do younger managers still care about thank-you notes, I don’t want to hire my ex’s father, and more

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

1. Do younger hiring managers still care about thank-you notes?

I’ve been on a couple of job interviews for entry-level jobs in my field and have a question about post-interview thank you letters. My rule is to always send one if the interviewer is a bit older (40+) or if the interview process is very formal.

I recently applied for a job with a start-up; the process was casual and the people who interviewed me were all around their mid-20s. Should I be sending a thank-you email after these types of interviews? I always end the interview with a clear thank you and I feel that millennials tend to see these messages as insincere and purely procedural.

Also, what is the protocol when you’re not offered the interviewer’s email at all? Is this signal that they don’t want candidates contacting them directly?

It’s generally a bad move to assume all people of a particular generation feel a certain way about anything. There are plenty of younger managers who appreciate thoughtful post-interview notes. And millennials have received the same guidance to send post-interview notes that other generations have received, so even if they’re more cynical about them, they’ll know why you’re sending it and in many cases will have sent their own. There’s a greater risk of being at a disadvantage for not sending one than for sending one. (And you know, younger managers often have older bosses … although really, we shouldn’t be playing into generational stereotypes at all. It’s not great for prospective colleagues to assume things about you based on your age, in either direction!)

If the concern is that a note will appear insincere and purely procedural, then write a note that doesn’t feel that way. Everyone should be doing anyway, since perfunctory notes are crap no matter how old the recipient is.

If you’re not offered the interviewer’s email, it usually doesn’t mean much more than that they didn’t think to offer it. You should still send the note.

2. I don’t want to be listed on a company website for safety reasons

A situation that occurred a couple of years ago still bugs me, so I’d like your take on it. At the time, I had been in my position for five years when my past came back to haunt me. Long story short, I found out that a man who had previously raped, stalked, and threatened to kill me was asking around about how to contact me. Those events happened 10 years ago, but, for hopefully obvious reasons, some fear of him remains. I choose to remain unfound by him and, when I discovered he had renewed efforts to find me, I asked my employer to remove my information from their website — information that included my full name, picture, and the location of where I go to work everyday.

For context, I was in a client-facing position, but my role served only a specific pool of people who didn’t need the website to reach me, as there were internal contacts for that. Think, someone contracted out to work with just one company and clients didn’t come from anywhere else. I was also a trusted, hard-working employee who wasn’t known for complaining or making special requests. After some discussion, I was essentially told no. They would not long-term remove my information from the website without documentation proving the threat. I don’t have, nor can I get, such documentation. One of the reasons they gave was “anyone could come in and say this and it’s important that our website represents our employees.” Aside from the fact that insinuating a rape survivor is lying is just bad, am I right to be disturbed by their stance on this or is this an expected stance? I have since moved on from this job for this, and other, reasons. Is there a more effective way to approach this issue in the future or am I now limited to non-client facing positions (which is not really a thing in my career)?

No, this is super messed up. When an employee says having their info publicly available is putting them at risk of violence, responsible companies remove that information. That can get trickier if the position by its nature is a very public one (although even then they should try to work with you to figure out how to keep you safe), but that wasn’t the situation here. Your former employer handled this terribly, and I’m sorry they made a horrible situation even worse for you.

Going forward, if you’re considering taking a job with a company that lists its staff publicly, you could raise it once you have an offer — saying something like, “I’ve had a frightening stalking situation in the past and to keep myself safe from a recurrence am careful not to put anything online revealing my location. I know you list your staff on your website and I’d need to be excluded from that for safety reasons.” A good employer will make that happen.

3. Is it okay not to want to hire my ex’s father?

I’m the hiring manager for two new roles on my team which will report to me, and I’ve dove in to LinkedIn Recruiting to encourage potential candidates to apply. In one of my searches for people to contact, a familiar name appeared in the results — my high school ex’s father.

I went to high school in a different state than I live in now, and unbeknownst to me it turns out he entered the field in which I work and moved here. My relationship with his daughter in high school was fraught with problems. She emotionally abused me, manipulated me, and cheated on me, among other things. To make matters worse, her father was borderline abusive to her at the time and I had an almost non-existent relationship with him while I was dating her. My relationship with her caused me to carry substantial baggage into future relationships for decades.

Upon seeing his name and profile in the results, I did some quick Googling to confirm it was in fact him, and it was. His profile and experience honestly match what I’m looking for in my two new hires, but after sitting and thinking about it for a few minutes, I marked him as “Not a Fit” and added a note to my coworkers that I had a previous personal history with him and could not work with him (and also noted that doesn’t mean he couldn’t work with other people in my organization).

Did I make the right choice here? On the one hand, I feel like I should be trying to find the best people to work with me and my organization, and he could very well be a strong contributor. On the other, I’m not sure I see a path to being able to viably manage him, and I’m sure his mere presence would constantly remind me of his daughter — at least for awhile.

You’re fine. This guy didn’t even apply! You just declined to try to recruit him. You have no obligation to try to recruit people you have a history with just because they’re qualified for the job.

If he applied, it would get a little trickier — but even then it’s fine to decide that you can’t objectively manage someone you have a personal history with. It’s true that this person is fairly removed from you — he’s not the one you dated, and it doesn’t sound like you had much or any contact with him yourself — but if you know you couldn’t manage him effectively, you’re not required to ignore that out of some idea of fairness. (It also wouldn’t be particularly fair to hire him into a job with a manager who doesn’t want to be around him.) You wouldn’t be expected to hire the ex, and you don’t need to hire her father either.

4. How do I gracefully reject a former employee who keeps applying for a new job with me?

I am the hiring manager for a role that becomes available from time to time, and a coworker I used to manage has applied to it pretty consistently. I am not interested in bringing them on — they bring a good amount of drama into the workplace and are generally unreliable and difficult to train.

The first time they applied, we had an internal candidate express interest in transferring to this role and I let them know that. The second time, they applied a bit late in the process, and I already had some candidates I was interviewing and moving forward with. However, that might not always be the case, and like clockwork they have applied to my most recent open position.

Do you have some messaging that I can use that would communicate that this just isn’t going to be a fit? We had discussed their performance issues in their annual reviews, so it wouldn’t come out of left field to acknowledge that it’s an issue, but it seems a little inappropriate to give that kind of feedback when I’m not their current manager.

I’d just say, “Hi Jane, thanks for your interest in the X role. I know you’ve expressed interest in it a few times so I gave it some thought and unfortunately I don’t think it’s the right match. That said, I hope you’re doing well and wish you all the best!” If there’s something you can easily offer as a reason (“we’re looking for more experience in X / stronger skills in Y / etc.”), add that in — but otherwise it’s okay to be vague.

The two of you discussed your concerns with her work when she worked for you so she should be able to put the pieces together. But if she does ask why it’s not the right fit and, assuming there’s not an easy-to-provide explanation like the ones above, it’s okay to say something like, “You have a lot of strengths, but the performance issues we were working on when you were in the X role would be prohibitive for this job.”

5. Clothes for exercising during work breaks

Thanks to lowered Covid case rates and high vaccination rates in my state, I’m thankfully done with WFH and back in the office. Unfortunately, my gym hasn’t reopened yet, so I’m looking at a summer of running and biking outdoors for exercise, either on the way in to work or during my lunch break.

I do have the ability to change clothes and shower at the office, but I still have to walk past several colleagues’ desks to get from the entrance to the locker room. I’m a woman with an, ahem, Rubenesque figure. What can I wear to work out in during the heat of summer that won’t have me squirming in embarrassment while I dash to the showers to clean up and change? We have a casual office environment, but I’m not sure I want to stroll in in runners tights and a tank top.

I try not to ever engage in physical exertion, so I’m going to throw this out to readers for suggestions.