candidate has applied for the same job 142 times, talking to an adult child’s employer, and more

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

1. Candidate has applied for the same job 142 times in one month

We have an applicant, “Fergus,” who has applied for the same opening 142 times in the course of about one month. Fergus applied for a job with us about a year ago and got to the phone interview stage but didn’t have enough experience to move on to an in-person interview. At the time, I explained that and offered to send his resume to the hiring manager for junior positions. He declined, saying he was only interested in the job he’d applied for.

Recently we had another opening for that job. Since the position was posted, Fergus has applied almost daily. And when he does apply, he usually applies at least 10 times that day, resulting in 142 applications and counting. Our applicant tracking system is mediocre at best, so I have to go in every day and weed through all of his applications before I get to the new applicants. This is very time consuming.

Over the last few days, he has started calling us, asking us why he hasn’t been interviewed. I have told him we are looking for someone with more experience but he believes he has enough experience. I have told him we have his application so he does not need to reapply, and clearly he has not listened to that. I’ve told him our process is to contact candidates and that he should not contact us. That didn’t work either.

I’m at a loss as to how to help him. Part of me is frustrated with him because he is wasting so much of my time. Part of me feels sorry for him because he does not seem to understand what is appropriate. If he is doing this at every company he applies, he’s sabotaging his chances of landing a job anywhere. How do I get through to Fergus?

You may not be able to, since something clearly isn’t quite right with Fergus.

Have you sent him a rejection notice yet? If not, do that immediately, and make sure it’s extremely clear.

If that hasn’t solved the problem, can you block him in your system? That would be the cleanest way to deal with it.

If you’ve already rejected him and you can’t block him, then say this to him: “You’ve applied for this job more than 100 times in a one month period. We will not be interviewing you for this job. Please stop re-submitting your application.” He still may not stop, but these three things give you the best shot at stopping it.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Am I really responsible for my boss’s other business partner getting his mail?

I work for a small business as the administrative assistant. I assist 16 people, four of whome are the company’s owners. As an A.A., I know that doing personal work for the boss is part of the territory. As a general rule, personal work for three of the four bosses probably takes me about 15 minutes a month on average. The fourth boss is a different story.

It’s not so much that he inundates me with personal work: it’s the type of work. He’s a landlord and owns several other businesses with partners that don’t work for our company. He often tells his tenants to drop off rent to our office. This makes me uncomfortable since I have to handle the rent checks (and cash!) and I’ve told him that, but nothing has been done about it. The thing that bothers me most is this:

He and his other business partner incorporated their business using my company’s business address. (Just to be fair, another boss uses our business address for his other companies. He, however, handles that mail and I do nothing more than put it in his mail box.) They did this in 2010. For the past six years, I have had to forward the mail on to the actual business address of this other company. Last year I asked if his other office could change their address with these companies to their actual address. The request was passed on and the volume of mail dropped off. I still receive mail for this other company. Apparently, in a rare instance of something getting buried on my desk, I didn’t get the mail out to the other company as quickly as in the past. Well, my boss got an email from his business partner and he forwarded it on to me. In part in reads : “I just got a collection notice from (X) that looks like she sat on for 3 weeks until she sent it. I don’t get it. It’s unprofessional. Especially a letter like this that would appear important (although it isn’t).”

This was upsetting to me. I don’t work for this man. I don’t get paid by him. I don’t process his mail. I don’t even open it up for him like I do for my company. I put it in an envelope and send it on. Instead of remembering that for over six years he’s gotten this timely, free service from me, he calls me unprofessional. I made a mistake. Just who is responsible in this situation? Is it my responsibility to make sure he has his bills or is it his as they are his bills?

Well, it’s your responsibility if your employer says it’s your responsibility, and in this case it sounds like this boss has the authority to make it part of your job. That said … if you could make the case that dealing with his other company’s business is taking you away from other priorities, you could talk to the other partners and see if they’d be willing to intervene. In fact, if there’s one partner who you have particularly good rapport with, you could talk to her and see if she thinks there’s any hope of getting some or all of this moved off your plate.

3. Getting info from an adult child’s employer

A friend of mine is in a fix. Her adult daughter was terminated from a well paying job — apparently there were issues over performance and attitude for over a year. As a parent, she was accepting her daughter’s version of the happenings and trying to support her. Now the daughter is under medication. My friend feels that the details of the employment, including the reason for termination, will help her in helping her daughter recover faster and get back to work. Unfortunately her daughter says she has no friends from the company. In this case, what should my friend do:

1. Ask HR – are they obliged to share information? Can she ask to speak to the manager?
2. Dig up names of other employees from social networking sites and ask them instead?

Both need to be done discreetly without her daughter knowing – but considering that everything is in such a sensitive zone, she wants to know if a family member can directly approach the company or any of the other employees and ask for details.

Noooo, she should do none of that. It’s very unlikely that the company or the manager will talk to her, and rightly so — they have no way of knowing if the daughter would want them releasing information, and they’ll almost certainly err on the side of protecting her privacy, as they should. And trying to dig up names of her coworkers to contact is a pretty big violation of her daughter’s privacy, and could end up negatively impacting her professional reputation in ways that will hurt her in the future. And frankly, in a lot of contexts this would come off as incredibly boundary-violating.

I’m sorry your friend and her daughter are going through this, but the daughter is an adult, and her mom should not be trying to dig around in her employment stuff.

4. How long should I wait to ask for a raise after a disciplinary action?

I have been working at my current job for approximately a year and a half, and feel I may be being underpaid. The schedule for pay increases wasn’t discussed with me when I was hired. Normally I would simply approach my boss and ask, but I feel the timing is not right as I received a write-up regarding tardiness about a month ago. (I have no disagreement with the write-up itself; being on time is, in my line of work, absolutely essential, and I fully understand that I screwed up and needed to do better.) I have not been late since the write-up and have taken some steps to safeguard against it happening again. So my question is, how long should I wait to prove that I’ve mended my ways before I can ask for more money?

I’d give it another six months. That puts a good chunk of time between the raise request and the write-up, which makes it more likely that you’ll get a positive response to the request. You don’t want to ask when a reason for saying no is too fresh in your manager’s mind.

5. Getting pregnant after starting a new job

I’m about to start a new job and turning 30. My husband and I have starting a family on our radar, but no specific plans at this time. Certainly there are many factors that go into even trying to get pregnant, but in general, what’s proper etiquette in how long to wait to get pregnant? I’m conscious of establishing my credibility as well as not waiting too long either for my health, or for balancing my next career move in the future and potentially starting the clock all over again at a new job.

This isn’t really about etiquette — you should get pregnant when it works for your family, to the extent that you can control the timing. That said, you might want to wait until you’ve been at a job long enough for FMLA coverage to kick in … and it’s certainly true that most employers are less likely to think “agh, crap” if you don’t announce you’re pregnant in month two on the job. (Although the decent ones will keep that thought to themselves.)

{ 510 comments… read them below }

  1. Bend & Snap*

    #3 a therapist would be best qualified to determine what would be helpful for the daughter. Mom or daughter should hit the Google and find one instead of conducting some bizarre investigation on her adult daughter.

    1. Dan*

      I’ll admit, there are things that seem very cooky on the “outside”, but seem so much more normal when you’re actually living it. When you love and/or live with someone who has mental health problems, it can be enough to make you want to do things you otherwise normally wouldn’t.

      1. Observer*

        That’s true. But, that’s why you talk to a competent therapist. The reality is that it’s highly unlikely that Mom can accomplish anything positive by this digging, and could cause problems.

      2. Pommette*

        Mental illness can alter a person’s understanding of reality. It’s hard to help someone move past a difficult situation when you don’t know how accurate their understanding is.
        I can see how a parent who wasn’t normally intrusive or overbearing would come to contemplate the actions mentioned by the letter written.

    2. Graciosa*

      Even if the therapist determines that some kind of post mortem on this job would be helpful to the daughter, the daughter would need to be the one to request it – and the employer would need to agree to participate which is highly unlikely.

    3. ThatGirl*

      Hopefully she has one if she is “under medication”… but if the daughter had “issues over performance and attitude for over a year” then it shouldn’t be a mystery. Mom needs to butt out and daughter needs to get her life together.

      1. Observer*

        Well, not necessarily. Many therapists don’t do medication (they can’t) and many doctors who do medicate don’t do the non-medication portion of therapy.

        1. ThatGirl*

          My husband is a therapist, so yes, I know. I just meant that if she’s getting some sort of professional help, there’s a hope she’s getting more. Perhaps not, with that mother.

        2. paul*

          While that’s true it’s not uncommon for psychologist and psychiatrist to office and work together. My therapist referred me to a psychiatrist for anti anxiety meds to help get me stabilized while we worked through some stuff

          1. Observer*

            Sure. My point is only that getting medication does not necessarily mean that she is seeing a therapist. And it certainly doesn’t mean that MOM is talking to the therapist.

          2. Candi*

            Sometimes therapy alone works; other times, therapy and medication need to work together.

            Both the local Big Mental Health Clinic and the insurance my family is on won’t start medication in nonegregious cases until six one-hour therapy sessions are completed, no less than every other week, on top of the intake assessment. (Considering MHC’s results, especially long term, they’re doing something right.)

            Once the medications are adjusted and a good balance achieved, responsibility for prescribing and monitoring is shifted to the patient’s GP. They can be referred back as necessary.

            I’ve been through this with my son and his depression. Interestingly, a lot of the past discussions here have helped him. It’s one thing to see his mother struggle with depression until a successful treatment was found (hypothyroid); it’s another for him to see so many adults who manage not just to survive, but to live, in spite of the darkness that threatens.

            The mother should get therapy; it would help with the strain. My daughter is in therapy; while depression and all have passed her by (fingers crossed), dealing with me and her brother has been stressful. Therapy helps her maintain her mental health.

      2. bananaboat*

        depending on what it is it might not be as easy as just getting her life together. recovery can take a long time and often it helps to have family members on side

    4. Artemesia*

      No kidding. When I read that my first thought was ‘no wonder the daughter has problems if she was raised with this kind of intrusiveness.’ I understand the desire to know and meddle — I have a strong streak of it myself. But luckily somewhere along the line I developed enough self awareness not to lay it on my adult kids. The suggestion of medding in her work life like this is monstrous. This kind of thing would create a reputation this young woman would have trouble overcoming. People all over the field would be laughing about it; this is the sort of behavior that immediately gets shared widely. I can’t over stress how likely it is for this to seriously damage this young woman beyond what having a helicopter mother has already done.

      1. Corisande*

        Agreed. To be honest, I’m completely unsurprising that the friend’s daughter wasn’t candid with her mother if this type of behaviour is typical of her parent.

        It’s been my personal observation that children of overly prying and controlling parents learn very quickly to omit certain information least their forebearers go into full-blown anxiety spirals.

        1. Hope*

          Yep. It’s why my mother and I will never have the close relationship we both want. I can’t tell her things without them becoming something for her to obsess over or to try to control me with. A lot of the time, I don’t think she even does it consciously, and when she does do it on purpose, I know she thinks she’s helping, but that doesn’t change the fact that it always, always happens any time I open up to her. And it is never helpful.
          The mom’s probably not getting the full story because the daughter knows that if her mom knows it (whatever “it” is), that would make life/recovery more difficult for her, not easier.

          1. Tinker*

            Oh hi, fellow quasi-sibling.

            I’m not presently in contact with… any family at all, actually, at the moment, due to a lot of this with a side of current events. Before the incident that led to me and my parents not talking, the established pattern of our relationship was that I would calculate everything I said based on whether it might ruin the conversation then and whether it might end up coming back at me in unexpected ways at an awkward time five years hence. We talked a lot about the cat.

            Unfortunately, at least for me, “I can’t tell her things without populating the ocean with submarines, an unknown one of which will later resurface with torpedoes” is paired with “I can’t not tell her things without having that itself becoming a subject of fretting and prying” and “not being available to talk sometimes also ends badly”. So, at least for now, I’ve pretty much taken up residence in the third of those options.

            I actually did leave a job many years back for mental health reasons, and ultimately doing so was a major positive event in my life — not just my work life, but everything as a whole — because it forced me to start the process of confronting what I really wanted out of life independently of what fit in the “everybody happy (and expressing uncomplicated happiness in socially conventional ways), normal (according to some slightly archaic and unusually narrow standards), healthy (the prospect of even minor disability is a sad chasm of BROKEN FOREVER), and successful (at making money while climbing the managerial ladder at a Nice Stable Firm) in these very specific ways” vision that is very important to my mother.

            In the middle bit before things got good, though, there was an unfortunate period in which I had to deal with all of my problems, my feelings about my problems, and managing my mother’s feelings about my problems — while in the middle of a graduate degree in engineering, because apparently I am a bit odd in what seems to me like a useful refuge to retreat to whilst getting oneself together. It was… well, a growth experience? So yeah, I really have sympathy for the target here.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        I don’t really get what the mom is looking for either. My first thought is perhaps the daughter got involved with either drugs or an unhealthy relationship with a coworker or both. But either way, not appropriate to try and pry with the employer. Sometimes all you can do is wait until things come to light, but people have a hard time just doimg “nothing ” in the meantime.

        1. Blurgle*

          Control. She’s looking for control, either because she has no faith in her daughter to handle her own life or she’s so anxious she can’t stand not being in control.

    5. Temperance*

      My mother has been known to do weird stuff like this in an attempt to snoop on me, not because I am mentally ill. I am very wary of any parent who has such an amazing lack of boundaries.

    6. ella*

      Phrasing this as gently as I can, because I don’t want to come across as thinking the mom is “crazy” or anything like that, but in addition to a therapist for the daughter, a therapist for the mom might not be a bad idea. Discovering that your child is struggling with a mental illness that has (apparently?) cost her a job is a heavy thing. Dealing with mental illness, when you’re not the one with the illness, can be a heavy thing. Mom could use some support, and talk to somebody who could give experienced advice on how to help people with mental illness. It doesn’t sound like she has that right now.

  2. Dan*


    I actually have a lot of sympathy for OP’s mom. Back when my ex and I were still together, she got fired after three months from a job that she had volunteered with for over a year. While I knew a good chunk of what was going on (um, showing up to work late when you have an assigned shift isn’t a wise idea) I still desperately wanted to find out what the employer was seeing that I didn’t know.

    But, adults are adults, and no matter how much we love them, we have to let them live their lives the way they see fit.

      1. Dan*

        What I was saying was that sometimes you can want information really bad, but it’s not always yours to have. You are right, things were certainly amiss.

        1. TychaBrahe*

          That is SO my problem. I have such busybody tendencies, but I was raised to be very aware of other people’s privacy. So I go though life being torn up with questions: “Why are they getting divorced?” “Who was the person who died that everyone is consoling you about?” “What is the horrible thing that happened?” And I have to sit on those questions because I recognize it’s absolutely none of my business.

          Argh! Why can’t I stop being so nosy?

          1. Meri*

            We should start a club! I’m both the nosiest Nellie since Ms. Bly, and keenly aware that most things are none of my business. It’s deeply frustrating.

          2. Dolorous Bread*

            Fellow nosy person. I just want to know what’s going on!! I’m getting a lot better at sitting on things but I think I have such a drive to do it because I love connecting with people.

          3. spocklady*

            UGH me too. I don’t want to do anything nefarious with the information, I just like to know all the things. Sooo nosy. I’m better about it than I used to be, but I am burning inside sometimes.

    1. Artemesia*

      WANTING to get this information and seeking it are so much different. Yeah, I’m a snoop too and yeah I want to know and meddle. BUT honoring the adulthood of your children is pretty basic; you have to let them live their lives.

    2. Jenny*

      Yes, I have sympathy for everyone in the situation. I managed a younger college-aged worker who was fired for having a drug problem. I knew he lived at home and I’m sure his parents knew a little of what was going on but there was this part of me that really wished I could legally tell his parents “Hey, your kid is on some serious drugs and you need to get him help”

      But at the end of the day, no one can get you help unless you want it. It’s a frustrating situation to deal with.

      1. Dan*

        Actually, unless you obtained this information from a legally protected source (such as HIPPA or EAP or something), isn’t this information that you can legally share? Not that I’m suggesting that you *should* have shared it, but I don’t think that information in general is legally protected. AAM fields a lot of questions about “So-and-so told so-and -so X, isn’t that illegal?” The answer, in general, is that most information is not legally protected and can be shared.

        Put it this way… if a future employer calls up and asks for a reference, you can legally tell them you fired this person for having a drug problem.

    3. Beezus*

      And this is the way with a lot of terminations. The story the family hears is often not the whole story, and often they know it isn’t.

      I have a family member who has quit/lost three jobs in the last year. She’s having some serious mental health issues and is under the care of a therapist and taking medication. We know her issues are affecting her at work. I know better than most family members, because one of those jobs was with my employer – she didn’t use me as a reference, I didn’t even know she was applying, and I rarely interact with her role, but I know the company and her team, and I’ve worked with her boss before. She lasted just over two months. The picture she painted of my company and her departure for the family wasn’t accurate. Family members asked me questions, answering got awkward and complicated, and I quickly stopped weighing in. They know. They don’t need me to tell them, to know.

  3. anoneem*

    #1 I would consider alerting… someone? HR or building security? This is so far from normal that it might be worth other people knowing about it – this kind of persistence makes him sound like the kind of guy who might start showing up at your office.

    1. Graciosa*

      Eh – I think the first step here is still clearly communicating to the candidate that this job is never going to be an option. It is possible that he is operating on some really weird advice (“Automated application systems pull only X% of the applicants to forward to a human for review, so make sure you’re applying enough to get your resume to the recruiter”) and will simply stop when told to do so.

      I really like the idea of blocking him in the system, although there are other alternatives. I once had all communications from one person (IP address) routed to a designated email box regardless of how the email was addressed. I was really glad I did. You can keep an eye on what’s going on and periodically assess the risk in a manageable way.

      1. Artemesia*

        I think this is a security alert issue with pictures if you have any. There is some slight chance it is a normal human given terrible advice, but much greater odds that this is a seriously disturbed person who WILL be answered, who WILL be interviewed, who has a RIGHT to the job. This kind of person is scary.

        He needs to be told very clearly to stop applying and that he will NEVER be considered for employment at this company — and security needs to be very aware of the situation as do any reception people.

        1. Allison*

          It’s always better to tell security and never actually have an incident, than to not tell security because “it would be unfair to assume he’s _____” and then have an incident. OP doesn’t have a crystal ball, no one can know if this person would actually go so far as to show up at the office, but if they did show up, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that he’d make a scene if he wasn’t given a chance at the job. If there’s a security desk that people have to check in with, it’s not a bad idea to let them know not to let him up.

          People act as though letting security know about a potentially problematic individual, or reporting harassment to the police, automatically results in that person being arrested and thrown in jail. That’s rarely the case! Sometimes reporting someone to the police is little more than giving the police a heads-up that someone is causing trouble, so if he causes real trouble, they have a file on the him. Or her. Or whoever.

          1. Lala*

            Exactly! If there’s no history, the first scary offense often gets downplayed.

            And applying over a hundred times in one month for the same job is unhinged behavior. It’s so beyond normal to think doing that would be a good way to get your foot in the door that I would worry about what else that applicant thinks is normal behavior/reaction. It hurts no one for security/police to be made aware something could be a problem. It’s not the same as saying something *is* a problem. It’s a precautionary measure, and one that won’t affect anyone unless something more happens.

    2. Dot Warner*

      I agree; this reminds me of the letter from last summer where the company had told an applicant that they were to contact the company again, the police would be called. I’m worried that step may be necessary here.

    3. NoMoreMrFixit*

      This is far beyond merely pushy. It’s time for a lawyer and a do not contact or restraining order. Police too. 10 times a month would be over the top, but per day tells me you are dealing with a person who has a slippery grasp on social norms. I’ve been in a somewhat similar situation and it’s not a nice conversation when the director asks if he needs to bring in the police due to the person’s actions. The police were called in on my problem person in the end, but by somebody else and I never did hear all the details. A few people changed phone numbers and I know one person actually moved.

      1. Hmm*

        While it may come to that, it seems like putting the cart before the horse to advise getting a restraining order *before* actually telling the person to stop applying. I’d bet money that the first words out of any lawyer’s mouth would be “did you tell this person to stop emailing you.” Regardless of what *could* happen, the fact is this person hasn’t done anything that isn’t just annoying yet AND hasn’t been told to knock it off. If he’s told and doesn’t knock it off, proceed accordingly.

        1. Zombii*

          I thought so too. I know businesses have a lower bar for restraining orders, but I’m pretty sure the person has to be told to leave/don’t contact/etc before you can get one.

          The whole situation seems a bit passive-aggressive on the company’s side. Candidate was interviewed, and rejected, candidate applied again (excessively, given), but so far has only been told “We’ll call you.” Someone needs to tell him there’s no chance of getting this job (because of his lack of experience) or any job with this company (because of his aggressive application tactics), and then his response will determine the next appropriate actions.

    4. peachie*

      Yeah, possibly I’m just being paranoid, but this reminded me a lot of one of the case stories in The Gift of Fear where a too-persistent applicant took things too far. (Fortunately, in that case, no one got hurt.)

      From what I remember, the advice was to: 1. Reject firmly; then 2. Ignore (even a “leave us alone!” response will be taken as an opportunity to engage with someone that determined).

    5. Karen D*

      I can see one possible alternate answer. I helped a friend apply for a job and during the application process the site froze, so she backed up and started over again, only to have it freeze in the exact same place. She abandoned the online application and contacted the employer directly (It was one of those situations where the web application was just a formality; she pretty much already had the job).

      Over the next couple of days, that web form submitted her (incomplete) application dozens of times. Turned out that it didn’t like the formatting in text she was cutting and pasting from her resume.

      I assume that if there were major problems with the web form OP would have said; but in my friend’s case, she had saved her resume in a weird format (some free word processor she found and was using instead of the perfectly good options that came with her computer) and it was causing problems the company had never seen before.

      Anyway, before I called the cops I’d at least ask Fergus “Did you really submit your application 142 times?” Take out that one fact and you’ve just got a clueless, tone-deaf applicant.

      1. Beezus*

        Yeah, there could be a technology reason. A friend of mine had a weird glitch with a text message a few months ago, and accidentally wished me a happy Thanksgiving over 40 times in the course of about three hours.

        1. Beezus*

          I left this comment a few hours after reading the letter, and I’d forgotten that Fergus was also calling. Probably not a glitch, then.

          1. Annonymouse*

            Maybe Fergus thinks it’s like the lottery:
            “The more times you enter, the more chances to win!”

            Regardless, the first step is an email saying you’ve received his application, reviewed it and are rejecting him for this role or any other roles with your company and do not contact us again or we will escalate the matter. (Approved by boss/HR/legal department before you send it of course)

            I’d also have saved / filed all his applications as evidence, save a copy of the email you send to him and any replies.

            Also log his calls “Fergus Witherbottom called at 9:12 to ask about job application.” And log the calls at 9:17, 9:20, etc.

    6. Alex "Barney" Barnaby*

      I think the sole intermediate step is to say, “It’s possible that you’ve been given some terrible advice regarding applying and persistence. I am telling you right now, unequivocally, that you will NEVER be interviewed for this job. Initially, the problem was your lack of qualifications, but at this point, your behaviour exhibits serious problems with judgement. My advice to you is to speak to a qualified career coach about your approach and the way in which it harms your candidacy. I wish you luck in finding other employment; if you contact this office again, we will take legal action against you.”

    7. copy run start*

      Absolutely. A person doesn’t dedicate this amount of time and effort if they don’t think the application is getting through, they would just call to confirm and drop it. This person seems to be either a) determined to make a pain of himself since he’s not getting hired or b) doesn’t completely understand the ramifications of his actions. Either way the appropriate parties must be aware in case he starts showing up. At that point I’d say let him know he’s wasting his time, but things can escalate quickly if this is a worst case scenario, so security needs to be aware ahead of the message being delivered.

      I was stalked for a while by a guy who was told he couldn’t print something at a previous job. (Dude blew up.) Claimed we put him in the hospital for stress, wanted names so he could sue, would show up at odd times to try and catch you off guard or get another employee to slip up and find out who you were, tried to follow me home a few times. You never know.

  4. LadyCop*

    #1. It sounds like he’s likely aware what he’s doing is innopropriate and may not necessarily be doing it at other places…however…

    If Alison’s advice doesn’t help. I would advise warning him you will contact the police…and do so if necessary because (at least in my state) this qualifies as textbook harassment. It’s no different than emailing or calling 10+ times daily. Worst case scenario, it will make it stop.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This was my reaction, too—assuming there’s no bug in the application system, Fergus’ behavior is somewhat unhinged. It’s not normal to apply for something 142 times. It’s not normal to call and demand an explanation for why you haven’t been offered an interview, especially when you’ve been informed directly that you don’t meet the hiring criteria/qualifications for a particular position. So if we assume that Fergus is knowingly doing everything OP#1 has described, then I think it’s going to be important to be compassionate but also wary.

      I understand that folks sometimes do desperate and unprofessional/unwise things when they are unemployed, financially stressed, and seeking a way out. But the level of escalation in his approach made me raise my eyebrows. Certainly start by directly rejecting him, but be cautious and kind in communicating that rejection, and absolutely run this up the line if he persists.

      1. Mb13*

        I might also recommend doing a background check on Fergus. The 140+ applications too me seem more malicious than an application bug. It would be good to know if he had any past tendencies with being violent or dangerous. If someone is seemingly spending hours spamming the application app out of spite I’ll be concerned what they’ll do once they get rejected.

        1. KiteFlier*

          I’ve always had to sign background consent forms when backgrounds are required, and only received the form with an offer letter. You can’t run a background check on applicants who have not consented.

          1. JessB*

            If he’s given you details of references as part of any of those 142 applications, you could possibly call them for more information on Fergus’s behaviour. It’s a bit iffy morally, I guess, as it wouldn’t be with the aim of potentially offering him the job, but rather gathering information on his bizarre behaviour.
            But more informal than an official background check.

            1. BRR*

              I wouldn’t call his references. That’s not what they are there for plus it might intensify things when Feegus hears you contacted them.

              1. OhNo*

                Yes – if Fergus hears that you contacted his references, then things are only going to escalate. And you have to assume that he will hear about it somehow, if you want to prepare.

                Plus, there’s honestly nothing that you could learn from contacting these people that you don’t already know. Fergus is weird, has little to no professionalism, and is way over-invested in this company and this job. That’s all you need to know at this point.

          2. Anna Pigeon*

            Standard hiring background check, no, but you can hire a private investigator to investigate anyone. It’s not an uncommon action to take when a customer or other individual makes threats of physical violence against your company or a specific employee. (Not that we’ve seen evidence of that type of threat in the OP’s letter.)

          3. Mb13*

            Hmmm maybe not an official background check but a simple google of the applicant, plus checking up on their social media (unless you need a consent form. I never did a background check so I don’t know what’s the process is like)

            1. Natalie*

              I just don’t see why this would be necessary at all. You don’t need to know anything more about Fergus to know that he’s being a pest. And I just don’t see anything coming up on Facebook that’s going to help you get rid of him.

              1. Hmm*

                Not to mention that doing any of this comes off less as “due diligence” and a lot more as “nosy parker” or worse, “internet vigilante.” You are not the police. You do not need to investigate some person who is emailing you. If he escalates, turn it over to legal, building security, and the police. Dealing with that is literally their job and literally not yours. And I guarantee if things escalate with Fergus and the police have to get involved, they are not going to be impressed that some recruiter at Company A is just chock-full of stuff gleaned off of Google. Or that a PI was hired. That really is just going to set off alarm bells for them, like perhaps Company A was in fact harassing Fergus.

          4. Zombii*

            >You can’t run a background check on applicants who have not consented.

            Although there is this thing called Google, and if you add “crime” or “police” to a search of someone’s name, it’ll show you some interesting things. (That’s how someone at Toxic ExJob found out a co-worker had murdered two people, and was on parole, which he never disclosed to the company before being hired (company had valid reasons to not employ violent felons, but apparently wasn’t actually doing background checks, to save money). Fun times.)

        2. Screening Co Employee*

          Definitely don’t do this! You need to have permissible purpose to run a check (“I want to hire a guy” is permissible purpose, “I want to see if this guy is violent but I’m not hiring him regardless” is definitely not), plus you need the authorization and consent (what Kite Flier is talking about) plus it gets expensive. N0w, it is possible that you could have the ATS set up to automatically get consent so you don’t have to wait for it later, but you still don’t have the permissible purpose in this case.

          I guess you could do one on your own without engaging a third party – those have different rules – but that’s time consuming, assuming that the record holders would even part with the information on such flimsy grounds.

          1. Maggie*

            Definitely depends on the state. In my state, anyone can request a name-based background check on anyone else, for any reason, so long as they’re willing to pay a small fee. It’s not a detailed as a fingerprint based check, but it couldn’t hurt, especially if he has a semi-uncommon name.

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              But there is no need! And I emphatically do not agree that “it couldn’t hurt” is true here. Running a background check as a company on an applicant when you have no intention to hire them violates the spirit, albeit not the law, of privacy rules. It’s not ethical. He’s made no threat against anyone and they are not looking to hire him. There are a hundred things they can do before they start running a background check or hire a PI or any other privacy-violating thing.

        3. HRish Dude*

          No. For the exact same reason #3 can’t go snooping into her daughter’s past without her permission, #1 can’t go snooping into Fergus’.

      2. MuseumChick*

        I agree. Send him a custom rejection letter that states very clearly he is being turned down for the job, state clearly that you do not want him contacting the company any further, and further applications and phone calls will result in the authorities being contacted.

        1. Newby*

          I think he might need a personalized rejection letter that says that he will never be hired because of his erratic behavior in the application process. Otherwise, he will probably do it again the next time he sees an opening.

          1. MuseumChick*

            Agreed. And wording needs to be solid, clear, and blunt “We have received your 142 applications. This letter is to inform you that we will not hire you. Any further communication by phone, email, letter, in-person, and application submission will be consider harassment and be reported to the authorities.”

            Leave zero room for him to think he has a chance.

          2. OhNo*

            Anything that smacks of personal attention could be problematic at this point. He seems to be under the impression that he’s special in some way, so anything that feeds into that is best avoided if possible. I think a template might be a better first step, and if he doesn’t get the hint, they can follow up with a “you will never, ever get hired here” custom letter.

            1. BPT*

              I actually think personalized would be better. If he gets a form letter, he could easily say, “well they must have sent it to me by mistake, obviously my application got mixed in with the reject pile and they didn’t realize they were sending this rejection to me. I’d better follow up again and let them know they made a mistake.” The only way to get through to him (if there is a way at all) is to say, “Fergus – you are rejected. We will not interview you. We will not hire you. Stop applying and contacting us.”

          3. Parenthetically*

            I had the same thought. Not because the guy deserves that level of feedback, per se, but because maybe it’ll get him to wake up enough to knock it off.

      3. Juli G.*

        What concerns me is that if he was financially desperate, one would think he would have taken up the OP’s offer to pass his resume around for other roles. His fixation on this one role is bizarre at best.

        1. MuseumChick*

          This is just speculation, but I’ve worked with people like this in the past. I remember one guy saying he didn’t want any “small or unimportant” positions. They egos tend to be huge, they over-estimate their abilities, and tend to be very obnoxious which seems to be the case here.

          I really hope AaM makes a Gumption section. This would be perfect for it.

          1. (Another) B*

            Ohh agreed! I feel like we’ve seen some people like this written about on here. Put them all in the same place.

      4. Katie*

        I wish OP could include in her rejection letter, “This is a job, not a raffle. Applying more times will not increase your odds of getting the job.” Though unfortunately it sounds like Fergus might have actual mental issues, so yeah, this whole thing needs to be treated with care.

  5. Dan*


    Part of me wonders if the ATS is buggy, because applying 10 times a day for a total of 142 times a month takes more energy and patience than most people have.

    1. Purple Dragon*

      I wondered that too – but if the person is applying that many times I’d definitely be taking anoneem’s advice and making plans for when/if they show up.

    2. Dot Warner*

      Good point – is there a way to set up the application system such that a person can’t apply to the same listing more than once?

      1. Dot Warner*

        Also, I want to clarify that I think the guy is harassing the company and potentially dangerous. I pointed this out because most of the application systems I’ve seen only allow a person to apply to a listing one time, so it’s plausible that this company has a loony applicant AND their system needs to be fixed.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      The fact that it’s coupled with phone calls demanding an explanation for why Fergus hasn’t received an interview makes me think it’s likely not a bug, but rather, really insane conduct on the part of the applicant. But, it doesn’t hurt for OP to ask Fergus if he’s aware that he’s applying 10+ times/day. If it turns out the application system is buggy, it doesn’t change OP’s substantive response, but it could effect the severity of that response.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, that was my thought — it would be awfully coincidental if the one person affected by the bug happened to be the same person who keeps calling inappropriately. It’s certainly possible, but my money is on the issue being with Fergus, not with the application system.

        1. Dan*

          Just to be clear, I agree with you — what are the odds the ATS is crapping out on the one guy who’s kind of demonstrating that he’s a nut? They’re slim. It’s just that if I got 142 applications from someone in one month, I’d ask my sys admin if there’s a system issue of some sort. I wouldn’t spend a lot of time on it, but I’d at least ask. And then I’d conclude that the guy is truly nutty.

      2. SophieChotek*

        I agree. Plus it seems like if the ATS was buggy, the OP would be getting multiple applications from multiple people, not just Fergus…

      3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Asking Fergus about it directly does give OP an opportunity to be like “Hey, you know you’re applying like 10 times a day, right? That is really abnormal and, if we had been inclined to interview you before, we wouldn’t be anymore. This is really unacceptable” in a way that Fergus might be able to understand and take with him to future job applications? It’s not OP’s job to do that, but they expressed some interest in doing so, and pointing out abnormal behavior directly is a good opening.

    4. Cambridge Comma*

      Or maybe there is no confirmation at the end that the submission as gone through, so he keeps redoing it?

        1. Lance*

          Exactly: he’s clearly heard from them, he clearly knows his application went through, and yet he’s continuing this all the same

    5. Bee Eye LL*

      I am thinking it may be a little bit of both. Perhaps he’s clicking some kind of “Submit” button 10 times since it’s easy to do. Maybe a glitch on his computer or browser. But coupled with all the phone calls he definitely comes across as obsessive.

        1. GrumpyPants*

          Yup! I would call this stalking……Applying every day, and then escalating to calling multiple times, not taking no for an answer……I’m thinking one email clearly rejecting his application, and then total silence. Because every time he gets a response, even if it’s a no, in his eyes IS a response, and so therefore a ‘maybe’, so he will just keep trying…..

          1. RVA Cat*

            This. He is clearly fixated on this job in an unhealthy and perhaps dangerous way. I’m concerned he will not only show up to make a scene, but he may be armed. This behavior reminds me of an obsessive fan stalking a celebrity.

      1. Karo*

        But again, that’s 10 times at a single application – I have people in my life that would absolutely click the submit button 10 times if they didn’t think the browser was responding fast enough. But to do so at least 14 times? So for 2 weeks straight to go into a system, apply, and hit the submit button 10 times – there’s no “oops” about that.

        1. Antilles*

          Yeah, this is really the thing. It’s entirely possible that the ATS software may have a bug/misclick/issue leading Fergus to submit his application 10 times instead of once. It’s also entirely possible that such an bug/misclick/issue could only affect one candidate and not everyone due to a particularly laggy computer, weirdness with his specific browser/add-ons/OS/etc, whatever.
          BUT such a bug or misclick doesn’t explain the repetition. If it was really a bug, it would happen once on the first-and-only day when he submitted his application. And if he really just wanted to follow up because he thought it was buggy, he would have called once and then accepted “sorry, we’re not interested”.

          1. Michele*

            If there was a bug, they would also see other people with an unusually high number of submissions. If the bug were on Fergus’s computer, the onus would be on him to get it fixed.

        2. Doe-eyed*

          I guess there’s a slight possibility that he may think that the system should give him a confirmation or show that he’s applied if he has an active application, but that is VERY remote. Like our system, if you click a job you’ve applied to will offer you a “check the status of my application” button or give you a hard stop and let you know you’ve already applied.

    6. Steve*

      He’s trying to demonstate that he has more energy and patience than most people. I’m guessing Furgus is pretty new to the working world and taking the advice of some baby boomer: “don’t take no for an answer! Employers want to see that you have some gumption!”

      (Stop saying that, Dad, it’s not 1976 anymore)

      1. Allison*

        I have to believe that even those “gumption” people would tell you not to apply to the same job multiple times a day, every day, for weeks. They tell you to follow up, maybe apply again if they don’t hear anything, and to apply to multiple jobs within a company, but no sane person would advise someone to apply 142 times.

        Maybe this is a misguided application of that baby boomer advice.

          1. K*

            Seriously! I’m a millennial and hate it when people make assumptions about, say, the work ethic of my entire generation…so I can only assume baby boomers feel the same way. Don’t do it.

          2. Pomona Sprout*

            Another baby boomer here, and I agree.

            Some us are tired of being told we’re responsible for everything that’s wong with the world, just because we were born within a certain time span.

      2. eplawyer*

        That was my thought as well. He thinks this job is perfect for him and by gum and by golly, he is going to get it. He’s going to keep applying until they interview him to show that he is not a quitter.

        I also agree that you might want to alert building security. Because the next step in gumptioning a job is to show up and ask for an interview. If he does, just have building security escort him out and give him a tresapss notice. If he shows up again, then call the police. (obviously call the police if his behavior is threatening prior to this step).

        1. Collarbone High*

          Motion to add “gumptioning a job” to the AAM vocabulary (and the English language) to describe these kinds of misguided tactics.

    7. Jessesgirl72*

      10 times instead of once per day would be a bug. Reapplying every single day is all Fergus.

      And as has been noted, this “bug” is only effecting his applications.

    8. Emi.*

      It depends on how the system works–if you build or upload a resume and cover letter separately from applying to postings, it could be as easy as clicking Apply -> Attach Resume.pdf -> Attach CoverLetter.pdf -> Submit. It would be pretty easy to apply to ten jobs a day on USAJobs, for instance (although I don’t think it lets you apply to the same posting more than once).

      1. Dan*

        USAjobs was my friend for awhile a few years back, and the jobs I applied to weren’t that easy to fill out. I always had a few pages of multiple choice questions to fill out (not a skills test per se, but I had to answer a bunch of questions).

        I did feel sorry for the HR folk, because one quickly realizes that when they are on unemployment and have to fill out job contacts, you can half ass your application and still get credit for your “contacts.” And since you really have to dot your i’s and cross your t’s, you can pretty much count on your application not getting considered.

    9. Sas*

      Good point. I didn’t think of that. You know what I find interesting, the response to this compared to the response for the young man who already had the job but was reigning the same kind of “hell” upon the people he already worked with by having his unhinged parents calling in to fix? (harass adults) all of his adult problems. Which is better, well people have spoken. There seems to be understanding for a man who “is going to have such a difficult time learning to ride the bus at twenty-something” instead of another young man who has a difficult time growing up.
      Anyways, (and none of this was directed at you Dan), you could be right. Most applications the way they are set up take hours to complete and it could be a one off type of situation. Phones do that sometimes, it’ll keep calling a number without you knowing. I am not addressing the phone situation here though. They could stop the person from being able to apply more times? I am not sure what other suggestions to offer the OP. Send a letter that is concise, but also not pointed. This person is probably struggling in one way or another. Sadly

      1. Zombii*

        I’m sorry you feel so much inexplicable anger towards the subject of a letter from days ago that you’re bringing it up in an unrelated comment thread in way that doesn’t connect at all. Do you need a hug?

        1. Sas*

          I find this comment so rude. What? Are we not allowed to bring up topics from other days to compare to other comments? This feels to me like a back handed condolence. How rude.

    10. voluptuousfire*

      Does the OP’s ATS require a new email address for each application? Some systems require unique addresses for reach application while other systems don’t. If it’s the former, well this dude is unhinged

    11. LQ*

      That was my first thought, but the calling makes me think it isn’t. The good news is the same advice applies. Though I might have someone check and see if they are coming in tenths of seconds apart, then you’ve got a bug AND you need to turn this guy down clearly.

    12. CAA*

      It depends on the ATS. Ours doesn’t require a login or account. You just fill out one page of on-screen fields (which would be remembered if you did it with Chrome), upload your resume file and hit submit. It would take me less than 15 minutes to apply to one of my listings 10 times.

      1. Dan*

        Oh I know. I’m just impressed with someone who has the patience to apply for the same job 142 times in a month. That’s a lot of… gumption.

  6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, I feel like your friend is missing at least three big issues in how she’s framing her daughter’s challenges. First, she’s not speaking to her daughter; she’s trying to go around her to ask really inappropriate questions of her last employer. I can’t emphasize enough how deeply inappropriate and borderline-harassing/controlling it is to try to implement an information-gathering plan like this. I’m assuming she wants to do this because her daughter won’t give her details about what happened or is happening, which makes me wonder if her daughter wants her mother’s “help.”

    Second, your friend’s assuming that her daughter is broken and in need of repair. I don’t know what her daughter is going through, but if she’s grappling with mental illness, then treating her as if she’s broken or deficient for losing her job and then starting medication is not a healthy or constructive framework for your friend or her daughter. It also sets the daughter up for future failure if her mother is hounding her or pressuring her to return to work when she may need time to focus on her own health and well-being. Finally, your friend isn’t recognizing her daughter’s agency and autonomy as an adult and is trying to manage her life. If her daughter hasn’t asked for her to help in those ways, then this dynamic is problematic.

    It’s a massive violation of boundaries to go to an adult child’s employer. And although your friend may be well-intentioned, her desire to speak to her daughter’s ex-employer reflects poorly on your friend’s judgment. I think she’s convinced herself that she wants this information to help her child, but it sounds like she wants information regarding the prior employer in order to address her own anxieties regarding her daughter. I imagine this is a scary experience for her, but the “solution” she’s come up with isn’t a solution at all. I cannot see how speaking to her daughter’s ex-employer would help her daughter in any way. It signals either that her mother doesn’t believe her, or it evinces a complete lack of professional and personal boundaries. You would be doing your friend a great service by talking her out of her plans.

    1. Mb13*

      Absolutely agree. And will like to add that when your daughter finds out her mom went behind her back to extract further information about a very humiliating and upsetting moment she might not be too eager to have a close relationship with her mom. Think about it from the daughter’s pov she’s been fired and is in a low mental spot. And while she’s at her lowest her mom emotionaly kicked her while she’s down by TRACKING DOWN her old coworkers to get the truth from them. (Also it’s very likely she’ll find out. If a person claiming to be the mother of my ex coworker started interrogating about why her daughter got fired I’ll probably want to get in touch with ex CW to let her know about it and offer a number to domestic abuse hotline. Because that’s the sort of red flag wielding controlling behaviors abusers use)

      1. velociraptors at dawn*

        OP#3, you also don’t know what goes on inside a family. If the mother is like this in other areas of her daughter’s life, Mom’s behaviour could be one of the issues that daughter is trying to deal with in her therapy. It could even have contributed to the daughter’s problems at work, if Mom was constantly offering advice and help.

        I accept that you say that your friend has good intentions, but situations like this are why we say “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”

    2. Lord of the Ringbinders*


      And the kindest thing you can do is suggest therapy for mom too – as a career she needs her own support and right now she’s clutching at straws with this idea.

    3. Djuna*

      Yes to all of this.
      OP #3, it’s very likely that your friend’s daughter sought help not just because of losing her job, but because she accepts the reasons why her company let her go and wants to work on them. That’s a very adult and responsible reaction, and it’s not one people always have.

      She needs to be supported in that, and her mom needs to forget about the job and whether she knows the absolute truth about it or not. That’s a distraction, and it’s not helpful to either of them. I can understand a mother being anxious and wanting to help, but the flip side of that is that right now she’s putting the burden of her anxiety on her daughter, and thinking of displacing it onto her daughter’s former employer, where neither of those is appropriate.

      It’s a tricky situation for you as a family friend, but I’m pretty sure her daughter would be happier without having to manage her mom’s feelings while working through her own. Lifting the fear of her mom contacting her former employer would be doing her (and her mom!) a great service.

    4. Sparrow*

      Totally agree that the mom has convinced herself it well help, but I wonder if her reasons are more altruistic. Not being able to do anything to help someone you care about can understandably cause frustration and a feeling of powerlessness, and I can imagine that focusing on this makes the mom feel like she’s doing something that could help. But again, that doesn’t make it the right solution.

    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      All of this! As someone who suffers from mental health issues and was terminated from a job, I would be absolutely mortified if my mother did this.

      1. Artemesia*

        I think anyone whether they are having mental health issues or not would be mortified if their parent did this. It is horrific.

    6. HelloItsMe*

      This sounds like something my mom would do. I mean not exactly. I don’t even have mental health problems. When I first went to college she demanded my email password, my bank account info, and my school ID for the teacher/student portal. I said no.

      1. nonymous*

        haha! this is so common. I’ve also seen uni students tell their parents to contact the registrar’s office directly (in order to avoid saying no to parents), then the school has to tell them that their kid is the gatekeeper.

    7. Huddled over tea*

      I would not be surprised if daughter was deliberately not telling her mother more details because she knows exactly that her mother is like this! OP, please bear in mind that you are hearing this information third hand (company to daughter, daughter to mother, mother to you) so of course it feels like information is missing. It might well be that the daughter got a very thorough evaluation but didn’t want to tell her mother.

  7. Turanga Leela*

    #5: My very, very approximate rule of thumb is to work somewhere for 9-12 months before going off birth control or otherwise trying to get pregnant. However, this is not a hard and fast rule, and you can absolutely try earlier if it makes sense for you. In particular, if you suspect that you might have trouble getting pregnant, you shouldn’t feel any obligation to wait.

    One factor to consider if you’ve never been pregnant (and I apologize if you’ve already heard this from everyone): for some women, early pregnancy is extremely draining. It’s not unusual to be exhausted or nauseated for days at a time. I have a close friend who got pregnant right after starting a new job, and it was a challenge for her to learn the ropes and impress her coworkers at a time when her body just wanted to sleep 10 hours a day. She pushed through, though, and she, the baby, and the job were all fine. :)

    1. lulu*

      I agree with that. I would wait about a year, but that’s just my own internal rule. Or maybe wait 9 months as you said, and then by the time you tell them it would be at least a year.

    2. VroomVroom*

      As someone who IS currently pregnant – I turned down the opportunity for a promotion for unrelated reasons in August (mostly being my husband is currently job hunting, my current position is in quite a flux and my boss and I agreed together that we’d rather I stay in this position for at least another year or two), and found out I was pregnant in September (wasn’t trying, SURPRISE!). I am SO SO SO SO glad I did turn down that opportunity, because mid September to mid December I was Sick. As. A. Dog. If I’d been trying to learn a new role I would have just started, been trying to impress my new manager and felt uncomfortable asking for leniency (my boss was fantastic about letting me work remotely almost exclusively for 3 months, except when I absolutely needed to be in the office for a meeting).
      AND that’s at a company where I’m well established already. The other department knows me quite well and works with me frequently, hence the opportunity for promotion (they approached me). But, to have been learning a new position while I was so sick for the first 3 months or so, only to go out on maternity leave for 3 months after I’d been in the position for about 8-9 months? Nope, I would have hated that scenario.

      Regardless, if you’re at a new company FMLA doesn’t apply unless you’ve been at the company for 365 days. So, at the BARE minimum if you need to start trying for your own health purposes, I’d wait to start until you’ve been at the company for 3-4 months. I have a friend who got pregnant 3 months after starting a new job. Her baby ended up coming 2 weeks early and she JUST missed the FMLA cut off – by 1 week. The company still gave her time off, but the pay during the time off wasn’t the same as if she’d had 1 extra week under her belt (ha, pun not intended but hilarious).

    3. Snackie Onassis*

      A few years ago, I accepted a new position on Wednesday and found out I was pregnant on Friday. We had been trying for a little while and had already had a miscarriage. I started my new job 8 weeks pregnant, sharing an office with my new boss while my office space was renovated, and I threw up every single day for the next 6 weeks. I was living on saltines and the occasional white toast, and here’s the funny thing — my new boss never even suspected. Not even when we went to a work happy hour and I ordered a Sprite. I really wanted to work hard and prove myself in the beginning, so I waited until I was about 16 weeks pregnant to let him know. Getting through each day was really difficult, and I pretty much took a nap as soon as I got home each evening, but in a way having the new job motivated me to keep moving in those early weeks and save my sick leave for later on when I really needed it. I went on maternity leave for 3 months after being in my position for a little over 6 months, and by that time I had at least started to establish myself as a dedicated teammate and a hard worker, so they were supportive of my leave and thrilled when I returned. I wouldn’t recommend this timing, and I was lucky that my new position was in a different department of the institution I’d been with for years so all my leave transferred, but in the end it all worked out just fine for me. That’s my very long vote for: Get pregnant when it makes sense for you and your family. You’ll figure out the rest.

      1. HYDR*

        I agree about the FMLA time frame. At my employer, you have to use your accrued sick and vacation time for maternity leave, and FMLA covers you if you have been there a year (don’t get me started on this policy….I can give you an earful!). Some employers don’t let you take any sick/vacation time in the first 6 months, so know the policies when you start a new job! Also, something that saved my butt, my supervisor only wanted me to report time off in 4 or 8 hour chunks….so I scheduled all of my pre-natal visits at 4 p.m., since it was closer to 0 hours than 4, I didn’t have to report any time off. It was their silly rule, but one that I certainly worked to my advantage ;)

      2. SpaceySteph*

        “Get pregnant when it makes sense for you and your family.”

        This is true, but I think it bears including that the ability to take leave (paid leave accrual and/or FMLA eligibility) is a reasonable thing to include in the calculus of what’s right for your family.

      3. job hunting*

        thanks for this. we’ve been trying since june.. nothing yet, and work has become unbearable. of course.. everyone says it will happen when it does… so i’m wondering if going to a less stressful environment will help.

  8. Senior Communications and Engagement Officer*

    #5 – Like Allison said, it comes down to whenever makes sense for you and your family. I started a new job last year knowing that my husband and I would be trying to start a family soon, and waited until I hit the six month tenure mark before going off birth control. That decision was based purely on financial reasoning – I don’t qualify for paid maternity leave benefits at my job until I reach 12 months tenure, so I wanted to be sure that I would be able to make it to a full 12 months. Having said that, we’re three months into trying and there’s no glimpse yet of a baby on the horizon, so I could very well have started trying earlier on!

    Adding to what Turanga Leila said, I was also aware that I might not perform at my best while/if pregnant. I’m glad that I’ve already had nine months worth of proving myself at a new company and aceing a few big projects before even having to broach the idea of maternity leave!

    1. TheCupcakeCounter*

      Same here – 6 months in before we starting trying in order to make sure I was covered for FMLA and paid leave. I was also fairly comfortable with my job at that point so that was no longer an added stress.

    2. New Bee*

      At the opposite end, I know someone who got pregnant right when she started and ended up leaving because she had twins (and other factors like moving back to her home country for family support). I got pregnant 6 mos after starting a new job (our paid mat benefits kick in after 90 days), was fine the first trimester, and needed the most accommodation (including exclusively WFH) in trimester 3. So you really never know.

    3. MariaSays*

      It took me way longer than I expected to get pregnant the first time, OP, so keep in mind there is a lot out of your control. Start when you’re ready. It could be a process that takes a year or more. After that experience plus a miscarried second pregnancy, I can say do what you need to do, don’t worry about the what ifs yet.

      1. Senior Communications and Engagement Officer*

        Thanks for your comment! It’s all fingers crossed here – like you said, there’s so much you can’t control. I’m doing all that’s recommended in terms of eating well, exercising, taking prenatal vitamins, tracking ovulation, etc etc. It’ll just be a matter of time.

  9. Drew*

    OP#1: Definitely check to make sure there’s not some bug in the application system – but if you aren’t getting 100+ copies of anyone else’s application (especially if Fergus’ applications aren’t 100% identical), then it’s probably Fergus being misguidedly “persistent.”

    I do think you need to be explicit with a no-contact request, and IMO this request should be via email AND certified letter, because certified letters can be refused but it shows you made a good-faith effort to contact him by multiple means. And if Fergus signs for the letter, it’s prima facie evidence that he knows you want him to stop contacting you. Hopefully, that will be enough, but if it isn’t, a paper trail will help with any legal avenues you decide to pursue.

    Of course, if Fergus calls again, you can be direct: “Fergus, I have already explained that we will not be interviewing you. At this point, I also need to tell you that any further contact from you will be considered harassment. Stop calling, stop emailing, and stop applying for jobs here.” If he launches into a “but whyyyyyy?” pity party, just say, “This decision is not up for debate. I am ending this call now.” Give him a chance for a graceful goodbye, but if he persists, just say, “Goodbye, Fergus” and hang up.

    I hate that I have to say this, but you also need to make your building security aware of Fergus and explain that he is absolutely not welcome on the premises for any reason. And if you don’t HAVE security, let your main gatekeepers know about the situation and what you want done if Fergus does show up (probably some variation on, “Please wait here while I see if she is available,” followed by ducking into an office and paging someone intimidating to tell him to leave, while getting ready to call 911 if the situation escalates).

    Chances are, it won’t come to that; Fergus is more likely misguided than deranged, and a firm “No, really, STAHHHP” will dissuade him. But it never hurts to be prepared just in case he’s the exception. Best of luck and please let us know what happens!

    1. MuseumChick*

      This is nit-picky but I would not say “at this point”. That might give this guy false hope (people only hear what they want to hear). I like the rest it “I’ve already explained this to you. You are not qualified to the job and will not be interviewed. Any further phone calls, emails, letters, or application submissions will be considered harassment. Is that clear?”

      1. Allison*


        It’s like that episode of How I Met Your Mother where Lily kept rejecting a guy by saying “I don’t want to be with you right now” and that “right now” made him think there was still a chance in the future, but Lily had a hard time leaving that off even though she was married, because he had those puppy dog eyes.

        Or that time I told an agency recruiter we weren’t looking to partner with any new agencies “right now” and he immediately asked when he should message me again. Next month? I’d made a mistake, because the truth was we were probably never going to partner with his agency.

    2. MuseumChick*

      Only thing I would change is “at this point” people like Fergus only hear what they want to hear and it could give him false hope.

  10. Lord of the Ringbinders*

    #1 Either Fergus isn’t very well or he’s had some really bad advice. It’s not your job to try to work out which, frankly. I would maybe get a lawyer to draft a letter telling him to stop contacting the company.

  11. Drew*

    OP#3: The kindest thing you can do is explain to Mom that no one at her daughter’s former workplace should discuss a former employee’s termination with a third party and that it’s out of bounds even to request it. The situation sounds awful and I have nothing but sympathy for Mom’s desire to find out what really happened, but that information has to come from Daughter, and if Mom can’t trust what Daughter tells her now, she needs to work with her to get to a place where that trust can be rebuilt. Going around Daughter is exactly the opposite of what Mom should be doing.

    1. Chaordic One*

      Agreed. And it is good that Daughter seems to be moving forward and getting past her bad experience.

      1. Brogrammer*

        Yeah, acknowledging that there’s a problem and doing the hard work to address that problem is the mature, adult response to this kind of situation. So long as OP3’s friend doesn’t undermine her daughter’s recovery, the daughter will likely be fine.

    2. Backwards and in high heels*

      It can also end in the worse possible scenario: completely destroy Daughter’s trust and any future good relationship. Do not ask how I know :(

  12. Turtle Candle*

    At first I assumed that “142 times” would be followed by “…over the course of a decade” or something. Even that would be moderately eyebrow-raising to me, but… it was in one month??? YIKES.

    It is I suppose possible that Fergus ran afoul of a bug, but given that it’s apparently just him and he’s also been pushy over the phone, that seems less likely. I think it’s time to give him a single clear, firm “please stop” and then block him everywhere. And know what your available next steps are in the unfortunate chance that you need to escalate.

  13. Lord of the Ringbinders*

    So in the post you linked to about the over eager application from the desperate guy with kids – well, I’m shocked by the first response.

    Desperation does not ever entitle someone to a job. OP, if you read that post please know you’re not unreasonable to not want to hire loons.

    1. Milton Waddams*

      I gotta say, that’s a really risky attitude to take; desperate people do desperate things, and desperately wanting to be in your employ is one of the most desirable outcomes when you are surrounded by desperate people who see what you have as a solution to their problem.

      This kind of polarization always ends badly!

      1. Lord of the Ringbinders*

        Uh, no. Very much wanting to be in your employ is desirable. Having no boundaries and behaving like a loon is not.

      2. Lord of the Ringbinders*

        Furthermore I’d like to be able to trust that my employer won’t make me work with people who behave like this.

      3. Lance*

        The prime trouble is the behavior, and being able to keep oneself in check when it counts. Plenty of people are desperate about plenty of things; it’s how they handle that that really matters, and really can help decide whether they get a job or not.

    2. Sas*

      To call someone a loon, for whatever desperate behavior they exhibit is uncalled for. To take appropriate measures, to be yourself reasonable, is one thing. This site is filled with desperate people writing in about desperate people and desperate situations. I encourage you to see that the worst people are infact still people, and EVERYONE by maybe not you or I necessarily are deserving of what comes with that. Desperation may not entitle someone to a job, but its what gets most people moving. Desperation is not unhuman. And, I am not on you for calling someone a name, we all do that. It’s that it’s paired with desperation. The thing that separates some desperate people from others is opportunity.

      1. nonymous*

        I agree. It is entirely possible that Fergus has OCD (diagnosed or not) with behaviors escalated by stress. He could be completely mortified, but unable to stop. Or he could be a normal guy with terrible boundaries. OP needs to focus on the behavior she can control, and being abundantly clear in communication will set her up for the unfortunate (but always possible) need for legal action. Using technology to remove the negative impact to her daily life is also within OP’s control. Changing Fergus’ behavior, whatever his motivation, is not within OP’s control.

        None of this requires passing judgement on Fergus as an individual.

      2. Lord of the Ringbinders*

        I have no issue seeing people as people, thanks, I just don’t think there’s anything wrong with not wanting to hire people who lack boundaries. I’m also not the only person to use such language on this thread. But I seem to be in a subthread that’s turned into a house of bees, so…

  14. Stellaaaaa*

    OP5: If you have any control over the timing, I’d try to work it so you have 2 years at the company by the time you take your leave. You never know – you might take more time away than you planned, you might decide it makes more sense to try for baby #2 fairly quickly, you might find that someone else has taken your exact position and your new “equivalent” position isn’t up your alley, or you might end up not liking the company enough to go back to it. Two years is long enough to do right by the company and also make sure your resume looks decent when/if the time comes to apply somewhere new.

    1. AMD*

      The only worry I would have about this is that OP can’t predict how long it will take her to get pregnant once they start trying. The majority of couples conceive within the first year, but if there are any unpredictable issues, waiting a year or year and a half may delay finding out about them and getting help.

      1. emma*

        +1. Age is also a factor. It would suck to delay solely tor good appearances, and then find out that you have fertility problems that could have been prevented by trying earlier.

      2. AKJ*

        +1. Age is not the only factor contributing to infertility (it wasn’t in our case – just fyi, if your partner had surgery for a hernia as a child be aware that can cause infertility issues later in life) but it is a factor, and having more time helps.
        I get the logic behind waiting, but I also know from personal experience that biology isn’t something we can control easily. I was 28 when we started trying, and I planned to have Kid #1 by the time I turned 30 and Kid #2 about a year or two later.
        That was in 2007.
        I do not have any children.

        1. Stardust*

          AKJ, sorry! More hugs your way. My spouse and I haven’t started trying yet due to working on paying off educational loans, but the hernia surgery during childhood is something we are concerned about (and hadn’t heard one way or the other from any time we have read up on it).

          OP, if it makes sense to time waiting long enough to qualify for FMLA to get more weeks off for maternity leave (or if your employer offers paid leave, find out when you would be eligible), but other than considering those items for timing, I vote doing what makes the most sense for your family. Too many stories tell how you really cannot predict how quickly you can get pregnant or if you will need to see a Doctor for assistance.

    2. Not Today Satan*

      Two years? Meaning she likely wouldn’t actually have the baby/go on leave for three years? I don’t mean this personally, but I’m disturbed by the thought that having a baby too soon (by whomever’s standards) isn’t “doing right” by the employer. American working conditions for mothers are already so shameful and disturbing, and tbh I think that the rule that you can only get FMLA if you’ve worked there a year is bad enough. I really don’t think we need to start self-imposing even greater constraints on when we can get pregnant.

      1. Lance*

        I will agree that two years seems a bit much; a year or so, however, seems reasonable enough to me. Plenty of time to show that she’s a diligent and faithful worker, and really get into her role, before having to leave it for a chunk of time. Maybe it’s not ideal, but it gives her all the more job security.

        1. VroomVroom*

          My thought is if you wait 6 months or so to start trying, by the time you’re actually out you’ll have been there for over a year – and hopefully built up your reputation.

          Though, from personal experience, the reputation you earn while you’re pregnant and working might not be one you want to be your first impression at a company. See my other post – got my first imperfect performance review in three years, and boss and I can pretty much say with 100% confidence that the feedback from my peers was a result of me being pregnant/not feeling well and being snarkier with colleagues than my normal chipper self would have been this fall – since there were absolutely zero comments regarding that at my midyear review.

      2. Whats In A Name*

        I agree here. One: it’s a personal timeline and two: we’ve hired people who found out they were pregnant the first week of work and we weren’t anything but happy. She told us right away because she was so mortified (?!?!) But even waiting to tell us at the 12-week mark would give us 6 months to make a plan for coverage and her (first) pregnancy took nothing from her dedication to the job.

        And, really, If OP starts new job AND starts trying on March 1; get’s lucky and gets pregnant on March 15th she’ll be due on December 6th. If she waits and tells her employer at the beginning of the 2nd trimester (May 31) that is more than enough time for planning AND for her to do her work.

      3. nonymous*

        I wouldn’t put it in terms as “doing right”. But if OP wants to take mat leave and time off for dr appts, that may be a very real horizon if she wants to use sick leave + vacation time to ensure a consistent pay, a 2 year horizon is reasonable.

        That said, I would recommend a hard and critical look at budgets. If she has baby before FMLA kicks in, can they absorb a potential job loss? If she has baby after FMLA kicks in, but before sick leave and vac time accrue, can they absorb the loss of income (disability in my area is only 60% of base)? What are their options for childcare? How much mat leave does she want to take? How much mat leave to allow for in case of birth complications? Can spouse take paternity leave to fill in the gaps?

        Given OP’s age earlier is better but they may prefer to wait for financial reasons, and that is their choice to make.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I wouldn’t put it in terms as “doing right”.

          I’d call it “reducing the inconvenience as much as possible for everyone involved.”

    3. VroomVroom*

      At the BARE minimum if you need to start trying for your own health purposes, I’d wait to start until you’ve been at the company for 3-4 months so that you are covered by FMLA. I have a friend who got pregnant 3 months after starting a new job. Her baby ended up coming 2 weeks early and she JUST missed the FMLA cut off – by 1 week. The company still gave her time off, but the pay during the time off wasn’t the same as if she’d had 1 extra week under her belt (ha, pun not intended but hilarious).

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        FMLA is one year. If your friend needed to wait just 3 months, then that would be a state-based leave that she was able to use, likely similar to FMLA. My state, Massachusetts, has a similar timing rule. But if you need to rely on FMLA because your state does not require unpaid leave job protection then you must wait 12 months to be eligible.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          Wait, I see what you are saying (more coffee needed). You mean start trying at 3 or 4 months, not have the baby at 3 or 4 months. Ha.

    4. Artemesia*

      Some things are more important than others. Having a child is one of those things. If you are 23 and have lots of time, then waiting a year or two is wise; if you are 35 then a two year delay might easily mean no child ever. Fertility declines dramatically in your 30s and many people including me took years to get pregnant. You probably don’t want to get pregnant for the first 6 mos just because early job stress and early pregnancy issues are hard to juxtapose. But if you want a child and it is late in the day, I’d make that the priority. There are always jobs; there are not always chances to have your own child.

      1. DrB*

        Agree so much. Life and fertility are unpredictable. With kid two, I tried to be a responsible employee and wait to start trying until I’d been at new job > 1 yr. It took a lot longer to get pregnant than with my first, and by the time I got pregnant, I was job searching again as spouse had gotten a great opportunity out of state.

        I was not technically eligible for FMLA. No formal parental leave policy for my dept. I was allowed to use up my accrued and not-yet-accrued leave to get 6 wks of paid leave and asked for another 6 unpaid. Just typing this out makes me so mad and ready to move to Canada.

      2. LPUK*

        It’s not just fertility – it may also be larger health issues. One new colleague found out she was pregnant between accepting the offer and starting her first day. She then had health problems and was signed off for bed rest by 16 weeks in. Because we were in Ireland she then had 9 months maternity leave ( covered by an interim replacement) so we didn’t see much of her. And then she was barely back before announcing another pregnancy ( got pregnant during maternity leave) , which again went problematic 16 weeks in… So that for her first 3 years we really only saw her for 6-7 months. Initially there was a little snark about the office, until we slowly got to understand that her health issues ( diabetes 1 we think) gave her very limited options if she wanted to have children. I have to say though that the company NEVER gave any hint of disapproval or any consequences and in fact she is still with the company seven years on, in increasingly senior roles so it certainly wasn’t something that held her back

  15. Milton Waddams*

    #1: I gotta admit, if you have ever told your job-hunting kids, your college charges, or even your junior employees that they just need to be persistent — this is the result of encouraging gumption.

    On the other hand, of course, if the new normal becomes, “There is nothing you can bring to the bargaining table, because I as the employer cannot be swayed, so you might as well take it lying down.” don’t be surprised if things get nastier rather than settling down — historically, they always have.

    That is why it is best to provide objective, measurable, and actionable goalposts when rejecting candidates; give them something to work towards that will guarantee reconsideration, and these sort of problems evaporate.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not practical to provide each rejected candidate with objective, measurable, and actionable goalposts; doing that would take a huge amount of time that employers don’t have. Most candidates deal with rejection perfectly fine; it’s a very, very small portion of candidates who don’t, and it doesn’t make sense to design the whole system to cater to them.

      1. Wehaf*

        Especially since the ones who don’t deal with rejection well are exactly the ones likely to see feedback including “objective, measurable, and actionable goalposts” as equivalent to saying “if you meet these goals we will definitely hire you” which just creates more problems down the road.

      2. Milton Waddams*

        When these practices become industry standards endorsed by international magazines (or websites, I might add), when they become regional policies established by best practices seminars and SHRM lunches, it tends to become more than just the occasional lone Fergus.

        A pool of disaffected Ferguses who feel that the dominant employers in their region have excluded them from the workforce and left them with no traditional path forward is how unions form. That’s how you end up with sand in your machines, salts in your workforce, and public relations disasters camping out in front of your businesses, pounding on the weakest link in your supply chain rather than pounding the pavement.

        Imagine GE at its period of lowest goodwill between employer and employees, right before the Japanese with their healthier workplace relationships strolled in and cleaned house; that is not a problem you want in your industry.

        1. chomps*

          This analogy doesn’t make sense. Unions are formed by employees, not by unemployed people who were rejected by a particular company. If you don’t work for a company, unionizing and threatening a strike doesn’t really do anything.

    2. Lord of the Ringbinders*

      Why would you want to guarantee reconsideration with someone who behaves like this? Imagine what he’d be like to work with.

      Sometimes you need to read the red flags.

      Am stunned by some of the apologists on this thread who think someone who acts like this should actually be considered.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      if the new normal becomes, “There is nothing you can bring to the bargaining table, because I as the employer cannot be swayed, so you might as well take it lying down.” don’t be surprised if things get nastier rather than settling down

      I’m confused—what is an applicant “taking,” and what does it mean to “take it lying down” in the context of OP#1’s letter?

      Hiring isn’t a place for staging an ego war; it’s an attempt to identify the best match between employers and candidates. If an employer says you don’t meet their hiring preferences/requirements they’re not insulting you—they’re explaining why there’s a mismatch on their end. And frankly, even though OP provided concrete feedback to Fergus and graciously offered to keep his application on file for other positions, an employer doesn’t owe any candidate feedback that includes “objective, measurable, and actionable goalposts.” And they shouldn’t have to provide that feedback before a candidate backs off.

      Honestly, this reminds me of the high school senior who rejected her college rejection letter (she was joking, but Fergus does not sound like he’s doing the same).

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I’m also scratching my head about “the new normal.” This is always the normal–the employer has never had the obligation to give every applicant a chance to convince them. There *is* no bargaining at the application stage. That’s back to “hiring can be like dating”–they get to decide that they’re not into you enough to see you again, and they don’t owe you the opportunity to argue the point.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes! Much better (and concisely) articulated. This is exactly what I was trying to convey.

        2. Milton Waddams*

          I don’t fault people for not knowing much about the history of employment, but it really hasn’t always been the normal.

          1. fposte*

            It’s been the normal for the forty years of my working lifetime–in what era and location do you believe it was standard practice to give individual feedback to rejected applicants?

          2. Mookie*

            That’s generous of you, but no one here has to take your word for it, and what you’ve written here thus far on this subject is not credible and is irrelevant, besides.

      2. Milton Waddams*

        Taking the fact that there is no test that can be passed, no level of persistence that can be reached, no certification or level of education, no skills competency, no cultural fit practice adaption, no pay cut level, nothing, no way forward whatsoever — nothing that can produce a job for them in that company, ever, because looking at it from a bargaining power perspective the applicant is and always will be hopelessly outclassed.

        When the focus shifts from being transactional, i.e. “If you have this thing I want, I will give you this other thing you want; here is what I want, and here is where you can get it.” to being related to bargaining power, “I am more powerful, so we will do what I want, you are less powerful, so we will ignore what you want.” then applicants shift their tactics from being desirable transactionally to equalizing bargaining power — instead of learning new skills on their own dime or taking pay cuts to become more competitive, they instead focus on forming unions, instigating boycotts, changing legislation, taking to the courts, and causing all sorts of headaches for employers, who, at the end of the day would likely much rather get back to earning a living rather than shoring up the ground they are standing on as it is dug out from underneath them.

        1. Colette*


          Why is your goal for an applicant to be guaranteed a job in a company they have to dedicate years of their life to fitting in to, rather for them to find a job where they naturally fit?

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          But what you’re describing doesn’t match what OP#1 has written. OP said that for the specific job Fergus applied for, they needed someone with greater experience. And then they explained which positions might open that fit his experience, which Fergus rejected as below his level. That entire conversation is a transactional conversation, not a bullying conversation in which an employer wields their disproportionate power to punish a candidate.

          Fergus disagrees with whether his experience meets OP’s standard, which frankly is a losing argument since the employer expressed its preference and is not going to drop its standards just because an applicant thinks it should. It’s also kind of a bizarre way to try to bargain, which when coupled with his persistence, comes across as grossly unaware, entitled, and aggressive.

          1. Milton Waddams*

            This is often a case of poor communication. Greater experience must translate into a particular set of proficiencies that can be communicated to applicants; otherwise what is being said is simply that an older candidate with the same skillsets is desired, and to apply back again when they are older.

            The way to resolve this is to clarify; what proficiencies are being demanded?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              There’s no reason to think that wasn’t already in the job ad. Candidates aren’t entitled to personalized feedback like you’re proposing, and employers generally don’t have time to give it.

              1. Milton Waddams*

                If it was in the job ad, candidates would not be confused as to why they were rejected. A well-crafted job ad like that really is a wonderful thing, but it is hard to attain in practice.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Candidates get confused about why they’re rejected when they meet the basic qualifications in the ad, because they’re forgetting that multiple people meet those qualifications and the employer is picking the person who’s the strongest match.

                  I’m going to leave off answering here though, since I think we’re going round and round in circles (here and below).

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I understand that you’re very committed to your point, but you’re relying on a great deal of speculation and comes across as though you’re trying to justify Fergus’s behavior and blame OP, even when the information we do have indicates otherwise.

              Candidates engage in weird behavior and misinterpret job postings all the time, even when those postings are exceedingly clear and thoughtfully articulated. And the specific behavior Fergus has undertaken seems to have no relationship whatsoever to the employer’s conduct, except for the fact that they rejected him, and he seems to have trouble taking “no” for an answer. I don’t think it’s helpful to OP or even to Fergus to construct elaborate hypotheticals to justify or transfer the blame for a candidate’s bad behavior.

              1. Milton Waddams*

                The OP wrote in with a problem of a Fergus pestering their employer; I imagine it was posted here because this sort of a problem is normal enough that a lot of employers have experienced it.

                What I’m saying is that this sort of Fergus behavior is quite common, has historically been quite common, and that the best thing to do is take care of it while it is still lone Ferguses, rather than allowing it to become organized groups of Ferguses who shift their pestering from begging for jobs through being unreasonably persistent to equalizing bargaining power by making life difficult for your company through boycotts, salting, lawsuits, public relations incidents, and squeezing your supply chain.

                1. Zombii*

                  Okay, Fergus, we get it. You are the second coming of Christ or whatever your convoluted, meandering point is supposed to be.

                  Maybe if you had included this diatribe in your cover letter, OP would have called you in for another interview despite you not having the required qualifications—be sure to put it in the next application, I’m sure it will work out for you this time.

                2. Milton Waddams*

                  I’m Milton. :-) The point here is that if you allow goodwill between applicants and your company to deteriorate, you will spend more time dealing with the consequences than you will on your core business, in the same way that leaving a floor to rot means you will eventually be spending your time pulling yourself out of holes. And on a less macro scale, if you give individual Ferguses goals, they will focus on those goals rather than on pestering you. :-)

    4. Drew*

      “That is why it is best to provide objective, measurable, and actionable goalposts when rejecting candidates; give them something to work towards that will guarantee reconsideration, and these sort of problems evaporate.”

      But what if the rejection is “Nothing was wrong with your application, but we found someone more suited to the position”? Or, worse, “We had two equally talented candidates and one position and we had to make a choice, and unfortunately, the choice wasn’t you”?

      Of course, neither of those apply in this situation, where the actual reason is, “You’re unqualified AND unprofessional and we don’t want anything more to do with you,” but there are obvious, valid reasons not to state that so bluntly. It definitely seems a waste of time to provide a path toward reconsideration when reconsideration is not on the table.

      I also question the idea that it’s employers’ responsibility to help develop the skills of the people who are rejected for jobs. That seems like very much not the employers’ job; surely, they should be developing the skills of the people who actually work for them. If a candidate was very close and there’s something tangible they could do better, and the employer is willing to take another look if a similar position opens up down the road, then sure, do them a solid and say, “Shore up your Excel skills and please do reapply when another position opens up; we’d love to talk to you again.” But that’s a courtesy and a bit of an investment in the future, certainly not a requirement.

      1. Milton Waddams*

        In order for one candidate to be more suitable than another, there must be a standard, beyond the minimum of “not wrong”. For that standard to be reasonable for use in hiring, it must be grounded in reality, as I am assuming your company’s is. That means that it is explainable. You can point to people who have met your standard, or (better still) to the things that they did and which anyone could do which allowed them to meet your standard. I would worry that someone using phrases like “Nothing wrong”, “more suited”, “equally talented”, “unprofessional”, and “unqualified” does not actually know what they want, which in some ways is even more worrisome than simply refusing to tell applicants what is wanted so that they can go out and get it before returning.

        Telling an applicant that your company wants a particular task accomplished using particular skills is not helping an applicant’s development, any more than going to the barber and telling them what haircut you are willing to pay for is helping the barber’s development, and it would be absurd to consider telling them what haircut you want is an investment in their future — this is about facilitating a transaction through clearly identifying what is needed.

        1. Colette*

          Often it’s not something that anyone could do, or that an applicant could learn. That’s like saying that there is a best car in existence, and it should be identified so that we can all go and buy it – there isn’t, because everyone is looking for something different. There may be a best car for me, but it would not be the best for someone who needs different things in a vehicle.

          1. Milton Waddams*

            I suppose what I’m saying here is that it is in the best interests of the employer not to make this decision for the applicant; tell the applicant what you want, and allow them to decide for themselves whether it is possible for them to do or learn.

            There’s also an assumption here that the best car for the company is the best car in existence. I would hope that this isn’t so, as it demonstrates that someone at the company doesn’t know what they want and is happy to overpay for their ignorance.

            Again it goes back to why this isn’t life coaching — when you tell an applicant what you want to pay for, you are telling them what you want to pay for, not what civilization wants to pay for. Being particular is more helpful to everybody — if applicants can’t provide it but know what it is and where it is, they will devote their time to getting it and stay out of your hair until they have it.

              1. Milton Waddams*

                This is true, if hiring is to-the-letter of the job ad, but in many cases the applicants who are ultimately hired are done so for having attributes not listed in the original ad; that is why they were hired despite other candidates who met the job ad qualifications may have applied at an earlier date.

                While this is not ideal, since it means that the ad is not reflective of what is actually wanted, clarifying after the fact in an actionable way does get rejected candidates out of your hair.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  It’s also opening up a can of worms that most experienced employers aren’t going to want to open — to arguments, to comparisons in the future to the candidate who got hired last time, and to misunderstandings. There’s no upside to employers to do this, it’s not part of their mission, it would take a huge amount of time that they don’t have, and the vast majority of candidates understand why they’re not getting it.

                2. Milton Waddams*

                  Applicants who find themselves shut out of the traditional hiring experience with no way to move forward don’t give up — they move to bargaining power tactics that will drive the company away from its core business and into dealing with the fires these Ferguses are starting. Avoiding this is the upside to employers.

            1. Colette*

              Let’s say I want to buy a car. I look at the options and decide that car A suits me best. In doing so, I reject cars B and C, even though they meet my minimum qualifications (4 doors, good on gas, etc.). If car A didn’t exist, or if it wasn’t available until next year, I might have bought car B or C – but car A exists, so they’re out of the running.

              Similarly, and employer isn’t obligated to hire everyone who meets the qualifications in the job ad, and they aren’t required to provide a list of qualifications that will guarantee the candidate will be hired in the future. They are making a relative choice (I.e. evaluating the candidates against the other candidates available at the time) rather than a choice where they hire everyone who meets a particular standard.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              But that’s not the situation here. I can get up tomorrow and say, “Hey, I want to be an astronaut.” But if I apply to NASA, they’re going to reject me, and if they’re nice, they’ll say: (1) you need a PhD in a relevant field, and (2) you need some experience in that field in addition to the PhD. If I apply next year and I’m missing either of those criteria, I really shouldn’t be surprised that they don’t call me back, and I certainly can’t blame NASA for being unclear.

    5. Mookie*

      give them something to work towards that will guarantee reconsideration, and these sort of problems evaporate.

      Hiring managers don’t work for applicants. They don’t need to establish goals for them or provide job-coaching, and they certainly shouldn’t be making any guarantees for the future.

      Some people are and forever will be utterly unsuitable for a particular position, full stop. There’s no need to string them along.

      Also, “taking it lying down” is not a good metaphor here. Rejecting applicants is not a species of violence and should never be answered with a “nasty” or violent response.

      1. aebhel*

        This. I’ve been the desperate job-searcher, and I do think that American employment law tends to skew things in favor of the employer, but it is not the responsibility of a hiring manager to provide every single applicant with life coaching. Especially if the reason that applicant wasn’t hired was clearly outlined–‘you don’t have the experience we’re looking for’, in this case.

        It’s the job of a manager to make sure their employees have all the tools they need to succeed, but it is absolutely not their job to do that for every single person who applies for a job at their company. They’d never have time to do anything else.

        1. Milton Waddams*

          Telling an applicant what particular task a company paid for and the skills required to do it is not life coaching, any more than telling an aspiring applicant that you had a clogged toilet you paid to have unclogged using plumber’s tools is life coaching.

          Telling an applicant the details of what your company wants to pay for is a Request for Proposal, not a favor. This is understood on a business-to-business level, but for some reason people struggle to see it when it is between individual workers and managers.

            1. Milton Waddams*

              OK, so let’s say the hiring was on letter to the ad; that makes rejection even easier — “Our positions need to be filled quickly; we hired the first person to meet our requirements as listed in the job ad, and you were the third person. If you are the first person who meets our requirements next time, you will be hired, so apply earlier next time.”

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                That’s just not how it works. You’re not hiring the first person who meets the requirements; you’re hiring the person who’s the strongest match with them, which is a different thing.

                I’m pretty sure you know that, so I’m not clear on what point you’re trying to make here.

                1. Milton Waddams*

                  This suggests that by reading the job ad, an applicant would be able to rank the candidates just as easily as the hiring manager can. If that is so, my hat is off to the job ad writer, who has done a masterful job. Then again, if that is the case, I highly doubt they would have these rejected candidates pestering them.

                  That happens when it is not clear why one candidate is chosen over the other, generally because the highly detailed nuances of what makes one candidate more of a “cultural fit” than another for your company or that makes one person with 5 years of blue teapot glazing experience more attractive to the company than another candidate with 5 years of blue teapot glazing experience isn’t actually gone into detail in the job ad.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  No, it doesn’t. The applicant doesn’t need to be able to rank the candidates. She only needs to understand the basics of what the company is looking for in order to decide whether to apply, and then to understand that someone else ended up being the better match.

                  Candidates aren’t owed a detailed, nuanced explanation of why someone else was hired. I don’t think many people believe they do.

                3. seejay*

                  Normal rejected candidates don’t pester.

                  Normal rejected candidates feel disappointed, shrug their shoulders, and move on to the next job options.

                  Normal rejected candidates realize that sometimes someone with the exact same qualifications win out over them just because of the luck of the draw.

                  Normal rejected candidates understand that no one owes them anything. No one, from the hiring manager to the company to the world.

                  In the LW#1’s case, Fergus is not normal. He is not expressing normal, rational behaviour. He is behaving abnormally and frightening and it was absolutely no one’s responsibility *anywhere* other than to inform him “sorry, you are not qualified for this job and we are not going to interview you” and it was his responsibility to take that information and go away.

                  All this hemming and hawing and rationalizing you’re trying to do just makes you look like you’re trying to troll and defend his absolutely not-normal behaviour because there’s absolutely zero reason to rationalize what he’s done. It is not. normal. behaviour. in. any. circumstance. It is over-the-top, boundary-crossing and clearly loopy. He has crossed the line into stalker territory.

                4. Milton Waddams*

                  I’ve met a lot of Ferguses in my life, and quite a few have shown up here. They are quite common, and historically they have been common whenever some segment of the population has been excluded from the workforce. Historically, they have always forced their way back in, and usually in ways that were to the detriment of the companies that were originally rejecting them.

                  My argument is that it is better to learn from history than to wait for these things to stubbornly repeat themselves with your own company as the unlucky recipient of an entirely predictable set of outcomes.

                5. fposte*

                  @Milton–That’s not my experience. I’ve rejected the pestery and had them go away. I’m also a little uneasy that your framing seems close to extortion–“Give me what I want now or I’ll destroy you later.”

                  But I’m wondering if you’re talking more sociologically/historically than individually here, where there are definitely situations where groups who haven’t had access to rights when they’ve asked nicely have then taken less nice approaches; however, I still don’t see how this follows the outcome you describe in hiring.

    6. Colette*

      Providing measurable, specific feedback to every one of hundreds of applicants isn’t possible – the most likely result of that policy is that jobs don’t get advertised, or that they don’t get filled at all.

      But if it were possible, here’s what would happen.

      I am a saucer designer, and I apply for a job with Teapots Unlimited. They say “we really need 2 years of spout experience”, so I go off and work with spots for 2 years.

      The job opens and I apply again. They say “we had 10 applicants with 3-4 years experience, so even though our minimum is 2, we interviewed them”.

      Two more years go by. I apply again, but it turns out that the spout role has been merged with the handle role, and I only have experience in spouts.

      And that assumes that the reason I’m not being hired is due to technical skill and not because I came in for an interview and smelled, wore inappropriate clothing, or hassled the receptionist, or because the interviewer knew that I lied on my resume, or because my cover letter was written in iambic pentameter.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Also, what if Teapots Unlimited is strongly in favor of a healthy work-life balance, with a 35-hour work week standard, 9 weeks of leave…you know, civilized, European standards. And I’m a 60-hour, never-off-the-clock workaholic applying for a job managing a team. Even if I meet every metric on paper, I might not be the right fit for this position at this company because I might be incapable of sustaining and perpetuating the culture that they want to cultivate.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Oh my God, yes.
        I can learn stuff if you take the time to teach me–if I have the base, it might be worth hiring me. But so many companies won’t take that time anymore. They want someone who can hit the ground running. So if they did this, like Colette says, it would just be an endless round of chasing a constantly moving target. Especially with technical jobs because standards and practices change, sometimes quickly.

        I can’t seem to break any barriers, myself, and it’s really starting to get me down.

      3. Milton Waddams*

        Hiring someone with 3-4 years experience who is taking a pay cut seems like a flight risk to me, but OK, let’s assume that that is what’s going on. What they are really saying here is that they are very price-sensitive; the way to frame this is by price. If they are willing to take a 3-4 year experienced teaspout designer who is willing to be underpaid as a 2-year designer, then they will likely take a 2-year designer who is willing to be underpaid as a 1-year designer, since really only the 2-year design skills are being used for the role. “I will hire you, the 2-year teaspout designer, if you are willing to accept less money than the 3-4 year designer.”

        This also works fairly well for the merging role, since again, that is what is being said, “I will hire you, who will work two jobs for the price of one, if you can work more than two jobs for the price of one.”

        If the applicant is unwilling to take the pay-cut, they won’t bother you anymore, and if they are, then the company gets high productivity for low wages, at least until a competitor offers a better deal.

        If you came to the interview and smelled, wore inappropriate clothing, hassled the receptionist, lied, or wrote in poetry, this is even easier than the pay issue, although maybe a bit sillier, “We didn’t hire you because we decided that the person who had the same skills as you but wore a handsome tie was the one we wanted. (We love ties!) Wear a nicer tie than they wore next time, and you will be hired instead.” :-)

          1. Milton Waddams*

            We are having a miscommunication — there’s no wilful derail here. I’d love to understand your perspective, and I’d love to have mine understood.

        1. Colette*

          You seem to be absolutely rejecting the idea that the employer gets to decide what they want in an employee. Why is that?

          If I’m hiring a babysitter, I need someone who will look after the kids and keep them safe. Let’s say two people apply. Chris has first aid training and great references. Lesley has first aid training, great references, and knows the kids already. I’m going to choose Lesley, because that’s the better of my two options, even though Chris would probably also be great. They both meet the qualifications, but one is a better fit.

          1. Milton Waddams*

            The distinction is that Chris has a path to become a future Lesley; there is an equality of opportunity that maintains goodwill in the relationship between the employer and potential employees. That goodwill is very important and businesses need to be careful with it. When applicants feel that they are backed into a corner by power dynamics, then they shift their efforts away from the useful and productive, such as Chris trying to be more like Lesley, and into equalizing bargaining power, in practice by finding ways to push you into a corner in the same way they feel they are being pushed; this is not what you want applicants to be doing.

            1. fposte*

              You think it would be cool for Chris to just hang around somebody’s kids uninvited to give himself a shot next time? And that’s somehow workable in a way that getting a few more years of experience isn’t?

              1. Milton Waddams*

                Since Lesley is not the mother, there must in fact have been a time in the past when Lesley did not know the kids; that means that there is some way to get to know the kids that the parents are OK with.

                Maybe I’m misunderstanding, and this was meant to be an example of how Lesley would always be employable in a way that Chris could never be?

                1. Colette*

                  It may be that Lesley will always be more employable for this job – which is why Chris should move on and focus on jobs she’s a better match for.

                2. Milton Waddams*

                  I mean, I suppose you could try that approach with your next Fergus, but I think that sitting them down and saying, “My dear boy, have you heard of The Land of Greener Pastures?” is unlikely to cause excitement unless you can point to a practical way of reaching that place; if the current political climate is any indication, many Ferguses no longer believe such a place exists.

                  Besides, that honestly seems more like life coaching advice than telling Fergus what skills you expect and where to get them before returning if he wants to work as a farmhand at your pasture. :-)

    7. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’m not sure why you’re referring to it as the “new” normal… I was under the impression this is how the employment world works. I express interest in a position and the company decides whether or not they are interested in me. There’s no back and forth or bargaining unless that interest is mutual. If it’s not, they don’t owe me anything.

    8. emma*

      Sometimes someone is not a good fit, and there’s nothing they can do to make themselves be one. A candidate can’t change their personality, for example. I would be leery of ever hiring a person who had applied 100+ times in one month, since I’d question their judgment, which is not something they would be able to easily show me that they have improved. The damage has already been done- this goes way beyond “gumption.”

      1. Milton Waddams*

        It seems like fairly standard gumption advice, along the lines of “I marched right into the CEO’s office and gave them my pitch!” or “I showed up every day that summer, even though they weren’t paying me!”

        Bad advice, yes. Unusual for gumption advice, not really. :-)

    9. Whats In A Name*

      I really don’t think this is realistic for recruiters/hiring managers/hr partners to do. And quite frankly the title is Company Recruiter, not Career Counselor.

      All I could think about when I read this comment was the 350+ applications I received when we posted positions and the subsequent 50+ phone interviews and 25+ first round in-person interviews I would conduct. Providing objective, measurable, and actionable goalposts when rejecting candidates; give them something to work towards that will guarantee reconsideration, and these sort of problems evaporate. for all those people would have taken hours.

      1. OhNo*

        That’s exactly what I was thinking. There’s a reason that “career counselor” is a separate job, and not one that is under the umbrella of hiring responsibilities.

        Also, this advice seems to imply that applicants have no responsibility to do their own research and figure out for themselves what the company or role needs. By putting the onus on the hiring manager to provide actionable goals, it seems to take the responsibility away from the applicant. “I’m massively unqualified, but I’ll just apply anyway and they’ll tell me what I need to do to get hired” is not a good look on an applicant.

        Applicants doing their own research into the position =and taking initiative to identify and meet relevant goals on their own to make themselves hireable is not an unreasonable expectation.

        1. Milton Waddams*

          Does a barber have responsibility to do their own research into what kind of haircut you want? No, you tell them what haircut you are willing to pay for. I mean, my goodness, next time you go to get a haircut, when the barber asks what haircut you want, try telling them that it isn’t your responsibility to do their research for them, and see how happy you’ll be with the result. :-)

            1. Milton Waddams*

              I suppose my analogy wasn’t clear — the customer is the company. They have a task they want accomplished, and money to pay for it. The barber is the applicant. They have a willingness to perform the task for the money, provided they have the skills to do so.

              Or perhaps you meant that you feel the candidate isn’t providing the hiring manager a service? I know that sometimes the lack of editing functionality here can cause typing mix-ups. :-)

      2. Milton Waddams*

        Why would it have taken hours? That sounds like a workflow process problem more than an applicant problem.

        1. ella*

          350 applications times ten minutes for feedback per application (I’m not sure how you can compose meaningful feedback for anyone in ten minutes, but for the sake of discussion) is about 60 hours of work. How is that a productive use of any hiring manager’s time?

        2. Whats In A Name*

          It would be a workflow issue if I had spent 10 or more minutes giving objective, measurable, and actionable goalposts to the 300 candidates that didn’t make it to the phone screen stage and then again to the 49 people who made it to a next step but didn’t make the job.

          I’ve read through your comments to everyone and I think you just really enjoy arguing for the sake of arguing and using big words.

          I generally respect everyone’s opinion regardless of agreement but you are so far down some fictional rabbit hole I can’t even wrap my mind around what in the world you are trying to say.

    10. Artemesia*

      There are often a dozen perfectly well qualified candidates for a position; we picked Hortense because we liked her, or she had a talent we hadn’t even listed in the job description but would bring some useful added value, or the CEO knew her father. No one is entitled to the job and there is not a set of actionable goals that would guarantee their selection. It is a tad like dating — you need no reason nor to give a chance to the person you don’t want. We don’t want you is sufficient.

      1. Milton Waddams*

        OK, then what are the company’s likes that Hortense matched?
        What is the talent the company did not list, and how is it measured by the company?
        If the job arrived because the CEO hires his golfing buddies, then say so! You’ll see more applicants at the links instead of in your hair. :-)

        Dating is irrational because it is often instinctual. Business is at least in theory a rational enterprise, not a set of half-understood urges.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Companies aren’t obligated to provide nuanced break-downs like that to candidates. The idea that they are just doesn’t match up with how hiring works and what people involved in the process need to prioritize.

          1. Milton Waddams*

            Companies aren’t obligated to respond any more than rejected applicants are obligated to stop being pests; it is a non-obligatory solution to a persistent problem.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              These are in no way equivalent, and it’s disingenuous to frame harassing conduct this way.

            2. Drew*

              Most rejected applicants don’t become pests in the first place, so it seems very weird to establish a time-wasting procedure to prevent something that generally does not happen.

              And if I tell you “Stop calling and stop sending applications,” you absolutely ARE obligated to stop being a pest or risk being labeled a harasser.

              Sometimes choices come down to factors you couldn’t foresee when writing the job ad (“You went to Big State U? So did I! Go Teapots!”) and sometimes it comes down to a gut feeling or a whim (“Jane and Wakeen both seem like excellent candidates, but I think I clicked with Jane more”). Not every choice in life has a clearly defined justification behind it. Sometimes you have two equally valid options and you have to pick one, not because the other one did something wrong but because you have to make a choice.

              1. Milton Waddams*

                Making these decisions on a gut feeling or a whim is possible, but it’s a very risky business practice. It places hiring firmly in the square of bargaining power dynamics, which erodes away the goodwill between a company and its applicants. That goodwill is vital if you want a healthy workforce than can respond positively to changes in the market. Once that goodwill is gone, applicants stop focusing their attention on improving their value to the company, and towards equalizing their bargaining power so that it becomes impossible for you to hire on a whim without it causing large consequences to your company. The end-game of this is known; look at how General Motors, a company who had exhausted its goodwill responded to the Japanese automakers who had plenty in reserve. Companies ran circles around GM, because there are some things that are impossible to do when all that is left of the company is bad blood and bargaining power dynamics.

    11. Sas*

      Maybe what you’re trying to say is that instead of no response, which happens often, or some pointed response, there could be some sort of soft one, that encourages the person they could find something somewhere eventually?

      1. fposte*

        We get complaints about the insincerity of those all the time, though. “They don’t really wish me the best of luck in my future endeavors!” I think what Milton Waddams is hoping for is just something that isn’t reasonable to expect–personal, actionable information about rejections.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          And to further the analogy with dating, sometimes you can still get really nasty, vicious replies to the gentlest of let-downs. “Bye Felipe” is an Instagram that covers this well.

          1. fposte*

            Didn’t know about that one; there have been a few websites like that, but there’s something about an Instagram that makes it particularly vivid.

    12. Katie the Fed*

      Oh my goodness, no.

      First of all – ” don’t be surprised if things get nastier rather than settling down” is not ok. You don’t deserve “nasty” treatment because you decided someone wasn’t a good fit. Some people just won’t be a good fit, period.

      Second – this “give them something to work towards that will guarantee reconsideration” will backfire hugely. A lot of candidates will hear that as “the job is mine if I do X and Y” and then get even more upset that they’re still not being considered.

      Some people are just not going to be the right fit for the job under any circumstances.

      1. Milton Waddams*

        If they’re still not being considered, then you are not giving them actionable advice. If there is nothing they can do that will get them the job, then what is the criteria being used for the job existing in the first place, as it is not based in concrete and measurable skills and tasks? What is being paid for if it cannot be defined?

        1. Lore*

          Your logic might make sense in a universe where the same employer fills the identical position over and over and needs the identical candidate each time. But it’s much more likely that for each position, a slightly different set of skills and temperaments will be ideal. So even if the employer had the time and resources to let each applicant know the ways in which they were less ideal at that moment for that slot, that doesn’t translate into “next time we hire, you will be the best candidate if you become a carbon copy of that person.”

          1. Milton Waddams*

            I’m not quite sure I understand what you mean by how a position that works well today will require a slightly different temperament in the future; what if the original employee had decided to stay on? Would they be let go for their temperament not adapting to subtle business needs?

            To me that sounds a bit like someone who demands that their barber have the same haircut that they do, because that’s the only way they’d know how to do it right. :-) I certainly do know companies that hire like that, but it’s not exactly something I would hold up as an example of good hiring standards.

            Most of the hiring I am familiar with is actually fairly cookie-cutter; you are hiring for a set of tasks that need to be done after all, not for an acting role.

            1. fposte*

              That might explain how you’re viewing this discussion. My hiring isn’t cookie cutter, because even when I hire for the same position I’m putting the new piece in a different spot in the jigsaw puzzle; then there’s the fact that the jigsaw picture is always changing :-).

              (Unless the barber is working on a team with me, I don’t get what he’s doing in this analogy, but he sure looks spiffy.)

            2. Lore*

              What I mean is this: the starting job description for several positions in my department requires the same basic set of skills. Last time someone left, it was in the middle of a crunch period, so the best hire was the one most familiar with our company’s specific workflow who could get up to speed quickly, which was someone who had freelanced for us. Then we rolled out a bunch of new technology initiatives. So if we were filling that same position again, and we’d advised all rejected candidates to try to get freelance work with us, those people might be less suited for the new opening than someone who had experience with the new software, which they could not have gotten by freelancing with us because we weren’t using it. Or, our product line is branching out into more licensed products so now for the first time licensing experience would be helpful. It’s not something you’d fire a current employer for obviously but would have new value in hiring. Surely you’re not suggesting that it’s a manager’s job to inform every rejected candidate of every evolution in business?

              1. Milton Waddams*

                This reminds me a little of the person who believes that their salad fork can’t be used as a regular fork. The reason why utensil manufacturers no longer do brisk business in toast-serving forks is that it eventually dawned on the general consumer that the money spent on a toast-serving fork could be spent on the toast itself, and that if you really were feeling weird about handling toast with your hands, that any fork would do.

                This is especially true for software. First off, if the software is genuinely new, experienced users don’t exist, unless you plan to poach the beta-testers from the developer.

                If the software is targeting your field, chances are the developer spent quite a bit of time and money on UX, making it easily understandable for folks within your industry. Making software that typical users can’t use doesn’t usually go over very well in the modern era.

                Software tends to develop very obviously within “families”; if you understand how a software program’s category works, it is highly likely that you will understand how the new iteration works, in the same way that someone who understands how a fork works can manage both a salad fork and a toast-serving fork.

                I understand the rationale, but it honestly sounds like bad hiring practice to me.

        2. fposte*

          You’re a medical coder, aren’t you :-)?

          Most jobs are filled with expectations that aren’t concrete, and where measurements are, to put it mildly, imprecise. “Don’t be a jackass to your colleagues,” “Learn the ropes at an acceptable speed,” “Make customers happy,” “Write well,” etc. Whether you feel that it’s inappropriate to pay people for jobs with unmeasurable expectations or not, the fact is that millions of people have jobs with them, so a lot of aggregate cash says “We don’t have to measure it to consider it worth it.” (I doubt anybody I gave money to today knew the trading value of the dollar, but they took it anyway.)

          If you’re talking about the possibility of disadvantaging particular groups, yeah, you bet it does; no argument from me there. We’ve had various discussions here about class knowledge and acculturation that gives some people a big leg up and leaves others working a lot harder to figure stuff out. We’ve also talked about how easy it is to discriminate in hiring, sometimes without even realizing you’re doing it, and subjectivity is a great doorway for that, it’s true.

          But 1) I’m not even sure if that’s what you’re alluding to and 2) when I hire for the state, I do have to use metrics–but we use them for soft skills same as for concrete skills, because the soft skills important even if they’re not concrete. I’m also wondering how you’ve ended up focusing on the notion that pesterers pester because they lack sufficient information; that’s not my experience, and even in our example Fergus was explicitly told that he didn’t have sufficient experience to be considered for the jobs he was applying for. In my experience, pesterers aren’t looking for information but for employers to change their mind and hire them, and that would seem to be Fergus’s case as well.

          1. Milton Waddams*

            It makes good business sense for companies to ask what they are paying for; this includes soft skills. This is old news — so old that it even made its way into Office Space as the joke about the “people skills” project manager who upon deeper questioning it was discovered didn’t actually do anything. (“So you physically take the specs from the customer?”) If a hiring manager struggles to explain what they are paying for, there’s a good chance that they are getting a bad deal. :-)

            Experience without context is a bit of a non-answer; experience is shorthand for a certain level of proficiency that it is generally a good idea to have defined somewhere, even if the shorthand is what is normally used for finding it. Otherwise you will find your department filled with people who have indeed held a role for years and years, but who are simply older, not more experienced skill-wise.

            1. fposte*

              But you’re moving the goalposts. Fergus got told a quantifiable answer, which is exactly what you said would stop him, and it didn’t. Now you’re saying it wasn’t quantified in the way you’d like.

              It seems like you’re mostly thinking about unions, though I’m not sure why you didn’t just say so. And certainly unions did some great things in the U.S. and also some really crap things (like hey, history of unions and racism), but I think the likelihood of them gaining back even European level participation numbers, let alone their mid-century leverage, is very slim indeed. And if you don’t think years of experience should count, unions *really* aren’t for you, because Seniority Rules.

              1. Milton Waddams*

                If I ask how much your services cost, and you say “1 hour working at the grocery store”, that is not a useful answer; what is wanted is a dollar amount, since there are many different ways to get money other than working 1 hour at a grocery store, and different grocery stores pay different amounts anyway. In the same way, when someone asks what skills a person is paying for, if they are answered, “1 year working at a teaspout design company’s worth” that is not a useful answer; what is wanted is a set of measurable skills, since there are many different ways to obtain those skills other than working 1 year at a teaspout design company, and working 1 year at a teaspout design company does not guarantee you will obtain the skills that are needed here anyway.

                Referring to experience is shorthand; if someone asks, it should be easy and straightforward to expand it out to a set of measurable skills. Otherwise, there is a good chance there are people being hired who are being paid for skills they don’t have or that the company doesn’t need.

        3. Katie the Fed*

          I’m under no obligation to give a candidate “actionable advice” or help them get the job. I have 15 of my own employees whose professional development is my concern. My concern when hiring a position is to find the best candidate for my team. It’s a question of how well I think they’ll perform at those skills and tasks.

          Also, I’ve hired a candidates in the past who said all the right things in the interview because they wanted the job – but were a terrible match. They were more interested in saying what they thought I’d want to hear than actually letting me learn about them, and it didn’t work out well. I don’t want to tell someone exactly what I want to hear in an interview so that they’ll mimic it. I want to see what they bring to the table.

    13. Candi*

      I’m a history nut. Your arguments about applicants and procedures and the way things were done in “the past” are not true. At best a potential hire with a good network might maybe get better feedback then most. This is true even if you dismiss and snark at people who have learning and/or experience otherwise.

      Fergus’ behavior is a type far too many women know. That it’s focused on a business rather than a woman doesn’t change it is inherently unhealthy and disturbing behavior. It would fit in with The Gift of Fear’s accounts seamlessly.

      I have an excellent memory for content and patterns. I’ve been reading the archives.
      You have said in other threads hiring managers should hire by gut and not bother with references. Well, the OP’s gut is telling them this guy is Trouble. But now, she should ignore that to give him a chance?

      Hire by gut on one side, ignore gut and give the guy a chance on the other. Hard to have it both ways.

      1. Milton Waddams*

        Always nice to meet another history nut.

        A few fun questions you might enjoy:

        In much of Europe, legally firing someone is not as straightforward as in the United States; since laws are often a reflection of social forces, what social forces are these laws reflecting?

        When the Japanese automakers arrived in the U.S., American automakers had a particularly hard time responding competitively; even when they tried to imitate what the Japanese automakers were doing, they found that their workforce was unable to do so — why?

        Much of the world celebrates Labor Day on May 1st, but the U.S. chose the first Monday in September as its Labor holiday — why?

        The answers to these questions are all related to the history of employment, a subcategory of history with a lot of interest for history nuts. :-)

      2. Milton Waddams*

        Also, it’s nice to be remembered!

        I do indeed believe that references are a waste of time. I think that the hiring by gut approach may be a misrememberance, though. As I’ve mentioned here when questioned, good hiring practices are based on the tasks being hired for, using measurable skillsets. I feel that chatting about references is maybe too far afield as a response to what to do about pestering Ferguses, though. :-)

  16. Anon for this comment*

    #3 I’ve been thinking about this. I don’t know your friend, but the fact she is thinking about this – trying to talk to the employer, trying to track down old colleagues – is a gigantic red flag. She may have talked to her daughter already. And as you say she’s only heard one side. But if she thinks there’s another side she should encourage her daughter to work through the issues herself with a therapist.

    I used to help moderate the Reddit community /r/raisedbynarcissists. That doesn’t mean I think everyone is a narcissist or I wrongly assume people’s motivations are messed up. But this is such a crystal-clear boundary violation. It is very, very clear that your friend is approaching this in the wrong way. As her friend, you are in danger of being turned into something called a flying monkey – a sometimes unwitting, sometimes innocent bystander who gets sucked into siding with a parent who is either abusive or just has really terrible boundaries.

    How do you think you would feel in the daughter’s shoes? Having mental health problems doesn’t mean she ceases to be a person with feelings and boundaries. Encourage your friend to seek therapy. Do not encourage her to become a boundary-trampling stalker. I’m a bit concerned that you entertained the idea long enough to write this letter, do you not see what is wrong with the entire question? How is her parenting otherwise?

    1. Isabelle*

      I had the same reaction and the boundary-violating mother reminds me of every cluster B person I’ve ever met.

      Also in this particular case the mother ALREADY KNOWS what happened: “issues over performance and attitude for over a year”. What more does she need to know? How would she use any additional information? And why does she need to go behind her daughter’s back to get it? Why is the mother discussing such sensitive information about her daughter with a friend? None of this is healthy.

    2. PiggyStardust*

      #3 – The whole “this needs to be done without the daughter knowing” is so skeevy it makes my skin crawl. It’s a horrible boundary violation for her daughter. Mom might be trying to help but that’s a horrible breach of trust.

      It’s also unfair. If you’re an adult struggling at work, it sucks to admit it. Maybe you’ll gloss over the issues or say your boss is a jerk. It’s very possible that the version her daughter told was to save face and she knows exactly what her performance issues were. The point is, though, it’s none of Mom’s business.

      1. emma*

        I also think of how this would impact any potential reference for the daughter from this company. Though she was terminated, there may still be coworkers who would be OK with giving a reference. I’m sure that would be impacted if the mom interfered like this, no matter how good her intentions are.

      2. OhNo*

        That’s the part that really caught my attention. WHY does this need to be done without the daughter knowing? Even if having this knowledge would be helpful for the daughter’s treatment or recovery, there is absolutely ZERO benefit to surprising her with it out of the blue.

        I mean, just imagine that conversation. “Surprise, I went behind your back to get your former coworker’s negative opinions of you! Would you like an itemized list, or should I just recite them in order?”

        Yeah, no. This is a bad idea from start to finish, and the OP should NOT be playing into whatever weirdness is going on here.

    3. Julia*

      Off topic, but thank you for helping out there at reddit! I often check into the community and it is such a safe space for people with difficult parents.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        Yeah, thanks Anon for this comment. Your community helped me understand one of my friends who had difficult parents and be more supportive of him.

    4. Tinker*

      Yeahhhhhhh. I read this and went “this pretty much sounds like any number of JUSTNO stories written from the perspective of a flying monkey”.

      A lot of people, including but by far not limited to relatively normal people, encounter problems separating from their children. They don’t readily accept that an adult who is their child is in fact an adult and a person who gets to make their own decisions about their life, and if they perceive that their child is struggling or off-course (whether this is true or not) they want to try to do something to fix it. Sometimes in doing that they see things like the adult child’s social boundary setting, administrative rules about the control of information, and even laws as being obstacles to be bypassed in order to do or get what they see as right with regards to their child.

      Because this dynamic is specific to the child, and depending on the particular issues of the parent possibly other people in very intimate and/or subordinate relationships, it’s possible for the problems to be quite profound indeed without it necessarily being visible to the parent’s friends, coworkers, and peers in their family. This is particularly so if the person in question does not have a great understanding of toxic relationship dynamics or mental illness — if they’re expecting a person who is taking medication in the aftermath of a personal crisis (Abilify? Levothyroxine? Ibuprofen?) to ipso facto lack agency, for instance.

      And there’s a strong cultural tendency to be indulgent of the parent to the degree that a conflict is apparent — people have a tendency to project their own relationship with their children or a past argument with their parent that they now view as silly and groundless into the situation. If the person in front of them roughly follows social norms and projects something akin to innocent concern, the presumption is that they’re basically doing the right thing, that they should be helped if at all possible, and that any problems that they cause shouldn’t be held against them.

      The attitude of innocent concern could be the same thing that they present to the kid, but that doesn’t necessarily even rule out troublesomely intrusive or undermining behavior on the part of the parent. Imagine, say, every bit of news that you relate about your job being turned over and examined for signs of problems — and not wanting to talk about your work being met with “WHY don’t you want to talk about work? Is something WRONG?” But it could also be that the behavior toward the child is very different even in appearance from the behavior exhibited to other people — there are folks who come off as concerned and well-meaning to the clerk who divulges the child’s new address right before they show up at said new address to vandalize all the lawn ornaments. And there are folks who, once bailed out from the lawn ornament incident (poor dear, they have issues and made a mistake but they’re trying) then trot right back to the house to kill the pets and kidnap the grandchild. No, seriously. This happens.

      I’m longwinded, but my point is basically this: if you’re in a position, whether professional or personal, where someone could conceivably come to you asking for a favor in getting information from or passing messages to another party who has erected obstacles to that happening, you need to be aware that things are not always what they seem. I won’t say that OP’s friend is necessarily for sure a bad person, in part but not entirely because it may not be diplomatic or productive to say this, but even if they are not it is important to respect other people’s boundaries even when the person in front of you has a good story.

    5. Pommette*

      I think that helping a child cope with mental illness can bring out some bad instincts in otherwise good parents.

      It could be that the mother knows her daughter’s perceptions are deeply affected by her illness, and thinks that finding out “the truth” about what happened is necessary in order to better help her daughter. It’s a terrible idea, for all kinds of reasons. But it’s the kind of bad idea that someone well-meaning but desperate might entertain.

      (Not to dismiss the possibility you raise: an abusive parent could entertain the same bad idea for different reasons).

  17. caledonia*

    #1 reminds me of that Simpsons episode from forever ago where Homer wants to work from home and when he does, he gets that nodding duck thing to simplify his work.

    We actually had someone send us the same certificate for an application 37 times recently…maybe it was their system and they didnt realise it had sent so many times.

    1. Drew*

      If it were an otherwise reasonable candidate, I would write it off to a glitch, possibly sending them a quick “Please check your settings because we got 37 copies of this certificate!” note. Fergus doesn’t sound like someone who gets the same benefit of the doubt, though.

  18. MommyMD*

    Contact an attorney about the lunatic with hundreds of applications. This is harassment. He needs to be told to cease and desist.

    Adult kid’s mom needs to back way way off.

    Tardy employee may have had her job hanging by a string. Chronic tardiness shows a certain arrogance towards the employer along with being unreliable. Not the time to even think of a raise. Prove your worth and genuine dedication first.

    1. Mike C.*

      I hardly believe this rises to the level of criminal harassment especially when a it should be trivial to block this person. Calling them a lunatic seems a bit much.

      Also, holy crap, being late all the time does not mean one is “being arrogant”. Bad a time management, forgetful, suffering from ADD, perhaps, but calling them arrogant feels rather mean spirited.

      1. Mike C.*

        Sorry for the second comment, this one was made several hours ago and I thought it was just eaten by my phone.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        I also think it’s a bit much to call this chronic tardiness since it seems to have been a one-off thing that has been fixed.

  19. MommyMD*

    I would work at least a year before getting pregnant. You are being hired in good faith to perform a job. Leaving a few months in for a prolonged leave is disrespectful.

    1. Gigglewater*

      I feel like disrespectful is not the word choice I would go with. Employers do realize that life happens. I mean unless she was pregnant before taking the job or has some unforeseen circumstances with the pregnancy presumably she wouldn’t be taking leave for at least another 7-9 months. Leaving before being a year in may be setting yourself up for a rough transition into the job and potentially a tough transition back, but only you and your family know how the calculus of that vs starting your family now should shake out.

      1. VroomVroom*

        Yea calling it disrespectful is frustrating to me. People have children. If a man got pregnant with his wife 3 months after starting a new job, no one would call it disrespectful. A company can fire you after 6 months working there, just because. You don’t owe the company anything – but you do owe yourself feeling comfortable in your own job/position before you embark on such a journey that will impact you so much personally.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      How is it disrespectful? Ostensibly OP also wants to perform a job in good faith and ideally keep that job post-pregnancy.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        It could be argued that you’re not acting in good faith of you accept a job with the foreknowledge that you’ll be taking an extended leave/potentially permanently leaving within a year. Which is why OP is thinking about how to handle it. There’s a difference between “life happens” and planning to take a lot of time off before you’ve taken the job.

        1. Legalchef*

          You don’t always know when these things will happen though. I started a new job in September and got pregnant almost immediately. This was after 9-10 mo of trying, including a loss. I wasn’t going to go back on birth control or stop trying, but I also didn’t anticipate it happening so quickly. Women need to be able to move ahead with their life/career while also planning a family, and it shouldn’t be looked at as disrespectful – this isn’t an issue most men have to deal with (as a biological matter), and so to think of it as disrespectful is flat out unfair to women.

          1. Drew*

            Totally agreed. It may be inconvenient, but businesses deal with inconvenience all the time; “disrespectful” is an awfully harsh term. Even a couple that’s trying not to start a family can have a happy accident, so this is a really bizarre way to look at it.

            1. Kj*

              Co-signed. It is not disrespectful to have a life outside of work that (temporarily) interferes with one’s ability to work. Maternity leave, while never convenient for employers, is part of having a business, just like people quitting or having another temporary disability. Yes, women “chose” to get pregnant- but if we want the next generation to exist, we can’t police when women get pregnant and choosing to have a family should not be stigmatized or regarded as a career problem.

              1. EleanoraUK*

                ‘Disrespectful’ also disproportionately puts a blame on women that doesn’t need to be there, and that men don’t have to deal with. People will have babies, it’s pretty vital to the continuation of our species. Assuming people broadly end up having the number of kids they were hoping for or fewer, that maternity leave was going to happen sooner or later anyway, and it’s the same amount of time spent.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              How did you know your username has been my mantra for the past 6 weeks?? (which is to say I also love it)

        2. Mookie*

          potentially permanently leaving within a year

          The LW made it clear she plans on continuing her career during and following pregnancy.

          1. caryatis*

            Yes…people should not be assuming that a woman plans to drop out of the labor force permanently just because she’s having a baby. And I hope that if that was someone’s plan, she would quit rather than take maternity leave.

          2. Stellaaaaa*

            My thought is more like…many/most of us would honestly rather not work a 40 hour week. Depending on the nature of the job or the size if the company she legitimately might not be able to slide back into her position. It’s not something you can make a decision about when you don’t even have the job yet. The possibility of not going back after maternity leave us something many people really do have to account for.

            1. Observer*

              By that measure, people should also not ever engage in any activity that might cause any sort of potential injury,even going to the gym, because who knows if they are going to be able to come back to work if they get injured. And they should also not be hired if they are overweight, because who knows what will happen if they wind up with weight related illnesses. Oh, and if someone has a genetic propensity to a particular illness, that person has a moral obligation to let the employer know so they can select out (since it’s illegal to ask.)

              I hope this sounds ridiculous to you. It certainly is no different than what you are saying.

            2. Whats In A Name*

              Wait, what are you saying here? That the company can decrease her hours as punishment for her being pregnant or that pregnancy automatically makes you want to cut hours and/or quit your job?

              Depending on how long it takes her to get pregnant she may qualify for FML and therefore couldn’t get demoted due to her leave under FMLA. And I know *plenty* of mother clamoring to get back to a 40-hour work week after their 12 weeks at home.

              I really think we should take OP at her word that she plans to continue her career post-pregnancy.

              1. Stellaaaaa*

                I never said that her employer would decrease her hours without OP’s consent. I have noted that the employer does not have to hold OP’s position for her. They only need to welcome her back into an equivalent role.

                1. Observer*

                  So, if the EMPLOYER decides to switch her job, it becomes her fault that she gets forced out. And therefore the employer legitimately needs to account for the fact that they might force her out the same way they need to account for anything else that toe employee might do.

                  Interesting point of view.

            3. Jessie the First (or second)*

              Yeah, one of the most frustrating thing to me as a person who has had children is the assumption people who are not me like to make about my own desires and work plans. If I say I am going to come back to work, take me at my word. I don’t see employers running around judging men who have kids and assuming they’ll never come back to work after paternity leave, or talking about how that coworker who broke her leg/had surgery/etc probably won’t come back.

              Yes, sometimes people do not come back to work after they take disability leave or maternity leave or paternity leave. But how about we do not single out mothers-to-be and say that we “do have to account for” that. If someone says they are going to work, believe them.

            4. Mookie*

              Your thought is interesting, but the LW stated unequivocally that she plans on pursuing her career post-pregnancy. Those plans are not contingent upon this position. And, absolutely not, the LW doesn’t have to “account for” possibilities you’ve dreamt up and imposed upon her.

              1. OP #5*

                Thank you :) indeed I plan to continue work and aim to continue advancing my career which is why I want to take the company into consideration. Plans can change, but that’s where my head is now.

        3. Mike C.*

          It could be argued that this sort of thinking leads to a really ugly policing of women’s bodily autonomy.

        4. emma*

          The thing is- it’s not easy to predict how long it will take. As someone who has miscarried and is now continuing to try, it can be unpredictable. It’s not fair to expect people to defer pregnancy, with potentially declining fertility as you age, for company interests.

          1. Artemesia*

            This. I know someone in this exact situation; just lost a pregnancy and has now started a new position and is in her late 30s; she is waiting but if she waits very long, there may be no child and a child is more important than a job.

          2. De (Germany)*

            I was a bit worried because I started a bit after 1 year after getting a new job. I have now been there for 3.5 years and have finally reached the second trimester. I’m so glad I started back then, so maybe I will have a chance at having two kids if I want to.

        5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think the idea that you’re not acting in good faith if you have a child during your first year of employment is a dangerous and dated stereotype about women in the workplace, and it’s toxic. It’s true that taking leave during your first 6-9 months is difficult, but that’s usually because you’re going through a new job learning curve. There’s nothing so sacrosanct about the first year that makes taking medical leave inappropriate.

          Employees are people with lives, and those lives may include family planning. I think it’s wise for OP to wait a bit because it gives her better legal protection and allows her to establish her working relationship with her manager and coworkers. But if an employer thinks someone having a child and taking leave is a betrayal of some sort then the employer needs to reevaluate how it perceives its relationship with its employees.

          And I find calling someone “disrespectful” for wanting to have a family, or for choosing to try to start having a family, really abhorrent and inappropriate.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            Agreed. Also, we wouldn’t talk the same way about other leaves that might crop up that you have some forewarning of. If you have a relative undergoing chemo, should you not start a new job because you might need to take time off to take care of them? If you are planning to have some kind of semi-elective surgery (like breast augmentation following a mastectomy), should you not plan that within the first year of your job because you’ll be out of commission afterwards?

            Pregnancy is treated like this very plan-able, totally voluntary thing. It’s rarely like that.

            1. Paquita*

              We had a lady start in my department about mid-year last year. Was barely there for two months and went out for surgery and chemo (breast cancer). She is back now but will go out again in March for more surgery.

    3. Mookie*

      Please don’t attack letter-writers, misrepresent them, or question their motives. You’ve done this to the 4th and 5th LWs and it’s not constructive at all.

      1. anonderella*

        I couldn’t figure out how to succinctly sum up how MommyMD’s brief-but-encompassing comments seemed distasteful in a way.

      2. Robin Sparkles*

        +2 -MommyMDs comments for all the LWs was judgmental and holier-than-thou – I was trying to formulate a response and you summed it up.

    4. Hoorah*

      That’s…harsh. Employers have to deal with absences, resignations, pregnancies, parental leave etc all the time as part of hiring human staff. When our new staff member fell pregnant obviously it wasn’t super convenient from a strictly business point of view. But life happens. She worked throughout her pregnancy and is about to return from maternity leave next month. She’s one of the most productive and reliable staff we have. Even in hindsight we would still hire her over another applicant who would never have kids. If she wanted to extend her parental leave or work part time etc we would gladly accommodate her requests to keep her happy.

      The only time when I think “disrespectful” applies is when an applicant hides a pregnancy and takes a job offer knowing they are quitting shortly. That’s a pretty crappy thing to do to an employer looking for long term staff.

      1. Electric Hedgehog*

        Seriously. It’s not disrespectful for someone to end up in a full body cast for three months when they’re hit by a bus, or to discover that they have cancer and need several months off for treatment. Sucky, yes for sure. But the only difference with pregnancy and birth is at least the employer gets warning and has the opportunity to mitigate the difficulties associated with a long term absence in advance. Pregnancy is just another serious medical condition, and birth is just another physically traumatic experience that requires a lot of recovery.

        I did have a business law class a few years ago where the guys were arguing that women should be paid less because they wouldn’t be working as much and couldn’t be relied on to stay for a full career because they would be too busy popping out babies. Oh, religious college, how I do not miss you…

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            They are both medical conditions requiring medical leave. Just because one may be slightly more “plannable” doesn’t make it less valid for an employee to take medical leave and to expect to return to work when cleared.

          2. Kj*

            What is a reasonable solution? How much should women have to plan around their employer’s desires when it comes to the woman getting pregnant? Does it depend on the job? On the pay? Should contracts specify when a woman can get pregnant? Should employers be able to ask women to avoid pregnancy or get abortions if the timing is wrong? Should women opt for abortion if they get pregnant at an inconvenient time for their employer? What if something changes the day before a woman was going to tell her boss she needed leave for a pregnancy and a big project will be due when the woman will be giving birth? What should she do?

            This is a very slippery slope to be on- to indicate that women need plan this much around employer’s desires. Where does it go to far and who decides? I don’t want to be in that job, so I defer to women to know what is best for them. Period. Stop. The woman decides, for herself.

            NOTE: I don’t want to discuss the ethics of abortion here. This was all food for thought. I will not engage on that at all. In fact, I have to go to work.

            1. Observer*

              For the purposes of this discussion, the ethics and morality of a woman freely (REALLY freely) choosing abortion don’t even matter. The ethics of REQUIRING or coercing abortion (or family planning, for that matter) do matter.

            2. Mookie*

              Answers to the questions in your first paragraph are often solved through legislation protecting and expanding workers’s rights. There’s no slippery slope necessary: countries often draw firm lines in the sand about what constitutes workplace-based retaliation and what protections employers must afford employees, and where and under what circumstances employers cannot violate but are obligated to ensure employees’s bodily autonomy.

          3. Electric Hedgehog*

            Who says the pregnancy is planned? It’s not the employer’s business to know that (and it shouldn’t matter anyway).

          4. Whats In A Name*

            It seems that some people think pregnancy is like going on a cruise with departure and return dates booked in advance.

            Overarchingly the only “planned” part of trying to get pregnant. What if OP is like my friend, who it took 8 YEARS to conceive? Or like my other friend who got pregnant the 1st time her & her husband had sex without a condom? Or my other friend who has had 2 kids – the first one while on the pill and the 2nd while on depo-provera.

            None of the 3 was exceptionally happy with the timing but what were they supposed to do? Never have sex until the day they wanted to conceive and then if they didn’t never have it again until it was convenient for their employer?

            I don’t even want to have kids and the notion that people think an employer should be able to dictate your timeline/thoughts/feelings on your career approach before, after, or during pregnancy just fires me up to no end.

            1. Whats In A Name*

              1st sentence in 2nd paragraph should read: Overarchingly the only “planned” part of trying to get pregnant is having sex.

            2. AKJ*

              10 since my ex-husband and I started trying – three since we stopped because our marriage fell apart. (He was almost sterile due to a childhood surgery. There was a small chance we could conceive naturally, but it never happened.)
              I’m single and I’ve been at my job for over a year now, so it probably doesn’t matter, but if I were to meet a new partner and we decided we were going to try, we’d be trying no matter what. I’m thirty-eight years old, I don’t have much time left (if I have any at all) and in all honesty at this point I really don’t care about my career or what my employer expects or wants. If I have a chance, I’m going to take it.

          5. Mookie*

            All medical and health-related events can go haywire. There’s nothing exceptional or uncommon about pregnancy, but there are risks associated with it and the pregnant person gets to decide how to mitigate those risks.

        1. Michele*

          I agree. Someone could get hired and have a heart attack during the first week. Or they could be on their way to work and get in an accident. There are a myriad of reasons that someone might need to take medical leave, and pregnancy is just one of them.

      2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        That would be like saying it was disrespectful for my friend to have a mass rupture in her body last year, requiring a week of intensive care hospitalization, 8 weeks off work and a further 4 weeks at half time.


      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I want to emphasize what you said here:

        The only time when I think “disrespectful” applies is when an applicant hides a pregnancy and takes a job offer knowing they are quitting shortly. That’s a pretty crappy thing to do to an employer looking for long term staff. (emphasis added)

        The real issue, as you’ve noted is that it’s not ethically right to take a job knowing you intend to quit (which is of course different from starting and realizing early in your tenure that you have to quit). The pregnancy part actually doesn’t matter at all in that context—the part that matters is misrepresenting your intentions with respect to whether you intend to stay.

    5. Mike C.*

      Between this and your previous advice regarding how often someone should be allowed to take a sick day for insomnia (only once a year), I have to ask the following question.

      Why do you feel the need to be so strict when it comes to the use of health related benefits?

        1. Mike C.*

          I’ve seen similar attitudes in other STEM fields as well, but I would really like it if MommyMD would actually come back and explain a bit more.

      1. Robin Sparkles*

        Yes thank you! I am particularly dismayed that this is some who in the health field making these kinds of comments.

        1. DrB*

          Sadly, I am not shocked at all that it’s a fellow woman doctor making that statement. We really do eat our young.

    6. aebhel*

      This seems like a really bizarrely restrictive approach, especially considering that going by the law of averages, OP would be at the job for at least a year before she actually had to take maternity leave.

    7. Emi.*

      This doesn’t add up. If you take maternity leave a few months in, you were probably pregnant before you started. If you work for at least a year before getting pregnant, you probably won’t take leave for upwards of a year and a half, depending on how long it takes you to get pregnant.

      Also, it might be inconvenient, but it’s not disrespectful. Women don’t have babies at our employers.

    8. Kj*

      And she can perform her job while gestating a kid. It takes 40 weeks,, but you can do other stuff while ‘working on making the baby’. /s Waiting a year to get pregnant (like it is something highly predictable!) is silly, because by the time you take leave, you would have been there for at least 1 year and more than a few months.

      Look, having a baby at certain times is hard on employers and employees. My job had an intern get pregnant just as she started her year-long, school-required internship. She was one of our best interns, took a month off after having baby then returned and we hired her because she was so good. Was her pregnancy convenient? No, not for any one. Was it something we could accommodate? Sure, and it didn’t take too much work- just a bit of planning.

      Our workforce is already hostile to women in a number of ways. Acting like women “owe” their employer to not get pregnant at the “wrong time” contributes to that attitude and pushes women out of the workforce. It is gross and unfair. Women would happily let men take the job of gestating a child or two, but sadly, biology doesn’t allow it.

      Darn you science!

      1. Artemesia*

        Exactly. Most women work throughout pregnancy today. I worked on Friday, had my child on Sunday and worked again on Wednesday on an important project, before taking leave for a few weeks. The biggest issue is that the first 3 mos can be very enervating for some women and so starting a job and starting a pregnancy can be very stressful; waiting a few months makes sense, but the older you are, the less you should wait.

        I was worried about the timing of my second child because of career issues; I conceived and when I was a few months pregnant my company crashed and burned (unexpectedly to me and my co-workers) and I was out of a job. I can’t count the number of times I thanked my good sense for not sacrificing having this wonderful child for a career that evaporated anyway. My daughter lost her job due to her office being closed on maternity leave for her first child (apparently a family tradition) How glad she was to have the child when she didn’t have the job. Some things are more important than others; having the child if you want one is more important than any job.

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          This. I am signed up to teach a summer class during the time period I will have our baby. I don’t get FMLA or maternity leave; my husband however is eligible for 6 weeks. Is it convenient for his workplace that I’ll give birth and go straight back to teaching while he is at home? Probably not, but that’s the thing about hiring human beings – biology happens.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, and I have a really hard time with women who believe this line of thinking. It’s internalized sexism and very very sad.

        Plus, from what I saw working in food and factory work, most women do not take time off after having a baby beyond what is medically necessary, because the family needs their income. Their partners aren’t making the big bucks either. They have family take care of the baby or they find somebody else to do it. It’s kind of Good Earth back-in-the-field-the-next-day stuff.

      3. OP #5*

        Thank you! Maybe inconvenient, but certainly accommodations can be made with planning. I think developing a strong and trusting relationship with my manager will be key.

    9. EW*

      It’s not disrespectful, just as job searching while pregnant is not disrespectful. It’s an inconvenience. Also considering most pregnancies last 9 months, the person wouldn’t be leaving a few months in. Granted early pregnancy may have an effect on work output, but so could lots of other things (death or sickness for you or your family).

    10. Gaia*

      I’m sorry but this is kind of gross. It is not “disrespectful” to get pregnant within the first year anymore than it is “disrespectful” to have a surgery that requires leave, get sick and require leave or do any other normal thing that normal adults do that requires leave.

      I hired someone 6 months ago and she told me the other day she is pregnant. Was I disappointed due to the timing and how it impacts projects? Sure. But I am happy for her and I kept my disappointment to myself. I also assume she’ll be returning to work (unless and until she tells me otherwise). It is inconvenient but not disrespectful for her to continue living her life while she’s new at a job. Employees are not required to put their life on hold for work.

    11. nonymous*

      what? last I checked, gestation is ~40weeks, plus some margin for impregnation. I know women who work up until the day before they give birth, and are back to part-time status in a couple weeks (remotely). It really depends on the person and their work. Over the course of 40 weeks OP will be earning vacation and sick leave or PTO. Should she not use it out of some sense of loyalty to a corporation?

      My point is that OP may very well be able to keep performing essential duties of her job within her PTO accrual . Any deficiency in meeting the work performance of an employee that doesn’t take the amount of leave that company policy allows should be addressed in terms of bonuses/commissions, raises and promotions. For example, in academia it is common to set the tenure clock back some amount. So women who have babies that year can’t get tenure status (including the protections and raises) as early as their childfree counterparts.

    12. J.B.*

      And if a woman loses her job while pregnant, she should just sit around with no pay for several more months because it would be disrespectful to get a job and then take leave? In terms of planning, anything can happen. Waiting 6 months before trying to become pregnant is a good idea if circumstances allow it. Life doesn’t work that way and I fail to understand why the woman bears all the responsibility for it.

    13. LoiraSafada*

      “Disrespectful” is your anal-retentive approach to medical leave. You’re seriously prone to byperbole.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Although I had a similar reaction, I think your note is kind of attacking. I know the original comment was not kind and was unfairly harsh to the OP, but I think we have to be careful, when possible, not to perpetuate that bad behavior with each other.

  20. LitS*

    #5 – I found out I was pregnant the same week I accepted a new job offer–after I had decided to wait a year before trying again so that I’d qualify for FMLA and be able to purchase a short term disability policy since my new org does not offer parental leave. It wasn’t ideal timing, but I told my new supervisor right away to gauge what kind of support the culture might offer even though I wouldn’t qualify for the benefits. It’s been great, and mostly rests on how understanding and flexible this supervisor is about medical appts, teleworking and advancing me leave to take time off when baby comes.

    This is all to say that if I’d had more control, I would not have started a new job and been pregnant at the same time, but vetting the culture carefully in the interview process goes a long way toward being able to make it work.

    1. aebhel*

      Hey, you too? :P

      I found out I was pregnant just after accepting an offer for my current job. Everyone was really great and encouraging about it.

      As it happens, I’m expecting my second child now, and my boss just told me that she’s resigning, AND one of our other senior people will be retiring right around the time I’m due, so I’m going to be the interim director with a very short staff this year…should be interesting. Point is, you can’t necessarily plan your family around business needs, because they can change and unexpected things always pop up. I wasn’t expecting my boss to resign or my coworker to retire when I started planning for my second kid (especially not at the same time), but hey, sh*t happens.

      1. Anon for this*

        For both of you, how did you tell your bosses? I may be in your shoes soon. I’ve been trying over a year and I’m 35 so I’m not going to stop trying. I’m currently interviewing for a new job.

        1. LitS*

          Mine wasn’t my boss yet since I accepted the job on Monday and found out on Tuesday. I called and said, “I have good news and want to discuss the implications, if any.” The support was immediate and specific.

  21. BRR*

    In addition to blocking him on your ats I’m wondering if it’s worth it to block his number as well. Not sure though if he’ll call from a different number.

  22. Hoorah*

    I had one applicant submit his resume several times for one job. He called our customer service number the next day and abused our staff because “I sent you my resume multiple times, why is nobody replying to me!” Obviously, we are not hiring him.

    I don’t understand why applicants sabotage their own chances by being a rude jerk. Bullet dodged.

    1. FD*

      I’m not justifying it at all, but I think that people decide they really want something, and so when it’s denied, they act up. They see themselves as reacting to the world not giving them a fair chance, not realizing that their behavior makes them less likely to get what they want.

      1. Allison*

        Maybe. Many people think your resumes don’t get noticed if they’re submitted online, because no one has time to go through all of them, and that’s why people are advised to follow up in order to avoid getting lost in the black hole. But I’ve never heard anyone advise job seekers to get their names in there multiple times!

  23. Not a Cat*

    #1: There was a person like that applying where I worked. NOTHING deterred this person from applying and calling and demanding a job. She even put on her social media profiles that she worked for us (to which we would send emails telling her to correct her profile).

    This went on for years.

    At a recruiting event at a college, she showed up, blocked our table and demanded a job. We were very emphatic that we would never hire her and she needed to stop harassing us. The only way we got her to leave was by calling campus police.

    We created a Do Not Hire list because of her.

      1. ella*

        Ha, the library where I work has a patron whose name is on the “Why We No Longer Allow Patrons To Check Out 400 Items At One Time” list. It is a subset of the much longer list, “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.”

  24. I woke up like this*

    #5: Start trying when you and your spouse are ready to do so! I don’t think you have to wait a certain amount of time (though, I do think it’s a good idea to know when/how your maternity benefits set in). The reality is you just really don’t know how long it will take you to get pregnant. I got pregnant instantly with my daughter. But I’ve been trying for five months for a second child with no luck. (And that’s another consideration for timing: you may eventually want more than one child, and you may not really know if you want more until after the first is born.) Also, once pregnant, you’ll have plenty of time to announce your pregnancy and make plans with your manager and co-workers for your leave (if you wait until the second trimester, you could give up to six months notice).

    When I was in your position, I would stress myself out trying to plan the perfect time to make a human. I had to keep reminding myself that people have babies all the time, at various stages of life and preparednesses, and the world keeps on turning. Good luck!

    1. Alton*

      Yes, it’s not like this is something where the OP can know a definite time frame of when she’d go on leave. It’s hard to predict how long it will take to get pregnant, and she will probably be able to keep working for a good portion of her pregnancy. If she and her husband are otherwise ready, I think it’d be a shame to put it off just out of a sense of obligation.

    2. job hunting*

      thanks so much for this. trying for june for #1 and nothing yet. i’m in my mid-30’s. work has been… toxic. so it’s this back and forth do i leave and start elsewhere and go back to being healthy or try to get pregnant in this crazy environment and wait it out.

    3. Diana*

      Agreed! I got pregnant the month after I started a new job. Ideal timing? Not so much, but my husband and I had been trying to 2 years when it happened. Unfortunately FMLA didn’t kick in, but my work was fairly accommodating about it all. I worked up until I gave birth (last 2 weeks from home) and even went past my due date. I think they were most concerned about if I was planning on returning back to work, but I came back full time and baby is now 7 months old.

      You can’t always control when these kinds of events happen, and if I had waited you never know how long it might have taken (if at all).

    1. kms1025*

      For OP#2 – I think forwarding this mail without consent of owners would be a big “no-no”. Honestly, you kind of need to suck it up and accept that these folks have decided that mail duty is one of the things they pay you for. if the other owners decide to change it, you’ll be in the clear. Continued hard feelings on your part could lead you into a really bad head space that is not worth the emotional capital you are spending.

  25. Ruthie*

    #1, just wanted to flag that one of our databases went haywire last week resulting in what appears to be a few individuals submitting forms to us hundreds or thousands of times. Is it possible there’s a bot or bug along the way?

      1. Emmie*

        There could still be system issues. The multiple calls alone may be more than enough to justify the company being concerned.

  26. Jessica*

    RE: LW #3: I had a friend who had a schizophrenic crisis and was in the hospital for more than two months dealing with it and getting stabilized. She was a teacher and, before reaching a crisis point, had been told that her contract would not be renewed for the next year, partly because her behavior was growing erratic (but not so much so that it was clearly a mental health issue — she just seemed a bit hard to work with because she would make big promises and not follow through). After she found out about the contract, the schizophrenia really accelerated; there was a conflict at the school and she was hospitalized afterward. I was no longer working at the school, and the last time I had heard from her was between when her contract wasn’t renewed and she was hospitalized. When a couple weeks had passed and I hadn’t heard from her, I reached out to another friend who was still working at the school and she told me what had happened (all three of us were close enough friends that this was appropriate).
    All this to say, I could understand if the daughter’s mental health crisis had seemed to be provoked/worsened by the firing (which is why the mom doesn’t want to bring it up to the daughter — I certainly didn’t talk about school for a LONG time with my friend), and that it could be useful to know when unusual behaviors starting presenting…but Allison’s advice is still correct that an adult can’t go searching for this information for another adult. Having a similar situation in mind does help me sympathize with the mother, though.

  27. The Awesomeness*

    #1 Make it very very clear to Fergus that a person who submits an application 142 times, and keeps calling and basically harassing people about it, will not get the job, or any other job at this company. Tell him he has been blacklisted and will never be considered for a job.

    It’s nice that you want to help the guy, but he’s clearly “show up at your house with a kitten as a gift” unstable.

  28. LuvzALaugh*

    #3 The best this person can do is to support her daughter going to therapy, let her be an adult, stop trying to solve her problems for her and be available if her daughter wants to share but give her privacy if she does not. Contacting the employer will make her daughter feel violated and probably worsen her mental state. Not to mention the damage this person is doing to themselves by taking on their daughter’s issues instead of letting her resolve them herself. This person wants her daughter to look at her responsibility in a job loss to examine changes she needs to make personally but doesn’t see she can’t do this for her. I feel for her and know she has her daughter’s best interest at heart that’s why I am adamant about throwing up huge stop signs here.

    I get this person thinks that taking responsibility for what really happened with the job will help her daughter but she needs to accept that that is not her role and if she chooses to make it her role she will damage her daughter further. A good therapist and her daughter being willing to go to one will help her evaluate her role in the job loss.
    Your friend may want to go to therapy as well to learn healthy ways to deal with her daughter’s condition. This is clear boundary violation, that while may be predicated in good intentions, is going to make things way worse and potentially damage her relationship with her adult daughter.

    My Mommy heart feels for you. You can’t make this all better, Mom. She has to want to and she has to take steps to. All you can do is be there and love her.

  29. committee member*

    #5: I would take what you know about the company’s new culture in mind. Does it seem like a family friendly place? I think you should begin trying whenever you and your partner want but if I were you, I’d wait at least 6 months because I would not want to prove myself while going through early pregnancy because I do not have easy pregnancies. Good luck!

  30. Emi.*

    Thanks for #5–I’ve been wondering about this too! Do you think it matters if you’re young? I’m at my first job post-college, which I started a few months after getting married, and I’m the youngest in my office by ~5 years. I’m dying of baby fever, and it’s a pretty baby-friendly place, but I don’t want to look like I just got an MRS and am now going to bail on my career to pop out babies.

    1. Sualah*

      I think if anyone is going to care, they’ll make up a reason to, no matter what. “Oh, she’s young and got her MRS.” “Oh, she’s getting older and the clock is ticking!” If someone is determined to make an inconvenience of a woman’s pregnancy, they will, no matter what. There is no perfect time that someone can have a baby that all will agree fits in perfectly. So if you want to start trying, go for it!

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Exactly. And if you pop the baby out in your cubicle and get right back to work, they’ll complain that you got blood on the floor. Some people just can’t be pleased.

    2. Gaia*

      It doesn’t matter at all. People have babies before, during, right after and well after they start their careers. None of that matters to anyone but you (and your partner, if you have one). And ANYONE who thinks you got an MRS because you have a baby young and shortly after joining the workforce is incredibly gross and ought to be ignored until they can return in the 1950s.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Nope, doesn’t matter. You get to have babies when you want to have babies, and if anyone says anything about it, then screw them. (Seriously—I find it beyond rude/inappropriate when anyone thinks it’s ok to weigh in on a coworker’s reproductive choices.)

      One of my good friends got pregnant during her second year out of law school (she was a K through JD, so in our friend group she was the youngest by about 3-5 years), and no one thought it she was too young. Granted, she’s also preternaturally mature and insightful and wise and generally amazing, so despite looking 18, folks often treat her like she’s older.

      1. OP #5*

        I agree, there’s judging a thing any stage! Personally I’ve chosen to wait to advance my career before my first, but moms of all ages make it work! Good luck!

  31. HR Girl*

    OP #5: I was in a very similar situation to you! I think we waited about six month before trying because I wanted to make sure I had FMLA coverage, more for my own sanity than anything. The company was very supportive when I announced it about 8 months into the job. And have been supportive of people who are pregnant starting out the job too. The right company will be understanding no matter when you get pregnant. Good luck, OP!

  32. Tuckerman*

    #5 This is a question that has been on my mind, as well. I’m also wondering, although FMLA doesn’t kick in until a year at a job, does anyone have information on how often employers actually terminate the employment of someone who needs to go on maternity leave before she is eligible for FMLA (in a professional position)?

    1. VroomVroom*

      I don’t think that they can terminate you, legally, just because you’re pregnant. Many will offer you unpaid leave, it just may not be as long as the 12 weeks minimum required by FMLA.

    2. blackcat*

      I suspect it is much more common in blue collar or low-wage jobs than higher paid jobs, so an overall rate might not be informative.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It’s illegal to terminate someone on the basis of “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” But what typically happens for bad employers in the pre-FMLA stage (or those too small to qualify) is that they deny your medical leave or won’t grant the length of leave you need/want. So you end up with 5 days to a week of unpaid leave instead of a more expansive leave period.

      It’s also easier to take advantage of lower-wage workers who would not have the financial capacity or access to legal resources to sue their employer for an unlawful termination (but that’s true of all employment discrimination laws/problems).

      1. fposte*

        I believe you can terminate someone for being out on pregnancy leave when they’re not covered by FMLA, though; it just has to be your policy for all uncovered medical leave and not just pregnancy.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think you’re right that you can be terminated for the length of your leave or required to return without as much leave as you want. But under the PDA, I don’t think you can terminate someone for being pregnant or taking leave to give birth. (I could be wrong, though—I deal with very few PDA cases and tend to focus on state law, which in CA offers greater protection, instead.)

          1. fposte*

            The EEOC page says, “If a woman is temporarily unable to perform her job due to a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, the employer or other covered entity must treat her in the same way as it treats any other temporarily disabled employee.” It’s just the overview, and it doesn’t outright say “Totes cool to fire ’em as long as you’re an equal opportunity jackass,” but it seems to go along with what I learned about the federal stance–that it’s not so much a protection for pregnant workers as a protection against being treated differently than other workers who need time off.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Yes, that’s my understanding as well. My point is that you can rarely fire someone for being temporarily disabled (although you can do it if they can’t perform the core functions of the job), and that the same applies to pregnant women. I just wanted to clarify that firing on the basis of pregnancy/childbirth, alone, as opposed to the ancillary issues that arise from those conditions, is unlawful.

        2. krysb*

          I’m also pretty sure that you can take the full 12 weeks of FMLA without repercussion, but if you take 12 weeks and one day, the employer can legally fire you (if your place of employment is a building full of assholes, I mean).

      2. Whats In A Name*

        We had to look into the intricacies of the FMLA for an employee at OldJob who didn’t qualify for FML yet. We weren’t going to terminate her for preganacy at all – we were just seeing if we could get a temp in her role while she was out.

        The way our attorney explained the termination section of law in general was that an employee can’t be fired for “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions” but could be let go for not being able to fulfill the core function/duties required of their job.

    4. Stellaaaaa*

      For a small business, they won’t fire you for being pregnant, but they’ll let you go for taking an extended absence. There’s usually no malice involved. It’s just that they need to fill in their staffing gaps and they can’t keep a spot open for someone who isn’t available.

  33. Erin*

    #5 – Do it on your own timeline. It very well may take you longer than you think to get to pregnant anyway.

    I got pregnant upon starting a new job and it’s working out. My conception date was April 20th and my start date was April 25th so that’s how quickly that happened. :P

    I told my boss when I was just shy of 12 weeks along, giving plenty of time to plan for my absence. I’m currently on maternity leave, returning next week and all is good.

    Do not, however, tell them you’re planning to get pregnant. That is nobody’s business. No need to say anything until it happens, whenever that may be.

    Congrats on the new job and good luck!

    1. Erin*

      Side note: My work is too small to qualify for FMLA, so that wasn’t applicable for me anyway. But yeah, it probably would be worth looking into, as well as any notes on maternity leave in your employee handbook.

  34. Gazebo Slayer (formerly I'm a Little Teapot)*

    OP3: what your friend is trying to do is a gross violation of her daughter’s privacy and autonomy as an adult, and wouldn’t even help her mental health issues anyway. It sounds like your friend is just trying to dig up dirt on her daughter’s employment troubles, possibly to use as further ammunition against her. If your friend’s daughter finds out about this, it wouldn’t be surprising if she cuts off contact with her mother as a result, and she’d be perfectly reasonable to do so.

    This behavior is controlling, invasive, and could well be part of a pattern of stalking or emotional abuse. Don’t enable it.

  35. UnCivil Engineer*

    #5 – I was at my current a job about a year before we started. I was 29 at the time and wanted to at least try before 30 given a history of endometriosis and family history of infertility. Turns out the long wait we were mentally preparing ourselves for didn’t happen and we got pregnant the first try out (much to our happy surprise.) The year timing was long enough to get established in my role at my company, get all benefits in order (set up HSA etc), and settle into a house from a cross country move. Just had No 2 in October of 2016 at 33 and am back at work about a month kicking as much ass as possible as a working mom in a very family friendly atmosphere (despite being one of nine women engineers in a company of 120). Good luck!

    1. Artemesia*

      It is all so unpredictable. It took me years to conceive the first and about half an hour for the second. I was trying to time it for a good time to take leave and missed the window by a month.

      1. UnCivil Engineer*

        Yeah, with our first it was a”Well that escalated quickly,” moment. Also, hilariously told my husband that I thought I was pregnant amidst buying a new car because our other one had died in the Hyundai parking lot because it was on the forefront of my mind that my period was late. I will never forget that look he gave me, “Now, really now?” as he was clutching the armrests of his chair in a bit of anger at sort of being forced into buying a car. Good car, still have it and like it.

        Number 2 took a whole three months, really got lucky in the fertility lottery considering my history and family history. Had an endometriosis diagnosis and surgery at age 14, so we realize how random it really can be.

  36. Jane*

    Op#2- I’m an AA as well and have been through something similar. To make a long story short, when my boss was nominated and accepted the position of a president for a statewide professional organization, I was doing the job of several people. After only a few months I told him that there was no way I could continue to do my job and all the things he needed for the professional organization, so he hired someone part-time to work on the professional organization items.

    Definitely talk to one of the other owners and see if they can help with getting this moved off your plate. I personally think it ridiculous that you are expected to process and send mail to a company/person that you don’t even work for. It sounds like that should hire an admin/someone to take care of accepting rent checks and processing/receiving mail and maybe that is something you can suggest. A small percentage of people think all admins do is file their nails and answer phones and it sounds like the complaining partner is one of those people. If you can’t get some of this moved, you might want to think if this is something you can deal with long-term.

    1. SophieChotek*

      I understand what AAM is saying — this is part of the OP2 employment, but it does sound like OP2 is being asked to do a lot more work than an occasional piece of mail for a different business, for which the OP2 is not being paid additionally. So like AAM and Jane already said, perhaps see if the other bosses can help get this of your plate — or, perhaps you should get compensation for taking on this work for an entirely different business? Because it sounds like this boss is essentially asking you to work for free for his other business, on the dime of the primary business? (Not sure about that.) But I do get that sometimes AA and EA do get asked to do things that are “personal” for their boss…

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        And it also sounds like OP’s other employers, who are presumably paying her salary as well, might not know the extent of what is basically a second job that’s done on their time.

    2. nonymous*

      chiming in on the rent stuff – it is in the LL best interest sometimes to only accept full payment (e.g. when they’re trying to build a case for eviction with a problem tenant), plus your state may have rules about how to document those cash payments. While I don’t think it’s your job to teach LL 101, it may be reasonable to bring this up to your actual employer – “I’m concerned that Fergus is asking me to do activities that is inconsistent with lawXYZ, and that will make this company liable if tenant sues”. I mean, what happens if Tenant says they dropped it off on day 5 but it was really day 9? How does Fergus bill late fees? IMO Fergus needs to switch to an online payment system. If the Tenants want to do cash, they can go to a bank.

    3. Artemesia*

      This. Take his complaint as evidence of a crisis that should be averted by having a dedicated person doing the work for his company. Make a case that you have too much on your plate; show what % of your time is going to this one partner’s company and that it is pushing aside work for the primary company.

    4. Chickaletta*

      This probably depends on the business laws where OP2 lives, but I’d be concerned about the legal consequences of mixing non-related businesses together – her boss should be too and he’s a very stupid business owner for doing this. By doing what he’s doing, he’s creating an opening for someone to sue all of his companies at once. For example, by having checks processed by his office company, his tenants could foreseeably sue both his office company and his leasing company. More concerning to the OP, if a batch of checks got lost, could the OP be personally liable for it? Could her personal assets be sued, and would a judge rule that she was acting as an individual instead of under the protection of her company since she doesn’t actually work for her boss’s leasing business?? I’m not a lawyer or a judge, but if I were her, I’d be very concerned about opening herself to these types of liabilities.

      Again, I’m not a lawyer. OP2 should probably seek the advice of one though or look for a job elsewhere.

  37. VroomVroom*

    Op #5 –
    I’ve written above, but as a currently pregnant woman close to your age I have some advice that I think may be helpful. I wrote above that I found out I was about 1 month pregnant in early September, and I was sick as a dog from mid September to mid December. So, keep that in mind – you could potentially have 3 months (or longer, my sister had HG and was sick the whole time) where you feel like absolute sh*t and you’re at work, and may not want to tell people at work WHY you feel like shit. I’d recommend not letting that part be when you’re brand new to a job, because people will just think you suck at your job. I’m saying that with 100% seriousness – I’ve been with my company for 3 years and have never had a bad review. I have been pregnant since September, and in my end of year review I had 3 weeks ago, my boss said people have complained that my communication was much more terse and I was less helpful than usual. This complaint was NOT voiced at all from ANYONE in my mid-year review that we had in early August – so my boss and I extrapolated that I allowed the fact that I felt like sh*t to color my communications with my colleagues. He was kind enough to not let it affect my overall review score (he balanced out a 2 in that category with a 4 in another, so I still got the coveted 3 and my bonus is not affected – no one ever gets higher than a 3 at our company), but I still felt horrible about it. Here I was thinking I was doing a great job of separating church and state, but I let my personal life (church) and health affect my job (state).
    My point here is that if I hadn’t had a 3 year track record of being The Most Helpful and Cheerful Amazing Team Player Ever, my boss may NOT have balanced out my review. He and I both knew that this was an anomaly in my performance, and we discussed it openly during my review (he didn’t say I think this happened bc you’re pregnant, he said I think this may be because you felt so ill this fall).
    At a bare minimum for FMLA to kick in, I’d wait until you’ve been at the company 3-4 months before you begin trying, so that if it happens on your first try you’re still covered. Realistically, you probably wouldn’t be telling your company until you’ve been there for 6-7 months even if it did happen on your first try. But, I’d just keep in mind that if it by chance did happen on your first try, months 3-7 ish of your employment you MIGHT feel like hell, and be unable to tell anyone why.

    This is a decision that’s ultimate yours and your husband’s. I’d talk with your doctor and get her perspective on it as well. They may be able to run some tests now to tell you if they think it’ll be easy-peasy or you may have to work at it and the point on timing is moot.

    1. Observer*

      Don’t bother with the tests. Even doctors with lots of experience dealing with infertility can’ really tell you much with basic testing.

      1. DrB*

        Yup. I don’t think insurance would cover it unless you’d been trying for a year (or six months if you’re over 35). FWIW, I got pregnant the cycle after just meeting with a fertility doctor, after 6+ months of trying, before actually doing any testing.

      1. VroomVroom*

        I also recommend the subreddit r/BabyBumps for people currently pregnant – a lot of work related questions that people bounce off of people in the same position – you could pose this exact question there and get a lot of insight.
        r/TTC30 for people trying to conceive after 30 years old for when you actually do get around to starting to try.
        I’ve also heard good things about r/waiting_to_try which is for people who are thinking about trying but are waiting for whatever reason. It might be a good community for you with people in similar boats.

        1. VroomVroom*

          Oh and then there’s r/TryingForABaby which is for people who are trying to conceive but not limited to those over 30.

          Best of luck, and keep us posted! This is ultimately your decision, but as my mom always says there’s never a Right Time to start a family :) – ours was a surprise and I was like NOOO I AM NOT READY WHY GOD IS THIS HAPPENING NOW at first, and now I’m like, God Had A Plan For My Life And A Major Part Of It Is This Baby Girl – I’m gonna be a mommy! :) <3 <3 <3

  38. Kyrielle*

    #5 – also, check your state laws. Most states don’t have anything additional, but I think California does, and I know Oregon does. I *think* OFLA for parental leave only kicks in at 180 days of employment here, for companies/employees to which it applies. (But if you’re in Oregon, look up OFLA to double-check that.)

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      California, Oregon, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island (and possibly CT—their legislature is making a second pass at bringing medical leave in-line with NY/CA this legislative session).

      1. fposte*

        California especially, but it’s so complicated there are literal Gantt charts demonstrating which kind of leave overlaps with what.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          You’re telling me! ;)

          (But seriously, there are Gantt charts, and thank goodness, because sometimes calculating leave periods is a nightmare.)

  39. a different Vicki*

    Agreeing with everyone who told LW3 to tell her friend to back off, but I would add: it’s not just that HR isn’t “obliged” to give the information to the ex-employee’s mother, they might be obliged not to, ethically and/or legally, not only because the ex-employee is an adult and hasn’t said “sure, talk to my parents,” but because they have no way to know/check that the person calling is actually the employee’s mother, or any relation.

    “If the name matches” sounds plausible, but most of the people who share my surname—including the two I know about who share my full name—aren’t related to me.

    If I got a call from someone saying “Hi, are you the Vicki who worked with Ophelia at Lavender Teapots? I’m her mother and I was wondering…” the sentence had better end with something like “if you would like to come to a party for her birthday,” not “if I can talk to you about why she left” or “about her mental health issues.” Even then, I’d be more likely to tell her to have her daughter call me, or ask for Ophelia’s number if I don’t already have it, than to accept the invitation. The only thing I’m not sure of is, if I got a call asking for information like that, and was in touch with Ophelia, whether I would just say “you ought to ask her about that. Goodbye” or if I’d then let Ophelia know that someone had called me looking for information about her.

    1. Lord of the Ringbinders*

      And even if the name does match, so what?

      Aside from the fact that this would certainly be an illegal breach of data privacy here in the UK, lord help any HR person who gives my parents information because the “name matches”. You can’t tell the whole story from a name. Like whether the police have been involved due to harassment (as in my case).

      I mean, if someone was on the run from an abusive partner the name would match. And I can say my name is anything on the phone. Just, I can’t even.

  40. Bachitecture*

    #5 – Echoing everyone else here that you should do what’s best for you.

    In that vein, however, I strongly recommend you familiarize yourself with your new company’s policies regarding leave as much as possible before becoming pregnant. Knowing what your realities will be in terms of leave/payments in advance can help ease your stress level immensely as you can better plan/prepare for that. Even if you don’t want to ask HR directly (as that can be a big “Hello! I’m Planning a Baby!” wave at them when you’re not ready to share), you should be able to get a sense of what might apply to you by reading, in-detail, all of your company handbooks/policies as well as all of the plan descriptions for your various insurance benefits.

    Before having kids, I was completely unaware of all of the restrictions related to maternity leave and short term disability (ST Dis) here in the US. For example, FMLA doesn’t even kick-in unless your company is over a certain size, if you’ve been there for a certain amount of time, if you typically work a certain number of hours, etc. And then it doesn’t even give you any payments during leave – just protects your ability to take unpaid leave. For payments, most ST Dis policies only cover the first 6-8 weeks post-birth AND have a 1-2 week waiting period before any payments start – so you’re really only getting a benefit from them for maybe 4-6 weeks of leave. And then that ST Dis payment is only a fraction of your typical pay. It’s immensely shocking when you get down to the nitty-gritty of what is common in the US compared to other locations.

    If your company is large enough that they have to follow FMLA, you probably want to wait to start trying until you’re at least 4-months into the job to ensure you’ll be eligible for leave when you’d most likely need it (as crossing that 12-month threshold is critical for eligibility). If your company doesn’t have a ST Dis policy, get your own personal one now and, again, wait at least 4 months to start trying so that they’ll make payments when you’d need them (as most have a 1-year waiting period for birth-related claims). Assume you will hit your deductible/Out-Of-Pocket Max the year of the birth and make a plan to handle that expense. Try to run the calculations of what you think you’d have coming in during a leave vs. what you’ll need to have going out (make sure to include your contributions to health insurance/other critical benefits if your work doesn’t cover them during leave). Always assume worst-case numbers for your calculations as then if you get more it’s a relief rather than a new hardship (for example, if you can only find out that the ST Dis policy pays 70% of your pay for 6-8 weeks post-birth and there is a 2 week waiting period, use 4 weeks for your estimating).

    If you can – I strongly recommend figuring out rough infant daycare costs for your area and start putting that much aside now each week (both to get used to the reduced disposable income and to build up your savings for helping to cover any unpaid leave).

    1. OP #5*

      Thank you! I’m getting familiar with the benefits and great idea on setting aside for childcare in advance. Thanks again!

  41. Electric Hedgehog*

    OP#3, I advise against a parent contacting a child’s employer for stuff like this. BUT, if your friend just absolutely is going to do it anyway, and you can’t say anything to stop her, she could pose as a reference checker and get only the information that her previous employer would have been willing to give to a potential future employer. It might be helpful for her daughter to know what her previous employer will say about her when she starts looking for work again anyway. But again, even though it feels like it will b helpful, it will erode the trust between your friend and her daughter if she ever hears about it.

    1. nonymous*

      > It might be helpful for her daughter to know what her previous employer will say about her when she starts looking for work again anyway.

      yes, but Mom needs to help daughter figure this out. If daughter doesn’t want to discuss details with Mom, she can still be supportive by encouraging a neutral & confidential third party. This could be as simple as saying “I know you find talking to Auntie Em really helpful and I want you to know that I won’t ask Auntie Em to repeat anything you share with her back to me. I’ve already told her not to tell me any specifics you share with her.”

  42. Jen*

    #3: I’m having a hard time imagining any scenario in which ” the details of the employment, including the reason for termination” would help someone “recover faster” from a mental illness “and get back to work.” This is just weird, and it really sounds like mental gymnastics by someone trying to convince themselves that snooping in someone else’s life to find out gossip about them is somehow a kind act that’s going to help them and is for their own good. Just, no.

    1. Jen*

      I mean, if the daughter were still employed but at risk of losing her job I could MAYBE understand this. But she has already lost the job. Finding out the juicy details as to why are not going to change that.

    2. Chickaletta*


      I wonder if it would even do more harm than good to have one’s mommy digging up information about you from the employer who fired you. I can totally see that sending someone into a deeper spiral.

      1. Temperance*

        It absolutely would. 100%

        My first thought is to wonder whether this woman even fed her friend the truth, or a very sympathetic set of lies that might serve to trick the LW into helping on this bizarre fishing expedition. There is not a logical connection between “my daughter is mentally ill” + “she lost her job, maybe due to illness” = “her mommy must go behind her back to question coworkers so mommy can “help” daughter by reminding her of every failure”.

          1. Temperance*

            When I was a child, my mother did something completely similar to some girls that I knew from church, and with my dance teacher. It was so she could get ammo against me, to prove how bad I was at dance and how strange I was at church. This letter was truly a blast from the past.

    3. Michele*

      The mom sounds incredibly controlling. She is probably one of those who calls her daughter’s boss to demand that she get a promotion. The daughter needs professional help, and part of that help may involve setting proper boundaries with her mother.

    4. Tinker*

      About the only thing that I could think of where input from outsiders could be of significant use would be something like an autism evaluation where observations from people who have interacted with the person closely for an extended period of time are used in the diagnostic process. Were I to go that route, for instance, there’s a couple of my friends that I would hit up.

      However a) in that case the most desired source is a parent, who is obviously already in hand b) it would take a combination of an unusual workplace and unusual circumstances for using coworkers to be worth the weirdness, and most especially c) it’s sketchy beyond belief to embark on such a thing if word can’t even get back to the previously-job-having adult who is the subject of the inquiry.

      That’s really the part that makes me go “something is not right here” — there’s the odd case where someone is delegating certain tasks to a family member because they can’t handle it themselves, or where their participation is not practical for a number of reasons (in reverse, for instance, there are reasons why I’d go to my friends first rather than my parents for the whole autism diagnosis questionnaire thing), but if the daughter — who should be consenting directly or through a formalized proxy — can’t even know about it I really want to know why.

    5. Temperance*

      I have a parent with a personality disorder, and this is something she would do. Normal parents don’t spy on their adult children. This woman clearly has some sort of boundary issue.

  43. Heather*

    #5 I whole heartedly agree there is no etiquette when it comes to pregnancy. You do you.

    TL;DR: Do you due diligence before taking a new job offer if you know that pregnancy is in your future. If you happen to get pregnant before a year, can you still get short-term disability? When does medical insurance kick in for you? Etc.

    Here’s my story: I had two miscarriages in 2015, pretty much back to back. We were still trying and I found out the day I received a job offer I was pregnant for the third time. Luckily this one stuck (happy, health 9 month old now)!

    However, I knew I wasn’t going to be eligible for FMLA assuming the pregnancy went well, so I made sure to ask questions from HR prior to agreeing to my offer to make sure I’d be eligible for short term disability right away, so I at least got some pay for my leave. As a personal preference, I didn’t feel comfortable taking a job knowing that I was going to be taking significant leave the first year, so I decided to tell the hiring manager before accepting the offer that I was pregnant and he assured me he had no problems with it. I started work three weeks later, didn’t tell my colleagues for a few months and ended up going on maternity leave 6 weeks early as the little guy came prematurely. My boss was generous enough to give me the full tweleve weeks paid leave. I know I’m lucky.

  44. VioletFem*

    There’s persistence and then there is stubborn stupidity. The rejected applicant in #3 does not seem to know the difference.

  45. Michele*

    A few years ago I interviewed someone over the phone. She wasn’t qualified for the job, so I sent her a boilerplate rejection email (thank you for applying, but you will not be moving forward in the interview process…). She responded with emails and phone calls wanting to know why. I told her she wasn’t qualified. But WHY??? she asked repeatedly. She went on about how she had turned down an offer because she wanted to work here and we were perfect for her. She tried to connect with me on LinkedIn and sent me repeated emails asking why I hadn’t accepted the connection. I blocked her number and email, and she set up a different email. If she had stopped after the initial rejection, she may have been able to find a job in another department. However, word quickly spread and she was unofficially blacklisted.

    And even she wasn’t as bad as Fergus.

  46. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #1 – “Fergus” might be coached by a parent who states “be a pest and they’ll hire you.” When I was out of work, my parents advised me to be more of a pest at places I applied. The best thing you could with Fergus is be blunt. You have no interest in hiring him, you’ve found other candidates. As much as you might not mind getting a ping every few months – advise that pestering is NOT the way to get a job. It’s ineffectual and counter-productive in the 21st century, no matter what someone else tells you.

    #3 – Mom should know – the relationship between her daughter and her former company is none of her business. And the HR department knows this and will communicate it too.

  47. Observer*

    #3 You’ve gotten some good advice. Some thoughts.

    Firstly, why would you think that any employer would have any obligation to share any information with the mother?

    For another what on earth does Mom think she could find out that could help her daughter? Especially since she can’t even discuss what she find out since this is being done behind her back.

    And, that issue is another red flag. Not one of those little post-it sign here flags, but a full sized banner that covers the wall. I mean, Mom KNOWS that this inquiry could seriously hurt her “fragile” daughter if she finds out, but STILL wants to go ahead? This is not just crossing of boundaries. And this is NOT about helping daughter – no one sane takes that kind of chance.

    If daughter has a good therapist, it might be useful for Mom to have one visit where therapist provides some advice on what Mom could actually do. And, in any case, it sounds like mom should seriously look at therapy for HERSELF.

    1. Lord of the Ringbinders*

      This post has sparked one further thought for me, which is this: therapists don’t get to do this, to contact someone’s employer behind their back for dirt on why they got fired.

      If this was actually necessary to help with anyone’s recovery it would somehow be a thing. It’s not. For a reason.

  48. Jade*

    Oh #1… I was like this once. Not to the level of applying 142 times in a month, but I did pester the hiring staff at a place I applied to. It was my *dream job* at my *dream company*, and I felt slighted that the hiring manager showed up late to my interview and barely talked to me for 2 minutes before leaving. I felt like surely that was the reason I didn’t get the job, rather than me just not being qualified enough. So I called multiple times, left emails, sent a physical letter begging for another chance… Ooof looking back at it now I’m so embarrassed! But I realize I was in a bad place with my anxiety then, and I hinged so much of my happiness on getting that job that I didn’t stop to think that it was possible it just wasn’t meant to be.

    A few years later I applied for a position and miraculously got another interview. After that rejection I just thanked them for their consideration and quickly went away. Hopefully OP too is just in a place where they don’t know any better and will grow up and out of it with some time and life experience.

  49. GK*

    #3: in some jurisdictions (for example, most Canadian provinces), if the employer were disclose *anything* to the mother, they would be in violation of the law. That’s not the case in every jurisdiction, but it is in some. In these situations, the only way for the mother to get anything from the employer is for her daughter to provide written permission to the employer to talk to them and ask questions (and best to get it notarized, just to be safe). It’s hard, but the daughter is an adult, and as much as other adults around her care, some information simply isn’t going to be available on-demand.

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