terse answer Thursday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Asking to move an interview up

Just today, I was invited to interview for a position that I am very excited to be considered for. The interviewer let me know he wanted to get the ball rolling as soon as Monday. I picked a day later in the week because I had a bit more flexibility for that day. But as today has progressed, I’ve become more and more excited about the position. Would it be inappropriate to call the interviewer back and reschedule for Monday? Citing my growing excitement as the reason? Obviously if the interviewer has filled those slots, I understand that I would wait until the initial agreed upon time and date.

My original answer was going to be: Don’t do that. In a job search, you don’t want to look even remotely flaky, and citing your growing enthusiasm as your reason for wanting to muck with his schedule will look a little off (and also make you potentially look desperate/impatient). You scheduled a date; stick with it.

However, you could send him a note saying something like, “If you still prefer to meet on Monday, it looks like I’d be able to schedule it then. Please let me know if you prefer that, but otherwise I’ll look forward to sticking with our meeting time on Thursday.”

2. Is it ethical to write someone else’s cover letters for them?

I have helped several of my friends and family members with their job search materials (resumes and cover letters). My background is in English and writing, so I am a good copy editor and can help my friends clarify their ideas and accomplishments. Is it at all deceptive or unethical to completely rework their writing? For example, a friend of my husband’s cover letters were so poorly written, they almost read like a spam email. I am trying to coach him and explain my rationale for corrections rather than just writing a letter for him, but I find myself wondering if I am doing him or his potential bosses a disservice by “hiding” the fact that he is a poor writer. I taught English at the university level and take written communication very seriously. Put frankly, I wouldn’t hire him if I saw these letters cross my desk. (If it makes any difference, he is seeking work in an artistic or sales job.)

I think you’re doing both him and any prospective employers a disservice. They need to know who they’re hiring, warts and all. (At least when it comes to a common job skill, like written communication — not so much when it comes to his gum-popping penchant or whatever.) And your friend needs them to know too. That’s because if they care about getting a certain level of writing skill (and many employers do, even for jobs that don’t revolve around writing), there are going to be problems when they discover that that’s not who they hired. He could end up in a job he struggles with or even gets fired from. Coach him, but let him write his own letters — just like you might coach him on interview skills, but not do the interview in his place.

3. My coworkers make more than me

Two coworkers recently divulged their salaries to me, and I was shocked that they were $15k & $25k more than I am making. My education level is a bit higher (BS vs AS) than one guy ($15k guy) and more industry certification than the other guy ($25k guy). I have 20 years experience as compared to their 20 – 25. They are both about 15 years older than I am. Am I wrong in thinking that I am underpaid? If I were to approach my boss for a raise, is comparing myself to my coworkers a bad strategy? If he asks where I obtained that information, I am concerned that there could be repercussions for them and possibly for me.

Salaries should be based on the value someone brings to the role. I don’t know if your coworkers are more valuable to the company than you are, but it’s notable that your arguments for why you shouldn’t earn less are based on education and years of experience, two things that don’t automatically translate into increased value.

What’s more, people’s salaries often vary simply because one person was a better negotiator than the other when first being hired, or the job market was tighter when she was hired. In any case, if you think your performance warrants more money than you’re currently making, talk to your boss. But make it about your value, not about your coworkers’ salaries.

4. Coworkers won’t clean up their food mess

I need some advice. My coworkers bring in food on a regular basis. It is very nice; however, I seldom partake as I watch my diet. They constantly leave food out, or leave behind the mess that it has created. I have sent a note out regarding an issue regarding mice, somewhat hoping that this would send a clear message about leaving food out. Apparently this has not worked. As I am the administrator for the team, and being the low-man, I feel as though they always leave me to clean-up duty. Any suggestions?

There’s tons of input on this issue in the comments on this post, but realistically, this is an issue that chronically plagues offices and few people are able to solve it. That said, what about simply directing people to clean up on a case-by-case basis: “Jane, can you put away those muffins you brought in before you leave today? Thanks.” While ultimately this stuff will fall to you as the team’s administrator if no one else does it, it’s reasonable for you to exercise that duty by alerting people when they need to clean something up, rather than cleaning it up yourself.

5. QR codes on resumes

I’ve been considering placing a QR code on my resume that would lead back to a simple website I’d create. The website would have copies of my resume in several formats, a photo, and some work samples. In my line of work (communications/marketing), samples are fairly important, and I think this might be a more efficient approach than emailing a huge PDF file every time I apply for a job. In addition, I’m hoping that the inclusion of a QR code, plus the website, will show employers that I have some basic knowledge of tech-based communication techniques. What do you think? Is this something that can help me stand out from the herd, or is it one of those gimmicks you keep warning people to avoid? Also, would this make it harder for scanning software to read my resume?

Too many people have no idea what a QR code is and won’t know what to do with it when they see it. (For readers who don’t know, it’s a barcode that you can add to your business card or your resume. If someone scans it with a smartphone, it will link them to your online portfolio or your LinkedIn profile page or whatever.) Plus, few people are reading resumes on their phone; they’re reading them on a computer. Just include a URL that goes to all the same material (minus the photo, which is inappropriate to include).

6. Asking for a raise after saving the company money

I have been working for this company for roughly 3 months, and aside from my normal duties, given a personal hobby in automating processes, I was able to use that skill to save the company over $80k per year in terms of tedious work for employees. The application basically saves time on every task we perform during the day. Given that I worked for over 150 hours of my own time over 2 months on this side project and that my department plans on using the same skills for other projects, I am wondering if this makes me eligible to have a discussion about a raise. Note that I work in risk assessment and this was more of a technological initiative. Further, I am unsure of how to discuss the raise if yes. I am also a recent graduate and this is my first job out of University.

You’ve only been there three months. Wait until it’s been a year before you ask for a raise — but highlight this accomplishment when you do. It’s part of what will make your case for being a valuable employee at that point, but asking after three months is too likely to be seen as naive and premature.

7. Love my job, hate my boss

I am the only employee in a private practice criminal law office. I have been here 4 years and I love my job – problem is my boss has narcissistic personality disorder (undiagnosed). He has screamed, thrown things, threatened to fire me if I try to leave the situation (separate myself), and has in the past, pretended to fire me to see my reaction and to “teach me a lesson.” I am at a loss, and as with most narcissists, talking things out is not an option as everything is viewed as a threat or criticism. He has said that he would give me a raise after two years, then a bonus, etc., none of which have happened – I have not received a raise since starting here. What do you suggest, other than finding a new job (I have already applied elsewhere), as I don’t want to leave because I love what I do and the autonomy I have?

This is like saying, “I love my marriage, except my husband beats me.” You do not love your job, because your job involves working for an abusive madman. You cannot separate the two. You can’t even hope that your boss will move on to a new job eventually, because he owns the practice.

You can stay and put up with continued abuse (not recommended) or you can find something else and leave (recommended). When you’re dealing with someone at this level of insanity, there’s not really a third option.

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