20 Embarrassing Things Never to Say in a Job Interview

by Evil HR Lady on March 23, 2015

We all have to do job interviews–either as the candidate or as the boss interviewing candidates. (We’ve all been the candidate at one time or another, regardless of where we sit now.) Lots of different topics come up in job interviews, and conversations go all over the place, but there are 20 words and phrases that should never, ever, come out of your mouth.

1. Retarded. You may have grown up in the era where saying, “That’s so retarded” simply meant something was silly or dumb. For instance, “Mom says I can’t go to the prom because I failed chemistry. That’s so retarded.” Ban this word from not only your job interview vocabulary but your everyday vocabulary. It’s not acceptable. Say what you really mean instead. For instance, “Mom says I can’t go to the prom because I failed chemistry. That’s great parenting!”

2. Almost. “I almost got promoted.” This means you did not get promoted. While almost is a great word for many things, in a job interview, talking about what you “almost” did takes away from what you did do. Focus on actual accomplishments, not things you almost did.

To keep reading, click here: 20 Embarrassing Things Never to Say in a Job Interview

This is the first of 2 (or possibly 3) articles from your amazing stories. Thank you!


Will this go on my permanent record?

by Evil HR Lady on March 23, 2015

I was reading your article and had a few questions in regards to larger companies. What happens after the company has fired the accused? Are legal charges ever brought up? What if the accused was fired but didn’t actually commit the harassment? Does it go on a public record?

Your teachers liked to threaten students with putting things on their “permanent” records, but we all know that wasn’t permanent. After all, I doubt Lowell Elementary school even has a record of the time that I and several other 6th graders got called into the principal’s office for switching seats on the bus during an orchestra field trip. We all lied and said that the bus driver must have been confusing us with other kids, and the principal either believed us or figured, “They leave this school in 2 weeks and for goodness’ sake these are orchestra kids. It’s not like their nerdy selves have ever done anything else even remotely bad.” I suspect the latter is the case, as I’m sure elementary school principals are well skilled in lying 6th graders. (For the record, I only changed seats once, but my friend Carrie, she did it a lot. She was a violinist, and we know how they are.)

My point is there’s no permanent record and there’s no central depository of people who were fired for a harassment. (Please don’t give Congress any ideas.) If there was no court case and if there was no media coverage (official channels or co-workers discussing it on Facebook) it’s not even going to be Googleable. So, no person on the street will be able to go an internet search and find out that you were fired for harassing someone.


Well, not quite. While there isn’t a public record, there is a private record, and your former company will maintain that. With today’s HR computer systems, it just may well be permanent. In 25 years, someone can call your previous company and say, “Can you tell us Jane Smith’s reason for termination?” and some 22-year-old HR admin who wasn’t even born when this event went down will be able to pull up your file and say, “Jane was terminated on 23 March, 2015 for harassment.” That information will stay there.

Now, the better question is, will they? Many, many companies simply verify dates of employment and titles. Most managers, though, will spill the beans, regardless of company policy. It’s a pretty rare company that allows their HR admin to say anything other than dates of service and job titles and maybe rehire eligibility. But, legally? They can as long as what they are saying is true. They can even legally say, “Jane was fired for harassment,” without turning over the evidence that led them to that decision.

But, here’s the thing most people don’t know about–this is all negotiable. You can ask directly what they will say about you in a reference check. You can hire a reference firm to call for you and do a reference check and verify what is said. (You can ask a friend to do this as well, but unless your friend is experienced at this, it’s better to pay to have a reputable firm do this.) In your case, since you say you are innocent (and my readers only rarely lie to me), you can almost certainly get them to give only a neutral reference. Sometimes you can do this on your own. Sometimes you can hire an attorney. Sometimes even the reference checking firms offer a “cease and desist” letter service which essentially tells the company they have to stop. It’s expensive for the company to go to court, so they simply revert to confirming dates of service.

So, ask what they will say. Ask what your record shows. Don’t be nervous about it–after all, they’ve already fired you so there’s not much more they can do to you. If they say they’ll say X and you think they are saying Y, it’s worth the money to hire the reference firm.

And one other note about permanency: Even if the company you worked for is sold or divided, your record will follow. In this way, 10 years from now you can find yourself on the do not hire list for a company you never worked for because they purchased a division of your former company and got the old employee records with it. It’s easy to transfer all the computer files. (Well, relatively easy. Yes, I’ve been through multiple HRIS implementations and record transfers. It looks easy to the employees. To the HRIS and IT people, it is decidedly NOT EASY, but they do it anyway.)

TL;DR There’s no public record, other than the internet. Your company can tell reference checkers what happened. Most won’t, but most managers will. You can find out for yourself what they are saying and dispute it before it causes you harm. If you want a lawyer, make sure you get an employment one.


Is my exempt boss double dipping?

by Evil HR Lady on March 19, 2015

The VP of hospital operations recently came to our skilled nursing facility, which is a part of the hospital. She asked what our census was, 2 patients, and then pulled our administrator into the office for a talk. When she emerged 30 minutes later our administrator followed shortly after. She, then proceeded to inform me and another nurse that until our census comes up somebody has to go home. I was then told not to come to work the next day and they would let me know what would happen Friday.

Sounds pretty right, right? Wrong! The issue I’m having is the state department of health set guidelines that regulate how many staff and nurses have to be present when there are 1-20 patients, which is 2. At least one has to be a R.N. And wouldn’t you know our administrator is a R.N, but she is obligated to do a job which makes her an exempt employee. We also have a Director of Nursing. She is also salaried, an R.Na., with her own set of job responsibilities. What has happened now is whenever the DON and/or administrator are working, practically everyday, the nurses that are scheduled to work are either cancelled or forced to work alternate shifts in order to get hours of work. So basically the director and administrator are salaried employees doing their jobs plus the jobs of the staff in order to cut costs or double dipping as I like to call it.

My question is, despite the blatant violation of department of health regulations, is it legal for our employer to do this? I and  my coworkers have tried contacting human resources, but they have offered no answers or assistance. In fact, they have completely blown us off and will not return anyone’s phone calls. No one can provide a policy on cancellations or standards of practice when the census of the facility is low. We all attended an orientation with a handbook provided via the intranet, but most of the policies within the handbook relate directly to the hospital which is an entirely different entity with its own set of rules and regulations, most of which don’t coincide with our facilities rules and regulations.

Thank you for your time. I sincerely hope you have an answer that can help me understand.

First of all, a disclaimer–I don’t know squat about nursing regulations, so I’m going on this based on exactly what you said which is:

1. For up to 20 patients, two people are required to be there, one of which must be a licensed Registered Nurse.

2. There are only 2 patients.

3. Both the Administrator and the Director of Nursing are R.N.s.

Now, as I said, I’m not familiar with staffing ratios for your state, but I fail to see how having 2 available R.N.s violates the regulation. It sounds like they are doing patient care when you are sent home. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong–if, for instance, the regulation states that people who hold administrative positions can’t count towards the number of nurses required, then they would be in violation. But, from what you’ve said, it seems like there is an R.N. available.

The second thing is, if there are only 2 patients, there isn’t nearly as much care needed as if there were 20. So, having additional staff does seem like it isn’t needed. Again, I’m not a nurse, but if I could take care of 10 patients on my own (2 nurses needed for 20 patients), then having 2 R.N.s taking care of 2 patients and doing administrative duties doesn’t seem that terrible.

The third thing is what you labeled “double dipping.” Exempt employees get paid a set amount, regardless of the amount of work they do. So, if the Director of Nursing has to also do patient care, she doesn’t get a bonus. She gets the same paycheck. She gets the same paycheck whether she’s putting in 40 hours per week or 60. She’s not financially benefitting from doing this.

Someone is financially benefitting though, and that’s the business. If they don’t have to pay people on top of the salaried employees, whose costs are fixed, then they are doing well. It’s no wonder that they want to send you home if there isn’t enough work to do.

So, the problem doesn’t appear to be a violation of law and it doesn’t seem to be an ethical violation. It seems to me, that the problem is that you’re not getting to work. And, because you’re not getting to work, you’re not getting paid. That flat out stinks and is a HUGE problem. HUGE. You can be justifiably angry by it. But, complaining about legal violations when there don’t appear to be any won’t help your case.

What you need are more patients. Unfortunately, it’s illegal for you to go around knocking people’s kneecaps out so they need to be in a skilled nursing facility. You’re just going to have to wait.

Now, the question is, is this normal? Is the census frequently that low? If it is, it’s time to start looking for another job because this one is not going to pay enough for you to get by. If it’s not normal, and you expect that, come next Tuesday, there will be 43 people in your facility, then this is a temporary problem.

You can certainly ask if they expect the numbers to go up. You can ask to be transferred to another facility. You can look for a new job or take a per diem job temporarily. You can ask that if only one person is needed that you and your coworkers rotate through so it’s as fair as possible.

But, otherwise, this looks like a financial decision made by the business. Which totally stinks for you. It does. But, until you have more patients, you’re probably out of luck.



5 Reasons You Should Strive for Mediocrity

by Evil HR Lady on March 18, 2015

A meme appeared on my Facebook feed with the following text:

Always remember:

  • The Squeaky wheel gets outsourced
  • High achievers end up working unpaid overtime
  • No good deed goes unpunished
  • Dare to be adequate!

True? False? There is absolutely some truth to those principles. If you annoy the boss enough, she won’t fight to save your job–but it’s pretty rare that a company decides to outsource a function based on one annoying employee. There are absolutely employees who bust their buns and work all kinds of crazy hours, only to be rewarded with more work, no praise and no promotion. So, do you want to be “adequate?” Think about these 5 reasons.

To keep reading, click here: 5 Reasons You Should Strive for Mediocrity


Many years ago, I interviewed for what turned out to be my very first job managing people. I was naive and optimistic, a fact which must have amused the VP of HR who interviewed me. She asked, “Why do you want to manage people?”

I don’t remember my exact answer, but it was something along the lines of, “I know a lot about this area and I feel like I can be a great mentor to people. I’m really excited to share what I know about HR data with others and build a great team.”

She laughed and said, “Suzanne, I’ll tell you a secret. Managing people is a pain in the behind.” I got the job anyway, and I started with a heart full of hope and a head full of ideas. But, I was woefully unprepared to manage other humans.

To keep reading, click here: Leaders set the pace through their expectations an example.


Wanted: Your embarrassing interview stories

by Evil HR Lady on March 16, 2015

Inc has asked me to write an article about things NOT to say in a job interview. I thought stories would be more fun than a list. Have you ever thoroughly embarrassed yourself in a job interview? Or interviewed someone who embarrassed himself? Send me an email (evilhrlady@gmail.com) or write a comment.


Is a Poisonous Attitude Reason to Fire an Employee?

by Evil HR Lady on March 16, 2015

An employee with a tremendous amount of knowledge is bitter and angry all of the time. She is very good at her job. She also believes that everyone else is incompetent at theirs. This person used to have a leadership position but no longer does.

She was very harsh and critical and used her authority to bully people on her team. She used security cameras to make personal records of everyone’s activities. No one knows of any practical reason for this.

In her reduced capacity she apparently still keeps records of anything anyone does that she does not approve of. She is very unhappy with the person who took her old job, and her new supervisor as well.

She has been spoken to about her constant gossip on the floor and negative attitude. The result of those talks is that she only complains when her supervisor is not around to hear. She is (nearly) always polite to everyone while they are in front of her, but that stops when they walk away.

So, this angry and negative person does a very good job. She is always at work, always on time. She is careful not to be too critical when supervisors or managers are around. She is also quick to spread rumors, to go ‘over’ her lead with issues.

Despite her skills, I believe that her attitude is poisoning the team. Is this a reason to fire someone? How would you go about letting such an employee go? If you would keep her, what tactics could be used to contain the venom?

To read the answer, click here; Is a poisonous attitude reason to fire an employee?


A few weeks ago during a department meeting, the general manager put all of our salaries in an overhead screen projection and exposed all of us to each other. The salary info included someone who was recently fired.   I am still stunned!  While I am trying to figure out what the purpose of this “reveal” is, I’d like to know if this is a legal act?  I know, on the other side of it, it’s illegal for an employer to prohibit discussion among employees about salary, but what about the flipside?

I totally get the stunned part of this, because in American culture this is just.not.done. Salaries are all hush hush. And, even while it’s legal to share your salary with your co-workers, we don’t because it’s been beat into us that it’s inappropriate to talk about money and especially not salaries. Shhh.

So, when a boss breaks that taboo, we all freak-out. But, to answer your basic question–yes, it’s legal. Unless your state/town has some specific law prohibiting the sharing of salaries, there’s not thing to prevent companies from renting a billboard on I95 and listing employee salaries there. (I have to state, on the record, that I’m opposed to them renting the billboard for that purpose.)

But, I love it. I love that you know all your co-workers’ salaries and that your co-workers know yours. (With the exception of including the fired guy. That’s just weird.) Why do I love it? Because knowledge is power.

We can whine all we want about the “wage gap” between men and women. We can argue whether it’s discrimination or it’s choice or it’s due to number of hours worked, but it won’t be solved until we’re open about salaries. Our culture is so strongly against it, that it’s hard. Bosses generally want people to be silent because then they have all the power. Imagine you get a job offer that is like this:

Dear Jane Doe,

We’re pleased to offer you the position of Sr. Technical Analyst, at an annual salary of $65,000, paid biweekly. For your information, here are the salaries of your co-workers:

  • Jose Garcia, Sr. Technical Analyst $75,000
  • Howard Watson, Sr. Technical Analyst, $82,000
  • Uli Schmidt, Sr. Technical Analyst, $76,000

Would you ever, in a million years, accept that $65,000 salary? Of course not. You’d say, “Why am I not being offered what Jose, Howard and Uli are making?” Now, there could be a very good reason, “Howard has an MBA from Harvard. Jose has 10 years of Experience, and Uli just has one of those cool Swiss names that we wish we could use if we ever had another baby. You, on the other hand, just finished your undergrad degree yesterday. That’s why we’re offering you a significantly lower salary.”

Unfortunately, though, those gaps do occur but we don’t know about them. The only thing that allows them to continue is the secrecy around salary. And, even when you find them out and want to complain, it’s not considered correct to say, “Hey, I just found out that Jose, Howard and Uli all make considerably more than I do. I need a $12,000 raise, minimum.” We say, “You need to show market data and blah, blah, blah.” Well, what better market data is there than your actual co-workers’ salaries?”

If a boss can’t explain why there is a salary discrepancy between two people doing the same job, either you need a new boss or someone needs a new salary. There are lots of valid reasons why Howard should make considerably more than Jane. For instance, Jane wants a 35 hour work week, and Howard regularly works 60 hours a week. Or Howard handles 250 calls per week and Jane is lucky to squeak in at 125.  But, if they are doing the same level of work with the same performance, their salaries should be very close.

So, yeah, stunning that your manager would do this. Maybe not wise, given the current culture. But, I would really like to see a move towards more open salaries. Sunlight cleanses a lot. Some managers, though, are like vampires and hide from sunlight. You share a salary and they freak out. But, there’s no reason to freak out if we’re all honest and above board. Some managers are not.



An HR Manager on a Power Trip

by Evil HR Lady on March 13, 2015

We are in the midst of a reorganization. My current (soon to be former) title is simple and straightforward – Squid Manager. I had a staff of 3 reps, whom I managed along with the department.

Our company has decided to follow the model of our partner, and dissolve my department, sending my employees into other departments.

Fortunately for me, I am trained in the squid field, and will be implementing a company-wide squid experience program, which will cut across all departments, dealing with processes and procedures that the squid experience.  This will include all marketing, employee engagement programs, social media, website, yada yada.

This is (I am quoting my current boss and the President of our company today) a high-level position, that cuts across all departments.  It is considered an upward move for me and will come with a promotion.

My problem is that our HR person has come up with a title of Squid Expert.  She has removed Manager from my title.   I think it should be simply Squid Experience Manager.   She says (and is quite intractable about it) that a Manager has direct reports.  As I do not have direct reports, she is removing Manager from my title.

My current boss and the President feel like I do.  I will be implementing and managing a cross-departmental program, and that I should retain the title (at least!) of Manager.

Our HR manager falls back onto vague “legalese” when pushed.  I think this is her position, not a legal position.   

Can you help me find a leg to stand on?  It is important to me that my title show upward movement. and reflect my position correctly.   My boss and President are with me, they are convinced there will be an argument.  Help me help them.

Your HR manager is on a power trip. There is no legal requirement that someone with “manager” in their title manages other humans. Has she never heard of project managers? Heck, is she not aware that lots of HR managers don’t manage (directly) people?

So, yes, she’s off her rocker–unless (and this is a big unless) as part of your reorganization you are syncing titles with your corporate parent. Some companies have strict naming conventions and require that if, for instance, you’re a grade 12 employee and you manage people then your title begins with “manager” and if you don’t manage people then your title begins with “analyst.” If that’s the case, then she’s right to push back because the company policy is consistency across grades.

I don’t think that’s the case here, though.  I think she’s got it into her head that managers manage people and if they don’t manage people they aren’t managers. Your resume is just not important to her. After all, why does she care what job you’re able to get next? I’d like to say that recruiters would just take the time to read your accomplishments under each title, but alas, some of them won’t, so having a bad title really can affect you in your career.

But, now, some good news! The HR manager is not the boss. Who is the boss? The president, who you said agrees with you. She needs to put on her big girl panties and tell the HR manager, “I appreciate your input, but we’re going to have Jane’s title be Squid Experience Manager. Please update the system.” Because the president has that power.

Look, I’d love a world where everyone did exactly what I said. But, since not all HR people are as evil as I am, sometimes they need to be overridden. This is one of those cases. Go to the president and ask her to override.


How to Give Women in Male-Dominated Roles a Fair Shake

by Evil HR Lady on March 12, 2015

Ellen Pao claims that Venture Capitalist Firm, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers,discriminated against her because she is female. They claim that she wasn’t a team player and lacked leadership skills. It’s highly possible that both Pao and the Kleiner Perkin leadership team are telling the truth.

How could that possibly be true? Because being a “team player” and having “leadership skills” can be somewhat subjective and you can honestly believe the that you are making a judgment purely on skill, when what you are doing is actually making a judgment based on your own prejudices.

I make no claim of special knowledge of the Pao case–we’ll let the courts shake that out. But, if you want to make sure you aren’t unfairly judging the women in your office, here are 6 things to do.

To keep reading, click here: How to Give Women in Male-Dominated Roles a Fair Shake