coworker is obsessed with my video set-up, how important are cover letters in IT, and more

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

1. My coworker is obsessed with my video set-up

I work as a creative in a small team in a large enterprise organization. Since we have been working from home, my group has been meeting weekly over Zoom. I am married to a film creative and he lovingly created a Zoom set-up for me with a podcast microphone, professional camera, lens, set background, and lighting. It is a modest set-up by filming standards but definitely a cry better than your typical look just using your computer camera and microphone alone.

My coworker has made it a point to make comments every time I get on a call, such as “look at you with your background, your lighting, your perfect hair, your makeup!” and so on. She says these things in a condescending tone and it upsets me because I like having my nice set-up. My husband wanted me to look good and now it is upsetting my coworker. For the record, no other coworkers or managers have said a negative thing. They think it’s great and like it’s expected from me since I am a creative and we tend to want make things look good. It’s just this one coworker who keeps pointing me out and it makes me feel like I have to make her feel better by toning it down. Her insecurity makes me feel like I should walk on eggshells around her. Can’t I have a nice looking Zoom?

You can indeed have a nice looking Zoom, and your coworker needs to chill out. Tell her to cut it out! The next time she makes those comments, respond with, “Could you lay off of that? It’s getting old.” Or, “You seem weirdly focused on my Zoom set-up. Can we move on?” Or, “Noted. So anyway, (insert work topic).”

If internal politics don’t allow you to be that blunt (if she’s senior to you or so forth), try just saying in a really brisk tone, “Yep, that’s my Zoom set-up. So anyway, (insert work topic).”

She’s the one who looks strange by continually harping on this, not you.

2. How important are cover letters for IT positions?

Because we’re relocating, my husband is searching for a new position in the IT field (front end user assistance and server management). I have issues with wanting to micromanage things, so I’ve been trying to be as hands-off (but supportive) as possible during his job search, though sometimes we get into small disagreements about his process. The main debate right now is about cover letters.

He is of the opinion that in the IT field, cover letters don’t matter. He usually never sends one, and thinks it’s a waste of time given that people in his line of work mainly care about experience listed on the resume. He’s also been a hiring manager in one former position, so he has experience reviewing applications for this type of position. However, I think the opposite— that even in IT you should always send a cover letter unless the posting explicitly says not to. Especially given how competitive things are right now, I feel like he would be doing himself a disservice by not attaching one. He has won awards and done really amazing things in his prior positions, and has definitely gotten jobs without cover letters, but I feel like he would be introducing his stellar background better by having a short cover letter. (And he could explain that we’re relocating, clarifying why he’s searching in the first place.)

My career field is highly writing-intensive, and I honestly like writing, so I know I’m really biased in that regard. I also don’t know the norms in IT that well. Yet I still can’t help feeling that a well-written cover letter can only help, not hurt, and I’m happy to proofread his cover letters if he wanted to write them. But on the other hand, job searching is stressful enough without me nagging about a small detail like this, especially if it doesn’t give a lot of added value.

Do you think its worth it to push the issue, or should I defer to him since he has tons of experience in his field? And if you do think cover letters should be the norm in this instance, how might I convince him it’s worth his time to write them?

It’s true that IT is a field where cover letters generally matter far less. Lots of hiring managers in IT don’t read them at all, and it’s really common for IT candidates not to include them. It’s just the norm of the field.

That said, IT candidates who do include a cover letter can stand out because of that — when so few of your competitors bother to do it, a good candidate with a good cover letter can really have an impact. In that field they won’t always be read, but you can’t know from the outside when that’s the case and when it isn’t and your husband has no way of knowing if the job he’s applying for is one where a compelling cover letter could help him get an interview. So all else being equal, yes, it would be a good idea for him to write them.

However. If he’s going to write perfunctory cover letters that just summarize his resume and don’t add much more, he’s right that in IT much of the time he could just not bother. The letter will only boost his candidacy if he writes a compelling, personalized one. If that’s not likely, it’s not worth arguing over.

But even aside from that, I’d let this go. It’s his field and his job search, you’ve offered your opinion, and from there it’s up to him. Obviously if you see your spouse doing something you think will harm him, you should speak up. But you have spoken up! Now you’ve got to leave it to him. You noted you have issues with wanting to micromanage — recognize that it’s happening here, and choose to let your end of this one drop!

(Note: this is not license for people in other fields to stop writing cover letters! You still benefit from continuing.)

3. My company is following my personal Twitter

My place of work has followed my personal Twitter account using their institutional Twitter account (run by the marketing department). I find this disconcerting. While I do not hide what kind of work I do on my Twitter account, I intentionally do not discuss my specific place of work. I do have a “views are my own” statement in my Twitter bio. I use Twitter to have conversations with friends and colleagues. It’s not inappropriate content, but it is not necessarily all content I would actively bring to work and share with coworkers who I do not know.

I’ve left my Twitter profile public so I can meet and connect with new colleagues in my field, but I am now leaning towards locking it down since being followed by workplace. Is it weird to actively block one’s workplace on Twitter? I really don’t like having them follow me.

They probably followed you as a friendly move — like someone in marketing though, “Oh, let’s connect with our employees because we’re connected in real life” not “Let’s monitor our employees.” But it’s fine to block them from following you if you want!

You might consider a soft block, where you block them (thus stopping them from following you) and then unblock them … which makes them unfollow you without making it obvious that you blocked them. But it’s also fine if you want to just block them! Or, of course, you can set your profile to private so that only people you approve can follow you, although that would mean using Twitter in a different way than you have been.

4. Does my boss want me to end my temp assignment early?

I currently have a temp job (covering while someone is out on maternity leave) and I still have about six weeks left. A few days ago, my boss told me that Beth will be returning early from her leave early (in about two weeks) to work part-time. She reassured me that this wouldn’t change my end date.

Today, I happened to walk into the office with my boss and she asked me if I was applying to jobs and if I was getting any interviews. I can’t tell if she wants to be helpful in my career search or is just wanting to know if I’m planning to stay for the duration of my assignment. If I get an offer that begins before my temp job is set to end, should I take it? For what it’s worth, my job is very slow and could easily be done part-time (and would be excruciatingly boring if shared by two people).

She was probably asking because with only six weeks out, she assumes you’re actively job searching; six weeks isn’t a long time for a search. But it’s possible that she’s hoping you’ll wrap up early after Beth is back, who knows. In theory you could just ask her directly, by saying something like, “When you asked me about job searching the other day, I wondered if you’d prefer that I move on sooner after Beth returns, or if it really is okay to work the full remaining six weeks.” But frankly, I wouldn’t ask in this case — because if she says that yeah, it would be ideal if you left earlier, then you’re going to be in awkward position if you don’t get a job sooner. Instead, just take at face value her reassurance that you can stay as long as originally planned and continue actively searching. But if you do get an offer that starts earlier, it’s fine to take it — with temp jobs, people assume you’re going to be looking and will need to prioritize a non-temp offer if you get one.

5. How should you show a furlough on your resume?

I was having a conversation with a friend and I was hoping you could provide an answer to our debate. We have both been furloughed for the past six months due to the pandemic, but expect to be brought back to our companies as soon as government guidelines allow. The question was how to note this break in employment on a future resume. Would it be misleading to just say “Coordinator, Aug 2018-present”? Or should you do something like “Coordinator, Aug 2018-Mar 2020, Sep 2020-present” or “Coordinator, Aug 2018-present (furloughed Mar-Sep 2020)” and assume potential employers will understand that the break was due to the pandemic? Does the answer change depending on how long you worked at the company prior to the shutdown? Does the answer change if you’ve been doing small amounts of work (either paid or unpaid) while the furlough has been going on?

You don’t need to note the furlough on your resume. It’s fine to just list your employment as August 2018 – present” or so forth. It’s the same with maternity or medical leaves too — you don’t need to note that you were on leave for a portion of your time with the company. For the purpose of a resume, you’re still considered an employee there, even though you’re furloughed or on leave.

I do think it would be different if you were only employed for a month or so before the furlough began. In that case, at a minimum I’d add “(currently furloughed)” after the dates if I included it at all. But in your case, you should be fine.

{ 404 comments… read them below }

  1. river*

    LW 1, your coworker’s comments are likely to be more about her than you. If nobody else thinks your setup is a problem, then it just seems like insecurity on her part.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yeah, and I’d like to say well done for not coming out with a snarky “jealous much?” in response to this colleague.
      I’d probably have to bite my tongue every time, and by now I’d be practising a “compliment overkill” (partly driven by snark, partly sincere, partly just to get her off my back) in which I bomb her with compliments along the lines of “I may have a great setup but I need it, whereas your natural beauty will shine through with any old sh1tty setup”.

      1. lawerj*

        Nah, I’d just go with short and true, and normal conversational tone – “thank you, I love my set up!” or “yes, it is nice” and smile and move on.

        1. Lwaxana Troi*

          I like this approach. Be sure to say these things as warmly as possible, accompanied by a wide, sweet smile. 8-D

    2. NoOne*

      There is also often an assumption, that young women with a good video setup are streamers of some kind. Maybe gaming, maybe cam-/ sexwork. Migth be underhanded digs at that

      1. Thistle Whistle*

        I’d be tempted to so “Yep, its the same one as yesterday”, then start add on “and the day before” and “and the day before that” etc. It points out to others on the call that this is odd behaviour and isn’t too confrontational but it allows you to address her oddity.

        Personally I’d be tempted to say “Yep, its the same setup you comment on EVERYday”. But snark doesn’t bother me.

          1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

            At a certain point it’s worth escalating it.

            I’d do it in a bland tone but sharp: “You say that almost every day. What is your point?” and then pause with as bland an inquisitive look on my face as possible, not saying anything. Let her speak or let things be awkward.

          2. SheLooksFamiliar*

            It’s possible to confront someone’s behavior without being aggressive. Besides, it sure sounds like OP’s coworker isn’t big on subtlety or nuance. It could be the only way OP can stop the predictable comments is to pointedly call them out.

          3. Temperance*

            I think that LW#1’s colleague has forced her hand here. If she doesn’t confront on it, she’ll continually be subject to these BS comments.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Or she could just pretend that she’s assuming the best intent of her coworker and just say thanks and move on, which is more likely to make her coworker look weirdly obsessed and like the odd one rather than escalating it. (This has the added bonus of driving people like coworker nuts – they want a reaction and a reason to justify their weird behavior. No need to roll in the mud with them.)

              1. Artemesia*

                Repeating the exact same response every single time might highlight her repetition without being snotty which might blow back on you. e.g. ‘Thank you, glad you like it’ — every day in response to her nonsense.

                1. Solitary Daughter*

                  Honestly, I kind of love that idea. Doesn’t have to be phony sounding or effusive or weird. Just sort of neutral: “Thank you, I’m glad you like it.” But I like Alison’s suggestions, too. I guess just knowing how something is going to land if you say it in front of your whole team is the hinge here.

                2. Gerry L*

                  Miss Manners advises that when someone is rude, the best response is unalloyed politeness. Drives rude people nuts.

        1. Joielle*

          Just say “thanks!” It’s essentially a compliment, even if it’s not intended to be one. No need to be aggressive or snarky at all, just act as though she’s paying you a nice compliment and she will stop.

          1. Emilia Bedelia*

            Agreed! I think OP should smile graciously and say “Thank you!” in as sincere a tone as possible, as though it was a legitimate compliment. Escalating further will come across poorly for the OP. Right now, the coworker probably comes off as weirdly overinvolved in OP’s setup. OP should be going for a “this is not a big deal at all, who cares how I look on Zoom?” attitude. Engaging at all will make OP seem defensive and just encourage the coworker.

            The coworker clearly means this as an insult to the OP. OP is supposed to feel bad about her comments. If OP takes the compliment graciously and appears to feel good, coworker will stop because she’s not getting the desired result.

            1. Quiet Liberal*

              People are weird. This coworker is openly displaying jealousy, which makes her look really immature. This is why OP needs to act as if it’s a true compliment every time. I agree she will get tired of not getting a rise out of OP and will leave it alone eventually. If she doesn’t leave it alone and OP keeps acting as if it’s a genuine compliment, OP still wins by being the adult.

            2. Jack Russell Terrier*

              Yes exactly. I’d lean into it and say happily and enthusiastically ‘Oh thanks, my husband did it for me. I’ll tell him, he’ll be happy to hear that’. I’d say it it every-single-time. That your husband did the set up is a perfect in.

              1. TootsNYC*

                and in fact, not just say it every single time, but say the exact same words every single time. That’ll highlight the repetitiveness of this.

              2. Qwerty*

                This! If the co worker thinks that LW did this set up for vanity, then sharing the greater context that it was a loving thing her husband did because of his video production skill-set is really sweet and might help the co worker reframe.

        2. AKchic*

          Maybe a quick check off of a notepad and say “okay, now that we’ve cleared that off of the unofficial To Do List, let’s start with the real meeting agenda”, so it is subtly and sarcastically noted that OP was both expecting this comment, and that it is now so common that it *is* expected, and almost formulaic at this point, so now that it is out of the way as her standard greeting to you, things can move on.

        3. TootsNYC*

          I tend to like saying, in a sort of gently informational tone, “Do you realize you comment on my setup every day?” As if maybe they don’t realize that they’re repeating themselves.

          And then maybe, “Ah, yes, you said that yesterday.” Or, “You did mention that yesterday” or “you have mentioned that several times; yes, I have a nice setup.”

          The tone is what keeps it from being rudely confrontational. Gentle, and reminding, and friendly.

        1. WellRed*

          And if people are making that kind of assumption, maybe they should do some self reflection. Look bad? She’s let herself go. Look great? Maybe she’s a sex worker. Can’t win!

          1. Artemesia*

            LOL sums up one aspect of professional life for women perfectly. ‘She doesn’t seem to be much of a leader, too quiet, so we can’t promote her to management’. ‘She is too aggressive and abrasive so we can’t promote her to management.’

        2. Metadata minion*

          Is it? I mean, going straight to sex work is weird and problematic, but if I saw someone with that sort of nice setup (especially if I didn’t know her husband works in film) I think I would assume she probably had a vlog or did Twitch streaming or something, because it would be odd to put in that sort of time and money just to make yourself look really professional for Zoom meetings. For me it wouldn’t be a negative thing at all, but I don’t think that’s an odd assumption to make.

          1. Nanani*

            It is a weird assumption, but one that gets made about women for all sorts of reasons in contexts even more banal than this.

      1. EPLawyer*

        yep. This is a HER problem, not a YOU problem. You don’t have to tiptoe about her insecurity or change your set up for her. You are doing nothing wrong, out of line, inappropriate by having a nice set up. Enjoy it.

      2. Formerly Ella Vader*

        No, I think she’s insecure about her job, so she’d like the OP to be seen as frivolous and not valuable to the company’s mission.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          I think thats a biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig stretch. I think it’s her insecurity about something else entirely – her setup, her look, what her partner does for a living, what he didn’t do to help her get set up. We could speculate all day but I don’t think it indicates anything about her thinking the employee isn’t valuable.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Yes of course it’s about her, but it doesn’t make it any less obnoxious to the OP when they mention it EVERY SINGLE TIME. Like Alison said, as long as this person isn’t OP’s superior, they need to tell them to knock it off.

    4. aebhel*

      This. When we were doing regular Zoom meetings at my job, one of my coworkers would always have some sort of whimsical digital background and we’d comment on that, but as like… a fun thing. Your coworker is the one making it extremely weird, and if she’s that insecure about it then it’s on her to try to improve her own presentation, not to tear you down.

    5. ThatGirl*

      I mean, I kinda hate how I look on my mediocre laptop’s webcam, at least in part because the lighting in my work area seems to be Not That Flattering. But I would just be quietly, mildly envious of a coworker’s great light, I wouldn’t harass them about it!

      1. Artemesia*

        We do a lot of social zooming and I was appalled at how I looked. I found very little fiddling with lighting made all the difference — now I look as beautiful as I will ever look again with great bone structure. And all because I realized one of the lights I was using somehow picked up every wrinkle and sag in my face and illuminated it; turned that light off and now so much better. If you zoom a lot, it is worth fiddling with lights — maybe bring in another lamp and turn off the one that makes you look bad. Low effort way to improve things. There is also an ‘improve appearance’ feature in the zoom settings which slightly softens the face, which those wh0 remember the 1952 GOP convention fight between Taft and Eisenhower find useful.

        1. alienor*

          I found out quickly that the light on my balcony was the absolute worst when it came to showing off every wrinkle and freckle and crease. Now I sit facing my bedroom window for calls and it’s SUCH an improvement. Who knew!

          1. Chinook*

            Light coming from above and behind the camera seems to be the best. When I realized I would be teaching online, I set up my computer in front of the south facing window, put sheers up to mute the sun some and something to block behind the computer to keep the heat off it. I have had comments that I glow on camera (I also “glisten” when the sun hits directly, but that will change in a month as winter sets in).

            I agree with everybody saying it is the other person’s problem, not the OP’s. She is lucky enough to have someone who knows about lighting and makeup for cameras and using it. It may have even inspired others to tweak their setups. Her coworker just happens to be shining a light on her own personality. I polite, “you say that everyday” or the like is all the emotional energy she deserves.

    6. Ray Gillette*

      Yep. A couple of people at my company have nicer setups than the rest of us for video. One moonlights as a photographer, the other streams video games as a hobby. Occasionally someone will comment to say “hey, that’s cool,” but that’s it – an occasional, mild compliment, then we all get back to work.

      1. juliebulie*

        Exactly – OP’s setup sounds really cool. If I said anything about it at all, it would definitely be a friendly compliment.

        1. schnauzerfan*

          I’d be inclined to provide a list of the equipment and it’s specs next time you get comments… oh this? The lights are blah and you can pick them up online at blah. Go into boring levels of detail. Pretend you think she really cares about the specs… The webcam is a little tougher to get hold of right now (pandemic you know) but my guy says he can hook you up with someone who knows someone… If the comments persist offer to send her contact info to a salesman, or mailing list… Maybe have a gearhead friend start forwarding all the info about lights or webcams or…

          1. Chinook*

            This isn’t a bad idea to give the whole team so they can tweak their setup if they are jealous. As for the rude coworker, it should shut her down (though there may be a few dyeing gasps of “it must be nice to have such nice stuff lying around” to be suffered through.)

          2. Alyav*

            I was coming here to say this. Like responding positively saying “thank you so much! my husband worked really hard to make it look nice. I can send you a list of the equipment since you seem to be so interested!” and then it’s on her if she wants to set it up. And then if she continues to bring it up, shut her down with the before-mentioned tactics of, “thanks you’ve mentioned that before; moving on.”

    7. Tarso Infirma*

      I am out of the loop obviously, but where is the noun. She and her husband are “a creative”…..what?

      1. Birdie*

        Creative is a noun in this context! It usually refers to some kind of creative professional (photographers, video directors/editors, graphic designers, etc.)

        1. Angela*

          As a creative surrounded by different kinds of creatives, I’m not sure where OP’s stereotype comes from- a good chunk of creatives are free-spirited and not always the most put-together and organized. I wouldn’t expect everyone to look perfect visually on a web call.

    8. SometimesALurker*

      I am not defending the coworker At All — her comments are weird and obnoxious — but I wonder if Coworker thinks that the setup somehow needs to be re-assembled every day, and thinks what she’s commenting on is the amount of effort LW1 is putting in before each meeting? That doesn’t make it much better as a thing to repeatedly commenting on — if that’s the case, the subtext is probably calling LW1 vain — but it at least makes it a little more coherent.

      1. Paulina*

        A reply could then include something like “yes, I’m fortunate to have the space so I just leave it up and it’s the same every time.” Acknowledges that it’s not something everyone can have, diverts away from the “you care too much about your appearance” implication from the coworker, but also pushes back against the repetition of the coworker’s comments.

    9. 9to4ever*

      Or maybe she’s just excited to have something conversation worthy? These zoom meetings are so monotonous and I’d probably perk up just to see something new. Just in case it’s innocuous…some people speak their every observation without meaning anything by it…

    10. Butterfly Counter*


      I feel like my answer to her “look at you with your background, your lighting, your perfect hair, your makeup!” would be a slightly confused, slightly agressive, “Yeah, I did it all on purpose.” Let the coworker know she’s PROUD of the set up and snark won’t change it.

  2. Claribel*

    OP#4 as somebody who held on to a temp job because they were happy, you shouldn’t let it keep you from looking unless it is 12 months or longer. Especially for a maternity leave, apply, apply, apply. You’re boss is likely one of those nice people, who will honor what they said they would give you regardless of the amount of work, but would be more than happy to see you leave early for a full-time job.

    1. OP4*

      Thanks for your comment! I haven’t stopped applying for jobs and (now that it’s been pointed out to me) I’m realizing that I have probably been trying too hard to be discreet when doing interviews. It just occurred to me that my boss could have been asking about my job search as a way of acknowledging that it’s no big secret.

        1. Anne of Green Gables*

          Yeah, I’ve never worked with temp workers per say, but I can imagine that if I have a staff person who is a good worker, I’m going to be interested in their search and what I can do to help, same as I am for my work study students when they graduate or my paraprofessional staff after they finish their master’s degree and plan to move on. I think it’s likely it was interest in you and your next steps, not a push out the door.

      1. SansaStark*

        We hire temp workers very regularly for short assignments and we’re very vocal about the fact that we know they might be interviewing. There are some people who do temp work as their job of choice but we assume that most people are looking for something more permanent. For the workers that stay with us for a little while, we’re actively encouraging, offering to be references, and saying things like “good luck” when we know they’re leaving for an interview. If they’re nice people, they’re rooting for you to find something more permanent that you’re excited about.

      2. Artemesia*

        I also would not ask if they want you to leave early; this gives them entree to let you go early which means no income. Sure you are applying for jobs after this gig, but don’t make it easy for them to shorten their commitment.

      3. TootsNYC*

        she may also be mildly worried about you, and is hoping that you’re getting some traction on the search. Hearing a “yes” might make her feel less low-level “guilty” about not having a job for you.

        But I confess I am totally projecting here. That’s exactly how I would feel. I committed to your term of employment, and I’m not going to go back on it (and your boss has specifically addressed this, so you can relax about that).
        But I’d also have small concern on your behalf, the way I have about ANYone I have the tiniest positive regard for, when they’re facing a job hunt–and a COVID-era job hunt would amp up my second-hand anxiety quite a bit.
        I’m trying to train myself to simply state my good wishes as a statement, instead of masking them as a question (i.e., say “I hope you’re getting some interviews for after your contract ends; I want things to go well for you” instead of “Are you getting interviews?”). But lots of people do start conversations with a question.

        But that would be my motive. A conversational opener to let me say, “Good luck,” and to reiterate, “Have the call me if you need a reference,” or even (in my own field) to see if I know anyone at that company so I can put in a good word “behind your back.”

        And yes, regardless of what she said, I’m sure they’d be fine with you ending the assignment early since the person you were subbing for is back already.

  3. voyager1*

    LW3: Another option is that your work followed you thinking that they would follow you back. Again not nefarious but maybe a little lame.

    1. voyager1*

      Ack that should say they followed you thinking you would follow them back. Insomnia brain is not working tonight!

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        And my insomnia brain read exactly what you meant to write and wondered how you’d managed to correct it after noticing the mistake!

    2. Gav*

      It’s possible that the OP follows her employers account. Then it would make perfect sense for her employers account to follow her back.

      But really, I think OPA #3 is way overthinking this, and seems a bit out of touch with how Twitter works. Most organizational accounts follow thousands of other accounts, and are definitely not monitoring any of them.

      1. BethDH*

        Yeah, especially since OP mentioned connecting with colleagues in the field. In my field (not anything marketing or PR) it would be a little bit of an insult if my org didn’t follow me.
        It can be harder when you’re being both personal and professional in the same account though.

      2. Uranus Wars*

        I agree with this and the original poster in this thread. They are probably hoping for a follow back so you’ll share relevant information or articles, etc. My org follows me on twitter and on IG and I have never gotten the impression they are following me. And, honestly, our social person is so busy trying to juggle it all with other things like scheduling videos and the like we also feature on social I don’t think she has time to monitor anything beyond the comments/replies on the companies own posts.

    3. clogerati*

      I run my company’s social media and we follow a lot of our employees. We’re in a creative field so it’s fun to see what our staff is doing in their off time, even though they know it’s me liking posts it’s still fun to have the company supporting their creative endeavors. I did have the company accounts unfollow my socials though because my boss got on the account one night and liked a post I made in memorium of my grandmother and I was like “oh I don’t like this.” I honor any requests employees might have to *not* be followed by the account (we’re a smallish company though and I make myself very available), but in general if someone is using their socials for work and promoting their work it’s appreciated if the company supports them.

  4. voyager1*

    LW1: I think it is cool what your husband did, but if everyone else is getting by with whatever they have… your setup comes off a bit as a showoff. I do agree that the coworker should knock it off though.

    1. Rainy*

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having whatever Zoom setup you like. I have colleagues who use digital backgrounds and colleagues who don’t. Colleagues who’ve chosen a window or who’ve chosen a neutral corner. Colleagues who are lucky enough to have a home office, and (most of us) who don’t.

      That jealous colleague could have married her own film creative; if she had, she might have a sweet setup of her very own right now.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        who’ve chosen a window or who’ve chosen a neutral corner

        My experience with most of my colleagues in this quarantine has been that they haven’t “chosen” the specific location, as such, but that that was the one place they could fit the WFH equipment onto a dining table, the corner of the bedroom, etc.

        I am extremely lucky to have my own ‘office’ space (spare bedroom) and have definitely had a few of the “look at you with your dedicated home office!” comments.

    2. Madame X*

      If someone thinks the LW is a show off for having some good lighting, that says more about them then the her.

      1. voyager1*

        “ created a Zoom set-up for me with a podcast microphone, professional camera, lens, set background, and lighting. It is a modest set-up by filming standards but definitely a cry better than your typical look just using your computer camera and microphone alone.”

        Sounds like more then just lighting. I read it to mean a small studio.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          You can set that up anywhere you have a desk. It’s not a studio, it’s just nicer equipment (and much of it won’t be visible to others, like the lighting and camera). Her manager and other coworkers think it’s great. She’s in a creative field. (Also, if it were a small studio, that would be fine too. Who cares, other than this one strange coworker?)

        2. Rainy*

          I asked my very own film creative how much this setup would cost new, and he said about $650, but about half that if the camera is more recent (3-4 years old) and prosumer rather than straight up professional. And they probably had the bulk of a setup like that kicking around anyway, so it may have cost $12 for the backdrop fabric and maybe $50 for more lighting.

          1. Sakuko*

            My husband only does videos as a hobby and we have most of those things at home. He actually offered to set me up something similar, but my team doesn’t bother with video 95% of the time, so it would just take up space.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            It’s probably all just stuff he had lying around though. If you’re into that sort of thing, you tend to be getting the next best ever camera all the time. Like I always used to have the most recent edition of dictionaries back in paper days.

          3. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

            At a lower level than the OP but a big jump up from many setup are the following:

            External mic USB is fine: $50 to $150
            Quality external webcam – should be $120
            Possible a ring light or other light in front $50-70 if you don’t already have one.

            I’ve done all this. Working from home is the new normal, and this is like getting a new outfit for important meetings.

            1. Granger*

              AND you’re so right – at this point this isn’t really temporary and it’s probably worth an investment in some basic equipment. Thanks for sparking the perspective shift!

        3. Bippity*

          Agreed. Professional hair and makeup plus professional film studio setup is WAY too much for a Zoom call. Most of us are struggling to cope with lockdown and honestly look like hammered dog poop with these endless Zoom calls. Someone doing the full glamour routine for regular day to day Zoom is excessive. It’s the equivalent of turning up to your office’s regular Monday morning meeting with a full-on glamour look like you’re about to do a modelling shoot. Sure you can do it, but it’s out of the norm for most jobs.

          1. Mystery Bookworm*

            There’s nothing in the letter that says she’s getting her hair and makeup professionally done.

            Most people’s hair and makeup will look better with a good lighting setup (probably why the colleague is mentioning it) even if modestly done.

            1. Alex (UK)*

              Also, she might be putting more effort into her appearance because her set-up means flaws are much more noticeable. In my poorly lit apartment with an old webcam, smaller imperfections such as skin blemishes and roughly tied back hair are essentially washed out by the poor video quality. If I had a lighting rig & superduper camera, I’d need to put a lot more effort into appearing somewhat put-together because the semi-pro set up is likely to show in much more detail how pallid my skintone is currently, or that my hair really needs brushing.

              1. Mystery Bookworm*

                Ooh, I hadn’t thought of that, that is a good point.

                I also know some people who have been experimenting a bit more with hair and make-up since they’ve got more time in the mornings.

                1. Kat in VA*

                  This. I’ve finally learned that blush is nothing to fear, purple eyeliner is pretty cool, and while that blue mascara doesn’t read as “blue” on camera, it makes my bluish-gray eyes pop. Sans makeup, I’m pretty washed out on camera and I don’t like how that looks, so I play with makeup. I also wear makeup because it makes me feel a little more put together and focused on work, rather than lost in space like I’ve been since the middle of March. (I refuse to wear a a bra or real pants though. Stretchy camis, yoga pants, and fuzzy cardigans 4EVA.)

                  I’ve also been wearing my hair down for all Zoom calls (hint: ALL of our Zoom calls are on video). I never, ever wear it down in the office. It’s always in a twist, bun, ponytail, or messybun. But I like how it looks down in the context of a video call, so I wear it down.

                  I also have a ring light that I bought for forty bucks off Amazon. People have commented how it’s “nice” that I wear makeup and my hair is down for Zoom calls, but not in a snarky way. And even if they were snarky, I do those things because I want to do them, not because I’m making some underhanded sly commentary about people who can’t be fussed with brushing their hair or putting on makeup.

                  You do you, y’all.

                  The point of all that backstory: It’s not like LW1 is doing these thing at the snarky coworker. LW1 is doing them because she has the tools and the desire to do so, and Snarky Coworker making snarky comments about Ohhh your nice SETUP are unnecessary.

                  People need to stop making other people’s decisions be all about themselves when that clearly isn’t the case. It’s not some kind of competition to see who looks best on Zoom. Would Snarky Coworker get pissy if LW1 consistently wore clothes just a step higher than office norms (think business casual instead of casual casual)? Or if Snarky Coworker never wore makeup and LW1 always wore a full face? Or jewelry? Or heels?


              2. Amy*

                I have semi-professional lighting for my Zooms. A major benefit is that good lighting really makes you look great, the same way bad lighting can make you look terrible.

                She may not be doing anything special at all with makeup – she’s just well lit. I just saw an interview with with the singer / model Carla Bruni where she said she’d always choose good lighting over makeup.

                1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

                  Lighting and an external mic are the first steps.

                  Then an external webcam or other camera.

                2. RecentAAMfan*

                  Interesting. And the other advantage of good lighting over makeup is that you don’t need to fuss with it every day. Just the initial setup

            2. LifeBeforeCorona*

              It’s not necessarily a full-on glamour routine. Good lighting can make anyone a star. I really don’t think LW is starting the day with full makeup and hair. Personally, I look much better when I just wash my face and put on some lipstick. Which is a rare thing these days.

              1. UKDancer*

                Likewise. I always put lipstick on, spritz perfume and do my eyes up a bit because I think I look better that way and that makes me feel better about myself. I know nobody but me will smell the perfume or note the lipstick but I think it’s good for my morale.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  And if you’re like me, the only time you wear lipstick is on Zoom now, because I’m sure not wearing it under a mask. I wonder how long before it goes rancid?

                2. Cercis*

                  I have a good amateur set up (lights, green screen and camera) because I am doing zoom training (used to be in-person) and if I sit down without eyeliner I notice how tired I look, so I go put that on really quickly. Even with all the lights, etc, just adding eyeliner (and sometimes lipstick) suddenly makes me look pulled together and “professional”.

                  (I’m lucky in that we had a 6″x 9″ alcove that wasn’t being used except for storage, so we moved the bins out of it and set up the green screen and lights.)

                3. Nerfmobile*

                  Lipstick can last for YEARS in a normal environment. No worries about it going rancid unless you’re using some organic-no-preservatives-made-from-crushed-berries-and-fresh-squeezed-olive-oil kind of thing.

            3. OP#1*

              OP #1 here. You are correct, I do not get my hair or makeup done professionally it’s just that good lighting makes people look better. I blow out my hair and just put on mascara. Nothing more than I would do for a normal work day.

            4. DarnTheMan*

              Also sometimes things just look different over webcam; a co-worker commented yesterday on my ‘blow-out’ and how nice it looked, when I had 3 days out from wash day, not brushed hair.

            5. Artemesia*

              And as I noted in an earlier comment, very small tweaks to lighting can make a huge difference. For me it was literally turning off one of the two lamps I was using for night zooms. I went from wrinkled old hag to attractive older woman with great bone structure in one flick of a switch. Lighting is hugely important in appearance on zoom.

            6. TootsNYC*

              she may wear makeup simply because it helps put her in “work mode.” All summer, I wore dresses (now, they were simple knit things, but they were “work” attire, and I didn’t wear shorts AT ALL). Now that it’s cooler, I’m wearing jeans more, but I probably will shift over to work clothes for fall.

            1. OP#1*

              This is correct, I do not get hair and makeup done professionally. That is super silly. It’s just me, a hair dryer and a bottle of mascara. I do not do anything that I haven’t done while I was at work. Having nice lighting makes people look their best and that goes for anyone.

              1. Yvette*

                Like others have said you are fine, just barely acknowlege her, nd be deliberately obtuse, treat it as a compliment, “Oh yes, it is nice when your husband does video for a living.”

                Just curious and you don’t have to answer but where are you from? I have never heard of it as a bottle of mascara, only a tube, and I am just wondering if it is a US regional thing, or something that happened translating something into English.

          2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

            “Professional hair and makeup plus professional film studio setup is WAY too much for a Zoom call.”
            Depends who the call is with. That said, I don’t see anything about “professional hair and makeup”

            “professional film studio setup ”
            It’s not that. Read what she wrote: “modest set-up by filming standards but definitely a cry better than your typical look just using your computer camera and microphone alone.”

            This is great. If we’re really going to be working from home so much, and facing external clients/funders, it wold be good if all of us could raise our game. Maybe not to the level of the OP, but with an external mic and dedicated lighting if not facing a window. Companies should perhaps even pay for those two items frankly. They can make a BIG difference.

            And the sound improvement from a dedicated mic is so valuable to the people listening to you.

            I’d urge everyone to check this out for some ideas

          3. Justme, the OG*

            Her hair and makeup routine (whatever it may be) is not for you to decide is too much for a Zoom call.

          4. BRR*

            There’s nothing that indicates it’s over the top. So I don’t think “we’re have trouble coping so you can’t be put together” justifies anything. A common work from home tip is basically be less casual. It helps a lot of people get in the work frame of mind.

          5. Joielle*

            She’s clearly not getting professional hair and makeup done, but even if she was – WHO CARES. If someone looks nice and it makes someone else insecure, that’s the second person’s issue to deal with. Nobody is looking nice AT you, and you can’t take your feelings about lockdown out on people who may be coping better. Hell, some people do hair and makeup as a creative distraction/coping strategy for themselves! Jesus, women just cannot win no matter what.

            1. pancakes*

              Yes. It’s a very bitter and irrational mindset and I’m always a bit surprised that people who have it aren’t more self-conscious about airing it.

            2. SheLooksFamiliar*

              I have never liked the way I look on camera, ever. Some people on recent WebEx or Zoom meetings look great – in part because the camera loves them, and probably in part because they have a set up like OP1 does.

              I usually think, ‘Wow, they look so good, I wonder how they do that…’ But after reading some of the comments on this topic, I can’t help but wonder if there’s something wrong with me.

              1. Artemesia*

                One of the downsides of zoom is that you are staring at your neck and jowls and all that time has done to them for the duration. I now wear scarves on zoom if it is too warm for a turtleneck. My neck is not half bad for someone my age, but on well lit camera, yikes.

                1. AKchic*

                  Play with camera angles. You might find one that works well for you. It doesn’t have to be a drastic angle, either.

                  -signed the lady that looks like a bullfrog from at least three bad angles (and all of them are very easy to achieve)

              2. HQetc*

                I don’t think there is anything wrong with you at all! I also hate the way I look on Zoom/WeBex and have a couple of colleagues who look much nicer/more put together, and I notice. But I think what people are trying to get at is that I may a) notice and b) think “dang how do they do that?” and even drift toward “woe is me why do I look so f’ing balh on this f’ing thing?!?” And hey, that is what it is.
                But I *don’t* think is “how dare my coworker look nice!! That brat put on makeup just to shame me!! She is such a vain frivolous …”
                That’s where the damage is done.

          6. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

            I don’t get the hate. So what if she’s looking like she’s showing up to a modelling shoot? I don’t normally wear makeup to the office when we were 100% in person. Some women and men in my office look like they walked straight out of a Brooks Brothers cover shoot in the office. If that’s what they like and what makes them feel confident, why do they need to ‘tone it down’ for those of us who just can’t or don’t want to look like that? For some offices it is not outside the norm to look like this.

            Just ignore your co-worker OP. They sound like they are just projecting insecurities on you. Be your best self and ignore the haters! :)

            1. J*

              I agree. I am a single 31 year old kindergarten teacher/“creative” type person. I have the time, skill and desire to style my hair and wear a full face of makeup on Zoom each morning. I took time over the summer to buy items to improve my Zoom setup. Yes, I am motivated to look my best so that I am confident working in these unfamiliar circumstances. I grew up performing and that desire is ingrained in me, but I completely recognize it as an “extra” and my own thing. Most of my colleagues are married with kids and I have no expectations that working parents in a pandemic are likely to have the time/energy to do these extra things, nor would I judge them for teaching from the kitchen table without makeup. Makeup and a great zoom setup make me happy, do whatever makes you happy (that doesn’t harm others), and let’s all just stop with the negative assumptions!

            2. Ginger Baker*

              So accurate re office life in particular. I am a very basic “wears the same basic uniform every day, maybe earrings but that’s it” kind of office person, and there were folks I worked with who were absolutely “super classy attorney attire” and “very creative Signature Look”, both with (very different) fantastic matching jewelry every time and on literally any day you could snap a casual pic and showcase it in Vogue. Extent it impacted our work: exactly zero, except for maybe I would take 5 seconds to admire a particularly amazing outfit.

          7. Rainy*

            Professional hair and makeup, just so you know, means “having a professional do your hair and makeup” and costs about $300 minimum per instance. Nobody’s doing that. Even TV personalities are doing their own makeup these days–there have been a ton of human interest articles about it.

          8. 9to4ever*

            Look, whatever is getting us through lockdown is FINE. For some of us, that might be not wearing makeup and for others, that might be getting decked to the nines. This isn’t easy and we all have different ways of coping. My company doesn’t even do video calls and every few weeks, I throw on fancy work clothes and wear makeup just because it makes me feel normal.

          9. Observer*

            Firstly, as Allison says, please don’t make stuff up. There is nothing in the letter to indicate that she’s doing anything special with her hair and makeup. And she’s explicitly NOT doing a “professional film studio” – she’s just using better equipment that makes it easier to do her job.

            There are also a lot of different ways to “look good”, and equating ALL of them with “ull-on glamour look like you’re about to do a modelling shoot.” make absolutely no sense.

            Lastly, you will be a lot happier if you stop criticizing people for trying to make the best of a situation. It’s one thing if her set up actually harmed you or took something away from you. But that’s not close to being the case.

            You’ll be happier. You’ll also be more effective and it will probably also improve your reputation at work.

          10. The Rules are Made Up*

            I’d agree that at certain jobs this would be seen ass very fussy and out of the norm. So someone would definitely need to assess their own workplace for how they’d respond to the this. I’m glad my office doesn’t even really require us to be on camera for zoom calls because half the time I can’t even force myself to get out of bed L O L . So more power to her.

        4. Kanon*

          I have a coworker that has done similar in a corner of their basement because they worked from home a lot pre-COVID and does a lot of videos. It’s not fancy or expensive.

        5. Richard Hershberger*

          The thing is, lots of people have good equipment. Even before Covid, internet video in one form or other was a pretty mainstream hobby and/or vehicle for social interaction, and the equipment is not all that expensive. My twelve-year old is about halfway there, just picking up equipment piecemeal. Her setup is much better than mine, but then again she uses it much more than I use mine. This was true before school went virtual. It would be ridiculous to move the good equipment out of the way for school and instead use something of lower quality.

          Most people have baseline Zoom equipment, and that typically is fine for how they use it. Some people have better stuff, and that is all to the good. Suppose you and I made an appointment for a bike ride, and your bike turned out to be better than mine. It would be ridiculous for me to get pissy about that.

          1. Uranus Wars*

            The bikes are a great comparison; and the concept applies to anything. One person wears a blazer everyday, one person wears a cardigan. One person wears $25 running shoes, one person wears $100 shoes.

            WTF cares as long as long as the work (or whatever) gets done?!

        6. Amy*

          I did most of this stuff for about $200 at my regular desk at home. I was previously spending that much in a few weeks of commuting costs so it was worth it to me.

        7. Dust Bunny*

          . . . so what? If you have the stuff available to do this, then why not? I could do a lot of this with hobby stuff and a very modest amount of artistic ability/lots of practice using craft materials.

          The coworker needs to knock it off. I don’t know if she’s envious or thinks she’s being complimentary, but anything repeated too much is a failure to read the room. Let it go.

        8. Observer*

          No studio needed. Yes, more cost for the equipment, but really fits well within the space of a decent desktop set up.

    3. Alina*

      I don’t think its show off-y. There are things you can do at home but don’t have to that are simpler than this – good lighting, bright colors, whatever. There’s a range of zoom presentations ranging from “my camera is on wherever I happen to be sitting” to “video job interview mode”, and honestly, I’m at different parts of that range depending on the day. But this is your office now, the entire way you connect with your teammates, no problem in putting more effort into it. People also dress up more for work or buy work clothes for the same reason. Plus, they’re a creative – I do agree that that gives them another reason to do it.

      Also, how sweet of her husband!

      1. OP#1*

        Thank you! I agree he is awesome and it was a loving gesture. The effort has been great for me to get out of my pajama mode for the last 6 months into more of a work mode.

        1. Phil*

          I was a cameraman and sound mixer and you would be amazed how easy it is to look good. A little lighting, attention to framing and a decent mic go a long way. Even a reflector, ie: some tin foil on a frame, can help. As one commenter said, just moving to a different spot with more flattering light can help a lot. And today there’s plenty on youtube to show you how.

    4. Rectilinear Propagation*

      But the lighting equipment probably isn’t even visible. The complaining coworker is just seeing good light. Unless the setup is somehow conspicuously expensive, this doesn’t seem showoff-y.

      Also, that they include LW’s hair in makeup in their complaint makes me think their issue is that she looks good at all, not that she’s done something that anyone else couldn’t do themselves.

      1. Rainy*

        I agree. You can get perfectly decent lights for this kind of thing on Amazon for $25 per unit, and watch a few YouTube videos to learn how to set them up correctly.

        I’ve been doing different makeup since I started working over Zoom. I watched some YouTube videos to get tips for how to do a good on-camera look. :)

        1. Batty Twerp*

          I think making a comment the first time is understandable (yes, even the condescending tone). Not nice, not excusable, but understandable. Once is an expression of surprise and letting envy slip past the normal brain filter. I’ve been on a lighter receiving end of this when my coworkers found out I actually had a dedicated desk and wasn’t “still struggling on the kitchen table” like them. (Envy only, no condescension).
          It’s all about her, not OP. Maybe she’s feeling frustrated that she looks like one of the rock trolls from Frozen under a 20W dimmer bulb. But that’s about her. And the *continued* comments need to stop. More than one initial exclamation is a bigger problem that OP needs to shut down using Alison’s scripts.

    5. BuildMeUp*

      I don’t know that I would call LW1 a show off. I do think I would be… startled, maybe? If I logged onto a Zoom call and one of my coworkers looked like they were filming a YouTube beauty tutorial. I’m not sure if that’s the kind of setup the LW has, with the ring light and everything.

      Either way, the coworker needs to let this go.

      1. Rainy*

        In a setup like this, the background (which could just be a drape, green or otherwise) and the mic are the only things visible. You won’t see the lighting, you’ll just see good light. You won’t see the camera, you might notice that the picture quality and angle are better than your average laptop.

        Remember that while YT beauty guru channels have a very distinct aesthetic, they’re using the same basic equipment as anyone else who regularly films and cares what the end product looks like. The “beauty tutorial look” you’re thinking of is just one of many possible arrangements of those elements.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          Exactly. Go on YouTube and watch Doctor Mike or Legal Eagle. Neither of them look like they’re under beauty lights but both have set up environments that make them look their best on camera.

          I picked these two because you can also go back to their older videos and see what a difference it makes! Same people, not quite as good lighting, very different look.

          1. BuildMeUp*

            Okay, I guess my comment was unclear! The style of lighting Doctor Mike, Kristina Braly, etc., use wouldn’t be super noticeable to me. I was specifically saying that if she *is* using beauty style lighting, that would be startling/odd to me.

            1. Rainy*

              Except we don’t know that that’s what’s happening. She has nice lighting. That doesn’t mean beauty YTer.

        2. BuildMeUp*

          I… am aware the lights wouldn’t be visible? I’m not talking about equipment showing on camera. Maybe my comment was unclear.

          I personally find the look of most beauty tutorials to be visibly different from other vloggers. Part of it is the general aesthetic, but the lighting looks very different to me. That’s why I mentioned a ring light, which I notice being used in beauty tutorials but not really in other vlogs.

          I think as a coworker, I would notice much more if the OP had beauty vlogger style lighting/setup rather than the kind of setup Doctor Mike or Kristina Braly has, where the focus is on lighting their whole setup clearly rather than showing tutorial details or highlighting makeup.

      2. OP#1*

        They had some warning in advance. They knew I was putting together a new setup. It was not a surprise exactly, but I think regardless seeing a new image was still jarring. I do not think there is much I can do there.

    6. Language Lover*

      It’s not like she’s Zooming in from her luxury beachfront house. (And even then, I’d just be jealous–not think she’s showing off).

      While it does help that her husband is a professional, the truth is that many of us could upgrade our Zoom appearance/experience should we do a little research and prioritize it. That can range from no or lowish cost things like making sure the computer’s camera is at the right height or picking out the room with the best acoustics/lighting in the house or adding light or using former commute time to take extra care with makeup and hair or think about what kind of tops look best on camera.

      Even adding a relatively low cost external mic can improve the sound quality.

      After having so many Zoom meetings where people are blurry or there’s weird ambient sound or they freeze, I’d appreciate a relatively professional looking setup from someone.

      It’s a weird thing for her coworker to fixate on and the next time she brings it up, I’d use Alison’s final script but maybe emphasize it with a “still” to show it’s getting kind of old.

      “Yep, this is still my Zoom set up and it will be for our next meeting as well.”

      1. many bells down*

        Yes, this. I look like a weird potato on zoom calls (and I’m somehow both ghastly pale AND floridly pink at the same time), so I’ve put extra effort into making my background and lighting as nice as possible. So at least that looks professional and tidy, even if I can’t stand my own face.

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          At the last zoom call I had, the person looked so washed out that I almost expected a zombie to lurch out of the background. By now most people have experienced zoom calls ranging from professional to shaky disaster cam level. The constant same remark is aggravating. I’m betting her co-workers are tired of hearing it as well.

          1. The Rural Juror*

            I use a lot of warmer-toned light bulbs in my house because it causes me less headaches. I don’t have to use video much for work, but I have used it for social Zoom calls. Well…on my older laptop everything looks YELLOW. So I look like Marge Simpson.

            1. LifeBeforeCorona*

              When I started video calling with my BF, I tried different levels of lighting. Full LED lights made me look hideous, the best light was an off to the side, warm lamp with a shade.

          2. Rainy*

            I have a client who zooms me from his phone. Lying on his desk. So I always have a great view of the inside of his nose.

            I have a coworker who for whatever reason never realizes until 3/4 of the way through a meeting that her camera is tilted such that all we can see is her bangs and about 2 1/2 inches of forehead. I have had whole conversations with a set of nodding bangs.

            1. DarnTheMan*

              Way late but one of my org’s directors like to jokingly comment on that sometimes; she calls it the meeting of the eyebrows (when all you can see of the person on camera is somewhere in the vicinity of their eyebrow/forehead region).

      2. Grey Coder*

        Agree, it’s the commenting every time which is weird, and drawing attention to that is fair.

        “Same setup as last time!”
        “Same setup as the last two times!”
        “Same setup I’ve had all month!”
        “Same setup I’ve had since June!”

      3. Mystery Bookworm*

        Yes. I strongly prefer this to one where you can’t make out the persons face cause of bad lighting, or there’s a lot happening in the background, or weird echoes and static.

      4. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, I think this is weird considering how many questions we’ve been getting lately about whether or not you need to dress up for Zoom interviews the way you do for in-person interviews. Like, do you want to look nice on Zoom or not? It’s pretty much like looking nice in person–it takes some effort.

          1. voyager1*

            Serious question AAM. Do you think the main point of this question from this LW is one of gender? That in short she is dealing with some sexism?

            1. Washi*

              I think that gender plays into it in that women are socialized to be very aware of how they look, and walking the very fine line between not trying hard enough and trying too hard. The coworker may feel like there’s sort of an unspoken agreement on how hard everyone is going to try for Zooms and the LW has broken it. (I realize the LW isn’t doing a lot on a daily basis but this is probably the coworker’s perspective.)

            2. EventPlannerGal*

              I think there is probably some level of gender bias at play, yes. As Alison says women are in a damned if you do damned if you don’t situation when it comes to appearance – some people hold women to impossibly high visual standards, others get into some kind of performative not-caring where dressing up is viewed as frivolous/excessive/overly feminine. I think this set-up is being viewed as an extension/enhancement of OP’s personal appearance, in a way that her colleague evidently finds excessive, even though a lot of it isn’t about how she looks at all and is rather about enhancing communication (eg the podcast mike).

              If a man had this set-up I don’t think his colleagues would jump to “oh SOMEONE’s trying to make himself look good”, which I think is the attitude this person has. I think if any comment was made it would probably be, like, “oh that’s a great mike”.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yep, and the hair and makeup comments, both here and from the coworker, when she’s not doing anything special with her hair and makeup, really illustrate that.

                1. voyager1*

                  Interesting. I felt it was more of a class/privilege issue. Not everyone has all this equipment and/or the money to get it. It will be interesting to see as this pandemic and WFH new normal goes on, if companies will expect employees to outfit their homes for work more at the employee’s expense. Will employees who do what the LW does be seen as more promotable or more committed to their job? Who knows but time will tell.

                  It is always interesting how two people can read the same thing and get different takes on it.

                  I don’t think you are wrong that sexism is at play though. It did ping on my radar too, just not as high as for you.

            3. Richard Hershberger*

              This is America. If you think that either racism or sexism might be in play, they are. If you don’t think they are, reconsider the question.

      5. aebhel*

        Yeah, I got a few comments just because I had a laptop with a good camera and my desk is in a room with a lot of good natural light. But nobody was like… offended about it.

      6. Kippy*

        I’m a paralegal and once it became apparent that Zoom Court would be a thing for the foreseeable future, the firm bought all the attorneys external mics and semi-pro cameras. And our regular PR contact (the wife of one of the partners – she runs her own firm) put together a video for us on how we can present our best selves on video calls. There’s a lot of tips like figuring out how to correctly position your camera and finding the best light in your house and choosing the right backdrop. Most of it doesn’t rely on any expensive equipment. Paralegals and secretaries don’t have to worry about court appearances but we were all still encouraged to watch the video and think about our own setup since this is now the way it is. I’ve used some of the tips when videochatting with friends and plan to use more next week when I lead my daughter’s first virtual Girl Scout troupe meeting of the year.

        1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          “we were all still encouraged to watch the video and think about our own setup since this is now the way it is”

          Yup. What is normal has changed, and if possible people should raise their game.

          1. Jojo*

            I think the coworker is being very rude but I kind of understand being annoyed if the implication is that we all have to start “raising our game”. Everything sucks right now but at least we’ve all kind of collectively agreed it’s ok to appear a little rough around the edges. If people start looking way better in video calls it’s rational to wonder if that makes you look unprofessional in comparison.

        2. Artemesia*

          Some of it is quite simple. A laptop on a coffee table will give you that dreaded up the neck and nose shot. My husband and I like to do our movie club from the couch so I have made a tower of heavy coffee table books so that the laptop camera is elevated to face level — it looks ridiculous in the room but makes the pictures along with careful lighting and the ‘improve appearance’ feature of zoom much better.

        3. learnedthehardway*

          Well, this has given me a lot to think about in terms of what I can do with my setup, at any rate. Personally, I hate doing video conferences and have avoided them like the plague for the past several years, while working from home. But if working from home is the new normal, I’ll probably have to get with the times and adapt. (Darn – I LIKE wearing yoga outfits while working!)

    7. Hare under the moon with silver spoon*

      The thing is though if you are a professional working in AV standard zoom camera/mic set ups come across as exceptionally poor (and irritating). I get that refers to OP’s partner rather than OP but honestly I understand why partner felt it was “necessary” and the mismatch with OP’s colleague who is not reading this in the same way because its not her bread and butter (therefore it must be “showing off”).

      1. Green great dragon*

        This makes so much sense! It’s like the beautifully phrased and grammatical tweets of my editor friends.

        The only thing here that I think I’d even notice would be the background, and for all I know someone might just not want everyone to see their house. I’m hardly going to complain I can see and hear someone clearly.

        1. KateM*

          Ha! Instead of putting away all these boxes and papers that are usually behind my back, I could just put a cloth up!! Now that’s an idea.

          1. Carrie*

            I ended up buying a folding screen that is easily moved. Now I don’t have to worry about how cluttered my room is. As I have to make videos for online teaching it definitely helps to have them focused on what I’m saying rather than what’s in the background.

            1. Mystery Bookworm*

              I was on Zoom call yesterday with a woman who had a folding screen up behind her. It had a lovely print of trees and water – I think she lives with her partner and mother (and children, I’m not sure) so the screen seems like a brilliant idea for helping minimize distractions during calls (and perhaps signal to family when she is/isn’t available).

            2. many bells down*

              This is what my grandboss does for our public events. He has a home office, but it’s cluttered (he says) and the lighting isn’t as good. So for public Zoom events he sits in front of a folding screen in his dining room and the light is great. It looks very clean and professional and zen.

              1. Artemesia*

                If only one person is on camera then the virtual background is so easy. (with two, one fades in and out like the cheshire cat, so it only works well for one person). You can load your own photos. I have several good shots of the ice on lake Michigan taken from the 16th floor that look like an abstract painting that I often use. But you could carefully arrange your own bookcase and take a snap of that.

                Or you could do a lot of house work to make your background neat and tidy — so hard to decide.

                1. KibethWalker*

                  I cleaned the part of my apartment in my background really well and took a picture of it and uploaded that as my zoom background so that I don’t have to keep it clean. It took me a couple tries to get the angle perfect, but I think it was worth it.

                  It honestly took a couple meetings before my team figured it out!! Now a lot of us do that.

          2. identifiable comment name*

            This would have avoided the unfortunate zoom meeting with a client where I appeared to have darts sticking out my head.

          3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            There was someone on the news yesterday who had behind him the kind of banner you normally take to trade fairs etc – the banner unfolds like a roller blind and then you fix it with a thin pole. He was speaking on behalf of a professional body or trade union or something so the banner had their logo all over it. Very professional, helpful if you tuned in part way through. Perfect.


            It wasn’t quite wide enough to fill the camera field, so to the left you could see some furniture, and to the right you could see his glass doors. And it was dark outside, so they were a perfect mirror…

            … for a totally normal living room, complete with abandoned children’s toys, magazines, odd socks and so on. It was wonderful to see. So very human.

            It’s been lovely when highly professional presenters have shared on Twitter their set up from a different angle. Maybe yoga pants out of shot when their top half is smart blouse and suit jacket. Maybe a sleeping cat. Maybe a child eating blueberries and dry Cheerios one at a time. Maybe a harried spouse corralling the dog.

            1. DarnTheMan*

              I run our CEO’s Twitter account and one of his most popular tweets from this year was a photo his wife snapped of him while he was presenting to the international governance board of our organization during a massive heatwave in our city. On camera he was very professionally dressed in a suit jacket and tie with our organization’s logo on the wall behind him. In the photo, his laptop was perched on a stack of books, he was wearing shorts and sandals on the bottom half and the organization logo was actually a piece of fabric (with the logo on it) pinned to his kitchen cupboards.

          4. learnedthehardway*

            You’re not the only one who was thinking that, lol. I suppose it would be better to actually organize my office, but the boxes have been here for so long, and I haven’t managed it yet….

    8. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      How exactly is it showing off? My husband has the same equipment because he does podcasts and could essentially do the same for me. Is OP supposed to sit in a dark room and make herself look at crappy as possible to make everyone else feel better about themselves? Ummm, no I don’t think so.

    9. Merci Dee*

      OP#1, when I read about the equipment your husband set up for you, I thought it was so sweet. It’s like he’s giving you a hug every time you use it, telling you, “You’ve got this!” :)

      1. OP#1*

        Ah, thank you. It was his way of contributing and it brought him so much joy to set it up for me. He beams with smiles.

    10. Sam.*

      I mean, I would probably internally roll my eyes if a non-creative coworker had that kind of set up (I’m told my former boss bought professional lights and microphone when they switched to remote, which DEFINITELY made me roll my eyes) but for someone who (or whose partner) works with/has access to this kind of equipment, I wouldn’t find it notable at all. But even if someone was doing it primarily out of pretentiousness, it still doesn’t need to be commented on. The coworker needs to knock it off.

      1. Le Sigh*

        Sincere question — why did you roll your eyes at your former boss? Why is it pretentious if non-creative types do this?

        I’ve been WFH since March; for the first few months, I made do with my dining room table and couch. Once it became clear that for me this would extend through end of year, possibly into next summer, I bought a desk and chair that coordinated with the rest of the room’s decor, and got my office to send me a monitor. This had two huge benefits for me: Practically, it makes a huge difference because I have one dedicated, comfortable work space with everything I need organized and ready to go. I have also put a lot of work into decorating my home, so spending a little extra money to set up a workspace that blends with the room — and doesn’t look like I just set up any old piece of furniture jammed into a corner — makes me happier in the long run. I don’t see that as pretentious just cause it isn’t necessary; I could afford it, so I chose to do something that made me a little happier in what has otherwise been a terrible year.

        If I ever become permanent work from home, I’ve toyed with some modest upgrades for Zoom calls; I’m a writer, not a visual creative, but I have to be on Zoom with clients a lot and I feel self-conscience about how I look and sound. If your former boss was also on video calls all day and spending a little extra to feel happier, organized, and professional makes a difference for them, who cares? I could see it as a logical investment.

  5. Rectilinear Propagation*

    #1 – It’d be too confrontational to say this but I’d want to respond with, “Is that a problem?”. Does she really not realize how petty this sounds?

    #2 – I have seen job application pages that explicitly say they don’t want them. I’ve also sent in an application at 1am and had the rejection by 6am when I’ve left the optional cover letter field blank. That might be a coincidence but I can’t help but notice that my more recent application with the same company did not get instantly rejected this time.

    So until I see compelling evidence otherwise, I agree with the LW: if the cover letter field exists, it’s not optional even if they say it is.

    #3 – I think everyone assumes people want followers. I’m guessing they want to be able to retweet it if & when one of their employees tweets something relevant to the company or the industry they’re in. But it does seem to just be the done thing now. One of my previous employers still follows me.

    #4 – It’s possible she’s starting back part time on the assumption you’ll be around. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

  6. scmill*

    LW2: IT is a different kind of place, and it sounds like he’s been been successful in it so far. Let your spouse manage his own job search unless he asks you for assistance.

    1. Mephron*

      At my last position in a support role, the manager stated outright that they did not even consider a canditate if they didn’t provide a cover letter. Some people feel that way.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        If you feel that way, you should put it in the posting, though. I really like cover letters, but the positions I supervise all involve writing and an ability to communicate clearly and concisely. The cover letter is a good preview of that, so I ask for one. My peer who manages a technology team is far more interested in the resume and what technologies and environments the candidate has substantial experience with and doesn’t include it in her postings.

        If you don’t ask for a cover letter and then disqualify people for not sending one, that’s not really fair. It’s punishing people for not following what is basically an outdated convention. My HR head requires I list any application requirements (resume, cover letter, writing sample, etc.) in the actual posted job description.

      2. andy*

        I work in IT and sending cover letter come accross as odd. Like, in my neck of woods, if you send one you are oddball not in tune with culture. It is not super big issue to be oddball, but it makes you look odd.

    2. Mockingjay*

      OP 2 might simply suggest, “hey, there might be an ATS or employer who requires a cover letter, so it’d be a good idea to have one on hand. You don’t need to submit it for every application.” Note she’s not volunteering to help him with it.

  7. Kb*

    #2 – it is really broad and it depends on the company. I’ve personally never hired anyone with a cover letter, only because I’ve never actually gotten an applicant who submitted one! I’m sure they would stand out but it’s *so* rare that it might not be in a good way.

    1. Grey Coder*

      Not sure what counts as IT, but I personally have hired a software engineer based in part on his cover letter. He was quite early in his career and his only post-university job was more IT admin than software development. His cover letter explained (in very polite terms) that this job had been bait-and-switch and that he was looking to do software development and why he wanted to work for us. I would have rejected him if I’d only seen his CV, but I put him through the next stage instead. We eventually hired him and he turned out great.

      I agree that cover letters are not standard, but as Alison says if you can write a compelling one which doesn’t just rehash the CV, it can help your application.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I had a similar experience. Got a resume for someone whose resume didn’t show the experience we wanted, but their cover letter addressed this and outlined the skills that mapped to our posting and training they’d attended quite recently that was relevant. Ended up being one of my best hires for a tough-to-fill position.

    2. Carlie*

      That’s so interesting, because in my field the cover letter is s important that I can’t imagine evaluating someone without it even for a first cut. But then, the job primarily requires huge amounts of communication and explanation, so how you can describe your work history and how it fits with the job is as much of a future success indicator as what you know. I never realized how field-dependent it was.

    3. Cascadia*

      Hmmm, I work in a school and we require cover letters for all positions. We have 8+ people on our IT team, I just went through the hiring process for one of them, and we definitely required a cover letter. While it may not be common in the field, it super depends on the company. If you were applying to be the only IT person at a company/organization that did completely non-tech related work, you would definitely want a cover letter I would think. Likely the people hiring you wouldn’t have a tech background.

    4. Ellie*

      I’ve hired for a number of software engineering positions, and I’d say about half contain a cover letter. It definitely puts them ahead of the pack, but it needs to be well written. Engineers with good communication skills are pretty much a guaranteed hire. I’d encourage him to have one – I certainly do.

  8. nnn*

    #3: Unless private Twitter accounts have changed since the last time I went private, people who follow you will still be able to see you if you make your account private. To stop them from seeing you, you’d have to soft block first.

    1. AMH*

      Only people you follow can see your tweets if you have a private account; assuming she doesn’t follow the company official account it would solve the issue (although I think a soft block might be better since that would allow her to continue to use Twitter the way she is currently).

      1. Llamas*

        That’s not true, anyone who followed you before you went private will still be able to see your content unless you block them or they stop following you. Who you’re following yourself is irrelevant.

  9. YA Author*

    A colleague informed me on a group video call that she’d zoomed in on my background, took a screen shot, and reverse image searched to discover where I’d purchased an item visible behind me. (It’s a simple thing I purchased especially to be a background for video calls—but she could have asked!)

    The most intriguing thing about remote work by far is seeing these little glimpses into others’ homes. In my house, we regularly have five video meetings happening at once! The risk of something I wouldn’t want caught on camera/audio being captured is very high. Fortunately, my background decor is not one of those things.

      1. many bells down*

        I don’t know about YA Author, but I just bought a wall “tapestry” off Amazon for $25. It covers the whole wall behind me in shot and it looks better than a plain white wall.
        I bought a print of the Wave Over Kanagawa but I’m thinking I might want to swap it for something darker and more symmetrical.

        1. Merci Dee*

          See, it’s funny that you should mention wanting to swap for something darker and more symmetrical. When you mentioned buying a “tapestry” from Amazon, the first thing that popped into my mind was a gorgeous blue-based quilt that my sister pieced and sewed for my daughter. It’s got some muted, darker shades of blue, with a bit of pink/mauve and lavender/purple worked in. And with it being a quilt, you can’t get much more symmetrical than that. I’m suddenly thinking that would be a great backdrop if I have to dive into the world of video calls (I’ve managed to avoid it so far, thank goodness).

          And, on the plus side, if anyone on a video call were to ask where I found the quilt, I could tell them it’s a one-of-a-kind piece sewn by my sister — may be able to drum up some quilt orders for her! :)

      2. OP#1*

        I do not feel too comfortable sharing my setup since I wanted to focus on my coworker relationship. I hope that is ok. I needed that advice. There are many tutorials on Youtube to help you get started. I would focus on audio and lighting first.

      3. YA Author*

        I have white bookshelves and bought a pretty curtain that looks like white bookshelves and covers an open closet. Everyone thought it was real shelves! They’ll custom print any size you need (mine covers a whole wall).

        eBay item: 253909360698

  10. Ambarish*

    #2 I’m in a field related to IT, and cover letters would make you stand out. In a weird is-this-person-out-of-touch way. Please respect your husband’s knowledge of his field, and back off.

    1. t*

      I’m in IT and a good cover letter would not come off as weird. Especially for a candidate relocating, have some context for that can make me more interested in interviewing them.

    2. Kalya*

      Are you in the US? I’m in IT and while cover letters aren’t as common for us they definitely don’t make anyone look out of touch. I know they’re not as common outside the US though so if you’re writing from a non-US perspective this is a time when you need to note that.

      1. fhgwhgads*

        Yeah. I’m in IT and I’ve included a cover letter for every job I’ve applied for. Then again, all the postings specifically said “send resume and cover letter to…” in the application instructions. I’m not saying they’re never considered unimportant but this definitely varies.

    3. Sales Geek*

      Over thirty years in IT here. A decent cover letter is a chance to show communication skill; something that is invaluable to any technical career. A lot of IT is explaining or documenting your work to a non-technical audience.
      If you want to progress out of the purely technical jobs this is a “must have.”

      1. andy*

        > A decent cover letter is a chance to show communication skill; something that is invaluable to any technical career. A lot of IT is explaining or documenting your work to a non-technical audience.

        On the other hand, there is balancing act. You dont want to be the one they hired on communication skill with hope that you will do all the explaining and documenting to non-technical audience instead of technical work.

        Because that is what will make you framed as less technical and later as non-technical. Which means you wont get those interesting challenging tasks that are rewarded and everyone wants. This is particular risk if you are a woman that wants actually technical work instead of becoming the bin for less valued non-technical work no one on the team wants to do.

  11. Chirp*

    #3 Thanks for answering my question. I think soft block may be my answer. I do not think they have the time or energy to be monitoring everyone’s Twitter activity, even if they did have the inclination (which I don’t think they do). They did “like” one of my Tweets recently, and I just found it surprisingly disconcerting.

    It made me realize that I usually would not follow or generally want to be followed by any of my coworkers, unless we had discussed it (and this does happen – I have a few coworkers I enjoy chatting and working with on Twitter and Facebook). Twitter is actually my only social media account using my real name – I just prefer my social media to be a tad private or at least distanced from my workplace (even if that is an illusion).

    Anyway, thank you. I hadn’t considered a “soft block” and that is probably a good path to take.

    1. infopubs*

      I had never heard of a soft block before, but it makes total sense. If they notice at all (unlikely,) it will just look like a glitch. If they try to follow you again, you’ll see it in your notifications and you can decide then if you want to go full-bore permanent block. Filing that away in my tool kit, too.

    2. Saby*

      As the person who runs my organization’s twitter account, I think the soft block would work fine! tbh I wouldn’t mind if someone told me they use their twitter for their personal lives so they don’t want the org to follow them so that might be an option if you know who runs it.

      I do follow employees on the org account, but most of them use their twitter for professional/networking stuff anyway. Still, we follow a lot of people for political reasons/DM-ability so I never actually look at our twitter feed. Instead I have lists and other columns in Tweetdeck that I actually look at for news or stuff to retweet from the org account.

    3. pancakes*

      I think the soft block is a good strategy in this scenario and it sounds like it may work for you, since they don’t seem to be monitoring so much as trying to connect / seem friendly.

    4. Allison*

      As an active Twitter user (and someone who is more selective about who follows me on other private social media pages), it seems so unusual to me that you would use your real name on a public profile but not want people you know to follow you. Why not keep it private or use an alias?

  12. Dan*


    “IT” is a broad field. AAM hints at it, and I’ll elaborate on this point a bit: If one can write a *good* cover letter, one should do, because a good cover letter is an asset. However, if one can only write a perfunctory cover letter, then one is wasting everybody’s time. I work in a nice field that has a heavy domain focus. Most people come into this work with no domain background, whereas as I spent some time “in the field” back in the day. That field experience is *hugely* relevant to my job, but is extremely hard to convey on a purely technical resume. So within my niche, I write that cover letter and talk up that background. I even get compliments from time to time about that. Outside that niche? I’m just a computer programmer/data analyst like anybody else, and I really don’t have any non-resume stuff that sets me apart from the masses. In those cases, the cover letter is perfunctory, and I just skip it. So, “it depends.”

    Your husband is an adult, yes? With a demonstrated track record of success in his field? Then you really, really need to lay off. This is his deal.

    1. Violet Fox*

      It’s also really hard to convey things like soft skills in a purely technical CV, and having a cover letter showing that you can communicate clearly without talking down to people can go a very long way, especially beyond entry level/first line jobs.

      I’m going to reiterate that IT is really really broad. There’s an increasing amount of specialization these days because so many places needs so much depth that it is hard to have both the depth and breadth at the same time, while being a functioning person with a life outside of work. Technical interviews are there to look at skill, and a cover letter is to tell people who you are, which also matters more in some jobs than others.

      The issue with the cover letter thing is that it depends. It depends on the company, it depends on the specialization, it depends on the job expectations. My coworker ended up with a job offer this spring (height of our national lock down), where they wanted to interview him largely based off of how well written his CV and cover letter were. He did decline the job, but he also wasn’t looking that seriously at moving.

      The other thing with a lot of IT jobs, is that recruiters are also a thing, and finding a good recruiter who knows the area #2 is moving to is likely to be incredibly valuable.

      1. InsufficientlySubordinate*

        My last 5 of 6 jobs were through a recruiter and 4 of those were the same recruiter firm. Database (SQL analyst). I don’t think anyone even bothers to talk to my managers/references from the various places (or at least they haven’t mentioned it). Definitely no cover letter. Now, I was applying to places on my own as well with a cover letter but the salary was usually outside my range (why won’t they just say?!) and were a waste of time.

  13. LetterX*

    LW2: I’ve done over 300 interviews, and looked at a lot more resumes, for a major tech company, and I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a cover letter? Possibly they’re all filtered out by the time resumes get to me. In any case, people making the hiring decisions don’t see them.

    On the other hand, writing a strong, achievement-focused resume like Alison suggests elsewhere is incredibly important. In Tech, I expect any good resume I see to show what was actually accomplished at each role the person held.

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I haven’t been involved in nearly as many interviews, and my company is a lot smaller, but I’ve never seen any cover letters either. I know when we get referrals (from a current employee, a recruiter, or a school) we don’t get a cover letter. I don’t know if anyone applying directly on our website includes them or not. They’ve never been on the forwarded emails from HR, at any rate.

      If I saw a good cover letter (like Alison has described elsewhere), I’d consider it a plus. A cover letter that re-hashes the resume would most likely be neutral, but could be viewed as out of touch with IT norms. Like LetterX says, a strong, well writen resume is usually going to be the more important factor.

    2. J.B.*

      I had two recruiters from IT companies tell me they never read cover letters and that something I’d been putting in my cover letters should go in my resume as an objective. Also that there were commonly 1000 applicants for each of the positions. So yeah. C

  14. Zillah*

    LW2: If you’re writing good cover letters for each application, you’re going to put out a lot fewer applications than if you’re sending in resumes, and I personally find it much more stressful. In a lot of fields, that’s unavoidable, but if that’s not the case in his field, I don’t think that it’s as much of a “can’t hurt” as you think it is.

  15. Ffinlo*

    #2 Hi, IT director here. In my organisation, and as far as I know in other similar organisations (education, public-sector) cover letters that match skills and experience to job criteria do matter. A recruiting panel may have a mixture of managers and IT specialists. If they are operating well they will focus on an applicant’s match to the job based on the aplkication. A cover letter effectively does that job for them, which is very helpful if a panel has 50+ applications to work through in order to decide who to shortlist for interview. In my experience it’s only freelance contractors who don’t need to submit letters (often because an agency will make the case on their behalf, also the mutual committment is less).

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      You’ve addressed what I was wondering about. At a lot of orgs, hiring has had some input from a mix of departments (especially as the roles become more senior) and so a cover letter might make the application more accessible. At least, it makes it easier for the IT team to put forth a case.

      But it also seems like a lot of people have commented that it doesn’t matter, so this seems to vary more than I’d realise (and how annoying for IT applicants to not know if a cover letter is worth the effort, will make them look committed or will make them look ‘out of touch’ as someone above said).

      1. Contracts Killer*

        I agree with all of this. I think if an applicant can figure out who the hiring person may be, that can help determine if a cover letter would be beneficial. If the position is supervised by the IT Director, probably not necessary. If supervised by the CEO, include one. In our office, our current IT members were each previously in customer-facing roles. It made a big impact in those soft skills like being patient with staff, clearly explaining things, and writing procedure manuals that are easy to understand. If I had to hire for IT, I would find a cover letter very valuable for an initial impression of their communication ability.

      2. EgyptMarge*

        Came down here to say this. I’m also in IT and depending on the size of the org, the application might go through HR or a hiring manager/committee first. They might be expecting a cover letter or even be working from some kind of checklist for “completed” applications, so the lack of a cover letter might be a detriment.

        That said, I also agree with the folks above saying you’ve got to let your husband manage his own career.

    2. Cascadia*

      Yes to this! I also work in a school, and used to be on the tech team, and have done some hiring for them. Our school requires cover letters for all positions, IT is no exception. We also have a rule that the hiring committee is made up of people in the department and outside of it, so there will always be at least one, if not two, non-tech people on the team. Add on to that that all of our tech jobs require good communication skills, even if it’s not working the help desk, because each person is specialized in their area and has to be able to work with teachers, staff, students, and families, as well as your co-workers. I think this really is a “know your audience” sort of situation, but if you were applying for a job at a company that is not an IT company, a cover letter may be very important.

    3. DashDash*

      Also in IT, and this matches my experience as an applicant — I’ve never applied to a position without including a cover letter (except maybe one or two through a recruiter). It shows the hiring manager(s) you can communicate clearly, rather than them wondering or progressing a long way only to find out a writing sample was awful. I’ve also seen a few searches run by a strictly non-technical person, partially *because* they’re looking for someone who can work and communicate with non-technical people. It definitely has advantages, depending on where you’re looking to be.

  16. Colette*

    LW#1 has inspired me to finally get some better equipment – my laptop-propped-up-on-a-hatbox setup is just not doing it. I make an effort to appear professional and put-together at the office (where I won’t physically be again for the best part of a year) and if slightly different efforts are needed to achieve the same at home, I’ll make them. Same goal, adapted methods.

    Also, ummm, what’s “a creative”?

    1. Ludo*

      I found this definition below which is pretty much how I think of it

      -A simple term which means the same as, but avoids having to say, “artists, photographers, sculptors, painters, designers, architects, crafts makers…” etc.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I had in my head they’re maybe in the marketing department and work as a graphic designer or the like. I have a friend who does that job and she’s always labeled the “creative” one.

    2. Colette*

      Hey new Colette, would you mind picking a different name? It’s confusing to have 2 of us commenting once same thread. Thanks.

        1. Myrin*

          I mean, there’s been a regular commenter “Colette” here for at least six years so it can indeed become confusing when both comment in the same thread under the same name (in fact, I thought this thread’s top-level comment was from regular Colette and did indeed note that it didn’t read like her usual style). Doesn’t mean anyone “owns” anything or that a second or third Colette are forbidden from using that same name but there’s definitely potential for confusion.

        2. lawerj*

          Nah, some people are just possessive about their usernames. I’ve been reading for years as well, and bare remember names unless they are posting some truly odd things. I say don’t worry about it.

          1. Helena1*

            It depends on how memorable the username is, and how often Mk1 posts.

            A second Princess Consuela or Becky Lynch would look like you were deliberately impersonating them.

            There could be 50 different people called Sarah or James and I wouldn’t know they were all different.

            I did add a number to my username once I realised there was somebody else with the same name, just so nobody thought “hang on you weren’t a retired llama-groomer last week, you said you were a teapot manager!” But I don’t think my predecessor still posts here, and I don’t think either of us ever posted often enough for people to remember the details of our posts.

            (It is very disconcerting to look back over a thread and see comments under “your” username that you don’t remember making though)

        3. NewColette!*

          I’m not new. I’ve been commenting occasionally for years – although I’m not the author of the snarky “does someone own the name Colette” reply immediately below yours, which was a seriously jerk move by someone. I hadn’t noticed your previous comment in this thread, nor had I taken much notice of you before. I agree with other commenters that no one can expect to own common names like Sarah or James; I’m aware that Colette is a little less common as it is actually one of my given names, but I’ll choose a different nym for future posts – if I remember.

    3. ThatGirl*

      Ludo fairly well covered it, could also mean people who work in the Creative department of a company and can also include writers, decorators, test kitchen staff, etc.

  17. Samsa*

    LW2: I’m a programmer, and every job I’ve applied for has requested a cover letter. Being able to communicate clearly is important and there’s more to one’s skills than a list of software/languages. That said, if he doesn’t want to write one, that’s his prerogative.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Yeah, in spite of the comments above, I’ve never applied for a job without a cover letter, cover letters are requested, and I’ve been involved in interviewing in my current job, and it was odd when an applicant didn’t have a cover letter.

      Maybe there’s a difference when working for a business that produces software to sell, vs a business that uses in-house software as part of their business. I’ve almost always worked at the second, and cover letters for IT are just like for anyone else applying for a job at those businesses.

      And yes, the ability to write and communicate is very important for geeks, in spite of the stereotypes.

  18. Elle by the sea*

    Yes, cover letters are slowly but surely losing their importance in IT, at least in my experience. Many hiring managers don’t read them and some even get irritated by candidates who submit one without having been asked to do so. Among the jobs I have applied to, I could count the ones on one of my hands that explicitly asked or provided space for a cover letter.

    Also, it varies by country. Cover letters seem to carry more weight in the US than in Ireland and the UK. My general advice is that if you are in IT, only submit a cover letter if you have to or if it is at least given as an option.

    1. Stevie*

      +1 re losing relevance. I’d suggest that they lost relevance over 30 years ago here in Au IT. Cover letters are a waste of time to read on the few occasions I’ve received them – invariably they conclusively demonstrate that this is a poor candidate trying to use a cover letter as… ahem.. cover.
      While I’ve never seen a request for a cover letter, any company requesting one would have me hesitate to even apply. Very out of touch, and speaks strongly negative things about their internal culture and processes.
      More typical is a response to how you meet or exceed the selection criteria for the roles.

  19. SusanIvanova*

    For my virtual choir, I upgraded to a better camera and microphone (around $200 total) because a guitar sounds terrible recorded on a basic laptop mic. I *could* use that for work meetings if I wanted to, but there’s no room for a guitar in my home office space so I’d have to keep moving them back and forth.

    But after the first few meetings when people were still getting used to this, nobody has really commented about people’s setup.

  20. atma*

    LW 1 – I’d respond to the comments from your colleague with a simple “Thank you!” It’s kind of a compliment even if she didn’t mean it that way, and if she thinks her comment makes you happy maybe she’ll stop….

    1. AGD*

      I’ve been in two situations where people said the same tiresome repetitive thing over and over to me at work. In one case, this is exactly what worked. Treating something ambiguous/passive-aggressive as a light compliment is a really good way of disarming it without stooping to the other person’s level.

      In the other, I memorized a whole breezy sentence and a half explaining the situation and said it back to the person exactly the same way every single time, but cheerfully, until it stopped happening. The subtext being “oh, okay, sure, I’m happy to explain this again, even though onlookers know they’ve heard this whole thing before”.

      1. Manchmal*

        A similar tactic might be to launch in to the technical specs of the rig. “Yes, I do love my video setup! It sounds like you’re maybe interested in one yourself, let me tell you alllll about the boring specs so you can go out and purchase the exact same one!” I’m guessing she will not want to be treated to that monologue again!

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yes, I *love* the idea of treating her comment as if it were a compliment. What’s she going to do, disagree with you? “Actually, I was trying to be snarky.”

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Same. I have a neighbor that makes shitty, passive-aggressive comments in the same vein, so I simply treat them as actual compliments, thank her, and change the subject. I’m sure she and her buddy go and laugh later about how oblivious I am, but, if I took the bait, it’d be crowing about how she got to me. And my way makes her look like a complete ass to everyone who’s not her Gretchen Weiners.

      2. Uranus Wars*

        Yes, this is great advice. I had a boss that we used to call a mean girl – she would only (sarcastically) compliment something “Oh, that’s a nice blouse” if she actually had issue with it. Once we all started just saying “Why, thank you, it’s one of my favorites, too!” she stopped.

    3. Joielle*

      Yep, I was coming down here to say the same thing. Just act as if it was a compliment (like you say, it is! Even if it wasn’t intended to be). You could even do a bit of a humblebrag:

      “Oh, thanks! Fergus works in film, you know, so he cobbled it together with things we had around the house. It’s nice to have.”

      If she doesn’t get the intended reaction – making you feel weird/embarrassed – she’ll stop.

      1. reluctant project manager*

        I’m in a similar situation with my setup – mentioning in passing that my entire rig came out of my partner’s tech closet disarms people quickly. If that doesn’t work I start nerding out about mechanical keyboards while bemoaning how many keyboards we have in the house.

        And it only just occurred to me that I could set up my craft photography lights on myself to fix my video lighting. Thanks OP!

    4. OP#1*

      It sounds like something Miss Manners would say I think. A simple “thank you” without too much emotion behind it so it lets the conversation deflate.

    5. kaittydidd*

      I came here to suggest the same thing. I’ve had a lot of success with thanking people in a tone that reads sweet and delighted, and just shy of sarcastic.
      “You’re really weird.”
      “Thank you!”

  21. Sophie1*

    I mean, yeah, OP1, that set up sounds pretty extra for zoom meetings. It is really out of the norm compared to most people and it seems kind of over the top. It’s zoom, not a YouTube channel.

    You seem to be pretty defensive of it, so I wonder whether deep down you know it’s extra as well – the co-workers comment sounds pretty mild to me and like something that could easily be taken as condescending but not meant that way.

    1. A.N. O'Nyme*

      If I had that stuff lying around you bet I’d be using it. Sure, it might be over the top for Zoom and perhaps better suited for a YouTube channel. So what?

      Honestly I can see your point with it maybe not being meant condescendingly if coworker said it only once, but bringing it up every single time is overkill.

      1. UKDancer*

        I’d guess it’s probably the fact that the co-worker is saying it every day that’s irritating. At the start of lockdown we all did a bit of noticing what other peoples’ set ups were, who had nice art work on the wall, looking at the parrot my one colleague had which liked to sit on his shoulder etc but as a one off. If the colleague is saying it every time then that goes beyond chit chat and becomes really nails on a chalkboard annoying.

        Also if I had really nice kit I would definitely use it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in using nice things if you’ve got them as long as you don’t go on about it. I don’t think the OP is saying “look at my amazing lighting” everyday. She’s just using the setup she has.

      2. anonymous 5*

        This. LW1 doesn’t have a nice setup *at* people (esp considering what folks above have said about the equipment possibly already being at home, and otherwise unused, if husband is in a creative field). “Extra” isn’t hurting anyone here. Coworker bringing it up once = understandable; more than once = it’s the coworker, not the “extra”-ness, that’s the problem.

        1. OP#1*

          The thought was since I can improve the quality and professionalism of my calls, why not? I thought “This is going to be my reality for a long time so let’s get out of pajama mode and create a new work mode.” It feels like getting a new outfit and the confidence that goes with it. It has been great for me for my work days to turn on the setup and mentally prepare to participate in the meetings.

          1. anonymous 5*

            Definitely sounded like that to me–and FWIW reading some of the comments since I last logged in has set my wheels in motion on whether I could do something similar to help me make the “pajama/work” switch. So thank you for the nudge! And rock on with the good setup (and with the excellent-sounding husband!).

      3. Daffy Duck*

        I agree with O’Nyme, if you have the equipment and knowledge to set it up go ahead and use it. You are not making a big deal about it (THAT would be rude), and good video and audio is a plus for anyone who has to work with you. Downgrading your work so a jealous co-worker is appeased feels so much like “Don’t show the boys you are smart because they won’t like you” from my mother back in the dark ages.
        I once had an 18-year-old community collage student on a tour mock my vocabulary(I was in my 30s) because “no one says ‘ego’, that is only used in books.” Umm, I am staff at a university and my coworkers have an appropriate vocabulary for the job. I think I said something like “I guess it depends with who you hang out with.” but in my head was “Yeah, you want to work for someone with an MD? That attitude won’t go over well.”
        Do your job well, be polite to coworkers, you don’t need to downgrade your work so they look better.

        There is no need to restrict yourself to a 5th grade vocabulary

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Downgrading your work so a jealous co-worker is appeased feels so much like “Don’t show the boys you are smart because they won’t like you” from my mother back in the dark ages.

          Oooh. Interesting.

      4. Quill*

        I mean. The desk setup is harder to move than the laptop. And if you have the equipment, especially if it makes any part of zoom easier to work with, why not use it?

      5. Kippy*

        And it doesn’t sound like anything the OP has is that over the top. It’s like the co-worker is mad OP is shopping at J. Crew when her stuff’s from Old Navy.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      I’m sure it’s just frustration but I do agree there’s a bit of a defensive tone. OP, you don’t need to be defensive because you’re not doing anything wrong. “Can’t I have a nice looking Zoom?” – of course you can. You HAVE a nice looking Zoom. You like it, your husband likes it, your coworkers like it, it’s working for you, literally nobody apart from this one coworker who is not your boss has an issue with it. Her commenting on it does not oblige you to do anything about it. It must be frustrating to hear the same thing over and over but this is a her problem, not a you problem.

    3. lapgiraffe*

      I find this take a touch rude. It’s like the bully who is trying to illicit a reaction then mocking the other person for reacting. The OP isn’t “defensive,” they are picking up on some attitude from a colleague that is directed at them and happening frequently. It’s defensive only in the sense that the coworker is trying to put them on the defense, and in fact the OP is trying to avoid falling into this petty trap.

      1. kiki*

        Right! I hate it when people ask, “Why are you so defensive?” when they are putting you in a situation where one would naturally want to defend themselves/their actions/ their zoom setup/what-have-you.

        1. Stained Glass Cannon*

          The correct response (one correct response, anyway) to that should be “Bless your heart, defensiveness is a natural response to offensive behavior.”

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I agree. I literally could not care less what any my coworkers’ videoconference setups are as long as I can see/hear them when I need to. I work with professionals/executives that have houses that look like a TV set in the background – nobody’s telling them to tone it down for the masses. My boss does her hair, puts on makeup, and accessorizes every day for work because it makes her feel more human – no way am I going to criticize her for not embracing the majority’s barely-not-my-pajamas style.

        I do think OP#1 needs to let this go and not let her single coworker’s reaction affect her so much, but we’ve all dealt with that coworker who fixated on something petty and stupid and wouldn’t let it go.

    4. Joielle*

      WHO. CARES. God, women are damned if they do (look too nice on Zoom) and damned if they don’t (look nice enough on Zoom). Let her live! It could not possibly affect anyone else less!

    5. consultinerd*

      Yeeesh, who cares if it’s a little over the top? Compare it to how people present themselves and their workspaces in-office: if someone (especially someone in a creative role!) repaints and decorates their office to the tee and has impeccable makeup and outfits every day, that’s their business. It’s not a knock on their coworker who wears a boring polo and khakis and has nothing but the company-issued fake plant on their desk.

      Let people have harmless minor luxuries that make their work day better.

      1. Caliente*

        My comment is almost the same below. This stuff is so annoying and what is wrong with people!
        If she wore sweats every day commenter would comment on that. Commenter should mind her own dang business and if she wants to look better then do so and if she wants to stay the same then do that. And zip it!
        Women try to act like men demean women but it is so frequently other women who demean women and have all types of ish to say because they feel bad about themselves.

    6. Caliente*

      Give me a break, why can’t OP have whatever she wants to have without someone commenting on it incessantly. Even if OP wanted to do a full studio production with professional everything every day its her business! It’s the commenter who is being weird and obsessive.

    7. Drag0nfly*

      Some people like to do things properly, though? A creative would have the correct tools, and would make the effort to use them effectively. I would wonder about OP1 if she *didn’t* take the time to get her setup as nice as she has it. She is a creative, so it goes with the territory.

      Some people bother to dress nicely in business casual clothes when they go to work, and others prefer to dress like someone’s frumpy grandma on weed-pulling day. If the latter, there two choices. One is to make an effort to dress like the former. The other is to hold your peace. The unacceptable “third option” is to snark at one’s coworker for looking “too nice” and being too “extra” in comparison.

      What is stopping the coworker from Googling to see how to position the camera, what colors to wear, how to arrange lamps for the lighting? She can’t find a single article on how to make the best Zoom setup for *whatever* budget she has? That was always an option. One that a nice, emotionally healthy individual would take, rather than grumbling that someone else made more effort than she was willing to.

    8. Observer*

      You seem to be pretty defensive of it, so I wonder whether deep down you know it’s extra as well – the co-workers comment sounds pretty mild to me and like something that could easily be taken as condescending but not meant that way.

      Please. There is nothing defensive here. The OP is annoyed and exasperated because someone KEEPS ON COMMENTING ON THE SAME THING. The constant repetition, especially using a phrase like “well, look at you” is legitimately rude.

      My question to you is why do YOU think it’s such a big deal? Why would you call a good set up “over the top” – to the point that you expect her to “know deep down” that something is wrong with it?

      It’s a REALLY odd reaction, to be honest.

    9. Alanna*

      Yeah, I agree that it’s pretty extra! (I love extra – but it is extra.) I work with people who make podcasts and videos professionally and who definitely have this equipment at home, and they use their built-in webcams and mics for Zoom like everyone else. Maybe I have a skewed view because honestly, just doing hair and makeup every day would make you stand out in my office at this point, but if LW#1 had written in to ask if a setup like this was a good idea, I would tell her to follow the norms of her office.

      But that wasn’t the question! She has it and she’s happy, and it’s been more than six months since people started working from home. Coworker’s reactions would have gotten old on Day 3. Coworker really, really needs to let it go.

    10. Nanani*

      LW didn’t seem defensive of it to me, just understandably annoyed that a coworker is harping on it all the time.
      It’s not about judging what was really meant in any one comment, it’s about the constant flow of them and the pattern it shows.

  22. AnNina*

    She is weird and making herself look weird. I mean, even if you setup was “over the top” (I am not saying it is, I don’t know, but even if) compared to the rest of the team, so what? You are allowed to make an effort and use your (or your husbands) talent and resources for your convenience! My office is filled with people who like to brag on how little they get by and mock those who make an effort. I mean one lady is actually proud of wearing clothes that have small tears and mocks people who doesn’t buy clothes second hand.

    Obviously it might be that your coworker is struggling with her own setup or is truly jealous of your set up or she has tight money situation, or whatever. But this is not the way and you’re probably not the person to share those frustrations.

  23. Sleeplessinseattle*

    IT manager here. I’ve never needed a cover letter to get any of my jobs, and no cover letter has positively influenced my hiring decisions yet. Generally a demonstration of skills takes precedence over them.

  24. Manchmal*

    LW#2, it sounds like the best reason for a cover letter is the relocation aspect if not the skills part of it. I imagine some companies could be hesitant to hire from out of state, especially if they aren’t a little keyed in to the prospective employee’s plans.

  25. MelaileMama*

    LW1: are you sure the comments are meant to be condescending? Have you spoken to the coworker about it? If she’s from a different culture, it could be a difference in vernacular. When I read that and pictured the tone you described in my head, I came away with appreciation rather than condescension.

    Either way, just casually bring it up and address it head on. No need to be rude, just make it known if it makes you that uncomfortable.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      It can be that the commentary is meant to be complimentary. Some people don’t give compliments well at all and it comes across this way (obsessive, jealous, or weirdly condescending). And to be fair, there IS a little jealousy there, but not in a bad way! You can be happy-jealous. It’s that which can inspire you.

      I once had a coworker go apeshit on me because I kept asking about her new house. Banal stuff like how she liked it, was she going to remodel anything, etc. I thought I was just making pleasant conversation and was genuinely happy she got her house. But she got all mad and exploded and yelled at me.

    2. lapgiraffe*

      I’ll be honest – I’ve been on both sides of this kind of interaction before, and I read it as insecure on the coworker’s part because of that. I struggle to not be the snarky brat with a good friend when it comes to food. She can eat like a 14 year old boy and still be impossibly svelte, and I just hear about her muffins and pizza over the phone and I gain three pounds. I don’t like this impulse in me but it’s there, and I am guilty of many times saying “must be nice to be able to eat carb on carb for lunch every day” or any number of rude things that are just me projecting my own limitations and insecurities onto my friend, who is just picking up a bagel because it’s convenient and she can, not as an affront to my own dietary restrictions.

      I say trust the OP when they say the tone is condescending- this is audio/video, not email or text, so I believe the OP when they say it’s not a nice comment. I do think speaking to the coworker off mic could be useful, followed up by Alison’s script in the moment if it keeps happening.

    3. londonedit*

      I think it’s probably less about the tone, and more about the fact that she *always* comments about it. We were all commenting on people’s home setups when this whole thing started – it was a way of connecting with people and acknowledging that it was all pretty weird. If she’d done the whole ‘Oh look at you with your hair and your make-up!’ thing once, and once only, then fine. It’s the fact that she does it on *every* call that tips it from a lighthearted comment into A Thing. That’s what’s making LW1 feel self-conscious about the way she looks on camera – because someone keeps on commenting on it every time they have a call.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Banal boring conversation can easily becomes “A Thing,” especially at work if it’s repeated.
        Some people really have a difficult time with understanding the social conventions around this.

    4. Nanani*

      It doesn’t matter – it’s annoying because it’s constant. Complimenting a setup once would be one thing, but commenting on it every single meeting? It doesn’t matter what’s in the coworker’s heart, it matters what the pattern is.

      For the record “Are you suuuuure they meant it that way” is an unhelpful garbage attitude to take when someone reports a -pattern- of behaviour.

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

    IT is a field with a lot of foreign workers, perhaps more than others outside of STEM, so not requiring (and not reading) cover letters to avoid discrimination makes sense.

    1. Generic Name*

      When I was in school and other girls would tease/bully me, my mom would tell me they were just jealous and to ignore them. That “advice” never helped and didn’t make me feel better. This advice strikes me the same way. Coworker gets to feel whatever feelings they have about OP’s zoom setup, but it’s really not okay to be a jerk to OP about it. Jealousy isn’t a pass for behaving poorly, and we should stop acting like it is.

    2. hbc*

      I hate when that’s used as a catch-all explanation for bad behavior. I wouldn’t go around saying anything about OP1’s set up, but my tendency is to *not* view it as a positive when people spend a lot of effort on appearance. There certainly are plenty of people who would be envious, but plenty of others who think it’s shallow or just a waste. Just like some people are jealous that you have the shiny, newest release phone, and some have their flip phone that they wouldn’t swap for free.

      Of course, it’s not my business whether people want to set up home studios or upgrade their phones every six months. That’s what OP should play off of, not any perceived emotion behind the comments. A flat “opinion noted”, a faux-concerned “Is this causing you technical issues, because you keep bringing it up?”, a business-like “Let’s just stipulate that you don’t like my set-up so we don’t have to keep discussing it”–nothing that carries the subtext of “If I was you, I’d want to be me too.”

      That would always be my advice, but especially in a situation where OP is an outlier.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        “but my tendency is to *not* view it as a positive when people spend a lot of effort on appearance.”

        Why? As long as it makes them happy/comfortable, why would it not be a positive?

        1. hbc*

          Because we all have things that we judge as less-than-ideal? I’m sure some people think the world would be a better place if I didn’t “let myself go,” and they’re entitled to feel that way. Some people probably think I’m putting on airs because I don’t go out in yoga pants unless I’m actually exercising, and that’s okay too. I feel like bringing out the explanations to justify my view would actually put more weight into my opinion than it deserves–it’s just my personal view.

          My point is that there are lots of opinions out there. “They’re just jealous” is overly simplistic, and treating criticism (unwarranted or not) like a compliment hardly ever works out well.

  27. agnes*

    #4 It’s possible your boss is asking because they have come to know you and like you and feel bad that they can’t keep you on. . We have had a few temps in our office that we all wished could stay, but we didn’t have a job available. Knowing that the person has something else lined up made us all feel better.

    1. OP4*

      This is a good point! I’m at a large university and she has told me before that she would try to find something permanent for me at the uni, even though it won’t be in my current office. Now that you mention it, it seems likely that she would want to know if/when I’ve found something.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Absolutely — nice managers feel bad when they are going to lose good temporary colleagues and want to be sure they are OK!

      2. hbc*

        If it helps, I really appreciate it when people ask some version of “Why did you ask that question?” Sometimes, I’ll forget that the background in my head isn’t obvious to the recipient. Your boss might think that the “…because I’ll need to start making arrangements now for another job here” part was clear.

        Or, heck, maybe she’d be happier if you got another job starting the day Beth got back, but she can’t find a way to say that without making you feel bad if you don’t have anything promising. Or she’s just trying to figure out if the problem of Where You’ll Sit When Beth Has Her Desk Back is covered by Fergus’s 1.5 week vacation. Just ask.

  28. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #2 – honestly the issue here isn’t whether or not your husband needs to write a cover letter, it’s that you feel the need to micromanage his job search. He knows your opinion, so unless he asks for advice, let it go.

    1. Generic Name*

      This is where I’m at. I feel like the question boils down to: “my husband is a successful expert in his field, but I disagree with his expert assessment and am appealing to outside sources to prove I’m right and to help me make him do what I think he should do”. I really do think OP loves her husband and wants to help, but presumably you married an adult who can handle his own stuff, right? Show him you trust him to manage his own career. And if he can’t manage his own career, do you really want to do it for him? For a relationship, that leads down a path to nowhere good.

    2. Drag0nfly*

      Thank you. This is exactly what I feel. OP#2, you can critique your husband’s job-getting skills when he consistently fails to get a job. But even your own words demonstrate that he does not need your help. He’s got this covered.

      I get that these are anxious times, but do you *really* think you’re helping by insisting he performs the emotional labor of soothing you with a pointless endeavor that he *knows* is of no use to *him*?

    3. OP2*

      You are totally right. This was more about my issues than his process, and I honestly meant to ask Alison if she could ignore the email I sent (though never followed through on it) since I’m realizing that the real answer here is getting some therapy. But I’m glad it was shared so it might be useful to others.

      1. Generic Name*

        Aw, don’t feel bad. We want what’s best for those we love and care about. It might not be the healthiest thing to then extend wanting the best to taking over for another adult, but it doesn’t make you a bad person.

  29. CupcakeCounter*

    #1 As someone who has had to sit through a TON of Zoom calls where every third word is garbled or cuts out, I would LOVE it if more people had a setup like yours. My company ended up mailing out headsets to everyone because there were so many complaints and issues.

    1. Joielle*

      Yes! Or everyone’s lighting makes them look like a demon, or they’ve got the laptop camera pointed directly up their nose. IF ONLY more people could have a nice Zoom setup at home. We should be so lucky.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        My spouse has one of those tiny-bezel laptops where the camera is integrated into the bottom of the screen rather than the top, and he calls it his “up-the-nose camera” and had to rearrange his whole setup to get the camera eye at a non-nasal angle. He hates it.

    2. DarnTheMan*

      Headsets have actually become the bane of my existence because one of my co-workers uses one but for some reason insists on pulling the mic directly in front of her mouth (like almost into her mouth) every time she speaks, which then makes it sound like she’s yelling compared to everyone else.

      1. Generic Name*

        I see this all the time! My son was showing me a TikTok video where a guy was doing this, and I thought he was holding a joint up to his face. Ha! My son looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Mom. That’s his microphone”

  30. AnonInTheCity*

    I’m in tech. When I got laid off in March I was feeling burnt out and didn’t have the energy to write cover letters (I also had a 5 month old baby) so I starting applying with just my resume. I got WAY more interviews with no cover letter than I ever got with a cover letter, and that’s in this job market.

  31. Watermelon lip gloss*

    #1 Next time ask your co-worker if she wants to hire your husband to set her zoom station up, offer to get her a price.
    Seriously if that is something your husband wants to do just charge her more for being a jerk about it. It has become almost a part time job for my husband. We have had my niece and nephews living with us since March, so we have 5 school zooms going daily and my work section set up in our basement. I have a side job as a photographer (the dream job doesn’t pay the bills sadly), and we set up each kid with a Backdrop and a light and we got a few parents with some snippy remarks and then the how much would it cost to set my kid up with the same set up questions came. He is setting up another teacher next week with a backdrop and lighting.

    1. OP#1*

      Very cool! This is a neat opportunity for all film/video/photo creatives out there to help. A cloth backdrop and simple light can do wonders.

    2. Emmie*

      What lighting / set up do you two recommend? I realize that your husband is charging for this, so I don’t want to intrude on that. I’ve been full-time remote for five years, and would love a more professional set up.

      1. Do I need a hard hat for this?*

        I work in construction and have to specify all the light fixtures and bulbs we install. I’ve learned a LOT about lighting in the last couple of years. I’m not in film or photography, so I can’t speak to what it all looks like on camera, but here’s what I’ve learned:

        Color temperature is huge. That tells if the light is more yellow (lower temp), white (mid-range), or blue (higher temp). A Google search of “color temperature” pulls up a lot of image results which are helpful.

        Personally, I like my bulbs at home to be warmer (around 2700k), but I’ve found that looks really yellow on my older laptop’s camera (but fine on my phone’s camera). I have a small desk lamp that is adjustable, so I bought a bulb with a higher temp (around 3500k) and have that on when I had to do video calls. For reference, most fluorescent lighting is over 4000k, which is what you see in a lot of office settings.

        Also, having the light source in front of you is better. If you’re sitting at desk against the wall, an overhead light is going to be behind you. But you also don’t want the light source to blind you! That’s why I like my adjustable lamp (it looks like the on from Pixar’s logo). I can aim it where it’s not right in my eyes but is also not casting shadows on my nose!

        The light rings you might see a lot of people using have diffusers on them, so they make the light softer and not as blinding, while still being bright. So, if having a regular desk lamp in your face is uncomfortable, it might be worth it to invest in a light ring.

        Good luck! Hope this helps!

  32. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP 2 – depending on what role in IT your husband is looking for, a cover letter can absolutely make the difference. I’ve gotten several interviews based on the strength of my cover letter, because I was able to use my analysis skills to read between the lines of the job posting, the company website, my knowledge of the industry, and figure out what underlying problems or challenges the company might be having, and then bring them up. E.g., “Since you’re in X field and have to deal with Y regulation, then you are probably dealing with Z challenge on a regular basis – I’ve done Z work in several previous positions, and I optimized a database at OldJob to reduce the time it took for monthly compliance reporting from 20 hours to 4.”

  33. MissDisplaced*

    #1. I agree your coworkers comments reflect more on her and they are weirdly obsessing over such a seemingly minor thing.
    However, are you positive that you’re not somehow challenging some type of unspoken norms at your workplace by doing this? I hate these weird unspoken “rules” honestly, but some workplaces have cultures where you can come off as being tone deaf if, for example, you carry a Louis Vuitton (or whatever is deemed posh) or dress a certain way. As no one else seems to care about your Zoom setup, that doesn’t seem the case here, but it’s still good to think about if it could be being construed another way. Perhaps the coworker believes the company paid for your setup or something even?

  34. Wendyroo*

    I want to hear more about this video setup, so I can improve my own! I take calls in front of a plain brick wall in my sunroom, and sometimes people ask if I’m outside on a patio because of the wall. Any tips to look more professional?

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      Put a picture up on the wall. No one would have a picture on an outside wall so it just automatically anchors it as ‘indoors’…

  35. DarnTheMan*

    Op#1 – I get people commenting on my appearance in a lot of meetings; largely because I’m still wearing makeup and dressy tops (like heck am I letting my ‘work’ wardrobe go to waste because I’m working from home). Some of them are genuine compliments but some of them are of a snarkier tone. I’ve found that saying ‘thanks’ and then redirecting tends to stop even the snarkiest of people; if they mean to be snarky and then you reply like it’s a compliment, it seems to shortcircuit them somehow.

    1. Perpal*

      Yes if the plan is to cut someone down with a backhanded compliment and the person acts pleased and happy with the comment, I imagine they will not keep trying to do it!

  36. AndersonDarling*

    #2 My husband is a mechanic/ service tech and used to scoff at the idea of including a cover letter. Ya know, because tough guys don’t have cover letters…or whatever.
    After months of no responses to applications, I would help him write a basic cover letter just saying why he found the job interesting. Now he gets a contact for every application where he submits a thoughtful cover letter. In a sea of applications, a cover letter is like a life vest that floats the application to the top of the stack.

  37. Lauren*

    LW1, I’d just stare directly at the camera with a slightly confused smile whenever she says that. Don’t talk, just stare, and if you can raise one eyebrow, do that. She’ll look even more ridiculous if you don’t engage at all. And thanks for the inspiration to put together a nicer Zoom setup!

    1. OP#1*

      Thank you, that is good advice. I feel the consensus here is to not give more energy to it and if she persists just tell her to knock it off.

  38. livelaughandrun*

    I have an add on question to OP5 if anyone cares to respond. I worked for my company from September 2018 – my layoff date of June 2020. I really morphed the original position I was hired for I from simply bookkeeper for one unit to doing it for 3 units and acting as an assistant general manager for one of them helping to supervise 25 employees and being point on some big projects. In February 2020 I was promoted (which is really quick in my company ) to run another unit and supervise six people but I really only got to do it for a month before COVID and furlough. So obviously I would put it through my term date of June like Allison said. What I want to know is do I really even put down that promotion or just leave it as the whole time at the one position?

  39. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Maybe send an email to your whole team with the subject line “zoom setup” or something. Note what you’ve got and if you know, how much each component costs. If you know of lower priced items, note that. I mean, don’t go out of your way to do a ton of research or anything, but if you know, share. The email could say something to the effect of, “I’ve gotten so many awesome questions about my setup, I’d love to share how to do it!” are the questions awesome? They are not. Does everyone know the questions were not awesome? They absolutely do. But others on the team might also like some tips if you can share.

    I say this as someone who just got out of a Webex court hearing. I forgot I was wearing a logo t-shirt, so I threw on a pullover to hide the logo. This led to my hair (which has not had a cut in FAR too long) being all staticky and sticking out. Add to that I’m against a plain white wall and I am one of the palest-complected humans alive. I looked like 2 eyes and a ball of frizz on top of a blue pullover. Better lighting wouldn’t have solved everything but it sure would have helped.

    So, also, I would like to know what OP1’s set up is.

    1. Tomato Jelly*

      I don’t know, I would feel strange receiving an email like that. It sounds patronising, I would rather receive tips only if/when I explicitly ask for them.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      If somebody asks for tips it would be great if OP shared (I would LOVE a setup like that, honestly, I share your paleness/white wall pain) but I don’t think she should send it out unsolicited. It could so easily come off as patronising or implying that other people ought to upgrade their setups. And being told how much the components cost unsolicited could easily take other people’s reactions from “oh Jane’s setup is awesome, that’s such a good idea” to “she thinks I should spend HOW much on a ring light?” even if that’s not the intention.

      1. OP#1*

        I don’t feel great sharing my setup here as the focus on my letter was on my relationship with my coworker. My advice would be to take a look at Youtube and tutorials on how to improve your Zoom setup and tailor it to how much you are willing to spend. I would focus on how to improve your lighting and audio as a start.

        1. Perpal*

          Yeah don’t do that. You got it, flaunt it. Just thank coworker for the “compliment” (and who knows, maybe it’s meant as one and coworker is just super awkward about it???) and say you’re glad they like it.

  40. KuklaRed*

    It never ceases to amaze me that people will complain about the most inane things. She’s jealous of your Zoom setup? How ridiculous. Shut that sh*t down at the earliest opportunity and move on.

  41. DataGirl*

    LW2- I’m in IT and personally I won’t even apply to a job that requires a cover letter. I may be taking myself out of some good opportunities, but I just very firmly believe they are not relevant to my field (database), and that everything a hiring manager needs to know is in my resume.

  42. Helen J*

    I’ve been at my current employer 18 years and this year is the first time we’ve ever worked from home. It was just notdone. So I ended up sitting at my kitchen table with the camera pointing at a white wall and I didn’t notice until about the third week that the wall had a spot where about a quarter size piece of paint was missing. I noticed it while on a call with our COO. It shouldn’t have been a big deal and no one ever commented on it but I was completely mortified when I realized it. I told my husband we had to fix it or put up some kind of cloth. All we had that would work* was a large piece of camouflage cloth. So I spent the remaining 3 months having meeting with managers and the COO with a camo background.

    All of this to say that the coworker is probably envious of your setup. I certainly would be! But the comments need to stop, so please use any of the already excellent suggestions. If she continues after you have spoken to her frame it as a “her” problem and do your best to ignore or perhaps have the manager speak with her (assuming you have a reasonable manager).

    *We tried bath towels, beach towels, sheets, even a quilt my grandmother made but nothing else would hang “right”. Of course the joke after we returned in June was I was trying to “hide”.

    1. DataGirl*

      I love this, lol. I was having meetings at the kitchen table and behind me was our giant blackboard with our family’s weekly schedules, which at least looked semi-professional. Now I’ve set up a desk in my living room and at my first meeting noticed the background was a couch full of laundry! Eek. I want to get a room screen to put behind me but in the meantime, I’ve been keeping my video off.

  43. LookItsABird!*

    Regarding #2, I’m fairly senior in IT and have done a good bit of hiring. I can’t remember the last time I actually even *saw* a cover letter, let alone considered it. Maybe it helps with the HR folks who get the responses, but so many IT candidates come from the job boards and LinkedIn, where in many cases all they have to do is hit a button to submit their resume, that the expectation in IT seems to be that we won’t see a cover letter, so it doesn’t matter.

    When I have moved to different roles in the last few years, I haven’t bothered including one myself, and, based on the interviews and offers I got, I don’t think it mattered there either.

    Usually in IT, it’s skill and education based, period, and that is evident from the resume alone. “I need a SQL admin, with 5 years of experience on Windows Server.” Either it’s there or not; the cover letter doesn’t provide any additional information, except in some unusual cases.

    So while it doesn’t hurt (because I probably won’t see it), it almost certainly won’t help (because I probably won’t see it).

  44. Brett*

    One of the issues with IT is that there are several different modes of hiring. For my area of IT, the majority of our staff are contractors and consultants. They come to us through a third-party recruiter who employs them as W2 employees while contracting them out to us as regular full time employees (not as a statement of work team, like you might higher through a company like Accenture or Cognizant, which is yet another mode of employment in IT).

    For those types of contractors and consultants, we never see the cover letter. If one is sent, it is removed before the resume gets to us. Where the cover letter could matter is for getting the W2 position with the recruiter, but the reality is that the recruiters are not that picky there. If you land the contract role with the contracting company, they hire you W2. If you don’t, they don’t hire you.

    As a side note, the resume norms are also odd in contracting and consulting. Resumes tend to be overly detailed and skills focused rather than achievement focused. The average length is probably somewhere in the 4-8 page range. A 1-page resume is as much of a red flag as a 20 page resume. Another commentator pointed out the influence of international hiring on moving away from cover letters; I think this has also influenced resume length to look more like CVs.

  45. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

    For #2, are there not specific instructions when applying to these jobs on whether to include a cover letter or not? My field is nothing like IT but different companies often have different ways that they want people to apply, and it usually spells that out in the job ad.

  46. OP2*

    Alison, thanks so much for your advice. And thank you to the commenters as well. You are definitely right that this all came out of insecurity and wanting to micromanage, which definitely isn’t fair to my husband. He’s actually had several interviews already using his own application method, so there’s hard evidence that I was being overbearing and not helpful. This was honestly coming from the fact that he ended up having to leave a job that he really loved and I have been worried about him finding a job that he likes as much as the old one, especially since it was basically my fault that we had to move (took a new job out of state). I’ve been regretting that decision to move and desperately wishing I could fix things, but since his old job is gone and we’ve already moved, I feel really terrible and it’s coming out in ways that aren’t helpful (like this letter I sent). So, basically thanks for your input and letting me share those thoughts. (And I hope this was helpful for others to hear more about norms in IT from commenters and the post response).

    1. retrowaveRecluse*

      Easy pitfalls to stumble into, OP2, and sharing your thoughts and being open to advice is much better than continuing to steamroll! Wishing you and your husband luck.

    2. Brett*

      Something that might help here, is that IT is undergoing permanent change due to COVID. Many IT departments are now 100% remote. And a lot of those will stay that way, or move only minimal management staff back on site and keep the vast majority of their employees remote.
      That means that opportunities are much less limited by geography than they were a year ago. It also means that there is a lot more competition for openings (especially with recent large layoffs). If he is getting interviews, he is doing fine. It just make take more interviews to land a role right now.

    3. Tabby Baltimore*

      Yes, it really was very helpful. I saved your letter/response/some of the comments, and it kick-started a discussion at work among the IT professionals, and it will inform a brief chat I hope to have with one of my kids who majored in IT and is struggling to find work.

  47. Mouse*

    LW2, a good compromise if you’re applying by email might be to write a mini-cover letter in the body of the email. I just hired for a role that didn’t explicitly ask for a cover letter, and some applicants did this. It was really helpful to read their narrative of why they were looking at this role in particular, and would be a good place to mention relocation.

  48. Perpal*

    LW 1 I know there are people out there who like to turn positives into negatives for whatever reason (insecurity? jealousy? toxic dominance ritual? Parents eaten by professional youtubers and zoomers?) but no need to pay them any mind! It’s awesome you’re able to rock out the zoom!
    I’m almost a fan of deliberately taking it as a compliment when you know it’s not. “Thanks! It’s so much fun to explore the visual interactive medium, glad you think it looks good!” vs calling it out “What do you mean by that? Why do you keep making these comments on the setup I worked hard for and enjoy?”

      1. Perpal*

        Fab :) And I say this as someone utterly frumpy with a terrible zoom setup most times (I’m sure my youtuber husband would love to hook me up but I don’t wanna). I admire anyone who does something well even if it’s not what I’m doing.

  49. RagingADHD*

    LW 1, obviously you can hear the CW’s tone and we can’t. But there’s nothing in her words to indicate that she’s “upset.” Perhaps she’s annoyed. Perhaps she thinks you’re the one who is insecure and being ridiculous.

    Here’s the thing: you are deliberately being “extra.” There’s nothing wrong with that. It sounds like fun! I’d probably do the same myself if I spent enough time on Zoom.

    But when you make choices like that, you have to accept the fact that it is going to attract attention and comments –that is its purpose, after all. I am also married to a film creative, and have worked in film myself. I know how it works.

    If your intent was to *subtly* improve the lighting and audio, without making it obvious that you are on a mini-movie set, that is eminently doable. The only reason it shows is because you both chose to draw attention to it. From a film-creative perspective, everything the “audience” sees is a deliberate choice.

    Not all of that attention is going to be positive, because you can’t control what other people think. Some people are going to think it’s cool and quirky. Others are going to think you’re being overly precious and are more focused on your appearance and your toys than on your work.

    Whatever your coworker’s thoughts are, they aren’t the real problem – the problem is that she doesn’t have a good enough filter and needs to keep them to herself.

    Since you find each other annoying, the best thing is for you to ignore each other about anything not strictly work-related. You can start by ignoring her comments. And you can de-escalate your own reaction by reminding yourself that every audience member has a right to their opinion.

    1. not neurotypical*

      “From a film-creative perspective, everything the “audience” sees is a deliberate choice.” <— This. And aren't "creatives" supposed to know and take the audience into account?

      1. HQetc*

        In their work? Sure. (Although arguably so are the rest of us; most folks don’t write emails to their boss the same way they write them to their friends.) In their own personalities and choices about self-presentation? Not any more so than the rest of us. For me that means being aware of impact to some extent but mostly trying to realizing that I will be much much happier if my primary audience is my own dang self. Which it sounds like is what the OP is trying to do and, as a person who struggles mightily with that, I gotta say more power to her.

        1. RagingADHD*

          The “audience” wouldn’t be seeing the lighting effects or the microphone if it were not a choice to display them.

          I’m not even talking about OP’s appearance. I’m talking about turning a Zoom meeting into a YouTube studio.

    2. Perpal*

      Respectfully disagree; there’s no place for coworkers to belittle each other because one decides to be “extra”. It’s part of the ugly double standard for women that they have to be pretty but not too pretty and @#$@$@# can’t we just accept people look how they look and be positive/supportive about it unless they are doing something horribly unprofessional or distracting.
      I’m not sure how “look at you with your perfection” can be anything other than a backhanded compliment among native speakers

        1. pancakes*

          You undermine that by saying that the purpose of improving one’s zoom set-up is to “attract attention and comments.” If people weren’t meant to pay attention to one another in this scenario there’d be no reason to have a video meeting in the first place, and wanting to be seen and heard clearly isn’t at all the same as wanting to solicit comments about one’s appearance. It’s far from mandatory or inevitable, too, that every attendee who resents others for being on the receiving end of the group’s attention air their bitterness about it.

  50. not neurotypical*

    OP 1: Ask yourself, candidly, ARE you going out of your way –not just with the set-up but with hair and makeup and etc–to look superior to your co-workers, many of whom may be struggling just to show up looking halfway okay? If so, maybe tone THAT down a bit.

    1. Perpal*

      No, please, no. Why do we need to insist women walk a razor thin line of looking good but not TOO good? Isn’t it enough that OP is professional and enjoying herself, and can’t her COWORKER modify her actions against others rather than asking OP to modify herself and her workflow?

    2. OP#1*

      Sorry, that is not happening here. I am not doing anything that I haven’t done in the office. It’s just me, my hair dryer, and a bottle of mascara.

    3. DarnTheMan*

      Or she’s doing it because it genuinely makes her feel good? Reiterating the comments above, OP#1 isn’t doing their hair or makeup or office set up *at* any of her co-workers, she’s doing it because it works for her. No one sees me all day but my cat, except for the occasional video meeting and I still do a full face of makeup most days because I enjoy doing it and it’s a consistent part of my morning routine, even in these wacky times.

      1. UKDancer*

        Me too. I don’t put make up on to feel better than my colleagues. I do it because it makes me feel good about myself. Lockdown absolutely sucks for a lot of people and I think we all need to enjoy the small pleasures that make it more bearable. Sometimes that involves red lipstick and expensive perfume.

        Also OP1 isn’t having a IT good set up or wearing mascara at her colleagues. She’s wearing it because that’s a choice she has decided to make. My colleague has a large garden and I don’t. Occasionally I am jealous of her taking video calls on her back patio but I remind myself that I made a choice to have a small flat and she’s not using her garden at me.

    4. Observer*

      Good grief! You could think she’s showing up on these Zoom meetings in a glamor outfit and saying something like “SO! As I was telling my hairdresser about all the people on my zoom meetings who just can’t be bothered to take some care of themselves, just Let themselves go…”

      She just has a reasonable set up and is put together. And it helps her get into the work frame mind. Why on earth should she even make a move.

    5. Joielle*

      WOW, yikes. Let’s not assume that a person wearing makeup is some malicious harpy, lording her beauty over her poor struggling coworkers. And like… what if the OP is just naturally beautiful? Should she give herself dark undereye circles so nobody feels bad?

      Obviously that’s hyperbole, but come on. Let’s just all default to assuming that everyone has chosen to look the way they look for their own reasons, which are none of our business. Either give a genuine compliment or if you can’t, keep your thoughts to yourself.

    6. Jojo*

      Some people will look good in a paper bag. Maybe she is one of them. And maybe the one commenting every day is one whose looks would be improved by having a paper bag over her head. We have no way of knowing. Why are you so obsessed with looks?
      Fact is the one commenting every day is out line, not the one writing this letter.

  51. Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate*

    My husband does tech hiring. (Would never call his field IT, which IME means sysadmin or DBA type roles and not software engineering.) One problem gets runs into is that “programmer” encompasses a enormous swath of skill levels, from the equivalent of assembling IKEA bookshelves to the equivalent of master cabinetmaking. Literally the sole helpful suggestion I have ever given him from AAM is to ask, in addition to a resume, for a brief (1-2 paragraph) explanation of an interesting and challenging technical problem the candidate ran into — not even an explanation of the fix! But 1) what people think is interesting and challenging, and 2) their ability to explain the problem, are really useful ways for him to make sure he’s interviewing cabinetmakers. I’ve never heard of more standard cover letters in his field.

  52. mgguy*

    Re: 5

    When I was furloughed first of May to end of July, my employer(then) made it abundantly clear that being in furlough status did not constitute a break in service for any purposes including seniority, promotion, benefits(annual leave was tied to years of service) or anything else. We also retained many employer-provided benefits(including both sides of health insurance coverage).

    I’ve since moved on-actually got an offer between being informed of furlough and actually going on furlough. Going forward, though, I will have no qualms about not listing the furlough in my work history. In their very words, I was still employed there but not being paid.

  53. Jennifer*

    #1 Is it possible that you are reading far more into this than needed? It seems your coworker could be one of those people who is lacking in small talk so she just comments on the same thing every time she sees someone. For example, I had a coworker that used to comment on my coat throughout the wintertime. “I love that coat! It looks grea on you!” Yeah it was weird that she said it so often, but it would have been unkind to respond with, “Yes, you’ve said that many times. Stop commenting on how great I look in this coat!”

    It can be annoying, yes, but this seems like a bit of an overreaction on your part. I think you may be inferring some maliciousness on her part that isn’t actually there. Can you not just say, “thank you,” and change the subject? Sometimes I think we’re too quick to jump to the least charitable assesment of someone.

  54. LP*

    For OP2 I’m glad to hear things are going well in your husband’s job search but I wanted to chime in to say I can see where you’re coming from. I’ve been in IT for 14 years and previously was in non-profits/event planning (so not related at all) and am surprised to read here that in IT they’re not as necessary unless the job posting says so. That has not been my experience at all both in applying for jobs and in hiring. Granted I’m maybe on the “softer” side of IT (programmer/analysts vs sys admins or DBAs) but I still can’t imagine a scenario where I wouldn’t send one (unless it said not to of course) or wouldn’t expect one. I’m just not seeing how IT is that different from other professional fields.

    1. Jojo*

      When my company hired IT they only looked at the resume to see of you new the computer language. The actual interview was here is the computer. Make it so this. Find this. There is such an error. Find it. No cover letter would have helped if you could take care of the computer. Or seen to its security.

  55. Observer*

    LW #1 – Just one thought. Is it possible she thinks that you were given extra equipment by your employer? If so, you might want to mention off-handedly that your husband put this together for you.

    But other than that, I am with all the others who say that you are just fine.

  56. Alanna*

    Maybe it’s because I work in a field (media) where an unlocked Twitter, if you have one, is considered part of your professional persona, but I disagree with the advice to LW2. Twitter is public! Every tweet you post and every conversation you have is publicly available to anyone who wants to read it, whether they follow you or not. You can soft-block them, but they can just go to twitter dot com slash yourprofile and read all your tweets there if they want to know what you’re up to. If you’re not comfortable with them (or your parents, kids, in-laws, prospective employers, etc) doing that, then make your profile private.

  57. Allison*

    The Twitter thing would be not weird at all in my industry. A lot of what I post is industry-related, and they hired me because I offered an interesting perspective, so makes sense. I’m also one to operate under the assumption that anything I post publicly is fine for work to see, so it makes no difference whether they’re following me or not.

  58. Office Grunt*

    Re: #3, when I was on social media, I went out of my way to block coworkers and their partners (more than one was shocked I was able to track down the account to block), and refused to follow them from my account.

    I didn’t have an Erin Campbell-length blacklist, but I drew a hard line.

  59. Des*

    LW#2, I have interviewed many candidates for positions in IT in my company, and I have never even seen a cover letter in this field. I have not written one myself since university days. As Alison says, only write one if it’s remarkable and worth spending time to read.

  60. Sally Forth*

    LW1 This made me sad. You have a loving partner who is helping you to make the best of a bad time and it is mean for someone to be snarky about it. Everyone’s advice is spot on.

  61. Molly*

    LW #2: my husband is an IT manager and hires a lot of staff. Those applicants that have a good cover letter (or a letter at all) are so rare they almost always get an interview. He sees it as such an asset and shows so much initiative and interest in the position that those applicants get such a longer look. Doesn’t mean they get the job necessarily but it puts them far and above other candidates if they are remotely qualified.

  62. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    OP1 (zoom setup): for perspective, here’s a possible letter from the co-worker you have written in about:

    Enforced WFH due to you-know-what has been difficult for everyone but I feel like as a team we’ve sort of found our rhythm now that we are 6 months into it and it’s actually been a talking point in itself to mention people’s home office setup, appearance of pets in the video feed unexpectedly, etc.

    However one of my colleagues has now, out of the blue, gone for a more “professional” video streaming setup which shows up the rest of us and seems insensitive at this time. I’m struggling, as I know many of our team-mates are, with finding a suitable workspace, my husband is under threat of being laid off from his job and it probably makes me a bit more snippy than usual, but I can’t help noticing that this new video setup seems strangely inappropriate and out of touch with the rest of the team.

    What do you think she is communicating with this? Is it just that she wants to look more professional, to show the rest of us up or is it some weird flex about privilege? I’m baffled as no-one else on the team seems to see the issue or to be hurt by the obvious display of privilege.

    Possibly unpopular opinion: I don’t think you should reverse the changes entirely or “walk on eggshells” as such, but I do think it’s kind in some situations to dial back a bit on things that clearly make people uncomfortable or hurt, even though most people will say it isn’t your job to manage other people’s emotions for them (to which I agree; it isn’t) but in some sense, knowing that someone finds the thing hurtful and then continuing anyway and acting like they are the only one being unreasonable … just doesn’t seem very respectful really.

    If you and she have the same boss it may be worth a conversation with the boss at this point (but be prepared for the boss to say ‘dial it back’).

  63. Office Plant*

    Letter #5- Thanks to Alison for answering this question! I was recently laid off after a six-month furlough, and had been going back and forth on this issue on whether to list it anywhere. The tricky thing for me is that I started a new position about a year ago with my company that I’d been with for several years. So I effectively was on furlough for half the time I was in the new role.

    So far, I’ve decided not to list the furlough on my resume. I figure it’ll be something worth mentioning in an interview if more detail is needed.

  64. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #2 – For a support role in an IS/IT situation – a cover letter is CRITICAL.

    Whenever I had to review resumes/CVs, I read that FIRST. Then I’d go on to the next page.

    If the guy or gal couldn’t write a legible, concise and communicative cover letter, we likely wouldn’t put that person on our candidate list. I once had a cover letter something like this – I guess it’s a generation Y thing ????

    “I am applying for the job for tech support representative because I have heard good things about your company and would really like an interview because I think we can work together well and I like what your company does and if you will call me back it would be good as I am doing the same work at (my current) Co. and it sounds like I could fit in so please do call and I look forward to hearing back from you.”

    He didn’t get a call back from us. Since the position required effective verbal and written communication skills – a few hostile customers’ names came up in our roundtable and we all scoffed “what would happen if we had this guy reply to (customer x)???”

    I don’t recall if I went on to look at the guy’s CV or not but this was a show-stopper.

  65. Another JD*

    #5 – I’d absolutely want to know if someone has been furloughed for the last six months. If they’ve been at their last job for a year, that means half the time they weren’t actually working and don’t have the same level of experience. Plus so much has changed in my area due to the pandemic, and I’d want to know if the employee was up to date on the changes.

  66. Hosta*

    #2 I’ve worked at several very large a few small tech companies and I’ve done interviews and hiring at all of them.

    I’ve never seen a cover letter.

    At the big companies it gets stripped by HR (along with photos, transcripts, and whatever else candidates try to include). And at small companies I don’t think people provide them.

    I was going to say I don’t think I’ve ever written one, but I may have when I sent my resume to a company I was very interested in that didn’t have any job openings on their website.

    If your husband’s job search goes poorly after a few months you can revisit the cover letters, but for now let it go.

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