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

1. My boss says I lied since I didn’t subtract maternity leave from my years of experience

I was at my last position for three years. About a year into my role, my manager had insinuated I lied about my experience when applying for my position because I had five years of experience at my previous job but had taken maternity leave (one year) during that time and did not disclose this during my interview. She said that they paid me based on the experience I let them think that I had. Let me point out I excelled at my job and she had no issues with my work whatsoever. I also had a couple raises during my employment. It bothered me and we discussed it at the time and moved on from it. However, recently when I resigned, it became a topic of discussion yet again.

I have a right to maternity leave and would find it odd to disclose this on a resume or bring it up during an interview. Who is in the wrong here? And how could I have handled this better?

No, your manager is wrong. It’s not expected that you’ll announce on your resume that you took parental leave or medical leave or any other kind of leave; in fact, in most cases it would be odd to see that there. It’s true that if you were only at a job for, say, 14 months and you spent 12 of those months out on leave, that’s relevant info that you should mention. But you were at this job for five years. You’re not expected to declare it.

Plus, the idea that there are likely to be substantive differences between four and five years of experience doesn’t hold much water for most jobs. And frankly, some people have 20 years of experience but perform like they have only one, so if your boss wants to ensure she’s getting a certain level of expertise she needs to screen for expertise in interviews, not use years of experience as a proxy.

Also, how and why did it come up again when you resigned? I have a feeling there’s a story there and that story is at least in part that your manager is weird.

2. I turned down a same-day interview

I received a phone call this morning asking whether I could come in for a follow-up interview today. I was available, but I opted not to go because of how sudden the request was.

For context, I’d had a phone interview the week prior and received an email from the recruiter on Monday this week saying they would like to schedule an in-person interview around Thursday or Friday, but they could not mark an exact date and time because of the fluctuating schedule of the job. They said they would be in contact to solidify a date and I asked them to keep me updated and said I would try my best to accommodate their schedule for either Thursday or Friday. I did not receive any contact Wednesday, and so I had assumed that I would not be going on Thursday. Then they called this morning (Thursday), asking if I could come in since their schedule had opened up from case cancellations. I declined since it was sudden. I actually did have time available in the day to go, but I would have preferred one day’s prior notice to confirm and mentally prepare. I’m now wondering if it was wrong of me to refuse, and if I have ruined my chances at the job. I’m also wondering if is incumbent on me to reach out to the interviewer and schedule the follow-up interview since I declined to go.

There’s nothing wrong with saying you can’t do a same-day interview; it would have been unreasonable for them to expect you to hold your entire Thursday and Friday open, especially when you hadn’t heard anything by the end of Wednesday. But it also wasn’t unreasonable of them to ask if you could make it work since they had an opportunity to fit you in.

So this isn’t about anyone being right or wrong. That said, you might have put yourself at a disadvantage by not taking the interview when they could offer it. They’ll probably end up offering you a different day, but there’s a risk that if other strong candidates emerge, they could end up just proceeding with them. Because of that, if you could have been flexible without much hardship, I would have recommended doing it. But it also makes sense to decline if you didn’t have enough time to prepare and might not have interviewed as well as a result.

How did you leave things at the end of that call? If they didn’t indicate what to expect next (“we’ll aim for next week instead and contact you on Monday” or so forth), you should reach out and ask about scheduling so that it’s clear you’re still interested and want to keep things moving along.

3. Correcting a manager’s mispronunciation

A manager who I respect and admire routinely pronounces “fiscal” as “physical.” How can I gently point this out without humiliating the person?

The manager is above me in hierarchy, has decades of experience, and is well educated. I can only guess it’s an unconscious habit, not a misunderstanding of what the words mean.

It’s actually not that uncommon to hear people mispronounce this word now and then and I’d never correct a casual contact. However, given our environment, it would be seen as a sign of odd ignorance in my organization. I sincerely want to help, not embarrass, this person.

I’d leave it alone! They’re senior to you with decades of experience and they’ve made it this far. They’ll be okay.

4. I wish my team had more diversity of ages

In the past couple of years, I got hired to a great job, taking on the positions of two people who retired. My team of 20 is all over 40 years old. Over half are past retirement age, and I am younger than all but two. They are a great group who are fantastic at their jobs and I am not looking forward to the days when they start retiring since I enjoy working with them so much. I understand all of the arguments for a diversity of ages, but how do I extend our diversity younger without encountering ageism in hiring? Our company is known for being a great employer, with flexibility and benefits that help people stay a long time. I just would like a little more range of experience and the opportunity for my experienced team to teach others all they know! Is that completely taboo?

Legally, you can’t give preference to younger candidates even if you’re doing it to make your team more diverse (age discrimination is against federal law, with the protection kicking in at age 40). However, if what you really want are more junior-level staff to round out your team, you can create more junior-level positions and advertise for them, as long as you don’t discriminate against older candidates who apply. You can also think about what perspectives or skills are missing from your team because of its current makeup and advertise for a candidate who would bring those missing elements, as long as those things are genuine work needs and not just a cover for attracting younger people.

5. Should I mention my financial support of a nonprofit in my cover letter for a job there?

Do I mention my financial support of a nonprofit in my cover letter for a job at that nonprofit? In this case, it’s a tiny nonprofit that is just now adding a part-time role to its current staff of one executive director.

On the one hand, its a clear demonstration of my enthusiasm for their work, especially as I can’t afford to give to all the nonprofits that do work I find important. On the other hand, I don’t want to come across as suggesting I’m owed a single thing as a result of my (very modest!) support.

In this instance, I am leaving it off — it would be really easy for them to look up my status as a donor if they were curious. I figure it’s something I can drop super quick into an interview if the appropriate moment comes up, and then move right on. But I am curious about your thoughts on this!

Yeah, you don’t want to make them worry it could be awkward to reject a donor, but you do want to convey that your support and commitment to their mission is long-standing and real.

I would word it as, “As a long-time member of the Llama Rescue League…” I like “member” (assuming they’re using a membership model) or “supporter” over “donor” so that it doesn’t sound like you’re emphasizing the financial part too much. And if they want to look it up, they’ll see it’s real. That said, I could argue for “donor” too. You’re fine either way, really.

As an aside, working in nonprofits I used to sometimes get cover letters that would say the person had been a long-time member and I would look it up to see and so often they were not! Which is totally fine — you don’t need to be a member to apply — but don’t claim you are if you’re not and never have been. I think those applicants assumed “feelings of support” somehow equaled “membership.”

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