was this interviewer a jerk or are my expectations off?

A reader writes:

I left my most recent position as an assistant manager for a high-end specialty retailer last year in order to look for a position that utilized my degree. Well, I just got back from an interview for a recruiter position, and I guess I’m just wondering if what happened in the interview is “normal.”

When the interviewer (who is also one of the owners of the staffing agency) asked what I had been doing for the last year I was unemployed, I told him I was finishing my degree and looking for internships or entry-level HR positions. He then says to me to me, “So, I have a paying position and you’re looking for an internship … that means I can get you really affordable.”

I didn’t even know what to say but tried to politely explain that I was not exclusively looking for internships and that some internships do pay. He then said, “Well, I, as an employer, am trying to get an employee for as little money as possible and an employee is trying to get the most money that they can and you tell me you’re willing to do an internship so what am I supposed to think?”

I kind of wanted to scream, “I DIDN’T SAY I’D WORK FOR FREE!” but didn’t Should I have not mentioned looking for internships? I think he got the impression that I was a 22-year-old college student with limited work experience even though I’m not (I’m 28 and have held managerial positions).

Toward the end of the interview, he tells me that he doesn’t think I’m the most polished person for the job but I have potential and that I’m in the running and he’s hoping to make a decision by the end of the day. He then asks if he called me tomorrow and said that I got the job, would I take it? I told him yes, pending the salary, benefits, schedule, etc. He laughs and says jokingly, “You said you’d do an internship, you lost your chance for negotiation,” and then tells me how the conversation we are about to have is not official and it’s basically pretend negotiation. He asks what my minimum salary requirements are and I asked him what the range for the position was. He tells me that he can’t discuss the salary because the walls are thin and the other two employees will hear (it’s a small staffing agency with only two other employees) but I needed to tell him a range. So I gave him a range but definitely didn’t feel comfortable with it and felt that I was kind of at his mercy. I didn’t think that’s how salary negotiation worked.

At the end, I gave him my resume and he commented on how it definitely looked like someone inexperienced wrote it.

I felt like an idiot when I left. This interview left a bad taste in my mouth and my gut is telling me that I shouldn’t work here. But on the other hand, this guy runs and owns a staffing agency with several offices, so he has to know what he’s doing a little right? Am I just clueless? Should I work here? If I don’t take this position, what do I say to decline it? I think I do pretty well in interviews, but I’ve never really had any major “this is my career” type interviews and since I’m (hopefully) going to be interviewing for more positions in my field, I just want to know if this is the norm or if this is just a bad interview. Thanks for your help!

This is a bad interviewer.

And I doubt you want to work for him, because he’s someone who thinks that his job is to lowball you out of as much money as possible (whereas good employers will want to pay you a fair market salary because they care about attracting and retaining good employees). He also thinks it’s okay to mock you and openly criticize you when he barely knows you (the resume comments) — and yes, you should expect feedback in an employment relationship, but (a) this guy isn’t currently your employer, and (b) feedback should be delivered respectfully, not derisively. And the entire conversation screams that he’s someone who’s a little drunk on power and thinks that he can be as rude as he wants to people.

I can’t imagine this guy would be anything less than a jackass to work for.

As for feeling like the fact that he owns and runs a staffing agency means that he must know what he’s doing: There are lots of jackasses out there running all kinds of businesses, including staffing agencies. (Maybe especially staffing agencies.)

Unless your finances and job prospects mean that you’d have to take this job if it’s offered to you, I hope that you will turn him down with great relish.

{ 150 comments… read them below }

  1. MiketheRecruiter*

    This is a very typical sounding staffing company owner – he views people strictly as products and will definitely lowball you if he can.

    As someone who was hoping recruiting was a good entry to HR – it is, but staffing is sales, and the most successful staffing company recruiters I know have more in common with used car salesmen then HR professionals.

    I work in a hybrid staffing/corporate recruiting role, and this is par for the course in this business.

    Stay away from this guy.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      What would cue you into a good recruiting company to work for? Are there any out there?

      1. Joey*

        Reasonable incentives tied to performance would be a key one. It really should be a base salary with monetary rewards tied to the positions you fill, your rentention, days to fill, and/or client satisfaction.

    2. Joey*

      Staffing is only sales when the companies philosophy is shortsighted- the focus is on fill, not quality, retention, etc. Good staffing company recruiters see themselves as a contract corporate recruiter.

      1. Jessa*

        Exactly. The job should be about actually putting people in jobs who STAY and do good work. Not just sticking bodies in. Anybody can put a body in a job. But if they leave in a week or just can’t do the job or are terrible people, that’s NOT staffing.

    3. Malia*

      Can you explain this to me? If a staffing agency makes its money based on a percentage of the first year’s salary for someone they place, wouldn’t the incentive for him to insure that the candidate secures the highest possible salary? Lowballing her would only insure he makes a lot less money, no?

      1. KJ*

        If I’m reading her letter correctly, the position was working directly for the staffing agency; it was not a placement into another organization. If it were, you would be correct.

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        It’s like Freakonomics explained for why real estate brokers often pressure their clients to sell their home quickly, even if that means taking a lower price and thus lowering the broker’s commission. The amount of time the broker has to spend waiting and/or hustling for a higher price more than cancels out the slightly higher commission; it’s better for the broker to turn around the property quickly and move on to the next seller.

        Similarly, with a staffing agency that gets commission based on the salary of the employee who’s placed, they’ll probably make more money if they can fill positions quickly at slightly lower salaries than by getting commissions on higher salaries but then needing more time to fill each position.

        I’ve often had recruiters try to grease me up ahead of time as to why I should be content with a lower salary than I had in mind should a job offer be made. This never made sense to me until I read Freakonomics!

          1. the gold digger*

            PS The “Shithead” story in Freakanomics is not urban legend. My friend was a resident at a Memphis hospital and she treated the kid. It’s pronounced (according to the indignant mother after my friend pronounced it the obvious way) “Shih-theed.”

            1. Joey*

              Wow that’s worse than a guy I went to school with-last name Loser. Of course it was pronounced loe-zer.

                1. Melissa*

                  Some of them have names that are different from what middle-class people expect, but they’re lower-educated, not stupid. They wouldn’t name their kid something that was spelled Shithead and not expect people to say Shithead. It’s a common canard used to make fun of lower-income people, and it’s annoying.

              1. Joanne*

                Yeah. My mom taught a La-a a few years ago, I even graded some of her tests. The original may have been an urban legend, but people have picked it up.

                1. Greg*

                  Did he play professional baseball? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Lemongello

                  Ever since I was a kid, my dad told us the story about when he was substitute teaching in inner-city Detroit in the ’60s and had a kid named Orangello. Years later, when I discovered snopes.com, I sent him the link and called BS. He still insists it’s true, not as something he heard about, but as something that happened to him (he even imitated the kid’s squeaky voice). My dad is generally not the type to make up stories, but I still don’t quite believe him.

              2. Becca*

                My coworker’s sister works for a daycare. Mother came in with twins named Lawasha and Ladrya. Sister mentioned how unique those were and the mother said “Yup. Named them for where they were conceived on.”

            2. dejavu2*

              A friend of mine delivered the child in Baltimore.

              The story either isn’t true, or isn’t newsworthy.

            3. Elizabeth West*

              Most unfortunate name I ever heard was a lawyer named Richard Wacker.

              Think about that one for a minute.

              1. LV*

                When I was an undergraduate, our university’s chancellor’s name was Richard Pound… and yes, he went by the obvious nickname.

              2. Twentymilehike*

                I had a customer who’s last name was Walker. He was on the phone and said, let me spell it for you, it’s non traditional.

                He spelled it W A C K E R.

                I think he was embarrassed by it, so opted to change the pronunciation.

                1. Elise*

                  “The name is Bouquet. That’s spelled B-U-C-K-E-T.”

                  Your customer is following Hyacinth’s policy.

              1. Felicia*

                There are enough babies with horrible names without making up fake ones….like several babies named Swastika, and little baby Hashtag are far too real. And unfortunately there really are a few babies named Renesmee:)

            4. Anon Accountant*

              There was a baby born in our local hospital and several different employees tried to talk the parents out of naming their daughter “Shithead”. They pronounced it “Shih-te-ead”.

  2. AMG*

    Great relish, and professionalism! Maybe he will learn something. Sounds like a very insecure guy, so don’t let him get into your head.

  3. Not So NewReader*

    OP, if you go to work for this guy, you will always be in the wrong. No matter how right you are, you will still be wrong.
    If he feels free to behave like this on an interview with someone he does not know, I cannot imagine what he would do with someone he knows.
    I bet he is an abusive boss.

  4. Joey*

    I’d play hardball back and see where it goes. I’ve worked for bosses like this and sometimes they only step on those who allow it. I’d say you have little to lose playing hardball right back at him.

    1. Anonymous*

      That’s a good point, but I still wouldn’t work for this guy. There is a better fit out there for you, OP.

      1. Joey*

        Just because he sounds like a bad manager doesn’t mean he’s a bad entrepreneur. In fact I’d bet if you could handle him you could learn a ton of business skills from an owner of a staffing company with several offices.

      2. Bea W*

        Neither would I. Why would I want to be around someone who feels it is okay to step on anyone as long as he can get away with it? A-hole is not a requirement for being a good entrepreneur, and it’s hard to learn much when you constantly have to play dick sizing head games with the people you work with or for and can’t give you constructive feedback. She sure as heck isn’t going to learn useful people skills or how to retain employees from that guy. He can’t even conduct a decent interview. I can’t imagine he’d be a good manager role model either, not unless she needs to learn how *not* to treat people.

    2. A Teacher*

      I agree with Joey. See how he responds when you play hardball–he’s a jerk for sure, but if you don’t let him push you around how will be respond? There’s nothing to lose in pushing back and you still have the power to say no and walk away.

      1. Jamie*

        If nothing else it’s negotiating experience for a job you probably don’t want anyway. Stakes don’t get lower than that.

        1. A Teacher*

          Jamie says it well better said than I could say. You really have the power because you can say no. Like I said a few weeks ago and like has been pointed out many times, interviewing is a two-way street and when you run across a bad employer its the reputation that you will associate with his company. You never know when you’ll have the power to influence someone else from taking a job there or when you may have to run into this guy in the professional setting.

        2. Pussyfooter*

          What if she “wins” the negotiation?
          I like how Alison put it: “drunk with power.” When someone has pushed your buttons and you try to beat them, you are still doing their dance.
          If you can negotiate for curiosity and know that you are going to politely turn him down if you win, ok. Plenty of people get so caught up that they’d actually consider working for him when that final moment came. Be honest with yourself about your ability to handle this if you want to play with it some more.

          1. Gjest*

            In a somewhat twisted way, wouldn’t it be fun, though, is she “won”, and then had to opportunity to tell this jackwagon, “Eh, nevermind, I’ve decided I don’t want to work with you”?

          1. Jamie*

            OMG!! I want to come visit each and every one of you personally…if I can do it in this!!

            Thanks – that made my day and now I have new wallpaper!

            1. Pussyfooter*

              I’m such an design nerd–I’d have made the background color of the plane pink, so Kitty would “pop” in the final image!
              Did you notice the little Kitties in cute airline uniforms on the tug-truck? I kind of like the tug-truck art best in this picture…

    3. Meg*

      I still would never want to work on someone who has no problem stepping on people who “allow” it. Also, there’s more than a little victim-blaming in your statement. The OP didn’t single-handedly turn this guy into a jerk.

      1. Joey*

        Sorry Meg, but I’m not blaming the victim. Im just saying the owner doesn’t have all the power. And the op doesn’t have to sit there and take it. Its like the schoolyard bully. They don’t continue to pick on people who take control, only on those who give up their control.

        1. Bea W*

          Assuming you aren’t in some way blaming the victim, I felt the message encouraged her to keep engaging with him, and ignore the fact that he’ll treat people badly and that he treated her with total disrespect. Even if he straightened up around her on account of a good game of “hardball”, that wouldn’t magically make him not a bully, it would just make her not the target and only for so long as she was willing to keep up the Dance of Dysfunction to avoid being a target again. She’ll also have to be okay with the fact that she’ll probably witness him treating other people badly.

          It’s like dating. People in job interviews and first dates are generally trying to show their best side. If your date shows up on the first go acting like a total slob and being rude to the waitstaff, it’s only going to go downhill from there.

        2. Meg*

          But none of that justifies what the bully did, in your analogy. You’re absolutely right in that the OP doesn’t have to take it, but “taking it” (whatever it is) doesn’t make it ok for the bully to continue. They’re still a bully.

    4. Trillian*

      Agree. There are those for whom negotiation is an energizing game, and any and all tactics and psych outs are allowed – the only measure is the win.

      The good sportsmen among them recognize that this goes for both sides.

      1. Pussyfooter*

        Aren’t those people in situations where they know this behavior is expected? *Does* it really go for both sides if one person knows they are going to play this game and can reasonably expect that the other doesn’t know what rules are in effect?

    5. nofelix*

      He likely doesn’t truly believe the candidate is worth paying less, he just wants to see if he can save something by asking. So one could throw back “Well you’re advertising a permanent position so now I know you can pay more than internship rates [laugh] why don’t we see whether we’ll be a good fit for each other and then talk about salary later? I’m interested in x part of the job, how does that normally work?”

  5. Annie Laurie*

    Alison is so right on this one – run far, run fast. At least he was openly a jackass; too many employers hide their true colors until you’re actually in the job. Consider this a bullet dodged.

  6. My 2 Cents*

    I took a job with someone who has a reputation as being a total and complete jackass, just like this guy. I thought that certainly everyone was wrong and it couldn’t be that bad. Turns out, it was 100 times worse, my friend were being generous in their warnings! It didn’t work out and it is the only time I have ever regretted taking a job and wish that I had a gap on my resume instead of that experience, even though I was very successful.

    1. J*

      I personally think this is the most rational response to all of the suggestions. You’re a jerk so I pooped in your office. Goodbye.

      I hope no one poops in my office but I really hope this happens to someone out there.

      1. Poe*

        I once had a boss so brutal that I used to joke that I’d pee in his fancy shoes he kept in his office on the day I finally quit. People were pretty disappointed when I left quietly.

  7. BCW*

    His delivery is bad, but lets be real, for the most part, he is playing the same game most employers play. If I want a job for 75k but tell them I’d work for 50k, they aren’t going to offer me 75k. Also, the give me a range before I tell you my salary offer is another common “tactic” many employers use. Now the unpolished resume comment… It definitely could have been worded better, but maybe he is onto something and you should look at it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The delivery is the whole problem; he’s being a jerk because he feels he can.

      It’s true that he’s just revealing what plenty of interviewers would be calculating about salary, but his openly jerky manner says a lot about him.

      1. BCW*

        I get what you are saying, but a bad message wrapped in a polite delivery is really still a bad message. Whether his delivery made him a jerk or not, I’d say his hiring practices are no worse than other places, he is just more upfront about it. Not saying I like working for jerks, but to a point, I like people who are upfront with stuff as opposed to trying to make things sound better than they are. I had a boss once who was very upfront with things. Whether this was your performance or anything One of my favorite bosses ever. He got on me about a lot, but I could also be blunt and he’d appreciate it. This same boss made more than a couple women we worked with cry too. I don’t think he was anymore direct with them, its just some people welcome the frankness and others like the blow to be softer.

        1. Bea W*

          It’s possible to be honest and straightforward without coming off as a jerk or being mean. There is a huge difference between being straight with someone, and this guy. Having a “pretend negotiation”, asking her for her salary requirements, and then saying he can’t discuss salary because the “walls are thin” is the polar opposite of someone who is “upfront” or even “blunt”.

          1. Editor*

            Even though the walls are thin, the parties involved have paper and pens, don’t they? He could have written down a salary range and the applicant could have written down a counteroffer or an acceptance. This interviewer, however, wasn’t interested in problem solving, and I am unimpressed. I don’t see any advantage in working for someone whose meditation mantra seems to be “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine, too.”

    2. Kou*

      It says a lot, though, and all very very bad things, about the delivery. OP just met the guy and he spent a great deal of that time mocking her and lording around like he won king of the hill because she dealt with the interview in the same professional way anyone else would/should. She doesn’t even work for him yet, can you imagine if she did?

    3. My 2 Cents*

      Not all employers try to lowball their employees, the good ones offer competitive salaries to keep employees! My husband has been with his firm for 8 years, and twice in that 8 years they have given special market adjustment raises to everyone because the wages for his industry (accounting) have gone up. It’s unlikely that anyone there would have known that the market had gone up but the firm knew, and they wanted to remain competitive, so they adjusted it. I wish more employers were this proactive, but there certainly are some out there.

      1. KJ*

        We do this as well. I purchase salary surveys from a local employer’s organization, and we aim to pay at or around the 75 percentile for each position. This includes new hires, regardless of whether they are asking for less. You pay people right, treat them well, and they stick around.

  8. Wilton Businessman*

    I would send him a followup note today thanking him for his time, but stating that you realize now that it wouldn’t be a good fit.

  9. excruiter*

    The worst job I ever had was a staffing agency. It’s sales more than HR and, just like sales, you have to sell people on things that may not be the best for them just to meet time and quantity requirements.

    This guy sounds just like the veteran staffers I worked with. Candidates are commodities who must put up with crap treatment to get the honor of a bad temp job with them.

    1. Joey*

      Interestingly, I’ve probably learned more business skills working at a staffing company for a small business owner than I have anywhere else. Maybe because I was young, but its invaluable learning the ins and outs of a private business and what it takes to sustain it. HR was probably the smallest part- I learned how to sell, negotiate, influence, real business accounting and payroll, networking, public speaking, and I made a ton of contacts with the local business community.

      1. excruiter*

        I’m glad you had such a good experience!

        At the beginning of that position I would have definitely agreed with you. Unfortunately, there was a change in management that brought out all the worst in the industry.

        It may also depend on the type of staffing. I did low to no skill temporary industrial staffing. It was a numbers game with no room for any real screening, feedback, or opportunity for the candidates. That set up attracted the slimy sales types who were more than happy to promise the sun and moon before tossing a candidate into the rapids without a life jacket.

      2. HR lady*

        I think both Joey and excruiter have proved the same point: if you want to get good experience in HR, don’t work for a recruiting firm. (If you want good experience in recruiting and the negotiation/networking/business stuff that Joey mentions, then work for a recruiting firm.)

        1. Joey*

          Eh, depends on the business and position. When I recruited warm bodies for a manufacturing company we had dedicated on site coordinators for our large accounts that managed the temp issues. Lots of those issues were deep HR like employee relations, risk, workers comp, pretty much everything except benefits.

          1. Jamie*

            Exactly. An on-site manager for temps can get great experience in a lot of HR duties…exactly as Joey outlined.

            1. Joey*

              And oh are there a lot of issues with warm bodied temps in manufacturing. There was a recent high school graduate who literally chopped off her hand by trying to retrieve her hairband. A manager suspicious that a temp was responsible for repeatedly smearing crap on the bathroom walls. Baby daddy drama out the wazoo. I mean crazy stuff!

              1. the gold digger*

                You mean they had temps working on equipment that either did not have the proper guarding or for which the temps didn’t have the proper safety training (ZES, lockout/tagout)?

                1. Joey*

                  Oh it had guarding but as she was walking to her station on the assembly line she reached under it to try to grab her hairband that accidentally flung into a metal stamping press while it was operating.

              2. Jamie*

                Every on-site manager has to deal with the phantom poo smearers (seriously – how can this be a thing??). And you learn a lot about evaluating performance, dealing with attendance issues, paperwork. And yes, the drama….like you would not believe.

                But OUCH – man, that hairband sure cost her!

              3. Elizabeth West*



                When I worked in a wire display rack factory, we were told that long hair HAD to be put up–men and women. One night, a coworker told me that one time, a girl with really long hair got hers caught in a rotating machine and it ripped her scalp completely off. >_<

                1. Ruffingit*

                  Wow, that is truly horrible and I don’t even want to go any farther with that mental picture than my brain has already gone. I really feel badly for the people who clean up the scene with accidents like that.

              4. Mike C.*

                Christ, I know what you mean with the industrial accidents. There’s a very good reason I’m anal retentive about issues like that, and you’ve illustrated it quite well.

  10. JMegan*

    It’s possible to know what you’re doing and still be a jerk. I hope you get the opportunity to turn him down!

    1. Pussyfooter*


      And there are multiple ways for a business to succeed. Do you want to be successful his way, or some other way?

    2. Greg*

      Why wait? Send a polite letter right away, stating that while you appreciate the opportunity, based on what you have seen of the company it is not the type of opportunity you are looking for, and you are therefore withdrawing from consideration. In other words, state in a subtle and non-emotional way, “I don’t want to work for you because you are a jerk.” Oh, and if he writes back something snarky, don’t take the bait. Treat him the same way an employer would treat a rejected applicant who says, “I didn’t want to work for you anyway!” Just ignore him.

      I firmly believe every job candidate should write a rejection letter to a company every once in awhile. Makes you feel good, and reminds them of the whole two-way street thing.

  11. S.A.*

    If the job that the OP was interviewing for wasn’t listed as an internship, then the correct response of the interviewer should have been, “If this position is an unpaid internship, would you still be interested in the position?” instead of, “You’re interested in internships? Great, I’ll interview you for a paying position but then offer you one that pays nothing!” At that point, you’re inherently interviewing for a different position than advertised. THAT should have been the conversation.

    1. Editor*

      Or the applicant could say, “This position sounded like a job, so I expected it would pay a wage or salary. If you want to offer me an internship, I would be willing to hear more about it if the internship complies with federal guidelines.”

  12. Interviewer*

    He’s a jerk of the highest order to speak to you that way in an interview, especially to someone he wants to interview candidates for a living. (is this how he wants you to handle interviews? good grief!)

    If the walls are thin, not only did the 2 other staffers hear your comments, they most definitely heard his abysmal interview of you. If they’re not looking for other jobs now, they will be soon. In fact, he may be the cause of the turnover in that office.

    If he makes a job offer, I would be so tempted to respond with “Sir, I have given it a lot of thought, and given the salary data for the area for these types of roles, and taking into account that I am going to be working for you, I wouldn’t take that role for less than (insert realistic figure here, plus the 20% bad boss tax)” – and then go deadly silent while waiting for him to respond.

    Frankly, I wouldn’t want to work for him, but this could be a learning experience, and maybe you really want a job. Saying this gives you more steel, less mouse – and I’m not saying you would get the job because he’s not going to be excited to pay a bad boss tax, but you could switch the image in his head. It’s not finding the lowest-priced widget – it’s working for him that will be the challenge to overcome.

    If you don’t have the courage to say that, I would email today to let him know it’s not going to be a good fit, and move on.

    Good luck to you.

    1. Pussyfooter*

      If someone was “playing hardball” back at him, legitimately trying to get this job. I’d suggest calling it an “aggressive boss incentive.” You could even research the average percentage differences that unpleasant bosses have to offer above normal pay rates. How’s that for push back? :’)

      1. Jamie*

        I like that! Like the job is worth $X per year…but you’re so unpleasant that $X + $Z per year just to make it tolerable.

        Like an annoyance tax, or asshat surcharge.

  13. LizNYC*

    I think this guy forgot that in an interview, the job seeker is also interviewing the company. So what would you give him for a) treating others with respect, b) giving feedback in a constructive way, and c) able to handle any bad news you may have to give him if you were to be hired by him? I think he failed miserably. If I were you, part of me would love to remind him that no matter what the job market, job seekers are still able to be selective and use interviews to weed out potential bad fits too.

    (FWIW, some of his advice isn’t bad. If you apply for an entry-level position, don’t say you’ll take an internship, since most people hear “will work for free.” Perhaps giving your resume another look — or to a trusted friend/adviser — to make sure it’s top notch isn’t a bad idea. And make sure when you’re getting frustrated by jerks, it’s not showing on your face. I know I struggle with keeping a pleasant/poker face when people frustrate me.)

    1. Zed*

      “If you apply for an entry-level position, don’t say you’ll take an internship”

      But unless I am misunderstanding, that is not what the OP said. She said she was finishing her degree and looking for internships or full-time work. I assume this to mean that she was willing to consider internships while she was finishing her degree (not an uncommon course of action), not that she wanted an internship now that her studies were done. A reasonable interviewer would have appreciated the difference.

      1. Joey*

        Yeah, I agree with Liznyc, that saying he was open to internships wasn’t the best idea. Lots of people hear “will work hard for free or cheap” when they hear intern.

        1. Pussyfooter*

          If the OP wants to screen for supportive vs. more aggressive employers, she could give the full answer strategically. If not, then OP can say “looking for HR jobs” when applying to regular positions, and say “looking for internships” when applying to those. A full, forthcoming answer is not inherently naive or wrong.

        2. Frieda*

          But aren’t most internships temporary and/or part-time? So I don’t think it was out of line for the OP to say this, meaning, “I’m looking for paid full-time employment but I am also considering short-term/part-time internships to get experience in my field.” And if an employer is looking for a full-time employee but decides that they’d be happy with someone for 8 weeks if they don’t have to pay them, they are pretty stupid.

    2. Mike B.*

      Agreed that mentioning internships isn’t the best idea. If you’re open to doing one, great, but people hiring for paid positions don’t need to know that. (And are there even places out there that take interns who aren’t currently in school?)

      The guy is an ass, regardless, and you shouldn’t lose a moment’s sleep over this episode.

  14. Kelly*

    Wow, can you imagine feeling like that every single day at work? What a jackass. I wouldn’t work for him if he was willing to pay me top salary and give me all the benefits in the world and a Porsche to drive.

    Sounds to me like he enjoys intimidating people – people who can’t stand up for themselves and he’s built a mini empire out of it. Plenty of people would have (and obviously have) bought into the “well, he has a successful business, he obviously knows what he’s doing…” He’s become successful on the backs of easily intimidated people. I’d be curious to see what his employee turnover rate is.

    Don’t walk, run as fast as your little legs can carry you. When/If he calls you to offer you the job enjoy telling him that you appreciate the offer but you don’t feel it would be the right fit for you. It will be eating at his ego for the rest of the week!

    1. Pussyfooter*

      “He’s become successful on the backs of easily intimidated people.”–sounds like Catbert. Sadly, the jerk interviewer is not nearly as funny.

    2. Joey*

      Nope. He probably enjoys being an entrepreneur. At least that’s my experience with jackass business owners. They love the thrill of making their business successful. The rest is just what it takes to make that happen.

      1. Pussyfooter*

        You’re letting the guy off too easy, Joey.
        My best friend is an entrepreneur several times over and friends with owners of one the Xprize front runners who started their own very competitive business too. He wouldn’t waste one extra minute on this guy, and wouldn’t like the rocket people so much if they acted like this either.
        Enjoying entrepreneurship doesn’t automatically mean considering people just collateral damage.

        1. Joey*

          Oh I’m not suggesting that. I’m only referring to successful asshole business owners. Obviously there are good ones out there too.

  15. KJ*

    One particular quote comes to mind here — “When people show you who they are, believe them.”

    1. jamlady*

      I’ve been scanning through old posts looking for kind of some advice regarding a weird ass interview I had the other day and this comment pretty much sold it for me. Trust the instincts.

  16. UK HR Bod*

    Have to agree with everyone else here. He sounds like a prize pr1ck, and frankly not someone you’d want to work with. I don’t know the US staffing company market, but it can’t be too far from the UK – there are some real used-car-salesman people in it, but there are genuine people who realise that relationships build their business and therefore their staff are important. Sadly this time you got the used-car guy (and I bet his are ringers!), run from him but don’t let it put you off the wider staffing market if it interests you.

    1. Joey*

      If it were me in the ops shoes I’d work here if the owner let me push back and paid me decently. But then again I’ve never been shy about speaking my mind to my boss. But, I wouldn’t stop my job search.

      And I’m of the type that will put up with a lot of crap when the alternative is no job.

      1. Jamie*

        There is also the point that not everyone’s jerkiness rubs everyone the wrong way.

        I’ve worked for people others hated, and were in fact very abrasive and kind of impossible personalities…but for whatever reason they didn’t push my buttons and I managed to have ridiculously successful working relationships with them. Other difficult personalities, I’d have headed for the door.

        I’m not saying be a masochist – but the world is full of really difficult people and some will annoy you more than others. A person in power who can’t get along with anyone but likes and works well with you…that’s a ticket you want to punch.

        And regarding Joey’s comment – I too would take just about anything if it were between no job and any job. I wouldn’t leave a job to work for this guy, and I wouldn’t if I had the option of a life of leisure at home…but with bills to pay I’d take it and keep looking. Just if it were me.

        1. Joey*

          Yep. I’ve worked for many supposed jerks that were fine- the key was that their jerkiness wasn’t personal.

      2. UK HR Bod*

        There may be a difference in US staffing vs UK recruitment companies that mitigates this, but I would see this as an indication of general practice. Taking a job that is target-dependent (as they tend to be here) with someone who has already shown that they want the most from you with the least reward risks heading for a role where you never hit target, and end up in performance management and dismissed. Of course it depends on circumstance, but this doesn’t feel like a job with a happy ending – or even a reasonably tolerable middle. And I agree with you Jamie – I’ve worked with prize muppets (and have probably been the difficult one myself), but this guy has already shown that he can (and wants to) rub the OP the wrong way, which suggests that actually he’s one of the difficult ones best avoided by the OP.

  17. pidgeonpenelope*

    Wow. That guy is a jerk. I’d never want to work for a guy like that. I hope you find yourself a good candidate with a much better employer.

  18. WWWONKA*

    That interview was a preview to what it would be like to work for the guy. Is that what you want? I would have had the dignity to walk out on the guy.

  19. Shelley*

    I don’t know anything about recruiting companies in particular, but in general, just as a person? This sounds like a terrible boss to work for.

    You do not start the professional relationship by mocking your would-be employee. Alison puts it perfectly – feedback should be respectful, not derisive.

    Keep looking, OP.

    (As a followup question – I read this somewhere on the blog yesterday, but what in the world does “all summer’s eve” mean? It was in a comment somewhere, but I can’t find where.)

    1. LV*

      Summer’s Eve is a brand of vaginal douches in the US!

      (On a sidenote, why do people still use those? Isn’t it pretty common knowledge by now that douching does more harm than good?)

      1. Pussyfooter*

        I looked up some info and posted it here to answer Shelley’s question about the slang phrase, as well as share the funny news report I found. The whole thing is gone now. Did I break some rule or something?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If there are links or other triggers, a comment will get sent to moderation. In addition, sometimes the spam filter malfunctions and sends things to moderation that don’t belong there. I look through it periodically and release anything legit.

          1. Pussyfooter*

            Then I should report that both that post and a reply I added after it containing a quick clarification both came up normally here–after either LV, or Shelley. About 20 min later I noticed them both gone, without any
            “in moderation” warnings. The 2nd reply had no links/html or anything.
            Orig post apx 6:20 screen time, still neither post at 2:16 am.

  20. Confused*

    “But on the other hand, this guy runs and owns a staffing agency with several offices, so he has to know what he’s doing a little right?”
    They aren’t necessarily correlated. I worked for a well known temp agency in my industry and found them to be unprofessional, disorganized, and rude. They hung up the phone on me, pressured me to take jobs I was not interested in, lost my resume over and over again etc.

  21. Bluefish*

    FWIW, I have a couple of friends that have worked at staffing agencies in the past and this type of behavior sounds extremely similar to the BS they received on a daily basis from their various managers. Also, it may only be like this in my city, but getting fired from a staffing agency seems pretty common. One of my friends got fired from three different places in a year and a half. She’s not a bad worker either. She has since worked at a well regarded firm for the last 3 years and has never had a performance issue (that I know about). I realize its hard to be picky when you need a job, but I’d think twice about working for this guy.

  22. Bea W*

    What a dbag. That interview was not “normal”. He took what you said completely out of context and twisted it.

    DB: What have you been doing for the last year while you were unemployed?

    OP: I was finishing my degree and looking for internships or entry-level HR positions.

    DB: So, I have a paying position and you’re looking for an internship …

    He completely ignored the other part of the sentence OR ENTRY-LEVEL…

    *facepalm* and that wasn’t the end of his mind games. He hadn’t even gotten to the insults and verbal abuse yet. Maybe he has a successful business, but it’s probably in spite of his jackassery. You mention he is *one* of the owners. So if the agency is successful, it’s not his solely his doing. For all you know, the other owners can’t stand his guts or he’s mostly useless but they can’t get rid of him.

    Well, at least he was upfront about his jerkiness. The next time someone treats you like this in an interview and then asks you if you’d take the job or are still interested, say thanks, but no thanks and scoot on out with whatever pride the guy didn’t already stomp on.

    You are never at anyone’s mercy in an interview. The whole process is as much about you interviewing a prospective employer as it is about them interviewing you. You can end the interview at any time, and you are never under any obligation to express interest in a job where the interviewer and prospective manager is behaving in a way that makes you uncomfortable. You do not want to get stuck working for a person like that.

    1. Pussyfooter*

      It’s the fact that he asked ONE question, then berated her by implying that she had responded inappropriately to a completely different question that bugs me here. Ugh, so manipulative and dishonest.

  23. Kelly*

    This reminds me of the head of our local SHRM association. He interviewed someone, came into our college HR Management class (where she was a student) to talk about HR and spent 15 minutes speaking to the class about how horrible her resume was and what she did wrong during the interview. In front of EVERYONE. It was awful. I didn’t get involved with our SHRM chapter after that. ;)

  24. Steve G*

    I like the fact that he invited YOU for an interview, then insults your resume. Why did he call you for an interview then?

    Also, I have to say, I would not have left that job without a new one. I worked a summer in the hamptons as a manager in upscale retail and it wasn’t my dream job but it wasn’t horrible either, and alot of the tasks were similar to those in many business jobs (I still got my dramatic spreadsheet fix).

    1. Pussyfooter*

      It may actually be flattering that he asked her to interview.
      She sounds like she’s got impressive data on that resume, and maybe he was hoping she’d have all those qualities AND be a hard- hitting hard-ass like himself. But she doesn’t have to be his mini-me if that’s not her style.

    2. Kat*

      I know the whole “you shouldn’t leave a job without having a new one” thing but I was in the position of being ABLE to leave a job without having a new one. Usually I would heed that advice, but my job had become soul crushing and I was financially able to quit and finish up my degree.

  25. FRRibs*

    Complete jerk, yes. But he makes a point; if you’re looking for a paid position, why tell a prospective employer that you’re also looking at no/low paid positions? Polite people take advantage just as much as jerks.

    When he commented on “thin walls” with regards to salary range, I would have said “Oh, I understand. Can you write the numbers on your note pad there?”

    Lastly, I disagree with the noble “thanks but no thanks” letters. If I could stomach the jerk, I’d wait and see if there is an offer and what it is…then take it home and pretend to mull over it, then politely turn him down with a valid reason. That way you’d at least see what the offer was and you don’t stick in their memory as much. Of course if you can’t stomach seeing him again sent the polite thanks but no thanks letter.

  26. EE*

    Why can’t I reach through the ether and wring that guy’s neck?


  27. Kat*

    OP here. Thanks Alison for answering my question and to everyone else for their advice/insight. I still have yet to hear back from the job but I’m A-OKAY with that. In the interview my gut told me “Don’t work here even if he gives you a million dollars!” and by the end I was pretty positive that I did NOT want to work for him but I don’t always do what my gut instinct tells me so it’s glad to know I wasn’t crazy.
    I am very open to getting feedback, taking criticism and even dealing with jerks( I’ve worked retail) but I always thought that an interview is a time to kinda be “on your best behavior” and that there is a way to give feedback without being an ass or condescending. I think that Alison and some of the other posters hit the nail on the head when they said he’s on a power trip. I mean, he spent 15 minutes telling me how I need to respect the other owners as well (uhhh yeah common sense and courtesy) and that even though there are 2 other owners HE’S my boss and HE decides if I get hired/fired/a raise and there is NO going above his head. Even though I didn’t say I was JUST looking for internships, I may reconsider mentioning that in interviews. I know a few posters had kinda the “Well get used to it attitude he’s just saying what every employer does” but I don’t agree with that. I think that GOOD employers know that their EMPLOYEES are their greatest asset and actually treat them fairly and with respect because they actually VALUE them and don’t see them as some expendable cog in the machine. I’m at a place where I’m really all about looking for the right fit because, to me, a job could offer me all the money in the world but if I’m miserable it’s just NOT worth it to me.
    On the bright side, I have 3 more interviews lined up so my resume can’t be all that bad…….

    1. Jamie*

      “Don’t work here even if he gives you a million dollars!”

      This is the only thing I’d quibble with. I would LOVE to answer “what was your last salary?” with “a million dollars…and I think you can beat it.” :)

      Congrats on the other interviews – I hope one of them is awesome and all of them are sane. Odds are in your favor after getting the bat crazy out of the way first.

      1. Kat*

        Thanks! You know when he asked me what my salary range once I seriously contemplated saying “Oh I was thinking between the 1-2 million dollar range”. I’m hoping they go better as well….but as least if they don’t I know what to expect and how to react :)
        BTW….LOVE your pic! I’m obsessed with Hello Kitty….something about that cute little face just makes me smile lol

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