company asked what I have to earn, what I’d like to earn, and what I’d be thrilled to earn

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

1. Company asked what I have to earn, what I’d like to earn, and what I’d be thrilled to earn

Just saw this question on an online job application: “Give us three annual salaries. (1) What you HAVE to earn. (2) What you would LIKE to earn. (3) What you would be THRILLED to earn.”

The next question goes on to ask about job and salary history for the last three jobs.

Do you have an opinion on the appropriateness of the question and any suggestions for how to best approach an answer?

Sigh. It’s yet another company choosing to do something gimmicky rather than just using far more functional, straightforward methods of getting the information they need (“what are your salary expectations?” — or better yet, “the range for this position is $X-$Y”).

It’s also yet another company taking advantage of the power dynamics in hiring and putting candidates in a really unfair position (“tell us your salary expectations, yes, but also tell us your absolute bottom-dollar figure that you’d accept”).

I don’t know how to approach an answer, because there’s no reasonable way of dealing with crap like this. You could put “will discuss salary after learning more about the job,” but people who ask questions like this tend to be people who rigidly require numerical answers to these questions.

2. Putting the Olympics on your resume

I know this may seem like a silly/weird question, but I’ve enjoyed reading the answers to the ones you’ve indulged before. I’ve been Olympics obsessed lately, and started wondering about the future careers of some of the athletes. I know some of them will be returning to college or going pro in their sports, but what about the ones who retire from professional sports and want to enter the business world? What do you think their resumes would look like? For example, I believe Simone Biles is supposed to attend Cal next year (I think?) If she graduates in four years and then wants to start a career in marketing, can she put the Olympics on her resume? I mean it shows great dedication and perseverance, but doesn’t exactly show her marketing skills. Or do you think these athletes have a better shot at landing a job in the first place because of their “celebrity” status?

People who win medals at the Olympics can put it on their resume for years to come. It’s impressive and unusual enough that it blows through the usual rule about not including awards from when you were 20 years old or whatever. It’s generally not going to be a job qualification, but it’s a human interest thing that lots of hiring managers will love to ask about.

Will it give them a better shot? It shouldn’t, unless they’re applying for jobs that are sports-related. But it may anyway, because hiring managers are human and some of them are overly influenced by this kind of thing.

Of course, if they’re famous enough, they’re not going to be applying jobs the way normal people do.

3. Wearing sneakers (for a medical reason) at a job interview

I am job searching and have landed a few exciting interviews (thanks in part to your tips). Unfortunately, I recently injured my foot and as a result am forced to wear sneakers for the next several months. I also am wearing a small brace on my injured leg. It’s noticeable, but I think it wouldn’t be clear that it’s a medical brace unless you looked closely, which obviously no one is going to do in an interview. It basically looks like a I’m wearing a sneakers and a high sock on one foot. I think it especially stands out against my nicer interview dresses, despite my attempts to mask it.

Obviously, this is not how I would like to present myself for interviews, but I currently don’t have much of a choice. My question is really if I should say anything to interviewers, and if so, what and what point. So far, since I’m usually seated behind a conference table when the interviewers come in to start the conversation, they only get a chance to see my shoes at the end of the interview when they are walking me to the door (my limp is mostly gone at this point). A couple of times, I’ve seen their eyes flick down to the sneakers for just a second, but not long enough to probably see the brace and it feels weird to say, as an interview is over, “by the way, I’m wearing a brace and sneakers due to a minor injury”. I also don’t want to draw attention to the injury, since my field often requires long hours of standing and I don’t want potential employers to worry that I might not be up to the job.

Any advice for me? I know this seems like a silly thing, but it’s been adding anxiety to an already stressful process.

“Please excuse my shoes; I’m recovering from a minor foot injury.” That’s it! And you can say it at whatever point your shoes are going to become noticeable.

4. Salary negotiation when I’ve previously worked only a few days a week

I’m capable of making about $50,000 a year if I work five days a week for eight hours a day. The type of work I’m in makes it easy for me to take a day off or leave work early. The only problem is I don’t get paid for time I’m not working since I’m paid hourly.

I live frugally and value my time more than the money, so sometimes it’s really great to work just three days out of the week. However, I don’t know how I’d handle future salary negotiations for future companies if I made $45k in one year, then $32k in another year, and then $25k in another year.

Well, ideally, you’d talk about what you salary you’re seeking, rather than what you earned in the past, which would make the fluctuating hours that you had previously into a non-issue (and your past salary isn’t anyone’s business anyway). But if it comes up and you can’t get out of talking about it, you can simply explain that you earned $X hourly. You probably don’t need to explain anything further than that, but if it turns out that they’re one of the horrible companies who want to see your previous year’s W2 as proof, you’d just explain that you had lots of schedule flexibility and they were fine with you taking off as much time as you wanted, but your hourly rate was $X.

5. Interviewers shared that others were more experienced

My daughter recently had an internal job interview but didn’t get the job. The next day, one of the interviewers shared publicly that the outside candidates were far more experienced than the internal ones. There were other people present when she made this remark. My daughter was upset and hurt. Should this be allowed?

It’s actually something that can make a lot of sense to share, so that people understand why they’re focusing on external candidates. Someone having more experience than someone else is a pretty objective, factual thing; it’s not personal.

{ 136 comments… read them below }

    1. Anna the Accounting Grad*

      Or if you think that’s too obvious, take the middle figure as your minimum, and split the difference find the new middle.

      1. Joseph*

        The recommendation I’ve seen from several sources on this sort of thing is as follows:
        1. Figure out what you absolutely, positively NEED to earn to survive. Mortgage, car payment, insurance, groceries, paying off debts, etc. Never tell anybody this number – but it’s critical to know for your own information.
        2. Come up with a higher number for the salary you’d be happy with for your position. This is what you actually tell people is your minimum if they ask.
        Because even though companies call it “minimum” or “need to make”, they actually interpret it as a salary you’d be totally OK with, not a salary that barely makes ends meet.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But the market rate for the job needs to play the biggest role here — that’s what I’d base it around.

          (And that’s one reason of several reasons why this question is so awful — salary isn’t supposed to be set based on personal needs.)

    2. pandq*

      The same figure for #1 and #2 and a much higher, but not snarky, and still fairly reasonable, figure for #3.
      And yeah, what fun for those looking for a job. (not)

      1. Vicki*

        Oh, make it snarky. Really.

        I know someone who managed to sell his company for a truly awesome number of $$$$ because, when asked “How much would you want?” he answered with what he thought was a silly over-the-top impossible amount.

        They countered with “OK, but not a penny more.”

    3. Jeanne*

      I think you should put $0 for all of them. The number will trigger an interview because it’s so low. Then you can tell them you wanted to discuss it in person. Chances are the hiring manager didn’t devise the application and doesn’t have time for that garbage. If the hiring manager thinks it’s a great, fun method of sorting applicants, consider that a red flag.

      1. Colette*

        They hopefully are not choosing who to interview solely on salary, and $0 is obviously not a real answer. I don’t think it will help the OP.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I think Jeanne’s tactic might help if it’s an automated system that requires a number to continue, and screens based on a specific number. But I also agree that the actual people who see it are likely to be irritated that the applicant was trying to game the system. Ideally, on a paper application you could put “It depends on many aspects of the job and the total compensation package”, although if I really wanted to make it to an interview (despite the big red flag this tactic raises with me) and this was on paper, I might put a much lower number than I’d accept with a qualifier, such as “$[actual number] IF the benefits and perks are ideal”. I suppose with an online application that only accepted a number, I’d put just that number, and then not accept that salary if the benefits and perks weren’t up to my standards.

          One could argue that you should maybe put the number you’d accept in the worst of circumstances, but that might screen you out, and if I put $[higher actual number] when I’d actually accept a lower number with good benefits, I’m definitely harming my chances.

          1. Colette*

            I hate systems that ask this question, but since they do, I’d go with a number that I would accept assuming average benefits. I have no interest in wasting my time or their time by putting in a number I’d only accept if everything else was perfect.

            But if I were more desperate for a ion, I might play that differently, realizing that I might end up with an offer that’s lower than I’d like.

          2. Cristina*

            Regarding the company being annoyed about someone gaming the system, it would depend on who thought the question was a good one and whether the hiring manager looks through the bulk of resumes in addition to the recruiter. If my company insisted on using this question, as a hiring manager I would just ignore it and tell the recruiter to phone screen the candidate anyway.

      2. many bells down*

        I don’t actually “need” to work; my spouse makes enough that we can live on one income. So I could totally put $0 for the first one and have it be true. I’d be applying because I liked the job, not because of the salary.

      3. Vicki*

        Or, the application software will throw an error because some developer was smart enough to put in a check for bad data (most don;t, these days, but some do).

        Or, the person who gets the application will decide you’re someone who doesn’t follow instructions.

    4. Marzipan*

      #1, unless you superverymuch want to apply for the job irrespective of this nonsense, I’d be tempted to contact them and say “I was excited to find out about the vacancy for a Teapot Marketing Officer, which I think would be a good fit for my skills because of my experience in X and Y, my certification in Z, and my position as co-chair of the Teapot Marketing Board. However, the application requires more information about my salary expectations than I can reasonably provide without knowing more about the salary range and benefits package and therefore, with regret, I find myself unable to proceed.” If they’re going to do things like this it will put off a percentage of applicants, and telling them may make them reconsider.

      1. Colette*

        It unlikely the OP could reach the person responsible. It’s also possible that the company and job are otherwise good and that the OP would be happy there.

    5. K.*

      That’s what I’d do. I’d make it reasonable (I’d be thrilled to earn $2M a year but that’s likely out of proportion to the role) but I’d put the same high number in the spaces, and roll my eyes while doing it.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        I would put the same number in the first two slots and then 1 millllllllion dollars! in the last one.

        1. Chickaletta*

          That’s what I’d do too, but I’m the kind of of person that replies to stupid questions with a snarky response. I’d put $1, $81.53 and $1million. If the employer can laugh at that or find the error in their question than we’re not a good match.

  1. Graciosa*

    Regarding number 5, I can sympathize with the idea that the OP wants to ensure Daughter doesn’t have her feelings hurt. In this case, however, I think it’s better in the long term for Daughter to understand that applying for jobs is competitive, and that there is rarely anything personal in the decision making. Most companies just want to hire the best available candidate for the position.

    A candidate can have exactly the same qualifications and get an offer from one company for a Teapot Maker while being rejected for the same level of Teapot Maker position at a different company. It just depends on the pool – and how the candidate happens to strike the interviewers – and a lot of intangible factors over which candidates have no control.

    Understanding this make Daughter more resilient when job searching, and failing to understand it can really derail her career. Treating business decisions as personal offenses will knock you out of consideration for a lot of positions.

    If the concern is that the managers made an internal statement, having managers share information is actually a positive thing. Telling the team what the pool looks like and how the search is going is perfectly normal. There are elements of individual coaching (“You failed to give us a good explanation of X” or “You really haven’t demonstrated skill Y”) that should be given privately, but a general comment about the candidate pool or status of the search is not a personal criticism.

    I really hope the OP helps Daughter find a perspective that will help make her career successful – and save her the unhappiness of taking personal offense where none is intended.

    1. Artemesia*

      Good point. Nothing will cripple a young person’s career development and prospects than a parent cncouraging them to feel agrieved when they are given feedback about why they didn’t succeed. Feedback is so rare that this is something to laud rather than object to. It is not an insult to tell someone that they are less experienced than others in the pool.

    2. BK*

      Ideally, feedback to an unsuccessful internal candidate about the search process shouldn’t have been shared in a public setting, but other than that, I agree with all of the above.

      1. Jeanne*

        Maybe, maybe not. But it cuts off some of the rumor mill. I’d rather others know I’m less experienced rather than speculate the managers think I’m a bad employee.

      2. Snowglobe*

        If the comment was made to a group of employees who would be working with new hire (whomever it will be), it would make sense to comment on the status of the hiring process. Even people who are not posting for the position internally may be wondering why the company is interviewing outside candidates.

      3. fposte*

        I don’t think I’d even consider this feedback, any more than “none of the internal candidates had the PhD we said was preferred” would be. “You seemed nervous and ill-prepared” is feedback that shouldn’t have been given publicly, but I think an objective comment about the pool is just a statement about the pool that’s fine to state.

      4. Rafe*

        But it’s not personal — and it can actually be incredibly destructive to the OP’s daughter for her to treat it as if it is. There often is widespread talk when a company decides to go with external, rather than internal, candidates; addressing that talk head-on is wise (and is not a slight to Suzy).

      5. Connie-Lynne*

        This isn’t individual feedback to the candidate, though. It’s a statement to the team (there may have been more than one internal candidate, it sounds like there was) about why the company is preferencing external candidates. It’s absolutely reasonable to give it publicly.

    3. Trout 'Waver*

      I’ve been in the position of OP#5’s daughter’s manager. Interviewing internal candidates and then hiring an external one can have a negative effect on morale. Not only that, but there can be pressure from higher up to promote internally as well.

      Publicly stating a good reason for hiring an external candidate shows that you’re not arbitrary and that you did give the internal candidate a fair shot. If you say you hired the external candidate because they had skill XXX, it lets your internal candidate know that if she develops skill XXX, she has a good shot at the next open position. Ideally, the manager would say it to the internal candidate first before speaking publicly.

      1. CoveredInBees*

        Agreed. If I was #5’s daughter, I’d be disappointed at not getting the job but, time being linear, there’s not much to be done that someone has been doing this work for longer. It isn’t about her ability to do the work.

          1. INFJ*

            I’d like to add the perspective that time is not linear, but rather we just perceive it to be….

      2. Roxanne*

        I was in the internal applicant’s position. I interviewed among the external candidates and the external was chosen. The external lasted two days (!!) and I thought I had a 2nd chance. Nope. They chose a different external candidate. The official reason given was exactly the same: not enough (executive) experience. I was very hurt, but sucked it up and finished my contract. The unofficial reason (in my opinion and may not reflect OP #5’s daughter’s experience): I was too expensive at my contract rates and they wanted to pay someone much less. The person they hired had zero true executive experience and could barely navigate Windows XP and Office 2003 when we had all migrated to 7 and 2007. I know because not only did I not get the job, the person she replaced left and I had to train the new girl. It was awkward; the new person was very nice about it. I was also likely seen not as a good fit for those executives.

        I also didn’t get other jobs because of the lack of “executive” experience. It hurt, I pouted and brooded at home, I applied again somewhere else, tweaking the resume to play up whatever I did that resembled working with executives when appropriate. It’s part of the package of interviewing and rarely is it truly personal.

    4. Sparrow*

      Disappointment is natural, but “the successful applicant had the most experience” is a really objective (and logical) statement, in my opinion. In no way does it reflect negatively on the internal candidate, and finding personal grievance in it is only going to cause unnecessary stress and hurt.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yes. It’s not “You’re horribly inexperienced” which would be an insult; it’s just “this other person had more experience”. If they’ve been working longer, it may be that they simply had more time to acquire it; if not, it may be that they had previous jobs that focused in the areas this one needs and will benefit from.

        It’s really, really a neutral point. It really is. It’s not a negative about those who didn’t get the job.

    5. Isabel Kunkle*

      I actually really like getting specific comments like that during the job search: when someone says “well, we like you, but the other candidate had Experience X,” it makes me feel much better about my performance in the interview and my chances at other places or in the future. After all, not all candidates will have more experience (and in Daughter’s case, she’ll have more experience next time around), and it’s nothing I could change right now. Maybe looking at it that way would be useful?

  2. OFer*

    OP #1, I can already tell that I would NOT be getting a call from that employer if I applied; it would be darn near impossible for me to un-snark my cover letter.

    1. Sherm*

      Same here. I’d be tempted to enter the same (high) figure for (1), (2), and (3) and write “because I am thrilled to make what I like to have.”

    2. snuck*

      I’m with OFer

      I would reply with “Well, I need to be happy to continue, so my minimum to live is *whatever your preferred is*, I’d throw cartwheels for more, and I’d buy a round of drinks if you gave me A Lot More” But… I think the question is ridiculous. What you need to live on? Um. What I’m asking for, unless you expect me to be a miserable sack of excretement living on ramen and sharing a dorm room.

  3. Mela*

    Foe #1, I would make “need to earn” and “like to earn” the same number, and then put whatever is true for “thrilled to earn. This would be the truth, especially if you’re already employed and/or you’re not desperate for a job.

    1. Marzipan*

      See, between ourselves I don’t mind acknowledging that I have done the ‘disaster maths’ before and I reckon I could get by, just about, if I were only taking home about £1k a month (which I think would work out as a salary of about £14k before tax). Less than that, and I’d pretty much run out of spending I could cut or save on. Disaster Plan B, if I wasn’t making that much, would involve clearing out the spare room and taking in a lodger. But the reason I know that is because I’m slightly paranoid about my financial security, and a lot of my final decisions (like, where I live – when I bought my flat, having a second bedroom was something I considered essential, and I wouldn’t have dreamed of borrowing as much as mortgage lenders would have been prepared to lend, because I wanted it to be affordable) have been made with that in mind. I like making what I make now, which is a shade above the national average (in an area where wages are generally lower). Thrilled – well, I suppose more would be nice, but I’d be wary of what the work-life balance involved would be.

      I don’t think that ‘paranoid about financial security’ is the mindset in which employers want me to apply for their jobs, though. I think this question is a mistake, particularly in terms of the ‘HAVE to earn’ part, because to me that says ‘What does subsistence look like, to you? What’s the absolute minimum you need, in order to survive?’ and that’s not really something I find encouraging to hear from a potential employer. The side-effect of which would be, I (and other people, potentially) would be less likely to apply to them unless I was desperate for a job. If I really, really needed a job, then maybe basic survival is OK, in the short term. If I’m just looking for interesting opportunities, well, I’m not so interested in people who sound like they want to know how little they can get away with paying me. Thus their pool of applicants may be unnecessarily limited, whereas if they just told prior what the salary range was upfront, they’d potentially have a wider field.

      (Not suggesting people who are desperate for a job are inherently not people one would want to hire – there are plenty of good reasons why someone may be out of work and need to find some pronto. But, a job taken in desperation may not be one that person will want to stay in when they have the chance to move on.)

      1. Gem*

        It also feels inherently personal and intrusive; have to earn has so many different meanings and will fluctuate wildy: people who are the only income in a household, people on one or more medications, or seeing a regular practitioner, etc. Will people who have a higher ‘have to earn’ figure be judged for it, even subconsciously, by the people reviewing applications?

        It feels skeevy to me

      2. Gaara*

        I don’t think they’re asking about your actual financial needs to make ends meet; they’re asking “what is the minimum salary you would accept to take this job?” Which is still horribly unfair, and impossible besides: you do t know what the job is until after you interview, and that can change your bottom line dollar.

      3. TootsNYC*

        I too have done the disaster maths–but I would never share that with someone!

        I work for a company that just whacked $5/hour off of some freelancers’ rates. After receiving this edict, I thought I’d lose some people, but I didn’t, because the market for their work is shrinking.

        Then they gave me a bigger set of duties, but not more money.

        So yeah, I don’t anymore believe the “conventional wisdom” that my particular employer is one of the higher-paying ones. They may pay the big stars a lot of money, but they are totally shaving everything they can off of compensation.

    2. Willis*

      It’s an awful question, but if it’s required to submit the application, I’d probably interpret it more as “what salary range are you looking for” and use my low number as the HAVE to have, a midpoint as what I’d like, and the higher end for THRILLED. But like always, those numbers would be based on what the market rate for position would be. I wouldn’t interpret the lower, “have to have” number as the minimum I could survive on. It would be the minimum I’d have to have in order to be interested in pursing the job.

      1. Marzipan*

        I might *answer* it as that, but I’m sufficiently literal-minded that I wouldn’t have read it as that, and it would be a red flag that made me wary.

      2. hbc*

        Agreed. “Need to have” is the number below which I wouldn’t have even applied if you had been reasonable and put it in your job ad. That’s going to be above what I’m making now, unless I suspect there’s some amazing perks or the job is Lamb Cuddler or something.

        I guess if I was in desperate need of a job (unemployed, toxic environment), I’d redefine that “need” number to be “the salary for this job that wouldn’t have me job hopping the second I regained my financial or emotional footing.”

    3. Colette*

      In reality, my “need to have” number is much lower than I’d accept for jobs I’d apply to. I’d probably put my “like to have” number in that slot and go up from there in the other two slots.

      But there’s no number that would make me thrilled about a job – I value other things (hours, location, the job itself) higher than the salary, so unless they’re offering a million a month so I can quit and retire in a few months, offering more will not compensate for 12 hour days, weekly travel, or other deal-breakers.

      1. Rob Lowe can't read*

        Agreed. My household would be okay if I took a 20% pay cut – there’d be some belt-tightening, but we’d be okay – but I’m certainly not going to tell a prospective employer that! In my brain, my current salary is my “like to have” number, but on an application it would be “need to have.” (Of course, I work for the highest paying employer in my field in my geographic area, which is among the highest paying employers in my field nationally…so I’m going to have some trouble with salary expectations in the future regardless.)

    4. Three Thousand*

      I actually think the “need to have” mentality is harmful, and having it caused me to seriously lowball myself when I was first starting out applying for jobs. It’s important to learn as early as possible to think in terms of what your work is worth and what others would get paid to do it rather than how much you think you need to live on, which especially isn’t relevant at all to your employer.

    5. designbot*

      I think I’d set Need To Make at a couple thousand over my current salary, so $75k–because I’d need to make more to make it worth moving on. Like to Make at around 85k then, and Thrilled at 90k.

      1. TootsNYC*

        This is also how I would define “need” (what THEY need to come up with, not what I need to pay my bills)

        I’d need to make more to make it worth moving on.

  4. Jeanne*

    I think you could include going to the Olympics even if you don’t get a medal. It says something about your ability to work hard and accomplish a goal. It’s a huge committment of time and effort to make it to the Olympics. You do still have to manage to discuss it with a little humility.

    1. snuck*

      I’ve worked in companies that make a point of hiring high end sports people… and it’s not a bad idea. These guys have worked REALLY HARD to get where they are, have had many many years of team, interpersonal and personal skills development, and are generally very aware of their own abilities. Sure there’s exceptions (and I’m Aussie, so maybe it’s skewed there too?) but generally all have been good hires. They’ve generally been in client facing roles, with flexible schedules so they can pursue their sports easily enough, and their well known names and faces help win large accounts and schmooze policy through etc. It’s been positive for all involved – sure they are gone for competitions at times etc – but that’s taken into account in their leave agreements and work contracts, and the added bonus of being able to roll out medalists to major staff events etc has an upside for morale/own public speaker on tap.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. Top athletes particularly in individual sports have at the very least incredible self discipline. The kind of person who can get themselves to a swimming pool at 5 am for years is likely to be a hard worker and reliable. I have also had excellent luck hiring people with military experience particularly career military experience.

          1. INFJ*

            Yes, it was actually a thing at the last company I worked for to hire military/ex-military for management positions (which is interesting because the job wasn’t physical or otherwise related). Some of them worked out better than others, but it goes to show companies do recognize that being in the military is likely to translate into reliability and self discipline. (There are exceptions, of course, as with any population in society.)

    2. Marzipan*

      Mmm, I was thinking something along these lines. I mean, if someone’s spent several years of their life as a professional athlete, whatever the sport, and however far they progressed it, they pretty much have to list it when applying for future jobs – because it *was* their previous job – and it becomes about selling the transferable skills involved.

      1. LSCO*

        To be fair, he did have to train *a lot* to even get to the Olympics, as well persuade the British Olympics Comittee (or whoever) that he should go. He wasn’t a complete rank amateur who decided to give ski jumping a go, he was a talented skiier who, after not being selected for the British skiing team tried another related sport and worked just as hard in that one to achieve his goal.

        1. Artemesia*

          I had a friend in the 1960s who was a really good skier who wanted to go to the Olympics in Innsbruck but he wasn’t THAT good a skier. So he asked himself ‘what winter sport do Americans pretty much not do?’ The answer at the time was ‘luge.’ So he trained to be a luger and made the American team and got to go to Innsbruck. Now there is someone who not only had self discipline, but also good strategic capability.

    3. Jack the Treacle Eater*

      Absolutely. There’s much more to being an Olympian, even a minor one, than just a human interest story or conversation piece, all directly relevant to work. It shows a great deal of determination, application, perseverance, discipline, focus, commitment, completion and other characteristics desirable in an employee. Definitely something that should always be on the CV.

      1. MK*

        These characteristics might be desirable in an employee, but I wouldn’t assume they will translate well into the working world. I mean, being a successfull athlete shows you are capable of all these things, but having actual achievements more relevant to the job I am hiring for shows both that you have these qualities AND that you are wiling and able to apply them to the actual work I am hiring you to do AND that you have done so in the past with distinction.

        I agree that an achievement like that should be on a resume. But there are plenty of real-life examples of great athletes not succeeding as well outside of sports for it to serve as a usefgul metric.

        1. Jack the Treacle Eater*

          If we’re talking about whether being an Olympian should be on the CV and why, it’s a yes, and because they’re concrete, transferable skills, not just a talking point. Whether others might be more qualified for the role is a different argument and the point of having a hiring process.

          1. fposte*

            Now you’re making me think, though–is there any evidence that those skills *do* transfer well to the working world, or that people excelling in areas that require discipline like sports or music are equally disciplined in other areas?

            I don’t know if it could really be studied based simply on outcomes, because Olympians tend to have really light professional resumes and, conversely, a lot of hiring/consultancy based on the brand itself. But there’s a lot of coverage of the fact that ex-pro football players and basketball players often find the transition away from sports extremely difficult and can flail outside of the constraints of training, so I think it’s possible that the skills you describe are really situational. It might be more akin to ex-military people, some of whom bring discipline, some of whom really struggle when it’s not being externally enforced.

            1. Sydney Bristow*

              My anecdata example is that I went to law school with a former Olympian. She was an excellent student and very close to the top of her class. I think she was just an extremely disciplined person in a variety of areas.

            2. Megs*

              All I’ve got is anec-data as well, but I suspect ex-military is a good comparison. Definitely it should be on the resume, but how it translates varies by person. My cousin is a former Olympian (one-time, no medals) and he’s had a rough time professionally because competing is really the only thing he cares about.

          2. MK*

            The problem is that none of the things you listed are actually skills; they are character qualities that the athlete has so far exhibited only in relation to their sport, about which they were presumably very passionate. It’s not a given that they can and will apply the same qualities in the workplace or that it will lead to success if they appy them in the same way. For example, it’s a different challenge to be disciplined when you have a regimented routine as opposed to managing your own workload.

            1. Chickaletta*

              Yes, and having met a couple of dedicated professional athletes before (not famous, but extremely driven), I would personally find them difficult to work with. They both had extremely high expectations not just for themselves but for other people around them, and they lack a certain kind of flexibility that is needed when working with fallible, imperfect human beings. The same character traits that motivates them to train at 5am for years is the same kind of characteristic that drives them over the edge when Bob is one day late with his report.

    4. Snowglobe*

      In many cases, skills like marketing actually are involved. In the US, where Olympic athletes don’t receive any funding from the government, many athletes must seek out sponsors to help pay their expenses. For the athletes in the less well-known sports, they may have to do a lot of marketing on their own to find the sponsors.

      1. Mazie*

        “where Olympic athletes don’t receive any funding from the government”
        Actually that’s not true. They do receive some funding but it goes to paying expensive. For American Gymnasts who make the national team (the ones that get funding) the funding goes to pay the coaching expensive such as travel to/from The Rance, as well as coaching every day.

    5. JM in England*

      Many ex-Olympians go on to earn livings as motivational speakers. At one of my most recent jobs, we had Linford Christie as a guest in this capacity at the company’s annual strategy meeting.

      1. Kiki*

        That’s right. I’d love to hear one speak.

        I read that one reason the Texas Rangers drafted Seahawks QB Russel Wilson the year they won the Super Bowl was so that he would come and provide some motivation training to the team. And the Seahawks, in their turn, drafted ex-Green Beret Nate Boyer, at least in part so that he’d work out with the young guys and show them what tough really is.

        (I’m fascinated by the study of grit…as I am sure you can tell. And go ‘Hawks!)

    6. cbackson*

      Ha, humility is key. I went on a date with someone who had been an Olympian a decade prior, and the amount that he managed to talk about the Olympics and his status as an Olympian…let’s just say that by the end I was no longer thinking “wow, how cool!” but rather “have you done ANYTHING with your life since Athens?”

  5. DEJ*

    Putting on your resume that you were an Olympic, collegiate or professional athlete can also explain a lot about professional work inexperience and resume gaps. If you get a resume from a 27-year old Stanford graduate who has not had an internship or professional job in the field he received his degree in, knowing that he spent several years training for the Olympics or in the baseball minor leagues would be something important to know in terms of why he might not have a lot of experience in his field or just held odd jobs here or there. Because you are absolutely right, you might be willing to give them a chance based on the fact that they clearly have both dedication and perseverance based on their athletic pursuits.

    Enterprise actually recently had an advertisement where they boasted about how many former NCAA athletes they had hired.

    1. Anon2*

      My college won a national football championship back in the 90s. Many guys from the team have it listed on their LinkedIn profile.

    2. Judy*

      I worked with an Olympian at one of my jobs. He has a degree in engineering, and the director was a hobbyist in the sport. That was one reason a person with a degree 4 years before was able to be hired into an entry level position. This was not a sport that was going to provide him a living compared to an engineering career. He ended up going on leave to train for the next Olympics and over the course of the last 24 years has been in the Olympics 4 times with one silver and one gold. I believe he is still at that company.

  6. Sarahnova*

    Olympic medallists also have a lot of opportunities to make money through speaking. Becoming an Olympic athlete takes genuine obsession: years of work and self discipline, self management, and self correction. They can do very well in business. I work for a ‘performance psychology’ consultancy founded by an Olympic gold medallist and it is now a medium sized and very successful business. I have a number of former Olympians for colleagues, many of whom trained in sports psychology after retiring from competition. (I am an I/O psychologist though.)

    1. Dynamic Beige*

      Oh yeah. Because everyone wants to know what it takes to achieve at that level or what it’s like to compete on that level. If the athlete has a personal story that further makes the achievement that more amazing (illness, for example), that can be turned into a book/movie of the week. It really depends on what the sport was and how entrepreneurial the athlete is.

      The ones that get gold(s) like Michael Phelps, they will have endorsements out the yin-yang. If they can play it smart with that money and invest it wisely, they can make a good nest egg for themselves. Donovan Bailey went into business ventures and 20 years later, he can still be booked for engagements.

      Not to mention that some athletes go on to become on-air commentators for TV in their sport.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Came here to say this re endorsements. If they get as many as they can and make that money work for them, they can actually take some time to plan their post-athletic careers because they won’t be starving.

  7. Adam's Off Ox*

    I wonder how many jobs Mary Lou Retton had to apply for; she was doubless deluged with unsolicited offers.

  8. Workfromhome*


    What do you need to make- The mid point of your budgeted range
    What would you like to make- Top of your budgeted range + 1$
    What would you be thrilled to make – 1 Billion Dollars (With a picture of Dr. Evil from Austing Powers) attached.

  9. Rae*

    #5 Seems more like a case of special snowflake. This is why employees are afraid to make the right decisions for their companies, because someone always ends up butthurt no matter what happens. Working parents are upset that someone with more availability for late scheduling was picked, those internally feel like they know more than external no matter what, those who think age trumps skill in management. I’m glad the employer made the best decision for the company, your daughter still has a job and now knows what she should work towards. It’s natural to be disappointed you didn’t get a job, but to get feedback on why is something you should be grateful for, not bitter about. Most people don’t get that feedback.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      This. I’m not sure how someone can get insulted over “the other person was more qualified” when it’s a demonstratable fact.
      This was like one of my reports that got insulted and claimed age discrimination against young people because I said that the junior engineers needed more oversight.
      Um, they pay senior engineers more money because they work independently and take on harder projects!

    2. Grapey*

      I’ve complained plenty of times to my own mother about things that have disappointed me and sometimes she would go on a “Right All The Wrongs!” campaign when I just wanted her to say “That sucks, hon.” and then drop it. I’m wondering if OP #5 is taking more umbrage over it than her daughter is.

      Also, good hiring managers shouldn’t be afraid of making good decisions because of butthurt.

  10. Suz*

    Many years ago I dated a former Olympian. He didn’t medal so if you were outside the track & field community, you’d probably never heard of him. He did include it on his resume early in his career, partly to explain the gap in employment after he graduated.

  11. Dot Warner*

    OP5, your daughter should be grateful that her company not only told her she didn’t get the job (instead of just introducing the new hire after the decision was made) but told her why and gave her something to improve on. Such courtesy is very rare these days. It’s OK to be disappointed, but it sounds like she works for good people and she can really grow at this company if she gives it more time.

    1. INFJ*

      Or hire someone from the outside that was less qualified and give no explanation. There are plenty of bad roads this company could have gone down, but it sounds like they handled this OK.

  12. Ruffingit*

    Olympians typically have very different career paths than the rest of us. Many of them go on to college of course, but they already have many sponsorship and endorsement deals so they have connections there. Several of them become coaches in their sport or start their own businesses related to the sport. They really don’t have to worry about sitting in front of a hiring manager with a resume. It just doesn’t work that way for most of them. Which is awesome because with how hard they’ve worked and sacrificed, they deserve it!

    1. Kim Zarkin*

      I’ve taught a number of former Olympians (my college has a relationship with the US Ski and Snowboard team) and what you are saying isn’t remotely true for most of the Olympians.

      That’s true of the some, of course, especially the stars. But most aren’t household names, and coaching isn’t their chosen path. And some do go to work for former sponsors, although everyone I’ve worked with has had to apply and interview just like other candidates.

      All of my former Olympians have all gone on to what we would consider “regular” jobs that they had to apply and interview for. The same holds true for the professional ski and snowboarders I’ve had.

      1. Ruffingit*

        You’re right. My view is skewed by most of the Olympians I know having been in high profile sports. I’m acquainted with several who were gymnasts. Although some have gone on to “regular” jobs, a good number have had more opportunities due to their higher profiles. So yes, you’re correct that if they weren’t household names or in high profile sports, they aren’t likely to have the same path.

    2. Chinook*

      “Many of them go on to college of course, but they already have many sponsorship and endorsement deals so they have connections there”

      They don’t necessarily have sponsorship or endorsement deals in the less popular sports. One guy back home was an Olympic skeleton racer and he includes it not for the accolades but to explain a career gap and a sign of his work ethic/commitment to seeing something through. Plus, it will also be on his obit when he dies, so why wouldn’t he put it in his resume?

      1. Ruffingit*

        True that the less popular sports will not have many endorsements. The OP gave Simone Biles as an example and I was thinking more about her and those like her who are in popular sports and have quite a few endorsements. She likely won’t ever have to worry about a traditional job because of how well she’s done.

  13. Kim Zarkin*

    I have had a number of former Olympians and professional skiers/snowboarders as students (teaching near the mountains has its advantages) and they all have it on their resume. They have to because otherwise they look like people in their late 20s who have never had a full time job.

    These students occasionally apply to companies that were once their sponsors. That isn’t something that someone in HR would necessarily know since their names aren’t always familiar. But they definitely want to demonstrate longstanding relationships.

    You would also be amazed at the media training the Olympians get. In fields like PR, that is absolutely spot on relevant. And when you Google them, their Wikipedia pages come up and it would probably be weird for it not to be included.

    The funny part about working with these students is hearing the words “Now that I’ve retired” come out of the mouths of people in their 20s. But it’s true, many of them did a lifetime of work in their sports.

  14. Nico M*

    #1 i think the best thing to do is figure out what youd start asking for in a “normal” negotiation and put that same number down for all three.

    if they insist on their silly game you dont want to work there

    If its a brainfart / pet idea of one nincompoop then you havent given anything away

  15. Kay*

    I so appreciate reading Alison’s response to my question, #1, as well as the thoughtful reader responses. In reality, I was so turned off by the question, as well as being asked to provide my salary for my last three jobs, that I opted not to apply at all. I wonder how many other potentially great candidates for this position are doing the same?

    1. Anon 2*

      I think this happens more regularly than many employers would believe. If you aren’t desperate to leave your current job, you aren’t unemployed, and it isn’t a dream job why would you bother? But, I also think employers have been spoiled over the last 8-10 years where the potential pool of applicants is large.

  16. VX34*

    For the salary question, I think you highball them on everything and see what happens.

    For me, the answer might look like –

    Have – $50K
    Like – $75K
    Thrilled – $100K

    Those are all well above my “bare bones pay the bills” figure, but they don’t know that.

    Also, any company that wants to play thst kind of game with salary may not be a company I actually want to work for.

    Just my two cents though.

  17. Master Bean Counter*

    #1 “Have to earn” to me would be the number it would take to get me away from my current job. Like would be that number plus 10-15%. Thrilled would be the have number plus 25%.

    1. Bookworm*

      I think that’s a good way to look at it. As another comment pointed out, they should be basing negotiations on what the job is worth, not the bare minimum you could hypothetically live on. So “have” really should mean “bare minimum that I would accept for this job to be worth it”.

      1. Gaara*

        I’m 99% certain that’s what they actually meant. That’s the only way in which the comment is relevant or makes any sense.

  18. animaniactoo*

    For #3, I think you may not realize that you’re contradicting yourself in what you want here. You want people to notice the brace so they won’t think you’re being rude by wearing sneakers, but you don’t want to call attention to the sneakers because you don’t want them to think you physically can’t do the job. From that standpoint, by allowing them to see the brace but not talking about it you’re allowing them to draw their own probably-much-worse conclusions about your physical limitations based on wearing the brace itself.

    Talking about the sneakers gives you the opening to make it clear that this is a minor temporary thing and address any concerns they might have about your physical capabilities after seeing the sneakers/brace. So really, you should mention the sneakers in furtherance of your bigger goal: Making sure they know it’s not a problem.

    1. Crabby Pants*

      I suggest wearing one dress shoe, and putting the brace on the OUTSIDE of your pants leg. That shows you know what appropriate shoes are, and have them, but are favoring one leg due to a now-obvious injury.

  19. Anne (with an "e")*

    no. 5 I don’t understand why the daughter was upset and hurt. Other people have more experience. That is a fact of life. The interviewer did not humiliate nor disparage the daughter in any way whatsoever. How in the world could anyone be insulted, hurt, or upset by such a statement? I can understand being disappointed maybe by not getting the job; but upset and hurt, imo, is an extreme overreaction. In fact, I would be grateful to get some feedback about the decision making process.

    1. Willis*

      Yeah, and it sounds like there were multiple internal candidates, so it’s not like it’s even specific feedback related to the daughter, just a general comment about all their internal applicants.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      “Should this be allowed” is what got me. How dare you compare the skill sets of different groups publicly? There were other internal candidates too. So daughter isn’t even being singled out! And why is Mom getting involved in this? This is pot stirring.

      1. Natalie*

        Eh, I don’t think mom is actually getting involved beyond asking the question. Daughter probably just told her about it and mom was wondering.

          1. Agnes*

            Discuss it with her? Talk her down? Take it into considerations when future jobs come up? It’s not necessarily controlling and meddling to wonder about something a child tells you, and try to get some external perspective. Some people do discuss these things reasonably.

            1. Observer*

              Not controlling and meddling. But, either over-involved or too supportive of an inappropriate reaction. “Should this be allowed” implies that the asker thinks it should NOT be allowed.

              I don’t necessarily think that the daughter is a spoiled brat. But, by questioning the appropriateness of the employer’s action, she supports her daughter’s reaction – a reaction which is totally not helpful to her.

    3. INFJ*

      I think the hurt came from the public announcement that the external candidates were more qualified. Daughter could have felt like it was a sort of public shaming if everyone knew she had applied (i.e, interprets it as the interviewer announcing: “The other candidates were way better than Daughter”, even though that’s not exactly what was said, and is taking it too personally).

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      In fact, it seems like it was phrased in a way to NOT hurt her feelings. She didn’t get hired because others had more experience. How could anyone find that hurtful and insulting? It’s not like they said “we had some internal applicants but they were all jerks.”

  20. Kat M*

    OP2, I can actually speak to this!

    I know a couple of Olympians personally. Both have degrees and other jobs outside of athletics. This is pretty typical of athletes, especially those in less-popular sports, and double especially women athletes in those sports. One took a leave of absence from her office job at an accounting firm in order to train for the Olympics full time this summer. She’s now retiring from running, as it’s hampered her ability to focus on her career and get promotions. The other has been playing for a national team full time for the last year, but has also worked as a coach and personal trainer. She plans to keep playing professionally for now, but hopes to go into business with her wife in the future.

    Both put their athletics on their resumes, naturally. It probably does give them a leg up, although neither has ever been a medalist. They definitely have the commitment/goal setting/determination thing nailed down. :)

    1. JM in England*

      Going slightly off-topic, here in the UK in the days before professional soccer players attained playboy/rockstar status with £250K weekly salaries, they all learned trades to switch to once they retired.

      1. Anon13*

        NFL (the U.S.’s American Football league) players used to do the same here in the U.S., or had businesses that they could use to leverage their popularity/fame within their communities (car dealerships, insurance agencies, etc.). Many of them also worked jobs during the off-season. Now, athletes who achieve fame in college sports but don’t go on to professional leagues or perform poorly in professional leagues often go the car dealership/insurance agency/etc. route after college.

  21. Mazie*

    Just for readers’ info: Simone Biles is a professional so she will not be going to college for a while (She originally verbled to UCLA but then after winning her second world title, she went pro). It’s a very complicated system of getting money (especially from the Olympics) and go to college (because NCAA rules say no money made from your sport before you go to college). So for the US gymnastics team, the only one still with her college eligibility is Madison Kocian (who is headed to UCLA). The rest of the team are professionals.

    1. (Not an IRS) Auditor*

      Not having NCAA eligibility doesn’t mean she wont go to college to, you know, get an education.

      I know that’s snarky but I just don’t know how else to phrase it.

  22. Gene*

    For #3, I once interviewed for a field job wearing a shearling slipper on my left foot. It probably helped that I was also using a wheelchair, both due to a motorcycle collision a couple of weeks before. I got the offer, too.

    Alison’s advice is dead on.

  23. Nico M*

    #5. The thing is, saying the external candidates had more experience/ skill is only the half of it. The external candidate, almost by definition, is going to have more experience in that role. Eg if you need a new Senior Teapot Manager, your internal candidates are going to be the Junior Teapot Managers looking to step up. If you want 5+ years Experience managing a Teapot department the you must recruit externally.

    So “the external candidate was better” can be a big FuckU even if true. In some cases it means “we dont have succession plans and we dont really care “

    1. INFJ*

      Yes. One of my former coworkers left the job because she wasn’t getting internal promotions for this very reason. She didn’t have exact experience doing the work, and she had been with the company for several years and was already making more than what they could hire somebody from the outside for.

      This was a pattern, and was a big reason why many other good workers left that company.

  24. Observer*


    Your daughter was upset and hurt. Why? You would do your daughter a big favor if you could help her to learn not to take things personally, and to roll with the punches.

    You ask “should this be allowed?”

    What would you like to ban?

    Making outside hires? Do you really think that companies should be required to hire less qualified people as long as there is anyone barely qualified in the company?

    Giving feedback? Most job applicants would kill for some solid, actionable information about why they weren’t hired. You daughter just got handed some useful information. Do you really want her to be unable to access that kind of information, in service of her feelings not being hurt?

    Sharing non-personal information that is important to a group in public? How else should a manager makes sure that everyone who should know about something, knows about it? This information about the hiring process is not specific to your daughter, nor is it “hers”, or in any way private or sensitive. It IS, however, highly relevant to a lot of people. I can’t imagine a good reason to shut down transparency in this kind of situation.

  25. Heidi Kneale (Her Grace)*

    For #4: In Australia, when stating a previous salary, one would say, “$65,000 a year, pro-rated for part-time”. Sometimes this is expressed as “$65K/yr FTE (full time equivalent)”.

    Essentially, if you were working full-time, you’d make $65K a year, but since you’re only working part-time, you took home $37K.

  26. HR Girl*

    Just a thought on #1. In a past life, we’ve used salary surveys to place a range for a position, but the overwhelming feedback from candidates is that it’s too low. We’ve then asked the employees what they’re earning and and what range they’re looking for and then figure out the range for the position that way. It’s not ideal, but when your comp data is up to date with the market place, it’s helped. They may be in this situation if you’re in a highly specialized skill.

  27. Dust Bunny*

    Re: Shoes:

    The organization for which I work has a sister organization in Japan. A few years ago, some visitors came to use some of our materials. While they were here, they took pictures of our facility and staff.

    I had just injured myself by rolling my left foot off of a curb and pinching something. It seemed to be some internal bruising or swelling–the foot looked OK but was so painful that I borrowed my father’s automatic-transmission car for a few days so I wouldn’t have to use a clutch. (It was fine after a couple of days. No damage, just a lot of annoyance and limping.)

    I assumed they would crop the pictures but they didn’t, so splashed all over Japanese newspapers a few weeks later was a picture of me wearing one shoe and one fuzzy slipper.

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