avoiding fake job interviews, will I have to return my bonus, and more

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

1. How can I avoid fake job interviews with staffing agencies?

I just read your post about the “fake” job posting. I had a national agency call me directly and ask me to show up for a preliminary interview no less than four times over the past two years. Each time, I drive 30+ minutes to hear that there was no job for me. Is there a tactful way to decline these?

I don’t think there’s a foolproof way of spotting these beforehand, but one thing you can do is to ask explicitly, “Is this interview for a specific job that you currently have open, or is it a more general interview in case I’m a good fit for something in the future?” (You’d only ask this for interviews with staffing agencies, not if you’re interviewing with an employer directly — as employers don’t typically do this.)

Some agencies will be willing to lie to you, ridiculously, but some will either answer you directly or hem and haw (hemming and hawing should be taken as “there’s no real job”).

2. I shared with my staff that I have cancer and am not sure that I should have

In a moment of panic, I’ve overshared at work and I’m not sure of the most professional action to take now; I’d appreciate your advice for moving forward.

Yesterday, I found out I have ovarian cancer. I see an oncologist next week to schedule surgery and have a rough several months ahead. In addition to telling HR and my manager, I also told the 6 people I supervise directly. My thinking at the time was that this was happening very quickly, I’m going to be out for several weeks after surgery, and I needed to get a plan in place immediately. Yeah, okay, I panicked.

In hindsight, I think I should’ve waited until I have a date scheduled and just told them I was having a medical procedure done and would be out a few weeks. But I didn’t, and I can’t take it back. So what should I do now and for the next few weeks? I want to handle this professionally, at least from now on. I like my team, we’re a close group, but this is my issue not theirs to deal with; I just didn’t want them to hear rumors. What should I do now?

Don’t panic; I don’t think this is a disaster at all. I’d just be very explicit with them about how you’d like to proceed. For instance, if you don’t want a lot of concerned checks on your well-being, tell them that — explain that they can help you most by helping you stay focused on work when you’re at work, and that at least for now, that’s what you’re finding most helpful. They will be worried about you, of course, so if people express concern, let them know that you’ll let them know if you have anything important to share, but for now you’d love their help in staying focused on work. (That said, be aware that you might not be able to pull that off 100% — people will be concerned and want to check in, and you may have days where you aren’t working at full speed — and that’s completely fine.

I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, and I hope it all goes as smoothly as we can hope for.

3. Will I have to return my bonus if I get a new job soon?

I’m in the middle of a job search and already have interviews lined up for next week. Earlier today, my boss came into my office, shut the door, and told me I was getting a bonus of a generous amount (a few thousand dollars). He said it was to thank me for all my hard work, and he asked me to keep this to myself, etc.

Assuming that I get an offer from one of the companies I’m interviewing at, what is the likelihood my company will ask for the bonus money back?

Just for a bit of insight, bonuses in my company are never guaranteed and are at the discretion of management. There’s no mention of bonuses in our company handbook or in my offer letter. I would think that the worst that’ll happen if I get and accept an offer elsewhere is that my company would be pissed, but are there any legal ramifications?

Assuming that you don’t have a contract with wording to the contrary, any bonus you get is legally your money to keep. It’s very unlikely that your company would ask for it back (or expect you to give it back), and if for some bizarre reason they did, you wouldn’t be legally required to comply.

It’s important to remember that while bonuses are certainly retention strategies, they’re also recognition of work you’ve done previously.

4. Should I include a brand-new consulting job on my resume?

I am currently working as a consultant for a nonprofit, which I haven’t even been doing for a month. I started out as an intern for a few weeks, then they eventually offered me a full-time job but I declined the offer because the pay was horrible and it wasn’t really the field I was interested in. Anyhow, when I declined the full-time position, they hired me on as a consultant, where I am working only 10 hours a week (from home).

Since this is not a full-time job and since it is a job that I can do on the side, I am looking for other full-time work. However, when I apply for new jobs, I am not sure if it is worth putting this consultant position on my applications. I think it might look peculiar since I have been barely working there for a month and now I am looking for work again. I state on all of the applications that is a 10-hour job done from home. I am just not sure if stating it in my applications is helping or hurting my applications.

Include it, and make it very clear that it’s part-time consulting work. No one will think it’s odd that you’re still looking for work if you include that context.

5. Will my reason for moving sound flaky?

I am planning to move in about 6 months from southern California to Chicago, and I plan to begin my job search briefly before I move. I am not moving for any particular reason other than I am looking for a change of pace in a different city. If someone were to ask me in an interview, “Why Chicago?” does “change of pace” seem too flaky? I don’t want to sound flighty.

It sounds a little flaky, yes. If you wanted a change of pace, you could have picked any city. What they want to know is, why Chicago specifically? And they care about your answer because they want to ensure your decision to move is well thought-out and that you’re not going to change your mind and move back three months into your new job. (Because of that, good answers are ones that speak to roots — family and friends there, etc.)

6. I resigned before accepting a job offer, and then the offer was revoked

I was recently offered a position for my dream job. After seeing the offer, I pled my case for more money. I said how excited I was about the job, but with my experience I thought I warranted more. I assumed the compensation would be higher. I asked the recruiter if she could let me know what she could do. We spoke the next day and she said she would go to bat for me to the director and accounting. I went ahead and resigned from my job. Big mistake.

The offer was withdrew and when I said I would talk the initial offer they still rescinded it. I’ve tried repeatedly to get the director and recruiter on the phone, but without a doubt they’re ignoring my phone calls.

I went back to my company and they said they’d have to honor my resignation, because I was looking for a new job that offered more money and variety (the reasoning behind my new job search). Those are two things they can’t offer. I pled my case with the results I’ve brought to the team and they said it would be putting a Band-Aid on the situation.

Now I don’t have a job. Since this is usually one of the first questions asked in an interview, I wanted to see what the best way to approach this is. I have tangible results from all my jobs. I was thinking I would tell about the situation, then go on to what I did great for the company. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

Ooooh, that’s not good. I know you’ve just learned this, but it bears repeating: Never, ever resign your job until you have a formal job offer that you’ve accepted (and ideally a start date).

As for what to tell prospective employers now, this is tricky because if I heard that your old company wouldn’t take you back, I’d think, “That’s an employee who they weren’t too devastated to lose” (particularly since they hadn’t replaced you yet, it sounds like). I think you’re better off simply explaining that you had a job offer that fell through after you’d already left your old job, and not getting into details. Good luck.

7. How should I handle an internal job offer when I have an upcoming vacation?

How should I handle an internal job offer when I have an upcoming approved vacation?

The same way you would with a job offer outside your company — by explaining that you have a planned vacation for those dates before you accept the offer and making it part of the overall negotiation process. You don’t want to wait until afterwards, or it will come across as if you’re presenting it as a done deal, which she almost certainly won’t see it that way.

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