after I turned down a job, the hiring manager asked me out

A reader writes:

After I declined a career opportunity at a company, the hiring manager emailed me and asked me out for dinner and drinks, in a way that he clearly didn’t intend as professional networking.* I tried to read the message every which way, hoping it wasn’t what I thought…but basically I feel totally creeped out and disheartened. I’ve never been in a situation like this professionally. How do you recommend responding to this advance? Is ignoring the best way to go in this situation?

* Note from me: The letter-writer quoted the email to me, but asked me not to print it for privacy reasons. The email is indeed clearly asking her out on a date.

Ugh. I’d bet money that he thought that now that you were no longer dealing with each other in a professional capacity, there was nothing wrong with trying to make the relationship a social one — but it misses the point that there’s still a power dynamic in play: he’s a hiring manager and a professional connection you might have hoped to call upon in the future, and he has basically just told you that he was assessing you physically/sexually during your interview with him.

Anyone who doesn’t see what the problem is here would be well-served by reading this excellent essay by Hannah Waters about her own experience with “not quite harassment” — situations that might not seem particularly bad or troubling if it weren’t for the fact that the man involved is in a position of power and the woman isn’t. (That essay is part of a larger situation that’s been playing out in the online science writing world, a saga that’s interesting to read as well.)

To be clear, I’m not saying that it’s impossible for people who meet in this type of situation to ever develop a mutual romantic or physical relationship; of course it’s possible. But if you’re hitting on someone in this context, you need to be damn sure that they’ve already signaled it would be welcome.

As for your question about what to do now, I think it would be perfectly reasonable to ignore the email if you want to. You’re not obligated to respond, and that might be the best option if you’re not interested in having additional professional contact with this guy.

Another option is to handle it the same way that you would any other social overture that you weren’t interested in — say no thanks and move on.

And still another option, of course, is to also tell him that he should rethink asking out job applicants. While this carries the risk of making him defensive, it has the advantage of saying “hey, this isn’t okay,” which is a message more people on his side of this equation could stand to hear. But that’s really your call — it depends on what you’re comfortable with and just how creepy you found the situation.

What do others think?

{ 493 comments… read them below }

  1. WorkingMom*

    Another reason this was a bad idea on the hiring manager’s part. He has now put himself in a position where one could ask, “was the candidate declined a position because he wanted to ask her out?” I would assume that’s not the case, but now he’s put himself in a situation where that question could come up.

    1. Jamie*

      She was the one who turned the job down, so he wasn’t denying her an opportunity based on his own motives.

        1. Bea W*

          That was my thought exactly. I think had she accepted the job, he would have still made advances on her. I think she dodged a bullet there.

        2. Jamie*

          I don’t see why it would be more likely that she was pushed forward solely for his interest in her than that she was a qualified candidate they wanted to bring on board and he happened to find her interesting enough to ask out.

          Again, I’m not saying what he did was a good idea – I agree with fpostes comment below about an embargo period.

          But just because he asked her out doesn’t mean she wasn’t totally qualified and offered the job on her own merits. Being qualified and someone being attracted to you aren’t mutually exclusive.

          1. Bea W*

            She may have been the most qualified or he may have thought she was the best candidate due to his other apparent bias. If it were me, I’d have that question in the back of my mind. Was I really the best candidate or did the hiring manager’s attraction stack the deck in my favor more than it should have?

    2. Jessa*

      This. Exactly. The first thing I thought. And even if it’s not true it raises the level of skeevyness very high.

  2. Portia de Belmont*

    I’m torn between agreeing with Alison and just ignoring the email, and thinking that the company he works for needs to know that he is pulling this kind of thing. The next interviewee he fancies might feel pressured to agree to date him, and that’s dangerous territory.

    1. Jamie*

      Why would anyone feel pressured to date him once they’ve declined the offer?

      I get that this is a creepy gray area – but he didn’t ask her out while she was still a candidate with the conditions he move her forward if she went out with him. He waited until there was no professional relationship ongoing to ask her out socially.

      Ill advised – absolutely. But I don’t think it rises to the level of misconduct where his employer should be notified. He didn’t use his power to either punish or reward her – he asked her out after the fact.

      1. Jessa*

        Except that he might not have. Did he downplay the job so she’d turn it down so he could ask her out? This is the problem. He probably did not, at least not consciously, but he could have.

        What happens if she ends up working in another department that’s also supervised by him (she could get a job in another part of the company if what turned her off this particular job is not company but JOB specific.)

        What happens if later she or he needs something from the other (if the industry is small it could happen.)

        Innocent or not this has all kinds of unfortunate implications attached to it and is BAD policy, so if the company knew, I hope they’d say this to him.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think he’d likely say, “Hey, I waited until she’d turned down the job and there was no prospect of working together — at which point I hoped to get to know her socially.”

      The problem, of course, is that that response shows a lack of understanding of the power dynamics that are still present there, and of the general principle that women (all people, really, but it comes up a lot more for women) shouldn’t have to feel that their interviewer might be evaluating them as date-material rather than as employees.

      Ideally, he’d have a company that could explain that to him, but who knows if he would.

      1. Shannon*

        Alison, you are the best. It’s so awesome to have a blog like this that not only advocates for women and helps women become more confident in the workplace without feeling the need to adhere to social construct.

      2. EngineerGirl*

        And therein lies the issue. He took a 100% professional situation and turned it sexual without even bothering going through a social situation. I like forwarding the email to the superiors. Just asan FYI.

        1. BCW*

          I completely disagree that he needs to be reported. I mean, he probably didn’t mean anything inappropriate by it. Again, I’m not saying it was right, but I don’t think its this awful situation either. What if its a smaller town and he happened to run into her at a bar or something? Reporting someone to a boss can have serious consequences, and unless it gets to the point where he is repeatedly calling/email, I think ignoring it should be fine. I think if it was only done once, it can be chalked up to just a bad decision.

          This also isn’t to minimize the OPs feelings, but I’m just curious of the tone of the letter. To feel “creeped out and disheartened” based on someone asking you one time for a drink or dinner seems a bit extreme. Again if he didn’t take no for an answer, or even when ignored chose to email daily, then fine. But assuming it was cordial, it seems to be a strong reactions. If he called you, since he has your number, I could also understand, but it seems he was trying to give you
          an easy out I’d just say it wasn’t the best move, but not creepy.
          And yes, I’m well versed in Schrodingers Rapist and Gift of Fear, so I don’t need a link to those things. I’m just saying my opinion.

          1. EngineerGirl*

            It is ALWAYS inappropriate for someone in a position of power to make advances. It needs to be reported.

            1. Rindle*

              By that logic, no person would ever be able to ask out another person who isn’t on exactly the same professional level! There is no position of power issue here. She doesn’t work for him. She’s not a job applicant.

            2. Jamie*

              I think that’s an overstatement. It was a social misstep and not great judgement, but to me this doesn’t rise to the level of making trouble for someone at work. As BCW said, there can be really severe consequences for that and if he was just politely asking for a date his error was in timing…it doesn’t make him a danger to society.

              I get that people shouldn’t be assessing others physically or sexually at work…but feeling attraction to someone is not something you can avoid ahead of time. What you can avoid is acting on it – which is why he shouldn’t have asked her out following the interview.

              I am just not seeing this as something so egregious as to alert his superiors.

              But I have the same question as BCW – feeling creeped out and disheartened…where does that come from? I don’t understand that reaction if it was just a polite request to drinks or dinner sometime. If the letter itself is creepy or lurid then it should be reported…but I just don’t see this as being in the harassment category.

              1. Arbynka*

                “I think that’s an overstatement. It was a social misstep and not great judgement, but to me this doesn’t rise to the level of making trouble for someone at work. As BCW said, there can be really severe consequences for that and if he was just politely asking for a date his error was in timing…it doesn’t make him a danger to society”

                I agree with this. Yes he created an uncomfortable situation but I don’t think it needs to be reported.

              2. Anonymous*

                If there were nothing wrong with his behavior – if his company wouldn’t find it objectionable – then forwarding the email to hem wouldn’t get his career, right? So it seems reasonable to me that the OP could take that step, and the company can do with it what they will.

                I try to live by the rule of not doing anything I wouldn’t want others to know about. There are obviously places that that doesn’t apply (my bedroom, with my husband), but the rule rarely steers me wrong.

            3. Jeff A*

              EngineerGirl, by this logic no police officer should ever be able to ask out a member of the opposite sex and should therefore remain forever single.

              There is no position of power in their relationship any more that warrants his not being able to ask her out socially. The “well maybe the OP would have liked to have used him as a networking contact for future opportunities” is a far stretch to claim he has some sort of position of power and authority over her preventing him from being able to want to see her socially/romantically.

              1. The Hello Kitty*

                The “well maybe the OP would have liked to have used him as a networking contact for future opportunities” is a far stretch to claim he has some sort of position of power and authority over her preventing him from being able to want to see her socially/romantically.

                I agree.

              2. SD*

                That’s not what a “position of power” means in this context. Yes, a police officer should be aware of the potential power they could have over people even while outside their work hours, but that does not mean that they are automatically wielding power over everyone they know in every situation.

                If that’s the comparison you’d like to use here, the situation at hand is more like if someone had contact with the police, let’s say reporting a crime, and at some point in the process decided not to press charges. And then a police officer used contact info obtained for purposes of the investigation to ask that person on a date. The problem, to my mind, is that they met and had contact only in a professional, non-social situation in which there was no reasonable expectation that it would become a social relationship.

                1. Jamie*

                  That is an excellent distinction.

                  I am married to a cop and yes, in society he will always wield more power than I, and yes technically he could arrest me for whatever.

                  It would be a very bad idea, but he could.

                  But that’s not an imbalance of power in a real sense.

                  But yes, if they are hitting on people who they have in custody, or are under questioning, or even using information gathered as you mentioned for personal gain then that’s absolutely creepy and wrong.

                  But that they have more power overall? That’s not creepy, that’s just life.

                2. SD*

                  @Jamie: Oh, good, I’m glad I’m not totally off-base, considering that’s a real-life situation for you and a largely hypothetical one for me. And thank you!

                3. EngineerGirl*

                  This exactly. Using information gained in a 100% professional setting to go forward sexually is wrong.

              3. Jessa*

                Well a police officer should not ask out someone of any gender that they’ve had police business with, IE a victim, a perpetrator, probably a defence lawyer, or even a prosecutor because well “Near occasion of sin.” People will PRESUME they are doing something wrong, and that just taints everything they do. It’s part of the job you know about when you take it. Same as doctors/patients, even after they’ve been discharged from psychiatric care.

                1. Meg*

                  I was a volunteer EMT and it’s not unheard of for an EMT to fall in love with a victim. I’ve seen it happen. Hell, I’ve been asked out when I had to be admitted (after I was discharged) by the paramedic who was in the ambulance with me (I left something in the ambulance and he returned it, and asked me out for a drink).

                  That’s not the same as my interviewer coming onto me after declining an offer though. As long as the guy didn’t do anything unprofessional, unethical, inappropriate, etc. during the interview to encourage her to not take the position, I really don’t see what the deal is about asking her out via email afterwards.

                  Granted, I don’t know exactly what he said in the email (could have been a total creeper fish for all I know, and then I’d be like, “Ew”), but if the email was like, “I’m sorry to hear that you declined the offer. Would you like to go for a drink sometime this week?” then it’s hard to say how he would have behaved in the workplace (and asking out your coworker isn’t a crime either – supervisor, perhaps).

                  But if he was commenting beyond “I think you’re attractive and would like to get to know you personally. Would you like to go out sometime?” then yeah… creepy, but not reportable creepy.

          2. some1*

            The HM asking her out via email after she declined the job and him asking her out after he had run into her at the bar is apples/oranges.

            The bar would probably be a chance meeting where they could chat and gauge interest. The guy didn’t do that here.

            1. BCW*

              Point being though, it would still be a position of power right? Setting wouldn’t change that. Some people seem to think its ALWAYS wrong

              1. TL*

                The setting would change it, though. If you interacted in a bar, you would have some prior interactions of just being social equals and the position of power would be removed. It wouldn’t seem so much like he was thinking of you romantically during an interview, just that he got to know you a little bit better socially in the bar and then wanted to ask you out.

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s disheartening because it says “even though you thought were communicating as professionals and that I was interested in and respected you for your professional achievements, and where you weren’t being judged on your physical appearance, I’ve actually been looking at you as a possible date.”

            I think this can be harder for men to understand, because you haven’t been living in an environment where women regularly have to be on guard against that happening. To you, it’s a date request — which I agree would be no big deal.

            Surely you’re open to the idea that the way you experience these things is colored by your own experiences as a man, right?

            1. Jeff A*

              But Alison, women really need to understand that it’s unfair to men for you to suggest that we are unable to both respect you for your professional achievements and also find you to be a romantic interest. You are perpetuating the stereotype that men cannot possibly be able to put aside their sexual urges and look at a woman on multiple levels at the same time. A woman can be the best professional candidate for the job, and also be the object of a man’s romantic interest — the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

              1. BCW*

                Exactly. I’ve dated co-workers (CUT to the absolute horror of many commenters) and I did and do still have the utmost respect for their professional accomplishments.

                1. Elaine*

                  Yes. And why all the leap to “sexual interest” here? Yes, he must have found her attractive, probably on multiple levels, but it’s not like he was asking for a lap dance. Could be he’s lonely and looking for love with a smart, accomplished woman.

              2. TL*

                Yes but we also live in a society where women’s appearance is often held as the most valuable thing about them and the notion of a woman getting something she doesn’t deserve only because she’s pretty is widely held and used against women.

                1. Anonymous*

                  We have no way of knowing whether he asked her out because he thought she was pretty. Maybe he asked her out because he was attracted to the confidence and intelligence she displayed during her interview. I’m a woman, but I’d like to give the guys a little more credit.

              3. Forrest*

                Yes, because patriarchy hurts men too. The answer isn’t to educate women but to educate your fellow men on whats appropriate and whats not.

                1. Jeff A.*

                  Forrest, I think you’re painting with a pretty broad brush if you insist that the HM was being inappropriate only by virtue of the fact that his first meeting the OP was in a professional setting.

                  If the HM had written and said something like, “I apologize if this is out of line, but I found you to be remarkably engaging, charismatic, and beautiful, and I’d really like the opportunity to get to know you better over dinner or drinks, if you’d be so inclined” I don’t think that would be inappropriate. Poor taste? Maybe – but this seems to depend more on whether there was mutual interest by the OP and not by the actual action of her being asked out.

                2. Forrest*

                  I don’t think I’m painting a widebrush at all nor am I alone in the thought that’s its inproper to ask out an interviewee as a HM.

              4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Unfortunately, you’re operating in a context where women are routinely taken less seriously if they’re seen as attractive or decorative, where their value is tied to looks, and where they’re too often subjected to unwanted advances when they’re just trying to frickin’ work.

                So yeah, it sucks for you that it’s unfair that women don’t always see where you’re coming from. It sucks far more to deal with real harassment on a regular or semi-regular basis and to find yourself at a “networking lunch” that turns out to be an excuse for someone to try to sleep with you and so forth. And it would be useful for you to recognize that context.

                Why is it more important to make sure that we’re not inadvertently miscategorizing a man’s advances than to make sure that women can be full participants in professional life without being regularly treated as sexual objects?

                1. Jeff A.*

                  “Why is it more important to make sure that we’re not inadvertently miscategorizing a man’s advances than to make sure that women can be full participants in professional life without being regularly treated as sexual objects?”

                  Alison – it’s not *more* important to make sure we’re not miscategorizing a man’s advances – it’s EQUALLY as important. Equality of the sexes in personal and professional settings is only going to be achieved if ALL of our hidden biases and stereotypes of both genders are exposed.

                2. KellyK*

                  Reply is to Jeff A.

                  I don’t think that’s quite correct. It’s not equal because losing one potential avenue for dating is a much more minor problem than being continually viewed in a sexual or appearance-based way in a professional context.

                  In fact, the fact that we’re treating a minor inconvenience for men as if it’s equal to a major hurdle and daily frustration for women shows that things are really out of whack.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  They’re really not equal, actually. Think of it this way: Imagine a world where we’ve totally solved the problem of men’s intentions sometimes being misinterpreted, but haven’t changed the situation in regard to women being taken less seriously and minimized and having their value be tied to their appearance. It hasn’t really fixed much, right? Now imagine the that we’ve fixed the stuff for women but some men still occasionally are hurt that people misinterpret their advances — it’s a much bigger difference in outcome, isn’t it?

                  Now, it’s not a competition and doesn’t need to be. But saying both concerns are equal doesn’t really work, and unfortunately it’s often a comment that’s made by men who ONLY advocate one side of the equation and rarely show the “equal” concern that they supposedly have for the other. (I have no idea if that’s the case with you or not, of course. But that argument so frequently shows up when it’s disingenuous.)

                4. Forrest*

                  But Jeff, you seem to be focusing on one and not the other. You have to fix the treatment of women first before asking women to extend the favor back.

              5. fposte*

                With somebody you’ve worked with for a while? Sure. With somebody you know only from an interview? No. That’s one of the big problems for me in this situation–they were only in proximity for a short amount of time, during which he was supposed to be thinking about her fitness for the job. Apparently, some of the time he was supposed to be thinking about her fitness for the job he was thinking about something else.

                1. Marina*

                  This. How I present myself to someone I hope to impress at a job interview is very different from how I present myself to someone I hope to impress at a bar. It would feel very creepy to me that someone had interpreted my professional interest as an indication that I was open to sexual interest–it would make me doubt that I have any power to influence whether or not people see me as a sexual object.

              6. Anonymous*

                We have no context here, though, and it’s possible that Alison does. How old are both parties in this? If OP is a younger woman and the HM was a much older man, that would surely change the situation drastically than if they were both a similar age, similar seniority and roughly equal on all other terms?

                Yes, men’s intentions can be misunderstood, and that can be both frustrating and embarrassing and that should be recognised more. But the way to avoid that is to have very clear barriers as regards anyone you meet in a professional context.

                For a woman, this is (potentially) a very different situation. Nearly a year after someone in a work context made a sexual comment to me, I still can’t wear a skirt to work without feeling judged and uncomfortable and generally like a horrible, worthless person. Because clearly me wearing a skirt gave that man the right to do that. (Sarcastic, btw)

                And maybe that point isn’t about gender. Reverse the roles here. If a woman HM had asked out a man, would the reaction still largely have been “That’s inappropriate and you should probably ignore it.” I suspect so.

            2. BCW*

              Yes I can acknowledge that my experience as a man is coloring my view. But you have to admit that the experience of a woman being looked at a certain ways tends to often, especially in work situations, look for the absolute worst motivations possible. I agreed it probably wasn’t the wisest choice, but I think people are jumping to some strong conclusions about this guy. “What if its a pattern?” “What if he is trying to make people turn down the job”. There is a lot of what ifs there. But if a guy says “What if he really thought she was just a cool person and made a mistake in the way he chose to ask her out” Then we immediately disregarded.

                1. BCW*

                  Yes, because us guys are supposed to be OK with you assuming that everything we do is going to lead to us assaulting you.

                  I get it, I really do. And its unfortunate that women have to be on the lookout more than I do as a man. IBut painting every man you meet with such broad strokes as though they may be a danger, is just as bad as a guy painting every women with the broad strokes of saying she only got where she was because of her looks. Its no less wrong because a woman does it.

                2. Jamie*

                  But painting every man you meet with such broad strokes as though they may be a danger, is just as bad as a guy painting every women with the broad strokes of saying she only got where she was because of her looks. Its no less wrong because a woman does it.

                  In regards to Schrodingers rapist it may not be less wrong, making the wrong assumption that men being jerks and saying a woman got where she was on looks won’t get anyone killed. A woman who has trust as the default for men she doesn’t know well is protecting her body and her life.

                  I am sure the vast majority of the knucklehead customers who come through my daughter’s work and hit on her are harmless – flirting with a pretty girl. But how is she to differentiate the ones who will wait for her when she gets off work, follow her home, and leave presents on the doorstep? Because that’s happened. One customer out of thousands – but it’s happened.

                  Yes – you have to look upon a huge percentage of totally innocent men with suspicion because the stakes are so very high with the small percentage that are dangerous.

                  I have a husband and 2 sons who totally get why women they don’t know don’t trust them – they don’t take it personally because they know it’s a safety thing.

                3. fposte*

                  I wouldn’t characterize the guy as a creeper, so I’m agreeing with you on that, but I’m coming out strongly against the rest of the point you seem to be making here. Sweeping judgments to protect yourself aren’t inherently wrong just because they’re sweeping. Are you making sweeping judgments about people by not posting your bank account information here? You bet. Is that unfair to all us nice people who’d never take money out of it without permission? No, because it’s your money and your safety, and that’s more important than the hurt feelings of somebody you don’t know.

                4. Anonymous*

                  “But painting every man you meet with such broad strokes as though they may be a danger, is just as bad as a guy painting every women with the broad strokes of saying she only got where she was because of her looks.”

                  This isn’t painting every man with broad strokes. It’s painting every man who has a power advantage over a woman who (wittingly or not) uses that advantage to hit on said woman. Totally different thing. And yeah, it sucks for a guy with good intentions, but maybe it points in the direction of actually thinking about whether or not it could upset a (reasonable) woman before approaching her. A thoughtful man would have put aside his desire in this case and said, “You know, we met when I was her interviewer and that could make her uncomfortable. It’s probably better that I not pursue this, since it might be taken the wrong way.” Not to be trite, but there are lots of fish in the sea. There’s no reason that you need to approach a woman whom you have ever had a power advantage over, unless it was made very clear that it would be welcome (as Alison said).

                  But if you’re hellbent on only giving the benefit of the doubt to men and not to the women who receive these come ons, then there’s not really much more I can say.

                5. KellyK*

                  It’s not assuming that you will. It’s acknowledging that you *could.* Huge, huge difference. Much like I’m not assuming my coworkers are petty thieves when I lock my car and keep my purse out of sight. I’m just acknowledging that I don’t know all of them well enough to know for sure that they *aren’t.*

                6. KellyK*

                  But painting every man you meet with such broad strokes as though they may be a danger, is just as bad as a guy painting every women with the broad strokes of saying she only got where she was because of her looks. Its no less wrong because a woman does it.

                  I just wanted to point out how very different these two things are. The first is acknowledgement of risk. He *may* be a danger. He also may not. The second is an assumption. She *did* reach her position because of her looks.

                  Another major difference is that the first assumes that random strangers are entitled to other people’s good opinion and trust, without having to actually earn it.

              1. Bobby Digital*

                Dude, I don’t think being weirded out when your almost-boss emails you for drinks is “finding the absolute worst motivations possible.”

            3. Helen*

              “he’s a hiring manager and a professional connection you might have hoped to call upon in the future, and he has basically just told you that he was assessing you physically/sexually during your interview with him”

              I specifically came to the comments to say how disheartening I found this comment of yours :( Why are you assuming that even though they met at an interview, where topics like your educational background, work experience, passions, future plans etc. might be discussed, that this man would only want to ask her out because of her physical/sexual appearance? It is possible for women to meet and connect with men on an intellectual level. Men can be attracted to our personalities and intelligence, not just our appearances.

              The fact that the OP is creeped out means they must not have made this kind of connection, so your response fits this specific situation, but not the general scenario.

              1. mel*

                You’re right, he must have been hella turned on by her work history and educational background!

                Daaamn college degrees get me so hot.

                1. EE*

                  That’s a bit disingenuous – surely we all strive to come off as engaging and charismatic during interviews?

                  I know that my energy and open nature is an asset for me in interviews, and it’s also a personal quality that people might find attractive.

                  Interviews aren’t just work history + degrees + physical appearance!

          4. FiveNine*

            I agree. I spent time as a feminist activist in the movement in the 1990s, and I agree. In fact, I’m taken aback by how often it seems in the letters any awkward advance by a man at all — by a colleague who isn’t in the same department or in a position of power above the woman; by a hiring manager at a company the female has already declined a job at — is ratcheted up like a serious sexual harassment issue. This is bordering on treating actual workplace harassment like a joke.

            1. Elaine*

              I agree. Is he really in a position of power if she declined a job? Was she creeped out because he was too old and ugly? Would she have been less creeped out if he was young and charming and handsome?

              Sorry, world: People are judged on their looks, especially by single people looking for love.

              (but maybe the email was gross-we don’t have much context)

          5. Bea W*

            We didn’t see the email he wrote or sit in an interview with the guy. Maybe he really came across as a creeper.

          6. Jazzy Red*

            It would kind of be like your male gynocologist asking you out.

            I would just feel…uncomfortable.

            1. Emily K*

              Or like a friend of mine who posed as a nude model in college figure drawing class, only to have one of the young men who had just been drawing her ask her out after the session. It was also telling that when she related this story to a group of our friends later, all the men in the group dismissed it as “eh, whatever” and “no big deal” because he had waited for her to get dressed again before he asked her out.

      3. Schnauz*

        I think I would notify his company only because this may be a recurring behaviour. Perhaps I’m a bit paranoid, but what if he’s purposely or unintentionally steering them in such a way that the odds are better that they’ll decline the position … then he’s clear to claim he’s not doing anything wrong with asking them out. If they look into past candidates and show a disproportionate number of women declining offers … maybe there’s something to it. Probably not, I hope note, but could be.

        1. first-time commentor*


          “recurring behaviour” –Yes, she should absolutely report him. I just left this very situation, only I was the one hired after candidate #1 turned down the position and only happened to find out why when (after only 2 months on the job) I gave notice/reported him for sexual harassment. The office manager said that she was ‘dumbfounded’ by my reason for leaving, but then after 20 minutes let it slip that their first choice had lodged a complaint against him with HR–and that he had had another incident with a receptionist (though she never reported officially). She (OM) also explained that this was why the other interviewers on my panel had voted against me (I knew this; I was told day one that I wasn’t their first choice)–they had seen this happen before and he had even said that my looks were “frosting” to my qualifications. I consider it a feat to have won them over in the end :).

          In my case, he is still there–even though two others reported him to HR the day after I left; I would love to know how he talked his way out of it. With applicant #1, he claimed ignorance of proper post-interview procedures and was given interview coaching tips. And even though he is still there–I get it, that happens–at least I know that I did what I could to prevent it from happening again (sadly, I think it will).

          So yes, I agree–go with your gut (wish I had), report him.

  3. Shannon*

    I’m the type of person who likes to call people out on this. However, there’s the potential he won’t see anything wrong with what he did since guys are raised with the idea they provide validation to women by giving them attention. So, if she does point out to him about how inappropriate it is, he could react poorly: call her names, slam her to other colleagues, etc.

    This leaves such a bad taste in my mouth. I’m sorry, OP- this is so upsetting.

    1. Kelley*

      Even though I’m not the type of person to call someone out on this sort of thing, I recently did (in my personal life, not my professional life) and it felt AMAZING. It probably didn’t register, and he might not think he did anything wrong. But on behalf of other women he will interact with in the future, I have done my part to shut down his creepy behavior.

  4. NylaW*

    Gross. At least you declined the offer. I can’t imagine how awful it might have been to work with this guy who had been sizing you up sexually the entire time.

  5. Kat A.*

    Forward the e-mail to at least 2 superiors of his. I say 2 because there’s a chance 1 person might blow it off (no pun intended) but a second might not. It would be best if one of those bosses was female.

    Personally, I wouldn’t add any comments other than “I was surprised to receive this e-mail from Mr. _______. I thought you might want to as well.

    If you want to be snarky, you can always add, “Does this happen often?”

    1. Interviewer*

      I would absolutely consider this option. If this guy is a repeat offender, it should get the company’s much-needed attention on a big problem. If this is his first time, it will get his attention, and can alter his behaviors/approach to the candidate pool.

      Possibly burning bridges for the OP, though. Do you need contacts in that industry? Are you interested in another positions with that company? Small or big town? All things to consider, the likelihood of running into him again.

      Did he use company email to ask you out? That might sway my decision toward notifying higher ups.

  6. Former LEO*

    I’m not going to argue that this is inappropriate but unless there is something in the email that says otherwise you are assuming that he was assessing her “physically and/or sexually”.

    Just because he was in a position of authority doesn’t mean his interest was purely sexual. He may very well be interested in her as a person. STILL INAPPROPRIATE! However, that is a hell of an assumption to make about someone.

      1. Elysian*

        Maybe, but he could also have gotten to her know better during the hiring process and came away with the impression that she’s an interesting person that he would like to get to know better. It doesn’t mean he had been sizing her up from the moment they met. Though, his email could imply otherwise.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But if he wasn’t hitting on her, there are professional ways to do it — he could have said, “Since we’re both so active on Professional Topic X, I’d love to have lunch sometime and talk about the field.” Which is what you do with someone you’re only interested in professionally.

          1. PEBCAK*

            Ha, when I think about it, I suppose I give the guy a little credit for being honest, rather than sending an email like the one you suggested, and then getting to lunch and trying to turn it into a date.

      2. Arbynka*

        “Asking someone out on a date usually carries the implication that you find them attractive, no?”

        I would say yes. But I do see Former LEO’s point. I do know few guys who are currently asking women on dates because they are hoping to find a partner. Not just to have a sexual encounter. I think Leo was saying that HR manager asking her out does not necessary translates into him just going for sex, maybe he is interested in her over all. I hope I am making sense.

        1. TL*

          Still, there’s generally a sexual component to dating. Even if he was interested in the whole package, part of that is sexual appeal/attractiveness.

          1. Bea W*

            Exactly, even if he’s interested in finding something long term, evaluating physical attractiveness is something that happens before deciding to ask someone on a date, and it doesn’t sound like his email was a “hey let’s hang out as friends” email.

            Maybe some men can weigh in here. I could be totally off base.

        2. SD*

          I… see what you’re saying, I guess. But if you assume that’s the situation here, then the issue would be that he was assessing her as a romantic partner in a professional, power-imbalanced situation. Not really less uncool, in my view.

          1. Arbynka*

            “I… see what you’re saying, I guess. But if you assume that’s the situation here, then the issue would be that he was assessing her as a romantic partner in a professional, power-imbalanced situation. Not really less uncool, in my view.”

            I agree. I think he put her in a very uncomfortable position and that’s not OK. I don’t think I can argue otherwise.

            Right after graduation, while I was interviewing, I walked into this man’s office. He said he will give me a typing test. I said OK, he then slapped his thigh. I said :”Excuse me ?” He than gestured me to sit on his lap. When I just stood there staring he said :”Oh, what’s the problem, that’s where you are going to be doing all of your typing.” And you know the kicker ?When I went to the employment office to file an official complaint, the lady just said :” So what ? It wouldn’t hurt you.” Seriously. But it was back when companies could advertise position such as “Administrative Assistant needed, good looking, 18-21 years old”.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I wasn’t saying that he was definitely only pursuing sex. But part of attraction is sexual attraction. It’s partly physical. It’s unnerving to feel that your interviewer was assessing you in that way.

          1. Arbynka*

            “I wasn’t saying that he was definitely only pursuing sex. But part of attraction is sexual attraction. It’s partly physical. It’s unnerving to feel that your interviewer was assessing you in that way.”

            Again, I agree. I did not mean to say you said his interest was purely sexual, I am sorry if I came across that way. I wasn’t trying to also say that I find his behavior OK. Maybe I should have added that even if he was interested in her, asking her out on a date was not a very good idea.

      3. Former LEO*

        Attraction is not necessarily physical or purely physical. Wanting to get to know someone better is how relationships start, correct? There might have been other reasons and his intentions may not have been to bed her.

        Overall I am not going to disagree with you but I do think you are making assumptions about his motivations. I have been physically attracted to many women, but it usually takes more than that for me to ask them out on a date.

        1. TL*

          Right, but there’s always some component of physical attractiveness, for about 99.9% of the population. Just because there was more than the physical component doesn’t make it okay.

          1. Former LEO*

            Never said it was ok. I maintained from the beginning it was inappropriate. What I didn’t like was the assumption as to his motives.

            1. TL*

              The assumption is that, at some point, he thought she was physically and possibly emotionally/intellectually/whateverally attractive enough to ask out.

              Look, any way you parse this, unless he led the e-mail with “I am asexual…” I think it’s fair to assume some physical attraction was involved.
              (Also, I don’t want someone assessing me as a romantic partner during an interview either.)

            2. Meg*

              It doesn’t sound like AAM was assuming anything. It was clear from the email that he was asking her on a date, and for the vast majority of people, asking someone on a date implies that you are physically attracted to them. It’s a reasonable conclusion to draw.

        2. Bea W*

          True, but would you ask a woman on a date if she had a great personality but was not at all physically attractive to you? It’s usually a combination for dating isn’t it?

          1. Former LEO*

            There is a not so veiled implication in the original post that his interest may have been more sexual than merely personal. Yes, physical attractiveness is a component but it’s not enough for me to consider asking someone out on a date.

            However, the original inference was being “sized up physically/sexually” as if there was nothing else to it. Totally an unfair assumption.

            And again, since I keep having to reiterate it, doesn’t matter what the intention was you don’t ask out current or prospective employees.

            1. Meg*

              Nowhere in the post did AAM or the OP say that he was asking her out *only* based on physical attraction. However, since the hiring manager DID ask the OP on a date, it’s reasonable to conclude that he had a physical attraction, since that’s usually a component of dating. Nobody has said that his only reason was physical attraction – he absolutely could have thought she had a great personality as well. But chances are, the physical attraction was there, and if so, it obviously manifested during the interview, when he was supposed to be assessing her professional skills.

              1. Jamie*

                ITA. I don’t think Alison inferred that it was solely sexual – but certainly it’s part of it.

                Has anyone ever wanted to date someone without being physically attracted to them? I doesn’t mean that’s all it was – but when it’s there you tend to notice it and it’s part of the impetus to want to get to know someone better.

    1. AMG*

      You don’t think he assessed how attractive he thought she was before asking her out? As a romantic interest?

      Yes, it’s probably a combination of personality and looks, but surely you can’t deny it didn’t come into play. And how do you decide whether someone is physically attractive? By assessing her physically and/or sexually.

      1. Former LEO*

        Still an assumption on your part. You can judge his actions but only he knows his thoughts.

        I usually don’t comment here, but I often find it fascinating how people fill in the blanks with facts they couldn’t possibly have to fit a conclusion they have already drawn in their heads.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Certainly no one can know his feelings, only his actions. But he asked her on a date. And asking someone on a date generally conveys, “I find you attractive and would like to at some point possibly act on that.”

          1. Anonymous*


            I don’t want to make sweeping generalizations here, but who can actually look at a person – say, across a busy bar, or maybe in the middle of rush hour while waiting for the next train – and come to the conclusion of, “Wow! I can see she has an amazing personality and shares some of my interests. I should talk to her!” It’s usually finding said person attractive that prompts the approach.

            Not saying that this truly applies in OP’s situation, since she had interactions with the hiring manager beforehand, but no one can assume that he was not physically attracted to her.

        2. AMG*

          This post is littered with men stating that they are human and cannot separate noticing an attactive woman regardless of the situation. So why would anyone NOT assume that is part of the thought process in asking someone out? You can’t have it both ways, depending on which one supports the point you are trying to make.

    2. BCW*

      I agree, and as much as I KNOW this is going to anger many people, its human nature to notice how someone looks physically. I think when you say “sizing someone up” it brings to mind leering and staring and only thinking of them in bed. I see people on the street, in work situations, at bars, whatever and yeah I might think “That person is attractive”. I have eyes. But after the initial thought, he may have genuinely thought she seemed like a good person and even though she wasn’t right for the job, he wanted to get to know her.

      Would people prefer that he did it under false pretenses of networking, and then once they were there hit on her? Sometimes love strikes at weird times

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t mean leering. I mean assessing someone in a physical (and potentially sexual) light. And most people don’t want to feel they’re being assessed in that way in an interview or other work situation.

        And again, I’m not saying you can never have a mutual romantic/physical relationship just because you met in a context like this. But you have to ensure there are signals from the other side before you act. That’s an unavoidable part of being respectful and aware of the pitfalls in this type of context. Otherwise, you have to find your dates somewhere else.

        1. BCW*

          In theory I agree. But in an interview I think it would be very hard for someone to both try to land the job and show interest in the person interviewing them. Also, maybe he did (incorrectly) think that she would be receptive to it. I think most of us have, at some point, thought there was a spark with someone when in reality it was only one way.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            ut in an interview I think it would be very hard for someone to both try to land the job and show interest in the person interviewing them.

            Then he has to forego asking out her. It’s not a tragedy. Why are we acting like that’s some horrible loss for him?

            1. Meg*

              Thank you so much for saying this. This situation is not some sort of loss for the poor hiring manager, unlucky in love. We shouldn’t be feeling sorry for him. It’s so frustrating as a woman to be made to feel guilty because I turned a guy down (for whatever reason), as if his temporary hurt feelings were more important than my general comfort. If the OP had said yes, against her wishes, she’d be lambasted for “leading him on.”

              1. some1*

                +5 million.

                It’s really, really difficult for men in general to understand how much we as women are socialized to be nice, compliant, and to seek the approval of men.

            2. Anon*


              Why is this so hard to understand? If the context isn’t appropriate, don’t ask her out. It’s not a life ending decision and it has the bonus of showing respect for the other person.

              Why is a man’s potential date more important than a woman’s respect?

            3. annie*

              For real. There are literally millions of other available women on the planet he is free to ask out!

            4. mel*

              I usually give people the benefit of doubt the first time, because as a tragically socially awkward person, some things with the best intentions can be seen in a bad light. Especially in writing where there’s no tone/body language. I’d just say no if I wasn’t interested.

              It’s when they come back a second, third, fourth time acting like what I say or feel doesn’t matter, that’s when I get cranky. You know what’s not attractive? Being treated like a doll. Hopefully this one bows out gracefully.

          2. Jamie*

            And that’s what makes it hard – if the signals are there and the person is receptive it could be the start of something excellent. If the signals aren’t there, but the asker thinks they are, they run the risk of not just rejection but getting reported.

            It’s very dangerous if you read the signals wrong.

            Maybe I am biased because my parents met at work and he was her boss…but I know a lot of other people who have met at work or in professional contexts who ended up in great long term relationships.

            Always err on the side of caution to be sure, but had she been receptive to it this wouldn’t be an issue…so imo as long as it was polite and he doesn’t hound her or ask again I don’t see emailing once about as being that big a deal.

            1. some1*

              But you have no idea that the relationship would have worked out if she had been interested, though.

              If I was asked out in setting that I didn’t think should have that kind of component to it (like after he interviewed me for a job, at a funeral, or because he saw my name on an Aids Walk List), I would wonder what other lack of boundaries he has: is he going to try to neck with me on my Grandma’s couch at Easter dinner? Is he asking out every woman he meets who interests him? Is he going to divulge my private secrets to his friends and family?

              1. Jamie*

                No one ever has any idea how a relationship will work out until you’re in one. Every marriage or long term partner ships starts with a first hello.

                And yes, it’s fair to judge someone if you consider they lack boundaries and to not date them. I just don’t think that means the other person should be reported and vilified for asking as long as it wasn’t harassment – and to me asking someone on a date and taking no for an answer isn’t harassment.

            2. Elaine*

              I agree. How can you be sure unless you ask? And, I guess I’m in the minority that thinks he’s not really in a position of power.

              But then, I’m a fairly attractive woman who’s never been hit on my a boss or hiring manager, or have had professional women friends who have.

      2. TL*

        It’s not the thought of someone finding you attractive; it’s the thought of someone finding so attractive during a professional event that they thought it was necessary to act on it right afterwards.

        1. KellyK*

          Exactly. Finding someone attractive isn’t a bad thing at all, but wanting to act on it immediately, in a professional situation with a power imbalance, is not cool.

      1. Former LEO*

        This is what I mean about conclusions made without facts. How do you know what my performance was like in law enforcement based on my expression of an opinion?

        If this was enough for you to judge whether or not I was suitable to work in law enforcement it says volumes about your own judgement.

        1. some1*

          “How do you know what my performance was like in law enforcement based on my expression of an opinion?”

          How about because the LW was put in the position of turning down a date with a man who has her full name, background, address, and work history because she gave him all that info in a completely different context. It would be like you pulling over a woman you wouldn’t have otherwise & running her plate & license because you thought she was attractive.

          1. Former LEO*

            I’m really confused now. I’ve said all along it was inappropriate. I also said that it was an assumption that his interests were purely physical/sexual, which was Alison’s wording.

            I’m sure there was a physical component, but purely physical or even sexual? It makes it sound like he was trying to bed her. Guilty until proven innocent around here, eh?

            1. some1*

              “I also said that it was an assumption that his interests were purely physical/sexual, which was Alison’s wording.”

              No, those were the words you put in her mouth. She said the HM was assessing the LW in a physical/sexual way during the hiring process. That doesn’t = “he was only trying to get her in bed”

            2. Meg*

              But Alison Did. Not. Say. That. She, and dozens of other commenters, have stated that physical attraction is typically a part of wanting to date someone, so it’s reasonable to conclude that it was a part of the hiring manager’s feelings toward the OP. She is NOT saying that it’s purely physical/sexual, and that the hiring manager is only looking for sex. But it was absolutely a part of his assessment of her during her interview – otherwise he wouldn’t have asked her out.

          2. blu*

            Those two situations are in no way equivalent. Additionally, this manager is not stalking her using her personal information. He asked her on a date.

            1. kj*

              The point in mentioning that he has all that information is to (I assume) convey the *risk* that this man could do *something* if she said no. I know it is sometimes hard for people, especially men, to understand, but she was put in a vulnerable situation when he asked her out. If she said no, sure, maybe nothing would happen, or maybe, just maybe, all that information he had about her could come into play. There’s an implied threat, even though he most likely didn’t mean it to be that way. That is the “power imbalance” here.

              1. Elaine*

                Wow, I’m a woman, and I don’t see that at all. A quick Google search and she could have all that info on him.

              2. Contessa*

                A man asking a woman out if he knows her address, contact info, and work history is a power imbalance? That’s an information imbalance that anyone of either gender could have if they looked in the right place before doing the asking. I happen to think it’s a bit on the shady side to use information gleaned through a work context to hit on someone who has not signaled their interest, but I definitely don’t get “vulnerable” or “power imbalance” out of it in this case, as they don’t actually work together. A single email is not enough to indicate stalking.

              3. blu*

                I’m not a man. I don’t have a hard time understanding being in a vulnerable position. My point was that having information from her resume does not mean we need to leap to concluding that he has some nefarious intention and will use that information for evil.

                1. Brisvegan*

                  Here’s a story:* A nurse meets a woman when he treats her in the ER of a major city hospital. Later, he seeks out her details from the patient database at the hospital. He turns up at her house one night to ask her out, because he was attracted to her and thought it might be mutual.

                  Is this creepy to you?

                  Should this be OK if there is a chance that they might eventually have a great relationship?

                  Should the woman give the man the benefit of the doubt, because her sparkling wit or fortitude with illness was the attracting point, rather than only or in addition to her body?

                  If turning up at her house is not OK, why is that any different from emailing, when the woman would know that the man has her private address and could turn up if he wants to?

                  Should women expect that providing their information to a professional or business meant that they would be accessed later for private reasons? Should they anticipate that the access would be for dating?

                  Should women be able to go to the ER without worrying that their treatment might be affected by how attractive someone found them? In this situation, would other women at the hospital have to worry that they weren’t attractive enough to get priority treatment? Should they have to pretty themselves up before calling an ambulance, so that they would be a priority if this nurse is on triage? Should they make sure they don’t look too sexy for their ER trip, so they don’t get surprise visits from horny hospital staff? Should the fact that other women might worry about this be a factor in whether this is appropriate behaviour? Might this cause women to avoid this hospital or organisation?

                  If you don’t think this is cool, why is it cool for a man to use information given for professional job seeking to use it for a purely personal reason?

                  Whatever this man’s intention, even if he was pure as the driven snow (which I don’t think he was, but lets pretend), the OP’s situation will cause her to wonder about the man’s motive during interviewing and her own capability. It will cause other women to worry about what it means to seek a job at that company and what their attractiveness or lack thereof will mean for their job chances or professional interactions. It will mean that everyone who deals with the company will have to wonder whether a the manager will misuse private information to seek dates (or any other reason that he thinks is OK). It means that attractiveness (physical, mental, whatever), or lack of it, will always be an issue for women dealing with this man, and HIS COMPANY, because he is misusing information supplied to the company based on whether he is attracted to a woman. It means that every woman dealing with this man and his company has to wonder if sexual harassment will follow, because they CAN’T read this man’s mind for his intentions if he asks them, a colleague or a job seeker out for a date. Every woman dealing with this man and his company is being asked to accept disrespect of their professional life and potential misuse of their personal information, in a way that most men apparently will not (unless he is bi and an equal opportunity sleaze).

                  In know some men will say this is paranoid. The point is: women CAN’T READ MINDS. We don’t know other people’s intentions. Here we would only know that this man has misused OP’s information and his position and his company didn’t stop it. We don’t know which person inappropriately using professional contact is the love of our life or which is a stalker. We feel disrespected, get scared, get creeped out or unsure of motives when people use our private information inappropriately or behave in ways where they might be a person who is leveraging power to get sex or might even be step 1 in a stalking situation.

                  For all these reasons, the hiring manager should not misuse information and his position on the interview panel to treat the interview panel as speed dating. He is showing disrespect to the interviewees, inappropriately accessing information given to the company and damaging the reputation of his company. His behaviour is simply not professional.

                  OP, if I was this guy’s manager, I would want to know, so that I could tell him not to do this again. If this is a pattern, it would be appropriate to discipline or fire him.

                  *The nurse story is completely true. The nurse was de-registered, in large part because of his invasion of this patient’s privacy, which turned out to be part of a pattern of sexually harassing behaviours to women. It occurred in an Australian state, where HIPAA is not part of the law.

    3. anomnomnomimous*

      Former LEO – THANK you! I was thinking exactly that! Asking someone out does not imply that you only think “wow, what sexy babe, imma tap that” when you meet them. Sure, the way he did it was inappropriate, but I don’t get why everyone assumes malicious intent. It could very well be that he was impressed with OP during the interview and had no intentions of anything until she turned the job down. Then, once it was clear that they wouldn’t be working together, he asked to see her again in a more casual setting. I get that the power levels make this inappropriate, but I’m seriously scratching my head about all the vehemence here: “ICK GROSS what a disgusting freak report him fire him!!!”…isn’t that’s going a little overboard?

      My only guess as to why Alison’s also speaking against him so strongly is that the email either directly said or implied something to take it to the next level of creepy. Since we don’t know what it said, I feel we really can’t make judgements about his character or possible intentions.

      So, I guess I then have to address this to Alison. Was the wording such that it mentioned his position of power in a way that might have intimidated or influenced her? Would your reaction be so strongly opposed if it had said something like:

      “Hi OP, During our previous meeting, you mentioned that you like volunteering at an animal shelter/ are a fan of tv show X/ support sports team Y/ etc. That’s also a passion of mine, and I was excited to meet someone with similar interests. Now that we’re not going to be working together, I was wondering if you’d like to meet up sometime and discuss it in a more casual setting, away from work. In either case, I’m very glad to have met you and wish you all the best in your future job search. Sincerely, Mr. Perhaps Not A Creeper.”

      Would that have received an equally strong backlash? (This is an honest question – I really would like to know.)

      1. anomnomnomimous*

        I should also point out that this is an honest question because, while I’m female and rather shy, I do on occasion ask guys out. If I had met someone in an interview who blew me away with their answers/intelligence and personality (which are both far more important to me than looks), I can easily see myself falling into a similar situation – I’d wait until I knew for sure we weren’t going to be working together, and if I could muster up the courage, I might just write a letter similar to the one I wrote above. So if that letter is wildly inappropriate, better to know that now. (Also, again, this isn’t a comment on the letter OP received as we don’t know what it said or how creepy it was.)

      2. LadyTL*

        I would have found it just as creepy because of him sending it right after she turned down the job. If he really thought he had to date this woman, wouldn’t it have been better to wait a while so that any implications from his position would fade?

      3. Anonymous*

        This is actually not that creepy-sounding at all. I wonder how it compares to the email the OP got…

      4. AMG*

        Because unless you are sure that it won’t make the woman uncomfortable, then you shouldn’t do it or it looks creepy. That’s why. It’s no more complicated than that.

        1. Anonymous*

          Can we please take the gender roles out of this? I’m a woman, and I could see myself in a similar situation. I understand the power dynamics, but I really wish people would leave out the gender part. If it’s inappropriate because of the power imbalance, then it should be inappropriate both ways, for both genders. “Women might get creeped out” just isn’t a strong argument to me. “People might get creeped out” is.

          1. Bobby Digital*

            Long response about institutionalized sexism and the full burden of the history we have worked to overcome hitting us on our pretty faces. It’s worse. Just…figure out why or deal with it, I dunno.

  7. Anonymous*

    Ugh, this made me cringe. I had a previous manager that had a small happy hour get-together after his last day at the company, and hit on me at one point during the evening. It made me question our previous interactions and whether my good performance reviews were actually earned or… well. Like Alison said, just because there is no longer a professional relationship doesn’t mean the power dynamics are suddenly changed.

    In OP’s situation, I would probably take the third option – but only if I though he wouldn’t react negatively, or if it’s a large enough field that you won’t run into him for a few years. I think you could be polite and professional and still get the message across that it’s not ok. What an uncomfortable situation to be in!

  8. Rindle*

    This is a case of “I’d have to see what he wrote before I can comment.” I actually don’t think it’s that creepy if I’m only going on what’s in the OP’s letter. She met a guy in an interview, she turned down the job, he then asked her out. So what? And as far as the power dynamic, she doesn’t work for him. If she wants to call upon him as a contact in the future, presumably two adults can move past one turning down another for a date and have a professional relationship. (I’m not saying it wouldn’t be awkward at first, but turning down a date with someone you have a real life connection to is always awkward.)

    Now. If he told her, “That gold shell you wore to our second interview really made your hazel eyes shine, and I knew I had to ask you out…” or “I thought it was so hot that you wore pantyhose; so few applicants do that nowadays…” Then – yeah, stage five creeper.

    Either way, turn him down however you’re most comfortable. I think a brief and direct email response is best, based on the available information.

    1. fposte*

      I’m toying with the idea that there should be an embargo period, like before you can become a lobbyist. It’s the immediacy of this that makes me uncomfortable–the power imbalance of the job application is so recent that it still underpins the romantic approach. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s automatically forbidden to ever ask anybody out who might have less power than you in the same field.

      1. Elysian*

        I like the idea that an embargo period offers, but I think in reality it makes it worse. “Hey, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you since our interview 3 months ago. Let’s get dinner and go dancing sometime!” seems much worse to me than “I’m sorry you declined the position we offered, I understand. But since we won’t be having a business relationship, I was wondering if you might like to try having a social one?”

        1. Jamie*

          That would be creepy…but if a suitable period of time passes and you meet at a conference or whatever there is nothing wrong (imo) with asking then. As long as you weren’t stalking her to try to run into her.

        2. TL*

          How about you develop them as a professional connection – assuming you have professional interests in common-, go out for coffee once or twice over the course of a few months, and, if you’re still interested and if it seems like they’re interested, mention that you’d like to have dinner together? You’d get a professional connection, you could put space between the interview, and you could talk to them outside of an interview.

          Of course, this would only work if you actually had an interest in them as a professional connection. Otherwise it seems creepy.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, I think an embargo period really only works if you happen to be in contact with the person during the embargo for other reasons — seeing them at conferences, talking to them about other stuff, and so forth.

          1. Jessa*

            That’s the point, meet them somewhere other than an interview. Oh and I didn’t notice it, but this might effect how I saw this. How far was the process before the OP turned it down? I mean if it was loads of meetings with many other people, a couple of lunches, etc. it might lower the squick factor slightly. What I mean is how much DID the interviewer get to know about the OP, before doing this.

            Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s a really dumb idea to have asked the OP out. BAD BAD policy if he’s done it before, and if I managed him I’d advise him never to do it again. But there’s a stark difference between one or two desk interviews and a whole long slew of company courting. I might at least begin to give him credit for not just going “OOOH pretty, want that, ask out,” kind of behavior if he could at least point to STUFF about OP that was nice ie shared interests, reasons one would ask anyone out.

            It’s still skeevy and I’d respect him more if he offered some kind of networking thing with other people around – hey we all have drinks on Friday’s at Pete’s Bar and Grille, you wanna come join the team, we can network and that became something.

            I think it’s a hugely bad idea, but I can see a few ways to make it feel less Schrodinger’s Rapist/Gift of Fear to the OP and a sensible guy would try and do that.

            Because it’s not “met someone in bar, chatted them up,” its “has all their personal details and if he’s a stalker, wow he’s sure got her where he wants her.”

            When you’re in a position of power, you need to be really careful that you’re NOT being skeevy. That goes both ways btw, women can’t write that email EITHER.

        4. fposte*

          Yes, that’s a good point. I’m definitely not wanting things to turn creepier, and that would sure do it for me.

          But I think that sometimes this kind of conversation can tip toward “no asking anybody out at work or in your professional field.” And I think that since most of us are going to spend the vast majority of our waking adult lives in the workplace, that’s unrealistic and impractical (I have a lot more in common with people in my field than I do with people in a random bar, for instance). I think I’m particularly questioning the notion that his being a “professional connection you might have hoped to call upon in the future” is something that should have stopped him; professional connections aren’t a one-way street or an automatic assumption, and if that’s prohibitive then everybody’s untouchable.

        5. Bobby Digital*

          Yeah, not to mention “I last spoke with you 3 months ago but I excavated your email address/phone number from HR to ask you out, lucky lil lady!”

      2. The Hello Kitty*

        Hmm, good point.

        If he waited a few weeks and then reached out to her, perhaps it would have seemed less creepy to the OP. I also hope that he used his personal email account and not his business one.

    2. Former LEO*

      There is still a power dynamic at play even though she is not an employee and turned down the job.

      If she were able to enter the company as a peer it might be a different situation.

      The part that is disturbing is would he have crossed professional lines if she were hired? Clearly he is attracted to her on some level but would he have been able to keep personal and professional separate?

      Here is my simple rule (somewhat easier because I am married now, but still…) prospective and current employees are not to be considered romantic interests. Period. Can’t tell you how simple that keeps my life.

      1. Rindle*

        Whether he would have crossed professional lines is a completely hypothetical (and irrelevant) situation. And she’s not a prospective employee – she turned down the job. Unless you’re saying your rule is that nobody who might ever potentially be an employee can be part of your dating pool. How would you ever date anyone?

        1. Former LEO*

          This is obviously different since he interviewed her.

          Someone that I know personally might be someone I am attracted to but just haven’t decided to ask out*. That person turns out to be qualified for an opening I have and they apply for it. Well, from that point on I wouldn’t even consider it until such point they had clearly moved on and there was no further interest in the company.

          You know, some people are worth it. However, is it worth risking your career over a casual relationship? I have seen to many careers sabotaged over petty nonsense. Lots of fish in the sea as they say. I’ve also seen married colleagues self destruct over women/men and it’s disappointing. Usually because it is not a lasting relationship and no they are ruined both personally and professionally.

          I err on the side of caution. Besides that, if I am looking at a prospective hire as a potential romantic interest it will be difficult to keep those lines from getting blurred. Seems better for both parties if I just put it out of my mind and don’t even consider it. Sometimes you can’t act on your emotions.

          *ignoring the fact I am currently married, this is all hypothetical

          1. Jessa*

            Exactly and as a former LEO you know darned well what can happen if it ends badly to the career of the person with the badge. Whether male or female. It’s just bad all around. It’s different if you’ve known someone for awhile and have context, you’ve gone to meetings, lunches, etc. But still caution is better.

    3. TL*

      It’s problematic because there’s already a stereotype in the workplace of women who only get jobs/duties/positions because they’re pretty. So being asked out right after a job offer would make many women question if they got the offer because they were competent or because they were pretty.

    4. The Hello Kitty*


      Based on the OP letter alone, I don’t really see this as a big deal either. Turn down the date and move on.

  9. Noah*

    So…I debated with myself long and hard before replying. My intent is just to provide a counter-point, not necessarily to argue. Based on the comments so far I realize that many of you will disagree with me.

    Personally, I don’t see the big issue here. If she is not interested in a date she should just say so and move on. He is not her boss and he is not asking her to date as a condition of employment.

    I do agree with Allison’s last paragraph though. Anyone would be wise to size up the potential date first to see if they appear interested. However, the “not quite sexual harassment” article clearly seemed like harassment to me. They were discussing sexual situations that made someone uncomfortable. This seems like a request for a dinner date. We’ve all turned down dates and been turned down, its part of life.

    One of the reasons I hesitated even responding was that I have not seen the email. In my experience, Allison has impeccable judgement, so I assume her feelings might be correct. I’m also a man, so I get that I may not understand the historical power dynamics that women often must deal with in the workplace.

    1. Blue Dog*

      I don’t really see it as harrassment. However, it definitely seems a bit skeevy and doesn’t pass the “ick test.”

      I think the devil would be in the details: “Hey, I’m sorry it didn’t work out this time, but there is an interesting seminar on workplace issues that I am attending that I thought you might be interested in” is quite different from “Hey, I’m sorry it didn’t work out, but I really noticed a spark between us and wondered if you wouldn’t like to get together for a couple drinks.”

      Finally, because my “ick test” might be different from yours, that is a good reason for hiring managers to avoid contact like this altogether.

      1. Elizabeth*

        “Finally, because my “ick test” might be different from yours, that is a good reason for hiring managers to avoid contact like this altogether.”

        This is a really good rule of thumb for a bunch of potential scenarios!

        1. Anonymous*

          Elizabeth, that’s like saying no one should ever ask anyone out ever because while one woman may find a man’s advances charming, flattering, and appropriate, another may not.

          1. TL*

            No. If someone hits on me at a bar, as long as they’re not groping or unable to take no, or otherwise wildly misbehaved, I generally don’t think it’s inappropriate, even if I don’t like their pick-up line.

            Here, context matters. Is it a place where social and romantic advances generally happen and where people come to be social and perhaps make romantic connections? Is it a place/circumstance that some people may consider inappropriate for being hit on?
            Those are the questions to consider, not “if I talk to her like a normal adult without being inappropriate, in this completely appropriate circumstances, will she find me charming or mildly annoying?”

          2. KellyK*

            No it’s not. We’re talking about a specific, work-related, situation. No one said a word about not asking people out in bars or clubs or the grocery store.

            1. Anonymous*

              TL and KellyK: if the OP had accepted the HM’s date invitation, would you still think this was outrageously inappropriate?

              1. KellyK*

                Well, for one thing, if *she* hadn’t found it inappropriate, we’d never have heard about it. We’re hearing it at all because she found it off-putting.

                If he asked the same way, out of the blue after the interview, then yes, I’d still find it inappropriate. Just because an inappropriate action sometimes works doesn’t mean that *most* people will consider it okay. (I mean, I’m sure somewhere you’ll find a story of a college professor who asked a student out, and they’re happily married with six kids now. That doesn’t make it appropriate.)

                1. fposte*

                  Though that’s one of those changing social norms thing. As long as it wasn’t a student you were grading, universities didn’t necessarily object to teacher-student dating (and I still see it in grad schools) until fairly recently.

                2. KellyK*

                  Ah…I didn’t know that. Well, in that case, substitute “student in the professor’s class” or “boss/employee” or “doctor/patient” or some other clearly inappropriate pairing.

            2. LMW*

              I was once asked out by someone on an interview panel and it didn’t bother me at all – it was nice to be asked out by someone because he thought I was smart and classy. I’ve also been asked out/followed/asked for my number by guys in grocery stores and bars – guys who haven’t said one word to me and I’ve had no actual interaction with – and I find that extremely creepy. So I don’t think that we can say there are consistent rules for any given situation.

          3. Elizabeth*

            I didn’t mean “no one should ask anyone out anywhere, regardless of context.” In fact, I was thinking about other scenarios in a professional context. I think it’s a good idea to recognize that people have different opinions and err on the conservative side, like refraining from telling an off-color joke in the staff break room even if you know that some of your co-workers would be fine with it.

            But to follow up on what it seemed like I was saying, I do think context matters. As other commenters below are saying, I might not say yes if a guy at a party asks me out, but I wouldn’t find it inappropriate. That wouldn’t pass (fail?) my “ick test” even if I didn’t find him attractive (physically or personality-wise). It would be icky if my physician asked me out, no matter how brilliant, funny and handsome he was. Some women might not mind their doctor asking them out, I suppose, but because some would, doctors shouldn’t ask patients out.

    2. Elizabeth*

      Thanks for expressing a dissenting opinion so respectfully. I think it’s important that people can discuss these issues and not shut down other voices.

      I do think that you may be underestimating the power dynamics, though. Men still have more social power than women in many situations, both in and out of the workplace. In the workplace, especially, it can feel like an uphill battle to be judged based on professional and personal merits rather than on appearance. Turning down a date with someone I met socially would be a bit awkward, but it wouldn’t feel inappropriate that that person had been considering me as date-potential. Being asked out by someone who had interviewed me would, as Alison said, make me question whether the interviewer had really been thinking of me as a professional.

      I’d also be worrying and questioning myself as to whether it was my fault – if what I’d intended as general friendliness and enthusiasm for the job had been misinterpreted as flirting.

    3. Erin*

      I’m a woman and I’m with you. It’s not terribly appropriate to use her email address, which he got because of his professional position, for personal contact without her permission. But, while I’ve never had this exact situation happen, I’ve had similar experiences and I just sort of said “no thanks” and moved on. It never led me to feel creeped out, disheartened, or to doubt my professional worth. But then, I get the impression that many women were raised to defer to men in a way that I never was, so I’ve never felt there was an inherent power imbalance between any man and me, just because of our sexes (that is, ruling out anything physical — I am clearly less strong physically than most men even though I’m relatively strong for a woman).

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I wasn’t raised to defer to men, and I doubt many of us here were.

        But it’s awfully tiring to feel that your looks and/or body are being assessed all the time, even in spaces where they shouldn’t be of interest and where you want the focus on your brain. That’s part of the issue here. There’s a broad context of this type of thing minimizing other things about women.

        (And I imagine that this statement doesn’t resonate for men in the same way. The issue is dealing with it all the time, not once in a while, and that’s the part that I think is harder for men to really get.)

        1. Erin*

          It just isn’t something that bothers me or that I notice. I’m reasonably attractive, so I assume that I’m experiencing the same level of interest/gawking that most women experience. I know how attractive I find the men I know. I guess I figure everyone assesses the attractiveness of everyone else pretty much all the time. (Married or not.) But that’s what I mean about being raise differently from most women. I assume that must be what it is because I feel like I just experience the world differently and can’t relate to most issues like this that other women complain about.

          1. Forrest*

            I don’t know if you intend this but you’re coming off 1) kind of rude, 2) on a high horse and 3) unaware.

            I wasn’t raised to differ to men. That doesn’t mean I can’t acknowledge the issues I face every day because of the society we live in (which evolved to be more guy friendly than woman friendly) and try to change those issues.

            Just because I’m aware that people see other people as sex objects or physical attraction doesn’t mean I’m upset. What I am upset about is these things happen to women far more often then men. Men don’t have to worry about how their clothing is presenting them to the extent that women do; they don’t live in a society where they spend ridiculous amounts of money to look better; they don’t live in a world where appearances can mean if they’re taken seriously or not when a crime happens against them.

            Do men face these issues? Of course! But it’ll never be on the same level that women do and never at the same daily intensity that women do.

            Just because I recognize and acknowledge these things does not mean I differ to men.

            1. BCW*

              Forrest, you seem to think any dissenting opinion from yours is rude. In fact, I didn’t see rudeness at all, she said how she feels, and gave a possible explanation for that. What is rude? How is she on a high horse? Because she says she is attractive?

          2. TL*

            I don’t mean to be rude, but it’s most likely obliviousness that’s keeping you from seeing what other women see, not the way you were raised.

            Or maybe you live in a fantastic pocket of the world, which would be awesome. But the truth is, women are judged more often and harshly on how attractive they are than men are and it has big personal and professional ramifications.

            I’m not saying it’s not okay to find someone attractive. People do, all the time. The problem is that it’s not always appropriate to act on it and a lot of people (especially men) don’t respect that because somewhere in their mind they believe the people of sexual interest (especially women) are there first and foremost for them to be attracted to and everything else is a distant second, no matter the setting.

          3. Meg*

            Erin, I really do mean this in the least snarky way possible, but you are coming off incredibly privileged right now. I was raised by good, open-minded parents (my mother is an extremely outspoken feminist, especially after a couple glasses of wine), in a traditionally liberal area of the U.S, and was never taught to defer to men. I still experience gender bias all the damn time because unfortunately, it’s still hugely prevalent in our society and through my own education and experience I’ve learned to notice when it happens. From the time my male coworker cornered me in a hotel room on a business trip to the time I was told I was being “too sensitive” about a domestic abuse joke I didn’t find funny, gender bias absolutely exists, all the time. If you’ve never experienced this, I truly envy you, but it is definitely out there. And it happens to women regardless of how they were raised or what area of the country they live in or anything else.

            1. Erin*

              Maybe it’s personality then? And I didn’t mean to imply liberal/feminist/etc. I just never had any male relatives in my life, and I went to a school that was 75% female and very female-dominated is what I mean (so I never experieneced, for example, teachers paying more attention to boys in the classroom; if anything, it was the boys and the boys’ sports teams that got ignored while the girls got everything). It’s entirely possible I’ve been oblivious. I just have never honestly felt any of this. It’s actually odd to me because I often feel like I can’t relate to a lot of what other women say about what they experience in the world.

              1. Meg*

                Which is great. And I’m getting the impression from your comments that you don’t mean to imply that gender bias doesn’t exist or that other women are just being to sensitive about things – just that you’ve never experienced it and therefore have a hard time relating. Your comment about “I wasn’t raised to defer to men” struck me as odd, because it’s not so much about how we were raised, but how society tends to treat women in general. In many ways, it’s more about how MEN were raised. Professional gender bias is a really sore subject for a lot of people. If you’re ever curious, or have ever wondered why so many women keep talking about gender bias, there’s some great literature out there on how and where it exists. And in the age of the Internet, most of it is free.

                1. Erin*

                  I guess I mentioned how people were raised because I often hear this and that about how women are “socialized” to behave in certain ways and I’ve always thought “huh, I wasn’t.” I figured it was upbringing. Maybe not? I’ve read plenty of literature on it, plenty of feminist blogs, plenty of feminism courses, plenty of memoirs. What’s so odd is that I exist in the same world, same workplaces, same everything as the women writing and my experience doesn’t line up at all. It’s as if I weren’t also a woman. It’s like when I read about the experiences of people of color (I’m white) except that you’d think I’d be saying “oh, yes, exactly” but it’s like reading about experiences in a foreign culture. It’s a mystery to me why this is.

                2. Erin*

                  Just to be clear, when I mentioned reading about the experiences of people of color, what I mean is that I expect to have had different experiences and so I appreciate the window into what it’s like to experience the world differently because of bias and cultural expectations. But I would expect that reading something about how women experience the work world would resonate with me, except it, too, is like a window into an experience that I don’t share.

                3. Forrest*

                  Its kind of like saying “oh, I’m colorblind.” The point isn’t to not see race, the point is to not let race affect how people are treated.

                  Similar, saying “oh, I don’t see sexism.” When you discuss sociological issues, we’re discussing society as a whole. One person’s experience doesn’t always have an impact when the general experience is the opposite.

                  It doesn’t mean women who see or experience sexism where raised to differ to men. Nothing is ever that clear. Society does place certain gender roles on people. Hardly anyone would come right out and say “your role as a woman is to get married and pop out babies.” But society through media, religion, workplace, etc sometimes infers that. That’s why parenting and weddings focusing more on women than men.

                  So just because you don’t see sexism or think you’re experiencing it doesn’t mean its not affecting you or it doesn’t exist. There’s tons of women who say “well I’m just more excited to plan the wedding than he is” without realizing the subtleties that go into getting us to that point.

                4. Meg*

                  It’s not just your upbringing. Part of educatiing yourself about feminism and gender bias is realizing that it’s so much more than how your parents raised you. It’s everything, from the way advertisers target men and women differently to the fact that a wage gap still exists in the workplace. Again, I’m glad it hasn’t happened to you, but we’re talking about widespread trends, not personal anecdotes. People are socialized by dozens of factors, not just how they were raised by their parents.

                5. Bobby Digital*

                  I couldn’t nest this directly under the comment but…

                  Erin, dude, when you say “people of color,” unless you’re talking bout…I don’t know…people that work at Crayola, you’re implying that there is a standard shade from which other people are then hued. It’s a sucky and unnecessarily demeaning way to say “black people” or “Asian people” or whatever other colors you’re lumping into your racist pronoun.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              “People of color” is a mainstream term used by many advocates and advocacy organizations that represent the wide range of people who the term refers to. You can certainly take issue with the term, but I don’t think it’s fair to blame Erin for using it when it’s widely considered acceptable.

              1. Bobby Digital*

                Malcolm X was the first person (to my knowledge) to publicly address the use of the term and why it’s offensive. And it is offensive, whether it’s used by advocates or not. For the reason I mentioned above. People shouldn’t be made to feel like they’re some dyed version of the “regular” color.

                And, if it is mainstream, well, that’s kind of disturbing and should stop. Unless your goal is for people to infer that you’re picturing them as sooty, less-than-perfect versions of humanity; in that case, fire away.

        2. AB*

          I find fascinating how cultural aspects may affect how we view things like this.

          I would not be creeped out if I was the recipient of such email.
          This is because, in my native country, women would be as guilty as men of noticing the attractiveness of a candidate they are interviewing. It’s not a matter of focusing on the physical aspects first and the interview last, but rather, acting professional while not being able to completely ignore this aspect of human interaction.

          So, I could definitely see someone in my country of origin (man or woman) deciding to write to ask out a person they met in a job interview, after it’s clear there will be no further developments in the job arena (using their personal email rather than the work one).

          I would never personally act that way, but I can see many women doing it as often as men in my country, thinking “if I don’t do this, I’ll never know if this person also felt an attraction”. If there is no interest on the part of the recipient, in my culture it would be perfectly fine to just ignore the invitation, with no consequence whatsoever in terms of future awkwardness or retaliation, even if the interview situation happened again in the future.

            1. AB*

              I’ve been living in the U.S. for 10 years, but I’m from a country in South America where most women work full time. Some of my female cousins are executives, and I can totally see one of them doing exactly what this interviewer did, heh.

        3. Anonymous*

          Where did the body assessment originate? I didn’t see the unquoted email, but I saw no mention of the man googling the woman other than in people’s imaginations.

          A bar is a better meeting place? Where looks and lack of sobriety ate the key measures?

          Isn’t it possible the man was infatuated with the woman’s wit and intelligence?

          I also don’t understand how this is unfair to the OP because she might want to *use* the man’s connections at a future point.

          A polite request deserves polite response. The only faux pas here is responding in any way other than no thanks if the OP isn’t interested in socializing.

        4. Bobby Digital*

          Yup, yup, Alison. I especially like the “all the time” distinction. I think men don’t understand that it’s not hyperbole. I think they hear that as “a lot of the time” or “more than men.”

      2. Mallorie, the recruiter*

        See, I had a not at all similar situation and still felt “ick” about it. I was talking with a guy around a room for rent that I connected with on After it didn’t work out he immediately asked me out saying, “Now that we won’t be living together, maybe we can go out sometime.” It just didn’t sit right with me… to immediately turn it around to this made me feel really weird as in “If we had been roommates, would this had been in the back of his mind the whole time” which I think correlates to “If we had been working together” like for OPs situation. I just think there is a time and a place – and while I don’t get asked out a lot, generally I am flattered if it happens in a purely social interaction. But to feel like I am being objectified during a job interview or a roommate search or any other ‘business’ interaction is just plain creepy and unwanted.

        1. Meg*

          Hmm. This is a really interesting twist on the situation. I absolutely see your point on it still being a “business transaction”, because in many ways, finding a roommate IS business. But because there’s not the same power dynamic (unless he’s the landlord?), I think it makes it less inappropriate. I’m totally willing to hear another perspective on it though, since maybe I’m looking at it wrong.

      3. Anon*

        +1000. You can’t help who you are attracted to. I am woman that wouldn’t be bothered at all by this . If I found him attractive/interesting I would go on the date, if not I would say no. If I hoped to keep as a professional contact, I would say so too. Life isn’t so black and white.

    4. Jeff A.*

      I agree with Noah. Unless the hiring manager asked her out in a creepy or grossly inappropriate way, there’s really nothing wrong here. And most definitely no sexual harassment.

      I think the comments that express how inappropriate it is because he was “assessing her physically/sexually” miss the fact that this happens ALL THE TIME (with both men AND women), and that in spite of it 99% of the working world is still able to maintain professional standards and relationships. Your harsh judgment and suggestions that this needs to be escalated to a supervisor (or two!?!) are overreactions. Give the guy a break. He put himself out there, and she declined. Happens every day and the world keeps on spinning.

      1. some1*

        “I think the comments that express how inappropriate it is because he was ‘assessing her physically/sexually’ miss the fact that this happens ALL THE TIME (with both men AND women)”

        Jeff, as a woman I know men assess me physically/sexually all the time. It doesn’t mean they have to tell me about it when the social context doesn’t call for it. It’s like getting asked out at a funeral.

      2. Rhoda*

        Yes, of course this happens all the time.
        The point is that a grown adult should know not to act on these feelings in a professional context. Your fluffy feelings do not entitle you to pursue someone when you only received their email address for interviewing them. If you have the contact details of someone you met down the pub, then you can approach them romantically.

        If I have a crush on someone in an unavailable or inappropriate context then I keep my feelings to myself.

    5. Betsy*

      I understand your point of view, but to me (and I know this is a weird point), the asking of a date after the interview changes the entire context of the initial interview in my memory.

      I walked out of the office thinking, “All right, that went fairly well. Bob seemed impressed with my distinction between Swiss and Belgian chocolate in teapot construction, and I definitely spoke intelligently about spout design. The company isn’t a great fit, but it was an overall pleasant experience.”

      The date invite afterwards retroactively transforms the experience into something where I was being assessed on things other than my brilliance and professionalism. The next interview I go into, I’m going to be wondering whether the interviewer is really listening to the content of what I’m saying or sizing me up as a romantic partner. It’s another reminder that I’m always being assessed differently from a man.

  10. Passive-aggressive*

    Just throwing it out there… How about a response to him saying something like “I appreciate the invitation but I am uncomfortable dating people in my professional arena.” or “I appreciate the invitation but I strongly believe in keeping personal and professional lives separate.” That way you are hinting that his approach is inappropriate without burning professional bridges.
    I would be afraid that ignoring him, calling him out on it more strongly, or reporting it to the company would negatively impact my career. My professional world is pretty small, and any of those responses could get passed on quickly to other potential employers without the benefit of the background (“Can you believe this? I followed up with candidate x and she didn’t even reply. She must be a ditz/irresponsible/…”)

    1. Kaz*

      This is like telling a stalker that you would date them if you didn’t have a boyfriend. Why would you want to tell them you appreciate the invitation when you don’t? To preserve the ego of someone who is being creepy? You can decline the invitation without saying you approve of it.

    2. Anon*

      Besides, she didn’t appreciate the offer. The offer made her feel bad enough that she wrote in here. Why say otherwise when it could encourage similar behavior from him in the future?

  11. Schnauz*

    Personally, I would not care if someone found me attractive during the interview process. I find lots of people physically attractive and have no problem maintaining professional boundaries. If I were the Op, it would make me wonder if he was completely honest during the interview process and whether he might have manipulated things so I’d decline the offer – clearing the way for him to approach. Well, depending on the basis of the decline. But I’m convolutedly paranoid like that.

    1. BCW*

      Amen to that. I swear sometimes people think us guys are completely unable to control ourselves. I’ve thought women I worked with were attractive many times, but if they were in a relationship I respected that. People are assuming that he is a total creep because, heaven forbid, he thought someone was nice to look at and a nice person and wanted to get to know her in a social sense.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Nope. That’s not why. They’re assuming it because he hit on her in an inappropriate context without signals from her that it was welcome.

        And frankly, I’m not assuming “total creep.” I’m assuming “guy who isn’t at all sensitive to why this is a bad idea and will make lots of women question whether you took them seriously professionally.”

        1. tesyaa*

          “Signal” – what does that mean? What if he’s not good at reading social signals, or totally misread something as a signal of interest that wasn’t intended to be one?

          1. TL*

            The majority people are very good at reading social signals. Those who aren’t usually realize that about themselves before they reach adulthood and (hopefully) use extra caution when in social situations because of it.

          2. Anonymous*

            Then he should err on not asking her out. It’s pretty darn simple. Like Alison said upthread, why is that being seen as such a shocking idea? “Oh noez, I can’t ask out this one woman I found attractive who I briefly met in a professional setting where I was assessing her work! I will never love again!!!”

          3. VintageLydia*

            I know a lot of people who suck at reading social signals, including a handful diagnosed on the autistic/Asperger’s spectrum. Nearly all of them err on the side of caution because it’s far FAR less emotionally risky.

            Thing is, this is something a lot of guys I know would do without even thinking about it. These aren’t bad guys (they are my friends, after all, and I’m a pretty dedicated feminist. I don’t make and keep friends with skeevy guys!) But so so many just don’t understand the power imbalances and how they effect women differently than men. But just because they are unaware of how to appears to women doesn’t mean that it’s any less appropriate.

            Alison and most of the rest of us aren’t saying we need to start a witch hunt or anything. Just that it’s kinda icky and explaining to the folks here WHY it’s icky.

          4. Mike C.*

            It doesn’t matter. If I step on someone’s foot, it hurt regardless of if it was on accident or on purpose.

      2. Yup*

        No, people are thinking he was a creep because he asked someone out in a strictly professional setting. As a candidate, I’ve just given you my phone number and address. We’ve been conversing because I’m here about a job. There’s a level of trust my part about where this is going. (Sort of in the same way the interviewing someone who has no shot is crappy.) Flipping that abruptly over to “hey, how about drinks”? It’s like asking someone out at a funeral. It’s not a crime, I guess, but it sure is in bad taste.

        1. BCW*

          You do realize that are many people who met, fell in love, and got married in a “strictly professional setting” right.

          1. KellyK*

            Working together is different from being an interviewer and interviewee, though. You have a chance to get to know someone over time and develop more of a friendly relationship.

            1. Brisvegan*

              Yep, as my TL:DR above mentioned, you don’t give information in a job application intending to put yourself in Mr Manager’s dating pool.

              Would this company’s job seekers give full home address, phone, etc if the application said “by filling out this application, you give our staff permission to use your personal details to seek dates”?

      3. some1*

        “I’ve thought women I worked with were attractive many times, but if they were in a relationship I respected that.”

        So if you find a co-worker attractive and she’s single, what, she’s fair game to hit on?

        1. some1*

          ETA: How about just respecting the fact that women are at work to do our jobs and keep your feelings on our looks to yourself?

          1. Jamie*

            Sure – if BCW went around appraising people’s looks at work that would be rude. And he should stop it immediately, but I don’t think that’s what he said.

            He’s found people attractive at work, but if they were involved he respected that and didn’t pursue anything romantically. If they had been single and he found them attractive he might have asked them out. If he’s not in a position of power over them at work, and took no for an answer if they weren’t interested, what would be wrong with that?

            People meet and fall in love at work all the time.

        2. BCW*

          I’d be lying if I said I’ve never hit on co-workers. But I’m guessing none of them found me creepy when I did it. You know there are ways that it can be done, it happens all the time. So I guess yeah, they are fair game as long as its done is a respectful way. Now if I was managing someone would I do the same? Probably not.

            1. BCW*

              Well considering I’m friends with some of them to this day, I’d assume they did not think I was creepy. But all of you assuming that I must have been are proving my above point. You throw around words like this on every guy who says something to you, which could be completely innocent, yet you don’t feel like dealing with it at the time. You are assuming something by knowing nothing about you. Based on your post, I could assume you’d be a pain to work with, but that might very well not be true.

              1. Anon*

                No woman owes a man trust–it’s something he has to earn. If he does something that pushes the boundaries or raises a red flag before he’s earned that trust, then I’m going to label him “creepy.”

                In all your comments, you seem to assume that women shouldn’t assume the worst of men. But bad things happen to women all the time (harassment, rape, assault, etc.), so many of us have learned to be wary as our default position. If a guy behaves poorly on top of that? Well, I’m not going to bother trying to get to know him, because it’s not worth the risk.

                Women do not owe you anything–it has to be earned. We don’t presume good intentions because it’s simply not worth the risk.

                Examine your privilege. Try and understand what it feels like to live like women do–in a society that tends to value us more for our looks than brains and tends to blame the victim when someone else harms them.

                Now tell me that we owe men trust as our default position. I’m no misandrist–I love men, but I don’t trust them until they’ve earned it.

                1. BCW*

                  But you aren’t giving the chance for these guys to earn your trust by labeling him creepy off the bat. Thats my point. And please, get over yourself in talking about checking my privilege. You know nothing about me. Trust me, as a black man in America, my “privilege” is probably far less than you would think. Its definitely less than many white women. You don’t owe men trust, just like you don’t owe women trust, just like I don’t owe any white person trust. Bad things happen to women? Bad things happen to black men just as much if not more (murder, profiling, assault, etc). I’m not trying to get into a “who has it worse” conversation. However how bad is this world when we automatically assume the worst about anyone who doesn’t look like us physically or have the same reproductive organs as us?

                  I’m no racist, I love white (and hispanic and asian) people, but I don’t trust them until they’ve earned it. Doesn’t sound quite as nice when I say that does it?

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I think it sounds … completely fine and reasonable not to trust people until you know them. Normal, even.

                  No one is saying they assume the worst of all men. They’re saying that enough men behave badly toward them and other women that when they see what their own experience says are signs of creepiness, it’s not their obligation to work to give that person the benefit of the doubt and in fact it wouldn’t be sensible (or in some cases safe) to do so. And that’s fine. Why does it bother you so much? Who cares if a woman decides to herself that you’re creepy and disengages from contact with you? Why does your desire not be thought of as creepy outweigh her right to use her own judgment about you?

                3. Jen in RO*

                  I would not want to live my life with such a level of mistrust. I assume ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and I’m honestly surprised how many women assume men are threats before they do anything threatening. I don’t like the direction society is moving.

                4. Anonymous*

                  “I’m no racist, I love white (and hispanic and asian) people, but I don’t trust them until they’ve earned it. Doesn’t sound quite as nice when I say that does it?”

                  No, this sounds completely reasonable, especially with white people. My husband feels this way to a certain extent – getting jumped by white supremacists will do that to you.

                  And in the same vein, you might be able to understand what it feels like to be on, say, a subway system and feel uncomfortable. Sure, maybe for you the discomfort comes from white people irrationally clutching their briefcases closer and furtively looking around or pulling their kids closer. But for women, it’s the same thing, only the discomfort comes from men leering closer and actually touching them (I’ve had my butt and breasts grabbed by men — even professional men — on the DC Metro more than once, so it’s not just in my head.)

                  I agree that throwing the phrase “check your privilege: outside of an academic setting is usually just a way to shut down a conversation, but surely you can see that women’s distrust of men doesn’t come from nowhere? Yes, it sucks for the good guys, but it just means the good guys should try more actively to be the change they want to see rather than helping the patriarchy, in whatever small way. Likewise with white people towards systematic racism against black men.

          1. some1*

            I’ve never told any of my c-workers who hit on me that I thought they were creepy. And I did think some of them were.

          2. VintageLydia*

            Only time I told a coworker I thought he was creepy/took action when hitting on me after work is when he didn’t respect my first no. Didn’t mean I didn’t think it was.

      4. Colette*

        ” I’ve thought women I worked with were attractive many times, but if they were in a relationship I respected that.”

        I hope you respected anyone who wasn’t interested in a relationship with you, regardless of whether they were in a relationship with someone else.

    1. Rindle*

      Yeah, the OP’s reaction is why I think that either 1) the hiring manager’s email approach was creeptastic, or 2) the OP is being overly sensitive.

      1. Jen in RO*

        Well… um… no? If I said hello to someone and he/she thought that made me creepy, it wouldn’t mean I *was* creepy, it would mean the person is overreacting.

  12. Rindle*

    I assumed he was attracted to her brain at least as much as her other … assets … and that’s why he asked her out. Alison, can you say whether he made comments about her body and/or looks in the email?

  13. BW*

    My concern is that, this guy should know better since he is probably no spring chicken, given the position he holds. So, for this guy to still do this, then either

    A) this is an anomaly: they had SUCH obvious chemistry at the interview and the attraction was so strong, that the woman is perhaps being a bit disingenuous if she says she didn’t see this coming at least a little bit. (Not to say that if this is the case, then what he did is fine and dandy. But it’d be more forgivable).


    B) he’s totally done this before. Loads of times even. No big deal for him. Interviewing people totally beats paying for speed-dating events.

    If it’s A), I wouldn’t say go to his boss with this. Just ignore or say no thanks. If it’s B) then yeah the company needs to know because this is probably not the kind of reputation they want to have.

    1. fposte*

      I think all we heard is that he’s the hiring manager, though–you don’t have to be very senior to be that.

  14. Joey*

    So it’s okay to hit on a turned down interviewee if she gave you clear signals that she’s interested? I would find it pretty troubling to have someone whom I recently interviewed to hit on me. Sorry, but your love connections shouldn’t be made through interviews no matter which side of the table you’re on. I really can’t think of any boss I know that would be okay with a hiring manager dating people who recently interviewed no matter who made the first move

    The only way I would find it appropriate is if much later on you ran into them in a neutral place.

    1. Anonymous*

      Honestly, I think it’s more of a caveat to placate the few people who have either a) met their partner through similar means and/or b) believe that every single situation has to be given a similar caveat because of the few instances of “a.”

      Frankly, even if everything ends up fine and dandy, I still think situations like this are always inappropriate. Then it’s just fine and dandy relationships with inappropriate beginnings. But I can see how someone in that situation would be offended by that.

  15. Kobayashi*

    As an HR person, the hiring manager perhaps did not use the best judgment, but it’s not sexual harassment and, frankly, it’s not something his employer would like take any serious action regarding (other than perhaps a conversation). This was after the interview, the candidate had already turned down the position, and assuming the hiring manager asks once and moves on, there’ s no law against that, nor should there be.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think anyone is suggesting it should be illegal. But yes, plenty of employers would tell this manager not to ask out job candidates in the future. (And if it was part of a pattern of crossing boundaries — something we can’t know here — they’d be especially interested.)

    2. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      See, our employee relations people would be all over this like white on rice. It wouldn’t be serious, as in being fired, but they would definitely let the manager know not to do it again. If anything else this behavior at the very least borders on inappropriate and calls into question this managers judgment. Not to mention, it can cause some pretty serious issues legally even though its not illegal. Big companies especially play it safe to avoid lawsuits and if OP wanted to kick up dust, she totally could. Not saying she would win or anything like that, but most companies are not going to want to risk it.

    3. Joey*

      Except the part about using her email for personal purposes. Is have much more of a problem with that than the actual asking out.

      You just do not take applicant information for personal use, period.

      1. kobayashi*

        I think that’s the larger issue — using contact information obtained in the course of one’s employment for a personal/romantic endeavor. Some states even have laws that prohibit employers from dictating who someone dates or associates with unless doing so poses a job-related conflict of interest, but that’s a separate issue from using information from using personal contact information one obtained in the course of his or her employment for personal endeavors, but even then the employer should have some kind of policy related to that.

    4. EngineerGirl*

      It’s inappropriate use of personal data. It was used for a purpose that was not disclosed prior to the person submitting it.

  16. Wubbie*

    I wonder how different OPs letter would be if she happened to also be attracted to him. It only seems to be “creepy” to be asked out in a situation where the woman is not interested in the guy in the first place.

    I hear the points people are bringing up, but I just find it really difficult to agree that in this situation just asking her out is really that big a deal.

    I mean let’s say worst case scenario happens and after she declines he says something like “ok good luck getting another job in this industry”, she’s still holding all the cards. She has the job offer proving he did not find her to be a subpar candidate, and she has the email asking her out, and she has her (presumably) polite rejection, and then she has his over the top threatening response. Who loses here? This guy is certain to lose his job with her reputation remaining intact.

    He kept the interactions professional until she declined the offer. Then later he wrote to her asking her out. We’re clearly losing a lot of context by not being able to read his e-mail, and it may just change a lot of minds of people arguing it’s not that big a deal.

    I mean it would be a lot different if he started out with “OK now that we got that work nonsense out of the way, how about we…?” rather than a sincere, polite and sweet request to get to know her better. Some of the subtext Alison gave us throughout the comments leads me to believe it may lean somewhat toward my first example, but then it’s not that he asked her out that I have an issue with, the language he used in doing so.

    1. Calla*

      Every time inappropriate workplace stuff happens between men and women, people say “She wouldn’t care if he was HOT.” Which misses two things: 1) a lot of women would probably still think it was inappropriate and/or creepy even if the guy was physically attractive, and 2) if she thinks he’s attractive and is into him then it’s CONSENSUAL AND MUTUAL, duh she’s not going to find it creepy. (Plus, a lot of time this is followed with “How will the average joes ever find a girlfriend?/Women are shallow!” — not here necessarily, but often in these discussions.) Don’t hit on people you have a work relationship with unless you have reason to believe it’ll be well-received, how hard is that?

      1. Wubbie*

        “Every time inappropriate workplace stuff happens between men and women, people say “She wouldn’t care if he was HOT.” Which misses two things: 1) a lot of women would probably still think it was inappropriate and/or creepy even if the guy was physically attractive, and 2) if she thinks he’s attractive and is into him then it’s CONSENSUAL AND MUTUAL, duh she’s not going to find it creepy.”

        re: A) When I said “attractive”, I was not referring merely to the physical. re: B) thank you for agreeing

        “Don’t hit on people you have a work relationship with”

        What work relationship do they have? She does not work with him or even in his company. This was her choice, not his.

        “unless you have reason to believe it’ll be well-received, how hard is that?”

        How do we know she did not UNINTENTIONALLY send out some signal, or that he simply did not completely misinterpret something. I suppose I am simply at a disadvantage to all the telepathic men in your region of the world, but sometimes, the only way to find out whether a woman is actually interested in you is to.. umm.. you know.. ask. We are not perfect readers of people. Unless you’re suggesting that I’m just the only idiot in the world who does not have an absolutely 100% success rate in asking a woman out?

        1. iseeshiny*

          In a situation like this, if you’re not sure, don’t ask. If you’re given to misunderstanding signals, do the professional thing and have a 100% no asking out work people rule. Meet potential dates at bars, parties, mutual friends and online. BAM problem solved.

        2. TL*

          The venue was inappropriate for asking. Whether unintentional signals were happening or not, it was inappropriate, many women would’ve viewed it as inappropriate and therefore he should not have done it.

          Also, I have known many an attractive person that – le gasp! – ceases to be attractive once they do something creepy. Could it be that the reason so many women find creepy behavior coming from attractive men is because they find creepy behavior so unattractive that the man ceases to be attractive?

          1. Arbynka*

            What TL said. Plus I have to admit I am quite biased when it comes to woman’s unintentional signals. Because I was put in position before where man’s behavior was excused by “you might not have intended but you might have unintentionally led him on…” Basically the tables were turned and it was all my fault because somehow I was sending these “messages”.

        3. Katie the Fed*

          I have a soft spot in my heart for the socially awkward and the unlucky in love. But regardless of any signals she sent (an argument I HATE, btw), he doesn’t have some god-given right to approach her for a date in any circumstance. The circumstance wasn’t appropriate.

          Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that he really couldn’t get her out of his mind. The most he should do is leave the door open for future communications, by a warm thank you, by linking on Linked In, etc. But directly asking out? No. Not appropriate.

          1. Wubbie*

            LinkedIn? Really? How is that any less inappropriate and unprofessional?? Or am I just doing it wrong, and I should be using my LinkedIn account like Facebook?

            1. Wubbie*

              I mean don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of connections on LinkedIn that are more more friends than colleagues, but trolling there for dates? THAT is what I’d call creepy.

            2. Calla*

              LinkedIn is a professional network. They met in a professional context. How is that NOT appropriate?

              I mean, you can probably wield LinkedIn creepily somehow. But it’s *not* like Facebook where he would be seeing personal updates from her and be able to view lots of pictures of her, etc.

        4. KellyK*

          No one is expecting you to be a perfect reader of people. But why is your ability to ask out anyone you want to more important than her ability to be viewed professionally and to not have her contact information misused?

        5. Calla*

          And this is exactly what I’m talking about. “How will I ever get a date if I don’t ask women out inappropriately?”

    2. KellyK*

      I wonder how different OPs letter would be if she happened to also be attracted to him. It only seems to be “creepy” to be asked out in a situation where the woman is not interested in the guy in the first place.

      I don’t think that’s true. First of all, where did the OP say she found him unattractive or *wouldn’t* have gone out with him if he’d asked her out in an appropriate situation? She never mentions her assessment of his attractiveness at all–we have no way of knowing that she gave it a single thought.

      Secondly, in my book, being disrespectful or lacking professional boundaries knocks you into the “unattractive” category all by itself. I don’t care if you’re Tom Cruise.

      1. Wubbie*

        “I don’t think that’s true. First of all, where did the OP say she found him unattractive or *wouldn’t* have gone out with him if he’d asked her out in an appropriate situation? She never mentions her assessment of his attractiveness at all–we have no way of knowing that she gave it a single thought.”

        Where did the guy who asked OP out say he pushed her along through the interview process because he wanted to keep her close, or that he had been checking her out through the interview process, or that he didn’t respect her as a person or a professional, or that sex was his main goal? These are all things brought up in the comments here describing the “creep”, and IMO less reasonable assumptions to make.

        As Calla said in response to my first comment: “if she thinks he’s attractive and is into him then it’s CONSENSUAL AND MUTUAL, duh she’s not going to find it creepy.”

        1. Calla*

          It sounds like you resent the fact that women get to choose how they react to being approached by men??

        2. iseeshiny*

          Wubbie, I’m going to direct you to one of my favorite articles on creepiness and the unfairness of some things being creepy if done by “unattractive” people.

          We know OP was creeped out because she wrote in about it. Anything else is speculation, you’re right, but as far as I can tell, you’re with Team Hiring Manager because you don’t think asking someone out right after they declined to work for you is a big deal. Fine. You don’t think it’s a big deal. Obviously plenty of other people think it is a deal, the bigness of which is debatable. Maybe you could follow the links AAM posted, educate yourself on the other side of the issue, think about it a little. Maybe you change your mind, maybe you don’t.

          The part of your post KellyK quoted above, though, smells a little like resentment that OP GOT creeped out in the first place, and I really hope you’ll think through all the issues that go along with that.

        3. KellyK*

          Where did the guy who asked OP out say he pushed her along through the interview process because he wanted to keep her close, or that he had been checking her out through the interview process, or that he didn’t respect her as a person or a professional, or that sex was his main goal? These are all things brought up in the comments here describing the “creep”, and IMO less reasonable assumptions to make.

          I don’t think any of those assumptions are reasonable either, but the fact that other unreasonable assumptions exist don’t make your assumption suddenly become reasonable.

  17. Dennis*

    It is inappropriate.

    As a man working among women I understand…this is something you wouldn’t think of doing. I’d be looking for another job if I did. You can’t use your position as interviewer to gain access to her email address and ask her out. You just can’t.

    It’s not like he’s Anthony Weiner…but it crosses a line.

  18. Anonymous*

    My two cents is that it’s a little inappropriate – how inappropriate would depend on me seeing the exact wordoing of the email. If it was “I’m sorry you didn’t take Position X, I think you would have been a great asset to the company. I enjoyed meeting you and wondered if you would be interested in getting together some time for a drink or dinner?” I can’t agree that an email like that is an offense worthy of notifying the company about.

    What are the options here? Since he met her in a job interview does that mean he can never ask her out in this lifetime? Or that he can ask her out after X weeks/months have passed? Or only if he happens to run into her in some non-work setting?

  19. Anonymous*

    Analogous situation: I’m a criminal defense attorney who is assigned by the court to represent people accused of crimes. (I am young, female, and reasonably conventionally attractive.) I occasionally represent hipsters and other dudes I might otherwise be into if I met them socially. (And I weren’t married.) I had a client once on a mj case who smelled AMAZING. Didn’t know what cologne he was wearing but wanted to know so I could buy it for my then-fiance.

    When I discussed it with my coworkers later (also female), we agreed that I guess it just sucks to be me, because there is NO WAY I can ask my client what kind of cologne he is wearing. It is too sexualized (something as mild as that! Not even asking him out or intimating a personal interest in him–just indicating that his cologne is pleasing to me), and we are in an affirmatively non-social context (involving my profession), and I am in a position of power as his assigned attorney. Too bad so sad for me that I didn’t get to ask him.

    (Don’t worry; I smelled it months later on a dude coming out of the subway and ran up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder and asked him what kind of cologne he was wearing. Totally fine, because we were not in an affirmatively non-social setting, and I wasn’t in a position of power over him.)

    1. Rindle*

      I think this is a false analogy. He was your current client at the time, she was a former job applicant. Your client was in a position where his actual freedom was in peril and you were the person protecting him, she received a job offer at his company and turned it down.

      Glad you finally identified the cologne, though!

  20. Joey*

    Yeah, I think most of dissenting here are having a problem with the word “creepy.” Creepy is what happens when the guy who you turned down is waiting at your car. Creepy is the guy who shows up at your house. Creepy is the guy who stares at your chest. Creepy is the guy who asks you out before a hiring decision is made. And because this was so close to the interview I think that’s why the some people are calling it creepy. A misstep? Sure. Creepy? Not really unless you’re hypersensitive.

    1. AMG*

      That’s really judgemental. It is creepy and a misstep. It is precisely this attitude that will keep you from understanding where most of the women on this thread are coming from. Try re-reading some of the other comments without the preconception that anyone who disagrees with you must be hypersensitive.

      1. The Hello Kitty*

        I’m a woman and I think that calling the hiring manager’s behavior ‘creepy’ is a bit over board.

      1. Joey*

        I agree absolutely with it being creepy to use personal data that was obtained at work for personal reasons.

        But take that part out and it’s no longer creepy. That’s the part that everyone seems to think is so horrendous.

        1. kj*

          What? That’s the whole part. He used her personal email address (that he obtained at work for work reasons) and contacted her for personal reasons.

          RE: the word creepy. Look. I don’t know if I can express this is a way you will understand but, the OP used the word creepy presumably because she felt creeped out. Who are you to come in and pass your judgement that it was a misstep, not creepy, period? Her feelings matter. She decided it felt creepy to her. You don’t really get to say that it didn’t. Try considering that other people may not have their “creep” meter calibrated exactly the same as you do.

    2. BCW*

      I think also this comes down to an issue of certain words used to describe men’s behavior and the connotation behind them. Words like “harassment”, “violated”, and “creepy”. Those words when used to describe a guy put a stigma on him that is hard to get rid of. If the OP said in her letter, “I felt uncomfortable”, everything else being the same, I don’t know that the reactions from both sides would be as strong. There are synonyms for all of those words that could be used instead that don’t have the same social stigma. So as a guy, when those words are thrown around, it can hit a nerve if it doesn’t seem like they are warranted. Ask you husbands, boyfriends, or male friends. I’d bet they are great guys, and if they had the choice of how they were described they would rather have someone say they were “bothered” by them instead they were “harassed” by them; their personal space was “invaded” as opposed to “violated”; even that a woman was “uncomfortable” around them as opposed to “creeped out” by them.

      I’m sure there are words women don’t want to have associated with them as well, especially in the workplace. I don’t really know what they are, being a man, but I’m sure there are some that would be considered very condescending because of their connotation, even if in their truest definition, they are valid. Maybe something like being called “adorable”. The actual definition of that is “inspiring great affection; delightful; charming”. But I’m sure most women would rather be described as “delightful to work with” as opposed to “adorable”, just based on the connotation of the words.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Of course men might prefer those words. That doesn’t entitle them to have those used, though, when other words seem perfectly valid to the woman on the receiving end of whatever behavior is in question. And again, why is a man’s comfort level with how he’s being described more important than a woman being able to speak out against behavior that makes her feel violated?

        1. BCW*

          If we are going to say that word connotations don’t matter, then it should be so at all times. I think if a guy were to tell a woman her presentation was cute, she’d be pissed because she would feel he was being condescending, and a lot of people would say that she has the right to feel that way. But if thats what the guy thought because in his mind it was a valid description, why is her comfort level with the word important?

          Point being that those are strong words, and I believe a lot of the reaction comes from word choice. Words can elicit certain reactions that everyone should be aware of. To ask guys to be aware of what words a they use when talking to or describing a woman in a professional sense, but not to ask women to do the same is absurd.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think women are perfectly aware that men would prefer not to be described as creepy or violating, but that’s no reason not to use those words when they do things that do in fact seem creepy or violating.

            (And “cute” isn’t a parallel; “cute” is indeed condescending in the context you described, whereas “creepy” and “violating” are about behavior that someone wants to stop. Big difference.)

            An awful lot of the argument here seems focused on not making some men feel bad about how women see some of their behavior. If they don’t want their behavior seen that way, there is a very easy fix.

            1. BCW*

              You are right. The cute example wasn’t a great parallel (although I’d argue that my main point stands about guys having to be more aware of what they say to women and how it may be interpreted). A better one might be saying that Jill is very emotional. Now emotional can be a lot of things, some good, some bad. But we all know the connotation if a man says it about a woman, and how it comes across. That could be about a behavior I’d like her to stop, so its very apt. But in a work place, labelling a woman as very emotional is a stigma they don’t want, just as labelling a guy creepy is a stigma they don’t want. I think both genders need to be aware of that.

              And there isn’t an easy fix because as I mentioned, what’s creepy to one may be perfectly fine to another, and you don’t really know unless you cross that line with a particular woman.

              1. Bobby Digital*

                In this case and in my experience, I have meant the connotation, the context, and the full weight of the word “creepy” every single time I have used it. So thanks for alerting both genders, but I’m there already. As are many, many women.

  21. annie*

    OP, I just wanted to send my sympathies. I have been in a somewhat similar situation with a business associate from another company and it sucks because you start second-guessing every little interaction you had with the person before he asked you out, which is very demoralizing. In my case, he actually retaliated on a business project after I declined his date. There was no one I could report it to and saying anything would make it blow up in my company’s face so I never was able to report it to anyone.

    However, after a few years, now I do feel comfortable sharing this story (sometimes including his name when I know it is someone who may have to deal with him) with my girlfriends in the industry and other young women entering the workforce. I think just telling other women about it helps, because you know you are not alone, and you can talk about how other people have handled it.

    1. Arbynka*

      I have been in a somewhat similar situation with a business associate from another company and it sucks because you start second-guessing every little interaction you had with the person before he asked you out, which is very demoralizing.

      Yes :( you start analyzing everything you have done – was it something I said ? Was I sending out some sort of vibes ? Was it the way I dressed ? Did I smile too much ? Maybe I wasn’t professional enough. Maybe I gestured wrong….. Been there.

      I am so sorry he retaliated and sorry you could not report it. As I said I come from a place where sexism was a norm and there was nothing you could do about it and it sucked big time. If anything, I was told that I should be smart and “play it right” :(

      1. Arbynka*

        Sorry, I forgot to quote Annie at the beginning of my reply. The fist paragraph is from her post.

  22. saraht*

    i once went to a pub and met and enjoyed conversation with a man i found rather attractive. we made plans to meet up later in the week, but did not exchange telephone numbers. the next day, i went to have bloodwork done in relation to my annual physical, and the lab manager happened to be attractive pub man.

    when i received a phone call from this man, who freely admitted to having obtained my contact information through my medical forms, i was super creeped out. even though he was hot. even though i had, until that moment, been interested. because BOUNDARIES.

    1. VintageLydia*

      But if you thought he was HOT you would’ve thought it was okay…!




      ( ;P)

    2. Windchime*

      In the US, that would be a HIPAA violation. At my place of business, he would have been fired for that if discovered.

        1. Jen in RO*

          So you made plans to go out with a guy, he found your phone number through work, he called you… and you got him fired?! Yes HIPAA violation, yes bad idea, but come on, you told him you wanted to see him again! I could understand canceling the date, but getting the poor guy fired was cruel.

          1. The IT Manager*

            I disagree. She didn’t know he was a creep until he used his position to obtain her phone number through inappropriate and illegel means.

            He had no qualms doing it with her he probably does it in other occassions too.

            Plus she didn’t get him fired. She only reported HIS action which caused him to get fired.

            1. KellyK*

              Good point. It’s a little irritating to talk about “getting someone fired” as though their actions and the judgment of their employer about the severity of those actions don’t enter into it at all.

          2. KellyK*

            I don’t think it was cruel at all. It was a blatant HIPAA violation, and following that law is part of his job.

            I think that if he had said to her after the lab work was done, “Hey, I realized after we met at the pub last week that we talked about getting together, but didn’t exchange any contact info. Can I give you my number?” and she’d reported him for that, that would be cruel.

            1. saraht*

              “Yes HIPAA violation, yes bad idea, but come on…”


              not that it’s at all relevant, but we had made specific plans, and i had given him my bbm pin to get hold of me in the event he was unable to keep them. i generally prefer not to give out my phone number (let alone my home address, blood type and details of my vitamin D deficiency) until i’ve gotten to know someone better. it was proper for him to have access to that information in the context of his former employment. it was ludicrous for him to make use of it in a manner i had not agreed to.

              i am in Canada, so we have different privacy legislation, but the the principles are similar. i’m not in charge of enforcing those requirements, and i do not have hiring/firing authority at random medical practices around town. as such, i didn’t “get him fired”. reporting this multifaceted violation wasn’t a spiteful action and i feel zero responsibility regarding the outcome.

              my anecdote was intended to counter the argument that this sort of boundary smashing isn’t acceptable or less gross in circumstances of mutual attraction. inappropriate is inappropriate, regardless of cheekbones.

              1. saraht*

                “…the argument that this sort of boundary smashing *is* acceptable or less gross in circumstances of mutual attraction…”

          3. Katie the Fed*

            Are you kidding me? This is a guy who has shown no qualms about violation HIPAA rules to invade her privacy. What’s to stop him from getting the addresses and other private information from other women he finds attractive? That’s so far out of line it’s not even funny. He should be fired for it and the job given to someone who can follow the law.

          4. Anonymous*

            Oh yeah, just a little pesky HIPAA violation. Just a poor lovestruck guy going through illegal means to violate a woman’s privac! No big deal at all. Psh, no one should care about THAT! Unless a woman is, like, a totally cruel harpy out to destroy men!!

            1. Bobby Digital*

              Actually, Anonymous, BCW just taught me that the word “violate” might be unfair to men unless we women really, really, really mean it when we say it, so…

  23. John*

    This thread has been quite educational. It’s enhanced my perspective of what women deal with, because as a man I wouldn’t assume that someone asking me out meant that they were necessarily reacting to my physical appearance.

    What happpened to people liking someone’s energy? Their personality? Their intellect? Aren’t they at least as powerful in attracting interest?

    I’m not a fan of the guy’s actions at all. But the assumption in this case that he was assessing her physically/sexually is a leap for me. Clearly the women on this board have experience that informs their ability to go there.

    Something for all involved to reflect on.

    1. VintageLydia*

      No one is saying that physical/sexual attraction was the SOLE reason he asked her out, but for the vast majority of people out there (pretty much everyone but romantic asexuals) it’s a consideration. And considering women are both judged by their looks AND punished for them (“She only got that raise because Bossman thought she was hot!” “She must be boinking someone to get that promotion!” are all things I’ve personally heard about me and my female peers) in a professional context, especially when there is a power imbalance like in this case, it’s suspect.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I so appreciate you being open to the idea that the reason this doesn’t resonate with you might be because you come from a different set of experiences … that’s exactly what I’d hope we’d all strive to do when talking about the experiences of people different from us, whether it’s race, sex, religion, or anything else. I know I try and have failed in the past — for instance, reflexively arguing “oh that’s not really racist — you’re reading into something that isn’t there” and then eventually realizing that my own set of experiences was coloring my assessment and was making me inadvertently dismissive of something that I didn’t really have standing to be dismissive of in the first place.

      Anyway, regarding most women assuming that if someone who doesn’t know us extremely well asks us out it’s at least in part a physical appearance thing… I think this is because women tend to get hit on a lot by strangers or near-strangers, and in those cases, it’s pretty clear that all they could possibly be reacting to is physical appearance. So it’s closely correlated.

    3. Joey*

      I see where you’re coming from. It makes me think of people who are attracted to other despite their appearance not because of it.

    4. Noah*

      John – I totally agree! Reading through everyone’s opinions has certainly made me review myself and how I interact with others in a business setting. Although I’ve never done anything like this guy, I do realize that I can be a bit of a flirt and that may not be appropriate in a professional setting.

    5. Former LEO*

      I’m glad it’s not just me.

      This is the sentence that I object to the most –

      ” and he has basically just told you that he was assessing you physically/sexually during your interview with him.”

      It may have been physical, it may not have been purely physical, and it sure as hell may not have been sexual.

      All we can conclude is that he was not assessing her purely on a professional basis. He may not have actually considered asking her out until AFTER she turned down the job, but there was some kind of process that spurred him to ask.

      I don’t want to assume the hiring manager was superficially checking her out, which is really what that sentence implies. As if he couldn’t be interested in her as a person.

      At the same time, I have to agree that you don’t turn around and ask someone out if you were just interviewing them for a job. Even if they turned the job down. It just seems unprofessional. What if she had changed her mind about the job? What if his superiors wanted to try again with a better offer? He’s totally screwing the pooch here (speaking professionally) for the sake of his own self interest and also showing a strongly opportunistic streak since it’s the interview process that introduced these two.

  24. Joey*

    I’m really interested in the power imbalance point. Which makes me wonder, would there be the same power imbalance if it were a male interviewed by a female?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think a woman should be asking out a guy she interviews.

      But it’s also true that this strikes stuff many/most women a certain way isn’t just because of the interaction in a vacuum; it’s because the interaction is occurring against a social backdrop where women’s appearance is tied to their value and they still struggle to be taken seriously. So the context is different and informs people’s thinking on it.

      1. Joey*

        I’m not trying to be combative, but doesn’t that sort of lends itself to defaulting to “he’s creepy” unless some unknown standards are met. I say that because I’ve also seen plenty of situations where there was no power imbalance and women (not all) got creeped out for no logical reason (maybe he “looked” creepy or merely not knowing him was creepy).

        1. TL*

          I’m guessing their reasoning was he fit the pattern/description of multiple men they had known before who were creepy. Or because he behaves differently around women than men and it’s hard to explain how.

          Also, sometimes “looks creepy” is a lot easy to say than “he was staring at my chest the entire time” and having everyone around you that no, he wasn’t, you just ‘misread’ the look.

          Or, better yet, “they grabbed my bottom” and everyone telling me they just brushed up against it and I don’t know what a bottom-grab feels like.

        2. BCW*

          It does. I mean its basically saying, it shouldn’t happen, but if a woman does it its “different” and more acceptable because guys doing it are being “Creepy”

          1. Anon*

            It has to do with context and how our society interprets gender roles. That male-female power imbalance is part of what makes it “creepy”.

            It’s like white people in black face for Halloween. You don’t do it, ever, because the historical context makes it racist, no matter your intentions. A black person in white face is not nearly so bad because blacks never oppressed whites.

            A woman doing that would be bad, but not as bad, because women haven’t oppressed men in our society. The historical context is the key here.

            1. BCW*

              Yeah, but lets be real. A black person can be just as racist as a white person (and I’m black). If I decide to go for Halloween as a mexican crossing the boarder, I don’t think anyone would say its any less racist than if a white person did it. And thats kind of my issue. It becomes a problem when you say the same action is “less wrong” based on who is perpetrating it. If its wrong one way, its just as wrong the other.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Of course everyone can be racist or sexist. But isn’t this more comparable to the difference between a white person in blackface vs a black person in whiteface? There’s a difference because of cultural context.

                1. Joey*

                  That’s fine if women want to default to such a negative outlook of every man they meet. It just doesn’t seem to be a positive or happy way to go through life.

                  I would think women would try not to pass judgement until she sees some signs. And further I would think she would look for signs that this guy is normal instead of seeking out reasons to validate the creep label. But to each her own.

                2. BCW*

                  Joey, I think you said what I’ve been trying to say. If you want to default to every guy being the same and look for the negative over the positive, then it seems very negative. But yes, its their choice

                3. Forrest*

                  But its the safe way to go.

                  For example, this LW wrote that she’s uncomfortable and disheartened and creeped out. She’s following signals that the guy gave her in order to get these feelings.

                  And then we have people on this thread questioning those feelings of the LW’s, even though we didn’t read the email, and saying its not that bad. How are women supposed to follow signals to determine if a guy is decent or not when there’s hoards of people to question those signals?

                  Afterall, not every guy carries a “I’m going to rape you today” sign.

                4. Jamie*

                  If you want to default to every guy being the same and look for the negative over the positive, then it seems very negative.

                  That is not what anyone is saying. We’re saying be cautious until we have reason not to be. Out default is caution, not trust, and that keeps us safer than if everyone got the benefit of the doubt.

                  We know most men aren’t dangerous, but because we can’t instantly spot the ones that are we need to be cautious of everyone until we have enough information to make an informed judgement.

                5. TL*

                  I’m sorry, but you definitely look for the creep signals first.
                  I spend a lot of time social dancing and trust me, it is way better to identify the creepy-like ones before they get you on the dance floor rather than after. And honestly, I would rather avoid dancing with someone who’s just socially awkward than get caught on the dance floor with someone who is a creeper. One is one missed dance, the other is weighing staying on the dance floor with someone who’s completely but quietly inappropriate or walk off but risk not getting asked to dance again because everyone saw me walk off the dance floor.

                6. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  It seems really odd to me that so many men here are telling women that they know better than those women do how women should think and feel and act.

                7. BCW*

                  But Alison, its not just men saying that this woman is overreacting. Women are saying the same things. So sometimes, yes, people can tell you that you are overreacting without it being a big deal. I’d think the fact that there are a decent amount of women saying similar things as I am would mean something.

                8. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yes. Women are not a monolithic group. The fact that some women say something different doesn’t mean that nobody else is allowed to decide what their own experience tells them and what their own conclusions will be.

                  You will also find differing views on racism, homophobia, and other forms of bigotry within the groups affected by them.

              2. Brisvegan*

                Joey said above, “I would think women would try not to pass judgement until she sees some signs.”

                Joey, she did see signs. Using her personal information provided in a work context to try to get a date (ie ignoring company confidentiality and appropriate use of work information) is a sign. Asking her out, knowing she is on a job search and could conceivably reapply in the future is a sign. Not treating the interviewing process as a professional space for both women and men, is a sign. Using her information in a way he wouldn’t for male applicants (does he call the men and say “hey, buddy, want a new friend?”) is a sign.For this woman, there are lots of signs. She is allowed to pay attention to them.

  25. Rachel*

    Jesus, sometimes I’m embarrassed to be a woman.

    If you’re going to get pre-menstrual about a guy asking you out *after* you’ve rejected a job offer and there is no longer a power differential or professional consideration at play, then you need to grow up. Seriously.

    I really hope there was more to this than shown in the OP. Because unless this guy was unable to take no for a first answer, or unless he was completely inappropriate and disrespectful in his approach (which wouldn’t be OK whomever he was), then the fact is that one adult asking another adult on a date is not a crime, nor a non-sequitur.

    1. TL*

      It is incredibly, incredibly sexist to refer to a woman getting upset – and especially a reasonably upset woman, who reasonably writes in and asks a knowledgeable professional what a reasonable response would be – as pre-menstrual.

      1. Rachel*

        Next you’ll be telling me that black rap artists who use the ‘N’ word are racist.

        How about you try addressing the substance of what I said, instead of trying to make the somewhat risible observation that the way I express myself must mean I am inherently sexist…against my own sex.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Women of course can be sexist and can carry and reinforce gender stereotypes. It’s one of the reasons that sexism and related problems are so pervasive.

          And come on, coming here and calling someone “pre-menstrual”and and telling people to grow up doesn’t advance the conversation, so it’s a bit unreasonable to complain that the substance of what you said wasn’t addressed.

          1. Rachel*

            “it’s a bit unreasonable to complain that the substance of what you said wasn’t addressed”

            Not really. But it does somewhat explain why so many of the responses herein seem to demonstrate so little understanding of how Real Life works.

            This just in: consenting adults sometimes find other consenting adults attractive. Sometimes those consenting adults will be co-workers, or people you’ve met in a professional context. (Indeed, if statistics are to believed then the internet and the workplace are the two most likely places to meet the person that will eventually become your significant other). Sometimes those feelings that one party expresses to another will not be reciprocated. Provided both consenting/dissenting adults involved are mature enough to accept this, it’s a social norm that presents no difficulties for most rational people.

            This guy was just someone that interviewed her for a job (that she didn’t accept). He was not her boss. He was not a prison officer and she a prisoner. He was not a schoolteacher, and her an adolescent charge. He was not a blood relative nor a doctor giving the OP professional medical advice. He was just some guy that met someone he liked, and took a shot at happiness. So why the complete over-reaction? Provided he was polite and respectful in his approach, and provided he took “no” for a first (and equally respectful) answer, there should be no problem.

            If you still doubt any of the above, simply consider how the CEO or HR department of this company would respond if the OP were to write to them and complain about what happened? Or if the OP were to contact the police or a lawyer about the ‘harassment’ she has experienced? It shouldn’t take too much imagination to conclude that Any Of The Above would simply laugh in their face.

            This ‘problem’ frankly makes a mockery of the very real harassment that some women face in some workplaces. Harassment: this ain’t it.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I told you it was unreasonable to complain about not having the substance of your message addressed when you launched with a hostile message that lacked substance itself. “Grow up” is not a substantive message.

              I’m not sure why you’re bringing up contacting the police or a lawyer. No one has suggested that.

              In fact, most people (not all but most) aren’t suggesting she contact his company either. They’re just saying it’s inappropriate. That’s it.

              1. BCW*

                Well in fairness, I don’t think it was right of the other commenters to say she was sexist either. I get that you didn’t like her message, but to reprimand her, but not the other person for saying that she as a woman is sexist is kind of a double standard.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I’m not going to take someone to task for saying “it’s sexist to say X” or “it’s racist to say Y.” Those are legitimate viewpoints that people can argue for or against if they want. Telling someone that she’s obviously just pre-menstrual is entirely different.

                2. TL*

                  BCW – it’s sexist because it directly feeds into the “woman=unreasonable because hormones!” stereotype. When a man does something people don’t agree with, they don’t automatically go “he’s unreasonable because of his gender.” Women get that attitude a lot and it is decidedly unfair and untrue.
                  (there are exceptions – like jocks and steroids, but the behavior has to be pretty extreme before anyone calls them out.)

            2. Anon For This*

              I hope to God you never manage anyone. What astounding insensitivity, obtuseness, sexism, everything.

              1. Rachel*

                And I hope you never get managed by or work with any poor sod that will be constantly stepping on eggshells everyday wondering what is going to set you off on your next unwarranted and unsubstantiated rant.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Rachel, I see that you have no posting history here before now so it’s possible that you don’t know, but it needs to be kept civil here. You’re welcome to disagree with people here, but you need to do it politely.

            3. Calla*

              “This ‘problem’ frankly makes a mockery of the very real harassment that some women face in some workplaces.”


          2. Arbynka*

            “Women of course can be sexist and can carry and reinforce gender stereotypes. It’s one of the reasons that sexism and related problems are so pervasive.”


            I was asked to do typing test on man’s lap. I was told that we can make work more fun for both of us, wink, wink. It was suggested to me to wear shorter skirt because I have such a sexy legs and it will draw attention away from my face.

            And so many times when I protested I was told by other women that –

            – it’s not a big deal, it’s not like he raped you
            – if I was smart I would know how to “work it’
            – I should be happy someone finds me attractive
            – don’t be such a bitch, it’s just a harmless fun
            ….. and so on.

  26. Anonymous*

    If this person would have been the OP’s supervisor, had she accepted the job, then I agree that this is inappropriate – because then there is the hidden subtext of “if you had accepted this job, I wouldn’t have been able to ask you out, but I still would have wanted to”. But from the letter, I’m not clear that that was his role. I work at a large bureaucratic institution where Hiring Manager is the title of the HR people who process applications, not the people actually responsible for making hiring decisions or supervising. They are responsible for posting jobs, receiving applications and forwarding them to the job supervisor, and essentially making sure that fair hiring practices are used. The hiring manager may communicate with the candidates to schedule interviews or answer procedural questions, or even sit in on interviews, but they have no input in the actual hiring decision. They are in no way in a position of authority over the candidate, and they usually have no interaction with them after they are hired. No idea if this is the case at the company that OP interviewed with, but I’ve worked at 3 major institutions each responsible for 10,000+ employees and at all of them, this was the definition of a hiring manager.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s pretty unusual. Hiring manager generally means “the person making the hiring decision and who will be your boss if you get the job.” It’s not a title, but just a way to refer to someone’s role in the process.

  27. BCW*

    What I found interesting about this thread is that even when other women agree with me and others that the OP was overreacting, other women want to say that they are wrong. Here is the thing, none of us saw the letter (Except Alison) so none of us can truly say how bad it was. None of us know the guy or his motivations. But its absurd that some of the women on here think its their place to tell others how they should feel from reading the same description of the events. Its life. Some people are much more easily offended, creeped out, etc than others. I don’t really agree with the whole “If you have to ask, don’t do it” though. One woman’s creepy is another woman’s romantic. As a guy, that is extremely frustrating. But as they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained. If he really thought they had a connection, he was just going for it. I gather from you women that having guys want to date you must be exhausting, but sometimes its just a guy looking for companionship.

    Also, while I have said that I don’t necessarily think it was the best decision, lets be real. He emailed her. I’m sure most of you in your SPAM filters have far more offensive emails than whatever he wrote. I could see if he called or texted her. Or showed up at her house or something. All of that would have been a serious issue for many reasons, least of which is that he is putting her on the spot. But its an email. She can ignore it, delete it, mark it as spam, or block his address. So it seems to me he was trying to be as least creepy as possible in his approach. Lets have a bit of perspective

    1. Rachel*


      The content of the letter could have made all the difference. And it’s of course understandable that the OP may wants to keep details of it private. But unless it was graphic or obscene in some way that I didn’t pick up from the commentary about it from those who did read it, then I really can’t understand someone getting upset about merely being asked for a drink by someone whose job offer they turned down.

      If anything, had that happened to me it’d merely tell me that I’d handled declining their offer tactfully and professionally and didn’t leave them feeling bad about our interaction. If I liked them, I’d say yes, and if I didn’t I’d say “thank you, but no”. Then move on with my life, which would in no way be affected by either response.

    2. Anonymous*

      +1000 Also, I got the impression that many of the people who were outraged didn’t really consider the content of the email important. Just the fact that he asked her out at all seemed to be outrageous enough. I don’t get it. Based on what we know, he liked her, he waited until an appropriate time, and he took a chance by asking her out – in the most unobtrusive way possible. That’s how it’s supposed to work! Sigh.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        I don’t see a problem with his finding her interesting/attractive, whatever. I don’t have a problem for people who form romantic relationships as co-workers, after meeting at a conference, etc.

        I DO have a problem with him sending the email, and would also find it “creepy” and would not know how to respond.

        The issues I see here are:
        a) She provided her contact information SOLELY for her job application. That is highly inappropriate. The only time something similar has happened to me (supervisor using emergency contact list to invite me to a social event) it was just the first indication of a severe lack of respect for boundaries all over the place. Now obviously we don’t know if this hiring manager disrespects over boundaries, but just as Alison talks about employees/employers needing to place a lot of weight on limited data in the job search, because that’s all you have, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to apply the same logic here.

        And personality aside, it is still a violation. If he had taken her address and added it to their marketing mailing list, it would not be okay either.

        b) They have not had ANY opportunity to talk in a social or semi-social context, unlike coworkers or conference attendees. Their ONLY interactions up to that point have been focused on the job interview from her perspective. Even any chit-chat before or after the interview was colored through the lens “portraying myself as a candidate.”

        (Hopefully I’ve added some kind of new nuance here. There’s lots of raised hackles and I might have missed some people who I’m simply repeating.)

        1. BCW*

          As I said though, I know some girls who (assuming they felt a spark/connection with the guy) would have NO problem with it. I asked some friends about it today, and they said they wouldn’t be bothered. And thats my point. You are taking YOUR personal definition of what constitutes inappropriate and creepy behavior then applying it to ALL women. Just as what my friends are cool with may not be cool with you, its not your place to say what isn’t cool to others. As I have repeatedly said, if the woman was uncomfortable with it, block the guy and delete his email. But lets chill out on the name calling for a behavior that would possibly be appreciated by some.

          1. Brisvegan*

            I hope you mean women and not underage children. Girls means the latter. Calling adults girls is insulting and infantalising.

            Do you find it appropriate for white people to call you and other black men “boy”? (Which is a sickening way to treat an adult black man and I sincerely hope no-one ever does that to you.)

            Please don’t do the same to us.

        2. Rindle*

          I do agree that the use of her email, which presumably he got from her resume that she submitted not to a dating site but to a company hiring for a position, was questionable. But he could have reached out to her via LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, or gotten her contact info any one of a thousand other ways. He liked her, he (by all information we have) politely asked her out, and he did it via email – the least obtrusive way possible that gave her the easiest “out” if she wanted to say no. He didn’t call, he didn’t text, he didn’t show up at her front door with flowers. He sent up a trial balloon. She has all the power here to say “no thanks” or to blow him off.

          As for having the opportunity to talk in a social context – that’s what he was trying to offer! He didn’t go all Anthony Weiner on her, send her an unsolicited sext, or propose marriage. He asked – again, politely, based on what we know – if she was interested in talking in a social context.

    3. Forrest*

      I’m sorry, but weren’t you questioning the OP’s very feelings in a comment above? About why she’s disheartened and uncomfortable?

      I don’t see anyone out right saying anyone is wrong. I see people disagreeing because of xyz.

      I just think its odd that you’re complaining about being dismissed while dismissing the OP – the only other person present who saw the email.

      1. BCW*

        I didn’t dismiss her. I thought the terms she used were a bit much, and yes, my opinion was that she overreacted. I think if she said she was uncomfortable by the situation as opposed to “Creeped out and disheartened” then its a bit different. However I never said she was wrong. I think you are free to feel however you want. Its like jealousy. Its a pointless emotion, but you can’t really help it when it comes around. Its not “wrong” to feel that way, but if your sig other tells you, in a nice way, that your jealousy is unwarranted and gives you reasons, I don’t think thats the same as invalidating your feelings. That is what I was going for. However, I WAS saying that for those who are making this guy out to be some awful human being that yes, they are being a bit much, when you don’t have the full story. I don’t have it either. Its very possible that I could read the contents of the email and agree that the guy was being totally sketchy, but I won’t jump to that conclusion based on the limited info we have, unlike many others here.

        1. Forrest*

          Right and isn’t thinking the OP is exaggerating a bit dismissive of her feelings? Afterall, she read the email.

          We should take the OP’s feelings at face value and not question them at all. Which you are.

        2. Anonymous*

          Do you ever give women the benefit of the doubt? Because most of your comments really imply that you hand out the benefit of the doubt to men like candy, but assume professional women are (at least) overreactive. It makes it difficult to take your point of view of “everyone should always assume the best of everyone” seriously, since it really sounds like it’s “everyone should always assume the best of men.” And that might be why you get a lot of pushback from women on this comment section.

          1. BCW*

            I absolutely do. If the situation was reversed I’d be saying the same thing. I think ALL people should be given the benefit of the doubt until evidence shows otherwise. So I wouldn’t assume a white person was racist immediately. I wouldn’t assume an attractive woman only her job because of her looks. Just as I would hope someone didn’t assume as a black man I got my job to fill a quota. With that, I don’t assume a guy asking a girl out is creepy and a potential attacker. It just so happens many of the questions here are from women asking about how to handle men in various situations, and men get piled on because of the fact that they are men and some men do bad things, so yes I defend that. If you look back at another post about halloween costumes, I also advocated not assuming a person was racist based on their choice of costume.

            1. anon*

              “I don’t assume a guy asking a girl out is creepy.” Absent of other detail, it’s not. But the other detail is really, really important, and it’s the other detail that people are focusing on here.

    4. Brisvegan*

      I find it a bit hypocritical that you are upset that “even when other women agree with me and others that the OP was overreacting, other women want to say that they are wrong” and then you go on to say that other people are wrong, even where there are many people who agree that the OP was not overreacting and that the man involved was behaving inappropriately.

      You are saying everyone who doesn’t agree with you is wrong, but it is wrong to say that people are wrong if they disagree.

  28. Not So NewReader*

    The first thing I said was “Ick”.
    My second thought was that he used her job app info for HIS own personal life. NOT good. At all.

    When she gave out her contact info, she could reasonably expect that the contact was for business purposes only.
    As others have said this is a breach of basic trust. He would not have access to that information if he did not have his job.

    OP, I think you should respond in the way you see as best and in keeping with your own personality. Sometimes we can just ignore stuff and our silence speaks volumes. Other times we do need to say something to someone in authority.
    Sometimes I have thought of similar things happening to others in the future and that motivated me to move forward with a complaint. And other times in my life I have just had to many personal issues going on to be bothered. I had no energy for it.

    Do you HAVE to do something? No. Not now. Not if you don’t want to. One email is not stalking. I would keep it for a while though, don’t delete it. I am in favor of basic precautions.

    I don’t think I would answer the email. But if you chose to answer it- Less is Best. Try to use the least number of words, but be civil.

    1. Colette*

      Yeah, what it comes down to for me is that he’s using her contact information, which he is privy to because she shared it to get a job, for personal reasons. That’s not ok, and it raises the question of what other info he would use, such as her address.

      That, to me, is more disturbing than anything else.

  29. Cait*

    If the OP thinks it won’t cause problems for her later, it’s worth saying something to the company. It’s not that the guy is a creep, or a bad guy, or should get in trouble, but by asking out someone he met through an interview, he cast his company in a potentially negative light.

    As an example: In my industry, it’s normal for professional firms to host cocktail parties as recruiting events. When I was in school, the young male employees at Firm X were notorious for hitting on attractive female students who attended the events. It didn’t violate any policies, and there was no reason why an employee couldn’t have dated a recruit, but it felt inappropriate anyway. It changed the dynamic for both male and female recruits, and I remember friends complaining that the young employees were more interested in meeting women than in talking about their firm. If I had been a senior person at Firm X, I would have wanted to know that my employees were treating networking events as a meat market. It doesn’t create the kind of impression that most companies strive for.

  30. Natalie*

    I have not read the original email asking for the date and do not know any context (is this a small industry? small town? where everyone knows everyone? or a big dominant employer company?), and I acknowledge that my opinion may well change if I did, but I don’t consider the behavior as described anywhere near “not quite harassment.” He did not ask her out until it was clear she would not have the job. I think it assumes far too little of men to reach the conclusion that they cannot engage in a professional discussion, with professional thoughts, and not also decide, “Gosh, this seems like a nice and interesting person. I’d like to get to know her better. We seem to have a lot in common” We meet so many people at work, and if they are all off limits for dating, I think it ignores reality. I agree that common sense, tact, and delicacy must be used, but based on the facts contained in the posting, I’m not convinced anything bad happened.

    What if the interviewer was a heterosexual woman, and she and OP somehow discovered during the interview that they shared an interest in… needlepoint. If the interviewer invited the interviewee to a needlepoint convention, it would be a bit weird, but I wouldn’t consider it outright inappropriate.

      1. Natalie*

        But first dates can also be based on shared interests, including shared professional interests. I do not think that the fact that he asked her on a date necessarily leads to the conclusion that he must have spent the interview assessing her physically. I understand that OP is uncomfortable, and something in the original email or interaction must have made her so, but I think the automatic judgments towards this man are far too harsh, especially in the absence of more information.

        I would think it very unfortunate for a woman to have cause to believe that if a man expresses interest in her, it must only be because he finds her physically attractive. Maybe he thinks she’s not bad looking, but he also think she’s really interesting.

        1. Cait*

          This strikes me as a very strange argument. If I share professional interests with someone but feel no physical attraction, I network with the person. Asking someone on a date is a sign of physical attraction. It doesn’t mean I’m not interested in the person in other ways, too–but it does mean that I’m thinking about the person in a physical/sexual/romantic context, not solely a professional one.

          1. Natalie*

            I never said there was no physical attraction. My argument is that a man can find a woman attractive generally, but what may get him to ask her out may be shared interests.

  31. Dennis*

    “What if the interviewer was a heterosexual woman, and she and OP somehow discovered during the interview that they shared an interest in… needlepoint. If the interviewer invited the interviewee to a needlepoint convention, it would be a bit weird, but I wouldn’t consider it outright inappropriate.”

    EWWW! That’s creepy!

  32. Anon*

    You can’t help who you are attracted to. I am woman that wouldn’t be bothered at all by this . If I found him attractive/interesting I would go on the date, if not I would say no. If I hoped to keep as a professional contact, I would say so too. Life isn’t so black and white

    1. Anonymous*

      You can’t help who you are attracted to, but you certainly can help your own actions. There is no rule or that says you must ask out every person you find attractive regardless of the circumstance. It’s this assumption that is the most baffling to me.

  33. Chrissy*

    I can only speak for myself, but it always makes me uncomfortable when I give my contact information to someone for a very specific purpose and they instead use it to ask me out on a date. To me it’s a big red flag that the person either doesn’t respect or understand boundaries. The letter writer didn’t give her contact information to Bob the HM, she gave it to the company he works for. When he decided to access that information as an individual he assumed the risk that his attentions would be unwelcome, and if the OP decides to bring this to the company’s attention the fallout is on him, not her.

  34. D*

    Reading this thread, I notice that there are a lot of ignorant comments (as in, they actually don’t see the problem) written by men. I bet you’re all straight men.

    When it comes to sexual harassment, men just don’t get it. Straight men have ZERO experiences to compare it to. How can you comment on something that you have no exposure to? Every woman that reads this blog, however, probably has a few experiences from work or school that involved teachers, professors, bosses, or clients making them uncomfortable.

    Networking at a large tech convention, for example, I was never sure if men were flirting with me or saw me as a professional contact. That affects the confidence you have in yourself in a pretty significant way.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Sweeping assumptions like “I bet you’re all straight men” and “straight men have ZERO experiences” aren’t helpful.

      Some straight men DO know objectification and harassment. Some gay men, women, trans/genderqueer people are insensitive to it and minimize it too, not just straight men. Some straight men are horrifically aware of their privilege, and incredibly empathetic to what most women go through.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        (And if you scroll up, you’ll see I’m firmly in the “this didn’t happen in a vacuum, and this is icky and inappropriate” camp.)

    2. mdc*

      Perhaps they could think of how they(straight male in this example) would feel if a gay hiring manager later emailed them to ask them out. This kind of stuff makes you feel like your professional self has just been discarded because someone wanted to have sex with you.

      1. Noah*

        Actually, I think this may be something that men and women often view differently, leading to conflicts like we’re seeing in this post. If a hiring manager (straight female or gay male) emailed me asking me out I would smiling the rest of the day. I would take it as a compliment, respond with a “yes, how about 7 on Saturday” or a “no thanks, but I appreciate the offer”. I think its just a case of how our brains are wired a bit differently.

        Also, as a man, the immediate jump from asking someone out to wanting to have sex seems crazy. Unless I’m picking up a one night stand at a bar, sex is not the first thing on my mind.

        The comments on this post have been enlightening though, and have made me think about some of my own actions. Maybe those annual sexual harassment training courses should include more practical stuff than “don’t have sex with your assistant”. Discussing how women and men can view the same statement differently might make men reconsider what they are saying and women reconsider how they interpret it.

        1. scarydogmother*

          It’s not a case of different wiring. It’s a case of you and other men having the benefit of being considered the default sex in society, including in the labor force. People don’t doubt that, due to your sex, you belong in the workplace. They don’t think your job is just a cute distraction for you until you have a family. They don’t wonder, because of your sex, whether you got the job by sleeping with the boss or because of quotas.
          You’re don’t have those extra sex-based hurdles to jump in your career, so it’s not at all surprising that you imagine being propositioned in this way would be flattering and not at all demoralizing.

          1. Rindle*

            scarydogmother, I’m so sorry if this is the way you feel in your job. I’ve had that happen at one organization, and it was terrible. But at the other places I’ve worked, my sex was never an issue. I hope you find a better situation soon!

            To what Noah said, I’ll add that I’m female, and I would have taken it as a compliment and smiled the rest of the day too. She got the job offer; she turned it down. Clearly this organization did not consider her a second-rate applicant because of her sex. Based on the facts here, this woman holds all the cards.

      2. BCW*

        I think you aren’t giving guys enough credit here (again). Yes there are absolutely some guys who would freak out and have the reactions many of the women are having. Most guys (at least the ones I know) would take it as a compliment and move on with their day. If it happened to me, I wouldn’t feel like my professional self was discarded, because I got the interview, which is probably more than 90% of applicants got, and that was based on my merit. If I got a 2nd interview because someone thought I was hot, well at that point it up to me to prove that I can be great at the job. But if I know I’m qualified, why am I going to let that affect my confidence? Are some people affected personally that much if they don’t get an interview at all/?

    3. Contessa*

      They do have experience to which to compare it–their own interactions with women. If they know they don’t mean anything nefarious when they say this or that to a woman, they can extrapolate their own internal thought patterns and make the educated guess that other men probably have the same thought patterns (i.e. other men are also making innocent statements). Is that true of all men? Probably not, just like very little is true of all women. But, I think insight from other straight men is as useful in understanding the interviewer’s motivations as insight from other women is in understanding the OP.

      1. BCW*

        Don’t you know men’s experiences don’t matter? If the woman feels in any not 100% happy, nothing the guy has done or will do in the future, or his intentions matter one bit!

          1. AnonEMoose*

            Exactly. BCW seeems to think that it’s fine for women to do what they feel they need to in order to feel safe…until it inconveniences him. Which is, sadly, an attitude I’ve run into more than once.

            1. Anon*

              Pretty much. Which is part of the reason his comments have been driving me up the wall. This dude crossed some very clear professional boundaries (accessing her information for personal use–this would’ve gotten me fired from multiple jobs I’ve had if I’d been idiotic enough to do it) yet, somehow, he’s the *victim* of all our *nasty name calling*.

              I wasn’t aware that labeling inappropriate behavior as creepy is somehow out of bounds. Honestly, it sounds warranted to me. We’re not calling him a rapist or unsafe, we’re saying that *his actions* are creepy and inappropriate, especially in a professional setting.

              BCW–how about taking the time to support the woman who had her boundaries inappropriately violated instead of so vigorously defending the dude that did it?

              1. BCW*

                Sorry you are being driven up the wall by some internet message board comments. That REALLY must suck to have that strong a reaction to someone you don’t know

                1. Anonymous*

                  That is such a condescending non-response. And it doesn’t go unnoticed that you haven’t written a response to Alison calling you out.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Come on, that is way out of line. People are annoyed by comments here all the time, and “driven up the wall” hardly means “having a strong reaction that’s interfering with my life.” It means “this is exasperating/annoying.” This really is coming across as condescending, even if you don’t intend it to.

                3. BCW*

                  Hey anonymous, I’m sorry, my response to Alison wasn’t timely enough for you. I left the house. Heaven forbid

          2. BCW*

            It was sarcasm. A woman’s experiences matter JUST as much as a guys experiences matter. Thats my point. Based on a lot of things on here, it seems people refuse to see both sides.

            I have witnessed inappropriate behavior, and have stood up to it no matter who it came from. (So yes, to the shock of many, I have stood up for women many times in my life). I’ve also had friends react to situations and their reaction was WAY over the top for what happened, and I have had no problem saying that either.

            I think because I like to look at both sides of a situation, and possible motivations, before passing judgment before just assuming something, then I get labelled a lot of things, which isn’t fair at all.

            1. Anonymous*

              “Based on a lot of things on here, it seems people refuse to see both sides.”

              Including you. Only you’re taking the opposite side from most of the commenters. However, I actually think the vast majority of those commenters have been very willing to hear your opposition (some have even thanked you for it) and engage with you. Yes, many of them have explained the reasons why your arguments generally chalk up to false equivalencies, but they have done so in a way that shows that they read your concerns, understood them, and are responding to them in an intelligent, thoughtful way. Do you really think that all of these articulate commenters — Alison included — are just a bunch of overreacting females/male allies who refuse to cut Men a break? You haven’t once responded in any meaningful way to the many comments explaining that gender relations are extremely nuanced; you’ve simply treated women as a monolithic group (“Well because I know women who would respond differently and some commenters here who are women would respond differently, then I’m right”) and held even more firmly to your original arguments. And now you’ve been getting snappy and condescending, rather than showing any proof that you may be considering other viewpoints.

  35. coconutwater*

    OP, trust yourself. If something creeps you out and you feel disheartened then a personal boundary of yours was crossed. You are not over- reacting or being over- sensitive by expressing how you feel. His behaviour was inappropriate. I hope you will update Alison, for your question sparked a lot of interesting comments albeit heated dialogue at times. A lot to think about.

    1. Laura*

      “OP, trust yourself. If something creeps you out and you feel disheartened then a personal boundary of yours was crossed. You are not over- reacting or being over- sensitive by expressing how you feel.”

      Yes, this x1000. So much of the conversation on this has been about whether what he did was creepy or not, and the fact is, it was creepy to the OP, and that’s enough. Her question was how to handle it. She’s been presented with 3 options, essentially:

      1. Ignore it.
      2. Let him know it was creepy.
      3. Let his company know it was creepy.

      Which, I think, pretty much covers it. OP, what I recommend is assessing all of those options and deciding which *you* are most comfortable with, factoring in how creeped out you were, what you think the ramifications might be for you as you move forward with your job search, whether you feel an obligation to do what you can to stop him doing the thing you found creepy (important note: it’s totally okay if you don’t) and anything else that is important to you. AND, if for right now #1 is what you are most comfortable with but 6 months down the line you’re settled into a new job and find yourself wishing you’d done #2 or #3, you can still do that.

      Finally, as regards #3, personally, I would be totally creeped out by someone using my personal information that way. I understand that not everyone would, and I’m cool with that, but *I* would, and I would probably let his company know. I would not make any suggestion that he be fired/disciplined/whatever, but a simple “After I interviewed with Bob for a position in Spout Design, he used my contact information to ask me on a date, which I found highly inappropriate.” What Bob’s company does with that information is for them and Bob to deal with. Even if Bob gets fired, *that is not on you*. That is Bob having to suffer the consequences of Bob’s actions.

      Good luck, and I’m so sorry you’ve been put in this position.

      1. Another Laura*

        Amen to Laura and coconutwater. I feel very discouraged reading all the comments basically saying “don’t feel creeped out” or “his behavior isn’t creepy because I personally wouldn’t have felt creeped out.” This is my response to those people: IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW YOU THINK *YOU* WOULD HAVE FELT IN HER POSITION. She felt what she felt and that’s okay. Let’s try to keep the discussion focused on how she should proceed.

        The OP wasn’t asking Alison (or anyone else) whether her feelings were valid. She wasn’t asking whether she was being unfair by feeling the way she feels. And she certainly wasn’t asking anyone’s opinion on whether she should give the guy the benefit of the doubt.

        It’s fine to say that she just needs to move on and ignore what happened. But it’s not okay to tell her how she should feel about what happened TO HER or that her own feelings about what happened to her are wrong. She doesn’t need to try and change the way she feels simply because you wouldn’t feel that way if you were in her position.

      2. Anon*

        Absolutely. And if she chooses #3, the company would be perfectly justified in firing him for it.

        I used to work in retail and because of various reward programs and return policies, I had lots of access to customer information. Some of those customers were really attractive and we got along well. Here’s the thing–using customer information for personal use is so totally out of bounds that it was considered an immediately fireable offense.

        They trusted us with their phone numbers, email addresses, home addresses, and shopping histories. Every company I ever worked for let us know on our first day that we’d be terminated immediately if we betrayed that trust and used it for personal reasons. Be it fraud or asking someone out on a date, you’d be fired immediately.

        If you can teach that to teenagers so it makes sense, why is it so hard to expect of full grown adults?

  36. BCW*

    As much as I disagree with many of you, I do find these discussions fascinating. To so some of the more vocal posters I’m curious, how do you suggest a guy ask out a girl he knows from work without it being “creepy” or “inappropriate”. I’m assuming he isn’t her direct supervisor of course. But based on some of these posts, it seems some of you think it should NEVER happen, but we know that isn’t the case. So I’d really like to know your thoughts.

      1. BCW*

        But as someone pointed out above, you can’t be absolutely certain unless you ask? I mean I guess you could go the Jr. High route and have your friend ask her friends, etc. But we are adults here. There are some people you can have a great rapport with and they like you as a person, but have no desire for whatever reason to see you romantically. But its hard to know that without asking the person.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t think you can never ask out a coworker. As long as you’re not in the person’s line of command or otherwise have authority over them, sure you can — but if you get a no, you have to back off and not keep trying.

          If you have authority over them, absolutely not.

          1. anonintheuk*

            I think to avoid looking like a creep or a pest, there is probably a limit on the number of co-workers you can ask out, at least within a certain time. Being turned down by Jane, and promptly deciding to ask out Carol, when Jane and Carol know each other and see each other every day, is iffy. Being turned down by Jane, going on one date with Carol and deciding you don’t click, then electing within days to make a move on Eleanor who is *also* a colleague, suggests several things.
            a) You are desperate
            b) You think you are all that and a bag of chips, as we say in my hometown
            c)You have no social life and no other way to meet women.

        2. LovelyLibrarian*

          I wondered about this as well and I’m glad someone commented here. There was a lot of discussion about “reading signals” and “consenting adults” above – but how is this guy supposed to know for sure if she’s “consenting” if he doesn’t use his words to ask?

          I’m a professional woman and I think my response in this situation would depend entirely on the guy’s self-awareness and how he phrased the request – not on the fact of making the request in the first place.

          (Note, these examples aren’t perfectly worded – just off the top of my head…)

          Something like “Hey I thought you were really cute when you came in to interview. I couldn’t get you out of my mind and I wonder if you’d like to go out sometime?” would wave a huge red flag because it shows he’s patronizing, obsessing, and has no understanding of power dynamics.

          On the other hand, something like “Hi there, I really respect the work you’ve done, I also share ABC hobby you mentioned, and I’m interested in learning more about you. I realize there’s a power dynamic at play because of the interview so I want to make sure everything is above-board and appropriate. Would you be willing to meet up sometime to get to know each other outside of a work context?” would intrigue me. This guy at least appears to be actually asking for my consent, and not making any assumptions.

          Basically I appreciate meeting cool new people, and if this person could show that they were culturally sensitive, self-aware, etc I would appreciate the honesty and direct asking and would *maybe* be interested in knowing more about them.

          Granted, I think this is okay only because I think the interviewer-after-the-job-was-turned-down situation is personally less creepy than some of the other examples here (med tech HIPAA violator!). In those situations I would expect the date-asker (male or female) to just give it up.

        3. anon*

          Here’s a really good way to handle that:

          Be interested in someone as a person, rather than as a dateable person, and communicate that. Then you have space to assess whether dating/romantic interest is welcome without immediately pushing things into that context. And if it turns out that person isn’t interested in a romantic development, then you’ve still made a new friend and new friends are pretty cool to have.

          In a situation like this, it would not have been particularly creepy if he had responded to her decline by saying something along the lines of “Hey, I’m really sorry you’re not interested in the position. But I found XYZ that you said at the interview really interesting — do you want to get together sometime and discuss that further?” that would have been okay. The point is that he immediately jumped to DATE that makes it clear he was assessing her at least in some way as dating material during a job interview.

          Here’s this – if you had interviewed someone of the gender you are not attracted to, and found them interesting, intriguing, likeable, etc, how would you approach them to strike up a friendship? WOULD you approach them? If you wouldn’t approach someone for friendship based on a certain context, why would you approach someone for romance based on the same context?

    1. AMG*

      And to be clear, I feel that the men on this thread with whom I disagree seem to be good, decent guys who aren’t creeps and don’t objectify women. This seems to be a pretty reactive topic. I also find this thread really interesting and definitely helpful in understanding the opposite sex.

    2. KellyK*

      Do it in a way that doesn’t involve having her cornered or being in her personal space. If you’re the only two people in the building in the evening, that’s probably not the time. If the answer is “no,” even if it’s a weak, hesitant no with an excuse rather than a firm no, accept it as the final answer, don’t try to talk her out of it, or ask again later, and continue interacting with her the way you did before you asked.

      None of that should be terribly hard, right?

      1. anonintheUK*

        a) think very carefully about whether you are in fact getting signals of interest. Your colleagues HAVE to spend time with you, and probably chat with you because you spend 9 hours a day together. That does not mean they’d choose you as a companion

        b) if you are the type to be crushed by rejection, don’t ask out a colleague unless you can keep out of his/her way for a bit. No moping, no puppy dog eyes.

    3. Anonymous*

      Things that I do when I’m interested in a person as a friend, whether or not romantically, is to reach out (text email fb) with things that reminded me of them or that might be of interest. Like -here’s a buzz feed article about Harry Potter, look at this wicked car I saw today, etc. Do that maybe a couple times, and then wait if they initiate similar things. If they do, you can ask them out. (if they don’t reciprafter a couple tries, let it go). If they say no, take it as a firm no, no convincing.


  37. mdc*

    Women should be flattered because some male interviewer asked them out? Why exactly – because the guy is validating their desirability by asking them? The majority of women don’t care what some random guy thinks of them. It’s a big jump to assume that your interest in someone is flattering to them.

    Being less than thrilled that someone you met once in a professional context was thinking about you in a sexual (or as some insist dating is non-sexual) a non-sexual but flatteringly interested way in not “freaking out”.
    It is a valid reaction to behaviour they consider to be weird and inappropriate.

      1. mdc*

        Have you read the thread? Several male commenters have made this comment – that they would find being asked out in this situation to be a compliment and it would leave them smiling etc.

        1. BCW*

          I didn’t say she SHOULD be flattered, but when someone asked how guys would feel, I said I would be flattered. How I’d react and how she should react aren’t the same things. I might find a surprise party in my honor awesome, that doesn’t mean everyone should find it awesome.

  38. CN*

    Not sure if anyone is still reading this thread, but I’ve read most of the comments (though admittedly not all), and I just have a question:

    Suppose for argument’s sake, in a HYPOTHETICAL situation (not the actual one), the hiring manager is, in fact, romantically asexual or something similar — and therefore truly was only attracted to the OP on a personality-oriented basis, NOT physical. The hypothetical hiring manager is NOT summing her on a sexual/physical scale, and asked her for dinner/drinks because he was attracted to something about her personality, energy, etcetc. (Again, this is hypothetical and not meant to sub for the actual situation, since Alison and the OP herself are the only ones who can judge on that front.) Would the behavior still be inappropriate?

    I’m seeing maybe several reasons why it still would be, but they’re scattered throughout the comments so I was hoping for you guys’ input:

    1. It’s still inappropriate because of the privacy issue concerning how he obtained her e-mail address?

    2. It’s still inappropriate because it is still demeaning to even assess someone in a ROMANTIC fashion given the power imbalance?

    3. It’s still inappropriate because it still occurs in a context in which women are struggling to be taken seriously in professional environments, and BOTH sexual and non-sexual-romantic overtures detract from this struggle?

    I’d really appreciate some input!

    1. AMG*

      How would the woman know that the man was asexual? Assuming she would not know, her reaction would probably be the same.

      If she hypothetically knew, then I think it comes down to the individual reactions. I can see some people not liking it an others being ok with it. For me, assuming I were asexual and single, it would depend on how much of a rapport I felt like I had with the person, and whether I thought that there were other job opportunities at that company that I might be interested in later on.

      1. CN*

        Of course, if she didn’t know, then it’s not unreasonable to react the way she did. I’m not arguing that.

        I’m more wondering about the *objective* appropriateness/inappropriateness of the act. A large number of people seem to agree that it is *objectively* inappropriate to be hitting on someone in this context (w/ the power imbalance, etc.) when that overture includes a physical/sexual element. What I’m asking is — does that NOT change, or does it in fact change, if we hypothetically DO take out the physical/sexual element? If the overture is hypothetically TRULY only romantic, is it still just as inappropriate?

      2. CN*

        Just as a caveat — I asked this question because I noticed that in a lot of the comments, as soon as “non-physical attraction” was brought up, people seemed to jump to thinking, “Oh, it would be fine if he simply asked her to a professional event/hobby.”

        But note that that’s NOT what I’m talking about here. Since people do exist who identify as romantic asexual, I think it’s a worthy thought experiment: hiring manager DOES in fact have romantic interest, here, but because of his sexual orientation, no, was NOT in fact summing her up physically/sexually. He was interested in her as a *romantic partner,* but it was for personality-related/etc. reasons. Is it still inappropriate?

  39. BCW*

    Another question for everyone, kind of piggybacking on CN’s question above, and this is very serious in case you think I’m just trying to stir the pot.

    Many people are saying that the biggest problem is taking the info he got for professional use and using it for personal use. If the interaction was strictly platonic between 2 straight guys or 2 straight women, would the reaction be the same? Hypothetical situation. Lets say that I was a huge rugby fan, but none of my friends liked it. I was on the interviewing side of the interaction. The guy I’m interviewing seemed really cool and we got along well. It also turned out we were fans of the same English rugby team, and we both liked to go out saturday morning’s to watch their matches, but since none of our friends were fans, we just went alone to the bar. If this guy turned down the job, would it still be as inappropriate for me to use his contact info to see if he wanted to go watch a game together? I mean that line is still being crossed, but for a non sexual reason. For those people who thought the use of the information was the bad part, does this situation change anything?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think the biggest problem is that he used her contact info, because I would have no problem with him having emailed her to invite her to a professional conference or to a networking lunch. The problem is that he hit on her in an inappropriate context.

    2. AMG*

      I think Alison’s example and BCW’s example are too different because Alison’s is a professional invite versus a social one. If I hit it off with the interviewer, turned down the job, an then the female interviewer called to see if I wanted to go do seething purely social…

      I guess it would depend on how much I felt like we really clicked. It could be odd or uncomfortable if she felt like we could be friends and I just thought it was a nice conversation. My personality is pretty open and friendly so I would probably be ok with it. I could see a lot of people being a little weirded out though.

      As an aside, it seems like you are looking for a clear cut guideline, BCW, and I don’t think one exists. You would have to look at asking a woman out in a professional context as a bit of risk regardless. I would use the ‘reasonable doubt’ rule, and if you think that it’s pretty clear that you are getting signals from her, then do it. If you aren’t sure, then don’t. I just don’t think there’s a way to take 100% of the ambiguity out of the situation.

  40. Helen*

    All these hypotheticals… when a very real thing has happened to the LW. I believe I see a few people trying to determine if they can absolve their own behavior because they don’t want to believe that they have been creepy in the past, or are being creepy currently.

      1. Helen*

        I think it would be beneficial if you would take a closer look at what is motivating your comments and why you are trying to frame LW’s situation in the way that you are.

      2. late to the party*

        BCW, out of curiosity, do you believe everything you write on here or is your goal to provide a counterargument and some healthy opposition?

        1. BCW*

          Nope. I agree with everything I say. As a minority person myself who has lived with discrimination, I think I can still say people over react. Whether its my friends claiming racism when I don’t see it, or people claiming sexism when I don’t see it. Thats the thing. I’m not saying these things don’t exist, but I am saying some people look for the absolute worst motivation for things sometime. Thats what I think happened here. i think people read a lot into a very innocent act. As they say, sometimes the simplest explanation is the right one. He wanted a date. He wasn’t doing anything more. However it does seem that, especially with gender issues, if I’m in the minority and don’t agree, people can’t respect that. They think I’m sexist, don’t respect women, etc just because I have the nerve to say someone possibly overreacted to something.

          1. late to the party*

            Hey, guess what — I’m a woman and I think sometimes women overreact to things, too. I tend to not really like or use the word creepy because of that, and I am a huge defender of socially awkward people, including men, who maybe get disdainfully called creepy because they’re fumbling with the socially appropriate way to approach women.

            But also — I don’t tell black people that they’re overreacting. I don’t know what it’s like to be black. If a group of black people overwhelmingly told me that they thought something was offensive, instead of trying to argue without reservations that they were wrong, I would very strongly consider the possibility that they were not overreacting. And anyway, do you generally find the people reading this blog to be irrational? Do you trust Alison’s judgement, and if not, why do you read what she writes?

            Regarding people not respecting your opinion: plenty of people here have respected your opinion enough to respond to it, cordially. I don’t remember “people,” the majority of commenters on here, calling you sexist or disrespectful of women, and certainly not “just because you have the nerve to say someone possibly overreacted to something.” You’re telling us that you know she did.
            You’ve commented all over this thread to tell people that their vicarious feelings of discomfort with this situation are overreactions. You didn’t say, in passing, “hmm, maybe he didn’t mean to be inappropriate and this lady is overreacting” and then continue on with your day. You are speaking as the authority on gender relations, not providing a healthy counterargument just for the sake of consideration. That annoys people, especially the ones you’re condescendingly telling that they’re overreacting.

            This guy wanted a date. He asked for one. Simple action. I grant you that. The reasons that’s problematic are varied. I’d repeat them here, but they’re hashed out above and below for you to read if you’d like.

    1. AMG*

      I really feel like there is a sincere intent to understand this and that nobody should be slapped down for discussing or even disagreeing. Maybe he has asked a woman out and is upset to see so many make the ‘creepy’ comments, but maybe not. I don’t think the conversation is helped by assuming the worst about anyone.

      These are normal guys asking questions about a real situation, an I think we all should focus on the explanations and understanding versus judgments about one another.

      1. Helen*

        I don’t disagree that some are really approaching this with sincere intent to understand this issue. That’s great. I feel like I’ve been seeing two kinds of intent to understand, though: 1) those who really want to understand and want to know how they should act in situations like these, and 2) those who want to have a very specific kind of understanding based on some dismissal of other people’s concerns in favor of being able to act as or have the worldview that they always have.

        It doesn’t seem very productive to have a conversation with people coming from the second kind of intent. And that’s what I’ve been seeing in some of the comment threads above – continual dismissal of other people’s lived experiences and concerns. And you could very reasonably argue that this comes from both ‘sides,’ though I would say that the impact of one ‘side’s’ dismissals are not equal to the other’s.

        I know that many-to-all of those who are posting are normal guys, but even normal people in general seem to have a hard time looking at their own actions and motivations. It wouldn’t be bad if people were asked more or questioned about where they’re coming from and why they’re saying what they are.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I agree. I’d also add that I think there two different steps to understanding women’s concerns about harassment, objectification, etc.

          The first stage is a basic understanding that it is indeed bad to harass women, treat them as sexual objects without invitation, do things that most people would consider obviously sexist (such as hire a less qualified man over a more qualified women because he’s a man), etc. It sounds like everyone commenting here, men and women, gets this first stage.

          But there’s also a second stage, which is harder and more nuanced, about the social constructs of gender and power and privilege. When issues in this second group come up, you see a lot of people who fully get the first set of issues getting defensive — they’re good people, after all! They oppose inequality, they often consider themselves feminists, and how dare anyone say that they’re being sexist, because they stand up for women’s rights in all kind of situations (situations in the first category). But that reaction ends up coming across as defensiveness and minimizing the concerns of those talking about the second-stage issues — and prevents them from starting to understand the second stage stuff too.

          You see these two stages with race issues too. Most good people understand that hiring a white person over a black person because of race is bad, or that telling racist jokes is bad, etc. But they don’t always understand some of the more nuanced stuff that goes along with race (and I’m including myself there). Example: They don’t always intuitively get that a black person who is doing poorly at her job might be doing poorly because her boss hasn’t given her the same feedback that would be given to a white person — because he feels less comfortable having those conversations with someone of a different race or is even worried that their racial differences will be used against him in that conversation. That person might still be doing poorly at her job — maybe even deserves to be fired. But there are racial dynamics that helped push the situation there.

          When someone is a member of the dominant racial group, they don’t always get how their own racial privilege can make it hard to understand how race plays out in other people’s lives. And so you get lots of good people who hate the idea of racism getting defensive and blocking out messages about the ways that their own behavior and viewpoints might still indeed be impacted by racism. The same thing happens on gender issues.

          That’s a hard f’ing message to hear. I struggle with it. Most if not all of us here probably do. I’m certainly not there yet — not on race, not on gender, and not on other issues too. This stuff is subtle and it’s hard to grapple with, even when you’re well-intentioned. But one big thing we can do in situations where we’re a member of the privileged group is to listen when others tell us about their experiences and work to understand … not dismiss them.

          In any case, I think all of this is playing out in this discussion in a big way and explains why plenty of good men and women who oppose sexism and consider themselves feminist are having trouble hearing/understanding what the other group of people in this conversation are saying.

          1. Another Laura*

            Thanks for writing this, Alison. I so, so appreciate that this is a blog that I can rely on for solid career advice that is also aware of and sympathetic to issues of privilege and discrimination and the often very subtle subtext that comes with those issues. In short, this blog feels like a safe, supportive space for women. It’s huge that you don’t shy away from that.

            And your comment perfectly expresses what I think is at the heart of this debate. Thank you.

        2. late to the party*

          I also have to add that women don’t need to be endlessly patient and repeat themselves to someone who is so apparently convinced that the OP is oversensitive. It’s pretty exhausting to listen to and respond to someone who is making no effort to sincerely consider what’s being said by a lot of intelligent, relatively fair and (by my estimation) honest women. I think BCW might do well to step away for awhile, reread all of the nuanced and well-written things on here about what it’s like to be a woman, and proceed from there — that is, if he’s actually interested in understanding.

          1. BCW*

            This right here is my problem. I’m hardly the only person with the POV that I am sharing, but “late to the party” is trying to call me out for things. I get what you are saying. I don’t need to step away from anything. I don’t agree. Period. I don’t care how well written it is, if I don’t agree, then thats it.

            1. Another Laura*

              BCW, you’re certainly not the only one but you *are* the most vocal of the “dissenting” commenters, so it’s not surprising that people are singling you out.

              It’s okay that you don’t agree with us, and in fact I appreciate that you’ve fostered such an important debate here.

              I guess when it comes to your comments, I just feel like a lot of what you say is based on how *you* would feel or react if you were the OP, or how other women you know might feel or react. And obviously that’s fine and normal and how most of us form our opinions.

              But lots of us here are telling you that we *wouldn’t* feel or react the way you would, and your response to that is what’s confusing/frustrating. When we tell you that our life experiences have led us to feel differently about this than you do, your response is that these experiences are not as…important/relevant/valid as the experiences of you and those who agree with you.

              Also, I just want to throw this out there:
              Let’s say the OP *is* overreacting, that she’s just overly sensitive. That doesn’t make her feelings *wrong*. It doesn’t at all change her right to tell the guy that what he did made her uncomfortable – because it did! She is allowed to feel uncomfortable about anything she wants, and she is allowed to ask people to stop – just as they are allowed to say “no.” No one, male or female, ever needs permission to let someone know that they have crossed a line, even if someone else thinks that line is completely insane.

            2. Anonymous*

              “But there’s also a second stage, which is harder and more nuanced, about the social constructs of gender and power and privilege. ”

              Are you saying that you don’t ‘agree’ that this part of Alison’s last statement is true or relevant? Because if not, that’s clearly where a lot of the disconnect is coming from and you’ll be fighting an uphill battle getting the people on this comment board to see things your way, because for them that second stage isn’t about ‘believing’ or ‘agreeing’; it’s a concrete part of their daily experience.

              But if you do agree that some interactions can’t be looked at in simple and surface level terms because of privilege/power/social construct/systematic oppression, then I really don’t see where you’re coming from even days later.

          2. Bobby Digital*

            Yes to the lack of a need for endless patience and explanation!

            Luckily, I (and many, many other women – hopefully most other women) live with a non-creep. I have not had to explain to him why some members of his gender creep me out. He does not make me defend my feelings when the occasional creepy thing happens.

            The point is that, in a way, BCW is right. A lot of men are really great, sane, cool people. Definitely. So we don’t need to spend a whole lot of patience or effort converting the ones who aren’t.

            On the other hand, if we want to, we totally should. Because it sets the record straight, because it’s fun to teach people, whatever. But, yeah, we don’t -have- to.

            1. Bobby Digital*

              That said, in the context of this 460+ comments conversation, I want to say:

              On a personal (and practical-see “setting the record straight”) level, I very much appreciate Alison’s consistent and firm approach here.

  41. Working Girl*

    Either no reply or if you do reply, tell him you are in a committed relationship and you are not interested in him (even if you are not in a relationship). Cut it off right there plain and simple or he may continue his advances. Do not email him anymore, block him if you must, no coffee, no contact with him. If you continue to email him, he will think you are teasing him and continue his pursuit- creepy men are like that. I got this advise from a man previously and it seems to be the only one that works for me. That way if you run into him again professional you didn’t lead him on or leave him hanging on – not that you did, just that he may think that in his mind. He might do this to everyone he interviews to see who he gets a response from.

    1. Bobby Digital*

      I totally get the purpose of telling him you’re in a committed relationship with a bodybuilding -police detective- gun collector. Or whatever. Been there, done that.

      It can, though, send the signal that you’d be interested if you weren’t in a relationship. Which, sure, who cares because you can just keep saying it.

      I guess I just want to live in a world where, when a hiring manager steals my email address in hopes of eventually seeing me naked or starting a family with me or having long weepy conversations about how much we love the same stuff, I can be like, “No, because you’re a weirdo and I’m wholly disinterested in weirdos.”

    2. anon*

      No, don’t tell him you’re in a committed relationship already. Just tell him you are not interested, and you find it rather inappropriate that he used your professional contact information that you gave in a professional context for personal reasons.

  42. LovelyLibrarian*

    I know this thread is basically done at this point, but I found this article and thought it very relevant to the discussion. The OP says “I feel totally creeped out and disheartened” and I think a lot of the comments (including mine) overlooked her personal experience in favor of a broader discussion of “creepiness.” This article addresses the definition of “creepy” by women in general.

  43. David*

    It makes ya wonder why people work for themselves less hassle I work from home and have little hassle just a lot of time to do as i want

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