what to do when a top job candidate has another offer

A reader writes:

I’m hiring for a an open position and conducted a phone interview with a great candidate (we’d already interviewed him once before in a prior round but didn’t hire him) and told him that in-person interviews would take place within a few weeks, with someone in place by early March.

I got a call from the candidate today saying he got an offer from another company and what was our timeline? This candidate is my favorite, but we’re hiring three people and were planning on having in-person interviews with four to five people with the whole team. Any thoughts on how to reply to this candidate?

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Smokers in a shared conference room
  • I cancelled an interview and was asked to reimburse the cost of a plane ticket
  • I don’t want to tell coworkers about my weight loss surgery
  • Is it weird to say “my staff”?

{ 96 comments… read them below }

  1. Lady Heather*

    I have to appreciate the irony in “My girlfriend says it’s possessive to say ‘my staff’.”

    1. Malarkey01*

      I don’t think it’s the “my”, I think it’s the “staff”. I used to work in an oversight role that evaluated other teams in my company, and one of the managers always referred to everyone as “my staff- only she pronounced it staaaaaaf. I don’t know why but to all of us it seemed so pompous as everyone else called them my team or my group. I think it’s because it’s calling out the subordinate role instead of the more collaborative sound of team or group which doesn’t denote rank.

      Anyway it was significant enough, and this person unpleasant enough, that whenever my division would be discussing this group someone would say “you mean my staaaf” as an inside rub. It could be regional or company culture too??

      1. BubbleTea*

        I once referred to my employer’s unusually large number of employees (private household, we were variously childcare, housework help, admin etc) as “staff” and she got upset. I guess she would have preferred to believe we were all friends who looked after her house and kids out of the goodness of our hearts, and she gave us money because she was a generous benefactor? It was weird.

    2. Indy Dem*

      For some reason this made me think of the Knights who say Ni, when they started saying “It”

  2. irene adler*

    #5- interesting. I too, did not see the term “my staff” and the like as being bad. But was informed by multiple people that I must NEVER say “my lab tech” (i.e. the person who reports to me). Maybe because it is singular?

    1. Weekend Please*

      That’s weird. Do they report only to you (you are the PI) or is it someone you supervise but technically reports to someone else (you are the postdoc)? Because I have often heard PIs saying things like “my lab tech,” “my graduate student,” and “my postdoc” and no one has ever had a problem with it. It isn’t offensive unless you are essentially positioning yourself as someone’s boss when it isn’t true. “My lab minion” may be different story.

      1. Weekend Please*

        The only thing I can think of is that they think you should use the person’s name instead (or in addition) so that they don’t feel like a nameless cog. That may make sense depending on the context. “I’ll ask my lab tech to do that” vs “I’ll ask Erica, my lab tech, to do that.”

        1. Laura H.*

          That I can see.

          It also depends on whether you want to share that extra detail, and whether the specificity helps.

          If the one I’m conversing with doesn’t know the person or where I work, I tend to stick with the vaguer “my company/ my store/ my (or a) coworker.” But like my neighbor is also my coworker and we know her so I feel better saying “[neighbor] was so helpful to me today”, rather than the “my coworker.”

      2. irene adler*

        “Minion”- no way!

        The lab tech reports solely to me. I’m the QC dept. supervisor.

        My understanding is that using “my” indicates a diminishment of the person I am referring to (I am above them or they are beneath me sort of thing). Not seeing that myself. But, just in case, I endeavor not to use “my” in reference to the lab tech. I do not want the lab tech to in any way feel diminished.

        1. Renata Ricotta*

          Sounds like the person who instituted this rule is a little on the sensitive side when it comes to perceived condescension. I don’t think it’s inherently disrespectful or diminishing, and plenty of people use it without any negative connotations every day (especially when they are generally considerate and respectful supervisors).

          Plus sometimes it’s just weird not to use it. When I tell someone outside of my organization “I’ll ask my assistant to fax you the documents,” it would be weird to say it without “my.” “The assistant at my firm who is assigned to support me”? “An assistant”? “Ricardo [who you don’t know, so I have to explain his role anyway]”?

      3. Kevin Sours*

        Wierdly, I’ve heard the term minion used (and used it myself) in an ironic way to sort of lampshade the boss/staff relationship and try to defuse power dynamic.

        1. Luke G*

          Likewise. I’ve been in positions where part of my job was doing the boring, menial, tiring work. Everybody knew whose job that was, and those of us who did it tended to pick up names like “the grunts” and “the minions” and “the drudges” because hey- calling us “junior staff associates” just felt silly, and didn’t leave us covered in any less dirt.

    2. CurrentlyBill*

      This is an interesting discussion. It doesn’t bother my if my boss refers to me and colleagues as “my staff” but I also wonder if that’s my white privilege showing. So does the ethnic background of the boss and team make a difference in this context?

    3. Mr Jingles*

      It’s nonsense of overly sensible people who confuse real issues with absolutely common phrases everyone knows and no sane person would interpret that way. Just lift your brow and let it go.
      It’s just as silly as people calling you racist because you tell them you like to eat or cook (insert random country thats not yours) quisine or tell you not to call out minorities on illegal behaviour (you can’t tell Pete to stop harassing Jane, he’s disabled, that’s discrimination towards him) or the absolutely ridiculous iniciative to rewrite all code or even delete the whole internet because the terms master/slave are used to describe technical devices.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I find your comment dismissive of valid concerns we have about language and how we use it.

    4. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      When I was an administrative assistant working exclusively for one person, she always referred to me as her assistant when speaking to others. I thought that was fine. Of course, I literally was her assistant (although some of my tasks were helpful to others on our team as well, but I reported directly to her and no one else.

      I haven’t worked in a lab, so I don’t know what’s customary in that environment, and I don’t know exactly how the lab tech’s job relates to yours. But if the lab tech works under and reports directly to you, I don’t see anything wrong with referring to them as “your” lab tech. Otoh, if their job involves serving a team of which you are a part, rather than you personally, then I guess “our” lab tech might be better.

  3. Cordoba*

    Referring to something as “my X” is not inherently possessive; I see no issues with “my staff” or “my team” etc.

    If I say “My city has really good barbecue” no reasonable listener is going to think I’m saying that the city in question actually belongs to me.

  4. Nimblethins*

    Bariatric patient–Please don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are taking the easy way out, or let coworkers color your thinking. Even though the weight does come off quickly, it is still a long road of hard work, and keeping it off several years down the line takes extraordinary commitment and dedication. You can do this! But it’s not an easy way out :)

    1. DiscoTechie*

      Second to this comment. 18 months out myself. I told my mostly male awkward engineer coworkers I was just having routine abdominal surgery. Somehow they took the mental leap that I was having my tubes tied, or lady bits rearranged in some other way and the curiosity died really quick. Eventually I told a few closer coworkers and let them know it was okay to let the cat out of the bag and let the natural gossip landscape fill everyone in.

    2. sacados*

      Agreed, the fact that OP is worried about “backlash” because, what — their “fit, health-conscious” coworkers will look down on or ridicule them for being too “lazy” or “unmotivated” to lose weight the “real” way?
      Seriously hoping that’s not the case for OP, because that sounds like a really toxic environment and my heart goes out to them!

      1. Momma Bear*

        This is what I was thinking, too. Even if OP doesn’t want to talk about the surgery, it’s a flag that they think their coworkers will look down on them for doing something for their health and well-being.

    3. Asiina*

      I’m 5 years out now from my surgery (RNY) and had the same concerns of not wanting to tell people, and in the end I actually ended up telling pretty much anyone who noticed and found that people were both a lot more understanding and it’s a lot more common than I thought. When I nervously told people so many of them said “oh I know someone else who did that!” Of course, you are not obligated to do that, but between the liquid/soft food diet you’ll be on for a month or so after surgery (and possibly before surgery depending on your area), and the extremely rapid weight loss (I lost about 150 lbs in about 10 months) it’s going to be noticed and there’s really no way to get around that. I think overweight people especially are not generally comfortable with people “noticing” their physical form since so often it’s a source of shame, but it will be okay. I was just very matter of fact about “I had bariatric surgery, and it’s been a hard road, but I’m really loving the results and I’m glad I did it!” because it is a difficult and lifelong thing that you are doing. Congratulations on your decision and I’m excited for the road ahead for you. It’s hard at first but gets easier every day!

      1. Circe*

        I’m really glad to hear that people were understanding when you were up front about it. This has a similar stigma to mental health issues in my head, where people are afraid to speak about it at work. But it’s also something that MANY people have first or secondhand experience with. Here’s hoping both will become less stigmatized over time.

        1. WLS is not the easy way out*

          I am 15 months out and I was very open with people, both personally and professionally. I’ve had a ton of support and a few colleagues are considering the surgery as well because of my experience. Also if you say “bariatric surgery” some people won’t know what that is and will just nod and murmur a response. :-) good luck to you OP! I have had only positive comments from people. There are some really great bariatric groups on Facebook if and when you’re ready.

    4. I am the boss of me*

      I had bariatric surgery two years ago and felt the same dilemma. I chose not to tell most people, but those I have told have always responded positively. In fact, one client noted my weight loss and then spontaneously shared with me that he had a gastric sleeve and it had made such a big difference in his life.

      Anyway, it is NOT the easy way out, and you don’t need to feel ashamed, but I am also a private person and I totally get it! When you are prepping for surgery you will already be making some big lifestyle changes. When I started that, I casually mentioned that I was making some positive changes to better care for myself. I only mentioned that I was having surgery to those who needed to know, and if anyone pressed for details I just said “Don’t worry, it’s not life or death!” I only had to straight up say “I prefer not to talk about it” and that person let it go after that.

      When people started commenting on my weight loss I’d just casually say “It’s been a long journey!” Or “Lots of hard work!” and change the subject. If someone wanted to know what I was doing I’d say “Not rocket science, just more activity and protein, less sugar” or whatever.

      If you really don’t want it to be a big deal, I don’t think it will be. There are lots of message boards out there where you can find support, too.

      And if you’re still on the fence – just do it! BEST decision I have ever made.

  5. MK*

    Ι just spent the afternoon reading a file that reeked of cigarette smoke. I cannot imagine how much the lawyer who submitted the documents smokes for the paper to have absorbed such a strong smell. My throat hurts.

    1. NotanEssexGirl*

      I once spent several days working on the accounts for a wholesale fishmonger. I think I might have referred cigarettes.

    2. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

      I got some corelle plates off ebay and they absolutely reeked of cigarettes. I couldn’t imagine living in the house they came from. (they came out of the dishwasher just fine, nonporous as they are)

    3. Myrin*

      An old Latin teacher was a known heavy pipe smoker and every test he handed out (or really anything that had been in his possession) stank to the high heavens. It was fascinating but also really disgusting.

    4. kittymommy*

      We used to have a citizen come in for meetings they requested and always brought paperwork to give out. It was known that meetings with this person was always put in a large conference, as opposed to an office, and any of the paperwork was immediately copied for distribution and theirs was shredded. The smoke just clung to the paper and the room.

    5. Cat Tree*

      I think for someone who smokes regularly, it’s really easy to become “nose blind” to it. I always laugh about unrealistic old sitcoms where a teen smokes in the bathroom and then successfully hides it by opening a window or whatever. If my kid did that, I’d smell it on their clothes and everything else. It might work on a parent who is already a smoker, but even then a lot of people go outside to smoke to reduce the smell.

      (Personally, I’m always slightly paranoid about smelling like my cat’s litterbox and not realizing it.)

      1. Ama*

        I have often wished that non-smokers could somehow find a fragrance that has the same effect on smokers as cigarette smoke does on non-smokers (i.e., the non-smokers aren’t bothered by it at all and the cigarette smokers find it lingering and intrusive). I feel like it would go a long way in demonstrating to smokers how many people feel when they have to stand next to them in the elevator, share an office, etc.

        1. TardyTardis*

          I have one! (fragrance to repel smokers). I once accepted a huge bag of yarn on FreeCycle. It would have been nice if they’d warned me it stank of cat pee…

      2. KTB*

        Smoking indoors was fine when I was a teenager, and I would frequently come home from concerts just reeking of cigarette smoke. My mother never did figure out that I was partially responsible for some of the smoke–I assume she just thought everyone around me was smoking.

        When I did smoke outside of a concert setting, it was almost always outdoors.

      3. Uranus Wars*

        I lived with my grandparents growing up and the nose blindness is definitely a thing. I used to tell people All. The. Time. that I couldn’t believe my grandparents house didn’t smell like smoke. And then I moved out.

        When they passed 20 years later even the books smelled like stale smoke.

    6. BubbleTea*

      We had a client submit a huge stack of paperwork which smelt very strongly. I don’t think it was of cigarettes, I’m not sure what it was, a mixture of food and perfume maybe? Anyway I have never photocopied and returned paperwork so rapidly.

  6. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

    Re letter #1: Top candidates frequently have options. Ideally you can construct a hiring process that is flexible enough to speed up when there’s a strong candidate in the mix that you don’t want to lose to someone else. At my company, if I had such a candidate, I would let the rest of the hiring team know to bump up the urgency and get through the process as quickly as possible. Of course, sometimes it isn’t possible, and sometimes you just don’t know yet whether the candidate is strong enough to justify it, and you have to let those candidates go, as annoying as that is.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Agree with this. I’m always grateful when a candidate lets us know their timeline so we can plan accordingly. I’d have them in for interviews as soon as possible – if they are a the strongest candidate and you have three positions to fill, making them an offer doesn’t necessarily derail the rest of your interviewing plans, either. Or, they could look great on paper, and you have them in and find out that they’re not as great as they seemed and can let them take the other position.

    2. Artemesia*

      Since they had already interviewed this person before,, the risk is even lower for jumping if they want him. Otherwise they need to just accept he is gone.

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        Yeah, it sounds like they were planning to do additional interviews with 5 people and then hire 3 of them and I think in that very specific case it sounds like an easy choice to just go ahead and extend an offer to this guy if he is you favorite after narrowing the pool that much.

    3. ladymacdeath*

      Also know that you are likely their top choice too. They wouldn’t have reached out unless they were seriously considering you over their concrete offer. I’ve been in that situation twice, and both times I reached out to my top choice and they both accelerated their processes to get me another interview and an offer in a day or two. It might not work if you’re not a top candidate, but if you are, it can really pay off for the company and the candidate!

  7. hbc*

    I think it’s on the girlfriend to come up with the acceptable alternate. Unless you and the team are really into Ursula LeGuin’s The Dispossessed, there won’t be a way to do this without awkwardness.

    Though I have to say, there’s a huge difference to my ears between “my staff” and “my team.” “Staff” seems to emphasize the subordinate role, while any member of a group can say “my team.” There’s also an element of frequency–if you’re using “my” when “our” would work just as well, or saying “my accountant” rather than “Jane” when people know Jane The Accountant, you’re probably coming off as possessive or domineering even if there’s nothing inherently wrong with any one phrase.

    1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

      I think I made the same comment last time this question was posted. I don’t mind someone saying “my team” but it bugged me when leadership used to say “Jeff’s Team” instead of “The engineering department” or “The Pirates” (we were encouraged to come up with funny names for our teams. though, we were discouraged from ever changing them.) It bugged me that the top brass referred to an entire group of people by the one human they happened to interact with, as if everyone else on the team was some interchangeable cog.

  8. Former Smoker*

    Dear Current Smokers,
    You have absolutely no real understanding of how much cigarette smoke stays in your hair and clothing. You stink and you make everything around you stink. When you do quit (and I sincerely hope you do quit) you may be mortified to realize how much you stank.
    Sincerely, seriously,
    Former Smoker

    1. HotSauce*

      I cannot agree more! As a former smoker with a husband who still smokes I make him wash his hands & brush his teeth when he comes in from a smoke. Sometimes I make him change his shirt too. I cannot believe I smelled so bad for so long & I never even smoked inside!

    2. SD*

      As a former teacher in a small private school, I had a student whose mother smoked, including in the car on the way to school. This was a 7th grade boy who came to school with his clothes and hair infused with cigarette smoke. It was so bad that we had him hang his jacket outside the classroom. While that is a terrible thing to do to a child, the smell was overwhelming for the entire class. Fortunately, he was a socially oblivious child and was OK with his jacket being outside.

    3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      I once worked with four smokers – I used to call them the “Four Chimneys”, after an inn I used to drive by in Bennington, Vermont. This pre-dates no-smoking in the office rules.

      But .. we would have meetings, and one of the Chimneys would drag out what should have been a 15 minute meeting to two hours. I am a non-smoker, I gagged every week.

      So one day, I bought a cigar. The tobacconist in our building sold these wonderful Havanas under the counter, and I bought one that my Grandfather used to smoke – I think it was a Romeo y Julieta Tubo #1.

      I smoked that little room out. They got the hint. Best twelve bucks I ever spent.

      1. Wandering*

        Hey! I’ve eaten at the Four Chimneys! Fun to see that mentioned here.
        And thank you to demonstrating the impact of smoking to the smokers.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          When my father- and mother-in-law had a summer place in upstate New York we used to drive through Vermont to get there, and, yes, it’s a wonderful drive.

  9. Cordoba*

    For #1, if you can’t accelerate your hiring process to get a top candidate this time I’d definitely use that as an example to advocate that the hiring process needs to be faster; or at least more flexible.

    I’ve seen employers stick with slow/cumbersome hiring processes and then be *shocked* when they keep losing out on hires to other places that move more quickly. The idea seems to be “this is our process, and candidates will have to accommodate that”.

    In reality, good people with other options aren’t going to wait around for a clunky process that might result in a job offer someday.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*


      My last head of HR was very rigid and old-school, and I lost SO many good candidates because of the time and effort her process required from candidates. My current one is much more flexible and understand that candidates’ time is valuable, too. She also has an anti-ghosting/check-in policy for those who are interviewed (those not interviewed get a standard form email from the ATS). I get much, much better results with the latter.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      It might not be a clunky process. If you’ve still got people to interview, it’s going to take a certain amount of time to do it. It could just the bad luck of timing when the applicant got the offer.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        It definitely doesn’t have to be that the process itself is clunky. Let’s say you take the first week to screen résumés and do phone interviews. Then, the second week you interview “in person” several candidates. You are hoping to interview several more or call back other candidates for follow-up interviews for the third week, and one of the people you interviewed during the second week has a job offer already? Three or four weeks is an extremely accelerated hiring cycle (based on my experience at various workplaces), so it wouldn’t be your fault if that candidate were at the tailend of her process somewhere else.

      2. Filosofickle*

        That’s what I was thinking as well. The very best case scenario is bring the applicant in for another interview, be confident about making a group decision to hire this candidate and foregoing other interviews, and negotiate a final offer in, what….a few days? A week more realistically? That’s very fast for lots of hiring decisions, and the other offer may expire in that time. Once the candidate has an offer in hand it’s tough to catch up to that if you’re still interviewing.

  10. Beboots*

    I had one of my staff (see, I can’t even think of another way to say it off the top of my head!) bring up the “my staff” thing to me this past summer. (Context: we are both women of approximately the same age, on a seven person team comprising of both men and women from their early twenties to early sixties.) It’s the norm for supervisors at our site to be discussing our teams with these words “my team”, “my staff”, “your employees” etc. I was really thrown by the idea that one of them thought that using the possessive sounded a bit condescending. I didn’t realize it had come across that way to her, and it certainly wasn’t my intention. (Additional context: I mostly use “the team”, “everyone” when our crew is in front of me.) I’m normally very conscious of using correct terminology once it’s been pointed out to me (another colleague, for instance, goes by they/them and I haven’t struggled much) but I admit that trying to shift my vocabulary around this issue to be a challenge. I want to be conscious of unintentional connotations, but it seems to be a normal way of referring to people to whom you have a supervisory role with?

    1. Cordoba*

      It’s not even limited to people who you have a supervisory role with.

      If I refer to “my grandmother” it doesn’t mean that I possess or supervise her, just that I’m talking about “the grandmother who is associated with me, rather than some other grandmother”.

      1. Koalafied*

        Yeah, it really isn’t an inherently hierarchical pronoun. In addition to using it with superiors like “my boss,” I’ll also use it with a designated person of any function I interact with, like, “I reached out to my contact at X org,” or, “Oh goody. My developer is going to love this…” (said sarcastically, because the developer from another department who is assigned to work on my unit’s tickets is most definitely not going to love whatever problem just manifested itself).

    2. LimeJello*

      I think people who are objecting are really bristling at the hierarchy implicit in the language (i.e., what they really don’t like is designating someone as “staff” who serves under you). But there’s nothing you can do about that, because the workplace is often hierarchical, and acknowledging reality shouldn’t be an issue. That’s just my guess, but I’ve run into this before and it’s always in the context of someone with lower “status” than the speaker – “my admin” or “my housekeeper”. Nobody takes issue with “my boss” or “my doctor”. I think people who have issues with using phrases like “my staff” just have a chip on their shoulder and need to come to terms with the idea that people who use those terms don’t look down on their staff/service providers/whatever.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        Yes! I wonder if the same people who complain, avoid saying “my boss,” “my friend,” my spouse,” or “my kids.” It’s the same thing. I think these people are bristling at “staff” and do not even realize it.

        1. Self Employed*

          I’ve run into a LOT of people, especially meditation practitioners and psych professionals, who lecture me about talking about “my friend,” “my apartment building,” or “my doctor” because of the possessive thought processes behind referring to things as MINE, ALLLLL MIIIIIINE. I need to stop thinking of things in terms of ownership and acknowledge that they are independent of me and I have no right to control them. I guess I should just assume that if I am talking about a person doing friend things, they are a person I am friends with. I should say “the apartment building where I live” and “the doctor who treats me.”

          I don’t know if that’s an extreme position or if I’m just too autistic to understand normal behavior and thought processes, but I have enough difficulty with language to adjust everything on the fly. I don’t consciously believe I feel I own these definitely-not-possessions but I guess language is changing and we can’t have alternative meanings. I get tripped up by not knowing the alternative meetings of things a lot. (And I don’t mean in a double-entendre context; I mean not knowing all the dictionary meanings of a word, or jargon that gives a specific meaning to a common word that laypeople don’t always know.)

      2. Kate*

        It runs the other way too sometimes. I worked for a company in which everyone was a “team member” and the boss was “team leader” and their under-boss was “associate team leader.”

        It was an extremely rigid company with strict rules for minor infractions, and everyone rolled their eyes at the faux camaraderie in their “team” language.

        (I was a “team leader” and using the “Rah-Rah! Teams” language while writing someone up for “formal written warning” that should have in any other context been a brief conversation was the worst.)

    3. College Career Counselor*

      In the case of the LW’s girlfriend feelings regarding the use of the term “my staff,” my thought is that in addition to the possessive aspects, to her it smacks of the LW putting on airs or being self-important. LW could always say “my colleagues/co-workers” which might help, or which might be differently weird for sounding oddly formal..

    4. allathian*

      It’s not the possessive, but the word staff that is the problem, because it smacks of a hierarchical organization like the military or rescue services. Personnel is equally bad for a similar reason (military personnel). Both staff and personnel sound off if you work in an office environment, although they’d be perfectly fine in a more hierarchical one. I wouldn’t have an issue with “my team” or “my reports”. Sometimes it’s appropriate to emphasize the supervisory relationship! But both staff and personnel are uncountable nouns and make it sound like your subordinates are, whereas when you say “my reports” or “my employees”, you emphasize the individuality of each subordinate and if you say “my team” you emphasize the team rather than the individuals, but it doesn’t sound like you think they’re just replaceable cogs in a machine.

      Maybe I’m overthinking this…

  11. Person of Interest*

    The way I read #2 was that her problem was having to spend a day with her entire smoky team in the conference room when there is a shared project to work on together, and that she could only go to the lounge when she was doing her individual work. How would she gracefully extricate herself for a reprieve from the team room throughout the day? I guess she gets a break when they all go outside for a smoke? :)

    1. Glitsy Gus*

      Yeah, I was thinking this is what she was asking as well. If you just need a short respite, I think it’s totally fine to just pop out of the room for 15 minutes to “stretch your legs” or get a “bit of fresh air.” I know it can be an issue, though. I have worked several jobs where it was totally fine for a smoker to pop out once an hour, but if you weren’t a smoker you were looked down on for trying to get “extra breaks” if you left your desk to take a lap around the floor or stand outside for 5 minutes. I had one coworker who really wanted to quit smoking but didn’t because he didn’t want to give up the chance to go outside a couple times a day in one office where this attitude was particularly bad; so I get where that nervousness to just do so could come from.

      If I were OP, I would just do it. If you need to take a ten minute break and step outside or just go into another room for a bit. If anyone asks, just be honest- the room was getting a bit stuffy and you needed some fresh air for a minute. Most folks get that, if they don’t you can mention the cigarette smell if you want, but it probably won’t be necessary.

      1. Retail Not Retail*

        One of my former teammates is a smoker and some of the work release crew smokes. Even when i’m not working with them, I’ll still say, “time for a break!” and walk out or inside depending on the circumstances.

  12. Ellie*

    I think the problem in “my staff” is actually the word “staff”, not “my”. Staff *does* sound cold, disconnected, and hierarchical to me when used in this way, probably because it describes either “all the employees” or implies a hierarchical context like military staff or assistants of a director (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/staff). “Yes, my staff will follow up”.

    If the LW is director-level or a business owner, seems normal. If they’re a team lead or manager… yeah it seems odd to me. “My employees” is a little warmer, but again odd if they’re a regular manager level; “my team”; “some other staff members”.

    I use “my team” to describe people I have power over directly, “the ___ team” or “the (general position name)” to describe other teams or departments, and “co-worker” to describe an approximate peer or someone “lower” in the hierarchy. Note that I’m at a fairly high level (slightly below director), so that leave few enough people that I usually use their title with either “the” or “our”: “our director of marketing”; “our executive team”.

  13. No Tribble At All*

    “Staff” might seem diminutive if you come from an industry where the team is there to support the lead person, rather than everyone on the team working together? For example, someone’s executive assistant is that person’s staff, like a White House staffer. I’d say “my staff” has slightly more distance and ownership between the speaker and the group than “my team.” But it doesn’t seem objectionable to me, just different. In some industries, “staff” is a term to indicate mid-career: associate engineer, staff engineer, senior engineer.

    1. Carlie*

      Yes – somehow “my staff” gives me the feeling of a bunch of people who work for the speaker, whereas “my team” sounds like a group of people who all work together for the company. I’m not sure why, unless somewhere in my brain it’s tied to the idea of having a bunch of house staff from watching too many period pieces about barons and such.

  14. learnedthehardway*

    OP1 – when timelines don’t match up for a candidate, it usually doesn’t make sense to change your interviewing / hiring timeline – not unless the role you’re recruiting is super specialized and extremely hard to fill.

    What I do is to tell the candidate I like that we’d very much like to consider them, but that they will have to work through and decide on their current offer, as we won’t get to interviews before their response deadline with the other company.

    Sometimes, the candidate takes the offer they have. Sometimes, they don’t and do interview with us. If that happens, we’re not under pressure to match another offer, rush the interviewing, or skip other candidates. Once in awhile, the person turns out to be the hired candidate, but it’s not a given – someone who seems perfect at first glance doesn’t always pan out.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      It’s a risk on both sides. But my point is, if the position isn’t hard to fill, and isn’t specialized, and you’ve got one or more candidates willing to go forward, MAKE THE OFFER.

      Should you procrastinate, the “roulette wheel” of candidates may not be the best at the time you are ready to move on an offer. If you know what you want and need, and you find viable applicants, why horse around and drag out the process for months? Get it done. Get the new person/people working. And yes, sometimes the person doesn’t pan out but that can happen whether you extend an offer in a timely fashion, or you decide to stall on it.

      There have been times that I interviewed, heard nothing and got stalled, and said to myself “OK, well that’s not gonna happen” …. and then, when I’m interviewing elsewhere, they either lose me as I got a better offer, or they rushed an offer because they feared I was going somewhere else.

      And as I said in another post – if a place drags out the cycle for months, two things are clear – a) management may be indecisive, even weak and b) keep all other irons in the fire, move forward, don’t assume that anything positive will happen (it might but assume the worst).

    2. Self Employed*

      When I got to hear all the faculty shop talk in graduate school, one of the frustrations to the whole department was that the formal hiring process for tenured faculty was so long that top candidates typically had accepted other offers by the time we INVITED THEM TO INTERVIEW. Then, the few candidates who weren’t put off by how far out in the boonies our campus was often got offers before we were ready to make offers. I don’t know why our timeline was so far behind the other universities, as it’s not exactly secret when hiring season is.

      We had good faculty but probably could have done better. Yes, lots of people will decide that they don’t want to spend the rest of their life in a small town without career opportunities for their spouse, or the luxuries of city life. But we were losing people so early in the process, we probably could’ve gotten some good hires if we weren’t deliberately timing the hiring process to get candidates who couldn’t get a job anywhere else.

      (How far out in the boonies were we? About a 5 hour drive up the coast from the closest major international airport, 4 hours from the northern edge of the wider metro area, $200 turboprop flight from that airport and often unable to land due to weather so they’d turn around to the original airport.)

  15. Lifelong student*

    About 30 years ago, I was a paralegal. The attorney I supported introduced me to someone and used the phrase- name works with me. The amount of respect that showed stuck with me forever- it was one of the memories I used at his recent memorial.

  16. Voodoo Priestess*

    Bariatric patient – you’re probably overthinking this (unless you work with a bunch of jerks) who won’t think less of you if they found out. Honestly, I think most people who think to themselves “Ah, good for them” and move on. I’m sure it feels scary for you, and I don’t want to minimize that, but I hope your co-workers have enough good graces to keep their mouths shut or leave it at “You look great!” If not, you’re working in a weirdly weight-obsessed office.

    Honestly, no one should comment about weight in the work place. Ever. You never know when weight loss is due to illness or stress and asking a cancer patient “What’s your secret?” is more foot-in-mouth than anyone wants. Plenty of people have eating disorders or body image issues and it just shouldn’t be a topic of conversation, period.

    Good luck to you and I hope your workplace concerns never appear!

  17. AthenaC*

    #1 – whether you can expedite for this candidate or not, make sure to thank him for giving you a heads-up! It might go without saying to say “thank you”, but I know I often coach new hires on specific scripts to use, so didn’t want this piece to get missed.

  18. Anon for This*

    RE: #5 – I used to get very irritated at my spouse for similar language, because when he talked about his staff only one or two white males were ever identified by name. He NEVER identified a female by name. It was one of those subtle forms of sexism that often escapes notice. (As there were both white and non-white males who didn’t appear to have names, I can’t say for sure if that was racism.) He was similarly frustrated, and I had to explain why I called him out on it – repeatedly. It took him some time to adapt his language, even from “My staff said to watch x” to “Allison said to watch x”. Could be something similar here.

    My staff is fine as a collective noun if that is what you mean. But if you are using it as a means of not identifying an individual, or even a few people, the question is why?

    1. BadWolf*

      I was just thinking “my staff” seems mostly okay as long as he isn’t also throwing around “my girl” to refer to anyone. Like “My girl will make some copies.”

      But it’s a good point if it’s also a difference between his male and female works.

  19. BadWolf*

    I wonder if OP2 could suggest a HEPA filter added to the conference room? It is an expense (and ongoing with new filters) but maybe it could be sold as benefit for everyone? I know conference rooms can get kinda rank just from a bunch of people sitting in there with the door closed.

    Depending on who’s in charge of cleaning, maybe when the HEPA filter is added, they can spring for a deep clean of the room (or at least wipe down of washable surfaces).

    My coworkers of a certain age sometimes share the bad-old-days of when people smoked in the office. So glad I didn’t experience that. Sometimes I wish TV/Movies had smell-o-vision and then we’d all stop with smoking in movies. And probably with crime shows too, though. Ugh, one dead mouse in a garage and you wonder why anyone can be surprised to find a dead body in a house.

    1. Self Employed*

      I would recommend an air purifier with a carbon filter + HEPA. I have neighbors who smoke (in a leaky apartment building without HVAC even) and it makes a difference. I am boggled that there are still areas that permit smoking at work, it’s been so long since California prohibited that. But I remember smoking at work and how rude the smokers would be if anyone asked them to tone it down.

  20. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #1 – yeah I discussed this before – if you drag out your hiring process you are very likely to lose out on your better candidates. Almost all the time.

    – a prime, skilled / professional candidate will not be looking at just your situation. He/she is looking at SEVERAL situations, if they have half a brain. Time and tide wait for no man (or woman). At least your candidate is giving you a final chance at bringing him aboard. This should prompt some introspection about your hiring processes.

    – the fact that you drag out an interview/hiring cycle when you have a viable candidate standing right in front of you also OFTEN wreaks of indecision. I understand that you might want to look at multiple candidates, but “golly our company culture, we work S-L-O-W-L-Y on these things, ha ha”…

    If the interview cycle lasts for months, there’s something wrong with the way you’re doing things. Why are you dragging it out? Indecision? I actually once – when I was out of work, wound up interviewing at places where the managers were conducting interviews for fun.

    One time – (no not at band camp) – when I was unemployed – with a mortgage, family, etc. I interviewed with a company in Florida. The manager stood me up twice on phone interviews. That was WEIRD in itself, and indicated that respect does not flourish at that place.

    After three phone interviews – he actually asked me to STOP LOOKING. ???? what???? OK, this was October and the job begins in mid-January. I said “if you make an offer for the job to begin in mid-January, that’s OK, fine, that gives me time to prepare a move (from Massachusetts)”…

    “NO, THAT’S NOT WHAT I MEANT”… “Huh”? He wanted me to stop looking , he was going to interview others and wanted me to be available if he chose to hire me. But he wanted ME to put my job search on hold for two and a half months while he plodded along.

    I said I could lie and say “oh yeah that’s OK” but , as I said, I’d be lying, so I am going to keep looking. (I could smell the aroma over the phone from 1200 miles away)… We terminated the call abruptly. Comes mid-January. My phone rings at the office , in my new job, where I had started working two months before. Who was it?

    Bozo. With a job offer.

    (no I did not accept his offer.)

    I have other “dinner table stories” but I also had been in situations such as those with LW’s candidate. If I were coaching the candidate I’d say “if the other job is good, go for it. Don’t give up a certainty for something that might never happen.”

    And your advice is spot on for the manager – either accelerate your process and give him an offer, or give up on him – and you both move on in separate paths.

    1. 1234*

      That FL guy sounds so entitled! Who tells a candidate “stop looking and just wait for my job to materialize in a few months”

      I’m so glad you got a different offer 2 months prior to him finally calling you back!

  21. Here we go again*

    That reminds me of what I was told Three weeks ago when I lost my retail job the manager for our store during liquidation said if I was good enough other companies would wait until May for me. Yeah, right! Like anyone in their right mind would postpone a start date for a permanent job with benefits especially when they have a family for a temp 100% commission job where you’re paid as a 1099 employee. It was insulting for him to say that. Everyone on our team walked when we got our termination papers and didn’t sign on with the liquidation firm. Because most of us had a job offer that started in a week or two. Especially because he was going to schedule people for 60 hour weeks!!!
    I had one week off and I started my new job last Monday.

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