update from the reader whose interviewer asked her to rate the interview on a scale of 1-10

Remember the recent letter-writer whose interviewer wanted her to rate the interview on a scale of 1-10? Here’s her update.

I just wanted to write to give you a quick update on what happened following the interview.

HR called me today to inform me that they would not be pursuing my candidacy any further. The lady was very gracious and told me that the primary reason was that they had reservations regarding my communication skills. I asked her if she could give me any details or examples as this would be extremely helpful to improving myself, and she said that the director had been concerned that I did not respond to his question on the rating and thought it might be an indication of certain gaps there.

I was quite surprised, especially when she wondered why I was not able to give an answer. I told her when I’d responded (that I thought it was for him to rate me, etc), and it eventually turned out that the director had wanted to know how I thought I’d done with respect to the objectives that I’d had prior to the interview (i.e., did I feel I had accomplished what I’d wanted in the interview). Needless to say, I wish he’d actually said those missing words, or that I’d thought of that angle (I didn’t…the only context that jumped to mind was him wanting to know my rating of my own performance). It would have made such a difference!

I’m of course disappointed about how things turned out, but I’ll use this as a learning experience for my next interviews and hopefully things will go much better next time!

The only thing you should learn from this experience is that people who seem like jackasses generally are.

And there are two of them here: the interviewer who asked you an unclear and fairly useless question in the first place and then rejected you for not answering it in the way he wanted, and the HR person who thought this was legitimate enough feedback to pass along.

(And to recap: It wouldn’t have been unreasonable for him to ask you for your thoughts on the job and your fit for it at the end of the conversation, but he asked you a question that was unclear, unlikely to provide useful information, guaranteed to make most candidates uncomfortable, and that put you on the spot. And he refused to answer the same question when you asked it back to him.)

Not all feedback is useful, and there’s a danger in drawing lessons from experiences like this. If you heard that your interviewer rejected you because you wore a blue tie, you wouldn’t conclude that you should avoid blue ties from now on; you’d conclude that that person was ridiculous and you wouldn’t want to work with them anyway. The same applies here.

{ 68 comments… read them below }

  1. Jamie

    I swear to God when I read the letter before I read one word of Alison’s answer my initial thought was, “the only thing you should learn from this is that some people are ass****s and you dodged a bullet.”

    Then I read on and saw “The only thing you should learn from this experience is that people who seem like jackasses generally are.”

    Put more nicely than mine – but that was a little spooky! And yeah – seriously – none of this is about you. I’m a pretty darn good communicator, if I do say so myself, and I would have whiffed that, too.

    1. Blinx

      That’s what I love about her advice — it’s SO refreshingly honest (blunt). We’re trained to think, oh, it must be me, but more and more we’re finding out that it’s THEM!! They’re the ones who are jerks and should know better.

      If there were only SOME way they could learn. Hmmm.

    2. OP

      Hey, I’m the OP.
      When I first got off the phone with HR after learning I’d been rejected, my first reaction was…darn, maybe I could have phrased my questioning better or pressed further to understand what the Director had meant. And I’m sure I still have lots of room to improve with respects to my communication skills, so I want to try and be positive on this.

      But now with a bit of hindsight, yeah, it doesn’t feel like such a loss after all. Not just because of this, but looking back, I can see a few other signs with other interviewers (one of whom a business partner who I’d have had to work closely with) that point to a potential “culture clash” with my personality.

      Anyways, thanks for the feedback, I really appreciate the different perspectives! The job search continues… :)

      1. Laura L

        Just because you think your communication skills can use work, doesn’t mean these people aren’t jackasses. :-)

  2. Christine

    Wow. I appreciate that the HR rep was a least gracious to you, but still…that is just weird. I *hate* numerical ratings. They are used in so many instances. I just don’t think you can rate personal experience of any kind in this manner.

    Yup, bullet dodged.

  3. Just a Reader

    Can you imagine working for someone who asked unclear questions/gave unclear direction and then arbitrarily rated you on your response? What does that performance review look like?

    “I said X and you did Y when what I wanted was Z. No raise for you.”

    Ugh. Getting passed over was a blessing in disguise.

    1. Sascha

      Yes, I work for that person. I’ve learned to repeat, clarify, repeat, write it down. At least she’s not a micromanager.

      1. Liz in the City

        I worked for the person and she WAS a micromanager. So imagine that. She said she wanted X, I repeated to her (in person and via email) that she wanted X, and then when I completed it, she told me she wanted Y instead — even if that meant contradicting her earlier, emailed instructions! Her favorite excuse: well, the project focus changed. The response I wished I could give: couldn’t you have told me at some point before I finished??

    2. Esra

      It’d be nice if they listed mind reading in the job posting so people could self-select out.

    3. Kelly O

      There are plenty of “no, when I said I wanted you to focus on new lids for next year’s chocolate teapot line, what I clearly meant was you needed to brainstorm and research new flavorings for the holidays. We should probably put you on a PIP.”

      I’m sorry you had to deal with that stress in an interview, and although it’s probably small comfort, at least you dodged a potential bullet.

  4. Kou

    I don’t know why, but I am really just tickled by the persona of the interviewer that this conjures up. I’m imagining a man talking to an HR lady just completely baffled at his exchange with the OP, trying fruitlessly to sort it all out and make some kind of sense out of it in his mind. “I asked her 1-10… 1-10 is easy! And she didn’t give me a number, she asked if *I* had a number… But I asked *her* for a number! I just don’t… I don’t understand! She must not be good at talking to people.”

    1. Andre

      And imagine the HR manager response: “Oh yeah, why on earth she didn’t answer that ‘easy’ question? She certainly doesn’t have any interpersonal skills, let’s hire the other candidate who answer 10”.

  5. KayDay

    Ugh. Definitely think this is a bullet successfully dodged, the whole situation seemed very weird to me. I think Just a Reader is spot on, too.

  6. Wilton Businessman

    I was getting ready to rip on this guy, but I honestly couldn’t have said it more eloquently than:
    The only thing you should learn from this experience is that people who seem like jackasses generally are.

  7. Gobbledigook

    Just echoing the other commenters in saying you definitely dodged a bullet! Had you gotten the job just imagine all the daily idiotic questions and having to deal with this kind of boss. What a nightmare it would be!

    1. Sascha

      I have this image that the Ratings Boss is constantly asking questions with a rating scale. “So how was your weekend…1 to 10?” “How’s that coffee working out for ya…1 to 10?” “How much time will it take for that report? 10 to 1…just to mix it up…”

  8. Jubilance

    Such a weird question & expectation!

    Now I’m wondering about the person who did get the job – did they figure out this weird response that the interviewer wanted?

      1. nicole

        And the funny thing is that manager is going to think that makes that other person a better communication when the manager himself is a poor communicator! As everyone else said, bullet successfully dodged.

  9. PEBCAK

    I’m curious how everyone feels about this as a general question, though, had he worded it properly. I have used some version of this, usually like, “Do you feel there is anything else you should tell me about yourself and/or is there anything you’d like to revisit?” and I have definitely had candidates be like “I haven’t mentioned my experience in X” or “I think I gave an incomplete answer about Y, let me tell you a little more…”

    1. Hmm

      I think that’s perfect… I always close introductory meetings with “is there anything else you’d like to tell me about?”

    2. jill

      I do mass-interviews and we ask this question. It’s often really illuminating – either because the candidate brings up something that appears minor in his/her resume, but actually demonstrates really relevant skills, or because the interview will go completely off the rails when the candidate doesn’t have a structured question to answer.

      I have definitely benefited from interviewers asking me this, though — for the first reason. If nothing else, it provides the perfect opportunity to throw in your “closing statements”.

    3. Elizabeth

      Your question is qualitative, though, not quantitative, and has much more substance. It would be weird and unhelpful if you asked, “How many things do you wish you could tell me about yourself that you haven’t yet?” and rejected people because they told you what the things were instead of counting them.

      1. Laura L

        “It would be weird and unhelpful if you asked, “How many things do you wish you could tell me about yourself that you haven’t yet?” and rejected people because they told you what the things were instead of counting them.”

        Ha! I snorted at this.

  10. Angry Writer

    Adding the chorus saying you dodged a bullet here, big time. See nothing but pain in the new hire’s future working under this tool.

  11. Blue Dog

    I used to have a boss who asked the most ridicuolous questions: What color is our building? Can you give me directions to our parking lot from here? What is the name of our receptionist?

    He said it was because he wanted to test their ability to perceive and remember details. In reality, he was just an ass. BTW – he has since been demoted.

    1. Mike C.

      Was he trying to hire the next Sherlock Holmes or something?

      “Ah yes, I can tell by the condition of your lapel that you’ve been carrying on an affair with the manager in HR, your car is 2,000 past due for an oil change and you only tip 10% when you go out to dinner”.

      What was he expecting?

    2. Gem

      Ha – I’ve heard of one who would leave candidates waiting (in an area where they could find the information) and would then ask questions like “how many fire extinguishers are in the building and where is the nearest one?”. Although the job was one that would require observation and recollection under pressure, so perhaps not that strange.

      On Alison’s Blue Tie comment: I have worked in a very conservative organisation where we were all provided the (extensive) notes taken during the final four day interview. One of my colleagues had a note on his that read ‘candidate wearing a black shirt; pale blue would be a better option’

      1. JL

        The first would be a job interview for Jason Bourne. The other’s for a contestant spot on Project Runway :)

      2. Your Mileage May Vary

        [blockquote] The job was one that would require observation and recollection under pressure[/blockquote]

        So only Shawn Spencer need apply? But he’d only work there if there were pineapples.

  12. B

    The only thing you should learn from this experience is that people who seem like jackasses generally are.

    Now that gave me a good chuckle! You dodged a bullet. Stinks because you want/need a job but that’s not the job you want.

  13. Mike C.

    0. Whenever I’m asked to give a rating from 1-10 for stupid questions like these, I always love to give non-integer values. Pi is the common one, though I prefer Phi (the golden ratio). But if you want to give a higher rating, there’s nothing wrong with 7Pi/4 or something like that.

    If they don’t like it THEN TOO BAD. Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.

    1. What really, really irritates me about this situation is that it feeds the fears of all the candidates reading it – the fear that if they don’t do X where X is something really, really stupid or inappropriate that they’ll miss out on the job. Screw this company, and screw everyone that was involved in their hiring system.

    1. JessA

      Yeah. You have a good point. It kind of makes you wonder how many great candidates they passed over (or how many candidates walked away) based on this completely worthless assessment.

    2. E

      I know I’m a day late replying to this, but I love this response. Growing up, any request for “give me a number 1-10” had to be specified with “no, an integer between 1 and 10″ (dad was a math teacher).

  14. LG

    Further proof of the “jackassness” of this guy is that he wanted to make sure to drive his point home to you and give that as the reason for being passed over. When so many companies don’t provide a follow up to let you know they are passing on you and further don’t provide feedback as to why…we have him to make sure to stick the knife in (at end of interview) and twist it to make sure it really, really hurts (by having HR call and tell you this is the reason you didn’t get the job).

    You’re smart to have turned to Alison to get a take on this and to now see other signs that indicate it would not have been a good fit for you, which means you can safety put it out of your mind and mark it as a lesson to pay attention to clues and signs and gut feelings that something might not be right for you.

    As Oprah says, “When someone shows you who they are, pay attention the first time.”

  15. Canuck

    I still can’t even perceive what the interviewer was hoping for when he asked the ridiculous question. Perhaps a case of someone reading about “off the wall” interview questions, and trying to be much too smart for their own good.

  16. Kat

    I think the most interesting part of this whole thing is that the question itself was so open for interpretation. When I read the original letter, I assumed that he was wanting his own interviewing skills rated. It seemed like about half the comments said the same thing.
    Unfortunately, this guy gets to determine who is a bad communicator, yet his question was so widely misunderstood.

    1. Rana

      That’s how I read it, too. “How were my awesome interviewing skills, eh? Tell me how awesome they were!”

  17. Elizabeth

    IMO, it would be acceptable to ask a candidate for a self-assessment on some task they did as part of the interviewing process, but not the interview *itself.* When a teacher gives a demo lesson as part of an interview, it’s very common for the first follow-up question to be, “How do you think the lesson went?” That way you can find out if the candidate has a good idea of how good a teacher she is, what her strengths are, and what could have been improved in that lesson. However, unless you’re hiring someone to *be interviewed,* it doesn’t make sense to make people nervous by asking them if they interviewed well.

  18. Not So NewReader

    Congrats, OP your intuition was right on track. If nothing else, you have that positive learning out of this whole thing. You can trust your gut.

    Personally, IF I had understood the question I would have cut off my own nose to spite my face.
    “I feel I did a 9!”
    BUZZZ. You LOSE. We thought you were a 5!

    “I would rate myself as a 6.”
    BUZZZ. You guessed wrong again. We don’t hire anything under an 8!

    Did this interviewer fail as a game show host?

  19. Anonymous

    “And there are two [jackasses] here: the interviewer who asked you an unclear and fairly useless question in the first place and then rejected you for not answering it in the way he wanted, and the HR person who thought this was legitimate enough feedback to pass along.”

    No issue with your assessment of the interviewer, but, why so hard on the HR rep? (And wow, never thought I’d hear myself ask that.) If the hiring manager is going to reject the candidate for a dumb reason, what other option does the HR rep have? It’s not her fault that she can’t provide useful feedback to the applicant. But at least she can provided an honest explanation of what happened.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I suppose it’s possible that she was hoping to give the OP a coded message: “This hiring manager is an ass, so don’t feel bad about being rejected by him.” But if she was passing it along because she thought it was reasonable feedback, she should have known that it’s not. Ideally she would have pointed out to the interviewer that not only is it a bad question, but it’s lame to reject someone over that. I’m not one for HR people overruling hiring managers’ decisions, but she certainly could have pointed it out to him and tried to get him to see the silliness of his thinking. Either way, though, I have an issue with her describing it initially to the OP as “concerns about your communication skills,” since if the OP hadn’t probed for more, she would have been left thinking she was a bad communicator.

      1. Joey

        I’m not sure I’d call them jackasses. I feel kinda sorry for the guy (and the HR rep). They’re dooming themselves to failure.

  20. koppejackie

    What an asshat. Good riddance. I know that’s hard to say now because you want a job.

    Better to wish you were employed than wish you weren’t.

  21. Ramona

    Oh wow. Alison you called this one from the beginning. Here I was standing up for an ass. Whoops.

  22. Anonymous_J

    “The only thing you should learn from this experience is that people who seem like jackasses generally are.”

    Alison has stated this perfectly. You dodged a bullet. THAT’S what happened!

  23. Andre

    Hey, she should tell to the HR manager to fire that idiot once he wasn’t able to answer the same question neither.

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