I tell employers I’m the best candidate for the job, I was ghosted after paying for my own interview travel, and more

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

1. I tell employers “I’m the ideal candidate for this role”

I regularly include the following claim into my job applications: “My skills and experience in X mean that I am the ideal candidate for this role.”

I have been criticized for doing this on the grounds of that it is not my place to make such a claim, their argument being that it’s for the employer to decide who will be the ideal candidate for a role and not me. I disagree. The whole point of a job application is to confidently assert your suitability and highlight how you are indeed the best candidate — backing your argument with examples. I find it helps to genuinely believe that I am indeed the best candidate. The employer is free to not select me but if they wish to make the wrong decision, that’s their prerogative.

Further to my point, politicians claim that they are the best person to represent me and companies claim that their products or services are the best solution to my problems. So why is it so wrong to make similar claims when job hunting?

The point of a job application is not to argue that you’re the best candidate. That’s something that you can’t possibly know, and by definition it will be untrue for everyone applying for the job but one. The point of a job application is to express your interest and demonstrate the ways in which you think you’re well matched with what the employer is seeking, and the reasons you think you’d excel at the role. That’s it.

Since you can’t know anything about the rest of the candidate pool, approaching it as “I’m the best person for the job” comes across as both arrogant and awfully naive, both of which are off-putting qualities in job candidates.

Plus, in my experience, the vast majority of candidates who assert that they’re the best person for the role aren’t actually strong candidates. I don’t just mean they’re not the absolute top candidate; I mean they’re usually in the bottom 50% of the applicant pool. That may or may not be true for you, but with anyone who’s done a lot of hiring, it’s going to immediately associate you with a weaker group of candidates.

If you’re a strong candidate, you don’t need to give the employer a hard sell because it will be obvious through your skills and accomplishments (assuming you have decent application materials that explain them). Just announcing that you’re a great candidate is like just announcing that you’re a great communicator: it means nothing — you need to actually show it.

2. Is it okay to take a break from job hunting?

Last April, I learned I was the victim of gender-based pay discrimination by my employer, and have been fighting with them ever since – multiple meetings with my director, HR; documentation of my job duties and projects and my hiring process; even EEOC meetings – it’s exhausting. On top of that I’ve been rigorously job hunting. I’ve gotten sit-down interviews for 10 different positions, and no offers. It’s exhausting, and every rejection hurts more and more.

I’ve read the advice about cover letters, resumes, good interview tactics, salary negotiations. I follow it and I know I can excel in these positions, but the lack of offers is really demoralizing. I have stellar recommendations and have not mentioned my current workplace struggle, but the rejection is making me question my skill set and my efficacy as an employee, and whether my current job has even given me the skills I need to move on.

Since getting myself psyched up to do the last round of interviews for a position I was very excited about, and it ending in no offer, I’ve considered giving up searching. At least for a while. I put a lot of time and mental effort into every application and interview, and I simply cannot imagine doing it again. At the same time, I’m afraid if I don’t constantly check for openings I might miss an opportunity, but so far that’s been unfruitful.

Is it okay to take a break? It feels like settling, or giving up and letting my current employer continue to take advantage of me. I would quit tomorrow if I had the funds, but I don’t. I’d rather not run through this exhausting drill again, and put my energy into my (financially unfruitful) hobby projects. I won’t have better pay or a better job prospects, but at lest I won’t keep getting hit when I’m down.

It is okay to take a break. Take a break!

Anyone would find it exhausting to continue on with no break after interviewing for 10 positions, and you’re doing it on top of a draining, adversarial process at work.

How long of a break you should take is a different question — in your situation, I’d try to pick the search back up again in a month or two if you’re up to it — but you absolutely do not need to be constantly in job search mode.

3. I covered my own travel expenses for an out-of-state interview, and my interviewer never showed up

I was recently offered an interview in another state. The interviewer wouldn’t allow a Skype interview. I paid for my ticket and hotel, which is common in my field, as far as I know. Two days before the set date, I was notified that the interviewer wouldn’t be back from his business trip in time, and I was asked to reschedule. I had to pay a penalty for rescheduling my flight.

When I arrived at the interview, I was told that the interviewer (department lead) was not available, and I was interviewed by the front desk secretary, who seemed uninterested in having to do this task.

I sent a thank-you afterwards and never heard back- not even a rejection. It was a waste of time and money. I don’t understand why the company insisted on an in-person interview if they didn’t want to meet. How can I avoid this type of situation in the future, and is this considered a normal cost of finding employment?

Wow, that’s outrageous. No, this is absolutely not considered a normal part of finding a job. What they did is horrible, and you wouldn’t be out of line to say something to them like, “I spent $X of my own money when you asked me to cover my own travel costs, and the interviewer didn’t show up. Since I’m now out that money, I’m asking you to make me whole by reimbursing those expenses, since I flew out in good faith at your request.”

As for how to avoid it in the future … it’s fairly unlikely that this will happen again since it’s so incredibly rude, but one thing you can do is to confirm the appointment with your interviewer one to two days ahead of time. When you do that, remind them that you’ll be flying out, and even give your flight info to reinforce in their heads that you’re not just making a 10-minute drive. You can’t do not much beyond that to protect against people who are this inconsiderate, but that’ll help minimize risk.

4. What does “keep in touch” mean from an interviewer?

After over five years with the same company, I am starting to job search and explore other options, with the goal of having a new job by the end of the year. While exploring opportunities and reaching out to some people in my network, I was fortunate enough to be put in touch with someone, we’ll call her Monica, at a company that really interests me and I think would be a great fit and next step in my career. I ended up having an informational interview with Monica, which then led to me having an informal coffee meeting with the CEO (Phoebe). The meeting went well, and Phoebe expressed that she’d like me to go through the official hiring process (work sample and interviews) in their next round of hiring, which will be in a few months. Later, in response to my follow-up thank-you email, Phoebe said I should “keep in touch.”

So now my question is, how exactly do I keep in touch with Phoebe and Monica? I’m planning on reaching out in a couple of months to see if they’re still hiring as planned and to express my interest in applying/going through the process, but should I be reaching out in the meantime as well? And if so, how much is enough/too much? Do they really want me to keep in touch, or do they just want me to reach out about applying in a few months? Am I just overthinking this?

They almost definitely mean “reach out in a few months when we’re likely to be doing our next round of hiring.” They’re not expecting you to stay in touch meanwhile with updates on what you’re doing and how-are-you’s and things like that. “Stay in touch” professionally is different from “stay in touch” socially. Professionally, it’s more of an invitation to be in contact when there’s a specific reason. And in a professional context, the expected frequency is different — waiting a few months would be completely normal (whereas waiting a few months in a social context would seem so long that people might assume you weren’t interested in pursuing the invitation).

So just put a note on your calendar to contact them in a few months, at which point you can say something like, “When we talked in October, you suggested that I go through your official hiring process the next time it opened up. At the time you were expecting that to happen around now, so I wanted to check in and reiterate my interest, and I’d love to throw my hat in the ring if you’re now formally reviewing candidates.”

5. Telling my manager I have a brain tumor, and asking him not to tell my supervisor

I was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. I really haven’t even seen a specialist yet. Just gotten results from a CT scan. I have told the people in my department (four of them) because we have worked together for a long time and are very close.

My problem is telling my manager. I will at some point have to miss work, depending on the course of action the doctors decide to take. The problem in telling him are the supervisors below him, mine in particular. They are friends and I don’t want him (my branch manager) telling my supervisor because my supervisor is incredibly immature and he likes to gossip. I’ve told my four coworkers because I trust them and one used to work as a nurse. I don’t want anyone else knowing my business but I feel I need to tell the manager. He is a great manager and a good guy but I want him to keep what I tell him to himself. Your thoughts?

If you want, it’s okay to wait to tell your manager until there’s something actionable for him to do — like when you need time off work approved. At whatever point you do decide to tell him, stress that you want it kept confidential, and be explicit that you have concerns about your supervisor’s tendency to gossip about private issues. You could say something like, “I realize (supervisor) will need to know I’ll be out. I’ve seen him gossip about private matters like this before, and I do not want my health information shared around the office. To the extent that you need to say something to him, can I ask that you simply say ‘a private issue’ or, if necessary, ‘a medical issue,’ without sharing details?”

{ 348 comments… read them below }

  1. BuildMeUp

    #1 – Politicians and companies can say this because they (generally) know their competition and what their competition is offering. There’s no way for you to know who your competition is and how you measure up to them.

    Also… I’m not sure the fact that politicians do something should be a ringing endorsement!

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Alison is 1000% right that OP’s approach is not helpful and will come across as arrogant and naive. I also think it’s dangerous to try to protect one’s ego by deciding that you (generic) were the best but the hiring manager was “wrong” by deciding to hire someone else. From the hiring side, that attitude/approach can come across as really painful and unrealistic.

      I have never met a strong candidate who self-identifies as the “best” or “ideal” candidate for the job in their interview. If you’re the best, you don’t have to crow about it. It’s a “show not tell” situation where your answers help illustrate your accomplishments, which will then speak for themselves.

      1. Emily

        Yeah, you can project the same enthusiasm and confidence without the arrogance with something like, “The job description aligns closely with both my work history and professional training, as well as my personal interests, and I’m excited to learn more about how we might mutually benefit from working together.”

        1. Artemesia

          That is a bit ponderous but the right direction. You can make the case for why you are a great candidate by showing how your experience and skill aligns with their needs and showing your enthusiasm for the job and organization. Like with most of what you do in job interviewing you show them you are a great choice, you don’t tell them. For a lot of hiring managers saying ‘I am the best candidate’ would be an immediate red flag for as put above arrogance or naivete.

          1. Annonymouse

            I can get away with saying it (uniquely/highly/best qualified) because I know my particular set of skills is rare to find in my industry – martial arts.

            Seriously only 20 people in my country have the same combination and maybe 2-3 who don’t own our own schools.

            I’m talking “lion tamer” level rare.

            Unless you can match that level of speciality and rarity you don’t get to say it.

            Because chances are you are one of thousands of people they could have fill this role.

            1. Annonymouse

              And if I do get beaten out for a role I never hold a grudge or think “you chose wrong”.

              Instead I think “damn. They must have been AMAZING! I’d better go upskill / look at my interview and resume skills.”

      2. NotAnotherManager!

        Exactly. I do a lot of hiring, and people who tell me they’re the best candidate I’ve got or the ideal candidate are usually not (based on their actual skills and experience). It comes across as resorting to puffery to cover up for lack of actual skills and naive that they know what the rest of my candidate pool looks like.

        I also found OP1’s comment that hiring managers are making a mistake by not hiring them off-putting. It’s one thing to have confidence in yourself and your abilities; it’s quite another to be arrogant. Even the best candidates for a job can be edged out by someone just slightly more qualified. And arrogant people are not fun to work with and tend to not work as well with their team as confident people.

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management

          “The employer is free to not select me but if they wish to make the wrong decision, that’s their prerogative.”

          OP1, I truly hope you are not communicating that sentiment–even indirectly in body language, facial expression, tone of voice, or word choice–during any of your interviews. But there is a good chance you are. Managers often interview multiple candidates who have the right technical skills to fulfill a role. That’s why much of the interview–and the hiring decision–often focuses on “soft skills”. Even a hint of arrogance will usually end further consideration of that candidate. Please don’t be that person.

          1. Jadelyn

            I’m so glad someone else noted this – my eyebrows were already rising throughout the letter, but that line was where it crossed over into actively rolling my eyes.

            OP, if that’s how you’re framing it to yourself, that’s almost certainly coming across in your tone and nonverbal signals. Arrogance is not an attractive trait in…pretty much anyone, but even less so in a job candidate. Nobody wants to work with That Coworker who’s a know-it-all and show-off and apparently thinks they’re god’s gift to the workplace. Nobody wants to manage That Report who is so convinced of their own genius that they can’t or won’t take direction, challenge everything the manager decides, and basically undermine the manager at every turn because they’re genuinely convinced that they know better than the manager does.

            Would you be That Coworker/That Report? I don’t know. You might be a perfectly lovely person to work with! But absent any contextual information about you – which is the same position a hiring manager will be in – the arrogance in your entire tone and especially the “If they want to make the wrong decision, that’s on them” thing makes me assume you probably would be a Problem Employee, and if I’m hiring and have the choice between a genius with 100% of the skills I need but seems likely to be That Guy, and a smart-but-not-genius person with 90% of the skills and a warm, personable manner, I’m going to go with technically less qualified but better to work with over the super-qualified jerk.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Yes. It’s one thing to be confident, but when you cross over into arrogant/cocky, it often telegraphs badly to the hiring manager.

            1. GreenDoor

              “The employer is free to not select me but if they wish to make the wrong decision, that’s their prerogative.” This caught my eye, too. This isn’t confidence. It’s arrogance. Who are you, the candidate, to presume you know what the “right” decision is for any given company?

            2. MCMonkeyBean

              Exactly!

              “I believe based on your job posting and my work history that I would be a great fit for this position” is confidence.

              “I don’t know about anyone else applying but I am the best person regardless and if you choose someone else you’re wrong” is arrogance.

      3. Gnorbu

        I absolutely agree that this is something weak candidates do. Another similar red flag for me that I’m dealing with a weak candidate? At the end of the interview, when I ask “Do you have any questions for me?” and their question is something along the lines of “Is there anything you need to hear from me to know that you are going to offer this position to me?”

        I end up looking at the candidate funny and explaining to them that if they made it past the phone screen to the in-person interview they are at, they meet the basic requirements for the job, and at that point I am trying to determine whether they are the best of the qualified candidates that I have.

        At this point they usually nod eagerly and continue to agree with whatever I say.

        The best candidates are interviewing me as well, and instead of trying to impress me, are trying to learn more about the position so they can decide if they are interested. When I make job offers to truly great candidates, I find that about half the time they decline because they have accepted another offer that better fits their career goals (it’s not a super unique position so this is not too unusual), so it’s not a “please pick me!” approach at all.

      4. OP1

        Here is a question from a job application I am answering at the moment:

        “We aspire to be the best liquor retailer and we are looking for people to inspire our customers through great value and great customer service. Please tell us why you would be a perfect fit for us and our customers.”

        If I’m not mistaken, this is another way of claiming that I’m the best, or in this case, ‘perfect’.

    2. KarenT

      I would actually put companies in the same boat as job applicants in this context. Coke may know what Pepsi’s offering, but taste is subjective. Honda may know what Ford is selling, but only I know what I’m looking for in a car.

      I hire mostly for entry level roles, and statements about being an ideal fit seem to be par for the course. I would say the majority resumes I see include a version of it. So on top of arrogant and naive, I find that statement cliche.

      1. Myrin

        Yeah, my first thought upon reading this wouldn’t actually be “naïve” or “self-important” so much as “this person doesn’t know how to write cover letters and put one of those bad stock phrases in”. Followed by thoughts of naïvité and self-importance.

      2. Alton

        Yeah, I don’t know where the OP is in their career, but I think this is one of those stock phrases/cliches that people sometimes learn when trying to figure out how to write a strong cover letter.

        I wouldn’t use that sort of language now, but I might have sometimes when I was very, very new to the workforce. When you’re a recent graduate looking for entry/level work who has only ever worked in retail, it can be hard to show your strength as a candidate in an effective way when you have very little relevant work experience. There aren’t a lot of good examples of strong cover letters for that point in your career, so it’s easy to focus too much on cliches.

        1. Washi

          I don’t think “I am the ideal candidate for this job” is a deal breaker in a cover letter, especially for an entry level job, but if it’s accompanied by an attitude of “the employer is free to not select me but if they wish to make the wrong decision, that’s their prerogative” that will probably rub most employers the wrong way.

          1. a heather

            That part rubbed me wrong and makes me think this person wouldn’t do well in an interview with an attitude like that, either.

            1. Peachkins

              Yes, same here. I can only hope the OP does better in their actual interviews, because in this letter they came across as very full of themselves rather than simply confident.

          2. Lance

            I’m not sure it would be a complete deal breaker, as such, but I doubt it would make for a stronger case. Much better to stick with examples of why it could be the case, rather than flat-out stating it.

        2. OP1

          I agree that it is a stock phrase and cliche. The only throwback is that recruiters are equally guilty of padding their job posts with stock phrases such as:
          – motivated self-starter
          – passionate about XXX
          – inspiring communicator
          – dynamic/enthusiastic
          The list goes on and on and on. When I use these stock phrases, I am communicating ‘at their level’ so to speak.

      3. Lisa Babs

        I agree! I don’t do much hiring, maybe once every year or two. BUT I do see that line in the more inexperienced person (recent graduate). So I just find it trite. BUT if the OP wants to stand out as polished, they should get rid of it. Because at best it’s coming across as just cliche. SO if the other arguments doesn’t sway the OP, the fact that it’s cliche and doesn’t have any clout should.

      4. Michaela Westen

        As an analyst I find saying “I’m the ideal candidate” to be inaccurate. He couldn’t possibly know that… so if I was hiring I would think he doesn’t have a good grasp on what he knows and doesn’t know, and I would definitely not want to work with such a person.

      5. Lance

        Not only that, but on the analogy of companies and politicians hard selling themselves… that’s because they’re selling themselves to the masses. Job candidates, however, are trying to sell themselves to a far smaller group of people, along with, as mentioned above, competition that they have zero clue of the quality or even quantity of. Honestly, the comparison just doesn’t work at any level.

    3. Engineer Girl

      So a lot of politicians use the phrase “in my opinion” in front of their assertion. That changes it from fact to opinion.

      Also you may be “an” ideal candidate but not “THE” ideal candidate.

      But in any case you can’t make the assertion because you don’t have all the data. You don’t have data about the others and you don’t have all the data about the job. That makes it impossible to predict if you are the best. Anyone making the assertion without all the data would come off as a fool. Not a good look.

      1. Hills to Die on

        Yes to all of that. Your cover letters and your assertions about why you are writing them this way…they really do not paint a flattering picture of you as a professional.

        The good news is that it’s an easy fix.

      2. Dance-y Reagan

        It can also matter differently to different fields. As you say, it’s a matter of knowing the data. If I was hiring a statistician or an actuary, this would be a bright red flag. If I was hiring a marketing or advertising associate, it may be more of a yellow flag depending on the clunkiness of the delivery.

      3. OP1

        Here is a question from a job application I am answering at the moment:

        “We aspire to be the best liquor retailer and we are looking for people to inspire our customers through great value and great customer service. Please tell us why you would be a perfect fit for us and our customers.”

        If I’m not mistaken, this is another way of claiming that I’m the best, or in this case, ‘perfect’.

    4. AcademiaNut

      Yeah, neither case is a good one to emulate.

      When a politician says that they’re the best choice, I’m reasonably sure they believe what they’re saying, but it has nothing to with whether or not *I* think they’re the best choice, or am willing to vote for them. When a company says that they’re better than all the competition, I view this as a marketing statement which may or may not be true, but I’m not going to believe it without a lot of research to back it up.

      Also, when a job candidate says that they are the best choice, they’re not just doing it with a lack of knowledge about the candidate pool, they’re also doing it without an inside knowledge of the job itself, and the priorities of the people hiring.

      1. Willlis

        Plus, it just doesn’t hold logically. Sure, there may be an occasional job ad that almost identically matches your skills, experience, location, salary expectations, etc. such that you are a pretty ideal candidate for it, at least on paper. But certainly that’s not true for every (or most) jobs you apply for, and asserting it looks out-of-touch and like you’re just throwing in some sales-y line.

        1. give me something I can use

          A friend of mine has an unusual combination of a specific (rare) programming language and education/work experience in a sector that isn’t overrun with techies. He was contacted by his now-boss on LinkedIn who could credibly say, ‘You are 1 of 2-3 people with this background in the region, please come work for me.”

          So if you are the ideal candidate – let your interviewer say it!

      2. Dr. Pepper

        Yes, this exactly. Politicians and companies market themselves in ways that are often, well, let’s face it, not entirely honest. Is that what you *really* want to emulate when you’re applying for a job?

        1. Wednesday of this week

          That was my thought as well–an applicant’s claim that he or she is “the best person for the job” is just as meaningless to me as a politician or company claiming to be the best. The fact that it’s common in campaigning and advertising is absolutely not a reason to do it.

    5. Jasnah

      This is one of those cases where you should try to emulate a potential date, not a potential politician. Politicians are famous for making sweeping statements and straight-up lying about what they will do or have done.

      But when’s the last time you went on a first date and the person said, “I’m without a doubt the best partner for you”? You’d be super weirded out right? But what if instead they peppered their conversation with stories that show they’re adventurous, responsible, caring…it would also show that they’re super smooth and humble and self-aware. This method is much more effective in job hunting as well.

        1. John B Public

          An interview is a LOT like a date- you’re both getting to know one another, you’re each not sure if the other is right for you, but you’re both interested in exploring the possibility. You’re both likely putting your “best foot forward” and each of you is looking for the hidden underbelly (ha!) or signs that the other may not be what you had in mind.

      1. Mystery Bookworm

        I had the same thought! Politicians are trying to be a lot of things to a lot of people.

        You’re trying to fill one role for one employer. Focus on that.

      2. KarenT

        Jasnah, you could not be more right! I did go on a date with a man who kept telling me what a catch he was and more or less told me I’d be lucky to have him. Of course, he has no clue what I’m in to and arrogance is not high on my list of qualities in a partner…

      3. Parenthetically

        I love this comment and I think you’re right but there are so many people who have exactly this sour grapes mindset with dating too — I mean we cultivate it in our kids and friends all the time. Who hasn’t told a heartbroken friend, “Well, if he doesn’t want to date you, it’s HIS loss, and he’s an idiot for letting you go”? It’s easy for that mindset to kind of seep into other parts of life as well, that anyone who rejects you is delusional because you’re just that awesome. I don’t know if a lot of people would say it outright, either in the business world or in the dating world, but I’m sure there are plenty of folks who think self-confidence = thinking you’re the best thing since movable type and screw anyone who doesn’t agree.

    6. Daisy

      Companies *don’t* generally say this. I can’t think of any current advert for a consumer product that outright says ‘X is the best!’ That’s a style of advertising that largely went out of fashion 70 years ago. It’s either implied, or it’s fact-based (‘voted best shampoo for removing build-up in consumer tests June 2018’). Even spokespeople don’t usually say shit like ‘Google Assistant is the best!’ They point out the good features and sales numbers and whatever. So if OP is basing their pitch on 1940s toothpaste adverts, that should be a sign they’re out of step.

      1. Antilles

        It depends on the industry. In general consumer mass media marketing, you’re right that the generic claim has fallen out of favor, but in industry-specific marketing, it’s still quite common to see companies claim to be the best manufacturer of chocolate teapots on the market or whatever (typically followed by a couple of client statements saying that exact thing).

      2. Macedon

        Too true, every company is now just “leading” or (unidentified, typically fluff) “award-winning”.

    7. pleaset

      This.

      The statement: “I am the ideal candidate for this role” frankly comes across as not smart. You can’t know what you are saying is true unless you know about every other strong applicant. Which, for most jobs, is impossible.

      1. Random Commenter

        How different is this from the statement “I think I’d be a great asset for ANY company!”? I’ve blurted out the latter in an interview once and it’s haunted me since.

        1. Washi

          I don’t think that’s quite the same, since saying you are great doesn’t imply that everyone else is less great than you. That statement to me isn’t super embarrassing or anything, it just probably doesn’t mean very much, since anyone can say that they are a great asset. The trick is to prove it.

        2. Anonym

          You’re okay, Random Commenter. It may have been a vague statement of confidence in your abilities, but you didn’t embarrass yourself. And definitely not like OP #1’s statement.

          Be unhaunted!

        3. Random Commenter

          Thank you both! It still does feel like too cocky for my taste, but I feel better about it.

      2. Sarabeth

        Yes, this! It’s not just that you can’t know, it’s that a truly ideal candidate knows enough about the field to KNOW that she doesn’t know. If you really think that you can state with confidence that you are the best candidate, you are showing me that you have poor critical thinking skills. I don’t want you coming to me six months later telling me that you’ve found the best solution to our work problem, only to find out two weeks later that you haven’t done your research and you’ve missed something obvious.

        1. Hired!

          Yeah, I once had an interview with a department head who just GRILLED me on what challenges I thought I’d face changing industries and working internationally. In my thank you note, I said something like, “right now, I realize I don’t know what I don’t know and I’m looking forward to learning more about X,” followes by a recent example of having to learn on the job.

          The company hired me, and 9 months later, this interviewer commandeered me for his team. Humility trumps cockiness.

      3. OP1

        I am currently working on the following question:

        “We aspire to be the best liquor retailer and we are looking for people to inspire our customers through great value and great customer service. Please tell us why you would be a perfect fit for us and our customers.”

        I feel that this is essentially the same as claiming that I’m the best applicant.

    8. YB

      Agreed completely with this. There are countless issues with saying you’re the best candidate, which others have already addressed, but the biggest one for me is that you don’t know the competition.

      I once applied for a role that would ordinarily be borderline-entry-level – the best applicant I could imagine them getting would be an average performer with a year or two of experience. Here I was, a just-barely-above-average performer with five years of experience, so I wrote a much more arrogant cover letter than I ordinarily would, with the implication that they’d be incredibly lucky to have a wizened old greybeard like myself who could just barely exceed minimal competence at the job.

      They ended up hiring…one of the most successful, accomplished, experienced, internationally-known experts in the field. Taking this job was a massive step down for her in terms of pay and prestige, but it’s a niche industry and this job was one of the few available in an area where she wanted to live. I ended up looking like a complete moron—even moreso than I otherwise would have—for boldly asserting that I was better than this person, even if I had no reason to suspect she would ever apply.

      You don’t know who’s out there, what they’ve done, or in what ways they might be stronger candidates than you. I would say that it’s a good idea to go into an application with the positive energy of believing you’re a very strong candidate, and trying to demonstrate why you’re a very strong candidate. Demonstrate that positivity and confidence, but also demonstrate humility. Don’t make bold, subjective assertions you can’t back up. If you’ve done things that make you think you’re the best candidate, show them, and trust them to make the right decision.

    9. Rusty Shackelford

      Also… I’m not sure the fact that politicians do something should be a ringing endorsement!

      THIS. SO MUCH THIS.

      1. Kms1025

        ^ That, plus this >“The employer is free to not select me but if they wish to make the wrong decision, that’s their prerogative.” makes this applicant someone I would ABSOLUTELY not want to know, let alone hire.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#5, are you at an organization that’s large enough to have an HR department? If so, it might make sense to apply for intermittent FMLA for your appointments. You may have to provide medical documentation to HR, but if you’re granted FMLA leave, there’s no reason that your manager or supervisor have to know your diagnosis—they only have to know you’re entitled to that kind of leave.

    1. valentine

      #5: Go need-to-know with the manager and assume they’ll tell the supervisor and others. You need only say how much time off you need, and maybe that it’s for treatment or surgery, not your diagnosis or anything else. With four people knowing, especially if you’re going to update them in detail, it’s possible the word will get around.

      1. Jasnah

        +1 Better to assume the manager will tell the supervisor, since they’re friends and it’s not unreasonable for your manager to think, “Of course Gossip Gus needs to know this, he’s supervising OP” and spill the beans. Plus if you go need-to-know-only with the manager, and later hear your supervisor telling everyone you have diabetes or a tapeworm… at least you’ll know your health info is still secret.

        1. Someone Else

          I suspect regardless of what OP does, there may be no way to prevent supervisor from knowing. 4 people already know. Manager would be the 5th. I know she said she’s close to the people she told and trusts them, and I’m not saying they’d betray that trust intentionally…but it’s already a large-ish circle of people who know. I think realistically OP she be braced for the cat being out of the bag anyway.
          That said, as long as all her ducks are in a row leavewise before it happens, and especially if she does ask the people she had told/has to tell she wants it private, even if it does get out in general there’s a larger chance of people at least being made to feel like they’re not supposed to mention it, and that pressure is probably a good thing.

      2. Rob

        I think that may be the course I take. I haven’t even seen the specialist yet so I really have no plan of action. Thanks for your feedback :)

      3. Rob

        I may tell him. I hate doing it but he should know whats going on, especially if I have to take a lot of time off, considering I literally never call out. Thanks for your feedback :)

        1. glad to be away from that job

          It might help to, before telling them, decide how you’ll act and respond if someone you didn’t tell suddenly confronts you about it. When I went out for major surgery related to a cancer diagnosis, I told the timekeeper and my boss (and had to justify it to the boss, that was a horrible experience). They both then proceeded to tell EVERYONE in the office. I wasn’t really prepared for everyone to know my business like that and have to have those conversations.

          1. puppies

            That was a huge breach of confidentiality and a violation of trust for them to tell everyone in the office. Privacy for serious health matters should be respected. I’m sorry that happened to you.

            OP Rob – I wish you the best! I went through something similar with my husband being the one with the tumor. I needed time off as well to go with him to important doctor appointments, and to be there for him during his surgery. I told my three managers as soon as we got the diagnosis via CT scan, but we didn’t know exactly what would be needed until we had more appointments. They all respected my privacy and didn’t tell anyone else. Hopefully you don’t need to use FMLA (since it’s unpaid) and can just use PTO days instead (as I ended up doing). Just take it one step at a time. Best of luck to you!

        2. chi_type

          I just want flag something for you that I have witnessed in a similar situation at my job. Not knowing the specific reason will not stop a Gossipy Gus from gossiping. In fact, it might increase the likelihood. Gossips tend to be curious and they WILL go around trying to ferret out information. Just something to keep in mind.

        3. Random Commenter

          Hi Rob
          I had to take 3 months off last year also due to a sensitive condition. For me, I treated it as need-to-know. I did inform my supervisors on what the condition was, because I wanted them to know in advance that time off may need to be required before I had the confirmation myself. But I didn’t provide much details.

          If it is gossip that you are worried about, my experience has shown me that gossipy people won’t stop doing it fully about sensitive subjects, but it is very likely that they will be discreet and avoid the subject around you, so it’s unlikely any of that will get back to you. (So after I took leave my coworkers clearly must have asked and been informed of the situation, but they never acted like it in front of me).

          I realize not all people or workplaces are the same, but as a general comment, I do think *most* people don’t act the same way about these news as they would, say, a fling two coworkers are having or whatever.

          Good luck.

    2. Rob

      Yes we have an HR person on-site. I think FMLA is what I will do when the time comes. I will have no problem getting the documentation for her so that wont be an issue.
      Thank you for you r feed back Your Highness ;)

      1. Close Bracket

        When I did this, I had to get the FMLA paperwork signed by my immediate manager, who then spread the news around the group, who then spread the news to everybody else. I believe FMLA comes with some kind of confidentiality built in, but make sure you tell every person who signs that paperwork to keep their mouth shut.

    3. Sister Spooky

      This is what I was thinking. We’ve had people in our department do all their FMLA setup directly with HR and all we (direst supervisors) know is how often they’ll be out and for how long. In some cases we never knew exactly what the coverage was for, by that persons preference. Definitely doable.

    4. Close Bracket

      When I did this, I had to get the FMLA paperwork signed by my immediate manager, who then spread the news around the group, who then spread the news to everybody else. I believe FMLA comes with some kind of confidentiality built in, but make sure you tell every person who signs that paperwork to keep their mouth shut.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#3, this is shockingly bad behavior on the part of the employer. I would reach out to them about reimbursement, just because their behavior is so egregious (and I assume you would not want to work for them in the future). I don’t have anything to add—just sympathy and sincere apologies that you had this experience.

    1. Engineer Girl

      Question – would this be considered promissory estoppel? The OP put out money for the promise of an interview with a hiring manager (not a secretary).

      1. Book Badger

        Technically, yes. Practically, I can’t see that working just because the cost of the hotel/plane is going to be so low compared to court costs/legal fees.

      2. CM

        I’ve rarely thought of promissory estoppel since law school! The OP did act in reliance on the promise that she would get an interview. But if I recall correctly, the remedy for promissory estoppel is usually that you can enforce the promise. Here, it wouldn’t make sense that she could demand an interview. Anyway, the first step is to just email the company, and I wouldn’t put the word “estoppel” in that email.

        1. Legal Beagle

          I laughed at your last line!

          Same, have not thought of promissory estoppel since 1L contracts. If the OP is serious about getting her money back (which is reasonable), a demand letter from an attorney might suffice. Although I wonder if the employer would claim they DID give her an interview, albeit with the receptionist.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          You’re entitled to reliance damages for promissory estoppel (even though it’s an action in equity). But I don’t think this is a promissory estoppel situation because technically OP was still given an interview for the position.

        3. TardyTardis

          Well, the interviewer certainly acted as an agent of the company (I knows my law of agency, USAF procurement).

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I suspect that this wouldn’t be promissory estoppel because the OP still received an interview. I think most courts would hold that the promise was an interview with the employer (as an entity), not an interview with the specific hiring manager.

        I’ve definitely been promised with an interview by a hiring manager, only to be interviewed by another manager because the hiring manager came down with the flu. From a public policy standpoint, we don’t want to penalize employers if they need to switch out the staff who are present for specific interviews.

        Nonetheless, it’s lousy behavior by the employer, and it doesn’t sound like OP has anything to lose by requesting reimbursement for their costs.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago

      I’d also blast them on Glassdoor and Yelp and anywhere else you can think of because damn.

      1. ChaoticGood

        +1. Absolutely the best (only good?) thing to come of this would be to warn others off and hopefully prevent their misery and lost funds too! It’s clearly worth someone’s time to sound the alarm about this bait-and-switch-type behavior. Plus it might feel good to let off steam about them.

      2. John B Public

        I’d only do that if the expenses are not forthcoming. You want to hold off on blasting them for when they don’t bother to make you whole- that’s the last bullet in your gun and you don’t want to have to use it.

        1. The Original K.

          Glassdoor has a specific place to write about interviews. I think it’s reasonable for OP to say that her interviewer never showed & she was interviewed by the receptionist (!) even if she’s reimbursed. Maybe leave out the receptionist part if that’s too much of an identifying detail.

          1. irene adler

            Might just indicate that the person tasked with doing the interview clearly was not interested in the task. That’s rather damning information.

          2. KE

            I think John meant that OP should hold of until they know whether the company is going to reimburse – if they post their bad experience immediately, the company might decide not to reimburse. Best to wait and see before posting.

            Though unless they do a complete 180 in handling a reimbursement and apologies, I would still post about your experience. Just hold off until you have more information, OP.

    3. samiratou

      Yeah, I would ask them for reimbursement, while fully expecting them to ignore the request.

      I would post about it on Glassdoor, though, to warn future candidates.

      1. The New Wanderer

        Same, and I would hold off on a Glassdoor review only because I’d also want to include the information about no reimbursement (assuming they blow that off too). How infuriating.

    4. OP #3

      Thanks for the sympathy! I was trying to keep my original letter succinct, but there’s a circumstance that makes me reluctant to reach out for reimbursement. My professor recommended this company to me, because he has personal ties there, and I mentioned his name when I was applying. I don’t want it to reflect badly on him if I ask for reimbursement, and the company is offended rather than apologetic.

      I’m fairy new to job searching and hadn’t even thought ahead to what this incident could mean for how it’d be to actually work for the company, so I do feel better knowing I’m probably better off not working there.

      1. eplawyer

        Have you discussed this with th professor? He might want to know what happens at that place to protect hiscreputation. Take a concerned rather than upset approach.

        1. OP #3

          I haven’t discussed it with the professor. I don’t want to embarrass him, as he was trying to do me a favor, but I could bring it up if others think it’s a good idea.

          1. thakkali

            I think it’s fine to say just that: ” I didn’t want to bring this up, because it’s awkward, but [story.] I wanted to let you know.”

          2. Genny

            I’d tell him. He’s putting his reputation on the line by recommending this company to students. I’m sure he’d want to know if that trust is misplaced. And who knows? Maybe his connections to the company are old (company is under new management, department A is a hot mess while the department he works with is fine. etc.) and he has no idea how much has changed.

    5. smoke tree

      I experienced a milder version of this and was still steamed about it–I took a day off work and paid out of pocket to travel for an interview, and when I got there I was told that it was just a casual 10-minute conversation and they were speaking to 30 other candidates. And they had insisted that I come in person. However I later made friends with someone who used to work there and she confirmed that it was awful and I dodged a bullet anyway.

      1. Safety Dance

        I drove 3 1/2 hours (7 total) on two-lane state highways for a 20-minute interview earlier this year. I don’t think I was ever their leading candidate or barely more than a candidate.

        At least parking was free.

  4. KarenT

    #2
    Its definitely okay to take a break if you need one; it sounds like you are under a ton of stress. When you resume you can also ease back into it–apply and interview for fewer roles at a slower pace so you have less of a workload in job hunting.

    1. valentine

      #2: It’s possible prospective employers are calling the current job for a reference and think OP wants a counteroffer. I assume OP definitely wants to leave ASAP, whether they are looking for back pay or just a salary increase and, while appropriate, I think it’ll look weird to take the money and run.

      1. Julia

        I’m sorry, I don’t get this. Who is going to “take the money and run”? OP wants to get out of their old job, and ideally also wants to be paid fairly.
        I also have a hard time believing that ten companies all called OP’s current employer – and thereby jeopardizing her current employment – and that’s why she’s not getting any offers.

        1. Liane

          Or that she is perpetrating a scam on her current employer. Being paid fairly is not a bonus or ill gotten gains.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Wait, what? Backpay and a salary adjustment because of unlawful sex discrimination are legal remedies, not a raise or bonus.

        OP is legally entitled to that money, and I don’t think it looks weird at all to leave your employer because they (1) illegally underpaid you for years, and then (2) fought with you over it instead of immediately attempting to settle the matter. Both of those behaviors indicate bad faith, and sensible employers will understand why someone would not want to stay with an employer with that history of conduct.

    2. Escapee from Corporate Management

      OP2, you definitely should take a break. Looking for a job is often more stressful than having a job. I hope you wouldn’t deny yourself time off if you were employed; please don’t deny yourself time off when you are actually in a more stressful period. Even a week away from the grind can do wonders for your mental health, and a less stressed-out OP2 will be in a much better position to resume the job hunt.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood

      If you aren’t already in contact with a recruiter, now might be a good time to get in touch with one of them. Find a recruiter willing to send you only a few good leads at a time and let her know how many interviews a month you have the time for given your other ongoing responsibilities. She does not need to know WHAT those responsibilities are.

      Let the recruiter know your skills, the types of positions you are interested in, and that you’re willing to take suggestions for different types of positions that you might not have considered. (For one example off the top of my head, an engineer might not think how well she fits positions in product management, project management, technical writing, quality control, etc.)

      Good luck!

  5. Greg NY

    #3: You learned an extremely valuable lesson that, even if the company refuses to reimburse you, will pay huge dividends down the road, more than the money you paid. The number of red flags here is enormous. I’ll try to keep this succinct since I was criticized earlier for the length of some of my comments. The first sign of a problem was not allowing a Skype interview. That should be the first interview whenever someone isn’t local, and that’s even when the company is paying for the candidate’s transportation. It goes double when the candidate is paying, which you say is common in your field. (Another thing I think is lousy, but I have no authority to comment on your specific field.) Then the interviewer canceling and the company not offering to reimburse you for the change fee, something incurred which wasn’t your fault? Strike two. Strike three was the interviewer not showing AFTER the interview had to be rescheduled! That company struck out. You dodged a major bullet. I have limited work experience but know enough people that have more, and I have never heard of anyone having to go through that. Unless my fellow commenters want to correct me on this, it is NOT the normal cost of job searching.

    1. Not A Manager

      So, Greg, if you were going to boil this “extremely valuable lesson” down to one sentence, what would it be?

      “If they don’t allow a Skype interview, don’t bother”? “If they don’t offer to pay your change fee, just cancel the whole thing and eat the cost of your ticket”? “If the interviewer doesn’t show up at all, then – um, red flag”?

      It sounds like your point is, “this sounds like a horrible company and you’re lucky not to work there,” which I agree with. But I just don’t see what Life Lesson you think the LW should learn from this.

      1. Less Bread More Taxes

        I think companies owe you some kind of interest before you shell out a lot of money for them. I’m not Greg, but if I were to answer your question, I’d say that there aren’t any hard and fast rules for ruling out a company. If they do two phone interviews, maybe that’s enough. Maybe they give you a technical test. Maybe when they have to postpone the first interview, they offer a sincere apology and reiterate how much they want to meet with you. That kind of thing.

      2. LGC

        He was still a bit verbose, but…if I were to put his post in one sentence, it’d be:

        LW3, if the hiring company seems to be giving you the runaround, RUN.

        I said something similar downthread, but that’s what I pulled from this post. (Obviously I’m not Greg, so I could be wrong.)

        1. Washi

          Yeah, I don’t disagree with his point. Again with the dating analogy, this is a “he’s just not that into you” situation. If someone you’re seeing flakes on dates and always makes you come to their neighborhood, you don’t plan an extra elaborate expensive date to entice them, you cut your losses and move on.

      3. Danger: Gumption Ahead

        I think the lesson should be that if you are applying long distance and they refuse to do a Skype interview as an initial screen and aren’t paying for your travel it is probably best to pass on this job

      4. LKW

        I think the salient point is that any one of these is egregious and should make one question whether or not they’re walking into a bad, possibly toxic situation. All three of these events screams RUN.

    2. Perse's Mom

      This is a pattern of behavior for him and one that makes this comment section, imo, much less welcoming and depending on the topic (like the one you mentioned), actually repulsive.

    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      I know a lot of people have taken issue with this commenter’s posting history, but I don’t want anyone to get jumped on for their commenting history every time they comment, and accordingly I’ve removed a couple of comments that I felt were doing that. Thank you.

      1. HeyAnonnyNonnyNo

        Don’t you think the person spraying terrible advice all over every comment section (and doubling down on it when criticised) is the problem, rather than the people taking issue with it?

        The quality of the comment section is one of the great features of this site. It’s not surprising that people don’t like to see it being diminished.

        1. Foreign Octopus

          I’m not supporting GregNY’s posting history.

          I will say though that I had some strange ideas about what was acceptable and unacceptable in the workplace before I found AAM as I’d only worked in toxic environments and my understanding of what was normal was skewed.

          I say that we give this commenter a chance to learn from AAM and other commenters as I was able to do. He’s been knocked back twice now in the comments (rightfully so) and so I think that it’s unfair to jump on him in a new thread.

          1. Myrin

            And, I mean, Greg is not a new commenter. I’ve seen his name around for several months at least. And I can’t recall finding his comments outstanding in either a positive or a negative way, which means they were almost certainly completely average for this site.

            And honestly, I was actually surprised by the reaction to his comments on the nude photos post, not because I didn’t disagree with him, but because this kind of fear-mongering isn’t actually all that unusual on here? IDK, “fear-mongering” seems too strong but aren’t there basically always comments to the extent of “oh no OP don’t do the thing because surely you will be retaliated against” whenever Alison recommends reporting anything or anyone at all? (And I can say this with certainty, because I distinctly remember replying to people saying things like “That’s certainly possible, but he should not view this as a reason to just let this unacceptable behaviour go on” multiple times.)

            I’m assuming it was the length of his comments combined with the sensitive topic combined with there being two negatively outstanding comments within days of each other which caused this outrage, not the fact that he gave bad advice itself (which, let’s be real, isn’t something limited to Greg, it’s just that most people who regularly have outlier opinions don’t post comments as long as his and also not as early as he does, so they can be swallowd in the comments-sea more easily).

            1. Foreign Octopus

              I’m sorry, I didn’t realise he wasn’t a new commenter. I couldn’t recall seeing his name.

              Thank you for telling me.

              1. Myrin

                Oh no, that wasn’t, like, a correction of something you said, more a general statement – sorry if that wasn’t clear!
                And because I was interested, I just did a quick search and found his self-proclaimed first comment for late August, which is slightly shorter than I felt (I’m clearly on AAM too much, I don’t have a feeling for time anymore; or I got his name confused, which happened recently with another person and was very embarrassing), but still leaves a month of entirely average commenting.

                1. Foreign Octopus

                  I didn’t take it as anything bad!

                  To be fair, I was reading it quickly in the time between lessons so I didn’t get the full gist of what you were saying. My fault for being in a rush :)

              1. pleaset

                To clarify I don’t agree or disagree regarding Greg (I don’t know enough) – just talking about the rest.

            2. Hiring Mgr

              Greg may have said some questionable things (who hasn’t), but the reaction has been way over the top and Alison is 100% right to call it out here.

        2. Hiring Mgr

          What part of Greg’s advice above do you take issue with? He’s absolutely correct in identifying these red flags.

          1. Lindsay gee

            that’s what I don’t get…I read his comment and was super confused to some of the initial replies…they seemed a tad aggressive since what he was saying was pretty spot on

        3. The Other Dawn

          When I think of the things that are diminishing the quality of the comment section, GregNY’s comments typically don’t come to mind. It’s usually the pile-ons and the nitpicking of language that happen here quite often. I don’t always agree with Greg, but he’s entitled to state his opinion and give advice from his point of view, just like the rest of us. And opinions vary widely based on our own experiences. There are plenty of times that I have some “out there” opinions on things that are posted here, and that’s because my experience is different from others.

        4. Psyche

          Alison didn’t say anything about not disagreeing with him and posting that. She just asked us to restrict our responses to the current comment and not everything he has ever posted. If you feel he is giving bad advice in this case, then say why this particular comment is wrong.

        5. Observer

          Go after the bad comments, sure. But there is no good r useful reasons to bring that history up where it’s not relevant.

        6. Ask a Manager Post author

          I don’t like to see bad advice either. But there’s no way to enforce that, and bad advice generally gets called out pretty quickly here. I am not going to ban people simply because I disagree with their viewpoints. I will and have banned people if they are regularly disruptive or derailing even after being asked to stop. I do think two of Greg NY’s recent stances ended up being fairly derailing, and if that continues, I’d take a look at the effect it’s having overall. But in my judgment, it’s not at that point right now, and in fact the reaction to him in this thread (the comments I removed) worries me more. People are allowed to have bad opinions, but I don’t want see people being unkind/hostile to others.

      2. Ambivalent

        I am concerned about the abuse Greg is getting around here for posting his opinions. It does not sound to me like Greg is in anyway trying to be harmful to ‘trolling’. I think his warning to the naked letter was coming from a place of concern, and probably he just hadn’t thought through the consequences of telling women this kind of thing. Since a lot of people think like this though, it was a helpful discussion to have on this blog, and I learned something from it (and probably so did plenty of other people who might have felt uncomfortable to post such an opinion).
        Thank you Alison for taking down the other nasty comments. One thing I like about AAM is that while it is a liberal-leaning blog, it doesn’t normally block opinions from people with somewhat differing views. Learning to get along / respectively engage with people who have different views is a vital skill in the workplace, and this commentators used to practice this behavior. I feel things are going rapidly downhill in this respect recently, probably in line with the political climate.

        1. Cat Herder

          I agree with you, Ambivalent. Greg’s comment here is pretty innocuous, and yet we have a gigantic string going on and on about how it’s worded, how it’s long winded, with some nitpicky and outright mean commentary. I guess every social group has to make someone the goat. Disappointing that it happens here.

      1. LGC

        Not only that – where is the substance wrong in Greg’s post? LW3 was given the runaround at all points in the interview process, and the company/organization didn’t even acknowledge how badly they treated her.

        I mean, HANN is entitled to their opinion, but it seems to me like he’s actually right about this.

          1. Kathleen_A

            I agree as well – not least because I think Greg is absolutely right. The OP really seems a bit uncertain about how awful and egregious this is, and since it is *ridiculously* awful and egregious, I think Greg’s list of red flags is a useful and succinct summary of the awfulness and egregiousness.

    4. Twitcher

      Of course it’s not “the normal cost of job searching”. Alison made that quite clear, I thought. I’m not sure what you want the OP to take from this, though?

      1. Autumn Anon

        That at least the OP knows that this company probably wouldn’t respect their time and efforts if they got hired there and that they’ve shown enough true colours to know that it’s unlikely to be a company worth pursuing further, perhaps? I’m not GregNY so I don’t know what they meant exactly, but that’s the impression I got from the comment.

    5. Lexi Kate

      I agree and would go a little further and say that if you know up front you are having to pay to go to the interview that is strike 1, not offering a Skype call when they know this strike 2, when the call with 48 hours and reschedule that would be my final strike to reevaluate if this job is the job and if I am willing to loose on this. I’ve never not been offered to be reimbursed for travel, and I don’t think I would want to work for a company that didn’t, and I say that because if they are not going to keep potential employees they are trying to impress from incurring excess costs what are they doing to the people they are not trying to impress.

      1. Tardigrade

        Yes, I can’t imagine the way they treat their employees would be much better than how they treat interviewees. To echo Greg NY’s sentiment, I hate that OP had to incur such an expense to dodge that bullet though.

      2. CRM

        In my industry it’s common to not reimburse candidates for interview-related travel (with the exception of executive-level positions), but in return the employers are extremely considerate of the candidates’ time. Generally, the first few rounds are conducted via Skype and/or phone conversations, and only the finalists are invited for an in-person interview. The candidates only have to travel once, they have enough information about the position to decide whether the travel is worth their time, and they know that they are being seriously considered for the position.

    6. Matilda Jefferies

      I disagree that there’s a lesson to be learned here – as Alison says, this is so far outside the norm that there’s not much OP could do to protect against it. We simply can’t anticipate every possible weirdo way that interviewers could behave badly towards their candidates!

      But I definitely agree that this is a bullet dodged, and that the financial cost of the flight is likely less than the emotional cost of actually working there. Good luck, OP – I hope the rest of your interviews go smoothly from here.

      1. Madagascar Vanilla Beans

        I’m not sure if its a lesson, though usually everything with money is a lesson especially when you are on the loosing end. This interview depending on where the OP lives and where he was interviewing could have cost OP up to $2K with flight changes and hotel rooms. I do agree that this is most likely not something that you would have been looking to happen so anyone would most likely overlook these flags.

        But it is a good reminder to everyone job searching to only pay for interviews that you can eat the cost without going under if you are not picked for the position.

        1. LKW

          But in this case, the person paid for an interview but didn’t get one, or got one with someone who may be neither experienced nor authorized to select the person. If I pay for a pizza and don’t get the pizza, I don’t look at my empty wallet and say “well, it’s good that I can eat that cost because I can’t eat that pizza I didn’t get”

    7. CRM

      I agree with you that being unwilling to Skype beforehand in this situation is a huge red flag, especially when candidates are expected to foot the bill for interview travel. It demonstrates a huge lack of consideration on the employer’s part.

      My industry is like this (with the exception of executive-level positions) and if an out-of-state employer refused to have a Skype or phone conversation before meeting in person, I would end the process right there. The first interview is not just for the employer, it’s for the candidate too, and I’m not going to spend time and money flying out for an interview until I am certain in my interest for the position.

      1. AnotherJill

        I don’t think that being unwilling to Skype is a red flag at all. Where I last worked, we had very strict rules about treating candidates equally. If one was Skype, all had to be Skype. It one was in person, all had to be in person.

        Saying that refusal to Skype is a reg flag just doesn’t account for the myriad of hiring rules among industries.

        1. CRM

          I agree that GENERALLY it’s not a red flag. Especially in an industry where they are willing to foot the bill for candidates, then of course it makes sense to meet the candidates in person and have a more standardized hiring process.

          However, in my industry (and OP’s industry) they do not pay travel expenses for candidates. In that case, it is inconsiderate and unfair to force candidates to put in the time and money to interview in-person without providing them with the information necessary to decide whether its worthwhile. Following this behavior, candidates could reasonably expect similar treatment while working for the employer. Hence, its a red flag.

          If employers in my industry truly do not want to conduct interviews over Skype, then they limit the pool to local candidates only (and indicate as such in the job posting).

        2. CRM

          Also, keep in mind that this is somewhat personal opinion. If you find an employer and you think they are worth traveling on your own dime for a first-round interview, then that makes sense! Personally, I don’t know of any companies that would be worth the trouble, unless I had a really good sense of the position already or if I had an internal connection.

        3. Genny

          I think your company might have an overly rigid view about treating candidates equally. If the interview is in-person, but out-of-towners have the option to Skype, then everyone should have that option, but they shouldn’t all have to take it. If even the government can manage Skype interviews, and they’re all about equal treatment…at least on paper, then I think everyone can manage it (or figure out suitable alternatives that don’t force people to pay for out-of-pocket for an interview).

  6. Yvette

    #2
    I hate to even think this, and I hope it is not true, but is there a chance that even though you have not mentioned them, could the issues you are having with your current employer have become known and are (for lack of a better word) ‘tainting’ you in the eyes of future employers? That you get to a certain stage in the interview process and the people involved find out about the situation, and this brands you as a troublemaker in their eyes?
    I am not saying I think that, or that it is right, but could that be what is going on?
    But to answer your question, TAKE A BREAK!!! Give yourself a chance to de-stress.

    1. Jasnah

      I thought this as well. Could there be a chance that prospective employers are contacting your current employer for references (whether you would like them to or not, as I’ve heard some companies do this)? Taking a break sounds like it would be best for you and put some distance between you and your former company. You might want to confirm what they will say about you after you leave.

      1. snowglobe

        It’s pretty rare for a company to contact a current employer for a reference without permission. It happens, but certainly not 10 times to the same person.

        It’s possible that one of the OP’s provided references is aware of the situation and is repeating the story, though. I’d suggest that OP try to find out what her references are saying.

    2. John B Public

      I’d be very interested in what #2’s company is saying about her. Is there a way to have someone call OP’s company and ask about her as if asking for a referral? Or is OP#2’s name easily googled in reference to an EEOC action?

    3. Hills to Die on

      I wondered if it’s coming from mutual connections in the your current office and the place you are interviewing. Do people at your office know what’s going on? If it has hit the humor mill, maybe that’s impeding your job search.

      Whenever I have an interview somewhere, I go on LinkedIn to see what mutual connections we may have (2nd or 3rd) degree connections.

    4. Lexi Kate

      I was thinking that or what is the OP telling the potential employer about why they are leaving. Unfortunately we dont live in a world that is going to hear I am being wronged because I am female in any way and not throw up red flags. Its horrible and I’m not condoning it but if OP is bringing what has happened in her previous job in to the interviews in any way this is most likely throwing a red flag of trouble maker up to employers.

    5. Question Writer 2

      Letter Writer 2 here – I have been especially careful NOT to bring the pay struggle up to potential employers. I’ve been at my job about 5 years, and I usually cite it as just being time to move on – which is not untrue. I’ve learned a lot, but I’m in a small department and there’s not a lot of advancement unless you leave.

      I’ve also been very careful about vetting & choosing my references. I know that the people I have asked to vouch for me will & are giving me good recc’s. Some of them know what is happening and why I’m leaving, but also know better (and have straight asked me) what I’m telling interviewers when asked why I’m leaving so we can be on the same page. It might be on the rumor mill, but have tried very hard to play it close. I don’t post on social media about it, and only told my family and closest friends. I’m hardly dragging my current employer through the mud.

      Usually when recc’s are asked for I give them direct contact info, so unless they are calling my HR department and asking for details, I’m not sure who would be badmouthing me. What feels more likely is something about my entire tired life is reflecting in this interviews and other applicants aren’t dragging that baggage around.

      It’s possible my director or higher ups are talking to people outside the institution, I can’t speak to that, but I’m pretty certain my references are solid.

      1. irene adler

        Hills to Die On has a point- rumor mill.
        Here in San Diego, my Mom worked in HR at a university. She belonged to an HR association where HR folks from a myriad of companies met once per month. She told me that they get to talking about ‘things.’

        ‘things’ = amusing interview stories, issues the dept. is tackling, sharing advice, and yes, employee names who have given them a difficult time. There’s even an informal ‘no hire’ list of people to avoid. These would be employees -or ex-employees- who have filed legal action (esp. multiple filings) or who abuse the system egregiously. It’s not a very long list; you really have to be real hard case to be considered not hirable.

        And yes, it happens that one HR dept is hiring and they run into the HR person at a candidate’s current place of employment. No way to know if confidences are kept. But these folks do want to help out their fellow HR people.

        Might look into whether there’s any local employer organizations in your area. See if your current place of employment is a member. That might be how you are being ‘shot down’.

        But 10 interviews with no offer isn’t outside the norm. So I don’t want to put ideas into your head that ‘they’ are poisoning things for you.

        Take a break.

        1. Sally

          This is the sort of thing – blacklisting people who have filed legal action – that has me worried. It’s a different situation – I sued my former landlord for not following the law regarding security deposits – but it’s really too bad that anyone has to worry that advocating for their rights might cause trouble for them in the future. I know things are not supposed to work this way, but all too often, they do. BTW, I’m not defending people who are taking unfair advantage or making false claims.

        2. Angelinha

          This feels really unethical and I would hope most HR people would not participate in something like this!

        3. What’s with Today, today?

          I agree. My Dad got into a similar situation and didn’t work for a year and a half. He ended going from academia to non-profits. I have a former co-worker who is crazy talented, but he pulled a lot of crap when he was (reasonably) fired. We ended up having to hire a lawyer to write a cease and desist. My boss is big in our industry, and I’m 99% sure he’s black-balled former co-worker. THe guy can’t get a job anywhere, and the talent is there.

      2. Scandinavian Summer Visitor

        My experience has been that companies rarely contact references until you are a finalist (one of 2 finalists, most likely.) I’ve interviewed at least 20 times without an offer, and I have no baggage at all from my former employer. So I’m voting for “it’s tough to get to finalist level” for OP, and start up again when you have the energy.

      3. Lucille2

        “What feels more likely is something about my entire tired life is reflecting in this interviews and other applicants aren’t dragging that baggage around.”

        I had this thought as well when I read your original letter. As much as you’re doing your best to keep the negative circumstances under wraps, you may be sending a nonverbal vibe unintentionally. Taking a break or slowing down your job search might help. This is a stressful situation, and you need to be taking care of you. If your gut is telling you to take a break, maybe your gut is right.

  7. Mon

    #3 – If they decline to reimburse you or don’t respond, I’d absolutely leave a review on Glassdoor. Some things deserve a good public call out or shaming.

    1. Emelle

      I was thinking this too. I am ticked off on behalf of the letter writer and I want everyone to know that these people are terrible.

    2. Wild Bluebell

      I’d definitely do that too.
      And also – as a job seeker – would really appreciate people sharing experiences like that on Glassdoor.

    3. Murphy

      I’d leave a review on Glassdoor even if they do reimburse. Unless they’re extremely apologetic, which I can’t see happening here.

      1. Catleesi

        Exactly. They can include in the review that they were reimbursed if that happens – but should also say they had to fight for the reimbursement. That would be an honest review of what happened and may help others.

      2. Parenthetically

        Same! Unless it’s the business-ified version of, “Oh my god, I cannot believe Bob did that! He was fired for cause the morning you were supposed to have an interview with him — which he didn’t tell anyone about except the receptionist who was also fired for cause later that day — so no one had any idea about any of this, much less that you weren’t reimbursed! If you can scan and send me your receipts right now I can get a check sent by end of business today,” I’d still absolutely leave a review. This is APPALLING behavior by the company and unless I got some very convincing assurances that it was far, far outside the norm, other people need to know.

  8. Gen

    On occasions when we had hundreds of applicants for very few roles one of my former managers used variations on ‘I am the best candidate’ as an easy way to reduce the numbers without reading the whole cv. Because it was almost always followed by a list of qualifications that proved they definitely weren’t ‘the best’ or even ‘sufficient’ for the role. So seeing that phrase just told him it wasn’t worth reading any further.

    1. Cat wrangler

      I nearly used this sentence or similar on a cover letter a couple of months ago but I wss going to go on to say that I could walk to work in a few moments – which to be fair, they would have been able to tell from the post/zip code – so no getting stuck in traffic etc before going on to talk about my personal attributes and experience. In the end, I didn’t submit the application. Pretty glad I didn’t now!

    2. all the candycorn

      I had a job where I was responsible for compiling resumes for technical staff applicants, in a field where there was a high prevalence of H1B recruitment firms submitting resumes for candidates from overseas, from the same two or three overseas technical universities. This aggressive to vaguely tone-deaf language was prevalent in cover letters and resumes submitted via that channel. Because I so frequently saw the same three or so hard-sell phrases like “I am the best candidate,” I could only assume that a recruiter or university career services was giving a “Getting A Job In The US 101” seminar, based on outdated “gumption” type tips.

      In a field where there’s plenty of candidates, it’s easy to toss resumes for stuff like this, but for me it was a good reminder that there are cultural differences in cover letter and interviewing technique, that someone who is new to an environment might follow bad advice that doesn’t reflect on the quality of their work, and that someone who is a non-native English speaker might turn a phrase differently than a native English speaker.

      That company did sponsor a good number of visa candidates, and once hired they were excellent employees and great coworkers, regardless of how their resume may have looked on first glance.

    1. Jasnah

      I agree, and even if that were the case, these are requests for advice, not writing samples to be judged.

  9. Observer

    Why would you think that what politicians do is a n appropriate model for job hunting? Even when politicians are behaving appropriately and reasonably, a lot of what they do and say doesn’t translate very well to most jobs and job search processes. And, let’s face it, politicians as a whole are not distinguished for always acting reasonably and appropriately.

    If you tell me that you think you would do well at a job because or X, Y and A, I’ll think about what you said even if those reasons actually don’t quite fit. But if you inform me that you ARE the “ideal” candidate for that reason, and your reasons are not 100% on the nose, you’re gone because you’ve made it clear that you actually don’t understand what the position entails and are not likely to be amenable to training or coaching. This is generally true with sales, by the way – I’ve found that the more someone insists that they know the solution for my organization with little or no inside knowledge of the place, the less likely their suggestions are to have merit.

  10. Cazzletwee

    ^^^ The above comment was stripped of my emojis and winkies … It was meant tongue-in-cheek and joking, btw. I just wondered where the name Rachel popped in from the second paragraph, lol (and I’m well aware of the Friends reference)

  11. Mark A

    1. Too much Apprentice, and how often do they look daft?
    As others have alluded, you are likely to know next to nothing about the actual day to day aspect of the job, and in addition to a significant aspect of recruiting is the fit of the person into the team, which you cannot know. With this statement recruiters may think you inflexible to other team members.
    As a regular recruiter, I’d at least ignore the comment anyway and would have no effect (the best is for me to decide) and at worst if it was between 2 people yours would be the one I did not select. This could be to be selected for interview or the actual position.
    I don’t know your age, but I’d chalk you down as l young because if the naivety (the politicians line especially!) so I’d assume immaturity in your work behaviour too.

    So I think that your wording is actually harming your applications. You may increase your odds by stating you believe or hope you are the best candidate.

  12. SusanIvanova

    “Plus, in my experience, the vast majority of candidates who assert that they’re the best person for the role aren’t actually strong candidates.”

    Dunning-Kruger in action!

    1. Dr. Pepper

      Very often people who strongly assert that they are the best/cool/smart/interesting/different/whatever are actually nothing of the kind. The very fact that they feel compelled to say so means that there’s no other way for people to know it, meaning they are not, in fact, that thing. Just think about it. In real life, if someone loudly declares themselves to be, say, cool and interesting, what is your immediate reaction? Is it “all right! I want to know this awesome person!” or is it more along the lines of “you wish”? Show, don’t tell. If you feel compelled to tell, then you have nothing to show to back up your claims.

      1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels

        In one episode of Netflix’s Nailed It, there’s a competitor named Michael and in his intro he says, “everyone calls me Good Time Mike, or GTM” and I immediately said (yes, out loud :D), “no they don’t.”

        Don’t be Mike!

        1. Dance-y Reagan

          I had to Google the show for context…looks like a baking competition. Even if Mike is known as GTM, he’s competing using a professional skill. That nickname makes it sound like he’s known for getting black-out drunk. I’d be HIDING that info, not broadcasting it.

          1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels

            Oh no, none of them are competing using professional skills! :D That’s the point: Bad to mediocre Home bakers try to make Pinterest-perfect creations in not enough time. Not everyone’s cuppa, but I love it.

        2. Jennifer Juniper

          Good thing Mike is not a woman. Otherwise, everyone would be thinking of obscene graffiti on a men’s room wall.

    2. Close Bracket

      Is there a Dunning-Kruger corollary for people who really are superlative and believe it but are worried that they actually suck but just *think* they are superlative bc Dunning-Kruger?

      1. smoke tree

        I think there must be a Dunning-Kruger Paranoia Syndrome that sets in once you’re aware of how Dunning-Kruger works and subsequently worry that you are bad at everything you think you’re good at.

        1. SusanIvanova

          Then there’s the Dunning-Kruger Self-Evaluation problems:

          1. The people who really “don’t meet” expectations will never self-eval themselves that way.
          2. If you have high expectations for yourself and meet them, is that “meets” or “exceeds”?
          3. If you self-eval as “meets”, will your boss think you’re under-estimating yourself? If “exceeds”, will they think you’re arrogant?

          To solve #3 I liked the 5 point scale, where 4 was between “meets” and “exceeds” – if you picked 5s the boss thought you were arrogant, but pick 4s and they’ll upgrade some to 5s. Now I’m on a 3 point scale and there’s no way to figure out what the “right” answer is.

      2. Staphylococcus anonymous

        It’s called the Imposter Effect, and BS generalizations like “confidently asserting your strength as a candidate means you are a weak candidate” contribute to it.

        Shame on Allison and this entire comment thread for getting so up themselves over their *own* stereotypes. Cover letters are meant to *sell* you. They’re not a place to be faux humble, least of all because some nitpicky hiring manager has decided to take a superlative display of confidence at face value, for no reason other than to set it up as something it isn’t so they can more easily dismiss it. It’s not only foolhardy and *arrogant* in itself, it’s also poor reasoning.

  13. FaintlyMacabre

    In my younger days, I used a slightly more modest turn of phrase: “I am an ideal candidate for the job”. Not THE ideal candidate, but ONE of the ideal candidates. But as time went by, I realized that just as has been said above, I have no way of knowing if that is true. If you are ideal, great! But sadly, just saying it doesn’t make it so.

    1. Future Homesteader

      I’ve also done this. It’s been a while since I’ve applied for a job, but I will definitely be avoiding this phrase in the future!

    2. Loose Seal

      I used to say this and pretty much all the things that Alison says are not good to say, like telling them I’d call to schedule an interview. At least I never sent a framed photo of myself or a shoe (to get my foot in the door). But that’s more because I’d never heard of doing gimmicky things like that. I’m afraid that if I were more familiar with them, I’d have done that too. Reason #1792 why I’m glad I found this website.

      1. FaintlyMacabre

        Ha, I used to think I was a terrible failure for not being able to bring myself to include the “I’ll call to schedule an interview” line in my resume. So many sites advised it! But it felt so pushy and I knew it just wasn’t something I would do. Sooooo glad to get the validation that my instincts were correct!

  14. CastIrony

    How does one show that they are a strong candidate and thus worth interviewing without saying that you’d be “the ideal candidate” for the role? I struggle greatly with cover letters, and it’s mostly because I don’t know the right words to say.

    1. Akcipitrokulo

      In a cover letter, you can say you think you’re a strong candidate/good fit because… but personal preference would be to say that I’m excited about the role because it allows me to use skills such as…

      The main thing is don’t say you are “the ideal…” but “a strong..” – let them know you are *good* but let them decide who is *best*.

      1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter

        I don’t intend to say that you are wrong, and if your application gets you interviews then it’s a good enough application. But personally I wouldn’t only write about why I’m excited about the role, because it’s all about me, not the employer’s perspective. I tend to focus more on why I would be good at the job, not why I’d like to do it, though that is of course also important. If I think I would be a good fit, I’d say something like “I believe I match pretty well with what you say you’re looking for”. It’s my own opinion about myself, not an objective fact, even if experience and other people’s comments support my opinion. And I don’t know whether I’m anything like what they’re actually looking for, only that I match the description in the ad. It’s not uncommon that at the interview stage you notice that the priorities of the job are quite different from the original job posting (or different from how you understood the job posting).

        1. londonedit

          That’s what I do. In my cover letters I basically skim through my career history, point out any particular relevant achievements, and then go through the advertised job description/requirements highlighting the skills I have that make me a good match for those requirements. At the end, in a summarising paragraph, I usually say something like ‘I am an experienced and professional editor with a wealth of experience in X, Y and Z. I believe that this, along with my skills in A, B and C, would make me an excellent candidate for this position’.

        2. hbc

          The thing is, if the role is a good fit, the reasons you’re excited about the job are the reasons that the employer will consider you a strong candidate. “I have two years of llama grooming experience, so I exceed your minimum” says you’re qualified. “I love working with llamas, and I’m really excited to put my two years of grooming experience to use with these majestic animals” says you’re probably going to be an enthusiastic, strong worker.

          1. ambpersand

            This is so important! I used to use really standard language and I really went for the “hard sell” but it never worked. As soon as I dropped that and started adding in more about my soft skills and my excitement/interest in different aspects of the jobs (I think my example was something along the lines of “After working with llamas for several years, I have learned that I thrive in an environment that allows me to be creative with their grooming, introduce efficiencies with their care, and directly contribute to the llama’s health and happiness.”), I started getting more calls.

    2. PurpleMonster

      You talk about specific experience you have that relates to what they’re asking for. Show, don’t tell. Like when I applied for a job working with heritage materials that specified passion for history, I talked about a personal project I did where I tracked down someone who lived in my house in the 1940s and wrote him a letter asking if he had any memories he was happy to share (I got a lovely reply!)

      That cover letter blew them away (I know this because they said!)

      There’s tons of fantastic information on this site about cover letters :-)

    3. Less Bread More Taxes

      I don’t think you need to mention at all that you’re ideal or good for the job! I focus on interest, why I *want* the job and what kinds of things in the job description I’ve already done and enjoy.

    4. Myrin

      You don’t use any words to do with “ideal”, “best”, “perfect”, etc.
      You look at what the employer tells you they want and you talk about actual, specific work history, experiences, or qualities you possess which fit that want.

      Like, say, a company is looking for an experienced llama groomer. You then explain how you started out with a parttime job as a a llama stableperson when you where a teenager, which you found so interesting that you went on to work as a llama wrangler after school at Llovely Llama Farms. During your time at LLF, you’ve been promoted twice, from wrangler to handler and by now, you’ve been working as a llama groomer for LLF for almost five years.

      The company you apply for will be able to see that you’ve been around llamas for a long time, obviously have a big interest in them if you already started working with them when you were pretty young, have ambition to move up the ladder, were valued by your old company to such a degree that they promoted you twice, and that you’ve been working in the exact position they’re looking for for a considerable amount of time (and as such likely have experience in Process X and Task Y, which is common in llama grooming across the board). They can then weigh that against other candidates and decide that you’re ideal compared to them, without you ever using the word.

      Hope that helps!

    5. Reed

      I’ve just been interviewing candidates for a particular role. I had doubts about one particular candidate based on their application precisely BECAUSE they used a lot of phrases like ‘I am ideal for this job’, ‘I would be perfect in this role’, ‘I am the best candidate for this position’. But they did have relevant experience, so we interviewed them. And, yeah, they clearly hadn’t read the job description – they seemed to have no idea what the job required day to day, and they got sassy with me when I asked a question again, because they had totally failed to answer it, and actually I was giving them a chance to have a little think and come up with something relevant.

      The candidate we went with had written things in their application like ‘I have done XYZ for two years at ABC company, and then for another year at EFG company. I was promoted to senior Doer Of XYZ and have been in that role for a year. I have several years’ experience of working with The Software Mentioned In The Job Description and did a certificate last year in Advanced Using This Software. I managed a project involving This Task Relevant To This Role at EFG Company, and we completed on time and under budget.’ And so on. Nothing about being perfect or ideal at all anywhere – just good factual descriptions of all their experience and qualifications, with examples. They came across as sensible, intelligent, and as the sort of person who paid attention and thought about what they were doing, whereas Sassy Candidate came across (despite more years of relevant experience) as egotistical, careless, slightly rude, and unable to actually read a document carefully or listen attentively.

    6. Matilda Jefferies

      On a similar note, I tend to close my cover letters with “I believe that my unique combination of skills and experience make me an excellent candidate for this position.”

      Any thoughts on that? I don’t intend it as a selling point on its own, but as a transition between the body of the letter and the “I look forward to hearing from you/ Sincerely, Matilda” part. I don’t think that sentence alone is going to make or break my application, but I’m curious about what hiring managers might be thinking about it, or if there’s a better option for a transitional sentence.

      1. DivineMissL

        My cover letter says something like “I believe that my unique combination of skills and experience would make me a valuable asset to [company]” and then I go into the “Please contact me to schedule a meeting so we can discuss the position” kind of thing. Is that better or worse?

      2. CM

        I think it’s a generic statement that doesn’t really add anything. I don’t think you need a transition at all. After the paragraph about your qualifications, just start a new paragraph and say, “I look forward to speaking with you about this position, please contact me, etc.” or whatever you would normally say to wrap up.

      3. ambpersand

        I used to use that sentence as well, but after reading a lot of advice on here I dropped it and switched it to a very succinct “I appreciate both your time and your consideration, and I would love for an opportunity to discuss the position with you and your team further.” It felt a little awkward at first, but it did require me to flesh out all my other skills in the rest of the letter and I definitely think it helped get me the job I was hired for shortly thereafter!

    7. an infinite number of monkeys

      I’d just flip it around. “I’m very excited about this position because it looks like a great match for my skills and experience.” Assuming that’s true, it follows that you’re a strong candidate; but the phrasing comes off better. Saying “I’m the ideal candidate” sounds so much more presumptuous than “this looks like an ideal position for me.”

    8. Elsajeni

      I think there’s two parts to this: one is the superlative, and the other is a version of the writing advice “show, don’t tell.”

      Superlative first: this is what Alison talks about in the column, where saying that you’re “the ideal candidate” means saying you’re not just *a very good* candidate, but THE BEST candidate. So A, you can’t possibly know that and claiming things you can’t possibly know makes you look silly, and B, the odds that it’s true are, well, one in however many applications they’ve received. You might reasonably say that you think you’re a strong candidate, or an excellent fit for the role, but no superlatives (the strongest candidate, the best fit for the role, the ideal candidate).

      Second is the “show, don’t tell” aspect: it’s better, and more convincing, to tell me the reasons why you’re a strong candidate for the role than just to say “I would be an excellent fit for this role.” You can also say you’re a good fit, but that should move more into the position of introducing or summarizing a list of reasons — “In seven years working on llama ranches, including three years as a dedicated groomer, I’ve learned many llama-handling techniques that make me an excellent candidate for this role. For example…”

    9. JustaTech

      when I’m having a hard time with cover letters I draft one that’s structured like a 5-paragraph essay.
      P1: This is the job and I’m going to show you three reasons I would do this job well.
      P2: First reason (skill and specific example)
      P3: Second reason (skill and specific example)
      P4: Third reason (skill and specific example)
      P5: For the reasons above, I would do this job well and you should interview me.

      I wouldn’t *send* a cover letter like that, but for me it helps to find and write out the specific reasons why I’d be good at the job.

      1. CastIrony

        JustaTech, I love how you gave a basic run-down on how to write a cover letter!
        Everyone else who replied, I will show how “excited I am for the role” and show my love for the role instead of just giving basics.

        Thank you to all who replied to my question!

  15. Akcipitrokulo

    Thing is – if a politician or company claim that they are the best… I don’t believe them either!

    1. Art3mis

      On the same token, I’ve found that the more an employer claims to be the best, the more they are wrong. If they are good it will be self evident, no need to remind your employees of it.

      1. Psyche

        It comes across as arrogance rather than confidence. Someone who is confident believes that their qualifications speak for themselves.

    2. Kathleen_A

      Exactly. Plus, I fail to see how saying something that you cannot possibly know for sure indicates “confidence.” As others have said, the OP does not know the other applicants, so how in the frakkin’ world can he/she know that he is “the” ideal candidate? She may be a strong candidate, she may even be *an* ideal candidate, but *the* one and only ideal candidate? On what basis does she make this claim? Does she have psychic powers or what?

      What it would indicate to me would be (1) naivete (if the applicant is pretty young and/or I’m feeling charitable); (2) an over-reliance on cliches in her writing (when I’m feeling very curmudgeonly and editorish) – because, trust me, OP, this is absolutely a cliche; or (3) a gigantic ego (when I’m feeling sour). None of these are good. So why risk using this phrase – this attitude – when the likelihood is that it will annoy significantly more people than it pleases and chances of it paying off are so slim?

      By all means, explain why you’re a strong candidate – you can even imply that you’re an ideal candidate. But don’t use those words. Show, don’t tell.

  16. Amylou

    Take a break! It’s only healthy.
    During a previous job search, my then job was so demanding and stressful, I would have so little energy at the end of the day/week to apply for jobs. For several weeks at a time, I would apply almost every single day, and at some point a couple of weeks in, I would get rejection after rejection after rejection.
    You can rationalize the rejections (you were good but not great, not what they were looking for, etc.) but the *feeling* of those rejections (especially as several land in your inbox in several days) is much harder to process. I would stop applying / job hunting for a month or two and then start again.
    It really is draining. It is almost like an extra part-time job considering the time and effort it takes, and it’s really not sustainable to work (1) a stressful job (for whatever reasons) and on top (2) a job hunt.
    Relaxation is good, and it might even help you get some perspective, or get into a better mindset for the next interviews. I find that a good mindset/mood really does help project myself better to people.

    1. Loose Seal

      I agree. I can’t help but wonder if the stress and wear are showing to the interviewers. Another reason why a break would be useful. OP, I hope you get enough rest and that the end of your wage fight is in sight. Hang in there and send us an update!

    2. Smithy

      Completely agree with all of this. My last job hunt basically took me a year while working full time. Looking back there are all sorts of reasons why (for my field, searching in the aftermath of presidential change of administration was not ideal) – but in the moment it was devestating. A full day of work, to go home and apply for jobs. And then the stress of coordinating interviews with a job that was not very supportive of working from home or time off.

      Building in breaks was critical. I found it best to sync those breaks around other calendar events that would make it ideal to either not be searching or a break ahead of a great time to resume. Personally, I take a lot of time off around Thanksgiving to go home – so for me that was a great time to schedule resuming a job hunt. If I was on vacation with friends or had a big work trip, I’d pick those as good job hunt breaks. It not only kept me sane, but sometimes during those breaks I’d get a rush of energy and apply for a bunch of jobs in an afternoon where before doing one at night after work seemed like torture.

      A long job hunt when work is miserable is the worst. And I can recommend strongly enough building in breaks.

      1. Question Writer 2

        Thank you so much, this was helpful to hear. I’ve got some vacation time coming up, so this might be the perfect time to take a break.

  17. EPLawyer

    #2 — Please please please take a break. Looking for a job is a full time job. Fighting your current company for fair treatment is a full time job. You already have a full time job. Do you see where I am going with this? You are so worn out that it is affecting your ability to do any of those 3 things effectively. Something has to give. Right now, for a short break, it’s job hunting. Because you don’t need a job right this second, you have income, even if the current source of that income is terrible. You can’t put off the court case, there are deadline. Although thankfully, for you it’s not an every day thing. Just when something is happening in the case you have to have the energy to deal with it.

    So rest, recharge. And go get ’em when you are ready. We all wish you the best of luck in the future. Please update us when you’ve moved from terrible toxic job into a new role.

  18. Jenn

    If I am being honest, a line like in LW1 would neither bother me nor sell me on the candidate. It just feels like a wrap up filler statement to me.

    1. Blue

      For me, it depends on the actual content of the letter. If the person has done a good job of “showing, not telling” and says something like, “Because of X, Y, and Z experiences, I believe I am an ideal fit for the role,” to conclude the letter, I have no issue with that. But if they *don’t* bother to make a convincing case, or if their case makes clear that they’re out of touch with the needs of the position (which is more likely), or if they word it in a particularly arrogant-sounding way, then it’s definitely going to make me think less of them.

      1. Guacamole Bob

        Phew. I’m pretty sure I’ve done that in a cover letter or two in the past. Not “I am the best candidate,” but phrases where I’m trying to convey “my experience is a really good match for your job description” and maybe I didn’t choose the exact right wording about it.

      2. Seifer

        Yeah, if they just say that at the end, I think it’s fine. A little eye-roll inducing, but not overly egregious. I also think the difference is saying that you believe that you’re an ideal candidate, not the ideal candidate. But also, I’d be weirded out if someone wrote that at the beginning because then I feel like the rest of their cover letter is a persuasive essay and I don’t think I want to feel like I’m grading papers when I’m looking over cover letters.

    2. Anon From Here

      Same. I don’t find it egregious or arrogant, but more along the lines of “and in conclusion, you should hire me, kthnxbye.”

      1. Matilda Jefferies

        Oh, this is exactly what I was trying to figure out above. I should have read further down the comments!

      2. Staphylococcus anonymous

        Frankly, I find the opposition to that line to be egregiously arrogant. It’s very nitpicky and lording the hiring manager (etc.)’s authority over the lowly applicant for daring to see themself as uniquely qualified or otherwise capable.

        The entire point of a cover letter and interview process is to demonstrate that you ARE the best. Of course you have to “show, not only tell”, but confidence is part of the equation.

    3. Kathleen_A

      The thing is, while there might be a few people who actually like reading this (some fan of “gumption,” maybe), in most cases it’s either going to be neutral or irritating.

      How annoying it would be for me would really depend on the overall tone of the letter – as well as what position the person is applying for. If the applicant is pretty young and the rest of the letter was OK, it would probably just strike me as naive.

      But if the applicant wanted a position that involved writing (which are the kind of jobs I interview for most often), it would rub me the wrong way *hard* because it’s clearly nothing more than a cliche – and a pretty flagrant one at that. The applicant has no way of knowing that what he/she is saying is true or not, so if it doesn’t indicate a giant ego, what else could it be aside from an over-reliance on cover letter stock phrases? And if there are even more cliches in that letter (“team player,” “strong communication skills,” “outside-the-box thinking,” yatta yatta yatta)…well, that would be bad, bad, bad, very bad.

      And it could also strike me as arrogant and clueless – and judging from some of the other posts, I am confident I’m not alone. So why use it when the likelihood is that it will annoy significantly more people than it pleases and chances of it paying off are so slim?

    4. The New Wanderer

      It’s possible that if OP1 had just stated that they use that line and what’s really wrong with it, the comments would generally be “Eh, not great, you’re better off with XYZ wording because business norms.” In the context of the full post (but I actually am the best, employers are wrong not to hire me), though, it definitely comes off as a more comprehensive attitude, not just a generic cover letter line. So even if the line by itself doesn’t get their application tossed, the attitude almost certainly will.

  19. LGC

    Is it possible to overdose on gumption? Because I’m impressed and kind of scared by the amount of gumption in letter 1.

    Side question, though – is it just declaring you’re the best candidate that puts you in the bottom half (because the act of declaring such provides negative information about you), or is it just that the kind of people who go around saying they’re the best are usually quite bad? Basically, is it causation or correlation?

    1. Reed

      It’s because saying you’re the best is completely meaningless. You’re not the hiring manager or future supervisor, you don’t know what the best would actually be unless you are a very powerful telepath. I could sit right here and tell you I am THE BEST DANCER WHO EVER DANCED. What does that mean? Nothing. You’d need to have seen me dance, and even then it’s still subjective. I could be the bestest classical ballet dancer, but you actually need a tap-dancer.

      Also, it is irritating when people substitute ‘I am the best!’ phrases for actual stuff I, as a hiring manager, need to know. Don’t waste your word-count on padding and bluster. Tell me stuff – have you done this role before? Have you used this software/equipment? Have you ever managed a project? Have you worked in a similar establishment? Do you have qualifications to show you can do this thing? If you want to show your excellence, you give concrete examples like ‘redesigned the teapot spout flow, which saved us x amount of money a month in tea-spillage clean-up fees’.

      1. Reed

        Also – sorry, I am talking a lot, because I’ve just been doing interviews and this one struck a chord with me – I don’t actually want ‘gumption’ in my ideal candidate for the role I’m hiring for. I had a GUMPTION IS ME person in this particular role before and they drove me completely mad. They were constantly bouncing in to answer questions, to promise we could do this and that, to offer suggestions as to how we could improve a process, and while none of their suggestions were wildly stupid, they were often completely redundant – a lot of their comments, suggestions, and offers were about matters that were not in their area of competence, and so they were either erroneous, irrelevant, redundant, or in a couple of cases, downright insulting. They would also rush through the sections of the work that were somewhat dull and repetitive – I agree they were dull, but they were vital, and they needed doing carefully, and their attitude that these duties were beneath them was galling. In other roles they would’ve been a star, but in this role? Oh deary me.

        ( I didn’t hire them – I inherited them from the previous occupant of my position when they changed jobs).

        The ideal candidate is someone patient, painstaking, very very persnicketty and detail-driven, and who has the common sense to say ‘I can’t answer that, let me check with Reed’ as and when.

        1. LGC

          Thanks for the answer! So it seems like in your case, it’s almost more cause for concern in itself – by saying that, the candidate shows that he just charges ahead without thinking, which is not a desirable trait in your line of work.

          Also, I think for a LOT of roles “gumption” isn’t wanted! For mine, I’d like people who can focus on relatively tedious tasks.

          (Apologies for the short response – I’m typing on my phone and it’s a little hard to go in depth.)

        2. ambpersand

          I think you’re spot on. And the type of person who is so overly confident that they believe in themselves above ALL OTHERS regardless of their complete and utter lack of insight into the job and hiring process is someone who is probably not going to mesh well with a team. That kind of attitude says a lot about the fact that they probably don’t have a lot of perspective (which would most likely translate into their day to day work as well) and I would also suspect that they wouldn’t be willing to admit they were wrong/didn’t have the best idea/etc etc.

    2. Spoliokus

      It’s correlation. Poorly-qualified people are more likely to describe themselves as “the best”. Highly qualified people are more likely to actually explain the experience they have that makes them the best.

    3. BRR

      In my opinion, both. Being fresh off the hiring cycle, seeing someone declare that they are the best candidate was so off putting it dinged candidates in my eyes. But in my and others experience, people who say this tend to not be the best.

      1. irene adler

        I agree with you.
        Personally, if someone were to tell me they were the ‘best’ candidate for the job, I would ask them to define ‘best’.
        What they should focus on is ‘best for me (the employer)’. And then they should endeavor to learn what characteristics this implies.

    4. PB

      I’d say it’s in the category of “Things top candidates never do, which aren’t deal breakers but don’t reflect well on you.” I’ve never rejected someone for saying this, but I’m pretty sure I’ve rejected 100% of the candidates who have. A candidate who tells me they’re the best candidate or the ideal candidate tends to fall to the bottom of the pile for other reasons, like lack of professional experience.

      1. Rosa

        Agreed. I also find people who claim “extensive” experience often have very little. I’m in academic libraries, and I cringe when a newly minted MLS says their undergraduate work study position counts as extensive experience.

    5. Ask a Manager Post author

      It’s correlation, not causation. It’s not that doing it puts you in the bottom half, but that it only ever seems done by those already in the bottom half.

      1. LGC

        Doing one response, but…that seems to be the consensus of most of the responses.

        This is completely out of my wheelhouse, since I don’t do hiring, but…I personally would feel both. On one hand, it does seem to be a red flag for Dunning-Kruger. On the other hand…I feel like declaring you’re the best out of however many people is highly presumptuous, especially if you don’t know who else is applying. (Politicians are the exception that proves the rule – they actually do know (or at least should know) about the other candidates.)

        Basically, if there were two equal resumes and one declared that they were the best suited for the position, I might be inclined to go with the other one – they’d seem more humble to me. Moreover, I’d probably be more hesitant even if – hypothetically – LW1 was more qualified than another candidate, because (and I’m reading WAY into this, I’ll admit) it also signals that he’s arrogant and would not be a team player. (And he might not be! He might be pleasant otherwise, but just prone to a hard sell. But it would not be a good first impression.

        And this is why I’m not allowed to do hiring.)

    6. AnotherJill

      In one of the worst interview processes I’ve been part of, the candidate keep enthusiastically declaring that he would be the hiring managers right hand man. It didn’t ever seem to occur to him that the hiring manager wasn’t looking for a right hand man.

      1. Reed

        Oh, yes, this! A couple of years ago we were interviewing for a role that I’d be directly supervising and we had one candidate who spoke as if they were going to be my deputy and supervise my existing team for me whereas the role was explicitly NOT supervisory. Though they weren’t quite as irritating as the candidate who ignored me for the entire interview, even when I asked him a direct question, and addressed himself entirely to my male colleagues, despite the fact I was a) the most senior person in the room and b) going to be his manager if he actually got the job. Which he did not.

    1. Marthooh

      I usually tell Alison not to bother posting anyone’s comment but mine. For some reason it always gets caught in the spam filter or something, but I feel it’s only fair to mention right up front that I am the ideal commenter.

  20. Ally

    There are times I prefer an overconfident applicant to one who spends an interview underplaying themselves and their skills (especially if they think it’s funny).

    But then again I get to look at a combo of their portfolio and their work history which tells me a lot about how they’ll actually be able to handle the job. Not everyone gets to review something tangible.

    1. Foreign Octopus

      What a weird way to interview – underplaying yourself and your skills. I don’t see how someone would find that funny, but each to their own I suppose.

      Portfolios are very useful in particular industries, I agree. Having that there is a great example of how competent you are.

      1. Staphylococcus anonymous

        “What a weird way to interview – underplaying yourself and your skills. I don’t see how someone would find that funny, but each to their own I suppose.”

        I mean, half (more than half) of the comments here are talking about how they’d rather have the “humble” candidate than the “arrogant” one. I don’t agree with it, but it’s what they’re saying.

  21. MuseumChick

    OP 1, I have a rule to never eat at a restaurant with the word “Quality” in its name. Every time I have it’s been a terrible experience. I bring this up because this is one of those “If you have to say it, it’s probably not true.” situation. If you feel like you HAVE to say you are the best candidate, well, 9 times out of 10 it’s probably not true.

    1. ElspethGC

      “If you have to say it, it’s probably not true.”

      See also, countries calling themselves “Democratic Republics”. Occasionally the latter, almost never the former.

      1. MuseumChick

        Or the “nice guy” 99% of the time if you have to say you are a “nice guy” you are most definitely not.

        1. Parenthetically

          “How dare you reject me, I am a NiceGuyTM!” *unleashes a stream of vile abuse*

          “How dare they reject me, I am the Best Candidate!” *has a resume that definitively disqualifies them from the position*

    2. Phony Genius

      Other similar (usually false or unprovable) phrases in business names: “Discount,” “No. 1,” “Best,” “Speedy,” “Professional,” “Honest,” etc…

      1. Walter White Walker

        Restaurants and hotels that advertise that they’re “clean” are usually pretty sketchy.

        Similarly, housing developers that brand their condos or housing editions as “luxury” are usually not targeting the well-off. They’re targeting people who will over-leverage themselves for sub-par construction with fancy veneers and finishes.

        Source: live in the Mid-west, where both are common.

        1. Kelly L.

          Because if all they can think of to advertise is that they’re “clean,” then they can’t think of anything else good about the hotel! (And often they’re not even as clean as they say.)

          It’s like when I’m reading book reviews and they’re like “This fantasy novel is so awesome! It has dragons and wizards in it!” Well, sure. Lots of fantasy novels do. But is the writing any good?

    3. a heather

      I have the same rule for using service companies that say they’re “honest” or that try really hard to let it be known they’re “Christian”.

    4. Holly

      I have to say in NYC Quality Meats is a great steakhouse (and they have a whole line of well reviewed restaurants with Quality in the name). But that’s the exception not the rule I suppose…

  22. Merlin

    #3 – Ignoring the other aspects of the interview (inconsideration, rudeness, trying to CYA by having an admin perform the interview) the bottom line is that interview expense reimbursement is not a mandate. It may not even be common practice, or it may be restricted to certain levels of hire. They key is to ASK up front. Matter of factly ask the contact admin or HR “Do you have your own form for interview travel expense reimbursement, or should I just send mine with the receipts?” If you get a matter of fact response, or they send you a form, no problem. Be aware it may take a couple of accounting cycles/months for them to cut a check, just keep reminding them periodically.

    But if you get a “WHAT?!! We don’t pay for your travel expenses!!!” – well, now you know, and it is your decision to make as to whether it is worth it to you to pursue or not.

    Forewarned if forearmed.

    1. Fergus

      Yea I had company a 1000 mi away one time, I asked about relocation expenses and I was told they pay for a moving truck and I had to get three estimates. That told me a lot

    2. dragonsnap

      I think phrasing it this way is a little presumptuous. Why not just ask politely and directly if they reimburse candidates’ travel costs?

    3. Gumby

      I didn’t get the sense she was upset about having to pay her own way to the interview – had the interview happened it would be an acceptable job search expense to her. But paying for a flight and a hotel for an interview that never happens? No. That is extraordinarily rude of the company. Asking for reimbursement in this case is because they never bothered to actually interview her not because of the travel itself.

      1. Brett

        And don’t forget having to pay change fees on everything when they moved the interview date at the last minute.

  23. Anon From Here

    LW#3, I wonder if your interview process fell through the cracks after you were “interviewed” by the front desk secretary. That is, since the secretary wasn’t your actual interviewer, maybe they never closed a loop or something about your visit, and now the people who should know to contact you about reimbursement literally never got the memo.

    Not paying you back on this is so unusual, I really do wonder if there was a communication breakdown somewhere, rather than outright unreasonableness or malice.

    1. Polymer Phil

      Almost every time I’ve been furious with a company, it’s turned out to be due to a communication breakdown rather than someone deliberately trying to scam me. I used to be a lot quicker to write nasty emails to suppliers before I figured this out.

    2. OP #3

      I CC’d the person who was originally supposed to interview me when I sent my thank you, so at least a couple people knew of the situation. This is a good point, though, and I’ll keep it in mind before jumping to conclusions in the future.

  24. ExcelJedi

    Regarding #1, I often say in my cover letter something to the effect of “my experience [or education, skills, etc.] make me AN ideal candidate for this role….” followed by examples of said experience. Is this equally off-putting, or is it nuanced enough to be read substantially differently?

    1. The Other Dawn

      I typically say the same thing in my cover letters.

      As a hiring manager, I wouldn’t find it off-putting at all–you’re telling me WHY you’re AN ideal candidate.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      I still find it a little eye-rolly when candidates do that, to be honest. I’m not going to reject anyone over it, but I’d rather not see it (and so many people who say it are wrong).

  25. Doug Judy

    I’m going through #2 and #4 simultaneity. I’ve been trying for a long time to find something else and have gotten so close so many times I lost count. I had a very promising round of interviews for a job that was a great fit in terms of role, industry, corporate culture, flexibility and career progression. Once again I made the mistake of getting hopeful that this was finally the break I’ve been hoping for. I got the rejection yesterday. They hired someone they had been talking to for a while.

    She said they planned on hiring again in “early 2019” and they were still very interested in me and if it would be ok if they reached out then. I said sure because I’d really like to work there but it still hurt a lot. For many reasons I cannot take a break from job searching as much as I would like to so I need to keep applying. I plan on keeping in touch with them but I’m well aware it might never work out.

    OP 2, I feel your hurt. It’s easy to say “shake it off and move on” and it’s super hard when things look very promising and you make it to the final stages several times to not get emotionally invested. I wish I had some secret trick to not get hopeful yet still come across as enthusiastic in interviews. I just haven’t been able to emotionally detach that way. I just wanted to say I feel for you and you’re not the only one who seems to have Charlie Brown syndrome when it comes to job searching.

    1. Question Writer 2

      Thanks for replying – it’s terrible there are so many people in the same situation, but it’s also nice to know it’s not just happening to me. I don’t know that I’ve hit the magic “not hopeful, but still enthused” balance either. I thought I wasn’t so emotionally invested in the last job, but getting the rejection still sent me down a spiral.

      Like #4 I have also gotten those “keep in touch” rejections, which are better than a form rejection, but it still hurts.

      1. Doug Judy

        It absolutely hurts, especially when you know you are smart, talented and capable. I have to remain hopeful, and so should you. But it’s ok to feel the hurt though, so let that out however you need to.

        Hopefully soon things will break the other way for the both of us.

    2. Stephanie

      Oh yeah, when I kept striking out at interviews, I joked I was the Leonardo DiCaprio of Job Interviews. (Although Leo has since gotten his Oscar and I have since landed a job.) It’s pretty demoralizing, so I wholeheartedly support taking a break.

  26. CupcakeCounter

    OP#1
    Many people think of politicians as liars and scam artists so keep that in mind when comparing yourself to them.
    Confidence is great – you should own your skill set and experiences but a blanket statement that you are the best candidate when you have no idea 1) who the other candidates are 2) the culture of the workplace and how you would fit in or 3) the actual day to day responsibilities of the position is just not accurate. It also makes me think that if you are so cocksure about what you think you know now how well are you going to take actual direction and correction if we do hire you? Sounds like a potential nightmare I would like to avoid.
    Tone it down to something along the lines of “I feel my skill set COULD be a great match to position X” and then highlight a few examples of your experiences that you feel correlate to the ad just as Alison said. I don’t know anything about you but from reading you letter I don’t want you as a coworker I have to train or as a direct report. (Sorry if that is mean but it was a straight up gut reaction to reading the letter)

  27. Coffee Drinker

    OP 2 – a family friend found out she was a victim of gender-based pay discrimination as well. She left the job almost immediately and pursued legal action after. However, she was told the case would hold stronger if she had stayed. I’m not saying you need to stay, but you may want to seek legal council before making a decision to leave. The family friend’s situation may be a little different. I’m not positive on all the details. GL!

  28. Art3mis

    OP3 – I had something somewhat similar happen to me. It was 2008, so Skype interviews weren’t quite a thing yet. But the company knew I was flying out on my own dime and not for a job that was highly paid either. The interviewer showed up, but the company completely ghosted on me. Years later another company did something similar, but they weren’t completely aware that I was traveling from out of town for the interview. Still, as a job seeker AND a consumer, I’ll never use their services/products ever again. Anyway, my point is while this isn’t common, it’s not completely unheard of either.

    1. OP #3

      I’m sorry this happened to you, how awful. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was more common before Skype.

      1. Art3mis

        They were (are) in a business that relies on advertising for a niche industry. I happen to personally know A LOT of vendors in that industry in a large city. So, you know, I got a modicum of revenge there.

  29. Oh, Snap!

    #1 Think of it as a relationship. You wouldn’t walk up to someone you think is cool and insist that you are going to be their best friend. That’s just not how it works. Not only would it make them feel really uncomfortable but what happens if you do strike up a friendship only to discover that they are really wrong for you?
    Also, true story: I knew a guy who was hired in a technical roll in the early days of digital photography and one evening over drinks with a client he went on and on about how he was the best in the business. He got fired the very next day and replaced by someone equally as qualified and without the ego.
    Seriously, there’s a lot of value in being humble.

    1. YB

      Agreed with this, too. By some (though not all) objective metrics, I might be the best-qualified candidate in the world to do the particular job I do—I’m in a niche industry and I’m one of the very few people who has all of the unique credentials to hold the role I hold (this isn’t even about, “I’m so great, I have more education than anybody”—it’s just that I happen to have three separate credentials that don’t usually go together and that are all required for this job). When I interviewed, I didn’t brag in as many words about how I was the best, but I did toot my own horn more than was a good idea…and the interviewers saw me as a rude, cocky, self-important jerk, and it nearly cost me the job.

  30. Micromanagered

    OP1:

    Rather than “I am the best candidate for reasons XYZ,” I phrase it as “This role looks like a strong fit for me for reasons XYZ” or “For reasons XYZ, I feel I would be an asset to your organization.” Something that puts it back in the realm of my opinion about the position and shows I’ve considered why I applied for it and that I’m not just blanketing my resume around claiming to be the best candidate.

  31. Lora

    OP3, this happened to me in the bad old days before there was such a thing as Skype – a Big 10 university with a world-class program for my field, who normally has a graduate student interview process on a set schedule, had a couple of professors invite me out to interview off the regular schedule because, they said, they would like me to start earlier than usual if possible. Okay. They were in between department chairs for a year and had assigned an interim tenured professor who had been with the university since the dawn of time, to the task of organizing things.

    OP3, this dude couldn’t have organized a toilet paper roll refill in a bathroom. He couldn’t have scheduled the cooking time on Ramen noodles. He was categorically The Worst Professor in the whole entire university. This was the #3 ranked program for my field in the entire world, and I wanted to get in. When I understood that this guy was worthless, I figured, heck, it’s a six hour drive and I can pay $100 for a cheap motel for a couple of days without breaking the bank. I will just organize it myself.

    The professors who invited me referred me to the department secretary repeatedly, who didn’t understand why this was happening at all outside the regular recruiting schedule, and simply ignored our requests for assistance. The day got closer and closer, and finally when I called the department secretary asking what on earth was going on, she said, and I quote, “oh, I was supposed to do something for that? Uh. It looks like Dr Steven Strange was supposed to be handling that and…I don’t know…why he didn’t…uhhh.” I explained that the hotel was booked, my time off from work was booked, what on earth did she expect me to do now?!? She said, “Well, here’s what we can do. This weekend they’re having a sort of department open house, the professors will all be on campus with their grad students doing poster sessions of their work. Why don’t you stay for the weekend and walk around chatting to people, and see if you can get an hour with the professors whose work you were most interested in?”

    Having no better plan, I did that. The professors I spoke with were first very confused, then very frustrated on my behalf, which was nice and all. I got an offer letter in the end and a very sincere apology for the nonsense, but turned it down as their two main competitors who were FAR more organized also sent offer letters.

    1. OP #3

      That sounds pretty stressful, and I’m sorry you had that experience. I’m glad you had other offers.

  32. chickaletta

    OP#2 – Yes, take a break. I am taking a break right now from job searching and I’m not even going through the legal struggle you are. It’s exhausting working full time and finding another job at the same time as it is – the searching, the researching, the resumes, the cover letters, the calls and interviews and second interviews and then still nothing! I’ve interviewed for 4 or 5 jobs over the summer and didn’t get a bite – and they were all internal too. I know how discouraging it is, how you start to question your qualifications and abilities. It sucks. Time off is called for I think.

  33. Pickwick

    OPF#5 – My mom went through this situation years ago. At the advice of her doctors and therapists, the doctor wrote a note saying only exactly how long she would be off work and what accommodations she would need to go back. He never mentioned her diagnosis. My mom had no problem with her closer coworkers knowing, and in fact it was her supervisor who urged her to go get the MRI in the first place. But when it came to official documentation, they felt it would be in her best interest to be vague, and so avoid any prejudice/assumptions about her cognitive abilities and her ability to do her job properly on her return.

    Wishing you good health. xx

  34. Hiring Mgr

    On #1, i think the OP could just be pre-empting the common (yet pointless) interview question, “why are you the best person for this job?” I know I’ve been asked that more than once.. But yes, agree that it sounds just like filler

  35. Mr. Bob Dobalina

    OP#1, well, I think everyone is on the same page. The bottom line is that it is arrogant and presumptuous to state that. Doesn’t mean you can’t sell yourself in other ways, but it’s better to state why you will be a good candidate, and why you will bring value to the employer.

  36. Yojo

    #3: I’m not really the gutsy type and I’m not great at thinking on my feet in unfamiliar situations, so this is absolutely not a criticism of how OP 3 handled things, but what would have been a good assertive move in this situation? Asking to speak to somebody in HR? Demanding to speak to somebody in HR?

    I would say there’s at least some chance that the whole organization would not be on board with the sh*tshow that the LW experienced. Maybe the department lead was about to get fired, maybe they got hit by a bus. I’m not sure I’d trust a front desk secretary to figure out the right protocol in that situation and it’s so bizarre that it seems more likely to be one person’s incompetence/insanity than the whole company’s.

    1. Parenthetically

      I’d be interested to hear from other folks about this as well but I also absolutely don’t want to get into the whole “Well, she should have done XYZ” thing. I’m 100% confident I would have burst into tears on the spot, just from disbelief and frustration and anger!

      1. Observer

        I agree that we shouldn’t get into what the OP “should” have done.

        In this case, I doubt it would make any difference. Someone had to have known that the interview was supposed to have happened, and no one followed up. That speaks volumes.

  37. Matilda Jefferies

    OP1, I’m less concerned about the “ideal candidate” part than about this:

    The employer is free to not select me but if they wish to make the wrong decision, that’s their prerogative.

    I’m with some of the others in thinking that the “ideal candidate” phrase is probably neutral at worst. And it’s fine as a self-affirmation, if that works for you. But it needs to be tempered with the awareness that you may *not* actually be the ideal candidate from the employer’s perspective, and that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re wrong. It’s such a subjective term to begin with, and even if it were 100% quantifiable, there’s still a lot you don’t know about the other candidates, the hiring process, and so on.

    I assume you’re not actually saying anything like that sentence in your cover letters. But even so, the whole idea behind it is just really over the top. I kind of picture you storming out of the application process, going “FINE! I wouldn’t want to work for you anyway!” Which is not a great way to approach this whole thing – it really does make you look less professional, and less aware of workplace norms. And it can needlessly poison your own attitude towards the employer – what if they reject you, and then there’s another posting you want to apply for in the future? It’s going to be hard for you to get past your virtual door-slamming, if you’ve already decided they made a mistake by not hiring you in the first place.

    TL;DR – “ideal candidate” is fine, if it’s what motivates you to apply for the job. But “if they wish to make the wrong decision [by not hiring me]” takes the self-confidence too far, and will not help you in the hiring process.

    1. Parenthetically

      Yeah, that was the point that stuck out most to me as well. Like, whatever pumps you up, pal, but not hiring you isn’t always or even USUALLY going to be the wrong decision for a company, and if you came into an interview with me with that attitude of superiority and condescension rolling off you, I don’t think I’d hire you either! “Anyone who doesn’t choose me is an IDIOT” isn’t just arrogant, it’s incorrect.

      1. Observer

        “Anyone who doesn’t choose me is an IDIOT” isn’t just arrogant, it’s incorrect.

        Almost by definition. Because this level of arrogance is almost always a negative quality in a job candidate.

  38. just my opinion

    All this talk about issues with saying you’re the “ideal candidate” makes me nervous about the wording I’ve been using. Like, does anything that even implies you’re “ideal” make you seem arrogant? What if you say “x, y, and z make this position a perfect fit for me”?

    1. LadyByTheLake

      I think that there is a HUGE difference between saying that your background and skills make you a perfect fit (which is fine) and saying that you are ideal for the job/better than every other candidate (which you have no way of knowing).

    2. Murphy

      I think you can speak to whether or not your skills and experience make you a great fit for the position; you know your own skills and you have some information on what they’re looking for. But you can’t say that you’re “the best” candidate for the job because you have no information on the other applicants. To me it comes off like saying, “Don’t even bother looking at other applications because obviously mine will be the best.”

    3. ambpersand

      It has a lot to do with presenting your opinion as a fact, which is what the OP is doing. While they believe that they’re the best/idea/top/perfect candidate for the position, it still comes down to the difference that it’s their OPINION, not a fact, and it’s the presentation that matters. Especially since there are so many other factors outside the job description that ultimately influence who will be the one to get the job (that you won’t necessarily know about) and saying it as an absolute statement sounds a bit ridiculous.

    4. Akcipitrokulo

      It’s different :) first, you’re not saying that you are THE perfect fit -which would be presumptuous – and second, you are showing, not telling.

      I think your wording is fine.

    5. Lady Kelvin

      I usually end my cover letter with a summary of my key qualifications (which I had described in detail above) saying basically “because of my experience in blah blah blah, I think I would be a strong/good candidate for the job.” Its more of me reminding them that hey I have these experiences you asked for, here’s a neat summary of them. You aren’t saying you’re the best, you’re saying you match what they say they want, so it at least deserves an interview to see if you are a good fit.

    6. smoke tree

      For me, anything that feels a bit like a hard sell tends to carry an air of insecurity. I feel like, as with most things, the strongest candidates usually don’t feel the need to make statements like this, and let their accomplishments speak for themselves. I think taking a more collegial tone feels more confident–not so much “this is why you should hire me!!” but more “this job sounds like a good fit, so I’m interested in talking further.”

  39. Rainbow Roses

    #1 just drips with arrogance and condescension (“if they wish to make the wrong decision, that’s their prerogative”) Seriously?
    If that attitude comes across in your resume/cover letter, you are doing yourself no favors. Believe me, no matter how good you think you are, there is always someone equal or better.

    1. Kate Daniels

      Agreed! I had a classmate who was super arrogant, but without a doubt the weakest student in our cohort who would similarly take on this type of attitude due to insecurity. She would turn combative during interviews by flipping around questions because “they need to wow ME” (they never called her back for follow-up interviews). I instantly thought of her when reading this question, particularly when I got to that line about how going with anyone else would be the wrong decision.

  40. Flash Bristow

    OP2, of course you can take a break from job hunting! The only issue is if you’re signed on for benefits which rely on applying to X many jobs per week, but I’m sure with a professional approach it will be easy to handle that.

    When I was jobseeking, I made that my “job” – a cliché I know, but at my desk for several hours a day, sending applications out and calling contacts at agencies (who I had on a schedule. Ultimately I found the job of my dreams thanks to an agency, to my surprise!)

    Need time out? Take it! It’s good for your mental health! Tell any contacts at agencies who are personally hunting for you that you’re still very interested, but unavailable between whichever dates. If you need evidence for benefits then up to you how much you print out jobs and fill out forms and let the government know these are ones you applied for. And otherwise take a break when you need it, with no shame!

    Between a role where I took voluntary redundancy (let’s not go into how shonky they were) and getting the job of my dreams, that made me happy to wake up in the morning, I had a personal medical issue. It was fine – I was able to demonstrate job hunting at a basic level, albeit not what I wanted to do to secure a good role!

    This is a very long winded way to say – please don’t worry about it. And if you need a break, for whatever reason (holiday? Mental break? Organising a wedding? Just need a bit of time off?) then DO IT. Just ensure you have minimal requirements covered if you need to claim unemployment benefits.

    But don’t sweat it!

    1. Flash Bristow

      Just to be clear – I dealt with a personal health issue which made job seeking impossible for a couple of weeks, but was able to cover that as described above (and not lying or faking it, just choosing not to explain the exact causes of exact timings of exact applications, if that makes sense – before resuming once well again).

    2. Stephanie

      It may have changed or different states have different requirements, but when I was on UI, the bar was something like two job contacts a week. And job contact could be anything from an interview to just emailing someone about career opportunities, so it wasn’t the highest hurdle to clear. So if I was drained, I would just do a couple of easy applications.

    3. Question Writer 2

      Thanks! Luckily I’m not on unemployment (yet) but still working for terrible employer (not great). I can’t afford to quit, I need the health insurance and benefits, especially now that I’m in therapy for anxiety & stress. (Which I often think is a fun circle of causation.)

      I think a lot of the anxiousness about taking a break is FOMO on promising openings, and the feeling that if I’m not applying I’m not really trying to get out of a bad situation. But you’ve all been very helpful on making me see that a break might be more helpful than anything.

  41. buttercup

    #1 – I have definitely heard interviewers ask this as a question though (why are you the best candidate for the job?), which never made sense to me.

    1. Antilles

      In the hands of a skillful interviewer, that question is intended to probe your understanding of the role and your own strengths.
      >Do you really understand what it takes to be a successful Teapot Designer? If your answer is all about the thermodynamics of tea, I’m going to wonder if you appreciate just how much the so-called ‘soft skills’ play into success.
      >When you’re talking about why you’re the best, what sort of strengths are you citing? This will give me some insight as to what you think is important to succeed in the role…which may or may not agree with my vision for the role.
      >Also, do you have a realistic view of yourself and your own strengths?
      >How well can you explain yourself?
      It’s not a be-all-end-all question, but as part of the discussion, it can be a VERY useful question to further the discussion and get a read on what the candidate thinks about themselves, the job, and the requirements of the role.

      1. buttercup

        It’s not a good question – there are better ways to probe for those qualities. It’s actually a lazy question.

      2. ceiswyn

        If someone actually asked me that, I’d probably look at them funny. And then say something like “I don’t know enough about the role to know whether I am.” Followed, obviously, by a discussion about how my skills and experience fit with the requirements in the role description, plus whatever else I’ve picked up from the rest of the interview.

        But asking that question would actually be a yellow flag for me, especially if the interviewer was the hiring manager. It indicates a tendency to follow fashions without thinking, and is also possibly reflective of using a ‘one size fits all’ approach where that isn’t really optimal.

  42. Jules the 3rd

    OP5: Best of luck to you. May it turn out benign, and if not, may all your treatments be effective.

  43. Nita

    #2 – when my husband was dealing with a really long discouraging job search (plus a toxic environment at work), he sort of decided to take a break. Only, what he actually did was keep sending out resumes without getting too emotionally invested in the process. He’d basically find a position that looks good, make sure his resume and cover letter don’t have the wrong job name on them, and send them off – the whole thing would take five minutes. Oddly, the less effort he put in, the more interviews he got. Granted, the old job and the ones he was applying to were in local government, which is not a normal workplace in many ways, but… maybe getting less emotionally invested but keeping the process moving will work for you too, and save you some stress.

    I have no idea at all why it worked that way. It was really odd, but he was just really stressed and getting desperate to leave the old job. I think that the more time he put into the job search process, the more this desperation showed.

    1. ambpersand

      I did a similar thing when I was desperate to get out of my last job and really bummed about several rejections in a row. I put together a couple of variations of my resume (since I was able to transition into a couple different directions I had a few that were custom to each field) and would recycle those, update the names, and tweak the wordings before sending them out. It was a lot less of a time investment since I had done a lot of the work up front, and it was easier to just move on after submitting them. It also helped that having those ready to go for tweaks meant they were a lot more solid and stronger than re-doing a new version for every job. Then, after interviews or phone screenings, instead of psyching myself up I would do the opposite and just tell myself “chances are you’re probably not going to get it.” It was hard but it definitely helped keep me from getting my hopes up too much for each one. And the surprise of a job offer later on was just that much sweeter when it did happen.

      I hope things turn around for you soon, OP!

  44. SKA

    OP #3: Was there a chance that they thought you were local and didn’t realize you were flying in? It doesn’t excuse anything, but I had a similar thing happen to me years ago when I was interviewing for jobs during my last semester of college (and I’m still a bit annoyed/baffled when I think about it).

    My cover letter and resume made it clear where I lived/was going to school, what my skills were, and when I was graduating/available to start. After applying at the place, they set up an interview, which we scheduled around when I’d be home on break (the job was about 3 hours from my hometown, vs. 6 hours from my college). The interview was at 9am during bad winter (well, early spring) weather, so I drove out the day before and stayed in a hotel to make sure I could be there on time. No biggie. I was fine with paying for that.

    But then I showed up. They were shocked that I drove 3 hours (my hometown and college were both in another state; it should have been clear that it was at least a couple hours away). One of the “nice to have” skillsets listed on the application was actually a “must have” (and was not mentioned on my resume). And to top it off, they needed someone who could start 6+ weeks before my graduation date (which was mentioned on my resume and alluded to in the cover letter). Clearly they did not do ANY sort of filtering of candidates or even research before the interviews. For as much of my time that they wasted, I have to imagine they were wasting even more of theirs (assuming they were interviewing literally everyone, as they seemed to be doing).

    Anyway, now I’m just annoyed again, but I guess my point was just that sometimes companies manage to stay totally ignorant of the hoops you jump through to get to interviews and it’s very annoying.

    1. OP #3

      It was clear throughout the process, e.g. I made sure to say, “I will change my flight.” It could be that it still didn’t really register with them, as it didn’t seem to with the company in your case. It’s very puzzling that the company in your case would waste its own time. Sorry to read about what happened to you. I hope you had better luck going forward!

  45. akiwiinlondon

    #2 – if you need a break take one.

    I went through a few job hunting rounds at my old role, and generally I’d have a big push of applying and chasing things down. Then miss out on a great role or get a bit tired of hunting and decide to just manage a bit longer.
    One strategy could be to pull back rather than stop if you’re worried about missing out on a great role, I found when I really wanted to move on I’d apply for anything that just looked ‘Interesting’ but that can be time consuming. When I pulled back I’d keep looking at jobs but I’d only put in the application for ‘Amazing’ or ‘Perfect’. I also narrowed the scope into something very specific, thinking about something specific I’d like to do next and only apply for roles which had that opportunity.
    Basically I reframed the hunt from ‘I need a new job to escape’ to ‘I want a new job which offers me x’ which helped focus the hunt so it wasn’t too time consuming.
    Also if LinkedIn is common for your area/industry you can set up keyword job listing alerts and then just read those emails and not spend a lot of time actively going through listings.

    Of course that worked for my industry, it might be as practical for all industries in which case just take a break.

  46. mimsie

    OP1: I would merely change “My skills and experience in X mean that I am the ideal candidate for this role.” to be “My skills and experience in X make me a strong candidate for this role.”

    To be honest, the line and sentiment is a bit of a cliche. As a hiring manager my eyes would probably just glaze over it, but my suggested wording is a bit less presumptuous but still confident.

  47. Free Meerkats

    OP4, just make sure you keep an eye on whatever method they use for hiring. Otherwise you run the risk of putting the note on your calendar to contact them in February, only to find out then that something came up and they went through a hiring process out of their normal pattern in January.

  48. King Friday XIII

    OP#5, I had a brain tumor diagnosed years ago and as bad as the surgery and the recovery were, waiting while they decided what kind of tumor it was and therefore what my prognosis was? That was just as awful because there’s nothing you can say about it really. May you have a fast diagnosis, a good prognosis, and an easy recovery.

  49. Yes I Am A Rocket Scientist

    #5 – Best of luck with your treatment and prognosis. I had surgery for a benign brain tumor and all is well now. I initially tried to keep the diagnosis quiet at work but that turned out to be too stressful. I finally decided it would be easier to be open about the situation since I needed to alert so many people that I would be out for an undetermined length of time and provide them with contacts and resources in my absence.

  50. Jay Bee

    About OP#1, what about saying something like “Because of my background and skills (which would obviously have been outlined) I believe I am a strong candidate for this role.”

    Does that have the same effect as saying you’re the ideal candidate?

    Also full disclosure, I have definitely said this, and would like to figure out what, if anything, can replace it. Part of my thinks it sounds like expressing serious interest, but I also totally get that it can (and probably will) be read the wrong way. It’s never bothered me when I’ve seen it in applications, but that’s probably because I know I’ve done it myself.

  51. Dance-y Reagan

    LW #2 I completely understand FOMO when you’re fatigued with job hunting. I was laid off in 2008 and it took YEARS to get my feet back under me.

    One thing you can do to get a mental break but still “stay in the game” is to track job ads without applying for them. Keeping your eye on the market without the panic of applying may allow you to shed some “forest for the trees” tunnel vision, and you can watch for patterns that will help you when you’re ready to jump back in. For example, you may see a skill popping up over and over that you’d need to brush up on, or you may notice that what looks like a ton of openings is really the same cruddy temp position being relisted over and over by multiple agencies.

  52. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis

    I wonder if OP1’s wording is a pre-empting of the common (ugh!) interview question “So, why do you think you’re the ideal candidate for this position?” – somewhat presumptious on the part of the interviewer.

    The other thought that crossed my mind is the writing adage “show don’t tell”. It’s the most common literary critisism when poor authors use the latter.

    Personally, I think “I’m the best” screams of a *lack* of confidence

  53. Elizabeth W.

    3. I covered my own travel expenses for an out-of-state interview, and my interviewer never showed up

    Wow. That is completely terrible. The “Holy Shitballs” chorus from Deadpool 2 was playing in my head the whole time I was reading this letter.

    I have no objection to emailing them and saying what Alison suggested. If they had any ethics at all, they would be mortified, and they’d repay the OP. But I wouldn’t contact the hiring manager–maybe HR. They might not even know the manager did this.

  54. Relly

    OP #5 — you mention not wanting your supervisor to know because that person is immature and gossipy. In the unfortunate circumstance this person ends up needing to know, the best advice I have is to keep it as absolutely matter-of-fact and flat as possible.

    Gossip mongers thrive on drama. “I’ll be missing work because of XYZ, I will update you as necessary” doesn’t give them much fuel. Any attempts to pull you further into a conversation? You are polite and disinterested. “I prefer not to talk about it, but I appreciate your concern.” (Little white lie.)

    It can’t always stop the stupid drama entirely, but the less you give people, the less they can make of it.

    Best of luck with your diagnosis.

  55. Been There

    #2 – Your letter really resonates with me. I just want to give you my best wishes on your struggle. I’ve been there too. I found out I was paid less than not only my male peers (as a manager), but also several male direct reports. I was even given a bad performance review after taking a maternity leave, after many years of being rated a high performer. It was painful. I chose not to go through the steps to report it to HR, EEOC, or anything. I simply sulked, tried my best to keep my professional face on while I dropped resumes everywhere I was qualified. Looking back I wish I had reported the issues, but at the time, I didn’t have the strength. Deep down I was afraid I would find I wasn’t as qualified for the role as I had thought. There were only a couple of other women in my department at time, both of whom had their own performance issues holding them back, so I didn’t have any mentors I could look to.

    I know it’s tough, but you’re doing the right thing. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Conserve your energy – even if it means taking a break from job hunting or slowing that process down to a level you can realistically maintain. I ended up taking the first job offer that came along, and it was not the right fit. It wasn’t all bad, but I had to stick it out a few years until I could move on. The good news is that I haven’t battled the sexism and pay imbalance like I did at OldJob. NewJob just wasn’t my longterm fit, but it did help me rebuild my confidence after leaving a bad situation.

  56. Letter Writer #5

    Just wanted to say thank you to everyone who replied to my letter with their thoughts/advice/
    Well wishes etc. I truly appreciate you all taking the time to give me your feedback.

  57. Big Biscuit

    #3 I feel for you, that’s really a crappy thing to do. I paid for my own travel (over $500) a couple of years ago, I at least received a disjointed and uninterested interview where a Senior VP and a HR executive could not define their company culture (not a good sign). They tried to ghost me, but I kept pestering them and at least finally received a turn down after three weeks. I only interviewed with them because a mentor of mine was coming on board with them, big mistake for him also, he lasted less then a year! My takeaway is never pay for your own interview travel, if they really are interested, they will make the investment.

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