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. My future boss won't stop emailing me.
I don't start my new job for another month. My new boss is already sending me emails detailing meetings I will have to attend after I start--sort of setting up a calendar for me with names, locations, things I am unfamiliar with. At the moment, I am dealing with relocating and finding a place to live, which he is aware of. Can I ask him to stop? I am not even on the payroll yet; it seems not nice to bombard me with this stuff when I am already spending all my time setting up my life to just get my life situated to start the job. I don't know if I can diplomatically say something now--and set some boundaries--or if I should just let it go.
Send your boss an email saying something like, "Thanks for all this! Because I'm in the middle of a move, I probably won't have a chance to read these thoroughly until I start, but I'm setting them aside for now. I'm really looking forward to starting next month!" Then put them all into an email folder and don't look at them until you start.
In other words, you're not telling him that he can't email you--but you're alerting him that you're not going to be looking at any of it until you begin work.
2. Hiring large groups of people.
I manage a large research group at a university. We run several large-scale research projects for which we hire large numbers of graduate research assistants every summer. We typically interview over 100 people for about 60 spots in the span of 2-3 months. Because of sheer quantity of people, we do 20-minute interviews and check references. Since these are students seeking to fund their graduate studies, the university requires us to interview all applicants in person (I know...). These are all young people in graduate school, so many of them don't have much formal work experience.
Do you have advice about hiring large quantities of people at the same time? I don't think our system is working very well--my peers joke that we'd be better off pulling names out of a hat! To illustrate, on my project this academic year, we've had two people quit (one without notice) and fired two people for poor performance. We have a group of people performing at a high level, some who are fine, and a frustratingly large group on whom I have to keep really close tabs because of their poor performance. What can we be doing better in our hiring process?
Twenty-minute interviews aren't nearly enough to tell you to hire, but if you're required to interview all 100 candidates, I can see why you can't give them more time. However, it sounds like you're not giving them any exercises or simulations to see how they actually perform, and adding in that component could give you much better information. Have your candidates do some kind of exercise related to the work they'd be doing on the job--I guarantee you that you'll get much better insight into who to hire.
That said, whenever you're hiring 60 people, some of them aren't going to work out. So I'd go into it expecting that too.
3. Job searching during a surrogate pregnancy.
I am in the process of searching for a new position, though I am pregnant. I am a surrogate and this is not my child; hence, I will not be taking a maternity leave, just a few days for delivery. I have an interview coming up with a staff placement firm, and I'm pretty far into my pregnancy where it is obvious. Do I bring it up and state my plan?
You're certainly under no obligation to bring it up, and legally they can't factor the pregnancy into their decision making. But the reality is that people often do, and so it might be to your advantage to address the question of leave, which is surely going to be on their minds. You could say something like, "I'm sure it's obvious that I'm pregnant, so I'd like to address my plans for leave. This is a surrogate pregnancy, and I only plan to take a few days off after the delivery." (You could leave out the surrogate part if you feel it will only invite personal questions, but not including it may invite skepticism about your plans for such a short leave.)
4. Interviewer asked about my interview processes with other employers.
I just finished up a phone interview that I thought went well. Toward the end of the conversation, the interviewer asked me if I was interviewing with other companies and if so, where I was in the process. I told her I had another phone interview scheduled with Company A in a couple of days. I am also waiting for a second interview to be scheduled with Company B within the next week or two (the people I am meeting with next are away so the interview can't be scheduled until they return to the office). She then pressed, "Where would you say you are in the interview process with them? Are you in the beginning or final stages?" I told her I was in the middle, since I know there's a third interview to follow.
Ordinarily I wouldn't read too much into this, but the fact that she pressed me about my interview schedule with Company B got me thinking: is there a reason she was so concerned about my other interviews? I've been in plenty of interviews throughout my career, but have never been asked this question.
Generally employers ask these types of questions when they think you're a strong candidate and want to assess how likely they are to lose you to another offer, and how quickly you might need things to move on their end. You don't really need to answer with as much detail as you provided; it's fine to say that you're talking with several other companies, are in the final stages with one, and expect them to make a decision in the next two weeks (or whatever the case is). There's no need to get into the specifics of phone interview scheduling or anything like that.
5. Organization isn't using my volunteer work.
I've been volunteering for a nonprofit organization for a little over a year. I recently suggested that I start writing a weekly blog post on news related to the organization's cause. The people at the organization were interested, and have given me really good feedback about the posts. However, the woman in charge of publishing them doesn't always do so in a timely manner. I've sent in three posts, and of those, she took two days to publish one, and never published another. Obviously, after two days, the "news" isn't really anymore. Is this something worth bringing up? Should I keep sending them in and hope they get published, or should I try to find another organization that might be interested in the posts?
Yep, you should address it. You're doing this for free, after all. But keep in mind they might not be able to give you the kind of fast turnaround you're looking for because of other priorities; if that's the case, that's something you want to figure out with them so that you can determine if there are other types of content that would work better.
I don't know enough about the context to know whether you should raise it with the people who brought you on to do this or the person in charge of publishing the posts, but you should talk to someone and say something like, "I've noticed that my posts aren't always appearing or are appearing a few days later when they're not timely anymore. Can you give me some feedback so that I can make sure I'm writing things that you'll be able to use? And would it be more helpful for me to write on less timely topics, so they don't need to be posted right away?"
Be open to signs they're not actually as enthusiastic about publishing the posts as they originally were. If that's the case, you might be better off looking for another outlet.
Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.