I have to build with Legos during an interview, I don’t want to cross a picket line for work errands, and more

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

1. I have to use Legos to build something that represents me during an interview

Using your recommendations for resumes and cover letters, I landed an interview with what I believe to be my dream job. While prepping for the interview, I looked up some common interview practices for the company. Most of it was standard, but there’s one that threw me through a loop.

The company is Lego, and according to Glassdoor and an interview with a hiring manager, applicants are left alone in a room upon arriving for the interview and given a half hour or so to build something that represents them out of legos.

I’m lucky to have this tip beforehand – but I’m still at a total loss on what to do. I’m applying for a marketing position, so the work wouldn’t require artistic/design qualities. I thought about things that incorporate their core values, mission, etc., but I’m drawing a blank as to how I can actually show this in Lego-form. What is the interviewer looking for with this question? In your opinion, what would a “good” answer look like? Not suggesting providing the verbatim answer, but I just want to get the gist of what they’re actually evaluating with these types of questions.

I understand quick thinking and creativity, but is there something else on the table? In your experience, how useful are these questions at evaluating candidates, and what is the cost of a “bad” answer?

Ugh, not a fan. Unless you’re applying for a job that includes building things out of Legos, or that’s adjacent to that in some relevant way, I’m really skeptical that there’s much correlation between this and who will excel at the job.

I googled to see if I could find someone at the company talking about the practice, and I found an interview with their HR director where she talks about why they ask candidates to do this. She says: “We like to see how familiar candidates are with our product and how comfortable they are creating something fun and imaginative with our bricks and also how willing they are to be vulnerable. Watching future employees build a part of themselves is very memorable and reflective of our spirit and values. We keep the model they build in the interview and, if they are hired, we have it waiting for them on their desk on their first day of work.”

So creativity and vulnerability, basically. I think vulnerably is highly suspect as a value in hiring unless a job truly requires it, but hey, it’s their culture — and if that turns you off, that’s valuable information about how comfortable you might be there. (Similarly, if you think that’s awesome, that’s valuable information too.)

2. Can I avoid crossing a picket line while doing errands for work?

Do you have any advice regarding crossing a picket line at work? I am an admin and as part of my job I am in charge of stocking the office kitchen with drinks and snacks. Typically I will go to our local grocery chain to take care of this shopping. Their workers are currently out on strike, and personally I would be opposed to crossing a picket line. Would it be appropriate to ask my boss if it would be okay to go to a different grocery store for the duration of the strike? The next closest store is about an additional 15 minutes away from my office and is a bit more expensive, so this would mean it would take more time from my day, cost slightly more in mileage reimbursement, and overall add to the grocery bill. I generally only go about once a month, so I wouldn’t anticipate this being hugely disruptive or adding a lot of cost to my employer.

If that is not okay, could I offer to take on this increased cost myself? I am both relatively new to this job and the working world in general, so I don’t have a great sense on how reasonable a thing this is to ask. I also do not really have a read on my boss’s thoughts on unions and how he would perceive this.

Ask! But when you do, be specific about how much you think it’ll add to the bill. It’s easier to say yes to “it will probably cost about $20 more per month” than a vague “it will cost more.” If he says no, at that point I’d only offer to pay the additional cost yourself if you feel really strongly about this — like it’s something that you’re willing to use up a significant amount of your political capital on since you’re new (meaning you may not have anything left for other requests for a while). And even then, he may just say no.

But before you ask, I’d check if there are other options that could avoid the issue entirely, like ordering online. A lot of the big office supply stores let you order drinks and snacks online, like other office supplies.

3. Should I run any job I apply to by the recruiters I’ve talked to?

I’m looking for a new job and have talked to a number of recruiters, in addition to doing my own search. A few of the recruiters have told me that if I find a listing I’m interested in, I should run it by them before applying, because the recruiter might have a relationship with the company/be able to get me on the inside track. Is this a good idea? I get it that they might be able to get my resume pulled out of the pile, but on the other hand, wouldn’t a company prefer to just hire me than pay a recruiter to hire me? I’ve had bad experiences with recruiters in the past and not sure whether to trust them on this point. What do you think?

Yeah, I wouldn’t do that unless it’s a recruiter who you’ve worked with and really trust. A lot of recruiters ask this because they want to own your candidacy, so that if a company hires you, the recruiter gets a fee. That’s the case if they’re already working with the company (as they’re implying to you could be the case) or if they plan to just approach the company cold, with no existing contract — using your candidacy as their “in” to do it.. Either way, the benefit to you is likely to be slim, and the risk is fairly high: if the company isn’t working with the recruiter and the recruiter tries to present you to them, many companies will turn them down because they don’t use external recruiters (who charge companies hefty fees) or because they already have one they’re happy with. And then your application goes nowhere.

If you’re working with a recruiter who you really trust, that can be different. But outside of that situation and as a general rule, you’re better off managing your own job search; let recruiters work with you on the jobs they bring you, and continue managing the others on your own.

4. Employee quit and now keeps sending us her financial statements

One of our employee recently resigned and no longer works here. Now she keeps sending emails to management with bank statements, credit card statements, etc. We don’t know what to do with them and what she wants from us. We have cleared every everything regarding financial transactions and reimbursements during her employment with us. Can you please help us to write a notice that we do want to get any emails from her and pleasing her to stop sending emails further?

Have you tried asking her why she’s sending you those? It’s bizarre behavior, and the only explanation I can come up with is that she thinks you owe her money. So, try asking directly what’s going on — as in, “I’m not clear why you’re sending us bank and credit card statements. Are you waiting on some action from us?”

If you don’t get an explanation that makes sense, then go with, “Please stop sending us this information or we’ll need to block your emails, which we’d prefer not to do in case you need to reach us for legitimate reasons in the future.” But then block away if needed (or set her emails to go straight to the trash or to their own folder, which someone checks only rarely).

But also — what do you know about her? Has she displayed erratic, unbalanced behavior in the past? If so, you can view this in that context. If not and she’s always been reasonable, there’s something here that you’re missing.

5. I’ve never been promoted — is that a problem?

I have a general career question. Though my resume shows me in increasingly senior positions with more responsibilities and oversight, I’ve never actually been promoted at a place of work. Is this a problem? My first five years of professional experience were in an industry with very lock-step rules for promotions, so I’m not worried about that. Since then, I’ve been with three employers, for 4.5, 2.5, and now approaching 1 year. While each of these roles represents a “step up” professionally and came with better titles and more pay, I’ve never received a formal promotion with a title change and pay increase from an employer (which is part of what’s led me to move on — in one case there was a promise of a promotion that never materialized, and I’ve received some half-step promotions that included nominal raises and a bit more responsibility, but that’s it). I’m happy at my current job, but is this something I should be concerned about when potentially seeking opportunities in the future? Does the lack of an internal promotion look bad to hiring managers?

Nah, not typically. You’re showing a steady trajectory of growth, and it’s fine that it’s at different companies. (That said, I’d make sure that you’re staying at each for at least a few years, so that you have time to have real accomplishments and it doesn’t look like you’re hopping around without solid stays.)

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