a hiring manager chastised me for using his personal email address, my estranged spouse badmouthed me to my boss, and more

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

1. A hiring manager chastised me for contacting him at his personal email address

I found a fantastic overseas job listed on a company website, spent 20 minutes composing a knockout, personalized cover letter, and sent it to the manager’s email to make sure he saw it. The response? “How did you get this email? It’s personal!”

He also told me the job was only open to nationals of that country, despite there being no indication of that in the posting (and the fact that he, and most of the staff, are expats themselves). The whole vibe was “How dare you contact me?”

The email I used was listed right on the front of his personal website, visible to anyone taking the time to run a one-second Google search. I’ve been advised by many experts to contact hiring managers directly if you want your application seen. Am I wrong, or was his reaction rude?

You looked up his personal email and sent it there, right? It wasn’t in the ad? If I’m getting that correct, then yeah, you were definitely out of line. His personal address is his personal address; it’s not appropriate to send a job application there.

There is indeed a bunch of advice out there about sending your application directly to the hiring manager (which is often of dubious value), but it never means to their personal email address, just to their work one.

2. My estranged spouse badmouthed me to my boss

My newly estranged spouse called my boss over the weekend on her personal mobile, looking to discredit me. Would the boss take any of his allegations seriously?

He told my boss that the mental breakdown I had was fake (it wasn’t) and that I had had an affair with a coworker (there was a rumor that was unfounded; we were just great friends). The worrying one is that I breached a policy several times and this results in dismissal. At the time, it was unwittingly done, and I foolishly discussed my concerns with him, although this was well over a year ago.

Ugh, I’m sorry. The good news is that your boss is more likely to be really put off by your spouse making this kind of call, more than alarmed by the allegations he made. A decent boss will see this for what it is — an estranged spouse committing a major boundary violation. Because he’s so in the wrong for doing that, his credibility is close to zero and hopefully your boss will see it that way too.

I’d just say this to your boss: “I’m so sorry about that. We’re obviously estranged, and I’m shocked that he’d cross that line. I’ll do my best to ensure that he doesn’t contact you again. Please feel free to block his number just in case.”

3. Leaving a job after they treated me well through a health crisis

After graduating college, I had to find any job possible, as I was drowning in debt, embarrassment, and pressure to get one from my parents. I got a good retail gig at a fantastic company, but seven months after joining I had to leave to have scoliosis surgery. This came as a surprise to everyone, as I figured the problem had stopped being a problem in my college days. Unfortunately, standing eight hours a day in a lobby turned out to be horrible for the condition, so I was out for five months recovering.

I’ve since been back for nine months and am doing great. I really like the company and its culture, my boss is fantastic, I get along with all my coworkers … But unfortunately there’s almost no connection between my degree and the place I’m working at, and because of that there’s no real potential for growth. I don’t want to snub this place after they’ve treated me so well, but I feel like in order to stop being underemployed I’d have to look somewhere else. I was wondering, should I stay for a little bit longer so that it doesn’t look like I abandoned good people after helping me?

No, go ahead and do what you need to do for your career. The longer you’re not working in your field, the harder it may get to find work in your field, so time really matters here and you shouldn’t put off searching.

When you leave, be sure to tell your employer how grateful you are the flexibility they gave you and how much it made a difference to your peace of mind when you were recovering. Offer to refer people to them, or anything else you can do help out. But don’t put your career on hold — that’s a higher price than they’d probably want you to pay.

4. My coworker is working off the clock

I work in a small, family-owned business, and I suspect an employee, who is a family member, is being made to work off the clock.

The business is owned by a husband and wife team, who employe a mixture of family and non-family employees. Recently, I’ve caught a coworker, a family member, appearing to work during her lunch break, on a couple of occasions. We have a time clock that we punch in and out of. The few salaried individuals don’t clock in and out, but instead fill in time sheets each week; the hourlies, like myself, utilize the clock.

I asked the employee (let’s call her Jen), casually, if she was back to working in the middle of what should’ve been her break, and as I was clocked in, indicated that she should head back to the break room as I could take care of the task. I said it in a “You don’t want to work for free, right? Haha!” kind of way (I tried to keep it light, as I wasn’t sure if I was mistaken.) She mumbled something about “Well, yeah, I guess I’m kinda working, sorta…” and trailed off.

I’ve seen this happen a couple of times now, on one occasion with my manager watching as she blatantly walked back to the time clock to clock back in after working during her lunch. Whatever is happening here is happening with my manager’s full knowledge. There’s no way to really ask my manager about this discreetly, as we’re such a small company and I’m concerned about seeming like a busybody if I’m way off-base. Is there any legal way she could be working during her lunch time, using a time clock, and not falling afoul of the law?

I’m worried about backlash if I bring this up, and it seems like pretty blatant wage theft, but I can’t be sure, and can’t find out anonymously. There is no HR department; the manager is the owner, and so there’s no one higher to report this to. What, if anything, can I do?

It could be legal if (a) she’s exempt (are you sure that she isn’t?) or (b) she’s getting paid for the correct number of hours despite what’s recorded on the time clock.

But … she’s a family member and it’s a family business, and there’s no evidence that she’s being made to work off the clock (as opposed to just doing it, which plenty of people do). It’s misguided and it’s illegal for the business to allow it, but I don’t think you have any obligation to act here. If you want to say something though, you could say to her, “Hey, the company can actually get in trouble for allowing you to work off the clock.” And/or you could say to her manager, “Hey, I don’t know if you realized that we can get in trouble if we let people work off the clock.” But beyond that, this isn’t really yours to deal with.

5. Addressing a cover letter when I know the recipients

I’m a freshman in college working on an application for my first non-volunteer summer job: a camp counselor for a theater camp that I attended the last two summers. My question, is how do I address the cover letter? The two people who will read my resume and cover letter are my former director and his boss, and when I was working with them in an actor/director relationship, I called them Anne and Bolingbroke, not Lady York and Duke Hereford. But it feels unprofessional to me to use their first names in the salutation. (I even feel a little out-of-line with “Hi, Alison”, even though I’ve seen that dozens of times on the site.) What should I do?

Use their first names. Frankly, in most fields, first names would be fine even if you didn’t know the person you were addressing (I get cover letters from job applicants who I don’t know that are addressed as “Dear Alison” all the time these days), but in a case where you do already know them? It would be far weirder to suddenly revert to Lady York and Duke Hereford.

First names are not inherently unprofessional! You feel like they are because it’s a hold-over from high school/adolescence/childhood, where you were supposed to call adults Mr./Ms. ___. But most professional adults talk to each other using first names, and you are now a fellow adult. More on this here.

{ 450 comments… read them below }

  1. Sherm*

    #3: If you need a nudge to follow Alison’s advice, know that many retail stints are just on the order of months, anyway. I once quit a retail job after four months, and no one seemed shocked or betrayed. So maybe you can think of it like you worked for seven months, “quit,” then for nine months worked for them again.

    1. Marisol*

      Nice frame. To expand on your point, I am sure that retailers fully expect that sort of turnover, so the OP quitting is not going to shock her employer.

  2. Fafaflunkie*

    To OP#1 — the hiring manager is completely in the right here. Your means of communicating your interest in the job should be restricted only to what was presented on that ad/email/webpage, however you found out about it. Moreover, if that job was only for people living in that country and you applied anyway in spite of the fact you don’t live there, than said hiring manager has every right to scold you for your failure to read, or, more correctly, only reading what you want to read.

    1. Jeanne*

      I have to wonder what the email said. OP appears to be a rather aggressive job seeker. The best thing here is to learn your lesson and stick to professional job searching etiquette. Try to put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes. How would you feel?

      1. Dan*

        I don’t get aggressive from OP’s letter. *One* email? That’s not aggressive. If OP fedexed a hard copy, applied online, emailed manager, and called? Now that’s aggressive.

        One email to my personal email address? I don’t care. What would make me care is that if I had a job where a lot of people were expected to apply, and I wrote “online only please” and get direct contact? That would piss me off.

        Sure, the OP probably committed a faux paux, but the response here seem unusually harsh.

        1. Anon for This*

          I don’t get it either. It was a mistake, but it’s also a mistake to act like royalty just because you’re a hiring manager. Some of the people here just dont seem to understand the other side of the coin. I’m kind of sick of seeing what applicants are going through and the way they get treated. there was no mention of nationals only, and why would his personal email be on the website at all? Could he not just delete the email? Do managers need to get over themselves sometimes? I think they do.

          1. Graciosa*

            There are two issues here that I don’t think you’re addressing.

            First, this could quite reasonably be scary. I don’t have a personal web page, but posting a personal email for people who know me personally may not trigger an assumption that I will receive work communications on it. There is a lot of discussion already about the appropriateness of work contacts friending people on Facebook – but this isn’t even a work contact.

            This is a total stranger who tracked me down in what I probably thought was a personal – and at least somewhat private – space. My reaction to having a stalker is not going to be joyful. A member of my profession was shot and killed not that long ago, so this is not an irrational concern.

            Second, if I’m hiring, there are protocols I’ve set up to handle candidate screening. Even if I don’t care about the privacy of my email (and yes, I know some people who are not me do fall in that category), I am likely to care that someone is demanding to go outside the protocol.

            The message from the candidate is that they are a special snowflake who doesn’t need to follow the rules – and they are not even an employee, much less one who has earned some perks through outstanding performance.

            As a manager, I don’t think I’m acting “like royalty” by expecting prospective employees to follow basic directions about a work-related matter.

            1. Marisol*

              How could anyone think that a publicly searchable website is a private space though? A website posted on the world wide web is the antithesis of private. I trust Alison’s advice that the OP made a faux pas, but I have a lot of sympathy for him. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to come to the conclusion that someone who posts their email in a public space is ok with receiving emails from strangers. He made a mistake, but I think it was an understandable one, especially in light of the fact that there is advice from supposed experts suggesting he use that tactic.

              Also, I think the “special snowflake” remark is way, way too harsh. The OP is asking, in good faith, if she made a mistake. I don’t think her question merits being insulted.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                I agree she doesn’t deserve to be insulted. But it’s not reasonable to conclude that you should send *work* emails to a *personal* email address. Especially since the ad most likely had instructions for how to apply, and the OP did this to stand out and be noticed, not because she didn’t know how to apply.

                Given the bad advice out there to do stuff like this, I don’t think the OP deserves to be lambasted as an entitled, terrible person for it (which the hiring manager didn’t do). But it does show that the OP doesn’t follow directions and didn’t understand the distinction between work and personal spaces. Now she does.

                1. Marisol*

                  Maybe it depends on how you define reasonable. It wasn’t a correct conclusion. But I think it was understandable for someone new to the workforce to make, ergo, reasonable.

              2. Michele*

                My home address is also publicly available information, but if someone sent a resume there instead of my office, that would be a problem. This is analogous.

                1. AthenaC*

                  But you wouldn’t retort with something ridiculous like, “How did you get this address?!” That should never be a question regarding info that is publicly available and easy to find; that alone tells me the hiring manager may need clue.

            2. Zombii*

              I agree with the majority of what you said, but equating this with stalking is really uncalled for. Since you’ve said you don’t have a personal website, I’m assuming you don’t realize there’s no obligation to list an email address (or any method of contact) on a personal website, or to make the personal website publicly searchable. I’ve also never heard of anyone listing an email address publicly for people they know personally to find, emails listed publicly are usually to make new contacts.

              At worst, this should be a wake-up call about online privacy management: the manager’s personal website came up near enough the top of their search results that anyone can find it—good for the manager to know!

          2. Recruit-o-Rama*

            I think half of your criticism is fair and half of it isn’t. If the ad doesn’t mention the nationals issue, then it’s on the employer.

            However, if the applicant searches out a PERSONAL email it is perfectly fine to be called out on it because it’s. Not. Appropriate. Hiring managers have the right to a personal/ private life too.

            I understand what you are saying, but just as you are asking hiring managers to consider the other side, applicants should as well. If EVERYONE just applies Willy nilly however they want, the process becomes impossible to manage and it’s extremely disruptive. So many candidates try to go around the process; as if they are special and the rules do not apply to them. It gets old and it becomes very annoying.

            1. Jessesgirl72*

              I’m not sure the nationals issue is fair either.

              There are a lot of job postings on my company website. None of them state outright that they require you to be a national/have a work visa. We do have a lot of foreign nationals working here, but that part is irrelevant. The assumption is that if you’re applying for a job in the US, you must have the legal right to work in the US unless it’s specified otherwise. The OP said it was on the company’s website- not a website geared to placing people who want to work internationally.

              I don’t think we can fairly hold companies in other countries to different standards.

              1. Recruit-o-Rama*

                No, I think if there is a hard requirement for the position, not matter what it is, it should be listed clearly in the ad.

                1. Retail HR Guy*

                  If ads had to list out every assumption they would be quite long indeed.

                  Must be living and not dead. Must not be currently imprisoned. Must be able to work at the location listed. Must be 18 or above. Must be able to communicate well enough in the local language. Must be literate. Must at least know how to turn a computer on. Must be able to regularly get yourself to work by car, bus, walking, or other means. Must not currently be on the run from Johnny Law for a string of bank robberies…

                2. Recruit-o-Rama*

                  Are you being serious? Must be living? Must not be currently incarcerated?

                  If the company is one on which the culture is that many ex-pats work there and this job is only open to nationals of that country, it should say so. Not necessary to say that they must be alive. That’s just silly.

                3. Judy*

                  I’ve never encountered ex-pats that were hired to be ex-pats. Every one I’ve worked with was an employee in their country, and then was chosen to take an assignment in another country. I have also worked with immigrants, but those are different things, at least in my experience.

                4. Retail HR Guy*


                  Yes, though written in a fun/casual manner I was making a serious point. I was demonstrating how your premise leads to a ridiculous conclusion and should therefore be abandoned. That’s called a reductio ad absurdum.

                  Are you being serious? You stated that “if there is a hard requirement for the position, not [sic] matter what it is, it should be listed clearly in the ad”. So you’d actually be the one that is advocating that ads should list possible requirement under the sun no matter how silly.

            2. TootsNYC*

              “Hiring managers have the right to a personal/ private life too.”

              And that private life can be professional, but separate from their company (which is what this website sounds like it might be).

          3. NotAnotherManager!*

            The letter clearly states that the personal email was on a personal website located by googling, not the job posting. Being management doesn’t mean people should have to hide their personal contact information. Managers have a life outside of work, too. Maybe the hiring manager is into some hobby and open to personal contact about that. Who knows? It’s unlikely the HM was soliciting resumes from their personal website.

            I’d be annoyed as all get out if someone sent an application to me personally. I’d be highly, highly annoyed if every applicant decided it was totally fine to spam my personal account.

            1. Anna*

              Agreed, although I do think the “how did you get this email address” is a little…dramatic. Uh, you have a website freely available from anywhere in the world with your email address for everyone to see on the front page. Don’t act so surprised.

              1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

                It’s not surprise on how they found it likely, but the shock of how someone thought it was appropriate.

                I had a similar reaction when a candidate tracked down my personal cell number.

              2. Annonymouse*

                It’s not like the OP sent it through LinkedIn or found the hiring managers work email and sent it directly to them instead of a general jobs@company email.

                This was a personal email from a personal site. Yes, the site came up on google but I’m assuming their Facebook and Twitter does too. Doesn’t make it more acceptable for job search communication – these sites are clearly for social interaction.

                Use it as background to understand the manager but not to communicate with them.

              3. Zombii*

                I agree with Anna. It was overly dramatic and it sounds like the LW dodged a bullet here, if this is indicative of how the manager reacts to anyone going outside processes. I don’t think the LW was correct but this isn’t a normal level of upset about getting an unsolicited email—just delete the email, maybe block the sender. That’s all. No meltdown necessary.

              4. Kerry*

                If I received a job application email via my personal email I’d likely reply with “how did you get this email” even if I had a personal website with my email on it. My first thought would be some sort of horrible mix-up where HR had somehow listed my personal email on a job ad and the pain to follow..

        2. Natalie*

          I’m not sure, a single email could be aggressive depending on what exactly it said. And depending on how difficult the person’s email address was to find, that alone could be aggressive. I know that I would be extremely taken aback if someone dug up my personal email address – I don’t have a website or anything so they would have had to dig pretty far to find it.

          1. Newby*

            Even if the personal e-mail is easy to find, it is still aggressive and inappropriate. It definitely shows a lack of understanding about normal boundaries.

          2. Sas*

            I think aggressive is not the right word. Your not having a website makes a difference. It wasn’t right what the op did, but in a world where most people don’t get a position by applying for it, some don’t have an “in.” They are left to flounder for a while. Having courtesy for someone starting out or struggling should be something people could understand as well.

            1. Natalie*

              Of course courtesy is expectable, no one has claimed it isn’t. Discussing whether or not the LW’s move can be fairly described as aggressive doesn’t mean anyone thinks managers should be rude to them. (And despite what some trend pieces have claimed, it’s utterly inaccurate that “most people” can’t get a job by applying for it.)

          3. Marisol*

            Well, since you don’t have a website that lists your personal email, sure, you’d be taken aback by someone tracking that information down. I don’t think the two situations are comparable. I really think the OP deserves a break on this one. She said she found the website by doing a “one-second google search” which doesn’t sound aggressive to me at all. Possibly she was aggressive, but we certainly can’t know that from the letter (and I personally doubt she was aggressive at all; I think she just made an innocent mistake).

        3. Kimberlee, Esq*

          Aggressive might be the wrong word, but I _hate_ it when I get candidate emails to my personal email. I don’t care that it is easy to find, the intent of having that email on the Internet is not so that job candidates can find it. I don’t tend to scold or anything, I just forward to my work email IF they are an exceptional candidate, and if they are anything less than amazing I will just delete and not respond.

          1. sstabeler*

            I think the issue is more that the email address IS easy to find, and so the “how did you find this email address” seems to be an overreaction, when a simple “please could you send work-related correspondence to my work email address (adding the email address in question, of course) in future?” would make the point quite well enough. Nobody’s saying you have to like it, but an email address discoverable with as quick google search is not really call for a response that has overtures of thinking the sender is a stalker.

        4. Bonky*

          I get “aggressive” from it. I’m a hiring manager, and I deal with hundreds of applicants. If they all start mailing my personal email, or sending content-free “just checking on my application” emails, or similar, my inbox would go from barely manageable to total nightmare. That’s not a situation you want to be putting someone you want to look kindly on you in.

          (I received a “just checking on my application” email, misspelled, ungrammatical and meant for someone in a completely different part of my organisation, about twenty minutes ago, so this is all rather apposite. I guess the saving grace is that at least it came to my work address. I passed it on to the person who’s hiring for that job, and we agreed it’s a big black mark against the candidate.)

          1. fposte*

            In what I presume was an attempt to reach out to me directly for contact points, I once got an email asking me to tell them about the application process. From somebody who got my contact info from the job posting–which also described the application process. Simultaneously transparent and baffling.

        5. An actuary*

          I don’t get it either. In my field, it’s pretty common to cold email people looking for jobs, even encouraged among people who give advice in the field, and I’ve gotten job interviews this way. That said, I’ve always used work emails, not personal emails, and most people’s work emails in my field are available publicly on a professional organization website.

          An email to a personal address is a little weird/something I would think twice about, but definitely not horribly out of line. Especially if the address is easily available online.

          People who I haven’t personally given my email address to have emailed me looking for jobs before, I think they found it because I have it showing in my contact info on LinkedIn. These were people I had met in person before though, not completely cold emails.

          I don’t think OP’s action warranted a rude response. He could have just politely advised the OP to apply online to be considered.

      2. Middle ground*

        I do feel it is a bit aggressive to Google to look for someone’s personal mail. I don’t feel that as a hiring manager I am any kind of royalty, but if someone emails me personally (whether through my personal or work address) I generally ignore it. This hiring manager could have done the same. Our job postings provide explicit information on how to apply, to me, going outside that process is a sign that the candidate cannot follow instructions. I do wish career counselors/articles would stop giving people advice to “track down” the hiring manager and engage personally rather than following the protocol that works for our office.

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      OP writes that there was no mention of the nationality criteria in the ad, there isn’t any reading comprehension failure on her part (although I guess you might agree that misreading is easily done, and therefore doesn’t need to be ‘scolded’).

      1. Expat*

        I wonder if there was something like “local hires only”, which is very common for expat-type jobs. In this case, it’s not so much about nationality as having the right to work AND they want to avoid paying big expat packages. It sounds like OP maybe doesn’t know a lot about working abroad (since she commented about the other staff being expats), so could have perhaps missed something along those lines.

        1. Michele*

          You are probably right. Someone else mentioned that many companies will only hire expats for people above a certain level. I know that is the case where I work. I get the impression from OP’s post that they are rather new to the work force, probably just out of college. Someone like that would not qualify for a position that required an international move. Even for someone who is in the US working on a visa to get a job here, they have to have an advanced degree or several years of experience. Otherwise it is not worth the trouble for us. The company that OP applied to may be the same way.

      2. Repatriated*

        In many countries, it’s assume you have a right to work in that country before applying. Unless a job specifically says they are willing to sponsor a visa, I would always assume that it’s only open to people who already have a right to work there.

        1. Expat*

          True. My field is international organisations, which naturally have a pool of nationalities associated (member states) but can generally circumvent visa requirements. But still may advertise for local hires only. But yes, for normal businesses I would assume as you do.

      3. Turtle Candle*

        Although I will say that it’s not uncommon to include hiring parameters (such as “nationals only” or visa requirements) on the application page, which might be missed by someone bypassing the application.

    3. Oren*

      “…despite there being no indication of that in the posting (and the fact that he, and most of the staff, are expats themselves).”

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, wait, I think that’s overly harsh! Hiring managers shouldn’t be in the business of scolding applicants at all, and definitely not for some as minor as applying for a job that they don’t fully meet the qualifications for (as a huge portion of applicants generally don’t).

      (Plus the OP noted that the residency requirement hadn’t been noted, but even if it had been, she wouldn’t deserve scolding for that.)

      But he’s entitled to be highly annoyed that she emailed his personal email address.

      1. Captain Radish*

        We are assuming that there was SOMETHING listed under the job ad. It’s entirely possible it was overlooked and there was, in fact, no way to reply. I’ve seen job ads like that. It’s also rather dumb of the manager to post his personal email address online and NOT expect someone to send an email to it.

        1. fposte*

          She sent it to the manager’s email “to make sure he saw it,” not because there was no other way to apply.

        2. LQ*

          Wait hiring managers are entitled to have a life outside work too. They can have a personal website with personal stuff on it. They get to do that. It isn’t just employees who are entitled to a personal life. Personal website. It wasn’t on the ad.

          1. fposte*

            Oh, that’s a good framing–if the rule is that people get to use it for work purposes if it’s findable via Google, that means managers get to contact their employees via whatever information people have on the web, not just what they’ve indicated.

            1. sstabeler*

              I think it’s not exactly that it was appropriate that it was sent to the work email address, but that the tone of the reply (“How did you find this email address?”) was also not particularly appropriate- I got the impression the hiring manager thinks the applicant is a stalker, and don’t get that kind of vibe from the OP. The email address isn’t particularly hard to find, so it’s not unrealistic to chalk it up to a brain fart by the candidate, as opposed to something more serious.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                As I and others said elsewhere, often that kind of phrasing isn’t meant literally. It’s a a turn of phrase that conveys that the person has overstepped a boundary. If a guy I met once and barely spoke to at a bridge club meetup* calls me on my work phone, and I say “how did you get this number,” it’s not because I’m shocked that there’s any possible way for him to track me down. It’s because the fact that he did so and used that number to contact me would be strange in most circumstances and a crossing of normal boundaries.

                *I don’t play bridge, but I like the idea of being in a bridge club.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I agree with JB’s take on what the response meant. The hiring manager doesn’t actually care or want to know how OP found his personal email address; he’s signaling that OP overstepped by using that personal email address when the hiring manager didn’t disclose it to OP. It also doesn’t really matter that it was easy to come by that information—it’s more about OP’s judgment and understanding of boundaries/norms.

          2. Michele*

            Yes. I suspect that OP was following the advice to find out everything you can about a hiring manager. I keep FB locked down and a fairly low online profile, so I have never had a candidate find anything personal about me, but the amount of some professional information that people get into borders on creepy. For example, one person looked up my dissertation and everyone on my Ph.D. committee. He also knew how many citations each of my papers had. I am really glad that guy didn’t track down anything personal.

            1. Cassandra*

              Librarian here — neither your dissertation nor (an approximation of) your citation counts is hard to find these days. (The diss might be a bit harder, depending on where you did your Ph.D, or it might be as simple as hitting up a standard search engine.) Google Scholar suffices for the latter in journal-heavy disciplines (it’s garbage for book citations), and while its counts are IME pretty inflated, they are, y’know, counts.

              1. Michele*

                I understand that Google makes things a lot easier to find, but it seemed over-the-top. My dissertation is almost 20 years old. It has no relevance to my work. The number of citations on a 20 year old paper is also irrelevant. The candidate should not know more about me than I do. The interview should also be focused on their work, not me wonder what else they dug up.

              2. Sarah*

                I think the point isn’t how hard/easy the info is to find, but rather that it’s a way over-the-top level of knowledge to collect! I applied for jobs in academia and when I went to do in-person interviews, I certainly read the hiring committee’s CV’s and skimmed a bit of what each had written, but I wasn’t digging back to their dissertation committee or # of citations! It would definitely come off as a bit creepy/weird in that context.

            2. Jean*

              I would have looked at that as how interested the guy was in getting some background about the hiring manager. As far as I know, dissertations are not private information – aren’t they actually bound and put in the university library?

              1. SophieChotek*

                Yes or available via digital copy in Academic ProQuest.
                (You can opt to not allow a digital copy made available via ProQuest. Then the only way someone could get a copy would be to get the physical copy the degree-branding institution has or purchase a copy from ProQuest. People lock their dissertations down if they are hoping to publish soon and are worried about copyright/others duplicating their research. That is my understanding anyway from a few years ago.)

              2. fposte*

                Yeah, but nobody ever looks at them :-). The urban legend is the guy who put a twenty dollar bill in his and years later found the money still there. I didn’t think Michelle was saying “How could he find this secret information about me?” but “It’s weird that somebody sought out information about me from two decades ago and then brought it up to me in the application process.”

                It’s funny, because now that I think about it this really is a surprisingly nuanced cultural thing. I’m nosy, and I get the digging. But doing the snooping and telling the snoopee you’ve snooped are two very different things, and snooping about the company and about the person are also very different things. Us snoopers get enough of a hit that we sometimes forget that we don’t necessarily look enterprising or clever, just invasive.

                So, a rule: research the hell out of the company and the field and feel free to demonstrate you’ve done that; if you can’t resist researching the HM or other prospective colleagues outside their jobs, it’s usually best to keep that info to yourself.

                1. Jessesgirl72*

                  Exactly! I’m nosy too. I learn whatever I can about people. And then I keep that information to myself.

                2. Michele*

                  Yep. The information wasn’t secret, but it was hard to find, and it was weird that he brought it up. I am impressed when people know a lot about the company–what products we have recently released, what our market cap or global footprint is. Knowing too much about me gets into stalker territory, though.

                3. Turtle Candle*

                  Right. It’s like… someone searching for me could probably find my recipe for vegan butternut squash soup, among other things. I’ts not hidden. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m not hiding it. And yet if an applicant brought up my butternut squash soup recipe, I’d be… kinda weirded out? Because while I get that people can search anything, I feel like there are still boundaries as to what it’s prudent to bring up?

                  And I’m not sure I have a good reason for that, but it’s still true.

                4. Turtle Candle*

                  I guess it’s sort of like if you live in a small town, and can get their home address easily from a directory. Everyone knows that most peoples’ home addresses are available from a directory. And yet it would still be weird and offputting to have an applicant go, “And your house is such a pretty shade of blue! And I love your buttercup curtains!”

                  It’s not… wrong… exactly. It’s not a SECRET that you live in the blue house with the buttercup curtains. But it feels weird.

                5. Teclatrans*

                  I recently interviewed for *a research position which involves digging into personal infiemation* and most of the panel were stunned and nonplussed that I had information about them *from LinkedIn*. (It was literally something like how many years they had been at the company I was interviewing at, and tgeir progression of roles.)

                  I admit that I am such a researcher, it would not have occurred to me that people expected available information to not be found and used, so that was a wake-up call. (And it was LinkedIn fer chrissakes, in an interview setting.)

                  I think the relevant thing here is “you contacted a manager directly through a non-woek channel.” Problem #1 is that the advice to contact a manager directly is bad advice, and normally would likely have led to being ignored, and it is great that the OP now knows this advice should be discarded. Problem #2 is the egregious one, as it involves contacting the HM on a personal channel. I agree that this reads as “aggressive,” just as looking up someone’s home number in the phone book and calling them at home would be. If OP is very new to the work world, I suppose it could be a case of not really getting the distinction between work and private email accounts, but now they have discovered how poorly this will land.

                  (On the job as issue, I have been reading hundreds of ads per week for myself and my husband, and not one of them mentions being for nationals only, because the assumption is that you have whatever paperwork is necessary to show you are a legal resident and can work. For positions where a work visa is common, I have seen ads include mention of whether or not they would sponsor the visa. Perhaps in this specific locale there is a different standard, but I suspect not. More likely, the HM was freaked out and playing whack-a-mole with everything s/he could find.)

              3. Michele*

                He definitely would have had to track down the information through the university, which was in a different time zone. My dissertation is too old to be online. The problem was that he was too interested in getting background information. This wasn’t, “On LinkedIn, I saw you went to school at X. How was your experience there?” This was, “I saw you went to school at X and contacted them to find out everything I could about you. Then I looked up the professors on your committee and found out everything I could about them.” This guy had actually looked up the schools and publications of my committee members from 20 years ago. It wasn’t some information. It was creepy.

            3. Ruby*

              I had an applicant keep referring to a certain city that I have only been to once in my life. I wasn’t responding as she expected, however, because she flat out asked for confirmation that I was from there. Seems she had been Googling me and somehow got it wrong…

        3. Jessesgirl72*

          She googled him. She didn’t google and get his work email. She chose his personal email on his personal website. That was crossing a boundary, and he had every right to tell her so.

          1. Karen K*

            Yes, but using the scolding tone was over the line. The same thing could have been said much more kindly.

            1. Jessesgirl72*

              She said the *vibe* was “How dare you contact me?” She didn’t actually say what he said to her, other than “How did you get this email? It’s personal!” So far, I see no evidence that he was unkind- only her interpretation that it was.

              He could have just blocked her email address and hit delete. He took the time to tell her she’d crossed the line AND to tell her she didn’t qualify for the job. That was a kind thing to do.

              I will also note yesterday’s letter, where the OP was trying to give low key constructive criticism to her reports, and their over the top defensive responses to it, regardless of how she tried to communicate it. Some people take any criticism or correction as “mean”

              1. AnonAnalyst*

                Yeah, what’s in the letter did not sound overly harsh to me. It was direct and short. Maybe that’s why it reads as rude? I guess there could have been more commentary in his response that the OP didn’t share, but from what was shared it doesn’t seem like he was out of line.

              2. Rat in the Sugar*

                Alison has asked us to take letter-writers at their word, since we don’t have any first hand information. If OP says it was a scolding tone (and the one quote from it does seem to qualify as “scolding” to me) than we should assume that it was indeed a scolding tone.

            2. paul*

              I honestly don’t think so. Sometimes when you really cross a line you get actually scolded/reprimanded for it.

              1. Marisol*

                I can understand the HR manager scolding someone; even if it’s not a nice thing to do, I can understand why someone would. I can’t understand commenters on this site scolding the OP though. There have already been a couple of harsh comments (not you Paul, but others) and I hope people lighten up.

            3. fposte*

              I think it’s not fair to deliberately contact somebody at their personal email and then get annoyed that they didn’t respond in a businesslike way.

              “How did you get my personal information?” isn’t, IMHO, scolding; it’s a pretty reasonable response when you get emailed, called, snail-mailed for a business matter.

              1. Ama*

                And also, he may have forgotten about the website if it’s several years old or he thought he had taken it down. I have had people contact me about old material I contributed to internet projects years ago and I almost always ask how they found me, not because I’m upset with *them* but because I like to be aware of where my contact info is posted.

                1. paul*

                  I still get emails from people asking about a program we had that I was involved in back in like 09…it’s frustrating because that grant is gone, those services are dead.

          2. Sas*

            I disagree. I think there could have been a different tone. The mistake was made. What would be interesting is if in this person’s career, the manager, had they ever received a job or promotion without “applying” for it. Everyone supports the change in the application process except those going through it. Spending hours crafting the perfect resume and application for one position? B–ch please. A mistake was made by the op, but seriously how far up the ladder has the manager climbed that they couldn’t possibly be kind or professional?

            1. LBK*

              I really don’t understand what you’re saying here. Are you trying to imply that the manager has never had to apply for a job so that’s why they reacted badly, because they don’t remember what it’s like to be job hunting?

            2. OP#1*

              I will say, I haven’t been job hunting that long, but it’s amazing how many managers I’ve encountered who HAVE been kind and professional, even when they can’t help me or when I’ve probably made mistakes/broken protocol in contacting them. That’s why I really was taken aback by this.

            3. Marisol*

              In my experience, the more senior a person is, the more likely they are to be respectful in their communication. Which is not to say that they are genuinely motivated by goodwill, but that they have learned that effective communication is crucial to their success.

      2. Repatriated*

        I wonder if this is a residency requirement or if it is a right to work in the country requirement.

        There’s a huge difference between saying you have to live here already in saying you have to be entitled to work you’re already in the company will not sponsor a visa.

        Given some of the muddled mess and confusing personal and work email, I’m not so sure what the situation is.

      3. Fabulous*

        It hasn’t been addressed though that the personal email address she found was posted on a public website and was found using a quick Google search. I don’t understand how he could have been so incredulous that she emailed him at the personal address when it’s posted publicly. Presumably, other people will do and have done the same.

        1. Tuckerman*

          I was thinking the same thing. Applicants should always follow the contact instructions in the posting.
          But if you add an email to your webpage, I’d expect it’s because you want people to contact you. Webpages are not personal by their nature (.com=commercial).
          Perhaps the hiring manager should include business contact info on his webpage (“Teapots, LLC. is a personal project. For inquiries about Teapots, Inc., please contact me at…”)

          1. Clewgarnet*

            OP didn’t specify it was a .com website?

            .org – non-profit.
            .me – personal

            Besides, the guidelines are so diluted nowadays that it’s ridiculous to assume any .com website is a commercial enterprise.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Yep, it could even just be hosted on a commercial site owned by somebody else, like having a personal blog hosted by wordpress or blogspot.

            2. Natalie*

              Yeah, I would 100% not assume that a “.com” website was commercial based on the top-level domain, and I’ve never even heard of “.me”. It should be fairly obvious from the content of the site whether or not it’s a business or personal email address.

            3. tigerlily*

              Even finding an email address on a .com website can be somewhat clear that it’s a personal email address and something that would be wholly inappropriate to use. I work in non profit, but I also run a television website that has a personal email address attached to it. Those two things are totally unrelated. If you were applying for a job with the company I work for, but googled my name, found my website (certainly an easy thing to do), and chose to use that website’s email address to send me your application I would find that super odd. And for the most part I would probably just ignore the email entirely (except to maybe remember your name so if your application shows up the regular way also). But I can also see me responding somewhat similarly to the hiring manager in OP’s post. Asking how to did you get this email, not because I don’t know how you did it, but more as a rhetorical question that makes you rethink those actions.

            4. Jeanne*

              I’m not even sure what the standards are for urls in other countries. Do they use .org? It might be more confusing.

              1. AcademiaNut*

                Other countries will often have a country email suffix after the other. So .edu.ca or .com.tw. A bare .org or .com doesn’t explicitly mean American, but is more likely to be American than anything else.

          2. SarahTheEntwife*

            He may not want to list his workplace on his personal website. Plenty of people try to keep their personal and professional internet presences as separate as possible, especially if they’re in industries like teaching where personal lives are strongly scrutinized. I assume he has his email on his personal website because he wants people to contact him *about personal/hobby/volunteer/whatever things*. I agree that it’s not terribly unexpected for desperate job seekers to send resumes that way, but it’s still not appropriate.

            1. TootsNYC*

              Or even their “personal professional” and “company professional.”

              I have a day job as a copyeditor. I might also put together a professional website as a copyeditor–either to promote conversations in my field, or for finding side gigs.

              But I don’t want to receive a résumé for a day-job opening via my personal email, even if it is linked in some way to my profession.

          3. LQ*

            I have a .com for my personal website because I got it a thousand internet years ago. No way I’m giving that up. And if you start to include professional information on your personal website then people are going to think it is professional. A personal website, which the op got that it was because the op called it a personal website, is a personal website. Hiring managers get to have lives outside work too. If my email is on my personal website it is because I want people interested in those things on my personal website to contact me at my personal email. Personal.

            1. TootsNYC*

              Anybody I’d want to hire would be able to tell the difference between “personal professional” (about me, and my skills) and “business professional” (about my day-job employer).

          4. sunny-dee*

            That’s honestly kind of silly. That’s like arguing that someone who has their home number listed in the yellow pages should of course expect people to call them at home for business-related things. The person saw a job for Teapot Corp, looked up the hiring manager, and then contact them personally, completely circumventing the Teapot Corp hiring process. That’s all on the OP, and it’s not the “fault” of the manager for having a personal website.

            1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

              Thank you.

              I had someone track down my cell phone number (three pages deep on a google search) and try to call me about their application. It’s unnaceptable.

            2. LBK*

              Completely agreed. You put your personal email on a personal website for a specific purpose, presumably related to whatever the purpose of the site is. It does not imply free rein for anyone to just email whatever they want to it, nor does it make it acceptable to try to circumvent the designated hiring process. There’s literally no reason to do that instead of just following the instructions in the ad other than to try to curry special favor with the hiring manager.

            3. Marisol*

              It may not be the fault of the hiring manager, but when there are so-called experts out there advising job hunters to do what the OP did, then I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s “all on the OP” either.

            4. Turtle Candle*

              Yes, that’s how I think of it too. It’s not “the white pages are private!” It’s “why the hell did you think it was appropriate to contact me at my home phone for a business thing.”

          5. Natalie*

            “But if you add an email to your webpage, I’d expect it’s because you want people to contact you. ”

            Oh, c’mon. 20 years ago all of our phone numbers would have been in the phone book. That didn’t mean job applicants should call managers at home. Follow the instructions in the job posting.

            1. Anna*

              It’s true, but it’s also one of those sorts of things that usually we’d argue about being careful about what you put online. The OP should not have contacted him on his personal email address to apply for the job, but being surprised that someone easily found your email address that you put on a website is a little out of touch.

              1. AD*

                That’s not really relevant here. The discussion is on business norms and etiquette – and doing a google search for a hiring manager’s info and contacting them on their personal email for a job posting elsewhere. That’s not really kosher, and this is fully the OP’s mistake – not the hiring manager’s.

                1. Anna*

                  Well, actually, the OP says the response “How did you get this email address” came up, so it is kind of part of the conversation.

        2. Repatriated*

          You’re assuming American/your country’s cultural norms. In a lot of countries just because an email is publicly available doesn’t mean it’s OK to contact someone.

          I’ve lived in several countries where the division between work and personal was absolute and understood by everyone.

          1. fposte*

            I’m an American, and this isn’t a cultural norm for me either.

            I wouldn’t kill somebody over emailing my personal address, but I wouldn’t consider it an application in its own right and I’d ding them for their inability to follow directions.

            The notion that because you can find it on the web means you can use it how you choose seems to be the same logic as people who use other people’s copyrighted text, because they think publicly available means freely shareable.

            1. Amtelope*


              I have a publicly available personal email address, which I use for writing. Correspondence about my books should definitely go to that address, and I’m not bothered by getting any kind of “oh, hi, author” mail there. But emailing me at that address about my day job would not be cool. There’s a reason I have a work email address, anyone who needs to email me about work knows my work email address, and for a job candidate to find and use my personal email address would feel like an attempt to do an end run around the hiring process in an inappropriate way.

            2. wealhtheow*

              +1 from a Canadian.

              I use slightly different names for work-work and writing-work (altho my UK publisher has messed with that by insisting on a 2-element rather than 3-element name, sigh) and while folks at my day job know I also write, I would not expect someone to apply for a job I posted at NonProfit Teapots Inc. via the contact form on my Coffee Writer site. Although both my identities are publicly accessible (my personal email isn’t, but that’s where the contact form goes), I do try to keep them somewhat separate. Someone who did that would weird me out, as well as annoying me by failing to follow directions.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Why? Most people are looking to hire someone who can follow directions. It’s super normal to consider what applicants show of themselves in that regard.

              2. LBK*

                …you want to hire people who can’t follow simple instructions? Good luck managing them. Sounds like a nightmare.

              3. fposte*

                I’m willing to hear you say more about why you think that’s too bad. Here’s my thought process: I hire based on what skills and behavior I need in the job and based on what I see in the candidate, and I assume that the weaknesses I see in the candidate are likely to be weaknesses in them as an employee–I think it’s foolish to expect to get somebody different than who you’ve seen.

                “Not following directions” would be a ding against an applicant for just about any job, but if I were hiring for something where wiggling through loopholes to get to people was a valued skill–process serving, maybe?–this would be a positive that might well outweigh it. But I’m not–I’m hiring for jobs where following directions is really important, where respecting process is really important, where sharp elbows will hurt you. So a candidate who does this when applying for one of my jobs is looking like a bad fit from the get-go; not a horrible person, but not somebody who thinks the way I need my staff to think.

            3. TootsNYC*

              I wouldn’t just ding them for not following instructions. I’d ding them for not understanding boundaries. I don’t want to try to supervise someone that clueless about the signals we use to indicate association and grouping.

        3. Collarbone High*

          Sorry, I strongly disagree. Back when I had a blog built in Blogger, it had my personal email (which I think was part of the template), and I would have thought it bizarre and inappropriate for someone to use that to apply for a job at my company. If they googled me and read the blog, fine, but using that address to send work-related email would be very odd. It would even be odd for PR people to have sent press releases to that email.

        4. BethRA*

          Because the job wasn’t to be his personal assistant and the job posting gave instructions on how to apply that did not include the managers personal email?

          You can find my home address on the web pretty easily, too, but I’d be pretty unhappy with someone who showed up at my doorr with a resume.

      4. Kathleen Adams*

        I agree with Allison here. Snapping at the poor guy/gal about not hiring out-of country was wrong.

        But writing to the manager’s person email address was…really not good. At all. If you can find the manager’s company email address, that might be OK (probably not effective, IMO, but probably not actually counterproductive), but his personal email, no matter how easy to find, is absolutely inappropriate. Absolutely.

        I don’t want to pile on the poor OP, who’s probably learning some hard lessons here, but I also have to question “spent 20 minutes composing a knockout, personalized cover letter.” Really? A whole 20 minutes? :-)

    5. Sparty*

      OP 1, just because there are ex-pats working for the company doesn’t mean they want all of their positions to be ex-pats. Usually when there are expats working in another company it is at a manager, director, VP level. I was lucky to work as an expat 2 years into my post degree job due only to being a part of a leadership development program. The other Americans working in the foreign subsidiary were all managers and directors sent down for their expertise on the subject matter and to be a “corporate” representative. All of the supervisors and staff were locals. It can cost a company well into 6 figures above and beyond salary to have expats working in another country.

      1. Judy*

        I worked at a corporation where some of the senior managers would complain that “no one in the US wanted to do expat assignments.” I pointed out that for the US employees, they only allow the very senior individual contributors or manager or higher levels to take those assignments. By that time you’re usually established, with kids, etc. The employees from other countries who were asked to become expats TO the US were the promising 25-27 year olds. I would have been up for an expat assignment then, not when I had two young school age children.

        1. BananaPants*

          Yup. By the time someone has reached a level to be considered for an expat assignment, they’d be in their mid-30s to early 40s. I’m in that age and experience range, but with two young kids and a husband who’d have to quit his job if we moved, I have less than zero desire to take an expat assignment any time in the next decade or two.

          My company sent several more junior individual contributors on 2-year expat assignments and without exception they all left the company completely within a few months of their return (wanted more money and got it). So they stopped considering expat assignments earlier in one’s career.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        My employer has loads of foreigners, but only for certain positions. Generally, they hire internationally for research or technical positions which require graduate degrees, and for students, but for admin or lower level technical positions they can’t actually sponsor visas for someone who doesn’t already have the documentation to work in the country.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      Ugh, I had to call a hiring manager recently–their contact info WAS in the listing, but I was trying to apply through the link and and I couldn’t get my materials to load (the packet they required was larger than the data allowance). There was another link, but it kept circling back to the listing instead of going anywhere (it was on Careerbuilder). The job wasn’t posted anywhere else. I called thinking I’d get an admin, but instead I got her.

      I explained the issue and asked if there was an alternate way to apply. She said I could just email my packet, but she seemed a little condescending. I did apologize for bothering her. She probably deleted it. Guess I can write that one off.


        1. Annonymouse*

          At least you had a legitimate reason to contact though.

          You weren’t trying to circumvent the process – you tried to follow it but they chose a poor method to deliver it.

          I can understand if it was the 10th plus call about it and getting annoyed. But yeah, that’s on their company not you that it doesn’t work and shouldn’t count against you.

      1. Sas*

        Aaand this! That this is a thing, and it is, is the problem! : ( to Elizabeth. People can’t be bothered

    7. GrandBargain*

      How did OP find the name of the hiring manager? Was it listed in the ad? Or perhaps it’s a very small company or very small division… after all OP was able to easily identify the HM *and* the staff. If the HM’s name is in the ad, it seems much less aggressive to google that person and send a well worded email.

  3. Dan*


    AAM, I think both you and the HM are coming down a little hard on the OP. According to the OP, the guy’s personal email address was more or less front and center on a google search.

    He sounds like an ass TBH. If he has to ask how OP got his email address, he needs a lesson in technology, and particularly google.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      That may be true, but most people know that you use work emails for work things and home emails for home things. OP showed bad judgement in violating that boundary. The same would be true for work Vs personal phone, work Vs personal address, etc.
      It comes across as a little stalkerish.

      1. Dan*

        If someone called my personal cell about a job? That would tick me off. Hell, it would tick me off if they called my office phone. If they snail mailed me anything, I’d think it weird no matter what address they sent it to.

        My personal email and my work email are an alt-tab away from each other. I just don’t get a sense of a major boundary violation here.

        Stalkerish? In this day and age, employers google candidates, and it should be assumed that happens in reverse. HM should not be surprised that his email can easily be found in a google search.

        I’m not saying the OP did nothing wrong here, but the responses seem to be overly harsh. I can almost guarantee that if this was an overly difficult position to fill, and the OP was a particularly strong candidate, the HM would have been thrilled to get the resume, personal email or otherwise.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          It’s because OP was already not following directions and shows a slight misunderstanding of work norms. Those are red flags this early in the hiring process. There’s no need to consider interviewing someone who needs so much basic coaching if you have other candidates.

            1. Stellaaaaa*

              When was the last time you saw a job ad that didn’t tell you how to submit the application?

              1. Oren*

                I thought one of the directions around here was not to assume stuff that isn’t in letters.

                But incredulity that someone found an email address seems naive. Take someone out of consideration for a job if you want, but for the hiring manager to be surprised and dismayed that someone could have contacted him this way seems kind of dumb. How does he respond to telemarketers? Spam? Any other unsolicited contact that happens all the time? A personal email address isn’t likely to be all that private.

                1. Stellaaaaa*

                  Sometimes it’s also warranted to poke holes in the way someone’s spinning the story. Job applications tell you how to submit them. Apparently this ad did not instruct applicants to use the hiring manager’s email address, or the hiring manager wouldn’t have responded the way he did. OP used my mom’s bad job searching advice from 1988, and that’s what a lot of us are reacting against. OP made a well-intentioned mistake and the hiring manager lives in another country so no one’s calling OP a murderer here. But he absolutely cannot go ahead and think that he should try this again, because the hiring manager was right: that’s not how you get a job.

                2. Captain Radish*

                  I agree that the manager is being naive (if the email was genuinely confused).

                  I would also make the point that it’s not necessarily black and white someones business address vs personal. I have seen many a gmail address as a reply-to for small businesses.

                3. sunny-dee*

                  I think it’s less “how is this thing even possible?” and more “seriously, what kind of idiot is contacting me on my personal email for a job, instead of just submitting an application?”

                4. Morning Glory*

                  “I thought one of the directions around here was not to assume stuff that isn’t in letters.”

                  I think it’s more like – assume the norm unless the letter specifies otherwise. Hiring managers are normally human, and the LW would have noted if he was a giant blue frog. Job applications come with instructions on how to apply and the LW would have noted if that had been omitted.

                5. Kelly L.*

                  Morning Glory, I think that’s it–“there wasn’t any contact info in the ad” is weird enough that I think it likely would have been in the letter.

                6. Recruit-o-Rama*

                  I respond to spam and telemarketers by blocking them on whatever medium they are attempting to contact me just as I would block an applicant who searched out my PERSONAL email and tried to contact me that way.

                7. Kathleen Adams*

                  No matter what he said, the manager wasn’t really incredulous that the OP found the email address. What he was incredulous about was that the OP found and *used* the email address.

                8. Not A Morning Person*

                  It can also be incredulity that someone thought a personal address was the appropriate way to contact him about a job in his department. My personal email is not associated with my employer, so I’d be surprised and irritated that someone would use my PERSONAL email to ask about a job at my employer. My thoughts would be WTH? How did they associate my job with my personal email? My personal email isn’t on the job posting? Why are they using my personal email? What makes someone think that is appropriate? Why did they even find my personal email and think it was associated with my workplace? What were they thinking? WHAT? What? WHAT! That would be my response to anyone I don’t know who responds to a job advertisement in my department by contacting my personal email. So I can easily see someone being irritated about it and responding in irritation to the offender. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but if someone steps on my toe, I’ll probably yell at them.

              2. Anon for this*

                I’m derailing a bit but I can answer that: Six months ago! They requested in-person applications but neglected to include the business’s name or address. :)

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            Yeah, I get annoyed when I get work-study applications to my *work* email, just because the application process is clearly stated in the posting and is not “send your resume to random supervisors directly”. It shows lack of attention to detail, difficulty following instructions, and/or a tendency to go off and do things their way because they think that will work better. If I were hiring in high-pressure sales I could see where that might show initiative, but I am hiring for people who can do tedious but essential things reliably. I’m not surprised when people send me resumes anyway, but it is a definite mark against them.

          2. Dan*

            I don’t see an indication that they weren’t following directions, but I’ll give it to you that there’s a slight misunderstanding of work norms.

            There’s no need to consider interviewing someone who needs basic coaching, but there’s also no need to jump down their throat either.

            1. fposte*

              “sent it to the manager’s email to make sure he saw it,” not “because that was the application method in the ad.” That’s somebody who’s not following the directions.

              I don’t think “How did you get this email? It’s personal!” is jumping down somebody’s throat–it sounds more surprised to me. The manager could have responded with more calm professionalism, but I think if you email somebody’s personal email, you’re likelier to get the personal person.

              1. 42*

                >>I don’t think “How did you get this email? It’s personal!” is jumping down somebody’s throat–it sounds more surprised to me. <<

                Right, I thought that too. I don't think it was a literal question. I think it was more like "Are you trying to tell me that you looked me up and found my personal email, and decided to actually use it for this?"

                1. Kathleen Adams*

                  I think that’s it *exactly*. The incredulity is really directed at the OP using the email address, not finding it.

                  I mean, it wouldn’t be difficult to find out what what university I went to. But having a stranger writing to me out of the blue and mentioning that would be kind of icky. It just feels slightly…intrusive.

                  And, in this case, aggressive.

        2. Observer*

          The issue isn’t that the OP googled the company and / or the hiring manager. The issue is what they did with the information.

        3. Colette*

          Emailing a personal address – aside from the boundary violation – also makes the hiring manager’s life more difficult. She either needs to forward the application to the account she is using for the process – which removes the ability to find an application by looking at who sent it, manage the process from two accounts, or perhaps enter the information into their applicant tracking system. That’s a lot of hassle when there are probably other candidates who followed the directions.

          And the boundary violation isn’t insignificant. Just because you can find personal information doesn’t mean you’re allowed to use it for your convenience.

          In a way, she did the applicant a favour by responding at all. She could have just turfed the application and said nothing – while I think employers should reply to candidates, that only applies to people who actually applied, which the OP did not.

          1. Colette*

            For the record, I have had distant colleagues contact me at my home number (which I did not give them). My response was not “wow, they should be commended for their ingenuity”, it was “do I have to worry about them showing up at my door?” Just because it is possible to get personal information does not bpmean it’s ok to use it.

          2. Trillian*

            I don’t think the manager needs to do anything other than “Thank you for your interest in XXX job. Please apply using the process indicated on the job advertisement,” or words to that effect, and leave them to the prescreen process. That’s if HR doesn’t already have a process in place for dealing with direct applicant contact. I wouldn’t take responsibility for forwarding their application or entering their information, and I would not respond to any follow up emails. If they reached interview, they’d get questions about their willingness to follow process, because where I work is process heavy — but I’d allow them the one redirect.

            1. always in email jail*

              ^Yes. I’d send a curt email directing them to review the job posting and apply through the proper channels. I wouldn’t answer any further communication.

            2. NotAnotherManager!*

              Yes, I think this is how I would have handled it as well. I probably also would have noted that it was my personal email account and dos not conduct business communications through it and would not respond to further communications outside the formal hiring process.

              I don’t get the surprise that a publicly posted email address was located, but I also think using the personal email shows poor judgment and it would be a strike rather than a plus on that applicant.

        4. NotAnotherManager!*

          I might Google a candidate, but I don’t then take that information and send them a communication about their candidacy to a contact point I find as part of that. I communicate with them via their provided contact info from their resume/application.

      2. Tuesday*

        It was on the guy’s website, though, which was apparently easily googleable. I agree that emailing a hiring manager at their non-work email is not the correct thing to do, but I also think that if you’re going to put your personal email on the front of your website, you shouldn’t be surprised when strangers contact you that way. The LW’s approach was wrong, but I think the manager’s response was wrong, too.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          Think through the process though: the only reason you’d need to google the hiring manager’s email address would be if the application didn’t list any email address for submission, which I doubt was the case. What real reason would there be for thinking, “I’m not going to send this to the email they asked me to send it to. I’m going to google company employees and see if there’s a way to reach them on a more immediate level”? It’s inappropriate. It’s a thought process that’s bound to remind some people of a certain personality type, and calling his own cover letter a “knockout” doesn’t help.

          1. Tuesday*

            Hopefully LW didn’t call the cover letter a knockout in the actual cover letter, so the manager wouldn’t have had that clue into their personality. :)

            I agree with you, but I also agree with Dan’s post above where he says the response was a bit harsh for the infraction. “How did you get this email?” I mean, dude, you put it on your own website, that’s how.

            It sounds like the LW was simply the recipient of some bad job-seeking advice, which happens all the time.

            (Also re: the knockout cover letter, that wording did stand out to me, too. I wish I could compose a great cover letter in 20 minutes. Usually I agonize over it for a day or two, then send it off not necessarily when I’m happy with it, but when I get sick of looking at it. My job search is not going well.)

            1. Stellaaaaa*

              OP strikes me as being quite young, and I think that’s largely why people are jumping on this one. It’s a really simple teaching moment to tell him in no uncertain terms to never do that one thing again. There are also certain ways of presenting yourself that sometimes gets people’s hackles up pretty quickly, which isn’t the same thing as it being a personality issue or an attack on someone’s core personhood. I will say that if so many people are put off by the letter, OP might want to take a more laid-back approach to his first contact with a prospective employer. It’s unfair and there are definitely many worse traits that receive far less backlash, but at least it’s out there for OP to consider.

              Another component is his incredulity at some positions being open to expats while this one wasn’t. That’s not inherently weird. It’s up to the company to determine how many foreign employees they want to sponsor or if it’s appropriate to give this particular position to a non-citizen, and OP’s wording suggests that he thinks he can “logically” argue that the company should change its mind about that.

            2. Emilia Bedelia*

              I mean, I think “how did you get this email?” is a perfectly valid question, even if it is on his website.

              Maybe the applicant got the email address from a friend who said “Hey, let me connect you with this guy I know!”. Maybe there was an error in the job ad and the hiring manager’s personal information was put in instead of his work information. Maybe this person is a connection on LinkedIn and found his address there. Maybe the hiring manager’s creepy estranged wife is trying to find him. Maybe it’s just a wrong email address. There’s many ways that someone can obtain an email, and someone’s personal web page is just one of them.

              I really don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask “How did you get my email?” if there’s no indication of why the person should know it.

              1. Tuesday*

                That’s true. I hadn’t really thought of that. Just because there’s one obvious way a person could find his email address doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways, and I’d certainly want to know if mine was out there where I didn’t want it.

              2. Not A Morning Person*

                That’s a really good point. I’d forgotten about the time I was getting occasional calls from external customers with complaints or questions about the service my company provided. I worked in management development and training, not customer service. I finally asked one of the callers how they got my number and they said they got it from “information.” You know, when you dial the number for the operator and ask for the number of a company. Somehow the phone company directory that the operators were using had my direct line as the line for the company. I don’t recall how I got that fixed. I think I had to change roles and got a different number in my new department. So it was a real question and a surprising answer. I do think the hiring manager is really asking more of a ‘what were you thinking to use my personal email’ vs. asking to have it explained that Google can answer lots of questions.

            1. Mookie*

              Yes, as you and Tuesday say, this stood out to me. This is not meant to disparage the OP, but that seems incredibly swift and, yes, I wish I had that ability, too. I suppose it might depend on the industry, how dense or “customized” an effective cover letter is expected to be. (I’m assuming the OP has a few templates or drafts hanging ’round, which I’ve never been able to get a grip on, so I just write a new one each time in order to avoid sounding like an identikit, which I sometimes do.) I can’t think of a good example, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that were so for some select trades.

            2. Kathleen Adams*

              LOL, that was exactly what I thought – “Gee, it took you a whole 20 minutes?” I’m a professional writer, and I’m fairly speedy, but that’s some fast cover-letter-writing there.

              Oh, well. :-)

        2. Repatriated*

          You are assuming US values and norms around this. In many countries the fact that the email is public wouldn’t give anyone the right to use it if they didn’t already know the email owner. You can’t assume what you think is normal around personal contact is the way it operates in whatever country the manages resides.

          1. sunny-dee*

            That is not the norm in the US, either. If I got something to my personal email, I’d trash it and probably tell HR not to hire that person if they ever got an application.

          2. Anon for this*

            Digging up and using a personal email address is not normal in the U.S., either. Why do you imagine that would be a U.S. value or norm?

            1. Dokie*

              Not the poster here, but I would say because so many Americans on this threat seem to be arguing that it’s ok.

              Just look at the responses above. Americans’ views on privacy and the appropriateness of this don’t seem to be universal.

              I would think this should be inappropriate, but there are people on this thread who are arguing it is ok. From their verbiage, I’d assume American.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                Eh, most are saying it isn’t. Some are saying it’s not so bad that the manager should have reacted the way they did, but most people aren’t saying “this is totally fine to do.”

        3. Doe-eyed*

          I mean, if you google my name my home address comes up. That’s pretty easily googleable. If you send your resume to my house I’m still going to think you’re a nutter.

        4. Collarbone High*

          I just went back and looked at my Blogger blog, which I haven’t updated since 2007, and it has my personal email. So yes, it’s out there, but if a stranger used it to email me, my first thought wouldn’t be “They probably found this on my blog.” It would be, wait, how did they they get this email. It’s possible this manager is like me and hasn’t thought about his personal website in 10 years.

      3. Sas*

        “stalkerish” This word is far too often overused. This is like when people have a facebook and say so-and-so tried to friend me on there, I didn’t want them to. In other news, my father recently stated that I was stalking him because I showed up to his office, and waited in my car to speak with him when he was leaving. He had refused to talk with me otherwise, I didn’t know what else to do. I am now apparently a “stalker” to my own father. This was after calling and leaving a message that day for him. You know, but what do I know? Maybe I am incorrect.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          I’d say you ignored a clear boundary. He said no. You ignored it. Yes, that’s improper behavior. I would call blind siding someone in order to talk to them as stalkerish.

          1. Elizabeth H.*

            Showing up in person to talk to someone is a normal thing to do. People used to do it all the time. For some reason it seems like most people these days have become terrified of non-curated, unscheduled social interactions – it strikes me as pretty pathetic honestly.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              They showed up AFTER the person had told them no. That is not what normal people do.
              That’s violating an expressed boundary and will put off most folks. Stomping on boundaries is the pathetic thing, not talking to people.

    2. Stellaaaaa*

      If the job posting listed a preferred way to submit the application (which is likely; I have never seen a legit job posting that had me googling for email addresses to send my application to), then yes OP was out of line.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It doesn’t matter that his personal email address is easily findable. It’s still a personal address, and people generally know that you should respect the work/home boundary. People’s phone numbers are often easily findable too, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to call a hiring manager’s home number.

      It’s not about him not understanding how she found the address. It’s about not understanding why she was using it.

      1. Repatriated*

        There are also plenty of other cultures where it is perfectly normal for a personal email address to be out in the public but considered the height of rudeness for people to use it to contact the individual if they do not know them. It would be extremely rude to do so for business purposes. Just because American culture does not have this as a norm doesn’t mean that it isn’t in the country where the job is posted .

        1. Daisy*

          Why do you keep saying this thing about American vs other cultures all over the place? AAM is obviously American, and she says right in the post that it’s inappropriate

        2. Triangle Pose*

          Please stop saying this. Many people have already replied that this is not the norm in American culture.

        3. Anna*

          You keep posting this as if everyone on this thread isn’t saying that it was inappropriate for the OP to contact the person via their personal email address.

          1. Dokie*

            Well, there are some people on this thread who seem to be arguing that it is ok or that the response was overly harsh.

            1. Natalie*

              There’s like one person that thinks it’s fine. And it’s perfectly congruent for this to *not* be a cultural norm (which is isn’t) but also think the manager might have been a touch harsh.

      2. Chelsea*

        Agreed. OP sounds miffed that the HR rep put his own personal email address out there for anyone to see, but it’s still no reason for OP to actually use that address for a work-related communication.

    4. neverjaunty*

      “How is it possible for anyone to locate this address” and “how did YOU locate this address” are not the same question, Dan. What if the OP’s truthful answer had been “It was my understanding this was actually your work e-mail”, or “Your co-worker Fergus suggested I reach out to you at this address”? That would present the OP’s actions much differently to the hiring manager.

      That it wouldn’t bother you personally doesn’t make it appropriate work etiquette or something everybody should be chill about, and as AAM pointed out, bad advice led OP to make two mistakes: contacting the hiring manager directly, and contacting him on his personal email.

      1. Repatriated*

        We also shouldn’t assume that the cultural norms around emails are the same in this country. In the US it would be really unusual for someone to be so open with a personal email, but that’s not the case in other countries words understood that just because it’s out in the public doesn’t mean people should use it. I think there’s also likely a cultural difference going on here.

        1. fposte*

          To be honest, I don’t recognize the American culture you’re describing here. I’m American, I have an easily findable personal email, and I wouldn’t accept work correspondence at it either.

          1. AnonAnalyst*

            Same here. I’m American, and I would find it pretty off-putting if a job candidate sent an application to my personal email address – no matter how easy it was to find it online.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            Yes, also American, and my personal email address is easily findable because of a leadership position I hold for one of my children’s activities. It is not for unsolicited job applicants (or any work-related communications). I would find it weird, and in pretty sure my colleagues would as well.

        2. Anon for this*

          I’m actually not seeing the American cultural norm you’re describing? I’m American (southeastern U.S. if relevant) and can’t think of an instance in my own culture in which an applicant should look for or use a hiring manager’s personal, non-work-related email address. And it’s not unusual to post email addresses on social media or websites unrelated to work.

        3. AD*

          Can you stop posting the same sentiments over and over, which multiple other commenters have corrected you on? This is absolutely not a norm in either the U.S. or North America.

        4. LBK*

          I have never heard of, seen or experienced this supposed “cultural norm” in the US. It doesn’t exist and I don’t know where you’re getting this from.

      2. Sas*

        I don’t think Dan said it was alright to do. I think that commenter said that they wouldn’t have been harsh to OP.

    5. Observer*

      The HM’s telephone number and home address can be found on 411.com, whitepages.com, etc. in all likleyhood. Would you say that it would therefore be ok for her to contact him via those channels? It’s been easy to find the personal address and telephone number of people since the days of standard telephone books. But it’s never been appropriate to contact hiring managers at their personal addresses and telephone number, despite that. By the same token, just because the personal email address is easily found, it is still totally inappropriate to use that to apply for a job.

      I would be very concerned about hiring someone who doesn’t know the difference between a home (personal) vs work address.

    6. seejay*

      What jumps out at me is specifically “the email I used was listed right on the front of his personal website”.

      Personal website doesn’t speak to me as “company website”. That’s where I think the mistake was made. The LW didn’t go through the proper channels, he/she found the manager’s personal page and used the email address found *there* which implies it’s a personal email address. Similar to going to the manager’s Facebook page and pulling the personal email address from there.

      If that’s an accurate description of what happened, he’s got good grounds to be peeved IMO.

      1. Simonthegreywarden*

        It’s also not “I found this on his LinkedIn” or something. I’d still think that was out of bounds, but at least in that case I would assume that the person knew that email address was out there and easy to find.

    7. hbc*

      “How did you get this?” is not really an expression that the speaker believes it was an impossible task to get the information. It’s an expression of incredulity that this has happened, because it’s so far outside the norm. I’d probably stammer, “How did you get here?” if a job seeker showed up at my house with a resume in hand, even if I could see the cab idling behind him.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yes, exactly. It’s not saying “this information is impossible to find, how can you possible have it?” It’s saying, “You should not be using this information to contact me in this way.” That question should prompt the person on the receiving end of it to realize that they should not have done what they did. “My expressing surprise and unhappiness at you having and using this contact information should clue you in that this is not cool.”

    8. Imaginary Number*

      It was a mistake, but I don’t think it was an outrageous one.

      OP said the email came off the HM’s website. Was it something like “Fred’s Sailor Moon Fanfiction” website or “Fred the HR Manager at Teapot Co.” personal branding website? That makes a pretty big difference. If it was the latter, I don’t think using the listed email would be all that outrageous.

      1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

        But they’re contacting him specifically about a job at his company. And, the entire point of using his personal email was to try to circumvent the business process. It’s an inappropriate action.

        1. Elsajeni*

          Right, but both of Imaginary Number’s examples would be personal websites. It would still be pushy and a mistake to use the email address listed on his “personal branding”-type website, which has a little professional bio and a description of the type of work he does; it would be a more outrageous mistake to use the email address listed on his Sailor Moon fanfic website.

      2. Emily*

        I agree – I think that the OP made a mistake and the hiring manager was right to be annoyed, but depending on the content/tone of the personal website, it might be an understandable misstep.

      3. Annonymouse*

        So who does Fred ship for sailor moon?

        But yes, the implication from the letter was more “Fred’s Sailor Moon Fan Fic site” than Fred’s profile page on the work website.

        Which is not appropriate.

    9. Jesmlet*

      Taken to the extreme: If someone drops off their resume at this guy’s office, misguided but not wildly inappropriate. If someone googles and finds the hiring manager’s personal address on whitepages or whatever (which is not that hard to do), and then drops it off at his house to “make sure he saw it”, that would be nuts. There are boundaries between professional life and personal life and that includes addresses, both physical and email.

    10. Bonky*

      I emphatically disagree. There will have been instructions on how to apply in the job ad, and “Google until you find the hiring manager’s personal email address” will not have been one of them.

      I’m a hiring manager. The job ad and the response to it is, for me, part of the hiring procedure. I want someone who can follow process and instructions. If I say “Please send a cover letter”, I will be weeding out applicants who can’t be bothered to do that. If I say “Please submit your application via this email address/this form”, I will be weeding out applicants who can’t be bothered to do that, or who think they’re too special to do that, too.

      Consider what we’re looking for in a new hire. We want someone who is reasonably easy to work with, who understands boundaries, who can follow tasks they’re given, and who doesn’t create extra work for us or our colleagues. OP has basically waved a flag here saying “Look! These are not my competencies!”, and has then gone further to demonstrate that by failing to understand why the person she emailed might be a bit shocked and surprised.

      1. neverjaunty*

        And it’s certainly true that the OP was well-intentioned and was acting on bad advice – but from the HM’s manager’s perspective, it’s really not a worthwhile exercise to investigate The Mystery of the Flapping Red Flag.

    11. LBK*

      Unless the job ad didn’t include instructions on how to submit an application, there’s literally no reason to even trying googling the hiring manager in the first place. Doesn’t matter that there were readily available results, the search shouldn’t have even been done, period. Follow instructions.

    12. TootsNYC*

      Saying “How did you get this email” is probably not the actual question; the actual question was “Why did you think you should use this email? It has nothing to do w/ that ad.”

      People always ask the other question, instead of the real question.

      And maybe he’s thinking, “One of my colleagues suggested it?” Bcs if she’d stammered out, “Pete Sorenson told me to contact you this way; he works for you?” the hiring manager might have backed down.

  4. Jeanne*

    #2, I’m sorry this is happening to you. Besides speaking to your boss, you may need to speak to whoever is in the reception area. Tell them your ex is not welcome there for any reason. But definitely talk to your boss. Explain that unfortunately your ex is out for revenge and you are terribly sorry your boss ended up involved. Be prepared to talk about that policy error if necessary. Tell him how sorry you are it happened at the time but it has not happened since and won’t ever again. Only if he asks of course. Keep detailed records of all that happened with your work and be sure to tell your divorce attorney.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I agree with keeping records for the divorce attorney. I disagree about telling the boss it won’t happen again. Why? Because the ex is out of control and you can’t control that behavior. In fact, I’d bet if you told ex to stop it they would escalate it. The ex is out to get the OP fired. In fact, that is something to talk to the boss about. “Well boss, I guess you know why I’m divorcing ex. I am worried though, that his actions will afffect my employement here. Especially since I can’t control him. What can I do to make things better?”

    2. neverjaunty*

      Excellent advice. OP #2, you are going to look a lot more reasonable than your glass bowl soon-to-be-ex, and keeping a record of this sort of behavior for your attorney will only help you in your divorce.

    3. always in email jail*

      Tell your attorney. You can add a clause to whatever divorce agreement you come up with stating that neither person will interfere with the other’s professional reputation. (there’s one like that in mine)

      1. Repatriated*

        Yes, and the attorney can point out to him other legal causes of action that might be available in their state. Further, The attorney might point out to the ex, that if OP is unemployed through his actions, the judge is going to be more inclined to order spousal support or to give OP more of the spousal assets to ensure equity. In some states such as mine, this is all up to the judge and what he thinks is fair. You’ve never seen shade to round like my judge does when he sees jack asses like this

      2. Hurricane Wakeen*

        Yes, tell your attorney. I love the idea of including a clause like that in the divorce decree. There’s also a cause of action in some states for “tortious interference with a business relationship” which could apply if your husband keeps pulling this kind of thing.

        1. Repatriated*

          Even if there’s no cause of action, this is information to give to the judge when he’s making his decision about spousal support and division of assets.

          I’ve had to remind client that this sort of behavior tends to get back to the judge. I told them that they wouldn’t do it in front of the judge I probably ought to not doing it

      3. Bend & Snap*

        YEP. I am recently divorced and would have sent this to my atty immediately.

        My good friend is also recently divorced and her ex was trashing her at her workplace, calling all her friends “anonymously” with a burner phone to talk about her transgressions, posting stuff online, hacking into her bank and cell phone accounts, put a GPS tracker on her car etc etc etc and she was able to get a restraining order.

        Also, if he’s willing to call your boss, he’s willing to do other stuff. Lock down ALL your online accounts so he can’t get in. If you’re sharing a cell phone plan and you’re not the one with the credentials, get your own plan immediately or he can track who you’re talking to and texting.

        1. Bend & Snap*

          OH and my sister was hiding from her crazy ex and he turned on the “find my iPhone” feature in their linked account and found her that way.

    4. Repatriated*

      She needs to hire an attorney now. In my state, it’s legally actionable and easy to recover damages if someone interferes with your employment for malicious reasons. This is particularly true if there are lies or misrepresentations.

      I don’t practice in this area of law anymore, but I have been successful at shutting down things like this I contacting the offender and informing them of the laws they are breaking and the steps I will take if they continue to harass my client in this fashion.

    5. Repatriated*

      Estranged Spouse

      If you don’t already have an atty, hire on ASAP. He’s already proven that he is not going to play fair.

      Also, judges tend to frown on behavior like he’s exhibited.

      Finally, in some states, such as the one in which I practice, it is legally actionable if someone interferes with employment or livelihood. In my state this is taken very, very seriously.

    6. Michele*

      You mention telling the receptionist, but if the company has on-site security, it could be worthwhile to mention it to them as well. I know that where I work, they take that sort of thing seriously.

      1. Mrs. Batts*

        +1 – A good HR department will also help you, particularly if your manager gets sucked in to your ex’s tales at all. I’ve seen situations where exes calling up to badmouth their former spouse/partner knew all the right triggers to freak a manager out as well as the . The exes seem to have more than just the motive of getting the person fired – having that employee be taken into an office and talked to or investigated for things the ex knows would be upsetting to the employee is also a type of revenge.

  5. Brussels manager*

    I think in Europe we still use mr/ms last name more. We switch to first names after the person is hired / you know the person better.

    Re OP5’s situation firstnames might be ok, but in general, in Europe, I’d stick to last names. I’d rather err on the too formal side than too informal.

    1. Julia*

      Actually, in a lot of European countries, they use Mr. and Mrs. because they are told in school or just assume that Frau/Madame/etc. = Mrs. and no one seems to know about the existence of Ms. Seriously, I have First Name (Ms.) in my email signature and still get emails to Mrs. Lastname ALL THE TIME. Sometimes I tell them I prefer Ms., and once I got a Miss back then. (From a native English speaker!)

      So don’t feel taken aback when you get an email to Mrs. YourLastname from Europe. It’s grating (I’m not even married!), but they don’t know any better and a lot of them don’t care. I have tried to educate fellow Germans on this and have either been ignored or once told “sure, whatever, Mrs. Know-It-All.”)

      … Sorry for the tangent.

      1. Expat*

        Ugh, yeah my bank (Europe) calls me Mrs Boyfriend’sLastName on our joint account. Despite the fact that we clearly filled out our first and last names when applying for the account and aren’t even married. That annoys me. Mrs MyLastName, that’s fine.

      2. Michele*

        That garbage goes on in the US as well. I have a Ph.D., so it should be Dr. I will accept Ms. I will not accept Mrs, and I will shut that down quickly. If you don’t address men by their marital status, you shouldn’t address women by theirs. An astonishing number of businesses will also not acknowledge my last name, insisting that I go by my husband’s instead (which in one situation resulted in an email to corporate headquarters expressing my displeasure).

        1. Julia*

          I once had a German girl rant at me that she WANTS all women to be called Mrs. regardless of marital status instead of Ms. – the reason was that she could not hear the difference between Ms. and Miss and thus found Ms. should be abolished.

          If native speakers of English were to control the German language, I wonder what they’d abolish first.

          1. Michele*

            I would abolish the 500 versions of the word “the” they have. I took German in high school, and the whole der, die, das thing was way too complicated.

            As a side note, I used to live in New Mexico, which of course had a large Spanish speaking population. I don’t know if all Spanish speaking cultures are this way, but there women were assumed to be Senorita unless you knew she was married. The senorita/senoria separation wasn’t about marital status but virginity, and it was insulting to imply that an unmarried woman was a seniora.

          2. Worker Bee (Germany)*

            Hope it is ok for me to chime in. The reason the german girl wanted to use only one term is not that she can’t hear it but there are no different translation in germany. We only say Frau Lastname. Same as you guys do with Mr. It can refer to either a married or a single person. We do have a translation for Miss which is Fräulein. But this an “old” word that no one uses anymore and you get a very confused look if you use it. Well not completely true, m mom, likes to use it when I am in trouble ;) Similar as if an American mom would say Missy you are in trouble.. If you can’t tell I am fascinated with language and language cultural differences.. Sorry for going slightly of topic..

            1. Julia*

              This is actually a Translation error. Germans tend to think that Frau, the term for adult women, automatically corresponds to Mrs., but it doesn’t. The standard English term for adult women is Ms., which 100% corresponds with the German Frau.

              And I think hating Ms. because you cannot tell the different between it and Miss, as the woman in my example said, is more about her deficiencies in the English language and a pretty tone deaf attempt to police another language’s use.

            2. Julia*

              That’s so interesting!

              I asked my French teacher in Paris why I kept being called Madame in stores when usually, people mistake me for barely 18 (in my late twenties…), and she explained that they call you Madame just to be on the safe side in case you actually are older than you look or married etc. They call definitely older women Mademoiselle to flatter them. :D

        2. always in email jail*

          ^Yes. I use Ms. for all non-Dr. women in a business setting, even if I know they’re married. Their martial status isn’t relevant to the workplace. I’m not addressing a social invitation.

        3. the gold digger*

          An astonishing number of businesses will also not acknowledge my last name

          And in-laws. There are in-laws (who considered themselves very progressive) who would not acknowledge my last name.

          1. The Strand*

            Still dealing with that one. I feel sorry for someone who is that rigid, frankly, because the behavior’s pathetic. Roll your eyes privately if you must, but at the end of the day you don’t get to tell everyone else how to live their lives, assuming nobody is at risk (and even then, hey, if your daughter wants to be a rock climber or a soldier, it’s her choice). Save your judgment for people who hit their kids and leave their pets in hot cars.

            I have an old (20+ years) friend who changed his first name about a decade ago, and while I don’t like the new name, whenever I speak to him or mention him, I use his new name. It just comes down to respect.

        4. Decimus*

          Well some places are more “progressive” I guess. I get called Mr Wifeslastname all the time. She was a professional and owned a house before we married. I find it annoying and funny.

    2. yasmara*

      I just moved to the Southern portion of the US this year after spending 40+ years in Northern/Western states. Since I become a professional, I have always defaulted to first names for other adults.

      This is not always the norm in my new Southern state. I referred to a service provider by his first name on the phone to the office manager/scheduler and was corrected to Mr. Plumber. My son’s violin teacher is Mrs. Violin. These are people my own age, but they are very firm in requiring this formality.

      For OP #5, if you already know these people, there’s no need for artificial formality. But please be aware that these cultural norms are quite different even across the US, let alone in other countries. This was NOT something I was consciously aware of before moving.

    3. krysb*

      When I worked at a law firm, when we sent correspondence to an attorney we didn’t know, the first correspondence was always Dear Ms./Mr. LastName; once my attorney met the other attorney in person, it would be Dear FirstName. That’s pretty formal, but it’s the norm I’m used to in correspondence.

  6. Stellaaaaa*

    OP2: Wow, that’s really lousy. We all worry about something like that happening but we never expect anyone to actually do that. I’d be a bit concerned about the policy breaches though, since I don’t think you should lie and deny it if your manager asks about it.

    OP4: This is just one of the things that’s going to happen with a family/small business. The employee is family and the owners are handing her the same amount of money every week regardless of what her time card says or whether she even did any work.

    1. N.J.*

      The family memeber isn’t identified as a salaried worker or as a part owner or any of the scenarios that would be reasonable in this situation regarding working on a lunch break. It is illegal in the U.S. for hourly workers not to be paid for every last minute they are working. There is no exception made for family businesses. You are basically saying that it is neither illegal nor unethical for a family member to be taken advantage of.

      1. MK*

        That’s hardly what Stella said. Consider that the usual complaint about family members working at a family bussiness is that they get preferential treatment, even if they are not part-owners or anything. Yes, it’s possible that they are taking advantage of a family member’s loyalty to the bussiness, but it’s also possible that this family member is getting perks that non-family employees don’t get and that they wouldn’t get if they weren’t family, so they feel more committed to the bussiness. If so, it’s hardly exploitative, though it could still be illegal, of course.

        1. N.J.*

          By positing it the way she did Stella is indicating that it’s normal and ethical. She’s saying that the family member is going to get paid the same whether she works two hours or eighty and that this is fine. It’s not, it’s illegal. As well, if the owners have structured the family member as an hourly worker then they are putting that relationship in the traditional structure of hourly work-pay for every hour and minute. It is exploitative to set a family member up as an hourly worker and for that person to then work off the clock. I would argue it’s more exploitative in that case with it being a family member, as the owner is then taking advantage of the family relationship and familial good will. It is unethical and nothing in Stella’s comment indicated a particular disapproval of this. At best she indicated a @thats the way the world works” approach. Nothing wrong with being pragmatic about the fact that family businesses can follow dysfunctional patterns but it does no one good to assume this situation is fine just because they are family. If they want to have the family member receive the same amount of money no matter how much or little she works, that is called a salaried exempt job.

          1. MK*

            You missed my point about the different position a family member can occupy in a family bussiness. You say it is exploitative to set a family member up as an hourly worker and for that person to then work off the clock. I don’t think it is, if that person is paid a higher hourly rate because they are family? Or if their PTO is double what other employees get? Or if they know they will get the next promotion no matter what? Or if they basically unfirable, no matter what they do? Or even if they were hired despite not being qualified? Dysfunctional and possibly illegal yes, but hardly exploitative.

          2. Marisol*

            She didn’t say it was fine. She said: “this is just one of the things that’s going to happen.” That’s not an endorsement of the situation at all.

      2. Loose Seal*

        I think if the business is a family farm, family members don’t have to be paid. (Although I may be woefully incorrect about that nowadays. I just remember when I was younger some school friends weren’t allowed to get after-school jobs because they were needed in the family orchard and they weren’t paid much — like pennies on the bushel.)

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, there are a ton of agricultural exceptions to the FLSA, and one of them is family members aren’t subject to the minimum wage laws.

          1. the gold digger*

            If my grandparents had had to pay my mom and her six siblings for the work they did on the farm, there would have been no money for anything else. At least working on a dairy farm is easy. :)

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Even aside from agricultural businesses, if any business employs only family members, they’re not subject to the FLSA. However, once they start employing non-family-members, they are. (I looked it up yesterday to check when I was answering this letter.)

      3. Stellaaaaa*

        Not what I was saying at all dude. All I meant was that it’s something you get used to seeing at this type of business and there’s no point on stepping on this particular toe. OP has no idea what perks this employee is getting or how much she is making both on and off the books. I think a lot of us would contribute 30 minutes of free daily labor toward the family business if we were bringing home decent paychecks and stood to have an ownership stake down the line.

        1. N.J.*

          An ownership stake would certainly be a motivator but that would, again, be the family owner using a family member for gain. Hourly work is hourly work, whether a carrot is dangled down the line or not. Decent wages are one thing, incorrect wages are another.

          1. Stellaaaaa*

            I don’t disagree with you on the facts. I’ve just worked for enough lousy small/family businesses (in the state of NJ, no less) that this doesn’t ping on my radar as being egregious or something that would be expected of non-relatives. This employee probably doesn’t have to go through official channels to request time off, and she has a vested interest in making sure the work gets done.

            I’m suggesting that OP let this go because I can’t think of a solution that wouldn’t put her on the wrong side of the entire family. It’s reason #2828282828 why small businesses suck, and I learned a long time ago that it’s a losing gamble to involve yourself in the “family” component of a family businesses. Get your 2 years, leave with a good reference, and wash your hands of the whole mess.

        2. Epsilon Delta*

          I can definitely see myself or some of my family members doing this if we had a business. Maybe not 30 minutes every day, but staying late (off the clock) here and there or doing some work while on break. I understand that it’s illegal, but at the same time as a family member you tend to be more invested in the family business and want it to do well, even if you are not an owner. I just can’t see a real ethical problem with that.

          On the other hand if the family member doesn’t want to work off the clock but feels like she has to, yeah, that is both an ethical and legal problem. But even if that’s the case, I don’t think OP is in a position to do anything about it unless she’s willing to report her employer.

          1. Stellaaaaa*

            Yeah, we’re not talking about a family-owned restaurant sticking the one teenage child with all the table service and then taking all her tips (which I’ve actually seen). OP is describing an hourly employee whose status at the company allows her to act like she’s exempt. What do you even say about that? “Hey, Amy’s mom? Did you know that Amy is working over her lunch break?” The response could easily be, “She’s my daughter. I give her an extra $100 a week.” It’s an instance where they’re not following the letter of the law but they may still be accounting for the spirit behind the regulation.

  7. Tuesday*

    #5: I definitely would use first names if I knew the people and already address them that way. But Alison’s answer is interesting. I open cover letters with “Dear Ms/Mr Lastname” if I have the name, or “Dear Hiring Manager” if not. The explanation in the linked post about addressing hiring managers by their first name on first contact totally makes sense, although I’ll admit it still makes me a little uncomfortable. I live in the south and I’m not from here originally, so I have this assumption that may or may not be true that culturally people are more inclined to address each other formally at first as a sign of respect around here. But I don’t know.

    And if I think about this too long, it starts to bother me that I have to start letters to strangers with “Dear Person,” when they clearly aren’t dear to me. Language is funny.

    1. Murphy*

      I’ve heard hiring managers complain about getting email applications to “Hi Fergus” when they’ve never met the person as being overly casual, so I always stick to Mr./Ms./Dr. Smith at first contact.

      Of course, I do often end up contacting PhDs who can sometimes be more sensitive to titles.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          To not veer this wildly OT, I would say to consider yourself lucky in that. ;) I have seen this fight in other comment sections.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah working for years in academia and now at a nonprofit where I have to contact medical doctors frequently, I default to “Dr. X” for pretty much everyone the first time or two. I would say 90 % of the people I’ve emailed really don’t care if you say Dr. or use their first name, but those 10% who do *really* get upset about it — it’s just safer to err on the side of caution.

    2. Michele*

      I would rather err on the side of formality. I don’t think you can go wrong by showing respect. However, if it is someone that I know, I will address them by first name from the start.

      1. SophieChotek*

        Trying not to get off topic here but I agree.
        They can alway say “call me Jane” sort of thing.

        (I have trouble calling my profs by their first name though, and I have my PhD too now.)

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yep, I’m that way, too, though in this case, the OP already knows and has worked with them. If I got a a letter from a former intern addressed “Dear Ms. (Not in Houston),” I would think it was weird.

    3. Working Mom*

      OP, I just want to say that I completely relate to being new to the workforce and the struggle of getting used to first names versus Mr & Mrs. As a sophomore in college I got an internship at an office that a neighbor worked at (he is how I got the internship). Let’s call him John Smith. When I started working, I referred to him as Mr. Smith at the office, and he would laugh and say, “here I’m just John.” It was so hard for me to stop calling him Mr. Smith – as I grew up down the street from his family, it was so engrained. I finally managed to call him “Mr John” almost as a joke and it kind of stuck. Its hard to start doing that, but you’ll get used to it eventually, I promise!

      1. Michele*

        My undergraduate advisor/mentor expected to be called Dr. Smith by his students, but as soon as we walked across the stage at graduation, he would shake our hand and say, “Call me John.” It was his way of signifying that you were now a peer.

        1. TootsNYC*

          That’s kind of cool!

          My daughter was really uncomfortable at first bcs the principal of her high school (which had a college component) (a Ph.D.) had them all call her Valerie. And other teachers, professors almost, were also first names.

      2. TootsNYC*

        Try having your dad for a high school teacher! It was a huge thing to my classmates: “Are you going to call him Dad? Or Mr. NYC!”

        Then there was the close family friend (Don) who was a teacher (Mr. Jackson?).

    4. Jesmlet*

      My thesis adviser in college who I had previously taken several courses with went from Prof. SoandSo to just Andrea. Super weird for me, especially still sitting in her class. I don’t think I was fully able to transition from calling people by their last names to their first until I got my first full-time job, and even then with people I had known when I was younger it’s still strange.

      Of course when I get cover letters or emails from applicants addressed like Ms. LastName or have people call me ma’am on the phone, I get this involuntary shudder because as a 20something, I still feel way to young to have people consider me an authority figure/someone they need to address formally.

      1. hayling*

        My friends and I were close with one of our high school teachers, and saw her a few times after graduation. She insisted we call her by her first name, and it was so hard!

  8. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. If it was a job advert on a company website, then sometimes these can be designed specifically to confuse the applicant. I once spent a good 20 minutes going through the “Contact” page, trying to find the details of the HR department. Naively, I had assumed that when the final sentence of the job advert said “If this position is of interest, then apply now!” that there would be a link to facilitate this.

    Nevertheless, in these circumstances, it does sound pushy to send to a personal address.

    5. I would start with more formal, then move onto less as time goes on. For example “Dear Ms. Smith, then Dear Jane”. Mind you, sometimes there are names where it isn’t clear if it should be Mr or Ms. I am not so keen on “Dear Jane Smith” as it sounds a bit clunky.

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      In all honesty, if I saw a job ad that didn’t clearly state how I should submit my application, I’d take it as a hint that the company was haphazardly run and I would likely decide not to bother applying. However, if I still wanted to apply I would call the main office number during working hours and ask how to proceed.

    2. Recruit-o-Rama*

      While I agree that many applications or job ads are confusing, I doubt that any of them (or many of them) are specifically designed that way.

      On the flip side, many, many, many applicants go out of their way to find ways around the application process because they think it makes them stand out. In fact it DOES make them stand out, just not in a good way.

    3. Repatriated*

      I would start formula anyway. We can’t assume that this communication will be seen only by the recipient. Unless I married or related to the individual and that is known, I would always use the formal address and any correspondence.

      How would this look at the email or letter were handed off to somebody higher up the chain didn’t know about the personal relationship?

      1. Jesmlet*

        If I knew someone who was applying through me to a job and they addressed it Dear Hiring Manager, I would assume they copied and pasted their template cover letter and I’d be a little disappointed in them. Unless by formula you mean addressing with their last name…

        1. Kelly L.*

          Huh, I’ve always heard Dear Hiring Manager is fine, because in most cases, you don’t know who that will be. I wouldn’t use it if I actually knew the person in real life, but if I was just writing to an ad without a name, absolutely.

          1. Jesmlet*

            Right, that was my point, I think we’re saying the same thing, I probably could’ve worded it a little better. If it’s a person I know, they shouldn’t be addressing me as Hiring Manager. OP’s question was about sending a cover letter to two people they knew personally so that’s what I’m talking about.

    4. Bonky*

      “If it was a job advert on a company website, then sometimes these can be designed specifically to confuse the applicant.”

      If a company is doing that, they are a) not very good at hiring and b) not somewhere you want to be working.

  9. nutella fitzgerald*

    Oh, #2, I’m sorry. My boyfriend and I just broke up and I occasionally think it would be satisfying to call his clients and tell them he sucks at being a human. But then I realize I would just seem like a crazy person and his clients would never think any less of him because of it.

    Did your boss let you know about the call? If so, she probably didn’t give it a second thought and was just trying to give you a heads up about an ex being ridiculous.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        I don’t begrudge anyone for having whatever random thought that pops into her head concerning a difficult, painful breakup. She didn’t act on it and she knows it would be ridiculous to follow through. Not every person who has the thought of “I want other people to hate him as much as I do” is disturbed. Come on now.

      2. sunny-dee*

        I think there’s a difference between serious contemplation and fantasy. Like, I seriously think about what to get at the grocery store or what project I need to follow up on, but I may fantasize about throwing a drink in someone’s face and making a big dramatic exit.

        The problem is (like with the poor OP) when someone crosses that line from something that should be a brief, guilty daydream and then ACTUALLY DOES IT. Which is messed up.

      3. Anon for this*

        People can think what they want. Actually doing it would be the problem, which is what nutella was saying.

      4. anonderella*

        I disagree. When I say things about the health of [someone I don’t like]’s tires going downhill in the near future (pun intended!), I am absolutely blowing off steam. Some people react to stress with humor. I realize that some people have been around people in their lives who really act on the awful things they say, and don’t leave it at fleeting fantasy, so they have reason to react cautiously to rash statements. But I don’t think you should make that judgement on someone you don’t know, especially when she had the presence of mind while making the statement to chastise herself for knowing the act’s inherent wrongness.

      5. animaniactoo*

        I think all kinds of disturbing crazy-ass stuff. I don’t follow through with almost any of it (and what I do follow through with isn’t harmful, you’re gonna have to trust me on that one).

        Thinking it is a) not rational and I know it, b) helps me process the feelings and move past it. Precisely because I know that giving in to those kinds of thoughts makes me into somebody I don’t want to be. So I won’t. Until I develop dementia and don’t have the control to rationalize myself out of it and by that time I’ll probably have forgotten the plan before I can carry it out.

      6. Tempest*

        I say to my husband that I’d like to punch (random so in so) in the throat when I’m really hacked off with someone. The difference is? I’ve never hit another human being in my life and have no intention to starting. I’m not disturbed! I’m an annoyed human who would like a physical outlet for those frustrations but knows that hitting others is wrong no matter what, so I don’t act on it. Telling my husband in private is a safe outlet. He knows I’m just saying it.

        I write fiction for a hobby and trust me, the things I think about to put my characters through has nothing on a fantasy of ringing up someone’s boss and telling them all the ways he sucks at being a human being. But fiction is fantasy and so are your day dreams.

        This person day dreaming about doing it whilst knowing it wouldn’t be a good idea or reasonable to do is not disturbed. If it helps her cope/rationalize/gives her a little boost to play it out in her head, she is hurting absolutely no one. Fantasies in the context of being fantasy are very healthy.

      7. paul*

        Eh, people think weird stuff when emotionally stressed. There’s a huge difference between thinking and doing (as I tell myself every time I *think* about yelling at someone).

          1. Amarzing*

            Sometimes I play “mind-reading chicken” which is, I’m stuck in the car, or somewhere, with someone, usually someone I don’t know particularly well, and then, LET’S SAY this person can read minds, what’s the absolute WORST thing I could think in this situation. Then you are sifting through all these terrible and terribly awkward things in your mind, and if it turns out they read minds, you are really in a bad situation.

        1. Lissa*

          Haha, cosign! Though I envy the poster who said that, they must have a very well-controlled and gentle inner life compared to myself and most people I’ve talked to!

      8. Bonky*

        I disagree. You’d be horrified if you could see what I’m fantasising about doing to certain politicians at the moment. This is not reflected in my actual, real-life demeanour at all.

        1. Anna*

          If there were such things as thought crimes, today especially I would be in prison for a really bad thing.

  10. Huh*

    Whenever I have applied for jobs I address my cover letter to Mr/Ms Smith. When they reply to my email/call me and refer to themselves as John/Jane I then use their first name.

    I guess my reasoning is that nobody will find it offensive if I start off with Mr/Ms; whereas there might be the occasional person who prefers to be addressed formally. I do feel a little awkward using Mr/Ms though. I wonder if I should just use first names only on my future cover letters?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nah, it’s fine to keep doing what you’re doing. Loads of people do it that way and no one’s going to have an issue with it. (It really only becomes weird when the hiring manager is addressing you by your first name and you’re still responding with Mr./Ms.)

      1. Parenthetically*

        This happens with the parents of my students a lot — they’ll address me as Mrs. Parenthetically, I’ll sign my name Shuvaun, and they’ll keep referring to me as Mrs. Parenthetically. It comes off as really stilted and cold, IMO.

        1. MoinMoin*

          I wouldn’t think of it as cold in that instance. Your students presumably refer to you as Mrs Parenthetically often enough that I’m sure their parents just think of it more as your name than specifically a formal title. I agree a moment of thought should correct them to your thinking, though.

          1. SophieChotek*

            (Trying not get off topic here, apologies if I am) —
            They could also not want to confuse their child(ren) but calling you [First name], instead of Mrs. Parenthetically, if they are doing it when the kids are there. If it is just the two/three of you, I agree with MoinMoin it’s probably just a habit from hearing their kids talk about you or asking their kids “What did you learn in Mrs. Parenthetically’s class today?” sort of thing.

          2. Kj*

            Agreed. I work in schools with kids and I have to code-switch between the teachers first name and their Mr./Ms/Mrs name and it is hard for me (now, granted, I work with like, 40 kids with 20 different teachers across 10 schools). It is HARD and sometimes I call the teacher by their formal name because the code switching makes my life harder than it needs to be.

        2. Project Manager*

          Interesting – I tend to address my kids’ teachers by Mx. Lastname because to me, it seems incredibly rude and presumptuous to address them by first name. It feels like I’m assuming we have a much closer relationship than we actually do. (But then, I am the sort of person who is extremely suspicious of anything remotely “touchy-feely”, so…)

    2. Al Lo*

      I worked with a client a while ago who continually addressed both my boss and me as “Mrs,” even after many emails. Now that was tone deaf. We both happen to be married. I (mid-30s) happen to have changed my name; she (mid-70s) happens to have not. We both found it very off-putting that a) he didn’t use “Ms.” from the beginning, and b) he continued to address us both that way after several months, when we were both being much less formal in our emails to him. Just don’t be that guy, and you’re good.

  11. Jen RO*

    #1 – As a manager, I would be weirded out if a candidate emailed my personal address. It’s not a matter of not knowing how Google works, but I would be worried that s/he would cross other boundaries too.

    As an aside, the most annoying thing that’s happened to me with email was a recruiter reverse-engineering my work address… after I had ignored her three times on LinkedIn. Ok, I get that you can’t find people, but seriously, emailing me at work, on an address not listed on my LinkedIn page?!

    1. seejay*

      Stuff like that gets them a perma-ban from me. If my information isn’t listed and you go digging it up to get ahold of me or you contact me at work? That’s serious boundary crossing in my books and you get your number blocked, email reported as spam, and a swift kick in the ass with a frozen muckluck.

      1. 42*

        Very timely comment. I just yesterday got a recruiter call *on my office phone*. That number is neither public information, publicly listed on any platform, or used for anything other than my rare interoffice communication. I was reeeealy put off (she left a voicemail, I didn’t pick up). So I have no idea at all how she even got that number. And I’m not even looking for a new position, which makes it even more scuzzy.

        1. seejay*

          My partner had a situation where a recruiter used a program to figure out the extension numbers of people in his department and robocall everyone there, except the problem was, they were all increments of one and all on the same floor. Everyone’s phone went off almost all at once, all for the same recruiter. And it was an internal phone number, bypassing the switchboard. They were *PISSED*.

          Doing stuff like that gets your recruiting company banned by a lot of people.

        2. SusanIvanova*

          Possibly called the front desk and asked to be put through. Or, if the company is big enough, they’ll have a block of numbers and recruiters have been known to cold-call everything in that range.

    2. Ashley*

      I disagree here. OP said they got the email from their personal website. We don’t know the specifics of this. This might be a personal professional website that the recruiter put together to display their resume and contact info. Often these sites do not include updated contact info. There whole purpose is to be able to contact the individual. Not to mention if the recruiter didn’t want that info to be used why would he/she make it freely available online? It’s like getting mad that somebody sends you a friend request on facebook, nobody is forcing you to be there. So I actually think OP was reasonable here and that the recruiter is having an overly strong reaction. It’s fine for the recruiter to say that they prefer their work email. My personal email is listed on my business card along with my work email for clients. It’s necessary because my work email is a clunky version of outlook and my personal gmail is more convenient since I have it sent right to my phone. Yes, I realize in this case I give them the info, but having it on a business card is no different than having it on a website.

      1. Colette*

        It could also be a website where she talks about her love for kangaroos, or a site for a volunteer role she has, or any number of other things. Just because information is available in the world doesn’t mean it’s ok to use it for your convenience.

          1. Repatriated*

            In the US it does. In many other countries it would not. Personal would be personal. A lot of Americans are making the mistake of assuming that our norms on this ate universal. They are not.

            The recipient of the email obviously thought it was wrong. That’s are only guide here.

            1. Rat in the Sugar*

              You keep telling people not to assume that US norms are universal, but this is not in line with US norms. Different people here have different opinions on it, but there’s no dividing line between US and non-US happening. Alison is American and her advice (that what OP did was not okay) is assumed to follow American norms.

            2. Anna*

              You keep saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

              Absolutely nobody has argued that it was at all okay for the OP to contact the person at their personal email address. This has nothing to do with US vs Non-US cultures. It’s just a Thing That Is Not Done.

          2. fposte*

            Well, it sort of matters. The OP made a mistake to try to circumvent the hiring process regardless of what the website was, even if it had been the hiring manager’s individual website on the company site. It was just a more invasive mistake if it was kangaroos.

      2. Chocolate lover*

        Jen said recruiter but OP said hiring manager. That’s not necessarily the same role as a recruiter, and they might not be the usual first point of contact. Given how surprised the hiring manager was, I suspect he doesn’t use his personal website as a recruiting or work tool.

      3. hbc*

        “It’s like getting mad that somebody sends you a friend request on facebook, nobody is forcing you to be there.” Yes, it’s exactly like that. In that if someone I don’t know sends me a friend request on facebook in order to try to sell me stuff or to get a job with me, I’m not going to think highly of that person. Or if someone finds me on the company website and emails me at work to ask me out. I shouldn’t have to use a completely different name in my personal and professional life to avoid crossover.

        Now, I would never tell people that they will 100% never have to deal with boundary crossers, but that doesn’t mean we should encourage a free-for-all and pretend those boundaries don’t exist.

        1. blackcat*

          “Or if someone finds me on the company website and emails me at work to ask me out.” Speaking from experience, that is the worst.

          I do think the work-personal email divide is a bit field dependent and age depended. My dad (a lawyer!) has no personal email and just uses his work email for everything. I’m in academia (grad student currently), and a lot of people in temporary positions (post-docs, soft money researchers, grad students) use a gmail account. The reasoning is that you don’t want people to email into a black hole when they try to reach you after you’ve moved institutions.

          I have mixed feelings about it. If I had thought more carefully about it, I would have created a separate “personal” email account for work stuff. That would have been a bit tricky for me since I snagged CommonfirstnameCommonlastname at gmail way back in early 2003, and any variant on my name has now been taken. So it seemed like too much effort at the time.

          But I’m also in a research subfield where everyone is friends on facebook, and that’s about a million times worse than everyone using my personal email to reach me. I have a heavily restricted “Professional Contacts” list, and there are often great work-related discussions that happen there. But… I still find it icky to feel like I *have* to be facebook friends with people in my field for professional networking reasons.

          Anyways, I can very, very easily see someone coming from certain pockets of academia not having any clue that other people expect their personal online lives to the separate from their work online lives. I think my subfield is an outlier in how few boundaries there are, but I know of at least a few other subfields that are similar.

          1. Michele*

            It seems to me that all job seekers should use a personal email account. In addition to what you said about having an account that can follow you, using a work account to look for a job is very risky. I have a gmail account that is exclusively for professional use, but when we are hiring at work, I expect candidates to contact me through my work email or HR.

      4. Recruit-o-Rama*

        Applicants frequently search out my work email, which is relatively easy to find to email me about job openings. If they are inquiring IF we have open positions that are not on our career site or if they have very specific questions about a posted position that are not clear based on the ad, I happily respond to their question and move on. If they are inquiring about a position that is on a career site with the intention of applying outside the clearly advertised process or to “check on their application” I am slightly annoyed and let them know what the process is. If they CONTINUALLY follow up despite my clarification of the process it try to argue about why they should not have been rejected, I am REALLY annoyed and let them know that they are damaging their chances of being considered by trying to go around the process which has been explained to them.

        My personal email is also relatively easy to find online and if an applicant used THAT obviously personal email; I would be pissed and I would block them from my personal email and from our ATS. Personal/professional boundaries should not be breached.

      5. Observer*

        Having it on YOUR BUSINESS CARD THAT YOU HAND TO THEM is totally different from having it on a PERSONAL web site. The site wasn’t linked to the job posting – the OP googled it.

  12. Dale Gribble*

    #1 – I really can’t see any way to play devil’s advocate here. If the OP didn’t follow the contact instructions listed on the ad, then the response they got is on them.

    If the ad didn’t list where to send it (which wasn’t mentioned in the letter, so it probably was specific) then that’s something. But in this case, the OP didn’t follow a simple direction and was disqualified from candidacy this time for reasonable cause.

    1. always in email jail*

      Even if the ad didn’t list it, the candidate should look up the company’s contact info, not the Hiring Manager’s personal info, and contact the company for information on how to proceed.

  13. Delta Delta*

    #1 – It seems like OP1 made a mistake. We don’t know enough about the personal website to know if it could have been confusing. Here I read “personal” as “obviously not the employer” but it could have still been very professional-looking and focused on work. I’m guessing the thought process went like this: oh, here’s a great job I’m going to apply for > excitement > googling hiring manager name > find email address > send to that address. Sloppy, but I’m not sure I’d yell at the person.

    Also, sometimes it’s hard to know if an email address is a personal one or one used for work. Plenty of people use gmail for small businesses or will set up Gmail (or other free address) as a dedicated account or a burner account when hiring for specific positions because it’s easy. Not saying OP didn’t make an error, just saying maybe it’s not as easy to know. We only know that s/he learned it was the personal email after the fact because of the tongue-lashing. Maybe OP didn’t know it was a personal email at the time of sending.

    1. fposte*

      Though it’s a mistake no matter how personal the email was or if the OP didn’t know it was personal; she still knew it wasn’t the requested application method.

    2. Bonky*

      From what the OP said, I’m not sure that the manager did yell at her. It sounds more like she was expecting a warm response, and didn’t get it. (If all she can put a finger on in what was wrong with his side of the conversation was “a vibe”, I think that tells us a lot.)

    3. LBK*

      oh, here’s a great job I’m going to apply for > excitement > googling hiring manager name

      The process shouldn’t even have gotten to this step. Follow the directions on the application. Don’t try to be cute and submit your material another way; if you don’t have a legitimate in with the hiring manager (like a mutual coworker who can introduce the two of you) it’s never going to reflect well on you to try to circumvent the process.

  14. MuseumChick*

    #1 This is to close to “gumption” territory for me. It sounds like the OP did not follow the directs for applying to the position. Rather, she did some very basic internet sleuthing and found a personal email address. I think the response she got was certainly over the top but that doesn’t make what she did right.

  15. Zip Silver*

    #4 – so many people work of the clock of their own volition. As a manager, it’s obnoxious. I’ve explained why they shouldn’t do it legally, and why it’s annoying for me to take 15-20 minutes out of my day to fix it, log the correction, and have the employee sign off on the correction. I’ve taken to keeping the production floor locked until start time, to prevent the “oh I was just setting my station up for the day, this doesn’t count as work” thing. Thankfully, I’ve pretty much stamped out the work off the clock culture that had developed under the previous manager.

    1. Liane*

      This is why many companies have policies for disciplining/firing employees who work off the clock. I don’t know if it’s effective, either at preventing the action, or as a defense against allegations.
      I am sure there are some employees who do this on their own–to look valuable or something?–or because, as in your case their work judgment has been skewed by a Bad Boss.

  16. Callalily*

    #4: It could entirely be a voluntary thing – I’ve known coworkers to do this before and the managers only request is that they punch in/out during their ‘break’ so it is on the books. Often this was because of the legal implications of not just the employee claiming they weren’t allowed to take breaks but also in case there was a workplace injury, they wouldn’t be fined for the employee getting injured because no breaks were taken.

    The boss always paid them for their extra time – the payroll clerk needed the employee to report to them at the end of the week and list which days they worked through their break, and then the payroll clerk then extended their punch time.

    1. Liane*

      That doesn’t sound US legal, although IANAL & haven’t watched law shows in years, since they are trying to get around employment law/regulations, like required breaks and workers’ comp liability.

      1. Natalie*

        It would depend on the state as there’s no federal law requiring breaks. Some states allow the employee to waive their break, although I believe you’re supposed to put something in writing in many of them. Others don’t, and it being voluntary wouldn’t protect the employer.

        I doubt there would be any kind of workers comp issue. That’s just not really how the program works.

    2. fposte*

      This sounds like a direct attempt to evade state laws about breaks. If so, they’re asking for big trouble by doing this.

      Since it sounds like they’re getting paid for this work time, the feds won’t care, but it should be pretty easy to catch them since they’re trying to have it both ways–claiming the employee didn’t work that time for the state and claiming they did for the feds.

      1. Retail HR Guy*

        It sounds like the payroll clerk is artificially extending their work day, though. So if they work 8 to 5 and skip their lunch, the clerk just adjusts it to show 8 to 12 plus 1 to 6. If that’s the case then it would seem like it was above board to both the feds and the state unless someone digs a little deeper.

        1. fposte*

          I probably overstated; I know there’s been some recent erosion to the protection of lunch breaks (even California seems to be moving toward a “provide” rather than “ensure” obligation on the part of the employer). But AFAIK my state still considers it mandatory and fines employers who are noncompliant, so I wouldn’t do this unless I had a signed waiver on file and an attorney’s opinion.

          1. Candi*

            In my state, paid 15 minute break every two hours and unpaid 30 minute if you work more than 5 hours is the law. (Hourly wage.) Even the most toxic dysfunctional places I worked at honored it, because the state does NOT take violations lightly.

            This arrangement would not fly here unless the employee was immediately allowed to make up the break time as soon as the job was done -and it would still get the hairy eyeball if it happened too often.

  17. Imaginary Number*

    In regards to contacting the hiring manager directly:

    I got the job I have now by contacting an internal recruiter through LinkedIn (the recruiter was the one who posted about the job in question.) From that conversation, it turned out I had exactly the background they were looking for and I got a phone interview within a week because of it. He definitely seemed happy to hear from me. I have to wonder if I would have made it that far if I hadn’t bothered reaching out and just submitted my application at the link.

    1. always in email jail*

      A recruiter and a hiring manager are different, though. And the fact the recruiter posted about the job on a social site gives you “permission” to contact them about it. That’s an entirely different scenario than circumventing a normal hiring process to contact a hiring manager for a position (whose full time duties are generally not aimed at recruiting) and interrupting their day.

      1. Liane*

        Also LinkedIn is *intended* for professional and employment use; Facebook, Instagram, and the like aren’t.
        So, even if it was the hiring manager vs the recruiter that Imaginary Number* contacted it was at most a very minor slip. It wouldn’t be the same magnitude as looking up HM’s personal email or FB and should be dealt with by politely referring Imaginary to Uhura the recruiter.

        Granted I feel the person OP1 contacted needs to be more professional too. “To apply or followup you need to subspace your materials to Eng.Scott @ Starfleet dot org. In case the ad wasn’t clear, Vulcan citizenship is required.”

        *love the username. i is my favorite number

    2. Recruit-o-Rama*

      What you did is not the same thing. Candidates also contact me via LinkedIn or work email about posted positions at my company. I respond with “thank you for your interest. Yes, that position is still available. In order to be considered, please submit your application at the link below. If we are interested in having you in for an interview, we will contact you by phone or email to schedule. If not, we will notify you by email. Thanks again!”

      Using a PERSONAL email is entirely out of bounds and totally different.

    3. J*

      LI is also a social network expressly intended for professional contact. If you had reached out to the recruiter on Facebook, then it might be closer to what happened here.

  18. Repatriated*

    WRT OP 1, I have lived in several countries where any form of personal contact, no matter how readily available the contact information, would be deemed a very serious breach of social norms. In one of the countries in which I have resided, I lived right next-door to another employee on my team. It would’ve been severe breach of etiquette to pop over and talk to them about anything work related. There was a cultural understanding that work was work in private was private and only rude foreigners mixed the two.

    One of the mistakes we often make on this site, is assuming American or Western cultural values.

    We don’t know the country with the job was posted or the nationality of the hiring manager. Both of those things matter to the appropriateness of the action and the appropriateness of the response.

    1. Morning Glory*

      I would be really interested in seeing a response from you to all of the Americans pointing out that this is not normal by American standards, either. What has led you to believe it is?

      And the example you give of popping over to your coworker’s house to discuss work would also be very, very not normal in the U.S.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        I also would like Repatriated to explain why s/he is convinced this is an American standard and it repeating it so often.

        I would hope s/he isn’t taking what is seen on American TV and movies as what actually is acceptable in real life situations. That is the only place I can ever remember seeing something like dropping by at home to discuss work.

    2. Jessie the First (or second)*

      It’s actually kind of gotten to the point where it’s odd, your insistence that we Americans are ignoring that there is a cultural norm in other countries to have a work/personal divide, because people keep saying “no, I’m American, ignoring that divide isn’t a norm here” and you keep posting that it is. It’s not!

      We do sometimes have cultural norm issues at play. Not here. We all, even us Americans, get that using a manager’s personal email to apply for a job is not appropriate.

      1. Natalie*

        For whatever it’s worth, all of their comments were made within a fairly short time. I’m not sure they’ve seen the many responses disagreeing.

    3. animaniactoo*

      #1) This is a website that is hosted and published in America. Therefore, it is by no means a mistake to default to such cultural norms, and when the norms collide there are plenty of multi-national commenters who will update with the information.

      #2) The cultural misunderstanding in this case seems to be yours as every single instance of difference that you have described today around personal contact for work matters would be considered inappropriate and rude here in the U.S. as well. There is no conflict here. The only conflict is in your perception of what American cultural norms are in this case, and please pay attention here – your perceptions is clearly wrong and being called out by several people (including me) as wrong.

  19. MaddieB*

    If the family member coworker is a grown adult, I’d worry about my own time card instead of others. Personally I’d be annoyed that a coworker is watching me to this extent.

    1. Candi*

      To me, it would depend on which definition of grown adult applies and any issues they have.

      Someone who has trouble sticking up for themselves for not-my-business reasons -I’d offer to back them up.

      Someone like a former boss’ sister -she can take care of herself quite nicely. (Boss was a good boss.) :p

      Someone like that friend of my dad’s who died in a car wreck last year -I’d be researching the best way to get him a professional advocate. The guy was mentally about twelve and incredibly loyal with huge blind spots to those who he considered his friends. My dad was one of several church members who looked after him so he wouldn’t be victimized.

      (Not my dad’s car; a couple was driving the friend to a doctor appointment. All three died.) :(

  20. not really a lurker anymore*

    For the working off the clock letter – is the person really working or using their computer for personal stuff. I’ve worked in places where it was fine if we use the computers for school work or personal stuff on our breaks and lunches. We just had to put up a sign so people wouldn’t bother us with work stuff.

    1. always in email jail*

      ^this is an excellent point I didn’t think of. Maybe they’re sitting back down and reading ask a manager ;)

    2. Kelly L.*

      Yeah, her “kinda working” statement seemed equally likely to mean “I feel sheepish that I’m surfing the internet for fun at work.” I always feel guilty about it too, even when I’m on official lunch!

  21. Grey*

    Well, yeah, I guess I’m kinda working, sorta…

    That’s the kind of answer I’d give if somebody asked me if I was working on my lunch break. I punch out only because I’m required to, but I don’t leave my desk. If the phone rings, or somebody has a question, I’m not going to ignore it just because I’m off the clock. Sometimes I’ll read my email or a financial report while eat at my desk. Am I still working? Kinda, sorta.

    I don’t punch out for my smokes breaks or when I want to take a 2 minute walk to the party store for a pop. Regardless of when it happens, I’m still getting my half hour of off-time and I don’t need my coworkers help with managing that.

    1. zora*

      Ok, but if you are working during time you are not being paid for, you are breaking the law. And your employer could get in serious legal trouble for that, regardless of whether you are doing it voluntarily or not. If you decide to do it anyway, that’s up to you, but it’s good to acknowledge the truth of the situation, it is illegal.

      1. Grey*

        I’m unpaid for 30 minutes a day. I do no work for a total of 30 minutes a day. Nothing illegal is happening here.

        1. Candi*

          That’s not how the law sees it.

          If you are punched/signed/logged/etc in, that’s working time.

          If you are punched/etc out, that’s not working time.

          Bad bosses and employers are why no fudging is allowed.

  22. LQ*

    I’m stunned that so many people think that employees of companies who happen to be hiring managers don’t deserve the right to have a personal life separate from work. I hope my boss has a life that doesn’t involve work and goes home and doesn’t spend all his time thinking about his staff. I hope he has a personal life. If he has a personal life then he is much more likely to respect mine. Starting off from a place of erasing the personal and professional boundaries isn’t a good place to start on either side of the hiring negotiation.

    1. animaniactoo*

      I think that most people who are responding are not saying “he should expect to deal with work stuff through his personal e-mail when he finds it” but rather “it’s pretty much a given that somebody will make this kind of mistake when the information is publicly findable and the reaction is over the top for it happening”. So “expect” is not “and expect to reply and handle it as a business matter” but “expect that people do dumb/mistaken things” and not go overboard in the reply.

      Personally I don’t think it was really all that overboard as OP was a two-time chump on this one having first bypassed the official process and then used a personal e-mail to do it with on top of that. Note that it was the very *strength* of that reaction that drove them here to say “Was this really wrong or are they overboard?”

    2. Anna*

      Most people are saying it was a bad idea for the OP to contact the person through their personal email account they found on a website, but that the hiring manager’s response may have been a little too strong. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

  23. Dankar*

    Oh, I actually have a (kind of) relevant story for OP#1! I used to proctor student exams, and had a work email set up just for that purpose. I would occasionally get emails to a separate university account–one I didn’t use for that job–that students had sleuthed out somehow. It was only 3 or 4 a semester, so I always asked them, kindly, to resend the test request to the proper email.

    I had one student, though, who not only found my personal email, but my mother’s as well. He was frustrated because I didn’t offer testing during the summer, and had set up my away message to reflect this, so he was looking for some other way to contact me. To this day, I have no earthly idea how he did it, as neither of us have our personal emails listed online. And since we both share a name as common as Smith and live on different sides of the country, it freaked me the hell out.

    My point being, I guess, that I think he overreacted a bit in his response, but it can be incredibly jarring to think that someone is actively looking for information on you when you have no idea who that person contacting you is. I always made it a point to educate students on email etiquette as they were (not much) younger than I was, and lacked the real-world experience that I had (a bit of) at that time.

    1. fposte*

      Oy, and good plan on the education. Sometimes it’s most effective coming from somebody who’s close to your stage anyway, rather than somebody so removed you wonder if what they say is still true.

  24. Buffy Summers*

    #5 I feel your pain. I’m 43 years old and I still feel like I’m a child surrounded by adults sometimes. I have to tell myself, “Buffy, you are a grown ass adult. You’re on equal footing. Don’t feel weird and awkward!” I just wish I knew how to shake that feeling!

    When I’m emailing people I don’t know in a business capacity I always start off with Mr./Ms. and it seems that inevitably they come back with “Hi, Buffy.” And then I revert to first names as well. I think Alison’s advice is really good though. You’re a grown up now! :)

  25. Alton*

    I feel like there are a few contextual details that could make #1 more or less reasonable. Was the manager’s website professionally-focused or was it truly personal? Did the application include instructions and contact info? Was there a reason why it was necessary to try another mode of contact?

    I think it’s best to be very, very cautious about deviating from instructions or contact info in the application, and if there are any issues, I think it can be better to reach out to the company if possible.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      She answers the last question:
      “I’ve been advised by many experts to contact hiring managers directly if you want your application seen.”

      She mistakenly thought this was the way to put her above other candidates.

  26. ZVA*

    Honestly, I feel for OP#1… I can totally see myself making a mistake like this simply because I didn’t know any better & being mortified when I found out. I’ve been in the workforce for 3 1/2 years since graduating from college & I still feel like I’m learning some workplace norms.

    It does sound like the hiring manager was a bit brusque, but I can see how OP’s email might have felt intrusive; maybe he’d never been contacted that way by an applicant before or didn’t realize his email was so readily available or didn’t expect applicants to Google it? I can see that being the case if he’s older and OP is younger; that kind of quick Google search when I’m dealing w/ someone new is almost instinctual for me at this point, but I know w/ someone older it might not be.

    Anyway, I feel like some people are being a bit hard on the OP; I’d just chalk it up to a good learning experience and follow Alison’s advice from now on. I might even apologize to the hiring manager for the intrusion & explain how I got his email, as I think it would make me feel better, but YMMV…

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      I think the OP is getting criticism not just for making the mistake, but for then blaming the HM for his response, rather than taking it as the lesson that she was wrong.

      1. ZVA*

        Well, in fairness to the OP, I’m not sure she is blaming him; she did end her letter “Am I wrong, or was his reaction rude?”—so she seems open to hearing that she was wrong.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          Yes, the OP was open enough to write Alison about it. Hopefully she did so because she really wanted to know, and didn’t just expect Alison to tell her she was right.

          The “vibe” was more than slightly “I did everything right, how dare he?” but maybe I (and others) are reading more into it, as I suspect the OP is reading her own vibe to what the HM said to her.

    2. fposte*

      This is one where I feel for both sides :-). The OP was wrong, but I could have easily been her once.

      OP, a tip: most published job advice is crap; you basically fell for “Tame your stubborn job search with his one weird trick!” Unfortunately, being able to tell what is and what isn’t crap usually comes from already knowing what you’re trying to learn.

      So you made a mistake, and I don’t think it was a terrible one, but I also don’t think it was a terrible response. You tried to cut across somebody’s lawn to get around waiting in a line, and they said, “Hey, what are you doing? Don’t do that.” You’ll know better in future, and they’re not going to stick pins in a doll of you or anything. Take it as a lesson learned and spread it to your fellow job-searchers so they don’t fall for the “show enterprise by hunting people privately” myth.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        Agreed! As I was reading the OP’s letter I kept having flashbacks to my university career center, where their top piece of advice was to find the hiring manager and contact her directly. And they would give examples, like this one (except the candidate ended up getting hired), to prove the rightness of this strategy. When I started applying to jobs through their job postings, they would constantly email me to remind me that I would have better success if I found the hiring manager and sent my application materials directly (which begs the question of why they even hosted a job board that accepted applications, but that’s another matter…)

        I went there for grad school after being out in the work world for several years, and in a position where I had been hiring and managing employees, so I promptly disregarded this advice for my own post-grad job search. But I can see how someone with less experience would take it to heart and end up doing what the OP did.

    3. JB (not in Houston)*

      I don’t think his reaction was because she googled him. It’s what she did with the information.

  27. Anon for this*

    Okay, I have a question that’s semi-related to OP#1’s (Alison, hope this is OK). Once or twice, when I’ve wanted to reach out to someone for work & their email address isn’t listed on their company’s website, I’ve basically “deduced” it based on the format I know their company uses, if I know what that format is (firstnamelastname@companynamedotcom or whatever). Is this bad form? It’s a fairly easy step to take, but I’m wondering if that extra effort is inappropriate or could come off that way… Any input would be appreciated!

    1. Kelly L.*

      I’m not sure if it’s bad form, but I think it has the potential to backfire, because you don’t know if there are multiple people there with the same name (so there’s a persephonemulberry at whatever and a persephonebmulberry at whatever) or if it truncates after a certain number of letters (so if you saw johnsmith at whatever, you might not realize Persephone is persmulbe at whatever and be sending it to nowhere). I would just use whatever is actually given, even if it’s a generic address for the whole department, etc.

      1. Anon for this*

        Yeah, that’s fair—I’ve had good luck with this the couple of times I tried it, but I can definitely see the potential for issues! I’ll probably steer clear in future just to be safe.

      2. Natalie*

        I don’t know, I wouldn’t worry too much about that unless you’re sending crazy confidential things (which you shouldn’t be sending blind anyway). People get misdirected emails all the time, and it’s really unlikely they’re going to fly of the handle. Hell, I used to get confidential HR stuff because I had the same last name as our primary HR contact. You just forward and move on.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I’m not worried about people flying off the handle, just about it going to someone who forgets to forward it, or it going to no one at all.

          1. Natalie*

            Ah, I see – I guess I was thrown by “backfire”. The chance that it won’t get to your destination is always a risk with a blind email, regardless of whether or not there are two J Doe’s at the organization, so it seemed like it would go without saying.

        2. fposte*

          Yeah, I agree; this is something where there’s not much impact from an error. (Just make sure you clear the wrong address out of your address book or autocomplete will keep you perpetuating that error every time you try to email that person in future.)

        3. Michele*

          If I got a misdirected email from someone looking for a job, I would just ignore it. I wouldn’t forward it because I would assume that the person either wasn’t following instructions or wasn’t paying attention to details, both of which make someone an undesirable employee.
          The company that I work for does firstnamelastname@company.com, so in general email addresses are easy to figure out. However, if two people have the same name, the middle initial will be inserted. Also, some people go by their middle names for everything except that email address, so that would be easy to mess up.
          I have had people send their resumes directly to my work email and it doesn’t bother me. However, a couple people have eliminated themselves because of inappropriate or poorly written emails. For example, one was written as if it were a text between friends. It started with “Hey, Michele” and went downhill from there. The email should be professional. It should be treated like a cover letter, even if a cover letter is attached.

          1. Natalie*

            Oh, absolutely I agree no one should be blindly guessing at email address when sending a job application. The subthread seems to be talking about less fraught communications, though.

    2. Isben Takes Tea*

      I think the context matters. If it’s for work, and you are approaching them in their normal job capacity AND your company already has a relationship with their company, it’s okay. It’s the out-of-the-blue emails, especially for favors, that are weird.

    3. Anon for this*

      I think the extra effort might come off as odd, but the more likely problem is just getting the wrong address like Kelly L. said.

  28. Allison*

    OP #1, I don’t think the hiring manager was mad at you for applying to a job that wasn’t available to you. If the job ad had said the company wasn’t providing relo or visa assistance and you applied, that would be one thing, but in the absence of it, it’s fair to think you might be considered, but maybe find a way to check before putting a lot of work into the application. The truth is that a LOT of jobs are only available to people who already reside and are authorized to work in the area where the job is located, but from an HR standpoint it’s tough to clarify that on a job description without sounding discriminatory.

    That said, it’s unprofessional to send an application to a hiring manager’s personal e-mail. Their work e-mail may be okay, it may be okay to connect with them on LinkedIn (that’s how I just got a job, to be honest), but ideally you should follow the instructions on the application even if it seems like it might not be the best way to grab someone’s attention. Going around the process isn’t a bold, maverick move that shows gumption, it often shows them you fancy yourself too special to follow instructions.

  29. The Pretty One*

    Re: sending an email to the personal address- I have to say I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. As a hiring manager, I have a shortage of qualified applicants. If one found my personal email address and contacted me, I would just re-direct to my work email. Not really that big of a deal. Someone who gets that bent out of shape over a simple error doesn’t sound like a great manager. And someone who assumes their contact information is “private” when posted on a public website sounds pretty naive about privacy in this age.

    1. Recruit-o-Rama*

      It’s not that it’s “private” it is that it is “personal”. Hiring managers have a right to a personal life outside of work and it is also reasonable to expect people to apply via the instructions in the ad rather than trying to go around the process.

  30. OP#1*

    Well, I’ve learned something today.

    First off, I didn’t strictly circumvent procedure–the first thing I did, which I always do, is send my application to the email listed in the ad. However, my procedure up until now has to been to also track down the hiring manager and alert him/her to my candidacy. His website wasn’t a strictly “personal” site–he prominently mentioned his job title and included a portfolio of his work that he had done for this company, which is why it didn’t really strike me as odd to reach out using the email he listed there.

    Someone mentioned that I sound young. While I’m not exactly a pup, this is the first major job search I’ve ever conducted. I’ve spent several years working as a freelancer (and working briefly abroad at a dream job that didn’t work out due to visa issues–which I got by contacting the hiring manager directly, by the way, albeit for an informational interview).

    As a freelancer, when pitching potential clients, it’s considered a given that you’ll reach out to them personally if you want to get their attention (and by that I mean using a work email like janesmith@teapotmagazine.com rather than a generic one like pitches@teapotmagazine.com or editor@teapotmagazine.com). I’ve never had any issues with this, so it partially explains why I was taken aback by the manager’s snippy response. After all, if someone doesn’t like a pitch, it’s usually just ignored, so why didn’t he just ignore it if he had a problem with my email?

    Also, I’m definitely NOT in the habit of describing my cover letters as “knockouts.” Usually they’re average at best and based off standard boilerplate. This one was different, because I wrote it from scratch specifically tailoring it to what I perceived as the sort of laid-back, irreverent company culture I thought I would encounter. I couldn’t have been more wrong, obviously.

    As I said, I learned something today. The advice I heard to contact managers directly for a posted job can actually end up doing more harm than good. I wonder how much other bad advice I’ve been following.

    1. Observer*

      Probably a lot – as Allison said, there is a huge amount of really, really bad advice floating around.

      I would say that sometime reaching out directly to the hiring manager is ok, but there are a couple of caveats that you need to clear before you go forward with that. If you can’t then don’t do it.

      1. Do NOT use personal contact information, even if it is linked to their work. I don’t mean personal work vs generic work, but personal as in not from the job in question.

      2. If the company doesn’t want to you contact the hiring manager, DON’T – unless the hiring manager has already to you specifically to ignore that. If the hiring manager’s contact information is not on the ad, or really, really easily available on the *company’s* web site (not the personal / personally professional web site), assume that the company doesn’t want you to contact the hiring manager.

      I think you might get a better and more useful perspective on what is most likely to work by reading the archives of this site, including the comments. Some of the comments are harsh, but a lot of them will help you to see how hiring managers see this stuff, and WHY. Also, try to talk to / read what real, successful hiring managers say and do. And, if something sounds really off, it probably is.

    2. LBK*

      However, my procedure up until now has to been to also track down the hiring manager and alert him/her to my candidacy.

      Yeeeeeeah, don’t do this. The reactions will generally range from neutral (doesn’t get you anything extra) to so annoyed that they’ll immediately chuck your resume in the trash. You don’t need to do anything special to make them aware that you’ve applied – they’re already aware by nature of receiving your application. It sounds like maybe you have a combination of bad job advice and experience as a freelancer that’s not transferrable to job searching. Job hunting is much less about trying to get your foot in the door and sell yourself, despite what clickbait job advice sites will tell you.

      I’d stick to following the process as outlined by the employer and focus on making yourself shine within that process. If you’re a strong candidate, your resume and interview will speak for themselves; you don’t have to try to be clever to make yourself stand out in another way. I want to hire the best candidate, not the one who puts the most effort to impress me by other means.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        Seconded. It’s really frustrating when people try to duck the process. I’m empowered to hire directly, through referrals and personal references, and I’ve hired people I know or were introduced to me organically. But if you’re submitting an application, I really, really, really don’t want you “alerting me to your candidacy.” It comes off presumptuous, and like you’re trying to manipulate me, not form a professional relationship with me.

        As an aside, this is the kind of professional advice my dad and grandpa love to give. “I just walked down there and shook his hand, and once he had a job opening, he hired me right away!” Maybe that worked in 1960. It doesn’t anymore.

            1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

              Flip answer aside, I got my current job because an old friend of my parents happened to run into the president of my firm at Wal-Mart, and mentioned me. Worked out awesome for me, but that’s not how it usually works either.

          1. fposte*

            Even setting aside the possibility of cultural differences since it was a different country, I don’t think it was the same way. From the sound of it, you contacted somebody through their official professional contact to ask about an informational interview; that’s a perfectly kosher approach, and sometimes it does turn into something else. You didn’t try to short-cut an existing process (or at least appear to be doing that) the way you did this time; I’m still not clear on whether the email you used for the hiring manager was his work email or a separate one, but if it wasn’t his work email, that’s another big difference.

            And I think you’re getting overly stuck on his sounding annoyed when he’s annoyed, when the more salient fact here is you legit annoyed the hiring manager, which would have hurt you whether you knew you’d done it or not. (And if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t have had this chance to write in here and find out how all those job advice venues are misleading you.) Could he have written in a way that disguised his annoyance better? Sure. But was he rude to be curt with a queue-jumper who hit him up personally? I don’t think so. So I’d do my best to shrug that off at this point–which you seem to be doing pretty well anyway–and just focus on that cultural transition from freelance to employee.

          2. AD*

            That may be true in that one instance, but this would annoy 99% of hiring managers. It’s not good practice, and it will more likely hurt your candidacy than help it.
            If someone I don’t know or has not been referred to me tracks down my email to “alert” me that they’ve applied, I truthfully would take them out of the running right then and there.

    3. Mananana*

      Seems as though the HM has done you a favor. Rather than ignore/delete, he let you know that this wasn’t the way things are done. Now, you *may* have blown it with him, but he also may have saved you from making the same mistake again.

      Best of luck in your job search. And as far as other bad advice you may have gotten, I suggest studying up on AAM’s advice. She’s not going to steer you wrong.

    4. MuseumChick*

      Yeah, there is a ton of bad job advice out there. It can be so hard to know what to trust and what not to trust. Plus, you were coming from an line of work where reaching out directly was expected so this was a real blind spot for you (we all have them). I remember when I was in college the Career Center told students to keep their coverletters as short as possible. It wasn’t until I found AAM that I learned a 1 page coverletter is the norm.

      I think the hiring manager here reacted more strongly then was needed so your are probably better off not working for me and as you’ve stated you’ve learned something from this whole experience.

    5. Slightly catty hack*

      I might be misreading something here but it seems like the main problem is that you’ve misinterpreted the hiring manager’s private email address as a business one. I don’t mind people reaching out to me personally but there’s a HUGE difference between emailing me at cattyhack@teapotsmonthly.com and cattyhack@gmail.com, the latter being reserved for personal communications and only my most closely held contacts. Admittedly, I’m not hugely shocked when people find my personal email address because it’s not like it’s hard to find. My response, if it’s not scoop of the year territory, is either to a) bin it if I’m busy or b) to say “In the future, please email me on my teapots monthly address” (I might be thinking in the back of my mind “How much of a special little snowflake do you think you are to dig out my personal email to send me the same pitch I see 100s of every day?!?” but I’d at least give you the benefit of the doubt that, at best, you mistook this as a work email or, at worst, you were following some ill-placed advice).

      Having also had hiring responsibilities in a previous role, I can tell you that it’s just like that, jacked up to 11. Hiring tends to follow a more rigid process than pitching so it’s usually spelt out in job applications for a reason and you need a very good reason for trying to go around it.

      Your hiring manager sounds like he’s being more dramatic than maybe he should be if you’ve made an honest mistake but I can understand how he’s genuinely taken aback by what you’ve done. I don’t know how others would feel about this but, if I were you, I would send a quick email to say, “Apologies for contacting you on your personal email. I thought it was a work email as I saw it on http://www.hiringiswhatIdo.com and did not realise you weren’t using it in connection with filing the Teapot Maker position at Company X.” That way, you’re not passing judgement by saying, “Hey, jerk, do you not realise how the interwebs works?” but you are giving him some heads up on how the confusion occurred and how you found his email address to begin with.

    6. zora*

      Alison has some great articles that are literally ‘Bad job searching advice you should not follow.” They are all really good and I have learned a lot!

      Here’s one link: https://www.askamanager.org /2015/08/8-things-that-will-make-you-look-like-a-weirdo-to-hiring-managers.html
      But I’d also recommend browsing through the “job searching” tag: https://www.askamanager.org/ category/job-searching/
      (remove spaces from links)

      But you sound like an awesome person, since you are able to ask for help, listen to and take advice! Good luck finding a fantastic new job!

      1. OP#1*

        Thanks, zora, that really does mean a lot. I know I probably come across as an ass on this thread, but I promise I’m not. I’ve just had a year full of crushing career disappointments and am kind of grasping at straws. However, discovering this blog has been my saving grace and I’ve slowly been making my way through all the advice. Thanks to Alison and all.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          You didn’t come across like an ass! Not all of this stuff is intuitive, and it did make a bit more sense in the context of your freelancing experience. Everyone has to learn this stuff at some point; no one is born knowing it.

  31. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

    As far as the website goes, it’s rather common, especially in technical professions, for people to maintain their own websites. I have one with my published research, CV, blog, and contact information on it. However, there’s a subtle wall between your professional identity (Dr. NMBOIS, Teapotologist) and your job identity (Dr. NMBOIS, Teapot Scientist and Consultant at Oolong, Inc.). Even though that email and site is professional, that manager uses that site to represent his own professional and career interests to his peers and colleagues across the field/industry. When you’re hiring for a position, you’re representing your company and its interests, not your professional interests, and so it’s still crossing a boundary to approach him for a job in a way only appropriate for his colleagues and peers. And my guess is, he was taken aback by the lack of awareness of professional norms.

    Am I explaining that clearly enough?

    1. OP#1*

      That makes perfect sense to me, thanks. I feel sometimes, that having been a freelancer, the boundaries blur between business and personal, and I’m sure that’s at play here with my mistake (and I acknowledge that it was a mistake). My personal website/blog IS my professional website, and vice versa. Same with my email. I guess there are some freelancers who maintain two completely different sites, but in this era of “personal branding,” that feels unnecessary to me. However, I do acknowledge that it is different when someone’s an employee representing a company.

      1. fposte*

        With what you’re saying about the freelance background, I totally get how you wouldn’t feel the cultural missteps here.

  32. OP #4*

    OP 4 here.

    Thank you for answering! To clear up a couple of things; no, I’m not really scrutinizing my co-worker that much; it’s a small company and very, very obvious when someone is working vs. when they’re not; we’re a production-type facility, so if people are working, they’re on the floor, using machinery; on breaks, everyone leaves the building or goes into the break room. It’s not an office-type setting where someone might be taking a break in their cubicle and that could be misconstrued as working through lunch.

    Since writing to Alison, an opportunity arose (I didn’t think it would, but it did) for me to ask my manager about this casually. My manager’s response to “Wait, is Jen working in there? I thought she was out to lunch” was a rather vague “Jen does what she needs to do. She wants my job some day!”

    So, that could mean that off-the-clock labor is happening and my manager just doesn’t care, or that Jen gets compensated with additional pay for any extra she works, or that she’s salaried and I just don’t know it, or any number of things. I don’t think I’ve seen said co-worker obviously working off the clock since (but I’m not stalking them every minute of the day to find out!)

    My concern that prompted this letter had less to do with the co-worker, who is a grown-up and can choose to push back against unfair or illegal practices without my involvement, and more to do with whether I had any kind of obligation to report something like this, and who to, if so.

    Perhaps this is neither my circus nor my monkeys. Thanks for the advice, Alison!

    1. Marisol*

      Eeesh, definitely not your circus/not your monkeys. If I were you I’d stay out of it!! Very conscientious of you to write to Alison for advice and thanks for the clarification.

  33. Marisol*

    Eeesh, definitely not your circus/not your monkeys. If I were you I’d stay out of it!! Very conscientious of you to write to Alison for advice and thanks for the clarification.

  34. Anxa*


    I have started using first names more. Before my boss got his doctorate I avoided addressing him because everyone else called him Mr. Last name which was just kind of weird to me. Dr. Last name is a lot more comfortable to me.

    That said, I would feel a little weird using first names, still. But I think it’s really encouraging to hear it’s becoming more common, because even if someone has a very gendered name, I feel so presumptuous using Mr. or Ms. until I’ve seen them use it first. So when you know them as First Last, I sometimes feel like First is too informal. Mr. or Ms. Last is a bit presumptuous. And First Last feels kind of stilted.

  35. Not A Morning Person*

    For No. 1, using the manager’s personal email is a perfect example of “Just because it can be done, does not make it appropriate to do.” Just let it go and chalk it up to a learning experience for job hunting.
    If someone contacted you in a way that was surprising and inappropriate, you might also respond quickly with a similar response that is direct and pointed to let that person know that they had crossed a line. It’s not the worst thing ever, but again, not appropriate. Now you know better and can do better next time.

  36. Not A Morning Person*

    For OP #2, that has to be very uncomfortable and frustrating; I am sorry for your situation! Alison’s advice is spot on. The fact that your “ex” brought up several complaints ought to work in your favor. When someone piles up the complaints in that way they sound crazier than if they only offered one or two complaints. You are not responsible for your ex’s behavior, but the impulse and the advice to apologize are fine. As Alison says, let your manager know you are splitting up and that you’ll try to keep it out of the office. Tell your manager to block that number and ask if there is a way to have that number blocked from getting through on your work numbers, too. You didn’t say that your ex might try to do more vindictive things than phone calls, but phone call can do damage. Take care of yourself and do what you need to be safe.

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