It’s wee answer Wednesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…
1. Interviewer mentioned contacting my current boss
I was on a phone interview recently and was asked, “What 3 good qualities would your current boss say about you?” And then the interviewer proceeded to let me know if this goes further they may call him for a reference. I couldn’t imagine that was a serious thought, right? How can someone possibly think it would be OK to call someone’s current boss for information about a potential employee for them?
It’s typical for employers to either agree not to contact your current employee for a reference, or to do so only when they’re ready to make an offer. Either way, you should control whether or not it happens, and what the timing is. If you move forward in this hiring process, say something like this at the next contact: “When I spoke with Jane, she mentioned that you might be contacting my current manager for a reference at some point in the process. My employer does not know that I’m job searching and I need to be discreet at this point in the process. At what point do you typically reach out to a current employer? I’ll obviously need to speak with her before that happens.”
2. Factoring overtime pay into salary history
I’m a little unsure how to answer the question about salary at my most recent job and hoped to get your advice on this subject. This position had a base salary, but it was a non-exempt position so I also received overtime. When a prospective employer requests my salary history, I’m unsure if I should give my base salary or my actual take-home pay … which was a bit higher than my base. The concern with providing my actual pay is a prospective employer potentially being given a lower number than I provided (ie = my base pay) if they call to verify my salary and this disqualifying me from a job offer, but I also don’t want to cheat myself out of a potentially higher salary by not providing my total compensation. My W2′s could serve as validation of the discrepancy if pressed, but I’d hate to think it would come to this.
If you choose to share your salary history at all — which I maintain is no one’s business but yours — just be clear about what the numbers are. Say something like, “My base salary was $X, but with overtime, I earned $Y.”
3. Asking a recruiter about a position in a different location
About three weeks back, I applied for a position at a certain company at location x. Today, I heard from a recruiter from their company who wrote me to see if I would be interested in a different position at location y. I feel unqualified for the position at location y. (They’re both creative positions but require different software experience, so I have experience relevant to x but not to y.) I would like to reach out to her to inquire about the position I originally applied for at location x. How could I politely go about turning her down and inquiring about another position at the same time?
Just be direct: “I don’t think Y is a great fit for me because it emphasizes experience in Z, which I don’t have, but I’m actually very interested in X, which I applied for a few weeks ago. I’d love to talk with you about that if you think it’s a good fit.” (However, keep in mind that software can be learned, so if you’re turning down Y only because of that, it might be worth rethinking.)
4. Declining to give a mandatory contribution for office holiday gifts
I have been employed at my current job three years. I was shocked my first year there when I was told I was expected to contribute to a fund for Christmas gifts for the physicians and PAs. I was hoping you may have some advice as to how to decline or defend against this “mandatory” contribution.
I thought that this year I may suggest I would do something on my own, such as bake cookies, but I don’t want to continue this tradition at all. My “gift” is working hard every day! And now there are more people employed at the top level but the support staff is the same or fewer. There is an extremely high turnover rate. I am tired of sucking it up and compromising professionalism on so many levels so much of the time. My manager is a nice person and has a big heart, but he may be the worst manager ever! Horrible communication, misdirected priorities, finger pointing, lack of confidentiality, there is NO line drawn between personal and professional, and on and on and on.
You can simply say, “I can’t participate this year.” You don’t need to go into your reasons. If some of your coworkers feel the same way, you can also talk to them and suggest that you speak up and say you want to discontinue the tradition, since there are already so many demands on people at the holidays.
5. Explaining why I’m going “back” to an admin position
I am currently applying for administrative/assistant positions. I have done this type of work for several years in the past, and I am well-qualified. The only concern that I have trouble explaining in a job interview is that I currently am not an administrative assistant. I left an admin role to work in a much more front-line sales position, and the question I am asked frequently is why I am interested in going “back” to a support position. The completely honest answer is that I just had a baby and I have an ill family member, so I am looking for a job with more consistent hours and where I can leave my office worries at the door come 5:00 pm. But if I said that in a job interview, I feel I would come across as unmotivated and possibly unreliable because I have admitted to these personal commitments. I am not unmotivated. I work hard, I take pride in doing a good job, and I take initiative. I am just looking for a better work-life balance. Is there any good/less concerning way of answering this type of question?
You shouldn’t get into a discussion of your personal commitments, but it’s completely reasonable to say that you found admin work more satisfying than the sales work you’d moved into and you’re eager to return to that career.
6. Can I apply without going through this recruiter?
A recruiter contacted me about a position I had not seen before, but I happen to know people at the company. The job is posted on the company website. So my question is, am I obligated to apply for the job through this recruiter, since I wouldn’t have known about the opening otherwise? Perhaps I’m being soft, as I feel the recruiter did me a favour by telling me who he’s recruiting for. It looks really promising, so I want to get my application in the best way possible.
Hmmm. The recruiter’s contract with the company might require that he get credit for the hire, if you’re hired — which isn’t your problem, but it could become your problem if it turns into a disagreement between the recruiter and the company. Realistically, if you were to tell the recruiter that you’d spotted the position and were planning to reach out to your contacts there, he wouldn’t know the difference … but it wouldn’t really be ethical to do that. The reality is that the recruiter earned his fee in this case, and you’d be interfering with that.
7. I want my boss’s job in 5-7 years
I am a hospitality manager at a nonprofit organization. I love what I do! I love the company I work for! I love everything about the job! Right now! I am way underpaid for what I do in the field that I am in. That is not a problem. I am more concerned about the limited advancement opportunites. Like I said, I love everything about my job now. However, I am worried that I am not going to be happy doing it for the next 25 to 30 years. If I were to move into my boss’s position when he retires (5-7 years), I believe I would be happy with the job and pay for the rest of my career. I fear that they may choose someone from the outside. Most of my peers would not want the position, but we all do work closely together. Human Resources may realize this as well and determine that an outside candidate would be best. That is where my boss came from.
I have asked multiple people about my future here and I have not had any real solid answers. I had applied for a similar position to my bosses and it was filled internally (seemed political). Which I am okay with. Should I consider other opportunities elsewhere? If I leave, would that open up that door when my boss retired?
It’s normal to not think you’ll be happy doing your current job for the next 25 years, even though you like it now. That’s the case for most people. You shouldn’t be getting anxious about the fact that you may eventually need to change jobs or companies; that’s normal and something you should expect.
You can certainly mention to your boss that you’d love to be considered for his job when he retires in 5-7 years, ask if he thinks they’d prefer external candidates, and ask what you can do now to start positioning yourself to be a strong candidate when that day comes — but keep in mind that that’s a long way off. I wouldn’t leave a job you love just because it might help you get a different job in 7 years — the odds aren’t good enough. Instead, just talk to your boss and get his advice.