my interviewers accused me of lying on my resume

A reader writes:

I have a question about an interview I had recently.

I am an experienced IT Infrastructure manager (running teams of up to 30) with project management experience – and was invited to an interview on the strength of my CV, which clearly stated that I was a “PRINCE2 certified IT Infrastructure Manager with five years management experience and ten years technical experience for both public- and private-sector employers.” It also had the dates of my PRINCE2 qualification – which was by this point two years old.

During the interview, I was told that I had lied on my CV because I’d stated I had five years of experience managing PRINCE2 projects. When I tried to explain that they’d misunderstood what I’d written, the managing director of the company asked me (somewhat aggressively) if I was accusing him of being unable to understand English.

I was a little discombobulated, to say the least, but the interview continued – with one of the other interviewers moving on to say, “Let’s ask some technical questions – assuming you haven’t lied about your technical qualifications as well.”

I was seething by this point and wrestled with myself about whether or not to walk out of the interview. I decided reluctantly that it was best to see out the interview. It became apparent during the interview that while they claimed they were looking for an IT manager with project management experience, what they actually wanted was an IT project manager who could also manage a team.

At the end, they asked me if I had any questions. I was broadly convinced that there was no way they would be employing me at that point, so I said I had no questions and ended the interview.

I then sent a thank-you email the next morning, apologizing for the misunderstanding on my CV and thanking them for their time. Needless to say, I received no reply, not even one to let me know they would not be employing me.

My question is, broadly, did I do the right thing? Should I have walked out when they implied I was dishonest? Should I have gone through the usual post-interview questions when I thought they wouldn’t employ me? Or did what I chose to do make sense?

I’m now in a new role working somewhere else, and I’m very happy in it so I didn’t really lose out too much, but the interview has been niggling away at me for some time.

Well, remember that you want to be assessing your interviewers just as much as they’re assessing you. And in this case, your interviewers gave you some pretty significant information about themselves — that they’re rude, prone to really weird misinterpretations, and possibly/probably jerks.

Don’t fall into the oddly common mistake of thinking that just because you’re interviewing somewhere, you’re supposed to want the job and supposed to do everything you can to help get it (like thank-you notes the next day). If you see things in the interview that make you realize you wouldn’t want the job or want to work for these people, your goal is to spot that and make that decision for yourself — not just to leave the verdict to them.

Now, should you have walked out mid-interview when they accused you of lying? Not necessarily, but it would have been fine to have the same sort of response that you’d presumably have to a colleague who said something like that, or in any other situation without the power disparity that people often feel in interviews. That means that it when they accused you of lying, it would have been reasonable to say in a surprised tone, “Whoa, I think you misunderstood. If you look at my resume, you’ll see that doesn’t say that I have five years of experience managing PRINCE2 projects; it says that I have five years of experience managing. And it has the dates of my PRINCE2 certification, which was two years ago.”

If they followed that up with that remark about accusing them of being unable to understand English, I’d say, “No, I think you’ve misinterpreted what was on my resume. But this is feeling strangely adversarial to me and not like a working dynamic I’d be interested in. Why don’t we wrap up here?”

It’s not “walking out,” exactly — it’s just asserting yourself, calmly and professionally, and explaining that it doesn’t make sense to continue talking further. You get to decide that just as much as they do.

{ 246 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie the Fed

    Wow, yeah. You would have been well within your rights to end it right there. Jerks.

    1. Night Owl

      Yep, OP dodged a bullet. You obviously didn’t lie, but even if you had, their rudeness and snide comments were uncalled for and a massive red flag about their general professionalism.

      1. some1

        That’s the part that’s the strangest to me. If they thought she was lying on her resume, why would they bring her in to interview at all?

        1. Three Thousand

          Carelessness, maybe. They could have just skimmed the resume before or during the interview. They don’t seem to have read it carefully in any case.

        2. Anon369

          It also could be an interviewing technique. Some lines of work will try to test candidates during the interview this way and see how they respond. Not saying it’s a sign of a healthy workplace, but not unheard of.

    2. AMG

      You should go to Glass Door to report on it. Other people need to know it’s not them, it’s the company that’s the issue.

      1. Stranger than fiction

        Yes I second this! Unbelievably rude. When the dude said “do you think I don’t understand English?” I would have said “No, but I think you need to read that again” But I may have been too stunned like the Op to get the words out

      2. Anon For This

        Honestly Glassdoor will just delete the review, they seem to delete any review that is overly critical. I tried to write a review of a company I did some freelance work for that treated me particularly poorly. I was especially motivated when I met someone who took the position after me (who is currently there and is in the process of being replaced) who also had the same experience. So I thought, “Hey, I’ll go onto Glassdoor and warn future freelancers that this company has a problem with how they treat their freelancers and that you may want to think twice about working with these people.” Really, other than my “Star” rating, it wasn’t even that scathing. They totally deleted it like I was just trying to get back at the company. They sent me an email that forwarded me to their “Terms of Service” claiming that they “Don’t outright delete critical reviews”. Basically, they accused me of being spam unless I connect them with a facebook account…. I don’t have a facebook account. And I’m not making one just for them. Anyway, my point is that I have a whole lot less respect for Glassdoor now and wish there was a forum where I could out bad freelance clients.

        1. MR

          Glassdoor is basically the ‘Better Business Bureau’ for employers. Any company that is a ‘member’ of the BBB tends to get negative reviews scrubbed and things appear in a positive light on their website.

          While I’m not sure how Glassdoor pays their bills, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were in a similar fashion.

          1. Anon For This

            Interesting. One thing I forgot to mention in my original post was that I have successfully submitted other reviews to Glassdoor in the past. When I first joined them I wanted to look into some companies. Glassdoor has a system that strongly encourages you to sign up and contribute in order to see any detailed content on their site. It was only two reviews, both of them more on the positive side. Their algorithm had no issues with posting and keeping those up. So my suddenly being treated like a bad apple when writing a critical review, one I actually think will help people, really bothered me. It would almost make sense that this company knows that they have a problem and are trying to minimize it.

        2. Dee

          Freelancers Union has a client scoreboard where you can post anonymous reviews. And those don’t get deleted. Hope that helps!

        3. TrainerGirl

          Interesting. I’ve seen some horribly scathing reviews of one company in my area, so I wonder if Glassdoor doesn’t like them, because they don’t seem to delete those reviews. We read them on a monthly basis, because they’re so entertaining.

        4. That Marketing Chick

          Glassdoor does NOT remove negative reviews. There are a couple about my company from disgruntled employees that I WISH they would allow us to delete. :( I think they reason, like they said, was that they couldn’t verify you for some reason.

      3. Suzanne

        I’ve done this on several occasions for very, very chaotic and crazy employers. My reviews have never been deleted and a couple were pretty scathing. It always makes me smile when I see someone add one which echoes my sentiments.

        1. Anon For This

          Then I don’t know what I did wrong, other than refusing to link to a Facebook account. I mention this above, but forgot to in my original statement. I also reviewed two other businesses when I first opened the account and neither of those were deleted. Maybe they’ve gotten stricter? Maybe I used key words that they don’t like? They did make it pretty clear that the fact that I clicked “1 star” was why I was flagged in the first place. The company I rated is very small, and none of their other reviews were exactly stellar either. My review was much more specific then I tend to see on the site though.

          1. Emma

            Sometimes mine have taken several days to show up on the site? Did you check back to see if it got posted?

            1. Rachel

              Seconding this. The site says all posts are reviewed and they may take time to actually show up on the site.

              Also, is the company noted as an “engaged employer” in their profile? If the review was posted but then taken down, I wonder if they reported it. (They aren’t supposed to report posts just for being negative, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some of them do.)

  2. KT

    One of the hardest things for me to overcome was the urge/desire/need to be polite and considerate. Perhaps it was the Irish Catholic guilt-inspired upbringing I had that always encouraged courtesy and deference above all things, but I struggled to handle rudeness with assertiveness.

    The simple truth that I eventually learned that helped me was the simple concept is, ‘If someone is horribly rude to you, you do not owe them courtesy” or “It’s acceptable to answer rudeness with abruptness–you do not OWE the person to sit there and take it”. This is a difficult thing for a lot of people to handle, and I think this case is an excellent example.

    If someone accuses you of lying and puts you down, you do not owe them anything–certainly not to sit there politely and handle the interview and follow up with thank yous. They were tremendously rude, and Alison’s language about saying “You’ve misinterpreted my resume, but clearly this is an adversarial environment I don’t want to be part of” is excellent. Answering blatant rudeness with forthrightness will set you free!

    1. AMT

      “One of the hardest things for me to overcome was the urge/desire/need to be polite and considerate.”

      Same here. It seems counterintuitive to have to learn to be “rude,” but at a certain point in your adulthood, you learn that having firm boundaries isn’t rude at all!

    2. some1

      I think for me the shock makes it hard to respond to comments like this. Also, I will be the person who tries to logically figure out what made that person go there and answer accordingly, instead of remembering that some people are just asses.

      1. louise

        Yes, the shock usually gets me in the moment and I can’t respond. I called an applicant to schedule an interview the other day, and after I identified who I was and where I was calling from, he yawned an exaggerated yawn (!) and responded “Whaddya up to today, girl?”

        I was shocked, but for ONCE had the right response immediately and said, “I’m sorry, I don’t know you. I don’t talk like that with people.”

        1. Chocolate lover

          Who talks like that to an interviewer? Sheesh. But I like your answer. How did he respond?

        2. Traveler

          Whoa. Is it possible he was half asleep and misheard your identification? That’s so weird!

    3. RMRIC0

      This is pretty much how jerks and a**holes (what is the policy on cussing in the comments?) manage to bowl everyone over, nice people are much too concerned about being “nice.” It’s too bad more of us don’t learn your lesson earlier, we’d probably have fewer jerks running things.

    4. I'm a Little Teapot

      Yes, yes, yes! Not feeling obligated to be polite to jerks is so liberating.

      Though in this situation I’d be too shocked and intimidated to respond, not too nice. (Actually I have been in this situation; will post the story shortly.)

  3. Snarkus Aurelius

    You need to submit this to the Daily WTF. They’d love it.

    Also you dodged a bullet.

    (I wouldn’t have done the thank you notes though.)

    1. Night Owl

      Yeah, talk about a red flag. If they treated you like that in the interview (when everybody’s usually on best behavior), imagine what it might be like actually working for them every day.

    2. BRR

      Or a thank you not where you mention your five years of experience managing PRINCE2 projects and the PRINCE2 certification you got two years ago.

    3. Stranger than fiction

      Or, on the thank you it would have been awesome if Op copied and pasted the relevant pieces of the resume and bolded and highlighted it in blinding bright yellow

      1. Stranger than fiction

        And could they have been too dumb to realize you didn’t need that certification to manage?

  4. NickelandDime

    I once had a weird phone interview with a woman who seemed oddly adversarial, and was really, really focused on where I lived. She said she was concerned about me coming into work on time. I finished up the call with her, and I immediately sent her a “thank you” note – the note thanked her for her time and asked that I be withdrawn from consideration for the role.

    I’m not a person known for running late all the time – in fact, I’ve been accused of being obsessively punctual. But I didn’t think a phone interview was the time for a conversation like that. She wasn’t concerned about my qualifications at all. She was worried about traffic patterns.

    These people did you a favor. They told you you didn’t want to work there. Not only are they jerks, they didn’t seem to know or understand what they needed in the role and what they should ask.

    1. K-Anon

      Ohhhh, I love your response in the thank you note. I may have to steal that for my own.

    2. Beancounter in Texas

      I was eliminated in a phone screening because my commute would be ~45 minutes, and ironically, cut in half. I was accustomed to navigating rush hour traffic with plenty of time to get to work on time, but on the phone I was told, they wanted someone “who lived a lot closer.” I was disappointed at first, because the job seemed really interesting, but in time, I realize they did me a favor. I started to think of reasons why it’d be so important to them – they didn’t have any ability to work remotely, routinely called the beancounter into the office on nights and weekends, and probably simply had baggage from a previous employee who was chronically tardy due to traffic.

      1. NickelandDime

        Ah, making the next person suffer for the previous person’s mistakes…I think it was probably a combination of that and unreasonable work expectations. I wonder what kind of luck they had finding someone willing to put up with their crap that “lived a lot closer.”

      2. SH

        For my current job, I was required to come to the interview at 10:16 on the dot because my predecessor was always late. After I was hired, I was told that if I was a minute late I’d be fired (and they weren’t joking). Now that I have accumulated sick time and vacation days they’re a bit more lax about it.

      3. mel

        But your address is on your resume, right? They knew ahead of time what your commute would be, but they called anyway just to rub it in your face? Or were they expecting you to offer to move?

  5. Cambridge Comma

    I think that when he asked me if I was accusing him of not understanding English, I probably would have said yes.

    1. James M.

      I imagine my reply would be “Not only that, but your defensiveness shows your inability to recognize your limitations.”

      Then again, people who read something only to make up something completely different they’d rather believe they read are unnervingly common.

      1. Anna

        It’s so odd. Usually when I read something that I’m not entirely sure I understand, I read it over and over to make sure I’m not the crazy one and then when someone tells me I misunderstood, I don’t then get defensive about my English-speaking ability.

      2. Not So NewReader

        “Then again, people who read something only to make up something completely different they’d rather believe they read are unnervingly common.”

        I see this a lot, also. I have to wonder why people seem to WANT to misread something. It’s almost like it fills something inside of them.

        1. popesuburban

          Thank you for this. Yesterday, my generally-dysfunctional boss had a minor tantrum at me over this very thing. I ran the offending e-mail past two coworkers and mentioned it in passing to my folks when they called to catch up, and everyone was puzzled by his strong reaction to a correct sentence. Hearing that sometimes, people just *want* to see something as wrong was…reassuring. It’s a bummer that it happens, but it’s nice to get confirmation that this is just a quirk that is loose in the world.

    2. T3k

      I’d have gone one further, “Well, either you don’t understand simple English or you can’t do simple math, as I have clearly put down the date I got my qualification on my resume which was 2 years ago.”

  6. Elizabeth West

    Yep, bullet dodged. They’re assholes.

    FWIW, OP, the bit you posted from your resume made perfect sense to me, and I know nothing about IT. I’m like Jen on The IT Crowd when it comes to that stuff.

    1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

      “This is the Internet? ..the whole Internet?”

      Oh how I love the IT Crowd :)

    2. jmkenrick

      “With all due respect John, I am the head of IT and I have it on good authority. If you type ‘Google’ into Google, you can break the Internet.”

    3. Elizabeth West

      Tee hee!! My favorite thing EVER is this:

      Roy: “Isn’t he, Moss? Fredo, from the film. He was essentially a pimp.”

      Moss: “No! He took the ring to Mordor!”

      :D

  7. MegEB

    I’m pretty impressed that you continued through the rest of the interview after being treated like that. I would have gotten upset and walked out (although to be fair, I am definitely someone who wears their emotions on their sleeve). They certainly didn’t deserve the kindness you showed them.

  8. Steve G

    I know! I had someone in an interview in March tell me I didn’t know SQL (you only needed to be able to run queries, (which I can do, and I GAVE EXAMPLES OF), but they said 2X that I didn’t know it. I stayed for the interview because she said it didn’t mattered.

    Last month I had an unnecessarily adversarial phone screen with someone who knew nothing about the job, but was quick to be snippy with the answers, and then she told me I would not have asked one of the questions if I had prepared. WTF?! I read about them for over an hour and a half just for the phone screen.

    Maybe hiring folks are just being ruder because they think they have a glut of good candidates to pick from, so they might as well pick ones they can abuse a little?!?!

    1. fposte

      I don’t think it’s that conscious. I think there are jerks in hiring, as in anywhere, and that people get sloppy and blame others for their mistakes. The market just means they haven’t managed to chase all their candidates away.

      1. Helka

        I would be willing to believe that for some people, there is a not-entirely-conscious tendency to badger people they feel power over, in order to establish for the future just how far they can be pushed.

    2. Dan

      I had a jerk interview me once. I sat there and took it, because my only other option was to get them to take me to the airport early and I’d sit there instead.

      I work in a very small niche. At the end of the interview, I looked at the guy and said something along the lines of, “I’m only interviewing for positions in this field, so if this isn’t the right fit, then so be it.” He was really, really taken back, based on his facial expression. He stammered a bit, and said, “uh, there can’t be that many jobs in this field.” I looked at him straight in the eye and said, “You’re right, but when you’re good at what you do, there only needs to be one job available.” As it was, I had my choice of offers.

      That was the one job where I never bothered with the thank you note.

      1. Steve G

        Well, with the 1st one, I somehow thought “she can’t really think I lied because I didn’t lie and it has to be obvious I don’t lie” but apparently she wasn’t picking up on my psychic clues:-).

        The 2nd one was a little stuck up NYC b***. Ironically she worked at one of NY’s “best places to work.” Mmmmmm, I wonder if her managers know she is a b*** to candidates?

        1. Maiasaura

          It’s quite possible that perceptive hiring managers can pick up on it if you are thinking of them as “a little stuck up NYC b***.” That sort of contempt can be difficult to hide.

            1. steve g

              Misogyny? You have to be f+++ kidding me. “We” can’t keep throwing out that word like it means nothing. I can pretend it was a man if that helps. This is really mind boggling how complete strangers are taking my short “an interviewer was over the top rude” story and trying to somehow tie it to sexism

              1. MK

                Let me unboggle your mind: From all the derogatives in the world, why did you pick one that is gender-specific? Why not call the interviewer a jerk or something else that doesn’t mark them as female? That’s sexist. And what does her place of origin have to do with her behavior?

              2. Ad Astra

                It’s your word choice that’s bothering people here. Your assessment that the phone screener was adversarial and snippy is completely accurate as far as we know. But the b-word is a gendered term, and calling someone that comes off as misogynistic whether you mean it to or not. If you truly don’t mean to be misogynistic, try choosing a different word (jerk or a-hole or meanie face) in the future.

                1. Artemesia

                  Snippy is also a sexist marker. NEVER have I heard of a male a@#h#$@ being called ‘snippy’.

          1. steve g

            Uh….i didn’t form this opinion until after like 5 brisk remarks from her end. why do you think I went into the interview with a bad attitude? I didnt

        2. Zillah

          Can you find another way to describe her that isn’t quite so gendered? It’s making an otherwise reasonable gripe come off as pretty uncomfortable and messed up.

          1. steve g

            I have no clue what you are talking about or how using a different word changes what happened. Can we please stop with the word police? You do know you’re defending someone who acted like a condescending a-hole to a job candidate and instead of commiserating your nitpicking language

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              I’m going to ask that we drop this since it’ll derail the conversation and I don’t want us nitpicking each other’s language. (That said, “bitch” is indeed a gendered slur and I’d prefer we not use it here. Thanks!)

              1. Maiasaura

                Sorry! I was stretching up to get the leaves off a tall tree and didn’t see this till I’d already responded.

            2. Jae

              She acted rudely, fine. That’s no reason to use a gendered insult. Listen when people tell you something is offensive

            3. Maiasaura

              You know what? If you’d called her a condescending asshole from the get-go, it wouldn’t have sounded sexist. There are plenty of awful, unprofessional, rude women out there. “Bitch”, especially “little bitch”, is a term that is used to demean women and put them in their place. “Stuck up” makes it sound like she angered you by not being compliant and polite enough for your liking.

              I wasn’t actually trying to word police you; it’s just quite possible that if you think that “stuck up little bitch” is an appropriate way to describe a woman who behaves in a way you feel is insufficiently respectful, you may be projecting contempt in a way that can reduce the likelihood that you get what you actually want.

              I’ve been in situations where I could clearly sense that the man I was speaking to was just barely tolerating/humoring me to get what he wanted. I’ve also been in situations where men seemed outraged that I wasn’t submissive and deferential to them. I am sure none of those men thought they were misogynists; they just thought women were weird and different and felt like their opinion and desires warranted my immediate attention. I generally chose not to help/work with them, and I am sure more than one called me a little bitch. Actually, since I am 9 meters long, they probably called me a big bitch. Same/same.

                1. V2

                  Oh, I get it now. I thought it was a typo but I was trying to figure out what the typo could have been. “Maybe that was 9 feet? No, still too tall.”

                2. A Cita

                  Yeah, see her/his response to Alison above about stretching to get some leaves off of tall trees. Best comment of the day, the way it was just naturally incorporated. Not sure folks even noticed, but I was having a good laugh.

            4. V2

              I can see how “little stuck up NYC b***” can come off as sexist, and I can also see how you didn’t mean it that way. That’s why I use gender-neutral insults like a**hole and s**t-for-brains.

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

        Three jerk interviews stand out in my mind – one guy kept asking me tech questions – testing me – and I slipped on one and I could detect the interview was over (ice cubes) — although, two months later, they begged me to come in again for another interview “no, this isn’t going to work, but thanks. Good luck.” Several years later, I had been asked to drop my resume off at another company – then I heard “Bill (the Jerk boss), please call extension 288” — I just turned tail, said “I’m in the wrong place”, and left.

        Another was when I was out of work – I qualified for the job – but the hiring manager didn’t want to talk about the job, he called me in to give me a lecture on life. Waste of time.

        Another – when out of work – I passed an interview but the guy asked me not to go looking further for work until January (this was October) – I was his first choice but he was going to keep looking, can I *stop* looking until he makes up his mind? I was out of work at the time, advised, “call me in January, let’s see what’s transpired, but I have to keep looking, I have a family and career to take care of.” I’m at a new job in January and guess who calls to offer me the job? No, thanks.

    3. Hermoine Granger

      Yeah, I don’t know what’s going on with some of these hiring managers nowadays. The OP handled the interviewer’s negativity professionally and should view it as a plus that they showed these red flags during the interview.

      A few months back I had a second round interview that was ridiculously adversarial. The Director spent the entire interview displaying that he is delusional about the state of his industry / company. I maintained my composure and answered his questions without any problems but he was only able to talk in circles when asked about why anyone would want to work for the company. Things went downhill after that and we parted ways when they revealed that despite the smug attitude, the company is actually pretty broke and is looking for champagne employees on a lemon water budget. Fast forward to last week and I noticed the position was re-posted with reduced qualifications.

      The job market still isn’t great but a lot of people aren’t quite as desperate. And even if you do hire someone that is desperate and then mistreat them, they’ll have an eye out to leave as soon as something better appears. It’s short-sighted.

      1. AdAgencyChick

        “champagne employees on a lemon water budget”

        LOL. This morning something like “they have champagne tastes, but not even a beer budget — more like an iced-tea budget!” came out of my mouth.

        Lemon water. Even better. Reminds me of all those stories on Bitter Waitress of people asking for a glass of water and a bunch of lemon slices, then making themselves a free glass of lemonade with that plus the sugar packets at the table.

        1. Gandalf the Nude

          Hah! My sister called a guy out on that one time. “Are you sure you don’t just want a lemonade?” As she tells it, the guy turned beet red, his wife burst out laughing, he made his own lemonade anyway, and my sister didn’t get a tip.

          1. AnonInSC

            I’m guessing she wouldn’t have gotten a tip anyway. At least she got the satisfaction of calling them out!

      2. Artemesia

        I used to have to hire for a position that demanded an incredible mix of PhD plus credential plus high level business leadership experience but paid a rather pathetic sum. We hoped to get this sort of amazing person by finding people who were early retiring, were well off or had a good pension and wanted a few years doing something new. You can bet we went out of the way to sell what a wonderful opportunity we presented and what a supportive and positive working environment they would have. I managed to hire half a dozen well qualified people. If you want champagne don’t kick the cremont and cava that shows up. (metaphor failure alert.)

    4. KJR

      Nah, they’re just rude. I don’t care how many candidates I have, I would never treat them like this!!

  9. Lizabeth

    I LOVE the “But this is feeling strangely adversarial (or insert another word here) to me and not like a working dynamic I’d be interested in. Why don’t we wrap up here?” phrase. There have been interviews in the past I would have given my eye teeth to say something like this and leave.

    Would have enjoyed seeing OP’s interviewers faces if OP had indeed said this and left :)

    1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

      Yes! I wish I’d had this phrase during a particularly nasty interview early in my career.

    2. Dan

      My sucky interviews tend to be out of town (company flies me in), so ending early just means killing more time at the airport. In fact, it’s oddly strange for me to interview locally.

          1. fposte

            What do you use to stream ATC–the LiveATC app? I don’t have the juice for that right now but might get it in the future. (I would have liked to hear the famous Boston John live.)

      1. Traveler

        Depending on the airport there are way better things to do at the airport – reading, museums, sampling wines, eating lunch, christmas shopping early, etc.

        1. RobM

          If the interview is as bad as that, I’d include squatting in a ditch shoving berries up my nose in the list of things better than continuing. The fact that I was willing to check out an employer doesn’t buy them carte blanche to be rude to me.

          1. Carpe Librarium

            I just snorked – really loudly – at my desk in the middle of my cubicle farm at the delightful visual image you just elicited.
            Thanks :)

    3. Turanga Leela

      I’ve heard of people saying this at stress interviews. Maybe the interviewers were attempting that sort of dynamic? It’s bizarre either way.

      1. Adam V

        At that point, though, they should probably respond and say “oh, that’s just how we interview” and allow the OP to say “sorry, that’s not the sort of interview I’m willing to put up with”. Give them the chance to alter their behavior or lose the candidate.

    4. Sascha

      I did say something along those lines in an interview once, and then the interview berated me for having said it. And this was after she told me to let her know if this job didn’t sound like the right fit for me, so we wouldn’t waste our time. I have no idea what had gotten under her skin. At least I waited to cry until I got in my car…I was so very young and way more polite than I am today.

      1. Lizabeth

        A line that I have used once when someone went off on me (not in an interview but there’s always a first time!) was this, calmly said with a bland look – “If you want to spew bile at someone, please go find a mirror.”

        1. Not So NewReader

          “I don’t speak to people that way because I don’t expect to be spoken to that way.”

    5. edj3

      I used it once in a phone call with a project manager (who was very tense for reasons not related to me but definitely related to the project). I remembered that Alison had used that verbiage for something similar so that’s what I said–“this conversation is getting weirdly adversarial and I’m not sure what’s going on.” And it worked, she stopped being that way! AAM for the win!

    6. Muriel Heslop

      I wish I had this for my first two or three years of parent conferences when I was teaching middle school. So many parents came in so adversarial and it was such a struggle to be productive.

    7. A Cita

      I’ve been in a situation, where the person was getting louder and louder, eventually ending up sort of yelling/berating me, for no apparent reason. I paused, blinked, paused again, and then calmly asked with a tone of subtle curiosity, “Why are you yelling?” He looked taken aback, paused, and replied, “Actually, I don’t know.”

    8. Ad Astra

      I think something to the effect of “This conversation is getting weirdly adversarial and I’m not sure why” could defuse a lot of situations where the rude party is being more hostile than she intended. It points out the problem (adversarial tone) without specifically assigning blame and putting that rude person on the defensive. So in addition to getting that poor OP out of there gracefully, this script would come in handy when Grouchy McConfrontational is a friend or colleague who actually cares about maintaining the relationship at hand.

      1. AnonAcademic

        THIS. My husband comes from a family of yellers and is not great at monitoring his tone. I have tried dozens of lines on him but recently, the last time he snapped at me and I wasn’t sure what prompted it I just said in a sad voice “You sound REALLY angry with me. Are you angry at me?” And lo and behold he took a step back, sighed, said “No, I’m not mad, I’m sorry – I’m upset about this other thing…”

        1. Renee

          My husband does this too and I do something similar. We’ve reached the point that I know he’s not actually angry at me so I say, “when you speak to me like that, it conveys the impression you are mad at me.” We’ve realized that he has trouble matching expression/tone to emotion in general. Conversely, I have the tendency to react very defensively to angry tones due to childhood abuse, so I have been working on my reactions to perceived anger and pointing out calmly that I am perceiving him as angry helps with that.

        2. Today's Satan

          My boyfriend is a yeller. And has a habit of going from 0 to 90 in a nanosecond. I usually react with my own escalation, because I don’t like bullies. I will try to be more cognizant next time and use your line, AnonAcademic, and hope I can strike the right tone. Because I definitely don’t *feel* sad when someone yells at me, I feel like I want to rip their lips off and stuff them down their throat. (It doesn’t help with Boyfriend, but it has saved me from many a bullying / potentially abusive situation. I come off as way more trouble than they’d planned on).

          1. Artemesia

            This is how I react to passive aggression — with hostility. These ploys don’t make me feel guilty or pity the poor poor person laying it on, but rather make me furious. I don’t yell generally, but I can be cold as ice when I need to be.

      2. Ms T

        But what happens when Grouchy McConfrontational pushes it back at you instead?

        I’m picturing what would happen if I used this on by boss. He gets defensive easily, and something like this would make him MORE defensive and push it all back on me for saying it.

        (Simple example; I go to a meeting, and he is upset that I didn’t tell him I was going, because he didn’t know where I was for 30 minutes. I point out that I did tell him I was going, and in fact he asked me to make sure I bring up Specific Thing X in the meeting. Which causes him to start criticising me for ‘needing’ to be told to bring up X.
        If I point out he’s being adversarial, he will say something along the lines of “No, YOU need to listen to me”, or “Then stop arguing.”
        Now what?)

        1. Ruffingit

          I’m not sure there’s a good answer here except perhaps to just agree (though you don’t really agree) and move along. Sounds to me like he just wants to argue for argument’s sake. So if he gets on you about being told to bring up Specific X, just say “Hmmm, you’re right.” And just leave it at that and leave the scene if you can. Sometimes it helps to realize that there is no getting through to some people.

        2. TheLazyB (UK)

          You’re not pointing out he’s being adversarial though, you’re saying you don’t know why. It’s worth a try?

  10. Bee

    Way to keep calm!

    I like the suggested response for wrapping it up. Though I don’t think I would have been brave enough to say it.

  11. Macedon

    I’d have wrapped up and walked, personally. You showed greater restraint.

    If they don’t extend you courtesy when they’re wooing you, I wouldn’t expect much when they got you.

  12. Panda Bandit

    Alison’s response for ending the interview is gold and imo can be used in other situations.

  13. Dasha

    Years ago when I was younger, I went to an interview where one of the people interviewing me yelled at me because I had come to an interview at 9 AM on a Monday morning and I was disloyal to my current company, a traitor, etc. because it was during business hours. He got red in the face due he was so angry and told me I needed to quit my job before I got another one to avoid being a traitor (this guy was scary crazy). I was young, had no idea what on earth to do, and was so shocked that I just sat there, let him yell at me and finished the interview.

    Now, I would never put up with that- I would just get up, push my chair in, and walk out. I think one thing to keep in mind is that when companies interview they are showing people who they are and they should wanting people to work there- at this point in the game they should be on their best behavior and putting showing themselves in the best light! If they can’t even pull it together for an interview it’s got to be some kind of mixed of place any way.

    1. Minister of Snark

      Yikes, he did you a major favor, showing what it would be like to work for that thundering looney.

        1. Dasha

          Haha, yes this other lady on the interview panel practically grabbed me by my upper arm and pulled me up after he left the room announcing that she was taking me on a tour of the warehouse. She walked me to the very back of their warehouse and apologized profusely which I think just made me even more freaked out because I just wanted to leave at that point.

    2. Melissa

      But…the interview time was mutually scheduled, no? Did he bring you in just to spend 30-45 minutes yelling at you about your disloyalty? I mean, these are rhetorical questions because who knows what jerks are thinking, but jeez.

    3. Steve G

      Yes, because having a job means you can NEVER be free on a Monday ever again until you retire. No holidays, no vacations, no late starts!

    4. Sascha

      What is it with some employers and loyalty? Some of them just seem really crazy about it, like no one can ever change jobs ever EVER. Did they get burned by someone?

      1. Mike C.

        I chalk it up to personal attachment to a business they most likely own. Mix that in with weird feelings about morality and loyalty and there you go.

          1. James M.

            He’s just willfully ignorant. Since willful ignorance tends towards exaggeration, to him, “loyalty” means something very extreme. The mark of his ignorance is his insistence that Dasha (and presumably all prospective employees) exemplify all the traits he values. This is of course regularly contradicted by reality insofar as job applicants are mere mortals, thus causing him anxiety.

        1. Connie-Lynne

          It’s not just when they own it. I’ve personally been burned for being honest with my employer about the fact that I was looking to change jobs — even when I phrased it as “I’m starting to be unhappy here and am thinking about changing roles, but I really don’t want to leave the company … can we start investigating new opportunities for me?”

          Admittedly, the CTO and VP of that place were real jerks, but they apparently were really upset with my “disloyalty” and having the gall to politely let them know I wanted to move on. Not sure what they’d have preferred, though? Secretly looking for a new role and then mic-dropping outta there?

    5. Shell

      But he scheduled your damn interview at that time. Why didn’t he offer to interview you after business hours then?

      What a loon.

      1. AdAgencyChick

        Srsly. The guy knew it was 9 AM, and he presumably had also seen Dasha’s resume, so should have been aware he was interviewing an employed candidate at that time.

        In that situation, I don’t think I would have had the presence of mind to choke out more than an “Excuse me?” Dasha, sorry that happened to you!

        1. Dynamic Beige

          That you can never pass. Because if you said “Oh, I’m sorry but I can’t take time off from my job at that time of day” it would have become “Oh, you think we should all hang around for you after hours, then?!? Who do you think you are, the bloody queen of England? We have *responsibilities, you know, and families… etc.”

          1. Not So NewReader

            Either way though, they have shown their true colors. This will NOT get better once you are hired.

            1. Dynamic Beige

              Oh definitely! I just meant that this seems to be one of those things that no matter what you do, you fail. There is no pleasing some people and you’re right, I would not want to work for such a person.

    6. louise

      Somehow I suspect that treat of a boss had trouble getting people to show up to work for him on a Monday. Or any day of the week, really. I’ve got knots in my stomach just from reading about him.

    7. Slimy Contractor

      I gotta say, one of the best things about getting older is not giving a single sh*t what strangers think of you. It’s truly liberating. These days I’d never put up with some of the stuff I used to put up with when I was young.

      1. neverjaunty

        SERIOUSLY. Anything for a time machine to go back and tell Past Me “you don’t have to listen to this nonsense.”

      2. Not So NewReader

        Right on! This is just someone’s meltdown, OP. You know, like the meltdowns we talk about here that are so very inappropriate in the workplace. Please understand that you had nothing to do with the interviewer’s loss of control. There is something at play in the background that you don’t know. You may never find out OR it might take years before you hear the rest of the story. Find comfort in the fact that usually these meltdowns have nothing to do with the people in the immediate area at the time of occurrence.
        Maybe the interviewer was told to hire someone to replace herself. You never know what barbaric thing is lurking in the background. If you knew, it would make you run even faster.

      3. Jean

        Preach…although sometimes it’s useful to still be able to stifle my honesty with a filter. It saves wear and tear if I can avoid foot in mouth.

      4. Windchime

        I agree wholeheartedly. Now that I’m in my 50’s, I couldn’t give a flying f*ck what rude people like this think. When I was younger, absolutely–I would sit with my face burning with shame while an older person chewed me out. But not now. That’s one good thing about getting older; things like this start to matter less and less.

    8. Ad Astra

      Why on earth would you invite someone to interview at 9 a.m. on a Monday if you felt it was inappropriate for the candidate to be interviewing during business hours? Was that supposed to be some kind of test?

  14. Amber Rose

    I wish you’d walked out only because I’m curious what the reaction would have been. Some variation of the huffy “how dare you not lick my boots” attitude is my guess. What horrendous jerks.

    1. NickelandDime

      Some employers don’t understand that not everyone will lick their boots just to get a job. There are those that will – but they aren’t great candidates. But maybe that isn’t important to them!

  15. fposte

    It occurs to me that somebody like this might be so locked in to his opinion that showing him your resume wouldn’t fix it–he’d just insist that the copy he received said what he claimed.

    1. Not So NewReader

      I had a boss that claimed I was deficient in a particular area. I said, “I did X.” She replied, “No, you did not.” I told her she would be able to see that in the computer, if she printed out the report. She said, “I don’t have to print a report. I have decided that you did not do X therefore you did not do X.”

      You can’t fix this stuff, OP. Your best bet is to just get away from it.

      1. Lefty

        Not So NewReader- I think we may have shared a boss! During my annual review, I argued about being marked as not meeting a goal, “The weekly reports have shown my work to be at X level, which is above the requirement.” Supervisor states, “That may be so, but I’ve decided you really only did half of X level and will be recommending that you have additional training on it so you can be brought up-to-speed here.” This is when I signed an acknowledgement and asked for copies of each of the last 50 weekly reports to be submitted with my review… before polishing up my resume.

  16. Relosa

    It also shows that they didn’t prepare, or that they have really low standards – if they’d read your resume at length before inviting you to interview, wouldn’t they have noticed the discrepancy? And if they did, why would they have brought someone in who they thought was a liar? So, to me, it looks like they didn’t even bother really reviewing it until you walked in – something all too common these days.

    1. MsM

      Yeah, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the hostility was them not wanting to admit, “Whoops, we misread.” Which is really not a quality you want in your supervisors or coworkers.

  17. Vegetarian Librarian

    That sounds awful! What’s with people who don’t even let you explain yourself? That shows you so much about who they are. You really dodged a bullet there.

    1. College Career Counselor

      Given that it was a resume issue, it’s more like dodging a bullet point! ba-dum CHA!

  18. Adam V

    I’d* have asked some questions.

    “So do you get a lot of your employees complaining about having to write all their emails twice – once for normal people, and once for those of you who don’t know how to read?”

    “What’s the level of additional hazard pay, over and above the normal pay, that I’d be eligible for as a result of working directly with you?”

    “Why in the world would you want me to consider this job, when the first thing I would do is to fire you for calling me a liar and acting like a [censored] to me about it?”

    (* – not actually me, just the me in my head that has no compunction about snarking right back)

      1. Adam V

        Yeah. Alison’s wording is definitely better to say in real life, but it sure is fun to imagine what I’d say if I was absolved of any consequences.

    1. Lizabeth

      Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, I’d almost pay $ to see their faces when any of these were said. WOOT!

    2. K

      Haha that second one makes me think of Theory of a Deadman’s lyric “My boss is a [bleep]. I don’t get paid nearly enough to put up with all of his sh*t.”

  19. sam

    back when I was interviewing for summer associate positions at law firms (and thought I was interested in labor/employment law), I had a callback interview at one firm where I interviewed with two partners and two associates. the two associates were fine, but the two partners were something else (one was first and one was last, with the associates in the middle).

    – the first partner kept all of the lights off in his office and spent most of the interview telling me about how if I really wanted to be a labor lawyer, I should go work for the NLRB. This was a labor law partner. Who was interviewing at a firm looking to hire labor law associates (why on earth would they bring me in for callbacks?)
    – the second was the head of the department, who spent a good portion of the interview telling me about how he was basically antisocial and didn’t like interacting with other human beings.

    By the time things started wrapping up, I was basically “I have a train I need to catch” and got the hell out of there as fast as I could. Then I took a later train and got a drink (or three) with my dad who was in town. I felt like I was on some weird candid camera show where someone was waiting for me to turn around and be all “WTF?”. None of my other interviews at any other firms were like this. I thought, at a minimum, if these were the people the firm thought were its best option for doing the interviews, then there were serious problems.

    (Then again, I ended up working for a place that kept the problematic partner well-hidden until I was working there full-time. At that firm I ended up switching departments and becoming a corporate finance attorney, which is what I still do 16+ years later).

  20. Anonaconda

    Reading comprehension, people. It’s an invaluable skill.

    Actually, no, this goes beyond that. These interviewers were also missing the ability to:
    – listen
    – tactfully question someone’s behavior without being accusatory
    – admit when they’re wrong

    Add me to the “bullet dodged” pile. I had an incredibly adversarial interview, too, and most people I know have stories about one. It seems so strange to me now, being on the other side of hiring, why you would waste your time bringing someone in just to badger them.

  21. RO

    Sometimes when interviewing candidates, interviewers forget that they are also being interviewed.

    We have had situational interviews simulating how some of our teams are and it is not fun for the candidate. While they are sold as “let’s see how well they react to stress and think on their feet,” it stops being funny at some point. After one really bad group interview where some of my colleagues laughed at the candidates, passed notes, and some even brought in the laptops and continued to work during the interview, I talked to my boss and his response was “why would they be upset.” I was in shock and responded “they are also interviewing you.”

    1. BananaPants

      Do you work for my boss’ boss? He doesn’t take it to the extent of purposely trying to make candidates upset/mad, but he definitely acts his normal self in interviews – which he thinks is no-nonsense but often comes across as him just being an asshole. Since he routinely fires off stressful/unexpected questions at his staff in meetings, yells/speaks sharply, etc. he feels no compunction about doing the same to interview candidates.

      1. TootsNYC

        Well, actually, I don’t think it’s such “idiot” behavior to treat candidates exactly the same as staff. (It might be idiot behavior to routinely fire off stressful/unexpected questions and yell/speak sharply in general.)

        When I was dating, I was determined to be exactly myself, and to not change my conversation style or preferred topics, etc., just to please the man who asked me out. If it was going to last anything more than 2 dates, I wanted him to want to date the Real Me.

        Ditto work. Because I don’t want to work with someone who finds me annoying.

    2. neverjaunty

      “Because they’re thinking that if we’re this big of assholes during the interview process, what must it be like once they actually start working here”? Your boss is an idiot.

  22. Cari

    Any questions? Hmm…

    “Is being unable to consider one made a mistake a requirement for working here, and are all the staff needlessly adversarial?”

    1. Anonna Miss

      Oooh. I’m going to have to use that one day. (Or at least think it in my head.)

  23. Female-type Person

    I had a group interview once for a law job, in which I was ridiculed for having had (several) top papers in law school, which are generally regarded as a Good Thing. In addition to showing me that they were mean and rude, they also told me that they were absurdly overworked, were never able to take vacations. Not only did I not walk out, just defend myself calmly (it is certainly not unheard of in law interviews for the interviewer to get a little aggressive with you to see if you can handle yourself) at the time I was young and stupid and probably would have taken the job if they’d offered it.

    1. NickelandDime

      Now, telling me you are overworked and can’t ever take vacations is an absolute deal breaker for me. I went to an interview where they were nice, but kept stressing how much work was involved, and talking about long days, evenings and sometimes weekends. I started digging with questions about why this was so – special projects where this occasionally happened? No, it was all the time. In my mind, I couldn’t reconcile the work schedule they were describing and the work that needed to be done. It didn’t seem to make sense to me. I decided something was wrong and I was so happy when I got my rejection email…

    2. Not So NewReader

      “Not only do we not take vacations here sometimes our food get taken away from us and we are not allowed to see our families for months at a clip. Other than that, it’s a great place to work. When will you be able to start?”

      Sigh.

  24. Shannon

    You did the right thing. Depending on the size of your industry, you did right to keep it professional.

  25. Wip

    “But this is feeling strangely adversarial to me and not like a working dynamic I’d be interested in. Why don’t we wrap up here?”

    I want this situation to happen to me just so I can say this, drop the mic, and walk out.

    1. Koko

      I was just thinking as I read that I need to remember and keep, “This is feeling strangely adversarial to me,” in my back pocket for these kinds of situations.

    2. YourOwnPersonalCheeses

      I know, right? It’s an awesome, “take back your power” kind of thing to say. It’d be so satisfying!

    3. Pineapple Incident

      I feel as if I have to discreetly write this on the hand I don’t shake with for my next interview just in case it goes south. I would never remember otherwise!

  26. Ad Astra

    I would not have bothered to send a thank you note in this situation, but I assume the OP did so because:
    a) She’s classier than me, and/or
    b) She was attempting to correct the misunderstanding so the interviewers wouldn’t tell everyone in town that she was a big ol’ liar

    Even if you’re confident an applicant misrepresented their skills on their resume, the tactful thing to say would be something like “Oh, I must have misunderstood; I thought you had 8 years in chocolate teapot management. Is that not right?” It’s really weird to be adversarial with someone you just met, in such a formal business setting.

    Is it at all possible that there was some cultural misunderstanding at play? It’s probably a bit of a stretch, but the comment about understanding English made me wonder if the interviewer comes from a culture where these comments wouldn’t be interpreted as rude?

  27. Anna

    That was a crummy experience, OP. I remember being accused of lying on a timesheet because I took a short lunch one day and a long lunch another day and instead of writing it that way, I just put in 8 hours every day. I got the whole, “Well, Nosy Coworker mentioned you took a long lunch on Wednesday, but you put an hour down.” I was so flustered I couldn’t even get out that I took a short lunch on Tuesday. I just spluttered and then took half an hour docked pay and they spent the rest of my time temping thinking I lied about stuff. Annoying to get caught off guard like that.

  28. lunch meat

    My husband lost his job a few weeks ago and had his first face to face interview yesterday. Apparently they asked a LOT of questions about his firing, which is sort of understandable, but one of them was “how did your wife feel when you told her you got fired?” He already knew the culture probably wasn’t a good fit for him, but that sealed it.

  29. Beancounter in Texas

    On the lighter side of things, (since we’re all sharing interview horror stories), my brother the engineer took a summer internship with a packaged food manufacturer I’ll call “Tyrion Lannister’s Frozen Treats.” He worked in an area that required booties & hair nets and one day, a bunch of suits walked in. All but one had one hair nets & booties and as they started to move into the area, my brother stepped forward and called this one suit out on needing a hair net and booties. The gentleman looked at him (and possibly his name tag) and said, “You’re Jon Snow. I remember you from your interview. You argued with the interviewers.” This gentleman was THE Tyrion Lannister with his name on the business.

  30. Saucy Minx

    “…the managing director of the company asked me (somewhat aggressively) if I was accusing him of being unable to understand English.”

    REPLY:
    “Oh, no, I would never be so rude. And speaking of accusations & adversarial treatment …” (fill in ending w/ Alison’s response).

  31. Syler

    Now see, THIS is the workplace for the potted plant pooper. If ever anyone deserved their plant to be, um, ‘personally fertilized’, it’s these asshats.

    Why is it the people who deserve to be matched up with each other are always instead inflicted upon the rest of us?

    1. Merry and Bright

      Ooh, I can see a wonderful reality show here. All the jerks and a-holes from our working lives (especially ones from AAM) working together in the same office. I would pay to watch that.

  32. Isabelle

    I don’t know whether I would walk away or not, but I know what I would definitely do: find out the name of the interviewers’ managers and email them about the way I was treated. Or the CEO, head of HR etc…

    In this case the fact that 2 interviewers insulted OP is probably indicative of a generally dysfunctional workplace but I still think it is worth letting their management know.

    1. Not So NewReader

      Quite a while ago, there were articles about this type of thing. The articles pointed out that interviewees repeat what is said in an interview and help to shape the company’s reputation with the outside world. If you don’t want the outside world knowing that you address your employees as “hey, stupid”, it’s probably not a good idea to say that on an interview. The person who is interviewing will go home and tell anyone who stands still for five minutes what it is like to interview for your company. It won’t be pretty.

  33. Elfie

    That sounds horrible! I had a weird interview last week, where I had thought it would be a great job for me, but it turned out not to be, which disappointed me. The skeevy part, though, was where the hiring manager said “Don’t take this the wrong way, but two of your stakeholders are women, and you being quite feminine and a woman would be a string to your bow.” Because I still half wanted the job at this point, I was praying that my discomfort didn’t show on my face! Awkward! I was pretty relieved when they decided not to take me further through the process, because I didn’t want to work for this guy at all!

  34. Grey

    PRINCE2 certified IT Infrastructure Manager with five years management experience and ten years technical experience for both public- and private-sector employers.

    I might have interpreted that the same way they did. But since you included dates elsewhere on your resume, I wouldn’t have accused you of lying. I would have just shrugged is off as an ambiguous statement.

    1. Not So NewReader

      Yeah, I think I would break that sentence in to two or more sentences to be sure to avoid this again. Some people genuinely cannot follow a sentence like this. Think of it this way, OP, if someone was reading your resume quickly, would they be likely to catch what you mean?

      In the last two days at work I had three separate people ask me how to write a check. (Not people I work with, rather, people from outside my workplace.) The differences in people never ceases to amaze me. Yes, it was their own checking accounts.

      1. ReanaZ

        In the country I currently live in, most people my age (late 20s to mid-30s) have never, ever had a bank account that issued them paper checks, nor any case to use them. The world has moved on from checks, so there’s rarely a need for people to learn to write them any more.

  35. Colleen

    Reading Alison’s response, all I could think of was that I wish I were that good with words in the moment! Her responses were right on point.

    1. Not So NewReader

      We can train our brains. Copy someone who is good at it to get started. After a bit you will find your own words to express what you want to say.

  36. Purple Jello

    Aside from the fact that it’s hard to know what to say or do when you’re blindsided like that, I believe it’s never bad to act politely and professionally. Was everyone accusatory, or just some of the interviewers? You never know if you’ll run into someone in the future who was listening in on the interview and remembered your professionalism. And it’s possible (though maybe not probable) that one of those adversarial interviewers turns over a new leaf and will make a difference in a future job opportunity.

    And although it’s extremely satisfying to have a snappy comeback, sometimes using them are just shooting yourself in the foot. If you treat everyone respectfully, whether or not they deserve it, no one can come back later and call you a special snowflake.

  37. msbadbar

    Also, watch out for interviews where employees are adversarial to each other. I had that happen once–as an employee. The CEO said something disparaging towards me in front of an interviewee. I was a young, entry-level employee sitting in on an interview for my future manager. I had just gone through an extremely stressful situation while my boss was out of the country, and I had been way, way over my head during that time. I worked long hours and worked hard to resolve the issue, and was in physical pain from the stress at one point. Anyway, during this interview, the CEO said jauntily, “and we only had her” *thumb to me* “during that issue.” It was embarrassing and depressing. What a way to start off with your maybe-future manager.

    The interviewee said something kind to me in return. He wasn’t hired (despite seeming like a lovely person and strong candidate), and later, the CEO said to me, “he had a little something behind the eyes, don’t you think?” (Maybe a backbone.)

    It’s kind of like a first date–people (and companies) always tell you who they are if you listen and watch closely enough. Now, several years after that experience, I always try to watch how the people in the room interact with each other.

    1. penelope pitstop

      I’m sorry that happened to you. It was totally undeserved and inappropriate. But I love your “…always tell you who they are” comment. Very insightful and hard-won advice. Thanks for sharing it.

  38. Chickaletta

    I had something similar happen once in a group interview where the head of the department basically accused me of not doing a VOLUNTEER job well because when he asked me about some specific marketing data results of the non-profit I volunteered at, I told him that I honestly didn’t know. It was something that only employees in the national office would be aware of, if they had even researched the information at all.

    What really frustrated me was that I wasn’t given the chance to respond to his accusation that I was ignorant, instead the hiring manager quickly moved on to the next topic. In hindsight, it may have been because the director has a history of being a jerk and she was trying to avoid a blow up. At least that’s what I tell myself. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. This interview was three years ago and I still remember it.

    1. Not So NewReader

      You probably nailed down what happened there. I have seen people do that – it’s a deflect or a redirect type of thing. Subtle, yet, effective. I think it’s kind of classy, actually.

  39. Sonya

    Depending on how snarky I was feeling, I think I would have started talking to them slo-www-lyyy aaannnddd cleaaarlyyy:

    “Iiii haaave fiiive *hold up five fingers* yeeeaaars of maaanagement experiiience. Myyy certifiiicaaation was attaaained twooo yeeeaaars agooo. Dooo youuu understaaand?”

    1. Not So NewReader

      My problem with this would that I would not want to fight this hard everyday at work. I interviewed at one place where there had been a series of little snags. After a couple months, the lady still had not decided if she wanted to hire someone. (Then why did she place an ad???) I withdrew my application. If it was this hard to get hired, I cannot imagine what it would be like to work there.

      1. Persehone Mulberry

        I had one of those, too! Pre-interview DISC assessment, three hour interview, followed by another personality assessment with essay questions (that’s when I bowed out). It came out during the interview that they had been interviewing for that role for 6 months already. Out of morbid curiosity I kept my ear to the ground on them and learned it took them another two months to hire someone – and then the job was relisted less than a year later. Bullet dodged.

        I also found out that their insane hoop-jumping hiring practice was SOP for their business model (it was a particular real estate company) and have avoided any job listings with that company ever since.

  40. Today's Satan

    I interviewed for a sales position with a top tech firm back in the days before the tech bubble burst. This company thought they were hot sh*t and my interviewer thought even more of himself. He wasn’t the hiring manager, but someone who got tagged because the hiring manager got called away on an emergency. (He would have been my peer, had I been hired).

    On the elevator ride from the lobby to the conference room, he filled me in on the software I’d be selling. . . by giving me code-level details. (Wha? Sales people don’t need to know that stuff, that’s what SE’s are for). Then we go into this darkened, massive conference room with a big oval table that could seat maybe 60 people. He gestures at a chair near the middle for me, and takes the head “carve-the-turkey” position for himself. He leans way back in his chair, laces his fingers behind his head, and says (through a sh*t-eating grin), “So… if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?”

    After a few seconds of stunned silence, I closed my portfolio, stood up and said, “Thank you for your time, but it’s clear this isn’t the position for me.” And walked out.

    I don’t even remember if he looked stunned or if he kept that smarmy look on his face. It was clear from the elevator ride and the opening question that he was just being an asshole and stroking his own ego. It was a hot market and I had dozens of interviews. Ain’t nobody got time for that kind of nonsense.

  41. I'm a Little Teapot

    I had an interviewer accuse me of lying too! I was temping at a university and interviewed for a perm position there. My resume noted that I was working a temp job there, and clearly indicated that it was a temp job through an agency. The interviewer indignantly accused me of lying and claiming to work at Teapot U when I really didn’t. I pointed out what my resume actually said, but she refused to listen. I almost started to cry right there.

    She’s now been promoted to a high-ranking HR position there. One of those things I’ve seen that really makes me think the scum rises to the top.

    1. Suzanne

      I dislike stereotyping, but my interactions with HR people has seen far too many like yours, Teapot.

    2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

      “management is like a septic tank — the biggest chunks float to the top.”

  42. AnnieNonymous

    This is sort of hard to articulate, but that particular manner of misunderstanding speaks to a very specific kind of stupidity. Remember that one professor (we all had one) who would give A students straight Cs because he, put plainly, didn’t understand what the smart students were saying? You’d get caught up in semantic nuances and trying to defend your thoughts to someone who just wasn’t able to meet you in the middle.

    This sounds horribly judgmental, but we’ve all been there. So don’t go back. Do not work for a boss who is too stupid to understand, “I did this job for five years, and then two years ago I got this qualification.” He’s the dangerous sort of moron who thinks he’s a genius, which is why he gloated over his notion of parsing a non-lie from your resume.

    1. NickelandDime

      It’s not judgmental when it’s true…These types are also NEVER able to admit to their mistakes.

  43. Audiophile

    I got into an “argument” with an HR person a few months back. She called for an initial phone screen and asked why certain experience wasn’t mentioned in my application. I corrected her and said it was definitely mentioned in my application, as I had imported my resume. She insisted for a few minutes that she could not see it and WHY would I not put that information in their application. Then she shuffled some papers and said “Oh I see it here.” No apology or anything. Just moved on like it was nothing.

    This isn’t as serious as what your interviewers accused you of, but it goes along with the same misunderstand/misinformation aspect of things.

  44. Suzanne

    So much reminds me of the interview I had several years ago, during which the interview repeatedly told me that the job was a fast paced and that she doubted that I could “keep up”. I was in my mid-50s at the time and to this day regret not looking her straight in the eyes and asking her if she was calling me too old to do the job. Because I am pretty sure she was.

  45. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

    Yeah I’ve had a few interviews that just were WEIRD.

    One company in my area, better known as “the big company that took the gas pipe” – had a three-ring circus of an interview process. Enough to disgust many candidates. And later on, enough to disgust anybody in the field that may have had the misfortune to go through the interview process — to do business with them.

    And – when the company began to “gas pipe” — its employees had severe difficulty landing new jobs. “Let’s review this resume….. he’s spent his whole career THERE? Bwahahahahahahahaha!”

  46. popesuburban

    Here I was thinking (hoping?) that I was the only one. I’m out of the temp-agency game now, thankfully, but the last agency I registered with had someone like this. The woman who spoke to me on the phone, and who started my registration/assessment was delightful, but she had to take her lunch break, and left me with her colleague to finish up. Her colleague was a nightmare. She accused me of not having “really” worked at the places on my resume, because I guess it doesn’t count if you’re a temp? Even though I clearly indicated these were through my old agency, and no one had ever had a problem with it. Then, when she asked if I had interviewed anywhere recently, I told her I had interviewed for an HR position for a new Target store that morning. She told me there wasn’t a Target in that city (You know, hence the “new;” you could also clearly see the construction of the store from the freeway) and accused me of making that up. I couldn’t even believe she was for real, and stayed in my chair thanks to a combination of absolute bafflement and a pressing need to find a new position. That particular deal with the devil paid off, but Jesus, I don’t know how she could think that was a viable attitude at all.

  47. Another Kate

    Congratulations on dodging a MASSIVE bullet, OP! Those are the only words running through my mind upon reading your letter.

  48. Tony

    I like Alison’s idea on how to wrap up the interview quickly without “walking out.”

    My comment is to the original question asker’s statement “I then sent a thank-you email the next morning, apologizing for the misunderstanding on my CV and thanking them for their time. Needless to say, I received no reply, not even one to let me know they would not be employing me.”

    I know there is some debate about the need for a thank you letter in general but even if you are the type to fall on the side of requiring a thankyou letter for each interview, why would you ever send a thank you note after being treated so horribly? Its extremely ingenious and in poor taste to thak them for an interview you clearly are not thank ful for.

    Just my 0.02.

  49. Cranky PM

    I went to meet with a recruiter once. He went through my resume line by line, and I already didn’t like how it was going when we got to my history of start-ups, all of which went out of business.
    “And what happened with this company? Why did you leave?”
    “The VC’s stopped funding us so the company was shut down and my position was eliminated.”
    “Yes, but why was YOUR position eliminated?”
    “I’m sorry, let me explain again — the company ceased to exist. There were no more employees.”
    “Yes, but why were YOU one of the ones let go?”
    “Everyone was let go.”

    He got to the educational section of the resume, smiled condesendingly, and said, “You don’t have your dates of graduation on here. That’s because you didn’t graduate, isn’t it?”
    I literally should have walked out, but instead informed him that there was precious little chance I”d have been admitted to a graduate program if I couldn’t supply proof of a bachelor’s degree, and that I left the dates of graduation off because I believed I got more calls when people didn’t know how old I was, because I didn’t ‘present’ old. He agreed and then told me I needed to change the resume to say “Degree achieved” so that people knew I graduated.

    I hate recruiters.

  50. Deni

    I know that at this point, this thread might seem a little dead, but I wanted to add a similar experience. I had had a wonderful phone interview with a regional HR Manager for a HRM position one city over. We had a delightful conversation where we discussed my education and experience at length, and based on how easy our conversation was, I was not surprised I was offered an interview WITH THIS SAME WOMAN. So the interview day comes, and the woman I spoke with on the phone completely disappeared. She spent 1.5 hours of what was to be a 3 hour interview asking me why I was not a lawyer if I had a law degree. She asked me nothing else. I tried in every way to discuss how my passion was in HR and how I went to law school because a generous former company paid tuition reimbursement and I merely took advantage of it. Nothing was swaying her. So finally, she said to be that my “true career intentions had yet to come out,” and I just got up and left. The point is, there definitely comes a point where people have made their mind up, and either you go along with it or you move on. Even when you think it might go wonderfully, you have to notice when the ship is sinking and get the hell off!

  51. Kenneth

    Honest, decent people do not readily call others liars. You dodged a bullet, (or, at least, a couple of sociopaths).

  52. Zak

    Thanks for sharing. So many posters have already given great answers. I just want to reiterate DON’T go into/get prepared for interviewers expecting so much. This is the real world. Take it lightly. Forget what you read on job advice websites. Oh act like you’re interested yes but probe. You need to know the real deal not the BS they are telling you. The word here is ‘act’. When an employer nitpicks or criticizes a candidate it usually means already they do not see a fit. Think dating your date just isn’t into you. Don’t try to analyse this in a logical way. Say to yourself this person is an a**hole lacking manners. I am happy he has showed me his true colours so quickly. You then take control of the situation. I would probably make a sarcastic comment to put them in their place still being polite of course and then wrap things up. This shows you are assertive and don’t take this sort of crap. I have had this situation happen before. Guess what. They actually called me afterwards to find out if I wanted to continue in the process. Why? A**holes usually treat people badly who they do not respect or see as equal. Here they started to respect me and consider me as a serious candidate as I suddenly was different from the rest. Problem by then I had lost all interest and ignored their further requests. The lesson to be learnt here is do NOT apply for jobs you are overqualified for or try too hard. It almost always backfires on you. Good luck.

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