my boss forced my coworker to apologize, I got rejected three minutes after applying for a job, and more

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

1. My boss made my coworker apologize to a client

I work for government, and recently my boss did something I strongly disagree with. A colleague and I decided to postpone a meeting with some community members/stakeholders for a few reasons — my colleague in particular had been slammed with work by our boss/the department, and she hadn’t had time to prepare one essential document for the meeting. (We gave the folks we were cancelling on several days notice, she apologized in the email, and gave several alternative dates.)

Our boss insisted that my colleague send a second email to the folks we cancelled on with a more detailed apology, including the nuances of her not completing the document in advance, and this REALLY left a sour taste in my mouth. Besides the fact that we cancel meetings for a variety of reasons (including that one, it was just a terrible time to spend an entire day traveling), it seemed like public shaming to me. I have always expected good managers to put their team first — to highlight the good work (publicly when possible), and to correct the errors privately and discretely. This seemed like the very opposite of good leadership. Am I overreacting?

Well, it’s possible that there’s some specific reason why your boss felt it was necessary in this case. Who knows — maybe these folks have complained about meetings being canceled without explanation in the past, or he had just assured them a minute before she canceled that the meeting was still on, or maybe that particular meeting just really shouldn’t have been canceled, or something else that would explain his request.

But if there’s not some explanation like that, and if his intent was to punish/shame her rather than simply explain things to the client, then yeah, that’s bad and it’s a weird thing for him to ask her to do. I can’t tell from your message whether he made her send an especially grovel-y apology, but if so, that probably was weird for the recipients too. But I’d try to understand your boss’s motivations before concluding anything here.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. I was rejected three minutes after applying for a job

I have applied to a certain company three times over the past four months. I talked to a recruiter at the beginning who made me aware that my qualifications and experience was a perfect match for their company.

Today I submitted my application at 9:32 a.m. and received a rejection email at 9:35 a..m. I’m totally concerned about the timing of such an immediate rejection and am looking for possible reasons for such a speedy response. My resume matched the requirements to a T.

I am beginning to feel quite vulnerable and my self esteem was hit hard.

It could be a few different things: It’s possible that you didn’t have a particular qualification their system is programmed to screen for. (Even if you think you matched what they’re looking for perfectly, it’s pretty impossible to truly know that from the outside.) It’s possible that their auto-screening was set up poorly. Or it’s possible that you applied for the same position in the past and were rejected for it, so they’re not considering you for it again. Or it’s possible that it was a technical error.

You could try contacting the recruiter who you were talking with earlier, explaining the situation and asking for feedback, but beyond that there’s no real way to know.

Please try not to let this mess with your self-esteem though. I know that’s easier said than done, but great people are rejected for jobs all the time, and it’s not a measure of your worth.

3. I’m uncomfortable being thanked by coworkers

I quite often get thanked by my coworkers for taking on tasks and I am getting uncomfortable with how often it happens. Taking on these tasks are explicitly what my job is. I don’t mind being thanked if it’s an emergency, but when it’s very rote I still get individual little chat messages expressing gratitude. I don’t want to push back too hard because each person is just trying to be nice, but I would prefer it if they stopped doing it so much. I’ve lightly mentioned it to the worst offender but she hasn’t picked up on my issue thus far. How can I not upset them but still get them to stop?

It’s not situations where I’m asked to do something or where someone casually mentions it in passing. We have a ticketing system where people take assignment of things and every one can see who’s assigned. I get chat messages from one or two specific people quite often when I take assignment. It’s more the issue of the context switch; I stop what I’m doing to read the chat message and it’s pretty annoying to see that it’s this thing that doesn’t mean anything. But I know that they are only trying to be nice so I’ve just been bearing through it.

For what it’s worth, I’ve already had discussions with my manager about how I prefer good work that I’ve done to be recognized in a personal conversation as opposed to a company-wide award, so that’s probably part of it too.

This is a pretty normal office nicety, so asking people to stop thanking you is likely to make you come across as curmudgeonly, in a way that probably won’t be helpful for your career.

I get that it’s annoying to be interrupted by a chat message, only to find out that it’s just “thanks” … but it’s the price of maintaining warm, pleasant relationships with people. It’s sort of like the way saying “good morning” when you pass someone in the hallway can take you out of your head if you’re deep in thought, but you do it because it’s part of maintaining human connections with people and not seeming problematically chilly.

But maybe you could try reframing it in your head to a confirmation that whatever work you completed for them was received and met their needs and is now being closed out.

4. Fielding tons of questions about a job from someone who hasn’t applied yet

I work at a grad school, and I’m currently hiring for a tutoring position. I got an email that started, “Before I apply, I’d like some more information.” Which is fine, and those first questions were okay ones (still things I go over in an interview but I understand her asking). Now it’s turned into several emails back and forth with technical questions like clocking in and how absences are handled, from someone who hasn’t even really applied yet. How much is too much?

I get the sense that she’s trying to get all the ducks in a row, not find out how to guarantee a job, but she’s skipping an important duck. How do I gently say, “we’ll discuss that in an interview, or after you’re hired?” Is there a way to teach her better for the “real world” after school? I’m not sure that my time is best spent convincing her she wants to want this job.

Yeah, you can cut that off. It’s one thing to answer a basic question or two that will impact whether it makes sense for someone to apply for a particular job, but this sounds way beyond that. These are really odd questions to be asking at this stage (and possibly at any stage, really).

I say it this way: “I’d be glad to discuss this kind of thing in detail if we move forward to an interview.”

You could also say: “We get such a high volume of interest for our open positions that we’ve found the best way to get to know each other is to steer people to the application process we’ve created, but we ensure there’s lots of time for questions and answers during the interview stage.”

5. The applicant I rejected thinks the interview never happened

I got the following from a job applicant after sending a rejection email: “Thank you for your email. To be clear, we did not actually speak as the phone interview did not occur at the time it was scheduled or thereafter.”

At first, I was worried that I had mixed her up with someone else and we hadn’t talked, but I checked my notes, and I definitely had interviewed her. I should just let this go, right? I feel kind of weird that she thinks I stood her up for her interview time…

It’s up to you! You could let it go, but it would also be perfectly fine to respond with something like, “I think you might have me mixed up with someone else. We spoke about the X position on June 29 at 1 p.m. You told me about your experience with teapot spout design and were particularly interested in our teapot painters’ apprentice program.”

{ 302 comments… read them below }

  1. Marina*

    #2 I had that happen. I send an email to my contact at the organization saying, “I wanted to let you know I submitted my resume as you suggested and received a response that my qualifications did not meet the job requirements. I wanted to thank you for your time talking about the position with me, and please let me know if any other positions open up.” The next day I got an email scheduling a phone interview… and then an in-person interview a week after that, and a very flattering offer the day after the interview.

    When you get an email that fast, it’s because an automated screening program has not found very specific words in your application. Unfortunately, it is impossible to know what those specific words are as an outside applicant, although usually if you use the exact words that are in the job description it helps a bit. But if you can get an actual human to look at your resume, you probably won’t get the same quick rejection.

    (On a tangent, can we talk about how horrible automated screeners are? and how people getting interviews by networking perpetuates inequality and lack of diversity? I get that it’s a time saver, but I’d think the cost of losing good candidates who’s resumes don’t have the precise wording programmed in to the automated screener would at least outweigh the savings.)

    1. Mike C.*

      Yeah, I’ve had managers complain that they’ve had completely unqualified candidates make it through the automated screening process because they copy/pasted the job description into their resume.

      But I’m sure those expensive consultants know what they’re doing…

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        In an ideal world I think any automatic system should screen only based on yes/no questions and any prose (like someone’s resume) should be examined by a human.

        We don’t have an automatic system, and people can’t get interviews through networking as we also have a blind screening process (names are removed and revealed only once someone is shortlisted for interview).

        1. AMD*

          Wasn’t there someone who posted a while back about hiring for, like, a filing job, and was able to cut out hundreds of applications from resume spammers by asking for a yes/no “I am willing to do filing?”

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            I know someone who got a gallery job by stating that, as per the advert, they were willing to assemble cardboard boxes. Everyone else just waffled about their desire to curate.

        2. misplacedmidwesterner*

          We use a version of that for our automated screener and it’s awful. The questions take part of the job description and turn it into a multi choice question. So if the description is “responsible for teapot spout design”, the question is “How many years experience do you have in teapot spout design” and Answer A is 0-2, B is 2-4, etc, up to I have academic training in this or I have none. The note on these questions is that anything you claim had better be very obvious in your online application, and our ER people are supposed to review it. However we get so many people who blantantly lie and say they have 6 to 8 years of teapot spout design experience, and that is not obvious from a single previous job/job accomplishment listed on their resume and they can’t answer basic questions in an interview. I get super frustrated because people still just play the system.

      2. K.*

        Yes, me too – to the point where some managers have taken the process back from HR because none of the candidates they were getting were qualified. Where I used to work, the tech teams in particular never used HR for screening.

        1. Just Another Techie*

          A friend of mine is a hiring manager for a big tech infrastructure company. He reports that even though he heavily recruits women and minorities at career fairs, for ~*~some reason~*~ the HR department only sends him pre-screened resumes from white men. Somehow all those women and minorities who were so eager to apply when they spoke to him at the career fair gosh golly never submitted resumes to HR? It seriously took him a couple of years to twig to the fact that HR was just sh*tcanning those resumes, and then he started taking resumes directly from candidates instead of directing them to apply via the company’s online app system.

          1. ancolie*

            I hope your friend tries to make some noise about it, because I’m betting that HR wasn’t doing that only with his specific department.

            1. Pomona Sprout*

              I agree. Its actually rather appalling to me that an HR dept. would be deliberately screening out applications from women and minorities in this day and age. Not only is it incredibly unethical, it sounds like HR is just setting the company up for lawsuits, if it ever came to light that they’re doing this.

              1. ancolie*

                I just think of all the women and minorities who have probably applied for jobs at this company for years.

                I mean, yeah, it’s good that JAT’s friend thought something was odd and checked it out. But his solution only works for people who are applying to his department.

    2. Em G*

      I wondered whether it was possible someone accepted an offer at 9:33 or so in there (or possibly accepted it earlier and someone hit a ‘close posting’ button at 9:33). I’ve never worked on the hiring end, though, so I don’t know if that’s plausible.

      1. Puffyshirt*

        Yes. That is possible. I’ve recruited at several big (50k+) and a few small organizations. I’ve used auto-reject only at one of those and it was for broad yes/no questions. I.e. Do you have this required verification? Will you work onsite in Minneapolis?

        It’s also possible that a recruiter was reviewing all resumes in a requisition when you happened to apply and they rejected you without checking the application time.

        People get mad when they aren’t notified of rejection and also when they are notified.

        1. Mike C.*

          People would rather be notified than not. The anger isn’t from being notified, it’s from a feeling of not being considered.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, the fact that people are understandably unhappy at not getting a job shouldn’t keep employers from notifying them of the fact that they didn’t get a job.

          2. Marina*

            It’s not the notification or even the being rejected that’s the problem. It’s that if a person was looking at the resume, they looked at it for a maximum of three minutes before rejecting it. So, in this case, either the recruiter they’d talked to earlier missed what was obvious to the resume screener in three minutes, or the resume screener missed something the recruiter had seen earlier. Either way, one of the two of them is not very good at their job.

        2. Kate*

          Yeah, I was going to say something similar. I’m a corporate recruiter. On several occasions, I’ve been reviewing applications for a position when someone applied. I review the new application at the same time as all the others. There’s no mechanism in the system for delaying a rejection email. I could skip updating the status, and go back in later. But it could be weeks before I’m reviewing applications for that position again. I figure people would rather know bad news immediately than wait a few weeks for it. The immediacy can make it feel personal, but a rejection five minutes after applying is no more personal than a rejection a month after applying, I promise.

          (Before anybody suggests I leave it a day and go back, know that on average, I have 2,000 total applications for my positions at any given time. Carefully managing the timing with each individual application is, unfortunately, not realistic. Giving a timely response is my priority, even if it’s sooner than some people would prefer.)

      2. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

        There is actually another possibility. Some job websites do not delete the job ad right after you click “delete” or “position filled”, it stays there for a while. The Social Services Agency of the country I live in needs 24 hours. Of course, many people apply and get a rejection inmediately after, because the position has actually been filled but the ad is still appearing on the website.

        1. Snazzy Hat*

          I applied for a particular job one night last year and got a rejection letter the next morning stating the position had already been filled. My annoyance was primarily due to feeling as though I wasted my time and raised my hopes.

    3. Liane*

      They are very weird.
      1) Applied to a company via their website, which showed local openings –until I created a login and they all disappeared. Hadn’t even done the online application. Maybe it was a legit technical glitch but I just crossed them off my list and got hired at their competitor a few days later.
      2) Taleo thinks my 8+ years of customer service and cashier experience doesn’t qualify me to work at a big name bookstore.
      3) Big local employer *used to* have a great ATS. So easy to use. Of course it was replaced a few months ago…

      1. Biff*

        The more I deal with Taleo, the more I understand why companies use it, but I still dislike it intensely.

    4. Jen*

      Yep. It’s the damn screening programs. I once applied at a company and got the rejection a few minutes later. I had already forwarded my resume to a friend there and she had forwarded it to HR. I was rejected due to my salary history (which was high because I was moving from a higher paying city). Once HR actually read my resume and talked to me, I got an interview and then received an offer. So keep trying through an actual person and don’t let it affect your self-esteem. The computer screen rejections say the least about you.

    5. ChelseaNH*

      It might not have anything to do with the resume. It’s possible that the position is set to reject everyone, since they’re working with a recruiter to find qualified people. (But then you still have to submit an application through the system, because the process is brain-dead.)

    6. Optimistic Prime*

      I was just thinking about the networking perpetuating inequality and lack of diversity thing today. I work in an industry that has been heavily criticized for its lack of diversity, especially because the rewards (salary, benefits, career progression) are pretty high and increasing diversity in this field would help close pay gaps. But now that I actually work in it, I understand just WHY there’s so little diversity – because everyone hires their friends and their friends’ friends! I feel like we spend all our time just passing back and forth the same people between companies without ever taking a chance or bringing fresh blood in, and we always recruit at the same universities and colleges (which are themselves pretty homogeneous).

    7. AGeekNamedBob*

      Although I just shrugged it off as I wasn’t terribly interested I had this happen during my job hunt. Except for me, it was literally a minute later. I was mostly annoyed in that I had all the qualifications in spades and this particular company touted very much “hiring soon to be graduates and veterans.” I was both (am? still a veteran; now a graduate, with a job). Annoyed as on the veteran end, it was plastered everywhere their effort to hire a ton of veterans.
      Darned sure it was the auto-screening program that did the rejection but still weird.

  2. LadyL*

    #2, was it by chance a US government job? My partner once got rejected very quickly from a job in the federal government. He then got an email, months later, letting him know that he was an amazing candidate, but they didn’t even see his application until then because their system gives priority to veterans, and as he had no military experience his application got automatically tossed. The only reason they emailed him is I guess they found his resume somehow and were bummed they missed out on him. It seems very likely that something similar has happened to you, and this rejection has nothing to do with your qualifications. I hope things work out for you very soon!

    1. tink*

      Yeah, there are some gov’t jobs that will auto close after they’ve receive a certain number of applications too, so it’s always a crapshoot if you don’t see the listing the second it goes up.

    2. Grits McGee*

      Oh, if I had a dollar for every person at my agency who didn’t get through the cert for a job they were already doing…

    3. Diane D*

      We recently advertised for a position at my job with a US government agency. Got 114 applicants that were deemed well -qualified. 37 got forwarded to the hiring manager. All 37 of them received veterans preference. It’s good to know that we value our veterans, but maddening that other people who might be better qualified don’t make the cut because they don’t get that preference.

      1. sunshyne84*

        Imagine being a govt contractor repeatedly being looked over when you’re already doing the job.

        1. Former Govt Contractor*

          Me exactly. After 4 years as a contractor, a permanent position opened up for my job. I didn’t even pass the screening, and did not get to interview. When our office manager saw I didn’t make the cut, she called me up to ask what happened. It was then that I learned they had specifically tailored the job listing to my background and qualifications, to give me the best possible chance. They really wanted me to get the job, but only vets were referred for interview, and NONE of them had the required education, much less the necessary experience.

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            Well, now I know not to bother applying for fderal jobs. O_o

            I knew preference was given to veterans–which is fine–but I didn’t realize it was THAT hard for non-vets to even get their applications even looked at. Yikes.

          2. Optimistic Prime*

            Yeah, I was rejected for some federal jobs doing HIV research in public health (aka work I had already been doing for several years) and in a few cases I was told I was rejected because only vets were referred for reviews. I always wondered if it were really possible that there were THAT many veterans with PhDs in public health and specific expertise in HIV in the specific populations I worked with (and I worked with some pretty specific underserved populations).

            Now this comment makes it sound like no, in some cases they just get referred forward regardless.

            And I don’t begrudge vet preference at all – my husband is a vet, and I have several veterans and active duty personnel in my family. Just there has to be a smarter system.

      2. Mike C.*

        That sort of preference wouldn’t be needed if the rest of the hiring managers out there didn’t presume that every vet was some PTSD-addled nutcase ready to go off at the drop of a hat. I work with a ton of vets and they’re just normal people.

        1. Lora*

          I think someone mentioned it in the open thread Friday, but one of the things I LOVE about working with vets is how unflappable they are. Also how organized they are about meetings – everything lasts like 20 minutes, you get the meeting business done and then go do your real work. It’s glorious.

          I’m sure it’s the result of philosophical perspective: when you’ve been through some rough times (by which I mean, severe illnesses, multiple loved ones dying, people shooting at you, explosions, abuse, nasty divorces, etc) the fact that on page 357 someone wrote the wrong date isn’t worth getting worked up over. And then people think you don’t care about your job, as the open thread poster mentioned. I care deeply about my job, but I can’t get worked up into a tizzy about much short of actual safety hazards.

          1. Artemesia*

            I had a huge national research project that required high levels of organization and competence to run with multiple data collections etc etc. Neither I nor my co-principal investigator are all that fabulously organized for the day to day mundane. We hired an army sgt who was a grad student; she made all the difference in the world. I don’t think we would have had the successful project and subsequent book without her excellent work.

            1. JustaTech*

              I worked with a lab who’s lab manager had been an officer on a nuclear sub. Talk about unflappable! “Bob, the donor fainted!” “On it.” “Bob, there’s liquid nitrogen all over the floor! “On it.”

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            At first I thought you were just referring to their very regimented military training, which would definitely have its benefits in and of itself.

          3. Optimistic Prime*

            YES. The project manager on my team is a vet and it is glorious. When we have a 30 minute meeting it is ACTUALLY a 30 minute meeting and he gets through all the agenda items. He mentioned before that he’s heard feedback from others that he doesn’t spend enough time on niceties and such and I was like “NO, never change!” (He’s a great guy and loves to chat…just after we finish the business!)

          1. Sylvia*

            It’s also not great for people who are unable to serve in the military because of medical conditions, or whose religious or other beliefs prohibit it.

            1. Mel*

              Yes! I am medically ineligible for military service, which was crushing when I found out. I’m an Army brat and had planned on doing Navy ROTC for college. I got a full scholarship through another program, but it took some time for me to recover from that blow.

        2. fposte*

          I suspect that hiring practice is illegal under USERRA; I know it would be in my state.

      3. emma2*

        I interned for a US govt agency once, and in one of the weekly staff meetings, the team I was working for mentioned that they had to interview a really incompetent candidate. They reasoned the only reason his application must have gotten through was because he had veteran’s preference. They also would complain of a really bad employee who applied through Peace Corps preference.

    4. Soon to be former fed*

      Non-veteran status doesn’t mean an application gets automatically rejected for federal jobs. Thirty year Federal employee here.

      1. Soon to be former fed*

        Also, over the years I have lost several positions to veterans. You just have to hope that you score higher without preference than they do with it. I have also successfully applied for many jobs. Philosophically, I have no problem with veterans preference, they face discrimination that they shouldn’t. I worked with some wonderful vets at the DVA.

      2. Mananana*

        +1. I’ve worked as a Fed for 33 years, and have been involved in the hiring process the last 5. It’s a complicated system, but non-Vets are not auto-rejected. However, if a non-vet is chosen over a vet, we have to have a dang good, quantifiable reason.

      3. deets*

        They do if a sufficient number of veterans apply. I’ve gotten similar auto-emails from usajobs that my application was discarded without consideration due to the number of applicants with veterans preference.

        1. Lalaroo*

          Yeah, I’ve also gotten a rejection email saying explicitly that my application was not reviewed because so many vets applied that they rejected all non-vets. It definitely happens, although it may happen only at GS-09 and below or something.

          1. Optimistic Prime*

            Nope, it happens higher than that too. I applied for several GS-11 and GS-12 listings I was qualified for and got the same notification.

  3. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 I wonder if it could be due to applying several times in a short period. But it’s really hard to know. Alison is right: people get rejected for all sorts of reasons and while that can be hard to take it’s not a reflection of your worth. It sucks to lose out on an opportunity when you thought you had a shot. But it sounds like you have a great resume that’s suited to the sorts of jobs you’d like to get – and while it didn’t work out with this one employer, I bet there are others where you can find your fit. Good luck.

    1. ReanaZ*

      Honestly, if I was hiring and saw the same applications 3 times in 4 months, I’d reject it immediately too. That is way too much. Even if they are for different roles. It may work differently in some industries or giant companies, but in my niche, I have never seen a strong candidate do this.

      Also, this is unclear from your letter, but did you originally apply through a recruiter and are now applying directly? That may also be grounds for immediate rejection depending on their recruitment contracts.

      1. Tau*

        Yeah, that jumped out at me. It’s not clear from the letter whether OP is applying to genuinely different positions, but three applications to the same company within a four-month period seems… odd. And I’m worried that OP thinks the conversation with the recruiter at the start means she must be able to get a job at the company if she just keeps applying. The recruiter could be wrong, things might have changed since that conversation, the CEO might have hated the colour of OP’s shirt at the first interview and blacklisted her… whether the latest rejection was an automated screening one, someone going “seriously, her again?”, or something else, at three rejections it’s probably time to move on.

      2. Mike C.*

        If you’re hiring for that many positions, why would it be unreasonable? If you’re a larger firm that needs multiple related jobs across several different divisions (which isn’t always going to be noted in job ad), why wouldn’t you want a qualified candidate applying to each one until they were ultimately rejected or hired?

        1. Rat in the Sugar*

          Yeah, I understand how it would seem weird if they weren’t related, but there’s plenty of times it can make sense if the positions are similar. If I’m an accountant and I see a large company has openings for, say, Accounts Receivable, Staff Accountant, and Payroll, I might apply to all of those within a four month period while I was unemployed and I don’t think it would be very strange. I’m qualified for all of them and they’re very related positions. Now, if I applied for, say, Staff Accountant, Office Manager, and Software Engineer over the same period I can see how that could come off oddly.

          1. Pam*

            Yes, at my university, several departments may be hiring for similar positions- advisors, admin, etc. I’ve been on multiple committees and seen applicants multiple times.

          2. Decimus*

            Alternatively they could be the same position but in different locations – say applicant is applying to be Office Manager, is otherwise qualified, and there are different listings for Office Manager at locations in New York City, Hartford, Philadelphia, and Boston that turn up over a four month period.

            A lot of it depends. But the automated system may still be biased against applying “too often” even if you’re qualified. Who knows how those things really work?

          3. Stranger than fiction*

            Conversely, three applications all for customer service rep I might seem odd, which is probably what reanaz was thinking.

        2. AMPG*

          Not only that, it can be a point in an applicant’s favor if they seem to really want to work for your specific organization. The hiring software at an old job always showed us an applicant’s history, and we would often bring someone in who was applying for the same position on several different teams (each team did its own hiring), since it was good for us if they valued our organization that much.

          1. ReanaZ*

            Huh. I feel exactly opposite about this, although again, it may be a size/industry thing. I could see how this would be different in a global enterprise hiring 30 accountants than in my mid-sized nonprofit, but I have frequently seen people who really, really want to work for my org apply for a large percentage of openings over a 6 month period. It does not make me think “wow, so dedicated to our work!”, it makes me think “wow this person is so caught up in the *idea* of us that they’ve probably put very little thought into the *reality* including whether or not they’re a good fit for the role”. In my experience, maybe they are for 1 out of the 5 they applied to, but the act of applying for 4 roles they aren’t a good fit for is so off-putting I wouldn’t even phone interview them if I had other options.

          2. Snazzy Hat*

            When I applied for my current job, I also applied for two other jobs with the same title and department but on different teams. My first in-person interview was with the three team managers. It really helped my confidence, in that the panel seemed to say, “we want you in this department, but we’re not yet sure which team would be best for you.”

            Plus I found out about the department when I attended a job fair and had a conversation which basically went thus:
            “I love being a customer of your great company, and I want a job where I can do X Y and Z, especially because that’s what my background is in and I love doing that stuff, but I want to avoid V and W.”
            “Oh, you should apply to the Epsilon Department, they do X Y and Z all day, V is extremely limited, and they don’t do W at all.”

    2. NotoriousMCG*

      Actually, I am the person who forwards applications on to the hiring managers where I work and this is very likely. If the applicant is in the pipeline for one position, I don’t forward their later app to a different hiring manager so that we don’t have managers stepping on one another’s toes.

      There are also several things that get an auto-rejection from us and if I happen to be looking at the applications at the time that someone applies with one of those qualities then they can get a rejection within minutes of the application even if they are very qualified. This generally happens when they currently work with a company that we have a relationship and non-compete agreement with.

      1. Mike C.*

        It would be cool if you notified them of the conflict of interest so they didn’t continue wasting their time. Presuming of course that the conflict of interest is a legal one rather than an informal non-poaching agreement.

        1. Talia*

          Especially when those informal non-poaching agreements are usually unethical and sometimes illegal.

  4. MommyMD*

    I’d be leery of hiring anyone who is pestering me with questions because they should know better. And asking about absences before she even has an interview? Bad sign imo.

    1. Elle the new Fed*

      Sounds like the person may be a student with little experience in applying for jobs. In that context it may be more forgiveable, yeah?

        1. Geoffrey B*

          Yeah, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that somebody’s told them “ask lots of questions to show you’re interested in the job” and so they’re coming up with filler.

        2. fposte*

          It may be *understandable,* but I wouldn’t say it’s completely forgiveable; it will still hurt them in their application with me. This is the old “don’t assume your candidate will be completely different than how they present” rule.

          1. hbc*

            Yes. I can even forgive it, but I don’t promise to ignore it. Even if the chances are 95% that they took some terrible advice and 5% that they’ll be a pain in the butt, I’m going to go with the roughly equal candidate who doesn’t have that 5% against them.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        They may also not realise how the application process works and may think anyone who applies for a campus role will definitely get it.

        Source: I used to manage student workers and we definitely had people assume this.

      2. JamieS*

        Possibly slightly more forgivable than if it were someone with extensive work experience but for me the forgivability is tempered by the fact the applicant is likely at least a grad student. By the stage of someone’s life, I’d expect her to know not to play 20 questions with the interviewer before even submitting an application. Regardless it sounds like the OP has already been more than accommodating. Best to cut her off now before 20 questions turns into 5000 questions.

        1. OP #4*

          Absolutely. And now I’ve seen her resume, so I know she’s got experience outside of academia. So I wonder if she is just getting bad advice.

        1. Jess*

          I don’t know – while I think it IS odd to be asking questions in that amount of detail before even applying*, I can kind of see someone who’s been burned before wanting to ask about that kind of thing – like thinking “In my last job when we called out we had to organise our own replacement even if we were really sick/there wasn’t a policy and we got told off for not notifying SOMEONE no matter which manager we called/payroll never got told to pay us our sick days because the manager was hopeless” etc. and it becoming something that loomed large when considering pros and cons of jobs.

          *”I know, I’ll show them I’m interested and ENGAGED and make myself memorable…!!”

            1. Taylor Swift*

              Geez, I don’t think Jess is trying to say that this is okay. Just explaining why a student might not know better.

              1. Zombii*

                Seriously, especially since a student is more likely to have been working in those “while going to school” jobs that are all about unpaid sick days and draconian timeclock policies.

                I wish I had the balls to ask a potential employer to disclose any really stupid policies they have before I waste my time applying—and I extra-wish that asking that would work. :(

          1. Wheezy Weasel*

            I’ve had this narrowed thinking manifest itself in other areas of my life, too. I once irritated a car salesman so much by trying to pre-empt all of their tricks that they refused to sell a car to me at all. While accepting one job offer, I made the HR director laugh when I asked if we got to choose our own hotel room selections during business travel because I’d been thinking about all of the room-sharing stories and horribly cheap employers we talk about here on AAM.

        2. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

          Bingo! I’d also be wary of someone who is only focused on vacation and time off.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          It could simply be that call-offs were handled horribly at her last job (“All sicknesses must be approved 4 weeks in advance…”) and so now she asks about it up front. For any single specific wacky thing that an old employer might have done, asking as a quick screen before she’s committed too much time to the application might be understandable. The problem is having a lot more than one such question.

          1. Audiophile*

            I worked for a company (haven’t we all?) that only offered vacation and all non vacation requests for time off had to be made 4 hours in advance. This didn’t always work, like the time I had mild food poisoning and called an hour early. And sometimes it worked extremely well, like the time I had a car accident and called out almost 12 hours early. Pretty sure I still got in trouble, since no one liked to cover my role.

          2. Sylvia*

            I thought of that, too. I’ve asked some weird questions because I was leaving a workplace that handled something badly and I hadn’t quite recalibrated yet.

            I knew that the issue was bad enough to want to avoid it, but not that it was bad enough that I shouldn’t anticipate a need to ask about it.

            I don’t think that this should change anyone’s reactions to applicants’ questions, by the way. It’s just one of the reasons people ask these questions.

        4. PaperTowel*

          I don’t know if this is fair… I have a chronic pain disability that is well managed these days, but in past jobs the incredibly stringent attendance policy has really, really shot me in the foot (two instances of absence in six months means disciplinary? How many healthy people never get sick twice in six months?). So I can see how the workplace attendance policy would be very important to me in considering a new job. I require some flexibility to schedule hospital appointments around work (making up the hours of course) and a place that is super strict (two absences in six months means disciplinary, which escalates if you’re off again within six more months, until you’re fired) isn’t one I’d consider unless I had few other options.

          People without disabilities tend to see sick absence as an avoidable rarity or something that indicates tardiness in my experience.

          Having said that, I would never ask questions about attendance with a new job until I received an offer because the optics look bad… as if you’re already predicting you’re going to need it before you get there. I might know I’ll need it, but I’m not going to give the company an opportunity to discriminate against me until the offer is in the bag.

    2. kittymommy*

      I would also include in the email a line reminding her that these things may be covered in an interview of and when the person actually applies for the job. Sounds obvious but I would not be surprised if she thinks this conversation expressing her interest could circumvent the actual application process. (I’ve had people assume talking to me at restaurant about a job opening that our 1400+ organization meant they didn’t actually have to apply for anything. I would just”get them on the list”.

      1. OP #4*

        Maybe she’s trying a cost benefit comparison of an on-campus vs off-campus job? I can’t imagine the Starbucks manager having time for tons of detail either, though.

  5. Ramona Flowers*

    #3 As the context switch is the main problem, could you just turn the notifications off and tell people you’re finding the chat programme distracts you so you’re not going to put it on constantly? This may not be an option – I know some places mandate having these things on – but just putting it out there.

    1. CoffeeLover*

      This is a good suggestion. People can still send thanks but in an email that won’t distract you in the moment. I turned off the chat feature at my old job (I would never log in), but that was more to avoid getting pulled into extra work ;). I found it definitely cut down on the amount of people reaching out though, which seems like it would be a bonus for you. Email takes more effort I suppose.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Agree. Our IM system has the option to turn it off. Many people have done that here. Email would be less intrusive if it’s a matter of breaking concentration.

    3. OP #3*

      Unfortunately, I definitely need the chat app open to do my job. I’ve been engaged in a long fight (but a polite one!) with the managers about what things are worth notifications in the main channels and have pretty much been shut down. Luckily, I don’t need to worry much about being labelled a curmudgeon because my department already considers me one :P

      1. Lab Monkey*

        Sorry if this is too halp-y, but if it’s slack, you can set keywords for alerts and then have it notify you only if those are used, even with dms. This might cut down on the alerts and let you curate your notifications more.

  6. Ramona Flowers*

    #5 As you’ve checked that you definitely talked to them (and presumably that you hadn’t somehow mixed them up with another candidate, or been given wrong details by someone else) I’m wondering if this could be some kind of weird new gumption technique. I can just imagine the sorts of people who give lousy, stupid advice – the kind that results in recruiters getting sent things like framed selfies – hitting on this as some kind of ingenious way to gumption your way back in. I really hope I’m wrong and the candidate is just confused but nothing surprises me any more.

    1. Magenta Sky*

      If I came to believe that was the case, I’d probably email back saying “I certainly interviewed somebody *claiming* to be you. If you’re certain it wasn’t you, I feel I should report the identity theft to the police, and so should you.” See if they still claim it wasn’t them. (And if it *wasn’t* them, you *should* contact the police. But we all know it was.)

          1. Magenta Sky*

            Both involve the false use of social security numbers. Yes, it’s a crime. How interested the cops would be depends on a lot of factors. If, for instance, you work in a defense industry, or anything remotely connected to it, the little light bulb that says “terrorist” will go off in somebody’s head. If it’s a financial institution – a bank – well, arresting embezzlers make for good PR, too.

            Some departments take such complaints pretty seriously, and have detectives assigned to such cases.

            Or maybe it’s been a slow week.

            But the odds of something like this turning out to be identity theft are nil. The point is to convey to the yahoo who is playing games that this isn’t a game they can play without potential inconvenience.

            1. fposte*

              I agree with you that what cops come out for will depend on the jurisdiction, but in the US, most jobs wouldn’t require a SSN until actual hiring (or possibly a pre-hire background check). Merely interviewing wouldn’t involve a SSN for most jobs.

              1. DecorativeCacti*

                When I was applying for my first job in high school, I had to put my social into quite a few online applications. This was all for retail. Maybe they’ve lightened up in the last 10 years, but I couldn’t even submit an application if I left the field blank. I was even auto-rejected because I made a typo when entering my SSN once.

                1. fposte*

                  Ah, you’re right–I’m thinking office work, and I bet in a lot of other fields it’s not true.

                2. Talia*

                  Municipal government jobs, too– it’s actually about to become illegal in this state for them to ask for my SSN on the job application, but I don’t think that’s actually going to stop them until someone sues every individual town over it.

              2. Magenta Sky*

                Taking steps that show a clear intent to commit a crime is, generally speaking, also a crime. Less serious, true, but still a crime.

                And again, I don’t believe for a second that’s what’s going on here. That’s just a message to the applicant that their game is a bad idea.

                1. fposte*

                  Sure. I’m just saying that it doesn’t currently, in most office processes, involve the false use of social security numbers.

                2. Colette*

                  Sure, but pretending to be someone else isn’t illegal on its own. I can tell people my name is Neville Longbottom if I want. It’s only illegal if I’m doing it to defraud or commit tax fraud or for another illegal purpose.

            2. JHunz*

              But I don’t think this does involve the false use of a social security number – this is an interview the candidate scheduled and was aware of. If someone else grabbed their phone and did the interview, that’s a really strange thing to have happen but it wouldn’t involve the SSN at all. I’d be really weirded out if a company asked me to verify my SSN during a phone interview.

        1. Lata*

          Actually, it is.

          it’s just not something the cops would ever pursue.

          The issue isn’t the criminality. The issue is the cops wouldn’t do anything because even if the person confessed, there’s likely to be no jail time and no fines are in no real punishment

          1. Colette*

            What law is it breaking? I mean, someone could do it in conjunction with breaking the law, but in that case it’s the other illegal activity that’s the problem.

        2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          It’s identity theft if someone else is applying/interviewing and hoping to gain employment using someone else’s name. Probably not what happened here, but that is a real thing that people do.

          1. Colette*

            Not really. Using someone else’s job authorization (e.g. License, SSN, SIN, etc.) would be illegal. I don’t think names qualify, or all the John Smiths in the world would have a problem.

    2. JamieS*

      I also hope you’re wrong but now that you bring it up that actually makes a lot of sense.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I really hope I’m wrong! Because how would it go if it worked? Do you both have to pretend you don’t recognise each other’s voice?

        1. JamieS*

          From the applicant side I’d assume he’d be banking on either having a different interviewer or the interviewer not recognizing his voice. From the interviewer side, he’d have no reason to go along with it so I’d imagine he’d call it out as soon as he realized.

          Clearly not a very well thought out *technique* but then again when are they ever? Cheap tricks are cheap for a reason.

    3. Mookie*

      Knocking wood this isn’t so, because: ugh, poor everyone involved. I should think there’d be more ass-kissing or humble-bragging, though, if this was an attempt at fobbing off and/or “rejecting” a rejection. I’m struggling to imagine the mental gymnastics of believing you can destabilize a person’s memory such that, even if they were to take you at their word and re-schedule something, they’re not going to eventually pick up on the scam. It’s like people who insert obvious lies into a CV: it may, temporarily, get you through a primary screening, but do you really want to live through the later conversation with a hiring manager as they confront you with your deception?

      I did have this experience, but on the applicant’s side, given a thanks-for-the-interview-but-no-thanks e-mail a few hours before an in-person interview they’d already re-scheduled twice. That was not the end of their myriad mixed messages and general botchery, so it boded exactly what you’d expect*. This probably rarely happens to well-organized interviewers. Double-check your notes and diary and whatever else you need to, LW5, if only for your own peace of mind, and then move on, I’d say.

      *sweet eff-all

      1. Liane*

        She says she already checked to make sure she hadn’t mixed up applicants, and found the interview notes before she wrote in.

      2. Crow*

        When I first read it, I saw it as classic gas lighting – making people doubt their own memories. Typically it depends on being able to do it consistently to the same person over a long period of time to cause a destabilization, and is a staple of abusive relationships.

        This is a wild guess, but maybe that applicant has used this technique successfully in their personal life and it’s automatic enough for them to use it in other venues.

        1. Engineer Woman*

          I was thinking this as well but several commenters below indicated this had actually happened to them as the candidates – that the recruiter/interviewer was the mistaken one and at least one person even had proof that the interview couldn’t have taken place.

          Even if the candidate did gaslight, I doubt a second interview would be anymore favourable so I’m not sure how it would help to secure the job.

          1. Snazzy Hat*

            {chants} Take back the hat! Take back the hat!

            That’s seriously a reflex of mine when the demise of formal hats — especially the fedora — comes into conversation. It’s like an angry mantra.

    4. Jesmlet*

      My first thought was she just wanted another go at the phone interview so she decided to imply someone picked up the phone and pretended to be her or something equally ridiculous.

    5. Taylor Swift*

      That would be way, way, way down on my list of possible reasons for that reply. I don’t think it’s worth jumping to that conclusion when there are way more plausible explanations.

      1. Shay*

        Thank you. I think it’s far more probable she wasn’t actually interviewed than some bizarre conspiracy/trick. (To what? Get the OP back on the phone? This person accepted the rejection.)

        1. Fifty Foot Commute*

          Oh, good, I’m glad it’s not just me. It seems like there’s probably an innocuous explaination here.

  7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, I want to gently push back on the idea that a chat message relaying a person’s thanks is “this thing that doesn’t mean anything.” You also mentioned a few times that these are empty/insincere thanks, or that the gratitude is inappropriate or unwarranted because you’re just doing your job.

    I might be perceiving this differently because I would probably be one of your offending coworkers. But having worked with folks who were barely competent (or were competent but miserable to work with), when I get to work with someone who does things properly, quickly, and well, I do feel a sense of sincere gratitude… even when I know that the task was part of that person’s job, anyway. And if it’s a particularly time-consuming task or a bit of a slog, I’m grateful that they took on an unglamorous task and completed it properly and without complaint.

    It’s likely that many of your coworkers are saying “thank you” as a nicety, but it’s also possible that they’re saying “thank you” because they genuinely appreciate the quality of your work and your contribution. I know that it may feel distracting or unnecessary, but if you can, I think it would make the experience less annoying/obnoxious to you if you reframe the exchange in your head.

    It may also be worth scanning Gary Chapman’s The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace—it sounds like you and your coworkers have different expectations/styles for how you communicate appreciation. That doesn’t make your styles right or wrong, but I find that if I understand where someone is coming from, it’s easier for me to dial back my annoyance.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      It reminds me of the “How are you?” = “I acknowledge your existence, my fellow human” discussion, where “Thanks” in this context probably means “I acknowledge your simplifying of my work day, fellow human” rather than “I am jaw-dropped that you would take time from your day to help me with my problems, and want to acknowledge that.”

      1. (Different) Rebecca*

        ^^This. I just replied “thanks, I’ll get right on that” to a notification of a technical issue with the books I need to order, not because the admin went above and beyond, but because I need her to know that I saw the message and will address it.

        1. LBK*

          Right – often in this context, “thanks” is just an acknowledgment and closing of the loop on whatever interaction you’re having. Don’t read it so literally.

      2. Sylvia*


        Or if someone’s email system doesn’t have read receipts or they’ve disabled read receipts, it only means, “I got the thing. Message received.”

        It’s such a small thing to read into.

    2. Hellanon*

      Yes, as you say, it’s real gratitude that the task was completely calmly and efficiently, without me having to follow up, and an acknowledgment that I am in receipt of whatever in was and appreciate their efforts. It’s real, and it’s a way of closing the loop that furthers good working relationships.

    3. LQ*

      #3 Thank you:
      As someone who is sort of on the OPs side for I don’t need to be thanked for just doing my job, I know that saying thank you makes a HUGE difference in the day to day working of working. I had a project a few months ago that required me to work obscenely long hours in a place known for no one works overtime, and certainly not that much and had me doling out tasks to several coworkers for about a month. I was trying to show appreciation (I did appreciate it, but I was exhausted beyond reason) and then one day for the second task in a row I just told one of them to do it, like it was their job to do what I told them to do.

      A lead worker said to the person I’d assigned the task “she means thank you”. And I did. But for me it was also I have to say it EVERY SINGLE DAMN TIME!? Yes. Apparently here and for that I do. (I may have been brusquer than normal, but I don’t think even upon reflection I was rude.)

      So I have been trained by the environment and interactions to say thank you, even when someone does their job in a merely adequate manner. Partly because yes, I am glad they did the thing and didn’t stuff it into a circular file as they have been known to do, partly because it makes me seem like a nicer person that I have a tendency to be, partly because it is acknowledging a fellow human.

      On the tickets and the like side, I get requests for things all the time, and while I don’t care about a thank you, I do want a “this thing you did successfully resolved my issue”, and if people say that by saying “thank you” then I’m totally ok with it.

      All in all? You gotta come to grips with this is the way the work place works. It takes a half a second to glance at the window, see it says “thanks” and move on with your life.

    4. Beezus*

      I’d agree, if this was something as simple as someone replying “thanks!” to an email or saying “please get me this information, thanks!” Based on the OP’s letter, though, that’s not what’s happening – she’s taking tickets in one system to work on, and she’s getting messages from coworkers in an entirely separate application, to thank her for working their ticket. To me, that is odd and too disruptive of a way to express gratitude for an everyday level of effort. It’s especially odd that it seems to be happening when she’s taken the assignment, not even when it’s complete.

      Imagine ordering a pizza from one of those chain places that lets you see the progress of your order online, and when you see the update that “Zac is making your pizza fresh for you right now,” calling the pizza place and thanking Zac personally for making your pizza. The problem isn’t that it’s rude to thank Zac, it’s just that the method of thanking is outsized and disruptive, for the level of assistance you’re getting.

      1. calonkat*

        Beezus, this is how I’m reading this too. The OP is getting thanks for accepting the task, not for completing it.

        I’ve sent notes to our IT people when they’ve accepted/been assigned one of my tickets, but I try to only do that when I KNOW them, and have actual information that was hard to put into the ticket system (multiple screenshots/long description/cookies they like). I’d not bother them with “thank you for agreeing to work on my issue”.

        The only thing I’ve got as a possible solution is to determine if this happens to others in your area as well. If so, then maybe management could work on the people who are frequently problems with too many thanks.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Oh, that’s interesting—I didn’t read it as thanks for taking on this task, but I can see why that would be particularly annoying.

        The part about it being via chat vs. ticket system doesn’t surprise me, and I don’t think it’s intended to be obtrusive. When I worked for the feds, you had to cue all messages through the ticketing system, but replying “thanks” to that system spammed the entire IT department and actively impeded all of their work. Because people use the chat system, anyway, for work-related functions, it was normal to send “thanks!” by chat instead of by email. This was the case for non-ticket-based work, too.

        But if the replies are “thanks!” for taking the ticket, then I can see why OP is feeling so annoyed. And in that case, I agree with Ramona and others that if there’s a way to hide IMs or ensure that they’re less distracting, that would be ideal. I don’t think it will be as effective/realistic to try to change coworkers’ communication habits.

      3. OP #3*

        Yep, exactly! It’s purely the fact that I am assigned, not that I’ve brought the issue to a conclusion. In some cases, where it’s very urgent, I don’t mind the thanks for even the assignment. It’s mainly the ho-hum things assigned that getting thanked for throws me off my game.

    5. Soon to be former fed*

      I so agree with. I genuinely appreciate timeliness, competence, and courtesy. I complain loudly when these things are missing, but I like to compliment when these things are present.

      OP, I recommend that you turn off your IM and recognize that this is a good problem to have! I would keep track of these thank you’s for my performance review, but that’s just me.

    6. Turquoise Cow*

      Yeah, I used to hate when people would reply with thanks, but I started thinking of it less as a “Thank you so much for putting in the effort — to do your job that you get paid for,” and more of a “I appreciate this on a personal level,” and “This is an acknowledgment that I have received the thing you sent me.”

      I then began to wonder when I sent things to people who didn’t reply with a thank you, if they’d gotten the work at all. And when I didn’t reply to others with a thank you, they would sometimes follow up with a call or visit to make sure I’d gotten what they sent. Is it annoying to get a bunch of emails or messages that say “THANKS!” and nothing else? A little. But it’s never been the most annoying part of my job(s), so I deal with it.

      1. OP #3*

        I think Alison and the rest of you wonderful commentators are right. It’s just something I need to deal with (which I’ve been doing up until now.) I was hoping Alison had a magic bullet though!

    7. OP #3*

      Oh I apologize if I communicated in any way that the gratitude was insincere; I know my coworkers actually mean it when they say it. I think your second paragraph is probably what I need to just adjust to as I do have coworkers whose mere presence being assigned would probably cause less confidence.

  8. TootsNYC*

    T#3, finding the thank-you messages unsatisfying:

    The only part of your story that I think you can act on successfully is the interruptiveness.

    I would say that you directly explain that a: “because our work is fast-paced and our new assignments come via the chat, I wanted to ask you to not send thank-you’s on the chat. I’m on to the next problem, and it yanks me back.”

    But then I’m thinking–how do you know it’s safe to move on, or that their issue is/isn’t resolved?

    I also find myself annoyed by emails that only say thank you, but there is value in knowing the issue/convo is over. So I reframe thank-you emails as “all clear’s.”

    1. Mookie*

      I also find myself annoyed by emails that only say thank you, but there is value in knowing the issue/convo is over. So I reframe thank-you emails as “all clear’s.”

      Yes. There was a discussion about this in an earlier post, where the “thanks” indicated that the information was received and was complete and correct. I think the consensus on this was that is a cultural or office- or field-specific habit, and that sometimes it’s not worth pushing back on, particularly if you frequently find yourself on the receiving end of it from multiple colleagues / direct reports / managers.

      1. ancolie*

        At my previous job, a friend (and coworker) and I used to joke about how “thanks!” was The Signoff for 99.99999999999% of emails. We’d invent an email (in conversation!) like,

        “Mike, I’m extremely disappointed in how you handled (blah). If you do that again, you will be FIRED.


    2. Anna*

      I occasionally send such thank-you emails, and I usually mean them as an ‘all-clear’, issue resolved, end of conversation. (What Alison suggested in her last line: ‘a confirmation that whatever work you completed for them was received and met their needs and is now being closed out.’) I also often hesitate whether I should send those emails, because I realise that people have full inboxes already, but often decide it’s still nice to send, as appreciation and closure.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I freelance; a “thank you” email in either direction translates as “I have just received the material I expected from you according to the schedule (e.g. ‘outline of chapter 4, with art’).” It’s like an automated ‘confirm receipt’ on a package.

    4. Allison*

      Exactly. When I submit a project, I’m not looking for a cookie or a medal, but a quick “this looks good, thanks” lets me know the project is, indeed, finished and I don’t need to add or tweak anything else.

    5. LBK*

      I kinda get this…but to me that would come off as a bit condescending, that your work is sooooo important and intense that you can’t be bothered with the petty gratitude of your coworkers. I suppose it’s hard to tell without knowing more about what exactly the OP’s job entails but it’s not like they’re bursting into the operating room mid-surgery.

      Multitasking is part of most jobs, and if something as minor as a one-word chat that takes less than a second to read and close is genuinely affecting your ability to stay focused on work, you might consider if you have some kind of medical issue and/or if there’s something else going on that makes these messages more grating or disruptive than they should be. There’s a million potential distractions in any office, from various random noises to emails to people stopping by your desk to your own daydreaming. All things considered, people saying “thanks” feels like it ranks low on the list of things that would bother me.

      1. Fictional Butt*

        Yes. And it’s also worth recognizing that the distraction goes both ways–if I don’t send or receive a closing-the-loop message then I keep wondering if the loop is closed. If you ask your coworkers not to send you these “meaningless” messages because they are “distracting”, you are neglecting an important part of your job: engaging in communication to keep everyone on the same page.

      2. OP #3*

        My job is absolutely not on the level of surgery but it is a very mentally-challenging job that failure to perform well can feasibly cause thousands of dollars worth of damages. When I am stuck in a track, a slight distraction can be a decent-sized issue.

        1. LBK*

          How do you handle other distractions like those I mentioned (people stopping by your desk, coworkers having conversations nearby, etc)?

  9. Magenta Sky*

    #3: Grace is a skill that can be learned. It’s more difficult for some (like me, for instance, I really do feel your pain), but how you react to the social niceties of the office is not about you, it’s about how you are perceived. Figure out the polite way to say “You’re welcome,” and do that.

    Having it happen a times when it interrupts you is a different thing, and you should be able to turn off the notices when you need to not be interrupted. That’s a genuine issue you can address with your manager, but be prepared to give specific examples, with details, of how it negatively affects your work.

    But trying to get coworkers to stop thanking you is a losing game. It’s possible to do so, but the cure is worse than the disease. They’re stop being sociable to you in other ways, too, and some of those ways will almost certainly affect your work.

    I’ve learned to think of pretending to be appreciative as part of the job. If I don’t that that, I’m not doing all of my job.

  10. David St. Hubbins*

    OK. I just submitted a comment but it just disappeared.
    I’ll try again
    #3 If your situation is anything like mine, I understand why you’re annoyed. Maybe it’s the way people thank you. Eg. I am working on a project with a couple of other people. I’m responsible for a certain part of it, and I’m handling it quite well. There’s another guy who is also involved in this job, but the task was given to me. But every time I do what I’m supposed to (order components that need to be ordered, send information that needs to be sent etc.) he thanks me, as if I’m doing him a big favour. Just last week we worked long hours to complete a part of the job, and at the end he said I was a great help. Help? Really? That kind of “appreciation” is actually really insulting.

    So maybe you feel that people treat you as a helper and not someone who is responsible for actual work. In that case, you have my sympathy. I don’t know what you can do about it, sorry.

    1. Allison*

      Yes, thank you! I had a coworker at my last job who treated me like her little helper, and the way she thanked me for her contributions often felt patronizing and borderline infantilizing. It sounded like the appreciation you might show your 3 year-old for helping you with the groceries when they just toddled on in with the lightest, smallest bag, or for helping with the cookies when they just stirred the dough a little and messily dropped it onto the pan – “THANK YOOOUUUU, you’re soooooo helpful!” or “Allison has done *such a good job* helping me!” in a high-pitched voice when said verbally, I could almost feel a figurative head-pat in there somewhere. Yuck.

      “Thanks, Allison!” or “This looks good, thanks!” or “Thank you for all your hard work” are fine.

      Maybe a good general rule is that if someone is doing their job, acknowledge what they do as “work,” not “help,” even if their work does support you in some way. Save “thanks for helping with this” when they step outside the scope of their job to assist others.

    2. Green T*

      I have this same kind of situation with a co-worker who has been with the company less time than me. It feels condescending or something. She’s not senior to me and it’s always for doing my part of the job on a project. I try my best to ignore it, but some days are harder than others.

  11. Toph*

    I am not OP#3 but I completely identify with this sentiment, not so much from the chat angle, but from the “this is just my job” angle. I am not sure if this is the case in that person’s situation, but for me at a previous job I did frequently get profuse thanks for things that were everyday, normal, if-I-hadn’t-done-it-that-quickly-or-well-I’d-be-reprimanded kind of things. So at least for me, it was a bit of a protest too much kind of situation. The other thing that exacerbated my irritation there was there were occasions when I went way above and beyond, really pulled a rabbit out of my hat, and on those occasions…zippo. So another thing that can contribute to annoyance at expressed thanks over the mundane is: when it’s accompanied by lack of appreciation for something that actually took special skill or effort. I don’t know if that factors in to the OP’s situation, but that is one reason why excessive thanks for the norm can breed resentment. (In my case I do mean excessive, no less than six exclamation points, just disproportionate to whatever I did. I’m not referring to just a straight up “thanks!” which might as well connote “I acknowledge we’re done here.”)
    It’s good to acknowledge and appreciate people doing good work, but it can feel disingenuous when it happens for the everyday, but not the remarkable. And on the other side of that, it can actually undermine the intended appreciation because if it is genuine, at least in my case, it made me feel like “why do I bother busting my butt in (extreme situation), no one seems to realize how much effort that took, and how little (thing they’re so thankful about) did, nor the effect of either on the company.” That’s not to say I’d be snide or ungracious when faced with such thanks, but it had the opposite of the intended effect: it made me feel unappreciated.
    I don’t think there’s any productive way to nudge colleagues not to thank; getting off chat during intense work is the best way to go if allowed. But I did want to pipe in that I completely sympathize with the situation of feeling frustrated as described by OP3. You are not alone.

    1. David St. Hubbins*

      Exactly! Don’t thank me as if I was doing you a favour. It feels like they’re saying “good job little buddy” with a pat on the head.

    2. veggiewolf*

      “…frequently get profuse thanks for things that were everyday, normal, if-I-hadn’t-done-it-that-quickly-or-well-I’d-be-reprimanded kind of things. So at least for me, it was a bit of a protest too much kind of situation.”

      You hit the nail on the head here, at least for me. Also, our ticketing system reopens closed tickets when a response comes in and those “Thanks!” messages mean I have to take additional time to close the ticket again so my metrics are accurate.

      1. hbc*

        See, on that one, I think you can give people that info and ask them not to send thanks info through the ticketing system. If they’re set on thanking you, they’ll use email or messaging, but I’m sure they don’t want to be causing you extra work.

        1. Yorick*

          Yes, you could add this info to the message when you resolve the ticket (something like “please don’t respond to this message as it will reopen the ticket”). I would definitely appreciate knowing this.

          1. LQ*

            Small change but I would include something at the bottom that was “Responding to this message will reopen the ticket.” If someone wants to reopen the ticket (you didn’t fix my problem dangit!) then they can do that. And the please don’t reads a little like please don’t say I didn’t do my job.

    3. miss_chevious*

      When people thank me for the rote things, I often internally have the reaction of Don Draper: THAT’S WHAT THE MONEY IS FOR.

      I’ve also anecdotally found that people who say thank you with the exclamation points are sometimes the very same people who don’t think any other appreciation (in the form of good evaluations or tangible rewards) is necessary. There’s a dude in my office who’s know for being effusive in his thank you emails and underpaying his people.

    4. LBK*

      Hmmm, I think it might help you to consider that a lot of times people don’t know what’s hard and what’s easy from the outside. I get wildly disproportional hedging/thank yous sometimes when I get requests – eg extreme hesitance to ask for something that takes me 5 seconds vs totally casual requests for something that will take a week. I just roll with it because the whole point of my job and why they’re asking me is that they’re relying on my expertise about something they can’t/don’t trust themselves to do on their own.

      I also think a lot of this is rooted in not genuinely feeling appreciated in other ways, as you seem to express re: the bigger, harder tasks you do take on. And ultimately, the recognition for those things shouldn’t fall on the receivers but on your manager, who should be tapped in to what you’re doing and make sure you’re getting compensated/recognized for it. If that’s not happening and you’re relying solely on your coworkers for validation, it’s always going to feel a little hollow and misallocated.

    5. LQ*

      I think a large part of that is people having no idea what is involved in the work you do (which can feel extremely frustrating). I get people all the time who hesitate to ask me for a 3 second fix but then ask for the moon with zero hesitation. It’s because they don’t know the difference. I would rather people ask me for everything and then I can educate them on the difference (when appropriate) or do it/claim it’s not doable (when appropriate). (I’ve also learned that sometimes it is easier and better to say it is not doable than to explain what it would take to do it.)

  12. JamieS*

    On OP #1, I think another consideration is how soon after the first email did the boss require OP’s coworker to send the second email. From my POV if I received an email from someone cancelling a meeting that included an apology and then the next day (or within a couple days) received yet another email giving a more detailed apology it’d strike me as off-putting even if I’d complained of cancelled meetings in the past. There may be other considerations at play in this particular instance but in most cases repeated emails about 1 cancelled meeting seems a little defensive like the coworker is trying to justify cancelling. At most I’d expect an apology within the cancellation email and maybe briefly reiterate the apology when the meeting actually occurs.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Yes – and if the reason was that the client/customer was making a complaint and demanding a more detailed apology it would have been reasonable for the boss to make that clear, not least to ensure that any apology covered the issues the customer was complaining about.

    2. Sue*

      This sounds like a political issue, is the grandness an elected official? They can obviously be extremely sensitive to constituents concerns.

  13. Sandy*

    Ugh, OP1. Your coworker has my complete sympathy.

    I would have a hard time not thinking of that as a power-play move designed to humiliate someone.

    I had a terrible boss once. She pulled something like this. Basically, she had promised an organization a lot of money, and then come back to tell me that I needed to find a way to make it happen. Well, we were part of a government agency. Surprise, surprise, there are tons of rules around who we can give a grant to, this org was about a hundred kinds of ineligible. Other than “but my boss promised”, there was no good reason for the rules to be bent in this case, and my boss didn’t have social capital to wrangle an exception.

    So I was ordered to sit down, face to face, with the guy she had promised the money to, to apologize and “explain myself” (my boss’ words) for him not getting the money.

    1. FiveWheels*

      Did you at least manage a satisfying non-apology apology in, along the lines of “I’m sorry my boss is an idiot”?

    2. Nervous Accountant*

      Ugh, I had to do this earlier this year–there was an issue with a client and TPTB directed my boss to instruct me to call the client and grovel to make things right. No lie they said “appeal to her womanly side” (aka be emotional and personal). It was humiliating and I was so close to calling it quits the next day.

      I understand trying ot make things right with clients, but I can’t think of many situations in which grovelling is OK.

  14. Mookie*

    LW3, I’m of the sincere-but-automatic expression of gratitude school of thought, but I can see why this is distracting for some people, especially if done with great frequency, and I can also imagine that because it distracts and grates it could make you dread receiving messages, thereby reducing your attention span even further. So, any chance your chat message system has an auto-reply function (noting that you’re working on something at the moment, but happy to engage if there’s a problem needing immediate attention / solving)? Or is chatting back and forth with colleagues otherwise a normal and necessary part of your day? If it isn’t, even having some one-click form replies queued up to respond to “thanks” might save you a few seconds without commanding all of your attention when you’d rather it be focused elsewhere.

    1. Morning Glory*

      I completely agree with this. I think that quite likely, the nature of different job descriptions means that some peoples’ jobs, like the OP’s merit ‘thank yous’ more than the people who are doing the thanking… so those people don’t know what a dozen thank you chats a day can do to your concentration.

      I also tend to thank people often and sincerely – even if I know a task is someone else’s job, if it makes my life easier then I am genuinely grateful to them. Doing my job is often dependent on other people doing their job – and once you’ve worked with enough people who have dropped the ball on something (myself included), a person just doing their job can seem like a marvelous thing, worthy of thanks.

      So, I hope that if the OP decides to push back that she focuses on the distraction element – which is actually hurting her productivity – and not the perceived lack of authenticity of the gratitude.

  15. Lars the Real Girl*

    #3 – Could you use the following script with people when they write to you?

    “No need to thank me! All just part of the job. [insert some sort of smiling emoji]”

    That’ll push your point across without being rude or coming off as curmudgeonly.

    And then if they still do it, some variation of “Really, no thanks required. Happy to help.”

    And then a series of “np” or no response and eventually most people will stop. (Some won’t, but that’s just a part of doing business.)

  16. OP #4*

    Slight update: I got her application this morning. Resume, perfunctory cover letter (maybe she thinks our back and forth stands in?), and no writing samples. I specifically ask for two. I get that part of my job is reminding students that the ‘real world’ is out there. But should I move on, or point out her oversight, or give her an excuse and blame technology: “neither of your writing samples came through, try attaching them again”?

    1. GingerHR*

      Honestly, I’d decide depending on the other response. If there are loads of qualified applicants, then move on. If however her experience looks good and you are otherwise struggling for candidates, then maybe give her another chance – but just keep this (and the many, many questions) in mind as some of the information you have about her.

      1. LBK*

        Agreed – if you don’t have a really good reason to keep her, this is way too much time to invest in a candidate, and there’s value in teaching her boundaries as well as ensuring that she’s on point with every hiring interaction, because every little piece of the process counts.

    2. JamieS*

      Assuming she’s a strong candidate I’d send an email stating I didn’t receive the samples but I wouldn’t provide an excuse if I were you. My reasoning is if it were a tech issue she’d realize it and resubmit the samples and if she just didn’t send the samples it put her on notice she needs to include all requested materials when asked for.

      1. SomeoneLikeAnon*

        Agreed. I like this option. Invest more time in the person *only* if her resume and cover letter show her as strong.

        1. JamieS*

          Exactly, although at this point the only way I could possibly imagine the applicant is strong is if OP #4’s letter had started “OMIGOD ALISON!! JK Rowling…yes THE JK Rowling has indicated she’s interested in applying to be a tutor for the Introduction to Harry Potter class at the grad school I work at. Problem is…”

      2. Antilles*

        This is my standard practice in situations like these – just calmly point out that I didn’t get X, but I provide no explanation or justification. Then allow her response to guide mine under the theory of “if it was just a glitch, any reasonable person would be horrified and bend over backwards to fix this”.
        >If her response is an apologetic “I’m sorry, I tried to attach the files but they didn’t go through properly (or similar tech reason), but here they are” sent within a day or so, I don’t hold it against her. After all, this does happen sometimes, particularly if you’re attaching a bunch of different files.
        >If her response doesn’t include an apology/explanation or if it takes a long time to respond, well, I guess I have my answer about how much you care.

    3. babblemouth*

      You’ve given her more time than any of the other applicants so far, and she hasn’t delivered back. This could become a time-suck for you, and your time would be better spent looking at the good applicants to decide who is best for the job. Send her a kind rejection, and move on.

      1. CM*

        Initially I was going to say that since part of your job is introducing students to the real world, it’s worth sending her an email gently pointing out that her application didn’t meet the basic requirements. But in this case, it seems like she has no chance of getting this job. So further coaching might make her feel entitled to the job, like if she does the things that you say, the job is hers. I would just reject her. If she asks for feedback, then you could tell her that the initial questions were too much and you weren’t impressed with her incomplete application.

        1. Dot Warner*

          I agree with this. She probably thinks the two of you have developed a rapport and that you’re going to hire her because of it. Reject her, and if she asks why, use CM’s explanation.

          1. OP #4*

            That’s been my fear. The more back and forth the more she might think we’re friends, or something.
            I also know that I’ve gotten some good information about her. I need someone who can work pretty independently, so….
            I’m also pretty sure we couldn’t sponsor a work visa for JK Rowling. So I’d have to move on :(

    4. Mookie*

      If I’m understanding this correctly, she’s currently a student (graduate?) and is applying to work as an on-campus tutor (for undergraduates?). She shouldn’t need handholding to apply for this kind of work, especially when she’s repeatedly intimated she’s passionate about it, and she should be drowning in relevant writing samples at this point. If you do ask her to “re-send” them, they ought to be delivered immediately, otherwise the omission is suspicious. But a poor cover letter really doesn’t warrant any further interest, anyway, does it? It more or less proves that she wasn’t hesitating to apply because she needed to know about how to use a timecard, but because she’s not a good candidate and in some fashion has realized this is so.

    5. marmalade*

      Like some of the other commenters said, I’d move on. I would send a rejection message saying that you can’t consider applications that don’t include writing samples.

    6. Rusty Shackelford*

      What would you do if someone else, who hadn’t been badgering you, sent an application without the requested writing samples? Do that.

      1. OP #4*

        That’s a good point. I treat them as separate issues now, but I have a lot to take into account if I interview her.

      2. Samata*

        Yes. This is the best advice I have heard. No special treatment or change in behavior – whatever that behavior might have been.

    7. fposte*

      I ask for the writing samples, and I don’t blame technology. I do ding the candidate for not including them initially; some candidates can overcome the ding, some can’t.

        1. fposte*

          Sure, and they’re free to explain. But human error is a lot likelier, and I’ve had this email account for decades and it’s never, ever shown me somebody’s email but stripped the attachment. Honestly, even if they just forgot it’s an overcomeable ding if they’re otherwise good, but I’m not going to pretend stuff didn’t happen in the application process.

          I know people love the idea of benefit of the doubt, but ultimately in hiring that would mean never making a decision, because you could give the benefit of the doubt to every flaw or omission. And my job isn’t to give everybody the fairest shake; it’s to find the best candidate for my position. A situation can be not the candidate’s fault, whether it be a dead phone or a wonky email, for me to still need to move on to somebody else.

        2. LBK*

          The ratio of times technology fails to the times the user fails is pretty hugely in technology’s favor, though. Email’s been around for a while; unless you have insanely aggressive spam filters, something as simple as sending and receiving an attachment shouldn’t be considered a gamble. I’ve sent literally thousands of attachments to external addresses and I can think of maybe 5 times where there was a technology issue that prevented the recipient from receiving it (and even then, I’d venture some of those were PEBCAK errors).

        3. Kate 2*

          I agree. In college, I was supposed to get an email from a professor. I did, but the whole thing had been garbled in the email system, it was just a jumble of letters. Our meeting was the next day, and when I told my professor what had happened they told me I was wrong. Technology is perfect, it can’t make mistakes.

          Well, she was wrong. I have had basic emails without attachments take hours to arrive after they were sent, I have had emails never show up (with correct addresses), I have had jumbled emails and so on. And almost always the sender gets no indication the email went wrong.

          1. (Different) Rebecca*

            My school email won’t send to itself. My general email will. Not sure why; they’re both gmail accounts. One works, the other does not.

    8. Bolt*

      I would give her the chance to submit the writing samples… we all have those mortifying moments where you think something was attached but it didn’t fully load when you sent the email and you didn’t read the warning pop-up. There is a chance her writing samples might blow you away.

      It just takes a few seconds to send an email back and you don’t even have to consider her!

      In doing that I would also put a hard timeline on it… it is possible she didn’t attach them to buy time to actually complete them. Something like “I need these samples by 5:00pm today or they will not be considered with your application” is reasonable because you’re assuming something went wrong.

      It can also help because if you end up getting something sloppy or she makes excuses for why she can’t send them to you by the deadline, you can use that for when she applies to any future openings and not waste time on her.

  17. PM Jesper Berg*

    #2: you should definitely follow up with the hiring manager. A few years ago, I applied for a position at one of the big Silicon Valley tech companies. The automated system similarly rejected me within minutes. I nonetheless e-mailed the head of the division I was applying for and had an extensive phone interview. I ultimately didn’t get the position, but I was one of the finalists and clearly would not have gotten that far had the algorithm had the final word.

  18. PM Jesper Berg*

    #3: you should drop this. There are plenty of people in “screamer” companies out there whose employees never get treated courteously, much less thanked.

    I do appreciate that receiving “thanks” by e-mail can clog the inbox, but yes, it’s really code for “receipt acknowledged.”

    This is an, oh, 498,256th-order problem.

    1. miss_chevious*

      I don’t find the argument that other people have it worse to be particularly persuasive. It’s the whole “eat your peas, there are starving people in China” thing. Yes, other people have it worse. Much worse. But this is a workplace problem, just like someone leaving their dishes in the workplace kitchen or listening to music slightly too loud, and there’s no harm in asking if someone has a solution.

      1. LBK*

        Eh, I agree to an extent, and certainly everyone’s guilty of having their pet peeves. But I think having some perspective can also be useful, and there’s the consideration that on the continuum of gratitude, I think most people would agree that too much is definitely better than too little.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        It’s a more reasonable argument in this case. Eating your peas will have no effect on the people starving elsewhere. But because lots of people feel undervalued in the work force, it’s good for people to get in the habit of sending a cursory thanks at a minimum. The OP finds it annoying, but if people didn’t do that then it’s possible all of OP’s coworkers would feel neglected without those comments.

    2. CM*

      I think #3 could reply, “You’re welcome! I appreciate your thank-you message, but next time, email would be great instead of chat — the box pops up and interrupts my work. Thanks :)” (or whatever other softening words/punctuations/emoji are appropriate for #3’s workplace)

  19. SomeoneLikeAnon*

    #5 I like Allison’s script for if you do decide to respond. Based on the petty way it was phrased you dodged a bullet with this person. If they can’t keep track of which companies they do speak with and also bristle at the rejection in this way, they would probably be a poor team player in the office. Or maybe I’m just reading too much into single sentence.

    1. Not Karen*

      I agree, what stuck out to me is not the claim that the interview didn’t happen, but how rudely it was phrased.

    2. CM*

      I don’t think it was necessarily rude or petty. It can be hard to find the right words to respond to something like this. If I were #5, I would follow up and be open to the idea that there could have been a misunderstanding. OP#5 is assuming that her notes are correct, but they may not be.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I thought it was a pretty straightforward response that would seem pretty logical from somebody who was being told they had an interview that they never had; it just sounded puzzled to me, not shirty.

        1. LBK*

          Eh, I thought it was a little biting, especially for someone you’re presumably trying to impress. I’d probably have said something more obsequious along the lines of “Sorry, I’m a bit confused – your email mentions us talking but I don’t think we’ve actually met yet. I completely understand either way if you’ve chosen not to move forward with my candidacy, I just want to ensure I haven’t gotten mixed up with someone else.”

          1. OP #5*

            OP #5 here. What was also confusing to me is that she never reached out to say I’d missed our scheduled phone interview (she had my direct email address the whole time, so it wasn’t like she couldn’t email me).

            1. lill*

              This is not confusing at all. It happens frequently that a HR person doesn’t call when they scheduled a call (see my comment below). I would never call the recruiter in such a situation unless I though it was my fault – I had problems with my cell phone or something similar. Applicants are just used to be treated this way.

              1. Van Wilder*

                I would at least send a perfunctory follow up email, even if I was thinking this jerk will never get back to me.

  20. Mazzy*

    I’m going to want an update on #5! Is it possible that you wrote notes pertaining to the wrong persons name? Or asked pretty generic questions based off of their resume so that the other person didn’t realize you were interviewing the wrong person?

    1. Lata*

      I had someone claim with hundred percent certainty that they had interviewed me. I asked for a date and time when this took place. As it turns out, I was out of the country without cell service at that point in time. I sent the, copies of my boarding passes.

      They were profusely apologetic. I don’t think they ever figured out what went wrong in their process.

      Unless you conduct the interview in person or video chat, you can’t be 100% certain whom you talked to.

      People make mistakes on both ends.

      I guess the OP has to ask herself if there’s any chance at all that she wrote down the wrong name

    2. JulieBulie*

      Yes, I’m a little worried that a mistake was made.

      I suppose it’s possible that the applicant is lying to get a second interview, but honestly if she blew it the first time, she prolly wouldn’t do any better the second time.

      1. LBK*

        I mean, I think it would be pretty blatant that you were talking to the same person once the conversation started, both by their voice and their phone number.

    3. OP #5*

      As far as I can tell, I definitely spoke with her. My notes on our conversation include information about a specific graduate degree she’s currently completing as well as where she currently works. I cross referenced this with her resume which she sent from the same email address I sent the rejection to, and both match.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        So odd! Maybe she is confused about which company/position is rejecting her?

        Let us know if you figure it out!

  21. Cookie*

    #5 happened to me before as the candidate. I had worked at this job previously and reapplied for my old position. I was disappointed and a bit surprised that I didn’t get an interview when I had done the job successfully in the past, but when I saw a letter from them in the mail I assumed that at least I got a personal rejection. Instead, I got a form letter thanking me for coming in for an interview and it was signed by someone who knew me in real life. I thought about letting them know I never interviewed for the current vacancy, but I just let it go. Sometimes employers get confused about these things too.

    1. JulieBulie*

      Employers might get confused, but if I’m looking for a job, I don’t leave anything to chance. I certainly wouldn’t just shrug and move on if I got a letter like that.

      1. Cookie*

        I had worked there previously and while it was going to be a comfortable job for me where I liked my former coworkers and knew I could do the work well, I was also aware of a certain level of dysfunction. I assumed this was just a part of the disorganized culture of the organization and thought it’s probably for the best and these things happen for a reason.

  22. miss_chevious*

    Ugh, the thank you emails/IMs/texts. They drive me batty, too, primarily because of the interruption and because I have to take time out to read them and see if there’s anything in them to respond to (quite often, the message will be something like “Thank you! Also, I was wondering…”)

    I have had some minor success discouraging people from sending them when I’ve brought it up one-on-one while talking about other issues, and my team knows not to do it to me, but there’s really no good way to handle it; people seem to think that thank yous are always appreciated even when you tell them they are not.

    1. fposte*

      And it’s a big cultural thing–we’re a huge thank you culture at my workplace, and asking people (other than your own staff) not to do it would be kind of a high-maintenance request here.

      1. esra (also a Canadian)*

        I wondered if this was cultural in general. I’ve heard before from Americans that they don’t thank people who are doing their job (like, a cashier, fast food service worker, etc). I can’t imagine it would go over very well anywhere I’ve worked.

        1. Fictional Butt*

          Really? That’s never been my experience in the US. In fact, when I travel abroad, I sometimes am surprised that the locals don’t seem to say “thank you” as much as Americans do. For some reason I always notice it on buses–Americans are the only ones who thank bus drivers (at least in my experience).

        2. JulieBulie*

          How odd – I (American) thank cashiers, food service workers, etc. all the time, and so do most people that I observe.

          Especially the food service people. It is sensible to be courteous to the people who handle our food.

        3. fposte*

          Maybe there’s some regional component to this? I’m in the Midwest and we thank like crazy.

          1. esra (also a Canadian)*

            Must be! Most of the Americans I know are from NYC or Buffalo, maybe it’s just that area? I always thought it was really strange. I mean, someone is doing their job and I appreciate what they’re doing, so it just seems natural to say thank you.

        4. LBK*

          I live in Boston, one of the US cities known for its iciness, and this hasn’t been my experience as a service worker or as an eavesdropper on fellow customers. People aren’t as effusive as other regions I’ve been to (California was far too friendly for my cold, black New England heart) but they’re still generally polite.

        5. teclatrans*

          I had heard the opposite, actually, that some folks from other countries (UK, was it?) found it weird that we thank waitstaff for doing their job.

          But, there are many, many subcultures and variations on cultural expectations here in the US, so I am sure there are rude people who exude entitlement (or tip 10% because “they are just doing their job”).

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            Brit here. Most people I know thank wait staff and I’d find it very rude if someone didn’t.

      2. miss_chevious*

        It can definitely be cultural — I went from a low thank you environment to a high one some years back and that took a LOT of adjustment on my part.

  23. Been there!*

    #2: Been in very similar situations where I had been encouraged to apply to the person’s company or interviewer said I wasn’t the right fit but knew of a very similar position. In both cases I never got to the interview and in the second situation the organization never even followed up to let me know they weren’t interested.

    It happens. There could be a wide variety of reasons. It’s frustrating if you *really* wanted the job or put in a lot of work into your application or in the networking but it’s not uncommon and could very well have nothing to do with you.

  24. barracuda*

    LW #1 I work for government too, and in my department, a constituent meeting takes priority over everything else, because it isn’t common for my department to meet with members of the public. If we do, you can bet that the meeting was requested through an elected official or through the Executive office. Therefore, we are never supposed to cancel unless we have cleared it with the executive office, and we are supposed to keep them in the loop about the meeting.

    It would be helpful for the management team to clearly explain their reasoning to everyone and to make it clear what the expectation is.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I wonder if the heart of this was drastic miscommunication about where the meeting ranked in the list of things management had given the employee to accomplish–if management thought it was obviously one of the top three on a list of 30, and the employee thought it was around 30 and postponed the meeting without running this major change by management.

  25. TotesMaGoats*

    #3-My very first boss thanked me often for the little things I did and at the end of every day. At first I didn’t understand. All I could think was that I was just doing my job. I didn’t need thanks. At first I also thought it wasn’t genuine. Then as time went on I realized it was completely genuine and it was her way of affirming that I was doing a good job and appreciated. Given how many bosses I’ve had since then who couldn’t muster a thank you when I’ve pulled their metaphorical butt from the fire, I try to remember my first boss and say thank you as often as possible. When you can’t give raises or other things, you can at least say thank you. You can accept it with grace and move along. Yes, it’s your job. But saying thank you is polite. You’ll always do 100% but I’ve found those people who are polite to me get that little bit extra and those that I am polite to always give me a little bit more.

  26. Lars the Real Girl*

    #5 – As someone looking for a job vs someone hiring for a role, I know I’m a lot more organized as a candidate (and keep good track of who I’ve spoken to and haven’t) than I am as a hiring manager. It’s not a slight against being a hiring manager, it’s just that I’m probably phone screening/interviewing a dozen people in a week and that applicant gets maybe one or two interviews/phone screens per month.

    Maybe write back with Alison’s script but with more of a “this could be my mistake” tone. I.e. “I believe we spoke on Friday the 8th at 1pm about the Teapots role and your time at OldTeapots Inc. Do I have my signals crossed?”

    1. Big10Professor*

      I agree. There are a lot of conspiracy theories upthread, but it sounds like the interviewee is genuinely confused, so let’s assume this is an honest mistake on one side or the other. Now, if the OP has plenty of decent candidates to go with, she may just want to move on, but if she is still looking, it might be worth it to go back and try to resolve the confusion.

  27. nnn*

    When reading #5, my brain instantly wrote a story where OP typoed the phone number and reached someone else who also happened to be in the process of applying for multiple jobs. The person at the misdialed number thought “Oh, crap, I forgot I had an interview scheduled!” and muddled their way through, resulting in a subpar interview that got them screened out of the process.

    Then, years from now, the actual applicant and the person at the misdialed number find themselves working at the same company, and one day in the break room end up exchanging stories about weird things that have happened when applying for jobs…

    1. Lata*

      That’s perfect. If rhe OP is somehow mistake, it gives an out. If not, it gives the candidate an out.

      If OP sid interview the candidate and it was that mediocre the first time, it will be mediocre the second time around.

      I guess the question for the OP really is whether or not the candidate is worth the potential waste of time .

    2. Elle the New Fed*

      This sort of happened to me when I misdialed a number and reached another applicant who was applying for the same place (different position). I had the first applicant’s materials and she was totally confused about the job. Despite leading with, “Hi So-and-so, this is Elle from Fed calling for our scheduled call…”, I later stopped and asked, “This IS So-and-so Lastname, right?” And it wasn’t.

      I, to this day, do not know how that happened but it was funny.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        My home number is very easy to confuse with that of someone at the local senior center… who has the same first name. About once a month I have a conversation with someone who needs the other me, but since I affirm that I am Falling it takes us a few rounds to sort out why we are both so confused.

        1. DecorativeCacti*

          Growing up, my mom’s best friend and my grandma’s phone number were so close that we very often accidentally got the wrong person. I would be quite surprised to hear a familiar, yet not quite the voice I was expecting.

          1. Sam*

            Years before I started this job, someone with the same first name as me worked at the company in a very different role, and IT recycled the number when I joined. Relevant: I announce my name every time I pick up the phone. Well, that other person is still in the industry and still very much networking with contacts from 10+ years ago, apparently, because I’ve been here for 5 years and I still sometimes answer the phone only for the person on the other end of the line to immediately launch into Part 2 of a multi-part conversation without preamble, expecting me to know what they’re talking about.

      2. valc2323*

        My mom and dad have the same initials and the same academic degree, and both of their names could be used by men or women. As a teenager, in the dark days when we only had landlines, it was incredibly easy to screen out spam callers:
        Caller: “may I speak to XYLastname, please”
        me: “which one?”
        Caller: “Uh… Dr. XY Lastname?”
        me: “not helping. Do you need a man or a woman?”
        Caller: (more often than not) “I’m not sure…”
        me: “then you obviously don’t actually need to talk to them.”

        I currently sit cross-cubicle from another person with the same goes-by name as me, although our full names are different. I used to work for office A and she worked for closely-related office B, and we occasionally worked together; now we both work for office C. The confusion over these past two years has been *amazing*. I’ve taken to introducing myself as Nickname LastInitial and using that for stuff like our internal calendar too – it helps!

  28. Allison*

    #2, I strongly feel that applicant tracking systems should have a delay in their rejections, so no one feels they were rejected too quickly. The company I work for doesn’t have any sort of bot screening the resumes and auto-rejecting people who don’t have certain buzzwords, but we do have “knockout” questions, and if someone basically admits they don’t have one of the necessary qualifications, they are automatically rejected, but the e-mail doesn’t go out until the next day.

    Furthermore, sometimes I’m the one screening resumes in my downtime, and it may just so happen that I get to someone’s resume a minute after they submitted it, and decide pretty quickly they’re not what we’re looking for. In my old job, where there was no e-mail delay, I had to look at when the resume was submitted and decide whether it was appropriate to send a rejection, or whether it was better to hold off for a few hours. I would often look to see if they were a referral, because sometimes the recruiter would want to take a look at a referral before they were rejected.

  29. Grey*

    But maybe you could try reframing it in your head to a confirmation that whatever work you completed for them was received and met their needs and is now being closed out.

    That’s me, and probably a lot of other people. It’s not all about gratitude. I send a “thanks” to let the person know that what they did was exactly what I needed and I was able to complete the task at hand.

    It’s the “you’re welcome” I could do without.

    1. Soon to be former fed*

      These social niceties would be spoken if we talked to each other but we don’t anymore. They really aren’t worth reacting to and at worst are minor, very minor distractions.

    2. AMPG*

      Ugh – a former teammate of mine always sent “you’re welcome” emails, and often as reply-alls. I hated it but never felt like it was enough of a big deal to bring up.

    3. Sam*

      I also use “Thanks” as a confirmation of receipt/that the problem has been solved and I don’t need anything further. I would never start a new medium of communication like an IM just to do that, though. It’s funny, because getting “You’re welcome” back does sort of irritate me – it’s not really necessary to confirm a confirmation – but it never occurred to me someone might prefer this chain of events to be one step shorter, although it makes perfect sense now that I’ve heard of it.

      It sounds like there are two camps, one where “thanks/you’re welcome” is politeness and one where it’s purely functional. Given that they’re IMing you and not just replying to an existing email chain or anything, LW, it sounds like your coworkers might be mostly in the former camp.

  30. KC*

    Slightly relevant for #2:
    For popular positions, I don’t have the luxury of looking at time stamps, and I screen my candidates in batches alphabetically. I had a situation where I rejected someone only a few minutes after they applied. While they sort of had the minimum qualifications, they had no relevant experience, and their salary expectations were too high.

    10 minutes later, I got an email from a director in another department who complained that I rejected a perfectly good candidate.

    Apparently they knew each other and the director told him that if he applied, he would guarantee an interview. At no point did he review the resume with me, give me a head’s up to expect it, or even ask me to give a courtesy screen. While the director thought he would be a shoe-in, he had no idea what the requirements of the job were, and there were plenty of stronger candidates instead. Luckily, things were cleared up with a simple conversation, but I was annoyed that he was making these “deals” behind my back.

    I hear that some systems will reject candidates if they don’t have a legal requirement (e.g. university degree). In OP’s case, it’s possible that the requirements changed partway through, or they filled in the application wrong. Or, like others have said, the screening was set up wrong.

    In all my years of recruiting, I have yet to meet another recruiter who relies on the ATS screening algorithm. Now, I do use keyword searches when required (specific certification, location, etc.).

    1. Kate*

      To your last point– same here. As a recruiter, I get a lot of “how can I get past the algorithm questions.” The answer is: I am the algorithm. Some ATSes will batch candidates based on their responses to screening questions, but those applications are still visible. The ones who answer the screening questions correctly are getting looked at first, but they’re all getting looked at.

      1. KC*

        “I am the algorithm”. I love it!

        These are the searches I do most often:
        Working status (can they legally work in Canada?)
        Location (do they need to relocate?)
        Certifications (does the job require a specific certification?)
        Keyword skill (do they need X and Y?)

        It’s no different than doing a search in LinkedIn. I need someone in Toronto with experience in Java and Javascript, and also has a PMP. The only difference is searching within people who have applied for your position. It doesn’t mean I won’t review everyone’s resumes – it just means that I will focus on the ones that match the closest first.

        I suspect that some companies hiring large batches of unskilled people might rely on ATS algorithms (call centres and the like), but I have never seen it in a professional environment. Even then, it’s likely they’re looking for “completed high school” more than anything else.

  31. Samata*

    #2; I’d follow up with the recruiter. I had this happen once & mentioned it. They adjusted the system, updated my qualifications and I got the interview. I actually got a job offer, too, but ended up turning it down for other reasons.

    PS: don’t let it hit you too, hard, like Alison said. It’s nothing to take personally.

  32. Ty*

    OP#3, I understand feeling distracted by the thank you’s. I don’t take thanks or compliments very well (a form of social anxiety among other things) so I find it distracting because it takes time and also makes me uncomfortable. It took a while, but I had to force myself to be okay with just replying with a genuine, short “You’re welcome!” and then just leave it at that, no other reply needed.

    Also agreeing with other commenters about setting an auto reply or auto ignore if this is being messaged to you, so you can check them later when you have time.

  33. Vaca*

    I’m not sure I agree with #1. You shouldn’t cancel a meeting in an email at all; at most you ask if you can reschedule. If they say no, you do your best to proceed with the meeting. It sounds like your friend’s boss needs to be clearer – you can’t cancel meetings with the public, do what you need to in order to be prepared – and is maybe struggling. The cancellation definitely deserves a very real apology as the people you had a meeting with had adjusted their schedules to make it work. I’d be livid if a meeting was cancelled in a brief email, especially if it’s been on the calendar and it was your own lack of planning that made it impossible for you to be prepared.

    1. fposte*

      I was thinking a similar thing, but the OP’s description suggested that it’s more their culture than I would expect; while it’s worth exploring the possibility that the cancellation was what the boss really objected to, it sounds like a workplace where that wasn’t the issue.

    2. Taylor Swift*

      Wait, what? Email would be a perfectly reasonable way to cancel a meeting where I work. I don’t think your experience is a universal rule here.

        1. Toph*

          100% of my meetings are scheduled via email, so it would be very odd to cancel them via a different method of communication.

          1. Eden*

            Yes, I have to do this all the time. If I can’t suggest alternate times right away, I’ll include something about sending a doodle poll out to reschedule. This is completely normal in my field and I don’t think anyone blinks an eye (except for my own tears of frustration when I have to reschedule some impossible meeting between my boss and sixteen other world leaders in my field for the eighth time because Dr. So and So now has a conflict).

    3. Cassie*

      I think the LW means cancelled and rescheduled, and not just cancelled (but toss in a couple of alternate dates/times that we hope the others won’t be available for but at least we tried). Usually cancelled meetings are rescheduled, unless the topic is moot and thus no meeting is required – if that were the case, there should be a brief explanation to that effect just so people understand that the issue is resolved.

      I don’t have many meetings but I do schedule them for my boss. He almost never cancels except if he has to travel last minute or go to a last-minute meeting at the time. I would just email the person and let them know that boss can’t make the meeting and can they let me know if X day would work instead? Depending on the person, I may or may not give the reason why the meeting is being moved.

  34. hbc*

    OP1: I agree with Alison that more context is needed, but my instinct based on what’s provided is that what your manager asked was fine, and maybe even needed. If I was a client/customer on the receiving end of something like “Sorry, we’re going to have to cancel the Thursday meeting. We can meet X or Y alternate instead,” I’d be ticked off. I don’t need groveling, but I want some evidence that this is an outlier for you and that you are inconveniencing me for a good reason rather than a lack of respect for my time and needs. And if this isn’t an outlier and you often have to cancel, clients should probably get some warning of this up front, possibly including “tentative” in the meeting invite.

    On top of that, it’s hardly a public shaming. The client already knew who cancelled. If there wasn’t an excuse offered as to why (flight cancelled, flu, etc), the assumption is that it’s because your coworker didn’t have everything together. Including “I apologize, but I won’t be able to complete Important Document in time” doesn’t seem like too much. Management having your back doesn’t mean never taking ownership of problems with clients.

    That said, it probably was pretty awkward after the fact in a second email. I would hope your boss would explain why the extra was needed in this situation so the team can adjust their initial cancellation emails–whether it’s for everyone going forward, or just important clients, or some other subset.

  35. ArtK*

    OP#2, *please* don’t take this one personally. As Alison and others have pointed out, it’s simply because some keyword was missing in your application and the ATS rejected it on that basis. This is one reason why I *hate* ATS, although I’ve seen that they’re becoming smarter or more relaxed in their choosing.

    Anecdote: I applied for a job that was *specifically* set up for me — it was a previous boss who wanted me back. We’d discussed all of the aspects of the listing so that it matched me 100% — we thought. I got the dreaded 30-second rejection! One of the things we tried to be careful of is the fact that I have a bachelor’s degree and they usually demand a master’s at a minimum. It turns out, of all of the choices offered, he had selected “Bachelors — Engineering.” But my degree is in Math/Comp-Sci so I selected “Bachelors — Engineering – Other.” He had to pull the listing and create a whole new one because there was no way to bypass that rejection. Very frustrating.

    One tip: When dealing with electronic applications, read the listing very carefully and try to include as many of the keywords from that listing as possible in your application.

  36. Brogrammer*

    OP3, how long have you been in your current position? I’m an effusive thanker to a couple of my coworkers, but I really am pathetically grateful that they do their jobs because the previous people in their positions would just… not do work.

  37. Rae*

    To me, this sounds like some sort of butt covering….for unemployment, for a recruiter or for a college career center. Like someone is supposed to have X number of interviews or Y happens. I think Alison’s reply is a good one, because it really seems you could get caught in the middle of something nasty.

    1. Hannah in London*

      But then surely it would be the other way around? If it was to get to x number of interviews, you would want to act like this one had happened, not act like it hadn’t.
      I can’t think of a situation where you were be penalised for doing too many interviews (but maybe someone else can…)

      1. Rae*

        More like a recruiter/career center guaranteed that you would go on X number of interviews. Back in the day, my career center promised their resume service could get you 10 interviews or they’d pay for a session with an independent talent coach.

  38. Stop That Goat*

    I’m a big thanker both as a means of appreciation and a form of acknowledging receipt. Even if it’s part of your normal duties, I’m still going to say thank you for doing the work. It always surprises me when some folks treat appreciation as an annoyance and I’d find it pretty off putting.

    Just another perspective from a chronic thanker.

    1. Delta Delta*

      Yep. Me too. I don’t know how it hurts to be kind. I’m going to keep thanking people. If I’m in a situation where someone says, “don’t thank me” I may think twice about the work I do with that person.

    2. David St. Hubbins*

      A simple “thanks” is just good manners. The problem (for me, at least) is when some people make it a Big Thing. As in “Really, thank you, I really appreciate it. You were such a great help” etc. That is annoying, and kind of insulting. As if everything revolves around the thanker, and I just did you a huge favour, when in fact, I was just doing exactly what I’m supposed to. It actually makes me feel less appreciated.
      I’m not sure if this is was the OP was talking about, but it would make sense. If she’s annoyed by a simple “thanks”, then I would agree with you.

      1. Stop That Goat*

        I don’t really understand that unless it’s obviously insincere. Why would profuse thanks make you feel less appreciated? I know you aren’t the only one from some comments above but I’m genuinely curious.

    3. Eden*

      I will continue to thank people for doing their jobs, in person or in email. To me the part about this that stands out is the IM use. I really really hate instant messaging in the workplace and am so glad our company culture doesn’t encourage its use, it’s distracting and IME gets used for non-work chat, which I feel pressured to take part in. You need something right now, pick up the phone. That said, I don’t work in an environment where generally anyone needs anything right this instant, I’m sure it’s handy in those situations.

  39. Laura (Needs to Change Her Name)*

    OP#5, is there any chance you sent the email to an incorrect address? I can imagine someone sending this as a kind of snarky reply if they are getting notifications about someone else’s job search (e.g., the applicant is JaneJSmith at gmail and you sent the email to JaneSmith at gmail). If you have an alternative means to contact the applicant, you could attempt to clarify using that means (“I received an unusual response to my last email …”).

    1. Sam*

      That’s a good point that no one else has made yet. The LW was assuming the phone interview was the contact point that might have been botched, but this email might actually be the one. (Worst case scenario then, I suppose, would be that the real candidate just thinks the company ghosted them and moves on to other prospective jobs, which isn’t the end of the world.)

    2. Hannah in London*

      Hmmm, to me it sounds like the applicant acknowledges there was an interview, they’re just objecting to the fact it happened.
      I think the reply would be worded differently if you had no idea what this crazy email about a random job you’ve never heard of is doing in your inbox.

  40. Mora*

    Letter Writer #2: I had that happen a few times with the company I am currently employed with. I work in a rather niche position and a lot of my coworkers at an old job left that place and took positions with the company I am at now. When I got laid off of my old job, I applied for the position that my former coworkers were working in. I got rejected within 5 minutes the three times I applied. After the third rejection, I emailed the in-house recruiter and reiterated that I had the same or more experience and education as my former coworkers who were hired and asked what his concerns were with my experience. Within a day, I was invited for an interview and eventually offered the job. Maybe you could try that?

  41. Stranger than fiction*

    #2, if it makes you feel any better, my BF got a rejection about five minutes after leaving an interview…for Amazon. A few years ago, he went through two phone interviews, completed an assignment and prepared a presentation, then had an all-day onsite interview with several people. After all that, he got the rejection email just a few minutes after leaving. Talk about ouch.

    1. This still rankles*

      I was once told I was interviewing for Job A at Google (that they matched me with and recruited me for) and my interviewers were told it was Job B. It was a difficult and confusing day until I figured that out after lunch based on something I overheard one tell another. I stuck it out until 5 and then met up with a friend who said that I must have done quite well despite the circumstances because sometimes they send people home partway through the day and don’t even finish the interview. I don’t know if that would be better or worse than being told immediately afterwards, but at least you’d have the rest of the day off.

      They at least took a day or two tell me that I didn’t get the job… that I was unqualified for and didn’t apply for.

  42. Lindrine*

    I have had the odd rejections and what is even weirder are the job systems that send me automated emails about having conversations with them on social media. Maybe that is a recent college grad thing? I wanted to let you all know that after some weird radio silence for two weeks and an iffy final interview for a role that would be a career shift for me, I got a job offer! This was the second time going through rounds of interviews with this company and I will be working with a former colleague as a grand boss who I respect so a bit nervous but very excited!

  43. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

    @OP#3- I’m guessing that you do your job very well and in a timely fashion. Unfortunately in a lot of cases, this is NOT the norm. That’s why all the “Thank You’s”. As the others have advised, you can let the folks know that you are just doing your job.

  44. lill*


    If I were you I would check one more time if you haven’t made a mistake.

    I’ve already had an HR person calling me, having a longer conversation with me about the role and my availability and then writing me an email 10 minutes later “Dear…, as I couldn’t reach you by phone, I would like to inquire about your availability…”.

    Plus many HR people not calling me when they scheduled a call.

    And one that was angry that I was waiting for his call at the scheduled time – he claimed he had sent me a link to some special tool similar to skype to connect and had waited for me there. He didn’t want to believe me that I had never received any link. I checked it after the conversation, in all folders including spam. He had never sent me any link.

    Recently I was to have a telephone interview that had been scheduled 2 weeks before. It was during working hours so I planned to go out to have it. The HR person called be 25 minutes before the scheduled time. I sit in a huge open space, next to my boss and coworkers – nobody knows I apply for jobs. Or nobody knew…

    What I’m trying to say is that HR people frequently commit such mistakes, probably because of the number of applicants. I would ask the candidate why he thinks he has never talked to you and clarify the misunderstanding.

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