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. Boss wants me to take a pay cut

I work for a company with less than 10 employees and no HR department. My boss is talking about me taking a pay cut as one of the top earners, but not everyone on staff, just me. At what point does the pay cut become so much that the job is no longer viable and unemployment benefits would be better? My boss wants me to resign so that I will not be able to collect benefits because she doesn’t want her unemployment taxes go up. It’s all very questionable and I want to protect myself and protect any future unemployment benefits.

I’d start by looking into unemployment laws in your state. You might find that by cutting your pay significantly, your employer is creating what’s called a “constructive discharge,” a term that means that any reasonable person would quit under these circumstances, and if that’s the case you might be eligible for unemployment after all. You want to know whether that’s true in your state and if so, what level of pay cut would qualify. Call up your local unemployment agency and ask.

Meanwhile, though, start an active job search. If your boss is trying to push you out, you’re going to need one at some point anyway, and it’s easier to find a job when you already have one.

2. Can I reschedule an interview that I earlier canceled?

On December 10, I received an email invitation to interview for a job, and made an appointment for the following week. Unfortunately, while the job was a perfect “next step” for me, the commute would be heinous (this is the D.C. metro Area) and the pay would is not quite enough to justify a move. I had contemplated the commute before applying, but it turned out to be a lot more involved than I originally anticipated. After much thought and consideration concerning how much I would have to go through in a day to get to this job and back (11 hour days using public transit), I cancelled the interview. I had also gotten a couple of other interview offers during the same time period, which helped to make the decision a little easier at the time.

I am now regretting this decision. Is there any point in contacting the company to see if they are still interested? I now feel that I might be able to make the commute a little more bearable somehow. Perhaps a vanpool or something to that effect.

You can certainly try, but be prepared for them to have already filled the job or moved forward with other candidates, or to be highly skeptical of your level of commitment. Employers are already often wary of hiring people with lengthy commutes, because they worry that the person will eventually tire of the commute and start looking for something closer. In your case, they already know that it’s a serious concern for you. However, you have nothing to lose by checking back with them and seeing if anything comes of it; if you’re truly interested in the job, you might as well try.

3. I made a typo in my post-interview thank-you note

I had a successful interview for a marketing manager position last week at a very small start-up. Because I’m also working full-time, I was swamped and quickly shot off a thank-you email including links to my work samples (my apps indicate that they have already reviewed my samples and email).

To my horror, I realized today that there’s a major typo in the subject line: “Thank You for the Inverview.” I have had maybe only two typos in my life and I’m panicking. Should I send them the thanks letter again to acknowledge my error “oops, sorry for the typo, I was really busy, I hope you don’t hold it against me, etc.” or should I avoid contacting them? (They aren’t writers…maybe they didn’t notice?)

I probably would — because it’s better to be the person who makes typos but notices them than the person who makes typos and doesn’t notice or care. But it should be shorter than your proposed language here — just “Please excuse the typo in the subject line; how mortifying!” or something like that.

(Also, only two typos in your life? That’s basically superhuman.)

4. Health insurance premiums at my new job are crazy high

I have a question about benefits. I started a new job last year, and beyond asking whether the company provided health insurance, didn’t ask any more details during the offer negotiation. After I started the job and saw a few of my paychecks, I was very startled to see how much the health insurance premium was — six times what the premium was at my last job. I’ve only ever worked at big companies before and am now at a small company, so I understand that makes a big difference. But it’s also very frustrating to see 10 percent of my take-home pay going towards health insurance. I have two questions for you — for the future, is it acceptable to ask what the dental/health premiums are before accepting a job and negotiating salary based on how much it might be? Is there anything I can do now to ask my company if there are cheaper options? In any case, I’m thankful to be healthy, have a job, and have health insurance!

Yes, you can absolutely ask about premiums before accepting a new job — it’s something that can potentially have a big impact on your take-home pay, as you’re seeing.

As for what to do now, you can indeed say that you were surprised at the cost of the premium (useful feedback for them to know) and ask if cheaper options are available.

5. Manager wants to be notified whenever I use the bathroom

I feel silly asking this but I am also feeling a bit humiliated. I work in a very large office (and I mean very large). I have a manager who micromanages everything. She insists that every time we leave the area even to go to the bathroom we must inform her and we must inform her why. To me this is humiliating. I’m 55-years-old and I don’t need to ask permission to go to the john. I refuse to do this. How do I tell her in a professional but forceful way that I am not going to tell her when I need to leave my desk to go to the bathroom? I am a very good employee and one of area’s top producers as indicated by my reviews and my annual bonus. I have no disiplinary actions in my file..no warnings..nothing.

You can certainly say, “Jane, I’m an adult and an excellent performer, and I find it humiliating to inform you every time I need to use the bathroom. If there is a problem with my productivity, please tell me, but I intend to keep my bathroom habits private.” You can also talk to your HR department if you have one; they may not know your manager is doing this and might intervene if you tell them.

However, ultimately, if your manager wants to require bathroom notifications and HR doesn’t stop her, it’s her prerogative to do so. Her ridiculous, poorly thought-out prerogative, but her prerogative nonetheless. At that point, you’d need to decide how much of a stand you’re willing to take over it.

6. Can employers ask if you’re currently employed?

Can an employer can ask if an applicant is currently employed? Several jobs that I have come across for which I would like to apply have asked this question and I was not certain if this was legal or appropriate. So much of the job search is weighted against the applicant and this seems to put an applicant at a further disadvantage. And why is it easier to get a job if you already have a job? I don’t understand the logic.

Yes, employers can ask if you’re currently employed, just like they can ask about any other element of your job history.

As for why it’s easier to get a job when you already have one … There are a few reasons for this, some ridiculous and others less so. Some employers believe that if you were let go from a previous job, there must have a been a reason. Sometimes this is true, such as in the case of firings, and sometimes it’s not, such as in the case of layoffs where entire departments were cut — but employers often worry that they’re not getting the real story. And many employers believe that great people tend to be snatched up quickly, so if you’re still looking, they may assume you’re not a strong candidate — especially if you’ve been unemployed for a long time. What’s frustrating is that these things are all true of some unemployed candidates … but they’re not true of all unemployed candidates, and it’s short-sighted to paint everyone with the same brush.

One more thing: Employed candidates often come across as significantly more confident. They’re in a position to interview the company right back and it’s often clear they’re not going to jump at the first thing that comes along. That alone can make someone a more attractive candidate.

7. Love my recruiter, hate the job opening

I have a question about how to appropriately deal with a recruiter that I am working with. I recently went on an interview for a position she submitted my resume for and at the interview, I got the very strong sense that I would be extended an offer. However, after going on the interview, I truly had a bad feeling about the work environment of the company and the amount of uncompensated overtime they expected. While I am eager to get a job, I don’t want to accept one that I truly feel will make me unhappy. If an offer is extended, I am prepared to decline, but I LOVE the recruiter I am working with and do not want to damage the relationship if I turn down the position. I know recruiters work on commission, so any job offer I turn down is essentially money out of her pocket. Do you have any tips for dealing with this particular situation?

Talk to her candidly about your concerns — now. Don’t wait to see if an offer is made and surprise her with it then; tell her now what’s on your mind. That way, you’re not leaving her in the dark, and you’re also giving her useful feedback about what you’re looking for and what vibe this company is giving off. No good recruiter will fault you for turning down a job that you don’t feel is the right fit — but do fill her in about why.

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