my boss is insisting I get my tonsils out, my applicants including cover letters, and more

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

1. My boss is insisting I get my tonsils out

I took a day off work because I have tonsillitis. I returned to work with a sick certificate. My manager took me into the office and told me that since it wasn’t the first time I had tonsillitis, I must have them removed. I told her my doctor did not agree and I won’t be having surgery against my doctor’s advice. She has given me a week to go back to the doctor and demand that my tonsils are removed.

I don’t think her demands are reasonable and I felt uncomfortable discussing my health with her. I average 1.5 sick days per year and it’s been well over six months since I’ve had a day off.

I don’t know what I should say to my boss next week. I am certain she can not legally make these demands, but how can I politely tell her it’s none of her business? Since my boss isn’t willing to listen to me, is it time I get HR involved?

Yes. Or at least yes if your boss brings it up again.

Your boss is out of her gourd.

To be fair, I suppose it’s possible that she didn’t mean “you must do this,” but rather meant “it seems like it would be good to ask your doctor about this.” That would still be really overstepping, but it would be less insane then “I order you to have a medical procedure.”

If she raises this again, say this: “That’s not something my doctor agrees is necessary, and I don’t want to discuss my health with you further. Is there any issue with the amount of sick time I’ve used? My records show I average 1.5 sick days a year, which is quite low. Do you have a concern about my use of time off that you need me to address?”

If she continues hassling you, then yes, talk to HR immediately. This is ridiculous. (And if you’d like, you can go to HR right now; you don’t need to wait.)

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Why aren’t my applicants including cover letters?

I’m hiring for a marketing coordinator role that is about 60% admin work (maintaining schedules, setting meetings, updating the website, etc) and 40% content creation (blog posts, emails, newsletters, etc.). In the job description, we state, “Please include a cover letter that tells us more about you, and why you’d be a great fit for this role.” That seems pretty straightforward to me.

95% of resumes we receive have no letter. No note, not a single sentence along with the resume. My gut reaction is just to delete any resume that comes in without a cover letter because if they can’t follow that simple instruction then I don’t have a lot of faith they are the right person to work for me. Am I overreacting? Is there a better way to get people to write a note/cover letter with their resume?

Nope, you’re not overreacting. It’s not like you asked for something time-consuming and outrageous; you asked for something that’s a perfectly normal part of the job application process. Rejecting people for not following instructions makes perfect sense.

And you’re likely getting people who are just resume-bombing — sending their resumes to every ad they see and not bothering to read closely. Which makes me wonder: where are you advertising? You’re more likely to get a lot of that kind of thing if you post jobs on Craigslist or big job boards like Indeed. If you go for more niche advertising (for example, Idealist for nonprofits, or other professional-niche-type sites), you’ll generally get much higher quality applicants who actually read your posting.

3. Giving feedback to an overly pushy intern candidate

So my husband has been hiring for his intern for next year. Generally this position is filled by masters students in their final year and is their practical experience portion of their degree, and it’s a great internship to have. It’s at a large company, is well-paid, and usually opens the door to a position at other large companies once complete. A significant number of applicants are from abroad (the company sponsors visas if needed) and as a result have wildly different ideas/norms about applying for positions. One applicant from this pool sent in his application to my husband (and was well-qualified and a contender, but wasn’t at the top of the pile and thus wasn’t interviewed or selected) and I feel really bad for him. He reached out to my husband every three days with almost identical emails stressing how much he wanted the position. One line he used frequently was “Although you need 1, I can guarantee to give you an effort equivalent to 10 engineers. Some hint: I’ve taken 5 courses as a Master’s student this semester which makes me ready for a super-busy intern life (which I’m loving as I can manage my time well and the mid term grades prove it).”

He also frequently stressed his (very thin) connections to the company: a coworker of his and his sister worked at two very separate branches of a company of the same name but which are actually owned separately and aren’t connected. When my husband sent him his (polite and encouraging) rejection email, he responded saying that he was “heartbroken: but would apply again because his family has been loyal employees of the company.

Would it be appropriate/kind for my husband to craft a feedback email about this applicant’s style? Part of it seems simply to be naivete about applying for jobs in general, but I could see several instances as well where his culture vs. U.S. culture just differed in terms of professionalism (aka, bringing up family members as examples as his family’s loyalty to this company as a whole). What would such an email say? This person is in his final stages of his masters program, and will need to be applying for professional jobs in the immediate future.

It would be a real kindness for your husband to do that. If he’s willing, he could offer to do a short call with the guy to give him some feedback. But an email could work too, and he could frame it as, “I can see that you’re really enthusiastic about working in this field, and I wanted to give you some feedback that will help make you a stronger candidacy. I think you’re inadvertently doing a few things that are shooting yourself in the foot: (specifics).”

4. When should I mention the impact that a brain injury has had on my writing?

I suffered a near-fatal brain injury a while back, and have been trying to return to the workforce ever since. Before the TBI, I was a great writer. Post-TBI, my brain has rewired itself to be stellar at math and programming, but the writing and “tell me about a time when you…” storytelling function is gone. This is well-documented, and meets ADA standards.

I lost my most recent job because I was asked to document a current model. Although I did so creditably, it took me forever, which took away time I spent on development of what I was *really* supposed to be focused on.

I have another interview for a dream job later this week: how do I appropriately set expectations about my writing?

For pretty much any disability that you might need accommodations for, the formula is this: Wait until you have a job offer and raise it then, in the context of “I have a disability / here are the work-related impacts and accommodations I might need / is that something we can make work?”

It’s wise not to bring it up before the offer stage, because you risk overt or unconscious discrimination. By waiting until the offer stage, you make illegal discrimination much harder; it’ll be clear if they’re pulling the offer because of what you told them, so it’s much less likely to happen. And they’re required by law to work with you to try to accommodate you if they can do it without what the law calls “undue hardship.”

Sometimes people worry that if they wait to mention it until the offer stage, they’ll look sneaky or dishonest. But that’s not the case at all. The law doesn’t require you to disclose it earlier, and decent employers will understand why you didn’t raise it until it was relevant.

5. Why does LinkedIn insist on including dates with work experience?

Am I not getting something? Why does LinkedIn insist on putting work dates in with my experience? Can’t my experience be considered without dating me? I try to edit, but it just keeps putting the work date in.

It’s because in many ways, LinkedIn mimics the basic info that a resume includes, and dates are considered highly relevant on a resume. The reason for that is that it matters whether your experience doing X was recent or if it was 20 years ago, and whether you did it for six months or five years.

LinkedIn probably has additional reasons for considering dates helpful, too. For example, since it’s a networking site, it can be useful to know whether the person you’re considering hiring worked at the same company as your colleague while she was still working there too, or a decade before that.

{ 527 comments… read them below }

  1. BuildMeUp*

    Alison – I think OP4 might be worried about getting ““tell me about a time when you…” questions in interviews and having trouble answering them. Would this change your advice about when to bring up the issue?

      1. LadyM*

        I dunno about that, LW specifically ended it with ‘how do I appropriately set expectations about my writing?’ and not anything about interviewing

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          She did, yet I can’t help but wondering whether there’s a question to be answered there as well.

          1. OP4 TBI*

            OP4 here. You’re right to notice that I have issues with behavioral interview questions as well – but I’ve come up with an interview strategy for that. Basically, I try to take control of the interview at the beginning and make it more of a discussion (I’ve noticed your company is doing x, and that reminds me of when I did y), because the problem doesn’t arise with a dialogue- it’s the executive functioning part of storytelling that does me in. If I don’t succeed in that, well, the interviewer and I will both have an unpleasant​ 30 minutes. I also try to do my interviewing at professional conferences, where I’m more likely to be speaking with someone technical.

            I focused on the writing issue when employed because, well, it really feels to me that others would think I’m just trying to get out of doing more work when I say that I can’t write. Everyone can write! I must just be lazy! In grad school I would write the mathematical formulation and have my teammates do the English-and even that was uncomfortable.

            1. Clorinda*

              Are you able to prepare two or three standard answers that you can memorize and use for those awkward storytelling questions? After all, there can’t be very many scenarios interviewers use. It sounds like you CAN do this sort of thing, just not quickly or spontaneously.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Oh, interesting. I didn’t read it that way at all—to me it sounded like it was a question about core work functions and expectation-setting, not about fielding now-challenging interview questions.

    1. Jeanne*

      No. I have a TBI also. You just can’t sit in an interview and say I’m not able to tell you a time when X happened. Practice and preparation are needed, maybe to an extreme. Also, take your time, breathe so you don’t panic, and clarify the question as needed. Make something up as needed. “While I didn’t have many difficult conflicts at my last job, here is how I believe they should be handled.” But it will take more prep than someone without TBI.

    2. Kiwi*

      I read it that way too. If that is the problem, could the LW explain about the TBI and ask the interviewer for a list of “tell me about…” questions in advance so she can prep? I know that’s less than ideal, but it would likely be better than blanking at the interview.

    3. Dizzy Steinway*

      Nope – OP particularly referred to having issues documenting a process in writing.

    4. Epsilon Delta*

      So reading it again, I see that the OP specifically asks about writing, and Alison’s advice is good. If OP is applying for a tech role probably she doesn’t need to worry too much/at all about cover letters. And if it makes it easier, she could dictate the cover letter and have someone else type it (no idea if that would be helpful in her case, just a suggestion). If it helps set expectations for OP, I do a lot of writing in my programming job, but that’s unusual. Most of my coworkers don’t produce most documentation or technical docs — that’s all done by technical writers. That will be especially true at large companies.

      But I too have trouble with “Tell me about a time” questions, without having a brain injury! Something about it just sends my brain off in the wrong direction and I can’t come up with an example of a thing I do all the time. So I print out a list of a bunch of these questions and practice answering them. Sometimes it takes me a couple hours of thinking about a question in the back of my mind to come up with a good example. You figure out that you only need about 5-10 scenarios to cover most of these questions. It’s also helpful to come at it from the other direction too — list all your projects (that went well and some that went not so well) and use that as a list to pick your answers from. Obviously you will need to commit your answers to memory before the interview, but “studying” this way has helped me immensely.

    5. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      I think “over” prepping and bringing notes is a workable solution for interview issues that would work without having to disclose the TBI

  2. LaSalleUGirl*

    OP3: I like Alison’s script generally, but I don’t think I would use the “shooting yourself in the foot” language. That feels too idiomatic in a way that might further confuse the issue. Maybe “undermine your chances” instead?

    1. Jeanne*

      I was thinking anything with this candidate should avoid all idioms and figures of speech. It should be direct. “I will not hire you for the internship. I would like to help you. When you are searching for a job in the US, do not do X. You will not get a job that way. You need a good resume and cover letter. After that you should do X.”

      1. NotoriousMCG*

        Hi all, OP3 here: This candidate is essentially fluent in english and has been attending a US university. I’m sure there are many idioms he may need assistance with (playing Cards Against Humanity at the last work party was an experience) however we should assume he has a firm grasp on most that would be used professionally or has a source he can ask for clarification.

        1. Mookie*

          Thank you for clarifying and expanding. I found that the verbatim example you used in your letter, beginning “[a]lthough you need 1[…],” made the applicant’s fluency quite clear. This sounds just as you say, that he is a touch deficient in professionalism (possibly intersecting with some nuances in culture) rather than language; this is somewhat understandable if his age aligns closely with a traditional first- or second-year US graduate student in a field where access to applied experience is limited.

      2. MK*

        This script is insulting; it comes across as if you are addressing a small child or a person with a disability.

              1. Lablizard*

                My first language isn’t English and I am perfectly capable of reading complex, even convoluted, writing. Remember, this is a master’s student.

                1. Dizzy Steinway*

                  Convoluted writing is rarely actually necessary though. But I’m going off topic here.

                2. Jessesgirl72*

                  I have met many a Master’s and even PhD student whose understanding of English was limited, most especially in a STEM area. Heck, I’ve WORKED with people with degrees who have been in the US for 20+ years who still miss idioms and things.

                  There are also certain cultures where anything short of “No, we’re not hiring you. These reasons are why” wouldn’t be accepted- and anything short of blunt and simple that went into detail would be seen as an opening for debate.

                3. the gold digger*

                  My boss has been in the US since he was in high school in the late 70s. His degree is in engineering. He is very intelligent and his English is excellent, but there are still idioms and cultural references he has never heard or does not understand. It’s not insulting to try to make sure that you are speaking in a way that makes it easy for the listener to understand.

                  Me: You are just like Lucy with the football!
                  Boss: Who’s Lucy?

                4. A*

                  But it’s extremely insulting to assume someone *can’t* understand you if you use big words/use idioms/use cultural references/use words that are not in their first language. Intentionally oversimplifying communication is not accommodation in this context. It is instead a way–not so subtly, I might add–that you convey to the listener that you believe they are less capable than you are. It’s a way to assert control. It implies you have low expectations.

                  This is different from the standard tech-writing adage of communicating to remove ambiguity. We aren’t talking about a prepared speech to a global audience, or a document intended to be localized upon delivery. We’re talking about one person speaking to another. It’s entirely possible to be clear without being patronizing.

                  And in the case of your Charlie-Brown-deficient boss, I fail to see the issue. He wasn’t familiar with it, so he asked. In no way was it incumbent upon you to assume he had no knowledge of it and frame your speech accordingly. Once he identified that he didn’t get it, all you had to do was briefly explain.

              2. Myrin*

                Now that’s just unnecessary. You should address someone whose first language isn’t English like that if it’s clear that they’d have trouble understanding you otherwise. This man attends a US university to get his master’s and is, as per the OP, “essentially fluent”. You’d hardly have to use simple words and sentence structures to make yourself understood to someone like that.

                (And, I mean, there are many of us non-native speakers here on AAM, including MK and me, and we usually don’t have any trouble following and contributing to the conversation – although speaking only of myself, I sometimes do have to ask an additional question to clarify something. I really hope people don’t feel like they have to use short sentences and simple words to communicate with me.)

                1. Pixel*

                  English is my third language, but I’m happy to report I’m able to comprehend compound sentences – even ones including commas, semicolons and parentheses, and a sizeable range of idioms and cultural references!

                  However, since I’m a “wordy” person (is this even a word? pardon me, English is not my first language!), most of my vocabulary was acquired by reading, I sometimes mispronounce words I’ve seen but haven’t heard. I had a co-worker who had a blast every time I made a boo-boo. That was not cool, however, so is speaking in small words.

            1. Bolistoli*

              I disagree. I write for a living (business, not creative) and clear, precise language is an underrated art. Too many people think complex is always better. In fact most writing I encounter is not complex, it’s convoluted. There is a vast difference. People know you’re smart, whether or not you use big, fancy words.

                1. fposte*

                  Pushing back on this one hard–academic writing is an example of where extremely nuanced differences of meaning matter intensely within the audience group. Sometimes “big, fancy words” are the “clear, precise” choice for their purpose.

                2. Anna*

                  I have read a lot of academic journals in Sociology and I’m going to push back on your push back. So many words for something that could have been said in a more straightforward manner.

                3. fposte*

                  I’m not arguing that there are no academic articles where this is true, but you’re already generalizing to all of academia from one field.

              1. CoveredInBees*

                Agreed. Also, this is someone for whom it might not be as much a cultural issue and might just be a personality/inexperience issue. They may read what they want into things or miss nuances all together. We had an intern applicant who sent very similar things and, as far as we could tell, she was from the US. We’d initially liked her application but her lack of professionalism made it easy to cut her from a list of good applicants.

                For those wondering, we assumed that because this was a position in which experience abroad was a huge asset and she listed a semester abroad and coursework in foreign relations as her qualifications. Also she only spoke a basic level of a non-English language (again, speaking a language other than English would be a big plus) and an American high school (hint to grad students, don’t do this even if you were a National Merit Semi-Finalist).

              2. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

                Half my edits are simplifying documents.

                Recent examples: By moving the above mentioned project forward rapidly we will have an exceptional market position, securing not only new business but strong accolades.

                Edit: By adjusting the timeline of the ABC project, XYZ company will lead the market for teapots. This will provide opportunities for new business and recognition.

                1. Thomas E*

                  If we speed up ABC we can lead the market for teapots – giving us opportunities for new business and recognition.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Thanks so much, MK. I realize I’d read the wrong script. I thought you were responding to Alison’s script, but I now realize you meant Jeanne’s script. Although I don’t agree that it sounds like one is speaking to a person with a disability (or at least I hope no one speaks to folks that way), I agree that Jeanne’s script is jarring and could read as extremely insulting if sent over email. I would go with Alison’s script. It’s possible to avoid jargons and culturally-dependent idioms, and to write clearly, without writing in a new-reader style (e.g., “See Jane Run. Run, Jane, run.”).

        1. AcademiaNut*

          I got that impression as well.

          I work in a very international environment, so I spend much of my communicating with non native speakers, including undergraduates. You do have to be careful with things like idioms and cultural references that may cause confusion or incomprehension (I agree that ‘shoot yourself in the foot’ is probably not a good choice of words) , and it’s generally better to use the simpler word when given a choice of vocabulary.

          But this example text here sounds like something appropriate for a young child, or someone who speaks broken English. If someone is applying for an internship in English, the assumption is that they are able to comprehend standard English, and should be written based on that.

          1. Lablizard*

            I second this. Also, people going to university in the US often read English at a much higher level of complexity than they write or speak, so this feels unnecessarily simplified

          2. myswtghst*

            This is where I came down as well. Idioms can be tricky, but overly simplistic language could cause the applicant to dismiss the content of the message as being talked down to, rather than helpful. Other than the idiom, I liked Alison’s suggested wording.

          3. FoodieFoodnerd*

            You make excellent points here, but I wondered if it also is an example of the less personal, more businesslike communication the applicant needs to land an interview somewhere.

            The applicant’s letter reads like he took all too literally the old, “It’s not what you know; it’s whom you know,” and doesn’t understand why the sister and roommate aren’t even getting an interview, much less an offer.

        2. Mookie*

          I agree. As a native speaker, the language of that script feels too categorical, startlingly blunt and, oddly enough, slightly unprofessional, not the way a mentor might write nor someone accustomed to training comparatively inexperienced, if well-educated, interns. Also, it’s not within the scope of a hiring manager to perform career counseling. I think Alison struck the appropriate approach and tone: conciliatory, equitable, and helpful.

          1. Mookie*

            Also, reiterating that the applicant will not be hired is just unnecessary. He knows he hasn’t been hired. He’s not confused about that, but rather about whether and how he might be able negotiate himself into being taken on later or in addition to another intern. That, I feel, should be the focus of the LW’s husband’s efforts, to communicate that such an approach is both inappropriate and being badly botched. If possible, some notes on how to improve the applicant’s CV or cover letter would be useful, of course.

            1. snuck*

              Actually… for a person as desperate as this… reiterating is a good idea I believe… or they might think the door is open again.

              But… you could say “Hi Fergus, I just wanted to reach out to you now that we’ve finished our recruitment for an intern, and give you some feedback so you might have more success in future applications. I don’t normally do this, but in your case I feel you have potential to a future company. In America it is not normal practice to …. (contact frequently, refer to family etc whatever might be the norms he’s broken) and these could make the difference in a future application process you might encounter.

              Your experience and qualifications are good run of the road, if you did more experience in X or had more hours on the board in Y then you might be a stronger candidate.

              Good luck with your search,


              That’s much nicer, it’s not getting into symantics about the company structure and family employment, and it’s giving some ideas that would genuinely improve. You are likely to get a reply, with questions, this person might ask you to mentor etc. A firm and friendly “I’m very busy and not placed to take on a mentoring role” and “This is the extent of the feedback I will give, if you wish a more thorough examination of your process please discuss this with your careers counsellor at your university” ….

              1. CM*

                I like your general idea, but would not advise saying, “In America it is not normal practice to…” It assumes that the problem here is primarily that the applicant doesn’t understand America, not the applicant’s professionalism. While that may be true, it’s not necessarily true. Of course, I may be reading into this as an American-born child of immigrants who has been told, “In America, we do X,” as a (very) thinly veiled form of racism.

                1. Artemesia*

                  But this is a foreign applicant and by saying it this way ‘In America we do it this way ‘ you avoid saying ‘you are an annoying pushy person’ by substituting a heads up that norms differ and perhaps what you are doing is fine in whereverstan, but will be a problem in the US. There is nothing racist about telling a foreigner about American employment norms. Treating an American as a foreigner is entirely different.

                2. snuck*

                  And quite possibly where the applicant is from his behaviour is very normal.

                  Or if he applies to an African firm (or some other random nationality) it might be normal. You can only talk to mainstream American norms ;)

                  I know is many south east Asian countries a lot of this could be connections, and I suspect the same for African, but I’m not sure… so I’d just say “Hey mate, in Australia we don’t follow up this much, it’s seen as out of the norm, and it’s considered unprofessional to take family connections into account – these are the norms for here, so if you are applying just keep that in mind”

            2. Jessesgirl72*

              Since he is emailing every 5 days, I don’t think he knows he hasn’t been hired, at all.

              1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

                Right. This feels like someone who has not accepted the situation.

          2. Bolistoli*

            I agree with this too, as much as I disagree that simple language is insulting. The tone is insulting, not the simplicity of the language. No need to be blunt or rude, but also no need to be overly formal and complex. Clearly the OP’s husband wants to help this applicant, so the response should be worded with that in mind. Plus, if the applicant feels attacked or that the response was disrespectful, then it’s likely he won’t heed the advice.

        3. LBK*

          Yeah, I think this is too far on the side of simplifying the language to the point that it’s demeaning. The use of an idiom did give me pause since I do think you want really clear wording in this situation, but that example’s way on the other end of the continuum.

        4. Jennifer*

          As a person with a disability, I find it insulting that you equate the way to speak with me as insulting and the way you might speak to a child.

          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            It’s also insulting & demeaning to speak to people with disabilities as if they are small children/unintelligent/cannot understand the language, but lots of people still do it. (I also personally think it’s insulting to talk to small children like that, as they are people & deserve not to be patronized or talked down to as much as anyone else.)
            MK seems to be pointing out that such this type of speech is insulting, period, not that it’s the way you SHOULD talk to disabled people, or that it’s ok to talk down to them.

    2. George Willard*

      Yes. And when I read it in the mindset of someone who is potentially a non-native English speaker/might not have heard the phrase much, the violence of it is just jarring.

      1. Kathleen Adams*

        I am one of the moderators of an English language forum that is heavily patronized by non-native English speakers. In speech, an idiom like this might be difficult, but in writing, I don’t think it would cause any problems because the person would just google “idiom shoot myself in the foot.”

        They do it all the time, trust me.

    3. Seuuze*

      Agreed about the idioms. When I was in grad school, some of the international students, even those with dictionaries of American idioms, would ask me to explain them and how to interpret them. And it seems to me the applicant is using his cultural norms to try and get the job. If they plan to try and stay in the US and work, it would be kind for him to get this feedback about the difference in job hunting techniques.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        There are so many things that we just say without realizing how odd they sound when taken literally:

        – throw the baby out with the bath water
        – more than one way to skin a cat (just ew)

        just off the top of my head…

    4. NotoriousMCG*

      Hi all! Op3 here. So it turns out that Mr. Husband had the same instincts that I did about it being a kindness to reach out and give the candidate some feedback about application norms. After I submitted this question but before I told him that I did, he sent an email in response to the candidate’s ‘heartbroken’ email to say A. The candidate was very qualified and well-suited for a job in the field, but he sorted applicants based on particular specializations that made them a better fit for current projects. Unfortunately those projects are proprietary, so my husband couldn’t share with him what those specializations were. And B. Husband told the candidate that – while it didn’t affect his standing in this hiring process – it is unadviseable to reach out so frequently to a hiring manager and can reflect badly on the candidate. He also gave some general career advice for skills the candidate can improve to make him more competitive in future.

      He didn’t send me this email, so I don’t know what he said verbatim, but I’ll see if he can send me it. I know that the candidate sent a response and it was still a little out-of-touch but he was thankful that my husband took the time to give feedback.

  3. Jeanne*

    #4, That sounds tough. I hope you can still think through your answers during an interview. I also have a TBI. If you do get an offer, I would think through some suggestions for what sort of accomodation would help. You want to make it easy for them. More time to write, switching off some job duties, etc., whatever works for your job. During the interview, you may want to ask questions about how much writing is expected. Make sure the job is truly a good fit for you. Good luck!

  4. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    OP #1, from now on, I recommend giving your boss as little information about why you take sick days as possible. When you call in, say “I’m too sick to come to work today” and get the doctor to write a note that simply says you were sick.

    Not that you did anything wrong. With a normal boss, saying that you had tonsillitis would only elicit sympathy. But you obviously have a non-normal boss.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Agreed re: not disclosing which sickness resulted in having to take a sick day.

      OP#1, although I tried really hard to give your boss the benefit of the doubt, I’m convinced she actually thinks she can order you to have an unnecessary and potentially harmful medical procedure (I say that based on your doctor’s feedback—I realize that there are circumstances in which a tonsillectomy may be medically prudent). Of course talk to HR, but you should know her behavior is so far out of bounds that she might as well be from the Kuiper belt. If I had an employee who was harassing her direct report in this way, I would seriously consider firing her. Her behavior is a massive lapse in judgment that demonstrates a complete lack of awareness about professional and managerial norms.

      1. Magdalena*

        Yeah, I agree that it sounded like the boss more or less demanded the OP get a tonsillectomy. Assuming that was indeed her expectation, I’d worry that she’s unreasonable about many other things.

        1. RVA Cat*

          Not to get too much into politics, but with that bill where employers can demand genetic testing, I wonder if we’ll see unreasonable bosses start demanding mastectomies for women with the BRCA gene….

          1. Boop*

            It sounds extreme, but that is a potential outcome of that bill. Reason 45 that it terrifies me!

          2. Observer*

            That’s a huge jump. There is nothing in the bill that allows anyone to require specific actions based on the information.

            And, as we can see from this insane situation, if someone is crazy enough to think they have the right to dictate surgery to their employees, you don’t need genetic tests for that.

            1. Artemesia*

              The ONLY reason for an employer to have genetic information is to discriminate on that basis. This is totally monstrous.

              1. Observer*

                I’m not defending the bill or the potential for discrimination. But that has nothing to do with the idea of ordering someone to have prophylactic surgery.

            2. Barney Stinson*

              I believe that the concern here is that it can become the ‘thin edge of the wedge,’ leading to the next incremental invasion, which leads to the next incremental invasion, etc.

              Whether the original bill provides for this becomes almost immaterial.

          3. tigerStripes*

            Why would employers need genetic testing on their employees anyway? Doesn’t sound like a good idea to me.

            1. JanetM*

              The rationale being put forward is that it would allow employers to better tailor health benefits and wellness programs to their employees.

              Please note that I do not actually believe that reasoning; I’m just reporting what I’ve read about what they’re saying.

        2. FoodieFoodnerd*

          Yeah, I’d worry if that boss ever needs a kidney, or lung, or half of my liver.
          She would probably feel entitled to whatever replacement parts she needs because of seniority and company loyalty.

      2. Jadelyn*

        Like, seriously – WTF??? I got the same read as you did, this boss legitimately thinks she gets to override her employees’ DOCTOR’S ADVICE.

        I’m in HR, and if we got wind of one of our managers doing this, at the very least it would be an emergency Come To Jesus talk with senior management and an MOU saying basically “do not. ever. do. that. again.” – if the employee raised a fuss, I could well see us letting the manager go.

    2. Violet Fox*

      It is also fully possible to get throat infections that are very similar to tonsilitis without having tonsils. I had one of those a few years ago, and I had my tonsils out as a kid.

      I would actually recommend mentioning this exchange to your doctor the next time you need a sick note in order to stress just how much that your boss does not need specifics, because yeah.. telling you to have surgery that you don’t need and your doctor says you do not need is just not okay, and beyond not normal.

      1. Marzipan*

        I believe that statistically speaking, having your tonsils removed equates to something like one-and-a-half fewer sore throats over your lifetime.

        1. Violet Fox*

          I see very much why #1’s doctor did not recommend this as a solution.

          OP #1, how detailed are sick notes from doctors expected to be at your work place?

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          This is what I have always heard. I had strep throat and upper respiratory infections so many times as a child, I lost count. I’ve also had similar infections, including strep, several times as an adult. (I’m really good at self-diagnosis now.) I still have my tonsils. When I was a kid, I used to ask why I didn’t get my tonsils taken out (I wanted attention and ice cream), and I was told that my tonsils were making things better for me in general and taking them out was a waste.

          1. FormerLibrarian*

            I admit to having mine out as a kid after I’d been sick two or three days of every. single. week. for three months. I was sick a lot less afterwards. Both my kids had theirs out when they were very little, but in both cases the tonsils had become so enlarged that it was having a negative effect upon their health. The younger one was actually unable to produce certain phonemes (g, k, y as in yes) until they were removed, and I’m amazed that she could swallow since most days they were only a millimeter or two from touching. (To quote ENT “They were very large for such a little child.”) There were concerns that if the tonsils were that large when the kid wasn’t sick, if they were to swell any further, it could cause problems breathing. My children like breathing.

            But as for an otherwise very healthy adult? I’d second those who recommend going to HR unless OP#1 has an otherwise good raport with her boss, in which case I’d ask for clarification, and then if needed to to HR.

        3. eplawyer*

          Regardless of the procedure — any surgery carries risks. To demand an employee have surgery and force the doctor to perform an operation the doctor said was not medically necessary just to avoid having an employee take the ocassional sick day is beyond the Pale. I just can’t even imagine a manager saying “go get a body part cut out because I said so.” What would be the next demand?

        4. Newby*

          I had my tonsils removed after I had strep throat twice a year every year for over five years in a row. The doctor didn’t want to remove them until they were permanently swollen and blocked my ability to breathe through my nose. It really isn’t a standard procedure anymore. They only do it if your tonsils are causing problems (aside from occasionally becoming infected).

          Of course, your employer shouldn’t even tell you to have a standard procedure, but telling you to get something done that most doctors agree is a bad idea is even worse.

          1. Amber T*

            Agreed. Ignoring the fact that the manager is wildly out of line (a non-medical (I’m assuming here) professional insisting you need to get a procedure done that your own medical professional says you don’t need is absurd), having your tonsils out is more and more rare nowadays. I say that three months after getting mine out as an adult, but that was after 6 weeks of being constantly sick and a couple winters suffering.

          2. Manders*

            My partner had to get his tonsils taken out after he got quinsy. You’re right, it’s not a standard procedure in adults or even in kids these days. It’s not an elective procedure either–you can’t just stroll into an ENT’s office and order it off the menu, you only get it if your doctor thinks you really need it.

            1. skunklet*

              exactly; my brother in law had tonsils out as an adult – he was on hard core percocet for two weeks, he said it was HORRIBLE as an adult…

              1. Church Lady*

                In the NY suburbs of the 1960’s, every grade school kid in the neighborhood had their tonsils out after the second strep case. It was a moneymaker for the surgeons; they practically did it by kindergarten classrooms. I can still recall the fear and trauma of being in the hospital at age 5 (my 3 year old brother in the next crib), waking up from surgery with a desperate thirst and being told I couldn’t have water or I’d throw up. I’m told the post-op pain is much harder to take in adulthood. Thank goodness the medical profession doesn’t get away with this anymore.

                1. Noobtastic*

                  I was a teenager, and it was miserable.

                  You know, the thought popped into my head that this boss is either rather old (from back in the day when doctors took out kids’ tonsils as a matter of course), or else he saw “Cheaper By the Dozen” a few dozen too many times.

                  That scene where one kid needs his tonsils out, so the father decides they should all have their out. Except for the one girl, whose tonsils were perfect, so she got to keep them.

        5. Jessesgirl72*

          It depends on how bad the tonsillitis is.

          I just had a LOVELY bout with it that left me unable to speak/sing well for two months (no exaggeration) It wasn’t even particularly SORE after the first couple weeks.

          I haven’t really had it that bad in 15 years. But it will have happened more than 1.5 times over my lifetime.

          The thing is, current practice is that doctors won’t remove tonsils unless it’s impacting your breathing, even if it is chronic. So even if the OP went to her doctor and demanded it, the doctor would refuse.

          Not that it matters. I’d go to HR over the crazy demand.

          1. Violet Fox*

            The whole point of this is that well.. which medical procedure is and is not a good idea is between a person and their doctor, not a person and their boss.

        6. Anonymousaurus Rex*

          Yeah, plus having your tonsils out as an adult is really not fun. I had mine out at 19 and it was awful and the recovery time was several weeks. I did have chronic tonsillitis so it probably was the right choice for me (my tonsils, even when not “sick” were 2-3 times larger than they should be). But it’s not a surgery just to be undertaken if you get tonsillitis once or twice. And also no one prepares you for the fact that minus tonsils and adenoids, you end up throwing up out of your nose. :(

          1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

            I was 23, and had a UPPP (removing part of the uvula) as well, in an attempt to clear my airway to help me breathe easier while sleeping and thus improve my sleep (didn’t work). It was more than a month before I could eat normally again, and I would have had to be out of work for at least a week, maybe 2 (it was right after I graduate from college, so I was unemployed). I don’t throw up out of my nose, though, even right after surgery (they gave me liquid lortab for the pain, and lortab and I don’t get along at all, especially in liquid form).

            So this boss wants to have the employee out of the office for 2 weeks to save 1.5 sick days a year? Makes no sense. At all.

            1. Noobtastic*

              No kidding. I was a teenager when I had mine out, and I was out of school for two weeks, plus residual pain for a while after that.

              People say that it’s just a simple outpatient procedure, done in the doctor’s office, and you’ll bounce right back. Maybe if you’re three. Certainly not as an adult.

              I basically had to learn how to swallow again, because my chronically-swollen tonsils were not there, and there were these weird gaps where they had been, and food kept getting stuck there, until my tongue learned how to accommodate it, and it was just … No. Not sensible to do if you’re not already missing weeks worth of time to tonsillitis, anyway. 1.5 days a year? NO WAY.

        7. DaniCalifornia*

          I’ve also heard (from friends that were adults at time of their surgery) that the recovery time is much worse for adults than kids. One friend said she’d rather give birth again than have her tonsils out. I would be appalled if my boss demanded that I get any kind of medical procedure!

          1. Pixel*

            My kiddo has the occasional tonsil stones. Every time they spit one out they claim “I just had a tonsil baby!” and I reply I’m too young to be a grandma.

            1. Candi*

              Wait… is that what those were!?! The little gravelly bits that would build up in my throat until I had to spit them out!?

              Thanks my holy!

              (Mother said I was lying. When she saw them in the sink.)

        8. Noobtastic*

          It depends on the cause. After having weekly sore throats for over a decade, my doctor (DOCTOR! NO one else!) recommended that I have my tonsils removed. The operation was a success, and now I only get sore throats when I am sick with strep or post-nasal drip.

          However, it should also be noted that tonsils exist for a reason, and they do actually do something positive for the body, so unless your tonsils are actually defective (like mine were), they should be left alone. Like the appendix. We’re not exactly sure what purpose it serves, but nature doesn’t put organs in a body for no reason, at all, so unless it’s actually endangering the person, no doctor is going to remove it.

          In short, the boss is a fool and needs to shut up about this, and frankly, I wouldn’t wait to go to HR, because who knows who else this boss is bullying? This, to me, is a major red flag that an investigation is in order.

          1. Candi*

            They found out last year what the appendix does. It’s the equivalent of a bomb or tornado shelter when the equivalent of a natural disaster or attack hits the intestines. Intestinal flora hide there and repopulate when the danger passes.

            Which answers why most of the time it doesn’t seem to be doing anything (it’s on standby) and how it gets infected so easily.

      2. Mookie*

        Yes. This is a bit like people being confused about when and why appendectomies are performed, and that in rare instances they sometimes are performed twice or more. I believe we had a letter or open discussion about this once, and it’s surprising how many people, having never experienced appendicitis, don’t quite grasp how it’s managed depending on the person, the cause, and their overall health, and that it can and often does reoccur.

      3. Ama*

        Yeah I have had incidental tonsilitis twice due to drainage from a severe sinus infection- removing my tonsils would not stop me from getting sick it would just mean my tonsils weren’t affected when I was sick.

    3. Duck Duck Møøse*

      OP#1, your boss should definitely mind her own business. Telling her that, and getting through to her, is the hard part. People can, and have, died from having a tonsillectomy. I can’t believe someone just tosses out “You should have surgery!” so lightly. :( HR should get involved.

    4. Construction Safety*

      And, having you tonsils out as an adult is considerably more inconvenient and painful. OP might use 10 years of sick days at her current average.

      1. EddieSherbert*


        Seriously! I got mine out when I was 11, and couldn’t even speak – let alone eat solids – for a week. My brother got his out as a toddler and was eating pancakes two hours later. I couldn’t imagine getting them removed as an adult.

        (that was basically normal practice when my brother was little, and I legitimately had strep like 2-3 months a year. Removing them did help me a lot.)

        1. Parenthetically*

          My brother got his out at age 3 and had a plate full of potato chips for his first meal home from the hospital. One of my students desperately needs hers out but is waiting for summer vacation because the recovery will be at least 3 weeks.

      2. Amber T*

        Yeah, I’m wondering if this is a more flippant “get your tonsils out so you won’t miss anymore work” idea than an “I’m concerned for your health and well-being” idea. Neither case is appropriate, but one is definitely more absurd than the other.

        Having your tonsils out is not an easy recovery, especially for an adult. It’s right at the top of your throat, where air and food travels. You can’t just stop breathing or eating for a week or two, so there’s constant movement by the wound. There’s also no stitching – you’re left with two gaping wounds that have to scab and heal on their own time. Granted, everyone heals at their own rate, so some people can bounce back after a few days, but the standard recovery time is minimum 12 days after surgery. I spent the first 10 days post surgery living with my parents, and I’ll be honest, I would NOT have recovered if I wasn’t staying with someone or had someone stay with me. I returned to work 14 days after surgery, and those first couple days back were ROUGH. I don’t think I was fully functional again until about 3-4 weeks after surgery.

        So yeah, getting your tonsils out isn’t a quick fix for getting tonsillitis or strep once or twice a year. If that’s what OP’s boss thinks, they’re a bit not with it.

        1. Security SemiPro*

          This aligns with my experience as well. I spent 2 weeks high as a kite on pain meds with my sister living with me and handling everything. I was useless and miserable and doped to the gills.

          I was getting infected tonsils far more than twice a year and its been a massive improvement for me since – it was a good decision – but not one I’d suggest for someone who is currently taking 1-2 sick days a year.

          And demanding a medical procedure for someone else? No. Just no.

          1. phil*

            I had my tonsils out when I was 6 but I’ve had 2 surgeries on my throat and another involving it and the recoveries were not fun. Every time I swallowed it was like a bomb went off in my head. Try not swallowing some time. You can’t.
            The boss is a loon

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              I did as a kid once — timed myself for something like ten minutes not swallowing at all. Might be coincidence, but the next day my throat was wicked swollen and I couldn’t speak above a whisper.

        2. Kimberly R*

          I was one of those adults that had a quick and easy recovery time (I was 19) but, even though I did need mine out and am happy I had it taken care of, I would NOT have appreciated my boss sticking her nose into my health! And I worked in a hospital, where there are actual medical professionals. The only thing my boss needs to say about my health is, “I hope you’re feeling better” when I come back from sick leave.

        3. Anonymousaurus Rex*

          Yep. Same here. I stayed with my parents and would not have been able to make it on my own for those first 10 days post surgery.

        4. FoodieFoodnerd*

          Sorry you had to go through that!

          Was using minty toothpaste and mouthwash especially painful?

      3. AnonEMoose*

        So much this. My DH had to have his out some years ago, and the poor guy was absolutely miserable for several days afterwards. On the other hand, he’s healed well, and has had many fewer sore throats since.

      4. Anon for this*

        Unless OP’s work is like my current job, and they’re forbidden to request planned sick days in advance, for things like planned surgery, and recovering from it. Then she’ll use a full year’s worth of PTO instead! Lovely.

        1. JKP*

          If you can’t plan sick days in advance for things like surgery, then can you just call in sick each morning instead? I would do that before using vacation time. If everyone did that, maybe they would reevaluate how silly their sick time policy is.

      5. alston*

        Yup it is brutal as an adult! I broke both arms at the same time a couple of years ago, and I think I would take that again over the tonsilectomy.

        (I would still totally get them removed again, but it just sucked).

        Your boss is nuts, you can’t ask someone to do that. Even if you were out several times a year.

    5. MWKate*

      Additionally – it’s not like having your tonsils out is a riskless surgery. Anytime you are having surgery there are risks. I know this is an extreme case – but my uncle actually died having his tonsils out as a child due to issues with the anesthesia.

      OP 1 your boss is a whackadoodle. Personally I’d go to HR right away, but definitely do so if she keeps pushing you about this.

    6. TootsNYC*

      Everyone saying, “give less information,” is right.

      You now have info about this boss, and you should now never give her information about any reason you’re taking time off (sick time, or vacation, or personal days).

      If she asks why you are sick, respond as if she’s asked you for a doctor’s note: “Our company policy doesn’t require a doctor’s not until it’s the third day. If this lasts that long, I’ll be sure to get one.” And end the conversation as soon as you can–say, “I need to go” and hang up, don’t reply to the followup email, or whatever.

      If she does bring it up again with any level of pressure, I’d take it to HR (if you have one, and if it’s decent) or maybe even a consultation with a labor lawyer or someone in your state’s department of labor.

    7. Zombii*

      Is it illegal for the boss to insist OP1 has their tonsils removed against doctor’s advice, or just really, really stupid?

      (Serious question for the real lawyers, please.)

  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, if your husband is willing to give feedback, I would recommend he call the applicant or choose a medium other than email to explain the candidate’s missteps. I know that requires a greater investment from your husband, but I worry that someone who is already struggling with job application norms may not pick up on the subtleties and tone in an email. But it’s very kind of your husband to consider intervening. Hopefully the applicant will be open to hearing your husband’s feedback.

    1. Dizzy Steinway*

      Bitter experience tells me that, much as this would be a kindness, it’s unlikely to be well-received.

      1. SystemsLady*

        That tends to be true of people who believe they are “10x engineers” unfortunately, though this strikes me as reading it on a blog and naively thinking something like that was a good thing to say.

        (Also, curse Silicon Valley for making that ridiculous idea a thing, worse one people proudly put in their cover letters and resumes)

        1. LBK*

          I didn’t read it so much as an egotistical brag or overly confident estimation of his skills, more like an expression of extreme enthusiasm.

            1. the gold digger*

              I was recruiting for a teaching position in the Middle East. One applicant had, on his resume, that he was “personable and good looking.”

              I was not able to confirm that information, unfortunately.

      2. Dankar*

        I’ve found that, in general, international students are much more open to receiving this kind of criticism, and are generally grateful for any feedback that could help them better-navigate the US job market.

        An additional point: If this student is applying to internships as a part of his Optional Practical Training, he has a limited amount of time to find a job before his visa is invalidated and OPT is cancelled. He’s likely very, very motivated to improve his applications, so this would be an enormous kindness on your husband’s part.

    2. George Willard*

      This would not be a kindness. I–like most people!–would be so mortified to receive a call of unsolicited criticism that it would be extremely difficult to focus on the actual advice. It might also lead the applicant to believe he has an opportunity to change the hiring manager’s mind. If the husband wants to offer to discuss by phone in an initial email, that perhaps would be kind/not immediately disorienting to the applicant.

      1. Amber T*

        It would either be mortifying, or, as I think the case may be with this particular applicant, give them the grounds to say “but let me tell you why I’m right…” and would end up being an argument, not a conversation. With an email, OP’s husband can list out everything, then be done with it.

      2. Mabel*

        I’m surprised no one has mentioned this, so I could be off base, but my first reaction was that the OP’s husband should ask the applicant if he would like to have feedback before giving any.

        1. Anna*

          I think this falls into the category of being so out of step with business norms, the feedback can just be offered. If someone is emailing me repeatedly and doesn’t seem to Get It, I’m not going to worry if me telling them their tactic isn’t working is what they wanted to hear or not. Sometimes you really do need to hear the thing you really don’t want to hear.

      3. Anna*

        I’m not sure this applicant deserves that much handholding. If you are emailing every three days to extoll your own virtues and someone is willing to offer feedback, you don’t really get to be mortified you’re receiving the feedback; you maybe should be embarrassed that you had to receive it in the first place.

      4. EleanoraUK*

        I’ve had this conversation with our HR department many times. They believe it’s a kind and friendly thing to call candidates we’ve interviewed to let them know they’re not going through to the next stage of the process, and to offer them feedback in that phone call (literally – we don’t give them feedback if they respond that they’d rather not).

        I can’t think of a more mortifying phone call to be on the receiving end of. Having to graciously respond after your hopes have been dashed and then finding the calm to gracefully receive feedback straightaway as well? No thank you. I’d much prefer an email.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I mean, the easy solution is to ask someone if they’d like feedback. I assumed that would be part of the email/call, but perhaps I should have been more explicit. Of course folks shouldn’t go around advising people out of the blue when a person doesn’t want to hear it.

        1. Anna*

          I think if it’s something you observed as an outsider, you maybe shouldn’t just give the feedback. But if you’re the person on the receiving end of the behavior, I don’t think you owe it to the other to person to get their permission to offer feedback. Their behavior is having an impact on you, even if it’s just deleting emails and voicemails. You’re still having to deal with it.

      6. myswtghst*

        These are the two reasons I would lean towards email. An email allows him to process it on his own time, without having to try to react politely in the moment, and while he can still reply, the husband has the option to not reply / negotiate further if he does see it as an opportunity to rebut the feedback.

        1. Anna*

          I have been on the receiving end of unwanted feedback. In my particular case the person giving the feedback had actually been in the wrong and had reopened an issue I thought had been put to rest when I first addressed it two months prior. It was a blessing that she sent me the email and didn’t call me or corner me at an event. I was able to sit on it for a full five days to process what she had written. I then took a lot of the tips I’ve seen on this site and applied them to my response.

  6. Seal*

    #1 – I’ve known several people who had their tonsils out as adults and they all say it was beyond horrific. So unless your doctor says it’s a life or death thing, don’t do it.

    Also, your boss is an ass.

    1. MK*

      Seriously? I know many people who had the procedure as adults as well and in all cases it was simple with minimal recovery time. Not that all this empirical evidence matters, the OP should be listening to their doctor.

      1. Fiennes*

        You knew some lucky people, or they’ve downplayed it to you. A couple of weeks ago I had sinus surgery. My doctor reassured me by saying, “you won’t be comfortable, but it won’t be awful. Not like having your tonsils out.”

        1. BookishMiss*

          My sister had hers out on a college break, and it was really bad. Laid her out entirely for a week, and she was still very out of it for another week+. Funny side effect, though, she had to re-learn how to sneeze, so she doesn’t sneeze like a cat anymore.

        2. Amber T*

          I had my tonsils out in December and it sucked. 100% worth it in my case, but it absolutely sucked. My doctor told me it’s one of the simplest surgeries with the worst recoveries.

        3. Kimberly R*

          I had an easy recovery from having my tonsils out when I was 19. When the doctor’s office called to check on me and I answered my own phone, they were surprised. I realize many adults have a difficult recovery but not all do. I also had sinus surgery and that was much worse IMO.

        4. Episkey*

          That’s funny, I had sinus surgery in October and my ENT said the same thing.

          I had my tonsils taken out when I was about 12. It was horrific. I would get strep throat immediately upon discontinuing antibiotics from my last round of strep. They even tested me AND OUR FAMILY DOG to see if we were strep carriers. Nope, my tonsils were just rotten to the core. My mom had been fighting with the doctors for years to get them removed but they refused. My dad was in the military so we were limited in what doctors we could see. Finally, the base hospital got a new ENT in and he agreed to remove them.

          Again, it was awful. I had complications with the anesthesia & IV antibiotics they used making me end up in the hospital for 3 days. Then a week later, my throat started bleeding heavily. Back in the hospital for 2 days. I missed almost a full month of school at the time.

          I’ve only gotten strep about twice in my life since getting them removed, so it did help immensely but it was a pretty traumatic experience, especially as a kid.

          As an aside, sinus surgery was pretty awful as well.

          1. Damn it, Hardison!*

            Similar experience for me; I had tonsillitis every 8-12 weeks. I’m allergic to penicillin as well as many other antibiotics (at best they make me vomit, at worst my throats swells shut) so I had them removed when I was 12. Scheduled for the Monday of spring break so I wouldn’t miss school. Unfortunely I came down with a major ear infection 3 days after I got home and ended up missing 2 weeks of school anyway. Being sick before the internet was really boring!

                1. Noobtastic*

                  I’m an old fogey. We didn’t have even that. We had a word processor that would do a card game, but only because my father programmed the card game, himself.

                  So for me, it was reading and sleeping and lots of daydreaming.

          2. Fiennes*

            I got lucky with my sinus surgery; it wasn’t super complicated and I had no real pain after the first 24 hours or so. But I am so grateful I don’t have to undergo a tonsillectomy.

      2. MommyMD*

        It can be quite hard in adults. I’ve seen many post-op complications. It is not always a benign procedure. The recovery time is longer in adults.

      3. BananaPants*

        I know several people who have had the procedure as adults and in EVERY case it was a long and miserable recovery (2-3 weeks minimum before returning to work). My own ENT told me that it’s a far more painful and riskier surgery for adults, with around 10% odds of post-op hemorrhage requiring emergency treatment. I had chronic tonsillitis and while he said he’d take them out if I wanted it done, he wanted me to make the decision with full knowledge of how crummy the recovery would be.

        1. Is it Friday Yet?*

          I don’t even understand the rational because when I had my tonsils removed as an adult, my doctor would not let me return to work for a MINIMUM of 2 weeks. I’m sure every situation is different, but the OP would need more time off for surgery than is currently being used for sick time…

          1. Noobtastic*

            The two week minimum is probably because, although there are some people who bounce right back, the majority do not, and 1) it’s best to plan for it, and 2) complications of just about any sort (excessive bleeding, infection, etc.) at that particular location, right where you breath and swallow, can very quickly turn into emergencies, and the stresses of trying to go back to work too soon could very well trigger something. Bodies are weird that way.

    2. Fiennes*


      A tonsillectomy is a major surgery for a child, but young patients bounce back fast. For an adult, a tonsillectomy is a serious ordeal. It requires serious recuperation time — i.e., more sick days than you’d usually take in 4-5 years, if your estimate holds — and no responsible doctor would agree to do it without pressing medical need.

      Your boss is not only grossly overstepping, but also ignorant of precisely what she’s asking of you. Any steps you take to shut this down hard are fully justified.

      1. Snork Maiden*

        I agree, I have had my tonsils out as an adult (25 years old). I do not recommend this surgery unless you absolutely need it. (Mine were permanently enlarged from chronic infections and obstructing my airway, especially when I was sleeping.) Recovering from this surgery as an adult is nothing like a kid’s. I needed three weeks off work till I was even approaching normal, and the pain was incredible. My management thought I was being dramatic requesting two weeks off work. I dragged myself in after a week and a half and they sent me home after seeing what a state I was in.

        1. KTM*

          This was pretty much exactly the reason mine were removed in my 20s and I also had a similar recovery experience. (but it did make an amazing difference in my health!) Interestingly though, they used a newer ‘coblation’ technique on one side but had to do a more old-school removal (including cauterizing) on the other side. The recovery time was noticeably different between the two sides.

          I don’t think OP’s boss understands what she’s asking… but also just sounds like a general crazy-pants

      2. TootsNYC*

        “Boss, do you realize that if I -did- have my tonsils removed, I’d have to be about of the office for at least a week of recovery time?
        “And by the way–employers can’t require employees to have surgical alterations to their body.”

      3. Liane*

        “A tonsillectomy is a major surgery for a child, but young patients bounce back fast. For an adult, a tonsillectomy is a serious ordeal.”
        True of just about any surgery. Both my son and my husband have had parts of their colons removed, for very different conditions. Son was under a year old & Husband was in his 40s. The differences in their recovery times and how rough it was were amazing.

    3. Is it Performance Art*

      I know someone who had her tonsils removed as an adult and it was not a pleasant experience for her. If you get them taken out, you’re probably going to end up taking more than a couple of days off.
      Not to mention, your tonsils are part of your immune system. Yes, you’ll be okay without them, but they do help protect you against infectious diseases. (That’s why they don’t routinely take them out any more.) Demanding that someone else remove part of their immune system because one or two sick days inconvenience you is ridiculous.

    4. Sami*

      I had my tonsils out as a young adult and it was tough. The surgery was in a Wednesday and I figured I’d be up and around by Monday at least. Nope- it was the next Monday, so for about 10 days I was out of commission.

    5. CU*

      Well, this is good to know as I currently have tonsillitis and it is painful to the point where I’ve thought about removing them myself.

      My manager is a bit mother hen-ish and will tell us to go do the doctor if she thinks we need to, but it’s always a suggestion (except for the time a co-worker fainted at work, but that’s company policy) and has never suggested a treatment more involved than drinking a cup of hot tea. Telling someone to get surgery is way out of bounds.

      1. Observer*

        I wouldn’t be happy if a boss ordered someone to talk to their doctor about treating something, but that’s a very, very far cry from ordering someone to demand a *specific treatment* much less SURGERY! That’s just insanity.

        1. JanetM*

          I think I could see a boss saying something like, “Fergus, I’m concerned — you’ve had that cough for almost three months. Have you seen a doctor about it?” but it would depend entirely on the office culture and the working relationship between the two.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        The best medical advice I ever got from a boss was at my first professional job–I’d have to give a tour in the rain, and as I was still getting over a cold, I lost my voice. When I went to ask my boss a question, he realized how ill I was and told me to go home, pour myself a belt of Scotch, and go to bed. I did those things (substituting bourbon for Scotch), and ended up taking the next day, too, until I felt genuinely better.

        1. Fiennes*

          There truly is something about the “medicinal” glass. Honestly it’s not that different from a shot of NyQuil.

    6. Gen*

      People think a tonsillectomy is a simple procedure because it was done so regularly on kids in the 50s-80s but it’s done a less regularly now. It’s a general anaesthetic procedure on your airways it’s not day surgery. I think for a doctor to suggest it you’d need to have had 7-10 cases of tonsillitis in three years not 1.5 days off. I would note that I have tonsillitis right now and I had a tonsillectomy in ’94 so I’m not that convinced on the surgery anyway hahah. As someone else suggested, never give this boss details on sick leave again

      1. Allison*

        I grew up in the 90’s and I swear to god every TV show I watched with kids or young teens had an episode about one of the characters getting their tonsils out; I presumed the episodes were meant to reassure young viewers it’s totally routine and no big deal, or maybe the writers were just drawing inspiration from their childhoods. Either way, it had me believing that almost everyone had their tonsils out the first time they had tonsillitis. I didn’t get strep until I was an adult, and was really nervous that I was going to need surgery.

        1. K.*

          And it always seemed like no big deal on TV – the kids always got ice cream afterwards! Every post-op scene featured the kid in a hospital bed eating ice cream.

          1. Recruit-o-rama*

            Kids recover much more quickly than adults. My son had his out when he was 3, he was eating regular food within 3 days and he was playing around after about a day and a half.

          2. Gen*

            I was heartbroken as a kid when instead of ice cream we were forced to eat a bowl of cornflakes before we could leave hospital (I guess from the other posts that was to do with the scabs? I dunno) I’d really looked forward to that promised ice cream

          3. Liane*

            So did the little kids’ books in the 1960s-70s. As best I can recall, the ones I read made tonsilectomies sound more fun than a school physical. You got ice cream vs. a lollipop or Happy Meal type toy! (That’s what you got before stickers became A Thing.) Also no shots mentioned in those tales, whereas school physicals always seemed to include one or 2.

        2. Mephyle*

          I expect it was because they were drawing inspiration from their childhoods. In a certain era, it was almost a rite of passage to get one’s tonsils out; at least it seemed to me at the time that almost everyone did it, just like almost all of us had measles and chicken pox at some point

          1. Noobtastic*

            Oh, golly. Remember chicken pox parties?

            One kid in the neighborhood gets chicken pox, and suddenly all the mothers with children who haven’t had it yet want to invite themselves and their little darlings over, to “get it over with.”

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It was routine to take kids’ tonsils out until around the 1990s (doctors out there, correct me if I’m wrong). So it’s not surprising that this trope continued in television shows, but you’re right that it grossly misrepresents what we now know about tonsillectomies, recovery time, and tonsil removal’s effect on health.

        4. Another Lawyer*

          This was basically my exact experience. I have very large tonsils and my doctor sort of threatened that I would need them out if I EVER got strep/tonsillitis. I never got either until I got strep in my 30s and was so relieved when my doctor just did a strep test and handed me penicillin and a doctor’s note for work.

      2. Emi.*

        I wonder if my children and grandchildren will look at wisdom-teeth-ectomies the way we think about tonsillectomies now.

        1. Rat in the Sugar*

          Pretty common in the States–if you have to have them out as an adult the recovery is very hard. I had to have mine out in an emergency surgery because I was in so much pain and unable to eat from the way they were coming in; if I’d had them out as a child/teen it would have been a much easier recovery for me. As it was, it was the most miserable I have EVER been in my life (they also had to take out three other molars that were damaged from grinding, and the grinding continued throughout recovery, which certainly had a lot to do with how much pain I was in) and I found myself wishing I’d just let them take them out when I was in high school. My close friend had hers out then, at about 16, and recovered in a few days. I had mine out at 25, and was in pain for several weeks before everything was back to normal. Do Not Recommend.

          1. fposte*

            A lot of it depends on the teeth and their situation, though; yours was clearly pretty bad and you had complicating problems. I had mine out as an adult and it was a breeze.

            1. Rat in the Sugar*

              Yeah, it’s funny how that works sometimes. I recently had two root canals at once, and wasn’t even sore afterwards! I’d been so nervous from everyone talking about root canals as something that was always awful, but mine were a cinch.

        2. Solidus Pilcrow*

          It’s fairly common, but like anything involving the human body, it’s going to vary by individual.

          I had my upper wisdom teeth pulled (not surgery, just the dental equivalent of pliers) while I was in college because they came in crooked and were crowding my teeth. My lower wisdom teeth never came in.

          Wisdom teeth issues are somewhat created by access to good dental care, ironically enough. Used to be, people lost more teeth or more teeth were pulled, leaving wisdom teeth more room to grow.

          1. fposte*

            And America loves straight teeth, so we see teeth getting shoved around as a Problem in a way that not every other place does.

            1. Solidus Pilcrow*

              True. White teeth are a thing, too. When I needed a crown on a front incisor, my dentist actually suggested getting my teeth whitened so it would be easier to match the color! Eh, no thanks doc. Send that puppy back to the lab to get the right color match.

              1. Marcela*

                Don’t do that. Even less if it’s with Zoom. The pain you’ll feel is horrible. I have bad teeth so I guessed it was my own fault, but my husband has perfect teeth, and he has always taken care of them, and even for him the pain was too much. And the white didn’t even last unless you almost change everything you drink (tea, for example, is a no).

              2. Anonymousaurus Rex*

                OMG this happened to me and I fell for the ZOOM. It was the absolute worst. So painful. I sincerely wish I had just left my teeth their creamy yellow.

            2. Marcela*

              I don’t know if it just an obsession with perfect teeth. I have seriously crooked front teeth and dentists in 4 countries said I needed to remove my wisdom teeth. The argument was that in my old age, the stress of the pushing and the difficulty of cleaning was making their grip to the bone less secure. However, I am small in general and I als have big teeth, so it could be a particular situation.

              1. fposte*

                I don’t think it’s just an obsession with perfect teeth–as you state, misalignment can be a mechanical problem–but America really does focus a lot more on straight teeth than a lot of places, so that it’s assumed that you don’t want to take the risk that wisdom teeth will misalign anything.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I removed a long thread here about wisdom teeth because it was off-topic. (I’m enforcing the rules rigorously right now because I’m trying to do a bit of a re-set on the commenting section.)

      3. Newby*

        Even if it were a routine procedure, it is one that requires general anesthesia. Anesthesia always has risks. Last time I had surgery, I was in the hospital for three days because of complications from the anesthesia. It’s really not something that someone without a medical degree should be telling anyone they should insist on having against their doctor’s advice.

      4. joie de vivre*

        Having your tonsils and adenoids out IS day surgery for children.

        As someone who had my tonsils out when I was in high school, I was in the hospital long enough for my friends to come and visit.

        The boss is way out of line, but my wrongly believe it is day surgery for adults.

        1. Amber T*

          Had mine done in December. Had to check into the surgical center by 8am, surgery at 10am, I was conscious by 1045 (I think the surgery was done by 1030), and was able to leave by 130. I had zero complications, so all of that was pretty standard.

        2. Observer*

          You what? It doesn’t matter. A boss doesn’t demand surgery of ANY sort. Period. Even “day” or outpatient surgery.

    7. CrispyBearcat*

      I had my tonsils out at 27. More painful than anything I’ve experienced to date. 2 full weeks of recovery time and I had no complications. I’m glad I did it because I would get several throat infections a year and had terrible tonsil stones, which are super nasty. But it was a BIG deal and is not something you should do without careful consideration and a second opinion by an ENT. Also, I had to have someone babysit me for the first 4 days due to meds and inability to talk/drive to pick up meds so that was hard to coordinate as well.

      1. Amber T*

        I know I should be more thrilled that I won’t get sick as much anymore now that my tonsils out, but words cannot begin to describe how relieved and excited I am to not have tonsil stones. Those were NASTY.

        (I don’t normally vouch for people to stay ignorant on things, but if you don’t know what those are, don’t look them up.)

          1. fposte*

            IMHO, they’re not always a big deal. I’m prone to small ones and they self-remove easy enough. I suspect that small ones fly under the radar with most people.

            1. Marcela*

              Yeah, my husband has them and he uses a waterpick to remove them. Once he self diagnosed and started to pay attention to them, no more tonsillitis, and he used to had them 4, 5 times a year.

            2. Amber T*

              It wasn’t the little ones that bugged me – it was the big one that would grow behind one tonsil (where I couldn’t reach or couldn’t see until it was already too big) and would fall out at the most *inconvenient* times. Nothing like being part of a work meeting and having a giant ball of bacteria and nastiness fly out of your mouth while you’re talking.

    8. GreatLakesGal*

      Not to mention the rare but possibly lethal risk of exanguination.

      My sister nearly died of this. We caught it early with my daughter.

      Details below:

      Apparently, there’s a period of time, when, after the post-op scabbing heals, the scabs can tear away and open major blood vessels. Some people won’t notice until their stomach fills up with blood and they vomit. By the time that happens, they’re pretty close to death.

      1. Amber T*

        That’s terrifying… I vomited a huge scab up and went into panic mode (painkillers did not help my anxiety), but thankfully the bleeding was light and stopped on its own.

      2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        I know someone that had this complication within the last week. He started vomiting blood and needed 3 pints by the time they got it stopped. Kid is doing fine now, and makes me eternally grateful that my son didn’t have any complications when he had his tonsils/adenoids removed.

    9. Stitch*

      I had a friend who almost bled to death as an adult after the procedure and knew someone whose 7 year old died from bleeding after one. Anecdote doesn’t equal data, but the tonsils are close to some serious blood vessels and severe bleeding is a potential side effect. I had a lot of problems with tonsillitis after a bout of mono doctor still didn’t recommend it. My dad is a pediatrician and says new research suggests the procedure was massively over performed in the past.

      1. BookishMiss*

        Yeah, I had mine out as a kid because of sleep apnea – my tonsils were so large that they literally prevented me from breathing at night. My recovery was smooth, but I know a lot of the surgeries don’t go as smoothly. My sister had hers out because she would get All The Strep, plus sleep apnea, and it knocked her out.

        1. Allison*

          I used to date someone who snored like a truck, and he mentioned that getting his tonsils out would make him stop, but he was too scared to do it. Only now, reading about the complications in this thread, do I understand why.

          1. BookishMiss*

            I compare my hub to a bear… Though I think he could scare one off with his snoring. He also gets ask the strep. But really, it’s a rough procedure for adults, and the ways recovery can go wrong are scary.

      2. blackcat*

        Yeah, I remember being like 10 or 11, at the doctor with my third of fourth round of step in the past years or two, and my mom asking my pediatrician about it. He was incredibly blunt: step throat is annoying, but it does not seem to be impacting her general quality of life (I remember him asking “Right Blackcat?” and I nodded). And then he added that the surgery carries an appreciable risk of death, higher than many other surgeries that children have.

        I still have my tonsils. I haven’t had a throat infection in 15 years. In general, that pediatrician was an ass, but he got that one right.

      3. Sans*

        Isn’t this something like what happened to Jahi McMath, the poor girl who had complications after a tonsillectomy and was declared brain dead, but her parents refused to accept it and still have her hooked up to a machine? I don’t want to get into that case’s controversy, I’m just mentioning it as an example of this operation definitely NOT being routine.

      4. the_scientist*

        Indeed. My mom had hers out because she was born in the late 50s and it was pretty routine to do tonsillectomies on children between 1960 and 1980 or so. Now, it is really not advisable- when I was very young, I would get strep through 5 or 6 times every year between the ages of about 6 and 10, and the ENT I saw (a pediatric specialist at that) STILL did not recommend taking out my tonsils (I also had adenoid/sinus issues). I outgrew the strep throat, but every time I see a new doctor, I have to explain that no, my tonsils aren’t inflamed, they really are that large naturally and several people have helpfully pointed out that they look like testicles…..but they’re still attached to my body, where they should be. Tonsillectomy is rightly no longer seen as a low-consequence procedure.

        1. ZuKeeper*

          I guess I must have had a pretty forward thinking doctor as a kid in the 70s, because I was constantly sick with earaches or sore throats. He told my parents that tubes would be a punishment for me since I was an avid swimmer and that a tonsillectomy wasn’t worth it either, that I would eventually grow out of both issues.

          Which was pretty true, I’ve only had one earache since junior high (it was a major one which ruptured my ear drum, but no lasting damage). I only ever had strep as an adult after I had a child who brought it home from school with her a few times. Now I am going to go find dome wood to knock on, as my daughter is still school aged and I don’t want strep again, haha.

        2. tigerlily*

          Same! I had a lot of strep as a child and my dad actually argued with my doctors several times about why they wouldn’t recommend taking out my tonsils. He couldn’t understand that it wasn’t considered nearly so routine as it was when he was a kid in southern Alabama in the 60s and his tonsils were removed not at a hospital, but in his kitchen.

    10. Helena*

      I had my tonsils out as an adult, scared the bejeezus out of myself Googling horror stories, but it was fine. I was back to work within a few days, though on some pain meds. Before the surgery, I was getting sick at least once a month for basically my entire life, and now my health is normal. It’s risky because of general anesthesia and the possibility of bleeding, but it was totally worth it in my case.

      My ENT said that, in the 50’s and 60’s, tonsil removal was routinely done in kids, but by the time I was born (80’s) there was a backlash and it wasn’t done even when obviously necessary (as it was in my case). So now quite a few millenials are having to get it done as young adults, which makes recovery harder.

      That said, OP, your health insurance generally won’t cover tonsil removal unless you’re having frequent tonsillitis (my insurance requirement was more than six times in a twelve month period). Your boss is whackadoo, but maybe telling her about the insurance will make her back off?

        1. Amber T*

          Yep. Last winter I was pretty miserable – had been sick pretty often, and even perfectly healthy my tonsils were pretty big. I went to my ENT and he was on the fence – said he would do it but wanted me to look up everything and make my own decision. Decided not to go through with it then. Got even more sick this past winter, and my doctor took one look at me and went “Yep, it’s time to schedule.” The bar is reaallyy high now. Hopefully we’ll find more of a middle ground in the future.

      1. Episkey*

        Yes, that’s exactly what happened to me (kid in the 80s) — and I believe why my experience was so awful. It was clearly necessary in my case and the doctors just refused until my tonsils were SO rotten it made everything 10X worse.

    11. Snarky Librarian*

      Wow after reading all these stories I feel incredibly lucky! I had my tonsils out when I was in my early 20s and had what is apparently a very easy time of it. I was in surgery in the morning, home by early afternoon and out for a week on pain meds. I didn’t google it and no one told me I had a chance of bleeding to death, so was pretty calm about it. But in my case my doctor recommended the procedure. I can’t imagine a scenario where my boss told me to have surgery my doctor didn’t recommend.

    12. EddieSherbert*

      Yeah, I got mine out when I was 11 and it was awful. You can’t really speak or eat much for like a week because the “pressure” might rip the scabs in your throat off… and then you’re just bleeding… *shudders*

      (side note: at the time, I had no clue of any of these “bleeding to death” horror stories and am so glad I didn’t… ohmygosh)

      1. Amber T*

        My doctor assured me the chance of this happening was less than 3%, but I still freaked out when a scab came out and had some light bleeding. All in all my recovery was “fine” (it lasted two weeks and sucked, but nothing crazy), but yeah, tonsillectomies are not easy.

        1. Newby*

          If it happens to 2-3 out of 100 people, that is actually pretty high considering how serious it can be. Then again, I’m looking at it as someone who has had ultra rare complications, so I always assume that any complication I am told about is a real possibility.

          1. fposte*

            But that depends on how often it’s that serious. The actual mortality rate for tonsillectomy is 1 in 15,000, apparently; even if you go for a 4% rate of post-operative bleeding and an assumption that that’s always the cause of death, that’s under .2% (not 2%, .2%) of post-op bleeders (not of tonsillectomy patients, just post-op bleeders) who die.

      2. SarcasticFringehead*

        My doctor’s office kept trying to schedule me for phone follow-ups after I got mine out (as an adult). I know they were just working from their standard procedure, but I literally couldn’t make sounds with my mouth for the first eight or so days, so that wasn’t going to fly. (They let me do them by email instead, which worked just fine.)

    13. Paxton*

      This is the exact opposite of my experience. I had my tonsils out at 26 and it was only 2 full days of bedrest and then I was so bored of day time television that I went back to work that Thursday part time.

      Best decision I ever made. I have rarely been sick since, not like the 2-3 weeks I was out every winter before the surgery.

      However, unless your boss is your doctor they should not be giving medical directives.

    14. Elizabeth H.*

      I kind of wish I would get my tonsils out bc I have had a lot of weird ENT issues and get infections a lot, and I don’t mind medical procedures and genuinely would enjoy taking a bunch of time off sick from work & life (I know this reflects more about my feelings about my job and my life, than about my tonsils) But I know it’s too risky to be worth it in reality.

  7. Bruce H.*

    #2 I’d be tempted to reply with a postcard saying something like, “Your application was rejected because you didn’t include all the required materials. Please feel free to re-apply after six months. If you re-apply sooner or submit another incomplete application, your name will be added to the permanent do-not-hire list.”

    But probably not very tempted, if I were dealing with hundreds of resumes.

    1. Mazzy*

      When I was hiring last I found that indeed and LinkedIn send you “applications” from people that didn’t actually apply. That is probably what a lot of these “applications” are. It’s hard to verify since I didn’t call people with no cover letters, but I felt they were using some sort of incomplete algorithm because I got the most random “applications” that I seriously doubted the person actually applied – not even in related fields and in many cases living thousands of miles away

      1. Violet Fox*

        That sounds pretty potentially damaging for the people who didn’t actually apply. Any idea how people who have a LinkenIn profile can keep this from happening?

        I had to turn off LinkedIn emails a while ago because I’m 1) not job hunting and 2) it kept sending me job suggestions for things that are at best tangentially related to what I do.

      2. Anna*

        The other annoying thing about Indeed that I just learned this week is that you can’t upload cover letters. When you apply through the Indeed website, you get a pop-up with a text box to enter a cover letter. I had no idea what to do. I don’t know if I’ve ever applied through a website that did not have the option to upload a cover letter.

        Anyway, when I read the OP’s letter, I wondered if that was part of the issue. It might help to include to Indeed listings that applicants should paste their cover letter into the text box.

        1. Liane*

          I’ve run into the text box a few times. I write my cover letter in Wordpad, no “fancy” stuff, just punctuation and paragraph returns. Then I copy & paste into the text box and double-check that nothing came out strange. Yes, it is a bit of a pain, but if you want/need that job, do it.

          One of the local hospitals has an online system with an upload for resumes (optional) and it helpfully tells you if you want to include a cover letter make it the first page of your resume.

      3. Anna*

        Also also, as for Indeed, considering the number of random job announcements I get sent to me (Why does Indeed think I want to apply to a Landscaping job?) it could be an artifact of their poor matching algorithm and not them actually sending you resumes.

      4. Bea*

        Re: Thousands of miles away resumes on job sites

        That’s why I prefaced all my cover letters when I was applying out of state to let them know there was no mistake. Indeed is a pain when it comes to making you put in your location because it’s really common to be seeking employment elsewhere.

    2. OP #2*

      OP #2 Here

      Bruce H., every day I have to stop myself from either sending snarky replies to people that are rude (during the hiring process!!) or replying to people that don’t include the info I’ve asked for and letting them know why they aren’t moving forward. I just take a deep breath and move on. I do daydream about it though!!

      1. MillersSpring*

        If you have an HR department that is using an applicant tracking system, you should ask them to walk you through the steps a candidate has to follow. Just a thought, because maybe it isn’t evident where and how to upload the cover letter.

  8. an anon is an anon*

    #2: I wonder if part of the reason you’re not receiving cover letters is that there’s been a new push for the old trend of saying they’re a waste of time as well as some big name companies who insist of candidates NOT submitting them.

    Not that excuses candidates when replying to a job posting that asks for them, but I know about 75% of the interns or entry level assistants applying at my company have said their schools told them to not bother with cover letters anymore.

    1. Another Emily*

      I wonder if this is an example of the terrible job advice college students sometimes get, or is this really the way the trend is going?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Nah, for years now there have been waves of articles announcing the death of the cover letter, and they’re always written by people who don’t do much or any hiring. It’s been happening for at least the last 10 years.

        1. HelloItsMe*

          I know hiring managers who say they don’t even read cover letters, and they’ve never written a cover letter themselves. Is that normal? What percentage of hiring managers do you think are like that?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Sure, there are definitely hiring managers like that. But there are loads more who do read them and put value on them. I don’t have any way to have numbers, but it’s enough of them that I get a huge amount of mail from people saying, basically, “I wasn’t getting any interviews and then I started following the cover letter advice at AAM and suddenly started getting calls” — which tells me it makes a difference in a lot of cases.

            1. Adam*

              Count me as one more on the amorphous ballpark “number” of people that helped. I bought your book, followed the cover letter advice, got callbacks extremely quickly. So this is one more thanks for all that!

          2. TootsNYC*

            I skim them. If the cover letter is very cursory, I don’t pay that much attention to it. If the cover letter is longer and the opening paragraph has some substance, I read it. Mostly because I like to read, but also because it will tell me SOMEthing, even if it’s just “can this person spell and use grammar well enough?”

    2. BookishMiss*

      There’s also an app called Jobr, which works like Tindr – swipe right if you’re interested and it’ll send the resume you’ve uploaded, swipe left if you’re not interested, or click for more info. It pulls from the major job boards, and it does show you the same posting repeatedly. It’s very easy to accidentally apply to the same job a billion times if you’re not really paying attention, and it’s even easier to not upload a cover letter…

        1. Lablizard*

          It would make more sense if it was actually like tinder where it was a mutual match, but why would anyone with a position to be filled go through the effort?

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          If it’s just pulling from major job boards instead of actually soliciting postings, then it’s 100% not intended to be useful, it’s probably nothing more than an ad-showing revenue generator. What a mess.

        3. BookishMiss*

          Sadly, yes, it’s a thing… Those door to door scam companies LOVE it – but they also do interviews in 15 minute chunks and ‘hire’ all applicants for unpaid training. Bad plan all around.

    3. Koko*

      I did raise my eyebrow at the high percentage of people not submitting one. You’ll always get a sizeable minority that doesn’t follow directions, but 95%? OP might do well to make sure the instructions appear every place the job is posted – perhaps it’s been stripped out or obscured someplace? Maybe the job was aggregated and cross-posted somewhere else without your doing, and they’ve dropped this information?

      1. eplawyer*

        my thought was that they are using an online submission system and there is no place for a cover letter to be uploaded. Then folks don’t know how to upload their resume and cover letter as one document, so they leave off the one they consider less important — the cover letter.

        1. Tuckerman*

          I was thinking along those lines. Online submission systems are not always super straightforward. Sometimes you have to upload a document and then click, “add to materials” or “submit” before going to the next page. Whereas, with the other pages (personal info, job history) the content aut0-saves if you move on to the next page.

          1. AndersonDarling*

            I’ve had application systems that ask to upload the resume, and I’m expecting another screen will ask for the cover letter. I answer screens filled with questions then suddenly the application is done. Thank You For Submitting!
            I guess I was supposed to add it to the resume or make a second upload, but it’s too late because I can’t access the application again.

            1. jordanjay29*

              I hate the ones that don’t let you review your entries before the end. Very frustrating that I may have spent all this time re-entering the information on my resume only to have typoed somewhere or missed a date or line, and I’m now going to come off as someone who doesn’t pay attention.

        2. fposte*

          Oh, that’s an interesting possibility–that seemed a really high percentage to me too, and I was wondering about a technology obstacle.

          1. OP #2*

            OP #2 here.

            It’s not a technology glitch – we’re using the usual free channels (indeed, craigslist, etc.) and I’ve tested it – the place for a cover letter is part of the workflow and easy to include. Specifically, it’s a non-starter for me because some of the job specifics – part-time, work from home, etc, that make it important for me to hear something personal from them. I’d say I get to the conversation stage with 50% of people and then they are shocked that it’s a part-time role, or that we don’t have an office (all details I didn’t include my letter to Alison for the sake of brevity, but are prominently called out in the job description.)

            I’m not even looking for something crazy – just a note along the lines of “I’m a self-starter who enjoys working independently and can be productive working from home.” Or something that shows they read the full description. I’d love any other advice – it’s a small but important role for us.

            Is adding a line that says “resumes without a cover letter will be deleted” too aggressive?!

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              What about “Incomplete applications or those that do not follow instructions in posting will not be considered”?

              1. jordanjay29*


                I’d probably cite that as a red flag and pass on it. I find that it’s pretty pedantic to mention normal consequences for not following instructions, and to me that would make the company feel unappealing. If they had to lay out consequences like that just for the application, what happens day-to-day on the job?

            2. Parenthetically*

              I don’t think it’s too aggressive at all! Maybe slightly different wording, like, “Incomplete applications, applications without a cover letter, and applications that fail to follow posting instructions will be immediately disqualified from consideration.” I just have no patience with people who are asked to do something in a particular way and then decide to do it in a completely different way, just because.

            3. Koko*

              After hearing these details, I’d encourage you to try a paid posting instead. “Work from home” jobs on free sites like Craigslist are 1) a dime a dozen and 2) usually fake or a bait-and-switch in some way. It’s quite possible that the kind of candidate you’re looking for doesn’t bother with free sites for exactly that reason – they figure the real, solid opportunities will be on a paid site. I suspect you will get a MUCH high-quality candidate pool and not as many resume bombers if you pay for even one or two postings on an industry-specific site or similar.

              If you need to make a business case for it, add up the amount of time you spend reviewing inadequate resumes, interviewing unsuitable candidates, and multiply that by your hourly rate. Get permission to try just one paid posting so you can see how many more candidates with strong potential you get. If you can quantify that a $150 posting generated 2 hours’ worth of screening to identify 5 good candidates, you can make a business case for doing that instead of a $0 posting generating 5 hours’ worth of screening to identify 5 good candidates, or whatever the case may be. Your time isn’t free, and that’s not even counting the costs of an ongoing vacancy.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yep, this is what I was getting at in my original answer.

                It’s the places you’re advertising, OP#2. Without a doubt. Change where you’re advertising and you’ll change what you’re getting.

                1. OP #2*

                  I’m looking into more niche sites now! I’m generally a penny-pincher, but this seems to be an easy fix for an annoying problem! Thanks!

              2. Elizabeth H.*

                Seconded 100%. I do look at jobs on Craigslist sometimes basically for the hell of it but would never ever apply to an ad that advertises part time working from home much less take time to write a cover letter for it, assuming they are all scams.

            4. Sarah*

              Is there anyway to modify the online submission system so that if the “cover letter” document is not submitted, they’ll get back an error saying “Incomplete application, Cover Letter is a required document” or whatever? I guess they could still upload a blank document, but at least it might help?

            5. Anonygoose*

              To be fair, when I apply on Indeed, sometimes I find it difficult to figure out where to include the cover letter. I don’t like applying right through Indeed either – I prefer it when the post asks me to send an email to a particular address, or go to a particular website to apply. Firstly, it makes it seem more legitimate from the jobseeker’s end, and secondly, it creates one more level of effort that must be exerted – those who are resume bombing (and not really reading the posts) are less likely to actually take that one extra step to apply. Maybe you should put the postings on Indeed/Craigslist/etc. but have a different process for applications?

              1. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

                I actually like it when I can apply to a job through Indeed. All I have to do is upload my resume, type or paste in my cover letter (I have a plain text version that I use for things like this so there aren’t weird formatting issues), submit, and I’m done. It’s 100000000x better than going through a Taleo application!

            6. Naruto*

              Everyone should submit a cover letter anyway, but for sure, you are already explicitly asking for one. The fact that you’re not getting cover letters with some applications is a feature, not a glitch — these are NOT people you want to hire, or waste time considering in the hiring process.

              So I don’t love the idea of telling applicants you will delete their incomplete applications, because if that changes applicant behavior, you’re just going to get more complete applications from people who wouldn’t have otherwise complied with your instructions — in other words, people you don’t want to hire.

            7. Nanc*

              I’m in the same boat–hiring for a job where I ask specifically that they send a cover letter and resume as one document and named a certain format. And 90% don’t follow the directions, despite the fact that at both the beginning of the job description and under the Application Directions section it says: NOTE: Please read the entire position description carefully and follow the application directions as stated. We will not consider applications that are not submitted as directed.

              Folks can either submit via LinkedIn or direction email the application to the email address specified in the ad.

              Honestly, we do things this way because our business requires attention to detail and if you don’t follow the directions in the application process, it’s a flag for me. Out of 300 applications since last Friday, 17 were submitted correctly. In my defense, I still confirm each application and read every single one but like OP#2, I don’t understand why folks don’t follow directions. And for you job hunters, I get that some application processes are onerous and it can be easy to make a mistake but those of us who are hiring don’t always have the option of an alternate process.

              1. TootsNYC*

                Do you mean that you do look at the other 283 application, or only at the 17?

                If it’s the first one, you might consider not even looking at those other 283 applications and saving yourself some time and energy.

                As long as there are a couple of really good options in the group of 17, you don’t need the other folks.

                1. MegaMoose, Esq*

                  Agreed. As someone who has spent many, many hours slaving over cover letters, I hate the idea that people who don’t even bother are getting the same consideration. I mean, I have decided against applying for jobs if the application process is absurdly onerous, but writing a cover letter, converting it to whatever format the posting requests, and uploading it with whatever title requested is NOT onerous.

                2. Nanc*

                  I “look” at the other applications in the sense that I open the file to get their email and send a confirmation that we received the application. Sorry that wasn’t clear!

            8. Bea*

              Don’t waste your time trying to fix people who can’t follow directions. They’re not yours to fix.

              I would get so angry at the people who would call me when the listing said not to or the ones who’d email their resumes when it was a listing for an entry level labor position that stated that we require our application to be filled out on site.

              Since it was entry level labor, I tried to be easy going and help some along with the process but it bit me in the butt every time. These are not people you want to invest in, they will never be the employees you’re looking for.

              As a professional with a strong background in my field, I’ll pass a job listing if it sounds like you’re talking to me like I wasn’t going to follow the basic instructions in the first place. It will not help you lessen the obnoxious issues of dealing with undesirable applicants and will make you look difficult to work for :(

    4. NJ Lurker*

      I stopped including them a long time ago after coming to the realization that for most of the interviews I was getting, I didn’t include a cover letter. If the job description specifically asks for one, I’ll include it if I think the job is really worth the effort.

    5. Jesmlet*

      I feel like unless you check off every single box as far as what their required/preferred candidate looks like, and your resume makes it very obvious that you do, a cover letter is worth the effort. Schools need to stop with the crappy advice or start hiring career counselors who have actually worked as hiring managers before.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      I think Alison should run a consulting service for college career counselors and/or universities.

      Not reading the job description/posting is a huge pet peeve of mine and is likely to get your resume binned. I get that cover letters aren’t required or requested by certain employers/industries, but I want one because how you communicate in writing is important to my job AND the posting specifically requests one. We give people a chance to upload one with the resume or to write one directly in the application system. I don’t care which they use, but I want a cover letter.

      We’re also dealing with a wave of people not putting their GPAs — including those in the 3.5+ range — on their resume at the direction of career services, so HR is having to call candidates to confirm. The job posting clearly says minimum 3.0 GPA required, so I don’t know why candidates leave it off.

      And I have a couple jobs that require a specific degree. If the posting says you have to have a science degree (like chemistry, biology, biochemistry) or an engineering degree, your political science major is unlikely to cut it. Not that you’d be able to tell from the stacks of liberal arts majors who routinely apply for the jobs despite the all caps, bolded REQUIRED notation.

      1. HR in the city*

        As someone who does lots of screening of applications I think that this happens a lot- people not reading postings. We don’t always ask for cover letters but will ask for things such as a typing test and we lose half our applicants. This is about reading the job posting. We use an online system and there are at least two sometimes three places where we tell applicants what they need to attach and it still doesn’t happen. In my experience this also isn’t limited to new graduates or those getting their first jobs. We had an applicant that had a masters degree but he didn’t fill out his online application completely. The directions (again in multiple spots) clearly said the entire application should be filled out. He seemed to think that he didn’t have to fill out the application because he submitted a resume. I think it partly not reading the posting and then I think that people think our application system is a waste of time. We use the system we use to comply with EEO requirements. With the online system we can keep applications indefinably and your information is always in there so if you have already created an account all you would need to do is update your contact information or add a job.

      2. Just curious*

        Quick question: where does one put one’s GPA on a resume? Does it appear after the name of the school and degree? (I’ve never seen this in my field and I’d be hard-pressed to remember my GPA anyway after all these years. But sometimes I give resume advice so it would be useful to know.)

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          Mine goes:
          University, City, State
          Degree honors, date GPA: **

          I only list GPA for law school though, not undergrad (which was over ten years ago for me and not super impressive).

        2. Another Lawyer*

          Mine looks like this:
          Law School, City, State
          Degree, degree honors, Month Year, GPA: 0.00/4.0, Class Rank: Top X%

          Undergrad, City, State
          Degree, degree honors, Month Year, GPA: 0.00/4.0

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          Most people put it after the degree like this:

          Ivy League University
          B.A. in Teapot Design, minor in Rice Sculpting (GPA: 3.75/4.00)
          Recipient of Jane Fergus merit scholarship


          Ivy League University, B.A. in Teapot Design, 3.75 GPA

          Also, it’s significantly less important for experienced candidates, and we only need/ask for it for entry-level positions. Not being able to remember your GPA from 20 years ago would not be a problem.

  9. Kathryn T.*

    As was mentioned above, I know two people who had their tonsils out as adults — late thirties or early forties — and they both had a very extended and very painful recovery period. Both of them were still in significant pain three weeks or a month after surgery, and they both had to take two complete weeks not just off work but off of life completely.

    In short: your boss is not just a loon, but a loon who is not well acquainted with facts.

  10. Leah*

    I don’t think OP#1’s boss actually wants her to get surgery; it sounds like an obnoxious attempt to catch OP in a lie- the logic being that if she doesn’t agree to major surgery she wasn’t really that sick in the first place and was therefore misusing sick time. I would definitely go to HR now so the boss can be confronted with how ridiculous she’s being.

    1. Ultraviolet*

      This sounds pretty plausible to me. I imagine it as the boss thinking that tonsillectomies are as common for adults as they are (or used to be?) for kids, so they think that if OP’s doctor won’t schedule one, then OP must not have really had tonsillitis multiple times.

      If this rings true to you, OP 1, I think it would be best to loop in HR now. If your boss brings this up again, follow Alison’s script.

      Also, I get the sense you know this, but this situation is really really absurd!

      1. Ultraviolet*

        To be clear, I don’t mean that you should tell HR that you think your boss is trying to catch you in a lie! Just tell them that your boss has insisted that you have your tonsils removed and told you that you have one week to make your doctor agree to get you a tonsillectomy.

        1. Mookie*

          Just tell them that your boss has insisted that you have your tonsils removed and told you that you have one week to make your doctor agree to get you a tonsillectomy.

          I think that’s perfect, actually, especially if it can be delivered in a deadpan, shrugging-shoulders way. Because that is truly bananas and if HR’s worth their salt they’ll recognize it and act immediately.

          1. Lablizard*

            I would add, “My doctor doesn’t recommend surgery and doesn’t think it is necessary, so what should I do?” just to highlight the WTF

          2. Tuckerman*

            I wonder if it would be helpful to say to the boss, “You’re insisting I have a medical procedure. I don’t want to talk about my medical decisions at work. If you want to discuss my health, please schedule a meeting for you, me, and an HR representative.”
            Mostly because I’d love to see the look HR gives the boss when she explains her side.

            1. Anna*

              It would be much nicer than my internal response, which includes asking Boss when she completed medical school.

    2. Another Emily*

      You’re probably spot on with this. OP’s boss is acting like a total whackaloon. I wish all bosses were like Alison or mine.
      Hopefully you don’t see any sign of whackaloonery from your boss OP.

    3. Mookie*

      This is sadly, terribly plausible. I think we all know someone (or have first-hand experience dealing) with a boss who was ostentatiously disappointed when an employee, returning from sick leave, wasn’t Satisfying, Visibly Ill Enough, as though people don’t generally make an effort to recover and minimize the outward and mental effects of that recovery. I had a supervisor who was unnerved because one of my eyes didn’t look hemorrhage-y enough after a detached retina, and a former girlfriend was chastised by management after recovering from a ruptured esophagus (“you sound fine and you certainly seem to be eating enough [points to girlfriend’s belly], so.”)

      1. Noobtastic*

        Pointing to her belly? As an indication of how much she’s eaten today?

        I can’t even. First of all, the fat-shaming is heinous, and secondly, it’s all so illogical. “You are fat, therefore you must be eating a lot of food, every single day, because if you had a ruptured esophagus yesterday, your stomach would magically be flat and thin today.”

        Nope. Bodies don’t work like that.

  11. Tuesday*

    #2: Are you getting them via email or through some type of online application service? I applied for a job once years ago that only took applications through an online service. There was a form and a field to upload a resume, then you click “next” and…resume submitted. There was no place where you could paste or upload a cover letter. (I really wanted the job, ended up calling the HR department and explaining the situation and asking if there was anything I could do and they gave me an email address to send my cover letter and resume to. I did end up getting an interview, though not the job.)

    That was probably six or seven years ago. I recently applied for a part-time job at the same organization. They’re still using the same online application program and it still had the same problem. But this time I was prepared and included my cover letter and resume in a single pdf. (No interview this time, though. Maybe they don’t actually want cover letters there.)

    tl;dr: Maybe cover letters aren’t coming through because of a faulty or confusing online application system.

    1. Dizzy Steinway*

      Good point – have you tried user testing the system OP?

      I once accidentally submitted an application for a job I didn’t even intend to apply for. I did this online test to see if I was cut out for this particular role* and it said I was. I was curious to see the online system and started filling out an application out of sheer curiosity. It completed before I expected it to.

      *The role: working in intelligence for MI6. I was tempted to just go with it, but withdrew my application because you had to be able to relocate if needed. Obviously if I had gone with it I wouldn’t be posting about it.

      Anyway, I’m pretty appalled to hear students are being told to skip cover letters. I’m going to add something about this to the misconceptions thread from yesterday I think, about always following instructions in an application process.

      I don’t think you’re overreacting. This is the kind of role where you need to be able to trust people to follow briefs and instructions.

      1. Tuesday*

        I love it. Even MI6 has a lousy online application system! I think you should have gone with it. That could have been a weird path to an amazing life adventure. :)

        1. Dizzy Steinway*

          I think the test may even still exist – it was publicised in a few newspapers.

          I would actually make a lousy intelligence officer, trust me on this. It makes a good story though.

    2. AVP*

      Yes! I’m hiring for a similar job right now and noticed that 40% of the candidates didn’t send a *resume* – went back into the system to check it out and it turns out that the job board my whole industry uses has decided resumes might be outdated and is pushing candidates to try a different approach (what the hell!)

      The good candidates still sent them and it turned out to be a good indicator of someone who’d read the directions versus candidates who were applying to every listed job.

        1. AVP*

          I think the system was originally built for actors auditioning for roles, so they had this field system where you could just put in, “role, title of project, company name.” And then it would send to the employer as a box chart in the email body. Probably fine for actors, but basically useless for me as I’m trying to find out details of what people did/accomplished in their previous roles not just their job title. Some people added resumes in addition (helpful!) but others must have thought “oh I filled out these boxes this is fine.”

          1. jordanjay29*

            And it’s true, after struggling with 50 different online application services to figure out how yours works, I’m going to enter the information you ask for and assume that’s it. It doesn’t ask for a resume? Or a cover letter? I assume you work off the information I already provided.

    3. OP #2*

      OP #2 here!

      I just posted this above as well, but yes, I’ve tested the channels that we are using to make sure it works and is clear. And a number of resumes do come through with a note/letter so I know some people understand.

  12. Anxa*


    Are you absolutely sure that there’s a place to upload them if you are using a system? I’ve definitely applied to positions where early on it mentioned additional documents (cover letter, references, etc) but only had a spot to the resume at the actual uploading place. I don’t have Acrobat so merging the docs would have been a pain, plus I felt like I was trying to sneak in a cover letter which may be cheating (think public jobs with strict hiring processes).

    If that’s not the case, I don’t really get it. There have been times where I’ve come across a really good position and I just don’t have the time to submit the application before the deadline AND write a cover letter, so I have skipped it where it’s optional. That said, I usually send them, and would think it’s weird not to send one.

    That said, there have been a few times recently when I really, really hated writing one. Usually this happens when the job description is really vague or the position is more technical. Are you giving enough information in your job ad so that an applicant would really know where to go with their cover letter? Not that that warrants not following directions, but maybe it would help.

    1. Frustrated Optimist*

      Regarding merging the documents: If you can save both your cover letter and resume as PDFs, there is a free service called pdfmerge (Google it….). You simply upload the individual files; the program merges them; and you downloaded the merged file.

      I use this when there is no designated spot to upload a cover letter separately.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Open Office also allows you to save documents as a PDF, so you can add your cover letter to the first page and save one file.

      2. Kelly L.*

        Or just do them as a two-page Word document–first page is cover letter, then use a page break, second page is resume–and then save *that* as a PDF.

        1. Anxa*

          I do have Mac!

          Part of my issue is that my computer is really old in computer years and sometimes I have to do applications from home.

          Some of my programs are getting wonkier and wonkier, and I’ve noticed that if I don’t manage PDFs a certain way, often the formatting will get messed up (even when using a pretty standard font like cambria). I have to make sure my fonts are embedding.

          I will, however, keep this in mind if I ever get a new computer!

  13. Been There, Done That*

    #2–When I advertised for a student assistant at my university, HR provided coaching re nondiscrimination in hiring. The HR rep said if I gave instructions for applying (like “submit resume by email with XYZ as the subject line), I could legitimately reject anyone who didn’t follow them. That saved me a lot of time and worry in screening. I had tons of applicants and most didn’t follow all the instructions. I mean, gee, you want a chance at the job, don’t you? Well, here’s what you have to do to get your hat in the ring.

    1. sstabeler*

      it’s worth noting this isn’t 100% true- it depends on exactly what the instruction is. If the instruction is designed to be a proxy for otherwise-illegal discrimination, then it’s just as illegal. (one example would be supplying different subject lines to include based on membership of a protected class (I’m not sure how you would be able to tell, but one example being giving white people one subject line to include and other races a different code- it’s unnecessary enough that it would probably be assumed to be discriminatory)

      But yes, the classic “include a phrase to make sure they have read the instructions)” is legal.

      1. Been There, Done That*

        My job vacancy was posted thru HR and I only got to provide one description, so it was the same for everybody. Usually the required subject line was something like “Graduate Teapot Dept. Assistant Job.” The vast majority didn’t have it correctly and a lot of the emails had no subject line at all.

        1. jordanjay29*

          What did they put down?

          I totally get the no-subject emails (come on, that’s just basic courtesy, unless you’re emailing close friends/family/yourself), delete those on arrival. I’m just wondering whether the subject lines were a close approximation or wildly off base.

    2. OP #2*

      OP #2 here!

      “I mean, gee, you want a chance at the job, don’t you? Well, here’s what you have to do to get your hat in the ring.”

      This is EXACTLY how I feel! I’m not asking for an essay on the finer points of teapot making, I just want a sign that you can read and follow directions! (Also I posted this above, but the job is a little unusual [work from home, part-time, very internet based, etc] and it’s important to me that they have read and understand this, instead of getting to the interview stage and saying “What you mean part-time?!”)

      1. Solidus Pilcrow*

        Is the cover letter requirement (and the part-time bit) clearly stated or is it somewhat buried in text? While people *should* be carefully reading the description, truth is people skim text all the time.

        Have you tried something like a bulleted list?

        Materials required:
        * Cover letter
        * Resume
        * References
        Applications that do not have all three documents will not be considered.

        For some reason this is making me think of the infamous Van Halen concert rider where they specified M&Ms backstage, all brown ones removed. It was put in there as a test to ensure the venue actually read and followed the rider (they wanted to make sure safety and equipment requirements were met).

        1. TootsNYC*

          Though, do you want to hire someone (esp for work-at-home, which is what our OP said in the comments) who NEEDS that list?

          I’m on the side of “this is a feature, not a bug”–it tells you not to bother with people who are not organized or detail oriented or proactive/responsible enough to apply correctly.
          The theory I always used was this: “If you aren’t good enough / aren’t careful enough / don’t care enough to proofread your resumé when it is only YOUR benefit at stake (you want the job), will you be good/careful/invested enough when it is MY benefit at stake?

          1. OP #2*

            OP #2 here.

            Yes, TootsNYC! If I have to hold your hand through the application process I don’t feel great about you being an independent worker that can figure things out. I like your “feature, not a bug” description!

        2. Observer*

          I’d read about the Van Halen thing, and wondered about it. Then I read something – I think it was an interview – where one of the members described why they were so picky about it. It wasn’t just general safety concerns. They were apparently on the cutting edge of effects, and had had occasions where the failure to meet specifications could be literally life threatening, as well as others that just cause a LOT of damage.

    3. Parenthetically*

      Yep, this is great. We’ve seen a lot of examples of making people jump through stupid, arbitrary hoops to be considered for jobs, but for crying out loud, this is a resume and a cover letter, not a multi-course dinner for the bosses.

  14. Jwal*

    #1 I get tonsillitis, and when I asked my GP once I was told that to get it on the NHS I’d need to have at least 3 serious flare-ups per year. Granted OP’s probably not in the UK, but I think that just generally doctors don’t really recommend having them out any more. So even if OP did want them out, it’s not even as simple as the boss is making out!

    1. Mr McGregor's Gardener*

      I was told it was 8 times in 1 year, or 6 times a year, 2 years running. I had 7 in 1 year then 5 the next, then it trailed off to 3 or 4 times a year for a couple of years. Now it’s fine thankfully. It used to feel like I had a tennis ball lodged in my throat.

      1. Jwal*

        Hmm, maybe I remembered wrong. I’d just come out of a hospital stay caused by the tonsillitis, so admittedly that’s better lodged in my memory!

        Regardless, it’s a significant amount of instances :)

    2. Bonky*

      Also in the UK. My husband gets disablingly bad tonsillitis (he had a few very nasty bouts when he was a kid which have left the remains of his tonsils sort of shredded and pitted, which makes them the perfect breeding ground for all kinds of crap). We looked into a tonsillectomy under the NHS, and the rules say you must have either:

      * Episodes of sore throat that are disabling and stop you functioning normally
      * Seven or more well-documented, clinically significant, adequately treated sore throats in the preceding year or
      * Five or more such episodes in each of the preceding two years or
      * Three or more such episodes in each of the preceding three years

      It’s quite a loose set of criteria, and whether or not you get the go-ahead is very dependent on your GP. Given how variable waiting times are even if you get the OK, he’s hanging on for a quiet time at work (he has to do a lot of speaking on stage etc. as part of his job) and getting it done privately instead.

      1. Jwal*

        That’s probably what I’m remembering then, the three every year for the past three years.

        I wonder how OP’s boss would react if OP1 came back into work and told her that the procedure was booked and that she’d be taking off the next two weeks for recovery…

    3. Stitch*

      I had a bunch of flare ups in college (maybe 10 one year) after mono and my ENT and pediatrician dad still said they thought it wouldn’t be worth it. To their credit, the flare ups did go away after about a year and a half and we’re never as painful as tonsil surgery would a have been.

    4. Newby*

      In the US, you would either have to have a large number of flare-ups (I don’t remember the number) or have other complications that made it medically necessary. I did not have the required number of flare ups when mine were removed, but I couldn’t breathe through my nose and standard antibiotics no longer worked. They really hate to take out tonsils if the antibiotics still fix the problem.

      1. TootsNYC*

        There’s another line: “Boss, our insurance company won’t cover the surgery–it’s not deemed medically necessary.”

  15. Tonsils Intact*

    #1. Thank you for your advice. I am the person in “My boss is insisting I get my tonsils out”. It has been a week since my boss told me to have my tonsils removed. I have been to my Doctor and explained what my boss was ‘asking’ me to do. My Doctor as written a brief and to the point letter stating there is no medical reason for my tonsils to be removed. If my boss wishes to talk about this again I will give her the letter, use the script Alison as written and tell me boss we will only be disusing it further with HR. Sadly my boss and HR are good friends so I don’t feel comfortable talking to HR straight away.
    Strangely my boss not brought up the issue yet and has been treated me extra nice. So I can’t help but wonder if she is regretting our conversation.

    1. Dizzy Steinway*

      Hey OP. Sorry you’re dealing with this. I was particularly shocked that she tried to tell you to do it within a week. I hope she is indeed regretting it.

    2. Bonky*

      That’s good to hear; good for you. It must have been awfully disconcerting, and ruinous for your relationship with your boss.

      Very difficult when HR develops close relationships with other colleagues. Hard to prevent, of course, but it does make this sort of situation even more sucky. You have my sympathy.

    3. Czhorat*

      Good for you.

      I’d not give the doctor’s letter to the boss; it further involves them in something which is none of their damn business. To hand over a doctor’s note is essentially agreeing that your boss has a say in this. Don’t engage with it! If he keeps it up, tell him you don’t wish to discuss it and let your next conversation be with HR.

      Your boss might regret it. Or might have been shooting from the hip and not really meaning it. In any event, it’s somewhat crazy.

    4. Emi.*

      I don’t think that’s strange–I think that after a good night’s sleep, she’s realized what an embarrassingly bizarre and unreasonable demand she was making, so she’s pretending it never happened.

    5. Aurora*

      If Boss and HR are good friends, it may be possible that Boss told HR that she had requested (or demanded) you have surgery. HR may then have let Boss know that the request (or demand) was out-of-line, and now she is being ‘extra nice’ so that you don’t go to HR .

    6. E*

      Glad your doctor was so understanding about your crazy boss. You might even present the issue to your boss as “how are my tonsils’ status related to my job duties?”. Because as you pointed out in your original letter, you don’t miss that many days in a year. And I can’t think of any job duty that would require the removal of tonsils.

    7. TootsNYC*

      I hope she’s realizing exactly how stupid she sounded. Maybe she vented at home, and her friends and family said, “What?!?”

      Sadly my boss and HR are good friends so I don’t feel comfortable talking to HR straight away.

      If you think you need “the big guns” and HR won’t work, reach out to your department of labor. Maybe they can write a letter or help you find a policy you can take in with you, if it ever came to that.

      I also agree with the idea of not giving the boss the doctor’s note. I made comments above about saying things like, “Insurance won’t cover it” or “I’ll be out even longer,” but really I don’t think you should say them, bcs as Czhorat says, that implies that any discussion about this issue at all is reasonable, and that the boss deserves concrete and detailed reasons.
      I’d stick with the bright line that conveys, “You are just my boss–you do not get to tell me what to do with my body. I am not your possession or slave.”

      Maybe a simple, “My health decisions are not your business.”

    8. Mephyle*

      I like this. All through the long discussions upthread of tonsils and tonsillectomy I was wondering “Why not have the doctor tell the boss directly?” And you did, Intact (may I call you that?), and it seems to have served the purpose.

    9. Dot Warner*

      Thanks for the update! You’re handling it much better than I would have, which is asking the boss, “And where did you go to medical school?”

      1. Tonsils Intact*

        I was surprised at how well I handled the conversation with my boss. I was on pain medication at the time, so that may have helped me remain calm. At the start of my shift I even had to tell me boss ‘I’m on these drugs, I can not drive to the bank etc’. If she was trying to bait me, she picked the wrong day.

        1. Noobtastic*

          You remain calm on pain meds? Lucky you. I get panicky. Seriously, the least little thing freaks me out.

          If I were on pain pills, and my boss told me to have surgery, I would have freaked out, so really, GOOD for you!

          I hope you didn’t have to pay for another doctor visit to get that note. Some doctors will take a message, and send over a note. If you did have to go in to see the doctor just to protect yourself from the boss, then I think she is costing you time and money, as well as annoyance.

          Still, thanks for the update, and I’m glad it worked out. I hope it continues to work out, and your boss minds her own business from now on.

    10. Nina*

      In the future don’t give your boss details about your illnesses when you need a sick day, which may give her room to prod for details or try to provide “solutions.” If she i sists tell her it’s very personal and you’d rather not go into details. Repeat until she gets the hint.

  16. Dizzy Steinway*

    #5 I’ve been getting frustrated over this recently. I decided I wanted to take the dates off my qualifications so people didn’t try to guess my age from them – they’d be a few years out, but I digress. Well, I took the date off my degree and it stopped displaying on my profile. I think the only workaround is to put obviously false dates, but I don’t know if I would feel particularly comfortable doing that. It’s really annoying.

  17. MommyMD*

    Bosses do not tell physicians what to do. Your boss is a whack job and does not dictate your medical care. 1.5 sick days a year is stellar.

  18. MommyMD*

    If OP calls off one day a year for menstrual cramps, is Manager going to demand she get a hysterectomy? It’s the same thing.

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        If that actually worked, it would be a boon to every woman who has ever been denied a hysterectomy because she didn’t have a husband’s permission.

        1. Noobtastic*

          Wait. What?

          OK, what about single women?

          What about married women whose husbands are abusive, and they are trying to escape the domestic violence AND they have bad uteruses?

          How about men? If they have a bad prostate, do they need their wives permission to have surgery done it?


          Sorry, never married here, and the very idea that I would need to seek hubby’s permission to take care of my own body is just… I have no words.

          1. Candi*

            Some doctors who have their brains stuck in Victorian times think women are still property and need their husband’s permission to remove equipment necessary for baby making.

            Even if they haven’t met him yet.

            There are nurses just as bad. Without getting into the ‘multiply and populate the earth’ duty to have kids crap. (Which edict was handed down when the population had taken a huge hit, for pete’s sake.)

            It’s disgusting, and any medical professional who pulls either deserves every complaint they get against them. (Ants in the pants would be satisfying but rude.)

      2. Noobtastic*

        She’s probably recommend an ablation, instead. Less invasive and a faster recovery time, right?

  19. sstabeler*

    I actually disagree with Alison on #1 in a sense. Her boss said “You have a week to see your doctor to demand you get your tonsils removed”- I personally think that the addition of setting a deadline for compliance means her boss is “making it official” so to speak- that is, is specifically invoking her managerial authority. That, to me, means it was a deliberate case of “get your tonsils removed” NOT “you might want to consider getting your tonsils removed”. I, personally, would consider going to HR, though if your manager has dropped it, it is probably best not to (since I would assume your manager had realized she was acting wackadoodle, and if they have, there is nothing to be gained by insisting on punishment as long as it doesn’t happen again)

    1. MK*

      I think Alison was considering the possibility that the OP wasn’t quoting her boss verbatim, but relating the general meaning of what she took out of the conversation.

        1. Tonsils Intact*

          My boss actually told me to get a referral to get them removed within a week. She went on to tell me that if my Doctor refused, I should go down to the walk in clinic and see Doctor after Doctor until I got one. What a great use of my time and the Doctors times. In our ‘conversation’ she also told me two of my coworkers medication conditions and their ongoing treatments. I won’t give any details but I doubt she asked their permission to share this information with me.

          1. Noobtastic*


            Oh, she is in so deep into ethics violations! Has she never even heard of HIPPA?

            Friend or no friend, HR needs to talk to her. Not just about you. She is clearly not just bullying you. She is getting so far across the line, across the board, here.

            She’s a danger to the company, because if it keeps up, sooner or later, someone will sue. Even if the case gets thrown out, it’s a black eye, for PR, and the cost in time and manpower will be a problem, too.

            Please go to HR.

            1. Candi*

              HIPAA only applies to medical professionals, etc.

              What other privacy laws, regs, or ordinances might apply is something you’d have to get a lawyer to sort out. If there’s any.

  20. Bonky*

    OP#2: I use “please send a cover letter/portfolio” as a filter. If the candidate can’t follow that simple instruction in the job ad, they’re not going to be able to follow instructions at work; it’s an easy way to narrow the field from the start. (And contrary to suggestions above, I’m not going to be sending a postcard or email saying “you’re not going through because you didn’t follow the instructions”; I’ve got far too many applicants to be dealing with to have the time or inclination to jump through that particular hoop, and if you don’t respect the position enough to do what the ad says, then I’m not very interested in steering you differently for a position elsewhere.)

    95% does seem awfully high, though; what’s your submissions process look like? We make it really easy for applicants to attach PDFs, Word documents, links to online portfolios etc., and so there’s really no excuse. I’d still estimate that about 50% of candidates for some roles don’t comply with the instructions.

    “Some roles” is key. I don’t know where you’re based, but here in the UK, a condition of receiving Jobseekers’ Allowance (unemployment benefit) is that you apply for a certain number of jobs every week. We see a lot of applications which are clearly not serious, but are there to tick a Job Centre box. The more senior the role, sadly, the more likely people seem to be to follow the rules.

    TL;DR: the fact that some people aren’t doing what you ask for in the job ad is a good thing. They’re self-selecting themselves out of the running, and they’re making your job easier.

    1. OP #2*

      OP #2 here!

      Thanks for your perspective. I’m in the US, in a big city where there are a lot of universities. It is a more entry-level position so I was expecting a fair amount of noise when we posted it, I was just surprised that it seems like very few people actually read the entire job description. You’re right – they are self-selecting themselves out of this role.

      I’ve tested the application process and the place to add a cover letter is straightforward – and honestly if they can’t figure that out, they can’t to the fairly tech-savvy job I need them to do, anyway.

      1. Morning Glory*

        I know you confirmed above that you were posting this only to Craigslist and other free job postings, but have you considered Alison’s advice to post to other job boards?

        If your candidate pool is as bad as it sounds, it seems a bit penny-wise pound-foolish not to post to job boards that will bring in a better group of applicants – they cost a lot less than even a part-time entry-level employee’s salary.

        1. OP #2*

          OP #2 here.

          I’ve seen the light! Since this is entry level I wasn’t thinking I’d need a paid listing, but I’m going to look into sites that target specifically what I’m looking for.

          Related: any recommendations for job sites that specialize in part-time work, and/or virtual work? :)

          1. Morning Glory*

            If you’re looking for entry-level candidates, I highly recommend checking out local university internal job boards. A part-time remote job is like a holy grail for undergrad and grad students :)

            My org posts to five university job boards in our city for internships and junior positions and we get a great candidate pool.

          2. TootsNYC*

            You’re in a university town–I’d think part-time work would be really sought after by people associated with the university. Students, grad students, teaching assistants, adjunct professors, family members of any of those….

            What about reaching out to someone at the college? Their placement people, or maybe even just a professor or club advisor who has students that might be studying an area related to what you do?

            1. OP #2*

              OP #2 here.

              Great ideas! There happen to be 35 (yes, really!) colleges in my city (might narrow down my location for you!) but reaching out to a few that have solid marketing programs is a fantastic idea!

    2. TootsNYC*

      “The more senior the role, sadly, the more likely people seem to be to follow the rules.”

      This is not in the least surprising.

      The people who would even consider applying (maybe even for the allowance/unemployment) to a higher role are going to have more work experience, or higher-level work experience, and so they’ll have good instincts.

      And if they’re applying in seriousness, they’re also more highly trained.

      Plus, those jobs presumably pay better, and so job seekers will be more motivated to actually WANT those jobs.

    3. Liane*

      “I don’t know where you’re based, but here in the UK, a condition of receiving Jobseekers’ Allowance (unemployment benefit) is that you apply for a certain number of jobs every week.”
      This is the usual requirement in the US, except that unemployment is through the individual state.

  21. Czhorat*

    If the manager for OP1 does not bring it up again, you could possibly just ignore it. If it does come up again, I wouldn’t go the route of “I talked to my doctor and they don’t advise it”. Instead, I’d say something like “I only told you to explain my absence. I do not want to discuss my personal medical situation.” And say nothing more. If your boss keeps on about tonsils, repeat: “I do not want to discuss my personal medical situation”. You don’t owe him an explanation, and talking about it further feeds into the already inappropriate situation. And yes, if he says another word about it repeat that you don’t want to discuss it and, if he persists, discuss it with HR.

    1. Dizzy Steinway*

      I don’t think I’d even say I talked to my doctor. I think I would go with what Alison suggests, followed by – if necessary – “I’d really prefer not to discuss private medical details at work.”

  22. Hoorah*

    I’ve come across job applicants who are desperate to find employment, but harming their own chances of being hired (e.g., calling us aggressively several times, having a crappy resume, not following basic application instructions, or providing inappropriate responses to interview questions etc). Several times I offered to provide feedback in the decline email. Almost all of the time they don’t reply, which is a shame. The few times I did give feedback no one bothers to reply with a simple thank you. These experiences made me think offering feedback is of no value. So it seems kind of pointless to provide one in the case of above LW.

    1. Lablizard*

      The only reason it might make sense is in this case the applicant is a current intern, so there is a loose connection. Personally, I am just glad I lived in the US long enough and had enough American friends when I applied for my first jobs that I mostly only made American new hire mistakes. My home country’s approach to getting a job would not have gone over well

        1. Lablizard*

          The OP mentioned in the comnents the husband played Cards Against Humanity with this candidate at work, so I assumed current intern applying for a permanent position? However, it doesn’t really matter, the husband knows the applicant well enough to play CAH with them, so there is at least a loose connection, and advice from an acquaintance is more likely to be considered

          1. Natalie*

            I think the candidate is either a current student applying for an internship, or the LW was referring to playing CAH with non-native speakers generally and just worded it a little unclearly.

          2. NotoriousMCG*

            Nooooo, not with this candidate! My husband and the candidate never met. Cards Against Humanity was at a goodbye party for the current (also international) intern and many other international employees were in attendance. Whenever the gentleman next to me needed assistance with some idioms/references he asked me for help, and he actually won the most

            1. NotoriousMCG*

              I had brought up CAH simply because the people we played with were at a similar fluency level, and were able to play the game with only minor assists.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        I read the letter as this person applying for an internship, not a current intern who is looking for a permanent position.

    2. jordanjay29*

      If you’re sending me feedback as part of rejection email, I’m probably not going to respond either. At that point, I assume our relationship is terminated unless I decide to apply again in the future, or we meet in another professional setting. My general MO is not to respond to emails that don’t require an answer or request acknowledgement, although a few exceptions have to be made for select organizations. It may seem like the email hasn’t been read, but it’s probably more likely that someone didn’t consider sending a ‘thanks’ or ‘got it’ email to be worth your time or theirs.

  23. BananaPants*

    OP1, I don’t know if your manager realizes that an adult having their tonsils removed will be out of work for a minimum of 2 weeks, more likely 3, to recover. It’s a significant procedure past childhood and for adults it carries a not-insignificant risk of post-op hemorrhage.

  24. HelloItsMe*

    Op #1 I’m having the same thing happen to me! Except the cover letters I do get are plagiarized!

    I’ll look into more niche places.

    Why do people resume bomb? Does that seriously EVER work if their application is that awful?

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      They resume-bomb because there is so much crappy advice out there about “make job-hunting your full-time job” and “you should be sending out a minimum of X resumes a day” and so on.

      When I got laid off last year, my mother told me flat-out that I needed to commit to applying to 8 jobs per day — “an hour should be plenty of time to put a good application together.” And she felt that that should be an easy goal to meet!

      1. JMegan*

        My last round of job searching, in 2014, I applied to one job a MONTH. And that was hitting everything for which I was qualified, and which met my salary and geography requirements. I find it funny when people try to say there is some magic X rate of applications per time period, because it’s so dependent on each individual situation. (With apologies to your mother, of course!)

      2. Solidus Pilcrow*

        Also requirements to do X number of job hunting activities to receive unemployment benefits. Wisconsin required 4 a week, and they had to be somewhat provable – enough to show it was a real company with a real opening (at least that was the requirement 2 years ago). Things like attending job fairs and interviews counted, but job applications are the easiest and most plentiful (and necessary step to getting those interviews).

    2. OP #2*

      OP #2 here! I’m sorry you’re experiencing the same thing (although selfishly happy it’s not just me.) As someone noted above if you are seeking unemployment compensation you do have to show you’ve applied to a certain number of jobs a week so that might account for some of it. Good luck!

    3. Bad Advice*

      In the UK, if you’re on any kind of unemployment-related benefit, the government requires you to actively job search in a very strict, standardised way. You have to jump through all kind of hoops, many of which make no sense at all. Applying for ‘x number of jobs per week’ is one of them.

      And then they also make you go on short courses for ‘work skills’ or ‘job-search skills’ or whatever, and the course leader will give you do some really stupid ‘advice’ that makes no sense to anyone with a brain. But they have the power to make you follow through on their stupid advice, ugh.

      I’ve heard it’s the same in some other countries as well, where you have to apply for x number of jobs to remain entitled to your benefits/avoid fines, etc.

      1. Another Emily*

        While the requirements are looser than in the UK if you’re collecting unemployment here in Canada (ironically named Employment Insurance) you do have to show you’re actively looking for work.
        I scoured my neighborhood for jobs I would actually do and put together quality applications. I even got an interview at a restaurant and I might have been hired, but I was honest about how when the layoff period was over I was going back to my full time job. (I said I would still work on weekends but that’s not what the manager was looking for.)
        Tl;dr Even though it’s a pain in the ass and seems silly when you’re only temporarily laid off, you can do a quality job of applying for jobs and make it a positive experience.

  25. Ive BeenThere*

    OP#1, Agree with Czhorat’s advice. Your boss is WAY out of bounds and an effen weirdo. Some bosses think they own you. Don’t cave in to this stupidity, it’ll only enable her.

  26. Rebecca*

    #1 – What caught my eye is that the OP took one day off for an illness, and returned to work with a “sick certificate”. Aside from the boss being really out of line suggesting surgery, what about needing an excuse for a 1 day illness? That’s really harsh.

        1. Tonsils Intact*

          Absolutely! When I called in sick she asked for one, so I got one to keep the peace. Silly me, next time I will only be providing one when I am legally obligated.

          1. Noobtastic*

            But if it takes four hours out of your day to get a doctor’s note, that is four hours where you could have been resting and recuperating, and it just slows things down, so you’ll need to be out longer.

            Your boss is wrong on so many levels, here.

  27. Katie the Fed*

    #1 – as a boss I can confirm we are only supposed to take FIGURATIVE pound of flesh. Maybe she’s confused.

    FWIW – I would stop telling her any details at all when you need to take a sick day. She doesn’t need to know that much information. She’s allowed to talk to you about your absences if they’re getting to be too much (which it doesn’t sound like) but prescribing you a treatment? No.

    1. Kyrielle*

      I am so glad I didn’t have a mouthful of tea when I read your first sentence, my keyboard would have been toast!

    2. SophieChotek*

      Great…now I have visions of the OP coming back with her removed tonsils and handing them (in a jar?) to her boss. “Here, you told me to take them out. Here they are.”

  28. Audiophile*

    #1 I thought some of my bosses were out of line, but none ever demanded I have surgery.

    #2 If you’re accepting resumes via email, then there’s no excuse for applicants excluding cover letters. If you’re accepting resumes via a social media site or job board, like LinkedIn, sometimes people aren’t aware they have to combine their resume and cover letter.

  29. Sara*

    #2 Just a thought… if it’s a huge number, might it have something to do with application system? I once applied for a marketing job through a complicated university portal. I did not realize as I completed my application that it did not function properly in my preferred browser, and I inadvertently sent my application with a resume (as an attachment) but no cover letter (which was paste-in-a-box and then some other step I’ve forgotten). Fortunately for me, the hiring manager reached out and asked for my cover letter, which I sent immediately, and then I was interviewed and hired.
    I’m not saying you should ask every errant applicant for a cover letter, obviously, but depending on how applications are collected, there may be a snafu.

  30. Temperance*

    LW3: I personally do not think that your husband should coach this intern candidate on appropriate actions. It’s just going to lead the guy to think that your husband is invested in his career, and will further encourage him to keep trying to get a job at the company.

    If he’s an international student, he presumably has access to career services staff who can brief him on how things work in the US. Your husband doesn’t have to, and probably shouldn’t, take that role.

    1. Lablizard*

      I am probably taking your comment wrong because back in the day I was an international student and had an internship boss who gave me an assist.

      International students are no more likely than other interns to make inappropriate assumptions when given advice and career services are just as crappy and ill informed as those of domestic students, perhaps even more so, since they are mostly staffed by people who have never looked for jobs outside their home country. If the husband wants to help the intern, the repercussions are no worse than helping any intern.

      1. Temperance*

        I was going off of the tone of the other comments, which suggested that he was job searching in the way that worked in his country of origin and which is annoying and wildly inappropriate in the US, and that he might need a clue on this.

        This guy isn’t an intern, though, which colors my opinion. He wanted to be one. If he was actually an intern, I would agree that it would behoove her husband to help him out, but since he’s not, it would be a lot of work for her husband with little benefit, and could likely lead the guy to thinking that he’s getting coaching on how to get this job.

        1. Lablizard*

          I think am just reflecting on the very kind hiring manager who told me to not put my marital status on my resume, even though they had no intention of hiring (or even interviewing me). That is the norm back home and something career services never mentioned. Of course they also didn’t mention taking the picture of my resume, because they kind of sucked, but luckily a friend told me no go on that.

          If someone wants to help, I hate to discourage them by assuming there is going to be something awkward or more awkward than helping out any other applicant.

          1. Temperance*

            I don’t think the man’s status as an international student is the issue, and I hope you didn’t take it that way. For me, his pushiness and unwillingness to take no for an answer is the issue. I feel like, by helping this specific guy, he’s giving him the signal that being annoying works.

            I don’t see it as awkward, but I see the potential for a big headache for LW’s husband.

          2. TootsNYC*

            I think this guy’s problems are far more complex than those discrete*, concrete tips.
            And there are other signals that indicate a bigger risk of clinginess.

            *not “discreet”

      2. TootsNYC*

        I agree w/ Temperance’s first comment here, and I didn’t take it as the assessment had ANYthing to do w/ his internationalness. (you notice that “international” wasn’t mentioned until Temperance said, “this guy does have other resources”)

        He’s pushy and tenacious is assuming that the thinnest of threads is something to be leveraged into a job.
        That’s completely unconnected to his international-ness.

        1. NotoriousMCG*

          Eh, the reason I connected the two is I believe those methods are a cultural norm in his part of the world. Particularly bringing in family connections as a sign of their ‘loyalty’. My husband’s current intern is from the same area and he had to coach her on a lot of similar things when she was applying for positions at other companies before her internship completed. There is also the factor that someone else pointed out elsewhere that the international students also usually have the added pressure of securing a position at a company large enough that visa sponsorship is a regularly done thing. I think that added to his pursuit.

    2. fposte*

      I don’t think that’s a tragedy, though; it’s just a continuation of the current situation, and the husband can block him if he does.

      And I also think that would be an unusually learning-resistant candidate. I get international students who don’t know the norms applying sometimes, and when I tell them that despite what they may read it’s actually not a good idea to drop by my office or to repeatedly email me, they say okay, thanks, and move on.

      1. Temperance*

        That’s completely fair. I’m approaching this from my perspective on people who pester me too much, which is probably why my mindset is “do what you can to break the chain of contact now”.

  31. Lindrine*

    Allison you mentioned we don’t have to disclose disability, but what about online job applications that have I do / do not have a disability as a required field (along with a bunch of legal verbiage). I’ve run across several of these recently. In that situation would we be required to disclose? I’m wondering if it will come off as dishonest to wait until the offer in this situation.

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      These are typically optional forms that the hiring managers never receive. It’s just for data collection purposes, I believe. There’s typically a box for “I do not wish to answer this question.”

    2. Here we go again*

      Aren’t those usually optional? I’ve seen those comment boxes several times, including questions about race and veteran status, but I don’t think it’s ever been a mandatory field. I didn’t even think the company would be able to track your response back to you, just they would be able to use overall data for EEOC, but that was completely my assumption.

        1. Tau*

          I once had an application that explicitly stated this section was optional and used for demographic data collection etc. etc. but where the website wouldn’t let you continue unless you selected Yes or No.

          I actually wrote an e-mail to complain about that one.

  32. Kat A.*

    Do NOT use phrases like “shooting yourself in the foot” to foreign students. I’ve lived overseas and can tell you that sayings like this do not translate the way you’d like and can sound threatening — especially in a message that is critical of the person or his actions.

    1. Myrin*

      Eh, I’d say it depends. I’m not a native speaker either and we have the exact same idiom in my language, only it’s the knee we shoot ourselves in, not the foot; it wouldn’t come across as weird or violent even to someone who doesn’t know that specific phrase. (Additionally, OP says this candidate is nearly fluent so he’s probably come across that phrase before anyway.)

      That being said, I agree that it’s just not really the wording to use in this. I can’t quite put my finger on why I think that; I feel like it’s because it’s a pretty metaphorical idiom which I guess conveys a certain degree of casualness?

      1. fposte*

        It’s certainly colloquial; that’s a level of colloquialism that’s absolutely appropriate for an American workplace, though, so I wouldn’t worry about it if that were the only concern.

        I might try to avoid idioms just for clarity’s sake in the conversation, but I would also not remotely expect somebody with master’s level-program English to take this as a hostile phrase, and I would imagine most engineers heard it in their classrooms a time or two.

  33. Allison*

    1) Your boss is overstepping boundaries here, she can’t insist you get surgery that you don’t want and your doctor says isn’t necessary.

    I once had strep twice in one summer, because the antibiotics didn’t fully knock it out the first time (I finished the bottle, I swear!), and my doctor said if I have strep a 3rd time she would want me to get my tonsils out. Even then, I’d need to think about it. Surgery is serious! It’s expensive, it requires recovery time, there are risks – I mean, they’re putting you under and cutting something out of your body! It’s not something you take lightly, or do at someone else’s insistence.

    2) I work in an industry where “easy apply” is all the rage. You can apply to a job on LinkedIn with few clicks, you can apply to a job on AngelList just by clicking something that indicates interest, you can apply to a job on a Careers page just by uploading your resume and entering contact details, and maybe the system asks you to type a little blurb about why you’re interested in the job. Cover letters are optional, for the most part, and really only necessary if you need to explain that you’re moving or trying to change career paths. Not having to write a cover letter for every application can spoil someone!

    That said, when I do apply for a job that asks for a cover letter, I write one. People not sending cover letters when the application directions explicitly ask for one are failing to follow directions, and that’s not good, even if they’re used to not needing them. If it were me, I might send e-mails to the candidates that seem qualified and say “you seem to have the right background, but we require cover letters from our applicants, so please send one within the next 24 hours to be considered for this role.” Unless I’m getting enough complete applications from good candidates, then I’d just reject the ones who didn’t send cover letters.

  34. Not Karen*

    #5 Slightly OT but story related to the relevance of dates when networking: The other day I was chatting with someone several years younger than me and it turns out we both have sisters who went to the same college. She asks for my sister’s name because they might have known each other. I say, “I doubt it – my sister graduated 15 years ago.”

  35. Revolver Rani*

    Re #2: I’ve been hiring for a technical writer position and I almost never get a cover letter despite having asked for one in the job posting. It’s maddening. I couldn’t afford to screen out people who didn’t send one, because I’m looking for an unusual combination of skills and interests, and I really do have to look at every resume that comes my way. The very first thing I do when I see a resume that interests me is write to the candidate asking for a cover letter and writing samples. Only after I see those do I decide whether to advance the candidate to a phone screen. The resume alone is not enough – I need to know whether you can string words together to form sentences!

    It’s annoying, because it would save everyone time if they would upload those things up front. It also just baffles me a little. If you are interested enough in a writing job, why not take the extra time to show your writing skills? It’s not as if candidates have to think of the idea on their own – the job listing does ask them to include the cover letter and writing samples. But they almost never do.

    1. OP #2*

      OP #2 here.

      YESSS. This role is about 40% content creation, so being able to see that you can write clearly and concisely is important to me. A resume doesn’t show me that, and certainly just have a line on your resume that says you can doesn’t show me either!

    2. Solidus Pilcrow*

      I remember one job I applied for (tech writer) that asked for writing samples, so I provided them. Come the interview, they said I was the only one to provide samples. I found that very odd. (Didn’t get the job, but that was due to other circumstances, not the lack of writing samples!)

    3. Jennifer Writes About Thneeds*

      I’m a technical writer, and while I often comment that my resume is an example of my writing and formatting skills (which is why I hate when agencies change it), it is not a sample of *technical* writing! I have a wide range of types of writing samples (explanatory paragraphs for executive summaries, annotated screenshots, step-by-step directions) and it utterly baffles me that anyone who calls themselves a writer would NOT have samples available.

      That said, I rarely send them with my resume & cover letter, but I always mention them and send them along if asked, and I always bring them to interviews. And yes, I’ve gotten the “pleasantly surprised” reaction to that.

  36. Nervous Accountant*

    #2–I’m sorry if this is out of line and/or may cause derailment and I know it wasn’t intended that way but I’m taking just a tiny bit of umbrage that Craigslist doesn’t have quality applicants. I used Craigslist a lot in my search and I tweaked my resume/cover letters for every single opening that I applied to (must have been in the high dozens or even hundreds)…Although I’ve yet to be on the other side of hiring, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t a low quality candidate back then :-/

    I do agree w/ OP that if someone can’t follow a simple instruction, I wouldn’t have faith that they can follow smple instructions for the job.

    1. Kyrielle*

      I don’t think the argument is that Craigslist doesn’t have quality applicants, but rather than it has a large pool of non-quality applicants, so overall you’ll end up with a lot more low-quality applications (because you’ll have a lot more applicants, and the pool skews that way). Craigslist is an easy method for people who are sending out lots of resumes to use – and if they’re resume-bombing, the odds they’re a good candidate for your position aren’t high. That doesn’t mean everyone on the site is doing that, though!

      1. Czhorat*

        Just over 10 years ago I answered a Craigslist ad for a position in an industry in which I had zero experience, though some semi-related general experiences seemed to make me a reasonable fit. A decade later I’ve built a career in that industry, and wouldn’t really use CL in a job search again. For certain types of candidats at certain points in their career it might work. If you’re not very early-career, I’d be careful.

        1. Nervous Accountant*

          That’s a good point about not being very-early career. I was very early in my career when I used CL. Right now I’ve been at my job for 2+ years.

          When I was job searching literally everyone and their mother said to utilize CL for job searches, as if it was super easy….I hope I never have to be that desperate again.

          1. Czhorat*

            Now that I’ve both gotten a reputation, some experience, and know some of the players I find it more possible and better to reach out directly to hiring organizations, either through contacts or, if all else fails, their web address. I also tried things like Ziprecruiter and the like when desperate and gotten exactly nowhere with any of them. This is probably somewhat industry-dependent, but in the field where I work that seems to be how it is – at least in my limited experience.

      2. Nervous Accountant*

        Yeah, I think I’m just a little sensitive this week :(

        I actually don’t disagree, but it did sting a little but again I’m being a little sensitive. I will say it from the other side–if the applicant pool isn’t high quality, the applications themselves aren’t as high quality either. I’ve seen some super crappy ads and the one time I did get a call/interview, it was a pretty weird and unprofessional experience all around.

        1. OP #2*

          OP #2 – I don’t think I suggested that craigslist applications where somehow worse than others? I wouldn’t be posting to cl if I didn’t think there might be good applicants there. If I did somehow suggest that I apologize!

    2. Kj*

      Yeah, Craigslist is the only job posting my current nonprofit uses. I applied after seeing a Craigslist posting, as did many of our other employees. In the nonprofit world, Craigslist is ideal because it is free. I don’t think it is fair to imply that a Craigslist applicant is less qualified than an applicant from another source!

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I didn’t say Craigslist doesn’t have decent applicants. I said it will result in a flood of low-quality applicants, which is a different thing.

  37. Turtlewings*

    Re: cover letters, when I was job-searching a couple of years ago, I reached a point where I was only including a cover letter if the application literally wouldn’t submit without it. Job-hunting is so mentally exhausting, and cover letters make it ten times worse. I found I was letting application deadlines slip by entirely because the prospect of writing the cover letter was so daunting; I figured any application was better than no application. So there’s the POV of a cover letter non-submitter.

    (To be honest, cover letters still seem rather pointless to me.)

    1. Temperance*

      I honestly hate them. I spend roughly an hour per letter, and then often hear nothing back. So frustrating.

      1. HelloItsMe*

        An hour??? Well that’s probably the problem! If I’m excited about a job, I don’t have to research reasons why I might be a good candidate for it. I just write as if I were speaking. Maybe it would speed things up if you ask yourself questions (like, why am I looking for a new job), record yourself saying them outloud, and just write what you said.

    2. Yeah I'm Commenting!!*

      I agree. People aren’t doing them because it sucks writing them. I think this is especially true when you are talking about lower level jobs where the reason you’re applying is because you’re qualified, it pays well enough and its close to the house or some other non-impressive reason. I’ve never gotten a job with a cover letter and the thought of doing one stresses me out considerably.

      1. Turtlewings*

        Yeah, I frequently feel like an honest cover letter would simply say, “You have a position open. I need a job. I meet your qualifications and the work sounds like I can perform it competently and without hating my life.” All of which is either implied by the existence of my application, or stated outright in the resume. So what’s the point? I think employers expect too much enthusiasm from applicants, especially for low-level positions. We don’t even work for you yet, we really don’t care about the company’s ideals (ugh I can’t tell you how many listings do three paragraphs on the grand history and philosophy of the company before getting to the Actual Job On Offer). This is a business transaction, folks.

        1. jordanjay29*

          THANK YOU SO MUCH. The pretense and pageantry surrounding the job hunt can be truly stifling at times.

    3. OP #2*

      OP #2 here!

      It’s interesting to hear your perspective. Honestly, if I specifically ask for a cover letter, and you apply and don’t include one I’m going to assume you either didn’t read the whole application (and lack attention to detail) or saw that I asked for one and chose not to include one (and either are lazy or can’t follow instructions.) Either way, it puts you at a disadvantage (with me, at least).

      The exact wording I use in the job description is “If you think you’re the right person to join our team please send a cover letter detailing why working with us interests you and why you’re a good fit for the role, along with your resume and links to relevant social profiles and blogs.”

      I’d love your feedback on if this seems unclear or unreasonable.

      1. caryatis*

        I don’t think you’re being unreasonable; cover letters are standard practice. I think what the previous poster is getting at is that they are BY FAR the most time-consuming and stressful part of the process. And if you want to know why I’m a good fit, isn’t that what the resume is for? Updating my resume takes maybe half an hour at most. I could easily spend a whole day or more agonizingly writing a one-page cover letter. It’s so hard, and for many of us not natural to our personalities, to sell yourself.

        1. Turtlewings*

          Agreed. OP, I can’t fault you for judging applicants that don’t follow directions. I’m not really defending my lack of cover letters, just showing the other side of the coin. For an employer, casual about and familiar with the hiring process, focusing on these applications as part of their jobs, it looks one way; to the applicant, filling out their third application between dinner and bed, all of them stunningly repetitive and yet also requiring a hundred different nitpicky things, it looks another way. For anyone to whom self-selling doesn’t come naturally, it can be especially time-consuming and exhausting.

          Actually, the fact that you include specifics on what you want the letter to cover is very helpful! It might seem like obvious information, but for someone who (especially then–I understand it more now) doesn’t really get the purpose of a cover letter, having that nudge in the right direction is great.

        2. OP #2*

          OP #2 here again!

          I respectfully disagree – your resume is to list your skills and relevant experience, not necessarily a place to show me you’re a good fit. For this role (which is a genuine remote, 100% work from home role) I’d love to hear that you have experience working like this and that you have some level of interest in our fairly niche industry. For me a resume is table stakes – of course, the required experience should be there. The cover letter is the place to say “Hey, this is why I’m interested in you, and why you should be interested in me!”

          I’m going to agree with a poster above that said if you’re taking a whole day or more writing a single cover letter you’re doing it wrong. As a hiring manager, I’m looking for “Hi! I’m interested in this job because I love making teapots, and after checking out your website you see to be really great teapot makers! I love working as part of a team of enthusiastic teapot lovers, and my previous experience at Teapots Unlimted makes me the perfect person for this role. I have a particular enthusiasm for intricate hand painting, so I know my attention to detail will help me excel in this role at Lead Teapot Painter! I look forward to learning more about the teapots you make and how I might fit it.”

          1. Turtlewings*

            To me that seems like an exercise in stating the obvious, even verging on meaningless patter… The “particular enthusiasm for intricate hand painting” stands out as useful information, but that’s all. Maybe I’m just overthinking it. Clearly cover-letter-writing is a skill I don’t have, after all. Maybe the point is to get to that “intricate hand painting” point and surround it with pleasant obviousness as a sign of enthusiasm.

            1. Robin Sparkles*

              I understand your point and where you are coming from -but I strongly believe in cover letters because they do tell a story your resume cannot. I think OP#2’s example included a bit more repetition from the resume than they were illustrating to you. The purpose of the cover letter is to directly tie a requirement of the job to an actual skill. For example, “My favorite part of my Teapot Designer job is making intricate hand designs on teapots and I am excited to see that this is the primary function of the job” is an example that would not be clear on a resume. Maybe your hand design function is one of many bullets- as a hiring manager I wouldn’t know that is your favorite without the cover letter and that detail alone could put you at the top of the pile. My cover letters are pretty short- one -two paragraphs and at most short three paragraphs. I never spend more than 30 minutes on it. They have gotten me the interviews – to the point where most hiring managers point out a detail that they loved reading about.

          2. LBK*

            To me, the resume is the outline and the cover letter is the story. I can get the important bullet points from your resume, but I want to understand how and why you progressed through those bullet points as a person. I want to see how you’ve been shaped by your career path and how you’re shaping it such that you’ve ended up at my doorstep applying for my open position.

            The resume tells me what you did; the cover letter tells me why and how.

            1. jordanjay29*

              That’s an interview question, though. I’m not going to spend my cover letter regurgitating my resume for you, especially when I’ve probably already done so via your application in addition to uploading my resume, and will do so again in an interview.

        3. Observer*

          The resume often doesn’t really speak to what makes you a good fit. And sometimes the items are there but need to be pointed out, etc

          In the OP’s case, there is a specific issue – resumes are written SO differently from any other communications, that you simply can’t tell if they can string two sentences together. For a job that’s 40% content creation, that’s a HUGE deal.

        4. Dizzy Steinway*

          For a position that involves content creation a cover letter will demonstrate far more than a resume can. The OP is not being unreasonable at all.

      2. NEW YEAR, NEW ME*

        I’ve actually heard people suggest to others not to try cover letters. I don’t know. You requested it. Plus I think sending over a resume without any introduction or brief cover letter is kind of rude.

    4. HelloItsMe*

      I asked for them for a job I’m posting because it requires NO experience whatsoever, so their resume is probably going to suck. The cover letter is a chance to say, Hey I want this job because… xyz. The resume doesn’t matter in this instance.

  38. Darkitect*

    Honest, non-snarky question regarding #4: What if candidate is offered a position, discloses that the TBI affects their writing capability, and company legitimately realizes that the job description/interview/etc. glossed over the writing expectation of the position? As an example, the candidate lists their previous position on their resume; hiring manager is familiar with the position and expectations of the role, so they assume the candidate is competent in this task and it never comes up. Must the company now accommodate the candidate?

    1. Czhorat*

      If they have a disability and need an accommodation then one must be provided for them. Full stop.

      You can’t refuse to hire someone because of a disability. That is as illegal as not hiring them because of gender.

      1. Judy*

        I’m pretty sure the statement should be:

        You can’t refuse to hire someone with a disability (of a major life function) that does not affect (after accommodation) the ability to complete the primary duties of the position.

        There’s no law that states you have to hire a deaf person to audition musicians or a colorblind person to be an interior designer. I’m pretty sure you can’t be forced to hire someone in a wheelchair to be an EMT. If the job just requires “standard business writing of emails” then it’s probably OK for the OP, but if it is a writing position, it’s probably not. Writing emails is a requirement for most job listings I see, but the primary duties of the positions are software engineering or something like that.

      2. fposte*

        Not quite full stop :-). If they cannot perform the essential functions of the job even with a reasonable accommodation–not just accommodation, period, but a reasonable accommodation–it’s not illegal not to hire them, or, if if the employer realizes that the job needs to change to include tasks that the hire cannot perform even with reasonable accommodation, to fire them. (There’s a long-term AAM commenter who had just this experience, in fact, when the position evolved to require duties that her disability prevented her from doing.)

        Writing and other cognitive-based skills are really tough ones, because they often mean the accommodation would need to be a reassignment of tasks or of the person, and that’s something that often exceeds the bounds of reasonable accommodation.

      3. Temperance*

        This is not quite accurate. The accommodation needs to be appropriate, and not overly onerous on the business. A receptionist who was unable to speak would very likely not be a good fit, for example.

        Booth works in IT. Some positions are very documentation heavy, while others are not. I don’t know how LW could really suss that out, though, and how onerous it would be to outsource that piece of her work.

      4. Natalie*

        That’s not really accurate – the person has to be able to perform the “essential functions” of their job, with accommodation if needed.

      5. Sue Wilson*

        Eh, that’s not quite true. There’s a the bona fide occupational qualification defense for everything but race (unless race has some artistic merit). And the ADA covers “qualified” candidates, so a employer could credibly argue that the person is no longer qualified, although that’s going to be nigh impossible if the screening phase didn’t screen for that qualification.

    2. ZTwo*

      Well hopefully LW #4 is not applying to writing heavy jobs for exactly that reason. So as far as I understand it, the answer would depend on whether or not writing was part of the job description (as opposed to something they decided to include later).

      If it is part of the job–let’s say it’s a copywriting job–then the company is required to go through an investigation period to find the most reasonable accommodation(s) they can offer LW #4. Maybe that means longer deadlines or a writing coach or allowing LW #4 to dictates the work or whatever. Ideally both the company and LW #4 are able to meet in the middle and find a way to cover their needs and hers.

      However, if the accommodation(s) don’t work out or if they would cause undue hardship, then the most likely outcome is that LW #4 and the company part ways.

      1. Alton*

        Your first sentence is something I was thinking, as well. In practice, I think most people aren’t going to knowingly apply for jobs that they know will be impossible or extremely difficult/frustrating for them. And a lot of people with disabilities already have a pretty good understanding of what challenges they might come up against and what forms of accommodation they need. It’s often more a matter of the employer respecting that.

    3. Alton*

      My understanding is that they could withdraw the offer if the disability truly made it impossible for the person to perform the essential duties of the job. If you apply to be a bus driver, you can’t expect to keep that job if you reveal that you have epilepsy and your doctor has just told you that you can’t drive, for example.

      But US employers have to allow reasonable accommodations for recognized disabilities. In a case like you describe, I would expect that if the writing aspect didn’t come up in the interview and the interviewers presumably didn’t make an effort to verify the person’s writing skills, it’s probably not a part of the job where accommodating someone would be unreasonable. There are often job responsibilities that are somewhat flexible.

      1. Temperance*

        I’m not so sure. This is my husband’s industry, and for at least some jobs, there is an expectation that developers will also do their own documentation. It’s not always front and center, though.

        1. Alton*

          I think that it can be an expectation (and important) without necessarily being extremely rigid, though. It depends.

          But regardless, I would be surprised writing wasn’t at least mentioned in an interview or job description if it was a big part of the work, which was what the comment I replied to asked about. I think it’s fair to expect a mention of it before being hired.

      2. TootsNYC*

        Also, the disability must interfere with an essential life activity.

        I don’t think this is quite that simple, and I think the OP might benefit from speaking with someone in her area who knows how the [somewhat vague on purpose] law has been applied in her part of the nation/world/whatever.

      3. PlainJane*

        That’s why it’s so important to clearly specify the essential functions of the job in a position posting and position description. Candidates can self-select appropriately, you can screen appropriately, and you have some legal standing if it turns out a candidate can’t perform an essential function.

    4. Lead, Follow or Get Outta the Way!*

      This was my concern as well. What if the job requires and lists writing (whether editing, copywriting, business writing, etc) as a component of the job? You would hope that someone who does have a disability that would preclude or limit their capability to perform the task wouldn’t apply…but we know that sometimes people just apply anyway. As an employer, I would probably be ticked that someone did this and then once extended an offer they drop this on me… It really places the employer in a tough situation because the applicant willfully held back a limitation that impacts the job. So at what point does this become dishonesty vs. accommodating a disability?

      1. fposte*

        I wouldn’t generally think of it as dishonesty, since that’s the traditional stage for such disclosures; I would, however, think of it as a sign that your hiring process needs some help–if writing is key, a writing sample should have been asked for (and usually would be). If an applicant can’t perform the essential duties with reasonable accommodation, you don’t have to hire the applicant, even if the flaw in your process means you find that out later in hiring.

        1. Lead, Follow or Get Outta the Way!*

          But if the applicant has writing samples from previous positions (such as I believe this one did) that they completed prior to the injury and subsequent disability, then the company may not test for writing. Which once again begs the question of if the applicant is misleading by providing samples of their capabilities “pre” injury?

          1. fposte*

            Then you’re in the same position you are when you have somebody who said they are a genius at Excel and it turns out it means they’ve done a lot of data entry. It’s not unusual, but it’s not common. I think you’re going a bit down a hypothetical rabbit hole here.

    5. OP4 TBI*

      OP4 with an honest, non-snarky response :-)

      Writing is truly hell for me (yes, it does take me an hour to put together a basic email, but I would never ask for accommodations there). I would NEVER apply for a job where writing was a major requirement.

      My problem here was that my understanding was that the job was a developer / programming job, full stop. So it wouldn’t have occurred to me to even disclose this writing issue because I didn’t think I’d be doing any writing. It was more sprung on me as an offhand request that I really didn’t feel I could turn down.

      Thanks for helping me clarify my question.

      1. OP4 TBI*

        OP4 with an honest, non-snarky response :-)

        Writing is truly hell for me (yes, it does take me an hour to put together a basic email, but I would never ask for accommodations there). I would NEVER apply for a job where writing was a major requirement.

        My problem here was that my understanding was that the job was a developer / programming job, full stop. So it wouldn’t have occurred to me to even disclose this writing issue because I didn’t think I’d be doing any writing. It was more sprung on me as an offhand request that I really didn’t feel I could turn down.

        And to clarify: this was documenting someone else’s program / model, not even my own.
        (Commenting my own code is also not pleasant for me, but I still do it).
        Thanks for helping me clarify my question.

      2. Lead, Follow or Get Outta the Way!*

        Thanks OP4 for your comments! I can appreciate the fact that this was something brought up later and understand how it can throw you for a loop. My question was coming from a place of trying to understand when it crosses the line and I completely understand every situation will be different. I definitely wish you the best in everything!

    1. TootsNYC*

      My German teacher (from Yonkers, NY) had a German professor (from Germany) who said of his wife, “She is beating me with her eyelashes.”

  39. FiveWheels*

    OP 4 – I also returned to work after a brain injury – took about five years to recover to where I could re enter my old industry. Shout out to you and any other Brain Injury Buddies at AAM!

  40. Angelinha*

    All of the resumes I’ve gotten from Indeed came without cover letters. I don’t know if that’s because Indeed doesn’t prompt you to include one or what, but it really frustrated me. It also annoyed me that Indeed formatted people’s resumes in the same (fairly ugly) way. I quickly realized it was an Indeed issue but for a while I was really turning my nose up at these ugly resumes that all included the line “Legally able to work in the United States” right at the top under their name.

    1. Laura*

      I did the same thing – I was getting really frustrated by the fact that multiple people were submitting several-page resumes for an entry-level position, and then I realized that Indeed was formatting the resumes in that way. (I did ask our admin to specifically request cover letters, and since then, most of the resumes we receive through Indeed include them.)

    2. TootsNYC*

      a good reminder of how important it is to learn how the various tools work, so you can check your assumptions, and see whether they’re accurate.

    3. HR Caligula*

      I post job opening on Indeed, their system allows for additional text (good for cover letters) to submit with resumes.

  41. Addison*

    OP 4: I work in a brain injury rehab clinic and I just want to say congratulations on your recovery :) (and to any others as well- I think I saw a few commenters say they also had TBIs as I was scrolling through)! As far as advice goes, I think Allison’s is spot-on, but I would say if you learned any compensatory strategies during your recovery you should definitely make use of those as well (asking for extra time or using reminder cards to help you structure what you want to write/referring to them as needed as you go, maybe)?
    Wishing you lots of luck on getting back into the workforce!

  42. EA in CA*

    OP #2 – I feel your pain. I work in a city that is heavily reliant on the Oil and Gas sector. Now that we are in an economic downturn, we get a lot more candidates for our entry level roles. Recently we advertised for an Administrative Assistant position. This role is based in our city but also works closely with 5 of our remote offices, so having strong communication skills is very important. We ask all candidates to include a cover letter to introduce themselves and to put in their email subject line “Application – Administrative Assistant (Head Office)”. Only about 15% of the candidates followed both instructions. I even go as far as telling them that they MUST submit their application as 1 pdf file as they systems does not allow for two attachments.

  43. Honeybee*

    #2 – One possible suggestion is the proliferation of Cool Companies that don’t require a cover letter*. I work in tech, and when I was applying for jobs last go-round, lots of the companies I applied to either didn’t mention a cover letter, didn’t want one at all, didn’t have a space for one on the application or – the worst in my opinion – left it up to the candidate whether they wanted a cover letter. Google, for example, had this crappy form that had a little text box where they asked you to “tell [them] a little about yourself in lieu of a cover letter”, although you could choose to copy and paste a cover letter in there. Facebook has you fill out this profile that looks a lot like a social media profile (*sigh*), and Zappos has those video cover letters (*ugh*).

    From reading some of the job descriptions and requests, I got the sense that some companies had the idea that either cover letters themselves were outdated or that the millennials applying to their positions thought that cover letters were outdated. I don’t know. It irritated me to no end, particularly because I was making a career change and I really needed the cover letter to explain why and how my skills from my previous career transferred. I finally solved this problem myself by adding my cover letter to the first page of the PDF with my resume in it, but that was an extra step I had to take.

    **TO be clear – I’ve since chatted with some hiring managers in my field and they still want a cover letter. And astoudingly, they expect you to figure that out yourself and figure out how to attach it. My manager had no idea that the new application on my company’s website was one of the ones that didn’t have a place to even attach a cover letter.

  44. mutt*

    #1 – With one of my first jobs as a student worker on campus, I had a boss who noticed I was using the restroom quite a bit and demanded an explanation. I ended up admitting I had a UTI, and she followed up by grilling me about what kind of doctor I had gone to and what medication they had prescribed and made me feel like I was lying – it was really weird.

    This same boss also accessed all her student worker’s computers throughout the day to see what they were doing, and listened in on student worker’s “private” calls (when they were on break) silently in her own office (I am assuming it was part of the “call may be monitored for quality control purposes” feature). I understand she may have had some workers who weren’t overly professional, but her actions were way over the top, and when I was hired there, the possibility of being monitored like that was never mentioned in any hiring docs or anywhere else that I could find (I personally was not part of the call center). I was warned by other student workers, saw her access my computer, and walked into her office (at her request) multiple times when she was listening in on phone calls outside of the call center system. I think she wanted to display to me how much power she held over me – and she did, she shaped how her student workers defined “normal” workplace boundaries.

    I have since realized how badly she violated everyone’s privacy in so many different ways, but raised as a southern female, I did not have the tools to stand up for myself at the time. She totally bulldozed me and the other workers and I’m told (by friends who worked with her until not long ago) she is still a huge bully and since it’s apparently worked for her so far, she’s getting away with treating her employees even worse than she did…how long is it now…15 years? 15 years ago.

    Point being, if she’s bullying you like this, are you sure she’s not bullying you in other ways? I have noticed once certain bullies figure out their tactics are about to generate backlash (like yours), they back up quickly and then try a different tactic. I’d keep my eye on her, document ANY instances of bullying – for your OWN personal records, to help you spot any gaslighting she might try to do, since those go hand-in-hand – and try to find work with a less invasive and far more supportive work environment if you decide she’s out of line with too many other things as well. Good luck, sorry you’re dealing with someone like her in a position of power.

    1. Tonsils Intact*

      Thank you for sharing your story, what a terrible thing to go through. I have started keeping a record. Writing down the events relived a lot of stress.

      1. Noobtastic*

        Good for you! Yes, keep a record. As you say, it relieves the stress, and it may come in useful in other ways. For one thing, it’s hard to gaslight someone who is keeping a record, and can prove that they are not imagining things. Also, if it goes to HR (which I believe it should), that is more proof.

        I know it’s early, but after reading your various updates (especially the one about her telling you the medical information of your co-workers), I’d say she’s in the running for worst boss of 2017, or at least an “honorable” mention.

        Please let us know how it all turns out, later!

    2. Noobtastic*

      This reminds me of a job I once had. On the first day, my co-worker pointed out the bugs and recording devices.

      Yes, my boss had bugged the office, and recorded it all, to listen to at his leisure.

      I wasn’t sure if there were hidden cameras, as well, but I learned pretty quickly to operate on the assumption that there were.

      He also insisted on unpaid overtime for hourly employees.

      He went through a LOT of hourly employees. For some reason, they just didn’t want to stay???

      1. Candi*

        Okay, were these digital devices?

        Because if he’s definitely recording audio on digital devices (with digital stuffs’ built in clocks and whatnot) and possibly filming, again with possibly digital devices… devices which are probably not high grade spyware… then he’d be documenting his own violations of labor law.

        Even dinking with the internal clocks only works so far.

        Definitely did not think this through. I feel bad that none of you had the experience or energy, after dealing with him, to realize the graveyard he was digging.

  45. Jane*

    OP1 – Your boss sounds like she does not respect boundaries and presumably this is just one example of many. If you’re stuck in this job or otherwise reasonably happy there, my guess is given her personality type you’re going to have to stand up for yourself firmly but in a neutral tone of voice. Sometimes people who behave like this only respond to that. It sometimes help to use language that highlights how absurd what they are asking is, without being accusatory. I recall a colleague once telling me that she mentioned offhand to a more senior coworker that she was not available at a given time because she had a doctor’s appointment and when the coworker asked what the appointment was for, my colleague simply said “excuse me?” (as in “I’m going to act puzzled by your question so that you realize it’s none of your business”) and that’s all it took to make the coworker back off. In this scenario, the coworker wasn’t just making conversation (though odd, there may be cases where people do that without thinking), she was probing because she thought her meeting must be more important than whatever my colleague was going to the doctor for. Your case is obviously different, but sometimes it takes an innocuous enough response to jolt some sense into someone who is being far too nosy. In your case, naming the problem directly and firmly seems to be the best approach, rather than trying to couch your response in nice terms. At this point, it’s probably best to just say “I am not comfortable discussing personal medical matters with you.” If your absence, planned or otherwise, directly affects her or your work, that can be handled without her knowing the details. It also bugs me a lot that you even have to come up with some kind of sick certificate but I guess all workplaces are different. In mine, I just say I’ll be out if I need to be out for any reason, whether/how I will be reachable and that’s it. Sometimes I say I’ll be at the doctor, other times I keep it more vague as in “at an appointment.” We’re also allowed to work from home if we’re not feeling well, as long as we give notice in the morning, so my work environment may just be more flexible in terms of how much we’re expected to say. Nonetheless, certainly personal medical details are off-limits unless you choose to share them (which sometimes happens, it just depends on the team and the relationships people have – certainly not uncommon for people to announce to a team they’re having surgery in order to signal they will really be unavailable and not checking email vs. feeling under the weather and still functioning semi-normally, but really it’s no one’s business but yours).

    I really like Alison’s advice for OP2. 5% is quite low, but if you get the candidate you need from the 5% that’s fine. Otherwise, it must be the boards you’re using because 5% of applicants following instructions sounds absurdly low to me. While it might weed out the poor candidates (or candidates who may be great, but have a lapse in judgment or are not seriously interested), it also won’t be attracting good candidates who happen not to use that site. I think most people who are serious about applying for a job and not just resume blasting will read the instructions and follow them. It’s also a cost-benefit analysis, because your employer may decide that the 5% is sufficient and it’s not worth the investment to pull in more qualified candidates.

  46. Student*

    #2 – Try being a bit more literal and descriptive in what you want included in the cover letter.
    “Please include a cover letter that tells us more about you, and why you’d be a great fit for this role.” – this is okay, but as somebody who takes instructions very literally, I can see why some people would look at this and decide against it.

    “Please include a one page cover letter that tells us more about you, and why you’d be why you are interested in this role and how your qualifications make you a great fit for this role.”

    This sets a page limit, indicating how much effort you want.

    It takes out the very vague sounding and personal-ish request to “tell us more about you”. That part is problematic for some people because I’ve just given you a resume that tells you all about my professional experience, so there’s a potential for inexperienced people to think you want to hear something about their hobbies or family or similar irrelevant stuff; in a non-interview conversation, that’s one commonly understood meaning of the phrase. You don’t really want a cover letter about how somebody is moving to the area for their spouse’s career or to care for a parent. You don’t want to hear about their hobby growing bonsai in teapots (at least, not in the cover letter).

    It specifies more narrowly what kind of information you’re really looking for. You want to know why they’re interested in your company, in this job, and how their qualifications make them uniquely valuable or suitable for the job. It’s okay to just tell them that.

    1. Dizzy Steinway*

      I think you’re recommending a level of hand holding that really shouldn’t be necessary for adult job seekers.

    2. Sas*

      This is well said. The cover letter can be intimidating and might need to be said a different way why it was needed.

  47. Thornus67*

    With regards to #1, I have to wonder if demanding surgery violates the ADA. I know the ADA prohibits employers from demanding that their workers submit to medical examinations (absent job-related and business necessity exceptions). This would go a step beyond even that by demanding an actual medical procedure.

  48. Red In SC*

    LW2, this has probably been said a million times already, but we’re having that same problem. We ask for a cover letter and writing sample, for a grant writer position. And if the applicant didn’t include that, we just tossed the application. For grant writing, if you can’t follow instructions, then there is no way you are going to succeed. It took a while, BUT we did get the perfect applicant. So, I encourage you to just toss those applications and keep searching.

  49. Where's My Button?*

    With reference to OP2: I once applied for a job with a cover letter ready, but the set of web forms I used to apply never gave me a place to upload the cover letter (despite the job ad requesting one). I managed to hit the final submit button without sending my letter, which made me kind of sad. I’m guessing they expected me to upload it along with my resume, but I guess I’ll never know.

  50. Mary Katherine G*

    OP#2, is there any chance you are offering 20K for a dead-end job but stating that you prefer the ideal candidate have a Harvard MBA, speak seven languages, and have a collection of very rigorous, unrelated professional licenses?

    Is there any chance your company has such a terrible reputation for how it treats employees that nobody actually wants to work there?

    These are common scenarios in the rather unusual economic landscape of where I live. Nobody is going to write a cover letter for a job they truly don’t want.

  51. Jon T.*

    I find writing a cover letter to be a total waste of time in most cases. Half the time it isn’t even read and/or doesn’t result in an interview, and even if it is read and it does get you an interview, it and your resume are completely forgotten during the interview itself. You literally have to tell the interviewer your entire life story at least as it pertains to your career and educational background. They do no research on you and remember nothing that you have told them yet expect you to know everything about them. How fair is that?

    The hiring process is pretty screwed up. The person looking for the job is the talent, the free agent if you will. The person/company offering the job is the team that should be trying to convince the free agent to come and play for their organization. But instead they have it backwards where the person seeking the job has to “wow” cater to and kowtow to the company-person offering the job and convince them how much of an “honor” it would be to come and play-work for their organization. If it isn’t this way in professional sports why is the average person expected to bow to put on a show for the company if they want a job?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      They’re not expected to put on a show; they’re expected to explain why they’d be an excellent candidate for the job, since there are hundreds of other people also applying for it, many with similar professional histories.

      The point of a cover letter is to get you an interview, so the fact that interviewers may not remember details from it by the interview itself isn’t a problem.

    2. Miss Nomer*

      I think of professional athletics as being nearly completely the opposite of most jobs in the United States. For professional athletes, there are only so many “super stars” in any sport, and they work on contracts. I’m a data analyst, and I know there are plenty of other very competent data analysts that compete for the same job as me. If writing a cover letter to explain why I’m a good fit for the job will make me stand out, I’m happy to do it, just like companies should be willing to spend time writing a good job posting to attract candidates. Hiring should be a two-way street.

  52. Rick Tq*

    Think Van Halen and Brown M&Ms. That clause was a test if the promoter read the contract and understood what was needed. (Google is your friend, and DLR is quite funny as he discusses the topic)..

    This is a job where being detail oriented is vital. If a candidate can’t follow the instructions to apply how can you be sure they will follow the instructions for submitting a grant proposal?

  53. Slogmeister*

    Regarding, “#2, Why aren’t my applicants including cover letters?”

    Alison asserts that what is being asked for is neither time-consuming nor outrageous. While I agree that it’s a perfectly normal part of the job application process, I disagree that it’s not time-consuming. Cover letters aren’t something that can just be spun out like cotton candy. They require enormous amounts of time, effort, and research. It takes me around 2 hours to generate a cover letter that’s properly customized to the job description, my resume and the company. Maybe if you’re a writer by trade, something like this is easy to crank out. However, for technical positions where writing isn’t a tool of the trade, speaking to a non-technical audience about how you may be a good fit for the job is extraordinarily challenging.

    If I were to generate a proper cover letter, at ~1 per every 2 hours, I would be able to send out ~4 resumes per day, for an 8 hour “working day” (where my “job” is looking for a job). Even at that rate, I would more than double the time it takes to find employment. I don’t know about others, but time is of the essence when I am looking for employment. So, while sending a cover letter is a perfectly normal part of the process, and definitely not outrageous, I choose to send no letter rather than sending a poorly crafted letter.

    I do this because when I was in the position of hiring, I threw out the obvious “garbage” first. In my opinion, someone who is willing to spend time and effort to generate low-quality output is not a valuable employee. If they do it in the application process, they’ll do it as an employee. I do not operate under the assumption that the person who does not include the letter “couldn’t follow instructions”. There are a number of reasons the letter may be absent, and those reasons lie not only on the applicant’s side, but the employer’s side as well. For example, maybe the applicant considers this job a “long-shot” and so doesn’t feel it’s worth the time to create a cover letter. Alternatively, maybe the employer’s job description is so vague or incomprehensible that the applicant feels that it’s pretty much impossible to create a coherent cover letter.

    My point is that understanding that a cover-letter *is* time consuming that change your outlook on it.

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