interviewing a candidate who lied, my boss died right after I started my job, and more

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

1. Interviewing a candidate who lied to my company five years ago

I am a hiring manager at a market research company. We work with clients in the media sector to screen their work for a panel of audience members, and then we use readings like eye-tracking data and heart rate monitors to measure how well the content performed. Because of the competitive nature of the media industry, we make a point of recruiting our audience panel to ensure that the panel is made up of non-industry-professionals, so anyone with a marketing or communications backgrounds is rejected upon application. This includes people who studied marketing or communications in college, even if they did not go on to enter the field, as well as people with a friend/relative/spouse in the industry. These criteria may seem strict, but they help us protect against sabotage, like an employee of one company deliberately influencing the research data of one of their competitor.

I am now hiring for an analyst to work under me. But here’s the problem: one of the strongest applications I received came from someone who has been on our audience panel for the past five years. In order to sign up for the panel, she would have had to check a box stating that she had no background in the industry, but she began her degree in communications seven years ago. She has participated in about 30 studies, meaning that at least 30 batches of client data we’ve presented over the years are now in question.

That being said, she’s still a very strong applicant — she has a solid research background and her cover letter demonstrates superior writing skills compared to many other applicants. And I checked her audience member file and found great notes on her, stating that she follows directions well, is courteous to research assistants, and has always been very punctual. It’s also worth noting that she has never worked for the type of company that would be a competitor to one of our clients, but rather has done marketing work for unrelated companies. Can I overlook the fact that she lied to us five years ago and continue to consider her? Or should I screen her out on the basis that she is untrustworthy?

Why not ask her directly about it? You could just say, “I know that you’ve been a great participant in our studies for the last five years, but we typically screen out anyone with a background in marketing or communications for those. On your initial paperwork for our studies, you said that you didn’t have a background in the industry, but it looks like you were in school studying communications at that time. Can you shed any light on that for me?”

If this was just a single form five years ago, it’s possible that she just made an error, who knows. And you may never get to the bottom of it — because she’s likely to say now that it must have been an error, regardless of whether it really was — but I think having the conversation will give you a better feel for whether you’d be comfortable moving forward with her or not. (If it does turn out that she knowingly lied, you shouldn’t hire her. It’s not only an integrity issue, but an integrity issue specific to the type of work you do.)

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Interviewer asked me which job requirements I don’t meet

I had an odd experience during an interview the other day. I was interviewing for a job slightly above my current level that would involve working with a broader set of clients from various industries and would allow me to use my specific expertise more. The role requires a rather niche skillset, and I happen to have a PhD in this field as well as the relevant experience and language skills. Overall, I think I am a strong match for this role, at least on paper — there are not too many people with this particular profile who would consider a move to that particular location.

I thought the interview was going well and was feeling quite confident when the hiring manager asked me to point out which job requirements I did not meet. At first I was rather confused by this question. Why would I apply for the job if I did not think I had the required skill set? He then said that the job ad was basically describing a “two-headed unicorn” and that they did not really expect to find such a candidate, but were looking for “someone who would grow into the role,” as in, not someone who was already in a similar role elsewhere. Is that a way to say he thinks I am overqualified because I actually have the required skills?

I was a bit flustered, and after looking at the list said that I didn’t have that much experience in one of the job responsibilities. I also explained that I was keen to use my research expertise more and broaden my experience by working with a broder range of clients, but overall it felt rather awkward. It threw me off and I felt the remainder of the interview did not go as well. How would you have answered that question?

Your answer sounds fine to me. It was an awkward question, and really, the hiring manager should be able to figure out for himself what requirements you don’t meet. I’d rather have had him ask “which parts of the role do you think you’d need to most training or support in?” or “which part of the role do you think would be the most challenging for you?”

Read an update to this letter here.

3. I just started a job, and my boss has died

To make a very long story as short as possible, I’ve just moved to a new country a couple of months ago. After about six weeks of job searching, I was able to secure a really great job for a small company in my very competitive field that I knew I could learn and grow in. Everything was great and then the unthinkable happened — my boss (the owner) passed away very unexpectedly.

Despite this horrible tragedy, I know that I need to think proactively. I know that I’m the most dispensable employee here and there are certainly going to be some changes, and if it comes to letting people go I’ll be the first one as my position is brand new in the company and I was hired to assist another person who has been here much longer.

It’s very hard to get a job here without prior experience in the country, plus I’m on a Working Holiday Visa and many companies don’t want to hire someone they think is just going to leave and likely just toss my resume despite what I think is a strong resume and cover letter (this job was literally my only interview outside of a temp company). I’ve only been at this job for a few weeks so I obviously cannot put this on my resume, which would have been a great help. How do I go about applying for new jobs? Do I just start all over again like I never worked here? Just keep going here and see what happens? It’s not like I can ask during this time if my job is secure. I honestly think that I’m still a bit in shock that this has even occurred and am feeling entirely stuck for solutions.

I’m sorry, how awful. Go ahead and start searching, so that if you do lose this job, you’ll have a head start on the search. It’s okay to explain to prospective employers why you’re looking so soon. “Unfortunately, the owner, who was my boss, died soon after I started, and it’s not clear what will happen in the company” is going to be very understandable.

And while you’re right that now isn’t a great time to ask about what’s likely to happen with your job — no doubt others are still reeling and may not have even thought about that question yet — I do think that in a month or two it’s something you can bring up. Say it this way: “I realize that this may not be worked out yet, but do you have a sense of whether you think my position is likely to remain part of the company or whether I should be looking at other positions?”

Read an update to this letter here.

4. Explaining that I haven’t been promoted because of budget

How do you explain to future employers that the sole reason you’re not getting a promotion is because of budgetary reasons? Is there a way to specify this on one’s resume? I’ve been told, expressly, many times by my manager that this is the reason why I haven’t been promoted yet, despite performing very well. I have no reason to doubt her; I know that it’s tight right now. However, I’m at that point in my career where I’m ready to break free from the more junior level hierarchy for a role with more seniority, but I’m worried that (without a promotion) I’m going to strike out.

Not really, no. The big advantage to getting a promotion, job-search-wise, is that you can show you’ve been doing work at a higher level for a while (and have the higher-level accomplishments that should accompany it). So to the extent that the lack of promotion would hold you back, it would be about not having that experience, not about not being considered good enough to promote.

It is true that if you’ve been doing the same work for a really long time without any increase in responsibility, that can make employers wonder about why. That’s why it can be helpful to take on new responsibilities within your same role, when you’re able to. But that’s for situations where you’ve been doing the same thing with no changes or variety for 10 years, not a more normal situation of a few years in the same role. (Of course, I don’t know which of those categories you’re in, but my hunch is that it’s the latter.)

5. Sending thank-you notes for gifts received at work

I know it’s not quite holiday season, but I have a question about thank-you notes.

I am the office manager for a condo owners’ association. In fact, I am the sole direct employee for the association — services like grounds maintenance are contracted out. Around the holidays, some owners and residents will give me small gifts or homemade treats. Of course, I always express my thanks verbally. But, I’ve always refrained from sending thank-you notes, since from my point of view, it would be personal thank-you notes that I would be sending and I’d have to use my work database to look up their addresses to send them; that seems like a violation to me. I offhandedly mentioned this to my mother, who was aghast that I haven’t been sending thank yous. What do you think?

Do you see them around reliably enough that you could give them the notes in person? If so, that would be my vote. But if not, etiquette actually says that no thank-you note is required if you offer your thanks in person at the time the gift is received (if you opened it front of them). The Emily Post Institute says, “The rule of thumb is that you should send a written note any time you receive a gift (even a ‘thank you’ gift) and the giver wasn’t there to be thanked in person.” (Emphasis mine. Also, showers are an exception.) So while a note would still be nice if it’s possible for you to do it without violating anyone’s privacy, you could point out to your mom that this may not actually be the etiquette outrage that she’s taking it as.

{ 258 comments… read them below }

  1. KR*

    On number one, I don’t think I would be willing to hire someone who lied. I also feel like maybe she should understand how important a non biased opinion is to your company and if and doesn’t maybe she doesn’t have the knowledge to work there. But I also agree with Alison that you should ask her. Maybe she changed degress really late in college or something.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Yes. It’s one thing if there was an innocent explanation, but if she lied? No, you can’t overlook that. I’m a little surprised that AAM was so vague about that.

      You can teach people skills, you can teach work norms, but it’s almost impossible to teach them to care about integrity.

      1. KarenT*

        I think AAM is right in that it’s worth following up and asking about, but I’m of the mind it’s a pretty big hurdle to overcome. If she lied it looks like she lied for her own benefit (I’m assuming given the application process that these are paid participants).
        I do also think it’s possible there’s another explanation. Maybe she switched majors at some point and wasn’t studying communications 7 years ago, or started after her forms were filled out (I know the OP said she would have been in her program but maybe she hadn’t declared a major yet) or the version of the form 7 years ago only asked about marketing, not communications.

          1. Brandy*

            If it was for a focus group, a lot of the questions are “Do you or someone in your household WORK in the following industries”. I used to be a recruiter. Not are you in school for.

            1. Infinity Anon*

              The OP said she would have to”check a box stating that she had no background in the industry.” I can see how a student would not think that attending a class would count if that is the phrasing (or close to it). Unless they actually asked about having taken marketing or communications classes, it is likely an honest mistake.

              1. JulieBulie*

                Me too, absolutely. I was actually a little taken aback when I saw that this was the “lie” the candidate had told. I am sure I would have told the same “lie.” Anyone can take a class, but that’s light-years away from having industry background.

        1. I woke up like this*

          Or a lot of communications majors offer an emphasis in Rhetoric; she may not have even considered that studying Aristotle would disqualify her for this role.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        The best explanation I can think of is that she’s been interested in OP#1’s company for some time and participated in the panels to get a sense of their approach, or something like that. Of course, that doesn’t excuse lying (or the related character concerns), but it’s the least-bad/least-sinister explanation I can think of.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          You can’t do that in this field. People pay a lot of money for this kind of research. It would be like a PhD researcher posing as a patient of different hospitals to get an idea of other people’s research techniques.

          1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

            Yes I also think this definitely wouldn’t be the best scenario. Best case would be that when she joined the panel, the form she filled was somehow unclearly written about who’s excluded, and she genuinely thought she would qualify. Still it would be weird that during those years when she studied communications and learned more about how this stuff works, she would never wonder about why this panel allows her to be in.

            1. Ramona Flowers*

              You’re being very kind towards her, but honestly, she has violated a massive industry norm. It sounds like they’re screening adverts or promos of some kind. Those forms are really clear! Even if she made a mistake or forgot, she would have figured out soon enough that she shouldn’t be on that panel.

              1. T3k*

                I do have to agree here. If this company is set up anything like the game studies I helped in, there are many instances where the participants are asked to verify they meet the requirements.

                1. KHB*

                  This is what jumped out at me. From the question, it sounds like she qualified for the panel on the basis of a single application five years ago. If the requirements for participation are so important, it seems foolish not to require the participants to periodically reconfirm that they meet them – first, because people’s circumstances change over time (they start and end relationships, change jobs, start new degree programs…), and second, because in a case like this, “You’ve been lying to us continuously for five years” is a much more clear-cut infraction than “You maybe lied to us once on a form you filled out five years ago.”

                2. Zathras*

                  @KHB – Yeah, this was what jumped out at me. If what happened is that she checked a box once at the very beginning and never heard anything about it again, it’s entirely possible she doesn’t even remember that it was one of the qualifications. In that case, if your company can’t be bothered to verify every so often that participants are still qualified, why do you expect the participants to be worrying about it?

                  I also find it plausible that she would not have learned about an industry norm in school. In my industry (IT) there are loads of important norms that don’t really come up in the educational setting. It’s not clear to me if the type of work she’s been doing since should have clued her in, but I guess that’s why asking her about it is the best way to proceed.

                3. k.k*

                  @Zathras – I think it’s very plausible that she wouldn’t have learned this industry norm in school. She was a communications major. Programs vary by school, but it’s very likely that she didn’t take any marketing classes, let alone one that specifically hit on market research. Heck, I was a business major and took several marketing classes, and this never came up.

              2. Candi*

                Ramona, if the form contained information similar to the agreement I got, I have to agree with you, even if the applicant in the post only filled out one form ever.

                Big Fish Games over here does surveys as part of its prerelease testing. The only requirement I know of is to be a BFG club member for at least a year. (For me, over two.) This means I get a link to download 30-60 minutes of the game and play it to test all the mechanics and whatnot work, and to check out the story, then access another link to fill out a survey. I particularly appreciate the ‘any other comments’ box at the end. :)

                The agreement emailed to me contains the ‘can’t work for BFG or its competitiors, ditto for immediate family members, can’t talk about the game before release’ so on and so forth -there’s probably people here who know the whole deal way better than me.

                But one of the things listed was “You must tell us if your circumstances change” with regard to the qualifications. And by participating in the surveys, you agreed to do all the terms.

                (Yes, I read the fine print. I always read the fine print.) :P

                Considering this type of testing is somewhat less rigorous then what the letter writer describes, reporting change of circumstances is an even bigger deal. If that was on the form, and if the applicant had reason to remember it (it would gnaw at me, but I’m weird), well… It’s hard to give the benefit of the doubt.

                And if the applicant was reminded of the terms, or had to fill out a new form, every time, well, they are in real hot water.

          2. MommyMD*

            She lied outright. Even if she changed degrees she participated for FIVE years. She’s bright and knew the terms when she signed on. She will use deceit to get what she wants. Believe people when they show you who they are. I agree, Ramona. There’s no mitigation.

            1. AD*

              Sorry, but you don’t know that and you’re implying things that aren’t in the letter.

              As others have said, the form may have been phrased to sound like the question was about industry experience and not education (which, if that was the case, was not a lie on her part). We don’t know that she “knew the terms” and your line “she will use deceit to get what she wants” is speculation.

              1. JessaB*

                Every time someone does one of these panel things I presume they are still being asked to self certify, they can’t think to only do it once in five years. What if she had nothing to do with the industry and then married someone who was a big deal in another company. She has not reported this. She is aware that the requirements (and this is true of so many things – surveys, contests, research studies,) say that she must not be in the industry.

                The flip side of this is if she’s NOT aware, then there’s a bigger issue, because this is kind of ubiquitous.

            2. Ego Chamber*

              This is a lot of speculation on not a lot of details, and seems more vindictive than well-reasoned. If anything, “believe people when they show you who they are” is an argument for interviewing the candidate and paying very close attention to how she answers a direct question about what she did.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Thanks; I didn’t know that about the field.

            To be clear, I would be really really concerned about the lying. But if the issue is as stark as you’ve described, then it sounds like it’s not worth OP even interviewing her, right?

        2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          I would give her a pass if she switched into her degree after doing the application and never thought to revise it or forgot that question was on it because she filled it out 1-2 years earlier. Otherwise, I can’t imagine an acceptable reason to lie.

          1. CityMouse*

            That was my thought as well. It is possible she joined while in college, got interested, changed her major, and never had to fill out that form again.

            1. WellRed*

              Yes, if the application asked if I had a background in the field, and I had studied it a bit in college but then moved on to other things I … wouldn’t think I did.

              1. CityMouse*

                I mean my first two years of college were particularly math heavy because I needed it for my science major. But I would never consider it as “having a background in math”. Most classes the first two years are general foundation classes, at least on my experience. I also knew someone who spent most of her first two years as a music major, then switched to engineering. Stuff happens.

          2. Aeryn Sun*

            Yeah, I switched majors halfway through college so it would say I started my degree at a certain date but really I started work on that subject 2 years in.

        3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          I agree. She thought it was a foot-in-the-door technique. She thought it would be like an internship, after all, she is doing work FOR the company. This way she can network and get some insight. It was naive. She should have stated her goal at the beginning: she was a student interested in the field in general and the company in particular. Then they would have told her absolutely not to do this. Now they do know her name, for all the wrong reasons.
          And I can understand and forgive her immature understanding in the beginning, but the time to make a correction was 5 years ago. She should not get a pass for misrepresenting herself and misusing the focus groups for her own purposes for the better part of a decade.

      3. MommyMD*

        I don’t think there’s an innocent explanation that spans 30 participation projects. I agree about the integrity. I also think when she is called on it she will invent another pretty little lie and come off as believable doing it. Proceed with caution.

        1. DArcy*

          I think several people have brought up some very plausible possibilities for an innocent explanation (particularly that this was a one-time application and it’s not clear if the criteria are restated when you start a new study), so I’m inclined to go with “ask but verify”.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      Yes, this. She hasn’t been a good audience member, to put it bluntly. The best case scenario is she didn’t read the form properly, but that would speak to a lack of attention to detail. And I’ve seen these sorts of applications – they are extremely clear in their directions. Completing it in the way she did isn’t just lying. It’s fraud.

      She misrepresented herself. What else has she lied about? Are you sure her resume is as solid as you think? How will you explain it to colleagues when they make the connection that she’s been on the panel but apparently works in this field? How will you explain it to your clients?

      Honestly what you need to do is reject her application and fire her from your panel. By being on it she is invalidating your client contracts. Your clients aren’t getting what they paid for.

      Even if she changed degree, she works in the field and everyone in media and comms knows these kinds of panels screen out them and their spouse and close family. You can’t be on panels like Pinecone if you work in comms, the end. I’ve not seen one that mentions friends (which would rule out an awful lot of people) but she is violating an established industry norm here.

      You don’t need this kind of hassle. Why not hire any one of the other applicants who haven’t misrepresented themselves and defrauded your company and your clients?

      1. MK*

        The deciding issue is really how clear the forms are. You seem convinced that they were extremely clear, but actually the OP says she “checked a box stating she had no background in the industry”. That doesn’t convey how strict the requirements are, so it’s possible that the company’s form need clarification.

        1. Hannah*

          From working in this industry (although in a different country) I do believe there is no confusion to this rule whatsoever. Its very obvious. ESPECIALLY to people actually interested in the industry. I cannot understand how she thinks the optics of this wouldn’t be of concern to the interviewer – it’s really quite damaging to the research. At home everyone basically knows one another so you would be considered spying on techniques etc and at worst thought of as purposely sabotaging the company’s research

          1. Digital clock here*

            I dont know that forms are super clear…or maybe I am an idiot. I work in marketing, but not for a research group. Personally i applied to a be on a bunch of research panels a few years back and when it got to that question, i was excited to say “YES, I have a marketing background and actively work in marketing today!” because That’s what I thought they were seeking out and I thought I was perfect for it. I got rejected from every one and was really frustrated, it wasn’t until I asked for feedback that they told me it was that particular question that disqualified me. I had no idea because i dont have experience in the research sector.

            1. Nee*

              But it sounds like you answered the question exactly the way these organizations wanted you to, so in that sense it was perfectly clear. In fact, had they included a clarifying point that straightforwardly stated that candidates with experience will not be accepted, that alone might encourage candidates who DO work in the industry to lie in order to be accepted into the panel.

            2. nonprofit manager*

              Yes, the forms were clear. I used to work in a similar research field and we don’t TELL people what will disqualify them. We want honest answers so we do not lead potential respondents. If someone misrepresented their answers to bypass the screening process, it tells me they have knowledge of the industry and are probably trying to see what the competitor is up to.

        2. Ramona Flowers*

          I see why you’d think that, but as you can see from the posts from people with experience in this kind of field, they’re usually extremely clear.

          1. tigerlily*

            I don’t understand how you can make sweeping generalizations of your field like that. I work in Early Childhood Education – every place I’ve ever worked at had completely different intake forms. They looked completely different from each other, they asked for different information, they were collected in different manners. Sure, we work on making the forms as clear as possible, and yet each one has had a whole host of things that people misunderstood because people read and interpret things differently, because people read things too quickly and miss information, because people don’t all speak English at the same proficiency that I do, etc.

            You don’t work for this company, you’ve never seen their form. There’s no way you (or anyone else, really, even the people who have created this form) to say unequivocally that this form was clear and there’s no room for error. There just isn’t. So it’s certainly possible this person lied, but it’s also totally possible that she didn’t – that the form wasn’t clear on what constituted experience, that she DIDN’T have any experience when she initially filled out the form and no one ever had her update it in the five years since, that she made a mistake and checked the wrong box, or hey, maybe she even checked the correct box saying she had experience and the error was with someone else who didn’t weed that application out.

          2. AD*

            None of us have seen the form in question for this particular organization, and we also don’t know where (i.e. what country) OP is located in, so speculation from other commenters isn’t quite gospel in this case.

          3. Infinity Anon*

            Usually does not mean always. The OP should get a copy of the actual form she filled out and then determine if she lied or could have misunderstood. If it turns out the form was unclear, then it is reasonable to give her a chance (and make a better form).

        3. Kali*

          I’m a mystery shopper, which is the same sort of thing, though not quite at the same level as described in OP1. For each assignment, I’m asked to answer “I understand that I, my relatives and my close friends must not be currently employed by this company, nor have been previously employed by them at any time” and this warning is shown;

          “Please be advised that if you, or a relative, are employed by the company you are intending to mystery shop, the employee risks severe disciplinary action as our clients deem this behaviour as serious misconduct.”

        4. Elsajeni*

          Yes, this is what I’m thinking. Especially since OP seems to say that she would have been asked to check the box once, when she first joined the panel, and then was able to participate for five years without being re-screened — that’s a long time to assume no major changes in panelists’ backgrounds! If she actually has been re-screened during that time and has continued to say she has no industry background, obviously that’s a major problem; if there have been periodic reminders to panelists that they need to let you know if they or their family members move into the marketing/communications field, and she hasn’t, that’s also a problem. But if it really is one checkbox at the beginning of the process, it seems to me that it could genuinely be an issue of unclear forms or a misunderstanding — maybe she hadn’t declared her communications major yet (it could even have been participating in the panels that got her interested in the field), maybe she had but the question wasn’t clear that “current studies” were in the “background in the industry” category, etc.

          1. Holly*

            I’m shocked at the number of people jumping to crucify the candidate on the presumption she actively lied for 5 years. Aside from the form being unclear, it’s possible she simply mis-checked a box. The very fact that she applied to this company tells me that she probably has no idea she was not qualified to be a panelist. If she knew she was wrong, she would have applied to a different company where her lying would never come up.

        5. AdAgencyChick*

          I agree. Especially since she was a student the first time she did it, it’s easy for me to imagine someone thinking a “background” meant “working experience.”

          1. Editrix*

            Definitely, and I wouldn’t consider the first couple of years of general studies (which are almost everyone’s first couple of years of college) to be “background” in anything except… general studies. Most programs don’t get into specifics until the back half, which sounds like it would have been after she was screened.

      2. Gen*

        There’s an episode of an old uk TV show called the Thick of It where a political opinion panel used to form government policy has been padded with actors and this one woman who is considered an ‘opinion panel star’ turns out to be a background actor in a TV show. She’s recognised and it basically destroys years worth of policy making.

        I’d be wary of employing this person whatever her reasons are because she might well slip up and refer to her time working on panels in front of clients. It has the potential to ruin your company’s reputation. Honestly I’d just contact her to question her (don’t bring her in for an interview and mislead her into thinking she has a chance) and then review those 30 now-suspect panels in light of what you find out.

        1. Lily*

          but “having a history of working in those panels” and “now working for the company” doesn’t have to be a disaster if clients knew. She easily could have changed industries. Just the other way round would be a problem.

      3. Mookie*

        Honestly what you need to do is […] fire her from your panel. By being on it she is invalidating your client contracts. Your clients aren’t getting what they paid for.

        This. Do this immediately and document it.

      4. Lia*

        I’m a Pinecone participant and they require fairly regular recertification for eligibility — it’s asked on almost every survey I complete, and I do a household update at least once a year.

    3. Amy*

      Agreed. It really is possible that there’s an innocent explanation–a lot can change in five years, so it’s very possible that the form was less explicit about what counted as ‘background’ when she signed it, or that she honestly wasn’t in the field when she filled it out and started work in that area later on.

      But if she did lie, that’s a big deal. I think you should ask, and really watch her reaction. It’s doubtful that she’ll admit to anything outright, but it’s generally possible to tell if someone is outright lying. Personally, I’d be looking for if the question took her by surprise; if so, it seems more likely that it’s an honest mistake, since I’m guessing someone who was knowingly deceiving you would at least consider the possibility of getting caught.

      Regardless of how this candidate turns out: If you’re to ensure that participants have no current connection to the industry, you should probably have them fill out this form before every study (or at least every couple months). People’s life circumstances do change over time–they change jobs and fields, their loved ones change jobs and fields, you can’t just blindly expect an answer from several years ago to still be accurate. Nor can you reasonably expect people to remember that specific question and opt out on their own if their circumstances change; most people don’t remember the specific questions on every questionnaire they fill out, especially years later.

      1. KHB*

        “Personally, I’d be looking for if the question took her by surprise; if so, it seems more likely that it’s an honest mistake, since I’m guessing someone who was knowingly deceiving you would at least consider the possibility of getting caught.”

        I think this is a good way to do it. Bring her in and ask, “So you’ve been working in marketing and also participating in panels for us – what’s up with that?” If she seems like she has an answer all thought out, then she’s probably trying to knowingly get away with something. But if she seems genuinely surprised or confused by what you’re getting at at first, then that points more to an innocent misunderstanding.

        And then shore up your checks on the panel members’ qualifications to make sure there aren’t any more innocent misunderstandings in the future.

    4. Diamond*

      Maybe five years ago when she signed up she interpreted ‘background in the industry’ to mean ’employment/experience in the industry’, rather than just a partial communications degree? (Unless the form specifically mentioned studying). When I was midway through my degree I wouldn’t have thought of myself as having a background in the industry. Of course, that means she should have stopped participating once she started working. Not sure what the timeline is on that. If she lied on purpose it’d take some brass to then apply for a job with you.

      1. Alton*

        That was what I was thinking. Maybe in this industry, it’s obvious that studying the field counts as being in it, but I don’t know if I would have figured that as a student or not (I’d probably have asked, though). She definitely shouldn’t have stayed on if she was employed in the field, though, and if it was clear that students were disqualified, that was wrong of her.

      2. Antilles*

        I was thinking the same thing – OP says that the worker “began her degree in communications seven years ago”. Seven years is usually plenty of time to complete a degree, so I’m guessing that she either switched majors or dropped out. If that’s really all that is…well, I took three Econ classes my first year in college, intending to get a minor, then stopped. If you asked me today if I have a “background in Economics”, I would answer no without the slightest thought – I have no degree in economics, I’ve never worked in anything relating to econ, and I literally haven’t thought about it since college. And then if you asked me again six months from now, my answer will again be a zero-hesitation “nope”.
        That said, if it really makes a difference to OP and OP’s clients, then it legitimately doesn’t matter if it was an innocent misunderstanding or not – either way, you can’t let her stay on.

        1. Nee*

          I interpreted this to say that she started her degree seven years ago, graduated after the customary four years, and has been working since – but I could be misinterpreting.

        2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          This. The affect on clients. Look at transparency for your own company. I’m imagining I work for you. I collect and query name data. I see the same name on 30 panels. I attempt to contact this person for an upcoming panel and discover she now works here. That is interesting. I review her background. I discover she’d spent 7 years studying the field she’s in to do the job she is now doing. And during that time of study, she’s been on these panels. This is going to Compliance and somebody is going to need to explain this.

          1. Sara M*

            This. It may or may not be an innocent mistake, but I don’t think you can hire her either way.

      3. Stop That Goat*

        That was my first thought as well. I wouldn’t think of a partially completed degree as background in the industry.

    5. Mike C.*

      Why not just call and ask? You’re certainly curious and if you don’t hear a good answer you haven’t wasted an interview slot.

    6. Josh S*

      I’m of the contrary opinion to most of the people here. To me, this is NOT an automatic disqualifier.

      Yes, you should absolutely ask her about it. And if her resume shows she worked for competitive firms during the time she was part of the panel, then THAT would be disqualifying to her candidacy. 100% no questions asked.

      But as someone who knows how “hard recruits” are sometimes coached into passing the screener questions (ie how many people are there who are under 25 and can afford a weekly purchase of Japanese Whiskey that sells for $80+ per bottle?), I also see how someone who is newer to the industry might be prompted to qualify for some studies. It doesn’t make it RIGHT and it doesn’t speak well for their integrity, but it can seem like one of those cultural peccadillos that we all do and nobody thinks of as detrimental to their integrity, like driving 50 in a 45mph zone. (OMG It’s breaking the law!! but everybody does it and nobody thinks that doing so speaks ill of your integrity…)

      For someone newer to the industry, it’s worth asking the question. If she’s mortified and “I didn’t realize this was really a Big Deal Disqualifier!” then I’d be willing to consider.

      Put another way, it is absolutely reason for caution. And if she did it with full knowledge that it was a BIG DEAL and did it anyway, then an absolute reason to disqualify her candidacy. But absent that, I would consider.

      1. Josh S*

        Also, if she has been in 30 studies over 5 years, that’s one study every 2 months.
        This means perhaps she us too familiar with your methodology and “what the researcher is looking for” to be unbiased.

        She is probably over-represented in your data anyway, regardless of her industry status. So… I guess if you’re comfortable with that in your dataset I wouldn’t get worked up over the industry status bit. (again, barring direct competition)

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I very much agree with this, as someone who is in this industry. When I conducted research using the types of firms OP #1 works for, I refused to use anyone who had participated in any type of research in the last 6 months or if they had participated in research in the same category in the last year, so no one would have been able to do 30 pilot tests for me in 5 years. I don’t think our requirements were that far out of the norm. I also know very few people who haven’t skirted an industry question in an online survey; granted, that’s a much different animal (with a way larger sample size) than a small qualitative or biometric panel, but I don’t question the integrity of someone who works for a media client and doesn’t outright indicate that in an online survey. (Most of the time, they’re actually answering truthfully because of the way the question is worded, which is a whole different issue.)

          It’s starting to sound to me like this woman signed up for the panel in college, enjoyed doing the work a lot and decided to pursue market research as a career. It’s worth a conversation at the very least.

          1. Josh S*

            “This woman signed up for the panel in college, enjoyed doing the work a lot…” and decided to keep taking the $xx checks every couple months as a bonus, even though she didn’t tehnically qualify any more, because ‘it’s not like I’m intentionally skewing their results, right? I’m being honest in my feedback, and it’s biometric response anyway, so it’s not like I can ‘game’ that even if I wanted to. And it’s fun!’

            This is, quite honestly, how I think the whole thing went down. If that screener question (on industry participation) was present the whole way along and re-asked on a regular basis, then it’s much more sketchy than it would be if it was a one-time “qualify to be on our panel” and then screener questions along the way were more study-specific (ie “do you drink pop at least 3x/week?”).

            There is definitely potential for this to be a ‘lack of integrity’ thing, but it strikes me much more in the line of ‘harmless white lie’ without recognizing the potential impact.

      2. neverjaunty*

        I’m guessing you’ve never had the pleasure of working with someone with serious ethical issues. “But everybody breaks the speed limit” is practically a Bingo card with this sort of person.

        The OP should absolutely ask, because there very well could be an innocent explanation. Absent that, hand-waving about innocent youth is not something that is a good counter to the headaches a dishonest employee can cause.

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          I’m with you. “But she was a student” is not something the Compliance and/or Legal departments are going to accept when they find out you vouched for and hired this person.

        2. Josh S*

          I have had that ‘pleasure’, and you’re correct that the “everyone breaks the speed limit” is overused as justification for some truly heinous things.

          But there’s also grey area in the way survey recruits happen. And I think that tends to fall much closer to ‘speed limits’ than ‘falsifying contracts’ in the spectrum of grey area.

    7. Katrina*

      I kind of made up my own, benign scenario in my head.

      Maybe the first time she participated in something, it was a specific “freshmen in the field” kind of thing. She did well, they asked her back, she never realized.

      I think its worth asking.

    8. nonprofit manager*

      I used to work in a similar research industry so understand the need to strictly screen respondents. I also think integrity with employees is a very important thing. I have a couple of thoughts.

      One, the candidate started her degree in communications 7 years ago, and started participating 5 years ago. It’s possible that she had not narrowed her major to communications at the time she signed up with your firm. And perhaps her experience with your firm made her interested in communications. I would definitely talk about her work and education history with her to see if that’s the case.

      Two, why isn’t your firm re-verifying the status of your audience participants on a regular basis? A lot can change and this should be done fairly frequently. Our firm did research related to cars and we had a number of repeat respondents. We re-verified every single time we recruited them for a study. You just never know when things will change.

  2. KarenT*

    #4 Not getting promoted for budgetary reasons is a good answer to why you’re looking to leave your current role.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I’d not mention the budgetary part and just say a lack of opportunity for advancement and promotion.

      1. Shadow*

        That always makes me wonder why no opportunity? Is it because of you aren’t ready for them??

        1. Breda*

          Really? Because it’s very common in my experience for there to be more lower-level positions than upper-level positions, which means that there are generally more people who want to advance than jobs to give them. I have friends who work places where no one gets promoted until someone in a higher position leaves. (They tend to shed a lot of people at the mid-levels as a result.)

          1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

            When I came into my position, I was told that job is done by six people who all had one title and one level. If you are looking for promotion, this is not the department for you. I was fine with that. (Side rant: a “senior” employee threw a fit ten years in and was given a raise and a specious title. We all had to congratulate her. Yippee. She honestly tried the same crap ONE YEAR later. When she was told no, she threatened to quit and put in two weeks. Bye. A couple years after that, at my review I was told I was doing well, would get a nice raise, but as I told you, there’s no advancement. Yeah, I remember. Such is life.)

        2. nonymous*

          yeah, but the applicant can easily follow up the “no opportunity” line with specific examples of performance improvement or taking on more/more mature tasks. “No opportunity for advancement due to low attrition” looks very different at a practical level than “No opportunity for advancement b/c can’t perform”.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I’d mention the budgetary part. I’m having trouble figuring out how it could hurt.

      Because also, any company that can’t promote a great candidate because of money is also not that financially stable–another reason to look for a new job.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I don’t think that’s fair. They might just not need anyone to do higher level work at this time as they have it covered.

            1. TootsNYC*

              exactly! And I do understand this; I once had to teach this to someone who was upset that she’d been there a year and a half and hadn’t gotten a promotion. I pointed out that with three people in the department and no extra tasks ever going to be added, there was no need for a different organization, and they couldn’t give her different responsibilities without taking them away from people they were paying more money too.

              But that’s not budget–that’s “no opportunities for growth.”

              And, in thinking about it, that’s probably the simplest, and it is often what is meant when a -manager- chooses the words “no budget.”

              1. nonymous*

                My org has a few people who are in this boat – there were about 5 individuals that I saw on a daily basis, who were divided over three supervisors. To give them promotion opportunity, they cross trained on each others’ tasks. The initial promotion bump was for the added responsibility of training other staff. And then there was a second round of promotions because of attrition and 5 years later, the same work is being done by three staff.

                It is pretty odd sounding to say that “no extra tasks” mean no opportunity for promotion. Even the orgs I know of with long horizons of stability see new technology or laws and policies come into play. As workflows become more mature and rote, it makes sense for senior staff – who are expected to be more responsive and independent – to pass tasks down the chain so they can focus on whatever is emerging next.

            2. DArcy*

              Indeed. This is exactly why I’m hesitant about pursuing promotion to field supervisor — I know I’d be good at it, but it’s only a modest increase in pay and a BIG increase in responsibilities and headaches. We’re a small company so the supervisors are functionally equivalent to team lead AND middle management at once.

              (According to one of the existing supervisors, company management did consider me for supervisor the last two times they’ve been looking for one, but opted for other candidates because they had supervisory experience at previous jobs and because I “didn’t seem hungry for it” — which is a completely fair assessment. )

          1. Toph*

            It’s still a weird scenario to me because I’ve frequently seen some companies give employees title change in lieu of a raise. Maybe that’s more common in certain industries, but the notion of someone doing higher level work, but not given the promotion to reflect it because it can’t come with a salary increase would sound odd to me. I understand that the OP in this case was literally told no for that reason, and perhaps the company has a specific pay schedule to go with certain titles, or it’s a union thing or I don’t know what else. But if I were looking at a resume and saw a low level position for what struck me as too long, I don’t know that hearing “well they wanted to but, budgets” as an explanation would ease my concern. There’s the separate issue that companies that do what I describe are basically making their staff look better for when they do seek employment elsewhere, but that’s a separate problem. So I guess I land on the side of offering this explanation in interviews is unlikely to help and may hurt. A more generic “looking for room for advancement” would sound more reasonable to me were I hiring, because it leaves open the possibility the issue is the place just didn’t need another tier-2 teapot glazer, not that this person wasn’t capable of moving up from tier-1. If they mention the budget thing, I’d balk. Perhaps that’s unreasonable of me? But I think there’s no reason to potentially cause negative thoughts in the interviewers mind when you could say something more vague that lets them fill in their blanks, potentially more kindly.

            1. Not in US*

              I actually experienced the opposite in my career once – they gave me the pay raise for the promotion but wouldn’t give me the title – why? Because had I left they would have had to replace me with two people and they knew the longer they kept with my then current title the harder it was for me to leave… very frustrating! I’m in a completely different industry and a totally different job now but dear lord the politics…

              1. nonymous*

                See, I don’t understand this mentality. If your responsibilities increase over time, wouldn’t this be evident from your CV?

      2. Amy*

        It could hurt if it’s interpreted as a lack of discretion on your part. If the budgetary problems are well-known in the industry, then you probably don’t even need to state the reason opportunities for promotion aren’t available–everyone knows. If they’re not, then discussing them with a different company could be interpreted as sharing insider information, and many companies would rather have employees who know how to keep that kind of info to themselves.

          1. Oponn*

            Maybe it is because I work in the ‘security clearance needed’ sector, but I think that’s a perfectly reasonable way to look at it. Here, information that isn’t marked as classified still can be aggregated into information that is harmful, so it is best to just play it safe. I think information that involved the financial health of a company is worthy of being treated in the same manner.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Eh, lots of companies would look at it that way, and sometimes it would be reasonable to. Depends on the context, but there are plenty of situations where you’re quite reasonably expected to be discreet about a company’s financial workings.

          3. Amy*

            It depends so much on the place. Some are very open about this kind of thing and would never even consider this perspective. Others are very big on security and discretion (sometimes due to culture, sometimes due to industry norms, sometimes because they’re hiring for a position that specifically needs these skills) and would consider any sign that a candidate might lack discretion to be a big deal.

          1. TootsNYC*

            OK, so maybe you don’t say “there isn’t budget,” but you absolutely can say, “The company doesn’t have a pathway for me to grow into bigger responsibilities,” which is the crux of the situation.

            and it’s absolutely why people go looking for a new job: “I’m ready to move up, but I won’t be able to do it at my company.”

            The only thing about the “no budget” that’s appealing is that it can come with “my boss would if there were money, so I *am* promotable.”
            Though, “There isn’t a position for me to move up into” is really the same thing and shows a nice knowledge of how org charts work.

  3. Ramona Flowers*

    #3 I’m so sorry to hear this. Something in your letter stood out to me: this job was literally my only interview outside of a temp company. You were looking for just six weeks, which is actually an impressively quick time in which to apply, interview for, and get a job. You say it’s hard to get a job without experience in that country – but you did, and very quickly. So it sounds like you’re panicking and, like you say, in shock, and seeing your career situation in terms of all the worst case scenarios, and forgetting that you got this job and you can get others. I hope you don’t have to, and I’m sorry you’re going through such uncertainty.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      That’s an excellent point! OP, it sounds like you have skills that people want. I also hope you don’t have to look for another job, but if you do, there’s a strong chance you’ll be snapped up very quickly.

      Can you frame your enquiry to your current employer in terms of your visa? Something like, “I’m so sorry to ask and believe me I don’t want to, but the rules around my visa are very strict. I could be forced to leave if I don’t have a secure job. Can you tell me what’s going to happen to my position?”

      As for not putting the job on your resume, maybe you can. I hope someone with more knowledge than me can give input on this! To my thinking, if you have to leave, it’s not at all your fault. So it would the same as if you got a job, stayed for a few weeks and the company announced lay-offs. You would have to frame it with compassion – ‘Sadly, my employer passed away and my position was eliminated in the restructuring.’ But again, I hope someone with more knowledge can weigh in.

      Wishing you the best of luck and hope it works out!

      1. LW #3*

        Thanks for the reassurance, I do really appreciate it. Thankfully, I won’t be kicked out of the country if I lose my job (I don’t actually HAVE to work at all), but for the sake of myself and my partner I can’t really afford to be out of work. When I say it took me 6 weeks to get a job I know it doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but it would be a burden on our finances since we just spend thousands in having me move here in the first place. But, this did make me feel a bit better.

        I guess what I’m wondering however is how do I put it on my resume? I don’t currently place WHY I left a position on my resume in the first place, wouldn’t my putting 1 month (or whatever it is) of employment on my resume make them automatically chuck it?

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          That’s good to know! Six weeks is fast in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a lot when you’re living with uncertainty.

          As to your question, that’s why I’m hoping someone with more knowledge can weigh in. I think there have been posts where it was advised people can put things like ‘Job ended due to restructuring’ in brackets after the job. Not for every job, but for those rare occasions when it’s necessary. To my way of thinking, there are exceptions for exceptional circumstances and this would count. But again, I could be way off.

          I hope all goes well with the job you have and won’t have to search.

        2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          Oh, just had a thought. How about going back to the temp agency that helped you find this job? Explain what happened and see if they have any advice for you. Your situation will garner sympathy and they’d be more likely to help you.

          I know how you feel as I also moved to another country. I’m very much a minority here and my name makes me stand out, and not in a good way. Job hunting is extra nerve-wracking for this reason. I try to remember that if they toss my resume, then I dodged a bullet. (Where I live, it’s estimated that at least a quarter of agencies and hiring manager throw out resumes with non-white names and don’t even look at them. They’re either directed to do so by clients or their bosses, or they do it themselves. I try to remember that not everyone is like that, and that I have found jobs ‘despite’ my name.)

        3. Kyrielle*

          I would put it on the resume. As long as the position hasn’t actually ended you can’t put ended due to restructuring, but you could address it in your cover letter.

        4. Kathenus*

          I had a similar situation in my career. I was hired for a job I was incredibly excited about, which included a cross-country move. I was in a job I was happy and successful in, but the move had a lot of quality of life intangibles that were important to me. Three weeks before I started, the person who would have been my manager passed away unexpectedly. I followed through on the move, but over time it became obvious that my new manager and I didn’t share some important philosophical viewpoints, and I ended up leaving after a couple of years. I’m in a niche field where many people know each other so I knew there would be curiosity as to why I was looking to leave my current position. So when looking for a new job I addressed the situation in my cover letter, referencing that I was looking due to my manager unexpectedly passing away, which led to a change in management philosophy that didn’t align with my goals.

          If you do stay at the new position, be aware of any changes to the culture that may occur due to the change in ownership/management, to see how well the position still works with you and your career goals. Best of luck.

        5. La Revancha*

          Hi! off topic, but where did you move to and where are you from? I would love to move abroad and find work one day.

          1. Anonygoose*

            Look into Working Holiday Visas – they are available in a few different countries and give you a lot of flexibility, although they are usually only 1-2 years long. I had to leave the UK after two years, despite having a job, because my WHV ended and there wasn’t another type of visa for me to move into. So it’s a lot of fun, but temporary usually.

        6. Thlayli*

          I’m not sure what is the best wording to explain why you are looking so soon after starting, but I do think it could be very useful to have it on your resume depending on the country you are in. In some countries getting a new resident set up on the tax system and social insurance system is a huge hassle and could put employers off hiring new entrants on visas. If they know you have already worked there and so you already have registered with the social insurance/tax/whoever people it makes it much easier for employers to hire you. But that can vary country to country.

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      Ramona is on point here. Six weeks is such an incredible turnaround time, particularly for someone working on a visa. Don’t panic. Just take a step back, breathe, and focus on the next steps. I also don’t think it would be a bad thing to mention this situation in the interview. It’s such a rare occasion that simply stating it as the reason might not be bad, but I’ll bow to more experienced advice on this if I’m wrong.

      I am sorry this is happening. Just remember that you found this job, you will find another.

      Good luck and please keep us updated.

  4. Paul*

    Oh yikes.

    The owner of the place I worked for my first job-cash, probably under the table–died during the summer I worked there and never bit me but I wasn’t on a work visa either.

    Best of wishes to you in this. That is a really horrid situation that you aren’t at fault for. Those suck :(

    1. Paul*

      er, the situation never bit me in the rear (metaphorically). The owner definitely never bit me, despite what a jackass he was. Ambiguous sentence structure is bad.

      1. Marzipan*

        Given the recent letter from the person who bit their colleague, it was probably good to clarify this!

  5. A-n-o-n-y-m-o-u-s*

    #2 Did the hiring manager use the phrasing ‘Two headed unicorn’? That seems like a strange way of putting it, considering that unicorns, two-headed or otherwise, do not exist, whereas appropriately qualified candidates do.

    1. nnn*

      Now I’m pondering on a philosophical level whether a two-headed unicorn is still a unicorn, since it has two horns (one on each head). Unless it only has a horn on one of its heads….

      1. JamieS*

        I’m going to take a firm stance on a mythological creature and say that a two-headed unicorn are conjoined unicorn twins.

        1. Monodon monoceros*

          As a real, one-horned animal (or one elongated toothed animal, actually, but I digress), I applaud your firm stance on this issue.

        2. Hermione*

          Would that make a Cerberus conjoined triplet pups? Or not, because you expect a Cerberus to have 3 heads?

          1. StrikingFalcon*

            A good question. When breeding Cerberii, do they breed true? Can they interbreed with other hellhounds? That is, is the correct definition of cerberii a species, breed, or fluke?

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      It sounds like OP was hoping the employer realised they basically had said double-headed unicorn in front of them and felt a bit crushed and confused, and maybe scrutinised, by this question – like maybe they just didn’t believe how well-suited you were.

      Try to remember that even someone who has read your application is still a stranger who doesn’t know your work history as well as you do. It sounds like they were actually getting a feel for where you might need support, not doubting your strengths, albeit asking in a clumsy way.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s like the more common phrase “purple unicorn,” which is used to describe a mythical candidate who probably doesn’t exist — in other words, the employer has created an unrealistic profile of who to hire.

    4. JamieS*

      If the hiring manager was trying to express that he didn’t believe a candidate who met all the requirements existed that’s a great way to put it.

      1. LW #2*

        Letter writer here. Yes, that is exactly what they meant! They’re not a native speaker so may not be familiar with the more colloquial “purple unicorn”, but they basically did not think a person with all the skills and experience described in the ad existed.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          The other day–I can’t remember the context–someone with a wide array of skills mentioned their last couple of job interviews basically being “Hi. So if your resume is true, we’re hiring you.” I think your experience sounds like a clumsy attempt at ‘your resume seems almost too perfect; if it’s legit that’s awesome’–and not being a native speaker they didn’t effectively hit the last bit. (People do sometimes just transfer the list of skills from the job ad onto their resume–you might be either perfect or desperate and they don’t know which yet.)

          A much smoother way to do this is “Tell me what you find limiting about coding in Unix. And for the tap dancing, what are the advantages of a cane?” But if your interviewer is a single person, then they likely don’t know enough about the 10 skills to evaluate each of them.

    5. LW #2*

      I just clarified below – yes, they said these exact words. They actually did not believe a person with the qualifications required in the ad existed, so they were wondering which of the criteria I didn’t meet. Then when I said I was actually qualified in all of those things, they explained they were looking for “someone who would grow into the role”, implying that I would get bored in the job.

      1. TL -*

        That is an incredibly dumb way to run a job search, to be honest. Here’s all the things we want, except if you have all the things, we don’t want you.

        I’m not sure what your options are, but I would be spending some time thinking about whether or not that was a place I actually wanted to work.

        1. Monodon monoceros*

          Have they been up front with the pay? I wonder if this is code for “we want all these things, but don’t want to pay for it, so we’re hoping to pay someone less and let them ‘grow'” But now the OP came along with all the experience and created a bit of a dilemma.

          1. LW #2*

            No, they haven’t mentioned pay at all, which I thought was unusual given that there’s a lot of variation in this industry. This makes me think they’re probably not that interested. I’m currently pretty well paid and have had employers tell me before that they couldn’t afford me despite the job being a good fit. (I was fine with this – not looking to take a massive pay cut either.)

          2. neverjaunty*

            This is a good point – it’s like job negging. Put up impossible standards and when nobody meets them, act like you’re doing them a huge favor hiring them at all.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              I would be interested in reading a business version of The Game—except there’s so much similarity I think it would skew too far into plagiarism to be an effective parody.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yikes—I agree with TL. These folks don’t sound like they have a realistic/responsible view of the job or of hiring, OP. Maybe this is an opportunity to dodge a bullet if they come back to you?

      3. Hannah*

        It’s very common to apply for a job where you meet most, but not all, of the qualifications listed in the job description. It doesn’t seem like a bad thing at all that the employer is fully aware of this fact, it seems really reasonable and sane to me. The fact that you actually are the two headed unicorn that they are looking for should be a good thing!

        1. TootsNYC*

          Maybe they are so stuck on the idea that this skills combo would be hard to find. And you just need to point out that are -are- that two-headed unicorn. (A pushmi-pokeyu?)

          I didn’t find that phrase odd or confusing. People talk about finding a unicorn. A two-headed anything is also rare.

          1. Dr Dolittle*

            I agree but the pushme pullyu is extinct now I believe. If there are any living, they are too shy to take an interview.

      4. The IT Manager*

        To be fair, though, you do not have to meet every qualification to apply. I don’t have links handy but I have seen numbers where women usually will require that they meet a greater percentage of qualifications than men before applying. Like on average men who meet 50% (not exact number but something surprisingly small to me) of the qualifications feel perfectly fine tossing their application in the ring.

        This is not to say that the interviewer should not have been able to figure this out on his own by looking at your resume, but your question: “Why would I apply for the job if I did not think I had the required skill set?” implies that you think you need to be close to 100% match. That’s not really true.

        1. Marzipan*

          Yes, I was also thinking of this – I’ve definitely seen things in the past to suggest that women are more likely to select themselves out of applying for things on the basis of not meeting *all* the criteria where men are more likely to apply even if they don’t (I think it’s 60%) – and that this can mean women missing out on opportunities they could in fact have been hired for.

          1. JHunz*

            On the other hand, the role I’m currently in I was hired for after my wife convinced me to apply for a role I was definitely not fully senior enough for. Didn’t get it, but he liked me enough to hire me anyway in a more junior role. I’m really glad I listened to her

          2. Tau*

            Trufax: reading that on this site convinced me to branch out a bit in my applications and throw my hat in even if I was missing some of the essential criteria. I just started a job which I’d never have applied for otherwise!

        2. Breda*

          I suspect, also, that this question was designed to test self-awareness. They want to know what applicants understand about their own weak areas and how they anticipate growing in the role. There are certainly better ways to phrase that, but the LW mentions some language issues, which could explain that.

      5. This Daydreamer*

        Being a two headed unicorn sound like the least boring job ever. Even better if you can be purple.

        Anyway, it sounds like a complex role so I doubt boredom is going to be a worry for the near future. Could it be that he was looking for a reason to pay you less?

      6. Toph*

        In my experience “someone who would grow into it” is more often code for “we aren’t offering pay commensurate with someone who already has all these skills”. It’s probably also true you’d get bored, but I would take that phrasing to probably be more about pay. I think the situation here is less likely they’re not interested in you, and more likely they think you won’t be interested in them since they were looking for someone lower level to turn into you later.

    6. Brogrammer*

      I’ve usually heard it as “purple squirrel,” which seems to mean:
      The wisdom of a 50 year old
      The experience of a 40 year old
      The drive of a 30 year old
      The paycheck of a 20 year old
      Tongue planted firmly in cheek, of course.

  6. lychee*

    On #1: I belong to the market research industry and feel that the candidate lying about something that;s fundamental to the research process is too big to be ignored. And she did it over time. As a marketing professional she would be well aware the implications of flouting that particular rule of doing reserach. To persist in doing that speaks really very poorly of her. I am surprised OP 1 arent bothered that her lying has potentially raised questions on your research outputs (although I admit that the impact would be mostly tiny)

    OP if I were in your place. I would call her out , drop her as a candidate and blacklist list her from the research studies. This is a really major interity problem in my eyes.

      1. lychee*

        True, missed that. In that case I am even more surprised OP is considering her candidature.

      1. tigerlily*

        Well, OP’s instinct seems to be that they still want to interview and possible hire this person.

    1. kittymommy*

      Yeah, this seems like a pretty big deal to me (I am not in this industry), even more so as it was done over a long period of time.

    2. nonprofit manager*

      Are we sure the candidate was lying over time? The OP mentions that the candidate first signed on with their firm five years ago. If the candidate had to complete forms subsequent to that, then there is a huge integrity problem and she needs to be dropped from participating in future research and as a candidate. But there is a possibility that the OP’s firm wasn’t keeping up with screening as they should have.

  7. TootsNYC*

    #5: As someone who lives in a co-op, I would say that you absolutely can use your work database to look up their address and send a thank-you note.

    Those aren’t quite personal gifts (if you didn’t work there, would you get a gift from them?). They’re professional gifts, and I think it’s appropriate to send a note to their home.

    I wouldn’t assume you were stalking me, and I’d think it perfectly reasonable to look up my address.
    (couldn’t you find their address with a google search? if you were worried about the upper management tracking your database usage, I’d try that)

    But I’d also say–it’s so very wise to send a thank-you note in this situation. For one thing, those people will be more likely to give you a nice gift the next time around.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I disagree; I think it’s wise for OP to avoid accessing people’s information for non-work purposes. Each condo group is different, but most folks I know appreciate discretion and protection of their privacy. OP’s role is also distinct from, say, a landlord sending holiday cards or cookies to all its tenants using its rent roll. In this case, OP is an employee of the association, not its owner.

      Also, these are not professional gifts. From what OP describes, these are personal gifts given in a professional context. It’s not a gift between employers who work as partners, or between a manager/supervisor and subordinate. It’s similar, imo, to providing a holiday gift to your doorman or to a mail carrier.

      1. OP #5*

        Right – they’re usually treats like a cute bag of chocolates or homemade cookies, dropped off when owners come in to pay their monthly dues. I would never, ever expect gifts, but who am I to turn down fresh cookies?!

        TootsNYC is right in that everyone’s addresses here are easy to find online – our county’s property appraiser’s website makes it especially easy – but I don’t know, somehow I still feel uncomfortable with that. I can’t quite articulate why, though.

        I’ll probably go with Allion’s suggestion of just handing them thank-yous next time they come in. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before!

        1. MillersSpring*

          If the gift represents a thank you to you, then a thank you note to the giver/thanker wouldn’t be necessary.

          1. Rebecca in Dallas*

            That’s what I’m thinking. A little treat like that is like saying, “Thanks for all you do!” A verbal thank-you from OP should be plenty.

          2. kittymommy*

            Yeah, this. I get stuff like that to where in st and really it’s a thank you gift for the work you have done for them that whole year. I wouldn’t think a not would be really necessary. To me thank you notes are for straight gifts (birthday, anniversary, etc) not thank you/appreciation gifts.

        2. CrazyEngineerGirl*

          If you really want to give thank you notes (which I don’t think are necessary personally) could you keep a list of the people you want to give them too? Then you could hand them the notes when they are in the next month? It’d be a little on the late side, but with no pesky possibly-using-confidential-information. You could also see first hand how the notes went over. Do people seem super surprised or tell you no thank you necessary sort of things? Or do seem touched and appreciated? Might help you figure out if you want to do thank yous again in the future.

        3. nonymous*

          I get why you want to do the thank-you note route. While I would not expect one of my condo manager, I have some neighbors for whom this response would seriously lubricate the wheels of neighborhood congeniality. Seriously, the whole neighborhood benefits when these types of individuals are brown-nosed by the Board or COA/HOA admin.

          That said, since you see them monthly, why not just keep their thank-you card at your desk for the next time they come in? Alternatively, I assume you will have to inspect the grounds in Jan to make sure that everyone has taken down decor or to review work done by contractors – you could just have the notes in your purse and hand them out as you see people.

          While I don’t care about thank-yous in this context, I would be thrilled if my COA admin knows what unit I live in, because it makes conversations about property issues that much easier. I can skip straight to “there’s a pothole in front of my driveway opening up” and get a quick response instead of a long back and forth to orient her. I mean really, everyone I meet in the context of my COA already knows roughly where I live.

      2. TootsNYC*

        Both of whom already know where I live.

        In that situation, I don’t think of my address as confidential data. He’ll, the OP could probably walk by their house and get the house number off the front!

        The pre-existing relationship involves publicly available data.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          A lot of data is publicly available but could still freak someone out if you used it to make contact through a medium you hadn’t used before.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            An extreme version of this is the recent letter from someone with anxiety who showed up at their coworkers’ home. Even though OP opened her paycheck to find the address, I suspect it’s publicly available, too. Even if that OP had accessed her address through a public database and mailed a card instead of showing up, it could have still creeped her out.

            OP is in a much less extreme scenario and knows the gifters through their housing set-up, but that doesn’t necessarily justify accessing their addresses to send thank yous.

            1. nonymous*

              I disagree. In the example you refer to, while the address info was publicly available, it was not the nexus of the relationship. In addition, the anxious coworker physically showed up at the home without invitation or coordination a priori, or the relationship closeness to support drop-ins.

              In this case, the only context OP knows the residents is due to her involvement in the care of their home by facilitating communication. OP does this for all the residents, and it’s likely a good chunk of that correspondence is by mail (or opt-in email). It would appropriate for OP to express her thanks in the communication medium she already uses to interact with them professionally, because her thanks is within the context of that professional relationship.

              What would be odd would be if OP thought the work-presents meant that these residents wanted to interact with at a personal level and used the same medium to ramp up intimacy. For example, using the email/address to send graduation notices would be inappropriate. And while I have no problem with mail/email, hand-delivery would be appropriate only if the COA has a habit of delivering notices by taping them to people’s doors.

    2. Squeeble*

      I don’t know if this analogy quite works, but my workplace sends personalized holiday cards to each employee’s home address each year. I don’t consider that a violation.

    3. paul*

      this may be my social services background, but if you accessed any of our client information for non work reasons it’d be termination. No if, ands or buts.

  8. MommyMD*

    She did not lie to you once five years ago. She lied every time she was on each of the 30 panels. Despite her skills, she shows herself someone who will outright lie to get what she wants. If she does in her private life to that degree, she’ll do it in her professional life.

    1. KHB*

      Are you assuming that she was asked again about her background before each of the 30 studies she participated in? Because the question doesn’t actually say that.

      Furthermore, if she knew that what she was doing was against the rules, why would she be exposing the lie so blatantly now by handing the company a copy of her resume?

        1. KHB*

          Even if that’s the case, it’s worth teasing apart why she would think that. If she doesn’t think the rule is important because the company didn’t make it sufficiently clear that the rule is important, that’s not her fault. But if she’s aware that the company thinks the rule is important and she’s deliberately trying to get away with breaking it, you’d think she’d have been a little more thoughtful in her deception: Either don’t apply for a job with the company she’s trying to deceive in the first place, or give them a “creative” version of her resume that at least makes it less obvious that she’s breaking the rule.

          Given all that, I think the most likely interpretation is that she didn’t realize she was doing anything wrong, either because she forgot about the rule entirely or never realized how important it was. (But none of us are inside her head, so we don’t know for sure.)

          1. Josh S*

            “If she doesn’t think the rule is important because the company didn’t make it sufficiently clear that the rule is important, that’s not her fault. ”

            Exactly this. And even more so, sometimes a survey recruiter will reach out and send you a screening survey, and will ‘prompt’ you to answer certain ways:
            “What’s your income? Over $80k, right?”
            “How often per week do you drink Pop?” “1-2 times, maybe?” “Do you think it would be at least 3x/week?” “Um…Sure?”

            If you get that kind of ‘coaching’ on screener questions (which is crap to begin with, but it happened to me when I did taste tests prior to joining the Market Research Industry), it’s even easier to think that the question, “Do you or anyone related to you work in the Market Research industry?” is unimportant/can be fudged as well, even when it’s a much bigger disqualifier.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              Equally unfortunate is having no one to ask questions about the survey qualifiers—not like, “what are the right answers?”—I mean things like “Does being enrolled in general courses towards a communications degree count as ‘a background’ in this context?” (because I think classes are about as close to ‘a background in’ as reading articles or watching TED talks on the subject). My high school required a communications credit to graduate, so my entire graduating class has taken a high school comm course. Does that count as too much background?

              And contrary to what I think I’m seeing being suggested to the OP in these threads, if I answered a question 5 years ago with what I thought was the truth, I wouldn’t be scrutinizing my answer for the next 5 years, because that’s what liars do.

        2. Bea*

          Or she doesn’t think her name will be cross referenced and ping on any radars. I can see someone thinking the panels are different from working there…they have so many panelists I’m sure. I’ve seen so many brilliant people forget there are other smart people around.

    2. Roscoe*

      I don’t know, whenever people say things like “if she does this in private, she’ll do them at work”. I don’t necessarily agree there. For example, you could be a horrible romantic partner who lies and cheats. However, you could also be an exemplary employee whose integrity has never been called into question. They are 2 completely separate parts of your life

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Agreeing with this hard. The argument is too reductive and it makes the person who says it sound like they don’t understand context, or that we’re in a society that demands everyone compartmentalize to function. It would be like saying “If someone swears in front of their friends, they’ll swear in front of clients.”

  9. Attie*

    For #1, I think it would also depend on how thorough the screening is. If there had been a form box asking “do you have a background in programming” two years into university I’d definitely have ticked ‘no’ – and yet if you look at my CV, that’s only one year before obtaining a BSc in computer science. Now if there was someone interviewing me and asking the same question, the answer would have been “Not really, no – I mean, my dad did show me how use HyperScript when I was five and I’ve taken all the electives I could, so I’ve learned ‘hello world’ in half a dozen languages but I’ve never done any serious coding. The major part of my coursework so far is maths and physics.” If you really needed people who have no prior exposure to for loops I would’ve been totally unsuitable and it would be immediately obvious to an interviewer, but I wouldn’t know that (or even be able to tell that it was important) from a blandly worded tickybox!

    1. MicroManagered*

      This. If it’s a box you check yes or no one time during initial screening, maybe she was not studying communications *at the time* that she checked “no” on her application.

      If she started college 7 years ago, and started doing these studies 5 years ago, perhaps she had not declared a major yet? In that case, “no” would’ve been the correct answer to whether she’d ever studied marketing or communications, and then… perhaps it didn’t come up again, she enjoyed her experience participating in market research and ended up going into communications as a major, and she’s forgotten all about the conflict of interest and has no idea there’s an issue?

      That’s a bit of a stretch, but I don’t think it’s completely outside the realm of possibility.

    2. CatCat*

      Yeah, I’m also curious exactly how the question next to the checkbox is worded.

      Are all the details of what is included part of the checkbox question?

  10. PM Jesper Berg*

    #1: if you have evidence she lied, you shouldn’t hire her.

    However, all you’ve said is that she ticked a box stating she “had no background in the industry.” I would not describe a being midway through a degree in communications as “having a background” in marketing. Communications may be related to marketing in some ways, but it’s not the same thing. It could be closer to journalism, social media, the entertainment industry, or many other things.

    For that matter, I’m not sure that being midway through a communications degree even means you “have a background” in *communications*, although that’s a closer question.

    Also, she may have interpreted “industry” as meaning the industry that was doing her first focus group (automotive, FMCG, etc.).

    If there’s nothing more that this statement on the box, she didn’t lie. And lastly, you should double check that she DID check the box. It’s possible she did check it, and that your company missed that and incorrectly classified her as eligible.

    1. Thlayli*

      I’m with you on this one. Unless the form very clearly and specifically asked if she was studying in the field she was studying in, it’s a very plausible error to make. I would not have thought a partly finished degree in communications is “a background in media”.

      Of course, if the form did specifically ask “are you studying any of the following… [her course]…” then she knowingly lied.

      Without seeing the form ourselves it’s impossible to tell.

      1. KHB*

        At some schools, it’s very possible to change your major when you’re more than halfway through your degree. Maybe five years ago she was studying something completely different, but then she changed her mind.

      2. Former Retail Manager*

        Agreed. When I hear the term “background in…” I think work experience in that field and application of knowledge, skills, and/or theory, not education in that field. I know folks with degrees in various things that ultimately ended up working in an unrelated field and if you asked me if Sally with the accounting degree, who never worked in accounting at all and is now in marketing, has a background in accounting, I’d tell you no.

    2. Tyche*

      Sorry, I can’t agree.
      Firstly, because if I am filling out a form and the question it’s ambiguous I *ask*: “What do you mean with X?” “I’am midway through a degree in communications. Is it a problem?”
      Secondly, because it is not a single occurrence: she lied for *five* years, she finished her degree and began working and still she still participate to the audience panels: I’m quite skeptical she didn’t know it was a problem.
      Thirdly, I think as the OP industry excludes relatives, spouses, friends etc of people who works in marketing, it
      is more than “Have you a background in marketing? Yes/No” kind of question.

      1. Colette*

        But none of us were there to hear the answer if she asked. I agree that the OP should check the form to see how clear it is. If it’s clear and she lied, I wouldn’t bother interviewing her. But if it’s not clear, it’s worth asking what happened.

      2. Yorick*

        People interpret questions differently, especially if they’re not worded well.

        If it seems obvious to you that some college courses don’t equal a background in communications, you’re not going to think to ask someone for clarification. You don’t know you need clarification. You’re just going to answer “no.”

      3. Thlayli*

        Unless they asked her every single time she attended , then no she did not “lie” repeatedly. She told one lie and never corrected it.

        Or quite possibly she misunderstood one question 5 years ago and was never asked it again.

        Or quite possibly she wasn’t even studying it 5 years ago and changed her major late in her studies (though not having gone to college in America I don’t quite understand this but apparently it is a plausible explanation.

        Alison’s advice to ask the candidate and then decide based on the answer is the correct thing to do. I would also recommend the OP take a look at the form first so she can be prepared for follow-up questions.

      4. Alton*

        It may not have seemed ambiguous to her, though. If she wasn’t employed in the field and the possibility of her educational background being a conflict never occurred to her, she might not think to ask.

    3. Jady*

      I agree with this. I’m wondering what the exact wording on the question was, and did it specify any kind of study/college? “Background in” I would interpret as real-world experience / job.

      So if the wording were vague like this, I probably would have also checked no in her shoes.

    4. nonegiven*

      The only person I knew that was majoring in communications was thinking of hostage negotiations.

  11. Manda*

    OP #1 – is there a chance you can go back into your data to see if she was consistently an outlier?

    Also, if she was at the start of her degree (or even the middle) when she joined the audience member pool, there’s a good chance she had taken barely any classes relevant to her major that would have caused her to think “I’m part of the industry”. Communications degrees can be very broad, and women in particular can tend to inaccurately value their experience in an area due a lack of confidence. I wouldn’t have considered myself a “biologist” or “in the field” after taking 1-2 biology classes as an undergrad, I barely felt that way once I’d completed my PhD.

    Do audience members fill out these forms for each study, or just once when they join the pool? If she filled out the form 30 times during the course of her degree, then yes, that’s definitely a red flag. If she filled it out once, was never asked to update it, there’s a chance she may not have realized that she was heading into murky water as she took more classes (depending on what those classes were – her degree is in communications, not marketing or advertising specifically, and it might be worth probing what she studied).

    1. Tyche*

      Also, if she was at the start of her degree (or even the middle) when she joined the audience member pool, there’s a good chance she had taken barely any classes relevant to her major that would have caused her to think “I’m part of the industry”.

      But they screen even relatives, spouses and friends of people working in the marketing industries. So if my sister works for a marketing firm and consequently I am forbidden to be on a audience panel, how can be admissible someone who is actively studying marketing? Or someone that has done marketing work for others companies?

      1. Colette*

        I assume she doesn’t have a sister in marketing. And, depending on how the form was worded, she may not have believed she was disqualified. It’s possible, for example, that she was studying something else at the time.

        1. Tyche*

          But OP1 states that in these five years this person has done marketing works for other companies: so she clearly was disqualified then. Why did she continue to participate? At that point of time she was a marketing professional: she couldn’t be in the audition panel, but she lied.

    2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Sort of agreed. “Background in communication” is so broad it almost disqualifies everyone. I’ve worked in printing and have been a graphic designer for 20 years, but my degree is listed as “BA in Visual Art and Communication” because my college grouped all arts and communication majors under one massive umbrella — so performing arts, fine arts, commercial art and journalism, were one massive group. My classes were about learning art techniques or computer software. Marketing was under the business school. I would have checked “no” to a box asking if I had a background in marketing and communication though, because what I do for my job is not marketing. I have no training or input in development of a product, price, distribution, or promotional strategy. So her degree alone would not, in my mind, disqualify her from being on a panel…

      HOWEVER, she is now applying for a position as a marketing analyst. And that is a red flag that her area of study could have influenced her input as a research subject. I would not consider this person for the job and I wouldn’t use her in the future on any panels.

  12. C*

    #1 – your company should consider having the panelists complete an update form each time (or at least once or twice a year) asking a couple important questions like the involvement in communications/marketing. I realize it won’t help with candidate. But other panelists could have similar involvement that started after they filled out the form (especially since you exclude based on spouses employment) & they could have easily forgotten that you even asked the question.

    1. KHB*

      Agreed. It surprises me that they wouldn’t be doing this already, but from the question, it really sounds like they’re not. And if that’s the case, it’s not the applicant’s fault that the checks on participant qualifications are so flimsy.

  13. Kali*

    Possibly a naive question – but could OP4 look at taking on the responsibility of the promotion she can’t have, so she can gain the experience and include it on her CV? Maybe the title as well? Or would that scenario never be worth the lack of compensation, or create other problems?

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      I was wondering about this as well. Titles are free, and it sounds like the employer is sympathetic to OP’s concerns.

    2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I don’t buy in to “titles are free.” The OP may have maxed out at her level and any title bump would have to have a scale increase or risk looking like a pay discrimination problem if there are others doing that same work for more money. There may be a pay scale that coincides with the title — managers make $ base salary, assistant directors make $$ base salary, directors make $$$, etc. I would never take on the responsibility of a higher level without the money to go with it even if it came with a spiffy title bump.

    3. Kali*

      One barrier I’ve thought of is that this might mess up her negotiations in future. As she’s not planning on staying here and there’s no way she’s getting the compensation here anyway, that wouldn’t matter in regards to future salary increases….but when she moves somewhere else and they ask what she’s been paid in the promoted position, that will be on the low side. :/

  14. Maya Elena*

    How clearly are your audience questionnaires formed? If the wording is ambiguous enough, she might not have knowingly lied. For example, I could see someone part-way through a communications degree not being comfortable checking a box saying that they have, say, “experience in marketing”.

    Of course, she might tell you as much herself if you ask her, as Alison suggested!

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Plus, students are not considered “industry professional” while students.
      We were encouraged to be research subjects! It’s good exposure to research methodologies, because you will have to design your own at some point.

  15. Emilia Bedelia*

    I’d point out that according to Miss Manners, opening presents in front of guests isn’t really considered a gracious party activity. The guest of honor should open their presents privately and send their thanks after. This actually has great practical benefits: presents are not publicly compared against each other, saving potential embarrassment for guests, and the guest of honor does not have to pretend to be excited about their third pallet of diapers.
    At this point I don’t think anyone can stop the practice of opening presents at showers, but this is why the “exception” to the rule of sending thank-you notes seemingly exists.

    1. SarahTheEntwife*

      It sounds more like tenants are dropping off gifts over a period of time than giving them at any sort of event, and under this sort of circumstance they may not even be wrapped.

      1. Emilia Bedelia*

        I’m responding specifically to the note about the showers being the exception to the rule.
        In this case I think Miss Manners would approve of a warm, in person thank you in lieu of a thank you note.

    2. TootsNYC*

      This is interesting! I used to write a column on wedding etiquette and was always looking for that connection of underlying rules. This one hadn’t occurred to me.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I’ve always figured that TY notes are needed because it’s very hard to give personal thanks in a group like this.

  16. CM*

    For OP#4, I don’t think there’s any way you can plausibly say that the only reason you haven’t been promoted is for budgetary reasons, since that’s a very common excuse that companies use when they just don’t want to promote someone. If I heard that from a candidate, I would be skeptical and think the candidate was naive (both to believe that from their company and to think it would make a difference for me to hear it). If that’s really the reason, can you ask for the new title without a raise for now?

    1. Bea*

      That was my immediate response to “budgetary reasons”, we’re in a wage freeze but titles and additional responsibilities are not. It sounds like a basic brush off to me.

  17. Machiamellie*

    #3 and #4 are prime examples (IMO) of where a stellar cover letter can help. The OP in #3 can explain in her cover letter why she’s looking so soon after starting her new position (and I think she should put her current job on her resume). It’d be fairly easy for a prospective employer to verify that the owner of her current company passed away recently.

    In #4 could she say something in her cover letter like, “I’m seeking a position with promotional opportunities as I feel I’m ready to take my career to the next level, due to proven experience in XY and YZ.”

    #5 – I’ve done a lot of reading on etiquette in the past (and shout out to the EHell lurkers from AAM *\o/*) and as far as I know, if you thanked the person to their face, there’s no thank-you card needed.

  18. Former Retail Manager*

    Regarding OP#1…..

    You say that she began her degree 7 years ago, so it clearly took her longer than the usual 4 years to complete her degree, and she began sitting on panels for you 5 years ago, which would put her two years into her degree. I know many people who had not declared a major at 2 years in, especially if they went to a community college/junior college to get the basics before transferring a larger college. I personally did this and had no major upon completing an Associate’s before transfer. I wonder if it’s possible that she had not yet decided on communications, sat in on a panel, decided she really enjoyed the type of work that was related to her being on this panel and then decided to pursue her major? If she did in fact only complete 1 or 2 questions on a single form 5 years ago, it’s entirely possible that she was telling the truth at that time and never realized that she needed to update your company if anything changed regarding her educational pursuits (unless of course panelists are told that?)

    Regardless, I’d definitely ask.

    1. KHB*

      The way I’m reading the timeline: Her resume probably says she got her degree in 2014, from which the OP is inferring that she started it in 2010. She’s been on the panel since 2012. From 2014 to the present she’s been working in some other area of marketing.

  19. MissDisplaced*

    #1: “She began her degree in communications seven years ago” but she has been on panels for 5 years?
    It sounds like she was a student all this time working on her degree? Not uncommon for someone working and going to school nights. I don’t know if being a communications student would exclude you from a media study because you’d be considered an “industry-professional?” As a Comm student, I was asked to participate in all kinds of studies like that, specifically because I was a Comm student as it’s good exposure to research methodologies. It’s possible she was in another line of work 5 years ago too? So, it may not be a lie in that she didn’t consider herself a professional then?

    I think you’d just have to ask some more to clarify this. What was her work history back then?

    1. Tyche*

      But, as OP#1 has written, this person has already done marketing work for other companies: I assume she has already earned her degree.
      7 years ago: she began her communication degree
      5 years ago: she began participating to auditing panels
      somewhere from 5 years ago to now: she began working in marketing for other companies
      now: she proposed her resume to OP1

      OP1 clearly states that for the panels they exclude every kind of association with marketing: from your studies and your job to your relatives and spouses. Evidently it is something different from what *you* used to do.
      So it’s not a problem that she didn’t consider herself a “professional” at that time, because they check even your studies and your family and friends!

      1. tigerlily*

        I’m curious how OP1 knows when the applicant started her communications degree. Just because she started college 7 years ago, doesn’t mean she had declared her major. I mean – I started college in 2003, but didn’t actually graduate until 2011 (there were four years in the middle I had to take off). I graduated with a particular degree, but you certainly couldn’t say I had begun that degree in 2003 just because that’s when I started college.

        Also, if she not only has the degree, but started doing actual marketing work at other companies during the time of her being on the panels, it’s sounding less like she lied somewhere and more like there’s some poor screening happening – as in, she filled out a form five years ago when her answer was correct and has never been asked to update that information.

      2. Ego Chamber*

        “So it’s not a problem that she didn’t consider herself a “professional” at that time, because they check even your studies and your family and friends!”

        I’m not seeing that at all. Asking whether you have family or friends in X or Y field is very different from screening family and friends. Asking whether you’re studying/have studied X or Y subject is very different from checking whether that information is true (and fwiw, it doesn’t sound like they asked about her studies: it sounds like they asked whether she ‘had a background in’).

        The longer this thread goes, the more it sounds like the initial survey was unclear, and the answers weren’t updated after the initial screening. If that’s true, OP potentially has to worry about a lot more than 1 participant on 30 panels—this could put all of OP’s company’s research into question.

        1. Tyche*

          But OW1 clearly wrote:

          we make a point of recruiting our audience panel to ensure that the panel is made up of non-industry-professionals, anyone with a marketing or communications backgrounds is rejected upon application. This includes people who studied marketing or communications in college, even if they did not go on to enter the field, as well as people with a friend/relative/spouse in the industry

          So it’s not a simple question “Have you a background in marketing? Yes/No”, it seems to me that they ask multiple questions to ensure you are in none of these groups: so if you are studying/studied, or you are working/worked or you have family etc you are not eligible for the panels.

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Yeah I’m seeing a lot of malicious intent assigned to the applicant in Letter #1, where we have no idea if that’s the case. I think other commenters have pointed out some plausible reasons why she might have checked off the box. OP1, you have nothing to lose by asking the applicant what happened and everything to gain.

    3. Nee*

      To be honest, personally I’m shocked that professors or advisors in the communications field would recommend this. For one thing, participants in these types of studies don’t see a tremendous amount of the methodology at work – the companies administrating these panels deliberately let participants see as little as possible so that they remain unspoiled and objective enough to complete multiple studies without a growing awareness of the company’s methods. More importantly, your studies would bias you and this would make your participation harmful to these companies. It would be much more helpful to you as a student, not to mention less harmful to market research companies, if your professors brought in researchers to speak to the class about methodologies, instead of sending you out as “undercover agents” – but maybe that’s beside the point here.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        I’ve participated in all sorts of studies, from consumer products to lite medical/psych to political-social issues and plain old film screenings. I was never asked if I was a marketing or media professional (the way OP’s company does particularly screen out for) though some studies did certainly know I was a comm student as they asked about my education level and major.

        Grad students have long been the “Guinea Pigs” of university research–you would see study recruitments all over campus. As students we were encouraged to support ANY research in general and participate if we wanted to. (And it can be an interesting learning experience to be part of a study.)

        But sending us out as “undercover agents?” Goodness no, how do you arrive at that? Please do not imply that or make it out to be something it was not. No professor would ever tell you to be untruthful if you volunteered to be a study participant.

        1. Josh S*

          You almost certainly were asked some version of the ‘industry participation’ question, though it may have been cursory/a check box on a form. It’s a pretty standard screening question in the industry.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            To be fair, most (if not all) of the flyers advertising studies on campus where I went were for studies conducted by graduate students and professors of the university. This model relies on undergraduate participants, and professors always encouraged it.

            It’s a lot different than studies done by a research firm, though, so that might be where some of the confusion lies.

          2. nonegiven*

            I’ve been asked if I or a relative has worked in market research. I’ve been asked my education level. I’ve never been asked my major.

  20. kb*

    Regarding post #1: I think it’s important to talk to the candidate to figure out what exactly happened, not just for the sake of trying to fill this job, but also to ensure the integrity of your company’s panels for the future. There could be a loophole that’s innocent on her end that you’d want to close in the future. For example, if you’re only making the panelist fill out that form once in the beginning and allowing them to stay on the panel indefinitely, that’s probably something that should be changed. Especially because I think It would be very possible for someone to switch a major mid-way through a seven-year span. It could also be possible someone who is screening the panelists is making errors or advising potential panelists incorrectly about what counts as industry background.

    I think before anything else you should search for more info and let what you find inform whether you can proceed with her as an applicant.

  21. pondering*

    #3 – what a difficult situation! On a working holiday visa, you’re usually limited to certain types of employment, correct? It might be necessary to take a more backpacker job if you’re desperate for income, but I almost wonder if keeping the job on your resume could be helpful… Assuming you have no in-country references.

    1. LW #3*

      I actually am eligible to work anywhere, for anything on this Visa thankfully. I’m Canadian so our WHV’s often have more leeway as I understand. I am also intending to settle here indefinitely and will hopefully be starting my residency shortly so finding a job that’s actually in my field is very important to me (not that I am opposed if needed to taking something a bit more entry level if I HAD to).

      1. Working Rachel*

        In my experience (15 years ago, and in the UK, so YMMV), having only a working holiday visa absolutely took me out of the running for most jobs. I had a couple of offers that were “more in line with your visa situation,” meaning temporary and no chance to become permanent. It might be helpful to explicitly state in your resume or cover letter that you are working towards permanent residency via a fiance visa (if that’s the case). Any temp agencies you’re working with should also know this.

        Good luck, and I’m so sorry about your current situation!

  22. Roscoe*

    #1 So are these those market studies where you basically answer a bunch of questions on a new product for money? If so, I think I could probably get past it. I’ve definitely embellished certain things on those applications. Hell, I’ve had the interviewer who really need to get a group filled basically tell me to say certain things to put me in. She could have been short money and this was an easy, legal, way to do it. In her opinion it was probably a victimless crime. Now from your side, its very different, but I still don’t see this as a major deal breaker if she is really the best candidate. Its one of those things where I suppose you could use this as a judge to her honesty overall. However to me, this is a line between personal and professional. She did that stuff in her personal time. That says nothing about her professional work ethic.

    1. Nee*

      This answer seems a little callous to me. From the letter, it sounds like they were using more biometric data than direct question-and-answers, but in that sense it becomes a little bit more insidious. If this were just a matter of focus groups, a participant who was just there because she was desperate for money but was lying about her eligibility could avoid skewing data by simply agreeing with everyone else, or even try to get away with not saying anything at all during the focus group. It would still be stealing from the market research firm and their client, though, having been placed there in good faith with the goal of actually contributing to the research.

      But if it’s biometric things like eye-tracking data as the letter suggests, this person can’t necessarily even do that because those scans produce readings of human instincts that many of us would not be able to control. Which is to say that if she knows about the industry and (presumably) has opinions about it, those opinions are showing up in the data and skewing the company’s results whether she intends to or not. So I don’t really agree that it’s a victimless crime in that way. The victim in this case is OP’s company as well as their clients, and even though this took place in the candidate’s personal life, the fact that OP now has this information through which to judge her means it’s fair game in my view.

  23. Seville*

    LW #1-people seem to be overlooking something, which is that if she began her studies in communications 7 years ago, and has been doing panels for 5 years, and then participated in numerous studies while presumably pursuing communications/marketing (because she HAS been working in marketing here and there, as evidenced in the letter, which is ALSO a taboo, according to the criteria) then maybe she lied to get into the studies for school research purposes? Like she’s studying communications where you learn about these panels and then she decides to participate in panels to see how they worked? Regardless of whether she continued with communications, the letter only says she doesn’t work explicitly in that field, not that she didn’t achieve a degree in it, and regardless, has been doing marketing-related work. I wonder if the applicant actually thinks that infiltrating the studies will somehow work in her favor, like a character in a USA series? Like she can be an asset because she knows how panel participants think? I have no idea, really, but I do think you should set up a brief phone interview where you discuss this issue with her and the ramifications of her actions, because she may attempt to participate in other programs in the future. But I wouldn’t hire her.

  24. Beth*

    #1 – I have filled out many online surveys over the years, and I have to agree with others here that “background” in something is very confusing. I started as a journalism major in college, which was under the communications umbrella, later switching to writing; if I had filled out this form and asked if I had any “background” in communications, I probably would have thought of it as a job interview question. I feel like in a job interview if I’d said “Well, I took Communications 101” that someone would just kind of scoff at that as being background. Whether or not this person “lied” is such gray area to me, and really more based on how the question was posed in the first place. Furthermore, a freshman or sophomore in college probably hasn’t taken many (if any) major-specific classes at that point, and likely doesn’t know how important it is to answer that question accurately. I can’t imagine that it never came up in 5 years that she was getting that kind of degree? And as others have said, if she was never re-screened, I guess I don’t necessarily understand how she is supposed to know that she should be excluded. People on this thread are saying “But she should know!” One of the biggest things AAM focuses on is not assuming people know industry norms, and assuming this woman is in her early 20s, I think AAM’s suggestion to just ASK her about it will be more helpful than anything else.

  25. Bea*

    #1 You need to report your knowledge of the candidates inconsistencies to whomever you report to and ask them if it’s a deal breaker.

    You’re treading a thin line where your integrity could be questioned if some time down the line this comes out. You already have an investigation into her panels going on, I wouldn’t make this decision on your own or based off advice given by those of us not in your company. I’ve heard of hiring managers being hung out to dry when they should have known better and still let someone through who was questionable.

    Do you think she’s above tweaking her resume and leaving off the parts where she worked for competition? I mean depending on wording and how much this is stressed as a huge deal in your industry, lying may come easier to others than you think. Do not risk yourself for a stranger who sent up the red flag in your face.

    1. Nee*

      I agree. If OP is uncertain enough in this situation that she’s writing to Alison for advice, I think that means she’s not the boss of this place, and she really should talk to her manager about it. Depending on how OP’s organization is set up, this could mean serious consequences for the team that is supposed to run the audience panel screenings, too.

    2. Kyrielle*

      I agree with this.

      Also, from other posts it sounds like this is really unlikely, but is there any chance that:
      1. She only filled the form out once at the start of the five years and
      2. She hadn’t chosen her major yet and
      3. She didn’t remember/think about it?

      If #1 is true, #2 seems possible – but from what others have said, #3 would be a stretch. If she did one or two sessions and then didn’t come back for a year, *maybe*, but….

      Still, if it’s a possibility, it’d be worth exploring with her _if_ whoever you report to also agrees about that. (And if she has a name that isn’t super-rare/unusual and you don’t have other information – email/phone/address corroborating – maybe also confirm it is really the same person. I’m assuming that’s not the case, though, you sound pretty confident – just wanted to throw it out in case you hadn’t considered it.)

      If she is the same person, and if she knew _or should have known if she is competent for this_, then I really think you can’t hire her. Integrity (and noticing when something -is- an issue, if it’s a basic one!) is just too important.

      But yes, check with your boss, because this is something where you want to know your company’s position on the matter as well as your own.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        “If #1 is true, #2 seems possible – but from what others have said, #3 would be a stretch.”

        I am skeptical re: the elasticity of #3. I’ve done a few of those screening surveys before and some of them are a very long list of questions. As has been mentioned, they don’t tell you which tickyboxes are the disqualifiers because they don’t want people to lie and get into panels under false pretense.

        If I answered everything honestly (assuming “honestly” includes “misinterpreting the question”), I could easily sleep through the night without every giving any of the specific questions another thought. Actually, I changed jobs at one point and didn’t think to proactively change the income level on my survey account until I was prompted to answer the question again on the next survey I took. Nothing malicious, I swear. (This is why it’s hard for me to believe she was only screened once, but that’s what it seems like LW said—which is a really bad practice, if true).

    3. Roscoe*

      I think its a huge jump to assume that if someone would lie to get into a study that they would lie on their resume. They are such very different thing that I just can’t make the connection. That’s like saying someone cheated at cards with their friends, so they are likely to embezzle money. I mean yeah, they both involve dishonesty, but at very different levels.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Agreed. And if she’d lied to get into a study that the OP was aware of, but that wasn’t related to the job being hired for / the industry the candidate was going into, I’d say it was a question to be explored.

        But if you lie to a company and take part in their studies, knowing it’s not allowed, knowing it could bias results…if you do it in an industry where, from what people in that industry are saying, your training alone should tell you that’s a problem…then expecting that company to hire you is really, really not reasonable. It calls into question your integrity *in the area of the work*, and that’s a problem. (And yeah, lying like this related to your field does make your resume a little more questionable.)

        That’s like cheating at cards (with small bets of actual money being placed) with acquaintances, and then asking them to trust you to watch their purses. Maybe you only cheat at cards – it’s a very different thing than directly taking money – but I suspect your friends wouldn’t want to leave their purses alone with you.

      2. Nee*

        I mean, is it really though? I agree that jumping from “cheats at cards” to “likely to embezzle money” is a huge leap, but someone who does think it’s okay to cheat their friends probably doesn’t see an issue with cheating another group of people. Why would they have more respect for their company than their friends?

      3. Bea*

        I’ve seen real life embezzlement situations, my trust is very low when it comes to extending trust when you’ve already started with a lie.

        She lied within the industry itself trust she should be aware of their guidelines and requirements. It takes gall to apply somewhere you did panels for, not knowing she couldnt do panels as a early on student makes sense,applying for a job there after you know the ropes, no that’s bad stuff.

  26. Brandy*

    for #1, how do you know its the same person? I know odds are it is, but is it by name, you recognize her, she admitted it??

  27. Katie Fay*

    1. Alison, this isn’t just an error some years back. As a solid and experienced researcher (and I’m one too), she KNOWS that she isn’t wanted in a research panel because she has the potential to bias results. She understands the do’s and don’ts of screening participants and she lied to not be screened out.

    So, she lies … and she may be the strongest candidate but OP needs to keep looking for a strong candidate that doesn’t lie.

  28. Hiring Mgr*

    As a complete aside to #1, unless you’re doing background checks on these people, I don’t know that relying on the honor system is going to prevent someone who was planning on sabtoaging from doing so…

  29. Snarky*

    #1 – It’s quite possible that her work on the panel is what got her interested in making that her major, and that when she started out, she thought she’d be entering some other field. If I signed up for something, I’m not sure I’d remember 5 years later what questions I had been asked on the form, and maybe as she got further into her education and start adding work experience, her interests shifted. (She sounds conscientious so it seems odd that she’d be so duplicitous.) If she truly understood she was violating your policy, why would she openly admit that via an application for the job? I’d say it’s less likely that she lied and more likely that she revealed a flaw in the system by not having continual checks on the panel to ensure that as time goes by that they don’t end up in a disqualified state instead of expecting the panel to remember your specific requirements over time since some of those requirements might not be so obvious (e.g., I’d likely remember that working for a competitor to one of your clients a bad thing but may not remember that taking some communications classes in college a problem and I’d be more inclined to do the latter if serving on your panel got me interested in the work.)

  30. Janelle*

    LW1: I obviously don’t know exactly what the box she checked said but it struck me that she may have believed this didn’t apply to her degree and truly answered in good faith. Considering how outstanding she sounds it seems like a very likely scenario, depending on how clear the wording was.

    1. Tyche*

      My problem with the “good faith” premise, it’s that I’d believe her if she misunderstood the question while in college, maybe thinking her degree was not rilevant, and then she never participated again. But she continued to be a member of the panels even after she was working in a marketing position. She worked for OW1 for five years in thirty groups. Six panels for year, one every two months. While I agree OW1 should ask her directly, I find myself quite untrusting.

  31. Noah*

    I know we’re supposed to stay on the topic of the question, but this is an important point re #1 — when I’ve participated in marketing studies similar to the ones described here, they always disclosed what they would use the information for and it was always specific to the study. If this company uses similar contracts to the ones I’ve signed, OP #1 caused her company to breach the contract by looking at the study results as part of a review of the person’s job application.

      1. Tyche*

        I’ve noted a lot of malice against OW1: from questioning the screening process and claiming it’s not clear to expecting legal damages from things she has “supposedly” done.

    1. Tyche*

      But OW1 didn’t check the results of the studies, she checked this person file:

      And I checked her audience member file and found great notes on her, stating that she follows directions well, is courteous to research assistants, and has always been very punctual.

      Probably the have a file of every panel member to know on what panels they participated and to have a history of their work and various notes. I don’t think it’s illegal for OW1 to check those.

      OW1 also said that the results of 30 panels are now questioned by this person presence on the panel, not that she has read them.

  32. DeeDee*

    My boss died a few months after I started working in a new field. I had no experience in my new career and was INCREDIBLY fortunate to get the job, and I was dead broke. Also it was a “mom and pop” kind of office – worked out of his home with just him. My job after he died was to help his wife the default “president” of the company wrap up legal issues, hustle up some last revenue and close things down. Also my paychecks in this interim period bounced. A LOT. So I get it.

    The best advice I have is make friends. Make friends with vendors, with your dead boss’s business associates, with anyone he’s ever emailed. Be SUPER helpful in whatever way you can whether it’s keeping the business afloat, or closing it down. You need to build your network with whomever interacts with this company from the outside. Be kind and helpful and forthright. I got a lot of “Is the business staying open?” to which I could honestly answer “I don’t know” which naturally led to “What will you do when it closes” which is a great lead into “Have you heard of anyone hiring for this kind of role?”

    I found a job within a couple months of searching. I started there in October; boss died in January; I was in a new job by…I want to say April or May. I represented the company at two fairly major conferences in an attempt to hustle up a little bit of revenue for his wife because he left her with a LOT of debt. This ended up being a great move for me, as well as her, because the contacts I made helped me land not just my next job, but the one after that as well. Everyone knew he had died and wanted to come talk to me about how his family and wife were doing and what they could expect from his portfolio of products. Gruesome networking opportunity, but it worked.

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