Roni F. Noland | Job Doc

Despite outrage, don't offer feedback on interviewer's unprofessionalism

Email|Print| Text size + By Roni F. Noland
November 11, 2007

Q. I am an administrative assistant at a university, working an 80-percent schedule as I need flexibility for family commitments. Recently, I applied for a full-time position in a department I have a strong personal interest in. The first interview, with two supervisors, went well, other than an impression that they wanted someone who would work extra hours as needed. I then had a second interview with the department administrative officer. She told me that she and the former administrative assistant had been close friends. She criticized the first two interviewers' working styles, saying she wanted to let me know what problems existed in that office. She spent much of the 75-minute interview talking about her personal life. I rescinded my application, stating I did not think I could make the time commitment the job deserved, which is true. My question is whether to provide feedback on the second interview, and, if so, to whom: The human resources department, and/or the first two interviewers?

A. I would advise you not to provide feedback on the second interview. You did the right thing, and withdrew your application. You did so graciously, by indicating that the hours and demands of the job were more than you wanted to take on.

I admire, understand, and even share your sense of ethical outrage at the unprofessional behavior of this administrative officer. Although it might help to alert either human resources or the managers to the potential harm this administrative officer could be doing to their interview process, you may not have enough information to make a case. You don't know whether or not what happened during your interview was an isolated incident. Lonely for her friend, the administrative officer appeared to be looking for a replacement as she talked with you. Perhaps she relaxed with you as you were an internal candidate and already an employee of the college.

As you are not interested in pursuing this position, I don't think that there is any need for you to talk further about this situation with either the managers or with human resources. Although you would be discreet in providing feedback, you would still run the risk of the administrative officer finding out that you had complained about her behavior. Being an employee of the same college puts you in somewhat of a bind: On the one hand, you may run into the administrative officer or the managers again. On the other hand, you may feel a sense of loyalty to your employer. Only you can balance these conflicting factors. If you do decide to speak up, the department to whom you should direct your feedback would be human resources, not to the two managers directly.

Suffering through a 75-minute monologue about an interviewer's personal life is more than any job candidate should ever have to bear. Talking about the perceived managerial weaknesses of your potential bosses must certainly have made you uncomfortable, as did her comments on her personal life.

Remember that you the job seeker have rights too. When you feel uncomfortable - for any reason - about the direction that an interview is taking, you have every right to speak up. It's okay to request that the interviewer stop a particularly offensive line of questioning or change an inappropriate topic of discussion.

This will not be the last time you will encounter a poor interviewer. The hope and the expectation is that the interviewer is skilled enough to ask the appropriate questions to elicit this information. Occasionally, you will encounter an interviewer who is new, inept, or unprofessional. Then it is up to you the job seeker to take control of the interview. Next time that happens to you, try to redirect and salvage at least a portion of the interview.

You always have the option to interrupt, and to take control - politely - by saying something like, "I would like the opportunity to tell you something more about myself and how I see myself fitting into this job and into your organization." This is a difficult but valuable technique to learn.

Nothing simple about healthcare reform
Q. I am a lifeguard at a local YMCA working 38 hours per week. I was told by my employer that I am not eligible for health insurance benefits. Is this right?

I am not able to give you a simple yes or no answer. "There is nothing simple about the new Massachusetts Health Care Reform Bill," says Harvey D. Cotton, an employee benefits lawyer with Ropes and Gray.

First, you need to ask your employer if they offer fully insured health insurance. This means they offer health insurance through providers such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, Cigna, or Tufts.

If this is the case, then healthcare reform mandates that the insurance company has to offer health benefits to all employees who work 35 hours or more per week, regardless of position or years of service. The law applies to all contracts entered on or after July 1, 2007.

If your employer self-insures, rather than using a third party insurance company, then they don't have to abide by the statues of the healthcare reform law.

If your employer offers health insurance, then you need to ask a second question: When is the next open enrollment period?

The answer to this question will tell you the anniversary date of their contract. This information is important, because most likely that will be the date when your eligibility for health insurance coverage through your employer will begin.

For example, let's assume your employer offers fully insured health insurance and the most recent health insurance contract was written on Feb. 1, 2007.

Assuming you remain at 35 hours per week or greater, you will be eligible to participate in the Y's subsidized health insurance program on or after Feb. 1, 2008. You will have to wait until the old contract period expires (as it was written before July 1, 2007), and the new contract period begins to be covered through the Y's subsidized health insurance.

In the interim, you are eligible for health insurance coverage through one of the options available through the Massachusetts Health Connector.

The Massachusetts Health Connector offers two types of insurance programs: Commonwealth Care, which includes no- or low-cost plans for individuals who meet certain income eligibility guidelines; and Commonwealth Choice, an array of plans for individuals and small employers who don't qualify for Commonwealth Care. To learn more, go to their website, MAhealth connector.org, or call the toll-free number, 1-877-623-6765.

Any worker ineligible for subsidized coverage by his or her employer is eligible for health insurance through the connector. The connector is designed to provide seamless coverage as individuals change their status from full time to part time or from employed to unemployed.

The goals of healthcare reform are to improve the quality of health insurance in Massachusetts and to provide a safety net for people. The health insurance plans listed on the website include some affordable options for independent young adults, ages 19-26.

Jobless insurance rate set by state
Q. At some point, in the past, my boss and I had a discussion about the possibility of laying off another employee. I told him it may not be a bad idea, because the employee clearly was not a fit here. My boss said that he will never lay someone off, but will make the person so miserable that they will quit on their own, because, he said, he doesn't want to have to pay unemployment benefits. My question is: Don't all employers pay into unemployment insurance that is used to help pay unemployment benefits? Or are there extra charges they have to pay on top of their regular payments into unemployment benefits, after a person is let go, for the duration the employee is collecting?

A. Contributory employers do not pay extra charges on top of their quarterly contribution, when an employee is collecting unemployment benefits. However, the setting of the contribution rate of unemployment insurance for employers is similar to the way the rate is set for other types of insurance. The insurance company looks at how many claims were made in the previous calendar year, and how much money they gave out. In the same way that your car insurance can increase after you file several claims, so too can the employer's contribution rate rise.

The Massachusetts Division of Unemployment Assistance calculates each employer's rate annually, by using a formula that takes into account the following three factors: 1. The employer's account balance going into the rating year; 2. The amount of payments made by the employer in the rating period; and 3. The amount of taxable wages the employer has during the rating period, said Linnea Walsh, director of communications at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

A far kinder approach would have been to triage the problem early on. As soon as it was obvious that the employee was not a good fit for the job, perhaps you or your boss could have started working with that person. Additional training, executive coaching, or an internal transfer are all less drastic options than goading the employee into quitting. [Update: The boss did make that employee so miserable he quit on his own.]

Roni F. Noland is a career counselor/coach in private practice. She can be reached at rfnoland@comcast.net. E-mail questions to jobdoc@globe.com or mail to Job Doc, Boston Globe, Box 55819, Boston, 02205-5819.