when you don’t click with your interviewer

A reader writes:

I’ve been on interviews where after interviewing with one person, another one comes right after and continues the process. I realize that this is to see that I can “fit in,” but how do I deal with the one interviewer with whom I’m not going to click? I can feel when I’m not making a good impression on someone, or (worse) the person behaves like I’m keeping him or her from something more important or really is a poor interviewer and wants to finish up this task and be done with me.

I realize I’m not going to gel with everyone in the workplace, like I’m not going to connect with everyone I meet in my life. My concern is that after the interview is over, and the interviewers compare notes, that the input that I didn’t connect with someone is going to sway the others that I’m not a good fit.

You can read my answer to this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and often updating/expanding my answers to them).

{ 105 comments… read them below }

  1. Cath in Canada*

    I once had a series of interviews with various department heads from the same company (I knew the CEO, who knew he wanted to hire me but wasn’t sure which role would be the best fit for me). There was one guy who I didn’t click with at all. We couldn’t even seem to figure out how to talk to each other – we kept simultaneously pausing, then talking over each other, which isn’t usually a problem for me! It was an immensely frustrating half hour.

    I ended up in a different department. I was nervous about interacting with this particular interviewer as part of my new role, but we actually got on great – no more talking over each other. We even wrote a book together (with two other former colleagues) after we both left that company!

    We’re still in touch now, and when we get together for beers we always laugh about how strangely awkward our first meeting was. It’s baffling.

  2. Chriama*

    1. When you don’t click with an interviewer

    Someone who’s impatient with you or acts like they’ve got somewhere else to be isn’t going to change their mind because of anything you do or say. So just focus on the things you can control, namely, your own behaviour and attitude.

    2. How to tell an employee that his outside work can’t interfere with his primary job

    I think you feel conflicted because you presumably knew about this stuff when you hired him and also because it seems like a good cause (ie, he’s not blowing off work to catch an early ball game or something). The key is to make this about your work needs “We can’t have unplanned absences. I know you do this rescue thing and it’s a really great cause, but I need you to commit to being at work during your scheduled times”. I do think it’s possible he might start calling out sick or something, but just address this like a performance issue. “We can’t operate when we can’t depend on you to be here.” And if it gets too bad, fire him. But before it gets to that point just make it clear that this about business needs and while you’re paying him you need to be able to depend on him.

    3. Boss’s girlfriend is doing my work

    I’m not sure if her doing your work is actually harming you, other than your fear that you’ll be seen as inadequate. Law firms are ironically kind of a weird workplace. One of my relatives is a lawyer and her spouse and kids come in and help pretty often. If her interference affects you then follow Alison’s script, but otherwise I think you should just leave it alone. It’s kind of how these places operate.

    4. Appropriate gifts for a fantastic recruiter

    I wish there was something like a course on how to say thank you. There have been a couple times I had a really good experience with someone and I do say thanks in the moment, but it kind of gets lost in typical social convention. On the other hand, getting too effusive with thanks might be awkward. But when I think of how happy it makes me to be recognized, I feel like it’s worth making myself feel awkward to give someone else a little pick-me-up. So in your case, follow Alison’s advice. A written note is also helpful because she can take it to her boss during performance review time.

    5. Closing the office early when employees have different start and end times

    I think it depends on why you come to work early, as well as how often the office closes early and for what reasons. If there’s a ‘core hours’ requirement so you couldn’t really leave earlier than 3 but for home life reasons you can’t come in later and this happens something like once a month, it might be worth asking your boss if you can have comp time on a different day to run errands or something. But assuming everyone has the flexibility to choose their own schedule here and you’re choosing to work earlier than most people, this sounds like one of those ‘life’s not fair’ moments. Are you happy, appreciated and well-compensated in other ways? If yes, focus on the positive. If not, this is a symptom of a larger problem anyways.

    1. Recruit-o-rama*

      The thank you emails that always mean a lot to me are the ones that give a specific example of how I helped make their experience positive, it doesn’t have to be effusive. Don’t feel awkward, because you’re right, everyone likes to be recognized! :)

    2. AMT*

      #1: Yeah, I’d definitely draw a sharp line between an interviewer with a different style than I’m used to and an interviewer who is actively hostile or dismissive. As far as the second one goes, I’d be filing that bit of information away for when I needed to make a decision about whether I actually wanted to work there.

    3. Jennifer*

      #5 happens at my work–once in a great while we get to leave early on a holiday, but all the people who want to work 7-4 schedules or the ones who arranged to use vacation time and left at 2 p.m. don’t get the free bonus off time–their vacation is still used, etc. Them’s just the breaks for those with the special privileges, I think.

      1. Jenn5686*

        Yea that happens here too sometimes especially around the holidays. The way we explain it to people is if you want *guaranteed* time off, you use your PTO.

  3. Recruit-o-rama*

    OP#4- Please no gift. I have received gifts and it makes me uncomfortable, I find it creepy and I always give them back (it’s happened to me four times). I love a short thank you email, it always makes my day. I save them in an outlook folder called “today is awful” and I read them from time to time when I’m having a bad day, dealing with a difficult candidate or whatever and I need a boost.

  4. Engineer Girl*

    I’m going to disagree with AAM on #2. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 69 percent of firefighters in the United States are volunteers. That’s just for regular calls. On top of that there are rescue specializations such as cave rescue, high angle rescue, etc. These volunteers are only called rarely but when they are needed they are needed. No one else can do their job.
    I would argue that supporting volunteer rescue is a part of civic responsibility, just like jury duty. It’s in the employers best interest to support such things.
    The employee did the right thing by asking for permission to leave. Permission was granted, but the employee is now viewed as a problem because they took the “yes” as a yes. The impact of that yes belongs to the OP, not to the employee.
    The real question is how often call outs happen, how long the employee is gone, and how the business is impacted. Is there a way to support this activity? Is the employee a key individual that is always needed at the site? Are there times/places where the impact is greater? Can the volunteering be supported on a limited basis? This isn’t about all or nothing – there are lots of ways to solve this issue. “Your first obligation is to the employer” attitude will not attract the best workers.

    1. Dot Warner*

      I agree. OP, please consider that without people like your employee, your town probably would not have a fire department. If your house or business ever catches fire, would you want your would-be rescuer to say, “Sorry, but if I leave work right now I’ll get fired?”

    2. Chriama*

      > I would argue that supporting volunteer rescue is a part of civic responsibility, just like jury duty. It’s in the employers best interest to support such things.

      I don’t think that’s true. Employers have a legal obligation to allow employees to serve jury duty. For whatever reason, the democratic process hasn’t found it necessary to offer that same obligation to firefighters. I get that it’s a sucky situation, but why should the employer essentially be held responsible for subsidizing underfunded public services? I do agree that it’s worth it to try and work with the employee to see if a middle ground can be reached (e.g. maybe he can leave 1 hour early instead of 4, or can call out if he can find his own replacement, etc). But if the nature of the business (size, number of employees, profitability) just can’t support this employee’s volunteer commitment I don’t think it’s a moral failing on their part.

      1. addiez*

        I think it also depends a lot – does this happen often? Once a year? Did the employee discuss it with his manager before committing? While it does sound important, it may not mesh with the functions of the specific role.

        1. Connie-Lynne*

          I think frequency, moderated by business impact, is key here. If it’s a once-a-week or more thing, I could see having a serious talk with the employee. For once-a-month, it would depend on the inconvenience to the business IMO, whether it was worth setting up a backup plan. And for “a few times a year,” I personally would find “the owner had to go over and sort it out” not that big of a deal — presumably the business would have the same sort of plan for sickness and so forth.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I didn’t think that Engineer Girl is saying this is a current legal fact.
        I thought she was saying, “I think it OUGHT to be the way we all look at this.”

        And that the employer should voluntarily consider that subsidizing underfunded public services is something that it feels obligated to do.

        And–inconvenient? Or truly damaging?

        If this is the first time this employee has left for the firefighting work, maybe this is a wake-up call to figure out how to cope with that in a way that is less inconvenient.

      3. TootsNYC*

        Actually, law speaks to this in many states


        has this:
        3. A public or private employer shall not terminate the
        employment of an employee for joining a volunteer emergency services
        unit or organization, including but not limited to any municipal,
        rural, or subscription fire department.

        but this as well:
        7. An employee who is a volunteer emergency services provider and
        who may be absent from or late to work while performing duties as a
        volunteer emergency services provider shall notify the employer as
        soon as possible that the employee may be absent or late.
        8. An employer shall determine whether an employee may leave work
        to respond to an emergency as part of the employee’s volunteer
        emergency services provider duties.

        So “not showing up at all” and “showing up late” seem to be treated a little differently.

        I would say the OP needs local legal advice.

        1. TootsNYC*

          If you google “[Statename] volunteer firefighter law,” you’ll see lots and lots of states have laws about this.

          Almost all of them say you can’t fire someone.
          Some of them say you don’t have to pay them for the time they’re away
          Most of them say the employer can require notification (of membership, and of specific instances).

          Iowa has the “employer gets to decide whether you can leave,” but some don’t.

          It’s fascinating!

      4. OlympiasEpiriot*

        You wrote: ” For whatever reason, the democratic process hasn’t found it necessary to offer that same obligation to firefighters.”

        You are incorrect. There are specific laws in each state about non-career (ie: volunteer) emergency responders.

        If the business can’t support that, they need to move to a municipality that has non-volunteer emergency response. It will, no doubt, have much higher taxes.

        1. Chriama*

          I actually didn’t know about those laws. I absolutely agree that the employer should obey the law of whatever jurisdiction they’re in. Anyway, I don’t disagree that they should try to make this work. I just don’t like the notion that the employer is morally obligated to bear the brunt of the responsibility. Yes, higher taxes would probably arise. But that’s more fair to me than expecting businesses to carry this burden because people don’t want to pay more taxes.

    3. BRR*

      I partially agree with you. It’s not addressed in the letter, but if the role can allow occasional calls I think he should be permitted. I can definitely see how it could be disruptive though at certain times. Placing myself as a business owner I would strongly try to let the employee do this though. As others have said, it’s very important to the community.

      1. newreader*

        The best solution would be an arrangement that allows for the employee to respond to calls when it doesn’t negatively impact the employer. My spouse is a member of our local volunteer fire/rescue. He has an arrangement with his employer where he can leave for calls where his skill is needed provided there isn’t a time sensitive project at work. There have been times when he just couldn’t leave work because it would cause too much of a burden to the employer at that particular time. Other times he could leave for the call and finish the work after he returned.

        Volunteers for fire/rescue are in short supply, so it’s beneficial to the community when employers can be flexible where possible. But volunteer departments also know that not all members will be able to respond to all calls due to work and family obligations.

    4. Ad Astra*

      I’d like to know more about the specific rescue work this employee does. If it’s something very specialized like cave rescue or grain bin rescue, it may be extremely important — but somewhat rare — that this employee leave work immediately to help someone whose life is on the line. If it’s just typical fire rescue, that’s still obviously very important, but fires happen a lot more often than people getting trapped in caves or grain bins, so it may not be compatible with the employee’s paid position.

      I do agree with you that the OP should at least try to find ways to accommodate this work as a sort of civic duty. (Jury duty, even though it’s a legal obligation, is often quite disruptive to business.) If the disruption is rare enough, it may be worth supporting this employee.

  5. Mike C.*

    With regards to #2, it seems more complicated than someone who simply works multiple jobs. How do you deal with the fact that the employee is performing an obvious and (presumably) necessary public service in an official capacity?

    I presume from the letter that “rescue team” refers to a volunteer fire department of some kind. Places use these as a last resort, say communities too small to support a full time station. If that’s the case, isn’t the employer generally out of luck. Maybe not in the legal sense, but in the practical sense? How would this be any different than those serving in the military/national guard or even jury duty, outside of specific legal requirements/protections?

    Maybe I’m totally misunderstanding here, but I feel like the nature of the second job as a first responder is a whole lot different than a typical second job.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It depends on the job. There are some jobs, especially in smaller offices, where you really can’t have people regularly leaving without notice. The fact that the person is leaving for a really important and worthy reason doesn’t change that.

      There are some jobs where it would work out fine, of course. But not all of them.

      1. Mike C.*

        So if every employer objects to even occasional callouts then the community has no fire department.

        As I said below, we can certainly discuss ways to reasonable mitigate these issues, but I’m really, really having a difficult time with the idea that an employer should be the main concern when we’re talking about the availability of first responders in small communities. If it’s indeed a small community, how often are these callouts going to happen such that they directly affect work in the first place? Even when they do, the work was still completed by the owner, so the company didn’t miss out on a contract or other important work.

        Frequency is certainly an issue – obviously the costs should be spread across as many as possibly to minimize issues. But at the same time, we regularly tell employers to simply deal with it if folks are called to jury duty or military service, and I’m having a difficult time seeing this in a different light.

        1. Chriama*

          >So if every employer objects to even occasional callouts then the community has no fire department.

          Which sucks, but is a symptom of a failed public system and not the fault of private employers. Taxpayers can lobby for change in the form of tax incentives for businesses or budget changes. And I want every employer’s first thought to be “how can I make this work” rather than “no”. But I don’t think it should be their responsibility to pick up the slack of a poor system.

          1. OlympiasEpiriot*

            There are laws regarding the employment rights of volunteer emergency responders. If the business cannot deal with that, they need to crunch some numbers and decide if they are moving to a higher tax area with a professional emergency response force. Note that these are usually municipal and there will be a lot of costs involved.

            1. Chriama*

              > There are laws regarding the employment rights of volunteer emergency responders.

              I commented above, but my comments were assuming that OP knows that they have no legal obligation to accommodate this employee. I agree that the business needs to obey the law of their jurisdiction, and this is something a small business owner may not be aware of. But the laws aren’t in place everywhere, and if OP *doesn’t* have a legal obligation then again, I don’t think we should hold the business to some sort of moral standard. Get the laws changed, speak out against the budget, whatever. But don’t put the responsibility for this public system only on private businesses.

          2. Ad Astra*

            Yes, if every employer objects to even occasional callouts then the community has no fire department. And that’s a real problem — but it’s not the OP’s job, or this individual employer’s job, to fix that. It’s a community issue, a tax issue, and a government issue, but sometimes communities don’t support themselves. Their options are to get together and change that, or split up and move somewhere else.

            1. OlympiasEpiriot*

              These communities *are* supporting themselves. It is already expensive to have a volunteer fire department. The government entity (township, county, village, parish, whatever) is still paying for equipment, training, insurance, and the building to keep it all in and maintenance. The labor costs are the only ‘volunteer’ aspect.

              Most of the country is protected by volunteer fire departments. Most firefighters are volunteer and not career. This is how most people are protected.

              Look, this is not just rural areas. Nassau County… Any readers here from Long Island? Go check out how many of the FDs are volunteer. For the whole county. This is the county abutting New York City. It is very heavily populated. It includes office building and shopping malls.

              1. Meg Murry*

                Although the term “volunteer” is also misleading in some areas, because it just means “not an employee with a contract”. In my area, the term “volunteer” is used both in communities where the work is unpaid, and in communities where it just means the person is treated as a 1099 contractor and paid by call they respond to. There is also a hybrid of the two, where the work is technically paid, but the volunteers are responsible for buying their own gear and are highly encouraged to give the pay back – so it is effectively volunteer, as there is no money actually changing hands.

                There is also a very small town in my area with no fire department, not even volunteer, because the community won’t pay the taxes to join the local fire district. If a house there catches fire, it will burn to the ground, period. Which means the houses there are pretty much worthless, because no fire department = no insurance company willing to take you on as a customer = no bank willing to give you a mortgage.

                However, when I say very small, I mean, extremely, crazy small – under 300 people in the last census. And of those 300 people, I would guess at least 150 (or more) belong to one extended family, so much so that in the area we refer to it as “TheirLastNameVille”

            2. Mike C.*

              Ok, just spoke with my wife – there’s no way in hell a business is getting insurance if they are not covered by a fire department. Given that insurance is a de facto (if not de jure) requirement for a business, the very least they can do is let their employee occasionally leave work early to fight a fire.

          3. Mike C.*

            How is there not a direct cause and effect between employers not allowing employees to perform needed services and not having those services available when the employees are at work? Just because there isn’t a law requiring such protections everywhere doesn’t mean that the business doesn’t bear responsibility.

            Also, I think there might be insurance issues at play here, but I’m checking with my wife on this.

            1. Mike C.*

              Ok, just spoke with my wife – there’s no way in hell a business is getting insurance if they are not covered by a fire department. Given that insurance is a de facto (if not de jure) requirement for a business, the very least they can do is let their employee occasionally leave work early to fight a fire.

          4. Shelby*

            It’s not a failed public system, though. I live in the suburbs of a major city and all of our fire stations outside city limits are completely volunteer, even in very densely populated areas. We have stations every 5-10 minutes (driving distance) or so to provide the fastest response time possible given that the firefighters aren’t often at the station when a call goes out and have to respond to pagers. They send the first truck out as soon as enough people to staff it arrive (I think a minimum of four, but I don’t know for certain). If the townships had to pay to have a minimum of four firefighters at every station 24/7/365, we’d have a hell of a lot fewer fire stations and a lot more time would be lost. That time is precious and equates to lives and property. It is already expensive on the community to operate all the stations with the costs of the buildings, equipment, training, etc. Staffing a full crew all day every day would be prohibitive and we’re not even a small community.

            Also, I think what a business can and can’t handle in terms of disruption would change a lot if it was the owner’s child trapped in a wrecked car or the company’s headquarters burning down. “Sorry, you can’t go rescue people because Jane would have to stop typing letters and answer the phones for you for two hours” is a pretty lame excuse when people’s lives are literally at stake.

    2. Chriama*

      But why should the business bear the brunt of this? I get that some townships can’t afford a paid FD. I think the frequency of the emergency callouts does matter, but at a certain point a small private business has to choose between essentially subsidizing this public service or just not hiring people who need that kind of flexibility.

      1. Mike C.*

        Sure, details like frequency matter and mitigation should occur whenever possible.

        At the same time, if the employer isn’t willing to occasionally let someone off early to save lives in the community, then the employer really can’t expect the same when their house/business is on fire or their family members are dying. I don’t mean to get all philosophical here, we live in a society and in the case above, lives were likely saved at the expense of the business owner performing the work themselves. I don’t think that’s such a terrible price to occasionally pay.

        How do you see this as any different from someone being called up for jury duty or military service?

        1. Chriama*

          Because the employer has a legal obligation to let someone attend jury duty? I don’t know about military service. And I do think a good employer should attempt to find a middle ground. But if it’s just not possible for their business then I don’t fault them for it.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        You keep saying “bear the brunt” and I’m not sure why. The employer isn’t required to pay the worker if the employee isn’t a work. They just have to let them go as needed. The employee also pays with lost wages, has to buy his own equipment, keep up the training on own time, participate in practices. The employee bears the brunt, not the employer. To claim the business is subsidizing it makes no sense. Everyone subsidizes it.
        That said, the employer is reaping a benefit by having a fire department available.

    3. Skipper*

      My hometown had a volunteer fire department. I think the onus was on the volunteer to find a job that was going to be cool with him or her just up and leaving if a call came in. If the business in this case knew the employee was a volunteer and that this was a possibility when he was hired, then I don’t think he should be punished at this point. If he just recently joined, then they can decide what to do going forward.

      1. Mike C.*

        So were most in not all employers cool with hiring these folks or was it a problem for many? In my mind, it would be an asset to have a trained first responder right there if something bad happened, but that’s just me.

        1. Skipper*

          I *think* most employers were cool with it. Being a volunteer fire fighter in my hometown was a respected position. But I also think a lot of the volunteer fire fighters worked the kind of jobs that didn’t have ridiculously tight deadlines, like retail, landscaping, or running their own businesses that they could just shut down for the day if necessary. So it worked hand-in-hand.

        2. Skipper*

          Oh, and someone else said this way down the page and it sparked my memory– that in her town, the volunteers worked out their schedule with the fire department, so it was not often they were “on call” when they were at their “real” job. That’s probably what my hometown did as well.

          1. TootsNYC*

            And this is something that our OP could push for–to encourage the employee/volunteer to work this out with the fire department, and to (as a citizen) lobby the fire department directly to set up some sort of rotation that allows volunteers AND employers to plan.

          2. Meg Murry*

            That’s how it works in my area. However, if there is a major emergency, an “all hands” type of call will go out, basically saying “hey, there’s a major disaster, so anyone that can come, please do”. These are typically less than a handful of times a year though, and there is no penalty if any of the volunteers can’t go.

      2. Jennifer*

        I think if you’re going to be a volunteer firefighter, your day job needs to be flexible. If your day job is not flexible, then you probably can’t go in on daytime calls and they’ll just have to understand that.

    4. hbc*

      I 100% agree. If you want to be a profit-only institution with no benefit to the community, keep on keeping on, I guess. But if the downside of having a first responder on your team is that occasionally the boss has to drive over to the job site, I’m really not sympathetic to the plight of the poor company. We’ve got a small company here and not yet obligated to follow FMLA, but I’m not kicking people out because of absenteeism when they’ve got an ailing parent to run off to or something.

      This sounds like it was a hassle, but no more so than the guy eating a bad burrito at lunch or getting a migraine in the middle of the work day. If hes not also the guy who’s chronically sick or constantly leaving early to beat the weather or whatnot, do this guy and the community a solid and deal with it. And that’s leaving aside the morale-boosting effects and positive public image.

    5. newreader*

      Another thing to keep in mind is that not all volunteers work in the same town where they live. Many rural areas that use volunteer fire departments don’t have much if any industry or commercial operations in that town. Depending on where the volunteer works, they might have a bit of a commute to get back to the town where they volunteer. So even if their employer was fine with them leaving, it might not be useful for them to leave. Having a 20-30 minute commute might mean that by the time they arrive, the call is over and everyone is headed back to their primary jobs/home.

  6. Daisy*

    I had a series of interview unexpectedly and the last person I met with went horribly. She kept pressing me on why I wasn’t using my degree to work in that field and I couldn’t come up with an answer she would accept. She was oddly agressive about it. At least I knew leaving I didn’t get the job rather I guess.

    1. Daisy*

      Also I should mention I was interviewing at a temp agency. She should be use to people switching fields.

      It shouldn’t have been a surprise my undergraduate geography degree didn’t get me a job right away (I had been doing admin work since I graduated 10 years prior anyway so I wasn’t suddenly switching fields).

      1. Recruit-o-rama*

        How weird! It is SO common for people to change career course! I always find that part of the “tell me about yourself” fascinating as a Recruiter. I love to hear how people ended up where they ended up. It tells me a lot about their adaptability and people with varied backgrounds can bring a lot of value to teams. I think it’s silly to expect every person to stick to the career path they chose when they were very young college students. My degree has nothing to do with the work I do, a lot of people’s degrees have nothing to do with what they do now.

    2. Mike C.*

      I really don’t understand interviewers that actually get aggressive over questions that interviewees can’t really answer. I had one a long time ago that kept pressing and pressing me to tell him why I was leaving my current company after several years. The truth of course was that it was a toxic workplace, but the more standard answers I gave just weren’t good enough. He might as well have been handing me a pistol and instructing me to shoot myself in the foot.

      1. Daisy*

        I was trying to diplomatic and say how hard of a field it is if you didn’t want to teach. Then I talked about the side projects I did do in the field. I just wanted to scream “it’s geography what do you expect?”. Seriously nothing would satisfy her.

      2. Lindsay J*

        Yeah I had similar happen.

        I was asked about why I left a previous position and I (unemotionally, I believe) explained that I had been let go following an error I made.

        He then asked if I thought it was fair that I was fired. I gave a diplomatic answer, and he pressed again and sounded annoyed. I again game a diplomatic answer, and he said pretty much “Yes or no, was it fair?”

        I wound up saying no, I didn’t think it was fair. Because I didn’t and still don’t.

        And because between that, the ridiculous personality testing, the fact that they kept on hammering on the fact that I didn’t have any experience in a specialized area of a specialized industry (yet I clearly had enough to make it to the in-person interview), and his generally hostile tone throughout the interview I had decided I didn’t want the job anyway.

    3. Laurel Gray*

      Bad interviewers get personal, IMO. Pressing during an interview is when someone is taking things personal. I rather be dismissed as someone who was evasive about a detail in an interview than pressed about it.

    4. Skipper*

      I interviewed for an internship with the AP once. The guy was also oddly perturbed that I was a.) getting a degree in magazine journalism b.) working a part-time job at my hometown newspaper as a page-designer and c.) trying to get an internship as a news writer. I think he pointed this out and then actually said, “What are you even doing?” I stumbled over an answer that was something like, “I don’t see anything wrong with getting experience in many areas of journalism.” When the interview was over, he handed me an AP-branded lanyard and a tin of mints with the AP logo on them and I looked him in the eye and said, “Wow, it’s just like Christmas.” I did not get the internship.

    5. Stranger than fiction*

      Argh. It’s so annoying when an interviewer gets really stuck on a particular question/topic and won’t let it go, especially on something so seemingly unimportant to the job at hand. I wonder if there’s a polite way to ask to move on??

  7. ThatGirl*

    For #5 – we have similar problems here, where some of us start at 7, 7:30 and others at 9:30, and we often close at 2 or 3 the day before a holiday weekend. What my department has started doing is saying this is a 2-hour “gift” from the company, so those of us who normally leave at 5 can leave at 3, those who normally leave at 3:30 can leave at 1:30, etc. But that would depend a lot on your manager caring about fairness.

    1. Nancie*

      That’s what we do where I work. Originally management would say “we’re closing at 3p”, but now it’s “you can leave two hours early.”

      Once in a while I’ll just come in later than usual the day before a holiday, but since leaving early is never a guarantee, I prefer not to.

    2. Skipper*

      This is what happened at my last job. There were sort of rolling shifts– some people came in at 6 a.m., some at 7, some at 9 and some at 2:30. The two days a year the office closed early — Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve– it closed at 8 p.m. The last person came in at 2:30 and normally worked until 11, so they left at 8 and got paid for the three hours. Everyone else got to leave three hours early as well.

      1. Skipper*

        I should add that it was the building that closed at 8 p.m., not the office. Everyone who worked in the building had to be out at 8 p.m. Otherwise my office would have just kept right on trucking because they were awful.

    3. The IT Manager*

      IMO that’s the way to do it. Not come in late, leave the same number of hours early. That may not be feasible, though, and in those cases I think you just have to accept that life isn’t always fair. If you did want to take advantage of those extra hours off you can shift your schedule year round.

    4. Jack the Treacle Eater*

      This sounds like a very equitable solution.

      We had this issue at Christmas. Often people would book Christmas Eve off, then the factory would shut at lunchtime anyway. This was compounded by people on variable shifts, so some might be starting at 6 am, while others started at 8.

      The company tended to close early on Christmas Eve, but wouldn’t guarantee it; so workers either booked time they didn’t need to or got variable amounts of time off depending when they started. A little unfair and hit and miss, but such is life.

      What really caused a problem was when the company closed early, then took half a day unilaterally from everyones’ holiday allowance – meaning those that came in early, typically just for the company’s benefit, were deducted half day’s holiday for working a full day.

  8. Stephanie*

    #4: No gift! She’s doing her job. I can get the impulse, as I’ve dealt with some crappy recruiters, but no gifts!

  9. Auntie*

    Hey Alison,
    I’m getting major spam intermittently when I come to your blog on my safari browser which doesn’t have adblock installed. The last few times it’s been redirected entirely to a new page with fake alerts about issues with my system and needing to call certain numbers etc. It’s not even a pop up new page, it just takes me entirely away from your site in the same browser window. It’s happened a few times, 3 times in a row just now. I can’t tell you what ad was showing etc when it happened though.

    I am just going to stick to viewing on an adblocked browser (chrome or firefox)

      1. GH in SoCAl*

        Nod32 was actually warning me about a Trojan on your site a couple of days ago, so sadly this redirect news doesn’t shock me.

        The one time I got a virus from surfing, it was from the old Cheezburger site. I was addicted to it in the early days, and when it got really popular it became a target for viruses and I had to give it up.

        Sure hope that won’t happen here.

  10. Dilbert is my hero*

    on #5, we announce that we will close the office 4 hours early rather than a specific time. That way those who are on a different schedule can adjust their schedule accordingly.

  11. Megs*

    #5: It seems like a big “fairness” factor here too is whether you’re talking about being sent home early with or without pay. If my office closes early, as happens not infrequently due to the piece-meal nature of our work, the folks who came in a 6:30 get paid more than the folks who come in at 9:00. This can be frustrating at times, but I find the flexible schedule to be worth some unfairness on the back end.

    Where this setup does create perverse incentives is that we’re paid strictly hourly – no considerations for quality or quantity. I’ve frequently worked with individuals who work longer hours than me but produce far less work or far lower quality. They get paid more, especially on days when we’re sent home after finishing our projects. So it goes.

  12. addiez*

    To number 1 – Often, interviewing with more than one person isn’t about testing you or seeing if you click with people, but getting a variety of perspectives for you of the org and for the org of you.

  13. jmm*

    Our rural area has a volunteer fire department, and they respond to everything from brush fires to house fires to car wrecks to heart attacks. They are an amazing team!
    Since it is clear that the business owner/manager needs OP to avoid leaving work unexpectedly, is it possible for the VFD to develop a schedule of first responders who can be “on call” on designated days? That way OP can only be “on call” at the VFD only when he is off work.
    This seemed to work well for our VFD. Many of the guys/gals work 4-10s at the local chemical plants, or work one week on, one week off on offshore gas rigs, so there is coverage during the week and on weekends, without anyone having to miss work.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, I think hearing how people manage it in areas with VFDs is important here. I suspect it’s something between accepting every absence and saying it’s not permitted, and it may vary with the job. I know the post is old now, but I’d advise the OP to check around town to see how other workplaces manage it. This is a big cultural issue and you want to make sure you’re abreast of cultural norms when you’re taking any action here.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        There are legal issues. This is not a cultural or moral problem. Emergency responders have specific rights under state laws. Check with your state for details.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, interesting point. It makes sense that they do, now that you raise the issue. Yes, in my state of Illinois they can’t be terminated for these absences, and my university has a section about handling it. It’s not paid time, though.

    2. newreader*

      My local volunteer fire/rescue department has members with a variety of different jobs and shifts and even some that are retired. There are often members available to respond to calls throughout the day and night, so if not all members can leave their primary jobs that’s okay. There is also a robust mutual aid system where neighboring towns assist each other if one town doesn’t have enough of their own members responding.

      It’s just as likely to have minimal response to a call on a Saturday with gorgeous weather or at 1 a.m. than in the middle of a traditional workday. Volunteer members have many other commitments and obligations besides work and cannot always be available to respond. Volunteer departments employ a variety of methods to address that.

  14. Pokebunny*

    #4 can be cultural too. I come from a culture where gifting is very appropriate and appreciated. When I tried that the first time in America, I was so embarrassed because my giftee point-blank told me that he cannot accept bribes, and that it reflected very poorly on me to do something like that. He wasn’t mad at me, but he (rightfully) did not try to sugarcoat it at all.

    1. Chriama*

      That’s super embarrassing, but I’m glad he was candid with you. Gift giving can get very tricky to manage (as we saw in last week’s post about being asked to give back 2 out of 4 tickets a client had given them) and it’s better to stay out of that whole mess if possible.

  15. Annie*

    RE: #2 – “If you decide this isn’t for you because of it, I’ll understand your decision. Do you want to take some time to think about it?” <- I've been in the receiving end of this almost exact phrase and I can tell you I did NOT like hearing this. It made me feel as if my boss was threatening my job! Particularly because she said something about taking 2 weeks to think about it – which just so happens the amount of notice you give someone when you are going to quit. I was highly upset about being told this so there has to be a less threatening sounding way to convey this message.

    BTW the reason I was told this was because I'd tole my newly hired manager that I wanted to do something different – as in progressing up the corporate ladder at our company, not wanting to leave the company! Workplaces are difficult. :(

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, it is kind of threatening your job. “You want to do X, we can’t accommodate X, so how do you want to proceed” does have the underlying message of “if you pick X, we need to part ways.” But that’s not necessarily adversarial; sometimes it’s just the reality of the situation.

  16. OlympiasEpiriot*

    Volunteer Emergency Response: The letter writer needs to check state law. The states I’ve been aware of this issue (always ones I’ve lived in a rural area) have explicit law about responders.

    It is true that many places have shifts when someone is expected to be available and can assume they normally aren’t needed otherwise. However, note the word ‘normally’. If you have a large fire…like what NYC would call a 4- or 5-alarm fire…everyone will be called upon.

    If the business owner cannot deal with this possibility, they need to crunch some numbers about moving to a higher tax area that can support a municipal fire department and professional EMTs, search-and-rescue and other first responders. This isn’t a moral issue but a legal one.

    1. Skipper*

      Oh, yeah, look at that. I just looked up the law in my home state.

      “No employer shall terminate an employee who is a member of a volunteer fire department, or who is employed by a political subdivision of this state as a volunteer firefighter, or who is a volunteer provider of emergency medical services because that employee, when acting as a volunteer firefighter or a volunteer provider of emergency medical services, is absent from or late to the employee’s employment in order to respond to an emergency prior to the time the employee is to report to work. An employer may charge any time that an employee who is a volunteer firefighter or a volunteer provider of emergency medical services loses from employment because of the employee’s response to an emergency against the employee’s regular pay.”

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        In Connecticut, the employer has to pay the employee for that time and it also cannot affect sick time nor vacation accrual.

        Fancy that.

      2. Skipper*

        Although I guess this just applies to coming in late or not at all because you responded to a call prior to your shift starting. It doesn’t mention leaving early.

    2. Zillah*

      This isn’t a moral issue but a legal one.

      Well, I think it’s both – the law differs significantly between states and even municipalities, presumably, and I’d bet that many have the “undue hardship” exception written in – AFAIK, my state does. However, even if local laws are more lenient, I’d argue that there’s a moral obligation to try and accommodate employees who are volunteer EMTs/firefighters.

  17. BRR*

    #1 I have had interviews where there’s just not a good fit and I have had interviews where I am not sure anybody could fit with the other person. This letter seems to bring up not clicking with somebody else and also interviewing with someone who just might always seem that way. In my last round of job hunting I had one interviewer start with a BEC attitude towards me and I have no idea why. I had another (where I ended up) seem cold but that’s just how she comes off. She turned out to be a very warm person but I wasn’t able to assess her that way during my interview. I guess my point is, fit isn’t always about you.

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      All you can do is be professional in the interview. And it doesn’t even necessarily mean you won’t get the job. We’ve definitely done interviews where the candidate doesn’t “click” with one interviewer, or one interviewer doesn’t even think we should be considering candidates who don’t have experience with Technology X or whatever. But the rest of us overrule the one nay-sayer.

  18. Ann Furthermore*

    I feel for OP#1. No, you’re not going to be best friends with everyone you ever meet, but when you can tell you’re not hitting it off with someone, it’s so disconcerting. Many times it’s not even the fault of either party, it’s just a bad mix of personalities. Sure, you can be polite and civil, but still, it can be so awkward.

    I completely stepped in it once in an interview on my college campus (many years ago). We’d all been advised to put an “Interests” section on our resumes, and in mine was Travel. The interviewer asked me about this, and we chit-chatted a bit. I grew up in the Middle East so I was lucky enough to travel to many cool places as a kid. The interviewer mentioned he’d taken his family to Israel the year before. I told him that my parents had been there and found it very disappointing and over-commercialized. They took tours of holy places and the guides would say things like, “If you’re Catholic it happened over here; if you’re Protestant it happened over there.” And they were aghast to see people lined up to get baptized in the Dead Sea — for them, and their pretty conservative, old-school sensibilities, it was kind of appalling.

    I prattled on about this and a few other things, and then noticed the interviewer had gotten very quiet, and did not seem amused at all. It was only then that I realized that his last name in all likelihood meant he was Jewish, and for many Jewish people, going to Israel is a hugely significant event, and the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. So this guy had probably spent all kinds of time planning this trip, and saving the money for it, and there I was, maybe all of 23, telling him that it was a craphole. And I’d never even been there myself. Egads. I still cringe when I think of it, over 20 years later.

    1. SusanIvanova*

      Well, if you get stuck like that again, remember that any tourist destination has the tourist-trap places and the “real” places, and I doubt that person had signed up for the “Seven Holy Sites in Seven Days!” sort of thing.

  19. Chriama*

    Am I the only one who commented on number 3? I wish more people had said something. I guess it’s just weird to me because I’m so close to the small law firm mentality. I wish we had an update from the original OP.

    1. TootsNYC*

      On #3 (legal secretary whose boss’s girlfriend is doing her job on the weekends)

      I was wondering: What exactly is she doing? Is she doing the secretarial/admin work that pertains to what her boyfriend was doing while he was in the office? Is she taking care of stuff you need to be there to do, or that lowers your workload on Monday?

      Or is she doing stuff that is left over from the regular week that you’d be picking up on Monday?

      Because if she’s doing the photocopying and filing and typing up and forms, etc., that are the work he created by working on Saturday, I think you should just leave it alone.

      Address only those things that actually make your job HARDER. Like, she files things in the wrong place; it’s not clear what tasks don’t need to be finished still, etc.

      1. jmm*

        Agreed — OP should address any things that make his/her job harder. Otherwise, I’d leave it alone. Try to ignore any assistance provided to your boss that is annoying to you for purely territorial reasons.

  20. jmm*

    @Chriama — I agreed with your comment about OP 3 but didn’t post (until now). I worked in a small law firm years ago as a secretary to two partners. When I was away from the office (sick day, vacation, or just left at 5 and they kept working), they often roped in other people to do the secretarial work. It didn’t bother me because I understood that their work continued, even when I wasn’t there, and their primary focus was to keep things moving. I bet they really value OP and probably have no concerns about the quality of his/her work, but rope in the girlfriend to help on weekends just out of convenience….just to keep the ball moving…instead of waiting for OP to come in on Monday morning. They probably think, in a way, that they are helping OP and reducing his/her workload.

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      That’s interesting. I was thinking more along the lines of girlfriend tags along with boyfriend to work on Saturday and decides to pitch in while she’s there since she used to work there and knows the ropes. And probably figures it’s helping boyfriend out. I would imagine in a law office there’s always more work to do and it’s not like Op like come in on Monday and have nothing to do. But I totally get the “Lea e my work alone” thing. I don’t like it when people touch my stuff either.

      1. Chriama*

        That was my assumption to. The girlfriend is there because the boss is there, and she has nothing better to do so she does this stuff.

  21. NicoleK*

    LW #1. Even if you didn’t connect with one of the interviewers, don’t assume that person has sway over the person with the hiring authority. At Old Job, I sat in on an interview once. I did not connect with the candidate and did not think the candidate was the right person for the job. Boss hired her anyway over my objections. So one can never tell.

  22. Greg*

    #1: One thing to keep in mind when you think you don’t click with an interviewer is that it’s all relative. Some people are just hard to connect with, and others are easy, but that doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about how the interview went, or your likelihood of getting the job.

    My college roommate once interviewed for a job where he felt like he did a virtual mind-meld with the interviewer. He walked out of the room feeling great, and was crushed when he didn’t get the job. Then he happened to talk to someone else who had interviewed with the same person and discovered she had had the exact same experience. Turns out the interviewer was just a really nice person who made people feel comfortable when she was speaking to them.

    Similarly, I’ve known people who make a point of coming across really tough in interviews, asking them aggressive, even borderline rude, questions, or questions where there are no good answers, just to see how the person reacts to that type of situation. Again, it doesn’t matter if you handle it well, it matters if you do so relative to other candidates.

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