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 your AOL or Hotmail address hurting your job search?
Does it really matter which email provider you use to apply for jobs?
I ask because I was reading an online discussion recently where people said anything other than Gmail makes a candidate look computer illiterate or less intelligent. Essentially, according to this discussion, AOL is for old people or people who can't use a computer; Yahoo and Hotmail are slightly better, but not much; and Gmail is the provider of choice for intelligent candidates who are computer savvy. Recruiters there said they downgrade candidates who use anything other than Gmail or an address with a personal domain. Is this true?
No reasonable employer is going to reject you because of your email address's domain, but it does contribute to an overall impression of you. In most cases, using an AOL address does make you look behind the times when it comes to technology. Yahoo and Hotmail also have a dated feel to them, but not nearly to the same extent.
It's not likely to take you out of the running for most jobs, but there absolutely are stereotypes about those email addresses, and you should at least be aware that you might get branded with them.
2. Is it appropriate to ask your boss to do some of your work for you?
My employee was working on a data entry project and had five more records to enter, which might have taken an hour's time. However, when I asked him the status on this project, he asked if I could help complete it. He said he was busy on an important deadline (which I was aware of) and since it was only five records, he asked if I would enter them. I was also busy with several projects, but I can chip in when needed. But more than that, I am wondering, is it appropriate to ask your boss to complete your work? I have never done that with my boss.
It depends on all sorts of factors, like the relationship with the boss, the person's history, how urgent the work is, who else is available to help, and many other things I'm probably not thinking of here. I mean, if he should have gotten the project done by now himself or it's reasonable for him to get it done himself by the deadline, or if the deadline isn't looming or inflexible, then sure, it's probably ridiculous for him to ask you to help him finish. On the other hand, there are lots of times when it would be reasonable for someone with a good work ethic and a history of not dropping balls to say, "I'm slammed with getting our quarterly report in on time, but Accounting says they have to have x from us by tomorrow. Realistically, I won't be able to do both. Any chance you'd have time to send them those numbers?"
(But, admittedly, I can't imagine asking one's boss to do a data entry project, unless one's boss also did data entry as a major part of her job.)
3. Former manager won't respond to reference checkers
I am struggling to secure a new position, even after sailing through multiple rounds of interviews, because my previous boss refuses to return the phone calls of potential employers. I do not use her as a reference for this reason, but all employers want to speak with her. She was very nasty to me when I told her I was leaving and now seems to be intentionally sabotaging my future employment. What should I do?
You can't make her return phone calls--and you probably don't want her to, since she doesn't sound likely to give you a glowing reference. But you can warn interviewers about the situation--"My last manager took it very hard when I left, and one way that's manifested is that she doesn't seem to be returning reference checkers' phone calls." If you happen to have copies of your performance evaluations from that job (and if they're excellent), you could offer those up to see if that helps.
4. Can I know if an employer already has an internal candidate picked out?
I recently found a job that I think I would be perfect for! However, I'm starting to suspect that it was posted only because the organization (a city government) had to post publicly or interview x amount of people for due diligence, and that the organization might already have someone internal in mind. I know this happens a lot because I've seen it happen many times at my current company.
The application has several supplementary questions, some of which are quite specific, such as "How familiar are you with the city organization and it's approach to managing the department?"
Is there any way I can know if I'm putting in all this work on the many supplementary questions for naught? Or do I just buck up and make my application as competitive as possible so even if the organization is "saving" the job, I might still have a shot?
You can't know. You have to decide if you're willing to take the risk that the organization might just be going through the motions and planning to hire an internal candidate. Are you willing to invest the time applying, knowing that might be the case? Keep in mind that this can be the case for any job you apply for; you're just getting more signals about it than usual here. For that matter, you could go through the work of applying for any position only to have your application trashed immediately because the company just froze its hiring or hired someone else. It's always something of a crapshoot.
For the record, outside candidates can get the job even when there's a favored internal candidate, if they're significantly better. Not always, but sometimes (and that's another thing that you can't really tell from the outside).
5. How to quit a job you like
I have only quit jobs when I was unhappy, and in those cases you suggested resigning by saying something like: "I want to let you know that after four years with Chocolate Teapots Inc., I've made the difficult decision to move on to a new role outside the company." But how do you quit when you like your job? I have been invited to apply for a new job that I'm pretty excited about (my closest friend recommended me for a job with her company, and it's a great fit). Of course, I have studied your interview guide, and I wouldn't dream of quitting until I have an offer in writing. And I need to give two weeks' notice.
I plan to talk to my manager directly in a formal meeting. I've been with the company for more than 12 years, and she has been very supportive of me. I am one of the senior team members, and she relies on me a lot. The timing is kind of crappy for her--the offer could come right after our biggest annual client event, and my boss has a planned vacation after that that would happen during my notice period.
What do you recommend I say during the meeting? How do I break the news to her? I will offer to help with the transition as much as possible; in fact, I'm already training our newest hire. Should I also mention that I wouldn't entertain a counteroffer, or is that presumptuous?
Just be straightforward: "This was a hard decision for me, but an amazing role was offered to me, and I accepted it. I'm ready to do whatever I can to help with the transition during the next x weeks." And don't mention preemptively that you wouldn't accept a counteroffer though; that's premature. If she makes noises in that direction, you can certainly let her know it's not something you're open to before she goes through the work of getting one approved, but there's no need to mention it before that.
Also, remember that there's never a good time to leave most jobs. The timing always sucks in one way or another. That's OK; most managers understand that, and they'll make do.
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