how to tell someone their email font is unprofessional, letting a company know about their bad reputation, and more

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

1. Should I let a company know why I don’t want to interview with them?

I’m a freelance feature film VFX artist. Staff jobs in VFX are rare, even for well-experienced artists, so when I was approached directly by a hiring manager about a staff job at a relatively young company, I was quite excited. I agreed to come in for an interview (currently planned for next week). Since agreeing to that interview, I’ve talked to several people who have worked there (small industry, news travels fast) and the stories have ranged from bad to genuinely horrible. People I trust have accused them of lying during interviews about how their contracts are set up, forcing people to work lots of unpaid overtime (which may violate the law), and shaming underperformers in company-wide emails as “motivation.”

Needless to say, I don’t want to work at a company like that. My question is, should I tell them what I’ve heard? I have no desire to turn my nose up and tell them I’m too good for them — but I wonder if they know how bad their reputation is, and how badly that will affect their ability hire good people. Their careers website focuses heavily on the cool-factor of working in film, which won’t be a big sell to anyone with more than a couple years’ experience. I’m not sure if I should just stay away and let them figure it out, or if I should mention what I’ve heard.

My question for you would be: What do you hope to gain by explaining why you’re withdrawing? There are some risks to being candid (such as burning bridges with people who you might want to work with in the future if they turn up at a different company), and probably not much gain to you. Because of that, the safer approach is to simply cancel the interview and say you’ve decided it’s not the right fit for you. That said, knowing that their practices are costing them good candidates is something that can push a company to reassess how it operates, so there IS value in being candid, as you point out. But ultimately, it’s just not your responsibility to give them feedback about their reputation at your own (possible) expense, particularly when it’s something that should be able to figure out on their own, if they cared to do it.

2. How to let someone know their email font is unprofessional

What would your advice be for someone who has their email signature in Comic Sans MS (plus a smiley face), and for their coworkers? This is someone in the manager role at my organization. It just surprises me that for the year that she’s been here, no one has let her know how childish and unprofessional it may look, especially coming from a manager.

My advice for her would be to stop using it, since it’s unprofessional. My advice for her manager would be to say, “Hey Jane, you probably don’t realize that that font that you’re using in your email signature is widely used as the poster child for unprofessional fonts. I’m not normally going to nitpick your email font choices, but in this case it’s probably distracting from your otherwise professional image.” My advice for the rest of her coworkers would be to give her a similar heads-up if you have the kind of relationship that makes it likely it would go over well (receptiveness to humor would be a plus here), or to ignore it if you don’t.

3. Is it bad to explain I’m job-searching because my company is moving?

I’m looking to leave my current role for two reasons: (1) I’m looking for a more senior position with greater responsibility (not possible in current company), and (2) my company is relocating to a distant state.

When I’m asked why I’m looking to leave, should I focus solely on my desire to grow into a bigger role and leave out the relocation factor? My concern is that saying, “I’m leaving because my company is relocating” is akin to saying on a date, “I’m interested in dating you because my now-boyfriend is moving out of state and I don’t want to move with him.” It’s not really expressing an interest in the new job, but rather, something wrong with the previous one.

I’m also concerned that the relocating factor might mar the primary reason I’m looking – i.e., make it look like that the “looking for greater responsibility” reason is just a pretext and the real reason is “I need to find a job in this state.” What do you think?

Well, this is one area where job hunting and dating aren’t similar. It’s okay to say that you’re looking for a new job because your old one is leaving. It’s a widely understandable reason and not one that reflects poorly on you. So it’s fine to say that. It’s also fine to add that you might have been thinking about moving on sometime soon anyway because you want to move into a more responsible role. (Although, obviously don’t say this if you’ve only been in your current job for a year or some other small amount of time where that statement would make you look flighty.)

4. Thank-you notes when you already have another interview scheduled

I know how important it is to send thank-you notes after interviews but am unsure if/when to send one during a hiring process with multiple interviews. I just had a first interview with a manager and was called back for a second interview within hours. The second interview will be with the same manager as well as a director. While I certainly have some thoughts from our interview to follow up on in the thank-you note, I worry it will sound strange since we both know we will have a chance to discuss the thoughts in a week. What are your thoughts? Should a note be sent after each interview or only when there is no concrete plan to meet again?

Meh, I could go either way on this one. Since you already have a meeting scheduled for a week from now – and will presumably be sending a thank-you note (or follow-up note, which I think is a better way to view these) after that one — I think it’s fine to wait. But there would also be nothing wrong with sending them now too. I leave this one to you.

5. Is this a polite excuse to reject me?

I recently put in for a transfer for the same position in a different state. I did very well on the phone interview and was asked to drive up there to meet the team. The drive was 5 hours away, and I took that as a very good sign. The manager expressed her appreciation for my willingness to drive up there and than said she needed to speak to my current supervisor and would get back to me. Shouldn’t she have done that first before asking me to drive up there? Is this just a polite excuse to let me go without making an offer?

Yes, it would have been more considerate for her to do that before asking you to make the drive — but it’s also possible that she wanted to wait until you were a finalist before alerting your manager (which could also be considerate of her, depending on how your manager is likely to handle it).

But no, I wouldn’t assume that it’s just a polite excuse not to hire you. Polite excuses not to hire you generally contain clear statements of rejection, not an announcement of another step in the process. Another step in the process is … another step in the process. Not a rejection.

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