ridiculously long job application, mistakes in your cover letter, and more

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

1. Is this application process excessive?

I am applying for a director position that I was recruited to apply for (via a LinkedIn recruiter). The job description has changed and so have the requirements. I am beginning to think the application process is excessive? The process is such: cover letter, resume, four-question response (one-pager), behavior assessment, cognitive assessment, provide five work samples, six questions on culture/climate as relates to the company’s mission and how candidate fit (they stated they expect candidates to spend one hour at least on it), and re-creating a work sample project based on one of the companies core competencies/beliefs/plans, then email the project sample and ask questions, get feedback, and re-tweak as needed.

This to me is asking lots for a candidate before the interview. Am I off-base, or is this the new norm as companies have less face-to-face time with folks they hire? (This is a remote position.) Maybe I’m old school but cover letter, resume, interview, and even work samples seem adequate.

This is all before you’re even interviewed?! Yes, this is excessive. No, it’s not a new norm. No, you’re not old school or off-base.

This would be excessive even after you’ve been interviewed. Before you’ve been interviewed, it’s ludicrous — you haven’t had any chance to learn about the position and ask your own questions to determine if you’re even interested … and if they haven’t done even an initial screen to determine that you’re a plausible candidate, it’s in the realm of full-on offensive, given how utterly thoughtless it would be of your time. (To be clear, it’s utterly thoughtless regardless, but asking you to do all this before even bothered to assess you against their needs and the rest of the candidate pool would move it to a new level.)

Before you’ve been interviewed, it’s reasonable to ask for a resume, cover letter, and one existing work sample or possibly some very short answers to a very small number of very short questions. After they’ve done some initial screening and determined you’re plausible, it’s reasonable to ask for a very short exercise/work simulation. Once they interview you and you’ve been able to ask your own questions and establish mutual interest, it’s reasonable to ask for a little more — but at no point all of it. (And asking you to spend time pre-interview writing out answers to questions that they could just ask you in the interview — or going through a work/feedback/revise cycle — is just ridiculously thoughtless.)

Pass on this company.

2. How do I answer coworkers’ questions about all my band-aids?

I have obsessive compulsive disorder, autism, and ADHD, which my coworkers do not know about and I’d like to keep it that way. As you might be able to imagine, just making it through a day can be tough sometimes (in addition to my neurodivergencies, I also have depression and PTSD; talk about a cocktail!). One of the ways I soothe my anxiety is by picking the skin around my nails, often to the point where there are wounds. I’m working with a therapist and have been for years, but since it’s an anxiety behavior related to my three conditions, it’s not an easy habit to break. I’m quite good at hiding the actual habit from my coworkers, but not the consequences.

In order for me to, you know, not have giant gaping wounds on my fingers, I wear band-aids so that any particularly bad wounds can heal. But it’s never just one band-aid — sometimes it’s eight, nine, or even all my fingers. I even keep band-aids in my work bag in case I’ve had a particularly bad episode so I can patch myself up, or just replace one that’s looking kinda raggedy.

I recently had a coworker ask me about the band-aids (I was wearing seven at the time) and I just stammered out a response about being clumsy in the kitchen, because I both have never had anyone ask me about it and am afraid of accidentally saying something about my conditions (which would probably open a whole other can of worms). My company is very clear that they support people with disabilities and have committed to having at least 15% of the workforce be people with disabilities, but I’m still afraid of saying something and being treated differently. Nobody is so clumsy as to cut eight or nine fingers in the kitchen and I could tell my coworker was skeptical. I know bringing awareness to different types of neurodivergencies is important, and I’m okay with being the way I am, but I’ve disclosed to other employers before and have been treated differently, reprimanded unfairly, or even let go as being “not a good fit,” so I feel like my hesitancy is warranted. Do you have any advice for things I could say when people ask about my fingers?

“Oh, it’s a medical thing! Nothing to worry about.”

Because it is. They don’t need to know the details. “Medical thing” could cover anything from bad eczema to skin ulcers to who knows what.

Generally people who ask questions like this just assume there will be an interesting story about a one-time injury that you won’t feel uncomfortable sharing and they aren’t considering that it might be something more personal. If you breezily say “it’s just a medical thing,” most reasonably polite people will understand the subtext is “that’s all the info I want to share.” If someone does push for more, you can say, “Oh, nothing I want to get into at work, but I’m fine!”

3. Spotting mistakes in my cover letter after sending it in

I am a high school English teacher. I also tend to make typos when I’m tired or when stakes are high (for example, I filled in the wrong boxes on my college applications so my name — let’s say Harry James Potter — got printed as Harry James Potter James Potter). I am also experienced and good at what I do, so this hasn’t held me back as much as one would expect.

With that said, I am casually applying for other teaching jobs (I don’t need a new position but wouldn’t mind moving to a better paying district) and I noticed that I wrote the wrong school name repeatedly on one of my cover letters and email sending the cover letter in. It’s not a major difference (think “Fair Hills Magnet School” vs “Fair Hill Charter School”) but it does imply I haven’t done my research and that I don’t understand the type of the school. I’m tempted to email the hiring principal again and correct my mistake, but I’m worried that will look desperate and draw her attention to the matter.

Obviously this job is out the window, but should this happen to me — or anyone else in the future — what’s best practice here? Immediately email and correct? Ignore until it’s brought up? Change my name and move to a different country and never work in the field again? I’m aware of the irony with the specific subject that I teach and I know if I was on the other side of the table, I’d blackball myself from the district.

With a little, insignificant typo, ignore it and hope for the best. People are human and make mistakes, even outstanding candidates. But with something significant (like the name and type of the school, something they’re likely to notice and wonder about), it does make sense to email to correct it. Don’t make a big, lengthy thing out of it — just “how mortifying, I just realized I wrote ‘Fair Hills Magnet School’ but I of course realize you are a charter school and your name is Fair Hill.”

But more importantly, since it’s an ongoing issue, can you build a check into your process to catch it before stuff goes out this way? For example, can you have a checklist of things you look at before you consider a cover letter final, like employer name, date, your name, etc.? I’d rather you take an extra minute to spot it before it happens than have to correct it afterwards.

4. How to help underpaid female coworkers

My fiance recently started his first salaried office job at a small (less than 10 employees) company in a large city. He has two female coworkers who both work in the same role he does. One of them has been at the company in that role for two years, and the other was hired at the same time he was. He recently found out he’s being paid more than both of them by about $3,000 for the same work. His industry is a struggling one that pays poorly overall, and he’s working in an entry-level role, so his pay is already barely enough to cover a rented apartment with roommates — and his coworkers are making even less!

He’s incensed about this and I encouraged him to advocate to his boss (the man who owns the company) on behalf of his coworkers since his boss has already demonstrated he values my partner more. From what he’s told me, the boss is a holdover from a different time — one where paying women less for equal work was acceptable. He also sounds like he’s very easily angered by trivial things, and my partner is afraid that bringing it up will result in retaliation either against him or against the two coworkers. Because it’s such a small company, it doesn’t have an HR department my partner can go to.

But I really think that if women who aren’t receiving equal pay don’t have solidarity from their male colleagues, this whole stupid gender pay gap our society has insisted on maintaining is never going to be fixed. Is there anything he can do to help his coworkers receive equitable treatment without bringing the wrath of an out-of-touch and regressive boss down on all of their heads?

He can talk to his coworkers and tell them what he’s making, and he can tell them about the Equal Pay Act (which makes this illegal if they’re doing the same work, unless the pay difference is due to an established seniority or merit system, which doesn’t sound like the case). He should also tell them about the National Labor Relations Act, which protects employees’ right to discuss salary with each other, because the owner sounds like the type who will try to come down on them for that too. (That protection only applies to non-supervisory employees, but since this is an entry-role role, they’re covered.) From there, his coworkers can decide if they want to use the info about his salary as background info or explicitly in their own negotiations and whether they want to make this a group push or not. But the first step is for him to share the info with them.

5. I need to move up my resignation date

I finally landed an absolute dream of a job and am leaving my current company on good terms. My new job initially gave me a start date four weeks from when I signed the offer, so I was able to give three weeks notice and also take a week for myself.

They’ve now come back asking if I could start earlier, and I told them yes. Now, though, I have to move up my resignation date to the standard two weeks. Honestly, I’m tempted to just skip the time off I’ve taken to avoid the awkward conversation.

How would you got about having this conversation? Can I just send an email?

Don’t skip the week off you were planning! You tried to give extra generous notice but things changed and now you’ve got to give the standard two weeks. This isn’t like suddenly leaving them with only one week of notice, or if you’d sprung on them halfway through your notice period that actually you’re going to leave tomorrow; it’s just as if you’d first resigned today and given the normal two weeks. That’s not a major crime.

If you work in-person, don’t do it over email. Go talk to your boss in person (today!) and say, “Unfortunately I was hoping to be able to give extra notice but I’ve just found out circumstances have changed and I need to give a standard two weeks after all, starting today, so my last day will be (date).”

{ 331 comments… read them below }

  1. nnn*

    For #3, one thing that I’ve found useful to add to a finalization checklist for important documents is having a screenreader or the Read Aloud function in Word read them aloud to me.

    That catches errors like “Harry James Potter James Potter” and the kinds of typos that spellcheck doesn’t catch, because it sounds weird and conspicuous even though your eyes would normally glaze over it. At the same time, it doesn’t require an enormous amount of effort – it only takes a few minutes, and you can even close your eyes while you do it!

    1. turquoisecow*

      This is good advice. I’ve used Word to read aloud documents to me and even though it’s a computer voice I still catch a few things like if I left out a word or duplicated one.

      Also, if possible, can you set it aside for a few hours? Maybe sleep on it. It’s easier to catch errors with relatively fresh eyes. Or have someone else read it, even, if you have a friend or family member you trust.

      1. Ann J*

        Exactly. Wait a couple of hours or better a day or two and read it again. I’m hopeless at seeing my own errors right away. It’s my brain that think it’s perfect. I have to trick it.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        Seconding the advice to set it aside for a few hours or overnight. The extra time will remove some of the high-stakes feelings, and you’ll have fresh eyes to catch typos, awkward wording, and to double-check employer name, date, etc.

      3. nobadcats*

        This is what I was going to suggest. With important communications (emails to my team, the boss, etc.), I tend to edit and re-edit. It works really well for me if I sleep on it after I think I have what I want, then the next morning, I have fresh eyes and can spot errors more easily.

        When I was a proofreader, back when dinosaurs roamed Earth, I also learned the trick of “reading backward” through a document. Not literally backward, but starting from the last para and working my way up to the first page.

        It is hard to edit your own writing, because your eye is infected by what your brain says should be there.

      4. WantonSeedStitch*

        Yet another thank you for sharing this, turquoisecow! I just shared it with my team as a tool they can use for proofreading their own work. I think some of them will really like it.

      5. Lenora Rose*

        Even if it isn’t possible to set it aside for a few hours – which is always better – take a deliberate break where you are thoroughly distracted by something else non-computer – make a complicated snack while listening to a fiction podcast, do 15 minutes of pulling weeds in the garden, go for a brisk walk around the block or building with some raucous music on your headset – anything that is absolutely as unrelated as possible, has your eyes and mind doing a very different task, then come back to do your proofing. I find if I don’t have time to do a real “let it sit”, this sort of short but firm reset can at least clear the brain enough to stop glazing over the worst typos.

        1. turquoisecow*

          Oh that’s a good idea. Take your brain out of writing mode for a bit, then when you come back to it, you’ll have reset your thoughts, almost.

    2. A.N O'Nyme*

      Yup! I can’t even count how often the read aloud function caught stupid errors like “women” instead of “woman”.

    3. amoeba*

      Great idea! In addition, it also really helps me to read the document aloud to myself – guess it’s both about hearing what you’ve written and about the slower speed of reading aloud compared to reading quietly?

    4. Michelle Smith*

      That’s clever and I wouldn’t have thought of it. I’m going to try it in the future.

      I have a couple of friends who are usually available to review and make suggestions on important personal documents. Sometimes it’s just nice to have someone else who hasn’t read the document 30 times look at it because things jump out at them right away.

      1. anne of mean gables*

        Being an “extra set of eyes” is my favorite thing to offer friends and colleagues who are job searching, or otherwise working on a high-stakes document. It’s also my favorite favor to ask of people – I am a decent writer but there is something about looking at the same words over and over again that makes my eyes twitch and stupid errors go un-noticed.

    5. EPLawyer*

      Holy Heck, I did not know this function existed. I just tried it. WHOA.

      I type out my trial questions in advance. Then when prepping a client for trial I hear how they actually sound. Sometimes I go, “well that made no sense as written.” This will help me hear the questions before I finalize things.

      Not to mention helping me catch typos in documents.

    6. Generic Name*

      This is an amazing idea, especially for folks more auditorially oriented. A trick I sometime use is I’ll publish a word document as a pdf and then review it that way. Something about the change in software/format helps errors become more noticeable.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        That’s a good idea. I use Word’s Read Aloud feature and often read documents aloud to myself, and both are helpful, but sometimes I just change the font to comic sans and read the document that way. It makes the document look so different that I catch things I otherwise wouldn’t.

      2. emkay*

        Love this. An similar thing I do to jog my brain into reviewing important email drafts well: actually send them to myself and then read them on my phone. Something about seeing things in a format you can’t immediately edit reveals all the mistakes.

    7. Allison L*

      This saves me all the time!

      Also, there have been several times when I’ve realized I forgot to include something or CC someone in an important email right after I hit send. I was driving myself nuts, so I set up a 3 minute delay. Now if that happens, I can quickly click cancel and fix it.

    8. mreasy*

      Great idea! I often catch those things reading my own work aloud but this is even better as there isn’t repetition making the eye gloss over the errors.

    9. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Two things:
      2) This is why people should love and embrace disability accommodations. They significantly improve the lives of the people who need them while have no or positive effects for those that don’t. Think about how curb cut outs for wheelchairs make it easier to move heavy equipment, alt-text helps clarify what is in a picture if it gets separated from its text caption (particularly handy in fields like botany where remembering which plant came from what site can be hard), screen reading in this example, etc.

    10. Warrior Princess Xena*

      One of the things we do is prep financial statements for clients. There’s an entire process step where we hand off the financial statements to someone who hasn’t been involved in drafting them and have them recalculate any sum and match any number that’s supposed to be matched to make sure that a) excel rounding hasn’t tripped us up and b) that the things we say sum actually do sum. I think my track record has been something like 1 in 4 needing to be sent back for a correction. Little things like that slide by so easily!

    11. GlitterIsEverything*

      Tricks I’ve used over the years to check for things my eyes gloss over:

      *Printing the document out, then checking it with a colored pen in hand. (Seriously, there’s something about being immediately ready to fix errors that helps me find them.)

      *Reading the document backwards, word by word. (This is how I most often find duplicate words.)

      *Reading it out loud to myself. (This is the least reliable method for me, because it’s still my brain visually reading the same things I’ve just written. Usually this is how I find awkward phrases, not errors.)

      Ironically, I work with patients who need screen readers, yet had never considered using one to check my own documents!

    12. fleapot*

      An excellent strategy! I’ve done a lot of professional copyediting, and the “read aloud” function in Word is absolutely essential for me. I don’t trust that I’ve edited a document properly until I’ve reviewed it with the screen reader.

      Generally, I find it most effective to work from a printed copy of the document while listening to the screen reader on my headphones. The combination of working on paper and hearing the text helps to make me much more alert to errors than just following on the screen.

  2. Passionfruit Tea*

    LW1 between all the work samples and project outlines I’m getting the distinct feeling that they’re scamming you (and all other candidates) for free work and that there probably is no actual job at all.

    1. irene adler*

      Someone there really has the time to review all those submissions….no wonder they need to hire.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I think this is harder to pull off in a remotely useful way at the director level. (As opposed to the “Design a poster for this upcoming event” graphic design level.) The different projects wouldn’t mesh well. Not to mention that all the aptitude tests are of no obvious financial use to the org.

      I think it’s the fallacy about how more information is always better, so we should gather more information. In this case by requiring a ton of aptitude tests; in others by trying to set up a system where anyone who buys a tube of toothpaste from you will fill out a 20 minute survey about the experience.

    3. sadnotbad*

      Happened to me once when I was younger. Wrote three articles for a company’s blog to apply for a marketing job, then never heard from them again. But they got free blog content!

    4. Momma Bear*

      I thought the same. That is a TON of labor for a job you’re not even at the interview stage for. And they want a rework of something you did to align with them with feedback and rework? Suspicious.

    5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Yeah. If this was a decider for the last 2-3 candidates it would still be excessive, but before an interview? No way. They want you to invest time and effort in them when they haven’t invested any in you.

  3. FG*

    LW2: I am not neurodivergent, no ADHD, not on the spectrum, no anxiety, etc. Yet I have a lifetime on/off cuticle-picking & clipping habit. It’s a thing (there’s a name for it that escapes me for the moment). I am VERY familiar with carrying bandaids & having one or more wrapped fingertips.

    Alison’s suggestion of “it’s a medical thing” is fine, but it might be mysterious enough that it could create more curiosity. You might consider just saying, “Yah, I have a nervous habit of picking at my fingers.” You don’t have to get into any details about why. It’s common enough among us normies – like skin picking, hair pulling, etc. – that you can pass it off as an annoying quirk rather than being a window into your soul.

    1. Sabine the Very Mean*

      You could also try, “it’s a dermatological condition that looks more alarming than it is.”

    2. desdemona*

      I do this too – I just say “I have VERY dry skin, and am prone to paper cuts and all sorts of things”.
      It’s also true – I have eczema, and even normal manicure nail care can start my fingers bleeding.

      1. High Score!*

        My skin is very dry and this happens to me so my fingers often have bandaids. I just tell people dry skin and they get it.

      2. Coenobita*

        I had a bad cuticle picking habit when I was younger – I still do it, but it’s better now – and my friend in high school (unintentionally) came up with this explanation for me! She’d see my bandaids and say “wow, your skin must be really dry again, that sucks” and I’d be like oh yeah, that’s totally it.

        The upside to this is that you become he person who ALWAYS has bandaids. Many people around me have been very thankful :)

    3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I agree. I wouldn’t think twice about saying “Oh this keeps me from picking at my cuticles! Terrible habit!” and not think that implies anything other than I pick my cuticles. (Which I do, unfortunately. My thumbs are always a disaster.)

      1. Middle Name Danger*

        You could even just refer to it as biting your nails, which is super common, if you think people might raise an eyebrow at picking.

        1. A Simple Narwhal*

          I think I’d stick to cuticle picking or just picking at your nails, biting your nails implies you routinely put your fingers in your mouth, which probably isn’t something you want to highlight to coworkers, especially if you aren’t actually doing that.

        2. MM*

          Yeah, my first thought was “Oh, I’m trying to stop biting my nails.” That’s a common habit that lots of people have a hard time breaking; I doubt anyone would think twice about it.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        This works. Mr. Gumption tends to gnaw his cuticles when he’s thinking/deeply engaged/focused so he always has at least 5 band-aids on bloody cuticles to let them heal. When he’s been asked about them he says, “I chew the ____ (appropriate for his work, but blank can be dropped for normal places) out of my cuticles” and no one asks why. I feel like cuticle picking and chewing is so common most people don’t even think to question why.

        Of course maybe I am just saying this because I chewed my left thumb cuticle bloody while thinking of what to write….

        1. California Dreamin’*

          I also chew my cuticles and have no neurodivergency or anxiety. I was a childhood nail biter… I eventually wanted longer nails to
          look nice with polish and was able to stop biting them but unfortunately just moved to the cuticles. It drives me bananas, but I can’t stop. I don’t think anyone would question it at all if you said the bandaids were to help with that, and to me it would be a better option than a mysterious “medical condition.”

      3. MM*

        Same. OP, while for you this habit is a symptom of bigger things, that doesn’t mean everyone else will assume it means that!

      1. That One Person*

        Thanks for posting the name as I’d forgotten! There’s a comfort in knowing it has a name since that means its prolific enough to have one and I’m reminded once again that I’m not alone in this habit. Still something I’d like to work on breaking so time to scour for some tips n’ tricks!

      2. Kit*

        As a fellow dermatillomaniac, it can also be called excoriation disorder – but dermatillomania is a: more fun to say, and b: makes clear how similar it is in expression to trichotillomania (hair plucking).

        Sympathy, OP!

    4. JSPA*

      If you work with a closet germophobe, or a “mani pedi” true- believer, “genetically bad cuticles” may help them relax about it. (And it may well be true, as some of the genes overlapping with ASD and anxiety literally drive skin picking behavior even in animal models…i.e. it’s not a secondary psychological effect.)

      And no, manicures that trim cuticle are (for me, at least) like having someone else start the picking on all 10 fingers.

      I, like my parent and grandparent, find that confining picking to one target (usually a thumb) is far more doable than, “don’t pick.” A tape ball or bandaid ball or some other “feelable then pickable” surrogate item helps for the “pick” side of the urge, and bacitracin (if available in your country) is, for me, more healing and more helpful than plain petrolatum or other ointment, on the “loose, tight, gapingly-cracked, itchy, tingly cuticle skin needs picking” side of the urge.

      1. anne of mean gables*

        “genetically bad cuticles” is exactly the right amount of explanatory, flippant, and boring – that’s perfect. I cannot imagine anyone who went to the trouble of asking about finger bandaids would have a single follow-up question to that. “Genetically bad cuticles” followed immediately by “TPS reports, am I right?” or “So, how was your weekend?” would immediately change the subject without being weird or drawing attention to OP’s habits.

        1. pancakes*

          I would have follow-up questions because I’ve never heard of that being a thing and am not sure what it means, but I would go off and look it up on my own rather than try to ask the person about it. I wouldn’t have asked about the bandaids in the first place though. I’m not sure this is going to come across as a conversation-ender to someone inclined to pry.

      2. A Simple Narwhal*

        Great idea! I was also thinking something along the lines of “I have bad cuticles”, it’s a very understandable thing and not alarming or shameful. It’s also boring enough to not invite additional inquiries.

      3. thelettermegan*

        +1 ‘genetically bad cuticles’. The worst conversation it can inspire is a discussion about cuticle oil and grandma’s recipes for silky nails.

      4. Books and Cooks*

        “I, like my parent and grandparent, find that confining picking to one target (usually a thumb) is far more doable than, “don’t pick.””

        This is actually how I finally stopped biting my nails at seventeen! I let myself bite my thumbs, as long as I left the rest alone. It looked a little odd for that first year, but ultimately it let me stop** the habit.

        (I still tend to bite my nails down rather than trim them, but that’s partly because my nails are very strong, so cutting them is actually rather difficult–but if I start biting at an edge, I can usually work my way across pretty well. But IMO that doesn’t really count–I still proudly call myself a reformed nail biter. Now if only I could leave my cuticles & the skin next to the nails alone, heh.)

        I never thought of something like a ball of tape to peel! That’s interesting…thank you!

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          Try cutting your nails right after a shower (or washing dishes with bare hands). They’re a lot softer when they’ve soaked in some water. This is actually a good tip for everyone, because softer nails don’t go sproinging across the room.

    5. Move it move it*

      If you mention “It’s a medical thing”, some people might be anxious that it’s something contagious so you might want to add “No worries, nothing contagious!”

      1. That One Person*

        I wish that wasn’t a worry, but knowing there are people who would infect someone without a care it’s hard to ignore I guess. It’s definitely one of those things I worry about having a skin condition myself is that people wonder if they’ll somehow catch it and having to explain it if it gets noticed. Luckily the worst is hidden behind hair, but that makes going to a hair appointment harder since I have to work up courage and hope it’s not intense at the time.

        As another skin picker/person with dermatillomania this is also a habit I need to work on at some point. Tired of the pain of the aftermath, but I need to find other satisfying/relaxing habits that don’t involve damage. However it’s a comfort to be reminded I’m not alone in this field even though I don’t really visually see anyone, but I imagine we’re all good at hiding it in various ways :)

      2. Office Lobster DJ*

        I was about to suggest adding this as well. Even (or especially?) delivered with the right amount of breeziness, people may worry a vague “medical thing” means something contagious.

      3. Lenora Rose*

        Yeah, I always deal with similar-ish questions with “medical thing, definitely not catching.”

      4. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yup. My mom has eczema and when she was a kid one of her teachers kept sending her to the school nurse because the teacher thought it was contagious. I think the nurse just kept rolling her eyes.

      5. Delta Delta*

        I was thinking this, too. Since it’s related to a person’s fingers, others might be worried there’s a possibility of catching something from touching common surfaces. I like the other ideas of saying, “just a bad habit of picking my cuticles” or “I have bad cuticles” or something. True, boring, and easy.

    6. Emily*

      Came here to say this- I’m a big picker, even more so when anxious or stressed and am very familiar with making myself bleed as well- and I find it’s a pretty common habit to have. I don’t think anyone would leap to additional conclusions or press for further detail if you say you’re a nervous picker :)

    7. Roobarb*

      Came down to the comments to say the same – if you say it’s to help you kick the habit of picking your cuticles/nails, I’m sure you’ll see a lot of knowing nods among your coworkers as many will have a similar habit! :)

    8. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Please don’t say nervous habit!!

      I am neurotypical (but can I be if I have dermatillomania?). I say, oh, I am a mail picker and I’m using the bandaids to protect my fingers. No one ever cares except those who say, me too! But saying a medical condition is fine, no need to say more if you don’t want to.

      Anyway, I have it too. I am finding some success using griply finger covers; they are meant for helping thumb through papers. I get them on Amazon. I use a couple of the sizes and can cover just a couple of fingers most of the time. They give me the scratchy sensation I’m looking for. They prevent wounds and are uncomfortable if there is a wound.

      My coworker mentioned she picks and I told her about them. I heard another coworker ask her about them and she breezily said they help her stop picking and that was the end of it.

      Link in reply.

    9. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Dermatillomania unite!

      Please don’t say you have a nervous habit! That suggests you are nervous and stressed an can make ppl see you differently.

      I say, oh, I pick my fingers, the bandaids help prevent it. But you can just say medical condition or dry skin that cracks a lot. But then I get long winded suggestions about creams to help with dry skin.

      I’m so excited to share that I use griply finger covers and they do help create the scratchy sensation I’m after!

      I’ll put a link in a reply.

      1. LolaBugg*

        I personally say that I have “a bad habit of picking at my fingers without thinking about it”. It’s true, but it doesn’t ping as an anxiety problem to whomever I’m speaking to.

    10. kittybutton*

      I came to say the exact same thing! Just keep it breezy and convey in your tone “ugg what a minor inconvenience!” not “I’m so ashamed!” This is such a normal habit to have.

    11. BigSigh*

      There are finger caps that work both to cover your cuticles and prevent picking and as a distraction for ADHD fidgeting!

      1. Squirrel Nutkin*

        My partner has had some issues with a skin condition on his fingers, and he uses self-adhesive bandage wrap (the kind they use when you do a blood draw) on his fingertips. If you can find a hue that matches your skin (or even coordinates with your outfit), it might have a little more polished look than Band-Aids (in the same way that a wrist brace looks less haphazard than ACE bandage).

        I recognize that is NOT the question OP#2 asked, though, so please feel free to ignore.

        1. Contracts Killer*

          The hydrocolloid bandages (the Band-Aid line is called Hydro Seal) are great for camouflage because they blend really well with your skin. Bonus, they are harder to pull off, so hopefully they minimize the urge to pick. Like Squirrel Nutkin, I recognize this isn’t the exact advice OP #2 asked for, but I hope it helps.

        2. Anonariffic*

          Micropore tape is another good one for that- the 1/2 inch tape is great for a quick, low-profile finger wrap if the color works for you (it only comes in white and a basic bandaid-ish tan), I’ve used it more than once to make myself stop picking a specific nail or two.

        3. fleapot*

          I’m autistic and often pick at my cuticles without noticing. My go-to is a liquid bandage (New Skin). It stings a little at first, but for me it’s more comfortable than a band-aid or tape (which is guaranteed to fall off, anyway, when I wash/sanitize my hands).
          It’s also less conspicuous, so might be an option to consider.

          That said, “it’s a medical thing” is a perfectly good explanation.

    12. MicroManagered*

      I had a similar thought… Just say “Oh it’s to help me not pick at my nails.” Lots of people are nail-biters/pickers (hi!) without it being related to a diagnosis. I wouldn’t think anything of that answer, but admittedly might have a tough time NOT speculating on “a medical thing.”

    13. AY*

      Another (mostly former) cuticle torturer here! I wore bandaids when things got particularly bad and always used “they help me stop picking” when someone asked. No one ever followed up with anything other than commiseration.

    14. bee*

      My people!! I have ADHD (with some autism symptom overlap) and I’ve picked at my cuticles for literally as long as I can remember. There’s a picture of 4 year old me where you can see me picking at what is still my favorite spot on my right thumb.

      I agree that a lie makes this more of a Thing than it needs to be! “Medical thing” is going to make people worry about contagion/infection, and I think a breezy “Oh, I pick at my cuticles and I’m trying to stop!” is completely unobtrusive and common enough that people will understand and not immediately pin you as The Neurodivergent One.

      P.S. you didn’t ask for advice, but just in case: manicures make my picking waaaaaay worse because the cuticle trim always leaves little places to pick at. What has worked for me is being diligent about cuticle oil morning and night because it stops the little dry pieces from flaking off in the first place. YMMV but I don’t see it suggested a lot and it has helped me a ton!

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        Cuticle oil has helped me a lot too! I keep the bottle at my desk so I can rub it into the cuticles during Zoom calls (rather than chewing on them, which is what I would normally do). It does double duty of satisfying the nervous habit and also repairing the skin so I’m not as tempted to do it as much.

        1. pancakes*

          Cirque makes one in a pen-type dispenser, if that sounds appealing. I don’t chew mine but it seems to help keep them from looking raggedy.

    15. No cuticles left*

      I also do this. No one has batted an eye when I respond that it is from a nervous habit of picking my fingers. Actually you would be surprised how many people also do it!

    16. Bucky Barnes*

      I’ve also done this for a long time and had no idea it was apparently this common! (I do have anxiety but I’m not sure if it’s related or not.)

    17. S. Am.*

      Me too! Mine is all over and not just cuticles though. I once had a (rude) acquaintance ask “Hey what’s with all the bandaids? You got bad skin or something?” and I ended up sarcastically shooting back at her, ” Yep, (name), of course that’s what it is. Bad skin.” But it turns out that’s actually not a bad response for the non-rude as well, in my experience, if your tone is a little more light and breezy about it. “Oh, it’s no big deal. I just have bad skin, hahaha. Anyway…”

      1. Mill Miker*

        I have garbage skin, and my general answer when anyone asks about anything relating to that is to just cheerfully say “Oh, I have garbage skin” and it’s generally served me well.

        1. Rafflesia Reaper*

          “I have garbage _____” is my go-to for explaining any of my medical woes in breezy company. “Does this place have stairs? I have a garbage knee. Can you open this bottle for me? I have garbage wrists.” It’s the right kind of dismissive that progresses the conversation while not leading people to go “omg poor thing what happened to you???”

      2. thatfruitcake*

        Yeah I eczema and for a while when it was in a worse flare up and I had bandaids on multiple fingers I’d just say “ugh I just have dry skin” / “ugh just bad skin” in some “no big deal” way and never got any follow ups from it beyond a sympathetic murmur.

      3. Sally*

        I have OCD with a side of dermatillomania, but it’s mosquito bites or, when i was younger, pimples (not cuticles) that I would pick at. A friend once blurted out, “oh your poor arms. What happened?” I am absolutely positive she was coming from a place of caring and concern, but it made me realize that people might ask about the bandaids, and I have been worried about that ever since. Now I have some scripts available to me thanks to Alison and the commenters. Thank you!!!

    18. CRM*

      Another member of the cuticle crew here – I pick my cuticles all of the time! Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it. I have anxiety but it isn’t a nervous habit for me, I just do it when I’m bored or if my cuticle is starting to fray. I wouldn’t think anything of it if a coworker admitted that they do it too.

      1. Karen*

        Me too. Sometimes I don’t know I’m doing it. Sorry to see other people dealing with picking habits or dermatillomania here, but at least none us is the only one. I wouldn’t judge a coworker.

    19. LCH*

      i mean, nah, it’s a medical thing. they can be curious all they want, they are then being weird. you can point that out, like… um… medical stuff is private?

      1. LCH*

        also i’ve been doing the finger picking thing since i was 9. it sucks! and yeah, so hard to break.

    20. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I know OP2 and nobody else here asked, but I have a little cuticle trimmer (looks like a nail trimmer but with a shorter blade) and that definitely helps me with my skin picking. I can quickly and very discreetly trim off the hanging bit of skin that I would otherwise pull at to the point of bleeding and most of the time this works well to prevent bleeding. (Not all the time; sometimes I still pull at it and other times I actually trim it too much and it bleeds anyway.)

      I’m comforted by how many people here also do this, though! I thought it was pretty rare. I am so compulsive about it that I pretty much don’t go anywhere without my trimmer since I never know when a cuticle will suddenly become annoying.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        This is the kind of trimmer I mean: https://www.amazon.com/DNHCLL-Slanted-Clippers-Pedicure-Manicure/dp/B07X37WY1D/ref=sr_1_25?crid=2Q6FYFJYN8MWD&keywords=hangnail+trimmer&qid=1658845649&sprefix=hangnail+trimmer%2Caps%2C104&sr=8-25.

        I do NOT mean the kind that sort of look like pliers or wire cutters; those ones are hard to use, not discreet, and IME scratch up my nails too much. These ones fit in a purse or pocket easily and are so cheap that I have about 8 of them in various locations throughout my home and in a few bags I use a lot.

        And also a warning that if you choose to get some, definitely be discreet about using them because I’ve learned that people think I’m cutting my nails, which is definitely not what I’m doing but it does look the same to anyone observing you.

      2. kitryan*

        My go-to explanation was always ‘can’t leave a hangnail alone’. Which people tended to understand in a way that didn’t really require any further discussion, most of the time.
        I’m mostly over it because I also carry around a little trimmer so that I can cleanly tidy things up without making myself bleed (most of the time) and a glass file in a little case, so I can file any ragged nail edges at a moment’s notice.
        I also use cuticle oil and clear or colored polish sometimes as that whole taking care of my nails/hands process helps keep my cuticles nice, lets my nails grow a bit and satisfies the need to do something with my hands to my hands, at least for a while.

    21. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. People have a lot of quirky things they do or habits they try to break and I think if you just casually toss off a simple answer it won’t be a big deal. You can also prepare to say, “I don’t want to talk about my fingers” if they keep asking and pivot to the work task at hand. Most people will take the hint.

    22. highbury house*

      I always answer inquiries about visible injuries with a purposefully vague hand wave and “…bar fight.” Because I am an old woman, this is always (to me, at least) hilarious. It also surprises the questioner into not asking more.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Ha! I may steal this from you. I am (almost) a middle-aged woman myself and that would probably be hilarious for me to say too. Or at least I myself would find it hilarious.

    23. Buttercup*

      Yes, this! I have ADHD and OCD like OP, as well as dermatillomania focused on my cuticles, and I’ve had great success with “Oh, I have a bad habit of picking at the skin around my nails.” I don’t have bandaids on my fingers all the time anymore because it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be, but people sometimes still see small scabs or bits of raw skin and worry, and just flippantly admitting to it both sets them at ease that it’s nothing to worry about and grosses them out just enough that they prefer not to think about it and never mention it again. I will also say that, once I got it to the point that I didn’t need to have bandaids on my fingers all the time anymore, WAY fewer people even noticed in the first place!

    24. Hills to Die on*

      Yep – just say that you pick at your cuticles and you wear the Band-Aids as a tool to help stop. It’s true and it’s not a big deal. Everyone has a ‘thing’.
      My son is OCD / ADHD / autistic / has anxiety so I feel you. I see how hard it is for him sometimes. Hang in there.

    25. Prairie*

      It’s so affirming to read this comment and all the replies! Hopefully the LW will see these and recognize that it’s not uncommon to pick cuticles and that they don’t have to disclose their mental health or neurodivergence. On the very rare occasion anyone asks me about my wounded fingers I just shrug and say “I pick my cuticles and don’t even know I’m doing it.” They don’t need my medical information.

    26. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      I also do this although less so since I started keeping a nail file at my work desk, my home office desk, and my purse. I had too many occasions where I found myself sitting in a meeting, clutching my hand in my lap with a soaked bloody tissue compressing my self-inflicted wound. (Also my husband was not shy about calling it disgusting and an invitation to infection.) When I feel the urge to bite/pick, I pick up the file instead and it has worked for me. Don’t give up on finding an alternate outlet for the urge. I do appreciate the feeling of being able to type with all ten fingers (not keeping one or two up because they’re in a damaged state).

    27. Books and Cooks*

      I FINALLY managed to stop biting my nails to the quick in my late teens–now I have long, lovely nails–but I am still an inveterate cuticle picker/biter; looking at my fingers right now reveals several of those little tags/flaps of skin that break off near the cuticle, and red spots near the cuticle. It’s unusual that all ten fingers actually have full cuticles at all, but they do at the moment.

      I am absolutely not saying anything about the OP’s feelings or attitudes toward this habit–OP, you can be as comfortable or uncomfortable as you like about it–but I’ve personally never felt the need to hide it, so I can say with certainty–just like you, FG–that most people do not think this is a big deal at all. If/when I’m asked about it, I just grin and say, “Yeah, I bite my cuticles,” and people either don’t care or (once or twice) laugh and tell me they do the same, and we spend several minutes discussing the painful-but-satisfying fun of it. I’ve even occasionally bought those little V-shaped cuticle trimmers and gone to town with those (fun at first, but ultimately too painful/too much).

      As you said, enough “normies” do it that it’s not a big issue and it’s not any kind of dog whistle or indicator of anything. If OP is worried about having to explain that they Band-Aid because of regularly doing this to the point of blood (which, OP, PLEASE add some Polysporin to your little emergency kit there!! An infection next to/under the nail is no fun, trust me), OP can just say that the Band-Aids are there to try to *prevent* OP from biting/chewing. Most people will totally understand that and think nothing more of it after that, honest! No one will think less of you or that you’re some kind of weirdo or something; almost everyone has either had a habit like this or knows someone who does. You might even find this provides a bit of an opening to bond a little or make a friend, if that’s something you want to do–not constantly talking about cuticle-chewing, of course, but just an opening to people’s other hobbies/interests/etc.

      Bottom line, this is not a big deal, and OP should not be afraid to just admit it. Of course, if OP is not comfortable doing that, it is totally up to him/her! It’s fine not to admit it, too…but as you said, s/he should at least not be afraid that doing so is going to out them as non-neurotypical or anything else.

    28. Rosie*

      Yep, I have dermatillomania, and as far as I know, no neurodivergence. My dad had it, my daughter does it; I’ve often wondered if it could possibly be genetic. I pick my cuticles absentmindedly until they bleed and sometimes beyond. It drives me nuts, and it’s at its worst when I’m stressed, bored, or depressed. It can help if I polish my nails, but I don’t always have the discipline to maintain them nicely.

    29. Glitsy Gus*

      This was my thought! As a life long nail biter/cuticle picker I also often have band aids on my fingers.

      Keeping it vague with “medical issue” is totally fine if you’re comfortable with that; but if you don’t want to get into medical at all “Just trying to break my nail biting habit” or ” Oh, nail biting is a nervous habit of mine” will make total sense to most people. Anyone who asks beyond that is being weird and nosey.

    30. Hog Wild*

      This. I am a biter too.
      The easiest thing to say may just be the most straight forward: “I bite my cuticles. It’s gross and I’m trying to quit. The bandaids help.”
      If you want to lighten the mood, you can add: “You know how you’d cone a dog to keep him from chewing? Its the same thing.”

    31. Jay*

      I’m a chronic nail biter with a powerful tendency to develop hangnails. The kind of hangnails that get infected and bleed a lot. Combine the two and I have had stretches of my life where most of my fingernails were bandaged most of the time. Saying “I just get really bad hangnails. Always have.” tends to do the trick. No need to get into the whole “bit my nails till my fingers were bleeding” part at all.

    32. Julie*

      Is the term you’re seeking “body-focused repetitive behavior” (BFRB), which describes the skin picking, nail biting, and hair pulling that is triggered by anxiety? Or “excoriation,” which is the skin picking specifically?

      For what it’s worth, when a colleague draws attention to the wounds around my fingernails, I honestly say, “It’s an anxiety thing called a body-focused repetitive behavior, like nail biting to the point of pain. Drawing attention to it or trying to break it as a bad habit makes it worse, which is a bummer for people whose parents bring it up to shame them into stopping.”

      I’m amazed by how awesome people are and how many realize someone they love has a BFRB and their attempts to help them through badgering doesn’t help.

      Then, if they are interested, I send them to bfrb.org to learn more.

    33. Jaydee*

      This was my thought too. I am a recently semi-reformed mail/cuticle destroyer who also has often had multiple bandaids at once. When I was first diagnosed with ADHD in my mid-30s, I learned that too high a dose of my stimulants made my biting/picking worse. I don’t think I made it to all 10 fingers with bandaids at once, but definitely 2-3 per hand for a while. It was bad!

      No one other than my kid (who had a fear of bandaids) ever really commented on them, but I’m sure people noticed. I’m sure they noticed me picking/biting my nails! I’m sure they noticed when I had healing cuts around my nails! So I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable just saying that I pick at my cuticles/bite my nails.

  4. Gingerblue*

    #2: As someone who can get pretty bad eczema flareups on my hands (think bleeding, raw cracks), I’ll cosign that suggestion. A breezy “Oh, I have a skin condition!” is absolutely plausible, and it’s the sort of thing that comes and goes, so it won’t seem weird if you have bandaids and then don’t.

    1. Zan+Shin*

      I agree. I have the skin picking thing, only with my feet (it is generally linked to OCD, which I don’t have, or anxiety; I suspect for me it’s a form of stimming for comfort) and feel strongly that the specifics are nobody’s business. “It’s a skin condition, it’s not contagious” works for me.

      1. Empress Penguin*

        Glad to know it’s not just me with the feet picking! My little toes are a disaster.

    2. Rosie*

      Yes this works for me as someone with dermatitis that regularly flares up. I find three plasters is about the point where people start asking, and “I have a minor skin condition so I keep it covered to heal” generally does the trick!

    3. DieTrying*

      I came here to say this: My eczema manifests in ways identical to your cuticle (etc.) picking, and I deal with it the same way.

      There could be lots of reasons, most of them totally benign, for someone to have bandaids on their fingers. Keep it breezy (“Just a minor skin thing”), let them know that you are neither in pain nor contagious, and don’t feel compel to either share beyond what you’re comfortable or to apologize. From the sound of it, you are an absolute rockstar!

    4. Macaroni Penguin*

      “I keep getting paper cuts,” is another way to explain the bandaids.
      “My skin cracks in the cold/hot weather/during a sandstorm/chinook/whatever is going on outside. It’s very annoying.”

      Probably the least unusual reason to explain the band aids is with a minor skin condition, like eczema. My poor partner suffers from it whenever the weather changes. His fingers can become quite chaffed and cracked. If anyone asks, a quick and factual statement is usually enough to move their attention elsewhere.

      1. AsPerElaine*

        Yeah, my cuticles and the skin around them are very prone to chapping and peeling. I can mostly avoid bandaids, but I often have at least one finger that’s at least a little unhappy for no good reason, and in dry weather, or if I’ve been dealing with cardboard boxes a lot, I might have multiple bandaids. If anyone asked about it, I’d probably just shrug and say something like, “Oh, yeah, they peel.”

      2. Retired (but not really)*

        I’m another one who routinely gets paper cuts and broken fingernails. I try to have some sort of scissors handy most of the time. And if someone looks askance at me I’ll just comment “there went another nail” or “file folders attacking me again”.

    5. Velma*

      +1. Keep it low-key rueful: “Eh, it’s a skin thing. Comes and goes.” Moving right along …

      You don’t owe curious people a window into your psyche.

    6. SweetFancyPancakes*

      This is me, too. In the winter I have chronic split skin on both thumbs, and sometimes other fingers, too, due to eczema. I wear bandaids all season long, and always carry them and super moisturizing ointments with me. The only people who’ve ever asked have been little kids in storytime, who notice that sometimes I struggle to turn pages with my thumbs all bandaged up.

  5. eggplants*

    Regarding letter #1, I wouldn’t even apply to a company that had so many parts to the application. They clearly don’t value their candidate’s time at all. That many requirements is just excessive and also doesn’t suggest that they have any idea what kind of applicants they want. I honestly just don’t get why companies have so many requirements with their job applications. Doesn’t that just cause well-qualified applicants to look elsewhere?

    Companies really don’t need to do this. I just finished a job search and got exactly the type of job I was looking for, and I only had to submit a resume. I had to have four interviews, but I’m now working at a company with amazing benefits and employee perks and got a 25% salary increase from my previous job. I wouldn’t have even applied if the requirements had been anything like what was described in this letter.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Agreed – a company that doesn’t respect the candidates isn’t going to get better over time.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Can you imagine the length of the surveys to try and figure out why people keep dropping out of the application process?

    2. This is Artemesia*

      What is particularly irritating is you know that the company is not reading this stuff. Of course they will skim the resume and cover letter and discard 80 of the applicants off the top without looking at any of this busy work.

      Don’t apply and let them know why

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Yes, I agree with that second part. I don’t think there is any harm in contacting the recruiter back, thanking them for the opportunity, and explaining the the application process is too involved and they respectfully have to decline. If the recruiter gets a lot of feedback like that, they may be able to persuade the company to change their process. Won’t do anything to help OP but it could help future applicants.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      This telegraphs “we don’t know how to hire and we are loaded with self-doubt” quite well.

      I bet this is a company that concludes, “People don’t want to work any more!”
      No. They just don’t want to work for this labor-intensive company that needs a lot of hand-holding.

      Back in the late 70s a company wanted me to work a shift for free “while I trained and they checked for fit”. nope, nope, nope. In that time, refusing to work for free was a radical idea to some people. OP, don’t work for free.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Saw a thread this morning that collected US newspaper stories claiming “People just don’t want to work any more!” going back to the 1800s. Including the Great Depression.

        1. quill*

          Yeah, some rich schmuck has been complaining to a newspaper that no one wants to work anymore since there have been newspapers. Never mind whether people are leaving his matchstick factory for one that comes with a 1 cent pay increase per match and less chance of phosphorous poisoning, or whether his tenant farmers literally cannot farm enough to feed themselves and pay rent.

            1. JanetM*

              “Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book!”

              (Often attributed to Roman lawyer and orator Marcus Tullis Cicero, 1st century, B.C.)

    4. The Original K.*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t do all that either. I have a friend who dropped out of a process after interview #5 with no end in sight. All the unpaid work LW is describing is insane. It’s inefficient on both sides – the employer isn’t going to read all that for every candidate.

      1. Another freelancer*

        The no end in sight is what the op should think about too. It sounds like the company is trying everything under the sun for the application process and might go on a similar path for the actual interview process. I don’t think it’s a stretch to think this company will require multiple rounds of interviews, presentations and so on before offering the role.

        1. alienor*

          During my last job search, the company that had the lengthiest application process also had the second-lengthiest interview process (they didn’t quite beat the place where I interviewed seven times before being ghosted, but close) so I think your assessment is accurate.

    5. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      at the “before an interview “ part my jaw did literally drop. Out of their minds.

    6. anne of mean gables*

      That, and (as someone with a background in psychology) – I would not want to work for a company that administered neurocognitive tests as part of employment screening*. Particularly for a director level position, but really at all (maybe there are some positions where a certain neurocognitive trait is truly predictive of success – air traffic controller? – but not many). That raises all kinds of red flags for me, and is not a company I would want to work for.
      *assuming a situation where I had the luxury of being picky – of course that’s not always the case

      1. linger*

        The only possible (weak) excuse for Company to demand this volume of work would be if being headhunted for the position brought OP in to a later stage in the process than other candidates, so that the listed tasks were a combined catch-up of 3-4 selection rounds. (And even so, the process would still be a bit much.)

    7. Curmudgeon in California*


      When I see “… behavior assessment, cognitive assessment, provide five work samples, six questions on culture/climate as relates to the company’s mission and how candidate fit (they stated they expect candidates to spend one hour at least on it), and re-creating a work sample project…” it tells me that the company thinks that applicants need to be desperate enough to want the job enough to go through lots of demeaning and discriminatory testing (cognitive and behavioral assessments are pure HR snake oil, and the actively discriminate against neurodivergent and disabled people.)

      Run away fast.

  6. OP5*

    I’m #5!
    The conversation was literally a non issue. Thank you so much Alison for quelling my anxiety and preserving my vacation!

    1. Michelle Smith*

      Thank goodness. I had two weeks between jobs recently and honestly wish I could have stretched it longer. It made a HUGE difference in how I was able to show up to a job that is way more intellectually intensive than my last one. Take and enjoy your time!

    2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      Glad it worked out! There was 4 weeks between my notice and my new job, working 3 weeks then a week vacation. I really wish I would have just gave the two weeks and taken two weeks off, because honestly the last week was pretty useless. All projects had been handed off, procedures were up to date. An extra week off would have been much better. I don’t think I’d ever give a longer notice again.

      1. The Bat*

        YES, I am in my final week at current job. I gave 5.5 weeks notice because my boss had just started a two week vacation and when he came back, I was going to be gone for two weeks on vacation, so then I would back for two weeks, which I considered my actual transition period. Well, I’d known for months that I was likely leaving (job offer was delayed because of budget) and had spent plenty of time organizing everything for a smooth transition. By the time I came back from vacation, everyone had already figured out how to get along without me, and it was just…weird.

  7. Heidi*

    For proper names and titles, I will Ctrl+C/Ctrl+V from their website instead of typing it all out. Even very good typists make typos sometimes. If their own website has it wrong, I figure they can’t really blame me for it.

    1. Chrissy*

      Copying and pasting from the website is a great idea, but I would use Ctrl+Shift+V to get rid of any formatting that doesn’t match your document. That way you don’t accidentally end up with text with a different font or color from the rest of your cover letter.

      1. nobadcats*

        Yeah, that feature in Word is very handy! In the pull-down menu, under Edit, it’s called “Paste & Match Style.” This is one of my little daily irritations though, “Word. Word! Unless I specifically tell you otherwise, I always want to match style when I paste text from another doc/website, etc.”

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Personally, I would be ecstatic if -a- I could set Paste as Plain Text as my default in all Office applications, and -b- it would STICK on the rare occasions I manage to do so.

          1. nobadcats*

            I hear you!

            I have to copy/pasta from many different docs and platforms (think Word/Excel/Goog docs/Goog sheets/email, etc.

            And don’t get me started on editing hyperlinks in Word. I’m working on a project now that the client has specified a VERY persnickity format (think: Llama Grooming for Beginners | International Llama Association). When the team writing the docs doesn’t follow that format, it’s a lot of arrow key back and forth. If I try to do a search/replace, or even a simple delete, it’ll just lop off the bit I’m trying to cx.

        2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          LOL, I hate that about Word. Why does Microsoft think anyone wants a different font in their footnotes than in the text? Why, Microsoft, why?

        3. Emmy Noether*

          you can set it as a default! Don’t ask me how exactly (I forget that kind of thing immediately), but I’m sure a search will turn up a how-to. I did it and it’s sooo much more convenient.

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

        There is also the Clear All Formatting tool — the letter A or sometimes Ab with what looks like an eraser next to it. It seems to be in all Microsoft products (at least on a Mac), so I use it in Teams, Outlook and PowerPoint often.

      3. MPH Researcher*

        I was today years old (aka 40 and a Word user for 20+ years) when I found this out. This is a game-changer. Thank you for sharing!

      4. OhKay*

        You can also use Format Painter for any that slip through the cracks! It saves so much time in Word and Excel.

  8. Larry*

    How could the pay gap be effectively addressed in this case? The OP reports they are working in an industry that is struggling so giving raises may put the company in the red. The logical flip side of this is to take the overage that the OP is making and split it among the two women. That obviously has it’s downsides but I am wondering if this is a thing though because even the perception that this could happen can seriously disincentivize men trying to help address the wage gap.

    1. Mae Fuller*

      Well – given that the highest paid is the joint-newest recruit, I think that’s the owner’s problem to solve. Maybe they reduce their own pay/profits. If they can’t afford to pay women at the rate OP’s partner has been offered, they can’t afford those posts at that salary at all – the women working for something just below a living wage are not responsible for solving that (and neither is the OP).

      1. A Yellow Plastic Duck*

        It’s not unusual for the newest hire to be the highest paid.

        How many times have you read stories of people who have been at a company for years and discover the new hire is making more than they are?

        “Switch jobs to get a raise” has become a thing for a reason. Many companies are loath to give raises because the feel if they already have the person, why give them a raise?

        Maybe the company is discriminating against women. Or maybe the situation would be the same if it were two men. I don’t know.

        I do know it should be a huge red flag to your husband that the company allows current employees to go underpaid. If he thinks his salary will keep up with inflation and the going rate in the job market, he’s likely to be disappointed.

        1. EPLawyer*

          The woman hired at the SAME TIME got less salary. They are both entry level. It’s his FIRST office job. So nope, not a case of switching jobs to get more money.

          Can we PLEASE stop trying to find excuses to justify WRONG behavior. This is like the letter from yesterday where people were saying “well maybe your cousin you grew up with really WAS a poor minority immigrant and you just didn’t know it.” Today its “its okay to be sexist and pay women, IF the complete opposite of what is stated in the letter is assumed.”

          1. EPLawyer*

            and I should have used the read aloud function to proofread.

            that should have read “its okay to be sexist and pay women LESS, IF the complete oppoise of what is stated in the letter is assumed.”

          2. A Yellow Plastic Duck*

            One woman has been there longer. The other hired at the same time.

            It’s also possible the new woman is not as good at negotiating salary as the husband is. The sample is not large enough (1 man, 1 woman) to be 100% certain the reason is sexism.

            If the company could get away with paying the man less, why aren’t they?

            1. Cynan*

              You don’t have to be 100% certain of sexism to flag this as potential sexism, and “she isn’t as good at negotiating” isn’t an excuse to violate the law.

              1. A Yellow Plastic Duck*

                If the pay difference is due to a difference in negotiating skills, and not sexism, then the company isn’t violating the law.

                1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

                  The difference between “good at negotiating” and sexism isn’t as clear as you think.
                  Boss man could easily have been more receptive to the man’s request for more money than the woman’s.

                2. MCMonkeyBean*

                  Pay differences due to negotiating “skills” are still very much part of sexism in the work place, due primarily to the facts that 1) women are socialized differently than men and not generally taught to ask for what they want in that way and 2) studies have shown that in fact women who do try to negotiate are often viewed poorly compared to men to try to negotiate.

                3. Bob-White of the Glen*

                  It’s still illegal, but keep coming up with excuses to pay women less. One of them may stick and you won’t have to use your old ones.

            2. Teach*

              You have identified the huge problem with salary negotiation and sexism. Yeah, it’s easier to ask for more money from somebody who looks, acts, and thinks more similarly to you, and is already predisposed to think your gender is worth more. Unless her job is going to be negotiating, her negotiation “skills” should not determine her pay.

              1. Emmy Noether*

                My dad keeps sending me articles about how women don’t negotiate enough. And I’m like “yeah, Dad, the real problem is that women, as a group, have never heard of the concept of negotiation, so the solution is clearly to tell them they just have to do it! Easypeasy! Clearly.”

                1. Migraine Month*

                  Yeah, ladies, we have the power to solve sexism! We just have to Lean In!

            3. EPLawyer*

              If they could get away with paying a man less they would. But they KNOW that wouldn’t fly. So they don’t. While knowing they can get away with paying women less.

              When the obvious is STARING YOU IN THE FACE, go with it.

              Oh and the reason women are less capable at negotiating salary is because of all the excuses given here as to why they SHOULD be pay less. So why bother negotiating?

            4. Lizzy May*

              The new woman is “not as good at negotiating salary” because of sexism and misogyny. When a man negotiates, he’s seen as strong. A woman who negotiates is difficult so women are taught not to push very hard. This is why businesses need to focus on equity. Individual women are not responsible for fixing a structural inequity in hiring.

            5. Emma*

              “If the company could get away with paying the man less, why aren’t they?”

              That’s an interesting point. I am wondering to why companies like this don’t just hire women if they know they will save money by hiring women vs men. I know most companies will outsource at the drop of a hat if they know it will save them money.

              1. EPLawyer*

                Because they need to groom someone to move into managerial positions. So they have to hire a few men so they have future bosses.

              2. I should really pick a name*

                Because a lot of this is systemic.
                They don’t set out planning to pay women less, but due to various issues such as unexamined biases, and societal pressure against women negotiating, it happens.

              3. Mill Miker*

                To put on my cynical hat, they don’t see it as a deal. To them, they’re not “paying 90% of the cost for 100% of the value”, they see it as “paying 90% of the cost for 80% of the value”.

                And to put another cynic hat over the first, they expect that men will be complacent (as the system works for them), so outsourcing the work and giving the job to a man both have the “benefit” of not having the company’s sexism questioned.

                To be clear, I don’t agree with the above, I’m just speculating on the awful reasoning.

            6. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

              That’s not an excuse for paying women less, because negotiating salary isn’t an important job skill that the company is paying their employees for.

              The default isn’t that discrimination is OK, legally or morally, unless you can prove that the company is doing so on purpose. I suppose it’s possible that there’s a legitimate reason to pay the just-hired entry-level male employee better than either of the women who are doing the same job, but most of the time it’s plain sexism. “Well, he asked” isn’t a legitimate reason to pay a man more than a woman, and “I didn’t think he’d take the job for the salary I offered the woman” is even less of one.

            7. Jora Malli*

              “Women are less likely/worse at negotiating” is a misogynistic trope that’s been used to deny women equal pay for generations, and it’s dumb. If you are hiring two new employees for equivalent positions with equivalent experience, as seems to be the case for this letter, you pay them the same salary. The only reason not to is actually stated in the letter. The boss is a misogynist who is paying the women less because he wants to.

              1. quill*

                Any entirely subjective skill is also meaningless when it comes to determining if men or women are better at something… there have been studies, for example, on how blind auditions for orchestras increased the number of female instrumentalists. Because being a woman was the thing that lead the decisionmakers to decide you were less skilled than a male competitor.

                (Also, putting carpets down to prevent people from hearing high heels further decreased the gender gap in an orchestra… the biases were very much unconscious.)

            8. quill*

              For various reasons! One of them being the minimum that a sexist institution thinks a man deserves is still more than the minimum they think a woman deserves.

              The bias is unconscious, the decision to cut costs isn’t.

          3. Jora Malli*

            I agree with you. The only way to make these kinds of excuses is to completely ignore the information in the letters, and then the comment section turns into an argument about hypotheticals instead of something that could be helpful for the LWs. We’re meant to believe the letter writers’ descriptions of their experiences, and it bugs me when those descriptions get thrown out for a bunch of comments like “but if this were an entirely different situation, it would be entirely different!”

          4. Migraine Month*

            Hey EPLawyer, my understanding of the law is that it’s illegal to pay a man more than a woman for the same work (or vice-versa), regardless of the details of why it occurred. So even if the men are newer or negotiated, it’s still an illegal practice. Do you know if that is the case?

    2. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

      It’s a difference of $3k. Let the owner take a paycut if he has to–he’s breaking the freaking LAW.

    3. Teach*

      The answer to #4 was great. Share the information and let the women decide what to do. If the partner is too concerned about losing his job/current pay to speak up, the women might be, too. But they should be informed enough to make that decision on their own. When he tells them, he should also ask them what kind of support they would like from him, giving them time to think about that if they need to. If they decide that they want to go to the boss as a group with this situation, he should stand up for them together with as many other employees as they can round up. Safety in numbers. And yeah, where the boss pulls out the extra few thousand dollars from is very, very much not their problem. If the boss were to ask this guy whether he would be willing to reduce his salary to pay the women more, he should counter with (some more polite version of), “is the business really doing that poorly?”

    4. Rain's Small Hands*

      Also, the Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963. Lets assume the owner of the company was 18 years old in 1963 when this was signed and started the company then. The company has been in business 59 years and the owner is 77 years old and has been unaware of changes in law during the past 60 years. That’s possible, but unlikely. Lets stop making the excuse that these guys are from another time and this is just “old fashioned” – this has been the law for as long as almost everyone working today has been employed. Equal pay isn’t some new fangled notion that came along with avocado toast and cryptocurrency. Guys doing this aren’t “old fashioned” and “from another time” – they are sexist.

      I had good luck with this approach back in the 1980s when I pointed out to HR that equal pay had been the law for longer than I’d been alive.

      1. Migraine Month*

        I always assumed “old fashioned” was just a quick way to say “sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, etc.”

        1. fhqwhgads*

          Yeah “old-fashioned” = “saw 9 to 5 in its original theatrical release and thought Dabney Coleman’s character was the hero”.

    5. Nanani*

      “Oh no think of the menz” is not constructive.
      Nobody is asking LWs husband to starve to fix a societal problem.
      Men’s perception isn’t nearly as important as the actual inequality.
      Bringing it up to both the people affected and the people with power to do something about it is the bare minimum and even THAT makes you go “but what about” then you have some self-reflecting to do.

      1. Emma*

        “Oh no think of the menz is not constructive.”

        Neither is creating straw men to mock other posters

        “Nobody is asking LWs husband to starve to fix a societal problem.”

        He wants to help so everyone is trying to figure out what he can do.

        “Men’s perception isn’t nearly as important as the actual inequality.”

        It is when you are trying to gather and use your allies properly.

        “Bringing it up to both the people affected and the people with power to do something about it is the bare minimum and even THAT makes you go “but what about” then you have some self-reflecting to do.”

        I think you have some self reflecting to do as well. You seem to have an inexplicably strong reaction to what was posted.

    6. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > giving raises may put the company in the red

      The other side of this is that if the company needs to lay people off in the future, assuming there isn’t some other obvious difference between him and the others (performance etc) it seems likely that the partner, as the highest paid but by his own admission contributing equally to the others, would be at the top of the list…

    7. Migraine Month*

      If the company is really struggling and cannot pay their current employees at that level, they shouldn’t have hired the new guy at that pay point. By offering him that pay level, they’re saying that his work is worth more than that to the company; I don’t see why that wouldn’t hold true for the female employees as well, given that at least one has more years of experience.

      I guess it’s conceivable that a company would cut the new person’s pay or lay them off, but that seems extremely unlikely. If a few thousand dollars a year is going to bankrupt the company, everyone should anticipate cuts or layoffs soon anyway.

  9. learnedthehardway*

    OP#4 – I think your DH should be careful about what he says or does. Yes, he’s being paid a bit more than female coworkers who have been at the company longer, and it is laudable that he is concerned and wants to support their rights to equal pay. That said, he should take some time to settle in, gain credibility, and figure out the landscape before advocating for anything or going to bat for anyone.

    It’s possible that his salary was influenced by his grades, or by inflation, or by a scarcity of talent. I’m going to assume that there is some level of sexism at play here, too, but it may also be simply that it was easier and cheaper to hire people at the height of COVID than it is now. Should the company be redressing this pay situation – yes. But his coworkers have the option to request an increase in their compensation, and they should exercise that option.

    Since his coworkers clearly have shared their salary info with him, he can reciprocate and should be able to do so without fear of retaliation. But that’s an ideal, and he’s new to the company.

    (Speaking as someone who WAS open about what their salary was, had a colleague who was incensed that they were making less, and a manager who was NOT happy about having to renegotiate salaries. The fact that I was let go a month later – well, I can’t prove it was about that situation, but I know that it was.)

    1. Emmy Noether*

      I don’t think we need to be finding excuses here when the most likely explanation – sexism – is staring us right in the face.

      There are two women being paid less than the guy. One has more experience and the other was hired at the same time. So it’s not about the hiring market or inflation, and it’s not about grades/experience. And the boss is known to be sexist! This isn’t even a “hear hoofbeats: think horses, not zebras!” situation, this is a “think horses, not unicorns!” situation.

      1. quill*

        I think Allison is going to have to implement an Occam’s Big Paisley Tie rule around here… (for those who search and get nothing but ads, It’s something along the lines of “don’t invent extraneously complicated explanations for what unconscious bias such (as sexism, racism,) already explains.”

        1. Hlao-roo*

          I think Occam’s Big Paisley Tie originated on the blog Shakesville:

          If Occam’s Razor is the principle by which the simplest explanation is usually the correct one, this urge to exhaust every possible explanation—no matter how convoluted, remote, unlikely, or totally fucking absurd—is Occam’s Big Paisley Tie.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      Alison’s suggestion of letting his coworker’s salary means he doesn’t actually need to go to bat for anyone himself.

    3. Migraine Month*

      I don’t think the solution to “the company *might* illegally retaliate against me for sharing my pay information” is to just never talk about pay. There’s a reason it’s a legal right for workers (in the US), and it’s specifically to enable workers (especially minorities) to be paid what they’re worth.

      If I found out my employer was willing to break multiple labor laws, I’d be looking for a new employer (and filing a complaint with the labor department).

    4. Books and Cooks*

      Yes. IMO part of the reason why we’re seeing what some are calling “whataboutism” or “excuses” in the comments is because of the old adage about never attributing to malice that which can be blamed on incompetence. Is it likely or highly possible that this is due to sexism? Yes. But is it possible that it’s simply a case of Boss–who sounds a bit flaky–tossing out one number one day and another number another day; or seeing that Woman made $35k at her last job so offering her $40k while LWH stated he wanted $45k and Boss giving it to him, without stopping to think about what the difference actually meant; or not realizing that “negotiation” isn’t a legal reason to pay two people differently? YES. It certainly is likely. (And it’s also possible there are other factors at play, like LW’s husband has experience with X and Boss has plans to start including X more so he offered LWH a little more on the basis of that, or the woman hired at the same time as LWH agreed to a lower salary in exchange for more vacation days or a more flexible schedule, or some other benefit or ask that LWH is not aware of. Everyone is quick to assume the woman are victims here, instead of thinking they perhaps made a particular decision for themselves and LWH is unaware of it.)

      And for me the main point is that LWH will likely fare a lot better in his new workplace if he views this as a simple oversight, an innocent mistake, rather than going into a meeting about it or discussing it with his co-workers with “This is sexist BS” simmering on his emotional back-burner–and the way he presents it to his co-workers may affect how they see it, and how they bring it up to Boss, as well. Coming at the issue from a place of, “Gosh, Boss, we’ve just realized that even though we’re all entry-level and have the same experience and education, Man is making $3k/y more than we are. Of course this is an innocent mistake, but this is actually against the law, so we knew we needed to make you aware right away. How would you like to handle this?”

      That’s going to go over a lot better than, “Man just told us he’s making $3k/y more than we are, and you are clearly sexist.”

      And again, he should make SURE there’s not something else going on to explain the difference before he speaks. I agree with you about taking a little more time to learn the lay of the land etc., too. Not months, but just a little more time to be sure he understands all of the particulars and especially how best to speak up without causing a problem. It does sound like Boss is a bit of a flake (to put it mildly), and will probably not appreciate this conversation…so again, going in bristling with righteous anger is probably a good way to get several people fired.

      If this was a large corporation I would advise differently, but as described by LW I think LWH needs to tread carefully here, and triple-check all the facts. (Perhaps even having a brief chat with Boss about how salaries were decided upon, without revealing he’s aware of the difference? Because again, there could be an actual reason other than P vs V. There probably isn’t, but it is possible, and LWH should try to keep that in mind in order to keep accusation out of his tone.)

      1. Ketall*

        “Flakey” boss throwing out different numbers on different days without thought is not an alternate explanation.

        If you ask 100 flakey bosses to throw out offers to one woman and one man, do you really think the average for each will be equal? Even if each boss sincerely believes sexism wasn’t a factor? Unconscious bias is real.

  10. Rose*

    #2 I am a similar flavor of neurospicy, and I also deal with a longtime habit of picking the skin around my nails. “It’s all good” with a dismissive wave has been my go-to response whenever asked; people usually don’t press past that.

    Two pieces of advice I can share: first, follow Dermatillo Armadillo on Twitter. I love her stuff; that’s the first place I ever heard the word dermatillomania, and it helped SO MUCH knowing I wasn’t alone! And second, I have found that the sensory input of flip sequins satisfies the same craving as the skin picking, with the obvious added bonus of being less destructive! I have a flip sequin bracelet (which I got for $5 at Walmart) and a Beanie Boo mini flip sequin keychain plushie, and they both go almost everywhere with me. It really helps!

    1. Elmost*

      ! A bracelet! What a good idea. I have a scab picking thing, always have, probably anxiety related, and I love those flip sequin pillows – but they give my husband the jibblies, kind of like nails on a chalkboard. So something small like a bracelet would be perfect!

    2. Willow Pillow*

      I’m an autistic, OCD picker as well… I like Calm strips and those spiky rings you can get in a large pack on Amazon. I also find that moisturizing helps – I have Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream and it’s helpful (especially since winters here are dry AF). It’s a little bit scented, but I’m sure there are unscented alternatives!

  11. hmn10134*

    Fellow skin picker here. I used to wear gloves in college to keep myself from picking and still remember a prof asking about it and then telling me he did it as well. First person I had ever come across at that point with the same impulse! Makes you feel much less alone.
    Not going to work for everyone, but stick on nails (think Kiss by Impress brand) have been a life-saver for me. Something about the thickness of them makes it harder to pick at my fingers and since they only last about a week, there is much satisfaction in picking them off at the end of their life.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      It is such a comfort to realize it has a name and lots of people do it and it even has a name, dermatillomania!

      I also found I picked less when I had my nails done but it was hard to be completely healed in order to get them done. I never thought of the newish stick on nails. Have you tried stick on nail polish, does that work?

      I’m excited to share griply finger covers, I mentioned them upthread. They give me the picking and scratchy sensation I’m after.

    2. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

      I don’t have this condition, so I don’t know if this is a good solution- but my first thought was gloves. There are people who wear them (typically to bed, I know) for dry skin, so that is a good cover up (pun intended?) and would mask how many bandages are on the fingers, if bandages are needed at that point. Plus, they’d cover the area that one is picking on, so hopefully it’d discourage that. The downside to that is that I know I personally hate wearing gloves because I can’t get used to typing or doing manual things with them on. Even maybe the tipless gloves might help in that case?

    3. Fishmonger*

      Another name – motor stereotypes. I use calm strips (Google them). You can put them anywhere. I have one on my phone case.

    4. cubone*

      I have trichotillomania (hair pulling) and I wear gloves at home because they prevent me from getting any grip. I’ve also done the band aids on fingers and tbh, “nail biting”, while still being dermatillomania, debilitating and unpleasant etc (for some/many people), is much MUCH more culturally accepted than “I yank my own hair out” (or so says my lifetime of anecdotal research as someone who has both).

      I just went with “helping my nails heal”, “dry weather”, “skin condition” etc to justify the bandaids. Or even “oh? They help my skin” and change the subject.

      Much love to everyone who has these disorders.

    5. Finger Bandaid Club Member*

      I’m glad it’s not just me that uses fake nails to stop picking/biting! I get full acrylics, which are expensive, but much sturdier – the regular stick-ons I can get off in literally an hour because I have crappy nail beds, too. Granted, I think this works for me because my picking almost always starts with my nails, and approximately 3 seconds later when I’ve ripped all my nails down to the nail beds I immediately shift to my cuticles/surrounding fingers. If I stop the nail destruction, my brain seems to forget I have cuticles most of the time.

      I’ve started to just embrace it when people ask, but that’s because now my hands generally look okay most of the time – “Oh I get these because I compulsively destroy my hands without them. Tried everything from manicures to intensive therapy, this is the only thing that seems to work.”

      1. Rain's Small Hands*

        I’m another who has discovered that manicures help (although acrylics were too hard on my nail beds). My dermatologist says the whole eating cuticles (my thing), picking scabs (again my thing), thing is incredibly common, and I don’t think its merely the neurodiverse (I’m fairly neurotypical myself). Also, long sleeves and lotion or ointment – and having something to do with your hands. For me knitting where appropriate. Doodling when in meetings. Any rough edges on skin or nails and I’m on it.

  12. WoodswomanWrites*

    For #1, what I’m trying to figure out is how they get ANY applicants in this process. This sounds more like a fiefdom than a workplace.

    1. Expiring Cat Memes*

      Exactly! If they want candidates that are desperate, have poor boundaries, are unlikely to negotiate, question authority or advocate for themselves, well this process is a great way to screen for them. Can you picture working for the kind of tyrant who has expectations like this..? Hard pass.

      1. kiki*

        What’s interesting about jobs like this is that I feel like they implement more intensive screening processes after receiving applications from candidates they didn’t like, but then they go too far and make the screening processes so ridiculous that the only people willing to apply are those without many other options. And then they wonder why they’re not seeing applications of the caliber they’re looking for.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      It may be that they don’t, and they are sitting around complaining that no one wants to work nowadays.

    3. Lilo*

      I honestly might have noped out after the “five writing samples” requirement. That’s way more than normal.

    4. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

      Yeah I really want LW to ask the recruiter how things have been going.

    5. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      I have nothing to add, but I appreciate your use of “fiefdom.” Made my morning.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      I wonder if the job just involves taking endless aptitude tests? This would be an effective way to screen for people who really enjoy that.

    7. fhqwhgads*

      By not making it clear up front that there will be this many hoops, and by the time the applicant knows they’ve already jumped through some – then the sunk cost fallacy kicks in.

  13. Emma H*

    Re letter #2, I would think a simple “Oh, I’m trying not to pick at my nails; nervous habit!” would satisfy even the nosiest of enquiring minds. Or “I’m trying to stop biting my nails” if you feel comfortable with a small fib. Nail biting and nail picking is soooooooo common; it doesn’t scream “disability!”. I don’t imagine many, or any, people would even raise an eyebrow about it. I say this as a lifelong nailbiter and nail/finger picker!

  14. bamcheeks*

    LW3, it sounds like your main problem is proofreading your own work. I find it’s easier if I make it look different to the document I’ve been poring over, so these are all tricks I use:

    1. Print it out, take it somewhere different, and proofread closely.
    2. Change the font and font size so the line breaks are in a totally different place.
    3. Read it aloud, expressively / as if you have an audience.
    4. Get someone else to proofread it for you.

    Good luck!

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      If there is time enough, just setting it aside and returning to it a few days later helps a great deal.

      1. SelinaKyle*

        Totally. I do this.
        If I read it as soon as I’ve finished I tend to read what I meant to write instead of what is on the page. If I leave it and come back to it, I read it as is. I also find it easier to catch errors on paper than on a computer screen. However, I don’t have a printer anymore so I too often use the read aloud function.

      2. biobotb*

        That helps so much. Give your brain some time to forget exactly what you *think* the document says.

  15. TEMF*

    #2 – Don’t stress! Heaps of people do this, it’s not that strange. You could always say you’re trying to quit biting your nails or something, but generally nobody will notice or care, and if asked the truth is fine (don’t need to give the list of diagnoses, just “nervous habit”).

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I don’t know if I’m being over sensitive but I’ve found people think I’m a nervous person and see me differently if I say nervous habit. They ask what makes me nervous and turn it into a whole thing. I’d recommend never saying nervous habit. Also, I hate the convo about various dry skin creams so I also don’t say I have dry skin.

      I’m most comfortable and successful at shutting down the convo I don’t want to have when I say, I pick and the bandaids help prevent it, even if I’m really covering wounds.

      Also, I’m neurotypical if that matters to the OP. Dermatillomania is really common!

      1. cubone*

        One thing I’ve noticed from a lifetime of dermatillomania and trichotillomania (skin picking + hair pulling) is that the “nail biting is a nervous habit” is very pervasive and … interesting. I’m not here to diagnosis people, but nail biting/cuticle picking is SO widely understood as “nervousness” that the seriousness of its impact can be incredibly minimized, IMO?

        Like I’ve had tons of friends who are so supportive of my issues, and say “wow that must be so hard”…. And then are like “I’m spending $100 every week to get my nails done to try to stop picking them because I can’t stop and they’re bloody stubs”. Like .. that’s dermatillomania. It sucks. It’s a sucky mental illness. It’s in the DSM. I dunno. I wish this was a more insightful comment, but personally I think our cultural understanding of nail biting as a “”nervous habit”” isn’t really accurate or helpful for a lot of people. There are therapeutic treatments for it and instead folks are given a lot of “just learn to stop!” advice.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I hate that whole “just learn to stop” advice. That hardly works for anything, really. I had some bladder issues and was telling a urologist I had to go to the bathroom a lot and he was like, “well, just don’t go as often,” which was the most unhelpful advice ever. Sure, I *could* hold it, but the point was that holding it was uncomfortable and I would like to not have to hold it, thank you very much.

          Anyway, sorry if that’s TMI. I also agree that nail biting/skin picking/hair pulling (hello, I am also a hair puller) are not nervous habits; I am not a nervous person. I pull/pick because my hands get bored. I started knitting and that helped a lot with keeping my hands out of my hair, but if I am somewhere and I have no knitting, right back to hair pulling I go. I wear my hair up 99% of the time and that also prevents pulling, but if my hair is down, back to hair pulling I go. I played with my hair as a baby. Fidgets don’t help either because I mostly find them annoying or not stimulating in the way I need stimulation; I think knitting is good because it is at least productive. I also pick because I don’t like having flaps of skin on my fingers. I guess other people don’t even notice them, but they drive me bananas and I need to get rid of them.

          I commented on another thread that I’d substitute “play” for “pick” if OP is worried about stigma. Picking has more negative connotations than playing, IMO. YMMV though.

          1. cubone*

            I saw your “play” comment and I totally agree! Love that.

            I was recently diagnosed ADHD and was reading a book about cleaning for depressed people (something I have an immensely hard time with and feel very ashamed of) and the author said something just like…. almost all advice accounts to “just do the thing” because people can only recommend what has worked for them in their skills and contexts and we are all in different contexts with different skills. I have so many friends whose cleaning tips essentially amount to “I find it easy because I like having a clean home”. Yeah, I also like having a clean home … but I don’t find it easy. On the flip side, I love job hunting and writing resumes and those friends come to me in tears. We all have strengths etc blah blah.

            1. Books and Cooks*

              I’m a tad hesitant to post this because I don’t want you to feel pressured or like I think my advice is magic and you should just listen to it, and I’m aware this may not be helpful at all, but it’s intended as sort of humorous “advice” more than a pushy, “Do this!” I also love having a clean home,** and I actually *like* some forms of cleaning–like scrubbing a dirty tub can be really satisfying–but I hate the drudgery wash-dishes-vacuum-fold-clothes kind of cleaning. (And I also have depression, and I know how it feels to just not have the strength, will, or inclination to clean something, even myself…so please do not feel like this is a “It’s totally easy if you change your outlook!” or “You’re just not looking at it the right away! type of comment. It’s really just a couple of little mental “tricks” that *sometimes* help me, and have helped a few others I know.)

              The first–which isn’t new advice/concept, but the way I think of it is a bit different, I think–is headphones and audiobooks/Netflix/Hulu/etc. If I can pop on my headphones and listen to a great book or show (mostly listening but a little watching), then my motivation or reason for washing the dishes or vacuuming or cleaning the bathroom isn’t “Get this done,” it’s “Do something so I can keep listening to the story.” I see it as a way of tricking myself into doing the tasks, basically, and I’ve found it does help me, and gives me some motivation to do those tasks when nothing else will.

              The second, which is the “humorous” advice (and another way of tricking myself into doing things), is telling myself I’m going to do some other task I hate even more. It’s amazing how when our taxes need to be done, suddenly I’m ready to vacuum and fold clothes! When I know I need to sit down and do Task A, Tasks B – F become *much* more appealing. I can actually procrastinate by doing work! I’m a writer, and I’d say that at least half the time, my house only gets cleaned because I’m avoiding writing by cleaning.

              (And for showers and such? I have a little waterproof speaker, and I put my phone into a Ziploc bag and prop it on the soap dish if it’s something I’m watching rather than an audiobook or podcast. On days when I really just don’t feel motivated to even get out of bed, much less get in the shower, it often helps to know that if I get in there, I can listen to X or watch a little more of Y, which is what I really want to do.)

              **”I find it easy because I like having a clean home?” Jeez. Wow, that’s unusual, most of us love living in filth and squalor. I mean, I don’t mean to be rude to or about your friends, and I’m sure they meant well, but “because I like having a clean home” is really kind of patronizing and unhelpful, isn’t it, and implies that those of us who don’t find it easy, or don’t always have the strength to do it, are just slobs who like dirt? I’d be really hurt if someone said that to me, honestly, and speaking as someone who has been a full-time stay-home mom for over twenty years now (so has lots of experience with housekeeping and housekeeping tips and tricks etc.), that’s probably the least helpful housekeeping or cleaning tip I’ve ever heard. “Just decide you like a clean home,” doesn’t offer anything concrete or actionable at all, or explain how to break down big tasks into easier pieces or motivate yourself to do them or cut down on the time and labor. It reminds me of those “How to Save Money” articles that start with things like, “Stop buying big Starbucks drinks twice a day, and make coffee at home!” like people on tight salaries aren’t already doing that. Again, sorry, I just feel so bad that was said to you.

              (It does actually lead me to one more tip, though, which is that if you can afford it, have someone come in once to do a professional cleaning. It is a LOT easier to *keep* something fairly clean than to clean it to begin with, and even if you haven’t done the work yourself it can be a real boost to come home to a sparkling house/apartment. Not everyone can afford it–I certainly can’t–but I know what a difference it can make in my outlook and overall mood to have everything clean, and I know that it’s a lot easier to focus on keeping it that way than it is to try to get it that way.)

              Whether these were helpful at all or not, or made you smile a little or not, I wish you the best, I understand where you’re coming from, and I hope that at least it’s helped a little to know you’re not the only one.

              1. cubone*

                these are all interesting and I appreciate the thoughtfulness with which you shared them! :) for the record, if you’re interested, the book is How to Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis and I would recommend it to anyone with depression/ADHD. Or just… anyone. She talks a lot about parenting/cleaning with kids so might be interesting for you too! If it intrigues you that is.

                Your first point (Netflix/headphones etc) reminds me of something my ADHD therapist has said, which is to use motivators before a dreaded task. Where a lot of people might benefit from “once I get this done, I’ll watch my fav show”, the ADHD motivation brain works differently, so you reward yourself FIRST as motivation. So this totally tracks.

                ” my house only gets cleaned because I’m avoiding writing by cleaning.” – I completely get this. Obviously some times I have to do the dreaded thing, but a lot of times my motivation is just “do the most interesting/exciting one first” and then that makes the next one a little less painful, I’m on a roll. Also, I do like that all of these are mental “tricks” which I think works well too – I’m sometimes a fan of the “future you favor” idea (basically, do the thing as a “favor” to future you, and then when future you appreciates it, you try to remember to thank past you for doing it)

                I appreciate the point about the friends comments… honestly, I think a lot of them might also just have some unrecognized anxiety and I wonder if its “liking a clean home” or actually “compulsively needing to keep things spotless” slash “maintaining a false sense of perfection and refusing to let anyone see my home in its true, imperfect state”. Maybe that’s judgy, but I when I have been so anxious about needing something to be a certain way, I start to convince myself it’s just a preference I like and no need to look deeper than that!! It doesn’t mean they should have “messier” homes, but I wonder if any of them COULD let chores slide once in a while without finding it distressing. And I don’t mean just for the sake of it, but when it’s a busy time etc. and it’s okay to let the vacuuming wait and rest instead. I don’t think these friends have that skill at all. It’s still a dumb/rude comment and unhelpful, but I don’t feel judged by them about the state of my home… but I definitely only go to other friends to talk about cleaning challenges now.

                1. Books and Cooks*

                  Oh, thank you! I’m so glad, and I really appreciate the reply! And thank you for the book recommendation, too, I will definitely check that out! I have probably about a dozen books on housekeeping/”homekeeping”/etc. that I’ve collected over the years, but none of them really address the subject of motivation, especially not in terms of struggling with it, so I’m excited to read that one.

                  Wow, that is *really* interesting, about the ADHD and motivators. Afaik I do not have ADHD, and it’s never been mentioned as a concern by anyone around me, but I definitely find that while the traditional “reward” thing (do job, give self reward) can work for me on occasion–I managed to write 10k words one night by allowing myself a cigarette after every 1k words, for example–it’s much less likely to work for me than my “do this dull thing to put off an even more dull thing” or “do this dull task as an excuse to keep listening to fun book,” methods. It never occurred to me that this might be something to do with my actual brain wiring, rather than just being lazy or managing to “fool” myself. (The traditional reward doesn’t usually work for me, because I’m either too lenient with myself or decide the reward isn’t valuable enough. Like I will literally say to myself things like, “Ah, screw it, the dishes can wait. Go ahead and have that candy bar, you’re a grown-up and can do what you like,” or whatever, lol, or “Eh, you don’t really want that candy bar that badly, anyway.”) And ha, I didn’t mention the “favor to future you,” thing because I didn’t want to throw even more stuff into my very long comment, but it is something that’s worked for me sometimes, too!

                  And yes, I have definitely found that being “on a roll,” or just the little boost from accomplishing something, can help me move on to the next task. If I start my to-do list by doing the easiest and most fun one, it often can make it seem like the rest will be easy, too, and it feels good to be able to cross something off the list. (Literally. I write lists on paper, including shopping lists, because it is way more fun to cross them out than to just delete that line, heh.)

                  And yeah…after I hit “Submit” I wished I’d gone back and edited a little more, because I sounded harsher toward your friends than I meant to and had wanted to delete a bit of that. I’m sure they don’t mean to be rude or insulting, and I’m glad you don’t feel judged by them either. I think my problem was when I read that, I heard it in the voice of an ex-friend who used “Oh, I’m just really houseproud, ha ha,” as a cover for being a really rude hostess and just a generally bad friend, so it just got my back up a bit more than it otherwise might have or should have. But yes, I definitely think that kind of thing can be a cover for anxiety/compulsivity/etc. I used to think a current friend of mine was just really a great housekeeper, but the more I got to know her the more I saw that not only was there some real anxiety (like medical anxiety) issues, her husband is an absolute neat freak who gets really annoyed if there’s the slightest mess or disorder. Given only the two options, I’d much rather be in my generally happy (aside from my own depression etc.), loving, slightly messy and imperfect home, with folded laundry on the console table and an empty McDonalds drink holder still on the coffee table because nobody bothered to put away & throw away before bed the night before, than her showcase home where she is constantly needing to worry about if it’s clean enough, getting upset if it’s not, and having to get rid of her children’s clothes the minute they outgrow them because heaven forbid a box is left on a closet shelf that “should” be clear. (To be clear, her husband isn’t abusive or anything, he can just get really grumpy about that kind of thing.) And I know what you mean about convincing yourself that you just like it that way, rather than having to analyze your reasons.

                  It’s amazing how many deeply personal feelings and issues can surround something like housekeeping, isn’t it?

                  Anyway. I’ve rambled enough. Thanks again for the reply, the info, and the book rec, and I really hope my little mind tricks work for you, if you feel like giving them a try! Big hugs to you.

  16. Irish Teacher*

    One possible suggestion for LW2, which other people have kind of implied anyway, is “oh, it keeps me from biting my nails.” As others have said, nail biting is really common and unlikely to raise too many eyebrows. I once complimented a coworker’s nail polish and she laughed and said it was mostly to keep her from biting her nails.

    1. LolaBugg*

      Yup, I’m a cuticle picker as well and I almost never leave my nails unpolished because the polish makes them duller and it’s harder to pick. Sharp, thin, unpolished nails are bad fir my picking habit. I’ve gotten so good at home manicures because I do them so often that people sometimes ask where I get my nails done.

    2. Bob-White of the Glen*

      I think they should say they are burning off their fingerprints so they can commit felonies without getting caught.

      But I am also often in trouble at work for my big mouth, so take it with a grain of salt.

    3. pancakes*

      I think this is among the best answers, in terms of reducing the likelihood of any follow-up questions.

  17. BlauerKeks*

    LW 2, I am on the autism spectrum and do the same thing! I got it down to two fingers only, thankfully, but it used to be just like you describe it. It’s stimming for me as well as anxiety. I’m still at Uni and no one’s ever asked about it, but I’m glad I have a script now, so thank you for asking this question

  18. Everything Bagel*

    For letter number 2, I think you might be surprised how many people pick at their nails and cuticles who don’t have all the conditions that you do, at least as far as they know! I have picked at my cuticles for years, decades even. I have some stress in my life, but I wouldn’t say I have everything you’ve got going on. I even do it mindlessly at times just watching TV. I have gone to work wearing band-aids. I think you could nonchalantly say, “I have a bad habit of picking at my nails and cuticles and I’m trying to stop.” And you might be surprised how many people respond saying, “Oh, I do that too.” They’ll probably never give it a second thought.

    1. Stevie*

      This, exactly. I have been a lifelong picker also – around the cuticles and at the dried skin on my lips.

      If someone asks me about it, I’ve actually had a lot of success with speaking plainly and being nonchalant about it. It’s when you apologize for it, or appear ashamed, that people seem to have negative reactions.

      And yes, people I would not have expected to relate have told me they do the same thing!

      1. JanetM*

        Oh. Yeah, I pick at the skin on my lips too. Never associated it with picking at nails. I’m pretty good at not picking, and I weaned myself off nail biting in my teens, but I am constantly clipping hangnails and bits of rough cuticle.

        1. Books and Cooks*

          Another lip-picker, too! I have made my lips bleed numerous times; for several years I actually a small lump in my lower lip from a capillary I exposed, which stopped bleeding but didn’t go back under the surface or whatever–I don’t know what happened, I just know it made a small lump. I’ve also tried just about every lip balm or moisturizer on the market over the years, because they do help (although Blistex, IME, can create more “edges” to pull at, which often pleased me but in the long run is perhaps not helpful).

          The only thing I’ve ever found that not only heals but doesn’t leave flakes or edges or anything to pick/pull at is the “Lip Sleeping Mask” by Laneige. I bought it at Sephora a year or so ago; it’s a little pricey but not ridiculously so (and lasts a long time), and it really works. It took my about two weeks to go from always finding a little bit to bite or pull at, to almost never.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Honestly, I think this might be the best response except I feel that if OP is worried about stigma, a better wording might be “I tend to play with my nails a lot and I’m trying to stop.” For some reason, I feel like playing is less stigmatizing than picking.

  19. Harper the Other One*

    OP2 – I really appreciated reading this question because my daughter is autistic/ADHD and nail/skin picking is a challenge for her. We settled on bandages on her fingers early but I’ve often wondered what “scripts” to give her when someone asks her about it; when someone asks me I tend to go for a breezy “oh, she’s trying not to pick at her nails.”

    It hasn’t been magic but we recently got her a necklace from a company called Calm Strips that makes textured stickers. One of them feels sort of like soft sandpaper but one of them is rougher and seems to help satisfy some of her need to pick. Maybe something like that would be helpful in addition to the bandages?

  20. Lady Whistledown*

    OP#2 Nail picking

    Fellow nail biter and cuticle picker here! Things I have found over the years:

    – Self control does not work
    – Grossing myself out about germs does not work
    – My nails have an almost direct correlation to my level of stress and anxiety
    – It’s a deeply ingrained behavior that happens unconsciously for the most part
    – The shame is probably the hardest element to manage

    What has started working for me is committing to a full year of getting my nails done every 2-4 weeks. I have reached a level of senior + customer facing responsibility that I 1) can’t afford to look nervous/less groomed and 2) can afford to get my nails done every 2-4 weeks. It’s ludicrous to spend this much money on a childhood habit but since it’s the only thing that works for me, it’s what I’m going with.

    I’m about 9 months into this experiment and I’ll be honest, the itch it still there. I let too long pass between manicures and the urge to pick and rip was overwhelming. Had to get in as quickly as possible before I tore up everything.

    As for the type of manicure – dip can be particularly good because it builds thickness that makes it impossible to grip/rip skin. It’s also sturdier than gel which, when is ages, can itself become a fixation for picking off. Regular polish doesn’t last a minute on my hands – I’m too hard on my hands and then once the polish chips I start picking it off.

    I’m sorry you’re going through this and I hope you can find relief. You’re very much not alone!

    1. Michelle Smith*

      I don’t think it’s ludicrous spending. Lots of people maintain manicures. At any rate, you have a condition and you found a solution for it. Sounds like money extremely well spent!

    2. Stevie*

      I don’t think this is ludicrous at all! This is also the sort of thing that I try to do in order to keep my picking under control. In my case, I’ve gotten fairly good at painting my own nails because of it.

      I’ve heard that picking is a sort-of overactive grooming instinct so you might even be addressing the root impulse.

    3. Romanbees*

      So glad you found something that works! As someone with trichotillomania (a related disorder) I’ll just say that it’s likely not a “childhood habit”, it’s likely a disorder (dermotillomania) and you can’t control it with “willpower” etc., so the fact that you have found something is wonderful! I know for me learning that I have a diagnosis and not just a bad habit helped combat the shame I’d felt for years.

    4. AY*

      Absolutely do not beat yourself up over the cost! Regular manicures have been the only thing that has ever kept my biting and picking in check. After seeing what COVID closures did to my nails, my husband and I agreed that manicures are a necessary household expense.

    5. Lost academic*

      Cosign every part of this. I’m also making a bigger effort because I learned that in many cases nail biting and associated habits can be picked up at very early ages of kids see parents doing it. So I’m trying to be really consistent with things that help so I don’t pass this on.

      1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

        +1, being a parent also was a contributing factor to get me to stop nailbiting/picking (among many other things).

    6. Bob-White of the Glen*

      “– My nails have an almost direct correlation to my level of stress and anxiety”

      This, totally this.

      1. kitryan*

        Yeah, I find that for me it’s a combo of stress but inactivity – having pressure but not being able to *do* enough about it to be busy/active, for whatever reason. Like the nervous energy doesn’t have anywhere to go. Identifying this exact relationship helps me ramp up other coping behaviors and addressing the cause of the stress, when possible, to compensate.

  21. paxfelis*

    LW2, I have psoriasis and pick at my cuticle constantly. The only times I use band-aids are when I start bleeding. As others have pointed out, you are far from alone. My personal excuse is “bad habit from childhood” and so far the usual reaction to that is other people commiserating.

    Oddly enough, one of the things that seems to be working as a distraction technique is trying to learn to crochet. I don’t know whether it’s that my hands are busy or the the differing textures of the yarn. Is that something that would work for you?

  22. ecnaseener*

    #4: Fiancé should definitely talk to his coworkers first and find out how they would like to handle the situation. Maybe they will ask him to do exactly what you suggested, LW – but maybe not. Always best to let those impacted call the shots!

  23. Heather*

    “I’m very prone to hangnails.” I am very prone to hangnails, and end up with a similar bandaid configuration without picking.

  24. ADHSquirrelWhat*

    LW2 – As so many have said, you are not alone! I vary between fussing with my fingers and pulling out hair. Sensory issues are weird and annoying, yup.

    If you haven’t looked for “stim toys” or something along those lines, I suggest you do so – there’s a LOT of stuff available these days, and it can make SUCH a difference in your life. My son has multiple fidget cubes and he is way better off if he’s got one in his hand. Plus, if there’s something IN your hand, it’s easier to not pick at it! (personally I would suggest AGAINST fidget spinners, they’re not good for unconcious fidgets IMO)

    Best of luck, and again – you’re not alone!

  25. Well...*

    Me: Looks at LW1’s list, feels outraged on their behalf, then looks at my own to do list for the grant application that may fund my next postdoc (the job only exists if I win the grant, of course), sees that it’s longer, loses will to live.

  26. Mosby*

    For #2 – I have this same anxiety response of picking the skin around my nails. I usually don’t need bandaids on all of them at once, but it’s definitely still noticeable enough for people to ask me. While I think Alison’s response is great and you can definitely use that if you don’t want to get into it at all, I’ve also found that breezily saying “oh it’s a nervous habit, horrible I know! I’m trying to stop!” is usually enough to placate people’s curiosity. Also, enough people bite their nails as a nervous habit that they will usually assume it’s similar to that, and move on.

  27. Liquid Goldie*

    LW#2 — my OCD took a dramatic downturn during the pancake and I developed a skin picking habit that left painful wounds all over my feet. What worked for me was getting acrylic nails: they’re so thick that skin picking is difficult to impossible. Even if you’re a gender that isn’t often seen with acrylics, I’m betting you could get nails done that are pretty natural looking. Worth looking into if you’re interested and can afford it!

  28. anonymous73*

    #1 Fully agree with Alison, and when you reach out to the recruiter to decline, explain WHY you won’t be applying. With a director position, I would imagine there would be more to the process than a lower level position, but having to submit all of that before you’ve even had an initial phone screen? Nope. A company who expects you to put that much effort into the APPLICATION process is not a company I would want to work for, because either their expectations are unreasonable or they don’t know what they’re doing. Honestly I think even filling out an application is more work than anyone should have to do to apply to a job – it isn’t helpful and a waste of my time at the application stage.

  29. Minimal Pear*

    OP 2, you could also take up hand-sewing or embroidery or something and claim you keep stabbing yourself :P

  30. Just a Manager*

    Get Grammarly. It’s an app/plugin that spells, and grammar checks your work. I also have problems with my brain moving faster than my typing and making typos. It also helps with grammar for business. It’s been a life saver for me.

    1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      Although Grammarly is AMAZING, it would not have helped in either of the specific cases LW describes. It’s a good idea for anyone and everyone (even English teachers), but it won’t catch things like proper nouns. :)

  31. A Simple Narwhal*

    #2 I think a simple “I have bad cuticles” will do! It’s a truthful explanation that is common and also uninteresting enough to not invite further inquiries.

  32. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    LW #3 – I am a former HS English teacher who is also dyslexic. Apparently, I like a challenge, although it did come in super handy when I taught irony.

    My teaching bestie/mentor teacher and I ate lunch in my classroom every day (saves the 3+ minute walk to/from the teacher’s lounge), and at least once a week she’d get up from the desk mid-bite, walk to my whiteboard, grab a marker, and mark up something I’d written on the board. With full edit markings and corrections, usually of my spelling but sometimes of punctuation, too. It was fantastic and all in good fun, she was the grammarian/writer of the two of us where I was the reading/lit one). I usually left them up for students to see both as a way to reinforce edit markings and also to see that sometimes spelling doesn’t actually matter as much as we think it does. I would literally say, “Its not like this is my resume.”

    1. Books and Cooks*

      “I would literally say, ‘**It’s** not like this is my resume.”

      (Sorry! Given your comment, I couldn’t resist! Meant in good fun.)

  33. Lisa Henry*

    I am a nurse and pick my fingers bloody. I often have bandages on my fingers. I’m lucky I can put gloves on when taking care of patients. However, I have found a quick nonchalant answer, oh I pick at my fingernails, it’s a lousy habit I’m trying to break and then change the subject. I never explain I do it out of anxiety or neurodivergence. I have never had someone dig for information. I have 3 bandaid today!! Yay for me!

  34. Beth*

    LW #2: I don’t know if this will help you feel a bit less awkward about the band-aids, but in hopes that it might: I have skin that reacts badly to dust and dryness, and a hobby (sewing) that exposes my hands to dust and dryness. If I’m in the middle of a project, it’s typical for me to have several band-aids on my fingers — and since the dry skin is also prone to paper cuts and hangnails, the number can increase at any time during the day. (It’s made the essential hand-washing of the pandemic especially challenging, since I have to replace the band-aids frequently.)

    From my point of view, the most unusual thing about your experience was that someone actually noticed and asked about it. Maybe your co-worker has a problem with nail-biting and saw you as a fellow sufferer?

  35. MCMonkeyBean*

    LW2 – FWIW I think I have known a number of people who have a habit of picking or biting at their cuticle areas, though not quite to such an extreme. You certainly don’t have to, but I think it wouldn’t be odd if you wanted to respond to that question with something like “oh, I’m trying to stop picking at my nails.” Or else I’d tell them you are breeding a new kind of venus flytrap in your spare time.

  36. giraffecat*

    #1 This is probably because I work in academia, where lengthly applications are more the norm, but I wonder if this would be more acceptable for a higher level position? It would definitely be excessive for entry or even mid-level positions, but I noticed that the OP mentioned its for a director level position. On my initial reading, some of this seemed reasonable (such as the questions on culture/climate and company mission, etc.) for a high level decision-maker position within a company and I was a bit surprised by Alison’s response. I’m sure my experience in academic has skewed my expectations of what a normal application process should be.

    In the real world (aka, not academia), does the level of position change the criteria for applications? Or is it typical for directors and higher level positions to only have to submit a cover letter and resume?

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think a lot of the oddness is that all this stuff comes before a first interview–you can’t ask questions that determine if this is worth your time or theirs to pursue farther.

      Alison’s suggestion of resume/cover letter/existing work sample seems reasonable for introducing the candidates, and then you use those to decide who gets a phone interview. If that goes well, maybe you ask for a sample assignment as a next step. Leaving aside my feelings about aptitude tests and hiring, it’s odd to put them so early in the process.

      1. kiki*

        Agreed, I actually wasn’t turned off by the amount of work required considering it’s a director-level position, but having to go through that initially just to apply would bother me. Especially if I’m a qualified but not “ideal” candidate. The company should look at my resume and determine if I’m even in the right ballpark as somebody they would hire for this position before I sink 8 hours into an application.

      1. giraffecat*

        Haha, yep! Requiring applicants to prepare multiple documents for an application before being invited for an interview is pretty much standard academic job market protocol. I knew that wasn’t standard for most typical job applications, but thought maybe director-level positions might have more requirements. It just goes to show how much out of the norm academia is, lol.

    2. Doctors Whom*

      This is definitely abnormal. Even when in discussions for CEO positions, Mr Doctor has never experienced something like this. He did have one where they asked for a project – and they paid for the project. (He asked them to donate the payment to a nonprofit instead.) That was after the conversations had advanced with the board and founders. They absolutely did not do this without narrowing the funnel to finalists.

  37. Noelle*

    #4: I agree with Alison’s response. Let the women know about the pay discrepancy and their rights, and allow them to take whatever steps they want. Your husband definitely should not speak to the employer on their behalf without consulting them. I have been in their shoes (in fact, I was the Friday Good News from a couple weeks ago who was being underpaid by $10K due to a gender pay gap), and I would’ve been angry if any coworkers took actions that could impact my employment without asking me first. I ultimately decided to leave the company as opposed to raising the issue with management, and they should get to make their own choice, too.
    People who are trying to defend this company’s pay gap really need to let go of the just-world hypothesis. Many, many times, there literally is no reason for a pay gap beyond sexism. Believe me, when I was being underpaid, I desperately searched for any valid reason my company would be paying me less. It’s illogical. It’s ridiculous. And that’s why it’s infuriating.

    1. mreasy*

      Really disappointed at all the responses trying to justify the pay gap! But I guess if you’ve never been a woman/femme in the workplace you haven’t seen how blatant these things really can be.

      1. Emma*

        This doesn’t make any sense. There are plenty of women that are willing to defend the status quo.

        1. quill*

          Or regress from the status quo in terms of their own rights if it means that other people remain even more marginalized than them.

        2. pancakes*

          Yes. Let’s not pretend being a woman is a set of politics in itself. One small example if you need one, Margaret Thatcher wasn’t and isn’t all of us, and she’s been gone for a decade now. Please take a look at the world beyond this simple gender binary. There’s so much more out there than this.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      In case anyone is wondering – I DON’T want to look for reasons to justify a pay gap (far from it. I know I’ve experienced sexism in my career). But I DO suggest the OP’s DH put on his own gas mask first, and make sure that he’s not impacting his own employment (or that of his female colleagues, for that matter).

      1. Jora Malli*

        That’s why he should give his coworkers the information and let them choose what to do with it. If the boss attempts to discipline him for that, I’m sure the state’s labor board would be interested in hearing about it.

  38. I'm just here for the cats!*

    #1 You might want to come up with some ideas if you don’t want to say anything about medical (Monkey pox is something that is on a lot of people’s mind and I’ve known someone to overreact because of a harmless, non-contagious skin condition). Here are some excuses;
    1 I’ve recently taken up embroidery and I’m terrible with needles. I keep poking myself
    2. I was playing with my cat/my friends cat and they got too wild and really nailed me.
    3. laugh it off, “oh its nothing just had a fight with a porcupine!
    4. I was doing some yard work and got poked by some nasty thistles in my fingers.

    Now you really shouldn’t feel like you have to answer. You can just say that it’s nothing and move on. I hope no one presses you and that you don’t feel pressured to talk about your conditions. Good luck!

    1. kiki*

      I agree with what you’re saying about not mentioning anything medical right now, since some people may wonder if whatever’s going on is contagious. But I think these excuses aren’t great for a condition that’s likely going to persist and recur for a while. I think “Oh, trying to stop picking at my cuticles,” is simple, acceptable, and an abridged version of the truth. Picking at finger skin is *so* common, I don’t think anyone would be put off or need more explanation from LW. And if they do, that’s actively strange.

  39. Cabin Fever*

    #3 – One thing that helps me is to send everything as an email to myself, and then open and read that email as though I’m seeing it for the first time. It might sound a bit silly, but I’ve found it to be highly effective in helping me spot errors I didn’t catch in my initial review.

  40. Nack*

    LW2, when I was in college I suddenly developed a bunch of warts all over my hands. I had them frozen off but I had to keep them covered in waterproof bandages for a couple weeks. Luckily I only got asked once or twice about the bandages. My spur of the moment response was, “it’s kind of a boring story, so I just tell people I’m learning to juggle chainsaws.” It got a surprised laugh as a response. Something similar may work for you, especially if it’s just once or twice!

  41. WonderWoman*

    OP2 – As someone with eczema, I can validate that claiming it as the reason for your bandaids would be both entirely plausible and the kind of thing no one will want to hear more about. :)

  42. Smithy*

    LW3 – I will say that personally while I know that the more tailored individual cover letters can be to specific jobs, the better they technically are – that for me it opens up the door to more typos of the variety you mention. The way to addressed the issue and largely stopped all major “well I messed that one up” typos was to come up with 2-3 cover letters that basically covered most of the types of jobs I’d be applying for. Those base letters were edited to death by a variety of means and people.

    Each letter had set gaps for job personalization (spot for title of the job, nonprofit employer, my alignment with specific nonprofit’s mission, closing gaps for similar). Then my final review wouldn’t be for my middle paragraphs, but rather just those first two paragraphs where I knew that new information was being entered.

    It may have been that I never submitted an A+ cover letter but was working with a higher number of B+’s that could go out with less investment in their creation and review.

  43. Erin*

    LW2: You aren’t alone here! I’m also a nail & cuticle picker (and there are lots more like us!) I found these little rings on Amazon & Etsy. If you search a term like “fidget ring for anxiety” you will find a selection of rings that have little beads that you can shift the picking to.

    I started using these after many attempts with cuticle oil/thin cotton gloves/getting acrylic nails/you name it. Those things all helped a little, but the fidget rings seem to be the most inconspicuous and they provide a similar activity to the picking. I hope this helps you!

  44. Cora*

    The bandaid thing is not that big a deal – I have a skin condition that could lead to bandaids on up to really 7 fingers and if people say anything I just say the “minor skin thing, it’ll clear up” and it’s fine. Bug bites, eczema, hangnails, etc – lots of reasons.

  45. Nancy*

    LW4: do not go to the boss on the women’s behalf. Speak to the women directly. They are adults and can decide what they want to do about it. I’d be really annoyed if a new coworker came along and went to speak to the boss about my salary when it is something that is not his business to discuss.

    How did he find out anyway? Did they tell him? If so, did he tell them his salary?

  46. learnedthehardway*

    I had a bad habit of biting my nails and having hangnails when I was a teen. I cannot stand to have a rough edge or a bit of skin catching on things – drives me around the bend. Solved the issue by carrying a pair of nail clippers with me everywhere. I now have multiple pairs of nail clippers all over my house. Nail breaks/hangnail occurs – immediate fix, no urge to pick at it to smooth things out.

  47. All Het Up About It*

    For #3 – I still have vivid memory of sitting in the lobby of my first in person professional, post-grad interview, reviewing my resume and finding a typo!! Ahhhh!!

    I got the job.

    And the hiring mangers raved about my resume.

    So yes, those of us who are bad at proof-reading for whatever reason, should probably triple or quadruple check things – with other people if possible – but honestly Alison is right that drawing attention to it at this stage isn’t necessary. And who knows, you still might get an interview.

  48. JMR*

    For LW#4: Could you dispatch a friend or partner to help proofread? I’ve found that when I look at my own work, my brain tunes out the errors, even the obvious ones, and it’s better to have someone else look at it with fresh eyes. You could ask them to give it a quick proofread and double-check the names, dates, and other important pieces of information. Maybe bribe them with some baked goods or a bottle of wine?

  49. cubone*

    this is not directed to LW2, who hasn’t asked for advice on coping/dealing with the skin picking itself. But there are a lot of comments here identifying with nail biting/skin picking/cuticle biting etc. so I wanted to share some info + possible resources if this is you and you’re struggling with it.

    BFRB.org is the #1 excellent source for information and resources about Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs). BFRBS are “an umbrella name for impulse control behaviors involving compulsively damaging one’s physical appearance or causing physical injury” (definition from Wikipedia). In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5, BFRBs fall under “Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders”, which includes OCD, body dysmorphic disorders, hoarding, dermatillomania, trichotillomania (2 examples of BFRBs), and other unspecified OC disorders (source: DSM). BFRBs are RELATED to obsessive-compulsive disorders, but they are a separate diagnosis and a BFRB does not indicate OCD (though they can co-occur). While BFRBs involve “damage or injury” to the self, they are NOT considered self-injury disorder (often known as self-harm).

    Examples of BFRBS: skin picking (dermatillomania), hair pulling (trichotillomania), onychophagia (nail biting), cheek biting (I forget the term for this one), rhinotillexomania (compulsive nose picking), and more specifics (eg. hair eating, nail picking, lip/tongue biting). They are commonly cooccuring with ADHD and anxiety, but are a separate diagnosis (eg. BFRBs may be worse due to anxiety and may improve with treatment of anxiety, but they are their own disorder and not a “symptom” of anxiety, ADHD, etc).

    We know that around 5% of the population experience BFRBs (BFRB.org).

    If you struggle with this and would like support, again, BFRB.org is a great resource with a list of treatment providers around the world. However, it still can be very difficult to find therapists with specific training in BFRBs.
    Some evidence-based therapeutic modalities you can look for are (all from BFRB.org):
    -Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): there is a lot out there about CBT, so I won’t go into it
    -Habit Reversal Training (HRT): a CBT-type of support that involves becoming more aware of situations in which the behavior occurs and developing “competing responses” (substituting another behavior in place of the picking/pulling)
    -Comprehensive Behavioral Treatment (CompB): similar to HRT and with some overlap, CompB involves creating highly individualized strategies for the person’s unique circumstances and role of the BFBRB. A CompB therapist will work with you to identify sensations, thoughts, emotions, motor needs, and physical locations that impact the behavior (eg. OP’s band aids is a fantastic CompB strategy!)
    -other therapies like DBT and ACT can be useful for BFRBs

    There are also peer support resources, eg. CanadianBFRB.org offers peer support services and group meetings. There may be others online in your country or physically in your area. Reddit also has trich and skin-picking forums.

    If you are struggling and want to seek help, look for treatment providers that mention BFRBs, HRT, CompB, or are related to “obsessive-compulsive and anxiety disorders”. You can also look up group therapy or peer support at any of the following links. You have nothing to feel ashamed of it.

  50. cashew later*

    #3 I just wanted to say that I’m also an English teacher with poor spelling skills– especially when I’m writing by hand– and the constant jokes about the supposed irony are pretty annoying! I teach 12th grade; I don’t teach spelling at all, it is in no way a part of my job! So I definitely sympathize.

  51. River*

    #2. I can relate to this one. I too have OCD and like to pick my fingers when I am reading something or bored or will even sleep pick my fingers. I’ve had dreams where I remember eating and biting the skin around my cuticles and then I wake up and see the evidence. Sometimes I will pull the skin to the point where it hurts for a little while and I will start to bleed. It’s quite satisfying too when I have a hard piece of skin that feels like a rough patch of skin and then I lightly rub it on my lips back and forth. A piece of hard skin pressed against soft lips, it’s actually quite satisfying.

  52. Kat Em*

    For LW #1, I have a similar issue and have had luck saying “Oh, it’s a medical thing, I promise it’s not contagious, though!”

    People are so intent on politely insisting they weren’t concerned about catching it that they feel too awkward to ask again. One of those times I’m able to make social anxieties work in my favor.

    1. Kat Em*

      Ugh, I meant LW #2 there!

      I’m clearly better at sidestepping questions than I am at counting.

  53. Salary Sharer*

    Re: 4 the non-supervisory part of the NLRA confuses me. Anyone who’s a manager/has direct reports or anyone who’s responsible for salaries? This has come up in discussions before because we have employees who have direct reports but aren’t in charge of their salaries.

  54. Et*

    I bite my nails to the point of bleeding. I never used all those clever things they have for them now (something that tastes awful after you touch your skin/nails). Last year I started to suffer from nerve pain, and they prescribed a cream to treat it. It tastes awful! This then conditions you to stop doing it, and it works (I’m a senior academic in psychology so the research is always easy to follow).

  55. Bethie*

    Just came here to say I received an email for a job I applied to within my state (I already work for the state) which had no salary expectation in the job description but looked doable from my expertise. It has two 5 minute videos (on agency specific internal process I know nothing about) that you have to make of yourself. One 4 page document that you create based on how you would run the agency if you had complete staffing, and one press release. None of these items would anyone outside the agency be privy to knowing the information which would feed into the documents. And no salary range. And no interview promised. Ive elected to pass on the process.

  56. Too many birds*

    “From what he’s told me, the boss is a holdover from a different time — one where paying women less for equal work was acceptable”

    The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963. FIFTY NINE YEARS AGO. Unless his boss is Methuselah, he isn’t a holdover from a different time. He’s just a sexist asshole.

  57. Risha*

    LW2-isn’t it amazing how nosy people are?! I know coworkers “mean well” but honestly it’s never even crossed my mind to ask someone I work with anything about their body or medical issues or whatever. I just don’t understand why people make it their business. If someone you work with wants you to know something, they’ll tell you. There’s no need to ask people why they have a bandage or scar or limp, etc etc.

    A good answer is to say you have bandaids so you won’t bite your nails. I’m a nail biter so I’ve actually put bandaids on all my nails. It’s believable (unless you have long nails!) and most people won’t push the topic further.

    1. OyHiOh*

      My workplace (USA) has a pretty strict worker’s comp “must report all injuries, no matter how minor” policy so “meaning well” and “nosy” could be badly phrased, indirect “is this a workman’s comp issue?” queries. Which people should just be direct about, if that’s the case!

  58. spaceygrl*

    For LW3 / OP3 – I instantly thought of Macaulay Culkin who did an online poll to figure out what his middle name should be, and the winning vote was Macaulay Culkin, so now his legal name is Macaulay Macaulay Culkin Culkin.

  59. desiree*

    #2. I sympathize because i also pick at my cuticles when nervous/stressed/bored. Next time you’re wearing band-aides and a co-worker askes, just be semi-honest and you have a bad habit of picking at your cuticles and the band-aides help you stop doing that.

  60. Asterroc*

    FWIW #1 depends on the field. Allison’s advice may be spot on for the business world, but the standard she suggests of “resume, cover letter, and one existing work sample” would be woefully out of touch for faculty positions in academia. Those usually ask for at least CV, cover letter, two or three essays of 2-5 pages each (teaching statement, research statement, DEI statement), and three references who are immediately asked to submit their letters of recommendation to the system, and sometimes they also ask for existing work samples (papers).

    1. Dawn*

      One of the many, MANY reasons why academia is a failed experiment which is pretty universally hated by everyone not in academia (and most people who are).

  61. Ollie*

    I have the same issue as LW2. I suggest getting acrylic nails. They do not have the edge that natural nails do and you can still pick your fingers as much as ever but it does a lot less damage.

  62. Dawn*

    LW2: While I’m SURE you’ve heard all of the advice already – I know that I’ve heard literally everything about my disabilities it’s possible to hear – since you wrote in for advice, I’ll ask: is there any chance you would be able to wear gloves, with or without the Band-Aids?

    That one’s a lot easier to brush off. I sometimes have circulation issues and have to wear gloves in the office and if anyone bothers to comment it’s as simple as, “Oh, my blood pressure is a little low today and my hands were getting cold.”

  63. Nunya*

    The answer to #2 (which is excellent advice) reminded me of a wild experience in high school (which I think very unlikely to happen to LW2). I needed minor surgery on a very private area for highly personal reasons (i.e. not school-appropriate outside of health class). At my school, we had to fill out a form for pre-arranged absences and get a signature from all of our teachers acknowledging they excused the absence. This took about 2 seconds with everyone except my math teacher. The easiest way to find him was in the classroom before class started. I handed him the form and said “I need to be absent on [X date].” He asked for what, and I said “for a medical thing,” and he asked “What medical thing?” ???? While the whole class is filing into the room and milling around??? I said it was private and he gave me quite a Look and then, thank goodness, just signed the form and handed it back, but 17-year-old me had a few moments of wondering if I would have to explain non-emergency hymen surgery to my calculus teacher at the front of a 30-person classroom. I had completely forgotten about it until I read Allison’s response here. If only everyone was “reasonably polite” about these kinds of things.

    1. Dawn*

      If your high school was anything like my high school, 50 bucks says he thought you were pregnant and wanted the chance to judge you in front of everyone.

      1. Nunya*

        I don’t think so based on the school/teacher, I think it’s more likely he was trying to see if I was lying to get out of school (which if I was, I probably would have just forged all the signatures including my parents’…) But I could definitely see there being places where that’s the case. It sucks that was your high school culture. If only we could all let people have privacy about private things!

  64. Fellow Picker*

    Hey OP3, I know in this case it’s related to your mental health issues but that habit is more common than you might think and not necessarily related to mental illness. I do it as well and while it is not as bad as yours (I’ll have at most two nails that I’ve picked the skin around at at a time and it’s usually limited to one of my thumbs), mine isn’t related to mental illness. It’s just a habit I picked up as a kid for whatever reason. Just like how nail biting isn’t necessarily to do with a mental illness.

    What I mean by all this is I think you’ll be okay saying you have a bad habit of picking at your nails and this is the best way you’ve found to stop it. I don’t think people are going to immediately think it is because of mental health issues.

    Much love to you!

  65. Elizabeth West*

    #1—Yeah, that’s way too much. The behavioral and cognitive assessments tell me that either the company fell for a sales pitch from people marketing useless pre-employment tests based on junk science, or it’s data gathering. As far as samples go, that’s why portfolios exist. If you’re being asked to do spec work, it’s a bad sign.

    This should tell you a lot about the company. And it all screams RUN LIKE THE WIND.

    #3—OP if it makes you feel better, I recently sent a cover letter that mentioned my resume without my resume attached and there went that job. >_<

  66. jingleo*

    Re: Letter 4.

    I have been in the situation his coworkers were in. I found out I was being paid less than my male counterpart and with the best of intentions he went to speak to our boss the next day. I was then called into a very awkward meeting with my boss and HR where they made weak excuses about the pay disparity and not-so-subtly shamed me for discussing salary at all.

    This was within 24 hours of the conversation with my coworker. I was still processing the information and how I wanted to proceed, and my agency in the situation was taken from me by a well-meaning but ultimately frustrating decision by my colleague.

    This is to say – these are grown women who can decide for themselves what action they are comfortable taking. Don’t assume they need a man to ride in and advocate for them unless they explicitly say so.

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