Here's a roundup of answers to five questions from readers.
1. How can I find new hires who will be comfortable with our "boys club" culture?
I'm looking to add a new employee to my team, most likely a recent college graduate, and I'm not quite sure how to come up with questions to ensure a good cultural fit. Our team is a bit of a "boys club" with cursing and the occasional inappropriate joke made in smaller group settings. I know that some people aren't comfortable around this type of environment (and I know this culture won't change in the near future). I want to make sure the person would be able to fit into this group. It seems awkward to ask, "How do you feel about cursing and the occasional crude joke?" Is this a legitimate question to ask in an interview? If not, do you have any other recommendations for how to do it?
Well... there's a bigger issue here. I have no problem with cursing. But depending on the specifics of what you mean, crude jokes and being a "boys club" are potentially a problem from a legal standpoint--in terms of sexual harassment, discrimination, and hostile workplace. It's also a problem from an inclusiveness standpoint if you're interested in having a diverse office. I don't have enough information about exactly what you mean by those descriptions, but it's possible that you're asking the wrong question and should instead be asking, "How do we professionalize our workplace, ensure everyone feels welcome, and not run afoul of harassment and discrimination laws?"
It's also important to make sure that "screening for cultural fit" doesn't end up meaning "screening for people from similar demographic backgrounds," which it may, even if you don't intend it to.
But if I'm misinterpreting what you mean and we're really just talking about profanity and such, just explain your culture in interviews: "We tend to curse a lot here, and X and Y aren't uncommon occurrences. I want to warn you up front so you're not blindsided by it if you come on board." That may feel a little awkward, but it's a lot less awkward than someone starting the job, then discovering the culture and hating it.
2. Should we fire an intern for extending her vacation without permission?
I'm a manager at a medium-sized startup. We recently hired a very young intern who just graduated from college. She took a three-day trip to New York, and had asked for the time off in advance. This morning she emailed me telling me, not asking me, that she would be extending her trip by one day: "I'll be extending my stay in New York an extra day and will be returning to work on Wednesday. I'm sorry for the inconvenience."
My boss was livid when he found out and wants to fire her. Our office has a flex-time-off policy. But other workers have to cover for your assignments while you're out, and we ask for advance notice. It's unprofessional, sure, but is it grounds for termination?
Your boss is overreacting and being unreasonable. In many offices, people manage their own time and this would be fine. It sounds like that's not the case in your office, but then you just need to explain that to her when she gets back. She's an intern, explaining this kind of thing is part of the deal.
Unless her unexpected one-day absence is causing some kind of massive problem that she should have been able to foresee (like it's the day of an event she has key responsibilities at), your boss is off-base.
3. My colleague didn't hire my son.
My son recently graduated college and applied for a job in a different department at the same company where I have worked for 35 years. He had a lengthy phone interview and an even longer in-person interview with several managers. And then they declined to make him an offer, with no explanation. At my suggestion, he wrote a thank-you letter and asked for feedback/suggestions on improving any skills where he may have come up short, even including a stamped self-addressed envelope. He got no response. I am a hiring manager myself and have been on the other side of this, in which case I did share that it was just skills mismatch.
Would it be out of line to speak to my counterpart in that other group to find out why my son was not hired?
Yes, it would be out of line. And it would make your counterpart relieved that she didn't hire your son, since it would signal that if she did, you might have inappropriately intervened in her management of him. You can certainly use your insider knowledge of the company to coach your son behind the scenes, but you can't intervene on his behalf. That'll undermine him and make him look like a weaker candidate. It will also make your colleagues uncomfortable, since it will come across as inappropriate pressure, even if you don't mean it that way, and they shouldn't have to defend their decision to you.
For what it's worth, on requesting feedback: Some hiring managers will give feedback to rejected candidates and some won't. But few will do it by postal mail, since it's much less convenient. In the future, I'd suggest your son use email for those requests!
4. Working on maternity leave when colleagues send me questions.
I work for a small consulting firm and have been with the organization for three years. I am six weeks into an unpaid maternity leave and my coworkers continue to ping me for answers to questions, or to help them find documents--not every day but three to four times a week.
I attempted to negotiate some level of maternity coverage since we aren't covered by FMLA laws, but was told there was nothing they could offer me. Since the overall benefits of working here (flexible schedules, 100 percent remote workforce, very family friendly) were difficult to give up, I chose to take 12 unpaid weeks off.
How much contact is too much contact for them, since they declined to offer me any maternity benefits? I don't mind the occasional question since we are a small organization and I did almost all the work in one area. But I'm starting to feel like if they want me available they should be paying me for that benefit.
It's pretty typical when people are on maternity leave to be entirely unavailable for the period of the leave, so it would be quite reasonable for you to go dark. But if you want to be available for the occasional (very occasional) question, you could say, "I'm going to be pretty unavailable from this point forward. If something is truly urgent, email me and mark it urgent, but know that it may take me a while to see it and respond to you. And I'd like to reserve this for no more than one or two questions a month."
You might also consider having all the questions funneled through one point of contact. Otherwise you could get one or two questions a month from each of your seven coworkers. And then to the extent that you can, don't respond to those emails immediately or you'll train them to think that you're still available.
Alternately, you could contact them and say, "I'm getting a lot more work questions sent my way than I'd realized I would. It's adding up to enough that I'd like to either pull back on it, or figure out some sort of compensation for this period. What makes sense?"
5. Why did my interviewer mention another candidate?
At the beginning of my second interview, the interviewer explained five interviews were being conducted and then one to two finalists will be selected. He also mentioned there is a strong candidate who would be out of the country the next few weeks, so final decisions would be towards the end of the month.
The information about benefits were also shared: Salary range, likely starting salary, time off, etc. The interview went well and I should know if I am still being considered by next week.
Why would the interviewer, who is also the boss, mention the strong candidate? Why would benefit details be provided before a formal job offer?
Don't read anything into any of this; it doesn't really mean anything. It's not uncommon for HR to share benefit details with all candidates at this point in the process. In fact, it's smart, so that in case you do get an offer, you'll have had a head start on reviewing this stuff. And it sounds like the interviewer mentioned the strong candidate to explain why they're waiting a few weeks before wrapping up the process.
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