This post, rejected on a video call, meetings on Juneteenth, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.
It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Hiring manager set up a video call to reject me
I applied to an internal job at my current company that would be fully remote. I went through the first and second round interviews and felt I did pretty well, but continued to apply to other places. In the meantime, I tried not to get too emotionally attached to this position, but the truth is I really, really wanted this job.
At my organization, the hiring process is extremely slow. About a month after the second interview, I followed up with the recruiter. I was told they would be interviewing one more person within the next week and to hold tight.
Fast forward to that next week and I received a video meeting invite from the hiring manager. The meeting was titled “quick touch-base” with no agenda attached and was scheduled for 15 minutes at the very end of a long day. Since I had no idea what to expect, I dressed in a full suit, made sure my hair and makeup were on point, and reviewed the job description, my resume, and cover letter again.
When we got on camera, the hiring manager said they had some disappointing news. They moved forward with another candidate. They were very impressed with my skill set and a generic email from HR seemed too impersonal, so they wanted to tell me personally and directly.
I sat there semi-dumbfounded in a full suit feeling like an idiot with little to say. It felt extremely awkward. I had no room to emote in that moment and no time to process. I kept a smile plastered on my face and just said, “Thanks for the opportunity, if you ever have a position that matches, please reach out to me.”
It was bizarre and made the rejection that much more painful. I was sort of shocked that someone would schedule a video call to tell me this. I’m not sure if this is a new standard, but instead of feeling kind, it felt very cruel. I went through the trouble of getting myself together for a video chat that ended up being maybe five minutes long. I understand not wanting to come across as impersonal, but it made me feel put on the spot.
Hiring managers, if you plan to reject someone, sometimes an email really is the best way to go about it. I would have even accepted a call over being forced to be on video to receive the not-so-great news. At least I wouldn’t have had to feel the need to prep and get myself ready for something that wasn’t going to happen.
Yes, this is a terrible idea. Calling people with a job rejection is usually the wrong move too, for many of the same reasons: the person gets their hopes up, then has to process and react to disappointing news on the spot. Doing it on video has all the same faults, plus more — now you have to control your face, not just your words, and you’ve dressed up for it too.
If a hiring manager wants to make a rejection feel less impersonal, they can do it by sharing the news in an email initially and then offering a call if the person wants it — not by blindsiding someone with the news in real time, and definitely not on camera.
2. A meeting scheduled on Juneteenth
My company recognizes and observes Juneteenth. I think this is super cool. This year, because Juneteenth falls on a Sunday, the office is closed on Monday, June 20th. We have a paid day off.
I’ve been invited to a meeting on the 20th. The meeting is with an organization that really values DEI in their work (as do I). I sit on their advisory board and this meeting is related to my service on the advisory board. I consider being part of the advisory board to be part of my “work.” The organizer has reached out to collect RSVPs. I drafted an email saying I wouldn’t be able to attend because my office is closed that day, but I have yet to hit “send” because I feel a little weird about it.
• I have the day off, so I should take the day off, right? I am being paid because I am a salaried, exempt employee and it’s a recognized holiday at my organization. I struggle enough with work-life balance without actively choosing to work on days off. I DO have the option of flexing the time and cutting out early later in the week.
• But attending this meeting where we will no doubt talk about DEI seems like a valuable way to spend my Juneteenth!
• But, if I decline and tell them why, perhaps that will prompt this organization to follow suit and observe Juneteenth in the future and that would be cool, right? I don’t actually know of any other organizations that recognize and observe Juneteenth, so perhaps my org is ahead of the curve on this and this would help with the spread? It’s even early enough that perhaps that can reconsider the date of the meeting and reschedule it for this year.
My organization makes a lot of decisions that don’t support their DEI goals (for example, not posting salaries in job descriptions), but they are actively working on a DEI initiative so I expect to see changes. The culture at my organization is really positive and supportive. I live in a largely white state that has a lot of work to do (starting with first recognizing they have work to do). I will likely attend an event on Juneteenth to recognize the day.
I am white and I’d really like to do the most thoughtful and helpful thing in this situation.
Why not point out that it’s the federal holiday for Juneteenth and ask them to reschedule the meeting? (They may not be thinking about Juneteenth at all, and/or they may not realize it became a federal holiday last year and is being observed on the 20th this year since the day falls on a weekend.)
You don’t have to say you won’t attend if they don’t, but just as you might point out that a meeting was scheduled for Yom Kippur even if you weren’t Jewish, it’s a useful thing to flag and suggest they change.
If they don’t change it, then it’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to attend a meeting that day — but flagging it as early as you can and suggesting they pick another date sounds like the most useful thing you could do.
3. Setting boundaries with student workers as a new manager
I am writing as a recent graduate from a master’s program who just landed a job in the field I got the degree for. It is at a university library, the same library I worked at as a grad student in one of the student assistant positions. Part of my new position is to manage the grad student assistants (five total), all of whom are students in the program I just graduated from.
I am asking for tips to make myself more authoritative and to assert the supervisor/student boundary. I believe part of the issue is that I am very close in age to the students (only a year or so older). I also used to work with a couple of them as a student, although this will change after they graduate this year. They see me as more of a peer than a supervisor.
I was recently pulled into a conversation with one of the student workers that I believe was inappropriate, considering our relationship. What started as me asking about how their degree was going turned into them being highly critical of the university, the master’s program, as well as specific professors that we had shared. Not the type of conversation you should ever be having with your boss. When I saw the conversation taking an unprofessional turn, I tried to head it off, but the student did not take the hint and kept going until I eventually excused myself from the conversation.
Since then, I have tried thinking of possible responses or strategies to more quickly shut down a conversation if it ever heads that way again, as well as ways to bring up the issue with the student directly if it ends up persisting. Advice regarding both would be really appreciated.
Depending on the specifics of the complaints, you could try this: “As your boss, this isn’t a conversation we should have, but if you do want to talk to someone about these issues, you could speak with ____.” Or, “I’m sorry you’re having frustrations — as your manager, I’m not the right audience for this but you could try ___.” Or, “That sounds really frustrating (or alarming/concerning/whatever is appropriate). Can I put you in touch with ____ to see if they can help?”
That said, it’s not inherently inappropriate for a student worker to share criticisms about the school with you, although it depends on the specifics of the complaints and whether they’re just venting or not. Either way, though, the responses above should help since (a) if the complaints are legit, you’ll be steering them toward an appropriate resource, and (b) if it’s really just venting, by taking it seriously and directing them elsewhere you’ll still be communicating the boundaries on your role and the relationship.
Other stuff that might help with establishing authority:
how I can be more authoritative now that I’m a manager?
how to appear more authoritative at work
4. Putting psychometric test results on a resume
What are your thoughts on the Clifton Strengths Finder? Should it be referenced in a resume or cover letter, or mentioned in an interview? Or just used to incorporate better language when discussing skills and accomplishments?
Don’t reference it in your resume or cover letter; that would be putting an unwarranted amount of emphasis on something that a lot of the people reading your resume will be unfamiliar with or just don’t find particularly valuable. It’s also more subjective than is helpful in this context, similar to putting “self-starter” or “good writer” on your resume — hiring managers want to see what you’ve done with your traits (actual accomplishments), not the traits themselves.
Those types of assessments can be useful in helping you understand your own strengths and way of working, but they shouldn’t go on a resume or in a cover letter.
5. Leaving my job while I’m covering for my boss
I am a deputy director of a small team within a larger institution. I have risen steadily through the ranks over the last few years and now find myself second in command. My boss is going to be on extended leave for several months, and every expectation is I will take the reins of the team and lead it through my boss’s absence. It is notable that the absence will include a critical time for the organization, including the potential for major upheaval and job loss if things don’t go our team’s way. I have gotten a little preview of what things will be like as my boss has been out for two weeks and it has been incredibly stressful doing two jobs.
Against this background I have had a potential job opportunity come up in another very prestigious institution. I did not apply for this job, but was contacted for it. There are still a lot of things to work through before I have an offer or accept it, including whether my salary requirements will be met. But I think I will likely be put in the position of making a choice. My job and boss have been good to me, but I have also worked very hard to get where I am. I know in the past I have let feelings of loyalty keep me from taking other opportunities, but I feel very lost about how I should evaluate and decide whether to stay or not. My spouse says my organization needs to be bigger than me, and no doubt they will get on without me somehow. I just worry about disappointing people and knowing what is right for me. I am also a WOC in a white, male-dominated field and I deal with impostor syndrome all the time. Where do I start?
If you end up wanting the other job, you should take the other job. If you’re good at your work, people will always be disappointed when you leave, but that can’t affect your decision or you’d never be able to leave at all. And yes, this will be a particularly inconvenient time for you to leave, but it’s not reasonable for your employer to expect you to put your career on hold for their convenience … and if they do want that, they have the option of negotiating that with you and paying you accordingly, like with a written, contractual retention bonus.
You can frame it as “this fell in my lap and it’s not something I can pass up.”
All that said, if it’s just a matter of pushing back the start date at the new job by a month or so, you could ask if the new employer would be open to that so you can finish out the leave coverage. The more senior you get, the easier it often is to do that, and the more common a request it is.