did I offend my interviewer?

A reader writes:

Is asking an interviewer, “Is there anything you would change about the organization” inappropriate? A previous employer was not a pleasant fella to work for, and the organization was chaotic. After putting up with that for ten years I wanted to assess whether or not I was setting myself up for the same issues with this new employer. The interviewer said she “was not prepared to be interviewed, and would rather not answer those questions.” Did I offend her?

You might have, but she was totally in the wrong.

It’s ridiculous for an interviewer to think that after poking, prodding, and scrutinizing a candidate, the candidate isn’t entitled to do their own prodding right back. This interviewer clearly looks at interviewing as a one-way street, which it isn’t, and apparently has no appreciation for the fact that it’s to the employer’s advantage to have a candidate rigorously evaluate whether the job would be a good fit for them and somewhere they’d be happy.

If that interviewer would be your manager, you should consider this a big red flag.

{ 15 comments… read them below }

  1. Jackie*

    I have asked that question before in a panel interview and it was well received. I think its a good question, sounds like she wasn’t prepared for the question and went on the defense.

  2. Sabrina*

    I always ask that question, or something similar. I think her answer is telling though.

  3. Tricia*

    I suspect it was a “courtesy interview” anyway because I was out of there within 20 minutes and the questions she asked weren’t exactly probing. My phone interview with the CEO went well. I throughly prepped, provided references, and letters of recommendation. I wish if she had already knocked me out of the running she would’ve just cancelled because the interview was 61 miles away.

  4. Michelle*

    I think this is a great question, and you were right to ask it. I’ll definitely be using it at my next interview.

  5. Anonymous*

    I have that kind of question on my list of questions to ask for an interview. I don’t see anything wrong with it. Every company has its good and bad and if the manager isn’t comfortable talking about all those points, then it sounds to me like a red flag.

  6. Anne*

    “Not prepared to be interviewed?” What a snarky response!!!

    Most interviewers WANT you to ask questions at the end of the interview. And while this question does force the interviewer to reveal some potentially unpleasant aspects of that particular workplace, isn’t that the point of an interview?

    Rudeness + shutting down your ability to ask questions & gain insight? Run from this place. Don’t walk.

  7. Nate*

    The question probably did offend the interviewer (based on her reaction), but I wouldn’t let that stop you from asking.

    Keep on asking it! It’s a smart question.

  8. John*

    Interesting dilemma..
    a) Great Question
    b) HR Interviewers control whether or not you get to speak with the next level in the hiring decision – you could be labeled as a problem.

    You may have potential to be the next President of the company, though without getting in further the recruiter could stop all progress. Too bad recruiters aren’t ‘recorded for quality assurance’, similar to customer service – interesting to see at Mgmt level how many good candidates our recruiters have lost.

  9. Dan Ruiz*

    Sounds like the interviewer thought they were doing you a favor by even talking to you.

    Run don’t walk…

  10. Dawn 2*

    Wow. People are right: run! If someone were to ask me that question in an interview, I would be glad to know that they are interested in my organization and not just “a job”. You shouldn’t need to be prepared to answer that question. Perhaps the only thing that came to her mind were huge problems that she felt she shouldn’t be discussing? If she is a member of HR, that’s unfortunate because she is probably scaring off well-qualified people and if she’s a hiring manager, it’s best that people get to see her at her finest and make their own decisions about the company.

  11. Hue*

    I always ask this question! I first start off with “What do you like most about working with this organization?” then proceed with “What do you wish could be changed?” Interviewers that I’ve had are really receptive of the question because it makes them really think about their organization. It also helps me get a better sense of the org and their culture.

  12. Jamie*

    I’ve never used this question – but I like it a lot – I think you can tell much not only by what is said, but by what’s not said and the reaction to it.

    I agree that their response was a huge red flag – and although it stinks that the interviewer was so rude to you, better to find out now then later.

  13. Rachel*

    ” “Is there anything you would change about the organization?”………..The interviewer said she “was not prepared to be interviewed, and would rather not answer those questions.” ”

    You may not have got a straight answer to your question, but it sounds like you got exactly the information you needed to make your decision. It’s hard to believe there are still companies out there that let staff with that few people skills talk to potential new recruits.

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