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 four questions from readers.

1. Should we hire a candidate who talked non-stop?

We're hiring for a candidate to fill in for me while I'm on maternity leave. The strongest candidate we've had so far has a great resume and industry experience, which is rare for us. But she was so talkative in the interview it was staggering. An interview that typically takes 30 minutes took over an hour and a half. I know about her favorite taco places, the renovations she's doing on her house, how she met her husband, and where she gets her eyebrows waxed. My colleague and I could barely fit any questions in. She just talked until one of us interrupted her.

We hire exclusively through a temp agency (long story), so we are unable to check references or do a lot of extensive digging. I've already checked LinkedIn for possible connections and asked my network if anyone has worked with her -- they haven't. She was at her previous position for three years, leaving only because she relocated.

My colleague (hesitantly, admittedly) wants to hire her mainly because of the experience, but I have pretty strong reservations. It may have just been nerves that made her so chatty, but it's not my gut feeling. We have other candidates who were more professional but would require way more training, which I think is a better bet. Any advice?

Green responds:

I wouldn't hire her. If she spends that much time on home renovations and eyebrow waxing in a job interview with two people she's just met, you can assume it's going to be even worse once she's more comfortable there. That's pretty unworkable in most jobs where she'll be dealing with or even sitting near other people.

There are lots of reasons you might have to reject a candidate with good experience, like rudeness, poor communication, lack of professionalism, disorganization, bad follow-through, bad judgment--the list goes on and on. If you were hiring solely based on experience and nothing else, you could just hire from resumes and wouldn't need to do interviews.

If you don't feel like any of the other candidates are right either, you'd be better off broadening your candidate pool and talking to additional people. Don't hire someone who's highly likely to worsen people's quality of life in your office.

(That goes double when you can't check references. Which, by the way, is a hugely problematic policy. Your temp agency works for you, and if you want to check references before hiring someone, you should tell them that's non-negotiable.)

2. Telling a low-performer we're not giving her a new project she wants

I have an employee who was clearly promoted beyond her capabilities (long before I became her manager), which everyone here is aware of now. She is not as aware of her limitations. Although she acknowledges some of them and I've attempted to help her develop those areas, we've had very limited success.

We're in the process of rolling out a new initiative that will require staff from our office to be trained and then provide that training to others. Every time we discuss this project, my employee reminds me that she really wants to get the training and become a trainer. I've largely put it off by telling her those decisions aren't made yet, we're still working on the curriculum, and we'll make those decisions closer to the date. All of that is true. But what I'm not saying is that I would never put her in the position of representing our firm publicly. So, eventually I'm going to have to tell her no. Any advice on how I can best do that?

Green responds:

You have to be honest with her. It's not fair if you, as her manager, aren't sharing your assessment of her work with her. It's reasonable for her to believe that if you had serious concerns about her work, you would have shared those -- and certainly that if she's asking to take on work you don't think she's capable of, you'd level with her. I can't tell if you've had that conversation about her work and it's just not registering with her, but if you haven't done that yet, you definitely need to. (And are you sure you should be keeping her on, at least in her current role? If she's not suited to it, that's something that you as her manager need to address, even if it means ultimately transitioning her out.)

To explain why you're not going to make her a trainer, you could say, "Doing this work well requires a track record of excelling at XYZ. I haven't seen what I'd need to see from you in those areas, so we're not going to make you a trainer for this initiative." You should also probably add, "Right now what I need you focusing on is raising your performance in your current role, specifically on ABC."

Have this conversation soon, because this isn't about "those decisions haven't been made yet"; it's about "you aren't qualified for this program," and she deserves transparency from you on that. But it sounds like there's also a bigger discussion to have here.

3. Intern brings slime to work

We are a small digital agency. We have a pretty young team with three interns per semester and a casual office. One of our interns this year has a unique fidgeting tool that I want to get your take on.

She brings slime to work! Not just one piece of slime but often three or more containers of it. All day she is playing with the slime. She even brought it to one of our all-hands meeting and played with it through the entire meeting when our owner was presenting. She's one of our most productive interns and does her job well but this is just ... odd. Every time I walk by her desk I notice it. I want to give her feedback and say that not all companies will be OK with this but I don't even know where to start. Is this a common thing to expect with college kids now? How would you give the feedback? I don't even know if we need to tell her to get rid of it. Help!

Green responds:

There's an increased understanding now that having something to fidget with during meetings helps some people concentrate (particularly people with ADHD, but not limited to them), and I suspect that's how she's using this. But you're right that slime isn't going to go over well at many companies, and she'd be better off finding a more discreet/less slimy fidget tool.

I'd start by asking her about it sometime when you're one-on-one -- "Are you using the slime as a way to help you focus?" -- followed by something like, "I want to make sure you know, it's fine here, but at a lot of companies it would come across oddly -- not using something to fidget, but the slime in particular. But there are a lot of more discreet fidget tools that are fine in professional environments; you could look at some options and see if something else works for you." (Although if the slime isn't fine in your office, be up-front with her about that too.)

4. Is it unreasonable to expect an employee to offer to pick up lunch for others when he gets takeout?

I am the manager in a very small office. We mostly eat lunch in the break room, but we do all go out together once or twice a month.

One fellow goes for takeout and brings it back to the office a couple of times a week. About half the time, he'll ask if anyone wants anything. I am the only one who ever takes him up on it, but more often than not I don't. I always give him money ahead of time. Is it unreasonable for me to expect him to check to see if anyone wants something anytime he goes out?

Green responds:

Yes, it would be unreasonable. This is his lunch break and he gets to spend it as he wants. If he occasionally asks if he can pick something up for others, that's him doing people a favor -- but he's in no way obligated to, and it would be wrong for you to treat it as an obligation. It can be be a pain to pick things up for others -- it means he can't change his mind at the last minute about where he's going or eat outside while the other food he's carrying gets cold, and it means he has to deal with remembering orders and collecting money and general hassle.

Thank him when he does offer, but don't push for more.

Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to