my coworker blew up over a photo, employee keeps bugging me to interview someone, and more

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

1. Employee keeps bugging me to interview someone

I am the first point of contact for hiring at my company, so I get a lot of employee referrals. Although I am not the final decision maker, I have a pretty good idea what the hiring manager is looking for in each position. Recently, an employee referred a friend for a sales position, but I know the hiring manager would not consider this candidate for a number of reasons. I’ve been doing my best to see if the candidate could fit into another position, but there doesn’t seem to be a fit at this time.

The employee has asked me three times when I plan to call his referral, and I’ve told the employee each time that the referral is not qualified for the position and I am not planning to call, but the employee keeps insisting that I call “just to talk.” I don’t have time just to talk if I know I am not bringing in a candidate for an interview. Do I call just to satisfy the employee and let them know I called, we talked, and there was not a fit? Or do I need to word my rejection more clearly?

You need to be more clear. And don’t call the candidate just to satisfy the employee referring her; that’s a waste of your time and theirs, and it would be inconsiderate to mislead her like that. Say this to the employee who keeps pressing you: “I appreciated the referral, but Jane isn’t the right match with any of our current openings. I’ve sent her a rejection email to let her know.” And do send that rejection email, which will give all this some finality.

2. Did I irritate this hiring manager?

I am a full-time college student graduating next month. I recently went through a phone interview with a recruiter, and she pressured me into a phone interview immediately because they liked my resume. During the phone interview, she told me I was the number one candidate, then scheduled an interview with the hiring manager. The hiring manager was giving me really good vibes and was being very nice. At the end of the interview, he told me he wanted to move forward and have a face-to-face in one week before he interviewed anyone else. Then he said that someone from his staff would contact me.

After a few days, no one had contacted me, so I contacted the hiring manager and told him that no one had contacted me. He said I should hear something this week. So, I replied with, “When should I expect to hear, and are we still planning to meet this week?” He said, “Maybe next week.” So I said, “I am looking forward to meeting with you, and I was hoping we could do it this week.” Then the manager replied, “Really – are you questioning me??” At that point, I took a step back and said, “No, I am really looking forward to the opportunity. I sincerely apologize for the misunderstanding.”

I feel like I was just trying to be assertive and show interest. Are they just giving me the run-around? What do I do now?

“Are you questioning me?” is utterly obnoxious, but his point wasn’t surprising — he told you when he was able to meet, and you kind of violated interview norms when you pushed back. The employer controls the hiring timeline. You can certainly share any constraints on your side (such as having another offer), but aside from that, you’re really at the mercy of the interviewer’s timeline.

Hiring often takes longer than people think it will. Employers often state one timeline and end up taking three times that long, or even longer. It’s frustrating, but it’s the nature of how it works. It’s good to show interest, but not to pressure them, which is what ended up happening here. At this point, I’d just be patient and wait for them to get back in touch with you. If you haven’t heard anything in two weeks, contact the recruiter (probably not the hiring manager in this case) to ask if she has an updated timeline.

3. Asking veterinary job candidates about dog and cat allergies

It has been my understanding that you can’t ask any medical questions during an interview without violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, I am a practice manager at at veterinary clinic and recently hired an interviewee who later disclosed to a coworker that she is allergic to cats. HELLO! We see both cats and dogs. This is the second time someone has been hired who I later learn is allergic to cats. I can imagine how bad they feel having a severe allergy attack, needing an inhaler or going home mid-shift.

I’d like to ask, if they have any issues working with cats or dogs, maybe leading it in the way of “Are you frightened of cats or dogs?” but then again why would they apply if they did. Please help.

Well, it’s true that you can’t ask about medical conditions, but you can ask about their ability to perform the essential functions of the job. So in this case, you could ask, “This job requires close contact with dogs and cats, for eight or more hours at a time. Is there any reason you wouldn’t be able to do that?”

By the way, it’s possible that her allergy is minor and she’s willing to deal with symptoms (especially if it’s just a runny nose or other mild symptoms). If that’s the case and it’s not impacting her ability to do her work, that’s her call.

4. My coworker blew up when told we wanted a group photo for the company website

I work for a company that is currently redesigning its website. As part of the redesign, we have a staff page and would like to include a staff group photo on the page. One staff member is refusing to have his picture taken and has threatened legal action if he is forced to take a photo and then we use it on the website. I’m not sure what his objections are. All I know is that he stormed out of the staff meeting. I’m not his supervisor, but my boss also seemed at a loss on how to proceed on this one. There was some yelling and steamy confrontation going on, which is a larger issue altogether. He specifically said he would bring a cease and desist suit against the company.

In doing a Google search, I found some information about this from the U.K., but not specific to the U.S. So my question is one of the myriad of is it legal questions. Can we require participation in a staff photo for a website?

You sure can. He has no legal basis for refusal, let alone a cease and desist against your company (unless he has a genuine religious objection, but that sounds unlikely to be the case here). That said, is there some reason why he must be included? This is a request that’s pretty easy to accommodate, and I’m not fan of forcing people into group photos (or any photos) if they don’t want to be there.

His crazy explosion is a different issue, though, and one that points to some pretty serious problems, I’m guessing.

5. Should I mention that my graphic design knowledge is self-taught?

I am applying for a job that includes a small amount of basic graphic design. In my current job, I have taught myself how to use Adobe Creative Suite and am definitely capable of basic graphic design. Is it bad to mention that I’m self taught? Does it show that I like to learn new things or does it read that I’m not qualified?

I don’t think it’s bad to mention that you’re self-taught (many skilled people are when it comes to software programs), but there’s no need to mention that on your application (not because it’s bad, but just because it’s not really relevant). The trick, regardless of how you learned, will be demonstrating what your level of proficiency is — so you want to describe what you’ve used it successfully for.

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