Here's a roundup of answers to five questions from readers.
1. What to do when a top job candidate has another offer
I'm hiring for an open position and conducted a phone interview with a great candidate (we'd already interviewed him once before in a prior round but didn't hire him). I told him that in-person interviews would take place within a few weeks, with someone in place by early March.
Today, I got a call from the candidate saying he got an offer from another company and what was our timeline? This candidate is my favorite, but we're hiring three people and were planning on having in-person interviews with four to five people with the whole team. Any thoughts on how to reply to this candidate?
You have to decide whether you want him enough to expedite things or whether you're willing to lose him to the other offer. Since you interviewed him previously, you might have a good idea of how strong a fit he is for this role. If you don't, you could quickly set up an interview with him now (like in the next few days, if possible). If you go that route, ask him what his timeline is for needing to give the other company an answer, so that you know how much time you have to work with.
But if you know that you wouldn't be willing to make him an offer without interviewing your other candidates first, and that it's important enough that you're willing to risk losing him (which is often, although not always, the right choice), then all you can do is tell him that he's currently your top candidate but that you unfortunately can't expedite your interviewing timeline (and explain why so he understands -- people's schedules or whatever the reason is), and that you understand if that means he needs to accept the other offer.
2. Smokers in a shared conference room
I work as a consultant, which means that I usually work in the same conference room with my team. When I'm at the home office, this means it's six to eight people in one conference room. If I'm just working on something individually, I could be in the lounge outside or an individual room (both places where people go to work).
More than half my team smokes. They always leave to smoke, so that's not an issue, but the room and everyone's clothes, etc. smell of smoke, to the point where my clothes and hair smell of smoke every day and it can be uncomfortable to breathe, especially since I had asthma as a child and these types of things still bother me.
Would it be ridiculous to step out at times to another room just because I can't stand the smell? I haven't wanted to create waves, because I am new to the company and by far the youngest member, there's not really much they can do about this, and they've been working like this for a while. Is there another way to handle this?
That's not ridiculous at all -- just the opposite. There's no reason you should have to deal with your clothes and hair smelling like smoke. Then throw in the impact on your breathing, and your case for moving is unassailable. If you think it might be something people notice and wonder about, you should just give your boss a heads-up: "I'm pretty sensitive to cigarette smoke, and I'm finding that the smell that clings to the smokers in the conference room makes it uncomfortable for me to breathe. So I wanted to let you know that when I'm at the home office, I'm going to work out of the lounge or one of the individual offices."
3. I canceled an interview and was asked to reimburse the cost of a plane ticket
I recently encountered this situation during a job search. I had been scheduled to fly in on a Friday for an interview with Company A. Company A paid for the ticket. However, the day before the interview, I accepted a position with Company B. I immediately contacted the recruiter for Company A to apologize and cancel the interview.
The recruiter informed me that because the plane ticket was "mine" and I could use it elsewhere by paying a fee to change it, I'd need to reimburse Company A for the cost of the ticket. Is this normal? It makes a certain amount of sense since I'm in some sense getting a (cheap) plane ticket, but I'm a little surprised at being asked to foot the cost here.
No, it's not normal. This is a normal cost of doing business for them, and it's not reasonable to ask you to pay for a plane ticket that was purchased for you solely for the purpose of attending a job interview. If they're especially concerned about this happening, they need to pay the higher cost of buying refundable plane tickets. And, sure, canceling with one-day's notice isn't ideal, but I can promise you that they'd rather have you do that than waste their time with an interview when you know you won't take the job.
I would say this: "I'd be happy to sign the ticket over to the company if that's possible (note: it's probably not possible, but you're offering this to demonstrate good faith), but I'm not able to cover the cost of the ticket, which I understood to be an expense Company A was handling. I of course had every intention of attending the interview and didn't expect to accept another job this week, but I don't want to waste Company A's time now that that's happened. I really appreciate all your help in this process, and wish you all the best in filling the position."
It's pretty likely that they'll drop it after that. If they don't, you're dealing with someone who's operating way outside business norms.
4. I don't want to tell co-workers about my weight-loss surgery
I'm considering going in for bariatric surgery next year, and I don't want to tell anyone at work. I plan to take a week off for vacation right after the surgery, and because I work a lot from home I can easily extend my recovery time.
What do I do when the weight loss becomes too noticeable? People who have the procedure drop a lot of weight in a very short time, and I know my co-workers will notice. To complicate matters, I work in an extremely health-conscious workplace. Nearly all of my co-workers are very fit and exercise regularly, and are just generally buff. It's extremely likely there'd be strong backlash if news of my surgery leaked out. I'm a very private person anyway and never discuss my health with anyone at work. What's the best way to conceal my situation?
You shouldn't outright lie, but you don't owe anyone any details about medical stuff, beyond just letting them know that you're OK if they're worried. If someone comments on your rapid weight loss, go with something vague that only responds to the possibility that they're worried about you, like "yes, it's been a real change but it's nothing to worry about" or "I've been treating a medical condition and this is a side effect, but there's nothing to worry about" (which is true). If someone asks you what your weight-loss secret is or something like that, you could say, "It's been the side effect of a medical condition."
If pressed, you could say, "Well, it's medical so I don't really want to discuss it. Thanks for understanding!"
5. Is it weird to say "my staff"?
At home, I'll tell my girlfriend something about how my day was at work and I'll say, "Oh, yes, a bunch of my staff said to watch Stranger Things" or "I met with my staff about our website" or "My assistant, Elle, said ... about what we're doing." My girlfriend says that it sounds pretty terrible to say things like "my staff," since it sounds like I own them and that it's weirdly hierarchical, but I'm terribly confused as to what I should say then! I'm the head of a department and have several direct reports and almost 20 people in the department.
"My staff" -- and "my team," "my group," and "my department" -- is a normal thing to say, especially when you're talking to someone outside of your team. If you're talking to your staff themselves, I'd generally go with "our team" or something like that ... but "my staff" when explaining whom you're talking about isn't all that different from the "my" in "my family," "my friends," "my girlfriend," or "my hairdresser."
Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.