Dear Sam: Since being unemployed, I find it frustrating that my applications are met with automated responses. In addition, despite being encouraged to follow up on job interviews and leads, most of those automated responses reiterate that there should be no reply emails or calls. Most of the time, I find that I have no idea where my resume lands and whether a human even looks at it. I am met with praise and accolades for my 20+ years of solid work history when I get an interview, yet I do not get the job. I am beginning to wonder if my previous employer is perhaps not providing the best recommendation. What are your thoughts? – Sunny
Dear Sunny: Do you have reason to think that your last employer is not providing a good recommendation? Today, employers are heavily restricted in terms of the information they can provide during a reference check. We all know that sometimes rules aren’t always followed, so if you are concerned, I encourage you to reach out to your past employer and ask them if they have been contacted for any reference checks. During that call, get a read about how many times they have been approached and perhaps ask what they verify when a potential employer calls. Additionally, reach out to past peers and managers and secure letters of recommendation that you can take to an interview. These provide instant validation of the claims in your resume and can provide much more information on which to judge performance and character than a neutral reference check. By doing this, you will be taking your fate into your own hands and ensuring your past employer will not hinder your chances for future employment.
Dear Sam: I am looking for advice about applying for a job in higher education. I have the experience and education required for the position. The ad for the job does not specify full-time or part-time, so I am assuming it is a full-time role. The position appeals to me, and I feel I could be an asset to the school, but I only want to work part-time hours.
If I apply for the position, should I mention the possibility of either part-time hours—or job sharing—in a cover letter or wait until I get contacted for an interview? Alternatively, should I forget the entire thing and apply only for positions advertised as part-time? – Skylar
Dear Skylar: Great question! I would recommend waiting until interest has been established in you as a candidate before you start negotiating terms of employment. If the position is indeed full-time, an employer could still see something in you that they do not find in candidates seeking full-time employment, hence there may be some “wiggle room” in the position’s structure, hours, compensation, etc. So, I would wait until you are interviewing and moving along in the process to mention the terms you would prefer.
Now, if asked directly about your preference as to part- vs. full-time, you should, of course, be honest, but I would not offer your employment preferences until you feel it is time to negotiate the terms of your employment. If only searching for part-time roles, you will find that your choices will be significantly diminished. However, more positions than you would expect have room for negotiation, so it is entirely likely you could strike the work-life balance you are seeking even in a full-time role. Keep your options open and wait until interest has been established, then open discussions on possible working structures that would be mutually agreeable. Best of luck!