It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…
1. I overheard my interviewing calling me a schmuck
I seemed to really hit it off with an interviewer during my final interview. I even had pretty good rapport with them prior to the final interview and was more than accommodating when they needed to reschedule this final interview and a previous phone interview. They walked me out of the building after the interview was over and even then we had a pleasant conversation, which is why I find it odd that as soon as I got outside I heard this person loudly refer to me as a “schmuck.” I’m not sure that they meant for me to hear this or how they came to feel this way about me, but I heard it just the same. The question is now should I simply ignore it and pretend I didn’t hear it, or is it something that should be a deal-breaker in terms of me working for this person and this company?
I wrote back to this letter-writer and asked whether it was possible the interviewer was talking to someone else (like jokingly calling it out to a coworker). He said:
There was no one else around and I was the last person they were speaking to, so I assume it was about me. They appeared to say it out loud to themselves as though they were thinking it. I suppose they could have been referring to the other interviewer, who was sort of obnoxious and really hung up on my lack of direct experience though I do possess a lot of easily transferable skills. But I kind of doubt it. When I turned around to look the person was standing alone at the window. Their context is also open for debate they may have been annoyed-angry by something I said or did or even something I didn’t do or say that maybe they felt I should have or may simply think me a fool for wanting to work there.
This is so weird, and I can understand why you’re taken aback! Honestly, if there were someone else around, my money would be on them joking to that person and it not being about you at all. But given the context you described … I have no idea! I mean, best case scenario, they were chastising themselves (“You schmuck! You forgot to ask about Excel skills!”) or cursing someone else (“That schmuck Fergus! He never showed up for his part of the interview!”) … but that feels like a stretch. On the other hand, it also feels like a stretch that he would have been so bursting to insult you that he’d do it like this.
If he really did mean it toward you, he’s probably not going to offer you the job (at least not if he’s the final decision-maker), so at least there’s that. If someone else is the decider, though, then yeah, I’d be wary. In that case, I’d pay a lot of attention to the other cues you’ve gotten and will continue to get about what he’s like, what the culture is like there more broadly, and how well you think you fit what they’re looking for. Maybe he called you a schmuck, maybe he didn’t, and we probably can’t know for sure — so really leaning hard on the other stuff you see is probably the way to go.
2. Are managers obligated to give references?
Are all managers/bosses obligated to a certain extent to act as references for their employees (as long as they were satisfactory workers)? Or is acting as a reference more like a favor?
After getting a new job offer, should employees thank the referees who were contacted by the offering company in regards to the job? Are simple thank you emails enough, or is it customary in any situation (specific field of work, etc.) to send them gifts as a thank-you?
I have always thought that acting as a reference would be extremely time consuming for managers, especially those who have been in the role for a while or in company/area/department of high staff turnover rate, as the number of past employees build up.
It’s generally considered a professional obligation, if the person requesting the reference did good work. Certainly if a manager working for me weren’t returning reference calls for good employees, I’d speak with her about it — because it’s part of the unofficial agreement between employers and employees that you’ll be responsive to those.
That said, there’s an element of favor-doing to it too, in that you want your manager to go out of her way to help you — doing things like returning the call right away and not letting it sit, taking the time to be thoughtful with the insights she provides, and making sure she’s covering all the good things about you as an employee. In other words, you can be awesome at giving references or you can be perfunctory about it, and of course you want your references to be awesome at it. So that’s maybe where the line is between favor and obligation.
Regardless, though, most good managers are usually delighted to give references for good employees and don’t see it as a burden.
Definitely don’t send gifts as a thank-you; that feels a little too much like a quid pro quo (“I’m giving you this gift in exchange for giving me a good reference). Instead, just send them a heartfelt thanks and let them know what job you end up in.
3. Taking roll call on conference calls
I have a question about the best/most efficient way to handle roll call during a teleconference with over 12 people. The program I work for has employees all over the country and there are multiple times throughout the week that our teleconferences will have upwards of 30 people on them. We do have access to a web-based meeting platform when we need to see/share our desktops which shows participants by name, but it is not always appropriate or necessary to use that system for our conversations.
I have seen a few different methods of taking roll: (1) the open-ended “who’s on the line?” approach — which really is the worst, because then there are people speaking over one another and it is mass confusion, (2) the “going down the list name by name” approach — effective but often takes up a large chunk of time and each time another caller beeps in, they start back at the top, (3) the “I’m not going to take roll” approach, which takes the least amount of time, but then we are unaware of who is on the call with us and it can lead to issues if specific people are needed for specific updates, and (4) the “group roll call” approach, where we are told to reach out to our managers to alter them of our attendance and then that one manager reaches out, via email or instant messaging, to alert the host. Again, efficient, but leaves the callers in the dark.
I tend to vary my approach based on the meeting, but was wondering if there is an approach I have not thought of. Is there a way to take roll that is efficient, effective, and time sensitive?
If the coordinator of the conference call is able to see who’s on the line, the most efficient approach is probably for that person to read off the names of everyone in attendance at the start of the meeting. Then if others trickle in, the coordinator can ask announce those when there’s opening (“Jane and Fergus have joined as well”).
If the coordinator can’t see who’s on the line, another option is to have people announce themselves as they join while the coordinator notes down those names — and then can read off a full list of attendees before the meeting gets underway (and can have stragglers announce themselves later if needed).
But really, once you’re a certain number of people (15? 20?), I’d lean toward avoiding the process altogether because it gets really unwieldy and time-consuming at that point. If there a few specific people who need to be on the line, go ahead and confirm they’re there — but don’t do it for everyone. And try to create a norm where people are expected to attend calls where their presence is required so you don’t have to wonder if they’re on the line or not, and where they’ll alert the coordinator if they’re running late or can’t be there.
4. Am I supposed to respond to job candidates’ thank-you notes?
I’ve been a manager for several years, and been involved in numerous searches. I value and appreciate thank-you notes/emails from candidates, although it’s never a dealbreaker if a candidate doesn’t send one. I never respond, mainly because that’s what my boss did.
In the meantime, my fiance is searching for his first job after completing his degree in his 30s, and he sometimes gets responses to thank-you emails he has sent (maybe about 25% of the time). They’re just brief, polite responses (“Thank you, it was nice to meet you too”).
If a candidate sent a handwritten thank-you card, it would be very strange to handwrite them a note back (right?). But since many/most of these now come by email, is it weird that I don’t respond? Or is it normal for hiring managers to not respond, and my fiance just had a few particularly nice people?
It’s totally normal not to respond. It’s certainly a kind and gracious thing if someone does respond, but it’s 100% not necessary and most employers don’t respond to them.
I overheard my interviewing calling me a schmuck, are managers obligated to give references, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.