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. Should I hire an overqualified candidate?
I will be interviewing people for an entry-level position in an engineering company, but the job is an analyst position, not an engineering position. As such, it will pay significantly less than an engineering position. One candidate is an engineer with over 20 years of experience, only a little of which is on point for the position we are offering.
Other than asking straight out: "Why are you interested in this job?" how can I get to what would prompt a candidate to apply for a job that will pay so much less than I am sure he could get in other places? I can't help but feel that he sees this job as a steppingstone to get into the company, then will start looking for a job that is a better fit. How can I find out if that is the case?
Also, my boss appears to want to hire this person, even though we haven't spoken with him yet. If he doesn't appear to be a good fit for the job, what is the best way for me to persuade my boss of that?
Be straightforward with the candidate about what you're wondering: "This position is designed to be entry-level, so it's a much lower level of responsibility--and really, skill--than what you've been doing. Why are you interested in making that kind of move?" And "Are you comfortable with the fact that the pay range will be an entry-level pay range--something around $X to $Y?"
And then really listen to his response. Does he have reasons that make sense to you, or does it sound like he's deluding himself into thinking that the job is higher level than it is or that he can quickly mold it into something higher level? (And make sure that you're very, very clear about exactly what the job does and doesn't entail, so that he can self-select out if he didn't realize those things.)
As for your boss, be straightforward there too: "Joe's answer convinced me that he doesn't truly want to do this type of work and is hoping to use it as a fast springboard into something else here. Since I'll ultimately be managing this position, I'd like to look at more candidates so that we don't invest in someone who won't excel in the role."
2. Can an employer prohibit you from dating a client?
I have a lady-friend who currently works at a business where I'm a client. When she signed her work contract, it strictly forbade dating co-workers and clients, and supposedly they can terminate her for it. While I'm not going to risk her job to date her, I'm wondering if an employer can bar you from dating a client?
They can indeed. In many cases, employers have a vested interest in prohibiting employees from dating clients--if the relationship goes south, they could lose the client. Or the client might get different treatment than other clients. So it's not hard to understand why employers would want to ensure that co-workers keep those relationships professional.
3. Can I invite former co-workers to coffee after a lay-off?
I was recently let go due to financial issues with my company. The whole process took approximately 10 minutes. I came to work and then was told to pack my things and leave, and that no, I couldn't say goodbye to anyone and had to leave out the back door. No one knew about it, even the HR department and my direct manager, until three minutes before I was let go.
I'm not upset about being laid off, but my department and I have worked closely together for a number of years and I wanted to invite them to coffee one day so I could see them in person again and let them know that my door is always open should they need me for anything (and perhaps seek some closure myself--the abrupt departure was very whiplash-inducing to me and shocking to everyone else, from what I'm told, particularly since I'd formed friendly relationships with these people). Would it be awkward at this point in time to do this, and if not, how does one go about doing this without making the focus of the meeting having them worry about their own job security?
You can absolutely do that! But I might not invite your entire department at once--that seems more likely to be more awkward than getting together with people one (or two or three) at a time.
And I don't think you need to worry that it will make them worry about their own job security. They know you were laid off, so if they're worrying about that, they're going to be worrying about it whether or not you're physically in front of them.
4. Do companies understand the ramifications of slow hiring processes?
Do companies that take a long time to complete the hiring process understand that they have the potential to lose good candidates who just move on? Or is it that they just don't care?
It depends on the company. Some find that they're able to get excellent candidates despite lengthy hiring processes, so there's no issue for them there. Others realize that they might lose good candidates, but have made the strategic decision that their reasons for moving slowly trump that concern (and sometimes that's perfectly legitimate--such as if they need to iron out a budget issue or wait until the new manager of the position is hired or work through questions about their top candidates). And yes, still others are clueless about the impact of their slow hiring process, and don't realize they're losing good people because of it or aren't savvy enough to care.
5. How can I stay in touch with my boss after leaving my job?
What is a good way to keep in touch with a boss after I've left my job? My one-year contract at my current position is about to end, and I'm going to be starting a new position afterwards. Although our working relationship was fine, I didn't get along well with my director, who was my only real supervisor at this job. We never had any conflicts or issues, of course, but our personalities didn't really match up, and let's just say that it will not be a sad goodbye on my final day of work.
I would like to keep the option of using her as a reference in the future, as I did good work at this job with some tight deadlines, difficult projects, and an understaffed department. What is a good way to do this? I can't find her on LinkedIn, and I don't want to add her on Facebook. I'll also be moving to a new city and working in a different field, so it wouldn't really work to chat about work stuff. What would be an appropriate way to keep in touch with her in a professional way?
It's easier to reach out if you've stayed in touch all along--which doesn't mean monthly coffees or anything like that, but an email once or twice a year goes a surprisingly long way. Those emails can just update her on what you're doing, and ask how things are going with her. If you can find a way to mention that you're using something you learned while working for her, even better (but not necessary).
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