It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Wearing a Halloween costume to an interview
I have an interview on Halloween. Would it be ok to wear a costume to show my fun spirit?
Nooooo. Unless you’re interviewing someone where “fun spirit” is a major and key job requirement, this would be a very bad idea (and even then, I wouldn’t do it).
While I’m sure there’s some interviewer out there who would appreciate it and think it’s awesome, there are far more who will find it off-key and inappropriate for a professional situation. Plus, you want the focus on your qualifications, not what you’re wearing.
2. How to address performance problems with an employee who makes excuses
I have a new director’s role at a large-ish nonprofit and will soon “inherit” some staff. One of these employees has a pattern of executing tasks we hadn’t agreed on, misinterpreting things, and in one notable, recent case, not remembering something he’d emailed me the day before. When I ask for clarification or otherwise address these, he often claims to be “not thinking clearly.”
Over a month ago, I was also contacted by a former manager and a former colleague of this employee. They both reached out to warn me this staff person is not up to the job and not to be trusted.
I have been trying to be as fair as possible but I must confess, the “not thinking clearly” excuse distracts me. I need to set forth some performance expectations but “clear thinking” can’t be one of them. I’d love to hear any advice on how to handle this.
If he has a pattern of performance problems, the fact that he attributes it to “not thinking clearly” isn’t an excuse. You need him meeting the requirements of his job, regardless of whether he’s thinking clearly or not. And that’s the way to approach this: by sitting down with him and laying out what you need him to do differently, period.
I agree with you that “clear thinking” isn’t an especially measurable performance metric, but it’s certainly an issue that you can raise, because you need him thinking clearly and you can say that. It’s perfectly reasonable to say something like, “I’m concerned by the pattern I’m seeing of incidences like X, Y, and Z. I need you to do ___ differently. When we’ve discussed that in that past, you’ve mentioned that you weren’t thinking clearly. I know we all have moments like that, but going forward, I do need clear thinking in this role.” Also, be explicit that your concerns are serious and that the problems will jeopardize his job if not resolved.
Ultimately, the thing to keep in mind is that you want to describe what great performance looks like in the role, and how he’s currently falling short of that. It’s absolutely reasonable to hold him to that bar; don’t get distracted by the “not thinking clearly” response.
3. Am I obligated to give a witness statement about an incident with a coworker?
At my place of employment, there was a situation between two coworkers. Two other women and I were around at the time. So when one employee went to the manager to complain, she named me as a witness to the situation. I was pulled into the office 8 days later and, to be honest, do not remember word for word what happened because I was carrying out my own business. I can’t even remember what I did 8 hours ago, let alone what someone else said 8 days ago! But I was asked to write a statement of the event to help determine proper disciplinary action! Am I obligated to write this statement being as though I am uncomfortable with the fact that I may be causing someone to lose their job over something I do not fully recall?
Yes, you’re obligated to share what you know; that’s a perfectly reasonable thing of your employer to require of you when trying to sort out an incident that happened in the office. However, you’re not obligated to claim certainty that you don’t have; you’re only obligated to tell the truth. It would be perfectly reasonable to say, “I wasn’t paying a lot of attention when it happened and my memory is hazy. What I recall for sure is ___.”
4. Including quotes from performance reviews on LinkedIn
What do you think about quoting performance reviews in the experience section of LinkedIn? Yay or nay?
Meh. In general, I don’t even typically advise it for resumes — although if the quote is truly phenomenal (and contains real substance and concrete specifics), it can be effective. The problem is that more often than not, when people do it, the quotes just aren’t that superlative and they end up sounding like they don’t really know what top performance looks like. I’m even wary of telling people that it’s okay to use one if it’s truly superlative, because some people have a much lower bar for “superlative” than they should and if the quote is anything less than unusually fantastic, it can really leave the wrong note.
But back to LinkedIn: As with your resume, it’s going to be all in the execution. I can imagine it done well, but I can also imagine it done pretty poorly.
5. Bullet points in cover letters
You’ve got a lot written about good cover letters, but I haven’t seen any addressing bullet points. Is it okay to use bullet points in a cover letter? Someone is suggesting that instead of wordy paragraphs, I highlight my skills and accomplishments with a few bullet points. He used them successfully, so I think I’ll try it out, but I’m curious what you think.
Skills and accomplishments belong in your resume. Your cover letter shouldn’t repeat what’s on your resume (since that would be squandering the opportunity to say something additional).
If you can use bullet points as part of a compelling narrative that isn’t just regurgitating what’s on your resume, then sure, go for it — but the most important thing is your content, not its format. (That said, in general, I think it’s a little harder to write a great cover letter that’s heavily focused around bullet points, although not impossible.)
wearing a Halloween costume to an interview, talking to an employee with fuzzy thinking, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.