I wasn’t the first choice for my job, I took a counteroffer but now want to quit, and more

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

1. I wasn’t the first choice for my job, and I think it shows

I’ve started a new position that is a really great opportunity for my career. However, I wasn’t the first choice candidate (their first hire didn’t show up) and it’s starting to show. This is giving me an incredible amount of anxiety and I’m not sure how to proceed working here. I feel less enthusiastic about my work.

Most of my colleagues have been quite nice; my grandboss has been lovely. My supervisor has been welcoming and has put a lot of effort into training me. One of my new colleagues (who I’ll work closest with) has been chilly towards me, which is probably explained by the fact that I wasn’t their first choice.

To make matters worse, I accidentally came across the supervisor’s notes about me. The manager has a folder about me and asked me to go into this folder to find a training document. I know I shouldn’t have looked at her notes about me, but I couldn’t resist. After finding this document, I truly felt deflated. I thought I had written a really kick-ass cover letter, and so did everyone else I know who I had read it, but they didn’t think much of it. There was a paragraph full of criticisms about the resume that didn’t (and still don’t) make any sense to me and they misconstrued a lot of what I meant! They criticized the length of my resume (which is 1-1/2 pages). Even though I was eventually interviewed and chosen for this position, I feel like their criticism of my resume was too harsh. I feel so bad about myself now. Is that really what they think of me? It seems like not much is expected of me and I’m not sure how to make the best out of this situation for my time here as the job is temporary for one year, but now I know they sure as hell probably aren’t going to keep me around any longer than they have to. This job is a HUGE step up for me (job title, description, salary, etc), but maybe I made a mistake to accept it?

What, no! People hire their second choice all the time. Third choice, even. And are thrilled with them. I’ve hired lots of people who weren’t my first choice and still turned out to be great. When you have one slot to fill and multiple good candidates, someone good will always come in second. That doesn’t make them a bad choice or a disappointing consolation prize.

That chilly coworker is almost certainly just a chilly person, not freezing you out because you weren’t the first choice! It would be incredibly odd if she were hung up on that. (But if that is why she’s being chilly, she’s a huge jerk.)

As for their notes about you — people are critical when they’re hiring. They need to be. They’re poking holes and probing for weak spots, because everyone has them and when you’re hiring you’ve got to figure out if a person’s weaknesses are prohibitive for the role or not. But since they interviewed you, their thoughts on your resume and cover letter clearly weren’t prohibitive — and few people ever remember someone’s resume and cover letter after they’re hired.

So they’re a stickler for one-page resumes! Some people are. Who cares? It’s never going to be relevant in your interactions with them again.

The majority of your coworkers have been quite nice. Your grandboss has been lovely. Your manager is welcoming and attentive. You have one colleague who might be kind of a jerk, as many people do. This sounds pretty good, overall. Don’t let your brain talk you out of what seems like a fine situation.

Also, if you haven’t yet talked with your manager about how things are going overall, do. It’s likely that’ll give you some peace of mind.

2. I accepted a counteroffer four months ago but now want to quit

I’m hoping you can help me figure out what to say to my boss when I resign from my job soon. I’ve received an offer for an amazing opportunity in a completely different industry in which I’ve always dreamed of working (similar to fashion, or entertainment). My current job is great too, albeit in a tediously boring industry which I have no personal interest in.

About four months ago, I was heavily recruited by another company and when I went to resign, my current boss couldn’t bear to lose me and came back with an incredible counteroffer which I could not turn down. Ultimately I turned the other company’s offer down and stayed at my current job, but with more salary, bonuses, PTO, flexibility, and remote work options.

Now that this other opportunity in the industry I’m truly passionate about has come my way, I feel terrible about resigning again so soon after my current company pulled out all the stops to keep me (and gave me an annual raise on top of it all at raise time, despite their policy of not giving multiple raises in a 12-month period).

How can I frame this for my boss that I truly appreciate everything she did to keep me and the capital she spent on my behalf, but I just can’t pass up this other opportunity and I’m leaving for real this time? I’m having an anxiety attack just visualizing this conversation!

Well, you might burn the bridge. Maybe not, but it’s possible. Some managers would be deeply disappointed but understand, and others would Not Be Pleased. You’ve got to brace yourself for either outcome; that’s just part of the risk when you accept a counter-offer, and definitely when you decide to leave soon afterwards anyway.

The best thing you can do is to tell her you know the timing is terrible, you realize how much she went to bat to keep you a few months ago, and you had no intention of leaving after that, but an opportunity fell in your lap that you can’t pass up in a field you’ve always wanted to work in. Emphasize how grateful you are that she pulled out all the stops to keep you; the less she feels like you’re glossing over that, the better.

This is, of course, one of the reasons why counteroffers are so risky, for both sides.

3. Verb tenses on resumes

I’m updating my my resume as I begin a new job search, and I was wondering about verb tenses. I know that when listing your current job, to use the present tense when describing the job, like this:

Administrative Assistant at Llamas International
• Maintain international client communication list.
• Process requests for llama shampoo specialists.
• Etc.

However, I’ve learned through your column that I should be including achievements on my resume as well. For past jobs, that’s no problem. But when it’s an achievement in my current job, it looks like:
• Develop new system to track deadlines and payments more efficiently.

I worry that in that case, the present tense makes it look like an ongoing, expected part of the job, and not something that I went above my regular duties to create. (And that my boss was very excited to implement!) Achievements are a little harder to quantify in an assistant role like mine, so I want to make sure to include the ones I have. Do I use the past tense when mentioning achievements, even though the rest would be in present tense, or should I keep it all present tense? Or should I be doing something else entirely?

When something was in the past and isn’t ongoing, it’s fine to use past tense for it. So you’d have a mix:

• Maintain international client communication list.
• Process requests for llama shampoo specialists.
• Developed new system to track deadlines and payments more efficiently.

And yay for you for transitioning to accomplishments on your resume! (You can strengthen it even further if you can get more specific about the outcome of that new system. If you can’t, it’s still good — but it would be great to say something like “cut late payments by 20%” or “cleared significant backlog.”)

4. I was about to schedule an in-person interview, then got an email saying the job was filled

I recently applied for a position at another company. I was contacted by their recruiter and had a brief phone interview with her, after which she put me through to the next phase, a phone interview with the hiring manager. That interview went well and I was sent an online test to determine if I would be a good fit. I was contacted Monday by their recruiter to tell me that everything looked great and they want to schedule an in-person interview so she wanted to get my availability for the rest of the week. She said she would coordinate with all the parties involved and email me the interview information. Two days later, I received a canned email from the company saying the position had been filled and there’s been no additional communication.

Should I contact them again? If so, what do I say? Is it normal to fill a position while working to schedule an interview? I’m confused since all previous communication was very encouraging and the process seemed to be moving quickly.

It’s pretty common to interview people on a rolling basis and/or keep considering new applicants until the position has been filled, meaning that you can be in the middle of their process when they hire someone and close the search. That sounds like what happened here — they had a candidate who was further along in the process than you were and ended up being strong enough to hire, so now they’re letting everyone else know the position is no longer open.

(It’s also possible the email was sent in error, but if that’s the case you’ll presumably hear back from the recruiter once she’s ready to schedule — although if you really want to, you can check with her about the message you received.)

{ 178 comments… read them below }

  1. Lord Ye old*

    OP1 – don’t worry about your co-workers being chilly, I’ve had 4 jobs, and in every one of these aces, the first few months are always awkward and chilly because you are basically a stranger to them. I recommend also reaching out on your end – if your office has team lunches, join in so that you can chat on a casual setting. Greet your colleagues in the pantry. Chit chat (although at the same time be mindful on whether or not if yours is a chatty office or not)
    You mentioned that your bosses are supportive, which you should take as a sign that all is well!

    1. WellRed*

      I think it’s unusual to have awkward chilly starts on a regular basis. I’ve always been treated and try to be warm and pleasant ( which is not my natural state) to newbies because new jobs are hard ( and awkward).

      1. Marthooh*

        Awkward chilly starts on a regular basis are not the OP’s stated problem, though. Just one chilly colleague who might be secretly in love with Top Candidate and nursing a broken heart because they were jilted… probably not, though. Probably just a chilly person.

      2. KayDeeAye*

        Having one “chilly” coworker – no matter your definition of “chilly” (and I too definitely wonder how the OP defines this word) – is perfectly normal. The chances are pretty remote that this person is chilly because of some weird hang-up over you being the second choice. There is almost certainly some other reason, but even if this is the reason, all it proves is that the person is kind of a jerk. Just accept that this person is, at least at first, kind of chilly. Everyone else is being really nice, so let the chilly person be chilly! So long as they don’t interfere with your work, it truly doesn’t matter.

        I get why you were a bit disconcerted by finding out you were the second choice and that your presentation of yourself wasn’t perfect. But…most people’s resumes and cover letters aren’t perfect! Even those of great candidates aren’t perfect! Don’t let your anxiety spoil this job for you.

    2. Lady Blerd*

      This isn’t my best trait but I am the chilly to newcomers type, mostly because I hate having a change in routine or particular dynamic. It’s not you OP1, it’s the coworker who’s at fault.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve been doing this all too long with low turnover. My eye twitched over the idea of being chilly to new people. We’re always a bunch of happy wiggly pups trying to know the new addition. We only have a couple here and there that are reserved and come across as chilly in the slightest. So I don’t find that normal at all.

    4. Aurion*

      Chilly isn’t normal in my experience; stilted, however, is. In other words, my new colleagues generally will make polite greetings and maybe a bit of small talk at the water cooler, but it’s rare for them to make the effort to include the newbie in lunchtime conversations/inside jokes and the like.

      I’ve met a few chilly people and a few really welcoming, warm people; most fall somewhere in between.

      1. Avasarala*

        Agreed. It’s awkward meeting new people and trying to find your wavelength with them in tiny chunks of time without overstepping. This is why I really like having welcome parties where you can get to know everyone properly.

    5. Aquawoman*

      I kind of wonder, though, given the LW’s responses to other stuff, which veer toward the catastrophizing end of things, whether the co-worker is actually chilly or just focused on their job and non-effusive.

  2. 614KnowItAll*

    OP-4: I had a similar incident with an automatically generated email, and after consulting with my HR pro spouse, I emailed the people I’d been talking to about the position to see what the deal was. Turns out it was an error, as someone in HR had mistakenly closed the posting when they weren’t supposed to do so. The interview process continued apace, and while I wasn’t selected, I learned a valuable lesson in following up on such occurrences.

    1. Half-Caf Latte*

      Yeah, I know Alison’s default stance tends to be “employers aren’t going to forget they want to hire you”, but I’ve witnessed enough terrible recruitment processes (either recruiter behavior or truly dreadful ATS systems) that I think you’re well in the clear to say, hey, I got this email, but last we talked you were looking to schedule an in-person meeting.

      If it is that they hired someone, they should have at least given you a clearer heads up than a form email, since you were expecting to have a meeting, and are now left wondering whether this email means it won’t ever happen or if it was an error. And if it is an error, it shouldn’t count against you to flag it.

      1. Artemesia*

        I’d do this too — a sort of ‘when last we spoke, we were planning on an in -person interview, but I got a notice that the position was filled. Just wanted to touch base and make sure . . . .’

    2. CL Cox*

      Especially because they’ve been talking to a recruiter and not the company directly, I would contact the recruiter immediately and let her know they received the email. She might already know that they filled the position, but she might have no idea and can reach out to her direct contact to find out what’s going on. And if they did fill the position without notifying the recruiter, she’s going to appreciate the heads-up so she’s not wasting her time as well. And, most importantly, she might have other opportunities for the OP that they can move on to.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I think it’s fine to send ONE follow up email to those you were speaking to about the job, but if you get no response, consider that a confirmation that the job was filled and give it the Elsa treatment. IME, companies don’t care enough to reach out personally, even when they’ve spoken to you in person on multiple occasions. It’s frustrating, but common to let the system send out a canned response.

  3. Aggretsuko*

    I was second choice for my job. I have now outlasted virtually everyone else who was there at the time, my boss and all of my former team included. Even if you’re “second choice,” that doesn’t mean you stink … well, sometimes, anyway. Usually it just means that someone else was *slightly* better at the time. Job hirings are incredibly nitpicky and can rule out anyone for anything. I’ve been ruled out for all kinds of dumb shit when I’ve interviewed outside of my job, like “we don’t want to train you on the travel system” and “doesn’t work with professors enough.”

    Likewise in hiring, I can think of awesome people we didn’t hire for trivial reasons such as “she’s an extreme extrovert and this is an introvert’s job,” and “the job starts in November and runs for six months and she has a two week preplanned family vacation in December and the other candidate doesn’t.” (Trust me, the one we hired? Very frequent pain in the ass….but hey, my boss didn’t see any difference between the two other than that vacation.)

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Oh, OP, I feel so bad for you because you are so worried. I have to tell you my story so you can see this happens to people.
      Now, I have mentioned many times here that I have a great boss now. I love her. I could write for paragraphs about how great she is.
      I was her second choice. Yes, she told me point blank. Her first choice has Specific Degree. Her first choice already worked in the field.

      She was so torn that she asked someone who later became my mentor what to do. The mentor told my boss to hire me, because the first choice person would move on and probably not stay with my boss very long. Mentor told Boss to hire me because I would probably be with her for a while. I have been there coming up on 7 years, Mentor was absolutely correct.

      My boss and I look forward to seeing each other. We have a tremendous faith in each other’s abilities. It’s been a pure joy.
      Remember, OP, they HIRED YOU.

    2. Melly*

      Add another who was second choice for my current position. I’ve been there eight years now. It has been and is an incredible fit on all ends. We’ve achieved so much in the past eight years and my boss attributes most of it to me. The person they wanted to hire was much further advanced in their career with very relevant experience. My employer couldn’t put together a competitive package. I’m still glad about that!

      OP, it’s natural to feel a little weird about it, but what matters now is how you own this position. As many others have said, they wouldn’t have hired you if they thought you were the worst (coming from someone who declared a failed search rather than hire the wrong fit).

      As for your chilly coworker, sometimes people just get the wrong impression of you. All you can do is perform to the best of your ability. If they still don’t like you, that’s on them. (Also speaking from experience here.)

    3. Artemesia*

      My daughter was second choice — they actually hired the other person and then later came back and hired her too after they had her do some free lance work for them. The other person was long gone when my daughter ended up promoted to COO. What matters is that you got the job, not which ‘place’ you were and then what you do with it.

    4. Wendy*

      I am with my current employer because the temp agency’s first choice baled at the last minute (I know because I had to use their login/account).

      While I was working that contract, an opportunity came up for a 12 month contract in the same office. Guess what? I didn’t even get an interview. But the person they did hired only lasted 3 weeks before they fired her. And who was free to jump in and save the day? That’s right! Little Miss Didn’t-Even-Get-An-Interview!

      This was in late 2015 and I’ve been here ever since and I’m now permanent. Second choice has worked out pretty well for me!

    5. LunaLena*

      I too was the second choice for a freelance position, and I want to add that it’s quite possible that being the second choice might have nothing to do with your abilities! I was the second choice because the first choice was related to one of the higher-ups, and he was pushing really hard for her. Within a few months she tried to parlay that relationship into more money and quit when turned down, so they approached me again. That job turned into a 10+ year gig, and the referrals I got were instrumental in getting me into my current dream position.

      My point is, you don’t know why you were second choice, but it doesn’t have to mean you’re inadequate in any way. Maybe you should take this as an opportunity to blow their socks off and show them that you should have been the first choice over the flake who never even showed up all along :)

    6. Third Choice*

      I’m technically third choice! First and second were awarded contract positions. First choice secured a permanent position. Second choice apparently ended up being terrible so they didn’t extend her contract. I showed up 3 months after second choice left to cover a parental leave. If second choice worked out, they would have extended her contract and then had her cover the parental leave.

      We’re a small group so I got the details about the competition. I honestly don’t know how I came in third since it sounds like there were many others with relevant experience who interviewed but interviews are weird.

      I don’t know hiring at your organization works, but if they truly didn’t like you, they wouldn’t have hired you. They would have either left the position unfilled or run another competition. For example, at my organization, you can fill up to 3 spots on a “reserve” list. For my position, they only filled one post on the list aka me.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        This is a good point. I’ve seen so many job searches just scrapped this year and all the candidates thrown out.

    7. Sleve McDichael*

      I was very solidly a second choice. First choice had a couple of years experience doing the exact job in a different city and for me the job was a stretch. However first choice decided last minute to take a different job somewhere else and so I got the position. My boss has told me that he said to Grandboss “I really don’t want to hire Sleve.” He’s told me that because now it’s hilarious to us both. We got along very well and I was promoted in slightly less than 12 months.

    8. Rater Z*

      I wasn’t second choice but rather almost the no choice for a part-time job I needed. It was at a retail store and I had made it into the third interview which was with the lines leader. He told me that he didn’t know if he wanted to hire me because he was afraid that I would work two weeks and quit on him. I told him I had a stack of bills on my desk at home reminding me why I was working the second job.

      A couple of years later, he was transferred to a different store for a few years, then came back to us again. I caught him one night in the back room and asked him, when he hired me, did he expect me to still be around seven years later. He said no but that it was a pleasant surprise. He was transferred out again shortly after that.

      I finally was offered a buy-out on retirement last spring so I took it. I was 73 at the time and in my 19th year. I do regret taking it now wishing I had stayed. Oh well, i was part-time the whole time even though sometimes I was working 40 hours a week. Benefits were great even though it’s the only part-time job I have had over the years which offered any. I filled a spot which would have been real hard for them to fill for otherwise for any length of time.

      As long as you do good work and are in good standing with the bosses, second choice doesn’t really mean much.

    9. KayDeeAye*

      We hire second choices pretty often here. Their success rate is the same as for first choices – e.g., some work out great, some work out eventually, and some don’t work out that well. So in other words, it’s *exactly* the same as first choices. OP. I do understand a bit how you feel, because obviously, being first choice feels great. But you are truly, truly, truly reading waaaaaaay too much into this!

  4. Dee*

    OP1 – Don’t worry too much! I found out once that I was not a first round pick for a prestigious fellowship – I got an offer in late June, and found out during my fellowship that normally first round picks an offer in late May. I did feel weird about it for a week or two, but I also know I did good work and it’s ultimately irrelevant.

    1. PhyllisB*

      OP1, when my son was in college he was second choice for an internship. (He was late applying but first pick bailed.) It was a wonderful experience for him and he was told he added a lot to the team. So don’t let that get you down.

  5. Approval is optional*

    OP1: Please listen to Alison. Perhaps read your letter but put someone else as the ‘I’, so it isn’t about you- that might help you see how illogical your spiral is, because I’m worried you’ll sabotage what sounds like a great opportunity by listening to your inner ‘toxic voice of doubt’. Some points to think about:
    point 1 – if you hadn’t met their standards they probably would have readvertised – the chance that their options were you or nothing is almost zero.
    point 2 – very few of us are so set on our ‘favourite’ being the successful candidate, that we would be chilly to the person who was offered the job AFTER OUR FAVOURITE WAS A NO SHOW (sorry to ‘yell’ but that part is key – you didn’t oust number one – they ousted themselves)
    point 3 – even if chilly coworker is holding some bizarre grudge because you were number 2, she’s only one of your coworkers, so why is what she does/thinks so influential in your deciding there is a problem with your being their second choice.
    I’m sure most of us on there could provide a story about the time we were second/third.. choice and it worked out well, or about a time we hired a second choice and it worked out well, because it is so ‘normal’ to not be, or to not hire, number one.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      I agree strongly with your first point. OP, if they truly didn’t want you, they wouldn’t have hired you at all. I’ve seen several hiring processes over the years where the hiring manager was just not convinced by any of the candidates they had in their hiring rounds, so they scrapped everything and started over.

    2. Scarlet2*

      All of this. Also, it’s quite likely that LW’s coworker didn’t have any input on the hiring and doesn’t even have a clue that LW was “second choice”. Some people just take some time to warm up, it’s nothing personal.
      And really feeling like you’re part of the team can take time too.

    3. Anancy*

      The fact that the first choice *didn’t show up* is huge OP1! Regardless of what they thought during hiring, the person they offered the job to first literally didn’t even show up for the job. You are already miles ahead just on that premise alone. Plus you now already have more experience at this job. (Also, stop referring to yourself as second choice. You were the second person they offered the job.) Reread and reread Alison’s line about not letting your brain talk you out of a fine situation.

    4. Avasarala*

      Yes, OP! You’re looking at old data, what they thought when they had to be most critical of you. Now you have new data, that everyone is nice and likes you! It’s not some eternal ranking system where that first choice is #1 forever. Now that that person hasn’t worked out, you are the first choice! Don’t self-sabotage based on old data!

      Plus at the end of the day, it’s not about rankings or finding the best person ever for each position. It’s about getting a group of people together to achieve something under constraints of time, money, location, etc. and trying to get the best people they can under those circumstances. The goal is not to be #1 at the interview, the goal is to get the job and do it–and you’re doing it.

      Think of how many underdog stories start out “Nobody thought I could do it.” This is your training montage!

  6. Willis*

    OP #1 – A couple things… first, it’s highly likely that they also marked up and made notes on their original hire’s resume as well. There’s always questions or critical areas you’d want to get more information about no matter how good an applicant is.

    Second, it seems highly unlikely that your coworker or anyone else there is pining for a new hire who didn’t show up. Unless there’s some rare, emergency reason, ghosting on a new job is really unprofessional and reflects poorly on someone. A second choice who comes to work, puts in good effort, and performs decently well is certainly my preference over someone who looks awesome on paper but didn’t show up!

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Second, it seems highly unlikely that your coworker or anyone else there is pining for a new hire who didn’t show up.

      This. The coworker is probably “cold” due to things going on in her own life that have nothing to do with the OP. I know that people who have anxiety often think that everyone and everything is talking about/reacting to them, but that’s rarely the case. Additionally, OP even says that the people in that office that actually matter (e.g., her supervisor and grandboss) are nice and welcoming – they would hardly be that way if they were wishing OP wasn’t there.

      1. Julia*

        I wonder if the co-worker was even involved in the original hiring. I don’t think any of my co-workers ever were.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          I’ve had eventual coworkers sit in on past interviews – it’s pretty common these days. And I suspect the coworker was involved in the process in some capacity or else the OP wouldn’t have mentioned her and the belief that said coworker’s distance is due to being upset that the first choice isn’t there.

          1. Julia*

            But even if that is the case, it sounds like the first choice deciced to not take this job of their own volition so taking it out on OP is doubly unprofessional.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              I don’t think the employee is taking it out on her, though. At least, OP hasn’t offered up a single example of this coworker being rude to her – it’s her perception that because this person hasn’t been as inviting as her supervisor and grandboss that she’s holding a grudge about the first choice pick. That coworker’s attitude may not have anything to do with her.

            2. Quill*

              Chilly person may also have some sort of social anxiety: I’ve noticed that if you get two socially anxious people in a room they either click or they create an anxiety tornado because both of them are running the “this is a DISAPPROVING silence, I should act like a piece of furniture” treadmill in their heads.

              1. JSPA*

                Yes! Or it can see-saw (sometimes in waves of increasing amplitude as anxiety energy feeds in), which is even worse (and a reason that some people learn to reach out only very gradually). OP needs to focus on being focused — if OP subordinates the personal reactions in favor of pleasant professionalism, OP and coworkers will all be on a more even keel ASAP

          2. Scarlet2*

            I think it really depends on the office. I don’t think we can assume that coworker was involved in the hiring for sure.

            In any case, it doesn’t look like CW is hostile or anything, they’re probably just a bit more reserved. It’s a personality thing and probably has nothing to do with LW. I really believe that LW’s jerkbrain is acting out and seeing everything in the worst possible light. I suffer from anxiety and once I start down that rabbit hole, there’s no end to the catastrophizing, overanalyzing every possible interaction, look, etc. and obviously drawing the worst possible conclusions from everything.

    2. Sherm*

      And unless you’re a professional resume writer, the quality of your resume doesn’t really matter anymore. The resume is to help you get the job, and you have it!

      1. JSPA*

        Chances are good that they have a, process where everyone’s supposed to come up with at least one negative / at least one positive. If they’re defaulting to resume style for their negative… that’s actually a really good thing.

        If OP is terribly worried, they could focus on being a titch more concise in their writing style (or at least, be alert to hints about being more concise or less chatty). But honestly, that’s the absolute limit of what OP should do. (And only because being concise is hard, and valuable. And because it’s harder to devalue your work with excess hedging, if you’re being concise.)

    3. BigTenProfessor*

      Agreed. Poking holes in a resume just means, “I need to ask about these things in the interview.”

  7. Johanna*

    I had a chilly coworker when I first started My job that I just couldn’t figure out what I had done to offend. I found out accidentally a year later that she had applied for my position. It’s fine now, and looking back I can see how it would be hard to interact with someone who just got the job you wanted.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      That’s a good point. Perhaps the coworker applied for OP’s job. If that’s the case, she probably would have been chilly to any new hire for that position. And honestly, without any examples provided in the letter, “chilly” might just mean the coworker is more reserved, not that she doesn’t like OP.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I’ve been in that position too – the timing was absolutely horrible, because I applied on spec when she was pregnant, and the role she was told didn’t exist suddenly magically existed when I appeared. But it was #awks for a while once I knew and she knew I knew.

      I’ve also been the second choice candidate, though in that case I was redirected to another vacancy at the same organisation. When their first choice candidate backed out right before the start date (for a totally unmoveable project) and I was physically on site doing the same job for a different team it was pretty difficult for me not to be kinda smug about it. Perhaps LW could try to reframe it in that kind of way for herself – “oh you wanted so-and-so, did you? Can so-and-so do THIS?! Resume too long, huh? Did the other resumes have THIS on them?!” LW is in post and doing absolutely fine, so any criticisms they had to scrape the barrel for are now invalid.

    3. Lilo*

      I trained someone who could be seen as chilly but she’s just really shy. Once you get to know her, she is very nice, but it took some time.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, I have to make a conscious effort to be warm towards new people at work. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s that my natural tendency meeting new people is to hang back a little until I get to know them better. But at work, when you’re the veteran and someone is new, that can come across as a bit chilly! It’s way more likely that the coworker is just kinda awkward like me.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      There are many reasons a co-worker could be “chilly” to you. They could have applied for the job, their friend could have applied for the job, they clicked on a personal level with first choice, or any of a million reasons. The bottom line is that as long as you’re professional and courteous, it’s THEIR problem not yours. You can’t make everyone like you, and accepting that is the first part of the solution.

  8. Julia*

    OP1, when I got hired at my last job, I had almost taken a different job because I hadn’t heard back in weeks, and only reached out to them again when I had another offer. Suddenly they wanted me to start ASAP, and when I tried to push back on that (you can’t make me wait two months and then want me to come in immediately – if hiring was urgent, you can’t put most of that timeline on the candidate!), they suddenly told me they weren’t really sure about me. I was gutted. I took the job anyway because I knew it would look great on my resume, and I don’t regret that, but the entire time I worked there, I could not shake off the imposter syndrome that I didn’t have in my previous job (where I was a rockstar). To be fair, I guess I really wasn’t the strongest member of the team, but I was by no means the weakest either.

    It’s hard to feel unwanted, maybe even harder if it brings up stuff from your early life like it did for me. (Compared to siblings, never good enough, work in a field that’s considered less than STEM, not the most attractive, bullied in school.. – all of those things can really come up again when someone in your professional life triggers a memory for you.) But if you think about some of the people you’ve worked with who WERE first choices – were they all great? Didn’t you feel like maybe some of them might have interviewed well, but weren’t awesome co-workers? The whole hiring system isn’t perfect, and in this case, it might work to your advantage.

    Your chilly co-worker probably doesn’t even know about the hiring decisions that happened to get you there. If they do, the only explanation I can come up with is that they wanted a friend or relative in the job, and if that’s the case, the have no reason to treat you badly. If they do, it says a LOT more about them than it does about you, really. You sound conscientuous and earnest, which are great qualities to have, so believe in yourself! Could you maybe have a friend talk you up a little and remind you of your great qualities?

  9. Diahann Carroll*

    OP #2

    Your boss sounds AMAZING – seriously, I get why you’re anxious about resigning. You’ve been given some fantastic things to keep you with your current employer (more PTO and double raises within a year is a dream), but remember – you earned those things. Your manager didn’t just give you those perks out of the goodness of her heart (and it does seem good); you worked hard to make yourself an asset to her and your company. I agree with Alison’s advice on the topics you should broach when speaking with your boss, but don’t feel guilty for doing what’s best for you and your career. I’m sure that because of your work ethic and accomplishments in your current role, your boss won’t be remotely surprised that you’ll be moving on. Most smart employers understand that their really good employees are potential flight risks.

    I hope your manager will take your resignation well, OP. And just know that even if she doesn’t, her reaction is not your fault or responsibility.

    1. MK*

      Also, it’s not as if the OP will be taking these advantages with her when she leaves. If she had gone through, say, expensive training as part of her counter offer, and then resigned immediately after it was concluded, I could understand feeling weird about resigning (though even then, it’s just things that happen, not someone’s fault). But now, well the OP got paid more to stay a few more months; it’s not bad trade for the company, since they really wanted to keep her.

      And even if the manager regrets making such a generous counter offer, it’s going to be resolved soon.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Right, that’s the thing. The manager spent her own capital on it, and the assumption was that if the OP accepted it, she wouldn’t turn around and leave in a couple of months. The OP should still do what’s best for herself, but it doesn’t change the fact that the manager might understandably be annoyed and not inclined to get out of her way for her in the future.

    2. Antilles*

      “Your boss sounds AMAZING – seriously, I get why you’re anxious about resigning. You’ve been given some fantastic things to keep you with your current employer (more PTO and double raises within a year is a dream), but remember – you earned those things. ”
      The cynic in me would note that we can’t definitively say this without further information.
      It’s possible that it truly was fantastic…but it’s also possible that they were were wildly underpaying OP to start with, so the ‘incredible counteroffer’ was simply a market correction of “well, we’d be paying a new hire $X anyways, so…can we just offer that?”

  10. Allonge*

    Oh, LW1 – I have a friend who tends to think to the extreme of what you described here: it’s not enough to do well (e.g. pass an exam), she has to be the best and first or it does not count, it’s not enough to be liked by most people, everyone has to like her or she sucks, if anyone finds anything to correct or make better in what she has written, then she is stupid etc.

    Now, I am not saying you are doing this, but you seem to be spiralling towards something similar. Please listen to Alison and the others here – there is no way this company would have hired you if they don’t think you are extremely qualified. Was there someone they thought would be even better? Apparently, yes, but that person did not show up, so, obviously they were wrong.

    I have worked at a place before that thought about hiring a bit like passing an exam with only pass/fail marks: if we were looking for, say, administrative assistants, we had a hiring round, interviewed people and the end of the process was a list of people, all of whom were qualified to do the job. After this point, hiring managers could look at the individual resumes / ask questions to assess specific fit, but all the people on the list were accepted as ‘can do this job’. I found this an interesting way of doing thhings and obviously it does not work everywhere, but it removes the first choice issue.

    My point is: if you were hired, obviously the company thinks you can do this, even if they don’t work like I described above, and you don’t need the enthusiastic approval of everyone already working there as proof – you get a paycheck, your manager approves, all is well.

  11. NicoleK*

    Lw #1 A chilly coworker may not be a big issue down the road. At my work place, a coworker was chilly to a new hire. The reason: chilly coworker had referred someone for the role and offer was made to new hire and not coworker’s referral. Months later, chilly coworker frequently goes to new hire for help.

    1. WS*

      I found out later that someone thought I was the chilly co-worker to a new hire. In fact, I was preoccupied with a serious medical issue at the time and was struggling to even remember a new person’s name, let alone be cheerful and helpful. Everyone else knew I wasn’t usually like that, but this poor new person didn’t. We’re fine now.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        A former boss was really distracted, almost to the point of rudeness, which was very out of character for him, as he was a gentle, kind man.

        We discovered weeks later that his 24 year old unmarried daughter had discovered she was pregnant and her boyfriend and soon to be ex had decided he no longer wanted anything to do with her.

        So – my boss was not upset with anything to do with work. He was heartbroken for his daughter and grandchild to be and trying to figure out how to help his daughter.

      2. CircleBack*

        This is such a major point that jumped out at me from OP’s letter. Right now they’re worried that the coworker’s chilly attitude is because of OP, but it’s more likely that Coworker’s attitude is because of Coworker. Something going on in their life, in their head – their chilliness is at its root Coworker’s problem, and OP reframing that in their head might go a long way towards feeling better about the new office.

  12. TechWorker*

    LW1 – it’s the job of whoever’s hiring to be critical in the notes they make on the cover letter/resume so they ask the right questions! You’re basically trying to deduce as much as possible about someone from a limited set of information, and may well end up getting a completely different impression in the interview. I absolutely wouldn’t assume that anything critical in the resume/cover letter notes was their impression at interview, let alone now. We almost didn’t hire someone because some of the hiring panel were worried he’d be arrogant – but he’s not and he turned out to be one of our best hires. I’m sure he would still feel awful if he found out that he got that criticism at interview, even though no-one thinks that now!

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      Considering the number of horror stories we’ve heard about new hires on this site, this makes sense. Hiring really is a guessing game of sorts, and you need to put as much thought and research into it as possible. Even with all that, it the end, it’s still a shot in the not-quite-dark.

  13. Sir Freelancelot*

    OP1, I say this with all the kindness in the world: you need to stop. Stop overthinking, stop underestimating yourself, stop thinking that everything in the office happens BECAUSE OF you. It doesn’t matter if you were the 1st, 2nd, 100th choice. They hired you because clearly they saw something in you that they didn’t find in other candidates, or they would pass and pick someone else. You risk to damage yourself approaching the situation like you’re doing. The thing to focus on is doing a good job, not thinking that you weren’t the 1st. Head up and keeping going!

    1. londonedit*

      Absolutely. They’re not doing you some massive favour by deigning to employ you – they must have thought you were good enough to do the job, or they wouldn’t have hired you, first choice or no first choice. You’re already admitting that you’re ‘less enthusiastic’ about your work, and if you’re not careful that’s going to start being obvious to your bosses before long. Take off the hair shirt, stop beating yourself up about ‘being second choice’, and try to focus on enjoying your work and doing the best you can.

    2. Cloudy with sunny breaks*

      It’s so hard when everything is new! To combat the anxiety of being in a new place I try to keep track of when things start to be routine. For example, I celebrate the day where I don’t have to ask someone where something is. Or when I turn automatically to get into the break room. I also try and think of something positive about the people around me. I will mentally compliment items of clothing, or if I see someone rushing out of the office I’ll try to imagine that they are going somewhere fun or meeting a long lost friend. It helps me break the cycle of negative.

    3. Daisy*

      I haven’t seen anyone mention this part: ‘I know I shouldn’t have looked at her notes about me, but I couldn’t resist.’ It may not be the world’s greatest crime, but if you’re so anxious about this that you’re doing things against your better judgement, you really need to get a handle on it. I wouldn’t be massively thrilled if I was the boss and found out you’d gone into the interview notes.

      1. JSPA*

        Eh, before OP assumes “this was a test” or “this was the boss’s way of pass-ag giving me feedback” or “now -I- must- live – silently – with – the – result – of- opening – pandora’s-box,” OP should consider that the boss felt there was absolutely nothing damming (or even negative) about OP in the file, which is why she was happy to have OP root* through it. I’d assume that if there were any truly mocking or “over my dead body” comments, boss would have remembered, and gotten the file herself. I’d be thrilled to find out, post- hire, that my only weak spot was “making a different, completely defensible stylistic choice in my resume.”

        *in the non-UK sense

        1. Daisy*

          I didn’t say anything like that? I don’t think the boss was ‘testing’ her? We don’t know whether she remembered it was there or not (although personally I think it’s likely she forgot).

          The point is that OP herself said that she feels she wasn’t supposed to see it and shouldn’t have looked. If her anxiety is making her do things that are against her better instincts, then that’s a slippery slope and it’s a problem she needs to work on.

          (I’m in the U.K. and I’d also say ‘Root through’. Doesn’t mean anything else here, as far as I know).

          1. JSPA*

            Sorry, guess it’s Oz not UK! And also apologies for bad editing.
            I deleted the statement relevant to your comment (to wit, that OP may be back- projecting, from a a state of increasing anxiety, about having done “something wrong” by looking at files… which isn’t it’s a whole evident considering OP was sent to go through those files).

            I intended to follow that up by grouping together the many ways to catastrophise the situation. None of them are significantly more compelling than the null hypothesis, that boss didn’t give a hoot.

      2. Shirley Keeldar*

        I dunno–I think most people would have looked. It’s easy to avoid temptation when there’s a barrier–I doubt the OP would have gone digging around in a file cabinet label “Confidential Employee Records” to see what might be written on her resume. But flipping through pages and there are the comments, staring you in the eye? Before you can even think “Stop don’t read!” you’re reading. I think the boss was at fault for leaving the interview notes there. They should have been kept somewhere truly confidential or thrown out once the OP got the job.

        1. JSPA*

          Or they’re “no big deal” and OP is having two flavors of misplaced anxiety in one. Or two separate bits of projection, that are combining to tweak their anxiety. I know we take OP’s at their word, as per facts, but this OP is writing in to deal with a burst of anxiety… and it’s also not clear if they’re sorry to have looked because they actually know it’s against policy, sorry to have looked because they assume it’s against policy, or sorry to have looked because it’s making them anxious.

  14. The Other Dawn*

    OP2, I agree with Alison. I think if this is a great opportunity, you should take it and explain to your manager that it’s not about the money, perks, etc. It’s a step you’ve been wanting to take for a while. The short timeframe isn’t great and she might be upset since she really went to bat for you, but ultimately this is about what’s best for you. And it’s not as though you’re using this new opportunity as a way to get more money and that’s it. Not from what I can tell, anyway. But I’m wondering. Why didn’t you take the first opportunity? It doesn’t seem as though that one was about the money, either.

    Alison, do you happen to have a post about counteroffers from the manager’s side? I’ve searched and can’t find anything, but maybe my search skills aren’t great this morning. I believe someone on my team is job searching, which is fine, and there’s a very real possibility she would use any job offer as a way to get a counteroffer for more money since she’s hinted about money in the past. (My company has a great culture, good benefits, they pay for education and certifications even when they’re not job-related, and people tend to stay for a long time, but we’re not able to be at the highest end of the pay scale, though we are definitely competitive based on what I’ve observed on my own having been in management in several similar companies over the years.) Given what I’ve read here about how counteroffers usually go, I wouldn’t be inclined to counter, though I’m thinking my boss would want to and want to be prepared as to why it might not make sense to do so.

    1. Lance*

      ‘Why didn’t you take the first opportunity? It doesn’t seem as though that one was about the money, either.’

      This is confusing me as well. I get that more money and benefits are great; of course they are. But it doesn’t change the fact that the industry you’re in is boring and uninteresting to you, and the sooner you get into the industry you are interested in, the more time you have to learn and advance.

      It’s great that your boss values you enough to fight to keep you, but I do think you should take this new opportunity, and be honest that the fact that you’re leaving has nothing to do with compensation, but rather your personal interests (something your boss won’t be able to do anything about).

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        It’s possible that she stayed where she is due to a devil-you-know mindset. If the dream industry is one she’s never worked in before, I could see her hesitating to take the first offer because there’s a huge risk there that she could leave a place she knows she excels for one where she might not do well. If she lost the new job, would she be able to get another? Maybe the first job in dream industry was a fluke and then she’d have to go back to old industry where she may or may not be able to get her exact old position back. By getting the second offer, she now knows the first one wasn’t a fluke, she has options in this field, and now she feels more confident moving on.

      2. Bee*

        My interpretation was that the first offer was at a different company in the industry she’s in now, not the dream industry. So yes, I think she should definitely mention that she wouldn’t leave right now for anything other than the chance to do what she’s always wanted.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          I took the phrase “Now that this other opportunity in the industry I’m truly passionate about has come my way,” to mean that the first opportunity was also in dream industry, thus the use of “this other,” but it could just be an awkwardly worded sentence.

    2. Close Bracket*

      Please keep in mind that counter offers and retention strategies are not the same thing. A counter offer comes after the person has another offer. A retention strategy is to convince the person not to start looking in the first place. It’s really a very different set of considerations.

  15. Boldly Go*

    OP1: re the chilly person, as Allison said she may just be a chilly person, or she may have wanted that job and was rejected, or maybe her BFF was their number 1 choice … Who knows. If the job is otherwise going well, focus on the positive.

  16. Bagpuss*

    OP1. as Alison and the previous commentators have said, trey to stop worrying about this.

    1. Your employers wanted you. If they hadn’t thought you were a good fit for the job they would not have offered it to you. You may not have been their first pick but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want you or that they don’t have faith in you. Often there are two very strong candidates and the reason one s picked first is over something really small – was once involved in a hiring where when we were discussing the final two we were looking at stuff like how close each of them lived and therefore how likely they might each be to think of moving on to a job nearer home if one came up, because they were so close in terms of their presentation and how well fitted they were for the job.If we had had 2 posts available we’d have hired them both.

    2. Your supervisor, your boss and the majority of your new colleagues are all friendly, enthusaistic and putting effort into training you. These are all excellent signs!.

    3. You saw critical comments on your application. Of course you did! That’s how selection for a role works. Generally, the positives need much less discussion and are usually on the application anyway. The things which might need improvement, where you don’t already have the skills needed or where there are gaps / concerns are the things which the employer needs to focus on, because they nded to decide whether these are things they can work with or not.
    Plus, in your case, if the issue was that your resume didn’t present your skills as clearly as you thought, (a) that is useful information for you to have next ti,e you have to look for a job, but (b) it means that you are actually *better* than they thought you were, so far from it meaning that they won’t want you longer term, it means that they probably got a pleasant surprise when it turned out that you are even better than they thought, and remember, they already decided you were a good fit before they had the chance to see you in action and learn that some of the things they thought might be weaker areas, aren’t!

    3. You have one co-worker who is a bit chilly towards you. This happens. IT is unlikely that it has anything at all to do with you being the second choice. Maybe she is generally slow to warm up to new people. Maybe she has something going on in her own life which means she doesn’t have the bad with for new coworkers right now. Maybe the no-show was a friend or relative of hers and she if miffed because of that. Maybe your appearance or name or accent reminds her of someone she does n’t get a long with. Maybe you inadvertently parked in her favourite spot or they moved her desk to make space for yours. There are all sorts of reasons she might be chill y towards you, and most of them aren’t anything at all to do with you as a person or about your suitability for the role.

    Since this is obviously bothering you, maybe start to remind yourself explicitly of the positives:

    – You got the job, because they want you and were confident that you have the skills you need.
    -You have a good supervisor, who is making sure you get proper training
    – you have a good boss
    – you have nice co-workers

    You could also ask for some feedback – ask your supervisor if she is happy with your training and work so far, if there is any specific area she feels you could improve on.

    If you feel that they are not expecting much of you, then, once you are settled and are confident that you are up to speed with what they are asking of you, go back to your supervisor,. Ask about doing more, about stretching yourself and (especially if there are things you can do which you feel were misconstrued) remind them that you have those skills/ experience and ask about utilising them.

    But first, consider whether they have done or said anything to make you feel that they have low expectations, or whether you are simply assuming that because of your other negative assumptions.
    It may still only be a temporary role but you have a year to make a strong impression on them – remind yourself that even if they don’t keep you on after that it may not be personal – presumably there is a reason why it’s a 1 year post. Take the opportunity to do the best you can, get the experience. You may find that they do want to keep you on, and can help get the post made permanent, and if not, having had the job at this higher level you’ve booted your resume for the next step, and may be in a position where you have supportive supervisors etc willing to help you fid the next good fit.
    Good luck, and enjoy your new job.

    1. Jennifer*

      Great comment. If everyone in the office is warm and supportive with the exception of this one person, be thankful. In comparison with other letters on this site, she has it far better than many.

  17. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    My very first office job, I was the senior manager’s second choice. I was the middle manager’s first choice. The senior manager’s first choice, a pretty blonde rumour had it, and the senior manager’s type (no joke) found something else, so the middle manager got his pick. I did well and that job helped pay bills during the last two years of university.

    I loved that middle manager and everyone was very sad when he was laid off.

    (Not being a petite blonde saved me, I am 100% certain, from sexual harassment from the senior manager. I know because we hired a law student the next summer, and she was a petite blonde (and we became fast friends because she was smart and funny too). The senior manager was pressuring her to go out for drinks alone so suddenly I was going out for drinks with her so she could turn him down. He didn’t really let up.)

  18. Maddy*

    #1 – how would the coworker know you weren’t the first choice? Unless they were on the hiring committee it’s unlikely that they would know that.

    1. Bagpuss*

      OP said the original hire didn’t show up – if they literally didn’t turn up on the first day then it is likely that people knew that someone who wasn’t OP had been hired, as there may well have been an announcing “Joe Smith is joining us on Monday to cover the teaspoon juggling desk” so then when Jane Jones starts that role 10 days later they know she isn’t the original hire.
      But I think you can see that as a positive – if they know that you weren’t the first pick, they also know that the pick was a mistake who was a no show on their first day – that’s a pretty low bar for you to exceed!

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, just by showing up you’ve already done better in the role than their first hire! No showing a new job is a pretty big deal so it seems very unlikely they are left thinking of the other candidate with rose colored glasses wishing they were there instead of you.

      2. Jennifer*

        Sidenote – I want to work somewhere where there’s a teaspoon juggler position. That sounds like a fun workplace.

  19. hbc*

    OP1: The last time I hired a “second choice,” I was happy with the candidate and the employee. Neither of the top two were perfect (so any notes found would have had numerous non-positive comments), but they were both really good, and it was almost a coin flip between the two. If she had flamed out spectacularly, I might have wondered what would have happened if we’d gotten the other candidate, but her being 1st, 2nd, or 75th as a candidate had zero to do with how she was treated as an employee.

    But let’s say your worst case is true: they don’t expect much of you, they’re biding time until they can replace you at the end of the contract, and they’re thinking wistfully of the one who got away. The answer is still to do the very best you can. There’s nothing to be gained from having them say, “Yeah, she was a stretch, we gave her a shot, and then she acted like she didn’t even care about the job.” That’s a lot worse than a lukewarm “She did an okay job, I think she was in over her head in X and Y, but she did well in W and Z, and she’ll be great with another couple of years under her belt.” And I would bet good money that you’re well past that mark.

    1. Second Choice Intern*

      But let’s say your worst case is true: they don’t expect much of you, they’re biding time until they can replace you at the end of the contract, and they’re thinking wistfully of the one who got away.

      I was that second, third, whatever choice person for an internship over 10 years ago. I just knew they didn’t really want me; the woman who interviewed me (owner of small company) basically snipped at me during the interview and said “I don’t know if your previous internship experience with Other Company will help you here.” She also sneered at Other Company’s client like I had something to do with that. The client was a local shopping center.

      I knew right away when her assistant called me that I was not the first choice but I accepted the role because I had nothing better to do. The internship paid $30/day but luckily I was fresh out of school (I graduated when the economy tanked) and needed work experience. They had me there for about a month in a “welp, you’ll do” type of situation to get them through a busy period and then it was “Now that we aren’t so busy, we no longer need an intern.”

  20. Ana Gram*

    OP #1: I am the chilly coworker! I like meeting new people but I definitely, despite my best efforts, come across as a little chilly at first. Especially compared to my warm relationships with coworkers I’ve been around for years. It’s a combination of wanting to be professional since I don’t know you very well and just plain nerves! What if you think I’m weird? Or have a strange sense of humor? Or that I’m actually terrible at my job. Once I’ve worked with someone for a month or two, I relax and can joke around and chit chat but, man, it’s hard for me initially. But I’m glad you’re here! I just won’t tell you for awhile…

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      I am also the chilly co-worker, for similar reasons. Sorry. If I have a specific problem with you, you’ll know. But it’s hard to imagine someone messing up at the actual job in the first couple of weeks badly enough to get frozen out. I could maybe imagine someone being that much of a rude jerk, but the rude jerk wouldn’t have written your letter. A jerk would have written a letter about how people are so UPTIGHT nowadays if they wrote at all. (Probably not, because writing an advice column implies you are open to changing your behavior.)

      I would lay good odds on “not personal and not really a problem”.

    2. Bee*

      Same – I think of myself as pretty friendly to new acquaintances, but I’ve had a couple people eventually tell me they thought I hated them at first! I think I just come off as fairly aloof to strangers unless I’m actively trying not to, especially if their cultural politeness calibration is different from mine – what I, born and raised in Connecticut, think of as obviously warm & welcoming might still read as slightly chilly to someone from the South.

    3. Seifer*

      That is 100% me. I’m shy in general and I have so much anxiety about meeting new people that I just. Do not talk. People try to be friendly to me and I’m just like. Nervous laughter, quickly turning back to my work, all the while internally screaming because “is human interaction really that hard for you???? CAN YOU PLEASE CHILL, SELF.”

  21. Lilo*

    I’ve been on a hiring committee a couple times. We have had our first choice go elsewhere a couple times (not uncommon, people often apply for a few jobs at once, the ones with impressive resumes usually field a few offers and while we sometimes are their first choice, sometimes we aren’t). I have never thought less of an employee because they weren’t the first choice. If we weren’t happy with them as a hire, we wouldn’t have hired them. More often I feel bad that we have to reject someone we think is great but someone else just edged out.

    1. Jennifer*

      Good point, sometimes people nearly tie for first place and some small detail gives one person the edge over the other.

  22. SaffyTaffy*

    OP1, my boss RIGHT NOW was our third choice for the position and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t even remember the other two candidates- I just focus on my great boss.

  23. Mystery writer*

    I was the second choice on my first job out of college. The first choice accepted the offer and bailed three days before she was supposed to start.
    I started the same day as two other people (who were first choice candidates). I was the only one who was promoted out of the job and moved on to a better one.
    I always believed that job belonged to me and it took the company longer to figure it out.
    Make the job yours.

  24. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    OP1 – I was the second choice for my previous job (according to the recruiter who placed me there). Not only did I work there for a considerable amount of time without any issues, but when my ex-CIO and some of my ex-bosses started a new company, they contacted me and brought me on. Been in this new(?) job for a while now too. (Length of tenure and other details left out in the hopes that it’d make both companies harder to identify.) This means nothing, and a few months down the road, no one will remember if you were their first, second, or whatever choice.

    (The person who was their first choice took a counteroffer and stayed at their old job. I met them several years later and they were doing great and were very happy in their career.)

    Also: I’ve seen candidates labeled as second-choice for reasons like “She’s too good” or “he’s looking for a more challenging environment than we can offer”, “they won’t like it here and will leave.” Maybe you were second choice because they weren’t sure you’d like it there!

  25. Insert Clever Handle Here*

    I was also second the second choice at my current job, where I’ve been for 6 years; the first choice couldn’t come to terms on the offer. A few months after I started, niche experience from my previous job suddenly and unexpectedly became relevant — and by “niche” I mean not one question was asked about it during the interview, so it was not at all anticipated to be needed in the position. My very prickly, compliment-adverse boss (who was vocal about some other experience I didn’t have at the beginning) even said he was glad the first pick didn’t work out because the department would have been completely lost without my niche experience. I receive excellent reviews, I’ve been promoted, and am frequently requested to serve on cross-departmental projects. As others have said, if this company didn’t think *you* could do the job, they wouldn’t have offered it to you!

  26. Blarg*

    When I worked in state government, HR was super into making sure that hiring decisions could be backed up with documentation. We *had* to find negatives to write about every candidate, along with positives. It did actually help reduce some bias — like personally I’m a stickler for some grammar conventions and may have overlooked an otherwise strong candidate for things on their resume that annoyed me but weren’t actually relevant to the job. Having to look more thoroughly at the content of those, and perhaps getting past the gloss of others and seeing maybe the content isn’t quite there, is useful.

    But when there wasn’t much bad to say, the comments end up being nit-picky, like you saw: “Oh, uh, this resume is longer than we prefer. Yea. That’s a thing I can put down to satisfy HR.” First and second and third choices often come down to trivialities because you’ve got several great candidates; if one bails, you’re relieved you’ve got other options — and someone on the committee is likely jazzed cause they wanted that person first. Otherwise you’d repost the position.

  27. Jennifer*

    #1 I do think you might be overthinking this a bit. Your chilly coworker may just be shy around people she doesn’t know well and could warm up eventually. Has she been blatantly rude or just a bit withdrawn? That’s something to consider. The bottom line is they picked you. Being second out of a large group of candidates is still something to be proud of. I think you let this negative thought burrow into your brain and make a nest and you need to give it an eviction notice. You can do it.

  28. Not first choice*

    I work in a very, very small world. Not only was I not first choice, my resume was tossed off the pile during the first round. This is academia. I heard nothing. Applied January. There was no announcement and the job posting was still up in May. (I found out that first choice had declined the appointment after some negotiation time,. They were considered the “one” and the other finalists were not even being considered. This is a “failed search”)

    I reached out by e-mail to the hiring manager and had a “casual” face to face meeting a week later. A month later I was invited to a phone interview. Another month later 2 days of interviews. A week later, a written assignment. Another week later a phone interview with an important stakeholder who wasn’t available for my site interviews. A week later and offer.
    That was 7 years ago and I know they feel that I was the best choice in the end. I have followed 1st choice’s career and can say honestly that I was a better fit for this position.
    Yes, there was that nagging feeling in the beginning but remember, you are here now.

  29. irene adler*

    OP#1, first isn’t always best, I’ve learned.

    I’ve done some hiring for lab positions. Looking back, I wish we had not gone with our first choice.

    One lab tech was an overachiever on paper. The managers all thought she was very cute too. They hired her. Only the R&D project manager voted ‘no.’ We soon discovered that she had a bad temper and was not reliable. She’d chew out whomever she wanted if they disagreed with her opinions. She refused to do assigned tasks if she didn’t like them. She missed a lot of work covering for no-shows at her part-time job (who does that??). The coup-de-grace was when she decided to clip coupons instead of inventorying supplies as she was asked to do.

    Fired her.

    Second lab tech had an ideal resume. Interview went well. When I called to hire her, she was less than thrilled. In fact, I think she may have considered turning us down. I soon learned why. This job was to tide her over until she could get a job in her desired field. Only, she was rude and dismissive of co-workers, refused to speak to people and fell asleep often. She’d doze for the better part of an hour sometimes (yeah, we timed it). Snored too.

    She quit after 4 months.

    1. Quill*

      Both of these are aspects of lab techs that I’ve known, but somehow even less competent than any previous labmates.

  30. Database Developer Dude*

    I’m a little reticent about this. During the interview process, if you tell one employer that you’re waiting on another to make a decision, and that they are your second choice, that’s a quick way to get dropped from consideration altogether. Why is it okay for the prospective employer to say it to the prospective employee, but not the other way around?

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      I highly doubt they told her she was second during the interview. Their first choice pick no-showed on the first day of work, so they ended up contacting OP with the job – at that point, it’s not unreasonable or unusual that she’d find out she wasn’t the original choice. I’m sure coworkers who were expecting someone else to be starting probably expressed their shock that she was there instead, and management may have even told her what happened so that if she encountered questions from people about what happened to the new hire before her, she wouldn’t be blindsided.

    2. TechWorker*

      Also sometimes hiring timelines mean it’s better (for employee too) to tell someone ‘thanks so much for interviewing, we’ve given some offers but we’ll get back to you if any other positions open up’ … rather than try to keep them hanging on for the length of time it might take your first choice to accept the offer.

      That wasn’t the case here obviously – and yes it’s a risk – but it’s also a risk to keep candidates hanging on because it can mean they get a bad impression. (Doubly so for grad hiring where they might know others who’ve applied and got offers…)

    3. Database Developer Dude*

      No, you NEVER say it to an employee. Prospective or otherwise. You get situations like the OP’s. It’s a demoralizer, and wrong, even if true.

      I have a friend who’s husband told her she was his second choice. I saw what it did to her. Same deal here.

      1. Blueberry*

        I was about to ask the question you did. I agree, it seems both professionally discouraging and personally unkind to explicitly tell someone “you’re our second choice/backup.”

        I am hoping really hard for your friend that that wasn’t typical cluelessness/crulety on her husband’s part, to say the least.

        1. valentine*

          I have a friend who’s husband told her she was his second choice. I saw what it did to her. Same deal here.
          It’s very different. It’s fine for employers to say they hired someone and release candidates that way instead of being vague or pretending they stopped the hiring process, especially if the new hire is going to post about it online. Also, if there’s more than one spot, it’s going to come out who was hired first and that shouldn’t be as demoralizing as this husband’s weird cruelty.

          1. 1234*

            Plus, with LinkedIn, it may not be all that difficult to figure out who got the job instead of you.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        Again, if she came onboard after the first choice ghosted, it’s possible the OP wasn’t cruelly told this – she’s not an idiot, I’m sure she could have deduced what happened for herself and maybe her coworkers or supervisor filled in the blanks. Your friend’s husband is just an asshole – totally different scenario from this one.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Romantic relationships are really not the same thing.

        The OP was hired after the first hire didn’t work out. That means she was probably rejected first, so they had to explain the situation when they called her up to offer her the job. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “The person we hired didn’t work out, so we immediately thought of you. You impressed everyone in the interview and we’d love to hire you if you’re still interested.”

      4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Woah. I know we draw some comparisons between dating/relationships with jobs but this is one of those times it’s not even remotely the same.

        It’s still a business. Being second choice for a job is never the same thing as being the second choice of being someone’s spouse. I’m sad there’s not an “Ex” in front of that “I have a friend who’s husband told her she was his second chance.” What a complete and utter jerkwad, I see why #1 wasn’t interested in his salty ass.

        A job has never wrecked me for telling me I was their second call. I’ve never seen anyone take it so hard that they got a job, we all know that there’s more people out there than just us and jobs are universal and not nearly the same match requirements as a romantic relationship, especially one that’s legally binding like marriage.

        If someone told me I was their second choice as a personal relationship, they’d get the door and be known for their callous jerkwad ass. My marriage is only business when it comes to legal matters but that’s a byproduct not the goal.

    4. fhqwhgads*

      In this context I don’t think it’s likely they literally told her “you were second choice”, but they probably had told her she didn’t get the position after they hired the first person, who then no-showed. So calling her back and saying “actually, do you still want it?” makes her aware she was second choice. If they tell people who didn’t get it that they didn’t get it (which is a good thing, much better than needing to assume they didn’t get it from never hearing back) that brings with it the possibility that in situations like this where it’s opened up again very quickly that it will be very obvious to the second choice that’s what they were. That’s not at all analogous to outloud identifying either side as second choice during the initial process.

  31. SomebodyElse*

    To be a little blunt, OP1, does it really matter to anything beyond your ego that you weren’t first choice?

    I say that as being second choice once or twice in my life and hiring second choice candidates.

    I once was up for an internal promotion/new job, let’s call it, Paper Clip Sorting Manager, against 2 of my close coworkers. They were both stronger than me skill-wise for the position and I had no qualms admitting it. Turns out right at the end of the interview phase another key vacancy opened up at the same location, Binder Clip Sorting Manager, that had a much more specialized skill set needed… well guess who, of the 3 of us, had that experience?

    The site manager, juggled some other people around and suddenly I’m hired/promoted into the Binder Clip position. I knew I probably wasn’t going to be first choice for the Paper Clip role . Did it make me feel bad about the offer? Not a chance. I took it and haven’t looked back.

    You were hired, that’s really all that matters. The choice before you is:
    A. Quit, since you weren’t the first choice
    B. Second guess and self sabotage yourself until you fail
    or
    C. Forget about it and do the best job you can knowing you were good enough to be chosen

  32. Sara without an H*

    OP#1: Are you, by any chance, just out of university? And when you were in university, did you routinely get very good grades and lots of praise? So much that now, any negative feedback seems devastatingly personal?

    You need to get a handle on your anxiety. The chilly co-worker is irrelevant. Treat him/her/ze with professional courtesy and let it go. The fact that your supervisor “has been welcoming and has put a lot of effort into training me” is not typical of an employer who sure as hell probably aren’t going to keep me around any longer than they have to. Try reading those two statements aloud to yourself and see how inconsistent they are.

    I’ve done a lot of hiring in my career, and believe me — having a strong pool of candidates where any of your top 3-5 choices could do the job well is a VERY nice position for managers to be in. They hired you for a reason. Believe that.

    I agree with Alison that you need to schedule some time with your manager for a progress report. It will probably resolve a lot of your anxiety. You might also take a look in the AAM archives for earlier posts about accepting feedback constructively.

  33. Sara without an H*

    OP#2 — yes, it’s possible that your resignation will burn a bridge. Alison has written in the past about why employees shouldn’t accept counteroffers, but your post illustrates why they’re not really a good idea for the employer: the reasons the employee is looking for another job probably weren’t limited to salary, and even a generous salary adjustment won’t fix those.

    I don’t really have anything to add to Alison’s advice, except to give your boss as much notice as you can and to thank her very, very warmly for everything she did/tried to do to keep you. And of course, to document your work in progress and leave stuff in good order.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I did take a counter about 14 years ago. I’m still at that (original) company. I can’t even remember the whole situation because I made a bunch of internal moves over 3 years and had multiple outside offers at the same time. For a successful counter situation, I think the employees have to be paid reasonably, but once that’s met, they need to like the company, industry, and their actual job. All the PTO and salary adjustments won’t fix that long-term (as the OP is finding). Companies need to be able to offer growth opportunities that match what the employee wants, not just benefits. [At least once a salary threshold is met. I mean, if someone is making $30k and they get an opportunity for $60k, a counteroffer of $40k and fun new duties probably won’t cut it.]

      1. Avasarala*

        I think a big issue though, that Alison has pointed out elsewhere here, is that if it takes threatening to leave to get more money/other changes, then that’s not good. You should be able to ask for raises and get them, raise concerns about culture/PTO/other policies and have them considered. You shouldn’t have to do it with threats. Even if I loved everything but the money, it would still make me feels suspicious if suddenly the company had more money to pay me just as I’m ready to leave.

  34. Jean*

    LW2 – Life happens. Make sure you express to your manager how much you appreciate what she’s done for you, but at the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for you and your career. Your manager and your old job will survive and be fine. She might be upset, but you can’t base your decision on that. It sounds like she’s a good manager, which means that even if she IS initially upset, she will understand that you’re doing what’s right for you. Best of luck! I hope the new opportunity goes great!

  35. Bill Carson's Woman*

    LP 4, that happened to me once. I got a canned rejection email after two phone interviews and before my on-site interview. It was an error and I got the job. Probably some trigger – happy recruiting assistant, but I’ll never know.
    I never brought it up, either, and I no longer work for the company.
    In retrospect, it may have been endemic of other issues.

  36. Beverly C*

    Counter-offer person. I can see why you feel bad about leaving after they tried so hard to keep you. But another way of seeing it is: in a short period of time, you’ve been tempted twice to leave this company. If you loved your job, you wouldn’t be temped to leave. Even if your boss is wonderful, you can’t stay at a place that isn’t right for you. Seems it’s only a matter of time before you move on anyway. Just make sure you’re moving on to something that’s really good.

  37. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I was the second choice for a job once and it ended but being a place that I stayed at for over a decade and fully developed my career. I’m still close you the widow of the boss to this day.

    I’m sure he had plenty of things to say about me in the beginning. He was a skeptical codger from afar. But I earned his trust and respect within a year. I took over doing things he never let others do and helped him semi retire when his health was deteriorating rapidly. He let go of feeling trapped there despite his health issues because he knew I was there and capable.

    So it’s hard these first few months and finding criticisms. But they are still getting to know you. We’re all judging strangers during the interview process in the end. Trying to figure out our best options.

  38. Daisy-dog*

    #3 – I think you can expand more on the above-and-beyond aspect of your work in your cover letter. Mention the messy situation that you walked into and how you approached it – even though you weren’t given the direction to do it this way exactly. Tie it in by using words mentioned in the job posting.

    And really, I don’t know if it matters if that task were an expected part of your job – it is an accomplishment nonetheless.

  39. Anonymous Educator*

    Honestly, the interview and hiring process is an inexact science. They’re trying their best to determine if you’re a good hire or not, but lots of times someone doesn’t interview well or has a typo on her résumé or whatnot, and ends up being a great employee.

    I was involved in interviewing someone we had a lot of reservations about (this was for a teaching position, and the sample lesson was not amazing), but we ended up hiring that person, and turned out this person was an awesome teacher.

    Likewise, at one job I’m almost certain I was the last choice, and I ended up rocking that job as well.

    If anything, you should take those hiring notes as a funny thing they’re probably embarrassed about “Can you believe we thought that about Letter Writer #1? She’s been quite a good hire.”

    1. Sleepy*

      Yeah, hiring puts people in a position of power that many relish and most are not humble enough to realize that they aren’t clairvoyant and that interviews are rarely a perfect indicator of someone’s job performance.

      I always urge people to think about hiring as weeding out people who are obviously not a good fit, not identifying the person who is *the best*.

  40. Anonymous Educator*

    I had no idea you were supposed to use the present tense. I’ve been using the past tense for decades on my résumé.

  41. Jennifer*

    #2 I know there are times when accepting a counteroffer has worked out. There have been some updates to that effect. But generally, I think it’s sort of like being convinced to stay in a relationship you know isn’t working. They could be offering to give you the world but if you aren’t compatible, you aren’t compatible and the things that made you unhappy before still remain. Once the honeymoon/make-up period ends, you realize that and have to break up with them again, only this time it’s even more painful.

    I know we don’t have a time machine but I hope this experience will teach you to listen to your instincts in the future. You’re bored by this industry and no amount of money will change that.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      +1000, only time I know of when a counteroffer really worked out (and not just “helped tide the person over for a couple more years until they found an even better job”), was when the person was planning a career change within their field and (in my understanding) the workplace that gave them the counteroffer, actively helped make that happen. I agree that “same thing that you wanted to get away from, but with more money and PTO” would not work out long-term. (I have also stayed in a marriage and on a different occasion, in a relationship that were not working. That does not work, either, for the same reasons.)

  42. Sleepy*

    OP1’s comment reflects on a dilemma I’m experiencing—we’re hiring at a high level, and when the new person joins he will have access to all our files, including board meeting where the board discussed some reservations about him as a candidate. (He was still most people’s first choice.) If I were him, going over the last few board meeting notes would be a natural part of easing into the position. I guess I’m wondering if I should do anything about this, like alert him to the existence of the notes in the interest of transparency so that he doesn’t feel blindsided.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m the “sees everything” person from the jump. And therefore need no warnings, I know it’s part of the process.

      I feel given his position he needs to already have that knowledge and ability to navigate. Unless he’s coming on as a person who has never been in that higher level.

      I feel like the OPs issue here is their jump up in rank and they’re unease at being in a higher position than previous. Most don’t overthink to that extent and it’s more awkward to alert someone that they’ve been previously discussed during their interview process…

    2. AnotherSarah*

      Yes–I have access to some documents pertaining to my hire, and though I haven’t needed anything else in those files and haven’t, therefore, looked at them, I think it’s just known that I might. (I know as well from awkward conversations that I was the first choice for the job but not EVERYONE’s first choice, and that there were some truly strong opinions for/against me. None of it matters, frankly, 2.5 years in, and even if someone wonders what it would have been like with OtherCandidate and not me, it’s never been an issue.) I’d actually welcome seeing reservations about me, as long as they weren’t mean, for my next job search….

  43. Elizabeth West*

    For the second choice OP, I wonder if the chilly colleague is just apprehensive because the other hire didn’t show up. Does your work affect hers in any way? If so, she might just be nervous about whether you’re going to stick.

    Even if that’s just how she is, there’s no shame in being the second choice. Look at it this way–the person they hired didn’t show up for work. Assuming nothing alarming happened to them, they clearly weren’t the best choice after all. But you are not them and won’t do that. So, you’re better. The job is yours now–own it! :)

    (Confession: I was hoping this would happen with the good job that rejected me. If it did, I had every intention of being a damn rockstar.)

  44. Jaydee*

    OP1 – Nothing you mentioned reflects on your actual ability to do the job and be a good employee. So your resume was longer than they wanted. So your cover letter wasn’t their idea of brilliance. Big deal! Unless your job is as a career counselor, where you are spending your days helping people write and revise their resumes and cover letters, none of that really matters. You got the interview and you got the job.

    Focus your energy on learning the job, doing it well, and being a pleasant co-worker. Check in with your boss regularly (but not obsessively) about your work. Initiate small talk and social niceties with your colleagues.

    Also, keep in mind that their first choice may have looked better on paper or interviewed better, but you proved you are a better choice on your first day when you ACTUALLY SHOWED UP!

  45. Massmatt*

    OP 1 hiring is often a real crap shoot. Hiring decisions are generally made on tight deadlines with very limited information, even with a really robust process. With so few data points I wouldn’t get caught up in rankings or who was “first choice”. After all, look how poorly their first choice worked out!

    Concentrate on learning the job, doing it well, and building relationships with your colleagues. Time will tell if your “chilly” coworker warms up to you, but if not, it’s not your problem.

  46. coldfeet*

    OP3 – I think Alison’s advice is good, but I wanted to weigh in with my experience. In one very strange (third round) interview with a VP at a well-known national non-profit, she asked me very skeptically why I had some bullets in present tense and some in past tense. I had been at my job at the time for 10+ years, so I used present tense for current work/projects and past for things I no longer was working on – which I explained this to her. Then she proceeded to go through my resume bullet by bullet and asked about whether or not I was working on each one. It was so strange and uncomfortable, and apparently this was a deal breaker for her (!), as the feedback I got later was that the hiring manager and potential colleagues I interviewed with really wanted to hire me, but this VP nixed it.

    So just wanted to pipe up to say if you do have a mix of tenses, organize them very clearly and be prepared to have a quick answer should be you be asked about it.

  47. OP1*

    Hi everyone, OP1 here.

    Thanks for all your comments, so far. It’s been about a month since I wrote that question (I think I wrote it about a week into the position). Everything has been going smoothly since then! The coworker who was chilly has definitely warmed up. She’s even invited me to hang out with her after work one of these days.

    I was extremely stressed out when this job began. First, I had to move for it, I was leaving a crappy-ish work situation (with a boss who sort of suddenly “became” a bully in my last few months), my mother had major health issues and ended up being hospitalized for about 3 weeks (still dealing with the fallout of that!), and it didn’t help that it was all happening during Christmas. I think all that stress made me want to find CERTAINTY at work, whether they hate me or not. I just wanted to KNOW. Everything has calmed down (slightly) since then and I’ve been enjoying my work more. I kind of decided to just…. not care… about their thoughts about my resume. I was still hired, so obviously it didn’t bother them that much. Instead of looking for reasons to not trust/dislike my supervisor, I decided to just not worry about it so much. I’m still feeling a bit haunted by the change of face my previously “nice” boss did at my old job, which had a lot to do with my distrust of the supervisor.

    I’m still worried now and then, but I was so afraid of doing something WRONG in those first weeks that I’d be let go or something. However, obviously no one here wants me to leave before my time is up. The other staff members were SO RELIEVED to have me here because all the work the person in my position did (before she went on leave) was dumped in bits and peices on everyone else. So, obviously, everyone else is happy their work is back to normal and I’m chugging along in this positon!

    1. Observer*

      That sounds like a really rough patch there.

      I’m glad that things are going better for you. And if you knock it out of the park, perhaps they will want to move you into another position when the contract is over.

    2. Blarg*

      I really respect your ability to *decide* to change how you’re feeling about a situation. It’s hard and something I’m working on now. Hope things improve for your mom.

    3. Close Bracket*

      I recommend that you examine some of the things they misconstrued on your resume and ask yourself, honestly, now that you are not in a panicked state, whether the remarks can be read as constructive criticism for your next resume update.

    4. Annoyed admin*

      OP1 – I have been there. I had a close family member pass away on my first day at a new job and in hindsight it messed up so many things about my “settling in” process at the job. I think you’ve handled it so well from the sounds of it, and I’m so glad your mother is doing better.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m glad this all sorted itself out.

      I’m notorious for being a ball of nerves on edge when beginning any job, so I get it. After going into my current job after leaving a toxic jerkwad boss that flipped on me, much the same as your story reads, it was seriously awful on my inside prospective of the situation.

      I’m glad you rode it out and waited to see how things went, despite your knee jerk reactions to the notes.

      It gets better. I know you’re probably still shaking off the side effects from the last boss as well as the extra stress you were going through in your personal life!

      I’ve said ripped so many resumes apart over the years, I swear to you it’s not personal in most situations! It’s just being objective and working with what little you have.

    6. Oh So Anon*

      I’m glad to hear things are going well OP! As an admittedly sometimes-chilly person, I’ll provide another possible perspective. Something that might be going on if your position was designed to work closely with Chilly Colleague’s and Chilly Colleague was on the hiring panel is that your colleague felt a stronger immediate rapport with some other candidate. For us chilly people, sometimes we’re not great at investing in new relationships unless we feel a strong “click”. If this is the case, though, it’s very likely nothing personal! Lots of us are just weird about making snap decisions re: who we’ll warm up to on Day 1 versus Day 15.

      Also, about all the comments on your resume: take it as a sign that you made it through a very competitive hiring process. Thinking back to when I’ve been involved in reviewing resumes, we’ve been the hardest on candidates when we had so many good ones that we really had trouble ranking them.

    7. Jennifer*

      I understand why you were so stressed when you first started. I’m glad things are better now.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      Oh boy, OP, you had a lot going on behind the scenes. It just makes sense that all that stuff could exasperate any new concerns.

      I am chuckling and I hope you kind of chuckle also. My wise friend said it’s a good idea just not to read stuff that is laying about like that. And you show the number one reason why right here, it can really do a number on our worries, sending worry levels through the roof. I am not saying no-no-no like it’s wrong to do this, I am saying it in the context of protect yourself. You did not need this new worry on top of the worry load you already had in place. Let people say what they need to say to your face. Seriously. Walk away and leave the notes unread. It IS worth it in the longer run.

      Younger me used to get super impressed with Things I Did Not Know. I did fall into this trap and it HURT. After a bit I got tired of the drama. I got tired of people who could not say something to my face. And I rebelled against that whole system. People have something to say they can tell me to my face and we will deal with the problem/concern. I refuse to deal with concerns that I learn about through a second or third party or other conveyance such as notes laying about.

      Part of this new boldness developed in me because of my determination just to do a good job. If I am doing something incorrectly, I AM truly sorry and I WILL change course. It’s not a big deal for me to do that. I want to be an asset to my employer. Once I had this part nailed down, things got better for me. And I added in my wise friend’s advice about not searching for trouble- not reading stuff that is laying around can help us keep our peace of mind. Wait until people actually address me on the point.

      Hang on to the fact that you sincerely want to do a good job. Boldly show your sincerity. And let your confidence grow because of your sincerity.

  48. BadWolf*

    OP1 — your employer is probably relieved that after their first hire ditched them on the first day, they could snap you up without having to start the interview process over again.

    I know I’d want to mentally defend all the resume notes too. But things to keep in mind. Sometimes the reviewers feel like they have to find negative things and may nitpick weird things (like when you are giving a presentation and people discuss the font instead of the dataset). Having notes isn’t bad — it means they read your stuff and paid attention. No notes at all (assuming they took notes on others) would probably be worse. They didn’t care enough to read it.

  49. GemmaIsMyAlias*

    Last June I applied for a job that I had just interned for. While I had a fabulous relationship with my colleagues and supervisor who all wanted me to be hired, the HR director preferred another candidate. The candidate was offered the job, but she turned it down, so I was offered the position. I was ecstatic. My husband asked me how I felt about being offered the job second. I replied, “The girl who gets asked to the prom second still gets to dance.” There’s no shame in being a second choice!

  50. Samwise*

    OP 1, it’s just one person that you don’t feel comfortable with, everyone else is friends, and everyone who counts thinks you are doing a good job.

    No one except you will even remember that you were not the first choice within a couple of months. In fact, most people won’t even think about the fact that you’re new after a year, if your work is good.

    I’ve been the person hired who wasn’t even interviewed when the job was originally searched (academic position) — they interviewed six people. I had already gotten a rejection letter. None of the people offered took the job. A friend worked there, said to the chair, my friend Samwise is perfect, I know she applied, pull out her application and interview her. Friend called me to give me a heads up, they did a short phone interview, flew me out, end of the week offered me the job. I worked there several years, they worked hard to get me contract extensions. Except for my buddy and the chair, no one remembered that I was originally rejected.

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