asking for a job description before interviewing, turning down an offer, and more

It’s short answer Saturday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. How to ask for the job description before interviewing

I know the best idea is to keep a copy of all job descriptions you apply to, but I have a habit of not doing that. Most of the time, the posting is still up when you hear back, and more of the time you don’t hear back. I just got a request to interview for a position, but the posting is no longer available. Is there a correct way to ask the HR recruiter for a copy without coming across as unprepared?

Yeah, ideally you really should keep copies of them all, because some companies do take ads down while they’re still interviewing. But if you didn’t, just go ahead and ask: “Would you be able to forward me a copy of the description? It doesn’t seem to still be online.”

2. Did I mishandle my turning down of a job offer?

I declined a job offer and it didn’t go very well. During the interviews when the salary and position was mentioned to me and I was asked if it was acceptable to me, I said yes. I didn’t think that would be construed as a binding acceptance of the offer. So when I did receive the offer (which came by email without advance notice), I took a week to get back to them to decline. But apparently the team had already started to anticipate work for me. I was shocked to hear this. I know there are no legal tangles because I haven’t signed any papers, but I feel awful because every relationship is important. I have verbally and formally (email) declined the offer. Is there anyway I can improve the situation, and prevent this in the future?

They sent you an offer throughout email without telling that it was coming? That’s weird, and that’s on them — what if you were out of town and not checking email or your internet access was down for a few days or something? Not to mention, it’s just a weird way to do things. When you make a job offer, you call someone up and talk to them. You don’t just shoot off an email.

So they’re in the wrong here, not you. That said, in general you don’t want to sit on an offer for a week without some sort of response — even if it’s just, “Let me talk a few days and think it through.”

3. Negotiating a raise after a probationary period

I am in the final stages of a job interview/application. The CEO called and said I was the committee’s preferred candidate and they were going to call on references. During the interview they indicated that there would likely be second rounds, so I was really excited about this. He asked if I had any questions about coming on board. I said that we had not talked about salary, although they had requested salary history (I wrote that I preferred to keep it private, but I was seeking a salary in the low $50,000s). I mentioned this and he said that the previous person was making low $40,000s, but he would visit the budget and see if the mid $40,000s would be possible with a 6-month probationary period with a raise at the end.

What are the usual terms for probationary periods with a raise with good performance? How much of a raise would be typical? I’d like to start at $45,000 and raise it to $48,000. Does that seem unreasonable? I understand that we would need to agree on criteria for good performance. Should this be in the original offer letter or is this something we should discuss once I’m on board (looking at a start date in 2.5 weeks)? Finally, if they do annual performance reviews, would I then wait a year from the 6 month review to revisit my salary should they offer merit or cost-of-living raises?

That’s not an unreasonable amount. Frankly, it’s possible that it should be higher, but I have no way to say without knowing more about your industry. However, you should absolutely get this agreement in writing. If they balk at that, then you should take that as a sign that this is NOT a binding agreement — it’s a “maybe we’ll do this, maybe we won’t.” Far too many people have made agreements like this, not gotten them in writing, and then had them fall through. And not always due to bad intentions on the part of the employer — but people miscommunicate or misremember things, hiring managers leave the company, etc. You want it in writing if you want to count on it.

4. Yes

Is it legal for my employer to give raises and/or bonuses based on an evaluation that was never given to me orally or in writing?


5. Explaining that kids and immigration status kept me from working

I am a recent graduate (June 2013) and during my time at school got married and had 2 children (1 and 3 years old) and also relocated from Canada to the USA. I am beginning to feel it’s time to get out and work, and also just recently received my green card allowing me to work. I am often confused when I apply to entry level jobs or jobs for recent grads and they tell me that I do not have enough experience. Why do these employers list the jobs as entry level when they expect you to have much more experience? I have 1 year previous working experience in my field, but I completed that in 2008/2009. When they ask why I haven’t worked, I most often say that during that time I wanted to focus on school, but none of the employers seem to like that answer. Should I just say, “I didn’t work while I was in school because I had children to take care of” or “I was waiting for immigration to grant me a green card.” I am really unsure how to explain the gap in my resume when I was unable to work due to children and immigration.

Explain that you weren’t allowed to legally work in the U.S. until recently. No one can argue with that.

As for the entry-level jobs, yeah, the definition has been stretched in recent years. You do generally need experience to get most white-collar, full-time jobs now, but that experience can come from part-time jobs, internships, and volunteering — which are all common for recent grads to do in order to cobble together the experience that then allows them to get hired for more stable.

6. Asking for an alternate schedule one day a week

I’m a job seeker, and I also currently participate in a support group that meets at the beginning of the business day, once a week. If (hopefully when!) I get offered a job somewhere, would it be unreasonable to ask for the possibility of working, say, 11-7 on Tuesdays instead of 9-5 like the rest of the week? (Assume an office position that doesn’t completely hinge on being present at a specific time, as might a receptionist’s.) And is this something that should be considered a favor/benefit on the employer’s part if granted? If offered as proposed here, it wouldn’t actually be “flex” time; it would be a specific set schedule that just happens to be offset in time from the other days of the week.

Sure, you can ask about that. Plenty of employers will say yes, and some will say no, but it’s not unreasonable to ask. Most will consider it a benefit, and also flex time — flex time generally means starting and quitting times that are more flexible than the traditional 9-5 schedule, but doesn’t have to mean that it varies all over the place; it also includes things like a 7-3 workday or 4 days at 10 hours, or what you’re proposing.

7. My graduate program changed its name

I am in the process of the job hunt, and recently discovered that my masters degree has had the name of the program changed. It was only the second year of the program when I was enrolled with a fairly long multidisciplinary name (Community Leadership and Philanthropy Studies). The degree is housed in the School of Social Work, but has always included classes from other departments (including the business school). Now three years later, the name of the degree has changed to Nonprofit Management. The course requirements are essentially all the same, but the name is different. Were I in a situation where I needed to show my graducation documents, the name on my degree would read the old name — but if someone were to Google my degree and university, nothing official would come up. Should I just change the degree listed as Nonprofit Management and address the name change of the program at a later date with an employer if necessary? Or do I list the name of the degree at the time I received it?

Either is fine. If you’re asked about it, or asked to show your graduation documents (which is rare), you’d just explain the situation. This is one of those convenient dilemmas where it’s really not a big deal. Pick a way, explain if needed, and done.

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