did my mom ruin my chances for a job, my ex’s now-wife applied for a job on my small team, and more

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

1. Did my mom ruin my chances for a job?

I applied for an IT position at a hospital that my mother has worked at for nearly 30 years as a nurse. When I told her I was applying in casual conversation, my mom was adamant that I needed to name drop her in a cover letter and point out the family connection, and that I had visited the hospital many times in my teens/early 20s for random chitchat or to drop something off.

When I refused to do so, citing fear of looking like I wanted special favoritism based on my mom’s career, she decided to message the IT team asking what credentials I would need and what I could do to get an edge. (She says she didn’t name me and asked as a general question, but she also apparently talks about me a lot at work.) She didn’t really get a response beyond “read the posting and apply.” She told me this is “the done thing” and is completely acceptable and even expected in the professional world and you need to “use every asset you have.”

As I expected after that, I was rejected without an interview at all. I’m under the impression that it would be career suicide to do something like that, as I was applying for an IT job and she’s a nurse, so it’s not like the careers overlap. Plus having your parents try and influence your hiring would make me look immature.

Is she right that name dropping a family member can help benefit my application, even if not in the same field, or am I right that it’s best to not mention family connections/experience in a resume/cover letter? I’m also in my 30’s so I have an established career of my own and am not straight out of school.

It’s not career suicide in the sense of being an automatic deal-breaker. It wasn’t a great move on your mom’s part — asking what credentials you need likely came across strangely since presumably that info is in the job post, and asking how you could get an edge probably seemed pushy and a bit naive — but it wasn’t so over-the-top that it would reflect terribly on you. That stuff reflects more on her. Still, though, it might have raised worries for the hiring manager that your mom would continue to be pushy if they interviewed and/or hired you. That’s not necessarily why they rejected you, but it’s possible that it played a role.

Your mom is right that people use their connections all the time, but this isn’t exactly how to use them. It would have been better if you’d applied on your own (not mentioning your mom since that’s not about your qualifications) and then she had mentioned to the hiring manager that you did, but without asking for any special treatment. That kind of low-key flagging from a current employee will often get an application a closer look. At this point, though, I’d be a little wary of having her do that with jobs in the future since it sounds like her instincts for how to go about it are … not great.

2. How do we advertise salary range when it could vary hugely depending on the candidate?

I know from reading your column that it’s not appropriate for an employer to ask a candidate to name their desired salary before indicating the salary range of the position, preferably in the job posting. With that in mind, what should be put into the job posting when the salary will be very dependent upon the experience and skills of a candidate, with a more than 1.5X salary range, and how should it be presented during any interviews?

I’ve long been involved with a nonprofit that’s been quite successful. In the early days, money was extremely tight and it was impossible to find a qualified, experienced manager for the salary we could pay. After a series of short-lived and incompetent managers, another board member and I selected an employee we thought had potential and undertook her training ourselves. The result was someone who excelled in certain areas, but has had continued issues in other areas. We had to continually step in to be more active in some areas than ideal but, because of her strong skills in other areas, we’ve accepted the weaker ones.

Now she’s looking at moving on and we’re starting the hiring process from scratch. She’s currently paid an average salary for our area and the field. The organization is in a much stronger financial position now and we’d be able and willing to pay significantly more if we find that magical person who won’t require the level of oversight and assistance we’ve been providing, together with exceptional skills in the other areas.

We live in a very rural area with an extremely limited candidate pool.

We don’t want to discourage someone who might excel in all areas from applying if we state a starting salary in the range she’s currently receiving, but also don’t want to be tied to a higher range if we once again have to accept someone who requires our continued oversight and guidance or who can’t provide the exceptional skills she’s had in the other areas. Is there some way to maintain very wide variations on the potential salary until we determine the qualifications of a candidate without discouraging one group or raising unrealistic expectations from the other?

The easiest way is to be transparent about it in the job posting! For example: “We’re open to two different versions of this role — one mid-level and one more senior. For the mid-level role, we’re seeking (qualifications) with a salary range of $X-Y. For the more senior version of the role, we’re seeking (qualifications) with a salary range of $Y-Z. We encourage you to apply if you meet either profile.”

3. My ex’s now-wife applied for a job on my small team

I was in a long-term relationship that ended several years ago. Generally, we were not good for each other in the romantic sense, and things ended on a not-so-great note. Fast forward to today: I am now happily married with a baby on the way. He is also married, though I have not spoken to him, nor do I know his partner in any way. He met her toward the end of our relationship, and there is a possibility that he emotionally cheated on me with her. Again, I have moved on and do not care.

I started a new job in the last six months in a small department. I recently found out from my coworker that my ex’s wife has applied for an open position in our department. The position is not located in the same building as mine, so interaction would be limited to team meetings that happen maybe once a month.

Being so new, I want to be as professional as I can be (especially now that I will be leaving for maternity leave before my first year anniversary with the company). I can easily put the past behind me and be polite and professional with this person. I am unsure of how she would react though, and this situation has potential to be very awkward. Should I flag this to my boss?

Unless you have reason to think your ex’s wife wouldn’t handle the situation professionally, I wouldn’t be terribly worried, especially since you wouldn’t be working together closely.

That said, I tend to believe more information is better than less, so you could mention it to your boss and let her make the call on whether it’s something she wants to consider. If you do, be clear that you don’t have any reason to think poorly of the candidate or to think she’d conduct herself unprofessionally but are just flagging it in case she wants to be aware of the connection. You could frame it as, “I don’t know her at all and I’d have no problem interacting with her just like I would with any other colleague, but I figured I’d mention it in case it’s the kind of connection you’d rather know about.”

4. Asking an interviewer, “What is your company’s greatest weakness?”

What do you think about asking the interviewer this question: “What is your company’s greatest weakness?”

It’s common for job applicants to be asked what their greatest weakness is, and it seems that turnabout would be fair play. However, I’m concerned that such a question may be unwelcome. As applicants, we have great concerns about taking a job at a company and then regretting it later. Job boards that have company reviews are often lacking, especially for smaller or newer companies. Asking about company culture usually won’t indicate if the boss is a jerk, or if many of the employees are unhappy. I think this question might be useful unless there’s a better question to ask.

You won’t get honest answers. Interviewers aren’t going to tell you the boss is a jerk or all the employees are unhappy (or at least this question won’t get it out of them if asking about company culture didn’t). In general, you should always assume that you can’t rely on what employers tell you about themselves since even interviewers who don’t intend to mislead you can have significant blind spots or feel that loyalty to their employer prevents them from being completely candid. Instead, assume you’ll always need to do your own due diligence outside of your formal interviews.

5. Exploding field: privacy specialist

I feel like this might be of interest to your readers who are looking to change direction.

I recently shifted gears into a data privacy specialist role, which literally quadrupled my salary and I got hired at a FAANG company with basically three months of relevant experience under my belt. Data privacy is an almost brand-new field since the EU passed the GDPR, and California passed the CCPA, and now a whole ton of companies that handle any customer or employee data a) anywhere in Europe or b) anywhere in California require regulatory specialists in the field. It is a hiring FRENZY at all levels, and the primary certification costs around $1200 and takes about 10 weeks. But I got hired with “certification expected April 2022” on my LinkedIn, as I was studying for the certification and got snapped up before I got around to taking it! I do have a law degree (some of my colleagues do; some don’t), but I was hired at a FAANG company for around $140k a year, plus signing bonus and stock. My total comp with stock included is close to $250k/year.

I am 44 with a wildly spotty work history, as I have a disabled child whose needs put me out of the workforce repeatedly. I had done exactly one three-month, very small privacy project for my former employer. Now I’m going to be able to create a special needs trust for my kid, and eventually retire!

Anyway, it’s an entirely new regulatory regime that’s come into existence in basically the past two years and EVERY company has to comply with it if they do ANY business in the EU or in California — and more states are passing laws every day (Colorado, Utah, Virginia, Connecticut …). AAM job seekers who are willing to do a privacy certification will instantly be very attractive to companies — everybody needs privacy regulatory specialists, but the profession basically didn’t exist before two years ago, so NOBODY has any experience, and it’s a wild west of “we will hire you whatever your relatively minimal qualifications are.” Not everybody is hiring at FAANG salaries, but EVERYBODY is hiring unless they are flatly bailing out of California.

Consider it passed along!

{ 354 comments… read them below }

  1. Zombeyonce*

    #1: I work IT at a hospital and unless it’s a very, very small hospital, it’s incredibly unlikely that anyone on the IT team that the mom contacted had ever talked to her or even heard her name before. That makes receiving an unsolicited email from her even stranger; I know I’d feel very uncomfortable getting contacted like this. Even if LW had gotten an interview, this could have definitely colored the IT team’s perception of her and what future cold calls they might expect if they hired her.

    It’s hard to imagine why the mom thinks her completely unrelated career would have any impact on a department she’s not in. (I mean, after reading AAM for years, it shouldn’t be hard to imagine why people do things like this, but still…)

    1. Sleepy cat*

      Maybe they thought the LW asked her to get in touch.

      LW, next time don’t tell your mom you’re applying.

    2. DrMrsC*

      Alison’s advice on OP1 is spot on about the “low key mention”. My son needed an internship placement to finish his IT related degree. I work on the clinical side of a small hospital (another poster was correct too, at a small hospital a lot of people are familiar with folks, at least by reputation, even if they don’t directly interact). I hesitated to even ask, but eventually emailed the IT director a basic, “hey I’ve got a kid finishing XYZ degree with this end requirement, any chance your department considers interns?” That was the extent of my involvement. I got a message back saying “have him give me a call,” and after a couple of meetings he had secured a paid internship. 2 months into it, they liked him enough to offer him a full time position that he started before he even graduated! Now they have plans to train him up in other areas and have him on a track for substantial promotion in about 2 years taking over for someone who will be leaving the organization. Connections can help, but none of that other stuff would have happened if my son wasn’t a great hire in his own right.

      1. anonymous73*

        That’s a perfect example of how you get involved as a parent – make the initial connection and let your child handle it from there.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Or another one I’ve seen:

          “Hey, is there an application link I should forward for someone I know who wants to apply?”

          The goal is just super low key, not an attempt to get a leg up on the competition so to speak.

          1. Lola*

            Another example of connections well-used: a few years ago, my sister needed an internship in order to get her teaching license, but was having trouble finding an open position with hours she could do and within a driveable distance. I asked my mother-in-law, a retired teacher, if she knew of anyone that might hire an intern. She contacted this lady she knew, who said she generally wasn’t open to hiring interns because it was “too much work”. My MIL got the sense that she was basing that opinion in outdated information, so she got my sister to send her the current requirements from her college, and they were much easier to do than what the lady expected. (She also lightly vowed for my sister’s capabilities).
            She agreed to interview and my sister did get the internship :)

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        We work with a lot of community stakeholders and try to recruit from the areas and communities we work with as much a possible for all roles, so I’m betting we probably get more personal (as opposed to professional) referrals than most places, and that is our preferred approach for folks to take. Low key and information only. Thus far we have been pretty lucky in that the interns related to stakeholders/community members have been awesome and nothing has gotten weird yet (touch wood or whatever your preferred method for avoiding bad luck)

      3. That One Person*

        I also feel like OP would’ve had a better time if it’d been a case of the mum reaching out to look for opportunities instead of trying to awkwardly flag OP for “special consideration.” The way the mother went about it made it seem either like they’re a helicopter parent and thus might continue to bother IT if say the OP had a rough day, or just that maybe the OP isn’t reliable and mum has to do everything for them. We know it wasn’t the intention, but it’s unfortunately an interpretation of her overstepping here and means they may not want to take that chance either way. It also stinks because at this point I don’t think there’s any salvaging the opportunity without making it look stranger.

      4. Panhandlerann*

        I did something quite similar for my daughter who needed to complete some hours in working with ESL students as one of the requirements for an ESL certificate. (The certificate was needed so she could work as a teacher in South Korea teaching English to children.) As a member of the English faculty, I knew the director of my small university’s ESL program (which is separate from the English department) and asked her if it might be possible for something like that to happen there. She said yes, I told my daughter, and she took it from there!

    3. feesh*

      Another one for the Taxonomy of Appropriate Connections:

      My grandfather was a beloved employee who died suddenly while my dad was in high school. Soon after my dad was looking for a summer job and applied at his father’s workplace — but didn’t even mention he was Fred’s son, out of a sense of fair play I think. He didn’t get the job.

      I’ve always thought if he’d just said it, they would have given him the job in a heartbeat – not a job that required special skill, a great way to help out the family of beloved colleague.

      1. kilo*

        My cousin was in a similar situation, and the company was small enough they did recognize the name. He got the job, and is still there decades later. The one downside is that he is now universally known as “Little Mick” (Mick was his Dad). He is not little.

    4. SyFyGeek*

      The mom probably messaged the IT Help Desk who gets a million questions a day. At my institution, it takes some dedicated digging to find out who the hiring manager is in any department, especially IT.

      LW1- make sure your resume and cover letter are outstanding, and don’t tell your mom where you’re applying until after you get the job.

    5. Temperance*

      Unless OP’s mom is one of those people who constantly hits up the HelpDesk with annoying questions.

      1. quill*

        … have we tried unplugging mom’s sense of how to network and plugging it back in again?

    6. Artemesia*

      I would think that this contact would in fact tank the LW’s chances for hire here unless she were unusually well qualified — a real standout in the applicants. And even that might cause people to back away not wanting this mother to be interfering in their operation in the future.

      I think Alison underestimates who damaging this sort of thing is likely to be especially for someone fairly junior. Who wants an employee with a helicopter Mom.

      1. pancakes*

        I’m inclined to agree. It isn’t necessarily fair, but assuming there are a number of qualified candidates — which I would expect to be the case in all but the most remote or rural areas — I would also expect the hiring manager to go with one without that type of inconvenience around them. Someone without a pushy parent to fend off is simply likely to be an easier hire to manage than someone with one.

    7. LMB*

      I think it goes back to what Alison said—when you know someone who works for a company you are applying for, even if it’s not the same department/field, it’s helpful for them to say hey I just wanted to let you know this person applied. This is basically just helpful in making sure the resume isn’t lost in automatic screening or whatever. The mom in this case was just very, very off in her understanding of how that usually works.

    8. Brett*

      I had a little different take as an IT hiring manager in ag.

      We have huge issues with turnover and churn (like pretty much every IT shop today). Knowing someone has personal connections to our workplace, especially non-IT connections and highly stable connections like the OP, is something I am going to consider in hiring.

      But, resume sorting is not the stage where I would consider it. I would consider it at the point where I have interviewed someone and it is a close decision on whether or not to extend an offer. At the resume stage, I just care if they are marginally qualified and show enough potential to develop into what I need in the role in a 3-6 month time frame. (If they are already qualified, I’m interviewing them and just looking for red flags.)

      So if OP was marginally qualified and showed potential to develop into the role in a 3 month time frame, interviewed (and they looked closer to 6 months than 3 months), and I was still on the fence about them, then I would take into account all the things that OP’s mom mentioned and probably end up hiring them. The reason being that the extras would give me a little more confidence that they would stay around long enough to justify the time spent in developing them.

    9. TiredMama*

      I have seen it work where a parent leverages good will in relationships to get their child an internship or interview.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        The thing is, the parent needs to have an actual relationship already for that to work.

        1. pancakes*

          They also need to not be clumsy about leaning too hard on their leverage, or in the wrong way.

    10. Autumnheart*

      I’m wondering if the IT department rejecting LW was a backhanded sort of favor. If Mom was already demanding gumption-level of involvement in LW’s application process, imagine what would happen if LW had been hired. Mom complaining to LW’s boss about their hours, whether or not they deserve a raise or promotion, complaining about LW not getting Christmas off because the IT dept needs on-call coverage…nightmare fuel.

      I’d say that LW could certainly mention something like “An interest in the healthcare industry runs in my family, and this is why I’m interested in the industry,” in a cover letter to some OTHER healthcare-related IT team, at some other hospital that Mom doesn’t work at, but having work/Mom separation in your career sounds like something you should definitely aim for. She’s got her nose too far in your business already.

  2. JJ*

    You want get an honest answer, but I’d also say that most interviewees aren’t going to give an honest answer to that either. If you are asked that question, I think it’d be great for you to ask yours back, just to gauge their response. If they take in stride and give you an answer (however gilded) vs if they act indignant and hypocritical.

    1. Heidi*

      I was going to say this also. People can have a really difficult time recognizing their own weaknesses, and they’re just one person. An interviewer who only sees part of the company’s total operations may not even have the information to make an assessment of a company’s weakness outside of their own departments. Depending on the type of employer, you could ask how they assess their work quality and if they have routine audits or reviews to identify problems.

      1. Despachito*

        People have no more motivation to reveal their REAL weaknesses and soil their names than companies. And I find the wording of this answer almost insulting – I would have to think hard which of my many characteristics I would call a “weakness” in general. I am at peace with who I am, and do not view anything about myself as negative.

        That said, it is clear that some qualities are less suitable for a particular job, but I’d rather formulate it this way than call it a “weakness”.

        I do not think that you will get a honest answer either from the company or from the candidate, but I like the idea of bouncing back the question as gauging the employer’s response.

        1. Loulou*

          It sounds like you’re taking this question really personally when it’s not that deep! I’m at peace with myself too but there are things I wish I did better or differently at work. If someone doesn’t have anything like that they may just lack self awareness.

          1. Despachito*

            But these are rather mistakes than weaknesses. I am perhaps nitpicking here but I see a “mistake” as something we all make (and yes, to deny that would be foolish) but can learn from it and work on it, while a “weakness” is something more permanent and less actionable.

            I, for example, know that I suck at marketing, so I reckon I could call that my “weakness”, but if I am realistic I’d never apply for a position which would require marketing skills, so there is no need to mention that.

            My point is not to deny that everyone has something we are not good at but that it is not likely that we would apply for positions where this would be relevant.

            1. DuskPunkZebra*

              Eh, I’m not sure you’re looking at it the same way I would. Weaknesses are skills you’re not very good at, and things that you can approach a number of ways: you can avoid the need to use them (in your example, not applying to marketing positions or taking up projects that require a marketing angle), you can accommodate and work around them, or you can tackle them straight on and improve them (taking marketing coursework).

              For example, one of my biggest weaknesses is estimating how long things will take me. I have ADHD and struggle with time blindness and recognizing the scope of work. I’m a designer, so time estimates are something I have to deal with ALL the time, and yet I never really seem to get better at the estimating. But it has to be done, so I work with a combination of accommodation and tackling the problem. If I’ve done something before and I don’t think it’s just a few minutes worth of work, I take a stab at how long I think it’ll take and double it. If it’s new, triple that estimate, and be explicit that the estimate is just that and may change. I also like working with intervals, like the Pomodoro method, and take snapshot views of how much I got done during each interval. It helps me see the progress, so I don’t feel as bogged down and lost in the process, and gives me real data to compare tasks against later.

              I use this method with a LOT of things, not just work. (It’s a fabulous approach to large cleaning tasks, for example.)

              In general, I think if you’re being asked this question in an interview, mentioning a skill that isn’t even relevant to the work you’re applying for 1) isn’t really useful information, and 2) feels a bit like you’re dodging the question. Answering with a relevant skill or activity that tends to give you trouble, might be relevant to the work, and that you have or are working on a strategy to improve/accommodate your difficulty is informative for all parties, because that area might be a bigger part of the job than you expected from the description, may be an area that they need someone who’s much steadier in that skill than you, or it could be something that their processes work around entirely! And you’d never know if you dodged the question, and you might end up in a job where you’re tripping over your own feet constantly.

              My time and scope issues are one reason why I never want to be a manager, especially of the project variety. I struggle enough with managing work as an individual contributor, I don’t want the load of tracking a team! Besides, I wanna do the work, not supervise the work. I said something like that pretty explicitly in the interview cycle for the job I just started this week, and got to learn a whole bunch about the various paths for growth in this new company. It’s part of how they lured me away from my old job.

              1. Despachito*

                Yes, this makes sense. But from what you describe, I think you found a very good means to compensate for your time-blindness and I’d bet it is more than enough to suit your needs.

                (And I fully understand the “I wanna do the work, not supervise the work,” it’s just me :-)

      2. misspiggy*

        “… you could ask how they assess their work quality.. .”

        I really like this question. I hope others see it.

        1. Chilipepper Attitude*

          I agree re the better question is how they assess their work quality.
          In general, I think questions about process are better than asking for their assessment of a process.

          At my last interview, I asked what steps they took to create teamwork and how they handled conflict. I did not ask if they had a good team or if they had conflict between staff.

          I think it worked well to get at what was important to me and they hired me and told me they liked my questions.

      3. Antilles*

        Also, they might not even recognize what’s a weakness at all – if your interviewer has been with the company for years, they don’t really have a basis for comparison and might have some heavily warped norms or expectations.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Or they see their weakness as a strength (e.g. “I tell it like it is”, “I never back down/give up”)

    2. ThatGirl*

      I have never asked “what is your company’s greatest weakness?” but I do find asking about *challenges* is useful. Like, if I’m joining a creative team, what are the team’s biggest challenges? That can reveal interesting information.

      1. As per Elaine*

        I’ve also asked about challenges facing a team, or expected in the near future, etc.

        In general, I would tend to ask about the team rather than the company (unless it’s a VERY small company) if I’m trying to get a sense of the day-to-day.

        If asked “What is Company’s biggest weakness?” I would probably think for a bit and then say something like, “Due to the recent mergers, we have a number of fragmentary pieces that don’t really know or trust each other yet, and leadership is trying to forge some sort of cohesive culture out of all the pieces but I’m not 100% sure they have a great sense of where everyone is coming from.” Which would be entirely true and honest, and I wouldn’t be saying that to hide some worse, secret weakness. It’s not necessarily bad information to have. But it’s not the answer I would give if asked about challenges on the team, and the team dynamics answer would speak much more to what I sense the LW to be trying to ask.

        1. darlingpants*

          Yeah I’ve been saying something like “we’re a startup with over 1,000 employees in a highly regulated manufacturing environment and that’s two opposite cultures and work styles we’re trying to squidge together.” But that’s not really *my* biggest problem, or the team’s biggest challenge, it’s just going on the in the background for the senior managers to worry about.

      2. Annie*

        I like to ask how long the person has been with the company, and then say, You’ve been here for two years (or whatever): what do you think your team/the company has gotten better at in the last two years? What do you want the team/company to get better at the next two years? It has yielded really interesting answers.

      3. Joielle*

        Yeah, I like to ask “What is your favorite thing about the job, and the thing you find most challenging?” I’ve gotten a lot of great information from that question!

      4. miss chevious*

        Yeah, I think this question is going to get more useful answers. Even if they interviewer paints something in a positive light, it’s likely to reveal what’s on their mind in terms of big issues.

      5. Parakeet*

        I’ve often, if I’m talking to interviewers in sequence rather than as a panel, asked people who are interviewing me what their favorite and least favorite things are about the job/company. I did this for my first job out of college because I had no idea what to ask but knew I was supposed to ask something, and for some reason that popped into my head, so I asked it of everyone I talked to. The pattern of information that I got across something like five interviewers, for BOTH the “favorite” and “least favorite” parts of the question, would, in retrospect, have actually been REALLY useful to me in assessing fit, if only I’d paid more attention to it at the time rather than being mostly concerned with having a job by the time I graduated.

      6. Le Sigh*

        I find this is a useful frame for a few different questions. I’ve asked people “what are the potential challenges you expect for this role?” or something similar, and it has revealed useful info about the job as well as the department, executive team, and/or long-standing org-wide issues.

      7. Unaccountably*

        I always ask what people like best about working for the company. It had better be something about the work. If the answer is “The people here,” I smell trauma bonding.

    3. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      We had a candidate ask a question like this once. It was more like what is the downsides and perks of your organization. It is hard to answer. and really, what one person thinks of a as a downside (needing to wear business clothes, or traveling) might not be a downside to another.

      1. Parakeet*

        That can still be useful though! If a candidate is interviewing with five people and four of the five mention travel as EITHER a perk or a downside, the candidate knows that how they, the candidate, feel about travel is likely to be really important, since it’s clearly a factor in a lot of people’s job satisfaction there. Even if two of the people who say something about travel consider it a perk and two consider it a downside.

    4. MissGirl*

      I disagree about not getting an honest answer. I asked a version of this in an interview and they were quite forthcoming with some of the frustrations they faced. I did take the job and found it they represented it well. I wouldn’t count on getting a straight answer but I wouldn’t let that stop someone from asking.

    5. JJ*

      I think my original meaning may not have come across – what I was getting at is whether or not it’s a useful way to learn their weaknesses, you can still learn a lot by asking it *in scenarios where you have been asked this too*. If someone asks you your personal weaknesses but is Pikachu face upset about asking their company weaknesses, vs if they appreciate the question or regard it as fair – that tells you a lot about the culture there.

    6. Me!*

      I use the AAM-recommended question, (paraphrased) “What are some challenges I might encounter in this position?” The answers vary from “It can be very quiet and then everything drops all at once” to “People might get in your face about stuff” (uh oh). Then I can balance what I’m hearing with what I’ve looked up on Glassdoor or Indeed reviews or similar. Pay is a tough one to parse because almost every company has reviews where people are complaining about the salary.

      “There aren’t any” is a telling answer itself, especially if I looked on GD and found a bunch of stuff like crap tech, no growth, etc. In that case, I might ask a general question about those.

  3. Longtimelurker*

    LW 2 – take a look at government series jobs. These are the jobs you are looking for (please read in using a somber Star Wars tone)

    1. Hlao-roo*

      This is a really good idea. I know for federal government jobs (on USAjobs.gov) they clearly spell out the salaries and qualifications for the different “levels” of the job. So the ad looks something like:

      Salary $X – $Y
      – [education qualification]
      – [experience qualification]

      Salary $Y – $Z
      – must meet all qualifications for GS-9 and the following:
      – [education qualification]
      – [experience qualification]

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Government overall knocks it out of the park when it comes to salary transparency which I would put money on helping with their lower levels of pay disparity between demographic groups. The private sector could learn a lot by modeling government

        1. Governmint Condition*

          Yes, but remember that most government jobs do not allow for salary negotiation. Alison’s usual advice on negotiating salary will not apply.

          1. Scott*

            I actually was able to negotiate salary, it was just within the GS pay band. So a job posted as a GS-14 can be anywhere in the range of Step 1 through Step 10. Because I was starting after retiring from military active duty, I was taking a huge hit on paying taxes (certain things are paid as allowances and are therefore not taxed) so I was able to start in the middle of the pay band.

            1. Yorick*

              Yes, I was able to negotiate which step I’d start on (state government, not federal – but I assume it’s similar)

            2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Thirded – I didn’t negotiate (I came in above the grade I wanted so was very happy with my offer), but two of my coworkers were able to negotiate for a higher step within the grade.

            3. Governmint Condition*

              When my employer did this in the past, it was a system where you showed what your previous salary was, and it would be plugged into a formula to calculate what step you started on. I wouldn’t call that “negotiating” since you can’t negotiate with math.

          2. LetsBeReal*

            You can negotiate government salary within the published OPM pay band for the level you qualify for, IF you’re coming in from outside government from the private sector. So there’s room for some negotiation, although it’s limited. (ie you can negotiate a Step 4 instead of a Step 3 within the GS-9 pay band.)
            Once you’re in, though, it’s really hard to negotiate even within the pay band of a new job.

            1. Phony Genius*

              You may be talking about the federal government. Some states and local governments do this, but most I’ve dealt with do not (even when they’re allowed to).

        2. Mianaai*

          Yes and no… You generally can’t negotiate salary, except to match your previous salary if it’s higher than the first step of the band. If everyone were to start at step 1, that might be more equitable but would make hiring much harder. As it stands, if Alice and Bob are coming from private sector jobs where Alice was unfairly paid less than Bob for the same work due to her gender or other discriminatory factors, that may well translate to Bob starting his federal position at a higher salary than Alice.

          The transparency is great! But the system can still perpetuate problems with salary inequality, alas. When I (F) was hired as a fed, I wasn’t able to negotiate since step 1 of my grade was about equal to what I was making previously, but a teammate (M) with the same overall experience who had just spent a year in the private sector was hired at step 6. Our bosses worked to resolve this as fast as possible with promotions etc but it still was a case of immediate pay inequality for two people with the same amount of experience hired to do the same work.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            I meant that the posting and clarity of salary information in job announcements is something the private sector should emulate, not that it eliminates salary inequality. It probably helps to minimize salary inequality, but definitely isn’t the magic solution. Sorry, sometimes I am not as clear as I mean to be.

            1. Mianaai*

              No worries! I definitely agree that the salary transparency in job postings is great and something the private sector should emulate, along with the fairly clear delineation between levels of education and/or experience needed for the various salary bands. I mostly wanted to highlight that even a system that’s on the surface equitable (and HR was very clear that I couldn’t negotiate because doing so might lead to pay discrepancies……) can still unintentionally perpetuate inequality from the private sector. It’s a difficult problem to solve, since people generally don’t want to take a pay cut when they switch jobs.

          2. Governmint Condition*

            My government employer does not negotiate this any more, due to the example that you present. And, yes, it has made it difficult to hire people from outside, but management has made a decision about priorities. (Of course, this is subject to change at any time, since there’s no law about it [yet].)

            1. Mianaai*

              Interesting! Of course one of the real answers is that the OPM pay scale is woefully inadequate for a lot of positions and probably needs adjusting to be at least somewhat comparable to the private sector once benefits etc. are taken into account. But I might as well wish for a flying pony and an infinite chocolate dispenser while I’m at it…

    2. Generic Name*

      Yes. I was going to suggest defining what you mean by senior versus mid-level at least in terms of years of experience. Otherwise, you’ll have candidates with 2 years of experience who are sure they should get the top of the salary range (when the top of the range is for folks worth 10 years of experience or something).

  4. Zombeyonce*

    #4: “What’s the company’s greatest weakness” is a great question to ask people that have worked there or do currently, if you can find anyone besides your interviewers that will talk to you. I know a question like that would make me laugh and then go on and on about any frustrations I have with my company.

    1. Allonge*

      I think a lot of us could go on and on – sort of the nature of the beast: everyone is likely to be frustrated by something in their job / team / boss. The trick could be to balance this with the non-frustration information and preferably with multiple people’s answers… which may or may not be possible.

      But yes, the interviewer is not the person to ask this, they are the face of the company and so their answers will be even more suspect.

    2. A.P.*

      Maybe I’m taking the question too literally, but if someone asked me about my *company’s* greatest weakness, I wouldn’t think to reply with any details about my boss or fellow employees. I would assume they were asking about the greatest weakness of the business as a whole.

      For example, Target’s greatest weakness is that they are pricier than Walmart. But of course for 95% of the people who work at Target that’s irrelevant for their day-to-day jobs.

      If you really want to ask “What sucks about this job?”, then I would phrase it differently. Maybe something like “What challenges did the previous person in this job face?” or “What’s would you change about your role if you could?”

      1. BethDH*

        I have asked “what do you think the biggest challenge will be for someone in this role in the first year?” and gotten very useful answers. If there are hurdles dealing with someone, someone will almost always say “building relationships with x [person or department]” or “managing expectations about z.” If it’s going to be an infrastructure or tech issue, they’ll say something about developing capacity or setting up systems. Sometimes they’ll say something about managing workload or fitting in everything.

        It rarely gets an answer that is a really big picture CEO-level problem with the whole org, but I’m not sure most of my interviewers would be capable of answering that usefully anyway.

      2. ecnaseener*

        Same, I have no clue what my employer’s “greatest weakness” is! I imagine it makes sense to ask that if you’re interviewing for a high-level strategic role of some kind, but otherwise it’s a baffling question. I like the alternatives you suggested, or even something about the team’s biggest weakness (I’m cringing even at that – the team’s biggest challenges would be better)

        1. Mockingjay*

          I like ‘challenge’ versus ‘weakness.’ Weakness implies failure or inadequacy, even when none exist. When I hear challenge, I think problem/solution. That is what I want to learn about a company or team: how are challenges handled? Team think for solution? Individual innovation? How do you measure or recognize success? And so on.

      3. Colette*

        Yeah, I can’t think of a useful answer I’d give for previous jobs and, for large organizations, only a few company weaknesses will affect a low-level employee. (Constant layoffs or blatant discrimination would, but “we’re having a hard time breaking into the X market” wouldn’t, for example.)

      4. KHB*

        Yeah, I think you need to think about what you really mean to ask here. If you want to know about weaknesses in the company’s high-level management or strategic thinking or business model, your interviewer (assuming she’s not part of the high-level management herself) might or might not give you her honest opinion, which might or might not be accurate and might or might not be relevant.

        But if you want to ask “What are the biggest drawbacks of working here?”, then depending on the rapport you have with your interviewer, you might be able to just ask that. You should still take the answer with a grain of salt – but if the interviewer is any good at hiring, she’ll know she doesn’t want to bait-and-switch you into accepting a role you’ll end up hating. So if the drawbacks are things that some people don’t mind so much but are deal-breakers to others, it’s in her best interest to be honest with you about them.

    3. TechWorker*

      I’ve had interviewees ask me ‘what the worst thing about your job’ and whilst I am happy to answer I also think our company is mostly functional so a) everyone’s ‘worst’ is going to be different and b) for me the worst thing is the stress – but that comes with having a pretty senior role and it is absolutely an option to have a lower stress role/all the people I interview are applying for graduate roles which are rarely stressful for good candidates.

    4. Cat Tree*

      I think it’s too vague to be meaningful. I find it much more useful to ask about the specific department, and do it by asking the interviewer what they like and dislike about the job.

    5. 1,000 Snails in a Lady Skin*

      #4 the question you’re really looking for is “what is the biggest challenge for your company [or your team] right now?”

      This will potentially get you insightful answers in the vein of what you’re looking for.

  5. Stokes*

    LW5: What is the specific certification / course needed? I’m turning up a CIPP certification online, but don’t see a course for it and am wondering if that’s the one you’re talking about. Thanks for the tip!

    1. MishenNikara*

      I am also curious. The stuff I am finding the prices don’t quite add up and mostly I just wanna know if I am even looking at the same thing LW5 did.

      Been trying to get out of my field for a very long time. Would love to at least get a good look at this one

      1. Privacy OP*

        The training course I purchased was, I don’t know, $990? But it does look like I got a slight discount on the test (that I still have not taken) because they were doing some sort of reciprocal educational deal with my local bar association when I was doing my continuing legal ed to keep my license active.

        1. quill*

          So, out of interest, since regulatory takes a lot of backgrounds: are these companies looking at someone with background in legal, or in IT/Information Security, or something else?

          1. Pine*

            Just bumping this question because I am also wondering what (if any) professional background is required/favored in addition to the certification.

        2. Glomarization, Esq.*

          I think you should have mentioned in your original letter that you are a lawyer.

          Your success at landing this particular job, with a FAANG company, at the salary bump you describe, is not likely as attainable for someone who’s not coming from the same background.

          1. academicadmin*

            OP does write this in their original letter:” I do have a law degree (some of my colleagues do; some don’t), …”

            1. Glomarization, Esq.*

              Fair enough, obviously I missed it.

              Lots of commenters, though, who seem to think that it’ll take just “one weird trick” (getting a certification) to get results similar to OP’s. In my view it should be make clearer that this looks a lot like a path for people with J.D.s or law licenses or some other kind of compliance-adjacent qualifications.

        3. Curious*

          Can you share more about the backgrounds of your colleagues who don’t have law degrees? What fields are they coming from?

    2. Stephanie*

      You can pay for online training for the certification via IAPP. There are several different versions of the certification, so read up on which one is most applicable for the work you want to do and where you live. You can also just buy the textbooks for the certification and study on your own; the trainings don’t add much unless that’s how you learn best.

      1. Privacy OP*

        Yes, I agree with this, the textbook is more valuable than the course, at least as delivered online.

    3. Privacy OP*

      Go to IAPP.org — they do the certification test, and also provide the course and textbook to prepare for that test. CIPP-US is the US privacy certification and US employers will like that, but any companies that do any business in the EU or with EU citizens, including just having customers there or transmitting data there, need to comply with European privacy law as well, and CIPP-E is that certification.

      For the job postings I’ve looked at, they usually just want a CIPP certification, and aren’t particularly picky about which one. They’re more interested that you know the general principles and the basics of the law.

      CIPT, which is a technologist certification, is also in some demand at the entry level, although I know less about it. I know a couple of people who combined that with various cloud certifications, since companies are hiring people into roles to say, “no, please do not structure your data in this bad way and then store it in the cloud!”

      I will respond to any other questions I can, although I’m obviously very new to the field!

      1. Zombeyonce*

        I’m in IT and think this could be right up my alley. Do you know if these jobs are often available for remote workers? I can’t imagine they do much that would need to be performed in-person, but would love to know for sure.

        1. Privacy OP*

          My team is fully remote. I saw a pretty good mix of companies that wanted someone in the office, and companies that were advertising fully remote.

          1. WhatAMaroon*

            I’m in this field (with about 5+ years of super hands on experience). When I was interviewing for my most recent role I encountered 2 to 3 common things might be worth knowing. Remote was certainly an option but was mixed bag. Since privacy teams are often lined up under compliance or legal some legal teams weren’t remote and we’re looking for people to be back in the office. Of the 6-ish places I interviewed only 2 were open to remote. Be wary of someone bringing you on to a team that’s 1-2 people if you don’t have a lot of experience or related experience. I had many companies that were medium sized that were expecting a two person team to drive compliance for very complex regulations with minimal support and often not for the pay one would expect to basically run a large compliance program. While the IAPP is certainly a great foundation the complexity I experience in my day to day job wasn’t that close to why the test taught to. The tests don’t spend a lot of time in the conflicting regulation + interpretation aspects of it all and that’s I would say 40-60% of the job. A role at a FAANG is a great way to learn the day to day operations of a privacy org and an excellent training ground for jumping into those types of roles if that’s what you’d like with you career. Additionally there are many technical and non-technical roles associated with data privacy so there’s many times and to grow your career with this skill.

            I love what I do (and I’m not an attorney which is a complimentary part of the teams I’ve typically worked with)

            1. Maude Lebowski*

              Agree 10000000% with your comments on small teams being expected to lead huge privacy efforts. I’m at a Big 4 accounting firm on the internal privacy and confidentiality team. My team has scaled up from 5 to 50 over three years and there’s still more work than we can handle.

            2. J*

              This is exactly in line with what I’ve experienced. I’ve worked BigLaw as a non-lawyer and adjacent to privacy teams and I’m now in house working with a mix of IT, legal and compliance. I’m not the privacy expert but I rely on them and know when to check in with them so I’m always speaking to them. Both of my orgs had remote options but that’s very company specific – we actually prefer remote hiring because we get so niche that we need experts wherever they are and we want them to be familiar with all privacy rules as too many local hires tend to specialize in just the CCPA.

        2. NewJobNewGal*

          I just left a start-up software company that gave up on finding people locally and has committed to hiring remote for all technical positions. This was a company that was all about face-to-face team building and collaboration and casual brainstorming…but that changed really fast when the candidate pool dried up. I bet many companies have gone in the same direction. You shouldn’t have any problems finding a remote role.
          I’m betting once your certification is added to your LinkedIn, recruiters will reach out immediately.

      2. mrs__peel*

        Thanks for this info and for responding to questions! I’m currently a government-sector attorney and it’s something that I’m definitely going to look into.

        Would you mind sharing a bit about your work/life balance in your current role and how many hours a week is expected, on average?

        1. Privacy OP*

          Because I’m pretty entry level, it’s 40 hours a week, and I close my computer and I’m done. Ditto for my colleagues in the same role. My manager manages a team all over the world so she sometimes has very early or very late meetings, but she’s able to block out time to meet her kids’ bus and have dinner with her family even on very long days. The level above THAT the work-life balance appears to be less favorable!

          My last job was lower-intensity in general BUT I was on-call like ALL the time, so I’m still getting used to being able to “leave work” at the end of the day and have nobody expect to reach me until the next day. I hadn’t realized how stressful that was until I stopped!

          But I think this varies a lot — if you’re in a two-person department that’s wildly underresourced, or you’re reporting to lawyers who work insane hours, I think the expectations would be for longer days.

            1. Privacy OP*

              If you have experience with compliance, I think it could.

              My current role is unusually employee-benefits-privacy heavy, tho, so I may see more of it than average.

        2. WhatAMaroon*

          Additional anecdotal data – the attorneys I’ve worked with in the space for an average resourced team with medium complexity privacy problems (so not a ton of Business units that operate independently, moderate global footprint and not tons of affiliates) usually seem to be between 45-60 with 50 or less being the norm. I’m in relatively senior non-attorney role and I average about 45 hours mostly because a lot of my work is a mix of analysis, requirement development, project management, and strategic development. Severely understaffed teams I’ve seen upwards of 65+ hours

      3. The Other Dawn*

        I’m curious as to how this would be different than being an information security officer or a compliance officer (I’m in banking). Reading through the desctiptions, it seems like that what this would boil down to.

        1. WhatAMaroon*

          For context, I was in a more technical cybersecurity before I moved moreso to data privacy. I think two to three of the biggest differences are
          1. Infosec standards vs regulations – while there are some infosec laws primarily the compliance work is driven by standards to comply to, those tend to be owned by a few central sources and most companies typically align to one vs another with additionally internal guidance (governmental work does have more regulatory requirements in this case and FinServices has some specific laws in many countries, but those are often between 20-40 controls and not totally misaligned with many standards). Depending on the number of countries a company is in there are anywhere from 5-100 different relevant laws that are applicable, conflicting and all have to be aligned to.

          2. The controls in place for infosec are a mix of technical and procedural controls that have to do with keeping the data safe, so encryption, hashing, access controls, etc. privacy controls are driven by legal requirements so controls are more along the lines of “do we have sufficient protections in our contract to send this data to this company”; “does our privacy policy meet legal requirements”; “are we sufficiently applying consent for our data use cases so we can use the data”. Some of that is enabled by technical controls but is far more focused on have a company manages their legal risk and compliance with a law.

          3. In small to medium sized companies often compliance officers do have privacy as a part of their domains they manage – given the complexity and changing regulations and the tech lifts required for managing and driving a privacy compliance program it’s often a dedicated person from what I’ve seen but I think there is overlap.

          Certainly others might think differently but I would say while there is a lot of overlap in skill sets those three roles are distinct skill sets and knowledge bases, but compliance is a very related and strong jumping point for many data privacy roles. (I think where I think a lot of the people who were early into the field originated from has been my experience)

      4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Thanks for posting this! I’m not looking for a career change but I deal with a TON of very, very sensitive PII and none of us have any knowledge of regulations beyond HIPAA, which only covers a portion of our data, and I’d love to learn this. I think I now have a professional development goal to list on my evaluation for next year

      5. Me!*

        Oh man, I wish the state Workforce Development Center had offered this instead of the dumb Coursera stuff. It looks cool. I’ll have to wait until I find something permanent before I can look at taking any other certification courses, hopefully with a company who might pay for it.

        Thank you for posting, Privacy OP! I’m going to bookmark this when I get home.

        1. RagingADHD*

          I think it is highly relevant that the LW is already a lawyer. I doubt the certification alone without relevant experience in IT or law/compliance would be nearly as useful.

          1. Cpt Morgan*

            Agreed. I actually think it was kind of reckless to present this as, go get a $1k certificate, and you’re basically guaranteed six figures!

            A law degree and even spotty work experience is almost certainly doing more for LW than the certificate (they didn’t even get) is.

          2. WhatAMaroon*

            I missed that context of attorney vs non-attorney so I was surprised by comp but chalked it up to maybe a lot changed in the past 6 months since I was interviewing. For non-attorneys in this role at entry level I’ve seen between 60-90K on average depending on size of company etc. Also entry level is sometimes relatively repetitive procedural work from what I’ve seen across programs. If you’re not a lawyer and looking at skill sets that are relevant and useful strong Project Management, good sense of dealing with the gray area, and a solid understanding of data and how it moves through an organization are solid skills! You don’t have to have a certification to get in the roles; on my last two teams I was actually one of the few and I waited about 2 years of doing the work to get the cert.

          3. fhqwhgads*

            It also sounds like OP knows many of her coworkers in the same role are not lawyers though? So it’s hard to determine from here if she’s underestimating the effect of her own law degree. It might be the law degree made her in-progress incomplete cert matter less and without the law degree that cert would be necessary but otherwise the rest very similar. I have no idea. I do think OP is likely to know more about this than I do though.

            1. RagingADHD*

              From a comment by LW, posting as “Privacy OP”:

              “Some are former lawyers like me; others come from financial services compliance departments, consulting firms, government work with a lot of compliance concerns, and software project management. One of my colleagues was a history professor and decided she was never making tenure track so retrained. One of my colleagues literally did data entry at his last company, the company was surprised by its privacy compliance obligations and not super well-run, so they were like “You do data entry, you should be able to figure this out.” (I think they literally thought data entry and data privacy were the same?) He self-taught and was good at it, fled the very bad company, and now does privacy compliance full time. Military backgrounds are also quite common!”

              This is not in fact an “entry level” job that someone would be considered for with no prior experience in compliance or tech. These are primarily people who were mid to senior level in a related field, though there are several different fields that are related.

              The term “entry level” is very misleading. They are not new grads with zero work experience, or people walking straight in from retail or admin/clerical who bought a certificate course.

          4. The Other Dawn*

            I agree. This isn’t a standalone certification that can be used to get into the field. It seems much more like continuing ed for attorneys and those in regulatory compliance or IT.

        2. Julie*

          The dumb Corsera stuff that you keep disparaging is offered to you because, generally speaking, it is in fact routine skills training that is more beneficial to long-term unemployed people than unicorn fantasy paths. The dumb Corsera stuff is also being offered to you thanks to the taxes paid by people who answer phones and clean toilets for a living.

      6. Anononononon*

        Thanks for being willing to answer questions, Privacy OP. I’m not using my usual name for this one because I know that there are people at my company who read this site and I don’t want to reveal that I’m looking. I’m in the US, for context.

        I’m a contender (was a finalist last time a similar position was open, have been told that I have a good chance this time) for a position in a niche area that combines tech knowledge with a social services field where privacy is often a concern – so educating social service professionals about related tech issues and educating tech companies about ways to make their products safer. I have a mixed tech/social services background. I’m wondering, would the body of knowledge involved in these certs be useful for that kind of role? If I were to get the position, I’d naturally want to keep expanding my own knowledge.

      7. Leonineleopard*

        Thanks for sharing your knowledge Privacy OP! What is the day to day activity you like most in your current position? Least?

  6. Stephanie*

    Data privacy as a field existed prior to GDPR, although it certainly made more companies consider the need for hiring employees specializing in it.

    Before jumping in, please truly consider what privacy as a concept means to you. It’s often more nuanced than working in computer security, for example. So if shades of grey aren’t your thing, I wouldn’t recommend it.

    1. Cold and Tired*

      Agreed! I was living and working in tbe UK in IT for an American company when GDPR came into effect and it was so much nuance and a very steep learning curve both before it started and after as we adjusted. You also need to be very, very comfortable with huge change to your industry if you go that way. Each new law passed has all sorts of fun new details to it that can throw big curve balls at you or have unintemded consequences.

      1. Privacy OP*

        Yes, completely agree! Part of what I really enjoy about it is that it’s constantly changing and I’m constantly having to master new laws and regulations, and learn new best practices. I’m happiest in a job where I get to learn a lot of new things very frequently. But if you would find it stressful to master a set of rules, and then have all the rules immediately changed, it is probably not the field for you.

        1. Mockingjay*

          This is such a fascinating career field. I’ve long thought that we (USA) need a national privacy law or policy similar to the GDPR. If we have to go state by state to get there, then that’s what we need to do!

          I can see where you’d need a strong sense of organization and structure to learn the rules (which I have) and flexibility (not my strong suit, mostly because my industry requires repeatable, parallel processes so that’s what I’ve practiced over my career). Thanks for pointing out the soft skills required; those may not be obvious when reading the job description.

        2. MishenNikara*

          What I do now has nothing to do with your field (and now with more info its becoming clear I would probably never be able to make the transition due to no real translatable job skills) BUT…

          “stressful to master a set of rules, and then have all the rules immediately changed”

          In my current job of online grocery pickup this is called “days that end in Y” lmao

    2. ecnaseener*

      Yes, coming from clinical research administration I was a little confused about the declaration that the whole field is brand-new — GDPR is stricter than HIPAA, but the foundation was very much there.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Yep. Healthcare has been dealing with HIPAA for about 20 years now. And the Privacy Act of 1974 covered many federal programs before that’ll. I’d say it’s less “new” & more “expanding.”

        1. Oirish*

          I work in industry related healthcare GDPR causes a lot of headaches for us with employers believing it gives them a right to their employees’ health data…. when it doesn’t. We often have very senior law specialists quote the relevant part of the GDPR to us that they believe gives them the right of access. It often isn’t received well when we explain our duty of care to medical privacy trumps the GDPR so they can quote it all they want to us, it’s not relevant in this circumstance.

      2. Privacy OP*

        The field isn’t brand new but the hiring frenzy in the US is, and many more companies are now building out privacy *departments*.

        1. J*

          Yes, and building tools/working with legal tech to acquire tools to standardize practices and react quickly to changes. I think a certain understanding of not just privacy laws but legal tech are key. Many healthcare attorneys I know added on CCPA/GDPR knowledge but they don’t have the expansive expertise and ability to consult on privacy rules relating the M&A or legal tech or L&E for example.

    3. EverythingIsInteresting*

      Anyone know which data privacy certification is most relevant? I just googled and found several.

      1. WhatAMaroon*

        Depending on what you want to do CIPP/E or CIPP/US (although I think E is likely more useful overall) and the CIPM can be useful for no -attorneys who are focused on driving the operational aspects of a program. I haven’t heard a lot of people who’ve done the Tecch specific IAPP cert say it was that useful. If you want to do technical things you’re probably better off looking at OneTrust certs.

  7. Punk*

    OP2: Why not make two job postings? The candidates don’t need to know that you’re only going to hire for one if them.

    1. Felis alwayshungryis*

      That seems a bit disingenuous. People searching for these kind of roles will probably see both, and assume there’ll be someone working a level above or beneath them. That could be a surprise when they interview and find out that isn’t the case. Also, it will look like the company is expanding more than it is.

      Easiest is just to do it the way Alison suggested – write it in such a way that suitable candidates won’t feel under- or over-qualified, and just be really clear about the situation.

      1. Doctors Whom*

        I don’t think it’s disingenuous – a company isn’t bound to hire for every PD it posts and using two PDs makes it clearer that people who are earlier career are welcome to apply/have a legitimate shot at the position. Writing two postings really forces the company to think deliberately about what a more senior and junior skillset are and what the position would look like and how it would interact, depending on who is in it. It also forces you to think proactively about what are you willing to mentor someone in at the start, vs what do they absolutely have to bring to the table.

        I literally can’t post a PD at two different staff levels, and I can’t hire someone at a lower staff level with great potential if the only PD I post is at a higher level (and vice versa). But, we are encouraged to think about whether one level lower or higher could be reasonable for the position and post at both levels. While I would never say “sure a new college grad would be an acceptable substitute for 15 years of regulatory experience,” it is absolutely reasonable that I could say “This person is a bit earlier career than we anticipated hiring, but they have this unique widget project that is highly relevant to our teapot automation schema, so I’m willing to trade that for some of the other experience I was asking for.”

        I do think that it’s fair & appropriate in this case if it’s a small org to tell candidates in an early interview that they intend to hire one person to fill this general role, and they issued two PDs describing the position to ensure that they reached/appealed to the broadest possible pool of qualified candidates.

        1. Doctors Whom*

          I should clarify – I can’t post a *single PD* at two different staff levels. I have to post one PD at each level I would consider. I reread my post and raelize that was clear in my head but may not have been in how I wrote it.

      2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

        Yup. For my role they were looking for both a full time and part time. the job description is the same, just that the hours, and benefits, would be different. This wasn’t listed in the job description but it was talked about in the interviews.

  8. Aphrodite*

    OP #5, I’m in California. Can you tell me some recommended organizations to get the training and certification from. And what is a FAANG company?

    1. Zombeyonce*

      Certification comes from iapp.org and FAANG is Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google.

      1. Curious*

        Why does it seem that the answer should instead be “a company controlled by vampires?”

    2. Cj*

      I’m so glad somebody finally asset. I have seen that on this site before, and was hesitant to ask.

      1. Cj*

        Asked that. Not asset. I see more discussion of this further down. Glad I wasn’t the only one. Not everybody lives in Silicon Valley, I guess.

        1. Just stoppin' by to chat*

          And now that we’ve talked about FAANG, there is a new acronym MAMMA :) The new acronym, MAMAA, stands for Meta, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google’s parent company Alphabet. Essentially Jim Cramer (who started using FAANG) recognized that Microsoft deserved to be on the list, and Facebook is now going by Meta.

  9. Elena*

    LW 3, id think about how you phrase this if you do decide to mention it to your boss. You want to sound as unemotional about it as possible, and not provide unneeded details– so dont include the whole story as you put it in your letter here (such as mentioning the emotional affair, complex relationship etc). Just like, “Heads up, this person is married to my ex. I have no hard feelings about it but thought I’d mention it in case it’s the kind of connection you’d rather know about”

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Agreed, but I’d argue this is entirely unnecessary. If someone brought this to my attention I would assume there was going to be a problem; why would they have raised it if there wasn’t lingering trouble?

        1. Stevie*

          Even if OP is completely professional, there’s no guarantee the ex’s wife will be. If their roles change and they need up ending to work more closely, what if the ex’s wife accuses OP of bias towards her?

          Also, yes, it’s possible that OP could develop unanticipated negative feelings.

          Even if it’s a best case scenario, the *potential* for things to go sideways is there. It’d probably be good for the manager to have the full picture now.

          All of the above are things I’ve gathered from similar AAM posts in the past!

          1. Meep*

            We are assuming the ex-wife might not be professional based on the fact OP is clearly not.

            1. starfox*

              Because she’s concerned about potential problems working with her ex’s new wife? Why is that unprofessional?

        2. Anonyer*

          That’s totally unfair and unhelpful. LW said it was a messy separation that wasn’t on good terms; LW would be naive not to have some level of concern or anxiety about their ex-spouse’s new spouse joining LW’s team with at-least monthly in-person contact – and, in the future, very possibly working together, being at holiday parties together, and/or growing into a supervisory relationship (either way). I certainly wouldn’t call that not being “as over it as she says she is.”

        3. Temperance*

          OR, hear me out: OP went through a difficult split with a significant ex. It’s very likely that her ex shared information about their relationship/breakup with his now wife. It’s totally valid that OP is neutral on the situation, because she’s moved on herself, but would still be not super comfortable working with her.

          I have one significant ex. He and I are both with other people, married, moved on. I’m sure his wife has heard some not-lovely things about me; my husband has heard some not-lovely things about him. It would be awkward to interact. And our breakup was largely because of life/goal mismatch and I can confidently say we’re both with people who are better for us.

        4. Annie Mouse*

          LW has been with the company for 6 months. Why would a coworker know that applicant Jane Smith is married to someone that LW dated years ago, and think it relevant to alert LW to that? It does sound like LW either isn’t really over it or there’s some missing info.

          1. Zelda*

            Came here to say this. Letting current-wife know what she’s signing up for is being fair to *her*, as well as to the boss. Maybe something like, “If you decide to make her an offer, you might let her know that I’m on this team so that she can make good decisions about what she’s willing to do; let her know I’m prepared to be entirely professional.”

      1. Calm Waters*

        Unless it became it an issue (and it doesn’t sound like it will), I wouldn’t bring it up either. Unless the OP anticipates problems, I don’t see any reason for mentioning it to her boss and would hope the ex’s new wife would do the same.

      2. Temperance*

        It’s good information to have, even if OP is fine with the situation. Because frankly, it can be really awkward for some people, and OP doesn’t know the ex’s wife at all.

        As a manager, I would be weirded out when I find out later that my new employee is married to the significant ex of a current employee and no one brought it up.

      3. starfox*

        Because LW doesn’t know there’s not going to be lingering trouble… She doesn’t even know this person. Just because she’s over it and doesn’t care doesn’t mean the ex’s new wife is going to handle it professionally.

    2. Meep*

      Honestly, I wouldn’t mention it at all. It is several years ago and I would side-eye a new employee telling me a potential new hire is her ex-boyfriend’s wife who she never met. Like, who keeps track of that??? It really comes off as drama-hungry and like she is in fact not over her ex in the scheme of things.

      1. Double A*

        Yeah, it would be one thing if the now-wife was involved in the ugly split and there were issues with potential violence or something but… “maybe had an emotional affair” while they were on the verge of breaking up is… really not a thing. A lot of people begin to move on before they’ve fully exited the relationship; it’s not the kindest or bravest thing we’ll ever do, and it can be very painful for those involved, but it’s really not something you can expect anyone but your besties to really think is an issue. Especially when years have passed, and you’re both married to other people.

        If anything, I would treat it as a funny connection. “Oh my goodness, you’re married to my ex from years ago!”

      2. Caro*

        Disagree it comes off as drama hungry. OP should get ahead of this, but keep it brief and stick to the bare minimum relevant facts. We’d like to believe everyone here is a mature and rational adult (or at the very least can handle any unexpected emotions that arise well), when that may not be the case at all – and it may not be the OP’s fault at all. I wrote a more detailed comment downthread but my ex’s ex disliked me JUST because we had a history (scratch the fact that it had been an amicable breakup initiated by him, I had never met her, and had stopped talking to him long before they started dating).

        1. starfox*

          Yeah… I’ve seen several comments that say she’ll look drama-hungry and like she’s not over her ex. Like… what? Am I that clueless about social norms? Am I coming across as someone who loves drama because I give my boss a heads up when I see a potential problem?

          1. sarah*

            I think the issue is that, at least from my perspective, there isn’t really a potential problem to give a heads up about here. If LW felt she couldn’t work with this person, or knew this person would behave a certain way around her, that would be different. She’s bringing up a problem that if everyone acts like professionals won’t actually be a problem, and to me it doesn’t sound like she has a reason to think this woman won’t be professional.

            I don’t know that it makes her look like someone who loves drama, exactly. But if I were her boss I would wonder if she actually cares about this as little as she claims, because why else bring it up before the woman’s even been hired?

            1. Elsajeni*

              If nothing else, it gives someone an opportunity to make sure the wife knows what she’s getting into. I think there are plenty of people in the world who 1) are not drama-hungry and can act like professionals, but also 2) would not be excited about working with their spouse’s previous long-term partner, and would weigh that as a factor in deciding whether to take an offer. Anyway, overall, it doesn’t seem that different to me than giving your manager a heads-up that someone they’re considering hiring is your cousin or your former boss from your last job or whatever — sometimes introducing an existing relationship onto your team creates some weirdness, and it’s totally reasonable to want to make sure everyone involved knows the relationship exists and can make informed decisions about whether to risk the possible weirdness or not.

      3. starfox*

        Really? I don’t see how it’s at all drama-hungry… LW has no idea if the new wife is going to be professional, or how the new wife feels about her, or what her ex told new wife, etc. This could cause a lot of problems. Giving a heads-up to the person who might have to deal with a situation seems like the right thing to do in this case.

        I feel like I have no clue about social norms because I am the last person who wants drama, but I’d probably give my boss a heads up in this situation.

  10. Lady Knittington*

    In response to letter writer 5, GDPR didn’t create data privacy laws, it merely standardised them across Europe. Prior to that in the UK we had the Data Protection Act which dates from the late 1990s if not before.

    1. WhatAMaroon*

      Yup I agree! And the Us had things like VPPA, CANSpam, Canada has PIPEDA. I would say GDPR constituted a monumental shift in the mindset around data being a fundamental right and the types of rights that were enacted which hadn’t really been done before in a methodical and far reaching way. The evolution of data privacy is so fascinating!

      1. Observer*

        I don’t know anything about the VPPA, but I can tell you that not only was CANSpam useless even for what it was INTENDED to do, it wasn’t even remotely aimed at privacy.

        HIPAA and FERPA did actually move the needle on privacy, but those only apply to a relatively narrow sector of the economy and data.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      I’m not super well-versed in various countries own data protection laws, but GDPR was treated as a major shift at my (software) company because it applies not only in the EU, but applies to any EU citizen, regardless of where they are at the moment of transaction AND anyone physically in the EU at the moment of transaction. If earlier stuff went in both directions like that, it’s news to me. But the “could basically be anyone anywhere” factor it what made this A Big Deal for us.

  11. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    I learned something new today as I’d never heard the term “FAANG” before, and those are definitely not the circles I work in. Cue a rainbow and *the more you know*

    1. Lesse*

      Wow this is so fascinating! it’s crazy to me that some folks have no idea what FAANG is. I’ve been living in Silicon Valley since 2017 and the tech bubble is all I ever hear about, even though I don’t even work in tech. Workers even in the most unrelated fields in the Bay Area will still know and use the term FAANG. It really goes to show how entrenched folks like me are when they live in Silicon Valley.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I work with start-ups a bit (not in the tech industry) as part of my current job. Even though I’d never worked with start-ups before and had never worked in the tech industry either, it turned out that I was pretty familiar with a lot of the general concepts and jargon just from living in the Bay Area for many years and reading local news coverage – which is also how I know what the FAANG acronym means.

      2. Lady_Lessa*

        As a chemist, I’m sure that I can find acronyms that are strange to you. One of my favorites is ACS which can be either the American Chemical Society or the American Cancer Society. Another interesting pair is IPA which is either a type of beer or Isopropyl Alcohol

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          Construction, and same! Weird acronyms that don’t even mean the same thing across sub-trades!

        2. Hen in a Windstorm*

          Right, but this has nothing to do with anyone’s career. It’s not an insider’s acronym. I don’t live in California, don’t work in tech, etc. and yet I know the acronym. News articles use it all the time.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            And yet. I know ACS (married to a chemist), but even as an database programmer, it was nice that someone asked and answered what FAANG meant, because I hadn’t heard it before. We all have our own bubbles.

        3. Lesse*

          Well of course there will always be terms that are specific to each industry. That’s not quite the point I was trying to convey. I’m just surprised that I know what FAANG means purely because of the geographical location where I live, even tho I don’t work even remotely close to the tech industry. I have to wonder what other industry-specific jargon others know just from being in a certain location, and not from actually being a part of that working community.

      3. Chilipepper Attitude*

        My son and 3 brothers all work in tech and I am tech adjacent and even teach basic data privacy classes at the public library and am familiar with the laws (how to make your social media and browser hx private). I’d never heard FAANG before. Maybe my family has but it has not come up in convos. We are all on the east coast.

      4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        I mean… pretty much every field has acronyms or shorthand people outside the field don’t recognize. I’m guessing you and your neighbors aren’t immediately familiar with 990s, MIBA, turns, or the Big Five, right?

      5. FalsePositive*

        I work in Tech and this is the first time I’ve heard this term. I work at a company that’s probably angry it’s not jammed into that acronym.

        1. Sauron*

          LOL, I was just thinking the same thing. If your company is very fond of acronyms in general, we probably work the same place.

        2. Tau*

          Same re: being in tech and not having heard of the term before, but I’m in Europe and I get the impression we’re pretty distant from the Silicon Valley crowd in a lot of ways.

      6. Lysine*

        I don’t think that acronym is as universal as people think it is. My husband has been working for a FAANG company for two years and this is the first time I’d even heard of it. My husband had to Google the term.

    2. Sc@rlettNZ*

      I’ve never heard of this acronym either and after googling it I’m very disappointed. I imagined a business staffed almost entirely by vampires, working from sunset to pre-dawn, using the delay function on their emails so as not to arouse suspicion over their odd working hours :-)

        1. not a vampire*

          I mean, if you google Peter Thiel who wants to inject himself with young people’s blood, that’s not NOT how they operate :D

    3. Person from the Resume*

      I work in IT and the federal government and I only know of FAANG from previous AAM questions. I knew it was the BIG companies, but wasn;t even sure what the acronym was.

      Lots of folks are those companies’ customers, but don’t think of them as an employment group.

  12. Privacy OP*

    No, but GDPR’s requirements for a designated DPO in a variety of situations ramped up desire for certified professionals real real fast. California is poised to do something similar and require companies to prove they have a responsible person with relevant training in charge. (Right now it looks like that training could be privacy professional, or lawyer, or compliance background, or similar.) That’s really driving a lot of the hiring frenzy among companies who suddenly need to get credentialed people in those positions.

    1. Beth*

      Yes, exactly. The existence of a certification with a strong hiring potential within a short span of time is a key change.

      There’s a ripple effect as well — I work in compliance and recently went through a full-blown formal audit of our client data security.

  13. Woah*

    My aunt did something similar but even worse to my sister- my sister was applying for a job at a fairly high level at a local university, where my aunt worked in the kitchens. My aunt heard from another relative that my sister was applying and “had good chances” (they had reached out to her via recruiter), became offended she hadn’t been involved or consulted because she “spends lots of time with all the administration” and became so relentlessly annoying and creepy that she cost my sister the job and lost her own job shortly after. The hiring person literally passed on to the recruiter that they weren’t willing to hire my sister because this aunt had been so out of line they feared having to deal with her more regularly if my sister worked there. And by that point, my sister didn’t even WANT the job because she didn’t want to deal with seeing aunt regularly.

    there was also an added element of class here- my aunt did spend a lot of time with administrators- as a server and cook. so when she presumed on the service based relationship so thoroughly and aggressively, it went particularly badly.

    1. MK*

      I don’t know about the class aspect, if someone is going to act like that to me, I would much prefer a lower-level employee than a peer or a superior to me. A peer would be awkward, a superior would put me in a very difficult position; with a lower level employee I would be able to handle it easily. Also, if they were in a completely different working environment, I would give them the benefit of the doubt that maybe they just don’t know how professional hiring works, while a peer or a higher up would know how inappropriate what they are doing was.

      1. Antilles*

        I agree that it would be easier to handle from a much lower-level employee.
        My read of the last paragraph is simply that the aunt had a wildly skewed version of what the relationship actually was. The aunt sees it as “I see you three times a week! you should trust my judgment” whereas to the Dean you’re one of a half dozen servers where he recognizes your familiar face and exchanges some vague pleasantries but then forgets you exist the instant you leave the room.

        1. Woah*

          That’s exactly right- she presumed she had a significant relationship with these administrators, who would not recognize her out of the context of her job. She mistook proximity for a relationship and intruded upon it so severely it cost her the job.

    2. Artemesia*

      I think one should not underestimate how much people do not want to be hassled by relatives of employees in the workplace. This kind of behavior would eliminate the applicant from the pool if I were hiring.

  14. Raboot*

    You probably shouldn’t ask “what’s your company’s greatest weakness”, but something like “what’s your least favorite part of the job” or “what’s something you don’t enjoy” is a question I’ve gotten a lot and have asked a lot (usually paired with “…and what’s your favorite ” to avoid seemingly negative. In my field (software engineering) it’s common to be interviewed by peers, so not sure if this would work with non-peers. No one will go into the actual worst parts probably but people will say something true usually, so you can still get some information about smaller things that might still be very important to your decision making.

    1. The OTHER Other.*

      I’ve had good luck with this style of question also, I think it’s framed better than the “weakness” question, which honestly I never felt was very useful for employers to ask, either. I remember it was lampooned on The Simpsons: Homer’s interviewing for a promotion with 3 other candidates who all respond with variations of “I work too hard!” and “Perfectionist!”. Homer responds with “Well, let’s see, I’m lazy, and it takes me forever to learn anything…”. Not to many respondents are going to fall into this trap like Homer Simpson.

      1. Filosofickle*

        “Perfectionism” reads as a disengenuous, self-serving answer and I know better than to ever say it, but honestly it is one of my greatest weaknesses! Because it causes me to overthink / spin out / stress out and not be able to finish work. Or even start it sometimes! Perfectionism is not a good thing and I’m not sure how it got a reputation as something people should aspire to be.

      2. Public Sector Manager*

        Employers ask the weakness question to see if you have assessed yourself on what can yo do better and they want you to follow-up with what you are doing to address your weakness. The answer is not as important as the self-assessment. I’ve never hired anyone who said their weakness was “working too hard,” “being a perfectionist,” or “caring too much.”

        If Homer said “I’m lazy, but I give myself two to-do lists: one before lunch and one for after. This keeps me focused and my last employer praised me for my follow-through,” then I’d be way more likely to hire Homer than the other candidates.

    2. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Yeah, or some combination of “What types of people don’t do well in this environment?” versus “What types of people thrive in this environment?” Answers to those questions can be telling.

    3. Sleepy cat*

      I have had a lot of luck with asking about some of the biggest initial challenges for the person in this role.

      The ‘some of’ is important. Don’t ask for one thing, like the biggest or worst thing, as then you’re asking people to narrow down what they might otherwise have told you.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I’ve never asked this question in an interview, but I’m wondering if asking “What is the one thing you wish you’d known about this organisation before working here?” might be a good way to gauge strengths and weaknesses of a potential employer. If your interviewer just sighs before answering, that might be a red flag.

        I think you might be more likely to get a useful answer to this type of question than specifically asking about weaknesses, since employers are about as likely to be honest about those as job candidates.

        1. Sleepy cat*

          Just ask ‘what do you wish you’d known’. Don’t ask to pick one thing or you might miss out on hearing other things.

          That said, these are different questions! I’m just sharing something that I have found gets me a lot of useful info.

    4. Software Engineer*

      I’ve used a variation of this pair of questions (what are the things you like most? What are the things you like least?), and found it very effective. I also work on software engineering, so I have interviewers who would be my peers. In my experience, people will give you fairly honest answers but shade the truth. If the biggest problem is long hours, they’ll mention something about the hours. If the boss is terrible, they won’t say “our boss is terrible”, they’ll name one of the problems that it causes, like “we often have to switch priorities mid-stream”.

      Ideally, you’d be able to ask multiple people. The things that are consistently mentioned by multiple people are the ones you want to really pay attention to.

    5. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, asking about the company’s greatest weakness feels too much like a “gotcha”. The purpose of an interview isn’t to prove a point about how interviews work in general or the unfairness of the process. The purpose of the interview is to get enough info to decide if you want the job, and there are better questions to get that – like the one you suggested.

    6. irene adler*

      I’ve broadened this question a bit: Tell me about a time when the company suffered a setback-such as a layoff or a downturn with business. How was this handled? What lessons did management learn from this experience?

      I got a very good response to this question from one company. One that seems to value their employees.
      Correlation? Can’t say. But the director who answered this question didn’t have to think very hard to find a response.

    7. Hollywood Handshake*

      I agree with all the suggestions here. Another could be “what are the biggest challenges someone in this role faces?”

    8. Hats Are Great*

      I haven’t asked this in an interview, but I’ve heard, “What does a great day at your job (/this job) look like? What does a hard one look like?”

    9. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      I tend to ask “if you were put in charge, what is something you would change about the group/org/department?” It tends to be very enlightening.

  15. sbl*

    LW4: I suggest that you think about specific weaknesses that would be deal-breakers for you and prepare factual questions relating to those. As an example, I worked at a start-up that had no clear product strategy. This meant constant changes to the service portfolio, which resulted in huge frustration because before you were done implementing one change, the next was already happening. Since then, I ask interviewers to please explain the product/service development strategy and if they can name areas of expansion they will not pursue. If they can provide a concise answer, it’s a good indicator that indeed a sound product/service development strategy is in place.

  16. S*

    Totally agree on the privacy job potential. The rules are complex and esp at multinational companies there is a huge need for people to figure out how to comply.

  17. Coffeecoffeecoffee*

    The privacy LW is pretty interesting. Is this a field that people move into through certification only, or are people needing some sort of legal and/or security/IT experience + certification?

    1. Nonny*


      I’m a graphic designer with comms experience and helped my last job come up with their process to track GDPR requests and make sure that our office was being compliant with data (I designed and sent emails blasts a lot and had to work with list data.) I also had to make sure we were compliant with FERPA, and the intersection of the two was interesting.

      Stuff like this is fascinating to me!

    2. Privacy OP*

      One of the things that’s great about the field right now is that firms are staffing up so quickly, there’s no one background that they demand! About 3/4 of my colleagues at my level have CIPP certifications. Some are former lawyers like me; others come from financial services compliance departments, consulting firms, government work with a lot of compliance concerns, and software project management. One of my colleagues was a history professor and decided she was never making tenure track so retrained. One of my colleagues literally did data entry at his last company, the company was surprised by its privacy compliance obligations and not super well-run, so they were like “You do data entry, you should be able to figure this out.” (I think they literally thought data entry and data privacy were the same?) He self-taught and was good at it, fled the very bad company, and now does privacy compliance full time. Military backgrounds are also quite common!

      I discovered when I was interviewing that it was something of a crap shoot — a lot of companies don’t have very much experience hiring privacy compliance experts and aren’t great at knowing/explaining what they’re looking for. I interviewed with three very similar job ads (all looking for entry-level privacy specialists, certification preferred, not much detail beyond that). One was actually looking for a project manager with privacy domain expertise who would manage a bunch of hired outside lawyers to put their (last-second, CCPA-related, very large) privacy program in place. I have zero project management experience so I was not a fit. The second was a small pharma company that wanted an actual privacy specialist and I was a great fit (having worked with health care regs in a different direction) BUT they’d put the privacy department under the CFO, who had never hired anyone who hadn’t come from accounting or finance, and I was told I was a perfect fit, except they were only going to hire accountants. I said to the hiring manager, “Ummmmmmm ….” and he said, “I know, and this is why we can’t fill the role, the CFO won’t sign off on anybody with actually relevant experience or training because he doesn’t know how to hire outside of finance/accounting.” The third is where I work now! Where I thought my background experience was less on-point, but since I had the privacy domain knowledge they were willing to train me in their industry specifics.

      So it’s definitely a bit of a crap shoot when you’re applying, and my suggestion would be when your resume is privacy-ready, apply for things you feel only sort-of qualified for, because certification and prior experience requirements are very fluid right now, and because a lot of the job ads are vague. There will probably be places you’re a great fit but they’re not considering people with your background (like the pharma CFO), and places where you’re only kind-of a fit but they’re willing to train, and places where they left a major key point out of the job ad!

      There are also a lot of different roles in privacy. My job is very writing-heavy, I work a lot with regulators, being good at regulatory language and legal language is important for my role. There are project managers, there are people who do higher-level strategy, there are people who work with software engineers to build in privacy early in their products. I’ve seen a lot of interest lately in privacy professionals who have some expertise in machine learning and in biometrics; I’ve also seen some interest in archivist librarians to help companies get their mass quantities of data understood and catalogued for their compliance process.

      I think in a couple of years as more people have training and experience, and companies get a little more sophisticated about what their privacy programs should look like, backgrounds/credentials will get a little more standardized and there will be fewer but clearer paths to entry. Right now it’s really fun because it’s evolving so fast! If you can make a case to a company why your background makes you the right privacy professional for them, it doesn’t matter a WHOLE lot what that background is.

    3. Hiring Mgr*

      It sounds like the LW is a lawyer (based on one of their comments), which makes more sense than just a random worker suddenly making $250K/yr.

      1. Privacy OP*

        I mention I’m a lawyer in my letter. I haven’t practiced in 15 years, however.

  18. It’s too early to be up*

    I disagree with the advice given to OP3. If one of my employees came to me with with this, I would think she’s being overly dramatic and is more likely to reflect badly on her. There doesn’t appear to have been any significant history between her ex, his now wife and herself and she claims she’s over him so I’m not understanding the issue. She won’t even be in the same building as the wife.
    Would be a different story if there had been issues in the past with abuse, assault, stalking, etc. from either the ex or wife but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

    1. JSPA*

      I’d go with, “my ex’s wife whom i don’t know is applying. I have no feelings in the matter, but I don’t know if this edges into ‘required transparency regarding familial relationships.’ As we’d only interact minimally, my guess is that it’s no problem, but I’m letting you know, in case I’m wrong.”

      If there were discussions of a timeline or emotional cheating, I’d have the same reaction as you. There is ZERO reason for that to be in the discussion (or in this question!) if the OP indeed has no lingering (festering) feelings in the matter.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        > required transparency

        That requirement (if it exists here) is on the person applying for the job rather than the OP though? It doesn’t seem like OP “officially” knows the wife is even applying.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Not necessarily only on the applicant. Especially if the applicant has no way of knowing LW works there.

      2. miro*

        I think suggesting it would be part of required transparency around familial relationships seems odd. They aren’t family, or distant family, or in some kind of complicated family relationship like one of them helps raise the other’s kid.

        OP should first figure out what they really want from this situation. If it’s concerns about the ex’s wife bring rude or awkward around them, then they should lead with that. Trying to bring it up in some strange, roundabout way as if they need to disclose possible nepotism would probably just confuse the boss or make them wonder what OP is actually trying to get at, so why not just go right in with the actual concern/desired outcome?

        1. JSPA*

          Family notification requirements are not only about nepotism; they’re also about preventing the impression that someone could be getting any sort of different treatment or attitude, based on something in one’s personal life.

          Unless the ex has been badmouthing OP to a dramatic degree, OP (rather than the new wife) is the one who’d be expected (if anyone) to have strong opinions or feelings. Given that OP disclaims any such, I’m not sure where the awkwardness or drama would be coming from, if it’s not because of that sort of “intersection of work and personal history” issue.

          “I am happy with a guy who wasn’t happy with his ex, nor she with him”–that’s not really a driver of drama.

          This presumes no really gross behavior during the breakup, with now-wife as an incredulous bystander. If OP took a page from a country song and keyed the car, superglued his zipper, threw his stuff out the window in the rain, then “things” will be awkward, in that even a low-key retelling would make OP look bad.

          If OP acted badly, I feel OP has to own it, and get in front of it. Maybe, “candidate [or, new hire] had a front row seat when my then-spouse and I both acted childishly as we were breaking up and divorcing. It’s all water under the bridge for me, but I’d very much like to keep it that way. Would you be willing to talk to her, proactively, as part of her onboarding, to ensure that we’re all on the same page about collegiality and personal privacy?”

          1. Anon this time*

            I don’t know – some people are just weird. My spouse’s ex was the drama causer when we briefly worked together. The part I didn’t understand was the why – she left and married somebody else within 48 hours, I didn’t meet spouse till three and a half years after the breakup (and it was almost 7 years post breakup by the time we were at that job) – but she still acted like a wronged spouse drama queen for the month she was there. It was surreal.

            1. JSPA*

              That actually tracks with my supposition that being the ex is the more emotional position to be in. Unresolved stuff tends to stick around and pop up.

              I mean…yes, It’s also very true that people can be weird in problematic ways! But that’s not restricted to divorce scenarios.

              I’d hazard that both of those things may have been in play in your circumstance.

              1. Anon this time*

                Yeah, that month was so odd. She left to marry the guy she was cheating with, but spent the whole time dodging her yelling at me, calling me every name in the book, and refusing to do any work that took her away from the building I worked in.

                The whole thing made me so glad that there weren’t any kids from that relationship – I didn’t want to have years of dealing with her.

    2. Green great dragon*

      If you did it dramatically, sure, but if you do it matter-of-factly it shouldn’t come across as at all dramatic. I’ve done something similar, mostly because I didn’t want my boss to hear it from someone else and feel I should have told them, and it was just a quick aside at the end of a regular check-in. I think I framed it as ‘just so you know, [info], I don’t think we need to do anything but thought I should mention.’ It gave them a chance to say ‘actually we do like HR to have a note of this info’ but they did not.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, done calmly this sort of heads up is like “By the way, the applicant is also my cousin.” There’s a connection that wouldn’t be obvious, and you mention it upfront rather than as a late surprise.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          This situation sits different for me than any family ties because there is no relationship between the LW and the new hire. Hell, there isn’t even a relationship between the LW and the ex anymore since both have married other people. The LW and the ex’s wife have no relationship at all, so bringing it up would be weird unless the LW and the new hire are in each other’s chain of command. If they get assigned to the same project or one of them moves into the other’s team, they might want to bring it up, but honestly, even then, if it has been a few years since the break-up and remarriage that would still be kind of weird.

      2. starfox*

        These comments are so surprising to me! If I see a potential issue (within reason), I’m going to tell my boss about it! We have no idea how the ex’s new wife is going to behave… especially because she met LW’s ex while LW and ex were still together. I guess that makes me a drama llama!

        (And also, I can’t help but think it’s gendered. I don’t think people would call a man “overly dramatic” for disclosing that his ex’s new partner works at the company….)

    3. JSRN*

      I also disagree with the advice. If the OP and the ex both moved on and haven’t really been in contact for awhile, there’s really no need (IMO) to speak to the boss about it. If I were the manager, I would think she’s planning on giving the ex’s wife trouble and is coming to me first to make it look like she is the innocent party. If the wife causes trouble, then go to the manager. Otherwise, I really don’t see the reason. Has this woman ever seen OP? If OP’s ex had a suspected (secret) emotional affair with this woman, she may not know who OP is.

      Also, the wife may not take the job or be offered it. Just see how it plays out then handle situations as they arise.

    4. turquoisecow*

      I think my concern would be something like, ok, the OP and the ex’s spouse won’t be working together much, just an occasional meeting, they’re in different buildings, etc. but what if that changes? What if, after working with the new employee for a few weeks, the bosses decide that maybe she’d be great in a role that works more closely with OP? If Boss doesn’t know about the history, they may think this is a good idea, and it may not be.

      And just because OP doesn’t have any hard feelings doesn’t mean their ex or their ex’s new spouse doesn’t. Sometimes new partners get weirdly jealous of old partners. Sometimes exes seem chill and normal in public but still talk bad about exes to their new partner, and so new spouse holds some grudge against OP. She’s not going to be mean about it in public but if OP is more successful at work or seems to be have more power, new spouse might resent it.

      Not saying this is true, but the point is OP doesn’t know, so giving the boss a heads up is a good way for the boss to potentially head off those issues, whether it means talking to new spouse about their feelings regarding OP or just being aware of the potential for problems. I think if OP just says something matter of fact to the boss in the vein of what AAM and others have suggested, it’ll show that they’re thinking about what’s best for the team.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        And just because OP doesn’t have any hard feelings doesn’t mean their ex or their ex’s new spouse doesn’t. Sometimes new partners get weirdly jealous of old partners. Sometimes exes seem chill and normal in public but still talk bad about exes to their new partner, and so new spouse holds some grudge against OP. She’s not going to be mean about it in public but if OP is more successful at work or seems to be have more power, new spouse might resent it.

        This is my experience as well. I don’t think it’s an idle concern.

        1. Caro*

          +1, I reconnected with an ex who told me I was a frequent source of contention between him and his now-ex girlfriend. I had long ceased contact with him by that point and literally did not even know she existed, but she had demanded he unfriend and unfollow me everywhere – including SPOTIFY – and I am not sure she would handle a situation like the one LW3 is describing well. Thing is we don’t know what their new partner is like – I think LW3 *should* get ahead of it.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Then the LW could bring it up at the time the team switch is proposed as an FYI. Prior to that, though, it seems weird because there isn’t actually any history or relationship between the LW and the new hire as individuals. Hell, the LW isn’t even sure if he emotionally cheated with the new wife or not and, even if they did, it was years ago and both are now married to other people.

    5. Critical Rolls*

      That’s a pretty uncharitable take for your employee. If she has no history of being a drama llama, and she mentions this casually and factually as recommended, I don’t know why you would have that interpretation. It’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility that the ex’s wife could at least have some reaction to meeting LW, potentially very unexpectedly, and it’s reasonable for LW’s manager to have a heads up.

      1. starfox*

        Right? I would definitely talk to my boss in that situation. Apparently I am a ~lover of drama~ because I always give my boss a heads-up if I see a potential problem (within reason).

  19. JustSomeone*

    LW #4: Ask what structural/institutional constraints employees in this role find most challenging and how an ideal candidate would handle them! I started asking a version of this question before landing my prior job, and I’ve gotten legitimately enlightening answers both times. I think the “how to handle it” part pulls focus toward something proactive and makes people more willing to open up about the things that are legitimate challenges.

    For the record, prior-job answered something about wearing many hats, and that the “solution” was solid prioritizing. It was a tiny nonprofit, and that was a legitimately difficult thing about working there. Current job said that the biggest challenge was not getting timely information from another category of staffers, and that the solution was to accept that and not stress about it. 6 months in, that seems very accurate.

    1. Squishy*

      I think this is a great suggestion. You could frame the question as an opportunity for the interviewer to show company awareness of internal challenges and ideally how they have responded to employee feedback about those challenges / what improvements they’re proudest of.

  20. oirishgal*

    The EU has had data protection law since 1998, it was just updated in 2018 to strengthen privacy rights in certain areas. Data Protection Officer is a well established job in EU countries so may be worth networking via LinkedIn to find out more. Also each country will have a government body to oversee application of the law. In the UK it’s the Information Commissioners Office, their website has a section laying out the responsibilities of a Data Protection Officer.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I deal a lot with data protection in my job in IT and have had a lot of training in the various regulations. While I find data and what can/cannot be used/stored and the circumstances around it fascinating definitely be aware that it is a LOT of reading. And a lot to remember.

      1. Sleepy cat*

        I’d say the tricky part is really the interpretation, because said regulations are based on principles and not prescriptive so a lot of this stuff is about working out how things might apply in a given scenario and knowing when to involve lawyers (like to establish a lawful basis for processing more sensitive types of data).

        1. Tau*

          I’ve done a bunch of GDPR compliance implementation work (mainly surrounding how to react to deletion and information requests) and I swear if you ask three lawyers a question about what you need to be compliant you get about five different answers. /o\

  21. Luna*

    LW#3 – It sounds like any potential interaction would be so minimal, it wouldn’t even be really worth mentioning. At least, in my opinion. You don’t know her personally, you don’t know her professionally, she won’t be working in your department or directly reporting to you, and team meetings would be a regular, but still not common occurrence.

    I wouldn’t mention anything. If she gets hired and *then* starts indicating that she knows about you and is intentionally making things awkward in team meetings or somehow influencing your work and how your work is received, then perhaps mention to your manager that there is a small, indirectly-connected history between the two of you.

    LW#4 – No honest answers, obviously. Though the job I have right now, during my interview, the woman I interviewed with did tell me a few things, including how the company has become a lot more scrutinizing towards having papertrails for *everything* money-related. (For good reason, as I was told.) Personally, some might consider having to double-triple ensure that you have paperwork for every transaction and return/exchange/refund to be bad, but I was raised by someone working in the law business, so having such extensive paperwork is normal and understandable for me.

    So, you either won’t get honest answers, you will get the rare moment where the interviewer does tell you of an issue that is going on, but it might not be a big deal for you, or you just have to listen to what the interviewer is saying and see if some words indicate an issue going on behind the scene.

    1. alienor*

      If she gets hired and *then* starts indicating that she knows about you and is intentionally making things awkward in team meetings or somehow influencing your work and how your work is received, then perhaps mention to your manager that there is a small, indirectly-connected history between the two of you.

      If that happened, I’d be really tempted to say “I didn’t think there was a need to bring it up because of course I assumed that Clarinda would be professional about the situation. It seems my confidence in her may have been misplaced.” I probably wouldn’t, but I’d want to.

      1. miro*

        Hehe I like this. And yeah, I probably wouldn’t have the guts to say so in so many words, but it could be the subtext.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        ^This is exactly what I would do. Just act as if of course everyone is going to be professional adults and don’t say anything unless the new wife does something weird

  22. Adereterial*

    Beyond privacy, the even more growing (and even more nebulous) field is data ethics – which encompasses privacy, but also extends to non-personal data use, considerations of inequitable outcomes from any data use, and to questions around whether something should be done even if it’s technically legal.

    Data privacy isn’t a new concept at all – Europe has had data protection requirements since the late 1990s and they continue to evolve. The UK retains EU law despite leaving (although reforms are pending, the basic principles aren’t changing. The whole thing stems from concepts around the right to a private life in Human Rights principles.

    For those in the UK – and Europe – a one off training course is unlikely to be sufficient to secure a job given how embedded the principles are here, for a substantial period of time. Experience is likely to be required. Data ethics is less clear as it’s an emerging field. Most of the roles I see tend to require some sort of technical data experience – the DPO role is rolled up into a wider data governance position which needs technical experience – a data science background, or IT security.

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      If you have them handy, I’d love to see some training/resources on data ethics out of both personal and professional interest. I’ve done a ton of trainings in bioethics and ethics in human subjects research but nothing outside of a research setting. It would be cool to learn about broader data ethics

      1. Adereterial*

        I tend to lean heavily into the UK Government data ethics materials (as a government employee – though devolved not UK) as they’re fairly straightforward and easy to read. There’s specific guides for things like Artificial Intelligence, statistics, procurement, defence.

        Have a look on Gov.uk for data ethics – you’ll find a lot there. I also rely on materials from the Open Data Institute, Ada Lovelace Institute and some others. All of these are UK, but the principles are universal. The ODI does offer training, too.

    2. TooMuchDataAlways*

      Yes, I agree with this, I’m in the U.K. and looking at Head of IT jobs at the moment, and in almost every case, they’re expecting me (as I do) to have a v good and deep knowledge of GPDR, both in an overview – the different roles, the lawful bases for processing etc, and also how to make sure the tech is secure and a great deal of functional experience, in many they’d expect you to be the Processor or Controller. They have other people in the org involved with it for sure, but it’s baked in to a far wider variety of roles than just a DPO

  23. Bazinga*

    #1: many hospitals have a system whereby a current employee can send someone a link for a job listing. This link is individual to the employee, so HR can see the applicant was referred by a current employee.
    My health system does this, as have others inhave worked for; we are offered referral bonuses depending on the job.
    If your mom’s hospital does this, simply apply through that rather than have her reach out for you.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Except OP didn’t ask her Mom to reach out. She in fact told her mom she did not want to use her connection AT ALL. Mom took it upon herself to call the IT department to ask for details. Thankfully IT gave the vague, ahh apply through the portal answer. Mom is the one insisting that is just how its done, not OP looking for how to use her Mom’s connection.

      OP, Mom is now on an information diet. She doesn’t get to hear ANYTHING about your job search. If she complains, you tell her flat out, because you interfered last time and I believe it cost me the job. Sometimes you have to be blunt to get through to people.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        That was my first instinct too. I had a friend that had to do this because parent wanted badly to help – but their fields were so different that parent couldn’t really help and was making a muddle of things in the process.
        Vague is your friend, just lean into it and if possible don’t discuss the job hunt at all.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      Yes, I’m confused by the idea that they didn’t hire her because of the connection. Everywhere that I have worked *loves* referrals. For some relationships like parent/child or spouses, it may be preferable to have them not work together directly (different departments or different shifts). And for something like IT, it would be beneficial to know about what your “customer” goes through on a day-to-day basis.

      So don’t blame your mom. It didn’t help, but I am doubtful that was *the* reason for the rejection.

      1. Observer*

        Even places that like referrals, don’t like people who overstep. And what the OP’s mom asked was so weird that it has the potential to come off really badly.

        Asking “what credentials would she need” is kind of odd, even if they weren’t in the job posting. Considering that they were? Either mom is overstepping and trying to micromanage a child while not understanding anything about the job. or the “child” is lacking in basic competence. And, to be honest, the first impression is not entirely incorrect.

      2. Gracely*

        Referrals are great when you know the person doing the referring, and when you know you can generally trust their judgment. But if you don’t, and someone from a completely different department who you’d never encountered before came at you with “so tell me how I can get my child preferential hiring treatment” as though of course you’ll hire them…that should give most hiring managers LOT of pause, because that’s not a referral, that’s a request for special treatment. Also, even if you can trust the parent, parents often have huge blind spots when it comes to their children–particularly when the kid works in a completely different field.

        Even if the kid would be a great employee, if the parent is a hassle to deal with or unprofessional or presumptuous in any way, that’s going to reflect on their kid, if only from a “I do NOT want to deal with their parent” standpoint.

      3. Bratmon*

        In most IT departments, we wouldn’t really consider “Filing a Help Desk ticket to hire a family member” a positive referral.

  24. Darkangel_1708*

    To LW#4, I’ve added “What is something your company would like to improve” to my list of interview questions. People are more willing to chat about their effort of making something good rather than the bad things happening. You’ll get some info on what is currently an issue, but by asking it in a positive way.

    I have also suprised a lot of company when I pull this one. But I always felt it played to my advantage, like I really cared for the company.

    1. Ali + Nino*

      This is sort of how I’ve asked in the past, if one-on-one with an employee who would become a colleague: “What would you like to change about the company, if you could?”

    2. Grits McGee*

      Do you tend to get useful information from this question? Just curious, because my organization’s weaknesses/things that frustrate workers are also things that our leadership has no interest in changing and see as inherent to the work that we do. (Government agency, so lots of red tape and slow to change- the usual.) If an interviewee asked me a what my org was looking to improve, I would talk about our DEI initiatives. But if an interviewee asked me why people at our org quit their jobs, I would talk about how conservative* we are.

      *”Conservative” as in resistant to change and reactive vs proactive, not politically conservative.

  25. Re*

    Re: LW2 – I love Alison’s straightforward and simple answer. Too often companies tie themselves in knots and say “we can’t possibly do that!” when all that’s needed are 1-2 clear sentences. Bravo.

  26. Bookworm*

    #5: Thanks for passing this along! I’m not sure if that’s something I’m interested in but it sounds cool!

  27. Jerry's Girlfriend (not that one)*

    LW4: I would assume someone asking “what’s your company’s greatest weakness” is trying to turn around a common (bad) interview question on me. I wouldn’t really ding them for it, but I would probably think it’s a bit of a clumsy question and it doesn’t really tell you anything.

    Better: “What’s the main challenge that X department is facing, and in my role how would I help support a solution?”

  28. Be kind, rewind*

    I like the answer for #2. Also want to add that I have seen job postings that have “manager/senior manager” or “associate director/director” as the title to indicate that they’re open to candidates at both levels. That will also help explain the wide salary range.

  29. Privacy Lawyer*

    OP 5, I love your enthusiasm, and I agree that this is a rapidly growing field with many jobs to fill!
    I’m a senior associate at a mid-level law firm on the East Coast, specializing in privacy and data security law. I really like it, but (like any other specialty) it’s not for everyone:
    – The kinds of work I do is very varied: investigative (data breaches, due diligence), contractual (drafting and negotiating agreements), regulatory (advising on how to comply with regulatory requirements and drafting the necessary policies, procedures and templates), and some litigation prep (but I don’t appear in court).
    – I work closely with specialists from various other fields: transactional IP (e.g. with regard to licensing agreements and related data privacy issues), insurance recovery (data breaches), health law (mostly with regard to HIPAA), employment law (e.g. employee background checks or monitoring), M&A (deal due diligence), financial compliance (GLBA etc.), as well as IT (cyber security best practices, pen test assessments, etc.).
    – Related to the point above, many of my clients are “internal” clients, i.e. other lawyers of the firm. This works well if you have a service-oriented mindset, but might not work for someone who likes to be a client’s main contact.
    – As said by commenters above, this is a relatively new and rapidly evolving field. There is rarely much case law to rely on, regulatory guidance can be confusing and contradictory, and technology is evolving so fast that you constantly deal with new issues. You really need to think about regulatory intent, context, potential similarities to other laws or privacy laws in other jurisdictions… It’s interesting!
    – Because this was not traditionally its own field, the more senior people in many law firms came originally from some other specialty, like IPT or regulatory investigations. This can make it harder for younger lawyers to get the training and recognition they need (and deserve). E.g. a partner who comes from IPT may focus on an associate’s contract drafting skills and not provide much guidance in other areas, but if you work for too many partners at the same time, it is hard to balance your workload and advance your skills as expected by someone who only looks at their own area of expertise. This can negatively affect you in your annual reviews. On the other hand, you are building a very comprehensive skillset that is hard to replicate and very much in demand.
    – I am pretty busy, but the workload is manageable and much more steady than in fileds like M&A or litigation.
    Happy to elaborate if any of you have further questions.

  30. Falling Diphthong*

    #4, yesterday I was reading a thread about multiple job applicants who got asked to make a short, fun YouTube video about themselves and why they loved the company, and replied with a requirement that the company first make a short, fun YouTube video about the company and why they loved the job applicant.

    I giggled! But these are funny in a context where we understand that the ask means “remove me from the candidate pool” and not something that would lead to the company saying “Oh man this person is RIGHT. Turnabout is fair play. I’ll just google up how to use editing software, get someone to help me with lighting…”

    The greatest weakness question has gotten so much eye rolling because it evokes “… is that I love the work so much I never take a break” rather than “… is that I will use the coffee fund to launder my off-book earnings and this might draw the attention of multiple federal agencies.” Ask about things like a typical day or typical workflow, and be alert for phrases like everyone loves it so much they never go home.

  31. Mornington Cresent*

    OP #3, I say this with nothing but kind intent-
    If it’s bothering you that your ex’s wife is joining your company to the point where you feel the need to flag this to your boss, I’m not sure you’re as over what happened as you’d like to be and say you are.
    I totally get it, stuff like this gets into our heads and we think we’re fine until someone or something reminds us of what hurt us, then it’s like a fresh wound all over again. I thought I was past the hurt caused by a previous boss, but certain little things have proven to me that I’m not.
    In both our cases, I think we would find it helpful to speak to a professional to move past this hurt. You got this, OP #3- best of luck.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      I don’t think it’s bothering the LW.

      I think they’re doing damage control in advance.
      They don’t know their ex’s wife personally, so they don’t know if she’s going to be a problem or not. If it turns out that the ex’s wife is a problem, the LW’s boss can’t claim that the LW withheld information from them.

      1. anonymous73*

        This. BECAUSE she doesn’t know the ex’s wife, a heads up could only help her down the road if this woman is hired and tries to start something.

        1. Anon this time*

          This was my thought as well. She doesn’t feel it’s a problem for her – but she can only control her, not other people.

          I dealt with a version of that from an ex of my now spouse a previous position. I really didn’t have any thoughts one way or another – she was furious that he had moved on and was happy (even though she initiated the breakup and married a new person within 48 hours…..she had wanted him always available as a fallback in case things didn’t work with the new guy…..). It was really weird all around until she was let go for an “it’s just not working out” reason after a month. I didn’t know she was being hired till after she started – and she just couldn’t be normal or ignore me.
          My boss did ask what the deal was (all her digs were really personal, never project related) and I just said she was spouse’s ex, and I have no clue why she’s doing this.

          (Oh – they had been split up and she had been remarried for almost four years when we met too. It was, odd.)

      2. Doctors Whom*

        It doesn’t sound like it bothers the LW, but there is opportunity for someone *else* in the workplace to perceive this as a potential conflict of interest. Alison’s advice is sound – LW can be clear with the boss that this isn’t an issue for LW, but LW wants to be transparent about the situation.

      3. MsClaw*

        But why assume the ex’s wife is going to be a problem? That in and of itself hints at some unresolved emotions. Why would you assume this person cares about you *at all*??

        Also, what information is she withholding? She’s never met this person. I mean, at most she can say “I’ve never met Angiebeth, but she’s married to an ex of mine.” And what is the boss supposed to do with that? Other than assume professionals will be professionals. I mean, maybe Angiebeth will be a complete ass if they ever do have to work together, but that would be a problem regardless of shared romantic history.

        I’ve been a people manager for years. If an underling told me “I have some personal history with Angiebeth and would prefer not to work with her” I would take that seriously. If they came to me and said “Angiebeth is married to my ex-boyfriend and I think she might cause trouble because of that” I would think that’s…. a lot.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          First, they’re not saying she might cause trouble, they’re just highlighting that the relationship exists. Some employers would care about that information, others wouldn’t.

          Second, I think Ask a Manager is full of examples of why you might be concerned your ex’s partner working at the same location might be a problem.

        2. Stevie*

          I guess I’m kind of surprised, because I feel like you’d want this information in advance as the manager rather than waiting until it becomes a potential headache for you.

          Ideally all parties would be respectful and this wouldn’t be an issue, but there’s an AAM post in the archives from someone who became upset that their boyfriend’s “crazy” (based on what the boyfriend told her) ex was going to be working with her, and basically wanted to make the ex uncomfortable.

          1. starfox*

            SAME, these comments are shocking to me. People are saying LW sounds like she just loves drama, that she’s “not over it,” etc…. I think she sounds conscientious and wants to bring it to her boss’s attention before there’s a problem. It seems like a really unfair reading of someone who sounds like they’re just trying to make sure things at work keep going smoothly.

          2. Luna*

            I will say that I am not a manager, but I do think that if an employee of mine came up to me and said a potential hire is the spouse of her ex, especially if it rather came out of the blue, I’d find that to be a bit of a weird thing to bring up.

            Now, if LW mentioned that she does *know* that the spouse will cause trouble, due to previous experience, I wouldn’t mind because she has the knowledge that this *will* end up being a problem. Not just in terms of inter-personal relationships, but also in terms of making working with each other or discussing things in team meetings more difficult.

            But LW doesn’t. She doesn’t know, she doesn’t even presume it will be like this, she has basically nothing to go on beyond the smallest of gut feelings of being uncomfortable about this simply because of the *possibility* of it being an issue.
            Telling your boss about this relationship, without having anything to base your uncomfortable feeling on beyond “Well, I feel uncomfortable because of the possibility that maybe this could probably be a thing” is not really very concrete. Bringing it up would just be weird, and I would more wonder if the ‘problem’ of hiring the spouse lies more with LW herself than the spouse. It could just make LW look bad.

            Like I said, since LW has nothing to base their worry on beyond feeling, and they barely know the spouse from Adam, better to not bring it up. If they do, and the spouse turns out to be a decent employee and perfectly capable of being professional with LW, then LW just looks like she made a mountain out of an anthill. If she does end up causing issues, then LW can mention the previous relationship, citing that she didn’t think it would be an issue, as the spouse should be able to not bring personal drama over something ‘like this’ into work.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      I don’t get the sense the the OP is bothered by it, just that she recognizes there’s a possibility that it could create an issue and wants to get ahead of it just in case there is an issue down the line.

    3. starfox*

      Wow, totally disagree. She has no idea what kind of person ex’s new wife is… I have met a LOT of people who cause problems in these kinds of situations. and ESPECIALLY since LW and the ex were still together when ex and new wife met…. It’s not like they’d both moved on…. and there’s a possible affair…. People do really irrational things in these scenarios! Giving your boss a “heads up” doesn’t mean you’re not “over it.”

  32. L-squared*

    #1 Yeah, my guess is you are an unknown commodity, and what they do know now is that your mother who works they may be over involved in things. Not surprised they didn’t want to interview you. While in general I think you should use any advantage you have to get your resume in front of the right people and score an interview, she doesn’t know how to do that well.

    #3. From Alison’s position as a manager, I understand this. From the applicant position, I feel this sucks. I feel like you are putting some really personal information about a potential conflict out there. I fully believe you can be professional. But even Alison’s script has a bit of “well I can be professional, but who knows how she would be” type of air to it, even if its not intentional. And so, with that, manager may see that potential as a strike against them. And its all likely being done without her knowledge. Just seems kind of crappy to me. If I were LW, and I could definitely handle it, I wouldn’t bring it up as I wouldn’t feel right possibly being the reason she wasn’t offered the job.

  33. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*


    Your mom didn’t just ruin your chance at that job — she ACTIVELY SABOTAGED your chance at that job under the guise of “helping” you.

    For your next job search, tell her nothing until after you accept a position.

    1. MicroManagered*

      I think mom acted on some outdated thinking when it comes to job-searching, but that’s not the same as “actively sabotaging under the guise of helping.” That phrasing reminds me of the Raised by Narcissist subreddit — not all parental actions have that level of malice or intent.

      I do agree that mom’s actions were overstepping and out of touch though. OP1, in the future, I’d leave job-searching out of the conversation until there’s more to tell. This is just kind of a normal part of growing up. It’s super normal to tell your parents you applied for a job when you’re 16, but in your 30s you usually tell people when you’re actually CHANGING jobs and don’t need that input in the earlier stages.

      1. Artemesia*

        She ASKED her mother to stay out of it; her mother meddled clumsily and probably cost her consideration. She needs to tell her mother that clearly and let her know that this behavior undermined her. AND Mom never hears another thing about her jobs except she just accepted one — and then doesn’t discuss the work because a mother like this may well decide to fix a problem she hears her daughter complain about and contact the next boss.

        1. MicroManagered*

          The advice is the same either way, regardless of your or my speculation on mom’s level of malicious intent.

          Tell mom about a job search only when and if you accept a new job.

      2. Database Developer Dude*

        That’s where you’re wrong, MicroManagered. If LW1 is in their 30s, then the parent contacting any employer or prospective employer for any reason other than “LW won’t be in, they’ve been in an accident and are unable to come to the phone” is absolutely unacceptable and IS actively sabotaging under the guise of helping.

  34. Laney Boggs*

    This is tangentially related to LW 2, but I am sure that’s the hiring manager’s thinking – I’ve been seeing a lot of roles that have a salary range of 35K – 90K (literally). It’s so ridiculously large that it’s useless – are you paying me barely enough to eat, or more money than I know what to do with?

  35. anonymous73*

    #1 keep your mom out of your job search because it seems like she has no boundaries. Yes having connections is helpful, but she should have never gone to the IT department and started asking questions. Granted she may not do that for a job she has no connection to, but I would still be wary. And if I were on the hiring side of things, I wouldn’t necessarily think poorly of you, but I wouldn’t want to deal with your mother if we started the interview process.
    #2 Alison made a great suggestion. Advertising one job with a huge salary range is going to make it look like you don’t know what you want and I would steer clear of any job posting that couldn’t make up it’s mind. To me that would be a classic bait and switch and I wouldn’t want to waste my time.
    #3 I would give my boss a heads up. Make it clear that you have no issue with it, but wanted them to have the information just in case. You don’t know her, so you have no idea if she would try to cause any sort of drama whether you work closely with her or not. I’d consider the heads up to your boss a CYA type of scenario.

  36. Art3mis*

    #5 Question for anyone that might know. Would this data privacy thing have any overlap with or application to HIPAA stuff? I’ve worked in group insurance for years, but not in anything that’s gotten me anywhere career wise and I’m kind of sick of it, but it’s all I really know.

    1. Privacy OP*

      Absolutely! HIPAA’s one of the more mature areas of data privacy in the US so it might be a little trickier to enter that area specifically, but experience with HIPAA is a good foundation to move into more general privacy roles. If you know how HIPAA works, you’ll do fine learning the other US regulations in other sectors.

      1. JSRN*

        Thank you so much for this info! I’m an RN and I’ve done some coursework in Healthcare Informatics (didn’t finish tho). I currently work for an HMO and while I love my job, I do feel trapped since there’s really no upwards progression. I’m in the NYC metro area so hopefully there’s a demand for data privacy specialists here. Tbh, I really don’t like being a nurse and I really love IT/data protection/informatics/etc etc. I don’t care about the cost of the course if it will give me a great income/stability/future.

        I’m similar to you…around the same age, spotty work history, special needs child that must come first. So this gives me some hope that I can still continue my education, learn something that pays well, and make sure my kids are set up financially.

    2. J*

      Definitely. It’s not going to necessarily be the same salary range, often those with a legal or IT background can jump into more advanced roles even with limited experience, but I spend my day working with privacy team members who started on the healthcare compliance side. One skillset they often have is the ability to educate – they host webinars internally, review marketing documents and help with due diligence on M&A matters. I’ve also noticed a lot of privacy paralegal roles popping up without a lot of people to fill them. There’s often certificate programs for those (I did an accelerated one in 9 months to layer on top of my Bachelors) but my state doesn’t require exams so I didn’t need to go to a 2-year program. On the paralegal front, we recruited insurance and healthcare workers all the time.

  37. tennisfan*

    OP2, I’ll second Allison’s suggestion but I would make sure to establish early on with candidates which version of the role they’re being considered for.

    OP4, maybe try asking how the company adapted to the pandemic and the specific issues it brought up for your industry. Or just generally what challenges the company has faced recently and how has leadership responded. Hopefully this would lead to gaining some insights into how the company is managed and what values are emphasized.

  38. Hiring Mgr*

    I don’t know about #3… it feels like mentioning something would be stirring the pot for no real reason.

    It sounds like this was years ago and everyone has long since moved on…I do get OPs concerns but it sounds like there’s just the potential for injecting drama when there’s no reason to think the wife would be unprofessional

    1. El l*

      Agree. If OP had met the wife and she knew for a fact there’d be a problem on either side, then absolutely mention it. If asked if she knows the candidate, by all means tell the truth. But otherwise…OP knows very little here.

      Plus, if OP mentions it, a only-a-little-cynical hiring manager will think, “OP says there’s a chance the wife will act badly. What if this is a coded way of saying OP will act badly?”

      1. Meep*

        This is where I am at. OP is making a huge assumption (aka projecting) based on her own feelings. Marking the wife as a problem with no proof is unfair and will only make OP look bad if a problem ever, in fact, arises.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          No where does the OP mark the wife as a problem. She says the situation “has potential to be very awkward.” That’s a very different thing.

        2. starfox*

          …I swear, everyone is reading OP in the worst possible light…. Mentioning your ex’s new wife is applying isn’t marking anyone as “a problem.”

  39. Esmeralda*

    What does a data privacy specialist *do*? Is this certification something that will only help if you have some sort of related experience? what if you want to change industries?

  40. irene adler*

    Question for #5: What sort of work or education background does one need to work in the field of data privacy? I get that the certification(s) are key.
    I have Quality Assurance and regulatory experience in an industry that has a lot of ever-expanding regulations/laws applied to it. Would that even come close to being considered for such a role?

    1. Just Another SRE*

      You need to be prepared to tell your bosses that they have no idea what they’re doing and that their greed is illegal. You also need to be prepared for your bosses to flagrantly violate the law and not even recognize that they’ve done something wrong.

      I do site reliability engineering, and that sometimes includes data integrity, which involves data privacy. You don’t need a special education; you need a strong ethical backbone and a willingness to pay close attention to the letter of the law.

      1. irene adler*

        Not sure how to take this response. Sarcasm?

        I do a good part of the regulatory work at my company. While management is not always up-to-date on regs, they do encourage us to make sure we’re following them. Yes, at times they ask that we find ways to comply that are the least laborious or least expensive ways possible. But they do not want to be out of compliance.

        1. Adereterial*

          In my experience, that’s exactly what I spend my time doing – telling people they can’t do what they want to do because it’s not legal.

          Ethics is separate to legal compliance though – what may be legal may very well not be ethical. Two related issues.

      1. Adereterial*

        Absolutely – the most common role here is the Data Protection Officer which is a specific role required by law for many organisations.

        You’ll have heard of GDPR – it’s a big thing here. However, as I mentioned above, a one off certificate probably won’t get you a job, as data protection is a well established concept here and has been for 20+ years.

        If you are interested, you could look into GDPR training – there’s plenty of it about, and some of it is good – but it won’t be enough without experience. You don’t need a specific type of educational background, but experience in an environment that handles personal data and being involved in handling it in compliance with the law is likely to be essential even with certification. I’m heavily involved in this area but I only got any real formal training (beyond our standard mandatory data handling offering) when I really started doing work where it really matter – specifically, preparing for Brexit (which had huge data protection risks). Since then I’ve developed my understanding and expanded it to data ethics, data sharing etc.

  41. WantonSeedStitch*

    OP #4: I think that the “what is your greatest weakness” question for job candidates is a terrible one, and I think the same thing is true if you turn it around on the company. It’s not going to get you any helpful answers. You might get useful answers from a question like “what has historically been the biggest challenge or pain point for this role?” You could also consider asking, “what do you like best about working at Acme? What’s challenging about working here?” If I were asked those things in an interview, I think I would be comfortable answering them honestly, without feeling like I was badmouthing my employer. And being given the opportunity to say what I liked best as well would help balance things out.

    1. Susie Q*

      I agree with both takes. Both questions will get “positive” challenges like I’m such a workaholic, etc.

  42. JSRN*

    LW1, I too had a mom who overstepped a lot. It’s frustrating and is really inappropriate. I think the best thing to do is keep your mom on a very low info diet. Don’t tell her about any jobs until you actually get an offer. When she asks about your job search, either tell her you’re taking a break from searching or you can even tell her that since she overstepped her boundaries, you won’t be sharing this info with her anymore.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      While I agree with you, JSRN, I think doing the latter might cause more problems than it would solve, because the mother would get even more overbearing.

      1. Observer*

        If the OP lives with Mom, maybe. Otherwise, it’s going to be kind of hard for her to do much once she’s put on an information diet.

  43. El l*

    Start with the shoe on the other foot. When interviewers ask you, “What’s your greatest weakness?” the point of asking that question is to ensure that you are self-aware enough – that your biggest problem won’t be a problem for them. It doesn’t mean that you’ve fixed it, but that you’re managing it.

    But you’re a person, they’re an organization. Seeing an organization’s problems is a lot more of a “where you’re sitting” kind of thing. If you’re medium-level staff, you feel there aren’t opportunities to grow, if you’re senior level staff, you can’t hire good people, blah blah blah – point is that any assessment you are likely to get is biased. Better to focus on each person’s experience.

    So go back to the best way to answer the question, and restate it to them for what really matters: When you get a “weakness” question, your best answer is to humbly say, “Yes, x is a challenge,” and then highlight what you personally have done to counteract said weakness.

    So focus on the “challenge” part, and make it specific to the interviewer. There are many ways of asking, the two ways I’ve done and suggest are:

    “What is the single biggest challenge you have to regularly deal with?”
    Or, “What [professional] problem keeps you up at night?”

    1. Arizona Citizen*

      You’ve given me an idea. In the interview, I would have access to the interviewer as an individual, and I think I can use that to my advantage.

  44. BeenThatDoneThere*

    Regarding the privacy specialist role? I work in IT security management, and the LW is totally correct. Both infosec and privacy are *totally* exploding with really remarkable salaries. The big salaries come after, as you would expect, a few years in the field. Entry-level analysts are more in the $70k-$80k range (outside California and New York), but after 5 years in the field, a person with privacy certs, experience with GDPR, PIPEDA and/or CCPA can easily command $150k per year. It’s a great field to get into. And if you have a tech background, combining that with infosec will allow you to write your own ticket for at least the next 10-20 years.

  45. BigTenProfessor*

    #4 — I interact with a lot of company recruiters who come to campus, and I typically ask “what type of person would NOT be a good fit for your company?” I have heard some very useful answers, even though it usually takes a minute for them to think about it. It’s not *directly* asking for a weakness, but I think it can give similar insight.

  46. Anonyer*

    For Letter 3 – It depends on the boss. My last three bosses were proactive and wanted to know about any possible upcoming professional blindsides, and I could see all three, if an issue happened down the line, questioning why LW didn’t say something at the time. I’ve also had bosses who didn’t want to know about issues until they were big red flashing issues. And that’s where I struggle with this letter, because I can’t visualize what that conversation would look like now or how to ensure the message isn’t “OMG you’re hiring my ex’s spouse and that’s gonna be a lot of drama.” Especially coming from a newer employee, as I read it, who may not have a level of trust and openness with their boss. But … I also typically recommend getting ahead of the narrative rather than hoping for the best, getting the worst, and then trying to protest after the fact (especially with an upcoming leave). I’ve been burned, though. It’s a tough one.

  47. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Just a note about the many alternate questions people are suggesting for LW #4 (the “weaknesses question” LW): Many of them are good questions but they’re not going to achieve what the LW is hoping for. They said they want to find out things like whether if the boss is a jerk, or if most of the employees are unhappy. There’s no interview question that’s likely to elicit those things, at least for more interviewers; you’ve got to look outside your interview for that.

    1. Cocafonix*

      It only now occurs to me, and it pains me to think on it having flung myself around the sun a few times, to wonder whether the same behavioural questions candidates get can be used here. Such as to the hiring manager in a 2nd or 3rd interview … “tell me about a time you had to make a difficult decision impacting one or more of your employees and how you handled it…” assuring them that you anticipate circumstances, timing, and details would necessarily need to be altered. I’ve never asked nor been asked such a thing but bad bosses are the number one reason why people leave their jobs. As a “good boss” :-) I would take that question seriously and respond as truthfully as I could if it were asked genuinely.

    2. Arizona Citizen*

      Aside from my other comment about the question itself, I have to agree that there is no reliable way to gain such insight about the company from an interview. I use company reviews at job boards, look into social media profiles of current and past employees, lookup business reports and complaints, search news articles for keywords like fraud, and anything that might give me any insight. But still, it’s a game.

  48. Cocafonix*

    #4 – To me the obvious alternative to asking about the company’s “greatest weakness” is to ask for their top 3 challenges as an organization. I do this always, because it not only gives me information to make a decision but is helpful to add value to my answers to other questions. And yes, the answer may reflect the interviewers’ opinion, but that’s telling in many ways too. Make it more specific depending on your interests (market, culture, financial position, innovation, employees, etc). Top 3 (3 of your key challenges) over Greatest. Single. Weakness. is less daunting and less negative.

  49. Meow*

    #4 – I’m not sure about that particular phrasing, but I regularly ask interviewers “What would you say is the biggest challenge in your position/for people on your team?” and have gotten some surprisingly candid answers. No one is every going to flat out say “Management is terrible” or “our department has no funding”, but they’ll say things like “The pace here can be slow at times” or “We don’t always have the newest equipment, you know how local government is…” and it’s not too hard to read between the lines.

  50. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

    Alison, Could you ask if LW #5 would like to do an interview and post it? I would love to find out more about this career. It sounds so interesting.

  51. Pickle Pizza*

    LW #4 The way I handle this in interviews is I ask, “What is something that you’re proud of as a company/team, and what is something that you would change if you could?” I usually get very varied and interesting responses, but I don’t always judge the response by the content of their answer alone. Often, it’s HOW they answer my questions that is more telling. If they’re able to give a response quickly without having to “think” about it, then it’s probably fairly honest and accurate. However, if it takes them a minute to think of an answer and their response sounds like fluff or b.s., then that tells me there’s probably much more going on than they want to admit and they’re trying to hide something. Body language says everything! Do they seem uncomfortable answering that question? Then it’s because they are! People who are reasonable, honest, and reflective will have no problem answering that question truthfully, even if it doesn’t make the company look good. I think it’s better if they can acknowledge their weak spots, because how is a company going to fix its problems if it can’t even recognize that they exist!

    1. Arizona Citizen*

      Yes, I agree. I was just thinking how they answer the question can be quite telling.

  52. Gracely*

    #1–your mom is right that you should use every advantage you have in your job search. The problem is, it sounds like your mom is also NOT an advantage to you. Especially given she ignored you when you asked her not to get involved. If she’d been part of the IT department, maybe that would be different, but just because someone works in the same building as me does not mean I’m going to trust their judgment—and I’m even less likely to trust them if it involves hiring their children.

    While the issue is unlikely to arise again (unless your mom works at multiple hospitals or something), it’s probably worth keeping her on an info diet until you have an offer in-hand somewhere. And if you ever do apply somewhere she works or has a connection…just…don’t tell her until later.

  53. Zellie*

    LW #4. My two favorite questions for the committee and potential co-workers when I interview are “what do you like about working here” and “what don’t you like about working here.” It is similar to weaknesses and I’ve had some very insightful answers to both questions. I once received nothing but how long people had been at an organization to the “what do you like” question and that turned out to be one of my worst jobs. Met one of my favorite mentors there, but on the whole, it wasn’t good. So, lesson learned, but I still ask the question.

  54. Cedrus Libani*

    For #2, it’s quite common in my field to do as Alison suggests: one job posting, but with multiple levels. If you’re running a large llama barn, where you’d ideally have 60 groomers on staff but you’re down to 52 and the llamas are starting to look a bit scruffy…you’d consider a qualified applicant at any level. It’s understood that the “job opening” is a general need for more hands on deck, rather than a specific role.

  55. Arizona Citizen*

    #4, I’m the OP for that one. Many of the responses indicate changing the wording from “weakness” to “challenge,” but I think that erodes the spirit of the question. But then, I learned something new. First, the tired “weakness” question is itself weak. It indicates that the people who created the list of questions are looking for excuses to dismiss an applicant instead of looking for the qualities they need for the role. They couldn’t invest enough time to create meaningful questions and merely searched the internet for a cheat sheet. Further, I am not too fond of the question as it is merely an invitation to either disparage myself or try to be clever with an evasive answer. But also, if I were to ask that exact question, I too would be looking for an excuse to dismiss them instead of trying to determine if their role meets my needs.

    Of course, no one is going to give a sincere answer. If my greatest weaknesses were being lazy and disloyal, I wouldn’t say that, and if the company’s greatest weaknesses were sexual harassment and high turnover, they wouldn’t say it either. I think what anyone might get from these kinds of questions is the reaction to the question itself. One of your responses reminded me that we have access to the interviewer as an individual. And here’s my epiphany:

    I once had an interviewer surprise me with a question, and in my entire career, she was the only one to ask it. She wanted me to talk about the person who most influenced my career, like a previous boss or mentor. In my answer, I was excited, animated, and maybe even passionate about one of my earliest bosses who taught me a great deal, who drove me to success, to whom I owe much, and without whom I would not be where I am today. After my answer, she commented on how it was her favorite question because many people would react similarly about the people they admire and respect. But what if someone didn’t have a positive answer to that question? Well, that could be telling too.

    If worded correctly, I think there is a way to ask a probative question of the interviewer and see if they answer with pride or passion or in some lightly emotional way that would inform us of what we want to know. If a company is anything less than good, I would expect the interviewer to not answer with pride or excitement or positive feelings in general, but with the cold legal-liability kind of information. How the question is answered is the takeaway for me. Of course, I still have to create a really good question. Maybe something along the lines of “what excites you about this company?” or “how have you seen other people here at the company grow?” or even, “tell about this company’s greatest success.” Oh, I may have it with that last one.

  56. Database Developer Dude*

    LW1: I will bet money your Mom torched your chances by what she did. You need a Come To Jesus talk with her. Seriously. I’m a grown adult, and if my Mom ever did that to me, you’d hear me from California when I’m *ahem* raising the issue with her in Rhode Island.

    She basically overrode your desires, and torched your chances at even getting an interview.

  57. Meep*

    LW#3 – Never bring your messy relationship drama to work until it is something like an ongoing abuse/stalker situation where your boss needs to know for your safety and others’ safety.

    My former manager and I started roughly at the same time (her in February, myself in May) and from the get-go, both myself and her boss knew way too much about her ongoing divorce. I also was treated to info on every relationship she ever had for the past forty years. While there was a lot of reasons to look at her and see she isn’t professional, this was one of the first red flags. Now, if my employee told me they were having relationship issues I might be more sympathetic, but if they told me they weren’t sure about working with their long ex’s wife I would view them as the problem.

    Until you know for a fact she is going to be unprofessional, don’t say anything. Right now it is just projection on your part.

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      I can see your point. I think a one time comment just to OP’s boss would not be overkill. Just something like, I understand Josey Smith has applied for X position. I don’t personally know her that much but she is married to my X, in case there were any conflicts of interests there. I don’t think there will be a problem.

      On the other hand I could see the OP not saying anything and waiting until something does happen or a comment is made. If Josey is hired and is unprofessional and OP is asked about it she could say “I didn’t think it was a problem, I dated X years ago.” or “The name sounded familiar but I wasn’t sure if it was the same person I was thinking it was.” The great thing about this is it shows OP as being calm and professional where as the other person is the one with the drama.

      Being that the OP doesn’t feel like there might be problems with the ex’s now wife I don’t think there needs to be a conversation.

    2. Stevie*

      Your experience is with someone over-sharing personal issues, though, which I think is different than a very dry heads up.

      Also, I think OP can find a way to make it clear that she isn’t unsure about working with this person – it’s just a heads up to get it on the record in case it becomes a worst case scenario where the manager has to intervene.

    3. Jennifer Strange*

      The LW isn’t bringing their “messy relationship drama to work” or even saying they aren’t sure about working with their ex’s wife (in fact, they say just the opposite!), they’re just flagging a potentially awkward situation.

  58. Anita*

    I may email this separately to Allison because I’m concerned about the top-level posts, and some of the comments here. I worked in a privacy compliance adjacent role for several years before deciding to go to law school because I see this field as one that will eventually trend towards hiring people with JDs. I don’t see a bright line between privacy consulting and legal services and I expect this line to continue to blur as regulation expands and as attorneys move into positions overseeing compliance programs. I was not surprised that the Privacy OP has a JD, and I suspect that they are underestimating the “JD advantage” boost that exists for these positions.

    I would not advise people to invest thousands of dollars in a certification on spec unless they have clearly transferrable skills on their resume. If there is a shortage of people with this certification, people currently working in the field will recognize this and invest in the certification to progress, which means that people without experience who purchased a certification will be SOL. While I agree that there has been a short-term boom in hiring, and there may currently be a mismatch between certified candidates and job openings, this is something that I expect will correct relatively quickly, especially if T50 law schools are smart enough to see the opportunity and push their students into these roles.

    Legal operations, on the other hand, is a growing field that I do not think will face the same issues. I recommend that people working in operational or administrative roles look for job openings in this area. I think salaries start between $80-100k, and there is not the same competition from attorneys for these positions. I know people three years out of undergrad making 115k as project managers at major law firms. CLOC is a relatively new professional association for legal operations, and it has blossomed like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s a good source of information and anyone currently in school reading this should bookmark their scholarship program.

    1. Atlantic Toast Conference*

      Thanks for providing this perspective– it was definitely something I wondered about when reading the comments.

      1. Anita*

        I wish I had gotten it together to comment sooner. It’s sad to think about people taking Privacy OP at their word and investing time and money in these certifications thinking that they are a golden ticket. I think there is a culture on this blog of encouraging others, particularly when people feel as though they got a lucky break, and that some people are inclined to downplay their credentials and experience as a result.

        I made a personal bet that JDs would be increasingly required for these roles and I have yet to encounter evidence that I was wrong or regret my investment. I feel more confident about that decision every day.

  59. Moonlight*

    OP5: I’m a licensed mental health professional and I’m interested in transitioning into something more to do with public health. Do you think this kind of training would be good for someone interested in, say, teaching health security stuff or managing security stuff for a hospital department. I’m curious. I noticed the IAPP website has stuff for Canada.

  60. Glacier*

    To LW #5 (Privacy OP) and other folks who are in that field:

    I have a master’s in public policy and currently work as a policy director in local government. I research local/state/federal law regularly. Would this type of background be useful or is the field moving towards folks needing a law degree?


    1. Anita*

      I don’t think that IAPP (professional association) commissions research on whether privacy jobs are trending towards requiring a JD. The reports I have seen from them deal more with salaries and ROI on CIP credentials than it does with job requirements. But privacy law practices are expanding within law firms, and lawyers always want in-house exit options with six figure salaries and good work-life balance. So you can expect privacy lawyers to go after these jobs if salaries have increased this much. This is on par with associate pay at many large law firms, particularly in regional markets.

      I do not see a scenario in which higher level jobs in this field will not require JDs. Even if they are not explicitly required there will be a strong preference for them over the long run. In my experience, lawyers only trust lawyers to sign off on compliance programs and verify that UPL (unauthorized practice of law) is not an issue.

  61. Soleil*

    Regarding OP#5, I understand their excitement about the new job, but it’s somewhat disingenuous to toss this certification out as viable for anyone. I agree with Anita that the higher level positions would likely go to those with a JD. The OP has a JD, which would make her highly desirable in the field. They are starting out with a good salary and benefits. I don’t believe that someone can pass an exam and get top dollar just because they have a certification. In addition to those with JDs, others who might start at the higher end are probably those who are already doing similar type of work. For example, I’m a Certified Public Accountant. I did not make top dollar after passing the exam nor after getting my license. After years of experience, I now make good money. If I were to switch careers, I would stick with jobs for which I can leverage my experience and obtain my certification on the company’s dime. YMMV.

  62. Safely Retired*

    My version of #4 was to ask what was the biggest obstacle the department faced. I don’t recall if it helped or hurt, or even if it was a job I got, but I do remember them saying they’d never been asked that before.

    (I was interviewing for as a programmer, not a supervisor or manager.)

Comments are closed.