interviewing – Ask a Manager https://www.askamanager.org Tue, 20 Jul 2021 04:18:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 am I supposed to remember the details of every job I apply to? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/07/am-i-supposed-to-remember-the-details-of-every-job-i-apply-to.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/07/am-i-supposed-to-remember-the-details-of-every-job-i-apply-to.html#comments Tue, 20 Jul 2021 17:59:58 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=22002 This post, am I supposed to remember the details of every job I apply to? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I lost my job recently when the small company I worked for went under. I have a little savings buffer, but needless to say, I am job hunting vigorously. I usually put in two to three applications a day and I spend hours trying to write thoughtful and personalized cover letters, so […]

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This post, am I supposed to remember the details of every job I apply to? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I lost my job recently when the small company I worked for went under. I have a little savings buffer, but needless to say, I am job hunting vigorously. I usually put in two to three applications a day and I spend hours trying to write thoughtful and personalized cover letters, so I do research the companies I am applying to.

Recently I received a call back from a job that I had applied for over two weeks before (so a lot of applications in the meantime). The manager asked if I could talk briefly and wanted to know what about their mission/vision interested me in the job and why I thought I would be a good fit. I gave some vague answers, but she kept pushing for more specifics and referenced the job ad.

I honestly couldn’t remember exactly what this company did. I work in a general field that a lot of very different companies hire (think HR or accounting). I eventually admitted that I didn’t remember her specific company’s product, but once she said it, it all came flooding back and I was able to give some specific examples from my research like their commitment to being green that I found appealing.

However, it was clear from her tone and follow-up questions that I had completely sunk my chances. I never heard back. Is the expectation that I memorize every job posting/company mission statement indefinitely in case I hear from them? Could I have asked for a scheduled phone call at a later time so I could refresh my memory? I’m just so overwhelmed with this entire process.

Agggh, this is so irritating.

It’s utterly unrealistic to expect you to remember details off-the-cuff about a job you applied to weeks before while you’re in the middle of an active job search and have applied to a bunch of other jobs since then.

It’s also perfectly reasonable for an interviewer to want to know what about the job interested you.

But the way to reconcile those two things is to schedule phone interviews in advance so you have time to prepare, rather than calling you up with no warning, peppering you with questions, and judging you when you might not even recall exactly what job it is.

Calling people up for spontaneous phone interviews without warning is a bad practice for a whole host of other reasons too — they might be catching you while you’re working for your current job, or supervising a child, or at the grocery store, or napping, or at a loud family clambake, or otherwise distracted and not at your best.

And the only reason for doing it this way rather than scheduling the call in advance is that interviewers like yours believe it’s easier for them. This way they don’t need to contact you to arrange a time to talk, wait to hear back, hold spots on their calendar meanwhile, and then wait for the scheduled time to come around. They can skip all that and just call you. I’d argue it’s not really easier for them in the long-run — because getting people who aren’t prepared means they’re not getting an accurate picture of a lot of their candidates. But they don’t want to have to deal with scheduling.

When you get one of these unscheduled phone interviews, you do have the option of saying something like, “I’m not in a place right now where it’s easy to talk. Could I call you back in 20 minutes, or could we reschedule for another time?” The risk in doing that is that the later call might not ever happen — because some interviewers who operate like this just won’t bother; they stop screening people once they’ve talked with X number of reasonably qualified candidates and don’t get back to others who thought they were still in the mix. And of course, the fear of that creates exactly this situation where interviewers don’t get pushback on the practice so they keep doing it, thus annoying everyone else in the process. (Which doesn’t mean you can’t do it! I recommend doing it. Just be aware of that potential risk.)

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do employers set up secret “gotcha” tests for job candidates? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/07/do-employers-set-up-secret-tests-for-job-candidates.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/07/do-employers-set-up-secret-tests-for-job-candidates.html#comments Tue, 13 Jul 2021 17:59:45 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21969 This post, do employers set up secret “gotcha” tests for job candidates? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: A few years ago, I was applying to a position (entry level, only about a year or so out of college) and I noticed a fairly obvious spelling error in the job posting. It has been a few years so the exact error escapes me now, but it was one that was […]

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This post, do employers set up secret “gotcha” tests for job candidates? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

A few years ago, I was applying to a position (entry level, only about a year or so out of college) and I noticed a fairly obvious spelling error in the job posting. It has been a few years so the exact error escapes me now, but it was one that was very easy to miss (I only noticed because I was so nervous I had taken to reading the listing a bit obsessively before sending my application). Since the job was specifically calling for someone with solid editing skills, I mentioned it in my cover letter. Something like, “Just a heads-up, but I noticed that instead of xx it says zz on the website.” I ended up getting an interview and they mentioned that they had put it there as a test, something to see if people were paying attention.

Now, I think this is a slightly annoying practice, (not sure if you agree or not) but it has stuck in the back of my mind over the years. And now, if I am applying to a job and I notice an error on a post, I can’t stop myself from calling it out. Partially because I am paranoid that it could be a test, but also because I have been in a role where I have been responsible for that content posted on a website, and if I had accidentally left an obvious error out there, I would want to know!

Sometimes I get a thank-you, and occasionally I think that this does help my cover letter stand out. Even so, I brought this up to a recruiter friend, who told me that no matter how hard I tried to sound helpful and polite, I would inevitably come across as condescending and I was most likely hurting my chances.

So what are your thoughts? Am I making myself stand out in the “hey, look at her attention to detail” way? Or in the “dear god, wouldn’t she be the worst person to have on an email chain, I bet she would reply all when you used the wrong form of their, there, and they’re” kind of way?

I have yet to run into another person who has specifically mentioned that this is a “test,” though I have seen other listings that include similar things. (I’ve seen some “tests” that are innocuous, like asking your favorite candy bar or book or asking you to solve a simple math problem, but none that go so far as to expect you to notice a small spelling error.) I recently had an interview where the recruiter listed out a bunch of software and asked if I was familiar with any, and I had to admit that I hadn’t heard of a few of them, only for him to admit that he had made two of them up, just to see if I was lying about my experience. Am I alone in finding this annoying?

Gotchas are always annoying.

But they’re also pretty rare in hiring.

Very few employers will put intentional errors on their website just to see if candidates notice. For every candidate who notices and says something, there will be 10 more who notice and don’t say anything (because they worry about being seen as presumptuous or even rude, like your recruiter friend said), and others will think the lack of proofreading of a public posting reflects poorly on the employer.

Smart employers who want to assess candidates’ proofreading skills or attention to detail do that via exercises during the hiring process.

The same is true of that interviewer who asked you about fake software — that’s not a common thing. It’s also weirdly adversarial and will turn off good candidates. (“I wanted to see if you were lying about your experience” — what?)

In general, most employers aren’t laying traps for people. Of course, you can always find interviewers who are outliers — interviewers who do bizarre things like ask to look inside your purse or tell you to make dinner for 20 people or pretend there’s a fire to see how you’ll react — but most employers don’t do things like that.

In fact, I’d argue gotchas are often a red flag. Interviewing is a two-way street, and part of what you should be looking for is an employer who operates straightforwardly and transparently.

As for what to do if you see a typo in another ad sometime: Eh. I’ve seen applicants point out typos well, and I’ve seen them do it wrong. (I’ve also seen people point out “mistakes” that weren’t actually mistakes. Which is … not good.) In general, I’d err on the side of not doing it unless you’ve been invited to, because offering up unsolicited edits can come across as annoying at least as often as it comes across helpfully. There’s a small potential upside but a larger potential downside.

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why haven’t I heard back after my interview? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/07/why-havent-i-heard-back-after-my-interview.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/07/why-havent-i-heard-back-after-my-interview.html#comments Tue, 13 Jul 2021 16:29:47 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21950 This post, why haven’t I heard back after my interview? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

You had a great job interview, seemed to connect with your interviewer, and left feeling good about your chances. The employer told you to expect to hear something in a week … but now two weeks have gone by and you’ve heard nothing. Should you reach back out? Is the silence a bad sign? And […]

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This post, why haven’t I heard back after my interview? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

You had a great job interview, seemed to connect with your interviewer, and left feeling good about your chances. The employer told you to expect to hear something in a week … but now two weeks have gone by and you’ve heard nothing. Should you reach back out? Is the silence a bad sign? And for the love of god, why are they putting you through this?

If there’s one experience nearly every job seeker has, it’s this one. Even employers who provide candidates with very precise timeline for when they plan to be in touch (“we will reach out to all applicants no later than the 15th”) often miss their promised deadlines – sometimes by a lot – without bothering to update you. And some employers never get back to candidates at all, instead just full-on ghosting them even after multiple rounds of interviews.

At New York Magazine today, I wrote about why this happens and what you can do about it. You can read it here.

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why do interviewers expect you to have already researched their company? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/07/why-do-interviewers-expect-you-to-have-already-researched-their-company.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/07/why-do-interviewers-expect-you-to-have-already-researched-their-company.html#comments Wed, 07 Jul 2021 17:59:55 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21941 This post, why do interviewers expect you to have already researched their company? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: Why do interviewers put so much emphasis on your knowledge not of the role, but of them as a business? Most companies have quite generic web sites that don’t really tell you much that distinguishes them from their competitors, so it’s actually very difficult to learn much that is meaningful online. But […]

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This post, why do interviewers expect you to have already researched their company? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

Why do interviewers put so much emphasis on your knowledge not of the role, but of them as a business? Most companies have quite generic web sites that don’t really tell you much that distinguishes them from their competitors, so it’s actually very difficult to learn much that is meaningful online. But I had feedback when job hunting recently that I had not been “prepared” in this way. It feels like this gives a very unfair advantage to people who are no more qualified but are internal applicants or have friends who work there.

This is particularly true when it comes to company values. Some HR professionals put a big emphasis on anodyne company values that are interchangeable with their competitors’ values. It feels like a pointless dance where the company acts like it has discovered the holy grail and the applicant memorizes and fakes enthusiasm for platitudes no sane person could possibly disagree with — and after the job interview those supposedly integral values never come up again on the job.

I have found a great role now so I would like to think I am just curious, rather than bitter about the roles I wasn’t offered. Why does this kind of “preparation” matter so much to many interviewers?

No reasonable company will expect candidates to have done hours of in-depth research on them, but most interviewers do indeed expect you to have looked through their website and gotten a general idea of what they’re all about, as well as (for some positions at least) done a quick search to see any news on them recently. If you don’t do those basics, it’ll come across as not particularly interested/invested in the role, especially when your competition all shows up sounding more prepared.

That doesn’t mean you need special inside information that you can only get from knowing people who work there. It means spending maybe 20 minutes on their website, reading the “about us” page, some recent press releases, and any available overview about their work or their clients, and generally trying to get a sense of how they see themselves. As you point out, you might not really learn anything that distinguishes them that much from their competitors, but you’ll at least learn the basics — and you’ll probably learn how they see themselves. (There are some jobs where there are additional things you should look at too, especially for more senior roles. For example, if you’re applying to lead a nonprofit, you should look at the organization’s publicly filed 990 forms to learn about its inner workings. But for most jobs, the basics are enough.)

As for company values, that’s part of learning how the company sees itself. You’re right that it’s common for corporate values statements to be mostly lip service, but they do tell you a lot about what image the company wants to project, and they give some useful hints about what they might like to see in candidates. (In fact, seen in that light, they can be an interview cheat sheet in some cases. Why wouldn’t you take a look at that?)

I think you’re ultimately asking why employers aren’t just focused on your ability to do the job they’re hiring for, and why the rest of this stuff should matter so much. The answer is that a lot of interviewers see this kind of preparation as a proxy for how thorough/prepared/engaged you’ll be once on the job. And when you’ve got other candidates showing up having done this kind of prep, you suffer by comparison if you don’t.

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is this job description full of red flags? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/is-this-job-description-full-of-red-flags.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/06/is-this-job-description-full-of-red-flags.html#comments Wed, 09 Jun 2021 14:59:01 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21783 This post, is this job description full of red flags? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I’m a content marketer with a good amount of experience launching new programs successfully. At the beginning of this year, I connected with a VP of marketing at a start-up. Shortly after, “George” contacted me and said he needed someone to launch a content marketing program and thought I would be a […]

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This post, is this job description full of red flags? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’m a content marketer with a good amount of experience launching new programs successfully.

At the beginning of this year, I connected with a VP of marketing at a start-up. Shortly after, “George” contacted me and said he needed someone to launch a content marketing program and thought I would be a tremendous fit. We had two good calls and were planning for a third with people on his team. Everything seemed to align to what I want next in my career.

After a month of radio silence, today at 2 am, George sent two follow-up emails apologizing for the delay. He also included the job description. Some of the language is troubling:

1) Lives up to verbal and written agreements, regardless of personal cost

2) Social needs met outside work (does not need an office full of coworkers to fill this need)

I’ve managed and suffered through unreasonable expectations at another company, so #1 raises serious concerns about work/life balance and boundaries.

As for #2, while I have a full life, I also like camaraderie with coworkers. Having worked remotely for the last 14 months and in another role some years back, I know what works and what’s possible when it comes to bonding with teammates.

I asked for clarification and some context, but I’m inclined to bow out of further consideration. Either George means what he wrote (scary!) or lacks the empathy and insight to write a more welcoming and respectful job description. It also makes me wonder what the culture is really like. I’d appreciate your thoughts.

Run for the hills!

These are both troubling in different ways, and taken together they add up to a big flashing danger sign that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

Let’s take #1 first. “Lives up to verbal and written agreements” is such a basic expectation of any job that it’s weird that he feels he needs to include it. Usually when you see something so basic in a job description, it’s there because the manager had employees previously who didn’t do it … and “regardless of personal costs” gives us a big clue as to why. Of course any conscientious employee will try to live up to verbal and written agreements. But sometimes things come up that mean those agreements need to change — someone gets sick so they can’t meet a deadline, or they have a family emergency so they can’t staff an event they’d planned to be at, or they realize that fulfilling the original agreement will require them working 60-hour weeks and they’re not up for doing that so they want to revisit what’s realistic.

Someone who thinks “you must do what you agree to, regardless of personal cost” is someone who lacks a basic understanding of how humans work and how life works, and who doesn’t even realize he’s advertising that he’ll be a nightmare to work for. He feels that “regardless of personal cost” is reasonable. (In fact, if I know this type, he probably thinks he should take pride in his high standards for others.)

Then there’s #2: “Social needs met outside work (does not need an office full of coworkers to fill this need).” This is another one that sounds like it was born from an experience he didn’t like — like that he had an employee who was overly social at the expense of their job or other people’s work. And that happens! But a reasonable manager trusts themselves to handle that effectively if it comes up again, by talking to the person about the issue and helping them recalibrate their lines between “normal human warmth” and “behavior that’s disrupting the office.”

Or maybe I’m interpreting it wrong and it just means “you won’t be around other people in this job, so you have to be okay with that.” But if that’s what he means, there are far more straightforward ways to say that, ones that don’t sound like he’s implicitly criticizing people who appreciate having some degree of human connection with their colleagues. I’d be interested to know what he says about it in response to your questions! I’m more willing to believe this one is just artless wording than I am with #1, but when you take the two in combination together, it doesn’t paint a great picture.

Ultimately, I think you’re exactly right: Either he means precisely what he wrote, or he lacks the empathy to understand why his framing would be off-putting. My guess is both. Either way, you’re getting valuable info about what it would be like to work for him.

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my interviewer asked about my personal finances https://www.askamanager.org/2021/05/my-interviewer-asked-about-my-personal-finances.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/05/my-interviewer-asked-about-my-personal-finances.html#comments Thu, 27 May 2021 17:59:32 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21690 This post, my interviewer asked about my personal finances , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: Is it normal for a hiring manager to ask, somewhat insistently, how a candidate has been supporting herself financially during a period of unemployment? If it’s not normal, which is my suspicion, what could possibly be behind this? I work in a niche field and was laid off last year in a […]

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This post, my interviewer asked about my personal finances , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

Is it normal for a hiring manager to ask, somewhat insistently, how a candidate has been supporting herself financially during a period of unemployment? If it’s not normal, which is my suspicion, what could possibly be behind this?

I work in a niche field and was laid off last year in a Covid-related restructure (i.e., it was not performance-related). I’ve now been unemployed and desperately job searching for an entire year. It’s been brutal because my field is already small and my skills are not easily translatable to other lines of work. In short, there are very few opportunities for people like me, and everyone in the field knows that.

I had several interviews for a role in which I’d be a contractor at a client site, and an employee of the contracting agency. It was made clear that it’s informally a contract-to-client hire role, and the contractor is expected to have a very close relationship with the client hiring manager. After multiple in-depth interviews, the client hiring manager called me directly without the contract agency present. To be honest, the rest of the conversation also felt inappropriate, but what really bothered me was that at the end he pointedly asked how I’ve been supporting myself financially, because “a year is a long time,” “I didn’t think unemployment payments were enough to support that,” and “I didn’t know if you were married or had kids.” I politely and non-defensively asked why he asked, and he said he “just wanted to know,” but that I “didn’t have to answer.” I mustered all of my diplomacy to assure him that I wasn’t turning down jobs to rely on unemployment or even hiding a more recent job, if that’s why he was asking, and that the job market was just really difficult right now. He laughed and said that’s not why he asked but just really wanted to know, and asked again.

What could be behind this? I can’t imagine that personal finances are any business of a potential employer for roles like this that don’t require a security clearance. If he was concerned that I had gotten into some unsavory financial arrangements to finance my debt, like drug dealing, that should be covered by the credit check process, right? And I can’t imagine that this was to suss out my salary requirements, because I had agreed to the range before interviewing, and aren’t salary negotiations what he hired the contracting agency to manage? The agency wasn’t even on this call. Also, even if he was stepping into salary negotiations, why does it matter how poor I am now? Salary should be based on merit, not need. If it’s based on need, then I need $10,000,000.

I was already on the fence about this role due to other troublesome behavior I had noticed throughout the process, so am probably going to decline if they offer this job to me. I’m just really curious what could have been behind these questions, especially without the contracting agency present.

This is just a nosy dude.

He felt curious about how you’d supported yourself through a year of unemployment. That curiosity on its own isn’t the problem; the problem is that his brain didn’t immediately tell him it was none of his business. And even after you politely pushed back twice (first by asking why he asked and then by trying to address what you thought he might be concerned about ), he still felt entitled to insist on an answer. And he didn’t have any qualms about admitting that he “just really wanted to know.”

I think you can take that at face value. He just wanted to know. And he’s clueless enough not to realize or care that being interested isn’t the same as having the right to ask.

Because you are a normal, professional person, you’re looking for a way his question could be rooted in something businessy — thinking maybe it was about salary or so forth. And sure, maybe he was looking for signs that he could lowball you on salary. But more than anything, he’s just nosy and feels entitled to get his curiosity satisfied.

I think you’re right to turn down the job, particularly since there have been other danger signs, but it wouldn’t hurt to mention to the contracting agency that you had an odd call and explain what he said to you (not just this, but whatever the other inappropriate parts of the call were too). They may not care since he’s the client — in fact, their attitude may be that whoever they hire needs to deal with this guy, so it’s better to have people self-select out otherwise — but it’s still reasonable to alert them that it’s happening.

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was my “probably not, but maybe” response to a recruiter appropriate? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/was-my-probably-not-but-maybe-response-to-a-recruiter-appropriate.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/was-my-probably-not-but-maybe-response-to-a-recruiter-appropriate.html#comments Thu, 29 Apr 2021 17:59:51 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21524 This post, was my “probably not, but maybe” response to a recruiter appropriate? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: What’s the line between when it’s appropriate to completely ignore a message from a recruiter vs. when it’s reasonable to respond with a description of concerns that would need to be addressed? I recently ended up writing a missive in response to a job I probably won’t take (located in my neighborhood, […]

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This post, was my “probably not, but maybe” response to a recruiter appropriate? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

What’s the line between when it’s appropriate to completely ignore a message from a recruiter vs. when it’s reasonable to respond with a description of concerns that would need to be addressed?

I recently ended up writing a missive in response to a job I probably won’t take (located in my neighborhood, thus perhaps run by people I might want to work with should they engage in future, more interesting ventures), and I’m trying to decide to what extent this is a reasonable thing to do vs. a waste of everyone’s time.

I received an email from the head of HR for a business, pitching me on their company (for example, mentioning they have seven-hour days). The note ended by saying, “Your background is incredibly impressive, and I would love to connect to further discuss the opportunity. Would you have some time to connect over the coming days so that I might discuss the role with you but more importantly get to know you better?”

This is what I sent in response (anonymized in places):

Thank you for reaching out. I’m always glad to hear of another tech company in the area; that said, I do have some initial concerns. I’m going to take a minute to talk about what I look for in an employer, and perhaps we can jointly determine if this is an opportunity that makes sense to consider.

First, my core considerations:

Does a company provide an opportunity to work with people I’d be able to learn from?
While I’ve had the opportunity to gain some deeply specialized experience (and may well be the person with the most experience in some specialties within any given team), I’ve also had opportunity to learn from coworkers with their own deep specialties. At [CurrentCo], for example, I work next to [specialists in subfield-1], [specialists in subfield-2 ], [specialists in subfield-3], and more.

Is the technical stack keeping up with industry cutting-edge? Given stakeholder justification (in terms of concrete benefits), is there organizational willingness to invest in technical enhancements, and a large enough technical staff to be able to keep up with maintenance while exploring high-risk/high-reward investments?

One of my professional goals is to ensure that I’m enhancing my skills over time. One way to do this is to attempt to keep pace with industry-leading standards and technology; as an example, at my current job, I was given enough leeway to start a multi-year effort to [build our own version of technology pioneered by a well-known industry leader]. The result of this has been industry leadership in [advantage of this technology] applied to [CurrentCo’s field]. (This isn’t an isolated incident, but emblematic of how [CurrentCo] operates; over the duration of my tenure there has also been a major rewrite from [OldLanguage] to [NewLanguage-A], dramatically enhancing performance of the relevant subsystems — and the company first gained my attention as an early adopter of the [NewLanguage-B] language, and the [Toolkit-C] framework on top of it).

Is the work important? Is the work challenging?
I link these two together because they’re of a piece. The last company I was at which had a hard focus on limited work hours was [HugeManufacturingCo] — everyone was out at 5 pm — and frankly, I was miserable: If the things we’re working towards are so unimportant that there’s never a justification to put in extra effort, are they really worth working on at all?
By contrast, before [HugeManufacturingCo], one of the startups I engaged in was building [medical software]. While the company had some serious faults, our technology was in many respects the better part of a decade ahead of the industry, and there was genuine reason to believe that successfully executing on our mission would change the way medicine was practiced worldwide. I had a cot in the office and slept there at times — and couldn’t have been happier.

To be sure, this was before I had family commitments — I wouldn’t consider any position that required those same hours on a daily basis today — but doing something that genuinely makes the world a better place remains important. (Commerce can be argued to “make the world a better place” — if you notice [startup in a similar space to NewCo] on my CV, the argument made at that time is that we were going to break up the near-monopoly held by [biggest company in a field related to NewCo’s] and help democratize the field by allowing smaller organizations to cheaply stand up competitors; not as inspiring as changing the way medicine is done, but inspiring enough.)

Is the company generally aligned with my personal ethics?
Would I be working with a diverse team, or a group of “bro-grammers”? Are customers and end-users considered stakeholders — whose interests are to be represented in internal decision making — or merely a source of funds?

Speaking now to [NewCo] specifically:
I haven’t had much success finding a set of job listings on your site to get a solid idea of your technical stack. Looking through LinkedIn for existing software development staff, the few individuals I can find appear to have a [Popular 2000s-era Toolkit] background; I don’t as yet have any information about what your [tooling used for a different purpose] looks like.

While my [Popular 2000s-era Toolkit] skills are still current today, I don’t consider that a place I’m looking to focus going forward; there are superior alternatives in most of the niches in which it is widely used — such as [Language-N] in numeric computing, or [Languge-M] in (small/embedded or security-critical) systems programming, or [Language-O] in systems programming contexts that don’t require the rigor associated with [Language-M]. This isn’t an automatic hard “no” for any [Popular 2000s-era Toolkit] shop, but it is a place where a [Language-M] or [Language-P] shop (or a company building on [Toolkit-R]) would have an advantage.

For the reasons described above, the focus on seven-hour days misses me somewhat. I’d much rather work longer hours — at least on occasion — if I’m spending that time doing something important: Advancing the state of the art, or making the world a better place.

If, given the above, you think [NewCo] might still be a reasonable fit: The second-in-command on the team I lead is going to be [unavailable] in [time range], so any start date would need to be after [that season] so there’s opportunity for an orderly handoff to take place; consequently, any timeline will necessarily be relaxed. If you wanted to have lunch at [proposed location] as a chance to chat in person, I’ll be fully vaccinated and available as of [date about a month out].

Was this worthwhile contact-building, or a waste of everyone’s time?

In this case, I suppose it depends on how she responds — but as a general rule, this was way too much for an initial email.

These are reasonable questions to have, but way too much for email. Ideally you would have said you had questions and asked for a phone call, or cut this way down to a couple of questions in a single paragraph.

Most recruiters — or hiring managers or so forth — won’t to write out the sort of lengthy reply this email would require; no one has that much time to invest in writing long emails on nuanced topics to candidates they haven’t even screened yet. (And even once you’re screened, few people involved in hiring will write out lengthy replies like this would require —they’re going to want to just get on the phone and talk it through.) Generally, if you get a response at all, it’s going to be some variation of, “These are all things we can talk about on a call.”

Similarly, I wouldn’t have proposed lunch — that’s a significant time investment when she’s almost certainly just looking for an initial phone call.

In some ways you replied as if you were mid-process already (the lunch, the discussion of start dates) when she was basically just inviting you to throw your hat in the ring.

Some of this, too, is stuff that you’ll need to figure out for yourself — like the pieces about whether the work is important, challenging, and aligned with your personal ethics. Those aren’t questions she can answer for you; they’re things you’ll have to figure out as you learn about the work and the company. That’s not to say there’s no value in noting that those are important considerations for you, but they’re framed here as questions for her to consider (in an already very long email!).

To be clear, the company approached you, and it’s perfectly reasonable for you to have questions before deciding whether you want to take the trouble of applying. But that’s why she was suggesting connecting, and it’s much easier to discuss all of this in a phone call.

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I’m a woman — does my interview attire have to be feminine? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/im-a-woman-does-my-interview-attire-have-to-be-feminine.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/im-a-woman-does-my-interview-attire-have-to-be-feminine.html#comments Wed, 21 Apr 2021 17:59:21 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21487 This post, I’m a woman — does my interview attire have to be feminine? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I am a young woman about to graduate college and enter the workforce. I am also a lesbian and very uncomfortable with feminine clothing. In a perfect world, my professional attire would be near-identical to what is expected for a man. I’ve never had to interview for a job before, as all […]

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This post, I’m a woman — does my interview attire have to be feminine? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I am a young woman about to graduate college and enter the workforce. I am also a lesbian and very uncomfortable with feminine clothing. In a perfect world, my professional attire would be near-identical to what is expected for a man.

I’ve never had to interview for a job before, as all my existing work experience is summer jobs that I got through personal connections (working with professors or people in my community) and I’m starting to get nervous about the upcoming process of interviewing. You suggest dressing for an interview in a way that will not draw attention to your outfit, and I know that if I dress the way I prefer to, I absolutely will be seen as “the butch candidate.” This does not seem ideal!

I live in an extremely liberal city, and maybe on paper nowhere I’d be looking to work would discriminate against people with gender nonconforming fashion tastes — but I also know that not everyone in charge of interviews is going to be as “woke” as the average reputation of a city, and a lot of the hiring process is based on subconscious biases.

What do I do? Grit my teeth, borrow one of my girlfriend’s blouses for the interview, and if I get the job just show up on day one wearing a suit and tie? Would it be disingenuous to dress differently for an interview than I plan to dress for the job itself? Would interviewing in a suit and tie be a good litmus test for how accepted I’d be in the job, or would it likely screw me over before I’ve even begun?

Nah, you don’t need to borrow a blouse.

You can if you want to. It’s not disingenuous to wear a typically feminine-presenting outfit to the interview even if that’s not your normal day-to-day wear. A lot of people have interview outfits that don’t bear a ton of resemblance to what they wear once they’re actually on the job.

But if you’re more comfortable in traditionally masculine-presenting clothes, there’s a real advantage to interviewing in them: It’ll help screen out companies where that’ll be an issue, and will screen in workplaces that don’t care.

That’s the case with a lot of things about how you present yourself at an interview, not just clothing. For example, if you’re naturally quiet and reserved but you force yourself to be bubbly and outgoing in interviews, you risk ending up in a job where they want you to be bubbly and outgoing (and that can be hellish if that’s not you).

As a general rule, the more you’re yourself in an interview, the more confident you can be that you’ll be able to comfortably be yourself on the job.

(Of course, that advice works well when you have options and the luxury of happily screening out employers that won’t be a comfortable fit. It can be less realistic when you don’t.)

All that said, since you’re in an extremely liberal city, this is pretty unlikely to be an issue (especially if we’re talking about something like San Francisco). You’re right that interviewers don’t always mirror the sensibilities of the cities where they’re located, but women in masculine-presenting clothing is so quickly entering the mainstream that it’s just not going to be a thing for the majority of interviewers.

I think you’re well-positioned to wear the professional clothes you’re comfortable with.

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how to screen out micromanagers in a job interview https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/how-to-screen-out-micromanagers-in-a-job-interview.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/how-to-screen-out-micromanagers-in-a-job-interview.html#comments Thu, 15 Apr 2021 16:29:47 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21397 This post, how to screen out micromanagers in a job interview , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I am part of the interview team in finding a replacement for our ex-manager. And our department would really like this person to not be another micromanager. Any ideas for questions I could ask? Or any red flags in the interviewee’s answers/demeanor to watch out for? I answer this question over at […]

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This post, how to screen out micromanagers in a job interview , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I am part of the interview team in finding a replacement for our ex-manager. And our department would really like this person to not be another micromanager.

Any ideas for questions I could ask? Or any red flags in the interviewee’s answers/demeanor to watch out for?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

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my interviewer said I lacked “real world work experience” — what does that mean? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/what-is-real-world-work-experience.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/what-is-real-world-work-experience.html#comments Mon, 05 Apr 2021 17:59:46 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21382 This post, my interviewer said I lacked “real world work experience” — what does that mean? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I’m a recent grad. All my work experience so far has been on-campus jobs such as tutoring or being an assistant in my department’s office. Recently I was thrown off by a comment an interviewer made. I was being interviewed by the executive director and the marketing manager together. The marketing manager […]

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This post, my interviewer said I lacked “real world work experience” — what does that mean? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’m a recent grad. All my work experience so far has been on-campus jobs such as tutoring or being an assistant in my department’s office.

Recently I was thrown off by a comment an interviewer made. I was being interviewed by the executive director and the marketing manager together. The marketing manager is who the open position directly reports to. The interview was going well, but the director began talking about how he was enjoying the conversation, but that he also didn’t feel I had a lot of real world work experience, and he essentially asked me to convince him of my worth/value.

In the moment, I was thrown off by his comment. I asked him to clarify what he meant by “real world work experience,” and he explained that he sees my “school experience” (which included the jobs I held on campus during my time as a student) but he wasn’t sure how it would transfer to the position they were hiring for. He then spoke about how the marketing manager has had experience in her industry and so forth, and he was wondering what I was bringing to the table.

Do folks not see jobs held on campus as “real world” work experience? Or what do they mean when they say that?

I understood he was having difficulty seeing how transferable (or relevant?) my skills were and although I was very glad I was able to clear up some concerns he had, the phrasing of “real world work experience” still strikes me. On the one hand, I can understand where he’s coming from. On the other hand, I felt like it invalidated any prior work experience I did have.

The rest of the interview went well and I was later offered the job, which I accepted, but I’ve been doing some reflecting on what “real world” work experience is and how employers gauge the value of potential employees. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Yeah, your interviewer was using “real world experience” to mean “not on campus.”

It’s not that jobs on campus aren’t part of the real world. Obviously you still exist in the real world when you’re in school. But campus jobs — and jobs designed for students generally — are often seen as cutting students more slack than they’d get normally. There’s something to that! In student jobs, you’re often able to call in at the last minute because you need to study for an exam or are able to take off the exact days you want to take off because of your school schedule. More importantly, you’re also often (although not always) held to a different standard of performance because you’re a student and so it’s assumed you’re still learning and figuring things out. Sometimes in student jobs, it’s much harder to get fired too; they figure you’re still learning, the stakes aren’t very high, and you’ll be gone at the end of the semester anyway.

That’s not the case in every student job. But it’s true of enough of them that some people will look at that experience and figure it might have been less rigorous than non-student work.

To be clear, there’s lots of value in that work anyway! It’s not like student jobs just don’t count. They count for a lot. But if I’m comparing a candidate whose work experience is all on-campus jobs as a student and a candidate who has, say, two years of post-college work experience, if all else is equal I’m going to assume the second candidate will probably need less guidance and less acclimation to the work world. That doesn’t mean the second candidate is stronger than the first; it’s one data point out of a whole bunch of things to consider.

Your interviewer’s language was sloppy, but that’s likely what he meant.

Read an update to this letter here.

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do you really need to say “I want this job” in interviews? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/do-you-really-need-to-say-i-want-this-job-in-interviews.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/04/do-you-really-need-to-say-i-want-this-job-in-interviews.html#comments Mon, 05 Apr 2021 14:59:22 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21404 This post, do you really need to say “I want this job” in interviews? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I’ve been reading a lot of career advice and I see a lot of people say that in an interview, it’s vital for you to directly say that you want the job. I have always assumed it’s implied that I want the job based on the fact that I am interviewing. I […]

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This post, do you really need to say “I want this job” in interviews? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’ve been reading a lot of career advice and I see a lot of people say that in an interview, it’s vital for you to directly say that you want the job. I have always assumed it’s implied that I want the job based on the fact that I am interviewing. I feel it’s better to show I want the job through enthusiasm. But what do you think?

Yeah, I hate that advice. Most candidates don’t do that, even when they’re genuinely enthusiastic about the job, and they shouldn’t (and generally don’t) need to.

As you note, your interviewer assumes you’re interested in the job because you are interviewing for it. That doesn’t mean you definitely want the job — part of the point of the interview process is for you to learn enough to decide whether you do or not. But you’re clearly interested enough to be there.

Announcing in that conversation “I want this job!” isn’t usually necessary, just like your interviewer isn’t expected to announce “I want to hire you!” on the spot either. Reasonable interviewers want people to take time to process their thoughts and think over what they’ve learned during the interview.

You will find interviewers out there who say they want to hear a candidate declare that they want the job … just as you’ll find interviewers out there with all sorts of other preferences too. But it’s far from a universal thing. In my experience, the interviewers who want it are a very specific type of manager — salesy, brash, ones who sometimes reward brashness over merit — and that may or may not be the kind of manager you’ll do well working for. By all means, if that’s your own personal style and you want to work for someone with that style too, feel free to go ahead and declare, “I want this job!” But if you don’t feel comfortable making that a standard part of your interviews, my bet is you won’t love working for the managers who think you should.

And frankly, lots of interviewers dislike that kind of hard sell. Good interviewers want to have a real discussion with you about whether the job is the right fit and want to see that you’re thinking critically about that too. They don’t need you to sell them, and trying to can be a turn-off.

To be clear, you should show enthusiasm. You should come across as interested and engaged and enthusiastic about doing the work. But with most interviewers, you don’t need to say the words “I want this job.” (That said, a spontaneous, unplanned “I’d really love to do this job!” is a different thing, and experienced interviewers can usually tell the difference between that and something that was part of your planned spiel.)

Another piece of similar advice floating around is that you should ask for the job — and you don’t need to do that either. Asking for the job puts your interviewer on the spot, creates an awkward situation if the answer is no, and will come across as overly aggressive to many, many interviewers. It’s another piece of bad advice from people who think of interviews as sales pitches, rather than collaborative conversations where both sides are trying to determine whether it might be the right fit for them both.

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I flew out for an interview — and they ended it after one question https://www.askamanager.org/2021/03/i-flew-out-for-an-interview-and-they-ended-it-after-one-question.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/03/i-flew-out-for-an-interview-and-they-ended-it-after-one-question.html#comments Mon, 15 Mar 2021 17:59:46 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21254 This post, I flew out for an interview — and they ended it after one question , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I went on an interview for a position in another state that I was really excited about. I work in a niche field and jobs rarely open. I prepared well, researched the company, and prepared answers about how my experiences align with their core values. I felt great. I had to fork […]

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This post, I flew out for an interview — and they ended it after one question , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I went on an interview for a position in another state that I was really excited about. I work in a niche field and jobs rarely open. I prepared well, researched the company, and prepared answers about how my experiences align with their core values. I felt great. I had to fork over money for airfare and fly during a pandemic, but if that’s what it takes, right?

On the day of the interview I met with a hiring manager with whom I am aquainted. My previous company had worked with his previous company and, although we weren’t friends or anything, we knew each other well enough to recognize and remember one another.

He was friendly and showed me into his office. With no further ado or small talk he opened with, “Why should I hire you for this position?” I was a little thrown because he hadn’t offered any information about the position. Using what I’d read on the job posting, I gave a little information on my background and briefly alluded to those talking points that I mentioned above, but I wasn’t really sure how long to speak and didn’t want to “steal” the answers I’d prepared for other questions.

He then thanked me and showed me out.

I was stunned. I recovered enough to ask what the next steps would be. He assured me I’d be moved on to the next interview phase. Then … nothing. I’d obviously bombed it and hadn’t sold myself well, but I had assumed that I’d be given more time to talk. I’m embarrassed about how poorly I performed, but I’ve never in my life been on an interview where I was only asked a single question.

After a few weeks, I emailed him thanking him for his time and asking if there was anything I could clarify about my answer (I had, of course, contacted him to thank him immediately after). A manager from another department responded with a brusque email that the position had been filled.

I’m disappointed and frustrated to say the least, but I want to use this as a learning experience. How would you respond if an interviewer opened an interview like that? Should I have pushed for more time when he tried to show me the door?

Your interviewer was incredibly rude … and also just a bad interviewer.

Ending an interview without explanation after one general question is rude on its own, but you had flown in for this interview — and he knew that, I’m assuming? And at your own expense? He owed you more.

If something about your answer was an absolute deal-breaker for him, he had two choices:
* He could have explained why your answer was prohibitive, so you weren’t left wondering what caused him to short-circuit an in-person interview that you’d taken a lot of trouble to be there for.
* Or, he could have kept interviewing you out of courtesy and respect because you had just flown in on your own dime, and figured he owed it to you to keep talking at least a bit more. Not for hours, but 45-60 minutes when they asked you fly in? Yes. (And if that was too much time for him to invest, then he had the previous option of being honest with you.)

Now, it’s possible there’s something else happening here. Maybe he felt he already knew your work well enough to recommend that you move forward. If that’s the case, he shouldn’t have let you fly out in the first place (during a pandemic, no less) or he could have done a full interview out of respect for your time. The fact that you didn’t end up moving forward in their process doesn’t mean this wasn’t the explanation at the time. Sometimes an interviewer intends one thing and is overruled, or a stronger candidate emerges, etc.

Or who knows, something could have happened that had nothing to do with you. Maybe he was overscheduled that day and you were the corner he decided to cut. Maybe he’d just learned his basement was flooded and he needed to go home. Doesn’t matter — the way he handled it was horribly rude.

I’m betting, though, that it was none of those. My guess is that he’d already decided to hire someone else, or at least not to hire you, before you ever arrived that day. And rather than treating you respectfully, he decided to just ask you a single question and then show you out.

No matter what explanation is the correct one, he’s a jerk. His company shouldn’t be letting him interview people.

Also, why on earth did they ask you to come out in person? Sometimes there are reasons an interview really does need to be in-person, but this one clearly could have happened over the phone.

In any case, you asked how you should have responded to his question. “Why should I hire you?” isn’t a great question, especially as an opener — it comes across as a bit adversarial, and assumes the candidate has info they probably don’t have yet — but it’s not an uncommon question either. It’s a good one to be prepared for! Ideally you’d answer it by talking about why you think you’d excel in the role (perhaps while noting that you have limited info so far and want to learn more). Just summarizing your background isn’t the strongest answer to this question — he presumably already had that info from your resume and this was a chance to go beyond that — but it’s a very common type of response and certainly not one that would make any decent interviewer short-circuit the conversation without explanation.

As for whether you should have pushed for more time when he started to show you out: It was already over at that point, and I doubt there was anything you could do to save it. But it would have been entirely reasonable to ask what was going on — as in, “I may have misunderstood. I flew out from Portland for this meeting at my own expense because I understood we’d be doing a full interview. Can I ask why we’re wrapping up so quickly?”

But for all the reasons above, this is about him, not you.

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employer rejected me, then sent a list of everything I did wrong https://www.askamanager.org/2021/03/employer-rejected-me-then-sent-a-list-of-everything-i-did-wrong.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/03/employer-rejected-me-then-sent-a-list-of-everything-i-did-wrong.html#comments Tue, 02 Mar 2021 18:59:51 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21108 This post, employer rejected me, then sent a list of everything I did wrong , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I’m a younger person who is job searching for something full-time for the first time. Haven’t been having a lot of luck of course due to the state of the world, but I recently got an interview where I made it all the way to the final round and was rejected. At […]

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This post, employer rejected me, then sent a list of everything I did wrong , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’m a younger person who is job searching for something full-time for the first time. Haven’t been having a lot of luck of course due to the state of the world, but I recently got an interview where I made it all the way to the final round and was rejected.

At first, the company was really professional about it. They were kind enough to let me know I’d been rejected and thank me for my time. But then, about three days later, I got an email from one of the interviewers (a different one than the one who sent the formal rejection email, the final round had been in front of a panel).

The email body text said, “Hey, here’s some tips for future interviews” and attached was a Word document with a super detailed list of everything I’d done wrong, including that my answer to the question “what’s your favorite book” was too pretentious (note: the job wasn’t for a library or any other book related field). Although he’d been part of the final round interview panel, he hadn’t been
present during previous interviews and this was the first communication I got directly from this guy.

Here are all the comments from the document. It was a financial / stock company but the job wasn’t directly connected to stocks (copywriter position writing some ads/website update):

I can tell you are not passionate about stocks. Every member of this company has been passionately investing in the stock market as a hobby for years. You had basic technical knowledge and that’s it.

In general you seem to lack passion. Your answers are very thorough and well thought out but lack passion. What are you passionate about? I couldn’t tell.

You were clearly nervous throughout. You lack confidence.

When asked about an issue you had overcome, you mentioned something that had happened in a job not related to our industry

You didn’t seem to have an interest in company culture. We mentioned we are a company with lots of events and training workshops and you didn’t ask any further questions there.

Your response to the favorite book question sounded pretentious and insincere. Les Miserables simply isn’t a book people read for fun.

You weren’t enjoying yourself at all. We’re a friendly company and you were tense and nervous the entire time we talked to you. You let your nerves show.

Is this normal? It’s left me feeling really terrible. According to him, I did -so- many things wrong. It’s killing my confidence.

Hearing that I lack passion is really scary. I’m scared it will affect me in the job search going forward. It’s not an issue I ever thought I had, but now it is something that worries me daily.

Please do not let this guy shake your confidence! He is a jerk.

It’s one thing to offer a rejected job candidate a few tips that might help them with future interviews. A few. That can be helpful. But sending someone a full litany of criticism like this — when they hadn’t even asked for feedback! — is a jerk move.

Plus, the criticism itself is subjective, overly personal, and rudely framed, and his desire to send it to a stranger who hadn’t solicited it says more about him than it does about you. (It says he’s an asshole. Imagine working with this guy.)

And enough of this is laughable that it calls the rest of it into question too. Les Miserables “isn’t a book people read for fun” and you’re obviously being pretentious and insincere? The fact that he wrote that with a straight face and thought it was valid feedback means you can ignore the whole email. He’s told you who he is. (An asshole who also doesn’t read.)

To be fair, maybe it’s true that you didn’t seem passionate enough for them. If they only want to hire people who have been investing in the stock market for years as a hobby — excuse me, passionately investing — and that’s not you, that’s okay. That means this job wasn’t the right fit on either side. That’s not a failing on your side; it just means you and the job didn’t match up. But you were qualified enough to be invited in for an interview, so clearly someone saw enough in your materials to consider you a viable candidate. It’s not outrageous that you were there.

As for the rest of it … it’s hard to put any weight on it since so much of it is obviously ridiculous. Maybe you did seem nervous. A lot of people are nervous in interviews. For many jobs, that doesn’t really matter. Did you feel nervous? Did you feel like your nerves got in the way of how well you interviewed? If so, it’s worth working on that (repetitive practice often helps). But if you didn’t feel particularly nervous, please don’t let this guy rattle you into thinking you’re coming across badly. He sounds like someone who wants to see a very specific type of swagger from candidates (probably male swagger, among other things) and that’s about him, not some universal interviewer preference.

It’s also pretty odd that someone you hadn’t been communicating with throughout the process and who doesn’t seem to have played a key role in the interviews decided to send you unsolicited feedback of this nature. That … is not normally done. (In fact, it might be interesting to forward his feedback to the person who rejected you and ask if the feedback represents the employer.)

Frankly, he sounds like someone who enjoys making other people feel bad. That’s not someone you should take advice from.

If you’re genuinely worried about how you might be coming across in interviews, it’s worth doing some practice interviews with people whose judgment you trust and asking for feedback (ideally someone with some experience hiring, if you can swing that).

But what this guy did wasn’t normal or okay, and it sounds like he’s working out some issues of his own on you.

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interviewers want to know how I’ve been spending my time out of work … during the pandemic https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/interviewers-want-to-know-how-ive-been-spending-my-time-out-of-work-during-the-pandemic.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/interviewers-want-to-know-how-ive-been-spending-my-time-out-of-work-during-the-pandemic.html#comments Thu, 18 Feb 2021 18:59:57 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=21032 This post, interviewers want to know how I’ve been spending my time out of work … during the pandemic , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I was laid off in May 2020 (along with so many others, of course). My industry isn’t directly affected in the way the restaurant industry is, but it is indirectly affected, and of course more unemployed people just means more competition. I’ve been applying to hundreds and hundreds of jobs, interviewing like […]

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This post, interviewers want to know how I’ve been spending my time out of work … during the pandemic , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I was laid off in May 2020 (along with so many others, of course). My industry isn’t directly affected in the way the restaurant industry is, but it is indirectly affected, and of course more unemployed people just means more competition.

I’ve been applying to hundreds and hundreds of jobs, interviewing like mad, and have made it to the reference check stage of four interviews. I’ve had a provisional offer, but they’re waiting to see if they win the (government) bid. I was a live-in nanny for a few months, but have otherwise just been on unemployment and trying to get a job.

Recently, probably since I’ve been unemployed so long, interviewers have started asking (sometimes in multiple, probing ways) what I’ve been doing since being laid off. Given the circumstances, these questions (phrased like, “So have you been consulting?” or “What have you learned about yourself in this time?”) strike me as tone-deaf. The answer to that question is, of course, that I’ve been trying to take care of myself mentally but haven’t had the motivation to pursue a ton of activities that I’m not sure will lead to anything. Between the general malaise of the global situation, nationwide protests and reckoning on race relations, once-in-a-generation political turmoil, and my own personal issues (including the loss of my job!), I just really haven’t been in the mood to do unpaid work or write blogs or intern , when I could conceivably get a job at any moment and all that would end prematurely. Without the structure and routine that a regular full-time job provides, I just don’t have the drive to do things for the fun of it, without knowing it will bring something useful.

My responses have been something like, “I’ve worked to stay connected through X board position, and I’ve been nannying which I have really enjoyed since I love working with kids whenever possible, and have been becoming a pretty amazing cook!” But I just feel so deflated when that’s asked, as if I’ve just been sitting on my bum by choice. What can I say when I haven’t actually been consulting, or interning, or whatever — I’ve just been looking for a job?

Agggh, you’re right that this question is weirdly oblivious to Everything Going On and how it has affected people. Frankly your answers — both the unvarnished one and the one you’re giving in interviews — sound a lot better than the answer would be for many people (“I’ve been trying to keep myself and my dependents alive, crying in the shower most days, and losing a lot of hair”).

I’m sure you’re right that you’re starting to hear this question now because you’ve been unemployed for a while. And that would make sense in normal times. But these are not normal times, and someone needs to tell these interviewers to pull it way back. Unfortunately, that someone probably can’t be you, so I think you’re on the right track with your answer. I’d try to throw in a little more work-relevant stuff if you can — you’ve been working on deepening your network, taking time to reflect on lessons you’ve learned from your career and what you want to do next, blah blah — or even just say that you had the ability to take some time off and now you’re eager to get back to work … but it’s a crap question right now, and you shouldn’t feel deficient for not having a more exciting answer to it.

Also, you should feel free to ask in response, “How has your company been managing through the pandemic, and what have you been doing to support employees who are struggling?”

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my interview was great — but they hired no one instead of me https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/my-interview-was-great-and-then-they-hired-no-one-instead-of-me.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/02/my-interview-was-great-and-then-they-hired-no-one-instead-of-me.html#comments Wed, 03 Feb 2021 18:59:19 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20960 This post, my interview was great — but they hired no one instead of me , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I am a restaurant industry professional, in the field of wine and beverage management. My experience in this area is fairly competitive and accomplished for my city (I have about seven years in management level wine/beverage director roles, and more junior but still relevant experience prior to that). COVID-19 has taken a […]

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This post, my interview was great — but they hired no one instead of me , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I am a restaurant industry professional, in the field of wine and beverage management. My experience in this area is fairly competitive and accomplished for my city (I have about seven years in management level wine/beverage director roles, and more junior but still relevant experience prior to that). COVID-19 has taken a huge toll on the restaurant industry, and I have been temporarily laid off since March, but my employer continues to stay in touch and tell me that my job will be back. However, I have continued to look for other work during this time, as it’s really not certain what will happen.

Recently I was contacted by a recruiter about a position suited to my experience that seemed like it would be a great fit. I am familiar with this employer and their different restaurant concepts, I know many people who have worked for them in the past with positive experiences and I am vaguely acquainted with the woman with whom I would be working directly. I would love to work there, feel I could contribute a lot to their success, and see the potential for longevity with them.

I went through three interviews over the phone and Zoom with members of their management team and received positive feedback at every step from the recruiter. She praised me and said she was excited to see me moving so quickly and successfully through the process At every turn, I sent the appropriate thank-you notes and follow-up emails.

A few days after the last step, I was disappointed to hear from the recruiter that they had selected another candidate. Her feedback to me was that “they decided to choose a more junior candidate for whom the position would perhaps represent a greater challenge and step up in their career.”

Looking back on the experience, I feel that the only things I could have done to lead them to a decision like this were: when asked where I saw myself in five years, I answered that I would like to be in a corporate beverage manager role overseeing multiple concepts, and am looking for a company with growth potential where that is possible (this is the case for them), and when asked about my salary requirements, I said I’d request an entry salary of no less than $65,000. (This is $10,000 less than I made in my previous job, but we are in a pandemic where the job market is poor, so of course I understand I must make concessions. I did not, of course, expressly say this to them. The job was listed with a salary range of $60-65,000 depending on experience.)

I have now learned through multiple sources that they in fact have not hired anyone, and have reposted the position to the recruiter’s website and other industry job boards. I am having trouble understanding why they would prefer to continue their search, why the recruiter would be dishonest (I think), and why my perception of the situation was so positive and then this was the outcome. I am looking for any insight you can provide to help me reconcile this situation and move on with a positive attitude.

Trying to figure out from the outside what went on in a hiring process is a recipe for frustration and resentment. You’re far better off not trying! You don’t have all the information, so you’re making judgments based on assumptions and those assumptions will often be wrong.

First, it’s entirely possible that the recruiter didn’t lie to you when she said they decided to hire a more junior candidate. They may indeed have decided to hire a more junior candidate! That candidate might have turned down the offer, or it might have fallen apart for some other reason. It’s also possible the recruiter had outdated info — that she’d been told “we think we want to offer it to Valentina Warbucks” and then later they decided not to.

Or it’s possible that she meant something different than what you heard. When she said they wanted to go with a more junior candidate, that doesn’t necessarily mean they had a specific one in mind. It could mean they felt you were overqualified for the position so they were planning to continue looking for someone at the career level they thought was a better match.

Or sure, maybe she lied. But that’s the least likely of the possibilities. Recruiters are very used to rejecting candidates; they don’t usually make up random tales just to avoid doing it.

Ultimately, all you know for sure is: They decided not to hire you and they are continuing their search. And that’s normal! Employers interview tons of capable, competent people who just aren’t the right match for what they’re seeking for a specific role. It doesn’t mean you suck or you bombed the interview or you said anything wrong. It means they weren’t convinced that you were what they’re looking for for this particular role. I have rejected hundreds of delightful people over the years — not because they messed up or were inept in some way but because they just didn’t match the specific slate of needs that I had for a very specific position. It’s no reflection on them.

And the thing is, it’s easy to think from the outside that you’re a perfect fit for a job. But there’s no way you can have enough insight to know that. You see what’s listed in the job description, yes, but there’s nearly always a lot more nuance to it … and often that nuance is about things the employer might not even be able to articulate until they interview candidates and realize things like this person wouldn’t get along with Bob, and this one’s ambitions for X are so strong that she’ll be underwhelmed by how little X the job really involves, and this one’s skills in Y would be good for an environment that’s more Z but not ours, and on and on.

So seeing that you’re well matched with the job description an employer advertises is just part of it. It’s the starting point, but it’s a long way from being the whole story.

You’re playing back what you said in your interviews to try to figure out what went wrong. But the stuff you’re focusing on (your answer about your goals five years out and your salary range, which was perfectly in line with what they listed) probably aren’t the explanation. The explanation is about things you’ll probably never know because it’s specific to this particular role on this particular team in this particular company, and you just don’t have access to that nuanced information like they do.

It’s frustrating when an interview feels like it goes well and then you don’t get the job. But it’s a really normal thing! It doesn’t mean you messed up or they messed up, and you will drive yourself crazy if you try to find The Explanation.

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should I fake interest in the job during an interview? https://www.askamanager.org/2021/01/should-i-fake-interest-in-the-job-during-an-interview.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/01/should-i-fake-interest-in-the-job-during-an-interview.html#comments Tue, 26 Jan 2021 17:29:29 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20896 This post, should I fake interest in the job during an interview? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: What is your opinion on feigning enthusiasm for a job during an interview? For a few months now, I’ve been unemployed, like so many others. I’ve been actively applying to jobs that fit my skills and experience, but there aren’t many choices in my industry. It’s rare to find something to apply […]

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This post, should I fake interest in the job during an interview? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

What is your opinion on feigning enthusiasm for a job during an interview?

For a few months now, I’ve been unemployed, like so many others. I’ve been actively applying to jobs that fit my skills and experience, but there aren’t many choices in my industry. It’s rare to find something to apply for, and rarer still to get an interview. So when I do get to that stage, it may be a skills fit, but won’t necessarily be a job I’m super interested in.

For example, I had a recent interview for a position that could be considered a step down, focusing on a niche skill. In the interview they directly asked “We see your experience is X, but this job is only in Subset-of-X. Why are you interested in this job?” I think I handled the question well, talking about the challenges and responsibilities about the position, but I definitely feigned my enthusiasm.

How should I answer “Why are you excited about this job?” when I’m just not really? Are managers looking for a bit of fibbing? I’m probably thinking about this more than I need to, but it’s been something that’s been on my mind for a while.

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

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I didn’t even get interviewed for an internal role I was told I was a strong candidate for https://www.askamanager.org/2021/01/i-didnt-even-get-interviewed-for-an-internal-role-i-was-told-i-was-a-strong-candidate-for.html https://www.askamanager.org/2021/01/i-didnt-even-get-interviewed-for-an-internal-role-i-was-told-i-was-a-strong-candidate-for.html#comments Tue, 12 Jan 2021 18:59:15 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20834 This post, I didn’t even get interviewed for an internal role I was told I was a strong candidate for , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I’m on my department’s leadership team, with three business functions under my umbrella. One of the VP-level leaders on my team had a position open up in his organization, in a function I’ve previously worked in and am hoping to return to. He’s known about my interest in this area for about […]

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This post, I didn’t even get interviewed for an internal role I was told I was a strong candidate for , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’m on my department’s leadership team, with three business functions under my umbrella. One of the VP-level leaders on my team had a position open up in his organization, in a function I’ve previously worked in and am hoping to return to. He’s known about my interest in this area for about six months and told me in various discussions towards the end of last year that he supported my candidacy and that I was a “strong applicant“ (that one I even have in writing!). I totally understood that he’d consider the broader applicant pool and that being internal was no guarantee I’d get the position. (Really, I get that. I hire people too.)

This role would oversee a team struggling to recover from a toxic former manager, and this team had repeatedly come to me, as someone in leadership, for help with that situation in the past. I know this team well, and my previous experience in this function was in a very similar niche market as the one at my current company.

The last I heard from the VP-level person about this position was about a month ago, when I formally applied.

Flash forward to yesterday: the VP tells me that our department “really rallied” to squeeze in three interviews at the end of last year and he’s confident he has his “person” in that group. I was so shocked that I had to gather myself and clarify that I would not even be interviewed. His explanation was that he didn’t see me coming out on top, so he wanted to be mindful of everyone’s time — and that the panel interviews were to get external candidates “caught up” to me.

Alison, I’m livid: I get great performance reviews, I’m well-liked, and I’ve been advocating for this team for over a year. I really don’t think this is a case of my company trying to send me a message about my future here.

It sounded like one factor was that these external candidates had qualitatively more years of experience under their belts. As an example, the job description said things like “seven years of experience in X,” which I had — but apparently other candidates had, say, 10 years of experience in X.

I think I’d be at peace with the decision if I’d at least had the chance to discuss my candidacy with the interview committee, but I don’t even know if they are aware I applied. I’m having a lot of trouble getting past the fact that this VP and I sit on the same leadership team and he didn’t let me know that I wouldn’t even be interviewed until long after he’d made that call. Possibly a month later.

I guess what I’m wondering is whether this is as egregious as it seems and what, if anything, I should do to address it. I feel enormously disrespected and disoriented. I wasn’t deserving of basic courtesy from someone who is on my team? I don’t see any way I could trust this person again, let alone work for him (he seems to want to figure out a way for me to work for him in some other capacity). I talked with my HR business partner briefly after I got the news, and she didn’t know that I’d applied or that this was the outcome (recruiting did, obviously). What are your thoughts?

Yeah, he handled this really badly.

When someone internal applies for a role on your team — especially someone who you’ve spoken with about the position in the past and encouraged to apply! — you have to do one of two things: Interview them or proactively explain why you’re not interviewing them.

It’s not an option to let their candidacy sit while you mentally move past them and then just casually mention to them a month later that, oh by the way, you’ve already finished the interviews and you’ve found a hire.

To be clear, it’s certainly possible that what your colleague told you was the truth: He did a round of initial interviews that you weren’t included in to get external candidates “caught up” to you (figuring it didn’t make sense to do early-stage interviews with you when you’re already a known quantity, and planning to bring you in in later stages) but then, after talking to those candidates, realized you weren’t competitive with that pool. That can happen! Sometimes someone internal seems like they’ll be the right choice until you talk to external people and see that they can offer different things.

But he should have talked to you. He should have either just interviewed you — out of respect for you and the previous conversations you’d had about the role, including the ones where he told you he supported your candidacy and you were a strong applicant — or he should have explained the situation. Your reaction probably would have been very different if he’d come to you and said, “I’d hoped to include you in our interview process for this role, but I want to be up-front that we ended up with several candidates who are more competitive because of XYZ. I didn’t foresee that at the start of the process, but that’s where we are.” (Although even then, in his shoes I’d still give you the chance to interview — for reasons of morale and respect, if nothing else.)

As for where to go from here, one option is to wait and see who he hires. Once you know a bit about the hire, it’s possible it’ll be clearer to you why he handled the interview process the way he did.

But if not, or if you don’t want to wait for that, talk to him! You could say something like, “Believe me, I understand how hiring goes, and that someone external can end up being the best candidate. I’ve had it happen when I’m hiring, and I get it. But I was surprised I wasn’t able to even interview after the conversations we’d had about the role earlier — or that we didn’t at least touch base so I knew where things stood, rather than finding out so late that I wouldn’t even be asked to interview.” You could also say, “I’m not arguing I was entitled to an interview if other candidates were stronger, but I was taken aback by the lack of communication after the many conversations we’d had about it.”

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HR is giving me bad vibes, but I like the hiring manager https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/hr-is-giving-me-bad-vibes-but-i-like-the-hiring-manager.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/hr-is-giving-me-bad-vibes-but-i-like-the-hiring-manager.html#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2020 18:59:04 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20500 This post, HR is giving me bad vibes, but I like the hiring manager , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I went on an interview for a job in a different industry (academia), I’ve always had a passion for education so even though I knew I would likely be taking a pay cut, I still applied and was willing to take the offer if it was a good fit. My first phone […]

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This post, HR is giving me bad vibes, but I like the hiring manager , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I went on an interview for a job in a different industry (academia), I’ve always had a passion for education so even though I knew I would likely be taking a pay cut, I still applied and was willing to take the offer if it was a good fit.

My first phone screen was with the HR manager, who asked why I would want to work there if they couldn’t match my current salary and seemed doubtful of my answer that I would be okay with a pay cut from my research of what academia paid for this type of role. Then he asked why I would want to work there if I lived so far from the work location (it’s about a 45 minute drive). I said in the future, it’s very likely that I will move closer to that location since my husband also works in that area and that I don’t mind a 45 minute commute if there was occasional flexibility for work hours/telework. He said this role would absolutely not allow for flex hours or telework because of the nature of the role, I thanked him for the information and we ended the conversation shortly thereafter. I assumed we would not proceed. Later, I got an email from him saying the hiring manager was interested in speaking with me. I was surprised, but I accepted the interview just to learn more about the opportunity.

The interview with the hiring manager was drastically different from my phone screen with HR. First, the hiring manager is a remote worker and she said she was definitely okay with flex hours (starting earlier to leave a little earlier) and occasional telework, and in fact many people at the organization take advantage of those options! She also observed I was highly qualified and asked if I was comfortable making less than I would in the corporate world. When I explained my interest in switching to academia, she was a good listener and believed me. She proceeded to ask some standard questions. I then proceeded all the way to final rounds, met the team, and had a good experience with everyone. The hiring manager hinted they would be making an offer.

Well, I got a call from the same HR manager after my final interview round, and he was snarky and honestly a little hateful. He asked again if I was REALLY interested in the role, as if he couldn’t believe I would be, then he implied he didn’t think I would be a good fit because I wouldn’t understand what it’s like to work in a different industry and was almost trying to tell me I shouldn’t take the job. It wasn’t from a place of trying to be helpful, but deterring me because he didn’t like me as an interview candidate. What’s the best way to respond in this situation?

Put way more weight on your interactions with the hiring manager than HR. The hiring manager is the person who will be managing you if you take the job, and you might have little to no interaction with this HR person ever again.

The HR guy sounds like he has very set views about things that the manager doesn’t share, on everything from changing fields to the length of commutes, and he’s attempting to impose those views on the selection process … but in a well-functioning organization, it’s the manager’s assessment that will count the most, and that sounds like what’s happening here.

It’s true that bad HR sometimes can be a sign of problems with a company. But often the department you’d be working in can be great, even though HR isn’t. Sometimes HR is it own weird island, or just fairly irrelevant once you start working there. Other times not. But the hiring manager — the person whose team you’ll be working on — is far more likely to give you an accurate idea of the job, the culture, and the day-to-day realties of working there.

That said, if they do make you an offer, you can certainly ask the manager about this! As part of whatever discussion you’re having with her about the offer, you could say, “I’ve really enjoyed my conversations with you and the rest of the team, and I’m excited about the job. I wanted to ask though — the info I’ve been getting from Bob hasn’t lined up with what you and I have discussed around things like flex hours and occasional telework, and he almost seemed to be discouraging me from taking the job. I’ve put more weight on what you’ve told me since the job is on your team, but I wondered if you had any insight that would help me sort through that?”

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how to interview with people you already know https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/how-to-interview-with-people-you-already-know.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/how-to-interview-with-people-you-already-know.html#comments Mon, 09 Nov 2020 18:59:06 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20406 This post, how to interview with people you already know , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I have an interview for a new job (in a new company) next week. The difficult part is that I know several of the people interviewing me, I work with them on a regular basis in my current role. How do you suggest approaching the interview? Do I pretend that they don’t […]

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This post, how to interview with people you already know , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I have an interview for a new job (in a new company) next week. The difficult part is that I know several of the people interviewing me, I work with them on a regular basis in my current role. How do you suggest approaching the interview? Do I pretend that they don’t know anything about my work?

Additionally, I’ll probably have to meet with some of the interviewers and my current team for my current role while the interview process is going on. And, based on the nature of our meeting, I’m sure someone will ask how their search for the position is going! I’m already feeling awkward thinking about it. Do you suggest bringing it up at the interview? My current employer doesn’t know I’m interviewing.

To add to the awkwardness, if I don’t get the job, I will have to work closely with the person who does. Having read your blog a lot, I absolutely understand if they don’t choose me. I might not be the best fit, and I want them to know I won’t harbor any ill will if I don’t get the job. What’s your advice for navigating this?

This will actually be much less awkward than you’re fearing!

When you’re interviewing with people you already know, the best way to approach it as if you were having a professional conversation with colleagues — which in some ways you are. You work with them on a regular basis, so you’re used to having work conversations with them. You don’t need to become more stiff and formal just because it’s an interview; you can stay conversational and talk to them the same way you always do. Imagine the tone you’d use if you were all discussing a possible new project to collaborate on —that’s the tone you want here too.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t prepare for the interview just as rigorously as you’d (hopefully) do if you didn’t know them. You should! You should do all the normal interview prep of going through the job posting line by line and thinking about how your experience and skills equip you to excel at the job — and don’t assume they know those details, even though they’ve worked with you / coming up with concrete examples from your past that you can point to as supporting evidence that you’d be great at the job (times you’ve faced similar challenges and how you tackled them, particular successes you’ve had that connect what it will take to succeed in this role, etc.) / coming up with concrete examples from your past that show how you operate and what you’ve achieved / practicing answers to the questions you expect to be asked / and coming up with your own questions for them.

All that prep is just as important as it always is in order to organize your thoughts and get concrete examples of your work into the forefront of your mind. But once you arrive, you’ll just be talking to them the way you always talk to them. (Probably. If you get there and they’re being weirdly stiff and formal, you don’t want to be totally out of sync with their tone. But they probably won’t. And frankly, talking to your interviewers like they’re already colleagues usually makes for a better interview anyway, even when they’re strangers.)

As for navigating the potential weirdness of them knowing your current employer: It’s okay to say something during the interview like, “I want to mention that I haven’t told CurrentEmployer that I’m interviewing, so I want to ask you to treat it confidentially for now.” You could add, “I understand you may want to talk to them at some point if we get further down the road. I’d just ask that you coordinate the timing with me, so I can talk with them first.” This kind of request is very normal and people in your shoes make it all the time.

Sometimes in this situation, the hiring organization will worry that your employer will perceive them as “stealing” you. Obviously your current employer doesn’t own you and people can’t be stolen, but the reality is that this kind of thing does sometimes cause hard feelings between organizations that work closely together, and it’s understandable for them to worry about damaging relationships that they need to do their work successfully. You might not run into this, but you also might — so be prepared in case it does come up. If it does, sometimes they’ll want you to disclose to your current employer that you’re talking with them before things are finalized so that it’s out in the open … which might not be in your best interests to do. It’s useful to figure out beforehand how you’ll handle that if they do raise it, so you’re not blindsided if it comes up. (One option is to say you’re not comfortable putting your standing with your current job at risk before the other org has offered you a job, but that you’d be glad to discuss how to best message it if things do proceed to that stage.)

Last, I wouldn’t worry about needing to signal that you won’t resent them if you don’t get the job. You signal that just by being a normal, professional, pleasant person who they haven’t seen cause drama. Unless you indicate otherwise, they’ll assume you know nothing is being promised. They might worry about it being awkward to reject someone they work with — that’s a normal worry to have on their side — but it’s not a big enough deal that you need to address it directly. (Do make sure, of course, that you’re not talking like you already have the job — “my office will be right next to yours!” or so forth — but you don’t sound likely to do that anyway.)

Good luck!

Read an update to this letter here

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how to explain to interviewers that you left a job due to burnout https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/how-to-explain-to-interviewers-that-you-left-a-job-due-to-burnout.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/how-to-explain-to-interviewers-that-you-left-a-job-due-to-burnout.html#comments Thu, 05 Nov 2020 18:59:59 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20393 This post, how to explain to interviewers that you left a job due to burnout , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

On a post earlier this week, a commenter offered this excellent advice on what they said to interviewers after quitting a previous job due to burnout, and I want to highlight it here: I burned out hard from my last job, and quit after only a year. To my surprise, explaining it in interviews was […]

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This post, how to explain to interviewers that you left a job due to burnout , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

On a post earlier this week, a commenter offered this excellent advice on what they said to interviewers after quitting a previous job due to burnout, and I want to highlight it here:

I burned out hard from my last job, and quit after only a year. To my surprise, explaining it in interviews was really easy.

I used different explanations depending on the job and the company culture. These all went down great:

– “It was a great project and a great team, but it was also a really small team. As a result, I was pulled in a lot of directions and working a lot of overtime to get it all done before the event. Over time, I realized it wasn’t sustainable and wanted to take some time to catch my breath and think about moving into a position I DO want to do for a long time.”

– “Because it was such a small team, I was wearing a lot of hats. Your classic combined communications role: press relations, marketing, speaker communications. But also things way outside my wheelhouse, like web design and a lot of event management. I spent so much time writing back and forth with people about tent dimensions! In the end, it was too much. So I decided to step away and look for a role where I can focus on what I’m good at: writing and communications.”

– “Because it was such a small team, I was wearing a lot of hats and pulled in a lot of different directions. I was really unhappy, and realized I need to be in a role where I can focus on doing just a few things, and doing them really well.”

– “It’s a great project, and I’m glad to have worked on it. But the reality of event work is there’s a lot of mundane stuff that needs to get done, and it’s a race to do it in time. As a result, there wasn’t time to sit down and create any sort of cohesive strategy, which I think is really important. I realized I’d be happier in a job where I can step back now and then to make sure all the details fit into a bigger picture.”

Nobody ever batted an eye at these explanations. Of course, I went on to explain why I felt whichever role I was interviewing for was a much better fit.

And in a follow-up comment:

I’ll also add that in some ways, my career DID take a hit. Not because I committed a career sin by quitting a job, but because the reality is when you’re applying from unemployment you don’t have the luxury of waiting forever until an objectively “better” job comes along.

Still the best decision of my life. When I look back, it wasn’t even a decision. There was simply no other way. My new job is less prestigious-sounding, but I’m still doing the kind of work I want to do, and I am waaaaay happier. Like, no longer crying while I brush my teeth in the mornings happier. Have energy and motivation to do home improvement projects on the weekend happier.

Also, I have the energy now to think long-term about my career instead of just struggling to keep my head above water. I think in the long-run, this temporary step back will be good for my career. But even if it’s not, it’ll still be worth the change in my quality of life. You only get one life. No sense in making yourself miserable in it.

Some things to keep in mind from someone who’s been there:

1. Recovering from my burnout took way longer than I’d planned for. I thought I’d take a month off and then go out and get myself an awesome new job. During that month, COVID hit (fun timing!), and my job search ended up taking five months. And it’s a REALLY GOOD it did. I needed almost that time to fully, properly recover. When I did start a new job, I was fresh and ready to go.

2. Getting to the place where I feel good about taking a less prestigious but less stressful job didn’t happen on its own. It took therapy to untangle my sense of identity and worth from my career.

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how to negotiate remote work once you get a job offer https://www.askamanager.org/2020/10/how-to-negotiate-remote-work-once-you-get-a-job-offer.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/10/how-to-negotiate-remote-work-once-you-get-a-job-offer.html#comments Thu, 29 Oct 2020 17:59:26 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20355 This post, how to negotiate remote work once you get a job offer , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I completed final interviews for a fantastic job and I believe I have a good chance of getting an offer soon. My conundrum has to do with remote work: when people return to the office post-COVID, my commute would be more than an hour each way. This is not possible for me […]

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This post, how to negotiate remote work once you get a job offer , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I completed final interviews for a fantastic job and I believe I have a good chance of getting an offer soon.

My conundrum has to do with remote work: when people return to the office post-COVID, my commute would be more than an hour each way. This is not possible for me to do very often.

During the final interview, I casually asked the hiring manager about their remote work culture in non-COVID times. She replied, “Work from home is fine sometimes, but not all the time.” I didn’t want to press at that stage, so I didn’t find out what “sometimes” means to her.

This is an individual contributor role, the work can easily be done remotely, and another of this manager’s direct reports works remotely full-time from another state. Also, presumably I’d spend the first six months or so working remotely due to COVID, so I’d have that time to prove myself as a remote worker. And I have worked remotely full time in all of my past jobs and have been continuously praised for my work quality, speed, responsiveness, and dependability.

If I do get an offer, I’d like to focus my negotiation not on salary or vacation time, but on the ability to work from home most of the time. Can you give me an idea of what language to use when I ask? How much of the above context should I include to back up my request? Also, would it help to include options, such as “I’d be open to either working in the office one day a week, or one week a month — whichever you prefer”?

This is the language I’m considering: “I’m really interested in the work, but the commute is giving me some hesitation. Would you be open to allowing me to work remotely, post-COVID? I’d love to come into the office once a week, or one week a month — whichever you prefer. I have worked remotely full time in all of my past jobs and have been continuously praised for my work quality, speed, responsiveness, and dependability. I would agree to make any long-term work-from-home arrangement contingent on my performance as a remote worker during my first six months in the role. If you’re able to allow a remote work arrangement, I’d be thrilled to take the job.”

If I can’t convince them to agree, I’ll have to walk away from the offer, so getting this right is very important to me.

Your proposed language is good!

It’s smart, too, that you’re addressing this head-on, not hoping it’ll somehow work itself out after you’re hired. With so many positions having become temporarily remote, I’ve heard from a lot of people who are considering taking a remote-for-now job without disclosing that they’d want to remain remote long-term and instead are just hoping/assuming it’ll be allowed once the office reopens. In some cases, that might work! But in others it won’t, and it’s dangerous to count on it. Plenty of employers will bring people back at some point, and while we probably won’t see quite as much opposition to remote work as we saw in the past, there will still be managers who want people in-person. (And sometimes that’s legitimate! You can’t always tell before you start a job how challenging it really might be to do the role fully from home.)

When working from home is a nice-to-have perk but you’d still take the job without it, sometimes it can make sense to just see how things go — demonstrate that you work well remotely and then try to negotiate continued remote work later on. But when it’s a deal-breaker for you — as it is in your case — it’s smart to address it directly during the offer negotiation and try to come to a clear agreement.

Your proposed language is good because it covers these bases:
– You explain why you’d like to stay remote (the commute).
– You offer to come in sometimes, and you’re specific about what that could mean.
– You’re clear that you’ve done it successfully in the past.
– You offer to make the arrangement contingent on performance (which it likely would be anyway, but spelling it out signals you’re comfortable with explicitly linking the two, and that you’re likely someone who at least strives to be conscientious).
– You make it clear that if they say yes to this, you’ll accept the job — they don’t need to worry that you’re going to try to negotiate for a bunch of other things they don’t know about yet.

Do be aware that, assuming you don’t have a contract (most U.S. workers don’t), whatever is agreed to won’t necessarily be binding. The employer can change their minds in the future or a new manager can come in who doesn’t like remote work or so forth. But having a written agreement significantly strengthens the likelihood of an employer sticking to it; if nothing else, it avoids mistakes and misunderstandings and people forgetting conversations a year later.

Good luck!

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I’m too good at interviewing — and get offered jobs I can’t do https://www.askamanager.org/2020/10/im-too-good-at-interviewing-and-get-offered-jobs-i-cant-do.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/10/im-too-good-at-interviewing-and-get-offered-jobs-i-cant-do.html#comments Wed, 21 Oct 2020 17:59:14 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=20304 This post, I’m too good at interviewing — and get offered jobs I can’t do , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: This question may seem like bragging but I don’t intend for it to come across that way so if it’s too annoying I apologize (I understand, believe me). I’ve been told repeatedly throughout my life that I am a very charismatic person. People are drawn to me at an almost inexplicable level […]

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This post, I’m too good at interviewing — and get offered jobs I can’t do , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

This question may seem like bragging but I don’t intend for it to come across that way so if it’s too annoying I apologize (I understand, believe me).

I’ve been told repeatedly throughout my life that I am a very charismatic person. People are drawn to me at an almost inexplicable level (like, get stopped on the street for conversations with strangers level) and due to this (I assume) I feel very comfortable with strangers and in front of crowds. I do very well in customer service roles and have gravitated towards customer-facing, “people person” type positions.

As you can imagine, I am great at interviewing, in large part because I am not a nervous interviewer and my interviews go very smoothly. Since graduating college in 2014, I have interviewed probably 15-20 places and have been offered jobs at approximately 90-95% of those places. People like me, and I’m very very fortunate.

However, this does pose a problem for me. I “sell” myself into jobs that I have no business being in, and I have been in the awkward position of being in over my head before. This is not to say that I apply for jobs I’m not qualified for just for the rush of getting an offer I don’t deserve, but sometimes the outcome is the same.

In March, I was laid off from my job due to COVID. Once unemployment ran out, I started applying for jobs—roughly eight to 10 places—and interviewed at seven of those places. Five of them turned into job offers. Three of them are at a higher level than I was before, with one of those three being at a management level and pay grade that I do not think is warranted for my experience. Please note, I did not apply for this higher level job but was offered it anyway.

It is flattering, yes. Awkward, also yes. I have little to no experience in management and don’t feel as though I gave any indication that that would be a position I’d consider taking.

I guess what I am asking you is for advice on how to be hired on in a position that doesn’t make me or the interviewer look completely incompetent. In other words, if I’m offered a job that I know is beyond my scope, how do I decline that job and ask to be hired in the job I originally applied for? I don’t want to look like I’m denying the job because I’m lazy or lack confidence in my skills, or worse that I was lying about my skills, but I also don’t want to take the job and make the interviewer doubt themselves if the job is beyond my skill level as I guessed it to be and I fail.

Please tell me I am not alone in thinking this is a problem because I am honestly at the end of my rope.

It’s too bad that you probably don’t want to start a cult, because it sounds like you would be able to do it!

It doesn’t surprise me that you’re a woman because a lot of dudes (not all of them, but a lot) would happily accept this state of affairs as their due and cheerfully rise to higher and higher levels of incompetence. Women are more likely to be socialized to question it (because they’re more socialized to question themselves).

You’re smart to be wary of accepting jobs that you know are beyond your current abilities. The goal shouldn’t be “get the highest-level job possible, even if it doesn’t suit me” because that’s how you end up struggling or even getting fired. It makes sense to look for jobs that challenge you (if you want that) but that you’re also confident you’ll do well in.

One thing you can do is to ask the person offering you a higher level job to tell you more about the match they see. You could say something like, “I appreciate the offer! Looking at the job description for X, I’d thought that was the right match for my skills and level of experience at this point in my career. Can you tell me more about why you think Y might be the right match instead?”

And then really listen to what they say. If it’s all general — they like you, you seem talented, blah blah — that’ s not very helpful. But if they’re specific — your experience in X is really similar to what they need for Y, they’ve seen people with your background succeed at Y because of Z, they have an intensive support program for high-potential new managers, or so forth — that’s more promising.

If you remain confident that the higher level job isn’t for you, it’s okay to say, “I really appreciate the offer. I’d like to be in a role like Y eventually — but I want to be up-front that I want more experience in Z before I take it on. At this point, I don’t think that leap is the right one for me. But I’m still really interested in the X role if you’d consider me for it.” (Of course, if you don’t want to be in a role like Y eventually, don’t say you do. In that case, I’d say, “I want to be up-front that I’m not really looking for a management role. I’m looking for one that lets me focus on X, which is where my interests and I think my strengths are. Would you be open to considering me for X instead?”)

Is there a risk that they’ll think you lack confidence? Sure. But that’s so much better than taking a job that you don’t think you’d succeed in.

That said, make sure you’re not underestimating your own abilities or shying away from something just because it’s new. New can be doable … depending, of course, on how far away it is from the skills you already have. So make sure you’re really reality-checking your assumptions. Look around at other people who you see filling similar higher-level roles. What are their backgrounds? What are their skill sets? How did they get there? If you can, bounce your sense of what you are and aren’t equipped to do off a mentor or other trusted person in your professional life. Make sure that this isn’t a confidence issue. Good luck!

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do my clothes and car make me look like I don’t “need” a job — and is that a problem? https://www.askamanager.org/2020/08/do-my-clothes-and-car-make-me-look-like-i-dont-need-a-job.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/08/do-my-clothes-and-car-make-me-look-like-i-dont-need-a-job.html#comments Tue, 04 Aug 2020 14:59:21 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=19851 This post, do my clothes and car make me look like I don’t “need” a job — and is that a problem? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: My question relates to interview attire and accessories. I am an attorney with just under 15 years of experience. Many of those years have been spent in self employment, which I fear already impedes/impacts my job search. Recently my family relocated, within our home state, to accommodate my husband’s career as he […]

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This post, do my clothes and car make me look like I don’t “need” a job — and is that a problem? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

My question relates to interview attire and accessories. I am an attorney with just under 15 years of experience. Many of those years have been spent in self employment, which I fear already impedes/impacts my job search. Recently my family relocated, within our home state, to accommodate my husband’s career as he is the primary earner in our family. As a result, I stopped taking new clients, provided my staff with severance, and am wrapping up old matters. Ultimately I do not think it would be financially productive to open a new office in my new city, but I want to continue in my work as I find it meaningful, challenging, and a large part of who I am.

I have been attempting to network with former colleagues who are now in the new area and put my feelers out for positions in small firms in my practice area. Yesterday, at a lunch with one such colleague who I respect very much I was given the feedback that “to seek a job you should look like you need a job.” I did not know what he was trying to communicate so I asked for feedback. He indicated that my wedding rings and some of my personal fashion/style (handbags, shoes, even my car) make me appear to not need a job and so make me a less competitive candidate.

I do not generally wear jewelry beyond my wedding rings, not even simple earrings. I never wear or use items that have logos or anything flashy. I pretty much wear a single colored dress and usually black or nude shoes each day with a blazer and minimal makeup. Sometimes I might wear a pants suit or slacks and a sweater. While I do drive a newer “luxury” SUV, it is paid off and I cannot afford a new car at this time.

What do you advise in regard to looking like I “need a job?” Should I really be as concerned about this as my colleague thinks? I’m now horribly self-conscious that my appearance comes off poorly. If it helps I’m a family law attorney with the bulk of my experience being in domestic violence and high conflict custody disputes. This is not a practice area where I have felt people are very focused on appearance.

This is weird advice.

It’s true that if you show up for an interview dripping in jewelry and expensive designer brands, you are sending certain signals about yourself that can be problematic in some lines of work. But you don’t sound like you’re presenting yourself that way.

Of course, if your black or nude shoes are $4,000 Louboutins and your handbag is a $15,000 Birkin bag, your colleague might have a point. Even if the styles themselves are relatively conservative, people who know fashion often know price ranges too, and yes, some people will judge — which could be anything from thinking you don’t “need” a job, as he said, to just thinking you’re unusually high-fashion for a family lawyer.

But the way you’ve described yourself makes me think that’s not what’s going on … which makes me want to know more about your colleague. What do you know about his judgment? Is he generally savvy or have you found him to be off at other times? Does he work in an area of law where any display of financial privilege might seem off? Does he have a weird relationship with money that might be influencing him here? Has he been wearing the same inexpensive suit since 1997?

Ultimately it’s hard to give you a definitive answer without seeing your work wardrobe, so your best bet is to run this by other people who know you, the way you come across, and your industry. But based on what you’ve described here, I’d be inclined to ignore this as a one-off piece of misapplied advice.

I do want to talk more, though, about this idea of not “needing” a job. Plenty of people don’t “need” jobs — their spouse earns a lot, they invested well, they have family money, etc. — and are excellent at their work anyway. To the extent that good employers are concerned about people who don’t need to work, the concern is about people who won’t be fully committed, who will choose jetting off to an island for the weekend over staying when work needs to be done, and/or who will walk out as soon as things are hard. If those things are true of someone, they would be a less attractive candidate. But you’ll be able to show that’s not you by how you conduct yourself in the hiring process (don’t reschedule an interview so you can jet off to an island, for one thing) and by the strong work track record it sounds like you’ll be presenting.

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can I tell interviewers my weakness is that I burn myself out? https://www.askamanager.org/2020/07/can-i-tell-interviewers-my-weakness-is-that-i-burn-myself-out.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/07/can-i-tell-interviewers-my-weakness-is-that-i-burn-myself-out.html#comments Thu, 16 Jul 2020 17:59:17 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=19748 This post, can I tell interviewers my weakness is that I burn myself out? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I have a question about talking about your weakness, in interviews in particular, but also in performance evaluations and just generally when evaluating your strengths and weaknesses for your own sake. I know you have often said employers can see right through positives framed as negatives, such as “working too hard” or […]

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This post, can I tell interviewers my weakness is that I burn myself out? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I have a question about talking about your weakness, in interviews in particular, but also in performance evaluations and just generally when evaluating your strengths and weaknesses for your own sake. I know you have often said employers can see right through positives framed as negatives, such as “working too hard” or an inability to leave work at work, but what if these genuinely are your main weaknesses?

I have struggled throughout my career with following a boom and bust pattern. Most of the time I am incredibly conscientious and hard-working, give my work my all, often greatly neglecting all other areas of life, worrying about work in my time off and working well over my hours. However, this is never sustainable, and I tend to suffer burn out every couple of years, where I need a couple of weeks to a month off sick and there is often a temporary decline in my productivity. Usually, as I have built such a good reputation in the boom periods, my employers are understanding about the slack periods (though a couple have been less so), but I do believe this to be a genuine and serious weakness. It doesn’t help that I work in social services, so I regularly deal with emotionally intense situations, and with services always being overstretched, I often see clients getting less than they need, so I feel I need to go above and beyond to make sure they are adequately supported, rather than out of some abstract commitment to my employer.

I have got a little better over the years, partly through trying to adjust my approach and look after myself better, plus I have taken a role that whilst broadly in the same field is a little less directly at the coalface. However this remains something I need to improve on and be constantly vigilant about. I also have a number of friends who suffer with the same issue, to the detriment of both their careers and their wellbeing.

How can I talk honestly about this in such a way that doesn’t sound like humble-bragging or BS-ing?

Honestly, I would pick another weakness. Framing it as “I get overly invested in work / work too hard,” is just too strongly associated with BS at this point. But if you’re up-front about why it’s truly a weakness — i.e., if you explain that it causes you to regularly burn out and need up to a month off sick — it’s likely to be concerning and even prohibitive to a lot of interviewers.

Having an honest discussion of your weaknesses is important so you can make sure you don’t end up in a job you’ll be a bad fit for. But you also don’t want to announce something that’s truly alarming and could torpedo your chances.

You noted that (most) past bosses have ended up being understanding about this because by the time you burned yourself out, they knew you and your work enough to cut you that slack — but your interviewers won’t have that perspective. What they’ll hear is, “I keep burning myself out repeatedly and rather than resolve that, I’ve just continued doing it.”

In theory, you could talk about this as something you’ve worked to overcome — being specific about what you’ve done to resolve it and what the outcome has been — but it sounds like it’s an ongoing issue that isn’t really under control yet.

We have all have multiple weaknesses, so you’re better off picking a different one that won’t be so alarming.

All that said, though, I think fewer interviewers are asking this question, because it’s come to be seen as so cliched — and also because the answers are often so cliched that they’ve become frequently useless. So this may not come up at all (although it’s smart to be prepared in case it does).

Read an update to this letter here.

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here’s a bunch of help finding a new job https://www.askamanager.org/2020/07/heres-a-bunch-of-help-finding-a-new-job.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/07/heres-a-bunch-of-help-finding-a-new-job.html#comments Wed, 08 Jul 2020 14:59:13 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=19713 This post, here’s a bunch of help finding a new job , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Since lots of people are job-searching right now, here’s a round-up of some of the most key job-searching advice on this site. Resumes and Cover Letters The first thing to know is, if you’re not getting interviews, you probably need to fix your resume and cover letter. If you’re thinking your materials are fine, know […]

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This post, here’s a bunch of help finding a new job , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Since lots of people are job-searching right now, here’s a round-up of some of the most key job-searching advice on this site.

Resumes and Cover Letters

The first thing to know is, if you’re not getting interviews, you probably need to fix your resume and cover letter.

If you’re thinking your materials are fine, know this: Very frequently, people who are struggling to get interviews tell me they’re confident that their resume and cover letter aren’t the problem since they’ve had good feedback about them. But when I ask to see them, nearly always they are the problem. The people who told them that they were good were wrong — they didn’t have the experience or the insight to know what would make a really great resume or letter. So these job-seekers have been continuing to apply with mediocre materials and are frustrated because they can’t figure out why they’re not getting interviews!

This is highly likely to be true for you as well if (1) your resume mainly lists your job duties rather than talking about the outcomes you achieved at each job, and/or (2) your cover letter basically summarizes the information in your resume (in which case it’s not adding anything at all to your application).

Read these:

Resumes

Cover letters

Examples of good cover letters

Interviews

More

That will get you started on the basics! If you want more detailed guidance, there’s much more in my e-book, How To Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager, where I give you step-by-step help through every stage of your job search, explaining at each step what a hiring manager is thinking and what they want to see from you. Learn more here.
how to get a job

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I went to a job interview where they’re not taking COVID seriously … or how to make a scene when you need to make a scene https://www.askamanager.org/2020/06/i-went-to-a-job-interview-where-theyre-not-taking-covid-seriously.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/06/i-went-to-a-job-interview-where-theyre-not-taking-covid-seriously.html#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2020 14:59:17 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=19662 This post, I went to a job interview where they’re not taking COVID seriously … or how to make a scene when you need to make a scene , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I recently interviewed at an organization that I would consider working for, but I had some big concerns about their Covid precautions. When I arrived for my interview, no one in the office was wearing a mask except me. This concerned me, but I felt that people were distancing so I decided […]

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This post, I went to a job interview where they’re not taking COVID seriously … or how to make a scene when you need to make a scene , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I recently interviewed at an organization that I would consider working for, but I had some big concerns about their Covid precautions.

When I arrived for my interview, no one in the office was wearing a mask except me. This concerned me, but I felt that people were distancing so I decided to give the benefit of the doubt.

While I was in the waiting area a woman without a mask sat in the chair right next to me and it looked like she worked there because she had a big stack of paperwork that she was going through. I didn’t want to ask or look too closely because she was so near to me and it made me nervous. I was trying to look away the whole time to limit exposure. Not sure that helps, but I was not sure what to do.

I was then escorted by the HR woman to the interview room down the hall. She had put on a mask and that made me feel better. The two owners, who were also in the interview, were definitely not on the same page. One of them had a mask on the whole time, but she was not wearing it properly. Her nose was popped out the top the whole time. The other owner had a mask on at first, but a few minutes in he took it off. The room was fairly big and we were far enough apart that I decided it was okay.

However, it was not big enough to account for what happened next. The man sneezed twice. He did not cover his face AT ALL the first time and made a sad attempt to sneeze into his elbow the second time. I was really disturbed by this but did not feel comfortable saying anything.

Otherwise, the interview went well and it seemed like my skills were a good fit for the job. I have decided that if I am offered the job, I will let them know how unsafe I felt during the interview and give them an ultimatum about implementing better precautions. It is bad enough to expose me and each other, but this is a healthcare-adjacent field. They work with some very sick people who need to be protected too. I considered reporting them, but the process for someone who wasn’t an employee was unclear.

I do not need this job badly enough to not say something, and I honestly would not feel comfortable working there unless they made some changes. I think it’s important enough for me to say something and risk not getting the job by appearing “difficult” and I hope my concerns might prompt changes for those already working there and clients. Do you have any suggestions on how to say these things to them if I am offered the job? If I am not, should I say something to them anyway?

I am disappointed in myself because I didn’t do anything in the moment. I felt uncomfortable rocking the boat in an interview, but I hate having been kind of a doormat too.

I wouldn’t take this job if it’s offered, since you say you don’t need it. Even if you address your concerns and they promise to make changes, they’ve already shown you they’re not taking safety seriously enough. It’s unlikely that having already ignored months of public health warnings, they’re going to dramatically overhaul things based on one person’s complaint and then sustain those changes. It’s very likely that no matter what they promise, they still won’t take it seriously enough. So if you only want a job that takes employee and patient safety seriously, this isn’t that job.

But I do think you should say something, because they need to hear that people are bothered. One person’s complaints may not matter to them, but if they hear it from multiple people, it has a chance of sinking in. Be one of those people.

If you’re offered the job, you could say this: “I appreciate the offer. There’s one big concern on my mind, which is the lack of safety precautions I saw when I was in your office. People weren’t wearing masks or distancing — someone sat right next to me in the waiting room with no mask. My interviewer wasn’t wearing a mask and was sneezing while we were talking. Can I ask why your office isn’t complying with the CDC’s guidelines for businesses?” … followed by, presumably, turning down the offer unless you hear something surprisingly reassuring (perhaps “we’d all been carbon monoxide poisoned that day, weren’t thinking clearly, and were horrified afterwards”).

If you’re not offered the job, you could adapt that same language, framing it as, “I appreciate you getting back to me and wish you all the best with your new hire. Can I give you some feedback about the experience I had as a candidate?”

Alternately, you could withdraw from the process now and explain why. But there’s potentially more opportunity to have an impact if you wait until they’ve decided they want to hire you and turn down their offer then. (Of course, you need to balance that with the fact that if you wait and they reject you, at that point anything you say will probably carry less weight. There’s no way around that, though.)

Let’s also talk about what you could have done in the moment! It’s really common to feel uncomfortable rocking the boat in an interview. Lots of people feel that way! Something is happening that you didn’t expect and which is clearly wrong, and it’s hard to think of a way to address it on the fly that doesn’t feel rude or awkward or confrontational, and you don’t want to make a scene. That’s especially true in job interviews, but it happens in all sorts of other situations too.

The best way to handle that is to be prepared with a few stock phrases ahead of time, so they’re ready when you need them and you’re not scrambling for wording in the moment. You can’t always predict what weird situation will come up, but right now, during a pandemic, wherever you go it’s smart to be ready to say things like:

  • “Could you back up a few feet to give us both more space?”
  • “I’m going to move my chair over here so there’s more space between us.”
  • “Before we go on, would you mind adjusting your mask so it’s covering your nose as well? I’m trying to be really careful.”
  • “Before we start, would you mind wearing a mask? I’m high-risk/live with someone who’s high-risk/trying to be really careful. I’ll of course keep one on myself too.”
  • “Since there’s not a lot of room for distancing in your reception area, I’m going to wait in the hallway — could you let Jane know I’m out here when she’s ready?”
  • And if necessary: “I don’t feel safe staying here because your office is violating public safety guidelines, so I’m going to cut this short. Thank you for your time.”

Some of it too, though, is mental. It’s the work of getting clear in your own mind that it’s okay to assert yourself to protect your safety, even if it feels awkward or uncomfortable and even if it annoys someone else. Most of us know that in theory, but your brain will still often default to Don’t Make A Scene until you take the time to really process what prioritizing your safety means (“it means I will say things like X or Y” and “it means I might create a moment of weirdness, and I’m okay with that”).

I often think that I benefitted tremendously from an activism job I had in my 20s, where part of my job was literally to make scenes. To call attention to animal abuse, I disrupted large events by standing on chairs, shouting, and unfurling massive banners; I crashed private events dressed as a giant chicken; I tossed pies; I went naked in “rather go naked than wear fur” protests. Before every single one of these, I secretly panicked and felt like I was going to have a heart attack. It’s scary to deliberately disrupt the social contract! We’ve been trained since childhood not to do it, and it took a lot of mental work to force myself to overcome all those instincts to Not Make A Scene. But doing it got me comfortable with causing a public spectacle — and as a result, “would you mind moving six feet back?” seems a lot easier.

I’m not suggesting that everyone experiment with public disruptions (although if you can tie it to a good cause, I endorse it). But I do think there’s value in thinking about how wired we are to be polite, and how much our brains resist causing those record-scratch moments, and how much that does or doesn’t serve us as we navigate life. It’s really useful to do the mental work to get comfortable with discomfort — to be okay with being the one to cause a stink in the service of a greater good, and to embrace and honor those acts of discomfort because they’re about who we are and what we want to stand for.

That might feel like a lot for a question about a frustrating interview. But I think it’s right for this moment.

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employer offered me a job, then made me interview again, then made a new offer, then yanked it — what’s going on? https://www.askamanager.org/2020/06/employer-offered-me-a-job-then-made-me-interview-again-then-made-a-new-offer-then-yanked-it-whats-going-on.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/06/employer-offered-me-a-job-then-made-me-interview-again-then-made-a-new-offer-then-yanked-it-whats-going-on.html#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2020 17:59:15 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=19646 This post, employer offered me a job, then made me interview again, then made a new offer, then yanked it — what’s going on? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I’m hoping to check some professional norms, because I am a bit baffled by what went down in a recent interview process. I applied for a job, went down for an interview, it seemed like it went reasonably well, and I was asked to come back for a “working interview” on very […]

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This post, employer offered me a job, then made me interview again, then made a new offer, then yanked it — what’s going on? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’m hoping to check some professional norms, because I am a bit baffled by what went down in a recent interview process.

I applied for a job, went down for an interview, it seemed like it went reasonably well, and I was asked to come back for a “working interview” on very short notice — six hours, unpaid. I had told them that I had to leave at a specific time to make a different pre-existing appointment. On my way out after it was over, the head of the office (who is in his 70s or 80s and does seem a bit vague, to be honest) said “OK, we want you to join us! This was great!” … so I sent a standard follow-up/thank-you note the next day. Heard nothing for a week and would have written the place off except that they had seemed like they wanted to hire me, so about 10 days later I sent a brief, cheerful follow-up that included an apology if I’d misunderstood their interest in me, and wished them well.

Eventually I got back a terse note saying they were interviewing lots of people and they wanted me to come back for yet another working interview, full day, to make up their mind, but that this would be paid. I did not confirm how it would be paid, which was my mistake (I should have been more assertive in advance). I did the 10-hour day down there, found out that another person in the role they were hiring me for had quit with very little notice (so double-understaffed now) and they couldn’t tell me why (yikes).

At the end of the day, the director offered me the job, said they would have no problem matching my current salary, confirmed a schedule that might work, etc. etc. He said he would send me the formal offer and employee handbook that same night. I tried to get more information about what would happen if I didn’t accept the job, as far as getting paid for the 10 hours I worked, and he refused to answer. He emphasized that they wanted to make a decision quickly (as do I, my current job is horrifyingly toxic!).

No email that night. No email the next day. I sent another brief, professional query, and I got back an informally written, non-detailed, offer for 30% less than we had discussed, stating that I could eventually raise the salary if I was working enough. I asked for more details about the working interview I’d just had, and plans for staffing to increase efficiency … and got back a semi-form letter stating that I “had not been selected for the job” and that I would be sent a check for the working day — but at a rate about half what our profession considers standard.

Needless to say, I’ve dodged a bullet, but what the heck! Is it normal to go from verbal offer to poorly written inconsistent email offer to “you have not been selected”? Was I too pushy about the pay for 10-hour day? (And is there anything I can do about it at this point?)

Nope, not normal. None of it is normal.

Saying “we want you to join us,” then going silent, then saying they’re interviewing others without any acknowledgement of where they’d left things previously is not normal. But okay, let’s say the head of the office just didn’t mean to be quite so enthusiastic and his wording was sloppy. That’s not great, but that can happen.

But then offering you the job, naming a salary, telling you a formal offer was coming, then going silent, and then eventually sending an offer for a third less than the figure they’d offered earlier … not normal, not okay. (One caveat: You said they’d originally said they could match your current salary — any chance they said that without realizing or remembering what your current salary actually was, and so didn’t realize their eventual offer was so far from it? Still weird, but that could explain that part of it.)

And then, after you asked for more details on their written offer, sending you a rejection form letter?! It’s bad enough to pull the offer just because you asked for details (very bad), but to do it via a form letter that (once again) doesn’t acknowledge that they’d already made you a job offer? That is weird bordering on pathological.

Also, asking you to do a paid 10-hour working interview without telling you what “paid” means is a problem. Yes, you should have asked (in the future, ask!), but it’s weird and unprofessional that they didn’t bother to explain. And then refusing to answer when you asked directly once the day was over?! No. (Also, I don’t know what that first six-hour working interview consisted of, but if it was truly a working interview — meaning you did actual work — it should have been paid too.)

You’re right when you say this is a bullet dodged, and it’s good that you learned all this about them before you accepted a job and started working there (if they ever stopped retracting their offers).

You asked if there’s anything you can do about it now. You definitely shouldn’t want this job, so there’s nothing you should (or probably can) do on that side of things. On the payment for the working interview, since you didn’t agree to a rate beforehand, you don’t really have standing to ask for more, unless what they paid you was less than minimum wage. You could certainly point out that the payment was well below market rate for the work, but everything you’ve seen of these people so far says they won’t care.

I’d write it off as a lesson to negotiate a rate in advance next time, be glad you’re not working there, and move on.

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interviewer asked how I would connect with coworkers outside of work https://www.askamanager.org/2020/06/interviewer-asked-how-i-would-connect-with-coworkers-outside-of-work.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/06/interviewer-asked-how-i-would-connect-with-coworkers-outside-of-work.html#comments Tue, 23 Jun 2020 17:59:13 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=19637 This post, interviewer asked how I would connect with coworkers outside of work , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: Back in February, I had an interview where the last question they asked me was, “How would you go about connecting with coworkers outside of work?” It took me completely aback, because while I had prepared by studying several lists of popular interview questions, both in and outside of my field, I […]

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This post, interviewer asked how I would connect with coworkers outside of work , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

Back in February, I had an interview where the last question they asked me was, “How would you go about connecting with coworkers outside of work?” It took me completely aback, because while I had prepared by studying several lists of popular interview questions, both in and outside of my field, I had never encountered any like this. I’m an extremely introverted person and connect with only a chosen few longtime friends and my family. My current job is in an office, and most of my department are similarly introverted or at least keep work socialization separate from personal lives. I’ve just never had a job where I interacted with coworkers outside of work hours.

I was afraid that answering the question honestly (“I don’t want to socialize with coworkers outside of work”) would come off sounding rude and antisocial, but I’m afraid what I ended up saying definitely sounded insincere: a long, trapped pause followed by, “Well, I would look for ways we connect with similar interests and find out if there were events we might like to go to together.”

I ended up not getting the job, I’m 99% sure because they had an internal candidate they had mentally already hired before “courtesy interviewing” me, but in the week I was waiting to hear back, I really stressed out over, “If I get this job, am I going to be expected to start giving up weekends and evenings to try and force friendships I really don’t want to have? Am I going to be perceived as antisocial or even hostile if I don’t want to hang out with coworkers outside of work?”

In all my jobs, I’ve always have good relationships with my coworkers and positive performance reviews. I’ve just never been interested in racking up friends for its own sake. I really wanted the job, and the hiring manager told me they liked me and I should reapply if another position is posted, but does it sound like culturally I wouldn’t fit? Did I misunderstand the question? What is a good way to answer it if it comes up again, and what is a good way to still be seen as friendly and engaged with coworkers without giving up the privacy of my non-working hours?

The thing to remember is that the interview is for you to learn about the employer just as much as it is for them to learn about you — and for both of you to decide if the fit is right and you want to move forward.

So the main goal in answering any interview question should never be to come up with an answer they’ll find palatable. To the extent you can, you want to have an honest conversation about what they’re looking for and how that fits with who you are, and what you’re looking for and how that fits with who they are.

So if you really don’t see yourself looking for outside-of-work events to attend with coworkers, don’t say that’s your jam. I can understand why you did — you were put on the spot and felt pressure to answer in a way they’d like — but you really, really don’t want to pretend to be someone you’re not in order to get a job … because the person who will be showing up to work every day will be real-you, not insincere-interview-answer-you.

Again, this isn’t to blame you. You were put on the spot and it’s a weird question. They at least should have explained why they were asking it, rather than acting as if of course everyone seeks out coworkers outside of work. (Most people don’t. It happens, of course, but most people aren’t seeking it out as their general M.O. or strategizing about how to do it.)

If you could re-do it, I’d suggest responding with something like this: “I’ve always found my strongest connections with colleagues are built at work, by working together, collaborating on projects, being warm, helpful and responsive, and taking a genuine interest in people’s ideas and their lives.”

That doesn’t sound anti-social, but also doesn’t misrepresent you (presumably).

But also, when you’re hit with a question that surprises you or raises questions about their culture, always always always ask about it. Otherwise you’re going to go home and agonize about what it was signaling (just as you ended up doing) and not get really important info about whether this job/manager/culture/company are for you.

So in this case, ideally you would have said (either right after answering it or later in the conversation when it was time for your own questions), “You asked about how I’d connect with coworkers outside of work. Can you tell me more about that — does the company place a big emphasis on connecting outside of work? What does that typically look like?” … and then, depending on their answer, you might even follow up with, “Have you had people who have thrived here who didn’t do much of that?” and/or “I’ve generally found it useful to disconnect from work and coworkers once the workday is over so I come back refreshed the next day. Do you think that would be an obstacle to doing well in the role?” That would give you a lot more info to help answer the questions on your mind about what would be expected of you and whether it was the wrong fit.

A lot of people don’t approach interviews this way because the power dynamics of interviews make them feel they can’t have a genuine dialogue with their interviewer. But if you’re serious about finding a job that’s a comfortable fit and where you won’t be miserable, you have to approach interviews like this — as a consultation between two people trying to decide if it makes sense to work together, rather than waiting for the employer to pass judgment on you. (Interestingly, this will also make you a more appealing candidate, at least to non-terrible managers.)

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can I wear a baby during a video interview? https://www.askamanager.org/2020/06/can-i-wear-a-baby-during-a-video-interview.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/06/can-i-wear-a-baby-during-a-video-interview.html#comments Wed, 03 Jun 2020 14:59:14 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=19522 This post, can I wear a baby during a video interview? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I was just asked to do a two-hour video interview this week. I am excited for the opportunity, but I am at home with a newborn and my partner is likely unable to commit to watching the baby for that long. My partner also works from home but takes frequent customer calls […]

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This post, can I wear a baby during a video interview? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I was just asked to do a two-hour video interview this week. I am excited for the opportunity, but I am at home with a newborn and my partner is likely unable to commit to watching the baby for that long. My partner also works from home but takes frequent customer calls and can’t have a baby screaming in the background. We may get the baby to nap during the interview, but we can’t rely on that.

I don’t know what to do. Would it be okay to baby-wear during the video? This keeps them quiet for long periods. Should I just try to have the baby nap and warn the interviewer that they could wake up at any time? I know times are difficult for everyone, but I still don’t imagine many companies having sympathy for parents without childcare.

Reasonable employers do understand that tons of people are home without child care right now. It’s much, much better to do the interview without the baby if you can — because you’ll make a better impression without interruptions or distractions, and because you don’t want the employer speculating about how this will affect your focus if they hire you before daycares reopen — but lots of people are in this situation and it’s not the end of the world if the baby has to be there.

And after all, if you were a single parent, this is what you’d have to do.

But you’re not a single parent, and I’m wondering why your partner gets to say they “can’t have a baby screaming in the background” and that’s the final word on that … but you can’t say that yourself for something as important as a job interview.

Obviously it’s not ideal for your partner to (a) not be able to take customer calls during that time or (b) have to deal with the baby interrupting a customer call — but it’s not ideal for you to be caring for a baby during a job interview either. It’s not going to be ideal for either of you but someone has to do it — and I’d argue it’s less ideal for you, and I’m wondering why your partner’s needs totally trump yours here.

If it’s at all possible to keep the baby in the care of your partner during the interview, do. But if they won’t do it, then all you can really do is explain the situation to the interviewer up-front. I still might not wear the baby unless you can set up your camera so she’s not visible — but that’s probably a decision you should make based on the likelihood of interruptions if you do vs. if you don’t.

(And also I’d look seriously at whether there’s a partner problem here. If their job is utterly inflexible and they have no PTO they could take, etc., then maybe I’m off-base. But please look at it, because right now it sounds like your needs don’t get equal weight, and that’s not how this is supposed to work.)

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how do job interviews work now? https://www.askamanager.org/2020/06/how-do-job-interviews-work-now.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/06/how-do-job-interviews-work-now.html#comments Tue, 02 Jun 2020 16:29:05 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=19512 This post, how do job interviews work now? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: Since my new job was postponed due to COVID-19, I am actively pursuing other opportunities. After applying for a restaurant position, I was asked to come in for an on-site interview. So what does job interview etiquette look like in the current COVID-19 world? For example: Do I wear a mask to […]

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This post, how do job interviews work now? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

Since my new job was postponed due to COVID-19, I am actively pursuing other opportunities. After applying for a restaurant position, I was asked to come in for an on-site interview.

So what does job interview etiquette look like in the current COVID-19 world? For example: Do I wear a mask to the interview? Should I eliminate the traditional handshake? Is it rude to ask to wash my hands before starting the interview? How does this all work now?

Some employers have responded to the pandemic incredibly well — giving employees extra flexibility on work schedules, projects, and deadlines; providing more paid leave; and encouraging people to work from home long-term when their jobs allow it. Others have been fairly awful — inflexible, unaccommodating, and reckless with people’s safety. Now that certain cities and industries are beginning to creak back to life, you’ll want to know what you’re signing up for before you take a new job.

First and foremost, consider requesting a video interview.

This particular interview is for a job in a restaurant, so it’s not surprising that it’s in-person and on-site. But if you’re interviewing for a job where off-site work seems more feasible, consider asking if a video interview is possible, at least for the first interview. The employer might want to meet in person at some point before extending a job offer, but if there will be multiple rounds of interviews, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask that conversations in earlier stages of the process be done remotely.

You can frame it as, “I’m trying to be very careful right now because of the pandemic. Would it be possible to do this initial meeting by phone or video? I’m of course happy to meet in person later in the process if we move forward.” And if your area still has stay-at-home orders in place, cite that: “I’ve been trying to be vigilant about following the stay-at-home order.” But if the interview is in-person …

Don’t rely on employers to have figured everything out.

We’re taught to defer to employers in an interview situation — and generally look to them to decide on the structure of the interview and to arrange the logistics. But if your default assumption is that the employer will be taking all necessary precautions right now, that can leave you blindsided and in an uncomfortable position (like being seated in a tiny room with little space between you and an interviewer who isn’t wearing a mask and breathing all over you.) And if you’re anxious to make a good first impression, you might be reluctant to speak up for fear of seeming difficult or insinuating that they’re being reckless or cavalier. (They are, but that’s a tough message to deliver during a job interview.)

Instead, it’s smart to ask ahead of time about COVID-19-related precautions so you’re not caught off guard once you get there and so you’re able to ask for any accommodations you might need. When you’re setting up the interview, you can broach the topic by asking, “Do you have any COVID-19 policies that I should know to follow when I arrive?” Ideally, you’ll hear that you should wear a mask, that they’ll be wearing masks, and that they’re following social-distancing guidelines. If you don’t hear that, you can ask for those arrangements or decide whether you’re still willing to attend.

Wear a mask.

If you do end up doing an in-person interview, wear a mask.

If you show up without a mask while your interviewer is wearing one, you’re going to look inconsiderate and out of touch with public-health advice.

If you show up with a mask and no one else is wearing one … I hope you’ll keep the mask on. I realize you might feel pressure to remove it in the context of a job interview, but keeping it on is the right thing to do for public health and for the health of the people around you, whether they recognize that or not. That’s especially true if you’re in an enclosed space (which is likely if you’re interviewing in an office).

You might worry it will put you at a disadvantage. What if they think you’re too uptight or dislike that you’re making a different choice than they are? Honestly, that’s a possible outcome. But job interviews are two-way streets; you’re supposed to be assessing them just as much as they’re assessing you. And an employer that penalizes you for taking public-health recommendations seriously is an employer that doesn’t take employee safety seriously. You should judge them on that.

Handshakes are out for now.

It’s perfectly socially acceptable right now to skip a handshake. When you first meet your interviewer, say in a warm tone, “I know we can’t shake hands right now, but it’s great to meet you.”

(You also asked about asking to wash your hands when you arrive. That’s fine to do!)

Pay attention to what you learn about the employer.

As I mentioned above, interviews are two-way streets. Too often, in their desire for a job offer, candidates forget that the interview process should be about more than convincing the interviewer to hire you. You should also be figuring out if the job and company are the right fit for you.

When you interview for a job, you get a ton of information about what the company is like and what the manager you would be working for is like. Pay attention to those cues! At the moment, that includes a lot of data about how seriously the company takes employee comfort and safety. A manager who looks down on you for wanting to maintain some physical distance, for example, is a manager who will be cavalier with your safety once you’re working there — not just with COVID-19 but more generally, too. An employer that balks at an easily accommodated request for a video interview in the current climate is an employer that probably isn’t going to be terribly supportive of working from home right now, either.

And in addition to all the questions you should ask in any interview, consider asking, “How has the pandemic affected your operations?” and, “How has it changed how employees are working?”

But don’t dismiss those less explicit cues. Part of the point of interviewing is for you to gather information to help determine if you even want this job — and right now, there’s more data coming toward you on that front than ever.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

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I was difficult at my last job, and it’s standing in my way now https://www.askamanager.org/2020/06/i-was-difficult-at-my-last-job-and-its-standing-in-my-way-now.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/06/i-was-difficult-at-my-last-job-and-its-standing-in-my-way-now.html#comments Tue, 02 Jun 2020 14:59:12 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=19520 This post, I was difficult at my last job, and it’s standing in my way now , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I recently quit a job which I excelled at technically, but professionally I struggled. The best way to put it is that I was incompatible with my newly appointed manager. My frustration with that manager led to many inappropriate comments that I made in front of him and a couple of other […]

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This post, I was difficult at my last job, and it’s standing in my way now , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I recently quit a job which I excelled at technically, but professionally I struggled. The best way to put it is that I was incompatible with my newly appointed manager. My frustration with that manager led to many inappropriate comments that I made in front of him and a couple of other senior leaders. To be clear, I never cursed at them or called them names or raised my voice, but I did make (multiple) comments about their ignorance of projects or lack of experience in this speciality. I’m sure you can tell that didn’t go over well.

Ultimately, my behavior got me put on a PIP by my manager. He explained that I was excellent at the job, but not mature enough to do well. This obviously greatly upset me, and I quit on the spot. I know what a PIP means and I wasn’t about to get fired. I had been at the company for about three years and have dozens of excellent professional references (at this company and others) from as high up as the C-suite to as low as individual contributing peers who I worked closely with. They can all honestly and passionately speak to my technical and soft skills very highly. However, this doesn’t seem to matter in my situation.

Overall, I excel at interviews. Within days after quitting I had over eight different interviews lined up. I made it to final rounds of five and got two offers already (still waiting to hear back from the other three). The offers were both contingent on passing employment and background checks. Well, I gave my references, have no criminal history and never lied on any part of my background or history (though I did not admit to my emotional issues with my previous management team). Needless to say, I was shocked when both offers got rescinded.

One company claimed it was due to a change in the role, and the other told me frankly that the “manager did some digging on my history and unfortunately doesn’t feel like I would be a culture fit.” I looked up the manager on LinkedIn and lo and behold, they are connected with my former manager. This has me worried as back-channel references are super common in my industry, and my industry is not very big overall. My manager appears to be very well connected with many of the companies I am interviewing with or hope to in the future.

I will admit that my behavior previously was very disrespectful and probably deserved the reprimand, but now I feel that I am not able to move past it and learn from this experience as my reputation in the industry seems to be damaged. I’m still fairly early in my career overall and am learning how to handle office politics. It’s been a big struggle for me, but I do get better with each passing year.

Anyway, I’ve decided to wait for the other three final stage companies that I’m in talks with before I officially decide that this manager is my blocker, but assuming he is, what do you recommend I do to get past this? Should I talk to him? As this is all fresh, I’m not sure I can do that now, but maybe in a few months? Either way, I need a job now and can’t afford to go more than two months without a paycheck (and I don’t qualify for unemployment as I quit). What do you recommend I do?

I suspect the reason you’re not able to “move past it and learn from the experience” is because … well, it sounds like you haven’t learned from the experience.

Look at all the distancing from your own behavior you’re doing in this letter:
* You write that you “probably” deserved the reprimand. (You definitely did.)
* You say you’re early in your career and still learning how to handle office politics, but also that you were sure you knew a PIP meant you were definitely getting fired (it doesn’t) and you quit on the spot rather than … what, stop making multiple comments to your boss’s face and in front of others about his “ignorance” and lack of experience?
* You seem surprised that people’s satisfaction with your skills is outweighed by you being hostile to your manager and difficult to work with.

I don’t think you’ve come to terms with what happened at your last job and the ways you were in the wrong. That’s a problem because it means you’re likely to repeat it at future jobs, where it will harm you again — and it also means interviewers are going to be put off by you not taking responsibility when you talk about it.

The way to handle this is to do some serious soul-searching, own your role in what happened, understand why your boss found your behavior unacceptable, and figure out how you would navigate it differently next time. Once you do that, you’ll have some standing to reach out to your old manager and try to mend the relationship — which you might be able to do if you take responsibility for your behavior and can say sincerely that you’ve learned from it. That still probably won’t repair the reference, but it’s likely to take some of the edge off of it.

From there, you probably need to be more up-front with interviewers about what happened. If they ask why you left your last job, that’s an opening to take some responsibility for what went wrong. (I am not going to suggest specific language because it has to stem from you genuinely grappling with what happened and truly coming to terms with it, but there’s some general advice on working this out here.)

It’s risky to do that since it might be disqualifying, but if interviewers are likely to hear about it anyway, you’re better off having some input into the narrative and showing you’ve learned from it. Otherwise, if they talk to your old manager, they’re going to figure it’s highly likely you’ll repeat the same behavior at the new job — and few people will willingly sign up for that, especially from someone early in their career. (They shouldn’t want to sign up for it from anyone, but being early in your career makes it especially unpalatable — both because it’ll seem extra out-of-touch from someone without much experience and because you don’t have a long track record of strong work as a counterweight.)

Of course, if you do that, there’s also a risk that they wouldn’t have talked to your old manager, and you’ll be offering up this unflattering info they otherwise wouldn’t have had. But owning your history and how you talk about it is a better risk than saying nothing and letting your manager’s account be the only thing they hear.

This still might not solve it. You might continue to lose out on jobs you want, and ultimately might need to compromise on what type of job you accept (possibly one outside this small field where you burned an early bridge). That’s just the way this works — people know you by your reputation, and in a small field how you treat others has real consequences for who’s willing to hire you. But your best chance of leaving it in the past is to face it head-on and come to terms with what your role really was.

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is it possible to be TOO responsive to an interview invitation? https://www.askamanager.org/2020/05/is-it-possible-to-be-too-responsive-to-an-interview-invitation.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/05/is-it-possible-to-be-too-responsive-to-an-interview-invitation.html#comments Tue, 26 May 2020 19:15:32 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=19486 This post, is it possible to be TOO responsive to an interview invitation? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: Is it possible to be too responsive and available to an interview invitation? Twice over the past year, I’ve responded quickly to interview requests. I have a lot of flexibility in my current job with a few days’ notice so I can make myself available very quickly for a phone screen or […]

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This post, is it possible to be TOO responsive to an interview invitation? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

Is it possible to be too responsive and available to an interview invitation? Twice over the past year, I’ve responded quickly to interview requests. I have a lot of flexibility in my current job with a few days’ notice so I can make myself available very quickly for a phone screen or onsite interview. Both cases didn’t work out to my advantage though.

The background:

Job #1: Last summer, I applied on a Monday night to a job that had been posted for about one week on Craigslist. While I had transferable skills, I had only some background in the field, so there would have been a learning curve. By Tuesday afternoon, I was contacted to schedule a phone screen. The screen happened Thursday. The following Tuesday, I had an on-site interview, which went well. So, one week from application to on-site interview. However, towards the end of the on-site, they mentioned that my application was the first one they had received that was even in the ballpark for what they were looking for, which is why they pounced on me and moved so quickly. However, by then, a few other applications had come through with relevant industry experience. It eventually turned out that one of those folks got the job. So, I’m thinking that if I had not been so available and had slowed down the timeline, my application would have been viewed more realistically in context with the others, and so much of my time wouldn’t have been taken up.

Job #2: This past January, I applied to a job on a Tuesday night that had been posted a few days before. By Wednesday afternoon, I was contacted for a phone screen. I again said I was available over the next few days. The HR person thanked me for responding so quickly. The phone screen happened the following Tuesday. A few days later, they wanted to schedule a second level phone screen with the hiring manager. Again, I responded quickly with availability, which seemed to surprise them. That screen happened Thursday of the next week, and there was mention (just like last time) of other candidates they were considering. And then, nothing. I sent a polite short email a few weeks later inquiring if there were any updates to share. Nothing. This finished up in early February, which was six weeks before COVID-19 impacted anything. The entire HR process had been carefully scheduled and handled up to that point, so their ghosting was inexplicable. The job has disappeared from company site.

So, I have to wonder if responding quickly to a request but saying I’m only available the following week is a better way to handle this. Or was it just bad luck?

Nah, this wasn’t about you responding too quickly or being too available.

I mean, yes, it’s possible that if you had waited to respond, they would have received other strong applications by then and thus wouldn’t have invited you to interview at all. And so that could have saved you some time. But generally it’s a good thing to get to interview, even if other candidates are stronger. You could end up being a better fit than those other candidates in ways they wouldn’t have anticipated (especially around soft skills), or those other candidates could end up not accepting an offer, or once the employer knows you they might think of you for other roles. So for those reasons, you generally don’t want your strategy to be “only get asked to interview if they’re very, very sure about me and the rest of the candidate pool.”

Plus, waiting to respond or being less available than you really are (i.e., playing games to try to boost your chances) is likely to backfire! If you wait to respond, you risk being shut out of consideration altogether, since many employers (especially employers advertising on Craigslist, for what that’s worth) will interview the first X number of qualified candidates they get and ignore everyone else.

And making yourself easy to schedule with is a good thing! It’s not like that awful 90s book The Rules, which advised women to be difficult for suitors to get ahold of. Employers aren’t judging you for having an open schedule; if they’re thinking about it at all, they’re just thinking, “Good, this is easy to coordinate.”

The ghosting with job #2 is just normal, run-of-the-mill interview ghosting. It’s really common, even with companies that have been responsive up until then, and it’s not about how available you were. It’s about them having crappy, rude hiring practices where they don’t get back to people who invested time in interviewing with them. It sucks, but it’s not anything you did — and you wouldn’t have avoided it by changing how you interacted with them.

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video interviews when you’re trapped at home and looking shaggy https://www.askamanager.org/2020/05/video-interviews-when-youre-trapped-at-home-and-looking-shaggy.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/05/video-interviews-when-youre-trapped-at-home-and-looking-shaggy.html#comments Tue, 26 May 2020 16:29:43 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=19477 This post, video interviews when you’re trapped at home and looking shaggy , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I was job searching before the pandemic, and I’m hoping to start getting some interviews soon. I am wondering about COVID-era best practices for video interviews. If I have limited options for quiet, private places with reliable internet for such calls, is it unprofessional to do these calls from my desk in […]

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This post, video interviews when you’re trapped at home and looking shaggy , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I was job searching before the pandemic, and I’m hoping to start getting some interviews soon. I am wondering about COVID-era best practices for video interviews.

If I have limited options for quiet, private places with reliable internet for such calls, is it unprofessional to do these calls from my desk in my bedroom? The backdrop doesn’t really show anything personal — bookshelves, plants, a neat sofa. Part of my bed would be visible, though of course I would make it neatly. Is a bedroom too personal a locale to take a video call?

Also, if I haven’t had a chance to go to the salon in several months, my general appearance might be slightly less than professional. Is that something to mention in an joking apology sort of way (“Sorry for looking a little unkempt, I haven’t trusted my roommate to take the shears to me just yet!”), or is it better to just do my best to disguise the situation and not mention it?

Any other tips or tricks for video interviews while we’re basically confined to our apartments?

Most interviewers understand that people are at home right now, not in corporate office buildings, and the backgrounds on video calls will reflect that. As long as you’re not taking a video call from your actual bed, your bedroom should be a perfectly fine place to do the interview. You don’t want a nest of rumbled sheets and blankets in the background, of course, but as long as the room is neat and uncluttered and there’s nothing inappropriately personal in view of the camera, you should be fine. (“Inappropriately personal” means a copy of the Kama Sutra shouldn’t be in view, but family photos or a shelf of novels are fine.)

You do want to be as well groomed as possible, but there’s a lot of leeway for less-than-perfect hair situations right now — from general shagginess to grown-out roots. Make a point of being especially polished in the areas you can control, like other kinds of grooming, clothes, and jewelry and know that your interviewers realize everyone’s look has gone a little feral lately (including, probably, their own). I wouldn’t bother apologizing or joking about it, though; there’s no point in calling attention to something that otherwise might not even have been on your interviewer’s radar.

Other tips to help you do well in video interviews:

1. Do a trial run ahead of time.

Don’t wait until a few minutes before your interview to set up your space. Do a complete trial run with a friend ahead of time so you can see how you look on your computer’s camera and sound on its microphone. You might even wear the outfit you plan to wear for the interview so you can make sure it’s not doing anything weird like blending in with the background and making you appear to be a floating head.

2. Get the lighting right.

Ideally, you’d do your trial run at the same time of day as you’ll be interviewing so you can see how the natural light affects things. The wrong lighting can make you look washed out or ghostly or like a dark silhouette without any features. Make sure any light is aimed at you from the front, not from behind you; for example, don’t sit with a window at your back. If your light source seems too harsh, try covering it with a cloth to soften it (even a T-shirt will do).

3. Have everything you need nearby.

Ahead of your interview, assemble anything you might need during the conversation — a glass of water, paper and a pen to take notes, and so forth. Keep a copy of your résumé and the job description for the role you’ll be discussing nearby, too, since those can be helpful to glance at as you talk.

4. Use the strongest internet connection you can.

If you have a bad data connection, you can end up with more of a delay on both sides, which can make the whole conversation feel less natural. If you have the option of a wired network connection, use it; it will generally be more reliable than Wi-Fi.

Also, try to coordinate with other people in your household so they’re not doing anything that uses a lot of bandwidth during your interview. Video already takes up a lot of bandwidth, and if other people on your network are streaming movies online at the same time, you may have a weaker connection.

5. Look at the camera, not the people you’re talking to.

Looking into the computer’s camera will read as eye contact on your interviewer’s end — whereas if you look into the eyes of the image on your screen, on the other end it will appear that you’re looking away. (This takes practice before it feels normal! If you’re not already a big video caller, it’s helpful to get used to it ahead of time by asking friends to Zoom with you.)

6. If you’re distracted by your own image, cover it.

If you get self-conscious when you see your own image on the screen (or, lucky you, so delighted that you keep focusing on it), try covering it with something like a sticky note so you’re not distracted. Or some video chat programs will let you remove that window altogether.

7. Keep everything else on your computer closed.

Close out all your other windows so you’re not distracted during the interview. Quit e-mail programs, Slack, or anything else that might pop up with notifications during the call (and if you can, turn all your notifications off; it’s very hard not to peek at them, and you don’t want your interviewer to see your eyes continually darting off to the corner of the screen).

8. Pants. Wear them.

It’s easy to think a video meeting lets you wear the mullet version of an interview outfit — business on the top and pajama party on the bottom. But it’s smart to wear something reasonably professional on the bottom, too, in case you end up having to stand and walk away from your computer during the interview. If you have to jump up because a fire alarm goes off or a neighbor starts banging on your door, ideally you won’t be in sweat shorts or pajama pants covered with ducks.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

Read an update to this letter here.

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will interviewers ask what you achieved during the pandemic? https://www.askamanager.org/2020/05/will-interviewers-ask-what-you-achieved-during-the-pandemic.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/05/will-interviewers-ask-what-you-achieved-during-the-pandemic.html#comments Mon, 18 May 2020 14:59:13 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=19439 This post, will interviewers ask what you achieved during the pandemic? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I’ve been seeing people online say that in the future, job interviewers will ask candidates questions like, “What did you do to continue developing your skills during the pandemic?” and “What did you achieve during the shutdown, even if you weren’t working?” Some people in my circle have been spending time figuring […]

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This post, will interviewers ask what you achieved during the pandemic? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’ve been seeing people online say that in the future, job interviewers will ask candidates questions like, “What did you do to continue developing your skills during the pandemic?” and “What did you achieve during the shutdown, even if you weren’t working?”

Some people in my circle have been spending time figuring out how to home school their children, applying for WIC and SNAP benefits, navigating the maze of applying for unemployment benefits, and figuring out how to stay in their homes. Are interviewers really going to expect everyone to be taking online classes and staying on top of their professional development? Right now there are lots of people who have been thrown into survival mode.

It seems as though people who are still safe and secure have no idea what life is like for others and they are a little disconnected and tone deaf. Since I am job seeking, I guess I going to have to figure out how I will be answering these question, but, I still feel a little sad about it.

I’ve seen these posts too. Here’s one ridiculous example of something that was being circulated by a university career center (they later retracted it).

It says something incredibly gross about the people propagating it. At a minimum it says that they’re remarkably out of touch with what’s happening right now and with what’s important to people. I’d argue it also reveals a serious deficiency in their values.

If someone is teaching themself a new language or building their coding skills during the pandemic, that’s great. But to present it as an expectation during a time when millions of people are struggling to keep their homes, feed their families, and stay alive — to imply people might be less worthy of employment if they needed to focus on their finances and their safety during a f’ing global crisis — no. No. Something has gone very wrong in anyone who believes that.

What’s more likely is that people are grasping on to this as it bounces around the internet without really examining it: “Oh, a timely question about resilience!” But it won’t stand up to any real examination, and it’s not likely to fall into common use.

That said, there will always be interviewers who ask absurd, inappropriate, out-of-touch interview questions — they’re the interviewers who ask about the worst thing that ever happened to you or who ask to look in your purse. Or in the less extreme, they’re the ones who ask what kind of tree you’d be or to rate the interview on a 10-point scale.

There are just a lot of crappy interviewers out there. We can’t control for all the absurd things they might ask.

But this isn’t going to become a standard interview question because no halfway aware employer will use it. Not only does it create potential liability around things like family status and disability, but it paints the employer as tremendously out-of-touch. It’s off-putting and alienating and makes the interviewer look like an ass.

But if you do ever get asked it, you should respond this way: “Well, I of course focused on keeping myself and my family solvent and safe, like most people! What can you tell me about how the company managed and what you did for employees during that time?”

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how to answer “why should I hire you?” https://www.askamanager.org/2020/05/how-to-answer-why-should-i-hire-you.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/05/how-to-answer-why-should-i-hire-you.html#comments Wed, 13 May 2020 14:59:55 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=19414 This post, how to answer “why should I hire you?” , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I haven’t interviewed in a long time, and I’ve never been good at it. I have good references, have worked on interesting projects, and have good skills. But I’m very introverted. If someone asks me, “Why should I hire YOU?” I have no idea. “I’ll do a great job” seems like a […]

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This post, how to answer “why should I hire you?” , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I haven’t interviewed in a long time, and I’ve never been good at it. I have good references, have worked on interesting projects, and have good skills. But I’m very introverted. If someone asks me, “Why should I hire YOU?” I have no idea. “I’ll do a great job” seems like a ridiculous thing to say (how would anyone even know?).

I’ve done well at all of the jobs I’ve had — it’s just getting past the interview that baffles me.

“Why should I hire you?” isn’t the best wording for this question. While some candidates will hear it as it’s usually intended (“why would you be great at this job?”), many others will hear as adversarial or as asking the candidate to assess themselves against other candidates, which they can’t do without an intimate knowledge of their competition.

But the way to answer it well is to reword it in your head. Translate it to, “Tell me why you think you would you excel at this job.”

That’s something you should come into the interview with at least a hypothesis about. Ideally that hypothesis is what led you to apply for the job in the first place! An interview is a time to get more info so you can test that hypothesis — because maybe it will turn out to be wrong — but the interviewer is asking you to lay out what you see as the case for you being a good match for the job.

They’re really just saying, “You applied for this job because you figured you’d be good at it. Tell me more about why you think that.”

You don’t need to assess whether you’re the best person for the job (again, you can’t possibly know that) — but this is a chance to explain why the job seems like a strong fit for your background and your skills. This is your chance to make the case for yourself!

If you can’t explain why you think you’d be great in the job you’re applying for, it’s unlikely that your interviewer will figure it out on their own, so you should always work out the answer to this before you walk into the interview.

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is this company’s interview process unreasonable? https://www.askamanager.org/2020/04/is-this-companys-interview-process-unreasonable.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/04/is-this-companys-interview-process-unreasonable.html#comments Mon, 06 Apr 2020 18:09:05 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=19153 This post, is this company’s interview process unreasonable? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I have spent the past 10 years building up a small client base in my industry. I’m a terrible self promoter, so this is very small and I really need to ramp up or get a full-time job. I applied for a position pre-COVID-19 and did a phone screen. I was successfully […]

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This post, is this company’s interview process unreasonable? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I have spent the past 10 years building up a small client base in my industry. I’m a terrible self promoter, so this is very small and I really need to ramp up or get a full-time job. I applied for a position pre-COVID-19 and did a phone screen. I was successfully added to a list of folks for an in-person interview the following week. But that Friday, shelter-in-place orders were issued for two weeks. I was interviewed through a video conference call. Apparently that went well too, because they wanted to bring me in to tour the facility before making a decision; I was told it is between me and two other candidates. Unfortunately, we’ve been extended out another month for the sheltering.

I got an email saying they want me to do another video conference interview, but need to talk to my references first. I told them I would connect them with a current client after a conditional offer was made, and provided three other business references. One is a former supervisor, one is another business professional whose business dovetails with mine and we have worked closely together, and one is a current client. I know these are solid references. They contacted the references and then told me they planned to have me meet next week with other folks in the organization by video conference and would then like more references from current clients.

At the start of this, their plan was the phone screen, single interview, references, then decision. Now they keep adding components to the process and have changed the layout. I know this is a result of our current new reality and we’re all operating in a strange place. But, I have concern over them dragging this out. I don’t want interviews just for the sake of keeping in touch through the crisis. I am still actively working, as my field is in high demand right now. I worry that I will damage my current client relationships if they know I am looking for a job and I don’t ultimately get the job. I don’t want to give up current client references.

I suppose I also want to make sure I’m right in thinking if next week’s round of interviews goes well, I don’t want to accept a job without ever having seen the workplace. But I can’t realistically see it for at least a month and I don’t know if it’s fair to put that on them. It would have to be a month, see the facility, then give me a few weeks to give closure to my clients. And that doesn’t seem right either. (And woah! I am putting the cart before the horse on this one, but I can’t help thinking about it!)

Do you have thoughts on navigating all of this? How should the recruiting picture look in these times? Is this all reasonable?

Well, they have to change the process because they can no longer bring you in in-person. It sounds like they’ve only added one piece to the process. Their original process was a phone screen and single interview. Now they’re doing a phone screen and two video interviews. That’s not unreasonable even in normal times, and it’s definitely not unreasonable to take the time for you both to be extra sure since you can’t meet in person.

But they’re being unreasonable about the references. Of course you don’t want multiple current clients knowing you’re looking for a job, since that may prompt them to start looking for someone to take over the work you do for them, which will be a problem for you if you don’t get the job (or if you turn down the offer). Insisting on reference from current clients before making a conditional offer to you, when you’ve explained your concerns, isn’t that different than employers that insist on a reference from your current manager; both can jeopardize your livelihood.

You already gave them one current client as a reference. You gave them two other references as well, including the previous manager (the gold standard for references). They’re out of line in insisting on additional clients at this stage. Or at least they are if they understand your concern — so importantly, have you spelled it out for them? If you haven’t, do that, because they may not realize you feel they’re jeopardizing your business with the request. (But also, any chance you have a former client or two who you could use? That might solve it.)

As for accepting the job without ever seeing the workplace, I understand why you want to see it — but it probably isn’t realistic right now. It’s unlikely businesses will have reopened a month from now, and you’ll probably need to make a decision without seeing it. But think about what types of deal-breakers you’d be looking for if you could see the space, and figure out if there are ways to ask questions to get at those things remotely.

In fact, it’s even okay to say, “Normally I know you would have shown me the space before we got to this stage, but of course that’s not possible right now. Can you tell me about the facility and what the workspace for this position is like?” (And employers who really want to be on top of recruiting right now: consider that this is a concern for people and think about creating a video tour.)

Read an update to this letter here.

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how honestly should you answer “what do you do for fun?” in an interview? https://www.askamanager.org/2020/03/how-honestly-should-you-answer-what-do-you-do-for-fun-in-an-interview.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/03/how-honestly-should-you-answer-what-do-you-do-for-fun-in-an-interview.html#comments Mon, 16 Mar 2020 17:59:49 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=18521 This post, how honestly should you answer “what do you do for fun?” in an interview? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I was just asked in an interview what I like to do for fun, and after a few jokes about how I’m a bit of a geek, I declared, “I host a Dungeons and Dragons game.” Now, on the one hand, I’m an engineer, and a geeky engineer is more the norm […]

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This post, how honestly should you answer “what do you do for fun?” in an interview? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I was just asked in an interview what I like to do for fun, and after a few jokes about how I’m a bit of a geek, I declared, “I host a Dungeons and Dragons game.”

Now, on the one hand, I’m an engineer, and a geeky engineer is more the norm than the exception, and I didn’t want to give an answer that made me seem antisocial. But on the other hand, I feel like there might be other stigmas with my other honest answers like “watch TV, play video games, read books.”

I feel like these types of questions are to probe how social you are, how industrious you are, and how pleasant you might be to work with. Was “Dungeons and Dragons” a bad answer? What would a good answer look like?

Nah, interviewers really aren’t usually asking to probe how social or industrious you are! They’re mostly (a) trying to get a better sense of who you are as a person — not to reject you over it, but just to feel like they know a little more about you, and (b) seeing if you can make pleasant small talk about a topic you’re comfortable with.

If you’re not desperate for a job, any job, you should answer honestly! You’re looking for a job where you’ll be comfortable being yourself — not at a place that will judge you for playing D&D or video games.

Obviously there are some limitations to that. Your interviewer — and your eventual coworkers — don’t need to know that you spend most weekends making genitalia-shaped cakes or that these days you’re mostly google-stalking your ex. But if your hobby or interest falls in the categories of “things you’d be willing to mention to your grandma or a friendly neighbor” and “things you’d ideally like to occasionally mention to coworkers once you’re on the job,” go ahead and mention it now. If they don’t like it, it’s better to find that out now.

On the other hand, if your highest priority is to just get the job — and you’re not as concerned about a comfortable fit — then sure, there can be benefit to editing your answers a bit more. In that case, you might skip the mention of video games since some people are weirdly judgy about them.

In that case, it’s fine to talk about reading (mention a book you’ve read recently to make this more interesting) … or cooking, or spending time with your family, or training antelopes, or whatever you do like to do with your leisure time.

In general, though, interviewers aren’t usually scrutinizing your answer to this question that much. Look at it as an attempt to connect with you as a human more than anything else.

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interviewer asked what was the worst thing that’s ever happened to me https://www.askamanager.org/2020/02/interviewer-asked-what-was-the-worst-thing-thats-ever-happened-to-me.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/02/interviewer-asked-what-was-the-worst-thing-thats-ever-happened-to-me.html#comments Wed, 19 Feb 2020 18:59:00 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=18408 This post, interviewer asked what was the worst thing that’s ever happened to me , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I just had an odd interview and wanted to hear your thoughts. I’m currently teaching full-time but am interviewing for some part-time adjunct work I can do over the summer. I had an interview this morning that was going well until the interviewer said, “I have a very difficult question, but it’s […]

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This post, interviewer asked what was the worst thing that’s ever happened to me , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I just had an odd interview and wanted to hear your thoughts. I’m currently teaching full-time but am interviewing for some part-time adjunct work I can do over the summer. I had an interview this morning that was going well until the interviewer said, “I have a very difficult question, but it’s one we’re asking all of our candidates: What is the worst thing that’s ever happened to you, and how did you deal with it?”

The actual worst thing that’s ever happened to me is NOT the type of experience I’d ever want to share in a professional context. I made up something anodyne about adjusting after moving to a new city, but I was surprised that such a personal question was asked in the first place, and it made me second-guess working for this organization.

The interviewer was talking like I might be offered the job at the end. Am I right to be turned off by this? And, if I turn down the job, should I tell them why, so other people aren’t blindsided by this question? I’m fine, but I imagine it could be pretty upsetting for someone with a more recent traumatic experience.

What on earth?!

This is a wildly inappropriate and out-of-line question to ask in a job interview.

First, obviously, for many people the answer will be things that under no circumstances should they be expected to talk about in a job interview — losing loved ones, sexual assault, divorce, addiction, abuse, medical crises, and other traumas of all sorts.

How on earth hasn’t that occurred to them?

The fact that they haven’t considered how many people have painful, deeply personal “worst experiences” says something awfully bad about their understanding of the world around them and the people who cross their path.

And yes, of course people can just pick something less personal rather than giving the real answer — but it’s an incredibly intrusive question to ask in the first place. And even when candidates have the presence of mind to pick something less personal, the question is highly likely to throw people. No one wants to be thinking about a deeply personal trauma when they’re interviewing for a job, or wondering, “WTF, are they really asking about my abusive family member?”

I’m sure they think the question will help them suss out how candidates deal with adversity and challenges … but there are lots of ways to do that without trampling boundaries and crossing into such personal territory. They could ask, “Tell me about something difficult that’s happened to you professionally and how you handled it.” They could ask, “Tell me about a work challenge that has been hard for you to overcome.” They could ask, “What’s been one of your biggest disappointments professionally and how did you respond to it?”

So yes, you’re right to be deeply turned off by this.

It’s not necessarily something you have to turn down the job over, but I’d consider it a pretty serious flag that something is weird there — definitely with your interviewer, and possibly more broadly. At a minimum, it requires a much closer look before you accept a job there.

Ideally, in the moment you could have said, “That’s such a deeply personal question, especially with the types of trauma people might have in their backgrounds! Can you tell me why you ask it?”

But yes, if you do turn down the job (or for that matter, if you take it), I’d strongly encourage you to tell them that you found the question off-putting and inappropriate. They need to hear that.

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how can I stop being so nervous in job interviews? https://www.askamanager.org/2020/02/how-can-i-stop-being-so-nervous-in-job-interviews.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/02/how-can-i-stop-being-so-nervous-in-job-interviews.html#comments Tue, 18 Feb 2020 17:29:40 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=18382 This post, how can I stop being so nervous in job interviews? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: Do you have advice for someone who self-sabotages during interviews? I look very good on paper, and I always get called to interview nearly everywhere I apply. Unfortunately, I have diagnosed PTSD, and my fight or flight instinct kicks in on the morning of my interviews, every time, without fail. Employed-me is […]

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This post, how can I stop being so nervous in job interviews? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

Do you have advice for someone who self-sabotages during interviews?

I look very good on paper, and I always get called to interview nearly everywhere I apply. Unfortunately, I have diagnosed PTSD, and my fight or flight instinct kicks in on the morning of my interviews, every time, without fail.

Employed-me is polished, organized, and confident. Interview-me is sweaty, shaky, and rambles through her answers.

I have five interviews next month, three of which are for “dream jobs.” My friends and family keep saying how exciting this is, but I simply feel dread about having to go through the interview process that many times over.

How do other anxious humans get through this?

You definitely aren’t alone. I get a ton of letters from people who feel like their nerves interfere with their ability to show interviewers what they’re actually like to work with day-to-day.

Sometimes changing your mindset about what a job interview is supposed to be can really help. At their core, your interview nerves probably come from feeling that you’re there to be scrutinized and judged. Interviews can feel like you’re under a big spotlight and have no choice but to passively wait for your interviewer to render a verdict on you — and of course that’s nerve-wracking. Often though, you can change that dynamic in your head by deciding that you’re there to interview them.

Because the thing is, you are! Or at least you should be. Interviews aren’t just about an employer figuring out if they want to hire you; they’re also supposed to be about you figuring out if you want this job, at this company, with this manager, and these co-workers. That means that you need to be scrutinizing and evaluating right back. And sure, the way interviews are typically structured means that you won’t control the agenda as much as your interviewer does — but you absolutely can ask your own questions and collect your own data throughout.

That means, for example, that if your interviewer is asking a bunch of questions that strike you as odd — let’s say four different questions about your experience dealing with difficult colleagues — it’s perfectly fine (and I’d argue, necessary) for you to say, “You’ve asked a few questions about that. Is that something that the person in this role should expect to encounter a lot of challenges around?” It also means paying attention to everything you’re learning about the employer during the hiring process, from how organized and efficient (or chaotic or bureaucratic) they seem to how genuine their answers to your questions feel.

Taken one step further, it can help to realize the employer’s evaluation of youis in your best interests too. After all, you don’t want a job that your prospective boss thinks you’ll struggle in — that’s bad for your career and frankly miserable — so it’s to everyone’s advantage for you and your interviewer to put your heads together and figure out if this job is the right match. To feel good about doing that, you have to remove all the moral judgment from the equation. It’s not about whether you’re “good enough” or smart enough or impressive enough. It’s just about whether this particular job meshes well with your particular set of strengths. Maybe it doesn’t, and that’s okay! If so, let’s find that out now, rather than after you’re already working there.

In fact, try to think of the interview as a meeting between two prospective business partners, since that’s actually what it is. You’re getting caught up in the emotional dynamics of candidate/interviewer, but what if you thought of yourself as a consultant who is meeting with a prospective client, with both of you trying to determine if it makes sense to work together? The best interviews are collaborative business discussions — not one-way interrogations.

Beyond that, the most helpful thing you can do is to practice the crap out your interviewing skills. I’ve just binge-watched Cheer, and coach Monica Aldama’s framework is exactly what you want: “Practice until you get it right and then practice until you can’t get it wrong.” I know that sounds terribly tedious — and it probably will be — but it even if it doesn’t fix the problem entirely, it will significantly strengthen your interviews.

So: Spend time going through the job description line by line and coming up with examples from your work history that you can point to as evidence that you’d excel at the job — similar challenges you’ve tackled and what results you got, and specific successes you’ve had using the skills the job requires. Then spend time with some lists of common interview questions and practice saying your answers out loud, over and over. In particular, make sure to focus on questions that make you especially nervous. If you’re hoping you’re not asked why you left your last job or why you never finished your graduate degree, practice those answers even more than the rest until you’ve taken some of the dread out of them.

Don’t skimp on this step — really deliver your answers with the same wording you’d use in a real interview. You might feel foolish doing that alone in your bedroom, but practicing out loud can lodge your answers in your brain in a way that can become almost muscle memory when you’re in the actual interview.

You may never like interviews, but the more you can see them as collaborative fact-finding missions that are in your and the interviewer’s best interests, the better they’ll probably go.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

Read an update to this letter here.

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how to respond to “tell me about a time when…” interview questions when you don’t have good examples https://www.askamanager.org/2020/02/tell-me-about-a-time-questions-when-you-dont-have-good-examples.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/02/tell-me-about-a-time-questions-when-you-dont-have-good-examples.html#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2020 18:59:48 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=18343 This post, how to respond to “tell me about a time when…” interview questions when you don’t have good examples , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I recently went in for a second round of interviews at a foundation I’d love to work for. (They told me it was between me and one other person.) I met with the CEO, who was relaxed and told me “we’re just going to have a conversation,” which we did. It went […]

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This post, how to respond to “tell me about a time when…” interview questions when you don’t have good examples , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I recently went in for a second round of interviews at a foundation I’d love to work for. (They told me it was between me and one other person.) I met with the CEO, who was relaxed and told me “we’re just going to have a conversation,” which we did. It went really well and I felt confident I was in good stead — though he was not the person in charge of hiring.

Then I met with three women in the department I’d be working in. They sat across the table from me, so that was already intimidating. One very humorless, drippy woman ran the entire interview and asked me about 10 questions, all of the “can you tell me about a time when …” variety. Some of these I know to be prepared for, but most of them were very specific and required me to fit a square peg into a round hole, such as, “Can you tell me about a time when you worked with someone who you angered and they became irate and how you handled it?” Well, I don’t have an example of this! Nor did I have an answer to “Can you tell me about a time where you misjudged a situation and did something wrong and then had to make it right?”

What is the point of these questions? And, frankly, why not give them to me ahead of time so I can think and try to come up with a coherent response? I ended up getting quite flustered, which didn’t make me look good and I even jokingly said I wished I’d had them in advance because I couldn’t think of examples off the top of my head. I am an excellent candidate for the job, but I feel like this tin-eared woman cared more about seeing how I handled her ridiculous questions than how well-qualified I actually am.

I wrote a thank-you note, but haven’t heard back, so I assume they disqualified me based those stupid questions. No, I would not want to work with the humorless woman, but still, I feel somewhat gaslighted by that interview.

“Tell me about a time when…” questions — known as behavioral interview questions — are supposed to be a way to explore real-life occasions when you’re used skills that are important to the job. The idea is to get away from hypotheticals (like “how would you handle it if X happened?”), which are easy to BS your way through, and instead probe into how you’ve really operated.

As an interviewer, there’s some value in hearing someone talk about what they think they’d do in the future or how they’d approach a hypothetical situation. But there’s a lot more value in exploring how they actually have operated in the past, in real situations with real complexities and challenges. Sometimes people can bluff their way through a hypothetical just by using common sense — without it lining up with what they do in real life.

That said, good interviewers are thoughtful about choosing which “tell me about a time when…” questions they ask. These questions should be framed around the biggest must-have’s for the role, and if they’re overly narrow, even strong candidates will struggle to answer them.

For you, on the candidate side, if you don’t have a relevant example you can talk about, it’s okay to say, “I haven’t run into that, but something similar I encountered was…” or “I haven’t run into that, but my thought is to handle it this way…”

If you feel like you’re doing that with a lot of their questions, that could be a flag that you don’t have the sort of experience they’re most interested in. (Or they could just be a bad interviewer.) It’s okay to ask about that — “I’ve noticed you’ve asked a lot of question about times I’ve worked with angry llamas. I really don’t have much experience doing that — is that something it’s important for the person in this role to come in with?”

Also, if you’re seeing a surprising pattern in the questions (like a lot of “tell me about a time when someone screamed at you / was upset with you / you messed up”), you can ask about that too. For example: “I’ve noticed you’ve asked a few questions about people being angry or upset with the person in this role. Is that something that has come up a lot in the past?” Or: “Can you tell me what challenges the person in this role will face in that regard?” You might be learning something significant (and perhaps alarming) about the role, and you want to make sure you’re taking away the correct message.

As for this interview … without knowing more about the job, I don’t know if the questions were ridiculous. They might have been, if those things aren’t major must-have’s for the job! This could have been a terrible interviewer or one with an ax to grind. But the questions also could have been pretty relevant. You’re right that these are exactly the sort of questions that can really help both sides to share in advance, but it’s not outrageous that this employer didn’t; most interviewers don’t do that. It sounds like you had other reasons to be turned off by the experience, but targeted behavioral questions aren’t inherently a special outrage.

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I’m stuck in endless interviews with a company that can’t make up its mind https://www.askamanager.org/2020/01/im-stuck-in-endless-interviews-with-a-company-that-cant-make-up-its-mind.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/01/im-stuck-in-endless-interviews-with-a-company-that-cant-make-up-its-mind.html#comments Tue, 28 Jan 2020 17:29:09 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=18303 This post, I’m stuck in endless interviews with a company that can’t make up its mind , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: I’ve been in an interview process for a job, but every time we reach the point where an offer should be made, the process is extended by yet another lengthy meeting with the senior staff. To say this process has been long is an understatement. This began in October when I applied […]

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This post, I’m stuck in endless interviews with a company that can’t make up its mind , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I’ve been in an interview process for a job, but every time we reach the point where an offer should be made, the process is extended by yet another lengthy meeting with the senior staff.

To say this process has been long is an understatement. This began in October when I applied to a different position and was asked to interview for a new, full-time role with the organization. The first interview was relatively straightforward and lasted an hour. The second was somewhat non-traditional, included a lot of “getting to know you” questions, and lasted an hour and a half. The third included two managers and the head of the organization, was scheduled for 7 pm and began after 7:30 pm, and lasted 2.5 hours.

Despite these quirks, I have continued with their process because they have repeatedly expressed their intention to hire me and have confirmed they are not interviewing other candidates for the position. Furthermore, I am desperate to escape the industry in which I currently work and have zero other prospects for achieving that right now.

Following the long evening interview, I was brought on for a paid trial work day (which actually went fine). After that, they schedule another long evening interview to discuss revisions to the original job description. That interview began 45 minutes late and ended at 11 pm with questions about when I can start and promises to send me the official job offer the following day.

Just when I thought I had FINALLY reached the end of this process, I instead received a request from them for ONE MORE meeting, again slotted for two hours! I have agreed to it, but expressed that I was surprised this was necessary based on our last meeting, and that I am anxious to get this show on the road.

At this point, I am pretty frustrated. I’m excited to take on the work they say they want me to do, and having that work on my resume would almost certainly allow me to find a good job more directly related to my chosen field in the future.

They are a very small organization, so it’s not corporate bureaucracy holding things up … so what is going on? I’m starting to feel like there is no finish line here and I’m just wasting my time. If this latest two-hour meeting isn’t also a job offer, what do you suggest I say? What do I do? I’m sure I should have walked away long ago, but I really can’t keep working in my current industry any longer, and outside of this my years-long job search has been fruitless.

Good lord.

There are a ton of red flags here.

Three interviews isn’t unreasonable, especially for a small organization where fit is crucial, but scheduling you for 7 p.m., starting a half hour late, and then keeping you there until past 10 p.m. is absolutely not okay.

But then after that, another long, evening interview? One that started 45 minutes late and went until 11 p.m.? And now yet another request for an additional two-hour meeting? Five interviews total, plus a paid trial day? And this latest one after they promised you a job offer was coming after the last one? That’s not reasonable and it’s not respectful of you or your time. This isn’t how good organizations hire.

But the silver lining is that they’re giving you incredibly useful information about what it would be like to work there. They’re showing you that the organization and/or these managers have an inability to make decisions, a disregard for people’s time (and believe me, if they’re inconsiderate when you’re a candidate, it’s going to be worse once you work there), and perhaps a worrisome amount of comfort with chaos and flying by the seat of their pants.

Take those two late evenings and what they say about how the company operates. Are you okay with the prospect of being pulled into meetings that go on well into the night with little notice? (I’d judge that differently if you had asked for an evening interview to fit your schedule and they’d warned you ahead of time it could go late, but it doesn’t sound like either of those things is the case.)

This is always the way to look at aggravations in an interview process: What do they reveal about the employer and what it might be like to work for them? That’s especially true when you’re seeing a pattern. One disorganized element of a hiring process — fine. We all have bad days. But when you see an ongoing pattern of disorganization, disrespect, or indecisiveness, that’s something to take seriously.

What’s more, the red flags you’re seeing would be concerning with any employer, but because this is a small organization, it’s highly likely that you’re only seeing the tip of the dysfunction iceberg. When small organizations go wrong, they tend to go very wrong. Because they don’t have the same checks and balances as larger businesses do, incompetence or toxicity in a small organization generally will have an outsized impact on your day-to-day quality of life at work.

I know you want this job to work out — you’ve had a long job search, and you want to get out of your current industry. But don’t let that eagerness blind you to what it will be like to work there if you’re hired.

At a minimum, be vigilant about doing some serious due diligence on this organization before accepting any offer there. Make sure you really dig into the culture, the hours, the expectations, the management … because the data you have so far on those things isn’t good, and it’s crucial to know what you’d be signing up for.

If you still want the offer, though, at the end of this upcoming interview you can say: “We’ve had a number of meetings now and I want to be up-front that it would be difficult for me to continue carving out time to meet. Do you feel you have everything you need from me at this point to make a decision?” And if they contact you for yet another meeting after that, it’s beyond reasonable to say, “We’ve met five times and I’ve done a trial work day. I’m really interested in this role, but I have other commitments that I can’t keep taking time away from. If there’s something specific that we haven’t addressed yet, and is it something we could cover by phone instead?”

But really, pay attention to what they’re showing you.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

Read an update to this letter here.

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these are the best questions to ask your job interviewer https://www.askamanager.org/2020/01/these-are-the-best-questions-to-ask-your-job-interviewer.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/01/these-are-the-best-questions-to-ask-your-job-interviewer.html#comments Wed, 15 Jan 2020 17:29:38 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=18241 This post, these are the best questions to ask your job interviewer , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

As someone who has interviewed probably thousands of job candidates, I’m always surprised by how some candidates handle the part of the interview where it’s their turn to ask questions. A ton of people don’t have many questions at all – which is hard to understand when they’re considering spending 40+ hours a week at […]

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This post, these are the best questions to ask your job interviewer , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

As someone who has interviewed probably thousands of job candidates, I’m always surprised by how some candidates handle the part of the interview where it’s their turn to ask questions. A ton of people don’t have many questions at all – which is hard to understand when they’re considering spending 40+ hours a week at this job.

To be fair, a lot of people worry about what questions are okay to ask. They’re concerned about seeming demanding or nitpicky or that their interviewer will draw unflattering conclusions from the questions they ask. It also can be hard to elicit the information you really want to learn (like “what are you really like as a manager?” and “am I going to go home crying every day?”) while still being reasonably tactful.

And other people are unclear on the purpose of the opportunity to ask questions. Rather than using the time to suss out the information they truly want about the job, the manager, and the company, they instead try to use it as a chance to further impress their interviewer and pitch themselves for the job. That ends up leaving them without the info they need to decide if the job is right for them or not. (It also tends to be pretty transparent, and will annoy interviewers who don’t appreciate having their time wasted that way.)

So, what should you ask when it’s your turn to question your interviewer? Here are 10 really strong questions that will get you useful insights into whether the job is right for you.

Questions About the Position

1. “How will you measure the success of the person in this position?”

This gets right to the crux of what you need to know about the job: What does it mean to do well, and what will you need to achieve in order for the manager to be happy with your performance?

You might figure that the job description already laid this out, but it’s not uncommon for a job description to be the same one an employer has been using for the last ten years, even if the job changed significantly during that time. Companies often post job descriptions that primarily use boilerplate language from HR, while the actual manager has very different ideas about what’s most important in the role. Also, frankly, most employers just suck at writing job descriptions (which is why so many of them sound like they were written by robots rather than humans), so it’s useful to have a real conversation about what the role is really about. You might find out that while the job posting listed 12 different responsibilities, your success really just hinges on 2 of them, or that the posting dramatically understated the importance of 1 of them, or that the hiring manager is battling with her own boss about expectations for the role, or even that the manager has no idea what success would look like in the job (which would be a sign to proceed with extreme caution).

2. “What are some of the challenges you expect the person in this position to face?”

This can get at information you’d never get from the job description — like that you’ll have to deal with messy interdepartmental politics, or that the person you’ll be working with most closely is difficult to get along with, or that you’ll need to work within draconian budget restrictions on your program.

It can also create an opening for you to talk about how you’ve approached similar challenges in the past, which can be reassuring to your interviewer. I don’t recommend asking questions just so you can follow up with a sales pitch for yourself — that’s annoying and usually pretty transparent — but if asking about challenges leads to a real discussion of how you’d approach them, it can be genuinely useful for you both.

3. “Can you describe a typical day or week in the job?”

If the job description mentioned a combination of admin work and program work, it’s important to know whether 90 percent of your time will be spent on the admin work or if the split is more like 50/50. Or you might find out that the part of the job that you were most excited about actually only comes up every six months. But even barring major insights like that, the answer to this question can just help you better visualize what it will actually be like to be in the job day after day.

Tip: Some interviewers will respond to this question with, “Oh, every day is different.” If that happens, try asking, “Can you tell me what the last month looked like for the person in the job currently? What took up most of their time?”

If nothing you try gets you a clear picture of how your time will be spent, that might be a sign that you’ll be walking into chaos – or a job where expectations never get clearly defined.

4. “How long did the previous person in the role hold the position? What has turnover in the role generally been like?”

If no one has stayed in the job very long, that could be a red flag about a difficult manager, unrealistic expectations, lack of training, or some other land mine. If just one person left after a few months, that’s not necessarily a danger sign — after all, sometimes things just don’t work out. But if you hear there’s been a pattern of people leaving quickly, it’s worth asking, “Do you have a sense of what has led to the high turnover?”

Questions About Your Success in the Position

5. “What are you hoping this person will accomplish in their first six months and in their first year?”

This question can give you a sense of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and the pace of the team and organization. If you’re expected to have major achievements under your belt after only a few months, that tells you that they likely won’t give you a lot of ramp-up time. Which might be fine if you’re coming in with a lot of experience, but it might be worrisome otherwise. On the flip side, if you’re someone who likes to jump right in and start getting things done, you might not be thrilled to hear that most of your first six months will be spent in training.

This question can also draw out information about key projects that you wouldn’t otherwise have heard about.

6. “Thinking back to people you’ve seen do this work previously, what differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were really great at it?”

A job candidate asked me this question years ago, and it might be the strongest question I’ve ever been asked in an interview. The thing about this question is that it goes straight to the heart of what the hiring manager is looking for. Hiring managers aren’t interviewing candidates in the hopes of finding someone who will do an average job; they’re hoping to find someone who will excel at the job. And this question says that you care about the same thing. Sure, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll do extraordinary work, but it makes you sound like someone who’s at least aiming for that — someone who’s conscientious and driven, and those are huge things in a hiring manager’s eyes.

Plus, the answer to this question can give you much more nuanced insight into what it’ll take to truly excel in the job — and whatever the answer is, you can think about whether or not it’s something you’re likely able to do.

Questions About the Company

7. “How would you describe the culture here? What type of people tend to really thrive here, and what type don’t do as well?”

If the culture is very formal with lots of hierarchy and you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment, this might not be the right match for you. Similarly, if it’s a really competitive environment and you’re more low-key, or if they describe themselves as entrepreneurial and you prefer structure, it might not be an ideal workplace for you. If you don’t have a lot of other options, you still might decide to take the job anyway — but you’ll usually be happier if you know what you’re signing up for, and aren’t unpleasantly surprised after you start.

8. “What do you like about working here?”

You can learn a lot by the way people respond to this question. People who genuinely enjoy their jobs and the company will usually have several things they can tell you that they like about working there and will usually sound sincere. But if you get a blank stare or a long silence before your interviewer answers, or the answer is something like “the paycheck,” consider that a red flag.

9. Ask the question you really care about.

Sometimes people use their turn to ask questions in an interview solely as an additional chance to try to impress their interviewer — asking questions designed to reflect well on them (by making them look smart, thoughtful, or so forth) rather than questions designed to help them figure out if the job is even right for them in the first place. It’s understandable to want to impress your interviewer, but interviewing is a two-way street — you need to be assessing the job and the employer and the manager, and figuring out whether this is a job you want and would do well in. If you’re just focused on getting the job and not on whether it’s the right job for you, you’re in danger of ending up in a job where you’re struggling or miserable.

So before you interview, spend some time thinking about what you really want to know. When you imagine going to work at the job every day, what are the things that will most impact whether you’re happy with the work, with the culture, with the manager? Maybe it’s important to you to work in an informal culture with heavy collaboration. Maybe you care most about working somewhere with sane hours, where calls and texts on the weekend or in the evenings are rare. Maybe you’ve heard rumors about the stability of the funding for the position. Whatever’s important to you or that you’d want to have answered before you could know if you’d really want the job, think about asking it now.

Of course, you shouldn’t rely only on your interviewer’s answers about these things. You should also do due diligence by talking to people in your network who might have the inside scoop on the company’s culture or the manager you’d be working for, reading online reviews at places like Glassdoor, and talking to other people who work there.

Questions About Next Steps

10. “What’s your timeline for next steps?”

This is a basic logistics question, but it’s useful to ask because it gives you a benchmark for when you can expect to hear something back. Otherwise, if you’re like many people, in a few days you’re likely to start agonizing about whether you should have heard back about the job by now and what it means that you haven’t, and obsessively checking your phone to see if the employer has tried to make contact. It’s much better for your quality of life if you know that you’re not likely to hear anything for two weeks or four weeks or that the hiring manager is leaving the country for a month and nothing will happen until she’s back, or whatever the case might be.

Plus, asking this question makes it easy for you to check in with the employer if the timeline they give you comes and goes with no word. If they tell you that they plan to make a decision in two weeks and it’s been three weeks, you can reasonably email them and say something like, “I know you were hoping to make a decision around this time, so I wanted to check in and see if you have an updated timeline you can share. I’m really interested in the position and would love to talk more with you.”

I originally published this at New York Magazine.

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why do job interviewers seem to lead me on? https://www.askamanager.org/2020/01/why-do-job-interviewers-seem-to-lead-me-on.html https://www.askamanager.org/2020/01/why-do-job-interviewers-seem-to-lead-me-on.html#comments Wed, 08 Jan 2020 17:29:45 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=18191 This post, why do job interviewers seem to lead me on? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: Over the past several months, I have been lucky enough to make it to second and third round interviews. At one recently, I was told unequivocally that I was one of two remaining candidates. Everyone was so nice that I was shocked when I wasn’t offered the position. Currently, I am awaiting […]

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This post, why do job interviewers seem to lead me on? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

Over the past several months, I have been lucky enough to make it to second and third round interviews. At one recently, I was told unequivocally that I was one of two remaining candidates. Everyone was so nice that I was shocked when I wasn’t offered the position.

Currently, I am awaiting another decision. The final interview was out of town. I was the last to be interviewed and was told no more rounds. I had to prepare a very detailed presentation based on some research along with a writing sample. They seemed to be super super impressed, so much so I was a bit embarrassed. On that following afternoon, I received an unsolicited email from the hiring manager. He wrote: “Thank you for coming in and doing such a fine presentation on such short notice. You did very well.” He also wanted to say that I was “very much still being considered for the position” and they were reaching out to references. They did, as I know one for certain has responded. He also said I would have my final decision by “close of business on Friday,” which was very specific. He also apologized for the wait and hoped I would understand.

But Friday came and went with no reply as promised. Is this just a nice hiring manager who may be sending mixed messages to a candidate in an effort to be kind and keep a candidate informed?

How would you approach this? Would you be so complimentary and add superlatives when you might not intend to offer?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

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how excited should I seem in an interview? https://www.askamanager.org/2019/11/how-excited-should-i-seem-in-an-interview.html https://www.askamanager.org/2019/11/how-excited-should-i-seem-in-an-interview.html#comments Tue, 12 Nov 2019 18:59:19 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=17910 This post, how excited should I seem in an interview? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes; I have had the opportunity to interview for my dream job with a nonprofit organization that I have always loved and admired. I am a highly qualified candidate for the position. This is the kind of job where if I was independently wealthy, I would do this work as a volunteer for […]

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This post, how excited should I seem in an interview? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes;

I have had the opportunity to interview for my dream job with a nonprofit organization that I have always loved and admired. I am a highly qualified candidate for the position. This is the kind of job where if I was independently wealthy, I would do this work as a volunteer for free!

As a typically enthusiastic person, I’m wondering what level of excitement is acceptable to display in my interview? Should the words “This is the dream job I have always wanted” never be uttered, do I need to keep it cool? Also, this is the kind of nonprofit that people protest for and against, can I include a snapshot of myself marching FOR this organization in my cover letter, or is that too much?

You should seem enthusiastic, but not so excited that you might have rose-colored glasses on.

Employers sometimes worry about hiring “fans” because they worry about whether those candidates have a realistic idea of what the job will really be like. If they’re expecting something glamorous and exciting, what will happen to their enthusiasm when the job turns out to have plenty of everyday drudgery to it? Sometimes it also raises questions like: Will you be able to temper your excitement and bring a critical eye to the programs you work on? Will you be able to stay in your lane or will you chafe at the limitations of the role they’re hiring for? (For example, if they hire you as a bookkeeper, will be you sad/frustrated/resentful that you’re not in strategy meetings where the work you’re most drawn to is getting done or spend hours generating ideas for teams that you’re not on and don’t have context for?)

Plus, your interviewer is probably someone who knows the organization intimately (assuming they’re not brand new) and knows all the ways in which it might not be anyone’s dream job (bad management, difficult coworkers, etc.). So someone from the outside declaring it’s their dream job can sound naive — and make the interviewer worried about your inevitable disappointment.

That said, really intense enthusiasm isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. Some organizations like it. But it has downsides and I’d temper it.

And to be clear, enthusiasm and interest are good! Cause-oriented nonprofits especially want to see that you have a particular interest in and commitment to their mission. You just don’t want it to be so intense that it raises questions about how clear-eyed you’re being, or so over-the-top that it makes the interviewer feel uncomfortable.

You also want to make sure you seem interested in the work you’d be doing, specifically — not just in working for the organization. Don’t let your passion for their mission overshadow your passion for accounting or IT or whatever they’re hiring you for.

So, what does that mean in specifics? I wouldn’t use the words “dream job I’ve always wanted” or “this is the kind of work I’d happily do for free.” And yeah, the photo of you marching for the organization is probably too much to include with your cover letter (you can just mention it; providing photographic evidence will put slightly too much weight on it). But yes to saying that you’ve followed and supported the organization for years, that you’ve always hoped for a chance to do this type of work, and/or that you’d be thrilled to be part of what they’re doing.

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should I not tell interviewers I left my last job because of bad management? https://www.askamanager.org/2019/10/should-i-not-tell-interviewers-i-left-my-last-job-because-of-bad-management.html https://www.askamanager.org/2019/10/should-i-not-tell-interviewers-i-left-my-last-job-because-of-bad-management.html#comments Wed, 23 Oct 2019 17:59:37 +0000 https://www.askamanager.org/?p=17814 This post, should I not tell interviewers I left my last job because of bad management? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes: Can you help me with an appropriate response to future employers as to why I resigned from my previous position? It took a lot of guts and months of build-up to do it, but I resigned from my position earlier this summer. The work culture was beyond toxic and I truly felt […]

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This post, should I not tell interviewers I left my last job because of bad management? , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

Can you help me with an appropriate response to future employers as to why I resigned from my previous position? It took a lot of guts and months of build-up to do it, but I resigned from my position earlier this summer. The work culture was beyond toxic and I truly felt that I had done all I could to try and be happy. My mentors and close business connections supported the decision (especially after hearing about the shenanigans that were going on and some of the actual words that came out of our leaders’ mouths).

I’ve found that in most of my recent interviews, hiring managers are sympathetic and don’t focus too much on the reasons why I left. However, I also have not received a job offer in the four months since I left. I’m freaking out. Here’s the response I’ve given when asked why I left. I think it’s good enough, but perhaps you can offer some advice on how to improve it?

Interviewer: “Why did you leave your last job?”

Me: “I pride myself on being supportive of outcomes, but some of the business decisions being made didn’t align with my interpretation of our mission. There was a lack of direction from leadership, which in my opinion was breeding chaos and fostering a toxic work culture where no one trusted or supported anyone. I would be best suited for a work culture where open communication is valued and collaboration is encouraged. That seems to be a key theme in the job description for this role, which is why I’m excited to pursue this opportunity.”

Too much? Not enough?

Too much. This is way more critical of your previous employer than what’s normally heard in interviews, and without any real prompting to do that. I know it feels like the question is prompting it, but most interviewers won’t see it that way.

When interviewers ask this question, they’re just looking for some quick context to understand what’s going on with your career and how their job opening might fit in with it. Most of the time people’s answers to this question are pretty bland, but interviewers are watching for signs of things like: Were you fired or otherwise pushed out because of problems on your end? Did you leave on not-good terms? Do you have unrealistic expectations that they won’t be able to meet either (because you get bored with all your jobs after eight months or chafe at being managed in a reasonable way, or so forth)? Is there other context that is relevant to them?

But again, typically people’s answers to this question are pretty unremarkable: they’d been there five years and were ready for something new, or they moved to a new city, or their whole team was laid off. And that’s what interviewers are usually expecting when they ask it. So when you answer with “leadership was toxic and chaotic,” you’ve just thrown a bit of a grenade into the usual order of things and now their ears are perking up.

And it’s not that interviewers don’t know there are terrible, toxic workplaces out there. They do. But rightly or wrongly, there’s a convention in interviewing that you shouldn’t badmouth previous employers. It’s often considered indiscreet and tacky, and a lot of interviewers will be really put off by it.

Plus, interviewers don’t know you, and they don’t how reasonable or objective you are, what the other side of the story is, or if you were part of the problem. (And most of us have seen situations where one person’s take on a culture is … a real outlier.) With an answer like the one you’re giving, they don’t know if anyone in your shoes would have been horrified or if you have unreasonable expectations of work. But what they do know now is that you’re willing to blurt out unusually negative things about that employer in a situation where that’s not usually done, so one of the few data points they have about your judgement already feels questionable.

Now, to be clear, it’s fine to say things like “I was hired to do X but ended up doing Y” or “the company was having financial problems and I was concerned about its stability.” Those might not be especially flattering to the company, but they’re relatively objective facts. “Toxic,” on the other hand, leaves too much room for subjectivity.

So you need a blander answer. If you were at that job a few years, then it’s easy — you can just say you were looking for the next step in your career and wanted to take on something like ___ (some piece of the new job that appeals to you). No one will blink at that.

But if you weren’t there very long, you can’t say that; you’d look like you get bored with jobs too quickly or like you’re covering up the real reason you left (like being fired). In that case, you’d need a different answer. Ideally you’d be able to honestly say something like, “I was hired to focus on X, but it’s turned out that that they really need someone to focus on Y” or “The hours/travel/work turned out to be very different than what I was originally offered.”

But if nothing straightforward like that is true, then at that point, yes, you’d need to allude to it just not being the right fit for you. But not with the wording you’ve been using! Tone that way down. Use an answer that sounds like it wasn’t the right place for you, not that you’re condemning them across the board. For example: “I’ve always worked places where I was happy to stay a long time, but I got it wrong this time — this organization has a lot of strengths, but it’s not as collaborative or mission-driven as I was looking for, and I realized it was the wrong fit for me. So I’m taking some time to find the right culture.” (I pulled those details from your statement, but there are probably better specifics to use.) They might ask you a follow-up question or two about what didn’t work for you, to make sure their culture wouldn’t be a similarly bad fit for you, so be prepared with a couple of factual, unemotional details. (To come up with the right language, think of what you’d say if you really believed this was just a blameless mismatch, rather than toxicity and incompetence.)

But that’s really it! Your goal is for your answer to this to be fairly unmemorable. It can’t be so vague as to invite skepticism, but you’re going for easy and uneventful in your reply.

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