a job applicant’s sister contacted me with questions on her sister’s behalf

A reader writes:

I recently quit my job in February to stay home with my daughter. I parted with my company on very good terms and have a great rapport with my old boss. We still talk frequently; I send updates on my daughter and we have plans to meet up for drinks at the end of the month.

They have been actively searching for my replacement. There were a few internal applicants, including one coworker who I highly recommended for the role. The role itself is still very new, as well as the department, so a replacement would do infinitely better already knowing the entities/underlying infrastructure of the company. A new person would take significantly longer to train. That being said, my old boss is a wonderful mentor and does a great job explaining the role and duties and how they can change daily.

Yesterday, I recieved a LinkedIn request from someone I wasn’t sure I knew. I accepted, and then a message followed. The message was apparently from the sister of an applicant for my old job. The sister detailed that the applicant had interviewed for the job but didn’t feel she got a proper understanding of the role and proceeded to ask me a series of questions, specifically asking me to be candid, including what my hours were, a typical day, and if I liked my job. She ended the message with a promise that “this would be a conversation between us” and no feedback would be shared.

I was pretty weirded out by this. Not only does it make me uncomfortable, the most bizarre part to me is that this applicant’s sister is the one reaching out to me, a total stranger. I feel it shows a lack of maturity on the applicant’s part. I would have easily been more receptive if, say, the applicant didn’t have LinkedIn so her sister reached out to say, “My sister applied but was wondering if you’d be willing to speak about the role. Here is here contact information if you’d feel comfortable doing so.”

I clearly have no intention of saying anything bad about my former employer. They were great to me and the questions asked were unique to me in the role (such as my hours) so I wouldn’t even be able to speak to that. Plus I know the role is evolving so it might be fairly different at this point.

Do I reply to this girl saying that I would be comfortable speaking to directly to the candidate and then proceed with answering her questions (generically and NOT candidly)? Or, do you think this is something my old boss would be interested to know about? The tone of the questions asked of me ranged from things you’d hear in the interview process to sounding like they want me to divulge dirt, which I’m clearly not doing. As a hiring manager, is this information you would be appreciative to know about an applicant? It was a red flag to me again because she didn’t ask herself, the questions indicated she either didn’t pay attention in the interview or didn’t ask good questions, and knowing they need someone good in this role, I feel almost protective of my old team. I also don’t want to do anything to screw up this person’s candidacy since I never actually interviewed her and don’t know what she is like. Any advice would be much appreciated!

I’d forward that message to your old boss, with a note saying, “I received this at LinkedIn. I have no idea if Jane knew her sister was contacting me or not, but it strikes me as strange, so I thought you’d want to see it.”

And here’s the thing: It is very, very strange. And assuming the applicant knew this was happening and was okay with it, it says that she has bad judgment, isn’t especially mature, and isn’t self-sufficient.

Of course, it’s possible that the sister reached out without the applicant’s knowledge or permission — that she’s outrageously overbearing and did this on her own — but I doubt it. She knew enough about the job interview to be able to track you down and ask pretty detailed questions about the role.

To cover that possibility, though, why not write back to the sister and say, “Can you give me more context for this message? Did Jane ask you to reach out to me?”

Whether she says that Jane did or didn’t, I’d then say, “Jane is welcome to contact me directly, and I’d be glad to talk with her, but I’d prefer she reach out on her own.”

(Although if she says that she did all this without Jane’s knowledge, you should then pass that additional information along to your boss so that Jane isn’t penalized for it … and someone should probably alert Jane herself that her sister has gone rogue and is sabotaging her job search.)

{ 148 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.*

    Yeah, I’d really be wary of placing any blame/red flags/etc on Jane herself until I knew her sister was acting on her request.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      Please. I have a sister like this. Yes, she sabotaged several of my job searches No, I can’t control her. I’ve tried, several times. The only solution I’ve found is go no contact.
      The most distressing thing is when people tell me about my sister and say “get her to stop” or “we’re uncomfortable with what is going on”. There is some delusional idea that I can actually influence her. They really can’t believe that I have no influence because you can influence others in rational relationships.

      1. Observer*

        That must be incredibly tough. But, either way, it’s a problem for a prospective employer. I think a reasonable question for any employer would be “what can we – both (prospective) employer and you – do to keep this person from being disruptive?”

        I can totally see why you would go “no contact” although I can imagine that you get a lot of flack for it. I would also guess that this issue comes up in other areas, not just job search.

      2. bridget*

        I definitely think the company shouldn’t attribute this weirdness to the candidate if the candidate doesn’t know what’s going on, in that the company shouldn’t think the candidate is a bizarre person with no sense of boundaries or professional norms.

        But, on the other hand, if someone has a sister (or other person in their life) who cannot be stopped from inserting themselves in the company’s business, I kind of think that’s still something that’s fair for the company to take into consideration. If there are multiple qualified applicants, and one comes with the danger of having to fend off inappropriate communications from an overbearing non-employee, I’d probably go with another applicant. It may be unfair to the candidate, but I don’t think companies have a responsibility to take on headaches based on fairness.

        1. Lyssa*

          If the sister is this overbearing, it’s a bit of red-flag that Jane would give the sister enough information that she could have done this on her own. It’s at least worth asking Jane a few questions about it before hiring her, particularly if the job involves confidential information of any sort.

          1. bridget*

            Fair point. Even if Jane doesn’t get the same “WTF” label her sister does, giving a relative with this sort of personality this much detailed information is indicative of Jane’s general judgment, and maybe her ability to independently navigate the professional world without involving an army of personal advisers.

          2. illini02*

            But it may not be a ton of information. Its as simple as the name of the company, position name, and saying that she wasn’t entirely clear on a few things. None of which is really that uncommon to relate to a trusted friend or family member. Giving that information doesn’t necessarily mean applicant expects the sister to follow up.

            1. OfficePrincess*

              But I think what Lyssa is trying to point out, is that if the sister has a history of inserting herself where she doesn’t belong, Jane shouldn’t consider her sister a “trusted” family member. That’s where the red flag on her judgement comes in.

              1. Lyssa*

                Yeah, that. Maybe this was just a one-off isolated moment of crazy from the sister, but generally people that can’t be trusted, well, can’t be trusted.

              2. Mallory Janis Ian*

                The problem is, the applicant may know to never tell anything to her sister, but she may not be able to trust other family members (such as her parents) to never say anything, even something seemingly innocuous, within earshot of her sister. It would require an almost witness a protection level of familial isolation to deter some people.

                1. Lyssa*

                  It’s just a job interview. Do her parents, or anyone else, really need to know the details? I don’t usually tell anyone but my husband if I’m interviewing somewhere.

                2. Zillah*

                  Lyssa – Okay, but that’s your personal preference. Obviously one shouldn’t should about it on social media, but there’s nothing red flaggy about mentioning that you have a job interview to family members. Depending on your situation, they may also be the people you’re closest to (as opposed to a spouse, in your case).

                3. Margo*

                  I don’t think sharing general work information with family is in itself a red flag. But sharing work information with people you know are often careless with that information is definitely a red flag.

                  I live in a small town and teach at a public school in a neighboring small town. My mother, god bless her, loves to brag about me and discuss everything about me, including my work, with all and sundry. She means well and does it out of love, but she is not discreet. In true Mrs. Bennet fashion, she also has an uncanny knack for embellishing the facts in the most unfortunate way possible.

                  Regardless of her intent, no one should ever overhear my mother loudly discussing their kid’s class in the middle of Safeway. If I didn’t understand that and act accordingly, it would (and should) absolutely send up red flags to anyone looking to hire me.

              3. Stranger than fiction*

                True but when you have that kind of person I’m your life who is that close to you it’s not that easy to wake up one day and say hey I’m not tell yiu about dates/interviews/other conversations anymore

          3. EngineerGirl*

            Easy to do now that we have separate households. Impossible to do when we were still young and living together under our parent’s roof. Especially since she would go into my room and rifle through my stuff.
            It’s not a matter of “giving” someone the information. It is a matter of keeping the information inaccessible to someone that breaks into locked areas and goes through your personal items. She would also quiz my friends and phone around about me in order to get information. I had to train every new friend I came across. Then you come off as crazy – “Please don’t talk to my sister about me”.
            There might be a reason I stayed 3000 miles away from home once I got a new job.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Wow. Just Wow.
              I am sorry that you went through this, and still are going through it, really. You told her to stop and she kept doing this. It speaks volumes about her that is scary.
              Growing up, I would have given my eye teeth to have a sibling. And some people have sibs and they do everything they can think of to drive the sibs away. I am just shaking my head.

      3. JJ*

        Oh man, I sympathize. Something similar only happened once with me, but it was really frustrating and I can’t imagine what it’s like to deal with that on a regular basis. I just don’t tell family members who have demonstrated questionable judgment in the past anything any more.

    2. JJ*

      Yeah, I’d also recommend actually follow up with the sister first BEFORE talking to your boss. I have to stick up for the applicant on this because something related has happened to me before–I said something benign, my family member saw this as an opportunity to “help” me, and then they overstepped their boundaries and contacted someone without my knowledge or consent. I had just begun my independent adult life, too, so I was furious that perceptions of my autonomy could have been potentially undermined from that one action. Particularly because this family member is as dependent on others as I am independent from others.

      I still think it’s strange that her sister did this, but some people do have crazy family members who don’t understand boundaries or who don’t stop to consider how a seemingly “helpful” action on their part could actually hurt perceptions of the applicant.

    3. a higher ed admin*

      One of the more mortifying moments of my career was when my father intervened without my knowledge.

      I was on a family vacation and had set up a visit with an out-of-town colleague (who I had never met in person, but had spoken with many times on the phone) before my flight home. I had arranged with my father that he would drop me off at the office (about 5-10 minutes off route to the airport) on his way to the airport 4 hours before the flight and that I would take my luggage and just meet him at the airport an hour or two before the flight after the meeting. We got mildly lost trying to find the office and my dad freaked out and decided this was all too much and he wouldn’t take me to the meeting. I called the office, explained I had a travel glitch and wouldn’t be able to make it, and we went to the airport.

      I found out later that, upon our return, my dad had somehow (still don’t know how) figured out the name of my contact and MAILED HER A LETTER apologizing and explaining that it was his fault, and not mine, that I had missed the meeting. He did this without my knowledge and I was MORTIFIED when I found out. I didn’t speak to him for weeks. My dad thought he was fixing the problem he had caused, when in fact, it was not a big deal that I had to miss the meeting since it had been a get-to-know you kind of situation.

      I finally met the contact about a year later at a conference and we shared an awkward laugh about what a weird thing that had been, but in the decade+ since that happened I have still never been more professionally humiliated.

      Asking for more context, ideally from the candidate, might uncover that this is not something she deems acceptable. If the candidate does not act horrified, then it’s relevant information, but jf she does it’s an opportunity for her to put a stop to this behavior she may not know is happening!

      1. a higher ed admin*

        sorry – just read a little more carefully – the hiring manager should inquire with the candidate about this since the OP doesn’t work at the company anymore.

        And I completely agree that IF the candidate is okay with her sister reaching out, it demonstrates terrible judgment and immaturity!

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        That does sound cringe-worthy. But now I want Alison to ask for horror stories where family has interfered with a job in some way.

      3. Anonimosity*

        My folks bought me a car during a period of unemployment, replacing a worse car that was hindering my job search. The car was paid for, and I was going to carry liability only (cheaper) until I got a job and then update it to comprehensive. I called my insurance office (located in my hometown, not where I actually live) to update the insurance and found that MY DAD HAD ALREADY DONE IT.

        He is not now nor ever was on my insurance account, because I did not get a car until I was well past the age of majority. The title to the new car was in my name, not his. My brother handled the sale; all my dad did was front the money. He did not tell me he was doing this, either. I didn’t find out until I called them.

        Besides him going behind my back, I was utterly gobsmacked that the office personnel actually let someone who wasn’t on the account make changes. They did it because everybody knew him, and they knew he was my dad, so they figured it was okay. UM, NO. What if my dad were like Engineer Girl’s sister and trying to sabotage me and cancelled it without my knowledge?

        I dumped that office immediately and found an agent where I live. I made sure I let both my new and my old agents know exactly why this change was taking place. I suppose I could have reported them to the company, and I probably should have. I’m just glad he isn’t like some of these people and wouldn’t try to interfere with my job.

        1. Anonypoo*

          While I understand the need for boundaries, this leaves the impression of your being rather ungrateful.

          1. Glor*

            I don’t understand how wanting your insurance agent to only allow listed policy members to make changes makes one “ungrateful.”

  2. Sassy Intern*

    Uhh… Could this be a cultural thing that’s not translating very well?

    I think this blog even a had a question about a family member reaching out on behalf of an interviewee (or attending the interview or something), due to the fact that’s that how they operate within their cultural norms. I want to say this is more common in Australian Aboriginal cultures, but I could be mistaken.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      There was a discussion about some interviews in Australia and New Zealand where Aborigine applicants are allowed to bring a member of their community with them, but there was a very specific process and term for it that I can’t remember now.

      Even if it is cultural, this is where it’s important to clue in the family that this just isn’t done in this culture. My mom was an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at a community college, and she had all kinds of bizarre family situations – husbands coming in to argue with her about their wives’ grades (that one was common), sisters and family members showing up, etc. In a case like that, you go with “I’ll only discuss the grade/job with the the student/applicant.” You’re not doing anyone any favors by letting that slide.

      1. NickelandDime*

        Agreed Katie. I understand cultural differences, but that doesn’t mean it translates well other places or even should. We also don’t know if this was a cultural norm 30 years ago for a certain group and it’s actually no longer done, but some are holding on to it for whatever reason. When in Rome, you have to do as the Romans do.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        Oh I remember – it was called a “Support Person” and a Letter Writer didn’t realize that meant a very specific thing in terms of Aborigine applicants, and wondered if she should bring her boyfriend along. That was a fascinating discussion!

      3. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

        New Zealand, you can bring whānau along for support. But that’s very specifically regarding interviews, and they’re in the room with the applicant, not communicating on their behalf without the applicant themselves.

    2. Deb*

      New Zealand aboriginal actually, it’s the Whanau interview for the Maori.
      I wondered the same thing. Maybe it’s cultural.

    3. Sadsack*

      There’s something in the way that the sister is asking on the sly, telling OP not to worry because it is just between them, that makes me think this isn’t the case here.

  3. illini02*

    I would definitely not pass anything on to your former manager unless you know that Jane knew about this. I know some people do believe that its a data point that needs to be shared, but if she had nothing to do with it, it would be a shame for her to be out of the reason for something someone else did.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      But it’s not the OP’s job to determine everything with perfect fairness; she should simply pass along the info (with the caveat I suggest here) and let the hiring manager determine what to make of it. I’d be annoyed as hell if I were the hiring manager and found out someone didn’t tell me about this just because she couldn’t be 100% sure of the story behind it.

      And the hiring manager is just as capable of the rest of us of realizing that the applicant might not have known the sister did this.

      1. illini02*

        I suppose I could see the hiring manager being angry about this if person reached out to a current employee, and current employee didn’t share the info. However, they reached out to a former employee, so I think that makes it a bit different where OP has no obligation to share this information. I understand that they are friendly still, but I don’t think the situation warrants it. I’m just saying that if you aren’t sure, no need to badly color the view of an applicant based on the sister’s actions.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          She’s not obligated to because of her job, but she’s obligated to given the relationship she describes still having with the boss. It would bizarre to keep this to herself.

          1. illini02*

            Yeah, I guess I just disagree. Which is fine. I’m just saying I have a problem with judging applicants (or people in general) based on behaviors of siblings. I would HATE for someone to judge my qualifications for a job based on my brother’s behavior (he is basically a complete douchebag, but I love him). Because of that, I couldn’t see myself bringing that other person’s odd behavior up. If it turned out I knew the crazy sibling of an applicant at my current job, I don’t know that I’d bring it up, because to me its an unfair cloud being cast on this person for something they have no control over.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              But you’re assuming that the hiring manager WILL judge the person for it. Why isn’t the hiring manager just as capable as you or me of recognizing that there are multiple possible explanations, and digging to figure out which it is?

              1. illin02*

                If the hiring manager’s reaction is similar to the reactions of people on here, then who is to say. Even if subconsciously they may be thinking, as someone else posted below “it makes me wonder what else the sister would do if the applicant gets the job”.

                1. MK*

                  This is a question of loyalty. The OP’s is very firmly with her former employer, not a candidate she has never met.

              2. T.*

                I think because when the sister contacted the OP, it’s easier to reserve judgement because the OP doesn’t know the sister and whether it’s likely that she’s contacting on her own or at the applicant’s request. But if the OP forwards the note to her boss, it’s possible that their close relationship will lead the boss to trust the information and let it colour her opinion of the candidate, rightly or wrongly. I think when information comes from a close, trusted source, most people are more likely to believe it than question what the back story is or other explanations.

            2. some1*

              But if you were trying to get a job and your brother did this without your permission, wouldn’t you want to know?

              1. illin02*

                Colette, because I don’t think its relevant. That i think is where the difference comes in. A person’s behavior is relevant to their candidacy, not the behavior of their friends or family. If I knew the candidate personally, I would relay what I knew. But just having knowledge of their sibling (without actually knowing the candidate) to me seems to have no bearing on the situation.

                1. Observer*

                  Actually, in this case the behavior is TOTALLY relevant – because the behavior is already infringing on the interview process. There is very good reason to believe that if Applicant gets hired Sis will continue to stick her nose in if allowed.

            3. Observer*

              Besides what Alison said, the problem here is that it’s not just “crazy sibling” it’s “interfering sibling.” I think that a smart hiring manager would have to address it, if it turned out that the sister was reaching out on her own.

              Also, while I think that’s possible, clearly Applicant is sharing a fair amount of information about her job search. She needs to realize that if this is how her sister acts, she needs to limit what she shares as a starting point for limiting the damage. In this case it would have meant not telling her sister where she is applying.

            4. Margo*

              As a teacher with a father who loudly supports some pretty misguided education policy and a brother who likes to yell and intimidate people for fun, I totally agree that people should not be judged by their family’s behavior.

              But this is a family member acting on an applicant’s behalf. That makes it different. Even if the applicant is unaware of that action, this wasn’t completely out of her control. She told her sister about the interview, or acted in a way that didn’t keep her sister from finding out. (And it’s her sister. She should know if those precautions needed to be taken.)

              It’s not out of bounds for the OP to pass this on to the manager. She’s not being fired from a job she already has, which would require much stronger evidence. This is just a job that she may or may not miss out on; the evidence required has a much lower standard.

      2. Colette*

        I agree, and I see no reason for the OP to protect the applicant – who she doesn’t know – at the expense of the hiring manager and team that she does know.

        Even if the applicant has no idea that her sister did this, it makes me wonder what else the sister would do if the applicant gets the job.

  4. YandO*

    holy donuts with a glaze of crazy on top

    if my sibling/parent/relative did this to me, they would be facing serious consequences probably permanent in nature.

    1. Anna*

      I used to be an atrociously overbearing sister (I’m much better now. Really.) and even that would NEVER have occurred to me. Like ever.

  5. Kady*

    Maybe I believe the worst in people, but I suspect that Jane borrowed her sister’s LinkedIn and sent the message herself. If the message is received well then she would gain useful information in her job search. If it was received badly then she could wash her hands clean of the event. “My sister reached out to you? I apologize. She acted completely out of line.”

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      This is more believable to me than the sister simply reaching on her sister’s behalf. But it’s still weird.

      1. Cimorene*

        I feel like people who don’t believe that this could happen have never met anyone with narcissistic personality disorder.

    2. Shell*

      This was my first thought as well. It’s super weird that a relative of the applicant would be so thorough in her questioning for a job that isn’t even hers–yes, the questions reveal a lack of attention to the interview itself, but they still sound more thorough than just a casual question.

      I’d tell the ex-boss and wash my hands of it.

      1. some1*

        This jumped out at me, too. If the role was that vague in the interview, why not ask questions at the end of the interview or email them to the hiring manager later?

    3. Lily in NYC*

      Hmmm, I don’t know. I have an overbearing cousin who I could see doing this to one of her kids. She’s not just a helicopter mom, she’s a an entire fleet of Black Hawks. I can envision the sister grilling her about the interview and sis saying she didn’t know the answers to several things. Sister gets all in her business: “why didn’t you ask? you need to call back and find out and be proactive” , but sis doesn’t want to, is too embarrassed to do it. So Sister says, Oh, I’ll just do it for you and sis says “great, ok!”.

      1. Ama*

        Or even that, for whatever reason, the sister doesn’t want Jane working there and is trying to dig up some dirt on the company to discourage her (the “we’ll keep this confidential” is what made me think of it).

        A friend of mine recently transferred within her employer from an office in our hometown to an office in another state. Her mother has health problems and despite two of her sisters also living in our hometown, they had been expecting her to do all the work taking the mom to her doctor’s appointments, getting her prescriptions, etc. Neither of the sisters were happy when she announced the move, and one of them did try to manufacture some drama to get her to stay (thankfully not as far as contacting the employer). That sister is actually *still* not talking to my friend, almost a year after she moved, because she had the gall to make a decision that was best for her own life and now the other siblings have to share some of the caretaking burden.

      2. Revanche*

        *cracks up* I have an aunt who is also an entire fleet of Black Hawks. We had to cut her off because she was up in *everyone’s* business always.

    4. Anonsie*

      That’s a cleverly awful idea. In the scale of probability though, I do think invasive and overbearing family members are pretty common and more likely to be the culprit.

      1. bridget*

        Right? OP almost certainly wouldn’t have minded if the candidate herself reached out and asked for information about the role. This strategy (if the speculation is correct) is such a needlessly weird way to try to avoid a normal reaching-out process.

    5. The IT Manager*


      While this theory strikes me as almost more believable, I don’t have experience with overbearing family members. Other posters are saying that they have family members that they can imagine doing this. But I do wonder why if you know your sister is a crazy boundary jumper, that you’d give her enough info to ask such detailed questions.

  6. Not Today Satan*

    In some ways I’m sympathetic to the applicant and her sister. Maybe it’s just because I’m still recovering from Terrible Job PTSD, but I’m always afraid that I’m not getting an accurate picture in interviews. But if she reached out to the predecessor, she should have done it herself, and she probably should have waited until she received an offer.

    1. Lyssa*

      I don’t see anything wrong with politely reaching out to the predecessor (with limited questions). I’ve done that myself, actually, though I didn’t get a response. (I had been told that she had been a good employee then completely flaked out and stopped showing up or doing things she was supposed to in a really weird way, so I was a little bit worried that there could be more to the story, so I figured I could at least give her the chance to turn around and tell a horror story to me.) (I took the job, and, apparently, there wasn’t more to the story, girl just lost it for some reason. The workplace was great.)

      1. Lyssa*

        It’s the doing it through a family member (and the fact that it sounds like she asked a lot of intrusive questions) that’s weird here, IMO.

    2. MK*

      It’s pretty clueless, though. If for no other reason, because it assumes the OP would be willing to take a risk on the discretion of someone they never met. “We ‘ll keep this confidential” means nothing if I don’t know you and trust you to do as you say.

  7. BethRA*

    For what it’s worth, I have an in-law who has done similarly invasive and inappropriate things allegedly on behalf of other family members, although they themselves did not ask her to do so. She’s taken vague answers to her own questions as evidence that the third party is withholding info or being dishonest and decided to “help” by contacting them herself (this has happened with one employer and one school administration that I’m aware of)

    Which is to say, yes, reaching out to you is really wrong and strange, but I wouldn’t assume the applicant had any idea Sis was going to do this, or even that the applicant didn’t get this info directly in her interview.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      Yeah, nobody in my family would do this, but I have friends who have relatives I can totally see doing this. It would not surprise me at all coming from them. My friends would be horrified, but they can’t predict and therefore prevent every inappropriate or invasive thing their family members might do.

      1. NickelandDime*

        Right. If you know you have family members that would do something like this, you need to be strong and assertive, establish healthy boundaries, and not tell them things they don’t need to know.

        1. Ops Analyst*

          This is often a lot easier said than done. Sometimes the behavior of overbearing family members can amount to emotional abuse. I’m not saying thats what this is and I don’t particularly like throwing the word abuse around. But you can’t just blanket statement that people “need to be strong and assertive, establish healthy boundaries, and not tell them things they don’t need to know.” Some people are not capable of that. In which case they should probably seek therapy and figure out how to change that. But relationships with family and other close individuals can hold varying levels of control over people for many, many reasons and changing that is usually not so straightforward.

          1. Ops Analyst*

            Also, establishing a healthy relationship is really difficult when you are trying to do that with someone who doesn’t understand what a healthy relationship is. That is something that really needs to come from both sides.

      2. nona*

        This is a tangent, but even when you can predict it, you can’t do much to prevent it. The only option is choosing not to tell your family about job applications, and then there’s still the chance that they will hear about it from someone else.

        1. blu*

          +1 My mother is like this, but she is also inconsistent with it. I have limited what I tell her, but it’s also challenging to navigate a relationship like this. I want to have a relationship with my mother and that isn’t going to work if I refuse to share anything going on in my life. The problem with the “don’t tell them stuff” is that you don’t know which things they will take and run with inappropriately.

          1. Colette*

            I think you have to recognize that your relative may poison work or personal relationships at will, and only share information once the relationship is strong enough to survive. At the interviewing stage, that’s not the case.

            1. blu*

              Again, you’re making this much simpler than it is in practice. I get your point and I spent years in therapy learning to set boundaries, however as JB said below, I cannot be held accountable for making another adult behave in an appropriate manner. Unless I’m not going to tell anyone else in my family anything ever, I don’t have a way to put my mother in an information vacuum so that she never gets a hold of information that she behave inappropriately with. I will also add that people who have these kind of boundary issues can be very combative when you do try to withhold information.

              All that to say, that situations like this are more complex than just telling someone they can prevent this if only they have good boundaries and information control.

              1. Colette*

                If you can’t trust the people you give information to, the answer is to not give them that information or else live with the consequences – which may include losing out on jobs. That may mean that no one in your family knows where you work, or that you only meet them in public places so that they don’t know where you live, or that you have to cut off contact altogether.

                I don’t think it’s easy, but I also don’t think you can give information to someone who you know will use it as a weapon and then shrug and say “not my fault, you can’t hold it against me”. It’s not something you directly did, but you enabled someone else to do it.

                Similarly, if your mom was a recovering alcoholic, you wouldn’t buy her wine for her birthday and say “well, I didn’t drink it”.

                1. blu*

                  The idea of totally isolating yourself from your family may sounds reasonable for you, but it’s not for many other people. That analogy is not the same at all and I think you are demonstrating an unwillingness to really hear what multiple people on this thread have shared.

                2. fposte*

                  @blu–I hear people on this thread saying it’s extremely difficult, when you’ve been raised amid abuse or enmeshment, to separate your work life from your family even if your family is known to be a problem. I totally get and believe that.

                  I hear Colette saying that it can be a risk to your job if you can’t manage that separation. Which I also get and believe.

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            Exactly this. It’s a little unfair to say “welp, you just can’t have any relationship with that person since you don’t have any idea what they’ll do with information you give them.” You can set boundaries, you can limit what you tell them, but if you tell them *nothing* about what is going on in your life, you can’t have a relationship with them. And for some people, that’s the choice they have to make. But we shouldn’t tell people they have to make that choice or suffer the consequences when the relative goes rogue. It’s your fault your mom did this weird unpredictable thing because you have a relationship with her!

            1. Anonsie*

              They can also get additional information from other people who don’t really appreciate what you’re trying to do because “you’re family.” I’ve seen a lot of people’s efforts to set boundaries with an invasive parent/sibling/in-law repeatedly torn down by a grapevine of other relatives who think those boundaries are unreasonable.

              1. Ops Analyst*

                The family member in this instance might even be getting inaccurate information from the outside source, and they take that as gold and run with it. I’ve also seen an overbearing person fill in the blanks when there is an absence of information, and sometimes that can be worse than just actually answering their questions.

              2. JB (not in Houston)*

                Absolutely. The “but they’re faaaaammmmiiillllyyy” relatives can do a lot of damage unintentionally.

      3. Lynn Whitehat*

        I could see my in-laws doing something like this. Therefore I don’t give them enough information to know who to call about things like places I interviewed. But there are some pieces of information, like where my kids go to school, that I can’t keep secret.

  8. Andy*

    Unless there is a serious illness involved I cannot imagine a situation where I’d want my family member inserting themselves in my work life.
    True story/ similar boundary issue: I once had a friend’s mom call me to let me know that my friend was having a hard time and that she (the mother) was going to call her (daughter’s) boss (a psychiatrist, but not my friend’s) just to let him know.
    I think that the mother made the assumption that since boss-person was a psychiatrist that 1) nothing you say to him in any context will ever be repeated, 2) he is actively involved in his employee’s mental health care, and 3) her daughter would be somehow benefited from the boss having personal information about her emotional state.
    PS: her emotional state is and was totally normal. Anyone might be a little grumpy with a mom like that.

  9. louise*

    For some reason the phrase “her sister has gone rogue” is cracking me up. Can’t stop giggling. This is a sign that the week has gotten to me, I suppose.

  10. itsame...Adam*

    That person probably doesn’t have a LinkedIn account and thought using the sisters account is fine. Odd since they are free and easy to make but not really a huge problem. Just tell her that you are not sharing info with third parties and the candidate would need to contact you directly if need be. Also don’t send anything to the hiring guy. You don’t have any obligation to your ex employer and getting involved in this would have no benefit to you at all.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      Technically the OP doesn’t have any obligation to her ex-employer, but the letter makes it clear that they parted on very good terms, and she still considers her ex-boss to be a friend, not to mention a valuable colleague. So in that context, I think passing along this information is appropriate. I would certainly appreciate that kind of insight to an applicant, and it would definitely factor into my evaluation process.

      1. itsame...Adam*

        Yes but friendship and business are two separate things. For me it comes dow to this. Best case scenario, she tells the boss, boss says thanks and after a week she forgets about it. Worst case scenario, she tells boss, candidate finds out because the boss tells the candidate that due to her feedback the candidate is disqualified. Candidate starts harassing her for ruining her chance (unjustified of course and yes I am paranoid 😊). There is no justifiable win scenario for her that makes it worth getting involved. Actually, I would just delete the message and unlink the sister. If they decide to hire her they can always fire her.

        1. Sadsack*

          But OP has made it obvious that she does feel an obligation because she likes her former team and wants them to make a good hire.

        2. Sans*

          There’s also the downside where the applicant is hired, is a loon, and casually mentions how she spoke with the former employee before she was hired. Then the ex-boss wonders why in heck the former employee and supposed friend didn’t give her a heads up and maybe she could have avoided the loon altogether.

        3. Gandalf the Nude*

          Friendship and business are not wholly separate things. There are limits to the kind of personal relationship you have with your professional contacts, but it’s definitely not black and white like you seem to be implying. They may be friends, and OP may not be looking to work right now, but some future day she may need the boss for a good reference or even a new job. Imagine if things go sideways with this candidate and the boss finds out about this piece of information that could have helped her avoid that. The boss could reasonably have some new reservations about OP’s judgment, which may or may not affect that good reference or rehire. So, it’s not just about helping a friend or former colleague; it’s protecting OP’s reputation.

        4. MK*

          The OP is not trying to “win” anything here, she is trying to behave well to her former employer without being too unfair to the candidate.

          By the way, the person who decides if a certain relatiosnhip confers an obligation is the one who is in the relationship. In this case, it’s pretty obvious that the OP does feel under an obligation to her old boss and, based on the description of their relationship, I am inclined to agree. While no one can claim that she owes anything at all to the candidate.

      2. Sadsack*

        Right, in this context, OP does have an obligation to her former employer as a current friend and networking contact. Why should she not say something about it? She’s already involved due to being contacted on linked in. Just pass the info on and move on.

    2. peanut butter kisses*

      I think that using someone else’s LinkedIn account would be a bigger red flag than having that kind of a move coming from a sister. If you are job hunting and cannot figure out how to set up your own LinkedIn account, there might be some problems with your computer skills that you will need to work on. I haven’t bee reading AAM for long but I have yet to see anyone mention that it is tough to set up an account with LinkedIn.

      1. M-C*

        OP mentioned the applicant does have a Linked In account, she checked. But there’s no excuse for not setting up an account for yourself if you need it to communicate – it’s free, it takes 10mn.

        I do hope that OP will consider promptly terminating her LinkedIn ‘friend’ status with the crazy sister though. I wouldn’t want this person visible to others who might think I had anything to do with her, and who knows what further damage she could do to OP’s future job searches.

  11. 2horseygirls*

    For the love . . .

    Helicopter SIBLINGS, now?! I thought I had it bad (in higher ed) with helicopter parents.

    And seriously, in my family, we hear about new jobs after the person is already in them.

    I think it’s worth a heads up to the hiring manager (otherwise, New Hire’s first day could look like a scene from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” ;) ), and my response to Sister would be “Seriously?!”

  12. Merry and Bright*

    I suppose this is at least a step down from the stories a while back about helicopter parents going along to their children’s job interviews.

    1. 2horseygirls*

      Ok, someone, at some point, has to allow one of those, just to report back on how it went.

      And if they asked, “Will you be coming to work with young Apple as well?”

      1. OfficePrincess*

        It wasn’t a parent, but I had a helicopter BFF show up for an interview. The person who walked them up assumed I planned to interview both, but instead it was a surprise when I walked into the conference room and saw two people! Bestie played on her phone and was distracting the whole time (I didn’t have anywhere I could send her without finding her an escort) and homegirl didn’t get the job.

  13. Ann Furthermore*

    This is just so weird. I can’t imagine any circumstance where I’d want my sister asking questions for me, and I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t want me to do anything like that for her either.

    However, I’m laughing to myself about how a conversation of me asking questions for her would go. She’s a graphic designer, and I’m an IT nerd with an accounting degree. So me trying to ask intelligent questions about a job involving design, advertising, marketing, and all the rest of it would be highly amusing.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I never understood the first thing about my sister’s first couple of jobs. I’m in government. The intricacies of the business world bewildered me at the time. People asked me what she did and I was like “she’s a….business woman?”

      1. AnonyMiss*

        Hee. I’m kind of the same way with Biglaw. I’m in government as well – first in prosecution, now in public labor, and hopefully soon in prosecution again – and I am just mesmerized by the whole world of it. Partners talking into the work of associates, who are treated like glorified paralegals who can also appear in court? Staying at work *gasp* AFTER 5pm, and not even getting things like Presidents’ Day off? What the heck people.

      2. Ann Furthermore*

        My sister told me once that she was working with 2 people on her staff on some sort of store display, and they had a piece of plexi-glass (or something) they needed to use for 3 products. It was 75 inches long. They wanted to be really, really sure they gave each product an equal amount of space. So they dug through all their desks, finally unearthed a calculator, and entered 75/3. Then all looked at each other and said, “Oh, right…” when the answer was 25. And then all laughed uproariously about this being what happens when creative people try to do math.

        Then on the other hand, one time years ago she, my brother (the engineer) and me (the numbers geek) were wrapping Christmas presents. My brother had a decorative candle to wrap, and had a strip of wrapping paper he thought would fit. He laid it out, and the wrapping paper was just a little too narrow, and he said, “Crap. This won’t work.” My sister looked at it and said, “Just do it on an angle.” We both looked at her, completely bewildered, and said, “Huh?” She rolled her eyes and said, “You know, lay it down on the corner, and wrap it diagonally. You’ll cover more surface area, and then there will be extra on the ends to fold in.” Again….the engineer and the numbers geek said, “Huh?” At which point she said, “Oh my god. Give me that!” And took the candle, laid it diagonally on the corner of the wrapping paper, and rolled it up. And just like she said, it wrapped the whole thing and there was enough on the ends to fold in. Then we both said, “Oh, right….”

        It’s funny how differently people’s brains work, even when they’re in the same family.

          1. Ann Furthermore*

            She and I were just laughing about this a couple weeks ago when she was here for a visit. She also told me that she once went to the beach with that same brother, and spread her towel out at an angle instead of lining it up perpendicular to the water. She said he audibly gasped, and asked, “What are you doing? She just wanted the sun to be shining on her directly. But he just couldn’t believe it…and it really bothered him. And I totally understand why it did. LOL.

  14. some1*

    The letter’s not clear — is the candidate internal or external? If it’s an internal candidate and she knew what her sister was doing this is even weirder.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I was thinking it was an external candidate. But based on the information in the letter, it sounds like an internal candidate would be chosen. Responding to the request, even if it was a normal request, may be building up false hope.
      I’m just weirded out that the sister was able to track down the OP.

  15. Lily in NYC*

    This reminds me of the guy who wrote in because he was going to ask his wife’s boss to promote her. People, stay out of your loved one’s work life, you will only cause harm! I had an intern candidate’s mom call once to try to talk up how great her son was and I was so shocked I wasn’t all that diplomatic – I told her that she was doing him no favors by calling on his behalf and that all she did was raise a giant red flag. But he was still in school so it’s not quite as off-base as what the sister did.

    1. AMG*

      We could only wish the sister was self-aware so she would stop doing this (if it is in fact her).

    2. AJ*

      Interesting that the info requested was “just between us” as she was asking on behalf of Jane and would presumably pass it along. If someone assured me that we were speaking in confidence and then asked me question on behalf of a very interested third party, I would have trouble trusting them.

  16. OP*

    Hi everyone,

    Thanks so much to Alison and all the commentors for your advice. I was actually afraid for a minute that I was overreacting and and maybe this was a bit more commonplace, but it’s good to be validated on the weirdness!

    I actually ended up doing both things. I reached out to my old boss and said, “I recieved a Linkedin message from the sister of a candidate you apparently interviewed for the [role] asking a bunch of questions about the position and my experience at [company] on behalf of the applicant. I’m not sure if I’m going to reply or if it’s even appropriate to, so I wanted to run it by you and give you a heads up. If I were to reply, I plan to request the actual candidate reach out to me and not her sister. ”

    My old boss appreciated the heads up and said it was my call but to make sure the candidate knew that my input had no bearing on the selection process. So I replied to the sister and gave her my email asking the candidate to reach out directly. Here is where it gets a little weirder. The applicant contacted me, so I now had her name, and she had checked out my profile via Linkedin, so she definitely had my info and could have contacted me herself. When she emailed me, she made it sound like she had been offered the job and was deciding whether or not to take it (specific language: “I am considering taking X role at the company”). I answered her questions professionally and wished her luck.

    Then the next day, the internal applicant who was my coworker that I recommended contacted me to tell me she got the job! So either this girl who contacted me never was offered the job or she ended up turning it down. Either way, it was a very bizarre chain of events. Regardless, I’m glad I reached out to my old boss and kept her in the loop as I think I would have regretted not doing so. Thank you again so much for your advice again, it was super helpful, as always!

    1. some1*

      Sounds like the candidate is extremely shady and probably thought you’d be more candid with her sister. She’s like the person who creates a fake online dating profile to catch their partner cheating.

      You did the right thing and your boss almost certainly dodged a bullet.

    2. Sunflower*

      It’s possible that when she said ‘I am considering taking X role at the company’ really just meant ‘I interviewed and am thinking about taking the role IF it’s offered to me’.

      I think applicants tend to get ahead of themselves a lot in the interview process- I know I do. After an interview, I start seriously considering the pros and cons of the role, what I would need in order to take it. This is taking that a little too far though. A couple things should have happened here
      1. She should have waited til she had an offer to reach out
      2. Should have reached out herself
      3. If she had qualms about the role(she obviously did or she wouldn’t have asked what she asked) she should have asked the manager to speak to someone closer to the role or someone else in the organization to get a feel for the culture.

      Based on what you say about your relationship with your old boss, if she she had planned to hire externally, I think she would have involved you more in the process. If this woman(or anyone externally) was given an offer, I wonder if your boss would have suggested that she chat with you anyway to get a feel for the position.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        That was my thought, that it is a borderline “forward-oriented” type of wording that many people consider acceptable, even though it’s technically wrong. I hate that myself, but then in the work I do, wording can mean the difference between being cited and being compliant.

    3. Anonsie*

      A-ha! I have two thoughts on this. One is that the wording you mention may not have been meant to say she was offered the job, I do know a lot of people who talk about jobs they’ve applied for as if it really is just a process of apply-acceptance-decision.

      But the other thought is there’s no way they weren’t working on this together. This sounds like the modern interpretation of the “go down to the office and talk to everyone in person so they know who you are” advice people like to hand out like sugar free gum. She may well have been a finalist and reaching out to you isn’t crazy on its face or anything, but I agree that by having the sister do it first they probably thought they could get a more favorable response somehow.

      Also, is this applicant pretty young or have any other indications that she might be new to the workforce? I would float the possibility that she doesn’t get why this is nuts because this is the way her family taught her to job hunt, but I also wouldn’t give any additional leeway in considering her because of that. Just out of general speculation. Not that it matters, since the position is filled already.

      1. OP*

        They were definitely in on it together. And no, she can’t be that young because I helped write the job description and it’s not an entry level role (I’m almost 30) and they aren’t hiring someone fresh out of college or with only 1-2 years of experience.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I’d chalk this one up as being a person who does not read AAM. She probably got the idea from one of those other sites out there and sis decided to help. Just goes to show: Friends don’t let friends job hunt without reading AAM.

  17. Mena*

    One thing to add to Alison’s response … very presumptive that you’d even care to make the time to answer the questions at all.

  18. neverjaunty*

    Hey OP, not to be paranoid here, but the person who reached out to you may not actually be anyone’s sister. Unethical people who want to gather information for a lawuit, or write a ‘muckracking’ article, or dig up dirt for a competitor, can impersonate a ‘friend’ or family member on social media to gather information – playing on people’s tendency to think someone sounds familiar or surely this person wouldn’t contact them if they didn’t know them. (Or, slightly less paranoid-ly, as someone pointed out it could in fact be “Jane” herself doing that asking-for-a-friend thing.)

    Definitely report it to your friend at the workplace and do not reply to this person. I, however, would take numerous screenshots of her LinkedIn profile to pass along. I suspect if you dig you will find this person is not as on the up and up as they would like you to believe.

    1. Maxwell Edison*

      Agreed. When I read this, my first thought that this was six shades of hinky and possibly some sort of scam.

  19. knitchic79*

    We once had an employee who had some mild brain damage. She could do her job fine, just took her a bit longer to become proficient. It’s a small town and I knew the family she lived with from church, complete wackadoodles. Well there came a point that I had to make some cuts to hours, myself included. Her house mom starts hounding me about it at church. Came to a head when she requested a meeting with me and my boss to explain why this one employee should be the exception to the cuts. My boss was very patient, did not give in, and reminded the woman that this behavior was in no way appropriate (translation: will loose your girl her job). Ahhh helicopter family…good times.

  20. Student*

    There must’ve been some logic to this. It’s inappropriate for the sister to contact you no matter what the justification is, but I’m so curious about the train of thought that generated this action.

    Is there any chance that Candidate had Sister contact you for some other reason that hasn’t occurred to you? Is Sister from your alma mater, or does she share some non-obvious linkedin association with you through a group or a contact?

    Is there any chance this is name-related or photo-related? Maybe Candidate thought you’d respond better to Sister because Sister has a cute linkedin photo, or a (married?) last name you might relate to more by ethnicity/nationality.

    1. OP*

      Nope, the sister works in the same industry as me, we have no contacts in common, and our names are totally different. Plus she doesn’t have a Linkedin photo.

      1. Oh This Situation :)*

        Most likely one of those accounts that slip by the LinkedIn filters and is not legitimate. I understand wanting to help others in a job search but this has wrong all over it. Personally, I would not even respond but would delete the contact from my LinkedIn account and the email. :) I am very picky about who I accept invitations from but even then I have about 2-3 invitations that ‘look’ legitimate but once I accept an inappropriate email comes through. While yours isn’t creepy like some I have seen it is absolutely inappropriate.

  21. Kristine*

    This “sister” is actually the applicant herself. You can set your clock by that. The applicant is simply not honest enough to call herself the applicant.

  22. Oh This Situation :)*

    It is possible that the person who sent the message wasn’t a ‘sister of’ any applicant at all but an applicant who didn’t want you to know who they were. It isn’t unusual for applicants to ask to speak to someone who worked for the company to gather information. It is unusual and inappropriate to either ask someone else to do so for them or to be the applicant and try to hide that information. It is more common and appropriate to contact a person they already know that work(ed) for the company or to ask for a proper introduction in order to gather information. The fact that you don’t even know who this person is would be a red flag for me.

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