no, you should not send fruit and wine to your interviewer

A reader writes:

I just did a phone interview with a job candidate, and he sent me a fruit/wine basket. What am I supposed to do with it? Do I send it back? We are not going to go further in the process with him, as he was not qualified for the role, but what am I supposed to do with this basket? Do I politely decline and send back?

Candidates, please, please, please do not do this.

There is NO need to send gifts to your interviewers, and you will generally creep them out and cause awkwardness if you do. And, really, what on earth would anyone expect to accomplish by this? If you’re not qualified, it’s not going to change that. And if you are qualified, you’ve now made everyone uncomfortable by implying that you think your qualifications aren’t enough on their own, but that the interviewer might be swayed by some pears and a bottle of Merlot. It’s tacky and it’s ineffective.

Anyway, as for what to do: Sending it back would be insulting and would create much more awkwardness — this time for him, as well as for you. But since you probably feel awkward about consuming the contents of the basket yourself, offer it to others in your office who weren’t involved in the hiring process and won’t have the same weird feelings. And in return for partaking, make them promise they will never do this themselves.

{ 84 comments… read them below }

  1. Rob Bird*

    Here is a simple solution;

    Job Seekers-If you get the urge to send gift cards/fruit baskets/alcohol/pets to an employer, thanking them for your interview, please send them to me and I will make sure they get to where they need to go.

    Interviewers-If you receive one of the above items and think to yourself “Self”, you say, “What is thou supposeth to doeth with this lovely gift?” Please, send it to me and I will make sure it gets to where it needs to go.

  2. some1*

    It might be more than “awkward” for the LW to consume the gifts herself, it could violate workplace policy and at the very least it’s unethical.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Most workplace policies on gifts that I’ve seen allow for low-dollar items. Unless this was a truly magnificent gift basket, it’s probably fine.

      I don’t see an ethical problem here either — she clearly wasn’t influenced by it. (Although maybe my “this feels weird to eat” stance is in fact tied into the ethics of benefitting in fruit and wine from your position, even if you’re not influenced by it.)

    2. Ivy*

      some1 I think you’re saying it’s unethical to eat it since she isn’t planning to hire the sender. I think you’re thinking of this as if it was like rejecting a wedding proposal but keeping the ring. You only get to keep the ring if you say yes. Here though, the candidate sent the basket regardless of whether or not he got the job. Since it was a gift with no strings attached, then there’s no dilemma in eating it…

      1. books*

        unless they’re in some sort of govt relationship where the interviewer could potentially be a client in which case (the interviewee should know better) there is a $25 limit

            1. EngineerGirl*

              Sorry – it is actually $20. Can you imagine the e-mail? “received your gift-have turned it over to our company’s ethics officer.”

              Major FAIL on the part of the interviewee.

            2. fposte*

              Federal and state are both government, that’s my point–you’re talking federal and I’m talking state.

      2. Long Time Admin*

        Some companies have very strict rules about employees/associates accepting gifts. The World’s Largest Retailer, for example, absolutely forbids anyone from accepting a gift from anyone outside the company. Therefore, the receptionists’ and guards’ counter often have flowers, candy, and other consumables out for everyone to enjoy. I heard, but cannot verify as fact, that one associate’s husband sent her flowers at work, and she had to take them to the receptionist’s area until the end of the day. Then she could take them home.

        Many years ago, our Purchasing Department always made out like bandits at Christmas time. They were allowed to keep whatever gifts the vendors gave them. It eventually did lead to change in policy.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Honestly, I could make an argument for not mentioning it at all because I’d so so annoyed by it and wouldn’t want to signal that it was in any way normal. There’s something about sending a gift like this that conveys “Now you HAVE to respond to me — now you owe some contact.” And I hate playing into that.

      1. jmkenrick*

        This makes me think of when guys open a conversation in a bar by sending you an already-paid-for drink, making you feel socially obliged to talk for awhile.

        1. Ariancita*

          I wouldn’t mind a guy sending me a drink in exchange for some minor chit chat. Drinks are expensive in Manhattan!

      2. AgilePhalanges*

        So then you could REALLY not play into that by just not responding even with a rejection, right? I mean, if the candidate it going to make it awkward, what can they expect? (I’m joking. Sort of.)

  3. Amouse*

    Oh poor misguided interviewee. What could this person have been thinking? It just seems so desperate. I feel like this could almost merit some feedback from the OP to them on how weird this is so they don’t continue to mess up job opportunities for interviews where they are actually being seriously considered before the gifts are sent. I would be too creeped out and awkward to respond if i were the OP though.

    1. Amouse*

      I just had an idea. Alison, along the lines of the service that anonymously e-mails interviews who haven’t responded to candidates within a certain time frame, how about having the same service for interviewers to notify candidates of weird behaviour? A template e-mails that contains a generalized list of weird post-interview behaviours so the interviewer can give feedback to rejected candidates without them knowing. haha

      1. Katie*

        I don’t know. Looking for work is demoralizing enough. Do you really want to get anonymous emails saying “we would have hired you if you didn’t slouch/spit/yammer on in an annoying voice”?

        Not to mention that in this economy, it probably would be pretty easy to suss out who sent it.

        But maybe you were just being sarcastic…

        1. Amouse*

          haha no I don’t actually think this is a viable idea. I was mainly being sarcastic yes.

          Joking aside though, if people don’t know what common mistakes they’re making over and over again the job search is a thousand times harder, especially in this economy. And obviously people want to know and are seeking direction otherwise blogs like this that help and give insight to the job seeker wouldn’t have such an audience. We can only hope that people read good advice and see in it some of the things they’re doing wrong in interviews so they’re able to correct it and have the best possible chance of landing the job they want or need as the case may be.

        2. Kelly O*

          See, there are times I might actually want to know if I did something really annoying that immediately turned off an interviewer.

          I do wish there was a little light to tell you when you’d been talking for a certain period of time, or some self-timer that would just stop you mid-phrase to keep you from going on all long winded when you get nervous and just keep rambling on because oh god I’ve screwed up maybe I can talk myself out of this just keep talking and maybe they’ll forget you said that stupid thing earlier because clearly MORE talking is what you need to do in order to distract from that thing you said even though you can’t remember anymore exactly what it was but it had to be bad because the interviewer got That Look… oh god am I still talking?

          I mean, not that I have ever done that before.

          1. Jamie*

            A kind person will rescue you when this happens.

            My mom was a rambler (not saying you are – but she was) and much worse when she was nervous. I remember being small and over hearing her tell her friend how grateful she was that her boss had a knack for redirecting the conversation when she got like that, back on track, and didn’t embarrass her.

            It’s so weird how little snippets of conversation stick with you over the years – I have no idea why I chose to remember THAT but my home phone number? That I need on a post-it in my wallet.

            Anyway, whenever I see someone well intentioned but drowning in their own words I toss them a life preserver and ask a question to get them back on firm footing.

            1. khilde*

              I bet you remember it because it was probably one of those times where you became aware of the fact that your mom was human! I think people tend to remember things more vividly, too, if they are tied to a strong emotion.

        3. some1*

          Agreed. Hiring managers are human beings like everyone else with their own baggage and prejudices. Would you want to know you weren’t hiring because you reminded the Hiring Manager of her annoying sister-in-law?

          1. Amouse*

            The joke was made in the vein of extreme examples ie: don’t you sometimes wish you could let someone know that sending fruit and wine or a framed photo of themselves is a horrible idea. It was never meant to in any way undermine or show a lack of understanding as to how difficult the job market is or how sometimes subtle subjective things (such as the sister-in-law resemblance) can play a part in hiring. If my “idea” came across as insensitive or lacking perspective i apologize. It wasn’t meant in a serious way.

  4. Bridgette*

    1. Don’t respond to this ludicrousness. I don’t care if it’s polite to send a thank you note for a gift, or if you feel the need to correct his actions. Just don’t respond. DON’T LET THEM WIN!!!

    2. If you feel awkward about consuming it, give it away like Alison said. Or trash it. (I’d rather eat good fruit than mystery wine, so I’d feel better about trashing wine.)

    3. Alcohol is such a sensitive subject for so many people. Even in a secular, corporate setting, you have no idea what the personal beliefs or preferences are of someone, and alcohol may be very offensive. It’s like Alison said before about what not to say in an interview – don’t say anything political/religious/polarizing that might alienate your interviewer. I think alcohol falls into that category.

  5. Blinx*

    Sounds like the socially awkward thing that Dwight from The Office would do. Except he would send a basket of beets and beet wine!

  6. Jessica*

    Do you think this is a cultural thing? Do people in other parts of the world give gifts? I could believe it in some parts of Asia or something?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s probably a combination of a profound lack of understanding about what hiring managers are looking for and a semi-desperate belief that they have to do something creative to “stand out.” I actually got into an argument with another blogger a while back when he advocated that people send their interviewers gifts as a way to “be remembered.”

      1. Bridgette*

        Oh, they’ll be remembered alright. As that one crazy candidate the interviewer tells everyone about.

    2. Jubilance*

      I was thinking this too – maybe the interviewee is from a different country/culture where this sort of thing is more common? That was my best guest.

      1. Long Time Admin*

        That’s the first thing I thought of, too.

        I would not respond with a thank-you note, but I would mentally cut the person a little slack if they weren’t American.

  7. Jen*

    I don’t think it’s necessary to get into the “make them promise they will never do this themselves” aspect of giving the basket away. Just put it in the break room or serve the goods to your staff under some other premise and don’t worry about teaching anyone a lesson through this unfortunate incident.

      1. perrik*

        From the above link:

        “In the current job market small gestures like sending fruit baskets can mean the difference between getting an interview and not getting one, or getting the job or not getting the job.”

        Note that they did not explicitly say that sending the fruit basket INCREASES your likelihood of getting the interview or job offer.

        This company also claims that sending flowers after a first date is awkward and can leave a bad impression. But by golly, sending fruit means you had a great time and would like to see her again!

        I’m surprised they don’t suggest enrolling the HR manager or prospective significant other in a fruit-of-the-month club. What better way to show your creativity and thoughtfulness than 6 months worth of citrus deliveries?

        1. Heather*

          Unbelievable. I love how the article is on their website. *rolleyes* I think the person that wrote this article is from the 1950’s. When that type of thing might have worked.

          Not to mention the fact that a person looking for a job is probably unemployed and pinching pennies. Do they really need to shell out $100 for a fruit basket?

    1. Jen*

      The question is: Who is to blame in this cringe-worthy scenario… the fruit basket marketers for just using an aggressive or even “innovative” marketing technique, or the misguided/badly informed/possibly desperate job seekers who would actually send the fruit basket? Why is it the job of the fruit basket sellers to be career counselors? Everyone is just trying to get by. It’s the folks who send the fruit baskets in the hope of getting a job who are the ones in need of the wake up call.

      1. Another Emily*

        Good point. When someone gives you advice, always consider the source.

        I don’t like ads that outright lie (because it’s not a good idea ever give your interviewer a fruit basket ever) but sadly that’s all too common.

      2. Long Time Admin*

        If you’ve ever been unemployed for a year or longer, you would understand how someone might be tempted to try this.

        1. Hari*

          It would also be easier to understand why that person was unemployed if they are making mistakes like this though.

  8. Chocolate Teapot*

    I know in China it is part of business etiquette to give a gift, but from what I can gather it is between the most important visitors.

  9. Patti*

    Share the resume with all the managers in your building, and make sure they all call him. Then have a party. Bring your own cheese.

  10. jensmack*

    I returned to my office one afternoon to find a beautiful gift bag on my desk. I thought that maybe it was from a secret admirer or an early birthday present.

    Inside I found a folder, a card, something wrapped in tissue, and a large round tin.

    Inside the folder was a multi-page resume on very thick, expensive paper. Inside the tin was a cake. The card included a hand-written note saying that he thought he was the perfect candidate for the job & somehow used the word “cake” in a pun. And inside the tissue paper? A framed color photo of the candidate. Think: Glamour Shots in a suit and tie.

    I was so incredibly creeped out by this gesture. I didn’t know whether to laugh or execute a restraining order. I was afraid to eat the cake and couldn’t look at the photo. He obviously put a lot of time and money into the gift, but after a little while I threw the entire thing in the garbage.

    And I didn’t hire him. I didn’t even call him for an interview.

    1. Jamie*

      I love that your first thought was secret admirer.

      My first thought would have been to wonder who the heck broke what NOW and how bad it must be to warrant a gift-bag level bribe.

      Apparently you have more secret admirers than I do.

      1. jensmack*

        I think it was wishful thinking on the secret admirers… I have a serious lack of secret admirers. I really should get more of them. :)

      1. Jamie*

        How did I miss the framed part?? Wow!

        The silly part of me wants to frame a bunch of 8x10s of my individual co-workers…maybe the pics from the ID card file – and display them in my office. I would so be escorted out immediately – lucky to get away without a restraining order.

      1. Rana*

        Oh my gosh, yes.

        *boggles at the framed photo*

        Man, what chutzpah! Clearly the thought that someone might hang it on the wall as an office joke never crossed that dude’s mind.

      1. Anonymous*

        The decision to hire such a proactive, awesome candidate should be a “piece of cake”? Or maybe, put an end to your hiring dilemma because now you can “have your cake and eat it too”?

  11. Rachel*

    I once had a candidate send a starbucks gift card with their resumes in hopes that we could “go get coffee and discuss her resume.” Since I work for a non-profit, I gave it to the development department as a donation to the agency.

  12. whitney*

    Wow, some of these tales are crazy. I thought the candidate who brought me and the other interviewers each a box of chocolate was bad.

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