we’re supposed to stay in the owner’s house when we travel, I’m upset our best candidate withdrew, and more

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

1. We’re supposed to stay in the owner’s house when we travel to his city

I work for a company that last year opened a second office and distribution center. The locations are located on the opposite ends of the coast.

About five months ago, one of the business owners purchased a home near the new location. Shortly after the purchase, an email was sent out to all the managers saying that for any west coast employees going out to work periodically at the new location, their first option for lodging would be the owner’s house and if it was full then the second option would be a hotel.

I am wondering if legally they can force an employee on business travel to stay at a private residence just to save money. What could get even trickier is if men and women are staying in the house together, seems like a possible liability/HR nightmare. There are times when the owner will be present and times when he will not.

Ick. Yes, legally they can do that. But you and your colleagues can push back and say, “I’m not comfortable staying in a private residence and will plan to reserve a hotel room when I’m there.” (The more of you who say this, the better.) They can overrule you, but you can and should give it a shot.

2. My best candidate turned us down — and I’m taking it personally

I work at a midsize public university. Hiring here is done by search committees from various departments in conjunction with the hiring manager (usually my department director). HR is there to show us how to use the ATS and to make sure our questions aren’t illegal (or problematic), and that’s it.

I’ve served on three hiring committees for our department this summer, serving as chair for two. We just wrapped a search last Friday (meaning the committee finished in-person interviews and the ball’s in my director’s court to do references and make the decision). We had our strongest candidate pull out of the search the morning of her interview on Friday, and I took it badly. I *intellectually* understand that personal circumstances change whether a person wants a job or to relocate. I also understand that our university’s pay isn’t the greatest and it takes a move to a pretty rural area to work here. But also, I feel like it’s a professional failure on my part to not be able to present my boss with enough candidates! I also am starting to feel like it’s not worth it to interview the most qualified people anymore because they always withdraw or use us as leverage for something else. I know that’s unfair, but I also can’t help feeling like I should somehow be able to avoid this. Ugh. Any advice on how I can take this less personally?

You should go into every hiring process assuming that the candidate you want to hire might not end up wanting the job. That’s just how hiring goes. Think of it from the other side: Wouldn’t you advise candidates that just because they want a job, that doesn’t mean the employer will want to hire them? And wouldn’t it be odd if they didn’t accept that and insisted on taking rejections deeply personally? You’re on the other side of that equation, and you’re just as subject to mismatched interest as candidates are.

Moreover, you should want candidates to drop out or decline offers if they don’t think the job is the best move for them. You want to hire people who are thinking rigorously about fit and assessing you just like you’re assessing them. If they decide they’re not interested, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed — it means not everyone is a fit for everything (something you know from the hiring side). And if you’re pursuing good people, they’re going to have options, and some of those options will fit the person better than others. (I would actually worry if you were the only option for all of your candidates and would wonder why that was.)

When a good candidate drops out, it’s normal to be disappointed! And it’s smart to look at whether there’s anything on your end that could have prevented it, like an excessively slow hiring timeline, mediocre interviewers, etc. But barring something like that, it’s not a failure on your part; it’s just a natural part of the process, and if you don’t want rejected candidates feeling like failures, you shouldn’t feel that way either.

All this said, if you often have trouble hiring good people, that’s something to raise with your department, so that it can (a) figure out how to make the job more attractive or (b) adjust its expectations about what that will mean for your applicant pools.

3. Is this new employee benefit the crock I think it is?

This summer my manufacturing company merged with another. The merger has been pretty painful for my company. A lot of our leadership is gone, and employees have left in droves. On top of that, we’re dealing with a couple of major projects that just aren’t going well. It has been a painful few months.

Last month, though, the new company leadership rolled out a new “benefit.” It will work like this: everyone is vested after a year of full-time employment or the equivalent number of hours if they’re part-time. The company will set a big chunk of money aside, and the benefit will be funded on the interest. Each employee can get a share of that money, based on their years of service. (The sample math they showed was about $20,000 if you had five or six years in with the company.) The clunker? You can only get your payout if you go on permanent disability, if you die, or if you retire no younger than age 65.

I hate this. I’m older, close to my planned-for retirement age (60) and not really looking forward to tacking on five more years of work (especially if “work” keeps going the way it has lately). I’m also awfully suspicious of the possibility that at 64 and a half they might just decide they didn’t need me any more. Is this benefit the crock I think it is? Or is it just me?

I don’t think it’s a crock exactly, but it’s not super inspiring or exciting for most people because most people aren’t going to leave your company by retiring, dying, or going on permanent disability — so it’s going to be irrelevant for the majority of people.

It’s probably irrelevant for you too and shouldn’t cause you to work five years longer than planned unless your payout would be massive.

4. Do I have to give four weeks notice when I leave?

When I was hired at my current position almost 10 years ago (I work at a very small nonprofit with no HR department or personnel) we did not have an employee handbook. A few years ago, our CEO created an employee handbook in which he states all employees must give four weeks notice if they plan to leave their jobs.

I live and work in North Carolina, which is an at-will state. Am I legally required to give my CEO four weeks notice if I leave my job? Or would it be more of a courtesy? It seems like a long time and I’m worried any future employers would balk at having to wait that long for me to start.

No, you’re not required to give four weeks just because he put that in the handbook. If you’d signed a contract agreeing to it and he’d given you some kind of consideration in return (such as committing to giving you four weeks notice before ending your employment), that could be legally binding. But employers put preferred amounts of notice in handbooks all the time, and there’s nothing that legally obligates you to comply with that.

However, your employer could tie your amount of notice to whether or not they pay out any accrued vacation time when you leave. (Some states require employers to pay it out no matter what, but North Carolina doesn’t). Or they could decline to give you a positive reference. But they can’t legally require you to give four weeks notice; doing that is just a courtesy.

5. Can I substitute a better resume later in the process?

Is there any value in substituting a better resume in an online application that lets you log in and make edits, several days or weeks after the initial application? Or is that just weird and useless?

I have applied to several jobs in the last two months. Just this past week, someone I trust reviewed my resume and made some suggestions for changes that I could tell made it instantly better. The substance didn’t change, I’ve spent a lot of time on that based on your tips. It was more formatting and re-labeling and moving things around so my experience is more evident and eye-catching (not gimmicky, I promise you).

Now, I’d really like to replace my prior resumes with this new one for the jobs that are still open and give me access and editing capability. But is that just a waste of my time, and I need to just use this going forward and let the other applications go?

Use it going forward, but you can’t go back and resubmit it for jobs you’ve already applied to.

Sometimes people will suggest bringing a copy of the new version to your interview and handing it to your interviewer with a comment like, “I’ve updated this since applying” — but honestly, that’s annoying. I’ve already read and made notes about your resume before our interview, and I’m not likely to do that with a second version, especially when I can’t easily tell what substantive parts have changed.

{ 305 comments… read them below }

  1. CAA*

    #3 – Regarding the new “benefit” — there should be legal documentation for how that plan works, and I’d encourage you to read it carefully rather than relying on any summary that might have been presented in an email or meeting. If you’re in the U.S, this may very well be a retirement plan that’s regulated under the ERISA law and its benefits can’t just disappear once you’re vested. You may not be able to claim the money until you’re 65, but you shouldn’t have to work that long if you meet the vesting schedule at an earlier age.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      This is just one of the reasons I love Husband’s day job.

      He was vested from day one. It’s a German owned company and even though he’s US based their company practices and policies in all areas, not just retirement, are a lot more like those in many parts of Europe.

      He plans to stay until he retires. Unless of course my company goes full Facebook, but yeah, like that’s gonna happen.

      1. Anon for this*

        Same! My company is Canadian so we have a generous family leave package and 3 weeks vacation on day 1. We also get boxing day off which is nice.

      2. texan in exile*

        I work for a German-owned company in the US, but they are very careful to give us US-level benefits and not German benefits. :( We US employees see the great vacation and maternity leave that our German counterparts get and it makes us pretty sad.

        Executives get asked about it and their answer is always basically that the do the minimum required by law and practice. (Not those words, but definitely that sense.)

        1. Anon for this*

          That makes me very sad!! I hope you have access to something the German-based coworkers don’t have to make things balanced!

        2. mugsy83*

          I have always worked for a European-based corporation in my adult life – three separate, very large and well-known international companies.

          Guess how many of them have given their American workers what they provide to their European workers? Exactly none. One was more progressive and did give better than average benefits to the American employees, but the other two are staunchly in the “we give the minimum.” too.

          It especially stings in August when our European counterparts are all out of the office and we just have to keep plugging along, sometimes waiting weeks for replies to problems because they get work-life balance!

        3. Meredith*

          This is also common within the US. Certain states have, for example, higher requirements for insurance coverage than other states. Companies with offices in several states often only extend that higher benefit level to those whom they legally need to cover in that manner. (I live in one state that is very close to another state – with really great insurance mandates. I worked in that other state for a year and held onto my COBRA for dear life for the entire 18 months afterward!)

          1. Parfait*

            Yep, I live in CA and my company is headquartered elsewhere with much worse employee protections in the law. We benefit quite a bit from that.

    2. Thornus*

      Yes, #3 is definitely something to go to an employee-side employee benefits attorney just to figure out what’s up.

    3. Gabriel Conroy*

      I’m no lawyer, but it seems strange to me that someone can be “vested” and yet not receive that in which they’re vested. So yes, the person might need to investigate further. (Or I just understand it wrong.)

      1. Liz*

        I agree. When I started with my company almost 20 years ago, we had two plans. A traditional 401K, which was vested as many are, 20% for every year, and fully after 5 years, and a second, which was company contributions only, and vesting was 5 years, all or nothing. So if you left before your 5 years were up, you didn’t get anything from that.

        1. me and bobby mcgee*

          Yeah, same. I was wondering what vesting even meant if you didn’t get anything. It sounded like a kind of pension thing that you only get if you never work again after you leave the company, but ???

    4. Mpls*

      +1 – check the plan. Or talk it through with the company rep for the plan. Or both. It sounds like a profit sharing plan. I’ve worked at places with those. It’s retirement money on par with a 401k and IRA. But the Employer controls the contributions to the plan and the investment of the funds. the Employees just have a right to the money once they have 1) vested, 2) left the company, 3) met the other disbursement conditions.

      So, I’m wondering if the “retire at age 65” means retiring from this particular company, or if it was short-hand to say that you can only get the money after age 65 (really common requirement for retirement-type funds) and are no longer working for the company. So, you could retire at age 64, and even though you are vested, you can’t take the money out until age 65. So those are actually 2 separate conditions and the wording just smooshed them together in an unintended way.

      1. Mpls*

        Which is to say, in our plan, “retirement” mean retirement specifically for that company. And it didn’t stop people from coming back to work after their payouts if they wanted. But then they started with a blank slate for profit sharing.

        It really comes down to the way the plan is structured.

    5. NW Mossy*

      You can ask for a copy of the plan document, but I’d recommend starting with the Summary Plan Description (SPD) first. The sponsor of the plan (normally your employer) is required to provide you a copy, and it’s expressly intended to give participants in the plan a detailed explanation of how it works. The plan document is going to be very heavy on the legalese; the SPD will do a somewhat better job of explaining the terms in plain English.

      Also, if your employer has engaged an outside party to help with a plan (typically called a recordkeeper or third-party administrator), they can be great resources to get questions answered too. Many big ones have participant help lines available and can guide you with the complicated things.

    6. Former Retail Manager*

      YES to all of this! My sister-in-law works for a company with a similar arrangement, except think vesting after 20 years. The kicker….no one ever makes it to 20 years. They are conveniently let go at either year 18 or 19. My SIL has requested the plan documents on more than one occasion and is given the run-around every time and has still never reviewed them. I have advised her to pretend that this money doesn’t exist because the chance she’ll ever see it is slim to none. And I have to disagree with Alison on this one. This “benefit” is a total crock. The company has set these requirements because they clearly hope to have to never pay out any significant sums the way they would in a more traditional plan. (Anecdotal story:) In my SIL’s case, she asked one of the owners how many people have ever collected from her company. The answer? 1. Yes, 1 in the 14 years my SIL has worked there. And it isn’t because the workforce is young. Most of their workforce is 50+, so something doesn’t add up. OP, I’d suggest you pretend the money doesn’t exist and continue on with your retirement plan as is.

      1. Evil HR Person*

        If your SIL’s plan is ruled by ERISA, and she requests documents and is not given them within 30 days, she can call/write to the DOL and get those documents through them. But a 20-year vesting period sounds… not within the law. ERISA’s vesting periods cannot be longer than 6 years, if I remember correctly.

        1. NW Mossy*

          Yes – 6 years is the max, thanks to the Pension Protection Act of 2006.

          In my professional experience, the DOL takes a strong interest in employee complaints – it’s one of their best available tools to identify employers who are playing fast and loose with retirement plans that (by law) are supposed to be run for the benefit of employees. The DOL has the ability to levy hefty financial and criminal penalties, and they will not hesitate to use it.

      2. Happy Lurker*

        Many years ago my FIL worked for a company that fully vested at 10 years. His branch was shut down at 9 & 1/2 years…

        1. Meredith*

          My dad was technically a state employee (local transit authority), which had a lovely pension that vested after 10 years. His job was eliminated at 9.5 years. To be fair, if he ever got another job with the state, the clock would start up where he left off.

          1. Never Been There, Never Done That*

            Crap like that makes my blood boil. I mean why is so freaking difficult for some places to just give basic human respect to others? It’s a rhetorical question. I know the answer and I hate it.

    7. Evil HR Person*

      CAA, you’re right: this sounds strangely close to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) and it is regulated by ERISA, has fiduciaries, and it’s legally bound to put the interests of the employee owners ahead of anybody else. Anybody from Florida?? If so, Publix is (partly, not fully) an ESOP and the employees are (part) owners of the chain. ESOPs are meant as retirement plans that are paid by the employer, not the employee. So there’s a vesting schedule, etc. The OP can continue to work for as long as he wants, but he will vest fully at retirement age, regardless of time worked – or that’s how my ESOP works. Nevertheless, he has to be a “participant” in the plan before he leaves the company, or the money goes back to the company. Most companies have 2 entry periods: January and July after 1 year and 1,000 hours of employment. But, just like a 401K, the closer you are to retirement, the less it’s worth…

  2. GeoffreyB*

    #3 – does this create any kind of tax liability? I’d be concerned about the possibility of being taxed on “income” that I might never see.

    It feels like a heavy-handed retention measure, and I notice the list of conditions for getting the payout doesn’t include “being let go”…

    1. Massmatt*

      I doubt there would be tax liability if the employees can’t access the money until death, disability, or retiring at age 65, but definitely get the details. You need to know more than vague hypotheticals in order to decide how to weigh the value of the benefit.

      You hit the nail on the head with the plan not paying out (seemingly?) on being fired or let go. This is exactly what “vesting” means, if you quit or are terminated and are vested in a retirement benefit it means you own it. Saying someone is vested but they get nothing when they leave is a contradiction in terms. I suspect the employer hasn’t described the benefit well, or maybe it’s still in planning stages.

      I’d be very interested in someone versed in benefits law (in the US at least) weighing in, I am skeptical that this would be a legal plan as described.

      1. Baru Cormorant*

        Good point. I would expect more incentive offered from the company side, considering that under these rules they can just fire you at age 64 to avoid paying it out.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If you can show your age was a factor in the firing, that would be illegal. (Doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen or that it wouldn’t be a huge pain to fight it, but it would be illegal and you can sue for lost benefits.)

        2. Observer*

          They could theoretically do that. But, while it might be hard to prove the first hiring was because of this, once it becomes a pattern, they are going to have a legal problem on their hands because it basically turns out to be age discrimination.

          Also, as others have noted, if you are actually vested, then they can’t not let you access the benefit at all, although they can keep you from accessing it till age 65.

      2. MK*

        I think “vested” is simply bad wording here, it simply means that you are eligible to receive the benefit after x time of employment.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Yes, I think they mean to say “you’re eligible for this benefit after you’ve worked here a year,” which means you can’t retire six months after you start and still get it. But vested is the wrong word.

      3. Samwise*

        Sounds like the person describing the plan to the OP is saying “vested” but the plan actually does not vest employees. Not a real HR person, I bet, but a schmo using a common term incorrectly.

      4. doreen*

        ” Vesting” does mean you are entitled to a retirement benefit- but it doesn’t mean you can collect it immediately upon becoming vested. I was 100% vested in my pension after 5 years- but if I had five years of service when I was 30 years old and quit or was terminated, there wouldn’t have been any payment until I died, became disabled or reached age 55. I could have gotten a refund of my contributions if I had less than 10 years of service , but that wouldn’t apply to the OP as no employee contributions were mentioned

    2. MK*

      I actually think it’s a great thing, just not one that is relevant to many people, as Alison said. Also, if it’s a detention strategy, it’s unusually broadminded of them to primarily want to retain people with health problems or close to retirement age. I doubt anyone seriously believes employees will take or stay at a job because they know there is a pay out after decades, or if they die or become disabled, but it can be hugely helpful in difficulty times.

      As long as the company isn’t taking something away from the employees to fund this, I would learn the details and file it as good thing that I probably will not use. Don’t make life decisions based on this, but I don’t see a reason to suspect the company of trying to pull a fast one. Sounds to me as if the OP is frustrated for other reasons and is disproportionately annoyed.

      1. Baru Cormorant*

        Maybe it feels extra spiteful because they can almost take advantage of the benefit, but still can’t because the eligibility rules are so strict. Like, “why don’t you offer me a cookie in 1 week instead of a cake in 10 years”.

        1. MK*

          Εh, I don’t think the eligibility rules are all that strict, or that the OP can “almost” take it, but is losing it on the whim of the company. This appears to be designed on the one hand as a relief for employees (or their families) who are facing distress as a result of death or disability and on the other hand as a bonus for those who stick with the company till they retire at the age of 65, a.k.a. a pretty common and, I think, reasonable retirement age. I would understand resentment on this score if it was used as an incentive to convince employees to continue working into their 70s (or if the age limit was such that almost no one would reallistically get it), but not if one is losing it by choosing to retire early.

          1. EPLawyer*

            But no one stays with a company for that long anymore. It is based on an outdated concept where you start at a company in your 20s, move up the ladder there and then retire at age 65. You ONLY get this benefit if you retire from THIS company. So if you start there at age 25 and leave at 35, at 65 you get zippo. If you start at age 60 and leave at age 65, you get 5 years.

            It’s not that great of a benefit. As someone said, its a heavy handed means of retention. Instead of you know, having good management, offering a decent salary and having good benefits that actually are benefits that can be used.

            1. MK*

              “But no one stays with a company for that long anymore”

              Well, exaclty. It’s designed to be an extraordinary thing, not something everyone gets.

              1. Emily K*

                I come down on your side of it. Being given a mostly-useless benefit is a mild annoyance or something I might scoff at, but not really something that would get under my skin or make me feel like the company was pulling a fast one. I mean, my company offers parental leave, adoption assistance, pet insurance, and tuition assistance, and the only one of those I’ll ever use is the pet insurance. Very few employees will ever use the adoption assistance, but that doesn’t make it a crock.

                My company also offers the option to take a six-month unpaid leave after five years of service, with full benefits during the sabbatical and job protected while you’re gone. The vast majority of our employees will never use it, either because they won’t make it to five years or because they’ll never have enough savings to go six months without pay (the latter probably applies to me) – but I think it’s a really cool benefit for those that can use it and I’m glad we have it.

                I think you hit on it above, that the issue is probably more about the mismanagement and other issues that LW has with the company, which is making this benefit come across as an empty carrot boost morale without actually costing the company much if anything. This benefit isn’t a problem, it’s the lack of other benefits/good management that are the problem.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  You are more generous than me.
                  I have seen companies promote themselves as having a great benefit package. Once employed you read about each benefit and as you go along you realize that the benefits are useless, like this one. But this was part of the sales pitch to join their “team”.

                  It’s really a nasty way of writing in my opinion. “Here I am giving you this gift!” Then you open the fancy package and find there is nothing in the box.

                  It’s annoying being played for a fool like that. I find one thing like that and I know to start looking at other things the company is offering employees with extra caution.

                  There is a large global company who promotes itself to employees as offering benefits 1 through 20. It’s got an impressive array. So you start picking what fits your setting and one by one you realize, “Nope, can’t use this benefit, either.” And the reason is the benefit is set up in such a manner that it’s not accessible to many of the people.
                  It takes weeks or even months of reading and sorting through this amazing array of benefits. Then you realize, the benefit you have is what is in your paycheck, that’s it.

            2. Nanani*

              This. My thought is somebody thought to offer a “good old days” style benefit that made sense in the era of lifetime employment but either didn’t think or didn’t care about the reality of work in the 21st century (which is full of layoffs, restructurings, mergers, and so on)

            3. Mel*

              And a big reason people change companies is that’s often the only way to get a substantial pay raise. So if you start at a company early in your professional career and don’t negotiate for the highest possible starting salary (something many of us in our early 20s are terrible at, myself included), you’d be under-earning your entire career.

          2. Thoughts*

            I think it is rubbing the OP the wrong way because it sounds like the company is doing this instead of a regular 401K and disability insurance. They are making it harder to access the benefit than the more standard options but trying to make it sound like it is a great perk. It like a company bragging that you can take unlimited unpaid time off when what you really want is a set amount of PTO. It’s better than nothing but that doesn’t make it an awesome perk.

      2. Samwise*

        I know we’re not supposed to point out typos, but I think it’s kind of wonderful that you called it a “detention” strategy ;)

      3. SomebodyElse*

        Agree with this. It sounds more to me like a retention type bonus vs. a retirement plan and I think that the work ‘vested’ is muddying the waters.

        I read an interesting article on BBC news a couple of weeks ago (maybe last week) that MFG companies in the US are A) struggling to recruit and B) experiencing brain/experience drain as the boomers retire. So it makes perfect sense to find a way to encourage the older more experienced people to stay and to offer a carrot for those who aren’t close to retiring yet to think about staying put for the long haul.

        I think the OP needs to file this one in the category of benefits that company offers that they may or may not ever benefit from personally but is a good thing overall. I mean, I’m not planning on using parental leave, tuition reimbursement, never have used our EAP, and our military service leave, but that doesn’t mean I think they are worthless and get mad about them.

      4. Matilda Jefferies*

        What happens if you leave after the eligibility period, but without meeting the other stated conditions? Do you get some proportion of the money, or is it all or nothing?

        I’m lucky enough to have worked in government my entire career, with good retirement/ pension benefits. Of course you can’t use them until you retire, but if you leave early you can still get the amount you’ve earned, in the form of a locked-in RRSP. So your option is to leave the money in the org’s pension plan and collect when you eventually retire from wherever, or put it into your own retirement plan which is locked until you eventually retire.

        All this to say, what the OP describes sounds pretty normal from my experience. It’s not great if you can’t get any money out of it at all unless you retire or die, but it seems pretty straightforward otherwise.

        *I’m not in the US obviously, and my experience with this type of pension plan is limited. So YMMV on this advice!

        1. SomebodyElse*

          From the description this doesn’t sound like it’s intended to be a retirement plan of any kind. I also didn’t see that the employees contribute in any way so it’s either free money if they meet the requirements or it’s a ‘no harm/no foul’ kind of situation where they don’t lose anything they just don’t gain anything.

    3. Trout 'Waver*

      Yeah. This “benefit” would not affect my decision to remain a company. In fact, it would do the opposite. I don’t want to create an incentive to fire me, especially when I’m at the least employable point of my career.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        This is such an odd way to view this. It’s very clearly a carrot to get people to stay longer. Much in the way a retention bonus is give to people to encourage them to stay through tough times.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          I get paid in cash money, not in promises. Retention bonuses are cash money. Promises of future bonuses or retirement funds are not cash money. They are promises.

          Aside from the incentive created to fire someone right before they’d qualify for the retirement bonus, there’s another problem. The company can also use the all-or-nothing nature of the bonus as described to under-compensate employees who are close to getting it. The company could save money by denying them pay raises with the thought that the employees won’t leave and miss out on the potential payout.

          Even if the company is acting in 100% good faith, it’s still unlikely that the company would be around in its current form decades from now. What’s to say the next owners or executives will honor the promises? There are just so many problems with this “benefit” as it’s described by the LW.

          The right way to do it is to vest portions of the retirement bonus at concrete intervals so that these incentives for the company to act poorly are removed. But, that’s expensive and the company would have to put up the cash for it.

          1. MK*

            All the points you make is why absolutely everyone is advising the OP not to make her refinement plans based on this. It does not make the scheme a crime or a devious plan to con employees.

    4. Seifer*

      My last company did this long before I started. The engineers called it ‘hostage money.’ They basically started another retirement account that saved money for you after two years of employment and the money would accrue independent of 401K or whatever and you’d only get it if you retired with the company. Except after a few years they realized that they had hired so many people around the same age group that if everyone stayed, there would be a huge payout in like 40 years, so they sent out a notice that they were no longer going to add more money to those accounts. Since it barely took off, I think everyone only had like $15K sitting… so then people would leave because they were like, yeah that’s not worth it. But then as more people left, they didn’t restart the benefit, and by the time I started, they were only able to keep younger engineers for a few years, and the older people just… won’t leave.

    5. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Your point about tax liability is a good one, I hadn’t thought of that! I worked at a public university once that had something similar, they put $100 into a special internal account for each month (or was it year?) you worked there, and if you were still working at the university upon retirement you’d have access to the account. This kind of thing might be a perk for someone who is already determined to not change jobs, but doesn’t incentivize anyone who might have better options elsewhere. I was 25 when my “account” was started so if I worked there 40 years there would be quite a chunk of change… but not enough to make up for the pay hit I’d take had I stayed in a place that refused to give raises or COLAs.

  3. LarsTheRealGirl*

    #1 – the question of whether it’s “legal” is almost always: yes. Yes, they can ask you to stay in their accommodations. Yes, you can decline (you’re not in servitude to them, you can always say no). No, there’s no legal protection of your job if you decide you don’t want to stay there.

    That being said: it’s shi*ty (Or…it may be…. this could also be a 15 room old B&B that they’re using as corporate housing . It’s probably not, and it’s probably just shit*ty)

    BUT, if and when you bring this up, I urge you not to dive into the “well if MEN and WOMEN have to SHARE space” rhetoric. It serves no purpose. If it’s inappropriate to share professional space with someone of an opposite sex, it’s also probably inappropriate to share space with someone of the same sex.

    (I know hotel sharing in certain industries and companies is the norm, but that also sucks, and is different to general shared housing.)

    It gets into crappy gender and sexual politic to make it about men and women.

    1. Baru Cormorant*

      I’m confused, I don’t see it as getting into gender and sexual politics to make it about men and women. It’s not about men and women sharing workspace, it’s about them sharing bedrooms, bathrooms, and other intimate living spaces where people get undressed. Even in industries that share hotel rooms, I imagine usually they don’t do opposite gender pairings. Different rooms of a hotel have more privacy than different rooms of a house. OP doesn’t have to use this aspect as a point in their argument, but I don’t think it’s horribly old fashioned for a female employee to not want to stay in the guest bedroom of her male employer.

      1. Mookie*

        Yes, I don’t think of it as carrying water for patriarchy and hetnormativity to acknowledge and privilege the reality we know rather than our ideal when managing risk and likely outcomes.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Yeah, unfortunately it is because of patriarchy that a subordinate woman staying in such an intimate situation with a man who has power over her would have reason to worry. Think Harvey Weinstein’s hotel room.

    2. intlmike*

      Just calling out that it is pretty hetero-normative to consider the issue being men and women staying in the same living space. Aren’t we past the point of assuming everyone is a cisgendered heterosexual? The reality is, sharing private space with professional colleagues is fraught with challenges, regardless of the gender and gender identity pairing. As a gay man, I’m no safer sharing a private space with another man who may or may not take objection to my homosexuality than the 1950s norm that unrelated men and women shouldn’t share spaces. Especially in a country where LGBT employment rights are state-based and cover less than 50% of the population.

      Alison, I think your response was spot on, but you missed a trick here to call out the assumption in the OP’s post.

      And to Baru Comorant below, this isn’t about gender politics. It’s about needing to change the language of professionalism. We all have boundaries between our personal and professional lives. Where those are is somewhat irrelevant. Employers forcing employees to share space outside of working hours on business trips transfers the personal risk of maintaining that boundary to the company for the company’s financial gain. We’ve seen lots of letters on the blog about people having medical issues they don’t want to share with colleagues that become impossible to retain the veil of privacy around when sharing living space, among other issues.

      1. Baru Cormorant*

        I don’t disagree. I think the policy is weird and gross and I don’t want to stay in my boss’s or coworker’s house when on a business trip! And OP clearly doesn’t think the issue is ONLY men and women sharing rooms (“What could get even trickier”, emphasis mine).

        The only difference between our opinions is that I also think that OP isn’t wrong or weird to point out that forcing colleagues to share sleeping/living spaces can also get icky with various genders involved. How to divide the available bedrooms? As you point out, you can’t just have men share one room and women share another based on “well heteronormativity”. You can’t make one person sleep in the living room on a couch (so many people seem to think men don’t need privacy…). You can’t make someone share a room with their boss. And when someone has to get the short end of the stick, how do you make that decision equitably? Do “ladies” get the biggest bedroom, or does the owner’s favorite? Gross all around.

        I agree that this is just a company trying to cut costs literally at the expense of employees’ comfort. I say pick whatever reason will convince them to change the policy and push back as a group.

        1. Mookie*

          All you’ve done is reinforced the practical hurdles an arrangement like this poses. It’s up to Boss to have his policies detailed and in place if he wants this to happen, and, even then, it’s fraught with all manner of unavoidable pitfalls that are also unnecessary.

      2. Queen of the Grumps*

        Women (of pretty much any race and age and attractiveness level) should not have to share those kinds of quarters with men in most professional environments. Women are disproportionately affected by sexual harassment and assault. The threat of sexual assault from another woman is MUCH lower. ALL other obvious reasons this is terrible aside, it’s insane for a company to expect this of their employees. I would not feel safe in a private residence shared with male coworkers without a huge amount of enforced rules, security cameras, and legitimate bolted locks on the doors with keys so I can lock my room when I’m gone, as well as some kind of staff or security on-site in case of issues. Seriously. I can open every lock in my current apartment with a coin or a credit card.

        If the owner isn’t on site, who can disputes be settled through? Where do you report issues?
        What if a coworker gets loud and drunk? What if someone invites people back to the house?
        What if there’s a dispute over a shared space?
        What if someone “accidentally” exposes themselves, or “accidentally” walks in on someone?

        This is such an obviously bad idea that I bet someone knows better but is trying to write this place off as a business expense.

        1. Baru Cormorant*

          All of this too. I don’t know why a company would willingly wade into litigating “what is appropriate sleepwear when you stay at the owner’s house, I mean our east coast office.”

      3. WS*

        the same logic that’s behind single-sex locker rooms

        Which is logic used against LGB people and most of all trans people all the time. Look at the current hysteria about bathroom bills, and trans girls in girls-only groups. intlmike is quite correct to think about his safety as a gay man in such situations; as a lesbian I’m more likely to be considered a predator on other women.

    3. tamarack and fireweed*

      What I’d think about it would depend on the actual setup. It’s pretty common for companies with regularly traveling staff to expensive destinations to buy/rent a serviced apartment, and make it a first choice to book employees into it, ahead of hotels. Some find it more comfortable than a hotel (I do). You’d have private bedrooms, MAYBE the need to take turns in a bathroom, and an opportunity to use a real kitchen. If in this setting you have concerns about other occupants being of a different gender, I’d think you have bigger issues in your company. I would expect perfectly professional behavior of any co-occupants, and in practice that’s how it has worked for me.

      If the boss is set up with an independent apartment in his private premises it may not be THAT bad. Though if it’s just a guestroom, or two, under his rafters, with walk-in access into their private areas, that would be uncomfortable.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Even then, I think this is something that employees should be able to easily opt out of if it makes them uncomfortable. Being roommates with coworkers, however temporarily, is something that a lot of people would find uncomfortable.

        Right this moment I’m staying in an AirBnB on an extended work trip with my immediate supervisor and several coworkers, and I’m the only woman in the group. I’m completely fine with this, and vastly prefer a nice house with kitchen facilities to a couple of weeks in a budget hotel room, eating crappy restaurant food. However, if I weren’t comfortable with this, I would be able to choose the hotel. And even for me, I have had coworkers I wouldn’t be comfortable sharing accommodation with – people who just weren’t good with boundaries or appropriate behaviour, or who quite frankly creeped me out.

        1. Baru Cormorant*

          Agreed, I think that a lot of people, myself included, would appreciate the option to choose. I would love to have the kitchen facilities and cozier environment of a house, but I also need to locked doors and separate bathrooms of a hotel.

    4. T2*

      I will say it. It is inappropriate for me to share space with anyone for any reason. My personal habits are my own, and if I am to function while traveling, which is presumably the point of paying to physically move my body cross country, then I need my privacy.

      I would categorically refused shared accommodation to the point of paying for my own arrangements of necessary. And if this was a consistent issue, I would be looking for another job.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        100% agreed. I’ve only had to share a room once on a business trip and it was only because I was out when arrangements were made and they wouldn’t let me change them. The only reason I didn’t push back was because I was sharing a room with a friend. But even that was majorly inconvenient. It was a regular room with no privacy ( I would have less problems with it if it were a suite with separate bedrooms and a shared living space) and I require personal down time away from people, regardless of the relationship. And we had different sleeping schedules. She liked to go to bed early, and I like to stay up late. It was a pain in the ass.

          1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

            And I was responding to a post about sharing SPACE. I wouldn’t want to share a house with a bunch of colleagues either. I don’t even like sharing a vacation house with a bunch of people, because I don’t want to have to escape to my bedroom every time I need personal space.

    5. AnonToday*

      We have a company condo with 4 rooms near our company’s HQ location. Only one gender can stay at the condo at a time. Historically though, only one employee stays at the condo at a time. The condo is seen as a perk, and if it’s not available, people just book a hotel room.

      1. Queen of the Grumps*

        There are other issues here!

        Say a company needs to send four men and a woman and the four men get the “perk”. The woman stays somewhere else and is not involved in the shared time the men spend together after hours during this work event.

        Maybe it is less convenient to invite her out to dinner with the team.

        Maybe they decide late at night to go out for drinks and don’t want to bother with the hassle of inviting her, or getting her a car, or interfering in their guy’s night they’re hyped up for. She probably wouldn’t be into that sort of thing anyway, right?

        Maybe they talk business. Maybe they network. Maybe they make big decisions about a project and maybe some of them get promoted later. Maybe they just… grow and bond as a team without her.

        Women’s careers are negatively impacted by this nonsense. A hotel is an equalizer. People feel more like a team and there are less barriers to acting like one (or excuses for not including people in after-hours socializing where a lot of deals are made). It would be weird for a group of four men and a woman who work together to attend the same conference, stay in the same hotel, and then make dinner plans excluding the woman, and it would be obvious if it was a pattern.

      1. Qwerty*

        I think a person’s perspective on the situation plays into it, especially depending on how you fill in the variables.

        Imagine being a young, female employee whose older male boss tells her she can have X project or task that will advance her career, but only if she comes over and spends the night at his house with him. That sounds like the start of a MeToo story and veers into harassment and/or quid pro quo territory. Their shield on this scenario is that project X and the house are in a different location so they get to claim that it is saving them hotel costs.

        If you fill in the variables differently, you could get a couple of work buddies on a routine, boring work trip who get to stay in their boss’s house while he is away. Those people might shrug at the situation, or maybe see it as a perk since they’ll have a real kitchen and don’t want to eat out for every meal.

        1. Sharkie*

          Also if they don’t have the confidence that they can push back on this on grounds that they feel uncomfortable seeing if it is illegal can help them. They have a place of power to say “I don’t think we can do this because of this legal reason” as opposed to “I don’t want to do this because of X”

          1. Smithy*

            This takes me back to my first job with a local nonprofit. I was a team of 1 and had minimal sources to get insight of our specific sector norms.

            When I was set to travel for the first time with my organization, I was attending with our finance director, a man in his 60’s. At the time I genuinely did not know whether we would be expected to share a room and because of other issues at work did not feel empowered to ask. We were a tiny nonprofit, maybe this is how this would work?

            In retrospect, it “never” would have happened (Catholic donor conference being hosted in a monastery….probably not going to make unmarried colleagues of different genders share a room). But I truly did not know, was not comfortable asking and did not feel like I could advocate for myself.

            My issues with the finance director were never in the MeToo space, but I was under huge pressure to not appear professionally naive or unaware.

      2. Holly*

        It’s less “this is illegal” and more “this exposes the company to legal liability if something goes wrong.”

      3. Nephron*

        With the ways AirBnB is being regulated in different communities, HOAs, and condo associations you could actually swerve into this becoming an illegal hotel.

    6. OrchidDragon*

      The business owner could be the best host in the world for all anyone knows. But it is still their house and employees may not like how the household is run. The employee will have to share a bathroom with someone else, mealtimes can be uncomfortable, they will be around co-workers and the owners during their downtime after working hours.

      At least with a hotel room, it’s your own private bedroom with private bath (assuming you don’t have to share a hotel room with a co-worker). You have control over what/how/when you do things in your hotel room. Eat, get ready, read, watch tv, sleep, etc. The rest of the hotel is public where decorum and safety are the expected. No one can corner you in the lobby to talk about work when its bedtime in an hour.

    7. Malarkey01*

      I agree that the setup would change my response, but if everyone has their own rooms with locking doors than I think bring up the shared sexes issue can be seen as a red herring and damaging to people’s perception of LW (again assuming the setup still has private rooms). This wouldn’t be different than a lot of corporate housing setups, dorms, and other apartments. I get that some people wouldn’t like those either but you start to tread on shakier ground when none of these work for you because they are mixed genders.

      I say this as someone who experienced negative career opportunities because I worked with someone who followed the “billy graham rule” and wouldn’t be alone with a woman that wasn’t his wife. With LGBT employees same genders doesn’t address the concern either. It’s either appropriate space to accommodate all employees or none of the employees and leave gender out of it.

    8. Mediamaven*

      I understand why we would want this to be the case, but simply put, it’s not. I just housed four female employees in a house together. Each had her own room. They had the BEST time. But if I had a male employee, I would have put him in different accommodations. It’s just…a different dynamic for a lot of people. And it’s ok for people to feel uncomfortable because of that if that’s how they feel.

    9. JSPA*

      Anyone can harass anyone, or feel awkward being paired with anyone. But so long as people who identify as one gender (and are identified as that gender) are more at risk of being targets for inappropriate behavior, and also more likely to lack the power to complain about or shut down that behavior in real time, it’s a valid issue to raise. Especially if there already are rules about shared lodgings in a hotel, that are being ignored in the house.

      Separate from the issue of assault per se (miserable for anyone it happens to), there’s also a significant, disproportionate risk of uterus-having people (regardless of self-identification) being unwillingly impregnated. A significant majority of uterus-having people identify do identify as female.

      If you mean that a non-bottom-op trans man should be able to indicate whether he wants to be considered primarily as a “uterus haver” or as a “man who wants to be paired up for rooming purposes as any other man would be”–sure, that’s a very reasonable ask.

      A fix could be as simple as, “no shared rooms, no shared bathrooms, all bedroom and bathroom doors lock from the inside.” But there’s still the question of cameras, or whatever. Icky.

    10. JSPA*

      I’m guessing this could be a tax benefit, for the owner. So long as the house is mostly for business, and the owner doesn’t stay there for “personal use” (separate from business use or being present for necessary upkeep) for more than 14 days a year, the place can be treated entirely as a commercial expense, as far as taxes (including depreciation etc). With increasing time spent for personal use, the tax advantage tapers off. So documented employee presence and use is making the boss’s taxes lower. You’re allowed to feel that it’s not actually mutually beneficial (if it’s not).

  4. Massmatt*

    #2 your letter is interesting, we see so many letters from job seekers having tough time with rejection (understandably) but I think this is the first talking about the disappointment of not having desired candidates accept the job.

    I would follow up on what Alison said about pay and benefits to see if you can get better candidates to accept. Or maybe try to recruit more from people in rural areas? Maybe someone from Nebraska, etc is less likely to consider rural living a drawback.

    1. RoadsLady*

      I truly recommend not taking it personally, though sweetening the pot can be helpful, of course.

      A couple years back I interviewed at what just about my dream school in my dream position. I was then offered the position.

      I hate to be all “woo” here, but the story is I had a gut feeling I shouldn’t take the position. So, illogical me, I trusted my gut. Later that year, some very big family stuff went down, and I do have evidence to suggest that had I put in dream position it would have been infinitely worse.

      Nothing personal to the school and I hope the backup candidate rocked. But there are a lot of factors at play.

      1. Beaker*

        Yes! You don’t know what factors the candidate is weighing, or how difficult is was for them to reject an offer. I turned down an excellent offer when I was stuck in an awful job, and I felt so guilty because the hiring manager was lovely, we had some good conversations, and she was very eager to fill the role. The role was fine and the pay was good, but the hours and commute were bad. For jobs where people need to relocate to a rural area and the pay is subpar, it should be clear that these choices aren’t personal.

    2. Alli525*

      It’s also important to consider what kind of roles they’re hiring for. I work in academia (although as an admin, not an instructor) and having seen what adjunct professors are put through, I would NEVER advise someone to move to a rural area for a non-tenure-track job. The risk and low pay simply aren’t worth it, especially as the conversation about how adjuncts are treated is starting to gain traction nationally.

      1. Blue*

        I wouldn’t recommend it to someone on the admin side, either, unless they actively wanted to live in that kind of area. I moved to a college town (not even a rural area!) for a higher ed admin job early in my career, and I hated living there. So much so that, even though I liked the job and my coworkers, I left after two years. My former boss/colleagues didn’t hold it against me, but if OP wants to make a long-term, positive addition to their department, they should *want* someone to pass if they’re not sold on the fit.

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          Same same same! I was only in a “great” position (good career move but the pay was terrible) for 6 months before my husband asked me to look for a new job somewhere else, because we both hated the community that much. I feel bad because they invested a lot to get me out there, but I just wasn’t happy. Honestly, they shouldn’t have tried so hard to sell me on the location and should have been more honest during the interview process about what I’d experience so I could have made the choice to move there or not with my eyes fully open.

      2. Samwise*

        Yes, this is a real issue with many jobs in academia, especially faculty but also non-faculty. You always have to consider, if I can’t get a job somewhere else, is this a place I am ok staying for the rest of my career?

      3. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

        Academia refugee here. Sounded to me like the LW was hiring for a tenure-track job, given the number of interviews and the formal committee, etc. I never went through a tenure-track interview myself, but I watched/participated in plenty of them from the non-tenure-track sidelines. More than once, I noticed that search committees selected the “shiniest” of the candidates — one or more prestigious publications, an Ivy League degree, major awards — even though that didn’t fit the profile of a small teaching-focused liberal arts school in the middle of nowhere. I assumed it had to do with the enormous glut of PHDs looking for jobs; why take a plugger with a PHD from State U if you could have the rockstar from Columbia? On the surface, it makes sense. But the thing is, most of the rockstars weren’t interested in dedicating their careers to teaching, they didn’t want to live in rural X, and they craved the research support of an R1. And so they left after a year or so. The sad thing was that I saw many candidates turned away who would have fit the school’s teaching-minded mission to a T and probably would have stayed and thrived for decades. LW, in addition to thinking about your compensation package, I urge you to really really consider which type of PHD grad is most likely to stay and thrive at your particular institution.

        1. Greymalk*

          +1. And subsequently if your department hires a good fit who thrives with the focus of your department, treat them well. We’ve had department heads and upper administrators drive away our best fits after a year or two, out of misogyny and their misguided conviction that a replacement R1 researcher is just waiting to jump at a lower salary, lower startup, and higher teaching load in a rural area. Grrrrr.

        2. Paulina*

          Yes! Think about fit, the priorities of your institution (or unit), and the nature of the job. Big shiny researcher with high H-index can make a big hiring splash, but won’t necessarily contribute much to curriculum development, working with undergraduates, or service even if they come and stay.

        3. Richard Hershberger*

          I also took the question to be about tenure track positions. Here there is a big divide between STEM and the humanities. If this was a humanities position, the explanation for a candidate withdrawing is that someone else made her an offer. She might have delayed responding if she had an interview lined up with a more desirable school, but she isn’t going to hold out for a rural school with low pay. Come to think of it, even in STEM this holds true. Jobs are scarce. I come from a family of academics and it is understood that you go where the job is, even if it isn’t where you would have chosen otherwise.

        4. Sarah N.*

          This. You can also ask questions at the initial phone interview stage that really get at whether your candidates truly understand your institution and WANT to be there. It’s not going to 100% eliminate someone getting a better offer elsewhere, but it should at least help.

      4. 2body*

        For a rural position, there may also be a two-body problem at play. There often are fewer job opportunities for the trailing spouse in rural vs urban locations.

    3. Stitch*

      I have also had the experience of being extremely optimistic about a candidate from their resume/writing and then they come in and are just terrible.

      Hiring for the first time is hard, for sure. It isn’t like you would think at all. A bad interview is just as agonizing for the interviewers as the interviewees.

    4. Paulina*

      In my experience (over 20 years as faculty in academia, including many searches), it’s a bad idea to second-guess what might lead someone to want your job, because what they want and why they want it may not be obvious to you. Expanding where you’re recruiting sounds viable. Trying to improve the support for new hires (eg. hiring allowance for research support) would be useful and likely possible, though actually upping the pay and more personal benefits may not be. We usually try to get a year or two credit towards rank, if a candidate has good postdoc and/or some teaching experience, but otherwise our hands are tied by the overall faculty agreement.

      Two other options to consider: 1) if you don’t already, have a videoconference stage for your medium list, and try to engage the interviewees about details of the job and location at this stage, to get a better idea as to whether they’re seriously interested and are thinking relevant issues through. 2) Try to increase the length of the short list (the number of people you can bring in for in-person interviews). The latter is very important if you’re not going to find that you and ten other institutions are all considering the same three people, which is a very common problem for academic hiring. A longer shortlist is also known to help increase diversity of hires.

      It’s a very common problem, so it’s definitely not about you, OP2! It’s not even really about your university or the job you’re hiring for. The difficulty of getting jobs in academia, and the narrow window for getting them, leads candidates to apply widely; then by the time they’re at the in-person stage, they have a much better idea about their options. At least pulling out of the interview is better than one candidate we had recently, who came but showed so little interest in any aspect of the job or our city that I concluded he was just in it for the trip and the opportunity to practice his presentation. That reflected badly on him, in my opinion, not us. Same goes for the person we almost hired whose partner last-minute vetoed the move, despite being in agreement before. These things happen; they weren’t really about us, and they’re not about you either.

    5. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

      I had a candidate turn down an offer I extended her earlier this year and it really sucked. I still feel grumpy about it when I think of it, even though I eventually found someone else to fill the role whose skills are just as good a match.

      Unfortunately, though, strong candidates often have multiple options. The best you can do is learn from the experience and try and figure out what you can do to make the offer more attractive and more competitive with the other offers your strong candidates are likely to get.

        1. Academic Addie*

          That’s not necessarily true. I had two tenure-track offers, and turned one down. It had nothing to do with money, and everything to do with the research environment.

          1. Yikes*

            There are many, many other factors in academic job hunting besides money, especially since at most places and for most people the money isn’t going to be great no matter what. Even if a rural school is offering a relatively huge salary, it may not be worth as much as a lower paying job offer in a big city with a higher COL if the candidate has a spouse who can easily find work in the latter environment, but will struggle in a rural environment. I know my wife recently got a recruiting call for a school in a rural area, and one of the first things they told her on the phone is that most faculty live in Big City two hours away, and that she wouldn’t have to live in the rural community.

          2. Sarah N.*

            Agree, I actually turned down a TT job with a higher salary for one that didn’t pay quite as much. But it was in a city my husband felt better about looking for work in, and where we both preferred to live, plus I got a better overall vibe about the department when visiting. Those things are worth a lot more than $3K/year.

        2. GooseTracks*

          Often, but not always. I turned down a job offering a 25% increase in salary over my then-current job. The commute sucked and the company wouldn’t offer remote work, despite it being an entirely internet- and email-based job. Flexibility has a high value to me at this point in my life, and it just wasn’t worth the tradeoff.

    6. Minocho*

      OP #2 could contact the applicant if they would like to know why the candidate declined. I had a potential employer do that after I turned down an offer. The offer the was nice, but the third interview had revealed that the job being described to me by the hiring manager was not the job the third interviewer, my potential coworker, believed I would be doing, and the client contacts, other participants in the interview, believed I would be doing.

      I was more than willing to explain that the job advertised and described did not match the job I gathered I would be doing after the third interview, and that they should advertised for the job they wanted actually done to get candidates that wanted that job. His response was that they tried that, and nobody wanted it. I didn’t really have any further advice than that both they and I would be unhappy with the situation if I accepted a job that I didn’t feel I would do well. I’m a software engineer, not a client management person!

      1. $!$!*

        So the company was actively trying to trick candidates into accepting a position that was falsely advertised? Or was there a more generous reason?

        1. Minocho*

          I guess so. It seems like a foolish thing, because nobody’s going to end up happy.

          The third interview was VERY strange. The first two were very up front and promising interviews with my hiring manager and his manager, going over the job as advertised and the team and team environment. I was feeling very positive about it all. Then the third interview.

          The third interview was with a panel from what would become my client organization, and a coworker from a different department that would be my partner. The client organization was closely aligned with the company I was interviewing with, but was forced to be a client for legal reasons. The interview with them was mostly them complaining about the bad service they were receiving (it sounded like they expected certain answers, and when the data from the interviewing organization didn’t match their expectations, the data was bad) and all the other things they wanted added. The coworker, once the client panel was gone, unloaded a lot of complaints about the job, the client, the situation, my potential department, etc. This all revealed that the job was client relations management, and not mostly technical with a mix of project lead.

          Aaaaaaand…no. Wasn’t interested.

      2. GooseTracks*

        His response was that they tried that, and nobody wanted it.

        Uhh…what! That is outrageous. I’m in client management at a tech company, and…just no. Those are two vastly different jobs with vastly different skillsets. Why would an employer even want to trick someone like that?

      3. Jadelyn*

        I’ll never get why companies do this. Like…someone who gets conned into a job isn’t going to just stay and do well in it once they learn what their real job is. They’re going to flee, and you’ll be right back at square one. Also, how can you even hire for the right skillset if you’re not upfront about what the job is?

    7. Oxford Comma*

      People pull out of academic searches all the time and I don’t think you can/should take it personally. The applicant could have had a better offer for another position that fits their needs better. Maybe they had personal reasons for not moving. Maybe they just didn’t think it would be a good fit for them.

      Being on search committees is no joke (and you were on 3 and chairing 2!), but I would try to frame it this way: if you hired someone who wasn’t a good fit and/or left shortly after hiring, you’d be in this position all over again.

    8. ChachkisGalore*

      I haven’t seen this mentioned here (apologies if has been!), but I think it might also be worthwhile to go over the job description/advertisements to make sure the role, pay and location are extremely clear. Of course you want the job description to be as enticing as possible, but maybe being extremely upfront about the negatives (in a factual way) would result in candidates that would have declined or pulled out to self-select out from the beginning.

      It’s something that could be looked into even if changing the pay/benefits is an absolute no-go.

      1. Eurekas*

        I once had a phone screen for an academic position where there were a couple of “questions” that really amounted to the interviewer pointing out potential negatives about the school/area in question. The place I was interviewing was in California– did I realize that housing prices were insane? Did I understand that they were in the middle of a massive construction project and if I were hired I would have to deal with that for at least the first couple of years? (Answers: Yes, I knew housing prices in California were insane, I’m not sure I knew about the construction project but it didn’t scare me off. Yes, I got invited to an on-campus interview, no they didn’t hire me).

  5. HA2*

    #3 – yeah, kind of sounds like crock to me. It’s a benefit that’s supposed to sound nice but has the kind of fine print that means nearly nobody ever gets it. Since you’re only 5 years away from being able to use it it’s worth taking a look at the exact numbers and seeing whether it’s worth it, but my guess is that it’s not going to end up being that much anyway. (And always carries the risk of them laying you off when you’re 64 and 11 months, and paying you jack squat.)

    #4 – two weeks notice is the norm, and them putting “4 weeks” in a handbook doesn’t change the legal obligations. I suppose if you’ve liked working there there’s probably no big reason not to give 4 weeks instead of 2 since they want it (and I doubt an extra 2 weeks make much of a difference one way or the other when you’re switching jobs – I think many employers wouldn’t balk at it either.). On the other hand, if you’re in the situation where you’re trying to get out ASAP, give your two weeks and not a day more.

    1. Baru Cormorant*

      Agree on #4. 4+ weeks in advance, I would say “sorry I’m giving my 2 weeks notice, as is the norm.” If they threaten something I’m not willing to give up (like a poor reference), then fine I’ll work the 4 weeks. Otherwise, I get an extra 2 weeks off between jobs.

      1. Bluesboy*

        My previous industry too, but my current contract commits to a 1 year notice period (I’m in Italy).

        I always find the American letters on notice periods to be absolutely fascinating. I don’t doubt that the context an American employee is in makes it a genuine issue, but it’s just so far from my reality it’s like reading about people living on the moon.

        1. Asenath*

          Oh, my, one year notice!! I’m in Canada, and that’s unheard of! I have a contract (which I gather many Americans don’t), but our contract says “two weeks”. In practice, how much notice you give can vary, especially pre-retirement, which is generally planned well ahead of time – I gave something like 6 months notice, but I won’t work all that time because I want to use up a lot of leave. A co-worker recently gave 3 weeks (including some leave, so I guess it came technically to two weeks). Her supervisors were annoyed at losing her, but there was nothing they could do about it. If we didn’t have a contract, I’d check our provincial labour codes for the requirements – I’m always surprised how many workers don’t know their rights under the provincial labour law. (As it happens, under our local law, you (or your employer) need to give no notice if you’ve been working less than 3 months, 1 week if you’ve worked 3 months to 2 years, and up the scale to 6 weeks for 15 or more years on the job).

          Reading AAM has certainly left me with the impression that I am extremely lucky with my current job. Of course, people who are happy with their jobs generally don’t write in asking for advice on the problems they’re having, so that’s probably not a fair comparison!

        2. Samwise*

          You also have a contract, which the majority of American workers do not. I imagine your boss can’t fire you for no reason at all, but mine can.

          1. Bluesboy*

            Well, they could fire me, but they would have to pay me a year’s notice (to be clear, I am not complaining about my situation, just commenting on how different it is from the typical American job. Even the fact that you guys don’t have a contract is incredible to me).

        3. SomebodyElse*

          Not sure if this is off topic… but 1 year?!

          How does that work when you want a new job. Do you give notice and then start looking 3 months before the end of the notice period? Do you find a new job, get the offer and say “Great! See you in a year”

          I agree though, it is fascinating to hear about other practices and norms around the world.

            1. Bluesboy*

              Twice (when I had a three month notice period) I resigned before finding something else. It’s just too impractical to search like that. Fortunately I have a secondary skill which while not paid very well, pays the bills, so if I don’t find a job in my sector immediately I know I’ll be ok while I keep looking.

              With a year, effectively it’s impossible to give that kind of notice, which means that when the time comes I will give less notice than required, and there will be a financial penalty involved. The longer I stay at the company, the smaller the financial penalty will be, until eventually it disappears.

              (To be clear, this is not all contracts in Italy at all, I have an unusual situation. I’ve only seen similar situations when there is an entry bonus, and understandably the employer doesn’t want you to start, take the entry bonus, and quit straight away).

        4. Antilles*

          The different context is that in the US, it only goes one way.
          In your case, I’m guessing your contract requires them to keep you employed for that year after you provide notice. Here in the US, after you provide notice, companies can (and often will) turn right around and ask you to leave on the spot and/or push you out early if you provide overly long notice…and they won’t owe you a single penny for that.

      2. facepalm*

        Yeah but in most of the US, you can walk into work one day and the boss can fire you for absolutely no reason at all. We get abysmal holiday leave for the most part– it’s not required for jobs to give paid leave (my new job offers 10 paid vacation days, and it’s considered a great job). Maternity leave is not required by law. Birth mothers who are lucky get 8 weeks paid. Some companies who are more humane or want to attract better employees offer good health insurance plans or better leave policies, but it’s by their choice and not required. So I’d probably rather give a lot of notice and be protected by law and have nice government social benefits.

    2. MK*

      I think describing it as a crock is both unreasonable and unfair. What fine print? The very gist of the benefit, which they are totally upfront about, is that it only applies in remote eventualities. It’s true most people won’t find it relevant; an organisation I used to belong to had a similar scheme and as a healthy 25-year-old with no dependents it meant nothing to me. But I know people who received it (the family of someone who died of a stroke, another who had to use a wheelchair after a car crash and a couple of people who retired) and it wasn’t a croak to them, it was a huge help during difficult, sometimes desperate, times.

      Assuming the company isn’t cutting some other benefit or tolling over the cost of funding this on the employees in some way, and I assume the OP would mention it if it was so, this is a great thing.

      1. Bluesboy*

        As soon as I could afford it, I got life insurance – I’m the main source of income for my family and I have a young child.

        Before I could afford it though, I would have loved this as a perk. Say five years in, €20,000 would have paid off most of our debt (mortgage excluded) and the cost of my funeral if something had happened to me. It would have been a game changer for my widow.

        So I have to say I agree 100% with you on this. It’s a perk that you will probably never use, but absolutely not a crock (as you say, assuming something else isn’t being cut to fund this).

        1. No Tribble At All*

          As an additional life insurance policy, this is fine. But I’d be very concerned if they were offering this as a substitute for a real retirement plan or a real long-term incentive. Give me stock options, not the vague promise of money in 40 years.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I got stock options. The market fell. By the time the option was set to expire the stock was worth half the price on the option.
            If I had a fire place, I would have used the papers to heat my home.

            Stock options feel manipulative to me. I pay to own stock for a company that I already work for….. hmmm. More than one way to get people to buy a company’s stock.

            Maybe I am old, but money in my hand is worth more to me.

    3. Spreadsheets and Books*

      My old employer had 30 days in the handbook for mid-level people and up to 150 days for high level jobs. I gave two weeks, as no one in my department had ever given more than two weeks.

      Since my departure happened to coincide with a few other people in the department and HR was mad about the bottom falling out of our team, HR yelled at me for 30 minutes during my exit interview, but that was the extent of the consequences. They even paid out my PTO, even though New York law dictates that they didn’t have to. I may be on some sort of no re-hire list, but my new job was contingent on a start date and I was eager to leave. Someone might get grumpy, but they can’t make you stay.

    4. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      I worked somewhere that put “Four weeks’ notice is expected to be eligible for rehire.”

      This was the same place that would torture people until they quit (One was told to come in last minute on a Sunday, when she had three littles at home and no one to watch them, and when she said she couldn’t was ordered to turn in her resignation. One was set to work opposing shifts to her child’s school schedule, so she’d never see him. One was doing a terrible job and rather than fire him, they made him sit through a series of meetings in which he was yelled at and given harsh discipline to get him to quit so they wouldn’t have to pay unemployment.)

      Then once they’d forced the person into quitting, they’d handwring. “Oh FERGUS just left us in the LURCH like that, it is just SO UNPROFESSIONAL to quit out of nowhere. And on a Sunday too!”

      The four weeks’ notice was a way to stab employees in the back on their way out the door.

      1. JSPA*

        The one’s not really causal or correlated with the other though, is it? They could have tortured people in a two week setting, too…the other stuff is egregious / evil bees territory, but the “4 weeks for rehire eligibility” is only mildly odd.

  6. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. I was concerned by the word “full”. Remember the story about the employee who had to stay on an inflatable mattress when visiting another office? It is linked just underneath Alison’s questions. A whole flat to yourself might be ok (a bit like a Studio Hotel or a rented holiday appartment), but this sounds like people being shoehorned into every available space!

    1. Essess*

      I assumed that each bedroom would be allotted for an employee so all bedrooms have been ‘reserved’ so the house is full.

      1. Jadelyn*

        I joke with my mom about her workplace being basically a frat house. Who knew there were places that would see that as a good idea to implement literally?

  7. voyager1*

    LW3: 20,000 for 5 years? And they are funding it through “interest” of their investment.

    This has unfunded pension liability written all over it.

    I wouldn’t count on this unless you are desperate.

    1. Fabulous*

      I was wondering the same thing, where does that money come from? It also sounds like they put all those stipulations in place to make it near impossible to collect.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        From the OP the company was setting aside the initial investment. Then it would be funded through interest going forward. There is nothing that indicates this is a pension or anything but a bonus with rules.

  8. Dan*


    You’ve kind of got this weird catch-22 thing going on. Usually in a small town, you can get away with paying less because the cost of living is lower. But here the rural area + lower salary is making people say “nope”. Part of the issue is that you need to attract people *to* a rural area. I used to live in one, and it would take lot for me to move back. One problem with rural areas is that if one has a “trailing spouse”, what’s the employment opportunities for the spouse? So you may have to figure out if that’s an issue and see if you can do something about that.

    I actually do thing you have to increase pay (or whatever is done in academic circles to increase the appeal of an offer). If you’re regularly losing out on your top candidates, that’s the market telling you you’re not competitive. And there’s really not much you can do about it that doesn’t cost $.

    1. Nye*

      Another issue, which OP alluded to, is that folks might be using the offer as leverage with their current University and had no intention of leaving. Unfortunately, a lot of institutions won’t consider “retention” offers until employees have an offer in hand from somewhere else. Not much you can do about this except try to develop a spidey sense about which candidates are not seriously interested, to avoid wasting your time and search resources on them. Unfortunately this may well include many of your top on-paper candidates.

      I echo others in saying that if you are work hard to accommodate partner hires when suitable, this may really help recruit and retain good candidates.

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      +1 for the trailing spouse. Hubs and I moved to a rural area about 3 states over, which we did prefer – we wanted to live in a more rural area – but that particular area had no jobs for me (we moved for Hub’s job). We stayed for a while – nearly a year, but after Hub’s job pulled a few shenanigans, and I had found a job that was great about 2 hours away…. we moved.

      We still stayed rural, but where we originally went, there was pretty much just the one facility where Hubs was and a whole bunch of restaurants. Nothing within an hour was hiring my field. I worked online for that time, but it was a lot easier to justify leaving when Hub’s job decided to totally change his job description (even with a hefty salary increase – it was hell on earth just living with the poor guy, can’t imagine his stress level).

    3. Stitch*

      I have also done interviews and withdrawn my application. An interview goes both ways. No reason to waste anyone’s time if you know you don’t want to work there after seeing the place.

    4. nonymous*

      I feel like the secret to sussing out whether people are well suited for the rural/small-town life at initial stages is to brag about the features in glowing terms. I have several coworkers with spouses that run the family farm, there is a performance center in town that gets touring shows from Chicago with cheap tickets (I saw Wicked for $35!), etc.
      But for a candidate who is looking for access to a variety of music/theater options (or even something out of the medium band or niche) or the ability to live without a car, there is resounding silence on those options and it should scare the serious job seekers who aren’t a good fit for the region away.

      Now, that won’t chase away people who are looking for leverage, but if that’s a major problem, asking them during a skype or phone interview why they want to work in town XYZ is a legitimate question. It’s hubris for a mid-range institution to thing that they are so amazing that staff will sacrifice their family’s quality of life for the position, especially for the highly-qualified candidate.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I am laughing. We have an employer here who put it right in their employment ads: “We are in a rural area. There is no night life. There are no bars, traffic lights or taxies. The pizza place closes at 9 pm. There are no movie theaters, no live theaters, no shopping centers, no malls. Do not apply if you want a city-type life.”

        I am sure people applied and were surprised that all these things were true.

    5. Dagny*

      Right. In the era of two-career families (and I mean career, not job), it’s a big “ask” to be in a rural area with not-great pay. There are things that you can provide to make it easier: on-campus daycare and elementary schools, flexible work schedules, very flexible FMLA leave, etc.

      My husband will be able to stagger his leave throughout the academic year after I deliver, and his department is shifting his course load to more online courses when I will be on maternity leave. I asked him the other day who in his department is both over 40 and childless, and he said no one. The top two highest-ranking people are women.

      That’s an entirely different ballgame than a department having a culture and policies that would, in practice, preclude me from also having a career.

    6. Rainy*

      I recently withdrew from two searches (I work in higher ed but not as faculty) after being invited for a fly-out for each. In one case, the “fly-out” would have been local, but they are drastically underpaying for area COL–I would have added an hour-plus commute and their initial offer was about 7k less than what I make now. For the other one, it actually really bummed me out to withdraw–the job was at one of my almae matres, I love the town (although the state is a garbage fire), the pay was pretty good for the area, but I have a trailing spouse, and the pay they were offering wouldn’t have been enough for us to manage moving and startup expenses in a new state and town if it took my spouse longer than a month or two to find a job. He looked at the various job postings and found one in town that was in his field. Just the one.

      It really killed me to turn down the fly-out, though, because everything else about the job was amazing, and I absolutely loved my interview panel. They did absolutely everything right, and it would be really sad for me if I thought that the search committee chair were feeling like OP2 is about my decision to withdraw from the search.

    7. Paulina*

      Leaning too heavily on low published COL for the area isn’t good. Keep in mind that:
      1) standard COL and COL for many academics may be two very different things. For example, air travel from smaller places can be very expensive, and they may have high expectations for where their kids go to college.
      2) even if houses are cheaper, they may not be intending to stay there forever (either wanting to keep their options open career-wise, or might not stay after retirement). Having less equity to move on with is risky, especially if other aspects (such as the trailing spouse) are in play.

    8. Dancing Otter*

      Honestly, working in a low COL area doesn’t mean your employees don’t need to put just as much money aside for retirement as anyone else, unless they want to be forced to live in a (clean it up, Otter) less than optimal area after retirement. So under-paying people compared to national averages because you’re in a low COL area is still under-paying people.

      Another thing to consider is the resources in the community.
      Medical care can be pretty sketchy is some rural areas: how far is it to a full-fledged trauma center? How many hours would they have to travel to see a decent oncologist or cardiologist?
      What about cultural opportunities? Do you need a 3-day weekend to travel to see professional theatre or opera (or whatever your musical preferences may be)? Does the local movie theater show films that are so old they’re already available on Netflix? Does it show nothing but blockbusters?
      How are the local schools? What about the legal and political environment?
      What about religious and racial diversity? Your institution may try to be a poster child for hiring diversity, but if you’re located in a hotbed of white supremacists, that’s going to make you a lot less attractive to a lot of people.

      These aren’t things you can change, but they could help explain why candidates take one look and back away.

  9. Cathie Fonz*

    #2 – It might be worthwhile to find our how many other departments with open positions at your institution have also had this problem — this might tell you whether it is a department problem (eg, that PhD-qualified people in your field are all being scooped up by industry) or a university problem (eg, other institutions are more prestigious in attracting research grants, etc). It also might be useful to phone a few of the top withdrawals and ask them to give you some insight into what would have made your opening more attractive (eg, for a dual-PhD couple, maybe their spouse couldn’t see any realistic prospect of finding a job in your location.) Doing this research would likely give you some ideas for innovations that will make your openings more attractive.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I can understand how this situation crops up, particularly for faculty/postdoc jobs, and it’s tricky to deal with.

      Someone applying for faculty or postdoc jobs will apply to a lot of jobs, because the success rate is low, and there’s a lot of randomness from year to year and job to job. But it’s a lot like applying for university – if you get into your top choice with a full scholarship, there’s nothing that’s going to convince you to accept the safety school’s offer. So if you’re hiring for a university that’s not that high up in the hierarchy, there’s a good chance that your top applicants will get offers at more appealing places, and there’s realistically not much you can do to make them choose you – you can’t turn yourself into a top research institution, double the pay, increase job opportunities for trailing spouses, or move to a more appealing location. The glacial pace of hiring in academia makes things worse – having your whole short list turn down offers can easily mean a year setback in hiring a faculty member.

      At some level, it comes down to accepting that this is how things work, and being matter of fact about it. One thing I can thing of is to increase the shortlist to reduce the chances of not being able to hire anyone from a round of interviews (say, interview six faculty candidates instead of three). If you’re hiring for staff positions or postdocs, you can have two lists – the first round candidates (who are probably going to turn you down), and a second round candidates, who you’re ready to extend interviews to right after the first round.

  10. Claude*

    #5 On the resume: As long as an automated system allows you to update the application, I would say it is fine to do so. If the company did not want this, they could set it up to not allow this.
    If the hiring manager looks through the applications before a deadline, she may not see the updated version. But no harm done.

  11. P.C. Wharton*

    I had a different read on #5. I don’t think OP is talking about reapplying, but about online applications that let you make changes at any time. If that’s the case–and if you can put up the new resume and immediately take down the first–I don’t really see the harm. If they haven’t reviewed it yet, they’ll see the new one; if they have, they won’t. Since you say you didn’t make substantive changes, it shouldn’t create confusion either way.

    1. Angwyshaunce*

      If they went this route, I’d suggest they bring a copy of each version to the interview for themselves, just to ensure they and the interviewer are on the same page (figuratively and literally).

    2. Qwerty*

      I had a candidate do this and it was very confusing. HR downloaded the resume after viewing the application and approving him to be contacted for an interview, but the candidate updated the resume on the site before they got the call to set up interviews. When we got to the in-person interview stage, everyone had out of date resumes, and he kept referencing things that weren’t on the old version or weren’t as easy to find.

      For how much (or little) time that an interviewer spends studying each resume, having the content be the same but completely reformatting and rearranging it will make it look like a completely different resume. Switching up the resume really only works for very minor tweaks.

    3. Anna*

      Pretty much this. I’m thinking of one particularly large employer where I live. Their system hangs onto the last resume and cover letter you uploaded and will use it for every position you apply to with them. It’s an open system that remains editable no matter how many jobs you apply to. It can be a real hassle when you’re trying to target your resume for specific positions, but it does allow you to upload better or more recent resumes even after you apply to a position. In that case, I would say go ahead and upload a newer resume. But bring extras for the panel if you get an interview.

      1. P.C. Wharton*

        I’ve dealt with several systems like this, so this was what I was imagining. Similar to resume-posting sites, the employer probably expects the posters to update their resume periodically. If it was a one-and-done type application, it’s unlikely the applicant would have access to it indefinitely.

  12. Baru Cormorant*

    I don’t disagree. I think the policy is weird and gross and I don’t want to stay in my boss’s or coworker’s house when on a business trip! And OP clearly doesn’t think the issue is ONLY men and women sharing rooms (“What could get even trickier”, emphasis mine).

    The only difference between our opinions is that I also think that OP isn’t wrong or weird to point out that forcing colleagues to share sleeping/living spaces can also get icky with various genders involved. How to divide the available bedrooms? As you point out, you can’t just have men share one room and women share another based on “well heteronormativity”. You can’t make one person sleep in the living room on a couch (so many people seem to think men don’t need privacy…). You can’t make someone share a room with their boss. And when someone has to get the short end of the stick, how do you make that decision equitably? Do “ladies” get the biggest bedroom, or does the owner’s favorite? Gross all around.

    I agree that this is just a company trying to cut costs literally at the expense of employees’ comfort. I say pick whatever reason will convince them to change the policy and push back as a group!

  13. GiantPanda*

    I disagree a bit. If this place is set up like a company guest house or a professional AirBnB it wouldn’t matter that it belongs to the business owner. Someone will have to stay there and see if the house is like that or more like a private residence (as it sounds). If the latter then start pushing back.

    1. Middle Manager*

      I stay in Air BnBs all the time and I’m comfortable with the idea that I’m in someone’s private residence. But there are definitely some people who would never chose to use an Air BnB in their personal life. Even if it’s “professionally set up,” I don’t think it’s okay for a company to force that on employees. Even liking Air Bnb, I didn’t chose my co-workers and wouldn’t choose to stay in an Air Bnb with them. I’m not on board for almost anyone seeing me in Pajamas, without making, etc.

    2. nonymous*

      My neighbor is a partner in an engineering firm and he has space in his home set up for hosting staff. He basically put in a self-contained apartment, with high end finishes and an outdoor patio and a great view. I agree that it wouldn’t be my first choice b/c it’s hard to get the time to recharge that an introvert really needs, but that has nothing to do with the home; they just work in an industry where you schmooze at the bar in the evening.

    3. Washi*

      My concern would be the effect on the relationship if issues arose – like what if something broke while I was there and there was a dispute about who was at fault? Better to just stay in a normal hotel!

  14. tamarack and fireweed*

    OP#2 Yes, everything Alison said, and especially in academia.

    Candidates WILL drop out. And the ones that look best on paper will be most likely to — because they tend to have the widest variety of options. And for academic roles, at least as far as faculty is concerned, you’re most of the time in the position of an embarrassment of choices with excellent qualifications.

    I’m seeing this currently from the other side. Though I’ve several years experience in a role that included hiring during a previous industry career, I’m currently looking at hiring processes for postdoc and research associate roles, and am under no illusions that it’ll take a major stroke of luck for me to hook a regular TT faculty role, given I’m geographically quite limited. Do I think I have something valuable to contribute, should I get hired? You bet! So my hope is that I’m getting a second look even in the presence of on-paper better-looking candidates, who, I am quite convinced, are no more likely than me to work out in the mid-to-long term.

    And if you really have problems attracting the candidates you want, it’s an incentive to review what you offer. The compensation package is one thing, but not everything. If you’re in a rural area, what are you doing to attract partners? What kind of university are you? Is the project of your institution clear? How is the new hire supposed to fit into it? Do you know what you need to do to be first-rate at being the kind of university you are? Also, last, I find that there seems to be a lack in training in basic management functions for senior academics, including in hiring. Maybe there’s something available from the faculty development office (or whatever it’s called)?

  15. gsa*

    LW #4,

    I’ve lived and worked in NC my entire adult life, aka the last 30+ years.

    As you you wrote, NC is an “at will” State. I have ‘ve ever heard or been told any employee or employer was required, by law or other wise, to give notice.

    OTOH, Double check to make sure you didn’t sign something to the contrary.

    Good luck,


  16. Hello, I'd like to report my boss*

    #1: this could be a very weak benefit as presented. Firstly, If the newly merged company is struggling, there’s a chance it will go under and no-one will get the benefit (or will get only a tiny fraction of it) when the company’s closed down or sold again.

    Secondly, funding it on the interest sounds extremely unlikely without eating into the capital, unless it truly is a massive sum, or they also plan to invest to increase returns (which is much more profitable, but riskier).

    Thirdly, how is the payout split? If ten eligible people retire in one year with a total of 60 years’ service, do you each get a fixed sum ($2k per year, say?) or do you get a percentage of the available funds, split pro rata between you? Or something else?

    If it’s the first one – very dangerous as it might be a huge cost one year that causes cash flow problems for the company.

    I would get the actual documentation and details of this ASAP before deciding to work another five years. It might very well be legit, or it might be a bit shakey and a massive liability.

    1. MK*

      I agree that the OP shouldn’t count on it in any way; it sounds as if it is still in the planning stages. But I think it is designed to be used rarely, maybe by one or two people a year; I might be wrong, but I would assume a construction company is more likely to have a “younger” workforce on average. Ideally, factors like these would have been taken into account, and some thought given to what would happen in “bad” years, a.k.a. if a lot of people were eligible.

      I think it would better if the OP thought of this not as a benefit, but a perk that might or might not apply to them and not make any decision based on this.

      1. Shad*

        While there’s a decent chance you’re right about the age distribution, a highly physical industry like construction or manufacturing also comes with an increased risk of injury to the point of permanent disability (especially when permanent disability is defined relative to a highly physical job).

  17. Anonny*

    #1 I mean, maybe it’s a second home or something and that wouldn’t be too awful, but if it’s the owner’s main residence then **** no. It would be weird and awkward and I wouldn’t want to see my boss’s private life or pajamas and visa versa!

    1. Clay on my apron*

      So my partner works for a company with headquarters in another city. When he travels there for business meetings, he has to stay *in his boss’s home* with Boss, Boss’s Wife and Assorted Travelling Colleagues. Horrific. I asked him before the last trip why he doesn’t just say NO. He tried… but is too anxious about job security to make it a hill to die on. (No good going to HR as HR is Boss’s Daughter.) His Boss is not a terrible person but likes to keep costs down and has no idea of boundaries.

  18. Mookie*

    I also am starting to feel like it’s not worth it to interview the most qualified people anymore because they always withdraw or use us as leverage for something else.

    LW2, that’s literally the conundrum every employer and hiring manager faces. Qualified people have options. If your employers are consistently listing these positions with poor compensation such that they’re driving away the most suitable applicants near the end of the hiring process, that is their (and, by extension, you and your committee’s) problem.

    You say “leverage,” like good candidates are trying to pull a fast one on you, but that’s often how good applicants negotiate for the things they need and expect but are not on offer. Or, it may be that you’re mistakenly recruiting and interviewing people who are overqualified for a position that ought to be filled by someone equally capable but with less experience or more modest aspirations. Perhaps sometimes in the quest to ‘shop’ exemplary candidates to your bosses, under the impression this makes you look impressive and ambitious, you’re demonstrating poor judgment and/or magical thinking, and thus are being inefficient. If it’s their expectations that are out of whack, however, sell them on the promising candidates they can afford, as Alison says.

    1. WS*

      Yes, this struck me as well. If the most qualified people are “always” refusing your offers, there’s a mismatch in expectations somewhere.

      1. Nye*

        I mentioned this above, but I think the “leverage” may not be in other job offers, but in current positions. Some people are already at an institution, want or need some additional accommodation / perk / etc, and know their institution is likely to offer it if they have a competing offer. So they never had any intention of accepting the rural position, just needed the offer to get something from the university they’re currently at. I’ve seen this happen a ton with junior dual-career couples. One gets hired, the other gets a crummy temporary offer if that, both keep applying to jobs. If the one the university hired gets an offer elsewhere, they can go back and say, Make my partner an offer or I’ll have to leave. They usually don’t want to leave, they just need the partner hire and know their university will take the outside offer seriously.

        1. AnotherLibrarian*

          This is also partly the fault of Universities. It shouldn’t require an outside offer to get a promotion or raise, but often it does. It wasn’t until I was getting in-person interviews at other institutions that u got a raise at my last academic job that brought my salary to market range. It should be needed, but it sometimes is and you can’t blame candidates for working the system that they didn’t create. It sucks for hiring committees, but it’s a real thing.

    2. mf*

      “Or, it may be that you’re mistakenly recruiting and interviewing people who are overqualified for a position that ought to be filled by someone equally capable but with less experience or more modest aspirations. Perhaps sometimes in the quest to ‘shop’ exemplary candidates to your bosses, under the impression this makes you look impressive and ambitious, you’re demonstrating poor judgment and/or magical thinking, and thus are being inefficient. ”

      This is an excellent point. I’m sure most employers/hiring managers like to think they can hire top notch candidates, but not every employer has what it takes to woo really qualified people. And sometimes, they don’t even really NEED to hire the most qualified candidate. Sometimes a less qualified candidate who is eager to learn will be “good enough” for the position.

  19. V*

    #3 – where I work / live, long-term disability insurance and death in service coverage are normal benefits. Would it help if you thought of it that way, rather than as “a big pot of money that I probably won’t get any of”?

    1. me and bobby mcgee*

      I’ve got that kind of stuff through my job. It’s something I signed up for at a desired level when I started working there and money is taken out of every paycheck for it. I know what comes with me when I leave the job. What the LW describes doesn’t sound like what I have.

      1. TechWorker*

        This isn’t necessarily standard though, if it’s run through an insurance company (as mine is) then it doesn’t come through the paycheck directly, it’s just something the company pays for and you only get if it happens to apply to you.

        (In other words, what you can get isn’t directly related to what you put in, nor do you get anything if you never need it, which seems ok to me).

        This is *slightly* different as it also applies on retirement (and specifically, retirement at 65) but it sounds similar – none of the money is ever coming through LWs paycheck.

  20. Jellyfish*

    #2 – I work in academia. When my current job made me an offer, I was in the middle of the interview process with other schools as well. Some of those schools were in rural areas, and, having weighed other factors, I already decided I was okay with that. Ending my candidacy had nothing to do with those schools. I got an offer for a job that seemed like a good fit, so I took it. Nothing more.

    I did my best to be professional and polite when pulling myself out of the running. I didn’t want to burn bridges. Even if I never job search again, people at those other schools are still my industry colleagues.

    Honestly, I’d be irritated to learn that someone was personally upset because I accepted a good offer elsewhere. Just like an employer can’t hire all the quality candidates they interview, candidates can only accept one full time job.

    I got lots of rejections during my job search too. It would have been foolish for me to limit my search out of misguided loyalty to a particular institution or hiring committee.

    It must be frustrating to lose a top prospect, but it seems very unlikely to be a personal slight on her part. She chose what was best for herself, just like your school is trying to do.

    1. Hope Springs*

      It’s really easy to get invested in the search process in academia. A failed search might mean that the position will be defunded in the next hiring cycle and you won’t get a second chance. And the pay is also usually well below the average pay for a similar position, so you do often have people dropping out once they realize that.

      1. AnotherLibrarian*

        Yes, I agree it is easy, but just like you tell candidates not to get overly invested, I think you have to not get overly invested on hiring committees as well. I’ve been on both sides of hiring in higher ed.

  21. Seeking Second Childhood*

    LW1, you may have a financial way to push back — ask about liability insurance for injuries to employees while at the residence and/or accidental property damage to the residence while employees are there. Company vs private insurance is unlikely to be the same policy, and dividing that up in case of, say, a kitchen fire, could be really tricky..

  22. T2*

    For #1 Although this seems to be an unpopular opinion, I really really perder to maintain a strict separation between my work and personal lives. That means I do not engage in work social functions or any activities that confuse that boundary. I have learned from personal experience the horror that happen when I misunderstand the nature of a relationship with those I work with.

    As part of this, I do not spend any of my off hours in association with coworkers when I am not working. I just will not do it. If I have to travel, I have always ensured that I have my own room, even if I have to pay for it myself. Or I will stay with family members or personal friends who I like.

    For the record, I am pleasant enough with the people I work with. But my relationship with them is purely economic. I didn’t select my coworkers and although they seem nice enough, I would not associate with them at all if I wasn’t paid to be at work. But I am firm on the no association policy. And my employer does not pay me enough to cross my own boundaries.

    You might say it is a social issue on my part. But i have been this way for years, and it works well for me. I am just way more comfortable when I clearly understand the motives of the people I consider friends and family.

    1. MK*

      Eh, that’s not a particularly rare or unpopular opinion, and also somewhat beside the point of the OP’s situation. I have close friends aming my colleagues, I enjoy socializing with them and I would even object to sharing a hotel room with some of them, assuming it was absolutely necessary.

      But staying in my supervisor’s private residence, along with an unknown number of unidentified coworkers? Absolutely no way.

      1. Annette*

        I would say it is rare in society. Where people try to be friendly and make life more pleasant for each other. But many commenters here seem to think personal relationships with coworkers = a tragedy. So it’s not unpopular in a certain crowd.

        But agree that it’s irrelevant.

    2. Allison*

      I don’t mind the occasional work outing, but I’m with you on not wanting to bunk with my colleagues, I want my own room and I really want some time to myself on work trips. Just because I work with someone doesn’t mean we gotta be camp buddies.

  23. Ra94*

    This is niche, but in the UK legal sector, every graduate job uses an online application that lets you go back and edit. However, that’s in lieu of a resume, and there’s no chance to format because you’re just inputting facts, dates, and answers to essay questions, so I can’t quite picture what type of system OP is coming into contact with.

    For my applications, the advice I got was to never go back and make substantive changes after the deadline, because there would be a trackable edit history, and it would make it look like you were trying to sneak some extra time to improve your answers. The only acceptable changes are updating contact info/phone number/etc, or adding in factual updates (degree results, a new internship), since the process can take 4-10 months.

  24. Zombie Unicorn*

    #4 Given the international readership it seems worth saying that in the UK this absolutely would be binding.

    1. Zombie Unicorn*

      NB I know the LW is in the US but some people reading may not twig that this is US-centric advice.

    2. Clisby*

      Even in the absence of a contract? In the case of the LW, the boss has just unilaterally declared there’s a 4-week notice period; the employees haven’t agreed to it.

      1. TechWorker*

        No just in the UK basically all full time/long term jobs come with a contract and that contract will usually specify the notice period. But agreed, Alison does mention contracts so I doubt there’s too much potential for confusion.

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        It’ll be in the contract (virtually every above-board job in uk has a contract) and it’s very unusual to have less than a month’s notice period in either direction (I’d almost say unheard of – there might be a rare exception that would have as little as 2 weeks? – but until reading aam I thought the movie “two weeks notice” had the implied sub-plot that she was cutting out early!)

        But… there’s technically legally bound…

        I am NOT a lawyer and this is TOTALLY non-legal feelings about how it works that are only my (possibly wrong) opinion…

        If you leave without giving proper notice then your reputation can be seriously trashed – I think more so than in US because it is just so accepted you will work at least a month’s notice period. Unless they put you on garden leave.

        And if the company lays you off, you either get a month’s notice or a month’s pay in lieu of notice.

        If you quit and leave… technically the company can sue you for damages. Not just the month’s wages, but if they can show that they had substantial damages because you didn’t attend major conference and stall was unmanned… you might have to pay damages towards that loss of revenue.

        In reality, I get feeling it usually isn’t worth their time and money, unless they took a serious financial hit. So one of an admin team probably wouldn’t be sued, but someone whose sudden departure caused loss of a major contract might be.

    3. MK*

      Are you certain? I would agree if the handbook was in force before the employee got hired; even if there was no specific metion of this during the hiring process, it would be understood that the employee is opting-in to the company regulations as they stand. But in most of Europe the employer cannot alter the terms of employment for the worse unilaterally.

      1. Zombie Unicorn*

        Oh no I just meant it’s not true that a handbook isn’t ever legally binding as it can form part of your contract.

        Retrospectively adding something is different.

        1. banzo_bean*

          Yes, but the issue isn’t that contracts don’t include legally binding handbooks in the US, it’s that in the US most jobs don’t have contracts.

          1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            And you seldom get to look at the handbook before accepting your job. It’s something that comes up in Onboarding, after you’ve been hired, and you’re often required to sign a form that says, “I have received a copy of the handbook, the contents of which may change without notice at any time,” before you’re even given time to read the handbook.

          2. Clisby*

            Yes, that was my point. Most US jobs don’t involve a contract, so what the handbook says about notice is irrelevant. You can give none, you can give 2 weeks (pretty standard), you can give 6 months – entirely up to you.

  25. Juli G.*

    I agree about the potential funding issues, legalities, etc. about #3 but I see this as their attempt at incentivizing older workers to stay on for consistency/stability. Surely this is more likely to keep a 60 year old worker around than a 40 year old.
    Maybe it’s not well thought out but it is interesting. Most benefits that companies come out with now don’t target older demographics.

  26. hbc*

    OP2: “I also can’t help feeling like I should somehow be able to avoid this.”

    You probably can’t avoid having some candidates bail, but you can probably dig to see if you can decrease the numbers that do, or increase the odds that you’ve got a full roster for the next phase. (I can’t tell which is the real problem from your letter.) You could ask those who bow out what it was that sent them in another direction, ask your newly-hired colleagues what clinched it for them and if there was anything that was close to pushing them away, experiment with other hiring processes, bring in more not-quite-so-great candidates, or put together a brutally honest info packet or video that will scare away the urbanites up front.

    Or you could ask your boss if you’re delivering enough good candidates and if they have any requests or suggestions. Your boss might be perfectly happy to review just two or three candidates knowing these were the best you could get, and all of this worry is for nothing.

  27. OrigCassandra*

    OP2, I notice something in your letter that gives me a little pause: “it’s not us, it’s our location.”

    Could well be true! I don’t know it’s not from the few details in your letter! But take a little time to look at your department (or whatever other unit type) with the fresh eyes of an interviewee. Is there a missing stair nobody’s acknowledging? How do folks treat each other? How’s morale?

    I ask because I’ve turned down an academic job in a semi-rural location because the workplace was full of feuds, and I’ve seen that and other academic workplaces attribute retention challenges to everything but their own staringly obvious management problems. I’m not saying this is you… but I’m suggesting that you rule it out.

    1. MK*

      Even if it is a location issue, the OP might be able to refine their search somewhat. Try to look for candidates who have worked in locations similar to yours before, or originate from them, so that you won’t get people who apply and then change their mind once they research the town.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, this. I was looking for a rural location on my last academic job hunt. I wanted a small town. But I also remember leaving one in-person interview (where I was never offered a glass of water during the entire interview, until I had a coughing fit) and realized that I didn’t want to work in a place where for a day long interview it never occurred to them to offer the candidate a freaking glass of water. This wasn’t my only reason for pulling out of the pool, but it was sort of the nail in the coffin.

      So, look carefully at your interview process, OP#2. Is there something going on you can change?

      1. Heyima*

        Oh my god! I think I was part of that committee (or maybe not but it’s a strong coincidence). If it was, the backstory is this: we’d set up the room and I noticed there wasn’t water set up for the candidates in the place where they were going to sit. I pointed this out and the chair said no, we weren’t going to offer water because it might make candidates uncomfortable ! I could not follow the logic of this (maybe they thought candidates would be so nervous they’d accidentally spill water over themselves in a Mr Bean-type scenario?). I, and some of my colleagues, pushed back on this but the chair would. not. be. moved. In the end, the compromise reached was that water would be offered *if* the candidate needed it.

        I’ve been in several academic search committees but that one was easily the weirdest.

    1. President Porpoise*

      But then how will we know where to go to get Erica to work her magic so we can reunite with our lost loves? This reads as totally legit!

  28. T2*

    On #4.

    +1 on Allison’s comment that if you make a contract to provide extended notice, you should also make sure that goes both ways. It is very timely.

    My employer came to me this week and asked about signing me to a contract to provide notice. I am going to ask that if I have to provide 4 months notice, then they need to provide me with 4 months notice or severance if they decide to cut me loose. Even if I have to give up some of the bonus, this seems to be a fair concession.

  29. Sara without an H*

    Hello, OP#2 — Been there, done that. From both sides.

    Yes, it can be difficult and frustrating to hire for academic jobs in rural settings, for all the reasons previous commenters have stated. (You want frustration? Talk with your admissions people — they’re probably tearing their hair out trying to attract students to a rural location.) But Alison is right — these problems are baked into your situation and you should never take it personally.

    It might be a good idea to talk with those who have done hiring in other departments recently and see if there are some common factors that interfere with good hiring. Be alert for the we-ve-always-done-it-that-way response. Make sure all the steps in your process are actual requirements, rather than antique traditions.

    Is your employer doing anything to actively “sell” your location? When I interviewed for a position at Large University in Small Midwestern City, the chair of the search committee gave me a very slickly produced packet of information on Small Midwestern City: cost of living data, housing information, public transportation, entertainment, recreation, etc. What can you do to emphasize the advantages of your community and make it feel welcoming?

    While your HR department has probably warned you not to ask candidates about marital status and child-rearing plans, many of your candidates will have spouses/life-partners and children. If the candidate asks questions about the local schools, daycare, etc., do you have somebody on the search committee prepared to answer them?

    Finally, academic searches take a notoriously long time. One search committee I served on calculated that, if we followed all the steps required by the university, a search would take nine months. (Bad jokes flew thick and fast.) Given the tight job market in higher education, being able to make a good offer quickly can make you more appealing to candidates. Talk with your department chair and your HR person about ways to streamline the process.

    1. blackcat*

      “When I interviewed for a position at Large University in Small Midwestern City, the chair of the search committee gave me a very slickly produced packet of information on Small Midwestern City: cost of living data, housing information, public transportation, entertainment, recreation, etc.”

      I think I interviewed at the same school! Or maybe all Large Universities in Small Midwestern Cities have the same packet!

      They also took about an hour of my time to drive me around the area and show me where faculty live, some of the parks, etc.

      I am definitely a Big City person, but if they had offered me the job, I would have found a way to make it work.

      1. Sara without an H*

        Some of these Small Midwestern Cities are actually quite nice, but you have to be realistic on the need to market them to those from outside the area. I was actually quite pleased with Small Midwestern City, but left after three years for a promotional opportunity. I sometimes toy with the idea of moving back after I retire.

      2. professor*

        they all have the packet, but none of the glossiness changes the fact that the town barely has a Walmart, much less anything else and no opportunities for your partner….like great, I love hiking, but first I need my partner to not be unemployed…

    2. Academic. Librarian urban transplant*

      2 things
      My position was open due to a failed search. My cv was tossed off the first round pile.
      Once I was on campus for the job talk, each interviewer was a rep for the chamber of commerce. Why this small midwestern city was the perfect place to spend the rest of my days.
      They made it sort of easy for me to say yes, competitive salary, moving costs, AND were flexible on the hiring date. Oh and the trailing spouse was from a small town a two hour drive away. Sometimes the planets align.

    3. Junior Assistant Peon*

      I’m surprised it’s enough of a problem to interfere with recruitment. The academic job market is notoriously bad, and it’s really common for professors in my field to live somewhere they hate because they’re just grateful to have a job.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        Could it be something about the state that is notoriously bad? Say, with regards to civil rights that may be off-putting to people whose spouse or children may be in the group affected by the lack of civil rights?

      2. Rainy*

        As PhDs become aware that they have options besides academia, I think their eyes are being opened to the fact that they don’t have to slog out their 50 years before the whiteboard in Upper Racist Boot, and they’re a lot less willing to take what they can get academically if they can find rewarding work in another field.

      3. Observer*

        That probably only works when it’s actually possible to make it work and for candidates who are not the (conventionally) strongest candidates.

      4. professor*

        right, but not the top candidates….and certainly not the shiny star people who everyone wants even though they will jump ship at another opportunity to get out of there…

  30. Falling Diphthong*

    Here’s a link to ping Alison that people are using spell-casting and not even to curse their coworkers: xkcd.com

    1. doing the comment section a vulgar favor*

      Did the link not get auto-moderated? Maybe it needs a curse word (shit)

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        I usually put in the full HTML for a link to ensure it goes into moderation. (So Alison should get flagged to this post next time she checks.)

      2. No Tribble At All*

        I also put a comment in with a link, and I haven’t seen it shown up, so I think the moderation is pending.

  31. Guacamole Bob*

    For OP5, I’d say don’t do it. I was on a hiring panel recently where a candidate brought an updated resume to the interview, and it ended up feeling like a strike against her. The updated resume included a job that was very relevant that really should have been on the original resume. It wasn’t at all the deciding factor, but it was a bit odd and made the candidate look sloppy.

    You say that the updates aren’t substantive, but I still think the risk of highlighting the bad stuff about the old resume isn’t worth it.

    1. Joielle*

      I was thinking this too. Maybe this isn’t fair, but if someone handed me a much-improved resume at the interview, I’d probably think “Why didn’t you put in the time to do this before applying?”

      1. OP #5*

        Yeah, I get that, and I won’t do it. But for me, job hunting has been such a continuum (off and on for two years), that I am basically constantly looking for ways to improve my resume and add more substance, but when a job comes up, I apply with the best resume I have at the time so i don’t miss a window.
        In this case, I applied for a job and then a week later, I got totally unsolicited (but professional and helpful) resume advice that I wasn’t expecting, and it’s just things I couldn’t figure out by myself.
        As in, have you ever looked at a document so long or so many times you don’t catch the typos that someone else sees right away? It’s like that. There are no typos on my resume, but the suggestions this person gave me were things I just hadn’t thought of yet, or maybe would not have thought of without outside input.

        1. Joielle*

          Yeah, that makes perfect sense, which is why my reaction probably isn’t fair. I think your plan is good, though – don’t call attention to the fact that the original version of the resume wasn’t as good by giving this job the updated one, but of course use the updated one going forward.

    2. Yay! M&Ms*

      The only time I’ve seen this (speaking to my personal experience only here) is in cases with very extended hiring processes between application and interview and the person updating the resume was changing “expected graduation” to “graduated, boards passed, gpa.”
      I also realize this is industry specific, but in that case I can understand the update.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Sure, if the time elapsed is significant and the updates are relevant, then go for it. But if it’s been a few weeks, as it had in our case, the it just makes you look like you were disorganized when you first applied.

  32. deesse877*

    On #2: in addition to what others have said about re-examining your offers in terms of compensation and research support, you might want to think about whether your ideal candidate’s career trajectory matches the actual profession today.

    My experience is that the sort of institution you describe–good-sized but geographically isolated–often has a baseline faculty culture of lifers, that is, people who are willing and able to spend decades there, acquire property, raise kids, etc, often with the help of a stay-at-home spouse. But that life is neither a good fit for people in high-demand fields, like the applied sciences, nor possible for those in super-precarious fields like the humanities. The former will optimize, and the latter will have already built a life around a web of mutual supports like a spouse’s employment, an established community of family and friends that permits house-shares, forgoing a second car, low-cost childcare, and so on.

    Either way, the larger economy may mean that what your school offers isn’t appealing anymore, so it could benefit you to think about how you’d change listings and offers to reflect an assumption that most people will not be permanent, but instead only stay a few years.

    1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      This is such an important point. I briefly worked for a huge university in a very rural area, and part of what attracted me out there was the low COL I found online. I quickly learned the college town was a bubble of high prices amidst an economically decimated landscape; the price to rent or buy within a few miles of the university was comparable to major cities, but the university paid terribly unless you were a senior staff/faculty member. My choices were either move to an even smaller, more rural town with a 25-mile commute (where I’d fit in even less than I did in the college town), or leave entirely…guess which I chose.

  33. Emi.*

    Isn’t #3 just a defined-benefit pension? Those used to be very common for union employees (which helps with the “what if they lay me off at 64.5?” concern) but they’ve become less common (more defined-contribution plans instead), and a lot of them, especially in the public sector, are getting reduced because of dubiously-calculated “underfunding.”

    1. Emi.*

      So it certainly has issues but I don’t think it’s something they’ve just made up randomly.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      But if it were truly a defined-benefit pension, wouldn’t the “vesting” part work like actual vesting? As in, once you’re “vested,” you’re eligible for some benefit, even if you don’t get the whole thing?

      1. Joielle*

        Yeah – I work for the state and have a defined benefit pension, and the amount is based on a calculation (years of service, highest salary, etc). Even if you were to retire really early or leave state service before retirement, you’d still get some small amount when you retire.

      2. fposte*

        You’re eligible; you’re just not eligible to receive the money right in that moment. Such pensions operate like Social Security substitutes (mine actually is, in fact, since I don’t pay into SS); the money is accessible at your retirement age or if you’re disabled. “Vesting” just means they can’t take away the employer contribution from you.

        (Some plans do offer a version where you can choose portability if you leave the job, but it does reduce some benefits.)

    3. fposte*

      I can’t tell if it’s a defined benefit pension and the OP is unfamiliar, or if the company is trying to reinvent the wheel without the legal obligations of a pension. It is certainly very common in pensions to be vested early but to be unable to take your money out until Full Retirement Age, so that didn’t bother me as a condition. I’m less clear about employee contribution requirements, Social Security, ERISA, Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation coverage, annuitization, COLA, etc. Those would be how I’d make the call on whether this is a good deal or a bad one.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        It is certainly very common in pensions to be vested early but to be unable to take your money out until Full Retirement Age, so that didn’t bother me as a condition.

        Yes, I think it’s the “vested early but might not ever get anything” part that’s hinky.

        1. fposte*

          I don’t think that’s necessarily in there, though. My guess is that if the OP leaves/retires before FRA she can take either take payments at the FRA or take some of the money with her.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            But the letter says this: The clunker? You can only get your payout if you go on permanent disability, if you die, or if you retire no younger than age 65. So it sounds like it’s either all (when you hit that magic trigger) or nothing (when you quit without hitting it.)

            1. fposte*

              I think the OP is talking about not being able to get to the money before then, though; it’s possible the money is still available to you at 65, just not when you retire if you retire under that age.

              Basically, I think there are some details the OP doesn’t have that would clarify what this kind of plan is and what the rules are–an ESOP, as mentioned below, is certainly one possibility.

          2. Massmatt*

            The OP may have misquoted or misunderstood the policy, but was explicit about this point. We shouldn’t say something isn’t in the letter when it is.

            It IS a very odd policy that I doubt would be legal.

  34. SaffyTaffy*

    #3 One nice thing about this benefit is that, although it doesn’t benefit the majority of people, the people it does benefit will need it the most. We have a vaguely similar policy at work (“unlimited” sick leave for serious illness) and it’s one of those things you might think is wasteful until you get hit by a truck, or the economy takes a dive and suddenly you want to work as long as possible.

  35. blackcat*

    LW2, it sounds like you are hiring for non-academic roles given your timeline? Or at least non-TT roles?

    Does your institution have a spousal hire program that extends beyond TT roles? If not, I’d do what you can to get the higher ups to consider it. There are absolutely rural schools that do a spousal hire kind of thing for higher up staff roles in addition to faculty roles. And, they advertise this WIDELY. I interviewed at a school (for a TT position, but still), which linked their spousal hire program *in the job add.* It clearly applied to not just TT faculty. The deal was clearly “We know no one wants to live here, but if you and your spouse can both have good gigs, you should give it a shot.” And…. it works. Everyone I met there from the chair of the department down to the admins was married to someone else who worked at the university. They don’t have a recruitment or retention problem.

    Also… it may not be legal, but it definitely seemed like a plus to them that I am married with a spouse who would have been easily employable at the university. And my friends who are at rural schools often say that they *prefer* to hire folks who are married and/or have a kid (even if if means finding funds for spousal hires) because single candidates rarely stay more than a year or two.

    1. Orangina Gummy*

      I was confused by this timeline as well. OP, if this is for a faculty position, I wonder if just being so out-of-step with the typical hiring timeline might also be causing some complications for your candidates.

    2. New news to me*

      How to get a job at a university: Marry/be in a serious relationship with someone else who is a top candidate the university is considering.

      Something new I learned by reading AAM.

      1. Nephron*

        Funny story told regularly by a bigwig in my department: He was a top candidate for his position and he mentioned his wife needing to move with him and that being a big deciding factor. They arrange to talk to her. She had a very lucrative certification and he found himself becoming a side not as they worked double time to recruit her.

  36. Goldfinch*

    LW #1 It’s feasible to do this properly. My semi-rural job renovated an old farmhouse for traveling employees and customers. Every room has an en suite and an electronic keycard, and there is a security officer on site 24-7. The kitchen is communal and help-yourself, like a B&B.

    If you can’t get out of this, you could at least suggest the individual door security.

  37. Imaginary Number*

    #5: I would only bring an updated copy if there’s something that actually changed since submitting vs. rewording edits. For example, I brought an updated copy to my interview because I had recently completed a certification that was specifically highlighted as preferable in the job posting.

  38. Karo*

    #5 – I always bring extra copies of my resume in case someone needs it. So, while I get what Alison’s saying about not preemptively handing your updated resume to the person interviewing you, I’d think you should bring the updated version as your “just in case” resume.

    1. Angus McDonald, Boy Detective*

      Yep, I think taking a resume to interviews just in case always helpful! Then if they ask to see it, you can say you’ve made some small changes, however the content hasn’t changed.

      1. Massmatt*

        Extra copies yes, but Alison and several commentators mention bringing a different version can be a problem. Better to use it for applications moving forward than introduce 2 resumes to ones already under way.

  39. Kate, short for Bob*

    OP2 – as it’s a new thing that you’re taking rejections personally, it strikes me that maybe the rejections are making you reconsider your own choices. Could it be that seeing other people decide they have better options elsewhere are making you want to spread your wings a bit? Regret that you shut the door on more money and a metropolitan area?

    1. Bananatiel*

      It’s a bit of a long shot but I had the same thought. Went through the hiring process at a prestigious public university with my boss. The top candidate was far and away the best, it was an easy decision to make the offer to her. She ended up declining after receiving the offer for a position at a big, famous company. I was disappointed but not surprised– my boss took it VERY poorly. So poorly that it kind of made me realize there was something going on emotionally with my boss. She would occasionally mention the candidate even four years later whenever someone would bring up hiring. So, in that case, it was abundantly obvious that my boss secretly wished she could move on in some way but was choosing not to.

  40. Mel*

    LW2: I worked at a university that had a horrendously slow hiring process (I myself ended up waiting a month from the “we want to hire you” to “we finally have clearance to hire you”). We lost so many top candidates because our hiring process went at a snail’s pace, and often the people who were willing to wait didn’t have all the skills required for the role. This situation was a big part of why my supervisor left, as her research was being hamstrung by HR’s slowness and she couldn’t get the experts she needed on her team.

    1. Bananatiel*

      In my former higher ed position our situation was so similarly bad that our temp workers tended to be the best in the office– probably purely because they didn’t have to go through the 3-4 days of in-person interviews spread out over weeks or even months!

  41. 5 Leaf Clover*

    #1 – Do we think he’s doing this so he can write part of his house off on his taxes?

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        But if it’s someone who bought a house for themselves, and is using it as corporate housing in order to write off their personal residence as a business expense, that’s very different. That’s how I read this letter – that it’s the boss’s house, not that it’s corporate housing without a permanent resident – but I could be jumping to the wrong conclusion.

        1. Massmatt*

          It could still be deductible as a business expense, but deciding how much and how to prove it could be complicated. But the boss’s taxes are not the OPs problem.

          I think the bigger driver for this is having all the employees stay at this house for free vs paying for hotel rooms.

        2. Mediamaven*

          I think the way it’s phrased in the letter is confusing, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a business expense if they are using it for work accommodations. You cannot write your entire house off anyway, you can only write off the square footage being used for business – same as a home office I’m sure. That’s just the way it works with business expenses – it’s not nefarious or illegal.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Sure but you also just write off travel expenses anyways, so why not do it this way if you have people coming into the area frequently? This is only sketch if it’s a shanty house that’s not properly cared for or if they’re expected to scrub the place down after each use.

  42. Lady Jay*

    LW 2: I’ve been thinking about your post all morning. As an academic, two thoughts:

    1. I’m not sure how you class “the very best candidates,” but do keep in mind that PhDs who are NOT from Penn State, Stanford, wherever, are just as accomplished as their peers. A graduate from SUNY Buffalo or U of Florida has done the same amount of work, often with less $$. I know this is a very unacademic thing to say, but worrying too much about prestige can often undermine excellent candidates.

    2. Yes, compensation is important. But a couple other things to check: A) you’re bringing them in as a faculty role, right? (I’ve seen institutions try to hire what should be faculty positions as staff positions). B) Spousal hires are a big thing, especially in rural areas. C) What’s the teaching load like? Will it allow for research, or are you dumping a 4/4 or a 5/5 or some combination of the two on them while still expecting success on the TT?

    Good luck!

    1. diner lobster*

      THIS! Academia is a buyer’s market to the benefit of universities but maybe you could save some time/money by recognizing that the absolute top-tier of candidates may be wooed by other places and the next-tier candidates are likely extremely good too.

  43. Buttons*

    #5 I think it depends on the format of the online application system. Some systems have you upload an attachment, if the job posting is still open and active, it would be fine to go in and swap out the resumes.

    1. OP #5*

      This is exactly what I was getting at, but given the other comments here, I think I probably should just live with what I already attached and move on. Or maybe I’ll try it on some and not on others? I have about 5 applications that are in this format right now.

      1. Mel*

        I’ve done this myself, but I don’t know if any such change affected the outcome. In my situation, I did update my materials, but I also didn’t get called in for an interview. I do not know if the change was the cause or not.
        My response isn’t really helpful, but I wanted to show you’re not alone in your thinking of doing a quick update. I think it would be different if you caught a typo and re-uploaded a fixed version (I think that’s perfectly find to do) versus any big changes to your application (far more uncertain).

  44. Liz T*

    #2– Are you telling them the salary before they interview? If not, that would save you a lot of time and effort, since many candidates will take themselves out of the running before you sink any effort into them. Put the salary range in the job posting and you’ll be setting yourself up for less heartbreak.

  45. Bertha*

    #3, this sounds a bit like a benefit that I received at one of my jobs that was kind of like a pension. I am in my 30s and I was there for 6 years. After I retire, I’ll be getting $18/month because of this benefit. Sooooo yeah, I look forward to putting that towards some grease for my robot or whatever it will get me in 30 years!

    1. MommyMD*

      Six years gets you 18 dollars? My colleague worked for my employer about that long and she will get $600 a month.

      1. Dani_in_the_PM*

        MommyMD, some people don’t make as much money as your colleague.
        Why on earth would you make this comment?

  46. AltAcProf*

    OP#2: I’m an academic, currently in a hybrid alt/ac job that I love and that keeps me in research and teaching the occasional class, but I spent 10 years on the market for more traditional academic jobs. Over and over I saw the same very few candidates play musical chairs for a limited number of jobs while I and other very well qualified (even overqualified) candidates bopped around on part time employment. If you don’t so much “lower” your expectations as **consider a more diverse field** — folks who are 10 years out from their degree but have a ton of classroom experience, folks who started at a regional college (and thus weren’t in the pipeline to end up at an Ivy), folks who may have fewer publications but what they do have are first rate — you may find the candidates are excellent and very motivated to compete for, accept, and keep the job. This is such a frustrating post for me to read because I know so many talented, driven people who would excel in such an opportunity, but academic searches are so stagnant that only a very elite group of people ever get a shot at the best jobs. The right candidates are out there, and they’re just as good (or better) than the ones who look like stars on paper but who will use your position as a bargaining chip or to build their escape pod to the elite coastal or urban University they (and you, intuitively) feel they belong at.

    1. Retired Prof*

      This was my experience from both sides of the hiring process as well.

      It was really hard getting my colleagues and the ultimate decider to accept candidates who didn’t have the same elite brands and placements as qualified. It was near impossible to get them to understand how much they were wasting time and energy and killing morale and delaying hiring for institutional needs, because they were too busy chasing the same candidates over and over who would never wind up accepting an offer from us/seeing through our entire hiring process.

      When you are failing to land top candidates in your pool over and over, the problem is in your pool and your expectations.

      The facts that the OP #2 is feeling personally invested and frustrated & is concerned that their own supervisor won’t feel they are delivering good candidates – these are signs that the problem is in their hiring process and expectations. Sadly, I’ve seen far too many colleagues burn out on hiring or wanting to participate in these searches because it ends with them feeling like failures or frustrated on time wasted.

      1. Carlie*

        Yes to all of this. Also, make use of the phone interviews to really suss out as much as you can, both ways. What features of your particular position are attractive to them? Why do they want to work for you? Explain the town, the college, etc., and listen to the response. Ask how they will structure their research agenda given the constraints they will have at your college. Ask about their comfort level teaching your demographics of students, class sizes, course loads. If it’s a staff position, ask how they would operate in an office of that size. You want to know if they’ve thought about what working there will mean (and if they’ve even looked up basic info about your school). It’s ok if they don’t have a lot of answers on the spot, but you want them to know what they’re in for and to have a good idea what they think about it before you mutually agree to an on campus visit.

        You want someone who will thrive in your ecosystem, not necessarily someone with the most prestigious track record. The more you can figure that out before the cost of a campus visit, the better.

  47. MommyMD*

    If owners house is big with your own private room and bath, it might not be so bad. Definitely a no on sharing though.

  48. Earthwalker*

    #3 With so many employers finding ways to get rid of older employees to lower medical costs, I would be concerned that this benefit would be another motivation to lay off older workers or give them the sort of “constructive termination” where the company badgers an employee until they quit. It doesn’t seem worthwhile to wait for it to vest. Go have a happy retirement.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      I mentioned this in an earlier post, but there was an interesting article on the BBC news site last week or the week before. Basically it boiled down to US MFG is hitting a crisis point with workers and the trend is now to entice retirement aged workers to stay on instead of pushing them out the door.

      I agree though the OP sounds very unhappy where they are and should not let this benefit coax them into staying longer if they don’t want to.

  49. Evil HR Person*

    OP#3: Is this by chance an ESOP? If so, the way you worded it means that your company didn’t explain it properly. An Employee Stock Ownership Plan means that the company is owned by the employees. It’s meant as a retirement plan, much like the 401K (and ruled by the same law, ERISA)… but unlike the 401K, you don’t put money in it – the company does. So, yes, it’s a vested benefit. The closer you are to retirement age when you enter, the lower the payout. I suggest looking more into it on the Dept. of Labor’s website or your local non-profit chapter of ESOP organizations.

    1. Evil HR Person*

      Oh! And I forgot – if you’re vested and leave for any reason (other than death, disability, or retirement) you can take the vested portion of this benefit with you at the 6th year. You can take it as a taxable distribution (think: cashing out your 401K) or you can roll it over into a “qualified retirement plan” (which can be a 401K or IRA). I’m not trying to sell you on it – if you don’t like it, you don’t like it – but I know more about this type of plan than the average person, having worked at 2 ESOP companies and about to roll over my vested portion from one of them (I’m in my early 40’s). For someone as close to retirement as the OP, an ESOP may not look promising. That said, I know many of my coworkers who’ve been with my current company since it was turned into an ESOP and they already have more than $200K in their accounts – and they’re in their mid-30’s. So… it’s a thing, and it can be a good thing if managed well.

  50. Kiwiii*

    OP 5: When I was an admin with a state social services organization (until very recently), I helped contact and schedule interviews for 3 different positions. Because our hiring process was a bit slow, I always made sure to let them know that they could send me any changes they’d made to their resume since applying. I think we had one candidate we ended up interviewing in each batch that ended up taking me up on that.

    Based on that, I think that there’s room for you to ask, if you get called/scheduled for an interview, if you can submit an updated version of your resume, but not likely at any point in the process before that.

  51. Anon Y. Mouse*

    LW #1

    Something else to keep in mind is that a lot of times, some random house isn’t going to be ADA compliant. So if any employees have needs for those styles of accommodations, unless the house is adapted, a hotel is going to be needed. And honestly, I wouldn’t want to get into a conversation with my employer about why I can’t use their bathroom or give them the details to make modifications to this house.

    Side example, adding any of the accessibility search features on an airbnb DRASTICALLY reduces the number of available accommodations because the average home just isn’t adapted.

    1. Dancing Otter*

      My mother used a scooter (fancy wheelchair) for the last ten years of her life. One poorly designed wheelchair ramp landed her in a hedge, scooter and all.
      She once booked a B&B without asking enough questions. It was a charming converted Victorian mansion with very high ceilings. What it didn’t have were any downstairs bedrooms, nor any lift to reach the upper level without climbing a very long and curved set of stairs.
      The Americans with Disabilities Act took effect in 1992. Why do so many people still have such a hard time with the idea?

  52. austriak*

    #1 – Sounds like your boss is trying to use his house as part of the business to be able to deduct their housing expenses on their taxes. I also wouldn’t be surprised if he “charges” the company a nightly rate for when employees stay there to increase business expenses and decrease taxes.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It just sounds like they’re trying to save lodging costs more than anything. It’s hard to write this off as a business expense and it’ll give them a quick shot up the ladder for an audit if they try.

  53. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #1, this is really no different than places that use air BNB in the end, at least this way you know who owns it and it isnt’ as sketchy. But I agree that you should push back and see where that gets you, I have a feeling it won’t get you that far. Lots of places are switching to using Uber/Lyft/Air BNB kind of things instead of the traditional hotels and taxi services.

  54. LGC*

    So…LW2, to be contrary, maybe given the conditions you’re working under, you might actually not want to interview overqualified candidates? Like, it doesn’t sound like you need Nobel Prize winners in your department, but that’s your target candidate.

    You kind of tilt towards this at the end of your letter, but it is worth considering – maybe you might be looking at the wrong qualifications. Maybe having a bunch of papers published isn’t as important as being willing to be a part of your community. AltAcProf says this FAR more eloquently above, but you might need to look a little outside of “traditional” qualifications.

  55. LGC*

    LW1…maybe I’m misreading this, but it seems more like management would prefer that you use the house, not that you’re mandated to. (This might be a distinction without a difference, though! I’m going off of your wording.) In that case, it might not be as big a deal as you think.

  56. Mia_Mia*

    LW#3: Are you sure the “retiring before 65” means specifically for that company, or retiring anywhere? Because not being able to access an account before retirement is common. I have an account at my old job that I can’t access until I am 65, but I still will get it. Same with my current job; if I leave, I get what’s in the account at 65.

    you really need to sit down with a financial person and have them clarify things.

  57. mf*

    #2: This can vary by industry but as a generalization: when a open position has a significant downside (such as location), a lot of very qualified candidates won’t accept unless the employer offers a significant incentive in return. For example, a candidate who’s not enthused by a rural location might be willing to relocate if you offer them a generous salary. Or: a great candidate might be willing to accept a lower salary if you offer great healthcare and a flexible schedule. Maybe it’s worth looking at what perks and benefits you can offer in order to balance out the location and low salary for these open positions?

  58. Not So NewReader*

    “But also, I feel like it’s a professional failure on my part to not be able to present my boss with enough candidates! ”

    This caught my eye, OP. So let’s roll with this for a minute. What more do you think you should do to present your boss with “enough” candidates? No. Wait. Let’s back up even more. Define “enough”. Ten? Twenty?
    A wise employee uses the number the boss picks. How many applications did your boss want to consider? You need to know this number. One place I know of decided that 3 was the top number of applications they would consider.

    Okay so let’s say your boss said three applicants at most. So you get your first string people and then if possible you get your second string people. In my story here, one of the three people dropped out. It was a wise choice on her part given all that she had going on. There were two people left, super rock star and rock star. That was a difficult decision, but super rock star got the job.
    Super rock star turned out to be not so much. In the end, it was Not Good at all. For one thing you can’t put a Broadway actor on a stage in little rural West Overshoe. This actor is just destined for grander things and that little stage is as confining as if it were a cage. The actor can have high expectations that the little theater just cannot ever meet. And you end up having to up-sell the place for the duration of their employment. In some ways, it’s a relief when they leave.

    It’s good to have an real assessment of what your workplace is and what it is not.

    Back to my story. So a new person was hired by the same method. Three people interviewed and one was chosen. This person was closer to rock star than super rock star. What happened next gave everyone cause to pause. New Person is HAPPY at their workplace. Loves the job, loves the people and has so many ideas that are workable for this little place. This person is knocking it out of the park on a daily basis and very happy in the job. New Person will be staying for a while. They are in their element.

    Big fish, small pond? Some people thrive in this type of setting. They seek out the smaller ponds and in gratitude and/or happiness they just rock the job. Are you afraid of concluding that you have a workplace that is closer to a small pond than you originally thought? You know, some of the best work places are the medium to small ponds. In the end, you want a happy person, not a person who feels like your workplace is a cage.

  59. Workfromhome*

    #2 You should not be personally upset that you have somehow failed.
    “. I also understand that our university’s pay isn’t the greatest and it takes a move to a pretty rural area to work here”

    The failure is outside of your control. if your work wants to attract good candidates then they need to have an attractive offering. If rural compass are not attractive to the best then there needs to be a compensating enticement like salary. If you are going top offer mediocre compensation then you likely will get mediocre candidates. The BEST have options so your work either needs to up their offering or lower their sights.

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