recruiter named a lower salary than the job ad, what do candidates want to know about company culture, and more

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

1. Recruiter quoted a salary that’s half of what was listed in the job ad

Is it common to be offered a much lower salary than is posted in a job listing? I applied for a position for which I have good experience and education that was listed as $24 – $32 an hour for full-time. A recruiter called me regarding it and said that the salary would be $24,000 a year to start. This is significantly lower than what was advertised and painfully lower than what I was expecting. I currently make $54,000 a year but I’m trying to move and this job is located where I want to be. Is it common to list a much higher pay? How can I handle this situation gracefully? The location I want to move to also has higher living expenses so my hope was to move and secure a position that paid better than what I’m making now. I am having a phone interview on Monday and I’m wondering if the hiring manager will bring up the discrepancy.

What on earth? That’s a massive discrepancy. It would be a problem if it were even slightly lower than the ad (because they shouldn’t be misleading people), but that’s such an enormous difference that I wonder if what you saw was a typo (maybe it was supposed to say $24K/year, not $24/hour).

On the phone interview, you should bring this up yourself if they don’t. Say, “I wanted to verify the salary with you. The ad listed $24-$32/hour, which is about $50,000-$66,000. But the recruiter quoted a much lower rate. Can you clarify the range for me?” If it turns out it’s really $24,000, you’d say, “That’s less than half what I’m making currently, so it sounds like we’re too far apart on salary” or “That’s significantly under-market for this work and would be prohibitive for me” or any other form of “no” that you’re comfortable with. (I’m assuming, of course, that it is significantly under-market, given your current salary. If so, don’t talk yourself into considering the job further.)

2. Why are you asking me to do that?

I am a mid-level HR director and routinely receive questions well outside the scope of my role. I understand that HR can end up being the catch-all for a lot of situations; however, I am not the team party planner, I do not know how to fix your IT issue, schedule your own meeting, etc.! My company views HR as a very strategic group, so I feel supported in my want to push back (and am in line with our culture) but I keep receiving requests well outside of/beneath my role. Clearly, some of this frustration stems from the fact that a lot of these questions treat me as a glorified admin or are individuals just trying to pass on the problem to someone else, but I am at a loss at how to respond effectively. Often, some of these questions are so out of my realm, I don’t even know who they should have asked in the first place.

Obviously, I don’t want to set the tone of being completely unhelpful and risk employees not reaching out in the future, but I am not hitting the correct balance of how to effectively communicate that. Perhaps, if I were in another department, I would feel more comfortable to respond in increasingly blunt versions of “this question is better directed to someone else, apologies!” to “why on earth did you ask me that?” However, in HR, I want to maintain a level of respect and trust with my teams. Any suggestions on how to better respond to and redirect these inquiries?

You can be pretty blunt about it and still use a warm, cheerful tone! Things you can say cheerfully:

* “Oh, we don’t plan parties! Your team would handle that themselves.”
* “That’s something IT would help with — unless there’s some HR angle that I’m missing?” (That piece at the end can be appended to some of these others too, to make a point in a polite way.)
* “We don’t handle meeting scheduling; that’s something you or your team would do.”
* “Hmmm, that’s not our realm! Normally I’d try to steer you in the right direction, but that’s so separate from what we do that I’m not sure who to point you toward.”

As long as you’re warm and friendly when people interact with you, you’re not going to lose their trust for setting clear boundaries on what you do and don’t do.

3. When job candidates ask about company culture, what do they want to know?

As a new manager, I’m doing the interviewing, and some candidates have asked me about our culture. I typically start the interview by describing the overall program, staff size, typical development milestone timelines, and team roles and functions with the intent of providing context to the questions. What other information are the candidates looking for? It’s a large software development company, and all of the candidates are local, so there’s a certain set of processes and personalities expected in our line of work.

I usually answer by describing the composition of the teams and how work is assigned to teams and individuals. They’ll initially land on one of the 10 teams, but might rotate around periodically after six months. Are they asking for individual team dynamics? Any tips? I feel like I’m not answering the question fully, but I don’t know what else to add.

That stuff isn’t really culture! It’s processes and jobs. When people ask you about your office culture, they’re looking for information about what it feels like to work there and what types of people do and don’t thrive there. For example: Do people work very collaboratively or more autonomously? How formal or informal is the office? Is it more flexible or more structured? How social (or not) are people there? Is it fast-paced? Are people usually out the door at 5 or there until 8 or later? Do people answer work emails at night and over the weekends? Is decision-making very top-down or are there a lot of voices in the mix? Is risk-taking encouraged? Are people expected to find their own projects or wait for work to be assigned? What does “busy” look like, and how typical is that? How is conflict resolved? How are successes celebrated? What do people like about working there? When people haven’t felt like a good fit with the culture, what’s been the reason? What behaviors are valued and reinforced and what would feel out of place?

You’re (probably) not going to answer all of those, but that’s the kind of stuff to think about. It’s about the way things really work, not what’s in the handbook.

4. Should you hire employees to babysit?

I help supervise a group of about 20 student workers at a college. Most of them know I have a one-year-old and some of them really love babies (I sometimes bring him by during my non-work hours briefly to make their day). I’ve had at least two workers tell me they’d love to babysit. They’re good responsible workers, but I’ve been uncertain as to the advisability of that and haven’t followed up on their offers. This is likely to come up again as new students come in and learn I have a child. My gut says that babysitting (while paid) is more personal than a typical employment relationship and could blur professional boundaries or lead to an appearance of favoritism, so I should just kindly thank them for the offer and say we’re all set in that department. Is that the right call or am I overthinking this?

People sometimes do this and it’s fine, but if it goes wrong, it can be disastrous. For example, if you hire one of them and there are problems with their care of your child (say you find out they’ve been negligent or cruel), would you be able to keep that from affecting things at work? What if you have a dispute over pay? Are you comfortable leaving them unattended in your home? And you’ve also got to consider the power dynamics; even though they’re volunteering, there’s a risk they’d still feel obligated to say yes when you ask (or that they’ll be happy to do it once or twice but feel pressured after that). It can also make other workers wonder if you favor or give special access to the people who sit for you.

Some people do this and make it work, but if you want to play it safe, it’s wiser not to cross the streams.

5. Employer wants my identity documents and proof of car insurance

I’ve been in my position for four years, and provided social security card and driver’s license when I first got hired. We have a new HR person who is now requesting that all employees resubmit these docs. I am also required to provide proof of car insurance even though I do not drive or use my car for work.

Any idea why these are being requested? I don’t have any qualms about complying with the request, but I am curious about why we are being asked to do this. When I asked, the answer was these are required for a nonprofit financial audit, but I’m not sure that answer makes sense.

Resubmitting your social security card and driver’s license is likely an audit of I-9 forms, which employers are supposed to have all new employees fill out to verify that they’re legally eligible to work in the U.S. It’s possible that they didn’t keep the right records or that they weren’t consistent about doing it with everyone and so now they’re going back and ensuring everything’s in order.

The car insurance is odder and it sounds overzealous. It would be reasonable to say, “I never drive for work, so this isn’t documentation I’d normally hand over. Can you explain why it’s needed?” If the answer is again “an audit,” you can say, “But specifically what’s the reason for wanting insurance info from people who never drive for work? I’m not clear on why you’d need personal financial documents that don’t intersect with the work I do here.” There’s a decent chance they’ll either drop it or explain further if you push. (I know you said you’re fine with handing it over, but as a general rule you should always find out why before you hand over personal info that there’s no obvious need for.)

{ 559 comments… read them below }

  1. Anono-me*

    OP #5. How confident are you that this is a legitimate internal request?

    Someone that I know just got a a scam email at work asking for all sorts of personal and professional information.

    1. Some Sort of Management consultant*

      This is SUCH a good point!
      Alison, could you add this to the answer? It really seems important enough!

      1. Antilles*

        I agree – this is important enough that it’s worth adding to the answer. Since you are already planning on asking about the insurance card, it’s very easy to work this in under the guise of calling your HR person to “ask about the request you sent yesterday”. If she sounds surprised that there’s a request at all, you know it’s fake; if she goes “sure, what would you like to know”, then you just steer right into your ask about whether the driver’s license is really necessary since you don’t drive for the company.

        1. Hey Nonnie*

          I wouldn’t send anything like that via email (or fax or anything else) anyway. I’d bring the documents and physically hand them to a person in HR.

          Just as a general rule, I never consider email to be secure.

    2. Rebecca*

      I totally agree with this – I was asked to provide a copy of my driver’s license and social security card for an I-9 audit, and before I did anything, I picked up the phone and asked “is this legit, and really from you?” It was, but still – I don’t send anything to anyone for any reason if it’s sensitive info without double checking by talking to that person and finding out why.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, check to make sure.

      But I worked for one place whose insurance company got a little demanding. They wanted all kinds of records including DLs. We tried to say that some people were not required to drive as part of their job description. And we were firmly informed that was irrelevant in the eyes of the insurance company, “just get the DLs or we will cancel your policy.” Harsh.

      Is it possible that your company has a new insurance company who is making them jump through hoops?

      1. Important Moi*

        A question for Alison, or anyone else, how could one find out what a new insurance company is requiring?

        1. Another Millenial*

          There should be someone on the Compliance or HR team that is working directly with a representative of the insurance company.

        1. Nanani*

          Exactly what I was wondering. Given how dangerous (from an actuary perspective) driving is, you’d think insurance companies would appreciate the car-free *sarcastic laugh*

        2. Not So NewReader*

          For my own setting that would have just been entered into the system as doesn’t drive, no license.

          I don’t remember now but I think they would have asked for a state photo id number.

      2. Not Me*

        What about people who have an ID, but not a drivers license? That doesn’t make any sense that they required drivers licenses for people who don’t drive for work. An ID I understand.

          1. Not Me*

            I was replying to Not So NewReader who said “They wanted all kinds of records including DLs.” An ID and SS card do not equal a drivers license.

            1. TootsNYC*

              was “driver’s license” short-hand for “government issued proof of ID”?
              Some people can’t conceive of anybody not having a DL, and so might default to that wording when communicating with staff, even if the original info was “government-issued proof of ID.” They just assume that’s what it will be, so they use that term?

              1. Not Me*

                Since we’re talking about auto insurance I think it seems reasonable to assume they are indeed talking about a drivers license.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  Like you, I was referring to Not So New Reader’s comment; they didn’t mention insurance, just “all kinds of records.”

              2. D'Arcy*

                In most circumstances, “driver’s license” in record keeping terms actually means “government issued ID”; everyone just says driver’s license because that is the normal government issued ID for grown-ups.

                Pretty much the only times where they mean, “Driver’s license, specifically, and not any other government ID”, is for auto insurance and when the police pull you over, because those are the only common cases where anyone has any business going, “Prove that you’re licensed to drive.”

            1. TootsNYC*

              actually, people who don’t own a car don’t have proof of insurance.

              People who have a driver’s license and can legally drive a car but don’t own one? They won’t have insurance. You can buy “non-owner car insurance,” but it doesn’t cover damage to the vehicle, and I would bet most people won’t bother. I didn’t even know it existed until I went googling.

              TheSimpleDollar(dot com) has a page about it.

              1. MysteryFan*

                Yes! I found out about that when a friend was pulled over while driving his boss’ truck, and got a ticket. He learned that even tho he didn’t have a car of his own, he needed insurance covering himself as a driver. (This was in CO.. if it matters).

              2. Ego Chamber*

                I guess this must vary by state. Every state I’ve lived in has required proof of insurance to get a DL. The people at the DMV are really pissy if you don’t have that sorted by the time you get there.

        1. Anne*

          My company has a similar requirement — although I haven’t had to show proof since I was hired. It was not required if you don’t drive or don’t have a car. There was a separate note about purchasing additional insurance when renting a car, but I don’t remember the details.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Same – we just *all* had to retake a training on phishing and social engineering because 6% of employees failed a test email IT sent out after the last round. Not sure why they couldn’t have just had those people retake it.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I was helping out the network security team one time when they tested this and they actually had some staff send them things like their debit card details!

          (Yes we wiped the info off the servers quick. We never asked for it either!)

        2. Berkeleyfarm*

          That might have been a management decision/easier to do. Although it would be better if they had new training for you all.

          Our security education program would let us target “the clickers” with extra.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      If it’s a legit request, OP would need to show the documents to a person, not provide copies, assuming it’s I9 related.

      OP, if you’re being asked to send photocopies of these documents, definitely push back. They are not acceptable to fill out an I9.

    5. memyselfandi*

      At the first job I had I received a notice from HR requesting proof of a valid driver’s license and insurance and that I would be dismissed if I did not have those items. I nearly died because I had moved states and there was a hiccup getting a new license. Turns out there was a branch of the company where employees used their own vehicles to transport clients. The license and insurance requirement was primarily for them, but the notice was blasted out to anyone who had been hired in the last 90 days. In addition, the employer wanted to make sure that vehicles brought onto its property were insured.

      So, no, it does not seem unusual to ask for proof of insurance on an employee’s vehicle. But the thought that this might be a scam is worth checking out for sure.

      1. CL Cox*

        There is no legal reason for an employer to ask for insurance information if an employee does not drive either a company vehicle or as part of their job. The vehicle being on company property is not a valid reason. The employer is not required to ensure that every vehicle parked on their property is properly insured, they are not held liable if there is an accident and one of the vehicles doesn’t have insurance. If this were the case, then stores, municipalities, and the like would be requiring proof of insurance before allowing the public to park on their property.

        1. Mama Bear*

          Agreed. What kind of car insurance I have is irrelevant to my job. I did provide proof of insurance and a clean driving record to a volunteer org, but that was because I was transporting children.

        2. Cats on a Bench*

          Even when I did drive for my company I only had to give them my license info. They checked my driving record and I was covered by their insurance. My personal auto insurance didn’t come into play at all. Oh but I was driving their vehicle, not my car.

          1. D'Arcy*

            In most cases, personal auto insurance *still* doesn’t come into it if you’re driving your personal vehicle on the job, because personal auto insurance *does not include commercial use* — for your company to have you driving your personal on the job, your vehicle has to be added to the company’s insurance. Effectively, you-as-owner have to loan your vehicle to the company for use by you-as-employee.

            Driving your personal vehicle on personal insurance alone for company purposes? That’s a huuuuuge liability; my company’s had to *fire* people for doing that.

        3. Formerly Ella Vader*

          Our crews sometimes work on jobsites where they can’t drive their personal vehicles on site without showing proof of $2M CDN liability insurance. The alternatives are to carpool in from the parking lot or walk about 500 m in PPE on a paved walking path, which is more onerous in bad weather or after a long shift.

    6. Shadowstar*

      Good point. They could be phishing. Please verify with your manager (or whomever is the appropriate person) that it’s legitimate. I definitely think the car insurance is a red flag, and the social security number is also these days. It’s hard to steal someone’s identity without their SSN.

    7. Mary*

      Very confident since I’ve been asked to provide docs in person rather than email.
      The DL & SSN answer makes sense since the previous HR person was terminated & escorted from the building, so her records may have been …spotty
      Re: the car insurance I am not the only one who asked and got the same answer so Im still stumped.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        This is a good point. Even if this is legit, you should *NEVER* email identity documents. Email servers get hacked all the time.

    8. Tisiphone*

      We just had data security training about things like this. We’re encouraged to verify odd requests before complying.

      Do push back. Confirm that this is legit and if it is, you can ask questions about specific docs.

    9. lnelson in Tysons*

      If the request for the ID is for the I-9 your HR person is not up to date. Last I hear, if an I-9 needs to be done, the employee picks from the list of what is accepted identifications for this process. The HR person (or whoever does the i-9) cannot say “you have to bring this”, the only thing that they can say is something along the line “you only brought in two items from column/list B. I need one item from list B and one item from list C”
      Unless you are driving on behalf of the company, I don’t see why they would have to see your car insurance.
      I would clarify before sending anything over and better to go by in person is that is possible,

  2. Phil*

    #2 Oh wow, I’d never think to ask HR about planning events or fixing computers. Now I’m wondering if the poor HR team at my place have to deal with that!

    1. Mommy.MD*

      I never ask HR for a single thing. Not in 20 years at my company. HR functions for the company’s interest and not the individual though in some cases they can be helpful. People forget this. And who on earth would think they plan parties? They’d be planning your firing perhaps but not your party. That’s odd. HR is there to enforce the rules and protect the company.

      1. Caroline Bowman*

        Of course they work for the company and the company interests, but in so doing they can make difficult managers behave properly (because of risks to the company) and help with mediation. They aren’t evil ogres, they’re there to deal with people as they relate to the company, and that can work in two directions.

          1. MK*

            Not to derail, but I find it odd is that this is usually presented as a huge revelation and treated almost with outrage. I mean, isn’t it self-evident that a company department, staffed by company employees, who are paid by the company, is operating in the best interests of the company? Their job is to ensure the human resources (employees) part of the org is running smoothly and facilitating the company goals. Yet many people seem to be under the impression that HR should be “on the employees’ side” and their job is to help/protect/defend them against everyone, as if they were their union representative. And “HR is working in the best interests of the company” is presented as some burn against them, as if they were doing something shady and putting one over the employees by doing their job. Why do people have this expectation from HR? Do (some) HR departments misrepresent themselves as employee advocates?

            1. doreen*

              I think it’s because at a certain type of job/ in a certain situation HR really does seem like employee advocates, even while they are working in the best interest of the company. Imagine a company where a report to HR stops a manager from requiring people to continuing to work after they’ve punched
              out . Sure HR protected the company – but they also helped the employees.

              1. Em*

                In a current situation HR is acting as employee advocates but that’s because our turn over is so high they need to investigate the cause. Our department is just bleeding out people. That’s still on going and the results remain to be seen, though.

              2. TiffanyAching*

                I may be biased since I work in an HR department, but I think in an effective HR department, there are a lot of things that are BOTH in the best interest of the company, and the best interest of employees. Making sure people are paid correctly for overtime, investigating and stopping harassment, having transparent, consistent, fair disciplinary procedures — these are things that are good for employees, even if the primary reason we do it is to reduce the company’s risk of audit/fines/lawsuits.

                1. anycat*

                  i work in an HR department too – and thank you for saying this. it always kinda gets me when people seem to say that all HR does is look out for the company. but did you know that we are looking out for you since you are the ones working at the company? i want to make sure that your benefits are right, you understand your vesting, that i can answer any questions you may have as you approach retirement.

                  oh well. /end slight rant.

            2. TechWorker*

              1) some HR departments absolutely do present themselves as ‘doing the best for employees’ and responsible for employee satisfaction in some way. (As below, because that’s good for the company!)

              2) I think the pushback is because of the implication that you should never talk to HR, or HR wanting to talk to you automatically means they’re trying to screw you over. That is not the case in most companies and ignores the last number of issues where there’s a good amount of overlap between ‘what’s best for the company in the long run’ and ‘whats best for the employee’. There’s a medium ground between ‘HR is always on my side’ and ‘HR is the enemy’

              1. Leela*

                Having worked in HR, a lot of us do care about the employees and doing the best we can by them, but we’re absolutely hamstrung by horrible corporate policies. It often results in us presenting ourselves as doing the best for employees (because if we can, we will), but looking like we won’t because people see inaction that’s assumed to be us just not keeping our word. We might want that sexist boss fired more than you do but the company won’t allow it without several PIPs or written proof that employees won’t provide, and then we’re the assholes for not firing him. We might want more than anything to give you a huge raise because of changes to your role but some corporate policy about salary banding and not being allowed to give a raise more than once a year means we’re not allowed

              2. D'Arcy*

                In my experience, “HR is the enemy” is generally only the case in deeply toxic work environments where HR is impotent and has given up on trying to control the office politics and just sides with whoever wins, or HR is tyrannical and is itself the epicenter of the office politics.

                1. Kat in VA*

                  I agree with this. I “made friends” with our top HR person in our unit, and subsequently have heard (in veiled language) some of the policies that she’s up against. I adore her and know full well she absolutely has the employees’ best interests in mind.

            3. MeTwoToo*

              I think it depends on the person in the role and how they present themselves and their position. I’ve had HR people who were friendly and did act as employee advocates who gave advice to employees and helped them work within the rules, etc. Then I had one who flat out told employees to their face that it wasn’t her job to be ‘fair to employees’ and she ‘works for the organization, not you.’ Wow.

              1. MK*

                But that’s exactly the attitude I mean! Why do you say “Wow”, as if her refusing to bullshit people about the nature of her role and pretend she is on their side is a point against her? I mean, there were probably more diplomatic ways to phrase that, but she gets credit for honesty. Not to mention that, if that’s how the company operates (we don’t have to be fair to you), then it’s absolutely in the employees’ best interest to know this and proceed accordingly.

                1. Jenny Craig*

                  I would say “wow” to anyone in my company who said that, no matter their department. If I asked IT for help and they said “I work for the organization, not you,” I would think there was something seriously wrong with either that person or their department. They would not get credit for honesty. If I said that to anyone else, I would have a very stern talking-to, and I would possibly be put on a PIP.

                2. Tisiphone*

                  Echoing Jenny Craig’s “wow” as well as the “wow” above.

                  It’s interesting how phrasing something in the most boorish manner is considered by some to be merely “honesty”. Also interesting in that so-called brutal honesty is never to say something positive, but is always negative and often insulting. You can be honest, direct, and diplomatic all at once.

                  Soft skills are important and at my company, they are rated on our performance reviews.

                3. Lexica*

                  An HR person saying it’s “not their job to be fair to employees” absolutely warrants a “wow”, in my opinion. And saying “I work for the organization, not you” indicates a certain attitude toward how they’ll do the job.

                  The HR person my department with works for our organization, yes. But she does her work for the organization by working with and for employees. By handling my accommodation needs, for example, she helps our organization work more smoothly and also reduces its exposure to liability for failing to meet their legal obligations.

              2. CL Cox*

                But it is in the best interest of the organization for HR to advocate for the employees sometimes. For instance, if management is doing something shitty to employees that will get them sued or fined, HR absolutely needs to tell them to knock it off.

            4. Not Me*

              I think it’s party because of the people who think HR are glorified admins. They think HR’s party planning is for morale, or they order office supplies, or food for meetings, etc. It’s just the basic misunderstanding of the role.

              1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                It doesn’t help that a lot of employers and HR folks – or back in the day, personnel – reinforced the stereotype that HR is all about administration:
                1) The company didn’t value or understand HR’s function, and put someone in the role for the sake of having an HR department but offered no training or clear guidance;
                2) Because there is a lot of documentation and record keeping, I’m sure a lot of HR folks really were treated like admins because they and/or their employer thought HR was all about administrivia;
                3) HR does all the ‘touchy feely’ stuff in an organization, including party planning and birthday cards, because HUMAN, and;
                4) Sometimes, people are just really bad at their jobs, and HR is no exception.

            5. Curmudgeon in California*

              When the HR department tries to imply that they’re “there for you” or “to help you”, it can be a bit of a shock to young, naive employees that their first and last duty is to the corporation, not the employees.

              IOTW, yes, they misrepresent themselves as employee advocates. Quite a few HR departments couch their communication that way, and it’s a lie. I don’t know about you, but I never trust liars like that. Once burned, twice shy.

      2. Fikly*

        Good HR (and smart companies) realizes that having happy employees IS in the company’s interest.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          This! Employee retention should absolutely be one of HR’s chief concerns. Ensuring that employees are treated fairly and well and that they feel valued is vital to retention.

          1. Jennifer*

            So she should start planning parties even though it’s not her job and there are other people in the company who are perfectly capable of planning events for their teams?

            1. Leela*

              I’m also concerned about this because HR tends to be more staffed by women and women tend to accumulate random admin tasks that have nothing to do with their role or be pressured/asked more than others to take them on. I was pulled away from a recruiting call to help hang halloween decorations once.

        2. Wind Beneath...oh, never mind*

          Evidently the OP thinks this is “beneath” her. Does that language rub anybody else the wrong way?

          1. Jennifer*

            I don’t necessarily think she thinks it’s beneath her, just that it’s not her job. We’ve talked before about people getting roped into party planning or other admin type duties when that wasn’t their job description. Nothing wrong with that kind of work – when it’s your job.

            I hate planning parties so totally get where she’s coming from.

            1. Oh No She Di'int*

              Well, except that she used the phrase “well outside of/beneath my role”. So she does indeed think of at least some of these duties as “beneath” her, no?

              1. Jennifer*

                I don’t think it was meant in that way, as if she is looking at people who perform those jobs as beneath her. I don’t think it’s wrong to say that a certain task is beneath your responsibilities. Most companies wouldn’t ask the CEO to man the phones if the receptionist called out sick. The CEO isn’t any better than the receptionist, they just have very different roles and responsibilities.

              2. kt*

                It’s not the most politic phrasing, as no work is “beneath” someone, but having the VP of HR helping with the copier and setting out snack trays and stapling brochures or scanning old files as a large percentage of his or her time would be a poor use of resources. We do have job descriptions, and going outside of those job descriptions in a pinch is fine but doing it all the time or a significant portion of the time generally means you’re not doing the job you are being paid to do — and then who is doing it?

                You can swap out who is scanning old files, but you can’t just swap out who is overseeing the rewrite of the sexual harassment policy or making decisions about whether to switch health insurance providers next year.

          2. Nanani*

            Women are often caught in a double bind of pressure to do “nice social things” like party planning, while being cautioned not to pour too much energy into it let they be seen as not serious about their real jobs. This is gendered because it rarely happens to men.

            Being tone policed also disproportionately happens to women.

          3. Not Me*

            No, it’s totally reasonable. I wouldn’t ask the CHRO to cover reception, that is literally beneath their job responsibilities. I also wouldn’t ask the receptionist to make a decision on terminating an employee, that is literally above their job responsibilities.

            I also find it insulting when people just assume the women in the office, and traditionally HR is mostly women, do things like party planning. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I want to bake for people at work or pick out party decorations.

            1. Wind Beneath...oh, never mind*

              Okay, but my comment has nothing to do with gender. It does bother me that someone who works in HR would describe a co-worker or a task as “beneath” them. It seems they’ve imagined some class structure within the organization. “Outside my area of responsibility” would be less irksome for me. I can’t imagine being asked about a task within my organization and even thinking “that’s beneath me.” The word that was chosen by the OP says a lot. But, I understand that’s just my opinion. I suppose that point of view won’t be getting a lot of support here.

              1. Not Me*

                Perhaps your comment has nothing to do with gender, but women being expected to do these tasks is about gender. You can’t really pull the two apart, at least not yet in our society.

                There are definitely tasks that are beneath some roles, yes.

              2. OP HR*

                OP2 here – I absolutely meant outside of the role. At my company, we have a corporate events team and admin staff that would be the proper contact and handle party requests – hope this clarifies my meaning! I do think it is telling you really focused on the “party planning” and not, say, the IT requests, which could be considered more masculine. We in HR get a lot that is outside of scope, and if we said yes to everything (from planning a team lunch to restarting the internet) I would never complete my actual role.

          4. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s reasonable to find some tasks far more junior/less skilled than the work you’re there to do. I’d ask that we not nitpick the language. Thanks.

            1. Sure to be deleted*

              It’s not about nitpicking language, Alison; it’s about the choice of word revealing the LW’s overall point of view. I’m disappointed you can’t see that. Lots of words could have been used there. This writer chose to characterize something as “beneath” her, and that’s provocative. I’m sure you will delete this, but at least you’ve read it and I’m asking you to think about that.

          5. Leela*

            No because of my own experiences having worked in HR and being expected to hang decorations, leave the work I was hired to do to go buy cupcakes, the constant implications that my work isn’t very important and can be dropped at any time for admin tasks. It reads to me based on my experiences not like “this work is lowly” but “it’s inappropriate to push random work that has nothing to do with my department onto me because they don’t understand my role”, and it’s usually looked at as not being a team player but really it’s just not willing to do little admin tasks no one wants to do. In my current role where among my many duties is approving payroll, I had a staff member demand that I enter his hours for him because my role is “admin” and that’s “admin work” and he didn’t want to use the system. That work IS beneath me. It’s not that it’s not important for hours to get entered, it’s that I have a real set of job duties that’s not just taking care of what no one else in the business feels like doing.

            1. Dancing Otter*

              Well, in the case you cite, it would probably violate segregation of duties in a major way. If you approve payroll, you absolutely should not be entering anyone else’s hours — it’s a fraud risk. If he pushes the matter, I suspect Internal Audit would back you up (and probably have a good laugh).

              1. Leela*

                Oh we’ve had a few good laughs. He consistently refuses to use the payroll system, then doesn’t get paid, then tries to threaten us for failing to pay him, we provide screenshots of his 0 reported hours, it continues.

          6. Yorick*

            She said they’re asking her to do things like schedule meetings. That is administrative work that you get a lower-ranking employee (usually one who reports to you or is assigned to support your team) to do. So yeah, that type of work is “beneath” an HR person.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          Bingo. The only people who have, in the 15 years I’ve worked at my job, had negative things to say about our HR department have been people who were clearly in the wrong and got caught. Our HR is great but that includes not allowing employees to spoil the workplace for other, more ethical employees, by abusing people and perks.

      3. Alexander*

        Well… I think it depends on the company. In ours, HR actually DOES plan all office parties. Always have been.

        1. kittymommy*

          Same. If it’s an organizational wide party, yep, HR will be be involved, probably as the main point of contact.

      4. Oryx*

        I’ve worked jobs where HR had a person whose sole job function is planning parties (and they did a fantastic job at it)

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          OMG I would love that job so much. It’s not what I studied in school and not even close to what I’ve done professionally for the last decade, but man I sure do enjoy planning parties in my personal life. I don’t know why but I get such joy out of figuring out logistics and researching stuff and ironing out all the teeny tiny details.

          1. Rayray*

            Right? I mean, my pay would matter but I wouldn’t mind at all planning those things out like that. Finding fun places to cater or ideas for potlucks, whatever it is your company might do.

            Most of my workplaces have simply done monthly birthday parties and occasional holiday parties, usually taken on by an admin or HR person so it’s not a major part of their job to order a cake or pizzas.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            I love planning personal events but on a company level it’s painstakingly different and awful.

            My friends and family aren’t nearly as hard to accommodate. Professionally you’re facing harsh critics who will rip all your event decisions to shreds and one off choice in meals will mean many will skip the next one or just never let you live it down.

            1. Karo*

              This is 100% accurate. At home, if something goes wrong you can pivot more freely than you can at a company event that has been planned down to the minute. And finding venues and caterers is less fun when the top two stakeholders have very different ideas as to what the feel of the event should be (assuming you’re even allowed to change it from what it was last year).

              It’s not all bad, but like any profession there are a ton of hidden cons that counterbalance the visible pros.

            2. Half April Ludgate, Half Leslie Knope*

              As a corporate event planner, THIS. Plus, most corporate events aren’t “fun” – they’re business events. Sure, there are fun moments, but whew, pick the “wrong” meal option and someone is bound to act like you personally ruined their life!

              1. Half April Ludgate, Half Leslie Knope*

                (Though I totally love my job! It’s just not the “dream gig” that people might imagine it to be!)

          3. Alli525*

            Try conference planning! It took me a couple years to figure out that planning OTHER people’s parties (wedding planning or events planner for a bar) wasn’t the right fit for me, but I landed at a financial services company that needed help with their client conferences and it was a dream come true.

          4. Curmudgeon in California*

            At the university where I work they have an entire events planning team, plus the admins and HR plan and coordinate the staff events.

      5. Amethystmoon*

        I don’t ask them for anything either. The few times I have seen other coworkers complain to them, nothing was really done other than they asked a few questions. It’s a pretty big company also.

    2. LilyP*

      For what it’s worth, I work for a relatively small company and our HR person does wear a lot of hats, including event planning for larger company events like all-hands and being the point person for our third-party IT services (so the person you’d talk to if you needed a ticket escalated in the third-party system). People coming from smaller companies might just be used to HR being in charge of various general “operations” or office management stuff that doesn’t fall to any specific business or product team. Also, if HR does onboarding and general first-day stuff for new staff they might stick in people’s mind as a generally competent/knowledgeable/friendly person to ask about stuff outside your specific team’s purview.

      Anyway, I don’t think people are being ridiculous or rude by asking this sort of stuff, just let them know if you’re not the right person and they’ll figure it out!

      1. Jen*

        I’m in a local office of 500, in a multinational company, and HR does handle the planning for all company events (Christmas party, large-scale work-related events, etc), so I would probably ask HR about things like this if I got hired somewhere else! It’s actually good to know that it’s not that common.

        1. Green great dragon*

          I think it depends whether it’s a whole company event though, or being asked to do a team party for one small part of the organisation (the original letter sounded like the latter to me).

      2. Mommy.MD*

        I think it is different if you work for a very large organization. When HR wants to see you your hackles go up. No one is asking for party planning.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            I think MommyMD’s responses are in line with what professional HR duties are expected to be, per SHRM or HR degree programs. There may be some catch-all work like party planning that ends up under HR, esp. in smaller companies, but that is absolutely not a core competency for HR folks in general.

            I work for an F500 company. At the local office level (1300 people), major events are planned by committee, and it’s in addition to their regular jobs. . .so, the Major Event Chair is usually a senior manager and the team can have all different roles from HR, admin, technology, marketing, etc. For department outings and smaller events, it usually falls to the admin to handle the planning. They are the ones trained in the catering order procedures and work with the department managers for budget approvals.

        1. MK*

          It obviously varies by organization. In the past year, they have contacted me for matters ranging from “someone has filed an official complaint against you for abuse of power” to “you have to go supervise the entrance exam for your role” to “senior coworker X wants your phone number to consult you about Z legal matter, is it ok if we give it to him” to “will you be attending the New Year party” to “you forgot your calendar in courtroom A, we put it by your desk”.

        2. Lilo*

          Yeah, I’ve had to meet with HR for hiring purposes and to get someone equipment for an ADA accommodation, neither brought my hackles up.

        3. Daisy-dog*

          This was the case for me in a large organization. The only person I knew that spoke to HR never came back. I had interviewed for a lateral transfer in the company and I got a call from someone I didn’t know a few days later. I didn’t think it was related to the interview because the company moved so, so, so slow on filling positions – like 2-3 months, not 2-3 days. I was on a call with a customer and messaged her that I would call her back. When I looked up her name in the directory, I was quite freaked out to see that it was HR. Thankfully, it was to tell me that I was offered the job.

      3. Willis*

        Yeah, this was my experience when I worked for a small company, although scheduling a meeting seems like a bit of a stretch even in places where HR does where a lot of hats. Alison’s suggestions sound good to me…unless it’s the same person consistently making weird requests, friendly no’s seem the way to go.

      4. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

        At ~200 employees, our HR gets roped into some things that are out of scope. I always feel for our HR director when it happens because she’s busy enough with her actual job, she shouldn’t have to sweat blood drive participation. (In our case it is is top down roping in so there is only so much you can do to the nip that stuff.)

        Generally though, our HR has set themselves up as a resource so employees don’t feel lost. (Good because in not-my-division it’s been an historical problem.) I’d be surprised if they didn’t get occasional requests as in the OP. Price of having a helpful front? I mean I get weird requests too and I just refer people off to the right place.

    3. Rexish*

      A few job postings regarding HR has included being the employee wellness coordinator that does include event planning. I feel it is quite common in smaller companies.

    4. New Job So Much Better*

      I’m in Product Support and we get requests for all different teams. Just cheerfully redirect them to the right spot– many times they meant to call or email the other team anyway.

    5. Mama Bear*

      I think this happens most in smaller companies where people wear a lot of hats. Our HR director also oversees our admin group, so I think people have the wrong idea about what HR’s role is. The director has had to clarify. I always ask if someone from admin is available, but don’t assume. I go to HR for HR things when necessary. Not for baked goods.

    6. TootsNYC*

      some people just feel more comfortable with HR, and if they have no clue, that’s where they go. (and some people think of HR as “mom” or “the principal.”)

      and the moment those people get any help in any way–even if it’s just being redirected to the right place–they will come back every time.

    7. OP HR*

      OP here – big thanks from us then! It is hard to do our roles in a strategic way to support our employees when we become the catchall for other roles.

  3. New Jack Karyn*

    OP5: Would they ask for car insurance verification if someone didn’t have a driver’s license? Or someone like me, who carries a license but not insurance–because I don’t own a car?

    1. working be cray*

      If I’m not driving as part of my job or driving their vehicle, I really just see this as my personal private business not theirs. Specifically for some of the reasons you mentioned. And what about people who have a disability and don’t drive? Are they now considered to be lacking in work documentation? Companies pay me to do a job and everything else is none of their business. As long as I’m not murdering people or whatever I guess.

      1. Mary*

        OP here, I agree!
        I think if you dont drive then obviously you dont have insurance, nobody is getting in trouble for that!
        So for the first part we are submitting the usual: passport or DL/ID & SS card
        For the second part we’ve been asked for auto insurance declarations page. Still just getting “the auditors asked for it” when I ask why.
        I think if you dont have it youre off the hook, but it’s not a huge org so anyone would know I drive to work every day, they know my car.
        I’m not so much interested in fighting the request, just super curious about What the true value of this info is for the company or for the auditors.
        It’s more a mystery than a complaint.

        1. Blarg*

          I wonder if they’ve had incidents of uninsured employees having fender benders in the parking lot or something and are wanting to make sure that people have coverage so they don’t have to deal with an irate employee with damages to their vehicle being left having to deal with costs because their coworker didn’t have insurance …

      1. Mannheim Steamroller*

        I have heard of employers actually banning their workers from using public transportation. (Not sure what the business purpose of that would be.)

        1. Massmatt*


          This is shocking, if true. Some jobs (face to face sales, deliveries, etc) obviously require someone to own a reliable car but prohibiting rank and file employees from using public transportation? Do they require your thermostat be set at 79 degrees and that you not recycle also?

          Many large employers around here offer subsidized public transit passes, I have never heard of a prohibition, that would not go over well.

        2. Ego Chamber*

          It’s mostly to avoid hiring Poors. A similar tactic is to put in the job ad that the position requires you to have a drivers licence, proof of insurance and no tickets for the past 5 years. I’ve called at least 4 of these (I know, I know: don’t call the company with questions about job postings) in the past month to ask how much driving is involved in the job. None. At all. Not ever. Against policy to drive while on the clock actually.

          It also might be a way to avoid hiring disabled people or people convicted for DUI. (There’s way too much of the second one around here.) Tl;dr: Seems like a good way to discriminate against people.

  4. Gatomon*

    #5- I’ve been asked to provide my driver’s license to work for insurance purposes every few years, but never my personal insurance information. Every company I’ve been with has had their own company vehicles and insurance though, and I am someone who occasionally uses the company cars. I’d definitely want more information before providing my insurance info to HR.

    1. AW*

      I’m In the U.K. where previous jobs have asked to see proof of insurance it is because standard car insurance doesn’t cover you for driving for business use, it’s necessary to pay a small additional charge to have business cover added to the policy.

      the company want to see Proof of the cover before reimbursing mileage claims, is it possible something like that is going on here?

      Another thing that I wonder about is how much personal information is on a certificate of insurance? I mean if it’s just name, policy dates and a statement saying the person is insured I don’t thinks that’s to bad.

      Either way I’d ask why they need it before handing it over, but it doesn’t seem to bad they’re asking for it.

      1. Fikly*

        Except that the LW isn’t driving for business use, either with their car or the company’s car, so how is their car insurance relevant in any way?

        And yes, standard car insurance doesn’t cover business use – so why would they need to see your standard car insurance policy to add you to their own insurance policy?

        1. Forrest*

          If you’re using your car for business driving in the UK, you need to get business use added to your personal insurance. I’ve never come across a business where you’d get covered on their insurance here.

          (UK car insurance seems to be pretty different to the US–I could never get over American friends just driving each other’s cars. It’s very unusual to do that in the UK.)

          1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            Yes, this. I worked with a woman from England, and she said that things that are commonly accepted as personal use of your vehicle in the US (say, driving to a worksite other than your regular one, or carpooling to the company Christmas party) would be considered business use in England and violate your insurance.

            1. Mama Bear*

              Interesting. I could see something like picking up supplies in your own vehicle, but the carpooling to a party is surprising to me.

        2. Natalie*

          Standard US car insurance does cover some business use, a separate rider isn’t necessary until you’re using the car primarily for business.

        3. snowglobe*

          If the company has some employees that drive occasionally or rarely, it may be difficult to know for sure that certain employees will *never* drive for work purposes. Getting insurance that covers all employees will cover everyone just in case an employee is asked to drive somewhere and everyone forgets that they are not covered under the company’s policy.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        I actually do see a problem with giving it to them.

        OP days she doesn’t drive for work. I can’t imagine they have any need at all for her insurance info.

        Most insurance cards (IME) have only the name(s) of the insured snd a policy number (maybe an address…maybe) and that’s it.

        Even still this feels like an inappropriate overreach into OP’s personal life.

        It’s got the same feeling for me as “well if you don’t have anything to hide then you should just let the police search your house if they want to.”

        Just no. I have zero to hide, but that’s not the point. Privacy yanno?

        The whole world doesn’t need to know every single thing about me and this would include an employer wanting my insurance info for no justifiable reason.

        It’s just a further erosion of personal vs public. Just no.

      3. Phony Genius*

        In the U.S., if you have comprehensive and collision coverage for your personal car, it may also automatically cover rental car damage. The company may want to know if you have that type of insurance to decide if they need to pay for the rental company’s insurance, should you have a work travel assignment that requires renting a car. But they should wait until it comes up to ask.

        1. Tempestuous Teapot*

          1-One’s personal car insurance policy (in the US) will not reimburse for rental car damage if the rental was for business purposes. Rental insurancd/reimbursement is a rider the insured must elect.
          2-I do not elect vehicle insurance riders for my employer’s benefit.

        2. Epsilon Delta*

          Maintaining the list of employees who are “approved” for rental insurance because their personal auto insurance doesn’t include it sounds like a bookkeeping nightmare!

      4. I coulda been a lawyer*

        In the US it also includes the legal description of the vehicle, license plate number, and Vehicle ID Number (VIN) as well as policy number and type and who owns the vehicle.

        Where I work it’s entirely possible for any employee to need to grab the keys and move a company vehicle or run a quick errand. So once a year we each just have to show our physical license to a manager who then verifies to risk management that the following employees did/did not provide proof of licensure. And if your license expires during the year you have to show the new one. And if you lose the right to drive you have 24 hours to report it up the chain or risk being fired. But never ever proof of insurance, even when parking or driving personal vehicles on employer owned property and roads.

    2. Lynca*

      Even as someone that drives a minimum of 3 times a week for work travel, I’ve never had to provide proof of insurance. And honestly it’s that part that makes it really weird to me.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      The silly part is that if you are not insured that would show on your driving record. All they need is your DL# to find out if you do have insurance. DMV will automatically ding anyone who has let their insurance or registration lapse.

      1. snowglobe*

        You can have car insurance for personal use, but that may or may not cover you if you drive on company business.

      2. Antilles*

        It really depends on the state. Some states are fully computerized where they do it all electronically – when you try to register the car, they check for insurance on it, then they get contacted if the insurance ever lapses. But other states still have just a little checkbox you circle when applying for a tag verifying “I certify that I am aware of the state’s minimum coverage requirements for vehicles used on public roadways as described in blah blah blah”.
        That said, from the company’s perspective, the simple presence or absence of insurance may not be what they actually need to know. Does your policy cover business use? If you are driving a company vehicle instead of your personal car, does your policy still cover you? Are the limits sufficient to cover damage or are you riding with the state minimum liability coverage?

        1. CL Cox*

          But the OP stated that she doesn’t drive for business ever. There is literally no reason for the employer to need this info.

      3. Lily Rowan*

        I mean, I have a driver’s license, but neither insurance nor registration, because I don’t own a car!

      4. londonedit*

        Here, the insurance is linked to the car registration, not to the person’s driving licence. So if the police want to find out if someone is driving a car without insurance, they look it up via the registration number (licence plate) of the car.

        I have a driving licence, but no car, and hence no car insurance.

      5. Marny*

        Typically car insurance is tied to car registration, not driver’s license (I spent many years as a traffic lawyer). In my home state, lapsed insurance results in suspension of a car registration, but it doesn’t impact your license. You can have a driver’s license without having a car, so it wouldn’t make sense to tie it to your license. I’ve never seen a driving record that mentions insurance coverage.

      6. doreen*

        Not always- my husband doesn’t own/register a car, so there’s no way to tell from his license if he has insurance. I own/register the cars and if the insurance/registration lapses, it will be my license that’s suspended, not his.

    4. TootsNYC*

      and even then, it’s probably “government issued proof of ID,” not “driver’s license specifically.”

      For lots of people, the only government-issued proof of ID they have is their driver’s license, or perhaps it’s the one they carry around. And so they just use that term.
      They’d probably think that if you didn’t drive, you’d just provide your state-issued non-driver ID, and it’s rare enough that they don’t want to bother specifying; it’s on you to say, “oh, this is my version.”

    5. KayDeeAye*

      I have to provide a DL where I work, but that’s because I occasionally use a company car. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked to provide proof of insurance, though, and I’d really question it if I were since the company cars have, of course, their own insurance.

  5. nnn*

    I wonder if the underlying problem in #2 might be that people don’t know what HR actually is? (I always thought it was pretty self-evident, but in my time reading AAM I’ve seen more people than I would have expected float the idea of going to HR for things that…just aren’t HR at all.)

    If this is the case, maybe some kind of internal awareness campaign – along the lines of “who we are and what we do” – might be helpful. If people understand what HR is, that might improve their understanding of what HR isn’t.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Yup – a company-wide email with a HR FAQ sheet attached would probably cut down on a lot of these strange requests.

      1. Ludo*

        I feel like the type of employee to ask HR for odd things is the type who also wouldn’t read a company wide email like that

        1. Mommy.MD*

          I agree. Good point. I think it’s fine for OP to say in a polite voice “ this is not the kind of thing HR handles”.

        2. triplehiccup*

          True, but a single email is so low effort that it’s worth it even if it only prevents a few unreasonable requests, and it might equip people to stop their teammates from making unreasonable requests. It just seems like due diligence.

          1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            Right, and then you can say, “Oh didn’t you see the email we sent?” instead of delivering Totally New Information. It softens the blow.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      Complicated by the fact that the duties of HR can vary by company – sometimes they wear multiple hats, some times their scope is very limited.

      But for any company, a quick “who to go for what” FAQ on the internal website or handbook can be very useful. Ours includes things like facilities (replacing lightbulbs, reporting roof leaks or insect issues), computer and IT (hardware, software support, problems), purchasing, payroll and benefits, colloquia, social committee, hiring, public outreach, ombudsman, office space organization, as well as things like how to book meeting spaces and links to travel reports and the leave system.

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I’ve been guilty of making requests like this as a result of past experience at companies where responsibilities were handled differently. At my last job, we had a one-man department that handled all regulatory issues for both our plant and our products. At my current job, I decided our plant safety guy was useless because he couldn’t answer any of my questions about the regulatory status of our products, and I found out much later that I was asking the wrong person.

        Where I work now, you report rook leaks and such to the finance department because they handle the relationship with the landlord. I could see someone moving on to another company and pestering a very confused finance person about building maintenance issues.

        1. Adric*

          “you report rook leaks and such”

          I just want to say, that I am now picturing your company’s campus laid out like a chess board and you working in vaguely castle shaped building off in the corner.

      2. Kiki*

        Seconding the idea of a “who to go to for what” FAQ! Thought there are often similarities between most companies, a lot of tasks are divvied up differently based on history, decisions, or relationships that newer employees wouldn’t be privy to. HR doesn’t inherently handle party planning stuff, but there are definitely companies where they do so when people ask, it isn’t completely unfounded. Having a guide for reference that is regularly updated and agreed upon makes the most sense and saves everyone time!

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      OP2 brought up something that OP3 may want to add to the list if hiring within HR: Does the HR role include party planning, etc.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      It’s never been evident to me what HR does, as I was always too far removed from their type of activities. As someone else pointed out, there are wild variations in what HR does given any two companies. I am wiser for having read AAM, but I have no idea how people would figure this out on their own.

      I think it is fine, and actually wise, to have a list of areas that HR handles. “If you have X, Y or Z issue, then you should see HR.” OR “Your HR department is here to help with A, B and C issues.”

      My job is in a very different setting, but I have to explain to people on a daily basis what limits I have and how I can or cannot help them. It’s part of my job to explain this, really. I guess when I started framing it this way, I found it easier to deal with the constant parade of questions that I cannot answer.

    5. Spencer Hastings*

      I also wonder if everyone asks the LW these things, or if it’s predominantly new people who really don’t know who to ask.

      1. Red*

        OP #3, When I ask about company culture I’m also looking to see how you respond not just what you say.

        I look for body language and if there’s two interviewers the way they respond to each other as they answer the question.

        For example, you may be saying your company is great and everyone gets along, but if you hesitate when answering the question, side eye your colleague, and use vague language about the culture or sarcastic language then I’m going to know there are deeper issues with the company.

        I had one company I interviewed at that explained they had optional yoga stretches for 5 minutes everyday at 4pm. When I asked if everyone participated they said yes of course.
        Now I know that they are either not paying attention (some people wont participate in optional youga at 4 because theyre either busy or because they simply dont like yoga. This was a large office of like 50 people.) or everyone is afraid to not participate. (The boss turned out to be an butt and everyone was afraid.)

        So be wary of how you answer as well.

    6. AP*

      I think it’s just that a lot of folks really don’t know what goes on outside there little bubble in the office and don’t have much of an idea of what other teams actually do. Salespeople get asked about ad campaigns, public relations get questions about marketing materials, and IT is asked about virtually everything people see on their computers.

      1. Fikly*

        This is an excellent point. I would adore if my company had a short description of what each team does/is responsible for! I am perpetually confused.

      2. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I think this is also culture shock for anyone moving from a small company to a big one. Sales, marketing, and PR are distinct specialties at a bigger company, but are often handled by the same people at a smaller one. I used to think “sales and marketing” was redundant until very recently.

      3. The OTHER Other*

        This is very true in many large companies, especially when there are subgroups with vague or acronym-filled names. Or worse, very broad categories such as “finance” with NO sub-group info for payroll, accounts payable, etc.

    7. HR in the city*

      I do like your idea but I don’t think that will solve the entire issue. There will be people that don’t read it or even feel that it applies to them. HR does end up doing a lot of things (at least at my organization) that aren’t entirely HR. Finance is constantly trying to get HR to do their work but I guess that is what happens when you have a whole finance department where no one has a fiance degree. Anyway, I think that as a fellow HR employee yes it is annoying that people ask you every question under the sun but HR is a dumping ground. I think that if someone asks HR a question that would never fall under HR it is perfectly fine to act surprised and try to direct them when possible.

    8. Veronica Mars*

      One common theme in my company is that no one has any idea who the right person to contact is. There is no nice little directory or org chart or contact list, and its a nightmare for everyone.

      A lot of times, people send requests to HR as a last ditch effort hoping that at least they’ll know who the right person to contact is.
      So, LW, I get that the tasks aren’t your job, but maybe this is a symptom that you could help cure by facilitating the creation of a directory, etc.

    9. Richard Hershberger*

      I think the problem was when they changed the name from “Personnel.” This is this strange corporate imperative to fancy up department names. I often order medical records in the course of my job. If I address my letter to the “Medical Records Department” it will get there, but often the official name is something like “Health Information Services” or the like. For the life of me I can’t imagine what might be the point.

    10. Tara R.*

      Yeah, especially people going from smaller companies to bigger ones. In my first job, there was one person who did HR/payroll/party-planning/office management/etc, but her official title was just HR.

  6. valentine*

    OP4: I sometimes bring him by during my non-work hours briefly to make their day
    Both parts of this seem a bit much. I love babies, but would find this odd, unless you live on campus and your job is someplace you need to go during off hours, like the mailroom or cafeteria.

    You don’t want the story to be, “If you fawn over their baby and babysit, you get [benefit].”

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        It depends on the person. I was never a baby person until I had my own, when suddenly it all became clear. When I coo over a baby, it is for real. There is a guy in my church who has baby radar. Any infant in the building and he is right there!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I worked with a few people like that. They’d yell “BABY ALERT!” and then disappear.

      2. Gumby*

        I have consciously toned down my fawning over infants because I don’t want to be “the baby fanatic” or whatever. On the inside I’m still all “let me hold him, pleeeeease” while trying to be chill on the outside. Thankfully, I have siblings who occasionally provide infant nieces and nephews and are happy when I hold them for 3 days straight. (That is not as large of an exaggeration as you’d think.)

    1. Puffin*

      Totally! I was coming on here to question this.

      I care and respect a lot of my colleagues and am friendly with them, I am genuinely delighted for them when they have kids and contribute to gifts and like many people will coo over said baby.

      But that’s it. Seeing them certainly doesn’t “make my day” and if you’re going out of your way on a day off to bring baby in the office because you think I want to see your baby (rather than the parent) you are very mistaken

      1. Agnes*

        Plenty of people specifically ask for babies to be brought in. Plenty of people like babies. It’s not an unusual taste.

        1. Scarlet2*

          Sure lots of people actually enjoy seeing babies, but it’s worth pointing out that since it is *the boss’s baby*, people might act more enthusiastic than they really are. In a social setting, you’re generally expected to fawn over babies (esp. if you’re female), and the power dynamics reinforces that.
          In general, if you’re the boss, you shouldn’t assume that everyone is fine with something you do just because they don’t complain or because they seem to be on board with it.

          1. Cat*

            I doubt part-time (I assume) student workers feel the need to pretend to fawn over their boss’s baby. Also college is kind of a bubble a lot of times – sometimes it’s nice to see people outside the 18-22 range in a way it’s not if all your friends and neighbors have kids.

            1. Scarlet2*

              There’s still a hierarchical relationship and they might need that job. And I’m not saying they necessarily feel “obliged”, I’m saying they might feel it’s “expected” of them, which is a bit different.
              Most people don’t want to come across badly, including students. If everyone is acting like they love seeing the supervisor’s baby, you don’t want to stand out by being the indifferent one.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                Yeah, I am not at all into babies and when I was college-aged and REALLY NEEDED that job I would have felt like the odd woman out not wanting to fuss over the boss’ baby.

            2. Smithy*

              Completely agree with this. For some students, I could easily see “baby cuddles” as having a similar impact to when colleges bring in a group of puppies/dogs for stress relief during exam period.

              While 100% some students won’t like babies and others are allergic to dogs – I would also be inclined to believe hearty student enthusiasm to engage with a baby.

              Also while some student jobs may have the ability for favoritism in terms of hours scheduled (either preferred shifts or extra hours), it’s often the case where there aren’t huge opportunities for promotions/pay increases. Beyond the worries around “what if it goes badly”, I actually think a bigger area for favoritism is simply a reality of paying a student more than another by having them babysit. Say three students really want to baby sit. The reality may be that the demands for babysitting are such where there’s not a super fair way to spread opportunities, so Student A now has a way to easily double their student work pay and Student B resents that. Or Student A and B share babysitting, but Student C also really wants to and feels boxed because once they said no due to XYZ reason.

              For lots of students in work study, the extra money that could be made via baby sitting could be significant. And if the OP manages a relatively high number of staff – a reasonably parenting choice of not wanting 5 different baby sitters could end up meaning a few on the staff are seen as getting easy extra money not available to all.

              1. Quill*

                Hall directors got free dog walks all the time due to this when I was in college. Also one of the lab assistants got a retriever puppy and suddenly every person in the department lived in the instrumentation lab with it for months so the dog could be snuck out to pee every two hours.

              2. LlamaGoose*

                This was my first thought too. If multiple student employees *want* to babysit, but only one has the opportunity to due to compatible schedules, I can definitely see someone getting irritated.

                When I was a student employee, I was a writing tutor. Many tutors also did freelance writing or editing work in their own time, or independently tutored k-12 students on SAT prep or something. The professors and staff who ran the writing tutoring center had a policy of never soliciting any of the student tutors for projects, nor recommending individual students’ tutoring or editorial services to other staff.

                Instead, if a professor or grad student (in another department) wanted a line editor for their thesis, or ad copy to market their small business, or for someone to tutor their child in English, they were free to post a “help wanted”-type notice with their contact information on our bulletin board.

                The policy was transparent, so nobody would get preferential treatment in the way of a second job opportunity. Frankly, there was still some resentment or envy of students who had more success freelance writing from those who didn’t, but at least it couldn’t be the fault of our manager.

                1. Smithy*

                  Yeah – it’s been a while since I had a student job. However, during that time if I heard that my fellow RA’s or library clerks had found an “easy” way to earn even just an extra couple hundred a month – that could have easily soured my relationship/attitude with the job. I have never been a baby person, so for me baby-sitting would not have counted as ‘easy’ work, but if it had been something like afternoon dog walking or yard work – I could see that attitude from 18 year old me.

                  I also think undergrad is a period when complaints around what is and is not fair still matter. So again, if some staff feel like they were being denied the opportunity, the chances for a less engaged library clerk or front desk receptionist willing to quit without two weeks notice because it’s just a college job and who cares, would be my worries.

          2. Feline*

            It’s easy to think that your own baby is the most charming thing, and it totally makes the day of everyone who says nice things about said baby. Being wired to think good things about your own baby is natural. It’s what gets parents through the screaming infant phase without smothering it. When my boss brings her baby by, I say nicer things than I am thinking on the inside. (I’m one of those people who is thinking “please skip my cubicle on this tour.”) Employees are a captive audience and are incentivized to make the boss happy by admiring the boss’ baby.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Agreed. And adding that people will be very nice about it and internally roll their eyes. These folks will go as far as saying very nice things and making a person feel encouraged to bring the baby by again. That’s not their intention, it’s an accidental misread for the parent. One cohort handled it in what I think is an ideal manner. Cohort brought the child in ONCE so we could see/meet the baby. It was lovely. Cohort never did it again. Perfect.

              What was interesting to me is that cohort and their group were the first ones to complain about interruptions. Ironic, I thought. I guess the dots did not connect or cohort had a change of heart on the interruptions complaint.

            2. CheeryO*

              Do you offer to babysit, though? I put on a smile for my coworkers’ babies, but I would never in a million years offer babysitting services, paid or otherwise. Some of my other coworkers do, because they legitimately love babies.

              1. LunaLena*

                I did, when I was in college and needed the money. It wasn’t even the boss’s baby – I worked at the university concert hall and one of the musicians had had her baby while she was on tour. A call went out from the director asking if anyone was willing to watch the baby while the parents were on stage, and I offered, even though I’m not particularly fond of babies or small children (I am, however, one of those people whom babies and small children gravitate to. I have no idea why this happens, it just does). I was already scheduled to work that night and figured I could do both jobs and get extra pay, since the work I had to do was minimal and I was planning to do homework for most of the night anyways. Plus it was short notice and night shifts were difficult to fill on the best of days, so I figured it was a win for everyone.

                It turned out to be a good lesson for me in learning how much care an infant actually needs, and reminded me of why I don’t particularly like them very much, haha.

                1. Yorick*

                  Sure, some students will offer to babysit. But will they feel pressured to babysit when they don’t want to just because it’s the boss’s kid? I kind of don’t think so.

        2. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

          And once he’s no longer a baby, there’s less fawning going on. Preschoolers risk getting bored and obnoxious when asked to perform (Say Hi! Do your cute dance!). Bringing baby over to make their day won’t last forever.

        3. Washi*

          After my boss finished her maternity leave, people BEGGED her to bring her baby in for a visit. When she did, those who did not care for babies stayed at their desks after giving a friendly greeting. It wasn’t a big deal, and if the OP has been similarly begged and feels like occasionally bringing the kid in for 5-15 minutes as a treat, I don’t see what the big deal with that is either – there’s nothing in the letter to indicate OP expects people to fawn over her child.

          1. Peachkins*

            We’ve actually had a couple of employees do that, and I’m okay with someone bringing their new baby in for a one-time visit. I wouldn’t be happy with frequent baby visits though. It’s still distracting to have a kid in the workplace.

          2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

            As long as people with puppies/kittens etc. are allowed to do so as well.

            1. ThatGirl*

              As much as I would loooove to bring my dog in for some pets and coos, this is really not the same, and the building I work in (for instance) does not allow pets, only service animals (of which I’ve never seen any, but obviously they would be allowed). So I can’t really sneak my dog in the same way someone’s spouse can bring the baby in for a short visit.

            2. Simonthegreywarden*

              I think far fewer people are allergic to babies than are allergic to dogs and cats. Also, if someone can bring in their cats, can I bring in my newly hatched snakelets? They’re all eyes and tail right now. Tiny tubes of hugs!

              1. LunaLena*

                I would totally be the person who dashes over yelling “Can I pet one? CAN I HOLD ONE? CAN I KEEP ONE AT MY DESK FOR THE DAY, I PROOOOMISE TO TAKE GOOD CARE OF IT OMG OMG OMG”

                1. DefCon 10*

                  Same, same, same! I’d gladly buy an aquarium and heater for my office just so I could have temporary custody of snakelets.

      2. Peachkins*

        Thank you. If you need to bring your baby with you to the office because you forgot something and needed to run in really quick, no problem. I’d be irritated though by random baby visits while I’m trying to work.

    2. Lioness*

      I wouldn’t find this odd. A lot of campuses are nice places to walk around. I am currently a student and I have seen a few of my professor’s kids because they are on campus walking around, they may walk to a shopping area nearby. So bringing a baby/kid on campus isn’t so odd if it’s during off-hours.

      1. Helena1*

        Agreed – I’m a physician and live five minutes from my workplace. The nearest Starbucks is in the hospital. Plus it’s a handy shortcut to the nearest station and to the nearest park. I walk through there all the time with my family when I’m off-duty, and obviously occasionally bump into people.

      2. DerJungerLudendorff*

        I wouldn’t be suprised seeing kids of a campus, but I would find it odd if my boss specifically brought their baby into the office during their off day.

      3. Elemeno P.*

        Yes, this. At my undergraduate college, many of the professors lived at housing on campus grounds. It wouldn’t be too strange for them to stop by with their families on their way to run an errand or something. Same with my campus work supervisors; they didn’t live on site, but the college was a convenient cut-through to other stuff.

      4. Spencer Hastings*

        I think they were responding to the assertion that this made people’s day. It seems like one of those things where someone does a thing for selfish reasons and is like “It totally benefited these other people, right? Riiight?” It reminds me of the recent Dear Prudence podcast where the LW’s boyfriend used occasions like Christmas and the LW’s birthday to give the LW his old stuff (which the LW has little use for) as their “present”, as an excuse to buy himself new and upgraded stuff.

        1. Washi*

          I think the “briefly make their day” referred to the specific students who had expressed a deep love of babies. Does no one else have baby-obsessed coworkers? A quick baby visit has been totally normal everywhere I’ve worked and a solid majority of my coworkers LOVE them and are absolutely not just sucking up to the baby’s parent. (I say this all as a non-parent who finds babies pleasant but would not beg for a visit.)

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            My initial reaction was “make their day? seriously? get over yourself” but after 1.5 seconds I thought about the babies who come visit my office… I’m very happy to see them, briefly, and then go on with my day, but I do have coworkers who CANNOT GET ENOUGH OF THE BABIES so yeah, I’m willing to believe this is accurate.

            1. CL Cox*

              I’m guessing that maybe OP was repeating the students’ own language. I could definitely see students telling OP they “made my day” with a baby visit. Or even, “When are you bringing Baby around, it makes my day every time!”

              1. CollegeSupervisor*

                Yep, that’s exactly what was going on. I would never presume I made anyone’s day unless they told me. – OP4

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            I am that baby obsessed co-worker. I restrain myself at work, but I would totally hang out with babies (and toddlers) for an hour or two if that were a legit option. I have been enthusiastic about babies / toddlers since my early teens, so I would have been delighted to see a professor’s kid, anytime. I did successfully and happily babysit for three different teachers (1 HS, 2 college).

            OP, trust your assessment of the students’ enthusiasm. Maybe ask for babysitters from students you worked with in prior semesters – you have a feel for their work ethic and how responsible they are, but you’re still not crossing the streams. That’s how I got my first college babysitting job, from a prior semester’s work study coordinator. They gave me a reference to the second.

            1. TootsNYC*

              I like this idea of hiring people as babysitters AFTER they don’t work for you anymore.
              I came to try to find a place to say it.

            2. CollegeSupervisor*

              Thanks for the suggestion! I’ll keep that in mind if any of my student workers who love kids move on amicably before they graduate. (Not likely in this case since those who offered are both seniors, haha.) – OP4

    3. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      Admittedly, we get a lot of babies in our office (I’m Swedish) but people who like babies (like me) outweigh those who can’t stand them, and baby visits are generally very popular. Those who don’t have any interest in them might come by and wave but since there’s nothing mandatory about it, and that they don’t disturb people working, it doesn’t create any problems.

      1. Quill*

        I prefer children once they’ve been toilet trained, so I’m perfectly happy to let people fawn over infants and then go help the three year old unstick legos, but babies are apparently easier to bring around the office.

    4. Millie*

      I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to share this story, but this triggered a memory of my boss bringing his WIFE to work to visit everyone. I’m sympathetic to the situation he was in: she was dying of cancer and has since passed on. Boss knows wife and I previously knew each other in a mommy/toddler play group, but no one knows that she was rude to me, accused me of doing something I didn’t do, and turned others against me. I tried to let go of all of this when I discovered my boss was her husband. He is very kind. When he brought her to my desk and said “and you know Millie” she cooly said “ah yes, Millie.” I simply said “good to see you.” Last words this woman and I spoke to each other. Other staff were indeed fawning over her. I respect her memory as a wife and mother, but this was surely an awkward time.

      Dogs are never awkward to me, and always make my day.

      1. Smithy*

        While that situation sounds incredibly awkward for you, it also strikes as within the realm of standard workplace situations. I’ve seen coworkers bring their partners, children, parents, etc. to the office every now and then.

        Now the difference between “everyone loves when my kids/partner/parents visit the office” and “it’s something totally normal that’s done and people just smile” – on that point of distinction, I’m sure situations vary wildly.

        1. Millie*

          I do agree with you. As a kid my dad brought us to visit my mom at work, and her coworkers were delighted to see me and my sisters. These coworkers came to our weddings and gave gifts to our babies. Then I would bring my little children to visit my mom at work. The same coworkers that fawned over me fawned over my mom’s grandkids. But there was this one quiet woman who was polite but never fawned, and framed photos of her dogs adorned her desk. I now realize I am that quiet coworker!

    5. Allypopx*

      I feel like most jobs I’ve had people swing by with their babies to say hi once in awhile when they’re not working.

    6. Saberise*

      I kind of felt the same but than I remembered it’s students she’s talking about. Back when I was a student I was like “oh a baby, can I hold it.” Now that I’m many years past that point in my life when people bring their baby in I roll my eyes internally and go make niceties wondering how long I got to do this before I can go back to my desk.

      1. Anon234*

        This. A lot of undergrad college students are in a bubble where they only interact, on a personal level, with 18-22-year-olds, generally. They may be used to and miss the company of others outside that age group (siblings, neighbors, kids at church, cousins…) It’s not outlandish to think a lot of them would be thrilled to play with a little kid for 30 minutes.

        1. hello*

          Exactly. If these student workers are both working and studying (and in some cases living) on campus, they might only be surrounded by adults and especially young adults all the time. I can definitely understand that some age diversity is even more appreciated in that circumstance beyond the fact that lots of people generally enjoy seeing a baby for a couple minutes

          1. Quill*

            “Look, a being incapable of understanding the degree of stress we currently live with! I want to hold it!”

            – Nearly every college student I ever lived among, about dogs, cats, babies, some lizards, and at least one wild painted turtle that we accidentally caught during field study

    7. Ask a Manager* Post author

      As noted above, some people do indeed love having babies brought by. The commenting rules ask that we give LWs the benefit of the doubt. It’s fine to say something like, “Be aware that people may seem more enthusiastic than they really are because of politeness.” It’s not fine to say “this is not true” about someone else’s situation.

    8. CollegeSupervisor*

      OP4 here. I don’t go out of my way to do this, really. I have a membership to the campus gym and have to bring him along and use the childcare there when I work out. The library (where I work) is on the way there/back depending on how I walk. I don’t specifically plan this for times when certain student workers are there, and if they don’t seem into saying hi to him, I just move on. But often they are thrilled and want me to stop so they can say hi to him.

      1. Smithy*

        OP – I truly don’t think you have much to worry about regarding whether or not the student workers are actually enthused to say hi to the baby.

        Around babysitting though, I do think you’re best served going from a pool of students who do not report to you under work study. Depending on how many students you oversee, there could be a number of students who’d want to babysit/need the money. Concerns around the disasters aside, I do think you could create complications around giving jobs to one/some students but not to others. Assuming the bulk of students you work with are doing jobs like front desk/reshelving(?) – opening up sentiment of X workers are favored could just end up being demotivating to others.

  7. pcake*

    OP5 – I’d definitely want to know why they need my car insurance because normally personal insurance won’t cover you in an accident if you’re driving for work and otherwise I can’t see why it’s their business to have it. And like Anono-me brought up, I’d definitely clarify in person the requests are legit.

    1. CDM*

      While this is true in the UK, as mentioned above, in the US the ISO standard personal auto policy absolutely covers the insured for business use of a vehicle, and also provides Liability coverage to the employer, except for a standard exclusion for food service delivery. Most, if not all, companies have added exclusions for ride-sharing services, and an insurance company may add other exclusion forms, but covering business use of an auto is the norm.

      1. Alanis*

        I’m in the U.K. and my policy with a pretty popular insurance provider covers occasional other drivers on my car. I didn’t ask for it and was a bit surprised when it showed up on my standard policy. Then my husband checked his policy (different provider, also popular) and his also covers occasional drivers. I think the standard in the U.K. might be changing but people don’t read their documents every year so they don’t notice it pop up.

        1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

          That’s the way the majority the US works – insurance follows the vehicle (Michigan is a slightly different situation since insurance mostly follows the person). So if your friend borrows your car, your vehicle’s policy is the primary coverage.

          1. AnonnyNon*

            In Michigan the norm is for car insurance to cover all licensed drivers for the vehicle that is insured. The insurance is indeed tied to the car and not the driver, although if a driver has their own policy on their own vehicle and is driving someone else’s insured vehicle and has an incident where insurance comes into play, those two separate policies may interact. If a vehicle is not insured, it is not supposed to be driven.

            In Michigan you can, however, specifically exclude a named person from your car insurance policy (i.e., a licensed driver who lives in your household who absolutely does not ever drive your vehicle but whose existence would otherwise impact your insurance rates).

  8. Mommy.MD*

    Not a good idea to have the students babysitting. Too many ways all parties feelings may get bruised. Baby might be fussy and hard to care for and they might not want to do it again and be afraid to say no. Or Student may bring over a friend or drink even though you’ve laid down the rules.

    1. KimmyBear*

      My dad used to hire his most responsible students to babysit me. I fell and hit my head once and I remember the student panicking that my dad was going to flunk her. (He didn’t.)

      1. Harper the Other One*

        We have a similar story except in my case toddler me tried to climb off my parents’ balcony!

        Mom and Dad always preferred to pay students for babysitting, and we loved it because the students who babysat were all genuinely crazy about kids and loved the job, but in retrospect as an adult I have thought about the power dynamic issues that could have come into play.

      2. Quill*

        I’ve house and pet sat for professors (and one summer when I worked at school, I had a room to myself because my roommate was cat-sitting for a professor that was on sabbatical, and that professor had air conditioning) but I feel like that’s lower risk than childcare.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      It’s best to ask students after the class / work study semester is over because of the complications. But reliability is higher in college students than in the more common alternative, high school students; I wouldn’t consider the risk of bringing over a friend as a reason to blanket avoid the whole group.

      1. ACDC*

        This was going to be my suggestion as well. Hire them when they are no longer your employee and/or student.

      2. TootsNYC*

        also, our OP will know a lot more about their work ethic, judgment, pleasantness, temper, etc., at the very end of the timeframe than during the middle!
        (These won’t be random college students; they’ll be college students whose work she has closely observed)

    3. Professional Cat Herder*

      I think it depends on the campus and the students, really. I went to a small school and it was incredibly common to have students babysit for professors and staff. The best practice amongst faculty was that you didn’t have someone you taught as a babysitter, if only to avoid potential favoritism, but for non-teaching staff that was a non-issue. I always saw the families I babysat for as employers – I never saw it as being weird.

      1. fposte*

        Very big school and it’s common here as well. University breaks can be a real strain on childcare as a result.

    4. Simonthegreywarden*

      Unfortunately I have to agree. I work with a student population and while they know my kid and know me, and I am close with a couple of now-former students who were pregnant at the same time I was and who gave me new-mom advice, but I would never ask them to babysit unless there was an emergency. I don’t like the idea of putting them in an uncomfortable position. I also don’t want them to see my house is a dumpster fire of laundry and cat hair. They need to think I’m professional with my shit together.

      1. CollegeSupervisor*

        That was my thinking as well (OP4 here). As much as I enjoy working with some of these students, babysitting feels too much like inviting them to my house (which is often a mess because one-year-old, haha). Glad to have confirmation I’m not the only one who feels that way!

  9. Diahann Carroll*

    maybe it was supposed to say $24K/year, not $24/hour

    That’s exactly what I think happened as well. The job ad was supposed to say it was between $24-32k a year, but something got lost in translation. That’s the only way to explain why they would halve their offer. Hopefully you get some clarity on this soon, OP (and ugh for possibly getting your hopes up).

    1. LilyP*

      Or, optimistically, the salary in the ad is correct and the recruiter got their wires crossed (could be possible with an external recruiter and the letter doesn’t specify either way)!

      1. Willis*

        Yeah, if the recruiter wasn’t paying enough attention, I think it’d be easy to read $24/hr, mentally swap that to $24K a year, and then type the wrong thing in the email. Especially if she usually talks in annual salary vs hourly pay. Either way, OP should definitely ask. That’s a huge difference!

        1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

          Not to derail, but is it common to specify an hourly rate that high? Or is this related to shift work?
          I’m not in the US, but I dont recall ever seeing an hourly rate beyond, say, the equivalent of £18k/annum for a standard 9-5 office job, unless it was high-level short-term contractor work.
          I guess my question would be if $24/hour is a normal job advert for your industry, or would you expect to see $54k/annum right off the bat?

            1. Mockingjay*

              Also plausible in Federal Government contracting. I am professional hourly exempt, not salaried, because we bill the government for hours worked.

            2. Sled dog mana*

              I would even say probable if it’s just for a healthcare company, and is for someone salaried & exempt. I am sort of healthcare adjacent, I work in the clinic, rarely have any patient contact, but go through every chart multiple times in excruciating detail. My old company quoted everyone their rate per hour and PTO was earned per hour worked.

          1. Fikly*

            If you’re being paid by hour, I would expect to see wages listed as $x/hour. If you are salaried, I’d expect to see $x/year.

            Ranges like this are very common in healthcare.

          2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            I am a salaried employee, but all our pay rates are given in hourly numbers because some of our benefits are based on your hourly rate. Example: my health insurance would be $x per paycheck if I made less than $18/hr, $1.5x if I made $18-23, $1.75x if I made $23-50 and $2x if I made over $50/hr. (Approximately. I’m rounding.)

              1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

                The benefits info is not given in the job ad, but yes, the overall pay rate is given as an hourly number.

                1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

                  People are understandably going to read those ads and assume the job pays hourly.

                2. doreen*

                  Whether that matters depends on what you mean by “pays hourly” . If you’re thinking that it means part-time or variable hours, it doesn’t necessarily. There are certain types of jobs where pay is often quoted on an hourly basis even though the job has a steady, full-time schedule. There really isn’t necessarily much difference between a job that pays $30/hr with a 40 hour work week and one that pays $1200 for a 40 hour week. Sure, there could be differences, but there don’t have to be. Typically jobs that are quoted by the hour are non-exempt and an hourly rate has to be calculated if there is any overtime anyway – but it doesn’t mean they are fast food/retail with a different schedule every week.

          3. ThatGirl*

            It’s normal for me (marketing/creative) for contract/temp work, but not for a permanent/salaried job. I actually had a temp job I was about to take because they advertised $35/hr which would have made the long commute worth it, and then they told me that no, it was actually $25/hr which was less than I’d made in my last permanent position.

          4. Jules the 3rd*

            Hospital nurses (RNs) in my area start at $25 / hr. With a BSN, starting pay’s about $30. It tops out at about $40 if you work an ‘off’ shift or weekends.

            Some IT roles also pay hourly – I’ve seen database engineer ads for $40 / hour, and that is the same as a reasonable salary for an experienced one. Whether they’re salaried or hourly is going to depend on the company, role, etc. I know db engineers on $hourly contracts, while the in-house ones tend to be salary.

          5. hbc*

            Our lawyers made us put our offer letter in biweekly terms because they were worried that someone would start in November and then on December 31st be all “Give me my 2019 salary, you said it would be $65K each year.”

            I don’t think our lawyers are very good, but I pick my battles, so I can absolutely see them messing with our job postings in this way.

              1. not really a lurker anymore*

                We list salary as biweekly. I just assumed it was because that’s how we get paid. Every 2 weeks for 26 paychecks a year with a 27th one every 6-8 years or so.

            1. HR- Occam's Razor*

              We’ve had similar legal concerns raised.
              In the offer letter I note “$xx,xxx yearly salary equivalent paid over 26 pay periods.”

          6. Quill*

            I get per hour often because it’s via contracting companies, something like “we have a position with Business Business for $24/hr.”

        2. RecentAAMfan*

          I admittedly know nothing about recruiters or the process involved, but I’m just curious whether a recruiter would normally be involved in filling a 24K/yr job, which sounds pretty entry level.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Yeah, it would help a lot to know what field this is. I could see a recruiter for an IT job at $24/hr, but $24K is barely entry level.

          2. Daisy-dog*

            If they have high turnover in the position (likely – given how low the pay is) or if they have to fill a lot of positions (think customer service in a growing company), then recruiters might be involved.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        Or even that they used the wrong word in the call,said year instead of hour and didn’t notice their error at the time? Either one of them could have been the error?

      3. Annony*

        Yep. I would say that whichever seems more out of line with the market is more likely to be wrong. I’m unsure from the letter whether this job is actually more junior than the OP thought (explaining the low salary) or if the recruiter just mis-read the job ad.

    2. But we're faaaaamily*

      I had a job interview early last year where the hourly wage was $26 according to the recruiter. This was very reasonable, given the level of experience the role required. I interviewed, as did a couple other qualified individuals.

      After all that, the company chickened out and hired a high school kid for minimum wage to “fill” the role. I have no idea how they expected that to work out.

    3. Tate Can't Wait*

      Possibly, but that’s below the poverty threshold for a family of 3 or under (living off one salary) in any state. That would be an extremely low salary for any company to offer for a full time position.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Oh, I’ve seen the job ads out there for this salary for full time positions – it may be poverty wages, but there are companies offering them.

        1. Mid*

          I got a job offer for $22k a year. Full time, 40 hour weeks, terrible benefits. I had to explain to the person that that “salary” was below minimum wage in my state. So I’m not sure what they were thinking with that.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Apologies if someone already posted this. If the job ad was on an online job board like Indeed or Glassdoor, if the employer didn’t include a salary number, the sites attach salary estimates that are often out of sync with actual compensation. I think they’re based on overall averages, not what a particular company pays or what they would pay in that location. I know I’ve seen amounts for jobs in OldCity that seemed really good, and knowing what I know about the area average, I thought There is no way in hell they’re paying that much.

    5. Valprehension*

      This is normal in a lot of unionized jobs, which in my experience are typically hourly pay for all non-management positions (management is non-union, and typically salaried).

  10. Observer*

    #5 – Do NOT hand over your personal auto insurance information unless you get a good reason for it. “An audit” does NOT qualify – Auditors don’t just ask for random information that has nothing to do with the job. At least not if they are competent, and competent staff are not going to start running around to gather this kind of information just to please an auditor whose asking for it for no good reason. To be honest, even grabby idiot auditors are not likely to ask for this kind of thing.

    This is stuff that can get misused. Not that I think that your company would misuse it, but if the wrong person gets their hands on it, it could be a real problem for you. And, in my experience, the people who are the most likely to gather lots of unnecessary sensitive information are the ones who are least likely to take really good care to keep it secure.

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      As an auditor, it is possible to ask for something I don’t actually need. But it’s far more common for me to ask for the company’s insurance, including auto, and someone to lose their heads and think that means that I need the personal auto insurance for all the employees, when in reality I know darn well that it’s not applicable. I try to be clear in my requests, but a lot of people basically panic when I contact them or ask for something.

      1. Observer*

        That’s a good reason for the OP not to accept “an audit” as a good reason. Going into panic mode and just grabbing everything you can get your hands on is not an appropriate reaction. Hopefully when someone pushes back it would cause someone to go back to the auditor and ask for clarification.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      I see lots of insurance information in the course of my job. I’m not sure what nefarious purpose it could be put to, especially if we are talking about the proof of insurance card you keep in the glove box. This is exactly the information you exchange with the other driver after a fender bender.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It can be an aide in identity theft.

        Lots of thieves will break into cars and also snatch your registration card to gain access to that information. The more gathered the more they know about a person and that is often used for other cons.

        The only thing I remembered when leaving my crunched up car was the change and all personal paperwork inside the glove box.

        Years ago I left my insurance paperwork on someone’s car I scratched up when I backed into it and a lecture about how that could have gone really wrong. I thought I was being responsible because they deserved to know the accident should be covered but someone could have filed another claim and caused absolute wreckage to my account.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I guess, in a “this person has so much information that they must really be who they claim to be” sort of way. But in practice, date of birth is used as a first line identifier, and people post this on Facebook.

  11. RG*

    OP #3 – since you work for a software development company, here are a few other questions that you might hear from candidates:

    Do your developers tend to engage in pair programming? Regardless of the answer, how easy is it for an individual to go against the prevailing trend?

    Is your company part of the local meetup culture, where employees might be involved in hosting or speaking at meetups, or the company outright sponsors one? If they aren’t, and the prospective hire is a part of that culture, would they be willing to offer support on their behalf?

    How do you handle professional development for developers? Do you hold lunch and learns, where you encourage developers to give some type of presentation about a topic they’re interested in? How much time do you give developers to learn on the job, unstructured? If you say that a developer has, for example, 5 hours of free time each work for self-directed learning, how often can they actually take that time without risking falling behind on projects? Or do you not care about this at all, and expect the developers to do any self-directed learning on their own time?

    Are your developers expected to regularly contribute to a company blog, or an open source project? If so, is that considered part of their main work duties, or is that something else that falls by the wayside often due to project deadlines?

    Do you support developers that attend and even speak at conferences? Would they have to take PTO to attend, or is there a special “conference PTO” designation that they could use instead? If they are selected to speak do you help cover the costs of attending? Is it expected that developers attend conferences and job fairs to promote the company and conduct quick preliminary interviews with eligible candidates?

    Similarly, how does your company support developers that want to be part of organizations working to get kids and teenagers into tech?

    Is there a non-management technical track that extends beyond just a general “software developer” title? To what extent do technical and non-technical leaders drive the company approach to project management, client relations, overall software architecture, and other overarching aspects of your company? Are your technical leaders for the most part hidden away, or does every team have a tech lead or software architect on it?

    While Alison’s answer was a great start, these are some of the more specific questions that I’d ask an interviewer, given my experience in this field.

    1. tamarack and fireweed*

      All of these are good ones (though some do veer a little towards processes), as are Alison’s. In addition, if I were to ask about culture, I’d listen for two pieces of information:

      1. Is there a general awareness that discrimination exists and that business decisions have ethical implications? If someone were to mention sexual harassment or racism, would there be likely to be jokey dismissal or a sense of common purpose to do the right thing by everyone?
      2. What types of self-expression are informally encouraged? Is there a certain monoculture (ppl talk only about TV sports / family / kids, or just about everyone is a SFF fan)? If this is a workplace that prides itself in how fun it is to work there, do employees in all stages of life enjoy a roughly equivalent part of the fun? In a dev shop, is there a bro culture going on, and/or is everyone aggressively libertarian? Or is there a wide variety of interests and attitudes that employees can share with their colleagues? OTOH, is this a workplace where no one expresses much of their personality and leaves it all at home?

      1. Some Sort of Management consultant*

        While I feel these are AMAZING questions and definitely something that matters a lot when it comes to company culture, I don’t know if there is a interview-appropriate way to ask whether or not they discriminate or not… No one will ever say no. I mean, saying “no, we discriminate” is a confession of a crime.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          When we were looking at high schools we were interested in a similar question to 1, and there was a noticeable difference between the places who would simply say “we don’t discriminate here” and the places who would say the equivalent of “discrimination is really bad in this industry so we’re constantly working to improve, by employing a diversity specialist at VP level to oversee the implementation of rule A and policy B, and we’ve taken feedback about our whistleblowing policy” etc etc.

          1. DerJungerLudendorff*

            They don’t have to actively try to discriminate. If they don’t care about finding and stopping it, then there will be discrimination, one way or another.

          2. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

            Good point! I suppose an interviewer who wants to highlight this aspect might bring it up that way.

          3. Observer*

            Sure. But you had the capital to ask the question in straightforward way. It can be a LOT more tricky in a job interview.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              Ugh, definitely. We were customer rather than candidate.

              But companies who are open with this kind of information (eg on the “Who We Are” section of their website where they gush about their leadership) are easier to trust than companies who pretend it’s not an issue.

              A better question than “how do you react when there are accusations of discrimination” would be something more like “$Industry has historically had difficulties with $SpecificDiscriminationType – what measures are in place here to counter that?” where it sounds like you’re assuming they’re proactive and similar positive qualities.

          4. Jules the 3rd*

            My employer responds like this, with ‘here’s the diversity executive roles, initiatives, interest groups, outreach programs, orgs we’re in, stats and areas we’re working on.’ Diversity is something we see as a competitive advantage. As a tech company, I think it would be completely unsurprising to an interviewer to be asked these questions by potential employees.

            At least for the US managers, I think it would not be surprising.

        2. Grey Coder*

          Agree, I have never figured out how to find out the truth in an interview. I have worked in exactly one place which genuinely had a culture of awareness of discrimination and willingness to act against it. (It was so nice to be around people who had my back.) I prefer smaller companies so these aren’t going to be places with a VP of diversity, or even necessarily written policies (and I have also seen written policies ignored).

          1. Junior Assistant Peon*

            If you Google a company’s written policies on diversity, ethics, core values, etc, you can often see who else hired the consulting outfit that came up with them. This stuff is meaningless if it’s just marketing fluff on a company’s website.

            1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

              If was led a company looking to improve diversity, particularly around gender, I’d hire Catalyst and I’d recommend them to other companies.

        3. tamarack and fireweed*

          That’s why I said (or was trying to say) that when I make an inquiry using a question like “can you tell me more about the company culture” this sort of thing is what I am listening for in the answer.

          Also, I think you can do a bit more. Of course asking “is there a lot of discrimination” is not likely to give you a useful answer. (In part because people become defensive, in part because it sounds aggressive and also in part because a place where people are aware and concerned about equity issues is less likely to answer with a blunt “no!”.) But you can ask whether women in technical roles are common, whether there is a lot of diversity among staff, etc. I usually out myself during interviews in unobtrusive ways, for example.

    2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      Great questions. I work in software development on the business/design side and here are some additional topics your candidates might be interested in (hopefully without repeating anything RG said).

      – Who else is involved with creating software? Do you have designers or user researchers?
      – Do developers have any contact with clients or end users?
      – How closely do the developers work with business and design? Is there any collaboration or is work “thrown over the wall”?
      – Do devs have any visibility of company strategy, do they know why projects are chosen or prioritised?
      – Are there opportunities to work on projects of particular interest or will you just be assigned according to business need?
      – Are there things that the company is trying to do e.g. different ways of working, that may still be in the learning stages? How does that affect the developers?

    3. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      I also wanted to mention this separately from my other comment.

      I did wonder about this statement: “there’s a certain set of processes and personalities expected in our line of work”. What does it mean exactly? What types of processes and personalities? If the company expects/rewards a certain behaviour and a certain mindset, that speaks directly to the company culture. If you simply won’t succeed if you don’t conform, that is something that needs to be disclosed (and also addressed because it’s a huge red flag).

      Is it expected or frowned upon to ask a lot of questions about the projects? Do people not socialise at all or will they be offended if you don’t attend happy hour? Are new people are welcomed because they can bring something fresh to the team or tolerated because they’re going to ask “stupid questions”? Do you get more respect because you graduated from X, have qualification Y or worked at Z? Are people who have family commitments considered to be “not committed enough”? Etc etc.

      1. andy*

        Good catch. At worst it could mean that if you are introverted, slightly hard to work with and slightly quirky, then they will assume you are better programmer then the one who is not quirky. Or that if you are good programmer, they will assume you are wrong about people and could not perform in mixed role or communicate. It may also mean that if programmer complains about something in process, it will be treated as personality and not as problem in process that needs to be fixed.

        May be unfair, but I am female programmer and while I am actually good at being advantageously quirky, I still tend to be at disadvantage when people guess from hints like that.

        I actually think this is way more important then women groups and “awareness”. Those are fluff. Plenty of outwardly progressive people will assume male to be more technical and women more for graphics when it comes to real decision making.

        1. Automated*

          I found your “at worst” comment amusing. As a quirky introvert I spend a frustratingly large amount of times in meetings. that amount too – you hurt someones feelings a few months ago when you did that one thing. We wont tell you who, what specifically, or provide any other details to protect the complainers anonymity but we want you to do better and never have it happen again.

      2. jam*

        Good catch. I think the culture question can be read as an attempt to get at what the assumptions are in a workplace. “Obviously” someone who wants to fit in and perform well…. does what? Buckles down and does their work without distractions? Happily participates in small talk during the twenty minute tea breaks? Proposes exciting new ideas straight away? Pulls all-nighters? Leaves promptly at five and is happy that the company shifted from having a December party to just handing out gift cards? Is the most gung-ho at the team-building paintball outing?

        I interviewed at a company where the bonus for hitting the yearly target was that the whole staff was taken on a trip, a party weekend in another city. Setting aside whether that’s a good practice, that says a lot about what the management at least thought was fun or desirable, and how they thought the staff should relate to each other.

      3. Joielle*

        I noticed that too. If there’s a certain personality expected, that seems like something to definitely mention when talking about culture!

        1. OP #3*

          We generally have a lot of introverts, but most personalities are welcomed. :) I generally think of coders as quiet problem solvers, so not super extroverted.

    4. jihustow*

      As someone who works at a software development company, I wonder what does on-call look like during a bad week & how often do those happen & how often will I be on-call. Also, when things go wrong, is the attitude of the company, no blame let’s just find & fix this or is it “Oooo, you’re in trouble!”?

  12. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    OP2, in a lot of organisations people don’t always know who to ask, what do do, or where to get certain information. Are people are asking you to actually do things for them? Or are they looking for information? Is this happening more with junior or new staff? It could be that your company needs more comprehensive information available to staff, e.g. on the intranet or during onboarding. I’d default to referring them back to their line manager or supervisor, who should be making sure their staff have the information they need and should be exposed to the pattern you are seeing.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Yes, I wondered about that. If the company does very sketchy orientation of new employees, it’s possible they’re going to HR just because they don’t know whom to ask. I’m also betting that OP2 is a woman, and women are stereotypically considered “approachable.”

      One thing OP2 might consider, and that might reasonably be considered as within HR’s wheelhouse, would be to create an FAQ or “Who do I call?” document that can be handed out to new employees or to others as needed.

    2. Person of Interest*

      I was also thinking that this may signal there is some gaps in the orientation plan for new employees especially related to IT support and tools that might get used for things like scheduling meetings. If there are questions you get that aren’t department-specific can you create an orientation or FAQ guide for new employees to answer these?

    3. Mockingjay*

      This is SO common. I had to push back a few months ago on these same things. I’m one of the original project team members and we’ve expanded exponentially in the last year or so. Rather than onboarding new staff properly, the project lead and a few others got in the habit of saying to new people: “ask Mockingjay; she knows X; she can show you Y, she can do this for you; sit with her and she’ll show you…”

      I realized I had hardly done any of my own work for six months. I called my project lead and said no more, then sent him a list of links to info on SharePoint (even though it’s all highly visible on the landing page), and a list of POCs for each business element with a written description of what each does. I told him to forward this to the team. He whined a little about the onboarding lack, but that’s management’s (his) problem to resolve. (We have sufficient staff at upper levels who can train new employees; he just needs to say that this training is needed for it to happen. *shrugs*)

      1. SusanIvanova*

        On most of the software teams I’ve been on, the second-newest person is the designated general answer question for the newest person, since they’ve just been through the process and are less likely to say “um, sorry, I set mine up 10 years ago and haven’t touched it since.”

    4. Boldly Go*

      My thoughts exactly. It’s helpful for new employees to have a cheat sheet on who to call when x happens, because otherwise they’re going to contact the team or person who is most logical*in their mind*, or even just the person who was friendly and helpful in their first day.

  13. The Original Stellaaaaa*

    I wouldn’t hand over car insurance info without a good reason. Lots of people have multiple family members’ cars and other things bundled into their plans. It feels like a weirdly big risk to hand it over.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      In the EU at the moment, the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) has come into force, meaning that personal information can only be retained for specific purposes. So it has to be clear why this information is necessary, what it is going to be used for, who will be seeing it and what happens when the information is no longer required. According to Wikipedia, a similar regulation has come into force in California.

      1. Observer*

        The California law is quite different. One major difference is that it has a far narrower focus.

        Nevertheless, it’s still ridiculous that the question is being asked. It’s about as sensible as the memo that has been floating around the internet the last few days in which some guy tells an employee that the fact that the employee drives and older, lower end car is “concerning” because it shows that this person maybe cannot make sensible fiscal decisions and may be at higher risk for financial misdeeds due to need.

        1. Shad*

          Wow, continuing to drive a perfectly good older car rather than taking out another loan for the latest and greatest is a sign of *poor* money management? What an odd perspective.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Seriously. Not to mention that people who *do* commit financial misdeeds often end up spending the money conspicuously on things like fancy cars, and end up under suspicion precisely because they’re living beyond their presumed means.

          2. Observer*

            Agreed. Totally bonkers. Especially since @Gazebo Slayer is completely correct, and it’s something that investigators always keep their eyes open for.

  14. LilyP*

    For #3, as a woman who works in software dev, asking about culture can be a way to gently probe whether the team will be friendly and welcoming for me as a woman (I’d guess the same could be true for minorities, LGBT people, etc). This could cover both explicitly gendered things (Are there any/many women currently on the team(s)? Any/many women in technical leadership positions? Company groups for women? Specific, active measures being taken to create and support a diverse team? Family-friendly policies around flex time or leave? Are harassment complaints taken seriously?) as well as implicitly or subtly gendered things (Is the culture friendly to asking questions and admitting mistakes, or will people think less of you for “”showing weakness””? Is adult humor or language common and expected? Does every casual conversation revolve around sports/video games? Do technical disagreements turn into ego battles? Does a ton of team bonding happen on the employee paintball/golf/StarCraft team?)

    Also, if the culture varies a lot team to team it’s ok to say that and then talk a bit about how employees can find a team that works for them, e.g. if people can stay on a team they really love or transfer off a team they don’t gel with.

    1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Yes, back when I was interviewing I wanted to know if the team was diverse, as my previous job was 99% college students with widely different degrees of maturity and… well, me.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      Yeah, if I were asking about culture, some big things I’d want to know how are bro-y the culture is, how comfortable it is for people who aren’t young white or Asian men, and what sort of work-life balance is expected. It can be hard to tactfully ask “Am I going to be expected to work 12 hours a day and do shots in the break room to relieve stress?” or “am I going to have to worry about Nerf gun injuries while trying to debug code?”

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        “Is there free pizza and soda from 5pm because you expect us to stay until midnight regularly?” – the Silicon Valley employment model.

        1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

          That’s pretty much how I sussed out the work/life balance issue when looking for accounting positions. “Any perks you haven’t mentioned yet? I know some places pay for takeout during the late nights close to filing, for example.” And then listening to see if they rave about all the “free” dinners and paid for Ubers home, or if they just kind of shrugged and said “that’s not really a thing, people staying past 6 isn’t something that happens much.”

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            This illustrates the problem with asking about “corporate culture.” No one is going to say “Our culture is toxic. We will overwork you until you can’t take it any more and leave, at which point we will badmouth you.” Then there is the Stockholm Syndrome issue. The person interviewing you might really believe it is wonderful there. I have heard apparently sincere happy talk in some of the most toxic places.

            So you need to figure out what it is that you are really asking, and then some way to ask this indirectly to get a real answer.

        2. bluephone*

          “What is the likelihood of a senior manager regularly flipping out at employees and throwing staplers at their heads? When this happens, does HR act like it’s all fine? Oh, Ted from Marketing also does HR and he’s usually not in the office anyway? All right-y then.”

          I mean, #notallofficeculture but, you know, this might be a question your candidate is wondering about.

          (I mostly made this example up)

          1. Mr. Tyzik*

            I had totally forgotten working for a small retail business half a lifetime ago with a senior manager who once through a COMPUTER MONITOR at someone because the POS program didn’t work. This was in 1997, so imagine the size of the monitor! It crashed on the floor magnificently, but still.

    3. boo bot*

      Yeah – I think this line might be a clue about where the OP could start:

      “It’s a large software development company, and all of the candidates are local, so there’s a certain set of processes and personalities expected in our line of work.”

      I suspect there’s actually a lot of information about the company culture packed into this line, and they might be able to get at what people want to know by really spelling out what this means as if they’re explaining it to someone who isn’t in the loop.

      – What does it mean to be a large software company (vs. a small one, I assume)?
      – What is specific to the location? What information might a candidate who isn’t local be missing?
      – What are the processes expected in your line of work?
      – What are the personalities expected in your line of work?

      The last one is probably the most important. To me, the description sounds a little like maybe there are “difficult” people whose behavior is tolerated because “that’s just to be expected,” in the field, and if I heard that from an interviewer it would really concern me. So, specifying will be helpful!

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        All of this, especially your last line. I couldn’t figure out why the description of the company provided by the OP bothered me, but that sums it up in a nutshell.

      2. CheeseToastie*

        Yeah the “personality” comment immediately got my attention, too. At a tech company especially I’d be on the alert after hearing that line.

      3. OP #3*

        By “expected personality”, I was hinting that I’m not focused on fantastic communication skills in the candidates, but more on technical knowledge and problem solving skills. Some skills valued more than others, since no one has it all.

        1. Keyboard Jockey*

          That might be what’s expected at your company, but it’s not an across-the-board truth. I’ve been a software developer for a decade and have never had a single job where “soft” skills weren’t important — in fact, the places that value tech skills too greatly over soft skills tend to be the places with the toughest culture for folks who don’t fit the white tech bro stereotypes. (There’s a great article about there about how to prevent creating teams of “brilliant assholes” that I wish I could find.) Not meant as a criticism, but as a potential point of consideration next time you find yourself in an interview!

        2. Mr. Tyzik*

          I work in agile transformation and soft skills there are more important than the hard ones. If a developer cannot connect with the customer, cannot communicate work, and cannot collaborate effectively, I don’t care how smart she is. She can’t provide value without those important skills.

          I can teach coding. Coaching soft skills is possible but much harder.

    4. mom and software employee*

      This – the family piece is an important thing that I ask about. In my current role, I made sure to ask everyone I spoke with about their home life to see if people volunteered info about having kids. I came from an environment where nobody had children and it was very obvious that people thought I was a slacker because of the normal parent-things I did that took me away from work occasionally. Also problematic were meetings schedule past 5pm or before 8am, many happy hours, etc. Ok for people who fit that culture, but that was not me.

      So when interviewing, I tried to find a place where more people had kids, so that they’d “get it”. Welp I didn’t ask the right questions because even though everyone I work with has kids, all of their spouses stay at home. So the daycare pickup/dropoffs, sick days or school closure days, etc. are handled by the spouse, so my coworkers still don’t really “get it”. I wish I’d done more diligence around these culture questions.

      1. Massive Dynamic*

        I fell into that trap in a similar way – all my old coworkers had kids and spouses that worked too, but they had family in town to do all that stuff. With me, it’s just me + spouse & kids, no family. Never would have thought to ask about that before, and also I still have no way of even phrasing it. It didn’t help that they frowned upon working from home, which I could do just fine with a sleepy fever kid.

      2. bluephone*

        ugh that sucks. My sister recently resigned from her job for partly that reason. She was really good at what she did but was one of the few woman in the company (and the only woman on her team doing the work she did), it was a very old boys’ club culture, lots of mandatory socializing at bars and happy hours, etc (that she would get dinged on for not attending because they conflicted with parent-teacher conferences or whatever), etc. Most of her coworkers had children but they also had stay-at-home wives who did like 90 percent of the day-to-day childrearing: school pickups and dropoffs, staying home with the sick kids, taking them to appointments, etc. My BIL is also in a demanding job with long hours (police officer) so they were both burning the candle at both ends. And my sister’s boss and coworkers just. Did. Not. Get. It.
        And now they’ve lost a high-performing employee because of it.

  15. andy*

    #1 “That’s something IT would help with — unless there’s some HR angle that I’m missing?” The HR angle part would come accross as passive aggressive to me.

    1. Allonge*

      I can kind of see that, but to be honest, if there is an IT department / person, it should be pretty obvious. Some people do really just pick up the phone and call the first number they can think of when they have a problem, and it’s ok to redirect them with some force if they have not done any thinking at all, especially if this happens repeatedly.
      (Or at least I hope so – I have a reputation of knowing a lot of weird/techy stuff and I get at least one call per day on how do I insert this pdf into my ppt or similar issues. I am NOT IT support in any shape or form and I know people know there is IT support, they just want to jump the queue. Please call the helpdesk – just because you found it in the database I manage it is not my job to advise you on basic IT skills – is my motto there.)

      1. andy*

        Sure and the “That’s something IT would help with” is polite way to say it. The “IT handles that” would be absolutely fine by me too.

        It is just “unless there’s some HR angle that I’m missing” that risks to feel like a low key jab at the person who asked question.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          I think this would depend on how it is said. Sure, if it’s someone looking down at you through a monocle while twirling a fancy mechanical pencil, and speaking with delicately pursed lips, that would come across as a jerk move. But if the person speaks with a friendly expression, genuinely trying to understand, that’s completely different. And in truth, I wouldn’t want to presume that an employee is turning to me in error, precedent be damned, so there may be a real HR angle that isn’t coming through. I think you might come across as someone who does their due diligence and not dismiss an employee superficially.

    2. Beatrice*

      It’s legit for me. For example, I go to our HR department first when I’m having problems with our timekeeping software – not because I think they can fix it for me, but because they know the specific IT people who work on the software and can escalate with them if it’s time sensitive and prioritize my trouble ticket vs the other stuff they have going on. And if tech issues keep me from doing timecards on time, HR needs to know anyway, so it helps for them to know up front anyway.

    3. Fikly*

      I would interpret it as the person being open to having misinterpreted the request, and actually, they do have a role in solving the problem.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, unless I knew the sender to be someone who’s easily annoyed and likes to fob off their work on others, that’s exactly how I’d interpret it (and I would use it myself if I were in that position, too).

      2. Washi*

        Yeah, I like that it leaves space just in case this is actually a legit HR question that was just unclear from the initial email.

      3. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, that would be how I indicate willingness to help, that I’m not just saying “Not my job!!!!” (Even if it isn’t my job….)

      4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        Agreed. I can see where, for instance, a new employee hasn’t had their email or network log in set up yet, and they don’t know if HR was supposed to alert IT. Maybe they actually called IT already and IT said, “Who are you? We’re not giving you an email until HR tells us to.” Asking if there is an HR angle keeps the conversation going for a bit, whereas “This is an IT issue” shuts the conversation down. For party planning — for example, if it’s a retirement party does HR have to OK it first…maybe the person needs to file their papers to formalize the retirement first? Is there a policy on parties — location, cost, guest list…?

    4. Tuckerman*

      I think it’s a legit question. Our HR department actually has its own IT team to handle the tech side of its operations.

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      There’s nothing passive aggressive about adding the HR angle to me. It’s a legitimate question. Some people aren’t great at explaining what they need, and you’d just be making sure you’re not missing anything.

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*


        And really to the OP this who thing is not big deal unless the same people keep sending bad requests. I’m good at technology so people ask me to help with things that are not my job. So I tell them – “You should ask IT for help with that.”

        And we move on.

        Now if the same person keeps coming to me with the wrong requests, it’s both annoying and worth pushing back harder so they stop.

    6. Risha*

      I think this is where how Alison’s talked in the past about saying things in a warm tone comes into play. That sentence CAN be passive aggressive, but only if you say it that way.

    7. Observer*

      As an IT person, I would say that this is a perfectly reasonable thing to say. On the one hand, we’ve seen lots of IT departments who are ridiculous about doing things and the HR department needs to step in and direct them to do / not do something (like refusing to deal with a problem with someone’s email address.) And sometimes, IT will legitimately need HR involvement. Whether it’s because of policies in place or because HR has information that IT needs.

      eg. If someone comes to me and says that they need a cell phone, I’m sending them straight to HR. In our case, HR knows that (and would be very upset with me if I did anything else.) If someone comes to me and says “Oh, by the way, we’re getting a new person on Tuesday and her name is Sue. Could you get her access set up?” They are also going to be sent straight to HR – there is information I need to get the set up done correctly. (We also need the paper trail.)

      Someone coming from either type of situation could easily assume, not unreasonably, that HR is the place you go to, to get the ball rolling on many types of IT requests.

    8. CM*

      I’m in Legal and I also get random questions sometimes. I deflect them in exactly the way Alison suggested. “I don’t think this is an issue for Legal to resolve, but let me know if I’m missing something,” and if I know who to direct them to, I would add, “IT may be a better place to look for guidance on this,” or “Jane may know the answer or at least who to ask,” or “I suggest asking your manager about how to proceed if you’re not sure.”

  16. Agnes*

    I’m a professor, and I do hire students from my university to babysit, but not students I supervise or have in class (or am likely to in the future), just to keep things cleaner. If you think that they really are trying to drum up business, you can always say you’ll pass along their name to other parents you hear are looking for a sitter.
    (That said, plenty of people do it without a problem.)

    1. Shad*

      How about students you previously supervised? Depending on the nature of LW’s work, students could easily move on from her department prior to graduation, and many of the potential conflicts of interest would no longer apply.

      1. Fall of the House of Gushers*

        My rule of thumb is that if you might be called on to write the student a rec at some point in the future, you shouldn’t be hiring them for outside work.

        1. valentine*

          if you might be called on to write the student a rec at some point in the future, you shouldn’t be hiring them for outside work.
          This is good.

    2. MK*

      I would think it is easy for a prefessor to make this distinction, say, if your subject is advanced astrophysics, you hire only liberal arts students. But the OP sounds as if she has an administrative role; if you are supervising student workers, how can you be sure who will apply to work next year?

      1. CollegeSupervisor*

        Very good point – that’s why my gut said to stay away from the situation altogether. Nice to have it confirmed! – OP 4

  17. andy*

    #3 Another list of things I want to figure out from your answer. Top down hierarchical vs autonomy/empowerment for individual employee. Does culture value having or learning technical skills? Do I have to pretend I don’t know things I know or can people talk openly? What is social status of developers, can they talk about problems they see and will they be listened to?

    What are relationships between developers and managers? Are they hostile, cooperative or something in between? Do people play blame game? How much toxic it all typically gets, really? Can I talk with management openly or should rather shut up and keep up? Are there “you are idiot if you disagree with me” engineers or “my way or the highway” management?

    How are disagreements handled? Is there strong push for conformity or does different people have different opinions and habits? Is there a war between fractions?

    Does company value clean code with few bugs? Or is it all about speed? Is company willing to use new technologies or tools from random employee initiative? Is everyone closed in fixed well defined position or do people tend to end up in mixed roles? Neither is “wrong”, but some people prefer one or another. Will I be judged on my technical skills or rather on my ability to look like programmer?

    If there is pair programming or any other unusually process, I want to know about that in advance too. Are the parties and social outings unofficially mandatory? Can I skip them without being punished career wise?

    Can I work from home? If I am able to organize my own work to fit into regular work time, will I be seen as someone skilled in organizing or rather someone lazy?

    1. Dragoning*

      I really like to know how lunch is handled.

      This sounds weird, but at some workplaces, I have been an outsider and kept at a distance, and possibly lost a job in large part because they all went to lunch together, and I wanted to to eat two hours after they did (lunch at 11 is early for me), so I never joined, and didn’t realize this was an issue.

      And at others, we all eat at our desks, invitations are given occasionally but not often, and I’m much more comfortable with that.

  18. Really?*

    “fact that a lot of these questions treat me as a glorified admin” – you know, I’m not saying anything. This quote speaks for itself.

    1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

      It’s not insulting to admin staff to note that your work is very different from theirs, but I agree the tone of it wasn’t great.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, “woman = admin” is a sexist BS assumption, but a lot of women in other positions unfortunately object to it in a way that demeans admins.

    2. Was*

      That sentence is open to interpretation, but sometimes I have similar frustrations. As a female presenting person in an office-y environment, I definitely get people assuming that I have traditional secretary duties. I do not, and the men who share my job title don’t tend to get those assumptions. I’m not [job title] + admin, I’m just [job title].

      I’ve worked in places where the admins handled things like party planning, and maybe the OP has too. I read it as “I’m not an admin with a fancy job title, I’m HR – a totally separate thing here. If you need someone for administrative duties, go to an admin and not me.” I see a frustrated person trying to draw a boundary with their time, not an insult to all admins.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      We had a major internal company presentation in which one of our female technical department managers relayed her experience of being assumed to be the admin (or other female-dominated role) in our male-dominated industry. I understand her intent, but my antennae went up similar to your comment. The audience included female admins, HR, marketing coordinators, etc., and it sounded kind of insulting to me. I asked a friend who was a proposal coordinator what she thought, and her response was more, “Whatever, I’m used to people not respecting my role.” I guess no need to be outraged on behalf of others.

      1. Washi*

        I guess to me this is like people assuming that I am the one who cooks for my husband because I’m a woman. I can be insulted by the gendered assumption without demeaning the task of cooking.

        1. 404UsernameNotFound*

          This makes sense to me. You can be insulted that someone thinks you automatically like pink because you’re a woman or are on the spectrum because you work in IT (or vice versa), whilst simultaneously REALLY liking pink whilst also a woman, or working in IT whilst being on the spectrum. The correlation is there, but it doesn’t/shouldn’t imply causation.

        2. HR Grunt*

          This is exactly it. I have had male execs ask me “I have an HR question, can you help me print this” or demand that I rearrange their transport during a weather emergency. My job is not admin, or executive assistant. But they thought it was because I’m a woman. It’s not my job to do that.

      2. Temperance*

        I think presentations like this are necessary, though, to nip the behavior in the bud. It is unquestionably gendered, and extremely frustrating, when women who have worked really hard to advance in their careers are still expected to be admins and handle low-level tasks.

    4. Temperance*

      I see her frustrations here. The expectation that all women must be administrative workers really sucks.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Right. It’s not that administrative jobs are inherently not worthy of respect, it’s that people aren’t respecting what *her* job actually is.

        1. Temperance*

          And honestly, they wouldn’t go up to some random man and assign him administrative tasks. There’s definitely a gendered component to this behavior.

          1. Tempestuous Teapot*

            Without a doubt. I love and respect my admins greatly. They are amazing and I could not get half of what I accomplish finished without them. But call me an administrative assistant and there will be problems. AA work is not a skill set that magically appears with feminine presentation any more than my multiple degrees and 19 years experience in my science heavy field magically dissipates because I am female. People work hard to gain all that regardless of role and deserve their respect equally.

  19. Maya Elena*

    I wonder if job candidates are asking “what the culture is like” because they’re supposed to have questions, and that is a recommended question?

    1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      I hope not. Perhaps if they have limited work experience. But it’s something everyone should ask because it can have a real impact on your work experience.

      1. Tate Can't Wait*

        So don’t ask it because it’s a recommended job interview question – but do ask it because you want to know the answer?

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Seems to me like PPPaPoPP was saying that they hope that people aren’t asking it *only* “because they’re supposed to have questions, and that is a recommended question,” that it’s an important question that people should ask because they should want to know the answer.

      2. TootsNYC*

        but wait…if it’s something everyone should ask, then you are recommending this as a question. And so you think they shouldn’t ask it because they didn’t think of it themselves?

    2. Fikly*

      It’s a super important question to ask! If you get an honest answer, you’ll have a much better idea of what it’s actually like to work there, and if you’ll hate it or like it.

      1. irene adler*

        It also shows interest in the company and the employees. Although that is not the primary reason to ask about company culture.

    3. ThatGirl*

      I ask because I want to know! And it also tells me a lot how the question is answered. But ideally I really do want to know if it’s a relaxed culture where you’re trusted to get your work done or whether it’s more formal, heavily managed and “we say 40 hours but we really mean 50”.

        1. TootsNYC*

          there are way, way too many specific reasons; each person will have their own.

          I think their basic question is, “will I enjoy working here?”

          So, since YOU know the culture, pick out the things that you think are most indicative of all that soft stuff, and be prepared to talk about it.

          (When I was doing the hiring, I covered this on my own: What the pace was; how expectations were communicated; how we dealt with heavy workloads; what I was like as a boss, and what my boss philosophies are; what kind of camaraderie you’d find, etc. If it had applied, I’ve have covered collaboration styles, promotion opportunities.)

    4. Observer*

      Have you thought about WHY it’s a “recommended question”? I suspect that smart candidates think about it for a bit and decide to go with it because it can make an enormous difference in your life.

    5. Mr. Tyzik*

      When I was job hunting, I asked each company about their support of culture, careers, and community. It’s one thing to claim they offer it, but I used the opportunities to ask about diversity networks, community involvement, charity efforts, etc. That was important to me.

      Some may be asking because they have heard they should, but it can reveal a lot of information about the day-to-day workings.

      OP#3, your response would come across to me as though your company does not support these things, or that you as a manager do not support these things. I doubt that’s your intention, but could be the read with giving more information. Good thought to ask!

    6. Tina*

      No, I ask that because I do genuinely want to know (but don’t say it in as many words, obviously): whether I will have to deal with Bollywood show tunes or Christian rock music in the lab all day every day. Whether being out at work will have repercussions for me professionally. Whether I will have to join the rest of the team for lunch to be seen as ‘a team player’ (which would be agony because I have a complicated relationship with food and my misophonia will usually not handle listening to other people eat). Whether not speaking Hindi or Mandarin, although it’s not on the job description, will be a problem at work because literally every other member of the lab does to some degree and work-related conversations often sound like “[long discussion in language I don’t speak], can you go do that, then, Tina?”
      Seriously, most of those would be dealbreaker questions for me, because past experience has taught me that no amount of money is worth another mental breakdown.

  20. Construction Safety*

    OP1: I’m guessing (hoping) the recruiter conflated $24/hour to $24k/yr, either by misreading or poor math.

    1. Antilles*

      Agreed. In fact, since it was a phone call where the recruiter mentioned 24k/year, it’s also possible the recruiter simply misspoke and said “the job starts at 24 per year” instead of “per hour”

  21. Jule*

    #4: Do not do it. Two people have already asked—how is one going to feel when they find out you asked the other? You can take the “well, they can get over it” tack if you want, but why invite fraught feelings and drama?

  22. Seeking Second Childhood*

    I wonder if they’re trying to get your driving record without going to the government. Our regional electric utility requires a clean driving record for their non-union office staff, because these positions may be required to drive out on jobs during a strike. Not to do the repair work, but to be the second person on a job who can contact 911 in case of an accident. And to let the qualified tech get a rest on the way between jobs.

    1. Natalie*

      A certificate of insurance document isn’t going to have any information about your driving record on it.

      1. Antilles*

        Certificate of insurance only proves you have insurance covering losses X, Y, and Z up to insurance limits of $A, $B, and $C, respectively. No information on rates, no information on your driving record, no information on why you have that coverage or limits.

  23. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    #3 – if a candidate asked about culture, this is absolutely where one ought to mention e.g. dog-friendly workplace, Pizza Fridays, the beer fridge, radio playing every day, and so on. The kind of things people write to Alison about a lot, either as employers (“should I warn candidates about our dog policy and drinking habits?”) or employees (“if I’d known it was this collegiate I might have looked for something more traditional”).

    Specifically for an IT position it would be great if you can talk about inclusion – so maybe someone on the team won a “Women In Tech” award for outreach for Girls In STEM, or you have different options for workspace types (my IT spouse’s workplace is open plan but has meeting rooms and even isolation booths available for when people need reduced distractions), or you support wellbeing (and acknowledge employees’ external responsibilities) by promoting flexible working or WFH.

    Learning about the culture of a workplace in advance is far more important for understanding fit than a list of job responsibilities or benefits. Fantastic company pension but high stress so I don’t survive to collect it? Pay slightly lower but there’s free parking and lunch and nobody works past 6pm? Daily scrum and the team leader likes to show off his new magic tricks?

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I absolutely couldn’t work for Spouse’s employer, purely on culture. I don’t know how anyone remotely introverted would even survive. Meanwhile Spouse LOVES it.

      Teams of uniquely-titled specialists spread across multiple locations communicating by Slack all day long, up to their eyeballs in pod coffee, working collaboratively on a single document at once, having regular themed meet-ups with compulsory fancy dress and accessories, and wandering over to the cafe for subsidised quinoa salad and free fruit.

      The culture was made very clear from the earliest stages of the recruitment process. If I snarkily remark that they are self-selecting out useful candidates based on such a polarising culture, I also admit they’re successful at what they do and more diverse than I would have expected.

      1. Joielle*

        Had to stifle a laugh at the description of your spouse’s job. That sounds like my personal nightmare, but I can imagine a much friendlier and more outgoing person than me enjoying it. All jobs are somewhere on the continuum of “fancy dress and subsidized quinoa salad” to “silent cubicle farm, never work late, one happy hour per year” and that’s what someone’s trying to get at when they ask about culture. Neither are inherently bad (I prefer something closer to the latter end of the spectrum) but you’d want to know in advance!

    2. AuroraLight37*

      This is what I was thinking. Dog friendly offices, mandatory Beer Fridays, 8am weekly staff meetings that you can only miss if you’re dead or out of the country, required camping in state parks while traveling for business- some people might love any or all of these things, or else think it sounds like a level in Dante’s Hell.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Not everybody likes “fun”!

        Wait, I mean … those ” ” are significant and work context is also significant.

  24. Some Sort of Management consultant*

    Another good cultural question might be whether or not employees are expecting to do… well, stuff outside their specific duties.

    In my firm, we do client projects, obviously but we’re also expected to participate in sales work, coach younger employees, help out with recruitment, etcetcetc.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Great comment, which reminds me that how a company considers CPD is a really important part of the culture. Will they happily send you on interesting courses and then bring your new knowledge back to the rest of the team? Do they encourage/financially support portable qualifications? Do they solely rely on knowledge percolation and internal coaching? Is there timesheet capacity for all these extras, or will you be teaching and learning on your own time/dime?

      1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

        Yes! We only have internal training at my firm which is fairly unusual.
        Since I just came back from a Friday to Sunday learning conference, I’d probably ask about what kind of outside work hours commitments there are, but that’s probably a more common question.

    2. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      I’d also want to know if I’m required to answer emails etc outside work hours. If I have to be essentially on call 24/7, and have no boundaries between work and private life, I’d want to be compensated for it.

  25. beenthere*

    “Company culture” descriptions can also contain doublespeak…

    “We’re a team environment – everyone knows each other’s job and it’s all hands on deck” – you won’t be allowed to make this job your own, very little wiggle room on procedures.

    “We’re flexible on lunch hours, take them whenever you want” – you will be expected to eat at your desk and answer the phone, although you can pick any time to eat that you like.

    “We’re a family here” – when used in combination with outright red flags, it means “We’re unhealthily tied up in each other so run far, run fast”

    1. 1234*

      “Work hard, play hard” – You’ll be working 24/7 and when you’re not, there will be “optional” team happy hours/team dinners.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Also “most of us drink discreetly at work and to the point of stupor at social events, and you might see somebody doing a line of coke off a desk sometime.”

    2. Oh No She Di'int*

      Yeah, if anyone ever says the place is “like a family”, blood-red flags go up immediately.

  26. Asenath*

    I’ve been mildly surprised at the number of things mentioned in this column as belonging to HR, which leads me to believe it varies somewhat from employer to employer. But in my former role, I had no problem at all responding to requests to do things that were not part of my job with a polite form like the ones suggested, including asking if there’s an aspect to the request I’m missing (after all, I might not understand everything!) As long as I said something like “Well, that’s not really my area, but I think Mary can help you. I can get you her phone number/email if you don’t have it?” rather than a short “Not my job” people don’t seem to mind.

    1. Angelinha*

      This makes a lot more sense to me than “Hmmm, that’s not our realm! Normally I’d try to steer you in the right direction, but that’s so separate from what we do that I’m not sure who to point you toward.” HR should at least have a general idea of who does what at the organization so this comes across as a little bit snarky to me.

      1. Observer*

        That’s generally true, but there are limits to that, especially if you have an HR department that’s fairly silo’ed. Like if someone is in HR, but really all they do is benefits administrations and compliance, they might not know the specifics of who does certain functions. Like who designs flyers- is it marketing, sales or comms?

    2. Katniss Evergreen*

      Likewise with the surprise – I feel like many people at small companies (or ones that simply don’t understand that human resources demands a specified skillset to support the needs of many employees) are used to an admin-type role that is lumped in with payroll and HR work. Clarifying that that isn’t the way it works at your company and providing a contact is much kinder as a redirect than “that’s not my job”-derivatives.

  27. CDM*

    Working in commercial insurance, I have seen a situation where a company was required by their insurance carrier to affirm that all employees carried personal auto coverage at or over a certain limit.

    The standard ISO personal auto policy covers business use of an auto and extends liability coverage to the employer as well, except for a standard exclusion for food delivery. Most, if not all carriers have added exclusions for ride sharing also.

    If employees use their own cars, the business should have coverage for ‘hired and non-owned’ vehicles, which is secondary coverage after the personal auto coverage on the car.

    In this particular situation, one employee had had a serious and expensive at-fault accident with serious injuries on company time, and when we needed to rewrite the coverage with a new company, they would only underwrite the coverage with assurances that all employees were properly insured, which reduces the claims potential for the insurance company. That employee insurance information was not given to (or asked for) by the insurance company, but the employer was responsible for verifying it at each insurance renewal.

    It’s not a standard request in business auto insurance, but there is a legitimate reason for asking. Refusing to provide insurance information may result in an employee being specifically excluded as a driver from coverage under the company business auto policy. Which is fine, if LW truly never ever drives to a conference, a meeting, a continuing ed class, or picks up something from a store for work, and will never be asked to do so in the future.

    1. JanetM*

      If you don’t mind my asking — how would the insurance carrier deal with a company that had an employee who didn’t or couldn’t drive at all (for example, a blind employee, or someone who didn’t own a car because public transportation was so good)? Would they refuse to provide insurance, or simply exclude the non-driver?

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        Good question.

        The statement “to affirm that all employees carried personal auto coverage at or over a certain limit” seems to be making assumptions that everyone drives or owns a car.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Ooh, thank you for pointing this out! Assuming or requiring that all employees drive (when that’s not truly necessary for the job) is a common subtle form of disability discrimination – usually unintentional but sometimes deliberate. It’s also a huge financial burden on lower-paid employees, especially ones in single-income households. I used to frequently want to scream at employers “If you want to hire someone with a car, pay more than $9 an hour!”

      3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I would also love to know the answer because I have known people who couldn’t have driver’s liscenses because of medical conditions (but they also had support systems or public transit that they used to get around).

        They all also had state issued ID’s in place of the liscense.

      4. kittymommy*

        I’m curious as well. I know quite a few people I work with who don’t drive and/or have no driver’s license (they instead have a non-driving government id).

      5. Essess*

        Agreed. In the US it is illegal to ask if someone owns a car during their job interview. You can only ask if they have reliable transportation to get to work.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          This is not true! There’s no federal law against this. It would be illegal to use people’s answers in a way that had a disparate impact by race though.

          1. Essess*

            Interesting, because when I did hiring, I was told it was one of the illegal questions. And when I google about it, it comes up as illegal in many links too. example –

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yep, there’s a ton of misinformation about this all over the internet — loads of articles wrongly stating that it’s illegal to ask questions about stuff like this, religion, kids, marital status, etc. in interviews. The act of asking isn’t illegal. What’s illegal is to make a hiring decision based on the answer, so smart companies don’t ask. (They also teach their interviewers not to ask, and that often gets misstated as “it’s illegal to ask.”)

              The only question it’s illegal to ask is about disabilities.

              More here:


        2. TootsNYC*

          also, you CAN ask if they have a valid driver’s license, of they will be driving as part of their duties.

    2. Observer*

      The OP specifically says that they don’t drive for work. That’s why this request is odd.

      If the OP did drive for work, sure that makes tons of sense. But asking for the information of people who don’t do that is not reasonable.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      We may be dealing with different systems in different jurisdictions, but the requirement that all employees carry coverage “at or over a certain limit” doesn’t match up with that serious and expensive accident. The legally mandated liability coverage in my jurisdiction is $30,000. That will cover a fender bender when you rear end somebody at low speed. Commercial auto policies typically have a $1,000,000 limit. That is why personal injury attorneys get a frisson of excitement when the seriously injured prospective client was hit by a commercial vehicle. So what are we talking about? Is the receptionist required to carry a million dollar policy, in case she happens to drive to another site in the course of her employment? This seems unlikely, as well as unreasonable. And frankly, providing insurance for employees acting in the course of their employment is a standard business expense. Was this an employer trying to transfer that expense to its employees?

  28. Seeking Second Childhood*

    Op3, are people encouraged to be efficient and dicuss things with other departments & next-level management? Or is that discouraged as insubordination because your company follows strict hierarchy?

  29. Retail not Retail*

    Op4 – a professor at my grad school paid 2 of us grad students to watch her puppy and that went swimmingly but we weren’t her TAs (obviously as he needed watching while she taught!) and he was a puppy!

    Op5 – At my job, we had to turn in copies of our licenses and the declaration of coverage from our insurance ( proof of insurance was not enough). The agent had no idea what I was talking about this time even though last year when I switched to them, there wasn’t an issue. Go figure.

    We don’t drive our personal vehicles for work (sometimes my manager pops out in his to get supplies but we always take a company truck to any store), but we drive trucks, bobcats, forklifts, golf carts, and sometimes the train (me!). I think maybe some seasonal retail staff won’t have reason to drive any vehicle, but most of the permanent staff does. But maybe not the office/admin folks – interesting question.

  30. Retail not Retail*

    To everyone assuming #5 is some huge overreach – did you not have a background check for your job? Did you not provide proof of your legal ability to work? Do you not get direct deposit?* Do you get your health insurance through work?

    *I did have a coworker who didn’t trust our job not to mess up direct deposit but she still handed over her dang declaration of coverage bc driving is an important part of our job!

    1. Fikly*

      It’s an overreach because their job does not involve driving in any way, and there’s no obligation to hand over any personal information that is irrelevant to your job duties.

      It has nothing to do with whether or not you’ve handed over information that is more personal, for legit reasons.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Outside of driving being part of my job, there is no legitimate reason a company needs my insurance information.

    3. A Non E. Mouse*

      I’m in tech and the idea of just handing over personal data because someone asked for it makes my shoulders go up around my ears.

      If they have my data, they can lose it/share it/use it.

      If they don’t have a legitimate reason for the data – and don’t have a good plan for storing it – I will most definitely raise a stink about providing it. Lodge A Complaint, all the way up to the top, if needed.

      I would ask all the questions about this, and not provide the information until I was satisfied with the answer.

    4. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      “did you not have a background check for your job? ”

      I didn’t.

      And I certainly never had my employer ask me about driving or insurance, since those are not parts of my job.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I didn’t, either, for my current job and I’ve also never been asked for proof of insurance since none of the positions I’ve held required driving.

    5. Annony*

      It only makes sense if driving is a part of the job. Would you hand over your home insurance information if your company asked for it?

      1. Retail not Retail*

        People are asking like it’s just crazy to be asked period – even those who say they drive for work!

        And op5 may not drive for work now, but it could come up in the future, and their boss says hey op5 can you get?

        This honestly could have come from my workplace. The majority of us do drive vehicles on and off property and the info was due Friday for anyone who drives for work. I can see a final blast email going out last week and someone who works indoors or whatever being a bit taken aback.

    6. Observer*

      What does any of this have to do with the OP’s question.

      The OP is being asked to hand over a a piece of information / data that is utterly unrelated to their work. They explicitly state that they do not drive or otherwise use their car for work.

      One way to improve your odds of keeping safe is to reduce your exposure and that means not handing over information that is not needed. Also, today any company that is asking for un-needed data is probably not being as careful as they could be about the data of the people who they are asking for data. Because security professionals will tell you that the best way not to have data stolen is to not collect it. So, you only collect the data that is needed.

  31. Senor Montoya*

    OP #2, it sounds to me like you are actually *offended* by these questions. I assure you, nobody is asking these questions because they think you are “just” a glorified admin, nobody is trying to insult you, no one is trying to be disrepectful, and probably no one is trying to be lazy and pass their work off to you/somebody.

    I;’d guess they’re asking because your department has a rep for being helpful, which is, you know, a good thing. Redirect politely, no need to escalate, that would not be appropriate from ANY department.

    For what it’s worth, I work directly with undergraduates in an academic adjacent department at a large university. Over the years I have gotten email and phone questions from folks around campus about housing, financial aid, bus routes, admissions, GREs, surplussing office furniture, parking tickets, directions to a satellite campus… I just redirect, politely — I look up the contact number if it is not too busy.

    Unless these questions are taking up an inordinate amount of time, I’d smooth myself down a bit on this one if I were in your position.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I don’t think that’s a fair assessment of OP’s attitude. I’d be frustrated if people were constantly coming to me for stuff I didn’t handle. I’ve been there and it was that others were lazy. Some people would rather ask someone else than figure it out themselves.

      1. Allypopx*

        This. It’s a death by a thousand papercuts thing, and in HR especially you get this catchall mentality from other departments where you should be able to handle anything they can’t, or frankly don’t want to. And it’s not always framed in the most polite manner either, in my experience. I can absolutely see why it would be grating.

      2. Senor Montoya*

        Well, sure, but if I’m on the phone with someone I don’t know who’s asking me a question like that, I;m not making any assumptions about their motivations — or rather, I assume that they didn’t know who to ask or that they got me by mistake. Whatever their motivation, I;m just going to redirect them and give them the contact info if I can get it quickly. Unless it’s happening a lot (or it’s Karen from Llama Grooming three times a week, every week) and it’s truly taking up a lot of time, I don’t see the need to get annoyed about it. I know I’ve asked the wrong person because I didn;’t know who to ask or because I thought I *was* asking the right person.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          If repeatedly being asked the same stuff that has nothing to do with your job over and over and over and over (whether it’s the same person or multiple people) wouldn’t annoy you, good for you. But it would annoy most of the people I know. I never said it was okay to take out the frustration on them, but it’s understandable that OP is frustrated.

      3. the_scientist*

        This. I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable to be frustrated by frequest requests to do things that are wildly outside your job description. Especially because in a lot of these cases, the person asking is probably lazy and didn’t do even the bare minimum of fact-finding.

        1. Washi*

          Yeah, I don’t think the OP should get snarky or anything, but I think it’s legitimate to be frustrated by being the company’s 311 information center if that’s really not meant to be your role. (But that would be a great position to exist in a big company, because sometimes it really isn’t clear who to contact for certain things!)

          1. the_scientist*

            I work in a big company and it took me twenty minutes last week to figure out where to find the right form to report an employee injury at work, so I feel you. We actually have a decent intranet, but still!

    2. Temperance*

      Yeah, no. I think it’s reasonable for women who are not in administrative roles to be annoyed and/or offended by this. I worked really, really hard to get out of administrative roles, and whenever someone assumes that I’m an admin (because I’m female), it’s a career step back for me.

      The “rep for being helpful” thing is a cop-out.

      1. Annony*

        Even people in administrative roles would be annoyed by some of the requests. Just because someone works admin doesn’t mean that they are going to plan your party. If you wouldn’t ask a midlevel person in PR to plan your party or scheduling your meeting, why ask that of a midlevel person in HR? She has every right to feel insulted and it has nothing to do with looking down on people who do actually work in admin.

      2. Tempestuous Teapot*

        Exactly. Enough of this ‘but you’re so helpful’ not being pushed back on and suddenly the core functions of your actual role get milked out because you are so busy, kind, and helpful that you ‘need help with the core functions’. But don’t worry, your job is ‘safe’…

    3. LKW*

      The event planning and meeting scheduling really burned me up. Women are always being handed that work as if we like it. Heck, my retired mom is currently the only woman serving on her community board. They turned to her and said that she could plan the annual events to which she replied “Nah fam, I’m good with dealing with the architectural and maintenance stuff. You want a party, you can organize it.”

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I read it as more confused than offended, the OP is trying to figure out why they’d ask her these questions given the scope of her role within that department. Since the OP presumably has a decent grasp on their organization, they’d know that these questions may be insulting or not.

      If you have say department admins who are readily available, then it’s seriously odd to go to HR about a lot of these questions.

      However in my situation, I wouldn’t be offended or confused by someone coming to me about anything because there aren’t clear footpaths to who does a variety of things. So I’m often just a person pointing people into different directions for any given reason.

      I had someone run into the presidents office one day asking how to change a printer cartridge before. He laughed about it a bit but the response was to just point the person to the person who could actually do it, aka the office assistant that you’d think someone would think to ask first before going to the president of the company.

      1. Retail not Retail*

        My job has a weird hybrid of city/private facilities, third party repair people who come once a week, and departments that don’t handle things that you’d assume they’d handle.

        More than once I’ve gotten on the radio and said, “this thing just broke. Whose responsibility is this? Is it ours?”

  32. Madame X*

    #2 it sounds like HR’s roles and responsibilities is not as clearly communicated to the employees at your organization as it is to you.
    Also, it’s possible that information about where to get assistance with IT issues or event planning is also not clearly communicated to the employees. As a result, they are reaching out to HR to gather this information or to find a way to contact the people who would be responsible for these activities.

    Is there a page on the company website that is easily accessible and easy to find that provides this information? could you perhaps send out an email that gives a contact list for all of this information to employees?
    I think that will go a long way to reducing these types of misdirected request

    And I would also suggest reminding people at least once a year where to find this information.

  33. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #2 – as long as you have backing from your manager and the department, don’t worry about being unhelpful. It sounds like the employees need to be re-trained in who or what department to contact for things they need. If there’s any kind of company directory, that may be a place to point them. But if not, go with Alison’s suggestions.

    At my last company I wrote all of the KBAs (knowledge base articles) for our outsourced help desk. Many of them came to me directly when they had a question BEFORE they had looked at the KBAs for information. My first question was always “What does the KBA say?” and 99% of the time they hadn’t even looked at it. If they had clarification questions I had no problem helping them, but it wasn’t my job to be their personal 411. After repeating this same thing over and over, they eventually stopped coming to me because they realized I wasn’t going to help them with something they could find on their own. It’s the whole “teach a man to fish” thing. If you work to change their habits, they’ll eventually learn to figure it out on their own.

  34. Grace*

    #4 The “I sometimes bring him by during my non-work hours briefly to make their day” really rubs me the wrong way on so many levels. In my mind the OP doesn’t understand the people he is teaching, they are young and looking for ways to connect with someone in a higher position. You hand them this on a silver platter and get child care out of it. Or what I really fear is that OP does understand the people he is teaching and this just creeps me out.

    1. Grace*

      I meant to say they but typed he, I’m probably projecting my own feelings and this is in my head.

    2. I'm A Little Teapot*

      There’s a very good chance that yes it’s all in your head. Yes, it could be an overreach. But also, it’s not uncommon for women who are 18-22 who love kids and babies to be really happy to see or have contact with them. It’s very possible to be cut off from that age group – they don’t have kids yet, none of their friends have kids, and there may not be little kids in their families. I’ve seen it myself. And since these people are younger, they don’t necessarily know the social or professional norms so might accidentally start to cross boundaries.

    3. we're basically gods*

      I know a lot of people (myself included!) who would be thrilled to spend a bit of time with a baby during work! This is a ton of projection. When I made a point of talking to my boss’ daughter at old!job, it wasn’t about trying to connect to someone in a higher position or to suck up. It was about remembering my own time as a child in the office, and how happy it made me when adults paid attention to me. I saw the kid had a coloring book, and asked her if she’d be willing to color me a page to put on my wall, because she was of the age where kids *love* to be helpful.
      Many, many people like babies. I don’t think the OP should hire the students as babysitters, but the idea that the students would be excited to see a baby is absolutely not ridiculous, nor is it some malicious ploy to manipulate the youth.

    4. F.M.*

      I’m in grad school right now, and all of my colleagues (that I’ve noticed) are delighted when a prof or colleague brings one of their kids by for a brief visit. We so rarely see little kids, inside a giant university, that it’s fun and exciting, especially since they’re only there briefly; it’s not like anyone is asking us to change diapers.

      And I don’t just mean “baby-crazy” women. Male, female, and non-binary grad students have all expressed delight at baby pictures, meeting the kids, and hearing some stories about them. We’re not cooing over the Biblical Hebrew prof’s child because we want better grades from her; it’s because we like seeing someone outside the university bubble once in a while, and kids are cute. Especially in small doses.

  35. Bopper*

    Or maybe as HR you could think:

    Hmm, people don’t know how to book a meeting room. Let me tell Facilities that they need to educate people on that.
    Hmm, people don’t know how to contact IT with computer issues. Let me tell them that they need to educate people on that.
    Hmm, people are being asked to plan parties and they don’t know how. Let me talk to the manager about if this is an appropriate request for these people.

      1. Amy Sly*

        I would think that managers failing in their job to properly train employees would be an HR concern …

      2. Observer*

        This actually IS an HR issue – there is a good chance that there is a problem with either on boarding or organizational documentation. That’s something for HR to deal with, either themselves or with relevant other staff.

          1. Tempestuous Teapot*

            No, but is a great malicious compliance move. Not necessarily recommending it, but since the presumption is helpful person, perhaps one should help by redirecting the root issue (lack of training/understanding) back to the requester’s department. It is, after all, a manager issue.

        1. Allonge*

          Alternatively, it is an HR issue because some people are waaaay too helpless to do their job, have no problem solving skills beyond “let’s ask someone else to do this” and so they should be put on a PIP and eventually fired.

          I am trying not to be snarky here: indeed it is possible that onboarding is lacking in some things, but in my experience 1. at least half of the ‘how-to-organise-meetings’ type of information can be gained from immediate coworkers, and 2. way more people find it more convenient to call someone with a question even if they have at hand ample information sources to check.

      3. Senor Montoya*

        True, but it would be helpful to the employer and to the other employees. If it’s not a substantial amount of time to do this, why wouldn’t you?

    1. JustaTech*

      And as another example of how the responsibilities of different departments can be wildly different at different companies, if I asked *my* Facilities department how to set up a meeting they would laugh and say they didn’t know because they do repair work, not meetings.

      It seems like there is a lot more variation in what departments with the same name *do* between companies than we might realize, and that’s likely at least part of the cause of the apparently random questions to HR.

  36. Jdc*

    I’d guess they want your auto insurance policy because they didn’t bother properly classifying employees in their liability insurance.

    1. Missy Murdoch*

      This is the first comment I’ve seen that actually seems to ANSWER the OPs question! They didn’t ask if they should provide the documents (seems like OP knows the insurance request is weird, tried to push back, and will prob still have to comply) they asked for plausible explanations for why the company would ask in the first place.

      Thanks Jdc!

  37. dedicated1776*

    OP5: Do you work for a company that does have a lot of employees who drive for work? I worked for a home health agency (therefore, a high proportion of employees were driving to patients’ homes) and the car insurance was just part of the new hire process, regardless of your position. I felt like their new hire process was dumb (everyone went through the same thing, whether you were a support function like accounting or a caregiver) but that was how they did things.

  38. Senor Montoya*

    OP #4. Do not hire any of your current student workers. If you are supervising them, it is not at all appropriate to do this — the power disparity is too great. In addition to Alison’s points, please also remember that they may not feel that they can say “no”.

    Once the student is no longer your employee, go right ahead. That’s one of the perks of working at a college or university: you get to know students really well and can make a much better informed decision about who is trustworthy.

    1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

      When I was in college, one of my TA’s asked me to babysit his little girl. I said yes, but I was SO WEIRDED OUT and it forever affected the way I thought of him. And this guy was a perfectly decent guy with a perfectly nice daughter. He paid me fairly, treated me respectfully, didn’t seem to let it affect his interactions with me in-class. IOW, I had no good reason to be as freaked out as I was. Which is more or less my point: you could do everything right and the situation will still be wrong because the dynamics are just so darn awkward. Like Senor Montoya said, wait till they’re not working with you any more.

  39. HR-EA-HR again*

    Maybe I’m reading too much into #2’s question, but as a one-time EA, the “glorified admin” and “outside of / beneath my role” phrases are bothering me. Maybe use your HR words and explain–yes, each time it comes up–those requests don’t fall within your purview. You’re in the best position to educate, really.

  40. S*

    #4 is a huuuuuge conflict of interest. Your employees are there to do their jobs, not manage their boss’s child care needs. Even asking them to babysit puts a weird power dynamic in the request because they may feel obliged to keep their boss on their good side. No, just hell no. I once had a completely bonkers boss ask a coworker to watch her 13 year old while she went on a five day business trip. It was the stuff of nightmares, a boss with no boundaries asking totally unrealistic requests with the expectation you would give in. Keep your personal and work life separate.

  41. Perhaps*

    For OP #1 is it possible the hours and the hourly wage do add up? This happened to me before and they were looking for someone to do part time salary, so the math didnt make sense until it was communicated not to be a 37 hr / week gig.

  42. Anonymous at a University*

    HR OP, I think sending out a list of phone numbers/information/FAQ’s by e-mail would help, as other people have suggested. If you get multiple weird requests, then you’d also have something to direct them to.

    (I sympathize. I’m faculty, and students come talk to me because I’m the first person they see walking around and they have an issue, so I try to direct them to the right person. But sometimes they get shirty because, basically, they don’t WANT to walk over to the IT office or the office of the person who has the key to the computer lab, even when it’s right down the hall; they say, “That would take too long, can’t you do something?” At that point, I feel perfectly free to say, “Sorry, you’ll need to go to them because I can’t reset your password/unlock the computer lab/get your towed car back” and keep going).

  43. Mona Lisa*

    OP4, I think your instincts not to mix the babysitting and current employees are correct. There are too many opportunities for something to go wrong, which could jeopardize your professional relationship with them and their on-campus job. They might not realize the potential affect this could have on their work with you, and it’s helpful for you as the supervisor to recognize it and steer them towards more appropriate boundaries.

    I did a good amount of babysitting in grad school, which led one of my supervisors at my retail job to ask me about babysitting her kids. They’d visited the store, and I liked them so I agreed to help out. Apparently one of the kids had a habit of stealing money, and one time while I was watching them, she took change that was left out when some of the other kids returned from an outing. Fortunately my supervisor was a reasonable parent who eventually needled it out of her daughter, but the way she did it opened my eyes to the potential liability–the supervisor told her daughter if she hadn’t stolen it that it must have been me because I was the only other person in the house and that she was going to have to fire me from my retail work because she couldn’t trust me with money. (The daughter really liked me and brought the money to her mom later that evening to keep me from losing my job.)

    My supervisor told me she knew what was going on and would never have acted on what she said, but the point of this story is I didn’t realize the liability to which I’d exposed myself by watching her kids. Your students probably don’t either, and it’s helpful (and part of the work of managing university students) to introduce them to workplace norms and set them up for success in the real world.

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Um, that parent really needs some parenting classes. And how to be a decent person lessons as well. That was a really crappy thing to do.

      1. Mona Lisa*

        Maybe she did/does, and I don’t want to derail too much on this topic since it wasn’t the point of me sharing the story. However, you and I don’t know the full story of that relationship. What I know is that her pre-teen daughter was lying and stealing (and lying about the stealing) on a regular basis, and nothing they tried made it better. The fact that she could see that her actions might have consequences for someone else and eventually came forward makes me feel like she might have learned something.

      2. Llellayena*

        Non-parent here but…if she told Mona Lisa she was using this as a tactic then I don’t see much of a problem with it. The parent is trying to get the kid to understand that actions have consequences for other people too. It’s an effective way of saying “if you do this, it hurts someone.” The problem comes if she scared Mona Lisa into really thinking her job is on the line before telling her it was a tactic. It can also backfire if the daughter doubles down and the consequences don’t materialize, but I’m hoping the mom knew her daughter well enough to know she wouldn’t do that.

    2. Missy Murdoch*

      IMO the real lesson in this story isn’t about that particular supervisor’s parenting choices, it’s that babysitting for your boss (or conversely, hiring an employee to babysit) gives that employee an unmitigated glimpse into the boss’s family life. Any dysfunction or misstep will be on full display.

      I wouldn’t want a current direct report to be so intimately knowledgeable of my family’s struggles. And barring abuse or neglect, I would prefer not to know the details of my boss’s questionable parenting choices.

  44. Daisy-dog*

    Hey #2 – I totally get it! Happens to me all the time. The person that handled HR before me also did a 1000 other tasks, so some assume that I do the same (in spite of the 4-5 other new employees hired at the same time).

    Do you prepare onboarding materials? One option is to put a description of how certain tasks are divided among departments. Advise what is managed within each department and include a note about how they should approach their own manager or someone in their department about some things before going to anyone outside of the department. This wouldn’t solve the problem for current employees, but you might even be able send it out to the whole company if leadership approves it. Plenty of HR departments vary across companies, so having swim lanes defined could help. However, I could see where some senior leadership might not be happy if you box yourself off from outside tasks. Definitely get approval first.

    1. Observer*

      This is what I was thinking. Have a concise document that explains who to go to for what, make it part of the on-boarding materials, and let everyone in the organization know that this document exists and where to find it.

  45. Gazebo Slayer*

    OP1: I wish I could say I was surprised by recruiters bait-and-switching on pay – I’ve had it happen to me. I’ve also had friends apply for jobs where the employer itself inflated the pay on the job listing, no recruiter involved.

    But $24k instead of $54k is an enormous discrepancy – bigger than any I’ve encountered. My recruiter listed a job as $40k and didn’t tell me it was $30k until I’d already accepted it and signed the offer letter (!), and a shady nonprofit that recruited heavily from my college would list jobs as several dollars an hour above minimum wage when they were actually minimum wage, but “it’s actually less than half the pay listed” is so bad that I’m inclined to think everyone guessing it’s a typo is right.

  46. Oh No She Di'int*

    #3 There are half a dozen great responses to this OP upthread. However, the combination of factors that Alison brings up plus the 40 or 50 additional aspects that other commenters have raised really go to show that that question could be referring to almost anything. Any workplace will have hundreds or thousands of informal practices. Which ones do you talk about?

    If I were you OP3, I would provide a couple of quick illustrations of general workplace habits–just to show you’re open to answering the question. But then I’d quickly turn it back and ask them to specify what aspect of culture they’re particularly interested in. That would save you from going on and on about the special lunches, the short working hours, the bottom-up decision making, the collaborative environment, the keg in the break room, the diversity campaign, and the Best Cubicle Award when all they really wanted to know was whether they could bring their dog in.

    1. hello*

      The other stuff would still be helpful for them to know about in making an informed decision, and prep them on what to expect if they take the job.

      1. Zahra*

        As a woman in near-IT positions, I would not have asked directly about discrimination initiatives earlier in my career. As I get older and have more experience, I care less and less about not making waves for what should be the bare minimum.

        Do provide a couple of quick illustrations, but also provide examples that are likely to more closely align with how your candidate present themselves.

        For a (cis or trans) woman, do talk about diversity, and specifically in your team (because HR, marketing, etc. will have more women and artificially inflate the proportion of women in the organization). Say also what kind of tasks the women are doing. Are they stuck doing documentation and QA (because, somehow, women are more often tapped for that kind of work and it’s not good if you want to progress in your career).

        For a person of color, do tell me about how the team is diverse (aka not just white and East and South Asian men).

        If you’re not diverse, tell me what you’re doing not only recruiting-wise but also retention-wise.

        So on and so forth for sexual orientation, gender orientation, disability, etc. Let me visit the office and see how many women and POC you really have on the team. I can’t tell you how many times I visited an office where I’ve been told that “there are many women working here” to see that out of 50 people in an open office area, there are 5 women, only 2 of which have technical roles (the other 3 are marketing and HR, usually). That’s not “many”, it’s 4%.

        Other points: I will consider it a yellow flag if you misrepresent how diverse you are, if you have a “diversity” team/person/etc. for the whole organization, if you only talk about diversity in recruitment, if the team-building activities and other bonding opportunities are unfriendly to those who have outside engagements, etc.

        And if you only address efforts to increase diversity in terms of the “pipeline issue”, you’re going way down in my esteem. If you even broach the subject of the pipeline, I consider it a negative. The tech industry has been working on the pipeline issue for more than 10 years and the proportion of women going into CS is still going down. Tech companies that talk about the pipeline never think about why it’s not working. (I know why: if you’re tech savvy enough to go to the “pipeline” activities, you’re savvy enough to read what women who work in tech live and decide to run, not walk in the other direction. After all, why would you want to work in a sexist industry where the whisper network is the best way to protect yourself from abuse, where the “me too” movement barely moved the needle, where too many events are still geared towards the stereotypical cis-male who only enjoys sex, alcohol and sports when there are other careers you could choose?)

        1. Oh No She Di'int*

          I agree with this. I think informing people early about diversity and related cultural aspects could be useful.

          If it were me, however, I would give my diversity talking points to all candidates regardless of how I perceive them to present themselves. Assuming that I as a–let’s say–African American person must only, or even primarily, care about the fate of black employees is not necessarily accurate and even risks coming across as pandering. Also, I’m not sure that I’d want interviewers trying to determine who is and is not a person of color based on how people look. And let’s not even open the LGBT door because getting that one wrong could put the applicant in a super-awkward position: “Umm . . . thanks for telling me about all your programs for lesbians, but um, I’m not a lesbian.”

          If diversity is culturally important to your organization, then it’s important enough to tell all of your applicants about, even straight, white, middle-class men. They too should know about your diversity efforts.

  47. Christmas Carol*

    In my state, coordination of benefits between your medical insurance and injury coverage on your auto accident policy is a BIG issue. Trying to declare your major medical policy (ie. your medical insurance from work) as primary, and your auto policy as secondary, is a way to save serious coin on your auto policy premium, and shift this cost to your employer.

  48. hello*

    OP2, if you’re the first person people met, I can see why they may come to you for guidance. I like Allison’s framing of pointing them in the right direction.

  49. Veryanon*

    HR Director – I also work in HR and get asked all kinds of questions that are completely unrelated to the field of HR. For example, we have an employee HR help line, and I routinely get calls about things like asking how to order business cards, how to purchase supplies, how to set up travel, how to contact Accounts Payable, etc. (For the record, all of this information is posted on our employee intranet and can be found fairly easily with a simple search.) I just try to be polite and say something like “Oh, I don’t handle that, but here’s where you find that information” and then provide the link. Unfortunately, as noted above, HR tends to become a catch-all for questions that no one else seems to know.

  50. Aquawoman*

    Re the culture question. I recently got done a round of interviews and our usual answer to this included that the office is very collegial/cooperative, people share information easily and willingly, we need to work overtime sometimes when cases demand it but it isn’t the norm, we are accommodating of work life balance through telework and schedule flexibility, and type of management (non-micro-managing on the whole–we’re an office of professionals and the professionals assigned take ownership of their projects with input and guidance from the managers, rather than the managers dictating every step of the process). Other things we mentioned in response to specific questions or occasionally were that we’re supportive of training of a wide variety of types, don’t expect people to work while on vacation..

  51. Many Hats*

    #1 – I’d be careful to go back to the job ad (if possible) and see if they actually posted that salary, or if the job board added an “estimated salary” to the listing. That happens sometimes and causes so much confusion to a lot of folks. Indeed and Glassdoor are bad about doing this.

    I always make our salary ranges clear within the ad itself and reiterate the salary range in the application as well, asking candidates to acknowledge it.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      or if the job board added an “estimated salary” to the listing. That happens sometimes and causes so much confusion to a lot of folks. Indeed and Glassdoor are bad about doing this.

      I didn’t even think about that, but you’re correct that this could also be a possibility for the discrepancy. I know Glassdoor had an estimated salary posted for my old position at my last company that didn’t end up being accurate – luckily, I was able to negotiate up.

  52. Cats on a Bench*

    #2. If you’ve already told people HR doesn’t do X and they still come back with questions that aren’t under your purview, then maybe it’s time to talk to the CEO about a 1 time all staff email educating the staff on what HR does do. You might be able to include a few directional statements for the most common questions too like “questions regarding Y should be addressed by IT and questions regarding Z should be addressed by the office manager.” Or something along those lines. Just approach it from an educating the staff angle and not like chastising them because they’re being annoying.

  53. SM*

    OP 1- I agree with Allison that the hourly posted range may have been a mistake- they meant to write it as a salary not as an hourly rate. But I would still bring it up so they know they screwed up

    1. Many Hats*

      That’s happened here before, but it wasn’t a mistake on our end of things. It was from a job board that aggregates their info from other job boards and it took the listed salary range of $28-32k and posted it at $28-32 per hour — Big difference!

  54. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

    #3 (this may be off topic, please remove if so) – As a candidate, when someone is providing comparatively vague or kind of off topic responses when I ask about culture, is it seen as bad to probe with more specific questions? I’m always concerned that they’ll take more specific questions the wrong way

    1. 1234*

      If they do, you wouldn’t want to work for them. Any company worth your time will be happy to answer your questions, as long as they are appropriate and asked in a professional manner.

    2. Aquawoman*

      I don’t think additional questions are per se problematic. I might go there is there was a series of questions that seemed like it was designed around working as little as possible, but that should be easy to avoid. I’d just think about how to phrase them and mix up different aspects of culture (hours, management interaction, collegiality). I agree that if someone is going to take offense or think you’re a slacker for asking “what’s the work-life balance like here?” you probably don’t want to work there.

    3. OP #3*

      Personally, I’d always prefer more specific. My goal is to answer your questions as completely and honestly as I can.

    4. SimplyTheBest*

      Go with more specific questions. As we’ve seen from Alison’s answers and the dozens of other suggestions up and down this thread, asking about company culture is a hugely broad question. Your interviewer may be answering vaguely because they don’t really know what information you’re looking for. Are you asking if we celebrate staff birthdays or are you asking if the office is rife with sexual harassment?

  55. TootsNYC*

    asking about culture:

    People really want to know:
    Will it suck working here?
    Are bosses unreasonable, or micromanagers, or pretty even tempered?
    Will I ever get to go home?
    Do people yell in the office?
    Are people snotty?
    Will I ever get a raise?
    Will I be blamed for stuff I didn’t do?
    Will I get enough information and support to do my job well?
    What happens if I mess up–does my job become hell, or will my boss coach me to do better instead of firing me?

    1. Sled dog mana*

      + 1,000 to all of this.

      For me the real question is, I have a kid, husband and 2 dogs that I like spending time with and a health condition that is aggravated by stress, how is this job going to allow me to earn a living and Support me in doing the things that are important to me. So I want to know things like am I going to Be looked down on for taking an afternoon off to pick my kid up at school as a surprise?

      1. Quill*

        Also: am I going to be expected to not have a falliable human body because I’m under 30 and have no kids?

        1. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

          I really feel this. I have several coworkers who work 4-day weeks because they have toddlers (which is great!). But last year when I had to take a couple afternoons off in one month because I was having a major malfunction of the meds I was on, I was questioned like I was actually just skipping out on work for giggles. It was really humiliating especially because of the nature of what was going on. If I’d had the 4 day week for kiddos though, nobody probably would have ever known what was going on.

    2. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      Are my coworkers complete slackers that want to pawn off their work onto the new person?
      Is it a fair working environment-how do managers ensure this?
      Can I telecommute some of the time so I don’t go insane from the crazy commute?

  56. Ancient Alien*

    I ask this culture question in every interview, and additional follow up questions that depend on the answer to this one and/or additional things I have observed during the interview process.
    While this question could be an attempt to get at a lot of different things, for me, what I’m really asking in general terms is, “is there anything else you think i should know about?”
    Does everybody go out drinking multiple nights per week and then not roll into the office until 10am?
    Are most people in the role there for 10-20 years, or is there an understanding that people will want to advance/move laterally after 3-5?
    Are work hour really excessive at any point of the year (or all year)?

    Basically, this is an opportunity for the interviewer to tell me about anything that might be enough of an issue to cause me to start looking again sooner rather than later.

    1. LilyP*

      +1! I think it could be a good exercise to ask yourself “what about this workplace would surprise me if I was joining from a different company” and make sure to cover those points in your answer.

    2. pretzelgirl*

      I ask it too. I like to get a feel, for what is and isn’t acceptable. I have jobs with lots of strange nuances. I also like to get a feel of what it is like to take off for a personal day, leave early for a doc apt, or come in late. I also have small kids, so sometimes they get sick.
      I worked somewhere that you basically could never come in or leave early for anything. I didn’t last long, because ya know life happens and you need to go to the doctor!

  57. Middle Manager*

    OP #3: Just popped into say thanks for asking this question! And to everyone above you gave input. I have also felt like I didn’t really know how to answer that in interviews. And when I ask it to interviewers, I don’t think I’m the only one (at least here in a state government department), because I’ve not gotten great answers back a lot of the time.

  58. Lindsey*

    OP#4: I’m a current college student and have run into this same issue before as a student worker! I adore babysitting and usually have a few families that I’m employed with semi-routinely at any given time, but I refuse to babysit for anyone I know through work because people can truly be insane about their children and if ANYTHING happens, it feels like my job is on the line. It’s just really anxiety inducing. As the employer, you may want to consider that babysitters know a lot about your life because they are literally in your house and your kids probably do/say things you wouldn’t expect – not necessarily bad, just weird things sometimes. You may not really want your personal life bleeding over into your professional life like that.

    One option that I came up with was to recommend friends who could babysit instead, and that usually works really well.

    1. CollegeSupervisor*

      Thank you so much for your feedback, Lindsey! It helps to know this from the student’s perspective, too. I kind of figured that my students were too blinded by the cuteness to think clearly about the logistics, which is why I thanked them but never asked them to babysit. I’ll definitely keep this in mind going forward. – OP4

  59. Mannheim Steamroller*


    If my employer insisted on proof of car insurance, I would ask what kind of car the company is planning to buy for me.

    Surely there can’t be a business purpose for requiring car use and banning employees from using public transportation.

  60. Newbie*

    OP #2- I related so much to your question. I work as an HR Generalist and I feel like I get sent every question under the sun. To prevent this, my department did put together a FAQ sheet that we sent out to all current employees and that gets included in new hire information, but I haven’t really found that it prevents random questions. A majority of our positions are ones where access to a computer isn’t common (warehouse and delivery), so just getting people to check their work emails, let alone do some research into who they should call almost never happens. Unfortunately I think it’s just a symptom of working in Human Resources!

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