mini answer Monday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s mini answer Monday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Am I getting a reasonable response rate to my job applications?

I’ve never had such a hard time finding a job. I’ve been looking for well over a year now and can’t seem to find anything that would be remotely interesting or worth my while. Over the course of the past year, I’ve sent out about 30 applications, which has produced 3 interviews. In all 3 instances, I was eventually rejected at the last stage because they had found someone more qualified. However, my feelings aren’t all that hurt because I’m only in my mid-twenties and I know that there are more qualified candidates out there.

What really bothers me is the poor response-to-application ratio. In the past, I’ve never had any difficulties getting an interview for every 5 applications sent. I don’t know what changed this time around. Do you think 3 interviews for 30 applications is a reasonable ratio?

Yes, thats a reasonable response rate, especially without a ton of experience. What changed this time around is the job market — there are now far, far more job seekers than there are openings, so you have a ton of competition. That said, I’d take a look at your resume and cover letter, since nearly every time people tell they’re concerned by the response they’re getting, the problem is their resume and cover letter.

(By the way, for whatever it’s worth, 30 applications in a year of actively job searching is pretty low. That’s barely more than one every two weeks.)

2. Was I unreasonable to refuse to drive 35 miles in my own car?

I don’t have a company vehicle. My director has asked me to drive 35 miles down the motorway to another office to meet with him to accompany him to a meeting. I don’t get paid to use my own vehicle for work, and although they will reimburse me for fuel, it’s not in my terms and conditions of employment to drive to other offices within our company. Do you think it was unreasonable of me to decline? And what if I did not drive?

The director drives around himself in a luxury company car, and he originally said he would pick me up but then had a re-think, I believe because he lives around 20 miles from our office.

It’s very normal to occasionally need people to drive to a different office for meetings, etc. If you didn’t drive, you would have raised that and they would have found some other solution, but since you do drive and do have a car, yes, it was unreasonable for you to refuse. The fact that your director drives a luxury company car has no bearing on this.

3. Did declining a same-day phone interview blow my chances with this job?

I have been working with a management consulting company that also has a recruiting component. I have had a couple of interviews and good leads from them. Two days ago, they contacted me about an urgent request for a great job and asked me to tweak my resume to reflect my qualifications that match the job description. I did. Then yesterday, they asked me for a same-day phone interview with the owner of the recruiting company (not the client company), with two available interview times. I was unable to do it and asked to push it to the next business day. My reason was that my kids are off school and I would be with them all day. I left a voicemail and didn’t hear back.

My husband is concerned that I blew my chance for this job, and that not being available for the same-day phone interview is a red flag. I can understand that they might have moved on without me due to the urgency of the request, but do you feel that not being available was a red flag and/or raised concerns about my reliability/availability to do the job? Should I have arranged child are for this interview? Money is tight, and if I wait a day, they are back in school, when I am free to speak uninterrupted without the additional expense.

No, it’s not unreasonable or a red flag to be unavailable for a phone interview on the same day it’s requested. It’s normal.

Ideally you wouldn’t have mentioned that it was because of a child care situation, because that potentially raises questions in their minds about whether child care will interfere with your availability once on the job — it would have been better to simply say, “I’m unavailable today but free later int he week.” But simply declining a same-day interview isn’t alarming and in fact is pretty common.

4. Why doesn’t my boss fire my awful coworker?

We have a member of staff who is consistently late and does not do her fair share of the work. We work at a day program for adults with dementia. On Friday, she had a disagreement with the coordinator of our program and so she grabbed her purse and coat, said “F*** y’all” and stormed out at 2 pm (our workday ends at 4 pm).

This is not the first time she has done something like this. Why is our boss not firing her and hiring a more responsible person?

Because your boss is a terrible manager.

5. Manager believes it’s illegal to give references

I work at a newspaper in Ohio. We had a reporter resign, and today was his last day. He hasn’t been the best employee (actually, he’s been a nightmare), so I asked my general manager, jokingly, if he was going to give him a good reference. My general manager then told me that it was illegal to give him any reference at all. He said he was only allowed to confirm the dates he was employed.

I found this odd. I asked him if he would give him a reference had he been a good employee? He still said no. He would still only confirm the dates of employment.

I’m planning to apply for other jobs at some point in the future, and by all accounts, I’ve been an excellent employee, earning much praise from the general manager and my editor. It bothers me that when I do decide to leave, he will potentially not volunteer that information to my prospective employers. Is this correct? If so, how often do you come by it and what are your thoughts about the practice?

Your manager is 100% wrong. It is not in any way illegal to give a reference, including a negative reference, as long as the content of the reference is accurate. Certainly some companies have decided to implement policies that they won’t provide references (although in reality their managers generally still do, at least for good employees), but that’s not the law — that’s an internal company policy. And a bad one at that.

You should tell your boss that you’re concerned by his practice because whenever you move on, you’ll need a good reference from him, and (presumably) have earned one. Show him this post. And this one.

6. Do applications when you’re under-qualified hinder you in the future?

I will be graduating with my master’s degree in a few months and am beginning to apply for jobs. I’ve read your post about how to get hired if you’re under-qualified, but is there any chance that applying for a position that requires at least five years of experience when I only have three years of part-time experience will reflect poorly on me or hinder a possible future relationship with this large and well-respected organization?

Probably not … although three years of part-time experience is pretty different from five years of full-time experience. If it were three years of full-time, I’d say to go for it, but you might be pretty significantly under-qualified for what they’re looking for. It shouldn’t hurt your future chances though, unless your application materials contain those awful statements that some people use like “I’m the most-qualified candidate you’ll find for this job.” Which you should never use anyway, but especially not in this situation, since it will make you look like you don’t appreciate how your experience differs from what they’re seeking.

7. I told someone he was getting promoted, but now he’s not

I’m a middle manager who was “promoted” without any warning a few years ago (didn’t really want the promotion but wasn’t given an option other than leavimg). So I have been in this position for several years now with little to no real training. Seems I keep making mistakes with my subordinates, but this may be the worst one yet. My supervisor wants to promote one of the people who works for me. My employee had somehow overheard part of the conversation and instead of telling him I knew nothing, I discussed the plans as I knew them, although not in great detail. Now it appears he won’t be getting the promotion. Yep, hindsight is 20/20. Not only am I likely in hot water for talking about the promotion, but what do I tell him? Do I wait until I know for certain that he won’t be promoted or do I talk to him now?

You need to walk this back with the employee. Without knowing more details, like how certain it is that the promotion won’t be happening, I can’t tell you exactly what to say, but at a minimum you need to tell him that plans aren’t finalized, that many things could change, and that it won’t necessarily go in that direction, and apologize if you implied otherwise. And if it’s certain that it won’t happen, you need to tell him that.  All this needs to be now, ASAP, before he spends more time thinking this is certain. The longer you wait, the worse it will be.

However, before you talk to him, I’d ask your own boss for advice about how to handle this, because this is messy and it seems like your instincts aren’t serving you well here — get someone else in the loop to help you. And yes, that may get you in trouble with your boss, but it happened and you need to come clean. And at this point, treating your employee right is the higher priority than keeping you out of trouble.

I’d also take a hard look at whether you want to stay in a management role. If it’s not for you — and you sound like you don’t think it is — you might be making things pretty bad for the people working for you. It would be worth looking for a different job if that’s the case.

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