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. How many questions are normally asked at a job interview?

How many questions are normally asked at a job interview? I recently graduated college and I’m preparing to go on my first job interview, so I would like know this in order to be fully prepared for the interview.

It really depends — on the interviewer, the candidate, the job, and the length of the interview. Some interviews are as short as half an hour (with some phone screens shorter than that). Some are an hour, and some are longer. Probably the average is about an hour, with anywhere from 15-30 questions. It just varies. And of course, a good interview will have plenty of unplanned follow-up questions, building from whatever your answer was.

2. Should I question my manager about her reminder about overtime approval?

I’m eligible for overtime in my current role. Overtime policy at this company says that hours recorded below 45 hours per week do not need management approval (where time above 40 hours would be overtime). This week, I clocked in 6 hours of overtime in a 2-week period and received a reminder from my manager to let her know if I was having issues managing my workload.

Do I concede here? Or question her on the policy? I’m concerned this will turn into a divisive issue if I say anything.

It’s more likely to be divisive if you approach it the way it sounds like you’re approaching it here (with talking of conceding and questioning her). Instead, just ask for clarification, without assuming there’s anything unfair or unreasonable going on: “Just to make sure I’m doing this correctly — my understanding is that I should check with you before working more than 5 hours of overtime in a week, but your note makes me wonder if you’d rather I check with you before that?” (And it’s certainly her prerogative to ask you to do that, regardless of what the company-wide policy is.)

3. Manager won’t let me leave four minutes early

I have been in my current job for 4 months and have recently changed teams within my department, meaning changing managers. I work on a help desk, which involes me logging onto an agent system that moniters my calls. My shift is 8:30-5 pm with an hour lunch. Last Friday, I logged off at 4:56 to get myself ready and out the door dead on 5 pm. (I had a 35-mile drive home that I was not looking forward to). I received an email the next Monday morning from my line manager saying that I am to stay logged on untill 5 pm as those are my hours. This seems like a fair statment, right?

Well, I’m not the only help desk in my office, but I am the only one made to stay on the help desk untill 5 pm exactly, which means I am covering for everyone else in office, although we all log onto a different type of help desk; if they are all logged off, then their calls will be directed to me. Not only that, but if I do receive a call at 4 minutes to 5 because there is no one else in the office and all other members of my team have finished for the day, there is nothing I can do to resolve the call. I am the go-to person for the “all inquiries” option, so for me to help other people I need to direct them to correct person, which is not possible if they have all left for the day. There is also the fact that when I do receive a call at 4 minutes to 5 that the phone call can last over 5 minutes if the caller is chatting away, meaning I am always leaving work past 5 pm!

I would be happy to stay late on the odd day if on the odd day I can leave at 4 minutes to 5! Not everyday, but maybe on a Friday when I have a 35-mile drive! Also, I am never late; in fact I am on average 15 minutes early everyday! I just feel it’s completely unfair and would like a manager’s opinion.

If you’re supposed to be on the phone until 5, then you need to stay logged in until 5. And if that means your last call keeps you longer than 5, well, that sounds like part of the job. Arguing over this because you want to leave four minutes early is going to be wasted effort. This is not a job with flexible hours (uh, flexible minutes, in this case); if they’re telling their customers that they call until 5, that means 5 — not 4:56. It sounds like your real issue is that other coworkers are leaving early, leaving you with no one to direct their calls to. That’s an issue that you could raise with your manager, to find out how she’d like that handled.

4. My friend wants to recommend me for a job that I’m not sure I want

I’m about to finish my master’s degree and am obviously engaged in a pretty intensive job search. A friend of mine works for a large international company that is far outside the field I’ve studied and hope to pursue. She loves her job and knows they are hiring, so she has asked me to send her my resume so that she can pass it along to higher-ups in her company. I am obviously appreciative of her help, but I’m not sure it’s a job I’m qualified for, and, furthermore, not sure it’s one I’d want. Though she seems firmly convinced I can do the work and is willing to vouch for me to her supervisors, is it a mistake to have her pass along my resume? I am concerned that if it is far outside the qualification range they’re looking for or if they hire me and I say no, it will reflect badly on her. While I’m not sure I don’t want to work for this company, I definitely would rather prioritize my friend’s success over a job I am so uncertain about.

Interviewing for a job doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to accept it if it’s offered to you, so I wouldn’t worry about that — unless you’re 100% sure you wouldn’t accept it, in which case there’s no point in wasting your time or theirs. The bigger issue would be that she can harm her own credibility by recommending someone who’s obviously not the right profile for the job (which may or may not be the case here; that’s something that you and she will have to judge).

5. Can a manager send performance reviews on without employees ever seeing them?

Can a supervisor legally write quarterly reviews for employees and submit them to upper management without the employees ever seeing the document? The reviews were included in a quarterly account report that allocated two pages to reviewing employee strengths, weaknesses and suggested career path.

Yes. The law doesn’t govern how your company chooses to manage, as long as they’re not discriminating against legally protected classes (i.e., making decisions based on race, religion, sex, etc.) or a few other very narrowly defined areas of law.

Why not just ask your manager if you can see your evaluation? If this is a crazy, unreasonable system (and it certainly might be, while still being perfectly legal), she might say no, but it’s a reasonable question to ask.

6. Explaining that I’m looking for another job because I’m working under the table

If I’m looking for a new job because I’m uncomfortable with being paid in cash and working under the table, could I be honest about this in an interview or should I come up with another reason? If so, what could I say in lieu of this?

Well, it will implicate you in agreeing to an illegal set-up, which isn’t great. I’d try to find another credible reason if you can. But if you can’t, then you could just say something like, “They’re paying us in cash, which I’m uncomfortable with.”

7. Should I follow up with HR while the hiring manager is out of the office?

A week and a half ago, I interviewed with the senior marketing manager for an entry-level position with this company. She said the interview went well and wanted to set me up for a second appointment with some of her colleagues, and told me that I should expect contact within the next week.

Given that a week has passed, I emailed her today following up, reiterating my interest, and asking for an updated timeline if things have changed. I got an automated reply saying that she’s out of the office until May 2nd.

I also have the contact information of the human resources manager — the one who initially contact me to set up the appointment with the marketing manager. Should I contact her to ask about my status? Or would that be uncalled for/strange, and I should just wait til Thursday?

Don’t ask about your status; that’s a semi-weird question. But it would be fine to email the HR person and say that the hiring manager mentioned that she’d like you to interview with another group of people, and ask about the timeline for setting that up. Unless the hiring manager made it clear that you’d be hearing from her — in which case, yes, wait until she’s back in the office (and don’t email a second time until at least another week or two has passed; she’ll see your first email when she returns).

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