short answer Sunday: 4 short answers to 4 short questions

It’s short answer Sunday — four short answers to four short questions. (Yes, only four! I’ve cleared out my backlog of short questions.)

Here we go…

1. Applying with an employer where you have a bad internal reference

Recently, an employer for whom I interned early in my graduate degree informed its former interns of a new, available position. The job sounds great, and I plan to apply.

The problem is that I have a bad internal reference. As I was searching for a later internship, a prospective employer asked another reference if I was immature, citing concerns of another reference. Once I figured out who it was, I removed him from my reference sheet. I was upset, however, because neither he, nor the intern coordinator, ever mentioned these concerns to me. In fact, they only told me that I was doing great work. The deeper truth, however, is that I was a bad fit for the department. I was less experienced than their typical intern and a bad cultural fit, with a supervisor (the reference in question) with a short fuse. On a personal level, I’m willing to chalk it up to a bad few weeks in the department, made worse by the problems I discovered, but on a professional level, I’m sure it inhibited my ability to put my best foot forward in this eight-week internship.

The current position is in a different department, with a different boss, and I’m a different (more experienced, talented) employee. How can I stop this old conflict from coming back to haunt me?

You might not be able to. If that person’s reference was negative enough to be a deal-breaker for a different employer, it’s probably going to pose a pretty big obstacle here, especially since (a) people are generally more candid with their own employer than with outside reference-checkers, and (b) a reference from a current employee generally carries a lot of weight. It might simply be unlikely that you’d be able to return to this employer any time soon, unfortunately. That might seem unfair, but hiring isn’t about being fair — it’s about them choosing the person who they’re most confident will be the right fit for them.

2. How long does it take to create a new position?

How long does creating a new position take? My friend said at least two weeks, why all this time? It is a multinational company and this is a contract position.

It varies widely by companies. At some places, two weeks might be enough — at other places, it could take six months or more. It depends on several factors, including how much bureaucracy they have, how committed they are (or aren’t) to pushing it through quickly, and what other priorities they have going on. But if you’re in the running for this new job, it’s fine to ask for a sense of their timeline for being able to move forward.

3. Did I shoot myself in the foot with this salary negotiation?

I think I “shot myself in the foot” when accepting my new job. At the beginning of the week, I had a final interview with Company A, which went well and I was given an offer on the spot. They allowed me one week think it over.

Two weeks prior, my former employer (Company B), who I had interned for in the spring and was liked so much that I was kept on for a few additional months of contract work, told me to keep them updated on my search and that there was a possible position creation at the beginning of the year (contingent upon the organization receiving a grant). Flash forward to the Monday of the interview, I updated my previous employer and within the afternoon I was talking with them about returning. Three days later, I was given a verbal offer over the phone from them, and while the salary was less than Company A, it wasn’t bad. I expressed that Company A’s offer was higher, but also that I really liked their organization. When I received the final written offer, the salary was a little lower than I had anticipated but still comfortable.

I signed and accepted the offer and am now wondering if I should have done something differently. Do they think less of me for not negotiating more, and is there anything I can do now or in the future to ensure the salary is fair? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Side note that I think is important, both organizations are nonprofits, Company B is in my top 3 organizations to work for EVER, and Company B never expressed if they received the grant.

They don’t think less of you for not negotiating. Lots of people don’t negotiate. Plus, if you were an intern there recently, you’re presumably not at a point in your career where you have a lot of negotiating power anyway … and besides, it actually sounds like you did negotiate, by responding to their first offer with a statement that your other offer was higher. That’s negotiation.

As for doing anything now or in the future to ensure the salary is fair … I’m not sure what you’re thinking of, but it’s basically moot, because you’ve already accepted this salary. If you were uncertain about it, the time to deal with that was before you accepted. At this point, you’ve already accepted it, and you can’t go back on that.

4. Should I reapply for a similar job?

Should I re-apply for a very similar posted job? A company posted a job last month, I applied, and now a new posting is up in which the job is permanent and the salary is $600 more. (The previous job posting stated that the job is temporary but there would be a possibility of extension.) Same job title, same qualifications. I didn’t hear back after applying for the first posting. Does it look desperate / overeager to apply for this new posting?

No. You have nothing to lose, so you might as well apply again. It starts to look bad when you’re applying over and over, but twice — for two slightly different positions — is fine.

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