personality tests, gifts for managers, and more

It’s seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. My boss told my new boss that I’m only leaving for the money

I’m starting my new job tomorrow. Today, my current boss forwarded me his response to my new boss’s reference inquiry, no doubt because it was glowing and I’m really grateful for that. However, in response to being asked why, to his knowledge, I’m leaving, he only said “substantial increase in income.” I fear the idea that I took this new job just for money may hurt me in my new boss’s eyes. Compensation was certainly a big part of the decision, but it definitey was not the only reason.

What are your thoughts on how this answer might affect my boss’s initial impression of me, if at all?

I wouldn’t worry too much about it. You got the job, after all, so they obviously weren’t too bothered by it — and your manager is likely to put more weight on what you said your reasons for leaving were than what your boss said, and to realize that your boss might not really know much about what your reasons are.

This would be different, of course, if your boss said, “She’s leaving because we’re close to firing her” — but his actual answer sounds like it could easily be what someone might let their boss think rather than getting into the real reasons. I wouldn’t give it another thought.

2. How much weight do employers put on personality tests?

How much weight do employers give personality tests that they ask candidates to fill out? I’ve taken some for lower level jobs that I assume are basically trying to find out if you’re likely to steal, lie, and call in sick a lot. But I’ve also taken them for professional level jobs.

Recently I applied to a job about two weeks after it was posted. Normally I like to catch these when they are “fresh,” but this one escaped my notice. Still, I thought it was an interesting opportunity so I applied. Almost immediately I got an email response back saying they were “definitely” interested and to please complete their personality test they would be sending in a separate email. They say there are no right or wrong answers, but the next day I got a rejection email from them. Perhaps I don’t have enough of a personality for them? What are they looking for with these tests? How much weight are they really given? This one had some number patterns where I was asked to find the next number in the sequence, and I’m sure I did terrible on that portion, but it wasn’t a financial or remotely math related job.

It depends on the employer and on the position. In some cases, they’re assessing whether you have the traits that they’ve determined makes someone successful in the role — which could be anything from being outgoing to being process-oriented to having a thick skin. In other cases, they’re just looking for obvious problems (such as integrity issues). And still others, they barely use the results at all, considering them more “background” than a determining factor.

3. When should I begin applying for jobs if I graduate in June?

I’m a senior in college, I’ll be graduating in June. I search the internet for possible jobs daily and I’ve found a few that I think I’d be a good fit for. Some of the listings are immediate openings, which I obviously can’t do. I know from reading your blog that the hiring process can take a while, but how soon is too soon to start applying for jobs?

It depends on your industry. Most places hire for 1-3 months out, but there are also industries where it’s normal to start applying now for jobs in June. This is something where you really just need to know how your field works. If you don’t, try talking to a handful of people who can tell you firsthand. (And if it turns out you’re not in a field where hiring happens far, far in advance, then a good basic answer is to start around March.)

4. When should I express my interest in a not-yet-created position in my company?

I work in customer support at a small branch of a large corporation. Recently, I was told that the company will be creating a new inside sales position early next year, and I am interested in being considered.

I am have been told by several of the sales staff there that they think I would be very good in the role. Should I express my desire to grow into that role to my manager and the manager of that department now, or should I wait and simply apply when it is advertised? I want to be proactive but not appear to eager to leave my current position.

Talk to the manager of the department now. Otherwise, you risk them hiring someone else without even advertising the job.

5. Should I indicate that my work was part-time on my resume?

Should I indicate if work was part-time or occasional on my resume (or in my cover letter)?

My two recent jobs were part-time, one at 60% of full-time, and a parallel consulting position at about 15% time commitment. I have substantial accomplishments I can point to in each job, so I don’t think my experience will appear weak. I am more worried about appearing either a) overqualified when I apply to an appropriate job or b) disingenuous when more details come out later. Would you recommend preempting any confusion? If so, what is the best way to do it?

Nope, you don’t need to. You should mention it in the interview process if it’s relevant, but it doesn’t need to be on your resume. And actually, because you’ll be listing two jobs for the same time period, employers will be likely to assume that at least one was probably part-time anyway.

6. Should I mention my early graduation on my resume?

I graduated from university before turning 18 (about 10 years ago), but then did not pursue regular employment until 22. Should I mention my early graduation at any point, in my resume, cover letter, or hypothetical interview?

I did this on my resume at 22, in large part to “excuse” a spotty work history. At this point, I have a few years of work experience, and it seems unprofessional to mention age in any way. On the other hand, I leave a 4-year gap in my work history that I worry will raise red flags. Can you offer any suggestions on how best to present (or gloss over) this situation?

I don’t think it is a positive to mention my activities during these 4 years, which consisted of many and wildly varied short-term commitments. The skills I picked up during that period of time are better illustrated in my professional experience since then.

I don’t think you need to mention the early graduation unless it specifically comes up as relevant in an interview. If I’m doing the math right, you’ve had about six years of steady employment now, which is about what you would have (hopefully) had if you’d graduated at the more typical age of 22. So you could just do your resume the way you would if you’d graduated at 22 and not worry about the earlier stuff.

On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “I graduated from college at 17 and then took a few years off to finish growing up” — which is something most people will understand.

7. Gift for a recommender who’s also my manager

I 100% agree with and follow the advice of avoiding gifting upwards in the office — with the exception of very small/cute things when I get back from vacation (think <$3) that I usually give to each of my close coworkers.

However, my boss just finished the second of three recommendations for business school. She really went above and beyond in the recommendation process too — working with me to find out what strengths I valued. It seems to be common advice on B-School forums to give recommenders extravagant gifts (like $100 gift cards, or bottles of wine, or at minimum a really nice box of chocolates or edible arrangement.) After reading your blog for so long (and admittedly partially because I’m broke), I feel like it would be sort of awkward/odd to get her something like this. I think I could bring in something small and nice for my former manager who also wrote a recommendation, but giving something substantial to my current manager feels really odd.

Should I get her anything beyond a thank-you card? If so, do you or the readers have any ideas? It just feels really really odd to bring in a box of chocolates or wine. Also, the last recommendation isn’t due for 3 more months — if I give her something now it starts to feel like I’m bribing her… but if I wait for 3 months, it feels like I’m not showing appreciation soon enough for what she’s done! Any advice?

Personally, there’s no situation where I’d expect or be comfortable with an extravagant gift from an employee who reported to me (particularly a gift card, which is too much like giving cash). That’s crazy that people are recommending that.

I always think the absolute nicest, most meaningful gift you can give a manager is a sincere and detailed letter — I’m talking a full page — about why you appreciated working for them. Management is often a thankless job and it can feel like people don’t notice the myriad ways a good manager tries to help them — so it feels pretty awesome when someone writes a letter like that. Way better than even a pricey bottle of wine or other gift would feel.

This entry was posted in HR, Leadership. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.