short answer Sunday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Discrimination in health care benefits?

I recently applied for a job, and received a tentative offer after several rounds of interviews. During a discussion with the head of human resources, I asked for a copy of the company’s benefits. I was very surprised to see a huge discrepancy between the premiums for a single employee versus an employee with a family. The premium for an employee wishing to gain coverage for herself and her family was slightly more than 18 times time higher than for a single employee.

I am wondering if this policy would be considered discriminatory, or if this is a common practice.

Well, family coverage does cost significantly more than single coverage. It sounds like there’s a good chance that the explanation here is that the employer is covering the same dollar amount of the premium regardless of which plans employees have. For instance, let’s say that the total cost of the premium (combining the employer and employee’s contribution) is $410 for single people and $1400 for families. If the employer pays $350 toward whatever plan you get, that leaves person with single coverage paying $60 and people with family coverage paying $1050 … about 18 times more than people on the single plan. That’s a big difference, but is it discriminatory? The employer is paying the exact same amount for each, so I’d say no, it’s actually pretty fair.

2. When an employers asks for a letter of introduction rather than a cover letter

I just came across a term in a job application with which I am completely unfamiliar. This application is asking me to upload a “Letter of Introduction” but says nothing about a cover letter. A quick Google search later, and I found a questionable forum post that describes letters of introduction as follows:

“A letter of Introduction is a letter written by a person of standing that introduces you to the future employer. It can be written by a person in any profession, For example you can have a professor, a teacher, a doctor, an office worker to write a letter of introduction for you, all they really have to write is that they know you are a person of upstanding character and that they are willing to recommend you to the employer.”

Is this true, and is it thus necessary for me to ask a reference for a letter of introduction? Or are cover letters and letters of introduction actually the same thing?

The page you found is describing something different than what’s intended here. The employer you’re applying to almost certainly means a normal cover letter (in which you introduce yourself to them, so hence their weird term).

3. Did this recruiter lie to me?

A recruiter reached out to me about a job at a major brand. I was interested and thought it wouldn’t hurt to go on the interview. I thought she would screen me, but once i arrived, they had me fill out paperwork and sent me off to their client (the aforementioned major brand) for the position that she reached out to me about before. The only thing is, when I got there, the name of the woman who I spoke with wanted to interview me for another position, which has me thinking that the recruiter didn’t disclose the actual information because she didn’t want me to find the position myself online. I am very much turned off by the lie, and am worried that if I were to like this place (which I think I will), then the agency wouldn’t want me to get hired full-time. I have already accepted the job offer from the client, but am really starting to get cold feet about the agency. I guess my question is–is it worth staying on with a dishonest agency and sticking it out to work for an amazing company? Should I reach out to my future employer at the company and tell her I’m concerned about the agency and its practices?

I don’t think you have reason to conclude that the recruiter lied to you. It’s completely feasible that the client simply decided to interview you for a position that they thought you’d be a better fit for. Absent some further evidence that the recruiter was lying, I’d just move forward and assume this was all above-board.

4. Can I ask for an interview that I previously turned down?

I’m so mad at myself for turning down an interview after my husband talked me out of it. Now i regret it. Does it look bad to tell them i would like to interview? Will i look unstable or flaky? I really would love this job. I had told them I couldn’t do the job because of my husband’s traveling and the kids’ activities, but i think i could work something out with carpools, etc.

You don’t have anything to lose by reaching back out to them, but unfortunately you’ll need to be prepared for them to pass — or to have a lot of questions about your ability to reliably do the job, given the concerns that you raised initially. Basically, if you share with an interviewer that you have concerns about your ability to reliably show up for a job, and then you later change your mind, assume that those concerns are going to remain very much on their mind … so while it can’t hurt to reach back out to them, realize that some damage might have been done here. (But more importantly, it sounds like you and your husband might need to get on the same page about these issues before you’re talking with employers.)

5. Why don’t employers do more skills testing?

Why don’t companies do more skill testing as part of the hiring process? I have come across this only rarely in my current job search. Implementing something like an timed skill test (either online or in person) would seem to be a cheap and effective way to separate the wheat from the chaff. As it stands my gut feeling is that the job search is too subjective on both ends. In interviews I feel like I have to persuade hiring managers that I truly do possess a given skill. Wouldn’t it be more effective if applicants could simply prove it to them before they get to that point? Maybe there is something I’m overlooking.

Yes, employers should absolutely do more testing and job simulations before hiring people. It’s crazy to hire someone without actually seeing them do the work they’d be doing on the job. My co-author is fond of pointing out that a football coach holding try-outs wouldn’t ask players if they could tackle; he’d ask to see them do it. It’s the same thing here: You need to find ways to see people do the work if you want to minimize bad hires. For instance, if you’re hiring a communications director, you should see them write a press release and do a mock interview. If you’re hiring an admin who will be managing busy calendars, you should give them a timed calendaring exercise. If you’re hiring a financial person, you should have them look at financial statements and explain them to you in layperson’s terms. And so forth — whatever the work would be, see the person in action.

6. What to expect from a second interview

I finally have my first second interview (all thinks to your wonderful blog and my newly acquired awesome cover letter writing and interviewing skills). I’m a recent grad and have had several unsuccessful phone interviews, and have finally nailed my first second interview. I’ve never had a second interview before and I really have no idea what to expect. On my phone interview, we went over the basics: why I want to work for the organization, why I want the position, my background and how it would help me in the position, my skills, and my experiences abroad (it’s an international organization). I pretty much went through all of the questions I had prepared answers for already (except for my weaknesses). Other than meeting the rest of the department (it’s small, only 4 people), and going over with them about my skills and background, I have no idea what to expect and am totally at a loss on how I should prepare myself. It’s an administrative type of position, so doing a lot of data entry, mailings, contacting people and coordinating projects with other coworkers across the country. Any advice would me much appreciated!

Second interviews are generally just more in-depth conversations. More probing into your background and past experiences, more discussion of the job, etc. I’d plan for lots of behavioral questions (“tell me about a time when…”), since whether or not you end up getting them, the preparation will have helped you a lot), and I’d do all the stuff I recommend in my job interview preparation guide.

7. Is this a bad sign?

I recently applied for a position at a large company. I had a phone screen with somene, then a phone interview with a Team Leader, and then an in-person interview with a panel of managers. For the panel interview, I had to prepare a presentation about myself and why I would be a good fit for the firm. That part went very well, but the questions that came after were tough. I left feeling that I did not do well.

However, the next morning they asked me to come in for another round of interviews. I was pleasantly surprised. So I scheduled it.

But then the morning after that, they said they are making the interview a phone interview instead, with someone from HR. What does that mean? Is that a bad sign? Why would they backtrack? I’m concerned at what’s going on.

You can’t really read anything into it. It could be as simple as that they realized that they stuff they wanted to cover with you could be covered by the HR person, so they’re having her handle it. Or who knows — there are tons of other possible explanations too, including some that we’d never be able to guess. As with everything involving job searching, try not to try to interpret things that you don’t have enough information to interpret and just take it at face value. You’ll know soon enough how it plays out. Good luck!

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