interviewing from a parked car, asking employees to solve problems on their own, and more

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

1. Is it bad to interview from a parked car?

What are your thoughts on virtual interviews in a car (parked, of course)? Recently a hiring manager told me a candidate interviewed from their car, and he was very put off. I thought perhaps the candidate was on a lunch break and that was the only private space they had. He thought it seemed more like they were running errands and squeezed this interview into their day, thus they did not take it very seriously. In general, is this a real snafu?

What on earth? No. People interview from their cars all the time because it’s the only private place they have to take a call. When there’s video involved, it make sense to acknowledge your surroundings (“Apologies for the background — I’m calling from my car since I don’t have anywhere quiet to take this call at work”) but it’s not a shocking faux pas if you don’t.

Also, even if they were squeezing in the interview in between errands … so? How is that different than squeezing it in between work meetings? Does he need them to clear an entire half-day for a 30- or 60-minute call to show appropriate deference to him? He’s an ass.

2. Should employees try to solve problems on their own before coming to me?

Am I wrong, as a manager, to think that my associates should exhaust all other avenues before asking me a question? These are professional, highly-compensated individuals.

I got upset for someone recently for asking me where the pencils are. He had to walk past six other people before getting to my office. But if I’m wrong, I need to change my attitude quickly.

I wouldn’t say people need to exhaust all other avenues before asking you a question, as a general rule. You don’t want people to spend half a day searching for an answer to something that you could tell them off the top of your head if you’re available. And you don’t want people to feel that the barrier for approaching you for help is prohibitively high.

But it’s reasonable to expect that they’ll at least attempt to solve basic problems like “where are the pencils” without involving you. If there’s a pattern of you getting those kinds of questions, that’s worth addressing (which probably means first reflecting on whether you’ve inadvertently trained them to be dependent on you, and then laying out clearer expectations for what sorts of problems people should first try to solve on their own).

3. My boss wants me to push back my start date at my new job so I can stay here longer

I’ve been working for a small company for three years. I came into a disaster and worked really hard to get things set up to work correctly/at all. But my boss doesn’t trust easily, even with years of relationship building. Many of my tasks were very rote. I told him that I was pursuing advanced skills and certification and was bored with the data entry work. I earned full certification in July.

I told my boss that I was seeing a lot of interest in my skills before I earned the certificate and requested a raise in February. He came through in July, just before I completed the certificate.

Then I was asked to train the part-time personal assistant of our owners to do the grunt work. This person is lovely and tries really hard, but has no understanding of my field or our sort of business. So not a net win.

Then my certificate came through, and my LinkedIn blew up. I accepted a great new role! Pay raise, bonus, and benefits, which my current job can’t offer. Opportunities to dig into higher level stuff and room for growth!

OldBoss is NOT HAPPY. He told me I should have told him I was looking, and given him six months notice to find and train up my replacement. (I don’t think my job requires anything like six months of training, if you hire an experienced professional.) Some of what I do is complex, but most of it is not.

Failing that, he wants me to ask my new job for a 3-4 weeks notice period. How much of a faux pas is it to go back and say, “Hey, my old job asked me for a bit more time. Can my start date be X?”

Don’t do it. It’s not a big deal to ask for a start date three to four weeks out; people do that all the time and if an employer can’t do it, they’ll let you know. But going back after your start date was already set and they’ve probably been planning around it is an inconvenience. There might be times when you need to do it anyway, because of reasons of yours. But doing it just because your old boss wants you to doesn’t warrant that.

And for the record, your old boss is ridiculous. Six months of notice? No. That is wildly outside what’s reasonable to ask or expect. Two weeks is standard. Some jobs ask for four weeks. Expecting six months is unheard of. (Occasionally some people offer six months — when their situations allow it and their employers have earned that kind of notice by making it safe to give it — but expecting it is outside of any professional norm that exists in the U.S.)

And the purpose of a notice period isn’t to train your replacement anyway. In most jobs, two weeks won’t even cover the time it takes to hire! A notice period is for wrapping up your work, transitioning key info to whoever will be filling in temporarily, and leaving documentation for the next person — that’s it.

Tell your old boss you’re sorry but you don’t have flexibility with the start date for the new job but you’re leaving behind plenty of documentation for someone to take over (and then do that) and go start your new job on the date you planned without guilt.

4. Should I mention my former homelessness in an interview?

I’m in the beginning stages of searching for a job and I’d love your input on whether it’s appropriate to mention that I was homeless at a job interview.

For context, I was homeless between the ages of 15 and 20 (I’m 29 now). My family was extremely impoverished. This period of time is the reason I was a “mature student” by the time I went to college. I was also able to take back many life skills from that period in my life. It’s the reason I’m resilient and have a growth mindset — I quite literally came from nothing to be where I am today. It’s also a huge reason I have such empathy for those around me. Everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about.

I’ve always treated this like my dirty little secret. I’m afraid it would sound like a sob story to an interviewer. I’m also afraid that this period of time is so far in my past that it may be considered no longer relevant, even though it continues to affect me to this day. Should I keep this period of time under wraps, or would I be able to mention it briefly when an interviewer asks about my history or strengths?

I don’t think it’s going to sound like a sob story. I do think it risks making some people uncomfortable, because some people are Very Uncomfortable with homelessness. You might decide you’re fine with that risk because you rightly don’t want to work for someone who would have that reaction. But you also might not have the luxury of that option, or just might not feel like taking that on.

All that said … usually when interviewers ask about your history or strengths, they’re asking about work history and work strengths. Even though there’s a direct line between this history and your work strengths now, stronger interview answers will usually (not 100% of the time, but usually) cite examples from work — so you might mention resilience and a growth mindset but illustrate them with examples from your work life.

But please don’t feel this a dirty secret. You might strategically decide when to share it and when not to, but anyone who would find it off-putting is revealing something unflattering about themselves, not about you.

5. Personalize your cover letters!

This is an observation, not a question, about cover letters that’s consistent with your advice, but I just want to reinforce it from my current experience. I’m a VP over a division that has several open positions, ranging from entry-level for new college graduates to executive level with a healthy six-figure salary. At every level, we are flooded with cover letters from people who repeat the info on their resume and make no effort to communicate why they are interested in THIS position at THIS organization.

For context, we are the headquarters for a large nonprofit organization in a mid-size city. The city has a lot to offer, but we aren’t Austin, TX — this isn’t a hot destination where you assume people want to move just because they want to be here. So when we get applications from people around the country who all have similar qualifications, a candidate stands out when they give some indication that they have a particular interest in being here, in this city or at this organization. At least make the effort! “I’ve always been interested in aviation and would love to live in Dayton, birthplace of Orville Wright!” or “I can’t wait to try Kansas City barbeque.” With a nonprofit, it’s even easier — say that our mission matters to you and why.

I was most amazed by a candidate who has volunteered for us for several years in another city — and is a current volunteer — and didn’t mention anything about that in her cover letter! I had dismissed her resume until another person pointed it out at the end of her resume under “volunteer experience.” I was gobsmacked! It would have put her over the top with me right away, but she almost got passed over.

Amen. Cover letters, man.

{ 515 comments… read them below }

  1. pcake*

    LW4 – I wouldn’t keep homelessness a secret, but I also wouldn’t bring it up in an interview unless it was Very Relevent; for example, the interview is for a nonprofit that works with homeless people. Even than, I probably wouldn’t bring it up at an interview.

    1. Observer*

      Very much this. It’s not a “dirty secret”, bog or little. But I can’t think of any scenario, other than an application to a non-profit working with a homeless population where it would be relevant to bring up at an interview.

      1. SeluciaMD*

        I’d argue it doesn’t have to 100% be related to homelessness specifically. If the job you are applying for works with families or individuals that are near or below the poverty line, or people from traditionally marginalized communities, or even other types of more human service/social work-related positions where you will be interacting with a very diverse clientele, this can be a plus. I work for a human services provider that works a lot with children and families in these circumstances and someone with lived experience could be a really good fit for several positions in our organization, not just the ones that directly serve the homeless. That kind of work is so hard and often requires a high level of empathy and authenticity with the clientele to successfully build trust and rapport and your lived experience might be something that would make you more effective at those things. I definitely think it gives you perspective and experience that could be really relevant and make you a better fit for that kind of job.

        Would it make sense for a finance or PR position? Probably not, and I agree with Alison and the other commenters that there’s little to be gained by mentioning it in interviews for roles like that. But there are plenty of jobs – not just for organizations working specifically with the homeless – where that would be totally relevant, so just use your best judgement.

        And you definitely shouldn’t feel like this is your “dirty little secret.” You’ve achieved a lot and come very far in a (relatively) short amount of time and should be really proud of that. Anyone who would disagree with that and make you feel bad about that piece of your past is a jerk and likely one you wouldn’t want to work for.

        Good luck in your job hunt!

        1. EmmaBear*

          I think this is very true! I work in public health and if I were hiring for someone managing a project that relates to folks experiencing homelessness, this would be valuable especially for the populations we’re trying to serve in a meaningful way.

        2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          Another role where that personal connection might be relevant is in a role focused on DEI and J (especially the J, Justice, part).

          And, another vote that homelessness isn’t something you need to hide. If you do bring up anything from your past (professional, personal, etc.) in an interview, ask yourself, “Why am I bringing this up? How is it relevant to the role?”

          Note, I think it’s valid to bring something up as a way to sound out how the interviewer or panel react, as a way to explore the company’s culture.

        3. HelenofWhat*

          Yes, came to say this! I also think it could still be a relevant point in a non-client facing job at that type of org – I pointed to my own experience when interviewing for a back office job at a non-profit that worked with young people, including kids struggling in ways I could relate to, as part of my “why I’m excited to work here and contribute, even indirectly”. I got that job and was genuinely thrilled to be contributing.
          But at other interviews for non-public service companies, only once did I bring up something related because they specifically asked for an “overcoming adversity” type situation and said it could be an example from outside of work. (And I admittedly was curious to see if they were an elitist company.)

    2. learnedthehardway*

      A poignant personal situation can take over the interview and become the focus, rather than the job or your skills/fit. This doesn’t advance your candidacy, at best, and it can derail the interview, at worst.

      If you need to demonstrate resiliency or any other quality that adverse life circumstances forced you to develop, I would think about how you applied that strength within your work or education, and use that as the example. Eg. “I demonstrated resiliency when I re-developed a project plan in 3 days, after project manager quit when the client added a new requirement that made the original project plan unworkable”. You might have developed that ability to roll with the changes due to your life circumstances, but being able to apply the lesson in a work situation is the focus of the interview.

      At most, I would say something very general about the circumstances (eg. due to family financial issues) and then say what you did about the situation that demonstrates resilience (eg. I worked 2 jobs and studied part-time to complete my degree). That gives the right level of detail – the brief indication of the circumstances frames the accomplishment, but avoids over-sharing personal information, which can be interpreted negatively (ie. as an appeal to the interviewer’s emotions, or as a distraction).

      You can’t control how people will react to personal information, so decide what level of disclosure you are comfortable with, and what will advance your candidacy. If the interviewer wants to know more – if you bring it up, they may ask – then I would have a couple more details to offer (again keeping it general. eg. “my parents weren’t in a financial position to support my education”), and then pivot to what qualities and accomplishments you developed as a result, rather than focusing on the situation you were in.

      1. Formerly Homeless*

        Yes, this sounds more like the level I intended to roll that into any answer.

        I’m applying for office-based customer service management positions that list a bachelor’s degree (any major) as a preferred qualification, but I have an associate’s with 10 years of work experience instead, 8 in leadership, due to necessity. Even then, I didn’t follow a traditional course with it, as I entered college at 25.

        I wonder if maybe I’m overthinking, but I’m feeling a bit like I need to explain myself there.

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          Argh… is there any more sure frustrating way to demonstrate the qualification shouldn’t be there, and is just functioning as a barrier to the employment of certain socioeconomic groups, than saying “we don’t care what you actually studied, just that you got a piece of paper from an expensive institution?”

          Don’t mean to derail, but qualification asks like that drive me up the wall.

          1. Koalafied*

            I’ve repeatedly stricken that line from draft job descriptions that my boss puts together for people in my reporting line, and will always say something like, “We’re saying this job requires 5 years of experience – what skill gap are we expecting between someone with 5+ years of experience in this field AND who finished a college degree before that, that someone with 5+ years of experience in this field who didn’t finish college? If there is a particular skill we think college grads would have but that a working professional might not have picked up in 5+ years of professional experience, we should just list that skill. This is an equity issue that disqualifies applicants based on something closely linked to socio-economic status – and the magnitude of the effect will be greater for women and POC who research has demonstrated are less likely than white men to apply for jobs where they don’t meet every listed criteria.”

            It usually ends up becoming “BA/BS preferred” instead of required, which I still think is BS (ha) to include at all, but more than that it makes me batty that I have to make this case over and over again, particularly in the last year when corporate America decided they suddenly care deeply about equity, and removing this kind of requirement from job ads is such a no-brainer, low-hanging opportunity to advance equity goals.

            1. Formerly Homeless*

              I’m not as eloquent as you are, so thank you so much for putting that into words. It is so frustrating! I’m applying to jobs regardless, and I really hope that my skills and experience will be worth more than the piece of paper.

            2. Annony*

              I agree. Some jobs do require certain degrees but so many do not and it is simply being used to gatekeep. I use what I learned getting my degree everyday so I don’t think college degrees are always pointless, but most of my friends don’t do anything remotely related to what they went to college for but still had to have a degree to be considered for their jobs.

            3. too many too soon*

              Thank you!
              As someone who chose not to go to college, but with decades of experience and an in-demand skill set, I still weed out tons of job openings because someone decided a piece of paper was more critical than actual cred.

            4. Cringing 24/7*

              This is gorgeous and perfect and everything – thank you so much for doing this and for writing it down so other people can articulate as eloquently as you did the absurdity that is requiring an unnecessary degree!

          2. hamsterpants*

            A lot of people would argue that a college degree, regardless of major, gives you many valuable soft skills. In fact that’s like the primary argument in support of non-vocational college degrees.

            1. pancakes*

              They might, but then they’d also have to argue that most college grads do in fact graduate with those skills. It’s far from clear that they do. It’s also not clear that large lecture classes, which are common in the US, are an effective way to inculcate those skills, or more effective than working with the public.

            2. Lenora Rose*

              I benefitted from that very assumption to get my first non-temp office job, and I still could not see what my schoolwork had to do with office work. My computer skills I learned entirely from stuff done for fun and at home, or in Junior High (aka, grade 9), not in college. My degree was a bachelor of Fine Arts.

              1. Ace in the Hole*

                I have also benefitted from this assumption. A particularly ridiculous example was when I applied for a job as a delivery driver. There were three essential qualifications of the job: driving a manual transmission pickup truck, know streets/navigation in the delivery area, and generally decent work ethic.

                I was new in town and had never driven a stick shift. But the boss apparently decided to hire me because “if she’s smart enough to go to college, she’s smart enough to drive stick!” As if the two were connected in any way….

            3. Cthulhu's Librarian*

              I’ll agree that it does tend to be the primary argument made for leaving that requirement in there – but I don’t think there is anything beyond anecdotal evidence to back it up. Even when many fields have come to increasingly realize that anecdotal evidence is invalid (ie, library work, where please, in the name of all that is squamous or eldritch, give me someone who has worked retail to fill a front line position, over someone who has a baccalaureate), there is still a tendency to say “but the degree makes them a better qualified candidate!”

              In the vast majority of cases, no, no it does not. If a degree makes a candidate better qualified for a position, it should mean the degree is somehow related to the role they will be filling – a degree in jewelry making does not make me better suited to work the IT help desk, and a degree in Estonian/Aramaic Comparative Literary Criticism doesn’t make me better at managing a warehouse or other people.

              It really is a major problem, how the tendency to say “degrees are valuable because of the soft skills you must have learned in school” completely discounts the soft skills someone working during that time would also have gained, and creates a barrier to entire socio-economic swathes of our community.

              Also, if you want to test if someone really believes that those soft skills are a thing, ask them if they’d consider a degree from the Azerbaijani Tourism and Management University, or something equally obscure and foreign. Chances are good you’ll get a bunch of baloney about accreditation and credentialing of the universities – which (to my mind) just goes to highlight that it is NOT these anecdotal soft skills the person writing the description actually cares about. They care about the proof that the candidate belongs to the right socio-economic class, and got there the right way.

              None of the above should be intended to indicate that all degree requirements are bull – in some positions, the degree does represent specialized knowledge that is actually valid to insist on or prioritize someone having, and a small subset of degrees may be offering similar skill sets that you need can argue really do make someone a stronger candidate. But you should always be able to articulate exactly what those specialized skills are, in relation to the candidate and the position, in my opinion.

              *Clambers off soap box*

          3. SeluciaMD*

            YES. 100% this! My agency has generally been better about this stuff in recent years, but every once in awhile when we’re writing for a new position I’m like “are you SURE we need to specify that this person needs X degree? What about that degree makes them better equipped to do this job?” Many of our postings now that ask for a degree (often a requirement of our personnel office since we’re part of local government) do it in a “degree and/or X years of relevant experience” way so we don’t chuck people out of contention just by virtue of not having that very expensive piece of paper when they might otherwise be eminently qualified.

            As I’m just working to finish my bachelor’s degree at 45 and am a senior level leader in my agency, you’d think that would be more obvious. But I think there are still those in other parts of our (very cumbersome) bureaucracy that think I’m somehow just the exception to the rule, which is total BS.

          4. Sorrischian*

            So New York (and maybe California?) requires medical lab personnel to have a four-year college degree to process samples in or from that state. I, as a newly graduated chemistry major whose only relevant skills were the ability to use a micropipet and follow instructions, was by their rules fully qualified – while my coworker with a 2-year medical-lab-specific degree and eight years of working in hospitals, wasn’t. It’s just nonsense!

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              I’ve hit that wall too. There’s a job I’d love to do for my local government that requires some very niche skills/knowledge.

              I happen to have 10 years of directly relevant experience, which is unheard of for applicants, and I’ve worked directly with their team on several projects with great results… but I don’t have a bachelor’s degree. I “only” have an associate’s degree. Problem is to get the mandatory state professional registration you have to have a bachelor’s.

              They ended up having to hire someone from the other end of the state with no relevant experience and train him from scratch.

        2. Metadata minion*

          Yeah, I think you may be overthinking it a bit. For you, it’s obviously a huge part of who you are and how you got here, but if I were looking at your resume, it would look like you took a non-standard but not all *that* unusual path to education. Plenty of people can’t afford to go to college and work for a few years before getting a degree.

          1. pancakes*

            Or, nearer the wealthy end of the financial scale, take a gap year (or two . . .) between high school and college.

            1. BeenThere*

              Gap years in my home country aren’t always from the wealthy end, some of them are work in a random job for a year or two so you have some starter money for university and are eligible for certain welfare benefits. I have friends that land in the middle, work overseas because it’s easier when you are younger and do things that pay barely anything, come with shoddy accommodation and allow you to be working in a different country which you hopefully have the occasional day off to visit.

          2. Simply the best*

            Also 25 isn’t all that untraditional. Like I realize “traditional” in the sense means going to college immediately after high school. But really, most people aren’t putting that math together. Traditional students graduate in their twenties. You also graduated in your twenties. People aren’t going to be thinking of you as someone who went to school late or went back to school later in life.

            1. alienor*

              I started college at 17 and graduated at 24 because I changed majors +went part-time for a few semesters so I could work enough hours to survive. It never seemed “late” to me, but then my daughter started at 18, and when she applied for transfer to another school at 21, she found out that anyone applying at 21 or older is considered a nontraditional student. That blew me away–I always figured that nontraditional students would be at least 30.

        3. Lacey*

          I don’t think you need to super explain it. I have a couple of friends and a coworker with associates degrees and it really didn’t matter, because they could do the work. There are some jobs where it might matter more, but I can’t imagine it would in a customer service spot when you have 10 years experience.

          And being non-trad is even less of a big deal. Tons of people didn’t get their degree until their mid to late 20s and for all kinds of reasons. It’s nice to get it when you’re young, but no one is going to hold it against you that you got it slightly later.

        4. LCH*

          since it is only preferred and you have a long experience record along with a 2-year degree, it seems to me like you’re covered?

        5. JB*

          You are overthinking. They won’t ask you to explain why you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, and I’d be very surprised if they asked why you got your degree later in life.

        6. AnotherAlison*

          I understand where you’re coming from. I graduated college at the normal age, but I also had my oldest son when I was 19. I felt like I needed to explain why I didn’t have internships or other experiences that were normal for people with my major and gpa (like undergrad research associate or whatever), or why I went to 3 schools. My advice: Don’t over explain it or feel embarrassed. Lots of people end up on a nontraditional path for a lot of reasons and I think it’s better to keep the focus on what you did do professionally and in your education rather than your timeline.

          1. Formerly Homeless*

            Thank you to everyone for your support here!

            I tend to feel a bit insecure about the path I’ve taken and I think you got the nail right on the head. I’ve learned to pare down the over-explaining for work processes. It’s probably time for me to learn to do this with my history as well. :)

            1. BlueKazoo*

              I also think you can reference it more generally. Like saying you overcame significant personal or financial obstacles and then go on to the relevant experience. I find that sort of statement let’s me feel like I get to acknowledge what I coped with without over sharing. My experience differs – parental addiction that blew up right as I was finishing high school, so all the money disappeared almost overnight. But similarly something that really shaped the person I am today.

              1. Amaranth*

                I don’t think I’d be proactive in volunteering an explanation, though. It might not even stand out without the spotlight. A lot of people go to school part time while working, which can easily extend tuition a few years. I didn’t finish my degree until my 30s and nobody ever asked about the dates, it really felt like I was just checking a box.

            2. Tuesday*

              Especially with 10 years of work experience under your belt. I think that’s what employers are going to be most interested in.

        7. Smithy*

          This might be the perfect kind of case to practice with a job training/vocational services coach.

          While not at all your situation, I was at a professional junction where the issue of a derailing personal story was making me very nervous about applying/interviewing for certain jobs. Having the opportunity to practice interviewing and repeating those specific details over and over with a coach, who knew why it was a loaded issue for me really helped me move from it being a derailing personal story and more of a professional detail. In my case, the Vocational Services nonprofit where I got the coaching was entirely free, but I think that specific nonprofit now charges a nominal fee. Either way – it was truly invaluable.

          The flip side of this was I took an interview about two months into COVID quarantine, and was mentally clearly not ready. At one point, I realized the opening “how are you doing” opening question devolved into a 20-30 minute chat about how we were both doing personally. In retrospect a reasonable and amusing outcome, but also NOT what I wanted the content of that interview to be about. (And no, I was not offered that job)

        8. learnedthehardway*

          I would be prepared to give a high level explanation of how you come to have the mix of experience and qualifications you have (as per my earlier post), but more importantly, show in your resume that you stay on top of industry trends and have a personal commitment to ongoing education. That will help the recruiter or hiring manager reviewing your resume understand that while you don’t have the BA, you do have a strong self-educational focus that makes up the difference.

          Also, you can leave the date of your degree off of your resume – you can point out that you worked and studied concurrently in your cover letter or interview, but you don’t have to say so if you don’t think it will help you.

        9. Hippo-nony-potums*

          Bring it up if they bring it up, and be very factual about it. “I would have loved to have done a traditional college route; however, my family was extremely poor, even homeless sometimes, so I worked until I could afford my associate’s degree.” Important: immediately pivot to your qualifications and/or what you got from your education.

    3. Liz*

      I would say working for a homeless charity would be one place where lived experience would be highly relevant.

      I’m in a very similar boat to LW. Not in terms of homelessness (although I was part of the “hidden homeless” on a couple of occasions), but in mental health. I work in the mental health field, and my first two jobs were in “peer support” roles. This literally means someone in recovery for mental health supporting others on their journey. Those jobs make up a significant part of my experience and allowed me to get into my current entry level role after I completed my psych postgrad. I would probably not have broken into the industry without them. But this does mean that my CV pretty much declares right there in my work history, “this person has mental health issues” and I feel acutely aware of that when applying. Were I in a different field, I’m not entirely sure how I would feel about that.

      It’s a tricky one to navigate. Personally I tend to go with the assumption that I wouldn’t want to work for an organisation that wouldn’t hire me based on my diagnosis. My lived experience is absolutely relevant to how I work. As far as LW is concerned, it might be relevant if you are interviewing for a role that involves working with disadvantaged persons, as you are demonstrating common ground. But frame it in practical, unemotional terms, not as a personal tragedy, or as an example of “look how hard I worked! I came from nothing!” It is a fantastic achievement, but not everyone would see it that way, especially in an individualist society that sees hardship as a personal failing. I’d definitely lean more into the empathy angle, if asked about that, rather than general resilience, partly because of stigma, but partly because the resilience techniques we learn during extreme hardship are not the same as the ones we use when our lives are stable. I’d think about a more current, less extreme example from your present working life if asked about resilience, because I expect that’s better aligned with what they are asking.

    4. bamcheeks*

      I think there is a much broader spectrum of jobs where that lived experience would be relevant. In many socially-focussed roles, your own lived experience of homelessness, of entering university as a mature student, your experience on the other side of services or authorities as a service-user/client/patient/survivor, some of the barriers and experiences that you’d have seen friends and peers navigate even if you didn’t do them yourself would give you absolute critical insight. But if you’re looking for a job in a more corporate sector, there’s more danger that it would mark you out as “different”, and that might be seen as more of a danger than a positive.

      That said, it also depends whether you *want* to filter out employers who would see your experience of homelessness as a challenge or a problem. And that obviously includes the kind of socially-focussed roles I’ve mentioned above: not all of them want to be challenged by someone with lived experience on the other side!

      1. twocents*

        Eh, maybe, but in terms of interviewing, as Alison commented yesterday, you have very little insight and data about the person in front of you.

        If you get asked about a time you showed resilience in the face of a difficult situation, the person who answers with a relevant work situation that has directly transferable skills/insights to the role they’re applying for is always going to come across better than someone who answers with a personal hardship.

        I actually remember from years ago someone who answered a question along those lines with a description of their divorce proceedings that resulted in upheaval in their personal life (home, finances, etc.). And it was mostly super awkward to be on the receiving end of something very emotional for the applicant, and also… lots of people go through divorce, I don’t know how the situation is actually relevant to your ability to handle work problems.

    5. BethDH*

      I had someone mention their earlier homelessness in an interview in an appropriate way. It came up once, when we were asking about what made the job appealing and the person mentioned it in reference to something we had put in the job ad about our approach to working with students.
      I have no doubt that experience led them to develop a lot of the traits they mentioned in the interview, but it wouldn’t necessarily have taught them how to apply those traits in the workplace, so it was good that they used examples from work to show how they applied them. Spend your time showing the interviewer how you apply your skills/traits, not telling me the circumstances that led you to acquire them. Maybe for an entry level person some examples would be from that period because you’re more likely to use examples from your personal life in general at that point in your career, but otherwise it’s just not that useful.

      1. Formerly Homeless*

        Makes sense. That’s the reaction I’d be worried about. I don’t want to be othered through mentioning that.

    6. MissDisplaced*

      Right. These types of personal stories aren’t very relevant to most jobs unless occasionally they are.

      Unfortunately, adding an “I survived X” tends to only work if you’ve interviewing for something highly related to X.

      Perhaps you could keep a bit of this in a shorter version if asked about things like what’s your greatest strength, or tell me how you’ve overcome obstacles. But even then, mostly they’re expecting work-related answers to those questions.

    7. twocents*

      Agreed. It’s not that it’s a dirty little secret, it’s just not actually relevant (to the vast majority of roles/organizations) to showing that you can do the job you’re trying to get hired to do.

    8. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      This is where I come down as well. If the fact you used to be homeless is relevant to the job in some way please feel free to bring it up then – otherwise I would have it be something people learn about you through the normal getting to know you process.

    9. Dust Bunny*


      Pretty much everyone in my department has some background that could be considered having overcome some kind of hardship (autism, domestic abuse, LGBT, mental illness, etc.) and nobody hides it, but it doesn’t really come up because it’s not directly related to what we do. People here have officially specialized in topics related to personal situations before, so it’s not completely off the table–one person has a special interest in how domestic abuse affects health, for instance, and is the go-to person for questions about it, but we’re a medical library, not a shelter or other organization that provides direct support to survivors, so it’s relevant but not part of our main mission.

    10. Aquawoman*

      Not disagreeing with any of the practical advice in the thread, but I can’t help but be saddened that our society considers managing to go to college despite homelessness irrelevant, even though it demonstrates personal traits that are amorphous but probably of real benefit to a job, while it would be considered relevant if someone went to a highly regarded school as a legacy, or might get a leg up for having been in the same fraternity as the interviewer under “corporate culture” criteria.

      1. twocents*

        I don’t think anyone here would recommend talking up going to a fancy college or knowing someone in place of discussing relevant work experience either.

        1. BlueKazoo*

          Often though just having those things listed gets your resume pulled out of the pile. It’s not always a conscious bias either. Can be simply a knee jerk response that makes the reviewer take a closer look.

      2. Birch*

        It’s irrelevant because while the learned skills might be of real benefit to the job, simply having traits and skills doesn’t mean anything in a work situation unless you can apply them to the task at hand. The same does (or *should*) apply to the other examples of things that are not relevant to the interview unless you can demonstrate how they’re related to the work–negotiating a divorce, starting your own business, volunteering, running a household, writing a book, getting a higher degree, event planning.

    11. Emi*

      An interviewer might feel uncomfortable even without being a jerk, just on the level of “I’m not sure how to respond to this appropriately and I’m worried I’ll put my foot in it.” That kind of social awkwardness can knock an interview out of its groove, and in most cases I think it’s not worth the risk.

    12. East Coast Girl*

      Agreed. While not the exact same thing, I’ve been in recovery from substance use for almost 10 years. In those years, I have been heavily involved in bringing a new peer support option to our community and have also served on the Board of the relevant org.

      The only time I have stressed that experience on my resume is for a job opportunity that involved building a database of services, which would be used by the public, agencies and community navigators, to help clients find programs to support their needs.

      My background meant I already had a lot of connections in the social/community/government support arena, which were hard to explain without revealing a bit of my story. I took a calculated risk in that instance to be open and frank about my experiences and it paid off in that I got the job and it was a great experience. But I wouldn’t necessarily stress that part of my background for a role where it isn’t relevant. Much as I work to fight stigma, it’s not worth threatening my livelihood when revealing my recovery is not necessary.

    13. Jessica Fletcher*

      I wouldn’t mention it in an interview or at the start of a new job. Nobody knows anything else about you, so you’ll immediately be, “Brad, who used to be homeless”. Even at a nonprofit, some people will think LW is trying to garner sympathy or compete in the Oppression Olympics.

      It might be worth bringing up if LW was applying at an org that serves homeless individuals, though, where it could show that LW has insight into the needs of homeless families.

    14. Effective Immediately*

      I was coming here to say this, with an additional piece. My organization does deep, transformative equity work within our institution as part of our mission. As part of this work, our hiring protocols are written to assess for equity competencies just as much as the functional skills for the role for every job in the organization (even ones that aren’t directly client-facing)

      I know this isn’t common or standard practice for many organizations, but in that instance–regardless of what the role is–we would LOVE to hear about someone’s lived experience and how that shaped their perspective on their work. We see a lot of candidates who hedge around these questions, for exactly the reason Alison named: there’s a very real (valid) fear there that responding from a place of lived experience or being very explicit about equity (race equity in particular) will harm them in the process. We try to be as clear about it as possible (that we want to hear those things, and ask very direct questions about it), but the prevailing advice being counter to that still gives people pause around the safety of speaking to it in interviews.

      All that to say, I totally agree with this comment, and would also offer that if interviewers want to hear those things and ask about them, it is more likely to benefit you to name it than harm you.

    15. Velawciraptor*

      This. I’ve had a potential employee (whom we ended up hiring) bring up homelessness from their childhood in an interview, but we’re public defenders and they were talking about their own experience with the clientele we serve. Wouldn’t have been especially relevant to an accounting firm, for example.

    16. Here we go again*

      I would consider it like recovering from a injury from a car accident or an illness. It’s great that those things are behind you and it’s probably made you a stronger person but it’s not relevant in a cover letter.

    17. TootsNYC*

      I wouldn’t bring it up particularly because it would be a huge distraction. I want the thing they say, after the interview, to be about my suitability for the job. Not “wow, she was homeless for a bunch of years!”
      Not “she had a jerk for an old boss.”

    18. quill*

      Yeah. I would not proactively bring it up, unless it was relevant, but I would not dodge away if they asked directly.

  2. Rachel*

    LW2, for what it’s worth, I think it’s admirable that you know (or your reports are confident that you know) where the pencils are. I had a chuckle imagining myself asking my supervisor where the pencils are, because he would 100% need to find that out from me. I know that pencils are just pencils, but they’re also a metaphor for the details of how the work actually gets done every day.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      I do feel like this answer skipped over the idea that there are times when it IS important to let your supervisor know that a seemingly minor problem exists, even if you’re handling it. Like, “the admin won’t give us any pencils, ever, but I finally scratched up a few” is a problem your supervisor should know about. “The pencils didn’t fall into my outstretched hands” is not.

      There are problems where even if you’re managing them or you found a solution, your supervisor should know that you bumped into an odd obstacle and might encounter it again, or that this office does something in kind of a funky way and nobody bothered to tell you, or something kind of unseen has changed to make something simple complicated, or the workaround was so complicated that it took up more time than it should have, et cetera. To be sure, 85% of the time, you shouldn’t have to bother your supervisor about pencils, but that other 15% is critical.

      1. Allonge*

        For me there is a pretty clear distinction between the two though, to the effect that I would not call ‘where pencils live’ a problem.

        It’s a question, it relates to facts that are pretty obviously not in the sole possession of the manager – the answer can be reasonably gotten from most people working there. It’s like when someone asks ‘when is X taking place’ in an office where all meetings are scheduled in Outlook – you can look it up yourself.

        Actual problems that do need to be escalated to the boss are different.

        1. Batty Twerp*

          Yes, what stood out to me was the “they had to walk past 6 other people”. Did none of those 6 a) know where the pencils are, or b) think it was something the manager didnt need to be asked?

          Assuming we are genuinely talking about pencils and not a metaphor, I’d worry what kind of working environment has been fostered that a small, simple question like that cant be asked of a peer instead of the boss. Alison’s right – they need to review whether there’s been inadvertent dependency.

          1. Purple Cat*

            The pencil example is throwing me for a loop. It’s so silly and minor, but also something that absolutely should have been told to the employee as part of their onboarding process. So is this manager really refusing to teach their employees ANYTHING? And expecting them to figure out EVERYTHING without his help?

            1. MusicWithRocksIn*

              That’s what stuck out at me. You, the boss, should have told them where all the office supplies (and the first aid kit, and where the postage is, and where to go in a tornado) on their first day in the office. You should introduce them to someone on the team that they know they can go to with minor questions and procedures (and make sure it’s not always a woman). That kind of thing shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes, and will go pretty far into helping them feel comfortable in their new space.

              1. Khatul Madame*

                What if the employee did get all this information when they first joined, and just ignored it?
                To be fair, the first day/week can bring an overwhelming amount of new information, most of which doesn’t stick. But please do not assume the manager or admin failed to introduce the newbie to the quirks of pencil storage in their office.

                1. PT*

                  We had a tornado warning at one of my jobs- everyone’s phone went off at once- and I went to the person who was the admin who handled all of the procedural stuff for the building, “Hey what’s the emergency plan for a tornado?”

                  Her: Oh there isn’t one, don’t worry about it.

              2. pancakes*

                This can really vary depending on the workplace. In, say, a multinational law firm, I would ask the office manager or supplies department (or ask a peer staff attorney, or someone from the reception desk, to point me toward the office manager or supplies department) where the pencils are rather than ask, say, the senior associate my memos are addressed to. The person who gives you the grand tour on your first day isn’t necessarily the best person to address every question to.

              3. Susan Ivanova*

                It’s been common at places where I’ve worked to assign a recently-hired person to be the newest-hired person’s designated trivial question handler. Especially in tech, the most senior people will be like “er, I set that all up years ago and never touched it again so I don’t remember” while the second-newest person will be “yeah, that’s tricky, third-newest person had to talk me through it.”

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                eh, I know the boss showed me the fire extinguishers on my first day, explaining that one contained water and the other some special frothy stuff that could be aimed at electrical appliances without killing them. Very Important Information, but I forgot about a minute later. Pretty sure I could forget where the pencils were too. The more worrying thing is the lack of communication among staff: why bother your boss with a question about locating pencils when your colleagues all use them and presumably got them from somewhere at some point?

                1. Kal*

                  This is definitely not the point of this chain, but fire extinguishers in proper working condition should have labels on them that say what their class is and what they are to be used on and how. I mean, when there’s already a fire isn’t when you want to be standing there reading it, but its there if it comes to it! (And if there are no labels on them, I would wonder if they’ve even been inspected and maintained properly, which is a whole other problem.)

                  But I agree, the fact that the employee didn’t feel comfortable going to any of their coworkers for something so minor is the bigger issue here.

                2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  Kal, yes, I’m pretty sure the extinguishers were labelled, luckily I never needed to use either of them.

            2. kk*

              Why would you assume they weren’t told? They may have been told but forgot. Rather, if they wrote in about this, I’m assuming this is a pattern and they want to know if they are being sensitive or if the person really should be reaching out to others first. Honestly, my boss is the last person I would ask. I’d ask a co-worker first, especially for a thing like pencils.

          2. Lacey*

            Yeah, it seems like a weird environment where people would feel they can’t ask their coworkers instead of their boss. I actually prefer to ask a coworker for something like that, because managers often don’t know the little details!

          3. Gothic Bee*

            I used to work somewhere that, whether intentionally or not, fostered an environment where none of my coworkers or I felt like we could talk to each other. There were a ton of (dysfunctional) reasons why this happened, but if your employees aren’t talking to each other, it’s a really good idea to make sure there isn’t something else going on here. In my previous office, it was partly because the bosses were really micromanaging and tended to get upset anytime they thought someone wasn’t working, so people were afraid to pop over to someone else’s cubicle for any reason. But it could be any number of other things if this is happening with everyone and not just one or two employees.

            1. PT*

              I worked somewhere where they deliberately tried to foster suspicion and noncooperation among the different employees. They really didn’t want us comparing notes and colluding. It was too risky that we might band together and stand up to the bosses and perhaps report them to HR for being terrible bosses.

      2. hbc*

        I wouldn’t mind it being raised, but I’d be (and have been) pretty annoyed when some low level irritation becomes something to talk about Right Now. Don’t interrupt *anyone* in the organization to tell them that it’s more difficult to get pencils than it should be. Mention it while you’re already chatting, or when you have a scheduled meeting or something.

        Just because something happened to you at this moment doesn’t mean you need to mention it at this moment. Better for the person receiving the information, and better for the person giving the information–someone deep in Q4 budget revisions is very unlikely to really register “I should look into the pencil situation” and actually fix your access.

      3. TootsNYC*

        I agree with this–so often I’ve discovered my people are tripping over some difficulty that they didn’t inform me of, because they thought this was “just how it is.”

        The guy whose computer ran SO slow, and I didn’t know until I came to help fix a wording over his shoulder.

        The person who had difficulty interacting with one other staffer, and my intervention smoothed that out.

        The person who didn’t have pens/pencils/post-its (I can’t remember what it was, but it was something easy). Or a mouse that worked better.

        Sometimes I’d discover something kludgy in the software by using it myself for the same tasks, and then I could change everyone’s setting to eliminate that.

        Keep me in the loop!

    2. CBB*

      I’m pretty sure my boss doesn’t mind being asked super quick questions like, “where are the pencils?”

      But for problems that would take more than a few seconds of the boss’s time, I agree with LW.

      1. Clare*

        Maybe they don’t, but if multiple people are constantly interrupting the boss to ask minor questions that adds up. Is there really no one else to ask? Typically the boss is the last resort to go to if no one else knows, not the first stop.

      2. Bamcheeks*

        This depends enormously on how big your office is and what level you and your boss are working at. In a secretarial or clerical role, it’s completely obvious that questions about office management and supplies to do my job are my boss’s purview. But if you’re in a senior or strategic role, then “where are the pencils?” is “ask Tim the PA, he handles all that kind of stuff”. If your boss is senior enough to have her own PA, she may not even know who you’re supposed to ask because her PA knows that for her.Its not everyone’s job to know how everything functions.

        I wonder whether Pencil Guy had come from a smaller office or something where functions were less specialised, and it felt more natural to ask his boss (who is there to help) for pencils rather than interrupt colleagues who appeared to be deep in concentration.

      3. A Feast of Fools*

        My boss(es) would want to hear, “I looked in the cabinets next to the break room and the ones across from the printer, but I can’t find where the pencils are kept. Do you know where they are?”

        As in, they’d at least want to know that I tried a few things on my own, first, instead of going straight to them the nanosecond I decided I’d like to have a pencil.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          This. I never mind helping someone work something out, even if I’m slammed, but I get annoyed when people come to me without making a bare minimum attempt to figure something out themselves (unless it’s a dire emergency, in which case, please come to me immediately).

          I would be more worried if someone decided the couldn’t come to me for help – my first thought would be that they either they don’t think I able to help them or that I’m not approachable, neither of which are good.

    3. Aquawoman*

      I think knowing every detail may just as easily indicate micromanagers/people who don’t trust their staff.

    4. Yorick*

      Part of my frustration in situations like the pencil example is that you don’t necessarily have to ask ANYONE where the pencils are. Is there an obvious supply cabinet? Look in there and you’ll probably find pencils. Some people are just helpless to the point that they won’t try themselves before asking someone else. It’s like when my husband asks me where the cream is. It’s obviously in the refrigerator! Just look for it! Look at every item in the refrigerator; one of those will be the cream!

      Of course it’s different if the pencils are in some weird place, or if the person in charge of ordering supplies hasn’t kept up with the pencil inventory and there are no pencils. But most of the time the answer to questions is available to this person already.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        EVERY TIME.
        Husband: “Where’s my gaming bag?”
        Me: “Have you looked in your office under the cat?”
        Him: “Yes, it’s not here. I can’t find it anywhere.”
        Me: *walks into his office where he is standing, looks in the same cubby on the shelf where his cat has been sitting on his gaming bag for the last 18 months, and sure nuff, the gaming bag is in there with a cat glaring back from on top of it* “So, uh, is THIS the cat you looked under, or did you look under the other one who’s been downstairs playing chase with the dog?”

        1. Llama Llama*

          Biggest pet peeve. I now refuse to get up and look for something that belongs to my partner unless I know that I moved it. It’s wherever you put it, you go find it. Drives me batty.

          1. Ann Nonymous*

            Preach. I know where all my stuff is. I know where most of my husband’s stuff is, but apparently he doesn’t. I’m done being The Finder. Funny , if I tell him I don’t know where something of his is, if he wants it badly enough, he can locate it.

        2. Archaeopteryx*

          Now I’m imagining every shelf in your house having a different cat on it glaring back territorially, so he legitimately could say “Oh, *that* cat!”

        3. CaptainMouse*

          My mother claims, and now so do I, that a womb is actually a thing finder. Those born with male equipment seem to lack this valuable organ.

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            Roseanne Barr used to say the same thing (in slightly different words) in one of her comedy routines, back when she was a stand up comic. I think it went something like, “My husband thinks the uterus is a locating device…”

        4. A Feast of Fools*

          I was on my way to a scary (for me) medical appointment. Just as I’d pulled into a spot outside the facility, my then-partner (now ex) called me:

          Him: “Do you know where I put my bid book last night?”
          Me: “Whaaaa–?? Have you tried looking on the coffee table? The desk? The kitchen island?”
          Him: “No.”
          Me: “You… you just decided to call me, when I’m in a hospital parking lot, instead of looking for it yourself, when you’re *right there*??”
          Him: “Well, yes. I thought it was best use of my time.”

        5. NotAnotherManager!*

          My children cannot find things that are literally right in front of their face at eye level. I often wonder how much lower our utility bill would be if they didn’t spend five minutes staring into the open fridge for the thing that’s right in front of their face that a parent still has to walk up and point at before they see it.

          1. Artemesia*

            Watch a kid told to look for something in a room; they will walk into the room swivel their head from side to side without focusing and declare it isn’t there.

          2. Kal*

            I have a friend who regularly tells their husband and child “look with your hands, not just your eyes”, aka: actually move things and look around, cause sometimes things are actually under other things, and sometimes picking something up will make your mind finally go “oh! this was what I was looking for”.

      2. Autumnheart*

        There are three magic words you can use to discourage anyone whose idea of finding something they need is to ask you to find it for them: “I don’t know.”

        “Where are the pencils?” I don’t know.
        “Where are my keys” I don’t know.
        “Where do the coffee mugs go, in the house I’ve lived in for 10 years as the only coffee drinker?” I don’t know.

        Repeat as needed. Be completely nice about it! Then go back to what you’re doing. To be clear, this is not for people who DO look first and are genuinely at a loss, this is for people who have, as the saying goes, tried nothing and are out of ideas. The ones who just want you to be their human instance of Alexa so they don’t have to go out of their way. It’s like “return awkward to sender” except more like “return learned helplessness to sender”.

        1. TootsNYC*

          my other said, “Where do you think it might be?”
          or, “have you looked where it belongs?”

          And once she said, “If I wasn’t here, where would you look?”
          And if you asked her to get you something, she’d say, “If it was cookies and I wasn’t here, what would you do?”

          If you asked her what a word meant, she said, “Look it up.” If you said never mind, she’d MAKE you go get the dictionary and look it up in front of her. Today, I’m a copyeditor.

        2. LizM*

          I’ve had to train myself to not just give the answer every time a question pops into an employee’s head.

          “Where are the pencils?”
          “Have you checked with Admin Assistant? She’s in charge of office supplies.”

          When I get questions where it’s clear the employee hasn’t tried at all, that’s how I answer. Now, they come to me and say, “I can’t find the pencils, and Admin Assistant is out today. I checked the supply closet, but they’re out, do you know where she keeps the extras?”

          I hate to be a grump, but the interruptions really do add up when people are constantly coming in for “one quick thing.” To them, it’s a 30 second interaction, but I often have to stop what I’m doing, and then try to refocus when I get back to it. Multiple that by 8 direct reports, and it makes it hard to get some of the work that actually requires focus done.

          Plus, having everyone come to me vs. figuring it out on their own (1) makes me a bottleneck, and (2) robs the employees who are actually in charge of these things their agency. I want our Admin Assistant to have ownership over the admin program, and part of that is encouraging the staff to see her as a resource when they have questions about the program.

          (I also have weekly check in meetings with all direct reports, I mind the “easy” questions less during those because I’ve already set aside the time, and if people have to wait for the check in, it’s more likely that they’ve tried other ways to solve it first, instead of just going pencilless).

          1. Lily*

            Yeah but honestly, some toxic supervisors also derail every legitimate problem with “what have you done about it” just to have a reason to ignore the problem. Ask me about the time where I told someone “the interns have started fires in the pencil place,repeatedly, maybe you should supervise them more closely” and it turned into some kind of cross interrogation. (Yes, I had talked to the intern. Yes, I had talked to the people working with the interns. Yes,I had seen it. Yes, I had prove. Here, there are the ashes. “Oh, you mean you have only seen three of five fires, so it’s all hearsay” was a thing that they were not ashamed of saying…)

        3. ThanksAmazon*

          Completely aside from the topic but as a Human Instance of Alexa, gosh do I hate how my name got taken over by an AI assistant/surveillance device. Which I know wasn’t your intent, just. Man I miss my name actually belonging to me and the other humans who have it.

      3. Cascadia*

        Yes to this! I work with adolescents and the number of questions I get from students when the answer is clearly right in front of them is bonkers. It seems like many of them ask the question perfunctorily without even beginning to USE THEIR BRAIN and see if they can figure it out themselves. Questions like asking “where is the trash can?” when they are standing 2 feet from the trash can. The students who are most egregious with this will get a limit of 3 questions a day they can ask me. It’s amazing how quickly they find out the answers on their own when they have to ration their ability to come to me. I want them to ask questions when they genuinely need me to help them find the answer, but for so many it’s become their default without even trying.

        1. Artemesia*

          I rarely. had a student asks a question about a course that was not clearly laid out in the syllabus.

      4. Per My Last*

        This is maybe not the point, but in reading your comment it made me think… at my company where I’ve been for nearly 4 years, would I have known? The answer is 100% no. At my last company? 100% no. In both cases, there is no supply cabinet, no obvious cupboards or drawers. I would absolutely need to ask someone how to acquire a pencil. I wouldn’t walk past 6 colleagues to ask my boss, but still.

    5. Sharon*

      I’ve been at my company for 25 years, so I know a lot of things and tend to be able to answer questions when asked, even if it’s not my job to know. I finally realized I should start directing people to the person whose job it is to know, because I was spending more and more time on things that weren’t actually my job, and people were getting info from me instead of from the proper source.

      As a manager, LW2 should be making sure their reports know where to get the information they need so instead of scolding them for asking just point them to the proper source – e.g. “Pencils are usually in the supply cabinet by the coffee pot – did you look there already?” or “Lucinda is the person that handles supplies, did you check with her?.”

  3. Observer*

    #3- Your boss is demanding that you give him more time. That doesn’t mean you need to give it to him. He can demand anything. He can demand your firstborn, 6 months notice or (as one letter writer once reported) 20% of your salary as a “finders fee” of sorts. And you can laugh till your sides ache while not even bothering to say no.

    Or you can just NOT do it. Be professional. Document whatever you can. Try to wrap up what you can, and bring each thing as close as you can to an ideal transition point. You’ll get close with some things and with others you won’t because it’s almost not possible. And that’s it.

    1. Allonge*

      Exactly. Also, for the record, I live in Europe where longer-than-2-weeks notice periods are often expected, and six months seems to be at the very end of the scale here too – I heard of it in one instance only.

      1. Batty Twerp*

        I’m in the UK – three months is considered for really significant roles. The only time I’ve heard of giving six months he was the CEO.
        (Actually, that’s not quite true, several people have given six months notice that they were retiring, but that’s a date set by themselves not a future job, and in many cases they’ve been offered early retirement, or asked to stay an extra week just to help out, depending on their circumstances – only one person I know actually did six exact months and that was my mum)

        1. sunglass*

          Yeah, at my company six months is for like, the highest, highest levels of senior leadership and the CEO. People also give six months (sometimes up to a year) notice of retirement as well.

          Otherwise your notice period depends on how long you’ve been with the company, regardless of seniority of role, maxing out at three months. I have a three month notice period, as does our team admin, as we’ve been here for years. Another colleague at the same level as me currently has a six week notice period, which will go up to two months next year.

        2. Artemesia*

          But in the UK that is baked into the job search process and employers realize that new hires will have that obligation. In the US it would be a great way to get off on the wrong foot with the new employer especially if there was already an agreed upon start date. It is one thing to say ‘I am wrapping up a project at Oldjob and so would like to start after 4 weeks if that would work for you’ and another to come back and say ‘I know we agreed on October 7 but my Boss wants me to stay on for a few more weeks.’ I’d be inclined to cut someone loose who insisted on that; no one wants to bring someone on with that kind of baggage.

          1. Bagpuss*

            But we’re saying that even in the U or other places where long notice periods are normal, asking to push back your start date after you have accepted the job would not fly.

            Sure, when you are offered you’d be telling them “My notice period is 4 weeks / 3 months / whatever” but saying “I agreed to start on 1st October but I’d like to push that back to 1st November” isn’t great even if you accepted the job back in June with the 3 month notice baked in.

        3. londonedit*

          I used to work for a company (UK) that had blanket three-month notice periods for just about everyone, with six months for the really senior people. And it caused a load of problems, because the vast majority of companies are working on one-month notice periods for everyone but the most senior people, so when someone at a lower level got a new job their new company would throw their hands up in horror at the fact that they couldn’t start for three months. Eventually they had so many complaints that they realised it was completely out of step with the rest of the industry and shortened the notice period for everyone under a certain level.

        4. Asenath*

          I offered 6 months when I retired – and that was unusual (I’m in Canada) but I had no fear of being forced out, I liked the place I worked and wanted to give them plenty of notice to find a replacement because hiring was always slow and the busiest time of the year would come a month or so after I left. In the event, I left before the 6 months, using accumulated leave, and having documented everything thoroughly, and the powers that be had not moved any faster than if I’d given 2 weeks notice in finding a replacement! Not my problem – and HR had loads of time to process all my final payments etc. Your employer demanding 6 months – or even any extra time at all – when you’ve already agreed to a start time with a new employer, and offered the standard notice in your area is ridiculous.

        5. Lacey*

          Yeah, I’m in America and for someone retiring 6 months is not at all unheard of, but it’s also a totally different situation.

        6. Sara without an H*

          Yes, retirement is a different story, since there’s no new employer waiting to start. I gave eight months notice of my retirement, but that’s only because I worked at a university. In higher education, walking out in the middle of the semester is a Very Bad Thing.

          But OP’s manager is really being ridiculous. OP should just smile sweetly, say something like, “Oh, I’m afraid that’s just impossible,” and spend the final two weeks wrapping up current business and writing good documentation for their successor.

      2. Bagpuss*

        Yes, I’m in the UK and in my industry 3 months is standard ( for the lawyers – support staff generally have a 1 month notice period)

        We do have a 6 month period for partners looking to leave the partnership, which reflects their seniority and the fact that they are leaving the business partnership as well so there are a lot more, and more complex issues to resolve .

        For someone who doesn’t have a contract requiring 6 months to be told that they should have given that amount of warning would be ridiculous even here where we do have longer notice periods.

        And equally, if someone has accepted a job and agreed a start date, them asking to push that back by 3 or 4 weeks would be weird and not a good way for them to start (unless it was for a very good reason, like they’ve just been matched with someone to get a kidney donation, or something like that) All other considerations aside , it suggests that you are thinking more about the convenience of your old employer than your new one, which isn’t a great look.

      3. KateM*

        I think the only case about which I know there was a really long notice was an elementary teacher saying in spring that “my maternal leave will start in October so you may want to have a new teacher starting with my students from September already”.

      4. Amethystmoon*

        The issue in the US is most employers would let someone go who was job searching and gave a long notice period. Happened to me once when I was young, inexperienced, and temping. I had mentioned to someone I was looking for something permanent, it got back to the boss, and I was let go. Because apparently, temps are only ever supposed to want be temps and not want things like health insurance or a 401K (sarcasm).

        1. Recruited Recruiter*

          I had this happen when I was younger because I wanted a good reference, and the handbook specifically stated that to receive a positive reference, employees had to provide 3 months notice. They ended my employment at 6 weeks into my notice period immediately after hiring my replacement. In addition, I didn’t even get the “good reference” because I “didn’t work the entire three month notice period.” Like they just confirm title and dates. Finally, when my replacement refused to quit without notice with his prior job, my employer went and told my former co-workers and the company stakeholders that I had been the primary contact for that I had quit without notice.

          I have never before or since received so many phone calls on my personal cell within a single day.

          1. Paulina*

            Wow. That sounds like these employers deliberately gave bad references to use as a threat against current employees.

        2. Paulina*

          Yes, if you give them enough notice to find someone else before you’re gone, you run the risk of them finding someone soon and deciding to let you go early. Or not finding a new job when you want, or many other things that can delay you.

          How can the notice period be long enough to find and train a replacement anyway? At least in general. Because that person would in turn have to stay on at their old job to find and train *their* replacement, making you wait even longer, and so on and so on. The only way this doesn’t lead to infinite notice periods is if people are out of work and thus don’t have to give notice at all, and these are often not the people that the employers prefer to hire (potentially because employers get suspicious about why they’re unemployed). Every employer wants their hires to start immediately and for their leaving employees to leave only when the employer is ready, and they can’t all get their way on that. And employers often don’t get organized with respect to training replacements even for people who are known to be retiring.

          As things are for this OP, their new job is a lot better than their old one. So their old employer wants them to keep doing a dull low-level job for less pay and no benefits, for a few more weeks, just to be nice? Nope. They should go to the new and much more rewarding job as soon as it is remotely ok to do so. And get those benefits, you never know when you’ll need them.

      5. Frauke*

        I live in Germany, where 3 months is fairly standard for my industry. In my old job I had 1 month, which was considered shockingly short. They actually had so many instances of people giving exactly one month and using up the rest of their vacation time in a way that it was effectively two weeks, that they overcorrected and put 6 months notice in new contracts. I therefore know a few people with 6 months!

      1. Batty Twerp*

        Did you read all the follow up comments from that OP? There wasnt a separate update, but they did put one in the comments (username Tired of Bad Boss).
        Their boss was *unhinged*!

        1. Observer*

          Oh, yes. Unhinged is a very good way to put it.

          Which was kind of my point. People who make demands like this cannot be taken seriously.

    2. BritChick*

      In my industry there’s one specific job title where the norm is 1-2 years notice. Like it’s commonplace for people to announce that they’re leaving two years before they actually leave. But it’s just one job which is essentially the equivalent of CEO.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Yeah, that boss is being ridiculous. Don’t push back your start date. I suspect they will be bugging you nonstop for a few weeks though.

      IF you want to, these are good situations to freelance and make some extra money. You could offer to continue working a few hours per week (or weekends) as a contractor/consultant until he hires a replacement. I’ve done this successfully at 3 former jobs.. It can work if you set clear limits.

      But you’re not obligated to do that! You have to consider the demands of your NewJob.

      1. DD*

        If you offer a freelance or contract hours to fill the gap make sure you don’t undervalue yourself. I would quote at least double your current equivalent hourly rate. They will likely want to pay you your current equivalent hourly rate but they are not paying you benefits anymore, I assume you received a raise in your new job, and you’re helping them immensely, they can pay for the help.

        Also if you contract back to them be very clear and firm about the expectations of the hours you will work and it won’t interfere in any way with the new job. Your priority and focus is the new job and any side work happens clear from that. No questions on a Tuesday morning or a quick meeting at lunch. If it gets too much or they overstep boundaries or you become concerned about impact on new job quit immediately. You hold the power in this case.

        1. JustaTech*

          My new coworker asked me what to do because her old work kept asking for her help. I said “If you want to, you can answer quick questions during the day, but longer stuff should be after you’re done here. And if they want more than 1 paragraph answers, and you do want to do it, you should charge consulting rates, like $250 an hour.”

          She laughed and said she was glad we weren’t expecting her to keep helping them (lol no).

        2. OP #3*

          They weren’t paying benefits at all! I pay my own insurance premiums.
          He apologized and asked if I would consider doing some freelancing/consultant work for them. I agreed to consider it, pending new job workload.

          Thanks for all the advice on this!!

    4. Momma Bear*

      Six months is insane. No way. Don’t do it. Give him your 2 weeks and move on. There are a lot of reasons not to give advanced notice on a job hunt. You don’t owe him more time.

      1. Anonym*

        Also… his trust issues are his problem to manage, not yours OP. Get out and yell hooray on the way!

        1. Observer*

          Yes! That’s just such a ridiculous issue to put on people. He has a problem? He needs to get a grip.

        2. Hey Nonnie*

          Also-also… just what did he think “I’m bored and I’m pursuing more advanced skills and certifications meant? He could have tried to keep you, sounds like he didn’t bother, so losing you is on him.

    5. IdahoSmith82*

      Nailed it!

      Why is it bosses like this want to underpay you, treat you like you don’t matter and then have those epiphanies right as you are actually leaving?

      Note to the bosses out there- you want to keep key employees? Pay them above market rates (within reason) and don’t abuse them- then you won’t have to worry about them leaving and demand wacky things like 6 months notice.

    6. Beth*

      For pity’s sake, if LW #3’s boss didn’t figure out she’d be looking for a new job, he needs to pull his head out of whatever alternate dimension it’s been stuck in. To quote one of my favourite aphorisms, “Your bad planning is not my responsibility.”

    7. TootsNYC*

      I told my boss that I was seeing a lot of interest in my skills before I earned the certificate and requested a raise in February. He came through in July, just before I completed the certificate.

      He told me I should have told him I was looking, and given him six months notice to find and train up my replacement.

      He had his hint. He may have thought he ran no risk because he gave you a raise, but he waited to do so. He’s stupid if he thinks that the way he treated you was going to win your loyalty.

      Smart managers are always recruiting. They are always looking out for where they’d find new staff, what sort of person they might recruit, etc. A smart manager is always prepared for someone to resign. They may not have interviewed anybody or gotten any resumes, but they know where to put ads, and they’re ready with interview questions, etc.

      1. OP#3*

        I think he was under the impression that the raise he did manage, which was substantial, would be enough to lock me in. However, coupled with my real world experience, the certification took me into a bracket where that was super lowball.

        I think he was so busy patting himself on the back for “saving” money on my salary, he didn’t stop and consider that someone else might pay full price!

        He also expected that I would just keep asking and waiting for raises, I suppose. In prior reviews, he’s mentioned the non-monetary benefits, like flexible hours, generous time off, dog-friendly office and casual work environment. All of which I either was offered with the new role, or aren’t as accessible to me as they are to him.

  4. HugoM*

    Regarding cover letters and customization of CVs, resumes etc; I could not agree more.

    We are engaged in a significant hiring drive and I have received quite literally hundreds of CVs, not one of which has so far had even cursory attempts at customization.

    I need to read every single one, of course, and it is both time consuming and draining, not to mention fruitless 99 times out of a hundred.

    As a hiring manager, I can absolutely guarantee you that if you make my life easier by clearly demonstrating in the first few lines of your CV why you are a great fit for the role, you will be going in the ‘for consideration’ pile. The fact that people do not make this effort or understand this very simple fact is beyond my understanding.

    1. Just Another Cog*

      I occasionally read “advice” from people claiming that “cover letters are a stupid relic of the past,” and I want to shake them.
      I’m not a hiring manager but I’ve served on numerous committees and let me tell you, a good cover letter is make or break, at least in my office. We get a lot of very similar applications, and a good cover letter can show that you’re a good communicator, that you bothered to read the job description, that you bothered to think about how your skills fit. We also are historically willing to hire people who may not have the exact work history we’re looking for, but if your cover letter makes any connections at all between your experiences and our workplace, you’ve got a chance of getting an interview.
      I also am seeing more and more “why should I spend all that time doing what’s basically homework for a stupid job application?” Which I get. It’s annoying to spend a lot of time engaging in self-reflection and multiple drafts. But the hiring committee is taking a lot of time out of their day to review applications and prepare to interview people, too, and your letter respects that time by giving them more of the information they need up front.

      1. Now with Extra Macaroni*

        If I may ask you, Just Another Cog, what line of work are you in? I’m certainly not on the extreme end of thinking cover letters are a “stupid relic” but also I’m in a technical field where generally a cover letter doesn’t add anything to the application. In fact, right, wrong, or indifferent, at my company it probably gets overlooked because of how supervisors get a link to applicant materials. They just print resumes. (For the record I am not a supervisor or in charge of hiring decisions). Thanks.

        1. Elizabeth*

          Same, except I am a hiring manager. I think people need to be aware of the industry culture and I kinda bristle a bit at blanket statements about the importance of cover letters. We’re a trade/technical heavy industry and a highly sought-after employer; HR isn’t able to pre-screen applications and we get hundreds even for temporary roles. The only cover letters the hiring team was able to read in the last 400+ applications we received were the ones that passed the cursory resume review and not one made a difference. I’d rather people spend time writing better resumes and not worry about cover letters at all. It’s really a matter of knowing the audience, I guess.

        2. Loredena Frisealach*

          Industry *really* matters! I’ve been a software consultant for my current and prior two jobs — with all three, initial contact was a recruiter on LinkedIn. I received a copy of the job description, sent a tailored resume, no cover. One to many interviews before an offer (the smaller the firm, the more interviews. Large firms might have one!). Never sent a cover letter, references weren’t even requested, and the application was filled out post-offer, as the trigger/required info for the background check. TLDR Consulting is weird.

          1. All Het Up About It*

            I think this is a great point where the LW’s example is still really relevant.
            For instance if this individual who was applying to work for your company had volunteered with another branch of the company for a year and a half, even if they are just submitting a resume, because that’s what is expected of the industry – it shouldn’t be buried at the bottom of a resume under “volunteer” experience. Cover letters and resumes are both marketing tools and should be customized! Depending on the industry one or the other might require more customization, but just do it!

        3. Just Another Cog*

          We’re largely doing training and/or support of previous training, and we’re hiring content specialists, communicators, training specialists, and content production support staff, and support/admin staff. We cannot simply say “We need someone who knows software package A and database B,” and we rarely get someone straight in with loads of perfectly matched experience. I may call myself “just another cog,” but in reality our staff come from a large number of social-science backgrounds and they pick up a lot of specific knowledge after we hire them.

        4. Minerva*

          Also in a technical role, and I never get a cover letter when I am asked to screen if someone should be interviewed for a specific role. If we want writing, we need technical communication which isn’t cover letter fodder. It just doesn’t help to agonize over a cover letter.

          We also get a lot of 4 page resumes, and they get interviews.

        5. Badger*

          I’m a manager in a technical job and I would cry tears of joy to get a cover letter. Why? Because I need to know if people actually like the job (support), if they have good communication skills, if they meet the language requirements and if they are great learners (because I don’t mind if the the technology is new to them, but I need to be able to learn it). I don’t get this information from a CV.

          And yes I’d argue “even” people in software development can improve on their chances by demonstrating their personality, what actually motivates them about the job/company, what their favorite focus is in their work etc

    2. Cold Fish*

      I get where hiring managers are coming from but this drives me crazy.

      For me, 85-95% of the time my reason for applying is you are hiring and I need a job. I don’t have a particular desire to work for your specific company, I either live in the area or have personal reasons for wanting to move to your town, I truly don’t know if the job is a fit but the job description doesn’t sound horrible.

      My job is not my passion. Now if hired, I will work hard and give it my all. It just seems to me you are looking for the best (unless they are actually falling into the passion territory… are there actual data entry passionate people out there?)

      1. Outlook's Hostage*

        Agreed with this. I like my company and my team and boss but I don’t care about the work we do, within my department or within the company. I just want to do my work and get my paycheck. I think that most of the time it is the best that gets the job (saying that from my own personal experience). That’s why I hate writing cover letters, it’s just me BSing on paper.

      2. Web of Pies*

        At some point, Allison published a “this is a great example” cover letter which focused on the writer’s interest in the type of work itself. So for data entry, people who enjoy that sort of work might point out that they enjoy organization and practicing precision. Admin jobs can talk about enjoying making things efficient and running smoothly, or whatever. It doesn’t have to be about passion, I’d guess describing what you are interested in or find satisfaction by doing is enough.

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        The other 5-15% of your reason for applying still matters. Yes, you need a job and yes, they are hiring, but there’s a reason you decided to apply for this job and not one of the 10,000 other ones posted on indeed. You can spin some of those reasons into a compelling cover letter even if your work is not your primary passion in life.

      4. HugoM*

        Agree with what you are saying in part, in that I’m not working here because I want to be either; a job is a job and it pays the bills. But I’m not saying ‘pretend to be passionate about the work’, I’m saying ‘please tell me why your skills and experience are suitable for the role without making me wade through two or more pages of largely irrelevant, often outdated career information’.

        A simple section at the top of the page, 8 or so bullet points, demonstrating your core skills, how they align with our requirements, and also showing that you have read the job description should not really be too much of an ask.

        1. Badger*

          +1 *I* don’t even care that much about my employer or industry, so I don’t need you to gush about it all in a cover letter. Just add two sentences that show that you had a glance at the website and aren’t sending out the exact same text to everybody.

          Outlining how your skills connect to the requested skills is very valuable though.

      5. Gothic Bee*

        Honestly same. I like my current workplace, but it’s not my passion. And job searching sucks. I do talk up my interest in the cover letter, and I’ll do my best at any job, but a lot of it feels like BS. Plus there’s always little things I read that make me feel like I’m insane and don’t actually know what a cover letter is. Like the LW’s example of talking about why you want to move to the area. Granted I’ve never applied for a job outside of where I live, but I would never think of talking about how I want to live in “the birthplace of Orville Wright” or try out the local barbeque. If anything I’d think that makes me look like a tourist or someone who’s not taking the job seriously. And I have read Alison’s examples of good cover letters and everything, so it’s not like I’m not researching this stuff. But it’s one of those things I’m pretty sure I’ll never be a natural at, though I do make an effort despite how much I hate it.

      6. AJ*

        That’s understandable, but it doesn’t differentiate you from all the other candidates who are in the exact same situation.

        I just hired for a position that got about 40 qualified applicants. About 3/4 of them didn’t submit a cover letter or submitted generic cover letters that didn’t speak to their interest or knowledge of the particular position, or how their unique skills/experience were relevant. I get that they may just be looking for a job that aligns with their requirements, but the reality is that when there’s a large group of comparable resumes, you are not going to stand out unless you take the extra step.

        I did once get an application from a teen seeking a job shelving library materials that said “I have a passion for alphabetization.” I’m not sure whether that was true, but it charmed me (and obviously stuck with me) and demonstrated that she knew what kind of job she was getting into.

      7. fhqwhgads*

        But the letter is specifically talking about people applying who are not already in the area. If you have personal reasons for wanting to move, they’re saying at least mention those in passing. They’re saying if you apply from hundreds or thousands of miles away and you say nothing about why you did that, they’re gonna feel like “are you sure you meant to apply here?”

      8. Stitching Away*

        Ok. But another reason cover letters are important is to explain how you are a good fit for what they need when it’s not 100% obvious, or don’t have 100% of what they say they want in the job post, which is the majority of the time.

        That’s not BS. It’s not something that belongs on a resume, and it’s not simply regurgitating a resume. It’s explaining why you should be hired, or at least, why they should interview you. Comments like these stink of being purposely obtuse because you are annoyed that cover letters are often a requirement.

        1. A Wall*

          That’s not what the letter is talking about, though. They are specifically wanting to hear why you want that specific role at that specific company, not an explanation of qualifications. Which is a lot easier to do in their case, where they’re at a nonprofit that has specific goals you can discuss. What people are saying is that the expectation that you do this effusively in 100% of job applications is bogus, when job descriptions between companies are frequently near identical and most companies do not have goals or missions that you can describe being passionate about without sounding like a disingenuous weirdo. I think we would all love to only be required to discuss qualifications and ability to excel in a cover letter, but that is not what we’re being asked to do.

    3. PT*

      Is your job description accurate? Because I could write a good cover letter and resume based on the job description, and if it’s not reasonably accurate, it could end up with you tossing it in the trash pile glowering in frustration at my stupidity for including all this irrelevant stuff that has nothing to do with the job.

      1. Autumn*


        My age, location and profession make my resume rather generic. I rely on a great cover letter to land an interview. I’ve read job descriptions that gave me little idea what on earth the job was about or why they wanted an RN with x years experience. I was interviewed once where they were still super vague about what a typical day might look like. If you give me a great job description for a job that sounds like it’s right up my ally I’ll write you a cover letter that’ll knock your socks off. Just give me a good idea what the job actually is about.

    4. marvin the paranoid android*

      I have to admit that when I hear that 99 percent of people don’t write the kind of cover letter hiring managers want to read, it makes me wonder if the barrier to entry is too high for most people. I’m a professional writer and I find cover letters difficult; I know other people who work in publishing and communications who find them so difficult that they avoid applying to jobs. I realize that from a logical perspective it doesn’t make sense not to write a customized cover letter if it’s likely to put you to the top of the pile (although that process is very opaque to job seekers) but I have to think that some piece is missing to make them more accessible to the majority of people.

    5. Mister Lady*

      As a relatively new manager, I’m seeing the hiring process from the other side for the first time, and oh my gosh yes! Weirdly, I’ve also received lots of resumes that list companies and job titles but absolutely no tasks performed or accomplishments; I would like at least a LITTLE clarity on what you do, particularly if the company name in no way indicates what their function is, and your job title was “consultant” — what did you DO??

      Another peculiarity is applicants who list familiarity with MS Word as a skill, but have very obviously lost control of the bullet point auto-formatting in their resume — which they submitted as a Word doc rather than a PDF.

      I in no way look down on these applicants, but it doesn’t inspire confidence; in fact, it makes me want to reach out and offer advice, which I’m sure would just be mortifying for them!

    6. Lauren*

      The problem that I have with cover letters is that as a hiring manager, HR never sends them to me. Half the time, I find out in the interview that they applied to a totally different position and HR was thinking they’d want any job. Morons.

      The other is as a candidate. I answer the ‘pay attention’ questions in the cover letter and then I get rejected for not following instructions or a note from the hiring manager on Linkedin asking me to answer them. I respond with here you go / it was in my cover letter – and BINGO their HR never sent cover letters to them.

      So what is the point? Especially if applying at a big company in particular if the gatekeepers in HR don’t pass them along.

    7. Recruited Recruiter*

      I have to admit that with the recruiting that I do for labor positions, I don’t really look at cover letters at all. I mostly look for a couple specific skills and previous heavy labor experience on resumes, then watch how they interact with people while they’re coming into the building for the interview.

  5. Claritza*

    LW#1 After I drove 45 minutes in heavy traffic in pouring rain after I taught all day, my interview was held IN the interviewer’s parked van because we couldn’t get in the locked building [University rented satellite office space.] Got the job, rejected the commute.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Did you at least get to solve some mysteries or make a road trip to a Grateful Dead show?

  6. acmx*

    #5 first you say cover letters shouldn’t repeat what’s in their resumes and then end with an applicant that didn’t put resume info in her cover letter.

    If you’re not in a hot destination, why make cover letters a requirement? Not to knock on the Midwest but why make candidates pretend to be enthusiastic about moving there? They want a job and might be willing to move there but they shouldn’t have to make up some cute reason.

    I’m not a fan of cover letters. Fortunately, my industry doesn’t really use them and understands that people are moving for the job.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Because from an employer’s perspective, hiring an out-of-state candidate who will be moving to take the job is a risk, for some of the reasons here, especially if they have plenty of good local candidates. The more you can convince them it’s not such a risk, the more comfortable they’ll be moving forward with you and the better your chances will be.

      1. Andy*

        How would any of suggested motivations mitigate any of these? The letter suggests “I’ve always been interested in aviation and would love to live in Dayton, birthplace of Orville Wright!” and “I can’t wait to try Kansas City barbeque.”

        They don’t even imply adjustment to the area. They don’t even sound like real thought process people go through when they decide to move – but that one would be too personal. And it invites everyone to judge the reasons, because neither of the two strikes me as rational or sticky reason to move.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I read the OP’s examples as somewhat tongue-in-cheek for the purpose of illustrating her letter (although maybe they weren’t); in actual cover letters people usually come up with more concrete reasons. But it implies you’re at least putting some thought into the fact that you’re applying for a job in a different location and interested in living there, unlike the ton of people who apply for out of state jobs with zero acknowledgement that it would be involve a move for them, leaving you to wonder if they even realize that’s the case/whether they’re hoping to pitch you on it being remote (when sometimes that’s not possible)/etc.

          1. Liz*

            Thank you for clarifying this, this is really helpful. I was reading those as legitimate examples and was getting rather confused. “I want to work in [town] because I’m passionate about aviation!” struck me as a similar faux pas to “I want to work in a library because I’m passionate about reading!” (which is often trotted out as an example of what NOT to say!)

            1. Cj*

              I also read them as actual examples, and honestly think Alison might be wrong this time, and that they weren’t tongue in cheek. They are something you would go somewhere on vacation for, not move for.

              Like acmx, I also noticed right away that the OP said don’t repeat what’s on your resume, and then said she almost passed somebody over because they didn’t repeat what’s on their resume.

              1. Bamcheeks*

                My take on “don’t just repeat what’s on your resume” is “don’t just give me the information on your resume: tell me why it’s relevant ~to this role~”. You can see on my resume that I’ve got twelve years experience in oat-polishing, and that I’ve trained and supervised junior oat polishers. My cover letter tells you that I really enjoyed training and supervising oat polishers, and that this role setting up a new oat-and-other-cereal polishing training programme is an exciting next step.

                What you’re trying to do is avoid the people who have sent the same cover letter and resume to every job with “oat polishing” in the description who will go, “ohhh— I didn’t realise this job was in Leicester” or “ohh— this is an oat-TRAINING job? Sorry, not interested” when you ring them up.

                1. Lacey*

                  Yes. Like, I’m a graphic designer, so many of the skills I use will be the exact same no matter where I go – but I always tell employers what excites me about their specific company.

                  Whether it’s the diversity of their clients, their involvement in the community, the quality of the work they put out, their passion for innovation – I’m going to be able to talk about something I like about that company in particular.

                  And then I often talk about some particulars that you wouldn’t get from my resume. Like, I say on my resume that I did X kind of work for Y project, but if the company is looking for someone with a specialized skill I got really good at because of project Y I’ll talk about that, or if they’re looking for someone who does well under pressure I’ll talk about the tight turnaround on project Y and how I thrive in that kind of enviroment.

                2. AndersonDarling*

                  Yep, my “star” job is a few jobs back. I almost always call it out in my coverletters. Otherwise someone will only read the first boring two jobs and move on.
                  “Over the last three years, I’ve been with Oat Inc and Oat LLC, but I’m looking for a role similar to when I was with International Oats. I built their polishing department from scratch and developed processes that are now being used across the industry. I believe your position is a match for that experience.”

                3. londonedit*

                  Exactly – that’s what I do with mine. My CV has the top-level info about my job title and key responsibilities for each role, but then on my cover letter I talk about the book I worked on that won a major prize, or how I pulled a team of freelancers together to work on a book with a ridiculously tight turnaround, or whatever. I also use my cover letter to mention books and experience that relates to the job I’m applying for – if it’s a cookery publisher then I’ll mention my experience with illustrated books and setting up photoshoots, if it’s a sports publisher then I’ll mention the fact that I’m a runner and talk about the sports books I’ve worked on in the past.

              2. Just Another Cog*

                You don’t “repeat what’s on your resume,” you AMPLIFY what’s on your resume.

                In the example: The resume has a simple “volunteered for X organization doing Y tasks.”
                The cover letter makes the connection of how Y tasks are significant to the job description.

                We recently had a recent grad use part of their cover letter to explain how four years of involvement in a specific student organization actually had real-world implications for doing our job. It was a great letter and got the person an interview they might not otherwise have gotten.

              3. pancakes*

                The idea that those are good examples why people would vacation in a certain place and not such good examples why people would make a permanent move suggests they were more likely were tongue in cheek rather than entirely earnest, no?

                1. fhqwhgads*

                  I think the entire point of the examples was “if you’re applying from far away, say something>, maybe even anything, to indicate an interest in coming here, so that I’m not wondering if you haven’t realized this job is not anywhere near you are and also is not remote.” So whether they’re literal examples, or tongue in cheek, or not really either just a placeholder that shows “I know you’re there and I’m not”.

            2. WulfInTheForest*

              “I want to work in a library because I’m passionate about reading!” (which is often trotted out as an example of what NOT to say!

              Wait, why is this something not to say? I’ve worked in academic libraries for over 10 years, and this is a perfect reason for a student worker or young entry-level applicant to say. This is exactly what we look for in the library field.

              1. WellRed*

                Might be better to say, I’m passionate about introducing literature to children or something else actionable. But you can be passionate about lots of things; doesn’t mean you’re remotely qualified.

              2. Metadata minion*

                As a student employee, sure, since they usually don’t really have any idea what being a librarian actually involves and it’s just good that they have warm feelings about libraries in general. But since being a librarian usually doesn’t involve much reading (at least, of the kind they’re thinking of — I read documentation and email and stuff all the time) wanting to work in a library because you love to read can come off as kind of naïve.

                Ditto to “I want to work in the library because I love the quiet!” if your library is not actually quiet. Have you *been* to the library, student? Your job will actually dealing with angry faculty members who want to know why we can’t make books magically appear.

                1. Hillary*

                  when I was in middle school I wanted to work in a library because I love being around books. The feel of holding and shelving them, the smell of slowly disintegrating binding and paper, all of it. Eventually I figured out I can get the same pleasure from my own books.

                2. Grits McGee*

                  Yep, same issue in archives- if you sent in a cover letter talking about how excited you were to pour over historic documents and write about them, you’d come across as wildly out of touch. At least where I’ve worked, you’d be much better off waxing lyrical about your love of spreadsheets and lifting 20-50 lbs at a time.

                3. Gracely*

                  Yes, this–it’s fine for a student employee. It’s pretty terrible for a reason for someone who wants to make a career out of working in a library. In my entire academic library, we have *one* person whose job involves any kind of entertaining reading–and that’s because they run the student book club. While all my coworkers love to read, it’s not actually their job to read.
                  The whole “I love to read” thing is a huge flag that the person applying has little–if any–experience actually working in a library. Tell me you have great people skills and can talk down angry patrons/faculty, or are very detail-oriented and methodical so finding mis-shelved books or handling archival materials will be easier for you, or you’re great at teaching others about information literacy and how best to go about doing research in a given field of study, or that you’re the weirdo who enjoys repetitive tasks like copy cataloging or processing gov docs. Those are traits someone hiring in an academic library looks for.

              3. ThatGirl*

                For public libraries, at least, most of the jobs are very public-facing and involve a lot of customer service skills. Saying you love to read when applying there might make it seem like you think you’ll be sitting around reading all day. Now, if you’re a children’s librarian, talking about how you’re passionate about fostering reading skills in young kids might be spot on. But they don’t want a front desk clerk who thinks they’ll get to sit and read books all day.

                1. Simply the best*

                  Or saying you love to read will segue nicely into how great you’ll be at customer service, seeing as (according to my librarian sister) you get a lot of recommendation requests at libraries.

              4. Web of Pies*

                Ha, in high school I got rejected for a library shelving job because I wasn’t reading outside of school work! The librarian’s face just totally changed after she asked me what I’d been reading and I said Madame Bovary.

                In hindsight I should have told her I love to organize things, which I do. Alas.

                1. pancakes*

                  I think the key here is “in high school.” If there are two or more candidates with very little work experience competing for a student library position, it’s not wildly irrational to think that one who reads more than just assigned books might be better-suited for the position than one who doesn’t. Later on in their careers, all of the candidates will presumably have more to offer than that, but high school students, probably not.

              5. Librarian of SHIELD*

                It’s a good jumping off point, but it’s not a complete answer in and of itself. A more complete answer would be “I love reading and I’m excited to foster that enthusiasm in a new generation of readers” or “I love reading and I want help English language learners and adults with lower literacy improve their skills” or “I love reading and I’m always excited to help other people find a book they’re going to enjoy.”

          2. A Library Person*

            Honestly, if the cover letter otherwise did a good job of connecting the dots between the candidate’s resume and their interest in this position, I’d love to see a small personal touch like “I’ve always wanted to [local thing x].” For me, it shows that the candidate has enough interest in the position to consider the totality of what working here might be like, and that they are considering this position, specifically, in this place. This can make a candidate stand out from a pool that is applying to anything and everything even remotely connected to the field; I don’t mind if people *are* doing that (it’s a tough job market), but I appreciate the effort to acknowledge what position they are applying for.

            That said, I do not penalize candidates for *not* including something like this, if their application otherwise does outline their qualifications as it relates to the open position.

            1. Birch*

              Agree with this. Seeing some knowledge of the local culture would make me feel better about the risk of someone applying, having zero idea of what it’s actually like to live there, realising they hate it but feeling stuck and becoming a miserable situation for everyone involved.

              1. Usagi*

                Just wanted to add my 2 cents here; I agree with this in general, but depending on what they put, it might detract a few brownie points for me. I live in Hawaii, and we have tons of people who move here “to live in paradise,” only to realize it’s crazy expensive here! And while the culture is great, it’s all about connecting with people, which many people that aren’t from here aren’t great at (not to say no one is, it’s just tough. Like it’s actually quite difficult to get a good job unless you know so-and-so from XYZ oh what that’s crazy you know them too? That’s what happens when you have a small, tight-knit community, I guess). So then those people just end up moving back to the mainland after ~1 year.

                So! Because of that, if they put “I’m looking forward to surfing every day!” or “the beach is calling me!” or something very surface level like that, that (maybe in combination with other things) might trigger a cautious “how long are you actually going to stay here?” response from me.

                Now, if they put something that shows they actually are interested in local culture, then yes, I wholeheartedly agree with A Library Person and Birch are saying.

            2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Yep. For example, In a few years I am going to be looking for a job in a the place where the better half and I are intending to retire and I have a feeling I’m going to have to resist the urge to write, “I am looking forward to living in a place with surface water and rivers that run all year”. Water availability is a huge reason why we picked the place and does matter to me, but I know it will sound weird

        2. Lauren*

          The only reasons that (I think) work in out of state jobs are:

          We have family in the area
          Want to move home to X
          We love X and have been trying to move there for years. It’s our go-to destination for PTO.

      2. Hillary*

        Yes! I think of a cover letter as the place to show I’m going towards something, not running away. We want people who want to be here.* I have a colleague starting in RustBeltCity soon who we would have been skeptical about without context – he was an out-of-state candidate who’s currently in a desirable place and industry. He made it clear early in the process why he wants to move and plans to stay.

        *the motivation to start looking can of course be wanting to leave, but people who have a reason to want to work for us instead of the almost identical job next door tend to be both happier and more successful. The reason doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be as prosaic as they like the work and want to work at a big company with good benefits or stability. A lot of our applications come because they have a friend who likes working here. We know we’re not an attractive industry if you don’t already know about it.

        1. Braton Sprigs*

          It’s all so relative! I live in the Desirable City listed in the letter, and the droves of wealthy tech people moving here are pricing a lot of people out.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I’ve started putting that in my cover letters following a suggestion I read here. Not just that I’m free to move to CityX, but WHY I want to move to CityX, i.e. “an onsite position in proximity to a [geographical area] with good transport and more cultural activities, and CityX is exactly what I’m looking for,” or something like that. Then I go on to talk about my skills and the job, etc.

          This way, I get the elephant in the room out of the way—why I’m moving there, and while I have telecommuting experience and can start before moving, I’m not looking to work remotely from where I am now.

      3. acmx*

        Your list doesn’t really apply to my industry (sector and job type).

        If you’re in a location that is hard to draw candidates, why toss out applicants because they didn’t write a cover letter or wrote a bad one? I think it’s more informative to have a conversation than judging on a writing sample. I think a cover letter would be helpful if the applicant’s work history isn’t a direct match to what the job posting is looking for.

        But really, people want a good paying job hopefully with good benefits.

    2. Xenia*

      I think there’s a big distinction between just repeating resume information verbatim and pulling out one specific piece of the resume and really expanding on it. The resume transmits “I worked at y place for x years”, a title, and maybe a few accomplishments. There isn’t much room for more. The cover letter is where you go into your total passion for volunteering at y place and how you knew all the regulars by name and did a stellar job organizing the Back-to-school supply drives. It’s not a cute reason; it’s me saying “I’ve worked in this industry, I have experience with the specific thing you’re looking for, and I have tangible, interesting examples to prove it”.

      1. hbc*

        Yeah, I have buried in some versions of my resume that I had security clearance for three months a quarter century ago. It would be dumb to give resume prominence to a summer internship where I worked at the CIA credit union* now that I run small manufacturing facilities, but you better believe it’ll be highlighted in a cover letter if I apply to some place that has high security requirements or is government-adjacent.

        *Accomplishments: Timely arrival, reliable data entry, did not send list of agents with possible money problems to foreign entities.

        1. BubbleTea*

          You honestly did a better job in that internship than some government departments. Perhaps you should apply to run the country!

    3. Candi*

      In the context it’s been given, I’ve understood Alison and others to mean “don’t just reel off what your resume says in letter format,” as a complete or incomplete list, when they’re saying “don’t repeat your resume in your cover letter”.

      If there is something in your background that is really, really relevant to the job you’re applying for, you should put it in the cover letter. It shows you have related or direct history for the type of job you’re applying to, and lead into you discussing why you specifically are a great fit for the position. It’s particularly useful if you’d have to move to their location -it shows why you’re worth the time and effort, and any assistance the company might provide.

      1. mreasy*

        Yes, exactly! And this is why, if you have volunteered at the organization you’re applying with, you’d call it out in your cover letter in the context of your support of the organization’s work and mission.

    4. ecnaseener*

      It’s not that cover letters can’t repeat anything from the resume at all! It’s that they shouldn’t be *just* your resume in paragraph form.

    5. londonedit*

      Conversely in my industry they’re absolutely essential. You’d never be considered for a job without a good cover letter. You list your roles and responsibilities on your CV, but on your cover letter you expand on those and explain how your career has grown and how your experience makes you a good fit for the job you’re applying to. It also shows off your writing skills, which in an industry like mine (publishing) are extremely important. You can’t apply for an editorial job with a cover letter that has errors in it.

      1. Sleet Feet*

        Wow. Do you really think cover letters are 1) only useful for out of state candidates 2) reserved only for “hot destinations” like the east and west coast?

        Maybe review the census data and see where people are actually moving in regards to “hot destinations”.

        Every job I have ever had outside of fast food required a cover letter. It’s a useful tool for evaluating someone’s interest in your company and location. Even those of us in the Midwest.

        1. Stay-at-Homesteader*

          Perfect Midwestern response. :-) I’ll be over here silently chafing at the commenter’s disdain but too polite to rant about it.

          1. acmx*

            I don’t care where someone lives. I used the LW’s examples. They made it sound like it was hard to attract candidates to their city.

        2. londonedit*

          I’m guessing this was a response to the original commenter and not me, but I agree, it’s a great response!

        3. So long and thanks for all the fish*

          I haven’t applied to a single job that asked for a cover letter, and some places don’t even have a designated spot to upload them. I’m not actively job searching right now or I would have written letters, but I’ve applied to two jobs in the last month and got called for an interview at both of them with only my resume. They’re not as important in some fields.

          1. pancakes*

            Sure, but it doesn’t necessarily reflect well on all such fields. I can think of a couple of US tech companies that might not be so messy about, say, facilitating genocide in Myanmar if they put a bit more effort into assessing candidates beyond just looking at their technical skills.

    6. Parcae*

      “If you’re not in a hot destination, why make cover letters a requirement? Not to knock on the Midwest but why make candidates pretend to be enthusiastic about moving there?”

      Because a non-zero percentage of your candidates ARE enthusiastic about moving to the Midwest. I was, and my hiring manager was pleased to discover I was familiar with the area and had a reason to stick around. I suspect it gave me a leg up over other out-of-state candidates.

    7. A Library Person*

      I agree that candidates should not have to “make up some cute reason” to live in the place where the job is (although as I said below it can help elevate my enthusiasm for a candidate when done well), but it is also important to find and hire candidates who actually do want to live where the job is, or who have at least considered the location before accepting the position (acknowledging that there are quite a few steps between the cover letter and a final acceptance).

      As a lifelong Midwesterner, I’m a little put off by your tone here: [paraphrasing] “Not to insult the Midwest, but why would anyone want to live there?” Plenty of places in the Midwest (and not just Chicago) are just as vibrant and exciting as the hot coastal destinations, and our midsize cities and small towns can be appealing as well; it’s all about what you’re looking for and what suits you, personally. It’s nice when an applicant makes an effort to demonstrate that they are aware of where the job is, and better still when they actively want to come here.

      I’d think that cover letters would actually be *more* useful in so-called “hot destinations”, because hiring managers in those places are more likely to be receiving applications from candidates who just want to be there, without worrying about the job. A well-written cover letter can help distinguish who is actually interested in the position and not just the zip code.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        I do live in Austin, and yeah, cover letters are useful for remote candidates.

        1. Do you even realize the job is in a different city where you live? (This would be the case regardless of where the job is.)
        2. Have you thought at all about what relocating would entail? Or did you attend ACL or SXSW and imagine every weekend is like that if you live here?

      2. acmx*

        Are applicants really not aware of where they’re applying?

        The LW: “The city has a lot to offer, but we aren’t Austin, TX — this isn’t a hot destination where you assume people want to move just because they want to be here”, “Dayton”, “Kansas City”. I used their phrasing.

        I agree, that a cover letter might be more helpful in a “hot destination” since there could be more applicants applying to just live there. But I also don’t see what’s wrong with applying for jobs in a city you want to live. It’s ok to take a job in a city where you want to live and change jobs after a couple of years.

    8. Nonke John*

      “If you’re not in a hot destination, why make cover letters a requirement? Not to knock on the Midwest but why make candidates pretend to be enthusiastic about moving there? They want a job and might be willing to move there but they shouldn’t have to make up some cute reason.”

      I’ve never seen anyone recommend laboring for hours to concoct a load of BS about why it’s been your lifelong dream to live in Dayton, OH, or how much you love repetitive, mindless admin tasks. But even if you’re really just looking for any old work that will pay the rent, once you do get a job, that’s the specific situation you’ll have to make the best of. Don’t you want to do enough research to have sense of what you’d be getting yourself into in the case of each one you’re applying for? And once you’ve done it, is it really all that hard to throw in a sentence or two about it? A cover letter with something about the new region doesn’t guarantee that you won’t hate it once you get there, but it at least shows the hiring manager that you’ve thought about it and found a potential starting point for building a life.

      1. Nonke John*

        BTW, I’m not dissing Dayton, OH, which I’ve enjoyed and which is very similar to my Rust Belt hometown elsewhere. It was just one of the first non-hot-destination cities that came to mind.

      2. acmx*

        I guess my background clouds my POV. I was a military brat, I’m a veteran and I’ve moved numerous times for my career. Location/relocation is an automatic filter like skills when I apply for a job. It seems odd to apply to a city you’re not a little bit aware of.

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          One reason to write about relocation: Slightly helps show that you’re not resume bombing.

    9. Jack Bruce*

      Even in a hot city, I’d want to know why people are interested in a specific job and employer, and not just “oh it looks cool, I want to move there!” My current city is one of the hot ones and as local people are being displaced from housing and jobs by an influx of out of state people with lots of money, it makes it even more important to consider local people first. At my previous job, I hired for an entry level position and got a surprising number of candidates from across the country. I wanted to see that people actually had ties here and weren’t just interested in our city cause it looks cool and would be off in a year. We do have a lot of good local candidates and as Allison says, there are risks involved with out of state interviewees. Of course, if you’re hiring for a higher level position you should be looking nationally, but not for every job.

      1. acmx*

        Why don’t you just say local candidates only? If you don’t find what you need locally then expand your pool.

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          I’m not Jack, but I’d say one reason is time: Gathering a candidate pool takes time, so doing it twice (local, then expanding) would take more time than something like:

          1) Comb through local candidates to create a priority interview list.
          2) Look through the non-local list to see if anyone is shiny* enough to bump a local candidate from the first list.

          *In my example, a key qualification that makes a non-local candidate “shiny” is having both strong skills/experience and a strong reason to relocate.

  7. John Smith*

    #2 really resonates with me. I’ve been brought up to try and figure things out myself before asking, and I thought this was the norm. Current manager is really big on this but it does get annoying when simple requests like in the OPs letter are turned into some kind of academic research project:

    “Boss, I’ve checked the stationary cupboard and the stock room but can’t find the pencils. Do you know where they are? Jess and Lee can’t find any either.”
    Boss:” Do you think the stationary cupboard might have been moved? Have you checked if there’s been a policy change on pencil storage and supply?”
    Me: Hides snarl… innocuously reaches for baseball bat.

    Other “ask” problems:.
    Asking the same question of other people when already provided with the answer.
    Asking the same question time and time again. Forever.
    Asking only me when there are a dozen or so other people you could have more easily gotten the answer from (and who’s actual job is to provide the answer – like on IT issues. Grrrr!!!).

    1. ceiswyn*

      Asking me because you can’t be bothered to read the handover documentation from the previous employee. When you’ve been here six months and I’ve been here a week.

      Some people are lucky they still have all their limbs.

    2. Djuna*

      Those other “ask problems” are the ones I use to recognize people as “askholes”.
      I would add this to your list: Asking the same question of multiple people because you don’t like the answer you’re getting and hope somehow it’ll change.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Oh, that type of askhole drives me absolutely bat guano banana crackers. Especially if what they’re hoping will change is something that I have absolutely zero control over the rules that they don’t like.

      2. Global Cat Herder*

        We had one internal customer who did this to such an extreme that she called everyone in the department – in the order their cubes were arranged. First guy would stand up and say “it’s Pam, answer is X” and second guy’s phone would ring, and it would keep going down the aisle. Last guy didn’t even say hello, just picked up the phone and said “Pam, the answer is X” and hung up the phone.

        3-4 times a week, every week. “But someday the answer might be different”

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yes, it’s like they don’t think we talk to each other, too. We know exactly who the people are that are trying to find the one person who’s going to bend the rule for them, and that makes everyone more mindful of going exactly by the book when dealing with them.

    3. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

      “I need to do X in this situation. I’ve been told to do X in this situation. Shall I do X?”

      Genuine question I’ve had.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        Recent query: “This referral was made by the health visitor. Should I put the health visitor down as the referrer on this letter?”

        I thought better of saying something sarcastic like putting Elvis Presley down as the referrer because this is someone who takes things very literally.

        1. Curly sue*

          These both scream to me “I got in trouble for this last time because of a minor difference or internal political power struggle I didn’t know about or see. Please confirm that there isn’t a hidden trap this time.”

          1. ecnaseener*

            Absolutely. Or that they know the big picture task is “do X” but not whether there are any intermediate steps.

          2. Sleet Feet*

            Actually in some health care fields the referring provider is responsible for filling out health information that they may not want to take on for that patient.

            I know in home health the referring provider would sometimes refuse to do the paperwork we are legally required to obtain from them so yeah, if a “visiting” doctor or someone of that nature who wasn’t the PCP gave the referral we would definitely try to get a referral from the PCP instead and wouldn’t put th visitor down as the referring provider.

          3. Jackalope*

            Yeah, I had a job once with a team lead who had micromanager tendencies and when she was in a bad mood could explode for little things that weren’t foreseeable at least from my perspective. I remember one time for example when I was prepping for a craft project with some kids and I cut the yarn a bit shorter than she wanted it (since I held the yarn tauter than she did when measuring). She gave me an evil death glare as if I had just murdered some kittens right in front of her. At my next long term job I asked for clarification on any tiny thing that could be an issue. It drove my boss crazy until I got things sorted out and realized she wasn’t waiting to jump on me for tiny issues, but I 110% didn’t feel safe not getting every single detail clarified.

          4. Observer*

            These both scream to me “I got in trouble for this last time because of a minor difference or internal political power struggle I didn’t know about or see. Please confirm that there isn’t a hidden trap this time.”

            Which is why the advice to find out WHY people keep coming to the OP, is very on point.

    4. anonymous73*

      I used to work in IT support, and when we outsourced our help desk I created all of the knowledge base articles. I would constantly get questions from the team leads that they could have answered themselves if they had bothered to read the KBAs I had written. So my first question was always “What does the KBA say?” and eventually the questions slowed down. If I’ve missed addressing something in a KBA, the instructions are unclear or a new issue has cropped up that needs to be documented, then yes please ask me and/or let me know. But when the answer is at your fingertips, leave me alone. In the time it took you to get my attention, ask me and have me respond, you could have fixed the issue. Now you’ve just wasted your time, my time and the time of the user having the issue.

    5. Khatul Madame*

      This is the bane of my life. As a manager, I get frustrated when a team member asks where the file is (in the portal that this person maintains). When told “You are making me look for the file that you can find on your own just as quickly”… responds “I thought you knew where it was”.
      I know where it is – it’s on the portal! I can find it in 5 minutes while you sit there and wait! That’s a total 10 minutes of our time plus a couple minutes for me to let you know where the stupid file is, and a few more minutes for me to get over my irritation and get back to what I was doing when you interrupted.
      There are unfortunately many people who prefer to ask before trying to find the information themselves.
      And before I am accused of not being compassionate and collaborative – let’s save collaboration for important and rewarding work, not finding pencils or using search to locate a file.

      1. Gothic Bee*

        When people ask me stuff like that I just say “No, sorry” or “No, sorry. It should be on the portal”. Just because I can find it doesn’t mean I should sit there and locate it for them, and at least at my workplace, they’re usually asking if I know off the top of my head (so the answer is honestly “no”).

      2. anonymous73*

        When you do the work for them, you’re enabling them to continue to come to you first. You need to point them in the right direction and let them do it on their own or you will live in a constant state of frustration. Believe me, I get it and had to “re-train” a whole lot of people, but needing to do so for my own sanity.

    6. wendelenn*

      The pedant in me is dying at “Do you think the stationary cupboard may have been moved?” :)

  8. Liv*

    Submitting a cover letter even if it’s not asked for doesn’t demonstrate you can’t follow instructions unless they say ‘do not submit a cover letter’.

    I always submit one if there’s space to do so. Lots of employers expect one even if they don’t ask for one (which is irritating – ask for one if you want it!) and if they don’t care well then it’s not going to matter either way.

    I do think cover letters are useful though, especially if you have lots of similarly qualified candidates and you can’t interview everyone. They can be a good way to differentiate between people pre-interview. Also I work in a writing/editing field so they, you know, prove I can write.

    1. Candi*

      That reminds me of the multiple stories I’ve read where someone submits to a writing position and their cover letter at best shows they rely way too much on the document program’s spelling and grammar check. Homophones, people!

    2. ecnaseener*

      I’m not following you on the first paragraph. Who said it was bad to submit a cover letter? (My pre-coffee brain might have missed something but I did scroll back to look.)

      Re your second paragraph: unfortunately yes, especially at larger employers where HR/recruiting writes the posting. My team never gets cover letters anymore after HR took it out of the posting — and with 90% of candidates we’re really wishing we had a cover letter! (It’s not a common job, so most candidates have some vaguely tangential experience but nothing in a similar role)

      1. JG Obscura*

        There was a thread a few months back about industries/jobs where cover letters are never asked for and sometimes are completely disregarded. (Or the job application doesn’t even give you the option to include one.)

  9. Andy*

    LW2 I thought managers or admin staff are supposed to know the organizational things, like where the supplies are supposed to be? Asking random person all too often ends up to them pointing to last group pencils they have seen – which is often a group I am not supposed to take them from.

    Iif people frequently cant find pencils or other basic supplies things, re-organizing the office might be good idea.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I feel like the stereotype of what managers are “supposed to know” is big-picture stuff, right?

      1. Andy*

        Some of them, those on high level yes. But most of day to day management is to deal with operational issues, organize, know the rules, know proper process, know where what is. Where the pencils I can grab falls under that.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        My experience has been that I am supposed to know literally everything. HR policy, building operations info, strategic stuff, operational stuff, the steps for operational tasks…

        My primary role is strategic and working with the operational managers on what we need to be doing and what resources they need to make it happen. My general position is that what I’m “supposed to know” is how to figure things out, not necessarily every single thing off the top of my head. Not everyone in my reporting line agrees with that, though.

    2. No longer working*

      You don’t “bother” a high-level person if/when a peer can give you an answer. It’s not that the manager wouldn’t know, it’s that their time is more valuable and better spent on more important things.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I can see a manager showing the supply closet to a new hire on their first day (while they’re showing everything else in the office), but even that is a bit of a stretch – typically IME it’s been a teammate that shows a new hire around. Outside of that, I don’t see why a manager would know where the pencils are.

  10. Andy*

    > At least make the effort! “I’ve always been interested in aviation and would love to live in Dayton, birthplace of Orville Wright!” or “I can’t wait to try Kansas City barbeque.”

    LW5 I am always uncomfortable when I hear about this expectation. Most normal adults dont move to places because of them being “birthplace of Orville Wright” nor because of barbecue. These are very clearly fake sentiments that are supposed to sounds good. To be very honest, both of these sound stupid reasons to move – and the second one does not even imply the person has any reason to stay.

    You are a stranger requiring personal to job position. And then, you are also forcing me to guess which of normally nuanced complex reasons I have sound best to you. I all seriousness, this is an exercise in making up motivations that sounds good or at least straining them. Or, in writing manipulative texts.

    1. Jackalope*

      Those might not be the best examples possible, but I’ve heard multiple times that giving a reason to move to a new location means you’re more likely to be considered seriously for the position. Something like having family in the area, or it’s a part of the country that you’ve always wanted to live in, or you’re looking for a change of pace, etc. That gives the potential employer some reassurance that you’ll be willing to stick around. Some people are willing to go anywhere for a job, but others aren’t. Or they think they are until they get there and find that they can’t hack it in the new location. Indicating some forethought into said location will help give you a leg up.

      1. BigTenProfessor*

        I agree — it’s the FORETHOUGHT that matters. You don’t *have* to have family there, or even an affinity for *that* specific location.

        “After seven years in New York, a smaller city would be a refreshing change of pace for me — I certainly look forward to ample parking!”

      2. kitryan*

        Agreed that it’s a good idea. I almost lost a job because the hiring manager was worried that anyone who moved for the job would find out they didn’t like it there and he’d have basically forced them to move. He’d gone with a different candidate who would be moving there anyway as her husband had a job in the same city. Turned out that she withdrew after initially accepting the offer because she’d gotten a job at the same university as the husband. I’d happened to make a follow up call a few days after that and got the job after all.
        This is all particularly funny to me as it was a theater job and the theater world is small enough that people move for work *all the time*.
        When applying I’d not had any prior interest in that city but it seemed like it’d be fine and once I got the job I stayed in it for 5 years and stayed in that city for 6, so it all worked out.
        Anyway, a reason for moving was something that certainly held a lot of weight for my boss, as it nearly cost me that job!

        1. kitryan*

          Oh, and the reason I eventually left wasn’t really about the area but about stagnating at the job. After the first few years I’d tried to take on bigger projects and asked for a title change to reflect the responsibilities I already had. The grand-boss didn’t like me much and shot all of that down, repeatedly (though my boss was a big supporter). After a few years of that, I decided to move on and for most of the same reasons I’d had to move cross country in the first place, I moved back to the area I’d come from. I actually liked that local a lot, I’d probably still be there if there’d been room for advancement at all.

    2. The Rat-Catcher*

      I took these particular examples from OP to be facetious, but I don’t disagree with the bigger picture. It sounds like they are dealing with resume spamming and probably get a ton of people who will be genuinely surprised that the job is in KC when they live in Baltimore and are unwilling to move, which is just a waste of everyone’s time. At least an indication of understanding that you know where the job is located and are willing to be there helps.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Not only that you know the job is in a different city, but that you’re willing to actually relocate. Right now, I also wouldn’t be surprised at people applying for a not-completely-remote job and then trying to negotiate remote work from another state after getting an interview/offer. If it’s not possible, it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

        My field involves moving long distances as a normal part of changing jobs, but even then, if you’re applying for a permanent job abroad that’s not in an obviously appealing location (like, it’s in a country where you don’t speak the local language and don’t have a family connection) it helps to indicate that you’re genuinely interested in living there, rather than grudgingly taking the job as better than nothing while planning on moving as soon as possible.

        1. Candi*

          Considering having even one remote worker in a state means the company has to deal with that state’s specific employment laws and whatnot, I can see a hiring manager being Very Unhappy that an otherwise good candidate doesn’t get that the job has to be on location, or you have to live in the same state to be remote. (Some of the US states being huge and all, and the Aussie states being even bigger.)

          A good cover letter can explain the applicant gets it, and plans to move.

    3. Artemesia*

      Those comments are a nod at the idea that you are good with moving to outback nowhere not reasons for the move. They show that you have given the area’s virtues a little thought.

      1. hbc*

        Exactly. Give the hiring manager some sense that you’ve *thought* about the area and aren’t planning on looking it up on a map after you get the call. Because I guarantee they’re getting resumes from people who are blindly applying and have zero intention of moving to that area once they actually notice what the area is.

        Yes, some of it is playing a game, as I can come up with something attractive about anywhere on the planet. But even putting in the effort to fake enthusiasm is showing more of an interest than a lot of candidates.

      2. LizM*

        Exactly. My agency has offices all over our coastal state. Some of those offices are in the desert, and are hours from the beach.

        I know more than one person who didn’t understand how big our state was, and thought they were moving to a beach. A friend of mine cried when they came over the pass and saw the town they’d be living in. My friends who run those offices have learned to confirm that new hires understand what they’re getting into, otherwise they last maybe a year, before they transfer.

    4. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      We don’t do cover letters, but at the first interview for my current job I mentioned that the distance between my home and the office was a main reason for applying.

    5. BRR*

      The point the lw is making is that a cover letter that isn’t just a from letter, one that is written for the actual job description, is a huge plus for a candidate because so many don’t do it.

      For the location thing, if the job is in a location that people don’t usually move to (I would think of New York, dc, San Francisco, etc as places people do usually move to), it makes sense to awknowledge that especially when applying for an entry level role.

      1. BigTenProfessor*

        With the “academia is different from everything else” caveat:

        We want people who are going to not only move to the Midwest, but STAY in the Midwest. There can be a huge culture shock moving from a coast to a red state, a big city to a small one, etc. It’s important that folks have thought that through.

    6. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      “I am applying to this job from out of state because I have no overwhelming attachment to my current state of residence, and out of the 50 current states, I am willing to live in 37 of them. Your state is on that list.” (I’d never SAY that, but that’s what’s going on in my head)

        1. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

          I pulled the 37/13 out of the air, but I just wrote down the states I wouldn’t move to, and there really WERE 13 lol.

    7. Hippo-nony-potomus*

      I thought that the examples were somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but highlighting that there aren’t many reasons to move to Dayton, OH or Kansas City. There is nothing wrong with those cities, but you can find similar-sized cities that are a lot more attractive to people (e.g., Greenville SC instead of Dayton, Nashville or Charlotte instead of KCMO). Now, someone moving to KC might talk about the affordability combined with city amenities, and the desire to put down roots somewhere that she can buy a house and raise a family. Someone who loves aviation or retired USAF would actually find a lot to appreciate about Dayton, home of the USAF and with its own Aviation Trail.

    8. Gumby*

      This is probably not what the OP was thinking on this one, but there is strong social science research that shows that giving a reason can influence decisions *even if it is not a very good reason*. “Can I cut in front of you in line because I am in a hurry” will work more often than “Can I cut in front of you in line.” And it’s not wildly less successful than having an actual good/non-obvious reason. So while the stated examples may not be the best, they might also actually improve your chances.

  11. Speaks to Dragonflies*

    OP3, tell old boss to pound sand and suck eggs. It sounds lime old boss was wearing blinders and had bicuit dough in his ears. You TOLD him there was interest from other jobs in your skills. You all but said “Hey, this other job is might be looking to hire me, and you arent offering much.” If old boss wants to be Corporal Oblivious, thats his problem. Enjoy your new job with challenges and bennies.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. Say it nicely in terms of ‘I have made a commitment to new job and so my last day of October 7 stands. What can I do to make the transition easier; I am documenting projects and processes; is there someone you want me to work with on this?’ don’t quale — you are moving ahead — look indecisive and he will continue to harass you about it.

      but you are essentially telling him ‘pound sand — you didn’t do wht was necessary to keep me.’

  12. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP1: both pre-pandemic and current events I’ve interviewed from my car. The first times because I was at work and didn’t want others to hear that I was interviewing at another place.

    Second times because a) my cat won’t interfere with the call (he can’t drive), b) my husband WFH won’t overhear (I prefer to keep my work persona out of the house), c) for a video call it’s neater than my bedroom and d) for my knackered spine a car seat is by far the most comfortable place for a prolonged talk.

    I wouldn’t consider someone who conducted an interview while actually driving though. That would be exceptionally unprofessional.

    1. TheOtherJennifer*

      I have interviewed from my car and just interviewed a candidate who was in his car last week. I have no problem with it – except please don’t rattle your ice cubes in your XL Dunkin Iced Coffee while you’re speaking to me on video.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Ah yes, the oft-forgotten hazard of car interviews: within Massachusetts borders you must have an iced coffee in your car at all times to avoid OWD (Operating Without Dunks) charges.

      2. EPLawyer*

        And please don’t keep fiddling with your phone to get it set just right. Practice beforehand where you need to set your phone so your face can be seen and the phone will held in place. Don’t rely on holding it in your hand for a significant period of time.

        Signed, someone who talks to clients who are in their cars because PRIVACY.

        1. That*

          Thanks everyone for your inputs. I cannot tell you how many times my cat has tried to walk in front of my camera, I don’t want to do the laundry on my bed, or my dog is whining in the background. I agree, sometimes a car is the nicest quietest place around. I agree also with the no rattling of phones, coffee, keys, etc. too!!

          After asking this question, I’m glad to see that this is definitely an acceptable practice and the hiring manager just seems to be totally out of touch. Not sure how I can change his perceptions but you all have provided excellent examples to open his mind. Thank you.

    2. Hotdog not dog*

      I did so many interviews from my car (parked in my own driveway) during the pandemic that my family started referring to it as the phone booth. As Keymaster noted, pets don’t drive, so no unexpected fuzzy face popping into the Zoom, it’s often cleaner than the house, quiet, and easy to comfortably sit up straight. If anyone from my family gets a whim to ask me if we’re out of mustard or anything equally non urgent they can’t just come bursting in without pants at the wrong moment.

      1. That's My Name*

        Op 1 here – I agree! Sometimes the car is the best place to get some peace and quiet. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t crazy for thinking interviewing in a car was totally normal.

    3. Loquacious Walrus (she/her)*

      I actually did a coffee spit take on over your cat’s (lack of) driving skills. Thanks for the morning giggle!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Goddess help me if William Catner ever finds my car keys…I think he’d *try* !

    4. Not really a Waitress*

      I had 5 interviews for my current position. All but 1 was from my car. I carved out a spot for the last one because it was a presentation.

    5. sofar*

      I interviewed for my current position from the stairway landing on another floor of my office building because I didn’t want my coworkers knowing I was interviewing for a new job. My car happened to be in the shop, and I’d taken an Uber to work.

      LW’s boss is ridiculous. If a candidate found a quiet place to get an interview done, that’s a sign they can make things work.

    6. Momma Bear*

      I’ve had a number of “don’t want someone to overhear” conversations in my car, and sometimes drive to a nearby park to make sure no one who matters sees me talking or sees my screen. Give the person props for being confidential and thinking out of the box. These are weird times at best, but honestly, if I give someone an interview time mid-day and I know they have a job…I kind of expect a casual background. I’ve interviewed Interns from their dorm rooms. You use what you have. Unless the person was driving or acting really unprofessional, I wouldn’t worry about it.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        With my flip top phone, and blue tooth in my car, I have done several initial interviews from my car.

      2. Gipsy Danger*

        My best friend’s husband talks to his therapist while sitting in his truck – away from children’s ears and a place he feels comfortable!

        1. kitryan*

          I actually did an interview on my therapist’s front lawn once (I didn’t have a car). I’d accepted an interview time that was about an hour before the therapy appointment and they never called. I figured that was basically a rejection and was telling the therapist this and he said, there’s lots of reasons that they might not have called, get out there and call them right now! So I sat on the lawn and called and it turned out that my acceptance of the interview time was in their spam folder and we did the phone interview right then. I did not get the job after all that, but I certainly had a better shot at it than if I hadn’t called.
          Unsurprisingly, I was mostly seeing the therapist for confidence/rejection issues :)

      3. pancakes*

        Exactly. I have seen numerous fellow NYers talk about doing therapy in their cars (during the alternate side parking switchover, ideally) so as not to annoy or be overheard by roommates or partners.

    7. Chickaletta*

      I’ve done several interviews from my car too, the alternative being taking a whole morning or day off of work. And I’m obviously not going to do the interview from my cubicle where everyone can overhear. The hiring manager in this story isn’t thinking it through.

    8. Pied Piper*

      If Bernie can squeeze in Joe’s inauguration on his way to the post office, I see no problem with interviewing in your car, between errands or not.

  13. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP3: when I handed in my resignation to Toxic Boss From Hell I was leaving with no job to go to – I was that done with the place. He still tried to argue around my contracted 1 month notice by saying that I owed it to them to stay for longer so I could fully document everything I did, train up someone on help desk to do my job (which would, in practice, take over 6 months), make it up to the company for ‘quitting the job without warning’ etc.

    I replied with an email (cc to my personal account) that I would have my last day on date X and any extensions to that date were not possible.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      He still tried to argue that since I was leaving for no job that I had ‘better’ reconsider my stance but, again, I was done with his crud. I got the official letter from HR confirming my resignation and last day and that was it. He couldn’t override that.

      (Still tried of course)

      1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

        I love stories of folks who quit crappy jobs with crappy bosses. Bonus if there is ensuing chaotic aftermath and the boss isnleft standing with a shocked pikachu face.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          There was (I’m still friends with a few people there) but that boss is still in charge, still a bigoted twit and has gotten *worse* in the intervening 6 years (think denying grieving time to staff when a coworker died of Covid because ‘nobody has actually died of it’).

          So, sadly, I can’t say me leaving made much difference to the company. Did improve *my* mental health though.

          1. Candi*

            Sounds like he’s progressed to full-blown delusions, and probably still doesn’t understand why people bail.

            1. Observer*

              I think you are giving this guy to much credit. Because the coworker died of SOMETHING. So even if you are deluded enough to think that the doctors are “making it up” that CW died of Covid, folks STILL lost a coworker and need some grieving time.

              In other words, “no one died of Covid” is not the REASON he denied time, it was the EXCUSE. The REASON is that he’s just a terrible human being.

              1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

                Basically yep. He maintains that since she died while black/over 50/obese/asthmatic that it was ‘a natural and expected death’ thus nobody needs to grieve.

                The fact that firm is nearly 100 miles away and I still can’t get fuel for my car (the UK is a mess) is a good thing because I’d love to see that guy step on a few hundred D4 dice.

            2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              Oh no, I know delusional VERY well and he’s not it. He’s just convinced that he’s a) the most intelligent man in the world and b) anything he chooses to believe is fact is fact 100% of the time.

              Things like women having smaller brains….illness only ever caused by something *you* did wrong..

              When I have to calibrate how bad a manager is I size them up against him, he was scum. The only good thing I can say is that he never threatened anyone with physical attacks.

        2. Candi*

          I like the ones where they have to hire 2-4 people to cover the person who left, and the ones where clients say, “Nope” and leave.

          1. londonedit*

            Oh yeah – five years of ‘Right, we want to expand but we don’t have the budget to hire anyone else, so you’ll just have to do more work’ followed by ‘Wow, we can’t get anyone at this low salary who wants to do all of this work! We’re going to have to hire three people to do all of this!’

          2. Parcae*

            My old boss was not bad enough to make a good AAM story, but I was completely overworked in the position and Boss kept complaining about my output being too low. Towards the end I really started to doubt myself– was I not good at my job? Did I not work hard enough?

            They literally hired three people to replace me. Sometimes when I’m feeling low I go to the staff listing on their website to cheer myself up. :)

        3. Bubbly*

          I quit after working for a narcissist for 3.5 years in a job that’s already demanding, but he managed to make intolerable. I think this guy used the Sick Systems essay as a playbook because it was ON POINT. For example when we said that we were exhausted and unable to provide good service with our on call schedule (which conveniently became which of us schlubs they could force to do it instead of the owner on the rotation) he threatened us with MORE on call as well as having to do routine work on Saturdays as well. I was working a bare minimum 45 hours, usually 50-70 a week already. My pay was atrocious and he kept threatening to take away our after hours bonuses because he didn’t want clients to not call because there was a fee involved. Our clients were already nasty and demanding so I’m sure that would have helped everyone /sarcasm.
          Two of us, which was literally half the money producing staff (small business, lots of admins that were treated like royalty), decided to quit at the same time without realizing it. Other person made the mistake of wanting to offer as much notice as possible and did it while boss was on vacation. He was absolutely furious and really took it out of her. I decided to wait until after and told him I needed to talk to him when he was back in the office after he got back because he liked to avoid us like it was some sort of punishment (also we weren’t supposed to leave without permission even if it was 8:30 pm). He insisted on talking that night and blew UP. Told me I was stabbing him in the back and nasty verbal abuse. We ended up using my vacation time to cut my notice period in half and I was absolutely thrilled. My coworker was stuck there for a few weeks longer and the staff and boss tortured her. I was told by a friend who worked there that the others were calling me a traitor for quitting after I walked into a room where they wouldn’t normally congregate and everyone went silent. I found it amusing.
          Boss would randomly call on a blocked number to “check in” for months and say Merry Christmas. I refused to answer after the first call and never responded to the random texts. He was actually upset I didn’t use his network to find a new job and told everyone I left to go part time. He said he could have made me part time if that’s what I had wanted (no, I need health insurance and I’m not working as a professional for $30k 2-3 days a week when similar jobs in my profession pay six figures for the same amount of hours).
          It ends well at least. My new job pays me nearly twice what I made after all the bonuses I nearly killed myself over (not figuratively, it was also a very dangerous job). I get better and cheaper health insurance and they NEED me. Heck I got an 11% raise this year! Old Boss would complain about paying taxes on the bonuses written into my contract.

  14. Cambridge Comma*

    I wonder if OP2 is female and therefore getting more questions about stationery. I used to get so many men walking past five offices where men whose job it was to make copies and find stationery worked, to ask me, 5 levels up from them (in that organization your grade was clear from the number of windows in your office, so they knew) to make copies. If OP is dealing with this, I can understand if she’s irritated.

    1. Liz*

      That made me smile – the idea of seniority being denoted by number of windows. I’m picturing a manager coming into your office to declare “congratulations, you’ve been promoted to x” and ushering in a glazier to perform the fenestratary honours.

    2. WS*

      +1, my boss is female and people want to ask her the basic questions. Her immediate subordinate is male, and people want to ask him the important questions. Fortunately both are good at negotiating this.

    3. Candi*

      How many times a day do you have to hide the “are you kidding me?” face? Or do you hide it? :P

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        In the cases where it was better for me to hide it?
        Masks were great for this.
        Online meetings (Teams, Zoom) are great for this because I have NO poker face.

        The bar for where I hide it is decently high. And my direct supervisor and my grandboss has NO issue with me cocking an eyebrow while sending someone in the correct direction, most of the time over this.

    4. Anon100*

      Good point – I’m the only woman of my department and I’m a technical project manager so no, I do not keep track of where the pens are stored. Used to drive me nuts when people would ask me where to find basic office supplies but since the office renovation and reorganization of storage, I can truthfully say I have no idea and they should ask our office manager.

    5. Ella*

      I get all the admin qs and the boys at my level don’t. I’ve started politely saying that I believe Jack/Harry/etc. would be better placed to help and carrying on with my work. They were suddenly surprised by all these extra jobs they were ‘having to pick up’, as if it hadn’t been my entire experience working. I couldn’t imagine how frustrating it would be when you’re actually too senior to be doing all of that.

  15. Paperdill*

    I feel like I would be far more judgey of an interviewee with and unmade bed and tossed off pyjamas in the background than of someone interviewing in a car. Is that wrong?

    1. David*

      In pandemic times, yeah, I would probably consider that more wrong than not. Many people have limited options for where they can safely do an interview, and it’s quite possible that they didn’t have any better place to do it than their bedroom. I get that ideally the interviewee would have tidied up the space beforehand, but there are definitely legitimate reasons a person might not have been able to do that. You don’t know the interviewee’s situation, and you especially don’t know if the messy background actually means anything about how well they would do as an employee (unless you’re hiring for something like a maid service), so I don’t think it’s reasonable to hold it against them.

      In non-pandemic times, it’d be more reasonable to expect that an interviewee can set themselves up in a professional-looking environment, so you’d probably be somewhat more justified in holding a messy background against them. But still, it should probably be just a minor factor, not something that disqualifies an interviewee who performs very well in the interview itself. Anecdote time: when I did a video interview for my current job, before the pandemic, I had one desktop computer with one camera that was pointing at a fairly cluttered room, and I was staying with family at the time so it wasn’t even my space to clean up or change. If the interviewer had had a problem with that, the company would have missed out – the job turned out to be a great fit for both me and them.

      1. Candi*

        I’d have a problem with the tossed-off pajamas in Paperdill’s example -put them in the hamper or shove them under the bed or bedclothes, it takes about a minute at most under most circumstances.

        But the messy bed? Nah, I don’t make mine unless I have to. I grew up with a dad who used Army barracks just before inspection as his standard of organization, and now I’m glorying in not having to make the darn thing.

        1. Valancy Snaith*

          I don’t think anyone is saying that a bed needs to be ironed-sheet-tight, but I’d certainly judge someone interviewing with a sloppy, unmade bed in the background. I’d judge them in the same way I would someone interviewing in a kitchen with dirty food-messy plates on the counter behind them, or in a living room with visible garbage or tossed-around clothes in the field of view, or in their car with a bunch of fast-food bags crumpled up around them. I understand that life happens, pandemics are unexpected, but when I’m on camera at home I make a concentrated effort so that the area in my background looks reasonably neat and tidy. I don’t think this is an unreasonable expectation.

          1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

            I never make my bed either, except when somebody is going to see it, and a video interview would certainly count. Or better yet, angle the camera so one of the most private bits of my home is out of view.

            And really, you don’t need to clean up, you just have to shove the mess into the area the camera can’t see. Or hide all the bedding under the bed and just go with the fitted sheet and a pillow at one end. It doesn’t have to be good, it just has to look good where the camera points.

            1. Galadriel's Garden*

              Yes, this! This has largely been my approach to home office maintenance throughout the pandemic…”but how does the area in the scope of my camera look?” I did realize once early on to my horror that Teams uses a wider aspect ratio than Zoom does, and there was some gnarly weirdness happening on the fringes of my video…nothing a quick “oh hold on just a sec!” turn off video, sweep everything out of sight, turn video back on couldn’t fix. When I was interviewing earlier this year I would camera test my outfits, etc. to make sure I didn’t hop on camera and realize that split-neck shirt looks completely different on video than in person. 10 minutes (hell, even 5!) of prep is not too step an ask for an interview, imo.

        2. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

          I agree with you about tidying up the laundry being more critical than a tidy bed. For me at least, my bed never *gets* to stay made (so I usually don’t bother) because my dog’s loves nothing more than rooting around in the duvet and pillows to make everything perfect once I finally relinquish the mattress in the mornings.
          I was lucky enough to have a non-bedroom space suitable for video meetings during the stay-at-home orders, but several of my peers did not. And the usual place they would go to for interviews or big meetings (private workrooms at the public library) was closed.

          1. Polly Hedron*

            Okay, but if you had to interview in a bedroom space, why not just shove the duvet and pillows into a closet?

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. It’s not unreasonable to expect someone to put dirty clothes out of sight of the camera and pull up the covers. The bed doesn’t have to be made in a way to bounce a quarter off it, but at least straighten it up.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Not wrong. Nothing needs to be absolutely perfect, but some evidence of effort is important in a situation like a job interview. These days I wouldn’t expect someone to wear a full suit and heels during a Zoom interview, but I would be put off by a ratty t-shirt and excessively unkempt hair. Same theory applies to their surroundings. A car wouldn’t bother me unless I could clearly see piles of Mickey D’s wrappers everywhere.

      Also, taking the interview from the car shows an understanding of the need for uninterrupted, discreet time.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        I agree. At this point, we’re 18 months in. By now you should have some way of not showing mess and clutter in the background. Turn on the fake background, blur it, sit on the floor in front of a wall, take five minutes to pick up, or, yeah, go to your car.

    4. Sleet Feet*

      A lot of people agree with you but personally I don’t care.

      Are they prepared for the interview? Do they look put together?

      Then I don’t care if their bed is unmade or if their house is messy.

      1. kittymommy*

        Yeah, I truly don’t get what this is supposed to convey? I honestly don’t think I would notice an unmade bed or clothes in the background. Truthfully, unless it’s a cat I probably don’t pay attention to backgrounds from Zoom meetings at all (I defintily could not relate even one background I have seen). Including interviews.

  16. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    If he wants six months’ notice, he needs to get a contract in place – a truly mission-critical member of staff would be worth the paperwork and potential costs that would mean.

    But any employee could get hit by the lottery bus at any time, and be unavailable at short/no notice. If your business model can’t cope with that, that’s a bad business model.

    1. not a doctor*

      An employee could also get hit by an ACTUAL bus and be unavailable. These things (unfortunately) happen!

  17. Green great dragon*

    OP2 – I agree people should try obvious routes before disturbing anyone, but once they realise they do need help, why shouldn’t it be you? I’d have no problem with my new member of staff choosing to ask me, the person employed to manage them, rather than the 6 other people they know less well, all of whom have their heads down in the middle of complex work. (I realise there may be good reason, but it wasn’t obvious from the letter.)

    1. Artemesia*

      do underlings ask male bosses where the pencils are? Not anywhere I have ever worked. Asking the female boss is just another example that all women are secretaries and exist to provide ‘help’.

      1. Simply the best*

        Can confirm, I’ve asked my male boss where office supplies are. (Not pencils specifically since I don’t think I have chosen to write with a pencil since I was in middle school)

      2. Simply the best*

        Though I would never refer to myself or anyone else in my org chart as an “underling”

        1. Artemesia*

          ahh glad you live in that magic world where female PhDs are not treated like secretaries and people walk past a line of offices populated by men in order to ask the woman where the Department Chair is or if they can unjam the copier or get these copies made. It is routine in ever world I have ever worked in that women professionals are tasked with administrative trivia that their male counterparts are not.

      3. A Wall*

        do underlings ask male bosses where the pencils are?

        Yes? This is a very, very strange post. Your boss is, in fact, supposed to help you.

        1. Artemesia*

          None of my bosses male or female are admins and I would not think of asking them such questions.

          1. A Wall*

            My boss at my last job was a man and who was indeed in charge of all the supplies for our entire section of the building, which involved not only all his direct reports but the entirety of every other department located in that section. At my job before that, my boss was a male exec who did not order the supplies but he was in charge of every budget used for them, and as a result he was often the best or only source of information on who should use which supplies or who handled ordering for the most relevant budget. We would always check with him to make sure things were getting routed through the correct place, which he was happy to help us with whenever we needed anything, even when it was something as small as a package of folders.

            I’m sorry you find the concept of management doing administrative work so demeaning– they certainly didn’t.

    2. Allonge*

      The thing about this discussion is, it has so many factors that we are not always talking about the same thing.

      If new staff members have questions, they can come to me, but ideally not with things that everyone knows – one of the things that such questions allow is for the new person to connect to everyone else and get to know them. How well do you really need to know someone you work with before you ask them about stationery?

      And for the why not – in most cases the time of a manager costs more and is more overscheduled than that of people reporting to them. So, when easy questions that can be answered by anyone go to other members of the team, that is more efficient.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I was at a job where I had a similar problem. I was supposed to ask around when I had a question, but the team members were pretty jerky and never wanted to help. Even when I set up time for training with them, they were dismissive and grumpy that I used their time. Only one person on the team was receptive to helping and I couldn’t take up all his time with training and questions, so had no way to get up to speed and produce good work.
      I ended up leaving before the year because I couldn’t get basic training. My manager and director were shocked when I resigned. They assumed that the team would just step in and do everything necessary to onboard me.

    4. hbc*

      Most managers do pretty complex work too. You may understand better what your colleagues are doing and therefore judge it as non-interruptible, but your boss may very well be working on something very important. It might even be something that seems like busy work, but you could be out of pencils in January if they don’t get the budget submitted or not need pencils because some certification lapsed and your whole group can’t legally sell its products.

      1. Tinker*

        This is a thing that changes a lot based on context. Many of my managers have been similar to Green great dragon, in that they prefer *as the manager* for people to come to them with logistical issues outside of the core work because shaping the environment to enable that work is their function on their team.

        In this model, the manager is more like a technical specialist in another field than a higher form of life — yes, the manager might need to get the budget submitted in order for us to have money, and yes they are doing that thing because I only understand budget things at a high level compared to their deep knowledge of it, but my work is also equally not their specialty and can be just as urgent. We reconcile these issues by way of communication — I explain how urgent my issue is, they explain how urgent their issue is, and generally we then agree on which thing to address first.

        It’s not uncommon in my field that people intentionally choose to remain in their technical specialty rather than making a career change into management, and it’s also not that uncommon that people who do give management a try decide that they would rather not continue doing it. I gather that this differs somewhat from other fields where the expected path for people who prove competent at the work is to move quickly into management, and hence someone who stays at the IC level must therefore be unable to grasp the importance of big brain management concerns.

  18. Djuna*

    Adding another amen to #5.
    I was recently on an interview panel for an internal hire and one of the applicants used the same materials they’d used for another position – with that position name mentioned in it multiple times. If they were similar roles, that might have been okay, but they aren’t remotely similar (think llama grooming vs chocolate teapot design).
    We have a lot of internal people who apply for anything and everything, so taking time to tailor your application for each role you’re applying for really makes people stand out.

    1. Candi*

      Sounds like they did stand out -just not in a way that’ll get them on the second-round interview short list. And probably not on the first-round interview list for some time to come.

      Definitely another reason to carefully tailor the materials.

    2. Sleet Feet*

      This is my personal nightmare. That I’ll mistakenly attach the other roles cover letter when I apply to multiple roles at the same company.

    3. A Library Person*

      We had one that was neither really related to the position nor got our institution correct in several attempts throughout the letter. To be somewhat fair to the candidate, we know that candidates are usually applying to a lot of different positions; it’s a crowded job market. But when your accomplishments are in no way actually related to the job (there might be a job somewhere with a similar job title that does what the candidate had experience and interest in, but this is a common title for this type of work) *and* you can’t get the location right, that’s a quick way to disqualify yourself.

  19. UKgreen*

    Even here in the UK, six months notice is wildly unusual except for very senior roles. One of the divisional directors in my company has announced he’s retiring next summer, and that’s been communicated to the organisation so that a transition plan can be put in place (and, knowing this director, so we can all plan a HUGE retirement party in his honour!) but had he been leaving for another role he would probably have given three months.

    1. londonedit*

      My dad had to give two years’ notice of his retirement, but that was because he’d built up the company from scratch and then sold it to a competitor and continued to work for them as a director. So he was the only one who knew the ins and outs of how the company worked – they had to hire three people to replace him and he needed time to travel around to all the various global locations he worked with to introduce and train these people. But that’s extreme!

    2. Candi*

      “knowing this director, so we can all plan a HUGE retirement party in his honour!”

      That right there says this guy is awesome, that the party is occurring before he leaves. :p

  20. EvilQueenRegina*

    In my old job, my team was all at risk of layoff – there was uncertainty for a long time about what funding would be available for us after the end of the funding guaranteed up until 31st March 2011, they weren’t sure how many staff they could actually retain beyond that date.

    Before Christmas, everyone was being encouraged to job hunt, being told that if we found another suitable job, take it. Until after Christmas, people started getting offered other jobs (internal transfers to a department that wasn’t cutting), and it started looking like people were going to be moving on before 31st March. Boss was NOT happy, saying she was going to talk to the other department about keeping us for as long as she could, and said a few things to the guy who was leaving first along the lines of “I still haven’t written your reference, you know” and “I haven’t signed off your paternity leave yet”. She tried to deny someone a previously approved day off for a specialist medical appointment for her 3 year old son even though there was no business reason for that – HR stepped in on that one. Other coworkers had interviews for internal transfers lined up right around the time it was confirmed that there was funding for their roles after all, and Boss tried to block the interviews (at the time, anyone at risk of layoff was supposed to get priority for interviews for internal transfers, and Boss’s argument was that because funding had been confirmed and they were no longer at risk, this should no longer cover them) – this was then overruled and they did attend.

    The way things panned out, it was only a matter of a couple of weeks at the most before 31st March that anyone actually left (this was in the UK where the notice period was 4 weeks) so it ended up being a lot of fuss about nothing, but the drama caused left a bad taste in people’s mouths. That’s an abridged version of the drama that went down at the time.

    1. Candi*

      And later Boss was shocked everyone who could avoiding transferring into their department, no matter how good the position was, right?

      Really, that Boss sounds like a petty tyrant trying to keep their fiefdom intact.

    2. not a doctor*

      >She tried to deny someone a previously approved day off for a specialist medical appointment for her 3 year old son even though there was no business reason for that – HR stepped in on that one.

      Like that wouldn’t make people want to leave MORE…? What on Earth, OldBoss.

  21. Turingtested*

    I could be too literal but it sounds like OP 2 has an onboarding problem. Things like where to find supplies should be covered very early on. Another part of training should be who you you go to with what type of questions.

    When I’m training people I give parameters like “if you’ve spent 10 minutes and you’re still stuck, ask me for help” or “give it your best try for the next hour and then we’ll review” or “this needs to meet ‘explicitly stated exacting standards’ but this you can be more creative with.” Might cut down on questions or at least make sure they’re needed.

    1. Dino*

      +1 for onboarding issues. I’ve been at my job for 10 months now but I still have to ask my boss stupid questions. I can’t ask my coworkers because they don’t know either!

    2. Sylvan*


      My company has Google docs with information like this. Open the document, search for the thing you have a question about, and there you have a detailed answer.

    3. Lacey*

      Yeah, the pencil thing is so weird. I’ve only been at one job where they didn’t show me the supply closet on the first day. And at that one really no one knew where to get things. They just kinda showed up… or didn’t.

    4. doreen*

      Maybe – it’s not clear to me from the letter how the office is organized and if it’s the entire staff or a couple of people asking these questions . If the entire staff is asking the manager where the pencils are , it may be an onboarding or training problem – but if it’s only a couple of people, probably not. When my office is fully staffed, there are supposed to be 22 people assigned here , including me. Four of them are my direct reports and rest directly report to one of the three supervisors. Nobody should be asking me when the pens are or how to get a new stapler – they have all been here long enough to know who handles that ( the newest has been with the agency 8 years). Only my direct reports should be asking me questions about their work – everyone else should be discussing those questions with their immediate supervisor or checking our very detailed written procedures . Out of 21 people, there is only one who routinely bypasses her supervisor to ask me work questions. She is the same one who asks me where to find supplies – which haven’t moved in 10 years.

  22. Notice periods in medicine*

    Re: notice periods. Are there certain fields with different norms around notice periods? For example, medicine?

    I have a friend who is a doctor in a primary care clinic, and her bosses made her give 3 months notice. That seemed long, but would like to hear other peoples experiences in this! (They are kinda of crazy, they wanted her to give 1 years notice which is absurd)

    1. Candi*

      There’s other places in the comments where people are discussing notice in the US and elsewhere.

      Short version: For a regular doctor, one that doesn’t have a super-high position in the hospital or clinic, 3 months is possible in Britain, but completely nuts in the US.

      1. Loredena Frisealach*

        That might vary by employer – I have a doctor relative who actually had a contract with her hospital employer, and gave significant notice when planning to retire because they needed enough notice to wrap up patient follow ups/stop scheduling surgeries. I think her notice period would have been similar if she was simply resigning.

    2. After 33 years ...*

      Longer notices are typical in academia in my experience, because of the impact on teaching courses. At my place, if you intend to leave or retire in September, typically you’d give notice in April (or earlier). This is indicated in our collective agreement.

      1. Midwestern Scientist*

        This permeates to non-teaching staff as well. My PI (who doesn’t teach) was VERY upset when someone only gave two weeks notice because the culture is such that he is used to having at least a semester (4+months) of notice.

      2. TM*

        Yep, same in the UK. It used to extend to non-academic staff as well, which was incredibly frustrating because there was no discernable reason for it.

    3. anonymous73*

      I can’t speak to any industry specifically, but no company can ~force~ you to provide a certain a mount of notice. Unless you’re relying on current job to provide a reference, or concerned about current job doing something in retaliation in you don’t provide their preferred notice, you honestly owe them nothing more than what you’re willing and able to give.

      1. doreen*

        It’s not always about what you owe your current employer – if it’s standard in your field to give a certain amount of notice and/or to change jobs at a particular time of year, it might affect your chances of getting a new job. When my kids were young, one of their teachers resigned mid-year. It wasn’t maternity leave or anything like that. I can only assume that she left the field entirely as I can’t imagine a school would want to hire a teacher who was willing to leave a job in the middle of the year.

        1. anonymous73*

          Which is why I said “Unless you’re relying on current job to provide a reference, or concerned about current job doing something in retaliation”. If it’s standard across the board and wouldn’t be a problem to provide a longer notice – from the beginning – then do what’s expected. But if your soon to be former manager asks once you’re notice has been given, you owe them nothing more.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      Generally, the higher the position, the longer the notice. 3 months for a doctor seems kind of long but might be right depending on what patients they have.

      Most jobs in the US are 2 weeks notice, even though this is not a legal requirement, but a professional courtesy.
      For director or c-suite, perhaps 1-3 months.

    5. Sleet Feet*

      Unlike most jobs in the US doctors are frequently contracted with the clinics/hospitals they work for.

    6. Cat Tree*

      In some cases I believe it is more a matter of professional standards. I think doctors are expected to work for a longer time so their patients can transfer to someone else and won’t be left without medical care. Maybe someone in that industry can weigh in.

    7. Camelid coordinator*

      At my higher ed workplace (and I believe, in higher ed more broadly) staff are expected to give four weeks.

      1. Caraway*

        Just to show there’s always a counter-example, I’m also in higher ed (non-faculty) and two weeks is standard for my workplace! As mentioned elsewhere, more notice is generally expected/given for teaching positions.

    8. JustaTech*

      I just got a letter that a doctor I’ve seen when my doctor was unexpectedly out is retiring in January, so that her patients have enough time to find a new doctor. When my last doctor moved away I think she let me know a couple of months in advance.

      But both of those people are primary care, where you’re expecting to have the same doctor for years or decades. In the case of a hospitalist or ER type-doctor, where you don’t work with the same patients long term, then I wouldn’t think you would need so much notice.

  23. Lance*

    Re: OP#1: I’d be very tempted to ask that manager how much they have to squeeze into their day, and how much they, by their estimation, don’t care about it. Because nobody squeezes important things they care about into a busy day, I guess?

    1. Rayray*

      Right?? Are they expecting that candidates take the whole day off to stare at the wall and do absolutely nothing else with their day but take the phone interview? People have lives.

  24. Seeking Second Childhood*

    LW2, If you just snapped at a new hire or
    someone who is recently back to the office after a pandemic of working from home, I would suggest an apology.
    Put office cabinet location on to your onboarding checklist.
    Realize things change in 18 months. The person I used to get my office supplies from has left the company. A coworker who went back for a short on-site project found that things had been stolen from her desk, from office supplies in a desktop cup to the quarters stashed at the back of a bottom drawer with toiletries.

    1. Dwight Schrute*

      Agreed. I read that and thought wow letter writer kind of sounds like a jerk to work for.

    2. Rayray*


      I understand we all have bad days and sometimes it’s the super minuscule things that can annoy you but it was such a simple question and it makes you wonder why this simple information wasn’t clear to that person. I k ow every single job I’ve ever had there’s always something that they forget to tell me because they just don’t think about it because why would they when they’ve been at the company for years and these little things are so ingrained in their mind? Too many managers forget what it’s like to be new and not know everything.

      Even if this wasn’t a new employee, it was just a question. This LW should work on stress management if something like that is going to set them off:

  25. MissDisplaced*

    I’ve taken lots of phone call interviews from my car! Of course this was in the pre-video days, so I’m trying to picture how a Zoom call would go while sitting in a parked car (hot, I’d expect!).
    I don’t think it’s the ideal situation, but it’s not wildly unprofessional either to be the sole deal breaker on a candidate. But obviously they “heard” something else in the candidate’s tone or manner that put them off, and together it was a nope. I’d say if that candidate still seemed strong, it’d be worth another interview.

    1. ecnaseener*

      From the letter I don’t think we have any reason to assume there was anything wrong with the candidate’s tone — the manager thought the very fact of interviewing in a car meant the candidate didn’t care.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Oh maybe. I had a sense they felt the candidate seemed rushed (squeezing it in) or something in addition to being in the car.

      2. That's My Name*

        Op 1 here – Unfortunately I don’t have any backstory about the candidate’s tone. The impression I received form the manager was exactly what you mentioned. He thought they didn’t care, but otherwise they were a decent candidate. But I’m with Alison, I’m not sure it really matters. If it’s quiet, it’s seems okay to me.

        1. Don’t call me that*

          Wonder what he would think upon hearing that for my second interview for my current job, my interviewer was in her car (in a tshirt no less!). Now, over a year later I just interviewed for a promotion from my own car. It’s very normal!

          1. That's My Name*

            Oh, not only a fashion faux pas but definitely a dismissal from the candidate list in his book!
            Fingers crossed for your promotion!

        2. MissDisplaced*

          If he thought they were a decent candidate, by all means he shouldn’t hold the car interview against them just because they were in the car, and proceed with scheduling another interview.

          I just wondered because I’ve often been on the flipside where the interviewer seemed disinterested or rushed and it does give a bad impression. It’s not any one thing either, but a host of small tells.

  26. Carlie*

    LW3 – Remember the differential; if your boss decided to fire you, you would be gone that day. No two-week notice, no 6-month notice, nothing. The two-week notice from you is a courtesy, and it is the standard one. You don’t owe them more than that, and even though it might be nice to give them more, you can’t risk jeopardizing your new work relationships before you even set foot at the place for the sake of the job you are leaving. Your old boss will be ok. The old business will be ok. They will figure it out!

  27. Annie J*

    There is a big problem with cover letters, the cover letters that hiring managers expect to see are not the kind of cover letters that university recruitment services or online blogs are promoting, I think if so many people are fundamentally getting cover letters wrong it’s not a problem with them, but rather how the idea of a cover letter is communicated to them which is the problem.
    to be honest, I think the name should just be scrapped, call it a personal statement you lose The formality of a letter but at least it’s a lot clearer what you are asking the candidate for, in the case of lw5 I don’t really get it, candidates are encouraged not to give their work history again in a cover letter and yet it seems a bit like the candidate has been Penalised for not including this information in a cover letter?

    1. ecnaseener*

      Frankly, that’s a problem with university career counselors and online blogs in general. Many of them give bad job-searching advice overall – it’s not limited to cover letters.

      This was discussed above but re: not giving your work history in your cover letter, that means not JUST giving your work history. It doesn’t mean you can’t mention any jobs on your cover letter, you have to mention them in order to explain why they make you a strong candidate!

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I think if so many people are fundamentally getting cover letters wrong it’s not a problem with them, but rather how the idea of a cover letter is communicated to them which is the problem.

      The problem that I see with cover letters is that they’re straightforward if you’ve had the job before or if you’re hiring for the job and going to be in a position to judge a candidate’s performance, but as a candidate you can’t know what you don’t know and job descriptions are notoriously poor representations of the actual work to be done, so they end up becoming an exercise in demonstrating the candidate’s guessing skills.

      1. irene adler*

        ” as a candidate you can’t know what you don’t know and job descriptions are notoriously poor representations of the actual work to be done, so they end up becoming an exercise in demonstrating the candidate’s guessing skills.”


        That’s it exactly! That’s what my issue is re: drafting cover letters
        You’ve nailed it right on the head for me.

        I, the candidate, am not sure if writing to the job description will end up making me look like a fool to the reader(s) of said cover letter.

        Many job interviews I have had end up with the discovery that the job description isn’t even close to what the hiring manager says it is. Or, the preferred skills aren’t actually relevant to the position. At all. When mention is made of this discrepancy, there’s apologies followed by “I didn’t write this JD” and such. I learn that I got the interview because my resume had such a wide range of skills they thought I’d be a fit (and we all know we should tailor the resume to the JD and leave off the extraneous-right? Well, I don’t always do that- and I get more interviews that way. go figure.).

        Thank you. Thank you so much!

        Someone should offer a Job Description Writing 101 course.

      2. BigHairNoHeart*

        YES, this exactly what I find most frustrating about writing cover letters. For roles I’ve applied to where the job description seems accurate to what the manager actually has in mind, I usually get some kind of mention from the interviewer that they liked my cover letter. But there have been so many times that either a) I couldn’t make heads or tails of what the job actually was because the description was terrible, so I didn’t have much to work with in my cover letter or b) the description ended up being inaccurate so my cover letter probably didn’t do a great job actually selling me.

        For the record, I still think cover letters are very important and a good one can absolutely set you apart from other candidates. But companies creating better job postings/descriptions overall would make the process of writing a good one a hell of a lot easier!

    3. hbc*

      I don’t think a rename is going to get you what you’re looking for. Career centers will give bad advice about how to write a Personal Statement rather than a Cover Letter, and good advice will still be about including content that will make you more likely to get an interview.

      In the case of the volunteer, the candidate wasn’t *penalized* for failing to include resume information–she was almost not interviewed because a pretty strong factor in her favor was overlooked by all but one person. One less screener and she doesn’t get an interview. We could tell hiring managers and recruiters to make sure that they read every last word of all 200 resumes they receive for a position (when their current skimming still gets them good people at a fraction of the time invested), or we could tell applicants how to craft a cover letter that helps emphasize their fit for the particular job.

      1. pancakes*

        Yes. And as with any type of advice, people who intend to follow it will not all be capable of doing so with exactly the same aptitude and finesse.

  28. Gone Girl*

    LW2: nothing wrong with expecting employees to problem solve on their own before coming to you, but I’d like to add that in addition to pencils/office supplies, if you want to instill in them a desire to solve their own problems, let them learn from their mistakes and help coach them through it.

    I wonder if maybe there’s an additional work culture element that makes them feel like they *have* to come to you. I had a boss who wanted their cake and eat it too; they’d get frustrated when we’d come to them for help, but would also be visible upset (and sometimes verbally berate us in team meetings) when we’d try to solve the problem on our own and it wasn’t the solution they would have chosen. This, in turn, made it easier just to go to our boss for everything rather than fight them later after trying to solve the problem on our own. (Which, as you can guess, is not a great habit to get into)

  29. Roscoe*

    #1. While I get your point, your example seems a bit… overly critical. They asked you where something was. Well they didn’t know, so they would’ve been asking someone. I completely understand why someone feels better “bothering” their boss for something than random coworkers. Also, maybe the other people didn’t know. so again, its just going straight to someone who does know instead of asking around and possibly needing to go to 3 other people first. You are a manager, your job is to help your employees do their job.

    #4. I don’t think it should be a dirty little secret, but I also feel you need to let it come up naturally. Even the way you brought it up in your examples sound like you are trying to shoe horn it into a conversation to make you sound better. As Alison says, most interview questions asked are about professional experience, not personal. And trying to take a question like “what is your biggest strength” and answering it “well, due to my homelesness…” comes across a bit emotionally manipulative IMO. By all means, if its a question like “Tell me about a time, personal or professional, you had to overcome adversity” I think its fine to discuss. But just bringing it up about basic work skills doesn’t come off great.

    1. Formerly Homeless*

      That makes sense. Honestly, the trauma drives me to work relentlessly, but that’s probably not something interviewers need to know – they just need to know what’s come of my working relentlessly.

    2. Simply the best*

      Totally agree on number one. Do you want to pay that person to wander around searching for pencils? Or do you want to spend literally 5 seconds answering them so they can get back to their actual work? Which scenario is more beneficial overall?

  30. Not Today Satan*

    I work in nonprofit and it’s incredible how many cover letters don’t even mention mission alignment. Honestly, even something as vague as “I’m passionate about social justice” or “I want to give back to my community” would do it (although obviously I’d prefer something specific), and many don’t even include that.

  31. Jam Today*

    LW#2: I find it helps to consider the source of the question. Is this a pattern of learned helplessness, or someone who is otherwise high-functioning and independent who is just tapped out on all problem-solving abilities? Sometimes very smart and capable people just hit a wall in their thinking, and need someone else to help jump-start their brain.

    1. Not Today Satan*

      I also think some people take questions as an excuse for face time with their boss. Which could be because they legitimately don’t get enough time with their boss, or they might just be needy.

  32. MicroManagered*

    OP3’s OldBoss is taking normal turnover personally. Probably because he knows he messed up by not giving you the raise when you asked and under-utilizing your skills. He gambled that you’d stay forever no matter what and he lost. And now he’s pissed so he’s acting like you did something to him. It sounds like a classic case of a small company being “like a family.”

    Don’t change your start date for your new job to work for less money at this one. Congrats on moving on!

  33. anonymous73*

    #1 – Hiring manager is out of touch with reality. How many people advertise that they’re searching for a job while currently employed? If you’re expected to interview during regular working hours, where else are you supposed to interview?
    #2 – in general yes, employees should try and solve problems on their own, but unless there’s a history of people asking for your help without first trying to figure it out on their own, then your annoyance is a little over the top. I used to work in support and our help desk people would constantly contact me to ask a question, when the answer was in the documents I had created and provided to them. My first response would always be “what does the document say?” and 98% of the time they could find the answer themselves. Eventually those questions slowed down and then stopped. Yes when the same people contacted me over and over it got annoying and rightfully so, but the first time I was happy to help them help themselves because I didn’t know what kind of training they were given.
    #3 – Your boss is being ridiculous and you owe them nothing. You did your job, gave your notice and you have the right to move on to a better opportunity without even a tiny bit of guilt.

      1. JustaTech*

        In our old building we had these “phone booths”, tiny glass boxes between the elevators, facing out into the atrium. They were labeled “Phone Booth” even though it was basically just a place barely big enough for an average adult to stand (no seat, no shelf for a notebook, nothing). But because they were labeled “Phone Booth”, and we were crammed in that building like sardines, people used them to make calls. Including interviews.

        Except the phone booths weren’t even slightly soundproof. Every person waiting for the elevator could hear everything you said. Awkward.

  34. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

    Just came here to say that I really appreciate Alison’s direct, no-nonsense commentary and advice.
    “Does he need them to clear an entire half-day for a 30- or 60-minute call to show appropriate deference to him? He’s an ass.” – I nearly snorted my coffee. Seriously, thanks for the laughs and the reality-checks ;)

  35. Canadian Valkyrie.*

    So I see clients who are in their car ALL the time. As long as it’s parked, I don’t give a f***. The condition is “parked” though so that they can focus. Some people have no privacy either on their homes or at work and it’s going to unfairly penalize people who may have no other option; like maybe they live in a 2 bedroom apartment and have 2 children + a spouse + live with their brother and stuff, or they work in a cubicle, or any number of other factors. It’s easy to judge because their not in the optimal location (eg a home office with nice wall decor) but it’s often the only way for some people to get privacy.

    I’d personally focus more on much attention your being given by the person. Do they seem flustered? Are they paying attention? Were they punctual, and seem organized? For example, I feel like it’s more telling if it’s like the interview was an afterthought and they’d almost forgotten, and I’d want to look for clues that this person is organized, punctual etc overall.

    1. That's My Name*

      OP1 here – Totally agree with you! Reading through the comments is giving me some courage to possibly mention it to him in our next meeting. Thanks for your thought-provoking questions. Learning every day here and wanted to make sure I wasn’t the only one that thought this seemed normal.

      1. Canadian Valkyrie.*

        I’m glad you’re thinking about it. It’s definitely normal. And I think it’s ok to admit that it’s not the “best” situation but there’s a huge difference between someone needing to interview in a car and, say, using their car as an office. That said, most office spaces that are remote seem to have the option to, say, offer in-person spaces to those who need it or you could talk to the person about finding a quiet cafe, library, friends home, etc to use space in for the job. Like if your concern is “oh sh*t, I need this person to work from home, do they even have a place to work?” I feel like that’s a super valid question and easily managed if you like the candidate, which this is completely different than judging someone for seeming unprepared or assuming that they don’t care about the interview etc.

  36. Hiring Mgr*

    On #2, sure for something minor like office supplies anyone should be able to figure it out, but you want to make sure you’re not cultivating a culture of “don’t bother boss with anything”, and then employees are hesitant to come to you with real issues..

    1. Rayray*

      For sure. When people get snapped at over minor things, they’re usually not keen to go ask questions or bring up problems.

    2. Hamburke*

      I think this depends on the office, really. If you work in an office with multiple contractors, multiple departments, or a shared space with a handful of companies, you need to know where to get supplies for your particular job, not just find a cabinet full of supplies. The person you sit next to may not work for the same company or department or may have gotten wrong information about where your company’s supply closet is. Even in small offices like mine where there were 3 of us before going remote, I wouldn’t have looked in the chest of drawers for pencils. In a new hire situation, I might not know the office politics situation well enough to know who to ask about supplies so I don’t think it’s unusual to ask the boss to direct me to the right person to talk to.

  37. So sleepy*

    LW2 I’m wondering if this employee feels like you’re the only person they know/can go to with these mundane questions. Whenever we onboard new employees, we usually pair them with someone else on the team to give them a tour, show them where things are, introduce them to colleagues on a more individual basis, so these types of questions naturally fall to that person (and that person isn’t necessarily training them – just someone who sits nearby, is reasonably available and ideally able to say “if you have a question about that, you can always go to X person”). This letter reads like this is someone brand new who doesn’t know who else to ask or is shy about approaching people they don’t know – they need an ally that can tell them about office politics/culture and quietly ask the questions that seem obvious to everyone else (like that the boss doesn’t really like to be asked questions except as a last resort). You can’t really expect people to intuit that (yes, the pencil thing is a pretty extreme example, but it sounds like you would be equally annoyed if someone, say, asked whether there is any documentation / reference materials left by their predecessor, or how much advance notice you like for vacation leave.

  38. feral fairy*

    For LW4, I wouldn’t mention the fact that you were homeless during an interview unless it is for a nonprofit role (or a company where homelessness is related to the work they do). The reason I suggest not bringing it up is not because you have anything to be ashamed of, but because understandably it’s a sensitive topic for you and interviewers might ask nosy questions or expect you to go into more detail than you would like to because they’re ‘just curious’. I have not personally experienced homeless but I have a life experience that is stigmatized by some but others would see the fact that I’ve overcome it as a positive thing. I don’t disclose it at interviews but I have disclosed it to managers after working with them a while and building a relationship with them. One time it went well, but the other time the manager started asking me very personal detailed questions about my experience and it can be difficult when you’re in a position where someone who has power over you (whether it’s a boss or a hiring manager in an interview) is asking invasive questions that you’d rather not answer. In an interview where you barely know the interviewer, it can be hard to know how they’ll respond to your disclosure and could overshadow the other things you want to talk about related to your work experience and what working for them will be like.

    I definitely don’t think you should treat it as a dirty secret- there’s nothing to be ashamed of. My take on my own life experience is that it’s an important part of me and therefore something I can choose to share with people I trust or in circumstances where it will be more beneficial to share than not (like in an interview for a job in a field where they’re specifically looking for people with this experience).

  39. Now In the Job*

    I’m so confused by this:
    > “Apologies for the background — I’m calling from my car since I don’t have anywhere quiet to take this call at work”
    Aren’t we basically told we should not, at any cost whatsoever, take an interview while at work?

      1. Rayray*

        Exactly, this isn’t a comment worthe nitpicking. Most interviewers would understand that someone would go to their car during their lunch for an interview rather than the break room.

        1. londonedit*

          Yep. In the Before Times people would take a day off or feign a doctor’s appointment for an in-person interview, but if it’s a phone interview, you’re still working from home and you don’t have guaranteed peace and quiet in your house (maybe your partner also works from home and has to take frequent calls, maybe you have a dog that might bark, maybe there’s a small baby in the house, whatever) then sitting in your car would definitely be a good option, and trying to schedule the interview for lunchtime would lead to the least amount of suspicion from anyone you work with. And that’s the case in the office, too, with phone interviews – you’d schedule it for lunchtime or for just after you finish work, and if you drive to the office then it’s far more sensible to sit in your car than to try to find somewhere quiet at work where you can guarantee you won’t be disturbed or overheard.

    1. JM in England*

      I once did an initial phone screen (lasted about 20mins) in my car at work during my lunch break. Other employees did pass by but just assumed I was making a personal call.

  40. Zillinith*

    For LW #4, if you are ever interviewing for a position at an organization that provides any type of homeless services (even if the job itself is not direct service) definitely mention it, from my experience (as a hiring manager in this field) many of these places are actually excited to be able to hire former consumers.

  41. E*

    I am a hiring manager and I would probably not hire someone who brought up that they had been homeless in an interview. Not because there’s anything shameful about it, but because it’s none of my business and seems like quite a personal (and somewhat awkward) thing. Work/job interviews are not really the place to talk about homelessness or anything personal like that, and I would question the candidates judgement.

    1. leeapeea*

      This… seems like an overly harsh reaction to sharing personal information and I hope you reconsider if it’s entirely helpful. There’s almost always room to discuss relevant, non-work related background. I agree that *over* sharing merits caution, but simply sharing does not. Sometimes people don’t have perfect lives, and have experienced personal challenges, and that doesn’t make them any less qualified.

  42. Chauncy Gardener*

    OP#2 – Please read “The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey.” It will take you five minutes and change your professional life! i.e. makes you understand how to push employees to solve their own problems first

  43. Murphy*

    #2. I feel you. We’re remote and I have people message me the second they come up with a question without trying ANYTHING on their own to answer it or even gather more informaiton. (They are more complex than “where are the pencils?” but sometimes they could find the answer on their own.) I’ve started asking them to summarize the issue and let me know what they’ve tried before I answer because it’s so disruptive.

  44. ArtK*

    Interviews: As a candidate, I once did an interview from the galley of a tall ship in the middle of San Diego Bay. As an interviewer, I did one from Disneyland.

    1. Rayray*

      As a candidate, it would actually be a red flag if my interviewer did the interview from Disneyland unless I was interviewing to work at Disneyland. It would show me that work-life balance is not valued by the company at all. If your on vacation, you should actually be on vacation. If I’m not saving lives or the world, no job is important enough to disrupt my vacation.

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        Why not assume good intentions? Maybe the overall interviewing schedule was tight and beaming in from Disneyland was the only way to connect this particular interviewer and applicant. Maybe the interviewer thought the candidate was so wonderful that it justified taking 1 hour out of a vacation day. Things aren’t always so clear-cut.

        1. Lynn Whitehat*

          Yes. If the candidate is hired, I’m going to spend many hours a day with them, potentially for years. It may be worth it to me to take one hour away from Disneyland in order to be able to affect who we choose. It’s fine if some people make it a hard line for themselves that they will *never* do a minute of work on vacation. But it doesn’t make sense for everyone all the time.

      2. What She Said*

        In academia that isn’t always an option. Many admins take vacation in June/July when school is out but if they need to hire someone for a job that starts in August there are not many options when to hold that interview. And as the boss you need to be on that call. So not a red flag in my experience. It’s a one-off. Happens on occasion but is not the norm.

        1. Rayray*

          I still don’t buy either of these reasons, vacations aren’t vacations and work-life balance is incredibly important to me.

          1. Simply the best*

            Then don’t work there. That’s fine for you to make that choice. People are just saying that your snap judgement that means they don’t value work-life balance isn’t necessarily the case.

            Work-life balance doesn’t have to mean that work and life don’t ever intersect. Some of us prefer flexibility over that kind of rigidity.

  45. SparkleBoots*

    #5 Cover letters – I’m impressed by the ones who simply get the name of the job posting or even the name of my dang university right. Whenever I hire, I get flooded with apps from people who have obviously not even read the job description. And it’s not just for entry-level stuff….I recently hired for a mid-to-senior level role and a large number of applicants didn’t even put the correct university in the cover letter.

  46. Lacey*

    LW #2 – I’m so glad Allison pointed out that people shouldn’t be wasting half a day trying to figure something out when their boss could easily tell them!

    I get the boss’ frustration, even as a non-manager I am completely over coworkers asking me to re-send things to them when all they have to do is a quick email search for it. Take two seconds and figure it out yourself!

    But, on the other hand, I’ve worked for bosses who always wanted me to figure something out on my own even if there is no possible way for me to get the project parameters from anyone but them!

    So like, balance.

    1. SparkleBoots*

      Same. I had a coworker once that would ask me questions for every.single.thing, including stuff that he was supposed to know as the Training Manager in our area (like “how do you do X?” “X is literally what you teach classes on”). But I’ve definitely worked with bosses who like to withhold necessary info just to see if you can “figure it out” or whatever.

      I don’t really see asking where pencils are to be a big deal for most people, even if that person did walk past other people….maybe they suddenly remembered needing pencils right as they were passing by the boss! But if that person was anything like that Training Manager I used to work with, then yeah, asking for pencils would be part of a bigger problem.

    2. JM in England*

      I too have had bosses like you describe in your last point; essentially, you can’t win whatever you do!

  47. Rayray*

    Even if someone was running errands and squeezed in time for the interview, so the hell what! They were there and they were present. For Pete’s sake, it’s almost as if some hiring managers don’t actually want to hire these days.

    1. irene adler*

      Yes! Makes me wonder if possession of the relevant skills to do the job aren’t even a consideration any more.

      1. Rayray*

        I could honestly write an entire dissertation on this topic cause it has me so frustrated. Hiring is a joke anymore. Even entry level jobs will require personality assessments and multiple interviews and then they cry “No one wants to work anymore!” Too many hiring managers also just doing absolute mental gymnastics to come up with reasons why someone doesn’t care about the job or isn’t a good match and it’s absolutely absurd.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Yeah. I remember a book by a German reporter, who pretended to be a Turkish immigrant. At one point he was working as a security guard outside a bank. Whenever they had people turn up for interviews the guards would try to guess who would be hired. They got it right every time. These people were jumping through all sorts of hoops to get the job, handwriting analysis, psychological tests, maths exams, IQ tests… yet the guards could tell just by looking at the guys walking past them. So basically, hiring processes are all a waste of time, you should ask the security guard for his opinion.

  48. Student*

    #4: Fellow person with a homeless period here – going to disagree with AAM strongly.

    Do not bring up your homelessness in a job interview under any circumstances other than jobs directly related to working with homeless issues. It is too much personal information for a standard job interview! You want a job interview to make people feel good about you, about working with you, and you want the people interviewing you to have as few negative thoughts connected to you as possible. Our sob stories don’t get us hired. Interviews are not a place to talk about your traumas and how they shaped you – homelessness, crime victim, orphan, whatnot. Sob stories might help get you into a college, but job interviews are not the same thing – the audience has a very different motivation. College application boards enjoy feeling like they’re bequeathing benevolent opportunities for a future upon poor kids – job interviewers want someone who will pick up the slack and get to work.

    People will judge you because they want to believe that they could never be homeless. Lots of people have this magical thinking going on that leads them to believe that bad things only happen to people who deserve it; this believe lets them tell themselves that if they’re good enough, bad things won’t happen to them – if they’re good enough, they’ll never be homeless. So there will be a lot of people who hear “homeless” and automatically assume you somehow deserved it or are a bad person because of it, and you will find you can never dig out of that first impression with the job interview panel. Bluntly, it will scare or disgust people, especially white-collars from “nice areas” who grew up in stable homes. I am saying this from experience in order to save you the pain of finding out the same way I did. You might as well be telling war stories about killing people on a battlefield – there will be some people who gawk, a handful who think it’s interesting, a couple who relate, and a lot more who are horrified by you.

    The time to reveal your homeless period at work, if there ever is one, is to make sure you’ve developed street cred as a good employee first. Wait at least a year. Then, maybe drop it in an applicable conversation, and be nonchalant about it if at all possible, rather than going into how it shaped you. If you treat your homelessness as a fact, a bad experience that you went through but you don’t dwell on (at least you don’t appear at work to dwell on), then your co-workers are more likely to follow suite and maybe learn to let go of their assumptions about homelessness.

    If you want to give the how-homelessness-shaped-me speech, save it for: (1) your therapist (2) your good friends, family, and significant other (3) much later in your career, when you need to have a mythical-like background story to explain how awesome you are as a famous CEO at the charity ball you are hosting with your millionaire buddies.

  49. awesome3*

    #3 – I think 6 months notice might be expected/appropriate if you are Michael Dell or Jeff Bezos.

  50. Mental Lentil*

    I think a lot of people ragging on LW #2 just skimmed right over this part:

    He had to walk past six other people before getting to my office.

    Six other people. I really get where LW#2 is coming from. This employee is not prioritizing things correctly.

    1. Observer*

      The *OP* is not prioritizing correctly. Asking why they didn’t ask the others first would be sensible. Getting upset? That’s a real over-reaction unless there is a LOT more context than “walked past 6 people.”

      1. JustaTech*

        Because there might be a sensible answer: The first 4 people were on the phone, person 5 wasn’t actually at their desk but in the bathroom, and person 6 was clearly heads-down concentrating.
        Now, if that happened to me, and I knew my boss didn’t like to be bothered with basic questions, I might start my “where are the pencils” with “Hey boss, sorry to bother you but everyone else is slammed, where are the pencils? I looked in the cabinet but now it’s full of coffee” or something. That way of phrasing the question covers “I tried figuring it out for myself and I tried asking my peers”.

    2. A Wall*

      Whether it makes sense to stop and ask whoever us closest depends entirely on a hundred different kinds of context. I’ve worked jobs where walking past people to ask your boss about supplies would be nuts, I’ve worked jobs where your boss would be the only person who knew which supplies were bought from our specific budget or whatever, I’ve worked jobs where the people who sat around me were not interruptible for whatever reason, etc etc etc.

  51. Ana Gram*

    I’ve video interviewed applicants who were in parked cars. I think it’s odd (and kind of classist, actually) to look down on that. I assumed the did it because the car is quiet or they had better service or they were on a break from work. Honestly, who cares? As long as it’s quiet and you’re dressed appropriately, I really don’t care where you are. It’s kind of resourceful, actually.

    1. That's My Name*

      OP 1 – I appreciate your thoughts here. I do have to agree, it does seem kind of classist. My initial thought when he said that was “What…?” and I began to replay all the interviews I had taken from my own car.

  52. YL*

    LW# 3

    Companies will never like when someone gives notice because it will always be an inconvenience. Two weeks is the random courtesy someone came up with and is mostly universally accepted. It depends on your field. If a company wants you to stay longer than your notice period, don’t do it unless it’s really worth it.

    At my last employer, they decided to lay off the entire team but wanted us all to stay on for a year. We were only offered “stay bonuses” that were still dependent on performance and discretion. So, everyone was looking to leave right away. One of my colleagues gave 30 days notice, which she later regretted because she didn’t know the company didn’t pay out unused PTO.

    When I submitted my notice, I gave them 3 weeks because it knew they wouldn’t want to announce my departure right away. It did take them a week to try an negotiate a new end date with me. It was their busy season, half the team had left, I possessed critical business knowledge, and they wanted me to stay an additional 3 weeks past the date I gave. I had been treated pretty poorly by a lot of the new leadership that came on in the months since the layoff announcement. I had complained about the lack of professionalism and I felt I was not taken seriously. It was an easy decision for me to say I wouldn’t be extending my end date.

  53. Daffodilly*

    #2 – remember that part of the job of a manager is to help those you manage do their jobs. You should not expect them to exhaust all possibilities before they come to you.
    I’ve worked for managers like you and it sucks.
    The work needs to get done. Your direct reports want to do the work. You need to enable them to do it. And you need to acknowledge that at least some of your time needs to be spent helping those who work in your department.
    Don’t be that guy who refuses to help because “you didn’t try hard enough first”
    Don’t be the guy who says “don’t bring me a problem without a solution” either.
    You are a manager. Act like one.

    1. Anonymous Hippo*

      I think this is a little harsh. Yes, there can be managers like this, but you also don’t want your employees to use you as a crutch to not have initiative. I’ve had employees come to me with questions I’ve already answered 3+ times, direct quote “because it is easier to ask you then to check my notes”.

      I’ve never refused to help someone that comes to me, but I’m not necessarily going to make coming to me the easiest option. If you come to me with a question, I’ll turn it into a learning opportunity. If its a work process question, I expect my team to tell me what they’ve tried first, before I answer. This does two things, first off it shows me where they are in their troubleshooting so I don’t go and suggest things they’ve already tried, but also shows me their level of understanding of the process to see how far along they got before getting stuck. I’ve had people that really don’t want to figure stuff on their own, they want someone else to do the thinking for them, and I’m not going to enable that, so if I think they haven’t given it any effort will try and make them work through the troubleshooting process there in the room, I’m not going to just spoon-feed them the answer. I may send them back to where the answer is located (ie check your notes, the procedures, the policy, etc). I expect my team to bring me problems, but I also expect them to bring their problem solving abilities to work with them.

      I do agree that “exhaust all other possibilities” isn’t the correct line to draw. My time isn’t any more valuable than anyone else, so it isn’t like I think they should go to their teammates before they come to me. I’m the manager, my time isn’t full up with actual work product precisely for this reason, I’m a resource. We want to be efficient as well and if it will take you 2 hours to hunt out a procedure for an unusual process, then yes, pop into my office and let’s get it knocked out, and I can give you a roadmap to the process for next time. I think the key here is you can’t have a hard and fast rule one way or the other you have to actively, well, manage.

      1. Your neighborhood patsy*

        This was the sort of thing I hated as a manager. I am more than happy to help and answer questions. Being your crutch is not part of the deal. I want you to be empowered to problem solve and make decisions and I will spend a great deal of time and effort putting things together to ensure you are able to do that

        “It’s easier than checking my notes” is something I have absolutely zero patience for, if you are an established (or even senior) member of the team. Because I can’t empower you if you are just using me as a crutch

    2. twocents*

      I mean… I’d expect them to go “anyone got an extra pen” before interrupting the manager’s work.

    3. patient zero*

      Yes, help your employees – but there comes a point where some questions are just out of laziness. Helping your employees is part of the deal, but having to ask “did you check the thing that’s right in front of you” every day, to a senior employee, gets aggravating fast.

  54. Hillary*

    OP4 – congrats on everything you’ve accomplished! In case it helps you to hear this, many companies (including mine) love people who are/were non-traditional students. You demonstrated a ton of grit and internal motivation.

  55. vienna waits*

    #1: I have done many interviews from a parked car. Where else was I supposed to do them, book a conference room and lock the door so no one walks in, and hope no one else needed the room? Uh. That wasn’t really an option.

    1. That's My Name*

      Op 1 here – I agree! I think it’s better than being outside so the video call doesn’t pick up the wind in the background. As another commenter put it, it’s quite resourceful actually. I was so confused when he said it that I had to write Alison to make sure I wasn’t crazy for thinking it was normal.

  56. Miss Muffet*

    OP2: While the pencil question does seem like a particularly annoying example, my go-to for other kinds of questions that come up from my team (after the requisite training, of course) is Three Before Me. So — within reason — you have checked 3 places for the answer before you ask me. And then I want you to come to me and say, here’s where I looked for this information and didn’t find it. That way, I can also coach you on looking in the right places, if it sounds like you didn’t go to those places to find this info. Or maybe now I’m alerted that the information SHOULD be in one of those places and apparently isn’t, or isn’t clear enough. Either way – 3 checks before asking means you’ve done SOME due diligence without spinning your wheels too much.

  57. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    eh, I know the boss showed me the fire extinguishers on my first day, explaining that one contained water and the other some special frothy stuff that could be aimed at electrical appliances without killing them. Very Important Information, but I forgot about a minute later. Pretty sure I could forget where the pencils were too. The more worrying thing is the lack of communication among staff: why bother your boss with a question about locating pencils when your colleagues all use them and presumably got them from somewhere at some point?

  58. cubone*

    a personalized cover letter example story:

    My partner applied for a dream job in Niche Industry at Big Company. He wrote a cover letter about why he cares about the work of Niche Industry and his passion and experience for that work. It was personalized, but more about the broad area and type of work that role does. No response.

    They posted another opening for the same role months later and he wanted to apply again, and made one change: rather than focus on why he cares about Niche Industry, he swapped all those parts to be specific about Big Company. Why he thinks Big Company is a leader in the industry, how his experience with the work fits the stated goals of Big Company.

    Got the job and comments from both the hiring manager and supervisor appreciating the specificity of the cover letter (and it’s a GREAT fit so far).

    It’s funny because both cover letters were “personalized”, but I think the first one was about why HE wanted to work for them, and the second was about why he wanted to work for THEM. Small, but important distinction.

  59. Jessica Fletcher*

    Maybe #2 is a micromanager or otherwise a difficult manager, and they give the impression that their employees shouldn’t do anything without permission. Obviously they didn’t write because of ONE instance of ONE employee asking ONE question.

    If most of your team is constantly asking you basic questions, there’s a structural problem. You haven’t trained them to get these answers themselves, other resources to use, or you’ve given them a reason to think you have to personally sign off on every little thing.

  60. Mary Anne Spier*

    Letter 3: Fun fact. This is standard in schools when you switch during the year. The district you’re leaving can ask you to stay up to 60 days so they can find a replacement. They can also reach out to your new district and say they’re holding you for 60 days and your new district won’t let you start or pay you until that’s up.

    Not that this happened to me…

    It’s actually not unusual.

    1. Observer*

      Teaching is a bit of an outlier to start with. And people going in know the deal- it’s part of the policies.

  61. Observer*

    #1 – Is this hiring manager reasonable to work for? Or is he the kind of person who calls people on their day off and gets annoyed that they are “not committed enough” if they don’t pick up the phone?

  62. Jeremy Bearimy*

    #3 – just wanted to throw out there that when employers and bosses act like this when people do something completely normal like take a new job, it really makes future job searching difficult at the references stage. It’s also got me a little terrified in my own job search right now because I’m seeing an awful lot of employers specifying that recent managers must be references, and I have two previous managers who took it completely personally and acted very irrational when I resigned, including one where I gave *2 months* notice and worked extra hours to train my replacement!

  63. voluptuousfire*

    +1 on this. IMO, cover letters can be useful but ultimately it’s a guessing game. It’s like those Liz Ryan pain point letters that some candidates write, trying to demonstrate how they can alleviate a perceived pain point for the employer in the role when they only have a job description to go by.

  64. Ktv123*

    LW1- I work in health care and two of my most fabulous recent candidates interviewed from their cars bc working in the clinical side you don’t typically have a private space so take a break. Personally, I wouldn’t care why at all.

    1. That's My Name*

      LW1 OP here – totally agree with you. I’ve done it myself as a matter of fact, but didn’t know some people were apparently put off by this. The hiring manager does seem a bit “old school” so perhaps that’s why. I don’t have enough capital to push back (too new!) right now, though.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t think the issue is about being “old school”, but being very unreasonable and unaware.

        Is he the kind of person who would insist that an in person meeting be in the middle of the day or a 7:00pm, or the interviewee is “not serious”?

        1. That's My Name*

          Another commenter pointed out that his behavior seems a bit classist, and now that I think about it, I might agree over “old school.”

    1. Observer*

      No, a cover letter should NOT be “regurgitating” what’s in the resume.

      How would you even know? You don’t read them.

  65. no phone calls, please*

    RE #2 We recently discovered that a new-ish hire has been asking these kinds of questions because she wanted more contact time with the manager.

  66. Powercycle*

    I’ve been that lowly employee in #2. I’d worked in many places in a row where all the office supplies were kept locked up and tightly controlled (I assume due to theft in the past) and different branches even managed their own inventory. Then worked on a job where after asking I’m just told: “It’s all in those two cabinets in the back room, take whatever you need. If anything is missing, just tell ABC or XYZ.” All that to say, every office is different. It never would have occurred to me to just take random office supplies out of a cabinet without someone with authority telling I could.

  67. Your neighborhood patsy*

    Yes – as a manager, your job will require you to help your staff and answer questions. A lot of questions.

    It is also the manager’s job to give you the tools to do your job and empower you to do basic problem-solving.

    Part of why I hated management is this: I remember spending a great deal of time and effort putting together written SOPs, as well as a whole system to ensure my staff had an easy, quick way to answer questions or troubleshoot if I am not available

    And while you can always expect questions to come up, there is always a senior staff member who makes no attempt at looking at these things and will ask the same question every day, for months, and I give the same answer every time only for it to be forgotten in 24 hours. No attempt to look something up. I’m sorry, maybe I’m a jerk, but I could not stand that. I had no patience for it.

    I’m not asking people to resolve every problem – but there comes a point where I ask them what I can do to be a better leader and empower them to problem solve, and they don’t have an answer, and they continue asking the same question tomorrow. Yes, I am going to be very annoyed by that.

  68. aiya*

    How do I list this particular employment date on my resume?

    I worked for this company full time Jan 2018-Oct 2018, left at the end of Oct 2018 due to personal illness, but then came back to the company to help out part time for one month in Jan 2019. Do I write “Jan 2018-Jan 2019” on my resume? That doesn’t seem accurate.

  69. MCMonkeyBean*

    I actually think my manager would come pretty early in my list of “avenues.” Generally I would 1) try to figure it out myself, 2) google it if it is something google-able and then 3) ask my manager–unless it is about something that I know someone else has more specific knowledge on.

    I guess I’m curious to know what OP considers “all over avenues” to be in order to judge how much I agree with them. And also their example is one I would certainly agree with, but is that an extreme case or is that pretty representative of what they are dealing with?

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