Editor's note: Inc.com columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues-everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.
Here's a roundup of answers to five questions from readers.
1. How fast is too fast to reject a job candidate?
Sometimes we screen a job candidate and know pretty much immediately that the person won't be a good fit. But I feel like it might be discouraging to be on the other end of such a situation (to interview and be declined the same day). Right now, I've been waiting a day or two before passing on a candidate in these cases. Does this seem like an acceptable timeline, or should I be sucking it up and letting a candidate know right away that they haven't made the cut?
I usually wait a week, because many people find it insulting to be rejected so quickly after an interview. The reality is that very few candidates require days of consideration before you decide they're a no--the people who make it to the end-stages often do, but early on in the process, you often know as soon as the phone interview is completed (or during it) that you won't be moving the person forward. I'd love to be fully transparent and tell them that immediately, but too many people feel slighted or argue the decision or just feel dejected (like "I'm so awful that they didn't even have to think about it"). So I wait a week, which seems like a reasonable amount of time.
2. My boss interrupted me in a meeting
I'm in a job that demands the most of my resources. I'm a pretty good thinker, but I never planned to end up in business analysis, and I'm surrounded by people who have majored in this stuff and gobble it up. It's challenging, to say the least, and I'm often out to sea when they're all running ahead. I'm afraid I'm being seen as less competent than I'd like to be.
Last week in a meeting, when a particularly tricky analysis was being discussed and it just didn't make sense to me, I started to voice a train of thought and paused for a moment, and right in the middle of it my normally polite boss just picked up and changed the subject. Also, my manager has said in meetings, "what Jane is trying to say is..." and I'm not the go-to person for answers. But one-on-one I'm fine! It's scary, and it's frustrating. How do you privately address a boss who interrupted you in a meeting and it's still burning you up?
I think the issue here is less about talking to your boss about interrupting you and more about figuring out the bigger picture here. Is this the right role for you, and the right company? If you're struggling and not following along in meetings, and your boss has stopped waiting for you to work through your thoughts and you feel less competent than others, these might be signals about overall fit. That means that being irked at your boss is a side issue; the bigger one is what all of this is telling you about your long-term success in this role.
If you have good rapport with your boss, it might be worth talking with her about what you've noticed and saying that you're trying to figure out what feedback to take away from these instances. Don't do this if you're not prepared for hear fairly critical feedback, because you might ... but on the other hand, you might hear that you're doing fine overall and these thing are minor in the overall scheme of things, and that could give you more peace of mind.
3. My new job just reposted an ad for my position
I recently got a new job and have been working there for a week. It's a copywriting position, and I was hired to replace another recent hire whose work was not up to par. This company puts new employees on a 90-day probationary period to start and then evaluates their work and determines whether to offer them full employment.
After a week on the job, I feel reasonably confident that things are going well. I've always had strong writing skills, and my superiors have told me directly that I'm doing a good job and am picking up on things quickly. Yesterday, however, I happened to notice that the listing for this job had been reposted online that same day. It's the exact same ad that I answered to get an interview and this job. What does/could this mean? Should I be worried?
Speculating won't do you any good, because it could be something as innocuous as someone in HR automatically refreshing the ad by mistake. Rather than worrying without really knowing, ask your manager. Say, "I couldn't help but notice that the ad for my position was reposted today, and it made me a little anxious."
4. Mentioning to an interviewer that I'd take a more junior position
I am in an interview process. Tomorrow morning, I have a second interview for a middle management position. I do not know how things will evolve. Meanwhile, the company advertised a position that involves less responsibilities--assistant manager. If I receive a rejection for the manager position or feel that things are not going in the right direction, I am tempted to mention that I would be open to the less senior position. Any idea how I should approach them on this and still look professional?
Don't do this in the midst of an interview for the higher level position. If you don't get that job, at that point you can mention that you're interested in the more junior position--but if you mention while you're being interviewed for the more senior role, you risk making yourself look like you're not confident in your own skills. They're giving you a second interview so they think you're a viable candidate for this job, and so you should too.
5. Why can't I get promoted?
I have been passed over for a promotion twice in the six years of working in the same department, and three times for positions outside of my department. I have gotten my MBA, taken additional training, and am in the process of planning an event for a staff of 50. No one has any complaints about my work to my knowledge, and I was one of the top two for a promotion out of 250 applicants. I did ask the hiring manager what I could do to improve myself for the future and he said, "Nothing, it was just one of those things." Any suggestions?
You might need to go somewhere else to get a higher-level job. Your company isn't necessarily sending you a signal that they don't plan to promote you (it's possible that there were simply better candidates each time), but (a) they should absolutely be giving you some feedback on how to better position yourself at this point, and (b) after six years there, there's no reason not to be looking at all your options if you'd like to move up.
Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.