asking a coworker about the real reasons she’s quitting, do I have to reply to recruiters’ emails, and more

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

1. Do I have to reply to recruiters’ emails?

Is it considered rude or inconsiderate not to reply to recruiters’ emails? I’m in the legal profession and I probably get anywhere from 5 – 20 emails a week from recruiters looking to fill positions nationwide. I’m not currently looking to make a move, but I might in the future. Am I burning any bridges by pressing the “delete” key?

No. If you have a relationship with a recruiter already — someone who you’ve worked with in a past job search or who has helped you find candidates when you’re hiring or who you’ve referred to other candidates — then it’s going to be more noticeable, in the “why has my contact suddenly stopped responding to me?” way. But if the emails are from strangers, it’s very unlikely that they’re going to remember you at all, let alone as someone who didn’t answer their emails, if you want to approach them in the future. (Plus, if they did remember you, they’re still not likely to refuse to work with you on principle, if you’re a great fit for a search they’re running.)

Recruiters send out a ton of these emails. They’re used to being ignored (and they’re used to doing plenty of ignoring themselves, when job seekers emails them). It’s pretty normal in that field.

2. Small organization can’t seem to give me details of their health insurance

I’ve been negotiating an offer with a small nonprofit without an HR person. Getting details about their health insurance, beyond the name of the provider and plan, has felt like pulling teeth. They’ve asked me to provide my doctor’s tax ID so they can figure out for me if his fees are covered or reimbursable under their plan. That seems impractical (wouldn’t it be more efficient to send me the details of the plan and let me evaluate it myself?) and inappropriate (I don’t tell my current employer what doctor(s) I visit; why would I tell a would-be employer?). I can’t tell if they’re being opaque to hide poor benefits, if they don’t want to bother putting together a comprehensive explanation of the package to send to me, or if they’re just really inexperienced when it comes to hiring and making this up as they go along. Can I decline this request without shutting down negotiations entirely, or is this a big enough red flag that I might as well seriously consider turning down the job offer?

I don’t think I’d consider turning down the offer over this alone; organizations too small for HR often mishandle this stuff just because they don’t have much experience with it. However, you should definitely take it as a flag to think about whether that type of thing will bother you. If they’re a little weird on other HR stuff, how big of an issue will that be for you? Some people would be mildly annoyed and some people will be completely turned off; it’s really just about knowing where you’ll fall in that spectrum.

But regardless, you can absolutely refuse this request. I’d say something like, “Rather than getting into individual doctors, I’d prefer to simply get more comprehensive information about the insurance plan. Maybe if you provide me with the insurance materials I’d receive as a new employee, I can figure it out from there.”

3. Asking a resigning coworker about the real reasons she’s quitting

A coworker of mine has put in her two weeks’ notice recently, and I am interested in her position. Is it appropriate to ask her, while she’s still working, how much she makes and the exact reasons she’s quitting? She has said she found another opportunity that will allow her to be more flexible, but I noticed she has been very frustrated recently. We have two different supervisors, so I don’t want to try to get a new position if I’m not fully supported, have crazy expectations, etc. Long story short, to ask or not to ask?

It’s absolutely reasonable to talk with her about what her experience in the job has been like and why she’s moving on. I’d be explicit with her that you’re asking because you’re thinking about applying for the role yourself; you’re more likely to get candid information that way.

I wouldn’t ask her directly about what she’s making though; enough people consider salary to be personal information that it’s likely to be considered rude. You could say something like, “Are you comfortable giving me a sense of what the salary range for the role is?” but even there, some people will balk a bit, so you’d want to be sensitive to that.

4. Employee using personal cell phone for work

If I have an employee who is freely using her cell phone for business, if things ever go wrong can she hold us responsible for the bill?

No. If it’s in her name, she’s responsible for it. But keep in mind that if she’s using her personal cell number with business contacts, they may continue to use that number after she leaves your company.

5. What if you don’t remember if you’ve applied with a company before?

I have a question that reveals just how much of an idiot I am, but here goes. When I graduated from college (many, many years ago) I applied for a LOT of jobs, but was not qualified for most of them and was (rightly) rejected. In the intervening years, I’ve built a great resume and am again searching for a job. Here’s my question: I keep coming up against applications that ask if I’ve ever applied at the organization before. There’s no option for “possibly but I can’t remember because it was so long ago.” Is there a benefit/disadvantage to answering to the best of my recollection and hoping I am correct?

If you’re not sure, I’d say no. In fact, if it’s been many, many years, I might say no regardless, unless you were actually interviewed back then. Companies ask this question because if you did apply in the past, they want to check to see if they have any notes on you (notes from interviews, generally). Assuming that you weren’t interviewed or behaved memorably badly in some way, they’re not going to find any notes on you. You’re under no obligation to do any sort of forensic research in your brain to figure out if you sent them an application a couple decades ago; it won’t matter either way to them.

Also, this isn’t idiotic; it’s pretty normal.

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