telling an interviewer God said this is the right job for you, my mentee hasn’t taken Covid seriously, and more

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

1. Telling an interviewer God said this is the right job for you

I’m asking this on behalf of a friend. She recently applied for a new position and made it through a couple rounds of interviews, but she ultimately did not get the job.

She told me that she was asked why she wanted the job, and her response was, “God told me it’s time for me to move on, and that this is the right job for me.” My friend is a very religious person, and she genuinely believes this to be true. I asked her if she gave any other reasons, but she said no, she did not need any reasons other than God’s direction.

I’m wondering if this response hurt her in the process. To be clear, this interview was for a private, secular company and not a place where an answer like this may be more expected.

Should my friend not have said that God told her this was her job? Or is it okay that she said it, but should she have given some more reasons too? I’m trying to help her out for interviews in the future, but she doesn’t see anything wrong with the answer she gave.

Yeah, it’s pretty likely that this hurt her! It’s not that she needs to hide that she’s a religious person, but she missed the point of the question. The interviewer wants to know why she wants this particular job — does it fit in with a particular career goal she’s working toward, is she excited about the opportunity to do X, is it work she loved in the past and wants to get back to, etc.? She may be willing to take God’s word for it that it’s the ideal job for her, but her answer seems to expect the interviewer to take God’s word for it too … and that’s the problem.

2. My mentee hasn’t taken Covid seriously

I’ve been mentoring a young woman, “Clarissa,” from a rough home since she was age 20, she’s now 25 (I am 37 and have achieved success in my field). It’s about half life mentoring (very absent parents) and half work mentoring. Clarissa has a lot of health issues, both mental and physical. In fact, we met in a local support group for mental health.

I haven’t seen Clarissa except outside since the pandemic hit because she has not taken the pandemic very seriously. She has ignored lockdown rules, invited guests against the legal guidelines, continued her normal routine, using public transit even at the highest numbers, and just generally isn’t very cautious.

Clarissa misses me, horribly. She has invited herself over many times during the pandemic (we used to go out to lunch or dinner maybe once a month, and she would hang out here regularly too) since dining has been closed where I am. I have declined everything she has suggested except video meets because I am extremely concerned about catching Covid as an immunocompromised individual (my doctor told me to be incredibly cautious). I have told her this dozens of times and she continues to ask, partially because her memory is poor due to her health conditions.

Everyone is getting their vaccines now, and Clarissa seems to think that this will result in me being comfortable around her again. Sadly, it is not the case. She is simply not careful enough.

I don’t know how to explain that I can’t see her unless she is more careful — but the fact is, I don’t think I’d believe her if she told me she was more careful. She has severe impulse control issues and frankly I just don’t think she has it in her to abstain.

Clarissa is like a little sister to me at this point, but I value my health more. What do I do?

I don’t think you need to get into whether she’s being careful enough. You can simply say that you won’t be able to meet in person this year at all because you’re immunocompromised, period. It sounds like you’ll need to keep saying it because she doesn’t remember, but it’s easier to keep repeating “I can’t meet up in person because of my health” than it would be to repeatedly give her an assessment of her own risk-taking.

3. Hiring a friend’s employee

One of my friend’s employees wants to work for my company. My HR department extended an offer and this person accepted. Can I contact my friend and let him know before his employee gives their resignation to give a courtesy heads-up?

Please don’t. They should get to deliver the news of their own resignation themselves. You telling their boss first would undermine that professional relationship and possibly cause problems you don’t know about. I get that it feels awkward to hire away someone who’s working for a friend — but this person is a free agent and you can’t manage the situation for them. You can talk with your friend afterwards, but let the employee deliver the news first.

4. Is my manager changing?

My company emails lists of paperwork due each month which includes (though isn’t exclusively) who has performance evaluations due. There are two supervisors who are primarily responsible for the department I work in. Historically I have reported to Thomas. The most recent listing shows Alice is my supervisor. I haven’t been told that my supervisor has changed. How do I bring this up and do I bring it up to Thomas or Alice?

Thomas. Say this: “This latest email lists Alice as my manager rather than you. Is that a mistake, or am I moving to her?” In other words, you can just ask straight-out! It doesn’t need to be approached delicately, just matter-of-factly like anything else that was important and unclear.

5. Requiring cover letters when some people don’t send them

We’re hiring for a role that is very writing/communication focused, and we requested a cover letter with the resume. I know that candidates are seeing the job on various external sites and some of them autoformat or send in resumes created by those sites, but only about half actually followed the instructions and included cover letters. My colleague wants to disqualify everyone who didn’t send one in, but I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, at least for two of the applicants who actually seem like a good fit. How would you handle it? Should we send a follow-up email asking for a cover letter or why they are applying for the job? We do need someone who can follow instructions so I see where my colleague is coming from, but on the other hand, I’d hate to lose out on good candidates just because they applied through Indeed or something.

You can’t do an initial screening of applicants for a writing-focused job without seeing a cover letter (or a writing sample, but in this case you’ve asked for a cover letter). If you want, you can write back and say, “We’re asking all candidates to submit a cover letter and would be happy to consider your application once we receive that” … but it’s pretty reasonable, with a writing-focused job in particular, to just focus on the candidates who sent in what you asked for, assuming you have good candidates who did.

{ 494 comments… read them below }

  1. Aphrodite*

    OP #2, are you considering dropping her as a mentee? Or would you? I think in your position and given that she is repeatedly asking the same question I would think it would be easier on you and maybe her to decide to sever the mentor/mentee relationship for now. Maybe, if COVID ever really gets under control or doesn’t threaten you any more, you could resume it but frankly her disinclination to care about your health is worrisome. I know I would simply have to cut her off, not entirely of course, but to end the closeness of this particular professional relationship.

    1. Casper Lives*

      I think cutting Clarissa off is a bit extreme for what OP said. OP referred to Clarissa as “like a little sister.” I wouldn’t be able to cut someone off that I consider family without much more problems. Like Clarissa showing up at OP’s house out of the blue, for example.

      Right now Clarissa values her relationship with OP highly, they both miss each other, and Clarissa and OP have different levels of risk assessed to the pandemic. I think OP should take Alison’s advice.

      1. mebb*

        I agree. While it is up to the mentee to manage herself with her health conditions, OP can setup her own safeguards as well to “manage” the situation that will be safefor her and remain as a mentor to preserve their relationship.

    2. Lemon Zinger*

      I agree, I’m not sure how I could maintain a professional mentor/mentee relationship with someone who refuses to accept and respect my boundaries– especially boundaries regarding health!

      1. Nettie*

        OP makes it sound like this young woman has memory/cognitive issues, which is pretty different than someone who fully grasps/remembers your boundaries and is choosing to ignore them.

        1. quill*

          Yeah, sometimes the boundary you have to build is one that you have to reinforce consistently because the other person isn’t capable of maintaining it on their own.

          1. allathian*

            Yes, this. But at the same time, it’s going to get tedious.

            People go no contact with family members who don’t respect their boundaries. Clarissa’s mental health problems don’t entitle her to treat others badly.

            Sometimes the only boundary you can set up is to sever the relationship. I don’t think these two are there quite yet, but at the same time, it’s something to consider as an option in the future if nothing else solves the problem.

            1. Blarg*

              This is basically saying that people with cognitive behavioral issues don’t get to have these relationships, though. Is that really how we want to treat people for whom socialization and boundaries are actually very difficult?

    3. Jennifer Juniper*

      As someone with severe anxiety who is on SSDI (disability in the US) because of it, I am giving Clarissa the stink-eye. Since her memory is poor, she ought to write down important things, whether on paper or the computer. Things like “OP2 can’t meet because she’s immune-compromised.” I’m getting strong vibes that Clarissa may be taking advantage of her conditions to manipulate OP2 into dropping her guard.

      OP1, your friend’s response may have scared the crap out of the interviewer. Many, many people (including myself) get creeped out by people saying stuff like that when it’s said in a secular setting. Encourage your friend to apply for religious organizations. That would be a much better cultural fit for her, I think!

  2. PollyQ*

    #1 — It would have taken every ounce of willpower for me not to respond, “Funny, He hasn’t said a thing to me.”

    1. Boof*

      I think I would be too tempted to explore this more “how does God tell you things” “can you ask God why this particular job would be a good fit?” etc etc…

    2. Wendy*

      I had a prospective boss tell me to pray about whether God wanted to take the job… she was the mayor, and I was interviewing to manage a (tiny, rural) public library. I did end up taking the job and as unprofessional as it was, she was right: if I’d have been offended at the request, it would have been a very poor fit for me. I was new to rural Alabama and hoo boy, things are different than in the Midwest :-P

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        I prayed, and god said you should stop asking god to do your work for you and judge candidates on their ability to do the job.

      2. Caroline Bowman*

        Anything like that – in any context – gets a ”I’m an atheist” with no further explanation. Inevitably they want me to explain WHY I don’t accept their particular beliefs, which I generally just shrug off, but if pressed, just say that the onus is on the person making the assertion to prove the validity of the claim and that usually gets them to pipe down.

        “I’ll pray for you” gets ”if that makes you feel better, then great, thanks for the good wishes”.

        1. Donkey Hotey*

          “I’ll pray for you.”
          The one thing I miss about being pagan is being able to reply “And I’ll dance naked under a full moon for you.”

          1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

            Fellow pagan here: LOVE your reply! Of course, we pagans can (and often do) pray – just to the Goddess as well as to the God, which probably isn’t what most people envision when they say “I’ll pray for you.”
            But as to LW1: If I were interviewing someone who said that “God told me” to apply for a job, I’d cross their name off the list UNLESS their resume indicated that they were miles ahead of all the other candidates in terms of qualifications. And even then I’d worry that they might try to impose their religion on their colleagues once they had the job, or might be subject to religious delusions. That might be unfair – I’ve had many deeply devout colleagues who NEVER used our workplaces to fish for converts – but you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and starting out by claiming divine instructions isn’t likely to go well in a secular workplace.

              1. OhNo*

                I don’t think it would apply here, but I suppose you could argue both ways. IMO, the friend isn’t being turned down because she has religious belief – she’s being turned down because she didn’t behave in the professional manner expected for this workplace. Same reason that you might turn someone down for dressing in shorts and sandals for a law office – that’s a fine preference or belief to have, but it exhibits a fundamental misunderstanding of what is expected of employees in this specific field/company/office.

                1. Chinook*

                  I agree with OhNo. There are professional standards and codes of conduct that everyone has to follow and an interview is not where you want to be pushing boundaries (unless their response is what you will judge whether or not you will take a job).

                  There is a reason that the phrase “many are called but few are chosen” is a thing. Even a potential future Catholic priest or nun can’t answer the question “so why is this job for you.” Vocational directors want to know what specifics of the job you are called to, how you will adapt to what is required of you and why they should spend time mentoring you. If you tell them “God called me,” they will tell you to come back when God gives them something more specific.

                2. allathian*

                  Yes, this.

                  I don’t care about your religious beliefs as long as you keep them to yourself and don’t proselytize at work, or judge others for not sharing them.

                  That said, I honestly think that people who say god told them to do things are simply outsourcing their personal responsibility. I have very little patience with and zero respect for people like that and I certainly hope I’ll never have to work with such a person. If I did, I’d probably keep interactions to a strict minimum and I’d probably change the subject to work at any time they tried to talk about god to me.

      3. rachel in nyc*

        Yeah, my mom helped figure out whether or not my parents should move to towns in rural North Carolina by mentioning our religion when they were visiting- negated lots of places. It doesn’t mean they aren’t lovely people and if my parents HAD to live there, it probably would have been fine (probably, eventually) but my parents were retiring so they could live wherever.

      4. LunaLena*

        That reminds me of an old story on Clients from Hell – a contractor did some work for a church, and when the work was finished and they presented the invoice, the church leader said “We prayed to God about it and He said that since we are doing His work, we shouldn’t have to pay you.” The contractor waited a day, then called back and said “I prayed to God about this, and He said that I deserved to be paid.” The invoice was paid within a few days.

        1. EchoGirl*

          That in turn reminds me about a story about an athlete. The athlete in question was looking for a new team and was known throughout the league as a very religious man, and he told one team (probably more than one, but one in particular) that he would go where God wanted him to go (when you’re a star athlete being recruited by multiple teams, you can get away with saying things like that). The coach subsequently left a message on his answering machine saying, “This is God. Come to [team].” I have no idea whether this factored in, but he did end up playing for that team.

    3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Well, and that reminds me a little of yesterday’s letter — if you’re going to bring up topics like politics and religion in a work context, you’re opening the door for other people to openly disagree with you when they otherwise might have kept their opinions to themselves.

    4. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*


      Also, that reminds me a little of yesterday’s letter — if you’re going to bring up topics like politics and religion in a work context, you’re opening the door for other people to openly disagree with you when they otherwise might have kept their opinions to themselves.

      1. Despachito*

        It made me think of an old joke – a person comes to a politician/sportsman/scientist notorious for his deep confidence in himself, and says “God told me to do X”m and the politician etc. says “But I do not remember telling you anything”, implying that he himself is God.

        But I come from a very atheist background and country, and I assume any allusion to God as per OP’s suggestion would be perceived as very weird and possibly disqualifying the candidate from further consideration.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I was thinking that saying that God told you to do something wouldn’t be unusual among a subset of the US population (more common in some places than others). But once you’re talking to people outside that group, this sort of answer makes people wonder if you’re just very religious or if you have some sort of religious delusion that requires treatment.

          1. FrenchCusser*

            I AM religious, but if someone said that in an interview, I wouldn’t consider them either.
            I’ve even said to people that God isn’t a job counselor. Or that he doesn’t care what car you drive or what football team wins. He/She/It/They want you to be a good person, regardless to how much you have or don’t have.

      2. PollyQ*

        I’m an atheist, so I don’t have an opinion on God’s gender, but I feel pretty confident that LW’s friend would say it’s “he.”

    5. Your Local Password Resetter*

      I would be tempted to ask for a letter of reccomendation.
      Or at least explore God’s credibility here. Are they familiar with the technical aspects of the work? Have they worked for our company before? How good is their usual judgement? Is this opinion supported by any relevant saints?

        1. Jinkies*

          #5- I work with applicant tracking software, and it’s important to know that not all sites will accomodate an employer’s requirements when posting a job. Some sites, like Indeed, don’t even work with the employer before posting a job- they just pull data directly from the employer’s job page and then post it automatically, without any pre-existing relationship or agreement with the employer (they do have models where employers can post jobs puposefully, as well). My take aways from that as a hiring manager and an applicant are 1) be understanding with applicants if there’s any doubt about the software and 2) apply on the employer’s web page, not through a third party, whenever possible.

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

        I think this wins. Absolutely need that letter of rec.

    6. Pickled Limes*

      It’s a fun dunk line to joke about on the internet, but it’s much better to leave those comments inside your brain in real life situations.

      I’m a former evangelical christian, and as much as a line like “god told me to apply for this job” gets my hackles up, it’s not a reason to be deliberately hurtful to someone in the workplace.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        No one has said they would actually make the comments posted here, only that they would be tempted. Big difference.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Yeah, I highly doubt any reader of this site would actually say those things out loud. I’ve joked about wanting to shunt people back with my walking stick (like a pool cue) when they insist on standing too close – it’s a common human reaction to uncomfortable situations to joke about hypotheticals.

          1. ampersand*

            Agreed. That is one of the nice things about commenters here—given the matter-of-fact nature of Alison’s advice and the people that attracts, we’re overall a pretty reasonable group.

      2. Observer*

        and as much as a line like “god told me to apply for this job” gets my hackles up, it’s not a reason to be deliberately hurtful to someone in the workplace.

        Yes. It may be a good reason to not make the hire, but it’s not a good reason to be mean.

        1. GrooveBat*

          I don’t think anyone should be mean. But there is a flip side to this discussion as well: Her unqualified assumption that the interviewer shared her faith. She had no way of knowing her interviewer’s religious beliefs (or lack thereof) and, to me, the comment was presumptuous and rude.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              Yeah, a lot of Christians assume everyone else is, regardless of the franchise. And some are really literal about the word of God. In the Deep South, my family was fundamentalist Church of Christ. I still have nightmares about that church…If you said you joined the church, they would ‘withdraw their fellowship’ until you repented your arrogance. You didn’t dare assume you could just join the CoC, God said he added you to his numbers. Once they found out you were talking about, say, the Baptist church, they just ignored you. You were going to hell for being added to the wrong church, anyway.

              My family didn’t have a lot of friends at work.

              1. Y'all Come Back Now, Ya Hear?*

                I can attest that many of the people I grew up with would have probably said this in an interview. I grew up in a fundamentalist church of Christ. When I went to college, the acceptable options according to my church family, were to go to a church of Christ affiliated college or to a state school because “it’s so hard to convert the Baptists.”

                My parents were a bit less conservative then our community and they were fine with paying for a Baptist college.

          1. AntsOnMyTable*

            Honestly I agree – it might be a leap but it is a leap I am comfortable with making that a person who would answer this way would also be the one who keeps trying to trample on my right of freedom from religion. I wouldn’t give a lot of the answers being bandied around because it is not professional not because I care about not being rude about her faith.

      3. Black Horse Dancing*

        Yet the interview has no problem hurting others with her beliefs. Anyone who brings ‘God told me to apply/this is the right job” has no social clue how insulting that can be to so many. Her beliefs don’t trump others. I would have immediately written this person off as a very poor culture fit and insensitive to others.

        1. JustaTech*

          What’s weird is that this wouldn’t have flown at the Episcopalian church I was raised in. Like, I heard a lot about their hiring practices (kids have ears) and they were much more interested in people who wanted a professional job than people who had a “calling”.

          They were also a bunch of stuffed shirts, so YMMV.

      4. Black Horse Dancing*

        But the interviewee has no problem being mean or insulting to anyone who doesn’t believe her way. If it’s rude to state “There is no god”, it’s just as rude to state “God said to…”

        1. Manon*

          Where are you getting that the interviewee insulted non-Christians or said that it was rude to deny the existence of god?

      5. allathian*

        Agreed. That said, I wouldn’t want to work with a person like that, and they’d be a poor fit in any environment I’d be comfortable in.

      6. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Oh, I think people suggesting this are just joking. I doubt anyone really thinks mocking the candidate would be appropriate. But it is a funny thing to think about!

        That said, I would probably either move on and rule out the candidate, or try to rephrase the question to get at the information I was looking for.

    7. AnonEMoose*

      What would inevitably pop into my brain (though I would never say it) is a line from the movie “Ladyhawke”: “I talk to God all the time, and no offense, but He never mentioned you.”

      I don’t have anything to do with hiring or interviewing people, but if I did, I’d probably actually blink a couple of times and move on, but it would affect my perception of the person, and I would wonder about their conduct in the job, and how they would treat any coworkers or clients/students/customers who didn’t share their religion.

    8. bookdragon*

      I work for a Christian book publisher and we get many unsolicited, mailed-in manuscripts (which is not how we or any traditional publisher accepts submissions – must be through an agent) that say “God told me to write this so you have to publish it.” A few go a step further and claim that each word was written directly by God. Oof. I work at Christian publisher, you guys, and that’s still not how this works! We publish great writers who sometimes say things like “any praise for my writing goes to the Lord” or such when they win a book award and they really mean that, and to me, that’s different. However, it’s a pretty big spiritual faux pas to claim that your work is great because you got it from God and that if we disagree, we’re disagreeing with God. Especially when your manuscript is NOT great! Every manuscript we’ve gotten that claims up front to have God’s will behind it is riddled with typos, often not even in a genre that we publish, and is outside the process of how we accept submissions. If they’d put any effort into Googling the process, they’d know – but I guess who needs to do research when you have God? I believe that most people truly believe it when they tell us publishing their terrible book is God’s will, but one of the fundamental beliefs of Christianity is that people can be wrong, so…

      We don’t respond to unsolicited manuscript submissions but the unofficial response around the office is: “Oh, so God told you to make the typos in your manuscript, too?” ;) Or “Why didn’t God tell you to research the appropriate method for manuscript submissions?” The God card doesn’t even work in religious settings. Even if you really believe what you’re saying (and I think a lot of people who say this do), don’t say “God told me this is his will” in an interview. If you get a job there, sure, maybe it’d be more accepted to say something to a coworker like “I love working here. I am excited because I knew it was God’s will from the beginning.” But saying it before you get the job (or publish the book or whatever) comes off as oh so prideful and tone deaf of the process.

    9. Dr Rat*

      Gotta say that the first thing that would pop into my head would be, “Well, Buddha just told me hell no, and Mohammed is right there backing him up.” As others have pointed out, it would be cruel to say something like that, but honestly, my next words in the situation would be “Well, thanks for coming in, I think we’re finished here. Let me walk you out…”

      It’s not about being religious. It’s about not having a clue about what is appropriate in a situation. It’s like having children…having children is great, but would you bring them with you to your interview? (Having a flashback to a candidate who did this. She brought her husband, too, so it wasn’t a childcare issue.)

    10. CocoB*

      Allison’s answer correct. I work for a Christian ministry and I’ve actually heard that sort of comment from people before. That answer is a red flag for me… some are sincere, but I now know they lack the discretion needed for the position I am hiring; some just use it for spiritual manipulation.

  3. TooTiredToThink*

    LW1 – If your friend is still struggling as to why there might be pushback on what she said; it immediately made me think of how in college (Christian); one of the male teachers looked at the guys in the room and said something like, “Don’t use the phrase, ‘God told me you were my (future) wife!’ to try to manipulate a woman into dating you because quite frankly if His plan is for you two to get married, don’t you think He’ll tell her too?!” You know your friend best, but maybe if she thinks of how a man might have to still prove himself to ask a woman out and show why they are a great match…. well, hopefully, she can translate that into how she still needs to show a job why she’s a great fit for that position and can’t just rely on the “Well because God said so…”

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      The thing about the friend’s reply in #1 is that the question wasn’t exactly asked in the way it was meant literally. What it meant was, “what characteristics about this job match well with your professional interests and career plans?” Now, presumably if God told the friend to apply for this job, God knew what characteristics about the job were a good fit for her. But unless God told the friend directly just what aspects of that job matched well with her, it was going to have to be on her to figure it out and explain it.

      1. Julia*

        This exactly. I think of “God wants me to” as the religious version of “I did some introspection and feel strongly that this job is right for me”. There’s no problem with that sentiment; it’s just that it isn’t enough info.

        1. Czhorat*

          Yes, and it saddens me to see so many flippant antireligious comments here.

          The key to answering any interview question is to understand why they are asking it. Not doing so was the mistake.

          1. Temperance*

            In all fairness, her response was wildly inappropriate and strange for a regular job.

            Then again, I think that responding to anyone not part of your faith community with such blatant pushiness is worse than being mildly rude in return.

          2. generic employee*

            Does it also sadden you when you see people unilaterally affect others’ lives (for example, throwing their child out of the house for being gay) in the name of religion? There are reasons some of us are wary of ‘religion’, or rather, particular massively powerful subdivisions of a particular religion.

            1. Anon at the Moment*

              Whoa, this is unnecessarily harsh. I’m a lapsed Catholic so I can understand this sentiment. But neither the OP or Czhorat said anything about ostracizing gay children. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt regarding how they practice their faith.

              1. generic employee*

                In a world where thousands of people throw their children out of the house for being gay, and thousands of other children are being found in mass graves associated with Catholic schools for indigenous children, both of these enthusiastically encouraged by Christianity, I don’t see any reason to give someone complaining about “antireligious comments” the benefit of the doubt.

          3. A*

            To be fair, this isn’t so much about whether the employee is religious as it is about their judgement. I’m not religious, but have zero concern about hiring someone that is – however if an interviewee gave the response in the OP I would view it as a major red flag. Not only did it dodge the intent of the question (why is the job a good fit from a skill set/experience perspective etc.), but I would be concerned that if they felt that was an appropriate response in and of itself with no additional feedback provided, that it would bleed into other aspects of the work. Will they make decisions based on what is best for the business, or will deviate from that based on ‘God’s will’?

            Might be an issue, might not. But if it begs the question – and if there are other qualified candidates that I wouldn’t need to walk through this with in explaining these concerns / sussing out if they are actually a good fit skill set wise etc. than I’d be removing this candidate from the pool. Not because I’m anti-religion, but because the comment highlighted potential concerns that factor in.

          4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            People are being flippant because the candidate was being ridiculous.

            But if you want a serious comment, it’s much worse than not realising why the question was being asked. The candidate was wrong for bringing religion in to a conversation where it didn’t belong.

            Even if the hiring manager is a devout Christian, they will have to pass on this candidate. The candidate is failing to demonstrate that famous free will that she presumable believes God endowed us with.

            She’s also not bothering to explain to the hiring manager why she would enjoy working there: this is a sign of laziness. Why bother thinking of an answer that the employer will appreciate, tailored to the job and the company? “God told me” works for all such questions! Sorted!

            As a hiring manager, I’d be worried that any tough questions, like “Where’s the TPS report?” might well be answered with “God told me not to bother this time”.

          5. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            I certainly do not want to be flippant or anti-religious, but the answer is inappropriate regardless of the intent of the question. Even if she just said that she had thought about the job very seriously and had prayed on it, it would be less jarring, but saying God told her this was the job for her and that is why she is applying … I think most prospective employers would be highly concerned that a) she had not really put any serious independent thought into whether she is a good fit for the role, and b) what else will she do and later claim that God told her to do it. Would she refuse to do assigned work because God said not to? Would she make important business decisions (like how to manage an employee, or how to address a transgender employee, etc., based on what God apparently is telling her – those actions can create severe legal issues for the company). It was a pretty big red flag to say it the way she did, even if she had added in some additional information to address the intent of the question.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          Yeah, her answer sucks because it’s just a religious wrapper on answering the question with “cuz I wanna”.

          1. allathian*

            Exactly. The fact that she’s religious is not the issue here, it’s that she thinks that just claiming divine inspiration should be enough for her to get the job.

          2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            Yeah, I would be very worried about managing an employee who will make decisions based on only “God told me to …” I mean, ok, but as your manager, what I tell you to do is what you need to do (within reason, naturally).

      2. Womanaroundtown*

        Further, I work in mental health. This does not at all seem to be the case here, but we get a lot of clients who hear command auditory hallucinations from God telling them to do things. If I were an interviewer and heard this, I would likely realize that this is NOT what the interviewer meant, but it would give me serious pause around judgment and actual ability to do the work. I am not saying this flippantly or trying to demean or downplay serious mental illness, but my first though was “oh no. This would be a huge red flag at the hospital where I work.” Again clearly not the case here, but I doubt I’m the only person who would hear that kind of answer, receive no elaboration, and think of this.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Oh, absolutely. And you really can’t probe into the specifics that would let you figure out whether we’re talking about an auditory hallucination or a religious feeling without hitting SO MANY things an interviewer should not be poking.

        2. Flussschifffahrt*

          I think as a kid I once complained to my parents I couldn’t sleep because God wouldn’t shut up. I was aware the voices weren’t ‘real’, so they must obviously God! It happened to Samuel!

          (The voices talked nonsense and didn’t do anything except keep me awake, and apparently that happens to so many people it doesn’t even qualify as a disorder. They went away as I grew older.)

          1. WantonSeedStitch*

            I definitely get hypnogogic auditory hallucinations pretty often. It’s not constant, usually just random snatches of phrases. Once in a while, it’s a loud noise (not words) that startles me awake when I’m on the edge of sleep! That, unfortunately, seems to happen most when I’m really tired.

        3. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Luckily my auditory hallucinations don’t claim to be from a spiritual source, I know I can ignore their infrequent commands – but yeah, I’d be…unsettled one way or another to get that kind of answer.

        4. EmmaPoet*

          Same here. I don’t work in a hospital, but in public libraries you deal with a lot of people who have mental health issues, including people who hear voices. Someone telling an interview panel this would definitely give them pause.

      3. Pickled Limes*

        I think this is a really important point. Our educational system doesn’t give people much information about how job interviews work, so there are a lot of people who just don’t have the context of “these are the kinds of questions that get asked at job interviews, and when an interviewer asks them, this is the kind of information about you they’re looking to get.” I can see how a person can link “why did you apply for this job?” to “what emotions happened to you when you were deciding whether or not to apply?” instead of “what are the things about this job that made you feel those emotions?”

        1. esmerelda*

          Yes! True. Interview education in high school would be phenomenal.

          Though, hopefully the interviewer would give some leniency if the interviewee misunderstood the question and would then rephrase it as “what makes you a good fit for this position?” It’s when people answer that exact question with something vague like “oh I just felt like a job change” that I realize as an interviewer that the candidate really didn’t think this through and it’s a super big red flag…

        2. Esmerelda*

          I just remembered a silly thing the young, fresh-faced, right-out-of-college me said to an interviewer. I was asked “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Now I know that you’re supposed to talk about your career goals and where do you see your *career* in five years. But then I took the question literally, took a minute to think, and said something like “I want to own a dog by then, probably a golden retriever, have a nice backyard, be more advanced in my hobbies…” I remember wondering a little how my personal plans were relevant to the job, duties, and that my interviewees’ faces looked a little baffled but they moved on. (I did get that job though!) I have a good laugh whenever I think about it now… but yes, this is why we should have more interview education. I’m not sure if we need to educate naïve interviewers on the nuance of interview questions (the “what they said” vs. “what they are getting at”) or if we need to educate interviewers on how to ask what they mean. ;)

          1. Killer Queen*

            Ahhh I did the same thing in an internship once. My manager asked what I wanted to do once school was over. He meant the current semester and what I wanted to focus on in the internship during the summer. I thought he meant after graduation so I was like, “Have kids, buy a house, get a full time office job…” He gave me the weirdest look and then I realized what he meant! I was so embarrassed! Haha

    2. lailaaaaah*

      This. There’s plenty of points in the Bible where God tells someone to do something because it’s his plan for them, and that person still has to go and convince other people of the specific merits of the thing they’ve been given a divine mandate to do!

      1. Drago Cucina*

        Good point. You still have to present your argument.
        “Why should I listen to you? You stink like you were living inside a fish for three days.”

    3. ToodlesTeaTops*

      I disagree with this, though I see where you are coming from and maybe she will relate to that. But like, half the Christians get that and the other half still think it’s acceptable to say to people.

      A better example would be from a pure career coaching standpoint. “When they ask you these questions, you need to show excitement for the job itself. It’s a way to demonstrate your ability to do the job. Many people move on to a new job because their old boss was terrible. It isn’t appropriate to say you hate your boss in a job interview.”

      1. Observer*

        I see where you are coming from and maybe she will relate to that. But like, half the Christians get that and the other half still think it’s acceptable to say to people.

        She might not relate to this, but it helps her to understand that even Religious People (TM) Might not find this a useful answer.

        1. bookdragon*

          Yes. A good distinction! I work in a Christian company and have interviewed job candidates and we would not accept “God told me” as a good or complete answer. It would definitely feel like a red flag to me if someone said that. Don’t tell me it’s God’s will, show me it’s God’s will by telling me specifically how you’re a good fit.

      2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        I don’t think half of all Christians would think this was an appropriate comment in a job interview, especially for a non-religious job. Saying that you prayed on it seems perfectly fine to me, but that God told her this was the job for her … I think most Christians would say that was inappropriate in that context.

    4. Drago Cucina*

      I like this. When I worked at a Catholic school and someone said something similar the principal would toss that application in the “No” pile.

      I was interviewing people for a computer network position and someone told me they wanted to “bring spirituality to technology.” OK. But, does that mean? To use technology as a tool and not the end in itself? Or, AI is our new god? From other things said I think they found my social media accounts and thought since I’m Catholic it would get them an in.

      1. Pippa K*

        “What does that mean?” would be a good response to OP1’s friend, too. If said in a neutral or friendly tone, it can get people to expand on the vague or odd statement and give you the info you were asking for in the first place – or it’ll confirm that they can’t or won’t. Helpful either way.

        I’m really curious about “bringing spirituality to technology” – I’ve sometimes wondered if our course management software is cursed, but that’s probably not what they meant!

        1. Drago Cucina*

          Probably not, but we used to make regular jokes about ritual sacrifices to keep the network up. We did have a support column that we though was either cursed or filled with spent rods from the local nuclear power plant. No computer next to that column would work well or consistently. So, we had to reconfigure the floor plan.

    5. Annadotsmith*

      Back in the day I coined the phrase “Christian men, they will date you, love you and leave you all in the name of Jesus.” I think those with a Christian evangelical or charismatic background will get what I meant by that!

    6. Observer*

      one of the male teachers looked at the guys in the room and said something like, “Don’t use the phrase, ‘God told me you were my (future) wife!’ to try to manipulate a woman into dating you because quite frankly if His plan is for you two to get married, don’t you think He’ll tell her too?!

      Smart guy!

    7. FrenchCusser*

      Oh, gosh, I had an acquaintance in college who married a guy because he said that exact thing to her.

      What a manipulative a-hole he was, and what a disaster.

      1. SD*

        I have generally found that people who announce that god has personally told them His Plans have a very high rate of knowing ahead of time that said thing was on their agenda anyway. “God said you are my future wife so we should go out,” (and you are so hot that I have constant impure thoughts). “God said that Candidate X will be the next __,” (and Candidate X is just my kind of guy who will save us all from Y). “God has told me that the new freeway needs to go through Trailerville,” (and NOT through Pleasantville where I live).

  4. Phil*

    #1 Uh yeah, I’m a Christian and would probably never answer with that. If it’s a secular workplace, it’ll be really weird. If it’s within a church, direction from the Lord would go without saying.

    1. Macaroni Penguin*

      Yup, don’t say that in an interview of any kind. Be it a for a job in the secular or religious sector. (It’s especially weird for a secular job because religion is out of context in that environment.) The interviewer has no idea why God thinks the candidate is suitable for the job. Are they passionate about cat herding? Does the candidate have experience in coaxing cat? What traits make the applicant a good fit? They need to tell the interviewer that, and not rely on divine revelation.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Eh, I think even religious folks would question you to find out if you can actually do the job. Being led to it by the Lord is fine, but perhaps S/He led you there to teach you a lesson in humility or career planning.

      We can’t know God’s plan, or so I’ve read in the Bible. Relentlessly.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        I think even most religious people would be turned off by the answer, especially without anything else supporting it. I liked the example someone used of a professor at a Christian college telling the young men not to go to women they like and tell them that God told the young man that she is his future wife, because if God really did tell him that and it was God’s intent, then God would surely tell the woman too! (I can honestly say that if any man said that to me, I would keep a wide distance)!

        In other words, God may have told OP1’s friend that she is the right candidate for this job, but I doubt it, since surely, if that was his intent, he would have told those involved in the hiring decision!

    3. fish*

      If this person got past the interview, makes me wonder what else the Lord would be responsible for.

      “Why are the TPS reports late?” “Gd told me it would be okay.”

      1. Chantel*

        Was thinking exactly this. To use one’s religion as a fail-safe for anything is the oldest card in the deck. “God told me to tell you to pay me a million dollars to do nothing” and on and on. *sigh*

      2. A*

        This was my first thought as well. Looking at the potential flip side of the coin…

        “Gee, my new employee is really not performing up to standard or meeting their KPI goals – but, I guess it’s God’s Will!” Nope.

        Might not be an issue, but it begs the question – and if there are other qualified candidates in the mix that I don’t have cause for concern about right off the bat, why would I pursue the candidate that has already shown misunderstanding of professional norms with a red flag that could also have larger implications? Not to mention it doesn’t sound like the interviewee ever did clarify why they felt they would be a good fit / want to pursue that role from a skill set / experience / career development perspective.

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Snap! you know you’re fully part of the community when you see someone else making the same joke further down!

      4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Yeah, and it could also be an excuse not to follow company policies. What if a transgender individual works there and she insists on deadnaming them (taking this from another post, but the person’s refusal to stop deadnaming in that case was not based in religion). She could say that God told her to use the deadname. The company is then in a legal quagmire because based on the recent court decision, they cannot allow one employee to harass another based on gender identity, but they also need to avoid discriminating against her based on religion. (Admittedly, I would stand by the transgender employee on this one and shut that down, but it still could be really messy).

        There was also a post here one time about a woman who took on a job promotion that involved significant travel, and then she later refused to travel because her husband thought it was wrong for her to travel without him and she had to obey him because of her sincerely held religious beliefs. So she got the extra pay, but the extra work ended up being done by others, who were resentful. The situation then got crazier … she was not allowed to drive herself anymore and so her husband would drop her off and pick her up, and to accommodate him, she kept leaving early and arriving late, etc. The company put up with her a long time (they really should have terminated her, they were being way too afraid in handling it), and eventually she decided it was against her religion to work at all.

        Now, obviously that is not a situation that develops with most religious employees, but … someone saying that God told them to apply for a job as their sole reason for applying for the job, that’s still a red flag. It is not about the religion. It is about the potential to use religion to justify actions

    4. V. Anon*

      I’m an atheist. If a candidate said something like “I’ve prayed on this career change,” fine! I would not bat an eye. People reflect on choices this way, and while I don’t, I wouldn’t see any big red flag with that. But “God told me this is the right job for me”—no. It’s the specificity of it that makes me think this candidate is bats. If I tell her to do something but God doesn’t think that’s the direction she should go, she’s going to do what God said right? I can’t and I won’t and I sure wouldn’t make a team deal with this nonsense person. I bet a lot of religious employers would be given pause by that answer, let alone secular people, or people of faiths that would find it presumptuous in the extreme to think god him/her/them/itself was talking to you.

      1. Hush42*

        Yep. I am religious, and do understand what she’s saying, but it’s not the correct answer to the question that was asked. If I got that answer in an interview I would definitley push for more and if I didn’t get more, I’d probably put them in the no pile. It’s not quite the same but I had an employee who has worked under me for a few years now, and is of the same religion as me (unknown during the hiring process- found out because we know some of the same people) come to me and tell me she was moving to Florida (we’re in NY). When I asked her why, she said it was because she and her husband felt that that it what God was telling them to do *because* they wanted to get out of NY and they really want to Homestead, which is much easier in a climate like Florida where the growing season is much longer. The parts after the because are the example of what the employer was looking for. The God told me to part is great and something I’ve definitley said to my friends, but I still need to know why you think that is when it comes to a job interview. Side note- the executives at my company made the decision that she could stay on full time remote when we reopen even though thats not being offered as a standard option to everyone (they made the decision to be hybrid for everyone else). We both definitely teared up a little when I called her to tell her she could continue working for us from FL.

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          I might push for more, but odds are, I would just drop it cause I would not be all that interested in pursuing the candidate. Now if she were to say that she prayed on the matter and sought God’s guidance, and also proceeded to answer the question in a manner demonstrating that her decision to apply was based on some form of meaningful thought process, I would be fine with it. The issue with the answer is not the religion. It is the failure to demonstrate reasonable decision making skills and the failure to understand the purpose of the question. And most importantly, it is the fact that the candidate has just stated that she is willing to justify any and all decisions, however poorly made, by saying that God told her so.

      2. Anon Dot Com*

        Yes, I’m religious (not Christian) and I think this would be a bad answer even in an interview for a faith-based job. It just doesn’t communicate anything useful, and it would make me question the candidate’s judgment. If they think this is a good answer, what does that say about them? What *else* is God telling them about their workplace behavior?

    5. datamuse*

      I work in a faith-based workplace and yeah, we’d still look askance at a response like that. In fact I was once on an interview panel with a candidate who had applied for the job in part because they wanted to work for a Christian institution–but that wasn’t their *only* reason, and it was a more nuanced response than “God told me to.”

    1. Annekitty*

      LW 1- I have a very religious friend applying to jobs at churches and while they did mention God in the interview in a similar capacity, they were also specific as to why that specific job stood out to them. My point is even in religious jobs that answer would still potentially hurt your friend’s chances simply because there was no other information given to the question.

      1. JustAThought*

        This seems the most relevant advice. Easy for many to mock her, more helpful to guide her & to explain that even if God seems to call you to a job, you still have to have the necessary skills for the job. Kindness is a virtue to both followers of God and jobseekers.

        1. tra la la*

          Yes — the parallel is really to answering the “why are you interested in this job?” question with “ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to be an [X].” True as that may be, it doesn’t speak to why they should hire you.

          1. Smithy*

            I think that ultimately there are a lot of secular answers in a similar vein that still just fall short of giving helpful information.

            Lots of people move to be closer to family or follow a partner, but alone that’s still not quite enough of a reason. I struggle to see a phrase like “I just moved to X because of my parenter, and I’m applying for open positions” being a great answer either.

            1. Dolly*

              I once was in an interview where the interviewee absolutely answered the question that way – and she had a background in recruiting. It our jaws figuratively hit the floor.

            2. Chantel*

              Yes, this, exactly. When I’ve been involved in job interviews where candidates state “closer to family/spouse found a job here/always wanted to live with ‘x’ topography nearby/other reason unrelated to job itself” as the reason for applying, I struggle to not tune out. Those reasons are for after accepting the job and even then, should be handled with care. I want to know what it is about the tasks related to THIS job in particular that motivated a person to apply for it. It’s nice that s/he/they want to leave by the beach, but frankly, that’s likely to be useless info.

              1. Smithy*

                I do think that moving to be by family or feeling a calling (religious or otherwise….) can help provide context. Essentially, a version of “I’ve been pursuing a career in Llama Grooming for the past 5 years and when I moved to Teapotville to be close to family, a position where I can continue to grow my grooming skills and step into management etc etc.”

                Overall, I just think it’s helpful to acknowledge that it’s an incomplete thought. I still wouldn’t necessarily recommend replacing the context of “recently moved with my partner” with a religious phrase. But if someone gave a really technical and professional answer around why X position fit aligned with their religious journey, it would be harder to dismiss them entirely.

              2. A*

                It depends. Typically I’d agree, but I actually stated something very similar in my interview with my current employer – but it’s because they are in a very remote area and struggle immensely to attract strong talent for the roles required to be on site (for business purposes, not just because). They were THRILLED to hear that I was interested in the area, and not *just* the job, because they regularly lose employees that move out here for the job only to discover they do not enjoy living in a remote location.

                Obviously it wasn’t the only reason they hired me, and I spent more time highlighting my skill sets and experience that matched the business needs – but I did lead with ‘I want to move to this location to be near friends’ both on my cover letter and in the interview (worded more eloquently than I did here of course).

                1. Chantel*

                  Yes, I can understand this: “They were THRILLED to hear that I was interested in the area, and not *just* the job, because they regularly lose employees that move out here for the job only to discover they do not enjoy living in a remote location.”

                  Thank you, A.

        2. Pennyworth*

          Indeed. What skills has God bestowed on you that you could bring to this job.

        3. Anonys*

          Definitely. That question was a chance for her to highlight how her specific experience, skills and professional interests line up to make her a great fit for that particular job. She missed a chance to sell herself to the interviewer – that would also be true if she was applying for a job in a religious institution.

          In a secular company, she has not only missed a chance to sell herself but also potentially made the hiring manager worry about her continuing to bring religion into the workplace at inappropiate times (“Why do you think we should switch to B instead of continuing to do A, Lucinda?” – “God told me this was the way to go!”)

      2. Allonge*

        Yes, I think in the appropriate setting this might be a good starting sentence to answer the question, but it stops too soon.

        In a way it’s the same as answering this question with ‘my family tradition is to be X, my parents were X, my grandparents were X etc.’ Fair enough for a personal motivation, but it’s not particularly compelling to the employer. Don’t stop there.

        1. Dr. Handelspout*

          Right. Like if I apply to a university and they ask why I want to work there, I can’t answer, ‘well, my Ph.D. is in Teapots and you’re hiring an assistant professor in Teapots’ even if that’s the reason. That’s not really what they want to know.

          1. Allonge*

            Or that. Thinking back, if I answered this question literally at my first grown-up, non-internship, full time job, I would have said ‘my mother told me to apply’. She found the ad in the local paper (yes, this was not yesterday) and thought it would be a good one for me. She was right! That was still not what I said at the interview.

            1. LibraryMiddleManagement*

              We had an applicant do exactly this for one of our summer student jobs. We did not hire them because the other candidate went on for several minutes about how much he wanted to work in our space (and was remarkable specific considering he had never been in the building)!

      3. Audacity has been on sale this year*

        I was talking to a friend the other day who is on a hiring committee for a new minister for their church and she actually said that one of the candidates answered “why would you be a good fit?” with “God told me I am.” They we’re not impressed. Her take was “Well I assumed you had a calling from God if you’re a minister, but I am unconvinced that God wants you to be the minister here unless you can be a little more specific!!”

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Right. As an atheist, my first thought would be “well what if we hire her, train her, and then God tells her to quit in the middle of our busy season with no notice?” Like, to me, if you (the generic you) feel that you can explain your decisions with “God told me to do that” with no other information given, then all bets are off. I don’t know what to expect of you as my subordinate. What next wild thing are you going to claim to be doing on God’s command?

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          It reminds me of the “What’s wrong with trumpeting my 24/7 submission at work?” letters: What’s wrong is that if someone you have to obey tells you to fake the numbers on the safety inspection, that’s way more drama than I am looking for in this position.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Right. God does not work here. He/she/they does not get to make the calls about anything business-related.

      5. meyer lemon*

        Yeah, I think the religious element is really a bit of a red herring. It wouldn’t be much different if she had answered that she made New Year’s resolution to find a better job or that her best friend worked in the same building or that she needed to get out of the house more. It doesn’t answer the question because it has nothing to do with the job itself.

      6. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Absolutely! Even in a secular job, I wouldn’t mind someone saying that they prayed and sought God’s guidance if they also proceeded to explain why they are well suited to the job. I think religious employers would be bothered by her failure to demonstrate a thought process behind her decision to apply and her failure to pick up on what they are looking for in asking the question.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      I am Christian, though I am 100% certain mine is a different, and older, tradition than LW’s friend. Were I the interviewer, I would find her answer very off-putting. Not only does it not address the intent of the question, I would suspect that she talks like this All The Time. This would be tiresome even in a church setting. The copier jamming is not our cue to pray to determine God’s will. It is our cue to open it up and unjam it. The next problem is that people who talk incessantly about God’s will for their lives are rarely distressed to discover that God wants them to do something unpleasant. Far more often, they are delighted to find that God wants them to do what they wanted to do all along. The inevitable corollary is that if I, their boss, ask them to do something they don’t want to, I am asking them to go against God’s will and they won’t do it. Finally, as a Christian myself, when I meet these people I am quite sure that Matthew chapter 6 is one of the many parts of the Bible they very carefully avoid reading. In related news, I don’t hire tradesmen who display an icthys in their marketing. The very best possible interpretation is that they believe that God sent his only son to die for their business’s marketing plan. The possibilities go downhill from there fast.

      1. Mourning reader*

        I didn’t know what an icthys is so I looked it up, colloquially, Jesus fish. Strangely enough I have used one of these as a bumper sticker to “pass” while driving in the south. It works, too! I hadn’t thought of this as marketing but I can see how it could be used to signal to other Christians that their company has that religious bent. It’s backfiring in your case. I have a similar aversion to the use of the American flag in marketing. I think it devalues the symbolism of the thing to use it commercially.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Agreed on the American flag marketing. As for the Jesus fish, I typically see it in advertisements in the local paper for local businesses. It is affinity marketing. But as I noted, I belong to a different Christian tradition. Even strictly as affinity marketing, it isn’t aimed at me. Oh, and using the fish to “pass,” I can totally see that.

          1. Drago Cucina*

            You sound like my husband. He generally avoids businesses that have icthys, cross, or Bible on their marketing. Now, he’s done business with people who he later finds out has these as marketing tools, but that’s after he’s already established they can do the job.

            1. sequined histories*

              My parents, hometown, and extended family are all quite religious. I am a Methodist from the Deep South. My parents always explicitly warned us to AVOID secular businesses that labeled themselves “Christian.” Like—a Christian book store that sold mostly Bibles and so on was probably okay, but avoid a “Christian” plumber at all costs! They had found that such businesses were more likely to try to cheat them and do shady stuff than businesses that weren’t trying wrap themselves in the mantle of Christianity.

        2. pancakes*

          You used it to market yourself to the community as someone who belongs there but didn’t think other people who use it are doing the same?

        3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Yikes, and I just found an old Gefilte fish bumper sticker when cleaning out the house after selling it, and put it on my ten-year-old car. And, just like that, my car can no longer be driven through the South, it seems! (Not that I planned to drive it that far.)

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              I got a compliment on it recently! As in, I was standing at a red light at an exit from a, let’s say park, an older man was walking by and started going around the back of my car to walk past it. Stopped dead in his tracks, came back to my rolled-down window, and complimented me on the bumper sticker! (This is also a testament to the neighborhood I’m now living in, that I moved to a month ago – a lot of moments like this one. Really cool.)

      2. The Other Dawn*

        “Not only does it not address the intent of the question, I would suspect that she talks like this All The Time. This would be tiresome even in a church setting. The copier jamming is not our cue to pray to determine God’s will. It is our cue to open it up and unjam it.”

        Yes, this is mainly why I’d find the friend’s answer incredibly off-putting. I’d automatically start wondering how many times I’d hear, “It’s God’s will,” in response to normal business situations that pop up.

        1. Washi*

          Yeah, or is she going to insist on saying “have a blessed day” to customers or something. I realize my response is the kind of thing that makes evangelicals feel “discriminated against” but definitely everywhere I have worked, it would be considered really inappropriate to regularly bring up religion, aside from sharing the occasional personal biographical fact about yourself.

          1. Cj*

            I go to my local fast food restaurant everyday for breakfast. One of the people handing out the orders from the drivethrough always says “have a blessed day”. It is off putting in this context even though I am a Christian.

          2. Richard Hershberger*

            “Have a blessed day” doesn’t bother me like most White American Evangelical Protestant verbal tics do. For one thing, it is not exclusively a WAEP affinity marker. I hear it from Black Evangelical Protestants as well, and for that matter I have heard it in Pagan contexts. It does not, after all, specify whose blessing is being wished for. In addition, it doesn’t demand anything of me the way proclamations of God’s will are prone to do. It is merely a polite well-wishing. It doesn’t take the form I would use, but this is not reason to complain. I also don’t write letters denouncing the server who responded to my “Thank you” with “No problem.”

            1. Hush42*

              Is this a regional thing? I AM a White American Evangelical Protestant and I don’t think anyone has ever told me to Have a Blessed Day. Honestly, I immediately picture Anya from Buffy the Vampire Slayer saying it sarcastically to customers in Magic Box.

            2. Heather*

              It is a blessing rooted in one particular faith, though. I suspect many Christians would object to receiving blessings rooted in other faiths. There are so many Christian bands who will try and tell you that their lyrics aren’t religious because they don’t name Jesus, but specific references to Christian beliefs and practices are just as religiously based as the use of more specific words.

              1. Ace in the Hole*

                Interestingly, the only times I can recall someone saying “have a blessed day” the people wishing me well have been pagan or had a personal spirituality unaffiliated with any organized religion. Never heard that particular phrasing from Christians, but it seems generic enough to apply perfectly well to many belief systems.

            3. Anonymous Today*

              It doesn’t bother me either. And I’m not any kind of Christian.

              It makes me think they are wishing me a good day with whipped cream and a cherry on top.

          3. EmKay*

            Christians have been playing up their victim mentality ever since Ancient Rome. Nevermind that it was 2000 years ago and the Vatican is a literal KINGDOM now.

            Nope, they’re still oppressed.

              1. EmKay*

                Bring those shoes I’ve been lusting after ever since I was a wee goth lass in the early 2000s, and you’ve got a ding dang DEAL

                1. Pants*

                  EmKay, you can get your own here, and on sale. You’re welcome. And tell your bank account I’m sorry. (Just a note: Fluevog does layaway.) Also try the Fluemarket, ebay, poshmark, etsy, etc. They may not be marked down much on those but even a little is good. (If you’re between sizes, definitely size up.)

                  I have a pair of black ones. They sit on a shelf as artwork because my old feet no longer tolerate them but I can’t bear to part with them. I have an addiction. I currently have about 25 pair +/-. Some are an insurance policy. I’ve financed vacations by selling off pairs I don’t wear anymore.

          4. YetAnotherAnalyst*

            Suddenly realizing that the “Have a blessed day” folks around me are more likely evangelical Christians than neopagans. This explains some things!

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              Depends on where you’re located. The ones around me are mostly neopagans! Your mileage will almost certainly vary.

            2. gmg22*

              I thought the more common neopagan variation on this was “Blessed be” — do people use both?

      3. Liane*

        As a Christian myself, I like your answer and your reasoning.
        Being snarky, I can’t help but think that if OP wants to use this (or any of the other good explanations here), they need to preface it with some version of, “The Lord told me I needed to tell you this” or Friend won’t listen to or take the advice.
        I am serious now, OP: they may blow you off, no matter what you say or how. There is no lack of Christians who seem to think the Lord only talks to them.

        1. EPLawyer*

          That’s the thing if she is convinced she gave the right answer, then no amount of coaching will change that. She’s going to have to lose out on some more jobs before the clue by four hits.

          She needs to be coached that in secular jobs, religion does not come up. Unfortunately I do not think she will think that. Because of course religion touches everything in life so you must talk about it. Which means very few people will want to hire her because she is a turn off right at the interview. If she behaves this way when she is putting on her best face, what happens when she is not trying so hard to make a good impression?

          1. Not playing your game anymore*

            It may well be a perfectly fine answer if she wants to avoid working at places where in your face professions of faith aren’t welcome. Just as the applicant with the assertively Christian email address was effectively screened herself out of a recent search… something like

            1. PollyQ*

              That sounds like religious discrimination, though. Just because her personal email is religious doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll behave in problematic ways on the job. I hope you wouldn’t apply that filter to someone wearing religious jewelry or religious dress.

              1. New Jack Karyn*

                Depends. Someone with sexual jokes or references in their email handle might also be perfectly fine employees, and never behave inappropriately on the job. But with that as their introduction, it calls into question their judgment and self-awareness in a work context.

              2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                No. They’re not being eliminated because they’re religious, but because they’ve just thrust their religion in your face and are likely to do it again.

                That’s tantamount to saying that firing a woman for thrusting their breasts in your face is sexual discrimination.

            2. Black Horse Dancing*

              While that email would screen her our for me, I would also, being in the Southwest, think Angel is proclaiming her love for Jesus, the Hispanic man. It would be a moment before I think of it religiously.

      4. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Can verify I’ve not ever seen the best possible interpretation play out, its generally is the worse options. They won’t show you by their actions that they’re Christian, therefore they have to tell you.

      5. Dasein9*

        “The god I believe in isn’t short of cash, mister.” – Bono

        Once upon a time, I worked at a research library in an area that has a large evangelical population. One of the very religious people there believed that censorship is right and good. I have no absolute proof or anything, but am reasonably certain that her beliefs are directly connected to the persistent and regular disappearance of certain books from the library’s collection. (They were replaced regularly, but that was expensive and time-consuming.)

        Hearing “God told me. . . ” in an interview would make me worry about similar workplace shenanigans. It suggests an inability or unwillingness to draw boundaries between work and religion and I would have concerns about this person’s decision-making.

      6. I edit everything*

        We live in an area where crosses in company names and logos are par for the course. I avoid those companies like the plague. I’m a Christian, and people using the symbols of the faith as marketing ploys raises my hackles. It also makes me deeply suspicious of their business practices. They’re counting on customers to not be alert for shady dealing, to not shop around, or read the fine print. “Oh, he’s a good Christian used car dealer, because the ‘t’ in his company name is styled like a cross. I’m sure everything in this contract is perfectly reasonable.” Bull.

        “God told me to take this job,” would tell me that LW1’s friend won’t be invested in the success of the company, won’t focus on excelling in the position, and won’t be a supportive team member. It will be all about proselytizing, doing as little actual work as possible (If she’s “supposed” to be there, success will just fall into her lap with little effort on her part, after all), and self-centeredness.

      7. Observer*

        The copier jamming is not our cue to pray to determine God’s will. It is our cue to open it up and unjam it.

        We had a letter from someone who was actually pulling that kind of thing – all sorts of stuff not being addressed because “G-d’s will.” That’s not how this stuff works, and I can see why someone would worry about this.

        1. PersephoneUnderground*

          Cue classic boat joke about the pastor who drowns in a flood all the while turning away people in boats trying to pick him up, saying “I’m fine, God will provide.”

          Well, he drowns, and in heaven he asks God why She/He didn’t save him. God responds “I sent three boats!”

      8. Kit*

        As a recovering Catholic who pulls out Matthew 6 on proselytizers, I admire the cut of your jib, sir.

    3. Lilo*

      Even at a church this answer is going to be alienating. Saying something like “I’m going to pray about it” is one thing, saying “God wants me to have this job” is another because that puts the speaker in the position of speaking for God and the person as contradicting the will of God, AKA, you’re a bad person of you don’t give me what I want.

      Even a church is going to find this direction alienating.

      1. Anonys*

        Excactly! I mean there are so many different christian churches and ways to practice but in the one Im familiar with / grew up in, this is not the kind of thing people woudls ay or that would go over well. You are basically saying god is speaking directly to you – are you an actual prophet? Would god really speak down directly to you from heaven about job choices?

        Even the praying and preaching I know is more about “give us the strength to do x or to realise y or give us the courage to stand up against evil etc” – basically emphasizing personal agency and decision making, with god being more of a guidance and inner strength rather than being an actual career choice.

      2. CaliUKexpat*

        Agree with all of this.

        Also, as an exvangelical, I’ve found this often masks flighty behaviour. “Oh God wants me to do this… oh now God wants me to do this…” and on and on. It would definitely give me pause and question how likely the person is actually likely to stick with the job, or if it’s another in a line of passing fancies.

      3. Frieda*

        Right, this. I work at a religiously-affiliated university, in a role where it is natural for me to sometimes refer to my own religious practices, and I would *not* be comfortable with that kind of answer to that question.

    4. Julia*

      I’m an atheist and I don’t think it’s necessary for candidates to leave God out of interviews, if that’s honestly a big part of how they make decisions and see the world. As others have said, the issue here is that she didn’t answer the question.

      1. Anonys*

        I do think it should be kept out of explaining one’s business decisions, even in other contexts and with a secular explanation tacked on. : “God gave me the idea to use x in my last project which was a great idea because y” would still read as weird to me. Saying to a client: “god watched over me while doing this presentation – you will love x and y” also weird and just irrelevant to what the client actually needs to hear.

        As Alison said, that doesnt mean hiding that she is religious. For example saying “Oh, I’m going to a church bakesale /bible study” when asked by colleagues about weekend plans is totally fine. Saying “these are the grandchildren god blessed me with” when showing colleagues baby pictures – also great. Basically, mentioning god in personal conversations at work is fine as long as it’s not overly preachy. Mentioning religious motivations in business conversations is just not really neccessary or proffessional.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Yes! If I figure out something that nobody else was able to resolve, I don’t say something like, “I’m so much smarter than the last person who tried.” Even if if might be true or what I believe. I explain what my process was & give credit to those who helped me. And not once do I mention supernatural beings.

          I also think it’s interesting that we all automatically assume that this person is some flavor of evangelical Christian. If they were a member of a non-Christian religion, I can’t see them using this answer, even if they had the exact same process of prayer & reflection to decide to pursue a new job.

      2. Epsilon Delta*

        If I were the interviewer I would be very on edge due to my past experience with people who tak this way. I’d either be steering the interview towards a quick end or (best case) asking a ton of questions about how she works with people of different backgrounds. Probably would not get a second interview unless she was very young and therefore might not totally understand the inappropriateness of what she said, or if she did a 180 on the religion thing/provided good proof that she wasn’t going to try to save anyone or leave inspiration around the breakroom, or was the only qualified candidate I’d had in months and I absolutely needed to fill the role.

        1. Julia*

          I think you want to be careful about that instinctive discomfort response, because it gets uncomfortably close to judging people based on their religion, which isn’t OK in this context. You may have past negative experiences with religious proselytizers, but that doesn’t mean anyone who mentions God is a proselytizer.

          I tend to feel it’s not very tolerant to say “you can practice your religion as long as you don’t talk to me about it,” because as a queer person I wouldn’t be OK with “you can be queer as long as you don’t bring it up in an interview.”

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            As a fellow queer person (who happens to be married to a devoutly religious person), I kind of agree with both of you.

            I think it’s a decent analogy but needs to be carried further: just like with someone’s sexuality, there is a gradation of intimacy/professionalism when discussing religion. I shouldn’t have to be in the closet at work or hide the fact that I went to a pride parade or that I’m married to a woman… but I shouldn’t be discussing the particulars of our bedroom habits, intimate emotional conversations about discovering my sexuality, or shoehorning my wife into every conversation. These boundaries apply to everyone, regardless of what their sexuality is.

            Similarly, I don’t think people should have to hide their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) at work… but bringing them up excessively, going into too many personal details, etc is inappropriate. Some religious beliefs may by nature be more obvious than others (for example, someone with religious dress requirements or who needs to pray at certain times). I don’t think those beliefs/practices should have to be concealed. But there’s a legitimate concern that being too public about religion can make others uncomfortable… or even rise to the level of harassment in some cases.

          2. Roci*

            What? It would be equally weird for someone to use their sexuality/gender as a reason for business decisions. It’s completely irrelevant and creates an presumptively antagonistic relationship with the interviewer, who may also be religious or LGBT+ and have a different belief. Now instead of disagreeing with the business decision, you’re disagreeing with their identity.

            I am absolutely baffled by the idea that it is OK to mention religion as a reason for doing anything work-related. It’s irrelevant at best and inappropriate at worst.

            1. allathian*

              Indeed. It’s one thing to ask for and receive accommodation to pray at certain times of day, use a headscarf or turban with a uniform (like the Muslim midwife who handled most of my labor when I gave birth to my son and who wore a headscarf that was color coordinated with her scrubs), or leave early on certain days to comply with the requirements of one’s religion. Completely another to constantly talk about it to the point that people who don’t share the faith, and some who do but who may be less devout or at least less vocal about it, start feeling uncomfortable around that person.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’d still disagree however. It’s kind of like if she was asked how to approach technical problem A and she responded with something regarding the way her (hypothetically) children see it. Yeah, it might be a big part of your life but it’s completely irrelevant to work.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        The issue is that she’s using religion to get out of the question. God might then forbid her to do the TPS reports!

    5. lilsheba*

      seriously. It’s beyond inappropriate. If god is so great then that being can supply you the funds to go through life.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Damn good point!

        Also, I agree with what I’ve seen mentioned in a few comments above re: why we are really applying for the job – I’d be willing to bet that most of the time the answer would be something like “I’ve got to eat and you gave me an interview” – but just because an answer is technically accurate, does not make it a correct answer to an interview question.

      2. Observer*

        That’s not the gotcha you think it is. G-d WANTS people to work, at least in the Biblical traditions.

        I think that there is a lot of good discussion about why this is an inappropriate answer. But looking down at people because they are “so naive” or “obviously” lack critical thinking etc. is not a good look. When you “prove” how much smarter you are with stuff that is not based on what people actually think, that’s an even worse look.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Odd, as a working mother who was a practicing Christian at the time, I have certainly had people tell me that God wanted me to stay at home and not put my children in daycare, and that he would’ve somehow provided for me if I’d done his will; so “I’ve got to work because I have to support my family” was seen by them as a ridiculous excuse that they thought I was using to get out of my actual job of staying home with the kids. It’s not an uncommon POV.

          A fellow online forum member told us a story back in the early 00s, about her extremely religious BIL, who’d convinced my online friend’s sister that cranking out a ton of kids in a few years’ time, having her stay home with the kids, and of course giving 10% of his income to their church was all God’s plan and that God would provide. Online friend was single, had a good career, and couldn’t bear to see the sister and kids going hungry, so, once every couple of weeks, she’d load her car with groceries and take them to sister and BIL, which she had no regrets about. The one thing she did complain to us about was that, each time she’d pull into their driveway with a car full of food for them, the BIL would tell her sister, “See? I told you that God would provide!”

          1. Observer*

            Which is not relevant to the discussion. While many Christian traditions do see the primary job of mothers is to stay home and tend the kids, and for married women to have children (that they then stay home and tend), the simple fact is that the Biblical tradition absolutely does expect people to work for their sustenance.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              It is relevant in the sense that the expectation in the evangelical community is that, if you have to put your family in financial jeopardy to do what’s right by the evangelical community, then you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, and not to worry about whether your family will go hungry, because god will provide. Same with tithing. Give the 10% to the church and don’t worry about whether your family will make it on what’s left, god will provide. BG: was converted by evangelical missionaries, was member of a Baptist church and mission-adjacent evangelical churches for a couple of years, walked away from it after that, but continued to have a close friend in the community for a while.

      3. Julia*

        This kind of comment isn’t OK, and my bet is that it’s alienating to religious readers of this comment section.

    6. David*

      Now I’m imagining God as one of those overinvolved parents from some of Allison’s other letters, forcing their child into the car to get them to an interview for a job that they don’t really want.

  5. Heidi*

    I’m wondering if LW1’s friend is planning to apply to 5 jobs and tell each of them that God told her that this was the job for her. If the interviewer knows that she’s applying with more than one place, that would probably come across as insincere.

    1. TreeHillGrass*

      Good point. Frankly, it comes across as insincere anyway, or perhaps mildly delusional. Either the friend is being deliberately obtuse about workplace norms to make a point or is not well enough mentally to make a good employee and coworker. I would be very relieved to have this warning in the interview as opposed to hiring someone I thought was sensible and finding this out through inappropriate interactions in the office.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        It could also come across as presumptuous. At least I think there are some who would take it that way. What I mean is, saying, “God said this is the right job for me” kind of implies that God also thinks they should therefore hire her. Because after all, he HAS decided that it’s the right job for her, hasn’t he?

        I’m not saying that she intended anything like that, not at all. But I think some might draw that conclusion and be taken aback or even offended because of thinking that she was implying something of that sort.

        1. paxfelis*

          I have to admit that I’d nitpick this to death. Did God say this was the right job for her at this time? At this company? At this skill level? Maybe God actually wants her to develop her interview skills further and learn how to deal with rejection gracefully.

          I mean no disrespect to anyone who devoutly believes. But I also know that humans have a strong tendency to hear what they want to hear, and interpret what they hear in inaccurate ways.

          I hope she find a good job (as I hope we all find or have good jobs!) with compatible coworkers and a culture that fosters development and interpersonal comfort.

      2. Lilo*

        You also wonder about their conflict resolution skills. Are they going to say “God wants me to have a raise” or “God wants me to have Janet’s parking spot”.

        This isn’t so much about expressing religion (which is a mistake in an interview anyway) but about how this person is expressing it.

          1. quill*

            If you’re very certain what is God’s will, and it’s always convenient for you, I begin to suspect insincerity from you about what god’s will is.

        1. Chickaletta*

          Exactly this. It sounds flighty. She could just as easily quit that job a month from now and give her boss no other reason than “because God told me to”. It doesn’t really impart security.

          Also, for anyone who knows this story they’re going to question her supposed connection with God going forward – since He told her that was the job for her and yet she didn’t get it. It was a risky move and she lost the bet – not even realizing that’s what it was.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        In sincere or *incredibly* naive and out-of-touch with social norms outside of her church community, which would definitely give hiring personnel at my job pause. We’re science-based and a lot of our patrons are not Christian, so somebody answering a question like this would be at least a yellow flag–how does she view science and is she going to talk to visitors this way?

    2. Phony Genius*

      I’m wondering the opposite. If she believes that God wants her to have that job, and only that job, she may continue trying to apply there and not seek out other options.

      If she seems stuck on this, I’d advise her to seek advice from her pastor, who probably has a firmer grasp on reality.

    3. Donkey Hotey*

      Eh, why not? I see it the same thing as if you ask people on both sides of any given war, they both believe that god is on their side.

    4. meyer lemon*

      In publishing, it’s pretty common to get book submissions that say “God commanded me to write this book,” and there is a not-so-subtle suggestion that God would appreciate it if we published it as well. In the friend’s answer too, there may be a slight undercurrent of expectation that the interviewer should also take God’s word for it that the friend is the right person for the job. That may be off-putting for interviewers (Christian or not) in a way that mentioning religious affiliated hobbies wouldn’t be.

  6. Seal*

    #5 – These aren’t good candidates. If they can’t follow the relatively simple instructions on the job ad, chances are they’re not going to follow instructions on the job and/or are not very detail-oriented.

    1. John Smith*

      I was going to say similar, however, people make mistakes, and barring someone because they make a mistake now rather than later is limiting your options. I’d follow Alison’s advice and see how they get on – you don’t want to miss an ideal candidate over one faux pas. It may be that the candidates who submitted a cover letter did so out of routine and not because it was requested.

      1. Allypopx*

        I’m torn, because I agree with you. But if there are other strong candidates who didn’t commit that faux pas…ergh I dunno, mistakes still have consequences.

        1. meyer lemon*

          But it depends on what your main goal is. Teaching the candidates a lesson isn’t in the interviewer’s purview. For that matter, following written instructions might not be one of the top qualities the job requires. I’d just consider how many good candidates you already have and how promising the ones who forgot the cover letter appear to be otherwise.

          1. Joan Rivers*

            ASK the two good ones WHY they didn’t follow the directions. See how they respond.
            I’d be curious what they’d say.

            1. JustaTech*

              I agree. It’s possible that they will tell you that when they applied through Indeed or LinkedIn or whatever that there wasn’t a place to attach a cover letter. Or that the job ad had gotten cut off.

              If you ask then you’ll know, and if it’s a technical problem then you can fix it.

          2. Allypopx*

            Nono I don’t mean teaching a lesson, I just mean natural consequences. As in I don’t think OP has to go out of her way to accomodate people who aren’t following instructions if there are good candidates who did. Especially with so many people weighing in to say how doing so backfired on them at one point or another.

            1. meyer lemon*

              Oh yes, in that case I agree with you! I’d just be inclined not to weigh the faux pas itself too heavily one way or the other, and just make a pragmatic choice.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Except that if they are applying via third party sites then isn’t it possible that the third party site either didn’t give the full ad and requirements or isn’t set up to provide a letter as well as their own boilerplate style resume? OP said that some f the applications were autoformatted/generated by the sites so I wouldn’t automatically assume that the candidate can’t follow instructions – it may be that they didn’t get the full instructions or were not able due to the format of the site to do so.

      I think if they have enough good candidates without reaching out to the people who did not provide a cover letter they’re free to do so, equally if they decide to reach out then they can, and should, consider that alongside all the rest of the information they have about that candidate when making their final decision.

      1. Forrest*

        Yes, that’s what I was confused by, with the talk about third-party sites– does LW5 mean the candidates disregarded the instruction, or that they don’t know if they received/followed the instruction because of the way they saw the job ad? It totally makes sense to disregard candidates who failed to follow the instructions if “following instructions” is part of what you need in a candidate, but it makes no sense to disqualify otherwise good people if you don’t know if they saw the same instructions as the rest.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          This is what I understood the Letter Writer was asking. That 3rd party websites may not be providing the requirements, but they still have 2 good candidates from the 3rd party referrals. There are many, many ways for the application to go sideways when you aren’t controlling the presentation, and I’ve had to struggle with some terrible forms on Indeed.
          If the two candidates are really outstanding, I’d send a simple email asking for the cover letter and see what happens.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          I think part of it is that, for example, Indeed has the whole”easy apply” thing where you push a button and it sort of…does it for you? So a conscientious person (who does not know that’s what happens) might read the instructions and have every intention of following them, but then that button doesn’t quite do what they expected, and next thing they know, they’re done “applying”. And they might think “but it said…” but then also think “well if they posted it here, and enabled that button, this must be OK”.

          1. Forrest*

            Yes, I’ve been caught out by that myself! Expecting an “upload your cv and materials here” page and getting a “your CV [I uploaded a CV? Maybe, like, five years ago??] has been sent to the employer”.

      2. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

        That’s not really how most third party sites (ie Indeed) work, though. The company still writes the posting and lists it, so the instructions would be there – these candidates just didn’t read them, or didn’t follow them.

        And a candidate for a communications based role, who was happy with auto-generated/formatted resumes, and no cover letter? That gets a bit of side eye from me, unless the role I need them for is about being able to use templates effectively.

        1. Julia*

          OP wasn’t happy with resumes; she suggested writing back to those applicants to give them a chance to submit a cover letter. (The auto-generated resumes are another thing.)

          1. MissBliss*

            Cthulhu’s Librarian was referring to the candidates–like, any person applying for a communications position who thinks they can get by with just a resume… probably isn’t deep in the field of communications.

        2. meyer lemon*

          I think it kind of depends on the site. I’ve sent in applications where you have to upload your materials, which the site converts into plain text before sending on, and they can be very glitchy.

          In general, I think it’s fairer to evaluate candidates primarily based on what you can observe directly from them, their materials and their references, because it’s easy to make a lot of unfounded assumptions about what parts of the job search process “should” be straightforward and easy to navigate.

      3. anonymath*

        Some of those third party sites assemble your resume from what you fill into drop-down forms and don’t allow a cover letter — unless you sneakily create a cover letter-resume combo in a single pdf document and upload that instead of a resume alone, which is what I do, but then on other sites that messes up the resume formatting because they attempt to rip the auto-generated resume from the pdf you upload.

        1. OP5*

          I sent this in a while back, and we actually got some feedback from a couple of applicants who found my email/Linkedin that they weren’t able to upload a cover letter… which is odd, because about half the applicants had, and when we tested it, we had no problems. And some were through Indeed, but others through Linkedin (both linking to our external application), so really weird. We added instructions to upload a cover letter and resume in the same file if needed, and that seemed to work for some, though we’ve still had this issue with a subsequent job posting.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Ah so you managed to determine that it wasn’t the candidates’ fault, and changed your instructions accordingly, that’s the best course of action I think!

      4. TWW*

        That’s one of the reasons I never apply for a job through Indeed if I can help it. Indeed is a good resource for *finding* a job posting, but you can usually find the same posting on the company’s website and apply directly.

        1. Wry*

          This was my strategy when I was job searching as well. Third-party sites were useful for finding aggregated lists of lots of relevant job postings, but when it came time to apply, I always checked the company’s website to see if I could apply there directly. It always felt like the safest thing to do. I only applied through third-party sites if there was no other option.

          1. quill*

            Same, but if I go to the link on your application site you make me jump through 20000 hoops via yet another application site I’ve never heard of that’s even less user friendly… if I HAVE to apply or am still somehow interested, I’ll go right back to Indeed.

    3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      If the resumes coming in without cover letters otherwise look promising, then it’s probably worth it to check the 3rd party job sites and see if they’re truncating the applications or otherwise might be causing materials to be missed.

      I speak from experience here – I had an issue with (if memory serves) where there were issues with attachments going through.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        THIS. I think i remember discussions here about what to do when the ad says cover letter and the site only has one point of upload. Including one where the applicant wanted to edit/replace the resume with a new doc that was resume+letter but the site didn’t allow it.
        You & your colleague could try “applying” through the site that sent the resumes in question to find out if it’s candidate error or bad Web design.

        1. GothicBee*

          A pretty similar thing happened to me once, though I don’t remember if the job I was applying to required a cover letter, just that I couldn’t upload one at all. If that’s a possibility, I think the LW should at least check into the third-party sites they’re using to make sure they allow for cover letter uploads so that people who use those sites aren’t being punished.

        2. PT*

          I have had stuff like this happen, where I will follow the process to upload documents and then get to the end and it will be like “Submission complete!” and then be like, waaaaiiit a minute I am not done with all of the information I wanted to include.

          And submitting a combined resume/cover letter PDF when they parse the resume into a form is tricky, because sometimes they only provide the form results to the hiring manager.

      2. Kiki*

        Yeah, generally if a significant portion of applicants aren’t following instructions, it’s a good idea to double-check that the instructions are being rendered in the way you expect. I would create an entirely new account that’s not affiliated with the company for the third party sites are being used so I can check for real how an applicant is seeing things. Sometimes the previews companies give you for how an ad you make will appear are not good representations of what applicants actually see.

      3. Not my real name*

        THIS! I ended up in tears once because I couldn’t get my cover letter to go through. It was so frustrating! Thankfully, I was still interviewed. I didn’t get that job, but three months later, they called me in for a related job so at least they didn’t hold the lack of a requested cover letter against me.

        1. Nettie*

          Same thing has happened to me. It can be incredibly frustrating and some of these issues are not always apparent from the backend.

          I’m torn, though, because I think if I saw a LinkedIn ad where I couldn’t upload a cover letter even though the text said it was required, I’d try to go directly through the company, ask HR what to do, etc. But maybe that would also depend on how badly I wanted the job? Just thinking aloud here…

    4. EmKay*

      That’s an unfair assessment, since OP clearly states she expects many applications have come in through third party sites like Indeed.

    5. Lacey*

      Exactly! I’ve worked with a number of frustrating people who were hired because they’re “so great” in one area that their manager ignores all the way they don’t actually perform well and create more work for everyone else.

    6. Ama*

      I will say as someone who is almost simultaneously hiring staff and searching for another job (long story), I have had a lot of experience on both sides of the process lately. Indeed in particular makes it very difficult to figure out how to attach a cover letter for a specific job –it can be done but it isn’t immediately obvious how to do it (I’ve had maybe one in ten candidates that come through Indeed attach a cover letter).

      I also realized in this most recent hiring process that the admin who used to handle job postings for us (she has since been laid off and now hiring managers here post their own jobs) was not making any effort to clean up the formatting of our job postings after copying and pasting them from the Word documents we sent her, and it was very hard to read the bottom of our posting where the instructions about the cover letter were. So definitely make sure you are double checking what the posting looks like from the applicants’ side of things and make sure the cover letter instructions are clear and easy to find.

      As Alison suggests, if I get a resume through a job site that I find interesting enough, I will send an email to that person asking for a cover letter and explaining that we find them very valuable in assessing candidates. I will say, however, that in my experience about 50% never even reply to that email, and the ones who do tend to send very perfunctory ones, and usually do not match the level of writing skills we’re looking for. I still think it’s worth giving candidates a chance to make up for a simple mistake is worth the very little amount of time it takes me to send that email, even if I have yet to see a quality candidate make that mistake.

      1. OP5*

        This is helpful, thank you! I did get some emails from a handful people who just found that I was the hiring manager and wanted to send me their cover letter, and though normally I wouldn’t want them emailing me directly, in this case, I appreciated the initiative. We did test it and the resume upload is at the top and cover letter upload is at the bottom, and we also included instructions to upload resume/cover letter in the same doc if needed… but some people still weren’t able to add a cover letter. It’s very odd that it’s showing up differently for different people (we got cover letters with 50% or so, and a good portion of the others were just autoformatted from Indeed and not super relevant to the position), but your note about Indeed is helpful.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          This might be a looooooooooooooong shot, but as someone who works with a software system that can create different problems depending on the type of computer being used, could it be an instance where people on a specific type of computer (let’s say PCs) are able to do it but people on another type (let’s say Macs) aren’t? Or could it even have to do with the type of account they have? You mentioned LinkedIn elsewhere as being one of the third party sites people were applying to, so maybe you need their Premium Account to send both? Just spitballing some ideas!

          1. PT*

            Also do you have people applying in mobile format? My work had a disaster around 2015 when we reached a tipping point where a lot of our applicants for entry-level jobs were applying through their phones and our online application was not mobile-friendly.

            When we probed into it it turned into an equity issue. Managers whose job descriptions hired out of low income and minority pools were losing more applicants, because they were more likely to only have a mobile connection/device at home. While more white and affluent applicants were more likely to have home internet and a computer.

          2. quill*

            Could also be which browser they’re using too! Or whether or not they’re using mobile versions of the site.

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

      My department hires technical writers and asks candidates to submit cover letters. They don’t always do so. When I see a candidate with an interesting resume who has not submitted a cover letter, I contact the candidate and ask for one. I don’t have a rich enough candidate pool that I can eliminate people with the right technical background on this basis. I won’t move to phone interview without the cover letter, but I also won’t reject the candidate out of hand for failing to provide one.

      I understand the impulse to do that, and I sometimes snarkily wish I could — who applies to a writing job and doesn’t include a cover letter? — but given the variation in practice around cover letters, the bad advice people get about them, and the wide variety of professional backgrounds my department recruits from, I just have to give strong technical candidates a second chance to provide the cover letter.

      1. usually detail-oriented...*

        I just applied for a technical writing position and there wasn’t a cover letter request nor a space to upload one. I was a little surprised, I’m (trying to) transitioning out of academia and jobs *always* require cover letters. Lol now I’m worried I missed the request somehow.

        I’m glad to know folks sometimes reach out – I completely understand the desire to chuck applications for detail-oriented positions that miss…details…but we’re all human and a little grace is always appreciated, when possible!

    8. Chickaletta*

      I’m on the fence about this too. Sure, they should be following directions, but applying for a job these days is a really clunky, laborious process. The endless online form fields and file uploads, and that’s only after you’ve researched jobs, written your resume, tailored your cover letter, gathered all your previous employment details, settled on keywords and skills… You’re repeating information two or three times in one job application alone. Not that those things should be skipped over or that they’re not worth it but holy cow, job application processes these days make it really easy to overlook something or enter a mistake or submit inconsistent dates.

      If they really are great candidates, I’d reach out to them once and ask for a cover letter. Their response from there would tell me whether to move on with them or not.

    9. Anhaga*

      Not necessarily. My company hires through Indeed which I *hate* because it does not make it easy for candidates to include a cover letter even though I specifically request one in the posting. I always follow up with candidates and ask them for the cover letter. If they never respond, I will cut them from the pool, but most people actually do respond and send along the letter. I’ve had some really strong candidates get caught by this problem.

    10. Public Sector Manager*

      I’m just perplexed why people apply through third party sites to begin with. My wife is looking to get back into the workforce after being home with our son, who is now 7, and anytime she sees a job on a third party site, she always goes to the company’s web page and applies there.

      Anyway, if the instructions say submit a cover letter and attention to detail is important for the job, then I think it’s fair game to reject the application. Maybe going forward put a statement in the ad that “applications without cover letters will not be considered.”

  7. Sue Wilson*

    #5: if you’re using third-party sites then I wouldn’t be sure your instructions are coming though in a way that you can be sure everyone saw them. So personally I would send an email and ask for one. You don’t have to do it for everyone, perhaps just those candidates you think would be worth it, unless you have strict company protocols.

    1. WS*

      +1, unless you have checked all the sites you’re using and have seen that your instructions are clear *and* that the site accepts a cover letter (many don’t) I think this is a good opportunity to ask for a cover letter. Unless you’ve got several excellent candidate already, of course!

    2. MaltedMilk*

      There may also be the issue that some third party sites don’t allow for a cover letter to be attached.

    3. lailaaaaah*

      This. Some sites don’t allow for a cover letter, others may just put in straight up incorrect information (we used to get people applying for jobs weeks or even months late, because a third party site had got the dates or application info wrong).

    4. Allonge*

      AND check the sites yourself! I don’t think evaluating what you get is an unreasonable stance, but you do need to know that the instructions and the possibility to submit are there.

  8. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – you can point out to your friend that employers want to know what it is about the ROLE and the COMPANY that has attracted the candidate’s interest. This is an opportunity to show how the candidate’s interests, goals and aspirations align with the company’s objectives. It’s not really about what the candidate wants so much as it is about finding out if what the candidate wants and what the company has to offer are going to be a good match. (Eg. if someone tells me they want work/life balance, but are interviewing for a role that has high travel, long hours, and huge demands, it’s probably not going to be a fit, regardless of how amazing they are. ) Unless it’s religious organization, the management team aren’t going to be terribly interested in how well your friend’s motivations align with God’s instructions.

    OP#5 – if you’re dealing with systems that don’t necessarily enable cover letters or candidates who are applying from external systems (eg. from LinkedIn to your company’s ATS), I would make it crystal clear in the application instructions that a cover letter is required. However, keep in mind that some people get their cover letters heavily edited, so it might be a better idea to set a writing assignment that you can trigger for anyone whose resume you like (assuming you have a system that can do this), or respond to candidates who you are thinking of interviewing with a request that they provide a writing sample.

    1. lailaaaaah*

      Even if it is a religious org, there’ll be lots of candidates who feel that God wanted them to apply (or who’ll say that even if they don’t believe it)- they’ll still want to know what specific qualities make them the right person!

    2. OP5*

      Totally agree! We do a writing prompt test as part of our screening, but cover letters are so helpful when it comes to determining the top candidates to even get to that point.

  9. TreeHillGrass*

    Good point. Frankly, it comes across as insincere anyway, or perhaps mildly delusional. Either the friend is being deliberately obtuse about workplace norms to make a point or is not well enough mentally to make a good employee and coworker. I would be very relieved to have this warning in the interview as opposed to hiring someone I thought was sensible and finding this out through inappropriate interactions in the office.

  10. Annekitty*

    LW 1- I have a very religious friend applying to jobs at churches and while they did mention God in the interview in a similar capacity, they were also specific as to why that specific job stood out to them. My point is even in religious jobs that answer would still potentially hurt your friend’s chances simply because there was no other information given to the question.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Assuming a religious context, I wonder if a phrase like “God told me to look for helping positions” or similar would come off OK?

      1. lailaaaaah*

        In that context, yes, potentially- you’d basically be giving the same answer as in a non-religious org and framing it slightly differently (e.g. ‘I think my strengths lie in problem-solving and support roles’ becomes ‘after a lot of prayer and consideration, I believe my strengths lie in problem-solving and support roles’).

      2. Bagpuss*

        I think even in that context it is likely be more appropriate to focus on what skills etc. you bring to the job – in a religious context I could see that adding something along the lines that it’s important to you to live in accordance with your faith, including in your work and that you feel that this job fits well with that – e.g. focus on how the organisations aims and ethos fit with your own.

      3. Lilo*

        I worked at a church as a student and I thibk this would be okay. “God told me to look for this kind of position” is very different from “God told me your job is right for me”.

          1. Lilo*

            I mean obviously they should expound on the why. But I wouldn’t see talking about God that was as a red flag whereas “God says this is right for me” is a red flag even if they go on to explain why.

        1. Temperance*

          I don’t think it’s acceptable for any secular employer, and probably not for non-evangelical Protestant churches or faith-based orgs.

          I see a huge difference between “my faith inspires me to do X charity work” and “God told me I should”. Because in one, it’s you, using your own brain and agency, and in the other … it’s at best “divine inspiration”.

    2. WorkingRachel*

      My parents were both pastors before they retired, and I feel confident that in interviewing for their church jobs, “God told me” would have been entirely appropriate, but it would have been the CONTEXT, not the CONTENT. Maybe something like, “After having the opportunity to work with a more rural population at my current church, I feel that God is leading me back to a more urban setting. I’ve been able to develop my skills in [whatever] in a way that I think will support your mission of [blank], and I’m excited to be able to work with [blank]. I’ve always been called to music, and I’ll continue that at your church with strong support of the music ministry.” Alison’s right, just saying, “God wants me to do this,” doesn’t tell the person who’s interviewing you anything about how their needs are going to be met, and is going to be inappropriate in almost any setting.

  11. The answer is (probably) 42*

    OP1: I’d add that beyond just the friend’s assumption that employers will share her belief that God told her that this is the right job for her, she’s also expecting them to trust her word on that, and she’s a virtual stranger to them. Even if the employer were inclined to accept a religiously motivated answer, what has she done specifically to earn their trust? Anyone can say “because God told me so”. If a random stranger approached her on the street and said “God came to me and said that you need to marry me” would she accept that on faith?

    1. ecnaseener*

      To be fair, this was her answer to “why do you want this job” — not “why should we hire you.” It sounds like she was really just trying to answer honestly. (A savvy candidate would be trying to address both questions when asked the first, but we’ve established this isn’t a savvy candidate!)

      1. Julia*

        Yeah, this is right. The thing she missed is that every question during an interview carries an implicit “why should we hire you” lurking behind the face of the question, and should be answered with that lens in mind.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        Even so, the answer she gave is suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuper vague. It’s almost like she answer the question with a “what” answer instead of a “why” answer.

    2. Archaeopteryx*

      Yes, the fact that she said this during a job interview isn’t really a function of how religious she is (tons of very devout people of all religions would never do this!) but of how wise she is (it seems, not very). Besides missing the point of the question, she has revealed to the interview her that she: thinks this is remotely appropriate to say in a work setting, thinks that this will convey anything besides red flags to them, and that she has zero judgment about code-switching in the workplace. All of these things the interviewer would take as very good reasons not to bring her onto their team.

      Kind of like the extremely political workplace from yesterday, people who inappropriately or constantly bring up political or religious (or aggressively irreligious) topics in the workplace are bad news, especially if they’ve told themselves they do it because they just care so much or whatever. It’s not a function of how much you care, it’s a function of maturity and of knowing time and place. Not saying every thought that comes into your head is not the same thing as hiding who you are.

      (Plus, all of the devout religious people I know, myself included, would probably be pretty creeped out by her statement, because it kind of indicates that she thinks she’s having visions or receiving direct and overt instructions from God on every mundane aspect of her life.)

  12. Allonge*

    LW4 – we have tables like this (who is doing whose eval) sent by HR and it always comes with a ‘if you see something unexpected, check with HR’ caveat. Tables are made by humans, sometimes it’s an error, sometimes it’s a change in policy people miss otherwise… it’s perfectly ok to ask what’s up.

    1. Public Sector Manager*

      Agreed. At my state agency, HR is still listing a manager who retired last year and their replacement isn’t on the list, despite HR being told about it three times. What’s up with that indeed!

  13. awesome3*

    For #1, for future jobs, before the interview she should figure out *why* God is calling her to leave her current position and if God is telling her this position would be a good fit *why.* Then focus on that when she shares it, not how she received that information.

    Plenty of people pray about these major life changes, but ultimately whether it’s “I am looking for a job where I can make a more direct impact on the hunger crisis in our region” to “I need to spend more time with my family,” that’s the reason for the change, even if the prayer was the alert that it was time, it’s not what the interviewer is asking for.

    1. WS*

      Yes, I once had someone tell me that her tarot cards indicated this was the right job for her. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the required qualification that she said she had (and admitted she’d just said she did because that’s what we wanted), she wasn’t available for most of the times she would be needed, and she was late to the interview without giving a reason. Relying on tarot cards didn’t help her with the actual job requirements.

      1. lailaaaaah*

        Maybe OP1’s friend needs to think of it that way- if they were conducting an interview and someone said that the tarot/the stars/their very unChristian god told them they were right for the job, would she want to hire them on that basis?

        1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          Yeah — or if a salesperson said: “God told me this car is right for your family” or “God told me you will thrive for signing up for this program” — what would she feel about that?

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Actually, there are some circles where these are genuine sales tactics. They tend to be the more cultish side of things.

    2. generic employee*

      This is a very good way for the LW her friend to phrase it so she can understand even in the context of religion. I think I’ll save this one in my notes.

  14. MyDogIsCalledBradlyPooper*

    OP #1 I am dying to know what God tells her when she did not get the job. If I was interviewing someone and I got that answer I would be put off. There are just some things you do not discuss at work – religion, politics, your sex life etc. That answer would be a big red flag for me. I would not bothered that this person is particularly religious. I would be bothered that the person does not get the societal norms that say keep those views out of the workplace.

    1. Self Employed*

      That’s too religious for the church I go to–my Unitarian pastor knows she’d get complaints from half the congregation if a new office staff person started talking about God telling her this or that.

      1. lailaaaaah*

        Tbf, that’s Unitarian. I come from a Protestant (kinda evangelical-leaning) background, and in the churches I grew up in and their offshoot organisations, that kind of thing would be very welcomed. But you’d still want to put forward the reasons *why* your candidacy/idea/whatever would be a benefit in God’s eyes.

    2. pleaset cheap rolls*


      What if the interviewer had responded to the comment about God’ will with “That’s not what He told me”

      1. Marny*

        Or, “huh, the last candidate I interviewed said the same thing. Now what do I do?”

    3. Mental Lentil*

      The obvious answer is that Satan prevented her from getting the job.

      And that’s the problem with mixing religion with business—or anything, really. It takes our personal choices and will out of the equation. We’re just pawns on a cosmic chessboard. What happens, happens, and we have no control over it.

      I prefer to live my life otherwise.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        … isn’t that the basic point of religion though, giving up control of your life to a “higher” authority? The Mormons apparently say “The thinking’s been done for you”, no need to question whether abortion is good or bad, just ask the priest.

  15. singlemaltgirl*

    lw#5 – written skills are fairly important as roles within my orgs (things like tech we outsource) so i always emphasize that ‘applications without cover letters will not be considered’. first thing i do is skim the cover letter. if there’s nothing compelling, interesting, or intriguing to me, i will seldom look at the resume. if there are major errors in the cover letter, i don’t bother with the resume.

    i used to give people more of a ‘benefit of the doubt’. inevitably, i found that people who couldn’t follow simple instructions in a job ad were very unlikely to follow simple instructions on email, given verbally, or in a manual. i’m fortunate that most of the time we have lots of applicants for the jobs we post so this is a quick way for me to quickly screen and move through apps.

  16. PX*

    OP5: if you post your job ad on sites where it might not give the candidate the option to attach a cover letter, you can put it in the job description, and give an alternate way to apply. Eg “To apply for this posting, send a cover letter and resume to” – this also allows you to screen for candidates who pay attention to detail and can follow instructions!

  17. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP1 – yeah, it’s hurting her.

    I would see it as a sign that

    a) she doesn’t understand professional norms and boundaries
    b) she may cause problems with other staff members and not respect their boundaries
    c) is unable to deliver required information from a question I ask
    d) she’s arrogant and thinks interviewers should be moved to accept her because God wanrs them to.

    So yeah. That answer would, by itself, put her in the “not a chance” pile.

    (I have strong faith by the way, and a good relationship with God – but that answer is inappropriate.)

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is a nice, succinct summary of the issues with her answer, and I’d be most concerned about b) and c).

      I work with a number of people that I know are very religious but still manage not to use their religion as a cudgel or as an excuse to do their job poorly. I would not have that confidence in this candidate. I also do not work in the Bible Belt or somewhere else that public professions of a particular faith are expected to show one’s in-crowd status.

  18. Nic*

    LW5 – reject anyone applying for a writing job who doesn’t submit a cover letter, unless you really can’t pull together a decent shortlist from those who did. Even if they didn’t see the instructions to provide one, anyone sensible would include one anyway. It’s a writing job! It’s a chance to demonstrate you can write!

    I’ve been recruiting writers for 15 years and it is mind-blowing how many don’t do this and auto-disqualify themselves, although it certainly does save time on sifting the applications. See also: typos on applications for writing jobs.

    1. Elmyra Duff*

      Professional writer here! I never send cover letters. There’s a link to my portfolio and my LinkedIn (where I do a lot of writing!) in my resume. I’ve never had an issue getting a job. Cover letters are a waste of time for everyone involved.

      1. OP5*

        We definitely look at writing samples/portfolios and our screening process includes a writing test, but cover letters really help us filter out people who wouldn’t be a good fit before we even get to that point. This is a pretty entry-level position so we’re getting a lot of generic cover letters, and I can immediately tell that they did the opposite of Alison’s advice! :)

      2. OP5*

        We definitely look at writing samples/portfolios and our screening process includes a writing test, but for this particular full-time posting, cover letters really help us filter out people who wouldn’t be a good fit before we even get to that point. This is a pretty entry-level position so we’re getting a lot of generic cover letters, and I can immediately tell that they did the opposite of Alison’s advice! :)

      3. A Person*

        But you’re giving a writing sample (in addition to your resume). I’m a professional writer too, but I don’t have an online portfolio, hence the cover letter.

        (And fwiw for folks in general: I point out to people that my resume is both a writing sample and also a presentation sample. Because content and presentation/format are both important in getting ideas across, and that’s my job as a writer: I communicate so that the reader comprehends.)

    2. usually detail-oriented...*

      I’m not sure I agree, though I suppose it depends on the position/role. I’m currently applying for technical writing positions and have seen many that don’t ask for a cover letter (though now I’m concerned I’ve missed the ask…). I didn’t include a CL in these applications because the directions didn’t ask for them, and an important part of this kind of work is following the directions! Also, my resume *is* a sample of my writing, and it’s filled with examples that any interested employer could go check out if they wanted to read more (i.e. publications, websites, documentaries, etc).

      Obviously if you have enough candidates to be able to toss applications, this is a good way to narrow the pool! But candidates who don’t include them aren’t necessarily being purposely obtuse…

  19. Moolissa*

    While I’m not condoning most of Clarissa’s action (re: letter #2) I am miffed as to why the letter writer is using the fact that Clarissa took public transit against her. Not everyone has the luxury of having a vehicle, or is able to never leave their home. Even at peak numbers low income people, people with disabilities and those without cars may not have a had a choice but to use transit for things like groceries, employment etc. To suggest otherwise or to accuse someone of not taking the pandemic seriously is classist and out of touch. I’m surprised this fact wasn’t called out in the response or in other comments here.

    1. Myrin*

      It’s but one point in a whole list of behaviours OP mentioned.
      I happen to agree with you (my family doesn’t have a car and I’ve been reliant on public transport to get anywhere for the past 13 years) but I don’t see a need to call it out because it’s irrelevant regarding both Clarissa’s conduct (she has been behaving irresponsibly in numerous ways, one such way more or less doesn’t make a difference) and the advice.
      The only thing mentioning this might do is get OP to think about why she feels that way (and who knows, maybe she just worded it clumsily or there’s more background to this that we’re not privy to which would change our judgment) and to maybe inwardly course-correct, but I don’t think it adds much to a discussion about the whole Clarissa situation.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I think it’s also a bit of a moot point — if even Clarissa was only taking public transport and going outside out of necessity, OP’s condition might still mean that she would need to limit contact.

        In this case, the relevant issue isn’t: ‘how reasonable is Clarissa’s behaviour’ but ‘how can I hold a firm boundary with someone who forgets past conversations’?

        1. Despachito*

          For me, it would even boil down to “how do I hold a firm boundary” no matter what.

          The pandemic taught me that there is no point in pointing out the lack of responsibility/cowardice of others, as these are so very much subjective, and some relationships are too precious to spoil them because your opinions on what is safe and what isn’t may widely differ.

          I chose not to meet my elderly relatives, who raised me and I see them virtually as my parents, in person during the pandemics. I love them dearly and I miss seeing them very much, but they live with their kids and grandkids who are not so strict about protection (and who actually caught the disease, but somehow managed not to pass it on to their grandparents). My husband is in a high-risk group, and it was a tough choice, but my preference was clear – the visit would not outweigh potentially catching COVID and transferring it to my hubby. However, I did not say a word to my cousins and nieces about not being careful enough – I felt it is not my battle to fight, would not resolve anything (it would not be realistic for them to change their behaviour for more than a year because of me). My battle was to protect my own core family, which I did, and I took care of calling my old relatives almost every day, bringing them groceries and overall showing I cared, and I think this helped us to survive the plague in a relatively sane state of mind.

          My point is – it worked better for me to strictly protect myself than change the behaviour of others, and in this case, I think it would work better to say to Clarissa “I still do not feel like meeting in person” than “I am afraid of meeting you because YOU are not careful enough”. You cannot control Clarissa’s behaviour, nor can you have any certainty that she really adheres to all precautions even if she says so, but what you CAN control is your own behaviour and whether you let someone in your personal space.

    2. lailaaaaah*

      I wouldn’t take that one as a personal slight- more that if she’s travelling at peak times, then there’s a higher risk of being exposed regardless of her reason for being there. I commuted by bus to work and back throughout the pandemic, and as a result I did not meet up with disabled/immunocompromised friends because I didn’t want to take the risk that I could have caught the virus and infected them. Even though I was always masked, washing my hands frequently etc, there were plenty of people who weren’t (on one occasion a guy got on the bus behind me, took his mask off, and then started coughing down my neck all the way to my stop!)

    3. ToodlesTeaTops*

      No, it’s not classist nor out of touch because even if she didn’t take public transport, she still can’t come over. LW made that clear. Being immunocompromised is a very serious thing. Depending on how it is, the flu or the Covid virus can literally disable or kill the person, even with a vaccine. She is following her doctor’s orders.

      I know it may seem weird for the LW to focus on what others are doing, but I have a friend who is immunocompromised. She had to leave multiple social situations due to people being sick or had a cough. She has ended up in the hospital multiple times because someone thought it was just a simple cough. Alison’s response was good to handle this.

      1. Nettie*

        Sure, but OP listed taking public transit as evidence of Clarissa not taking the pandemic seriously. If she listed it as an example of why her exposure was higher, that would be a factual/no judgemental statement.

        I don’t think anyone here is surprised an immunocompromised person needs to limit personal contacts right now, just that the judgemental tone about some of Clarissa’s behavior (again, someone with multiple health problems herself, including cognitive) seems unnecessary.

        1. JustaTech*

          So in my city the bus/light rail system specifically asked riders to limit their rides to “essential trips” only – specifically so people without other modes of transportation could get to work/the pharmacy/the grocery store without having to ride a crowded bus.

          So it might be that what OP2 is talking about is that Clarissa was taking a lot of *non-essential* trips on public transit. Which is another example of not being as careful as OP2 would want.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            We had some friends round recently, with lockdown being eased. The student renting a room here decided to eat in her room rather than be exposed to our friends in case one was infected. Of the friends who came, two had just recovered from Covid, one was already vaccinated, two were retired and hardly ever see anyone, and one works on zoom only. The person most likely to be contagious was my partner, who meets a lot of clients in person, and the student had been eating meals with us without it being a problem.
            When I told my guests the student would not be joining us, THEY were relieved, because she spends all day at uni and uses public transport.

    4. Allonge*

      I think the kind interpretation is that while it is a necessity (I have used public transport, so I know) it’s still objectively more likely to lead to getting infected than the alternatives, and so risky to OP. It’s not a value judgment, it is just fact.

      It would probably be better to talk about this in a separate sentence from fully voluntary actions (so, to say she also had to use public transport), but that is a bit too close to nitpicking the language.

    5. Person from the Resume*

      I’m going to trust the LW knows Clarissa well enough to know that those trips on public transport we’re unnecessary.

    6. Bus Rider*

      Moolissa, I came here to make this exact point. As someone who cannot afford a car and has relied on public transit throughout the pandemic, I find it incredibly frustrating when others look down on my choice to take transit. It’s also not on OP (or anyone else) to decide whether her public transit trips were “necessary” or not.

      1. pancakes*

        I understand your frustration around seeing public transportation discussed this way and don’t disagree that it’s a bit obtuse, but many, many locations did indeed decide what activities were and weren’t necessary at the height of the pandemic – keeping grocery stores open but not restaurants, for example. “Necessary” is not without meaning during a pandemic.

      2. Anononon*

        But even if they were necessary trips, it’s still a factor as to why OP can’t visit with her.

        1. Simply the best*

          But it is not an example of carelessness, which is what Moolissa is objecting to.

    7. Dust Bunny*

      The public transit system in my area has been sending–they were almost daily for awhile but have slacked off–updates on COVID cases among their drivers, so while I’m a fan of public transport in general *it’s not how you avoid pathogens during a pandemic*. One of my coworkers is still working from home most of the time unless her husband can drive her because she usually takes the bus and doesn’t want to be exposed or expose anyone else. We don’t think she’s low-class, it’s just a higher-risk situation.

    8. I'm just here for the cats*

      I agree with you. I don’t drive so rely on public Transit most of the time. I was/am super cautious about COVID.

      I think the LW could have left that out the transit part because there are a bunch of other characteristics that are concerning about Clarissa. But to imply that someone who has to take public transit is not taking the pandemic serious is very wrong and my opinion

    9. Nettie*

      I had a really strong negative reaction to that too. Absolutely fine for OP to say she needed to isolate very strictly because of her condition, but to list “taking public transit” as an example of irresponsible behavior…for someone who apparently has

      1. Nettie*

        Hit submit too soon – someone who evidently has several health issues that apparently require treatment? That was shocking to me.

        Again, fine if OP can’t see Clarissa. But she needs to frame it as a “me thing” not a consequence of Clarissa’s irresponsibility, both because that’s what it is and because the alternative is pretty offensive.

        1. generic employee*

          +1 As another public transit user (I don’t see well enough to drive) there are people I haven’t visited because they’re immunocompromised,ill, etc, but if someone told me I was irresponsible for not driving, especially when I *can’t*, immune status would stop being the reason I wasn’t visiting.

    10. fhqwhgads*

      I think the point is she both disregarded stay-at-home orders (earlier in the list) AND while doing so, took public transit. Sure, maybe that’d mean she couldn’t otherwise leave her home, but for a huge chunk of when the LW is talking about, Clarissa was not supposed to be leaving her home.

      That single point also doesn’t change the answer to the LW at all.

  20. ToodlesTeaTops*

    I think the comment section is partially failing to see the issue of the first letter. It’s not the fact that she mentioned God in her interview that hurt her. It’s the fact that she didn’t answer the question properly. There’s nothing wrong with mentioning religion. It’s not a discussion. It’s a bad answer. It’s equal to saying “Because my husband/wife/friend/gut feeling/universe/parents/thoughts told me to and said it was right for me.”

    1. lailaaaaah*

      Yes, but adding God into the mix- particularly in a secular organisation- implies an even deeper lack of awareness of workplace norms. Saying ‘my husband told me it was right’ is a bad answer. Saying ‘God told me it was right’ is not only a bad answer, but then you’re running the risk of hiring someone who would bring religion into the workplace in a way that might hurt other employees.

      1. ToodlesTeaTops*

        Oh no, that’s a slippery slope. I would agree if she was passing out pamphlets, citing scripture, or mentioning God multiple times, and shoving her religion on others, and telling them they are wrong. But that’s not the case here. Mentioning God doesn’t mean she is going to hurt someone. Just like being Muslim doesn’t mean they are terrorists or being Pagan doesn’t mean they will curse you. Yes, it’s lacking some awareness. But it’s still a bad answer, nothing more.

        1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          I don’t think lailaaah is claiming that the woman is going hurt anyone — but it IS a sign that she’s not familiar with workplace norms. It’s outside of the norm to mention God in an interview (or your marital relations, as you point out) and within the interview process, we have to make judgements based on relatively little information.

          Someone who answers in an over-sharing way is signalling that they’re not familiar with typical workplace boundaries. If they’re not familiar with those boundaries in one area, it follows that they may not be familiar in other areas.

          Also, FWIW, ‘slippery slope’ is such a pet peeve of mine — *everything* can be a slippery slope, so you need to be thoughtful about why your particular example is more salient than others.

          1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

            EDIT: missed a word: *I don’t think lailaaah is claiming *definitively* that the woman is going hurt anyone

          2. ToodlesTeaTops*

            I think this is splitting hairs and getting very off-target. It’s a slippery slope to claim that someone will hurt somebody by mentioning God. It may be your pet peeve, but when it’s illegal in the US to discriminate against someone based on religion, you have to be careful how you insinuate it. Not that the friend would make a good candidate. I’m not arguing that she should be hired. There are many reasons why it’s a bad answer, but that alone isn’t a good reason to select another candidate. It’s not good to let biases play into hiring decisions.

            I work with multiple people who come into entry-level jobs or have come from blue-collar work to white-collar work. Coaching on office norms doesn’t bother me. I’ve also worked with people from all sorts of religious backgrounds so that also doesn’t bother me if they mention God/s, even if I don’t understand it. Though if it’s a client-facing field, sure I can understand wanting someone who is more tactful. But we don’t know any of that. That’s a lot of speculation and it’s not fair to the LW.

            1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

              The slippery slope argument is often fallacious. For example, you’re concluding here that because someone finds mention of God in an interview inappropriate, they are discriminating based on religion and I’m not sure we can make that leap.

              I don’t actually think you disagree with the people on this thread as much as you think! You mention that it would be inappropriate for the candidate to talk about her marital status, or badmouth her former boss — and yes! It absolutely would be. For similar reasons that mentioning God in a secular workplace isn’t a great idea: these things signal a lack of familiarity with professional norms.

              As far as coaching, I agree that it’s sometimes great to coach people who are entering from different environments. But LW isn’t the one hiring here, and it won’t serve or help the interviewee to start off in a way that suggests she needs coaching (especially if she’s not especially young). Not all jobs come with an opportunity to be coached, for better or worse.

              The reality of interviewing is that we have to make judgement calls based off limited data. She won’t be in a vacuum, she’ll be competing with other candidates who are probably not mentioning religion (or sex or politics or any number of non-work related sensitive topics). If her answers raise questions about workplace boundaries and others don’t, then it’s not discriminatory to not hire her for that — tact and knowledge of boundaries are perfectly acceptable criteria.

              1. ToodlesTeaTops*

                We’re just going to let the conversation die here. There’s a lot of assumptions you’re making about me and about what I think that isn’t true and isn’t the point that I am making.

            2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

              By way of context, you can look at it this way: if she mentioned she was Christian in the context of talking about her bookkeeping volunteer work at a church or if she wore a cross to the interview, I don’t think anyone would in the comments would have a problem.

              Those signs of her religion would be entirely appropriate.

            3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Saying you don’t want to hire someone because they brought their religion into the interview at an inappropriate moment is not religious discrimination.

              I wouldn’t hire that person. Not because they are religious, but because they bring religion into the workplace unnecessarily. She might tell me God told her not to file the TPS reports, or she might get on the atheists’ nerves telling them about her religion.
              Someone wearing a cross or star of David or hijab without ever mentioning their religion at work, fine. Someone who can’t work late because of Ramadan, or Christmas, or Holi, or whatever, no problem, they can make it up to their colleagues another time. But bringing it into every conversation: no way will I put up with that.
              Saying that’s religious discrimination is like saying it’s sexual discrimination to fire the employee who keeps flashing her breasts at her manager.

        2. Akcipitrokulo*

          But it is indicating that she will use her faith inappropriately *with relation to* the job.

          Which is a yellow-red flag in how she could treat others in workplace.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            This. My concern would be that any task she doesn’t want to do will conveniently turn out to be contrary to God’s will.

        3. Tau*

          I think this probably depends on the culture around you.

          The situation in #1 was shocking to me, because over here the base cultural norm is that religious belief is a private, intimate thing which you might talk about with close friends and family but not outside of that. So mentioning God in an interview isn’t just violating workplace norms, it’s violating overall cultural norms regarding appropriate topics with strangers (or casual acquaintances, or friends you’re not super close to, or…). It’s such a massive violation that I would absolutely be concerned about whether the person in question would be able to behave appropriately in a workplace, and I don’t think that feeling would be discrimination. I’d be willing to give leeway if they were a foreigner or from a minority culture which might have different norms, but otherwise…

          But my understanding is that the US is different to Germany in this respect and that in many places overtly religious talk is tolerated all the way to actively welcomed in casual social situations, in which case someone misjudging in an interview would be more understandable.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            It very much depends on region. There are places where asking what church you attend is merely polite conversation, like asking who is your barber. There are others where it is a clear preliminary to evangelizing. There is a church that used to come around my neighborhood every year or so, going door to door. I would tell them that I already have a church and am very happy with it. I would not tell them what church it was, as that would be an invitation for them to explain how much better theirs was. Sometimes they did this anyway, but no need to give them ammunition.

            1. ecnaseener*

              And there are regions in the US where no one asks what church or barber you go to. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked either question.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                Yep, and my goal is to always live in one of those places – though I am happy to share my stylist’s name because she’s great. My spouse grew up in a small town where church membership/attendance is part of your public image and it’s common for people to ask you when you were “saved”. I could never live somewhere like that.

            2. pancakes*

              It’s funny that you mention not wanting to hear canvassers explain how their church is better than yours after twice mentioning that your own religious tradition is older than that of the letter writer’s friend, and mentioning a passage of the Bible you suspect they haven’t read closely enough for your liking.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                The difference is that I am not showing up at their door to share my opinions with them.

                1. pancakes*

                  If you regard any mention of other people’s religions as an invitation to talk about the superiority of your own, this is a distinction without a difference.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Uh, no, this very much depends on where you live and work. I’m in Texas, which might be a yes, but religious talk doesn’t go beyond casual mentions. I’m at a science-associated library, which probably skews it some, but I know that my coworkers are not collectively a pack of atheists. I know that a lot of them are actively religious, even. But it’s not something that comes up at work beyond incidental conversation.

          3. UKDancer*

            I’d agree. From a UK perspective I’d not expect someone to mention religious beliefs as opposed to activities in a religious context because faith is a private and personal matter not discussed at interviews for the same reason as Tau because it violates cultural behavioural norms.

            I’d be fine with an example drawn from a religious context for example I’ve had someone use an example from their work in a Sikh temple kitchen to demonstrate organisational skills and I thought it worked well. Equally I’d be fine with something like teaching Sunday school or running the church roof repair fund to make £x. The focus would need to be the activity not the belief.

          4. Anononon*

            No, I don’t think we’re that different – I don’t think many places would be fine with this type of religious talk in the work place. There’s a pretty common saying that one shouldn’t talk about religion or politics at work.

        4. Student*

          I disagree with this–if you mention God or religion, that’s fine. But “God told me to apply”, without further explanation, in answer to an interview question suggests that she’s coming to the workplace with a fundamental belief that her experience of religion should be a relevant input in my business decision-making. That’s a serious error in judgment.

          I’m going to expect her to be much as LW1 describes her here: someone who doesn’t see anything wrong with violating professional norms or making others uncomfortable when it’s a matter of asserting her religious beliefs. In a world in which lots of people have religious beliefs, and many of them are incompatible, I’m going to wonder how well she’s able to respect others’ religious convictions in the workplace. It’s a huge red flag and an HR problem waiting to happen.

          1. Student*

            I should say that my undergrad is from a notoriously right-wing Christian college and I am very aware that there may be jobs I won’t get because a hiring manager looks at that and says, “But is she going to be able to work with our LGBTQ employees?” That is 100% a legitimate concern. You can’t and shouldn’t turn off your judgment just because religion comes into it, because there are religions that preach behavior that is absolutely unacceptable in a workplace.

          2. ToodlesTeaTops*

            I’m not sure what you are disagreeing with. I totally said it was a terrible answer.

      2. Chilipepper Attitude*

        Lailaaaaah did not mean hurt other employees as in physically attacking them. This person demonstrated that they fail to understand professional norms to the point that they give this answer, both bc it did not answer the question and bc it shows they might proselytize or otherwise bring up religion/god at work in inappropriate ways. It is signalling that this will have to be managed at work; most would go for the person who did not signal that.

        And bringing up religion at work in the way this answer signals, can cause emotional harm. If I have to hear about god and religion at all at work I am not going to be happy. And some people might be more than unhappy. They might feel emotionally harmed; what if this employee starts telling peoole god told her that their behavior is sinful?

      3. Observer*

        Saying ‘my husband told me it was right’ is a bad answer. Saying ‘God told me it was right’ is not only a bad answer, but then you’re running the risk of hiring someone who would bring religion into the workplace in a way that might hurt other employees.

        If that’s your concern, then you chose a particularly bad counter example. The LAST thing I want in the office is someone who thinks that her husband has any standing regarding work decisions. Is this someone who just does everything her husband says, regardless? And is she going to expect us to go along with it? Is she going to expect others to “respect” her husband’s opinions – including his opinions on work stuff? Is this someone who is going to judge women who either don’t have husband’s or who don’t relate to their husband’s the way that she thinks they should?

        The problem here has nothing to do with religion per se. It has everything to do with her not answering the question and the particular way she is bringing “G-d’s will” into the discussion.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      Oh no! If I were interviewing and someone said this, she’d be an immediate no because she mentioned God and religion that way not because she failed to answer the question or hidden.

      Religion should stay out of the work place. And someone who says “God told me to” seems like a kook.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        … but the LW probably needs to take a different tact in advising her friend though. The LW’s wording of asking AAM for assurance that the answer was off base shows she doesn’t feel as strongly about it as many people/Americans do. So Alison’s answer is good for that.

    3. EmKay*

      There is **absolutely** something wrong with mentioning religion in an interview.

      What on earth.

      1. DireRaven*

        Exactly. I have had my Masters of Divinity (Christian Theology, which I got pretty much for funsies – just kept taking the classes because they were interesting and suddenly qualified for the degree) mentioned in the education section of my resume and in interviews, I have had the interviewer turn religious — and these are secular positions! (albeit in the Bible Belt)– and assume that I’m Christian (specifically of the Evangelical sort). It makes me uncomfortable because I then wonder if the organization will be very Evangelical Christian oriented and if I would be discriminated against if they learned I’m actually atheist.

    4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      As an atheist, I would find bringing religion into the interview to be totally inappropriate and it would scare me: suppose she were to then sabotage the entire company because that’s why God told her to apply there?
      If I were an intolerant atheist, I would find it offensive.
      If a candidate told me they applied because their husband/wife/friend/gut feeling/universe/parents/thoughts told them to, I’d write them off as being someone that doesn’t think for themselves. Of course that might not matter very much in some entry-level jobs, but if discernment were a key component, I’d toss the CV the minute the candidate left.

  21. Indisch Blau*

    OP1 – I am a believer and am currently a member of a church where people are open to “hearing God’s voice” / listening prayer and the like. I have certain reservations – that will become evident below.
    If I were interviewing your friend at my secular firm I would not be able to make a case for her to the other members of the committee. As someone else put it, this is way too far outside of professional norms. What if she told a client what she thought was God’s will for the client?
    If I were interviewing her for a position at my church I would ask her how God spoke to her, if she sees any reasons why God would want her to move on and why this job is right for her. I would be interested in not just the reasons but how she came to them and how God speaks to her. Does she get impulses in prayer? Does God speak to her through verses in the Bible? Through satisfaction/dissatisfaction? These would tell me something about her spiritual maturity and about how good a fit she would be.
    If I were in a position to counsel her spiritually, I would say the following:
    1) God speaks to us according to our knowledge and understanding of him. (Yes, for a skeptic that sounds like we imagine God as we choose.) And God answers the questions we ask. She should ask God why she should move on and what kind of role she should be looking for. She can also ask friends or a mentor to help her sort this out. God can use them to speak to her.
    If she asks God binary questions, she’ll probably get binary answers. If she asks God open-ended questions she’ll get better answers and potentially grow in her understanding of herself and of God.
    2) Doing God’s will doesn’t necessarily mean a job with Company A and not with Firm B. More important is how you do the job, what kind of person you are as an employee, what environment you thrive in and so on. And there we’re back at typical questions anyone should be asking in a job search. For a believer, it’s good to consider these in prayer and to consult with others.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      All of this is so outside my experience of the world. I am so glad that you can offer this information to the OP. It sounds like it is very helpful information she can share with her friend and I learned something too.

      1. Captain Raymond Holt*

        Agreed – I’m a life-long atheist and this helped me understand the perspective that (some) Christians may take on this response to the question.

    2. generic employee*

      This is a very well phrased answer which meets LW 1 and their friend where they live.

    3. Public Sector Manager*

      This is exceptionally helpful to the OP and I’ve also learned something in the process. Thank you!

    4. Indisch Blau*

      Thanks to all for your responses. I was writing with LW and friend as an imagined readership. If my answer helps others understand, I’m glad for that.

  22. Forrest*

    LW2, this feels like quite a lot more of a relationship conversation than a work one, really, but I think your problem is a bit mixed up between “how do I explain to her” and “how cross am I allowed to be that she…”

    What kind of relationship do you want with Clarissa going forward? Are you annoyed with her for not taking more care? Annoyed with her for not taking your health seriously, and not listening to your clear “nos”? How deep does that annoyance go? Are you reconsidering the relationship? Are you looking forward to seeing her when it is safe to do so (however long that takes), or has her lack of regard spoilt the relationship for you? Or do you accept “poor impulse control” and a certain amount of self-centredness / neediness is just how Clarissa is and you’re

    I’m asking because I think if you think about this stuff and get it clear in your head, you’ll have a better chance of both deciding what “success” looks like, and framing your expectations and your “no” in a way that Clarissa can understand. Given that “Clarissa changes her behaviour” is out, what’s do you want out of this situation? Clarissa stops bugging you? Clarissa respects the line you’ve drawn? You don’t meet her and protect your health? You end the relationship?

    It sounds to me like Clarissa is in a neediness cycle where she senses that you’re pissed-off / withdrawing (and I don’t judge you for that at all!) and she’s trying to make a F2F meeting happen to reassure herself that you’re still there for her. It’s really difficult to deal with people who are doing that, because they are extremely primed to not hear your “no” and to try and negotiate all over your boundaries. Captain Awkward has tons of advice and scripts for this situation, but a lot of it boils down to, “set the boundary, but (as far as you want to), provide reassurance in other ways”. You can and should keep telling Clarissa that you can’t meet face-to-face, but if you want to preserve the relationship, tell her how much you miss meeting face-to-face and that you are looking forward to doing so again when you feel safe to do so. You could frame “not being able to meet” not as your decision, but as a bigger problem that isn’t in your control, and that disappoints you as much as it does her. If you want to, name the behaviour that is upsetting you, “Clarissa, I keep telling you that I can’t meet because it’s not safe for me, and it is disappointing and hurtful to me that you keep ignoring that. I miss you and I wish we could meet, but we can’t and I need you to stop trying to negotiate that because it feels very disrespectful.” And provide reassurance that you are still there for her and care about her (assuming you want to!): “Meanwhile, we CAN have digital meetings and keep emailing, and I really look forward to those and I’m excited to hear how you’re doing at XYZ!” Making sure you do still have regular chats or respond to her in other ways might help relieve some of her anxiety that you’re withdrawing from her.

    Good luck– it sounds like you play a very important role for this young woman and I hope you’re able to keep doing that, but I also get how exhausting and stressful this must be, so I hope this helps.

    1. Myrin*

      This is an excellent comment!
      OP asks “What do I do?” and the first thought that came to my mind was “What do you want to do?”. I reckon it’s very important to make that really clear in your own head as the very first step and to then proceed from there.

  23. Keymaster of Gozer*


    There’s a friend I’ve had for decades, we’ve lived about 10 miles apart for a long while. When this whole Covid thing started she refused to drop the notion that this wasn’t serious/that if she got it she’d just have a cold etc. She went on foreign holidays in summer of last year..all that kinda stuff.

    Consequently I’m refusing to be around her. My health is abysmal. I’ve reduced her down to a ‘low contact’ connection because well, she’s perfectly nice apart from the zero common sense bit but that bit is making things VERY hard.

    And yeah, ‘I can’t meet up because of my health’ is a recurring line in my text messages. It’s caused surprisingly little hostility.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      The OP said they have only met outside but the mentee wants to meet more and in restaurants and at the OP’s home.

      1. pancakes*

        Also, six feet of distance doesn’t create a magically covid-free zone of protection around immunocompromised people (or anyone else, fwiw). Look into the research done by MIT and the University of Oxford that came out in summer 2020, published in the BMJ (“Two metres or one: what is the evidence for physical distancing in covid-19?”).

        1. Chilipepper Attitude*

          This has driven me crazy at my workplace. Yes, we are 6 feet apart (except we were not actually 6 feet apart) but there are about 15 of us in this space for 8.5 hours a day! 6 feet does not matter at that point!

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Firstly, 6 feet isn’t a magical number – and that’s distance WHILE wearing a mask that’s clean and fitted properly and outside.

      Secondly, this person is talking about meeting indoors which is a much different kettle of fish. Indoors carries a higher risk of infection of a droplet-borne illness even over 6 feet apart, and it goes higher the more people are in the room. A restaurant/coffee shop et al is unlikely to have only the two of them in it, and most places I’ve seen the poeple are not sitting over 6 feet apart.

      1. Fuzzyfuzz*

        Outdoor transmission in passing interactions is virtually non existent, and pretty much all transmissions outside were from close conversation or overcrowded spaces. 6 feet isn’t ‘magic’, but it also isn’t gospel outside.

  24. pleaset cheap rolls*

    On #5 I’ved tried to write people who seems to have applied via external sites w/o a cover letter with “Thank you for your interest in [organization]. Please apply to us directly, with resume and cover letter, as described at [link]” and then toss the resume-only application.

    1. JustKnope*

      I would be very annoyed to be asked to fill out a second application! Can you just make it clearer in the external listings that a cover letter is required? Or email asking for one, but don’t make them do a separate application.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Yeah, this seems weird. If the third-party applications don’t work for you, then don’t accept them just to throw them out.

        1. quill*

          Yes, if you discover that your third party application site doesn’t work… don’t use it?

      2. Good Vibes Steve*

        The external listings aren’t always within your control. I’ve published job ads that are grabbed by automatic job feeds and left out the last paragraph. I tried to reach the website owners, but they aren’t interested in editing the content, they rely on quantity over quality. Unfortunately a lot of candidates don’t realise that and don’t go look for the original ad – so submit incomplete applications.

        1. Observer*

          Then either don’t use those sites or find a different way to deal with the incomplete application. Making people go through a second round is really disrespectful to the candidates.

      3. pleaset cheap rolls*

        Not my problem. We don’t post to job sites unless the jobs sites include our whole instructions. But there are some sites that apparently harvest our postings in some way, but incompletely, so we get resumes w/o cover letters, which is not right for us.

        ” If the third-party applications don’t work for you, then don’t accept them just to throw them out.”

        So you mean not even give the applicants the opportunity to really apply? That seems weird. I’m offering the applicants the chance to include a cover letter.

        1. EmKay*

          But you’re making them jump through hoops. They’ve already applied. You’re making them apply again.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        We don’t choose third party sites unless they meet our needs.

        But there are job sites that grab our postings and use everything except the “how to apply” instructions. And instead have applicants use their system, which just sends a resume. See Good Vibes Steve’s comment above also.

        So I’m offering applicants who might be interested the chance to apply properly: resume AND cover letter. They can take it or leave it.

          1. Forrest*

            It is! And it’s really frustrating for both candidates and employers IME, because candidates miss out on key information, or end up applying for jobs which have already closed. My advice to clients if you find a job on Indeed or Total Jobs or similar is always to take a chunk of text from the body of the ad and put it into Google, and see if you can find the original on the company website (or a more professional recruiter.)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, exactly — you can post a job on your own company site and other job sites will grab it and post it without your okay, sometimes leaving out your application instructions. It sucks for job seekers but you, the employer, didn’t choose to use their sites and you shouldn’t by bound be their different instructions.

    2. Observer*

      That’s nice. If you can’t get what you want from the external sites, don’t use them. But the idea of making people apply twice is just ridiculous. The best candidates will not apply a second time.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        You’re missing the part where they didn’t use the sites in question. The sites are scraper sites the employer has no control over.

  25. No No No*

    #5 – I also hire through Indeed for writing positions and the job ad always explains that a cover letter is required. In the past, we “gave a chance” to a few who hadn’t submitted a cover letter, asking them to submit one to be considered. 100% of those who ignored the initial instruction turned out to be lazy, ignored future instructions, or were otherwise poor candidates or workers.

    1. Lisa Babs*

      I have had a very similar experience. Also using indeed, we were hiring a part-time copywriter and required a cover letter. For those who didn’t, I asked them to include one. Honestly, all I got back was, from the ones that responded, including a three, or so, sentence blanket cover letter that could be included for any job. I’ve learned for a writing job, the best candidates follow instructions and write a nice customized letter. I didn’t get any outstanding applicants when I went back and asked for a cover letter. Now, this is a part-time position and not a full-time one. But I think that you will get the same outcome. But it is not hard, or time-consuming, to send an email to those who didn’t and ask for a cover letter to be included to be considered. Just don’t be shocked if you don’t get any customized letters back or move forward with any of those applicants.

  26. Ana Gram*

    I recently had an applicant tell me that God led him to my agency. I responded that that was nice and asked what skills he felt he was bringing to the table. We won’t be hiring him for other reasons but we’re a secular organization and that sort of answer displays a lack of understanding of professional norms that I don’t love. It’s like saying you applied because you heard we pay well. Even if it’s true, it’s not an appropriate answer.

  27. Hiring Mgr*

    Somehow the OP’s friend made it through the earlier rounds of interviews, and presumably has gotten jobs before.. so she can’t be THAT unaware of workplace norms or interview protocol..

    1. pleaset cheap rolls*

      Perhaps she’s screen for an place that’ll except her overt displays of faith.

  28. Delta Delta*

    #1 I think I’ve shared this before but when my brother was about 15 he applied for a job at Burger King. They asked why he wanted to work there and he said “it’s the home of the Whopper.” So, you know, we all have our answers.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I mean, at 15 for a customer-facing position that’s a decent answer! It’s not like any 15-y/o could argue that a fast food job aligns with their professional goals.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely! I think that’s a great answer. He shows he knows the product and the slogan and what it represents and has a positive approach to it. That’s pretty good for a 15 year old.

    2. Clisby*

      At least there’s something to be said for hiring employees who are enthusiastic about your product.

    3. Macaroni Penguin*

      It’s a fairly good answer! It shows awareness of the product sold at this particular fast food chain. I’d hire him.

    4. Wisteria*

      The answer is always, “You pay money. I like money.”

      I invent something specific to the company for the interview, though. Your brother nailed this, based on the kind of answers employers seem to want.

      1. PT*

        I hired teenagers and that’s the sort of answer you get.

        “Uh I needed a job. /Uh…I need money for things? /My parents said I had to get a job this summer so I picked here. /Well I don’t have a car and I can walk here.”

        I would tactfully coach them into a better answer. “OK but if you needed a job/needed a job nearby, there are lots of other places. You could have applied to McDonald’s or Starbucks or Target. Or you could have applied here, but to the front desk or youth llama camp, they are both hiring. Why did you decide to be a llama groomer?”

        And then I would get a better answer, and whenever that sort of thing came up in staff meeting activities (yes ick) I would continually remind them the sorts of answers that full-time career track employers are looking for and how to craft one better than “I need a job.” (I hope they listened.)

        1. Wisteria*

          Well, I’m 50, and the answer is the same. Oh, and I also applied to McDonalds, Starbucks, Target, the front desk, and the youth llama camp. They all pay money. I like money.

  29. UKgreen*

    In OldJob I was part of the interview panel recruiting admins and editorial assistants for a publishing firm. The amount of times we heard ‘oh, I simply LOOOOVVVVEEEE books!’ as a reason for why someone applied for the job… but with no further explanation about the ACTUAL JOB. Gah!

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I think you hit on what I’m thinking. In both cases, that’s great, but they’re both over-summarizing their story down to just Chapter I.

    2. londonedit*

      Absolutely. I’ve done some work to do with getting a broader range of people to apply to jobs in publishing, and one of the things we always stress is that, in a competitive industry, ‘I’ve always loved books, I just love reading’ isn’t going to cut it. Yes, that’s great, but pretty much everyone who’s applying to work at a publishing company (particularly in editorial) is going to like books. You’ve got to stand out from that by being able to talk about why you’re interested in that particular job/that particular area of the industry/that particular company and the books they publish.

      1. Naomi*

        We get the same thing over in video games–many applicants will mention that they’re longtime gamers. Which, sure, is a plus… but a minor one, especially when most other candidates can say the same. And if you stress it too much, it starts to look like you don’t have any better qualifications for the job.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Academic library employee here: We get that answer sometimes and it’s never a good sign because that’s not at all how we work. Books are a very, very, small part of our jobs.

    4. Wry*

      As someone who works in publishing, I would definitely roll my eyes at “I love books!” if it were given as a complete answer to that sort of interview question, although I can understand why people say it. Many people applying to entry-level publishing roles do genuinely want to work with books and they are just trying to get into the industry so they can work their way up. (I don’t know if this applies to admin positions so much, but editorial assistant is absolutely a stepping-stone position. Nobody applies to be an editorial assistant because they’re excited about doing assorted grunt work.) If I had the opportunity to coach someone going in to that type of interview, I would advise them to avoid broad, cliche statements like “I love books!” and instead talk about what aspects of bookmaking they’re interested in and how they see this role aligning with that or helping them reach their career goals. You don’t need to wax poetic about spreadsheets or P&L reports or whatever, but ideally there will be something in the job description you can see yourself enjoying and learning from.

  30. MPerera*

    The job applicant who mentioned God reminded me of a letter on Slush Pile Hell where a writer queried an agent saying, “God told me to write this book and that it would become a bestseller.”

    On his blog, the agent replied, “I talked to God. He said he was just f***ing with you.”

  31. Susie Q*

    OP #3 is really unprofessional. He has no idea how his friend or his friend’s company could react.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Let’s not shame OP for asking for advice. They clearly knew it *might* not be a good idea, so they asked before doing anything.

    2. Elmer W. Litzinger, spy*

      Also, maybe the guy has been upfront about job hunting! Maybe he even used friend as a reference.

  32. MissDisplaced*

    The problem with #1 is that by saying that, it takes all the agency away from her and makes her sound and appear extremely passive. She may as well have said “My mother and father told me this was the job for me, so here I am.”
    Even if she were interviewing at a religious institution, I think the interviewer might have given that some serious side eye if it was the only reason given.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Yep. Part of the reason this question is asked in interviews is to see if the candidate is thoughtful in their decision-making. Maybe the candidate is totally happy to trust in god for this decision, but she can’t get divine guidance for every little judgment call she might have to make at work (…can she?) The interviewers are left without any sense of whether she’s capable of making decisions for herself.

  33. Pocket Mouse*

    OP #2, it sounds to me like you’re looking for slightly different advice than Alison gave. It sounds like if Clarissa were being more careful you *would* be somewhat more comfortable around her after vaccination, meaning that there are probably people you are going to be comfortable doing some indoor things with, and you’re concerned Clarissa may see you are doing those things with other people, but not with her, and will be hurt. It’s a different dynamic than if you could expect Clarissa to remain unaware of your activities with other people long-term without effort.

    If this is the case…
    1. Don’t share stories or pictures of yourself doing indoor, in-person activities, either on social media or in direct communication, and ask people you do these things with not to either.
    2. Occasionally be the first to suggest (virtual or outdoor) meetings with Clarissa. Make it something she sees you wanting to do with her- and if you suggest it, it’s easier to reach an easy agreement to do it on your terms.
    3. Lean into scripts that draw the line from point A to point B, repeatedly. “As you know, I’m at greater risk of serious illness and death from COVID, so I have to be very careful with my health and minimize possible exposure. Right now, that means I’m comfortable doing X with you, but I’m not comfortable doing Y” and “Remember that I have to take more precautions that most people do because of the extreme risk my health.”

    Referring back to #1 above, minimize the chances she’ll see or hear about you doing Y with other people, and feel free to make frequent reference to how nice it is to be able to meet visually/virtually, or that restaurants have expanded outdoor dining, or that you’re finally getting good use of your patio furniture, whatever the case may be.

    Adapting advice commonly given on this site, and that you seem aware of already, is that your highest priority has to be protecting your own health, not sparing Clarissa’s feelings around the consequences of choices she’s making. You can be kind, certainly, but you do not have to acquiesce to her desires at the expense of your health, and you have to trust that she’ll manage her response to your boundaries somehow.

    1. Pocket Mouse*

      That is to say, you can’t manage someone else’s feelings for them, but you can establish healthy (ha!) boundaries and take steps minimize the emotional burden people’s responses to your boundaries put on you.

    2. Simply the best*

      Sorry, I think your #1 is real bad advice. If you feel like you have to sneak around and hide yourself on social media and ask your friends not to post pictures so Clarissa doesn’t find out, that’s not a good relationship.

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        I mean… it depends on your social media habits? It’s pretty easy for me to not post a photo of someone hanging out in my house since I don’t post much anyway, so in my case I would be more circumspect than usual about broadcasting something on my mind like ‘First time without masks indoors in 15 months, looking forward to more of this!’ It also sounds like if OP wanted to take and post a photo of themselves with a guest at their home, there’s an outdoor spot to take such a photo. That’s very different from ‘sneaking around’ and very similar to simply not talking about the many times you get after-work drinks while in the presence of coworkers you absolutely do not want to get after-work drinks with despite their frequently-expressed desire to get drinks with you. If you’re a person who live-posts all activities or talks about all activities you engage in, sure, that’s an adjustment. For the purpose of making your social life easier, and only for a period of time.

        It’s also pretty easy—and reasonable!—to gently ask for discretion. “Hey, I’m really glad to be able to do this with you, especially since there are few people I feel comfortable doing this with. I’d love for us to get a photo, but do you mind keeping it off the socials? I’d like what’s visible there to be representative of the precautions I generally have to take for my safety.”

        My advice would likely be quite different if the question were about someone who could be trusted to be honest about their possible exposure, who doesn’t invite themselves over (!), who doesn’t push existing boundaries in the service of their desires, and who would remember and subsequently respect a fully laid out explanation of what OP is and isn’t comfortable with… but this question was about Clarissa.

  34. 731*

    Would it ever be appropriate to advise the interviewee (as the interviewer) that her answer isn’t appropriate? Or is that grounds for religious bias?

    1. Allypopx*

      I might try to gently lead her with an “okay…but how does this job fit into your interests and career goals?” to show that she didn’t answer the question without making a big deal about it. Unless it’s a really young candidate or someone I otherwise have a rapport with I’m probably not going to provide any specific criticism *during* the interview, as that might throw the candidate off or otherwise derail.

      If they follow up asking for advice…I think I’d still focus on them not answering the questions. It’s just safer.

    2. irene adler*

      I don’t know about religious bias, but if you are suggesting doing this during the interview, that might make things awkward going forward.
      That puts the candidate ‘on the spot’ to find another answer. Some can handle this just fine; but what if the candidate just hems and haws trying to find an adequate response? That’s not kind.

      Worse, this might get an unexpected response-like upset or disinterest. I think if I were told my response was “not appropriate” I’d check out of that interview fast (not that I would be citing God as the reason for applying to the position).
      Why not move on to the rest of the interview questions and see if these garner more appropriate responses?
      Have to ask, what is more important: Knowing why the candidate wants the job or learning more about the candidate’s qualifications to perform the job?

      1. Dust Bunny*

        . . . except that she *should* have another answer ready because the response she gave was out of line and shouldn’t have been given in the first place. If it puts her on the spot, that actually underscores that she’s unrealistic about how job skills and interviews work.

      2. Shan*

        I guess I don’t really see why those outcomes would be a bad thing? For the interviewers, I mean. They’re not trying to cajole her into accepting this job, they’re interviewing her to see if she’s a good fit for the position and company. If she can’t come up with an adequate answer, becomes upset or disinterested, or checks out – well, they’ll have their answer.

    3. Lilo*

      My experience is we never tell an interviewer they’ve done something wrong. It can provoke conflict and it’s not my job as an interviewer to educate applicants in how to interview. I try to steer and rehab nervous interviewees, for instance. But I don’t give feedback.

    4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      It’s not religious bias. They’re bringing religion into the workplace inappropriately.
      Otherwise a woman flashing her breasts at the interviewer could start claiming to be a victim of sexual discrimination when she didn’t get hired.

  35. Pickles and pasta*

    Regarding letter #2. Taking public transit isn’t as risky as people think. Most bus drivers enforce “No mask – no ride” rules and social distancing rules. Buses have good ventilation systems. (One system said that their ventilation can clear a fart within 60- 90 seconds.)

    I’m not disagreeing with the OP on the other risky behavior of the mentee. While it’s hard not to be able to spend time with people you care about, she’s doing the right thing by meeting virtually or outside.

    1. JustJanet*

      Well and most public transit systems have been basically empty this whole time, if you’re in a blue city. It’s not risky to ride a train if you are literally the only one in your train car..

      1. Nettie*

        Sure, but OP listed taking public transit as evidence of Clarissa not taking the pandemic seriously. If she listed it as an example of why her exposure was higher, that would be a factual/no judgemental statement.

        I don’t think anyone here is surprised an immunocompromised person needs to limit personal contacts right now, just that the judgemental tone about some of Clarissa’s behavior (again, someone with multiple health problems herself, including cognitive) seems unnecessary.

      2. Nettie*

        Sorry, I accidentally replied a comment I put elsewhere below where it doesn’t belong.

        But while I’m here–what??? No, public transit has not been “basically empty” in blue cities. How do you think essential workers are getting to work? (I’m in a major city and my working hours are later than typical 9-5 and still later than an essential worker who takes the train at 6am, and my cars still have rarely been truly empty. Less crowded than I’ve ever seen in my life, not empty)

        1. Simply the best*

          Every time I’ve ridden public transportation since the pandemic began I’ve been one of maybe two or three other people, and oftentimes the only one.

          1. Nettie*

            That’s great, but not remotely (no pun intended) a universal experience in “blue cities” at all!

        1. F.M.*

          And in my blue city, public transport mask enforcement has ranged from “about half of the people in this train car are wearing masks” to “the bus driver now drives past my friend’s stop while she’s waiting because she reported him for not wearing a mask himself, much less enforcing it with any riders.”

  36. Nicole*

    LW 1 since I’m not the interviewer I can say that your friend sounds like a loon giving an answer like that. On the more practical side though, I would be concerned with her defaulting to her god for decision making up to and including refusing to do certain work or quitting out of the blue. It makes her sound unstable in more ways than one.

    LW 2 can you send her a letter so she has something physical to refer to when she forgets what you’ve told her?

  37. HotPocket*

    LW #2, what are the circumstances in which you would be willing to see your mentee again? Is both of you being vaccinated not sufficient?

    I would challenge you to really think about whether or not a reasonable circumstance exists in which you’d be comfortable seeing her. (And it is unreasonable to ask her to change her lifestyle.) Could you talk to your doctor about whether or not you’re safe if all of the people you spend time with going forward are vaccinated?

    Maybe just my interpretation, but I’m sensing a lot of resentment in your letter, and I wonder if even when it’s safe to be around her, you won’t want to. Resentment is a tough emotion to overcome. If you would rather sever the relationship permanently, do that. But I would take Alison’s advice and make it about your health, not her lifestyle.

    1. Allypopx*

      I see the resentment too but I don’t get the impression OP wants to sever the relationship. OP describes her as a sister and I’m getting sister vibes from the dynamic – I love her but she drives me nuts kind of thing. That’s a hard place to be, having bad feelings but still wanting to be close to someone.

      I agree, talk to your doctor and figure out what is necessary for your health. And within those parameters, hash it out with your mentee. Maybe you do feel hurt and you need to talk to her about that, and get your feelings out. But if your goal is having a relationship moving forward you should figure out the actual physical logistics of that, and figure out the emotional part separately.

    2. TexasTeacher*

      Yes. Is it about level of exposure, even after that person is fully vaccinated, or whether or not the level of exposure was considered necessary or not? If your mentee were an essential worker, and were exposed a lot to risk of infection, would you be just as reluctant to socialize with her, post-vaccination?

    3. Fuzzyfuzz*

      Totally agreed here. The OP can and should assess risk as they see fit, but I definitely see a lot of judgment coming through their post. If Clarissa is vaccinated (and if the OP is as well), Clarissa’s assessment that meeting indoors is on the table isn’t unreasonable, regardless of how she behaved during the pandemic. The OP is free to say no, but Clarissa isn’t being reckless in asking this.

  38. Hazelthyme*

    #1 – Several years ago, I was on the committee charged with selecting a new religious leader for our congregation, and you know what? “God told me this was the job for me” wouldn’t have been a good answer even then. Like any other hiring committee, we wanted to know how candidates’ past experience was relevant to this job and how they thought it would help them succeed. Have you led an organization similar to ours? Have you tackled challenges or goals similar to the ones we’ve identified? How would your direct reports and clients/customers describe you? How will you engage with the town and other local businesses/organizations as the public representative of our organization? Yes, some references to God and prayer were to be expected — but you’d better weave them into some quantifiable, verifiable details if you want to work here.

  39. Not my real name*

    Re: Cover letter using Indeed or other sites. About 40% of the time, the job sites would not accept my cover letter. I don’t know if it was me or the sites, but it was a crapshoot as to whether they would accept them. I would apply for several jobs on the same site on the same day and I would cross my fingers that it would go through.

  40. El l*

    LW #1: Yeah, lol, it hurt their chances. Her response is so spectacularly missing the point that it had to make the interviewer wonder if they can focus appropriately on work. I doubt even most religious institutions will find this a compelling reason. (Insert cynical comments here)

    LW #3: Ever heard the phrase, “It’s not my place to…”? Yeah. Here. What, exactly, are you hoping to accomplish by this? Getting them fired before they can quit? Because that’s what you’re risking here.

    LW #5: Did you make it clear that applications would not be considered if they did not include a cover letter? Because let’s face it, plenty of things in job listings which are considered “necessary” or “essential” are…really wish list items. Email them back.

  41. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #1) Perhaps the OP’s friend was trying to use his/her religious background as an “in”. It shows poor judgement, even if the interviewer is of the same belief. It’s no different than if one claims to love smoking pot, or getting blind drunk on weekends. Even if the interviewer/hiring manager shares in those activities, it’s still likely going to hurt one’s chances, big time, in an interview.

    #3) When someone applies for a job — it’s USUALLY understood that there’s a large degree of confidentiality. Making a phone call like that isn’t just “squealing” — it could also lead to legal problems if the applicant expected that the process would be confidential. Your intent doesn’t matter – it’s still a breach.

  42. KK*

    LW#1….yes that answer hurt her bc the interviewer is looking for a tangible reason, not a spiritual one. Nothing wrong w/ letting your faith guide your decisions but the interviewer needs to know she is a particularly good fit and this is too vague.

  43. Observer*

    #1 – I haven’t read all of your responses, but I see that you’ve gotten a lot of snark. That must be hurtful but it’s useful information to pass on. Please tell your friend that this kind of comment is going to cause a lot people to look at her in a very negative way. Not necessarily that they think she’s a bad person, but odd, out of touch, likely to be a problematic employee.

    Please point out to your friend that even in a religious institution this may not go over so well. For some context, I belong to a community where someone going for a job or career because they have a G-d given mission is seen as admirable. But when I’m hiring, it doesn’t matter to me what G-d told YOU – His instructions to you simply don’t bind me. And I’m talking about positions that actually require religious faith.

    Think about it – if the religious hiring manager at a religious institution hiring a religious functionary that requires faith won’t be impressed by that answer, what can you expect from anyone else?

  44. Percysowner*

    Re: LW#1 In addition to what others have said, I would worry about discipline issues or work assignments. What happens when the employee is reprimanded or given an assignment they don’t like and answers, “God doesn’t agree”. I know that this PROBABLY won’t happen, but I would still worry about the potential. As a boss I want to be the authority, not have an appeal process that goes through God.

  45. Blue Eagle*

    #1 – The difficulty I have with referencing God as the reason “why” they want the job is that it also brings into question whether the prospective employee will or will not follow directions. For example, would they think that God does not want them to do something therefore they won’t? Or the manager tells them not to do something they think God wants them to do and they do it anyway?
    It’s definitely something that I would consider in making an employment decision.

  46. PeterM*

    LW1 – Clearly not a great answer, but I really hate that sort of question. I want the job because I need money and benefits to live, and this is the sort of job my career and skills have made me a good fit for. But no, I have to make up something to make the interviewers feel good about themselves or their company. A year or two ago on an online application I had to answer the question about how this position would fit into my overall career plans and progress. It was a low paying 20 hour position with absolutely no benefits.

    For some jobs and some positions and some people, this sort of question can be appropriate, yes. But for most of us, it’s a job. Give it to us and we’ll do the best we can in exchange for pay. You really can’t ask for more than that.

  47. Admin 4 life*

    LW 3 – if my soon to be new employer informed my current employer that I was about to resign, I would keep my job search going. I wouldn’t want to work for a company who felt like breaching that understanding and jeopardizing my working relationships was an acceptable thing to do and it would seriously make me question their judgement.

    Plus, I would tell everyone exactly what happened.

    1. AnonRonRon*

      Yeah, this would be a pretty crappy thing for LW3 to do, and there doesn’t seem to be any justification beyond “the soon-to-be former employer is my friend.” I get feeling a bit uncomfortable that you have this information and can’t share it, but the friend is no doubt aware that employees can leave at any time, and this sounds like a bog standard job transition that the friend should be prepared to handle with the employee.

  48. VanLH*

    Letter number four went in a very different direction than I was expecting. I was expecting “my boss and I used to work great together. Now she criticizes and nitpicks everything I do. Why has she changed how she treats me?”

  49. Lady Lyndon*

    #5 — I was hiring in a law position where we requested a writing sample of a specific length. A candidate submitted good product that exceeded the page limit considerably. My thought was that this person should be disqualified for failing to follow clear written direction. My hiring colleague thought they deserved a chance. We ended up hiring the person who turned out to have a ridiculously hard time following directions or producing any quality work without substantial collaboration/supervision. So honestly, hiring is hard, folks who do not follow directions are so easy to screen out. Why wouldn’t you?

  50. Coffee Sludge Gang*

    For #1, a lot of the comments here are…extremely dismissive. I have never been religious and was not raised with the concept of any sort of higher power, but this comment would just prompt me to ask why THEY were interested in the job and what they were able to bring to the table. For those of you saying you would relentlessly question them or needle them about this, I’d be concerned about your behavior towards a candidate if we were interviewing them together and would likely flag this to a manager.

    It’s very easy to just be polite to civil, ask for details, and then make note of this in your review and judgement of their candidacy. While there are plenty of comments I would not tolerate (such as hate speech, racism, homophobic and/or transphobic remarks) just a simple “God told me to” would not cause me to be openly combative and judgmental.

  51. Henry VIII Was a Gasbag*

    Oh, man, I had to laugh at #1. My husband is an Episcopal priest and God/Holy Spirit affirming/not affirming a call is *literally* sometimes the only feedback he’ll get when he’s applied for a job and not been interviewed or interviewed and not been selected. He’s definitely gotten more than one response saying “the Holy Spirit is leading us in another direction.” Obviously, it’s always more than that, but man, it’s an easy, irrefutable excuse.

  52. Root beer float*

    Hey OP#2,
    I’m a doctor who takes care of patients who are frequently immunocompromised. I do tell them things like they need to be more careful than the average person, but there’s a huge spectrum of immunosuppression and for many of my patients, if they’re vaccinated and they want to have a social visit with someone else who’s vaccinated, it’s perfectly fine. I would ask your doctor what they think about this specific situation because risks have gone way way down lately with ready availability of the vaccine and much lower community transmission of Covid in general. There’s a good chance your doctor would OK meeting again even if they wouldn’t have said so a few months ago.

  53. Observer*

    #3 – What do you expect to accomplish by calling your friend. And what “courtesy” are you extending to your friend? Why is that (phantom?) courtesy more important than discretion with information that is not yours to share?

  54. Chris Hogg*

    OP #5, Requiring cover letters.

    I’m always amazed at employers who put a requirement in a job description, and then, when applicants don’t meet the requirements (or follow the instructions), get concerned if they’re doing the right thing or start thinking they should drop the requirement and just simply accept the non-complying applications anyway.

    You might think of it like this. You put a requirement in the job description, Pollyanna doesn’t comply, but you hire her anyway. How easy do you think it will be once she’s on board, to get her to follow the work instructions she’s given?

  55. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    LW2, I get the impression that you’re a bit angry with Clarissa for wanting to see you despite her not heeding covid restrictions.
    While I’m not saying you should go ahead and see her other than online or outdoors, all masked up and 6 feet away, I’d just like to point out that she’s not doing this AT you, and her lack of caution is probably due to the kind of life she has led.
    I recently saw a table showing difference in outlook among the poor, middle classes and the very rich and it was very telling. Like how we regard money: the very rich invest, the middle classes manage their money, and the poor simply spend it right away because there’s always something they need. Attitudes to Covid risk: the very rich take to their yacht, the middle classes WFH, and the poor just try to get on with their lives, this is just one more thing that might kill them (and poverty is very often a factor in most causes of death). I’m getting the vibe that this is how Clarissa sees it, and she just can’t see your point of view, because your experience is just so very far removed from hers.

    I also think it’s absolutely wonderful that you have taken on a mentor position for her, no wonder she loves and misses you. Good luck navigating future meet-ups!

  56. Lecturer*

    1. Irrespective of her mentioning God applications ask you to meet the criteria of the role. If you can’t demonstrate qualifications and experience there is nothing to score in your application. I’m interviewing for a promotion tomorrow and if I don’t tailor it to the job specification I would get nowhere!!!!

    Although I would be a bit hesitant about what she said not producing an appropriate application and response to interviews is ridiculous.

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