my son sent my boss an embarrassing photo of me, employer wants job candidate to “show loyalty,” and more

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

1. Employer wants job candidate to “show loyalty” by not interviewing for other jobs

My partner recently interviewed at a potential employer. The feedback was good, and he has now heard from his recruiter that they are going to make an offer. However, the recruiter also said that the employer asked that my partner “show loyalty” and stop interviewing for other roles while they put the offer package together. I asked if perhaps this was coming from the recruiter who could be protecting his cut, but apparently the employer mentioned it in the interview as well. Is this weird? It seems weird.

It’s weird. And frankly it’s also inappropriate and crappy. There’s no “loyalty” to be shown here. First of all, your partner doesn’t work for this company yet and doesn’t even have an offer from them. I’m sure they’d think it was wildly inappropriate if he asked them to show loyalty by stopping conversations with other candidates because he was considering taking a job with them. Second, he has no way of knowing if the offer, should it materialize, will be acceptable to him. Why should he pass up opportunities with other employers for an offer he might not even end up taking?

If they want to ensure they don’t lose him to other employers, the way to do that is to move quickly and make him an enticing offer. It’s also smart to tell him that’s in process so that he can factor that into his thinking, but how he factors it in is his call, not theirs.

2. My son sent my boss an embarrassing photo of me, and my boss shared it with everyone else

I recently had extensive dental work done that required strong medication, which basically meant I was doped for the day. My 27-year-old son took me and sometime during the day, took a picture of me doped and swollen then sent it to my boss! Unfortunately for me, my boss thought it was funny and sent it to my entire staff.

I’ve already discussed with my son how inappropriate this was and that it was a breach of trust. (Send to your brother, fine. Send to my boss, not fine.) But how do I address this with my boss? We generally have a good relationship, but I’m so upset by this and want to make sure it’s handled professionally.

Agh, I want to have a word with your son — what was he thinking?! How does he even have your boss’s email address, let alone think he should be communicating with him about anything? I am outraged on your behalf.

Anyway, as for your boss: I’m assuming he didn’t realize that your son sent it without your permission, and he probably mistakenly thought that you felt it was all in good fun. That doesn’t mean he should forward embarrassing things without your okay, but that’s likely where he was coming from. If you don’t have reason to think this will come up again, it might not be something you need to address. But if you want to, you could say, “My kid actually sent that without my permission and I was mortified that it got sent around. I’ve obviously spoken with him, but I wanted to let you know for the future where I stand on stuff like this — I find it embarrassing, not funny.”

3. My boss won’t give me her blessing to apply for another job in my company

A job recently opened in my company that would be a promotion for me, with associated new challenges and increased responsibility. I’d be working in roughly the same office with the same people, but no longer under my direct supervisor (I would be her peer). I reviewed the job ad extensively, identifying my fit for the position, and determined that I would be a strong candidate. Using the advice from so many columns and articles, I spoke to my boss about this. I told her I would like to apply but would like to know if I would have her support.

To my surprise, she said no and cited the fact that some experience is required for the position that was not listed in the extensive job description—either in the job duties or required/preferred experience. I was flummoxed.

I am trying to decide now if this was intentional to keep me under her purview (I am a high performer, and she gave me a near-perfect annual review), or if she has provided useful information that will save me the embarrassment of applying for a job for which she knows I would not be competitive. Additionally, I wonder if I approached this wrong, and should have simply told her was applying, rather than “asking for her blessing.” Finally, what are my options going forward? I have a relationship with the hiring manager (my boss’s boss), so I could also ask her directly, but would this be bad form? I may also be useful to know that I work in a small office, have been here for just over two years, my boss is not much older than me and has no intentions of leaving (so replacing her eventually is not a possibility), and promotion opportunities like this come around rarely.

It’s certainly possible that your boss is right about the job requirements, and it’s possible that she has legitimate reasons for not thinking you’re right for the role. But in most cases, the correct response in that situation would still be, “I don’t think it’s the right fit because of XYZ, but I of course understand if you want to throw your hat in the ring.” And also, “If it doesn’t work out, let’s talk about other ways for you increase your responsibilities and keep you growing in this role or another one.”

I’d go ahead and talk with the hiring manager directly and get her take on it. And if she encourages you to apply, do. That’s a reasonable thing to do; if you’re a high performer who’s put in two years, your boss should not be standing in the way of you applying for other roles. Also, if you think there’s any chance that she’ll try to sabotage your chances because she just doesn’t want you to move out of your current role, discreetly mention that to the hiring manager too (“I get the sense that Jane wasn’t happy when I mentioned I wanted to apply — between you and me, I’m concerned she may fight to keep me where I am”).

And no, I don’t think you did anything wrong by the way you initially approached it. Knowing what we now know about your boss, yeah, it would have been better to just let her know you were applying — but you couldn’t have known that ahead of time.

4. Can I tell a fun story about myself in my cover letter even though it’s not related to the job?

I once had to give a presentation in a swanky hotel in Europe to some of the highest level executives in my company. I was nervous beforehand and worked very hard on the presentation. It went great, and as we were exiting the conference room, we saw the Dali Lama step off the elevator! He stopped and greeted our party warmly before he continued on. I am in the midst of writing cover letters and wonder how would I include this little story which is so much fun? I know it has nothing to do with my skills, but it is a really cool thing that happened to me.

It is a cool thing, and it does not belong in a cover letter. Your cover letter is for showing why you’re a strong candidate; it doesn’t make sense to use the (very limited) space there to relate interesting anecdotes that don’t make you a stronger candidate.

I think you might be thinking that this is a way of showing personality, but you want to do that via talking about relevant stuff that’s related to why you’d be awesome at the job.

5. I found an interview invitation in my spam folder — five days later

I applied for an assistant position at a company through a job board. It was listed as confidential, but the position fit my skills and experience perfectly. I didn’t get a response in the next few days but thought nothing of it, given in the past it’s usually taken a week or so for a job to call me about an interview.

Today, I was cleaning up some stuff in my email account and decided to check my spam folder, which I check fairly frequently (and which recently has been bombarded with phishing scams and other sketchy items). In there, I found a reply email from that job, sent five days ago, asking me for my availability next Wednesday (read: today) for an interview. The signature included the name and location of the company, and my email through the job board was included in the reply, so I know it’s real. I usually am able to catch legitimate emails that fall into my spam folder in time, but this one fell right through the cracks and now I’ve missed the deadline for an interview and possibly the job entirely.

How can I go about this gracefully? I want to explain the situation so I don’t look bad, but I also feel as if it’s embarrassing on their part to point out that Gmail considers their emails to look like phishing scams. I still really want his job and I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity because of something like this.

“I’m so sorry for the delay in responding to you — for some reason Gmail sent this to my spam folder. I’m very interested in talking with you and hope I haven’t missed your window. I can make myself available any time Friday and much of next week as well. Is there a time that would work on your end?”

You don’t need to say anything about Gmail considering their emails fishy (phishy?); they will put that together themselves if they hear this enough (and it might actually just be a fluke that doesn’t require any changes from them). They are unlikely to be embarrassed.

(Interview invitations going to spam was the topic of my very first post on this site nine years ago!)

{ 209 comments… read them below }

  1. Brett*

    #5 Odds are they blind carbon-copied multiple people with the same email, and several of them had gmail addresses. That can trigger the gmail spam filter.

  2. Engineer Girl*

    #1 – the request is a bit of a red flag to me because its so unreasonable. I would worry that it isn’t the only inappropriate expectation.

    1. mander*

      That would give me pause, to say the least. There is a potential for serious boundary issues. Plus it makes me think that this employer doesn’t want your partner to have any range of salary and benefits to compare with whatever their offer might be.

      1. AMT*

        Yes, I’d question whether they were trying to hide the fact that they’re lowballing him. It’s kind of like a job candidate using pink, scented paper or calling ten times a day. When you can’t compete on merit, you need to do weird stuff to get people to go with you instead of the competition. Like pink paper, this tends to work only on people who are new to this sort of thing.

      2. rando*

        Agreed. I am wary of employers that want employees to “show loyalty,” and this place is demanding it without even making an offer!

      3. RVA Cat*

        I can’t help but think of Trump, Jr.’s cringe-worthy tweet about their groundskeeper “showing loyalty” by missing his *sister’s* *wedding* to work. (Same idea of loyalty as the boss who thought someone should skip their college graduation?)

      4. Kyrielle*

        Or they might know their process for putting together an offer is ridiculously slow. If they’re bureaucracy-bound, a desperate manager could want someone to pull out of the pool because they’ve lost a lot of people between “we are going to make you an offer” and “here’s your offer”.

        And to be clear, it’s still totally not okay in that case, and it’s still a boundary issue. Just a different one.

    2. Jamie*

      The inappropriate expectation disregard for professional norms is a huge red flag for me.

      When looking while still employed a friend asked if I would ever leave without notice if offered my dream job but I had to start tomorrow, non negotiable. After my “no such thing as a dream job” caveat absolutely not. She felt it was crazy to forgo a great opportunity to give 2 weeks to an employer you’re leaving anyway.

      I think a company who would expect you to leave your current employer screwed without notice is telling you a LOT about how they operate and disregard of the basic business norms would send me running in the other direction.

      (Hadn’t happened – just hypothetical when talking about the kind of notice one owes their employer when leaving.)

      In this case it’s worse because they aren’t even asking him to screw over another employer, but to put their needs ahead of his own best interests before coming on board. If they will ask that at this stage I shudder to think of what weirdness they impose on their actual employees.

      1. boop*

        I had occasion to think about this recently! If a company insists that one quits without notice, does that mean all of your new coworkers will be the type to just drop out on you randomly and carelessly? Who wants to be part of that?

        1. Jamie*

          One of my long term temp jobs was at a place where when any of the regular employees (not temps) have notice they were immediately escorted out. Security was called to stand over someone cleaning out her desk when she’d given notice because she was going to be moving out of state for her husband’s job.

          I was shocked and people said it’s weird, but just SOP. And this wasn’t high level super secret stuff…at all.

          It was when I was brand new to the workforce so it was really confusing…fortunately I never encountered that particular kind of crazy since.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      Yeah. They’re not asking him to show loyalty they’re asking him to show blind faith.

    4. IT_Guy*

      A lot of people have extremely unreasonable expectations. Especially small companies that do little hiring. Some hiring managers will get offended when somebody tries to counter-offer.

    5. Jaguar*

      The thing that always blows my mind about this “loyalty” / “we’re a family” / using the power disparity between employers and employees (or, in this case, applicants) to manipulate behaviour is how pointlessly short-sighted it is. From the very start, this company is showing that it won’t play fair and that you can’t trust them. What does it get in return? An applicant they might want won’t take another job for a few weeks. What an awful trade!

      1. Jamie*

        Ugh – the family thing. I’m a lovely person, I have good rapport with most people with whom I work and I think that’s important. Many of them I really like as people and that’s great – makes life a little easier when you like the people you see everyday.

        But they aren’t family. I can tell because my family doesn’t pay me and my employer doesn’t revel in telling embarrassing stories about what a brat I was to my kids. And no one at work has my mom’s potato salad recipe.

        Referring to work as a big family can sometimes mean they have a weird dynamic around boundaries under the guise family like informality.

        It wouldn’t necessarily be a deal breaker for me if this was said, because a lot of people toss it around without thinking, but it would make me side eye and dig deeper to find out if there’s a chance I’m going to be guilted into babysitting someone’s tropical fish, or kicking in significant money every time someone has a baby, gets married, or puts in a new driveway.

        1. Jaguar*

          I think it’s more often used as a way of manipulating people. At best, it’s a cheap way of making people think twice about leaving, because you would be leaving a “family.” At worst (and the situation I was in at a previous job), it was a cheap way of trying to control information: you don’t have any secrets from management because “we’re a family,” but they’re going to play all their cards close.

          No matter what, it’s a method of manipulation. Coworkers aren’t family. Family is family.

    6. Bob*

      This reminds me of companies that seriously tell employees they expect 3 months notice if they quit. Who do they think they are? No new job is not going to wait 3 months. I realize it can be a real hardship when a high-performing employee leaves the company (especially smaller companies) but that’s the cost of doing business. The way to avoid it is being a good boss, creating a good environment, providing opportunities for advancement and paying a fair salary.

    7. MissDisplaced*

      And just how exactly are you supposed to “show loyalty” by not interviewing? It’s not like they’d know anyway! LOL!

  3. Artemesia*

    A company that wants you to not interview elsewhere because: ‘loyalty’ is so weird and out of touch with professional norms and common sense, I would be very reluctant to accept an offer from them — I’d be increasing my efforts with other options.

    1. EmmaLou*

      If they ask this before you work for them, what are they going to ask for when you actually work for them? I know! I know! Organ donations! Oh, wait… that was a different boss… or was it?!

      1. Josh S*

        I would be very tempted to respond, “Absolutely! I’ll stop interviewing with other companies. I assume you’re going to show me similar loyalty by ending your conversations with all other candidates and committing to a salary/benefits package that I approve?”

        I probably wouldn’t. But I’d be thinking it. One-sided manipulative power plays do not sit well with me.

        1. Sunshine*

          I don’t know of if I could resist finding SOME way to ask the question. Or work it in somehow to point out the absurdity. “Oh great! So you’re all done interviewing? When should I expect to hear from you?” Or something.

      1. Joseph*

        I’ll bet they ask directly. Which puts him in the position of either: (a) lying or (b) admitting that he’s ignoring their request. Neither result is likely to lead to a job offer.

          1. Artemesia*

            ‘Not at this time’ is the perfect ‘literal while dissembling ‘ response. I must remember that one for future use.

    2. Bend & Snap*

      I’d run like hell from this. “Are you interviewing anywhere else?” is fine. “Please don’t interview anywhere else” is not.

  4. Turtle Candle*

    I volunteer for a nonprofit, and a month or so ago a whole slew of legit, non-solicitation emails from us ended up in people’s spam boxes. It looked to us like Gmail had tweaked its spam algorithm and was still adjusting, and in the meantime had gotten overzealous. But have no fear–we didn’t take it amiss or see it as embarrassing or accusatory when people noted the issue, and I expect the same would be true if you noted it to this company. It’s the kind of thing that just happens sometimes.

    1. OfficePrincess*

      Last week Gmail had some fluke where a certain daily report was going to spam for all three of us who were supposed to receive it. It was coming from someone that’s at least in my top 5 most frequent contacts and is something that generally needs to be handled within an hour. Every other email from this guy came through, including the morning version of the same report, but not that one. And then after a few days it just started coming through normally again.

    2. Artemesia*

      When my organization tweaked its spam filter back in the day, the first emails put in the folder were from my boss.

  5. Misc*

    Our company emails often end up in spam folders because we have download links – nothing to be done about it, we’re just appreciative that most people know to check their spam folders before accusing us of not sending things :D

    1. animaniactoo*

      Aha! You have solved a mystery for me. I frequently get “Hey you’re going to get this e-mail with a link, do this when you get it” e-mails from a company we deal with regularly and I never understood why they were sending me an extra e-mail to tell me I was getting the other.

  6. Jeanne*

    For #2, I’m sorry your son and boss embarrassed you. I hope you will find it comforting that lots of us have had dental work. It’s not as embarrassing as some things could be and your coworkers are probably going to forget it easily. You didn’t do anything yourself (like getting drunk at the company party) and at least you were probably dressed. Talk to your son and boss and it shouldn’t happen again. I would see a pic after dental surgery and just wince not laugh.

    1. Beezus*

      My husband sent a post-childbirth photo of me to my office that was pretty unflattering, and the temp who was covering my maternity leave forwarded it to the entire list of contacts I had left her, including some people I’d never met in person before. (He had permission to send a photo, I didn’t expect him to choose THAT one, and I forgot the temp was on the team email.)

      I was mortified, but what’s done is done…

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        That’s the first thing I thought when I read the headline- that it was some drunken pic with friends. Even though this is still embarrassing, at least Op had an excuse for being doped up.

    2. Bowserkitty*

      I agree with Jeanne! While I can’t believe your son did that (he should be old enough to know better, wow) I still don’t think it’s as bad as it could have been for the reasons Jeanne gave. :)

    3. Lemon Zinger*

      After I had my wisdom teeth out, I made sure my SO kept my phone until it was shown that I could mentally handle the responsibility of having one!

  7. AstroDeco*

    #1: Wow. OP, How did your partner respond?
    I have no idea how I would have responded to that request. If the recruiter was the one who asked then perhaps the request was really from the recruiter trying to close the deal, even though the candidate was told it came from the employer?
    (caveat: I’m not too familiar with how recruiters operate, so this might be way off-base)
    How would others respond if the employer (and not the recruiter) this was asked after an actual interview? I’d love to use Alison’s response (asking the employer to reciprocate) although I doubt this would reflect well on the candidate.

    #2: The breach of trust was definitely broken and I would have been furious & once that dissipated, mortified! Then once some of the mortification fades away I’d have a discussion with whomever decided that a photo like that was funny that I’m not a fan of that type of humour.
    If you do talk with your boss, you might want to say the same thing to a few of your colleagues so they understand that you didn’t sanction the photo. Sometimes things like this can start a trend and it’s best to nip it in the bud. It won’t seem a big deal, especially if the comments are accompanied with a bit of self-depracation and a laugh.

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      If the recruiter was the one who asked then perhaps the request was really from the recruiter trying to close the deal, even though the candidate was told it came from the employer?

      OP said in the letter that this request was also made by the employer in the interview, so no, I wouldn’t hang this one on a desperate recruiter.

    2. Naomi*

      #1: The best response I can think of is, “I’m sure you understand that I can’t commit to that until I have your offer in hand.”

      I wouldn’t actually be sure they understood that, but framing it as something that should go without saying–because it should!–might get them to back off. And if they dig in their heels and insist, or threaten to pull the offer-in-progress, that’s an even bigger red flag than the initial demand.

      1. AstroDeco*

        Naomi, I think that’s perfect. Thanks!
        And hopefully no one will ever have to say this…

    3. Boss Cat Meme*

      OP #2: Your co-workers seem to not have given it a second thought, but if it ever comes up again you could always try to downplay it casually, and throw your son under the bus. “Ugh! My son! I can’t believe he did that! I was so mortified! What is wrong with our kids? . . . ” and most likely the conversation will turn to people sharing stories about their kids too. Moms LOVE to do that!

      But seriously, if you have a decent work friendship with people, most people will just laugh it off and realize that you did nothing wrong. People make social media faux pas all the time. I once had a boss who shared with all of us photos of her daughter-in-law giving birth! We’re talking a feet in the stirrups photo too! Because she was my boss, I just laughed it off with, “Hello! Wasn’t expecting that one. How about you just show me the photo of the baby in the little stocking cap when it’s all over?” and she laughed too. I better she never even thought twice how inappropriate that was. Again, all the moms immediately began to share stories about their own births too. I would worry less about your co-workers and worry more about your son! Good grief!

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      #3 apply anyway

      That’s where I am. A colleague of mine is going through this exact same thing now (I had to read this letter a few times to make sure it wasn’t her!). She wants to switch careers, but doesn’t want to leave our company, and a position opened up in another department that would give her some of the skills she’d need to make her transition into the new field. We’re required to discuss our intent to post for internal positions with our current managers/supervisors, so she did, and her supervisor told her she doesn’t have what it takes to do this new job. Colleague applied anyway, but now their work relationship is irreparably damaged – supervisor has been nitpicking the hell out of her work product for weeks when she wasn’t before and just being generally unpleasant. That reaction is making her all the more glad she applied anyway.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        This has happened to me twice (sort of). The second one really pissed me off. My boss was so nice to me and told me she’d help me move to marketing if I wanted (I was her assistant and this would have been a move to a managerial role). Little did I know that she completely screwed me over and told the boss from marketing that she couldn’t lose me and to please not offer me the promotion. Then she went to HR and told them the same thing. The boss from marketing was an SVP and my boss was EVP so the SVP felt like she had to comply. I was told I was “too expensive” for the new role and didn’t find out what really happened until my boss quit and the marketing boss confessed it to me after she had some wine at a happy hour one night. Hmph.

        1. DoDah*

          UGH! I’m sorry that happened. It’s happened to me too. VP cried (actual crocodile tears) when I applied for a management position in another department. She did everything she could to tell others I would be a bad fit, too expensive, etc. Lucky for me. The CEO saw through the screen of bullshit and promoted me anyway. BUT I had to perform both jobs for 6 months to “ease the transition.” I think I’d actually still be performing both if the CEO’s son didn’t hear about it.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            Geez, it seems like this is really common. I am annoyed on your behalf that you had to do both jobs for 6 months, but I am glad that the CEO and his son seem to be decent sorts.

          2. Nervous Accountant*

            Reading these accounts reminds me of Rachel on Friends, when she applied for a new position and the boss completely trashed her in front of the interviewing committee. It’s terrible that anyone can do that. :/

        2. Christopher Tracy*

          Yeah, I’ve had two managers try to sabotage me with jobs before. It was a mess.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        This is all amazing to me. I’ve always been a little bummed I’ve worked at small companies where internal promotions nearly never happen unless someone dies. But now that I’m hearing this is a whole new way of being retaliated against I feel a bit better.

  8. Reb*

    #4 Don’t do that! As a hiring manager, it feels like such an unprofessional thing to put in a covering letter, it’d actively put me off hiring you. Focus on cool work-related things you’ve done.

    1. Random Lurker*

      +1. I wouldn’t even read the resume if I saw this on a cover letter. It would tell me that you either have a lack of focus to tell me relevant information for the task at hand (why you are a fit for this role), or maybe a lack of substance. Possibly both. I’d immediately move on.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          it may come up in the interview. You never know,’they may ask for a story about a time she gave a presentation or something like that where it could come up naturally.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. Sometimes a personal anecdote can be tweaked to show a job relevant characteristic. It might not be the best choice to give the mountain climbing crisis anecdote in a cover letter, but if the focus is on ‘cool head in an emergency’ at least it could be seen as a creative way to stress a job strength. But ”seeing a celebrity isn’t about you or any thing you are or do that makes you a good candidate for the job. And frankly it isn’t even that interesting a cocktail party anecdote unless the conversation is about the ‘time we saw celebrities.’

    2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      It wouldn’t put me that far off, depending on the content of everything else. We like quirky people.

      It would make a story, though. “OMG, this one, you gotta read this. She’s got the Dali Lama in her cover letter!” And then five years later, “Remember the Dali Lama chick? This was hilarious. We have to tell you about the cover letter we got this one time……..”

      If the rest of everything else is okay, we’d interview and if the interview went well, hire. But you’d be the Dali Lama chick in the heads of everybody who hired you, forever. (Not the worst thing in a place that likes quirky people. But probably not the branding you were going for.)

      1. Revolver Rani*

        I so rarely get any kind of cover-letter at all, and maybe 4 out of 5 of the ones I do get are crushingly dull summaries of what’s already stated in more readable form on the resume, that I will pay attention to the resume of ANYONE who sends me an interesting or unusual cover letter, whether it impresses me positively or negatively. Doesn’t mean I’ll give them a call, but I will look.

        But really, I almost never get to look at a cover letter at all. And it makes me terribly sad. I am hiring for a writing position. I get very excited by candidates who show that they can, and want to, write anything at all.

        1. Fact & Fiction*

          This kind of blows my mind, as a writer/editor. Cover letters are an awesome first way to show your skills!

          1. Christopher Tracy*

            I’m a writer, and I hate writing cover letters. The skill set needed to write a compelling one is different than the one needed to write fiction or a news piece (both of which I’ve done and have won awards for). So I can see how you’d have a writing position open and still have pretty good writers only submit so-so or even boring ones.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              God, me too. I struggle with cover letters for jobs–it’s difficult to make a receptionist position sound the least bit exciting or accomplished. “I successfully managed a ten-line phone system while working for XYZ Widgets.” SNORE.

              I’ve been flailing about with query letters too. When I look at some of my earlier ones, it’s Cringe Time.

              1. Christopher Tracy*

                I only just learned seven or eight months ago how to write a halfway decent one *sigh.*

      2. Cat*

        We like quirky people too, and quirky people are attracted to us, so hiring is a balance of trying to separate good quirky from bad quirky. I am pretty sure I wouldn’t be willing to take the risk on the Dalai Lama chick. Though I guess you never know depending on the rest of the application.

        1. Boss Cat Meme*

          OP#4 I lived in China for two years and have a volume of amazing stories about overcoming obstacles, cultural diversity, international communications, meeting very influential political figures, yada yada yada. But if I were to read a story that was completely out of left field about seeing the Dalai Lama in an elevator, in a cover letter, I’m sorry, but I would find that incredibly shallow and superficial. I would wonder, as I do now, why did you feel that it was SO important for me to know that about you? Do you want me to think that you are special now because the Dalai Lama gave you a blessing? I would probably think that you were a shallow person easily impressed by celebrities. Most importantly, your story really has no point – -you saw him exit an elevator and said hello. Did you travel specifically to see HIM or find spiritual enlightenment? Do you value him as an important spiritual leader and as a result of meeting him, you now feel you have a special calling for XYZ? If you don’t value him as a spiritual leader, then he truly is just a celebrity to you. That’s really the kind of story you would share in an interview perhaps, if asked about your international experience, and even then, it’s not a great one. Why was that meeting important to YOU? Leave it off the cover letter and save it for the goofy get-to-know-you games you’ll be playing in your training session if you get hired.

      3. Tammy*

        I agree with this – at my company, we’d probably respond the way Wakeen did. But a lot depends on corporate culture, I think. Our culture is pretty relaxed, and though there are things that WILL make us reject a candidate based on their cover letter, I don’t think this would be it if everything else about the candidate was okay. (I got a cover letter recently that started with song lyrics, pointed out that the candidate had recently removed a bunch of potentially offensive content from their Facebook since the last time they’d applied with us, and ended with the closing “Love, FirstName” – THAT was too much even for us.)

        1. Snargulfuss*

          In high school I read probably 9/10 of the book Kim thinking the lama was an animal. Our teacher didn’t give us any intro to the book and I’d never heard of a lama before!

          1. Libby*

            I kept it straight as a kid using the poem from Ogden Nash’s Zoo:

            The one “l” lama, he’s a priest
            The two “l” llama, he’s a beast
            But I will bet my silk pajamas
            That there is no
            Three “l” lllama.

            1. Minhag*

              Have you heard the retort yet?

              Clearly Nash never hung out at Boston firehouse, “It’s a three a-lama!”

    3. AnonAnalyst*

      I might still grant the OP an interview if her qualifications were really strong, but adding the point to a cover letter would definitely be a liability to her candidacy, not an asset. Her qualifications would have to overcome that cover letter, which is…sort of against the purpose of a cover letter.

      I guess that my circle might be unique, but my experience is that lots of people have had these types of encounters with well-known individuals. So, highlighting that experience as something notable about yourself in a professional context just seems out of touch. As an example, I was actually asked out by a prince (multiple times, no less), but I don’t add that info to my cover letters.

      OP, it sounds like you have an easy way to get this into interviews if you want to since it seems like the speech went well. That would seem like a great example for behavioral interview questions, and you could add the anecdote on naturally at the end. Win!

      1. Loose Seal*

        I don’t see the point of adding the anecdote in an interview. This is an anecdote for social situations or maybe water cooler chat after she’s established at the new job. Bringing it up in an interview makes it seem like she thinks she had something to do with the random chance of running into someone famous.

        OP, it is a cool story. I don’t know anyone who has personally spoken to the Dalai Lama so if you told this story socially, I’d want lots and lots of details. But it doesn’t have a place in the cover letter or interview.

        (Every time I see “Dalai Lama” written out I think of the poem my ninth-grade English teacher taught us: “The one-L lama, he’s a priest. The two-L llama, he’s a beast. And I bet my silk pajamas, there isn’t any three-L lllama.”)

        1. Karo*

          I’ve had some weird interview questions before, though, like what my favorite childhood memory was. So I wouldn’t necessarily tell the story out of nowhere, and I wouldn’t try to find a way to shoehorn it into a question that has nothing to do with it, but if you get a question like “Who is the coolest person you’ve ever met?” it would be totally appropriate there.

      2. Karo*

        …I really want to know who the prince is, now. Hoping it’s a nice, age-appropriate one, not a creeper.

      3. Marillenbaum*

        Okay, you can’t just mention that you were casually asked out by a prince and leave it there. My office is boring right now! I need details!

          1. AnonAnalyst*

            It’s not as cool as it sounds, believe me! I used to work in a luxury business in a client-facing role (don’t judge, it was pre-recession!) and met him at an event. He asked me to go to dinner after the event and I said no, as I had plans with my SO. My boss gave him my phone number at the end of the night, so he then called me several times with other invitations before he left town a week or so later.

            My boss also explicitly told me that I should go out with him before he left because he might spend more money with us, so…yeah. That’s the story there.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      I agree. It’s so completely irrelevant that it makes you look like you don’t understand… work.

      (Also it makes you look like you can’t spell Dalai Lama.)

    5. Kyrielle*

      Yes, this is not a story for the cover letter. (Unless you’re applying to work in an organization to whom he and his message are highly relevant, in which case you could *maybe* work in how thrilled you were by the chance encounter. But even there, you’d have to be careful to make it relevant.)

      But it’s a great story for random web sites (hi, and thank you!), your friends and family, and even your blog if you have one. :)

      1. OhNo*

        I agree that if it was somehow relevant to the position you were applying for, you might be able to work it in so that it made sense in context. But even then, I would hope that the OP would have enough other qualifications or experience to focus on, and wouldn’t need to pad the letter with an anecdote.

    6. Lily in NYC*

      And it just seems a bit naive – at least that’s what I would think if I received that cover letter. And OP, please don’t bring it up in an interview either. It’s great that you met him but I don’t think someone interviewing you will care and will wonder why you are mentioning it. I know I’m looking at this from the lens of living in a huge city where most of us here have met famous people at one time or another but I think the advice stands regardless of location.

      1. Artemesia*

        In my lifetime I have met John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, a couple of movie stars, several Pulitzer prize winning authors and Alan Rickman (he gets more than ‘a couple of movie stars’) and would never mention any of these in a job interview.

        1. Muriel Heslop*

          Personally, I would be way more interested in interviewing someone who met Alan Rickman than someone who met the Dalai Lama. (That’s another reason I wouldn’t mention it. Aside from being irrelevant and unprofessional, celebrity tastes do vary.)

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            I would interview someone who had invented a time machine that would allow me to go back in time and meet Alan Rickman. That I would do. Not so much someone who says in their cover letter that they bumped into someone famous once.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I’m woefully lacking in A-listers!

              I can only think of one place where the celebrity stories might be appropriate in an interview, and that’s if you were interviewing for a job where you were likely to run into some on occasion. And if you were directly asked–“From time to time, we have celebrity clients come through the office, since we handle [a thing that they do]. Have you ever met anyone famous? How did you handle that situation?”

            2. Karo*

              What if I one time in an airport thought someone might be Eminem and then later realized that it probably was?

        2. Boss Cat Meme*

          Oooooh, fun! Yes, I agree, many people have met famous celebrities, including little old me! I have even been propositioned by a few too, and I am originally from a small town in Wisconsin who has been fortunate enough to travel, live, and work all over the world. I also worked in a position for a long time where sometimes celebrities, sports figures, and politicians were part of that work, so maybe I have met far more than other folks, unless they are in the entertainment industry. One time I even met 3 living former U.S. Presidents at the same time, and that WAS work-related, but it’s not a thing that even has a place in my resume. It truly is for cocktail parties and after-work drinks with friends, as in “Hey, you know that thing we’re doing with the community gardens? I just found out Bette Midler and Pete Seeger are going to be there!” One day my friend who was a military journalist told me she did an interview with Harrison Ford about a pilot program he’s doing for kids out west. Another friend, who works for a recruiting organization for academics said she met Leonard Nimoy’s brother AND Leonard Nimoy in her office. My friend the pet sitter once did a job for Patti LaBelle (and her dogs). My friend in Indiana installed John Cougar Mellencamp’s pool. My little cousin beat cancer but he got a make-a-wish and spent the day with the Green Bay Packers. So, you’re going to find out that there are probably A LOT of people that have celebrity stories, either by chance, through work, or in some other way, and none of it is really cover letter or resume value.

    7. LeRainDrop*

      I definitely agree with Alison’s advice to OP#4. Honestly, the story is only kinda cool. I think most people have met at least one famous person in their life. If this story were in the cover letter, I’d think the applicant was naive and probably lacked substantive qualification for the job.

  9. LSCO*

    #1 What’s to stop your partner from saying he’s stopped interviewing with other companies, but carrying on regardless? Assuming this potential employer moves relatively quickly there won’t be a huge amount of overlap in time and he may not have interviews scheduled anyway, but even if he did who is going to know? Maybe that’s a bit of a cavalier way to go about it, but it’s probably what I’d do.

    I’d also be looking heavily into the employer’s culture. If they’re demanding shows of loyalty before even having an offer, what kind of loyalty is your partner going to be expected to show when he’s actually working there? Will he be expected to work a lot of unpaid overtime/evenings/weekends, out of “loyalty”? Will he be expected to never take vacation out of loyalty? Never look for a new job a few years down the road to show loyalty? It seems as if this employer doesn’t understand that loyalty is earned over time and not demanded from the outset, especially when there’s no reciprocation. If I were your partner, I’d be looking at this very closely before accepting an offer.

      1. Jamie*

        I’ve done time there, food sucks but there is basketball in the yard.

        But seriously, he could keep looking on his own, but if he agrees to this with the recruiter he’s using for this opportunity it could hurt him to go on inactive status while they take their time.

        If you want someone badly enough that you’re afraid to lose them then the request is, “we’re going to work up the final offer and get it to you within x hours…” and do it.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          If this is a third party recruiter, after this is all said and done, I’d give them the feedback why this is so tacky for them to pass on to the employer. Probably won’t change what these guys are doing, but at least they’ll hear about it.

  10. FD*

    #1- This is so incredibly creepy that I would completely decline the offer to interview. They aren’t paying you, they haven’t decided to offer you a job, but they already feel they have the right to ask you not to interview elsewhere–what would they be like if you actually worked for them?

  11. Rebecca*

    #5 – I applied for a job late last week, and this is my biggest fear – that Comcast will somehow redirect an email from the company to spam and I’ll miss it. Or that the company will call, and my phone won’t be working at that time (I’ve been having outages for the past few months off and on, again, Comcast). So, I check every day, twice a day, just to make sure. OP, I really hope you can get an interview!

    1. KellyK*

      Do you have any alternate contact info you can send them, like a cell phone? And is Comcast’s email usually reliable, or is it worth switching to Gmail or something else?

      1. Mabel*

        Also, Google Voice may be an option. I’ve never used it, but people here have recommended it a few times.

        1. Mabel*

          Aaaaand I just got two spam calls in a row. I need to rethink my idea that I don’t need Google Voice.

  12. DMouse*

    #5 – this happened to me! The email asking me to interview was in my spam, and I just happened to see it a couple days after it was sent. The interviewer totally understood, and nine years later I still work there! (And emails I send from that company are frequently going into other people’s spam.)

    1. Sparkly Librarian*

      My last offer to interview email wasn’t sent to the spam folder, but it sure LOOKED like spam. The sender field was in all caps, with the last name first (someone I’d never had contact from and whose name I didn’t recognize) and the subject line was “Are you interested?” I’m glad I opened it and read it carefully (which was mostly because I used a separate email for job search stuff and only got so much email there).

  13. Joseph*

    #3 – Be prepared for some pushback from the boss. Based on her reaction when you first applied, she’s likely to be a bit thrown off to hear that you still applied. In fact, after you use AAM’s (good!) advice to talk with the hiring manager and apply, your very next chat should probably be with your boss directly to avoid boss finding out from someone else (e.g., her boss).

    The message to the boss should be framed along the lines of “Just wanted to let you know that while I value your opinion, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to at least roll the dice.”

    1. Fjell & Skog*

      I’d also be prepared for the boss to be jerky just because you dared to even think about applying for something else…or maybe I’ve just worked for jerks.

      1. Not an IT Guy*

        I was thinking the same thing. I know I’ve had bosses in the past who would without question consider it insubordination if someone applied for another position without their blessing.

        1. anonderella*

          That word will never *not* sound 1984-ish to me.

          yeah, I coulda phrased that better.. but it’s early for me still : ) and I had too hard a laugh at the animal puns.
          All my wit are belong to those guys.

      2. OhNo*

        I don’t even think the boss has to be an outright jerk to have a response that’s bad for the OP. Even if they are just a little petty or overemotional in the workplace, they could respond in a way that makes the OP’s life crap.

        Probably best to tread very lightly here, just in case.

      3. Artemesia*

        This. She wasn’t advising in your best interests. She just didn’t want to be bothered replacing you and now she is offended. This is a terrible person to work for and you should be looking to get out from under her asap even if this doesn’t pan out.

    2. themmases*

      I agree. The OP even has a really good reason that is flattering to the boss and the company– they want to stay there if possible while advancing their career. It is normal to apply for internal positions, even if they are a bit of a stretch, if they come around rarely and the alternative might be leaving. If I were the OP, I’d go with that explanation. Just say they appreciate their boss’ advice, thought about it, but felt they needed to try a path that would keep them at this company even if it is a bit of a stretch.

  14. EleanoraUK*

    OP #2 – I don’t now if your son sent it using your email account, but that’s what I’ve assumed because I’m not sure how he’d have your boss’s email address otherwise.

    If that’s the case, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for your boss to have assumed this was you making the joke, and thinking it was OK to share it with others. I’d therefore be careful about coming across like you’re blaming your boss, where it was really your son’s error and your boss most likely acted in good faith.

    You could still tell your boss that if you ever send him an in-joke, especially one that’s a bit embarrassing for you, you’d appreciate it if he couldn’t share it further, but I’d be mindful of making it sound like you’re upset with your boss about this one.

    1. Myrin*

      I’m not sure if I’d absolve the boss of all blame here, to be honest. While I agree that he probably acted in good faith – seeing how the OP remarks on their good relationship and doesn’t mention him being a jerk otherwise -, the only situation I can come up with where sharing this photo with OP’s entire staff (!) wouldn’t be inappropriate would be something something like the OP being widely known as a bit of a jokester who often quirkily makes fun of herself or something to that extent. Other than that – and probably even in that situation, because surely the son’s email, whether it be written in his own name or that of OP, didn’t explicitly say “Here is something for you and the whole office to share!” – I do find the boss’s behaviour a bit… weird? I don’t really know how to express it but I just can’t understand how he’d get to the point of thinking that surely everyone should see this picture of their supervisor (? I assume the OP is a supervisor since she says “my staff” but I think the same holds true for a simple colleague). But again, I don’t think he acted maliciously or in bad faith, either, so a conversation shouldn’t be adversarial (although I’m not sure that showing that you’re somewhat upset about a situation necessarily means the conversation turned adversarial or that you’re accusing someone of something) but the OP seems very embarrassed about this incident and like she absolutely wants to talk about it with her boss, in which case I think Alison’s phrasing (and yours in your last paragraph) is perfect.

  15. Camellia*

    #3 – The company at which I worked for so many years had a rule that, sure, you could apply to any internal job you wanted, but then HR would ask your manager for permission to interview you and consider you for the job. If the manager said no for any reason, then you would not be considered for that job. Period. No appeal.

    I wonder if this is true at the OP’s job.

    1. Nicole*

      #3 – Yeah, I would echo that concern. I know that at my company the current manager has to give consent to a transfer. I know this because my new boss had to go through some confrontation with my previous boss in order to let me take the transfer that I asked for and my new boss wanted. I honestly probably only got into my current role because my new boss was aware that whether it was an internal transfer or if I found a job elsewhere, I was not going to stay in my old job. Some places give managers a lot of power.

    2. F.*

      I worked at a large company like that. My manager was very well known for not allowing anyone to leave her department. We were her slaves. I applied internally for over 40 positions in less than three years before someone kindly told me that no one would touch one of my manager’s employees because she would make life absolute hell for anyone who dared “steal” one of HER employees. Ironically enough, she finally laid me off. Did me a favor.

      1. Joseph*

        That seems like a really counter-productive policy. You know what good people do when they don’t see any possibility for internal promotions or upward transfer? They leave the company.

        Obviously, your manager wouldn’t care, but given the potential impacts on the company itself to lose good people (not to mention the hassling of other managers), this is the kind of time where her boss should be stepping in.

        1. F.*

          She was firmly entrenched and finally retired from that company about eight years later. She had such a nasty personality that they finally put another level of management in directly above her supposedly to keep her from talking to clients (large investment bank) and running them off. I could tell horror stories about her and actually still occasionally have nightmares about her. She ended up running a lot of people off.

    3. Jubilance*

      Yup, I work at a company that has this rule now, and it’s infuriating. 2 years ago I didn’t get along with my manager and I had to practically beg to be allowed to interview with another team. I felt like I was being held hostage.

    4. Mike C.*

      The rule at my company is that you can’t interfere if the new position is a promotion. That ensures that people are in the most valuable position they can achieve at a given time and prevents a vindictive manager from driving off good talent.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          That is. I wonder if my company has this rule. That would explain why my shrew of an ex-boss had no choice but to let me go to my new division (it was a promotion)….I’ll need to inquire about this (my colleague’s situation would be a lateral move).

    5. Syler*

      I have worked at 3 companies in the last 28 years and all of them require(d) that the employee obtain approval from their current boss before applying for any internal position.

      From my experience, and from talking to friends, I think this is really common at large corporations.

  16. Portia*

    #5 – add me to the list of interview invitations being sent to a spam folder. When I was applying to an internship at my current job (in government), my interview invitation got caught in my spam. I caught it just in time (their deadline to respond was the next day), and only because I’d gotten a weird email notification from the site I’d applied through. I’ve heard similar stories from other interns at my job and some got the interview even though they missed the deadline because of their spam folder. If it’s happened to you, it’s likely happened to others.

  17. AthenaC*

    #1 – Reminds me of when I was between jobs, and the first recruiter to contact me asked me to be exclusive with her. I said yes and then met with another recruiter later that afternoon. I figured my right to explore all opportunities to find another job trumped their desire to ask something of me that they have no business asking.

    So I think that if your partner is still interested in the opportunity, tell them whatever they want to hear. If he takes the opportunity, they will never know. If he takes another opportunity, what are they going to do?

    1. Pwyll*

      Yeah, something similar happened to me. The recruiter asked me to be exclusive with him, and I said sure. He said he would contact me by the end of the week to setup the interview with the firm he was placing for. Finally over a month later, when I was about to receive an offer, he got back in touch asking me to come back in and meet with him in advance of a potential lead. I declined. He then berated me for breaking my word, even after I told him “No, you broke your word about getting back to me, so I assumed our deal was off.”

      Worked out great, though. He later attempted to pitch the company and I had the satisfaction of turning him down.

      As for OP, assuming this is the only red flag and he really wants the job, I’d probably say something like, “That’s a relief to hear, as I am eager to stop interviewing and get started. Shall I expect to receive the offer by Friday?”

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        See that’s just ridiculous because that recruiter/firm may not even have agreements in place for every employer you want to apply to. Some employers specifically mention in their job ads something about no third party applications because they don’t want to pay the recruiter fee when they can obtain the talent themselves. So that would be really limiting yourself.

  18. CeeCee*

    #2 – As someone the same age as your son, I’m surprised he doesn’t know better. It’s one thing to send it to your family members with a chuckle, but to a place where you have a professional reputation to uphold? Perhaps he doesn’t have much experience with professional reputations (or else I could imagine he would have thought about how he would have felt if his mother sent a similar picture of him to HIS boss) but that shouldn’t be an excuse for poor judgement. It’s not like you’re sending his naked baby or embarrassing teen years photos to girls he’s trying to get with and this is his form of getting back at you … Unless you are, but I’m not going to assume that.

    Ultimately though, while it might be worth mentioning to your boss that you didn’t appreciate it going around, your boss didn’t do much wrong. Especially if you son sent it from your email or phone (in which case your boss thought it was from you) and if he put a witty caption like “Really enjoying my day off!” Your boss would assume it was from you and that you were willing to share it.

    I guess I would just say: Make sure you aren’t channeling your frustration and embarrassment at your boss. If not for your son’s misguided idea of humor, your boss would have never been involved in the first place.

    1. GreyjoyGardens*

      Yes, a 27-year-old sending such a picture to his mom’s boss (!) raised my eyebrows as well. Unless he has some sort of developmental disability, he’s plenty old enough to know better! Since the LW said that Sonny Boy drove the parent to the dentist, I’m assuming he’s *not* developmentally disabled, so:

      Sonny Boy needs a stern talking-to. “Fergus, don’t ever do that again. It made me look unprofessional. If I had gotten into trouble with Boss, *you* would have been ultimately responsible. It’s not funny to make Mom look bad to her boss.” (Never mind if the boss is really upset or not – it’s the principle of the thing.)

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Ha, yeah, at first I thought it was going to be a child that had done this! Like you know, 8-14 ish.

  19. Adlib*

    OP #3 – Been there. Only in my case, my supervisor was trying to directly prevent me from leaving for a better internal role by bad-mouthing my new manager (a VP). She took my departure VERY personally, and it took 3 months for me to actually switch roles. They had been dragging their feet about rehiring people in my department and decided now was the time to hire 3 people so I could train them before I leave. (I had been taking up all the slack from being short-handed.) My new manager had so much patience that I don’t know how she did it, but she navigated her way through all the politics very well.

    All that to say that I hope you go for it and get it! Even if you encounter further difficulties from your current boss in the process, they can be overcome!

  20. Mental Health Day*

    #1 “Loyalty”

    First of all, LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL. Hilarious.

    Secondly, OP, does your partner really want to work for these jackholes? If they are showing this amount of crazy at the interview stage, is your partner really sure they want to find out what is behind Door Number 2? Granted, if you need a job, you need a job. But this would be a major red flag for me.

      1. Mental Health Day*

        LOL that is true. My first thought, anytime I hear the term “loyalty” used in a work-related context, is definitely “LOL”.

  21. Mental Health Day*

    #3 Internal Job

    Apply anyway. I’m not on the ground in your position, but based on your letter, it seems like a pretty clear cut case of the manager not wanting to lose you. And not giving a crap about your career/success/happiness. What possible “embarrassment” could be caused by simply applying for a job? If the hiring manager thinks you are totally unqualified, the worst case scenario is that they just don’t interview you. If you do get interviewed, and they think you are not qualified, then they won’t continue the interview process. Happens all the time, everywhere. No embarrassment required. That said, this manager clearly does not care about your best interest, so it may be time to start looking externally.

    1. Always Anon*

      I really like the idea of talking to the hiring manager to get an idea if there are job requirements that are not specified in the ad. If there are major requirements they should be included in the ad, as they will get many applications from people who think they are qualified who are not.

      I suspect this may be even less about OP#3 being a stand out performer, and potentially more about the fact that her boss doesn’t want to see her as a peer. Some supervisors/bosses can’t handle their direct reports advancing more quickly than them, and then potentially ending up to be more senior than them. As a result, they discourage opportunities for advancement.

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      Agree except the worse case scenario is then she doesn’t get the promotion and Boss then makes her life miserable and maybe even begins pushing her out subtly…or not so subtly. But I’m sure if that happened the Op would begin searching for another job, but what a pain.

      1. Mental Health Day*

        Yeah, that is true. But bottom line, any manager that would do that is going to be an ass about the OP leaving no matter what. It does totally suck to be pushed out, but at least it clears up any ambiguity about how your manager really feels about you.

  22. Sharon*

    #2: I’m surprised at all the commenters saying that the boss wasn’t out of line sharing that photo of the LW. It may not have been malicious but it was still wildly inappropriate and unprofessional. It blows my mind to encounter people who think it’s okay to overshare on someone else’s behalf.

    1. hbc*

      Well, I wouldn’t want a picture of me in any kind of costume at work, so I don’t send pictures of me in costumes. But if a colleague sends me a picture of himself rocking out in full Kiss gear, unless we have a personal relationship, I’m going to assume he’s okay with people at work seeing it. Because he sent it to someone at work.

      It should never be shared with the intention of mockery, and I’m assuming this wasn’t the visual equivalent of a doctor’s note. I think the main problem here is that the manager seems to have thought that the picture got to him with the OP’s consent, and therefore that the OP was poking a little fun of herself at work.

  23. Not Karen*

    #5: Once upon a time I declined an interview invitation after the phone screen revealed the job wasn’t a good match. About a week later, after the interview would have taken place, I happened to look in my spam folder and saw an e-mail from the company asking me to complete a skills test prior to the interview. Oops. Would’ve been awkward to show up at the interview without having completed it.

  24. OP #5*

    Hi everyone, an update if you were curious – I emailed them as soon as I could and explained the situation. The person understood, and actually offered me to come in for an interview that day! BUT, I live a bit far from the city the job is in (like, 2 hour drive on a good day), and would have never been able to get to the city in time on such short notice, as she emailed me back around 3pm. I offered to come in tomorrow or next week, but they said that today was the only day they were conducting first round interviews. Thought that was a bit odd for a small company but I wasn’t really in a position to negotiate. Oh well, plenty of other job fishes in the sea. I’m a recent grad in the very beginnings of my real career search, so I’m trying my best not to get hung up on stupid mistakes.

    I am glad to know that it’s a common problem so thanks for sharing your stories everyone!

    1. OpheliaInWaders*

      Good on you for calling! FWIW, having only one day of interviews is pretty uncommon IME, so good luck with all those other fishes, and I hope you find the right match!

  25. Mel*

    You cannot command someone to be loyal. It can only be earned when you trust that your employer or boss has your back. Because when they show us that they will have our backs then we will have theirs.

  26. Observer*

    OP #2 I think you have a very serious issue with your son. I’m glad you had your conversation with him. But, this was sooo out of line and sooo inappropriate, that you really need to think about the whole situation carefully. Honestly, is he really someone you can depend on to have your back? Or even to just treat you reasonably well?

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Yeah, I second this. My kid is still a teen and I’d be shocked if he did that to me. I do rely on him for things that are appropriate skills and I think if I were to tell him that story he’d be even harder on a 27 year old that I’m imagining I’d be.

    2. GreyjoyGardens*

      Thirding this. Jeez – he’s *27*, not 7 or even 17, and presumably capable of driving his parent to an appointment and looking after them afterward.

      That someone who is almost 30 years old thought that taking a picture of an incapacitated person and sending it to their boss was an OK thing to do, makes me really really wonder about what kind of person the son is.

      1. CeeCee*

        As I mentioned above, I’m 27 as well and this was all I could think about the entire time I read this because I couldn’t imagine doing something like this myself.

        He’s almost 30! Even if he’s not married or has children, he is in that same age bracket. I would think there would be some type of understanding of what is and is not appropriate in a work place.

        I spend enough time having to remind myself I’m almost 30 when people treat me like I’m a teenager, I know I certainly wouldn’t want to go around reinforcing that.

    3. anonderella*

      I once showed a pretty bad picture of a friend to a room of our coworkers, after said friend and I had gone on a road trip together. The picture was taken by me as she was coming through a doorway around a corner, and talking. Her mouth was lax, her eyes were squinted; her face looked like it had been printed on a ice cream cake that melted. She looked like a beat-up boxer. She looked like if you paused Jurassic Park at the scene when that girl gets sneezed on by the dinosaur. It was awful.
      She was also my *best* friend. I really didn’t think it through, and she was livid. I’d like to say ‘obviously, she was livid,’ but I can’t, because even though I knew she’d be embarrassed, I thought even more that she would think it was funny. Because I’d have thought it was funny. If that were a picture of me, I’d have been laughing harder than anybody in the room.. I’d probably have been the one to show the picture around.

      It just really didn’t occur to me that she would be that upset. I’m just sharing this to point out that people can be really thoughtless. I would have gone to the moon and back for my best friend (when someone took her purse out of a Walmart shopping cart, I kicked off my flip-flops, threw my own purse to the floor and busted ass out the door to catch them – which I did.), but I made a really careless mistake in assuming that her reaction would be the same as mine would have been.

      I agree with you that the son in OP’s scenario has some serious re-thinking to do about the choices he made leading up to that moment, but I don’t know that we can entirely condemn him solely based on what we’ve heard, because I’ve seen myself make a very similar mistake, and feel really, really terrible that I made my friend feel bad (even if it took me a while to ‘get it’).

      1. anonderella*

        Reading other people’s comments, I’m actually thinking twice just based on the age factor.. I was trying to give the OP’s son the benefit of the doubt (like, “well, not everybody is mentally/emotionally the same age at 27”), but the mistake I made happened when we were teens, and I couldn’t imagine making such a reckless joke at this age, about my mom no less – btw I am the same age currently as OP’s son in the post.

      2. Jeanne*

        Thanks for the story. I think OP needs to talk to her son and get his reaction. Hopefully he will understand and apologize. If not, it’s time to do the parenting thing and teach him. He shouldn’t have done it but he did and he is not too old to learn.

        1. Boss Cat Meme*

          You make a great point, anonderella, and I agree, but when it comes to the way women look physically, all bets are off. If your friend was doing something ridiculous, but she still looked good doing it, she would feel differently. Thanks to our advanced cell phone technology, it’s so easy to get a great looking shot of a sad-looking moment. I am so glad you get that now that what you did really hurt her feelings and aren’t just trying to laugh it off and saying she just can’t take a joke. She must have felt that after all you had been through together, you just didn’t have her back, and truthfully, if any of us would ever do that to a “friend” I think we all would know deep down inside that it really isn’t “funny” after all.

          I remember watching whatever show Hoda and Kathie Lee are on in a hotel room one morning while getting ready during a work conference. The topic was on girls in sports and Title 9, and all of a sudden out of nowhere Katie Lee says, “Hoda was an athlete herself, and she played baseball in school.” And Hoda proudly says, “Yes, I did, and our team went on to win whatever, etc etc” and it was really nice to see a woman talk about how sports had positive benefits for her, and then Kathie Lee says something like, “Well, it certainly didn’t have any positive benefits to the way you look,” and she shows this terrible photo of Hoda, while she’s swinging a bat, with big frizzy hair, bad skin, braces, thick glasses, looking all gawky and 14-ish and Hoda just shrieks and says What are you doing? Where did you get that? And Hoda was being really cool about it, laughing and saying Oh my goodness! Telling the producer, take that down! My God! etc etc and Katie Lee just started in with, look at that horrible hair, did you style it with a light socket? What was your diet, french fries? It looks like they used your face as home plate, HA HA Ha HA Ha!!! And Hoda is saying can we go to a commercial now please? hahahahahah

          At breakfast later I mentioned this to my co-workers and the women were all, “That was mean! That was terrible! Kathie Lee Gifford is a mean drunk, that’s not funny at all,” and all the men were “That is hilarious! So what? What’s the big deal? It was funny! Lighten up!” And I realized that gender (these men were in their late 20’s) probably had more to do with it then age. Just like the OP’s boss, who thought it was hilarious and what was the big deal, but OP was mortified (as I would be too). I bet the men laughed but the women either faked laugh or smiled cuz it was the boss. Maybe the son thought it was no big deal himself, but if you are reading this, it IS a big deal. As women, we are told that we are ugly and/or not good enough every single day to sell products, and sometimes it takes a lot to be okay with ourselves. Seeing other people laugh at our physical shortcomings is just a reminder of our early years when many of us were likely to have been teased or bullied over our looks at one time or another.

  27. OP #3*

    OP3 here – Just an update that I did not end up applying for the position, and it is now closed and they are beginning phone interviews. (I submitted this letter about 3 weeks ago, so it’s just too late to take anyone’s wonderful advice!). I will, however, keep all of this in mind for any future opportunities. I do keep an eye out for other positions (I’m in a major metro area, so lucky in that regard), but I really love a lot about my current company, including the neighborhood, benefits, easy commute, and flexibility in the schedule, so moving would be hard. Hopefully at my next review in a month or so I can have a thorough conversation with my boss about my future in this office.

    Thank you Alison for posting my question, and to you great commenters who provided even more advice and support! I was really bummed about the whole situation and it’s great to get some feedback from a neutral audience. Cheers!

    1. Artemesia*

      Oh this just makes me feel so bad for you. I hope you never let a bad boss do this to you again.

    2. VivaL*

      Im sorry to hear that OP. What was the ultimate deciding factor in choosing not to apply?

      1. OP #3*

        Mostly that I did not want to make waves. My office and the hiring office and pretty integrated (I share an office with one of the staff in the hiring office), and I know all the people in both offices. So applying without support from my direct supervisor seemed, to me, to be likely to cause more trouble. My boss also has what is probably an inappropriately close relationship with the hiring manager, and I could not be certain that they had not discussed my desire to apply already, perhaps collectively making a decision that I would not be considered.

        I think I do ultimately lean toward my boss not wanting to lose me. She thinks I am great, tells me as much pretty frequently, thinks we make a “great team.” I’ve improved a lot of office processes since I’ve been here, and as I get better at my job she continuously puts more work on my desk that she no longer has to do. (What she’s now doing with her free time is unclear to me.) I’ve even been asked to help with work in the hiring office, because they are currently short staffed and I have the required skill set for the work. But, if I were to leave my current role my boss would be back at square one again. Now, my thought was that if I got this promotion I’d be close enough to help out during the transition and even help train the new hire. I probably should have had a more thorough discussion when I brought this up, but I was so taken aback by the non-endorsement that I just dropped it. I take responsibility for that, but also will learn from this experience and seize future opportunities more firmly.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          My boss also has what is probably an inappropriately close relationship with the hiring manager, and I could not be certain that they had not discussed my desire to apply already, perhaps collectively making a decision that I would not be considered.

          I experienced this exact situation last October. I applied for a position in my prior division on a different team, but my former manager lied to the hiring manager (her favorite employee’s husband no less) and told him I told her I didn’t understand how to do something that was integral to his position. Then she sat there and told me to my face that she told him this (I never said that), and the fact that she was so cavalier about torpedoing my chances really sent me over the edge with her. She was dead to me from then on.

  28. Meg Murry*

    For OP #3 – if we are assuming your boss does not have malicious intent, it is also possible that:
    -The boss hasn’t actually read the requirements for the current posting but is only remembering what the previous requirements were last time it was posted, or what the current person in the role is doing – it’s possible the boss has decided to ease back on the requirements or start with a lower level position than last time the position was posted.
    -The boss knows that the hiring manager already has a candidate in mind that is significantly more qualified than OP, but they have to post it internally anyway, and the boss doesn’t want OP to get her hopes up or waste her time on a resume and cover letter for a position that is effectively already filled.
    -The company uses really general/generic job descriptions in the postings (and doesn’t let the hiring manager be more specific) but the boss knows that the hiring manager really wants the new person to also handle function X, even though that isn’t in the description. Or that the hiring manager has a personal preference to only hire people with skill A, or degree Y, even if the posting says “degree in W, Y or Z”. Or the boss has a weird quirk about only hiring extroverts or only people from his alma mater, etc.
    -The boss has heard about the applicants they have already received (or knows what it was like last time they hired), and even though OP meets the criteria with 2 years of experience, they have often gotten people with much more experience (or have already received many applications with much more experience) so OP probably wouldn’t make the cut when they can hire someone with 10 years experience for a job that only requires 2 years experience (and pays accordingly).

    I think approaching the hiring manager would also be a good idea. You could phrase it as “I saw that the posting for Lucinda’s replacement went up. I’m really interested in it, and I feel like I meet all the requirements, but [boss] said that she thinks I don’t have the experience yet. Should I go ahead and apply, or could we schedule a time to discuss how I could gain the experience necessary to move into a position like this in the future?” OP could also ask her boss the same type of thing – “ok, if I’m not experienced enough yet, what else do I need to do besides wait a couple of years? Anything I should focus on learning, etc”

  29. Self employed*

    #4 Don’t want to be a curmudgeon, but that story doesn’t seem interesting to me. You saw the Dalai Lama get off the elevator and said hi. Cool to tell your friends but definitely not for a cover letter.

  30. Wilton Businessman*

    I am in the mood to answer all questions in movie quote mode.
    #1: SHOW ME THE MONEY! -Jerry Maguire
    #2: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” – Apocalypse Now
    #3: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” – Jaws
    #4: “Houston, we have a problem.” – Apollo 13
    #5: “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya punk?” – Dirty Harry

  31. OP #1*

    Thank you AAM and the commenters for confirming we are not crazy! My partner told the recruiter he didn’t like the game the company were playing, but I doubt that was relayed back. The company then came back saying they were very impressed but the CEO wanted to introduce himself at another meeting before the package was finalised. While my partner is understandably unimpressed by the tactics he is going to meet them tomorrow night (they want to meet in a bar after work – !) mostly to find out what the offer would be. He is moving into a new area and isn’t sure of his market rate at this point; at the same time he’s very employable and not concerned about keeping these guys warm. I’m 99% sure he will turn this one down but you never know – money talks (nice Jerry Macguire reference up there!)

    They remind me of the new media start ups of the early 2000’s where job interviews comprised being shown where your desk was before heading to the local vodka bar with the whole company.

    1. Slippy*

      Glad to hear your partner is going in with some skepticism. Be careful of a lowball offer though since it sounds like they are trying to snag people via psychology instead of above-market pay and benefits.

      1. OP #1*

        Agreed, that’s what he thinks they’ll try as well – but then at least he will know what a low offer is in the field.. At this point for me it is morbid fascination with what they will say next.

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