manager is on maternity leave and I’m overwhelmed, a company told me they’d call the police if I contact them again, and more

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

1. My manager is on maternity leave and I’m overwhelmed

My boss just went on maternity leave and I took over her duties in addition to my own. I’m excited for the opportunities this will present me when she gets back (promotion, raise, etc.), but I’m extremely overwhelmed for right now. Not only has my work load doubled, but people are treating me like I’m in a leadership position (I’m entry level). In our department, EVERYTHING is a priority and there is currently zero way for me to prioritize my work because of it. I have some mental disabilities that impede my ability to take on what I’m expected to do (HR is aware), but I’m not sure what to do or say that will help me handle this without hindering the flow of work in our department (unfortunately, hiring someone else, even temporarily, is not an option). If I continue like I have been (working 10-12 hour days just so I can get all the “priority” work done), I know I will end up in a hospital due to fatigue and general stress-related things.

Before my boss left, she suggested to tell people that we are down one person and that our priorities are outline in her maternity leave plan, but that isn’t working so far because people are ignoring that plan and keep coming up to me with their priorities. I’m not sure what to do or say to people to make them, to word it not so kindly, back off a little bit. Do you have any suggestions on how I can handle the next three months?

Well, at a minimum, it sounds like you need to be firmer with people: “With Jane out, we’re not able to get to everything we would normally. She left clear instructions that I should be focusing on X and Y, and not Z. So I can’t take this on right now, but we can discuss it when she’s back.” And if they push: “I really can’t — Jane left very clear instructions about where I should be focusing, and since we’re down to one person until she’s back, I need to stick to that list.” (Obviously, use some judgment here; something important could come up that her list didn’t foresee, and you don’t want to be totally rigid.)

Also, talk to whoever is managing you in your boss’s absence — or, if no one is, talk to her manager. Explain that your boss left you clear priorities, but that you’re getting heavy pushback from people who want you to do more than you reasonably can with a department of one, and ask for help handling it.

And stop working 10-12 hours days unless that’s the normal M.O. for your job even when your boss is there (I’m guessing that it’s not). It doesn’t sound like she intended for you to do that, and either way, you shouldn’t need to make yourself sick to meet unrealistic expectations. Figure out what you can do, let people know, and get help from above in sticking to those boundaries.

2. A company told me they’d call the authorities if I contact them again — should I show up in person to talk face-to-face?

I applied for the job of my dreams, no, the job of my life — the best job you can ever have in your wildest dreams! Long story short, I got rejected from the job . I was overly eager and contacted the lady who was the hiring manager. Anyway, I was looking at Craigslist and saw they have a few more openings. So I want to talk to the HR manger and address the situation and own up to my mistakes and make things better and right.

I need to do this for myself. I must just take charge and volunteer myself to do something uncomfortable and step outside my comfort zone. What do I do and say? As a side note, the HR manager told me I am no longer allowed to email the lady I was emailing, and if I do, they will take immediate action and may call the proper authorities.

I just do not know what to say. Is it best I just go in to his office and talk face to face or do I call or email if so what do I say and do?

Noooooo, do not do not do not go there in-person. Do not show up, do not call, and do not email. You can’t apply there again at all — they told you that you’re not allowed to email their employee and threatened to take legal action if you do. That is not a company interested in hiring you for anything ever — that is a company that thinks that you’ve crossed a line to the point that they feel threatened. They aren’t going to hire you, and they’re going to be concerned and possibly even frightened if you contact them again. That’s not something companies say lightly; they said it because something happened that made them want zero contact with you in the future. You can’t even think of contacting them again, in any form; you have to move on.

The best thing that you can do is learn from the experience and realize that no matter how interested you are in a job, you can only contact them once, maybe twice, without a positive response in return, and that if you press further than that, you’ll torpedo your chances. Take that lesson and apply it other companies that interest you — but you’ve got to leave this one alone.

3. Did I answer this interview question badly?

I had a panel interview recently, and a question came up that I am not quite sure how I should have answered. The main interviewer asked me, “What would you do if you were asked to do something, but you didn’t know how to do it?” I said I would ask a team member. The interviewer then said, “If your team member did not have the answer, who would you go to next?” I responded by saying the team leader or a higher authority. But the interviewer kept asking their question over and over again. After going up the chain of command in my answers, I finally responded, “If nobody had the answer, as a last resort I would Google it.” The interviewer told me, “That’s not a very good thing to say.”

What is the best way to respond to this type of question, and did I really answer it poorly?

I don’t see any problem with the way you handled it. (In fact, depending on the job and the context, it might have even made sense to say you’d do your own research earlier on in the process.)

You were dealing with a weird interviewer; don’t let their weirdness throw you off with other interviews.

Also, I wonder what answer they were looking for. Prayer? Magic? Random guessing?

4. Having lunch with a former boss

I am an assistant/secretary. I used to work for Steve. Steve left our firm, but I kept my job — I just became Jack’s assistant. Steve has taken me out to lunch to “catch up.” It’s not really networking, because we work on two vastly different levels, but it doesn’t feel quite social because he has expressed interest in hiring me away from my current firm when/if a position becomes available. He pays for lunch.

Is just thanking him enough? Should I send a follow-up email with an additional thank-you? If we were on the same level, I’d just return the favor and take him out to lunch sometime, but I just don’t feel like that’s the right call in this situation.

Thanking him in-person at the end of lunch is perfectly fine. It would be extra gracious if you sent him an email later, telling him that it was great to see him and catch up — but it doesn’t need to be another thank-you for lunch, specifically.

And I don’t think you need to return the favor and invite him to lunch in the future, unless you particularly want to; it sounds like this lunch was at least somewhat a cultivation lunch on his side, where he at a minimum wants to keep the relationship warm because he thinks he may want to hire you in the future. And even if that weren’t the case, the power dynamics in the relationship mean that it’s okay for you to just let him treat you to lunch without having to return the favor. In fact, if you do invite him to lunch in the future, he’s likely to pay anyway, even if you try to cover the check — just because that how’s it usually works with managers, even former ones.

5. Interviewer asked me if each of my freelance projects was as a 1099 or W2

I am currently freelancing while I look for my next position. During a recent interview for a VP position, I was asked how I was paid for each of my freelance projects. The HR director asked me if I received a 1099 or W2 for each freelance project. Why would an HR director ask this question?

It sounds like she was just trying to determine if you were a freelancer or an employee. It’s possible that she cared because if you were an employee, it could imply the work was larger in scope. Or she might just be a rigid interviewer who thinks that she needs to gather full information for every single thing on your resume.

{ 550 comments… read them below }

  1. Sami*

    Please please please follow Alison’s words of wisdom. After you’ve been told to not email again under threat of law enforcement, what do you really truly honestly think they’re going to do if you contact them now? I ask this genuinely, no snark.

    1. Delyssia*

      I want to add one bit of clarification here for the benefit of LW 2 and any others in a similar situation. LW 2, I’m sure you think Alison and the commenters are missing the point that you were only told to stop emailing the hiring manager. I think you’re missing what a severe escalation that was. Someone else delivered the message! You were told they’d involve law enforcement next time! Once it’s been escalated that much, it doesn’t matter that technically you weren’t told to not contact anyone at the company. You’re done there.

      In your own words, you want to make things better and right. The only way to do that is to walk away. Hopefully, you can learn from this experience at the same time.

      1. Red*

        Seriously. When they tell you they’ll call the cops if you keep EMAILING them, there’s no way they want you setting foot in the building, on the sidewalk, within a hundred yards, for any reason. They sure to hell aren’t going to hire you. Ever.

        In the well-phrased words of the Phantom of the Opera, “The bridge is crossed, so stand and watch it burn.”

        1. Delyssia*

          It is! I think you’re the first person to spot that–which may be because I spelled it wrong… It’s Delysia (single s) in the movie and book.

          1. Bowserkitty*

            Oh, the movie is one of my favorites!! I’ve had the book on my Amazon wishlist for ages and continue to scour the bookshelves of consignment stores for it. At some point I’ll bite the bullet and just buy it online, but it’s more fun treating it like a local treasure hunt. I’m bound to find it eventually. Happy to find another fan!

            1. Jules the First*

              I have a copy of the Persephone press edition, but you can’t have it (also one of my favourites!)

              Just saying…

              1. Chocolate Coffeepot*

                I was about to go see who the publisher of my copy is, but now I don’t have to do so. Thanks! I love the book, too.

              2. Bowserkitty*

                LUCKY. Heheheh.

                This past weekend’s consignment store visit had me seeing so many copies of “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” it felt like somebody was trolling me!

      2. blushingflower*

        They have given you a very clear and explicit boundary. Ignoring or rules-lawyering that boundary will not improve their impression of you.
        You will never work for that company. It sucks, but that’s what it is. The best that you can do is learn from this behavior and work to avoid repeating whatever mistakes you made this time. Do you understand what it is that you did to cross a line? If not, is there a trusted person in your life who could read your communications and help you understand?

    2. Joseph*

      “What do you really truly honestly think they’re going to do if you contact them now?” The company was pretty clear on that one: Legal action.

      As a general thing, even if the situation was different and the company did like you, showing up uninvited always sends a bad message and often will take you out of the running immediately. It wastes their time and interferes with their process.

      Imagine that someone shows up at your house/apartment, insists that you drop everything, then starts talking about how great they are. How would you react? You’d probably be irritated right? Well, that’s basically what YOU would be doing to them by showing up unexpectedly.

      1. Allison*

        Right, companies don’t even want *good* candidates showing up out of the blue! Do people think hiring managers and HR teams are just sitting there, twiddling their thumbs, waiting for the perfect candidate to strut into the lobby?

      2. 42*

        What got my alarms clanging was that the OP added that bit of information “as a side note”. That’s not a side note. And believing that that was only an incidental piece to the puzzle, an ‘oh by the way’-kind of thing, is very concerning.

        1. Shark Lady*

          Exactly. All my alarm bells started ringing, klaxons blaring, and red lights flashing when I read that. The OP has left a big, important part out.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        Yeah this is a good one to use the dating analogy: if you went on a date and they said they’re not interested in going out again, would you keep calling, emailing, and showing up at their house? I hope not, because that’s stalking. Doesn’t matter if she was your dream guy or woman, it says a lot more about you if you respect their wishes and stay away.

    3. AMG*

      Does anyone else feel like they are missing the middle of this story? Imma need some more detail about how you went from contacting the hiring manager to having them call the cops on y0u.

      1. Anna*

        Exactly what I was thinking. There is a HUGE part of the story that’s not provided and I’m willing to bet that part is not just one email to the hiring manager, but several and possibly more and more concerning in content.

      2. Lindsay J*

        Yeah. I mean obviously the middle part cannot possibly be good, but I’m wondering how bad it actually was. I feel like it would have to be a whole hell of a lot of emails or emails containing what they perceived as threats in order for them to want to escalate into calling the cops.

    4. Creag an Tuire*

      To be fair to the poor guy, he’s probably been raised on steady diet of pop culture that insists she’ll change her mind and take you back after sufficient persistent, boombox-wielding stalking is applied.

        1. AW*

          The part about pop culture encouraging a “don’t take no for an answer” attitude or the part where OP #2 is described as “the poor guy”?

            1. Creag an Tuire*

              I mean, obviously it’s bad judgement for OP #2 not to realize that Movies Aren’t Real but… what exactly are you objecting to? That my post didn’t open with “OP, you are bad person and should feel bad”?

              1. Brooke*

                This person’s actions are bad enough for the hiring manager to involve the police. So yeah, feeling bad/regretful/whatever about taking those actions could be a good start.

              2. beefy*

                The only one to blame for a person’s actions is the person themself. There’s no need to make excuses for boundary-crossing behavior, as though the perpetrator lacks agency, or possesses victimhood. That’s “Nice Guy” territory.

    5. Annonymouse*

      Part of me just HAS to know:
      Exactly how many emails did you send?
      What the heck was in them?

      At my current job I’ve had to threaten contacting the police on a inappropriate repeat prank caller – I’ve had probably 50+ calls from them spread over 8ish months. Initially we thought they were an odd potential customer but after the 10th call we figured it out.

      What the hell did you write and how often to get them to that point so quickly?

  2. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #2: No matter what the situation, if someone tells you to stop contacting them stop contacting them. Always.

    #3: Your interviewer was weird. Did he expect you to use psychic powers to figure out how to do a task nobody at the company knows how to do?

    1. MK*

      Re:3, the only thing I can think if making this reasonable is if there are other resources that the OP overlooked in their field. I mean, in my field (law) researching legislation/court rulings, or maybe ask information from goverment departments, if it’s something procedural, would come well before asking coworkers; that’s mostly a shortcut, and googling really isn’t a good answer, although it can yield results occasionaly.

      But absent something field-specific like that, the interviewer was being a jpbit of a jerk.

      1. Fish Microwaer*

        Yes, I thought of possibly seeking information contained in policy and/or procedure manuals, organisational guidelines and directives or specific legislative requirements.

      2. DQ*

        I was interviewing for a job in the arts field. The whole panel interview was very strange- the interviewers were condescending and they ate their lunch while I was answering questions.

        1. Christy*

          Which arts field? I’m applying everything you say to theatre set or props construction, because it’s the first field I could think of, but I could be really far away from your arts field.

          And honestly in that subfield I just thought really hard and experimented on my own for new things. But photography or choreography or creative writing could all be very different.

        2. Merry and Bright*

          That is so rude and unprofessional. Tells you so much about them though.

        3. Dangerfield*

          I wonder if they were waiting for the point when you said “I’d try to do task X and see if I was able to do it before seeking further guidance”?

        4. AVP*

          That’s even stranger – I work in the arts and I would think Google/Lynda/CreativeCow would be the second or third step if not before that. It certainly is over here.

          I wonder if they expected you to say something like, “Oh, that would never happen, I know how to do literally anything you could possibly think of to assign me and would never have to look anything up or be trained.”

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            +1, because even if there is something that’s linked to technical guidance/legal issues or something, google would tell you that too!

          2. esra*

            I used to work for a director who expected basically that and was always disappointed when new people actually had questions and needed training.

        5. Lisa*

          The correct answer was:

          You say “I’m right on top of that, Rose!”, and then outsource the work to Cathy.

      3. Steve*

        In my field (granted, also a programmer) I would expect someone to take a stab at Google first, not last, and not specifically labeled as a last resort. However I think in any field I would be concerned by an answer that only proposed one course of action (keep asking coworkers), and that continued with the same answer more than twice even after I prompted for a different answer. I’m not saying it’s necessarily a good interview question, and I’m surely even worse at reading the interviewer’s mind than you are, but I do think your answer could have been better.

        1. KTM*

          I agree. We ask these kinds of questions in our interview process (engineering field) and are typically looking for people to show us that they would attempt to educate themselves or find an answer on their own first (reference textbooks, internet searches, etc) and then ask someone else for help. Not that asking someone else for help is a bad answer, we just like to see if you’ll try and figure something out on your own first or try multiple courses of action.

          1. penny*

            Same here. I look for a sense of resourcefulness, that you can problem solve and come up with ways to figure things out on your own. Clearly,by the responses, that varies by field. That’s what I thought they were getting at until the LW said they told him that was a bad answer.

        2. Connie-Lynne*

          Yep. I’d be OK with “I’d ask around” as a first answer, but then I’d redirect to “what other resources would you use?” And I’d want to hear things like Google, the company wiki, the ticketing system, my monthly meetup, hangops, etc etc etc.

          “I’d escalate up the chain and then try Google” IS a bad answer. I wouldn’t say that bluntly to a candidate, but c’mon.

    2. A Non*

      #3 – in my industry (IT), Google is the first stop. If I ask you what your troubleshooting process is, and ‘search the internet to see how other people have dealt with this problem’ isn’t part of it, I’m going to be worried. We’ve got the biggest collection of knowledge in human history at our fingertips – use it!

      1. Steve*

        Yeah, I think the interviewer was hoping to hear google/employee handbook/etc. first and then ask a colleague, so everyone around you isn’t spending all their time solving your problems. But that requires some mind reading on the part of the interviewee who doesn’t nessesarily know what the task is (“how do I convert word files to pdf” is a great question for google, “how do I reserve a boardroom on another division’s floor” is not) or what resources she will have to hand.

        1. nofelix*

          Yeah, bad questions like that are so difficult to answer. Or you can say “It depends” which sounds like a non-answer.

        2. DQ (OP#3)*

          I think the interviewer was trying to fluster me with the question. I’m not sure there was a right answer.

          1. Florida*

            If that is the case, then the question is about him having power. His response to you is also about power.
            You did fine considering his motive.

            1. SusanIvanova*

              Yeah, when they escalate after a reasonable answer, it’s a power play or some other weirdness. Back in college I taught karate but it didn’t pay all that great, plus the mall computer store had employee discounts, so I applied there. Well, the interviewer just fixated on my karate teaching, and kept asking “so if someone comes in to rob the store, what do you do?” No matter how many times I said “call mall security”, he kept escalating the hypothetical situation. Now, I may be a karate teacher, but I am also a skinny college girl, I am not going to take on armed robbers single-handed!

        3. TootsNYC*

          I don’t think he wanted Google first, because when Google WAS mentioned, the response wasn’t, “Finally!” or “OK,” it was, “That’s not a very good answer–and given the compartmentalization, I’d take that as “googling is not a very good answer.”

          1. Kyrielle*

            I think he did, because I think it was the “as a last resort” part that would make it not a good thing to say. (Not, “not a good answer” but “not a good thing to say” – in fact labeling Google as a last resort may have been worse than not thinking of it, from his POV, if he was hoping for a Google answer.)

            1. Chloe Silverado*

              This was my take as well. It sounds like his question wasn’t specific enough and the interviewers were rude, but if he was trying to gauge the OP’s resourcefulness and ability to work independently, asking up the chain of command + Google as a last resort probably wasn’t the answer he wanted to hear. The interviewer should’ve given a specific scenario so the OP had a better idea if it was a problem she could resolve independently or if it would require input from someone with company-specific experience.

              1. Kyrielle*

                Yep! Lousy question either way, and it really depends on the task.

                “You’re trying to find a bug and you’re having no luck; what would you do?” Well, in that case I’d reach out to a coworker who knows the module to ask if they had a few quick pointers, and depending on the code, add logging or set breakpoints or both, and narrow down locality or conditions. I’d also consider, if it was intermittent, whether it could be timing- or optimization- affected. If it was producing a specific error message that seemed possibly OS- or tool-related, I’d Google that. But Google isn’t going to tell me where a bug is.

                On the other hand, if I have to get a piece of software I’ve never used installed, and the only instructions sent to me by the company were to install it and maybe where to find it, I’d peruse the source web site or folder for if it had installation instructions, launch the process, and if I felt like I needed more info, Google it. I’d ask a coworker only as a last resort.

                And if someone asked me to put together marketing material for a trade show in two days, I’d point out that I completely lack the skillset and knowledge required to do that, and they’d be better off with a stack of blank paper than what I would turn out. I’d offer to supply what knowledge I do have to someone in marketing, if that would be helpful, but I really can’t do this task successfully, and the company needs a successful result.

                1. SophiaB*

                  That last paragraph might have been the key, though. If you’re in an overly complex field or something where there are legal implications, the right thing to do might be to tell the person that you’re not equipped or qualified to do that task.

        4. Anna*

          Yeah. If I’m at a new worksite I’m going to ask a coworker BEFORE I go to a general knowledge source because every worksite has its idiosyncrasies that a coworker would know.

          Maybe they were looking for “I’d ask the Magic 8-Ball.”

      2. dragonzflame*

        I was just thinking about IT. My husband is a developer, and from the sounds of it Google does half his work for him.

          1. AW*

            There are some people who turn up their nose at those who use Stack Overflow. I wonder if this interviewer was one of those types.

            Frankly, I can’t see the benefit in deliberately ignoring a site that not only has millions of answers but a voting & editing system that usually means that the best answers are near the top and are readable…but that’s a rant for another time and place.

            1. Connie-Lynne*

              OMG have you seen the faux-Reilly book covers?

              “Cutting and Pasting from StackOverflow” features the sloth.


      3. Becky*

        Seconded! I’m definitely looking for you to consult the internet before you start going up the chain of command. Probably even before you ask me as your direct manager, depending on the specific task.

        1. Christopher Tracy (formerly Doriana Gray)*

          This is how it’s done in my field as well. However, I would think if that’s what the hiring manager wanted to hear, she would have said, “You should have said ‘I’d Google it’ first,” not, “That’s not a very good thing to say” once Google was brought up as a resource. It really does lead me to believe hiring manager was looking for some obscure answer here like communing with spirits to solve the problem.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Or maybe they were looking for Gumption! As in, I’d invent my own process from scratch! And patent it for the good of the company! All in an hour!

            Come to think of it, they were probably looking for mind-reading, weren’t they? [roll eyes]

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I recently found out that everyone, including myself, has failed my current boss’ panel-interview question. He asked, “What would you do if you had a deadline, and a student came to your desk with a question and a faculty member came to your desk wanting you to do something fot them?”

            I said that I’d quickly answer the student’s question and then tell the faculty member that I was on a deadline and ask if what they had could wait until afterward.

            My co-worker who was on the interview panel says that the answer he hopes one day to receive from a candidate but never yet has is, “Well, if the deadline is today, I’d already have finished a draft of the project and it would be with my boss for review . . . “

            1. TotheM*

              If that’s the answer he’s looking for, he’s phrasing the question very poorly.

              1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                Yes, this. You have to make a lot of assumptions in theoreticals like that, and if the interviewer tells me that “you [have] a deadline”, I’m assuming they’re telling me because it’s relevant, and saying “Oh, that deadline? I already took care of that!” sounds to me like I’m suggesting a deus ex machina type of solution that doesn’t address the issue that they’ve given me (competing priorities, including a deadline). Almost like answering “You encounter a problem that you have no idea how to solve, what do you do?” with “Oh, I’m awesome, so I already know how to solve it!”

                1. The Alias Gloria is Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

                  Yeah it’s an interview, not a D&D campaign. “I do a knowledge check for Obscure Office Procedures! *rolls dice* I got a 12, did I pass?”

                2. Kelly L.*

                  Right! Because if I’m done with a thing, I no longer think of it as “having a deadline.”

              2. TootsNYC*

                exactly! Because once I’ve met my deadline, it vanishes–I don’t have a deadline anymore.

            2. Roxanne*

              Depending on the field/industry, that might be possible. But if I, for example, as an administrative assistant, am given a project that day due by the end of the day, that response is not possible.

              That’s a high standard for that question.

            3. Mallory Janis Ian*

              Well, I feel better about my response to the question now. And the truth is, if I have a deadline, I’m pretty much working toward the deadline right up to the deadline time. My boss did hire me and he doesn’t seem too bitterly disappointed that I make full use of deadlines, so I guess it’s just a bad question.

            4. Koko*

              Pfft! That’s absurd.

              When I was hiring for an office manager I asked a very similar question along the lines of, what do you do when you come to work and the printer isn’t working and there are guests arriving at 10 am sharp and there are several voicemails waiting from overnight, etc. ?

              I didn’t actually have a “right” answer in mind. Half the point of that question was to convey to the candidate that they were applying for a job where that sort of scenario was common, because it’s one of the most stressful things about that job and I don’t want someone to go in not realizing that could be their daily life.

              The other half was to gauge their reaction and thinking process in response to the question. Did they look completely blank and flustered and unsure? Or did they maintain a cool demeanor and give an answer that they could explain their reasoning behind?

              1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                Yeah, my answer to the question was based upon my actual experience with having a dealt with the given situation numerous times.

                Typically, the student’s question is something simple that can be quickly answered and they can be sent on their way. With the faculty member, I would have to assess the nature of their request; I might be able to help them with just a simple answer or by directing them to someone else. If they want something that I have to actually do for them, and it can be done fairly quickly, I can work them in. If it’s something time-consuming, my deadline to the department head is going to take priority and I’ll tell them that I’ll work on it after that.

                There are too many possible nuances to what each person needs and how it might be handled to give a definitive answer. There are different kinds of deadlines, too. If I were the one asking the question, I’d be looking for an understanding of that, not for any particular answer.

            5. AW*

              So he’s looking for someone that will dodge the question?

              I don’t think an answer like that would imply good things about a candidate…

            6. Elizabeth West*

              I think I failed this one at a front desk job interview—I was asked student, phone ringing, and then staff (it was a nursing school). I said I would grab the phone first, because the person on the other end could not see what was going on at the desk, and ask them politely if they could hold for a moment. Then I’d quickly dispense with the student, then the staff (because the student probably has to be in class and has less leeway to be late, in my experience). Then I would go back and deal with the phone call.

              I don’t think she liked my answer–but that’s how I did it at all my jobs and it worked fine. Sorry!

      4. SystemsLady*

        We have an internal Google full of old reported problems and how the support center fixed them (saving you the same phone call), and it sometimes has exactly what you’re looking for.

        The search engine powering it actually is Google, so somebody answering the question this way would technically be right!

        1. SystemsLady*

          Incidentally team members are often busy and traveling/have bad phone reception, and that system is really good, so one tends to get annoyed with team members who have a pattern of calling first before checking that system.

          Sometimes we don’t have internet access, though, so we do sometimes have to call as a first option.

          OP’s industry might be different, though.

      5. Ck*

        Exactly this. You should use the non-people resources available – intranet / internal search, Google, etc as a FIRST resort, definitely not a last one.

        It’s a totally valid question (though the offhand comment afterward was rude), and if I interviewed someone who didn’t try to learn or use other available resources FIRST before taking up the time to bother all colleagues in the org, they wouldn’t get much farther in the interview process.

    3. Seianus*

      It doesn’t take a psychic to figure this one out.

      In almost anything IT-related Googling and/or trying to figure it yourself must be the first thing you do, as opposed to distracting colleagues or manager from their jobs with your questions. I bet when he said “it’s not a very good thing to say” he meant your “googling as the last resort”. If I hired people for IT department I wouldn’t like such answer either, it’s a huge red flag the person is going to be slow worker and maybe even annoying for everyone else with the questions. I used to work with people like that.

      Unless the guy was applying for a position where Googling was not that helpful. In that case you really should know a lot about the specifics of the job in question before saying interviewer was weird or resorting to psychics jokes.

      1. Myrin*

        The question doesn’t say anything about an IT-related position, so I don’t know why you’re speaking as if that were the case. In fact, OP clarifies above that she interviewed in an arts field.

        1. Connie-Lynne*

          So I work in both tech and the arts. My above answer is for tech, but it wouldn’t change much for a theatre role.

          “I’d ask around” is an OK start, but after that, what else do you do? Google it? Consult your old stagecraft reference books? Reach out to previous instructors? Talk to the stagehands down the pub?

          “Escalate, then Google I guess” sounds like “I’d give up” to me.

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        This is how I read it, too, and I’m not in IT — that the interviewer was awkwardly trying to figure out whether OP is the type to try to find an answer on her own before interrupting someone else’s work to ask, or whether her first choice is to ask someone else.

        Lots of people — myself included — prefer working with the first type to the second type!

        1. Ashley the Paralegal*

          This was my interpretation of the question too. I think attempting to find the answer yourself before you start interrupting people around you would have been a better answer, but admittedly, this is a pet peeve of mine so I’m definitely bias.

          1. Koko*

            I have such a huge bias in this area that I can hardly even understand people who approach it the other way.

            I don’t have enough faith in the accuracy or speed of other people to ever think that asking someone else for help would get me as good results as just looking it up myself. On Google I can scan several sources, look for consensus, click around for more detail if I want, and I’m done in 5 minutes. Asking someone else I might have to wait longer than 5 minutes just for them to read my email! And then how can I be sure that the one answer they give me is correct and the best way? I’m just supposed to trust in the infallibility of Random Coworker? Unless we’re talking about a company-specific internal policy/procedure rather than a general knowledge question, I’m not putting all my eggs in the “Fergus can’t be wrong!” basket when the “100 people can’t be wrong!” baskets are available.

            1. Anna*

              And I’m more interested in finding out if the place I work has a particular way of doing things that Google can’t tell me. I’d rather ask someone I work with if there’s a way they prefer to do X than look it up, do it, and find out they don’t stuff envelopes that particular way for a long list of reasons. Google really shouldn’t be your go-to for all things.

              1. Koko*

                I think that falls more along the lines of a preference among many solutions, rather than a strictly how-to. If there are multiple ways to do something but one was preferred, I would think/hope that would have been specified when giving the assignment, because the assignment-giver should be aware there are multiple ways and that they don’t like some of them.

                I guess I’m also thinking more along the lines of – how do I indent a quote using CSS? what is the federal election campaign contribution limit for individuals in 2016? what does industry trade publications say is the best way to improve program X’s ROI, which I have total creative control over as long as it meets revenue goals? according to industry benchmarks, is our program performing as well as it could be? how do I determine whether this test finding is statistically significant?

                Those are the kinds of questions I deal with 99.9% of the time. Random coworkers who don’t do the same work as me (I’m a department of one, my manager does totally different work) just aren’t as fast or accurate as looking it up myself.

                If the question is, “What threshold for statistical significance does my company use?” then that’s a preference question I would ask a coworker to see if there was an existing standard at the company. But those are about 0.1% of the questions that arise in my job.

      3. Kylynara*

        This is where I am. I think it may have been the last resort he objected to, not the Googling. I wasn’t there to hear tone and inflection though. But it really sounds like a bad question or at least one where he needs to lay out his assumptions better, because there’s no indication if it’s an internal process you don’t know (in which case Google wouldn’t help), or a more “technical” type issue where the answer would be roughly the same anywhere.

        1. Steve*

          Perhaps the interviewer did lay out assumptions but the OP didn’t pick up on them, or didn’t mention them in the question because s/he thought they weren’t important? Or perhaps the interviewer had assumptions in mind, but expected the candidate to ask clarifying questions to draw out the assumptions (if so, the interviewer really needed to make that one, underlying assumption clear at the start)

      4. blushingflower*

        But it really depends on the task and the industry. I have had times where I’ve spent HOURS trying to figure out how to do something on my own (google, trial and error, etc) when I could have asked a co-worker and gotten the answer in 5 minutes. In fact, just today, someone in my office IM’d me to be reminded how to do something in Excel. We also have a lot of internal tools that google isn’t going to help you with (and unfortunately not a lot of good documentation to go with them). Your choices are “ask someone” or “figure it out”, and sometimes the first one is a much better use of everyone’s time.

        1. Kira*

          I’m on the side of “Google first, ask if Google fails” because I get a lot of inane questions sent my way. Things like “Is Niceville in our County?” should not interrupt my day.

          But your example reminded me of the times I’m really happy to help and speed things up. A lot of it is the phrasing. If someone says “Can you show me how…” I’m good, but when they say “Fix my thing…” I’m annoyed. It’s not my role to fix your things, and when you push that on me it means you’ll be stuck without a paddle when I leave.

    4. Beezus*

      Re#3 – I am the resident “person who figures out stuff we don’t know how to do” at my job. My work involves a lot of process creation and process improvement. I’d have a hard time with the OP’s answer because she stopped at each step, and had to be prompted for the next thing she’d try. I would worry that she might declare something to be unknowable/ unsolvable /unfixable if she couldn’t get the answer by asking around.

      1. Sherry*

        It depends on the theoretical task the interviewee was imagining doing. Questions about a company’s internal processes aren’t on Google! But I agree, it seems the interviewer was looking for a more rigorous problem-solving technique. Unfortunately, the question wasn’t clear enough.

        1. Ashley the Paralegal*

          Internal processes might not be in google, but they probably are available in employee materials such as a handbook.

          1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

            Ha! You’d think so, right? But at my workplace, which is a state government agency, you’d be shocked at how much isn’t written down anywhere. We recently had a colleague retire, and it was decided that some of her job duties would be shifted to the support staff– specifically, getting approval for, arranging, and getting reimbursement for travel, both in-state and out-of-state. This involves many long, complicated processes, which must be followed precisely, and ARE NOT WRITTEN DOWN IN FULL, ANYWHERE. My department tried to create their own documentation, but we can’t get a sign-off that it’s complete and correct from the people who are in charge of the processes. It’s a gigantic headache, and it shouldn’t be this way.

            1. De Minimis*

              Used to work at a fed agency, I wouldn’t be shocked at all! Nothing was written down, ever!

            2. Wendy Darling*

              At my last job MOST processes were either not written down anywhere or were written down someplace weird and difficult to find and poorly named. In that context “Hey do you know where on earth we put the instructions for the teapot melt point testing?” is in fact the right way to find that info. And after the third time you have to ask you are basically morally obliged to move the documentation to someplace sensible.

              1. Kelly L.*

                Oh yeah! The processes are either nowhere, or else there are three different versions floating around, undated, and the only way you find out you’ve used the obsolete one is when you get the annoyed phone call from whoever you sent it to.

            3. Formica Dinette*

              I don’t think I’ve ever worked anywhere that had much in the way of job documentation, but I always thought it was because I’ve mostly worked for small companies. I guess I was wrong about that!

              1. De Minimis*

                I have seen it at my current employer, which is smaller, but only because a long-time employee quit and they went several months before replacing them. The person who resigned spent some time creating a job guide, and the temp also worked to flesh it out before a replacement came on board.

                But I’m the replacement, and though a lot of it is useful, there’s still a lot of info I’ve had to figure out on my own or at least guess…

            4. Nerdling*

              Or the processes have changed so many times that there are fifteen entries on the old ways to do things and maybe, somewhere, buried amidst all the junk results, is the newest way to do it. When really, the best result will come from someone who has done it before and can point you to where they bookmarked the ever-changing URL for the right answer or shoot you an email.

              Honestly, there are a lot of jobs where “Google it” honestly isn’t the right answer – or where you wouldn’t know what the right answer was until you’d been hired.

            5. Boop*

              Not shocking at all. When I first started working, I got weird looks when I decided to write an instruction manual for my position – from the director! There was nothing written down, you had to go ask colleagues how to do certain tasks.

              Forget any historical data. There was no paperwork/samples, anything, for how things may have been done. Don’t try to change anything, though, because then you will have your head chopped off.

            6. Kira*

              I’m a one-person department, and I began writing procedures for how I do my job months ago in preparation to leave at the end of this coming summer. Everything from deadlines, checklists for when new funding is awarded, how I give label mail when I pass it to the admin assistant for mailing. And the person who’s taking over my position has been infuriating because she refuses to look at any of it, and keeps yelling that I never tell her anything. My spouse and I joke about maybe she can’t read because she never reads anything I give her. Well, yesterday she actually said, “I don’t read” and essentially told me all my carefully documented guides and procedures are worth zilch. I can’t wait to be out of here.

              1. Connie-Lynne*

                Ha! I got that as feedback from a colleague after vacation. I had literally made an 8-page wiki of my job duties AND walked her through it verbally.

                When I got back we did a debrief and she had done a ton of things wrong and she was mad because she “had to figure it all out with no help.”
                When I asked why she didn’t follow the dox she said “I don’t read, I have a bias for action.”

                Good luck with that while I’m incommunicado in the desert for three weeks!

                1. Mander*

                  I hope someone followed that up with “I don’t train, I have a bias for firing”! That’s totally lazy.

        2. Beezus*

          Yeah, there are better ways to screen for problem solving skills, if they’re that important!

    5. pixelwhipped*

      “Your fifteenth fallback after I arbitrarily devil’s-advocated away your first fourteen isn’t very impressive-sounding.”

      I don’t know if mind games during the interview are indicative of a boss who continues to play them during employment, but the optimist in me would suggest LW3 mark that down as a bullet dodged.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Yeah, honestly, even if you can somehow rationalize that the OP’s answer was, in fact, not a good answer, saying “That’s not a very good answer” isn’t the correct response to any interview answer. I always try to make every candidate feel as if she’s done a good job. The interview process is nerve-racking enough as it is.

        1. Steve*

          “That’s not a good answer because of X” or “I was expecting Y” can be a good response, if you think it will help the candidate in future interviews. Worst case, the candidate can feel confident in their judgement that you expected them to be a mind-reader.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            I don’t really think during the interview is the best time to give the interviewee feedback on how she did. That will just put her unnecessarily on edge.

            1. Steve*

              True enough. In the OP’s case, if the interviewer hadn’t said “that’s not a good answer,” then the OP may never have wondered what they did wrong or what a good answer was.

              Some candidates do ask for this kind of feedback, and it can be less awkward to give it than to withhold it.

              Sometimes it seems obvious that the candidate knows they didn’t get the right answer. In that case, well, it seems to me to be kinder to tell them the answer, at least some of the time.

              But those are two exceptions to the rule.

    6. Avalanche Lake*

      I’m not sure what the interviewer was looking for, but here’s how I’d answer this question:
      I’d go back to my workspace and write out what I think the task is, then try to break it down into steps. I would think about which of those steps I know how to do based on previous projects, then highlight those steps that I don’t know how to do. (I might also do some research at this stage, like Googling.)
      If I knew a coworker had some experience in this area, I would take this plan to them and ask for feedback–is this is the way you would approach it? Do you have any idea how to perform the steps that I don’t know how to perform? If I didn’t know anyone with similar experience, I might still go to a trusted coworker to say, does this sound right to you?
      Then I would go back to the person who asked me to do the task and say, here is how I am thinking about this. Is this the right approach? Can you help guide me in the areas I’m not familiar with? If they couldn’t, then I would ask them to point me to any available resources (in my field, law, this would include asking about outside counsel, but any kind of contact with a subject matter expert could be substituted for this question).

    7. themmases*

      I work in research so my reaction was, no one know how to do it because it hasn’t been done yet! You and the requestor should figure out how to do it then use the solution to write a paper about the actual topic, a methods paper, and a grant.

      When I’ve been more of a regular employee there were really only two possibilities. A) I’m too new and it’s never come up before, time to look it up or ask someone. B) I’ve been here for a while and have no idea what this task is, because it’s not my job.

    8. Stranger than fiction*

      For number three, I wonder if the interviewer meant to ask “what would you do if someone asked you a question you didn’t know the answer to?” To which you’re supposed to say “let me find out” but he asked it or phrased it wrong?

    9. Qmatilda*

      #3 – I had a Boss, who honestly believed we could just sit down, think hard, and suddenly know how to do a whole new area of the job (new subject matter, new rules, new tasks) without any pesky time spent in research or question asking.

      Sadly, he was wrong about that theory, but it made for some fun conversation amongst the rest of us in the meantime.

  3. MK*

    OP1, covering for someone does not equal taking over their duties in addition to your own, it means that you temporarily have a new job description and are doing some combiation of your and their duties, ideally totaling a workload more or less equal to your original one. Even if you end up with heavier workload, it should not mea doubling your duties; in fact, unless one or both of you are seriously underworked, that’s not posiible anyway. Your boss seems to understand this, so you need to follow her instructions.

    1. Chaordic One*

      Sometimes covering for someone means taking a lot of messages. When the person you are covering for gets back in the office she can get back to person who has a problem and who left the message.

    2. Jeanne*

      This is true but it does take a little practice to find the right balance. I used to do this while my boss was on vacation. Because my boss was a slacker, I could do most of my job and a good portion of his in 50 hours a week. Alison gave good advice. Talk to your boss’ boss when you need advice. Learn to say “I don’t think that will be possible.” Refer them to your boss’ written plan and explain you need to stick to that. It’s hard to learn to say no but you need to take care of yourself as well. Prioritize the work and maybe only finish A and B priorities; C can wait a few weeks. Good luck!

      1. fposte*

        I think turning people down frequently–or postponing them until the boss’s return–is an expectation of a position like that. Sure, for a few things people may think that they’ll just wait until Jane comes back, but otherwise they don’t know what the priorities might be for your time and they just hoped they might be one of them. Don’t assume you have to deal with them just because they ask.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Yep. My boss has never been out for more than 2 weeks , but when I get overwhelmed, I’ve been known to say “I’m only one person!” That usually gets the message across.

    3. Ama*

      Yes, though I do think the OP needs to follow Alison’s advice and fill her boss’s boss (or whoever she is currently reporting to) in on the situation. It’s entirely possible that OP’s boss and her boss were all on the same page about priorities, but no one looped in the coworkers (likely because they thought they would understand that the OP could not do two full jobs). The OP may need to enlist some backup to run interference if the coworkers continue to push.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      Exactly. But the coworkers don’t seem to get it. Time for someone higher up to intervene.

    5. Melly*

      Also, the line about how you’re excited about what this means for promotion or a raise when she returns stood out to me. Unless this has been explicitly discussed I would caution you about getting too excited about that. I’ve never seen a maternity or medical leave result in a promotion for anyone.

      1. Chaordic One*

        Well, I have seen times when the person on maternity or medical leave did not return as expected, so it IS possible, but not likely. But yes, don’t get too excited about the excellent job you’re doing filling in for your supervisor and what it might for a promotion. It’s something that is easily forgotten when performance reviews take place.

        Smart supervisors appreciate having a doormat. But hey, you’re still a doormat.

  4. Anon Accountant*

    Oh dear. OP2 if you show up they may actually call the police. Please move on from this company. Use your energy to prepare for your next interview and in your job search.

    1. Artemesia*

      You also seem to have a bunch of pop psych jargon to encourage you to behave badly. Using rationalizing like ‘going outside your comfort zone’ and ‘take charge’ and ‘do this for myself’ to justify stalking people who have clearly told you to stop is creepy. Lose the lingo before you create a reputation that will spread far beyond this particular company.

      1. So Very Anonymous*

        Yes, this. By focusing on “doing this for yourself” and “leaving your comfort zone” you’re ignoring/overlooking the other people who are involved in this process.

            1. Annonymouse*

              Yeah, OP you’ve seemed to have missed who the hiring process is about: the company.

              Your letter only talks about you and what you feel and think is right with no regards to what the company wants.

              They very clearly want NOTHING to do with you. They’re going to call the police if you even email them again. You will probably be arrested and charged with trespassing if you show up.

              This is not about you.

              This is about the company. If you indeed really want to make it right you will respect their wishes and never contact them again so long as you live.

      2. Anon Accountant*

        Yes absolutely. The wording was a little concerning and sounds like the OP is determined to disregard their request to not be contacted again. There’s no chance of a job at this company.

        1. Boo*

          Yeah, “long story short” makes me feel like there’s a lot we’re not being told here. Anyway, OP, you have your answer. Try to take your cues before you’re threatened with police action in the future.

          1. Awkially Socward*

            “Yeah, “long story short” makes me feel like there’s a lot we’re not being told here. ”

            Glad someone else pointed that out. Also “….the lady I was emailing” suggests that the person did more than just send them a quick email asking about other vacancies.

            None of it may have been malicious, but that doesn’t mean the recipient wasn’t creeped out by it. “Intent”, as they say, “is not magic”.

            1. Dot Warner*

              Yes, this reminds me a lot of the the letter from late 2014-ish where an OP had been fired from their job, escalated the situation up to the CEO, was banned from the premises, and still thought they could get their job back. Both were fascinating because of what they didn’t say rather than what they actually said, and both showed a shocking disconnect with reality.

              1. Ashley the Paralegal*

                +1 This person is definitely disconnected from reality. No one gets threatened with legal action because they were just a little too eager. I can only imagine the content of those emails to the hiring manager…

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Wow, you are good! You even got the timeframe right. I couldn’t remember it and couldn’t find it when I searched. You are now the official Keeper of the AAM Archives.

                2. Dot Warner*

                  Also, I was slightly mistaken – that OP didn’t seem to think they could get their job back, they just wondered if they could be banned from the premises. But yeah, still completely out of touch with reality.

              2. irritable vowel*

                I worked with someone once who, due to his disconnect with reality, was convinced that the model used in an advertisement for a dating site was someone who was looking for dates, and called and e-mailed their customer support so often and aggressively about how he could get in touch with her that I think legal action was also threatened. He truly believed that she was his “density,” to quote George McFly. I completely pictured this guy when I read letter #2.

                The “long story short” reminds me of the Seinfeld episode about “yadda yadda yadda,” where the whole story gets left out in order to gloss over outrageously unsavory behavior.

          2. Anna*

            For those who have read The Gift of Fear, it feels like we’re getting the OTHER side of the story Gavin de Becker wrote about the business owners who were trying to extricate themselves from the guy who thought he was perfect for the job.

      3. Tweety*

        We don’t have all the details of what exactly OP2 did to warrant being told never to email/contact again.

        Perhaps it’s an example of the awful advice that is given by some, to show ‘gumption’ / eagerness by phoning/emailing every day or something similar.

        1. So Very Anonymous*

          I was also wondering if they had asked for feedback and then responded too aggressively to it (could also fall under “gumption!”)

        2. Brooke*

          “Awful advice” is printing your resume on pink paper.

          THIS is veering into legal/criminal territory.

          1. So Very Anonymous*

            I was thinking that the OP was misinterpreting “gumptiony” advice and taking it to a threatening level. Definitely unsettling.

        3. snuck*

          Even if it is that awful advice… it’s escalated to someone dodging you, calling in a senior third party, and invoking the name of the Police service.

          I’d say it’s gone past enthusiasm and it sounds like it’s hitting ‘serial pest’ land?

      4. Christopher Tracy (formerly Doriana Gray)*

        OP #2, please heed Artemesia’s advice here. You have officially veered into stalker territory. You are being threatened with police action. Note the seriousness of this and pull all the way back. You’re doing too much and freaking people out. You’re not showing enthusiasm for the job – you’re signaling to these people that you have serious boundary issues and poor judgment. Those are two characteristics that are going to keep losing you jobs if you don’t change your approach.

      5. Katie the Fed*

        So true. Your comfort zone ends where other people’s discomfort zone begins.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          This is what I wanted to impress upon the OP. YOU do not get to decide which boundaries are deserving of respect, and violating other peoples’ clearly stated boundaries is generally the definition of stalking and/or harassment. Life is not a John Hughes movie. You will only make people trust you less and make them feel more uncomfortable and insecure around you by violating their boundaries. You cannot look for a way around something like this without making things worse. Even if by some objective measure they grossly overreacted, they are still the only ones who get to decide whether they feel safe or trust someone or not, and any contact you initiate would actually prove that their reaction was totally justified. Learn your lesson and move on.

          1. pope suburban*

            Amen. Nor is Nightcrawler a how-to about getting a job; Louis Bloom was absolutely the first person who came to mind when I read those buzzwords wrapped around a casual disregard for other people. OP2, as someone who is compelled to put up with your kind of treatment at work (I really wish I was permitted to invoke the police), it does not win people over or make them see that you were the “scrappy underdog” all along. It makes them not like you and avoid you. It makes it harder for them to help or work with you. It feels like your soul needs to take a shower, when you have to be nice to someone who says– openly!– that they don’t care about you as a human being at all. Don’t be that. Get help. Learn from this. Move on.

            1. Carpe Librarium*

              I was reminded of Brian Regan’s bit about the term “one thing led to another”.

              “I hate when you’re trying to read something and you come across the expression “One thing led to another”. What in the hell kind of lazy writing is that? Isn’t that your job as the writer to tell me how this led to that? You can just throw that in there? “Adolf Hitler was rejected as a young man on his application to art school. One thing led to another…and the United States dropped two atomic bombs on the sovereign nation of Japan.””

      6. Kelly L.*

        Yeah–I could see how this situation could develop out of some of the bad advice that floats around out there. OP, don’t do it.

      7. Dot Warner*

        Yes, I agree. OP2, while it’s important to go outside your comfort zone sometimes, you don’t seem to realize that you’ve also taken the people at this company very, very far outside of their comfort zone without their consent. That’s not a growth opportunity for them or you; it makes them frightened and you are, at best, fixated on something you cannot have at the expense of other good opportunities. Move on, and don’t repeat these tactics with the next employer you apply to unless you want a criminal record.

      8. Spooky*

        That was my first thought as well. I find it very hard to take anyone who uses those kinds of terms seriously, and people who use them to justify this kind of genuinely scary action have taken meaningless buzzwords way too far.

      9. Stella Maris*

        Yes, there are so many red-flag words and expressions even in this letter, I am somehow not surprised to hear that the LW has made a bad impression on the never-future-employer.

  5. So Very Anonymous*

    #2: Follow Alison’s advice here. But also, step back and look at what’s happened here: because you’ve idealized this job/company as “best! job! ever!” you’re framing contacting them in terms of how you “need” to push outside your “comfort zone” in order to improve your chances. But it sounds like in reality you’ve pushed out of that zone so far that you’re interfering with the hiring manager’s comfort zone — to the extent that you’ve been told not to contact the company. Pushing yourself to do something “uncomfortable” here will only make things worse. You might be better served by thinking more realistically about the jobs you’re applying for — Alison has a great post about doing that here.

    1. snuck*

      I’m also thinking that spending some time here looking at the various “How do I get attention?” and “What should I do while I’m waiting for a reply?” type of questions. They seem to be very solid, reasonable, fair advice.

      The reality is that a lot of people are thinking about the job they want… but their focus is on *their* end of the interaction. The recruiting manager sometimes has over 100 applications, and is trying to narrow it down. “Great, time to stand out” *rub hands with glee*. Um. No. Let your application stand out for you… if you start calling, asking questions before you get an interview (save them for the interview!), sending pink paper resumes, chocolates and dancing panda song-grams… (ok… hyperbole… you get the picture). If you start trying to stand out from the crowd the hiring manager could just get irritated. They might take a second look at your materials and decide that there’s too much maverick stuff in there, they only have your current behaviour as a guide to who you are, so they will read your resume again with that lens, and if you’ve annoyed them… they will carry that bias with them. Better to sit tight and wait … it’s a long haul game, not a short flashy parade.

      1. Joseph*

        Alison didn’t mention it here specifically, but she’s mentioned in the past (and commenters have agreed!) that it’s always borderline/iffy candidates who use various attention-grabbing strategies. While the great candidates skip the gimmicks and let their track record of high-performance do the talking.

      2. Spooky*

        Not to mention framed photos of the candidate themselves, mailed with a cake! That was always my favorite!

      3. AF*

        You call it hyperbole, but I bet there are people in the world who think that a dancing panda song-gram is totally appropriate!

        1. Nerdling*

          I would pay money to see a dancing panda song-gram try to get in past our security.

          1. snuck*


            I would pay for video of that.

            I used to work in a building with a glass revolving door that you had to get through, and wave your security pass on the way to the security man.

            More than once he slammed the emergency stop button and left a person floundering in a glass box until he saw their pass. Hilarious, we all knew he did it, I now wish it was a dancing panda!

      4. SusanIvanova*

        “Great, time to stand out” *rub hands with glee*

        The OP needs to watch the most recent My Little Pony episode – it’s all about trying so hard to make a good impression on your dream job that it backfires!

    2. Life is But a Dream*

      There seems to be some correlation between inappropriate, stalker-type behavior and idolizing a job (or person) as one’s “dream job” (or “dream girl”).

  6. Melissa*

    OP3: I think you probably had a fairly terrible interviewer, but it’s possible the “right” answer was something along the lines of creating a solution or organizing/leading an effort to create a solution. Depends on the context of what they mean by “do something.” Like, if do something is a daily part of your job then yes of course you should talk to your team and/or research how to accomplish it, but if do something was outside the norm they may have been looking for you to demonstrate some kind of innovative quality.

    1. Artemesia*

      But then isn’t ‘google it’ pretty much what anyone what do as they search for further ideas about how to deal?

      1. FiveWheels*

        Yes (with industry specific non-Google resources) but it should be much higher on the list than asking everyone.

        I suppose it also gives the interviewee the opportunity to talk about a time they came up with a new procedure or did something nobody in the company had any experience of.

    2. Beatrice*

      I think one thing for here is that once you tried the solution of “asking people” you should have moved on to other types of solutions.

      One thing that this interviewer was trying to get at is problem solving and flexibility of thinking. I would try googling and asking people as a first stop, but then move into territory like:

      looking for similar problems that have been solved before and see what similarities there are,

      try taking apart the component pieces and see if it’s more manageable that way,

      do a brainstorming session on what you could possibly do for that problem and follow the more promising ideas to their logical conclusion,


      1. Jess*

        I actually had a question similar to this during a job interview a couple years ago and I answered more along the lines you suggested. The question was about how I would complete some task or put together some document when I didn’t know the correct process or rules, but the task was super-important & needed to be done asap & the obvious ppl to go to wouldn’t be available. I referenced encountering similar situations fairly frequently in my current job (at the time) for the fed gov, and then talked about researching different sources, looking at past submissions to glean how something was handled in the past, talking to colleagues who may be able to offer insight, etc. No matter what I said though, they kept pressing for what else I would do. I finally just said that I would gather all the info I could find given the time constraints & then would just figure out how to make it work. It was so frustrating, and I still don’t know what type of answer they were looking for. (The weird part is, it’s actually a situation that I did encounter frequently & a big reason I was good at my job was b/c I was able to figure out how to handle such situations on the fly when there was no one who had the answers and get done whatever needed to get done. Apparently that didn’t translate into a sufficient answer though.)

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          I find it super-hard to explain processes like this in interviews – where *it feels like* there’s a specific formula of words, and I can’t find it. I think part of it is when it’s a skill you do frequently and well, it’s harder to break it down. I was told I failed an interview on my answers to problem solving and team-working, and looking back at it, realised it was because I was missing out things that I take for granted so much that I really shouldn’t have – that was really instructive to me.

        2. Lindsay J*

          I had this type of question in an internal interview for a management position.

          I was given a specific scenario (something about an employee being disrespectful and/or causing a scene, I don’t remember entirely now), and I answered with what I had done in the past. They kept on asking, “What if that didn’t work?”

          It turns out the answer they wanted was that I would consult with my co-manager. I still think it’s a stupid answer. If I’m in the middle of a contentious situation that I know how to handle, I’m not going to stop handling it, go lock myself in the office with my phone, and call someone who isn’t on duty to ask their advice. I’m going to handle it and inform the other manager about what happened afterwards.

          In the same interview they also asked me what my favorite flower was, and then asked me how I would describe that flower to a blind person. And also called into question whether I would be able to emotionally handle the job because I had posted something like, “I need a hug on Facebook,” (It was one of those places where everyone was “like a big family” so of course everyone had to be Facebook friends with everyone) 5 months prior when I was in the process of leaving my abusive ex and moving out, and at the same time my best friend was moving half the country away.

          So I just attributed it to crappy interviewing in general.

      2. Jack the Treacle Eater*

        Beatrice, good point. Perhaps one should also discuss established problem solving techniques – 5 whys, cause effect mapping, mind maps, Pareto, force field analysis, PDCA, thinking models, all those sort of things.

        I wonder if, when challenged on ‘Google it’, the OP might have countered by discussing the importance of not just throwing something at Google, but being able to frame a good search query, decide about the merits or validity of the various search results, sort the wheat from the chaff, and so on.

        1. Jack the Treacle Eater*

          I had another thought, which actually Jess has partly covered above.

          If you have an example with a positive outcome from a previous job, give a STAR – Situation – Task – Action – Result type answer. Reference a previous situation where you’d been on your own with something you hadn’t known how to do, describe the task you had, tell them what action you took, and tell them what the successful outcome was – effectively telling them by extension that you’d be just as successful in their situation.

          1. Jack the Treacle Eater*

            Wakeen’s Teapots’ answer below about showing independent problem solving is relevant here, as well.

        2. Mookie*

          Good point in the second paragraph. It’s what most people do almost subconsciously and by rote when they’re being efficient at interweb-searching, but it’d be fantastic to tease out that method step-by-step for an interviewer.

      3. DQ (OP#3)*

        These are great answers to the question the interviewer asked me. If a question like that comes up in the future, I will definitely use them.

        1. Ck*

          Remember that this isn’t just a way to answer this type of interview question – it’s how you should actually act when in this kind of situation. Otherwise you’re just faking it and will potentially have problems on the job.

          If it’s not second nature to you already when working on problems, start practising (perhaps with a friend or current coworker who can provide feedback).

      4. Sarahnova*

        Yeah, I can’t read this interviewer’s mind, obviously, but I’m thinking the answer they wanted was maybe something about independent problem-solving and using the resources they have, i.e. thinking it through backwards from the result they want; using their knowledge of similar situations to formulate and test a plan, etc. Most of my job currently arguably consists of things that I “don’t know how to do”, but I’m expected to use my resources to figure it out, and I do.

      5. Felicia*

        I agree with your assessment, and I think this interviewer was trying to screen for what we were screening for. We needed someone who didn’t require so much hand holding, and had a certain level of trying things for themselves, rather than asking for reassurance, asking questions every five minutes (or last hire did that and that’s almost entirely why she didn’t work out). So for us, the first answer should really be Google it, then if it was something you’d never done before, but had done similar things/were familiar with the concept, it would by trying it based on similar issues you had encountered in teh past, industry specific resources we make readily avialable (and mention are available before this question), asking people should be in there, and we are quite collaborative, but for our culture, it shouldn’t be the first step, and when i ask for something else and you say ask more people which is essentially the same thing, i’d think you might not be a fit for us.

        That being said, the interview didn’t handle it well at all, but I think I understand what they were going for, they just sucked while trying to get there

      6. SystemsLady*

        I agree but think clarifying the question could’ve been a helpful thing for the interviewer to do – “well, OK, let’s say we’re designing a new type of teapot on a system you’ve all used before”. That invites problem solving-type answers.

        It’s hard to break down a problem if it’s in an entirely new field for you and could cause problems if done incorrectly. And the interviewer probably shouldn’t assume the OP is stuck on the same definition of “something you’ve never done before” as they are.

        I have been cornered into installing a rival’s process critical coffee pot heater before after all – even constantly getting good feedback on my problem solving skills, there’s really not much one can do in that situation other than to read manuals and call help lines/the guy who used to work for [rival] and *might* know how to do it.

      7. Murphy*

        Yeah, if I were asking that question, I’d be looking for how you manage a problem when there is no expected or documented solution. How well do you critically think? How well can you apply information from one situation to another? How comfortable are you working in the vague-ness of our world? etc.

        But again, I wouldn’t use that question as it is currently worded to get to those things (but I do use questions to probe for information like that because it’s important in my world).

      8. NotAnotherManager!*

        I agree with this — I think that there is nothing wrong with your answer, but I would have liked to have seen it presented as a series of steps you’d take, not just one suggestion. There is nothing wrong with Googling something being part of that process, though — Google and YouTube have taught me countless software tips/tricks to get my job done!

        This is one of my stock interview questions because independent problem-solving is critical to the jobs I supervise. (Attorneys are AMAZING at coming up with shit no one’s ever dreamed of doing in a paralegal job, and I need people who can deal with that without blinking. ) I want to see how someone approaches problem-solving, and I want them to give me an example of when they had to solve a problem like this and how it worked out in the end (and, if unsuccessful, what they learned from it). It’s probably the question that is most telling about how someone’s going to perform.

  7. likeOMG*

    OP #3 I’m extra befuddled because, ‘Well, in the end, I’ll Google it’ is the answer to so many problems.

    Can’t remember how to reformat something in html? Google it. You need to figure out how to use formulas in Excel? Google it. You don’t know how to send something to the new fancy printer? Google it. You have no idea how to fix the coffee machine? Google it.

    People think I’m some sort of tech genius, because if you give me a new set of tools I’ll have them figured out in a day or two. I’m no genius, I just fiddle around and then Google profusely when I get stuck.

    Like Alison, I’m wondering what the correct answer was? If you weren’t supposed to try to fix it, what were you supposed to do?

    1. Uyulala*

      Yeah, I’m wondering what field the OP is in. In tech, I would expect “Google it” to be a step much earlier in the discovery process.

      1. A Cita*

        Yeah, I was thinking maybe they were looking for the google it/research it earlier in the process, and not asking all the way up the chain until the last resort was researching the answer on your own. If it was something easily researched or googled (rather than proprietary information), I too would have been put a little off by someone asking (presumably busy) people up the chain rather than being resourceful first.

        1. nofelix*

          It totally depends on what type of problem is being envisioned, which is why it’s a bad question. If the problem is something like “There’s no company policy on XYZ in our files” then it can’t be googled or researched elsewhere. If it’s not written down, it might be totally appropriate for an employee to go ask senior staff what to do. Like, what if they were to create their own solution without input from the top and it turns out to be wrong and puts the company at risk? The question could go anywhere.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

            I don’t think that makes it a bad question. Part of problem solving is first understanding your problem, and the interviewer could be looking for questions about the nature of the problem.

            I kinda went into that more below before I read your response here.

        2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          I don’t ask this question in interviews but I’m thinking I should start. I’m a bit too kind to keep drilling the way the OP’s interviewer did, so maybe it wouldn’t work for me, I don’t know.

          Anyway! The only answers the OP gave under drilling were about asking other people up the chain of command. That’s revealing (as far as answers given under the stress of an interview can be). There was no independent problem solving until I guess the chairman of the board was contacted, and then it was google it. (If “google it” could have solved the problem, that would be first step.)

          I think the interviewer was looking for answers that would show initiative and discernment. If I asked the question, I’d be hoping for questions back regarding the nature of the problem, “if it’s an answer easily found on google, I’d google it first before asking somebody around me, if it’s something internal where internal resources are provided, I’d check them first”, etc. “

          1. AVP*

            I’ve gotten good results with this question without drilling! It helps if you know the parameters of what you’re looking for, but don’t have one specific answer in mind that the candidate must get to before moving on.

            In my case I use it when hiring for post-production techy people – ideally they’ll say that they’ll look on Google and a couple of tech boards that are frequent go-tos in our line of work. If they’ve never heard of any of the tech sites, I make a mental note to probe into their tech skills even more deeply than usual.

          2. F.*

            I think perhaps there is not necessarily a “correct” answer, but that the interviewer was trying to get a read on the candidate’s thought process around problem solving in general. Does the person tend to immediately look outside themselves for an answer (ask others, for example), or do they stop and analyze the problem, breaking it down and looking in their memory for similar problems (an internal process) and proceed from there.

            I agree with WTL that it would depend on the nature of the problem in the first place. The type of answers I would be looking for would also depend on the position for which I was interviewing. For a position requiring fairly strict adherence to company procedures or a script, it doesn’t matter what Google says, it’s what the company says that counts, so asking a coworker or supervisor or consulting an internal manual would be the correct answer because original thought is not what they’re looking for. I’m thinking telemarketing or fast food type scripts, for example. In a different type of position where independent, analytical thought is called for, a different answer is required.

            Just yesterday I had a simple example of two different approaches to problem solving. Our lab manager needed to print equipment labels in a hurry. He knew that these were normally printed on our big printer/scanner/copier, so he had the page printed on plain paper to copy onto labels. However, he couldn’t remember how to print the labels so they weren’t smeared. He had always asked the operations manager for help before, but the ops mgr hadn’t come in yet, so he went to our office manager, since she is supposed to be the guru of all things copier. She didn’t know and sent him to me. Well, I didn’t know, either. Had he not been in a hurry, I would have looked online in the copier manual I have bookmarked in my web browser. Since he was in a hurry, I told him that instead of copying the labels on the big printer/copier, I could print them on my small printer. He told me where the label file was, and I printed them out. Problem solved, labels affixed to equipment, and our technician was on his way out the door. (and I probably should still look it up in the copier manual for the next time.)

            This is admittedly a simplistic example, but I thought outside the box. Everyone was thinking, “How do I copy the labels on the big copier?” I thought, “What is an effective work-around?” (Yes, I probably should have been an engineer ;)

          3. Sydney*

            I always ask this question because it’s a great way to find the people who do the WRONG things, like:

            – Shut down
            – Make something up
            – Move on to something else (and then WHAT??? – they always leave me hanging)

            These are some of the real answers I get to this question. And these candidates don’t make it to the next level because I don’t want people who will freak out under basic pressure like this.

      2. DQ (OP#3)*

        I am in the arts field. I said Google later on because the job entailed tasks that had to be done on a whim, something that I might not have had time to look up.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          It’s likely that an interviewer, who is putting that much emphasis on problem solving, is driving for how you would come to solutions independently.

          Everything costs time and when you start winding up the chain of command asking questions, you’re using up more and more time that is costly to the company. That could be the right choice! Or, it could not be the right choice.

          There aren’t going to be many companies who want “ask somebody else who works here” to be the only arrow in your quiver.

        2. Oryx*

          In that case, I imagine they were looking for some independent thinking, creative problem solving type things. Having the ability to make autonomous decisions in the moment without asking up the chain of command is an important skill to have (and, to some degree, I do see it as a skill — when I first got into the work force I used to feel it necessary to run everything by my manager. Now I only go with the really big stuff that needs their approval. It takes work to develop because it takes a certain level of self-confidence).

        3. Liza*

          I’m surprised I haven’t seen anyone suggest that they might also be looking for you to say “I’d answer ‘I don’t know how to do that, but I can find out’ and here’s how I would start finding the answer… [insert Googling, asking colleagues, or whatever you would be doing]” They may have recently been burned by someone who pretended to be an expert on everything.

      3. Kelly L.*

        IDK, I read the interviewer’s answer as a disapproval of mentioning Google at all, not that OP said it too late.

    2. T3k*

      Well duh, they were supposed to say they’d press every key combination possible on a keyboard until the computer lit on fire :p

      1. Kelly L.*

        Speaking of fire, I suppose there’s always “I would drive out to a deserted road, throw the papers in a ditch, and set them on fire.”

    3. Chaordic One*

      In a parallel universe a more enlightened interviewer would probably have found your Google response to be logical and resourceful.

    4. FiveWheels*

      Someone trying to use formulas in Excel and asking me before they Google is one of my main bugbears.

    5. Jack the Treacle Eater*

      ‘Google it’ isn’t necessarily an answer though – or it is, but it’s too stripped down. You know the amount of wrong-headed rubbish a Google search can throw up, particularly with things like IT, cars, repairs and so on.

      Beatrice makes a good point above, suggesting that the interviewer was trying to get not at what the concrete things the OP does to solve a problem are, but at his problem solving skills and techniques.

      If you are getting good results from Googling issues I’m willing to bet it’s not just ‘Google it’. Whether you’re aware of it or not, it’s probably because you can analyse the problem correctly, you have a background of experience that enables you to phrase a search query well to get the results you need, and you’re able to filter out the nonsense and select the correct answer.

      Either that or you’re throwing a lot of answers at the problem until one sticks! ;-)

    6. rock'n'roll circus*

      While in my private life I google everything for answers I need. It totally can depend on the industry you are in. I am in sales for an automotive manufacturer, so you can bet if many of my problems could be solved with the internet, we would be in risk of loosing our propriety technology.

      If I was asked this in an interview, the likely answer would be to check the drawing / parts list / bill of material / old quotes etc. They very well may have wanted to see what OP’s back ground was with common documents every company in the field uses if they said they were coming with experience in the field, to see their level of knowledge / training that has to be done. It’s simple for a new company to explain what’s on a parts list or bom, but you have to spend more time explaining how to read it / how to read a drawing etc.

    7. Green*

      I had a question similar to this, except it turned out it was an ethics question to see how easily I was intimidated. The hypo was that I knew something was illegal, everyone else in legal was unreachable, and every time I escalated it on the business side I was overruled. After being hypothetically overruled after each hypothetical escalation, I finally said, “I’d escalate as high into the organization as I could, make my objections known, and document my advice and the steps I had gone through to escalate the issue.” As it turned out, essentially, the only “wrong” answer was rolling over quickly and saying, “Well, I guess the business gets to decide that.”

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I had a similar ethics question, and answered it basically as you did, finally getting to “I’d do what you said to do, because you’re the boss, but I’d start looking for another job too” (it was not a legal issue, just an ethical one) and it turned out to be the right answer.

    8. stevenz*

      I would have been tempted to say that if I was being asked to do something that no one in the organisation knew how to do then it probably wasn’t something that needed to be done at all. Really was dumb question. It sounds more like badgering to me.

  8. Ms. Didymus*

    Oh my, OP2. Please do not contact them. In any way. At any level. Sure, you were excited. And yes, you made mistakes. But the only way you can fix this is to stop. Stop immediately. And move on. Do not contact them after awhile hoping they will change their mind. Just go on with life and pretend this company does not exist. Do not apply now. Do not apply in the future. And never reach out to them.

    This should be your rule of thumb whenever anyone tells you to stop contacting them or they will call the authorities. Assume they are telling the truth and assume that will always be their stance. Don’t be angry at them, try to learn a lesson about where you went wrong. Just use it as an opportunity to grow and learn about yourself so you don’t repeat the same errors.

    Good luck, OP2.

    1. nofelix*

      When “anyone tells you to stop contacting them” is enough to stop on its own, no mention of police needed.

    2. Spooky*

      Something that’s especially important is that this applies to anyone and everyone in your life, not just jobs. I really hope OP isn’t taking things to this same level if, say, a person doesn’t want to date him/her or a professor gives him/her a bad grade on an assignment.

      1. B*

        I was thinking the EXACT same thing. If this is how OP responds in a professional environment, I shudder to think of how they behave in their personal life when they hear “no.”

  9. L McD*

    #2 – Oh lord! Even if the company was holding my child hostage, I still wouldn’t consider the threat to call the authorities as a “side note.” Given this is about a job opening, you absolutely need to move on and never, ever, ever breathe a thought of contacting them again. There’s no context or extenuating circumstances that matter here – when someone says “stop or I’ll call the cops,” you have to stop.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            I think it goes beyond that. Our head of HR recently had someone show up at the office after applying– THAT was tone deafness. Planning– I might even call this “plotting”– to show up after being told the authorities would be called goes beyond tone deafness and into a scarier realm. I hope OP 2 seeks out the professional help she needs and moves on from this company.

            1. Anon Accountant*

              That is tone deaf. I hesitate to write this but OP2 almost seems… obsessed with this company.

              1. OhNo*

                I hate to assume or armchair diagnose, but I was left with that impression, too.

                Calling a position the “job of your dreams” is pretty common shorthand, but some of the other phrases the OP used are… really strange, and outside normal levels of enthusiasm for a job.

            2. Dorothy Lawyer*

              Good point, I think some discussion with a counselor could really help OP2 to figure out what exactly happened here and how to prevent it from happening again.

          2. NK*

            But it’s not just workplace norms, it’s ANY norms. When anyone tells you to stop contacting them or they’ll get the police involved, you stop contacting them. (And if it’s a situation where you absolutely must contact them – I’m thinking child custody and other legal matters, nothing close to wanting a job – then you probably need to get the authorities involved on your end to establish contact.)

            1. sunny-dee*

              More important, the hiring manager had someone else do it — meaning, she was probably afraid to engage the OP any more by herself.

      1. nofelix*

        Agreed. They have seemingly no understanding that there are other human beings working at this dream company. Threats to call the police are just an obstacle that the writer must overcome in their life journey!

      2. Lacey*

        I haven’t been so creeped out after reading something online (non-fiction, written by the person who is doing/has done what is being written about) in a very long time. My impulse was to physically recoil from the screen.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      The side note part was what got me, too! Tells me the OP has terrible judgment that she didn’t think that was A Really Big Deal.

  10. A non e-mouse*

    I’d suggest that OP2 get professional counselling/therapy. It sounds like there are some serious issues you need to sort through, that go beyond just applying for jobs.

    I say this as someone with genuine mental health…things…that I see a therapist for. (Yes I know that doesn’t make me an expert, but it does make me sympathetic to these sort of things.)

    1. Brooke*

      Agreed. I want to stay on the correct side of the rule about not diagnosing, however I have a background in clinical psych and alarm bells were sounding like mad as I read that letter, both for the letter writer and for those on the other end of these interactions. This isn’t something to be taken lightly, and resources are out there.

      1. Christopher Tracy (formerly Doriana Gray)*

        Forget bells – sirens were going off when I was reading this.

    2. A Signer*

      I agree. OP2, whatever actions you took made the hiring manager so uncomfortable/unnerved that she had HR set a boundary with you (likely after she herself set several boundaries, which you assumedly did not take note of). This sounds far beyond normal, “show gumption” behavior that can be off-putting. Take the warning about calling the authorities as a sign that your idea of how your behaviors come across doesn’t match other people’s perceptions, to the point that they feel threatened by you.

      If you want to do something for yourself and push yourself outside of your comfort zone, think about making an appointment with a good counselor/therapist. Challenge yourself to be honest with them and hear what they have to say. Work on yourself for a while first, then focus on getting your dream job. Trust me, you’ll have much better skills and tools to handle whatever comes your way in that position after learning about yourself and how to be the best person you can be.

      1. Argh!*

        Since this happened on e-mail, printing out all those e-mails and bringing them to a counselor (or employment counselor even) would be a golden opportunity for discussion of this. Usually we just have our own memories of an interaction but in this case the counselor can see for themselves what happened and give OP writer an objective view of it. For short term therapy with a goal of modifying job-seeking behaviors you can get right to it with those print-outs.

    3. Mando Diao*

      Yep, I had thoughts along these lines and I’m glad someone else brought it up first. There are some major norms and cues that OP2 isn’t picking up on. This isn’t a game or a problem to solve. When an adult establishes a clear boundary, you don’t make yourself look good by trying to break it down.

    4. Marzipan*

      I also would like to suggest that #2 find someone, preferably a professional, who can assist them in processing and understanding what’s been happening with regard to this job application.

      #2, I’m sure that you are finding reading through the comments here a frustrating, difficult experience, because everyone is describing a situation that’s very different to what you’ve been perceiving from within that situation. Please understand that, even if this feels hurtful or upsetting, I’m sure no-one is writing their comments from a place of wanting to hurt or upset you – it’s because we are concerned with helping you.

      From what you have said in your letter, there is no possibility of you getting a job with this company. Contacting them again will likely result in them contacting the police and may get you into a lot of trouble. I know this may be upsetting, and that you feel very connected to this job and company, and that you may be struggling to recognise, understand or accept them rejecting you. But, unfortunately, how you feel about the situation is not going to change that rejection. Nothing you can do or say is going to change that rejection.

      That’s why I think it would be a good idea to get help with how you’re feeling about what has happened. Getting help for yourself is something you *can* actually do, and although it won’t switch off the feelings it might enable you to manage them better – both now and in the future.

      1. Hazel Asperg*

        Seconding this. I have Aspergers, and it has taken me years to try to fully understand the impact I have had when I have made other people uncomfortable in situations. I have, regrettably, lost good friends in the process. I would dearly love to contact them, to right wrongs, to apologise, but when someone (or in this case, a company) cuts you off and tells you not to contact them again – the best thing is to do it.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          And the people who cut you off might not blame you/hate you. They are just preserving their own comfort zone. I have a family member with mental illness with whom I’ve had to go low to no contact. I don’t think she’s a bad person and I don’t think she should be embarrassed about her disease. At some point though, I had to prioritize my well being and my family’s over maintaining a relationship with her. I couldn’t have both.

          1. KR*

            +1 My aunt has a lot of problems managing her mental illness. I haven’t talked to her in years – she’s just too much for me to handle and at this point I don’t know her very well because we’ve been out of touch and because her illness has changed her personality so much recently. She needs a heavy support system that she just doesn’t have the family or money for and I don’t blame her or dislike her for her illness, but I can’t keep in contact with her.

        2. AF*

          I’m sorry to hear that you have lost friends, but it’s really fantastic that you better understand yourself now. Self-awareness and making amends is a hard thing to do, but good for you for working through it!

    5. Argh!*

      My first thought as well. If someone tells you not to contact them, showing up in person is an escalation not a de-escalation and you would definitely be arrested.

      I recently received numerous e-mails from a well qualified candidate who basically tanked his chances by being over-eager (at the least). This kind of behavior indicates someone has emotional issues that would be problematic on the job. Nobody is so great that we’d risk that to hire them. We had many candidates for the job who were qualified and didn’t give off red flags.

      1. AMT*

        As with courtship, job-seeking is one of those things where movies and TV will always lead you wrong. Persistence is not good. Persistence is weird and sometimes threatening.

    6. Not Karen*

      Agreed. I didn’t want to be the one to bring it up, but something is seriously off-kilter if one’s reaction to being threatened with the police is “now how can I continue to do what they explicitly asked me not to do without them following through on that threat?”

    7. Dorothy Lawyer*

      Yes – seeing a counselor, at the very least, could help OP2 analyze what went wrong in this scenario and how to prevent it from happening again.

  11. Frankies Girl*

    #2 – You’re coming across as a scary/creepy stalker and not getting that you violated a huge boundary and that has killed your chances of ever getting a job with the company. Leave them completely alone.

    If this helps to reframe it in your mind so you can see how serious this is, consider this like you went out on a date with someone. You did something that so upset them that they told you not to contact them again. Instead of taking their rejection and moving on, you are stalking the poor person and refusing to take no for an answer because all you’re seeing is your own attraction, not that the other party has zero interest in you and in fact now feels scared and angry and threatened by your continued attempts to push yourself on them.

    No means no, even in a job situation.

    Get a grip on yourself and maybe you might want to speak with a good friend that can give you some honest insight to how you come across because you seem to be completely blind to how unprofessional it is to do what you’re proposing to do. And I wonder if you might need counseling as well since this is kind of outside the realm of “quirky” behavior.

    I seriously wonder just what you did to be told they’ll contact the police if you persist. That’s pretty much the nuclear option, so seriously think how poorly you handled this to avoid doing the same thing in the future.

    1. Gaara*

      Yeah, this is a great analogy. And like a date, it doesn’t matter if you failed to put your best foot forward. Maybe you fucked it up, maybe circumstances conspired against you, whatever — the bottom line is the date or the company doesn’t want to see you again, and you can’t change that. Trying will only make it worse.

    2. Observer*

      What makes you think that the OP understands that he (or she) shouldn’t “do everything” to get the object of his affections to understand the folly of turning him down?

      I’m not being snarky. As others have noted, all indications are of a huge lack of boundaries with this person. That tends to show up in all aspects of life, not just in job search. I agree with the others who wonder about his personal relationships.

      1. Argh!*

        Whatever it was, trying to get information from the employer is the wrong approach. Take the e-mails to a therapist or employment counselor & let them help sort it out. Sending too many e-mails is bad news even if nothing specific was threatened.

  12. Grand Mouse*

    #2 – showing up would definitely be seen as escalation. The hiring manager is already concerned about her safety and you showing up would further prove those concerns.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I don’t care if it’s only Tuesday, I think that wins Comment of the Week! XD

    2. jhhj*

      I worked for [search engine company] and we ALL used google to find info, not [search engine we worked on].

  13. Chocolate Teapot*

    4. I have been taken to lunch by former bosses and whilst it tends to be Cheap n’ Cheerful lunch place near the office rather than Chez Posh, my boss has paid the bill. I would thank them at the end of the meal, then perhaps send a follow up email saying it was nice to see them. If I had found an article in the local business magazine that might be of interest, I would forward it to them as well.

  14. Dan*


    OP, I’m really curious about this wonderful job. Can you tell us more about it?

    1. Anon2*

      Yes, I am also so curious about what OP did/said that caused the reaction of ‘we’ll call the police if you contact us again’. Seems so drastic without all the details.

      1. Nico M*

        #2 It is possible that the OP is only everyday wrong and its the company thats the truly mad one by spectacularly overreacting?.

        What “dream jobs” really get put on craigslist?

        1. Honeybee*

          I was thinking the same thing. It’s possible the OP managed to find out who the hiring manager was through the Internet and reached out to her in a mostly appropriate way, but the company freaked for whatever reason and threatened legal action because they don’t think people are supposed to do that. Or something.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            “It’s possible the OP managed to find out who the hiring manager was through the Internet and reached out to her in a mostly appropriate way,”

            That’s NOT mostly appropriate!! Circumventing a company’s established hiring processes is inappropriate! And I’m guessing it went well beyond a single email for them to threaten to get police involved. The fact that OP thought that crucial detail was a “side note” tells me the OP doesn’t have the best judgment.

            1. some1*

              And even if the company overreacted (which I don’t believe), why would you take that as a sign that this is a place you want to work?

            2. Allison*

              Agreed, companies that have an application process in place generally want candidates to stick to that process. They’re not looking to see who has the gumption to go rogue and get themselves on the express route to employment.

            3. Case of the Mondays*

              “circumventing a company’s established hiring process” is exactly what career services told us to do. I agree that the OP here has to back off even if he/she was right. However, the advice I got in both undergrad and law school is to do some research on the company, find the hiring person’s name, send the stuff to them. Even better, find a contact in the company you know to personally hand in your stuff to the hiring manager. Don’t just use the online application system and don’t just put dear hiring manager. We were told “dear hiring manager” looks lazy and it doesn’t take much work to find out the hiring managers name. Add that to the list of BAD ADVICE grads are getting.

              1. One of the Sarahs*

                But that’s a case of “ringing up the switchboard/looking up the online directory and finding out the hiring manager’s name”, which is not going outside established norms – that’s not, eg, starting to email them to try to change their mind after you’ve been rejected (or contacting them on their personal facebook, or whatever)

          2. Foxtrot*

            I think if that was the case, the OP would be writing in on how to save herself from damaging legal action? If I was acting, in my mind at least, perfectly rationally and someone came back threatening legal action, I would think they were crazy and stay as far away as possible. I would not be looking to work there or continue interactions. I might be interested in how *not* to get a restraining order taken out against me and hurt future background checks, but I would not contact the company again.

        2. Marzipan*

          The OP is proposing turning up at the HR manager’s office to discuss the situation, even after being told to back off, though. That seems to me to be a fair way past ‘everyday wrong’, whatever the intensity of the company’s reaction.

            1. Katniss*

              I mean, I understand why there’s a remaining stigma, but it isn’t relevant anymore. Every job I’ve had since 2008 I got through CL.

              1. De Minimis*

                Yep….have gotten several professional positions, as has my wife through CL, including jobs with state agencies, universities, non-profits…

        3. Steve*

          Even if that is true, the correct course of action is to stop interacting with the company. Either the OP#2 is crazy or the company is (or both). Either way, the relationship is too far gone for it to ever improve.

  15. Dan*


    They’re looking for a self starter / someone who takes initiative on their own.

    They don’t want someone who hides behind the wall of “but nobody told me how to do it!”

    Google first, not last.

    1. Kathlynn*

      I disagree. It sounded like they didn’t like the “well I’d google it” answer.

    2. Lord Snooty*

      I think the correct first response is “what kind of task is it and whats at stake”

      If the interviewer thinks there are magic words to solve any problem then they are a cretin.

    3. fposte*

      We also might be putting too much weight on the actual words here. There’s a world of difference between a candidate who hesitantly says that she’d maybe ask somebody? Or maybe Google? And somebody who’s efficiently ripping down her list of go-to strategies because she’s solving problems all the time.

  16. Marina*

    OP3, “Googling it” works if it’s a piece of knowledge or something that either can or can’t be done, but if it’s more a question of “what is the best way to approach this in our specific situation, right now” then googling wouldn’t work. I’ve definitely been in lots of work situations where I didn’t know how to do a thing, no one on my team knew how to do a thing, and googling it raised more questions than it answered. The interviewer definitely phrased it weirdly and was overall weird about it, so I don’t think you did said wrong. But they might have been looking for an answer that was more along the lines of what kinds of questions you’d ask, how you’d figure out what pieces of knowledge you were missing, different places you’d look for information, that sort of thing.

    1. Jenm*

      In my field, googling it would be a really naive answer. Googling to see what community has done this and then calling them can be a start. But other answers would be to call someone at the county or state (depending on your professional contacts and the context) to find out who has done it WELL. Then following up with a phone call to those organizations or communities. Google will not tell you those answers. Neither will anyone who is a boss outside of my department. However, I wouldn’t ask that question I guess. So maybe my input is not that relevant.

    2. OriginalYup*

      I agree, the interviewer was probably looking for a broader answer about problem solving and flexible thinking. But I think they went about it in a bassackwards circular way. An interview candidate doesn’t have any way of knowing the norms in that workplace, so a practical answer like “I’d put together a brainstorming session with a few key people” might be wildly off base in how they do things.

      I interviewed for a job once where they asked me a similar behavioral question. It turns out, their right answer was “Connect Client A with Client B so they can share ideas.” And I told them, “It’s great that you encourage open dialogue like that. I bet it’s really effective for building relationships. In my current job, it’s a firing offense to reveal client information even by naming one to the other.” They were like, “Oh.” Yeah. That’s why I didn’t list it as answer, dudes.

  17. RKB*

    #3… Do you happen to know if your interviewer was well published on certain matters relating to the job you applied for?

    Only asking because I had a bizarre office hours confrontation like this in my undergrad with my behaviourism professor. Turns out he’s one of the most well-known published authors of behaviourist psychology in modern age and he wanted me to say I’d consult him and his published works.

    1. DQ (OP#3)*

      The main interviewer has not published anything, as well as the other panelists. However, all of the people interviewing me have many years of experience in the field.

    2. Ife*

      If the interview was a at an organization with a lot of bureaucratic red tape and obscure, undocumented processes, perhaps the interviewer was testing just how far the OP would go to find the right form/department/process/magical phrase to get the job done!

  18. Former Computer Professional*

    #3 – definitely weird.

    In an interview for a job in my former profession, I was once asked how much I knew about a certain technology. I said I didn’t know anything (about which they seemed to appreciate I wasn’t trying to fake it) and their response was to ask how I’d learn about it.

    I jokingly answered, “Wikipedia!” and then said I was kidding. They said that wasn’t a bad place to get the basics down. Then I told them that I had access to a variety of online resources for others in my field, from mailing lists to chat sites (like IRC) to forums, where I could ask questions and get experienced people to help me.

    In my current field (copy-editing) I have two big resources to use. One is online searching — I have a pile of bookmarks covering everything from grammar rules to manuals of style (like the one from the Wookieepedia, covering Star Wars written rules). My other resource is my former English teacher mother. :)

      1. Former Computer Professional*

        Among other things, I’ve had to look up whether “stormtrooper” was capitalized (it’s not). And “Imperial” (it is when referring to the, erm, government). I also have the AP style guide for holidays (Kriss Kringle is spelled with two s’s [and, yes, single letters can be made plural with an apostrophe :)]; yule and yuletide are not capitalized), the AP style guide for the Olympics (“games” is capitalized when referring to things like the Olympic Games, but not when used in a standalone, general sense), a religious style book that covers a multitude of religions, a guide to language about disabilities, the US Air Force style guide, and, believe it or not, a style guide from the American Federation of Astrologers (“Capitalize the names of all signs, planets, asteroids, angular house cusps, Vertex, East Point, North Node, and South Node”).

        I love my job.

        1. F.*

          Any chance you could please give us a list of the most useful of these style guide sites in the Friday open forum? I’d love to have some better grammar and style resources in my arsenal.

        2. Naomi*

          That’s amazing! I had no idea that there were so many specialized style guides.

          A while ago I was working on an essay about Quidditch, which was when it first occurred to me how much Rowling capitalizes her invented words (Quaffle, Seeker, Muggle, etc.)

          1. TootsNYC*

            I am one, and I’m impressed!

            (I usually edit for a single publication at a time, so I tend to stay in one genre.)

            I feel sort of cheat-y by asking, but I’d love to see that list too!

        3. Phoenix*

          Would Yule be capitalized if referring to the pagan/neopagan holiday, rather than relating to Christmas? I’ve always seen it capitalized in that context, so I was wondering if it’s different.

          1. Alix*

            Given that it’s the proper name of said pagan holiday, it should be, even if the style guide objects. Especially since, afaik, all the other pagan holiday names are capitalized.

            1. Kelly L.*

              I do. I’m guessing the lowercase might be for secular uses of “yule log” or “the yuletide spirit,” but honestly I’d probably capitalize those too myself.

        4. Lore*

          I have found from experience that copy editing (production editing really but close) also makes one invaluable at pub quiz. I know all sorts of weird stuff.

  19. FiveWheels*

    OP3 – I might be completely off base, and this very much depends on the job, but I think the ideal answer was something like “I generally prefer to find things out on my own. If I’ve done the research myself in much more likely to remember it. Once, I wasn’t sure how to do X, but after research I was able to work out a more efficient method than everyone else used and it really benefited the team” or something like that.

  20. Milton Waddams*

    #2: You don’t want to work there. If they are that paranoid, chances are they have the sort of company culture that produces disgruntled ex-employees, disgruntled ex-customers, or perhaps even righteously angry individuals on a frequent enough basis to warrant it. When you’re feeling guilty, everyone looks like The Punisher. :-)

    I think you’d have better luck at a start-up — entrepreneurs are much more direct, so even if you end up being too pushy, they’ll shut you down in person rather than having HR tell you in the passive voice that police will be involved.

    Good luck!

    1. Christopher Tracy (formerly Doriana Gray)*

      If they are that paranoid, chances are they have the sort of company culture that produces disgruntled ex-employees, disgruntled ex-customers, or perhaps even righteously angry individuals on a frequent enough basis to warrant it.

      But they’re not being paranoid, and OP #2 does not need her actions to date positively reinforced by making it seem like the employer is the one with the problem – they’re not.

      1. Christopher Tracy (formerly Doriana Gray)*

        Hit submit too soon. Was going to say, we have no reason to believe from what was written in OP’s letter that this particular employer produces disgruntled ex-employees and has a terrible culture. In fact, it sounds like they’re trying to avoid hiring problematic people who would make their company culture an unpleasant place to be. OP was in the wrong here and casting blame on the company isn’t helpful for her in the least.

    2. Honeybee*

      Ehhh, I’m not sure I would blanket say entrepreneurs are more direct – I think it depends on the start-up. I admit that I’m thinking of Silicon Valley, which I know is fiction, but I’m sure there are more than a few tech startup CEOs that are like Richard Hendricks (e.g., not direct).

    3. Katie the Fed*

      “they’ll shut you down in person rather than having HR tell you in the passive voice that police will be involved”

      I don’t think “passive voice” means what you think it does. They were pretty clear on the consequences of continued contact. Nothing about this indicates to me that the company is the one with the problem.

      1. Sarahnova*


        OP#2 was told directly, “Do not contact us again or we will call the police”. That is an unambiguous boundary and the complete opposite of passive. OP#2 plans to ignore this. This demonstrates that whatever problems this company might have (for which there is no evidence, and as a matter of fact I think the fact that HR has stepped up for the hiring manager is a positive), the OP has MUCH BIGGER ONES.

        1. Windchime*

          Actually, OP was told “do not *email* the lady again or we will call the police”. Some people are really, really literal and would take that statement literally: “They don’t want me to email the lady again. Should I just go down there and apologize in person?” might seem like a totally rational thing for a super-literal person to think.

          If the OP is reading, I’m sure s/he understands that they shouldn’t make contact at all now. But to some people, it really is a different thing to say “don’t email us” and “don’t contact us at all in any way”. I think that’s where the confusion is/was for OP.

      2. Sarahnova*

        And the fact that OP#2 doesn’t see this as a problem, or a thing to be heeded (!!!) suggests strongly that the company has sent previous clear messages that the OP has simply disregarded, or chosen not to hear.

      3. Susan C*

        Thank you for saying that in a way that isn’t my inner linguist angrily key-smashing.

      4. Milton Waddams*

        Let me ask you — if somebody’s drunk ex-girlfriend woke you up yelling outside your apartment to their former boyfriend on the third floor, would you clear your throat and announce that the lady is “no longer allowed” and that “they [You? The landlord? Their ex-boyfriend? The complex’s residents collectively?] will take immediate action [Put in earplugs? Kick her ass?] and may [may?] call the proper authorities. [Security? The police? Their mother?]”

        I mean, if they work in corporate, I can see how that would be stunningly direct — I can even see the boyfriend panicking at his window, perhaps working up the nerve to open it dramatically and say, “We regret to inform you that due to changing market conditions the position on this project has been discontinued! Your resume will be kept on file!” My god, the suspense! :-)

        1. sunny-dee*

          Actually, yes. I would say, “Leave, or I’m calling the cops.” And then I would, you know, call the cops.

          You’re trying to make a bizarre point that using more formal language, in a written business communication, somehow means that they don’t really mean what they are explicitly saying. Because if they meant it, they would react like some totally different situation.

          The OP — and you, apparently — get what they mean, and you’re trying to use some kind of semantic game to find the way to do what the OP wants over their objections. But they were clear and they’re not interested in semantic games. If the OP goes to the office or starts emailing or calling other people, they will call the police. And they should.

          1. Christopher Tracy (formerly Doriana Gray)*

            All of this. So much. OP, please don’t play this game, which will end up with you being carted off the premises in handcuffs, and do what Alison and others have suggested (e.g. ceasing communication with this company and seeking professional help to get at the root of this behavior).

          2. Milton Waddams*

            I think maybe you might be having a bit of trouble with your corporate auto-translate kicking in… If you’ll notice, they did not explicitly say anything. They said something which someone familiar with corporate conventions can clearly understand but which confuses others enough (such as the poor OP) that they feel like they need to Ask A Manager for advice, fulfilling the website’s namesake purpose. :-)

            They did not say, “Leave or I’m calling the cops.” — that is clear and direct. It is a really wonderful response to choose from all the possible ways to express discomfort — it has one and only one meaning!

            It is in the active voice — who is calling the cops? You are, not the amorphous “they” of an HR email. Who is being called? The cops, rather than “proper authorities” who depending on protocol could be anyone scary. Is it happening? Yes, definitely, unless a clear and active action is taken — the person you are talking to leaves, an action verb with a very clear meaning, rather than something that may happen if a category of action that is “not allowed” occurs, which as people have suggested quite rightly from context is likely all contact rather than just email, erasing the value of the one clear and concrete action mentioned in the whole exchange. The entire phrase is so riddled with weasel words that I’m amazed that it was able to have enough of an impact to inspire the OP to write for advice. :-)

            Like I stated originally, this is not a place the OP wants to work for. They will struggle as much with the company culture as a native English speaker such as myself would have working for a company where the only language spoken was Chinese. More so, even, as at least then someone would probably guess that I didn’t understand the language rather than assume I was perfectly fluent in Chinese, just some kind of dangerous crazy person.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I’m really confused here. The OP didn’t quote their exact wording, so we have no way of knowing exactly how they worded. Regardless, it hardly matters; they conveyed that they’ll contact the police if she continues to contact them. That’s pretty clear. We have no way to conclude any of the rest of what you’re written here.

              1. Milton Waddams*

                Look at the rest of the language in the letter, and you will notice that the style of speaking changes when they take on the voice of the company. If it is not an exact wording, I would be surprised to learn that it was not a close paraphrase.

                The author is a fan of forceful and direct language; compare their voice: “I applied for the job of my dreams, no, the job of my life — the best job you can ever have in your wildest dreams!” with HR’s voice: “they (unspecified) will take immediate action (unspecified) and may call (ambiguous) the proper authorities (unspecified).”

                The advice for no future contact is good — I hope I’m not suggesting otherwise. This is exactly the sort of manager perspective that someone in that situation ought to ask for and listen to.

                Again, however, there’s that persistent corporate auto-translate problem; note that the police were never mentioned, nor was a contact ban mentioned. While these are the things that one familiar with corporate language will immediately infer, the language we are given from the OP says that they were told by the HR manager that “the proper authorities” may (not will) be called by someone (possibly the HR manager, but ambiguous enough that the OP used “they” to reference the action even though they were aware of the HR manager’s gender) if the OP emails the hiring manager from the previous position. I mean thank goodness they didn’t infer that “the proper authorities” meant their emails would be escalated to someone with more authority within the company. :-) You and I can infer the meaning immediately, but it is important to remember that this is a learned skill-set, and not something that is fundamentally obvious.

            2. AP English Teacher*

              Passive voice uses the “to be” verbs (be, am, is, are, was, were, been, being) which denote states of existence (e.g. “I am running.”); active voice focuses on the action of the verb itself (e.g. “I run.”).

      5. Anonymous Educator*

        Passive voice: The police will be called.
        Active voice: We will call the police.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Yes…. As the OP described it, it was active voice:

          “if I do, they will take immediate action and may call the proper authorities.”

        2. SusanIvanova*

          Yep, and the grammatical term “passive” only refers to the structure of the sentence, it doesn’t correspond to the general sense of “passive” meaning “without action” – the action *is* going to happen, the sentence just doesn’t say who will do it.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            Well, the emphasis is on the action and not who’s doing it. You could (though people using passive voice often leave the awkward construction off) tack on an after-the-fact actor:

            Passive voice: The police will be called.
            Passive voice with actor thrown in as an afterthought: The police will be called by us.

            1. Isben Takes Tea*

              In case you are wondering, the grammatical term for the actor in a passive voice construction is the “agent.”

              1. Cath in Canada*

                Cool! I thought it was “zombie”

                (reference to the helpful memory aid that if you can add “by zombies” to the end of the sentence and it still makes sense, it’s in passive voice. Just in case anyone was wondering.)

    4. Oryx*

      It’s not paranoia if they really are after you.

      In this case, the OP is exhibiting very obsessive stalker-esque qualities. The company is well within their right to take a heavy hand.

      1. Brooke*

        I’m absolutely flummoxed that a few people here are being more defensive of the LW than of the hiring manager, as if pop culture or an overreaction on the part of the hiring manager are the real culprits here.

        The benefit of the doubt goes to the person(s) feeling threatened enough to call the police. Every. Time.

        1. Creag an Tuire*

          You can give every benefit of the doubt to the threatened party while assuming the OP’s intentions came from a good place and trying to help them understand how they went so drastically off the rails. Empathy is not a finite resource.

          1. Christopher Tracy (formerly Doriana Gray)*

            But Milton isn’t being empathetic to the OP – he’s basically telling the OP that she dogged a bullet because the company overreacted when, from everything OP wrote, their reaction was very much in line with OP’s aggressive behavior. This is a dangerous mentality to cosign – OP needs to understand how alarming this looks to outsiders so she’ll understand why the company responded this way, and she can change her behavior going forward so as not to repeat it and lose out on another opportunity.

            1. Milton Waddams*

              Here is the aggressive behavior: “I was overly eager and contacted the lady who was the hiring manager. ”

              Here is the response: “The HR manager told me I am no longer allowed to email the lady I was emailing, and if I do, they will take immediate action and may call the proper authorities.”

              If the OP had contacted the hiring manager in person, the response from HR would not have been about email. So the aggressive behavior here is that the OP broke protocol to email the hiring manager instead of simply submitting their resume to HR and waiting.

              I’m going to make a guess here and say that “too eager” probably means that the OP sent multiple emails, either because their first one was ignored, or because the hiring manager replied in the same sort of indirect language that baffled the OP when they received it from the hiring manager, and perhaps thought that that meant they were making progress towards a job rather than creating a sense of alarm.

              While this is a no-no (as pointed out, gumption doesn’t really get you places in white collar fields), I can think of many non-aggressive, non-sinister reasons why someone might think that this was a good idea.

              1. Milton Waddams*

                (…or because the hiring manager replied in the same sort of indirect language that baffled the OP when they received it from the *HR* manager, rather.)

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                We know for sure the OP has extraordinarily poor judgment, as she thinks she should continue contacting this company, even show up in person, after they’ve told her to leave them alone and have threatened to notify the police if she contacts them again … and that she presented that information as a “side note,” as if it’s not a huge deal.

                Given that, we know that she’s not an especially reliable narrator when it comes to presenting her own actions, and it’s a far more likely explanation that she was crossed some major lines earlier than that an employer just randomly threatened to call the police on someone who was behaving rationally.

                1. Milton Waddams*

                  I guess I sort of see it in the same vein as a deaf person who shows the extraordinarily poor judgment of not complying with the verbal commands of the police. :-)

                  I suppose without more info from the OP, it can indeed be hard to say for certain what’s going on.

                  That said, the advice about not contacting was good — that’s the sort of learned advice that people rely on websites like this for, so I certainly hope there doesn’t seem to be any disagreement there.

              3. Elizabeth West*

                Milton, I think it’s possible the OP left out a few things. Most people don’t go straight to the proper authorities over an “eager” email to a hiring manager.

                Regardless, OP needs to walk away. Period.

                1. Milton Waddams*

                  It certainly would be helpful to have more information, and I agree that the advice given to walk away is the correct advice.

                  I can imagine a scenario where people would go to HR over excessive pushy emails. Let’s say a candidate emails a hiring manager and is ignored; they decide more “gumption” is needed, and send more emails, perhaps with some sort of apology about spam filters. Still seeing no response, they start emailing from multiple accounts, under the assumption that one of them will “pass through”.

                  Already the alarm bells are ringing on the hiring manager’s end, as a candidate who emails from multiple accounts can’t really be put on “ignore”. At this point, I imagine the hiring manager finally responds just to shut the candidate up, by sending a very firm (corporate) response to buzz off, such as “Your resume has been forwarded to our HR department, and will be kept on file.”

                  Our tone-deaf candidate is ecstatic — all that gumption finally paying off! Kept on file! Surely they only do that for people who are in the running? So of course then they start responding even more, and it all goes downhill from there. :-)

                2. Brooke*

                  “That said, the advice about not contacting was good — that’s the sort of learned advice that people rely on websites like this for, so I certainly hope there doesn’t seem to be any disagreement there.”

                  On what planet is “leave people alone if they tell you to” (or, more simply put, “no means no”) such a rarified bit of knowledge that people must rely on “websites like this” to learn it?


              4. Observer*

                There is NO “non-aggressive, non-sinister” reason aligned with reality why someone would think that 1. a threat to call the police is just a side issue, and 2. it is appropriate to show up in person to a site when you have been told (and the OP clearly understands this) that they will call the police if you even email them.

                Given that reality, the rest of your speculation is highly unlikely, and utterly not relevant. If you can’t understand that you need to stay away from a place that has threatened to call the police if you contact them, you have a problem that goes well beyond possible paranoia on the part of that place.

                1. Milton Waddams*

                  1 and 2 never happened. Honestly, I’m not kidding — give the OP’s letter a look. :) Both are easily inferred by those familiar with corporate etiquette, but neither is mentioned anywhere within the OP’s letter. It’s that pesky auto-translate that everyone develops after enough time in those kinds of environments — sometimes it happens so automatically that it can be hard to hear or read the original words. ;-)

                  So I think it is within the realm of reason that this could in fact be a big misunderstanding from someone who is not familiar with white-collar norms; the exact sort of dilemma I had always imagined Ask A Manager was designed to help navigate.

                2. Observer*

                  1 and 2 most definitely DID happen.

                  The LW explicitly calls it a side issue and is the one who states that he’s been threatened with the police

                  As a side note, the HR manager told me I am no longer allowed to email the lady I was emailing, and if I do, they will take immediate action and may call the proper authorities.” (bold added).

                  No inferences needed. No “translation” needed.

                  The OP sys they threatened him, and he says that it’s a side note. What exactly is he not “translating”?

                3. Milton Waddams*

                  OK, let’s pull it apart.

                  “The HR manager told me I am no longer allowed to email the lady I was emailing, and if I do, they will take immediate action and may call the proper authorities.”

                  1. They are not translating the threat level. To non-corporate types, there are no threatening words whatsoever in the phrase above — it says “The HR manager told me that if I email (specific action) a particular person (the hiring manager from the previous position), someone (possibly the HR manager, possibly not) will do something and might call somebody.”

                  The word immediate is likely ignored, because to non-corporate people actions are immediate by default; this is why in normal conversation people rarely say things like “I’m immediately eating.” when they have a fork raised to their lips, they just say, “I’m eating.”

                  This is not true in corporate language; “immediate” is the threat word. Anyone who has worked for large companies instantly grasps that (as sad as it sounds) large companies don’t do anything immediately unless it is an emergency, a threat, or both. :-)

                  2. The action taken is ambiguous. Some unspecified action will happen immediately, and there is a possibility that some unspecified people will be called. Now if someone grasped the threat level inherent to “immediate” in corporate-speak, of course the people who are the “proper authorities” are the police, and not (for instance) more senior manager with more authority, like you would get transferred to during the escalation process at a call center. Also implied by the “immediate” is that the “may” in “may call the proper authorities” is not actually an indicator of something only happening as a possibility. It is there to pull back the reins on the “immediate” — if they had used the word “will” instead of “may”, it would likely mean that the authorities had already been called. By using may, what is being said in corporate is that the proper authorities *will* be called, but only if “not allowed” actions are taken.

                  3. The actions themselves also need translation. A very specific action was defined: “I am no longer allowed to email the lady I was emailing” who is “the lady who was the hiring manager” for the previous position (i.e. the job of OP’s dreams — now they are looking at other jobs with the same company). To a non-corporate person, this action is taken at face value. Someone familiar with corporate norms, however, will recognize that this is a red herring — the specific is an example of the general, because it was delivered through a mediator acting as official company spokesperson. “No longer allowed to email” actually means “no longer allowed to contact in any way”, and “the lady I was emailing” means “anyone in the company”.

                  Clear as crystal. :-P

                4. Observer*

                  That’s a nice essay, but it’s pure fiction. Most people absolutely do not communicate this way. I’m not going to take the time to pick apart of the the things you say, but I will point out one thing that is SO egregious that it’s almost laugh out loud funny. That is your claim that “The word immediate is likely ignored, because to non-corporate people actions are immediate by default.” Then you try to support this fantasy by pointing out that people generally don’t use the word immediately in a nonsensical and ungrammatical fashion.

                  This is, in fact, so nonsensical, that I really have to wonder if you mean any of this.

                  If you are just trolling, you should think about the fact that you may be giving encouragement to behavior that is, at best, like to get the OP into trouble.

                5. Milton Waddams*

                  That’s fascinating — I feel like I’m getting a free vacation just learning about your customs! :-) I really do feel like I’ve learned something new here about how some people see the world; hopefully it is mutual, but if not you have my thanks anyways.

  21. Anony Mouse*

    OP 3: nobody has mentioned the possibility of your field being a regulated industry, or something such as healthcare, where doing a task wrong is likely to lead to worse consequences than saying you can’t do it. In this situation you’d go back to whoever asked you to do it, tell them you’re untrained in that and can’t do it without training, ask them where the standard operating procedure is and who the relevant trainer is, and go from there. This is one of those questions where there isn’t a one size fits all answer unfortunately! It’s a bad question if they don’t give you specific examples. A place to start could potentially have been the job description, if they have “takes initiative” or “problem solving” as a high priority, problem solving on your own will be favoured. If they have “strictly adheres to operating procedures”, attempting to do anything you don’t know how to do without training or guidance is a no-go.

  22. Ruth (UK)*

    3. It makes a huge difference what the thing is that you’ve been hypothetically asked to do and I guess depends on the type of job. But with no further context about what the task is, googling it isn’t a bad answer. If I didn’t know how to do italic text on a program, I’d google it. If I didn’t know my company’s procedure for discarding confidential information I’d ask someone, and if I didn’t know how to perform open heart surgery and was asked to do so, I’d admit I have no clue and not do it. So I depends how complex the task is (ie will google have the answer) and also how serious would it be if you did it wrong (eg. Will it matter much, create more work for someone, put someone at risk if you do it wrong, etc). Also, some things the answer might just be ‘have a go and see what happens’

  23. Some sort of Management Consultant*

    OP #2, everyone’s already said it, but please stay away from this company.

    The way you write come off a bit like those Pick Up Artists that hang around reddit, who are just waiting for the right “technique” to get a woman into bed, and who are SOO convinced the world is against them and can’t accept a no. That’s NOT who you want to be.
    Back off from the company.
    I second/third/fourth the suggestion of getting some counseling to see if you can work out where things went wrong in your interactions with the company.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yes to this. There’s so many parallels between job searching and dating. #2’s behavior is swerving dangerously into stalker territory.

    2. Kelly L.*

      And OP, if that’s what you’re reading, let me use a term from that realm: you have oneitis about this job. It’s not the only job out there that could be good for you. Let it go and start fresh.

  24. nerf herder*

    #2: What you’re doing is harassment. You’re like those people who call you about car insurance that you don’t want, and when you say you’re not interested, they demand an explanation. Stop calling them, and move on.
    #3: I hate interviewers like that.

  25. Alter_ego*

    Op3: maybe the interview was at Microsoft, and they were mad you said you’d use google instead of bing

  26. Katie the Fed*

    #1 – are there some things you can delegate to other people? If there’s something they really need you to get to but you can’t – can you ask someone else to take on that task? Delegation is hard for someone new to leadership – took me a LONG time to feel comfortable enough with subordinates to do it, but it makes things so much easier!

  27. AdAgencyChick*

    #1 — Alison’s advice of talking to whoever is managing you is spot on.

    To add, though — you’re excited by the chance of a raise and a promotion at the end of this, but it’s not a guarantee or even likely (unless someone has actually said to you, “do a good job at this and we’ll promote you”). I feel like we’ve read a few times on this board about people who have taken on extra duties due to an employee quitting or being on leave, the employee who takes on the extra duties expects to be rewarded for it, and the company just sees it as a temporary exercise of “other duties as assigned” in your current job.

    Not saying you won’t be promoted if things work out well, but be prepared to make a strong case for it — it won’t be automatic.

    1. F.*

      Even if someone has said, “do a good job at this and we’ll promote you”, don’t assume that will happen. I did 2-1/2 positions for over five months and got nothing more out of it except over 300 hours of uncomped overtime.

      1. Judy*

        I’ve been told too many times “do X and we’ll promote you” to even consider believing anyone. In one particular case, I had a manager say “do this 4 month training course, and we’ll promote you”, then when that was completed “complete this project successfully, and we’ll promote you”. That manager then said “join this cross organization initiative and see it through, and we’ll promote you”. Basically the bar kept being raised over about 3 years. It’s funny, when this guy was moved to a different role, the new manager promoted me within 2 months.

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        That too. Poor choice of word order on my part — those words are certainly not a guarantee, I just meant that a promotion was highly unlikely *unless* it was something specifically discussed beforehand.

      3. Crazy Dog Lady*

        I’ve been in this position twice – first covering for someone on maternity leave, and then covering for someone who resigned. Neither time resulted in a promotion for me, despite being told that I would get one the first time. Other than extra items/accomplishments to add to my resume (which I admit is nice), I didn’t get any benefits and worked myself sick in both cases. Delegating can help, but also establishing boundaries. Everyone thinks that their requests are top priority, until they are told they have to start thinking differently. Once they are told that something isn’t possible, they’ll consider other resources or push the timing, especially if you can loop in your boss’s manager. You are only human and don’t need to make yourself sick to get the job done.

    2. Christopher Tracy (formerly Doriana Gray)*

      Good point. In almost every job I’ve been in, I’ve had to provide coverage for someone being out, and that has never once ended with me getting a promotion. That includes extended absences like when my supervisor at Evil Law Firm went on maternity leave for three months and my team lead took over her role, and I became de facto team lead. It was just something that had to be done according to management.

    3. Ama*

      This is very true. I have wound up in a position of covering for several months for an absent boss three times (mine were not as planned as maternity leave — two unexpected firings and one health crisis). The first time I didn’t get anything extra (and in fact, when I finally got a new manager I was essentially demoted because they took away even the higher level tasks I was doing before my old manager left). The second time I got a spot bonus as a thank you when a replacement was finally hired, and I got to keep a project I had taken over that I really enjoyed, but no bump in title or extra permanent raise. The third time (at a different employer than the first two) I got a spot bonus, and when my boss ended up deciding not to return, I got a raise and a promotion — but I think if she had returned I would have received only the spot bonus.

  28. The Cosmic Avenger*

    OP#5, since this is a freelance position for which you’re currently applying, maybe they’ve had freelancers who were new to it and not great at scheduling their own time, and were hoping to see you’d had at least one or two longer-term freelance (1099) positions, showing that you handled your own workload independently. I know for me that sounds like the most daunting part. Well, that and having to do all the paperwork that HR/payroll now does for me.

    1. Allisonthe5th*

      Sometimes I ask this question when I am trying to understand if a person has truly been a freelancer (1099) or has been job hopping. Obviously, it’s typically to offer grace to people who have worked on 15 projects in 7 years if they have done it on a freelance basis.

  29. Zillah*

    Aw, OP2.

    Something wacky happened here. I’m not clear on what happened in the interactions prior to the company threatening to call the police, but ultimately, I don’t think it matters. Even if this is based entirely around a misunderstanding and the HM reacted strongly to something that would barely register for most people, the company still isn’t going to hire someone with that kind of history with one of their employees. Their concern isn’t being fair, it’s being productive, and introducing a new employee who makes an existing employee super uncomfortable (whether you think it’s reasonable or not) isn’t going to help them toward that end. No matter what you say to them, the risks just don’t outweigh the potential rewards, particularly when there are other highly qualified candidates to choose from who don’t carry that same baggage.

    1. Zillah*

      Hit post by accident, ugh.

      Look for a job elsewhere, OP. No matter how great this job/company is, there will be others. As you apply to them, be aware of both the tone and frequency of your contact with the HM. Don’t check up on your application more than 1-2 times per interview – and if you don’t get an interview, your only contact should be sending the original app in.

      Good luck!

  30. Allison*

    OP2, I get it. You’ve bee told, time and time again, that when you need a job, you should do whatever it takes to get yourself in there! Don’t take no for an answer! Persistence will win in the end! Make them see how great you are! There are so many people graduating from college and only so many entry-level jobs, so the common advice is to fight your way to that job offer!

    As you can see from the other commentors, that’s not the way to do it. Even if someone tells you to push back against a rejection, don’t. Apply, send a followup e-mail if you must, but if you’re rejected, move on, even if it’s your dream job. Remember, in order to get that dream job, you need to have the skillset that matched what they’re looking for, and if you don’t have it, no level of gumption or sheer awesomeness is going to compensate for that.

    1. Zillah*

      Remember, in order to get that dream job, you need to have the skillset that matched what they’re looking for, and if you don’t have it, no level of gumption or sheer awesomeness is going to compensate for that.

      This is so, so well-put.

  31. Tomato Frog*

    For #3, I’d bet they were trying to ascertain problem-solving skills and were looking for a reasoning or experimentation-based response. I think they were a bad interviewer, but nonetheless there’s plenty of places to go between Google and magic. Of course, it’s hard to think about how you would find the answer for a generic question — it would be better if they were specific about the type of problem.

  32. Cruella DaBoss*

    LW2 reminds me of the person I had interviewed, rejected, and suggested that she keep an eye out on our jobsite for other postings, only to have her call me once a week, for a year. OMG

  33. Anon Accountant*

    Can I also toss in there that AAM advises there is no such thing as a dream job? It may seem like it but you never know when there is a nightmare manager, terrible coworker that makes the job miserable, etc.

    The other posters here understand a long job search wears you down and the need to stand out. After an interview send a thank you and state your interest in the position. Then after time passes (after they said they’d get back to you regarding the next steps or potential offer) then email and inquire for an updated timeline and say you are still interested. Then don’t contact again. Continue with other places that are interesting to you.

    1. BRR*

      I really need to second the dream job thing because I had what I thought was a dream job and was screwed over. Right now my husband just finished his PhD and has a dream job of being a professor anywhere in his head and not only is that giving him blinders on about things like coworkers and location but also blinders for alternative career paths (since tenure-track professor is not only difficult to begin with but nothing even posted this job cycle that he was qualified to apply for).

      To ground myself about dreams, I like to think about what sounds like an awesome job to me is such as the person who decides what will be streaming on Netflix. Then think about how I would have to do things like figure out how much it will cost and how popular it would be. The data behind the decisions would really drag it down for me, and I like data.

      1. blackcat*

        The worst thing about academia is that it encourages blindness to other career paths.

        I’m most of the way to a PhD, and there are a variety of things I might do after. But EVERYONE around me seems to assume I’ll be a tenure-track professor. I have to actively push back against it. I might end up there, but I’ve also had another career I enjoyed that is much less stressful.

        I keep reminding folks that just because something is *their* dream job doesn’t make it mine. I don’t have a dream job! I want a job that is interesting, pays well enough, and affords me the general life style I want (eg, I don’t want to consistently work more than 50 hours/week).

    2. Dot Warner*

      Great point! I’ve had jobs that I thought would be a dream and turned out to be absolute nightmares, and I’ve had jobs that I took because I needed a paycheck and didn’t have other options that turned out to be awesome places to work. There are other employers out there, OP2, and one of them just might be a pleasant surprise for you, if you can respect people’s boundaries. Good luck!

    3. LQ*

      I think this is really important. If you think this is the one and only perfect absolute job you’ll miss things, you’ll think this is your only shot. There are lots of great jobs, lots of good jobs, lots of bad jobs. You need to learn to sort through those. But there is no perfect job.

      I think this idea that this is “the best job you can ever have in your wildest dreams” is making it hard for you to see that you have to stop. There will be other good jobs, even great jobs, that will come along. If you move forward toward those jobs.

    4. Allison*

      I remember applying for a job with the organization I’d wanted to work for since high school. I wasn’t 100% qualified, but I was convinced I was still a valuable asset to them because I was passionate, damnit! So I followed up every week, even arranged an informational interview (which I should have known wasn’t going to help), and finally gave up. Now, as much as I’d still like to work in politics or non-profit advocacy where my work can make a difference in people’s lives, my idea of a “dream job” has changed to a heads-down, research-based job with room to grow, where my coworkers (even the older coworkers) respect me as a reasonably intelligent, competent professional, and where I’m well paid, have some flexibility, and a commute that doesn’t drive me nuts.

    5. some1*

      “Can I also toss in there that AAM advises there is no such thing as a dream job? It may seem like it but you never know when there is a nightmare manager, terrible coworker that makes the job miserable, etc. ”

      Or even when everything is great at the start everything can change: your wonderful boss leaves and is replaced by someone who is a nightmare, your company gets acquired and the new parent company is awful, your coworker leaves and doesn’t get replaced and your workload doubles, your company decides to move to a new location and you add an hour to your commute, etc.

    6. Anonymous Educator*

      Maybe I’m just being nitpicky here on scope, but dream jobs can and do exist—they’re just extremely, extremely rare. I don’t think getting a dream job should be on anyone’s list of attainable goals. If you happen to be lucky to get your dream job, thank your lucky stars. I had my dream job once, and I gave it up because of extenuating circumstances. My job now is amazing, but it’s not my dream job, and that’s totally cool.

      Ultimately, though, for the vast majority of folks, the point of job is to pay the bills. You can get some fulfillment from it or like your co-workers or like the mission of the company/organization—that’s all bonus, though. At the end of the day, unless you’re a trust fund baby or a self-made gazillionaire, your job’s main function is to pay the bills. You can get fulfillment from the stuff you do outside of work.

  34. ExceptionToTheRule*

    OP #2 – I’ve been the hiring manager who has had to threaten an over-zealous applicant with calling the cops. In my case it was a former employee. He was prone to emotional outbursts and threats of violence. He made a lot of people feel not safe in the work place. A few years back he started applying for any & every opening we had and then when he didn’t get called for interviews, he started showing up in the lobby. Our business manager told him to stop and that if he came in again, we’d call the police. I work nights and get off around 11pm. Management told me that if he was in the parking lot when I was leaving to go back inside and dial 911. He was very much viewed as a physical threat.

    When they tell you that if you don’t stop, they’ll call the cops, you’re being viewed as a threat of some kind. There’s nothing to parse in that message other than “I should stop contacting them.”

    1. Joseph*

      Hey now, you can’t drop an interesting story like that and leave it half-finished!

      Did the guy finally get the message when you threatened to call police? Did he show up “just once more” and you had to actually pick up the phone and say “I’m calling the police NOW”, but he left immediately once it was clear you were about to hit 9-1-1? Or did it actually go as far as calling the police and having them show up with cuffs?

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        I had to call the police on an angry opposing party that refused to leave my law firm’s lobby. As I called 911 he yelled “call the f’ng cops.” Unfortunately, the cops didn’t think an angry person refusing to leave who hadn’t yet turned physical or displayed a weapon was a high priority. Despite multiple additional 911 calls, the cops removed him from my lobby about an hour and a half later. At about the half way point, the cops called his cell and told him to leave and that didn’t work and only angered him more. It’s pretty scary when you’ve called in your last resort and they are taking their sweet time. He was given a no trespass order and told if he returned he’d be arrested – and that their response time would be faster if that happened. *eye roll*

        1. Serafina*

          Oh, my bad, you said “opposing party” not “opposing counsel.” I had this vision of another lawyer pulling this. Not unheard of, but pretty extreme. Still, a party can get sanctioned by court for unacceptable behavior too.

        2. anon here*

          I worked in a hotel/bar where the sous chef and the chef got in a disagreement over the done-ness of a steak, and the sous chef took his knife and tried to stab the chef. Sous chef then tried to escape, bouncers were chasing him, and he threw himself down the stairs. Bouncer hopped down the stairs, pinned the guy, removed the knife from his hands and sat on him for FORTY-FIVE MINUTES while we waited for the cops.

          Forty-five minutes for them to respond to a violent assault.

          1. Serafina*

            Dang. I know professional kitchens can be rather emotionally fraught and stressful places, but…dang!

    2. AdAgencyChick*


      I mean, you’re posting this and you said it was a few years ago, so clearly you’re okay…but that is frightening!

    3. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Oh, the stories I could tell about inappropriate behavior in the workplace and lax attitudes in security…

      He’s one of the reasons we finally got a security patrol at night. Eventually the guy just finally got the message. Our mutual former manager (retired) still comes in once a week for an on-going segment and he took it upon himself to go talk to the guy in the produce section of the grocery store he was working at. If that hadn’t happened, I’m sure we’d have had to call the cops eventually.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        I should add that calling the cops is a more regular occurrence at a television station than it is in most other businesses (3-4 times a year) and we get a far better response time than Case of the Mondays did.

    4. Allison*

      I used to work at an ice cream shop I actually kind of liked, and was located close to me. I was only there for a few weeks, it was not a good fit, so after I stopped by to pick up my last paycheck, I avoided the place like crazy because I was worried they’d consider it a security threat if I ever went in there as a customer, even though they never told me I had to stay away.

      Another time, I was out walking in the city late(ish) at night, and found myself passing a building where I used to work, and I was honest-to-god afraid they’d somehow find out I’d been in the vicinity of the building that night and freak out.

      Basically, I assume that companies never want to see their fired ex-employees ever again, anywhere near the establishment, so I’ve been very careful to avoid the premises of jobs that didn’t work out. Is that weird?

      1. KR*

        I really don’t think you need to worry. Just because you didn’t work out as an employee, you can still buy your ice cream at the ice cream shop (though you know the situation better than I do. The owners may be nuts for all I know). As far as the building thing, sidewalks are public domain and as long as you’re not showing up, making a hassle, or threatening people, business’s understand that people may crop up again in the future. A firing isn’t an automatic “If we see you we’ll call the cops and you have to never speak of this place again or look at it.”

  35. Sammy*

    I think the question in #3 is terrible and describes a terrible situation. Oh, I’ve been assigned a task, but the assignment doesn’t contain enough information to know how to approach it, and I’ve confirmed with everyone I work with that they have no information, either?

    Well, now it can be whatever the hell I want it to be. Who’s going to tell me I’m wrong?

    Wouldn’t a good boss assigning something completely new to me include the resources (including people) available to me, and if there aren’t any, say something like “this is what I want the result to look like, but how you get there is up to you, because it’s so new to our organization”?

    1. OriginalYup*

      Right? The candidate has no way of knowing whether “I’d invent my own procedure and do that” is even an option.

      I’d be so tempted to give a smart aleck answer: “Well, if I’ve asked everyone and no one knows, I’d get a job with a company that has better training, communication, and operational documentation.”

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I can’t even wait for an update. I’d love to know now… how have you already communicated with them?

    2. AF*

      I know it’s impossible to talk to the hiring manager, but I’d love to hear her side of the story too. I wonder if she knows about AAM?

      1. anonymous*

        On the it’s-a-small-world chance that #2 is the applicant who had my office scared to death for most of a month, I can tell you that the HR person probably wouldn’t be willing to discuss the situation for fear the LW would see the discussion and escalate.

  36. Oryx*

    #2 is one of those “how job searching is like dating” situations.

    OP, I know this is hard to hear, but the company is just not that into you. I get it, the job is cute and funny and you want to get married and have, like, a million babies and in your free time you’re doodling your name with theirs. And if this was an actual person, your behavior would be grave cause for concern. Like, getting a judge involved and having a No Contact Order in place cause for concern.

    Don’t twist “They told me not to email the HR lady anymore” to think it’s okay to show up in person because, hey, you aren’t emailing her. Pull an Elsa and just let it go.

    1. Allison*

      I wonder, what’s the job seeker equivalent of that person who befriends you just so they can show you what a great person they are, in the hopes that one day something in your brain will go *click* and suddenly you’ll want to be with them, or that person who’s told “I have a boyfriend” or “I don’t want a boyfriend right now” and they hang around so they can be in the right place at the right time, when you break up with your current partner or decide you want to start dating again.

      Would it be applying to every job that’s posted? E-mailing the recruiters every month to touch base? Following the company on Facebook and liking literally everything they post, and trying to post “witty” comments all the time?

        1. Allison*

          Ah yes! Volunteer, expect to be hired in 3-4 months, and if you aren’t, have a tantrum and insist you’ve showed them you’re a model employee, you’ve done everything for them for nothing, what more do they want?? What do you have to do to get that job they never promised???

        2. OhNo*

          Even better, just being a regular customer. Bonus points if you chat with the checkout staff.

          Then come in two months after a job was posted all “Why didn’t you offer the job to me? I shop here all the time!”

      1. SusanIvanova*

        Those are the people who send you random LinkedIn friend requests, in the hope that you’ll see them on your list later and assume you must have had a good reason to add them. Or possibly they saw someone on your contact list they want to meet, and next thing you know you’re being asked to link the two of them.

  37. Cynical Lackey*

    Any law enforcement people on the comment board today? I have a tough time believing that extra emails after being told to stop warrant police intervention. I am not saying the OP has a shot at getting hired there, I am just saying real cps should go after real criminals.

    1. OhNo*

      I think it really depends on the content of the emails more than anything. Clearly whatever was being said made the hiring manager feel unsafe enough to raise it to the next level, so it’s possible it would qualify for the police to get involved. Without the text of the messages, though, it’s hard to say.

      I mean, unless they were sending an email every hour for a month – that might rise to the level of legal harrassment, too.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      The fact that someone says they’ll call the police doesn’t mean the police are actually going to act on it if and when they are called.

    3. Brooke*

      Let’s give the hiring manager the benefit of the doubt that they did, indeed, feel threatened enough to potentially call the police.

      I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

      As far as “real criminals”… yeah, harassment is a crime.

    4. It*

      They could file for a restraining order to prevent the OP from contacting them again.

      I had to do so for an applicant once. I printed out the crazy emails and brought recordings of the voicemails, and they agreed I had the grounds to proceed and was granted the restraining order.

      When the person DID contact us again, he was arrested for violating the order.

    5. ToxicNudibranch*

      Well yeah, they should, and calling the cops doesn’t necessarily mean they will show up.

      However, the police (non-emergency) can and should be approached for advice about what is needed to issue a request to stop harrassment/do not contact order in their particular situation, particularly if the company has reason to believe that a given person is likely to tresspass and/or harrass people at a physical location. Which is exactly what the OP is/was planning to do.

      Escalating to the appropriate authorities doesn’t always mean a squad car squealing into the parking lot, sirens blazing.

    6. Observer*

      Besides what everyone else said. The simple fact that the company has told the OP that they will call the police (aka “the proper authorities”) indicates that what happened here was not just a few extra emails.

      And, if that is indeed the case, it actually IS an appropriate use of police manpower.

    7. Marie*

      *Clarifying that I’m talking about Cynical Lackey’s statement about what constitutes real crime and justifies police intervention, and not talking about OP #2 specifically — I don’t want it to seem like I’m making predictions on how OP #2 is going to act, because I am definitely not*

      Not every criminal starts their criminal career on “real” crime. Many escalate over time, only crossing the line into criminal offenses after a long series of offenses that weren’t taken seriously, or stayed just this side of illegal. A very extreme example (and not comparing OP #2 in *any* way), but Ariel Castro had a long, long history of domestic violence, stalking, and kidnapping or threatening to kidnap ex-partners. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but in the course of those escalating offenses, a very clear pattern was emerging to anybody who cared to look. And obviously, not everybody who has ever had another person threaten to call the police on them escalated into scarier behaviors, but people who have escalated into scarier behaviors often have that long pattern behind them. Unless somebody is a part of that person’s social circle and has access to the word-of-mouth networks that document those patterns, or the police or some other public institution has had cause to document that pattern, nobody will have the opportunity to defuse potentially more lethal situations.

      Additionally, a history of creepy behavior that’s been officially documented can be of tremendous help to somebody else down the line. If a person stalks an office and the police are called and write a report, and two years later, an ex-partner states this same person is stalking them, their case is bolstered by the established pattern, and they may be safer for it.

      You can argue that there might be a better or different way to respond to likely non-violent offenses in order to provide that public safety presence and documentation that are crucial for documenting patterns and defusing situations that may escalate — I would certainly argue that! The police are stretched thin and are not trained to manage sticky situations like this. But between “this person scares me and I want them to leave” and calling the police, there’s no intermediary step. That’s a vacuum of public safety that the police end up filling by default. I wish this company could, like, call the Civil Service Social Workers Who Can Also Make Arrests If Needed or something to go check on OP #2, assess the situation, and either escalate to police or provide helpful services, but that’s unfortunately not a public safety department (yet????).

  38. Mark in Cali*

    “I have some mental disabilities that impede my ability to take on what I’m expected to do.”

    I know I’m treading on a fine line on this blog by asking, “What the hell?”

    What kind of mental disability is that? Seriously, I could say a million snide things right now, but I’m going to first seriously ask what mental disability prevents you from taking on what you are expected to do?

    If that’s the case and your HR and manager were well aware, why did they leave you with all her responsibility? Why did you allow that to happen if you knew your disability would prevent you from succeeding?

    I’m really open to learning and understanding, but this one is pushing limits for me.

    1. fposte*

      I think you’re being unnecessarily dismissive here. Anything from dyslexia to executive function disorders could make it difficult for people to complete a huge new pile of tasks, so I don’t see the reason for “What the hell?”

      It sounds like the OP’s disability wouldn’t prevent her from succeeding at the actual expectations, but it’s one of the obstacles she faces in completing her interpretation of the expectations, which is completing her boss’s entire workload on top of her own. I don’t know that she’d be able to complete that without the disability either, so I don’t think she should worry too much about that, but I can understand that if she feels it’s relevant.

      1. Mark in Cali*

        I tried to make it clear that I’m on the verge of being dismissive and I need some education.

        You’ve made just as many assumptions about her disability as I have in your statement without really knowing what’s going on. I’ll just add this to my list of reasons why I never want to be a manager: trying to understand and reasonably accommodate invisible disabilities in the workplace.

        1. fposte*

          I made no assumptions–I listed possibilities and indicated it could go beyond those possibilities. As a manager, I’m familiar with working with many of them.

          It’s fine to ask–that’s not the problem. But if you know you’re on the verge of being dismissive, you can pull back from the verge and ask differently. Stating you know you’re asking something unpleasantly doesn’t get you off the hook for being unpleasant–it’s just an indication that you knew and went ahead anyway. And that’s really hard on the person you’re doing it to, and we don’t want to be mean to Alison’s other guests. Make sense?

          Think “What the hell?” vs. “I’m not familiar with many disabilities–how would these accommodations work and would they be relevant here?”

          1. Mark in Cali*

            You are a manager! Your Manager-Speak is wonderful:

            “I made no assumptions–I listed possibilities and indicated it could go beyond those possibilities.”

            I’m sure I would have gotten just as many, “It’s not of your business, ” if I framed it differently. Just as I had the potential to pull back, you have the potential to not respond as well.

            That’s blog life!

            1. fposte*

              That’s not management–that’s just English degrees :-).

              It’s not just about whether you get the answers, it’s about whether you’re coming across as a jerk in the process. I do think you’d get different answers, but if it makes no difference to the responses, why bother to come across as a jerk for no gain?

              But I’ll let this go now since it’s a tangent that’s not helping the OP.

          2. I'm a Little Teapot*

            Yes! Seriously, “What the hell?” And “I could say a million snide things right now” are not erased by the disclaimers around them. It’s like “No offense, but you’re a stupid jerk” or “I’m not racist, but….”

        2. Katie the Fed*

          You don’t have to accommodate invisible disabilities. You only have to work toward accommodating ones that have been brought to your attention. You’re not expected to be a mind reader.

          You are, however, expected to treat people with basic respect and it’s helpful when you can communicate with them in a way that brings out their best. So, like – I know that one of my employees gets really flustered when giving short notice tasks with little guidance. So I make a point to break down the task carefully for her and walk her through the expectation. Or I know another employee will react really badly to feedback, so I usually send a quick note ahead of meeting so he knows what I want to discuss and can get a handle on his emotions before we talk. Things like that. It’s not THAT hard to know what your employees’ strengths and weaknesses are.

          1. Mark in Cali*

            Those are really good examples of disabilities that you can work toward accommodating, and those all make sense the way you handle them.

            I’m really just caught up on this idea that there’s something going on that doesn’t allow her to take on expectations. Seriously that’s it.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Because you’re reading it wrong. She doesn’t mean “any expectations at all.” She means the specific ones that are arising right at the moment.

    2. KR*

      I think OP might have an accommodation that prevents them from doing everything people are expecting them to do (which sounds like a lot and stuff hat normally isn’t a part of her duties) but if they were able to focus just on the priorities that the boss told them to do they would succeed.

    3. Artemesia*

      I wondered about that as well and am worried that the OP is in a no win situation anyway that will reduce her odds of getting that promotion she is hoping this is preparing her for. Either she didn’t get good direction or she isn’t up to this job. She cannot possibly do two people’s jobs for this period of time and get it all done. There should have been clear instructions about what to prioritize and where to get back up. Either she was listening or her boss didn’t do a good job structuring the situation.

    4. Murphy*

      What kind of mental disability is that? Seriously, I could say a million snide things right now, but I’m going to first seriously ask what mental disability prevents you from taking on what you are expected to do?
      I’m not the OP, but seriously, dude, it could be any of a dozen or more things: dyslexia which makes it take longer to read and process documents which slows someone down; something on the autisim spectrum that makes it hard to connect with people; a mental health issue that makes tackling the full scope of the work difficult; or any number of things.

      We try to give letter writers the benefit of the doubt when they write in. The OP has said they have some disabilities that make it hard to do all the work. Let’s just take her at her word and stop asking her to justify whether or not it’s a “real” issue. She’s feeling overwhelmed by the added responsibilities; it really doesn’t matter the reason, let’s help her come up with solutions.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        I second this emotion

        It could be an anxiety that means working in pressure situations (“I need an answer right now”) difficult, or a processing disorder that makes big meetings with lots of people talking at once hard to follow – it could be any one of a thousand things, and implying OP shouldn’t have her issues is not helpful at all.

      2. Mark in Cali*

        As I mentioned, I know the this was dangerous territory for this blog and it’s not the issue she’s writing in about. But I take issue with the fact that she’s looking forward to a promotion, raise, and other benefits of these added responsibilities but then specifically calls out her disability that (to whatever degree) prevents her from doing the things that will earn her those potential promotions, raises, and other benefits. I surely don’t understand her disability or know what it is, but my honest advice would be this: you’ve made it clear you have a disability that makes it difficult for you to do the work. Clearly, your health should come first and you should talk to the decision maker in charge and ask that these added responsibilities be forfeited and give to someone else, for your health’s sake. I’m sure she’s trying her best to work through whatever she’s dealing with, but it appears her disability is going to be her undoing. She says herself that this will put her in the hospital.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          It doesn’t mean that she can’t take on ANY extra responsibility that would come with a promotion. There’s a big difference between taking on a second whole job and getting promoted into a different position. She’s struggling with doing both jobs right now in a position it sounds like she didn’t have adequate training or preparation for.

        2. Zillah*

          Asking for clarification is not “dangerous territory” for this blog, though. “I’m a little confused by this part of the OP’s question – can the OP or any commenters explain it to me!” would not be remotely “dangerous territory” – but it would be infinitely more respectful.

      3. Christopher Tracy (formerly Doriana Gray)*

        Thank you for saying what I wanted to say, but only nicer.

    5. Katie the Fed*

      “What kind of mental disability is that? Seriously, I could say a million snide things right now, but I’m going to first seriously ask what mental disability prevents you from taking on what you are expected to do?”

      I think it’s probably an acute case of none of your business. If OP felt the need to share those details, she would have.

      I have a history with anxiety and I can tell you it made it pretty hard for me to take on more leadership roles until I got it under control. It’s healthy and appropriate to know your own limitations.

      1. Mark in Cali*

        I’m seriously curious of what diagnosed disability prevents someone from taking on things someone is expected to do.

        When you write a post and mention that kind of disability and mention that it can put you in the hospital, my interest is sparked.

        To your last comment: I agree. In a follow up above, I think it would be prudent for OP to step down and rearrange responsibilities until she can get whatever is making this hard for her under control.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          But your curiosity doesn’t mean it’s ok to be rude and dismissive. Would YOU want to respond with personal information to someone who reacted the way you did? THis is why people keep things like mood disorders and other issues hidden.

          1. Mark in Cali*

            Fair enough. Probably could have been handled more sensitively on my part, but it’s a blog and I’m faceless so I let my self go.

            All these hidden issues, as you say, seem like just that. Issues. Not disabilities. I just don’t know where to draw the line in accepting if something is truly a disability or that person just has a tough time with some things.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              You actually don’t have to know where the line is – the ADA took care of that for you and has very clear definitions for what constitutes a disability.

        2. Kelly L.*

          OK, (a), “letting yourself go” because you’re “faceless” is a large part of why the internet is so incivil. We try to keep this place nicer than that.

          (b) You’re reading it wrong. OP isn’t saying “My disability means that if someone expects a thing of me, anything at all, I can’t do it.” She’s talking about specific things that pertain to this job, such as being deluged with two people’s worth of work. She doesn’t owe you her diagnosis or details.

          (c) Why should she take the nuclear step of stepping down before trying what Alison suggested?

        3. Elsajeni*

          I mean… any diagnosed disability. She’s not saying that, in general, she is unable to do things if they’re expected of her; she’s saying that she’s unable to take on some of the particular expectations in this particular situation.

    6. Zillah*

      So basically, “I know I’m being rude and going expressly against the rules of commenting on this blog, but I don’t care. In fact, I should be lauded for not saying the million snide things that I could.”

      Come on. Why is that necessary?

      I can think of a lot of conditions that might this situation difficult for the OP without having much bearing on their ability to perform well in general.

      1. Mark in Cali*

        No expectations for being lauded here.

        Just had to put my thumb on that one right away.

        1. Mark in Cali*

          Absolutely not. I haven’t not posted comments for any of those reasons. Obviously I knew my comment my create a bit of an uproar.

    7. themmases*

      Wow, this comment is so inappropriate. There is no need to scold this OP for having a disability or for “allowing” themselves to be assigned work.

      Many common learning disabilities could affect the OP’s ability to handle their boss’s tasks that are not usually assigned to them or to handle an increased work load with more tasks to remember, more priorities to set, and apparently more stress and less sleep. Much of what the OP is handling right now, including the workload itself, is explicitly *not* what they are normally expected to do or what they were hired to do. They were left with their boss’s work because that’s normal when someone is on leave and because people with disabilities have different limits and ways of managing, as everyone does. It would be pretty inappropriate to assumethe OP couldn’t handle the work based on just knowing they have a disability. It’s on the OP to be clear about what they need help with. They may not even have known until they found themselves struggling with the workload all alone.

      FWIW I agree with Alison that the OP needs to find a way to say no more. It’s normal to have trouble with this, especially in an entry level job where they may now be saying no to their boss’s peers. The OP probably lacks high-level information about which work could be done by someone else, because they are not the boss. And they are depending on others to make appropriate requests, rather than taking it on themself to enforce appropriate boundaries. That could happen to anyone regardless of ability. It’s nothing to scold them or be rude over; the OP is the one who is suffering for their own mistake that most people make at some point.

    8. FD*

      It’s pretty clear from the context of the letter that the OP can do her normal tasks just fine, but is having some difficulties with some of the added workload, especially with people who are pushing her to change the priorities she was given. There are a number of things that could cause that to be true. For example, my anxiety causes me to sometimes have unrealistic expectations about what I can actually do, and panic about getting help when/if it becomes too overwhelming. This is something I’ve had to work with a great deal over the course of my career.

      While we usually try not to pile on here, as someone who has spent my adult life working with anxiety and depression, your phrasing was needlessly unkind. Saying “I could say a million snide things but” means “I think you’re full of BS but I’ll condescend to allow you to explain yourself.” If you really want education, opening with an inflammatory statement like that isn’t likely to get it–in addition to being rude.

      I know you mentioned upthread that you’re a faceless person on the internet. I’ve debated how to phrase this without sounding either threatening or like a condescending jerk, but this is the best I’ve come up with. I’m not certain if you’re new, but Alison works very hard to keep things civil and intelligent here; it’s a major part of the AAM commenter culture. There are two things you should know that make this much less like the faceless culture you may be used to on other sites. First, there’s a rule that we keep our handles more or less consistent over time–people may go anon in cases where they’re talking about identifying matters, but otherwise, have been asked to generally use the same handles. Second, if things get out of hand, Alison can see everyone’s IP address and has been known to ask commenters to take a break from commenting before.

    9. animaniactoo*

      My read of this is that being able to make the call on what is a true priority is the issue that this person is having.

      That is the kind of thing that somebody who has ADD or Dyscalculia might have difficulty sorting a true priority from somebody’s internal urgent need that could actually wait until they have a lot more experience in generally *knowing* which is which, having been walked through the steps that help them make that kind of calculation.

      They can be situationally trained and are therefore eligible for promotion once that’s happened – they’ll situationally have the skills at that point, but flounder without backup when faced with handling it on their own while they are training. Because they understand that there are exceptions to a list and strictly following the list is likely to mean they screw something up – and many will do exactly what this person is doing – bending over backwards to try to make it all happen so their disability doesn’t screw themselves and everybody else up.

    10. animaniactoo*

      Btw – you would not be getting the pushback here if you had not tried to indicate your dismissive attitude. Since it appears that you really are sincere in asking for information about what could be a disability that would cause this, that’s all you had to put out there in order to get information back.

      “I have no experience of disabilities that could cause this, or why OP would have been left alone like this given their circumstances. Does anyone have any ideas?”

      (For reference, I forgot to include in my previous answer: They’d have been given the responsibility and left alone because nobody involved really had an understanding of how inundated OP would be, and how unprepared they were to handle the external pressure from other departments. It happens even for people who don’t have mental disabilities, they’re just too new and everybody else is so used to it that they’ve forgotten how intimidating it can be.)

  39. sparklealways*

    OP #1 – My coworker likes to say, “If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.”

    That philosophy has helped me manage multiple tasks, determine *actual priority* and get through times when I’ve felt buried in work. I hope it helps you too.

    1. One of the Sarahs*

      Yes, this. I second everyone else, and especially Alison, that you need to get that list, and only work on the top priorities until you have it under control. And as other posters said, make sure the managers are communicating this with other colleagues.

  40. Liz T*

    #3: I recently had this question in an interview, and was complimented on my answer–which was Google it. I was surprised when they told me that most people say they’d ask someone first. That’s what they didn’t want–they wanted someone who would try to figure things out on their own, and reach out to others only when they couldn’t.

    For context, this was for an office job, specifically a question about Excel–but also about problem-solving generally.

  41. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#2…..I am DYING to know what you said or did to make these people feel that legal action is necessary….please do share if you feel like it.

    Just another side note, I’ve seen this issue happen more frequently with applicants that are not originally from the United States or European countries. In my experience I’ve seen people from various Middle Eastern countries and African countries (and occasionally Indians) who are very aggressive in their communications regarding employment and I think it has to do with the cultural norms of their own country. It has been especially amplified in situations in which the individual has not been in the U.S. very long, has a limited work history, or is just very immersed in their own culture here with limited interaction with people outside that culture. The way the letter read to me said that this person may not originally be from the U.S. based on some of their word choices and phrases utilized. I saw this happen in my retail career and also in my current professional career so I don’t think it’s an education thing. I think it’s a cultural thing. If that is the case OP, I’d recommend some career counseling or just many hours of reading this blog to determine the norms in the U.S., assuming you’re in the U.S.

    (Please note: I’m not saying that everyone from these parts of the world behaves this way and I’m not attacking anyone. I’m just saying that I’ve seen it happen on multiple occasions with folks from this part of the world and I believe they all had the best of intentions and really believed that what they were doing would land them a job eventually. They were really just clueless as to the norms of communication in a professional setting when job searching.)

    If this is not a cultural thing, please seriously consider the advice above about counseling to sort through any issues you may have that are hindering your job search.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Oh this is a good point. My sister is an ESL teacher – let’s just say that boundaries are very different depending on one’s cultural background.

      1. Observer*

        That’s true. But, I can’t think of any cultural context where “We’ll call the police if you email” is a side note, or not considered a clear boundary.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Mr. Shackelford has worked with people from an area you mentioned, and has learned that their cultural norm is to not take “no” for an answer in certain circumstances. Because that’s just how you get things done there. And to them, it’s no more rude than it would be for us to say “are you sure?” to a friend who declined a bite of your dessert.

      However, he’s never had to threaten to call the police on any of these people.

    1. Temperance*

      I have a sinking feeling that it’s totally real. My FIL has done weird things like this, and doesn’t take “no” for an answer. It’s like a challenge to him.

    2. Someone also anonymous*

      This kind of behavior – and the wording used to justify it – is more common in respect to dating than to job-getting, but I assure you it happens. Ask women you know if they’ve ever had a stalker, or if they know someone who has. This kind of ‘I know they said for me to leave them alone, but how do I get in touch with them anyway?’ is absolutely par for the course. If this particular letter is fake, it’s still very accurate.

      1. Allison*

        That letter writer reminds me of someone who’s been told “you know what, you’re a jerk, I don’t want to talk to you anymore, leave me alone” and then they approach you *one more time* to apologize, say they’ll leave you alone, they just want you to know they’re sorry and they’re really not a bad guy, in the hopes that in doing so they’ll mend the bridge and you’ll let them back into your life.

    3. AW*

      You should go to Captain Awkward’s site and browse the questions tagged “Personal Safety”.

    4. HRish Dude*

      I’ve seen it enough to where it’s real. I’m sure there are phone calls involved in that.

      Someone emails every day, tries to call to set up a meeting, tries to call again, figures out everyone’s name and will call them each incessantly, leave voicemails ranting about how we are discriminating against white people, repeat the next day. This happened in real life, so I’m sure I’m not the only one this happened to.

    5. Argh!*

      We had someone who was e-mailing people (including me) who had no impact on the decision. He was told who the person to contact is and then he kept e-mailing us anyway. we were instructed to just ignore his e-mails if Shirley in HR was on the cc: list and to forward to Shirley if not. Needless to say, he was not hired.

  42. IT_Guy*

    I actually had somebody throw a total BS question at me to just to see if I would say “I don’t know”

    1. AW*

      I seem to recall someone else saying they did this because they wanted to find a candidate willing to say, “I don’t know” and, if I recall correctly, they were also in IT.

  43. Temperance*

    Re Lw#2: you sound like my father in law, who has done any number of strange and boundary-violating things in the name of “standing out”. I’m going to assume that you might be him, so here is my advice to you: stop reading self-help books and stop going outside of the normal process when it comes to finding a job. You aren’t going to get noticed by “putting yourself out there” or “thinking outside of the box” or “stepping outside of your comfort zone” – at least, not in the way that you would prefer. Trust me on this.

    (For any of you wondering, the things my FIL has done include going up to random men in suits on the street and handing them his resume because they “looked important” and going to luxury car dealerships and demanding to meet with the manager.)

  44. Christian Troy*

    I know people have a lot of comments for #2, but I recently read something that suggested you keep e-mailing a hiring manager articles that you think they would find interesting. There is A LOT of bad, terrible advice out there when it comes to job searching and it could be a mix of cultural norms and awful career blogs that led this person down this path. They should hopefully know better, but if someone is new to the workforce or desperate, then it’s easy to think that doing these things are the way to go.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      “suggested you keep e-mailing a hiring manager articles that you think they would find interesting.”


      1. SusanIvanova*

        Seriously! That’s the thought process that leads to my mom’s email being full of stuff that Snopes debunked years ago – all her friends just *have* to email each other stuff they “find interesting”.

  45. B*

    I just posted a longish story about my experience with someone exactly like OP #2 and then it disappeared somehow. But let’s just say that being overly aggressive with a hiring manager is extremely inappropriate and there is a reason they threatened to call the cops.

  46. animaniactoo*

    OP #2 – You need somebody who is not a motivational speaker kind of person to run things by and help you develop context.

    Because right now, the advice you are following is turning you into a stalker. And almost nobody intends to be a stalker. Just about everybody who becomes a stalker thinks you do “If I could just…” in the face of severe resistance.

    When you do that, you’re not getting them to respect you – you’re showing them that YOU don’t respect *them*. The only way to respect them is do as they have asked.

    The kind of context you need is “This kind of job doesn’t happen at just this one place. So if you really want this job, don’t let one rejection from one company stop you. Go apply to other companies, keep applying until you find one who will hire you or until you find something else you’d like to do.” That’s what is meant by “don’t take no for an answer” and “move outside your comfort zone” (keep opening yourself up for fresh rejection) and “push yourself” (to keep looking for other opportunities and trying for them). It distinctly does not mean “keep pursuing people who have told you “no” to the extent of threatening you with action if you keep doing it” – and anybody who tells you that it does is a fool or a conman looking to make money off your need for guidance.

    It is unfortunate, but you have completely burned your opportunity at dream company. However, as with people, it is really never the truth that there’s “just one” or “the one”. There are others which can be great and even better matches. How you make this right, show that you understand what you did wrong – is that you go off to find them, you try with them, and you show that you learned by not repeating the behavior that got you to this level with this company.

    I sincerely hope that you can overcome your impulse to read through all of this – from everybody here – and think “but my case is different!”. Because following that impulse is what has gotten you where you are right now. A place you don’t want to be.

    Good luck to you.

  47. LAI*

    #3 Your interviewer was rude to say that your answer wasn’t very good, but I think maybe they were expecting a bit more nuance in your reply. I would be put off by an interviewee who said their first response would be to ask someone. I would expect your first response to be to try to find the answer using your own resources – obviously this is going to vary depending on what you are being asked to do but if it’s a thing that can be googled, that should be the first thing you do, before you ask anyone. I work in a position where it’s part of my job to provide information to people but it drives me crazy when my coworkers ask me questions that they could easily look up themselves.

  48. Azalea*

    #3 – I used to sit in on my boss’s interviews for potential employees. He had a terrible habit of going into the interview with very specific answers in mind, and would keep repeating the same question over and over in the hopes that the candidate would finally give the answer he wanted – instead of going off what they said. Maybe your interviewer was doing the same thing.

  49. FD*

    #1- I think Alison’s advice is spot-on. In addition, I don’t want to assume what the mental health difficulties you’ve mentioned are, but I want to offer some things that have helped me personally. I have anxiety and one of the things that’s hardest for me is that my anxiety makes me feel like I ‘should’ be able to do it all. For example, if I’m presented with an absurd lists of tasks, my mind goes to ‘aaah I’m a terrible person if I can’t finish them all and I’ll get fired’ instead of ‘wow, I definitely cannot do all of this, let’s figure out what’s most important’. I also have a lot of trouble setting reasonable boundaries with people as a result.

    One thing that’s helped me is re-framing it a little in my head. My number one task–with priority over all my other tasks–is figuring out how to allocate my time in a way that’s in line with my manager’s priorities. Part of getting that job done is telling people “no” sometimes. In addition, it can help reduce my anxiety about telling people “no” if I provide alternatives. For example, “I can’t help with that report right now, but I can help next week” or “I can’t help with that report, but I know Jane did something similar last year–you might ask her if you could look at that for some ideas.”

    #2- I know where you’re coming from. You’ve seen this amazing post and it seems like it describes you. All these self-help books tell you what to do to land your dream job. But then you try the advice and…it totally backfires. Now you just want to make it right. The thing is…sometimes, the only way to make something right is to let it be. I know that sucks because you feel like you’re leaving something not finished. It also sucks because you really, really wanted this job. But right now, the best and really only thing you can do to fix things is to do what they’ve asked you to: don’t contact them again.

    #3- I actually disagree with Alison a bit on this one. I’ve been asked this question before several times. What the interviewer really wants to know is “How do you approach new problems that you haven’t encountered before?” By repeating variations on “I’d ask someone how to do it”, what that tells me is that you may have trouble solving new problems if no one can walk you through it. Here’s one answer I’ve used in the past to good effect (although it’s more of a behavioral answer):

    At the Shops at Bates Motel, I was responsible for figuring out what spaces were going to be up for renewal when. There wasn’t anyone else at my company who had done this in the past, and we didn’t have any existing software to handle it. I also hadn’t done anything like that before. I approached it by researching how property management firms usually handle such things, and then created a master Excel sheet to keep track of all the key data–from how many square feet each space had to when the leases were going to expire.

    The reason this question works is it shows how I approach problems: 1) Check local resources, 2) Check online for known solutions and 3) Create a workable solution from the resources I have access to.

    1. TootsNYC*

      My number one task–with priority over all my other tasks–is figuring out how to allocate my time in a way that’s in line with my manager’s priorities. My number one task–with priority over all my other tasks–is figuring out how to allocate my time in a way that’s in line with my manager’s priorities.

      This is such as important point! Managing your time is Job One. It really is.

  50. animaniactoo*

    #3 – Lots of good ideas in the posts here.

    I’m in a creative position, and I can completely understand why sometimes the answer is “ask co-worker, next up the chain” when it comes to whim-based or procedural kinds of things. For us sometimes the answer lies outside the company and it’s not something Google has a shot in hell at solving. I suspect part of the answer was whether it was the *kind* of thing that Google can solve rather than a last resort option.

    Because sometimes, it’s also about what you’re asking Google to do for you. As the now-fired packaging manager found out when he was using GoogleTranslate to get translations for our packaging (rather than say, using Google to find a translation services company). Yes, that’s a true story. The internal “office joke” answer to several things was always “use GoogleTranslate!” for awhile after that.

  51. nonnymouse*

    It’s very late, so I don’t know if anyone will see this, but #2 may be an applicant that put my office through hell last month. We were frightened enough about a potential visit that we hired outside security for a short time. Hey, #2? Wherever you applied, they’ve made it ABUNDANTLY clear that they think you aren’t a good fit for the position. Let it go.

  52. Ruthie*

    OP1, I spent a lot of time in the office as a one woman show covering for what was normally a two-person team. My anxiety was reduced when I accepted that there was no way I was going to get everything done, especially when others wanted it done. It really helped to clarify with my colleagues what their timeline was (I often assumed products were needed immediately when they weren’t), and game them options along the lines of, “I wish I could get these both to you by Friday, but with Georgette out of the office, I really only have the bandwidth to focus on one. Which do you need me to tackle first?”

  53. stevenz*

    I’m confused. The comments are coming down pretty hard on #2 for her “aggressive” behaviour and whatnot. What she said her behaviour was is “I was overly eager and contacted the lady who was the hiring manager. Anyway, I was looking at Craigslist and saw they have a few more openings. So I want to talk to the HR manger and address the situation and own up to my mistakes and make things better and right.”

    I don’t have enough information to condemn her behaviour, or to side with the company. What was “over eager?” What’s wrong with following up when there are more openings? What’s wrong with owning up to one’s mistakes?

    When she went to the HR manager, did she have a gun? Was she dressed like Osama bin Laden? Was she wearing a balaclava? Was she singing a Barry Manilow song? I’m reading a lot of speculation here with not much to go on.

    1. stevenz*

      One more thing, OP. There will be more jobs of your dreams in the future. Just approach them like you’re carrying a very fragile baby bird.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      As I wrote above, what we know for sure the OP has extraordinarily poor judgment, as she thinks she should continue contacting this company, even show up in person, after they’ve told her to leave them alone and have threatened to notify the police if she contacts them again … and that she presented that information as a “side note,” as if it’s not a huge deal.

      Given that, we know that she’s not an especially reliable narrator when it comes to presenting her own actions, and it’s a far more likely explanation that she was crossed some major lines earlier than that an employer just randomly threatened to call the police on someone who was behaving rationally.

      1. So Very Anonymous*

        THANK you. I know we try to give OPs the benefit of the doubt here, but this one is tricky because she does seem unreliable as a narrator.

  54. Stalked Hiring Manager*

    I’ve been a hiring manager in the situation OP2 describes. The applicant was rejected and contacted me for feedback. I provided some vague feedback (because they had been rejected early on). To which the applicant replied arguing. When I didn’t respond, they replied again verbally attacking me and my abilities. I again did not respond and they wrote back again begging to be allowed to interview and “promising” to sit on our doorstep daily until we allowed them to interview and “prove” us “wrong in our assessment.”

    I replied letting them know that we were not moving them forward and asking them to stop contacting us. This resulted in 2 full pages of vitriol and threats of showing up in person, “showing me” etc. Honestly, it was terrifying. I was worried they would show up for weeks.

    1. B*

      This is basically the same thing that happened to me last year with a candidate. I got a lot of abusive phone calls and voicemails too. It’s terrifying to realize there are a few people who act this way.

  55. The Carrie*

    OP #2
    I honestly thought this was not real. Maybe it is, but…screams not real to me.

  56. Grace*

    Re: #3
    I’ve asked this exact question while interviewing and the answer I was looking for was someone who would take initiative to figure out him/herself *first*, and then asking a co-worker if they couldn’t figure it out on their own. Basically, I was looking for someone to say, “I would Google it” because I’ve found when you seek out and learn something on your own, you’re more likely to retain it. And also because people in our company are rarely at their desks, so you can never depend on getting fast answers.

    I interviewed probably 5 people, all of whom talked about asking other people, before I found someone who said, “you know, when in doubt, Google” and I almost hugged her. Instead I hired her, and she’s fantastic and resourceful. Google doesn’t answer everything, but I know when she asks me or someone else for help with how to do something she’s never done before, that she’s already tried and I’m not just spoon-feeding her.

  57. Sam*

    #3: I would love it if my coworkers Googled/use their resources instead of constantly interrupting me to ask questions, so for what it’s worth I’d hire you. :)

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