coworker keeps making minor corrections to my work, using info from recruiters to negotiate salary, and more

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

1. My coworker keeps making minor corrections to my work

I am experiencing a weird feedback situation at work and don’t know how to handle it. One of my coworkers, Jane, frequently corrects me on how I’m doing my job. It will be small things, like nitpicking on how I answer the phone, and it is usually delivered in a condescending tone: “I don’t know if you know this…” or “I just want you to know we don’t do it that way around here.”

I have never received corrections on any of these things from our shared managers — quite the opposite. I have glowing reviews, am actively encouraged to move up, and have even specifically been told that I have excellent phone manner.

We have the exact same job and title. Jane has been with the company in the exact same department and office location for about 15 years. On the other hand, I have been with the company in two locations and three departments over the course of about a year and a half. Neither of us has supervisory responsibilities, and at our company, seniority doesn’t mean much unless you’re being considered for a promotion.

I’m not afraid of feedback — if any of our managers were coming to me with these concerns, I would take it seriously and adjust my behavior. But she’s not my manager, and I don’t answer to her! Am I correct in thinking that I don’t have to do what she says? Should I speak to her directly? Should I speak to our manager? I do my job extremely well and I just want the commentary to stop.

If you were absolutely sure she was wrong, I’d suggest saying something like, “Thanks, but I think my way is fine.” And then if it continued, “You’ve been giving me a lot of input on how I do my job, but I’ve talked with (manager) and she’s really happy with my work. I’d prefer you give me the same leeway she does.” You could add, “Of course, if something seems really serious to you, I’d understand you flagging that, but I’d think that would be very rare.”

But first it’s worth checking if she could be right about some of this stuff. The fact that your manager is happy with your work doesn’t preclude the possibility that she’d want you doing these small things differently if she knew about them. Or Jane could be completely off-base (and I’m inclined to think she is, just by your description). But it might be useful to talk with your manager and say something like, “Jane has been correcting me on things like X, Y, and Z. I think my way of doing those things is effective, but I wanted to check in with you to make sure there’s not something I’m missing.” Then, assuming your manager backs you up, you can use the language in my previous paragraph with confidence.

2. Employer stopped playing phone tag with my reference

I recently completed a second round interview for a job I was really excited about (according to the search committee, I was one of two finalists.) I know I probably shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up, but two days after the last full-day interview I had, one of my references told me they had gotten a voicemail from someone at the company about me. Later that day, my second reference told me they got a call as well. I was pumped.

Then a few days later, I found out I didn’t get the position. I reached out to my references to see what they thought of their calls and if there was anything they thought I could work on based on the questions they were asked. Guess what? It turns out that the reference they called first never even spoke to them! They left a voicemail like my reference said, and when my reference called back the next day he left a voicemail. His voicemail was never returned.

I don’t know what to make of this. Less than a week has gone by since my last interview. Could my reference not being available right away have cost me the job? I know it wasn’t either reference, especially if they never even spoke to the one. Why would an employee call a reference, leave a voicemail to call back, and then not even wait a day or two to call them back after one round of phone tag? I’m also incredibly embarrassed because now my references know I was being considered for a position and did not get an offer.

Part of me feels like I may have dodged a bullet, but I’m also incredibly disappointed in how things have turned out. I’m trying to figure out what lessons I can take away from this experience to make improvements for the next time.

The most likely explanation is that you were one of several finalists and in between the time they called your references and the time they would have called them back, they decided to hire one of the other people. They might have even already extended an offer to someone, but were continuing to keep the process moving with you in case that person didn’t accept. Or a really strong candidate emerged late in the process, or so forth.

So it’s not about your references not answering the phone immediately on the first call, but just about someone else ultimately being their pick. That’s nothing to be embarrassed over — it’s just a normal part of how hiring sometimes goes.

3. Can I use info from recruiters when negotiating salary?

I am preparing for an annual review next month and am looking for some advice about negotiating salary. I’ve been at my job about three years. I’ve performed well, been promoted once, and am generally fairly happy. However, during my last review, I did a lot of research via Glassdoor and other salary estimation sites to help guide what my specific role and title should be in my market. I suspected I was underpaid and those tools confirmed as much.

However, when I broached the subject following my promotion, I was told that those sites are unreliable and that my title doesn’t necessarily mean the same level of responsibility as it might at other area firms. That seemed fairly reasonable to me at the time, but since my title change, I’ve been approached by quite a few recruiters via LinkedIn, offering me those same jobs with salary ranges that affirm or exceed what I had asked for.

I haven’t accepted any of those jobs (they either weren’t a fit or I just didn’t feel ready to make a move). So, is it possible to relay this information during my next review and let them know that I have real evidence I’m being underpaid?

Ugh, it’s frustratingly true that those salary sites can be really off, but it’s also possible that your employer was BS’ing you when they said that, or that they’re just unaware of what the market rate really is. And your experience with recruiters lends more credence to those possibilities.

You could indeed raise this again, saying something like, “I know when we talked about this last, you weren’t sure the salary research I’d done truly reflected the market for my role and title. I’ve since been approached by multiple recruiters offering me similar jobs in the range of $X-$Y, which I take as really solid information about the market. I’m happy in my role and don’t want to leave, but I also want to make sure that I’m being paid in line with the market, so I’m asking you to consider bumping me to $__.”

Be prepared for them to ask questions about that — they might want to know that the roles you were approached about really are comparable to the work you’re doing now, and if they’re thinking about this rigorously, they’re going to realize that being recruited for a role isn’t the same thing as being hired, and the very reasons those jobs pay more might be the reasons you wouldn’t want them, etc. But if you’re confident that the data provides sound comparisons, this is reasonable to raise.

4. Recruiter sent me a long text about believing in myself after I withdrew

I recently interviewed for a position involving working closely with kids, and after gaining further information about the position, I decided that I would not continue applying. The company itself seemed great, but it was just the position itself that wasn’t working with what I needed. I got this text afterwards, and I’m not sure what to make of it:

“When a recruiter tells you off record that she’s willing to help you with your application because she believes you are a good fit for the team, it may not be the best time to not believe in yourself. There are no perfect candidates. Everyone has something that they could contribute, and I believed you could connect with the introverted kids more. Now, if you truly would like to withdraw from being considered as a mentor, I understand- but you lose nothing by applying. Don’t deprive yourself out of opportunities. Fake it until you make it. While I appreciate your candor, I am sad to hear and am hoping for your reconsideration, especially since I cannot guarantee any results, the director of the program gets the final say. Let me know.”

I appreciate the intent, but I’ve never seen something like this before. What are your thoughts on this?

It sounds like the recruiter assumed you were withdrawing because you didn’t think you were a strong enough candidate. Assuming you didn’t say anything that could be interpreted that way, it’s an odd assumption — and a little condescending. You could reply with something like, “I appreciate your encouragement, but I decided to withdraw because I’m looking for a role that’s more ____. I wish you all the best in filling the job.”

5. Hiring manager didn’t respond to my thank-you note — should I call her?

So I had an amazing interview last Wednesday. She said she was impressed with my questions, and I showed how excited I was to have the opportunity to grow on her team. She said she had a few more people to interview but I would hear back by the end of next week. Fast forward to the next week. I sent her a thank-you email on Monday and hadn’t gotten a response, so I called on Wednesday to confirm I had the email address correct. I was transferred to her office after I asked if she was available, and I was sent to voicemail. I am trying to figure out if I should call her again today, Thursday, or just wait for her to respond. Is she avoiding my calls because they decided to go a different way?

Do NOT call her again.

Most hiring managers don’t respond to thank-you emails, and you shouldn’t be concerned that you didn’t receive a response. It’s similar to gift etiquette, where if someone sends you a thank-you note for your gift, you’re not expected to then send them a thank-you for their thank-you because otherwise it would become an endless cycle of thanking. So it’s normal that she didn’t respond, and it will come across very strangely to call to check up on that — and multiple calls would come across as really aggressive and pushy.

If you hadn’t called, I would say that if you haven’t heard from her by a week after she said she’d be in contact, it would be fine to check in once by email (not phone!) about whether she has an updated timeline for when she expects to make a decision. But because you’ve already called once, I’d give it longer — maybe an additional week. (Really, though, if she wants to hire you, she’s not going to forget to do it, so the best thing to do for now is to assume that you didn’t get the job, put it out of your mind, move on, and let it be a pleasant surprise if she does get in touch.)

{ 248 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte*

    On #2: OP, there’s really no reason to be embarrassed that your references know you didn’t get the job. It’s a standard part of being a reference to give them more than once for people, and we really don’t assume the job is in the bag just because we got called for a reference. It sounds like you may be seeing this as a sure thing that went haywire, but it sounds to me like a normal job hire where you got beaten by a nose. Still disappointing for you, of course, but nothing to be embarrassed about.

    1. OP2*

      I definitely didn’t see it as a sure thing. However, I’ve been looking for a while and always been the bridesmaid but never the bride. In my industry I’ve never seen it done (by myself or by anyone else) where references were called if an offer was not about to be made. Generally we’ve only gone with the other one if something came up in those calls. In my case, both of my references are pristine (one is one of my best friends I’ve known since college and used to work with – I was in their wedding and know they would never say anything poor) and my other they didn’t even talk to. I just honestly don’t understand why they would bother to call if they didn’t care to even speak to them. If he had answered what would that have accomplished? While I never thought it was a sure thing, it certainly did get my hopes up though.

      1. Slanted & Enchanted*

        At my company, we usually call the final two or three candidates’ references. Often our finalists are quite close to one another, and the feedback from references can be very helpful in making a final hiring decision. All of this to say, I guess I’ve put people in your situation, where I’ve reached out to references and sometimes even heard glowing references, but then we didn’t hire that person.

        1. OP2*

          But in that case wouldn’t you actually hear out the references that you reached out to? That’s the part I’m struggling with. At least give him the opportunity to talk to you! (They were also really big in the interviews on working collaboratively with other departments on projects. He was from one such department when I worked with him.)

          1. DC Cliche*

            It’s very easy to drive yourself crazy playing out the what-if’s here. I’ve been there–there’s a separate Kubler-Ross scale for losing out on a job that you are sure you would have loved. My industry is smallish so sometimes I learn what happened later, sometimes I don’t; sometimes I learn that my boss would have been a monster, sometimes I find out they’re great; sometimes I end up working for them years later, sometimes I never hear about them again and they are a constant what-if in my mind. Unfortunately you may never know, or know if there’s something you could have done differently. Pin down whatever corners you need to pin down to give youself permission to grieve + accept + move on, but know that, like a relationship ending, the sooner you’re able to do so the better you’ll feel.

            1. JJ Bittenbinder*

              there’s a separate Kubler-Ross scale for losing out on a job that you are sure you would have loved.

              Ooof, yes. Especially when, despite all attempts to rein yourself in, you get hopeful about your chances.

              Been there, done that, in a much better job now.

            2. skarlatha*

              VERY true about the grief scale. I was once in a temporary position and interviewed for the permanent version of my own job, and I was literally told before the search started BY THE HIRING MANAGER that I was going to get the job and the search was a formality. Spoiler: I did not get the job. And I had to continue working in the temp position alongside the guy who did get it. I literally had to restart therapy over that because it aggravated my “not good enough” thought tendencies. I don’t think it would have hurt so much if the hiring committee people hadn’t told me I was a sure thing. (And also if the guy they hired instead hadn’t turned out to be unrelentingly awesome, which in a rational sense justified the decision but in my grief spiral just seemed unfair of the universe!)

          2. Observer*

            It depends on what happens with the other candidates. Say I’m on a short timeline and have 3 really strong candidates that I would be happy with, pending references. Why would I not call all three? On the other hand, say I call them all and then, while waiting for call backs for 1 and 3 I hear from #2’s reference that #2 actually has a skill we’ve been looking for, but weren’t explicitly asking for because it’s been so hard to find. I’m going to offer the job to #2 without going to #’s 1 and 3 – there is really no point.

            This, of course, is not the only possible scenario. But I could think of a lot of similar scenarios where it makes sense to reach out to the references of multiple strong candidates, but have things work out so that it doesn’t make sense to follow up because of the way things turn out.

          3. Kathleen_A*

            OP2, if there was no longer any reason to hear what your reference says (e.g., if they’d already made a decision to hire someone else), there was no reason for them to take up his time by calling him back. Certainly they could have, and that would have been fine, but not calling back isn’t a breach of etiquette or anything.

            Nobody did anything wrong here: You were obviously a very viable candidate, and congratulations for that – you have nothing at *all* to be embarrassed about; your reference did nothing wrong by waiting a short time to get back to your prospective employers; and your prospective employers did nothing wrong by ceasing their information-gathering once that information was, for whatever reason, no longer needed.

            As DC Cliche says, you can drive yourself crazy trying to figure out What Went Wrong????? The strong likelihood is that nothing went wrong. You just didn’t get the job this time.

          4. Carlie*

            If they were on a tight timeline, they might opt to not hear from all references – if they requested 3, but 2 out of 3 gave the same level of recommendation, they could easily decide that they won’t get anything more out of the third and not pursue it.

            1. uranus wars*

              THIS! When I was hiring full-time this was definitely a thing we did – multiple initial calls did not always mean we ended up talking with all 3 if we got what we needed from 1 or 2. And we definitely called multiple references concurrently if there were more than one potential hire in the group.

          5. Ethyl*

            OP2, you really need to let this one go, I’m afraid. We could sit here all day and say well yes they SHOULD have done this, they OUGHT to have done the other, it’s not best practice to do XYZ, but ultimately, you’ll never know. There are infinity reasons that the hiring manager didn’t call your reference back, and there’s a whole ‘nother infinity of reasons why you may not have gotten the job, and then a whole NOTHER infinity of reasons why you may still not have gotten the job even if they did speak to your reference. I think it would be much better and healthier for you to stop running this one around in your mind and move on to the next possibility.

            Also, there really isn’t any reason to be embarrassed, promise :)

          6. fposte*

            I wouldn’t if I knew it wouldn’t change the outcome.

            Here’s the probable math. There are two finalists; one is in the lead. They call the references on both, but if the references for the leading candidate checks out, they’ll go ahead and hire that person without waiting for the references on the second.

            You are, understandably, thinking of this from a candidate standpoint. They don’t know you as well without references! The other candidate got to contribute more data points than you did! But from a hiring standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to extend the process, especially with something as time-consuming as references, if they know they’re hiring the other person, and that good references for you wouldn’t change that.

      2. Holly*

        I know you’re not asking for advice on this, but did your best friend manage you or did you just work with them? Because you’re saying that’s a “pristine” reference, but in my field it definitely wouldn’t be if they did not manage you!

        1. DC Cliche*

          Oooh, agree here — I don’t think this is the cause of you getting rejected for the job (seriously, at all, see above) but I would take that recommendation as a hiring manager with a grain of salt, knowing how close you are personally. I met one of my best friends through work + + were coworkers and co-directors of a department for years + had her in my wedding + am her daughter’s godmother, and while she is super smart/respected we’re known to be yoga buddies. At this point her opinion is as valid as my grandma’s. As you go through the process of job-hunting that might be a thing to keep an eye out for.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I actually would reconsider using that reference! A good reference checker will ask how the person knows you and if the answer is “she’s one of my best friends and she was in my wedding,” they’re not going to sound like an unbiased reference. If she was your manager recently and can focus on that, that could work — but otherwise I think you might be better off with recent managers, who will be more credible.

        1. OP2*

          Good points. We actually were also coworkers for about 8 years too and worked very closely together on a number of projects at our shared employer. We were also on the board of a nonprofit together for many years and technically he was my supervisor on that as the president. Truth be told, I don’t put my managers as my references because they have been my managers for the past 11 years (and still are) so they are always covered in the “current supervisor”’section!

          1. OP2*

            As an aside I always mark off that employers are welcome to contact my supervisors if a finalist when that question is asked!

  2. MK*

    OP4, it sounds as if this recruiter offered to help you with your application? Which sounds very inappropriate to me, but that’s not the point. The message gives the impression that she is either afraid she spooked you into feeling inadequate with her offer or slightly miffed you didn’t appreciate her generosity. Either way, it might have been kindly meant, but the whole message reads condescending to me. Also, as I said, inappropriate: she should not be helping candidates get the job if she is an internal recruiter.

    1. Heidi*

      I’m still trying to figure out that last bit. Why would the recruiter not having the final say have any impact on the OP reconsidering applying? Is it because OP might still have a shot at getting the job despite having burned a bridge with the recruiter? It’s also weird that the recruiter says that the OP should believe in their abilities but also “fake it til you make it.” Fake it til you make it makes me cringe now that I’ve read the book about Theranos. I think I would probably just ignore this text.

      1. sacados*

        I read it as the recruiter is strongly encouraging OP to stay in the running — with the caveat that obviously the recruiter is not the one in charge of making the hiring decision so recruiter’s encouragement is not a guarantee that OP would get the job.

        Still tho, the whole text itself is definitely …. odd.

        1. Heidi*

          I think that makes the most sense considering the rest of the message, but it threw me that she used “especially” in that context, instead of “although” or something like it.

        2. Paulina*

          It reads like it started out as encouragement, and then got loaded up with buzzword salad. The recruiter comes across as overeager and doesn’t understand the OP. Or many (some?) introverts, if the text is meant to encourage one; if someone came across like that to me, I’d back away because I’d be concerned of getting run over by pushiness. Not that the OP should back away from this recruiter, just that it would be my initial reaction. I hate the “you are an introvert so I will flood you with extra-hard encouragement” approach, it makes my skin crawl.

      2. Kathleen_A*

        Yes, the way I read it is that the recruiter is giving a pep-talk. “You can do it, OP! Believe in yourself! Yaaaaaay!”

        But it’s so weird. I have to think that, as Alison suggested, somehow or other the recruiter got the impression that the OP was withdrawing out of timidity or a lack of confidence rather than withdrawing because she decided she didn’t want the job. While it’s being done partly out of kindness and partly out of a natural desire to earn that commission, it’s a pretty patronizing assumption.

        But what it mostly is is just weird.

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      I don’t think it’s inappropriate – recruiters will do that sometimes (they want to get the commission for placing you!). I think it can be part of the job, and while not frequent, nothing at which I’d raise an eyebrow.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, to me it sounded like the recruiter thought the OP could get the job — which means commission for the recruiter! (Assuming an external recruiter.) The recruiter is not thinking about fit from the OP’s side.

        1. Exhausted Trope*

          Exactly. Some recruiters operate outside a client’s best interests. I’ve come across a few who don’t care/ realize that the position does not suit. They just want to place someone asap.

              1. EH*

                Given the telemarketer-style autodialed voicemails I get deluged with whenever I’m jobhunting (and afterwards, until they update their scraped databases) make me verrrry unsurprised someone contacted a fish about a gig. Ugh.

            1. Gumby*

              I mean, yes, but completely legitimate people trying to be “creative” also put up ridiculous LinkedIn profiles all the time. (One of my former co-workers had “Senior Solid Gold Dancer” as his official title – on his business cards and everything – back in the day when that start up allowed people to pick their own titles. He was an excellent developer.) So I can see a recruiter looking at the skills, figuring the fish fooferaw was some inside joke or something, and reaching out.

              1. SusanIvanova*

                But it does explain why your completely serious LinkedIn profile gets so many pitches for jobs that are barely even tangentially related to what you’ve done.

        2. goducks*

          Yes. I don’t typically work with recruiters, but when I have, I have experienced this.
          I had a position I that used a recruiter to assist and told them upfront that the position was tricky to hire for due to the need for a unicorn, but that I’m willing to wait and find the right person, but that the reason I was even using a recruiter was that the position was tricky to hire for, but doable (I’d had previous employees who fit the exact role).
          After supplying several candidates that clearly missed the communicated requirements (which were even ranked by need to have/nice to have), tried to tell me that I didn’t really need what I needed, and that I really should hire one of the supplied candidates.
          Needless to say, I read between the lines that the labor extended was not going to yield sufficient profit for them on the fee, so I dropped them.

      2. MK*

        It’s absolutely appropriate if it’s an external recruiter, a.k.a. someone self-employed or an agency commissioned by the employer to find potential candidates. For some reason, I got the impression this was an internal recruiter, an employee of the company whose full-time job it is to recruit for them.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Even if it’s an internal recruiter, I don’t see how it’s inappropriate. Part of the job of recruiting is helping your hiring managers receive the strongest candidate pool possible. If you talk with someone who you think is a strong contender for the role, but you happen to know that the hiring manager has specific unwritten things they want in their candidates, it’s entirely appropriate to give the candidate a heads-up. It’s not giving “unfair” advantage so much as making sure a strong candidate doesn’t get overlooked due to minor things.

          I used to do recruiting at my org, and I helped a guy get hired because I’d spoken to him, he was a fantastic fit for what we were looking for, but while he did speak the language we wanted candidates to speak, he didn’t say so on his resume. So I asked him to add it to his resume and maybe mention it in his cover letter and send me updated versions before I passed his materials along to the hiring manager, because I would’ve hated to see us pass up this great guy over something small like that (and knowing that hiring manager, he absolutely would’ve pitched the resume because of that).

          I just…part of the point of having a recruiter do some of the hiring work is that you get someone with specialized experience in assessing candidates hand-picking the best candidates for you to choose from. They’d be doing the hiring manager a disservice by *not* coaching strong candidates that should be considered but might not be without the extra nudge.

    3. EddieSherbert*

      Yeah, it came across as condescending to me too. Honestly, I would be very tempted to reply “I’m not sure where you got the idea that I have self-esteem issues, but I actually withdrew my application because I am no longer interested in the role.”

      Soooo not replying would probably be the smart course of action in my case! Haha.

      1. designbot*

        yeah, along the same lines I was thinking I’d reply “I’m shocked by your assumption that I withdrew based on some feeling that I wasn’t good enough for the job; I withdrew because the job isn’t appealing to me.”

    4. Kelly L.*

      Yeah, it sounds really passive-aggressive to me. Like she’s actually mad that you withdrew, but she sugar-coated it so heavily that it’s barely comprehensible.

    5. Librarian of SHIELD*

      There’s definitely a vibe of “after all I’ve done for you!” in that message. As if OP is required to remain in consideration for a job they don’t want just because the recruiter offered extra help (and as if making OP’s application strong enough to get hired isn’t in the recruiter’s best interests as well).

    6. Lily in NYC*

      Recruiters often work on candidate’s resumes. I found this out the hard way when I showed up at an interview with my resume only to find out that the recruiter changed mine a bit and emailed it to them. I was pissed; they tried to make me seem lower-level than I was and removed anything that mentioned my promotions (it was for an EA job and I guess they wanted it to seem like I wasn’t just trying to get my foot in the door for a higher role). The company was annoyed as well (not at me).

      1. Lucy*

        Ugh yes – it’s been a while since I’ve been through this, but it’s why I reiterate the advice to take copies of your resume/CV with you to interviews. The interviewer may have a CV in front of them which bears only a passing resemblance to the real thing!

        “So tell me about your time as a llama herder at Llamas Be Us.”

        “… I’ve never actually worked there. I can tell you about my llama grooming experience at LLAMAS LLAMAS LLAMAS but in the meantime can I just give you this?”

  3. Emily K*

    LW #2, please don’t feel embarrassed that your references know you didn’t get an offer. Talented, top-tier candidates get passed over all the time because they were #2 or #3 out of a pool of hundreds of applicants, but #1 accepted the offer. There’s no shame in being a top-tier candidate who ultimately didn’t get the offer and I’m sure your references don’t think anything less of you for it. If they have done this for others before or have applied for a lot of jobs in their own careers they will know this is very normal!

    1. OP2*

      Thanks. I know I shouldn’t think anything of it, but it’s just not something I’ve ever seen in my industry. The other piece of this pie is also – I purposely didn’t put anyone from my current company in case something like this happened. Where I work it’s a gossip fest. It would have spread like wildfire that I was looking – and would have also spread like wildfire that I was passed over

      1. Save One Day at a Time*

        It’s so interesting that it’s common to only check references on the #1 top candidate in your field, based on all the reasons Alison has mentioned in past posts, references can do so much more than reassure you that they won’t be a bad hire. Maybe they started reading Ask A Manager and are changing the norms in the field.

      2. Ethyl*

        I want to reiterate though, since you do seem so very hung up on this, that even if this is Just Not Done in your industry (not offering someone a position after calling their references*), there are STILL infinity reasons why it could’ve happened just this once. Maybe there was a sudden hiring freeze, maybe the person you would be replacing negotiated a raise and decided to stay at the last minute, maybe they decided to go with an internal hire at the last minute because they didn’t want to train someone on their wacky out-of-date timekeeping system….

        *this is incredibly common elsewhere though, so maybe even in your industry it’s not quite as Not Done as you might suspect?

  4. Tequila Mockingbird*

    OP #5, definitely do not become one of the “stalker candidate” stories that are part of AaM archive legend.

    Once you sent your thanks, it’s out of your hands. Assume your message was received and that you’re under consideration and leave it at that.

    1. Ethyl*

      Yes, and don’t play the “I’m just calling to make sure I got your email address right” Gambit either — it’s awfully transparent! Just wait a week or a week and a half, send one (1) follow up email, and proceed as if you don’t have the job.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Yeah – it comes across as pushy *and* either not knowing how to confirm it, or think I’m not clever enough to know you could check that in other ways… either way, it’s not great.

        1. Pretzelgirl*

          Yes, I have interviewed a bunch of places. I think I have only received one or 2 responses to a thank you note in 10 years.

          1. Emily K*

            Same – for my current role (actually the one that preceded it but with the same company), out of the 3 people I interviewed with in the first round, one of them (actually my current boss, but not my manager when I was first hired) wrote back to my thank-you and I was actually really surprised by it! No previous role or anyone else from that round or the second round for this employer ever has.

        2. Washi*

          I think it comes across as particularly pushy because a hiring manager’s response to a thank you email would be something like “thanks for coming in, we’ll be in touch.” So…that’s what you so desperately need to track down? A thank you to your thank you?

      2. Antilles*

        It’s *especially* transparent if (as usual) the interviewer gave out a business card during the interview. You wanted to make sure my email address was right? Uh, do you not realize how business cards work? My email address is listed right there!

      3. JJ Bittenbinder*

        Yes, that and the “just calling to see if you got my email! Wouldn’t want it to be sitting in your spam folder.”

        I’ll give the OP a pass this time, as maybe they just didn’t know this and now they do.

      4. Michaela Westen*

        After my first interview with my current boss I wanted to send a thank you and realized I’d forgotten to get his email address, but I had the correct spelling of his name.
        I assumed/gambled his email was in the same format as my HR contact’s, and sent the note there and he received it. Yay!
        I suppose I could have asked my HR contact if that didn’t work.

      5. Emily K*

        Yep, email is pretty darn reliable these days. Emails don’t just disappear. Even if you got the address wrong, if you at least got the company’s email domain correct, there’s a 99.99% chance that it either 1) bounces back to you with a “mailbox not found” error or 2) went to the wrong person or to a catch-all that IT manages, and they in all likelihood forwarded it on to the right person.

    2. Delta Delta*

      Exactly. The point of the follow-up thank you email is to thank the person. The reader read it, felt thanked, and is moving on.

      Also, OP doesn’t know what the hiring person is doing, so things could be humming along at the appropriate pace, although it feels interminable to OP. Lemme give you an example. I have a weird situation now where I know someone hiring and I know someone who applied for the position. There was an interview 2 weeks ago. Hiree is nervously awaiting a response. I also just happen to know that interviewer is on vacation right now (yay facebook photos!). If hired had sent numerous emails and calls, they’d go unanswered because the person is gone and then would come back to bunny-boiler level correspondence. So yeah, don’t do that.

      1. Harvey 6-3.5*

        A long time ago, when I first entered government, I interviewed in November and didn’t hear anything, so I assumed I didn’t get the job. Then in March, I got a call asking if I could start in two weeks (which I did). While that is probably do to the really slow pace of government hiring, big companies can also be fairly slow if HR is busy with other issues, so just keep applying to interesting and appropriate places, and if the job comes through, great.

        1. always in email jail*

          ^This. I was coming here to say that government hiring is notoriously slow and can sometimes take literal months to receive an offer.

          1. Watry*

            3 months before I even got a call for an interview and another month while I completed the background process before the interview, and that’s county level. Two months later they wanted to move me to a different, full-time position, and that took another month with pushing from NewBoss and Grandboss. Later I heard from OldBoss and Grandboss that they frequently lost good candidates because of this, and were relieved to hear that I was still interested since I was a top candidate.

        2. Massmatt*

          And not just in government. Hiring almost always takes longer than anyone involved with the process would like, and of course it’s the person looking for a new job that is under the most pressure. One of the things that makes the job hunt so draining is situations like this where you did your best and you don’t hear anything. It stinks but it’s part of the process. Resist the urge to keep calling, emailing, etc, it will eat up your energy and most likely annoy the recipients. Assume you didn’t get it and move on. If you get an unexpected call for the next step (or an offer) it’s an unexpected surprise.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            I applied for my job in early March. I had my first interview with HR in early April. I had my first interview with my boss later in April. I had an interview with a corp. mgr. in May. I had my second interview with my boss end of May.
            At each step I followed up with emails. In each interview I mentioned I had interviewed at other places but this was my first choice and I hoped we could get through the process.
            Eventually I received a response to one of my emails – in late June – that they wanted to hire me!
            Then I had to wait a few more weeks for the next orientation class. My boss was as frustrated as I was. He said if it was up to him I would have started the next day.

        3. Holly*

          Same – I really wanted an internship, assumed I hadn’t gotten it, and MONTHS later got a call offering me the position.

        4. sheworkshardforthemoney*

          When I interviewed for my first govt job, I found out I was pregnant a few weeks later. I didn’t follow-up on the job, and when I was due to give birth I got a call offering me the job.

      2. CurrentlyBill*

        Also, the reason they are hiring is they are short-handed. The hiring manager may well be picking up slack because the opening means someone else is not there to do the work.

        The logical thing may be to fill that spot ASAP, but often “urgent” fires have to be dealt with that day and then new ones the next day.

        Processing the hiring process can wait a day. And then it waits another day as something else comes up. Before you know it, a month has gone by.

        Filling an opening would solve a lot of problems, but often it will not be the absolute top priority for a short-handed manager on any particular day.

    3. Sylvan*


      I’m a former editorial assistant. People who did this when editors were hiring usually did not get the job.

      It was also annoying for me, dealing with what amounted to phone spam.

  5. Zombeyonce*

    OP1, I have worked with this person before and it’s maddening. In my case and after knowing them for years, I realized they corrected me in things I was doing just fine (as confirmed by my manager) because they were trying to prove their worth and relevance because they were insecure.

    The insecurity was because they had been in the same role for many years without progressing. Even though they wanted promotions, they never earned them because they weren’t willing to out in the work to learn new skills that would make them promotable; they incorrectly believed that it was simple institutional knowledge that should earn promotions.

    I don’t know if it is the same for your coworker, but realizing this made me more able to shake off their comments (which never stopped even after using scripts similar to what Alison provided) and know I was doing a great job, and that their jabs said more about them than me.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        Thanks! It was one of my portmanteau Halloween costumes and I couldn’t let it go.

    1. Part-Timer*

      This was my thought as well. My experience has been that it is usually some level of insecurity that causes behavior like this.

      I have a colleague who does this — she makes small, negative remarks about how I don’t do things the way that they have “always been done” and seems to get annoyed by my enthusiasm for the work and the fact that our supervisors are always so excited to have me on a project. She is a good 20+ years older than I am and and has been working at this position for 5+ years. Due to my other experience and education, I was hired in at a rate that is almost as high as what she makes now. It is awkward because she does her job well, but doesn’t go above and beyond at all, so it is a little difficult for me to sympathize with her when she is microaggressive toward me. I think she has the same attitude as zombeyonce describes — that her institutional knowledge should count for more than it does.

    2. Batgirl*

      “I know how to stay in the same company and never progress! I know it all!”
      Yep I’ve met Jane too.

    3. Slartibartfast*

      I’ve worked with Jane twice. Both were insecure queen bee types sure that their way was the *only* way and personal preference was an excuse to not do things the *right* way. Jane one was early in my career and I had a lot of meetings with our kind but clueless office manager about division of duties and “getting along”, and I have turned down a recruiting offer that would have involved working closely with Jane 1 again. No amount of money would compensate for having her back in my life. But from dealing with her, I did grow a sturdy spine and was able to draw a line with Jane 2 about what works for her is fine for her, but I am happy with the way I do things and don’t intend to change my style to please her.

    4. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      I’m in a mirror position. I’ve put the effort in to learning new skills, actively developed systems to improve my higher up the chain but not my manager coworkers reports, but it’s my industry and system knowledge which disqualifies me (in my manager’s eyes at least) from a promotion that would advance me out of the team that relies on my knowledge. I’m at the point where leaving is the only way to progress
      (I wish I was imagining or misinterpreting this, but she all but admitted as much at our last one to one meeting)

      1. Sharon*

        I’ve been there. You basically made yourself too valuable in your current position to be promoted. It sucks SO bad!

        I’ve never gone so far as to have the bad attitude the OP’s coworker has, but I can sort of empathize with being stuck in one role. It’s actually happened to me throughout my career – either being too good to promote (early years) or missing some soft skills but my managers wouldn’t clue me into what (asking “what can I improve” being answered with “I don’t know”), after a couple decades, I just don’t really care anymore. So now I don’t go above and beyond, I just do my job. Not proud of it, it still sucks, but I just can’t deal with being taken advantage of anymore.

      2. Observer*

        Your manager is an idiot, and any company that allows this kind of nonsense deserves all of the turnover it gets.

        Go find yourself a better job somewhere else where you’ll be appreciated.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          So true. Instead of losing a worker’s expertise and knowledge to another department where they’ll improve the company, they lose that expertise and knowledge to a completely different company for good.

          1. Nessun*

            Yeah, my response would be, “Well, you have two choices – I can share my skills and knowledge within the context of a succession plan when I transition to a new role and new challenges, or I can share those skills and knowledge with a different company. You think about what you want, boss!”

      3. AKchic*

        I’ve been there. It’s depressing. It’s disheartening. At the end of the day, you have to stop thinking about the good of the company and start thinking about what’s good for you. The company doesn’t care about you. You’re a cog in the machine that benefits them. You can be replaced. Yeah, you leaving will gum up the works and slow them down a teensy bit for a while, but ultimately, they aren’t losing a whole lot of money with your absence. They will stay in business long after you leave, and if they don’t, they weren’t a company that should be in business to begin with.

        You, on the other hand, should be valued. And if you aren’t getting the compensation and recognition you deserve, why stay? A company that isn’t loyal to its employees isn’t worth sticking around for. Companies have lost that perspective.

        My former managers did. The c-suite folks loved me, wanted to keep me. However, every direct supervisor I had played ridiculous games. One thought I was a personal assistant and had grandiose ideas. The next one was a petty tyrant who still thought it was high school and played all the clerks off of each other and fed into the toxic gossip that was going around while pretending she was above it all. I was wage-capped and couldn’t advance. I was burnt out. So, out the door I went.

    5. Moray*

      And even if her “suggestions” are actually correct–if the boss would indeed prefer you say “good morning” rather than “hello” when you answer the phone or whatever–and even if she was the relevant person to give that advice, she still shouldn’t do it.

      There’s a reason we don’t nitpick those tiny things even when we’re right, because it will burn through goodwill in a flash.

      1. Lynn Marie*

        Interesting. I don’t think you’re wrong and it’s a good example of things that can be just slightly off and not horrible things to do, but the new person is oblivious and it can be tough to know when to speak up and when not to. I have been the Jane in the situation where the newer employee has insisted saying Hello is just fine when answering outside calls at reception, or using 5 or 6 different cool fonts of all different colors is a good thing to do to jazz up the boring commercial real estate brochures. And I’ve had it come back on me when I let the off behavior continue and 3 months later had the big boss call me in to say they’d overheard the new employee answer the phone with “Hello” and how could I have let that go on? Even when little things are not “wrong”, usually more experienced people understand they need to get a feel for the culture before they do the little things differently.

        1. Observer*

          Well, no. There is a difference between allowing the receptionist / main greeter use a greeting that is seen as sloppy by the boss, and nit picking two reasonably acceptable greetings for someone who is in a totally different type of position.

          By the same token, the issue with the brochures was not a minor thing and stepping in would not have been close to “nit-picking”.

          The issue here is knowing the difference between nit-picking and necessary feedback.

          1. Lynn Marie*

            But what if the person who is answering an outside line Hello (not necessarily a receptionist) or getting creative with the fonts clearly thinks you’re just a jealous old fuddy-duddy and lets you know your feedback is not welcome? These are both examples of someone I’ve dealt with that I was not a supervisor of but expected to keep an eye on. Yes, you can shrug and let them hang themselves eventually, but I have found that what works is to simply tell them not to do the “off” thing or what to do instead rather than preface it with “you might not know” statements that you to try to soften it but are probably part of what’s annoying them. They usually get it after a while.

            1. SusanIvanova*

              “You can confirm this with your manager/the style guide/the internal wiki”.

        2. learnedthehardway*

          That’s a situation where you have to push back with the boss and point out that you’re not the supervisor, and you don’t have the authority to make this junior person do what you tell them. You’ve brought up the issue with them, but this message is either going to have to come from their manager, OR their manager is going to have to inform them that Jane is their supervisor.

        3. LW1*

          LW1 here! Part of the reason why the phone thing bothered me so much: prior to this job, I worked in an admin role for 3 years where I was the sole phone-answerer in a formal office setting. My current workplace is much more casual about phones. (It also drives me nuts when people think it’s okay to answer “hello?” Yikes.)

          Her actual complaint was this: while I was wrapping up with a client, our department phone rang loudly and there was no one else around to answer it. I answered the phone in my usual polite manner and asked the caller if I could place them on a brief hold. She agreed, I sent my client on her way, and returned to the caller in less than a minute. Jane came to me later to say, “I don’t know if you know, but we don’t ever do that here. It’s rude to the caller.”

          I didn’t say it in the moment, but I disagreed both on the rudeness factor and that it’s something we don’t do (it’s not how I was trained on phones — at this job or anywhere else).

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            It’s super possible that Jane is way off base, but the fact that you have years of phone experience doesn’t really have anything to do with whether this particular place prefers you to do things a different way. I think it’s pretty common for places to have different procedures on how to handle juggling in-person clients versus callers.

      2. Washi*

        I’m not sure I totally agree with this! As a newbie, there’s so much little cultural stuff that is hard to pick up on, so a friendly note of “hey fyi the norm here is to use greetings and signoffs on emails and not just jump into the message” could be really helpful. I think the bigger issue is that those little bits of advice should peter out after someone has been with the company a few months, and they shouldn’t be very frequent. Like I have a new coworker right now, and I can’t imagine issuing more than a couple of hints total, much less what the OP is describing.

        1. Super Dee Duper Anon*

          I think a big part of it is knowing or understanding, objectively, whether the feedback is appropriate/necessary.

          Is it that you (generic) always say “Good Morning” because you think it sounds more formal, and you think that the role requires a certain degree of formality, and hey – boss has never told you not to say “Good Morning”, so you assume “Good Morning” is the only acceptable greeting OR have you had conversations with the boss about what level of formality is required for the role, and you overheard the boss tell someone else not to say “Hello” because they prefer “Good Morning”, so you have reasonable grounds to issue the correction or feedback unsolicited.

          My general rule of thumb is, if I can not very clearly explain (like with objective consequences or specific past experience) why I’m suggesting what I’m suggesting then I keep my mouth shut.

      3. HollyGen*

        I feel that a contributing factor to consider is whether or not this is solicited or unsolicited advice Jane is giving. I know in my own role, as a team, we will peer check each other’s correspondence to customers, predominantly as a final sanity check to catch those pesky typos etc before letters leave the office and the like, and this is frequently a point where changes to meet best practice might be picked up and highlighted.

        Our team manager doesn’t check our letters, so it will be our peers who would be highlighting “Hey, we abbreviate Teapots & Teacakes Inc as TTI, not TnT” or the like. It’s solicited advice in as much as the company expects us to ask for our peers to be critical of our output in these matters. That said, this is a two way street, and it’s just as likely the person whose letter I was checking this morning, will be checking my typos this afternoon

        It’s a bit different if Jane is just coming out with this ‘helpful’ advice unsolicited. If she’s passing judgement on things she’s overhearing being said; things the manager has as much opportunity of noting as she; then I agree she’s overstepping her bounds, and would look to follow Alison’s suggested scripts.

        Thinking about this, I do suspect Jane may be doing this less out of a wish to nitpick and be critical, but perhaps, given her 15 years in the role, she may consider herself an unofficial mentor, despite the shared job titles

      4. Michaela Westen*

        “There’s a reason we don’t nitpick those tiny things even when we’re right, because it will burn through goodwill in a flash.”
        And also because it doesn’t really matter if the phone is answered with “Hello” or “Good morning”. The important thing is it’s friendly and helpful.
        These nitpicky things are usually like that, and good colleagues and managers understand this.
        Does anyone remember the corporate restaurants where hosts and servers were required to say a certain script to each customer? It was so ridiculous and could easily be inappropriate to the situation. And customer service phone workers also. I wonder if any of them still do that, I haven’t seen it in many years.

    6. Librarian of SHIELD*

      It’s not always just the institutional knowledge they feel should be rewarded. OP says Jane’s been in the same position for 15 years. I’ve worked with a lot of people who feel that their loyalty in staying with the company and department long term should qualify them for more raises and promotions. And I get that, on some level. It sucks that workplaces don’t really prize or reward reliability and steady competence. But I’ve worked with so many people who don’t realize that to get promoted, you don’t need to show how good you are at your current job, you need to show how good you’d be at the next job.

  6. Blarg*

    #1 — this behavior can also turn to bullying. Which you excuse because you feel badly that you, the newer/younger person, are seeing success, getting good reviews, etc. Maybe that’s not what’s happening here. But it sounds eerily similar to a situation I had that got super toxic partially because I downplayed it and made excuses for her. I finally realized that she was just mean. And I couldn’t make her happy. And it was freeing. Then she retired. That was even better. Good luck!

    1. Life is Good*

      I was the defender of a Jane in my last job. She watched over my shoulder all the time and “reported” anything she felt I was doing wrong to upper management. Unfortunately, upper management would let that stuff go in one ear and out the other, without actually confronting her. I eventually became her manager and never had the authority to make her behave and, to get along, even adopted upper management’s style of ignoring shit that was fireable. I’ve since left that position and she is still doing the same job she’s done for 25 years and still offending/bullying/nit-picking everyone else on the team. Because she is a top performer, she gets away with it. OP1 be cautious as Alison says, since you don’t want to make false accusations, but also take care to not be roped into the type of situation I eventually had to leave.

    2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      Yes. I had a Jane at one of my previous jobs. She was in a “point person” sort of role, unofficial manager. She was constantly correcting me, and it turned out she was training all the new staff incorrectly. She just didn’t have a firm grasp on the rules, regulations, and best practices of our field. She was also a huge bully and was responsible for a good number of new people quitting, because they didn’t make it into her in crowd.

      I’d be concerned Jane is a saboteur.

  7. Oilpress*

    This was one of my favourite things I have read on this site:

    “…if she wants to hire you, she’s not going to forget to do it…”

    I am of the opinion that post-interview, candidates should just leave it alone. Anything they do will only hurt their chances or have no effect.

    1. Lena Clare*

      Yes definitely!
      I wonder if even 1 ‘thank you’ email is a convention everywhere but the UK? Or are they private company conventions?
      I’ve always worked in the public or third sector and never had an opportunity to send a thank you email. I’ve also recruited in the public sector and not received any thank you notes afterwards – which I didn’t expect.

          1. JJ*

            It’s actively not a thing in the UK to the extent that I would absolutely never send one.

      1. Pat*

        Yeah, it’s been clarified before that thank you notes are really only a US thing, but since this is a US site it’s up to individuals to figure out if the advice here applies to the situation in their own country.

        1. Lena Clare*

          It sounds like you’re saying that readers should have read all previously similar questions and answers before posting here, particularly if they’re not from the US, in order to familiarise themselves with potential differences?

          If I’ve got that right, that’s a big (and unrealistic imo) expectation. I thoroughly appreciate everyone who take the time to give an answer to questions that have been asked before!

          1. always in email jail*

            It sounds like you’re saying that Alison should write a country-by-country caveat to all of her advice explaining the ways it may be different in other countries, which is also a big (and unrealistic) expectation? That’s the only alternative I can think of to readers double-checking that the advice applies to the social norms of their culture.

            1. Beehoppy*

              No, I think she’s just saying it’s unreasonable to criticize her for not knowing that question had been asked before.

          2. Yorick*

            Uh, no? It sounds like Pat is saying that there’s an earlier discussion on this, so you can go find them in the archives if you’re interested in reading them.

          3. Antilles*

            I think that’s an overstatement of what Pat’s saying – really, what they’re suggesting is that you need to think through the advice and evaluate how to adapt it for your particular situation. Which is applicable even if you are in the same country – even here in the US, there’s all sorts of industry-specific and company-specific quirks that you should think about and decide if they affect the way you put Alison’s advice into practice.

          4. JSPA*

            “Figure out” includes “ask.” As here. Which is fine. The search function also works surprisingly well, so a quick search of this site is a great starting point.

          5. biobotb*

            I really didn’t see this in Pat’s comment. I read Pat’s comment as saying that readers who are not in the U.S. should take into account that AAM is written with a U.S.-based perspective and take that into account when considering if or how to apply her advice. Which they should, as she cannot know about all the conventions in all other countries around the world.

  8. Jo*

    OP 5, it sounds like the interviewer had a positive impression of you – don’t counteract that impression by chasing things up unnecessarily. I agree that the lack of a response to your email is normal and I’d leave it alone for now. Fingers crossed that you are successful (and if you are, you’ll hear about it without having to follow up!)

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I agree with this. I am a hiring manager, I have lost count of the number of people I’ve interviewed in the past year, and I do not send responses to thank you emails unless they have additional questions about the job in them.

      A thank you email is not to start a conversation with a hiring manager, it’s a professional formality to express appreciation for their time to discuss the position with you and, if appropriate, reiterate your interest in it. I’d find it weird that someone followed up with a call to make sure I got the email.

  9. Katie*

    OP #4, Let’s not forget that recruiters also make their money off placing people. I think that it sounds condescending and to be honest, I feel like it may be an effort at manipulating you. You didn’t say you didn’t believe in yourself; you said you didn’t think it was a fit. You are interviewing companies in this process also!

    I once had a recruiter send me a long email after I told them I was considering an offer I had through peers and I didn’t think I should proceed with Company B interview process to second stages, as I didn’t find them a good fit. They trashed Company A (side note, I went with C), said I wasn’t valuing my career by not continuing on etc etc. I replied politely about fit and they continued on about how they knew best, so I finally ended it by saying best of luck I think we may have different goals for my career. It was very unprofessional and I completely believe they were responding to the loss of commission. They have reached out to me a number of times since and I have declined to work with them.

    Only you can know if a position is right for you and you don’t owe recruiters anything except honesty and professionalism. I have worked with great ones and terrible ones.

    1. T. Boone Pickens*

      I get the impression that the recruiter in OP #4 is an internal recruiter vs. a third party one.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        I assumed it was an external recruiter, but I could see it being an internal one too. Either way, their message does seem condescending to me. I personally would change my reply a bit though if it’s an internal recruiter – especially since OP liked the company (just not the role).

    2. Batgirl*

      I honestly got quite the flashback to being negged by guys in bars in the nineties. “You should be more confident! You’re almost pretty!” I was always baffled and slightly concerned for them and their terrible social skills because I had no idea what they were doing.
      (I have no idea why I don’t get negged any more. Either it’s out of fashion or I have perfected my wanker-radar and steely eyed glare).

  10. MommyMD*

    I think that recruiter really wanted that commission. That entire email rings false to me. Too long too personal and too pushy. I don’t think it’s sincere.

    1. Massmatt*

      Too long and kind of all over the place. It mentions being a mentor, not clear on whether this was the job or this was something the recruiter was offering. And what kind of recruiter say “fake it ‘til you make it”? Wince.

      1. JSPA*

        If its internal, I’d wonder if a) they’re projecting b) they’re tone deaf c) they’re natural neg-ers and d) they’re rough to work with. Either way, I’d probably add some generally pleasant statement, especially if in a small field or smaller city / town. A “thank you for the good intentions / the specifics don’t however apply here.”

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Yeah, a recruiter who tells you to fake it ’til you make it is a recruiter who wants the commission for you being hired and doesn’t particularly care if you’d be good at or happy in the job. They get paid if you get hired and they don’t really care what happens to you after that.

      3. Ethyl*

        Yeah, it was REAL weird, right? Like, encouraging but negging, then the whole thing about not being the final say or whatever?? It was weird, LW! Really weird! Just ignore it I guess and figure it’s a bullet dodged!

  11. MommyMD*

    Give hiring staff TIME to get back to you. It’s a major turn off to be pushy and may cost you the job. You don’t respond to a thank you note with a thank you note. These people are BUSY.

    1. JulieCanCan*

      It’s like when a friend asks if I got her thank you card. Yup, sure did. Was I supposed to thank you for your thank you? How many rounds of “thank you” are we going to have before it can come to a stop? I mean, by her estimation this game will literally never end and I’ll be thanking her for her thank you which was thanking me for a thank you which was thanking her for her thank you to me and so on and so on and so on….


  12. boo bot*

    With #4, even if I had withdrawn because I didn’t feel like a strong candidate, I would make something up just to discourage that kind of nonsense in the future.

    1. Marthooh*

      Hah! I’m not sure someone like this can be discouraged, though. The whole message was such a combination of passive-aggressive pouting, condescension, and general WTFery. “After all I’ve done for you! You just have to believe in yourself! Especially since it’s not like I have the final say here!”

  13. Detective Amy Santiago*

    LW #1 – It’s also possible that Jane is afraid that your boss will want her to start doing things your way and she’s resistant to change. I’ve run into that in my position. I started a year ago and I’ve suggested several process improvements (which is highly encouraged in my org) and my Jane that’s been here for 20+ years hates it because “we’ve always done it this way”.

    1. irene adler*

      My philosophy: I’d value having a process changed/updated/improved so that it becomes easier or more efficient or makes for less work for others. Hate waste.

      Yeah, there is comfort in doing things “like we’ve always done them”. But it is unrealistic to expect things to stay the same. Change is a part of life. So be open to it. Ask for support or coaching to make for a successful transition to new methods, if needed.
      Poor Jane is going to be left behind when the world passes her by.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      This is what I thought too! Seems like it has a lot to do with resistance to change on Jane’s part and very little to do with how OP works.

    3. Mockingjay*

      I have a Jane, too. Been there forever, uses very manual, ineffective processes and refuses to learn anything new. The program has grown exponentially in the last few years, which is when I came on board. I was picked to be part of a pilot project to implement a new process using toolsets and databases. The new process incorporates the main elements of her process, just faster and more transparently. New process has now been rolled out across the entire program.

      She is NOT in my reporting chain, although she thinks she is. Every few months she sends out a passive-aggressive email copying my supervisor and grandboss, sweetly accusing me of not following process. I have to respond and explain, once again, that yes, New Project X follows the process, here’s the screen shot proving it, blah blah. I have provided info, training, whatever is needed for her to understand how to move forward. Nope. I should add that she does this to anyone who she perceives to be a threat – that is, outperforms her.

      I honestly don’t think she’ll be there much longer. She has been dropped from meetings and involvement with the customer, who is fed up with her inaction. She’s so busy pointing out errors she hasn’t done her own work.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        My Jane is counting down to retirement so I just have to wait her out.

        The good news is that our management team is very open to change and likes my ideas. Several have been implemented already. The other person in our department is also appreciative.

        Interestingly, I was offered a lateral move to the other function our team provides and part of the reason I declined is because that position works closely with Jane and I know that I’d run into a lot of “but that’s not how we do it” and I don’t need that in my life.

      2. irene adler*

        I work at a very small company (less than 20 people). Your Jane would be out the door in minutes. We do not have resources to spare to tolerate such nonsense (i.e. expecting other employees to justify their work as you have had to do, “refuses to learn anything new”).

        This mindset- “refuses to learn anything new” – just astounds me.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          As a person with a chronic health condition, I’ve encountered several doctors who won’t accept new information – like the type of allergies I have which has not been fully addressed by the medical establishment.
          The whole medical industry is rife with it. It holds us back by decades in which we could have been moving forward and helping more patients.
          I don’t know if this is helpful, just mentioning it.

          1. dealing with dragons*

            gotta love the condescending “oh so you’ve googled it”

            yeah well y’all told me it was in my head for 10 years

            1. Michaela Westen*

              Don’t you *hate* that? Every time they’ve said my symptoms were from stress, I was able to find a physical cause for it!
              If you tell me it’s stress without doing tests, doctor, I will walk out of here and not pay you. Ha.

    4. Ammonite*

      I’ve also run into this, but the Jane in my case was resistant to change because of a previous boss who had made her fearful of doing anything wrong- where “wrong” means “anything that is not the way I was personally instructed to do it.”
      Apparently the old boss would freak out and scream at people over the smallest process changes, so Jane learned to address any tiny little difference as a huge problem.
      My approach was to politely explain my actions and gently question her critique, i.e. “I answered the phone with ‘Hello’ instead of ‘Llamas R US Incorporated, Blanket Division, Ammonite Speaking,’ because I had a scheduled call with George and I saw his name on the caller ID. Can you help me understand why it’s a problem in this particular case?” The key is to do this snark-free and genuinely listen to her answer. It worked over time and helped her realize what things had good reasons behind them and what things didn’t.

    1. OP2*

      Hi I’m OP 2. It’s just a gut feeling I have. I’m in a service industry and am in a saturated area. This is was one of the smaller companies in the area. During the interview they mentioned a few times how small their budget is. This is fine for me from a “doing my job” standpoint – I’ve never had a large budget to work with and have always been able to be creative and do a lot with a little. But after the interview I started to do some research on Glassdoor about the salaries here and almost every review said they were severely underpaid and there were little chances to move up. Last year I withdrew myself from consideration from a similarly situated company – that one mentioned salary at the beginning of the phone interview and it was about $25k less than the job I would be leaving for a much bigger job.

  14. always in email jail*

    OP#5 Alison’s comment that the recruiter won’t forget to hire you if she wants to is so perfect! I promise, hiring managers are busy. This is just one thing in a pile of many that they have to prioritize and deal with every day. Also, I would be a bit alarmed by the “just wanted to make sure I had the right email address” gambit… I would be concerned that you would be sending passive aggressive emails to partners, and it’s a bit off-base to expect a response to a thank you email. If you’re fresh out of school and it’s an entry-level job I’d probably let it slide absent any red flags.

  15. quirkypants*

    OP#3 – just commenting on this:
    “I’ve been approached by quite a few recruiters via LinkedIn, offering me those same jobs with salary ranges that affirm or exceed what I had asked for.”

    As both someone who has been recruited and someone who has used recruiters to fill positions, I will caution you that getting a call from a recruiter isn’t the same as being offered a job so I’d check your language if you present this to an employer. I’ve been called by many recruiters for AMAZING sounding roles and wasn’t even selected by the firm for an interview, I’ve also gotten resumes from recruiters for a position I’m trying to fill and the person doesn’t have nearly enough experience. Depending on the role, I don’t even move forward with interviews for 50% of the candidates who are sent to me.

    It’s promising and always feels good to get these calls but they are 80% of the time a waste of time, in my experience.

    The other factor to consider is, would you even take this job? Many of the recruiting calls I get from are in sectors I’m not interested in (i.e. oil and gas, automotive, or something boring [to me] like office equipment), from companies with high turnover, and/or in undesirable locations.

    Use the information you have from these recruiters to start a conversation but consider what your next move might be if they say, “We can’t (or won’t) pay you what ABC Office Equipment will pay you.” Would you consider leaving? If so, you can play that card but know they might take you up on it! And there’s no guarantee anything will even materialize with ABC Office Equipment.

    1. hbc*

      Yeah, and I’ve been on the receiving end of the salary negotiations where it’s “someone wants to pay me $X, that’s what I’m worth here.” A couple of times the person was qualified, but there was a good reason to pay more–worse benefits, third shift, an industry where massive layoffs are common, etc.. Most of the time, though, it was more a matter of matching titles rather than responsibilities. The Warehouse Manager at a major fulfillment or manufacturing plant is going to make a lot more than the one at our dinky facility that gets three trucks a day.

      So OP, just make sure you’re bringing in true comparables. If you do and management doesn’t listen, you’ll probably have to prove it to them by getting that better paying job.

    2. Spreadsheets and Books*

      It’s also worth noting that the salary ranges mentioned by recruiters as a part of cold contact aren’t necessarily in line with what a company is willing to actually pay. Sometimes those numbers are artificially inflated to look attractive to candidates or those numbers are actually total compensation including things like a 401k match. Unless you actually get to the end of the process and have an offer in hand, using a recruiter’s numbers from a random LinkedIn message doesn’t really mean much.

    3. Been There*

      Additionally, having been in this position myself, I would be wary about pushing too hard. I was underpaid in OldJob by about 20%, and when I pushed for a raise using similar language to what AAM recommends, along with research and data backing up my request, I was told “we pay 15% less than industry standard across the board and we can’t help you” and then a month later was fired without cause. (For the record, I was more than qualified for the raise I was requesting, and received it when I moved into CurrentJob. Same position, same responsibilities, better pay)

      I was looking for a new position at the time but it was still a shock. My advice to OP3 would be to figure out if you’re ready to move on, and then do so.

      1. OP #3*

        OP here – appreciate the feedback. My experience that I’m considering citing isn’t just with any recruiter – it’s firms in the same industry and the same market, with the position being the same title. In each case, I’ve talked to the recruiter and/or the hiring company and confirmed that the responsibilities are the same as my current role (if not less in a couple of cases). I can’t speak all that well to benefits or other perks as I haven’t advanced that far for a variety of reasons.

        I think the main issue here is that my current firm has traditionally operated in a submarket (think South Jersey vs. Philly or Inland Empire vs. LA). In the last two years or so, we have acquired smaller companies and really expanded our footprint, to where most of our employees are now working out of our big city office. We are essentially now a major market firm that wants to continue paying like a secondary market firm.

        AAM feedback was helpful but I’m worried about conveying all of this without seeming like I’m either making a threat, or that I’ve already been fully engaged in seeking another job (which is sort of half true).

        1. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

          That actually makes a lot of sense. I think in time that your company will catch up to their new reality, but right now they just aren’t there yet. Do you know if any of the employees from the acquired companies kept their old salary bands? Also do you know what those salary bands were?
          That may also help you get at least a part of what you want.

          1. Lucille2*

            Checking on the salary bands of the acquired employees is a good point. OP might not feel comfortable asking peers what they make (I know I wouldn’t), but HR might be able and willing to provide salary band information. Of course, if the cost of living in the acquired company’s market is significantly different than the OP’s, it might not be useful information. In a large organization, HR will typically keep tabs on market salary bands. In an industry or market where this is changing rapidly, new hires will reap the benefit whereas tenured employees will fall behind unless their manager has the budget to sufficiently cover raises.

            I’ve been on the manager side of this, and have been in many conversations about strategies for bringing an underpaid employee into the current pay band without skimping on someone else’s well-deserved raise. Sometimes the manager really wants to give the raise, but they may not have budget approval to do so. OP should still raise the issue. The threat of losing good people might give the manager some leverage to get budget approval.

          1. OP #3*

            Thanks everyone. I know that I am valued at my company so I’m optimistic. Just trying to be graceful in how I approach this.

        2. learnedthehardway*

          It sounds to me that perhaps you ought to be seriously considering some of these other opportunities. I mean, do your homework and make sure that the role you accept is with a great company that pays you what you deserve.

          It may be the wake up call your current company needs on compensation. (I am NOT suggesting you accept a counter offer, if that is presented to you. That’s generally a bad idea, because the company already knows you’re one foot out the door, which means you are probably on the top of the list for employees to let go if business goes south).

        3. AKchic*

          I think you should honestly be entertaining some of these other offers. Your company knows it can get away with lowballing you and gaslighting you as it has already, so why should they pay you what you’re worth (that’s their mindset, not mine)?
          They may not even try to meet you halfway until you’re actually giving your notice, so please, polish that resume and start looking elsewhere.

    4. epi*

      I didn’t read the OP as thinking that being recruited in itself gave them leverage, so much as the new source of salary information that backs them up. I agree with you that often there is a reason that job is using a recruiter, and a reason the OP didn’t want the job, that should make the OP think about how highly to value this information. Still, if their good faith efforts to research salary are consistently turning up job descriptions or titles similar to the OP’s, but that make more than the OP does, that pattern is information in itself.

      If there is something about the OP’s title that makes it uniquely hard to research salary, maybe that is something for them to bring up to their boss as well. I used to have a title that normally meant something different in my industry and it was a huge pain. It made it very difficult to research salaries and explain to people what I did, because the standard title was actually one level above mine at my organization– so I had to be careful not to sound like I was just inflating it. I still get recruiter emails based on a misunderstanding of that title and I wish I had brought it up more strongly while I held it. I know it influenced others to leave sooner, as well, if they didn’t see a prospect to get promoted out of that title soon.

      1. OP #3*

        Thanks. You’re correct that I’m not using the simple fact that I have recruiters in my inbox as leverage. I recognize a lot of them cast a very wide net and receiving these inquiries doesn’t mean much on its own.

        This is more based on the fact that I’ve received 4-5 inquiries about positions that have essentially the same title and responsibilities as my current role, but had no problem offering $10-20K more in base salary as a starting point. My potential argument is really based on the pattern that’s become evident here.

  16. JJ*

    #1 I have occasionally said this to a colleague whose manager trained them wrongly. Never a running commentary though!

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Definitely worth asking the manager. For me, I find myself wondering about the phone. Is OP saying “this is name at company how may I help you?”, or “this is $Name”, just “h’lo”, or reading the name of the incoming caller and skipping to the reason that person is returning the call? I’ve heard all… and in some cases it makes a difference. OP if you read this, I’d appreciate it if you’d satisfy my curiosity…even if it doesn’t change my agreement with Alison.

      1. LW1*

        Hi, it’s LW1! More details in a reply to the first comment on my question. I do plan to go to our manager to check in.

  17. Pretzelgirl*

    #4- I’ve worked in recruiting off and on. This does not surprise me in the least. Often times recruiting agencies will appear to take it personally if you do not accept a job offer, obtained through them. They will give candidates a hard time and often “black ball” them for future opportunities through their agency.

    I also went through an interview process with a recruiting firm. I was offered the job, but turned it down for another opportunity. The recruiter was very upset with me and took it extremely personal. They were not shy about showing it either. Even though their role is HR related, often times these people are purely sales. Their pay depends on it. Turn over is very high (in my experience) at recruiting firms. This is likely why you received this message.

  18. Blue Bunny*

    #3 In my experience, if a company keeps insisting that their rates are competitive and won’t hear evidence to the contrary…you could have dispensation from the Job Pope, and it still wouldn’t be good enough. They are invested in believing that their pay is “right” and you aren’t going to convince them otherwise. I’ve provided pages of spreadsheets, pie charts, and government-verified data with matching NAICS codes to back up my salary research, and it just did not matter. Leaving for better money is the only thing that works.

    1. OP #3*

      Yeah that’s my overall feeling based on the response I got during my previous review. As I mentioned in a previous comment, I think the issue is really that my firm has traditionally operated in the suburbs and submarkets, but we’ve really expanded to where we now have big city clients and the lion’s share of our employees are working out of an office in Midtown Manhattan. I don’t believe our wage scale has changed to match our expansion/evolution, so there are some growing pains I’m trying to navigate here.

      1. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

        I will just say be careful to make sure that any cost of living adjustment isn’t also part of what you are looking at. Some places do base salary and then add in a cost of living bump.

  19. Samwise*

    #1. Jane may be insecure or maybe this is just the way she is. You could shut it down as AAM suggests, but it may strain your interactions with her. If you can, think of her “suggestions”as a very minor annoyance — a fly buzzing past now and then. My go to response for unwanted, annoying, and petty corrections (learned this trick when I was pregnant): in a suuuuuper cheery tone say, Why, thank you, Jane!! I’ll keep that in mind!! And then ignore the suggestion.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      I think a reallllllly key part of #1 though is what Alison suggested: confirming with the manager first. It’s entirely possible OP1 is doing things “close but not cigar” in ways that because she’s new she views as minor and nitpicking, but that minor difference may actually matter. Jane’s not going about her “corrections” in an effective way because she’s coming off as controlling and nitpicky, but it is possible she’s not wrong. I’ve been a peer trainer many times and had new people do something (or for example, use language) that they viewed as equivalent, but mattered to the higher ups, be it for branding reasons, or clarity, or contractual obligation where substituting what the new person thought was a synonym was not-ok. In my case, of course when I corrected them I explained why it mattered (and it was more than “this is how we’ve always”). In those cases though, after ignoring the corrections from me, they later got the same from their supervisor, which hasn’t happened yet to OP but doesn’t mean it might not. That’s why it’s important to confirm with someone else higher up if these “corrections” are actual small-but-relevant differences or if it’s just Jane being a jerk. There’s no way to know yet.

  20. Amethystmoon*

    OP#1, it really, really depends on the job. Things like phone answering should only really matter that much if one is in a receptionist, customer service, or phone sales type of role. As for minor errors, they can really matter in certain situations. For example, in a past job, I worked in ad data entry and proofing. Our ads had to be 100% perfect. There could be no typos or other minor errors. We went through an extensive proofing process for that reason. I also once had a job doing data entry on new item codes. You had to have certain things done perfectly, especially the UPCs, classification, and item sizes, or they wouldn’t ring up properly and they wouldn’t show up in reporting properly. So it depends on what you’re doing. There are some kind s of jobs where minor mistakes are not tolerated.

    1. Observer*

      Yes, but it this were a job where typos where NOT acceptable, OP wouldn’t be getting glowing reviews while making typos.

      So, there is good reason to believe that whether or not Jane is technically correct, the corrections are still not a big deal.

      1. Me*

        It’s weird to be defensive about typos. Everyone makes them. I always have someone review any work that is going to bee seen by other eyes, precisely to look for typos.

        Typos as a general rule in the business world make work look sloppy. I’m failing to see why someone catching typos would not result in a simple – hey thanks for catching that.

        1. Name Required*

          There are good-natured corrections, and then there are passive aggressive ones. Everyone makes typos, and sometimes they really aren’t important. Many typos, or typos in the wrong situation (like external facing documents) are sloppy. No one typically thinks less of a professional for making an occasional typo in a low-stakes situation (like an internal email announcing leftovers in the kitchen).

          It would be good-natured if a coworker told me that the PowerPoint I intended to present to a client tomorrow had a typo in it. It would be passive aggressive if a coworker pointed out a typo in my Slack message asking where I can find extra notepads.

          1. Me*

            Valid point. My assumption is that if it’s something Jane is seeing than it’s likely others are as well, but if it’s an informal interoffice communication only then you’re correct it’s unnecessary.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        I am a little confused about the glowing reviews if they’ve only been there for a year and a half. Do they get reviews more than annually?

        1. Oh So Anon*

          If OP’s new to the organization, they probably had at least a review at the end of their probation period in addition to whatever annual review cycle everyone else is on.

          1. LW1*

            Correct, Oh So Anon! I have technically held 3 different roles since being with the company and have received “new role reviews” after the probationary period for each.

  21. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP 5 – I hope you take Alison’s advice on this. The hiring manager had no reason to contact you – that’s not how thank you notes work! Calling to ‘just make sure’ you had the right email doesn’t contribute to a polished professional image, either. I’ve been on the receiving end of countless ‘just making sure’ or ‘I just need some information’ messages, and the candidate is almost never a good choice. Please don’t plant that suggestion for yourself!

    The way to ‘stand out’ is to be a true professional. Show that you understand the rhythm of hiring by being restrained in your outreach, and be appropriate when you do make contact.

    Candidates who ‘get it’ say volumes to me, without saying a word.

  22. Spreadsheets and Books*

    OP #1: Is it possible that your coworker is correct about little daily tasks that may not be evident to management? I know that in positions I’ve had, there’s often a disconnect between what management understands and the day-to-day processes executed by team members. For example, in my last job, we had a new director join in a critical time in the business cycle. Since training on my team was largely abysmal until the ramifications of said abysmal training was truly noted, the department head suggested that he recreate our main reporting model as a fast way to get familiar with it. However, the main reporting model would literally take months to recreate as it was the product of five years of updates, additions, and refinements. However, our SVP truly did not know this as she didn’t work in the model and thus wasn’t aware of how it was actually run. Interpreting results and the processes used to get those results aren’t necessarily the same thing.

    OP #3: You may absolutely be underpaid, but it’s worth noting that there may be some truth in the concept that your title doesn’t necessarily mean the same level of responsibility as it might at other area firms, regardless of what recruiters are saying in their cold messages. Recruiters only know as much as they see on the surface, and that often means blanket targeting a whole lot of people who seem like they could possibly be a decent fit. As an example, my title is manager, but I’m a manager of numbers and processes, not people (some manager titles in my field are both, and those people are obviously better compensated than I am). However, a recruiter who sees “manager” on my LinkedIn page has no idea that I don’t have any actual people management experience, and that may disqualify me from even getting through a phone screen if that’s something a company is looking for. Thus a recruiter message with a big number in it becomes irrelevant.

    If you’ve followed up with these recruiters and moved on to an in person interview stage at these companies, I’d say you have a good argument. Otherwise, whatever numbers recruiters are spitting out are largely worthless.

    1. OP #3*

      OP #3 here – yeah I recognize that probably 60-70% of the cold inquiries I get from recruiters are trash. I’m only basing this on a handful of interactions where I got a little further along in the process. Generally speaking, I would discuss the role and specific responsibilities, and then get a salary range and let them know if that fit what I was looking for. I guess the only outlier is benefits but my firm is still relatively young and mid-size – what I receive now is pretty run-of-the-mill based on what I’ve gotten at other stops in my career.

      I’m not basing this on something as trivial as just a title like “manager” or “director” – I know that would make for a pretty thin case.

  23. Ponytail*

    I’m curious as to what people think happens during the references part of the application. My experience is that you used to have to wait to be offered the job after the new people had contacted your references, whereas now, you’re offered the job, subject to references and perhaps a medical check. Either way, a candidate had been picked. So, the idea that more than one candidates’ references would be contacted seems really strange – in all of my experiences, references were contacted at the point where I’d been, or was about to be, offered the job. No-one I know has ever been asked for references for a job they weren’t offered, though I’m fairly certain I know of two colleagues who were offered jobs but then didn’t go through, as the references were quite poor.
    Is this a UK/US difference, or something to do with different work fields ? I usually work in the public/education fields so maybe references are more of a ‘confirm we’ve picked the right candidate’ rather than ‘we can’t decide yet, let’s look at some of these candidates’ references’. Can anyone explain ?

    1. EddieSherbert*

      I also thought the “normal process” was to call my references before offering me the job. I’m in the private sector in the US.

      I personally don’t think I’d want to be offered a job before my references were called – what if I start planning for this new job and then the offer is rescinded? I *do* think reference checks should wait until the very final round of interviewing, but to me it makes sense to check references before offering someone a job.

      1. Kat in VA*

        Unrelated but sort of related – I just passed on a job ad where they wanted resume (ok), cover letter (ok), and three professional references (whoa Nelly) as part of the initial application.

        Uh, I’m not giving out the names, phone numbers, and emails of my references before I’ve even had a preliminary phone screen.

        This is for an executive assistant position…

        1. Ponytail*

          In the UK, you do give the reference details as part of the initial application but there is usually a check box on the form, so you can indicate whether they can be contacted before interview. The standard application tends to be ‘yes’ for older references and ‘no’ for your current employer (unless you’re lucky enough to have a manager who knows you’re looking for jobs).

        2. EddieSherbert*

          I’ve seen that a couple times and also thought it was odd! Maybe it’s just not as common in the US (but obviously common elsewhere like Ponytail says).

        3. Name Required*

          I’m in the southeastern US; I’ve applied to a variety of jobs that asked for references at the front. It’s pretty common and makes it easier than asking for them later in the process.

        4. Ethyl*

          Oh my lord, that reminds me of a place I applied that asked for references up front during the initial application, and then *sent an automated email to my references as soon as the application was electronically submitted.* I never even got called for an interview and my poor references had to fill out this bizarre online questionnaire about me! Terrible practice, also sorta awkward for me!

        5. Snarktini*

          I used to see that a lot in my early days (90s, Chicago) for any formalized application process (mostly paper back then). I did it, not knowing better and not actually realizing I could say no. No one ever called them, though, so that helped me feel like it was just checking a box. But it doesn’t make any sense as a practice and I haven’t seen that in years.

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        This is the issue of you can always find exceptions to certain hiring conventions. I think most people hiring will check candidate provided references first, then if they think they are a right fit they might provide a conditional job offer based on a reference check with the CURRENT employer. I would not want a potential employer to contact my current employer without a conditional job offer.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          That process would make sense to me! Makes sense with the current employer. But I’d be confused if they offered me a conditional job offer because they still needed to talk to the references I provided already.

    2. LaurenB*

      I just did some hiring where, because we had a specific time crunch, I did round 1 phone interviews, brought candidates in for round 2 with the whole team, but as I was letting the candidates know they had made the cut for round 2, I asked for their reference info and called the references and took notes that fed into the team discussions after round 2. So yeah, more work, but shortens the timeline.

    3. OP2*

      This was generally the practice in the field I’m in as well (which by the way is education) and part of why I am so baffled TBH

    4. BigGlasses*

      It’s really, really normal in the UK to be offered a job ‘contingent on references’. It’s also frustratingly normal for that to mean nothing at all — one time for sure, and a second time maybe, I’ve started a job with a job offer ‘contingent on references’ and they’ve simply never called my references. The one time I knew for sure, I spoke to my manager, and I said “I understand from my references you never called them. Given that my job offer was contingent on references, do I actually have this job?” (I had already been working there for weeks, lol). My manager said that they always write their offer letter that way but only call references if they have concerns.

      It’s infuriating, and a bad use of the concept of references. But very common. This is in private industry in the UK, and I’ve also never been asked for references before this point in the UK.

      1. Ponytail*

        Yeah, I should have stated more clearly that I’m in the UK. I also suspect that a couple of jobs have not actually contacted my references.

        1. BigGlasses*

          I’m in the US now, and references were taken way more seriously in my current job. Very different from my past UK experience. My references were asked and called before I got an offer, though definitely when we were in that ‘we want to offer you the job but we have various things to work out’ dance.

    5. Angus MacDonald, Boy Detective*

      That has usually been my experience too! In my current job (I’ve been here 2 years), they didn’t contact my references until I’d been here several months. And even then it was only because the auditors were coming in and they needed to tick off the box that they’d spoken to them!

    6. Holly*

      I’m in law in the U.S. and I was pretty sure the norm is calling references before an offer! To be fair, I’m thinking back in the firm hiring process from law school, so maybe that’s not in line with those beyond entry-level.

    7. miss_chevious*

      My normal process (manager in a large company in the US) is to call the references of the final 2-3 candidates before making the offer, but during my most recent experience with the internal recruiting team, they were surprised by that, so I don’t know how standard my process is. My feeling is that I want to talk to your references before I make you the offer, because I would hole (and it’s usually born out) that your references have good things to say about you, but I’m using them to probe for other things that indicate whether you would be a good fit: how would they describe your working style? What feedback would they give you if they were your manager? What are your strengths and weaknesses? It’s a rare reference that says something lukewarm or negative about the candidates, in my experience, but the positive things they say can also give me a better picture of who the candidate is and whether they are right for the role.

  24. Nanani*

    I’ve seen things like #4 before, but it was always for MLM and similar “jobs” where the language about believing in yourself was really just trying to trick applicants (usually fresh out of school) into sticking around when they tried to decline this Amazing Opportunity to Sell Knives to their Entire Extended Family TM

    Any chance the job was something like that? Or perhaps the recruiter just used to work for one of those and hasn’t learned how weird it is in real jobs.

  25. Kathleen_A*

    Yes, the way I read it is that the recruiter is giving a pep-talk. “You can do it, OP! Believe in yourself! Yaaaaaay!”

    But it’s so weird. I have to think that, as Alison suggested, somehow or other the recruiter got the impression that the OP was withdrawing out of timidity or a lack of confidence rather than withdrawing because she decided she didn’t want the job. While it’s being done partly out of kindness, it’s a pretty patronizing assumption. But what it mostly is is just weird.

    1. Kathleen_A*

      So sorry – this was meant to be a response to MK’s post above. I’m not sure how it ended up here!

  26. Bagpuss*

    #1 I think ‘Jane’ is either insecure, or a bit controlling. Either way, as she is not ypour supervisor or senior to you, you are fine to not do whsat she says, but I would do as Alison says and double check ith your manager whether there is naything that they want you to do differently, both because if there is, you find out and can adjust your way of doing so, and if there isn’t, next time Jane tries to tell you what to do you can say “Oh, thanks, but it’s fine. I find this way works better for me, and I spoke to [manager] who confirmed that she’s happy with the way I’m doing it”
    (If you wanted, depending on what the task is, you could even go so far as “I do it this way becuase it’s faster / more efficient – would you like me to shpw you how?” if any of the things she is commenting on are ones where your way is faster or more efficient)

    1. Lana Kane*

      I think that checking with your manager first works well because then, when you say to Jane “Thanks, but Manager told me she is ok with how I am doing things”, Jane is advised that Manager now is involved. I’ve had this work to my advantage in the past with my own Jane.

  27. Celery Juice*

    #1 my manager has no idea how to answer the phone or what greeting we are supposed to use for external incoming calls. He frankly doesn’t care, and his title allows him that mine however does not and his knowledge of the little things has landed me in some not wonderful situations. Most companies do have a correct phrasing that they like used for external calls, so it is possible Jane is right on these little things (15 years she is most likely an expert at the small stuff, try not to take her tone as indication otherwise). It is also possible that to Jane it looks like you are having a hard time at the company and she is attempting in her own albeit bad way of helping you ( 3 departments in less than 2 years looks to others like bad fits more than moving up which you didn’t say were promotions). FWIW Take Janes company knowledge and let go of the condescension you hear from her it honestly sounds like she is being helpful you just don’t know her well enough to know her attitude. I’ve found that people with longevity with a company sometimes have a reason for being more on the sarcastic side.

    1. Observer*

      Sorry, people who are GENUINELY trying to be helpful don’t do it by being sarcastic.

      1. JSPA*

        Sarcastic, sardonic and dry have enough tonal overlap, though, around the edges, that I would not want to jump to conclusions…not to mention plain old “prickly.”

      2. Celery Juice*

        I disagree it all depends on the person giving and the person taking the advice. Being helpful doesn’t mean you have to sugar coat everything.

        1. Observer*

          This is a classic excuse for rudeness and often bullying.

          “Not sugar coating” does not mean being sarcastic. Sarcasm almost never has any place in the workplace. And it never has a place in trying to give useful and genuinely helpful feedback.

          1. Celery Juice*

            I think you’re searching/arguing for what you want to see here. Saying that Jane is bullying the LW based on this interaction is reaching.

      3. Me*

        I’m not seeing where OP indicated there was sarcasm? She does say condescending. Sometimes that’s tricky though. If someone is really adverse to hearing feedback from someone they don’t feel has a right to do so, it can come across as condescending because of the receivers perception and not the deliverer’s tone.

        I think people are just trying to suggest that there’s a lot of subtlety involving tone and perception that we can’t really get from this letter.

        1. Washi*

          Yeah, it’s tricky because other than the condescending tone, what the OP describes to me doesn’t sound out of bounds necessarily. “I don’t know if you know this already” can be patronizing, or it can be a friendly way to soften a piece of advice. I think Alison’s advice is good to check on whether Jane’s criticisms are legit, because it’s hard for us to tell on the letter.

        2. Observer*

          You’re right – Jane may not be sarcastic. I wasn’t saying that she is. I’m just saying that Celery Juice is wrong in claiming that genuine intent to be helpful is legitimately conveyed through sarcasm.

      4. Oh So Anon*

        Part of the challenge is that some people don’t have the soft skills to not come across as officious when they’re trying to be genuinely helpful. And sometimes, not always but sometimes, someone who’s been in a position for a long time – particularly if it’s not by choice – has been there for a long time largely because their communication skills lead to these kinds of situations.

    2. LW1*

      More details in a reply to Zombeyonce’s comment (one of the first) — it was not about phrasing but in the way I handled 2 clients at once, #1 in person and #2 who called in as I was finishing with #1. We have general company guidelines for phone manner (be warm and friendly, identify yourself, try to answer on the first ring) but no specific rules or scripts.

  28. NicoleK*

    LW#1. I have another perspective on this situation. Sometimes, I have been a “Jane” to my BEC coworker. I’ve gently tried to provide guidance or suggestions. Examples for context: My coworker regularly uses the ‘reply all’ function when responding to an email, copies people on emails that don’t pertain to them, sends unnecessary emails, and etc. I spend a lot of time deleting unnecessary emails from her. Our boss is conflict avoidant and ineffective at addressing issues (often she is clueless or totally ignores issues). I’m fairly positive my coworker gets glowing reviews from our boss too. That said, I realized that my suggestions aren’t always welcomed. So I’ve stopped with the hints, suggestions, and etc.

    Obviously, you know your situation better than anyone. If your peers and managers don’t have any concerns, then carry on.

  29. mcr-red*

    #1 – Hi to Alternate Reality Me! I have a co-worker “Jim” who makes minor corrections to my work – like changing the font, color of a background, the title, etc. to my TPS reports. Nothing I am doing is wrong, it’s just not the way he does it, and he takes it upon himself to change it. If anyone is “senior” here, it is me. I have complained multiple times to my manager, I know he’s been spoken to about this, and…nothing changes. I’ve just given up. He’s gonna do it and there’s nothing I can do about it.

    If you’re sure you’re doing things right, then I’d suggest a bland, “Uh huh” and then go back to doing what you were doing.

  30. voyager1*

    You mention you have been in 3 depts, 2 locations all in a year and a half. There is a good chance you may not have been trained as well or know as much as you think you do. Also if I had been with a company for 15 years like Jane and I heard that about you when you came into my dept, I would watch your work assuming you might not know as much as you think.

    1. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

      Or even just different departments have different norms since you have been in multiple ones in your time there. Maybe Jane is trying to be helpful, and just going about it very awkwardly.

    2. Lexi Kate*

      A lot of the things in LW1’s letter read that they were not the best to work with and yes 3 jobs in a 18 months at 2 different locations screams somethings not right here. I really hated the LW’s whole tone of completely dismissing someone because they do their job really well because they have had 3 different ones in 18 months. Also that LW was not promoted to the jobs but that the “managers encourage me to move on” (not up) was really key for me in that the LW’s managers might be encouraging them to move on because they don’t want to work with them.

      1. Holly*

        Yes… that is not something to brag about!! Not saying OP couldn’t be a star employee, especially taking OP at their word, but being in multiple departments in that short period of time is not evidence of that.

      2. LW1*

        LW1 here. More details about this particular instance in my response to Zombeyonce (towards the top).

        My movement within the company has all been positive. I volunteered to jump temporarily (for about 4 months) from dept #1 to dept #2 because they needed assistance and I had the relevant skills. After someone was hired to fill the role in dept #2, one of my managers was promoted to a different office location and offered me a job with her in dept #3. My role exists in each department, and it’s not uncommon for us to go where we’re most needed.

        Under my current managers, I am being encouraged to move up (yes – in my post I did say up!) and am getting the relevant training. I also held a phone-heavy admin position for 3 years prior to being with this company.

        1. Me*

          While it’s good that the moves have been positive, the other points stand and it’s interesting you haven’t addressed them.

          I strongly encourage you to take a step back and and think about this dynamic. It is not in any way strange or bad for a long term coworker to give a new (you are 1000% new) staff member guidance on the norms of the job. It’s wise to consider your role in the dynamic before approaching your boss. Having a phone heavy job 3 years before does not in any way mean that you necessarily know all the norms for this specific position.

          Seniority doesn’t matter at McDonalds, but longer term staff are and do give guidance to new staff. Don’t get caught up in this not my boss so she’s automatically wrong, condescending, a jerk bit. She might be. And she might be out of line. But if she’s not, and you go to your supervisor you will make yourself look like a difficult person to work with and manage.

          1. miss_chevious*

            While it’s good that the moves have been positive, the other points stand and it’s interesting you haven’t addressed them.

            This isn’t debate team — OP doesn’t have to address every comment or point in order to be correct about their situation.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I had the same reaction when I read the letter. I keep thinking “But different departments, especially in different locations often have different SOP…”

      Maybe in Office A they answer the phone with just their name, but in Office B they have always preferred you answer with a greeting first. It’s not unheard of.

      Also your managers only notice things that really stick out to them, not the details that they don’t see every day. If Jane is sitting there, listening to you pick up the phone saying “Yo this is OP” instead of “Good morning, this is OP.” of course she’s more likely to think to say something.

      It’s also weird to not take some kind of stock in what a peer has to say when they say “we do it different here.” and insist all corrections or suggestions come from management. That shows that you’re not respectful that someone with your same title and paygrade may still know more of the ins and outs than you do since you showed up a minute ago and she’s been there 15 years.

      It’s in your best interest to respect your peers as much as possible and deal with their quirky commentary, especially when it’s work related.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, the phone thing is tricky, since norms can vary between offices, plus tbh some people think they’re better on the phone than they actually are. A long time ago, I had a report who struggled with sounding polished on the phone. For example, when she couldn’t hear something, she would just flatly go “what?” I spent a lot of time coaching her to basically add more more words, but I got the impression she thought I was being super nitpicky for wanting her to say “I’m sorry, what was that?” vs. just “what?”

      2. Oh So Anon*

        It’s in your best interest to respect your peers as much as possible and deal with their quirky commentary, especially when it’s work related.
        I agree with you up to the point of a peer correcting you to do things their way rather than following something that looks more like your team’s standard operating practice. Figuring out if that’s what’s going on can be tricky, but it can be damaging to allow a very particular peer to expect deference.

    4. Me*

      Yeah I read it with a raised eyebrow too. Jane might be a jerk, we’ve all worked with them, but I think we’ve also worked with people who thought they were much better than they were. Not to mention good feedback from management doesn’t mean much since this place is full of managers who’s entire problem is they don’t know how to give feedback.

      The LW comes across as sounding very young. Being moved frequently is often a flag – if not red then pink. There’s also a concerning amount of emphasis on only wanting any kind of feedback from a manager not a peer…in a role that you are new. And she is new – 3 departments in 1.5 years is an average of 6 months in each. I know personally it takes me about a year to feel comfortable in a new role – the last 3 roles I’ve had have been in the same division and that still applied.

      I just am not so sure it’s all Jane and not at least some LW perspective.

  31. Wing Leader*

    OP#5– I agree with Alison that you should probably just assume you didn’t get the job and move on. You’ve already made contact, and they’ll definitely let you know if they want to hire you.

    If they do end up calling you, hooray! But if not you’ll already be pursuing other opportunities.

  32. Me*

    OP1 – Some things to think about just because I always advocate for self-reflection and I think everyone pretty well covered the aspect of Jane being completely out of line. First, a year and a half in a couple different positions really isn’t a long time to have a full view of most jobs nor have a lot of feedback/evaluations. It’s also normal that coworkers are expected to help the newer people learn the ropes. It doesn’t mean they have supervisory functions. I also don’t see anything inherently condescending with saying “I don’t know if you’re aware of this…”. That’s often a way to say things when you’re trying to not come off like a jerk. Tone mattress of course, but is there any chance that you have your hackles up so anything Jane says is going to be heard as condescending? I’m not sure what it is in your letter that is tickling this part of my brain, but I’m concerned you’re kind of stuck on the Jane can’t tell me what to do because she’s not my boss factor. That may be technically true, but again, not weird for longer-term employees to have valuable information to provide. Just some thoughts from a slightly different angle.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, obviously it’s possible she said it in a really bad tone but the wording OP offered as examples read to me like how feedback to coworkers generally *should* be worded. And tbh I don’t really understand how OP could have multiple glowing reviews with only a few months in each position?

  33. Goya de la Mancha*

    OP1 – I find that some co-workers have a hard time distinguishing between “wrong” and “different”. Old co-worker was like that and spend a lot of time “correcting” work done by others. Which was just a waste of everyone’s time because she came to virtually the same finished product as the original. New co-worker does a lot of the work that I used to do and I have to catch myself sometimes because while her work does not meet MY standards, but our supervisor deems it satisfactory and that is enough. She’s not doing it wrong, just different.

    1. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

      I was wondering if this would get brought up, as I was in a very similar boat in college. Part of the job at this hotel involved answering incoming called to make reservations directly for people. One lady had been there forever (and was never going to get promoted, she was good at what she did, very pleasant with customers, but super condescending to maintenance and housekeeping) and was convinced the way she did things was the ONLY way to do it. She spent one whole 8 hour shift telling me that how I answered the phone was wrong and I had to do it her way.
      Mine: Hello and thank you for calling (hotel name) of (city name). How can I help you today?
      Hers: Thank you for calling (city name) (hotel name). What can I do for you?
      Both conveyed the same information, just in a slightly different way (and almost all the other staff used a variant of my script). Management really didn’t care which one we used, just as long as we were polite and conveyed all the included information. The only person getting bent out of shape over scripts was her.

      1. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

        That was supposed to read incoming calls up in the first paragraph, not incoming called.
        Typos and mobile devices, ugh.

    2. Asenath*

      One challenge I had when a new person was added to my little domain was to remind myself that I didn’t need run a quality check on jobs that had been handed over to her. Tell her how they were done, sure. Remain available for questions, yes. Run a critical eye over the results and tell her she had her spreadsheets laid out differently or coloured differently and had to fix them so they were like mine or was following a different scheduling procedure, no way. It was now her job, and I had to stand back and let her do it her way.

  34. Veryanon*

    #1 – I had a co-worker like this (thankfully she has recently retired) and this drove me up the ever-loving wall, along with her general nastiness. I perfected the art of the blank stare and saying “thank you for the feedback” and then moving along to the next task. This person is trying to get a rise out of you. Don’t let her! Ignore, ignore, ignore.

  35. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I feel for you #5, it’s such a horrible time in that waiting period and now you’re overthinking yourself!

    Think about it, if someone sent you a “hey thanks, great meeting with you!” email, without any real questions to clarify involved, would you think to respond? The majority of us don’t respond to “Thank you” notes. I send them when I stay at people’s homes and it would be so strange to call them up and say “Hey did you get my card?” you know what I mean? Same situation with a thank-you follow up email. Unless you had other questions and she told you to feel free to reach out with them if you wanted to [this is what we tell our candidates because sometimes you come up with something else afterwards and we’re cool with extending the interview a little bit if necessary in the form of an email conversation.

  36. StaceyIzMe*

    Number 4… oh, boy! Now how self-referencing/ self-preoccupied do you have to be to interpret a candidate’s withdrawal from being considered through the lens of their supposed lack of belief in themselves? Add in the “may not be the best time” language insinuating that the candidate should have known better and should now carefully reconsider and come to the “right” decision and I’d label this as a loony attempt at self-aggrandizement on the part of the recruiter. Yikes! (And RUN!)

  37. learnedthehardway*

    #4 – It’s possible that the recruiter is responding to something the client / interviewer noticed in your interview, and interpreting that as the reason you are withdrawing. Did you express any doubts or concerns about the opportunity to the interviewer, that perhaps got conveyed to the recruiter?

    It’s also possible that whatever reason you gave for withdrawing has been interpreted as a lack of self-confidence. Eg. “I don’t feel that this role aligns with my long term career goals and I don’t feel comfortable that I bring the skills in tea pot remediation” – perhaps the recruiter sees this as lack of confidence, if the role is a step up.

    Either way, don’t feel pressured to continue if you’re confident that the position or the company would be the wrong move for you.

  38. lapgiraffe*

    #2 – I just found myself on the opposite side of this as the reference who didn’t get back to the reference checker super quickly. I knew that a call might come and was on the lookout, but I was also traveling abroad and on a 6 hour difference if not 9 (unclear if the person worked in NY or CA office). I didnt see the email until a good twelve hours later, and I immediately responded explaining the situation, picked a time from his available hours (which was one hour before I was to go to sleep in my local time), made myself available for the call, then never heard from him.

    Woke up the next morning, no missed call, no email. I know I’m going to be on a plane for hours so I decided to reply again with my good reference, I wrote it as if I were writing a recommendation letter since I didn’t have many prompts beside a vague idea of the position, and sent it away. Still no response.

    So here I am worried that I ruined the chances of this woman by not being able to reply immediately! Which seems so silly because surely no one expects a reference to be available at a moments notice, but I know this woman has been working on her next big step for a while and was a fabulous employee we lost to relocation, I want to give her the best leg up I can.

    So OP, while I agree with the others that you gotta move past this one, I feel your anxiety and understand your train of thought. But don’t feel embarrassed, if this woman doesn’t get this job I would tell her “maybe you dodged a bullet” based on being ghosted by the reference maker, and in no way would I think poorly of her for not getting it.
    Keep your head up and eyes forward and not best of luck in your search.

  39. Game of Drones*

    OP No. 1, that reminds me of something that happened to me years

    I had a corporate PR job in a bank. I shared a printer with a financial person and several others. One day I printed off a press release, but got a phone call before I could retrieve it from the printer. The finance person grabbed it, and edited it before returning it to me. Now, she had no experience with writing, while I did. Her edits weren’t technical, but stylistic. I reported it to my supervisor, who had a talk with her.

  40. Educator too*

    OP 2: In my experience in education in the US they do call the final candidates’ references to help make the final decision. I believe this is normal when deciding between two or more people for one position. You didn’t mention what happened with the other reference. Could they have bad-mouthed you?

    1. OP2*

      No – my other reference did not bad mouth me in the slightest. They’ve all agreed enthusiastically to be my references.

      Honestly I’ve been in education for the past 10+ years and have never seen or heard of references called for a candidate they were not planning on making an offer to. Even my references when they told me that they were called offered me a congratulations. (I still didn’t consider it a done deal until it was a done deal, but certainly it got my hopes up.) It may be different in other areas of the country though.

  41. FairPayFullBenefits*

    OP 2: As much as “you don’t have an offer until you have an offer,” this seems unusual to me. I thought it was more common for employers to choose their top candidate, contact that person’s references, and unless a red flag comes up there, they make them an offer. I didn’t think references were normally used to help employers decide between multiple candidates.

  42. FairPayFullBenefits*

    Re OP5: Totally agree with Alison’s take here, but one other thing to keep in mind for the future – I would try to send your thank-you emails sooner after the interview, preferably by the next day. It’s obviously not going to make or break you as an applicant, but I think that’s more standard. And for people who are sticklers about it, if several days pass with no thank-you, they might assume you aren’t sending one.

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