asking for a phone call before I interview in-person, I hit a coworker’s car, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Can I ask for a phone interview before investing time in an in-person interview?

I work at a growing tech company. I like the work and my colleagues and I make a decent living. My skills fall neatly into searchable buckets, so recruiters often reach out to me. I generally responded by saying that I was happy right now.

But we just had a kid and I’m concerned about future expenses, and I realized I am not making the market rate for my skills, so I am looking at other opportunities. I’m only going to move for the right job (technology where I perceive a future, good colleagues, minimal travel).

I had an interview recently where it went well, but I realized that we had entirely different expectations on travel (I think they thought my limit of 10{986d44274747a5c76dc1672921bbe0dd933450491f05a8d42739aa242512160b} was an opening position).

Now during the normal 30-minute initial phone call, I am in the habit of clarifying minimal expectations on work, salary, and travel. But I got an interview with the CEO of a start-up who wants me to come in, which is difficult with work (I don’t want to have to carve out a three-hour block only to find it was a mismatch).

Suggestions on a nice way to say “I am not prepared to invest that much time until I know there are no dealbreakers”?

It’s weird how many employers still don’t do phone interviews, when doing them generally would save a huge amount of time by weeding out people who have quick and obvious deal-breakers (like the wrong skills or experience, which isn’t always clear just from a resume, or logistical conflicts with what you need, like salary or availability). And importantly, phone interviews can save candidates huge amounts of time too — there’s no point in them taking time off work and investing several hours in an interview (plus often more in prep time) if they and the employer aren’t aligned on basic points like salary or needed skills.

And yet, while phone interviews have become a much more routine part of hiring processes, there are still employers who don’t do them … which can be really frustrating for people in your situation.

It can be tricky to ask an employer to change their hiring process for you, but in your context this is a reasonable thing to ask. That doesn’t mean they’ll agree, but it’s truly reasonable — and if they refuse, there might be something interesting to learn about them in what they say/how they do it.

You could say it this way: “I’m really interested in talking with you! Would it be possible to set up a short 15-minute phone call first to make sure that we’re on the same page about things like travel and salary and the basic expectations of the position? I’m asking because it’s tough for me to take off several hours from work for an interview right now — I can definitely make it happen if we find we’re aligned on those things, but I’d appreciate being able to check that first before we move forward.”

2. I hit a coworker’s car in the employee lot

I’m a new employee (three months) at an organization with multiple sites. I’m based at one site but often have meetings at other sites; my position can involve providing guidance to employees at various sites but not directly or indirectly supervising them. The nature of my role definitely depends on maintaining positive relationships with staff, as my guidance often involves guiding people to a new system or way of thinking.

Today I had a meeting and parked in the employee parking lot, in a free spot. When I left, I accidentally backed into the bumper of a car behind me. I didn’t see it when I was backing up because of the angle and the fact that this car was illegally parked in the fire lane (FWIW, it seems to be generally accepted that people park in non-spots due to the shortage of real spots and zoning rules in the surrounding area). The damage was minor — paint scratches, no dents — and I located the owner and gave her my information. Her reaction suggested she thought the damage was worse than it was — think large gasps, borderline rude response — and I am concerned that her idea of fixing the damage will be more substantial than may be needed (say, replacing the bumper instead of touching up the paint).

I admit part of me doesn’t want to pay at all because hey, if you park in a non-designated space in a fire lane you kind of accept such risks. At the same time, I recognize it would probably be better for my “work capital” to just pay and suck it up. Is there a way to say, “Hey, I’ll pay for the paint but nothing more?” Or do I just accept that I may be out $800-1,000 even though she was parked illegally?

You probably do need to pay for the actual damages, even though she was in the fire lane. (At least with the U.S. laws I’m familiar with, if you hit a stationary object, you’re considered responsible.)

As far as quibbling over the actual amount, can you just report it to your insurance and have them handle it? They’re unlikely to agree to repairs that aren’t truly needed, and that might be the most hands-off way of getting it dealt with.

But if you don’t want to involve your insurance (because it will raise your rates) and if she does propose more work than what a mechanic says is necessary (like if the mechanic says they can touch up the paint but she wants the whole bumper replaced), you could say, “Because it was minor paint scratches, I can’t replace the bumper for you. But I can definitely pay to have the paint touched up.” If she pushes, you could say, “I want to help make this right, but I also want to point out that you were parked illegally in a fire lane, which is why I bumped you. I think paying for the specific damage that resulted is a fair offer.”

3. How can spouses time their out-of-state job searches together?

My husband and I are applying for jobs in a city several hours away. His family (we both like his family) lives in that city and it is otherwise a more desirable place to live than our current city by pretty much every standard. The jobs we are applying for would be career advancements for both of us but would put us at about where we are now financially (this is fine and to be expected given the change in cities).

We are agreed that we are not moving unless we both get jobs and we are not applying for jobs that would involve a pay cut but would be easy to get. (This last option would apply to me but not to him as there are not those options for him.) His job will be easier for him to get because his field is less competitive and he has more experience in that position than I do in the one for which I am applying.

I have am a finalist for a position and should get an offer (if I get one!) next week. We have no idea when he will will hear about a possible interview but the job application closed a week ago. The position is a staff (not faculty) position at a university and often higher education can move slowly.

On the off-chance that I am offered a job before we know the status of his, what should I say? Should I tell them I need to wait until my husband hears and risk losing the offer? Accept and rescind if he doesn’t get the job? Neither job would start until July 1 and both of our current jobs would extend until then.

I’m not sure you’ll be able to do it this way! It’s very unlikely that an employer offering you a job will be willing to wait an unspecified period of time until your husband gets hired (which could be weeks or months — and he hasn’t even heard back about his initial application!), so you can’t really hinge your acceptance on that. And accepting when you’re not really accepting and know there’s a decent change you’ll renege is a crappy thing to do (they’ll be cutting loose other candidates who might have really wanted the job, losing serious time in filling the role, etc.) and could hurt you in the future.

Typically what people would do in this situation is know that they’re likely to be on different timelines and just work around that. That could mean that you take this job and both move out there together and he continues his job hunt locally (which can be easier anyway), or it could mean that you move first and he follows later. Neither of those is ideal! But expecting employers to be willing to coordinate around a separate person’s job hunt isn’t really a thing you can ask or expect.

4. Interviewer rejected me but said she’d provide a reference

I was rejected from a job recently. I got the automated response from their hiring software. So I reached out to one of my interviewers (the person who would supervise the role) via email. I thanked the team for their time and I asked for any feedback. She said it came down to the new hire having more experience in specific software and they thought they’d transition into their corporate environment better. Then she ended the email saying she’d gladly be a reference for me if I needed it and would keep her eyes open for jobs that would be a good fit for me.

How do you take this? Just as a nice thing someone says? If not, how would one even go about leveraging a favor like that seeing as they couldn’t really provide an accurate reference?

That … is a weird offer. You can’t use her as a reference because she can’t speak to her work — and when the reference checker asks how she knows you and she explains that she once interviewed you for a job, that’s going to look really, really odd — and like you don’t have any stronger references.

I’d write this off to her wanting to make a nice gesture and just landing on a strange/not helpful one, and don’t take her up on it.

5. Quitting when my whole team is leaving

My formerly small startup is about 18 months past an acquisition by a huge company that drastically changed our work lives and made most of the team miserable. In an effort to raise morale, one of our senior team members was recently made our official manager, but it was too little too late. Most of the team already has or is planning to resign, including me. How do I quit kindly when I will likely be the seventh person to give notice on an 11-person team in a two-month period? Should I avoid giving notice on a day when I know someone else already has? Should I emphasize that I know this is especially inconvenient? Just wondering if there is a special etiquette here to ease my nerves and possibly spare my manager’s feelings.

Just be straightforward and courteous, and don’t worry too much about looking for a way to spare your manager’s feelings — there’s no special wording or approach that will change the crux of the issue, which is that nearly everyone on your team is quitting.

If it were just one or two other people quitting around the same time, you could say something like “I know this isn’t great timing” … but here, with so many people quitting, I wouldn’t even go into that. Major changes were made to your work life that you didn’t like and you decided to seek out another job. The same is true for the rest of your team. These are natural consequences to the company’s decisions. You didn’t do anything wrong and don’t have anything to apologize for. It’s also not your new manager’s fault; it sucks for her, but this is the job and she’ll figure out a way to carry on.

I would try to do it as early in the day as you can though, to minimize the possibility that you’ll be the second resignation your manager gets that day, just because that might get you a slightly less frustrated reception.

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