forgetting your salary, dressing up for second and third interviews, and more

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

1. My company uses short-term rotations instead of promotions

I work for a large company at a call center. I’m fairly compensated for what I do and I love almost all aspects of my job. There’s one thing that’s bugging me a bit. There are decent opportunities to moving up in the department or getting a better paid position in another department, but the thing is that most of these are just rotations. That means if selected, you do the work of that department for typically 6 months, but your official salary and position stay the same. Sometimes that rotation becomes permanent and then you get an official promotion. Sometimes they just needed head count and it’s back to your original position.

I realize this is great for your résumé but it just strikes me as a bit shady in terms of lack of a raise. The company is definitely not hurting for money.

I was very lucky to get promoted within the department with just a week rotation. My colleagues did 7 months to a year rotation before an official promotion. There’s a new position that now open for rotation. The position is eventually where I’d like to be in my career and I’d love your insight. Am I right to be a little bit frustrated with that process? I don’t want to be frustrated at that when I love everything else at my company.

It seems inefficient to me — they’re training people to do work and then sending them away right around the time most people are feeling like they finally know the job — but hey, it’s their prerogative, as long as they’re up-front with employees about how it works, which it sounds like they are.

As for whether you should apply for the position you want, I’d say to go for it if you’re comfortable with what they’re offering: a role that’s maybe temporary, and maybe more long-term, with no change in pay for at least a year. It’s up to you whether that’s an offer you’d be willing to take.

2. Factoring a recent degree into a salary offer

I have two applicants for the same position, both with similar backgrounds and number of years of experience. The first got his bachelor’s 20 years ago, while the second got an associate’s 20 years ago but recently upgraded to a bachelor’s through an online school. Typically I would offer a recent graduate a salary at the low end of the pay scale, but in light of the second applicant’s experience I’m wondering if he should or should not be offered the same pay that I would offer to the first applicant. All things being equal, I prefer the second applicant because of his personality, so the question in a nutshell is whether or not they are entitled to equivalent pay. The second applicant’s salary history is of course much lower than the first, but I’m sure he didn’t go through the trouble of getting a better degree so that he could make the same salary.

Of course they’re entitled to equivalent pay for the same work. When you refer to the salary you’d normally offer a recent grad, you’re thinking of someone right out of school, without much experience. But this is someone with years of experience, so that doesn’t apply. If he got an associate’s 20 years ago, he most likely has at least 20 years of work experience — why would you care about the degree at all at this point? Pay based on his track record of performance in his career, which at this point is far more relevant than what he did in school.

Degrees are shorthand that tell you what people are likely to be able to achieve, at a time in their lives when you don’t have much real data on their work performance yet. That’s not the case here; you already have the data on him that matters — his 20+ years in the work world. Pay accordingly. (And please ignore his and all applicants’ salary history, which is irrelevant to what their work will be worth to you.)

3. Should you be more dressed up for the first, second, or third interview?

Should you be more dressed up for the first, second, or final interview? Say I have three interview outfits. One is the most dressy/professional/conservative, one is a bit more colorful although still conservative, and one is less conservative still. When do I wear the most conservative and when do I wear the least conservative? Or, buy more interview clothes?

Start with the most conservative, and move down from there — always staying reasonably formal, of course, and keeping in mind the principle that even fields where more casual dress is the norm still generally expect people to dress more nicely for interviews.

And of course, if you’re in an industry that always expects formal dress, then you would stay at that level of formality, not decrease it with successive interviews.

(And as always, this is a case of needing to know your own industry. If you’re in a field that never expects you to dress up, even at interviews, this wouldn’t apply — but I doubt that’s the case for you, since you’re asking the question.)

4. I listed my salary incorrectly on a job application

I accidentally listed my incorrect salary on an application — I was $1,000 over what my actual salary is. Should I:
a) wait to see if they actually double-check, but risk being accused of fraud and getting myself into one of those nasty potential-job-offer-revoked, current-job-lost situations
b) preemptively tell them I was incorrect and offer the correct amount, but risk that they’ll see me as sloppy, especially for a position that requires detail-orientation and for which I emphasized my accuracy
c) state that I was including my employer’s 401(k) match amount in my compensation (which works out to about $1,000 and would be fairly accurate)

How often do employers double-check current salary and if I’m off by $1,000, how likely would they be to tell me to hit the road?

The majority of employers don’t verify a new hire’s previous salary, although enough do that people absolutely shouldn’t feel safe lying about it. That said, the odds are on your side that they won’t check it. If they do, though, $1,000 isn’t a significant enough amount that they should pull your offer over it; you could simply explain that you hadn’t double-checked it when you filled out the application or that you were indeed including that 401(k) match (which isn’t something you should normally do when asked about salary, but not a massive crime). I wouldn’t worry about being seen as sloppy; you’re not required to know your exact salary at all times.

(Obligatory disclaimer that there are crazy employers out there who will do all manner of crazy things, but what you’re worried about is unlikely.)

5. Should employee disciplinary information be confidential?

When you write up an employee, is that information confidential? Might there be certain people that you can share that information with?

Legally, you can share it with anyone you want — coworkers, clients, even the UPS guy who delivers to your office. In practice, though, that rarely happens. Typically disciplinary information is shared on a need-to-know basis, so if you’re talking to an employee about performance problems, you might share that information with your boss, your assistant manager who also oversees some of the person’s work, and — in some offices — HR. There are times that it might make sense to share it with someone else to, but there should be a reason for it — it shouldn’t be information a good manager shares casually or without reason.

6. Can our company force us to use company cars instead of driving our own and getting reimbursed for mileage?

Our employer pays us mileage (.57 per mile) for the use of our personal vehicles. The company is now in a position to give company vehicles to all employees instead of having us use our personal vehicles. Are we required to take the company vehicle?

The reason I ask is that one employee has racked up $12,000 in mileage so far and we have four more months left in the year and our employer says that it would be better for the company to put everyone in a company vehicle versus paying us mileage. Also, if we take the company vehicle, we would lose that extra income on mileage on top of our hourly wage. Is our employer obligated to make up the lost income for our mileage?

Your employer can absolutely require you to begin using company vehicles so they don’t need to pay you mileage. They should pay out any mileage that you’ve already accrued, but beyond that they have no obligation to “make up” the income that you were getting through mileage that you won’t now be receiving.

Mileage payments are intended to reimburse you for gas and wear and tear on your car. They’re not intended to be extra income.

7. I don’t want to tell my boss where I’m working next

I’m wondering if I am required (ethically or legally) to tell my boss about my new job when I resign. I’d like to avoid dealing with the barrage of questions that will come with announcing where I’m going next (what will you be doing, who will you be working with, how did you find out about the job, etc.). I’m leaving to work for an organization that my current boss would love to have connections to and I’d like to avoid his asking me to make introductions to people there. I don’t like or trust several of the people I work with, including my boss and executive management, and I’d like to sever all ties, starting with not informing them of my next employer.

Am I required, ethically or legally, to tell my current employer about my new job? If not can I gracefully exit by just saying I’m leaving to pursue other opportunities, without saying what those opportunities are?

No, you’re not required to — certainly not legally, and not ethically either. However, it’s so common for people to share where they’re going that it’s going to come off extremely oddly (and badly, frankly)if you refuse. You can certainly start by giving a vague answer — “a tech firm” — but if you’re asked which company and you refuse, you’re going to look pretty strange and probably sour the relationships just as you’re leaving.

However, if your concern is that your boss will try to milk you for connections, there are easier ways to avoid that — just say something like, “Let me get settled in there first and get the lay of the land.”

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