is it presumptuous to ask for an office, giving feedback to a creepy rejected job candidate, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Is it presumptuous to ask for an office?

I manage 5 people. Currently, there are four other managers (only 2 actually have reports like me) and we all sit among everyone else in cubes. My boss has talked with me before about her desire to have people see me as someone with more authority — specifically someone who can be her right hand. I also find it difficult to get things done because I’m constantly distracted by people asking me questions and I always have to go to conference rooms anytime I need to gave a conversation with someone that others shouldn’t hear. I’ve been in this position for almost three years and would at least like to know if this is ever going to be a possibility. But I don’t want my boss to view my request as presumptuous.

It’s not presumptuous to ask for something to help you do your job better, and this qualifies. Explain that you have a need for privacy when having conversations others shouldn’t hear, like talking about performance issues, giving developmental feedback, or anything else that might be sensitive (like a conversation about accommodating a medical issue), and ask if it would be possible to have a more private space, ideally an office. If it’s not possible, then so be it, but it’s entirely reasonable to ask (and in general, it’s crazy to try to manage five people out in the open like that).

2. When a creepy candidate asks for feedback after being rejected

I’m a hiring manger at a small firm with no HR department. We reject candidates for a variety of reasons. Often it’s just a matter of them being not a great fit. Other times, it’s that they gave one or more of the interviewers the creeps. Totally not tangible and not even easy to explain, but if the decision isn’t unanimous, we don’t proceed. Invariably the “creepy” candidate are the ones who want feedback. I know enough to know that “you creep people out” isn’t a professional reply, so how do I respond?

This situation is tailor-made for a bland response like, “We had a number of well-qualified candidates, and ultimately selected a candidate whose experience was the best match with our needs.”

People aren’t entitled to feedback, and if you’d rather not have an awkward conversation, you’re under no obligation to provide a more specific answer.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Vendor wanted to videotape his training presentation at our office

We have a weird issue at my work and want to know if this is something common! We had a vendor come to do some introductory training for our small company (he is American, ours is a Canadian company, if it matters). He set up a camcorder to videotape his own day-long presentation, and when my boss asked why he was taping it, the vendor first got flustered and offended, and then said it was because “my company wants to make sure I really did do the training for you guys.” The subject was quickly dropped.

To us, that sounds very unusual–like his company doesn’t trust him. It’s not like ours is an exotic destination (trust me, nobody wants to visit this part of Ontario in March) that would make a good vacation. He has been doing this kind of training for several years. The only way I could see it making sense would be if they were afraid he’d disclose trade secrets–but even then, there’s no point in even telling us that kind of knowledge. Is this common practice for companies–to tape travel presentations to make sure they “actually happened?” Who would watch this? Why would they want to?

I’d think it would be more likely to be a quality control issue — that they want to see how his trainings are going, rather than that they want proof that it happened at all, particularly since (a) there are easier ways to get proof, like calling to ask about how satisfied you were afterwards, and (b) not trusting your own staff member to that extent is a sign of a much bigger problem. But it’s bizarre either way. And I’d be really annoyed if a vendor assumed he could videotape me or my staff without asking about it beforehand.

4. Can I tell an employer to delete the presentation file I used at my interview?

Following an interview, who retains copyright of a PowerPoint presentation — the employer or the candidate who prepared the file? When a candidate has submitted a presentation via email prior to the interview as requested, can the company be told to delete the file from their system or do they now have “ownership”? I just wondered as it’s not like a PDF file. The contents of the PP presentation could be copied and potentially used by others.

You don’t work for them, so you’d retain copyright. However, emailing them to tell them to delete the file is going to come across really oddly — it’ll make you look both paranoid and naive (naive because unless you did an extraordinary amount of work for this PowerPoint, it’s highly unlikely they’d want to steal it).

5. Should I mention my dad in a cover letter?

My dad knows I’m looking for a new position and he sometimes sends me job postings he receives through his network if he thinks I’ll like them. He sent me one yesterday that I love and I’m definitely going to apply. He said in his email to let him know if I applied, because he knows the organization well and could maybe vouch for me.

I was wondering now: do I mention I saw their job posting because my dad sent it to me? He is very well known and respected in the field he works in (and I’m applying for), so much that when I tell people working in the same field that he’s my dad, they’re always a bit in awe. But on the other hand, it feels a bit cheeky. I really don’t need my dad in this, I’m very well qualified for the job and could probably get an interview based on my resumé alone (I’m exactly what they describe they want/need in the posting). Although maybe it wouldn’t hurt? I really don’t know.

I definitely wouldn’t mention that your dad is the one who sent you the posting. In this context, it will sound like name-dropping. If anything, you could have him mention to his contacts there that you applied, which it sounds like will increase your chances of getting an interview. However, the flip side of that is that then you’ll be forever tagged as “Bob’s daughter” and people will possibly wonder whether that’s the reason you were hired (if you end up getting hired). So you just have to weigh all that and decide what makes the most sense to you.

(By the way, while I obviously don’t know anything about your qualifications, in general it’s good to be wary about assuming you’ll definitely get an interview, no matter how qualified you are. Companies pass over well-qualified candidates all the time, simply because they have far more than they can interview. So that’s worth factoring into your calculations too.)

{ 194 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous for this one*


    As usual, AAM’s advice is spot on, so there’s nothing more for me to add other than “+1” and some personal anecdotes.

    I have a very well connected family member in my field. She’s not a parent, and we don’t share the same last name, so there’s no way one could ever put 2 and 2 together and figure we know each other.

    What you should know is that connections get you interviews. If your connections are close to the hiring manager/decision maker, and can speak to your work personally, then they can get you jobs.

    My well-connected family member was on a first name basis with the CEO at my old job, and sits on the BOD at my current job. That means her connections are high level — certainly good enough to get me face time with decision makers. At OldJob, I got an interview slot very shortly after first contact, so I never needed to name drop. I did after I started :) I never wanted to feel like I got my job because of who I know, not because of my merits.

    Current job is a much larger company, and while Connection knows the BOD and senior executives, she doesn’t no anybody who actually does the hiring. And my qualifications stand out enough on their own that I never needed her to go to bat for me.

    It turns out the useful connection I have at CurrentJob is that my department manager is neighbors with VP from OldJob. VP could speak to my work directly, and hiring manager, is well, a decision maker. Department manager at CurrentJob literally told me the job was mine if I could pass muster with the rest of the panel.

    All that said, I’ve applied to jobs in my field that I think I’m well qualified for. I get phone screened by maybe 50%-75% (I’m talking a sample size that I can count on no more than two hands, so it’s not huge.) TBH, I’m always puzzled when I don’t get calls from jobs in my niche. I’m good at what I do, and have REALLY good experience. Why wouldn’t I get called? That’s a bit of a rhetorical question, but it makes me realize that if I’m only batting .750 on jobs that I think my resume should get me on my own merits, god help me if I expand my horizons a bit.

    Bottom line, I’m now know longer shy about using connections to get interviews. There’s no harm in that.

    Side note: CurrentJob has pictures of the BOD on the wall. I have to look at a mug shot of FamilyMember every time I go to work. I guess that’s better than being “Bob’s daughter” though.

    1. Nadia*

      I also like Alison’s advice assuming you’ll definitely get an interview because you feel or know that you’re qualified for a job. This makes it very easy to fall in love with your “dream job” and become emotionally invested, then fall to disappointment when you don’t get a call. I and many people I know have applied for jobs where we were exactly what they wanted/needed, yet heard nothing. Especially in this employer’s economy, it’s a numbers games and very easy to slide through the cracks.

      That being said, I agree. People shouldn’t be shy about using connections to get interviews, as long as you approach it in the right way. Sometimes it truly is who you know rather than what you know.

      1. fposte*

        Though I didn’t see the OP assuming that she would get an interview–she just said that she “could probably get an interview based on the resume alone,” which didn’t seem that certain, just noting that her candidacy wouldn’t necessarily flounder without her dad’s clout.

    2. Sunflower*

      I agree with all of this and wanted to add that there is a chance people will eventually find out that you’re ‘Bob’s Daughter’ anyway so I wouldn’t let that sway you from telling your dad you applied and letting him tell his contacts

      1. Elsajeni*

        Yes, this is what I was thinking, especially if Bob/Dad is still active in the field himself — if nothing else, he’ll be talking to someone from your company one day and say, “Oh yeah, my daughter works at TeapotCorp! I hear you guys are doing great things in spouts over there.”

        For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t worry too much about being tagged as “Bob’s daughter,” anyway. I recently started working in the same department where my dad is a (senior, well-respected) faculty member, and I worried a little about what people would assume about me if they knew I was his daughter, so I tried to keep it quiet… right, that lasted until the first time someone from my office mentioned “the new girl” in his hearing and triggered Proud Dad Mode. But as I’ve settled in and become more confident in the work I’m doing, I’m not really worried about it anymore. I know I’m qualified, I know my work demonstrates that, and if anyone has doubts, well, they can take a look at my work and see for themselves.

        1. Jeanne*

          Very early in my career, I worked on a project where my father was the senior technical leader. It was a bit awkward at first, but when my colleagues started stuttering about DrJeannesDad, I would just say “Wakeen?”, and we all moved on. I did have to ask Dad to take my picture off his desk …

    3. Anonymous*

      What if he wasn’t her father, but a family friend or someone she knew professionally instead? Then would it be appropriate to say “John Doe referred me to your job posting” in the cover letter? What are the rules for name dropping?

    4. Marcy*

      You mention that there is no harm in using your connections to get the job. That may be true in some cases or even a lot of cases. I don’t hire co-workers’ friends, relatives, etc. Period. No exceptions. I’ve seen too many problems with doing that. It has happened to me in the past and I have seen it more recently when others have done it. It is too messy when you have to discipline/fire that employee. Just keep in mind that some hiring managers prefer to hire people based on their merit, not on their DNA and your connections might even count against you if you flaunt them.

  2. R2D2*

    I do wish that more people would give feedback at least anonymously over “creepy” candidates. Sometimes I wonder how much of it is cultural — like maybe their friends and family told the candidate, “Always meet the interviewer’s gaze; it shows confidence!” while the interviewer felt like the candidate was staring at them inappropriately.

    1. Dan*

      Eh. That stuff is hard to deliver in a way that wouldn’t come across as a personal criticism. Frankly, I don’t want feedback like that. Plus, that kind of stuff is almost inviting an argument – when its that subjective, they’re not going to take that fedback quietly.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        You’re right, is is, which is why most people don’t broach the topic. It’s too bad though, because this is probably the type of feedback that would help people the most. But how do you tactfully and politely say, “There was just something about you that gave us the heebie-jeebies. You should work on that. Have a nice day!”

        1. Whippers*

          Well, assuming the perceived creepiness is caused by something tangible that the person can change. Otherwise it could just seem as an assault on that person’s character.

          1. Whippers*

            Also, I think that while a person may come across as creepy when you first meet them, that perception can change once you get to know them and you realise that it’s just a personality tic.
            I would be more concerned about the people who seem really pleasant and smooth when you first them and then turn out to be complete weirdos.

          2. Ruffingit*

            Exactly, this is where the problem comes in. Many of the creepy vibes are intangible gut feelings and trying to explain that isn’t helpful at all and is likely to give the candidate a complex because they know now that they’re giving off creepy vibes, but they don’t know exactly how and therefore they have nothing they can change. Meanwhile, now that they know, it’s forever sitting in their brain and they are just hoping they aren’t giving off those vibes to all interviewers, etc.

            1. Just a Reader*

              This is why I love The Gift of Fear. If you look hard enough, “gut feelings” are reactions to behaviors or situations–so there’s really no such thing as something you can’t put your finger on. You just have to look really hard at what you’re reacting to and why.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                However, you can’t rule out that the off-putting feeling could be coming from something about the person that just triggers something in you (like they may innocently remind you of something or someone vastly unpleasant). Looking at that reaction closely, as you advise, should help you figure that out, though.

                1. Whippers*

                  +1 Definitely. Additionally, I have found sometimes that some people I have taken adverse reactions to actually remind me of something in myself that I don’t like.

                  Also, I suffer strongly with anxiety and often get gut reactions to people and places based on very insignificant things. I have learned mostly to work through these reactions as clearly it isn’t possible to always go with your gut (or healthy. Or correct for that matter)

                2. Ruffingit*

                  This. It’s not always about the other person, it can definitely be coming from you too.

        2. Dan*

          Not to plagiarize, but “We had a number of well-qualified candidates, and ultimately selected a candidate whose experience was the best match with our needs.”

          Come to think of it, I’ve actually had a few interviews where I *wouldn’t* want their feedback. I mean, *they* turned *me* off, and I feel like sending them letters saying “here’s why you suck” instead.

          1. Ruffingit*

            I have had those kinds of interviews too. You are relieved to be rejected because having to interact with them again even to send an email rejecting the job is too much to contemplate.

    2. Chinook*

      Be careful about feedback surrounding eye contact, though. Some cultures, such as some Native American/Canadian tribes, consider direct eye contact as rude and it takes a lot to overcome that body language. And it is not because you are taught not to do it but because you are surrounded by people not doing it. I know because I was surrounded by Cree until I was 7 and am the only family member who has issues with eye contact because I was the only one surrounded by friends and their families (but only my mom and dad. And a few of their white friends who were white) since we moved south after that. Since natives are a discrimated against minority, this could cause issues.

        1. Chinook*

          But is it right (or even legal) to reject a candidate for a cultural norm (lack of eye contact vs. Full eye contact) that dispraportionally impacts a cultural/legal group that has historically been discriminated against. In the Canadian experience, in residential schools, this can be a hot button issue as one of the things a child would be beaten for would be lack of eye contact (as well as speaking their native language, boys wearing braids and other cultural practices).

          I guess I should reframe my question – if what one culture considers creepy is a norm in a different culturen does rejecting a potential employee based on that, does this reduce cultural diversity or it more important to have an office where no one feels creeped out?

          1. fposte*

            Good questions, and the answer could be complicated. Some of this will be position-dependent, too–a public-facing role is going to have different behavioral standards than one where somebody just deals with equipment.

          2. Ruffingit*

            I think this is a very complicated question, but I would also say that some of the onus is on the candidate to learn the cultural norms of the place they’re applying to. I wouldn’t apply for a job in Germany for example without doing some research into what is acceptable/expected in terms of resume/cover letter/interviewing techniques, etc. So that is part of it too.

            1. Jessa*

              True, but you may not be able to change your body language in any small amount of time. Things like that take years, PRESUMING you even know to change it. In some cultures the beckoning gesture is rude to humans (it’s only used on animal companions.) If you have no idea about this and your research doesn’t cover it, you have to hope that someone is kind enough to call you on it, before it becomes a big thing.

              The issue is you can only research a question around a subject you know exists. You could research German job searching practise til you’re blue in the face but might never come across (this is made up not a real thing) everyone wears blue on Friday because of some cultural remembrance thing. Because maybe sites for information on German job searching think it’s so ubiquitous and internationally known that they don’t bother to mention it.

              And if you have no idea to research cultural dress norms, you’re stuck. If someone did something culturally weird, I’d probably first look to see if they’re from the same culture as I am before I docked mental “job fit” points for it.

              1. Ruffingit*

                I agree there is no way to research everything and I’m not suggesting someone do so. I’m just saying as a general thing, it’s helpful to at least make an effort. Are you going to hit all possible points of difference? No, of course not. But doing some due diligence is fair to ask.

    3. rebma*

      This was my question. Yeah, it’s really hard to describe. They vary between waaay too eager (offering to fly to my home town to “get a feel for the place”) and waaay too disinterested. It’s hard to give examples without calling out specific candidates. :-(

    4. Artemesia*

      Anything that is ‘cultural’ is going to invite litigation around discrimination. And people who are insensitive enough to be creepy where it is not clearly a cultural issue, are not going to take feedback well.

      1. The IT Manager*

        Thing is most people will not assume lack of contact to be cultural – more than cultural they may jump to autism or Aspberger’s before assuming a different cultural norm. They may not even define it as “lack of eye contact;” it could just be a shifty expression which turns into “he was kind of creepy and I got an untrustworthy vipe from him.”

      2. De Minimis*

        It is best to err on the side on not hiring someone who gives a “creepy” vibe. At my workplace they hired someone like that and it was apparently such a fiasco to where they still talk about the guy even though he was fired over a year ago.

        Unfortunately, government hiring practices often make it harder to screen out certain personality traits…

    5. H. Vane*

      I have a really hard time judging the amount of eye contact that’s appropriate – I suddenly wonder if I’m creepy…

    6. 2 cents*

      I try to give feedback when candidates ask for it, but it really depends on the candidate. However, when I do deliver feedback for those who made others feel uncomfortable, I will give a suggestion on a better way to respond, pose a question or present information or attitude. For example, one candidate had familiarized themselves with everyone’s LinkedIn profile that was scheduled to interview and then conducted their own interview with the people on the panel on their background. I first gave the positive feedback and then mentioned some concerns or comments from those that interviewed, then suggested that the question change to “In researching the company, I noticed on LinkedIn that you and your team have a lot of experience in XYZ. In looking back in the first part of your career and knowing now what you didn’t know then, what would you say are the biggest challenges for someone new to this role/industry/etc. would face” Another candidate was packing up before the last interviewer had finished and the panel felt that they had checked out of the process long before it was over. So that feed back was delivered as “Our team thought you gave really good examples of XYZ and were impressed with ABC that you had accomplished. With that said, even though I was aware that you had already had a long day, there were some concerns on the level of enthusiasm that you displayed or your lack of specific examples of your experience in DEF.” I have found that feedback when specifically identified and presented in a way that doesn’t cast judgement is usually well received and gives the candidate the information that they asked for. However, if a candidate doesn’t ask for feedback, I never offer it.

  3. periwinkle*

    #3 with the videotaping vendor: I can think of several reasons why the vendor would want the representative to record a presentation. Some are benign, such as assessing the current materials and script/talking points and how they play out in an actual presentation. Some are performance-oriented but not necessarily specific to that representative, such as reviewing multiple recent presentations to assess consistency of message or seeing what sort of questions arise in different types of audiences. And yes, it could be that the company is getting some negative feedback about this particular rep and wants to see that person in action in front of a genuine audience. From the rep’s response, I gather this is the situation.

    It’s still rude of the company to do the recording without getting permission from your company first, though.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      Since this is the only reply about this question so far, I’ll tag on here. Personally, my suspicion is that the rep was in fact NOT recording the presentation at the request of his company but rather for his personal use, which is why he was flustered and came up with such a terrible excuse when called on it.

      1. pgh_adventurer*

        But he could have been flustered because the real reason was performance issues, which would also explain the poor excuse.

      2. Jen RO*

        My first thought was that they wanted to use the recording further – sell it to other clients (cheaper than an in-person training) or use it internally.

      3. AdAgencyChick*

        This is exactly what I thought — that if there were an aboveboard reason to do this, the rep would have been smooth in his response (“We take video of all training we conduct, so as to train our own reps better” or something like that). My immediate instinct was “this guy wants to beef up his portfolio for a job search.”

        On the other hand, as a poster below pointed out, I guess if the reason is that he’s being monitored due to performance issues, that’s the one legitimate reason I guess I can imagine him being flustered.

        In any case, to the OP — whether it’s aboveboard or not, whether or not he should do it ought to be up to YOUR company, not his. If you and your colleagues don’t want to be videotaped, I think you’re well within your rights to say so — and if he objects, ask to speak to his manager. He’ll either back down (especially if he’s doing this on his own initiative) or, if this is really something the vendor wants to do, they’ll probably decide it’s not worth annoying a client in order to do it.

        1. OP #3*

          Thanks all! My boss evidently spoke with the vendor a bit further and it was described as a way for the home office to see if us (the trainees) were engaged and asking questions, which I assume ties into a discussion of performance issues, etc. I think we all would have vastly preferred he asked first rather than forcing my boss to ask an awkward question “So, what’s with the video camera?” which was also on the tape for posterity.

          The vendor was also fairly rude about Canada at a couple of points, so I don’t know that we’ll be clamoring for another visit from this guy. He didn’t exactly rocket to the top of our Favourite Vendor list!

          1. Persephone Mulberry*

            Oh, geez. I can’t wait for that guy’s manager to review the tape. “You said WHAT about Canada? Did you forget you’re IN Canada?”

          2. Leah*

            Other than the weather, what’s there to pick on Canada about? Maybe it’s a good thing that his boss might review the tape.

          3. Artemesia*

            I gotta think he thought he was being charming about Canada with his ‘joke’ or comment — I mean who insults the country in which one is presenting?

            But no one video tapes people without their permission; setting up for video without clearing it with the client is completely out of line.

          4. AdAgencyChick*

            That’s a dumb vendor, then. Since this is a regular practice of theirs, they ought to know to ask permission or at least inform the clients of what they are doing and why instead of just plopping a camera in front of you!

    2. Graciosa*

      In most large companies I have worked for, this would be more than just rude. We have policies prohibiting the use of cameras (including camera phones) within the facility without permission. These are posted at all entrances, and visitors must agree to abide by them – in writing – in order to be admitted to the facility.

      These policies are in place to protect information. In some cases, this was government classified or export restricted, but I have seen it at firms where the information was merely business confidential. In all cases, there were processes to apply for permission in advance which required clear disclosure of exactly what images you wanted to capture.

      The two takeaways would be:

      1. You do not have to give permission to visitors to film – whether or not you have a formal policy; and
      2. Take the time to read the visitors log statement and anything else you’re given the next time you’re asked to sign in.

    3. hayling*

      I agree. Vendor having a legitimate reason to videotape is not a bad thing, but it’s way better to ask then to just set it up.

  4. Sophie*

    #1 – very good advice.

    By way of anecdote, we had a junior assistant (in a law firm) ask for, and then repeat to several other people when she was refused, that she should have the spare office, even though in our firm only lawyers have offices.

    She was very dogmatic about it – claiming she needed privacy, and that the phones kept distracting her.

    It was her job to answer the phones.

    Now, that (I believe) is a situation where it was presumptuous of her to ask to be moved to the spare office! It showed a complete lack of understanding of office culture at best.

    But when you’re managing 5 people, doesn’t sound presumptuous at all, unless the culture is that no one but the CEO has an office.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      “But when you’re managing 5 people, doesn’t sound presumptuous at all, unless the culture is that no one but the CEO has an office.”

      This. OP, would this make you the only person with your job title to have an office? Rather, is there anyone *around* your job title who does? It’s a totally reasonable request if, say, you are one step below the title that typically gets an office, since you’ve said your manager sees you as becoming more of a right-hand person. So it sounds like you’re moving up in the world. But if your title is Assistant Teapot Designer and only VPs of Teapot Management (say, someone five job titles above you) have offices, unfortunately you *will* look out of line if you request one, no matter how many people you manage.

      (I say this as someone who manages a small team but has to do it out of a high-walled cube, because even SVP-level execs in my company have to share offices, and only C-levels get an office to themselves)

    2. Just a Reader*

      Great point–what’s the norm for your level.

      I would LOVE an office because my current work environment is very, very distracting. But I’m not even going to ask because nobody else at my level has one, and “I’m distracted” isn’t really a good argument. “I manage 5 people and need a place to converse and coach” is definitely a good case.

      It bums me out though because it’s so, so hard to be productive where I sit now.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Me too; I’m surrounded by people who do phone support, and I have trouble concentrating sometimes. Noise-reduction headphones and lots of music on my phone are my only salvation. But it would be nice to have an office. The sales rep for my department has one and he is never even in it. *sigh*

  5. Ann Furthermore*

    #1: Asking for an office

    I’m going to say that asking for this depends on 2 very important things: the culture of the company, and space considerations. If no one else at your level has an office, and/or if space is at a premium, a request like this could make you appear to be entitled and out of touch.

    At my company, you don’t get an office until you get to the director level, and the only exception to that rule is if you’re in HR or Payroll. Period. The 2 Payroll people share an office, that can be locked, but even in HR you don’t automatically get an office. At one point that group had its own secure area, with cubicles and a meeting room, but there were not offices for everyone.

    In addition, space is at a premium. We have lost many conference rooms over the last few years because people at higher levels have needed offices, and everyone else has to suffer. I actually find it quite aggravating because many of those people travel a great deal, so most of the time those offices sit empty, while the rest of us are having meetings in the cafeteria using someone’s blackberry for a conference call. Grr.

    Anyway — one guy was hired as a manager, started working there, and just couldn’t believe that he didn’t get his own office. He huffed and puffed about it very loudly, in the form of making comments about how this or that would be so much easier if he had his own office. He finally asked the facilities manager what it would take for him to get an office, since his position clearly warranted one, and she said, “Well first you need to get promoted to a director level position. And then you need to wait your turn,” because there were already quite a few directors who were still sitting in manager cubicles because there was not an office available for them.

    This guy is regarded as a rather clueless nitwit, and while his behavior about not having his own office is not the only reason why, it’s certainly part of it. In an environment like this, asking for your own office would get you laughed out to the street. Distractions? Use headphones. Need privacy? Schedule a meeting in a conference room. No conference rooms available? Use the empty office of the director who is travelling for a few weeks.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Absolutely re culture. At who has offices, and what office space is available first.

      In our company, it’s privacy need, not status.

      HR has a door that shuts. The CFO has a door that shuts.

      The principals of the company don’t. I’m responsible for just under 100 people and I don’t. (I had one years ago and couldn’t get out of there fast enough. ENFP! I need to breathe! Pretty sure I actually clawed the walls.)

      Somebody who managed 5 people who thought they needed an office to do that would be wildly out of touch in my company.

      Why not bring the problem and float the idea of the office as one possible solution. Better way of testing the waters while being open to other solutions.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        * “At who has offices, and what office space is available first. ”

        WTF was I saying there? Maybe evaluate first. We’ll go with that. (Got coffee in the middle of that post.)

      2. Ann Furthermore*

        I had an office at my very first job right after college, and since then, it’s been cubicle city. I would love to have an office — even a teeny tiny one — because I like my privacy, and also because the type of work I do does require intense concentration sometimes and it would be nice to be able to shut the door. But offices are, by and large, becoming a thing of the past.

        I console myself about this by remembering that at least in my company, the size of your workspace is directly proportional to the amount of BS you have to put up with, and the political maneuvering you have to do to navigate the shark-infested waters of management.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          I console myself about this by remembering that at least in my company, the size of your workspace is directly proportional to the amount of BS you have to put up with.

          This is hysterical.

          I wouldn’t be the HR director or the CFO for all the tea in China or coffee in Seattle.

        2. JCC*

          It depends on the size of the company. Large companies do the cubicle thing, but if you work for a small company, of course you’ll get your own office. :)

          1. Payroll Lady*

            Not necessarily. I work for a small company now and am in a cubicle. I am there PR/HR and Benefits person. However, the only people who have offices are the owners and 2 senior project managers. I actually like my cubicle though, more interaction with the others in the company. If I need privacy, I will use the field office.

    2. Jen RO*

      This was the culture at my previous company. When I joined, the general manager and HR had offices. When I left, no one did (the former offices had been turned into meeting rooms). No one, no matter how high up the ladder, could have gotten an office because there *were* no offices.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        It’s been that culture everywhere I’ve worked. And I do get it — if you’ve got permanent walls up everywhere, it’s hard to reconfigure things or move people around when you need to, plus it’s more cost effective to use cubicles. I still wish I had my own office, but in this day and age, for the kind of work I do, it’s never gonna happen and there’s nothing I can do about it.

        I did consulting for a few years, when I was going to client sites, and as a consultant, you’re lucky if there’s even a desk set up for you. I spent a miserable 18 months on a project at a large government agency where all consultants (about 20 of us) were crammed into a room that was maybe 800 square feet, in the bowels of the building, with no windows and terrible ventilation. By about 3:00 every afternoon, the room was low on oxygen and high on body heat. Awful. Then at about 5:30 the maintenance people would bust one of those huge polisher things on the ancient tile floor — every day! I called it the headache machine, and when it appeared I would pack it in and finish working from the sanctuary of my hotel room.

        1. Jen RO*

          I actually got an office at my new job (shared with one other person)… and I am so much happier now that I moved into the open space with everyone, after 5 months in the office!

        2. JCC*

          An office used to be a way for a company to demonstrate to an employee that they were committed to them for the long-haul. Now, I guess most companies are run by commitment-phobes. :)

    3. Brandy*

      Agree. I’m a director and I have an office but I usually work remotely. I tell my staff to treat it as their room and use it as needed.

      Are there spare offices to be had? If not definitely come up with another suggestion. Ie ask if it’s ok to book “office hours” in a conference room etc.

      Fwiw at my old job, only VPs got offices. And only the CEO, CFO and HR had a door!!!

    4. Green Button*

      I have four direct reports and about 20 – 25 people under them, and I don’t have my own office. While my office-mate is great, not being able to have quick private chats with my staff is incredibly frustrating.

      What makes it worse, is that others at my level (and even some below my level) have their own offices because their building has the additional space, my building is relatively new, but was constructed under the assumption that business needs and total number of employees would never change — who designs a building like that?!? Also, one conference room for 50 people, about half of whom manage others leads to lots of awkward cafeteria meetings.

  6. Christine*

    #1 – Take a look at who has offices in your company. If you’re reasonably close to the same level, it’s not inappropriate to ask. It would be inappropriate at my office – only VPs and C-level execs have offices. My director sits in the cubicle next to mine, and he has at least 20 direct reports.

    1. Jen RO*

      And I’m wondering what “it’s not like a PDF file” means… even if the PDF is protected, they could always type it up manually and reuse the content if they *really* wanted. To me it sounds a bit paranoid honestly.

      1. Elysian*

        Yeah, I felt like there must be something else going on here. Maybe the OP was asked to do something that could qualify as real work? Or maybe he put original photos or something in the powerpoint?

        1. Jen RO*

          Could be – but still, why request that the company delete it, when you have exactly zero guarantees that it will happen and you will only look paranoid?

    2. Brett*

      I’m guessing that it specifically contains design work. Most of my presentations include design work that took dozens to hundreds of hours to put together. I normally redistribute in an object embedded PDF, since it still allows access to the underlying data but makes it impossible to copy the design data (manually copying would take just as long as producing from scratch, if not longer).
      I honestly don’t use powerpoint at all anymore. If I need to protect my information, I can use other formats that does that (like prezi where I can make an embedded flash object instead). If I don’t need to protect my information, I’ll use an online resource like making a quick presentation webpage with github pages.

      1. Brett*

        I should also add that the main reason for using the PDF format is that it allows access to the data without needing the $5k software to load in the particular type of dataset and design file combination I use. I actually have very little interest in locking up the data most times. I am more concerned about people just asking me before redistributing so I can make sure they have the metadata too.

  7. I'll think of something later*

    I just want to speak up in defense of getting a job through a parent. While I do agree that you risk being seen as “so and so’s kid”, the downside usually goes away after a while if you are good at your job. People will forget how you got your job if they are happy to have you on board. I got my last job through a friend of my mom. It was because I had a needed skill that the friend knew of. I was uncomfortable about the whole thing but no one else cared because I did my job and did it well and was pleasant to work with and at the end of the day that’s really all my team cared about.

    1. Tina*

      That depends on how the individual and the managers handle it. I once worked at a place where they hired the friend of the manager’s daughter, who on paper was actually qualified. But they bypassed all the normal hiring procedures and basically just handed him the job. The managers also continued to coddle him and give him opportunities and privileges that no one else at his level got. As a result, all his peers resented and despised him, regardless of how capable he was.

      1. some1*

        Something similar happened at my former workplace. We had over 100 applicants for a certain position every time one became available, and one guy got hired because his dad was a big deal. He was hired into one division, and every time there was an opening in another division he applied and was always passed over.

      2. Artemesia*

        Our country is full of okay producers who were handed the most lucrative jobs in the country because of their connections. Sure they can do the jobs — but so could thousands of others who didn’t get the opportunity and thus is the class structure reinforced.

        I personally know a retired CEO of several Fortune 500 Companies who himself is entirely self made, but all of whose sons were handed cushy 6 figure jobs with no particularly distinction or effort on their part. They are all able to do the work; they are ‘fine.’ But other perhaps more talented candidates didn’t get hired so that these boys could have their path cleared. And the sons and daughters of other similarly placed executives get the same treatment.

    2. ali*

      Agreed. I had a great experience in a job where everyone knew whose daughter I was (although it did not come up until the interview, I purposely did not put it in the cover letter). If you’re good at what you do and get the interview on your own merits, you’ll get the job on your own merits as well.

      In my experience, people I worked with directly also worked directly with my father and were good friends of both my parents. When I left the job, they all told me how much they appreciated my skill and expertise and that they respect my parents even more after knowing me. They suddenly became “ali’s parents” rather than me being “bob’s daughter”.

    3. Simonthegrey*

      At one job, I started out as “Joan’s Daughter” because my mom did work there (not her name BTW). They were looking for a temporary employee to help with mailing at Christmas time, and I was home temporarily while in college, so it was a match. They offered me full time and I stayed there for 3 years. Mom and I were in separate areas, and other than the occasional customer service issue of needing an item sent to someone, we rarely interacted. It was a small company, everyone knew we were related, but she was CS and I was warehouse, so it didn’t make a difference.

  8. Not So NewReader*

    #1– Lots of great advice about looking around your work place to see what the hurdles are. I have only seen one person advocate for office space and win. This person had numerous strong reasons for needing that space (similar to things mentioned above) AND the person also had solutions in mind as to where to put that office.
    But wait to see if you are asked first- don’t just present solutions. However, if you reach the point where the conversation is serious enough that someone says “where-oh-where are we going to put this office?” Be ready with some modest suggestions. Your final hurdle could be your boss’ mental fatigue with all the other questions in front of her.
    This person in my story here ended up cleaning out a space then rebuilding it with leftover furniture from other offices. The person did the work themselves. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and to receive hand-me-downs. Fortunately, the person stayed focused on the goal of having office space and did not make this other stuff (cleaning and second hand furniture) become an issue.

    1. Artemesia*

      I worked in place where the space wars raged. After a merger I was moved from a huge office with conference table to what seemed to me to be a closet. Part of it was when departments were combined, the new guys got available space rather than the entire department re-organizing to incorporate new functions. I actually needed a larger office with certain characteristics to do my job which involved frequent work with teams I was managing.

      By identifying the need, describing what exactly was needed to meet it and then identifying 2 or 3 potential solutions, I convinced my boss who actually had some building renovation done to create the space I needed.

      The key after you have assessed whether any such request would be culturally appropriate, is to have a positive business need (not ‘I am distracted’ but ‘I need to meet with individuals to discuss issues requiring privacy’) and to suggest potential solutions. People who whine and are delicate flowers who can’t work the same way everyone else does in a cube farm are PITA to a boss. People who are positive and work productivity and solution oriented may get what they want.

  9. misspiggy*

    I wasn’t very impressed by the ‘creepiness’ OP. If someone rejects a candidate because they give them the creeps, the rest of the panel should push them to be more precise, and relate it to the qualifications for the job.

    Feedback never has to be given, but it should be possible for the panel to be clear why a candidate was rejected, to the point where feedback could be given if necessary. Feedback saying, ‘other candidates were better qualified, but the panel felt your future performance at interview could be helped by a more relaxed/confident/flexible manner’, might be incredibly useful.

    1. Apple22Over7*


      If the “creepiness” is felt by all members of the panel then maybe I could understand rejecting the applicant. But if only one member of the panel needs to object on “creepiness” grounds for an applicant to be rejected, that could be problematic. What if one of the interview panel is “creeped out” by members of a protected class?

      I would strongly suggest you try to elicit a tangible reason for the uneasy feelings from the panel. Whilst actually giving the feedback to the candidate is your call, being able to articulate and even document the reasons for rejecting an interview candidate means you can clearly see if any discrimination is taking place (either inadvertently or otherwise).

      1. thenoiseinspace*

        “What if one of the interview panel is “creeped out” by members of a protected class?”


        And no, you’re not required to give feedback, but it is the kind and helpful thing to do. Put yourself in their shoes. As others have said, it may be a cultural thing they are totally unaware of. If they gave you a “creepy” feeling, they might have done it to other employers, meaning that they might be getting constantly rejected without the slightest clue why or how to fix it.

    2. FiveNine*

      I would agree that the “creepy” letter was … weird (creepy?). I’ve honestly never heard of a panel rejecting people for a job pretty much because the candidate gives them the creeps. Maybe the OP was exaggerating and this isn’t as common as the letter suggested (I hope not, it seems so imprecise and unprofessional).

      1. Cat*

        I kind of wondered about that too. Which is not to say I’ve never run into anyone who gives me the creeps despite otherwise benign interactions. But if this is happening a lot with candidates you interview, it might be worth doing some self-reflection to make sure there’s not something else that you’re picking up on that isn’t actually something you want to be considering in the job process.

      2. Colette*

        I think it’s valid to reject someone because of behavior out of the norm (which, when it involves violating personal boundaries, is often what comes across as creepy). Having said that, I think it is important to be conscious of cultural issues and make the appropriate adjustments. I also don’t like the “if one person finds the candidate creepy we won’t proceed” – if it’s truly something that will cause issues with fit, it shouldn’t be only one person who finds it problematic.

        1. fposte*

          I like this phrasing. I’m agnostic on the feedback part, but I think it’s good for the panel to require themselves to be specific internally on what the problem consisted of.

      3. Laura*

        I agree. You don’t have to give a candidate specific feedback, but I think you should try to think of more tangible reasons why you’re rejecting them. Otherwise it will feel more like “I just don’t like you.” rather than “I don’t like that you did x, y and z.” Sure you don’t have to hire people who wouldn’t be a good fit, but it should be a specific behaviour that makes you think that.

        It’s not a protected class in all of the US unfortunately, but I once encountered someone who got creeped out by gay people, so they’d probably automatically reject a candidate who had previously worked for an LGBT organization, for example. You don’t want to be that kind of person

      4. JustKatie*

        Yeah, OP made it sound like creepy candidates were a regular thing! I can understand that it happens once in awhile, but it shouldn’t be a common reason you decide not to hire a candidate. Perhaps they need to improve their screening process? Or maybe OP’s creepdar needs to be recalibrated?

    3. Jen RO*

      Do you really think most candidates would receive feedback like in your example and would appreciate it? I very much doubt it, and I understand why the company is unwilling to do it.

    4. rebma*

      This was my question. I’ll try to be more specific.
      This work is remote. All candidates are phone screened then a video chat if things progress. The candidate which prompted the question offered to fly to my town (~250 miles away) to “get a feel” for things. Nevermind that the work has nothing to do with me specifically or my town.
      I suppose this is less about creepy-ness and more about over-eager-ness. With a touch of lack-of-social-graces on the side.

      1. Jen RO*

        So you are in Town A, the candidate would have work in Town B… and he asked to visit Town A?

        1. rebma*

          Everyone works from home. I’m the only one who works from my town and he’d be the only one to work from his town.
          Does that help?

          1. Jen RO*

            Yeah, that does help, and yes, it is weird! Could it be a misunderstanding along the lines of what Cat said below? If it was made clear that everyone works from home and you are the only one in your town… it’s just WTF. I wouldn’t give any feeback.

            1. De Minimis*

              It depends on phrasing and how he said things. It sounds like it’s a lack of understanding of how the job works, and maybe misplaced enthusiasm.

              Could still be creepy depending on how he came across.

          2. The IT Manager*

            That is odd.
            1) It could be that he misunderstood the working situation.
            2) It could be that he’s been told to sell himself and press hard for the face-to-face contact and offer to go the extra mile (and he definately went too far).
            3) Or he could be trying to get close to the interviewer/LW for other creepy reasons.

            Any one of these three would be a turn off and a sign that he doesn’t get the company culture and would not thrive well in a virtual work-place. (He’s putting a lot of weight on face-to-face contact.) Because if you work from home, it is not expected that people come visit you in your home office. It would actually be really ackward, and him not understanding that is a sign of him not getting understandingthe work situation.

            For me personally I would probably only call #3 “creepy.”

      2. Cat*

        Is your town where the home office is or is it just you? Because I don’t think it’s particularly unusual for a candidate who would be working remotely to offer to visit the home office – in fact, a lot of companies would insist on it.

      3. O*

        If it is where the main office is, I don’t think it’s that weird. It’s entirely possible they want to move there, whether the job is work at home or not.

      4. CAA*

        Sounds like he might not have understood that you are also remote and don’t work in a company facility. Willingness to come to the company HQ is something candidates frequently express when they’re interviewing for a remote position. They want you to know they’re flexible, able to travel to you for an in-person interview, and that they are interested in the company’s locations and culture. Also, if you really were in an office only 250 miles from him, it would be pretty normal to bring the strong candidate(s) in before making a final decision.

        Obviously I wasn’t there, so it’s entirely possible that all the logistics were clear to this person and it was creepy or overly friendly to suggest visiting you in your home town.

    5. An HR Lady*

      I wondered about this too. I’ve participated in a lot of interviews over the years, and I’ve come across less than a handful of creeps, and I could identify exactly what made them creepy (overt sexism, inappropriate contact – both in frequency and type, commenting on a panel members appearance, etc.).

      If a hiring manager is regularly coming across creepy people, and is unable to pinpoint what makes these people creepy, I think it says more about the hiring manager than the allegedly “creepy” candidates.

  10. anon*

    #1 A famous and well known traditional tech company does not have any offices, only cubes and conference rooms. Apparently even the latter are at a premium so my all day interview was in the cafe. Not a big deal, until you realize everyone goes there to have a meeting so its crazy loud.

    1. Artemesia*

      I am astounded at the number of places that have what seem to me to be totally dysfunctional work environments based on commitment to some abstraction. Yeah it is cool to operate with out offices until everyone is shrieking to be heard in the cafeteria and papers are getting stick on the dirty tables.

      I know a company going down right now because ‘marketing is everyone’s job’ but alas ‘marketing is no particular person’s job’ and thus isn’t getting done. They are losing out to companies that have jumped up to compete with them because they are not effectively marketing their service.

      Commitment to management ideology rather than being pragmatic has its downside.

  11. BCW*

    #2 The “creepy” candidate. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the candidate was a guy and the majority of the interviewers were women. I’ve noticed (on here and other places) creepy seems to have become the acceptable catch all term for a guy that women don’t like for some reason. He doesn’t necessarily need to do something bad, but it’s apparently totally ok to use that term to describe a socially awkward guy, and then they can often get away with it by citing the gift of fear or something. Really though, has anyone ever referred to a woman as creepy? If so, don’t think I’ve heard it. I understand getting a not great vibe from someone, but I think that has become one of those gendered words that gets thrown around way too much.

    Rant aside. Back to the question though. It seems that, as Miss Piggy said, there should be something tangible that you can give feedback on. Would you give feedback to other people who asked? Was this person qualified on every other level except that you didn’t get a great feeling? It sounds like this has happened often. Is it the same people getting these vibes all the time, since you say if its not unanimous you don’t proceed? If so, maybe thats something those people should deal with. Not saying someone should hire people they aren’t comfortable with, but maybe its more on the hiring side than candidate side. Anyhow, I do think since they asked, it would be nice (not necessary of course) to actually give them something to work on, as opposed to a stock “We had a lot of great candidates…”, which is fairly useless as a form of feedback

    1. BCW*

      By the way, I meant to say the interviewers who find him creepy are mostly women, not necessarily all of the interviewers

    2. ExceptionToTheRule*

      “Creepy” = someone who gives you a vaguely uneasy feeling that something’s not quite right and it almost but not quite sets off your flight or fight response. It’s synonymous with “heebie jeebies”.

      I would agree that for me, it is generally men who set that feeling off, but I have gotten that feeling from a few women. Do men get the heebie jeebies about people? Dunno, I’m not a man. I do know it’s a vague feeling and very hard to articulate the reason behind it.

      1. BCW*

        I know what the term means, however I very much think it is geared much more toward men. Even if you think something is “off” about a woman, I’ve never heard that term used with a woman. Its kind of like you don’t usually hear the term a$$hole associated with women. Of course you can still think women show the same behaviors that would qualify them as one, but I’m saying that word isn’t used.

        1. ExceptionToTheRule*

          I think I’m missing something in your concern about the word. Are you trying to say that it’s become a lazy, catch-all word that women use to excuse not being around men (both socially & professionally) who for reasons that are difficult to articulate but trigger their anxiety response?

          Or are you just venting and I mistook it for something else?

          1. BCW*

            More that its become a lazy term that women use to excuse not being around certain guys. There are some behaviors that are legitimitely creepy behaviors. However, I think sometimes the word is just thrown around quickly for not a very good reason. With that, if a woman says it, then its usually ok to just dismiss that guy because she says its her “gut” feeling. But yeah, partially just a rant as well :)

            1. Cat*

              I mean, nobody needs to “excuse” not being around someone in most situations. Nobody is generally under any obligation to socialize with anyone, and it also doesn’t matter if it’s gendered. Hiring is different, and I agree (and said above) that if you’re dismissing a significant number of applicants as “creepy,” you should be doing some soul searching about whether there are factors that are out of their control that are leading you to make that determination. But that’s a pretty specific situation; in most, it’s totally fine to decide that you want to avoid someone because you have a bad gut feeling about them; in fact, it’s probably a good idea.

              1. fposte*

                Yes, I think it’s important to differentiate the social situation, where you’re free to reject and avoid people based on any quality you please, and the work situation, where there are legal and ethical obligations. I think “creepy” can be a legitimate descriptor in a work situation too, but especially when you’re talking about hiring, I think you need to be able to enumerate what you mean, and that’s one of the questions you should be asking yourself during the interview–“I’m not responding well to this person. Why is that?”

                Now, to be fair, I think the OP may have been using it for blog purposes as a catch-all to cover candidates who offered a variety of different specifically identifiable behaviors, but it’s worth discussing the notion anyway.

              1. EE*

                True, but there is a difference between:

                “I am creeped out by his behaviour”
                “He is creepy”.

                See the discussion above about eye contact in different cultures. I could feel creeped out by a man refusing to meet my eye, be told “in that culture it’s considered rude to maintain eye contact” and say “OK, I suppose he’s not creepy”.

          2. Jen RO*

            What I got from BCW’s comments (and my own reading) is that indeed “creepy” is used by some women to mean “a man who makes me uncomfortable for reasons I can’t explain”. OK, you’re entitled to feel that, but I’ve personally run into many instances when questioning the label of “creep” made you the bad guy/gal who doesn’t understand how women live in constant fear etc.

            I don’t know if this is the case here though. I have met people that could be described as “creepy”, “odd” or “weird” without any sexual undertones (Beebs’ description below is pretty good).

            (And I’ll step out of this thread because we’re back to debating language and gender issues when the letter doesn’t even mention them!)

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes, we are :)

              We’ve had this debate on “creepy” many times here before, so I’m going to ask that we resist the urge to rehash it here.

              1. Q*

                I don’t mean to sound rude, because I love this blog otherwise, but the debate is never going to go away as long as the word keeps getting used on here, by Alison or anyone else.

        2. some1*

          I’ve heard men use plenty of different terms to describe women almost exclusively that weird them out in social and professional situations: “crazy”, “high-maintenance”, “stuck up”, “ditzy”, “clingy”.

          1. Joey*

            I don’t want to speak for BCW, but its a bit different to use a word like creepy because it generally conveys that this person is capable of harming others which is kind of unfair unless you can articulate exactly why.

            1. BCW*

              Joey, thats a perfect way to put it. If a woman tells another woman that she got the creepy vibe, it implies in a way that he may do her harm. High maintenance, ditzy, or clingy doesn’t have that same stigma. Just that they don’t make great girlfriend material.

          2. EM*

            That’s what I was going to say — I think “crazy” is the term that gets thrown at women who throw up red flags.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          I use it. If someone gives me the creeps, then they’re creepy. If they’re an asshole, then I say they’re an asshole.

          I’ve met lots of assholes lately, but I can’t remember the last creep I met. Thank goodness they’re not that common, I guess.

    3. pgh_adventurer*

      It struck me as odd that someone has the “creepy candidate” problem often enough to write in about it. I wonder why the panelists react that way to candidates so frequently?

      1. BCW*

        Fair enough. I haven’t, but that doesn’t mean its not used. However, I do maintain that I think the majority of times its used, its by women to describe men.

          1. Cat*

            Or, to paraphrase Tom Haverford, “Fortunately when you’re the guy and a girl breaks up with you, you just say she’s crazy. Or at least that’s what they always do on Entourage.”

          2. BCW*

            Thats definitely true in the dating situations. However if I was interviewing, and I just said that I think this woman is crazy, I would be pressed to provide a lot more information, whereas if a woman said she found a guy to be creepy, I think it would be met with more leeway.

              1. LLC*

                Not to be rude, but it seems you’re trying your hardest to discount comments made from men about their own personal experiences because they MUST always have it better than women.

            1. EM*

              Just FYI, I am a woman and I have DEFINITELY used the term “asshole” to describe another woman! I don’t think it’s as exclusive for men as you think. However, I will agree with you on the “creepy” term.

    4. Ilf*

      In general, but more so when one is hiring people, they should not be completely satisfied by explanations like “creepiness” or “bad vibes”. These feelings may be worth exploring, but one should be wary of completely relying on them.
      I would cite Gladwell’s “Blink” which is talks about how powerful intuition can be, but also that it can often stand for prejudice. It’s been talked here about protected classes. But there are categories of people that are not protected (gays would come to mind, but there are a lot more), that deserve to be judged fairly.
      I can bet that most people on the autism spectrum would be described by many as creepy (by the way, autism affects significantly more men than women).

    5. Simonthegrey*

      The creepiest person in my daily life right now is a female student with some very obvious delusion issues who has become fixated on a coworker to the extend that said coworker is afraid for her life. The college does nothing because this particular person hasn’t actually done anything yet. Creepy to me isn’t socially awkward. Creepy isn’t that guy who stands a little close and doesn’t bathe often. Creepy, to me, is someone who comes across as dangerous. I have known a few creepy guys, yes, but I have also known and been exposed to some very creepy women.

    6. Musereader*

      Creepy=/= socially awkward.

      Creepy is intentionally violating boundries over and over again, ingnoring any contrary signals and giving you the brush off when you object.

      Socially awkward is not realising the boundaries are there, and when they are pointed out people are generally very distressed about their mistake.

      Me and my brother are both Aspergers and I am female so i’ve been on both sides of this – and there was one time when my brothers behaviour went across the line and i came down on him like a ton of bricks, but he was in tears about it because he simply didn’t know why he was in the wrong.

      But eye contact – that is something difficult for an aspie and can read as creepy until you realise what we are not doing, also non sexual TMI and TMQ (Too Many Questions) a habit of aspies often starts out weird and upgraded to creepy – then downgraded to strange when you realise he is really not noticing your reaction because he is not even looking at you most of the time. Whereas a truly creepy guy would keep looking at you full in the face, is actively looking for a reaction and and may look pleased and point out when you showed signs of discomfort, or even asks you if you are uncomfortable with this, (then ignores the answer). If anybody ever premtively apologises and does not stop, that is creepy and not socially awkward because an aspie would never know to apologise in the first place.

      1. fposte*

        I don’t know that creepy is a technical enough term that anybody can insist what it does or doesn’t mean, though.

      2. Scmill*

        I’ve interviewed a lot of people over the years, and only one could be described as creepy. And I can’t explain why I felt that way other than it was just a vibe. He was clean-cut, knowledgeable and recommended by someone I knew. But when I walked out of the interview room, I knew I wasn’t going to hire him because he gave me the creeps, and I just didn’t want to be around him when we had to work late.

        And then the phone calls started coming several times a day and the emails and the daily showing up at my office without an appointment. Our security guard finally was able to get rid of him, but based on his behavior, I think my radar was spot on.

  12. Sunflower*

    #2-I’m just curious what kind of behavior exactly qualifies are creepy? Coming on too strong? Sitting/standing too close to someone? I see a lot of people call others creepy coworkers and I know what things creep me out in social situations but I’m curious what would in an interview

    1. Celeste*

      I am curious, too. Would love some greater detail from the OP on whether it was personal (his looks or lack of hygiene, etc.) or interpersonal (how he spoke or treated others).

    2. Beebs*

      I am wondering if OP using the term “creepy” is not as accurate as they mean. I have recently sought out employment counselling and various workshops, where I encounter individuals (both male and female) who I sense are struggling to find work based on their personality/behavior.

      It is not as simple as one or two things they say or do, but the general way they proceed. Not adhering to social norms, odd communication style, and I get the sense that there may be some minor cognitive issues as well. I don’t think it is as simple as giving them feedback and then they just apply it and change this behavior or personality function.

      I genuinely feel for these individuals, because they are trying and doing their best, it just takes a patient employer/team who can work with the person and find the right fit for them. Everyone has something to contribute.

      1. Del*

        I think part of the point of “creepy” as a descriptor actually is that a person is not adhering to social norms in ways that are sometimes subtle but add up to an overall picture that’s very off.

        It’s basically the behavioral version of the uncanny valley.

      2. fposte*

        That’s my guess–that we’re talking an aggregate of small discrepancies, not something that’s simple and easy to explain. To be specific you’d have to send an incredibly discouraging, likely incomplete list, and it would take a heck of a lot of time to craft such a communication.

        There are also legitimate things that are simple and easy to explain that have a strong chance of turning the feedback into a bigger deal than the hiring manager can deal with at the moment. There are things that seem small but are really significant–they chewed gum the whole time, they were late in getting requested materials in, etc.–that tend to elicit indignation from candidates over the seeming pettiness of the hiring manager. “The rest of it was great, and you can’t overlook that one little thing?”

        Basically, it takes work and time to craft a specific feedback response even in the best situation, and when it’s not the best situation, it takes quite a bit of work and time.

        1. Cat*

          And you’re inviting excuses – “but my computer died and my grandmother was sick and I had bad breath that day and didn’t want to inflict it on you! You can’t punish me for being considerate!”

    3. Jen RO*

      Someone sitting too close to me would definitely creep me out (in an interview or in a social situation)… and in my case it’s not a gendered thing. The only “incident” I remember was with another woman, an exchange student in university. I would not find this a reason to reject someone, but it would make me feel uncomfortable. When I was talking to my classmate I kept backing off and she kept coming closer, it was almost funny!

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Or what about somebody who you have just met who starts asking fairly personal questions? (e.g. Where is your accent from?)

        1. Ruffingit*

          I didn’t know where your accent is from is a personal question. I thought it was just a general question along the lines of “what city do you live in?” Maybe it’s just me though. Interesting.

          1. Chocolate Teapot*

            I think it depends on how it’s phrased.

            Another example “You have a lot of upper body strength, I assume you do weight training” or “You have a very authoritative tone, you must be a teacher”.

            Which seem odd things to say to somebody you have never met before!

          2. Nicothodes*

            As someone who gets asked about her accent all the time (speech disorder + being taught to speak by someone with an Australian accent made things difficult, I guess?), I would generally prefer “What city do you live in?” I generally associate the accent question with people who will make me explain myself, because I’ve had really awkward situations, such as people in my home city not believing I was even from that country, and also I had a job interview abroad where the panel of interviews stopped everything to talk about how Irish I sounded and was I sure I was American. So, not a personal question, but if someone sounds like they have a different accent, they probably get asked about it all the time and it’s really tiring.

              1. Jamie*

                Yep – the answer to that is almost always going to be no. At least from me.

                I have never interviewed anyone who creeped me out – although I was interviewed by a few who did.

                I agree with someone else who said creepy is about boundaries a lot of times – and that’s how I mean it when I use the word. It doesn’t always mean someone is even remotely threatening but more makes me uncomfortable by invading personal space, asking personal questions, inappropriate assumptions of familiarity.

                Lack of eye contact doesn’t bother me personally, but I know it bothers a lot of people so it’s something I worked on in myself and have worked on intensively with my son who is on the spectrum. His default is the opposite of boundary invading – it’s less than optimal eye contact and sometimes forgetting the whole smile, shake hands, bs about the weather or traffic for a sentence or two.

                I worked with someone once I found creepy because we weren’t friends but she’d hover around my desk when the weather was bad hoping for an offer to drive her to the train. She wouldn’t ask – she’s just sit in this waiting area where you could see my desk with her bag and coat, etc. and just stare at me as I was finishing up.

                Not sexual, not threatening, not a man…just creepy.

                1. fposte*

                  That makes sense to me, and it also could explain why somebody in that category would be likelier to ask for feedback (and perhaps even in a way that makes the recipient think it won’t go well)–we’re describing somebody who doesn’t ask themselves if they’re invasive or pushing too hard.

            1. Ruffingit*

              My husband is not from America and has an accent. He gets asked about it all the time, but it doesn’t bother him at all. I guess it is an individual thing, I can see how someone might tire of it. And definitely the way things are phrased matters a lot, that’s a good point.

          3. JustKatie*

            Accent can feel very personal if you’re asking a non-native speaker. It sucks having your foreign-ness be constantly pointed out to you. And if you’re from another region or country with a distinctive accent, it gets really tiring having people comment on your accent.

    4. Kelly L.*

      Sometimes people ping my creepdar by being too salesy, too slick–like there’s nothing coming out of their mouths that’s not scripted, or they use my first name five times per sentence. Sometimes it’s violating personal space.

        1. Jamie*

          ITA. Too salesy and I feel like I have no idea to whom I’m talking because it’s all one big skit. That’s why Alison’s advice about dropping all the silly sales stuff bad advisers advise in cover letters is so important.

          When a cover letter sounds as if it were written by a carnival barker it’s never a good thing. Smarmy indeed.

    5. Musereader*

      Creepy is not something most neuro typical people can explain in detail because most of the time you don’t have to think about it that way. As an aspie female I have had to figure out in exact terms what is creepy from both sides of the fence, what i do to others and what others do to me. (Even so despite me being able to write essays on what to and what not to do, i have difficulty acting on it in the moment, beause i have to consciously work through the thought process/steps which can take minutes where actions/conversations can takes seconds)

      1. LLC*

        I totally feel the same way on all your points, even though I probably no longer classify as an Aspie in my adult life.

    6. An HR Lady*

      I’ve had very few creepy encounters with interview candidates (over many, many years – not regularly), but the ones I had were people who went way beyond socially awkward.

      Two examples are:

      -A candidate who was given my cell phone number because we were meeting at an offsite location where there was not phone access began texting me on weekends and early in the morning because she wanted us to change our mind about hiring her. When told her contact was innapropriate she continued to call the office and once showed up to “talk to me in person about reconsidering.”

      – A candidate who responded to a question asking how they were, by looking a female member of the interview panel up and down and saying, “I’m better now.” During his interview he admitted to being accused of sexual harassment twice in his last position but stated that he was just adminiring pretty women.

  13. the gold digger*

    1. I got an office after the CEO kicked someone else out. Not a nice way for this to happen:

    2. Creepy. Creepy is when a guy talks to my chest instead of my eyes. This does not happen to me very often, indeed, almost never, because there is not much to talk to, but it did happen with this one guy in grad school. He did it to all the women and he was creepy. Staring at the eyes is also creepy. So – not enough eye contact and too much eye contact.

    1. Omne*

      Could be worse.
      We had someone here that did the chest thing but what was creepy was that you could frequently hear the change in his pocket jingling too…..

    1. Ruffingit*

      I don’t know, but I kind of find this problem moot anyway because even with a PDF file, the company still has the information. They could easily recreate it much of the time if they so chose so just deleting the file doesn’t make that much of a difference.

  14. Ruffingit*

    The answer to #3 needs a correction. It says not trusting your own staff member to that extent is a sign of a much better problem.

    I think you mean much BIGGER problem. Because not trusting your own staff member is not a better problem ;)

  15. Persephone Mulberry*


    I find the whole power play aspect of the office vs cubicle debate fascinating. We recently hired for a newly created manager position – she got an office (no one got displaced, it was vacant). Then she left after two months, and the person they replaced her with, they decided to make a supervisor rather than a manager, and are sticking her in a cube. The office is there, the role she’ll be performing isn’t *that* different from what the first person was hired to do, but my company is making a very clear statement about New Hire’s place in the hierarchy (relative to Previous Hire, even) simply by where they’re putting her desk.

    1. Ruffingit*

      That is kind of crappy because since the subordinates knew previous manager had an office and new supervisor doesn’t, they are likely going to automatically think new supervisor is somehow less than and undeserving of the office. I can see how, in some workplaces, this could cause a ton of respect issues.

  16. Ruffingit*

    Sort of a side question to #2, but I wonder why it is that the creepy folks are always the ones who want feedback. I wonder if they know they are somehow creepy or that something is off and they are trying to figure out what it is. Or, if they are totally clueless and believe they rock so they don’t understand why they aren’t getting the jobs. Just something rattling around in my brain today. Maybe it’s both.

    1. Jen RO*

      I’ve never worked with anyone who gave an “off” vibe, but a friend of mine did. The guy was not creepy, just odd and seemingly oblivious to the way you’re supposed to work in a team. He was told to fix certain behaviors (like wasting everyone’s time with useless questions) and put on a PIP… and he was still “shocked” when he was let go.

    2. VintageLydia USA*

      I cant speak to hiring, but I know in personal situations, the creepy people were the ones constantly pushing boundaries and felt like they were entitled to whatever they were pushing to get (hugs, sitting close, giving massages, touching that isn’t exactly intimate, but not something I’d allow for just anybody, etc.) When I’ve tried to tell creepy people to stop, I got grilled for it. “Why am I not allowed to do that? So-and-so can do that so what makes me different?” They know exactly what they’re doing and if I make a big deal about my boundaries being trounced, I’M the one “causing drama.” I think looking for feedback in this situation is similar. They don’t feel like you have a right to reject them for whatever issue and they want to argue with you about it/prove you “wrong.”

      1. C average*

        Ugh, YES. I know exactly which people you mean. The people who know about boundaries, deliberately violate them, and then try to play the “what? what am I doing?” card.

      2. Tina*

        Ugh, that must be so frustrating. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter WHY you don’t want them touching you – it’s your choice, and if you don’t want someone touching you, they should stop! If they just stopped touching, there wouldn’t be any drama.

        It’s a joke among some of my colleagues that I’m not as touchy-feely as some of them, and some of them will tease me about it occasionally, but they’re pretty respectful overall. It also has to do with how well I know someone and how comfortable I am with them. I’m not the type of person who hugs anyone and everyone, and unless I’ve reached a certain comfort level, I won’t do it. Usually it’s not because I’m uncomfortable with a specific person per se, it’s that I don’t know them well enough.

      3. Musereader*

        Yes, that is creepy, and not simply socially awkward because simply socially awkward won’t even have the words to defend theirself if you ever pointed any boundary violations out to them – both will ask questions as to why and how to fix it but crucially the creepy guy is asking to be able argue your point and to make you doubt yourself, where socially awkward will ask from a place of genuine misunderstanding, will not argue back and will get upset.

    3. C average*

      I have a colleague whose unusual sense of humor, occasional overeagerness and tendency to overshare, and clear discomfort with certain social situations gives off an unattractive vibe that I could see being labeled as “creepy” by someone who didn’t know him well. (I don’t think this at all, because I’ve worked closely with him and come to really value him as a colleague. I think he’s a slightly awkward guy, that’s all.) Recently we’ve begun running together, and some of the things he’s said to me while we’re running make it clear that he knows he gives an “off” vibe to others and that he wishes he knew how to fix the idiosyncrasies that rub others the wrong way.

      If I knew what to say to him, I’d say it, but I really don’t. And he’s someone I like and whom I think would take any feedback in the spirit in which it was intended! I can’t imagine trying to frame feedback about his kind of mannerisms as “professional” feedback.

      1. LLC*

        I’m similar to how you describe your friend as. It’s definitely distressing to know that we might give certain people “off” vibes but not really know how to change. In my case, I had Asperger’s all the way through my probably early college years, so having that be a major guiding factor in how I grew up will inevitably influence how I am as an adult.

        I’ve found that people tend to really like me a lot more once they get to know me well but that I don’t necessarily make a good first impression. Hopefully your friend feels the same way.

        (Thankfully, the job interviews that I go on aren’t affected by the same types of “off” first impressions that I might occasionally give in certain social situations.)

    4. Colette*

      I think if you have trouble with social interaction, you won’t necessarily pick up on an interview that’s not going well, so you’ll be more surprised when you don’t get the offer. Also, if you don’t understand or value social interaction, you can fall into the trap of disregarding it altogether – i.e. “but I meet all the qualifications”.

      There’s also the point that if you’re desperate, you’ll try harder, which can result in trying too hard, and then you’ll want feedback to help you improve – but the answer is that you’re really trying too hard to force a fit.

    5. Elsajeni*

      I think it makes sense, actually — if the only feedback you could give them is “you seemed creepy,” there must not be any real problems with their qualifications, resume, cover letter, etc., right? So, presumably, they’re coming at it from the angle, “I’ve got all the right qualifications for these jobs, my resume and cover letter look good, and I’m getting called for interviews. So how come I never get the job?” Which, of course that would make someone desperate for feedback from interviewers!

    6. Sunflower*

      I also wonder if interviewers just notice it more from them. If a solid, ‘normal’, candidate asks for feedback, the standard ‘we went with someone more qualified/fit better’ is also the true answer. When someone is creepy, you might be questioning or confused why you aren’t interested.

  17. anon all the way*

    #2, this reminds me of the situation at my old job where a person was hired and he seemed so quiet except sometimes he gave off this vibe of “creepiness” with his moods. Well it turns out one morning we all came into work and the night before this guy was arrested for attempts to solicit sex from a minor and was a big child pedophile. The managers had absolutely no idea because this was before anyone did a hefty background check like they do at most places now. I’m not saying that everyone who gives off a “creepy” vibe is in fact a total creep but sometimes gut feeling is best. Maybe more investigation should have been done and he never would have been hired but who knows? You never know how someone might be until you start working with them.

    1. Ruffingit*

      This is kind of the premise behind the book Gift of Fear. Trusting your instincts is something more people need to do.

      1. anon all the way*

        I think it was hard because he never gave off any other vibe but I definitely look back now and think maybe that was the reason he was this way to begin with.

    2. LV*

      One time, I went on a few dates with this guy. He seemed like a great catch on paper – smart, funny, reasonably handsome, gainfully employed. But there was something about him that just seemed *off* to me. I thought about it for a long time and couldn’t put my finger on what bothered me about him, but I decided to go with my gut and stop seeing him.

      A few months later, I was shocked to find his name in the paper. He had been arrested in a sting operation and charged with multiple counts of possession of child pornography and (I forget the exact phrasing) something along the lines of “making arrangements to commit a sexual offence against a minor.”

      1. anon all the way*

        It’s good you followed your instincts in this. Sad that it turned out to be so true.

      2. Lynn Whitehat*

        I used to know a guy like that. He kept flirting with me in a way that was *just* on the right side of the plausible-deniability line, so I couldn’t say, “why, Wakeeen, I’m a married woman! How dare you!” Something I couldn’t put my finger on said “wrong, wrong, wrong, stay away.” He later went to prison for molesting his 8-year-old. I guess he was ultimately trying to get into my step-daughter’s pants, not mine.

    3. Chinook*

      Be careful though because not all perverts, rapists and psychopaths give off a “creepy” vibe. There is a case in Canada where a well-respectedd military officer actually kidnapped, assaukted and murdered people in his off hours. A friend of my mother-in-law’s worked in his office and didn’t notice anything “off” about him even when he came in to work after a night murdering a subordinate (as she later reflected after he was caught and details went public).

      I am not discounting paying attention to the vibes people give off, but they aren’t the end all and be all. Being able to reflect on why you feel the way you do is an important part of overcoming cultural biases and accepting others as they are, whether it be personal space issues, eye contact or even how you talk to someone.

      1. Ruffingit*

        He murdered a subordinate?? Geeze, I will never complain about the bad bosses I’ve had again.

        1. Diet Coke Addict*

          He also broke into hundreds of women’s homes, tried on their lingerie, and photographed himself doing it. If you google Russell Williams your day will probably be ruined.

          1. Ruffingit*

            Googled him and now that I see his picture, I remember seeing a crime show about this guy. Dateline or one of those types of shows.

  18. KayDay*

    #4 – PowerPoint: This is one of those cases where I think how you go about it makes a big difference. I would never think twice about someone sending me a PP (or PDF version) along with a request to delete the file after use or not share it. A lot of times it’s something completely mundane, like research that has been done with another author (so you wouldn’t want people sharing it without the other author’s permission) or unpublished/incomplete research that you don’t want disseminated further until it’s final. However, if someone just randomly out of the blue emailed me to ask to delete the file with no apparent explanation at all, I might find that a bit strange–like if it was so important, why didn’t you think of it before?

  19. AnonForThis*

    Re: the “creepy” interviewee.

    Years ago, I rejected someone for an internship because of… something undefinable that was off about him. I would not have used the word “creepy” – that wasn’t his deal. More like arrogant? Bombastic? He used the word “extraordinary” more than once in his cover letter. When he sat down in the conference room for his interview, he crossed one ankle over the other knee and leaned back in his chair. After his interview, he had three or four references call me unsolicited, one of whom – a former board member of my organization – told me it would be a tragedy for our state if we didn’t hire him, because surely he would get hired elsewhere and we would lose his remarkable intellectual capacity (this board member hired him freelance after I rejected him).

    Even after all that, I gave him a second interview because he genuinely did have, by far, the strongest resume for the position. In the second interview, the two men that met him loved him and the two women that met him wrote “NO” in caps on his application. We ended up not hiring him. It’s stuck in my mind ever since. I still know him – he became an active volunteer with our organization, served on several committees, and continued to be a little weird – and I’ve always wondered whether I made the right choice.

    1. Jen RO*

      I used to work with someone like this. Not creepy at all, but arrogant and convinced he was *that* good. He barely completed his assignments, yelled at his coworkers, and didn’t even say goodbye on his last day.

  20. Bluefish*

    #4: Save as a PowerPoint show (ppsx), add edit restrictions, and a watermark/ownership footer. These are simple non-blatant steps to make it clear you do not want your work to be used or shared. It’s not foolproof, but I think it gets the point across without being in your face about it.

  21. MJ*

    #4 Where I work we retain all documents from applicants for a set period of time according to records retention rules. So, no, we cannot delete your file, but we do respect copyright.

  22. MR*

    I’m going to take a slightly different approach to the ‘creepy’ thing that others have described above.

    The OP certainly does not owe an explanation to the interviewee as to why they were rejected, but if I was part of a hiring process, and one of my colleagues didn’t want to hire someone because they were ‘creepy,’ I would immediately reject that and ask for more tangible information.

    One person’s ‘creeper’ is another persons ‘all-star.’ In addition, if there are many people being rejected because they are ‘creepy,’ I would take a look at what is going on with the hiring manager, not the candidates they are choosing from.

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