Lynne Curry: Working interview out of line

Q: I had been looking for a job for eight weeks without success when I got a phone interview at a dental clinic. I was so excited. It was for a receptionist/clinic support position and there were promotional opportunities.

They told me they had looked at my résumé and I was to be given a chance to prove myself.

They wanted me to spend the whole day at their clinic. They would walk me through everything and I would handle the phones for four hours, then I would be able to understudy under the dentist and his assistants for four hours and see if I would be a good fit or not. I was told this was for no pay but that the position, if I got it, would pay $15 an hour.

I eagerly accepted and tried my best but was nervous knowing that all eyes were on me and that one slip might mean I didn't get the job. At the end of the day, they told me at closing time "we don't think you're our person."

I went home flattened. The more I thought about it the more aggravated I began to get. I pondered the work I had done throughout the day for nothing. Did I get ripped off?

A: According to the Department of Labor wage and hour representative we called, working interviews violate DOL regulations.

Although employers may check an applicant's skills through administering typing or math tests or by asking applicants to handle other workplace simulations, when they asked you to perform actual work and help out with patient interaction, they put you to work and now owe you minimum wage for those hours.

If they had wanted to give you or another applicant the chance to prove yourself, they should have hired you conditionally, with continued employment based on good performance.

I suggest you call this employer and let them know the regulations so they can pay you. If they don't, you can ask the Department of Labor to intercede.

Q: I work with two Alpha managers. I like them both. I just don't like being in the middle of their never-ending disputes.

Every time they have an altercation, which occurs several times a week, each pulls me aside for a conversation. One openly complains about the other, which I consider offensive as I don't really want to hear it. Still, I feel he needs to vent, so I listen.

The second doesn't vent, however, in confidence, she clearly outlines to me how she hopes things could be between them. Of course, this would mean changes on his part that I know he never will make. Since I agree with her and realize she can't do anything more than what she's doing now, I am left feeling that I need to fix things. I need help.

A: Ask each Alpha to stop using you to fight their battles.

You encourage the first manager when you listen to him. No one needs to vent. When he spews forth his views and you don't dispute what you hear, you allow him to believe you agree. Give him back his problem by letting him know you don't.

Similarly, when the second manager realizes you agree with her, you give her the sense that you somehow will figure out a way to help her. The next time she outlines her views, ask her, "what can you try you haven't tried?" and "is there something you want me to do or are you just talking?"

In short, stop letting both Alphas off the hook. By telling the truth and asking the right questions, you remind each that they own the problem they voice -- and free yourself.

-- Lynne Curry is a management trainer, consultant and president of Alaska's The Growth Company Inc. in Anchorage. E-mail her at