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. Is it better to be the first or last interviewed?
My husband was recently invited to interview for a position he applied for. He was told that they were conducting two sessions of five back-to-back 30-minute initial interviews. Since he was the first one they contacted, he was able to pick his time slot. In a situation like this, is there an any difference or advantage in picking the first slot, or the last?
Nope. You'll hear all sorts of theories, like it's better to go first so that you're the bar against which they judge everyone else, or that it's better to go last because they'll remember you more. But none of it really matters. If you're a great candidate, they're not going to forget you, and if you're not a great candidate, it won't matter anyway. Schedule interviews when it's most convenient, and don't worry about trying to game the order.
2. HR warned me that my interviewers are hard to work with
After a recent interview, when I was walking back to the lobby with the HR rep, she mentioned to me that the two people I had just interviewed with are incredibly difficult to work with, demanding, and get a lot of complaints from their admin. (I would be replacing that admin if I got the job.) She said, "It sounds like you can handle it, but I wanted to warn you."
Do you think HR was generally looking out for candidates or do you think they use it as a way to test the candidates on handling information like that?
I'd take it at face value--they're hard to work with, and so HR wants to ensure they get a candidate who is prepared for that. It's unlikely that she said it simply to test your reaction if it wasn't true (no one would want to say that about a colleague if it wasn't true simply for the sake of gauging your reaction), but it's certainly possible that she wanted to see if you'd blanche or take it in stride. That said, it's not really a conversation she should have had in passing--it's worthy of a less cavalier mention.
3. Store wants me to hire more women than men
I am a store manager at a medium-sized retail store. We are currently hiring for spring, and I do the interviews and make the hiring decisions. At a recent meeting with my regional manager, I was told that because our company's product leans towards women, our employees must be at least 80% female. What are the legalities of this? I have plenty of well-qualified male applicants, but I can't even call them in for an interview. They would rather see young, good-looking women on the sales floor, whether they are qualified are not. I am not comfortable with this, and am afraid of a lawsuit. Any advice?
It's illegal to make hiring decisions based on gender, unless the company can show that gender is a bona fide occupational requirement. For instance, if part of the job is helping female customers in dressing rooms and your customers are mainly female, you might be able to legitimately favor women in the hiring process. But if a man could do the job just as effectively, then favoring women would be illegal.
You mentioned they also want you to hire "young" women. That's almost certainly illegal, because it's illegal to discriminate against people over 40 in hiring.
I'd point this all out to them and tell them that you're not comfortable violating these laws.
4. How to let clients know that a coworker and I are married
I am a senior member of the leadership team in a small-ish firm. In about 3 months, I will be marrying another member of the leadership team, and I'm curious about how to handle the union. Our boss knows that we're dating; we had lunch with him after we had been dating and working together for quite a while. We did that to prove that we could work together professionally without letting our personal relationship become a distraction. We will probably let our boss know we are getting married--I envision either telling him just before or just after the wedding. My question is how to handle our clients once we are married.
As we are a small-ish firm, my partner and I are always involved in proposals for new clients and routinely participate in the client pitch meetings. When should we let potential clients know that two of the leads for their projects are a married couple?
Talk to your boss and ask him how he'd like this handled with clients, if at all. And stop waiting to tell him--it's such big news that it'll come across as awfully strange to wait until after the wedding to mention it, or even just to wait months after your engagement, especially in a small firm.
5. Explaining why I'm leaving a slow-paced company
I have been in the same position for the last 6 years. When I took the position, the main reasons were that it was an interesting technology, and it was a less than 10-minute commute and surprisingly flexible and family-friendly for my field. However, I quickly learned there just isn't enough work to go around. It is very much a culture where people sit back and don't do much during the day. In addition to handling my usual responsibilities, I have done some side projects that relate to our technology. I've finished a master's degree and a project management certification. I've read a lot of books.
I've carried out a back burner job search for a while and recently spoke with a recruiter about a position that looks like it could be a great fit--fascinating technology, dynamic/growing company, great location. But I feel at a loss for explaining my current work environment, and my lack of measurable achievements within it. I usually end up saying things like, "It's a small company" and "It's a niche product line" (both true) to explain why I'm looking for a change. Any tips for talking about my current work environment without sounding as negative as I often feel about it?
Your reasons for wanting to leave speak well for you--you want to do more work. Employers like that. I'd be honest about that rather than coming up with a cover story. Say something like, "It's a very relaxed environment with a lot of downtime. I thrive on being busy, so I'm looking for a more fast-paced environment where I can juggle more than my current role allows."
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