recruiter is trash-talking the company I just took a job with, overly rigid interview schedules, and more

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

1. Employer will only offer me one interview time — and I’m not available then

I have just been invited to a phone interview for a job I really want. However, in the job application details it asked me to specify any dates I was unavailable for interview. Next Wednesday I have a very important all-day meeting in my current job. There are only going to be five people at the meeting including myself, so it isn’t something I can excuse myself from without anyone noticing. Following this, I have to travel to a different location to attend another 1.5 hour meeting in the evening. It really isn’t a good day – so obviously I put I was unavailable on this day.

Now the interview I have been invited to is right in the middle of this day (2 p.m.) and despite a couple of (polite) emails back and forth they are saying they can’t do any other day. Not only that, but they can’t do an 8.30 a.m. interview (or a 9:15 a.m. or a 10 a.m.) because these slots are already taken, and they can’t do later in the evening because the recruiting manager has child care commitments. So what they are saying is that they can only do the middle of the day, on one specific day. The day I can’t do. And they are saying that because I can’t do that day, I can’t have an interview so I will have to wait and see if they manage to get a decent shortlist from the people they are interviewing, and if not they might be in touch (very unlikely).

I am so frustrated and I feel like there must be something I can do!

It doesn’t sound like there is, unfortunately. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for employers being this rigid on scheduling (like the interviewer will be coming in from out of town and is only there for a limited time) … but it’s also true that if an employer is really interested in you, they’ll try to find a way to make it work, or will at least be really apologetic if they can’t be more flexible. The fact that they’re not sounding terribly concerned might be a sign that they don’t consider you one of their top candidates. (Although if you work in a field that’s notorious for overly rigid interview scheduling — like sometimes in education — it might just be a reflection of that.)

I would say this to them: “I’m really interested in this job and could make any other day and time work, but I have commitments for my current job that I can’t get out of during this time slot. I can make myself available any other day though — is there any other possible day and time that would work on your end?” If the answer is no, I’d write it off as not meant to be, but it’s worth a shot.

2. Recruiter is trash-talking the company I just accepted a job with

I just accepted a new position with a new company, and we were in negotiations with for a week. After I accepted the position and gave my notice with my current employer, the recruiter emailed me. It read something like this:

“I am no longer with Company X. I was brought on to do them a favor. I agreed to assist them with their recruiting needs. I have learned a lot of nasty things about Company X over the past couple of days. I have witnessed some of the hiring manager call you horrible names when they were negotiating your salary. I just wanted to reach out because I do not approve of name calling. I have also learned that Company X is under fire for mistreatment of other previous employees.”

The excitement I felt over my negotiations was crushed. I completely understand things can get heated during negotiations, as this is what I do for a living, and they did at the end of it all offer me pretty close to what I was asking for. This particular recruiter is young, works from home, and lives in another state so basically works remotely.

I am not a delicate flower by any means and can handle heated situations, but this email does present a few red flags. What if anything can you advise me to do in this situation? Do I just chalk it up as a difference in opinion and move forward with the position? Discuss my concerns with new employer? Rescind my acceptance of the offer and look for something else?

Did you do your due diligence on this employer before accepting the offer, and do you have reason to think they’re professional and reasonable people and that they treat their employees well? If so, I wouldn’t let the word of an apparently disgruntled recruiter rattle you too much. If you didn’t, I’d start discreetly digging to see if there’s anything to that “under fire for mistreatment of other previous employees” allegation [which could mean anything from the innocuous (“their low performers are annoyed about being held accountable”) to the very serious (“they will demand pieces of your liver”)].

You should also factor in that her email to you is pretty unprofessional, and that lowers her credibility here. If she had serious moral qualms about sending you into a bad situation, she should call you and talk to you about specifics — not send a vague email trashing the company that doesn’t give you anything concrete to go on.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Did I inadvertently give the impression that I can’t deal with uncertainty?

I’ve been at my current job just about six months, and my role is a bit of an “everything but the kitchen sink” lowest lady on the totem pole type job — currently it’s about half data management and analysis, and the rest is project management, community outreach, admin/receptionist, etc. I had a check-in meeting with my boss’s boss today where she asked if I’d be interested an opportunity to work part-time with another department on a data management project, and twice mentioned, with very similar wording each time, that she’d noticed I was great at efficiently completing specific tasks when given clear instructions.

While I’m pleased that she thought of me for this opportunity, and I do enjoy data management, I wonder if I’ve inadvertently pigeonholed myself as someone who can’t improvise or deal with uncertainty or think strategically. I’ve worked on a couple team projects recently that had a lot of uncertainty, and I did mention to the team lead that I found that stressful and would, in an ideal world, like to have specific goals and timelines to work from. But I also know we don’t live in that ideal world all the time, and that the higher you go on the totem pole, the more uncertainty you have to be prepared to deal with. And I do want to move higher up in the organization eventually. Should I take this conversation as a sign that I need to work more on proving my ability to be flexible and innovative? Or should I just enjoy staying in my comfort zone? How much of a problem is it to be seen as needing specific task instructions?

It can indeed be a problem if you want to move up into positions with more responsibility (and money!) — since as you note, those usually come with an increasing need to deal with ambiguity and/or figure things out for yourself.

It’s possible that your boss’s boss did indeed mean that she thinks you’re only good at projects that come with clear direction — although that would be a pretty big leap just because you mentioned to someone that in an ideal world you’d like clear goals and timelines (who wouldn’t?). It’s also possible that she just used weird wording … although the fact that she said it twice might be significant. Either way, I’d talk with your own boss directly. Explain that you got the impression that her boss thinks you might only work well with clear instruction, and if she thinks there’s anything to your interpretation. Presumably if your boss’s boss was saying that, that information probably came to her through your manager, so your manager is probably going to have some insight here … and if there’s a mistaken impression to correct, you can correct it.

4. Asking a recommender not to write you a letter after all

I’m in the middle of grad school apps, and I have one professor who I’m unsure about with regard to letters of recommendation. I did very well in his class and he seemed to like me (he raved about my final paper, for example!), but his responses have been…less enthusiastic.

He did agree to do it, but had some concerns about not knowing my work very well outside of his class and not knowing what to emphasize in the letter. He did say he was sick, which might help to explain the short emails, but I’m not super confident that he’ll write a glowing letter, if he writes one at all. So I do have a back-up professor who I’m planning on asking. (I think she would write a great letter, but the class I took with her is less relevant for the program that I’m applying to, which is why I didn’t ask her originally.)

Depending on the second professor’s response, I would like to go back to the first professor and ask him not to write me a letter after all. However, I don’t want him to feel offended or like I don’t trust him to recommend me. I don’t know what the most tactful way to approach this would be!

You can be pretty straightforward about it! For example: “I thought about your concern that you don’t feel you know my work very well outside of your class, and so I’m going to ask a professor who knows me better to write the letter. I really appreciate you being candid with me about that concern and giving me the chance to find someone who hopefully will be able to talk about my work with more specificity!”

5. What’s up with these job scams?

I have been job hunting for a few months now, and I am getting a lot of “scam” job offers or interviews. Ever since the first one, I could tell something was off about them. I am looking for an executive administrative assistant position, so I will get offers regarding office work or being an office assistant. Almost all of them will tell me to join with Google Hangout to have an interview. I am also told how much a week I would get paid and then it would double in a few weeks, but only have to work 18 hours a week. Another one I get is the person is out of town but needs x number of things for me to do, and to drive in my personal car and then when they return we can discuss other work. A few of them are asking what bank I would like my paycheck deposited to.

I never answer them because they scream “scam” to me. I guess I just don’t understand what they are after. I get one or two a week that I do ignore, but I want to know if there is another way to handle the situation. I’m sure they delete their emails as quickly as they create them, and that the companies are fake or, worse, using real companies and lying about their information. I have never heard of anyone requiring you to create an account to chat on Google Hangout before. I assume this is happening to other people, but I am getting it a lot. And now the texts have started coming through. I received a legitimate job interview email and I had to convince myself that it was real. I am starting to doubt every email that comes through. I’m just not sure what to do about it. Have you heard of anything like this?

Yep — it’s super common. In the letter you forwarded me, they included this line: “My financial adviser will issue you a certified company check to execute the task with, and complete the assignment.” That’s the scam — that check will turn out to be fraudulent after you’ve already deposited it and spent the money. And they’re asking you to use Google Hangout because it keeps them anonymous while they talk to you.

If you google “job interview scams,” you’ll find a ton about this.

{ 267 comments… read them below }

  1. neverjaunty*

    OP #1’s situation is very strange. They asked what days she was unavailable, she gave them one day out of the whole week she wasn’t, and then they announce that is the only possible day they can do the interview? I really have to wonder if they aren’t following some cockamamie hiring advice, along the lines of ‘here’s how to test to see if your applicants have flexibility and are willing to do what it takes to get the job’.

    1. Username has gone missing*

      Oh dear goodness. I can’t decide if this is better or worse than them just being wildly inflexible.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nah, it’s more likely that they just ended up with a more inflexible schedule than they originally expected to, or that there was disorganization somewhere in the process (like that the question is part of their standard interview invitation form letter and someone sent it without realizing that they didn’t mean to ask it this time, or something like that). I mean, it’s possible that it was deliberate, but it’s so much more likely that it’s just a mess-up.

      (Or alternately, that other candidates took the time slots the OP wanted, and that they’re not prioritizing her candidacy enough to make it work in an easy way for her.)

      1. Kyrielle*

        Or they needed to schedule it on a single day (any single day) for some reason, and picked the one that was a problem for the fewest candidates.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Yeah you’ll note that I talked about my unemployment experience of 25+ years ago – not that long, but I did have a “deranged loyalty test” from one employer.

        He stood me up on one interview – (I was going through a headhunter, who eventually lost patience with the employer for stunts like this) and then again.

        By the time we got to interviewing – it was cordial but weird – he kept asking me technical question after technical question and eventually stumped me on one (keep in mind “a fool can ask more questions than a wise man can answer” – Lao-Tsu).

        Still I was his #1 candidate. This was in October. He asked if I could wait until the first of the year, that’s when he was going to make the offer. I said – if you extend the offer now, I could possibly accept with a January start date.

        “No, no no ! What I want you do to is stop looking for other employment. If I do decide on you, I will call you the first week in January. But **I** am going to continue interviewing candidates, but I want you to put your job search on hold.”

        I gave an honest answer = “I have a family, I have responsibilities, and several potential employment irons in the fire, which, I don’t know how they’ll work out. But you can call me in January, check in with me.”

        Wow. Fast forward to January. I had been working at another gig (hired around two-three weeks after the above interview debacle) and my phone at my office rings. “I’ve got good news for you = YOU’RE THE ONE.” (Duh…. I knew that) “How soon can you move down here?”

        I told him I have a job now. Good luck and good-bye.

        1. Ayla K*

          What the actual….I almost can’t believe he asked you to do that. I say ‘almost’ because I wish this was a bigger surprise, but with some of the wackadoo stories I’ve heard through this site, I don’t know if anything really surprises me anymore. Good for you for telling him off and being honest.

    3. Jeanne*

      If it is a test of some sort, that’s worse than being inflexible. OP is doing the right thing. Don’t screw up your current job for a small chance at a new job.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Something similar has happened to me on 2 occasions. For one, they managed to arrange an early morning interview on a day when I had something else on and then kept going on about how they had accommodated me. However, during the interview, things didn’t seem quite right* and the interviewer became patronising. After she said that she didn’t think I had the right profile, I politely thanked her for her (rescheduled) time and walked out.

        The other situation was a second round and I had said I was unavailable, they offered an alternative, and then said that they had found a candidate, so there would be no second interview.

        * The offices were extremely hot and stuffy, giving me a headache, and the interview was in an office, rather than a meeting room, so I was trying to stay calm and balance my papers on my lap. I know Alison has discussed on here before about interviewing in an office being quite normal, but my experience has been that all parties are seated around the same table.

        1. k*

          Uhg, I hate when they agree to an interview time and then make a big deal about how they had to accommodate you. I had an interview like that once; I asked for a later in the afternoon slot so I could leave my current job early and not miss a huge chuck of the day. The person I talked to on the phone offered up 4:30 as an option and I agreed, seemed like no big deal. When I showed up the person I interviewed with (not the phone person) kept acting like he was going out of his way to see me, said he would have showed me around the office but everyone had left for the day, etc. The funny part was I could have been there earlier, but this was literally the only time the person on the phone suggested.

    4. Susan*

      The other weird thing about this is that it’s a *phone* interview, so reasons like the interviewer only being in town for a limited time don’t fly. It’s hard to believe the interviewer can’t find any other time that week to do a phone interview. It also wouldn’t take much effort for them to call one of the candidates with a morning slot and ask if they can change to the afternoon.

      I think it’s unlikely that this is a test (although you never know; there are some weird hiring managers out there). It’s more likely that this is the kind of company and/or manager that doesn’t value candidates’ time. They think they’re doing you a favor by interviewing you, and they don’t look at is as a two-way street where they need to convince you to work there just as much as you need to convince them to hire you. They’re not willing to make even the smallest accommodation — changing the day of a phone interview — for your convenience, and they’re willing to lose a (presumably) strong candidate over that. I think this all says something about how they view their hiring process, and possibly how they treat employees in general.

      1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

        Well you know good luck to them. They are narrowing their choice of candidates to people who are either available for the slot by freakish luck or by way of having no current responsibilities.

        Beyond being rude, it’s stupid. Bad process!

      2. Nea*

        +1 on “how they treat employees.” I once had someone offer me a job in a different state that somehow HAD to start two weeks before I would complete my schooling. The moment I said I needed those two weeks and would not throw away the schoolwork I’d done so far (the schoolwork they knew I was doing when I’d interviewed) they went from excited to have me to near abusive in how I obviously didn’t understand what a great opportunity this was and how asking for flexibility was insulting.

        I was so relieved to see the red flags before I uprooted my life!

        1. MashaKasha*

          IME, they probably had some thankless, but critical, job that someone else had just walked out on, that they needed to throw a new person on as soon as possible. Any time my future employer was inflexible with my start date, that was what it came down to. You certainly dodged a bullet.

      3. Colette*

        It’s quite possible this is correct, but it’s also possible that there is more going on that we can’t see. There’s a group at work, for example, that has someone out every day in January except one. Since vacations are often planned before hiring, it’s possible that they have good reasons for restricting interviews to one day.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          If that were the case, wouldn’t their initial contact have consisted of “this is the day we’re doing interviews” instead of asking which days the LW was available?

          1. Ama*

            Back when I was serving as admin for hiring processes in academia, there were plenty of times when I would be told “okay get these candidates signed up for interviews this particular week,” send out the email and start collecting responses, only to be told “oh, Bob said he was going to be here Thursday but he forgot his flight to the conference is early that morning” or “Jill just remembered she has a grant deadline on Friday and is going to be too busy to do interviews” or sometimes even (it was kind of a crappy job) “did I say all week? I meant only Tuesday and Thursday before noon”.

            The other possibility is basically the reverse situation — the recruiter thinks they have to stick to a rigid schedule and hasn’t explained to the hiring manager(s) that that day is impossible for the OP.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              But, again, wouldn’t you have explained that to your interviewees, if the rules suddenly changed? Why stubbornly stick to “nope, sorry, Wednesday or nothing” instead of saying “I’m sorry, I know we asked about your availability, but things have happened on our end and now Wednesday is the only day we can possibly do it?”

                1. Observer*

                  Which is also a red flag. I mean, it doesn’t take much to explain what’s going on. So, if that doesn’t happen, you have to wonder what other important information gets left un-communicated.

          1. Colette*

            More accurately, they don’t have free slots when the op could make herself available. She needs an early slot, but it’s possible the people booked in them do as well.

        2. Jessesgirl72*

          This is only a phone interview, though. They don’t normally take a long time or preparation on the employers end.

        3. neverjaunty*

          But then why ask what days the OP is unavailable, and then come back with “sorry, it’s that day or no day”?

          I agree with other folks who have pointed out it could easily be disorganization, but that’s not a great feature in an employer either.

      4. always in email jail*

        I second that it is a red flag. My previous job was like this (“Well if they can’t come when we want them to they’re not worthy of working here!”) and we were not really in a position to be that way, especially considering for several jobs we paid at least $20K below the market rate (yay government!). Looking back, it was a reflection of leadership’s “you’re all privileged to work here and are lucky we give you jobs” attitude. If someone was even a minute late, they were out.

        I showed up to the interview for my current job 2 minutes after the start time MORTIFIED (i left an hour early but ended up on a back road behind a wreck with no way to turn around). I provided a calm explanation along the lines of “I called your assistand and left a message, I truly apologize that I’m showing up at the last minute like this. This is very out of character. I allowed myself an extra hour and that clearly wasn’t enough time for the wreck I got caught behind!” Their response? “No problem! Things happen, we all know how traffic in this area is! Come on back!” It was definitely a sign of a more flexible, understanding organization that gets that people are human.

        Sometimes it IS that someone on the interview panel is truly only available one day, but in my hiring experience if I really want a candidate I bother to explain that that’s why it has to be on that day, so that they understand why we’re being so rigid.

        tl;dr an organization’s attitude regarding interview scheduling can be indicative of their culture.

        1. Mazzieful*

          I was 45 minutes late to an interview went because of the Bay Area traffic. However, the employer was located in the middle of nowhere with one way in and out. They knew and understood this and proceeded to interview me anyway. I got tired and it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.

          The commute was killer, but the team was great

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Gah, I was a few minutes early to my last interview but then couldn’t find the right door (there is more than one building). I got a call when I was finding out where to go and ignored it; later it turned out that it was them calling, but they didn’t leave a message because I showed up then. They said they understood because it was a bit confusing (there is no intercom or label on that door), but I apologized a lot because I felt like an idiot.

      5. Anon 2*

        I agree. And when I encounter situations like this, I walk. I think it surprises those employers that I won’t rearrange my schedule and put my current employment at risk. But, I always figure that I’m doing future candidates a favor. That perhaps if enough people decline the interview because of overly rigid scheduling that eventually the employer will get the message.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          I’ve heard my husband remind prospective employers that he won’t blow off his current work for an interview or agree to give a shortened notice time because he’s sure they will appreciate his conscientiousness when he’s working for them.

          I don’t know if it eventually sinks in to the ones who insist on it or not, but it’s a sure sign that he doesn’t want to work for them.

      6. neverjaunty*

        Agree completely except for one point – this is DEFINITELY a red flag for how they treat employees in general. If this is how they act when they’re trying to persuade you to work for them, how will they act once you’re there?

      7. Sas*

        Yes to this. It seems more that some companies that have people doing these initial interviews are not exactly “trained” to do the requirements well. Working with people, imagine that !

    5. Colette*

      Well, it could just be that they wanted to accommodate everyone but that they weren’t able to. If they have to do all of the interviews on one day and they’re interviewing ten people, it’s possible that the Wednesday is when the most people are available, even though the OP isn’t.

    6. MashaKasha*

      But this is so bizarre, especially if it’s a test. They would then be essentially looking to see if a candidate would ditch their critical responsibilities with the employer they already have, for a low low chance of maybe someday getting an offer from them (since they’re only at the phone interview stage). Why would they even want a candidate whose priorities are upside down like that?

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It sounds like they’re pathologically egomaniacal.

        That’s a little hyperbolic, but the only reason I could see someone thinking this approach is a net plus is because they think it demonstrates a person’s eagerness to work with New Company.

        1. MashaKasha*

          But, but, don’t they understand that, once the person starts working for New Company, he or she will do the same to them? Rhetorical question. I know they don’t.

      2. Callie*

        Because they think they are such an AMAAAZING employer that no one would ever leave them for another job!

    7. KEM11088*

      This same thing happened to me. I gave plenty of flexibility except for ONE DAY (meetings all day) and that was the only day they could interview me. I was literally available the rest of the week.

      The recruiter told me that if i really wanted the job, I would find a way to make it work. NEXT!

    8. Taylor Swift*

      Nah, I think Occam’s razor applies here. There just aren’t that many places out there that do weird hiring tests to assume that’s happening here.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Exactly. 99% of the time when we see people here saying “it’s a deranged test,” it’s really just simple incompetence or disorganization. Deranged tests happen, but they’re not the norm, and it shouldn’t be the go-to explanation when there’s one that’s so much more likely.

  2. Username has gone missing*

    #2 That recruiter sounds disgruntled and unprofessional with a case of sour groups. Are they no longer with said company by choice or have they been dropped? Because my first reaction is to think it may be the latter. I’m sorry they’ve crushed your excitement. What does your gut say about the company?

    1. Sherm*

      Yeah, if a company is so incredibly toxic that they would call a new hire horrible names for negotiating salary, I would imagine that a least a few red flags would have popped up in the interview process (unless they have a superhuman-like ability to conceal all their flaws). And, given that the recruiter lives in another state, how did said recruiter witness the alleged name calling? Would they really put a recruiter on a conference call to listen in to the insults?

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I wondered that too–OP said that she worked remotely. Unless it was on a conference call, how would she know that? The whole email reads like a ticked-off dumpee trying to get back at them by making their new hire bail.

      1. Whats In A Name*

        I also wondered about the name calling specifically. Not how she heard but if it was truly “name calling”. Were they saying “this like b*tch wants more money” or were they saying, “do you think she is showing her ego with this request or do you think she has the skill to do the job?” insinuating she is could be an egomaniac but not actually saying the words. And disgruntled ex employee is now blowing things out of proportion.

        I realize this isn’t this best example, but it gets the point across

    2. Artemesia*

      The email was so terribly unprofessional that I would assume it was a fired recruiter poisoning the well BUT I would be utterly demoralized and crushed by getting this. It has to make you feel awful.

      1. Jesmlet*

        I don’t know, how much does something like this really hurt the company? So they potentially lose a candidate they liked… big whup, they’ll just find another one. The only one emotionally invested here is OP. If the recruiter were to make something up, ‘they called you names’ is not the biggest deal in the world.

    3. Eric*

      That’d be my first guess. I’ve seen something. If they asked who else I was interviewing with, an agency recruiter will often say something like “you don’t really want to work there, trust me on that,” or “they don’t innovate anymore and most people leave for a startup within a year.”

      I imagine that if they genuinely wanted to warn the OP they would’ve used a more professional and concerned phrasing.

      1. Whats In A Name*

        You know, this is a very good point. I’ve heard horror stories about recruiters bashing companies and then turning around and recruiting for those same companies.

        1. Eric*

          I haven’t heard of that, but I’m 100% sure it happens.

          It’s a sales type of profession. Folks want their commission. I get that, and there’s nothing wrong with it.

          But if you say “oh, I’m interviewing with ACME too” and the other person sounds annoyed and says something like “why would you want to work THERE?” it kills any trust I’d have in them. Seems like a poor sales technique, is what I’m saying.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I’ve heard this, before (i.e., trash talking one company then recruiting for it a few weeks later). From the recruitee side, it was a cross between creepy negging and a reality dating TV show.

            1. Eric*

              That’s a perfect description of what working with a bad agency recruiter is like!

              Like, if I’m called up by a recruiter about a startup job, and I say I’m not a good fit for startups because I am very risk averse, and the other guy says something like “all good software engineers work at startups” I know exactly what their deal is. No thank you, good bye, don’t call back.

    4. Jessesgirl72*

      And if this actually happened, why didn’t she tell the OP at the time it was going on, instead of after she accepted and gave notice?

      It sounds like disgruntled fired employee to me, too.

      1. Gaara*

        Yeah. I would try to view it in that light, and assuming there aren’t any visible red flags independent of the disgruntled former recruiter, try to just tell myself the recruiter has an axe to grind and there’s no reason to trust them, and move forward as if nothing happened.

    5. Sas*

      Disagree. I would say that what the person sent in the email, well put or not was probably truthful. However, OP you could still proceed. As aam said, be somewhat cautious, though.

    6. Shelly400*

      Ugg it’s a tough one now to know what my gut says. But it could be true she was dropped as I accepted the position in the evening, the next morning she said she would have my offer letter within the hour while congratulating me. The offer letter arrived at very end of day by the hiring manager himself. The company is so new it really is a gamble but they have been in contact with me letting me know the are getting things set up , my biz cards in place andare waiting my arrival so everything seems cordial now.

  3. Calacademic*

    OP #4: No professor, ever, gets upset about NOT having to write a letter, particularly for a student they don’t know super well. But get 2nd professors agreement first. It wouldn’t look good to say “forget it” and have to come meekly back and ask again.

    Also, strong letters always beat out relevant letters. Getting someone who can actually speak to your strengths is key.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yes, exactly this.

      It may also help, in the future, to ask your professors if they can write a “strong letter of recommendation.” I often found that professors who had reservations would bring up the concern your professor brought up—while they knew me, they didn’t know the broader landscape of my academic career, or they hadn’t supervised a paper, or whatnot. All of those explanations are ways of signaling that they can write you a letter, but not necessarily a strong one.

      In those cases, assuming there’s someone else who can write a letter for you, I would advise giving the professor you’re asking an out. And if there’s no one else you can ask, I would offer to provide them with supplemental information about who you are and what your path is (I did this even with strong recommenders—if you have your personal statement, research agenda, resume, and/or other application materials ready to go, provide a copy of those documents to your recommender).

      And I’ve found that strong letters—even if they’re not in your primary field or are from a non-ladder faculty member—nearly always outweigh wishy washy or perfunctory letters from a more famous or tenured prof in your field (caveat: this is not the case for some programs like the sciences, and there’s also a small number of major academic superstars whose letters will have greater weight so long as they write something moderately insightful/intelligible about you). One of the worst letters, from the admissions/hiring side, is the “OP did great in my class, so they must be smart because my class is very difficult, and I have very high standards. Here’s all the information on the very limited classroom context in which I know OP” letter.

      1. Artemesia*

        It is also important when asking the favor or when they agree to provide them with a brief email or letter that outlines your interest in the job, the skills you feel match you with it related to your work at the professor’s university (and their class or projects) and provides other relevant data. E.g. if you did a paper they praised highly mention the pleasure you took in the paper on ‘Teapot Sybology’ you did in their class; it is highly likely they have a vague memory of you being a good student but don’t recall the specific work you did with them. If you have done major research or volunteer projects related to the program you seek or have had work experiences that are relevant mention those. If you have had academic or other awards that are significant mention those. Make it easy for them to be specific. It is even perfectly fine to say you hope they will stress your leadership of X project in his class or the independent work you did on Y for her.

        1. AnotherLibrarian*

          +1 Please do this. Help the person writing the letter brag about you. Even if they are really willing to write a glowing letter and think you’re great, they need to know what makes you special.

        2. Jessesgirl72*

          I think students forget that they have far fewer professors than the professors have students. It’s relatively easy for me to remember details about the Professor and his work, when I only had a few professors each year. Even in schools with small classes, multiply that over the amount of courses she teaches, and you’d realize that expecting a detailed memory of your work in one class (or maybe even just this one paper!) is unrealistic.

        3. #4 OP*

          Yes, for sure! I definitely made sure to send at the very least my CV and statement of purpose to all of the professors I asked, and offered to send them more info (e.g. papers I had written for their class, etc.). I also offered to sit down with any of them for coffee, and the professor I asked to replace this one actually took me up on that, so they had a really good set of notes to write my letter! I’m glad I went with them in the end – that showed me that they were really serious about writing a strong letter of recommendation.

      2. blackcat*

        A good way to deal with this in the sciences is try to get one of each. I just wrote a letter for a student who I pushed hard to get a BigWig to write her a perfunctory letter. I promised that my letter would reflect how well I know her (really well!) and how she actually works, but alone and in groups (also knew that). But I am a lowly, lowly grad student, making my letter possibly worthless if it was not accompanied by a letter from someone with more clout.

        I was pretty firm in saying, “I can write you a very strong letter, but I am a lowly grad student. Get [BigWig who gave you an A in her class] to write for you.”
        Student, “But I was one of 100 students! I talked to her twice! She scares me!”
        Me: “Ask her to write for you. She’ll do it. She’s a reasonable person. Her name on a letter saying you are competent will get your foot in the door, so someone actually looks at your application. My letter actually describing you as a person will serve another purpose. This will be fine.”

        [three days later]
        Student: “BigWig is writing for me, and she said you’re exactly right about how her letter and your letter work together. And she’s actually really nice! We had a great conversation.”
        Me: “Great! In the future, talk to BigWigs more. It will help your career. Some are awful, but most are normal people who will like helping you.”

        [Side note: I knew BigWig *would* write for the student b/c I had met her at a university “women in science” function. These functions are helpful for making me (female grad student) more able to help students like the one in the story–she’s an underrepresented minority and first generation college student.]

        1. Laura (Needs to Change Her Name)*

          This was an awesome thing to lay out for the student explicitly. This is exactly the kind of knowledge that is especially hard for first-gen students to figure out.

          1. blackcat*

            Yep. I teach a special course that is largely first generation students at an institution where there are not that many of them (fewer than 20% of students are domestic students of color at the institution overall, even fewer in STEM).

            I do a lot of coaching on how college and academia work, because it doesn’t make a lot of sense….

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Do you also coauthor recommendations? I remember a grad student writing a letter for me but co-signing it with the prof. whose name the course appeared under, and it was a nice two-in-one :)

          1. blackcat*

            This doesn’t work for cases where a grad student is the instructor of record. No prof was overseeing my teaching for that course. Basically, I am treated as an adjunct when I teach a class. I file a syllabus with the department, use the standard textbook, and go along my merry way doing what I want in the classroom. For TAs, it would make sense for the prof and TA to cowrite. Not a possibility in this case.

            At many institutions, grad students teach full blown courses on their own. I *might* get a talking to if my students did not do well in the next class in the sequence or they trashed me in evals, but that’s it in terms of accountability. I have two years running of my students doing significantly better than average in the next course, and the students love me. That means I get a lot of leeway, particularly because the students I teach tend to come in with lower test scores because they are first gen students. I also used to teach high school, so that means I got more freedom off the batt.

            BigWig was actually in an entirely different STEM department, and taught the student in a different semester. It just so happened I actually (sorta) knew her and trusted her to write the “I am a BigWig. Student gets stamp of approval.”

            1. TL -*

              That’s so interesting, because a letter of rec from a grad student would not hold much weight in my STEM field. (or even a postdoc). They’d expect that either a) your grad student/post doc would write a letter for your PI to sign or b) your PI would cosign a letter with grad student or post doc.

              If you had two stellar letters from two awesome professors, and one was a research-based LOR, than maybe for a student-taught course? But I think even then, the advice would be to find a professor, for either a job in the field or for a grad school program.

              1. blackcat*

                Yeah, for grad school, a student should have a research letter. For jobs?* I think the sort of letter I can write is worth more, largely because I structure class so I actually see how students handle a variety of tasks and how they work together and alone. And for an undergrad research program, I think that sort of stuff matters (I can promise a student is good in the lab! Actually codes efficiently under time pressure!). I’d always recommend it come in conjunction with a professor, and I offer the big “YMMV with this letter. Some people will pay attention. Others will toss it out.” when students ask. But I’m not going to say no to a student I can write a strong letter for. I WILL say no to a so-so student. They really don’t need a letter from a grad student saying “This student is okay.”

                I wasn’t clear about this particular example–this student was a sophomore, applying for a summer research position… which is the stepping stone to grad school. Even in that case, a grad student letter is sorta iffy, but it’s the best she can do. And that also explains some why she was so scared of BigWig and why she had had so few profs who could write for her. In their first year or two, our STEM students are either in 150+ student courses or courses taught by grad students/adjuncts/lectures. Very, very few underclassmen have more than passing conversations with tenured/tenure track faculty. I don’t think this is that unusual–at many large research schools, even the brightest students can’t get a personalized letter from a prof until their junior or senior year.

                *For students applying for summer jobs with companies, I’ve actually been called for a reference. I think I do a good job at that.

    2. Big10Professor*

      Lol, writing letters can be tedious, but I consider it very much part of my job, and also understand that undergrads often don’t have a lot of options for whom they can ask. This goes double for students who are first generation or members of an underrepresented group.

      1. Emlen*

        As a recent first-generation, non-traditional college graduate, I thank you for this. Even at a low-profile school, even the most understanding professors sometimes made assumptions that left me feeling badly out of place. Your comment made my morning. I’m getting a little misty here at my desk.

    3. #4 OP*

      Yes, I made sure to get Professor #2’s permission first. They agreed (thankfully, given that the request was coming in pretty close to deadlines!), so I was in a good place to go back to #1 and give him an out. Weirdly, I think he actually did get upset that he didn’t have to write me a letter anymore! He responded that he had actually been battling pneumonia, which gave me an even better out (concern for his health!), but I think that my telling him not to worry about it anymore bruised his ego, to be honest… Ultimately, though, I think Professor #2 was better able to write a glowing recommendation and was the better choice. Wish me luck now as I wait to hear back!

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I was about to say—it sounds like his ego was a bit hurt. I would thank him profusely and just let him know that it wasn’t personal and that you look forward to working with him going forward (and will keep him looped in re: progress).

  4. Wendy Darling*

    re: job scams, I talked to a guy who was convinced he’d gotten a job as an “at home executive assistant” for a small but well-regarded startup, which then sent him a check to buy software from a specific vendor. Of course the check bounced, but it took a few days for the guy’s bank to figure that out, at which point the software vendor already had the money.

    Turns out the person who “hired” him was not associated with the startup in any way, and the entire thing was a scam to get money to the bogus “software vendor” via bad checks.

    1. Artemesia*

      the same thing happens all the time on Craigs list around purchases. One idiotic scam (I really can’t believe anyone falls for this) is to send a big check and then you send them the balance (in your good check of course). Every time I sold stuff on Craig’s list I got schemes that were absurd e.g. someone’s agent would bring a check yada yada. I would write back, ‘have the agent cash the check; I only deal in cash’ and of course would not hear back from them. It was always some guy furnishing a house in some foreign country who wanted all of my furniture and found the price ‘acceptable.’

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        It’s extremely frustrating. And it happens all the time with apartment listings too. “I am out of the country and can’t show you the apt but if you drive by the building and like it I can send you the key if you send me money.” Um, no.

    2. dragonzflame*

      I once applied for a freelance job where they wanted to interview me but required me to download some software, for which they needed my credit card details. I declined.

    3. Anon for this*

      This unfortunately happened to my husband before we were married – we are still paying off the lawsuit from Suntrust. They didn’t care that he had been scammed and that my husband had reported it to the FBI – in the eyes of the bank he was the scammer. My husband wasn’t the best at dealing with things before I came along and ignored the court summons, where he might have been able to convince a judge otherwise – so he got a judgement against him for thousands of dollars (WAY more than the amount the bank was out). We negotiated it down eventually and are making monthly payments. Still have about a year left.

        1. Koko*

          (To be clear, my incredulity is that this would be done over a single bad check, not that it would be done in more egregious cases.)

          1. Anon for this*

            It was a counterfeit USPS money order or something. It was for around $750. Suntrust gave him the money when he cashed it. He bought the things we was supposed to, took the amount that was his pay, and sent the items he bought and the remainder to the address of the “company.” Suntrust discovered it was counterfeit a few days later. Debited his account that amount. He didn’t have the money to give back to Suntrust. It overdrew his account, he explained he’d been scammed, that he’d reported it to the FBI, they are a-holes and didn’t care.

        2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          If you ignore a court summons, you give up your day in court – and you usually DEFAULT.

    4. AMT*

      My friend did the same thing. Got a “job” off Craigslist as an executive assistant to someone who was conveniently abroad in Australia. Moved to my home city to take the job. His tasks were supposedly to receive and forward packages. The guy sent my friend’s first “paycheck” and instructed him to wire part of it back via Western Union. Fortunately, my friend was staying with my mom at the time and she was able to talk him out of it. She had the nice people at the bank explain to him why it was a bad idea.

      I really think there should be signs at banks that say, “If you’re wiring money via Western Union in the 21st century and you’re not an immigrant sending money to your family, please let the teller know so s/he can talk you out of whatever scam you’ve fallen for.”

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        Or not.

        I have a legitimate business transaction I’m in the middle of, where I need to wire the payments internationally. People and businesses actually have to do this EVERY DAY. As is evidenced by the fact that near the holidays, my bank was backed up and had to farm some of their transfers out to another bank. The transfer didn’t go through, and I had to fight with the idiot teller who tried to convince me to recall the transfer because sending money “to Russia” is always a scam, and that’s why it didn’t go through. Of course, I wasn’t sending money to Russia (which I corrected multiple times, to no avail), I was sending it to another former Soviet country, to people I have personally met, toured the facilities, and signed contracts with- all after doing my due diligence, including talking to the US Embassy there! That attitude that no wire transfers are legitimate “in the 21st century” is very mistaken, and when the bankers have the attitude, it gets in the way of legitimate business. So much so that I pulled my money out of that bank and moved to one who will actually help me conduct business, not hinder it!

      2. Natalie*

        From what I’ve heard bank tellers (at least at some banks) are wise to this stuff and will try and intervene. The weak link here is wiring services, which are obviously profiting off these scams.

      3. Stan*

        I have a friend who is the head of the wires department for a large regional bank. They run into this issue *every* *single* day. Her team does their best to talk people out of it, but if Grandma is convinced that grandchild is stranded in [insert foreign country] here, it’s often impossible to talk her out of sending thousands of dollars overseas. They’ll put up every roadblock they can, but when the customer insists, their hands are tied. And once the wire is gone, there’s nothing the bank can do.

        1. Hlyssande*

          My grandma almost got taken by one of those, where a guy called claiming to be my older brother needing bail money in Canada. Fortunately my dad arrived for his daily visit shortly after and talked her out of it. I think that was shortly after she hit the 100 year mark. She’s 105 now.

          1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            yeah someone I knew got a call like that claiming he was “Sergeant Friendly” from a municipal police department in Canada.
            Response –

            a) “my nephew, whom you’re holding, is an American citizen.”

            b) “I have your phone number on my caller-id, I’m writing it down.” (usually this results in a string of obscenities and a hang-up)

            c) “where is my nephew being held? I’m calling the US Consul in (that city), and having him or her contact you, I want to have them check on my nephew. They’ll call you after I talk with them.” Either a tap dance or the result in b) above, happens here, if Bozo is still on the line.

        2. Rachel*

          Ugh. A scammer tried to pull that trick on my grandma some years ago. They pretended to be my youngest cousin (who was a college student) and said that she was stranded in the UK and needed my grandma to wire money so she could get home. My cousin’s then-boyfriend lived in the UK, and she had spent a year studying abroad there so had lots of friends in the UK, so this actually sounded quite plausible. Luckily, my grandma thought something didn’t sound quite right (for one thing, it was during the semester, not near a break), so she called my aunt to check out the story. My aunt confirmed that my cousin was at school, not in the UK, so my grandma was out nothing more than a few minutes of time.

      4. Van Wilder*

        Great idea! My husband actually wired money from a grocery store with that IRS scam that was going around. They caught him after a 24 hour shift so he was too tired to realize at first that what they were saying made no sense. I was annoyed but I guess these people are professionals. Luckily for us, he was able to cancel the transfer and get the money back before they picked up the cash. Apparently that almost never happens because they are there waiting for the cash.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          Funniest one I got was an “Email from a friend stranded overseas in a jail.”

          Funny thing was, my friend was sitting in the living room here when the e-mail was sent. She notified the authorities.

          But there are job-related scams, too – too many to mention.

  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, I would really question the recruiter’s judgment and seek out more information. Did she send you emails like this during recruitment/negotiation? If not, it seems that one of two things is probably happening: Either (1) she’s being honest about New Company, but she was actively hiding that information from you during the recruitment period; or (2) her email was less than truthful, and she’s now trying to inveigle you in whatever drama she has with New Company. Neither scenario reflects well on her. I would take whatever she’s saying with a huge piece of salt lick.

    1. JMegan*

      I was thinking the same. Alison said this:

      If she had serious moral qualms about sending you into a bad situation, she should call you and talk to you about specifics — not send a vague email trashing the company that doesn’t give you anything concrete to go on.

      I would actually add, if the recruiter did have serious moral qualms about sending the OP into a bad situation, the time to discuss that with OP was *before* she accepted the offer, not after. There’s no point in sharing that information now that the OP has accepted the offer and can’t do anything with it. So I think the point was for the recruiter herself to feel better by blowing off some steam (possibly after having been fired.)

      This is a data point, but not necessarily a red flag on its own. Definitely take it with a piece of salt, and compare it to what else you know about the company before you make any big decisions. Good luck.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Or to break the OP’s trust in that company only to recruit her to a “better” company…the one now paying the recruiter….

  6. Marisol*

    For #3, what occurs to me is that it might be a question of initiative. Not that you don’t have initiative, OP, but perhaps you aren’t demonstrating it as much as you could. I say this because I was imagining under what circumstances I might say what your boss said and that’s what came up. I am an assistant, and so I don’t have any direct reports, but there are some people who support me in my job–the day porter, the receptionist, and the mail/facilities guy. The first two are great about anticipating things I might need and emailing me with questions; so for example if the receptionist sees that I have a meeting scheduled, but that I haven’t asked her to order any catering, she might email me to find out if I need help. The mail/facilities guy drives me crazy though because he won’t ever pick up the slack without me specifically outlining exactly what I need, and he’s been here long enough to have a sense of what is needed without me telling him. So I can easily imagine saying to someone, “yeah, when I tell him *exactly* what I want, he does it.” In his case, it’s an attitude problem–he’s a bit lazy, among other things. But other people could behave the same way with the best intention.

    Now this might not be relevant to your situation at all and I don’t want to project my situation onto yours. But, I’ve tried to think of other ways to interpret your boss’ statement, besides the one you mention, and I can’t think of any other reason that someone would say that. I’m just brainstorming–consider this idea if it seems helpful, and disregard if not! You sound very conscientious so I’m sure this will work out for you.

    1. OP #3*

      Thank you, that’s helpful! I will admit I’ve been a little intimidated in this job and have not taken the initiative to try and anticipate needs. That’s definitely an area I can do better.

      1. I Herd the Cats*

        Yes, what Marisol said. Reading over your question, there are a lot of areas that you could demonstrate critical thinking and take initiative. If you’re unsure about your idea, you can say to the boss something along the lines of, since there’s a meeting on Monday, I was thinking we could do X to make the preparation smoother — and get feedback while demonstrating you’re taking initiative. Example from my office — we get three-month interns. Half of what they do is structured, and half is help where needed — everything from attending conferences and taking notes to helping pack and ship boxes of materials. The best interns jump in and help without a lot of hand-holding and detailed instructions. There are other interns who are nice enough but don’t do anything unless they have detailed guidance for every.single.step and never take any initiative. You may make a mistake; you probably will, since you are human and everyone makes mistakes (if that’s what’s holding you back.) But this is a great time in your career to demonstrate your problem-solving skillset and become a worker other folks know they can rely on. Good luck!

        1. NonProfit Nancy*

          I agree with this assessment, and it’s very hard to express to young people. Of course they’re insecure and they want a lot of guidance. Of course knowing when it is important to ask for guidance is a skill that you need to develop. However, these are “soft skills” people can be developing throughout their lives, even in things like school assignments / volunteer activities etc. Even if you have little work experience, the ability to judiciously try and figure things out and proactively make suggestions, WITHOUT many specific instructions, is what separates people at the early stages of their career.

          1. NonProfit Nancy*

            Thinking more on this (with interns etc) it’s hard to explain to them – because it sounds unkind – that it is worth it to the business to have the intern spend a whole hour teaching themselves something, rather than having a higher income person take time off the work they’re being paid to do and explain it to them for 15 minutes. We pay our interns something like $15/hr, so while I don’t want to waste anybody’s time, I’m happy to pay $30 for you to go through the documentation and teach yourself – rather than pull someone high level away from what they’re doing. What they’re doing might be worth thousands of dollars if it’s something like a grant application they need to get in by a certain deadline.

      2. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

        So, I could be your boss.

        We try to determine situations where employees are most successful and set them up to succeed by giving them opportunities where we think they’ll be most successful. Logical for everybody!

        Doing well in following clear instructions is a valued skill set. I can’t begin to tell you how many people can’t do that frigging thing, lord almighty, right off the train tracks. If I said that to you, I’d *think* I was complimenting you…….

        But. You’re right. A more valuable skill set is the next step up, the person who is fully capable of doing a good job following clear instructions and then, the next step up: realizing when the instructions might be wrong or need to be altered in a certain situation, problem solving when something doesn’t go as anticipated, being able to be the person who pulls something apart and writes the clear instructions for the next guy.

        So if I were your boss what I’d want to hear from you is, “Terrific. So happy to do this and happy you think I do a good job following instructions. So you know, I’m eager to also be involved in situations where the path might not be so clear. I’d like a chance to problem solve, blah blah blah blah, when the opportunities arise.”

        I’d be like, *ding*, maybe I’ve got a next level-er here! I’m going to give her a shot as soon as I can.

        1. Zoethor2*

          Agreed! If I made that comment about someone six months on the job, I would mean it as high praise – so many people *can’t* execute well on clearly defined tasks that it’s a very laudable skill when someone can. And it allows me to trust them to do work independently and well, which is crucial for me to get things off my plate.

          But the next stage is definitely learning to anticipate and take initiative. OP#3, if there’s a formal performance evaluation process at your work where you discuss goals, developing that skill set might be a good goal for you in the upcoming year. No need to wait for the formal process to roll around to speak up (as others, like Wakeen, suggest), but if you have the chance to note it on paper, that helps reinforce it and empowers your bosses/supervisors to explicitly help you work on it.

          1. OP #3*

            This is actually pretty good timing–I’ve got a formal evaluation coming up in two weeks. I can definitely both ask my immediate supervisor about her assessment of my skills and growth potential, and emphasize that I want to develop my ability to take risks and be comfortable with ambiguity.

  7. Artemesia*

    I have done a lot of hiring and been on a lot of committees hiring in academia and have always found it the most flexible possible environment. Hiring often stretched out months because everyone’s schedules had to be accommodated and hiring was usually national and involved travel and logistics. Once you have a short list, you do whatever it takes to interview the candidate.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      This has been my experience as well. I’ve never been on a committee that offered a candidate only one time for a phone interview. Academic hiring can be weird, bureaucratic, take forever and seem arcane, but flexibility in phone interviews (which are often just step one in a long process) can usually be provided.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There have been a bunch of mentions of it here from commenters interviewing at schools (I think they were K-12 rather than university level though).

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Ohhh, I would never think of K-12 as “academia.” I’ve always categorized K-12 as “education” and reserved the term “academia” for institutions of higher learning/education (and even then, people sometimes squabble over whether community college teaching counts as part of the academy).

      2. EA*

        Alison, I think you’re 100% correct about inflexible interviews in the K-12 education field. Part of my job is to schedule K-12 administrative interviews, and the interview committee (usually 6-8 high-level employees) only convenes for a few hours to interview all the candidates. Unfortunately, when I call to give the candidates their time slot, it’s kind of take it or leave it….though phone interviews are offered as a back-up option for candidates who can’t make it to our office, I don’t know of anyone who was actually hired after a phone interview.
        It’s completely nuts, and sadly, the prevailing attitude is that the candidates are fortunate just to be interviewed.

    3. So Very Anonymous*

      This has been my experience too in higher ed, so much so that this kind of inflexibility would be a red flag for me for an academic job. I think candidates worry about needing flexibility because jobs are so scarce (I know it took me a long time to feel OK about stating limitations/preferences rather than feeling like I had to accept one particular time, because OMG there are no jobs, what if they use this against me?). But having now been on hiring committees, I’d agree that it’s pretty flexible. (I was shocked when the last hiring committee I was on *didn’t* accommodate my schedule — it meant that I was having to participate in meetings about candidate interviews I’d missed, which was… weird).

      1. Callie*

        My one academic interview (where I thankfully got the job!) was amazing in terms of flexibility. They actually asked when my spring break was and if we could schedule the interview then, since my break and their break were at different times, so I wouldn’t have to miss any time at my then-current job. Before that, at the phone interview stage, they acknowledged that the time slots they offered me would be at 5 or 6 am for me due to time zones, but I told them that was perfectly fine. I appreciated that so much. It made the whole process only moderately stressful, instead of terrifying. :)

    4. Eric*

      In my experience, really big companies are the places most likely to be inflexible. Not all of them, but whenever I’ve ran into a company that will only do interviews between, say 1 and 3 on Tuesday and Wednesday, or their first round interview is done by a guy who works in London so they need to Skype at 6AM, it’s a large, entrenched company.

    5. SJ*

      When I was interviewing for OldJob in higher ed admin, they had me come in 3 times after 2 phone interviews (which I was ridiculous for an entry-level job, but whatever). When I got the invite for a 3rd in-person interview, I apologetically explained to the hiring manager/my would-be boss that I couldn’t take personal days at my job and couldn’t be “out sick” for a 3rd time in a short period of time, so either it would have to be another phone interview or I’d have to come in after regular office hours, if that was at all possible. I was surprised that he agreed, since with traffic and how far away I worked at the time, I knew I wouldn’t get there till 6:15 or 6:30 or something. He played it off like he worked that late frequently, but I knew after I started that he’d often stay late, but almost never THAT late unless there was an event at night. I appreciated that he did that for little ol’ me and knew it wouldn’t happen in other environments.

  8. Brett*

    #4 I was in nearly the same situation as you. I had a professor with a strong reputation (he had both department head at a major university and the former president of the American Association of Chocolate Teapology) who had been very impressed with my final paper in his class but did not know me outside of class. Despite his similar terseness, he was interested in me finding a well funded and well matched placement for grad school because it reflected well on their program.
    Since he only knew me from a pair of classes, he had me put together a portfolio. My personal statement, test scores, grades, CV, and a small sample of writing. He then sat down and had an interview with me about my grad school goals. With just this information, he put together an amazing reference letter for me. He also encouraged me to get more letters, three in all, and send all three with my applications. He had been on many selection committees and felt that the different perspectives were very helpful in matching an applicant up with an initial advisor. He required me to give the same portfolio to the other two reference writers, even one that had done an extensive research project with me.

    And he was right. The letters turned out great with the aid of the portfolio. I landed fantastic offers and had very strong advisor matches from each school. I am also pretty sure that because I followed through on what he asked, he flexed some of his influence for me too.

    So, if you don’t think he knows you well, help him. Provide your personal statement and CV at minimum, and offer to provide other records and sit down and talk with him. You should really do the same with the other professor too. (Also, you should provide a FERPA release to each so they can discuss your academic record and performance, including your fantastic coursework, in the letters of reference.) And you can probably have both professors provide a letter (I know that can vary with the discipline, but ask your professors what is standard).

    1. MK*

      Eh, I don’t know that it’s a good idea to hand over a bunch of documents to a professor (who is already not super-eager to write a letter of recommendation for you) with the expectation that they will take time to study them, form a rounded view of your work and then recommend you, almost like you are setting up a mock-hiring-process.

      In your case, it worked because your professor specifically asked you to do this, but many people would find it presumptuous.

      1. Big10Professor*

        I disagree. At a minimum, you should send a resume/CV to anyone you are asking for a letter of recommendation. I also appreciate anything you want to highlight being spelled out. I love things like, “as you may recall, I worked on X project in your class, and my team had Y results” or “I know this employer is really looking for X, which I’ve demonstrated in your class by doing Y.”

      2. TL -*

        You should always provide your CV and statement of purpose to someone writing a letter of rec for you, though. anything more they need to ask for.

      3. Laura (Needs to Change Her Name)*

        This is pretty standard, so standard that I have a page on my website that tells students that they should be prepared to provide me with these things when they ask for a letter of recommendation.

      4. Jessie*

        I think it is really the opposite of presumptuous – you are, instead, acknowledging that they do not know you very well and are offering to provide them with any materials that may make writing a good letter easier. Making the offer is considerate (I’m sure just dumping a large stack of docs on the desk with a “tell me when you’ve gone through them all and finished my awesome letter!” is obnoxious, but handing over a CV and statement, while offering more if it would be helpful, seems good practice).

      5. Sarah*

        I have to disagree here. You’re not FORCING the person to read them (and obviously I would not say “You must read these before you write the letter”), but personally I really appreciate it if students take the initiative to put together useful documents for me. I get a bit annoyed if I have to ask for basic things like a resume/cover letter (although I will still write for them). You can just phrase it as “Since you might not know my work outside of class as well, I’ve put together a portfolio that you may find useful in writing the letter. Please let me know if there is anything else I can provide.”

      6. Artemesia*

        I agree that a portfolio unasked (unless you are in graphic arts or something like that) is just too much work for the letter writer. But a brief one page memo or even a resume is necessary. The idea is to make it easy on the letter writer by feeding them the kind of specifics you hope they will mention.

      7. #4 OP*

        As far as I know, it is definitely the norm to send your CV and statement of purpose at a bare minimum. I also made the offer to send additional materials, but only if someone wanted them (for example, one of my professors asked me to send her the finals I wrote for her classes), and to sit down with them for coffee (my back-up letter writer took me up on this offer, which I think showed that they were serious about writing a good letter!).

      8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This is not correct, at least not among any of my colleagues (professors who write tons of letters of recommendation). At a bare minimum, an applicant seeking a letter to apply to an academic program should provide their CV and personal statement. If they’re able to provide additional information, it’s a huge help to the letter writer. It can even just be a bullet-pointed list with short descriptions, but it’s in the recommendation seeker’s interest to provide their recommender with as much positive information and guidance as possible.

    2. CM*

      I was going to suggest something similar. It doesn’t sound to me like this professor is saying he can’t give you an enthusiastic recommendation; it sounds like he needs some help in knowing what to write about. I don’t know that you need to send a complete portfolio, but sending your resume and a bulleted list of items that you would like him to highlight would be useful.

      I had a professor ask me for this information once. Since then, I have always provided it to recommenders unsolicited (“In case it’s helpful in writing my recommendation, I’m sending you my resume and a list of accomplishments”). They have always been grateful to receive this information, and a few people told me they would start asking for it in the future when they had to write a recommendation.

    3. Whats In A Name*

      I think this is really good advice for LW #4. You can test the waters before giving him a complete out and ask “if I provide you with XYZ would that give you the tools you need to write a recommendation you’d be comfortable with?” He may respond with an enthusiastic yes.

      I worked with a college student on a field experience project a couple of years ago and he asked me for a letter of recommendation for an internship he applied for. I had only worked with him for 2 weeks on a project but after he offered up all of his other background (student-athlete with a high GPA at a small Christian university, max credit load each semester, graduating early, worked in summers, etc.) and I was able to write a very nice letter of recommendation based on what I knew first-hand and on paper.

    4. #4 OP*

      Thanks for the reply. He’s not a big wig, to be honest, so I wasn’t all that hesitant to cut him loose. But yes, I made sure to send all of the professors I requested letters from my CV and statement of purpose at a bare minimum, offered to send papers or any other materials to them, and also offered to sit down with them in person. The back-up professor took me up on the offer to meet for coffee and took some great notes of our conversation, which showed me that they were very serious about making sure they could write a glowing recommendation for me!

      1. Brett*

        That’s a pretty good sign that you should just go with backup professor then.
        One of my other two reference writers actually ended up being more helpful for the offer I eventually accepted.
        (He was an assistant professor at the time, but now is department head and has his own strong reputation in the field. His formal academic standing was not representative of how well he had networked.)

        1. TL -*

          At least in my field, formal academic standing and standing in field of research are two completely different things. You still have to go through tenure application process at the appropriate time in your career, not before, and move up the assistant-associate-full prof ladder, even if your research is having astronomical success. So, a recommendation from an assistant professor who is well-regarded in the field could easily have more weight than a department head who does okay for herself.

  9. Marisol*

    For #1, what I personally would do is call this woman and hear what she had to say. If I didn’t have her number, I’d email her asking for it, but I wouldn’t say more than that. Once on the phone, I’d ask her what this was all about. I would listen to everything she had to say, but volunteer nothing, either giving vague answers to any question she might ask or outright refusing to answer by saying something like, “I’d rather not discuss that.”

    I definitely would not put anything in an email, because email memorializes your communication for eternity and I wouldn’t want anything getting back to the employer. But would I get in contact with this recruiter and here what she had to say? Absolutely. And I’d have no qualms with being direct with her, either. “You contacted me with some information that sounds very damaging. What’s up?” that sort of thing. And if she sounded like she’s full of baloney, then I’d tell her, “ok, I wanted to hear what you had to say, but I’m no longer comfortable with this conversation. I would prefer it if you didn’t contact me any more. Thanks.”

    I’d feel like I owed it to myself to find out what she’s talking about. Her email is unprofessional, but that doesn’t mean she’s lying.

    1. Happy Lurker*

      I think that is an excellent suggestion. I would assume that the OP and recruiter would have had a few conversations already. So, by now OP should be able to gauge the conversation. Maybe the recruiter is young and nuts and maybe not. But a conversation should help.

    2. Shelly400*

      I did reach out to her via phone and email just asking to speak with her with no response. I did a lot of research before accepting the position however they are a startup so not much to go on. I agree it does not mean she is lying. I did come to the conclusion though if the employers were really disgruntled they would not have negotiated an offer that was acceptable to me. Either way it did take the buzz away from accepting a new position. She knew the deadline in which I had to accept the offer and she instead waited until just after the deadline passed to notify me .. seems sort of shady on her part as well.

      1. Marisol*

        Yeah, that’s really shady. If she was motivated by concern for you, then she wouldn’t have blown you off.

  10. Huh*

    I am guilty of being inflexible with interview schedules. I work part time and most of my time in the office gets booked up with other meetings. Also, the interviews are scheduled with the relevant department manager. Sometimes they are on completely different schedules to me so it means I have to arrange extra child care and stay at work later.

    I used to be much more flexible including coming to interview on my day off. But since interviews are a big part of my job I quickly realised this was not practical long term. I do make a point of being apologetic and explain the reason behind my rigid schedule. If a candidate is still insistent on a different time I see it as a sign they are not seriously interested in the job to make an effort.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Can I encourage you to reconsider that? It’s perfectly reasonable not to schedule interviews outside of your normal work hours (i.e., you shouldn’t have to arrange extra child care or come in on your day off, etc.), but you should be willing to find a time during normal work hours that works for both of you, even if it means delaying the interview to a different week.

      But more importantly: Interviews are a two-way street, and a candidate being unable to interview in a particular time slot doesn’t mean they’re not interested enough to make an effort — not any more than your own schedule constraints mean that you’re not seriously interested in conducting interviews yourself. In fact, it’s even less likely to mean that with them, since they’re often at the mercy of the commitments they’ve made to their current job, whereas you have more control over the scheduling in this context.

      If you truly can’t be flexible, then so be it, and you’re doing the right thing by explaining that and apologizing. But you really, really shouldn’t conclude that people aren’t sufficiently interested just because your schedules don’t easily line up. That’s a double standard and it’s not fair (or warranted!).

      1. Huh*

        Thanks for your input Alison, and I really enjoy your website! I do understand some people just can’t get time off certain days etc. However based on experience I have become pretty good at picking up cues on those who are genuinely unavailable vs those who are less interested.

        I find that good applicants in my industry/area tend to get snapped up quickly. Likewise if I find someone suitable now, I’m likely to offer them a role that same week rather than go through other interviews. So while I don’t mind scheduling interviewing another week the reality is it becomes unnecessary; or I risk losing qualified candidates I have already met.

        1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

          We like to move quickly on good candidates also. If we have to fill a position quickly, we might set a 5 or 7 working day period where we will interview everybody we have to interview, bring back top candidates for second interview, and make a decision. That’s a pretty compressed window but when you have to move quickly, it can be done. That still gives us a lot of flexibility for interview times or days per candidate, as long as they are able to interview in that window.

          If your method is working for you, if you are happy with the vast majority of your hires and you are happy with turnover, I can’t argue with it, but I’ll say it wouldn’t work for us. Good candidates in our region “don’t grow on trees”. While we don’t have rigid qualifications or certain experience necessary for most of jobs, we need a rounded skill set, a certain way of thinking, a culture fit, a blah blah, that means maybe 1 in 8 we interview (after pre-screening) we want to extend an offer to. Our math literally wouldn’t work if the 1 of that 8 couldn’t make a very specific in person interview time during our window.

          If this is working for you, have at it. If you think it could work better, you might want to consider what you can re-jigger or re-configure to be able to offer more times.

          1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

            As an example, they have to be well-spoken, well written and have a basic aptitude for math. That’s a trifecta that isn’t the easiest thing in the world to pluck off the street.

          2. Huh*

            After a lot of trial and error I’m happy with our recruitment structure. As I said, I’ve become adept at picking up cues from interested vs not interested applicants. Obviously with exceptions, I have found inflexibility with interview schedules is a red flag.

            By the way, I don’t offer one specific time slot to interview. I offer some flexibility within my schedule, without having to come to work extra days. Sometimes that’s difficult depending on who else is coming to interview (i.e. division managers who only work from evening until night time). And yes, sometimes that poses inconvenience to applicants who will have to take time off work. If someone tells me “it’s too much hassle to come on X date I don’t want to come unless I’m guaranteed a job offer” – as it happened before – I feel comfortable moving onto other candidates.

            1. Cambridge Comma*

              The tone and the idea that an offer could be guaranteed are the red flags there, though, not the inability to make the slot.

            2. Whats In A Name*

              So I am probably in the minority of thinking this is appropriate as long as you are not running into serious issues with staffing/recruitment and are able to be even more flexible in some circumstances.
              I also think if you are upfront about it and give multiple options that describes a different scenario to what the LW experienced. Huge difference in message between I have “X, Y and Z slots available, which is best for you?” vs. “What is your availability? Oh sorry, well we actually can only do 2:00 with no flexibility”.

            3. Lablizard*

              What works works. And I am assuming you would handle, “I am so sorry, I am leading an all day meeting on date X and have a meeting with a client on date Y that can’t be changed. I am free on date Z from 10-11 and any morning before 8 or after 5 on date X. Do any of those work on your end?” differently than, “Yeah, not taking off work if I am not guaranteed a job”

            4. Trout 'Waver*

              I don’t want to pile on, and I’m not accusing you of anything. But you should closely examine your stance that you’re adept at picking up cues. Everyone is better at reading cues from people with similar backgrounds and worse at reading cues from people from different backgrounds. By making rapid decisions based on a few cues, you may be biasing your applicant pool to look more like yourself. That’s not a good thing, regardless of your background. It’s been shown over and over again that diverse candidate pools lead to better hires and better employees.

              Tech startups seem to be especially prone to this.

              1. Jesmlet*

                Agreed, and not to pile on any more, but everyone thinks they’re better at reading cues than they actually are, especially over the phone. The example you used is obvious, no one gets a guaranteed job offer just because they accommodated your schedule, but there are plenty of other legitimate reasons why they might not be able to if they’re working (and the best candidates usually are).

            5. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Of course if someone says “it’s too much hassle to come on X date I don’t want to come unless I’m guaranteed a job offer,” you shouldn’t interview them at all! But that’s really extreme — are you having candidates say things like that more than like once or twice a decade? Unless you’re hiring really low level candidates with few skills, you’re not likely to run into that a lot. I’m talking about candidates who are enthusiastic about interviewing, but have a work conflict or other unmovable conflict with the date/time you’re suggesting. That’s a whole different thing.

              1. OhBehave*

                “If a candidate is still insistent on a different time I see it as a sign they are not seriously interested in the job to make an effort.”
                This statement made me cringe. The candidate has to maintain allegiance to their current job so as not to risk said job. It sounds as if Huh wants the candidate to chose them over their current employer. I have to hope that Huh is flexible and understanding when a candidate says that they cannot make that time/date due to work conflicts. And as interviews ARE part of your job, flexibility is key. It goes both ways.

        2. Plant Manager*

          I’d believe that the Venn diagram circle of “people who aren’t really interested in the job” probably has a lot of its area shared with “people who won’t be flexible about the schedule.” But I also think that the “people who won’t be flexible” has a much bigger area, and only a small portion of it overlaps.

          Then there’s the fact that you’re trying to screen for candidates who will be the best at the job, not the people who are most interested before they know more than a couple of paragraphs from a job posting (and maybe don’t even know the salary.) One of my best employees came to his interview and said, “I’m not even sure why I’m here.”

          If you’re getting good results, then keep on keeping on. I just wouldn’t advocate for pre-interview flexibility being treated as a universal Good/Not-Good indicator. A red flag as in something to keep in the back of your mind, sure, but not a red card like in soccer.

          1. JessaB*

            However, sometimes it’s not people who won’t be flexible but people who can’t. Some people can’t take off work with little notice, some people like the OP are willing to be flexible even on that specific day, but not at that specific TIME.

            1. Lablizard*

              I would feel like such a douche if I cancelled a meeting with my existing co-workers for a job interview.

          2. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

            This is so it for us!

            Then there’s the fact that you’re trying to screen for candidates who will be the best at the job, not the people who are most interested before they know more than a couple of paragraphs from a job posting

            We don’t need people to be super interested in the job before they interview. We need to get potentially qualified people in the room, discuss the job and the company with them, and then gauge everybody’s interest. (Of course some of that takes place during pre-screening, but our in house recruiter pre-screens and they aren’t going to get the full picture until the in person interview.)

            But, teapots are quirky. Nobody grows up saying “I want to go into teapots!” and Wakeen’s is not World Famous Wakeen’s yet. If I were Google I could reasonably expect people to have drunk the kool aid already.

            Anyway, I need numbers in order to achieve the best result possible.

        3. AnotherHRPro*

          I think this is very industry/position/level specific. We are generally very flexible for higher level positions but for some entry level jobs we get thousands of applicants within a very short period of time. The reality is there is no need for flexibility for these jobs as there are many very qualified candidates to select from.

          1. Recruit-o-Rama*

            I would argue that in entry level lower skilled roles where turnover tends to be higher, it’s even more important to find the very best of the best. I also hire a lot of entry level roles and I am encouraged when they are concerned about being responsible to their current employer. Hourly employees are also more likely to be living pay check to pay check and asking them to take time off to interview is literally taking food off their table.

            At my company, we changed our hiring and interview process to be more people oriented about 2 years ago and have focused like a laser of turnover and we’ve increased it by 25% over all and as much and 75% in specific locations merely by treating people better from the get go.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yeah — and I think people often really under-value how much difference there can be between a good employee and a great one. It’s worth spending the extra time to find the great ones.

              1. Recruit-o-Rama*

                I could go on for hours about the cost of turnover, the value of filling your bench with high potential and then actually developing your succession plan through training and education (tuition reimbursement, technical certifications, etc). But that plan is ONLY successful if you pick good people and treat them well.

            2. Sas*

              ” merely by treating people better from the get go.” This is important and well said. Hr should = people. Noone is that good at “picking up on cues”, except those who say that they are, those are the worst. Or, those that are good at “picking up on cues” are so because they give a person a chance.

      2. Mazzieful*

        I worry that Huh is suffering from confirmation bias wrt her ability to judge a candidate’s interest. It’s possible she really does know. It’s also possible that her inflexibility in scheduling is making people who were previously very interested quickly disinterested. I know that if I ran into an interviewer who had absolutely no flexibility it would change a hard yes to a hard no quite quickly. If you have any flexibility at this stage of the process when you should be trying to court good candidates, you’re going to have less flexibility when they’re hired and they become essential to your process.

        My husband was interviewed once for a company that was totally inflexible on schedule. He was very interested in the job before it became clear that they were inflexible in interview schedules. He absolutely could not make the two days a week that they had scheduled because his existing work commitments were important to him. it was critical that he be on site at his existing job on those two days. (There were processes that were done on those days that required his oversight.) The firm hiring remained inflexible. He was the top of his field and got snapped up by another company quickly. His rigidity of schedule had nothing to do with his interest or ability. There rigidity of schedule changed his interest to disinterest and he pass that on to other people considering interviewing with the hiring firm. The rigidity cost them him as a potential candidate but also cost them other people who chose not to even start the process.

        In many industries, particularly when hiring at the top levels, practices such of this become known. Good candidates who could have potential he several offers Will apply to other firms where the interview process is more respectful of their time. Because having such an inflexible schedule is disrespectful to the interviewee. Respect is a 2 Way St.

        One would think it would be a point in favor of a job candidate if they tell you that they can’t make it on a certain day because of existing job commitments. That tells me they’re not willing to burn their employer solely because they want to jump ship.

        I would actually be far more concerned about somebody who had a job but could be totally flexible and be there for an inter at a moment’s notice. That tells me they are not committed to doing right by their current employer or they’re not so essential that they would be missed.

        1. OhBehave*

          Not to mention that the person handling the interview is often the first person a candidate speaks with in the potential new company. Inflexibility could put off quite a few excellent candidates if they think this is how this company operates.

      3. Kai*

        I’d also add that if an applicant really can’t make a certain day or time because of other commitments–such as something important going on at their current job–that’s a good indication of their work ethic and conscientiousness.

    2. Lablizard*

      Interesting. I am a in a field and at a level that has more jobs than people who can do them and would probably be a strong candidate (or I assume so, since I have never interviewed for a job I haven’t been offered). If someone could not accommodate me for a phone interview when I had a work commitment I couldn’t get out of, I would move on to the next employer. Even if your position seemed like a great fit, I would not neglect my present responsibilities for an interview. I would give 3-4 alternate times that worked for me and if the recruiter couldn’t do it, I would move on since there are plenty of other opportunities out there.

      When you are trying to recruit people who have plenty of options, you probably lose candidates who are already employed, those who know that they are in high demand, or are unwilling to dump their responsibility at their current job for an interview (this is a good thing – do you want people who would cancel meetings at your company for an interview?). If you are having trouble finding people, you might be artificially limiting your job pool with your assumption.

      1. Huh*

        I also give some alternate times that work for me and the division manager, and if it the candidate doesn’t do it, then I would move on. So I guess if the applicant felt the same way then it’s not meant to be!

        1. Lablizard*

          Fair enough. Although the whole, “if they really wanted the job they would make time” idea is more of what I am pushing back against. For people in my field, we just assume that you will have another job opening soon enough, because there are more openings than qualified people, so maybe next time!

          I am surprised that your company does not have two part timers or one full time person covering interviews, if you are looking for highly in demand candidates, but I might be thinking of a different type of high demand. We tend to get hounded by recruiters, so my experience might be abnormal.

          1. Mazzieful*

            One thing about people who do hiring is that they often don’t realize that they get a reputation for being either a good company to interview with or a bad company to interview with.

            They may end up with the best candidates at the pool of people who apply. But they never know if they’re the best candidates overall because the best candidate to make choose not to even submit to them based on their reputation as being unreasonable in their hiring process.

            This is absolutely true nationwide when it comes to directors and C-level officers in IT and technical fields. I could tell you right now three or four companies that have really bad reputations and don’t get top quality applicants because their reputation is that they are unreasonable and hiring and make the process too onerous.

            1. Lablizard*

              That is definitely the case in my field. There are a relatively small number of people with this skill set and experience level and more and more employers out there seeking our skills and experience. We all know each other to some degree, so we email each other, “Hey, Mega Cool Teapots contacted me about a position as Super Innovative Spout Maker. Does anyone know anything about them? Oh, really? Good to know. I will ignore them” or “Nightmare Teapots contacted me about being their Spout Ninja. Yeah, right. Does anyone know where PITA, horrible Spoutmaker is working? I might forward him the position.”

              Employers have reputations that spread really fast, especially in high demand fields

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Can I ask what type of employees you’re hiring? As you’re looking for increasingly skilled and senior candidates, I think it becomes more and more difficult to do what you’re describing and still hire well (because great people do not just grow on trees), so I wonder if you’re hiring for fairly unskilled jobs?

    3. Huh*

      Just to clarify, my “inflexible schedule” refers to me working three days per week – Mon, Wed and Fri. Two of our division managers do not work Fridays so any interviews for roles under their department are restricted to Mon and Wed. One of them starts work two hours after my finishing time, so any interviews with him are in a specific time slot (I stay late and he comes early). Most of the time I don’t have trouble organising interviews, but if someone insists on meeting at another time that requires me coming to work an extra day just for them – I’d rather let their application go.

      1. Zip Silver*

        I suppose the best question is why is a part-timer running interviews? Are you HR or something?

          1. Lablizard*

            So am I, so I hope Huh answers.

            I wonder if company hasn’t quite twigged to the challenges of recruiting and is looking at a part timer as a cost saving? There was a firm in my field that did that until one of their employees mentioned that scheduling the interview was a pain due to limited availability of the scheduler and that the company had missed out on Innovative Spout Makers Fergus, Wakeen, and Bumblebee (friends of employee and quite well known in the Spoutmaking community) because of it. Now they have 2 people doing interviews

            1. Baker's dozen*

              That doesn’t sound weird to me. I work in the voluntary sector and almost all of my interviews over the past 10 years have been conducted by part timers or by trustees (volunteers!).

      2. animaniactoo*

        I’m curious – you say that you’d rather let their application go. Do the department head and the company feel similarly? Are they fully aware that this is going on and onboard with it? I’m not asking that to be accusing in any way, I’m just curious about whether they’re fully aware of a) your choice and b) the impact of it, both of which spring out of their choice to have someone who works part time and doesn’t overlap well with at least one of the people you’re hiring for.

        1. OhBehave*

          I am curious about this as well. Are they thinking that it’s really hard to find good people when all the while Huh has been giving a pass on legitimate applicants?
          Given that Huh is only working three days a week and one of those days is a definite non-interview day, that is really narrowing down the interview options. Of course, we don’t know if they are getting hundreds of high-level applicants for positions and can be that harsh in choosing an interviewee. I would hate to be penalized because I won’t blow off my current job for an interview.

      3. Mazzieful*

        What would you do if a candidate I had to be at their old job on those days because the reprocess is being run and they were responsible for oversight? In other words there are legitimate reasons that somebody may not be able to make any time on those two days.

        Personally, I have court on Monday and Wednesdays every week and so cannot schedule any client meetings or doctor’s appointments. Period. That’s not because I don’t want to see new clients or to go to the doctor.

        Honestly, if all you have available those two days a week I would say that you actually are being way too restrictive and are probably losing good candidates who would be otherwise interested.

        Further, if you’re only going to offer two days, then Monday and Wednesday are bad combination for a lot of reasons. Monday and Thursday would probably work much better.

      4. Observer*

        So, for at least one department you have one time slot during the week available, and you can’t wait a week. You can be absolutely certain that you are losing good candidates, ESPECIALLY since it’s couple with the idea that “if they are interested in the job they will make it work.” No, not necessarily. The OP is a perfect example. Furthermore, as others noted, really high levels of interest in a particular position doesn’t have much to do with the likelihood of the person being the best fit for it.

  11. Recruit-o-Rama*

    I find that reasons for being inflexible are much more rare than just finding a time that works for everyone. Again, I always stress that interviews should be looked at (in most cases) just like any other business meetings between professionals. Especially in the case of phone interviews, there are a million good reasons to be flexible and only a very small number of good excuses to be rigid. I try to be the employer I would want to work for. An employed candidate has obligations, just like we do, they are human beings and should be treated as such. The temptation to be power trippy is very hard to resist for some hiring managers though.

    1. Eric*

      I think most people can tell when a hiring manager is getting kicks out of seeing how much they can push candidates around, so no worries there.

    2. always in email jail*

      ^Yes. What a great way to put it. Try to treat it like you would treat scheduling any other professional meeting. Even if that means saying “Unfortunately tuesday at 8am won’t work, we’re required to use the same interview panel for all candidates, and one of the panelists leaves for a 1 week training Monday night, so all of our interviews must be conducted by COB Monday”. I always want to let colleagues know that I’m not being arbitrarily inflexible if we’re having a hard time matching schedules for a meeting, so I extend that courtesy to applicants.

    3. Mazzieful*

      I don’t to be very leery of any candidate who is too flexible. Do they not have commitments at their existing job? Wouldn’t I want them to honor those commitments?

      The other rule of thumb I would offer also applies to social situations. The more in flexible you are going to be on scheduling, the more advanced notice you need to give the other party. If you’re doing something within a few days or even within a week, you need to give options.

      1. Mazzieful*

        Sorry for the typo. iPhone glitchy.

        I meant to say that I would be leery of any candidate who was too flexible.

        1. Sunshine Brite*

          Not necessarily with the ability to telework nowadays. I know I could easily arrange a meeting on a Monday or Friday and plan to wake up early to work, work more another day, etc. most of the time unless I already have a visit or meeting on the calendar already.

          1. Talvi*

            And depending on what your job is, some of us just have very flexible schedules. Most of my work is project work, so except for a handful of customer-facing hours a week, the specific hours I work are up to me as long as it adds up to 30 in the end.

  12. Elle*

    #5 – My nephew fell for the one where they had him act as a “personal assistant,” purchase some items, then send him a check to reimburse him for the purchases. Of course the check was no good, and my nephew, who is a college student, lost $1,000 of his own money.

    1. Grayson*

      I found myself in a similar situation. Craigslist posting for a personal assistant in my local area. I sent an email with my resume, they said “You’re hired.” and to await further instructions. Further instructions turned out to be “cash this check to buy supplies, and deliver the remainder to X person.” I got the check, realized it wasn’t from my local area, and checked the ISP associated with their email. Then I called my ‘boss’ on their shit. I informed them that I wouldn’t be part of a scam. Naturally they deflected and claimed I was a terrible person. I shredded the check, and continued hunting for legitimate jobs. I also flag all bullshit personal assisstant/executive assistant/administrative assistant positions on Craigslist that throw up my red flag.

    2. IT_Guy*

      My sister almost fell for one like this. They would send packages to her house and she would consolidate them and then send them on, to a destination outside of the country. Great pay, easy hours, simple work. She was all ready to do this till I pointed out that was going to happen is that people with stolen credit cards would be stuff, ship them to her house, and when the police came knocking on her door, all the items would be out of the country and she would be left holding the bag.

      1. anonderella*

        could you please explain what you mean by “people with stolen credit cards would be stuff”? I’m not understanding the usage of the word ‘stuff’ – could be a phrase I’m misunderstanding? apologies for derailing from your story

        1. anonderella*

          BUY! it’s buy. got it. I was reading that as ‘the people from whom the credit cards were stolen’, not literally ‘the people who have in their hands stolen credit cards/info’.

      2. Artemesia*

        It always surprises me that people fall for this. Why would they not directly ship the stuff? Well as you note, precisely because they are laundering stolen credit cards. But the job makes no sense. Just like having the ‘agent’ bring me a check rather than the agent cash the check and bring me the cash. And the idea of cashing a check and then sending your own check with the remainder? How could that possibly go wrong.

        1. Natalie*

          Desperation probably clouds some people’s common sense filters – a thousand dollars or so is a lot of money for many people, particularly if they’re un- or underemployed. But I have also read a theory that the bad grammar and obviously scam-tastic nature of a lot of the initial emails actually serves as a filter of sorts. Only people who are inclined to fall for the rest of the scam read past the first paragraph.

          1. Marisol*

            Yes, I read or heard that somewhere too. I used to wonder at the bad grammar, formatting, spelling of those scam emails and think, “surely there’s someone in this crime ring who can make a more convincing letter than this–why don’t they get that person to proofread?” but that would just mean that the scammers would waste their time with people who would ultimately not fall for the con–people with more savvy would respond to the email to get more information, and then drop out after the initial dialogue once they realized they were being conned.

  13. UKApplicant*

    Hi! Thanks for responding to my query about rigid interview times. As it happens, being unwilling as I was to sit back and let the opportunity slide by, I ended up speaking on the phone with the lady I had previously been emailing. She didn’t seem like she was going to be able to do anything so I went down the line of “I would like to give some feedback about this process” saying that if there was no flexibility in timings, this should have been made clear at the outset in order to not raise the hopes of applicants who could not then make the appointed time. Anyway, a couple of hours later she emailed me again, saying that she had now arranged the interview for me on the following day – and actually gave me a choice of two times! Amazing what a bit of complaining can achieve… whether I get any further or not, I feel like I won this battle!

    1. Grayson*

      Congrats! Don’t think of it as you complaining. You registered a legitimate concern about a hiring process that could cost the company good candidates. Good on you for being candid.

    2. Chaordic One*

      I really admire the poise with which you obviously offered this constructive feedback. Truly impressive!

  14. Cautionary tail*

    OP5, My daughter got sucked into a scam job and when she told me the details it was so egregious that we had to get the FBI involved. This was seriously scary.

    1. Zip Silver*

      My college roommate’s grandma got sucked into a Western Union scam. She lived in New England, we were going to school in a border state.
      “Hi Grandma, this is Fergus. Listen, I got arrested partying in Nuevo Laredo, can you wire me 5k for bail and to get back home? Please don’t tell Dad, I don’t want him to know”
      Well, she did it. Nobody found out it was a scam until she called him a month later to ask how he’s been since he got back from Mexico.

      1. Catherine from Canada*

        My mom and sister got sucked into this while I was travelling. The boy who called said he had a broken nose and was in a jail cell in Montreal to explain the difference in his voice. My mom is housebound and didn’t know how to Western Union $3k so she asked my sister (very high powered smart business woman) to help.
        These scammers are very good; mom didn’t realize that when she said “Fergus, is that you?” she’d given them a name.
        It went like that for many other convincing details, enough that mom convinced my sister that it was real. Sister offered to pay the money.
        It took a few hours of running around and phone calls back and forth before my sister figured out that bits didn’t make sense and finally confronted the scammer on the phone. Who promptly hung up.
        Bullet dodged but I’m still i) outraged that they take advantage of older people like that and ii) amused that sister almost got caught.

      2. erin*

        My coworker’s mother had something similar. Got a phone call from someone with a muffled voice. “Hey Grandma, it’s me. I got in a bad car accident and I’m in jail. Please don’t tell mom and dad. Can you wire money to my lawyer for the bond?” Then a few minutes later a “lawyer” called, explained that he was representing the grandchild, and asked for 5k to cover the bail.

        Luckily, grandma was sharp so she called my coworker and was like, “I just thought you should know your daughter is in JAIL!”

      3. College Career Counselor*

        My father-in-law got a call like that ostensibly from my son (buddy got in an accident on spring break in Texas and had a joint him, so they both got thrown in jail). He called me right away to ask what was up. The biggest red flag of all? The “attorney” wanted bail money to be loaded onto an iTunes card so it would “go through right away.” From what my F-I-L told me, I suspect they are using social media sites and calling mainly landlines to target older people.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          In my area, the “IRS Scam” advised a victim to pay the “back taxes” in iTunes cards.

          Seriously. And she did.

  15. LQ*

    #3 I read this a little differently. That the boss’s boss had perhaps had some experience with people who can’t follow clear step by step instructions on a job that calls for just do the work and don’t try to revamp the entire process. More of a this is a place I don’t want someone coloring outside the lines. (And there are places for that, especially if the process is well established or highly regulated, having someone come along and go, oh I can do this better lalalalalala and breaking a whole bunch of regulations or systems can be super frustrating.)

    Still talking to your boss can give you a lot of insight. This might not be the place to take initiative, but your boss might be able to suggest places that you can.

    1. Whats In A Name*

      Thank goodness. I read this the same as well. As in “thank goodness you don’t try to improve the process while going through the process and without any feedback from others”.

      I think your advice is sound, though, and follow up with her boss can never be a bad thing!

  16. Important Moi*

    Question about Letter #5:

    Let’s say I fell for the scam. I deposit the check and spent the money. What happens to me? Do I have to reimburse anyone? Have I opened myself to fraud or something? This is a serious inquiry.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      You’re bank will reverse a fraudulent check so the deposit comes out of your bank account whenever the fraud is caught.

      Not only are you out the money, but you might bounce X number of checks (like your rent!) when the reversal happens so you could easily be out way more money than the original amount.

        1. Gaara*

          I see how it hurts you, but how does the scammer benefit from you cashing their fraudulent check? Only if you give them something in exchange for it, right?

          1. Natalie*

            The typical scam involves cashing the check and then wiring some amount of money to the scammer. Depending on the exact details of the scam, the purported reason you’re wiring money might be different – they “accidentally” overpaid you, the check is coming from a third party who owes them more than they owe you, etc. You receive a fake check for $5,000, wire them $4,000, and when the check bounces the $5,000 disappears from your account.

          2. Whats In A Name*

            Usually when they are asking you to cash a paper check it is to purchase and mail some supplies or something else and send them to a certain place, which is usually another address they control. The check bounces after you’ve spent the money and shipped the goods, which they can then resell and make money off of. Or some variation of that if I understand correctly.

            1. Someone*

              Are all of these people out of the country? How do they not get caught if they are being wired money?

              1. Natalie*

                Well, most of them are outside of the US, but even if they were in the US a wire wouldn’t necessarily help identify them. You don’t have to wire money into a bank account – you can send it to a person via something like Western Union and they just go to the branch and pick up the cash. Once the cash is gone, it’s never coming back.

    2. Joshua*

      Often when you cash a check at your bank is they ask for your debit card and pin. The reason they do this is you’re in reality doing two things when you cash a check:
      1. You are withdrawing the amount of the cashed check and
      2. The bank is beginning the process to deposit the check in your account
      The process to deposit the check isn’t actually complete until the bank gets the money from whichever bank the check was issued from, which can take a day or two. In the meantime, you have the cash that you withdrew, but that’s actually your cash from the account that was there before. If the check you deposited doesn’t clear for whatever reason (for example, being a scam check), then the deposit isn’t made and you’ve essentially just made a cash withdrawal (the step 1).
      As far as I know, not being a lawyer, you’re not legally liable for fraud for unknowingly depositing a bad check. However, since the money you cashed out was yours, if you spend it on behalf of the scammer then you’ve lost that money. That’s the scam part of it. They have you spend your money before the bank lets you know the check bounced and by the time you realize the bounce happened the scammer has changed her email and is nowhere to be found.

      1. Natalie*

        One caution – for some checks it can take much longer than a day or two to get the money, and there’s no real way to know from your online account whether the check is available or truly cleared. If for some reason you’re going to deposit a check from a stranger, wait about two weeks before you assume the check has cleared. (And still don’t wire said stranger money, that’s just wonky.)

        1. NonProfit Nancy*

          Yes part of the scam can even be that the check initially appears to clear – it may not all come out for a long time (I’ve heard months, even) depending on how they set it up. Just in general, do not spend your own money as part of any job like this that seems sketchy (signs are, you don’t meet people in person, it’s all through mail/internet, you found it through an unregulated site like craigslist, there’s not an office you’ve been to, etc). If a reputable company needed something like this, they would have you use a company card and account, NOT your own money.

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        An employee of the bank will NEVER ask for your PIN number. That is, the 4 digit code that you’d use to use your card at a bank machine.

        Or, SHOULDN’T be asking for it. On all my accounts they say “a bank employee will never ask you for the PIN number on your card.”

    3. animaniactoo*

      If what you have spent exceeds your bank balance *prior* to cashing the check, the bank will want you to reimburse them. However, depending on your bank, their CS, their Fraud process, and dependent on whatever police/legal investigation may go on, they may work with you to either not demand you replace the money or (less good but still dealable with) setup a payment plan to replace the money.

    4. Mazzieful*

      You didn’t commit the fraud, but you will be out the money. If you overdraw your account, you will have to pay the bank.

      Lawyer here:

      Typically, the only legal ramifications you will face is if you don’t have the money to pay for whatever overdrafts or credit card fees you incur. Then you may go to collections.

      To be guilty of fraud you have to knowingly and actively participate in it. Receiving a bad check isn’t fraud unless you’re doing it repeatedly and knowingly to defraud the bank. That doesn’t seem to be the case here.

      I’ve had clients that had this happen to them and they don’t seem to understand that you are actually responsible for all the money that comes out of your account. If it’s overdrawn because the check bounces, it’s still your fault. This is true if you deposited a bad check from either fraud or from say grandma who has dementia and doesn’t realize what her bank balance is. Or say the US government send you your benefit check three days after it’s legally required to but your auto withdraw comes out on time so you end up overdrawn.

      Yes, it’s unfair that the victim of the fraud bears the brunt of it. The other alternative is to make the banks pay for it, but they’re not the one in the driver’s seat. It’s really up to the account holder to do due diligence on what they are depositing. It’s also up to the account holder to ensure they have sufficient funds to cover cash out irrespective of whether the amounts coming in actually come in.

      Further, while the bank makes the funds available to you either immediately or within a day or two, you can’t consider the funds really yours for a few weeks. Sometimes that’s what it takes for all the relevant I’s to be dotted and T’s to be crossed.

      In short, don’t consider the funds yours to spend until they’ve been sitting there a while and you’re sure they truly cleared .

      1. NonProfit Nancy*

        I think it can be dangerous to assume it’s legit if the money has been there “a while” too – I’d say just in general it’s a terrible red flag if you’re being asked to send your money anywhere. In a reasonable business, the money should flow TO the employee, hardly ever AWAY. If you’re being asked to buy stuff that you will later be reimbursed for, you should at least be able to keep the stuff itself until reimbursed. NEVER agree to use your own money to buy something AND send off the stuff you bought somewhere. I don’t think reasonable businesses operate that way – they would use a company credit card or a company account for these types of expenses. If they’re not willing to do that – why?

    5. Artemesia*

      You are open to fraud charges but you will absolutely owe the money back. I would bet that paying the money back while identifying it as a scam will mean you won’t be charged with fraud but it is a possibility. It is helpful if it is a bank where you have done a lot of business; they are more likely to cut their regular customers slack.

      BUT you absolutely owe the money back.

        1. Natalie*

          It’s rare, but a few scam victims have been charged with fraud. Although I’m not sure if any have ever been convicted.

  17. MarketingGirl*

    OP 1, I had a very similar situation. I explained that I had a work commitment I couldn’t miss and they kept on telling me the same time slot. I was put off and some red flags were going up, but I did a ton of rearranging to make it work. The company ended up being sketchy (although the interview itself went well) but in the end I wished I would have just stuck to my prior commitments. I wasn’t sold on them from the beginning. I should have listened to my gut.

    Missing an interview can feel like the end of the world, but if you’re not convinced about the company, cut your losses and keep looking.

    1. Mazzieful*

      Being really rigid and schedule would make me think one of the following:

      1. They don’t value my time. They think they are doing me a favor by interviewing me rather than understanding it’s a two-way street and I’m actually interviewing them as a potential employer
      2. They are sketchy and manipulative.
      3. They either don’t have enough people or have sloppy processes so that they don’t have sufficient control over the interview process to offer multiple slots. That means they don’t have enough resources or proper management structure and it will affect my work environment.
      4. One person has a schedule that must be accommodated in order for the process to be complete and there’s no one else who can step in for them. That will likely be a problem if I start working there and I have to get approval and or work with that one person.
      5. They don’t understand that part of being a professional is doing the job I already have and I cannot compromise it for an interview.

  18. ForeignAcademic*

    OP#4: I am a professor, but IANYP.

    The reason that your professor told you that he “had some concerns about not knowing my work very well outside of his class” was to encourage you to find a professor that knew you better, if you had one. So if you ask prof 2 to write you the letter instead, you are not offending prof 1; you are following his advice!

    Definitely get the letter from prof 2. When I am reviewing grad school applications, a letter that says “I don’t know this person very well, but they did well in my class” doesn’t help. It doesn’t hurt, but it doesn’t help either. A glowing letter does help.

    Alison’s script is good.

    1. #4 OP*

      Thanks! I did end up asking professor 2, and they were more than happy to do so. However, professor 1 did sound offended after all… I think it hurt his ego, to be honest. But in the end, I think professor 2 was the better choice because they showed much more interest (sat down with me for coffee and took notes of our conversation!).

      1. ForeignAcademic*

        Huh, that’s odd about prof #1. I mean, I’m sure that I have a healthy ego myself, but I wouldn’t exactly call writing a reference letter an ego boost. I suppose it wouldn’t be the first time a professor has done something odd…

        Yeah, if prof #2 actually took the time to have coffee with you to discuss your background, then they are going to write a very good letter.

        Good luck with your applications!

  19. Physician Assistant*

    Ignore angry recruiter and start your new position with a positive attitude. You’ve quit your former job and there’s no going back. It was extremely unprofessional of recruiter to do this and you have no idea the motive.

  20. Alton*

    I’m a little wary of very rigid interview times because I encountered that a lot when my info was collected off Monster by various commission-based insurance companies. I’d get an email asking me if I could attend an interview on a specific day at a specific time (for a job I never applied for). At first, I didn’t realize exactly what was going on, but eventually I figured out that these were group interviews where they probably just trying to get bodies in the room for a presentation on doing commission work.

    That’s certainly not the only reason for rigidity, but in that case it was a red flag about the nature of the work.

  21. Trout 'Waver*


    Some people whine about not having tasks with clear goals, timelines, and methods as a way to get out of doing work. Oftentimes, setting reasonable goals and timelines is the bulk of the work, and executing the method is the easy part.

    Also, saying it’s stressful to not have clear goals and timelines is like saying it’s stressful to try to resolve interpersonal conflict. Everyone feels that way. But someone has to deal with the stress of turning uncertainty into an action plan. You should try to be that type of person.

    How you do that depends on your field, your company, and your team. But in general, listen to others, figure out how problems are solved in your role, and then look for problems to solve. If you see an issue, stop and think about its impact, a possible solution, and a timeline for implementing that solution. Then, when you raise the issue to your boss, present your possible solution and timeline informally, and ask if she’d like you to handle it that way. Try to provide a solution when you raise an issue. I can’t remember who posted it in another comment section, but to paraphrase, bosses promote the employees that make their jobs easier.

  22. Elizabeth West*

    Re weird interviews and/or scams: I’m convinced I escaped becoming the victim of a crime once. This happened about ten or twelve years ago, when internetting was a little more difficult. I had answered an ad (I think in the newspaper classifieds online) for a low-level office job, not many details. This guy called me back and told me a place and a time for the interview. On the day and time, I arrived to find an empty store front.

    The door was locked, and nobody was in evidence. I think I beat the guy there. I can just imagine him unlocking the door with some glib explanation (“Oh, this will be our new location; I have an office set up in back. Come on in and we’ll talk.”). And then I go in back with him and never come out.

    The heebie-jeebies were strong. It reminded me of a time when I DID go into an isolated area with someone I didn’t know well (and I know in my soul, that night I narrowly avoided being killed). I hightailed it out of there, and when I tried to get hold of them again, nothing. So yeah.

    How to avoid this:

    1. Always, ALWAYS check the company out on the internet. If you can’t find any information, even a web page, seriously reconsider it.

    2. Don’t answer blind ads. Legitimate companies sometimes do this to avoid phone calls, but online applications / sending a resume through sites like Careerbuilder via email are so ubiquitous now, it’s not really necessary anymore. Plus, see #1. If a person calls you, ask for the name of the company and what the person’s name is. They can’t tell you the name of the company? GOODBYE. A legit job will have details.

    3. Drive by or travel to a location near the place before the day of the interview so you can check it out. First, you’ll know where to go and if there are any weird parking arrangements or problems on your route. Second, you will find out pretty quickly if there is something fishy, like the empty store front.

    Be safe, people.

  23. R*

    #1 From experience I have had lots of jobs be rigid on time for interviews. In almost all case I reluctantly moved my schedule around – in some cases doing something I regret, that could have jeopardized my job (like lying about where I was for the day to interview). In all the cases where I moved my schedule around to accommodate these rigid timelines – they never worked out. I got there and knew right away they were not good fits – or I was not a good fit.

    In one case – I was even told by the hiring manager that I need to “showcase my ability to be flexible by making the times they needed”. Long storyshort – half way through the search process the hiring manager was fired and the job search was terminated.

    Now there have been cases where someone had a rigid timeline and actually budged when I said I had to decline the interview – because they did see me as a qualified candidate – and those interviews always went well.

    Alison is right – if they want you they will work it out – don’t jeopardize your current job to do it – be honest with what you can and can’t do.

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