my interviewers want my boyfriend and me to have dinner with their wives

by Ask a Manager on March 22, 2013

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A reader writes:

I just got called in for my third interview for a political financial compliance firm. The first interview was over coffee at a Starbucks, and they drove to my location to make it easier for me to make the interview during my lunch break (I have a job and they know it). The second was at their office yesterday and I met the team. It’s a small firm with less than 10 people. And then they just called me moments ago to request that I come in for a third interview.

Now is where things get confusing for me. The interview is going to be over dinner next week with the two head guys and their wives, and they would like me to bring my significant other (boyfriend) so they can see how we fit in with them. I am so completely adrift in ignorance as to how this goes, it isn’t even funny. They told me it is down to me and one other person and they need to decide who they will choose. I also have no idea how much this job even pays at this point. I have until Tuesday or Wednesday next week to figure out what they’re really looking for during this interview and how I can do an awesome job and impress them with my amazingness. There is literally no information on this problem on the internet at all. Please help me?

Ick.

Sorry, that’s just my personal reaction. Plenty of people love this stuff. Are you one of them? That’s worth thinking about, because saying that they want to see how you and your boyfriend fit in with them and their wives is telling you something huge about the culture there. Do some serious contemplation about whether that’s a culture you want.

Moreover, make sure you’re thinking about whether you want this job, aside from the dinner request. I might be reading too much into it, but I get a vibe from your letter that you’re waiting to see if you’re selected by them, but haven’t thought much yet about whether you want to select them. This is stuff is a two-way street, and it’s crucial to think beyond “I want to get the offer” — because the way people end up in jobs where they’re miserable is often by focusing just on getting hired and not thinking rigorously about what happens after that.

I realize I just went on a tangent that might not apply to you at all, but there’s a lot of “I want to impress them” in your letter and not a mention of “I’d really love to do this work,” so I thought it worth mentioning. If it doesn’t apply to you, ignore me and consider it a PSA for everyone else.

In any case … Assuming you’re still interested, what they’re going to be looking for during the dinner is probably what kind of rapport you have with the group, as well as how you handle yourself in businessy social situations, which maybe the job will put you in a lot. (If it won’t put you in those situations, then this is weirder.)

Dress nicely, be warm and charming, and hope that your boyfriend can do the same. Follow some of the tips in this post. Don’t get drunk.   Ask the wives about themselves, and be sincerely interested.

And let’s hope your boyfriend is down for this. If I were a significant other expected to go on someone else’s job interview, I would not be happy. But then I’m a curmudgeon.

{ 228 comments… read them below or add one }

S.L. Albert March 22, 2013 at 10:50 am

How would you handle this if you don’t have a significant other? Or your SO was of an unexpected gender?

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-X- March 22, 2013 at 10:56 am

If you don’t have an SO you can say the truth: “I’m not in a long-term relationships, but would be happy to join you all myself.”

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Esra March 22, 2013 at 11:36 am

Only one solution, you have to pull a Lars and the Real Girl.

But yes, I agree that this could be putting someone in an awkward situation and that’s not cool.

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dejavu2 March 22, 2013 at 6:48 pm

+1

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Tinker March 22, 2013 at 11:37 am

If they ask for dinner with the SO, then it’s the SO they have dinner with. Were they to have a problem with this, the time to find out is surely at the interview stage.

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Lanya March 22, 2013 at 11:43 am

+1 to this…what if the OP did not have a boyfriend? What a weird interview request. Red flags all over this one.

Also, I hope the boyfriend is pretty committed, because I could see someone in a new or fragile relationship getting spooked off by a request to accompany the SO on an interview of all things. It’s not a light request.

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Anonymous March 22, 2013 at 11:47 am

Hi I’m the OP, he’s committed and somewhat nervous, but not upset or anything. I would imagine it would just be dinner with me and them if I didn’t have a significant other. For all I know they could really value their wives opinions on things, no clue =/

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binkle March 22, 2013 at 1:12 pm

“For all I know they could really value their wives opinions on things”

With complete respect and empathy to your situation, I’m sure you don’t really intend any implication here with your comment above.

Think of it this way – Perhaps these wives are higher up the ladder in their own careers than these dudes. Perhaps it’ll be a great opportunity to make more contacts.

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Jamie March 22, 2013 at 1:15 pm

I see how you read it – but I don’t think the OP meant it to be condescending. I think she meant it in the sense that they may value their opinions on workplace stuff even though they don’t work there…which is odd (to me) to have a non-employee have such a visible role in the process.

I value my husband’s opinion on things, but I can’t imagine asking him to meet someone work related to get my thoughts. Because he doesn’t work there and he wouldn’t have the full context. Besides, it works better when all he knows about my work is the stories I tell him so he knows who we hate this week and why. :)

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Andrea March 22, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Sadly, we keep a running “Who We Hate This Week and Why” mental list in my household. And let me be clear, it is a list populated only with work colleagues. (Though my MIL has made an appearance or two…)

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the gold digger March 22, 2013 at 4:08 pm

If only it were legal to shoot people.

Especially in laws.

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Original Dan March 25, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Dick Chaney shot a lawyer and it was ok. So it’s a YMMV thing I guess.

ThursdaysGeek March 22, 2013 at 3:57 pm

My husband never uses names when he’s talking about co-workers who he dislikes or is having issues with. I think that’s so when we meet them socially I’ll be as nice as if they were co-workers he does like. All I know of them is their titles, like The Bureaucrat.

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Another Emily March 23, 2013 at 9:39 pm

This is a really awesome and professional approach.

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KellyK March 25, 2013 at 8:51 am

I like this approach. I should probably do the same.

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Laura March 22, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Binkle- I think you read into her tone incorrectly.

I do not believe she was making a gendered comment. If the boss’s bought their cousin, she would say the same thing. It is what I thought also..maybe their wives (or whomever they bring to dinner) is very insightful and good at reading people and they want their opinion.

Also, big possibility that company + spouse dinner/networking dates are common. OP- Make sure you are into that type of thing (I am, not everyone is).

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OP March 22, 2013 at 3:35 pm

I am, and Binkle I didn’t mean a gendered comment like “for all I know they could really value their wives opinions” – I just wasn’t phrasing my words great. I’m sure they value their wives opinions on lots of things, but some couples really like their SO to be involved in all aspects of their lives and are so in sync with eachother that if they’re having difficulty making a decision they want that person to weigh in. Bad analogy – but its like I’m buying a dress, but I really like 3 of them, but only need one and I just can’t choose, I may ask my SO and go with his opinion. Obviously not the same, but I didn’t mean it meanly towards their wives at all.

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Ask a Manager March 22, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Or more bluntly, their wives shouldn’t have input into who’s hired. Unless this is a very unusual business.

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K March 22, 2013 at 11:48 am

Also it’s awkward if you break up with your boyfriend not long after starting at the company and have to explain this to your co-workers who keep asking about him. You should let people decide when they want to introduce their SOs to you.

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some1 March 22, 2013 at 1:10 pm

+1

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Matthew March 23, 2013 at 1:03 pm

I wouldn’t have a problem attending such an event. Sure it is a little weird, but different industries and organizations have different ways of operating…

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Nichole March 22, 2013 at 1:24 pm

The “unexpected gender” issue could get the potential employer in an unpleasant predicament in a growing number of states if the candidate wasn’t hired and a straight person was. Any indication of displeasure or even surprise could mean a discrimination suit. I’m also curious if protections for a job seeker extend to the spouse in this situation. Would a male candidate with a visibly pregnant wife have a case if they counted him out of the running after he brought her to dinner? Where oh where is Donna Ballman when we need her?

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shellbell March 23, 2013 at 8:18 am

“Or your SO was of an unexpected gender” Bring them

I suspect they already know she has a boyfriend from previous discussions. Makes it sound like they invited “your boyfriend” specifically and not your husband, partner, significant other if you have one. It often comes up in conversation.

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Corey Feldman March 22, 2013 at 10:51 am

I have to say I’m a little surprised salary hasn’t come up in 2 interviews. I usually try and get a range up front right away, on both sides of the HR/candidate table. Why waste anyone’s time.

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Another Emily March 23, 2013 at 9:40 pm

I agree. I really wish there wasn’t so much coyness about salary in the USA and Canada (a cultural aspect that we share).

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Anonymous March 22, 2013 at 10:56 am

Thank you so much! I’m glad I’m not losing my mind and that its weird. I think I would like it to be honest. I should have mentioned, I’m in the south, being overly personal is kind of the norm, and dinner would be normal, its the boyfriend thing that is really throwing me here. I think it is because its a smaller organization and from what I gathered they spend time together and do things together like have BBQs and are thinking of starting a softball team or something, so its like a “family”. Which, they have very little turnover and I think that plays a big part. I’m coming from a larger firm and it can be scary, but I have met them and they are nice and outgoing and seem to have a smiliar sense of humor as me, so I get a good vibe from them. As far as the work goes, I have a general sense of what it is. I don’t think its mindblowingly interesting. But when I asked each of them if they enjoyed they’re job they joked a little but smiled and said sincerely, yes. Which obviously they have to, but the sincerity didn’t seem faked and they were all very comfortable with eachother.

My boyfriend is not thrilled, as you assumed, and I’m sure we’ll spend the evening on edge. My friends are of the opinion they want to see how the dynamic in my relationship is and the kind of person I choose to spend my time with to determine my character as well. They said its down to me and one other indiviudual, so they may just be stuck and are unsure of who would be best and so are really looking outside the box. I think I would be very happy with the job and will let you know if I’m successful and update this post once the interview actually occurs in case anyone else ever finds themselves in this situation. Thanks again and your advice was very helpful!

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fposte March 22, 2013 at 11:06 am

“My friends are of the opinion they want to see how the dynamic in my relationship is and the kind of person I choose to spend my time with to determine my character as well.” Wow. That’s a dynamic that you really need to be on board with, I think. (I’m assuming the “my friends” part was just a typing glitch and that there’s not the additional weirdness of referring to prospective employers as friends.)

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Jen in RO March 22, 2013 at 11:09 am

I think she means that she asked her friends’ opinion and the friends think that the hiring managers want to see the relationship dynamic.

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fposte March 22, 2013 at 11:12 am

Now that you say that, that meaning seems utterly obvious :-).

I don’t know that it’s that conscious, though; they may just do it because that’s how they do it.

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Anonicorn March 22, 2013 at 12:23 pm

I’m in the South too but have never been asked to bring my SO to a dinner interview. While this seems highly atypical in any location, perhaps this is common and I simply haven’t encountered it.

That aside, it doesn’t seem like you have enough information regarding salary and the work you’ll be doing (plus you don’t seem to think it will be interesting enough) to really judge whether you want to work for these guys. Try to objectively compare your current role to this position, and make sure you have enough weight on that side of the scale to accept a potential offer.

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Rana March 22, 2013 at 3:39 pm

I kinda want to ask if you’re applying to work at a place like Chik-fil-A or something… don’t they care a lot about their applicants’ family lives?

Personally, I’d find it a bit strange – and my job searching experience is from academia, where the odds of having a spouse along during an interview trip are not zero, and the issue of unhappy partnerships is a real concern for places located in smaller communities with depressed economies.

It seems to me that there’d be time enough to meet one’s employees’ partners after they’re hired.

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-X- March 22, 2013 at 10:58 am

Also,

Jobs are a big deal. I think asking an SO to spend three hours helping the OP get a job is not a lot to ask if they’re serious about being together for a long time. This is assuming she wants the job.

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Runon March 22, 2013 at 11:26 am

Jobs are a big deal. But if my SO didn’t want to participate in my job search I don’t know why that would be a big deal? I don’t really understand why the boyfriend here has to like this at all? Maybe the boyfriend is great but is extremely socially awkward and has no desire to be in this situation. Or has social anxiety and would have a panic attack? Or has a night job and can’t make it?

It is the OPs job search. The SO is …unrelated. You aren’t hiring the SO.

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-X- March 22, 2013 at 12:01 pm

I’m not speaking from the hiring company’s point of view, but from the OP and her SO’s point of view.

So let’s see. Your SO can help you with something you’re willing to spend 40 hours a week on for the next year or more by donating 3 hours of his/her time.

Or not – it’s not worth is time to suck it up to help the OP get a job. To me that’s a sign that’s not really a “significant” relationship.

Again, not a lot to ask. I spent a couple hours driving my wife to an interview, plus another 90 minutes waiting in the car once. And a friend of mine, who had the free time, did the same for to help out my wife with a different interview, simply because he was our friend. Jobs are big deals. I think contributing a few hours to help someone close to you get a job is not a lot to ask.

“has social anxiety and would have a panic attack?”

What is it with this blog and the levels of anxiety that seem to be common occurrences here? I’m aware that that we should not belittle mental illnesses, but I’m frankly surprised by how often things like “panic attacks” come up here. I hope it’s simply a reflection of people talking about worse case scenarios or only mentioning bad stuff.

“Or has a night job and can’t make it?”

Then don’t go. Saying he should go if he can doesn’t mean he has to drop other critical stuff it he can’t.

But if he just doesn’t want to? It’s a job. He’s the boyfriend. Are they just having fun for a few weeks and then will split, or is this a significant relationship? If it’s the latter, suck it up and help. Assuming she actually wants the job.

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Ask a Manager March 22, 2013 at 12:05 pm

I think it’s more about people bristling at the idea that a company should include this kind of request in a hiring process.

If my SO really wanted a job and this was part of the deal, I’d suck it up and go (and I think most of us would) — but I’d be annoyed as hell and I’d encourage him to think through what it says about the culture he’d be joining (and I’d also make it clear that I wasn’t going to be going to his work stuff on a regular basis, although I can’t imagine he wouldn’t already know that).

The people pointing out stuff like social anxiety are just providing additional fodder for why these requests are stupid and thoughtless — the main point is that it should be irrelevant to a hiring decision.

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-X- March 22, 2013 at 12:14 pm

“people bristling at the idea that a company should include this kind of request in a hiring process.”

For sure.

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Jamie March 22, 2013 at 12:15 pm

That’s the point for me as well. I believe my relationship is fairly serious …considering how long we’ve been married, the kids, and the fact that he is a grown man with opposable thumbs and yet incapable of getting socks in the hamper rather than the general vicinity of the hamper.

And sure I’d suffer through a horrible dinner for him – but the understanding would be super clear that this isn’t ongoing for me. If he takes a job that requires a dog and pony show from me more than once a year he’s going to have issues…because I’m not going to be okay with trotting myself out on a regular basis.

For jobs that require this it’s a huge part of the selection process…because not everyone will be as okay with blending worlds as the OP has indicated she is. For me it’s not about panic attacks or any kind of crisis – it’s just not part of my life and I’m not doing it so I’d really appreciate this being brought up in the interview stages rather than sprung on people after an offer is accepted.

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the gold digger March 22, 2013 at 4:12 pm

This was part of what I hated about my husband running for office last fall. I don’t want to be involved in politics, other than voting. I really don’t want to be involved with the Other Side (I am in a mixe marriage). Yet I was expected to be there at his side, supporting him, the Loyal Spouse. WHO CARES ABOUT THE WIFE? I DON’T!

I was miserable.

He owes me.

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the gold digger March 22, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Mixed marriage. I don’t know what a mixe marriage is. Sounds French.

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Jamie March 22, 2013 at 4:18 pm

The Mixe are a group of indigenous people from eastern Mexico. Also called the Mije.

If you guys hadn’t heard of Wikipedia you’d think I was a freaking genius right now. :)

OP March 22, 2013 at 4:27 pm

I had thought she meant *mixed* as in, she’s a democrat and he’s a republican. I can’t tell if you guys are kidding about Mixe… lol.

Jamie March 22, 2013 at 4:38 pm

I was just kidding – playing off her typo. I’m in a mixed marriage myself.

My husband comes from the bow-tie type of kolachki family and we only do round kolachkis. He will also eat a cheese pirogi and my family knows the only pirogis worth eating are mushroom. The culture clashes around the holidays are really tension filled.

Anne March 22, 2013 at 6:59 pm

You guys make my day. Not least for the use of “mixed marriage” to refer to different political parties.

Laura L March 23, 2013 at 11:14 am

@Jamie- I actually was really impressed with your knowledge of the Mixe. Until I read your second sentence. :-)

Also, Mixe and Mije are pronounced the same way (in Spanish x and j are both pronounced the way the h in “ha” is.)

Runon March 22, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Very much this. Thanks for expressing it a lot better than I was.

I might do it. But it is irrelevant and shouldn’t be required. And there is no way I’m doing it often, even yearly would be painful.

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Hannah March 22, 2013 at 2:20 pm

This would definitely be my concern — that this kind of “interview” request signals that they expect your SO to be involved in all kinds of off-the-job activities.

I would go to something like this for my husband’s career, but I would not be thrilled with the implied expectation that we as a unit would be socially obligated to these potential future co-workers for however long my husband stayed in that job.

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ThursdaysGeek March 22, 2013 at 4:11 pm

I agree that it shouldn’t be part of an interview, but it seems a bit odd to me the negativity of meeting with the spouse’s co-workers after hiring. And I’m not even an extrovert! We have co-workers, former co-workers to our house, go to their houses, meet for meals. Many co-workers become friends and we keep in touch. Is that really that abnormal?

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Jamie March 22, 2013 at 4:15 pm

It’s not unheard of – but the difference is between what you’re describing, which is becoming friends with people you happen to work with and signing on for mandatory social gatherings with people just because they happen to be co-workers…because of a workplace requirement.

I don’t think anyone is saying that they would tell their spouse not to make friends with interesting people with whom they work…but that they wouldn’t want to be forced out to pseudo social events for their career.

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LPBB March 22, 2013 at 12:29 pm

My very committed permanent SO is very very supportive of my career goals. If it was needed, he would drive me to an interview and wait around for hours. If we needed to move due to my job, he would rent the truck and have us packed and loaded before the ink dried on my acceptance.

But, he is not a white-collar professional. He’s an intelligent, well-read, thoughtful, polite individual, but he’s not in touch with white-collar professional norms. He would feel very uncomfortable at something like this and I would feel very uncomfortable for him and, quite honestly, about the whole situation.

And if I was with a different partner and he was the one being asked to bring his SO to an interview dinner? I would be very apprehensive. I’m a severe introvert. I’d be OK with a dinner, but if I got the slightest whiff of a cultural expectation of high spousal involvement with that company, that would be a huge issue.

I don’t think it’s fair to judge the seriousness of someone’s relationship by their reluctance to drag their partner into this process.

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AnotherAlison March 22, 2013 at 1:18 pm

+1

My husband works in a blue collar field, and unlike your SO isn’t particularly well read (due to learning difficulties that affect reading–he does watch the news). Heis also a country boy & his grammar shows it. While it doesn’t seem to be a problem for him when he works with his own high-end customers, it would make me nervous because my job depends on being hyper-informed and having good written and oral communication with senior execs. I rather not work with cultural snobs, but that criteria isn’t the most important thing I’m looking for in a job.

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AnotherAlison March 22, 2013 at 1:20 pm

^^ (I do write slightly better in my real professional communication, even though I often look illiterate on here.)

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shellbell March 23, 2013 at 8:28 am

I too have struggled with this. I’m white collar, and my job depends on me being hyper informed in my specific area – as in I be ready to talk about breaking news from the morning when I arrive at work, I better read the The New Yorker, Economist, and some specific journals if I want to look like I know what is going on. This was horrifying to my partner. She is a very nice, very southern sounding blue collar lady who is well read and 10x smarter than me. She has no idea what the economist is. She’s also a bit reserved and quiet. She’s always had a blue collar job (she even drove a truck for awhile many years ago) I’ve found that people find her delightful and refreshing for that reason alone. She never pretends to be anything she isn’t. The people I know, we all talk about the same stuff to each other all the damn time. We all have similar opinions. We all have the same perspective. In social situations, they love her. She talks about movies, places she’s traveled, funny stories from work, books she’s read, weather, hobbies, gardening, and pop culture, and when they talk about their stuff she asks genuine questions and listens without giving her opinion (she doesn’t have one!) and the love it!!!

Tell your spouses. The blue collar partner is the most sought after person at the party sometimes! People beg me to bring her. They look sad when I come alone. I try not to take it personal.

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OP March 22, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Those are good points. They gave me the whole week to choose from so I picked a convenient day for both of us. We’ll be moving in together shortly, but I would say the relationship has been stable and serious for quite some time. He mentioned being nervous, but by no means is saying he won’t go.

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OP March 22, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Btw, I AGREE with everyone. It shouldn’t be required. I know they will be judging me off my SO, which is odd and not normal, which is why I’m asking for help haha. However, with that said, my SO and I have a lot in common with these people and we are both extroverts. I can be very awkward – I have a tendency to make inappropriate jokes sometimes. But I am also pretty comfortable with myself as is my SO. I mean, it could also blow up and be absolutely awful, but I really don’t think its designed that way. I do think they think this is a great idea and way to get to know someone on a more personal basis and I’m much better in a non structured setting. So getting the chance to sit down and relax (which I won’t I will just appear that way) will probably be good. And if they ask us to swing with them or some other outlandish thing then it will be great fodder for this site =0

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Sydney March 22, 2013 at 1:16 pm

I work for a very, very small company and we are like a family. While we have never pulled the “bring your SO in so we can meet them” before an offer, I can see why this company might be doing it.

They said they’re family, they do a lot of things together, softball, etc. So chances are they are assuming they could potentially see this person all the time, for instance if he joins the softball team or goes to a company BBQ.

We’ve done similar things and I’ve met all our long term employees’ partners and they’ve met mine. While we’ve never had an employee bring in someone who ended up causing trouble, I can see how that might happen. My guess is they just want to make sure he is not a crazy person who will join the softball team and then decide he will only play pitcher or throw a tantrum (true story, not work-related though).

I’m also in the south (Texas) and never heard of this before so I do think they decided to do it for specific reasons, like maybe they’ve been burned by an employee with an awful SO before.

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Jamie March 22, 2013 at 1:27 pm

I don’t want to derail the topic – but this whole “like family” comes up a lot in workplace discussions.

There is no such thing. I work for a family business and I like and respect my boss and have personal loyalty to one of the owner to a ridiculous degree (if I was offered a job for a million a year I’d still take her tech support calls because I just freaking adore her as a person).

But it’s still not family. They are family, but not my family.

It can be more personal than a large corporation and the owners can take a personal interest in our families to a degree that a bigger company might not…but family never weighs your value financially. Family wouldn’t have to replace you if you got sick and couldn’t work. Family doesn’t fire you and you don’t quit your family even though you like them because you got a better offer from another family that would net you more money.

I think it’s great when people who want close relationships with their bosses/co-workers work in a place and with people where they have that. But it’s a dangerous mistake to blur the lines and buy into the family thing…because it just isn’t and can’t be.

If someone in my family needed a kidney I’d race to the doctors to see if I was a match. If they needed money I’d cut a check. If they needed personal support I’d sit up and listen as long as they needed to talk and rub a back and offer whatever help I possibly could.

If my employer needed a kidney, money, or personal support I’d say a kind word, say a silent prayer, and start looking for another job because as soon as my checks aren’t clearing I stop showing up. It aint family.

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Sydney March 22, 2013 at 1:48 pm

You’re completely right that a work family is not the same as family family, and I’m pretty sure a reasonable person knows that, but I am not aware of a better word to use in this instance. Because saying “I work in a small place and we’re all close friends” doesn’t give the same connotation, at least the one I’m going for when saying my workplace is like a family.

That said, some people treat their legitimate family members the same way or worse than bosses do…kicking your teenage daughter out of the house because she had premarital sex, or cutting off a family member because she made a relatively minor mistake you can’t deal with, or replacing your wife because she got too old/fat/ugly (obviously sometimes those are the right choices, but often times it’s because people are just mean). There are plenty of people who don’t value their own family members at all and will do terrible things to them so it’s not like saying family automatically means you would walk through fire for them.

And while I personally am not as attached to all of my coworkers the same, my boss and our accountant specifically are pretty much getting to the point of family family. We share things that are very personal, socialize outside work and have intermingled our lives much more so than a regular level of friendship. While my boss still has a power advantage over our relationship and will continue to have one while I am still his employee, our accountant does not have that same dynamic with me.

LPBB March 22, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Ain’t that the truth. I made the mistake of thinking that because a former company made a big deal out being a family business and treating employees like family, they would try to find room for me if our satellite location had to close. After all, I had worked there for 10+ years, shown incredible loyalty, jumped through any number of hoops, and proved myself as valuable employee.

Not so much. When the time came, they essentially pushed all of us at that location onto an ice floe and walked away. There are actually a number of former employees of that company who have found out the hard way that it’s really a business that happens to employ family members instead of the happy family they like to spin it as.

Jamie March 22, 2013 at 2:34 pm

@Sydney – point taken that not all actual families share the same kind of loyalty.

I guess my criteria would be if you were in the ER at 3:00 am with a loved one in a trauma unit who do you call to hold your hand, bring you coffee, and keep you from flying out of your skin while you wait for news. For me, that’s family, regardless of whether you share DNA or not. For me (and most people, I’d assume) bosses and co-workers aren’t the people you’d dial at times like that.

And granted not all relatives fall into that category, either. My point was that a company can say it’s family all it wants – but it’s disingenuous. You have developed those kind of relationships within your company, but that’s nothing a company culture can foster across the board.

I’ve got masses of extended family I haven’t spoken to in 20 years – and to whom I would not give vital organs – but that doesn’t change the fact that they are family in some sense. I have a cousin who looks more like my mom than either me or my sisters…a couple that are the spitting image of my brother. I wouldn’t have them over for dinner, but even they are still family (albeit strictly a pre-existing biological relationship) in a way my boss couldn’t ever be.

Maybe it’s just me – and I just find this interesting so this post is a musing not a rant (can get lost in translation sometimes) but when work bandies around the term family it bothers me because it makes it feel like a relationship of mutual professional respect and even personal affection isn’t enough…we need to pretend it’s something it’s not. And for me it cheapens the word.

Ask a Manager March 22, 2013 at 2:41 pm

This is a pet peeve of mine too, because it usually means something very different than the companies that say it want to think it means. You can say that you’re like a family if you don’t fire or lay off anyone, ever, which means that your employees are probably stuck working next to at least some people who don’t pull their weight; if you don’t reward based on merit; and if you won’t make financial decisions for your business based on profit but rather on what’s best for each member. If those things aren’t true, you can’t say you’re like family, because it’s BS. And if those things ARE true, you better being warning prospective employees ahead of time, because most people don’t want to work somewhere like that.

Sydney March 22, 2013 at 3:08 pm

@ Jamie I totally agree with you and it’s not the best word to describe a workplace.

In in the instance of my company, we don’t say that to people to give them a false sense of how they will be valued. I started saying it as a reflection of how I feel about my company, boss and coworkers.

I would also have found it off-putting if my boss had said during my interview three years ago, “This is a family, yadda, yadda, yadda.”

And maybe I’m colored a little because I have some family members that aren’t family. They are perhaps the worst set of people I’ve met in my entire life. I developed a sense of “you choose your family”. Those meanies are my relatives, they are not family. And I would totally call my boss and probably our accountant if I was in the ER situation before I called those jerks. However, I do know this is a very unique situation and even in some literal family businesses, owners don’t always treat employees fairly.

I’m all for using a new phrase…maybe close-knit?

Nichole March 22, 2013 at 1:31 pm

You know, I wonder if they thought you might be more comfortable with your SO present? Sort of an unconventional attempt to put you at ease and get to know the “real” you.

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KellyK March 25, 2013 at 8:59 am

What is it with this blog and the levels of anxiety that seem to be common occurrences here? I’m aware that that we should not belittle mental illnesses, but I’m frankly surprised by how often things like “panic attacks” come up here. I hope it’s simply a reflection of people talking about worse case scenarios or only mentioning bad stuff.

Because mental illnesses are a pretty common thing (one person in four will have one at some point in their lives) and, not knowing the OP or her SO, we should not assume that the dinner is a little trivial thing. For many people, it might be. For someone with an anxiety disorder (or, for that matter, a broken ankle, a pile of dietary restrictions, or a major project for their own job or school that conflicts), it’s a much bigger imposition.

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Anonymous March 22, 2013 at 10:58 am

Sorry, I should have identified myself (I’m the OP) and I’m female and I had already mentioned a boyfriend during the second interview. I had read here to not bring up salary unless its broached first. I do REALLY want to know obviously, but I am thinking/hoping they wouldn’t be wasting their time or time with something that is nominal. I’ll find out soon though.

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Esra March 22, 2013 at 11:39 am

I think people here have said it’s not something you’d want to bring up on the first interview, but if your potential employer doesn’t bring it up after that, then you kinda have to.

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fposte March 22, 2013 at 11:55 am

Right. Then it’s also advised that it’s better if they tell you the range before you tell them what you’re looking for. But in general, it would be okay to have asked by now. Hopefully it’s great and it’ll just be another aspect of a job that you’re clearly interested in!

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Jamie March 22, 2013 at 12:24 pm

I actually find this more concerning than the dinner stuff, which may or may not be normal for that position.

This is a lot of effort on both sides for people who haven’t even discussed salary in a ballpark kind of way. Maybe it’s just me but there is no way I would invest this kind of intellectual or emotional energy in any potential job unless I knew we were in the same neighborhood range-wise.

I don’t care how many windows the office has – if I’m unhappy with the dollars hitting my direct deposit there isn’t a perk in the world that will make up for that.

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Just a Reader March 22, 2013 at 2:22 pm

I don’t know that I’d be going to dinner without knowing if the salary was in the right ballpark, to be honest.

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AdAgencyChick March 22, 2013 at 4:39 pm

This. Personally, I would not attend a dinner like this even if I did know the salary, because it would be a warning sign to me that management expects more of a “family” atmosphere than I’m comfortable with. That’s just me — but what I think is not just me is that I wouldn’t go to the trouble of an after-hours dinner that I had to bring my husband to, unless I at least knew we were playing in the same sandbox salary-wise.

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Ask a Manager March 22, 2013 at 4:40 pm

I agree, although at this point I think she’s stuck — because she didn’t know the dinner was coming and once they invited her, she couldn’t really ask at that point without seeming crass (although it shouldn’t be that way) … like “I’ll only dine with you if it’s going to be worth my while.”

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OP March 22, 2013 at 4:44 pm

I do like some free food though =)

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OP March 22, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Believe me I wanted to ask! But I thought I was supposed to let them bring it up so I just talked about other things for the first two interviews and I figured that after that they would call me and offer me the position and we would negotiate salary then. Instead they asked me to dinner and it was definitely not appropriate to bring it up and say on the phone, well how much are you willing to pay?

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OP March 22, 2013 at 2:35 pm

You think I should email or call up there and ask how much they pay? I don’t know how to do that without ruining any chances I had

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Ask a Manager March 22, 2013 at 2:53 pm

No, definitely not — it’s too late and now you’re in for a social thing so you really can’t at this stage!

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OP March 22, 2013 at 3:42 pm

I figured, and if they bring up money over dinner I’m going to be shocked. So basically if they choose me this interview is going to have four stages and in the final stage we will discuss money. Do you think it says anything about what kind of range they may be in with this much effort made? Normally I am more up front about this kind of thing, but I do prefer for them to bring it up and everywhere I read you don’t discuss it until you have an offer.

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Jamie March 22, 2013 at 3:44 pm

If it were me I’d be furious if they brought it up over dinner. You cannot assume that a candidate shares financial information with her boyfriend…I would be livid if my employer discussed my salary with my husband and that’s a lot more reasonable to assume info is shared between spouses.

If they have any sense or manners at all it would not be discussed in front of a third party, whatever you told them about the nature of your relationship.

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Cathy March 22, 2013 at 10:59 am

Anyone else think this sounds like the recruiting process is John Grisham’s “The Firm”?

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Cathy March 22, 2013 at 11:00 am

Ugh typo… “in” not “is”

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Jackie March 22, 2013 at 11:01 am

I thought it sounded a little like “Rosemary’s Baby”, but then again I just finished reading it….

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Legal Eagle March 22, 2013 at 11:13 am

Yes, I just re-watched that movie recently.

OP, make sure they aren’t mob lawyers. ;)

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K March 22, 2013 at 11:34 am

Or that they are, if you’re into that, I guess.

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OP March 22, 2013 at 11:51 am

Ya’ll are really funny

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Mike C. March 22, 2013 at 1:26 pm

I was about to post the very same thing! Next these bosses will want to know when you’re getting married and having lots and lots of baaaay-beees and it will never ever end.

This creeps me out so much!

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Lynn March 23, 2013 at 10:04 am

I’m showing my age, but I remember when having dinner with the spouses used to be a standard part of interviewing for any higher level corporate position. Think Mad Men, you young’uns. I guess it has fallen so far out of favor that no one here even remembers when it was considered normal and necessary. Thank heavens.

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Frances March 22, 2013 at 11:02 am

Oh yikes. I am a big proponent of keeping my social life separate from my work life so I’d probably run screaming. Also, I don’t want to assume that you are a woman, but if you are and you do go through with this, pay super close attention to how they conduct the conversation: is it just all 6 of you talking together, or your two potential bosses primarily talking to you — or are they expecting you to have more to talk about with the wives?

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Legal Eagle March 22, 2013 at 11:14 am

I think your first two sentences are very important. If you like to keep your work life and personal life completely apart, this would be a sign that you should reject this job. Good fit is important for everyone.

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Anonymous March 22, 2013 at 11:23 am

I’m the OP, I love all the responses I’m getting, its really helping me. I actually do enjoy having my personal and work lives meld. Its pretty normal in the south I think.

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Sydney March 22, 2013 at 1:19 pm

It is fairly normal down here, especially in smaller companies that treat employees like family. I really love my boss and we get together occasionally outside of work. I know his longtime girlfriend, he knows my husband, he even went to our wedding.

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-X- March 22, 2013 at 11:23 am

Could we stop or reduce the drama on this site? “Run screaming”? If you don’t like it, I think you should not move forward with the process, but “run screaming” sounds over-the-top to me. They didn’t ask you to do LSD with them, or start praying to a new god, or get in a hot tub nude or anything freaky.

Just pass.

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Ask a Manager March 22, 2013 at 11:26 am

I say stuff like that here all the time; I find it amusing. I think some people just speak colorfully; it’s not actual hysteria.

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Steve March 22, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Don’t feel bad. It was also probably not real LSD or an actual hot tub.

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Ann O'Nemity March 22, 2013 at 11:37 am

I giggled a bit when I saw this post and then pictured someone having actual hysteria and literally running away screaming in panic.

Frankly though, I like the hyperbole. It makes the posts more interesting to read.

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Lanya March 22, 2013 at 11:46 am

I agree – it makes things more fun to read.

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Jamie March 22, 2013 at 11:58 am

I love hyperbole – although what does annoy me is the hand-slapping which I’ve seen more of lately.

Maybe it’s just a pet peeve of mine, but if someone says something with which I disagree I either debate the point or let it go depending on if I am busy and how much I care. I don’t critique people’s commenting styles because I don’t think it’s my place. It’s not my blog so I don’t feel it’s my place to moderate how other people post. Alison isn’t shy about addressing issues when people step over the line.

Except now, apparently, although -X- said something today it’s feels like it’s become more common to micromanage attitudes of late and it’s irksome to me.

It’s an internet forum, and frankly it’s more civilized and has more intelligent discourse then the vast majority of such forums. Some people tend to the snarky, some are more forthright, some sweeter…it’s a community and not everyone is going to present things in the exact way everyone else finds the most palatable. I think we all just need to remember that absent actual nastiness directed toward someone (and there are people on the other side of all these screen names) we shouldn’t worry about trying to control the style choices of fellow posters.

And now I’ll go back to not opining about this.

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Ask a Manager March 22, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Agreed. When someone really crosses the line, I appreciate when other commenters do the moderator’s job before I have to — but aside from that, I don’t think people need to critique other people’s commenting styles. Focus on the substance — agree or disagree with their point — but we don’t need to micromanage how people say things unless it’s egregiously rude.

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-X- March 22, 2013 at 12:04 pm

I find it hard to take people who are hyperbolic seriously.

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-X- March 22, 2013 at 12:04 pm

But I suppose that’s just me.

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-X- March 22, 2013 at 12:13 pm

I guess so.

But we’ve had physical and verbal abuse discussed in this blog, people desperately needing work to pay the bills, racial and gender-based discrimination, and most recently a child care job offer that reeked of bad service for kids and possible skirting the law (THAT one was worth running screaming from, and possibly reporting it to the government).

The over-the-top stuff about a slightly odd interview requests seems out of place in comparison.

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Ask a Manager March 22, 2013 at 12:06 pm

I’m hyperbolic all the time and you seem to still read :)

(And I’m glad you do.)

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Ann O'Nemity March 22, 2013 at 12:17 pm

One exception to my hyperbole love is when people incorrectly combine it with the word literally. As in, “He’s literally as big as a house!” Um, no.

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Jamie March 22, 2013 at 12:20 pm

I like “literally” because I always hear it in Chris Traeger’s voice.

Literally. :)

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JB March 22, 2013 at 12:39 pm

+1. Literally!

Broke Philosopher March 22, 2013 at 1:52 pm

me too! I used to hate that particular misuse as well, but once I fell in love with Parks and Rec it stopped bothering me.

A Bug! March 22, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Well, if we’re going to be pedantic, I am confident that there is a house, somewhere, that is the size of a given person.

(I’d like to do a Zoolander joke here, but a house for ants would be much smaller than a person, except perhaps a small baby, if the house for ants was particularly large. For ants.)

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Chris March 22, 2013 at 3:54 pm

<3
I just don't get to see enough Zoolander references in my daily blog reading!

Camellia March 22, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Dang! You beat me to the ‘pedantic’ comment. I guess I’ll just have to run out screaming.

Kathryn in Finance March 22, 2013 at 1:18 pm

+1 Well said, Jamie. :)

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Anonymoose March 22, 2013 at 2:33 pm

God, I *wish* my boss would ask me to do LSD and get in a hot tub. Would make my workaday life so much more interesting.

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The IT Manager March 22, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Good point. A long, long time ago I dated a guy I met at work (different divisions and a small amount of interaction) … anyway he went shooting/hunting/something with some other business contacts and then brought them over to the house with their wives/girlfriends after. Awkward – for me. I was still just three years out of college and all my friends were still single and childless. I had much more in common with the guys because we all worked in the same industry than the wife and girlfriend. I had nothing to contribute to their discussions about weddings or children, but it seemed like I was expected to hang out with them. I think at one point the men went off to run to the store and I was left to host the women in my boyfriend’s house (that I was very familiar with but did not live in by the way).

Just awkward. I’m introverted/shy/socially ackward to begin with and there was simply no common ground with these signifigants others that I could find. If that had been a regular event I was supposed to attend to support my boyfriend, their would have been problems.

Later the boyfriend and I broke up after a long period of a long distance relationship. I don’t think was a deciding factor but I came to realize that while he liked me as smart, independent, equal, I think he did also want a woman who could be arm candy at events like this and make easy small talk with people they barely know. That was simply never going to happen for me.

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BeenThere March 22, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Oh I hate being put in that role! I almost always enjoy the conversation with the guys more than the wives/girlfriends unless one of them happens to be an engineer, in IT or some type of profession that requires intellectual stimulation and the odd artist/designer. If this happens then usually the two of us go off and have our own little party over champagne and become friends (I met one of my brides women this way). Otherwise I do one of two things, try and get the group on topics that we can both talk about or end up in the group with the guys talking about interesting stuff.

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Jamie March 22, 2013 at 3:23 pm

That’s funny you mentioned IT – usually in social situations when people ask what I do and that’s the answer there’s a look of utter disappointment. As if I couldn’t possibly be interesting.

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Rana March 22, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Agreed. Sometimes I’ll hang out with the women because what they’re discussing is more interesting to me than what the men are talking about, but I dislike the insinuation that I will of course prefer to be with them because I myself am female. My husband is the same way; most of his interests are more “female” – cooking, for example – and he finds sports deadly boring – so he’s just as likely to prefer the company of female people as male ones.

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Lynn March 22, 2013 at 3:20 pm

I hate being in that role too. When we’re at a social event for my husband’s thing, he’s talking to the other guys about their shared thing, and I’m with the other wives and girlfriends talking about… ? Just having husbands who are both into, say, homebrewing is a very weak start. Can get awkward.

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Craig March 22, 2013 at 11:11 am

It’s pretty sad that people have to be told not to get drunk.

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Mrs Donaghy March 22, 2013 at 11:12 am

oh man, I can’t imagine if my getting a job hinged on how well my spouse and I got along with them.

What if you’re single? What if you’re in the middle of a separation/divorce? Do you not get the job? :(

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Sydney March 22, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Presumably you would go to the dinner by yourself.

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Anonymous March 22, 2013 at 11:17 am

Yuck! Either:

1. The bosses’ wives want/need to keep an eye on female hires;
2. The couples are on the hunt for swinging partners;
3. They are conservative anti-homosexual nutters.

Sorry, can’t think of any justification for such an invitation.

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Anonymous March 22, 2013 at 11:29 am

AHH! I had jokingly thought of the swinging, but jealous wives hadn’t crossed my mind and seems very plausible. Everyone I spoke with thinks since they have more of a family feel and its smaller that its just courtesy to invite the significant other. Maybe they just can’t decide between me and the other candidate for the job and this will be a deciding factor. It could wind up being really weird in the future, but I don’t get that vibe. Luckily, my SO is awesome and has a great job and charasmatic, which is more than I can say for any exes I’ve had, I probably would have just made some sort of excuse then (red flag) and gone alone. And I really don’t know what is up with everything and I’m guessing this really isn’t normal based on the responsee here. However, the office has floor to ceiling windows and the job description is great and its a step forward in my career, so I def want it.

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Anonymous March 22, 2013 at 11:30 am

sorry about the typos =/

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Lanya March 22, 2013 at 11:48 am

….or maybe they are just VERY family oriented and want to make sure the OP would be a good fit. If that is their company culture, that is their justification for this kind of invitation. It’s up to the OP to decide whether that kind of culture works for her.

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K Too March 22, 2013 at 11:51 am

+100. I was thinking the same thing, especially when she mentioned how it’s a small company and “family”.

Not my cup of tea. Keeping the social life separate from work is truly important.

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K Too March 22, 2013 at 11:53 am

Correction, she doesn’t mention “family”, so I’m assuming that’s what the office atmosphere is like with a staff less of 10 people.

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ThatGirl March 22, 2013 at 1:05 pm

2. The couples are on the hunt for swinging partners;

None of the swingers that I know would ever find/search for partners at work much less an interview. It really doesn’t work like that.

Just sayin’ :-)

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binkle March 22, 2013 at 1:20 pm

what is with the presumption that wives = negative. I have not read the complete thread – is it mentioned somewhere that OP knows the wives brain-dead (or plotting b*tches, or whatever).

They are humans, yes? You can talk about normal human things, yes?

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binkle March 22, 2013 at 1:21 pm

typed in a hurry – “knows that the wives are brain-dead”

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Lanya March 22, 2013 at 2:38 pm

I don’t think there is any presumption that the wives being invited along to the dinner is negative. The negative slant here is that it’s such an unusual situation for a professional interview.

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OP March 22, 2013 at 4:03 pm

I didn’t say anything bad about the wives. I responded to some other people’s responses about the outlandish likelihood that this was all some weird sexual setup, but that was obviously joking =)

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Rana March 22, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Because if the situation were “I’m meeting with the partners and their husbands” it would still be weird.

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Sydney March 22, 2013 at 1:28 pm

The first reason I thought of for this sort of thing is they want to see how the SO (who the OP mentioned in other comments is serious, they are about to move in together) will fit in with them. They have BBQs, are thinking about putting together a softball team, etc. These are things where your employees’ partners are likely to participate and maybe they want to make sure they like him enough as well, or at least don’t hate his stinkin’ guts.

I could see them having been burned by a previous employee’s jerky partner who got incredibly drunk at a picnic and threw up on all the food.

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Guera March 22, 2013 at 11:18 am

If you think you will like the job and the work and the close knit family atmosphere go to dinner, eat good food, have a good time and relax. But it does sound like The Firm to me too. Also, this may be indicative of how things will be once you join them. If one of them says “We’re all getting together this weekend at Bob’s house” will you be pressured to join them? If they want to do drinks after work and you want to get home or have plans will that be awkward? Will the expectation be that you socialize often together? Will you be ok with that if so?

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tangoecho5 March 22, 2013 at 12:50 pm

This was my first thought. They invited you and your SO to dinner because they want to see how compatiable you all are togather as a group because they intend for whomever they do hire to participate in future social activities. Social activities that involve family – not just company social events between co-workers. So not only are they evaluating you, in a way they are evaluating your boyfriend to see if he is polite, can make conversation, is charming and so on and so forth. Otherwise, why not the bosses and you all go out to dinner for the third interview and leave the spouses at home?

Lastly, the OP should watch the interaction at the dinner. Do the wives seem to have a lot of say, power or input in business things? Not that they shouldn’t have opinions, but if the vibe is they are more involved in the business decision making than would be expected or reasonable, then you need to figure that they could be that way in the future regarding what you do.

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Anonymous March 22, 2013 at 11:39 am

For me, the worst part of this would be trying to act as I would in an interview with my boyfriend right there. Not that I’m a completely different person in an interview, but you have to talk yourself up a bit, and for me that’s so awkward to do with your SO or friends around! I made my boyfriend leave the apartment when I had phone interviews because I felt too self-conscious if he was listening to me.

Good luck OP!

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OP March 22, 2013 at 11:56 am

You hit the nail on the head! This is giving me sweaty palms and making me feel ill even thinking about it. I am really hoping its just going to be a relaxed informal thing. If its serious and asking how I plan to better their company etc, I’m going to die of embarassment on the spot! My boyfriend and I have a great dynamic though, I’m not too worried, because we play very well off eachother and know eachother very well. This would all be different and I would have just said no if I didn’t think he would add to me as a candidate for the job.

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Ask a Manager March 22, 2013 at 11:59 am

It’s likely to be less like a normal interview and more like a social occasion, with some work talk thrown in. It’s not likely to be a situation where they’re asking you about your greatest weakness, etc.

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AnotherAlison March 22, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Hmmm…

I was against this whole scenario, but I had a recent situation where someone was concerned I might not be “assertive enough” for a role. DH would probably tell them I spend every night barking orders and yelling, which is about 180 from my work persona. The spousal dinner interview could have worked in my favor!

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Ellie H. March 22, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Yeah, this seems very Mad Men-y and I’m surprised nobody has brought up the show yet. The characters do this on Mad Men ALL the time – having dinner with clients or business partners, with wives present. Very little business is discussed and it’s mostly a social vibe, but it’s still a business situation. So overall this seems pretty old fashioned.

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Jamie March 22, 2013 at 4:43 pm

I was totally thinking Mad Men – also all the business dinners between the Stephens and the Tates with clients on Bewitched.

Maybe all the anxiety over this kind of thing is why they all drank so much on those shows? :)

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Joey March 22, 2013 at 11:48 am

I’m assuming this is going to be a component for the job. I’ve done similar stuff for my wife and its really not that bad. Sure it can be a pain of you want to look at it that way. But, you can also look at it as a free nice meal, a chance to help you SO’s career, and a quasi free date night.

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OP March 22, 2013 at 11:57 am

Yay, so its happened before and no one was trying to swing with you?? Do you happen to remember what kind of questions they asked and how involved they made you? Also how long they usually were? Was your wife nervous and what kind of industry is she in? Thanks so much!

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Joey March 22, 2013 at 12:31 pm

From my perspective these things are less of an interview and more of a social get to know you type conversation with some work related stuff thrown. For me, its the typical fake like you’re interested type conversation. I let her do most of the talking, but I’ve talked about things like my job, where I’m from, where I went to school, golf courses, fluffy stuff like that.

I’ve done it when she was in a non profit that interacted with lot of politicians and in her medical device sales jobs. And there were definitely no references to swinging. It’s usually dinner and a few glasses of wine- maybe 2 hours or so. The first time she was nervous, but never afterwards (except maybe about what to wear).

As I said above I try to look at the bright sides of it instead of looking at it as a pain in the ass.

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OP March 22, 2013 at 4:22 pm

So should I drink? Because I have seen people go back and forth. I’m guessing its a big no because they can’t judge me for not drinking, but they can for drinking. But it does sound like you and we wife were comfortable having a drink?

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Joey March 22, 2013 at 5:04 pm

If they do I would. Otherwise it can get awkward. I know its dumb but people frequently think there’s something wrong, get offended, or start pressuring you. My wife has always done one glass then sips the 2nd one and doesn’t finish it.

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Rana March 22, 2013 at 5:15 pm

I’d let them fill your glass – once – to be polite, and then just ignore it, if you’re not comfortable saying “Oh, I don’t drink.”

I’ve done this a lot on formal wine-having occasions, and no one really notices unless you make a deal of it. (If they do notice, and give you grief for it, that’s a red flag!)

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Jamie March 22, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Going along on my husband’s job interview? Worst quasi-date night ever.

I am in agreement that this is par for the course in many jobs, thankfully not mine, and it’s something to either embrace or appreciate the fact that you can self-select out at this stage.

Personally my husband is a delightful man, but any job that required meeting him before hiring me I’d opt out…not because he isn’t wonderful – but because I don’t want to work anywhere where who he is matters. Just a matter of choice.

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BeenThere March 22, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Make sure you order the lobster :P

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Job seeker March 23, 2013 at 12:05 am

Sometimes you just have to go to things for your spouse’s sake. I have to go to a business dinner next week with my spouse at a gathering for his job. My husband is in management and most of the wives will be there. There will be exceptions of course, but my husband likes me to go with him. I do not know these people, but I will go. I will be nice and smile and help him. This is not an interview situation but still it is not the most comfortable thing for me.

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mel March 22, 2013 at 11:55 am

Well, maybe it’s not all that bad. Maybe it’s such a small office that everyone is super close, and maybe they have a solid base of “regular” clients that are also close. And maybe it’s normal for them all to socialize outside of work. And maybe they’ve become detatched and don’t see how this situation would be construed as coming on a little strong.

And maybe this is their way of figuring it all out together instead of just comparing notes at the end of the day. Maybe they really like you as a person as well and think, hey, socializing is fun and relaxing, surely it is fun and relaxing for everyone! And most people love having a familiar friend around to help them relax!

Backfire. Or it could be totally chill and you can finally ask all of those pressing questions you’ve been too afraid to ask before?

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fposte March 22, 2013 at 11:57 am

I think this is one of those situations that’s really a taste call rather than a good or bad thing in its own right. Given that the OP isn’t bothered by it, it’s a good sign that she’s a likelier fit for this workplace than, say, I’d be.

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OP March 22, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Yeah, I’m also not putting it above them to be making it awkward to see how I react. You can ask someone all day how they deal with stress, but place them in a stressful situation and see how they do?? I got the impression the main boss has a sense of humor as well, so I wouldn’t be too surprised if this is funny to him. He has also brought up his wife twice, so they’re obviously a close couple and I had mentioned earlier he may value her opinion and they had also hired someone recently who did not work out. So this is like extreme vetting or something. Also, politically involved, this guy is from DC and deals with politicians all day. I hadn’t mentioned that earlier, it may make it seem more normal.

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fposte March 22, 2013 at 12:48 pm

“Extreme vetting”? It’s dinner, not an Outward Bound course :-).

I think one reason why I raise an eyebrow is not because it’s so unheard of but because it was quite a common practice back in the day, which is also a day when all the higher-ups were male (which sounds to be true here as well); if a progressive, non-sexist workplace was important to me, I’d be vigilant for other indications as to whether these were outliers or signs of culture overall.

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Anon March 22, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Oh, the “extreme vetting” or “trial by fire” interview. LOVE those. Public defenders are infamous for these. One particular office is known for having around 10 people around a table just be interpersonally rude to you for 45 minutes about whatever they can find to be rude about. If you ever worked for the DA’s office or the Attorney General, it’ll be that. In my case, I was an indigent-defense purist so they were rude about my taste in burritos. Fun times. (Did not get the job.)

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Melissa March 22, 2013 at 12:02 pm

My first personal reaction? No. Just no. I should not be hired based on whether or not I impress your spouses. I can’t imagine anything more superficial. I do not mix my social life with my work life. I won’t even friend co-workers on Facebook until after I’ve left that job (which eventually happens because I’m an Army wife). It’s enough that we have what we call “mandatory fun” in the Army, when my husband’s work life mixes with our social life, but that is different because we all live and work together, as the Army is a culture all its own. But I digress. The one time I did have the office people over for dinner? My husband fell asleep. So I’ve personally kept those two lives separate from then on. So strange, because I was just thinking about Tom Cruise in “The Firm” this morning. And as far as jealous spouses, here’s one for you …. I worked for an attorney in Savannah 20 years ago (I was so young). He was married to his fourth wife at the time (and he was only 10 years older than me)! His wife was absolutely positive that he was making the moves on me. She would drop by the office all the time to “check on things.” There were five other attorneys in the office and six support staff. Plus, we were on two floors, so my office was downstairs and his was upstairs. Anyway, she was just positive we were messing around despite the fact that I had no interest in him at all … he smoked and I was newly married (two years) and still very much in the newlywed stage of my marriage. Even at the firm Christmas parties, she would gave me the stink-eye the entire night. We finally moved and I left the job, only to find out six months later that he WAS fooling around … with the receptionist! And eventually made her his fifth wife! Ick! Lastly, it’s just no one’s business how I get along with my spouse (when it comes to people I work with). The job is about you and not about your relationship with your spouse. This is just nuts.

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OP March 22, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Thanks Melissa. I’m still going forward with the dinner interview, because, despite the weird factor, I do want the job. Maybe I’m more open minded than I should be. I hadn’t seen any red flags before this though, everything was normal and very standard. I am doubting that the wives are super jealous (if I get that impression I’m def out), but I don’t see any actual harm in going and seeing what its all about and it WILL give me expreience with a dinner interview, which I don’t currently have. Worst case, its crazy odd and I just say thank you but no thank you. They all seem so nice though, I doubt its going to be a huge problem. I wrote in because it IS very strange and I wanted to see other perspectives. So now I know to pay close attention to the wives and see if anything fishy is happening there.

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Anon March 22, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Hmm well it seems like the bosses at this firm are probably lawyers – maybe they’re just running the recruiting process like they do for summer interns they might make an offer to? During that process it’s quite common to have social events that are optional but mandatory, and you bring your SO.

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Oxford Comma March 22, 2013 at 12:14 pm

What level job is this? I only ask because for some positions, maybe this sort of thing is more normal?

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OP March 22, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Its an Account Exec position. I’m not in a huge city though, maybe 100,000 people in my city total and this is probably upper end based on the office. They also have a relaxed clothes policy. I also may have brought this on myself because I was asking about their work life dynamic. I had asked all the other things that could come to mind during the second interview and I asked one of the women who worked there (she had just had a baby) about her child and his name etc. So I did show an interest in their families..

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fposte March 22, 2013 at 12:40 pm

They’re not likely to haul their wives out for a dinner just based on that, though. I think, as you’ve said earlier, this is rooted in company practice.

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Elle March 22, 2013 at 12:34 pm

If you live in the South, and the job will likely require socializing with your spouse, then quasi interviewing your spouse is not only good business sense, it would be stupid not to.

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AJ-in-Memphis March 22, 2013 at 12:58 pm

This is just not true. Yes, there are some jobs that have the after-work social gatherings and what not, but living in the South has absolutely nothing to do with bring your S/O to an interview.

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Xay March 22, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Thank you. I’ve lived in the South all of my life and never been expected to attend an interview dinner with my SO. In his field, a lot of business is done in social environments and in circumstances where he may have to deal with his client’s family and not once has he been asked to bring me to a dinner before he is hired. After the hire, sure, but I prefer to separate myself from his work so I only attend purely social functions, not the ones that mix business and social. And even then, I only go a couple of times a year.

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-X- March 22, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Slightly off-topic, but I think AAM should have a post somewhat similar to the “how to be a hard-ass” post about how to deal with stress and how to be more confident in chaotic situations. Not specifically in interviews, but in general. I keep seeing questions in which the OPs are freaked out by something. Not the OP for this one so much, but the person who was having a lunch interview for a job in a top law firm is a good example. Another is from that same discussion, with a few commenters saying they stressed about ordering food in a strange cafeteria.

There is no need for that level of anxiety. I know from sports psychology there are ways to overcome those things, such as reminding yourself that other people are equally ill-prepared or reminding yourself that you are prepared (if you are). Or just saying “I don’t know” or “No” or “Let me think about it” to certain types of questions instead of getting flustered.

I get the feeling that a fair number of readers here could benefit from thinking about and working on stuff like this.

Sorry if this sounds condescending.

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fposte March 22, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Or how to be okay despite being anxious, which is probably a more viable goal than ceasing to be anxious (and it’s okay to be anxious, so it’s not like it has to be drummed out or anything). But I also think that, as evidenced by your post above, you may be misreading queries as hyperanxious when they’re merely hyperbolic :-).

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-X- March 22, 2013 at 12:45 pm

“how to be okay despite being anxious, ”

YES.

Actually, at least in sports and probably in life there is an ideal level of anxiety. Zero anxiety is often not ideal, and a ton is clearly not ideal. Some if normal and even desirable.

“you may be misreading queries as hyperanxious when they’re merely hyperbolic :-”

LOL.

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-X- March 22, 2013 at 12:49 pm

“Some IS normal”

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Ask a Manager March 22, 2013 at 12:44 pm

I think fposte is probably right that you’re reading things as more anxious than they are, when they’re really hyperbolic. (For instance, I don’t think that “lunch interview” OP last Friday was truly freaking out. He just wanted information about something new to him.)

For what it’s worth, I love dissecting details and doing what some people might consider over-thinking. My closest friendships have always been with people who, like me, love taking some encounter and dissecting the hell out of it. It’s fun to pull things apart and figure them out, looking at all the weird threads you can find, etc. It doesn’t mean you’re really anxious about something; it can just mean that you find it interesting to go to that level of examination (although it could look like anxiety to someone who didn’t have the same enjoyment of that activity).

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if my willingness to really delve into the micro-details on stuff has brought out some of that in readers who also have those inclinations (or attracted them in the first place).

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Ask a Manager March 22, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Oh, and I’m sure my openness about disliking lots of social situations myself has played a role — I can’t think of another workplace-type blog where the blogger takes that stance, and it’s probably contributed to people being open about it themselves here (or feeling more comfortable here if they feel the same as me).

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AMG March 22, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Ditto on Attracted them in the first place.

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jennie March 22, 2013 at 1:41 pm

I’d say this is definitely the case. I am very socially reserved and feel way more comfortable on this blog than most other places on the internet. I rarely comment anywhere else. A lot of workplace advice seems to emphasize getting along at all costs and I like that you always seem to put work first over silly social rituals.

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fposte March 22, 2013 at 12:52 pm

“some of that in readers who also have those inclinations (or attracted them in the first place)” = me.

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Jamie March 22, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Attracted them in the first place – ::raises hand::

The details fascinate me – and first reading here it was the fact that Alison didn’t just answer the superficial question but lifted the veil to peek at the messy sociological stuff crawling around under the rocks is what kept me coming back.

And just because people confess to feeling anxious or whatever here doesn’t always mean it’s a hindrance in real life. I am 100% certain that with the exception of my siblings, husband, and kids you guys know vastly more about the stuff that makes me stabby than anyone in my personal life. People who work with me actually think I have people skills. Ha. People with whom I work toss presentations at me because they don’t make me nervous. Ha.

But sometimes it’s easy to think things are easy for everyone else and that they are an internal struggle can make one feel somewhat abnormal, for lack of a better word. To see other people, functional and successful people who are doing well in their careers, admit that they also consider faking their own deaths to get out of the mandatory company party, or that negotiating salary isn’t a fun filled romp for others and it’s a skill that can be learned – these things are huge in actually alleviating anxiety in knowing that you aren’t alone and not being 100% cocksure about everything all the time doesn’t make you a basket case.

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Anonymoose March 22, 2013 at 2:39 pm

All of the screaming and hand-wringing about the way people post around here is freaking me out. I am literally about to run screaming from this website.

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Jamie March 22, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Thank you for making me look like a lunatic since I literally just laughed out loud in my silent office at that.

And I am using literally correctly – because I did literally laugh out loud and have an email asking me what’s funny and to share the joke from someone in the next office to prove it.

Literally. :)

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Ellie H. March 22, 2013 at 4:38 pm

I feel exactly the same way about dissecting details and analyzing every facet of an encounter and people’s behavior. It’s extremely fascinating to me and it’s why I love this blog so much.
I think reading AAM has really benefited my critical thinking about all kinds of situations, not just workplace ones.

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khilde March 25, 2013 at 4:04 pm

I am fascinated by how this blog attracts those that are clearly the warm-fuzzy types (me) and the straight-shooter types with all degrees in between. In other words: the people-focused people or the task-focused people (I know I always come back to that, but the knowledge of how true it is has changed my life). Reading the variety of reactions here has sharpened my own opinions and values and helped me open my mind to some new ones.

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A Teacher March 22, 2013 at 1:00 pm

There may not be that need but for some people there is that level of anxiety in certain contexts. It isn’t always a mental health thing, in some cases it can just be someone that is an “introverted introvert.” For some, it is a mental health thing. There are management steps but they work at varying degrees for different people. It is important to be empathetic to others’ backgrounds, you don’t have to “feel bad” for them but understand they have a different perspective from you.

I think we all tick differently and we all have different backgrounds–which is why I love this forum, people are pretty straight up, AAM does a great job of moderating, and you can get so much insight from others. That’s just my two cents though…

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AJ-in-Memphis March 22, 2013 at 12:56 pm

What if you’re single? Or better yet, what if you don’t them to meet your other/better half?

And how is having dinner with the family related to job? Interviewing the spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend so 50s… :-( and would be red flag for me.

I know the job market is tight, but goodness employers shouldn’t do this stuff to people.

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Regina Bee March 22, 2013 at 12:58 pm

I’m from the south as well, and when I was younger meeting the spouse or SO during the final stages of an interview was pretty routine. I remember my parents getting dragged out to things like this every time Dad’s firm hired a new engineer. Does it say a lot about the corporate culture? Sure it does, and like Alison says, the OP needs to decide how comfortable she is with it – because it won’t change. This will be a feature of the job – and your life – for as long as you there. And it can be a positive thing; we were in a near fatal car cash, and Dad’s co-workers were amazing at helping us get through it.

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nosy March 22, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Since you’ve already said in other comments that you’re planning on going through with it, you *must* give us an update afterwards! I’m so curious about this… :)

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Lisa March 22, 2013 at 1:52 pm

OP needs to decide if this place is worth it. This is a culture that may give raises and promotions based on likeability.

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Elizabeth March 22, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Another point of view …

About a decade ago, I got itchy feet and started thinking about leaving my current employer. There aren’t any other healthcare facilities in my community besides my employer, so it was obvious we would need to move for that to happen.

An outside recruiter put me in contact with a facility in a small town in west Texas. The position would have been a major step up in title & responsibility, with an eye-popping pay raise to over double my then-current salary. I had a 2-hour phone interview with the person who would have been my boss, most of which was spent with him trying to convince me that this was a fantastic opportunity that I absolutely should take. (Yes, all of these things were red flags, especially since there had been 4 people in the previous 18 months in the position.)

The next step was that they wanted to fly me in for an interview over a Friday/Saturday/Sunday. They wanted me to bring my entire family, because they wanted us to have an opportunity to check out houses, schools, soccer leagues, etc, as these had had an a material impact on staff turnover. This was something where fit not just in the organization but in the community was going to be crucial.

I ended up declining the on-site 3-day interview and the position. I looked at where the community was in Texas and realized I didn’t want to be 400 – 600 miles from the nearest large metropolitan area.

I’m suspicious of anything that doesn’t involve that kind of relocation where they’re wanting to intrude into your personal life during the interview phase. I can see it if you’re going to be making a major move. For across town? I’d be much less comfortable.

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Bess March 22, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Personally, I’d run (screaming optional), because a) I think it offensive that my employers would judge me on who my SO is and how well he or she comports him/herself during dinner (and they may claim not to judge based on such things, but they won’t be able to avoid forming an opinion); and b) it would be an indication that such socialization would be an important part of the job, and I have zero interest in mixing my social and work lives. But, obviously, your mileage may vary — you’ve indicated you don’t have a problem with mixing your social and work lives, so as long as you’re walking open-eyed into this, go ahead.

That said, you really should a) keep a sharp eye out during the dinner for any uncomfortable dynamics — do they talk more to your boyfriend than you? do they expect you to talk to their wives more than them? are they respectful to their wives? are they polite to the wait staff? do they drink too much?; and b) for pete’s sake, ask about salary. It’s going to be really awkward if you go through all of this, SO included, and then find out your ranges don’t match up.

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JT March 22, 2013 at 7:44 pm

It’s a leap to assume that one strange thing is an indication that such socialization would be an important part of the job. It’s an indication that that is likely, but drawing a conclusion seems quite premature.

I don’t think it’d be wise to rule yourself out of a job based on one piece of evidence. I’d use that evidence as a sign to dig more, and see what else confirms or refutes the suspicions.

In some ways, the people saying “run away” because of this one thing are analogous to the hiring managers who toss a candidate based one “error.” If they have hundreds of people who want to interview for the job, I guess that’s not a big mistake. But for most job seekers, it seems pretty reckless to me to dismiss a company on one bad thing.

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JT March 22, 2013 at 7:59 pm

I may not have been clear in my first sentence. I mean, that we should assume that such a request means that the socialization is important in the job. It’s an indication that that is possible and perhaps likely, but not proof.

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Dragonlady March 22, 2013 at 3:04 pm

For what it’s worth, every interview my husband has had includes dinner with the spouses, and I go along and it is no big deal. For some work situations, it is not the big red flag so many commentors seem to think. Rather, it is what I have seen to be the norm in my husband’s line of work.

In our case, my husband is a health professional, which means that it is very important that the group he joins up with have as full a picture of his life, priorities, and relationships as possible. And we need to have as full a picture of the group’s work-life balance, priorities, and relationships as possible as well. My impressions and discussions will be just as helpful as we make decisions as his are. Also, in our case, we may be looking to become partners in a business venture with these people. Dinner with them and their significant others is very helpful as we decide whether or not to start down that path.

In the OP’s case, maybe this is out-of-the-norm, and s/he needs to evaluate whether or not the BF is up for the dinner. But please don’t paint all dinner-with-partner situations as awful and inappropriate. Because they are not always out of line.

- An MDs wife

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OP March 22, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Thanks and that makes a lot of sense. I hadn’t thought of the relation to any small firm/practice and how it would be very similar. My boyfriend is totally not normal and is actually excited about this dinner interview since learning about it yesterday and can’t wait until next week. He thinks its going to be interesting and I asked him after reading all these responses how comfortable he really was with it all and his response was that he enjoys the idea that they would like to get to know him. He does still think its a little strange. I think it would be more normal if we were older (we’re in our twenties) or we were moving for the position. But we’re also both pretty social people. We go to community functions and enjoy the town we live in. He’s also in the health field and they do have a good deal of functions we have to go to and my current workplace also throws a few larger parties a year, so I know he can conduct himself normally in situations haha.

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Dragonlady March 22, 2013 at 3:37 pm

No problem. I just wanted to give another perspective. My skimming of comments seemed to be weighted heavily toward the “run away, run away” camp.

Realistically, it may be out of the norm for your situation. In a small firm, though, it can turn out that knowing about one another’s lives outside of work is helpful and positive. You’ll have a much better idea after the dinner. The dinner and conversation will be your best time to figure out if the place is a good fit for you. I think if the two of you keep that in mind, you can guide your conversations to help determine that. Best wishes!

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Joey March 22, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I’ve never seen anyone outside of really small old fashioned towns give two thoughts to the quality of the relationship with the spouse. All they care about is how the spouse acts in a work social setting.

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Dragonlady March 22, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Oh, it’s not about the quality of the relationship, but more about the dynamics of work-life balance and the culture of the place. In a high-stress, high-stakes, constantly changing environment like health-care, seeing how people socialize and deal with those stresses makes a difference. And the spouses of the partners can speak to these topics in a way that is different from how the partners themselves view things.

And, honestly, as a younger spouse, I do want to know if the partners spouses are people I may be able to approach as time goes on and I need some perspective on the life of a medical spouse. It’s a rough road for a medical spouse, female or male, and the stresses are specific to the work. I have found very few people who can relate, outside of other medical spouses – although pastor’s spouses come pretty close.

I think it may be a sub-culture thing at work here. Between medical school, residency, and the early years of actual practice, it’s just a big ball-o-stress, so picking a residency or practice is about determining what community is the best fit – because you are determining with whom you will share all that stress. And all our interviews (for residency and practice) included space for the spouses (and sometimes children) to be part of the process somehow. It’s not required that spouses attend, but it allows for another way to gather information on whether or not this is a good match.

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Greg March 22, 2013 at 4:36 pm

I took the Dave Ramsey Entreleadership course a couple of years ago and this was a key part of the hiring process that he teaches. My first reaction was that this was a bit odd, but after I thought about it I realized that the three worst hires of my thirty year career would have been avoided had I merely done this.

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OP March 22, 2013 at 4:47 pm

http://www.daveramsey.com/article/6-steps-to-a-good-hire/lifeandmoney_business/entre_content

Holy crap! You’re right! Its the final stage… and everything seems similar except they didn’t bring up money. I like to think its because they aren’t planning on low balling me, but I’m idealistic too so…

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TL March 22, 2013 at 5:34 pm

I just read that link, and…wow. Every candidate has to send in their personal budget?! (How about just offering decent pay and letting the candidates decide, like grown adults?) “Besides, broke and desperate people do not make good team members”?! Seriously? I’m generally on board with the notion of hiring people who want to do this job, not just any job, but work ethic and character aren’t determined by level of brokeness. (And if that isn’t a word, it should be.)

And as for meeting the spouse–I have no spouse. No SO, either. What would *that* say about me? I suppose I could bring a cat for the occasion, but then we’d be skipping the sushi restaurant.

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Jamie March 22, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Anyone who has ever been there will tell you – heck yes ‘brokeness’ is a word!

And I haven’t hit the link, but any company that would require personal budgets from candidates will be ruling out a hell of a lot of good candidates right off the bat…because I don’t know anyone who would sign up for that level of privacy invasion.

And I think the one thing all interviews need are more cats, so I would love that! And with that I need to start my weekend before I fuse to my office chair.

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TL March 22, 2013 at 6:12 pm

I was curious, so I did a little searching, and turned up some results for 12 steps, not 6, from the same EntreLeadership seminars. Those include personality testing (DISC) and the necessity of having the candidate’s personal “mission statement” match up with the company’s.

I don’t think I’ll be applying for a job at his company anytime soon.

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K March 22, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Seriously – that is incredibly creepy, in my opinion. I can’t imagine being willing to do that unless I didn’t have any other options.

Also, it seems to be taken for granted that you’re not going to be hiring any single candidates without families to support which is . . . odd.

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Tinker March 23, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Dave Ramsey’s brand is pretty distinctly targeted at married couples, probably with kids, hetero, religious, a particular subset of “religious”, with moderate incomes and some history (or present, obviously) of financial challenges generally following a certain form. Although people outside those categories can still extrapolate from what he says, from what I’ve seen they aren’t addressed as directly.

It looks like his recruiting process is targeted to picking up people who are really on board and well aligned with his message. So in his case it’s probably not so odd that his recruiting pool is such that one can more or less take that for granted.

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Tinker March 22, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Dang.

Before I saw this, I was contemplating the thought that I probably wouldn’t fit well with any company where the owners were heavily into the Dave Ramsey thing, but I thought I’d be charitable. This is… worse than I thought.

About the only nice thing that I can say about it is that Ramsey seems to have a bit of a skewed perspective about what is likely to work for businesses that aren’t his.

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OP March 22, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Also curious now, what were the 3 worst hires of your career and how could meeting the spouse in particular have helped avoid them?

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Malissa March 22, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Yes! i want to know this too. It sounds like a good story.

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Greg March 24, 2013 at 10:15 am

Keep in mind that I’m not talking about line employees, I’m talking about key executives in a funded startup with a few hundred employees. In two cases it was obvious within five minutes after meeting their wives that they were either headed for a divorce or would have to leave our startup. Both wives very clearly wanted them back working for a Fortune 500 company and were not comfortable with the time and effort committment required in a startup environment. One of them was basically useless for a year while he went through a nasty divorce and custody fight, the other guy left for a “safe” job two weeks before a major deliverable. In the third case, without going into too much detail, I think it would have been obvious after meeting his wife that this guy had incarceration for being a sex offender in his future. Yeah, that bad and creepy.

So while I think the Dave Ramsey approach is over the top, I’ll never hire another key person upon which my family’s financial future will depend without first meeting their spouse.

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tangoecho5 March 22, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Well it’s going to suck big time if OP and SO go to the dinner, wow everyone and she gets an offer for significantly less than what she expected &/or is willing to take. That might be why they don’t discuss salary the first few interviews. They get you to the dinner, charm and wine and dine you and next thing you know you are emotionally invested and really like these people so they play on that hoping you’ll take a lower salary.

But here’s hoping the salary is excellent!

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OP March 22, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Crap… you think so? Pshh. I have a job, they shouldn’t expect me to take anything less than what I’m currently making, hopefully. Ofcourse they don’t know how much that is =/ Errrgh.

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Joey March 22, 2013 at 5:10 pm

I doubt it. Companies that can afford to wine and dine usually have money to pay good salaries.

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TL March 22, 2013 at 5:27 pm

My first thought upon reading this was that the OP and her boyfriend may want to be prepared to gracefully answer any personal, relationship-related questions that the interviewers (or their wives) might ask during the dinner. Admittedly, I have no experience with this sort of thing, but I can picture an “innocuous” question popping up halfway through the main course: “So, are you engaged/have you set a date?” Or questions about whether they’re planning to have kids someday. And then the interviewers go back and make assumptions about the OP’s level of commitment, whether they’re going to be paying for maternity leave sooner or later, etc., etc. Might be good to think about Awkward Personal Questions That Shouldn’t Be Asked, and make sure the SO is on board with the tactfully-worded answers.

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Jamie March 22, 2013 at 5:38 pm

I remember reading a post, ages ago, from a guy who interviewed for a position and they asked him all kinds of questions about whether he and his gf were serious, when he was planning on getting engaged, if kids were in the plans…

Something about it being a family company and they wanted employees with “stable” home lives. Like you can gauge stability by your marital status.

It’s been bugging me all day since this post brought it to mind. Was that here? It would have been years ago, so it may have been back when I read other career sites from time to time.

Anyway – even though I fall firmly in the concept of completely boring suburban married mom of three I would be so offended having anyone judge me on that…even if in their mind I passed the test.

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Ask a Manager March 22, 2013 at 5:40 pm

That doesn’t sound familiar to me and usually have a crazily good memory for past posts, but you could check the “spouses and significant others” category and see if it’s in there. If so, the cold has affected my brain.

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AnotherEngineer March 22, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Jamie, the story you describe sounds a lot like an article that I read long ago on The Daily WTF.

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OP March 22, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Oh wow you’re so right and I wouldn’t have been prepared! I doubt it though, thats a pretty personal/rude thing to ask, but you never know with people. The last thing I need is my bf telling them he wants to get snipped because he doesn’t believe in marriage or kids lol. We’ll probably just laugh and say something along the lines of Well maybe, who knows with the future, or general vagueness. If I can withstand his mom, I can withstand anyone =0

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Anon in the UK March 23, 2013 at 3:45 pm

What *I* would be worried about, since I am single, is that the interviewer would promptly try to set me up with their cousin Claud or their buddy Dan or something.

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Canuck March 22, 2013 at 6:06 pm

I agree with those who think this is an excellent move by the potential employer. The reason being, if it is an important piece of the culture of the workplace, it is best to know now whether or not a candidate fits. Whether or not you like the culture is important for the OP – and contrary to what a lot of posters feel here, I don’t think it is strange or out of line at all.

Also, keep in mind there is a distinct difference in “expecting” the significant other to attend, and “inviting, but not obligatory” attendance. I have to attend the occasional after-work event, and my wife is always invited – but never obliged to come. My boss and colleagues never think twice if she attends or not – it’s simply a courtesy to invite the spouse. I think this is a great understanding by the organization, knowing that they are taking up some of my off-work time and doing their best to make it pleasant for me and my family.

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Andrew March 22, 2013 at 6:15 pm

I’m coming late to this discussion, but I’m curious about something that I haven’t seen addressed: OP, do you know if they’re also doing this with the other candidate for the job? And if so, are you both going to be at the same dinner? That would be deeply weird.

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AB March 22, 2013 at 9:17 pm

I was in a dinner like this once — for an academic position, when my husband was part of the evaluation committee. And yes, the top 2 candidates were invited for dinner, but obviously not the same day.

From the way OP worded her question, I don’t think the other candidate will be invited to the same dinner, but I’d bet the interviewers and their wives are getting two business dinners out of this recruiting process :-).

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Tina March 23, 2013 at 12:22 am

This is the craziest scenario I’ve ever heard, and I’m quite frankly shocked so many people are actually approaching this as though the employer’s request is appropriate –it’s certainly not!

Has anyone considered that they’re only asking her to do this to test how far she’ll go to get the job before she cries “foul?” Maybe they don’t want a “yes” (wo)man. Any way you slice it, their tactics are as unprofessional as they are an invasion of privacy. It’s completely nuts. Nuts!

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-X- March 23, 2013 at 3:39 am

“Has anyone considered that they’re only asking her to do this to test how far she’ll go to get the job before she cries “foul?”

I haven’t and doubt this is the case. This would be a rather contrived and costly (in terms of time/money) way of getting an answer to this question.

“It’s completely nuts. Nuts!”

Sigh.

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Ask a Manager March 23, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Yeah, I think that’s kind of an overreaction here! While this might be ill-advised, some companies do do this kind of thing (see some of the comments to that effect above). It’s not a test; some companies have cultures like this. If it’s not her thing, she doesn’t need to take the job (or even go to dinner). But some people are find with it.

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Eric March 24, 2013 at 9:40 am

To be fair, though: just because some companies are doing this kind of thing doesn’t make it right.

An employer’s market like this one breeds chutzpah. You have to admit, it’s an unusual request and I agree with Tina in so much as you have a right to boundaries between personal life and work life. Whether it’s “nuts” or not is in the eye of the beholder.

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Ask a Manager March 24, 2013 at 10:58 am

If their culture involves lots of socializing with spouses, it’s their prerogative to see who they’d be inviting into their fold. It’s very much not for me, but if someone wants to run their business that way and they’re up-front about it, where’s the moral issue?

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-X- March 24, 2013 at 11:27 am

The moral issue is that it would be very off-putting for people with SOs of the same gender, or with more “working class” SOs, or with SOs who don’t speak much English. If the work involved a lot of socializing with clients/constituents in couples settings, I could see an argument that this sort of interview is related to how well they can do the work.

But if it’s not about relations with outsiders, but just internal culture, this is the sort of practice that keeps society’s “outsiders” from getting the same jobs as “regular people” and advancing. It’s what contributes to lack of diversity in leadership in organizations.

Now it’s possible that the dinner will be a pleasant surprise there, and that, say, the female comptroller will be their with her girlfriend and the single office manager will have come solo, etc. But I doubt that.

That said, I don’t agree with Eric that it’s the current employer’s market that produced this. I think this is more of an old-fashioned thing that’s kept on.

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Anonymous March 24, 2013 at 10:19 pm

…. there are a lot of presumptions here though. Reasonable, but still, for all we know it is a very liberal company that wants to make sure applicants understand the culture. Or the reverse! Who is to say that any of your examples would be a plus or minus?

I’m not sure if it will be a good thing or not. I want to say it’s a bad idea, but I also know that I would like to have a chance to learn the culture and community of a potential workplace. It’s her chance to interview them too. I realize that many people keep work/home completely separate but there are people who are comfortable mixing the two. I think this could turn out to be a learning experience for all of us readers, provided the OP gives us a follow-up.

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-X- March 25, 2013 at 4:58 am

Yes there are a lot of assumptions in my comment.

I’m pretty sure that, on aggregate, very liberal companies are less likely to be looking into potential employees private lives this early on. Do you think that’s an accurate generalization?

Anonymous March 23, 2013 at 7:02 pm

I think this is a ploy to determine whether she’s married or about to marry, so they can decide not to hire her if it looks like children are on the horizon.

It’s okay to say “no” to silly requests. I would’ve just said that I was coming by myself.

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-X- March 24, 2013 at 6:00 am

The OP told them she had a boyfriend in an earlier interview, so they know she’s not married at the moment.

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OP March 25, 2013 at 9:41 am

I will definitely leave an update once its over, no worries!!! Hopefully I don’t go off on a 2 and a half page long rant about how crazy/awful it was and can shed some light onto why employers would want to do this. We went and scoped out the restaurant this weekend – SO’s idea. So now we know its going to take ages to get the food etc.

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In-House Counsel March 25, 2013 at 10:57 am

I’m very late to this discussion, but I read “political” in the description of the company, and wonder if this type of thing–dinners at which you are expected to bring an SO–is part of the job description. Political finance = fundraising = lots of socializing.

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OP March 27, 2013 at 9:21 am

Ok it happened! So, anyone who thought it would be a relaxed social gathering was correct. We met for dinner and discussed where we live, they’re children, restaurants in the area, hobbies etc. The head guy talked about what they do at work with my boyfriend for a little bit. We ordered some medium priced dishes and split a desert at everyone’s insistence. It lasted for about 2 hours and I think it went pretty good. I did laugh at a moment when no one else was laughing and it was slightly inappropriate =/ But I can’t change that now. I will probably find out this week how it went and get an offer if it comes. They weren’t awkward at all though, and once I was there the atmosphere wasn’t stressful. Everyone wanted us to feel comfortable and really made the effort. I wouldn’t really consider it an interview moreso a lenghthy time to make sure I wasn’t crazy or weird (not sure if I passed haha)

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Ask a Manager March 27, 2013 at 10:09 am

Glad it went well! Keep us posted!

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OP March 27, 2013 at 9:22 am

their* children

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OP March 28, 2013 at 4:07 pm

I didn’t get it. Now I understand why its not ok to get this chummy with prospective employers. I feel like I’ve been dumped or something. Not a great feeling. But hey, its probably for the best…

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Ask a Manager March 28, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Ugh, sorry to hear that!

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