wee answer Wednesday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s wee answer Wednesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Mentioning a large raise in your cover letter

I’m working on some draft cover letters for my job search and I was wondering if it’s ever advisable to mention getting a significant raise (~8+%) after less than a year of employment, ideally to show how my work was valued at my company. In that same vein, do people who have worked in the legal professions ever mention how many hours they billed? I got a raise, a bonus, and billed over my target after a year of hard work as a paralegal, but I’m not sure if it’s okay to mention any of that. My gut feeling is no, but I’m eager to demonstrate my worth to a new employer and I thought I’d head to AAM to see what you say! Any advice you could give would be much appreciated.

Yes, you can absolutely include that stuff. Include context so that it’s clear why it’s impressive. For instance, “awarded significant merit raise after X months” or “was billing at X% over target after one year,” etc. (Disclaimer: Maybe this shouldn’t actually be done in the legal industry — readers?– but it’s the kind of thing that would certainly work outside of it.)

2. Coworker won’t stop wearing heavy perfume, even after HR talked with her

There is a coworker in my office who repeatedly wears so much perfume that the odor stays in the areas where she works and walks through. It is extremely strong and bothers several other employees. Our former HR director, who has now left, spoke with her about this issue, but she only started wearing her scent more heavily. We do have an HR coordinator still. Should this now be addressed a second time through these channels? I read in one of your articles about saying to the offender “Jane, I love your perfume, but I have allergies to scents and it sometimes bothers me, could you wear a little less when you are at the office?” But since there were several employees, none of whom wanted to approach this person, it was addressed by HR. But, as you can see from my statement above, she just started wearing it stronger. Any suggestions?

Her manager or HR should talk to her and tell her — not ask her, tell her — not to wear perfume that others can smell. If the problem continues after that, they need to tell her in sterner terms that she’s creating an uncomfortable environment for her coworkers and that the directive to stop wearing it is as much as a part of her job requirements as anything else — i.e., not optional.

3. Mentioning religious motivation for applying for a job

I’m a recent grad looking for a part-time position (I already have a great part-time gig, and am looking to supplement my hours a bit). I’m looking specifically in the nonprofit realm, because my religious beliefs motivate me to do social good not only in my private life, but my professional life as well. (I’m a member of the Religious Society of Friends, a.k.a. Quakers. A religious affiliation chosen in adult life, not one I was raised with.) However, I am afraid I am overqualified for many positions I’ve found, as I have a Bachelor’s degree (in a hard science).

My question is this: should I mention my religious affiliation as a motivator for seeking socially-laudable-but-low-paying work in my cover letters, or should I just skip it, so as not to overshare with potential employers?

Don’t mention your religion to employers. It’s too much a violation of workplace norms and will make employers uncomfortable (since it’s illegal for them to take your religion into account when making hiring decisions). However, you can certainly explain that your personal ethics and worldview emphasize charitable work, and that you’re strongly committed to working for social good.

4. Relocating when you can’t explain why you’re relocating

I am an assistant pastry chef currently living in the midwest. In about two years, I would like to be able to relocate to either coast in a similar position. I plan to spend the next two years attending a few short courses on pastry, building an online portfolio, and of course continuing my current job at a boutique hotel.

Much of the advice I see online presumes that I am moving to a specific place for a specific reason, and the sample resumes and cover letters reflect this. Do you have any advice on long-distant job searches when I’m not relocating for any reason other than that I would like to relocate?

Yes: Come up with a reason. Employers considering long-distance candidates tend to want to be reassured that the candidate is committed to moving to — and staying — in their area. Someone who just wants to relocate anywhere and doesn’t really care where is likely to be looked upon with skepticism. So when you’re applying for a job in San Diego, come up with reasons why you’re excited to move to San Diego, specifically. When you’re applying for a job in Boston, come up with reasons why you’re excited to move to Boston, specifically. And so forth. (And if you can’t come up with any such reasons for a particular city, reconsider whether you really should be applying to jobs in that city.)

5. Collecting on a finder’s fee

I am wondering about finders/referral fees. I mainly do political and online consultant work, and I was asked for advice on an advertising project. I knew someone that specialized in this field, so I asked him if it would be alright if I recommend him. He said yes, so I then asked for a finders/referral fee to be involved, which he agreed to (all over chat/email). Although I did not get the exact amount/fee in writing beforehand, I have a good working relationship with the party involved and we both understand that 5-10% is the industry standard.

Now the project is wrapped up, so I am wondering how to properly follow up with collecting the finders/referral fees? We have a good relationship, but I want to make sure the wording is diplomatic and commanding at the same time. If you could recommend how to respond in regards to collecting finders/referral fees, I will greatly appreciate it. Also, if you have any recommendations on how to properly set and document finders/referral fees in the future, that would be quite helpful.

I have zero experience with finders fees, so maybe someone who does can chime in here. What I can tell you, though, is that you need to get this stuff in writing at the start. That gives you a natural way to collect, and it also prevents the surprises that are inevitable when you haven’t even nailed down the amount of the fee. After all, you may be thinking 5-10%, but he may be thinking 100 bucks. And trying to collect “in a commanding way” on an agreement that was never fleshed out with real numbers is a good way to sour a relationship.

If this is a normal thing in your field, get a standard agreement, and shoot it over to people ahead of time as a matter of course.

6. Needing the work vs. being passionate about it

Would you rather (all else being equal) hire someone who NEEDS the job or someone who doesn’t need any job, but is passionate enough about the job to want to do it anyway?

To clarify (if necessary), say you have narrowed a selection down to two candidates. One doesn’t need to work but loves the industry, the work, etc. The other person need to work and is just as qualified, but maybe not as passionate. Or does this matter at all?

Granted, I don’t know how exactly this would be discovered in an interview, but would love to know your thoughts on it.

If everything else is truly equal — skills, experience, accomplishments, intelligence, people skills, and culture fit — then I’ll go for the candidate who’s more passionate about the work. That person is more likely to be engaged in the work, to go all out to get more done, and to think creatively about the work than someone who just needs a job. Plus, the person who’s less passionate about the work is more likely to leave when something that interests the more comes along. These are obviously wild generalizations, but hey, I’m responding to a hypothetical about two totally equal candidates, which rarely happens in practice.

Side note: It’s worth mentioning that passion on its own isn’t a qualification and should never be viewed as a substitute for talent; it’s only valuable when it’s attached to the skills to do the job well.

7. Asking for feedback on interview skills after being rejected

I’m currently applying for jobs and I went to an interview recently that I felt went quite well. While I did not receive a call back from the employer, I was wondering if it was polite to ask for a critique of my interviewing skills or whether to bite my tongue?

Don’t ask for a critique of your interviewing skills; that’s not an employer’s job. They’re not job coaches, after all. However, you can certainly ask for feedback on your candidacy overall — that’s different.

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