It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. My new employer just asked for my references — after we’d set a start date and I quit my old job
I’m in the process of changing jobs. The new company made me a firm offer and I accepted. My start date at the new company is soon, and they have confirmed plane tickets and hotel reservations for me to fly up to their office for training (they’re opening a new office in my city, but until then I’ll be telecommuting). The gist is, the new job is a “done deal.” My last day at my old job is tomorrow.
I just got an email from the internal recruiter / HR person asking for me to submit references, which — as far as I can tell — makes no sense, and makes me worried that either the job isn’t as much of a “done deal” as I thought or that something’s weird about this company (if they need to ask about that long after the appropriate time).
I replied to the email saying “sure, here are some references” and attempted to call to get clarification about the issue, but I got the HR person’s voicemail so I just left a message saying that I had questions and asking her to call me back. What are your thoughts on the issue?
Incidentally, I had three interviews with this company (phone interview with the HR person, technical phone interview, and was flown in for an in-person interview) and, although I was prepared with references, I was never asked for them and didn’t think to provide them proactively.
Yeah, some companies have a horrible policy of doing background checks — including references — after a job offer is accepted. This is ridiculous for many reasons, including that it totally defeats the point of reference-checking (which isn’t just to get a yay or nay but to actually get nuanced information about people to help make the hiring decision), as well as that it’s incredibly unfair to candidates, who in many cases have already resigned their jobs because they assumed the offer was a done deal.
I’d say this: “Is your offer not final and/or are there remaining contingencies attached to it? My understanding was that it was a formal offer and I gave noticed after we finalized our agreement, so I’m of course concerned to receive this email. Can you shed any light?”
It’s too late now, but in the future I’d carefully read any offer paperwork for mentions of contingencies like this. You can also ask directly, “Are there any outstanding contingencies before the offer is final?”
2. I’ve been promoted to manage my difficult friend
I have recently been promoted to team leader over an older and longer employed colleague who I would also call a friend. I am now her team leader. She has always been very easily distracted, surfing the internet, making personal calls and chatting to colleagues and her previous boss didn’t tackle the issue in the 10+ years she has worked here. She has recently announced that she is pregnant, and the personal calls and internet surfing have cranked up a gear as she sorts everything out for the new baby.
She’s always taken any criticism very personally and gets very defensive if you try and broach the subject. She will also be a bad mood for days, refusing to speak to anyone which affects the whole atmosphere of our very small office. I am really struggling with how to bring this up without World War Three kicking off and ruining our friendship? (She generally gets all the work done that’s required, albeit slightly rushed).
Your goal can’t be to preserve the friendship; that’s a conflict of interest with doing your job. You’re her manager, so you can no longer be her friend. Friendly, yes, but not friends.
Doing your job as her manager means that you need to sit down with her and talk forthrightly about what you need to see from her, and how that differs from what you’re seeing currently. If she becomes defensive, you need to address that too, since it’s not an option for her to just not get feedback. And if she refuses to speak to people or is otherwise unpleasant, you need to address that too, because that’s an unacceptable way for her to behave. You’ll also need to be ready to impose consequences if the feedback doesn’t get you the changes you need. (And frankly, I’d start preparing yourself for the possibility that you may need to let her go at some point, because this is not the behavior of someone you want on your staff.)
3. My professor is a partner at the company I want to apply to
I recently graduated college (I’m 45) and have been looking for employment in my field. I discovered the perfect company and devoured its website, the last section of which featured team bios. Imagine my surprise when I learned that one of the senior partners listed is a former professor (I had three classes with him).
I immediately emailed this professor, expressing my interest in the company and requesting a meeting or phone call to discuss my professional background and its applicability. I sent the email to his university .edu account 10 days ago but have not received a reply. It would be out of character for this professor to not respond, so I am assuming that he has not accessed this email account because school is not in session.
What’s my next move? Do I contact him at this company? I know that he also has his own consultancy and travels internationally for speaking engagements, so I’m not sure how often he’s on site…a voicemail message might also go unanswered. Do I try to contact HR, and somehow mention that I know him? Or do I simply submit my resume and cover letter to the company and hope for the best? I graduated first in my class and that would be the first thing I mention in this particular cover letter…my hope is that HR would be curious enough to contact the professor.
Is there an actual job opening you’re interested in, or is it more general interest in the company? If there’s an opening for a job you want, apply right now; otherwise, while you try to resolve this, you risk it disappearing. It’s fine to mention in your cover letter that this guy recently taught you.
After that — or if there’s not a particular opening — yes, email him at his non-.edu address, or try LinkedIn. When you do, be up-front that you’re interested in working there — you don’t want to sound like you’re requesting an informational interview when you’re actually seeking a job.
4. Good bosses from TV and movies
I know you’ve touched a few times on poor management in books, TV, etc., (and I hope no one is managing like they do on Game of Thrones), and how media isn’t something to model your work life after. But can you point to any TV or movies that demonstrate good management, sane workplace dynamics, a congenial and functional workplace, and so on? I know it doesn’t make for good entertainment, but is there anything you’ve watched and thought “that’s exactly what I would do” and admired?
So much the opposite. TV and movies are rife with terrible management presented as if it’s fine, and it is infuriating.
I racked my brain to answer this question, and I’m still not coming up with anything. I do feel like Tom Colicchio, restauranteur and judge on Top Chef, is probably a good manager, but I’m basing that on little more than gut. Oh, and Commander Adama from Battlestar Galactica. But I’m reaching here.
5. Update: Should I pay for a travel charge stemming from my mistake so that my boss doesn’t know about it?
Thank you for running my question! The comments from the commenters were really helpful as well, and I decided to tell my manager about the charge and explain why it happened. I also told him about some ideas for improving the process so this would be less likely to happen again. Here’s his response: “Sounds like a plan. Go ahead and expense the cancelled travel as mentioned. It shouldn’t be a problem.”
employer asked for references after I’d already been hired, good bosses from TV and movies, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.