I’m insulted by a junior hire with the same title as me, thank-you notes after terrible interviews, and more — Ask a Manager

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

1. I’m insulted that we’ve hired someone very junior to me with the same title

I’ve spent 15 years in my field and have a job title much like “senior consultant.” I’m good at what I do and I love it. Recently, the managing director of the small agency where I work has hired someone with three years experience in my field (for three years before that she was an au pair) and also given her the job title of “senior consultant.”

Apart from the fact that we didn’t need another consultant (I’m not overloaded and there’s no business need), I’m seeing a big red flag in her entry into a senior level position and can’t help but feel — well, insulted, is the best way of phrasing it.

To me it feels like my director values my experience so little than anyone with a fifth of my experience can do what I do for the business. How can I approach this in a way that enables my director to understand that not only will clients be disappointed when they don’t get the expertise that they presume she’ll have but also that I feel like my own experience has been undermined in front of both clients and colleagues — without coming across like I’m threatened by her?

Well … there’s nothing here about your new colleague’s skills, and that’s where you need to focus. Right now, it sounds like you’re taking her hire too personally, and that you’re defending your turf more than you’re pointing to any real problems for the business.

I do get why this would feel insulting, but you’re probably not going to get anywhere with your boss with that approach. Clearly she does think this new hire is qualified, since she hired her — and so arguing that her experience makes her inherently unsuitable isn’t likely to be convincing and is likely to come across as you overly personalizing the situation. The best thing you can do, hard as it might be, is to approach this with an open mind and see what your new coworker brings to the job. As you get more familiar with her work, if you see the problems you expect to see, then you can raise those — but you’ll be a lot more credible doing that when you have real specifics to talk about.

I wouldn’t worry a lot about clients thinking you have less expertise than you do just because a less experienced coworker has the same title. They’ll be able to tell if they get more expert, more nuanced work from you than they do from her.

2. Should I send a thank-you note if I bombed the interview?

I did an internship interview earlier today that went pretty terribly. The advertisement for the position was really general sounding and seemed like they needed someone to help around the office with a lot of different tasks, but it became clear in the interview that it was to help with a really specific project that required a level of subject knowledge I didn’t have. I became pretty flustered and walked off feeling really mortified. I clearly wasn’t qualified for the job and they didn’t do a good job communicating that they wanted someone with that knowledge.

I typically write thank-you emails after interviews to mildly bolster my candidacy. Do you think I should do it when there’s no hope for me being considered? I feel weird writing a thank-you as if I’m in the running for the job when it became clear in the interview I wasn’t the person. I’m not sure what I’d even say? Apologize?

First, if anyone here should apologize, it’s them, not you. They wrote an overly vague job ad and (assuming your resume wasn’t misleading) they called you for an interview without confirming that you had the core qualifications they needed. You understandably assumed that if they were interviewing you, you were at least a plausible match for the role. So you have nothing to apologize for. It was just a misunderstanding.

But no, you don’t need to send a thank-you note if you’ve decided the job isn’t for you. In theory, you could send a note saying it sounds like they’re looking for someone with experience in X, which isn’t you, but you wish them luck in filling the role. But you don’t need to do that; it’s fine to just leave the ball in their court if you want to.

That said, there’s an argument that it’s always good to send a thank-you note regardless, because (a) your assessment of how you did might not be correct — people have gotten job offers after thinking they interviewed terribly, and (b) they might have another role that you’d be stronger for. But it’s really up to you (and if you walk away thinking, “Ugh, I’d never work for them in any capacity,” then definitely no note is needed).

3. Rural jobs are rejecting me because of my bigger city salary history

I moved to one of the most remote rural communities in the lower 48 about two years ago. Previously, I had lived and worked almost exclusively in large metropolitan areas — think New York, Detroit, Dallas. I was in an extremely specialized line of work that I excelled at, and I was compensated as such.

Now that I’m looking for work again, but in a rural area (I’m in the only “city” for several hundred miles, and there’s only about 20,000 people in this “city”), I’m running into a wall where I’m being told that I’m overqualified for any job I apply for, even in my field! Many of these applications are asking for salary history. I’m not expecting New York pay out of a small mining town, but I think companies are balking. It’s a big difference! A good job here might pay $40k, and I was making $120k at my last city job.

Should I just leave these fields blank if their application platform allows me to? How do I address this in interviews?

If you can leave those fields blank, definitely do. If you’re required to put something, try putting all 1’s or something else that makes it obvious you’re not giving a real answer (which should prompt them to ask you in a real conversation if they want to push).

In general, try to avoid talking about salary history entirely if you can because your past earnings are no one’s business but yours. There’s advice here and here on how to do that. But if someone is really pushing for an answer, try saying, “My previous salaries were in markets like New York, where the market and the cost of living are incredibly different. I don’t expect to be paid a New York salary here. I’m looking for something in the range of $X.”

4. A recruiter changed my resume without my knowledge

I recently worked with a recruiter from a very large contracting firm in the area I live to get into a huge, Fortune 50 tech company. During my interview with said huge company, the hiring manager made a passing comment about how my resume “was not reflective” of how I interviewed or my qualifications. I was surprised, as I’d received many compliments on the same resume from other companies, and gotten many callbacks. When he pulled it out of his portfolio, I was appalled to discover the recruiter had completely deleted my header with name/contact info, etc. and sloppily inserted their own “resume header.” It completely screwed up my formatting and made my resume look like a gigantic train wreck. Fortunately I had my own original copy with me to show him.

He much later confessed that the only reason he had called me in for an interview was because I was the only woman applicant in the pile and the company prides itself on diversity, and if that wasn’t the case, he never would have because the resume he was given was so bad. (I did get the job on my own merits — he said my interview blew everyone else out of the water.)

I discussed this with the recruiter in question, but I figured it was a good “general warning” for people: make sure they’re not changing your resume and ask to see the version presented to the hiring managers.

Yes! This is a thing some recruiters do. It’s because when they “own” your candidacy and ensure all communication goes through them. That desire itself isn’t inherently unreasonable; lots of recruiters do that because that’s how they earn a living. But altering your resume without your permission or knowledge and making it look worse than it did before isn’t okay, and is the mark of a crappy recruiter.

Some recruiters go even further than yours did and change details about your jobs, which also isn’t okay to do without your knowledge.

When you’re working with a recruiter, it’s fine to ask if they’ll alter your resume in any way.

5. When a company flies me out to interview, can I ask for something other than a simple roundtrip flight?

Is it appropriate to ask an organization flying you out of state for an interview to reimburse something other than a roundtrip flight? For example, if you have a fly-out to one city a couple of days before you have a conference in another, and would prefer not to fly home in between, could you ask to book an non-roundtrip ticket, and/or delay the departure leg a day or two (with lodging, ground transport, etc. at your own expense)? Or would that look high-maintenance? (I’m assuming here that I would be doing the legwork of booking so it wouldn’t make any extra work for the organization.)

As long as you make it clear it won’t add to the cost for them, you can ask to do that. But do first make sure it won’t add to their costs, since a flight “back” to a third city can be more expensive than a simple roundtrip. But once you find a way to do it that won’t increase their costs, you can say something like, “Since I have a meeting in San Diego right after that, I’d like to book my second flight to San Diego rather than back to Boston. I’d like looks like it would cost $350, the same as flying me back to Boston. Okay for me to book it that way?”

Then when you’re submitting for reimbursement, include a note like, “Per my discussion with Liz on 10/7 (email copied below), my flights were Boston to Vegas, then Vegas to San Diego. Also, note I’m only submitting for one of the three nights on the hotel bill.”

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