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“recruiter is trash-talking the company I just took a job with, overly rigid interview schedules, and more” plus 3 more Ask a Manager

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“recruiter is trash-talking the company I just took a job with, overly rigid interview schedules, and more” plus 3 more Ask a Manager


recruiter is trash-talking the company I just took a job with, overly rigid interview schedules, and more

Posted: 11 Jan 2017 09:03 PM PST

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

1. Employer will only offer me one interview time — and I'm not available then

I have just been invited to a phone interview for a job I really want. However, in the job application details it asked me to specify any dates I was unavailable for interview. Next Wednesday I have a very important all-day meeting in my current job. There are only going to be five people at the meeting including myself, so it isn’t something I can excuse myself from without anyone noticing. Following this, I have to travel to a different location to attend another 1.5 hour meeting in the evening. It really isn’t a good day – so obviously I put I was unavailable on this day.

Now the interview I have been invited to is right in the middle of this day (2 p.m.) and despite a couple of (polite) emails back and forth they are saying they can’t do any other day. Not only that, but they can’t do an 8.30 a.m. interview (or a 9:15 a.m. or a 10 a.m.) because these slots are already taken, and they can’t do later in the evening because the recruiting manager has child care commitments. So what they are saying is that they can only do the middle of the day, on one specific day. The day I can’t do. And they are saying that because I can’t do that day, I can’t have an interview so I will have to wait and see if they manage to get a decent shortlist from the people they are interviewing, and if not they might be in touch (very unlikely).

I am so frustrated and I feel like there must be something I can do!

It doesn't sound like there is, unfortunately. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for employers being this rigid on scheduling (like the interviewer will be coming in from out of town and is only there for a limited time) … but it's also true that if an employer is really interested in you, they'll try to find a way to make it work, or will at least be really apologetic if they can't be more flexible. The fact that they're not sounding terribly concerned might be a sign that they don't consider you one of their top candidates. (Although if you work in a field that's notorious for overly rigid interview scheduling — like sometimes in education — it might just be a reflection of that.)

I would say this to them: "I'm really interested in this job and could make any other day and time work, but I have commitments for my current job that I can't get out of during this time slot. I can make myself available any other day though — is there any other possible day and time that would work on your end?" If the answer is no, I'd write it off as not meant to be, but it's worth a shot.

2. Recruiter is trash-talking the company I just accepted a job with

I just accepted a new position with a new company, and we were in negotiations with for a week. After I accepted the position and gave my notice with my current employer, the recruiter emailed me. It read something like this:

"I am no longer with Company X. I was brought on to do them a favor. I agreed to assist them with their recruiting needs. I have learned a lot of nasty things about Company X over the past couple of days. I have witnessed some of the hiring manager call you horrible names when they were negotiating your salary. I just wanted to reach out because I do not approve of name calling. I have also learned that Company X is under fire for mistreatment of other previous employees.”

The excitement I felt over my negotiations was crushed. I completely understand things can get heated during negotiations, as this is what I do for a living, and they did at the end of it all offer me pretty close to what I was asking for. This particular recruiter is young, works from home, and lives in another state so basically works remotely.

I am not a delicate flower by any means and can handle heated situations, but this email does present a few red flags. What if anything can you advise me to do in this situation? Do I just chalk it up as a difference in opinion and move forward with the position? Discuss my concerns with new employer? Rescind my acceptance of the offer and look for something else?

Did you do your due diligence on this employer before accepting the offer, and do you have reason to think they're professional and reasonable people and that they treat their employees well? If so, I wouldn't let the word of an apparently disgruntled recruiter rattle you too much. If you didn't, I'd start discreetly digging to see if there's anything to that “under fire for mistreatment of other previous employees" allegation [which could mean anything from the innocuous ("their low performers are annoyed about being held accountable") to the very serious ("they will demand pieces of your liver")].

You should also factor in that her email to you is pretty unprofessional, and that lowers her credibility here. If she had serious moral qualms about sending you into a bad situation, she should call you and talk to you about specifics — not send a vague email trashing the company that doesn't give you anything concrete to go on.

3. Did I inadvertently give the impression that I can't deal with uncertainty?

I’ve been at my current job just about six months, and my role is a bit of an “everything but the kitchen sink” lowest lady on the totem pole type job — currently it’s about half data management and analysis, and the rest is project management, community outreach, admin/receptionist, etc. I had a check-in meeting with my boss’s boss today where she asked if I’d be interested an opportunity to work part-time with another department on a data management project, and twice mentioned, with very similar wording each time, that she’d noticed I was great at efficiently completing specific tasks when given clear instructions.

While I’m pleased that she thought of me for this opportunity, and I do enjoy data management, I wonder if I’ve inadvertently pigeonholed myself as someone who can’t improvise or deal with uncertainty or think strategically. I’ve worked on a couple team projects recently that had a lot of uncertainty, and I did mention to the team lead that I found that stressful and would, in an ideal world, like to have specific goals and timelines to work from. But I also know we don’t live in that ideal world all the time, and that the higher you go on the totem pole, the more uncertainty you have to be prepared to deal with. And I do want to move higher up in the organization eventually. Should I take this conversation as a sign that I need to work more on proving my ability to be flexible and innovative? Or should I just enjoy staying in my comfort zone? How much of a problem is it to be seen as needing specific task instructions?

It can indeed be a problem if you want to move up into positions with more responsibility (and money!) — since as you note, those usually come with an increasing need to deal with ambiguity and/or figure things out for yourself.

It's possible that your boss's boss did indeed mean that she thinks you're only good at projects that come with clear direction — although that would be a pretty big leap just because you mentioned to someone that in an ideal world you'd like clear goals and timelines (who wouldn't?). It's also possible that she just used weird wording … although the fact that she said it twice might be significant. Either way, I'd talk with your own boss directly. Explain that you got the impression that her boss thinks you might only work well with clear instruction, and if she thinks there's anything to your interpretation. Presumably if your boss's boss was saying that, that information probably came to her through your manager, so your manager is probably going to have some insight here … and if there’s a mistaken impression to correct, you can correct it.

4. Asking a recommender not to write you a letter after all

I’m in the middle of grad school apps, and I have one professor who I’m unsure about with regard to letters of recommendation. I did very well in his class and he seemed to like me (he raved about my final paper, for example!), but his responses have been…less enthusiastic.

He did agree to do it, but had some concerns about not knowing my work very well outside of his class and not knowing what to emphasize in the letter. He did say he was sick, which might help to explain the short emails, but I’m not super confident that he’ll write a glowing letter, if he writes one at all. So I do have a back-up professor who I’m planning on asking. (I think she would write a great letter, but the class I took with her is less relevant for the program that I’m applying to, which is why I didn’t ask her originally.)

Depending on the second professor’s response, I would like to go back to the first professor and ask him not to write me a letter after all. However, I don’t want him to feel offended or like I don’t trust him to recommend me. I don’t know what the most tactful way to approach this would be!

You can be pretty straightforward about it! For example: "I thought about your concern that you don't feel you know my work very well outside of your class, and so I'm going to ask a professor who knows me better to write the letter. I really appreciate you being candid with me about that concern and giving me the chance to find someone who hopefully will be able to talk about my work with more specificity!"

5. What's up with these job scams?

I have been job hunting for a few months now, and I am getting a lot of “scam” job offers or interviews. Ever since the first one, I could tell something was off about them. I am looking for an executive administrative assistant position, so I will get offers regarding office work or being an office assistant. Almost all of them will tell me to join with Google Hangout to have an interview. I am also told how much a week I would get paid and then it would double in a few weeks, but only have to work 18 hours a week. Another one I get is the person is out of town but needs x number of things for me to do, and to drive in my personal car and then when they return we can discuss other work. A few of them are asking what bank I would like my paycheck deposited to.

I never answer them because they scream “scam” to me. I guess I just don’t understand what they are after. I get one or two a week that I do ignore, but I want to know if there is another way to handle the situation. I’m sure they delete their emails as quickly as they create them, and that the companies are fake or, worse, using real companies and lying about their information. I have never heard of anyone requiring you to create an account to chat on Google Hangout before. I assume this is happening to other people, but I am getting it a lot. And now the texts have started coming through. I received a legitimate job interview email and I had to convince myself that it was real. I am starting to doubt every email that comes through. I’m just not sure what to do about it. Have you heard of anything like this?

Yep — it’s super common. In the letter you forwarded me, they included this line: “My financial adviser will issue you a certified company check to execute the task with, and complete the assignment." That's the scam — that check will turn out to be fraudulent after you've already deposited it and spent the money. And they're asking you to use Google Hangout because it keeps them anonymous while they talk to you.

If you google "job interview scams," you'll find a ton about this.

recruiter is trash-talking the company I just took a job with, overly rigid interview schedules, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

my boss and coworkers all say “I love you” to each other

Posted: 11 Jan 2017 10:59 AM PST

A reader writes:

Several of my coworkers and my boss regularly say “I love you!” to each other. This makes me deeply uncomfortable. As you may have guessed, there are some underlying issues with professional boundaries which impede our effectiveness as an organization (there are lots of friendships between “levels” in the company), but I understand that the only behavior I can control is my own.

One example of this behavior just occurred during our office gift exchange. We were asked to give a small Secret Santa present ($15) to a randomly chosen coworker, and when we were exchanging our presents we were asked to say something nice about the recipient. All of my coworkers ended their compliment by saying “I love you.” I just couldn’t do it. I ended up saying “I appreciate you,” which I thought was a true and appropriate thing to say. This was met with some raised eyebrows and sidelong glances. When presenting our communal gift to our boss, our team lead told our manager that we love her. This is becoming commonplace, and I just don’t think it belongs in a professional setting.

I am seen as less of a team player because I choose to remain friendly but professional instead of playing along. This problem is made worse because I have a straightforward and logical approach which sometimes makes me come off as aloof, especially since I’m a young woman. Do you have any advice on how to navigate the waters when my bosses and coworkers expect me to join in? Any help is greatly appreciated!

Yeah, that's odd, and it's not something you typically see at work.

It’s one thing if they want to do this among themselves — weird, but whatever — but it's pretty bad that they're treating you differently because you decline to declare your love. Like, do they not recognize that what they're doing is highly unusual and not everyone will want to play along?

In any case, sometimes in a situation like this, you can poke fun at yourself for being different and gin up some good feelings that way. For example, I worked with an organization where my dislike of team-building stuff was well-known, and I just turned it into an ongoing joke about my curmudgeonly nature to explain why I wasn't going to be at karaoke or whatever. In an office like yours, I might try to make my discomfort with "I love you" funny — pointedly saying "I like you" in a tone of great import, and joking about my emotional frigidity or so forth. (But then I am weird, and also very comfortable with self-deprecation.)

I am also a big fan of just naming the awkward thing and getting it out in the open, which in this case could mean saying something like, "Hey, for the record, I barely say 'I love you' to my family, so don't take it personally that I'm not saying it here."

Also, though, I wonder about the overall culture match between you and this employer. This might be way too much of a leap, but sometimes things like this are symptoms that you're working somewhere that's just not your scene in a bunch of ways. If it's truly just confined to the I-love-you's, then I'd roll your eyes at it and try to let it go, but it's worth checking in with yourself about the broader fit too.

my boss and coworkers all say “I love you” to each other was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

how to interview a really nervous job candidate

Posted: 11 Jan 2017 09:30 AM PST

A reader writes:

Any tips for interviewing someone who’s really, visibly nervous and isn’t able to relax as the interview progresses? I conducted an interview like this today, and I did everything I could think of to help this person relax and be herself. I was friendly, talked about myself a little to give her a few minutes to relax, made sure my body language was as relaxed as possible while still being professional (i.e., not leaning forward aggressively or anything like that), made sure there was give-and-take in the conversation rather than peppering her with rapid-fire questions, etc.

Aside from her nervousness, this person was a strong candidate and I really wanted to find out if, once she got over her jitters, she might be the person we were looking for. Sadly, I couldn’t tell — she was no more relaxed at the end of the interview than at the beginning. A colleague who interviewed this person separately had the same experience. This position involves presenting company ideas to clients, so we need someone who can project confidence. What would you do in an interview like this?

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.

how to interview a really nervous job candidate was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

can you save a bad interview?

Posted: 11 Jan 2017 07:59 AM PST

A reader writes:

I had my first-ever phone interview earlier this week, and it was a total disaster. A few minutes after the appointed time, my phone rang and I answered "Hello?” to which he said “Hi Anne, this is Eugene from ABC Corp.” and then I said "Great, thanks so much for calling.” He responded, "Did you forget about our appointment?” I was really confused — no, I hadn’t forgotten, we had agreed via email that he would call me, and I was sitting in my car in the parking lot (so I wouldn’t be bothered by coworkers in the office), reviewing my notes when he called. I said, "No, not at all. I’m here, ready to go!” His reply: "You just sounded so surprised when you answered.”

The entire interview went downhill from there. He brought up my “forgetting” the appointment one more time during the interview, and repeated that I had come across as sounding surprised and unprepared … but mostly it affected me because it completely threw me off my game — I completely lost my confidence. I felt like I was at a disadvantage throughout the entire conversation, like I had done something taboo or made an unforgivable mistake.

Needless to say, I don’t think I’d be a good fit for the company, since it would involve working directly under Eugene and we obviously have different communication styles (plus he maybe doesn’t like my … tone?).

But my question is, should something like this happen again during an interview: Is there anything one can say to “save” an interview if it starts going awry for an innocuous reason — say you call the interviewer the wrong name, or wear the wrong outfit? I just couldn’t seem to snap myself out of my downward spiral once it started, and I thought it was childish to say “I’m sorry I’ve given you that impression; can we rewind and start again?"

Well, it's important to factor into your thinking here that your interviewer was an ass. You didn't do anything wrong. He behaved churlishly, and you're blaming yourself for letting that throw you off your game … but it would throw most people off their game.

I actually suspect I know what he's talking about re: you sounding surprised. Back in 2009, I wrote about how I was encountering a bunch of young candidates (I'm assuming you're young since this was your first phone interview) who answered the phone for pre-scheduled calls sounding genuinely curious about who might be calling, like they weren't expecting the call and were surprised that the phone was ringing. I'm pretty sure it resulted from them being inexperienced at answering business calls and even general discomfort with the phone itself (a discomfort that's very much on the rise), and didn't actually mean they weren't expecting the call — just that they didn't know the right tone to answer with.

But your interviewer was an ass to call it out. Checking once to make sure that you were expecting the call — fine. But then bringing it up again later? It's an asshole move. Either he takes you at your word that you were expecting the call, or he doesn't and he decides you're disorganized and factors that into his assessment. But berating you about it is rude.

Okay, so all that out of the way … is there a way to salvage an interview that's gone awry? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. But if it's going awry because of something you did, it can make sense to just address it head-on. For example:

  • "By the way, I apologize for sounding confused when I answered the phone. My phone had been behaving oddly right before you called, and I wasn't sure it had actually rung."
  • "I'm so sorry I got your name wrong — I'm normally very good with names! My nerves got the better of me there.”
  • "Can we go back to your earlier question about X for a moment? I'm realizing that I may have misunderstood what you were asking and I’d like to clarify my response.”
  • "I think I mistakenly gave you the impression earlier that I was disappointed that the job has such a strong focus on rice sculpting. I hadn’t realized that from the ad, but I'm actually really excited about that prospect."
  • "I'm mortified that I was late today. I hadn't realized that you had two buildings and that I was driving to the wrong one! I'm normally neurotic about punctuality, and this is very out of character for me."

Possibly the biggest thing, though, is not to let yourself get into a confidence death spiral, where you're so thrown off your game that you can't get back on track. One thing that can help is remembering that you're not the first candidate who they've seen mess up a little. Candidates mess up all the time, because they are human and not robots.

But also, keep in mind that no matter how skillful an interview you give, you only have partial control over how the conversation goes. If your interviewer is unskilled or a jerk or just not engaged, there's often not much you can do about that.

can you save a bad interview? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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