do companies keep do-not-hire lists, I don’t have any work to do, and more

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

1. Do companies keep “do not hire” lists?

Do companies maintain a no hire list and is it legal to do? I asked because I applied to two positions with this company that are an exact fit for me. In addition, I know the hiring manager of the department. Unfortunately, I was never contacted. There is an employee at this company who I worked with for 11 years at a previous company. Before she was laid off from the company, she and I had a little disagreement. Could she have contacted personnel and besmirched my reputation?

Some do, most don’t (but most do know of candidates they’ll never hire, just without keeping them in a centralized list somewhere). And yes, such a list would be perfectly legal.

It’s possible that your former coworker has blacklisted you, but it’s more likely that you simply didn’t get contact for the same reason that the majority of job seekers don’t hear back from a single given company — they have tons of qualified candidate and are only going to interview a few of them.

2. Manager is asking me to find work to do — but there isn’t any

I’ve been in my current job at a university for about 13 years. Initially it was busy, as we were building a new program from scratch, but after a few years, I calmed down, and then eventually, other centralized departments started offering the same services that I provided. For the past few years, I have had nothing to do. Literally nothing. Last year my position was RIF-ed to half time due to underutilization. Before it happened my boss asked me to “come up with other things I could do for the department”. I’ve been re-educating the last 4 years, and have new skills, but none of them translate to this job. I had nothing to offer. I have a new boss, and I asked to meet with her to see if she had any ideas of what I might be able to do, and got the same thing – “come up with some ideas”. I thought of a few things, but they are so far from anything I know how to do or that I could get caught up on, I feel like I’d be setting myself up for failure.

Is it normal for managers to ask people to “think of something to do”? All of the responsibilities in my job description have been taken from me by other departments. I don’t think it’s right that I’m expected to come up with new things on my own. I’ve been trying to find other work for a long time, and I get no callbacks. Both in my old skillset, and my new one. The depression that this job causes affects my education and the rest of my life and it feels like I’m on the cusp of falling down a hole of unemployment and permanent homelessness. (I’m filing bankruptcy because at half time, this job doesn’t pay enough to pay my mortgage) I don’t know if I should quit and go work in food service to get out of the bad situation, or if I’d just be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

It’s not unheard of for a manager to ask an employee to figure out how their time can best be used, but the bigger point here is the one you’ve already come to on your own: You need to be looking for other work, because this position might not be around much longer if the work is no longer needed. I wouldn’t quit with nothing lined up though — both because of the income and because it’s often easier to find work when you’re already employed. There’s no point in leaving prematurely just because you know the job is likely to go away at some point. Plus, if/when it does, it will be a layoff, which means you should be able to collect unemployment benefits (which you can’t if you quit).

So stay there but keep job searching, and do it as actively as you can. I don’t know what your resume and cover letters are like, but if you’re not getting interviews, it would be worth taking a look at the advice here and seeing it if helps. Good luck!

3. Was my boss hinting I can take extra vacation days off the books?

I’m in my first real professional job and recently accepted a new position at my company in a different department. I was previously part-time, so I now get paid vacation days, but it’s a very slim amount. The other day, when my new boss was telling me she would be out of the office the next day, she asked if I would be in. I said, “Of course,” and she replied that she is very bad with keeping track of days out. I kind of nervously laughed and she said, “Seriously, I am.”

Was she implying that I can take off more days than technically allowed? I’m not trying to pull one over on my company and would finish all my work in the same way I would if I took an official day off. Also, since this is my first real job, I don’t understand much about how PTO works. The man previously in my position is at a new company, but I do know him so would it be inappropriate to ask him how flexible my new boss is on this policy?

Assume that there’s no flexibility on PTO unless you’re told that there is. It would be pretty unusual for for your boss to hint to you that you can take extra vacation days beyond what’s in your benefits package rather than just coming out and telling you that’s the case. So no, I wouldn’t assume that she was hinting at that at all, and I wouldn’t contact your predecessor to ask about it, since you risk that getting back to your boss and looking bad. Assume the number of vacation days you were told you have is in fact the number you can take.

4. Can I ask to do a second interview by Skype rather than traveling again?

I am writing you because I need your expertise! I am currently interviewing for a position that is in another city (five hours away). I had my phone interview with the HR manager, and then she invited me for a second interview. I took off of work and traveled to the city where I would be interviewing the day before so that I would be prepared for the next day ( the interview was 8:30 am). The HR manager sent me an email the day before the interview to let me know that two of the panelist were unable to make it and that she and another manager still would like to interview with me. However, I would need to come back and interview with the other members of the panel (there was no way around this).

Would I be wrong to ask if they can do a Skype interview with me for that second interview? I do not want to keep going back and forth. I spent a lot of money for gas, food, and hotel that I’m not getting reimbursed for.

Sure, you can ask that, and it’s not an unreasonable question for them. However, be prepared for the possibility that they will want to meet you in person (especially if the actual hiring manager who you’d be working for wasn’t in the first interview). Also, be aware that there’s some research coming out showing that candidates who do video interviews are perceived as less likable and are less likely to be recommended for hire. So if you really want the job, it might be in your best interests to go back in person, even if they’re willing to talk by Skype. (And yes, that is unfair, but it’s one of the realities when you’re looking at non-local jobs.)

5. I want the job that I turned down a few months ago

After graduating from college, I received an offer from a PR company. At the time, I did not want to work in PR and was unaware of the clients, so I turned down the offer since I had interviews with 3 other companies where I would have been offered a better package. Unfortunately, the companies turned me down and I was left jobless. This has been the most horrible 4 months of my life trying to find a new job and thinking about the PR job that I would enjoy now.

Would it be appropriate to reach out to the team again at the PR job and ask about a new position? I never gave them a reason as to why I turned it down and asked to stay in touch, but they just responded with “I’m sorry to hear you aren’t joining us.” I really believe that I made a mistake as I had gotten along with the team, enjoyed their client list and could see myself grow with the PR company now.

Sure, you can absolutely do that. Be prepared, though, for them to ask you why you turned them down last time. You don’t want your answer to be “I thought I could get something better” — you’ll want to have an answer that doesn’t sound like they’re your last choice and/or that you’ll be likely to leave them if something better comes up.

6. Should I tell interviewers about an internship I was offered but which got canceled?

Three months ago, I got accepted for an internship in a very big cosmetics company in Germany. (I’m a Vietnamese national studying in Finland for a bachelor degree in International Business). However, the timing was not good for both of us and my visa application for internship took longer than usual. They weren’t able to be that patient and decided to cancel the internship. It was a pity, but the internship was only optional for me (I completed the first and compulsary internship before that).

Now, I’m about to graduate within three months and have started applying for several companies in recruitment positions. I wonder if I should mention that I was accepted by such a big company like that in the interview or simply put it aside?

Don’t mention it. It’s not being accepted that really impresses people; it’s working there and having real accomplishments you can point to.

7. My biweekly paychecks don’t add up to my annual salary

I recently was calculating out my gross biweekly pay into my annual pay. My company is on a 26 biweekly pay period schedule. But when I multiply my paycheck amount by 26, it’s about $150 less than my annual salary. I emailed payroll, and they told me I have to multiply my biweekly paycheck by 26.1, to account for an extra paycheck every ten years. This made no sense to me since my office letter dictated a salary “annually.” Is this a common practice? I was paid monthly at my last job and am new to biweekly pay.

That’s not common, at least not in my experience. And their explanation is ridiculous — if there’s an extra paycheck every 10 years, they could simply adjust your biweekly checks in those years, rather than keep $150 of your money the other nine years.

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