should I pay a fee for a networking meeting?

A reader writes:

Is it normal for someone to charge a client for a networking meeting? I’m in the process of looking for a new job and setting up informational interviews with professionals in my field. I emailed back and forth with one woman trying to set a time to meet, but kept getting responses from her that we needed to reschedule.

As a compromise, we agreed that I should email her my questions. I sent some typical questions I would ask anyone I meet for an info interview (volunteer opportunities, organizations to recommend, other people I should connect with). In response, I received an email from her saying that once again we would have to reschedule. In addition, she stated that because of her limited time, the only way for her to fit these kind of conversations in would be to charge for them.

Am I overreacting in thinking she should have been more upfront about this? I understand that time and information is valuable, but this is the first time I’ve encountered this request in (what I thought) was a more informal setting.

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My office has a wall of shame for people who are late or out sick
  • My new job doesn’t give me any work
  • Convincing a company to let me work long-distance
  • Employer wants to know how much my other offers are

{ 130 comments… read them below }

  1. Czhorat*

    If the wall is for people out *today* then you could almost argue that it’s a way of letting everyone know who is in the office and who is not in the office. If it’s people who were out yesterday or the day before then I agree with Allison; it’s pointless shaming and doesn’t fulfill any legitimate workplace function.

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      I think then though it would be more appropriate to have an “in/out” board (which I’ve had in many offices before, and was quite handy as a quick glance for us field staff), but never a “out on vacation/out sick” shaming. It’s great to know who’s in the office working, out of the office working, and out of the office not working, but there’s no relevance in *why* Coworker is out of the office not working, and especially as the Wall of Shame.

      1. doreen*

        I worked somewhere where there was something similar and it was even called an “accountability board”. The purpose wasn’t to shame or even to know who was working and who wasn’t- it was a record of who was in the building , and was designed to be taken off the wall in case the building had to be evacuated. But again, all it said was that someone was either in or out of the building, not whether they were on vacation, working at a different location, out to lunch and so on.

    2. Ann Nonymous*

      I think LW can also say in her head or out loud, “Well, that’s stupid,” and not give the wall another thought.

      1. Amber T*

        I think that can be said for a lot of dumb problems in the work place, but that still doesn’t change the fact that it’ll affect morale. Is OP (or someone in the office) going to feel like they can’t call in when they’re sick because they’ll be made fun of? If there’s a huge accident on their commute which is going to delay them, are they going to get shamed for something out of their control? Yeah, a lot of the time advice could be “hold yourself to a higher standard and ignore the crap,” but that’s not always going to be the effective answer.

      2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Yes it is stupid, but ignoring it doesn’t make the fact that it’s not the way to run an office any better. This is wrong on so many levels. If they want to let the office know who’s in/out for the day that’s one thing, but a “wall of shame” is not the way to inform everyone. Even if someone is chronically late, that’s something a person’s manager needs to address with them one on one, not paste to the wall to make them feel bad about it.

      3. Jennifer Juniper*

        I wouldn’t say “Well, that’s stupid” out loud. That could earn the OP a write-up or other disciplinary action for . It’s also the kind of office where an evil coworker would tell the boss that OP complained about the board.

    3. Wintermute*

      Exactly, I almost wonder if someone high up misread or is mis-applying the “control by visibility” part of trendy Japanese Kanban manufacturing techniques that were really in vogue for professional offices for a while. There was an attempt by some hip management gurus to apply 80s kanben/JIT/TQM techniques from manufacturing where they work very well to offices where they are less applicable, it lead to some great things (agile software development, for one) and a lot of misery for many companies whose management did not realize that human resources, IT and making televisions or cars are not interchangeable activities.

      The reason I say this is because one of the big things in kanban is visibility (hence “control by visibility”) of production interruptions. If you are viewing human beings as factory machines because you’re applying an auto manufacturing technique to your office then humans, not robots or assembly stations, are your “production machinery”. If you were to extrapolate that out a little the “big white board” at the head of the assembly line turns from a list of production constraints, machinery issues and parts shortages to a list of people out of the office.

    4. this way, that way*

      We had an Out of Office board when I worked with clients that called in the office and it was great. To know for sure who was out of the office and not have to determine if someone was on lunch or in a meeting or left early. We are not client facing now but I would still love a board to see who in my group is out of the office. I agree if they are listing why your out then its verges on being a shame wall, or a brag wall for vacation people.

    5. Elsajeni*

      I think the fact that they’re also listing people who were late makes it pretty clear they’re using it as shaming — it might be reasonable to put my name on the “out board” at 8:00 if I’m not there yet, but if you leave my name there after I arrive at 8:10, you’re clearly not doing it to show who’s not in the office.

  2. Czhorat*

    For the OP with the salary negotiation, I hate everything about salary negotiation. I hate that the would-be employer never leads with their best offer (or anything at all), that they make you guess at what your value should be in a culture which dissuades people from sharing salary information, I hate that something so important to you as an employee feels like an opaque game.

    All I can say is that I feel for you. I might be willing to say, “other offers are within the range we are discussing” without nailing it down further. If that’s the position you really want, then perhaps, “I’d rather focus on this opportunity, and what is comfortable for both of us. I’d want $X/year for this position. Does that work for you?”

    1. Ginger*

      Not to mention an offer is more than just a salary #. It’s benefits, vacation time, job duties/seniority, etc.

      1. Czhorat*


        Maybe someone is offering a bit less, but has more interesting work which would be more fulfilling and better for your career. Or offer generous benefits in terms of time-off or health insurance. Or are a more prestigious place to work. Or any number of other things.

        I might be willing to take X dollars for employer 1, but would need X+10% to consider employer #2 for various reasons. Or a higher buy-in for health insurance makes X+10% from employer 3 equal to X from #1.

      2. Minocho*

        I had a good offer, but I had concerns about the position. I had another company that I felt was willing to make an offer – so I mentioned I had an offer on the table, but was very interested in hearing their offer.

        They got back to me quickly, and offered less than the original offer. But the benefits were better, and I felt the position was a better fit. I accepted the lower, later offer.

        I never regretted that decision. I”m still there to this day. :)

    2. BRR*

      All of this. If the employer wants to know if they are in the same ballpark as other offers then the employer can share their hiring range with the candidate and will soon enough figure out if they are in the same ballpark. Also the employer should consider that this candidate is clearly in demand. If they want this candidate, they need to remember they should be wooing the candidate and this isn’t the way to do it. I imagine it might because the Inc articles are a bit older but I think things have slightly tilted more towards the candidates’ side in the hiring process (even if a lot of employers refuse to believe that).

  3. Snark*

    Can’t read the Inc article due to a firewall, but…oh, LW.

    “Am I overreacting in thinking she should have been more upfront about this? I understand that time and information is valuable, but this is the first time I’ve encountered this request in (what I thought) was a more informal setting.”

    This was not a request for you to pay a fee. It was telling you that you went way overboard in your demands on this person’s time and availability, to the point that they felt the need to remind you that their time had monetary value attached to it because you were asking for too much of it. I’ve felt the same impulse when networking contact send a list of questions it would take me half an hour to complete.

    1. Snark*

      That said, my response in such situations is a clear and unambiguous “I’m sorry, but you’re asking an awful lot of me, and these questions are going to be too much for me to get through. Good luck.”

      1. LGC*

        That’s because you’re reasonable. (I was about to go in until I saw your addendum.)

        I feel like even if the LW was being demanding, asking for payment sounds like the woman they were talking to has a wonderful business opportunity that she wants the LW to get in on the ground floor of. Regardless of what happened, it reads like a bait and switch.

    2. JKP*

      It doesn’t sound like the OP demanded anything more than a normal informational meeting which then kept getting rescheduled. Then the compromise was suggested of sending questions over email instead of meeting in person. But at the point that a fee was suggested, the OP had yet to take any of the busy person’s time.

      1. Amber T*

        And even if OP was demanding more than what’s normal, the answer isn’t “I’m going to charge a fee.” That’s just so outside the norm for this sort of thing.

        1. Snark*

          That’s not what she said. “In addition, she stated that because of her limited time, the only way for her to fit these kind of conversations in would be to charge for them.”

          That is not “I am going to charge a fee,” that is “I am super busy and answering questions for free just isn’t a good use of time I could be using to make money.” Passive-aggressive af, but a different thing than a literal request for money.

          1. Amber T*

            Eh, not sure I agree. Alison advises a lot of LWs to say something similar when the scope of the work changes, or if they’re being asked to stay on longer than the notice period, and only if that LW would be willing to do so for $X. And this would be normal/acceptable if LW was, say starting their own business an this person was an expert in their field, and LW wanted more details. So yes, maybe she isn’t directly saying “I’m going to charge you a fee,” but it’s certainly leads to an opening of a more naive newcomer saying “OK, I’ll pay you $X,” which gets shady real quick.

      2. Maggie*

        I need more information around the statement: “As a compromise, we agreed that I should email her my questions.”

        Who suggested this compromise?

        If the OP suggested this compromise, then she really missed some social cues that the person rescheduling multiple times meant she was too busy and didn’t want to do it. However, if the interviewee suggested it out of her own guilt/demanding schedule, and is now asking to be paid… she’s been really weird when other people would just politely decline.

        Either way, when asking people for a favor, I was always taught to never ask twice, no matter how you are turned down the first time. The why doesn’t matter, and asking repetitively just makes you look clueless.

      3. epi*

        I agree. I could see this response if the OP had been the one to continually reschedule. Each time that happens, both people’s time is wasted.

        But in this situation, the contact was the one who repeatedly cancelled on the OP. This person wasted her own time, and the OP’s. She isn’t entitled to recoup that from someone she agreed to help.

        FWIW, I personally never play schedule tag with people for this long if I can help it. After a couple of rounds, it is usually appreciated if someone will say, hey maybe there is a way we can handle this by phone/email/Skype/skywriting. I think it is especially nice of the person asking for the favor– i.e. the person in the OP’s position– to do this. But it was certainly incumbent on the OP’s contact to just rescind the offer to meet or propose some other way of getting in touch, before she cancelled on someone repeatedly (rude!) and tried to charge them for a favor (ruder!).

      4. Marthooh*

        It sounds to me like OP #1 was actually asking for a Hook Me Up With Your Network So I Can Get A Job interview. “I sent some typical questions I would ask… (volunteer opportunities, organizations to recommend, other people I should connect with).” I don’t blame that woman for thinking this is suddenly a much bigger favor than an informational interview. I wish she had said so straight out, instead of just hinting.

        1. Lew*

          Right. Maybe the contact introduced the idea of a payment because she felt the OP had pulled a bit of a bait-and-switch.

    3. Environmental Compliance*

      Wouldn’t it have been more appropriate though to just simply cancel due to lack of time (whether it’s Actual Busy or This Isn’t Worth My Time Busy) on the requestee’s part? Suddenly throwing up a “hey, yeah, there’s a fee, though we’ve already scheduled and I’ve cancelled meetings on you several times now, surprise” seems a little… disingenuous.

      It’s entirely possible LW is asking way too much of the person in question, but I can’t say I agree with the individual’s method of conveying that.

      1. Snark*

        Neither do I, and of course directness is always more appropriate, but the OP seemed to be taking it as “wait, what, do I have to pay her a fee?” when the answer is “no, that was kind of an oblique and passive-aggressive way of telling you that you were asking too much of a busy person.”

        1. Quake Johnson*

          I don’t get that feeling from OP. I got the sense OP is thinking more “If she wanted a paid meeting she should have said that upfront instead of this big run around that wasted both of our time.” Not sudden surprise over a monetary request.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            Yeah, that’s how I was reading it too. It doesn’t read to me that the OP had already met with this individual – it read that the meeting, that was originally scheduled totally fine with no fee mentioned, kept getting rescheduled by the individual in question, and when OP offered to instead do it over email (in an attempt to make it easier on the individual), the individual came back to say there’s now a fee associated with it. At this point, there’s more time invested in rescheduling than anything of any worth to either party.

            1. Quake Johnson*

              I still read “the whole point” being about this person wasting time and being less than professional. OP doesn’t seem to indicate much emotion towards the actual fee one way or the other.

    4. Linda Evangelista*

      I disagree. OP mentioned that the networking contact had agreed to have questions emailed to her after needing to reschedule a meeting several times. Its one thing to realize the amount of time answering the questions would require is too much, and apologize for not being able to take the time to answer them, but its another thing entirely to come back and say “oh, by the way, you should pay me for this because it’s time consuming”. A fee structure needs to be agreed to up front.

      On the plus side, in this instance, OP can walk away from it.

      1. Snark*

        But like I said: this was not actually a literal request for a fee or a need to set up a fee structure.

    5. WellRed*

      Even if you were the one who asked them to send questions in the first place? At any rate, they could and should have just told LW “no.”

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I agree. The person being asked for the informational interview has most of the power here and can absolutely say, “Hey, I’m sorry, I realized I won’t have time to meet with you after all. Best of luck.” That is a far better option than trying to get away with charging a fee. That’s just making things sound like a much bigger deal than they are.

        Every time I’ve done an informational interview as a job seeker, the person I’ve interviewed has bought me coffee (or even lunch). When alumni or junior people have asked me for 15 minutes of my time, I’ve been the one to buy the coffee. Doing an informational interview is granting a favor; if you don’t feel like granting it, you just don’t do it, or you limit it to a 10-minute phone call.

      2. Snark*

        I’ve asked someone to send me questions instead of an informational interview, and got a list of a dozen questions, each of which required at least a few sentences to answer fully. I can easily see a “wait wait wait, this is way too much for you to ask of me at this point” reaction.

    6. WakeUp!*

      That’s actually…not what it was telling LW at all. It was telling her this person is conflict-avoidant and bad at managing their time, to the point of stringing LW along by rescheduling multiple times instead of saying “actually, your request goes beyond a typical informational interview and I can’t help you out.”

      Alison broke this down nicely in her answer.

    7. BRR*

      Even if the LW went overboard, which I’m not sure they did, a surprise fee isn’t the answer. You say you don’t have the time, which is what you’d also say if you didn’t want to do it, or that you only have time for one or two questions. I’ve also been in situations where a networking contact is asking a lot but it’s clear from the beginning that I’m not a paid consultant.

    8. Delphine*

      Where did the LW go overboard? She tried to work with the person to set up a good time and then, when that didn’t work out, sent in questions as requested. It seems like the person on the other end just couldn’t get it together to either have a meeting or be upfront about her lack of availability…and then decided to be passive-aggressive instead by requesting a fee for her time.

      1. Snark*

        I don’t know. Perhaps the questions were vague and open-ended. Perhaps there were too many of them. They didn’t really sound targeted and specific to the person she was asking them of, just kind of standard.

        1. GS*

          I’ve got a friend who gets SO MANY of these kinds of requests. It gets frustrating for her to get upwards of 30 requests like this a month on top of everything else she does when most of these requests aren’t really asks for advice so much as an ask for connection to her network. We’ve all been encouraging her to start charging for mentorship because at this point the demand is like a part-time job.

      2. WakeUp!*

        Yeah, we have no indication from the question that OP went overboard or asked more than was appropriate…just that this person feels, for whatever reason, that it’s too much for her. It feels a little fanfic-y to assume the OP was somehow bombarding this person with questions when we just…don’t know.

    9. AnotherAlison*

      The questions listed in the letter seemed more unproductive than lengthy to answer, esp. since the OP said she was looking for a new job (volunteer opportunities, organizations to recommend, other people I should connect with). These might be more reasonable from a career changer or new grad.

      I’ve only done one info interview for someone years ago, and it was for someone with a mutual close connection who was looking for a job. She was looking for specific information about my job/company.

      I’m struggling to think of questions I would want to answer from a stranger, and that wouldn’t feel like a waste of my time.

    10. Jadelyn*

      Hard disagree. It sounds like the person is overloaded and stretched thin, and rather than just tell OP that got frustrated and lashed out. I mean, even if you think someone is asking too much – which it doesn’t sound like OP did – you just tell them no, you don’t suddenly attach a dollar amount to it.

      1. Snark*

        We don’t disagree. I just am pointing out that this is not a literal request for a fee, it’s a passive-aggressive person making a point. I do not argue that their approach is a good one.

    11. hbc*

      You’re getting a lot of disagreement, but I had the same impression. For whatever reason, this was this woman’s way of saying, “This is way more time and energy than I’m willing to expend right now.” Even if it’s 100% the other person’s fault that she’s stretched thin and that she should just say no, it’s a clear (if passive) signal to back off.

      I’m guessing when she asked for the list, she was hoping it was a couple of easy questions that she could then email back something like, “Yes, no, about $55K. We don’t need to meet now, right?” She’s essentially doing everything she can not to say “no” by throwing up barriers.

      I may have a little too much experience translating Cripplingly Passive into English.

      1. fieldpoppy*

        I agree with this, and I realize that I could end up being this person. I am a partner in a small consulting business where we are always stick-handling more than a dozen clients and projects. I *frequently* will say yes to something non-essential like this three weeks out, and then as the day gets closer, it’s just impossible because my client work has evolved and expanded in that time. It’s not about my having bad time management, it’s about day to day trying to manage things that are much greater priorities than a vague favour like “can you talk to my sister’s kid about non-profits.” I tend to say “sure” to these things because I genuinely don’t *MIND* sharing my time theoretically, but actually fitting it into real life, is often impossible. (A client has a crisis, we have to do another iteration of something unexpectedly, travel between sites takes longer than expected, we have to respond to a piece of new business right away, etc.). I have learned not to say yes to things like social plans more than once during a M-F week because I inevitably will end up canceling.

        For me, the “say no upfront” thing probably wouldn’t have happened — I would have wanted to do it. And I probably would have ended up rescheduling a couple of times. Where this contact fell down for me is not just saying “I’m really sorry, I’m finding this really hard to fit into my schedule at this point,” rather than saying “I should be charging for this.” I can see having the FEELING of “god, I really should be charging for this — then I might feel like I could justify doing it!” — but they shouldn’t have SAID that.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes! I have started say no to way more things up-front (things I would in theory like to do) because I know I’ll regret it/have a hard time finding time to fit it in later on. It was a hard adjustment to make, although now that I’ve been doing it for a while, it’s gotten way more comfortable. Now that I see the benefits, though, I recommend a liberal use of no!

    12. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      “In addition, she stated that because of her limited time, the only way for her to fit these kind of conversations in would be to charge for them.” How is that not asking for fee?

      This is not something you disclose after numerous reschedules of a meeting – she has wasted both her own time and the LW’s time. If she wants to charge a fee for helping out, that’s her prerogative, but she needs to disclose it up front. Sounds to me like she decided she was so busy, that the only way she would take the time to squeeze in LW was to have her pay for it. She should have just been honest and told LW she simply didn’t have the time to help.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You can read it two different ways. But one of those ways is “I can’t justify fitting this in if I’m not charging for it and thus this probably doesn’t make sense to do.”

      2. Someone Else*

        It could mean literally “pay me”.
        It could mean “I can’t justify doing this without charging for it, so if you want to continue, pay me and if you don’t, don’t”.
        Or it could mean “I don’t want to do this anymore but am too conflict avoidant to say so, so instead I’m suggesting payment in order to get you to say nevermind so I don’t have to say nevermind.”

        1. Lew*

          > “I don’t want to do this anymore but am too conflict avoidant to say so, so instead I’m suggesting payment in order to get you to say nevermind so I don’t have to say nevermind.”

          Sometimes this strategy gets suggested but not in a pejorative way. e.g., client is really difficult, so charge 200% the normal rate and hope they go away without you having to tell them to go away. Or if they agree, then yahtzee.

      3. londonedit*

        I also read it as ‘The only way I would be able to justify doing this sort of work alongside my regular schedule is if I charged my usual rate for it, which would obviously be a crappy thing to do, so I therefore can’t help you’.

    13. Another Lawyer*

      I read this as the person implementing a variation on AAM’s recommendation when personal contacts constantly pester you to help them: “I have limited time so I’ve started charging $x/hour for this service.”

      It sounds like it wasn’t implemented particularly tactfully in this case though.

    14. Seller of teapots*

      To me this reads that the fee-charging woman has issues saying no. She rescheduled many times, asked for the questions in writing, and then said she’d need to charge a fee. That’s a lot of work to hunt that you’re too busy.

      All of this could have been avoided, in my opinion, if she just said “I’m sorry, I don’t have time for this meeting but I wish you luck.”

    15. Less Bread More Taxes*

      There are a couple of interesting things here: 1, I see from your other comments that you take the request for a fee to be a declination of the request. It’s not. Especially in work contexts, it’s important to state intentions clearly because people will take them literally. If OP accepted that and agreed to pay, both parties should be happy. But you’re saying that the other person could then run OP around again because she never had intentions of helping. To me, that’s just so strange. If you can’t state your intentions, then you can’t be upset at people for being confused or hurt.

      2, half an hour for an informational interview…. is not a lot of time. In my field, the standard is an hour. I’ve had them go longer. If you get a request from someone and you know that you will be angry at them for wasting your time for 30 minutes, you’re better off declining.

  4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Yikes, trying to charge for a network meeting, after having to reschedule a bunch sounds like her way of saying “You know what, I’m over it unless you want to give me something for it.” If she got your questions and decided it fell into consulting more than just an informational interview kind of thing, she should cite that for the reason to make it billable not “well actually my time is precious and therefore I’ve decided to spring this payment idea on you!”.

    TL;DR version, She is trying to get you to cancel instead of being the person to back out, ick.

    Wall of shame? I’m slightly confused by the setup, is it something that stays up for awhile? “Nancy: Late Again, Thursday, March 8th.” and it stays there for an undetermined time?

    I have only ever posted these kind of things on bulletin boards over the years in terms of “Bert is out today” if I had a call in, that way I don’t need to answer every single person’s question about where the heck Bert is. But then I erase it by lunch because everyone knows…it’s not in a shameful way, it’s an informational thing. I would only use it for a late arrival if perhaps Bert called in to say he was running late and say “will be in later” so that they can adjust for it. Again, by midday it’s removed.

    Just ew at anyone actually using these things as public shame announcements. That’s so juvenile and tacky!

    1. MissDisplaced*

      When I managed a team, I did have a big planning calendar for them to write on their vacation and other pre-planned out of the office days. Definitely not sick days though, unless it was for like some longer-term planned thing (like a surgery or something). Never was it meant as a some kind of wall of shame.

      I mean, if the intent is for COVERAGE as in who’s off today we need to provide coverage for, that might be a legitimate thing to want all to see. But it didn’t sound like that.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah, we have always had a shared calendar of sorts for advance time off, so we’ve never had to list them on the in/out board as I see it called above.

        Call-ins are what I use the announcement board for and it’s just that and announcement, just like if I sent out a quick email to everyone which is what we did without the board for my last office. Well actually, we tended to CC everyone in the office if we were out/late unexpectedly but I had one staffer who refused to use email outside of business times [no problem there, she was darn good and if she wanted that distance, that’s cool with me!] so she’d text me from her phone to my work email. Then I would do the office wide “Sally is out today, I’ll handle her phone coverage, how do you want to split up X and Z daily duties?” kind of thing.

        Really it’s all about how it’s worded and how long it’s up for. I’ve never seen it used as a shaming tool but I’m sadly not at all surprised that it’s a thing in some places. Especially after reading this blog so long :(

  5. Mrs_helm*

    #4 I’ve had a similar experience. The initial contact was from a recruiter, advertising as a Telecommute position with onsite meetings a few times a year. I agreed to discuss further. It turned out their idea of telecommute required you to live in the same region (DC). I pointed out that if I were only going to be onsite a few times a year, I was fine not being reimbursed for the 4 hr drive, if they could be fine with me not moving to DC. They said they’d have to think about it and I never heard from them again.

    I consider it a bullet dodged, as apparently they didn’t really mean the position was Telecommute so much as they meant there was *some ability to telecommute* and the rest of the time was DC driving commute…which is not for me!

      1. Tigger*

        The commute in DC was the reason I left the area and I grew up there! My high school handbook actually said:” Traffic is apart of living in this region. Unless the beltway or other major highways are closed due to a national emergency being late because of traffic is not an acceptable excuse and will give you demerits”

        1. michelenyc*

          The subway commute has gotten so bad here in NYC that the conductors will sometimes announce that train# so if you have an employer that does not accept I was late because of the train you can give them the # and they can look it up on-line to see confirm there was in issue. usually they already know but some managers can be awful about it!

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Annoying. Why advertise it if you have no intention of it ever being Telecommute? Bait and Switch in the making. It’s like they’re just using it as a buzzword to attract applicants.

      1. WakeUp!*

        Agreed. It’s fine if there’s no WFH available. Even though it sometimes seems like half of this board does have WFH, most people don’t. No problem! But advertising it really feels like trying to jam buzzwords in to appeal to a certain crowd.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          If you say in your job posting “for the right candidate, we’d be willing to have someone work long distance,” then you’d better expect you’ll get long-distance candidates wanting this. Don’t expect they’ll want to move for your job or they wouldn’t have applied. It’s misleading and wastes everyones time.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        They needed to be clearer, but “we’ll consider it for the right candidate” means “it’s not our preference but we’ll consider it for someone truly stellar.” By definition, that won’t be most of the people applying.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          I was coming here to say this. The company might be willing to do it for a walk-on-water candidate but not willing to do it for simply very good candidates.

          The company wants to attract the very best candidates and having special perks for the stellar ones isn’t unusual.

        2. londonedit*

          But wouldn’t someone assume that if they got the job, the company obviously thinks they *are* the ‘right candidate’? I’d be annoyed if a company said they’d be willing to consider full-time working from home ‘for the right candidate’, I applied for the job on that basis, got the job, and was then effectively told ‘Ah, well we might have thought you were good enough to get the job, but you’re not good enough to merit working from home’.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Oh, this is really interesting because when you explain your thinking, I totally see why it seems that way to you. When employers say “for the right candidate,” they mean “an unusually strong candidate, who we may not find” — this is like a language difference that’s not translating from employer to candidate, and now I understand why.

          2. Cordoba*

            I think the comparison to salary is useful here.

            If a job is posted for a range of $X up to $Y then it is not reasonable to expect that the candidate they hire will also make $Y. A person really could be good enough to get the job, but not good enough to command top dollar.

            If I’m a hiring manger and interview 4 candidates who are just adequate one of them is probably going to get hired, but not on the same terms or at the same pay as a theoretical candidate who was genuinely excellent for the position.

  6. Kaybee*

    I couldn’t tell from OP 3’s letter whether she was hired into the same organization where she had been interning. If she was, it might take a minute for everyone to her used to her in her new role. Even if her hiring was announced at an all-staff meeting or in an email, it can take time for people to feel comfortable asking for her help on administrative tasks when they’re used to interacting with her in an educational way (assuming the org treats its interns responsibly, regardless, there’s usually an adjustment period when someone shifts roles).

  7. MissDisplaced*

    “I applied to a job based at the other side of the country. The job posting specified that for the right candidate, they’d be willing to have someone work long distance, which is why I applied.”

    I agree, you can’t “make” them understand you’re not willing to relocate. But honestly WHY did they put this statement in their job description if they have zero intent of even considering a remote employee? I’m with the OP in that this is super annoying and a waste of time to apply for the job if they had no intention of ever considering it and want someone to relocate. Come on HR people! Don’t do that.

    1. Hiring*

      I beg to differ. You can, and should, make them understand that YOU are not willing to relocate. What you can’t do is make them hire you, given those circumstances.

      Alison is right. I’m in that boat as an employer right now. I’d prefer someone local, but for the right candidate – someone who I felt would be really stellar in the role, but who wasn’t willing to move, and I didn’t have an equally good candidate here – I would consider a remote position. If that “unicorn candidate” is out there, I don’t want to eliminate them before applying by saying the position must be local. So I am doing what this ad did: “We prefer someone local, but would consider a remote position.” In this situation, a remote candidate has a much higher bar to clear than a local candidate would, for a whole host of reasons.

      Cordoba’s comment below seems like a really good approach for LW. Someone that thoughtful about it would be much closer to clearing that higher bar with me; still might not make it if I have someone really great locally, but it would show me that you understand the trade-offs.

    2. fposte*

      Because they don’t have zero intent of even considering any remote employee. IIt’s just that most candidates won’t be worth the hassle. Unfortunately, that group includes the OP.

      Think of it in economics terms–say they need to have somebody score at least an 85 on some scale for the position, and that working remotely would take 10 points off because of the workflow and hassle. So if you came in with a 98, you would still be a strong enough candidate to be considered for remote work, but if you came in at a 90, you wouldn’t be worth it unless you could be in the office.

      1. ababao1o1*

        Why don’t they just say that directly? “For candidates demonstrating a track record of working independently without daily oversight, we would consider a remote work arrangement”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Because it’s not just about that. It’s about someone who’s exceptionally strong — someone really well qualified, more than the average candidate.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Okay? But that’s missing the point, which is that it’s not about “candidates demonstrating a track record of working independently without daily oversight.”

            2. Antilles*

              I think the word “average” is meant more as a shorthand for “run of the mill” or “acceptable but unspectacular”.
              Basically, the kind of candidate who’s solid enough that I could probably hire them and it would be fine…but someone who’s still pretty similar to other candidates, enough that if they need something I can’t/won’t provide (e.g., telecommuting), I can go back to the stack of resumes and grab a #2 or #3 candidate who’s not that far behind.

          1. GS*

            Exactly – we had an executive change his mind about having direct reports of his work at other locations because he found someone was literally perfect for the job, but wanted to work out of another office close to his current home. We hired him anyways because it was stupid not to – but that exception wouldn’t have been made otherwise.

        2. Cordoba*

          Because that may not be the distinguishing feature that qualifies a candidate for remote work.

          I negotiated a work-from-home position despite not having an extensive track record of working away from daily oversight.

          I was able to do this because:
          1) The employer was desperate for somebody with my skill set
          2) They didn’t find any appealing local candidates
          3) I wasn’t willing to move

          I assume that if a local candidate had my same qualifications they’d have gotten the job instead. But they didn’t, so they didn’t, so I did.

          I think the employer is doing this the right way. They accurately state that work-from-home is something they’ll *consider* for the right candidate. Additional qualifiers in the job posting don’t accomplish anything, as the definition of “right candidate” depends on other circumstances.

          1. ababao1o1*

            That’s not the same situation as the letter writer , who did not say they were not qualified, but presumably may have gotten an offer, just not with remote working.

            “Additional qualifiers in the job posting don’t accomplish anything, as the definition of “right candidate” depends on other circumstances.” These kinds of word shenanigans just allow cover for discrimination

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I’m not sure where you’re getting that. There’s nothing wrong with an employer saying “we want someone local, but if you’re unusually strong, we’ll consider remote work if that’s what it’ll take to hire someone unusually strong.”

            2. fposte*

              But “qualified” is always necessary but not sufficient–the OP almost certainly wasn’t the only qualified person applying for the position, and Cordoba’s competition wasn’t described as unqualified either; the employer just wasn’t all that excited about them.

              I get that it’s frustrating, but this isn’t that much different from pay–you can get more if you can justify it with your track record. It’s not discrimination to treat a remote pool differently than an onsite pool.

      2. American Ninja Worrier*

        You’re right, but I think it was a misstep to mention a potential remote hire in the job listing. If they’re truly only willing to do that for a unicorn, it would make more sense to let candidates assume the job location isn’t negotiable, and then actively recruit any out-of-market unicorns they find by contacting them directly and mentioning they can be flexible on location.

        1. fposte*

          But that’s two separate job searches when they can do just one, and it doesn’t hurt them to do it this way. I think this is akin to posting a range of $55k-$65 and offering somebody $55k–we’re sorry if you’ll only come on board for $65k, but we made it clear not everybody was going to get that, and that’s not what we’re prepared to offer you.

      3. MissDisplaced*

        Oh, I think they didn’t have any intent of ever offering it.
        If it wasn’t to be considered seriously (except to the proverbial Spotted Purple Unicorn), OP probably would not have applied for the job in the first place, or opted-out early in a phone screen if it was off the table. They wasted her time only to be told in interview #2: “they do prefer having someone in their offices.”

        It’s ambiguous language in a job posting. Better to leave it off if you’re not prepared to offer it to all candidates. You’ll still likely get non-local applicants, but people won’t automatically expect it.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Hmmm, I really disagree. I’m working on some hiring right now where we say this exact thing, and we 100% do mean it (and have followed through on it in the past), but nor are we going to offer it to every candidate.

          1. Hiring*

            As do I. I’m in the same boat that Alison describes. I 100% do mean it. I would absolutely do it some circumstances, but I also would not offer it to every/any candidate.

            I think you’re seeing a bait-and-switch that I don’t. LW wrote: “During my second interview, they asked if I’d be willing to relocate to their city. I explained that I’d rather stay put but wouldn’t want this to affect their final decision. They explained that they do prefer having someone in their offices.”

            It sounds like no one discussed it in any form during the first interview. The employer was probably still assessing in that interview whether this candidate was “worth” the risk of remote work. And at interview #2 they’d decided: it was unlikely they’d accept him/her as a remote employee. And it’s actually the applicant not being clear. This is the time to say clearly, “I won’t move, but here’s why I think I’d be great as a remote employee…” as Cordoba’s example below covers. LW could have pushed the issue earlier in the process, if they were concerned about time-wasting.

            For the employer, it would be a giant waste of time to include this in an ad if you had ZERO interest in allowing it to happen. I’m going to end up with a bunch of applicants who, even if they are great, are never going to accept my offer because they would only accept under the condition of remote work. You’d have to really think you were offering god’s gift to jobs to set yourself up to spend energy convincing someone to move who only applied because they thought they wouldn’t have to move.

        2. Observer*

          Yeah, and the only non-local applicants they are going to get are the ones who can’t read instructions.

          “For the right candidate” generally means “someone who REALLY wows us.”

    3. Val Zephyr*

      But they didn’t have zero intent of even considering a remote employee. The job posting specified that for the *right* candidate, they’d be willing to have someone work long distance. Obviously, the letter writer is not the *right* candidate.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I wouldn’t go so far as to say she’s not the right one BUT she has to sell herself a lot more. She was good enough to get her foot in the interview door at least. Now you have to explain your case.

        You can’t make them do anything but you can give them your requirements and try to convince them.

        1. Psyche*

          It also depends on who else applied though. She may be a great candidate, but they have a good candidate who is local. There may even be a better candidate holding out for remote work that they would go with if they decide no one local is good enough. It is just one factor going into their decision.

    4. WellRed*

      Eh, we recently hired someone remote that works across the country even though the actual job ad says, “this is not a remote position” (Old fashioned owner). She is well qualified and…we didn’t get any worthwhile local candidates so the hiring manager pushed for it.

  8. Cordoba*

    I was in a similar situation regarding telecommuting a couple years ago, and did convince the employer to agree to let me work from home. It has worked out very well so far.

    I think two things helped with this:
    -I made clear from first contact that I wasn’t willing to relocate for the job. This way it was not a surprise for them later in the process, and nobody was wasting their time. If LW is not going to move for the job I recommend they state that unambiguously now.
    -I let the company know that I’m willing to travel to field sites or to their HQ as often as is required to get our work done. I’m not based out of their office but I’m also not just a disembodied voice on the telephone, either. If LW is willing to travel 25% or whatever then they should bring that up a a compromise solution.

  9. Indie*

    Op2; it sounds like a group issue? I would probably make the point that people’s health information needs to remain private and aside from the obvious bit of lunacy – it’s not wrong to be sick – you’re concerned about the legality of pointing out which people struggle most health wise. Not everyone declares their health issues and what are they going to do if someone does? Leave them off the list or carry on shaming them?
    Go as a group unless you feel confident in your personal pull. You sound like a generally good employee who isn’t the target audience. If you express a concern about your future with the company and general right to take time off it might wake them up.

  10. disconnect*

    To me, the key part to OP1 is: “As a compromise, we agreed that I should email her my questions. I sent some typical questions I would ask anyone I meet for an info interview (volunteer opportunities, organizations to recommend, other people I should connect with). In response, I received an email from her saying that once again we would have to reschedule. In addition, she stated that because of her limited time, the only way for her to fit these kind of conversations in would be to charge for them.”

    So, you had some back and forth, some scheduling issues, and after receiving your list of questions, your contact decided that she would need to charge for this meeting. Is that correct? Because that actually seems like a pretty reasonable sequence of events. This is a common thing we tell creative people, that your time has monetary value, and you need to consider that when you choose to do some things, you can’t do others. To you and maybe many of your other contacts, your list of questions might have been easily answered. To this particular contact, not as much. Is it just this one person, and the other 99 you’ve talked with haven’t acted like this? Then you’re probably fine acting the way you are. Are you having similar difficulties with several other people? Then maybe you need to adjust your expectations.

    To put it another way, you did get some information from this particular contact. Maybe not what you were asking for, but unsolicited data are still data.

  11. LaDeeDa*

    Are informational interviews a thing? I have never done one, never heard of anyone doing one. The only thing close was a woman in my office had a daughter who was thinking of studying my field in college, so the young woman spent 1/2 a day with me so I could show her a few things I did and talk to her about education requirements.
    I have never had a recent graduate contact me.

    1. NeophyteFutureLawyer*

      I’m currently in law school, and informational interviews are definitely still a thing. They’re usually called “mock interviews” or “networking interviews”. For big law firms, they’re a way of starting to recruit before formal recruitment begins, and for individual lawyers, it’s usually to give advice and insight into a particular type of law.

    2. Same.*

      Really? Maybe it depends on the field or country? They’re incredibly common in my field. I’ve done several, on both sides now.

      1. LaDeeDa*

        It must be, I even asked a couple of people last night at an event with my professional organization, and none of them been asked either.

    3. GS*

      It can be super helpful to learn about career paths, areas of work you’re less familiar with but think could be a fit, etc.

  12. disconnect*

    Alison, how does OP1’s situation differ from what I think is your usual suggestion from the contractor’s side, i.e. if you have a client that’s taking more of your time, make sure you’re actually charging them for it? Or if you’ve been underpaid, or working in a volunteer position, and you’re willing to keep working for a client but you can’t do it for free anymore?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, the contact agreed to the meeting and the scope of what the OP is requesting hasn’t changed. So it’s different from a situation where the scope has greatly expanded or where a lot of time has gone by after the initial agreement and you’ve decided you need to change the terms in order to continue.

        1. GS*

          I also think that well connected people get frustrated when “informational conversation” turns into “can you help me get involved in x, y and/or x?”

  13. Samwise*

    Is #2 actually a wall of shame? I’ve worked in offices where everybody in the office is on a big board, with In/Out noted. Before online/shared calendars, but I have seen this in other offices still, so that it’s easy to tell who’s around. It’s especially helpful for reception staff.

    1. Approval is optional*

      I wondered the same. Certainly makes sense for sick leave. Makes a little less sense for ‘lateness’, but it’s possible that instead of meaning ‘Jane was late – bad Jane!’ , it means ‘Jane will be late today – just FYI’. If it’s going up after Jane has arrived though, it’s hard to see it as anything other than the first meaning.

  14. Gumby*

    #3 – Have you considered whether it is geography? Is your co-worker closer to the door or more easily visible? Would people have to walk past her to get to you?

    1. ssssssssssssssssssss*

      I was going to say the same as I was encountering the same issue except they were coming to see me first and coworker started to go green and whined about it. And I’m sure a big part of it was because they simply saw my desk first. Had they been on the other side of the floor, they would have seen her first.

      (That was half of it, I’m certain. But in the long run, quality of work and attitude also played a huge part.)

  15. Janet*

    Can we please put a moratorium on the phrase “real job”? I see it used when what people mean is “corporate” job, “white collar” job, “skilled” job, and it feels icky. Skilled, unskilled, high paying, low paying, corporate, retail, manual labor, yaddah yaddah…. these are all “real” jobs.

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      I translate the phrase “real job” as “job that is only obtainable by the very, very few privileged people who are sufficiently polished, educated, and connected enough to land a white-collar job.” More and more jobs in the IS, AFAIK, are in the service sectors, where going to the bathroom and taking breaks are privileges that can be withdrawn if there is not enough coverage and being late or sick is unacceptable.

      No, I’m not being sarcastic, Traffic Spiral.

        1. Janet*

          Yeah I see a lot of newish college grads writing in referring to their corporate jobs as finally being a “real” job. And it seems insulting to people who work non-corporate, non high paying, etc, jobs. I work a job they’d call “real”, but all the waitressing, nannying, interning, assisting, and scrubbing movie theater floors I did before that were much harder work than I do now, and were certainly REAL jobs.

  16. She's One Crazy Diamond*

    #3: I had this happen where I was the one everyone was going to, and they weren’t assigning work to my colleague. In our team members words, it was because she had very poor attendance and when she was around, wasn’t very friendly to interact with. She actually ended up being let go for her attendance issues eventually. I don’t know if this is the case for you, but I would definitely bring this up with my manager and ask for honest feedback. Especially if you were working there first, there is definitely some kind of reason.

  17. olives*

    Does anyone else find Inc. to be annoying to read articles on? The ad takes up half of my screen and moves when I scroll, plus there’s an ad that automatically plays video with sound when I load the page. I wish it was set up better because I love the content, just not the webpage!

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