updates: the unreasonable hiring process, the blown interview, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. Is this company’s interview process unreasonable?

I interviewed with four more people and the interviews went quite well. The responses to my follow up emails were also great. The consultant called me the next day, agreed everyone thought the interviews went well, and said she wanted to have me meet with the head of the organization. I know from one of the interviews that the head of the organization is a formality to their process as only they can make an official appointment. So, this was good news.

Until she said she now needed to talk to my current clients before she would put me through to this step. She acknowledged my three previous references were excellent, but without current clients she couldn’t in good faith move my candidacy forward. I explained how uncomfortable this makes me and really drove home the impact on my livelihood during these times. She countered that as a consultant herself she could get any number of clients to speak on her behalf. I agree, but clearly I’m applying for a full time job which makes me no longer available to these clients in the future. I suggested if we were at the point of a conditional offer, then I would share client references. I pointed out that she talked to one of my current clients already. Nothing I said seemed to help. She raised her voice at one point to tell me she’s managed over 200 placements in her career and has never had anyone give her a problem with giving numerous references at various stages of the process. Then she began comparing me to the other candidates and what they’ve given her. She finally said although we were at an impasse she was still quite interested in moving forward, and asked for proof of times I’ve managed a strategic initiative successfully. So, I emailed her several items, which were quite specific to what she said she wanted to see within a half hour of our call.

And I’ve never heard from her again. It’s been five weeks. I’m super annoyed that the documents I sent are things that she could easily adapt into her own practice since we are both consultants in similar fields; but the businesses she operates with are pretty different from mine, so at least no chance of overlap.

When I interviewed with a peer to the role who shares the general office area, I asked a number of questions about the work environment. I used Alison’s exact quote suggestion. He was immensely informative and I did learn a lot about the space and culture. I spent time on this area and found he was excited to talk about it, and very understanding of circumstances.

The role would not interact with the interviewer at all as she is a consultant, so I’m a disappointed as I really enjoyed everyone I met who actually works for the organization. It felt like a great fit otherwise, and I was clearly a strong contender at some point. The primary shortcoming was this person, who I clearly upset, who doesn’t even work for them. Thanks for posting my question and your thoughtful response.

2. Reapplying after blowing an interview because of illness (#4 at the link)

All their hiring was delayed for a while over some internal things, and then right around the time I expected to hear back about whether I would be interviewed, everything was frozen because of COVID. The only open positions they have now are intern positions, so I guess it all worked out! I am still interested in moving on because I’ve plateaued in my current position and just finally finished my bachelor’s degree this last weekend…but my current position is very stable. I appreciate that more now than ever before. Hopefully I’ll get another shot at this position, but for now I am content and eternally grateful for all your excellent advice.

Update to the update

At the beginning of November, I started a new job and I absolutely love it. I’m permanently remote, I’m making 38% more, I’m off by 3 or 4 every day, and I have better PTO (including unlimited sick time, genius!). I used all your interviewing advice and took the time interviewing around to find a really good fit. One of the reasons I went with this offer was because their answer to the question about being good vs. great in this position really spoke to me and my strengths–that, and after I went on an extended sidebar about equity in my interview, they sent me an updated job description with a new bullet point for equity work!

Leadership here is incredibly supportive and regularly checks in to make sure that I don’t have too much on my plate, reminding me that they’ll run interference for me if I’m getting stressed by the workload. The work is interesting and challenging, with tons of room for growth and visibility. I had great coworkers at my old agency, but they had sort of watched me grow up as a professional? In a lot of little ways, it’s different having coworkers that have only ever known me as a ‘real adult’ who has absorbed years of your advice. Honestly, this place is amazing and sometimes I want to cry because I just feel so fortunate to be where I am. Thank you a million times over!

3. My boss lectured me about arriving on time – when I’m working a ton of hours

I wrote in about 2 years ago when my boss sent an email to our group about core hours when I was already working overtime. Soon after, other issues surfaced. I was put on tasks that I strongly disliked and would have redirected my career had I stayed. I got ignored when I asked to be moved to different tasks, so I focused on getting my professional certificate and then job searching for my “dream” role. (Side note: if you have an employee who continually pushes to do something else and you blow off their concerns/complaints, don’t be surprised if they just… stop pushing back and decide to leave instead).

After a surprisingly short amount of time, I did find that role! It’s something I’ve talked about doing since high school, and is as close to my “dream” role as reality will allow. I applied, interviewed, and accepted within a month. Then the pandemic happened and my start date got pushed back several months. After months of knowing I was leaving but unable to resign, I was finally able to put in notice. I packed up and moved to Japan, and have loved my time here so far. I don’t regret taking the other role as that allowed me to gain experience in a different field. This new job definitely has its quirks, but overall it fits in much better with what I want to do and has allowed me to work overseas. Thank you for giving me the knowledge on how to advocate for myself in the office, and the confidence to know when to leave!

Another thank you (indirectly) from a friend. We had been talking at a party and got on the subject of job applications and requirements. I, armed with knowledge from your website, went off on a mini-rant (as one does) about how women are much less likely to apply to jobs than men when they don’t meet all the requirements, are less likely to push for more money in salary negotiations, and how that’s bs. Apparently after that conversation, she decided to apply for more “reach” jobs and got one! She started in May making over 50% more than what she had been previously, and is now in a position to be promoted next year. It made me so happy to know that because of one conversation based on reading your website for years, she was inspired to make a change herself. I hope you feel as good as I did when she told me!

4. I think I’m about to become a receptionist against my will

I’m definitely a receptionist against my will. Apparently the decision came from elsewhere in the company so it wasn’t the call of anyone in my office, but as soon as they get a second work space in the reception area I’ll be at the front desk. I’ve found out a lot since I wrote the letter, and I’m not quite as salty as I was, but I’m still not happy. I guess what happens is that receptionists hired for this office keep getting promoted, so it’s been a long time since reception was someone’s main position and there’s no clear definition of whose job it is to actually do the reception work. From what I gather it’s not an intentional slight at me so much as it’s just one of those crappy work situations where no one wins.

Interestingly though, I did find out during all of this that the woman whose maternity leave I’m covering (I’m on a one-year contract) did a completely different job than I was hired to do. Different title, different job duties, basically the only similarities are that we’re both on the admin team. I’m wondering if that’s an additional source of confusion, and also wondering how to bring this up without it looking like I’m just complaining about being contract. Any advice on how to proceed?

Update to the update

I have another update! COVID hit right around the time I was going to be moved up front, and as a contract worker I was the first to be laid off. I was sad to go, but obviously no one anticipates a pandemic! I was covered by unemployment over the summer and then landed an INCREDIBLE job doing everything I’ve ever wanted to do and zero reception duties at all. All things considered, I think I made out pretty well!

{ 27 comments… read them below }

  1. Bookworm*

    #4: So glad you got out of that and out of reception duties!! I’ve been in a somewhat similar position but it does sound like that despite COVID it has worked out better for you.

    Thanks to all the LWs for their updates!

    1. Op4*

      I got out of a horrific commute too! Like I said, I was sad to go because in the end I never got to work on some of the cooler stuff I was hired to do, but ultimately I think things turned out well.

  2. This One Here*

    *(Side note: if you have an employee who continually pushes to do something else and you blow off their concerns/complaints, don’t be surprised if they just… stop pushing back and decide to leave instead).*

    This translates well to romantic relationships, too; *If your partner is asking for changes, and you blow off their concerns/complaints, don’t be surprised if they just… stop pushing back and decide to leave instead.*

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Except that with romantic relationships, you should also add, “and if your partner leaves you after they’ve stopped pushing back on their concerns/complaints, also don’t bore every woman who enters the bar with your sob story of how she left you and you have no idea why”.

  3. Chriama*

    OP1 – I’m honestly concerned about how this interviewer acted. If you had been in contact with actual members of the organization, especially your future manager, I would have reached out to them after she ghosted you. I’m quite suspicious about this insistence on taking to multiple references of current clients. That sounds like someone trying to take advantage of her position to network with or even steal your clients. I think it would have been worth trying to work around her.

      1. Non non!*

        Ditto! I was imagining her telling the employer that you had declined to move forward, and you might actually get the job if you contact the employer directly.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Even if this actually is company policy, the argument that no one else has ever complained about this unreasonable demand is salesman BS. In my old age, I take it to mean it is time to walk out the door.

    2. Absurda*

      Yeah, after re-reading the original letter and the update I came away wondering if there was an attempt to steal clients or leads. I wonder if this woman has a reputation for doing that.

    3. Cheesehead*

      I’m with everyone else. Considering they were clients, and that you’re both consultants, it seems as though she was just a bit too pushy trying to get your inside information. And what if you were bound by confidentiality agreements with your clients? Something about her ethics just doesn’t smell good….

    4. OP1*

      Op here – yes ultimately I also think she was trying to poach clients. She was just so insistent. I’m so glad I didn’t give in since these clients have stayed with me for all these months and we’ve been busy!!
      The president brought her in to do this because he worked with her at another organization. She did projects, not recruitment there. I considered saying something to the folks I interviewed with but with the president’s connection, she likely had a little more cred. I wasn’t going to get anywhere other than seeming like a whiner.
      I really do love the validation though. Thanks all.

      1. Chriama*

        I get that she may have had more credibility with the president and raising a complaint may not have been in your best interests, but I think it would have been worth saying something like “I haven’t heard anything from Consultant, so I just wanted to check in and see if the role is still open and if I’m still being considered. If not, I’d love to be kept in mind for any future opportunities.” I actually think you should still reach out even now, just to close the loop. Considering how long the process has dragged on it’s possible they haven’t actually hired anyone, but even if they have it would still be helpful to establish your own relationship with them.

        1. Properlike*

          Yes. With anyone whom you interviewed… “I want to thank you (again) – it seems like a great place to be and I look forward to hearing from consultant.” Hopefully someone reaches out to you in confusion and then you can explain. Just because this person’s friends with the president doesn’t mean the president is closed off to hearing from one of the employees, “So, you know how we were told X was interested…?”

    5. Diego*

      That is exactly the impression I got. It sounds like this person is trying to poach your clients. I would reach out to actual management of company as this behaviour is unethical.

    1. LW 2*

      Thanks! I’m the first in my family to get a college and it took a long time because I had a kiddo early. It’s so weird to just…be done now.

  4. anon e mouse*

    “(Side note: if you have an employee who continually pushes to do something else and you blow off their concerns/complaints, don’t be surprised if they just… stop pushing back and decide to leave instead).”

    Every time except one I have left a job, this was the reason. At a certain point, people who are being forced to do work they find draining every day are just going to leave, even if you keep promising them better work “soon,” except maybe if the pay and benefits are incredible (and probably even then).

    1. Absurda*

      Totally. My grandboss has a reputation among some of us who have been around a while of not wanting to move certain people around. If someone is experienced and good at what they do in a job that would cause endless headaches for him if things went wrong, he will not move them to something if he can at all avoid it. This is true even if the person is telling him their bored, burned out, unhappy, ready to move on, etc.

      I was in a position where I was good at what I was doing but I was so burned out on it that I was miserable and it was so stressful I was getting flares of anxiety every time the phone rang or a new email came in. I’d talked to my boss, my grand boss and another manager under by grand boss. This manager (Manager B) offered me a role on a new team he was building. Everyone agreed to the change by grand boss was totally dragging his feet.

      I finally stopped pushing on grand boss because I was getting nowhere. A bit later I told Manager B how frustrated and demoralized I was and that the only solution I saw was to start applying for new jobs elsewhere. I was being completely honest but also hoping that jump start my transfer. It worked, a week later I had a firm transfer date.

      I figure I can play the “I’m leaving” card once but this was definitely a hill to die on so I’m happy it worked. But, I know a lot of people aren’t going to give warning like that, they just leave and you lose the talent.

      1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

        Exactly. I played the “I’m leaving” card when there was hemming and hawing about me being picked up by another arm of the company because I was “really needed” where I was. Great. Except I’d already decided I was not going to work with the corporate HQ installed successor to my boss. The successor to be was an arse with a moral compass that points quite a bit differently than mine. (His basically went: get this project off the ground and make a profit, all other things be darned. Mine? Are we hiring the correct people to do the job, and not underselling it so that not-quite-qualified people apply driving wages down? Are there licensing standards here? Is this legal? Is this ethical?)

        I bounced.

    2. Kathlynn (Canada)*

      That’s what happened with my last 2 jobs. Nothing changed, the work kept piling up, and regulation were getting ignored.
      The job before that I should have left but for reason I didn’t. (it got bought out and I got a new employer, so I consider it a different job for discussions like this)
      I was extremely burnt out by all 3 jobs

    3. AcademiaNut*

      And the corollary, that sometimes this is okay. If the needs of the job have genuinely changed in a way the employee isn’t happy with, or there isn’t a path for promotion/increasing responsibility/changing duties at that employer, the employee leaving for a new job is a perfectly fine outcome. The key is to be clear and tell the employee outright that things aren’t going to change, so they can make an informed decision, rather than letting them think that things might change when they won’t.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yes. If someone constantly tells me they want to do something other than the job I need them to do, it’s probably best for all involved if they move on. Not to say that there aren’t some people you do want to grow into bigger roles – we’re working on this one of our stellar admins now – but that’s not always possible/needed for the position and turnover is expected. There are very unglamorous aspects to some of my positions, and it’s important to talk about those in the interview as well as what possible advancement does/does not look like in the role.

  5. pleaset cheap rolls*

    On #4 – while not ideal to be placed in the receptionist position, this shows some silver lining: “that receptionists hired for this office keep getting promoted”

    1. Op4*

      It’s true! From what I gathered before leaving, the company on a national level has a policy of hiring very good people and keeping them long term and I saw that reflected in this office. The admin chaos with several moving elsewhere at once made things a bit disorganized when I was there, but ultimately they have a really solid team. I didn’t get to spend much time there in the end but I’m glad I got the experience with them that I did.

  6. Anthony Tellier*

    I read these and see the term “professional certificate” and, I will have to admit, do not know what this means/is. A CPA? A degree in Mechanical Engineering? Who/what would “award” this? A religious organization? A college?

    1. OP#3*

      Hey! Not sure if you’ll come back to this, but I’m an engineer and got my Professional Engineer License. This is the main/only license I’ll need in my career of choice, and it’s incredibly hard to get but once you have it the possibilities are pretty much endless! I kept it more generic in the post just in case anyone I had worked with read it and saw the similarities.

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