can I ask my interviewer to get a Covid test, should my resume say I’ve been vaccinated, and more

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

1. Can I ask my interviewer to get a Covid test?

I was recently offered an interview with a local organization that I would love to work for. The interviewer gave me two options: one, we could do a Zoom interview, or two, we could go somewhere outdoors or outdoors-ish at a socially distanced venue, like one of those restaurants with a bubble tent or something like that.

I ended up choosing the Zoom interview, largely because we were expected to get a significant amount of snow that week and I didn’t want to put my elderly car through that. However, I was considering taking him up on the restaurant offer only because I thought it might have given us the chance to make a better connection.

That said, I am very COVID-conscious, which was another factor in choosing a Zoom interview. However, I’m wondering if I could have asked him to get a COVID test beforehand. I would’ve done the same; I’ve been tested four times in the last few months as a precaution and have no problem doing so again. But is that something that I could have asked?

I wouldn’t advise it. You were better off taking the Zoom option, as you did. Requesting your interviewer get tested before meeting is a lot to ask for a job interview (which is in no way to dismiss your concerns about safety) and it wouldn’t even have given you reliable info, since you’d have no way of knowing if he’d been infected after taking the test, especially when you factor in the turnaround time needed before results are available (if you think rapid tests will solve that, read this). Remote interviews are the best way to go right now.

2. Am I over-explaining in my emails?

I’m a 2020 grad in my first real office job after college, and I had a question about professional email etiquette. My job is fully remote and most one-on-one communication with coworkers is over email. My organization is heavily involved with the local pandemic response, so our policies and procedures change pretty frequently and we have a lot of external constraints on our work. We’re encouraged to bring questions to a rotating group of team leads, and some tasks can only be done with team lead approval. However, I find myself sending my team leads a detailed email at least once a day where I basically summarize 30 minutes of troubleshooting to ask a simple question, i.e.,, “I need help with Z, here are the client’s details, I already tried solutions X and Y and re-read document ABC to make sure I wasn’t missing anything, could you okay me to start the relevant task?”

This is the first job I’ve had where I’ve had to communicate this much over email, and I’m worried I’m over-explaining or hitting the wrong tone. On one hand, I want to show I’ve done my due diligence and tried other solutions before asking for help, and in some cases it cuts down on back and forth of the “Did you double check X and Y first?” variety, especially with team leads I haven’t worked with before.

However, I don’t want to clutter up their inbox with a bunch of details that might not be necessary. I also don’t want to seem like I need too much external reassurance that I’m doing my job right. None of my team leads have ever said anything about my communication style, but right now people in my position don’t generally get any feedback, good or bad, unless something is seriously wrong. Is this a real problem or am I just overthinking things? And if it is a real problem, how do I figure out where to draw the line?

Ask! As in, “I’ve been including a lot of detail in my emails when I need things like X or Y because I want you to know what I’ve already tried and hopefully save us back and forth, but is it too much? Would you rather I just tell you what I need and skip all the context?” It’s fine to ask that kind of thing (always, but especially when you’re pretty junior).

Aside from that, I don’t know how long your emails are, but it’s always worth looking at whether they could be shortened without losing any of the info contained within them. Some people write five paragraphs when they really only need one or two. And if you’re writing everything out in narrative paragraph form, look at whether you can use bullet points — which are nearly always easier to quickly digest.

3. Should my resume mention I’ve been vaccinated for Covid?

I recently got the Covid vaccine due to my job working near first responders. Most of my career has been in traditional companies (I work in IT). If I start looking, should I add the fact that I have had the vaccine to my resume? I think an argument could be made that it offers an advantage over non-vaccinated candidates.

Nah, medical info doesn’t belong on your resume. It’s likely to seem weird there.

And really, you shouldn’t have an advantage over people who want the vaccine and haven’t been able to get it yet. If a colleague on a hiring committee proposed preferencing candidates that way, I’d think it very odd. And many other candidates are likely to be similarly vaccinated in the coming months anyway.

(It is very exciting to have gotten to the stage of receiving vaccination questions! This was my inbox 10 months ago.)

4. How to explain interviewing for a new job after working for yourself

I’ve been looking a leaving my job for mental health reasons that are directly tied to the job. Your head would explode if I went into detail. A teaser includes threats, harassment, intimidation, laughing at raises, intentional rumor starting, all to the point it has put several of us, myself included, on medication, and placement agents refuse to put anyone here.

One of my opportunities is I have my own small business that is slowly growing. If I leave to work on my own business and later have to go back to the workforce, how do I handle it being brought up in interviews? I know some wouldn’t judge but to others a failed small business might scream no hire for any sort of management position.

To make matters worse, my business is night and day from my industry (I’m in automation and industrial agriculture and my business is woodworking).

A failed small business isn’t usually a red flag in the way you’re thinking. Small businesses fail with great frequency, unfortunately, and unless you’re applying for a role doing something you weren’t good at in your own business (like accounting when you messed up your own books), it’s probably not going to be a serious source of alarm for interviewers. What’s more common, though, is that some (not all) interviewers worry that someone who’s been working for themselves won’t adapt well if they return to the reduced independence of traditional employment.

One way to frame that is that the experience made you more appreciative of traditional employment — which often is indeed the case. You could say something like, “I learned I really don’t like everything involved in running one’s own business — drumming up business, collecting payments, and all the rest that took me away from the core work I wanted to do. It gave me more appreciation for the scaffolding that working for a larger organization provides, and I’m really looking forward to returning to a job where I can focus on X and be part of a team.”

5. Applying to jobs at home while waiting to travel abroad for a different one

My current contract finishes at the end of February. I could probably extend it if I wanted to but there are many reasons why I won’t be doing that. I am in a good position to go without work while I look for other work, which I am actively doing. My preferred industry was hit hard by the pandemic but is bouncing back to the point where there are jobs, though I imagine the applicant pool is somewhat full at the moment.

Last year, a wildlife rescue/rehab center on a different continent was hit incredibly hard by the pandemic (no donations, no volunteers) and by extensive wildfires (no direct casualties, but it was close and it piled on a lot of pressure as firefighting was on them). I volunteered with them about a decade ago and decided to apply for a six-month staff position to help out. I have my second interview next week. If I get the job, I’d be flying out as soon as it is allowed. Which could be any time at all with no notice at all.

How do I juggle applications and potential offers, while waiting for an offer/unknown departure date for something abroad? Is it something to bring up at the offer stage of “home” jobs? Is there a way to phrase it to minimize the chances of losing an offer? My preferred industry is also primarily freelance/fixed contract. This probably means I’m more likely to just lose the offer, but it’s a small industry so I’d like to come across as professional.

I … don’t think you can do both. You should definitely continue applying for jobs while you wait to hear (because you might not get the wildlife job), but if you get another offer meanwhile, at that point you’d need to decide if you’re willing to forego the wildlife position or not. You can’t really accept a job knowing that you any day you might be leaving for six months.

If it were only for, say, one week, that would be something you could try to negotiate at the offer stage. But six months … it’s just incredibly unlikely an employer would agree to that for a brand new hire, let alone for a role that’s on a fixed term. To the point that even asking is likely to come across as out of touch, unfortunately.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 225 comments… read them below }

  1. pcake*

    Poster number 1, Covid tests have a LOT of false negatives in the first several days, more than 50%, and it only drops after 8 days or when one develops symptoms, so not much use in asking someone to test.

    1. Job Carousel*

      Licensed and boarded physician here — pcake isn’t wrong, but I wanted to clarify and comment on LW1’s question:

      – pcake is right about “false negatives” immediately after COVID exposure. After a COVID exposure, the incubation time of COVID infection is between 2-14 days, average of 5. You’re infectious (and thus likely, but not guaranteed, to test positive by PCR) about ~2 days prior to showing symptoms yourself. The majority of people will have positive test results by PCR once they show symptoms themselves, though false negatives in this period are still possible.
      – I also think LW1 made a good choice in opting for a Zoom interview vs. an in-person interview, but I do want to point out that had they and the interviewer met an outdoor restaurant, sat at least 6 feet apart, both wore masks properly (over both nose and mouth), and weren’t meeting for a prolonged period of time (>30-60 minutes or so), the risk of one catching COVID from the other would have been very low. Not zero, but very low. So hopefully this reassures job-seekers and employees who can’t avoid in-person meetings/work.

      For what it’s worth, my healthcare system is still encouraging the majority of patient care to happen virtually. There are certain types of visits that do require patients to get a COVID PCR test beforehand, though — for instance, any routine or urgent dental visits, and most surgical procedures that involve an airway. I think this is the correct move, but still runs into the limitations discussed above with testing.

      1. allathian*

        I trust your medical knowledge, but there’s just one problem with this suggestion: I can’t think of any restaurant that would allow patrons to sit in their outdoor space without consuming anything, and that’s rather difficult if you’re wearing a mask. In many places, public seating has been taken away or cordoned off to discourage loitering.

        1. Ads*

          +1. Although obviously a different context, it reminds me of the idea that one can go on socially distant coffee dates. Nice idea, but unrealistic to expect perfect execution.

          1. Archaeopteryx*

            Plus, although outdoor dining is much safer than indoor, those bubble restaurant seats and/or the ones with tents outside are usually just making a space that’s exactly as unsafe as indoor dining. You need at least two walls to be completely open in order to get the advantages of outdoor dining, and a lot of those that have been popping up or just providing a false sense of security. Definitely best to opt for zoom whenever that is an option.

            1. Not A Girl Boss*

              Right. Putting the inside outside does not make it safer. I’d argue going into their office and keeping masks on would have been safer than sharing a meal, well, anywhere.

        2. Job Carousel*

          If the meeting has to be at a restaurant, there are ways of getting around this — ordering food to go and sitting for a few minutes at an outdoor table with the sealed food container in front of you, or ordering just a coffee/a drink in a to-go container/your own sealable, reusable mug, and waiting until you’re in the privacy of your home/car before consuming them. I doubt any restaurant/coffee shop would kick out patrons who have restaurant-purchased food in front of them, even if they’re not actively consuming the food.

          1. TechWorker*

            Tbh still doesn’t seem practical – my hearing isn’t *bad* but I don’t think I’d be able to hold a conversation, let alone an interview at 6ft distance, wearing masks, in a public and potentially noisy place.

            1. MK*

              Frankly, I don’t think it’s possible to have a comfortable meeting while taking proper covid precautions, or even minimal and inadequate precautions. The main advantage of in-person interviews, being able to communicate better, is pretty much negated by the discomfort of wearing a mask and being outdoors in winter.

              1. Malarkey01*

                Big big mask proponent here- Between an unmasked zoom call where you can show your mouth and an in-person masked meeting where you are “smiling with your eyes”, the benefit of building rapport goes to the zoom call.

                1. AKchic*

                  This. The zoom call gives you the full facial expression range with the added benefit of not being near anyone who may be a carrier.

          2. Quill*

            Honestly meeting at a restaurant still being an option is a huge flag that you do NOT want this interviewer in charge of your day-to-day covid exposure, period.

            1. Librarian of SHIELD*


              I do not want to work for somebody who is willing to risk my health before they’ve even hired me. That’s an incredibly bad sign.

        3. WellRed*

          I can’t think of a restaurant where two people could sit six feet apart and still be at the same table. Especially since many outside dining areas may be small.

      2. londonedit*

        Obviously things are different in different areas of the world, but in the current UK lockdown you can’t sit outside a pub/restaurant and meet another person. There’s a big debate at the moment over whether you’re even allowed to have a takeaway coffee on a walk with another person (the guidance says you can meet one other person for exercise, and they’re really trying to discourage people from using that as an excuse to have a coffee and a chat). Pubs and restaurants have been banned from selling takeaway alcohol in this lockdown, because there were concerns that people would gather outdoors to have a drink. When we were in tier 3, you could sit outside and have a coffee/meal with someone from outside your household, but we’re two levels above that now, the message is ‘stay at home’, and all the talk is about trying to stop people from meeting up at all (there’s real concern that the public mindset has flipped to ‘Yeah, but how can I get away with bending the lockdown rules?’).

        1. Mimi*

          Unfortunately the US seems to be perhaps incapable of locking down effectively. Where I live we haven’t even banned indoor dining (though capacity is drastically reduced), and while you’re discouraged from hanging out with people outside your household, there isn’t anything that prevents you from having a friend over to your house, much less hanging out outdoors. And last I checked, we had some of the more restrictive measures in place.

          1. AKchic*

            Every state is different with their regulations.

            I know Alaska is basically “each town decides it’s own precautions”. Which means that Anchorage (the biggest city) is trying to keep everyone safe, and a certain (loud) subset is freaking out and using anti-Semitic language and doing whatever they can to protest and remove lawmakers to stop the precautions, while the city nearby that is also large isn’t taking any real precautions and is having problems. Where do they send their sickest people? Anchorage’s hospitals. They also come into Anchorage for a lot of their shopping, dining, medical care and better jobs. Anchorage has had three major lockdowns since things have started, and each time we get things back on track, we end up with a surge again because we can’t control the next town over, or our subset of anti-science [redacted] types. Our governor is also one of them, and refuses to do any kind of leading on the matter. He’s mid recall anyway.

          2. Gumby*

            we had some of the more restrictive measures in place.

            It really varies and your situation doesn’t sound restrictive **at all** to me. Where I live we haven’t had any indoor dining since March 16 except for a period of around a month at the end of October/beginning of November when it was capped at 25% capacity (I think). We didn’t have even outdoor dining for much of that time and do not now. Outdoor gatherings with people not of your household are not allowed. Indoor gatherings aren’t either. Some people still do it, but it is technically against the latest orders. I will say that people here are generally good about complying but less so than they were last March/April going by traffic I see on freeways (which I occasionally see when I travel to the office to do the parts of my job at an essential business that cannot be done from home).

          3. pcake*

            Restrictive measures are only as useful as the people enforcing them in some areas.. Where I live we have all sorts of lockdown measure that virtually no one pays any attention to, and since no one is enforcing those rules, our hospitals are so full they have patients in the gift shops and chapels, ambulances dropping off emergencies have an over hour wait, and some are turned away due to lack of space, and our mortuaries don’t have room to accept any more loved ones.

            My son went to the store the other day, and he was literally the only person masked in a crowded store. Not, I might add, for the first time. My husband’s coworker lives by a bunch of restaurants where they’re still serving dining customers.

            Yet people continue to hang out, unmasked and undistanced in our complex, at all the parks and catering trucks in our area * sigh *

            Sorry to rant as a reply. I’m just so frustrated.

          4. Librarian1*

            Where do you live? Where I live (DC area) we’ve banned indoor dining for three weeks starting right before Christmas. Not sure if that will be extended. Outdoor dining is still ok.

      3. TL -*

        It also depends on the way the test is administered – self-administered ones have a lot higher false negatives than the ones that are given by a medical professional that go all the way up your nose (the virus prefers to live in the very upper nose, so it doesn’t descend into the more self-accessible part of the nose until the overall viral load is higher or you’re symptomic.)

      4. agnes*

        thanks to the doctor for their comments above. That’s been our experience too.

        Our workplace has been absolutely uncompromising about the worksite precautions for our essential workers and have disciplined employees who violate them. Yes we have employees who disagree with them–TOO BAD. They either comply with them or can find other work. We have had only one workplace transmission of covid with over 1000 essential employees reporting to work every day, all of whom interact with the public on a daily basis. We’ve had about 20 essential employees who have contracted covid since the pandemic started–like I said, all but one was confirmed to have been infected while off duty

        . The one infected on duty was working with an asymptomatic fellow employee and both took their masks off while they were working together in an isolated area. Video surveillance confirmed they had worked most of the day without following the safety procedures.

        The precautions work pretty well when strictly enforced and can help significantly reduce the risk in the workplace. That said, I don’t think an in-person interview is necessary for any job at this point. We’ve hired people throughout this pandemic and zoom interviews work just fine.

      5. Third or Nothing!*

        Agreed that an outdoor meeting can absolutely be done safely, but I don’t think a restaurant is the place to make that happen since you’d be sitting at the same table. You’d want to be at least 6 feet apart, ideally more like 10 feet if you can make that happen, and restaurants just aren’t set up to accommodate that for people who are supposed to be in the same party.

        Any time my husband and I have interacted with folks outside our household, we have set up groups of chairs in the front yard that are about 10 feet apart and sort of just yelled across the lawn at each other. Effective to maintain family and social ties? Yes. Good for an interview? Probably not.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I am not doctor, but in order to be truly sure one doesn’t have COVID someone needs to truly isolate for 5-7 days, take a test, get a negative result and continue to remain truly isolated. True isolation does not include going into work or seeing anyone unmasked unless they don’t see anyone else either (so kids going to school or spouse working outside of the home negate isolation).

      That’s far to big an ask to make of a interviewer in order to then have a face-to0-face interview in a public place with you. And a negative COVID test is better than no test at all, but it’s not proof of person not having COVID without everything else.

    3. Generic Name*

      The White House relied exclusively on constant testing, and you may recall that the president and many officials and aides came down with COVID. Testing doesn’t offer protection likesay wearing a mask does.

      1. Natalie*

        Well lucky for all of us it’s not an either-or proposition! Testing (particularly rapid testing) absolutely has a place in mitigating spread, as part of a comprehensive public health strategy. Every area that’s had success at managing this pandemic uses testing to do so.

        1. pancakes*

          It does seem to have been an either/or proposition for the letter writer, though, which reflects a serious misunderstanding of the role of testing in reducing spread of the virus. The White House super-spreader events reflect a very similar misunderstanding.

        2. PT*

          Rapid antigen testing has a 30% false negative rate, because it’s not sensitive enough to detect people who are presymptomatic.

  2. Working Hypothesis*

    #4: I’m a licensed massage therapist. I did a few years running my own private practice and re-entered the world of clinic work about two years ago with *exactly* the explanation Allison suggests. “I love doing massage, and while I learned a whole lot from having my own practice, one of the things that I realized was that I really don’t want to keep spending half my time doing all the non-massage work that’s part of being a one-person shop. I like having a support system around me so I can concentrate on being a massage therapist, not a businesswoman; and I like having colleagues I can talk to about the work or ask for pointers if I have a client concern that isn’t responding to what I’ve tried. I’m glad I tried out private practice or I wouldn’t have known a lot of what I know now about what I’m looking for in my career, but I’m eager to return to clinic work and be part of a team.”

    I got the first job I applied for. I meant every word I said, too.

    1. Maxie*

      That sounds perfect. The specific level of detail you gave is part of what makes it read well thought out and ring true. (As you said, it is true.) The sentence about client concern and treatment response was so strong. It also says a lot about your deep levels of skill and caring.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        Thanks. I started my career working in a clinic, and while I did enjoy the independence of having a private practice during that phase of my career, one of the things I really love about working at a clinic is that I get other therapists to talk shop with! It is incredibly helpful for my skill set — there’s always somebody around with a different idea to try or a technique you don’t know yet that they’re willing to teach — and it’s a ton of fun, too.

        I’m not working at all right now because my husband is high risk and there’s no way to do massage from more than six feet away from the client. But I’m looking forward to going back just as soon as we get our turn to be vaccinated — I miss my colleagues! (Thankfully, my company has been incredible about the whole thing and told me that my job is there for me any time I feel able to return.)

    2. Dramatic Squirrel*

      I had my own business and wasn’t making enough money to survive on it. When I was interviewing I didn’t get into the money part of it but the other aspect which was that I missed having a team. I had nobody to bounce ideas off, nobody to chat to. It was quite lonely working for myself. I did have to do quite a lot of convincing in my first post-self-employment job that I wasn’t going to be totally independent and not a team player but I gave them examples from my previous work and I got the job.

      1. agnes*

        I also had a business and now work for someone else. I explained it similar to Working Hypothesis. I didn’t want to manage a business, I just wanted to do the client service part of the work. I am very happy with my choice and thankful that my employer recognized that I could bring value to the team.

        I also think I have helped our team broaden their perspective when we make decisions–I can sometimes talk about the interests of both employees and the organization in a non threatening way because I have been both.

        I’m glad my employer didn’t dismiss me out of hand because I had been a small business owner.

    3. RC Rascal*

      A former coworker did this exact same thing as well. He was a graphic designer who had his own firm. When he interviewed he said he wanted to focus on the graphics work and not on running the business like he was.

      We hired him. He was fantastic.

    4. The Rural Juror*

      I’ve worked for many years for different small businesses and seen up close how tough it is! It’s made me appreciate not having to be the one who deals with the majority of it, and definitely made me realize I wouldn’t want to run my own shoppe. There’s nothing wrong with coming to the conclusion that you don’t want to be your own boss. Absolutely nothing wrong with that AT ALL.

  3. Not A Manager*

    LW 2, be sure that you are putting your ask upfront. In your example, at the very end you ask for permission to start your task. If I were you, I’d put that first, with a line break after, and any explanation below.

    Due to Z, I’d like permission to begin x task.

    Here are the client’s details, I already tried solutions X and Y and re-read document ABC to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. At this point because of Z, I think x task is my best solution. Can you please authorize that?

    That way, your reader knows why you’re providing all that detail and what it’s leading to, and they can skim if they want to.

    1. Allonge*

      This. Also, please know that it’s a massive PITA to start in fully remote times if the company is not set up for it – we have been remote since March, still hiring here and there and everyone who started has it really rough, as the normal ways to get used to the company are not there (we are trying, mind you, but still).

      Personally I appreciate it if someone lets me know what they already have done to try to solve a problem before coming to me, but formatting helps a lot.

    2. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

      Yes exactly this. You want to convey “here’s what is needed, and here’s why (if you really want to know)”, not “let me tell you this long story to try to convince you to make the same conclusion as I”. The first shows confidence that you know what you’re doing, the second conveys uncertainty.

      1. triplehiccup*

        And you can make this organization even clearer with headers/bolding.

        *Summary:* Bottom line question

        *Client details:* xyz

        *What I’ve tried:* xyz

        1. Nea*

          This! Bottom Line Up front is your friend, then put bullets under the headings triplehiccup suggested. Very readable.

    3. Joy*

      Yes! As a serial over-explainer (my boss forward an email of mine to a colleague with “see this excellent, if long, explanation” which I laughed about because that’s going on my tombstone) BLUF or “bottom line up front” is my mantra.

      I often make it explicit when the rest of the email is optional background too, eg. “if you’d like more detail for how I got here, read on, otherwise that’s the jist of it”.

      It’s a great way to both make sure your busy boss sees the important thing and hedge your bets against them asking for more info.

      1. Venus*

        I have a similar quirk, and when I put the purpose of something right at the top then the rest of the email immediately changes to being helpful extra info rather than onerous wall of text.

    4. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      Yes, like NAM’s post’s format.
      Break it down.
      You do not need narrative;
      You need simple statements.
      I think of it this way (because I’m wordy as hell);
      Bullet points, not bulls*** points

    5. irene adler*

      OH yes! Putting the request up front gives the reader the context to understand the rest of the email.
      Otherwise, the reader is just…reading. And there’s few who do this for pleasure with work topics.

      I have a co-worker who insists upon writing long email ‘stories’ and buries the request deep into the text. Then she cannot understand why folks do not respond with what she needs. I suggested what you wrote. Put the request up front so we know what you need. Absolutely not, she said. The reader must read all of the text to understand the background situation before they can make an intelligent response to her request.

      1. Sara without an H*

        Is your co-worker a recent university graduate? I know employers frequently complain that recent grads can’t write, but what they mean is they can’t write in a business format. The long-form expository writing taught by most English departments just doesn’t work there.

        1. Momma Bear*

          YES. I have had to teach my child to tailor their writing for different audiences – you do not need to write War and Peace in an email. Consider writing it out, and then taking a minute to re-read it and edit the less important things. Bullets are good, as is prioritizing the message, much like one might when writing a news article that could get chopped for space. If you can’t convey it in less than a paragraph, try stating the question and asking if the person would rather hash it out in a call. Sometimes a meeting should have been an email and sometimes an email should have been a meeting.

        2. JustaTech*

          Also academic science writing!
          I work in biotech and we’ve had *several* classes on “technical writing in a business setting” or something like that and the first thing the teachers have said is “You’re not in grad school any more. Write for quick reading, not to prove you’re smart.”
          I had one coworker who was in the middle of writing his dissertation and his reports were ridiculously convoluted, to the point that even other people who had worked on the project had trouble understanding them. Once he finished his dissertation he started applying some of the “writing in industry” style guides and it was *such* an improvement.

          1. TardyTardis*

            Academic High Regalian (nomenclature stolen from Suzette Haden Elgin) is an interesting language, but it turns out not to be English for a lot of people!

        3. Observer*

          This does not work in a LOT of contexts, not just business writing. Putting your thesis at the start of your paper is not unheard of even in academic writing (at least at the undergraduate level)

        4. mrs__peel*

          When I was a second-year law student and starting my first “real” legal job at a non-profit, I was given the assignment of researching whether a certain thing was constitutional or not and writing a memo. I wrote up an *extremely* long document for my boss that basically detailed the entire history of the Establishment Clause, and he was like “……… this is very well-written, but I really just wanted a single page with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no'”. Lesson learned!

        1. ceiswyn*

          Ow! Coffee up nose!

          (Aaaargh, recipe blogs. No, I don’t care about your great granny’s best friend, just gimme the instructions)

    6. Dramatic Squirrel*

      I often get responses back to my emails saying thanks for the thorough explanation. I recently asked one of my stakeholders for feedback and she said that my emails, while thorough, were long and didn’t always get read quickly because if it. But I’m not putting in unnecessary information so what we agreed is that I start these types of emails now with a TLDR summary (too long didn’t read) and I add an line with any action required e.g.

      TLDR: The llama groomer review process is changing to quarterly reviews
      Action: You need to share the new process with your managers

      blah blah blah etc.

    7. Sara without an H*

      Yes, definitely this. And please use the subject line: “Bandersnatch account – Permission to do X.”

      Forget everything you learned at university about expository writing. Keep your paragraphs short and use bullet points as much as possible.

      You team leads will thank you for it.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        I wouldn’t recommend forgetting expository writing, just that everyone should save that for writing long form pieces (e.g. reports, blog posts). So, I agree with you about not using expository writing in emails, but there is a place for it.

        I took a lot of extra writing/composition classes throughout school and they have served me well in my career when I’ve had to write reports and such.

    8. Derjungerludendorff*

      Giving the core of the message first gives people context for all the surrounding information. It lets them judge what is relevant or important while they read, instead of reading everything and then trying to process the whole thing.

    9. Mimi*

      I do not disagree with the above advice about formatting for clearest meaning and best effect, but I will also say that as someone who’s worked a lot of IT helpdesk, you have just described my favorite sort of ticket. That would be enough information for me to make judgements without wasting everyone’s time going back and forth about “Did you try…?”

      1. comityoferrors*

        I wish our IT helpdesk shared your sentiments! I once opened a ticket because the “reset password” link for our benefits page was non-functional. I did BLUF, then explained that I’d tried it in IE and Chrome, tried restarting the browser and returning to the page, had even looked at the source code and identified a snippet that looked off to me and correlated with the error message I was getting. I got a response telling me that the benefits page only works in Chrome, so I should try that.

        Some people just don’t read. I feel that’s an important thing to remember too; it’s not always you.

        1. Risha*

          Those people are the bane of my existence, I swear. Yes, I’m overly wordy; I’m the first to admit that. But if I bothered to write up 5 f’ing paragraphs, then there’s information you need in those paragraphs in order to make a good decision. You made it through college. Suck it up and read half a page of text!

          1. Observer*

            Maybe you always make sure that you only write 5 paragraphs when it’s truly necessary. Many others? Not so much.

            I mean I get that when someone is opening a ticket you need to read it through. But If you are overly wordy, maybe it’s worth considering whether you either have extra information or are making the information hard to find with all the extra language.

        2. Myrin*

          Oh, I hear you – I had almost that exact same issue and after the third back-and-forth-again (where the “answer” I was getting had already been described as not working in the initial email) I was about ready to tear my hair out.

      2. Kiki*

        Yes! I’m not IT/helpdesk, but I am a software engineer who often helps folks with other things and I loveeeeee emails like this. It’s so much easier than going back and forth about stuff they already tried.

      3. Anti anti-tattoo Carol*

        Mimi, seconded! I get so many people emailing and just saying “the [thing] doesn’t work.” What doesn’t work? What were you doing leading up to that moment? What do you mean by “doesn’t work?” Have you tried turning it off and on again? What troubleshooting steps have you taken? My time is spent more on back-and-forth than on actual fixing. I love descriptive messages because they give me a clearer picture of the issue.

        (I am sloooowly training users on the most effective way to ask for help. We are getting there!).

        1. Quill*

          Not IT but anyone who gives me requests that I may get a dozen of each week: EVERY reference needs to contain the information I need to look it up!

    10. Ruby*

      Yes! I came here to post this.

      Early in my career, I took a business writing class. This was her advice and it was life-changing in terms of getting answers to my emails.

      They don’t teach us engineers how to write, but that’s mostly what I do! :)

    11. Ruby*

      Now that I’m looking, I see this is the way Alison answers questions, too. Answer first, then explanation.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Oh snap, that’s a good observation! That’s proabably part of why I enjoy AAM’s advice, in addition to just plain being sensible and compassionate.

    12. MCMonkeybean*

      Yes, exactly this. Bullets are ideal but on top of that put the most simplified version of the question front and center. Sometimes they may choose to read all the details but if all you are looking for is approval and they are very busy they might occasionally choose to skip the details and just be like “sure do whatever you need.”

  4. MissM*

    LW#1 and anyone thinking a negative test means something: the incubation factor is part of why this virus is an AH. You can infect other people and still test negative; this is *not* about test efficacy, it’s part of why this virus is a giant AH. Xoxo please be safe and continue to rely on real distance, masking and hand washing!

    1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      Apologies in advance if this is a massively stupid question, but what does AH mean in this context? A Google search wasn’t much help.

        1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

          Thank you. I thought it meant all time high or something. My sisters are nurses and and send texts with things like HX and F/U.
          I thought a-hole at first, and then thought, “oh this is medical, NOT falling for that again.
          Oh well!

          1. Indy Dem*

            Half the employees, in the department in which I work, have worked as social workers and nurses. The other half of the department is always confused/mortified the first time they read F/U in a note or email.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Influenza type A is an AH. Covid is …. several other letters stuck to the front of it. It’s precisely the kind of virus we feared back in our epidemiology lectures for potential to cause a lethal pandemic.

      (You’d think we’d be more scared of Ebola et al! Nope. Respiratory viruses are the worst)

      We’re gonna be doing the masks and distancing and washing hands thing for quite a while yet.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      A good friend of mine has been solo poly for close to ten years, and shares informational posts about it frequently on their social media; as well as is always available for informational talks with any of their friends that are interested in doing it themselves (as was I at some point). So, even prior to this pandemic, I have received a thorough briefing on why “I tested negative last month” != “I’m clean”. Imagine my surprise when the pandemic started and I was one of the very few people aware of it.

      To me, getting a test makes sense in situations like “I had symptoms, so I got a test and quarantined”. Getting a test for a face-to-face interview, at a restaurant, where other patrons and staff might also be infected, makes no sense to me whatsoever.

    4. Analyst Editor*

      I think the probability that you have Covid given a negative test is still lower than the general probability that you have it, even with a pretty high false negative rate. Am I wrong? The test isn’t 100%, but it’s better than e.g. a coin toss. Just like it’s better to wear a cloth mask than none at all, even if it’s not an N95.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I am not sure that it’s better, as it may give people a sense of false security. But I am not a virologist (IANAV?) etc etc

      2. Zombeyonce*

        I consider it kind of a wash even if the statistics don’t necessarily support it. In most cases, if you are getting tested, it’s because you’ve been exposed or have some symptoms of COVID, so the likelihood that you have it is higher than your average person. You can reduce those chances by 70% if you get a negative test, but your initial chances were likely higher in the first place unless you’re getting tested just to get tested. The problem is that we don’t know your initial chances, so it’s impossible to really say.

  5. Not Australian*

    LW5 if, for any reason, you actually *want* to work during this interim period, you might consider either temping or volunteering for some other organisation closer to home – depending on your skills, of course.

    1. LW 5*

      Hi, LW5 here

      I don’t have a tonne of money (just ‘enough’), so earning even a small amount during whatever the interim is would be nice. Remote temping is a possibility (anything that requires volunteer staff is pretty closed right now) but I think I do run into the same issue Alison was highlighting; I might just have to ditch and run with little notice.

      Thanks for the idea though

      1. BubbleTea*

        The think about tempting is that it is meant to be temporary – you can take jobs on a week by week, or even day by day basis, so no one will mind if you leave suddenly. Not the same with jobs meant to be permanent or long term.

        1. LW 5*

          It might not be unexpected for a temp to just disappear one day or with little/no notice, but I don’t agree that people won’t mind.

          1. doreen*

            That really depends on what kind of temp job you’re talking about – there’s a difference between a temp job where you are covering someone’s maternity leave for six months and one where you find out on a daily/weekly basis where/if you will be working (like substitute teachers, who often find out about their assignments the morning of)

            1. Harper the Other One*

              Second this – in my area there are temp agencies specifically dedicated to “we need one extra person for a project today” or “our admin person will be out for a week and we don’t want to pull someone else to cover the desk.” The work will be very simple but I’ve known a few people who did it while waiting for the offer they needed for a full time position.

          2. GemmaBeth*

            I guess I’m not clear why you’d have to “disappear with no notice”? You’re not going to be flying to a different country minutes after you get the job. A phone call or email to explain to the job and agency that you got a once in a lifetime opportunity takes a few minutes, and a day or a couple days would likely be plenty of enough time to transition your work to another temp from the agency, these jobs are usually designed for constant retraining and easy transfer.

            1. GemmaBeth*

              Also I don’t know what flights are like currently, but I was working internationally in March and got a job offer back in my home country. It took two months to get a flight straightened out because the regulations were constantly changing, I had to get permission from the embassy to travel locally (ie taxi) to even get to the airport, flights being cancelled constantly, etc. at one point I was thinking my only way home was going to be a govt repatriation flight… I had no idea it was going to be so crazy, just something for you to look into, regarding your timeline.

            2. Smithy*

              This is what I’m thinking about – call center work or other positions filled by staffing agencies understand a quite high degree of turnover. That being said, if this ends up being a temp role that you fill for 6 weeks or something before leaving because you need the money – then it’s also not a job you’d put on your resume and likely wouldn’t be concerned regarding any greater professional reputation.

              If that means that in 2021, you finished a contract role in February, have a gap of a few months, then a 6 month post in the rescue position – I think that’s the larger 2021 professional narrative you present to future employers. Not that at one point you did data entry or call center work, and when you quit, only gave a few days notice.

              1. LW5*

                Apologies that I’m only answering to one of you, when so many of you are asking the same questions.

                I’ve been working today so probably wasn’t as expansive as I could have been. I know the jobs I would be getting as a temp, and I know the industry that would be in, there’s only one specific job (that I would be looking for if I went for a temp route) where it’d be okay to just bail.

                And I’m not saying I’d need to run off the moment I was offered the job, I’m saying that I’d need to run off the moment the regulations allowed me to fly. And as they change so quickly, I’d be trying to move on that window asap.

                Its the juggling of waiting to leave for a job (should I get it) while working elsewhere that I was asking about.

                1. Gumby*

                  But would you consider getting *different* jobs as a temp in a *different* industry? Like, I am a project manager now in a STEM field. But if I were looking for temp jobs that I could leave with little notice, I would look for a series of temp jobs as, say, a receptionist / admin assistant / data entry person. Something where – for a temp – they basically just want a warm body with basic skills. (Of course, for someone to hold any of those jobs full time they would be pickier – the full jobs require their own skills, aptitudes, etc. and I frankly wouldn’t meet some of those. But for a “we need someone for a week” job, I would probably be fine.) I have also done housecleaning in the past as a temp job – not at all related to my career but paid enough to keep me alive through a prolonged period of unemployment.

                2. LW5*

                  This is to Gumby as I don’t seem to have the option to reply directly.

                  The short answer is no.

                  There are very few things available to me for a whole host of reasons, and not all related to how badly Covid is being handled here.

                  Also to be clear, and this is not directed solely to you, I do understand how temp jobs work. I have held them in the past and I have held several different jobs in several different industries. And the industry I’m in now, my preferred industry and the position abroad are all v. different from each other, so it’s not a matter of fussiness.

                  I appreciate the suggestions and the advice, but I know what is open to me and it’s not a lot.

  6. Willis*

    For OP #4, I wouldn’t even assume that someone’s business failed just because they’ve decided not to do it any longer/as their main source of income. I’ve known as few people who were successfully working for themselves but decided to look for more typical jobs for whatever reasons in their lives (including some Alison mentioned).

    And on top of that, I think your business being completely different from your career may actually be helpful here. I’d kind of just figure, “oh, she was doing woodworking on the side, tried it out full-time for a while, and now wants to move back to her previous field.” I wouldn’t assume that business was a failure though.

    1. Grits McGee*

      Since woodworking is so different from your current field, you could even explain it like a sabbatical- “I needed a break from [current field], and supported myself by building a woodworking business, but now I’m happy to scale that back down to a weekend hobby. The break really reinvigorated my passion for [current field], and I gained [insights x,y,z] from my time as a business owner.”

      And unless you failed spectacularly and bankrupted yourself, I wouldn’t consider and ended business a failed business. So many people freelance/set up one-person shops, and then go back to regular employment for dozens of non-failure reasons; I really wouldn’t worry about being perceived as a failure.

      1. IndustriousLabRat*

        This is exactly how I framed it when I went back to work in my field (industrial chemistry/process development) after running my airport shuttle business for 3 years. Prior to that, I’d worked in Academia, and the limo thing really WAS a sabbatical from the unique sort of stress that comes with a University setting. I needed time to reset. By the time I decided that I missed structure (and benefits) and having coworkers to collaborate with, I was refreshed! I presented all of your very good points in my cover letter, and was offered the first job I applied to, which has turned out to be a dream position.

      2. BadWolf*

        And there’s the aspect of transitioning a hobby to a job can suck all the joy of the hobby. Going back to a day job can allow you to enjoy it as a hobby again.

      3. JustaTech*

        This is *exactly* what a coworker’s husband did after he left a high-stress job in a giant industry: he was utterly burnt out, so he made fancy cat trees (not covered in carpet) for about a year, decided that the market wouldn’t support him doing it full time, and that he was recovered from the burnout, and went on to do a similar type job in a very different industry. As far as I know he didn’t have any trouble getting interviews.

    2. Global Cat Herder*

      I’m in IT management for a very very large company. I’m part of the interview team but not the hiring manager. A lot of potential hires – people who make it to the point where they interview with me – are coming from self-employment. It’s pretty normal.

      As Alison said, we do ask about the adjustment from being self-employed to working for a large company. What I want to know is are you emotionally aware enough to have given it some thought, because if you try to hand-wave that away, I’m going to be really concerned about how you’ll be able to help people through organizational change.

      I also ask about why you’re looking to make a move from your current job. It’s a standard question that has a different spin when “your current job” is “working for yourself”. Some people give answers covered in Alison’s response or in other comments – they need a change, they don’t like the paperwork, they’re happier working in a team. Some are really honest – “Health insurance”, “I love working for myself and the company was successful, but the income stream wasn’t predictable”, “I’m starting to realize I need retirement benefits”. We’ve hired each of those honest people, because being able to deliver painful news well is a skill needed in this area.

    3. Momma Bear*

      I did freelance work when my child was younger and what I said in interviews was, truthfully, I was at a stage in my life where I wanted new challenges and a more stable income. I’m sure that when/if the time comes, you can come up with a way to convey your choice that won’t make employers run.

    4. DarnTheMan*

      That was my dad before he retired; one of his jobs eliminated his department so in the interim, he started his own consulting company but when the right job offer came along, he took it. His consulting business was doing well but he liked doing project management without a lot of the extra business requirements that being a solo consultant required.

  7. Keymaster of Gozer*

    *grabs virology hat again*

    1: A test, whether it’s the fast or slow type can’t tell you if you’re infectious or not on a specific day. A lot relies on viral load so you could have too few viruses in you to register on day 1, but be asymptotically spreading the virus a few days later. The current British guidelines are to assume at all times that you DO have Covid and act accordingly. Take the zoom call.

    3. I’m so happy there are several vaccines being rolled out! Having said that, getting one at the moment is rather luck of the drawer and accomplishments of chance are not something you put on a CV. The only, only exception I’d make for that is if you’re applying for a job that mandates you having a full vaccination history, such as working in an ICU where it becomes a job requirement.

    Additionally vaccines don’t provide an absolute shield against a virus entering your body; they give your immune system a major, major boost in stopping the virus gaining a foothold.

    1. Anonys*

      I came here to say that regarding 3!

      As long as there is no evidence to the contrary, we really need to assume that vaccinated people can still spread the virus – that’s why vaccinated people should still take all the same precautions regarding masks, distancing etc. So I think for most office jobs, there isn’t even a real advantage to a single member of staff being vaccinated – I guess an argument could be made that if something absolutely needs to be done in the office, the vaccinated person would be best for the job, because the risk for them isn’t as high. But they still shouldn’t meet with another colleague/ client, spend unnecessary time in public transport, etc because they might infect others.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Vaccines don’t negate the need for isolation and disinfection protocols. Only if it succeeds in completely eliminating the virus from nature itself (only done so far for 2 diseases (1 human, 1 animal), although we’ve come really close with polio and measles).

        What it does do is reduce the immense load on hospitals and healthcare as fewer people suffer the harshest outcomes of infection. Fewer people die, fewer people have their lungs destroyed…etc.

        There’s a lot of misinformation surrounding vaccines, and I’m very happy that so many people are proving to not read it. Very happy to see people getting vaccinated. But it’s not relevant to work (again, unless you’re in a very specific field).

        1. jojo*

          Thise diseases are only eliminated in the US, not from the world. Our military still get those immunizations before they deploy to other countries because they exist. Military gave me the small pox vaccine before I went overseas. All it would take is one infected person to come to this country.

      2. Antilles*

        If nothing else, there’s the obvious fact that the vaccines have a measured efficacy of between 90% and 95%. Which is wildly impressive for 10 months of research and firmly in the “those are betting odds, clearly worth it” territory…but by definition, if it works 90% to 95% of the time, that means there’s a 5% to 10% chance it doesn’t work.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            CRISPR gene editing and mRNA vaccines were being discussed as purely theoretical ‘maybe in the future’ when I was doing my degree. Also, sequencing a complete genome took years and supercomputers.

            Now, we had the Covid 19 genome sequenced within a few weeks of it being isolated. I’m continually impressed how far we’ve come.

            1. Quill*

              The vaccine progress is literally the most comforting thing about this pandemic. There are a bunch of other, far less pandemic-y viruses that can be more quickly and cheaply investigated and innoculated against that were never going to be profitable enough / infect enough people to be widely produced before this.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Just a quick correction: it’s not 10 months of research. It’s more like 16 years. That’s how long mRNA vaccines have been in development :)

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

        I think for most office jobs, there isn’t even a real advantage to a single member of staff being vaccinated

        Taking into account that you can still spread the virus even if ‘asymptomatic’ and that’s why we need to persist with masks, sanitiser etc… the obvious benefit to the company of a staff member being vaccinated is that they won’t be going off sick with the virus if someone else in the office catches it and spreads it, or at least 90-95% less likely…

        In my part of the UK we are now encouraging ‘asymptomatic’ people to get tested every couple of weeks, so that people can self-isolate if they have the virus but aren’t aware of it.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Have to laugh at little at that – the last time I asked about testing they tried to send me to a site in Berkshire…which is quite a distance from here!

          (Consequently I’ve not been tested at all. yet.)

  8. Maxie*

    #3 I don’t know what “working near first responders” means, but telling potential employers you’ve already been vaccinated could hurt you. It would only take one person to assume your age or a medical condition to hurt you. Or maybe someone on the committee has a father in a nursing home or a firefighter sister-in- law who has not been able to get vaccinated yet and think you jumped the line. This could only hurt you.

    If you will be expected to be vaccinated for your work, your future colleagues would also already be vaccinated or be vaccinated soon based on local supply and priorities.

    1. Anonymousforthis*

      I agree if I was the OP I would keep it a secret. I have recently been vaccinated as I am exposed to covid on a daily basis at work. It’s a very sensitive issue that vaccine rollout is tiered and slow so far. I chose not to tell anyone out of sensitivity concerns and support for them. My friends and family are essential workers and still do not have access to the vaccine and their workplaces are rampant with cases.

      1. Mookie*

        This. If this is happening in the US, distribution already reflects our embedded class, racial, and regional stratifications. Citing a vaccination for an IT role (!!) is a huge tell, especially if “working near first responders” means what I think it means. LW is probably already aware of how infuriating it is for the average American to hear about, say, the hospital-adjacent managerial class getting their jabs before HCW and all the support and service staff that keep medical settings up, running, and clean. If the role itself, irrespective of the identity of the applicant, isn’t listed at the highest tiers of Phase 1, do not include it as if you think it gives you a professional edge. You ALREADY got your survivability/life edge; spare some breathing room for the rest of us rather than leveraging this privilege twice.

        1. Weekend Please*

          Yeah. I think it could really rub people the wrong way to see it on a resume or cover letter. It doesn’t need to be a secret, but it isn’t a job accomplishment.

          1. dustycrown*

            My first thought was that trying to leverage your vaccination status in a job hunt could come across as a little…opportunistic…to some managers. If it’s job-related and it comes up in an interview, great.

    2. Bluesboy*

      But wouldn’t it depend on the job she is applying for? I mean hypothetically, if she wanted to work in an old people’s home surely it would be an advantage to have already received the vaccine. Maybe it is unfair on those who haven’t already received it, but it would be unfair to the residents not to consider the extra safety to their health provided by the vaccine.

      Now, OP says that due to her role, she was prioritised for receiving the vaccine. I would imagine that if I were recruiting for someone in a role where vaccinations are necessary, I would consider knowing whether candidates have been vaccinated or not to be essential information, not that different from knowing about relevant safety qualifications.

      So if OP is applying for a similar job to her current job, I would include it. If she is planning to still work in IT, but in a role/company without that necessity, I would not, following your logic.

      1. Allonge*

        I think if the job asks for a full health screening, than it needs to be submitted. Otherwise, have we argued in the past for including an up-to-date vaccination history wiht our resumes? This is the same thing, except with additional politics.

        Also, and I may be wrong about this, the only thing the vaccine is supposed to guarantee is that you don’t get (very) sick yourself, not that you cannot transmit to others. Hence the warnings about still wear a mask etc.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          It’s lower chance of you transmitting it but you’re right it is not a guarantee. Basically what we generally aim for in a vaccine is:

          Fewer people dying/being seriously harmed by the virus

          A chance that if enough people are vaccinated the virus has no suitable human pool to replicate in and pretty much becomes a non issue in the future.

          And: much less person to person transmission.

          One of the first things I learnt when going into virology is that biology holds no guarantees. None. We still can’t agree on a definition of our own subject matter (try to define ‘life’). We’re playing a probability game.

          1. Allonge*

            Thanks! Of course what I forgot to add is that everyone who can, should have the vaccine as soon as possible, that is not in question. It’s just not necessarily something we can afford to reward at thsi point without seeming really out of touch.

          2. TL -*

            It’s probably a lower chance of transmitting it. They haven’t actually analyzed/released that data yet. All they can say with certainty is that people who got the vaccine developed far, far fewer cases of symptomatic COVID-19.

            (Yes that probably translates into less transmission, but COVID-19 can be transmitted while asymptomatic and until they have a chance to collect and analyze that data, we can’t say that it results in less transmission.)

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              Well, there’s the usual issue of vaccine testing: you can’t give someone a vaccine then inject them with the virus to see if it worked. That’s inhumane (and yet another reason why vaccine development takes so long). So we have to rely so, so much on observational data after the vaccine trial.

              And boy is that stuff inaccurate. But, we literally have no other method.

              1. TL -*

                That’s not entirely accurate – they’re actively doing antibody profiling which the “did infection happen?” questions and therefore provide significant insight into transmission post-vaccination.

                They absolutely will get that data; it’s just that kind of immunological profiling takes a lot longer to complete than symptom tracing and it wasn’t worth delaying vaccine approval to get it sorted before rollout.

      2. The Other Victoria*

        This is uncharted territory, but I have to imagine that a job requiring vaccination would like arrange for it if the most qualified candidate did not already have the vaccine, at which point, documentation would be relevant more in the onboarding conversations than as part of the hiring process.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’m still waiting for the NHS to decide if my various issues mean I’m on the ‘vaccinate quick’ list or the ‘really shouldn’t have the vaccine’ list.

      (I know I’m going to be really ill after getting a vaccine. I always am because my particular autoimmune disease sucks. Still willing to get it)

      1. SweetestCin*

        That’s not a fun place to be, and it sounds a little alarming/scary too. Hopefully they’ll figure it out in a timely manner.

    4. I'm just here for the cats.*

      I don’t agree that the hiring manager would think they.had a medical condition. Assuming that the LW has their job history on their resume, and that “works with 1st responders” would make it obvious why they got the shot. And at least in my area the people getting the shots are those who are in healthcare, 1st responders and nursing home residents.

        1. SweetestCin*


          I think it would be like seeing somone’s vitals or other vaccination status on a resume…it just doesn’t belong there. If you need it, they’re going to figure this out during on-boarding.

          And I really dislike the statement used that “I think an argument could be made that it offers an advantage over non-vaccinated candidates.” Ewwww. Certifications and other pertinent things? Yes. Medical things? Gross.

          1. Quill*

            Yeah, it sounds like adding vaccinations to a resume, taken to excess, it could start bringing up some real issues with potential medical discrimination.

            “Oh, I’m not vaccinated”
            “I’m immunosuppressed…”

        2. I'm just here for the cats*

          I agree, unless they know that the new employer would request vacine. For example, if they were going to apply for a job at a hospital they could put a bullet point under their former job – completed COVID vaccine as required. This way the employer could take in to account that they don’t have to look into getting this candidate vaccinated.

          However, if they are not going to work someplace where its required then don’t have it on their because it’s not going to add anything

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

        Yes – if including it on a resume at all as a ‘selling point’ wouldn’t you just write something like “received covid19 vaccine in January 2021 (due to work in proximity with first responders)”?

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I think the only reason to mention it is if they point blank say, “We all have to have a Covid shot. So I will make an appointment for you to get yours.” At that point, OP, you could say, “I will bring in documentation to show that I have already had it.”
      It’s a pleasant little bonus for them not to have to worry about your Covid shot status while doing all the other on-boarding tasks they have. But I’d be very surprised if having the shot actually helped you enough to win you the job.

    6. kittymommy*

      As someone who also “works near first responders” my immediate thought was office staff/warehouse (logistics) staff who they like. We’re vaccinating our first responders as well and unless you’re running an ambulance or have a PM or EMT license, you’re not getting vaccinated. So nobody running on a fire truck and no higher ups. Trying to get a leg up on other applicants because one got vaccinated is kinda icky to me.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        Or admins or dispatch or any number of roles that interact on a daily basis with first responders. Even w/FF (truck assigned) in my experience they have as close interactions with vulnerable populations as those who are ambulance based. Lift assists, car wrecks, etc.

        Assuming US, every state and county is different in setup and rules surrounding who is in line first. Quite frankly they’re jabbing anyone they can get their hands on so they don’t waste any of the doses in my state since they’ve managed to botch the rollout so far.

        1. kittymommy*

          Our dispatch is housed separate from the LEO’s and Fire/EMS so there’s little physical interaction. There’s much higher interaction with logistics and HQ, that’s why I didn’t even think of dispatch.

          We’re at such a limited supply here for first responders that it’s definitely being rationed out until we get more. We generally run a truck and a bus together so while many on the truck have PM or EMT license, they let the other guys run the medical calls.

        2. I'm just here for the cats*

          I think it really depends on where the LW is. I can see an office support person getting vacinated because they would be more likely to contract the virus from the first responders ( I think even if you are vacinated you can still be a carrier.)
          Also I know in my area there are WFH hospital support staff (call center, finance, etc) that have gotten the vacine. It actually a bit controversial because there are vulnderable people who havent been able to get it.

          But really I think they are just trying to get as many people vacinated and they don’t want to waste any vials.

    7. LGC*

      That’s interesting! I hadn’t even thought it could be an indication that you’re “high-risk.”

      Although, in my experience, it seems like most of the people who are getting vaccinated first are in healthcare and healthcare-adjacent fields.

  9. Sarah*

    LW3…” I think an argument could be made that it offers an advantage over non-vaccinated candidates.”

    This leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Some of us haven’t gotten the vaccine yet through no fault of our own. I agree with Allison, it shouldn’t give you an advantage, not sure why you think itshould.

    1. KiwiApple*

      Some of us will not be getting it for a long time either because of how low risk we are, that we are not a priority right now to get one.

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Yes. I’m a teacher teaching in person and might not get the vaccine for several months. And even then I’ll know I have to be careful at work and in my social life because there’s evidence that vaccinated people can still spread the virus. You being vaccinated doesn’t actually have many advantages to a potential employer other than a decreased chance you’ll miss work because you get sick; it’s not like they could send you to loads of in-person meetings or travel willy-nilly for work or anything. That will continue to be irresponsible behavior until most people are vaccinated.

    3. Jane Plough*

      And to me. I’ll go further and say that I’d really question the judgement of someone who thought their health status should influence interviewers in their favour, whether related to their COVID vaccine status, or otherwise. It belies an ableist assumption that “good” health makes you a “better candidate” which is an assumption that needs rooting out of the workplace yesterday.

      Let your resume speak to your achievements and not the random luck you had in being at the front of the queue.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        There was an article in our local rag quite a while ago about how local companies were trying to find out if job applicants were ‘high risk’ because they didn’t want to hire anybody at an increased risk of getting covid and not being able to work. I became so very very very careful not to show the slightest signs of being in any of the risk groups before interviews.

        (Can’t do it if you meet me though. I can’t hide my weight, age or disability. Video calls have been possible with good lighting and a bit of clever object placing)

      2. EPLawyer*

        Not so sure its ableist as more cuthroat. Willing to do anything to get a leg up. If they think this way in the application stage, what advantages are they going to take to get ahead on the job. Are they going to undermine the others on the team. It’s just not a team attitude. It’s a me first attitude.

        1. Le Sigh*

          I could argue it’s both! Probably more cutthroat without intending to be ablest, but ablest nonetheless.

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Unintentional ableism is still ableism. The argument “You should hire me because I’m less likely to get sick” is inherently ableist, whether or not the person makes the argument has any personal animosity toward less healthy people.

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Socially distant high five for everything you just said. A person’s health status should have no bearing on whether or not they are qualified to be hired for a job. I think OP should leave the Covid vaccine off their application paperwork. If Covid vaccination is a requirement of the job, presumably the workplace will be planning on arranging a vaccination for whatever candidate they hire, and at that point OP can say they’ve already had it.

    4. Autistic Farm Girl*

      Yeah I thought the same, it comes across as “I should be prioritised because I have good health” which is really not a line I think anyone wants to use. Some people will need to wait months to get the vaccine, some people will never be able to get it (because they have other health issues that make it a problem) that doesn’t make them worse candidates for a job. There are plenty of people who cannot be vaccinated, for loads of reasons, all of them out of their control (i’m not talking about anti vaxxers here) and they shouldn’t be punished for that.

    5. Harper the Other One*

      Yes, I have a friend in the US who was telling me yesterday that she knows someone who comes in contact with hundreds of people a day at work who won’t be getting the vaccine for weeks, possibly months… but managers at the same company have been designated “essential” and have gotten their first dose. Being higher up the list is a matter of luck, societal priorities, and unfortunately, good op’ fashioned privilege.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I am 60 and essential. I have a loong wait until I see my vaccine. For proper perspective, there are plenty of people out there whose work is more essential than mine.

    7. Colette*

      I don’t love “I got vaccinated because of my job, and now I’m leaving the job that I was vaccinated for and want to use the vaccination as an advantage to help me get another job”.

    8. Emilia Bedelia*

      I see the OP’s line of thinking – they are looking at it like school vaccinations, or like getting a tetanus booster before going on a trip. OP is thinking “well, clearly being vaccinated is a good thing, they don’t have to go to the trouble of getting me vaccinated before I start”. If OP is applying at places that are already 100% vaccinated, it very well might be legitimately beneficial to the company for them to already have the vaccine.
      I think OP is looking at this as more of a logistical benefit than a health based one – the same way that someone would say “I happen to live 2 blocks from the office, so it’s very convenient for me”. That’s not a slight against anyone who lives further away, it just is what it is.
      That said, it’s not really something that belongs on a resume for all the reasons that everyone has stated. I just don’t think it’s a slight against those who haven’t gotten the vaccine for whatever reason – it’s the luck of the draw, for those who have been able to get it right now, but it’s just not that big of a deal for a company to base a decision off of.

      1. Le Sigh*

        Hmmm, I think yes and no. You might be right about their line of thinking and their intentions. But realistically, as another commenter pointed out, the distribution process in the U.S. is a reflection of our deeply seeded class, racial, and regional stratifications (and the overall mismanagement of this entire pandemic in general). I’m anxious to be vaccinated, but am low priority and okay waiting my turn. But there are just SO many people who don’t yet have access but really need it asap for health or job-related reasons, and trying to use this to your advantage, in this moment, during an active pandemic where infection rates are climbing and people are suffering, just isn’t the same as saying you live two blocks from work.

        And given that, depending on who is reviewing resumes, they might not only find it weird or inappropriate to include but potentially be rubbed the wrong way if they or other loved ones are waiting for the vaccine.

    9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah, I really hope the OP has not thought it through, because this really says “people who have not yet been vaccinated” (which is almost all of us; heck, my mother is 83 and she hasn’t been offered the vaccine yet) “deserve this job less than I do”.

      In addition to what others said, a year from now, it is not going to matter who got the vaccine first. And I would imagine this employer is planning for the new hire to work for them for more than a year.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Very true. In a year it won’t matter when you got the vaccine, or even which one you got (think we’ve got 3 different ones here in the UK). It’s kind of like putting on your CV that you’ve had ‘zero days off ill in the last year’. Granted it may be accurate, it may attract some employers to you, but it’s not an achievement that you worked for – just a happenstance of chance.

    10. Sylvan*

      Yeah. Everyone’s region is rolling out vaccines differently, and for most of us, our opportunity to get vaccinated comes down to what seems like chance. Happening to reach a certain birthday or have a certain job that really didn’t mean much at all a year ago. It shouldn’t be an advantage in an interview.

  10. WS*

    LW #5 – if the other country with wildlife rescue and large fires last year is Australia, please be aware of our extreme travel restrictions* at the moment (which are likely to continue at least into March). Australian citizens, let alone people wanting to work in Australia, have been applying for positions in quarantine and on repatriation and commercial flights for months.

    *Unless you’re a celebrity with lots of money, in which case you can jump the queue and fly in on your own plane and quarantine in your own home with no problems!

    1. LW 5*

      It’s not Australia. The country in question was doing okay, is doing less okay at the moment and has closed down more severely for the time being. That’s kind of where the ‘no notice’ thing comes in; I’d likely be going as soon as there’s a window, which might not be open very long. I would be getting direct assistance from the centre in terms of arranging permissions, exemptions etc.

      (There’s a work requirement for quarantine on the other side so to be safe for the animals and what little staff is there)

      1. WS*

        That’s good! My brother and sister-in-law have been trying to return from London since April and still haven’t got a flight or a quarantine spot, so I didn’t want someone to be overly optimistic about a sudden job offer in Australia meaning they could actually get here!

        1. LW 5*

          That sounds pretty awful, I hope your brother and SIL can come back soon.

          I’m keeping an eye on the country’s restrictions and I still have my second interview to do anyway, so this may all be worrying for nothing.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Yikes! The UK is…not at it’s best regarding anything really right now it I’m really distressed to hear your family members have been stranded here for that long.

          1. WS*

            Yeah, they’re in the middle of London, with a new baby, it’s pretty bad. But they’re better off than some Australians – they have somewhere to live, they’re both freelancers so they don’t have to quit jobs and then have the flight cancelled again, and they’re both young and healthy. But it’s a very difficult and frustrating time for them.

  11. LGC*

    LW2: What I usually do is summarize the question in the subject, put a short summary at the very top (essentially, a tl;dr and I have probably dated myself), and then any detail below. It’s something I’ve learned from experience because while I am a compulsive email through-reader…I’ve learned that my coworkers and contacts aren’t always that way.

    1. Oh Snap*

      LW4, someone I know who does a lot of hiring (in engineering) gives 1 pass for “I started my own business and now I’m looking to work for an established company again”. Because hey, maybe it’s true! But in engineering they have seen plenty of people use “I ran my own consulting business” as a cover for “I was unemployed or fired”, so they are cautious about seeing that more than once.

      If you have a legit business and can talk about it in a meaningful way I wouldn’t be too concerned. I’d just worry about the usual issues with engineering career breaks around keeping technical skills fresh.

    2. TimeTravlR*

      You are so right about people not reading emails! Ack!!! The bane of my existence! (Well… one of them!)

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’ve been told it’s one of my areas of improvement. I tend to write a LOT and include (as you’ll see on this very forum) a lot of stuff in brackets too. Holdover from being a coder? Not sure.

      So I try to do your tactic of a clear, concise email title. A brief start (like the abstract on a science paper sort of) with a conclusion and then a ‘for more info read here:’ below.

      Then I go back and edit that email about 20 times before sending it. Had more than a few ‘Keymaster, I asked for a status report not your final year dissertation’ replies in my career. Ooops…

      1. LGC*

        That’s funny since I write almost exactly the same way and I have a bit of a coding background.

        (I’m less prone to this in work emails, but in comments here, I’ve sometimes submitted comments with missing or partial sentences. In the middle of the comment.)

    4. Not A Girl Boss*

      I listened to an interview once with someone about how editing is the most important communication skill. He teaches college English and has students write a 10 page paper, then edit it down to 3, 1, and then just a paragraph and just one sentence. The more concise you can be, the better the important points of your message will get across. And, they can always ask for details if they need it.

      I format my emails like this
      Subject [Action Required]: [Topic] (Eg, Please Approve: Change Order 11 for Bunny Shaped Noodles)
      First Sentence: [Bottom Line Up Front] (Eg, There have been complaints the bunnies look like turtles, so this change order is to shorten their necks).
      [Leave a space here]
      [Supporting Details] (Here I try to anticipate any big questions they’ll have and answer them in bullet format. I limit myself to only the 3 most likely ones) (Eg, -the biggest risk is that the bunnies come out looking like mice, -my first choice alternative would be to remove the bunny shape entirely, and -the anticipated changeover downtime is Y for option A and Z for option B)

      It sounds like you are trying to use those details to prove that you have taken the time to troubleshoot for yourself. But until you hear evidence otherwise, trust that people trust you not to ask for help unless you need it.

      Another thing to check for is qualifiers “I think that…” “Maybe we could try…” etc. Women in particular use these habitually and they make emails really long and difficult to read. We know you think that, because you’re the one typing the email. Have a little confidence!

      1. LGC*

        It sounds like you are trying to use those details to prove that you have taken the time to troubleshoot for yourself. But until you hear evidence otherwise, trust that people trust you not to ask for help unless you need it.

        Funny enough, I think this actually comes through in LW2’s letter! To be honest – and this feels a bit mean to say, but it’s actually relevant – I feel like if LW2’s work emails are like their letter to Alison, I wouldn’t be surprised if their supervisors skimmed. (I’ll admit, I did until just now.) LW2 actually troubleshot their own potential issues in the first two paragraphs, and only got to the question in the third paragraph.

        Although, to be fair, in this case, it’s actually appropriate to go into that much detail (since we have no idea who LW2 is, it’s useful to know that this is their first job post-graduation, and their first job with this much email communication). I just found it interesting that they demonstrated it here.

  12. TimeTravlR*

    #2 – I once had a gentleman work for me who wrote a very long convoluted paragraph trying to convey that the more mature people in the group could teach the new ones, and they could bot learn from each other. Very long. Very convoluted. He still laughs about how I boiled it down to one word “intergenerational.” So, yes, be sure you aren’t going around Robin Hood’s barn to say, “I would like permission to do X, I have exhausted all other possibilities.” If you still want to add a little more info then add it in a separate paragraph *after* the BLUF (bottom line up front) of my sample sentence.

  13. AthenaC*

    OP#2 – I’ve been in situations where I have to communicate a lot of detail by email, so I bold the action items and leave the rest of the detail unbolded. That way, for super busy people, all they need to read is the bold, but the additional detail is there if they want it.

    In your example, I might write:

    Good afternoon,

    I have the following for your attention:

    I need support with a developing warp core breach. I have already tried reconfiguring the plasma manifolds and realigning the power coupling. That’s the limit of what I know / can figure out so I appreciate your help.



    Hopefully that helps!

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      ….I’m screenshotting this. Blimmin brilliant! (Also am Trek fan so it’ll stay in my head)

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      This is great. If I may build on it, I offer a few modifications to consider:

      Good afternoon,

      I need support with a developing warp core breach.

      I have already tried:
      *Reconfiguring the plasma manifolds
      *Realigning the power coupling.

      That’s the limit of what I know / can figure out so I appreciate your help.

  14. qtippyqueen*

    #2 – I feel this deep in my heart! I used to work alongside an IT department, and the number of emails back and forth were maddening with, well did you try this? Yes. Did you try this? Yes…Did you try this? YES I TRIED IT ALL PLEASE JUST HELP! So I totally understand the long emails!

    I think that there is some great advice here! Top of the email – biggest point. Then below – what you tried. And bullet points are always helpful for me!

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      Yes to bullet points! Longish emails can be okay, but wall o’ text or rambly ones are really not fun to receive. I have one colleague whose emails I put off reading because they wander around aimlessly and I can’t always tell what his actual question is. They have long paragraphs and I need to take a deep breath and focus to read them in a way I don’t with most emails – not what you want your boss to feel when they get an email from you.

      Bullet points can let you cut out a lot of words, clarify the structure of what you’re saying, and make it easier to skim or read quickly. And you don’t need to have many bullets to be very helpful. You can say things like:

      How would you like me to proceed?
      – Call the client and tell them we can’t groom her goat, or
      – Send the goat over to the llama grooming department

      You’ve drawn the reader’s eye to the key point and let them see the two alternatives in a way that would take them longer to tease out of a multi-sentence paragraph.

      Most business emails that are more than a few paragraphs should have bullet points, a numbered list, occasionally section headings, or an attachment or link to a separate document that contains the bulk of the content in a better format for review. If you actually need a 2-page memo on the topic, format it as a 2-page memo and send that. If it doesn’t warrant that, you should be able to find some way to make it shorter and/or use formatting to make it more readable.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Been very used to emails like that (work in IT) and tried to reduce the back and forth because yeah, it’s annoying.


      Please try X method
      if that doesn’t work, try Y method
      if neither works please report back with whatever errors etc. you got.

      (I detest the ‘send step 1’, wait for feedback, ‘send step 2’ kind and have told off several staff for doing that. Also, the bits about sacrificing managers to the god of the server rack as a step need to be kept out of external communications :p )

  15. Satisfactory Worker*

    LW2: In my professional experience most people use email like they are shouting across a house. I used to do a lot of troubleshooting on our internal processes and systems and a common email I would get is,:

    User: I can’t get X to work.
    Me: Did you try A, B, C. Also is this scenario M or scenario N.
    User: I have not tried A, B, C. X doesn’t work. This is scenario O.
    Me: Okay, since this is scenario O, try A, B, C, and D.

    That is a lot of back and forth. I would much rather they send a detailed email with the problem, the details, and anything they have tried. It shows they put forth effort and gives me the details to actually troubleshoot or make a decision.

    1. Mockingjay*

      Yes, LW2 has a good grasp of information depth needed to problem solve. All they need is to better organize the email: BLUF, bullets, etc. I love that they include what solutions they’ve already tried.

      I work with people of 30 years’ experience whose idea of an email string about a problem is:

      Eng: Fix the widget document.
      Me: What’s wrong with it?
      Eng: I don’t like the template. I want to make it better.
      Me: This is the standard template the agency uses. If there’s more info you want to add, we can do an appendix, but the template is standard across all the projects. We can’t change it.
      Eng: I still want to make it better.
      Me: Okay, what specifically don’t you like? Please give me a list of changes that you want, then I can work with the agency to see if they’ll accept them.
      Eng: *email chain dies
      Me: *headdesk

    2. SomebodyElse*

      lol.. I have the opposite problem, my emails generally look like this:

      Me: X is not working (see screenshot), have tried A, B, and C
      Help: Please try A
      Me: Yes, I’ve done that, see screenshot. Have also tried B and C
      Help: Are you sure A doesn’t work?
      Me (starting to give up hope): I tried A again… see screenshot… same result as first attempt. Have also tried B and C.
      Help: Ok, I’d like you to try B
      Me (sigh): B did not work either. See screenshot.
      Help: Let’s try B one more time
      Me: …

      1. Quill*

        My tech support emails are always either “I have done x, y, z, believe the only solution is administrator access, would like you to remote into my computer and put in the password so it will download properly” and getting it fixed 30 minutes later, or the exact same thing but the person on the other end manages to wipe my database by changing a variable without backing the system up.

        There is no averagely competent IT. There is just excellent IT and IT that makes me tear my hair out.

    3. Luke G*

      I think that’s contextual- if you’re sending a description of a problem to somebody who’s supposed to try to fix it, they probably want a more detailed list of everything going wrong and everything you’ve already tried. A manager who just needs to review information or sign off on a process might only need a very broad summary. Someone being asked a question might need something in between- enough details to help, but not a blow-by-blow of every single thing that’s been done. The hard part is getting that calibration right.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Luke G, audience context is a really good point (and one that I normally catch – need more coffee). Thanks for the reminder!

        1. Luke G*

          But of course! I’m just particularly attuned to that, as my current position has me working directly with a VERY diverse set of people around the company who need/want VERY different levels of scientific detail.

    4. Anonymous Hippo*

      Exactly. As someone who manages people at the beginning of their careers a lot, you telling me the things you’ve already tried not only speeds up the troubleshooting on my end, but it shows me your thinking so I can see your strengths and weaknesses and helps me guide you into being able to get further the next time.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      I have started including a slide on working with the help desk in my orientation deck. We work in a time-sensitive industry, and we don’t have time to go back and forth 12 times trying to get the bare bones needed to troubleshoot quickly. If they have the basics (what specifically the problem is, any error messages, what they were trying to do when the error occurred, and how long it’s been happening), it cuts through a lot. Bonus points for including a screenshot of error messages or checking to see if a peer is having the same problem.

      For someone reporting up to me, having the background is helpful so I can get them to the right place faster and correct any underlying assumptions/issues I see. Not a novel, but a quick bullet list of what’s already been tried or eliminated as an option.

  16. Dagny*

    LW3: Alison says that it would be “odd” to preference a vaccinated candidate over a non-vaccinated candidate.

    She is engaging in polite understatement. It would signal a deeply dysfunctional corporate environment. During the pandemic, we have seen employers that have moved heaven and earth to get their (computer based, could be fully remote) employees back into the office, employers that play fast and loose with definitions of “essential,” and employers that created sound and thoughtful COVID policies. Generally, employers in the last category will otherwise have worker-friendly policies; very few otherwise-great companies suddenly decided that they DGAF if their employees caught a deadly disease.

    You don’t want to screen *into* the bad companies. The good companies might even look down on you a bit – why would they want a line-jumper in the ranks of socially conscious employees?

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      This is a very, very good point. A company that would use this information as part of their hiring decision is probably not a company you want to work for because it indicates that they’ve got some incredibly skewed priorities.

  17. StressedButOkay*

    OP3, I’d be very upset if an interviewer was taking preference of those who had received the vaccine over those who hadn’t, especially at this point in the rollout. Many places are still only vaccinating front line workers and those above a certain age – the rest are still waiting outside a small group. As time goes on, the number of unvaccinated individuals is going to go down but it’ll take a bit.

    The only thing that should come into play are the regular interviewing standards!

  18. Luke G*


    I feel your pain! I work in the sciences and it’s always been a struggle to get across enough information to support my point but not to bore or overwhelm my audience. It was especially true when I was new in my career- it felt like I really had to prove to the higher-ups that I’d done everything correctly on my end. As you get more established, you’ll have more trust, and it won’t seem as necessary to “prove yourself” because everyone will know that if you say “I think we should reboot the warp core” that you TRIED all the normal alternatives.

    In the meantime, here are some tricks I learned (some of which I know other commenters have mentioned as well):

    – Put your summary or question at the top in 1-2 SHORT sentences. Put the details below.

    – Bullet points are your friend, especially when you’re listing things (“here’s what I’ve tried already” or “here are the requirements I’m trying to fulfill”)

    – If sentence-form writing is required, try to keep paragraphs short and put a line break between them. This helps you avoid the dreaded wall-o-text appearance.

    – Look carefully for filler: if you’re saying “as you know” or “what we always do” or “like it says in the SOP document” you may be padding your length.

    – Sometimes I find myself writing an e-mail where, if they trust my reasoning it can be very short while if they want to see me back my position up it takes a lot more detail. In those cases I will attach a separate document to the e-mail that contains an in-depth look at my troubleshooting steps, or calculations, or whatever. Then I can keep the body short and sweet for all those who are willing to say “Luke says we should reboot the core, he’s probably right” and include a note to see the attached document for all those who want to see all of the readings and the results of all my troubleshooting.

  19. Anya Last Nerve*

    OP#4 – since your business is in a totally different space than your current job, I would be less concerned with explaining why your small business failed and think about a really solid reason why you left business X to do woodworking and why you would want to go back. I say this because I know of a person who worked in financial services, left to sell her own jewelry, and now is having an impossible time getting back into financial services. I think the primary concern for hiring managers is – how do I know she’s not going to burn out again quickly and want to quit to make jewelry or do woodworking? Also if you think you may go back to your industry, keep on your skills, attend trainings, etc so it’s clear to future employers you were always serious about the industry. But finally – good luck with your small business! Hopefully you succeed and don’t need to use any of this advice.

  20. Jady*

    #2: I’ve been working for over a decade and I still struggle with this, so you are not alone. It is a constant issue.

    On one hand, if an email is too long then no one will read it. You’ll either get ignored or get some crappy unhelpful reply because they only read the first sentence.

    On the other hand, if the email doesn’t have enough information then you waste a lot of time because you get uninformed replies or end up in an email chain going back and forth.

    A few tips I’ve learned over the years:

    – Keep the needs/requests at the top of the email. Whatever you’re asking for should be within the first couple sentences.

    – Use bullet points whenever possible. You don’t need to use complete sentences in these bullet points.

    – Keep out flowery language and minimize sentences.

    – All the extra details (things like troubleshooting steps in OP’s example) should be at the very bottom (preferably in bullet points), but in general should be included. This way, they can reference it if it comes up. Also, if you get one of those unhelpful replies, you can refer back to the original email instead of wasting your own time re-explaining everything.

    – Keep all the thanks/appreciation/apology stuff you might want to include at the salutation part of the email.

    1. Anonymous Hippo*

      This is not specific to you, I just happened to pick this comment to respond too, but it is making me sad to read how often people aren’t reading their emails. Do we think this is a function of being perpetually understaffed, or people not prioritizing email as a part of their job, or just human nature? Or some combination?

      It frustrates me to no end that people seem to expect email to be the mode of contact, and yet nobody seems to have a strategy to handle their email.

      1. Roci*

        Many of the people I work with whom I would describe as “don’t read their email” are self-described “visual learners”. I have tried many varieties of bullet points, bolding, short emails, long emails… doesn’t matter. It doesn’t click until I walk them through it with my voice and a visual diagram, or until they try it themselves.

        I have literally sent emails like “The teapot should be blue but it’s showing up red. Please fix” and gotten back “What color should the teapot be?” Sigh.

    2. SomebodyElse*

      Agree with your approach.

      I started managing a team that had to communicate highly technical information to non technical people, and their emails were long paragraph driven and really hard to follow.

      I started working with them to use bullet points, because it forces you to get to the point and be clear.

      So much better communication and a lot less confusion!

  21. JHB*

    For #2 Long email. As you navigate the best choice for your situation, one strategy I find is appreciated is the main point/action item is clearly summarized at the top for a quick read. Then additional detail added as OPTIONAL reading. It’s there if you need it. You have detailed history. But it doesn’t create a burden for the viewer. I often add a divider line or words like ADDITIONAL DETAIL IF NEEDED.

  22. employment lawyah*

    1. Can I ask my interviewer to get a Covid test?
    No. That would really be an overstep.

    3. Should my resume mention I’ve been vaccinated for Covid?
    Well, it depends on the job. I wouldn’t put it on a resume but I would be inclined to mention it in a cover letter or somehow let them know.

    After all: As is probably 0bvious, it DOES affect all sorts of things. I would happily pay $10,000 for a CV vaccine myself, because I’d get a lot more than $10,000 of work as a result!

    For example, an IT tech who is CV-proof and willing to go to customer sites can be much more valuable than one who will only work remotely.

    Anyway: Yes, it might boost your candidacy; and yes, I would let them know.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      There is no such thing as a vaccine that makes you 100% proof against a virus. Vaccines reduce the risk of the virus getting a foothold in your body; they don’t stop the virus from getting in entirely.

      (Additionally – no, I wouldn’t hire a techie who made a big thing of getting the vaccine. I’m more concerned if they will follow standard procedures like masks, distancing, washing etc. Am high risk myself AND an IT tech/manager. Got zero issues with going to site if people are gonna stay out of my way)

    2. Nikki*

      Getting the vaccine doesn’t make you “Covid proof”. You can still get sick and/or pass the virus on to other people. The vaccine lowers your chances of getting sick, will likely make your symptoms milder if you do get sick, and might lower the chances you’ll transmit it to someone else, but even vaccinated people still need to act as if they could get or transmit the virus (masking, social distancing, etc.) until enough people have gotten it that infection rates are manageable.

    3. Anonymousforthis*

      By now more people are getting vaccinated So much so that this letter will no longer be a novelty.

  23. voyager1*

    LW1: I did an in person interview last week for literally a dream opportunity for me. I had the same choice with Zoom vs in person. There is no way I would have risked losing this by being obnoxious and asking for a Covid test, when Zoom was an option.

    Your interviewer gave you a choice and you chose the best one for yourself. Choosing Zoom over in person is not going to be the difference in you getting a job, and if it is you probably don’t want to work for them anyway.

    I hope you get the job.

    1. LW1*

      I didn’t, but thank you

      The interview went pretty well, but I found out later that they hired someone else. Still, the interviewer was very nice and said I have a lot of potential and that he’d legitimately really like to speak to me again for a future internship cycle. I have actually gotten two jobs that way before, so I take it as a good sign!

  24. Sarra N. Dipity*

    LW3: Also, considering the racial disparities when it comes to vaccine availability and acceptance, considering that as a factor when offering employment could definitely be… problematic.

  25. ARM*

    LW2: all of these tips from commenters about email are great, but I just want to make sure you’re not wasting time drafting this beautiful email when a phone call could solve your problem quickly! So many people of our generation (okay, fine, I’m a millennial, not a Zoomer) default to text-based communication because that’s what we’re used to, but sometimes it’s just so much easier to quickly work through an issue on the phone.

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      I agree to some degree. I tend to use the “three email” guideline: If we discuss an issue for more than 3 emails, then it’s probably worth switching to a phone call.

      Some other considerations:
      -What is the culture of the team/company? Some places are more email/text based, others default to a meeting.
      -Is the ask time-sensitive? And do the recipient(s) need to prioritize your ask?

      One point in favor of text-based communication is that it’s asynchronous, so recipients can prioritize based on their priority list (which is probably more suitable for mid- to senior positions). In contrast, an *unscheduled* phone call requires one to drop anything else they are doing to take the call.

      1. Quill*

        Also, these days 1) likeliness to work from home, 2) am I sure we’re on the same schedule?

        The other one: does this contain any numbers / things that are hard to spell that it would be easier for people to copy/paste? What with accents and secondary languages, spelling out text or number strings over the phone gets very painful.

      2. LW5*

        That’s a great rule. I do something similar already but hadn’t quantified it that way, thank you.

        I also agree that phone calls (in work as in life) are very demanding and can be potentially disruptive/inconsiderate to other people’s schedules. And in my work, I prefer written as I like the paper trail, so even if I do have a phone call, there’s always a summation email after the fact.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I generally use email over phone, simply because there’s less chance of misunderstanding or mispronounced words that way which if you’re doing anything technical can be an important point.

      Nowt to do with generations.

    3. Cat Tree*

      It’s not just about what we’re used to. Phone calls are the second most intrusive form of contact after showing up in person (maybe even worse actually, because if you show up in person and the person is clearly busy you can walk away). It is absolutely warranted, but only for urgent matters. Email allows someone to read and respond when they have a natural break in their other work. Instant message gets a quicker response but still allows the person to finish their current thought. A phone call requires the person to immediately drop everything, so it should be used only when truly necessary. Even then, I prefer someone to IM me first, requesting me to let them know as soon as I’m available to take a call.

      1. ARM*

        I’m in law, where phone calls – to clients, to opposing counsel, to court clerks – are very much the norm. So I guess it is very occupation-dependent.

  26. James*

    LW #2: I’m in the same boat. I’m a scientist, and when someone asks my opinion on something my instinct is to provide the background first, then my interpretation. In many cases that’s what’s required (and in some of my rolls this is a way to demonstrate authority–not “I’m smarter than you”, but rather “We speak the same language”). There are also cases where the email chain may go to court, and I want to make sure my logic is comprehensible to someone outside the situation (once it happens once, you take the risk seriously). In other cases, the person I’m responding to literally wants a Yes or No and that’s it, so a five-paragraph email is pure torture to them.

    What I’ve found works is to provide my interpretation/recommendations up front, and then the background information. I’ll even start the first paragraph with “Bottom line: _____”. This lets the recipient decide how much to read. If all they need is a yes or no, they skip the rest. If they need more, they can read the full email.

    The other thing is to build your reputation. Once people get to know you they’ll know you’re the type to try X, Y, and Z before asking for help. Sometimes someone will still ask “Have you tried X?” Take it as a double-check–complacency breads errors, after all, and it’s always good to check that you’re doing the basics right. Regardless, once you get a reputation you can lean on that a bit and drop some of the details. In other words: Hang in there, this problem should resolve itself in time.

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