I’m being flooded with business offers from friends and family, hair and job interviews during quarantine, and more

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

1. I’m being inundated with business offers by family and social contacts

I work in an industry and on a product that is not only generally unaffected by COVID-19, but business is actually booming. We’re making headlines internationally and people are flocking to the product.

With this attention, though, has come a very large amount of in-bound sales offers from other companies. Software, insights tools, celebrity talent agents, you name it. If I were interested in their offer, I would have already reached out myself. My inbox is flooded and I have account managers calling my personal cellphone. I went on a FaceTime date with someone who pitched me their business product and pretended he didn’t have a girlfriend in order to go on the date.

Not only this, but they’ll reach out via “warm intros” through friends who I can’t really be very blunt with, and it’s at the point where even lovely family members are sending me business proposals for consulting, etc. It feels like a lot of pressure because we are actively and obviously spending on many things.

How can I say we’re not interested? Normally I’ll say something like, “Thanks, we will reach out if it makes sense for us.” But in these times, many of these personal connections are very low on business. They do good work but I just don’t have a business reason to use their services. It’s feeling very awkward and I’d like to be kind. I feel like I’m in a position of financial power for their lives and the guilt is something I haven’t dealt with before, especially for family. I suppose I’m looking for something a little more sensitive to say. Anything that I think of that shuts the conversation down is just feeling quite harsh when I know that they are struggling for business, and it feels a bit like being a lottery winner when others are struggling and have something to offer.

I think you’re overthinking it somewhat! Your normal response of “Thanks, we will reach out if it makes sense for us” is probably still fine. But if you want to say more, you could say, “Thanks, I appreciate it! We’ve been inundated with offers, and I want to be up-front that while this looks really cool, it’s probably not something we’ll pursue — we’ve got our hands full right now (or “our budget is fully allocated in this area” or “it’s not quite in line with what our major focuses are right now” or whatever makes sense) — but I appreciate you sending it along.” Or even just, “Thanks for getting in touch! It’s not quite right for us right now, but I appreciate you sending it.”

I think you are looking for a response that does more to affirm their worth, but really, people generally know the answer could be no, figure they’ll take the shot anyway, and just want a straightforward answer. There’s no language you can use that will change their circumstances (short of saying yes, which you can’t do), so just being kind but direct is the best way to go.

The exception to this is anyone who contacts you under false pretenses. That fake “date” guy deserved, “Wow, this is incredibly skeevy and I hope you don’t do this to anyone else, goodbye.”

2. Hair and interviews during quarantine

My question isn’t huge in the grand scheme of things, but it is stressing me out: I’m continuing my job search through the quarantine, and recently applied for a job I’m an excellent match for. But we’ve been in quarantine long enough for my roots to grow out very noticeably. (For context, I started going gray when I was a teenager, and I’ve been completely gray since my early 30s. I dye my hair back to my original color.)

Normally, of course, having noticeable roots at an interview would be unpolished, but salons are closed (and even if they weren’t, I wouldn’t love the idea of putting others at risk so I don’t have gray hair). I’m afraid to try dying my hair on my own, in case I end up doing something horribly wrong, mismatch the colors, etc. Is there more leeway for obvious root growth in interviews right now, or do I just need to steel my spine and dye it myself?

There is much more leeway for weird hair situations right now — but I wouldn’t even put grey roots in that category! You’re allowed to decide to let your grey grow out even when we’re not in a pandemic, and you’re still allowed to interview for jobs while you’re doing it. But if you do feel your hair looks less polished than you’d ideally like for an interview, interviewers are going to get it. Feral is the new normal.

Make a point of being especially polished in the areas you can control (other grooming, clothes, jewelry, interview background) and you should be fine. Good luck!

3. How do I get colleagues to back off from constantly checking in during our furlough?

I am currently furloughed due to the lockdown and am maintaining social contact with friends and family virtually. It’s not easy but it needs to be done, so I’m just getting on with it. I am, however, beginning to feel somewhat stalked by some of my fellow furloughed coworkers. I live alone and they seem to feel the need to check up on me constantly via phone and text. I wouldn’t speak to any of them this often if we were at work. Yes, I consider them friends but have very little to say when they ask how my day is going, etc. — every day is pretty much the same these days! I don’t want to be ungrateful, although I also don’t like feeling like I’ve been put on some kind of pity contact rota because I live alone, but the level of contact is beginning to really get to me.

It’s not about work stuff. It seems to be mainly checking in. It’s not like I can ignore the phone, as they know I’ll be in! And I need to leave my phone on in case my family needs to get hold of me or I would have turned it off by now. Any advice as to how to ask them to cut back the contact a bit without ruining work relationships if and when we eventually do go back?

No, wait, you can ignore the phone! You could be out on a walk, or taking a nap, or watching a movie, or talking to someone else — or just ignoring your phone because you don’t feel like picking up right now, which is completely fine to do. The phone is not a summons. You’re allowed to ignore it, whether or not you think people expect will you to be available. So really, stop picking up! (I ignore my phone constantly, and it is wonderful.)

Also, if your phone allows it, there’s nothing wrong with muting calls and texts from these particular coworkers’ phone numbers. Then, if you want, send a return text a day or two or three later — which will begin to reset expectations about how available you are. Or, if you want to, you could say, “I’m finding all the checking in has turned out to be a little overwhelming, so you probably won’t hear from me as much as we’ve been talking — but I’ll check in with you later in the summer!” Or you can just let the contact taper off on your side.

For what it’s worth, these may not be pity calls; they may be looking for social contact themselves. But you’re allowed to put up your own boundaries around that too.

4. Should you paste the job description in tiny white font at the end of your resume?

I had a question about a trend I’m seeing pop up more and more as I scroll TikTok. This seems like a definite “no, you should not do this” to me, but I’ve seen multiple people, including people claiming to be hiring managers, recommend doing the following trick: copy and pasting a job description into the body of your resume, making it all white, and shrinking the size so it doesn’t show up. They claim this trick will bypass hiring software big companies use (and submitting it in Word vs. PDF so it works) so your resume gets through. I understand the appeal since software may automatically reject someone who could be a great fit for a job, but with TikTok such a big platform now, especially for the younger generation who are first time job seekers, this doesn’t seem like genuine advice.

No, it’s terrible advice. Don’t do it. This “trick” has been recommended for over a decade, and it’s always been bad advice.

If your resume is going into an electronic application system, the formatting will get stripped out and those words are all going to appear, no longer in white and no longer tiny, and you’re going to look like you (a) inexplicably and sloppily pasted the entire job description into your resume or (b) are trying to game the system.

5. Should I really check back with these employers?

I’ve been applying to several jobs and I have gotten several generic emails that positions have been put on hold.

Recently, two employers reached out to me without a generic form email. I had extensively interviewed with one employer. They didn’t feel I fit the position I applied for, but they said they liked me and were looking for another role. HR then called and said due to the current situation, they couldn’t make it work but to keep in contact and check back in a few months and to reach out if I see any other roles at their company.

The second one was in early stages (first interview). HR said that the position was on hold and they didn’t have a time line, but she asked me to reach back out in several weeks.

Is it worth it to put a reminder on my calendar and reach back out at the end of summer? Do the employees mean it when they ask you to keep in touch? Maybe I’m overthinking it, but it’s been a tough hiring process lately.

Yes, it’s worth it to make a note to check back with them. Employers don’t generally ask you to do that unless they mean it, since otherwise they’d be flooded by contact that they don’t want. Take them at their word.

I’m being flooded with business offers from friends and family, hair and job interviews during quarantine, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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