my boss never praises my work, my awful ex-manager lists me as a protege, and more

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

1. My boss focuses on the negative, even when I do good work

I have been in my role for about one year. I think I am performing well, but my manager is a lot more forthcoming about her negative feedback than her positive. It has worn me down. I decided to say something and explicitly requested more positive feedback. I felt heard, and at the next staff meeting she made a point to commend my work on an upcoming event.

However, the event took place over the weekend and at our next one-on-one the following week, she again focused on the few small logistical things that could’ve gone better rather than all of the main elements that went well, and she made the negative feel like the focal point of the conversation. I was trying to share that I would do a full debrief to capture that info too, but wanted to celebrate what a success it had been and felt denied that opportunity.

I plan to include this feedback for her in the debrief — to create a bit of space for this reflection and to have at least a brief moment of unqualified celebration — and to request in the future that when we review those documents, that review can be the time for the full conversation. But I am again demoralized and considering seeking opportunities elsewhere because I am not confident this will improve. I put a lot of work into this event, it is a big part of my job, and her response felt a little bit like a nail in the coffin. I pride myself on identifying things that could go better on my own, and I wish she had trusted me in that process. Should I bring it up again? I am lost and disappointed.

I’ve coached managers with this problem, and it takes real work to change their habits. (Often it turns out that giving positive feedback feels silly, insincere, or even patronizing to them and/or they believe people don’t really need it.) As their employee, you’re not well-positioned to have the sorts of conversations that it usually takes to spark real change. Sometimes it happens — especially if they start hearing it from multiple people, or from their own manager — but it’s tough to change this kind of boss on your own.

That doesn’t necessarily mean she’s a terrible manager — some people can be perfectly happy working for someone who rarely comments on what they’ve done well — although it might mean that she’s not a great manager for you.

It’s good that you spoke up, but I’m skeptical that there’s a lot to gain from continuing to speak up. It could be worth trying once more — pointing out that what happened with the post-event meeting was an example of the issue you’d been talking about earlier — and maybe that’ll help it click for her. If nothing else, her reaction to that conversation (both in the moment and afterwards) will give you more data on how much change you can really expect. But if I had to guess, I’d tell you to prepare for very little change and decide if you can live reasonably comfortably with things as they are.

Caveat: this assumes you’re doing well overall! It’s possible that she’s focusing on the negative because she has serious concerns about your work. If you haven’t had a recent performance review or other conversation about how things are going big-picture, it could be worth asking her how she thinks you’re doing overall. And if she says things are going well overall, you can point out that you weren’t sure about that because her feedback doesn’t reflect it.

Related: I need to give my employee more positive feedback

2. My awful ex-manager lists me as a protege on his personal website

A few years ago, I did an internship at a large tech company. My intern manager at this company was awful — he allowed another intern to bully, harass, and threaten me multiple times with no repercussions. After the internship, I went no-contact with both my manager and the intern (I blocked the other intern on all platforms).

I found out today that the manager has me listed on his personal website as one of his proteges and includes the prestigious law school I was recently admitted to next to my name, implying that he was somehow associated with my success. I did not tell him that I would be attending this law school, and I have no idea how he found out as I do not have a LinkedIn. I’m a little weirded out that he appears to be keeping tabs on me through some unknown means. Am I out-of-line for feeling like this is a distasteful thing for him to be doing? In an ideal world, he would remove me from his website, but it doesn’t seem worth the trouble of emailing and asking him to remove me.

No, you’re not out of line! It’s weird that he’s claiming you a protege when that clearly wasn’t the relationship you had with him. (And even if it was, listing “proteges” on one’s website is pretty odd, unless there’s something really specific about the relationship that would justify it. You don’t just list everyone who ever interned for you.) It’s also weird that he’s been doing that without your permission or knowledge. And it’s weird that he apparently feels invested enough in your success to mention you on his website, but not invested enough to try to maintain a relationship with you, or to protect you from bullying and threats while you worked for him.

3. Is it normal to get a lot of terrible applications when you’re hiring?

I am a new-ish supervisor, and am on a panel to do my first hire. We posted the job a couple of days ago. The job is semi-specialized administrative work in a local government job, working with committees and elected officials. The job description clearly says cover letter and resume (submitted as one document, preferably, but we don’t hold that against them).

Since posting, I’ve received about a dozen applications. Of those, one, maybe two, clearly identify that they’ve read the application before applying. The others appear to be following a job search plan that is along the lines of “throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks” – ranging from generic cover letters that don’t mention either the name of the employer or the job itself (IF there’s a cover letter) to resumes that show nothing in the form of meeting requirements (for example, there are two who have extensive experience in car sales, another with a lot of security experience, and more).

I talked to one of our HR managers and she says this is pretty common and is a huge time (and therefore money) suck.

Is this really a common job hunt strategy (throw spaghetti at the wall), is it fallout from unemployment and a bit of desperation on the part of job-seekers, or are people just getting bad advice, and not figuring out what advice works for them?

I’m also wondering if the design of the job description is problematic – it consists of several rather large blocks of text and too many words (passive voice in a lot of cases). This is normal across my region for local government, but I’m thinking some redesign that cuts down on words and improves use of white space would help.

It’s super, super common — to the point of being a baked-in part of the process when you hire and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Loads of people take a quantity-over-quality approach when they’re applying for jobs, apply for anything they feel remotely qualified for (and often other things too), do zero customization of their materials, pay no attention to instructions, and generally submit astonishingly terrible applications. If you advertise on huge job sites like Indeed, you’ll get even more applications like that, whereas if you focus more on niche sites (like Idealist for nonprofit jobs or the Society of Midwestern Llama Groomers for llama grooming jobs) you’ll get less of it — but nothing you do will stop it altogether. It’s just part of the deal when you advertise a job. (That said, I’d argue it’s not a huge time suck because it’s easy to skim and quickly screen out those applications.)

It’s a good idea to improve your job descriptions if you think they’re poorly written / will make people’s eyes glaze over, but you should do that because it’ll help you attract more good candidates (12 applicants is surprisingly low!), not because it will stop this other group.

This is also why it’s so easy for candidates to stand out when they submit a really good resume and cover letter! So much of their competition is putting in no effort.

4. I negotiated a job offer and then they sent me an offer for a lower number

I received a verbal job offer on my voicemail twice. After speaking with them about a possible salary increase, I was told they will try and work something out and email me a better offer. The new offer was then emailed and was actually $500 less than the initial offer. The email was worded as if that was supposed to be a pay increase, but it obviously isn’t. I’m extremely confused about the situation. What should I do?

Assume it’s a mistake and approach it that way! Call your contact and say something like, “I wanted to check with you about the salary in the offer letter you emailed. We’d talked about whether you’d be able to increase the salary, but the number in the offer letter is actually lower than the initial offer. I wasn’t sure if that was a mistake.”

5. Verb tense on your resume

In resumes, when you are talking about your current position, do you use the past or present tense?

Should it be:


I had a couple people critique my resume and got different opinions. What’s the standard, if there is one?

If you’re talking about past jobs, use past tense since those things are in the past (“established,” “collaborated”).

If you’re talking about your current job, use present tense (“establish,” “collaborate”) unless you’re talking about a specific achievement or project that isn’t ongoing and makes more sense to put in past tense (“increased web traffic by 200%,” “won regional customer service award,” etc.).

Make sure you don’t use the third-person version of verbs (“establishes,” “collaborates”) — that will sound like a job description rather than a resume.

But none of these are hard and fast rules that you’d be rejected for breaking! Some people do it differently, which is why you’re getting a bunch of opinions. I think this produces the strongest resume though.

{ 334 comments… read them below }

  1. DoubleE*

    LW #1. If you keep trying to get more feedback and it’s not forthcoming, don’t force yourself to stick around and be miserable. I used to work for a manager like this, and it not only hurt my morale at the time, it also shook my confidence longer-term. I eventually transferred to another team and things got a lot better, but it definitely took some time to feel good about my work again.

    1. Shenandoah*

      Completely agreed. While I was working a terrible previous job, I had a manager who rarely gave positive feedback* followed by a manager who gave it easily in the face of good work. Working for manager 1 was discouraging every day; working for manager 2 made a crap job a lot better.

      The experience taught me that a manager who can easily say “Good job on the tamarind report” is something that’s important to me and I’ve woven it into every discussion with a hiring manager since.

      *This manager promoted me and if I really prompted him, he would say the work was good, so it wasn’t that I was doing a bad job.

    2. Sleepless*

      Ugh, I work for one of those people right now. On a typical work day, my team and I have two full llama grooms scheduled for the morning, and maybe a quick hoof trim squeezed in at the team lead’s discretion. It’s usually a tight fit to get them all done by 1 PM, and the boss has put a large priority on efficiency and getting them all done on time. Recently we discovered that somehow we had been scheduled three full grooms, plus one of them might need a full de-shed and we wouldn’t know until we got started.

      My team and I were rock stars! We got all three done by 10:30 AM and took on a couple of small things as well. I was happy to mention to the boss that we had killed it that morning. She scowled and said, “well, good, cause I’ve probably got another full body trim for you guys, and I think another full groom is coming in.”

      And yes, my team and I rocked all of that too. We were all high-fiving each other. Wish I’d gotten more than an eyeroll from the boss. Good thing I’m old enough to know that I really am a rock star and this kind of crap doesn’t really undermine my confidence, but would it really be that hard to give some of your top employees a little good feedback?

      1. Cj*

        You maybe rocked it a little too much, as this sounds like the kind of manager that will now expect you to be able to do three every morning by 10:30.

    3. I Herd the Cats*

      I’ve never understood why some managers are so allergic to giving positive feedback — it’s literally free! (unlike bonuses, gift cards or other perks) and is widely known as a motivator, although some recipients care a lot more about it than others. I know I do. I’d be miserable working for someone who only mentioned faults without any praise. Over my career I’ve had two bosses like this, both of whom (in essence) said, you’re being paid for your work and that’s all the ‘reward’ you’re getting. I found other jobs. It’s too important to my sense of self-worth and happiness with my job to go without. Interestingly, both those bosses worked in (high-dollar, huge) commission environments; their commissions were all the reward they were getting, no boss was praising them, so they didn’t value it. I got bonuses as well for their closed deals, but those … weren’t worth as much to me as actually being occasionally praised for my work, apparently. I’ve discussed this with friends and colleagues over the years and there are people who don’t much care about positive feedback; they don’t want relentless criticism but they’re not bothered by little/no praise from their boss either.

      1. Katie*

        It reminds me of Mad Men.

        Peggy: You never say thank you!

        Don Draper: That’s what the money’s for!

      2. Michele*

        I’m struggling to understand how much praise LW1 is actually asking for. If they are looking for “more positive than negative” comments, as a manager, I would find that really hard to do. Giving feedback on areas for improvement takes a lot more air time – there’s more to explain, there’s back-and-forth, and talking about solutions.
        The LW said the manager is “a lot more forthcoming about her negative feedback than her positive,” so it doesn’t sound like it’s ALL negative, but that the LW wants some time to celebrate without hearing about the things that need improvement. Following up later with the things that need improvement adds extra time and there’s a possibility of things getting lost that way.
        I’m not at all saying managers shouldn’t offer more positive praise, especially when asked. I’m just wondering if there are some unrealistic expectations here too.

        1. Anoni*

          I don’t think so, or I think Alison would have addressed them. They way I read it was that even when things go well, as in the example the OP used, their manager doesn’t address that at all, but instead focuses on the minor things that go wrong. That’s not good management.

        2. A Person*

          I disagree a bit in terms of it being hard to give more positive than negative at least in terms of number of comments. Maybe we’re just confusing “air time” with comments, but I was thinking OP is just looking for it from a more raw number perspective. I generally try to be giving positive feedback pretty much anytime it’s warranted, even if it’s a quick sentence. That’s pretty often (every other meeting for my strong reports?) especially if you include times when I thank the team in our team meetings. I wouldn’t expect most people to have negative feedback that often.

          1. Michele*

            The letter writer seemed to want time set aside for only positive celebration and reflection on the good that was done, which is the part of the letter that made me wonder about unreasonable expectations.

            I think I might be conflating negative feedback with what a commentor below called ‘transactional feedback’. The things I’m thinking of are usually immediately actionable or need to be addressed for all work coming up – for example, if you run an event that goes off great, but you misspelled the CEO’s name in the poster, I’m going to thank you for putting on a great event, but need to very quickly talk about that error, what mitigation might need to be done, and how we can make sure the work is triple checked before sending it off to the printer for the event coming up the next week. The poster wasn’t critical to the running of a good event, but it certainly had ripple effects and can hurt their reputation.

            In a case like that, the conversation about the issue that needs improvement will likely take more time than my initial words of praise, even when I give specifics about what they’ve done well and the impact of their good work. I know there’s a difference between ‘air time’ and giving ongoing positive feedback, but I sensed the LW might be tracking it a bit this way.

            1. Self Employed*

              I know that as a volunteer in a group that periodically puts on events or has advocacy wins, the leadership tries to focus on the “We did it!” for at least the first messaging back to the group after the event. Then we get around to the “lessons learned” debriefing. So I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to celebrate the victory lap separately from the debriefing.

      3. SomeGuy*

        So my experience/feelings as a subordinate/direct report influenced my approach as a manager/mentor. Positive feedback was mostly general and did not tend to vary greatly with my own impression of how things were going. If similar feedback is given for an easy job competently executed, a narrowly averted catastrophe, and other various levels of challenge, participation, and outcome, the value of it fades a bit. To me, specific negative feedback, particularly constructive criticism, was far more useful/informative than generic positive feedback. And of course I generalized my feelings to everyone when I became a manager and mentor.

        I was reluctant to give kudos unless I could say something fairly specific, because to me generic attaboys had ceased to have any particular value. (I also fell into the bad habit of only providing positive feedback as part of compliment sandwiches – since rectified since I started reading here). I realize now that for some people it is valuable to get that, both as general endorsement and as guideposts to know they are on the right path. If I can provide specific feedback, I will. If not, I try and provide the context for how their efforts and local successes fit into the bigger picture (or even just how they make my life (or our lives) easier and better). – That came after a conversation with Great-Grandboss on the context in which what was locally a dubious effort actually fed very successfully into a separate effort elsewhere (which I very much did appreciate understanding).

    4. Sloan Kittering*

      If I’ve asked the manager once to be more positive and it hasn’t paid off, I think without having a big-picture conversation, I’d probably just redirect the individual discussions we’re having – so if I come in the day after a big event and the boss is nitpicking the sign in line or whatever, I’d say something like, “can we start with an overview of what went well?” or something. Otherwise yeah you’re going to get paranoid they don’t think you’re doing a good job.

    5. Bee Eye Ill*

      I agree. I had a boss like that who only focused on the negative. A lot of it had to do with the awful culture of the place. When it came time to annual performance reviews, HR demanded that every manager give each employee at least one “needs improvement” score because they thought everyone could always be doing better. So no matter how great an employee was, managers had to peg them on something.

      1. The vault*

        That’s so awful. There are always ways you can need improvement but still be above expectations, you just want to focus more on that one thing. We just call them areas of opportunity.

        1. Bee Eye Ill*

          It was a city gov and people figured out pretty quick that the performance reviews didn’t matter anyway because whenever they did raises, the city council would just do across the board fixed dollar amounts or percentages, so everyone got the same thing regardless of performance. It was a low morale, high turnover breeding ground for mediocrity.

      2. Solana*

        I actually asked a manager straight out how I could get an ‘exceeds expectations’ on something I was already doing well. He didn’t have an answer for me.

        1. DireRaven*

          The expectation you exceeded last year, becomes the baseline of expectations you are expected to meet this year.

          1. Bee Eye Ill*

            So you learn to do the bare minimum until a promotion is coming up, then do a little extra and look like a rock star.

      3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        At one place, we started singing songs sbout “Accentuate the negative” and “ya gotta find that negative spin”…

        Yeah they had to give one guy or gal a “meets low” expectations in every group. One manager rated ALL of her people “Meets low” or “does not meet expectations”.

        And then they all quit….

        1. TardyTardis*

          Yes, I put together a symposium and organized everything. Then my boss introduced everyone. Except me. He sorta kinda apologized in private later, but you see he was forcing himself (why he bothered, I don’t know, because he really didn’t sound sincere about it). Unfortunately, this was the US Air Force and I was obliged to stay till my four years were up (which he made sure were only four years with the evaluations he wrote, which was totally different from the good kind I had from a previous CO). In fact, I was treated worse after that incident, as if it was my fault he screwed up.

    6. gmg22*

      Couldn’t agree more with this. I’ve been in this situation on a couple of occasions in my career, but the one that really sticks out was a workplace where not only did my direct boss never give positive feedback, the culture was such that NO manager ever gave any, to anyone they were managing. So you would go about your business day to day, getting endless corrections. (Our work, newspaper copy editing, was admittedly a field where very specific accuracy was the main goal, and some of it was useful constructive criticism — but when that comes with NO complimentary feedback, ever ever ever, it can’t help but mess with your head.) Then review time would come. And you’d be told that you were doing great and to keep up the good work! I never figured out whether it was just that the boss was lazy and didn’t want to deal with the ramifications of giving someone a poor review, or if it really was just that no one could break out of the culture of no positive feedback. The paper was sort of an old-style institution in a city known for having a very stoic culture generally. I think we were just expected to carry on with the Puritan work ethic and let the job be its own reward.

      I once applied for a different job in the newsroom, didn’t get the gig but was told by the manager hiring for the slot that my grandboss had told him that I had “a bright future” on the desk where I was working (the subtext was that they were asking him not to steal me away). I very much wish that I had been older and braver enough to just ask to sit down with the grandboss and say, HOW THE BLEEP WOULD I KNOW THAT WHEN NO ONE EVER ACTUALLY TELLS ME I’M DOING A GOOD JOB? I think I lasted about six more months after that. Life is too short!!

    7. Medusa*

      I’m dealing with the exact manager right now. They’re impossible to get a hold of. I can ask for feedback multiple times and hear nothing for weeks, and then when they finally look at the document or project or whatever, they throw a goddamn hissy fit about everything. I’m trying to get out.

  2. Bear*

    #2 – I have to say that would bother the living hell out of me. I’d find it patronizing, entitled, and presumptuous, and while I’m not normally a very confrontational person, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would email my former manager and tell them to remove me from their site. I also wouldn’t be shy about telling them why, i.e. that I did not consider them my mentor and that given what I’d seen of their professional conduct, I did not want to have my name associated with them in any way.

    To be clear, I’m not advising you to do that. Obviously I don’t know how well-connected this person is or what repercussions that might have for you. I’m just saying that if you DID email them, at least one commenter would consider you to be entirely justified.

    1. July*

      I am obliged to agree. If I were in LW’s position, I would not want anyone to think that I am in anyway connected to that manager knowing his tendency to be a bad one. If the manager is indeed well-connected, the more I would want to keep a ten foot pole of associating myself with him.

    2. Hollywood Handshake*

      While on principle, I wholeheartedly agree that everything in an email like that would be true and justified, this LW appears to be very early in their career. This type of communication would risk making an enemy that may be able to negatively impact future prospects. I wouldn’t take the risk. Go to your awesome law school, build your own great reputation and leave this grifter in the dust, LW2! I’m so sorry you had to endure such an awful internship.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        Agreeing with this. The OP shouldn’t burn bridges where they don’t have to, at this stage of their career. Instead, the OP should leverage the recognition – while the prior manager may be an ass and claiming credit they aren’t entitled to getting, the OP is possibly getting some free publicity/recognition and a bit of a pre-reference. Hiring managers aren’t going to be fooled into thinking that the manager was responsible for the OP’s success. But the OP can confidently say she expects to get a good reference from the manager – after all, the manager listed her on his website as a protege he/she is proud of.

        1. R*

          I’d question the quality of the reference though, given LWs bad experience with the manager.

          1. MassMatt*

            It’s not so much about his value as a reference, but the damage he might be able to inflict on the OP if provoked. If he is respected in the industry (and unfortunately, many poor managers are) , he might be able to damage OP’s career, especially if it’s a small industry. And given his demonstrated poor judgment, he might do so. I’d be mighty tempted to tell him off but it’s probably better to leave this dog/bear sleeping.

            1. Lauren*

              I’d rather let the company legal team shut him up. A cease and desist to the company and the manager will get the name off. Let’s face it, manager’s like this never learn unless forced to. Let that guy answer to the legal counsel and HR for why he is mentioning OPs name without permission.

              1. Marthooh*

                If the company legal team are any good, they’ll tell the OP to ignore the whole thing. Preposterous boasting is not against the law.

            2. Ellie*

              Yes, I’d be concerned about what he might do to sabotage my career if I told him to take it down. I’d also be simultaneously worried about being publicly identified as a ‘protege’ of what sounds like a bad manager though, so OP needs to work out which one concerns them most and act accordingly. If they were to ask them to take it down, I’d look for a reason that’s not quite so bridge-burning. Say that you like to minimise your online presence for privacy reasons, and use your lack of a linked in to support that. It might work.

              Either way though, if anyone mentioned the manager to me, I’d feel free to minimise the relationship and let them draw their own conclusions. ‘Oh, I interned under them briefly at such and such a company’ and then quickly move on to your other career highlights. Feel free to tell people you didn’t give them permission to list you on their website.

        2. Lauren*

          No way. OP should send a cease and desist letter to both the company and the manager (if they are still there). State the harassing nature that was ignored by the manager in the letters and put a deadline of when your name must be removed from that site and any other mention of you is strictly without your permission and must be removed.

          OP – you will have other internships and jobs, this isn’t some 10 year experience of a single job in your entire career that you have no other option but to use the company and this guy as your reference and on your resume. Get this tool to stop doing this to you and others. Include screenshots with the letter and send it to the company legal counsel. They will force the manager to remove your name.

            1. Lauren*

              Unless it’s a super niche industry, this actually will hurt the manager more. A cease and desist letter is a normal practice and outs the onus on the manager to explain why he is claiming this relationship that doesn’t exist.

              1. Wisteria*

                The manager isn’t doing anything illegal. He is not harassing her; he is not defaming her; he’s not infringing on her intellectual property. A cease and desist letter would be would be ineffective. In a niche industry, it *could* damage LW reputation bc it would be such naive and over the top reaction. If it’s a niche industry, and we are merely speculating, a better response if word comes back to LW in some way, to express mild surprise and correct the impression of the relationship:

                “Fergus?” *lifted eyebrow and tiny chuckle* “Gracious, I haven’t thought of him in a while. He was my manager at that internship I did. Wow, that place was really something.” *rueful smile accompanied by small head shake*

                1. Public Sector Manager*

                  The manager isn’t committing a crime, but the manager’s conduct is unlawful. It’s a misappropriation of name or likeness, false light, and unreasonable publicity. It’s no different than the manager claiming Brad Pitt is their protégé when Brad clearly is not.

                  A cease and desist letter is exactly what you want to do in this situation.

                2. Marthooh*

                  @Public Sector Manager:
                  The OP was managed by this idiot; that’s close enough to being a “protege” to mean he’s not outright lying. There’s nothing to be gained by involving lawyers here.

      2. Sopranohannah*

        Agreed, but if anyone ever followed up on the website for a reference for this person, I would have some deeply petty satisfaction when telling them how terrible they were as a supervisor.

        1. Southern Ladybug*

          I think even better would be a “who?….wait, that names sounds familiar but I can’t place it.”

          1. LifeBeforeCorona*

            Now, that’s a burn. I encountered a similar situation, a former toxic co-worker followed me for about 4 jobs (not uncommon in food and hospitality) and told everyone they were responsible for my success and skillset. They didn’t mention their own laziness, bad work and the constant drama they created. It finally ended when they found another job. I still expect them to appear behind my shoulder to tell me I’m doing my work the wrong way.

      3. RecoveringSWO*

        LW will likely need a reference from this particular internship for the character and fitness portion of their bar licensing. Unless LW is confident that they can provide another reference that will respond promptly (and maybe have a backup too), I would hold off on burning the bridge for now.

        1. Ginger Baker*

          Good point! Bar applications are something most folks don’t have experience with here, so as explanation to others: you have to have a reference from EVERY job and internship you have worked at since *ever*, it’s….kind of a lot, ha.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            What do you do if you can’t get a reference from every job? I’m wondering because for anyone in my situation, it’s just not possible. I started working at 14 and went to college at 28…. Of the dozen or so places I’ve worked, only 3 are still in business. Good luck trying to find the manager from a Quizno’s that closed ten years ago!

            Not that I’m a law student. Just curious because this requirement seems like it would screen out a lot of low income/immigrant/older applicants.

        2. AnonRonRon*

          That’s a really good point! The former manager is being really weird and the website thing is overstepping, but 1) it’s unlikely that a lot of people are paying attention to, or giving credence to, a “protege” section on a personal website, and 2) it will be a huge headache if the former manager doesn’t respond to the inquiry for character and fitness.

    3. OP 2*

      Hi all! OP2 here. Thanks for your comments and for empathizing with what I now can confidently say is a wild situation. A few things:

      My manager isn’t well known in the tech industry. The industry itself is massive. The fact that he’s latching onto the law school I will be attending in attempt to elevate his standing is telling.

      The bar requirement point is an interesting one. I checked state bar requirements for states I’d consider practicing in. All of them seem to only require references for employment that lasted six months or longer. This internship thankfully did not drag on for that long.

      I do not ever expect to use him as a reference for another purpose. I have had excellent, productive working relationships with subsequent managers and advisors — I would much rather use them as references.

      It was never my intention to send a strongly worded note his way (though I certainly want to) — I’m thinking I might send something to the effect of being private about my work history, which would hold up as I am not on LinkedIn or other social media.

      1. OrigCassandra*

        With this background (thank you!)… I think I’d say this isn’t a hill worth dying on, annoying though it is and out-of-line though that manager DEFINITELY is. Ex-manager isn’t likely to do you any harm; neither is his being weird about it.

        I have a colleague in the academic department I work for who does this with former students who end up working at Ivies or similar. I think it’s gross self-puffery and I know full well he’s overegging his involvement with these students, but again… it reflects most poorly on him, and not at all poorly on them. (He’s not the greatest colleague for other reasons too. There are other hills I have to die on with him, unfortunately.)

      2. Wisteria*

        Honestly, I would let this one go. Sending any note will open the lines of communication, and you don’t want that. My suggestion above if his name is ever raised to you is,

        “Fergus?” *lifted eyebrow and tiny chuckle* “Gracious, I haven’t thought of him in a while. He was my manager at that internship I did. Wow, that place was really something.” *rueful smile accompanied by small head shake*

        Even looking at his website is more space in your head than he deserves.

  3. Llewe*

    There IS a Society of Midwestern Llama Groomers?! I’m so excited. BRB: applying now as I assume it’s very competitive. ;)

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        The one L lama is a priest, it’s two LLs for the beast.

        I believe the lamas pretty much go in for bald heads, so there probably isn’t much market share in grooming them.

    1. Mer*

      As someone who works in association management, I can tell you there is an association for *everything.* Some of the most ridiculous ones I know about – decorative plumbing, wall coverings, crematoriums, batteries (international), ladders (domestic), needle arts (people who sell yarn and shit), influencers (a relatively new association). Even associations have their own association. If there’s an industry or profession, there’s an association for it.

  4. Enough*

    #2 – Some of these resumes could also be from those on unemployment. The norm is to require a certain number of job applications a week to continue receiving unemployment and more states have finally started requiring this again. And additionally you may be required to accept any job offered as you lose your benefit if you decline.

    1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      Yeah, I think this could definitely be the case. There was a time (many years ago, thank dog) when I was collecting unemployment and got a lot of static about not applying for a large enough number of jobs to suit the person approving my benefits. I felt forced to apply for a few things I knew I was not really qualified for OR interested in just to be able to keep getting my checks. I hated it, and it sucked, but I had bills that I needed to pay, so I had to play the game by their rules. ಠ_ಠ

      In my experience, unemployment offices often don’t really know what to do with people who have a lot of skills and experience in a specialized area, want to keep working in that area, and aren’t really interested in or even good candidates for every entry level job outside their area of expertise that gets posted in the state job listings. But there’s not much you can do when you’re stuck trying to navigate the rules of a rigidly bureautic system. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      1. MK*

        I would argue that they do know what to do with them: motivate them to take a job, even if it’s not something they really want, because unemployment is for people who can’t find work, not those who can, but are only interested in specific jobs. Which is a thorny issue, in my opinion, because it’s not fair to ask people to accept whatever job is offered, no matter how unsuitable, but it’s also not sustainable to let people live on unemployment indefinitely while they search for a dream job. Further complicated by whether unemployment benefits are tied to contributions the worker made while they had a job, or is a state-granted benefit.

        1. Skippy*

          “It’s also not sustainable to let people live on unemployment indefinitely while they search for a dream job.”

          Unemployment doesn’t go on indefinitely — in the US it typically cuts off after 26 weeks, unless we’re in an economic downturn or a pandemic. Some states, like Florida, offer even less.

          And I can tell you from personal experience that the entire process of navigating the unemployment system is more than enough motivation to get a job.

          1. sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

            Even in Canada, it doesn’t last forever. And while on unemployment, they have the right at any time to ask for proof that you’ve been applying to jobs. My last stint on employment I had already created the spreadsheet for just in case they asked.

            This is definitely one reason why you’re getting such terrible resumes.

        2. EPLawyer*

          There’s a difference between taking ANY job offered and taking a reasonable job.

          I once had to navigate unemployment. They literally said you must apply for jobs that relate to ANY job you have ever had. Their example was dish washer. If you ever worked as a dish washer, you must apply for dish washing jobs. If offered such a job you must accept rather than continue unemployment. Doesn’t matter if you worked dish washing back in High School and are now a college graduate with 10 years experience in teapot marketing. If there is a dish washing job out there, you better go find it.

          Which is STUPID. That’s not going to motivate anyone to get a job. It’s just going to make them give up on applying for unemployment. Because that crappy fast food job you had in high school is not going to pay your adult bills

          1. Long Furby*

            I didn’t know this – in high school I worked at a tiny mom and pop restaurant in my hometown as a prep cook for about a year, the entire staff was five people, we were paid in cash, and it was definitely not a standard industry setting (the owner sold bait out the back door and let people gut their fish on the deck). That was more than 10 years ago and I’ve since moved into a far less entertaining desk job with a niche education. Honestly, I don’t think I could get a prep cook job if I wanted one, because I’m so removed from the restaurant world and my resume would show it!

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              It varies with jurisdiction. I spent a time on unemployment and did not have to go through this. On the other hand, it was true that the employment center that in theory was there to offer assistance in the job hunt had no idea how to handle someone with actual skills.

              1. A Feast of Fools*

                Yep, it must vary because the one time I was on Unemployment back in the Great Recession, I wasn’t required to take a job in a fast-food restaurant just because I’d worked at Ron’s Krispy-Fried Chicken back when I was 13.

                But they also couldn’t offer me any help whatsoever in getting another white-collar, IT-intensive job that required a Bachelor’s degree.

                And, yeah, I applied to every job on Indeed that required 5-10 years experience, regardless of industry or actual job duties, just to meet the “Apply to X-number of jobs/week” requirement because there weren’t enough openings / listings for jobs I was qualified for.

                So I apologize to the pharma and aerospace companies who wondered why a highly-specialized tech salesperson was applying for their engineering / R&D jobs.

              2. Anoni*

                That was my experience, too. “Required” to take resume and cover letter writing workshops and how to look for work online. The employment specialist gave me a pass when he saw my education level and work history, but requiring everyone to take basic skill workshops implies everyone who is unemployed is that way due to ineptitude rather than market forces. There are folk out there who definitely get something out of it, but after spending so much time on AAM, whenever I’ve sat in on the workshops with my students, I’ve cringed at the bad advice they give. After one of them, I told the students we’d meet the next day so I could deprogram them.

          2. I'm just here for the cats*

            This must be state specific because this was not my experience at all. In fact no one I met with told me I had to look at specific jobs at all. I had to do at least 4 things a week which could be attending one of the unemployment classes, upload my resume someplace (monster, Linkedin, etc) interview, or apply. Although I had to go to workforce development and I met with people who went over my resume multiple times (often contradicting each others advice, but that’s something different) none of them said I had to apply to food service since I worked in food service in college, or apply to only call center jobs after being let go at my call center.

            1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

              It’s definitely state determined. Every state has its own rules, and some are more stupid than others.

              The way yours worked sounds very sensible and way more in tune with how things work in the “real world” than some others. Kudos to whoever had the good sense to set things up that way!

          3. turquoisecow*

            Yeah I worked in a corporate retail office after working as a cashier and customer service clerk for the same company for many years. When the entire company went out of business, unemployment would suggest lots of cashier jobs and similar. However, since they paid a lot less than the job I’d been doing (a salaried, full-time office job), I wasn’t required to take them. But it was basically most of what the automated job search emails would send me, because they weren’t subtle enough to see the difference between data analyst for retailer and front line cashier for retailer.

          4. GothicBee*

            This. If your options are: (1) work a crappy job that will drain you physically and still not pay your bills or (2) be unemployed and not be able to pay your bills, a lot of people will pick option #2 because at least you have the time/energy to continue working on your job search and find a job that will actually get you what you need. I just hate this attitude of “you must take any job whatsoever or else you’re actually a lazy bum” when the reality is way more complicated than that, and it’s absurd to expect people to shoot themselves in the foot by taking any job at all just so that they’re not a “drain” on unemployment.

            Not to mention this argument always ignores how many people are working and still collecting welfare of some sort, but of course it’s preferable that we continue to subsidize poorly paying jobs rather than actually providing unemployment and encouraging people to wait for a job that will give them a salary that they can actually pay their bills with.

            1. AdalineD*

              Yes! Thank you! I commented down below about unemployment in general but I was also an AmeriCorps VISTA. We were paid at poverty levels of the area we were working in. And we were encouraged to apply for aid/welfare because we needed it and we could relate to the population we were working with.
              So many people DO NOT GET that in many many states (maybe all of them?), you need to work at least part time (unless you have children) to receive SNAP (food stamps). And if you make more than the poverty level $11,000/yr/IMDb GROSS income (2013 $$ but I doubt it changed much), the amount of SNAP benefits you get a year goes down accordingly.

        3. Lacey*

          Unemployment is for people who lose their job through no fault of their own and need support while they find a new one. It’s not just to shuffle you into any new job and they do want you to take a job you really want & can do, because they don’t want you back on unemployment.

          And, your mileage may vary, but the people at my unemployment office were so sweet and enthusiastic about helping us. I expected them to be awful because the state level people were awful when I was applying, but the local people were just tremendous.

          However, while they offer a lot of help for people looking for entry level or factor work and have many free/affordable training programs on offer for people without a degree – they don’t have any help for people with specialized skill-sets. They don’t understand the difference in hiring norms for those types of jobs either. They give awful advice for your resume and cover letter.

          That’s what Grizabella is talking about.

          They’re oriented towards a certain type of unemployment and just aren’t as useful to the type of unemployment AAM readers are likely to experience.

          1. I'm just here for the cats*

            This was my experience too. I was so worried because I remember when I was a kid my mom got laid off when her company downsized their operators. (this was early 2000’s and was before you put info in online for your benefits). She had to go to the local workforce development office and he was so harsh on her and just kept having her redo her resume each week. Never even helped with a job search or anything. He berated her and I remember she broke down and she was not one to cry. So a few years ago when I lost my job I was expecting pushback and toxic people. But everyone was so nice, even most of the people in the unemployment office customer service. There was one rep who was thorny but everyone was so nice.

            However, they do give awful advice. I did my resume the way the one person told me, and then when I went to another class there was a different person and she told me to remove everything the first person told me to put. And they did focus more on factory or entry level jobs, even though I had a bachelors and wanted to get away from the call center work ( because that was not working out for me which is why I go fired).

          2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

            I will say my experience with them was that they were well-meaning, but hopelessly outdated, due to having not been involved in hiring, or actively being part of the job market.

            Advice that I received when one of them looked at my resume included ‘No No, you must have an objective section! At the TOP!” and “Put in a skills section! then fill it with subjective character traits like determined and hardworking”. Or their recommendation of creating a separate computer file with ALL previous positions and accomplishments, and then copy and pasting from that one to make a resume in the future.

            Not all horrible ideas – I mean, the objective one was, but being frustrated about it was how I first found this website, so it led to something better (and I do keep a one sentence professional summary at the top, now). Putting in a skills section to highlight some of my concrete proficiencies has been useful (the subjective character traits got jettisoned, of course). And the master resume does save a bit of work, if you keep it up to date (there’s still a fair bit of customization that needs doing on a good resume, though).

            1. L.H. Puttgrass*

              That reminds me of when I was on UI and had to go to one of those “talk to someone in person to get job-search advice.” They basically took one look at my resume (I’m a lawyer with way too many degrees), said, “Oh, you’ll be fine,” and sent me on my way.

              It took me a year to be fine, but I imagine my resume looked a lot different from what they usually see.

              1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

                Yeah I had the same thing. I talked with a counselor who could only wish me luck. Besides, managers of computer installations do NOT come to the unemployment offices looking to hire programmers, analysts, etc. You have to seek them out.

                It wasn’t about networking in those days — you sent out 25-30 applications a week (no “GUMPTION” applications) and hoped something would come back, the phone would ring, etc.

          3. Kesnit*

            “However, while they offer a lot of help for people looking for entry level or factor work and have many free/affordable training programs on offer for people without a degree – they don’t have any help for people with specialized skill-sets.”

            ^This. While job hunting, I went to the local job force (in a major metropolitan area). Sure I was looking for entry level jobs – but entry level law jobs, with my brand spanking new JD and Bar membership. The staff member gave me a look of fear and shock when I asked about those kinds of jobs, then quickly told me they couldn’t help me. I was gone in less than 5 minutes

          4. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            Yes, Lacey, that’s exactly what I was talking about! Thanks for the additional clarification. :-D

        4. Kim*

          Unemployment does NOT go on indefinately. Generally it lasts 26 weeks , and occasionally up to a year . The benefit is generally half of your former salary. If you had a well paying job, it works out to less than half because of capped benefits. And during this time you assume the cost of your own health insurance. In addition, states do NOT fund tbe benefit . They only administer the fund . In 49 states private employers pay 100%. In one state , workers partially contribute .

        5. Self Employed*

          If someone is laid off from even a halfway decent-paying job and is forced to take a food service or retail job, that won’t pay their bills. If they could live on food service or retail, they’d take one of those jobs instead of applying for unemployment.

        6. Ermintrude*

          I do work on and off, and when I receive government benefits, I use them to pay my rent and to live off. In Australia, a fortnightly payment doesn’t go far if it’s one’s main or only source of income.

      2. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Similar. I once was on the receiving end of a scolding over not applying to a “network architect” job opening by the person in charge of supervising my initial visit to the state office of unemployment. (I had to apply for three jobs while I was there as a part of them signing off on my benefits.)

        The logic? “Your degree is in architecture, so you’re obviously qualified.”

        Um, they are entirely different topics, and my degree in architecture has absolutely nothing to do with network architecture.

      1. Bostonian*

        Yup. Checks out with my experience. Plenty of people out there are unhappy at their current job and will apply to anything they think they have a shot at.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        Also, some people are just trying to get a foot in the door with a government job, if the benefits are good.

        But I’ve heard this is a problem in all industries. A lot of people are just desperate to get out of a bad work situation & are blasting out resumes. And haven’t heard of AAM.

      3. AdalineD*

        Sure-but I think this comment thread shows that many people have had similar experiences.
        Completely agree that many of these bad applications are currently employed people who just don’t submit well.
        In addition to having collected unemployment before, I’ve also been on hiring committees. And we were given the heads up that we will receive some applications that don’t match any qualifications, most likely due to the state’s unemployment Jon search requirements.
        Agree that it doesn’t make up the bulk of those applications.
        But I also think that it doesn’t hurt to bring up the point.

    2. cncx*

      Came here to say this. I live in a jurisdiction where your unemployment payments are tied to how many applications you did, and you literally have to apply to anything because it’s something stupid like 25 a month (It was ten years ago i don’t remember the exact, but it was that high). That doesn’t mean i didn’t try with the cover letters but there were a lot of stretch jobs i applied for on unemployment just to keep paying my rent.

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          It is madness. Our system used to have a quota and it was as awful as it sounds. Once you’ve applied for all the jobs in your region, you had to start applying further afield even though there was no way an employer was going to look at someone who lives 2 or 3 hours away.

        2. Rose*

          This isn’t that high for most people. When I was unemployed I always shot to apply to 1-2 jobs per day. Once my resume was in good shape and I had several versions of how I could describe each job, I’d spend maybe 1-2 hours looking at listings, 1-2 hours on networking calls, and 1-2 hours putting together materials every day. Usually I was working about 4-5 hours per day and applying to about 7 jobs a week. 25 in a month sounds really low to me if you’re below say a VP level and not on a niche job. I do live an an urban area where there are no shortage of positions I could apply to.

          1. hamsterpants*

            I suppose I am reacting to the fact that it took me three solid days to send in one job application and that was *after* a friend recommended it to me, so I didn’t even have to do any hunting for the listing. But of course I hadn’t updated my resume in years.

          2. meyer lemon*

            Totally depends on the field and context, I think. My partner was applying for communications/publishing jobs a couple of years ago and maybe sent out a dozen applications in the course of six months (while employed). There just aren’t that many jobs out there and for a writing or editing job, your application needs to be polished. She later switched to programming and for that job search, applied for three jobs a day. Usually no cover letter needed, and sometimes just a LinkedIn connection.

          3. GothicBee*

            Area makes a big difference. In my area you can find that many jobs to apply to if you’re not in a niche field, but if you want to earn more than $12-$15 an hour, you’re going to be severely limited.

          4. Hillary*

            I’d say it’s high for many people above analyst/coordinator level. I’m a manager in a niche that every company that makes or distributes physical products needs. My very large employer has three people worldwide in my role, plus another ~20 positions at my level that I could do with minimal training. The last time we hired externally for any of these jobs was 3+ years.

            I live in a large metro area, jobs I’m interested in come up about once every other month. Most of them are ultimately filled by internal promotions.

          5. Anoni*

            I live in a small city with plenty of job opportunities in a variety of fields and that many applications would still run through almost everything available and posted within a short period of time. Believe it or not, it is high for most people. I help people with employment and it’s unlikely they can easily hit 25 a month that matches their skillset and experience.

          6. Ace in the Hole*

            Depends on location and field. I’m in a rural area. Openings for positions related to my background and technical experience are rare – a few per year at most. Openings for positions that pay anything like what I currently make are less rare, but still only a few per week.

            Applying to 25 jobs per week would mean applying to every open position in the entire county. Including part time minimum wage jobs, day labor positions, ones that require licenses or degrees I don’t possess, and marijuana-related jobs that could bar me from future employment in my actual career.

        3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          Holy moly? YES. I was sending out 20 applications A WEEK.

      1. Anthony J Crowley*

        In the UK I believe you have to provide evidence that you are spending 37 hours a week job searching. Honestly don’t know how.

        1. Tuckerman*

          Not sure about how this fits in with UK’s system, but that’s frustrating from a US perspective. Not having income beyond unemployment probably means I’d have to pull my kid from daycare, and spend a lot more time doing things to save money (like soaking and cooking beans instead of opening up a can, shopping at 3 different grocery stores to get the best deals). So it’s not like you can just replace your full time job with a full time job search.

          1. Christina*

            That is how it works if you get cash assistance from the state, TANF, you are required to do 40 hours a week of job search activities. They do pay for daycare but it is still horrific. The amount of benefits you receive is so low, most people make at least double what TANF pays per month on unemployment. I understand that the goal is to motivate people to get off assistance but if you only get like 400 per month you cannot keep up on any bills.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      I worked for a company that once did a review of their resume submissions from various job boards. The result was that only 3% were at all in the vicinity of being qualified/appropriate enough for an initial phone screen, and only 10% of those made it to an in person interview.

      1. LavaLamp*

        I never had to prove I was job searching when I was on unemployment. The first time was due to a layoff and the guy at the office was fairly chill. This was before the pandemic mind. The second time I got fired and the guy I got was a complete asshole. It ended when I sent him a photo of the opiate prescription I take continuously to prove it was a medical firing and not because I couldn’t do the work. I might still be pretty mad that I had to send my personal medical information for him to believe me.

        1. Beehoppy*

          You had “a guy”? What state was that? In Virginia you’re just part of the automated system which tracks how many job applications you list in the online portal.

    4. Lacey*

      I’m sure it varies from state to state, but when I was on unemployment, I had to log the jobs I’d applied for, so I wasn’t applying to jobs that were out in left field, because I didn’t want them to think I wasn’t taking it seriously and cut me off. But, there weren’t three jobs a week that hit my criteria so some were slightly off and probably did annoy the hiring manager who received the application.

      I also doubt any state requires you to accept any job offered or lose your benefits. In my state, if a job offers 90% of what you were making before, then you have to take it if offered. And after you’ve been on unemployment for three months, it goes down to 85% and so forth until you run out of your allotted unemployment money.

    5. Mockingjay*

      OP2, the resumes are result of a number of things:

      1) No one taught them how to write a resume, let alone a cover letter. Not uncommon.

      2) They were given very bad advice on resume writing (as this site has mentioned frequently, there’s a TON of it out there).

      3) Resume writing is a unique skill set. I work with highly educated and trained technical staff. Most of their resumes resemble a high schooler’s first draft. Detailed writing is not something they do often; most of their work is formulaic and their resumes resemble the formula.

      4) With the events of the past 18 months, a lot of people are trying to break into new fields for steadier work. They might have transferrable skills, but don’t know how to describe those in a meaningful way (see no.’s 1 and 2 above).

      5) As others have said, unemployment requirements force people to constantly apply.

      6) This is a government job, which is traditionally stable and offers benefits. A LOT of people are looking for this unicorn.

      While you can discard most of the resumes, maybe look between the lines for no. 4. They might be in an unrelated industry, but what does their work ethic look like? Are they working continually? Multiple jobs? Some of the hardest working people I know are the ones holding down two part-time jobs. I understand that you have to find someone who meets most of the qualifications, but there might be a rough gem in that resume pile worth a phone screen.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I was also going to throw out the people trying to change careers but. Especially with the pandemic a lot of industries have substantially shrunk or completely disappeared, so the people who worked in them need to transition to something else. Sometimes when you are transitioning to a different career it can be hard to capture related or relevant experience from prior jobs.

        Also, lots of people just are crappy at writing a resume and/or cover letter.

      2. A Ladrona*

        I’d like to also add… looking for work does become completely demoralizing at times for a variety of reasons. You find at times that you put in the effort, doing research, customizing materials and writing a detailed and relevant cover letter all for… nothing… maybe an HR screen if your lucky that clearly shows no one has even read your materials… a job that is below what you would reasonably accept salary wise but that of course is not share on the posting and/or your asked your requirements in some online form that you can often guess will exclude you if you ask for something too high… you may make it to the point where you get sent a personality and skills test before ever speaking to a human being (my last one for skills gave you 5 minutes for 7 questions where you had to do math and determine which diagram came next in a sequence, really relevant stuff like that)… and in my case I don’t have a college degree, but everyone tells you to apply anyway, but again you’re screened out early in the process so all the work goes to waste. So all that and it gets you… frustration and stress mostly.

        And in my case I have also seen the hiring process from the inside – people laughing at folks who had online colleges listed or their college “probably isn’t a Big 10 school), people complaining about no cover letters but when we get one HR forgets to share it with the whole panel, our HR doing a horrible job of screening people so that the panel members are disengaged and not being efficient because they have interviewed people that should have not been invited back. A lot of favoritism in my company as well so you know who is getting the job, in some cases, before interviews have even started.

        So do I apply for Llama grooming jobs when I’m a writer for Game of Thrones – no. Do I put in as much effort as I used to – also no. IF I see a job I’m really interested in, yes, I’ll go the extra mile and will tell you I feel foolish for bothering at this point. I’m also working and there are a lot of positives about my current role that are hard to give up, so I can take my time and be selective. But often I just send the resume and see if something happens or not, especially with degrees required for every job now. The last job I applied to, the first two screening questions were education and salary requirements so I KNEW I would get a rejection. I know it’s frustrating on your end (my husband had a boss that would invite people to interview who’s resume didn’t fit the job and he has many crazy stories!) but rest assured, in some cases, people on this end are pretty frustrated too.

        1. PT*

          I’ve spent so much time trying to fit all the keywords into my resume so I don’t get rejected by the computer, I’m sure my resume doesn’t look as nice as it would if I knew a hiring manager was going to read it carefully.

          But then the hiring managers I knew who read every resume, do they read it carefully? No. When I’ve gotten to interviews, they’ve asked me stupid questions. “OK it says you organized a 500-participant Llama Carnival. Did you invent the Llama Carnival? Hm it was the 25th anniversary of Llama Carnival and you’re 30? I’m not sure that’s an accomplishment then, since you didn’t invent the idea of Llama Carnival. Oh and it says you ran the llama barn. Does that mean you used the phone? Did you use the email? Did you use the Facebook page? OK and what year did you graduate college, I see you left that off. Why did you leave that off again? I want an exact timeline of what you did from when you graduated college to now.”

        2. Aggretsuko*

          Another fun factor of job hunting: bait and switch jobs. I spent years trying to find a non-customer service job. I didn’t apply for that many jobs except for ones that didn’t sound like where I had to be The Phone and The Face. Guess what? EVERY BLEEPING JOB wanted me to be chief phone answerer and front desk girl, they just didn’t spell that out so well in the original job listing. I will note that my organization does that these days–they used to be a lot more specific, but now you don’t get the actual job listing until you are in the interview, being unpleasantly surprised.

        1. WellRed*

          That’s not a rant, it’s an accurate description of what it’s like out there and I hope it resonates with overly picky hiring managers. Stay strong.

        2. Schnapps*

          I’m the OP on the resume question.

          I feel your situation. It does become demoralizing. I had been applying for jobs for years outside of the organization I was working for and suffered from a severe case of “always the bridesmaid” which is a hard, hard, hard position to be in. I had a network of people pushing me, I had the education, I had (most of) the experience – was missing a couple of key pieces. I eventually landed where I am, taking a 10% pay cut (with a plan to ask for a reclassification in a year, but then COVID hit) to get those key pieces. There were some other benefits that sort of evened it out a bit, but still.

          In any case, the particular org I’m with now, the application process is: “Submit a cover letter and resume by email, fax or dropping off at…”. HR puts the emails and files in our records management system and we look at all of them.

          But some people just go for the email address, and submit a resume without a cover letter. Or submit a generic cover letter not addressing the posting at all – just that they are hard workers, have good attitude and would be a definite asset to the company (and considering it’s a municipality, you could at least get that part right).

      3. sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        Government job: that holy grail of good pay, good benefits and a pension.

        A few years ago, the Canadian federal government job application process suddenly was tighter to limit the sheer number of applications they must have been getting for that coveted “fed job.” You’d have 30 days to apply; seemingly overnight, job postings now were up for only two days to a week. Never mind it could still take an hour to apply as you filled in the application form detailing in 200 words or less how you got to learn Word and you could not say “Look at resume.” That part alone must weed out a lot of bad resumes (which are also attached and are part of your job site profile).

        1. Aggretsuko*

          Yeah, this kind of thing is why I feel like I can’t leave my organization. The benefits are too rare and too good to give up and most likely won’t be replicated elsewhere.

    6. Mandycake*

      My state has an unemployment requirement (in normal times) that you must make three job contacts in a week to continue eligibility. If you are offered a job, you must take it or lose benefits. There were times I applied for a position for which I had no qualifications to meet the requirement but not be forced to take a job that with too low pay or commute.

    7. I'm just here for the cats*

      You are not required to accept ANY job offer. It is my understanding that it has to be similar to what you had before, at least income wise.

      For example, if you were laid off from your factory job making widgets and you were paid $25/hour you would not be required to take a delivery job making $8/hour.

      1. Self Employed*

        That depends on where you live. I think where I live, if I weren’t on PUA for self-employment, I would have to take a job at Target even if I had been a mechanical engineer before getting laid off.

        With PUA, there’s a fairly nebulous requirement starting July 11 (why July 11? idk) that self-employed people be doing something related to getting new business. Marketing, taking classes, going to networking events. I’ve been doing all that already so I wonder if I need to document it somehow? They can see my emails with the regional PTAC…

    8. De Minimis*

      We recently had a candidate who had a long resume but no recent experience and seemed to have mainly been doing volunteer work recently. They also didn’t have experience directly relevant to what we do [though this isn’t uncommon.] She ended up withdrawing from the phone interview after about the fifth or sixth question, saying it was obviously she didn’t have the experience we were looking for and that she was no longer interested. I’ve had the experience of interviewing where I obviously didn’t have enough of a technical background to be a fit and it’s excruciating, but to have her just drop out like that during the interview makes me wonder if maybe she just wanted to show unemployment she was trying to find work.

      My manager is the one who organizes and reads the questions, and I think it would be better if he were to not front-load the interview with technical questions that no one could know unless they worked with us previously or had done a lot of research. Nevertheless, we ended up offering the job to someone who didn’t know the answers to any of those questions either, but expressed an interest and ability in learning.

      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        I don’t know- it sounds like she could easily have thought she needed to be able to answer those questions to do the job, so reasonably withdrew rather than make a fool of herself in her own estimation. I agree that your manager should make adjustments to the process to avoid that, because for all you know she could have been interested and able to learn, but didn’t know that was an option! If I felt I completely bombed the first few questions of an interview I’d assume that meant I wasn’t qualified, since those must be very important questions to come first. Essentially I think that interview process inadvertently screened for personality and culture (continuing to sell yourself, knowing how to look like a go-getter) instead of skills. Which is really unfortunate.

    9. Schnapps*

      Hey, thanks everyone for the comments. I submitted the question about resume quality vs. job descriptions.

      A couple of things – this job is in the Vancouver, BC area. Canadian Employment Insurance (EI) rules are different than the UI rules south of the border. The few times I’ve been in EI have been for medical or maternity reasons (maternity and parental leave are part of our EI system), so I was in a different category of unemployment.

      Also, the job is a one year to 18 month maternity leave coverage – one of my people got a secondment to another department covering a maternity leave, and now we have to cover that person’s secondment. That sound you hear is me beating my head against my desk.

      Yes, its only for a year to 18 months, but that’s enough to get you back on the EI rolls, and since it’s a union position, it put a foot in the door for further employment with the org. It’s also one of those departments that is central to city business, but few outside of the semi-nicheness of this department understand exactly what we do and how it impacts the organization.

      I didn’t think we put it on Indeed, but I just checked and it looks like it’s been scraped and put on there. I say scraped because the formatting is just off. We advertise on the local government job board here, and I’ve put it out to my networks.

      It may just be me, but I continue to be surprised that people won’t put a little effort in to something that could be a rewarding career.

    10. AdalineD*

      Yep-I was collecting unemployment for a short time a few years ago to cover about a three month gap in employment from when my contract ended and when I moved to be where my husband had been working for the last year. (Academics-being long distance for months or years at a time goes with the territory.)
      In the state I was in, I needed to apply or be interviewed for four jobs a week to continue to be eligible . I usually tried to apply to jobs that I thought might have a software screen or deal with lots of apps on the regular. I really needed the unemployment income, knew I would only be on them for a short period of time and had worked in the state for ten years-so not trying to cheat or game the system. But I didn’t want to jeopardize losing those needed benefits if I’d actually been offered a job.
      As a society we really need to be more understanding and generous with unemployment insurance. No one is living the high life on them. And these requirements just make more unnecessary work for more people.
      If it is more desirable for a large number of people to collect unemployment than to go to work-that is an issue with labor laws/minimum wage. Not the safety net.

  5. GraceRN*

    LW1: I’m wondering if your issue isn’t so much about hearing positive feedback itself, but is it more about not feeling valued? Looking at the bigger picture, are there other things going on that’s making you feel your contributions are not being appreciated, for example: poor compensation, lack of Thank You’s, lack of material support?

    Feeling valued is an important need in the workplace. It’s not reasonable to expect employees to stay if they feel undervalued all the time. If this is the case, maybe your focus can be less about getting your boss to say the right words, but instead prepare to have a conversation with her about your value in the workplace. But Alison said, you might want to start with a reality check first. There’s a chance that the small logistical issues actually turn out to be big issues with the boss. Or, she could be unreasonably focused on perfection. No idea but a discussion with your boss is warranted.

    1. John Smith*

      100% this. My manager is the same – I realised when he had a major issue with something for which I worked out a solution. When I gave him the piece of paper with the details, he just took it out my hand, smiled at it and walked off without so much as a thank you. This made me reflect on his behaviour and made me realise that he’s basically an absolute obnoxious bellend.

      I’d go with Alison’s advice, but I’d also try offering points yourself like “the presentation went well, several clients want to but the new product”, “we’re ahead of target on groomed llamas” or “the new method we came up with has increased efficiency by 20%” and see how your manager reacts. (Hopefully not like mine who said “I’ll call the army and navy store to see if they have any medals”)

      1. Careless with the gender of nouns*

        Depending on the situation, it can also be worthwhile to remind oneself that this is just the boss’ idiosyncratic communication style, and mentally translate their feedback into what they really mean.

        For instance, I remember when, after giving a talk in french class, I had the following dialogue with my teacher:

        – “Catastrophic! It seems like you’re unaware that nouns have genders in french because you got really all genders wrong! The gender of nouns are there for a reason! They matter! ” (followed by more belaboring the point)
        – “So … what grade do I get?”
        – “What do you think?”
        – (thinks) “A- …?”
        – (surprised) “Huh, you know me well!”

        Yeah, I had practice digesting his feedback :-)

        Of course you’ll want to make you sure have correctly understood the severity of the feedback, but once you do, reacting to the message rather than the wording is ok.

        So, in the case of the boss who just smiled and walked away, I’d have mentally exclaimed:

        “He smiled!!! He almost never smiles, I must have done really well! Yay!”

        Of course, that presumes the communication style is consistent. If the manger is careless or manipulative in his feedback, it’s much harder to deal with.

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          I think I was supervised by his sister who spent my student-teacher feedback meeting quizzing me on the subjunctive. It turns out I had done very well otherwise, but I was convinced I flunked for a minute there.

        2. John Smith*

          I’d like to think that, but he was more like a spoilt brat who managed to grab sweets of another kid. The smile was a very self indulgent one.

          I forgot to add, the problem still exists because, every time he speaks to thirds parties required to be involved, he manages to piss them off big style. But that’s my fault apparently for coming up with unworkable solutions…. Hey ho!

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I remember being on a team where there was an initiative to sign customers up for an additional benefit — I worked really hard and signed up a bunch! Nothing. Then the next month I was stressed and signed nobody. Still nothing.

      My boss was nearing retirement and kind of checked out….as a result it felt like I would get the same feedback regardless of how hard I worked or how good my metrics were. Trying to address problems was like shouting into the void, I got no feedback when there were improvements (although unlike OP, I didn’t get much critical feedback either).

      That was demoralizing. It just made me feel like my job didn’t particularly matter.

    3. Anonym*

      I think needing to feel valued and wanting positive feedback aren’t necessarily correlated (although your point is excellent and I hope OP considers it!). I can say from my own experience that I do feel valued by my team, but still want more positive feedback, as not only is it motivating, it helps shape my understanding of my performance.

      I had to press my boss recently to share the positive feedback from my colleagues, and I’m really glad I did. My review before that point was essentially “all is well, this process is stupid, there was no negative feedback from your colleagues, I’m happy with your performance,” which is ok, and he IS good at giving on time feedback so there are no surprises at review time. But hearing specifically what my colleagues think I do well was a bit of a revelation, and very validating. The strengths I know about were highlighted, but people also mentioned an area that, in my view at least, I really struggle with. So to hear that my colleagues feel I do particularly well in that area is shifting my understanding and I’m trying to use that to pressure and criticize myself less.

      Well-rounded feedback also helps develop our self awareness and EQ – knowing what other people think about how we work gives us a much fuller picture to work from. And in my case at least, relieves significant anxiety!

      1. Anonym*

        This to say – managers, PLEASE give your reports positive feedback!! When you only share the negative, you’re giving distorted information. Tell people the whole truth – anything less isn’t the truth.

      2. Careless with the gender of nouns*

        Yes, positive feedback isn’t just useful to make people feel good, it can also be informative!

        When I ask peers for feedback, I usually ask:

        – What did you particularly like about my work?
        – What did you particularly dislike?
        – Any suggestions for how to do it better?

        and often, the first question yields the most insight, because they mention things I would never have considered important, and sometimes even things I did by accident rather design … (oops!)

  6. L6orac6*

    #3 This is a problem in Australia as well. If you are on unemployment benefits – Jobseeker – you are required by law to search for anywhere between 5 and 20 per month (this number has been lowered during COVID). So what happens is you people applying for jobs that are sort of related to their skills, just to ensure they can continue to receive Jobseeker.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Additionally in the UK. They’ll make you apply for everything – even stuff you can’t do.

      1. Liz*

        Yup. The highest target I’ve seen for weekly “job search activities” for Jobseekers in the UK was 50. They freely admit to setting increasingly impossible targets so they have an excuse to cut people off. The end result is that quality and suitability of applications decreases and it becomes harder and harder to conduct a decent job search.

        I also knew of someone who was offered an interview some way away. On the initial phone screening she found out that the morning shifts would start way earlier than the first bus could get her to that location. However, she was not permitted to withdraw her application, as turning down an interview was a sanctionable offence and she would lose her benefits for a short spell. Thus she was forced to attend, wasting her own time and that of the interviewer.

        These punitive policies hurt both applicants and employers alike.

        1. JM in England*

          Another thing to bear in mind is that the job centre staff also have targets for the number of people they have to sanction each week…

      2. Mongrel*

        My, albeit 20 years ago, experience was that you were allowed to be picky at the beginning so you could try and find something similar to your previous job.
        The longer you were on the dole the more they pushed the ‘any job’ conversation.

        1. Anthony J Crowley*

          I think you get three months these days. After that you have to take ANYTHING.

      3. fluffy*

        Some years back, I was interviewing for shelvers–people who put library books back where they belong. I had to interview someone who was blind, legally and functionally.

    2. El Tea*

      Yup.. exactly this. Hate to get all ‘political’ (and worth clarifying that in Australia and the UK both the mainstream left and right parties are aligned on this).. but it’s a direct consequence of hostile welfare policies and, usually, the privatisation of job placement services to agencies who just want to hit arbitrary targets. They get paid, governments get to pretend they are both ‘tough on scroungers’ AND ‘helping people into work’.. whilst employers and genuine job applicants lose out and waste time.

      It’s a great system.

      1. JM in England*

        I can confirm what you’re saying from firsthand experience. During a monthly benefit review, the advisor implied I was doing enough to find work. Using the figures from the time, I replied “Half a million vacancies, 2.5 million unemployed……do the maths!!”. For added effect, I also plonked down on the desk two box files full of applications….

      2. Ilovelanguages*

        Can also confirm. I had a brief time on benefits after graduating university. I didn’t have a job in my field lined up and had bills to pay. Such a ridiculous process, with totally unreasonable targets and mandatory courses on employability and CV writing etc. In the end I took a part-time retail job to get away from the process with the reasoning that it would be easier to get another job while employed and not being forced to apply for anything and everything the advisor deemed ‘suitable’, 90% of which had little connection with my skills and at times I was outright NOT qualified for!

        1. Catching 22 kinds of hell*

          My benefits were denied because my job search involved applications in the health field. 80- 90% of local practices used sterilization that I was allergic to, so I could only accept positions in those who used steam. Unemployment decided that since that made me unemployable, I was not eligible for benefits. A few weeks later I got a job, sent proof, and got my last few weeks reinstated retroactively. But I had to actually get the job to make myself eligible!

    3. WS*

      Yes, it’s been a bit of a relief during COVID that the number of random applications have dropped because (working in healthcare) it’s not like we don’t have a lot of other things to do!

    4. Nicki Name*

      Same in the US. Requirements vary from state to state, but “must apply to X number of positions per week” is a very common one.

  7. Variant of Concern*

    When I’m hiring, I try to look on the bright side and consider the bad applications entertainment. While most are a quick nope and move on, some are truly…special. Like the full color resume formatted like a sales brochure complete with headshot featuring a generous amount of cleavage. Or my personal favorite from the last round: the candidate who listed her most recent job as “stay at home mom” and in her cover letter stated her reason for being interested in this job was that their family was broke and she supposed it was time for her to start earning a paycheck. To her credit, that is (brutally) honest and there’s nothing wrong with working for a paycheck, just maybe not lead with that?

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      Okay, I can’t help myself. I want some more of your examples.

      And I’ll add one. We were hiring for a C-suite position. The cover letter mentioned that they were interested in the job because they wanted better benefits. A few of us lower level staff, reviewing applications, pointed this out to the hiring managers. They didn’t take it seriously and the applicant was hired.

      The employee worked about as well as you’d expect with that attitude. It took the company some time and involved hiring an attorney but the employee was terminated within about a year.

          1. Chocolate Teapot*

            I was once sorting the incoming post, and one of the letters was from a 17 year old girl who wanted to be a model. It was handwritten on French school notepaper, which is a grid of little squares and there were a few jokes about why she hadn’t included a photo.

            We did manage a company connected with a model agency, but we had nothing to do with the models.

      1. Need a WFH policy*

        I have two favorite resumes that I have received for openings. One was the Iranian based dam builder who applied for my US based Midwest job that had nothing to do with building dams and did not include relocation. The other whose resume included past job experience listed as working for such companies as Big Name Company located in Any Town, USA and company 123 located in ABC. Alas, neither made it to the interview stage.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Wait, are those stand in names or did the person actually submit a resume with “Big Name Company” listed as an employer? (If they’re stand-ins, I can’t figure out what’s wrong with that resume.)

          1. Self Employed*

            I think they mean the person submitted a sample resume without bothering to replace the sample names with their own past employers (or at least something plausible).

        2. Jen*

          Last time I hired (in an Eastern European country), I got 3 resumes from India within the first hours of the job being posted. Their qualifications did match the job, but the job ad made no mention of relocation or visa assistance. Given how fast they applied, I would assume they had set up a crawler and auto-applied to all jobs with certain keywords in the title…

    2. Bagpuss*

      I had one once which was handwritten in green ink and included a photo of the applicant which was obviously a holiday snap (nothing inappropriate but it looked like they’d clipped the head and shoulders from a bigger picture of them by the sea.

      Sadly they also failed to put a postal address on their letter and the e-mail they gave was wrong, so we weren’t able to see how they presented in person .

      (The application was for an entry level / admin trainee job, where we were anticipating that most applicants would be school-leavers, so we pretty flexible about interviewing even where the application wasn’t great, as most applicants would not have had aby prior experience)

    3. Susan Calvin*

      For me it’s currently mostly depressing, because the number one reason for candidates to get filtered from my current hiring process is language. And the ones that are pretty clearly going by the spaghetti approach I don’t care, but I’ve had to turn down several candidates that would’ve been *great* otherwise, but look. If you can’t produce readable documentation, hold workshops or give presentations in the language 90% of my clients prefer, I literally can’t justify paying you. And we’re really not swimming in great candidates, but that’s a different story…

    4. Red Swedish Fish*

      I had to add that we got a resume once with a full 8*10 photo of the applicant in their NFL Football tryout gear. The date on the photo was 12 years prior, and we googled him he didn’t make the team. We interviewed him, he had a good background and prior skills there was no need for the photo. In the interview all he wanted to talk about was his wife used to be an underwear model before they got married, she had stopped modeling and had 2 kids when he tried out for the the NFL.

    5. YesImTheAskewPolice*

      Yes, I have a couple of such favourites as well! While being part of a search committee for an assistant professorship in political science (based in Europe), we received an application from a one time candidate for US congress. Her application more or less consisted of a powerpoint presentation with campaign pictures – shaking hands with a group of people, handing out flyers, and the like – coupled with platitudes along the lines of “leadership for success!”

      When working in finance, a candidate’s dossier started with a cover page where he somehow had photoshopped his head onto a picture of the company’s CEO (it was for an entry position in retail banking). The photoshopping was baldy done and the candidate did not meet any of the needed qualifications, but hey, at least it was a tailored application!

      1. Emma Dilemma*

        “he somehow had photoshopped his head onto a picture of the company’s CEO”

        Oh now this is… amazing

    6. Kimmy Schmidt*

      I actually kinda like the totally off the wall applications. It makes them easy to cut and narrow the field.

    7. Argie*

      Not bad resumes, but I’ve gotten about 4-5 emailed resumes from Canadian Oilfield workers.

      I am neither hiring, nor in the oil & gas industry, nor a business. Someone posted the wrong email address in the job posting, I guess.

      But I have learned there is a Canadian certification for working in the cannabis industry. Because of course I totally looked at the resumes. And emailed each of them back to let them know it was a bad email address for them.

    8. PT*

      I used to hire lifeguards. About 80% of the applicants for those jobs could not functionally swim.

      We were short staffed, so I would bring everyone in for an interview and the first part of the interview was the swim test they would need to take before enrolling in a lifeguard class. I would do this test in an end lane next to the wall, while I walked next to them holding a lifeguard tube, because a number of them swam so poorly there was a significant risk I would need to rescue them while they demonstrated the basic lap swim.

      I had one applicant who was afraid to jump in the pool to start his test.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Well, and keep in mind that a lot of lifeguard applicants are very young, as in high school, and likely to be pushed that way by their parents (Oh, just apply as a lifeguard! What’s the worst they can do, say no?). The parents don’t necessarily think through the fact that maybe they should have enrolled the kid in swim lessons if they wanted this to go well.

    9. Hillary*

      We were hiring a transportation planner – someone who figures out delivery schedules and routes trucks using a fairly complicated piece of software. We received applications from both a city planner and a wedding planner.

    10. Persephone Mongoose*

      The application that sticks most vividly in my mind is one that was sent by a legitimate recruitment company. They attached a video clip along with the CV. Despite my cautioning against it, my then boss thought it would be a good idea to play the video…and then had to hurry to close it seconds later when it turned out to be pornographic.

  8. MassMatt*

    #2 Getting bad/poorly matched applications is definitely part of the hiring process, but if you are not getting many/any good applications it’s worth investigating why. Unless it’s a very niche field, 12 applications is not a lot. Are you posting the job in the right places? Do you need to broaden the search? Is the posting poorly worded? Are you making a good case for why people should want to work there?

    There are lots of easily accessible resources to help job seekers improve their applications, not nearly as many for how to post jobs, screen applicants, and conduct interviews.

    1. Self Employed*

      Also, are there requirements to post the application in places that underrepresented candidates would be likely to find it? i.e. publications/groups for minority groups? Or is that just a US thing?

  9. MeowMixers*

    LW 1 – I’m going through that right now. My supervisor values negative feedback because she believes it will help us grow. I walk into work every day believing that I am unneeded. I tried to go for a promotion and a guy with 0 years of experience was hired over me because she liked him more (Yep, she said that). She won’t even accept feedback. I’m amazed at the mental gymnastics this person plays. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done. I say try to find a new job and make the best of the circumstance as you can.

  10. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP3: oh yeah, had the inbox inundated with bad applications fairly recently and some of them were from people that currently had a job. When the first few ‘I have literally no experience in IT but am applying for a senior role’ applications came in I could assume they were a mistake.

    When we got more I went back to HR to see what wording they’d put on the advert – got them to change a few bits (certain technologies were listed as a ‘beneficial’ instead of a ‘mandatory’) which reduced the problem.

    Didn’t stop it however, although I got a bit of clarity with an email that one applicant sent with their CV that stated they were trying to change into IT as a career as their current career had been so unbelievably bad at handling the pandemic and their stress levels demand a career change. I’m asking HR if there’s any way to put in the wording that this is NOT an entry level IT job – we need to see people who’ve managed servers for years.

    1. Non non*

      I see you have more faith than I do that most applicants actually read job ads. Typically, we’ll mention that we receive hundreds of applications per position, so experience with X, Y, Z, etc. is essential. I still end up fielding applications that read “I’m applying because I don’t have any experience and I hope this job will be a stepping stone to a job I really want in this field.”

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I can explain the gumption reasoning behind that sort of application! On a career change where I was looking for a junior position, more than one person told me to apply to senior positions at MajorLocalEmployer “because they promote from within and they’ll need a junior next.”
        (I happened to know someone in their HR department and, no, they don’t move applicants from one pile to another.)

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I think you get about 50-50 split. 50 Percent read the ad and try to tailor their stuff to the ad, 50 percent are just throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. But that’s just my prior experience from listening to managers spitball about resumes they are getting.

    2. Junior Assistant Peon*

      I’m interviewing candidates right now, and I successfully pushed back on my boss when he didn’t want to put the salary range in the ad. The result is a smaller applicant pool (the salary budget is lower than I’d prefer), but I now have several strong candidates who I know aren’t going to pull out at the last minute over a salary mismatch.

    3. SheLooksFamiliar*

      “When the first few ‘I have literally no experience in IT but am applying for a senior role’ applications came in I could assume they were a mistake.”

      Through the decades I’ve received so many applications like this, and it’s no mistake. People were possibly desperate but more likely following bad advice like, ‘Just apply to anything and get your resume into their system!’ and ‘Once you get your foot in the door, you can move into a better role.’ This wasn’t good advice when it was ‘good advice.’

      Even with clearly stated minimum qualifications, we got a whole bunch of poorly qualified applicants. Some were so terribly unqualified for the role I wanted to call just to ask, ‘Why were you even reading this particular job posting, let alone applying to it?’

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        Urgg that “get your foot in the door and you can move into another position” stuff is BS. Thats what I tried to do at a former job. The thing is they promoted the job as being one where you can advance, either in that department (Customer service) or elsewhere in the company. I was so excited because I knew in the past they had had positions in their editing and communications departments open, but I couldn’t ever get past the phone interview. When I got the Customer service job I tried to look into the other areas. I even waited the 1 year requirement but no, I was told I was not qualified to job shadow, or that “it wasn’t the right time as they are reorganizing their leadership” yet other people, who had only been their 6 months (and had the same education as i did) was able to move right in and do work both in CS and in editing.
        Sorry about the rant I am still bitter about that. But I now have a coworker who happened to work there at the same time ( i didn’t know him at the time since they were in the editing department) and it sounds like the problems were not just with the customer service department an that the editing department was just as toxic.

      2. Cappybanana*

        Tbh, employers will require a college degree for a job sweeping floors or 5 years of experience with programs that were invented last year. Or they want a writer who is also a designer but knows Java and can plan the office mixer each month. To get around this, people are advised to apply if that meet 2/3rds of the criteria. I think it’s unfair to ignore the role employers play in this. I’m a finalist for a role that supposedly requires a bunch of advanced coding skills but really they just want a PM who can talk to devs. If I hadn’t applied I would’ve assumed they wanted a developer who is also a writer/PM/tech support/contract manager (does that person even exist?).

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          First, I referred to literally decades of this kind of behavior – almost 4 and counting – and can tell you it’s a Real Thing.

          Second, I don’t disagree that employers can and should create better job requirements. But you’re going to have to believe me, or at least acknowledge I have a valid point. I worked in firms with great compensation, OD, and compliance teams, and we got audited by the OFCCP so our descriptions had to be crystal-clear. Whenever possible, our descriptions were peer reviewed – as in, ‘Yes, that’s what we do, these are the minimum quals, these are nice to have…’

          So believe me when I say that even a clear and concise job posting will get more chaff than wheat. People can apply to ANYTHING with a few clicks or taps, and they do. Maybe people are advised to do certain things, but I’d like to think job seekers are savvy enough to know when to ignore bad or outdated advice – especially when it’s not getting them anywhere in the first place!

          1. cappybara*

            I’m sure your processes are crystal clear–no need to explain–but your org isn’t the only one folks are applying to and I was not speaking for all candidates, just highlighting an issue that plagues job-seekers and might make them inclined to submit an application for a role where they don’t meet many of the requirements. I did not infer anything about your org’s compensation, compliance department, or your literal decades of experience, but then again I’m not as invested in those things as you are. Just responding to the “why were you even reading this?” comment, which seemed quite harsh considering that you recognize some people are desperate and are in a position of power over them.
            I’m not sure which point you want me to agree to since I thought what I responded to was a rant. That you’re frustrated? Sure. That people apply for jobs they aren’t qualified for? Sure. That job seekers should be more savvy? I don’t know, but after this year I can empathize with someone who needs a job. We can’t all be lucky enough to apply to firms with decades-in-the-making-first-in-class-peer-reviewed job postings.

          2. Ace in the Hole*

            Your organization has very clear, honest job descriptions… but the candidates have no way to know that, since so many employers do not have accurate job advertisements.

            I’ve been hired for jobs where I met none of the “mandatory” qualifications. I’ve been turned down for jobs where I should have been a perfect candidate, but they forgot to include a legally mandatory qualification in the advertisement. It’s genuinely all over the board, and applicants have no way to tell what your company is like since they don’t work for you yet!

  11. a developer*

    The scattershot approach to applications is widely taught and favored. Personally I usually research places I want to apply to before and make changes / highlights to my CV to make it easy for them to see why I think i’d be a good fit, e.g when applying for llama grooming positions i’ll include more of my llama grooming relevant experience where i’d leave some of that out of the CV for brevity when applying for teapot making.

    Historically speaking this has got me at least an interview nearly every time, and job offers most of the time. Then again I’m not writing 250+ applications every time I job search, but more like 5-10.

    1. ecnaseener*

      It sounds like you don’t take the scattershot approach at all. 5-10 is not a lot – you go for quality applications over quantity.

      1. anonymath*

        I believe “a developer” was contrasting their approach with the scattershot approach.

        I too go for quality over quantity and it’s worked very well for me, but I’ve always been lucky enough to be in a position to be selective and strategic.

    2. MassMatt*

      Applying for most jobs used to cost more time and a little money: You had to print your resume on fancy paper, type up cover letters (applying without one was Not Done) and pay to mail them. Now people can blast their resume and generic cover letter to hundreds of jobs for free in a day.

      It’s similar to spam email. Junk mail has always been a thing, but since it cost money to send, there was a limit to how much any one company could send. It costs next to nothing to send millions of emails, so our boxes are cluttered with appeals from various princes and diet pills etc.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I’ve also heard that some of those job boards will apply to things for you if they think they are similar enough.

        (This is totally unconfirmed though, please don’t quote me on it)

        1. MassMatt*

          It’s certainly possible, and many definitely recommend lots of jobs to you that are really not a fit, promoting the “scattergun” approach.

          1. Self Employed*

            I am so tired of getting recommendations to apply for jobs as “Director of Marketing” or “Sales” or “CEO” because I have a sole proprietorship. Yeah, I do my OWN marketing/sales/management but not well enough for someone else to pay me to do theirs. I work on my car, too, but trust me you do not want me to do more than check your oil or there’s a 50/50 chance I’ll break it.

    1. exhausted lady*

      Can we not do this every time? There’s nothing telling us the OP’s gender.

      1. Xavier Desmond*

        Agreed. It’s the one problem with commentors here and it undermines genuine issues of sexism. I’m not here to tell Allison what to do but part of me think she needs to ask people to stop assuming gender without evidence.

  12. Roeslein*

    LW #3 – the spaghetti at the wall approach is a complete mystery to me as well. The other day I saw an article in a major newspaper about someone who was saying they’d applied for *60* jobs and had not been invited to interview by any of them, and was wondering why. (They were not entry-level either.) Surely the results should make it obvious to them that this is not the right strategy? I think I applied to ~20 jobs in my broader field when leaving school, but since I became more specialised I could only ever find 4 or 5 jobs in the entire country at one time that truly match my skillset, goals and the type of company I am looking for – although typically 80%+ of the ones I do apply for actually interview me, and the remainder hire an internal candidate. My last job search literally involved applied only two jobs, because I was looking for a senior-level position in a specific field and city. I was a finalist for both. I think probably people are told that applying to many jobs is a good idea as a new grad (which is true) and then somehow never update their priors?

    1. Washi*

      I wonder if for a lot of people in the desperation of the job search, it feels too risky to apply to way fewer jobs, taking more time on the application materials. In my experience, a lot of people don’t really get the point of a cover letter and do it poorly, so even if they spent more time on it, it might not yield great results anyway. Like if the security guard mentioned wrote a cover letter that was 1 paragraph about her security experience and did not explain why she was applying to an admin position, it probably wouldn’t help things much.

      But even as a new grad, I didn’t take a totally scattershot approach because as a new grad, my resume was not that impressive so it felt actually more important to write good, tailored cover letters to try to catch someone’s attention!

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I have seen people say that getting an interview, or being hired, is essentially random and not at all related to how good a candidate you are. If you truly believe that, then the sensible approach is to send out as many applications as possible, because a small random number time a lot of applications is a higher chance of getting a job.

        If the chances of getting an interview depend on having a strong application and following the requested application procedure, however, the logical approach is to apply to jobs you are reasonably suited for, and tailor the applications.

        The tricky case is when you’ve got someone who genuinely isn’t a strong candidate for the jobs they’re applying for, compared to the rest of the applicant pool. From their perspective they can’t tell the difference between the scatter shot approach and the tailored approach, because neither is getting them results.

        1. Mairead*

          I’ve been job-hunting on and off for the last year and a bit. All I can say is that there seemed to be almost a reverse correlation between applications where I thought I’d be quite a good fit and those where I was just having a go (not quite flinging it at the wall, but close). I also made the most progress with the biggest companies, which really surprised me.

          The whole recruitment process is utterly broken, IMHO. Don’t get me started on the word-salad job descriptions, the mile-long lists of *required* experience, the ghosting after interviews…

          I wouldn’t have applied for the job I ended up getting, but they had my details from a previous application… I start on Monday, so wish me luck!

    2. Susan Calvin*

      I figure it might also be a misapplication of the whole “most ads describe the unrealistic ideal of a candidate, and an 80% fit is still perfectly hireable so you should also apply to ‘stretch’ positions”

      1. PT*

        We had a problem at one of my jobs where they had something like “Llama Groomer. A llama groomer will 1. groom llamas, 2.come to work on time and in uniform, 3.provide excellent customer service, 4.keep their certifications and trainings current, 5.follow all safety rules, and 6.follow all HR policies and procedures.”

        So they will see a job description with six things in it, and say “Oh I can do 5 of those 6 things, the only thing I can’t do is groom llamas. That’s 85%. I should apply.” But they won’t realize that #1 is mandatory and 2-8 are conditional on them meeting #1 first.

    3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      As a non-manager, the shotgun approach makes perfect sense to me; most job listings in my field (IT Development) are so overpuffed with exaggerated or outright fantastic requirements that closing in on 20 years in my field doesn’t qualify me to do *anything*. The only viable strategy is to apply to everything, and figure out which jobs I actually can do by seeing who I get past the gatekeeper/gatekeeping software and get a response from. You never know how much or little honesty is in any of the job descriptions, and taking them at face-value will self-select out of most roles irrespective of viability.

      I was asked by HR to review my own job description, a position I’ve been in for a decade, before posting it intending to recruit another programmer in my position to grow the team last year. Our Sr. Developer/Team Lead, with 25 years experience *in this exact role for this very company* wasn’t qualified to hire in as a Jr. Programmer, let alone myself.

      Mala fide begets mala fide.

      1. Susan Calvin*

        Lord preserve us from job postings written by HR

        Love ours, but they’re good at their own jobs, not in any way qualified to understand what virtually anyone else in this org actually does.

      2. Willis*

        But you’re still applying for jobs in IT, right? Even if you don’t have the level of experience or specific background they say they’re looking for because the job description is so poorly written, you’re probably still in the ballpark overall. I think what the OP is describing, and what I’ve experienced in hiring, is people applying with no apparent connection to the job at all. Like I’ll be hiring for a Teapot Trend Researcher and get resumes from people with retail, trucking, sales, etc. backgrounds with nothing in their resume or cover letter that connects any dots for me between that and the role we have or the industry overall. Those are relatively easy and not time consuming to weed out. Someone like you’re describing – a person who is in the field and has some relevant background – would get more consideration even if there ended up being stronger candidates.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          But you’re still applying for jobs in IT, right?

          Yes. That’s still where my skills and experience lie, and I’m just sane enough to only apply for jobs I have an expectation I’ll be able to perform (after a reasonable training/onboarding period) if hired.

        2. Salsa Verde*

          I’m sure this is common, and that the reasons posited here are valid. I wonder how much of this is also the fact that people assume that an “administrative” job is an easy one? I know the LW said specialized administrative, but if people just read the administrative part, they might be thinking a receptionist, secretary, file clerk, etc. Which we know are jobs that require certain skills, but I think they are not universally respected out in the world.

      3. MassMatt*

        This is making me think of the legendary job posting many years ago requiring 2+ years experience with a software program that had only been released in the past several months. So… you want the developer of this software to work doing your IT or billing or whatever?

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          That’s why I believe them when people post that they’re using exaggerated requirements to artificially reduce the number of applications that need to be reviewed. In that case, I believe the target number was Zero.

    4. EPLawyer*

      I will say this about the spaghetti approach, regardless of what I said above — if you owe child support and I am taking you to court over nonpayment, I WILL ask how many jobs you have applied for. Then I will do the math and break it down. Oh, you’ve been unemployed for 6 months and applied to 8 jobs, well that is less that 2 month, what else are you doing to find a job to support your kids?

      I have to do this because voluntary impoverishment is a thing with child support. I am also not talking about specialized skills. The level I work at it, these are not C-Suite folks in niche markets shall we say. They could find work. They just prefer to be unemployed and scrounging to pay their own bills rather than get a job and pay child support.

      Also, this if IF we get to court. If someone is trying and making a good faith effort to pay child support every month, I tell the client to plan accordingly in their own budgeting. Stuff happens and everyone has a rough time of it. The ones who try to minimize the effect on the kids, I try to work with. The ones who treat child support as a game — I come down on with a BIG HAMMER.

      1. Self Employed*

        I second your comments about voluntary impoverishment.

        My ex had a very dear friend whom I loathed for many reasons–and one of them was that he was deliberately underemployed and couchsurfing just so he didn’t have to pay child support. The idea of his ex cashing those checks infuriated him so much that he didn’t care it was hurting the kids he claimed to miss so badly. I have no idea why my ex was so loyal to high school buddies who grew up to be horrible misogynistic troglodytes.

    5. Threeve*

      I promise: depending on your field, 60 is in no way an absurd or shameful number of jobs to apply for without any luck, regardless of how much effort you put in or how much experience you have. Ditch the superiority.

      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        Applying to 60 jobs without getting an offer isn’t shameful or absurd, no (I probably approached that number in my last search). But applying to that many jobs without getting even one interview is a sign that something about the approach isn’t working.

        1. De Minimis*

          Yeah, during the Great Recession I was an entry level hire who had been terminated from their first job, living in one of the hardest hit areas that had a poor job market even in normal times, but I still managed to get at least one interview a month.

    6. L.H. Puttgrass*

      It’s probably also a factor of it being really easy to apply for jobs when you don’t tailor your cover letter and resume (or don’t use a cover letter at all). If you don’t get the job, so what? You only lost a few minutes of time at most, and that’s certainly worth the potential payoff, just in case.

      I think there’s also a kind of feedback loop and lottery logic going on. “You can’t win if you don’t play!” And if you’ve applied to 60 jobs and haven’t even gotten one interview, obviously you need to apply to more jobs, right? When the odds of winning are low, you just need to play more often. That’s just math!

    7. Spaghetti Approach*

      And yet….when I shared about a job search here a while ago with similar numbers, nearly all the responses were “keep going, it’s a numbers game, someday something will work out….” and that’s exactly what family and friends are saying too.
      I’m approaching a year into my job search now, and checking my spreadsheet, have applied to 98 jobs and had one interview. No offers. Customized resume and cover letter for each. I’m just in a field that a LOT of people want to move into right now. One company I *tried* to apply to posted – on the day the job listing went online and during the time I’d been customizing a cover letter/resume for them – that they’d had to close applications after getting 200+ in just under 4 hours. I assume they filled the role as it’s been about 8 weeks and they’re still not taking any applications. I’m hanging on to my customized files and checking in case they do.

    8. L.H. Puttgrass*

      The spaghetti approach can even be rational, at least as seen by an applicant.

      Suppose you think you think that any given application has only a 5% chance of getting you an interview, even if you spend a couple of hours customizing your resume and writing a cover letter just for that job. Or you can fire off an application in moments with your standard resume and either a boilerplate cover letter or no cover letter, but your odds are much worse—1% maybe? (People are really bad at estimating low probabilities, BTW). It’s not completely unreasonable for a job-hunter to think that sending out ten or 20 times as many applications with the boilerplate would more likely to lead to a job and will take less work. Heck, they might even be right.

      Now, that ignores some factors (like, for many of us, there are only so many jobs that we’re qualified for, so at some point there’s diminishing returns on applying to more jobs because we’ve already applied to the ones that could be the best fits). But it’s not irrational for someone to think, “Eh, might as well send in my resume. It might not help, but it couldn’t hurt, and I already have it ready!” The cost is so low (for the applicant, anyway), why not?

      I wonder if that’s part of why companies like ATSes: that as long as a whole bunch of companies don’t use the same ATS data, it makes it a little harder for people to apply.

    9. Testerbert*

      Regarding cover letters: some people are looking for a job, rather than a career with their dream organisation. They aren’t going to be terribly invested in any given posting. Writing a unique and personalised cover letter takes time, and what benefit does it provide? Whoever interviews you (assuming your CV passes muster) will ask you why are you looking to join the company, or any of the other details you could possibly include on such a letter, so finely crafting a letter serves no purpose.

      My personal experience is that as a software tester, I’m not terribly fussed about the wider organisation I work for, or what it actually *does*. Llama Grooming? Teapot Painting? No strong feelings either way, but if you want your new client webportal tested, I’m your chap. If you told me that I *had* to write a covering letter outlining all the reasons I think Llama Groomers R Us is a wonderful organisation and how I share the mission of the CEO (as researched by looking at the company website) to see Llamas groomed to ever higher standards, it would be dishonest at best and utterly disasterous at worst. No, if the job posting insists on a cover letter, they’ll get a short paragraph or two saying “You need a tester with X skills, I’m a tester with X skills, see my CV for all the details, let’s chat soon”. Even that feels superfluous, but it can be saved as a quick and easy template for future use.

      As for the shotgun approach for applications: you miss all the shots you don’t take. Also, the common advice on the internet amongst jobseekers is to apply even if you don’t meet all the ‘requirements’, because companies don’t expect to find someone who meets them all/they’ve overinflated the spec and will settle for someone who is willing to learn etc. This is often exactly the case, and isn’t helped by some listings having long lists of ‘must have’ requirements which are anything but required. Of course, this then crashes into those organisations where those ‘must have’ requirements *are* necessary.

  13. Zircon*

    I work in a profession where applicants must have a qualification which meets certain requirements, registration with a specific regulatory board, and often membership of a particular professional association. When recruiting, I would list these requirements as must haves. Then I would include them as yes / no boxes, noting beside each “No” that this would make them ineligible for the position and people would still apply, usually when working already. I rarely dealt with applications from people who were unemployed. It did make short listing easier!

  14. Batgirl*

    OP3 should try teaching! It’s really not uncommon for people to write without considering the audience at all.

    1. Schnapps*

      LOL. I am OP3 and this is more accurate than you’d know. I have a side gig that involves training teenagers for a Very Important Job Where You’re Responsible for the Safety of Others. I cannot tell you how many times I keep them an extra hour after the official training and offer job search tips and how to write a cover letter. :)

  15. Reality Check*

    #1 No advice, just sympathy. I’ve worked for many managers like this. I could do 10 things in one day, knock 9 out of the park, and do 1 thing not so well. The ONLY thing I’ll hear about is that 1 thing. If there are any managers reading this, know that this really wears people down after a while, and it makes me think you aren’t paying attention/don’t have a clue what I’m doing all day every day. That may or may not be true, but it comes across badly. Would it kill you to pay a compliment once in a while?

  16. Dennis Feinstein*

    LW1 I WAS that manager (one of the reasons I decided management wasn’t a good fit for me).
    Here’s the assumption I made: Everything your staff is doing is fine & they should just know that. I only need to say something if it’s NOT fine.
    So you end up only offering criticism, not praise.
    I made this assumption because that’s how I operated. I didn’t care about getting praise, just needed to know if something was wrong that I needed to fix.
    This might have something to do with my background as a subeditor. You’re looking for mistakes or anything you need to fix. If there are no mistakes, it’s all good.
    Of course, this approach doesn’t work as well with human beings, so please tell your boss that you’d appreciate positive feedback. :)

    1. Anonymous Hippo*

      That’s a tricky part of management, that not all people react the same. I’m the opposite, I give a ton of praise, because I like to receive it, it makes me feel good about myself. But I had a peer, who eventually became a report, that HATED praise. She’d get so made at our then mutual boss because she felt it was condescending to tell her she was doing a great job, because that was just her job to do, so of course she’d do it well. So you’d just have to watch and wait until you could tell she was particularly proud of an particular accomplishment, and jump in and support that one.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I think I’ve figured out that what I don’t like is praise that clearly doesn’t understand which part was hard. So if I spent 18 hours combing a knot out of a llama’s fur and then 3 seconds tying a cute little bow into it, and I get gushing praise about how amazing the bow is, I feel like my actual work is not being seen at all.

    2. Gumby*

      I can actually live with that kind of regime. I assume if no one says anything I am doing okay. I find it kind of weird to get lots of praise. Not necessarily unwelcome (though occasionally eye-rolly for things like “good job answering that email”), just weird.

      I blame it on a background in gymnastics. You can do the best routine of your life and your coach will say “Great job. You need to point your toes here and you had a slight leg separation there and we’ll work on skill X more to get your amplitude up.” (The commentators on TV are waaayyy less critical than coaches, judges, or the gymnasts themselves.) As long as the criticism is not meanly phrased, I am actually okay with it. But I can understand why many other people wouldn’t be.

  17. Thunderstorm*

    #3- I do a lot of hiring in my field, and we focus our advertising in discipline-specific venues. But at the end of the day, only about 20% of the applications are viable. We’re a small field so I see people I know submitting subpar materials. In the lasy round, after the search was done, I offered to sit down with an acquaintance and give feedback. They quickly accepted but I could see in their eyes during the conversation that they thought my suggestions (don’t have a 3 page cover letter, don’t include your high school honors when you are over 35, etc) were more strange ideas from me than good advice! After all, they’d gotten their current job with similar materials…

  18. Bookworm*

    #3: Yes. I’ve been guilty of this and I am seeing what it’s like for a poor colleague who has hundreds of applications to sift through (I didn’t think the job post would have garnered that much interest but maybe people are really throwing their shots?). It’s not you.

    And from what I understand, this in general is not uncommon. Over the years I’ve had a few interviewers say this to me–that they had hundreds of applications and had to turn off the application portal, that they were so sorry it took so long but they had so many resumes to sift through, etc. I’m not sure about the quality in those cases but it wouldn’t surprise me if they had more than a few bad apples.

    Good luck!

    1. College Career Counselor*

      Last position I hired for garnered ~40 applications. Of those, roughly 30% were completely unqualified as to background experience (other than having at least a bachelor’s degree) and probably following the spaghetti-on-the-wall approach. Think, “I’m a supervising attorney with 20 years of experience in litigation, so of course I can do this job.” (Maybe so, but you gotta tell me WHY you want it and WHAT your transferrable skills are.)

      Another 30% completely mis-read the application requirements and referenced their mis-reading of the application requirements in their cover letter. Another 40% were qualified by background, training, educational experience, etc., but about half of those applications were badly done (mistakes, lack of attention to detail, grammar issues, poor formatting, etc.).

      So I completely agree that doing a decent job on your tailored application puts you head and shoulders above most of the applicant pool.

      1. Will be looking soon*

        This is going to sound strange, maybe, but as someone who has been very casually viewing potential job postings in preparation for graduation in December, one of my takeaways is to not let the sites that show the current number of applications for that job posting discourage me from applying. I had been thinking that if there were already 250 applicants, then I should just move along and not bother applying to that job because surely they have already found plenty of well-qualified applicants and had maybe even already interviewed and made a decision.

  19. hamsterpants*

    #1 misses the forest (overall good work) for the trees (logistical niggles). By picking at little details, she sends the wrong message about what the most important part of your job is. You might try approaching from this angle: if you think that A, B, and C big objectives were met but she picks at detail D, ask her “I was acting under the belief that A, B, and C were most important. Do I hear you that D was actually the primary focus of this event?”

    1. ecnaseener*

      I think this may come off wrong – it sounds like an argument that you shouldn’t be critiqued for anything other than the main objectives. Even a reasonable manager would probably be annoyed – “I know you know detail D isn’t the primary focus of the event, but detail D is the thing that needs correction.”

      I do think you can say something more like “Agreed that detail D could have been improved, and I’ll do X next time. But as for the bigger picture, do you think we achieved our goals for A, B, and C?”

      1. Jyn’Leeviyah the Red*

        I like that approach, and it’s one I have used, myself. The gentle, but not-insubordinate, check-in of, “But I don’t totally suck *overall,* right?”

        As a side note, when my daughter was in preschool she was having a really difficult few weeks. Her teacher reported the bad things that had happened as a list every afternoon at pickup. It got to the point where I had to brace myself to hear about my demon child. One day, I was near tears at the thought and steeled myself to enter the classroom. I made eye contact, smiled, and said, “Okay, I’m ready to hear all the horrible things that Hortense did today!” The teacher was speechless. She actually said, “Oh! What gave you the impression that she’s acting horribly? She has a tough time settling down at nap, but other than that, she’s doing great!”


  20. Slinky*

    #5, I’ve gotten this feedback before, too. Specifically, my resume was criticized for “shifting verb tenses” between past and present tense. I explained to the reviewer that past jobs were all in past tense, current jobs were in present, and he looked briefly confused before moving on. As a person who hires now, verb tense is something I pay no attention to. I probably wouldn’t unless they did something truly odd, like include a listing in future tense for the job they’re applying for (“will dramatically increase sales in 2021/2022!”). I’d suggest following Alison’s advice on this and then not worrying about it too much.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      The moral of the story is that you just can’t win when it comes to grammatical nigglers, as there is no universal standard of niggling. Had you taken a different approach, someone would have thought less of you for that. The only general rule I follow it to aim for the lowest common denominator. My resume was once criticized for using “effect” as a verb. I pointed out that there is in fact a verb use of “effect” and I was using it correctly. The response was to change it anyway, since I could not assume this level of literacy in the people reviewing my resume. I was offended (aesthetically, not personally) at the time, but upon reflection realized that the advice was sound.

  21. mskyle*

    OP#1, could you yourself start being more effusive with praise for your coworkers (and your boss, when warranted)? It won’t change things right away but even just one person one a team can sometimes start bending team culture in a different way. And for me at least giving good feedback feels almost as good as getting it.

  22. twocents*

    #3: Hugely common. There’s a really popular job title at my company that, if you post for it, you’re basically guaranteed to get flooded with 90% unrelated crap.

    My manager is trying to hire for two roles. One of them requires you have knowledge in a very specific technical thing (think “must be highly proficient in Excel” but WAY more niche) and he’s gotten exactly two resumes that even reference it but there are serious red flags.

    The other requires you be on site. Not his requirement but company that requires you be willing to go in at least sometimes. And I’ve already heard from people that “well, I’m sure they’ll make a remote exception for me.” Super niche technical skill person can probably require that; general backfill that’s already got a ton of resumes… not so much.

    1. Slinky*

      A few years ago, I hired a department head position that included managing a department of 30 people with seven direct report and overseeing millions of dollars in endowment money. Some of our applicants were interns with no other work experience. One even said this role would help them with their ultimate goal of working a much lower-level position. It’s annoying to spend time on this when you’re already busy, but there really is no way around it.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I wonder if some job seekers just don’t get the concept of ‘No.’ As in, no, we can’t adjust our hiring and work process for you. Or no, we can’t teach you this subject matter on the job, you need to be an expert already. Or no, we can’t ignore a lack of degree or certification in the subject when it’s a minimum qualification for everyone in the department.

      I’m not making a sweeping statement about overly permissive parenting, or the converse effect of overly rigid and strict rule-following parenting. But I’ve interviewed and interacted with multiple metric tons of candidates, and I’ve had to deal with their stunned reaction to, ‘We aren’t going to move forward with your candidacy.’ It never occured to them the answer would be ‘no.’

  23. Been There, Left, Never Looked Back*

    LW1 – I was in the same situation, except that my boss never gave me any positive feedback. After 2 years I knew I had to leave as it was destroying my self-confidence and I was questioning my ability to do the job, so I started looking for a new opportunity. Then she absolutely shocked me by giving me the highest rating possible on my last review. We never even had the chance to discuss it since I ended up leaving before we could have the discussion. It would have been great to understand why she rated me so highly but it was too late, I knew that her day-to-day behaviour would never change and that I had to go. My new boss gives me positive feedback every week during our one on ones and it’s making a world of difference in how I perceive my results. I wouldn’t stick around too long if your boss doesn’t show immediate signs of change; the potential impact on how you see yourself is just too great.

  24. uncivil servant*

    I’m not terribly surprised by a lot of unqualified candidates applying for a municipal job, especially if it’s a place where government jobs are perceived as more stable or better-paying, or, let’s face it, “easy because you get paid for doing nothing”. (I work for a government organization and I definitely get this vibe from some people who ask how I landed such a sweet gig and how can they do it.) Especially when you add a work like “administrative” which sadly a lot of people may interpret as admin assistant, hence requiring no specific skills.

    1. Snark No More!*

      I attempt to dispel this particular myth (that an admin assistant does not require specific skills). Yes, many recent graduates or younger folks can get their foot in the door with an admin position, but that does not mean they would be an effective admin assistant. Signed: career admin assistant

      1. LongArmofCorporateBureaucracy*

        That myth always surprises me a bit. Anytime I look at an admin position the first thing that comes to mind is “I’d be terrible at this”. Good admins are pretty much miracle workers as far as I’m concerned.

  25. Dr. Rebecca*

    I’m going to take a slightly different tack on Letter 3. LW3, I’m not discounting that a lot of people are playing the numbers game, scattershotting their resumes, or applying to be eligible for continued unemployment benefits, but I strongly urge you to look not at the *type* of experience, but what that experience might qualify them to do.

    You’re hiring for semi-specialized administrative work. Wouldn’t a background in car sales, where the person has to be proactively persuasive but with a soft enough touch to not scare people off, be beneficial? Or security–a background in handling confidential information efficiently and discretely?

    To put it a different, and more aggrieved, way: are people never allowed to switch careers now? How much of the job you’re hiring for can (and *should*) be trained for, and how much do they need to have 100% down pat when they apply?

    If they’re thinking outside the box(es), maybe you should as well.

    1. Junior Assistant Peon*

      I’m hiring right now for a low-level lab job where transferable experience is OK, and I’m super-happy with my strong field of nontraditional candidates who would have gotten thrown out of any big company’s ATS software. There were several people who looked weak on paper, but I found them to be strong candidates after a phone screening. I have no sympathy for companies crying about the current job market – the only reason they’re getting no candidates is because they’re still using the strategies that worked when they got a 3-inch-thick pile of resumes and had to eliminate people quickly to get a manageable number of interviewees.

    2. Susan Calvin*

      As someone who frequently (in a job searching context) has to explain how I got from *that* BA major to *this* MSc one (and what either of them has to do with the job I’m trying to get), I sympathize with this, believe me I do – I’ve also very patiently explained to our internal recruiter that if he’s going to pre-screen by keywords, he needs to add at least two dozen more to his positives list because yes, we would *love* to train on the job.

      But please never underestimate how many people either don’t give a shit or are really, disastrously bad at conveying their interest. I’m about to interview a candidate who, on paper, had some impressive credentials but no discernible applicable experience. Did a phone screen with her anyways because of low overall application volume, and voila, she can produce a perfectly plausible line of argument for why she wants to switch. If she’d simply written a one-paragraph cover letter including this reasoning, she would’ve been much nearer the top of the list.

      Who knows, maybe the (late twenties, I should add) guy with the much less impressive credentials, who decided including his college motivation essay instead of a cover letter would strengthen his candidacy, could’ve also won me over on the phone, but we will never know.

      1. DrunkAtAWedding*

        I started in genetics then moved to archaeology. Now I want to be a data analyst for a big government agency (and the social good) or a forensic accountant when I grow up. Those things seem unconnected, but to me, they’re all “Why are people like that? Let’s get a big spreadsheet and play with the numbers and see what comes up”. Both my undergrad and MSc dissertations are of that kind (‘bioinformatics’) so even though I’d probably end up looking at bank accounts rather than dietary isotopes or alleles, the activity is still the same.

        To be fair, I would like to be a detective for the long-dead, e.g., looking at remains from WW2 to find out who they were so we can return them to their family, but we don’t do that in the UK. It’s a big thing in the US due to the “no man left behind” policy, and the policy of burying fallen soldiers at the site and returning for them later. That latter policy was changed in 1950 (after the Koreans took back a patch of land on which US combatants were buried) but that still leaves approximately 72,000 men ‘lost’ from WW2 alone. The dream is to find them, identify them, and return them all to US soil. In the UK, we don’t attempt to bring fallen soldiers home. Instead, we think of it as there being “a corner of a foreign field that is forever England” Many of our WW2 soldiers buried in Belgium and France. There is a small (very small – 6 women) governmental department which deals with any British remains that are found when, e.g., a French person digs into their foundations and accidentally finds someone, but we don’t have proper searches like the US sometimes does. And that department doesn’t hire until one of those women retires, and maybe not even then.

        The Red Cross DOES do something like that for more recent conflicts, but I don’t think my heart could take it. If someone knows their great-grandfather went missing in 1941, they don’t expect him to come home alive. If someone’s brother was disappeared by the government 5 years ago, they might still be hoping. I don’t think I could tell that person we found their brother in a mass grave.

        1. Pocket Mouse*

          Wow. This is eerily like my path! I thought I’d go into the hard sciences, was an archaeologist, now working with data at a public health agency, and would love to volunteer with something like Innocence Project in retirement.

          For me, it’s connected by ‘let’s use data to bring our understanding closer to the truth, and leverage that understanding to empower people and improve their wellbeing.’ Transferable goals as well as transferable skills!

        2. The Hon. Catherine Bingley*

          I have a BS in History, but work in contract administration. When interviewing for a job several years ago, the interviewer asked something along the lines of “how does your educational background mean anything to your work” and I got to explain to him that all the researching, reading, and writing I did for my degree taught me how to find relevant information, digest relevant information, and then communicate that information which is about 80% of contract administration. I got the job.

          (Never mind that my previous job had been in contract administration already!)

    3. Washi*

      The thing is, it would really behoove these candidates to connect those dots for the hiring manager. If you’re changing careers, it’s especially important to do anything you can to tailor your resume and show in your cover letter why you would be good at that job, and I’m guessing if the car salespeople had done that OP would have more than 1-2 applicants who seem to have read the job description.

      I mean, if pickings are that slim (12 applications seems super low to me) then maybe she’ll interview the salesperson or the security person, but if they haven’t really made a case for themselves, I can’t blame her for not being too enthusiastic, and in my experience when “thinking outside the box” and taking a chance to interview someone with a lackluster application, they’ve never seemed particularly interested in the job in person either!

      1. DrunkAtAWedding*

        This weirdly reminds me of online dating. Back when sites let you write long messages to people who hadn’t previously approved you, I’d generally reject any message which seemed like they hadn’t bothered to read my profile. Normally, you could tell because people would say “you like X? I love X!”, or make some other connection (though, the guy who said, “oh you play the guitar? I could teach you!” was also rejected, but for a different reason). So I guess it’s similar. You only want to consider people who actually like YOU, not those who are just trying their luck with a stock message. You already put out your details, you don’t want to waste your time figuring out you have nothing in common. That’s why you wrote your profile in the first place, so people could self-select out and not waste everyone’s time.

    4. Skippy*

      Absolutely. I’ve been on both sides of the hiring process, and it drives me crazy how some managers refuse to consider anyone who hasn’t done the exact same job already, even when the number of applications is quite low. They’d rather leave the position vacant than interview someone who clearly has transferable skills and could do the job with training. Peter Cappelli talked about this in detail almost a decade ago in his book Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs.

      That said, it does really help if candidates include a cover letter outlining those skills and explaining why they want to change careers. It won’t make a difference for some hiring managers, but others may be willing to give them a chance.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        This is very much a thing in law. Firms want a new hire who can come in Monday morning, sit down at their desk, and start cranking out the billable hours. They might have to spend an hour that morning figuring out the case management software this firm uses, which is ever so slightly different from the one their last job used? Toss that resume in the trash!

      2. JustaTech*

        I guess the good thing about my job is that literally no one else in the world does *exactly* what we do, so unless you’ve worked for us already (and I have a private list of “never, ever, ever re-hire”), I know I’m going to have to spend a couple of months training you. Which is totally cool!
        What I need is someone who is both comfortable with the rigid structure we have to work within (highly regulated industry) *and* can be creative around those structures.
        I can teach lab skills, what I need is someone who knows how to think in a development way.

      3. Emma Dilemma*

        The ridiculous thing is there’s actual research showing that prior experience doesn’t translate to future performance!

    5. ecnaseener*

      Going to agree with Susan here and say that’s what the cover letter is for. If the car salesman explains how sales experience will translate to this job, great, consider that. (It may or may not be enough!) But if not, it can’t be on the hiring manager to make it up from thin air.

      1. ecnaseener*

        (Lol I didn’t refresh the page before writing that – going to agree with Susan and several others who commented before me!)

    6. Caboose*

      I agree to a point, but I think the absence of a cover letter makes this seem less likely. If you’re trying to make an argument for being allowed to switch careers, a cover letter is exactly the place to do that!

    7. Schnapps*

      I submitted question 3. And I can totally appreciate where you’re coming from. Yes the skills acquired in sales and security are important (and useful in a nearly first-line public facing situation)

      The resumes I’m talking about list car sales. Literally, car sales. Or security work. They don’t tell me how this experience will help them with the job as presented.

      Also when you’re including boilerplate language in your cover letter like “Please accept this letter as an expression of my keen interest in this position. I am enthusiastic about what the role entails and feel I would complement the position well”… and then go on about your financial background without addressing the actual requirements of the job, then I’m not likely to interview you.

  26. Jack Straw*

    RE LW3 – My extremely niche (think llama grooming, but the org that trims hooves? nails? on the back left foot only on Tuesdays in February) nonprofit was hiring for our first ED last month. We received applications from all KINDS of unqualified folks. Like, people who didn’t even know what a llama was, nevertheless the back leg Tuesdays in February thing. It was frustrating and comical all at the same time.

    1. Katie*

      Did you educate them as to what llamas are, Monty Python style? (“Llamas are larger than frogs.”)

  27. Salad Daisy*

    #2 In order to collect unemployment you have to do a minimum number of “job searches” per week and provide printed proof that you did them – copy of ad and confirmation from employer or job site that you actually applied. So if there are not enough jobs that you are actually qualified for, you apply for some that you are maybe somewhat qualified for but not really, just to keep your numbers up.

    1. DrunkAtAWedding*

      Is that in the US? I know it is in the UK (and just posted that below) and I assume it’s the same in the US but I didn’t actually for sure.

      1. OyHiOh*

        Yes, the US unemployment programs require minimum number of jobs applied for per week. The quotas are fairly low -about 5 a week the last time I looked – but you need to demonstrate you’re doing applications by logging time spent on apps, and showing job descriptions and/or confirmation emails. The logging time thing helps reduce the spaghetti effect though because you get nearly as much credit for taking an hour to apply well for one job as you would for flinging out 5 “anything goes” apps in the same time.

  28. DrunkAtAWedding*

    For Letter Writer 3, I know that jobseekers in the UK are encouraged to apply for anything and everything. If you claim universal credit it’s part of the agreement you sign, that you’ll apply to something like a minimum of one thing a day. After a few weeks, you basically have to start just applying randomly.

    Universal credit was previously jobseekers allowance. It’s basically, money from taxes if you’re not currently earning your own. I originally wrote “the government” instead of “taxes” then erased it because let’s not pretend members of parliament are providing that money from their own pockets. The UK has had ‘hating the working class’ enshrined in law since right after the Black Plague, when peasants were not allowed to request wages above pre-plague level and were not allowed to move around to areas with more demand, despite the population being severely reduced. Since then, the laws have evolved but they’re basically still aimed at keeping a certain portion of the population poor and working while ALSO claiming that we deserve it and we could be earning more if we just worked harder, and how dare we ask for “government handouts” (again, taxes) if we’re hungry? The lazy “benefit fraudster” is a common newspaper stereotype, despite benefit fraud costing only a fraction of what’s lost to tax evasion or the prime minister paying off his friends. So no. We’re not doing that. ‘Taking care of members of our society who are currently down on the luck” is a legitimate left-wing position. Believing that taking care of society as a whole is the right thing to do (vs every man for himself) is what it MEANS to be left wing. Claiming those benefits is not “asking for handouts”. It’s not “begging”. It’s a decision we’ve made as a society, the right-wing lost that vote, sucks to be them, stop trying to insult or guilt people who need the thing that’s being offered.

    Sorry for the class warrior rant, I’m just very angry about this issue.

      1. DrunkAtAWedding*

        I don’t like to make definitive statements about a country I don’t live in, but the issue goes back so far that I did assume you probably inherited it.

  29. le teacher*

    LW3 – I am a high school history teacher. A lot of people think they can just teach history if they have a passing interest in history. As a result, every time we hire, my department head talks about how she has to wade through hundreds of applications just to find maybe three decent ones.

    1. DrunkAtAWedding*

      Glee taught me that this is DEFINITELY how teaching history works. Are you saying Glee is not a factual description of life in the 2010s US? :o

      1. Paige*

        As a former teacher, I finally had to stop watching Glee after a certain point because the way they handled absolutely everything teaching-related made me so angry. And I’m the kind of person who usually has no problem suspending belief/reality to watch fun TV.

        1. DrunkAtAWedding*

          I think my favourite quote about Glee is that it handled every issue imaginable, and did absolutely none of them well.

    2. Pippa K*

      Solidarity! I’m a political science professor, and every time we hire for a tenure track job we get a few applications from people with no qualifications whatsoever. My personal fav was the person who wrote that they were a member of the religion associated with the university’s founding, and really into politics, so they’d be the ideal person to teach undergrads. It’s not a big problem – maybe the “PhD required” language deters completely random scattershot applications – but I’m always curious about the thought process that led someone to assume they could be a professor in a field in which they have no training. (The bigger problem in our signal-to-noise ratio is people with PhDs who don’t work on the particular subject for which we’re hiring, but that’s a result of the terrible academic job market and lack of available jobs.)

  30. Delta Delta*

    #1 – This is demoralizing, and nobody should have to feel like they need to go to their supervisor and say, “for heaven’s sake, just say something nice about me.” But, maybe that’s the way it has to be stated so the manager actually understands what’s going on.

    The manager’s perspective may be (using the event as an example) that because they were able to rehome 18 of 22 llamas and brought in 7 new donors, that you already know that’s awesome. But on the other hand, parking was crowded and the kids’ entertainer went to the alpaca event across town because the directions were unclear. So to her, it makes sense to focus on areas to improve because let’s be real, nobody’s rehoming 22 llamas in a weekend and that’s an unachievable goal. And the way it comes across is not “overall this was great and let’s fix things for next time” it’s “you did x and y wrong” with no mention of success. Deflating.

    1. DrunkAtAWedding*

      My second worst manager was one of those “focus on the negative” ones. :( He’d come from a sales background, and I got the impression he was challenging us. Like when he said “you’re the worst at X” he expected the reply to be “F you, I’m going to be the BEST at X, you wait and see”. Instead of becoming very sad and mopey, which was my actual response.

      My worst manager was when I worked at McDonalds as a teenager. He was friends with the store manager and other managers, and I’m pretty sure that’s the only reason he got the promotion. He used to follow people around and tell them they were doing their jobs wrong. He wasn’t even right about how to do their jobs, he just did it as a power move, to be a bully. So many staff either quit outright (including me) or asked to be moved to one of the other stores in the franchise, and yet he still kept his job. The rest of the managers weren’t that bad, but having him around made them a lot more cliquey and brought out the worst bullying traits in at least one of them.

      1. Delta Delta*

        Ah yes, coffee is for closers and third place is you’re fired. Proven not to be an actually effective way to get things done.

    2. JM in England*

      This is a lesson I learned quite early on in my career: get it right and it’s invisible, get it wrong and you’ll soon know about it! *sigh*

      1. College Career Counselor*

        And this is why I hate planning events. If all goes well, it was supposed to. Something bad happens, and it’s on you. FSM forbid the caterer shows up late with moldy strawberries for the graduation brunch, and it’s my fault. Actually, in that case I’d gone with a different (read: cheaper) caterer because the finance manager was annoyed with me the previous year for spending too much money. Never did that again, and told the finance manager I was okay with a $2k bill for catered brunch (this was a long time ago, I’m guessing it’s way more now) and I wasn’t having the Dean pick through fuzzy fruit again at MY event.

  31. LQ*

    #1 As someone who isn’t a big fan of getting a lot of positive feedback and who isn’t great at giving it to folks (about half my team gets visibly uncomfortable at the sign of any praise) a little perspective.

    There’s rarely anything to be learned from things going well because most of the time you’ve already learned those lessons. If something went well and everyone can see it then what’s the point of talking about it? Making me uncomfortable? I want to talk about the next thing. Which is the interesting thing and the thing that you can learn and grow from and are ready to move onto. I don’t actually think that people who don’t constantly praise things are worse (or better), I think it’s just a very different mindset to be in.

    That’s not to say that you should stay. If it’s not working for you and you’ve identified that, that’s excellent and you can and should find someplace that works better for you. But in the meanwhile, if you can look at your boss’s attitude and see if generally do they seem to take an attitude of if I don’t say anything you did well that may help you come out of this less injured. Good luck looking for something new.

    1. ecnaseener*

      “If something went well and everyone can see it” <<< The thing is, it needs to be apparent that everyone can see it. And if the manager doesn't acknowledge it, then it's not apparent that they noticed. So the employee is left wondering if the manager actually thinks it went well vs just okay.

    2. Reality Check*

      “There’s rarely anything to be learned from things going well bc most of the time you’ve already learned those lessons.” Not necessarily.

      A manager could say something like “Great job with the TPS reports! Makes my job much easier because (reasons).” I might not have known that without their telling me. And now I know that TPS reports are important to the manager.

      Without that compliment, I might think it’s not that important/they didn’t notice/they don’t care. Compliments, in this regard, also become a way of providing clear direction to the employee.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        And really “Great job with the TPS reports!” doesn’t say much if there wasn’t a conversation about them beforehand. It’s the “Makes my job much easier because” that is actionable for the employee.

        –“Makes my job easier because you got them done a day early and I have extra time to review them.”
        –“Makes my job easier because the covers are all color coded and I know the Johnson accounts are the red ones.”
        –“Makes my job easier because they’re in alphabetical/numerical/chronological order.”

        I’ve always believed that good feedback is both immediate (as possible, within reason) and specific (providing something actionable for the employee; i.e., “keep doing it like this”).

      2. James*

        Reminds me of one of the guys I work with. Most of us are “Focus on areas we need to improve” types. This guy, in contrast, always has something positive to say in our morning meetings. He always picks something good the team did yesterday to talk about. And he does what you describe–he explains what impact that good thing has on the project, and how doing things well makes everyone’s life easier.

        On the plus side, he can convince people to do things that the rest of us can’t. Folks are less willing to butt heads with him. On the minus side, folks occasionally think he’s a pushover. They’re wrong, and a few have been quite shocked at how wrong they were, but it’s still a problem he’s had to deal with a few times.

        It’s the whole role power vs relationship power thing. He builds relationships, whereas I tend to get absorbed into the role. Neither is wrong, and neither of us do it 100% (which would be horrible); it’s a question of emphasis.

      3. Tau*

        Yep! The “good job with X!” can help a lot to contextualize and prioritize. Like – if I do a task for you that consists of parts A and B and the feedback is that you tell me all about how I could have improved things in B and you don’t say a word about A… it’s not at all unlikely that my take-away is going to be “B is the most important part of this and the next time I should focus much more on it and spend less time on A.” If what actually happened is that A is more important than B but you didn’t say anything because I did a fine job on it, chances are you are not going to be happy the next time I work on this. Or how Alison’s linked post had a bunch of posts from people who got nothing but criticism from their managers and then ended up quitting since they figured they weren’t a good fit for the role, only for the manager to go Shocked Pikachu Face because how could they possibly think they were on the verge of being fired, didn’t they know that the manager would be lost without them?

        It’s not just about learning on individual tasks, it’s also about developing a broad picture of your duties and role, what the goals are and how to prioritise, and your own individual strengths and weaknesses in that picture. In that regard, a manager can seriously sabotage people if they never give positive feedback.

  32. Workfromhome*

    #1 I agree this manger is unlikely to change long term even with repeated conversations. If this is a long term deal breaker then you need to find another job.
    Now if you want to make things better while you look for another job or want to just find a way to cope because there are other reasons to stay then you can create your own positive reinforcement.
    This involves the LW taking the lead and imitative on these meetings and reviews. Instead of booking a meeting with the boss to “get their feedback on the event” which you know will focus on negative book a meeting for you to present YOUR recap of the event. If you set the agenda you are able to say “I felt the meeting was an overwhelming success. Here are 5 positive feedback emails we got, here are 2 things I think we could improve and here are 5 things that we need to keep doing because they were so successful. Even if the boss chooses to totally ignore 90% and focus on the negative the meeting will still be you talking about positive 80% of the time. At least you will feel as though all the positives were never spoken of even if its you who speaks to them

  33. Sometimes supervisor*

    LW#1 – One thing which might be worth considering is how fast-paced your industry is. I work in a fast-paced industry and I think I could be accused of ‘focusing too much on the negative’. That’s because a lot of the feedback I give is transactional for want of a better word – it’s things I want to see on the next piece of work somebody does. So think ‘I’ve reordered your teapots from large to small – please would you remember to do that from now on’ or ‘I really like what you’ve done with the marbling on this teapot’s glaze -could you do something like that on the chocolate teapots account?’ rather than ‘Your teapot polishing is really strong but your teapot organisational skills need work’. (I will also add to this that I’m a supervisor not a manager so the latter conversation is, in many cases, not mine to have – not clear if that’s also the case for LW!)

    Hopefully the commentators will alert me to the errors of my ways if I’m wrong – but by their nature, I find these tend to be more slanted towards the negative. So, ‘this deadline has been missed’ or ‘this report has a lot of spelling mistakes in it – please would you ensure you’re proofreading your work before passing it to me’ seems normal feedback to give. ‘You’ve met your deadline’ or ‘this report has just one or two typos in it’ seems like pointing out the baseline (although I will say thank you when somebody submits something I’ve requested, make an effort to point out where something has gone really well and pass on that ‘Jane always submits her work on time – I’m really impressed by her time management’ to her line manager when I’m asked for my feedback – I may also say ‘thank you for sticking to the deadline’ if somebody has previously struggled with time management and is now clearly making an effort to work on that).

    With that in mind, I think Alison’s advice about asking for a performance review or a big picture conversation is important. You might find your supervisor is more forthcoming with positive feedback in that.

    That being said – and I hate to point this out – Alison’s caveat about the advice assuming all is going well also holds true. The one person who has told me ‘all I ever do is criticise their work’ was somebody who was performing consistently below expectation. I did also give them positive comments when they did something well or were making improvements, but I’m afraid the negatives did heavily outweigh the positives. (Their line manager was also well-known for sugar coating feedback so I think I comparatively looked very critical, even though conversations with I had with their line manager revealed they also felt the person in question was underperforming!).

    1. James*

      I’ve worked with managers like you a lot, and I prefer them to the bubbly “Let’s focus on the positive” type. I know my flaws as well as anyone (the spelling thing, for example–spellcheck gives up on me), and it seems fake to gush praise at me. The other thing is, the stuff I do right is taken care of; it’s good, no need to focus on it. The stuff I’m doing wrong is the threat to my job, to the client, and to the company; that’s what we should be focused on. Makes me good at leading crews on jobsites. I’m always looking for the next problem, and usually by the time my crews have to deal with the problem I’ve resolved it and they never notice that there was anything TO solve.

      I’ll grant that I’m a strange person in this regard. I’m not unique, though. Some people fit this sort of managerial style, some do not. The important thing is to know which you fit with, and to find a company or work group that fits your style.

    2. D3*

      Ridiculous. If the industry is so faced paced that all you have time for is negative, that is NOT an industry worth working in. You’re pushing people to work too fast if you don’t have time to be balanced in your feedback.

      1. James*

        I disagree. Some industries are worth working in despite being too fast-paced to allow positive feedback. Emergency environmental clean up, for example. It’s very rewarding work–you know at the end of the day that you’ve done something good for the planet and the community, that your efforts are literally keeping people alive even though they don’t know it. But the “emergency” part means that things are always hectic, always dangerous, and always stressful. And again, it’s not necessarily that there’s no time, it’s just that positive behaviors tend to take care of themselves, so you devote your resources to where they can make the biggest impact.

        Some people like that sort of environment. Some people don’t. Neither group is wrong; it’s all about finding your niche.

        1. D3*

          Even in that field, there is ALWAYS time to say “You did good work today” or “You caught that secondary leak and responded quickly and that saved a lot of damage.”
          My BIL is a firefighter, and I just asked him. Even when fighting a fire, they say things like “good call, man” and “thanks for the heads up” in the moment – He said “Every second counts. You have to work as a team and cooperate as a team and so they act like a team, so you act like a team. Telling people what they’re doing right improves efficiency, too!”
          He said they usually also do an informal “what went right/what went wrong” as they mop up and put gear away.
          It’s only an artificial “Gotta work to fast to be efficient” that thinks there’s no time for positive feedback.

          1. James*

            Different teams are built in different ways. In my experience environmental remediation tends to attract the “Tell me what I need to fix then get out of my way” types, or at least that’s the type that sticks around. Not that we aren’t friendly–we’ll talk for four hours if you’ll let us bill for it!–just that the folks I’ve worked with in my career aren’t the type to need or want to hear praise. Our mentality is to fix problems. And when things get hectic (by which I mean, lives are on the line) we revert to type. If I’m doing good let me do it and stop bothering me.

            I just got out of a meeting (and am eating lunch) that was two hours of “How are we going to fix this?” At the end my bosses said we were doing good work, which was nice, I guess. What really hit home, though, was when I pointed out some potential issues with something they were proposing and it changed their plans for the work. That shows that I actually matter, that they take me seriously. Words are cheap; making a major decision based on my opinion is not. That’s objective proof that they actually value my opinion.

            Again, different people operate differently. It’s all about figuring out your team’s motivational type, and acting accordingly.

            And, to be fair, my wife agrees with you. :) Turns out “Find problems and fix them” is not a great way to handle married life.

      2. Sometimes supervisor*

        I didn’t say negative, though – I said transactional. In my book, that includes things like “Good spot on that mistake – that would have been embarrassing if it went out to the client” or “Nice job calming the angry client down!”. But it is, admittedly, more likely to be skewed negatively – or at least it has been in my experience – to the times somebody forgot to do something, or submitted something late, or made one too many typos (because that’s the stuff that tends to need immediate course correction, perhaps?).

        But, as James points out, it’s all about finding your niche and my industry is admittedly not an industry that’s going to suit everybody. In fact, my industry has a really high level of dropout because people find the high paced environment where there’s not a lot of big picture feedback is just not for them. You’ve kind of got to quickly get comfortable with the fact that, if nobody is saying otherwise, then everything is fine or else you’re going to dissolve into a puddle of self-doubt! Like I said, not for everybody.

    3. turquoisecow*

      I think a bit depends on the job itself. There’s jobs where, even if you don’t get positive feedback, you know you’re doing a good job because things are moving well. You know you did a good job with the TPS reports because the TPS meeting went well. The llama grooming went well because you haven’t gotten complaints from the handlers. You can see your sales numbers and third quarter profits are up, so you know you’re doing a good job.

      But in a lot of jobs, especially for a new person, the end results of their work are harder to see. Boss takes the TPS reports and walks off but you have no idea what he’s doing with them or if you’ve done them well, just that some weeks he complains and others he doesn’t. Llama handlers complain about the trim some times and not others and you don’t know the rhyme or reason for it – some weeks it seems they want it shorter in the front, other times shorter in the back. In each case an explanation of what’s going on and why they prefer it one way or another. We want shorter in the front this week because that’s how the harnesses for the eastern competition look better, but next week there’s the western competition and those are different harnesses so they look better with long front hair and short back hair. That sort of thing.

      And if you’ve been doing a job long enough and you understand why what you’re doing matters, the boss saying “good job, that don’t was the right size,” comes off as patronizing when you know it, while for a relative newcomer “thanks for making the report twelve point font, that’s best for the CEO’s eyesight,” is really valuable feedback that makes them feel like there’s a reason for what they’re doing and why. Obviously the boss doesn’t have to say that every time, but an every so often “just want to say thanks for being consistently good at X task” is usually not something most people would hate hearing. It sounds like OP isn’t even getting the every so often praise, so they don’t know why what they’re doing matters.

      1. Sometimes supervisor*

        That is a very fair point about “if you’ve been doing a job long enough and you understand why what you’re doing matters”. I am seriously amazed about the number of people who I have had to explain to that, yes, the deadline I’m giving you is important because there are other people waiting for your work – other people who don’t want to have to work late if you submit your work right at the end of the day, other people we may have to pay a cancellation fee to if your part of the project is late and we need to re-book them for a different time and so on. Whereas if you explained that to me, I’d just be sat there thinking “Erm, yeah, why else would there be a deadline? I assume it’s not there for fun!”.

        I may have to remember the framing of ‘Thanks for submitting that on time – Jane in quality control will appreciate having enough time to work on it’ for newer hires going forward (although a momentary on a tangent gripe about the number of experienced hires I work with who still don’t stick to deadlines because, of course, their time is the only time that matters and screw Jane if she has to work late tonight to pick up their mess…..I’m done now).

        It has also just dawned on me that LW1’s industry is one where they have enough time to do a de-brief with two-way feedback at the end of each event, if I’m interpreting my re-read correctly. In which case, I don’t think this is a situation where the manager has time to focus on just the ‘now’ (which is what I was envisioning in my initial post) and does actually have time to focus on the overall project so it does kind of suck that their feedback isn’t at least a bit more balanced.

  34. Governmint Condition*

    On #3, since it’s a government job, there are usually rules as to how and where the job must be posted. So the writer probably has little control over that method of targeting better applicants.

  35. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #2 – a personal website that includes a category of “proteges” is egotism run wild. Like a character on Silicon Valley would do this.

    I don’t there are many people who would pay attention to this loon.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      The only two people I can think of offhand who would have proteges listed on their website would be Albert Einstein and Yoda. I concur.

  36. llamaswithouthats*

    #1 – I generally take your word for it that you are in fact doing well, but make sure you are in fact meeting and/or exceeding the stated objectives of your organization and any performance metrics stated by your boss or company. If you’re not meeting them then your performance is actually not that good.

    Also, personally I don’t value praise at work as much as substantial credit in the form of: salary raises, promotions, and being given explicit credit for my work at the organization level. If they aren’t doing this then it may be time to search for a new job.

  37. BitterMelon*

    As for Post #1, let me say I’ve been there and it literally tore my life apart for the time I was there.

    I was a recent grad of my Master’s program and found a job as a lab technologist at a prestigious hospital, for a new professor establishing a lab. The first few months felt ok–until the criticism started. One slight misstep, one (mis)interpretation of an email and it was like an explosion just went off. Not only after 1.5y did I help them establish a lab, fill it with equipment, help to recruit students etc. but I was made to feel unintelligent, illogical and useless at my job. I was working 7 days a week (weekends were a few hours only) with no compensation of overtime. My 3m and 6m review were met with mediocre feelings, as they put it “This is a formality. Obviously you’re not going to lose your job”. They hung onto the most ridiculous examples of my missteps and would make them explode. I was even accused of being the cause of another professor’s experiment failing, students making mistakes and having it blamed on me…all when receiving emails past work hours. I remember once receiving a harsh email while playing soccer on a Tues night at 8pm and needing to stop to cry. I lost 30 lbs in that time, stressed, sad, angry. They would sprinkle in one or two complements but it was never enough. When I left, they spun it to be that my reason for leaving wasn’t there fault and I never once was able to defend myself, critique their style or make them understand their toll on my well being.



    1. deesse877*

      This is abuse. (The specifics are highly typical of academic culture, but it could happen anywhere.) They did these things because they enjoy hurting people. Nothing csn excuse it. I hope things are better for you now.

      1. BitterMelon*

        I appreciate this! I remember one day coming to the realization that they were indeed abusing me and this would never fly in a different setting.

        Yes! I am in a way better place!

  38. Vermont Green*

    Number 2. There are actually some managers out there who feel unappreciated because they don’t receive positive feedback from the people they manage. So one strategy the OP could try would be to compliment her manager routinely and often. Things like, “that new checklist you put together is really streamlining the fur shampooing,” or “not everyone can keep a meeting positive and on track like you do.” You’d have to figure out the exact balance between being a sycophant and cheerleader for her, though.

    1. Ginger Baker*

      We are all human and we all have feelings but I would argue that any manager who is feeling bereft at a lack of praise *from their reports* is not cut out to be a manager. Like gifts, praise should flow downward with the power differential, not up. Which isn’t to say that you can’t tell your manager you appreciate them if you feel particularly moved to do so or offer genuine thanks for a great checklist/process modification that helped you, but…a manager should have zero expectation of receiving “praise” or “compliments” from their reports. The mere thought of this as an expectation gives me hives.

  39. agnes*

    #3 Your observations about government job postings is spot on, and I hope you can move the needle in your organization.

    Unfortunately you aren’t going to get a lot of help from job seekers self screening, regardless of what you put in or leave out of a posting. People rarely screen themselves out of a job they find interesting, and/or think they could do, regardless of their qualifications or lack thereof. So don’t expect a decrease in poor applicants, regardless of how clear and direct you are in your posting.

    What you can get from a well written job posting is catching the interest of better qualified candidates., and that involves thinking about what somebody who would be really good at the job is looking for in a new opportunity–and I can assure you it isn’t a list of tasks they already expect are part of the job. Including a bit about the culture, core competencies, and career opportunities is usually what interests a well qualified applicant. We sometimes use the “typical day” approach, or share specific successes possible from the role, and also share the kind of management/collaboration/team vs solo environment one can expect. Good candidates are looking for a “package” in terms of workplace environment, not just a list of tasks they want to do or are qualified to do.

  40. Savvy*

    For LW #3, I would be curious to know what the salary is and how closely it matches the job requirements. Maybe you’re getting so many terrible applications because you’re not offering enough for good applicants.

    1. Savvy*

      And that may also be why you’re getting applicants with no experience. Is this an entry-level salary with mid-level requirements?

      1. Schnapps*

        I’m the OP. It’s a union position so we can only hire within the band without going through a reclassification system.

        And the pay is well above living wage, plus an extra 12% bump in lieu of benefits. It’s commensurate with similar jobs in the region, if not a little higher.

  41. JelloStapler*

    LW #1 some people are just like this, unfortunately (Mr. Jello is one of them) and they do not mean harm they just do not think to share positive feedback.

    That said, I just want to say that I, too, would have a lot of struggle with words of affirmation along with constructive advice. It makes me want to work harder.

  42. Elliecoocoo*

    LW #1 As a previous commenter stated, is available time (as in your manager’s time) an issue? I can only wish to have the time to “create a bit of space for this reflection and to have at least a brief moment of unqualified celebration”. I have an employee whose needs I was not meeting because of overarching time crushes. Luckily, I was able to promote a truly excellent staff member and assign her to them. Her new manager has time to deal with day-to-day details, follow up immediately on good and bad performance, and basically give her more attention, thus not limiting feedback to the bare minimum needed to move on, which is often tweaks and corrections.

    I am sorry that you are feeling unappreciated, and not being managed in a style which is most beneficial for you and your development – it can be so frustrating! One suggestion, which may not be possible in your organization…can you look to another direct report of your manager, who appears to be doing well in both her work and her manager relationship? Either just observe her, or open a conversation, “How do you best provide the senior llama division manager with information and follow up? What is that like for you?”

    Finally, I want to say that it can get better. My rule of thumb is that it takes at least a year, or an opportunity to “anniversary” annual events/projects to really “own” them and have an understanding of expectations.

  43. Sara without an H*

    OP#3, your experience is very, very typical. I once served on a search committee where the job ad stated very clearly that all applications be submitted to our HR director, “Jane McDonald.” Her name was clearly spelled out in the job ad. After wading through a dozen applications addressed to “John Smith,” “Joan Davis,” etc., we decided that our first filtering rubric was going to be, can the candidate spell “McDonald” correctly.

    More recently I had a candidate claim a masters degree in library science from a university that didn’t offer one. (The degree was explicitly stated as a requirement for the position.) Any librarian worth her cat-fur-festooned cardigan can verify this information in five minutes, since the professional association maintains a detailed list of degree programs on their web site.

    So, yes, this is normal. But since you’re not getting a lot of good applications, I agree that it might help to take a look at the job description and make sure it’s accurate, informative, and easy to read.

  44. My Brain is Exploding*

    #1: echoing another commenter, I tend to think like an editor and would be a terrible manager. Also there was a discussion a while back where I mentioned that in my life in general I look at ways to Make Things Better, and often make what I consider “comments” that others take as “criticism” but are not intended that way! I’m not trying to discount what’s happening at your workplace and the effect it’s having on you, but hoping that your manager’s intent, at least, is different than their impact, and that if they know how this is affecting you they will change things up.

  45. CatPerson*

    LW1, your situation sounds *understandably* demoralizing and I would like to compliment you on the rational way you are viewing this and the careful thought you put into your reflection. Good luck.

  46. Van Wilder*

    #1 – I worked for a toxic Director/Assistant Director duo for three years who never gave praise or said thank you. One time, I was presenting my work in a meeting with other directors and one of them said “Thank you, Van.” And I almost started crying. It really hit home how messed up the situation was. Hope you find what you need, LW!

  47. Caboose*

    #3: I did the scattershot method the first time I was looking for a job in my current industry. I didn’t have the exact education that most people are looking for, and I had no experience, so my best strategy was to throw applications into the void until I found somebody who would be willing to give me a chance. (This is a field where education is really helpful, but despite being regarded as a white-collar/office-y type of job, really feels more like a skilled trade to me– the people who do best at it are generally just those who have been doing it for long enough to have a lot of practice at doing it.)

    I’m now running into an issue with the way that LinkedIn filters jobs, though. In my field, the difference between a mid-level and senior staff member is about five years of experience and occasionally higher education. And while seniors aren’t necessarily in management, there’s an expectation that they’ll be capable of mentoring others. LinkedIn lumps mid-level and senior jobs into the same damn category. (It also doesn’t do well with some of the most important search terms for this field. I’ll get results for ANY kind of, say, ungulate grooming job, even though I’m only interested in llama grooming. While llamas and alpacas are very similar, there are some big differences in what it takes to groom them properly, and I really don’t want to work with alpacas.)

  48. Spicy Tuna*

    LW#3 – at a former company, we were hiring for a professional, mid-level career position that required the applicant to have a CPA. We were hiring around the winter holidays and I cannot tell you how many people came the interview dressed very casually, including someone that was wearing an ugly Christmas sweater!

  49. knitcrazybooknut*

    I work at a state institution, and in my past position, I hired nine people in five years. About half of the applications will be, on their face, completely unqualified. In our world, each applicant must mention their experience with each required qualification in their cover letter, resume, or application. Every. Single. Qualification.

    If you’ve acted as an HR manager, you must mention/show two years of clerical experience if that’s one of the required qualifications. Otherwise, we have to disqualify you.

    Even though it’s right there in the posting, people don’t realize that. But about five percent will not even include a cover letter, so they’re disqualified as well. Sadly, we have to keep them in our tracking spreadsheet, so we can show every disqualification reason for every applicant. It’s not a process for the faint of heart.

  50. Velawciraptor*

    LW#3, you wouldn’t believe some of the terrible applications I’ve seen.

    People who have never set foot in a law school applying to be a lawyer and assuring me that they can totally do it because they’re quick learners.
    People applying to be legal assistants who have never worked as an assistant or in the legal field in any capacity, but they have professional experience that is essentially the equivalent of having watched a lot of Law and Order, so they know how the system works and are sure they’d be great.
    And that’s before we get to the guy who pulled out of an interview for an attorney position saying that he didn’t want to waste our time letting us think we might be able to hire a combination of Alan Dershowitz, Johnnie Cochran, and Atticus Finch (or some combo like that) when he was taking another position (pulling out of an interview when you’ve taken another position, thank you for not wasting my time; whatever self-aggrandizing nonsense this guy was on….please miss me with that mess).

    People talk all the time about what a nightmare the job hunting process can be (and it absolutely can). But it can be just as bad on the hiring side. You have my sympathy.

  51. J*

    On #1 – I think Alison’s caveat here is important! I’m a manager who loves giving and receiving all kinds of feedback, and the only time I’ve been explicitly asked for more positive feedback was right before I had to put someone on a performance improvement plan: I was trying to warn them & coach them to improve, hoping that we could avoid the PIP altogether. It would be smart to have a conversation. Late last year, my manager started giving me a lot more constructive feedback than he normally does, and I asked him point-blank about my overall performance. It turns out all was well — he was just practicing giving more constructive feedback on someone he knew would take it well! I hope that’s the case here too.

  52. Bloopmaster*

    #5 – is there any elegant way to handle a mix of present and past tense in your resume lines about your current job? Since true accomplishments are–by definition–past, and you want to really highlight those, how would you write about them while also talking about present tense activities in a way that doesn’t seem jumpy or inconsistent?

    For example:

    Assistant Llama Organizer – 2016-present
    -Coordinates weekly Llama activities. Increased average event attendance by 15% after social media outreach campaign.
    -Provides quarterly webinars to llama owners and caretakers around the country. Received industry award (2020) for Best Llama Lecture from the National Association of Llama Educators.

  53. calonkat*

    LW #4, (since I don’t see any comments about that one). Alison’s advice is wonderful. The only thing I’d add is to make sure you get any corrected offer in writing before really counting on it. You’ll probably be paid the offer they put in writing (even if it’s a mistake, because that’s the way these things work when they get to the payroll department.)

    1. PK9*

      Thank you! I finally got everything cleared up after a few phone calls and emails. I will make sure to get that in writing.

  54. Paisley*

    To Letter Writer #3. I feel your pain! I’m involved in recruitment at my small non-profit and am ASTOUNDED at the number of resumes we receive for individuals not even remotely qualified for the role. The worst was a student applying for the CEO position. It also drives me crazy when I specifically request a resume and cover letter and I just get forwarded their resume from Indeed. The worst is when they send you a link and you’re supposed to go to Indeed and download the resume yourself when I specify that they forward their resume and cover letter directly to a designated email address. If there are any job applicants out there, I never go and download their resume. If they can’t follow the simplest of instructions, I don’t want them on our team. I will be recruiting for 3 positions shortly and am dreading it. Thank you for letting me rant and commiserate.

  55. DataQueen*

    I’m a manager who struggles with giving positive feedback. It’s just not my strong suit – but I respect that different employees like to be managed in different ways. So for the ones that do like positive feedback, I schedule calendar reminders to thank them for their good work. Once a month maybe I’ll get the reminder and then write an email letting them know that the Llama Report was really above and beyond, and I appreciate the time they took on it. It’s genuine – I just don’t remember to do it.

    But I do recommend telling your manager when you would like different types of management. Maybe I can accommodate it (like my recent employee that requested I give document feedback in person as much as possible so they can ask for clarification) and maybe I can’t (like the new hire who declined our Zoom 1-1s because “they prefer email”). But it can’t hurt to ask, and I can’t read your mind.

  56. For the Love of Cupcakes!*

    LW3 – We only hire every few years but it is always a source of much amusement. The position I hire for is a receptionist/secretarial position at a law firm. There was the applicant who indicated she was perfect for the position because she was good with small animals. Another whose cover letter was addressed to a different company. And the applicant whose email included no resume but just the single line that she was interested in the job and the only signature was her first name (and her name wasn’t part of her email address either).

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Oh, we had one who claimed she was accurate because she did crochet.

      I got the “crazy” vibe off of her–I mean, nice person, but something was off–and we didn’t hire her, but another section of my office did, and then got rid of her after probation. I’m not sure what was off with her, but clearly there was something….

  57. Aggretsuko*

    #1: My review was slightly less bad than usual–90% bad instead of 100% bad–but it was flabbergasting to see that my boss writes down that I am a complete failure at literally everything I do. Like if you read this, it sounds like I must literally not do any work at all or get every single thing wrong, because I do nothing right at all. The only good thing she had to say about me–and this wasn’t in the review–is that at least I show up every day.

    Like, I know she can’t stand how I speak, talk, communicate, all of that, but the paperwork gets done, and she knows it. Why can’t she acknowledge that I’m not 100% totally incompetent? Except as far as she’s concerned, I am. I still wonder why they aren’t actively trying to fire me, other than they can’t hire anyone else, I guess.

  58. Jordan*

    In sympathy/solidarity with LW3: at my old job we were advertising, in Japan, for a native Japanese copywriter, and got SO many applications from people… who weren’t even fluent in Japanese. Like how exactly do you expect this job to go if you somehow get it? There are stretches, and then there’s the completely impossible. It makes NO sense.

  59. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP1: I wouldn’t speak up about needing more positive feedback again. She could see you as needy, demanding, and a whole lot of other negative things if you do (especially if you’re a woman and/or of color).

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