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. Bringing a laptop to an interview

Is it ever appropriate to bring along a slim laptop to an interview in case there is an opportunity to show examples of your work that would normally be difficult to print out (in case it comes up in conversion)?

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with bringing a laptop with you in a briefcase, but I wouldn’t have it out during the interview without a specific reason. Generally, though, if you want to share samples of your work, it’s best to email them before or afterwards, as most interviewers aren’t going to want to halt the interview long enough to read through an entire document. (For design jobs, of course, it’s typical to bring a portfolio.)

2. Fired for refusing to break the law

I was recently let go from a job because I refused to preform some illegal tasks for them. They wanted me to alter legal documents after they had been signed, then photocopy them so you couldn’t tell that they were altered. During any future interviews, when they ask me why I no longer work there, should I tell them the truth, that I was let go for not preforming illegal tasks? I’ve always been told not to talk bad about former employers during the interview because it makes you seem like a complainer. What are your thoughts?

It’s true that you shouldn’t badmouth former employers in an interview, but in this case there’s no way around the truth. I would simply say, “Unfortunately, I was let go after I declined to falsify legal documents.” Most interviewers will be horrified by what happened to you — and any who aren’t are ones you don’t want to work for.

3. Should I follow up on this contact?

Two months ago, I contacted the department head of my previous company and asked if there were any available positions in the company. He called me in for an interview, and we had an agreement that I would be starting in a few weeks. I was then directed to HR and when they’d made their offer, it was much less than what I’m currently making, so I respectfully declined. I emailed the department head (he was on leave though) and told him that I’m not accepting the offer at the moment but that I hope I can still work with him in the future. He hasn’t responded to my email and it’s been over a month now. Should I email him again just to make sure he received my message? I’m worried that I’m burning some kind of important bridge here. If given the right opportunity, I would still want to work for that company in the future.

You emailed him, and he didn’t respond. Assuming that you didn’t ask a direct question in the email that required a response, assume he received it and simply didn’t see a need to send a response. Following up to “make sure he received it” will come across as a little too pushy — a little too much like you’re saying, “Hey rude guy, why haven’t you gotten back to me?” However, you can certainly check in at some point as you would with any other contact in your network (leaving the previously unanswered email out of it).

4. Employer didn’t get back to me when I asked about the best way to apply

About three weeks ago, I saw a posting for a job offer. On Wednesday, I sent an email to the person that posted the ad, asking what would be the best way for applying, to send a resume or walk in (as both were options.) I never received a response. Fast forward to today, and the ad is posted again. I’m unsure if my email turned this person off, they didn’t get it or whatever the case may be. Do you think I should apply in person? Or should I just leave it alone? Thank you.

Employers often don’t reply to questions about posted positions, because they don’t have enough time to deal with questions from applicants who they don’t even know if they’d be interested in. In this case, they almost certainly didn’t respond because you were asking them for too much hand-holding; they gave you two options, so you should assume that either of them should be fine.

5. Should I re-apply for this job?

I applied for a position two months ago and attended an interview. I received the following ambiguous response: “I regret to advise that we have decided not to shortlist you for second interview for this role. Your background is of interest to us and we would welcome an application from you again in the future if a vacancy in this area arises that is of interest to you. We appreciate your interest in our role, and for making yourself available to travel to the interview.”

The position has been re-advertised and my interest in the position remains strong. Should I re-apply?

Sure. You have nothing to lose, and their email was encouraging.

6. Asking for your own office

I shared an office with my boss for 2 years, but I don’t like sharing an office with subordinates. The situation has changed; our work has become more complex and I regularly meet with contract workers. I think these meetings should be one-on-one without a secretary or anyone else sitting in the same room.

I have tried meeting people in another room, but I haven’t found a good way. If I only meet people in a separate room to criticize them, then they are scared. One woman was convinced that I was going to fire her! If I always have to schedule another room to meet people, then arranging meetings is really a pain. As the boss, I could of course tell my subordinates to work somewhere else during meetings with others; I don’t feel comfortable doing this, but should I?

Do you have some more reasons I can present to my bosses to justify my own office and / or suggestions for how to give feedback when sharing an office?

Explain to your boss what you’ve said here: You have to have many meetings with people, and some of them cover sensitive topics. You want to give your staff regular feedback, but it’s not comfortable for anyone when it’s in front of someone else. And then ask if it’s possible to move to a more private space.

If it’s not, I’d start holding all your regular check-ins in a conference room so it becomes habit and your staff doesn’t assume it’s Scary News time when you do go to a separate room.

7. Unlimited vacation time

I was recently offered and accepted a position out of grad school. Yay!

My question lies in the vacation section of my Benefits Overview. It reads, “There is no limit to the number of days you can take for vacation each year.” Once my position starts, I am planning on asking HR if there are any more guidelines, but do you have any insight or experience with this type of language? It seems kind of vague to me.

A small number of companies have moved to this type of policy: Get your work done, use vacation time responsibly, and we’re not going to put a limit on it. The idea is that if you’re taking so much time off that your work isn’t getting done well, it’ll be obvious to your manager — they’re trusting you to use good judgment in this regard.

You’ll almost certainly be given more information about how this works once you start, but if you aren’t, ask your manager or coworkers how people typically use it. (And if in doubt, limit yourself to two weeks of vacation during your first year — a typical amount of vacation in your first year on a job — while you watch to get a better sense of what others do.)

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