be interviewed?

No, not unless there’s reason to think that you were passed up because of your race, religion, sex, national origin, age (if over 40), disability, or other protected class. Employers aren’t legally obligated to interview internal applicants, even qualified ones, and they’re not obligated to run a “fair” hiring process — just one that doesn’t violate federal anti-discrimination laws.

It’s possible that your company won’t consider people for internal transfers if they’ve been there less than 18 months, or that they don’t think you’d be as strong a match for the position as others, or that they think you’re difficult to work with, or the hiring manager just doesn’t like you, or your current manager isn’t thrilled with your performance, or all sorts of other possibilities. Also, keep in mind that just meeting the job’s qualifications isn’t enough — lots of candidates will meet the qualifications, so then it comes down to who’s BEST out of that group.

You can certainly ask what you can do to make yourself a stronger candidate for next time, though.

4. Following up on a raise request

I work part-time as a legal assistant for a one-man law firm, and have been there for about a year and a half. I work about 30 hours a week during the school year (I’m in college), and full-time when school isn’t in session. Our office manager, who is usually full-time, recently went on an extended medical leave, leaving me to handle her role as well as my own, in addition to training a new employee to pick up the slack in answering phones and doing simple filing. I’ll likely be handling most of this work even after the office manager comes back, as she’ll be returning in a few months on a part-time basis.

I requested a raise last week, citing my increased responsibilities and performance improvements since my last review, and my boss agreed that I deserve an increase in pay. However, he said he was unsure whether he could give me one in his current financial situation, and told me he would let me know Monday. Monday has now come and gone with no response. I feel a little hurt that he hasn’t spoken to me about it, and would have been less anxious if he had given me a timely “no.” How long should I wait before broaching the issue with him, and what’s the best way to ask?

It’s reasonable to follow up now. I’d say, “I was hoping to touch base with you about the possibility of a raise, like we discussed last week. Is there a good time for you to talk in the next few days?”

5. How far back can I push an interview when I’m sick?

I received an interview offer via email and was asked to let them know when I would be available. In other words, they’re allowing me to pick an interview date. Problem is: I’m sick–very, very sick. I was wondering if 1-2 weeks is too far out to request an interview date. I could let her know about my hospitalization, but I don’t want to come off unreliable or full of excuses. If I push it back too far, it may come off as uninterested–and I’m sure that they have a line of applicants ready to interview asap (this IS my dream job after all). However, I really need a MINIMUM of a week just to have the strength to walk through the door; I wish it was just a cold/flu where you pop a couple of Dayquils and just show up to do your best.

Is two weeks too long or should I schedule it a week from now (and try to make it through the interview without fainting)? Would you say that even a week is too long to make them wait?

Tell them what’s going on! Explaining that you’re in the hospital isn’t going to look unreliable or full of excuses! (And someone who thinks that is someone you don’t want to work for.) I’d say this: “I’m so excited for the chance to come in and talk with you. Is it at all possible to schedule for the week of ___? I’m currently in the hospital (I will be fine, but need a week to recover), but would very much like to talk with you once I’m recovered. Is (date) too far off?”

It’s possible that they need to wrap up interviews before then, but it doesn’t sound like you can come in earlier anyway — so if that’s the case, that’s the case. But you’re much more likely to get a positive result by explaining what’s going on than by being vague.

{ 235 comments… read them below }

  1. Diluted_TortoiseShell

    #2 My managers have been complaining lately that their pool or applicants is not good and that way too many people are extremely over qualified for the role.

    Well I took a look at the job description and a lot of the wording in there does make this entry level job sound like a senior or expert level position. Frankly there are lines in there that simply aren’t true. I brought this up to my manager and was told “Do not nit pick the wording. People get too hung up on job descriptions.”

    Have you taken a look at your job descriptions to make sure they are accurately portraying what you need? It’s possible adverts are vague enough that co-workers honestly think their friends/acquaintances could meet your needs. Since it’s happening so consistently it makes me think this could be the case rather than people gaming the system for referral bonuses.

    1. katamia

      …What are people supposed to base their decisions about whether or not to apply to a job on if not the job description?

      1. Diluted_TortoiseShell

        That was my thought. While I completely agree that it’s important not to think that your job description as an all encompassing document of everything you are expected to do … the job description is an integral part of a job application process.

          1. LPBB

            That was really interesting, thanks for linking to it. It definitely put some of my job seeking tendencies in a different, more compassionate light. I think recognizing them as a rational response to the realities of job hunting and an expression of my rule following nature rather than yet another failure of confidence will really help me get unstuck!

          2. Mockingjay

            Insightful article. I saved a copy.

            I realized that I need to broaden my job search – I have been limiting my applications for the very reasons cited in that article!

          3. NK

            This is really interesting. Recently I was on an interview panel for finance candidates, and all of our hires ended up being women – they were simply far better candidates than the men we interviewed. I found this a little odd for finance roles (awesome, as I’m a woman in finance myself, but odd). Another female colleague pointed out that perhaps the women who applied were the ones who were extremely qualified, while the men may have been applying more as a stretch candidate.

          4. Dr. Johnny Fever

            I had a former woman leader clue me into this difference. When I was looking for a new job earlier this year, I took her advice to heart – don’t look for 100%, look for 60% and a good stretch, and as long as I nailed 2/3 to 3/4 of what the position needed, I should do fine.

            I posted for a stretch job (one part I didn’t know but was well-versed in the other two pieces), was honest about needing a mentor for that third part, and I got the job. I was told that the self-awareness of my strengths and my weaker areas was refreshing.

            It really is a whole new perspective – I found myself writing more assertively, speaking more assertively, and that came across as confidence. I’m doing well precisely because I’ve focused on doing what I do well while learning what I need and trusting my team during the transition.

          5. manybellsdown

            The only thing I’ll usually ignore in a job posting is if they just want a generic (something not specific to the business) BA. I had to leave school just before completing mine. I don’t say that I have a degree, but I also don’t consider myself less qualified than someone who was able to finish those last few units and walk at graduation.

            1. Ad Astra

              Captain Awkward says to ignore degree requirements and let them decide if they’re interested, and I think it’s great advice. There are some exceptions (like, physician) where the degree is truly necessary, but those are usually easy to spot.

              1. Joline

                I would also consider whether or not I wanted to try for it (depending on the time commitment) if it was a union position with a degree or professional designation as a requirement. There it often is an actual requirement.

                For my current role you need a professional designation, the role below at least a bachelor’s degree. You cannot be hired into those positions without those qualifications even if you would be the best person for the job. We have some people who are grandfathered in from before the rule changes but they can’t even apply for internal transfers at the same level because it’s considered a hiring into a new position and you can’t hire without those qualifications.

        1. Ad Astra

          It may be true that current employees (either at your company or in general) get too hung up on job descriptions as an exhaustive list of duties, but when it comes to applicants you’re killing your chances with a bad job description. I see a lot of descriptions that are so jargony and stilted that I give up halfway through and stop reading, which is bad enough, but inaccurately describing the qualifications you’re looking for is nuts. And also probably quite common.

      2. stellanor

        I have no idea! I met a guy the other day to talk about an internal transfer, and the first thing he says is “Oh, let me see if that job description is accurate, I usually just copy and paste old ones.”

        Turned out it wasn’t accurate and he in fact wanted some skills I didn’t have that he hadn’t mentioned in the job description AT ALL! We could have both avoided wasting each other’s time if he had just been bothered to write a decent job description.

      3. INTP

        The years of experience requested can be a helpful guideline, though in my experience they will generally hire on the higher end. The lower end is more what they would theoretically accept for a perfect candidate, but they rarely find all the skills and experience they want in someone at that end of the range. (That’s just my anecdotal experience, like everything else HR-related it may not apply outside California.)

    2. Charityb

      Agreed. This might even be the case for the OP who isn’t allowed to interview for an internal position. I’ve always wonder d why so many companies are comfortable with inaccurate job postings. It seems like taking an extra fifteen minutes to look over the posting to make sure that the posting isn’t completely wrong would save you hours of sorting through resumes and sitting through pointless interviews…

      I’m sure there is some office political reason for it but it just seems bizarrely inefficient.

      1. Three Thousand

        They might figure no one is actually reading the descriptions and they’re just there to take up space, so it doesn’t matter if half of it is wrong. Which is a great way to end up with piles of poorly-qualified candidates.

        1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For

          When I took over my department at my old job, the first thing I did was revamp the job descriptions. They ones they were using 5-10 year old and just been “find and replace” style edited from another position.

          People (not HR) were really bothered that I was doing it, when all I was doing was reflecting the skills and qualities we actually hired for.

      2. Mockingjay

        It’s been my experience that most job descriptions are a combination of basic requirements set by the company or HR (degree + X years of experience = level 2), and specific skills and needs identified by the hiring manager. The hiring manager is usually a technical or project-level leader who may not have the greatest writing skills. They know what they want, they just don’t communicate it that well in the description. These are also the people who cut and paste from old copy.

      3. Stranger than fiction

        It seems just as common that companies can’t properly describe their job roles as it is applicants can’t properly write their resumes. No wonder hiring is so tricky!

    3. F.

      I tend to take the posted job descriptions literally, whether I am posting them or applying to them. When I write a description for a recruiting advertisement, I am careful to use the words “required” and “preferred”, though I am amazed at how many people will apply with none of the “required” qualifications or certifications. Those aren’t there just to make things difficult, they actually are required by our client for the level of work. Taxpayers don’t want uncertified and unqualified inspectors inspecting the construction of their highways!

      1. Anx

        This is so incredibly frustrating to navigate as a job seeker.

        I’m a pretty literal person. When I see required I think required. But I could be self-selecting myself out from plenty of positions if I don’t apply, when they really meant preferred.

        What’s worse is when these ads are posted through the website’s ATS and there’s a template for Minimum Experience and Education, Preferred Experience and Education, etc. and it’s obvious that whoever wrote the ad didn’t do so with that template in mind, and then copy and pasted it to different sections after the fact.

      1. Mike C.

        Like, isn’t understanding cause and effect one of those baby milestones that parents keep track of?

        1. Three Thousand

          Some people’s heads seem to be filled with nothing but automatic reactions and rudimentary pattern matches. They don’t recognize discrepancies in their thinking because they don’t know how to look for them.

        2. Dr. Johnny Fever

          If common sense were really that common, I would be out of a job so fast every poster’s head here would spin.

          1. The Other CrazyCatLady

            I think that’s my mantra at my job. “Common sense is not that common.”

            I also internally cry about the lack of critical thinking skills, attention to detail, and the inability to make small logical leaps.

    4. Bwmn

      In addition to this – another thing that came to mind is that perhaps there are staff assumptions that whoever currently has the job doesn’t actually meet the requirements. Over the years, I’ve heard from a number of friends “oh, don’t worry about the description – they’ve hired xyz people in the past who are missing half of that”. So it may be that if the job posting “wish list” is too extreme, and it’s known that the candidate hired rarely comes close to meeting everything – and that makes people feel comfortable encouraging incredibly unqualified candidates.

      In the country where I used to work, a lot of times language fluency requirements would be listed that came with a lot of eye rolling when you saw the salary. As a result, the types of applicants could hit all sorts of ranges on the “this is my language experience, but I have no professional experience” – and similarly “I have the professional experience, but my language experience isn’t up to par”. And then odd mixes in the middle. But ultimately, it was a system where organizations got wildly inappropriate candidates and honestly weren’t truly internally evaluating what was most important for the position with what they were going to pay.

  2. hc

    Ha! I once lost a job because I was in the hospital. My now-husband (then just acquaintance) worked there at the time, and remembers hearing his boss’s boss mention my candidacy. They didn’t believe I was really in the hospital!

    I’m sure this is not remotely normal.

    1. Jeanne

      Life happens. Hospital visits can happen to anyone. If they hold that against you, that’s a vital piece of info about working there. They might be jerks. Just being on a short timeline is different.

      1. Elizabeth West

        Exactly. They may be willing to stretch it a bit, or they may not be able to, but the OP won’t know if she doesn’t ask.

        hc–the people who didn’t believe you ARE jerks.

        1. Fact & Fiction

          Ridiculously easy to ask for a note from the hospital to verify…they wouldn’t have to share WHY just that yes the person is hospitalized. When my brother had a TBI in another state and I flew out o spend 3 weeks there, I just had them fax a note. I mean I think it’s better to trust the person unless they reveal a pattern, but there are workarounds if you’ve been burned by candidates lying in the past.

  3. RachelR

    Re: #1

    We have random people wander into our office for no reason and it drives me nuts.

    “We used to work in this building 30 years ago; wow, it looks so different!”

    “This is a cool office space…. are there others in this building for rent?”

    “I used to work with the company that was here before you guys. Do any of you need your computers fixed? ”

    I DON’T WANDER INTO YOUR PLACE OF BUSINESS AND DISTURB YOUR WORK.

    1. stellanor

      Sometimes I find it annoying to have to wear an ID badge and swipe at a zillion doors to get to my desk, but damned if it doesn’t keep the randos out.

      1. AdAgencyChick

        Seriously. I had no idea this was A Thing. I guess it’s not a thing anywhere I’ve worked because there are always ID checks everywhere I’ve worked.

        1. K.

          Ditto – I’ve always had to swipe a badge or something to get into the office. The lobby, fine (I used to work for a major media company and we’d get tourists in the lobby) but access to where the work was done has always required ID.

        1. stellanor

          Yep. All guests have to be signed in and escorted in my building. We’re expected to bring them back to reception and make sure they turn in their visitor badge, too. There’s a lot of confidential stuff in my building so no one is allowed to roam.

          A side effect of this is if I see anyone I’m not familiar with on my floor I become very suspicious and defensive, though. New employees get the hairy eyeball from everyone their first day if their manager doesn’t introduce them around. (On the plus side if you look lost someone WILL offer to help you as a pretense for finding out if you have a reason to be there. If you do they will cheerily direct you.)

      2. SJ

        Ugh, I would give anything to have to swipe into my building. I work in an admin building on a college campus, and the majority of our buildings require swiping in with an ID, but mine doesn’t. We have people wandering in all the time hoping to just drop in on some of our top admins for a surprise meeting, and some of them seem unbalanced in some way. It blows my mind that we allow this to happen.

          1. Myrin

            Usually means that your Email account (the one you listed when posting) is connected to a Gravatar profile. I believe Alison can just delete the Email field and your photo will disappear.

            1. SJ

              Thank you! I have no recollection of making a Gravatar profile, but it looks like I did. I’ll go fix it on my end too.

      3. MashaKasha

        +1000. I have never worked in an office where strangers randomly wandered in, and I don’t think I could. I’d rather put up with the inconvenience of swiping a ton of doors to get to a printer or a bathroom.

      4. Elizabeth West

        Ha, me too. At Exjob, we also would get people come in and ask to use the loo (in an industrial park). We didn’t have a public loo and told them so. I don’t know if they were filling out applications at every business in the park or what; they never asked for an app, just the bathroom. Which was super weird, because we were at the very end of the road in a cul-de-sac, and you had to drive ALL THE WAY down to get to us. Just random people who needed to pee. o_O

        1. Oryx

          I wonder if it was a situation where they’d just been visiting one of the other business, either meeting/interview/app, and needed to pee but were too embarrassed about doing it at the place they’d been at or were going to?

        2. CJK

          Oh, I am (very occasionally) one of those people! But I work for my local government and do work at construction sites so sometimes I’m in an area where there is just no other close-by option than to pop into a business and ask to use theirs. I always explain myself and am always so self-conscious of being seen as a random weirdo. Luckily I’m a pretty normal looking young woman and have never gotten a no or had anyone seemed frightened of me! When you have to go you have to go!

      5. Honeybee

        True story…I know randos would wander into my building if they theoretically could but I never anticipated what it might mean to actually have that happen.

    2. Jeanne

      Perfect!

      The employee with the visitor should be responsible to make sure the visitor is signed out and escorted out or signed off properly to the next employee. Tell vendors if they can’t follow the rules then they won’t be welcome at all.

      1. TootsNYC

        Yes! Actually, they have the responsibility for everything their visitor does from the moment they meet the visitor in the reception area. (Make them come up and meet the visitor if they don’t already–that’ll help change the corporate culture a bit, if you’re now just sending them back.)

    3. Not Today Satan

      I’ve had two salesmen come to my office unsolicited in the past week. I’m sometimes the only person in my (satellite) office, and I happened to be alone both times they came. THANKFULLY they picked up on the fact that I was uncomfortable with these strange intruders and left quickly, but ugh unannounced visits are not cool.

      1. Felicia

        A lot of sales people come into my office selling either stuff we never and will never need, and stuff we sometimes need, but we’re happy enough with what we have that we won’t trust a random person off the street. I’m often alone when this happens as my office is only of 5 people, and it makes me very uncomfortable, but I don’t think they notice. Does this tactic ever even work for anyone?

        1. MashaKasha

          Back in the 90s, in our home country, a college friend of my x-husband’s took a job as a salesman that required walking into random offices trying to sell a product. He told us that he’d been thrown out of offices, physically beaten, thrown down the stairs. If he ever sold anything that way, he never told us about that, but my guess is, he probably didn’t. He didn’t stay long in that job.

            1. MashaKasha

              It might be cultural ;) The 90s in our home country were pretty much Wild Wild West, where people could get away with anything… I wouldn’t try it here.

        2. Alli525

          Recently, a sales rep for an office supply company called the CFO’s assistant to introduce himself and ask if we were interested in switching away from our current office supply company. She happened to have been working on a frustrating order at that moment, so she listened to what he had to say and asked him to email her more information. He said he would be in the area the next day and offered to come by, which she declined and said she would call/email with any questions. All this unbeknownst to me, the admin that sits closest to the door and is therefore the de facto receptionist (which is a whole ‘nother can of worms).

          The next day, the doorbell rings and some guy asks for CFO Admin. I call her to let her know she has a guest, and she fills me in. I took great delight in turning him away (politely!) … except that he wouldn’t take no for an answer, and I finally had to tell him, “Listen buddy. She said she specifically told you not to come by. She cannot meet with you. Please leave.” He left our office… but half an hour later was still lurking creepily on our floor. I called him out on it as I was getting lunch and he said “Oh, I’m just waiting for a conference call.” Why on earth would you wait 30 minutes to do a conference call in the elevator bank, which has terrible reception, of an office you were just escorted out of? MAJOR creepy vibes and I was very glad when I walked by a little later and he wasn’t there anymore. And guess what? We will NEVER use that office supply company. His actions assured us of that.

        3. Kairi

          Oddly enough, we had a office supply sales guy come into our office a few months ago and leave information and we ended up switching to them! It helped that he was professional looking, polite, and wasn’t too pushy. He certainly didn’t wander the office after leaving info at the front desk though.

      2. plain_jane

        At my last office (open plan, no barrier between the receptionist and the rest of the office) there was a guy who would come in and try to sell us flowers at the end of the day – “leftovers” from his deliveries. And once a guy came in with a portfolio of drawings/sketches that he wanted us to look at & buy. Very random and uncomfortable.

        The ones who came by unannounced to try to get our printer/office supplies business were annoying, but easier to deal with.

        1. Elizabeth West

          Random walk-in stories:

          At the cafe in CA, we left the back door open because the kitchen got really hot (no AC). This little old Mexican man would show up randomly with a big bucket of flower bouquets. We always bought from him if we needed flowers for catering. He spoke no English at all but was very nice. We loved him.

          Another time, a drunk staggered up to the door and bellowed at me, “GIMME A BOWL OF SOUP!” My boss told me to call the cops. He wandered off before they got there, toward the drugstore, where they picked him up.

          The company finally had to install AC and start locking the door at night after the night crew was robbed at gunpoint–twice, once while I was still an employee and again after I left. I’m lucky I wasn’t working that night. Apparently, it was pretty intense. One guy hid in the walk-in and nobody made fun of him at all. We were all like, Good call, dude.

          And once, at Exjob, the cops were chasing this fugitive and he walked right in our back door into the break room and was confronted by our CEO. He tried to lie and say he was visiting an employee, but Boss didn’t buy it and threw him out. He took off (they eventually caught him) and the back door became more secure after that.

      3. hbc

        Oh, man, I was solo in the office, six months pregnant, and had some sales guy wander in and try to sell me golf outings or something. Then he started talking about how I had a welcoming, nurturing aura, and he just wouldn’t shut up.

        There was nothing nurturing about my aura at that moment, I assure you.

        1. Winter is Coming

          I felt extremely vulnerable when I was pregnant…like I couldn’t run away if I needed to!

          1. Elizabeth West

            Not pregnant, but sitting at the front of the office at Exjob, I always felt vulnerable. So I figured out which of my office supplies would make good weapons. I had my stapler, my tape gun (with a wicked blade on it), various assorted wood samples, etc. When we had office safety training, they did receptionist training and went over how to deal with an intruder. The safety guy told my boss, “I’d be more afraid for the bad guy than for her!” ;)

      4. Stranger than fiction

        On that note, I’ve never worked anywhere that solicitors were allowed in. I guess some people ignore the signs sometimes though.

    4. ScarletInTheLibrary

      Because I work for the government, we don’t have a real say in who does our facilities maintenance. Sadly, there is a bylaw/code/rule that pretty much means a specific agency does those things for all things at our level of government. Workers from this agency always think that they can go anywhere and whine when staff stand up to them when they are not escorted in certain parts of the building. Did I mention we are a library/archive/museum so there is a reason we have more security procedures than most other entities. In response to our efforts, they try to do work before and after employees are there to stand up to them or would be able to see them in certain areas. Since they have keys instead of badges, timers on when they can enter a room are useless. Some of the managers at the facilities agency are good about enforcing rules but there are some they think our security procedures are crazy so they they don’t enforce them. UGG

    5. Former Diet Coke Addict

      Yes! Why do people do this? “I was just passing by and wanted to see more about your company,” or “I’m new in town! Are you hiring software engineers?” “I used to work here twenty years ago….it’s really changed since then!” Why? I have never wandered into someone else’s office and demanded someone take time out of their day to satisfy my curiosity!

      1. Kelly L.

        At one of my old jobs, our offices were perched above a small art gallery. There was also some art on our walls, and you could see up the stairwell from the gallery to our office suite. Once in a while, we got visitors who thought we were part of the gallery and were very confused to find us all up there doing office things! :D

      2. Arjay

        Just last night, I drove by a place where I used to work. They’ve made a lot of exterior changes, and I caught myself wondering what it looked like inside, what companies were in there now, etc. I did not, however, actually stop and attempt to satisfy my curiosities and nostalgia, because I’m not quite that much of a weirdo.

        1. ThursdaysGeek

          Uh oh.

          Although, at least in my case, the building is still occupied by former co-workers who I stay in contact with, they’ve mentioned the renovations and that I should come by to see it. The poorly fitted exterior door that let in spiders and small snow drifts is now just a part of the hall leading to a very nice new part of the building.

    6. anonanonanon

      I’ve actually had your first example happen with my apartment. The couple was very nice, but I live in a city so there have probably been dozens of people who have lived in this apartment before I did and I don’t really want them to all come knocking on the door asking to see if anything has changed and telling me about how it was their last apartment before they bought a house.

      I also have a cousin who did this to the people who bought and renovated my grandmother’s house. It’s weird. Don’t try to invade people’s homes or workplaces without an invitation. Ugh.

        1. anonanonanon

          Yeah, that’s one of the reasons I would never let anyone in to view my apartment. It’s a weird request to begin with, but I’m not going to take my chances on potentially being robbed.

        2. Stranger than fiction

          Yeah, that occurred to me with the random people dropping into offices under the guise of selling something. A friend of mine’s business was robbed earlier this year and they think it was someone else in the office park, because they get their neighbors randomly dropping in to chat with them (my friend is young and in the music business, so they don’t think much of it). But, they learned their lesson, all their top of the line computer equipment was stolen.

      1. Rita

        The house my father and his family grew up in was torn down and is now a donut shop. My uncle always jokes that one day he’s going to go in and tell them about how he grew up there and how much has changed (not really).

      2. cynicalNYer

        I’m as NYC as they come, but I surprised myself when a lady buzzed my apt explaining that she used to live there–she said she was visiting the neighborhood with her daughter, I could hear them laughing joyfully, and she sounded like an older lady. I was home alone with 2 young kids (i’m a woman), but my gut said OK. I let them up and they were delightful. I really don’t know why I said yes, but am glad I did. Not that I’m advising others to do this, just wanted to chime in that sometimes it works out! They told me things about the apt I never knew, and commented on the changes that had been made. I gave them my e-mail and hoped they’d send old pictures, but they never did. It was a 100 year old building and I love NYC history so I was curious about it, too bad.

        1. Lily Rowan

          Yeah, I recommend bringing an old lady in this scenario — my grandmother and aunt have been inside their old house, 50 years after they moved! (Usually we just drive by….. Maybe my family is just creepy????)

      3. Pennalynn Lott

        I keep wanting to stop by my childhood home and see what it looks like on the inside now. I realize that’s kind of creepy, so in my head I’ve planned to be wearing a business suit and carrying an album full of pictures from way-back-when, both to validate that I’m not a burglar casing the joint and to show the current homeowners what the place used to look like in case they’re interested in the history of their home. [I know I would love to hear stories / explanations about some of the stuff in my house.]

        But I’ve had this fantasy for almost 10 years (since my mom moved out of that house) and I haven’t acted on it yet. :-)

      4. Paquita

        A few years ago I went with my mom and aunt to the town where they were born. They wanted to go to the church where family is buried. After that we drove around and found the house where they lived for a while. They and my grandmother had stayed several years with some other family members there when my grandfather was traveling for work. We parked the car and just stood on the sidewalk and looked. Well, the people living there came out, invited us in and gave a tour! They knew some of the family history-one of the cousins was an alcoholic and they and found liquor bottles behind the walls when they renovated.
        That was a very good experience but probably not the norm. The couple was also able to show us the cemetery where that cousin was buried, no one left in the family had known where it was.

    7. Not The Droid You Are Looking For

      We recently moved from another building into our main office and I am shocked at the number of people who wander through.

      For some reason my office seems to be the first open door on people’s natural path, so I end up with a lot of random queries. I’ve been able to talk to UPS/FedEx about how they have to check-in with reception and I can’t sign for anything, but I’m amazed at the people who demand I stop what I’m doing to help them because they’ve shown up without an appointment.

      1. Alli525

        In my office, you have to show ID at the security desk downstairs, and once you’ve gotten upstairs, you walk through the doors and either turn right or left. If they turn right, my desk is the first one they see, because we do not have a receptionist. Now, our door has a keycode lock on it, so you can’t get in unless you know the code… except that I work with a bunch of irresponsible man-children who would just hold the door open for random strangers as they were leaving to get lunch or whatever, so these strangers – usually just UPS/FedEx guys, but sometimes it would be a client or an important person who deserved to be treated way better than just ushered in and abandoned – would wander up to my desk and be like “uhhhhh hello???” It made me so angry that I pestered the CEO and COO until they sent out two strongly-worded emails that seem to have resolved everything. So far.

      2. Pipette

        Back when the front door to our two-storey office building was not locking properly and anyone could walk in, we got an amazing number of delivery persons coming upstairs. However, the strangest upstairs visitor we had was a very polished-looking gent who wanted to borrow our franking machine.

    8. fposte

      I work in a former frat house. It’s a thing for the new brothers (the frat’s still around, just elsewhere) to get in and try to roam the space.

      1. Lindrine

        It would totally be a thing for me to call the police and complain to the frat’s governing body.

        1. fposte

          Oh, it has happened; fines have been levied, even. But since we’re also university we reserve that for egregious crimes and not just appearance in a building that’s technically open to the public.

      2. Aunt Jamesina

        By any chance are you in a former Acacia house turned graduate school whose acronym rhymes with Christmas? If so, hello from a student of that school! If not… disregard my creepy comment :-)

    9. xarcady

      One job, long ago, the office was built out on pilings over Boston Harbor. We had a small deck/balcony thing out back with a picnic table, where we’d eat lunch in nice weather. And if the wind wasn’t blowing from the direction of the Fish Pier.

      I was amazed at the number of people who’d walk in and think we were a restaurant and they could order lunch and sit on the deck. Or that they could eat their picnic lunch/takeout from the fish place next door there. Their reasoning seemed to be, “Hey, there’s a place we can eat lunch. So what if it is attached to a place of business. We want to eat lunch there!”

      They’d walk in, and since you could see right through to the sliding doors out to the deck, they’d try to walk through the Executive Director’s office to get to the deck. He was not amused.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        Oh, god. My husband and I accidentally walked right in to a family’s cabin when we were out hiking one day. There was a row of cabins and then a large lodge, and we thought the lodge was the park restaurant, as it was similar to restaurant lodges in other state parks we’d been to. We walked right in the front door and stood there looking around for the hostess and/or a likely place to sit. The couple inside came up and started talking to us, but something didn’t feel quite right (no hostess stand, no other obvious signs of restaurant-ness) and we started to become a little uncomfortable. It turns out that the couple had only just arrived for check-in at their cabin, and they thought we were park employees. So we all stood inside their cabin doorway, each of us thinking that something was weird and “off”, until we finally figured out that my husband and I were a couple of jackasses. So embarrassing.

        1. Lily in NYC

          hahahaha! That is just classic.
          I accidentally got into a stranger’s car once because I thought it was someone picking me up for a babysitting job. It was just some dude who sat in front of my house for a minute trying to figure out if he had taken a wrong turn (very rural area). He was like: You are so helpful! I’m lost! Thank you!. I was 14 and an idiot. Thank god he wasn’t a creeper.

        2. Older Not Yet Wiser

          That is so funny! We once stopped in at friends’ small antique business in a small tourist town. We decided to meet later for dinner and they offered to let us wait at their house (where we had never been before). We went to their house, looked around, used the bathroom, had a drink sitting around in their living room. Then went to meet them for dinner. We commented on a unique work of art on their wall. They were baffled about this since they did not have such a piece of art. Turns out we had been hanging out in their next-door-neighbors’ home that afternoon! So glad the neighbors did not come home while we were there!

    10. coyote_fan

      This line would be most concerning. “These salesmen will sometimes will stop and stare at the papers on the desks”. They may be trying to get a peak at competing bids, or other proprietary info. If I caught an external person looking at papers on someone else’s desk it would make me want to question the ethics of that sales person and possibly stop doing business with someone who doesn’t understand personal privacy.

      1. Artemesia

        We had that problem as well. ONe guy actually took a purse out of a file cabinet while the person was in her office; he pretended to be a janitor emptying the waste baskets and she didn’t pay attention.

        We had several purses disappear so that everyone was warmed to lock everything up.

  4. Chocolate Teapot

    2. I have worked in several companies which offered referral bonuses but never referred anyone myself. In fact I don’t think anyone ever got a bonus as a result of this.

    That aside, I can imagine if an employee is short of money, the idea of making some extra cash must be tempting.

    1. MK

      Sure, but they must know a federal isn’t a guarantee of anything. I cannot tell from the OP’s letter if these people follow up on their referrals, wanting to know why they weren’t selected, or if it’s the OP herself that feels obligated to explain. If it’s the latter, I really don’t think it’s necessary to do that.

    2. Jen RO

      My company encourages internal referrals, but they handle it just like Alison said – if the candidate doesn’t meet the requirements, they just let the referrer know and that’s it.

      For some stats, I referred 10 or so people in my 5 years here, and two were hired (and I got bonuses for both of them).

      1. Elizabeth West

        That’s basically how most places I’ve worked handled it. I never referred anyone–but I’ve had lots of people ask me if my current company has openings. Since it’s very technical, I wouldn’t know how to refer them because I don’t understand what they do.

      1. Charityb

        It usually works that way, but then it becomes a numbers game. The more people you refer the more chances you have at getting one of them hired. Of course this only works if the candidates are competitive but the people doing the referrals probably think they are.

        1. Stranger than fiction

          Exactly. And people are sometimes blinded by their own bias towards their friends and family. Or, they overestimate exactly what a referral is and think it’s like a shoe-in. My money is still on bad resumes though.

      2. Ad Astra

        In addition to a bonus for referring a successful applicant, my company holds a quarterly drawing for a gift card. Everyone who referred a candidate who wasn’t hired gets thrown in that drawing. My company has offices in some very small towns and our lower-level positions have pretty high turnover, so I can see how a referral would be really helpful in those cases.

      3. K.

        At one of my previous employers you got a $500 bonus after your referral made it past 90 days. I actually didn’t know there was a bonus to begin with, so it was a nice surprise. I took my friend/new colleague out for a drink when I saw it.

        1. Alli525

          This happened to me too! A temp I hired years ago texted me out of the blue one day and said “I know a guy, he’s great and he’s applying to your office, any advice?” I told him that he had been such a great temp that I was happy to personally pass along his friend’s resume… the friend got hired (and is a really nice, hardworking guy thank goodness) … the CEO called me the day after he was hired and said “Hey, we have a referral bonus, if this guy stays for 6 months you get $1500.” O___O Very excited for that to kick in in a couple months.

    3. the gold digger

      I worked for a place that had referral bonuses – or so it said on the internal website. I referred a few friends, not because of the bonus (it was only $200) but because I thought they would be good in the jobs.

      After the first referral, for which I filled out the required form, I was told that the company no longer paid referral bonuses.

      The next time I went to refer a friend – again, just wanting to give HR a heads up that I knew the candidate, the bonus information was still there. They could not get their act together and take down inaccurate information.

    4. Not The Droid You Are Looking For

      When I lived in a smaller city in the MidWest a lot of the employers had a refferal bonus and it was fairly common to write down someone you barely know name (or reach out if they had to fill something out) for people.

      Like, “oh I hear Sally’s cousin, Susie Smitg works at Teapot Inc. you should put her down as your referring employee.”

      So people who had never worked with someone, or really might not even know them, were listed.

    5. ThursdaysGeek

      I’ve referred people and gotten the bonus at two different jobs. But people have to not only be hired, but make it through their probation period. And when I tried to refer someone I hadn’t worked with, I was told they wouldn’t take the referral. You had to know the person, have worked with them, they had to be hired and make it through probation. Only then was the bonus dispersed.

  5. De (Germany)

    #1 I am surprised this happens at all. What do these salespeople say to the people who have meetings with? If I have a meeting with an outsider, after we are done I’d always do the “let me walk you to the exit” thing. Do the salespeople lie and say they have another appointment or something?

    1. Myrin

      I imagine the salespeople and employees they’re meeting with are just saying goodbye in the office or conference room or whatever where they met and then the salespeople wander off alone with the employees thinking they’ll head straight to the door but that not happening.

    2. MK

      If your workplace is an office suite in a building or even an entire floor, it makes sense to walk them to the door or to the elevator. But would you walk someone to the building’s entrance? That would waste a lot of time and come off a bit odd, I think.

      1. Christy

        My office walks people to the exterior door; in fact, we’re required to do so. It’s not that weird if it’s the standard. You walk people in and you walk them out again.

        1. doreen

          It really depends on the building. In the building I’m in now, we walk people to the exit from the building – but the building is two floors and we occupy the whole thing. When I worked in a 10 story building with other tenants, we walked people to the door of our office, which led to the the elevator lobby. We didn’t take the elevator down ten floors to walk them to the building exit.

        2. MK

          That’s fine if your office is anywhere near the entrance (to your place of business); to get there from my office you have to walk through two long corridors, pass an atrium, take the elevator or stairs two floors down, walk through another corridor and one more atrium. There is no way I could afford the time to do that with every visitor; and it would definitely look odd to them if I did so. If the workplace is the whole of any reasonably big building you either have to trust visitors to get themselves off without bothering people (we are lucky because people tend to not linger around courthouses) or have a designated receptionist/security person to ferry then around.

      2. TootsNYC

        They have a reception desk–they walk them to the reception desk, where they picked them up. And then the receptionist can oversee their passage out of the building’s “premises,” whatever that is.

        My company has multiple floors; I walk people to the elevator, because each floor is locked.

    3. Stranger than fiction

      I am too. I’m wondering if it’s industry-specific that these salespeople are to wander around shaking hands with other employees, dropping off their business card, etc.

      And, thank you for saying salespeople, drives me nuts when people say salesmen. Women sell too.

    4. Calacademic

      I work on a college campus and the salespeople regularly schedule multiple visits with multiple departments in multiple buildings on one day. We meet with them, give them directions if needed when we’re done and go back about our business. But they can’t just come into our spaces. While the buildings are unlocked, our labs and offices are locked.

  6. Christy

    Oh man, OP#5, I wish the flu were just a “take some DayQuil and push through” kind of illness. Once I tried to do this, and I asked my boss if I could go home to sleep at lunch and come back later (I lived a 20 minute walk away and was wiped out at 11 am) and he told me to stay home, and I was so exhausted walking home that I had to rest halfway home. I was then home sick for a week, strategically plotting my trips up and down stairs to minimize exertion because doing stairs was too challenging.

    This is just my PSA that the flu is quite unlike a cold, and that if you are considering a flu shot, to remember that they’re available now. (I get mine at work tomorrow.)

    And I’m certainly sorry you’re so sick, OP#5, but it sounds like Alison’s right that this isn’t something you can just push through.

    1. De (Germany)

      Yes, that’s what I thought reading this as well. It’s also a problem caused by people who truly only have a cold, and then say they have the flu to make their illness sound more “legitimate”, though. It’s okay to stay home if you have a cold, people, really. No need to call it the flu when it isn’t.

      I almost lost a friend to the flu once – she spent weeks in hospital, had to be placed in artificial coma and everything :-\

      1. Hlyssande

        I had it in college and it was horrible. I literally could not READ (in a class that required a novel a night, even) because my eyes could not focus and I couldn’t comprehend what I was able to catch.

        1. Kelly L.

          YES. That was the worst. I caught H1N1 back in ’09 and that might have been the hardest part to deal with–not even being cogent enough to read. Normally that’s what I do to stay sane while I’m sick! Also, my throat was so sore that the only way I could stand to get calories into me was ice cream. I was very, very glad I’d bought a substantial amount of ice cream before I got sick.

          1. Susie

            Having H1N1 was the worst illness I’ve ever had.

            I’ve had the flu before and I have some chronic conditions that sap energy and focus, but H1N1 was a different beast entirely. I have never felt so weak and useless.

      2. HigherEd Admin

        And don’t get a flu shot just to protect yourself; get one to protect any babies, elderly people, or people with poor immune systems that you may come into contact with!

        1. Blurgle

          There are all kinds of people who either can’t get the flu shot (babies, some chemo patients, people with egg allergy) or who don’t benefit from it because their bodies don’t make antibodies well enough (some chemo patients, some HIV patients, some transplant patients, some of the very old). Those people depend on herd immunity.

        2. AnotherAlison

          Don’t forget that maintaining good natural immunity yourself through good health (eating well, avoiding stress, sleeping enough) and practicing good hygiene (hand-washing, quarantining yourself if you do get sick, etc.) can do a lot to prevent the spread of the flu.

          Even if you do get the flu shot, its effectiveness can be limited (some years more than others) so it’s always good to do what you can to prevent it.

          1. Stranger than fiction

            I’m with you. There always seems to be some new strain that the shot doesn’t cover, then it covers that strain the following year, but there’s yet another new strain it doesn’t cover, and so on.

            1. Not me

              Well, yeah. There are a lot of strains of the flu. The flu shot covers 3-4 of them, based on some educated guess of which strains will be biggest this year. Can’t get ’em all. Having better health overall seems to help.

          2. LSP

            This year is way better than last year. The most common strain in covered by the flu shot this year. Yay!

          3. Ad Astra

            People forget this! Even if you’re protected from the flu, you’re still likely to come down with a nasty cold or a sinus infection or who knows what else if you don’t take care of yourself.

      3. Artemesia

        My grandmother died in the great epidemic of 1918; she was only 24 years old and had a 2 year old child — my father. I always get my flu shots. When my daughter was pregnant there was a shortage of the shots and I was really worried until she could get one as my grandmother had been pregnant when she got the flu and was dead within 12 hours.

    2. Elizabeth West

      Yes, full-on flu is AWFUL. It kills people, too. Get a shot, not just for your own sake but for people who can’t get one. Herd immunity FTW. I think people confuse it with a cold many times, though I’ve had some colds that were pretty bad. At least to the point where I had to take a day to rest.

      OP#5, I hope you recover quickly.

    3. LSP

      You took the words outta my mouth. So many people use cold & flu synonymously when it’s so not!!!

      I heart all of you – thank you for thinking not only of your health but of those around you (infants, elderly, immunocompromised, etc.)

      1. Three Thousand

        “Cold” and “flu” often seem to refer to a more general “too sick to go to work, but will recover with a couple of days rest and is not in need of a doctor” illness.

        1. Sarah

          I like to call that “a 48-hour bug” when I’m calling out sick because as someone said upthread, “cold” sounds too trivial – people in my office come to work with colds all the time, unfortunately for the rest of us – but just having a fever and mild nausea isn’t the same thing as the flu, and I’d rather not mischaracterize my illness.

      2. Saucy Minx

        #5, do not take your flu-ridden self out in public, where you can put everyone you contact in danger of catching the flu.

        I used to work in a bookstore & was astonished at the people who would come in, make their way around the store while coughing & blowing their noses & handling books, & finally come up to the register & tell me they had the flu but just HAD to get out of the house. Then handed me the polluted books they had chosen & their polluted money.

        My only comfort was that I reckoned they couldn’t really have the flu, or they would not be standing before me. Also, I started getting the flu shot after my first encounter w/ one of these selfish & unaware persons.

        1. Artemesia

          I know someone who took their kid to the doc with a raging case of pink eye and then had to stop at the pharmacy to get the prescription filled. What did the 9 year old do while waiting for his mom to get the prescription? Tried on sun glasses of course.

    4. Chameleon

      Thank you! I’m a microbiologist, and it drives me nuts when people talk of the flu like it’s no biggie. It’s the number one infectious killer in the US, people.

          1. Harriet Vane Wimsey

            If anyone wants to read a terrific book about the flu, “Flu” by Gina Kolata is great. Nonfiction and riveting about Flu pandemics.

  7. BRR

    #3 It sucks your employer doesn’t seem forthright as to their reason why you weren’t offered an interview, but when people write in in these types of situations are they really hoping to sue their way into an interview or job? It might be something they really want but it’s probably not for the best for a number of reasons.

    1. Charityb

      I always interpret these questions as being more of a “last hurrah” type of question rather than genuinely believing that they can sue their employer into giving them an interview or approving them for a nicer parking space or paying for their train to work. It’s kind of like saying, “I’m at my wits end! what else can I do????”

      1. BRR

        That’s a good point. Maybe slightly differing from your thought but that if somebody looked at them with a raised eyebrow and asked “really?” they would respond with “I know” and let it go.

      2. some1

        I think the attitude of assuming you are entitled to some sort of appeal or review might carry over from school, too, where in a lot of situations you are at least entitled to a sit-down with an explanation.

      3. Not The Droid You Are Looking For

        I swear someone (maybe AAM) about how the questions about legal are really around a desire for fairness in the comments a few months back.

          1. videogame Princess

            Yeah, I saw that too. She was saying that people conflate legality with fairness a lot.

        1. Shell

          I think it was fposte, and she commented that by the time legal action is brought onto the table, it was about compensation and not correction (though often the person wanting to sue gets them muddled).

    2. F.

      Actually, I read that the employer WAS forthright about why #3 wasn’t interviewed: they had two other candidates they thought were better qualified. I certainly hope #3 didn’t speak of suing the company to anyone at work. Few things are more likely to cause an employer to find a reason to terminate your employment than threats of litigiousness. I personally know someone who threatens to sue every time something at work doesn’t go her way. And she wonders why she keeps getting fired and finds it harder and harder to find new jobs. She has almost exhausted the list of potential employers in her field (occupational therapy) in our area and has had to change specialties just to find a job.

      1. BRR

        Oops, I misread the letter. Thank you for pointing that out (my new work schedule of getting up at 5:30 isn’t boding well for my AAM reading comprehension). When the LW said somebody has been there four months longer I read it as somebody had only been there four months (and assumed the LW had been there longer).

      2. Elizabeth West

        I had a classmate who was in the midst of job hunting and had an ongoing lawsuit against a former employer. I wondered if she mentioned it at interviews–she was convinced people weren’t hiring her because she was over 50, but I think maybe it was something else!

        Or maybe the employer was telling people “She’s suing us” when they called for references. I don’t know if that’s legal (or fair, or whatever). But she also had an enormous attitude problem, so that could have been part of it.

        1. Sarah

          This probably doesn’t apply to her situation, but it’s making me think of how deeply unfair it is that when employers grossly mistreat employees, our current system basically requires that employees either suck it up and stay, leave and pretend they haven’t been harmed, or put their future job prospects at risk using the legal system to try to get compensation for damages by labeling themselves troublemakers.

          1. Elizabeth West

            I completely agree. If they were making it hard for her to find work, then they should be flogged. But knowing how incredibly dramatic this particular person turned out to be, I’m skeptical. Besides, they might not have been permitted to mention an ongoing case.

          2. I'm a Little Teapot

            +lots. I think it should actually be illegal to consider litigation against previous employers unless it was thrown out of court as vexatious, without merit, etc. – because there’s currently such a powerful disincentive to get labor laws enforced.

      1. BRR

        I understand how many don’t have training or education in legal matters, my comment is about people who seem to be hoping to sue their way into something. Comparing job hunting to dating, it’s like how people try to “trick” someone into liking/dating/having sex with them. If you sue your way into an interview, do you think you’re going to get hired? If you sue your way into a job, do you think it’s going to be a positive atmosphere or a job you can thrive in?

        1. Kelly L.

          I’ve said this before, but not everybody who has a legal question is planning to sue over it. As an example, sometimes Alison gets a question where a company isn’t paying people for all the hours they work, and it’s not legal, and Alison’s advice will be to tell the boss something like “I’m worried we could get in trouble over the way we’re paying people here.” Asking about the law does not always mean one is about to file suit. It’s more that sometimes a boss or company is breaking the law and doesn’t realize it (or is feigning ignorance and hoping the employees don’t realize it), and the employer might well shape up because they don’t want to be penalized by the IRS or OSHA or whoever.

          1. Ad Astra

            I think most legal questions here aren’t really “Can I sue over this?” but rather “Can they do that?”

            1. Turtle Candle

              Yes. Sadly, a lot of people have very little faith that their employers will do right by them unless forced. And while at a good workplace they may (hopefully, will) be wrong in that, at a lot of workplaces–especially things like retail, call centers, fast food/casual dining, etc., where employees are (often unfairly) perceived as ‘disposable’–they may not be wrong. (I was amazed when I switched from retail/call-center work to office work to find out that my boss wouldn’t harass me for a sick day, nickel and dime me on two minutes late clocking in, or count my bathroom breaks. And that there was, gasp, free coffee, and I could have as much as I liked as long as I made a fresh pot when I finished an old pot. Amazed in a good way, I mean! But years of customer service jobs had taught me to expect the bare minimum of decency required by law and absolutely nothing more.)

              I think it’s less likely that most people mean “I wanna sue and get a ton of money” as that they mean “this seems unfair, am I wrong, can I do anything about it?” And if they don’t have any expectation of being treated well simply as valued employees who the company wants to retain, “is this legal?” may be the only way they can think of to ask the question.

              I really doubt it’s mostly about people champing at the bit to spend a ton of time and money on lawsuits.

        2. Mike C.

          From a direct, practical sense, you’re correct.

          What bothers me is this obsession we have as a society that says “there are too many lawsuits” and “people are trying to get free money that they don’t deserve” whenever the issue of lawsuits, legal rights and so on come up. The best example is the famous McDonald’s coffee case, which most folks don’t realize the plaintiff suffered third degree burns, only sued for $800 in medical expenses, was found partially to blame anyway, and McDonalds was cited previously for holding coffee at a near boiling temperature. Instead you’ll hear people complain about how irresponsible she was to spill her coffee and “of course it’s hot coffee” and so on.

          It drives people to shy away from protecting their legal rights, from seeing the legal system as a legitimate way to solve matters between two parties and so on. It allows more advantaged parties to take advantage of ignorance.

          To borrow from your own analogy a bit, a teenager who asks about the mechanics of how sex and human reproduction work isn’t always interested in going out and having sex with every willing partner they can find afterwards. Maybe they want to know “just in case”. Maybe they’re curious. Maybe something happened to them, and they’re worried if there’s a risk of pregnancy. Simply asking about knowledge doesn’t mean they’re going to simply abuse it.

    3. Beck

      I had the same reaction to this question. If you bring legal action against an employer to interview to a different position, how could you possibly believe you’ll actually get the job?? Way to burn some bridges that you really need at the moment…

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever

        Exactly. Let’s say, for sake of argument, that it was illegal for them to hire someone with less seniority, which they did, over her. Let’s then say she successfully gets the job (not necessarily through suing, but maybe some sort of restitution from a complaint. Now she has the job.

        Now what? The hiring managers didn’t want her. They didn’t think she was qualified enough. Her coworkers thought they would work with someone else until she appeared. She’s the one who got the other guy fired, so why would coworkers want to work with her or not? Why risk being the next potential target if she has seniority over you and is in a position of power over you – does she think she can effectively do her job if no one is courageous enough to have a real conversation with her?

        Is it legal? No. Is it fair? Depends on the definition. Sometimes experience and will trump seniority and skill. That’s life. It may feel unfair to you, but I’ll bet it was a very fair decision from the hiring manager’s perspective.

        1. Stranger than fiction

          Yes, one of the few things my (crazy) mom was right about is Life’s Not Fair. And it’s the underlying theme here quite often.

  8. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

    #1

    I got this one. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. It’s rude and it’s a waste of staff time. (Wandering around the building like you own the place? Taking other people’s time without asking? Step back!)

    It’s great if you can enlist cooperation from internal meetees as Alison suggests, but that wouldn’t work in our place. When Wilma has met with Fred, she personally doesn’t really care if he walks around and it’s not going to be top of mind with her to corral him out.

    What has worked is protocol. I lost it one day after the 11 thousandth person just wandered into my office to “check in and say hi”. I (senior management) worked with the receptionist for meeting protocol. With a little trial and error, she worked out a spiel that stopped it. (She’s the sort of person who radiates nice and friendly, which means she can pull off saying authorative things and still sound nice when she does it.)

    The protocol she explains to every visitor (when they walk in) is to the effect: after your meeting with Wilma, please return to reception. If you’d like to see if anyone else is available, or say hi to anyone, I can call them for you and see if they have a minute to come down for you.

    It used to be a horrible problem and is now pretty rare. If I catch anyone walking around my floor, I’m jack rabbit fast to push them straight to reception, I don’t care if they are in mid sentence, telling them “you can’t do that. you can’t just walk around the building.” It’s pretty embarrassing to be led out to reception by me, by the ear, so that doesn’t get a repeat offense.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

        You know what, I’ve been in management for 20+ years, raised two children to college, and take in rescue dogs. I’m not the person you want to mess with, being all rude, ignoring instructions and acting like you own the place when you’re a visitor.

        Manners! It offends me. :-)

        1. Alli525

          I hope I am like you when I move up in the corporate world! I feel very similarly about office decorum/manners/protocol, but it sucks because I’m an admin without much sway power :/

    1. F.

      When I was on the front desk, I didn’t have very much of a problem with legitimate visitors wandering around, since we invoked safety protocols as the reason to require an escort. My biggest problem was with the occasional drunk/high person from the seedy bar two doors down and especially door-to-door salespeople. Despite having a sign visible from the front door stating “No Soliciting”, salespeople would come in and argue with me, trying to get to see the owner (who doesn’t even work in our building) or another executive of the company. I once had to actually threaten to call the police to evict a couple of highly-perfumed, very aggressive and rude salespeople from a certain very-big-name-telecom company from our tiny lobby.

  9. AdAgencyChick

    #2, if your company offers referral bonuses, is the dollar amount the same for someone you’ve worked with or someone you know personally but haven’t worked with? Most places I’ve worked at offer a pretty sizable bonus if the person is someone you have worked with, but only a token payout (like 10% of the amount you’d get if you’d worked with the person before) for referring a friend, and nothing at all for a family member. If people are doing it for the money, perhaps creating some kind of tiered system like this would help keep people motivated to bring in candidates whose work they actually know, while being less encouraging to those who just want to throw names at the wall and hope that something sticks.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

      That is really smart. Lots of people don’t see why referrals are more valuable if you actually worked with the person, and this certainly makes it clear.

    2. Mike C.

      I disagree with this. What if you’ve worked with the friend before, or there was a family business you were involved with? So long as a the candidate is good, it shouldn’t really matter how they knew the person beforehand.

      1. AdAgencyChick

        As someone who has recommended a friend with whom I had not worked personally, I now understand why it’s a good distinction. I had seen his portfolio, so I figured it was at least worth tossing his name in the ring. Turned out his portfolio looked great but he had worked with other people to make it look that nice — he had great skills as a user experience designer but not as a graphic designer, and he was hired as the latter. If I’d worked with him, I’d have known that and would not have recommended him for that job.

        I’ll concede that you could know someone’s working style well in a family business — but those pretty much don’t exist in my industry, and family members are usually barred from working together, so I can’t imagine the situation would come up often where someone would be upset because they lost out on the bigger referral bonus because the person was family.

        1. AdAgencyChick

          PS, my friend was fired, and I felt horrible, because he ended up being out of a permanent job for several months and I also felt bad that his boss, with whom I am also friendly, got someone who couldn’t do the work he needed him to do. Not going to say I’ll never recommend a friend again, but I will be much more careful about finding out the exact requirements of the job and talking through them with the friend if I ever do it again.

          1. Arjay

            Just adding that there can be a sizeable difference between a referral and a recommendation. A referral is just me letting someone know we’re hiring for a position they may be suitable for/interested in, and the rest is up to them and the hiring manager. A recommendation is a lot more serious where I’m putting part of my reputation on the line to back this candidate.

          2. CMT

            That does really suck for your friend, but you’d think there would be a more thorough hiring process in place. For example, maybe references could have told the hiring manager about your friend’s actual graphic design skills.

            1. AdAgencyChick

              Yeah, and I was pretty upset at his boss even though I also consider him a friend, because I thought a more thorough interview process might have uncovered his weaknesses.

              I think it’s that my friend was bringing some overlapping skills but from a slightly different industry with different expectations for what constitutes a good graphic designer. Nobody intentionally screwed up, but we all learned a lot about how to be better at hiring from the experience. :(

      2. LBK

        I would assume actually working with them overrides the relationship, it’s only if you haven’t that you get the small/zero payout.

        1. Elsajeni

          Yeah, I would figure you get the payout for the highest applicable category. (Also, I would figure that, if you’re referring a friend you’ve also worked with, you would say “I worked with Karen at Teapots Inc. and can vouch for her spout design skills”; the fact that you’re also friends isn’t really relevant, and unlike if you were family members, I don’t think it needs to be announced as a conflict of interest, either.)

    3. Ad Astra

      I’ve never heard of this distinction before, but it makes a lot of sense. It’s fine to refer someone you don’t know very well who seems competent, but you can’t truly recommend someone unless you’ve worked with them.

    4. Bend & Snap

      YES. I had someone use my name against my wishes once. I was eligible for the referral bonus but she quit a week later (90 day period, she quit at 97 days) and they told me I wasn’t getting the bonus.

      The whole thing was crappy and made me not want to bother with actual, quality referrals.

  10. 123456789101112 do-do-do

    #3, I got an interview for an internal promotion. My boss and her boss said that I knocked it out of the park, that I was everything that they wanted for the position. But I “couldn’t” have the position because I hadn’t been in my current job for a year. Now that I’m working with the person who did get the job, the conclusion that I have come to is that rigid and stupid hiring practices like “butt-in-chair time” requirements only serve to hurt the employer.

    1. Christy

      My employer (the federal government) requires a year of butt-in-the-chair time in order to advance to the next grade. If you apply for something without that, it’s an automatic disqualifier. I’m surprised you could even get the interview. That seems exceptionally silly to interview you for a position that they KNEW they weren’t going to be able to put you in.

        1. NerdyCanuck

          Is it possible they wanted to see if it was worth it to go to bat for an exception to the policy?

    2. AnotherAlison

      Agree that it may hurt the employer if you have the best person for the job, sitting right there, and you can’t put them in the position. On the other hand, the point of the policies is usually to stop people from hiring into less desirable positions, with the mindset that they’ll be able to transfer out to the position they want soon. The policy makes sense, but the lack of flexibility for cases when it is really the best for the company and the employee to have them in a different role, does not.

    3. some1

      It actually does hurt the employer, though. At my former company, the two most entry-level teams literally always had at least one open req because a candidate would get hired and apply for an opening on another team within a few months. It costs a lot of time and energy to recruit and onboard someone to the same team every few months. They finally instituted a policy that you couldn’t apply for an internal position unless you had held your current position for a year AND had an above-average performance review for the most recent eval.

    4. Dr. Johnny Fever

      I’ve worked with some vendors and lost many talented ones because their companies had strict time in role requirements and rigid career paths. In one case, an engineer learned he was talented in project management, but his vendor company wouldn’t put him in the role and pay him accordingly because he was following the wrong path. He quit.

      I’ve lost so many this way, I can’t even count anymore.

      1. Ad Astra

        A year at the company is a perfectly reasonable guideline, but it doesn’t make sense to have rigid restrictions. Internal candidates are a known quantity and sometimes it just plain makes sense to promote someone early than to fill a vacancy with an external candidate. Companies need the flexibility to be able to make that call.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever

          Agreed. In this case, he’s learned in 3 years what his company expected would take him 7 years. No matter what feedback we provided, his company insisted he wasn’t qualified when he was already doing the job exceedingly well. I don’t blame him for leaving one bit. I would have done the same. Talent trumps ass in chair.

  11. Lionness

    OP #1

    Our company has a policy that addresses this. It took some buy in and awhile to set in motion, but it is really effective. If someone is visiting you (vendor, salesman, client, interview candidate, etc) you must meet them at the front, sign them in, escort them back to the meeting/working space and then escort them back up front and sign them out.

    Non-employees are never allowed unaccompanied. They can’t even wait alone. Mind you, we have a great deal of proprietary information that would be highly valuable, so there is a lot to protect, but even if you don’t it seems like a good policy to stop the wandering.

    1. Hlyssande

      My company issues temporary badges for visitors that are bright orange and yellow and say VISITOR ESCORT REQUIRED.

      1. Mike C.

        Yeah, when you have sensitive information, security needs to be treated like safety – everyone is responsible. I presume that if you catch someone alone with such a badge you then become their escort, right?

      2. Bend & Snap

        Yep, in my company you are in Big Trouble if you don’t accompany your visitor. It’s never an issue because our security team is a bunch of hardasses

    2. Stranger than fiction

      Yes, and the Op mentioned the visitors eyeing papers on people’s desks. I bet if she uses security and confidential information as her ammo, the rest of management could be swayed to implement a policy. And the people having the meetings? So what if they’re slightly inconvenienced by having to get out of their chair and walk for 30 seconds. Seriously.

      We have a policy here you can be fired for letting anyone in our front door! (you have to be buzzed in). At first I found it awkward to come back from lunch or whatever and see someone just standing there that I couldn’t let into the lobby, but they seem to understand. Sometimes I will just ask if they’re at least being helped.

  12. The Other Dawn

    RE: #1

    I just read an article this morning in a security bulletin that talks about a visitor management system. For example, have visitors sign in and out on a log, give them a visitor’s badge, post signs directing all visitors to the reception desk, post signs explaining the policy, etc. And, of course, training employees on the new system. Obviously, some of this might be too formal depending on the size of the office. Perhaps a combination of Alison’s suggestions and a couple of these might work.

  13. Bostonian

    True salespeople wandering the office is super annoying, but I’ve worked in several organizations where it would be pretty normal for a visitor to stop in and say hi to others after a meeting. Examples include an established vendor who had relationships with several people within the company, a former employee who was back in the office on business for his new organization, a volunteer committee member who worked with other employees at the nonprofit on other projects, and that sort of thing. Most people in these situations really do just wave hi and take their cue from the person being visited about whether it’s a good time to stop and chat or not.

    This may be more common in nonprofit and public sector work where someone at a similar or related organization is likely to have positive relationships with the people in question, not be seen as a competitor. The point is, not every organization is or needs to be set up to control visitors in quite the way many commenters are suggesting, especially at smaller places. It does sound like OP#1 needs a more controlled system, though, especially if the wanderers are aggressive salespeople just looking for someone new to listen to their pitch.

    1. Elizabeth West

      This was the norm at Exjob too, but we were in an open office, so you could see where the visitor was and who he / she was talking to. We had badges and they absolutely needed one to go out into the shop. Everyone had to wear safety glasses too, and it all went through me. They preferred to have accompaniment for visitors to the shop and if you saw anyone out there who didn’t look as if they belonged, you were supposed to ask them what they were doing. Anyone who just wandered out into the shop without glasses would be spotted pretty quickly.

  14. TheBeetsMotel

    #1 I wish we had a better barrier between our front desk and the rest of the building sometimes. We’re a small business, with clients that have sometimes known my boss and wife for 20+ years and treat every trip to pick up product as a reunion. It’s one of those “been going on too long to say anything now”- type situations, and can be very distracting (bosses resent it as much as anyone else during busy times.)

    Did once see my boss run up to a pushy salesman, arms flailing, shouting “You can’t come back here, we have a confidential project!” (no, we didnt, but it’s feasible that we could have). Amusing to watch, and put a stop to him wandering in back whenever he felt like it.

  15. blu

    #2 You might consider putting in a “middle man” in the form of technology. If you have an applicant portal already then accept referrals through there as well. If not then you can set up a mailbox with an auto responder. It won’t necessarily stop the poor referrals, but it should cut down on the walk up to you and hand you names behavior. We did this at a previous company and I can’t remember the exact wording but the auto response indicated that we would not provide details to the submitter about the person’s status as candidacy details would only be communicated to actual “applicant”, but that we would be in touch if the candidate was hired and thus eligible for a referral bonus.

  16. Erin

    #5 – *They won’t know what’s going on unless you communicate it to them.* It sounds silly/obvious, but as an introvert who avoids conflict I often have to remind myself of that, especially at work.

    Alison’s wording is, as usual, spot on. I would literally copy and paste that into the email. Considering how long hiring processes tend to take I can’t imagine this would be an issue in most industries.

    Best of luck to you for a speedy recovery.

  17. Anon Accountant

    #1 – Employees really need to escort visitors back to reception or some way of securing access to offices. The latter option may be cost prohibitive. Are “visitor lanyards” an option? This may make it seem more official to visitors that they are identified as a visitor and may deter from wandering around. The best option is a policy and enforcement that staff escort visitors and vendors back up front.

    Side note: I used to be and auditor and once when we were working on site at a client’s an employee walked into the room where we were working, sat down and proceeded to eat her lunch. We were working in an empty office with our workpapers spread out on the desk area. She brought a book with her to read for after she finished her lunch too and told us “I always eat and read in here”. We identified ourselves as auditors and she was adamant she always ate and read in there so it shouldn’t be an issue although we were in there. Thankfully the executive director told her she couldn’t be in there she was specifically asked. She wasn’t happy but did leave the room.

  18. INTP

    #2 – If you find that you’re spending a lot of time and emotional energy on fielding referrals and informing the refer-ers of rejections, maybe a more automated and impersonal referring process would free you up a bit. Maybe set up a specific email address that referrals are sent to with a similar “If we like you we’ll call” auto-reply as you’d use for the general applicants. You can frame it as a non-sarcastic thanks for the enthusiasm everyone has for referring, then “Due to the high volume of referrals, we’ll be moving to this new system, thanks for your cooperation.”

    I agree that examining the job descriptions, making requirements and dealbreakers clear, and reconsidering the bonus policy for referrals that are not former colleagues are all great ideas too, but I don’t know that it’s going to significantly discourage people who have family members hassling them to give a referral and/or have been told “apply for jobs you don’t think you’re qualified for!” and “You get jobs from networking.” I mean, my dad has been in management, hiring and firing, for years, and was still convinced his company would consider me for a 5 years experience minimum HR Generalist position when I had one year experience in a niche part of the recruiting process “because you’re smart.”

  19. TooGood

    #3 – Sometimes people fail to get a promotion because they are too good at what they do and their manager doesn’t want to replace them. I speak from experience. It’s not fair, but I’ve seen it happen.

  20. Blight

    #5: I think the smartest move would be to request a phone interview so you could at least ‘keep’ your interview without having to show up. You can follow that up with asking to reschedule an in person interview depending how the phone interview goes.

    1. Kyrielle

      I’m not sure that’s the smartest move. If OP is merely bedridden and can talk coherently, then sure. But if they’re in pain, on pain medications, in pain *and* on pain medications, exhausted, or otherwise out of their game, a phone interview while in that state is probably a recipe for disaster.

      1. Susie

        THIS!

        I took a phone interview once when I was ill and on medication. I didn’t want to reschedule and lose my chance at the job, but doing a crappy interview because of the state I was in made me lose my chance at it anyway.

        1. Lindsay J

          Yeah I did a phone interview for a bank while I was sick one time and the interviewer commented that I didn’t sound very enthusiastic about the position.

          At that point I pointed out that I was sick and insisted that I was enthusiastic about the position, but I’m pretty sure that impression was what lost me the job (or at least the chance to interview in person).

  21. Beatrice

    Re #2: I also work for a company that seems to attract every acquaintance of every employee. Mine is an airline where every employee, even part-time, gets extremely good (standby) flight benefits. People see that once or twice a year their friend So-and-So flies to Paris for the weekend “for free” and decide that they, too, want this glamorous life of travel, regardless of whether or not they have any interest in the industry, aptitude for customer service, or want/need/have time in their schedule for a part-time job.

    Every time my station posts for part-time employees they get something like 500-700 applications within the first couple days, so you’d think they’d be able to find good candidates in there, but every time the hiring managers complain about the low-quality batch that get sent for interviews from the third-party screening service. Referred candidates pretty much automatically get an interview, and I feel like that’s part of the problem, since some employees refer everyone they know.

    Over the years I’ve tried to help a few friends get hired and they always self-select themselves out of the process. Like, applying to a full-time seasonal position and not checking the box that says they understand the position requires 40 hours a week because they decided they only wanted to work 20. Then they were surprised when the system auto-rejected them. Ergh.

  22. Marilyn

    I was at a workplace where, whenever a position opened up that I was interested in, I put in my application.

    The first time I applied, they said they gave it to someone else due to having more revenue management experience. That person ended up becoming a friend of mine, who admitted she had no revenue management experience at all.

    The second time, a position opened up that me, and 2-3 others, CLAMORED for. I thought I had the leg up, because I had worked for the director in another workplace, and I was the only one out of all the internal candidates, who had the degree and experience for the job. It was given to my supervisor, who had no experience with it, but in hindsight, was probably being groomed for management.

    I heard through the grapevine that the director of that department wanted me to work for her, but the GM wanted the other person. It was all fine and good, I disagreed with it, but it is what it is.

  23. Tattooine

    My mother used to work for Colonial Williamsburg and lived in one of the houses (“Nickleby Store” or some such). There was a sign noting it was a private residence, but people wandered in all the time, especially when we’d visit her, since the door would be open while we unloaded the cars. It was both awkward and hilarious.

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