my former boss wants a log of all my work, “tell us in 140 characters why you’re perfect for the job,” and more

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

1. My former boss wants a detailed log of all my work

I was recently hired into a small retail company, and after two weeks I resigned. I’ve never quit a job in my life; my last one was six years long, I had the best performance rating one could receive, and only left because my division was closed down nationwide. As soon as I began my new role, I knew it was not right. The position was regional manager and I understood that the company needed tons of systems, training, development, and organization put in place. I quickly realized the reason these systems aren’t in place is the owner, who has severe ADHD (she will tell you) and in 24-hour crisis mode. Every day is a new crisis where any strategy or plan you had for the day or week is thrown out based on a mistake she made while being in a frantic state. She micromanages and doesn’t give direct feedback, she sends passive aggressive texts instead, and emails and texts at every hour of the night and on my days off. Her emails sent late at night are nonsensical, just every thought on her mind put in an email so you don’t know what she is asking of you. All of this I could handle, but I also soon realized she doesn’t trust anyone and sent her assistant to “watch me” on my second week of the job to make sure I was “working.” She also questioned whether I paid a few contract workers and asked for their contact information to confirm payment even though she saw me pay them herself.

Anyhow, she is now asking for a detailed log of all my work over the last two weeks and asking for the contact information of every person I connected with regarding the business, including my own personal contacts. Am I obligated to send her this information? Can she withhold pay if I don’t send her additional contacts? I sent the log of my work, contacts for anyone who worked part-time, and my email list that will help build her business. She’s now asking for more.

It’s not uncommon to ask for a bit of wrap-up when someone leaves, but (a) usually that’s done before the person’s last day, although I can’t tell how much notice you gave when you left, and (b) if you were only there two weeks, I’m skeptical that she needs much of anything at all.

In any case, asking for a detailed log of all your work is unreasonable, and so is asking for your personal contacts. I would say this: “It would be very time-consuming to put together what you’re requesting so I can’t do that now that I’m no longer an employee, but hopefully the detailed information I’ve already sent you will help. Best of luck!”

She can’t withhold your pay, even if you send her nothing. And Google the name of your state and “last paycheck law” and you’ll find out how quickly she’s required to get you that final paycheck.

2. Should managers also be individual contributors?

I work at a big, well-established corporation, and I’ve noticed that middle managers do an awful lot of work I associate with individual contributors, like running a process or producing monthly reporting (i.e., not just signing off on a deck, but creating the slides themselves). Often the assumption seems to be that managing a team is something you do in your spare time around the edges of your “real” job. We also don’t have standard management training for new managers — it’s usually left to people to figure things out and get informal coaching.

My husband says this is outside the norm for corporate America — that well-run companies push (and train) managers to prioritize management activities and enabling their teams to create work products. Of course there are some functions managers are going to perform themselves, but he says their primary focus should be guiding and developing their team, and removing roadblocks to their work as needed.

This sounds like a good idea to me, but I’m wondering if a) this is generally accepted as the way things *should* be, and b) if a preponderance of companies actually *do* it.

It should be that way in some cases, but it generally depends on the size of the team being managed. If you’re managing two people, that’s not going to take up all your time and it makes sense for you to have significant responsibilities outside of managing them. On the other hand, if you’re leading a team of 12, you should be spending a sizable amount of time on the work of managing (setting goals and big-picture strategy, monitoring progress against those goals and course-correcting where needed, giving feedback, coaching, problem solving, hiring, etc.). Even then that might not be your whole job (although in some cases it might be), but you should have a significant portion of your time carved out for it — not try to do it on top of a full-time workload of your own individual stuff.

This is actually one of the biggest adjustments most managers go through — accepting that much of their time will be taken up by the work of managing rather than the work of producing something. They figure they should spend just as much time as they used to doing their own work, and they try to fit management in between the cracks. This leads to a terrible cycle, where the work they delegate gets done poorly because they didn’t invest the time to manage it well, so they take on more and more of it themselves, and then they have even less time to manage other work they should be overseeing. This isn’t always the manager’s own fault; sometimes it’s because their employer doesn’t fully accept that managing well takes a real time investment, and so they overload their managers and don’t leave them time to manage well.

Do a preponderance of companies actually see things this way? Well-run ones do by definition, since they’re not going to get well managed teams if they don’t. But as with anything, there are plenty that don’t fit that model.

3. “Tell us in 140 characters or less why you’re perfect for the job”

After many years of gainful employment in software sales, I have been laid off … and boy has the job application process gotten interesting! What’s the deal with either the online application itself or the automated confirmation email that you get after you apply asking you: “Tell us in 140 characters or less why you are perfect for the job!” This seems really dumb, like really a dumb way to gauge the worthiness of a prospective candidate.

Yes, it’s incredibly dumb. Most people aren’t going to be able to say much of substance about why they’re strong fit in that format, and I would bet money that there’s a low correlation between people who do well at that and people who do well at the job. Maaayyyyybe it’s different if the job involves heavy Twitter use, but even then I’d rather see them write some tweets about something actually relevant to the work, not about their own candidacy.

If you really want the job and otherwise like what you see from the company, play the game and do it … but have your eyes wide open for other signs of silliness from them.

4. Should I give this recruiter a third chance?

I work in a niche market and have 12 years experience so am quite valuable. I am leaving my current job at the end of the month (it was a contract that didn’t become permanent) so am currently on garden leave. I have had several agencies contact me. One person rang me twice and I went over all my requirements in two lengthy calls, then last Friday she rang and said her boss wanted to talk to me about my requirements, and could he ring in the next five minutes. So I got my CV, sat down in front of the laptop and waited, and waited and waited. About an hour later, I emailed to ask what was happening. I then got a call from the original woman saying she was sorry, her boss had something urgent come up. So she sent me a calendar invite for Monday at 10 a.m. I wait on Monday, CV ready, etc. 10:30 comes and goes, and I email again to them both and ask what’s going on. I get an email from the boss saying he had an emergency happening (again) and could we reschedule. Obviously I’m really annoyed by now that’s an afternoon and a morning were wasted staying in for this person to ring just to talk about my requirements. I say, “No, just cancel the appointment.” That’s literally all I said in the email, not trusting myself to say anymore.

So I get this back: “Hi Fergus, To offer an insight, I was keen to speak as I’m one of (company’s) strategic partners. They spend over £1million a year with me and looking at your profile, Jane felt we may be able to support your search. In short, I am managing a team during a go-live and two people didn’t arrive as planned this morning. Hence me being side-tracked. Once again, apologies for any inconvenience, but I do feel there would be value in us speaking.”

So I’m not sure what to do now. Half of me doesn’t want to do anything with them as they have wasted my time twice now, and what would they be like as an agency when they do this to prospective applicants? Then again, mine is a niche market and I don’t want to burn any bridges, despite the guy seeming to be a total womble. What do you think ?

Well, the reality is, recruiters are notoriously flaky and this kind of thing happens a lot — and can still lead to good jobs. So if you’re willing to give it one more shot, I would. If they waste your time again — especially after you’ve already made the point that you’re annoyed — then you can move on with no worries that you’re making the wrong decision. But I’d give them one more shot at it, given the guy’s explanation.

That said, if you feel like you have lots of other good options and can be really choosy about who you work with, there’s nothing wrong with passing on this, if you’re annoyed enough that you just want to be done with them.

Read an update to this letter here.

5. Did I mess up this salary negotiation?

I went through all the hard work of interview prep and then interviewing and got an offer. I tried to negotiate and said that I would need $15K more than what was offered. It was declined after two days, and they said that unfortunately the original offer was the best that they could do.

So I sent the following email on Thursday: “Thank you for the update. I have decided to still accept this offer, as I would like to work on latest technologies that are being used in this position. Although money is an important factor, I would not totally base my descision on money at this time. Based on my experience, value that I can add to your team, and current market rates of my skill set and experience level, I would also like to see if you can at least consider raising base salary from $original offer to $original offer + $5k and accommodate my four weeks vacation request.”

It’s the end of Monday now and I haven’t received any response yet. I just wanted to get some advice from you that what are the possibilities here to get the job or has it gone down the drain by now? Should I send another email to get any updates from HR or wait a day or two more?

Ooof. It wasn’t a great email. You asked for more originally, and they came back and told you that the original offer was firm. You then ignored that by asking for $5K more anyway. Plus you said you were accepting the offer, but then went back into negotiating mode — which probably left them unclear on whether you were really accepting it or not.

This may or may not be salvageable at this point, unfortunately (especially if they haven’t gotten back to you by today, which is almost a week later). But to give yourself the best shot at it, you need to decide if you’re willing to accept the original offer without any additional money or any additional vacation time. If you’re willing to do that, then call them up today (don’t email) and say that you hope you didn’t cause any confusion and you’d like to accept the original offer if it’s still open.

{ 254 comments… read them below }

  1. AnonAndOn*

    3. I saw something like that on a job application I filled out months ago. It asked what made me an interesting candidate. I did not hear back from them and am not surprised. It is impossible to sum up how I’m a good candidate for a job in 140 characters or less.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      I disagree. If it was only the 140 characters and nothing else, it’d be inappropriate. But, self-editing and identifying what is most important is a valuable skill.

      1. Anna*

        Uh…no. 140 characters, not 140 words. It’s a job application, not Twitter, and these kinds of requests are gimmicky and not likely to give you any more useful information than “knows what 140 characters looks like.”

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          It’s in addition to a job application, not in lieu of. Would you prefer the question, “What’s your most impressive qualification” without knowing to be concise?

          1. Anna*

            They have my resume and cover letter. So I guess I can say, “Please read my accompanying documents for information requested.” There. Less than 140 characters.

      2. DumbQuestion*

        It’s 140-150 characters. I just x’d out of an online job application that asked:

        “In 150 characters or fewer, tell us what makes you unique. Try to be creative and say something that will catch our eye!”

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Yeah, that’s overboard unless you’re in some field where creating creative 150 character messages is a requirement.

    2. Audiophile*

      I’ve seen this in a few applications, I always found it frivolous. Usually I just had fun with my answer. Since most of these are through the same awful ATS system, I figure there’s likely an answer that they’re looking for and if yours doesn’t match completely, it probably doesn’t make it to a human being in HR.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I think there are some misconceptions around about ATSes — at least in the places I’ve worked, you do have to apply through a terrible online system, but there’s no automated review of any kind — every application is read and evaluated by a person! Granted, that might not be the case 100% of the time.

        Just FYI.

        1. Ann Cognito*

          I work in HR, and even in the places where we’ve had a great ATS, every single application was reviewed by a human being!

            1. Ann Cognito*

              As others have said, to have everything centralized and for efficiency purposes.

              Every job I’ve been at, I change the process so that candidates don’t have to apply by completing a full application form, but rather just complete the name, address & EEO fields, then attach a resume and cover letter. Takes no longer than 5-10 minutes tops. Only those coming for a face-to-face interview are asked to complete the full application form.

          1. Recruit-o-rama*

            It’s a central place to manage all job postingns, applications, candidates, interview records, store screening materials, manage offer letters and background checks, etc. it’s a recruiting management system, basically.

              1. Recruit-o-rama*

                The candidates use an application portal, the ATS is on the backside. Many application portals are terrible, I agree. The reason companies use them is because when they have large numbers of job openings and large numbers of applications, it becomes unmanageable through email.

                1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

                  Yeah, there are a lot of bad portals, though even in those cases, it’s usually up to the company to adjust the portal to not be terrible. But it’s very difficult to keep track of dozens of open positions that interact with several hiring managers and interviewers each without the help of an ATS.

                2. Trout 'Waver*

                  If a human being is actually reading them, why force the applicant to fill out the portal instead of just uploading a resume and cover letter?

                3. Recruit-o-rama*

                  I’m not forcing candidates to do anything, I already acknowledged that many portals are terrrible. I cannot fix the world or explain why companies make the choices they make. My original answer was as to why companies use an ATS, not why they set them up the way they set them up.

                  Speaking only for my company, an applicant has the option to either upload a resume or fill out the application. We hire many hourly blue collar skilled laborers who do not have a resume.

                4. NotAnotherManager!*

                  Most companies don’t make their own ATS, they buy a COTS system to which few, if any tweaks are often possible. It’s not the company’s software to modify. My guess on why organizations go with crappier systems is cost.

                  The reason to use an ATS rather than just having a cover/letter resume upload is that a number of jurisdictions ask for recruiting statistics, and dumping that information out of an ATS or having an automated report is easier than compiling them by hand. Some organizations also do EEO monitoring internally and uses the reports for the same purpose. You can also search for candidates to see what happened with prior candidacies, and you can go back to your pool of resumes if you have a similar position come open to get a jump on recruiting. To do this with just resume and cover letter submissions, you have to code all the other data into a spreadsheet (which is mostly flat-file and difficult to create data relationships with) – it’s a lot of manual, human-error-prone, work when an ATS can handle it much more easily.

                5. Trout 'Waver*

                  “it’s a lot of manual, human-error-prone, work when an ATS can handle it much more easily.”

                  But it’s not the ATS in that case. It’s the applicants curating the data into some admittedly crappy software.

                6. NotAnotherManager!*

                  I was referring to having the HR departments log the data manually from just resume/cover letter submission rather than using an ATS, however crappy. The only control you can every have for applicant-entered data is to enforce validation within the system and require specific fields. But, in that case, data errors are attributable to the applicant and not HR, if a report is not accurate.

                7. Trout 'Waver*

                  I think you missed the point. You’re farming out work you don’t want to do to candidates who only do it because they are applying for a job.

                8. Recruit-o-rama*

                  No, you’re missing the point. The data the EEOC and other regulatory agencies are interested in are things like race, national origin, military affiliation, etc. the only way to collect it and maintain the required records for a potential audit is to ask the candidates. It’s much more likely to be accurate if the candidate is being asked electronically where they also have the electronically recorded right to decline to respond. If recruiters or HR were verbally asking and entering this information, there is a lot of room not just for error but to circumvent the reasons for asking for and collecting the data in the first place. There are a million reasons to use an ATS, a lot of crappy portals and many different types of software to purchase with varying degrees of ability to be modified. The more customizable the software, the more expensive it is and it is ALL very expensive. It’s not like companies are trying to make it hard, they are trying to comply with laws and maintain a budget that is reasonable. I don’t think you have any idea how complicated and expensive an implementation for an ATS can really be, especially when trying to integrate with an HRIS. You seem to be implying some kind of laziness or even bad intentions on companies which may be the case sometimes, but is probably not in most cases.

                9. MillersSpring*

                  The problem is not asking candidates to enter name, address, phone, race, etc. The problem is asking them to upload a resume AND exhaustively fill out fields for each past job. The systems do not populate these accurately from the resume upload. The other problem is systems that have many required BS fields, such as references and past salary info.

                10. Recruit-o-rama*

                  Well I agree with that, for sure. We’ve done a lot of work on our app portal to make it easier and more applicant friendly, testing and retesting and tweaking and re tweaking, we are two and half years in to the launch of our portal and ATS made by a very large company that you’ve heard of and it cost us five million dollars to purchase (although that includes the corresponding HRIS) and we are still testing, tweaking and debugging and we try to keep up with technology.

                  Don’t even get me started on the differences between how these portals work on a computer vs. a mobile device. Nightmare, and not as easy as pushing a button, is all my point is. I’m NOT a coder, so all I can do is work with the support and service people at the vendor to try and get the coders to make changes (and the test and tweak) and make an effort to make it better. But that’s because the candidate experience is important to our company, it’s not important to all companies, and not every company can afford a high end product but they can’t afford NOT to have one at all so they make compromises.

                11. NotAnotherManager!*

                  I think you missed the point. You’re farming out work you don’t want to do to candidates who only do it because they are applying for a job.

                  Nope, I didn’t miss the point; I just don’t agree with you. Recruit-o-rama hit the nail on the head. And, on top of the potential for error, how awkward would it be to either guess at a candidate’s race or have to ask it/write it down at an interview? (I can hear my HR director cringing from here.) Or do they show up and get yet another form to fill out that we then have to transcribe? Both are also inefficient compared to just capturing at point of application, and I’d really prefer to allow candidates to self-identify. (I’m also not going to call in every single person that applies even for a phone screen nor am I going to contact every single one of them to get demographic/EEO compliance data. Some of my positions can get over a hundred applicants, we phone screen 10-20, we interview 2-3.)

                  The problem is asking them to upload a resume AND exhaustively fill out fields for each past job. The systems do not populate these accurately from the resume upload.

                  Total nerd-alert side trip: So, I actually work with systems that extract text information from documents and pull it into databases, and the technology involved with extracting and populating fields from a document like a resume (which have too many variables to standardize – fonts, formats, number of jobs, file types including scanned PDFs with no text or imperfect text) is very complex and well beyond the scope of most office software. There is a huge difference between making things searchable as a whole and being able to extract the different bits of text and match that up with the right fields. (Now, we choose to avoid this by not requiring candidates to re-enter all their work history information, but a system that could pull and field-match data from a document is currently well beyond what your standard ATS/HRIS system could dream of. )

        2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          Can confirm, I work for a fairly big company that uses a common ATS, and all applications are reviewed by humans as far as I know (I’m very involved in hiring for my division, so I can’t speak to other divisions but in mine, all facets of review are done by humans).

      2. karou*

        Our HR department includes a similar question in applications (without a character limit) and when I last hired, they were sent to me and I did read them. Most responses were pretty straightforward, like a part of a cover letter, except for one candidate who wrote a long, rambling answer that was partly written in third person. A few candidates didn’t answer it at all (so couldn’t follow directions, or writing wasn’t their strong point). Since the position’s responsibilities included copywriting, those types of answers did impact who moved forward.

        1. LS*

          We used a similar question recently when hiring. Likes yours, there wasn’t a cutesy character limit, but it was a short text field that we used for filtering (by humans, not by software). I found it enormously helpful. We received over 1,000 applications for the position and to be completely frank, more than 90% of them were not even remotely appropriate, so having a way to easily filter out 80% or more of those applications was crucial. I wasn’t very picky about what people wrote in that field; I reviewed the application materials of anyone who wrote something reasonable. Obviously that isn’t the right screening mechanism for a job where language skills aren’t important but it worked well for us. Limiting to 140 characters seems silly though unless it’s a social media job.

        2. Mabel*

          I’m not sure you can safely assume “… couldn’t follow directions, or writing wasn’t their strong point” from the question not being answered. People may skip it for any number of reasons. If it needs to be answered, why not make it a required field?

    3. Cruciatus*

      I would leave mine as a cliffhanger at the 140 mark. “Blah blah blah about skills and experience. And if I’m hired, the first thing I would do is—” or something like that. “I think my skills in X would really benefit your company’s lower scores in Y and here’s how I’d do it. First, I’d…”

      1. Elemeno P.*

        “Everyone has often asked about my history as a private detective. All this time, I’ve kept it a secret, but it’s time to tell the truth. The true murderer was r-“

      2. Dolorous Bread*

        I would give answers like that. Usually the question was “what makes you unique in 150 characters” on my applications so I would write something like “Well, I’d love to tell you all about how I read 4 books on [topic] this year or my obsession with [hobby] but I’ve run out of charac-“

      3. nonegiven*

        One thing I hate about Twitter is when no matter how hard you try make something clever fit within 140 characters, you always run out of….

    4. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I don’t really get the backlash against this. It’s basically an elevator pitch. I’m not saying it’s a good substitute for an resume or anything, but a 140 character summary is not an unreasonable ask.

      FWIW, we’ve used these at my work (mostly for social media positions), and honestly we get a lot out of them! The main reason why is that people approach applying for jobs as a formula; the resumes all follow the same formula, and so do the cover letters. I absolutely don’t blame people for doing that, as that’s what works in a _lot_ of cases, but it is surprisingly hard to get candidates to break out of that rut so you can see their actual personality, and see a bit of what they’re actually like as human beings. This is one way to do that.

      1. Kate 2*

        Yeah, but 140 characters is ridiculously short. That’s as long as a tweet. Quite frankly what valuable information can be had out of barely 2 sentences?

        Your own post for example, would be reduced to:

        I don’t really get the backlash against this. It’s basically an elevator pitch. I’m not saying it’s a good substitute for an resume or anything, but a 140 character summary i

        Informative, right? Basically people are reacting because it feels like yet another useless, ridiculous hoop that employers are making people jump through.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The question is, does the ability to pithily and compellingly sum up one’s candidate in 140 characters truly differentiate the strongest candidates and weed out others? I’m going to argue no, certainly not for the majority of positions. And if it’s no, then you’re doing it for mushier reasons, and annoying at least some good candidates in the process. (It also screens for younger people, who I suspect on the whole are less likely to know they should be annoyed by it.)

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Isn’t this just a variation of “In your opinion, what’s your most impressive qualification?” coupled with a nudge to be succinct?

          1. Anna*

            It’s not the same, because you can be succinct and still take more than 140 characters. All this is asking if for you to be clever for them.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        If you’re hiring for social media, then it makes sense to pack people into a Twitter post pitch. It’s not going to give you valuable information for a lot of other types of positions.

        If you’re hiring paralegals like I do, it tells you nothing about that person’s ability to do the job. I don’t need people that can come up with a slogan, I need people who can dig into the weeds of legal documents and care about pedantic things like correct abbreviations, formats, and citations. And, not that I don’t want people to be pleasant to work with, but, in the interviewing process, I care significantly less about personality and who they are as human beings than can they and are they interested in doing the job. Not to mention that hiring by personality would likely raise HR’s discrimination-dar a bit, and the question I would get is whether or not the criteria negatively impacts someone based on a protected class (in this case, likely age).

        1. Anna*

          I’m not sure it’s going to give you much information for a social media position either, really. Once tweeted ad that received 5.5k likes and retweets. Okay, great. That’s 54 characters. What was the tweet advertising? What sort of impact did it have on the business? So, yeah, it gives you some surface information but it doesn’t actually tell you anything about how well they are engaging with followers.

      4. SarahTheEntwife*

        Are you looking for particularly unusual positions or candidates? Otherwise how creative are you expecting people to be in saying “I enjoy herding llamas and have lots of experience doing it well”?

    5. HRish Dude*

      Go-getter. Full of gumption. Will do the job for free to prove I want it. #isthislegal #nailedit #quack

    6. Student*

      I would be tempted to go with some troll like this:

      I feel pithy
      Oh, so pithy
      I feel pithy and witty and bright!
      And I pity
      any candidate who isn’t me tonight.

      104 characters, leaving just enough space left to issue an apology to Leonard Bernstein.

  2. TootsNYC*

    #4–the recruiters who let our OP dangle for an hour:

    If I were going to speak with them again, I might reply something like this:

    “I’m willing to set up another appointment, but I’m not willing to wait as long. I understand that things can come up at the last minute; however, notifying me of the problem is pretty basic, so I’m sure you can understand my reluctance.
    “I’m available first thing in the morning on Thursday, and I hope that early time means you will be able to make the appointment. If I don’t hear from you by 10 minutes past the appointment time, I’ll assume it has been canceled, and I’ll go about my day.”

    1. Drama Llama*

      That sounds unnecessarily confrontational. Of course it’s totally reasonable if LW declines further conversation, or decides to forget about it 10 minutes after appointment time. But if you’re going to go ahead with the call you should do so professionally. That means not sending a lecturing/condescending email sounding like you’re laying out the clear rules to a naughty 10 year old.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        +1. Especially the ‘pretty basic’ bit. Honestly, you just never know when you will meet people again. You can be right but still be polite.

        Try this: “I’m available at x time and I really hope we can speak. I did want to let you know that I won’t be able to wait for very long after the scheduled time so I really hope we can make this work.”

        Do not making Telling Them the hill you die on – it’s not worth it.

        1. OP #4*

          I think I will just make them wait in line actually. I have two lovely agencies who call me with updates all the time. If they can come through with something I’ll go with them.

          1. GingerHR*

            If you are in a niche market, you’ll be fine. Don’t cut your nose off, but in niche areas the recruiters need you more. In our specialised areas, we often see candidates with multiple agencies keen to represent them. And it’s always worth checking the website of that strategic partner. Very few companies work solely with agencies, so they may post their roles anyway as it’s much cheaper.

          2. AdAgencyChick*

            Sounds good. If you get a job and the commission ends up going to a recruiter who behaved properly, so much the better!

        2. Mike C.*

          Right, which is precisely why you should shut this sort of bad behavior down now – you never know when you’re going to have to work with them again.

      2. Laura*

        I have to completely disagree. If a recruiter did that to me, that is the exact email I would send to them. It’s about time people started standing up for themselves instead of being pushed around by uncaring, clueless, recruiters.

      3. Mike C.*

        No, I think it’s time that recruiters actually respected the people they tried to recruit. I get cold calls at work from clueless a**holes pretending they’re my friend and wanting me to take some entry level position.

        Yes please, I’d love to take a massive cut in pay, benefits and career advancement. That totally sounds like something a rational person would say.

        1. Artemesia*

          I’m retired and still get this crap; some of it is for fairly prestigious high level positions and that is fine — lots of people will do one last turn like that at the end of their career. But I also get a fair number of queries for what would be entry level positions in my field.

        2. seejay*

          I recently got a recruiter buttering me up for a 6 month contract data entry job in Connecticut.

          I have a masters degree listed on my resume, require immigrant sponsorship (thus short term contracts for non-specialized positions aren’t qualified) and live 2000 miles away from CT.

          I’m so tired of recruiters not reading my qualifications and just spamming me. It’s exhausting and is literally making me want to cry right now.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, it’s too confrontational. It’s justified, certainly, but there’s no point in sending it because if you do, you’re likely not to be seriously considered, and at that point you WILL be wasting more time with them. If you’re that annoyed, then back out. But if your’e going to talk to them, you need to stay reasonably polite.

        But you can still get the same point across. You could say this instead: ““I understand that things can come up at the last minute, but please notify me if you need to cancel this time, since my schedule is pretty packed. Since this is our third try at this, if I don’t hear from you by 10 minutes past the appointment time, I can’t promise I’ll still be available because that’s a busy day for me.”

      1. Rookie Manager*

        Often the womble bit is preceeded by a mild sweary word. It makes the whole phrase delightfully rude and ridiculous.

    2. hbc*

      I wouldn’t include all that reasoning, but I would definitely only offer up times where I’d be hanging around anyway and completely unaffected by whether or not they called. 8PM on Thursday? 4PM on Sunday? Honestly, if they’re really so crazy busy that they can’t take 30 seconds to email or text and say “Sorry, emergency here, have to cancel and will reschedule*,” they’d probably jump at the chance.

      *No one outside emergency services is actually too busy to send that email. If I would be having regular contact with a company that pulled this, I would consider it a dealbreaker.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        I like this approach. Tell them when to call and see if they’re capable of respecting your time. If they don’t understand exactly why you’re doing that, they’re probably not someone who want to work with.

      2. Artemesia*

        This. Rescheduling is annoying but there is zero excuse for not notifying the candidate. Even if the interviewer is literally putting out a brush fire or rushing to the ER to save a life, the AA can certainly contact the interviewee and let them know. No excuse for leaving them hanging.

      3. ErinW*

        Yes, ignoring her while she waits is the issue with the recruiter. I’m an assistant, and I regularly make calls/send emails that apologetically notify them that my boss is running late, and can we reschedule and/or can I contact them when she’s ready? This kind of stuff is what an assistant is for. If the office doesn’t have one, they need one. Maybe there would be fewer emergencies.

  3. Elizabeth*

    1. When I hear the idea of someone keeping a log of what they did all day, I immediately think “stood in pretzel line.” Oh how I wish you could write that, LW.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        I joke with my colleagues about a daily update: “Projected progress on projects has progressed”

      2. Murphy*

        Pretty much! When I worked at an animal shelter, we had two weeks where we had to log literally everything we did and how long it took. Adding things to the log took up a significant portion of my time.

        1. Jesca*

          As a quality analyst, unless you are going to run reports on time, then don’t have a log based around time. It is pointless. Now, if they were having you log it so they could make a business decision regarding appropriate staffing and scheduling appointments, that makes sense. But again, it is to run a report, and if that was the case, they should have told you!

          1. Murphy*

            They did tell us that it was to find out how many animals we could realistically care for given our staff levels at the time. But when you’re already running around trying to do a million things, simultaneously trying to document it was pretty difficult!

            1. Jesca*

              Yes it is and it is understandable. But sometimes that is just the way it works. It is unfortunate, but its the only real way to solve an issue at times.

                1. Anonymity*

                  YEP. We do this daily at my job. It’s fine for people who have limited things to work on and are uninterrupted while they do it, but some of us are constantly interrupted and pulled into short meetings or coaching sessions or whatever, which makes it impossible to keep -accurate- track of what we’re doing, which makes it pointless.

                2. Augusta Sugarbean*

                  Best practices call for a guy sitting in a tall chair observing and documenting Kitchen Stories-style.

        2. A Nonny Mousse*

          In my old job be had a time where we had to log because they were considering reclassifying the position.

        3. SophieChotek*

          Oh this happened at my job. At first I just sent a short 1 paragraph/4-5 bullet points to my manager with “Worked on Projects X, Y,Z, and accomplished A, B,C.” Suddenly 3-4 months another manager who equally overseas my work said “That’s not enough detail and use this form” – but after I switched to that it still was not “detailed enough” (at about 1 page of 3-4 paragraph), so then I had to really work to create a log that would be 3-4 pages every week…and about a year later same manager from before that said earlier reports were too short and lacked detail complained reports were too long and probably took too much of my time and said I should just do bullet points…can’t win…

      3. the gold digger*

        I worked at the IRS once as a seasonal employee. We had to account for our time in six-minute increments. There was a code for the time we spent completing the timesheet.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Yep, and the clients whose time recording takes the most time are the ones least likely to insist that it’s the firm’s “cost of doing business” and they won’t pay for it.

            Everyone who works for me has to track and record their time. It’s part and parcel with professional services work.

        1. hermit crab*

          I (literally) dream about having a billing code to use for filling out my timesheet, and I’m not even a lawyer!

          1. Jill of All Trades*

            My company has two! One for if you’re filling out your own timesheet, and another for if you’re filling out someone elses (which almost never happens). I book ~30-40 minutes to it every day.

        2. Mockingjay*

          Years ago I had to log everything in 15-minute increments, for each document I edited. Everyone had a steno pad with two columns on the left for the time spent and the charge code, then a description of what you did. My timesheet was usually three pages (this was the dark ages before digital timesheets were a thing).

        3. Lars the Real Girl*

          +1 for the 6-min increments. A lot of government work is tracked this way and it SUCKS. “What’s my charge code for filling out my charge codes?”

        4. ThatGirl*

          At my last job we were supposed to account for time spent on each project/the rest of our days, although it was 15-minute increments… definitely had an entry each week for “time spent logging things”.

      4. Liane*

        The one place I worked with actual time tracking, a spreadsheet, there was a code for time spent time tracking. At least Lab Manager understood that doing time tracking shouldn’t be highest priority.

        But for the OP’s situation, as a former employee. If I were OP, I’d just think “Huh, guess Diamond’s next frantic emergency crisis will be I said ‘Nope!’ And the one after that will be dealing with state Labor Department if I don’t have the check by legal deadline.”

    1. cheese*

      My ex boss wanted daily progress reports when I was working on a project about 2 years ago. Daily reports!
      There was nothing to report.
      Day 1. The site was flooded, so no work could be done.
      Day 2. Same thing.
      Day 3. See above.

      I explained this, but he insisted.

      1. It's-a-me*

        My bosses boss used to ask us for completion estimates constantly. We wouldn’t even have like a description of what was needed and he’d want to know how long it would take; think: task: Make a teapot.

        But we didn’t know if the design was already provided or we had to make it from scratch, how big does it need to be, personal or industrial use, etc.

        And of course, it would all go a lot quicker if you weren’t asking us to spend time *every day* figuring out how much longer things will take, broken down step by step.

      2. k8*

        eh, we do daily “reports”– kind of a digital stand-up. imo it’s nice to get an idea of how the team is working as a whole and it’s good way for my boss to keep track of our progress.

      3. Undine*

        There’s a story about Julia Robinson, a famous mathematician (that’s an oxymoron). She had an NSF grant, and they asked her to write down what she did every day. One week she wrote:

        Monday: Tried to prove theorem.
        Tuesday: Tried to prove theorem.
        Wednesday: Tried to prove theorem.
        Thursday: Tried to prove theorem.
        Friday: Theorem false.

        1. sumthing*

          At one point in the 90s, a local politician tried to portray academics as lazy. He pointed to observations of math faculty who spent a significant part of their time “thinking.”

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

        As a graphic designer I’ve often written in my project updates that only my boss reads “changes changes changes, proof proof proof.” Sometimes there is more detail to add, but that’s about the gist of it.

    2. MK*

      It always reminds me of a conversation in an Agatha Christie book. Roughly:

      Hastings: He told you everything!

      Poirot: No one tells everything, just everything they consider inportant. If someone asks you what you did yesterday, you don’t say: I woke up and brushed my teeth, I broke a nail and had to file it, etc.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This is something fledgling writers have to learn. Nobody wants to hear how your protagonist shuffled to the bathroom and peed first thing in the morning. Unless, while he’s washing his hands, a pigeon attached to a rock crashes through the window and flops to the floor, dead. Strapped to its back is a note written in blood that says, “THE GATE IS OPEN, PARKER. WE NEED YOU. SIGNED, THE COLLECTIVE”

        1. Not a Morning Person*

          Aren’t you a writer? You need to write this book and come up with The Collective and that they threw the rock into the wrong Parker’s window!

    3. Alice Ulf*

      My first job out of college was for a man who couldn’t reconcile his desire to micromanage everything with his total incapability to focus on a project. He demanded logs of everything I did during the day. I wrote these out faithfully for a month or two before starting to wonder if he ever even glanced at them, or just filed them away somewhere. I started testing it by interjecting a single line of nonsense per day, something like, “And then I paused to drink a full cup of pink elephant milk.”

      I kept waiting for him to confront me. He didn’t. After another couple of weeks, I started putting in whole bs paragraphs about dinosaurs and aliens and being stranded on the island from Lost.

      I worked there for two years, and he never said a word about it. I’d like to believe he noticed and was so amused that he didn’t say anything, but he was…kind of humorless and just not that kind of guy.

    4. JD*

      One of my business partners tried to require this of me. What he received was a minute by minute detailed log of my every movement. “Went to the bathroom, washed hands.” “Came back to my desk, updated this log”. Never was questioned again. This was of course very passive aggressive and not good advice for an employee but this was my business partner who was essentially trying to force myself and other partner out of the company with very illegal and deceptive tactics.

    5. Phoenix Programmer*

      I have done this each time I have been asked to log. Never asked me again in both instances.

    6. M is for Mulder*

      I’d love to put vague or weird-sounding entries that are in fact completely legitimate.

      “Why does this log say that you stood in the parking lot for half an hour? How dare you waste company time!”

      “That was the fire drill.”

  4. FDCA In Canada*

    Lord, once I was looking for a job that asked “Send us why you think you’d be a good fit for this job in 25 words or less. If we like your answer, we’ll send you a link to our online application!” ????

    1. CoffeeLover*

      No way that’s crazy! It seems some employers are more concerned with dwindling the numbers than with finding someone that’s a good fit.

  5. MichaelWesten*

    #5: They’ve already told you they’re not willing to budge on salary. You assumed that by asking for a lower amount, they’d be lenient and agree. To me, it comes across as disrespectful to the employer. You told them money isn’t a big enough factor to keep you from taking the job but then followed up by asking for more money. If you truly want the job and want to work for the company, take it. Prove your worth and your skill set. Ask for a raise in a year.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      It sounds like the LW thought they could call dibs on the job offer but still negotiate it. You can’t. Negotiation stops when you say yes or no. You said yes but…

    2. TL -*

      I don’t think it’s disrespectful so much as just clueless and maybe sending mixed messages. Though I wouldn’t ever advise taking a job on proving your worth and asking for a raise in a year. If it’s not enough money, it’s not enough money (and it doesn’t sound like it’s enough money for the LW.)

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah I’d actually say if they’re really $15K apart from what OP thinks they might be worth, OP needs to walk. 15K is too much to swallow. OP may later realize 15K was ridiculously out of line, but if they’re not there yet they should decline the position, because this company isn’t going to be able to budge.

      2. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

        Yeaahhh… Learned that one the hard way. I would never ever ever recommend taking a job that you are unahppy with the salary but think you can negotiate for more a year in. Unless you get it in writing.

        I took a job with the explicit (though unfortunately verbal) promise that at the one year mark my salary would be adjusted to my $counteroffer + $annual raise. Guess who was still making less than their $counteroffer after their one year raise? And they had the audacity to bring up how much per centage wise my raise was (yeah it’s easy to offer a 10% raise when the salary is just barely above minimum wage) when I didn’t throw myself on the ground to kiss their feet for that raise. Unfortunately I was too young, naive and all-around terrified to bring up the agreement made when I accepted the role.

      3. MichaelWesten*

        Disrespectful: showing a lack of respect or courtesy.

        I’d 100% say that blatantly ignoring a company when they say they can’t budge on salary is quite disrespectful.

        I advised asking for a raise later because LW said they still wanted the job and wouldn’t base their decision solely on money.

        If the s

    3. MK*

      Disrespectful is an odd (and ill-applied) word to use, in my opinion. Clueless, yes, but even then, I am side-eyeing the company’s not responding, if nothing else to say that they are no longer interested.

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        Agree. Both sides have fault, but the company should have at least sent a yes or no message after a day. For all they know, OP has gone and quit her current job because she told them yes (well, “yes, but…”).

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I agree that both sides owe each other the courtesy of a response, but, if OP quit her job, that’s not on the company (nor something they should take into consideration). Just closing out the communication, “As we previously stated, we are not able to meet your salary requirements. Thank you for your interest and best of luck in your job search.” would suffice.

      2. Colette*

        I think that blatantly ignoring something that someone directly told you (I.e. asking for more money after you were clearly told that no more money is available) is disrespectful. The company should still have replied, but if I were on the receiving end of that message, I’d be pretty exasperated and would need some time before I could go back and say “sorry, can’t do it, best of luck in your search”.

        1. Colette*

          Also, my reaction would be partly informed by how realistic the initial +15000 was, and whether it was in line with market rates. If the initial offer was six figures, asking for 15000 might be fine; if it was minimum wage, it’s a huge jump. So if I got one unreasonable response, explained the salary was firm, and then got a second unreasonable response, I’d be pretty annoyed.

          1. Liane*

            But then you handle your annoyance politely, by *promptly* responding to the OP. Maybe, “Unfortunately, our salary is $[original], so we are moving on with other candidates. We wish you the best in your search.”

            1. Colette*

              Well, once I’ve decided I’m not going to go ahead with a candidate, they’re not my top priority – they’re on the list, but other things (like finding someone else, or actually doing the job) are higher. Should the company respond within a couple of days? Absolutely. But the more difficult they think the candidate will be, the less likely a prompt response is – it’s human nature to not want to do things that will cause yourself aggravation. They should still do it, but the timeline for doing that will look different from the employer’s side than it will from the candidate’s side.

              1. ClownBaby*

                I agree. Easy for something like this to get put on the back burner. Especially if HR did bring the second set of negotiations to the hiring manager, who is probably even more so annoyed than HR.

                The fact that they didn’t budge at all on the first offer should’ve been a sign. If there was wiggle room to bump it another 5k, they most likely would have countered with “We can’t match your request for 85k/yr, but we can offer you 75k/yr.” Hindsight is 20/20, but Letter Writer would have been better to say something like “I understand that the salary is firm. Are you able to accommodate my request for 4 weeks of vacation?”

                All that said, I should still hope the company would reply within a week to let you know the offer is rescinded and they are pursuing other candidates.

                1. Lil Fidget*

                  This is a good point. The company would theoretically have offered the 5K already if they were open to that. It sounds like they’re really firm on this salary.

              2. Anna*

                Yeah, but you’re less likely to have to further deal with Annoying Candidate by promptly cutting them loose. If you don’t, you’re far more likely to get aggravating follow up emails/phone calls that will still need to be handled. Pre-emptive “thank you, but no thanks” email will avoid that.

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  This is my recruiter’s philosophy – tie up the loose ends ASAP and file the application package. Done!

            1. Anna*

              But still, it’s not necessarily disrespectful. It’s not questioning the intelligence of the person sending the emails, it’s not anything on that long, long list of actions we would recognize as disrespectful. It is, however, not wise and wasting the time of the HR person, but I wouldn’t classify it as not respecting them.

  6. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 This is a great question. I’d expect managers to be more focused on longer term planning and strategy, as well as doing all the direct people management stuff. For example, if we need to design more patterned teapots, then for me that means trying out stripes and polka dots when I do my next teapot designs. For my manager and grandboss that means discussing our overall direction, devising a strategy for changing our teapot offering, budgeting for it, selling it in to the executive team and so on.

    One of the main reasons I don’t want to move up the chain is that I would have to stop doing the work I actually enjoy.

    1. Sam*

      I’m completely with you on this. I recently told my boss that, for me, the goal of career advancement is not a fancier title and more money; it’s the ability to spend more time doing projects I actually enjoy. Management emphatically does not fall in that category. That means that I don’t want to be promoted any higher, because the next step up turns at least half your job into supervision, and that my next job will probably be a lateral move. I am fine with that trade off, which blew his mind somewhat, to be honest.

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        I agree. This is my first stint in being a true manager (e.g. managing people), rather than a project manager and my next job will be back to projects. I’m in this field because I love the science and the actual work and as a manager I don’t get to do any of it, just oversee people that do it. Not the direction I want my life to go in, although I am glad for the experience

      2. Turquoisecow*

        I wish more people understood this. It seems like I often see people being promoted who are good at their job. Moving them into management then means they aren’t doing that job anymore. And doing Job A well does NOT mean that they’ll be good at supervising, managing, and coordinating people who do Job A.

        1. DDJ*

          I now manage people but have the exact same tasks I did when I didn’t manage. Managing people was just added to my job description. I’m the only person who does Job A, and now I manage people who do jobs B and C. It’s…interesting. I like to think I’m not doing a terrible job, but I’m sure I’m not managing as well as I could. Because the management piece is really just an add-on to my job.

    2. Revolver Rani*

      At my company the lowest tier of managers is meant to be about 60% individual contributor / 40% manager. This is achieved by assigning them teams of no more than three (or very rarely four) reports who are all ICs themselves, in closely-related areas so that the manager does not have to cover a whole lot of new stuff outside what she’s familiar with, and making sure (via the planning process overseen by the next managers up the chain) that the manager’s IC load is reduced enough to make time for managing.

      I’ve been in this role myself for less than 6 months, so I’m still learning how to do it and how well it works … and I admit that I feel more pressured and work harder now than I did when I was strictly IC. But my team of 3 reports has two very new people in it. I can’t give them a full load of work AND I have to spend a lot of time reviewing their work and coaching them. My senior report needs very little coaching and guidance, and has good judgment about managing his workload and prioritizing. If I had just one more of him and one fewer brand new person, the current landscape would be less stressful for me.

      At any rate, what they tell me is that I have a choice whether I want to work toward moving up to the next level of manager or stay in my current mixed role. I am not yet sure what I’d like to do. My manager (who manages me plus a number of ICs in other product areas) only does IC work in emergencies, and that’s stressful too, because she’s out of practice with our tools and evolving standards, and has to pick things up and quickly put out fires with them. And I’m not sure whether I would like to go broader and pick up more product areas as she has, or stay deep within my own product area (which I really do enjoy). But I wonder if I would feel less scattered if I weren’t trying to be three things at once all the time.

      1. Lars the Real Girl*

        I feel like this is a pretty common scenario – especially for low-mid level managers. With 3-4 employees, ONLY doing management and having no IC work would be really overbearing on the employees because there’s just not THAT much work you can do on a daily basis to manage IC without going over every single thing they’re doing.

      2. Samiratou*

        My company doesn’t have anything formal, but this sounds about right for my immediate team. Most work is done by ICs, but managers often have specific skills that are needed (at least in the short-term) to get stuff done as the team grows and/or skills are transferred.

      3. sb*

        My company does this too, and I am in this in-between role–I enjoy it. I still get to do the stuff I am an expert at (my IC work) while learning new skills (personnel management–ICs already do project management in my company).

        I am still getting the hang of not overcommitting because I think I can do an entire IC-worth of work, and no, I can’t.

        1. Revolver Rani*

          Yes, I am working on that too, especially as I try to figure out how to divide up my team’s work when I have new people who aren’t ready to take a full load. I am trying to resist the temptation to say “well if he runs out of time to finish that piece I can be the backstop.”

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is how we are structured as well. These managers are on the floor with their teams and handle the larger/more complex projects and manage the teams of less experienced people on lower-end work. Even at the next level up, where I’m nearly 100% managing, there are still times I have to put my IC hat back on and dive into the fray. It keeps my skills sharp, and contributing a little to team revenue doesn’t look awful at bonus time, either. I am not as quick as my team, but when we are up to our eyeballs in work and half the team has the flu, no one cares that I’m not the very best IC. It’s a very, very tiny amount of time, though.

    3. Letter Writer 2*

      Thanks! I’m really enjoying the insights from different people here, as well as Alison’s comments.

      I too have decided that I want to stay in a subject-matter expert role and avoid management. (Especially at my current company, where I do feel like people are expected to do too much as managers and not allowed the time needed to cover everything on their plate.)

      My current manager is basically covering the work of 1.5 IC roles as well as trying to build/run a team which should be 8+ people strong. Hopefully when we fill our open positions, he’ll be able to delegate more, but I worry that he’s so used to controlling the details that I’ll have to pry his fingers off the steering wheel a bit!

      1. Anna*

        I’m thinking more and more that this is the right course of action for me, too. I thought management was the way to go for advancement, but I’m honing in on my skillset, the things I enjoy doing, and it’s not managing humans. It’s nice to know these things about ourselves, isn’t it? :)

    4. hermit crab*

      This is definitely something I’ve been struggling with lately. The culture at our organization — we have a big focus on billable hours — is to pretend that management (including project management, in some cases!) goes on in the background and that you are somehow slacking off or failing if you are not focused on “real” work all the time, even if you are a middle manager. Obviously, that is not how things work in real life.

      Recently, I’ve been spending a huge amount of time on project management activities like running (and re-running) budget estimates and meeting with higher-ups about how to manage our relationship with a particular client. As someone who is used to creating products, and in combination with the weird culture thing, it all feels extremely unproductive and unsatisfying. Thank goodness I have one project left where I am actually doing the front-line work — I think I need *something* to point to at the end of the day so I feel like I made a contribution.

      1. Artemesia*

        This is the hallmark of bad management. You promote good producers to management, don’t provide management training and then they continue to do production work rather than manage. It is hard to manage. It is easy to keep doing what you are good at. Unless a company really focuses on good management, they end up being very badly managed because good producers are only sometimes good managers.

    5. NW Mossy*

      This is interesting to me, because 4 years ago, this was me – in love with the individual contributor work I was doing, and prepared to keep doing it indefinitely. The thought of managing people and spending most of my day in meetings made me wince. But as time passed, I realized I was missing a sense of connection to the bigger picture of the business. I ended up taking a manager role shortly thereafter, and shocked the heck out of myself with how much I like it!

      It’s been really rewarding to be able to see more facets of the business without having to be directly responsible for every single one of them, and seeing my directs grow and accomplish great things is amazing. Looking back, I realize that part of why I kept trying to push and stretch my individual contributor roles beyond their descriptions was a desire to tap into the part of myself that loves big-picture strategy and finding common purpose with other people.

      Alison’s point about the size of the team being significant is a big one, though. My first team was 7, and I’d say that I was about 60% manager/40% individual contributor in that role. My current team is 10 with a decent prospect of growing to 12 in about six months, and I’m now more like 90% manager/10% individual contributor now. I don’t even have the systems access to do the sort of work my directs do, which is a good way to enforce delegation and keep my focus on the bigger stuff.

      1. Revolver Rani*

        Your first two paragraphs are very close to my own experience, and provide the reason for some of the ambivalence I hinted at above, about my manager role. The first couple of times I was asked if I wanted to be on the management track I said no. (The last time I wasn’t really asked, but I knew how badly the group needed me to do it and so I didn’t protest when it was given to me.) I do love my IC work, but I’ve been doing it for almost 9 years now, which is much longer than I have ever done anything, and I’m kind of appreciating (some of) the new challenges and experiences that have come with the promotion.

    6. Jesmlet*

      If I were mostly just managing people and not producing any work myself, I’d be absolutely miserable, and also bored. At least in the company I’m at, there just wouldn’t be enough work so I’d have to find tedious stuff like analyzing in depth what all of my direct reports are producing in order to fill my time. There’s been discussions about creating a role like this but it’s just not the right time since we just aren’t big enough to need 1 person to manage 6 others without actually doing the hands on work as well. Personally I enjoy doing both – sitting in long meetings every so often but also being an individual contributor

      1. GingerHR*

        Honestly, I strongly suspect that womble isn’t the full word that the letter writer would have used about this person in another context. It’s not actually very rude, but it is even more British when you complete it!

          1. OP #4*

            Heh heh, yes, that is indeed the word I was going to use, but erred on the side of politeness and manners

    1. Cristina in England*

      Yes! Garden leave. :-) I love that phrase. Haven’t heard it since I worked in an office several years ago now.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I fear I’m breaking the rules about nitpicking language, but if people are going to pick up this phrase from AAM you should know what you’ll actually be saying.

        Gardening leave does not usually mean having no work. It means being fired or laid off and being paid for your notice period but not being able to work during it – effectively you’re being paid to stay away. Often worked out as part of a compromise agreement. If you tell people you’re on gardening leave they’ll wonder why you lost your job.

          1. GingerHR*

            It still does not imply losing your job in most cases. It’s also less likely to be used for suspension than suspension – which is not, despite what most companies say in their letters, a neutral act. Personal leave of absence is a more common euphemism than garden leave in the private sector for suspension, especially at a senior level.

        1. GingerHR*

          This is more nitpicking, but that’s actually not true Ramona. I enforce a lot of gardening leave and write a lot of settlements (what were comp agreements), so I’m pretty used to this. If you equate gardening leave with firing or redundancy, you are making a false and possibly damaging assumption.

          Garden leave can be enforced if (and legally only if) there is a clause in the contract. It is commonly used in senior or high-competition roles (e.g. sales) and means that you pay someone to sit at home during their notice period. They do not work for you but should not work for the competitor – it’s to protect your business by keeping the employee away from sensitive data. You need a contractual clause, otherwise the employer is in breach of contract by denying work, provision of work being a clearly established implied contractual term. Of course, few people would complain, but if being out of the workplace is damaging (lose contacts, skills etc) you could sue for breach if there is no clause and win the right to start your new job earlier or damages for the loss.

          If someone is or made redundant, it would be actually be harder to enforce: especially since companies will often end employment the same day and pay in lieu of notice or pay liquidated damages for the breach of contractual notice (same end result but different things in law) and is therefore no longer an employee. If you dismiss someone for either reason and leave them on the payroll but tell them to stay away, you still technically need that contractual clause – although you are unlikely to get a complaint.

          1. Thlayli*

            At my old company if you handed in notice to go work for a competitor you would be put on gardening leave for the period of your notice. It was to try to prevent people taking secrets from current projects to competitors. Some people had 3 month or longer notice periods!

            1. OP #4*

              Interestingly, my work have physically said the words “Garden leave” several times, but it’s not in the Redundancy letter that I’m just re-reading. it just says “We do not require you to come into the offices unless specified”

              1. GingerHR*

                That was to Thayli, sorry.

                OP4, technically, that’s not garden leave, it’s just about place of work! Garden leave is about not providing you with work – if you’re in a niche area, then I guess they don’t want you running straight off to a competitor, but they should have provided for that in the contract. It’s fairly common though in redundancies to do this – one definition of redundancy is no longer having the need for the work to be done, so it’s not unreasonable that they don’t need someone in the office. They are hedging their bets slightly, and trying to avoid the garden leave point (I bet it’s not a contractual clause), but equally if you found another role they’d be daft to fight you starting it as soon as possible. They could reduce your notice pay /period by the relevant amount, but could not withhold redundancy pay.

                1. Ponytail*

                  When I was made redundant, I got three weeks’ gardening leave where I didn’t have to come in, but where I was still being paid. The Job Centre wouldn’t have allowed me to claim any jobseeker’s allowance yet, and although I could do what I wanted in those three weeks, technically I was still employed. I think my ex-employer wanted me on hand to answer any queries that came up but we both knew that realistically, I wasn’t going to be doing that. Apart from the freedom to knit and feed giraffes (Day 1 of the leave !) the main benefit was not having to pay for my commute.

              2. Cristina in England*

                Yes I only know this phrase in context of resignation, as at my last non-academic office job, most people who resigned went to one of our direct competitors and so people who quit were quite often not required to work their notice period.

            2. Artemesia*

              If I am going to resign to go to a competitor you can bet I have downloaded and copied files and taken every possible thing I think I will need before that notice is given. Going after clients is inappropriate but I would certainly want copies of all the work I had created to assist me in creating similar work at the new place. I’d love ‘gardening leave’ but it wouldn’t protect the company.

              1. GingerHR*

                Of course – most people do. However, bear in mind (if you are in the UK of course) that it puts you in breach of contract: certainly the implied duty of fidelity and also in breach of any explicit clauses of confidentiality, intellectual property etc. It may not happen often, but we have just sought an injunction after someone failed to comply with all the legal requirements – this is after some other actions which were taken at their expense to protect our interests. Courts don’t like employers trying to enforce overly onerous covenants, but they also don’t like employees stealing, which this is. Even if your ex-employer doesn’t come after you immediately, it doesn’t mean you are in the clear. Some employment lawyers in the UK prefer to wait – that way they can sue you and your new company for all the benefit / income you have had from that data.

              2. thisiswater*

                I guess nothing would protect the company from your choice to actively and blatantly steal from them

        2. Cambridge Comma*

          I’ve also heard it used in the civil and diplomatic services, also in cases where the person on gardening leave is quite likely to not leave the service but to go back to work after the leave. I think it often is given during investigations, so there is an implication of potentially being at fault, but I’ve also heard it used to describe an ambassador who has reached the limit on his or her current post, but there is no new post to slot into yet.

          1. Helena*

            Yeah it’s generally used to mean “suspended on full pay” in the NHS (in situations where there has been some sort of allegation and you are taken off clinical work). It’s really damaging, as you deskill and lose confidence very quickly.

            But it’s used to mean “sitting out your notice period at home” in plenty of other industries, and certainly isn’t just used for sackings. When I was a child, my management consultant dad was on three months’ gardening leave after he was headhunted by a competitor – it was over summer and I remember thinking I definitely wanted a job with gardening leave when I grew up!

        3. Tuesday Next*

          According to, if you hand in your notice, “your employer may ask you not to come into work, or to work at home or another location during your notice period. This is called ‘gardening leave’. You’ll get the same pay and contractual benefits.” So I guess it’s a slightly broader definition than yours :)

          1. Wednesday Mouse (OP #2)*

            I agree.

            Also (unrelatedly).. is your name a reference to the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde?! If so, hello! I don’t think I’ve ever encountered another Fforde Ffan online!

        4. thisiswater*

          My current employer, a large investment bank, requires me to take gardening leave of 45 days no matter why I leave, and no matter who initiated my leaving.

    2. M is for Mulder*

      IKR? OP’s niche is obviously having a delightful vocabulary. Someone, invent an app that teaches you quaint insults in other languages.

  7. Mike*

    #2: I think you’re conflating two different things, of doing the work of an individual contributor and literally not doing anything yourself directly because that would mean being an individual contributor.

    So for instance, that Powerpoint example: Do the individual contributors you manage spend their time making Powerpoints, such that this would normally be their job, and managers are stepping in and still doing it rather than focusing on their jobs? Or do the individual contributors do generally different work, and this Powerpoint is something that’s associated with the overall performance of the team and really is the purview of management, and it’d be weird to ask a person from the team to take time away from their real job to create it?

    Being a manager does involve a lot of managing people, but it also means a lot of creating/improving processes, and of reporting upward to higher management, so don’t think of those as “individual contributor” things — they’re key to the job.

    1. Lars the Real Girl*

      This was my first thought as well. Creating reports and slides can actually be a big part of your job as a manger, so while your employees are completing work, you’re responsible for reporting on that work up, KPIs, results, analysis, etc

      I think the IC work changes when you’re a manager: less transactional, more analysis, less creation, more review, etc, but a manager doesn’t just “manage people” especially in scenarios where you’re leading small teams, and not something like 50 direct reports.

    2. Sharon*

      It might not have been a good example. I’m job hunting and have seen a LOT of job postings with mixed requirements. For example a software developer position that also requires management experience, or a manager position that required years of software development experience with specific tools. I feel like companies are trying to get one person to do two full time jobs for one salary.

      1. ArtK*

        That could be one explanation. It could also be that they want a manager who can communicate with the people using those languages and tools. I’ve had managers who didn’t understand what I was doing at all and it was frustrating on both sides. This is specific to first-line management — as one moves up the food chain, the need for specific technical skills diminishes.

    3. ArtK*

      A big part of management is communications, both up and down. Presentations are a very common way to do that. In my course work for my management degree, the first class was “Management Communications” — in other words, a whole quarter on how to prepare and deliver a persuasive presentation. I suppose that some companies may assign the task of actually drawing boxes on a screen to an individual contributor, but everywhere I’ve been, that’s the manager’s job.

      Also, I’ve always appreciated it when a manager could step in and help with IC work in a pinch. I’m not fond of rigid hierarchies. “That’s not my job” doesn’t fly with me; I’d much prefer “my contribution is keeping upper management off of your backs while you get the job done” or “I’m here to help — someone pass me a wrench.”

  8. SleeplessInLA*

    #2- I agree with Allison that this is less about being well-run and more dependent on company culture and/or size of the team.

    My current manager, who’s a VP, regularly does projects that are on par with my daily duties and I remember my first impression being “Isn’t this below her pay grade?” but the structure works for us. She only manages a team of 3 and we work very close together so her being an individual contributor at times helps a ton. Also, there’s the bonus of her being capable of doing the job of her direct reports, which is helpful in case of an emergency or if one of us is out of the office

    I think managerial duties/expectations should be built around what makes the most sense vs falling in line with perceived norms.

  9. Thlayli*

    #1 depending on where you are it may actually be illegal to pass on personal contact details for people that had nothing to do with your work for your old boss. In some places that’s a violation of privacy law.

  10. Em Too*

    There is Great Debate in my company about whether managers should spend time doing analysis. Some people feel it gives them better insight into the work, and probably more reassurance it’s being done right. Also, most of our lower level managers like doing the analysis more than management (many are nevertheless good managers, promise).

    But it’s not a good use of my time spending days or weeks getting to know the data and the programmes so I could safely do a few numbers. If the team’s snowed under, I’ll draft some reports or something.

    I miss doing the analysis.

  11. MK*

    I think there is a valid arguement that managers shouldn’t be so focused on managing that they become disconnected from the actual work, if nothing else because it makes them less effective managers. In my field, we occasionally have issues with managers who haven’t done the actual work for years, trying to manage with an outdated/unrealistic idea of how the work is done.

    1. fposte*

      Though I think you’re suggesting it’s requisite the manager have done the report’s work at some point, and I disagree with that, especially at higher levels. They should have good staff they trust when it comes to the practical details, but they don’t need to have made widgets themselves.

      1. The Other Katie*

        They don’t have to push the Make Widget button, but I tend to think they should know what a widget is, what it does, how it’s made, and why it’s not a sprocket. This is particularly a problem at upper management levels, where firms often assume that no specialist knowledge or experience is required other than “management”, and a “manager” can manage anything from a sneaker factory to NASA with equal success.

        1. fposte*

          I definitely agree with the widget/sprocket thing, and also the difference between the customers for widgets and sprockets.

        2. Future Analyst*

          +1. This can absolutely make or break how a team works with a manager. A good manager has the sense to know when s/he doesn’t know something, and to get clarification/pull in people that do know.

    2. NW Mossy*

      This can certainly be a problem, and it’s one I check myself on a lot. I manage a team of analysts that do work very similar to what I did as an analyst 5-8 years ago, but it’s not the same work and a lot has changed in the interim. My remedy is to name the issue (outdated info) and ask my team to check me on it – I’ll often say things like “Does X still work this way?” or “Who’s on point for Y now?” or “What prompted us to change to Z?” Talking through those questions has helped us uncover some long-simmering issues and resolve them, and my team gets the benefit of a boss who talks out her butt less.

    3. Kate 2*

      I agree with you MK. I used to work in retail, and the store manager was great, an absolutely fabulous woman, who used to be at the bottom, a sales associate, the experience of which I attribute a lot of her greatness to. But she had been off the sales floor for so long that she had forgotten how much time things take. Like stocking the store. She would look at a box and say we should be able to get it done in 10 minutes, never mind the complicating factors: it had stuff that was kept all over the store, not in just one area, we had to work at the register AND the special order counter AND help customers with questions, etc.

      To me, the manager having done the work of the “lowest” person, and refreshing themselves once a month or so is critical to the success of the company, both in terms of realistic processes and project planning and good relationships with employees.

  12. Not Today Satan*

    Re: 2. I’m a “team lead” which is the worst of all worlds. I “manage” people (with little to no actual authority, but I still have to deal with all the worst parts of supervision), I do some of the work that my team does (client facing), plus my own higher level work (program development, etc.). It is seriously a pain.

    1. Dr. Doll*

      That’s where I’m at too (with a team of 9). And I’m the only SME in one of our major areas. So, I’m BUSY. Fortunately I have the awesomest team ever with one minor wobble (womble?) who does take up more time than I wish. And fortunately it’s all quite rewarding so I like it.

    2. MG*

      My team is FEELING THIS right now, and I feel bad for our team lead. To keep it general, we support a product. Due to some company re-orgs/turnover, the structure of our little team had been team lead, another higher-level team member, and then six of us who are relative newbies to the product. Higher-level team member was recently promoted/moved to a different department, so now it’s team lead and six newbies. We’re doing our best, but there is so much that we’re just not up to speed with yet, which means a lot of questions are falling back on our team lead directly, or we try to take on a project, deal with a client, etc., then we hit a wall, and have to call her in to answer the higher-level questions. Team lead had always been an individual contributor in the sense that she was mostly there for managing and escalation, but now we’re just escalating so much since there’s no buffer in between of that more knowledgeable employee.

      I honestly think it’s a failure of the higher-ups to think it was okay to move one of only two team members with institutional knowledge off the team without giving us a lot more training or at least more resources to go to than just this poor overworked lead, but whoever is to blame, it’s been really hard.

  13. hbc*

    OP2: I think the key wording here is “middle manager.” This is probably too low to have an admin, and chances are good that there’s no one in the direct line of command who it makes sense to hand it off to. Even if I had an admin, the amount of time I would have to spend explaining my assessments and analyses to someone else would take at least as much time as just writing it into the slides themselves. If it needed to be super polished, I’d probably find someone, but none of my ICs were hired for their reporting or presentation skills.

    I’ll admit, I also like to get my hands dirty occasionally. If I help offload a truck or enter some sales orders, I get a better sense of how our processes actually work, how long it actually takes to do things, and often notice things that can be improved that the people focused on the day-to-day didn’t know they could complain about.

    1. Future Analyst*

      +100 on your last line. So many people assume that just because “this is how we’ve always done it” there’s no use in looking for ways to streamline/make things more efficient, but being hands-on and having an actual feel of what’s in place is key to making meaningful changes.

  14. esra*

    So fun story about #3: I got a job with that 140 char question on the application. They spent the next 11 months waffling, not supporting, and then laying off, their marketing team. In the past year and one month since then, they’ve laid off two more teams. Now they’re hiring a third.

  15. Machiamellie*

    #3 – I wonder if such requirements are a veiled attempt to bring in younger applicants, i.e. millenials, by expecting them to be easily available to conform to Twitter-style rules. Maybe I’m reading too much into it :D

    My current company has some silly up-front job descriptions – “we’re looking for people who love doing mathy things!” etc. – but they also truly read cover letters (a rarity IMO) and evaluate your candidacy based on the cover letter, resume, and interviews, rather than some arbitrary thing that you can’t control.

    1. JD*

      That’s it. I am chancing “accounting degree” on my resume to “mathy degree”. I am loving this. hehe

      1. CMart*

        When I’m ready to move on from my current role, this is now my new goal. Find a company that will appreciate that I am a Master of Mathy Things and licensed in Money Stuff.

  16. Zathras*

    #4, for what it’s worth, when I was interviewing for my current job the in-house recruiter was outrageously flaky. He would ask me for several days/times that worked for me for interviews, schedule the interview with the team, but never actually get back to me with the scheduled time. I got a call out of the blue for the phone interview. Then I was told they wanted to interview me in person but never heard back after sending 2-3 possible days. Luckily I knew a guy on the team so I reached out to him and he was able to tell me when to come in!

    But it was worth putting up with the scheduling BS because my new job is awesome and I don’t work with the flaky guy. Plus in the end I think he did me an accidental favor – I was relaxed and confident in the in person interview, because I was so fed up that I didn’t care whether I got the job. (After the chance to actually talk to the team for a few hours in person I changed my mind and I’m glad I did, but I was way less nervous going in then usual.)

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      That’s a good point. A bad recruitment, HR Manager, interviewing, onboarding experience doesn’t always mean the job itself is going to be bad. I remember thinking that my onboarding experience was pretty bad, but that wasn’t at all indicative of my position, immediate boss, or teammates.

  17. Anon to me*

    I’d love to know how to convince an employer that managing staff takes time. Where I work, when you supervise staff it’s an add on to your existing duties. So I have a team of four people who report to me, and yet 99% of my time is dedicated to my own work. I wish my bosses understood that managing people takes time. My staff suffer because I don’t have time to spend with them. I suffer because I don’t have time to spend with them (as I’m spending the majority of my time struggling to stay on top of my own work). And, I believe the organization suffers because I don’t have any time to spend with them.

    1. LCL*

      The franchise restaurant business is famous for this. That’s why everyone who has worked for one has stories about crazy managers. The managers are usually salaried, expected to work the floor with the rest of the team, somehow squeeze in management duties on top of all their duties, and keep food and labor costs down. That’s why I try not to eat at fast food places- I hate how they exploit their workers and it is considered normal, while the parent companies are rich.

  18. Revolver Rani*

    #4: I find something strange in the recruiter’s apology. “I was keen to speak with you because I make a ton of money with this company.” I guess I don’t understand why he leads with a boast about his account size, instead of something that actually matters TO YOU. I don’t disagree with Alison’s advice to give them another chance and see if their behavior changes now that they know they’ve annoyed you, but the apology really doesn’t do anything to offset the bad impression. Emergencies do come up, but considerate people take a few minutes (literally!) to cancel their appointments or ask someone else to do it for them.

    1. JulieBulie*

      Glad I wasn’t the only one scratching my head over this. If recruiter makes a ton of money with this company, um, so what? I think he was trying to say “I have a good relationship with this company and can get you in,” but if so, those were the words he should have used. “I make a ton of money” is just crass.

  19. NP*

    #2: Ehh, I think you need to understand that there are project managers and people managers, and those can definitely be the same person because of the nature of the work and how the company is organized. My boss manages about a dozen people, but he isn’t directing and reviewing all of their work all the time because he isn’t the project manager for all of that work. And on the projects that he does manage, he does a lot of work (or at least some work) because the client hired us because of his expertise and ability to lead a team, so of course he’s going to be heavily involved in the work.

    But in terms of people and business management, he does have regular 1:1 meetings with his reports, conducts their performance reviews, and is heavily involved in strategy and business decisions that affect our group. He probably spends 60-70% of his time on project work (which includes directing and reviewing work when he is the project manager and also individual contributions when he’s not the project manager) and the rest on people management, business development (proposals), and strategy.

    I’m a lower level manager, and I probably spend 90% of my time on project work, including my own individual contributions and directing and reviewing the work of junior staff working on the projects or tasks that I manage. But they work with multiple managers on multiple projects and aren’t my direct reports, so I’m not responsible for 1:1s or performance reviews. I do tons of informal and formal mentoring and coaching, though. Since I’m not anyone’s direct manager, I’m a good resource for junior staff who need a sounding board. So I’m mostly a project manager and occasionally an informal people manager. Probably someday soon I’ll have some direct reports, but I’m happily avoiding that responsibility for now.

    This is not at all a dysfunctional arrangement. It’s just how a lot of companies work that don’t have extremely rigid hierarchies.

  20. AdAgencyChick*

    #1, I don’t even know that I’d say “this is time-consuming so I won’t be able to do it.” Well, unless you’d be willing to do it if she offers to pay you for the time. But I bet she’d be even worse of a pain in the rear when you’re preparing a project like that than she was to work for in your regional manager capacity.

    I’d just say “I’m not willing to do that since I am no longer employed with you” and leave it at that. It’s not like there’s a good reference at stake here if you were on the job for only two weeks.

    1. Not Tom, just Petty*

      I wanted to address the first letter as well. As Alison has stated elsewhere, a previous employee can ask for anything up to and including a first born child. Not illegal for them to ask. It’s ridiculous, but victory favors the bold.
      By the same token, you have no legal (and no moral) obligation to reply. Do a risk assessment of continuing contact with this loon and determine how much you are willing to give. I’d create a new Google account to work from. Tell them that you’ve changed it. Ignore anything sent to you old address from them and ignore anything after you’ve said you’re done.

      1. luna505*

        Thank you, great advice. I appreciate your reply. I did send a report to her and as expected, she responded and wanted more details. I did not respond.

    2. luna505*

      Thank you, I sent her a report, then of course she asked for more and I did not respond. I think what bothered me the most was that her request was rooted in dis-trust rather than wanting my contacts…and I had only been there 2 weeks.

    3. luna505*

      Thank you, I did reply with a detailed report and as expected, she responded by asking for more details and more contacts. I decided not to respond going to forward. I didn’t include it in my first letter, but I did not give notice because her behavior scared me with her lack of trust and I found out she has accused former employees of stealing in the past, and is lawsuit happy. She is based out of a city an hour from me and she sent her “assistant” down for the week who admitted to me that she was sent to “watch me.” I had only been on the job 2 weeks? I didn’t want to be there any longer as she became a liability with her erratic behavior and paranoia. Yikes.

      1. Anion*

        You’re well out of this one, luna505. I’d stop replying to all of her texts/emails/whatever, and have all of them sent to a special folder you don’t have to look at–don’t delete any of it, but put it somewhere you don’t have to look at/think about it, and move on.

        1. anyone out there but me*

          Agreed. I worked for someone like this once. Horrible experience. Luna, you were right to get out of there as quickly as you did. You were very nice to send your report. I would not have even done that.

          My response from this point would be a very concise “No, I will not send you any further detailed information” along with a copy of your state’s payroll law as it pertains to final paychecks. Ended with a “I expect my final check to arrive by ____ (insert date).”

          The nerve of some people. Wow.

  21. Slow Gin Lizz*

    OP1, I’m curious how long that manager has been there because she certainly shouldn’t be there much longer!

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Ah, ok, I was confused about how big the place was since you said something about regional manager. Anyway, how long has the company been around? Because instead of my previous comment I’d say the company probably won’t be around much longer!

  22. Dan*


    AAM says this: “say that you hope you didn’t cause any confusion”

    TBH, I don’t like that phrasing. OP *did* cause confusion, and shouldn’t equivocate it. I’d offer up, “I’m really sorry for the confusion that I’ve caused.” OP needs to own that.

    1. ZVA*

      I get where you’re coming from, but I actually disagree — I typically say “sorry for any confusion” or “apologies for any inconvenience,” because even if you’re convinced you did cause confusion, you just can’t know that for sure (unless, of course, you’re told). To me, saying “I’m sorry for the confusion I’ve caused” in this case is actually kind of presumptuous — it’s assuming you know exactly how your words were received, when you simply don’t. “Any confusion,” to me, allows for/acknowledges the potential for confusion but doesn’t take it as a given, which is why I prefer it.

      1. Dan*

        It’s funny… I take statements like “we’re sorry for any inconvenience” to be distancing language, where the speaker/writer isn’t owning/taking responsibility for the inconvenience that was caused, and is hoping that the receiver would go away quietly. I especially don’t like it when significant inconvenience has likely been caused — because that statement could be interpreted as saying, “we think there’s a possibility you haven’t been inconvenienced, so we’re giving *ourselves* the benefit of the doubt here.”

        I mean, when your flight is delayed, how satisfying is the statement “we apologize for any inconvenience”? Technically speaking, it’s not guaranteed that the flight delay is going to be an inconvenience for *everybody* but it’s probably an inconvenience for most. (if I need to make a connection, it more or less doesn’t matter if the first flight is delayed as long as I make my connection…)

        In the OP’s case, “I accept your offer but I want more money” is a confusing statement — I don’t see too many interpretations that allow for this to *not* be confusing.

    1. ArtK*

      And nobody likes artificial limits that prevent you from writing anything meaningful. This goes both ways. 140 characters is extremely arbitrary; I suppose that Twitter did some research to come up with that number, but I somehow doubt that they factored job applications into their research. “Can you tell us why you’d be perfect for this job in 30 seconds” is a lot better. The 30 seconds is from a fairly well-known concept called the “elevator pitch.” If you can’t describe your product/service in a trip between floors in an elevator, then you aren’t going to be able to convince anyone.

      I can’t convey anything useful about myself in 140 characters. I can do it in 30 seconds.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        Mes’s comment was only 85. He communicated 3 ideas in an off-the-cuff internet comment. It’s reasonable to assume applicants can as well.

      2. JHunz*

        Twitter didn’t do research to come up with 140 characters. It was the same as the number that could be sent in a single-packet SMS message without using anything but otherwise wasted side-channel bandwidth. It’s the same reason modern automobiles have axle widths similar to the horse-driven carriages that existed before.

  23. DataQueen*

    #2 I’m really glad you submitted this question. I’m new to managing a team, and on days that i spend the majority of time managing rather than working on deliverables, I feel guilty – like I’ve gotten nothing done. This reminds me that by managing my team, i AM getting something done. And the fact of the matter is that I have much less deliverable work now. But because my job is less doing and more thinking, I feel like I’m cheating the system somehow. Like “Awesome, I have more money and all i’m doing is all day is talking to people and giving my opinion on things – I really pulled one over on these suckers!” But that’s what management is – your company has recognized that your strategic guidance improves others’ deliverables, and you can make more of an impact on 6 people’s work than on your own work as an independent contributor.

    1. Beer Thirty*

      I only have 4 direct reports, so there really isn’t too much “people-managing” for me to do. And I don’t have any hands-on experience with the work my folks do, so I can’t really make a contribution to the actual work product. This may sound like the perfect job, but I am bored out of my mind in this position.

  24. Elizabeth West*

    #3—I just applied for a job the other day and on the application site, they had a question like that. “Tell us in 150 characters what makes you unique. Be creative; make it something that will catch our eye!”

    It’s for a tech editing/writing position for technical curricula. I rolled my eyes and put something like “I have creative writing experience so I can make presentation of routine material interesting and fun.” And then I added that hilarious comic book cover daylight saving time flyer I made to my portfolio. I was close to just chucking the app, but I need a damn job.

    A friend suggested I answer the question like this: “I bring much covfefe. Yes, I know what it is.”

    I WAS SO TEMPTED. Since I doubt I’m gonna get the job anyway, I should have done it!

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      That’s such a bizarre question. To me, your answer is creative – you were succinct and conveyed the most important aspect of what you have to offer. My experience has been people either don’t know what they’re looking for, or they use creative to mean ‘funny’ – and then they want you to be serious on the job.

      Here’s hoping someone with sense takes over the hiring process and you get called!

  25. anonymous today*

    #2 – Middle-managers with little to no time for managing
    I think I’m in a totally different field than the LW’s but reading the letter I felt like I was in that boat. I have a full-time position and I’m good at my job so I’m asked to do a lot of work. But I can’t do all the work there is so I also supervise a significant number (around 10) other folks who do the same job. On some days I have to sacrifice my own work to solve problems for my direct reports and I barely have time to devote to giving them helpful feedback on a regular basis. Sadly, my supervisory duties don’t even come with a real title or pay increase, only a small reduction in my normal workload which is not enough to offset the time I put into managing the whole department.

  26. ST*

    “Tell us in 140 characters or less why you’re perfect for the job”

    I’m perfect for the job because what I can bring to the table cannot be summed up in merely 140 characters.

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