tiny answer Tuesday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Current manager seems to have hurt me with prospective new manager

I have gone for an internal interview with my firm. My current manager had a meeting with my prospective future manager (also his manager) regarding his concern for my leaving the department and my future wages. My prospective manager then proceeded to call me in before my interview to tell me that the new job will not benefit me financially, and that perhaps if that’s all I’m interested in, I should cancel the interview.

I have to admit that I had hoped for better wages, but the opportunity to better my career was what had attracted me to the position. My current manager has made many comments on how I will hate the new job, etc. I’m sure he’s just a little nervous that I’ll leave, but surely he shouldn’t have spoken about what my prospective wages could/should be?

I don’t know what your manager said to the prospective new manager, but yes, in most cases it would be a little inappropriate for him to discussing your future wages with the other manager. (Not illegal, just weird.) However, if he’s come to genuinely believe through managing you that you’re primarily motivated by money and wouldn’t be happy in the new job, it would make sense that he relayed those impressions to the other guy, since this is an internal interview and it’s generally expected that managers involved in an internal move will be pretty candid with each other. Regardless, though, I hope you told the prospective new manager that your primary interest is in taking on new responsibilities, rather than allowing your manager to set the other manager’s impressions of you.

2. What to say under “reason for leaving” on job applications

In networking or in interviews, I’ve discussed my reasons for leaving past/current jobs (e.g. left job to go to grad school full time, or job was limited term appointment) at whatever length makes sense for that conversation. But in the inevitable employment application form that I fill out during the hiring process, what should I put in the little box under “Employment History” for “Reason for Leaving”? Do I need a detailed reason here, or do they just need to know whether I resigned voluntarily or was laid off/fired? I’m sure that conversations with humans count more than files in HR records, but I just wanted to check what is expected on such forms.

It’s fine to just indicate whether you resigned, were laid off, or were fired. You can certainly add additional explanation if you want (“left for new job,” “returned to school,” or whatever), but generally, if they want more information, they’ll ask for it.

3. How many interviews is too many for an assistant position?

How many in-person interviews would you deem excessive for an assistant position? I am heading to my third of what I was told will be four.

That’s slightly higher than normal, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. If the interviews aren’t particularly effective — not thorough, not probing the right areas, repetitive or rambling — then they’re just wasting your time and theirs. But if the interviews are good, it means they’re concerned about hiring the right person and are proceeding cautiously — which makes a lot of sense. Frankly, it’s pretty silly how many employers hire people after only talking to them for an hour or two.

4. Dealing with a negative, narcissistic boss

I’m dealing with a boss who is negative almost all the time. Every conversation I have with him starts out with a criticism of someone who sent him an email, someone he had a meeting with, something that happened in our firm that he doesn’t like. He overtly criticizes his peers to me and everyone below his level, but never his boss. He has favorites on our staff, and announces things like “Staff Member A or B is my favorite employee.” Alternatively, he will come back from lunch and he is happy, or as happy as he can be. The difference is so startling sometimes that I wonder if he had several cocktails at lunchtime. His reactions are hard to predict….sometimes he is amenable and will agree, other times he will say no and go off on a rant. He is somewhat of a narcissist — only his jokes are the funny ones, he doesn’t really like or pay attention to other staff unless he needs something or unless they are one of his favorites, he doesn’t even acknowledge staff with a “good morning” unless they are one of his favorites, etc. He has never given me a compliment on my work (which my former boss praised often and which other people in the organization acknowledge) and I have never heard him compliment others, except for his favorites.

I wonder sometimes if this is just his personality or if he is bipolar. Any suggestions on how to deal with this? I don’t see any signs of him leaving the firm anytime soon (unfortunately) even though the rumor circulating is that he is seriously job-hunting.

It doesn’t really matter if he’s bipolar or not since the end result is the same — he’s negative and difficult to work with. You need to decide how much you care, and whether or not this is a deal-breaker for you. Assume he’s not going anywhere and he’s not going to change. Do you still want to work there? If so, you’ve got to look at this as part of the package and be clear in your own head about what you’re getting in return.

5. Is there a point of diminishing returns for internships?

I recently completed a professional masters’ degree and am looking for full-time work in my field. Everyone in my field recommends doing internships until you can find an actual job, which I’m totally prepared to do, although, as someone in my late thirties, I have to admit that I’m a little unenthusiastic about working for free or very little for the forseeable future. Is there a point of diminishing returns when it comes to internships on your resume? I’ve seen statements from people who hire in my field stating that they are more interested in proof of a stable work history than fancy internships. But my very stable work history is clearly not getting me anywhere right now. Is there a point where it just looks bad for you that all you can get are internships rather than “real work”? I’m starting to get worried about competing against next year’s graduates at this point.

In general, regular (non-intern) jobs in your field are better than internships in your field. And yes, years of internships after you’ve graduated are going to raise questions. But even so, internships in your field are better than no work in your field, or unrelated work. Assuming your choice is between another internship in your field or something totally unrelated, and assuming you want to stay in your field, go with the internship.

6. Someone competing for the same job as me gave my name as a reference

I was laid off back in February, and I have had a hard time finding another role. I am currently a finalist for a position that I would really love. Today, I found out that a former colleague of mine is up for the same position, and without letting me know, he wrote me down as a reference. When the recruiter called me, she let me know he was one of their top candidates before she realized I was the same person who was also in the running. I was a bit upset and caught off guard that he had put me down. It came across as I was talking to her, and I felt terrible. I sent her an email afterwards, stating, “I am sorry I was caught off guard by your voicemail. I was unaware that Brian had put me down as a reference for the same job I had applied to, I would have politely declined if he did. Unfortunately I don’t think it would be right for me to be a reference for him for this position. I apologize for the confusion, I hope you understand. Thank you.” I also found out he found out about the position by looking on my LinkedIn profile and emailing someone I was connected to. He also lied on his resume, which puts me in a bad position.

I am not sure if I handled the situation correctly and I am hoping to save face. I know she is in the process of contacting my references as well, but is there a better way to handle this? Should I just walk away?

Why would you walk away? You’re a finalist for a position that you think you’d love. You were candid with the recruiter about the fact that you didn’t feel comfortable providing a reference for this guy, and that’s all you need to say. As long as you weren’t inappropriately emotional or negative when you were speaking to her, you shouldn’t need to worry.

7. How much work history do you need to include on a job application?

I’ve heard lots of conflicting advice regarding the “work history” section of a job application. Some say you need to include your complete working history since you’ve started working; others say you only need include your most recent 3-5 jobs or most relevant jobs. What’s your take on this issue?

If the application doesn’t specify how complete a history it wants, then give whatever casts your candidacy in the strongest light. For most people, that’s roughly the last 10 years of work history, but that can vary depending on your specific situation. However, many applications ask for a complete work history; in that case, you need to decide if you’re willing to play that (often ridiculous) game or not.

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