I missed the deadline for a video interview, giving feedback to a part-time intern, and more

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

1. Should I give feedback to a part-time intern who isn’t proactive and has a hard-to-read demeanor?

Now that I’m (sort of) supervising someone for the first time, I’m trying to do it properly, based on your advice! I work at a tiny nonprofit with only paid staff, and it’s pretty informal. We have an intern who’s been coming in one day a week, and although he’s a grad student at a great university, his work isn’t great. That is, his work product is fine, but he’s not very proactive, didn’t do any problem-solving for a tiny but pretty basic concern, isn’t very emotive, and when I ask him to do something differently, he just says “okay” kind of blankly. It’s kind of a turn-off (and if we’d had more applicants, we probably wouldn’t have taken him on staff to begin with).

He’s said that he wants to work in nonprofits going forward, and I think these traits will make it harder for him. I’d like him to learn from this, and our organization also really wants to maintain a good relationship with the grad school program he’s in. How formal should I be with feedback? Since he’s only in one day a week, would it be awkward, or overkill, to do a mid-point and/or final assessment? So far, he’s on week 4 of a 10-week internship. That’s really only going to be ten work-days total, so it’s hard to judge.

(I don’t know if this is relevant, but he’s also a little older than I am – I’m not in grad school yet; I finished undergrad in 2011, and he finished in 2010. My boss, the executive director, is also fairly new at managing people; I am the first person he’s hired.)

Give him the feedback! Part of the point of interning is to gain professional skills, and getting feedback is an essential part of that. Don’t unload it on him all at once, of course, but pick the two biggest things (probably not being proactive and not doing any problem-solving) and sit him down and talk to him, just like you would with a full-time employee. You could do it in the context of a mid-point assessment, or you could do it more informally — but don’t wait until a final assessment to do it, because at that point he won’t have the chance to work on improving in it.

However, with the flat “okay” thing, I’d just address it in the moment rather than making such a big deal of it. With that, when he does it, just say something like, “I’m having trouble reading you. Can you tell me more about your thinking about what I just said?”

2. I missed the deadline for a video interview because of technical problems

I recently applied for a job at my dream company, and I was asked to do a video interview before a set deadline. However, I didn’t manage to complete the interview because of internet network problems. I was given one week to prepare, with some assignments and presentations to do. I could record the video interview anytime within that one week. The problem with not being able to get another internet connection other than the one at my place was because it was 3 a.m. I’ve emailed HR and explained my situation, but I doubt they would reply to me because it just sounded like some lame excuse. Could you give some advice on what I should do? The position is still being advertised. Do you think I would still possibly be considered if I apply again? Should I state in my cover letter that I actually missed my video interview and am replying again? Will you actually be annoyed if you see my application again, if you were the HR at that company?

I think this ship has sailed, unfortunately. You emailed and explained the situation, but they didn’t reply — so I don’t think reapplying with an explanation will change things much. If you’d had technical problems earlier in the one-week period they gave you, or if they’d given you a much shorter period of time to complete it, a reasonable employer would make an exception, but if I were the employer in this exchange (which I’d never be, because I think video interviews suck), I’d be looking at the fact that you waited until the very last minute and didn’t leave yourself any buffer … which isn’t the greatest reflection on you as far as planning and work habits. I’d be worried you’d wait until 3 a.m. the night before a work assignment was due and run into trouble if the work required troubleshooting at that point, and if I had other strong candidates, I’d probably just move forward with them.

There’s no harm in reapplying with an explanation, but I think you’ll want to be prepared for their thinking to be something like the above.

3. Did my boss fire me through my coworker?

I was supposed to work at night, but my son was sick and I couldn’t find anyone who would take him, so I informed my boss and she said it was alright. The next day, I was informed by a coworker that I was fired from my job. I didn’t know if there was legal action I could take against my boss for improper management. I am not scheduled to work until next Saturday, and I planned on going into work anyway, because I don’t want them to say I “abandoned’ my position, because she could just deny that she ever said it. I am unsure what to do, because I have not heard from my boss, and I was told yesterday that I was fired.

It’s pretty unlikely that your boss would relay that message through your coworker. Not impossible, but highly unlikely. If you think there’s any chance that your coworker was serious (and not joking or pulling a horrible prank), call your boss and ask. You don’t need to wait until Saturday, and you don’t need to spend this whole week worrying and wondering about it. Pick up the phone and find out.

4. I was fired for saying I’d like to punch my manager

I was blowing off steam and regretfully said something like “I’d punch my manager in the mouth” and my coworker snitched on me … in turn I got fired. If I didn’t act on it, is that a good reason to be terminated?

Yes, threatening violence is pretty much always reasonable grounds to fire someone. You might have meant it in jest, but it’s not crazy that a workplace wouldn’t want to mess around with that.

I’d also suggest not framing things like this as “snitching.” That’s a concept that doesn’t generally apply in the workplace, because it implies that you and your coworkers are on one side and your manager is on the other — not a great mentality to have at work and one that will generally work against you in the long-term.

5. Does this mean I didn’t get the job?

I had an interview with an HR manager and 3 engineers for an engineering position. At the end of the interview, the HR manager initially said, “We should get back to you in a week” and then immediately looked at the engineers and said, “We will let you know in a week either way.” Does this mean that I did not get the job?

No. She might have been thinking out loud, or confirming her timeline with them, or emphasizing to them that they need to meet that timeline, or who knows what else. Maybe she likes to repeat herself. It doesn’t mean anything, other than that they hope to let you know in a week, either way.

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