It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Interviewer was bothered that I didn’t ask any questions of my own
I recently completed a fourth interview with a company. The interviews consisted of a 30-minute screening interview, a 40-minute screening/informational interview with one of the higher up directors, an hour-long interview with that same director and another director, and a fourth hour-long interview with one of the previous directors and an even higher up director.
All of the interviews were pleasant and informative, but during the first three interviews I was able to gather all of the pertinent information I needed about the job, culture, and proposed role. During that stage I had also done a bit a research into the company’s expansive and well-designed website, which left nary a stone unturned in terms of providing information on the company.
At the end of the fourth interview, the director asked me if I had any questions. I replied honestly that I did not. He seemed caught off guard and questioned me on this in a polite but pointed manner. I was unsure how to react in the moment so I explained that the previous conversations I had were very helpful and informative and that I did not have additional questions at this time. I visually referenced the director from one of the previous interviews hoping she would confirm that we had talked extensively about questions I’d already posed, but she was silent. How should I have responded to this?
Ideally you’d always have at least a couple of questions ready, even if you feel like you already know everything you need. Not asking any questions can look like you’re not being thoughtful enough about the job (and maybe aren’t terribly invested in this particular job, although obviously doing four separate interviews should be a counterweight against that). And really, when you’re considering spending 40+ hours a week with this company for the next several years of your life, there probably are additional things that would be interesting or useful to know, even after you’ve gotten the basics out of the way.
I sometimes hear people say, “I ask questions as we talk, so I really don’t have anything left to ask by they time they formally ask for my questions.” And if you’ve really been asking your own questions during that meeting (not just in previous ones), that can be fine. But otherwise, yeah, some interviewers will be a little taken aback if you don’t take advantage of the opportunity, so it’s smart to always have some questions ready to go.
Also, it’s fine to repeat a question you asked someone else in an earlier round. You can frame it as, “I asked about this in an earlier conversation but I’d love to hear your perspective on it too.”
2. My boss prioritizes constant personal calls over her job
My team and I all work remotely. Our supervisor prioritizes everyone within her personal life over her employees. She has two grown sons and spends her whole day on the phone with them. They call her nonstop and she prioritizes their calls over a business call with me or the other team member. I’ve had to sit there listening to them talk about a mattress being delivered, a drive from point A to point B, even her putting me on hold while she calls her 28-year-old to get up for work. She has put me on hold because she needs to call a friend about something. Or a friend will call and she will take their call and put me on hold. I’m not talking about emergency/urgent matters, I’m talking about the mundane everyday issues (i.e., grocery list). I should say, she doesn’t just do this to me, but also my coworker.
She has worked with the company for 20+ years. I have been with them two, so my standing is essentially nothing. I am 63 years of age and plan on retiring within the next four years, so looking for a new position isn’t really optimal. I have disconnected the connection when she has left me on hold for more than a minute. I once tried to talk to her about the situation but got “you don’t understand, I’m a single mother.” She has uttered the phrase “you don’t understand, I … (fill in an issue we’ve all faced)” more times than I can count. How do you deal with a person such as that? What do you do with a supervisor who feels her private life is a greater priority over your job-related issue?
She’s being rude and neglecting her job, but it’s probably not going to change. If it causes actual work problems, you can raise the specifics of that — like, “We’ve had two clients storm out in a huff because we needed your input and you were on a personal call — how can we handle this differently in the future so that doesn’t happen?” But if it’s just that she’s being rude to you and the other team member … well, you’ve tried to talk to her about it, she wasn’t open to hearing it, and there’s not a lot more you can do.
In theory you could escalate it to someone above her, but there’s no guarantee that will solve it and you risk the situation blowing up into something worse. If you’re ever asked for feedback about her, it’s definitely something you should raise. But otherwise … your boss is rude and inattentive and isn’t likely to change, so you’ve got to decide if you can live with that or not. Sometimes there can be liberation in just accepting that this is how your manager is and you don’t need to keep searching for solutions because there aren’t any. Other times knowing that’s the reality can make you want to jump out of your skin. You’ve got to decide where on that spectrum you fall.
3. I can’t give my employee much notice for schedule changes
I co-own and co-manage a very small business: it’s just me, my spouse, and a full-time hourly employee, “Joe,” who has worked for us for four years. Our work requires us all to be outside the vast majority of the time, so it’s weather-dependent but we keep a list of “indoor projects” to keep Joe productive when it’s not safe to work outside.
Our policy has always been to set Joe’s schedule as far in advance as we can, usually months in advance. I ask Joe to provide four weeks notice for time off requests. To date, I’ve never scheduled him to work more than 40 hours per week, Monday-Friday, but he does sometimes work up to 45 hours/week of his own initiative to finish projects, which I appreciate (we pay overtime).
Last year we had a few work bottlenecks due to unexpected weather events that prevented us from being outside. My husband and I made up the missed hours ourselves by working overtime on weekends and during the week before and after the weather to meet the deadline, and it sucked. We didn’t ask Joe to help more because it seemed unfair to change his schedule at the last minute. This year, I’d like to institute some kind of expectation that mandatory overtime or weekend scheduling may be necessary during key periods (generally just once or twice a year), but I’m still stumped on how to fairly change Joe’s schedule at the last minute. What if he already has plans? I could probably give him a two-week heads-up like, “Big deadline X is coming up in about two weeks. If we can’t work due to rain around then, we will all need to work overtime or weekends to make sure that we meet the deadline.” I could also offer him some extra time off after the deadline is met. But again, what if he already has plans (either pre-approved time off or just regular after work/weekend plans)?
For some additional context: in our industry, the norm is for full time employees to work 45-55 per week. When my spouse and I worked as employees in this industry, we found that many hours unreasonable for a long-term career since work is also really physically demanding, so we’ve tried to have more reasonable expectations in our own business … but we’re the only job in this industry that Joe has had so I’m not sure he knows this.
If once or twice a year he might have to work overtime with two weeks advance warning … that’s not really a big deal! If it were constant, that would be different (and you might need to pay a premium to make it worth it to the person). But you’re talking about something very occasional, and not terribly last-minute. It should be fine to just explain this is what to expect going forward. If it does turn out that Joe has unmovable plans for that period, he can tell you that and you can work around it as you’ve been doing — but much/most of the time, it’ll probably be fine.
One thing I’d look at though: Do you really need four weeks notice from Joe every time he needs time off, even for just a day or two off? Maybe you really do, but that’s a lot to ask unless there’s a very clear work-related need for it. If you’re asking him to be open to schedule changes with less notice then that, ideally you’d be open to it from him as well (within reason).
4. Asking for a copy of the job description
I have an interview in one week, and I foolishly forgot to save the job description before it was taken offline. Does it look really bad to reach out to my interviewer and ask for it? Should I just try to remember what I can based on what I put in my cover letter?
Nah, it’s fine. I mean, obviously it’s better if you remembered to save it, but it shouldn’t be a big deal to say, “Would it be possible to send me a copy of the job description since it’s no longer online?” And that’s definitely better than going into the interview without being able to review the details about the job.
5. How do big theme parks manage staff?
I recently returned from a trip to Disney World and while it was fun and magical and all that, I couldn’t stop viewing it through a management lens and a mind-boggling HR and logistics perspective. There are SO MANY employees. They appear to work pretty independently and not closely supervised, yet they are all towing the strict-bordering-on-cultish company line (calling everyone “friend,” maintaining a happy demeanor in the face of rude and cranky people, greeting little girls as “princess,” etc.), people are herded through lines efficiently, and every parade and show starts right on time. How is this accomplished?! What kind of interview process determines if someone is suited to be relentlessly happy all day? How do you give Cinderella a performance evaluation? How would you know if one employee out of hundreds (thousands?) isn’t fulfilling their responsibilities? I am incredibly curious about Disney World in particular, but I guess this would apply to managing any sort of large entertainment venue (other theme parks, stadiums, etc.) the thought of which thrills and terrifies me in equal measure.
Everything I know about this comes from reading the absolutely fascinating book Inside the Mouse: Work and Play at Disney World, which I highly recommend if you have these questions (this recommendation isn’t sponsored, but I do make a commission if you use that link). But I’m also going to throw this out to commenters who have worked in theme parks and are willing to share their experience.
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