It's OK to follow up interview with a call

Q and A

Q and A / HELP WANTED

February 23, 2005

Q. I'm waiting to hear from the place that interviewed me, and I'm going crazy waiting to hear back from them. What can I do?

F. A., Baltimore

A. Call them back. Interviewers should tell you when to expect to hear from them; for most jobs it should be only five to 10 days. But some government jobs with open recruitment may take months. The employer should let you know when to expect a call. If you call them, say you are still interested and eager to know where they are in the decision process. Some employers will consider your call a sign of enthusiasm; it may give you an edge. But don't call every day. Ask if they would mind if you contacted them again at a later date to check on the status. It pays to stay visible.

- TOM MITCHELL, director of graduate programs in applied psychology

Q. How can I give any references if my past employer fired me? How do I explain having been fired from a previous job?

L. R., Baltimore

A. Many employers, because of a concern over being sued for defamation for giving bad references, refuse to comment on the performance of former employees. Many employers give only "neutral references," in which they do no more than confirm that an individual worked for them from X date to Y date. So there is a good chance that your former employer won't tell prospective employers that you were fired, or why. If a prospective employer asks you why you left the job, your best response would be to tell the truth. There are many employers who are willing to hire employees who have been fired from previous jobs but would reject an applicant or fire an employee if they found out that person lied to them. If it's you who tells the prospective employer you were fired, you can combine it with an explanation of why that same situation would not repeat itself.

- MICHAEL HAYES, associate professor of law

Try to be creative in your designation of references. Perhaps you have a good relationship with a prior supervisor who no longer works for your last employer. Or maybe you volunteered for a civic committee or a fund-raiser. Why not designate people involved in those efforts to talk about your work ethic, creativity and reliability, rather than the boss who let you go?

- ELLEN KABCENELL WAYNE, assistant professor, negotiations and conflict management

Q. A friend has asked me how to find out if an employer is required to provide domestic partner benefits. How do you claim those benefits?

W. J., Ellicott City

A. Many employers provide fringe benefits to employees, and to spouses of workers. Currently, no national or state law requires that if an employer provides benefits to employee spouses, the employer must provide benefits to domestic partners as well. In fact, Maryland's statute against sexual orientation discrimination has a specific provision saying the law cannot be interpreted to require or prohibit domestic partner benefits. Nevertheless, it's worth checking whether an employer voluntarily provides domestic partner benefits, because nearly half the companies in the Fortune 500 do, and so do many government employers, including the city of Baltimore and Montgomery County.

- MICHAEL HAYES

University of Baltimore professors answer questions from readers about workplace issues. To submit a question, send it to working@baltsun.com or Working, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md., 21278-0001, or fax it to 410-783-2517

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