It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Did I annoy this employer with too many follow-up emails?
I recently applied for what is essentially my dream job and got an automated response saying that all applications would receive a reply, whether positive or negative. A week and a half later, I sent a follow-up email, saying that I understood that the application deadline was still a week away but that I wanted to restate my interest in the position. I would normally have left it there, but because the automated response had specifically said that all applications would receive a reply, when I hadn’t heard anything a week before the posted start date I worried that my application might not have been received, so I followed up again, this time by emailing the person who would have been my supervisor had I gotten the job, explaining that while I was sorry to bother her, I worried that because the deadline had passed, I might not get a response to another email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Three days after the posted start date, I sent another email to email@example.com, saying that while I of course understood if they had chosen not to interview me, I was worried that there might have been some problem with my application. I finally got a response from a member of HR, saying that there had been a delay in the hiring process and they’d let me know soon. I thanked her for letting me know, said again that I was just worried because I hadn’t heard anything, and restated my interest in the position (mostly because I thought not answering her at all would be rude). A week and a half after that, I got a form letter of rejection.
I know that most job applications end in rejection, but I was a little surprised that I wasn’t interviewed, as the qualifications for the position were quite strange and eclectic and I had all of them. Of course, plenty of qualified applicants don’t get interviews, but the required skills were such an unusual combination that I don’t think there’d be that many qualified applicants. Is it possible that I was too persistent and damaged my chances? Like I said, I normally wouldn’t have followed up so many times, and probably wouldn’t have followed up at all given that I wasn’t contacted for any kind of interview or skills test, but this company specifically said that all applications would receive a reply, so when I didn’t get one, I thought there might have been a problem. At every step, I tried to be very polite and mention that I understood if they just didn’t want to interview me, but do you think three follow-ups in a seven week period comes off as pushy anyway?
Yes. That was too many emails. I wouldn’t reject an otherwise excellent candidate because of those emails so I suspect it’s more likely that you got rejected for more routine reasons (i.e., that other people were a better match) — but the emails would be annoying and a strike against you.
One follow-up email is fine when it’s been a while and you haven’t heard anything. (Even then, I don’t recommend it if you haven’t reached the interview stage.) But first you emailed a week and a half after submitting your application just to reiterate your interest — that was unnecessary because you’d already indicated your interest when you applied. Then you sent two more emails on top of that.
And yes, I see why you were concerned close to the start date and you hadn’t heard anything — but at that point, what were you hoping to achieve? Either the start date got pushed back, in which case it was no longer relevant, or the start date remained correct, in which case you weren’t the one who was hired. In either case, it didn’t make sense to keep checking back with them after your initial email went unanswered. It especially didn’t make sense to try the same question but to a second email address — at that point you were coming across as panicky (which is unwarranted when you haven’t even had a conversation about the job with anyone there) and pushy.
It sounds like you got overly invested in this job opening — and hey, that happens. But if you’re not in active conversation with an employer, you really can’t keep sending email after email. You can do at most one follow-up, and then you’ve got to move on.
2. I’m not sure I should work with my childhood friend
I’ve been job searching for about a month now, and have received only one interview request out of my 10 applications. After mentioning the situation to a local childhood friend of mine, she very enthusiastically told me that her current workplace had a position open. As fate would have it, I had worked with the hiring manager before, and she fast-tracked me in for an interview and offered me the job on the spot.
I’m incredibly grateful to have this opportunity. However, I can’t shake my gut feeling that accepting this job would be a bad idea. I’ve known my childhood friend (and potential new coworker) since we were toddlers. Our friendship now is more based on shared history than an actual meshing of personalities/adult interests, but I still like her as a person. As a coworker, I’m wary. I worry that she’ll act less like a coworker and more like an older sibling once I’m in the workplace. She likes to joke about different childhood interactions — specifically, how I’ve always been a bookworm, had a resting bitch face, etc. I get an intense sense of dread just imagining dealing with this dynamic every day in a new workplace. (We would be in different departments but would spend a good chunk of time in the same open-plan office. The entire office is less than 15 people, and from what she’s told me, it’s very common for everyone to chat/joke as they work.)
Additionally, her workplace provides assistance to vulnerable populations, and she’s often joked about how she shuts down any rude clients by refusing to provide X program benefits (which isn’t immoral — it’s a limited-stock perk that her workplace provides to clients — but does rub me the wrong way). When I tried to speak with her about her workplace culture, she didn’t seem interested in talking about the work at all, and only focused on the great benefits package. I don’t know if this is just our workplace priorities not intersecting, or if it’s a red flag.
I’d be very wary of taking the job, based on what you’ve said here. It’s possible it would end up being fine, but you’re already feeling dread when you think about it. I’d listen to your gut.
If you were in a dire position and desperately needed work at all costs, that would be different. But you’ve only been searching a month and have only sent out 10 applications — that’s nothing! I’d make sure your resume and cover letter are as strong as they can be (most people’s have a ton of room for improvement) and keep searching.
I’m also slightly wary that they offered you the job on the spot after a single interview and without checking references. Certainly plenty of places do hire that way, but that also means that you’ll have coworkers who were hired that way as well — and that doesn’t always bode well. Ideally you want to see more rigor in how they hire. (Updated to add: Ignore this paragraph! I’d missed that you’d worked with the hiring manager previously and she already knows your work.)
3. Figuring out office culture on coming in late/leaving early
I just started a new position that I’m really excited about, and it’s going well so far, three days in. My question is, how do I figure out the office culture around coming in late/leaving early as needed? My manager has two direct reports: me (I am exempt) and another employee (non-exempt, paid hourly). At my previous employer, the important thing was whether I produced quality, on-time work, and our hours in the office weren’t monitored closely. It was expected that employees would work about 40 hours per week, but we managed our own time and didn’t get scolded for working less than 40 sometimes. It was generally fine to leave a bit early or come in late if you had a doctor’s appointment, etc. If I was going to miss a half day or longer, I would take vacation or sick time. This what I expect at the new position, but I don’t want to make wrong assumptions. Should I observe what my manager does and follow suit, or ask her directly what her expectations are? How would I word this?
For the first month, just watch. Watch your manager, and watch what people in other departments at a level similar to your job do. The coworker on your team won’t be as useful to observe since she’s non-exempt. After a month of watching, you’ll have more data than you do now — but don’t just go on that. At that point, unless you have seen signs that this is very much a butts-in-seats kind of organization, talk to your manager and say this: “How do you normally like people in my job to handle our hours? Do you want me to manage my own time as long as all my work is getting done — staying late when work requires it but occasionally leaving earlier if it doesn’t? And if I have a doctor’s appointment, is it fine to just come in late as long as long as I make sure all my work gets handled, or would you want me to submit that as PTO?
4. Employee isn’t reporting his hours correctly
I manage a non-exempt employee who regularly submits incorrect timesheets. His timesheet shows that he worked from 8:30 – 4:30 each day, although he typically arrives anywhere between 8:45 and 9:00. He doesn’t eat lunch, but he usually takes a half hour break away from his desk once or twice a day. He has been with our team for three months.
The quality of his work is acceptable, but he is getting paid for several hours of work that he’s not actually doing. There is plenty of work to do, and he could be accomplishing much more. My employer has a flexible work policy, and employees are free to flex their schedule as needed. He is free to take a break for lunch or any other reason during the day, but because he is non-exempt, he should be clocking out for those breaks. It has crossed my mind that there could be a medical issue for the long breaks, so I haven’t initiated a conversation about them. I don’t want him to feel self-conscious about bathroom breaks or medical issues if they exist, but should he be clocking out for these long breaks?
I’m a new manager (and admittedly type A) and I’m not sure how strict I should be about timekeeping or what a reasonable amount of flexibility looks like. I’m having a hard time trusting this person since he isn’t truthful about time worked. A couple of other incidents have raised trust issues as well. We are a high performing team and working less than 40 hours definitely doesn’t fit with our culture. Am I being unreasonable about timekeeping? How do I begin the potentially awkward conversation about the long breaks?
First, if your rule is that he should clock out for lunch, then he should clock out for lunch. But if he’s taking non-lunch breaks, the federal rule is that breaks under 20 minutes should be paid.
You’re not being unreasonable to expect that he report his hours correctly. But you do need to tell him that!
You can just be straightforward about all of this. Since it’s the first time you’re addressing it, treat it as a misunderstanding: “I’ve noticed you’ve been putting your arrival time as 8:30 even when you around at 8:45 or 9. Our timesheets have to be accurate, so can you make sure you’re filling it out correctly? Additionally, if you take a break longer than 20 minutes, you should clock out for that. Let’s go back and redo your timesheet for this week to make sure it’s correct and so that you’re clear on how to fill it out moving forward.”
Since you’d like to see him accomplishing more, you can be straightforward about that too: “I’m happy with the quality of the work you’re doing, but I’d like to see you completing more X and Y each week. Can you aim to (fill in with whatever markers you want to see)?” Or, depending on how your workflow works, you can just start assigning him more work or tightening deadlines or whatever would best reflect the expectations you have for him.
He’s relying on you to tell him if you need him to do something differently. This is the part where you tell him!
5. Company says they’re legally prevented from offering post-interview feedback
I recently completed in interview with a global tech company and something in the rejection letter seemed off to me. It said: “The volume of interviews we’ve been conducting combined with the quality of candidates that we’ve been talking to often forces us to make difficult decisions. Legally, my hands are tied in being able to provide any feedback.”
It’s a competitive field, so that part’s not surprising, but saying that they’re legally barred from giving feedback sounds off. I wonder if what they really mean is that their legal team prevents them from providing interview feedback to external candidates.
What’s your take on this? For context, I didn’t ask for feedback, it sounds like they wanted to preemptively cover themselves in case I wrote back asking for more details.
Yeah, assuming they’re in the U.S., that’s a weird and misleading thing to say. It’s only a legal problem for them to give feedback if that feedback would indicate that they illegally discriminated in their hiring.
I suspect you’re right that their company has told them not to give feedback “for legal reasons” and they’ve interpreted that as not being allowed to. Some companies do things that way because, even if they’re confident they’re not illegally discriminating, they don’t want hiring managers saying things that could later cause problems. For example, if they tell you they rejected you because they’re looking for more experience in X and later they end up hiring someone without that experience, and that person is a different race/age/gender than you (or you were pregnant or have a disability or so forth), now you might conclude that they didn’t tell you the truth and the real reason they rejected you was your race/age/gender/pregnancy/disability. And even if they can show that’s not the case (like the new hire didn’t have X but they turned out to have Y, which was even more important), they don’t want to deal with that headache.
But yes, it’s sloppy wording.
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did I send too many follow-up emails, I’m worried about working with a childhood friend, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.
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