company wants references from “coworkers you didn’t get along with”

A reader writes:

I’m currently interviewing for a new position with a company that works remotely. Over the past two weeks, I’ve had 10+ video calls with every member of the small team, along with a bunch of unpaid work tests that have included everything from client proposals to personality tests. It’s starting to feel like a full-time job just interviewing with them. I was willing to do all of this because the company is one that I know well with a social mission that I really believe in. I was even willing to accept that they are paying a good $20k below what is normal.

I was told that it was down to me and one other person and they were planning on making a decision this week. Today I got an email asking me to send one to two references in each of five categories. One of those categories is “coworker(s) that you didn’t get along with.” They say they want all of these references to get a complete picture of who I am and how I work, but this feels like a weird ask to me. There haven’t been many coworkers that I’ve had problems with and most are far in the past (5+ years) and were fired from their jobs. They aren’t people I’d want talking to a potential future employer on my behalf, even if I did have a way to contact them and ask if they’d be willing. I have plenty of great “normal” references and a solid work history with a portfolio to prove it, which seems like plenty to base their decision on in addition to the many phone calls and tests.

Am I off-base for feeling uncomfortable with what they’re asking of me? Is there a way that I can provide standard references and address my concerns of feeling uncomfortable without turning them off too much? I’m worried that I might have wasted a lot of time with this whole process.

What the actual F.

Seriously, this is ridiculous. 10 video calls over two weeks is absurd — it’s disrespectful of your (and their) time, and it’s indicative of a company that has no clue how to hire — and not even enough of a clue to realize that Something Doesn’t Seem Right About What We’re Doing. And now five to ten references, over five different categories? And names of coworkers who you didn’t get along with?

No. That is not reasonable.

References are valuable. And sure, in theory I’d love to be able to talk to a dozen people who worked with a candidate, with a whole bunch of different vantage points. I’d also like to have a video reel of the highlights of their last two years of work, a transcript of every time they got frustrated with a manager or a coworker, and a live blog of their last performance review meeting.

I can’t have those things because hiring doesn’t work that way. You will never know absolutely everything that you could know about a candidate. You do your best, based on a reasonable number of interviews, work samples, observations, and discussions with a handful of references. If you don’t feel like you have enough to confidently move forward with someone after doing that, they’re probably not the right candidate — or you need to seriously revisit your hiring practices. It’s not okay to put the burden of weak hiring practices or shaky confidence in your own judgment on to the candidate, and make them pay the price in the form of dozens of hours of interviews and exercises and tests, or to ask them to place an unreasonable burden on people they know.

You can never look under every single rock. Asking to be put in touch with coworkers who you didn’t get along with is just … ugh, it’s just not okay. They have to know it’s going to cause you a tremendous amount of discomfort (and the coworker too, I’d assume), and since they have no way of judging what happened between the two of you, they have no way of knowing how much weight to give whatever that person might say to them.

And really, it’s so very unreasonable that it’s worth you refusing. This is not a company you should continue placating. I’d seriously consider telling them, “This seems like overkill to me. This is exponentially more information than I’ve ever been asked for before by an employer. We’ve already had 10+ video calls and I’ve completed numerous tests for you. These aren’t reasonable demands to make of job candidates. I was very interested in working with you, despite the below-market salary, but I’m alarmed enough by these practices that at this point I’m withdrawing my application.”

But if you are absolutely committed to continuing, then I suppose you could say: “Hmmm, I’ve never really had any significant problems with coworkers, but I’m providing names and contact information for a variety of people who can speak to my work.”

(Or maybe you can just give them my contact info as one of your references so that I can give them a piece of my mind? No? Fine.)

{ 382 comments… read them below }

    1. Paige Turner*

      OP, I get that you’re worried about having wasted time interviewing with this company, but it sounds like you’ll end up wasting a lot more time if you take a job there. Don’t let sunk costs trick you into overvaluing this job.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I can’t imagine how this company chooses a supplier. If they need that much information to make a hiring decision, then it could take years to make any operational decisions.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          “Show us complaints from your other customers, then we will do business with you.”

      2. JMegan*

        Don’t let sunk costs trick you into overvaluing this job.

        This is so important. You have already spent a ton of time interviewing with these people, and they are *still* making ridiculous demands of you. It’s not going to get better once you actually get the job. It’s just not. At best, these people are massively disorganized and incredibly clueless, and they have shown you that they have no respect for your time.

        I don’t know how many options you have, or if you’re in a position where any job is better than no job right now. But if you do have options, I really recommend that you keep looking. There are other jobs where you will believe in the mission, get paid appropriately, and not get jerked around in the interview process. I promise.

          1. JessaB*

            Katie beat us all to it, that was my first impression too. Are they kidding, and if this is a non profit (the whole social mission thing leads me to believe it might be,) is this not a horrid use of their resources? I mean this kind of never ending stuff is not cheap.

            1. Anonamoose*

              I can totally see this happening to an org that has a larger private budget (think Bill Gates), due to various VPs coming in with their ‘ideas’ and now it’s just a smorgasbord of crap, when in reality they’ve just created a monster of red tape. It happens in public services all the time.

        1. Shannon*


          OP, during all this time, this company has given you a lot of information about themselves. You should be deeply concerned that they are disrespectful of your time (and theirs), indecisive and out of touch with business norms.

        2. Christine*

          You can always go back and say that you are confused by the request and would like to inquire why you’re asking? I would walk away at this point. They feel like they are a complete “time suck” and if they do that with a prospective employee, doubtful they’ll place a value on your time once you work for them.

          I am wondering if this is a test. Do you know how to set firm boundaries? They may be tying to find out if they can run all over you now, than treat you as such once you take the job. Some people just like pushing other’s limits to see how far they can go and get by with, or it’s a test that make sure you have a back bone. It makes me wonder if they have made some poor hiring decisions in the past. Either way, it makes you wonder about the personalities you’ll be working with if either is a concern.

          Think about it, if you give them this information, they may assume they can abuse you once you’re hired and you’ll roll over and play dead.

            1. Christine*

              I love reading this blog and have found myself learning quite a bit. Quite a few just make wonder where someone’s head is, or they are just a horrible boss.

              This particular letter regarding the interviewer’s request and their inability to put a value on their candidates time has gotten under my skin. I would hope that some isn’t that bad of an interviewer. Makes me wonder if this their a way of getting some proposals written free of charge. Or am placing too much of a hidden agenda behind their stupidity.

                1. Crazy Canuck*

                  B) At least the first time.

                  C) Also, any sufficiently advanced ineptitude is indistinguishable from malice.

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  @Crazy Canuck

                  Good one! I am borrowing it.

                  A mistake that is often repeated become a deliberate. Definitely.

            2. neverjaunty*

              I wonder if it’s also a way to get free work out of the OP along the way, given “along with a bunch of unpaid work tests that have included everything from client proposals to personality tests”.

              Heed that advice, OP! These people are at best flailing and incompetent and they will not get better once you are hired.

            3. Greg*

              I agree, but even if it were a test, that wouldn’t make it much better. It’s weird, unethical, emotionally manipulative, and is ultimately an attempt to impose a power dynamic onto what should be an equal relationship.

              (Incidentally, this whole discussion reminds of the absolutely fantastic novel “Company”, by Max Barry. I don’t want to spoil it, so I won’t say anything else, other than that I think everyone who reads this blog will find it hilarious. Just trust me.)

          1. So Very Anonymous*

            See, and the lesson I’d be taking from all of this, if it really is a test, is that I don’t want to work someplace that plays these kinds of games to “test” candidates. They’re going to assume they can abuse you even if you say “no,” continue with the process, and get hired, since you put up with this level of crazy interviewing AND accepted the position in spite of all this madness.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              “Oh, you have been here five years and you think you have earned your first raise? Okay. Find three supervisors who hate you and we will talk about your raise.”

          2. Annonymouse*

            Also what if you just can’t get in contact with people that didn’t get along with you? Does that make you look worse in their eyes?

            And why don’t they look worse to you?

            Really think about this:
            1) TEN + video calls in 2 weeks. They do work remotely but did you really need to meet everyone on the team?

            2) Unpaid work for them. Unless it is dummy work and/or something you can complete quickly (like write a quick example tweet/post for our page about blank or do this data entry test that takes 30 minutes – you get the idea) they’re possibly breaking the law

            3) Personality tests. Really? If you’re working remotely and have a proven history of doing the work they’re hiring for then why do they need this? A psychological exam for high pressure / sensitive work is different.

            4) 5 – 10 references across different categories? Including people you didn’t get along with? That is not reasonable. 5 references is unreasonable. Asking to speak to someone you didn’t get along with is also unreasonable.

            Because even if it was, I’ll bet you dollars to donuts they won’t ask for your side of that. Even then what useful information is there to be gained?

            I.e if I HAD to do this I had a coworker who didn’t get along with me because I was his supervisor, female and younger than him that our boss (the only person who could hire, fire or set consequences) did nothing about.
            So yes invasive company, please tell me how that is valuable to my day to day remote work I’ll be doing? Oh wait it doesn’t and it’s a gross overreach of what you can ask for? Ok then.

            Sweet Jesus!

            I’m actually scared you’ll get this job by default when the other candidate tells them “No. This is not reasonable or how you do hiring. I’m out.”

            Also unless your job will involve hiring people there and improving the process, run, get a taxi to the airport and then fly as far as you can from this job.

          3. Nobody*

            I have to wonder if it’s a test to see if the candidate actually admits to not getting along with somebody. It reminds me of a question that was asked during the interview for my current job: “Tell me about a time when you had to bend the rules to get something done.” The correct answer is, “Goodness, I’ve never bent the rules! I always go through the proper channels to resolve any issues with rules.” Maybe here the answer they actually want to hear is, “Hmmm, I’ve never really had any significant problems with coworkers.”

          1. Penelope Pitstop*

            Weird threading. Sorry. Not that everything above wasn’t stellar, but my mic drop content was to you, JMegan.

            1. JMegan*

              Ha, thank you! But credit actually goes to Paige Turner at 11:04 am – I was just quoting. :)

    2. Pwyll*

      1000% this. Security clearance (even the bajillion page e-QIP) was a cakewalk compared to the hoops they’re putting you through, OP! Totally unreasonable.

      1. Jilly*

        Yeah, I spent a significant amount of time on the process of filling out my e-QIP, but in the end I only gave up 4 names as references, and it would have been only 3 if I hadn’t moved twice in one year.

        1. Grayson*

          I’ve had 11 different addresses, 6 schools, and 5 or 6 jobs in 10 years. My e-quip SUCKED. (Also, 30+ foreign contacts. Urg.) Thankfully the form is saved from the last time, so it wasn’t nearly as difficult as it could have been. :-/

            1. Nellie*

              Sorry to be off-topic, but did you end up getting those jobs? Waiting on a secret clearance right now and E-QIP was also a PITA, as was how many addresses and instances of foreign travel I had.

              1. Grayson*

                My first E-QIP was while I was still in the military, so yes. The second E-QIP I did while on contract, so it had no effect on my job as it was just a renewal. TL;DR: Yes.

      2. East of Nowhere south of Lost*

        Oh god, you mentioned e-qip! What a pain! However, having to fill all that stuff out by hand on paper would be worse, which ppl had to do for a bit after the OPM data breach.

  1. Yet Another Liz*

    Alison, can I just say that if I was interviewing with a company that had such a ridiculous practice, I would be happy to refer them to you!

    1. Prismatic Professional*

      Me too!

      “During your hiring process, I experienced several irregularities that confused me. Here is the information of a reputable hiring manager. Perhaps you could talk about why X, Y, and Z was necessary? It might save you some time in future!” :-p

        1. Jaydee*

          I’m guessing you would fit into at least one of the FIVE CATEGORIES (?!?!) of reference they have asked for. ;-)

        2. JKP*

          They should put Allison down as a reference. And then she should record the call and post if for all of us to listen to!

        3. babblemouth aka One Of The Greatest Minds Of The 21st Century*

          I so hope OP does that. This would be the best follow-up blog ever!

        4. Not So NewReader*

          Alison, it’s a lot of fun reading what you come up with.
          OP, I hope you take Alison up on her offer. Especially if you think the job is a lost cause now, this would be a way you could get some satisfaction out of the whole saga. You will always be able to say, “… yeah, and then when I gave them AAM as a reference, you should have seen their jaws hit the floor.”

  2. AndersonDarling*

    Oh Dear! I have a terrible feeling that the OP will send some references and get a response in a week, “Well, we are still making our decision. We want to set up 3 more interviews and we will need to speak with your mother to discuss your communication skills while you were a toddler.” It sounds like they can’t make a decision and will keep dragging out the process.

    1. Tweety*

      Also neighbours that you had a dispute with, perhaps over leaves in their pool from your tree(s).

  3. SarahTheEntwife*

    I’m vaguely curious if this is for some sort of sales/fundraising/etc position, because their request seems to boil down to “how good are you at getting people to do you favors they are under no rational obligation to do, especially people who already don’t particularly like you?”

    1. Hotel GM Guy*

      That’s an interesting way to look at it, and it almost rationally makes sense if it’s for a position like that. Almost.

      Personally, I’m far too lazy to put that much effort into a low paying job application. Anything more than emailing my resume is tedious, lol.

    2. zora.dee*

      I feel like the worst part of the request is that you have to reach out to people and say you are using them as a reference “as a coworker I didn’t get along with.” Because usually when you have a coworker you don’t get along with, neither of you ever ACKNOWLEDGE that! It would make it 5,000 times more awkward!! That just sounds horrifying and bizarre.

      1. Annie on a Mouse*

        This. So much this.
        “Dear Former Coworker,
        You know that underlying tension our relationship always had? The sense that under my friendly demeanor, I was actually struggling not to immediately leave any room you entered? Yeah, you weren’t making that up. My relationship with you is actually the worst I’ve ever had with a coworker! On that note, would you please be a reference for me?”

        1. Purple Dragon*

          So totally this – I have people who the sight of makes my shoulders move up around my ears, but because I’m (somewhat) professional it isn’t something that’s openly displayed. How much more awkward would that make things if you ever moved to a company they worked for ?

          And from the other persons point of view – how exactly would you answer that ? “Ummm – no – but thanks for thinking of me ?”

          Quite frankly – I’d rather cook dinner for 20 people !

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Either that or something with social work and/or working with children maybe?
      It’s weird and overkill for nearly everything else I can think of. Goodness, the FBI doesn’t ask for that many on an SSBI check.

      1. Blueismyfavorite*

        I work with abused and neglected children in the dependency system. My interview was 30 minutes and I had to undergo a live scan background check. That’s it.

  4. Pari*

    why do people jump through so many hoops for companies that pay crap? I’m shocked they can actually find people. These are the same people that require a bachelors and 3 yrs of experience for filing jobs.

    1. LBK*

      Seriously. I’m shocked they even have any employees – people must have been desperate or unbelievably committed to the mission, because I can’t imagine continuing after requesting 10 (!!!) video calls. That’s insanity. Nevermind how weird it is to interview with every single member of the team. That’s just not how hiring works.

        1. CrimsonCaller*

          I had to provide 4-5 at my current position, moving into a management role at a very large University. It didn’t feel undue, they wanted 2 peers, 2 managers/supervisors, and allowed for a wild card. I think that makes sense for a management role so that you can get an accurate picture of how they are to work with and for.

          1. KWalmostB*

            But did they ask you for references from people whom you probably didn’t enjoy being around plus make you do 10 video interviews plus doing a range of tests for them which like it actually amounts to hours of works, all for a 20k paycut? I sure hope not.

    2. Dan*

      I had a similar question. I work in a field that pays their Individual Contributors somewhere between $70k-$100k at the lower levels. My interviews commonly consist of a phone screen and a half-day on-site with a variety of people. I’ve had one stretch to a full day and another ask me to come back because a VP wasn’t around the first day.

      …and then I read stories about these companies who make their applicants jump through hoops for what is typically a sub $50k/yr job, and I can never figure out why. These drawn out processes, by construction, cannot be effective — candidates with options either won’t subject themselves to it, or will be snapped up before the process is completed. But what if you hire the wrong person? Well, there’s a cost involved, but lower level employees aren’t generally all that hard to replace. Even if the lower level employees are hard to replace, a process like this makes finding the right match all that more difficult.

      1. Joseph*

        “But what if you hire the wrong person?”
        Really, this is a “when” not an “if”. Because no good candidate and even most of the average ones won’t deal with this just to earn subpar pay. Or if they do, then they’ll be looking to leave in fairly short order.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Worse, it may be self-reinforcing: “Man, Fergus really really didn’t work out. We need to add more references. And Jack and Jill said they knew he’d come crashing down as soon as they met him on his first day, they’re kinda the experts on that, why didn’t we have them interview him?”

          And so the next candidate gets more interviews and more references to provide….

      2. Trout 'Waver*

        Yeah, I’m in a similar position to you, Dan. My hiring process is to screen resumes to see who’s qualified on paper, then do phone screens to see who can back up their resume. Then a half-day interview to assess whether they fit in with the team. Then have HR do their thing with references and background checks.

        I know it’s a big ask to fly in a remote candidate for a day for the interview and I make sure I let them know I appreciate their time.

      3. CrimsonCaller*

        The people in charge of the million dollar accounts aren’t drug tested, it’s the $8/hr cashiers. That’s always how it goes.

        Hiring is expensive, and companies all have their own formulas for recruitment costs, but I imagine there is a lot of value lost in these 10 round interviews who you don’t end up hiring as well. Why not just hire someone quicker and re-allocate the funds to re-hiring if they don’t work out.

    3. fposte*

      My bet is that it’s the same as for the legendary AAM letter about Operation Smile and the “cook a dinner for a crowd for your interview”; it’s a nonprofit with a gratifying mission and a good reputation. In a situation like that, applicants tend not to interrogate as much as they might otherwise.

      But OP, there are lots of places with important missions that won’t require you to get DNA tests from everybody you’ve met.

      1. Pari*

        But even then it’s as if people throw all rational judgement and conscience out the window simply because they are smitten. It reminds me of that friend who can’t stop going out with the loser that everyone warned her about.

        1. fposte*

          There’s that, there’s sunk costs, there’s often inexperience, there’s often absorption of a culture that insists you’re there to serve and not to profit…there are a lot of factors working against people looking critically at such jobs.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Inexperience is a big factor — a lot of those places are hiring people early in their careers who don’t realize off weird this stuff is or who don’t feel comfortable pushing back.

            1. Dottie*

              I’m glad you said this. Right at the end of my job at my last workplace a manager told me it was understandable things didn’t work out because I was “young and inexperienced”. But my inexperience was why I stayed as long as I did–it wasn’t until I got an experienced supervisor/mentor who told me this was weird that I realized how toxic that workplace was.

              Icing on the cake: the person who told me I was inexperienced had only ever worked at that company.

        2. Leatherwings*

          I’ve taken one of these jobs before. Don’t underestimate the fear and desperation that unemployment brings. I never should’ve taken the job I did a few jobs ago, but I needed to pay rent and I panicked.

        3. neverjaunty*

          Because the loser wasn’t a loser on the first date, any more than this company was crazy on the first video interview. And then you have sunk costs and the boiling frog metaphor and starting to doubt your own judgment.

      2. Dan*

        Shit. I work for a non profit with a gratifying mission (for me anyway) and a good reputation — it regularly makes “top X employer” lists. They started me at $90k as an individual contributor, and give a month of vacation. Hella 403b match too.

        My interview? Phone screen, half-day on-site, and a week after interview to turn around an offer. At the IC level, there is simply no need for much more than that. I’ve never worked at a place with this brief of an interview thinking they didn’t kick the tires hard enough,

          1. Lead, Follow or Get Outta the Way!*

            I think it’s perfectly fine for him to include what his experience was when interviewing for a non-profit, including salary because it gives contect. Especially when the OP mentioned salary in their letter.

          2. Coco*

            I think it’s relevant since it’s similar to the job OP applied for, but way better. Shows just how unreasonable the job details were. I’m glad when people are willing to share their salaries

          3. Trout 'Waver*

            It is relevant because higher salaries (especially for ICs) indicate that a position is a bit tougher to fill.

          4. Mookie*

            You seem to be giving commenters a lot of advice about how to conduct themselves belowthread recently. Why is that?

        1. Bend & Snap*

          I was hired in as a 6 figure IC. I had one phone interview and spoke with two separate people during an in-person interview. And then I had an offer. And this is a giant global company.

          10 interviews is mind boggling

        2. Kira*

          Could somebody share what the significance of “individual contributor” is? Is that term used in a certain field?

          1. N.J.*

            My general understanding is that the individual contributor is at the worker level. You are responsible for your own work product. This is contrasted to a manager level where you are responsible for other people and their outcomes and outputs.

      3. Lily Rowan*

        I should save this for an Open Thread, really, but I recently heard a story about a weekend-long group interview process that the person liked! Granted, it was a startup and the 1970s. BUT STILL. At least the person telling me the story was self-aware enough to have said to an interviewer, “If you only want to hire people like you [who think this process is great], then yes, I should get the job….”

    4. Pwyll*

      Honestly, I’ve seen a bunch of new fangled startups since I’ve been job searching who have asked for insane things like this (I’m looking at you crazy company who asked me to take an LSAT mock exam while being video and audio recorded for a non-legal job). Many of them have had either no one with professional experience in HR, or an HR Manager whose only relevant experience is a class on HR from undergrad.

      The ones who do this and succeed are ones who are great at marketing how wonderful the company is despite all the hoops. And as someone above wrote, lots of candidates get most of the way through the process and think “I’ve invested too much to walk away now.”

      1. caryatis*

        A mock LSAT for a non-legal job? Did they tell you why? The only things I can think of is that they might be interested in your IQ, ability to concentrate, ability to handle difficult things without getting frustrated (the audio recording is particularly weird).

        1. Pwyll*

          “We feel by taking a logic and reading comprehension test we are better able to gauge your analytical reasoning, which will be important in this position.”

          I did it, but I know I bombed because logic games suck. I sent them a message when I took myself out of the running that basically said, “I passed the bar exam so that should be more than enough for an HR position, and the LSAT only tells you how good someone is at the LSAT.” Interestingly, they insisted that they weren’t using the LSAT, which means either they’re lying or some masochist has convinced people that the functional equivalent to the LSAT somehow has value.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          The audio recording was to hear the cussing when the test taker got frustrated! omg.

      2. OP*

        The company I wrote about is a startup. I come from the startup world, so untraditional hiring practices and no HR department are normal for me, but this one is way outside of anything else I’ve seen. This morning I looked up the operations person who is handling the hiring and he doesn’t seem to have an other real world work experience, so I suspect that might be the problem here.

        1. Jeanne*

          That could definitely be part of the problem. It doesn’t mean you have to do every crazy thing he asks.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            The fact that so many other people in the company have gone along with the weird demands would make me worry about their judgement too TBH

        2. One of the Sarahs*

          Ooof, if it’s a startup, I’d worry even more about it. If it’s a company that has weird hiring practiced, BUT has great output and history, I’d see red flags, but I can also see taking the job. But for a company without history, getting so bogged down in long-winded procedures would make me worry the inability to make decisions and unreasonable requests would be part of the overall culture. It would make me worry how they would deal with decisions affecting their money-making capabilities, and I’d run. (But of course YMMV)

      3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        I have heard horror stories from my friends in tech about start-up interviews.

        One friend described it as “all the guys who couldn’t get into a fraternity in college, now taking their opportunity to haze people” and another ascribed it to the fact that google and facebook are known for their odd interview questions and tactics, so everyone assumes it’s the right way to do it.

        1. Honeybee*

          The thing is, both Google and Facebook have discarded their crazy interview tactics. There are a couple of interviews about this out there – executives have admitted that it didn’t actually help them get better people and so many people were turned off by it that they were losing some great, diverse candidates. Their hiring practices are much more normal now.

      4. KEM11088*

        I had a similar testing experience a few weeks ago. Walked in for an interview for a marketing role, and they gave me a six page calc test. They watched the entire thing and tore the test apart afterwords.

        Needless to say, I never got a call back, but even if I had, the whole experience left such a bad taste in my mouth I would have run FAR AWAY.

    5. Bad Candidate*

      Honestly? Because a lot of them do it and you have no other choice. I’ve had one recently where it was a phone screen, a written cultural interview questionnaire, an in person interview with the managers of the department, and then a second interview with the CEO of the company. For a job that paid $30K a year and this was at an established company. Not old, but they’d been around 15 years, so no longer a start up. Oddly they were one of the few companies that was willing to talk to me despite having direct experience. They of course still ghosted me after the interview.

        1. Bad Candidate*

          It was mostly behavioral interview type questions. Like “Please describe an example of a time when you were proactive on the job.” and “When you encounter a problem, how do you work towards a solution? Please provide a specific example.” but also “What do your hobbies and interests show about you that your resume doesn’t?” I’m not really sure why they called it a cultural interview.

        2. Bad Candidate*

          I forgot, there was also a self assessment form to fill out too, like my comfort level with certain tasks, rating how honest, fun, and punctual I am, and also “fill in the blank” stuff like “An Egg Hunt at work is ___” “I prefer Managers to be/provide ____” etc. Both took me probably close to two hours to complete and edit.

            1. Bad Candidate*

              Right? My answer was “An Egg Hunt at work is unexpected. If it’s like Ready Player One and if we win we own the company, that would be pretty cool though.” Because what else do you say?

              1. Penelope Pitstop*

                @ Bad Candidate: Terrible question and not a job you want, but your Ready Player One reference KILLED IT and deserved an offer on the spot. (One of my favorite books, ever.)

    6. Natalie*

      For some, it’s probably the “frog in boiling water” metaphor. It’s a myth, but it’s a useful illustration – the idea that a frog will jump out of boiling water immediately, but if you put them in cold water and turn on the heat, they’ll quietly boil to death.

      Companies like this don’t give you the insane list of requirements up front, almost no one would ever agree to interview. When they ask for the 2nd interview, you figure it’s fine and normal. Third interview, same thing. Fourth interview, you’re starting to get annoyed but you figure you’ve come so far and you’re clearly so close, you don’t want to risk saying no. And on and on.

    7. Brett*

      I think it is the other way around.
      Companies that pay crap put people through a lot of hoops. Now that the preferred candidate has sunk so much time into the hiring process, it makes it psychologically more difficult for them to walk away from a bad offer.

      The company thinks their hiring process is great because they keep getting “good” candidates at below their market value, without realizing that their process is hurting them and their candidates (who probably leave sooner because they start off with a poor impression of the organization and below market).

      1. Bad Candidate*

        I completely agree with this. I think they blame their bad hires on a hiring process that wasn’t thorough enough and fail to realize that they aren’t paying enough to attract/keep anyone that’s worth having.

  5. Michaela*

    I feel like Butch Cassidy: Who are those guys?

    This is a bonkers ask. Cut your losses and go work with people who have a sense of what’s normal and who pay well.

  6. the_scientist*



    OP, I know you said you really like the mission of the company…..but it’s time to back away from this job.

      1. the_scientist*

        I was fully picturing the .gif of Homer Simpson backing away into the bushes as I read this.

    1. Kira*

      Agreed. I worked at a nonprofit with a heart-warming mission. Everybody who interviewed really cared about the cause and wanted to make a difference. That didn’t keep the workplace from being a bucket of crazy, though.

  7. AdAgencyChick*

    “(Or maybe you can just give them my contact info so that I can give them a piece of my mind? No? Fine.)”


  8. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

    I can’t imagine how they hire someone that’s currently employed elsewhere. I’d have a hard enough time slipping away for one or two interviews in a two-week time frame, let alone 10!

    1. sssssssss*

      I know! It would have to be always at lunch or at home (since I don’t have a cell phone). If you are in a work place where you can’t discretely slip into an unused office to make a private phone call, 10 vid calls would be impossible.

    2. OP*

      I’m employed, but work from home and set my own schedule so shuffling things around are much easier on my end than physically having to leave a job and go to an in-person interview. I think that’s one reason that this started out reasonable and then snowballed, because I could be so accommodating to begin with. Obviously they have taken advantage of that.

      1. Caroline*

        This tells you that they’re the kind of organisation which will take advantage of you as much as you’ll let them. Definitely something that you should factor into your decision as to whether or not to continue with your application.

  9. KimberlyR*

    I wouldn’t have the time to apply for and pursue this job unless I quit my current job…how do they get anything done?! And I would hate working there and have to constantly stop work to jump on interviews with people. It sounds like they want the whole damn company to interview you. No one has time for that! Think about it-if you somehow magically get hired, you’ll have to be on the other end of those video calls, at least once every time for a new hire. Do you really want to have to do that?

    1. Wendy Darling*

      I work from home and I’d have a difficult time applying for this job! Someone would eventually be like ‘So you’ve been unavailable during a ton of work hours for the past two weeks, wtf?’

      I’m also trying to imagine getting contact info for a coworker I didn’t get along with. We both left our last company at the same time and I don’t have any way to contact her except LinkedIn, so I’d have to send her a LinkedIn message and ask for her phone/email for a reference. Which she’d probably try to politely decline because we mutually have nothing good to say about each other. And I’d have to be like, no, no, they want a reference from someone who doesn’t like me so you’re perfect! At which point she’d be scandalized because we never admitted to not liking each other in public.

        1. MsMaryMary*

          I was thinking along this line too! I can think of a couple people I find, um, challenging to work with who probably have no idea I feel that way. I can’t imagine putting them down as a reference and having the interviewer say, “So, tell us why you and MaryMary don’t get along.”

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            So much this – and imagine if after that, you DIDN’T get the job, and then had to work alongside them!

          2. zora.dee*

            Seriously! I think this is by far the worst thing about this request. And there are so many bad things!!!

            But part of not getting along with a coworker is that you never acknowledge it out loud! So, you have to actually say that to someone?! that is horrifying.

          3. neverjaunty*

            “Because I found out she was sexually harassing Wakeen, helped Wakeen report her to HR, and she got fired.” Yeahhhh, that’d be a great reference.

            1. Fire*

              Oh my God, yes. I don’t have many coworkers I don’t get along with, but the one at the very top of the list is a guy that got fired for sexual harassment. I wasn’t the one who reported him, but I did serve as an anti-reference at my other workplace where he applied because he was unemployed that would VERY much want NOTHING to do with someone like him, and he knows it. He’s also been 86’d from various bike shops around town for sexual harassment. This all kinda went down at once – he’s been a problem in the bike community for a while, but the two things that got reported and him fired were the straws that broke the camel’s back. He issued threats of violence to all of us involved – about six of us.

      1. Joseph*

        That’s one possible scenario. Though I think it’s even more likely that the other person just straight up ignores your LinkedIn message. Because it’s easier to just go “meh, I won’t respond and she’ll get the message” than to have to explicitly refuse.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Yup, I would guess they would either awkwardly decline, or just ignore your message (or perhaps do a hybrid – reply weeks to months later with “oh, sorry, I don’t check LinkedIn very often so I didn’t get your message until just now”). When I had a co-worker that I thought was mediocre at best at her work and that had caused a lot of conflict and drama ask me to be a reference for her, I just ignored her calls and emails. Maybe it wasn’t the best way to handle it, but I’m not going to be the one giving her a negative reference (after all, maybe she has improved since we last worked together), but I’m not going to lie and say she’s great when she’s not, but she wasn’t so terrible that I’d go out of my way to warn companies away from her.

          I mean, how do you write that LinkedIn message/email? Hey, I need you to give up some of your time to talk to people that want to hire me, even though we didn’t get along. So please tell them we had conflicts, but not TOO many conflicts, because I still want to be hired.

            1. Penelope Pitstop*

              Off-topic pile-on: Yes–agree! Every time I scroll down comments and spot you I am mesmerized anew by your hair.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        Seriously . . .There are a few I haven’t liked over the years, but I still got along with them. Plus, most of my coworkers are pretty smart and wouldn’t fall into a trash talking trap. What do they really expect?

        I’d be like: I don’t have a coworker for you, but here’s my dad’s number.

      3. sam*

        This! All I could think when I read this was that if I had co-workers that I didn’t get along with when I was actually working with them, I certainly didn’t make an effort to keep in touch with them after I stopped!

        How does that conversation even go?

        Hi, person I haven’t spoken to in 5/10 years and who may not even remember me because WE DIDN’T LIKE EACH OTHER, would you do me this huge favor and not sabotage me?

        I mean…I’m just so confused at this point.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          And what does not sabotaging you even look like in that instance? Are they supposed to say nice things or not nice things? If they say nice things does the employer think you lied about them not getting along with you? Are they supposed to say things that are a little bad but not too bad?

          This is so confusing.

        2. JustaLurker*

          This!!! I mean who keeps in touch with ex-co-workers they didn’t get along with? I barely keep in touch with the co-workers I liked!!!

      4. cataloger*

        This is what I was thinking.

        Inteviewer: So Fergus, we were given your name as someone who didn’t get along with Jane.
        Fergus: Wait, what?

      5. Not So NewReader*

        If you can get someone who does not like you to write a reference for you, doesn’t that mean you are likable on some level and in turn defeat the purpose of this whole drill?

        It just seems so painfully obvious to me that if they don’t like you they will not give you a reference. I think you should give them blank sheets of paper, OP. “Here are the x number of reference from people who did not like me. They had nothing to say, as you can see by what is written on the paper.”

    2. OP*

      It’s not uncommon in small startups for you to be interviewed by the whole team, at least in the final stages of hiring. That being said, it is a time suck for all and unnecessary for many reasons! In this case it started off reasonable and then kind of snowballed.

      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        I’m a big fan of team interviews, but I loop them into a candidate’s half-day on-site.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Yes, I think if at least some of these 10+ interviews were all scheduled back to back as it would be for a half day on-site interview (if they had OP stay in the video/web conferencing software and co-workers joined in at certain times) that could make sense. Like how some people have written to Alison and referred to 5+ interviews – but then it becomes clear that it was 2 or 3 partial day interviews, with multiple interviewers on a single day. But if it was “video call with Jane at 2:00 on Monday, then with Bob at 10:00 and Joe at 3:15 on Tuesday” etc over the course of the 2 weeks – ugh, that’s such a time suck, and most people who currently have jobs couldn’t do that.

      2. DoDah*

        I’m in tech also and looking to leave my current company. I started down the path with Crazy Co Inc. but after five video interviews, I told them I was no longer interested in pursuing the role. I work from home, but it was getting ridiculous.

        To Alison’s point about HR. I checked the HR Manager’s LinkedIN. This was her first job out of college.

      3. KimberlyR*

        I understand being interviewed by the whole team, but that can be mushed into a few video conferences, not 10!

      4. Brett*

        It’s just as normal, though, in small startups to be interviewed by three people (founder, adviser, manager/sr engineer) in two or less interviews.
        Being a startup is no excuse for bad hiring practices, and is a good way to turn into a failed startup.

  10. Nico M*

    Obviously run away screaming, but if you want to perserve out of morbid curiosity either:

    – give them normal references and tell them, in the most professional and polite way, thats it, take it or leave it
    (Is it just possible its some bizarre test of assertiveness?)

    – get some friendly coworkers to pretend. Have fun.

    1. Lunch Meat*

      “Get some friendly coworkers to pretend. Have fun.”

      “Yes, I’d be happy to talk about Daenerys. To be honest, I’m jealous of her for her ability to get along with people, her sense of responsibility and punctuality, and her excellent skills in our industry. In addition, her integrity is top-notch. There were several times I tried to get her to steal from Teapot Dragons with me, and she refused. So that’s why I hate her.”

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        “Ugh, Daenerys, she’s so frustrating to work with, because everything she does seems effortless. I swear I’ve never seen her stressed at all, and much as I’d love to say she only gets where she is because of favouritism, it’s because she always seems to come up with these left-field suggestions that turn out to be brilliant. I can’t stand her – I hope you hire her, because it’s really hard to shine with her around”

    2. MashaKasha*

      The second option did cross my mind.

      Then it dawned on me that, by doing so, OP would be blacklisting her “pretend enemies” from any positions at that company, or the ones they are closely affiliated with. I mean, they would have two options: telling the company that OP sucked, or telling the company that they themselves sucked. So, on second thought? Screw these guys. And I’d go with option 1.

  11. Anonymous Educator*

    You do your best, based on a reasonable number of interviews, work samples, observations, and discussions with a handful of references.

    I know this isn’t really the question asked here, but I think what you’ve said in response is also a good reminder to frustrated job-seekers who feel demoralized or who question their own worth when “rejected” (actually, not hired—which isn’t always the same thing) after interviews.

    To candidates: a prospective employer’s decision to hire or not hire you isn’t a definite judgment on your worth as a human being or as an employee. As Alison said, it’s a best guess based on the data she has.

    To hiring managers: you will never have, as Alison said, all the pieces to make a completely informed hiring decision. Just do the best with the information you have to make what you view as a good decision for your organization.

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      And might I add to this list good old-fashioned gut instinct?? Don’t people still have this? Im counting my lucky stars right now I’ve worked for places that weigh heavily on how well we all get along during the interview/s.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Ehhh, to a point? You absolutely should listen to that nagging feeling that something is wrong. But ‘gut instinct’, like ‘culture fit’, can also be a sign of unconscious bias.

  12. Catalin*

    This is where you say, “Thank you for your interest but I’ve decided to focus my efforts elsewhere.” Then stop jumping through hoops and get back to looking at companies that have their sh!t together. This organization is demonstrating loudly how it treats its people — high expectations, low yield. Like their mission? Support it elsewhere through charity work as a hobby. They can’t be the only organization with that mission.

  13. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I get the passion and desire to work for an employer you truly believe it but…you need to rethink your admiration here.  Treating job candidates like they’re ex-cons applying for a job (and I’m not sure ex-cons have this level of scrutiny) is condescending and a waste of time.  I’d be surprised if they had the time to review all the materials you’ve given them, and even if they did, I’d be wondering why they had so much time on their hands.

    But as to your question about asking for a reference from a coworker you didn’t get along with…TERRIBLE!  What if that person had nasty biases?  I’ve worked with plenty of guys who had misogynistic tendencies but had no clue and would be offended at the suggestion.  I’ve worked with extreme, insecure micro-managers who could not and would not acknowledge their approach to things might not be ideal.  I’ve worked with credit stealers, tantrum throwers, lazy coworkers, and straight up ignorant employees who have no excuse.  All of those are reasons why I don’t get along with coworkers.  

    What does this potential employer expect them to say?  “Yes, I worked with Snarkus where I constantly underestimated her most basic abilities in front of other people, I stole credit for one of her ideas and tried to poorly execute it, I stood her up for multiple meetings on substantive matters because I didn’t want to go, and I told her I’d cover for her during her honeymoon and then didn’t because I acted like I could do her job but I couldn’t.”  While accurate, that’s not a response that’s ever going to be uttered.

    I have to know: given everything you know so far, why are you still committed to sticking with this job selection process?

    1. TL -*

      Yup! I had a coworker who disliked me because I suggested he was doing something the wrong way when he was doing something the wrong way. I had expertise in the area; he did not.

      I think his dislike of me is a good reflection of him and not a great reflection of me.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Even if you were the one who was in the wrong, how would an outsider even know? I have a hard enough time trying to decipher this stuff with employees I already know. There’s no way another person could determine that.

        1. TL -*

          Oh he would describe me as not a team player, ect… because it turns out I was right. but I have ten other people from the same place who would say the exact opposite, none of whom I had problems with.

        2. Kira*

          Exactly. When it comes to former coworkers who don’t like me, well, it’s because we fundamentally disagreed about what was going on. I would say that Trogdor had no boundaries and communicated poorly, and Trogdor would say I have too many boundaries, I’m not a team player, and I failed to communicate clearly enough.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      I just had an image of handing over the phone number of a prison. “Here you go! You’ll have to wait for visiting hours since Fergus is in prison for assault and robbery.”

  14. Jessie*

    This is a good time to remember that interviews are a two-way street, OP. It’s not about you proving by any means necessary that they should want to hire you. It’s about gauging fit, for both of you. It’s about you, the candidate, forming opinions about the company and whether you want to work for them. This company has shown it is simply unable to make a decision. It’s not about being thorough at this point. They are apparently unable to make decisions. The process also shows they seem to have an (I would argue deliberate) obtuseness about how their actions affect other people. They are asking too much of you, and have already asked too much of you, but are not acknowledging that. Don’t think for a second that attitude will stop once they hire you. The company has shown you pretty clearly that they do not respect your time and they do not have appropriate boundaries and they are perfectly fine to ask too much of you. I promise that behavior will continue if you are hired.

    1. Kira*

      I was thinking about how this might come out on the job too. For example, I might be doing a project with 10 normal steps, and then this over-zealous boss might come along and say that I need to add a bunch of long-shot cya steps “just in case”.

      I had it happen this spring: coworker was misinterpreting a report definition, and I passed along the materials we had received from the funder. The definitions backed my interpretation, but she was still confused and started insisting that I call our local contact (who only knew as much as I did), the contact’s boss, the state agency, etc. It went on for weeks and never got resolved because she kept setting higher and higher bars for proof and everyone agreed with my interpretation.

  15. Nico M*


    “I am unable to give references from coworkers who didnt get along with me. They all refused to help, because they didnt get along with me”


    “A counterrevolutionary saboteur” (J Stalin)

    “Got unreasonably angry when i shat in his lunchbox” (Aam passim)

    1. Kai*

      The first one: RIGHT?? I mean, I can’t imagine being asked to give a reference for a coworker I didn’t get along with. Not worth my time or energy. Nor would I want to ask it of someone else. It’d be awkward at best.

    2. Venus Supreme*

      I can’t imagine reaching out to the coworkers I disliked. This idea sounds so ridiculous. Why would a potential employer want to know the bad bits of an employee? Environment is different – the employee will most likely act differently.

      Also, what are they trying to discover? “I ate Jane’s lunch and it was so spicy. I think she tried to poison me. We haven’t spoken since she asked me to give you a reference…” Give. Me. A. Break.

  16. some1*

    “No problem. First, please forward me the names and contact info of your employees or former employees that don’t like YOU.”

  17. Adonday Veeah*

    Interviewing is a 2-way street. Are you sure you want to “hire” these people to be your employer? I’d say they failed the interview.

  18. TootsNYC*

    The one thing you could do is find a former coworker with whom you had a professional dispute. Or a boss who once had to coach you or semi-reprimand you. (I’m thinking of the boss, when I was younger, who had to give me the “come to work on time, people need you, are you OK?” speech. And the colleague who felt things should be done differently, and we argued about it civilly.)

    1. Graciosa*

      But WHY?

      You’re thinking about how to appease the inmates who are interviewing to get you into the asylum.

      This isn’t anything a reasonable person actually *wants* to figure out how to do.

      1. Pwyll*

        Yeah, agreed. Normal interviewers get this information by asking your real references questions like, “Can you think of a time Candidate struggled to work with a coworker? How did she handle the situation?”

    2. Michele*

      What in case this person who acts as a counter-reference tries to cause problems? I worked with vindictive/catty colleagues, and if I was to give one of these people’s names as a reference, the caller would get a very slated view.

    3. MsMaryMary*

      TootsNYC, I thought about making a smiliar suggestion to yours, to recommend that OP use a boss who was highly demanding, or a coworker with a different communication style. But after reading Alison’s response and the rest of the comments, I agree with the majority. OP’s best option is to drop out and/or list Alison as a reference.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes, I agree. I was also going to say that if OP is really interested in this position, she could offer up 3-4 normal references, and then say something like “I’m not currently in contact with any former co-workers that I didn’t get along with, however, Jane was my former boss when I had a personality clash with another Teapot Analyst, so she can speak to how I handled that.”

        But if they wasted OP’s time this way, will they also be obnoxious to her references and ask them to complete extensive surveys or video calls, etc, rather than just a normal reference checking phone call? I wouldn’t want to risk ticking off my good references like that.

  19. Interviewer*

    Oh my heck, now I want a live blog of the video conference where Alison gives them a piece of her mind.

    Seriously – please walk away. There’s no sense of reasonable or normal about this request. Do not give them any reason to reject you any longer.

    If you value the mission, donate to the cause. Volunteer for events. Support their efforts toward change in your community. But walk away from this job. This is just insanity.

  20. Engineer Girl*

    You know, most of the workers I didn’t get along with were narcisstic pathological liars that were eventually fired.
    So are you gonna trust what they say? If not, why bother contacting them.
    The lack of critical thinking by this company is a huge red flag.

    1. Wendy Darling*

      The coworker I didn’t get along with was really, really bad at her job and refused to learn anything that might make her better at it. She didn’t like me because I wasn’t happy enough about following her around cleaning up after her.

      Or I could go with the status-obsessed but super lazy coworker who didn’t like me because I refused to do all the non-exciting parts of her job for her. (She once asked me to help her set something up, took me into the room with it, and then announced she had meetings and left. NOPE.)

    2. Photoshop Til I Drop*

      “The coworkers I didn’t get along with were stealing from the company. You can reach them at the state penitentiary. I suggest calling in the morning, before yard time.”

    3. Security SemiPro*

      This is where I’m stuck – even if this was normal, even if this was doable, what of value do they think they are going to learn?

      If I take the most professional, most reasonable people I have had issues with, the stories boil down to “different incentives produce different goals.” Which should not be news to anyone. Unreasonable, unprofessional people won’t give any useable stories. What’s the goal here?

      1. neverjaunty*

        Because they’re complete idiots, I’m guessing what they are thinking is “Oooh! We’ll get a totally honest reference and a sense of the candidate’s flaws!”

    4. SusanIvanova*


      Coworker Coffeecup spent two weeks doing absolutely nothing while I was stuck waiting, before I finally did it myself (in an area I hadn’t so much as thought about for 20 years – yay google!) and I’d told my manager I would never work with him again. But given that his reaction to being pulled off the project was disappointment that he wouldn’t get to “use his skills in that area”, I doubt he ever figured out that I absolutely would walk out of any project he was on. He’d probably give me a good rec; he’s that oblivious to anything outside his own worldview!

  21. Lance*

    So… I understand the basic mentality. It’s to see where conflict rooted from, and how that conflict proceeded (whether you exacerbated it, or said co-worker did, or what), and get an impression of any possible negativity to know to look for.

    Except… that’s not what those references will give. If you’re ‘not getting along with’ them, then chances are, they’re not going to say anything nice, much less remotely constructive. This company has a lot of things wrong in their hiring process, and as stated above, I might either talk to them about it, or rethink whether you want to work for them when it’s going on for this long, drawn-out, and odd process.

    1. fposte*

      And if they don’t like you, why are they going to take time to do you the favor of talking to your prospective employer? I wouldn’t.

      1. Lance*

        Exactly. Unless they’re particularly vindictive and want to try and sabotage you, in which case, well, there’s still nothing useful being accomplished.

    2. Paige Turner*

      Yeah, even if you can manage to talk them out of this one bad idea, if you worked there, would you be willing to constantly be talking them out of all the other “long, drawn-out, and odd” and just terrible ideas they are likely to have about everything else?

  22. AnonEMoose*

    To paraphrase the wonderful Captain Awkward: Saddle up the Nopetopus, and head on down the No Way Highway to Nopeville.

    Unless you’re truly desperate for a job, this place has shown you that they have no respect for your time, and no good grasp on an efficient use of theirs. That doesn’t bode well.

  23. ChooseBetterLife*

    If they saved the money they’re spending on these ridiculous hiring practices, they could pay you market wage.
    It’s nice that you like the company and what it stands for, but if these practices are a hint of what your job responsibilities will be, is it someplace you really want to work?

  24. Evan*

    I only have a handful of years of work experience. I am pretty introverted. I struggled to include 3 references in my most recent round of interviewing. The only way I’m reaching 10 references is if you let me include both my parents, my sisters, my partner, and some childhood friends. My anxiety flared up just reading this.

    Maybe it’s a trap? If you are able to easily provide bad references they’ll think you cause trouble in the workplace? Or maybe they want people who cause drama and don’t get along with people? Honestly can’t think of a single charitable/positive way to spin this. Gah.

    1. fposte*

      Generally, traps are rare in hiring; much more common are people who think something sounds like a cool idea and haven’t thought it through. It’s the hiring equivalent of Hanlon’s razor: never attribute to cunning that which could be explained by stupidity.

    2. OP*

      I’m with you! I’m an introvert as well and have a hard time with the reference thing.

      I don’t think it’s a trap. They seem like very genuine people who are really worried about finding the right fit, but don’t have a clue what is normal.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        True leaders handle their worry. They research, talk with other respected people in their field , etc. Bad leaders make their worry YOUR worry. Which is what is happening here. They are so indecisive that you are worried, also.

    3. Kira*

      I know! I finally got to a point where I have 3 decent references that I can whip out when asked.

  25. sssssssss*

    Wait – did they ask for up to 10 – TEN – references? I have four and I would have a hard time rounding up more of people I trusted and who I continue to trust to give a very fair assessment of how I work. Even at that, one of my references dates from 2009 and I am thinking of removing her from the list as I feel it is starting to get “old.”

    The people I didn’t get along with…I don’t keep track of them! One of which has changed jobs twice and disappeared from LinkedIn. How on earth would I even start such a stupid task?

    Give your usual references and stand firm, if you still want to move forward.

    1. a*

      Right? I doubt that most people would even have contact info for someone who they didn’t get along with. And even if they did, how does this company expect their applicants to ask them to be references? If someone I didn’t work well with asked me to be their reference, I would probably say no, I don’t think I would be a good choice for you.

    2. sam*

      This is the other thing. This is an absolutely ridiculous number of references. The hardest application I ever had to complete wasn’t a “job” application per se, it was my admissions application for the New York bar.

      It required one “reference” from each legal employer you’ve had (and if you’re a new lawyer, that’s basically one – you’re current employer, and maybe a second if you had a summer job at another firm during law school. Obviously if you’re transferring from another state, this could get more complicated).

      And two “moral character” references.

      So that was 3-4.

      I also generally provide a list of 3 or 4 names when applying for jobs and that’s always been sufficient (my work history gets complicated because the two actual law firms I worked for both have gone bankrupt (fun!), so they no longer exist to confirm employment, but I keep in touch with several partners that I worked with who can vouch for me – both for the fact that I was employed at both firms and that they liked me!)

    3. Former Usher*

      Ten is excessive. As noted throughout this thread, this potential employer is revealing a lot about itself.

      As I may have mentioned before, at my old job they asked for three phone references. Then they changed their mind, and decided they needed five references (including three managers) to complete an online survey. Then they were surprised that there were delays in getting people to respond over the Christmas holiday.

      I ignored these and other red flags, and the job proved to be a disaster. The kicker was when their HR director informed me that company policy was to forbid their managers from providing references.

  26. Way over there*

    Man, even if OP did decide to go continue with this interview process (that is beginning to look like a video game fetch quest more than anything), that has got to be one of the most awkward calls to make. It’ll either be:
    ” hey bob, you still loathe me, don’t you? Hey I need your help to get a new job.”
    “hey joe, can you pretend you hate me for a couple of hours next week?”

    1. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      hahaha. The video game quest made me laugh out loud. “Please bring me one person that likes you, one person that hates you, a small dog, and a pizza.”

      Of course, you have to trade things to get the dog… :D

    2. Not So NewReader*

      It’s funny you should say that about pretending to hate OP. I was just thinking if OP needed a bad reference I can help.

      “Yep. OP is bad to work with. I remember one time 3 years ago, OP was 2.5 minutes late for work. So annoying. And then one day he dropped something heavy on his thumb and ripped a nail. He used a finger nail clipper to fix it. CAN YOU IMAGINE, fingernail clippers in the office?! Yeah. And OP was a real kiss-up too. He said “good night” to people every night. You know, just collecting up those brownie points.”

      There. Now you have one.

  27. TCO*

    This is really weird and I’d question my desire to work for this company. Poor hiring practices worry me because I wonder about who else has been hired this way and whether they’re people I might not want to work with.

    But if you’re committed to this, do you have any co-workers that you got along with but whose work style was really different from yours? I have people with whom I’ve “clashed” even though we got along well on a personal level and produced good results together with intentional effort. Those are people I’d trust to say good things about me while still speaking to my weaknesses.

  28. Christine*

    OP — Are you currently working? I would have a terrible time finding time to interview this much for a position while employed. Employers have a tendency to lowball a starting salary when people are unemployed, which I hate. Than you’re locked into the lower salary range when the COL & merit raises come up. If you are working, and you like their mission, I’m making the assumption that this is a non-profit. Why don’t you step away from this position, keep your current job and do some volunteer work with the organization? Even if it’s 2 – 3 hours a week. That will give you an idea of what the management style is and the personalities involved, and than you can put in for a new position that opens up in the future … if you feel that strong about what they are doing … go that route if possible.

  29. Lora*

    Run, OP. Run like the wind.

    I mean, if you really want to see it to the end, I would reply, “I’m sorry, that’s not feasible, here are references from my former supervisors and/or colleagues” and if they press the issue, I would go all Bartleby the Scrivener “I prefer not to.” But realistically what they deserve is more along the lines of, “This is a very unusual request. Thank you for your time, but it’s clear that this isn’t going to work out. Best of luck with your other candidate.”

  30. Not really a newish lurker anymore...*

    My guess is that they are waiting for everyone to drop out and the last one standing/jumping through hoops is going to get the job. So they don’t actually have to make a decision.

    1. Dweali*

      Easier way (and actually I think falls into the less crazy category) would be just to put the finalists into a cage match…to the death being an option but if the employer is too squeamish to do some body disposal then I guess just the last one literally standing would suffice…

    2. Whats In A Name*

      All I keep thinking is what having to make a decision would be like. I envision OP having a life of endless meetings where nothing is really accomplished.

      1. Natalie*

        Pretty sure BQ is referring to Zappos, which is sort of famous for having an odd company culture.

  31. Rookie Biz Chick*

    Alison – I saw the forewarning yesterday of this post’s opening line, but the awesome hilarity of reading it this morning, even though I knew it was coming, is still perfectly and appropriately executed!

  32. TotesMaGoats*

    Seriously? I can’t even find my last two bosses at OldJob. They have both gone MIA from the world. One got RIF’d (yay, karma) and the sort of went AWOL for 12 weeks and then was no longer employed there. Neither are on linked in anymore (but they were), curiouser and curiouser. I just recently reached out my my 3rd boss at Old Job for contact info. Yes, that counts as 5 direct supervisors in almost 8 years.

    1. fposte*

      Divided into “dumped” and “dumped by,” and your category must be consistent with the report from the ex.

          1. Annie on a Mouse*

            Fposte, I’ve been wondering about your name – did one of your relatives see something nasty in the woodshed?

        1. Natalie*

          “Hey Jim. Long time, long time. How’s your mom? Good, good. Say, do you remember when we were ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’ for about a day in fifth grade?…”

    2. Shlemar*

      Fun story, over a year after I left my ex I got a hilarious reference call.
      Recruiter: hello is this Shlemar? I’m calling in reference to Useless Manchild who put you down as a reference on a job application.
      Me: um, yeah… he’s my ex but I broke up with him like a year and a half ago…so…?
      R: I see, well thank you for your time (click )
      I’m pretty sure that it was a call for a job he’d actually applied to before we broke up, but SOs shouldn’t be references anyway.

      1. Zutara*

        I actually had an ex-boyfriend use me as one of his references when he applied to Lockheed Martin years and years ago. When I got the call from his interviewer, I said I couldn’t help because I was working a blood drive that day. The interviewer actually found the location of the blood drive and did his reference check there. I kid you not, the questions he asked were, “Did he take you out on dates?” “Was he a nice person?” and “Why did you stop dating?” They ended up hiring him. incidentally, I’ve never agreed to be anyone else’s reference after that.

  33. NW Mossy*

    “I was willing to do all of this because the company is one that I know well with a social mission that I really believe in. I was even willing to accept that they are paying a good $20k below what is normal.”

    So here’s the thing. All this time they’re spending running you and the other candidate through your paces like it’s the NFL combine? Is time they’re not spending on their reason for being – their mission. This is likely directly tied to why they pay peanuts – there’s so much waste in how they run their organization that they’re forced to. It’s one big death spiral of mutually reinforcing awful.

    Drop this org like a bad habit, today. As Maya Angelou famously said, “If someone shows you who they really are, believe them.”

    1. Myrin*

      Also, there are probably other companies with social missions that are equally as admirable and which aren’t populated by total tools.

    2. the_scientist*

      YUP. If the OP takes nothing else away from this comments section, I hope they at least take this message to heart. This is an organization that doesn’t use its resources efficiently and probably isn’t getting good value for money in terms of the services they provide (or from their employees, for that matter, since they are underpaying and probably hiring from the bottom third of the barrel).

      Also, just as a heads up? I worked at a nonprofit that was woefully under-resourced and didn’t use what it had efficiently. I loved and believed deeply in the mission and got along great with the people that I worked with. Eventually, even my belief in the importance of the work and my awesome coworkers didn’t make up for the fact that I was being paid about $20K under market rate with no benefits or vacation time, and the fact that our infrastructure was wildly inadequate and the building we worked in was probably actually unsafe for occupancy. Trust that those things will wear on you no matter how dedicated you are to the actual work.

      1. OP*

        Thanks for this, those are good points. I think you’re on the right track with them not using their resources wisely.

  34. Government Worker*

    I just can’t wrap my head around this. What is the 6th or 7th or 8th reference likely to add that will actually change the decision? The few times I’ve been involved in hiring, we ended up with 2-3 finalists who would all be able to do the core job parts of the job competently. Just from a resume, phone screen, and interview, it was generally clear what differentiated them. We’d have the one with more enthusiasm and less experience versus the more established candidate, or the one who would excel at the client interaction and be fine on the technical work versus the candidate who would be the opposite. References served to confirm these assessments and to suss out major red flags. Additional information wouldn’t have fundamentally altered the decision we had to make, which was about which set of skills and experience was the best fit for what we needed at the time.

    Is this employer faced with finalists who are so otherwise interchangeable that their particular way of dealing with difficult coworkers is going to be the deciding factor? To the degree that asking 2-3 references about interpersonal skills (which should reveal any major tendencies towards hostility or drama) won’t suffice?

    I just really don’t get what they’re going for here.

    1. OP*

      Agreed. Their reasoning is that they want a 360 degree view of me. Obviously as Alison mentioned you can’t turn over ever rock and their attempt to do so is weird and uncomfortable at best.

  35. Eric*

    I realize I sound like the least fun person on Earth for saying this, but it’s a a waste of your time to give them any sort of joke reference. Employers who have totally unreasonable expectations from applicants like this aren’t gonna listen to anything you might say and they’ll just go “this is how we do things, if you don’t like it go somewhere else.”

      1. Eric*

        This in particular would be very, very satisfying though. You’ve got the experience to tear them apart!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I’d agree if this were a joke. This is more of a set up for someone to have a learning experience, meaning the employer.

      Consider this, maybe the employer never calls Alison and hires OP anyway. It could go that way.

  36. HRish Dude*

    To be fair, you don’t want to go to all of the trouble to hire someone only to find out they’ll cause trouble when you ask for their kidney.

    1. Rachel*

      Or have them get upset when you barge in on their chemotherapy sessions to ask about the status of their projects.

  37. Photoshop Til I Drop*

    I hope this organization’s mission is finding the Fountain of Youth, because nobody except immortals has time for this crap. Walk away.

    If you truly love their cause, seek out their competitors.

  38. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

    I’m friends on Facebook with a former coworker who I once got in an argument with over who Hermione Granger would end up– Harry Potter, or Ron Weasley (it was 2002; I was pro Ron/Hermione, she favored Harry/Hermione. Obviously, I was right and she was wrong). Luckily there were no customers in the bookstore at the time. By the next day we had agreed not to talk about HP shipping, and all was fine. Which is why I’m Facebook friends with her.

    That’s the only time I can even think of where I had a problem with a coworker. Somehow, I don’t think her reference would be helpful in a situation like this. The whole thing is ridiculous.

      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        Umm, Ron and Hermione ended up together, so I both got my preference AND have better taste.

    1. Whats In A Name*

      I was just thinking this same thing – I have one co-worker I can think of that I actually didn’t get along with on an ongoing basis (not just a one-off agree to disagree or frustration moment) and she tried to sabotage my career by telling my bosses and co-workers streams of lies about me ranging from “she got drunk and hooked up with someone at the holiday party” (when I’d actually had one drink) and “Kristen is telling bosses XYZ about you right now” (when in actuality she told bosses when she created the drinking lie & I was in a meeting being confronted about that.)

      Long story to say this woman did not even work in my department and we had no projects or work that affected each others jobs. No way in hell would I want her being part of some kind of 360 degree performance review done by a potential employer.

    2. DeskBird*

      I’m amused because when I think back to the coworker that I reached the highest level of bitch eating crackers I have ever experienced with – she would probably give me a *glowing* reference. I am not a confrontational person at all – and she was a manager – so although I would have to walk out of the office sometimes to cool down from the *ragestrokes* I would get – she had no idea I didn’t like her. I can only think of one coworker who *probably* knew I didn’t like him – and he suddenly left one day to run his underground music studio – so I pretty sure I couldn’t find him on Linked In. And that’s only because I had a throw down with him about calling me by my name. The only other thing I’ve got is someone who didn’t like anyone (she was our HR manager) in the company – but I didn’t really interact with her much on a work level.

      1. sam*

        Yeah. My boss who was a giant bully? when I changed departments to get away from him, you can be darn sure that I used a much more PC reason why I wanted to switch – I wasn’t going to burn any bridges, especially while I was still working there – The guy literally just sent me a note on LinkedIn congratulating me on my recent work anniversary, 15 years later.

        The only co-worker who I actively conflicted with, and who knew I hated him, was someone I worked retail with when I was in HIGH SCHOOL. and that’s because I’m 99.9% sure he (a) stole money out of my bag that was in the back office at least once and (b) even though he had seniority, left me alone in the store one day because he had an “emergency”, even though I was fairly new, hadn’t been trained on how to do returns yet (and yes, a customer wanted to return something when this happened), and because I was the only person left in the store, couldn’t abandon the front of store to (1) go to the bathroom, (2) get the manager’s phone # to tell him what the hell happened until (thankfully) a mall security guard wandered by and he watched the store for 5 minutes, so I could run in the back.

        Needless to say, the second incident got him fired. I don’t even remember his name at this point. Just that he was an asshat.

    3. babblemouth aka One Of The Greatest Minds Of The 21st Century*

      The colleagues I don’t get along with are not aware that I don’t get along with them. They just get invisible eyerolls after I’m done talking with them, and are the subjects of massive rants to my boyfriend at home in the evening.
      Asking them would be an awkward conversation for sure.

  39. BritCred*

    *gives details of that annoying co-worker who always annoyed me and never seemed to do anything but snap at me*
    “Hey, we understand you didn’t get along with BritCred? Why?”
    “Um… not true at all, had no problem with her!”
    *soon the whole of the old office knows and wonders what I said to make a potential employer make a phone call like that*

    Well thats a way to make someone maybe ruin another reference too!

    OP… um… run! just run! (or give AAM’s details to them. :D)

  40. TheBeetsMotel*

    So you’re working for free right now, and the actual job would pay 20k less than what you want, with all this hoop-jumping to boot?


  41. Person of Interest*

    For me, having to put on makeup for the 10+ video calls probably would have been the deal-breaker way before we got to the crazy reference stage.

  42. Mustache Cat*

    I used to work at an organization (with a great cause!) where the hiring process was almost this bad. Multiple interviews, meetings with every. single. member. of the team, personality tests, presentations, thought exercises, 90-day plans, take-home assignments, the works. Let me tell you something.

    They hire like this because they do not know how to manage. If they make a sub-optimal hire (and by sub-optiminal I mean exactly that, as in, not completely perfect in every way) they have no idea how to work with the employee to improve performance. They only know how to put up with incompetence until it becomes normal or until they work up the nerve to fire. This lack of management ability shows up in pretty much every aspect of their organization.

    You do not want to work for these people.

  43. Menacia*

    Ugh, it just sounds to me like they are trying to hire the person who jumps through the most hoops, so that they know you’ll do whatever they want since you haven’t pushed back once during this whole process (which sounds completely ridiculous). I’m also concerned your focusing on wanting to join this company because of their social mission, why not just volunteer instead of being an employee?

    1. OP*

      There are a lot of other reasons why I wanted the job and why it would have been a good fit, though the social mission was what first attracted me. They don’t have a volunteer program, but it’s a good idea to look at doing for another org!

  44. hbc*

    Even if it wasn’t a ton of extra effort, it’s just dumb. How is the employer going to sort through the following scenarios?:

    -Candidate is toxic and Reasonable Ex-Coworker tells true stories versus Candidate is Reasonable and Toxic Ex-Coworker tells lies.
    -Candidate has trail of enemies and picks from most mousy/forgiving who won’t say anything too bad versus Candidate has no enemies and picks from “worst” who won’t say anything too bad.
    -Candidate has no one to offer up because no former coworkers will lift a finger to help her versus Candidate has no one to offer up because she gets along with everyone.

    That’s ignoring the logistics of how you approach those people. “Hey, Fergus, remember how that one time you didn’t really understand what a specification was and I didn’t back down on putting the wrong numbers in the spec even though you were 30 years senior because I knew it would bite us in the butt? Can you talk to this company about how I was respectful despite your clear idiocy and took your future condescension with good humor? Because that would really help me out to get this job that I’m sure you think is over my head.”

  45. Jen*

    Hmmm…..they’re (or the Big Boss is) so tone deaf that they see nothing wrong with asking you to go overboard in trying to satisfy them., they disrespect your time, they hoard information but can’t make basic decisions using all that information. I’d say that’s a NO to working for that company.

  46. Phouka*

    IF I was not in a hurry to find a job and IF I could find co-workers to play along, I honestly might ride this out to see just how utterly ridiculous they are. With absolutely zero intention of every working for them, of course.

    But I wouldn’t be taking time from an existing job to do it. It would be for my own amusement. (And I’d definitely list Allison!)

    The other commenters here are absolutely right — run. Run away, fast. The only decision you really have to make is whether you are brutally honest with them when you tell them you aren’t interested, at all, in their games.

  47. Joe Jobseeker*

    I am sorry to say what the OP describes is getting more and more common–asking for a ridiculous amount of materials or interviews from the candidate. I work in journalism/media/pr and we are frequently asked to submit writing samples. But in the last few months, I have been asked to write articles (ie research, interview and write) and other items from scratch. I spent this entire weekend-wait for it-writing 12 pitches for a media relations job. (Seriously, after the first three or four, if you can’t tell if I can do the work, it is your problem). But jobs are hard to come by, so like the OP, my hands may be tied.

    1. Photoshop Til I Drop*

      This is really common in freelance writing, graphic arts, and advertising. In some cases they are just getting free work out of you, and there might not even actually be an open position. I’ve seen 2 excellent portfolio concepts stolen in this way. Be very careful.

      1. DoDah*

        A company I once interviewed with had me write a marketing plan . I didn’t get the job but I did see them use the tagline I suggested in a media placement I proposed. Hmm…..

        1. Joe Jobseeker*

          Same here. I pitched a show topic and guests–and sure enough the next week, that topic and those very guests were panelists on the show. Maddening to say the least.

    2. OP*

      You’re completely right. These ridiculous tests and assignments seem to be par for the course lately, but they get away with some of the craziness because competition for the jobs is high.

      1. Nellie*

        You know, even if it is getting to be par for the course, this one is really unreasonable. If you do decide to decline moving forward, you could consider saying something like “In the interest of providing some friendly feedback, this kind of request is quite unusual and the first time I’ve experienced it. It’s common to provide writing samples and positive references, but most job applicants aren’t prepared to go to these lengths to produce new work or have references who will purposely provide negative feedback. I would certainly be taken aback if I was asked to be a reference for someone with whom I didn’t get along! I share this perspective because this experience has made me wary that we would be a good fit, so it may be that others would have the same reaction. I do very much support your mission and wish you all the best in finding the best candidate.”

    3. Macedon*

      If you’re in the biz, you know B. is renown for the most (unnecessarily) exhaustive recruitment process in journalism. Over time, I’ve found the best benchmark for accepting recruitment tasks is, “Is this so weird even B. would think it’s excessive?”

      Saved me a lot of grief over time.

  48. Troutwaxer*

    Dear Sir or Madam,

    You have wasted enormous amounts of my time. I have concluded that your knowledge of HR and proper hiring practices would fit inside a thimble, leaving room for two ladybugs and a smallish cricket. If you run your business like you run your hiring practices it will doubtless be at least month before you manage to find me a chair, and the actual desk will be forthcoming sometime in March of 2017. I shudder to think when my first paycheck would arrive.

    Once I have given you a list of my hostile contacts at previous workplaces, what will you demand next? Will I be tasked with draining the Bosporus with a soup ladle? Climbing Mt. Everest while carrying a llama on my back? Dancing naked in the moonlight during the next Equinox?

    I’ve decided that spending more time on your incompetence or your ridiculous demands would be an improper use of the time I normally spend replacing the air in my tires, thus I am withdrawing from consideration for your position. Any further communications from your organization will be burned, with the ashes placed in sealed baggies and sent to the nearest toxic waste dump for disposal. With all this in mind, may I suggest that you redirect the money you planned to spend on my position to the hiring of a real HR person. This should be followed by the prompt firing of whatever pathetic loser is responsible for your current thoughtless and freakish hiring process.

    Yours Truly, etc.

    P.S. I have discussed this on Glassdoor in some detail.

  49. AnonMurphy*

    I call office of evil bees on this one (reference to EEOC and things got weird post).

    If this company was a haunted house, all the cabinet doors are open, the walls have green goop on them, and the house is moaning ‘ruuuuuuun, mortal!’ The only sensible thing to do is get out. Do not go to the basement.

  50. mccoma*

    Since at the point they ask for this reference I really would rethink this job, I would give the contact information for one of my friends, explain the situation, and have him do some improv involving not liking me because I don’t hold with his “lizard people are taking over” beliefs. It would be good practice for my friend and provide some form of amusement for me.

    The saner play is to say you have no way to contact such a person. This is one of those run, don’t walk away situations. For one job I had a technical interview question that really bugged me (basically it indicated a lack of love for automation in a computer programming job). I should have seen the sign, but instead took the job and spent “3 seasons in heck” until I could switch to a consulting gig in another town.

  51. Jaguar*

    It’s also worth mentioning, OP, that they’re probably not just doing this to you, they’re doing this to everyone. Every barrier a company puts up to hiring (every extra interview, every extra reference, every extra background check, ever extra demonstration project, etc.) is going to lose them candidates. The most desirable employees are going to have competing offers, or are already employed, or are going through more reasonable (and thus shorter) application processes and are likely to get other offers first. So if you go through all the hoops and wind up with an offer at the end, there’s a very solid chance you won’t be working with the best – their rigorous screening process will have eliminated anyone except the truly desperate or those that truly want to work at that specific place. For your own professional development alone, it might make sense to walk away from this.

    1. OP*

      That is an excellent point and might be why the operations person who is handling the hiring process has no sense of what is normal.

  52. Anon Accountant*

    As far as those someone didn’t get along with there’s always 2 sides to it. Sometimes the person you didn’t get along with is just plain mean and spiteful to everyone and there’s no way you would put a potential employer in contact with them.

    This organization sounds like a place to definitely withdraw an application from.

  53. hayling*

    OP, please post about the hiring practices on GlassDoor! If you do so in a calm, factual way, you’ll be doing other future applicants a huge service.

  54. Ruby*

    This is absolutely bananas, as everyone else has noted, but I was wondering about how common it is to ask about coworkers you didn’t get along with.

    I interviewed for a job (that I didn’t get) at which I was asked the question “How do you handle coworkers you don’t get along with, and DON’T SAY YOU GET ALONG WITH EVERYONE!”

    I was taken aback, because I really and truly have always “gotten along” with everyone I’ve worked with. I haven’t liked all of them, for sure. I’ve thought some of them were dumb or bad at their jobs or whatever. But I’ve never had a showdown of any kind at work. I simply did not know how to answer this question sufficiently. Is it expected that you’ll have fought with people at some point? Is there some magical answer to this question beyond “I’m diplomatic even with people I don’t care for,”? That was not what my interviewer was looking for.

    1. Critter*

      It is such a weird question to ask. Are they trying to preempt drama? Would they rather put work into avoiding it up front by asking weird invasive questions of their candidates than just deal with situations and people as they arise?

    2. nunqzk*

      Yeah, that was my thought too. The only times I’ve gotten similar questions, I didn’t get or accept the jobs for other reasons, but I suspect that a workplace must have to be really dysfunctional for the idea of getting along with all your co-workers to seem implausible.

      1. Ruby*

        This was a very small independent department within a very large company. I think 5 people worked there total. The person interviewing me flat out admitted to being “hard to work with,” and during the hour I was there interviewing, I witnessed her have conflict with one of her subordinates. So maybe no one got along with anyone else!

        Needless to say, I was not enthusiastic about the job and didn’t bother sending any follow up notes or anything. They also never followed up with me, so I guess the feeling was mutual!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      “Oh, I just back hand them and send them rolling across the floor.”

      Serious answer. Just point to a time where you and a cohort disagreed on some little thing and show how you resolved it.
      “Molly and I disagreed on the time, because our wall clocks had different times. So we both agreed the computer clock should be accurate and we went with that.”

  55. Whats In A Name*

    OP, please update us on your decision.

    In regards to all the hoops, I think others have made this point in one way or another but all I can think is that you will never get any actual work accomplished with this organization.

    I envision countless hours of meetings and research and due diligence in your future and no actual resolution to any projects or issues.

  56. Hermione*

    Now I’m imagining poor entry-level applicants having to scrounge up contact information from classmates and professors that hated them.

    “Why in Merlin’s name would you want to hire HER? Have you seen her hair?”

    “My fathe– I mean, I always hated her. Always showing off in class, when we all know it’s breeding that wins out in the end…”

    “Contrary to popular opinion, I do not hate Miss Granger because she is muggleborn. I hate her because she is a swotty, insufferable know-it-all. That the Ministry has progressed her application to this point is evidence of their utter devotion to incompetence. You ought to retire immediately – clearly you are unfit to be making such important decisions such as hiring. Now, if you’re done wasting my time on frivolous nonsense, I have real work to attend to.”

    Or, you know, something like that…

  57. Boss Cat Meme*

    Some of the people I “didn’t get along with” was because of very good reasons. I have worked for large organizations where there have been some really horrible men and women there. I was at one place where a co-worker would call me at home in the evening to discuss certain logistics for the next day’s events. But these home updates turned weird quickly. The guy actually, how can I put this, “jerked off “during our conversation. I was furious and told him to NEVER call me again and the next day, he came to my desk, shouting in front of everyone, that I was a bitch and a tease and stormed out. I was called into my supervisor’s office immediately, despite me wanting to run to the ladies room and cry my eyes out. He was angry, not supportive, and insisted I tell him what was “up.” I hadn’t even decided what I was going to do yet–go to H.R., speak to another woman or co-worker. Despite my anger with this co-worker I was really shaken up by what he had done. I told my boss, to start with, that our entire team had problems with this guy, and the first thing he did was call the entire team into the conference room, two more co-workers (females) that I was on good terms with, but I didn’t even want them to know about this! I kept saying, I would rather discuss this with HR privately and he said I better start talking now and tell him what was going on. In front of my team, I had to reveal what had happened, and my idiot supervisor asked a lot of embarrassing questions, like how did I KNOW what he was doing, what did he say, etc. Then he let my co-workers say whatever they wanted, like “How could you let him DO that? ” and “Ewwww, I would have done this and that, not listen to him go on.” And I had to answer their questions, like, it lasted like 3 seconds – -I was asking him, are you okay? What are you doing? Oh my God! Stop! I was crying then, when he says, okay, why don’t you all just go home, and we’ll talk about this tomorrow. The next day, I came in, and I had to repeat the incident to my HR person, who recorded it. Then my co-workers went in and obviously shared their thoughts on it with HR. None of them ever came to me later and said, what a jerk Fergus was, or how horrible for you. Fergus was fired the next day. Fergus had later escalated things after he was fired, and the police were involved. No one ever talked about it, but I knew everybody knew about it, since I could feel the stares from people for a while after that.

    All of us left the organization very quickly after that. I had done a lot of really great work with that place but I really have no idea what any of my co-workers would say about me today. I do list the job on my resume. My former supervisor is retired, who knows if he’s alive, and all three of us live in different states. It is an incident that I never want to talk about to anyone, especially not any potential employer. How can ANY organization think that asking recruits to give them the contact info of people who they have had a “problem” with is a good idea? A lot of people who have done NOTHING wrong have REAL problems with former co-workers.

    1. Whats In A Name*

      I am SO SORRY you had to deal with this. All of it. And sorry is no where near enough.

    2. JMegan*

      Wow. I’m so sorry. I’m thoroughly squicked out just reading your story, I can’t imagine how awful it must have been to live through it. Glad to hear you’re out of there.

    3. Janice in Accounting*

      I . . . can’t stop staring in horror at your comment. I am so sorry that happened to you!! How horrible!

    4. Ruby*

      I think this goes way beyond “not getting along.” “Not getting along” implies a conflict from both sides. It wasn’t that you didn’t get along with Fergus, it was that he did a horrible and disgusting thing to you, and your workplace did a terrible job handling the situation.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Right. This is not the type of thing they are thinking of. Matter of fact, who ever made that question up never had it occur to them that this type of thing goes on. You can tell because thinking or experienced workers would not have asked the question to begin with.

        BCM, I am shocked and upset on your behalf. I am sorry this happened to you and I am glad you got away from crazytown.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      What the what!?! 0_0

      Your manager was a complete IDIOT. I am so sorry he put you through that. And I hope Fergus fell down a manhole right into Pennywise the Clown’s arms.

      1. Boss Cat Meme*

        Thanks! That was nice to hear from all of you! At least now I can look back and BELIEVE that I did nothing to lead him on or encourage the situation.

    6. Lora*

      *picks jaw up off the floor*

      *drops jaw again*

      That is horrifying in a very trainwrecky way. People always say they would have done this or that, but in real life you mostly just stand there in absolute shock thinking, oh my god is this really happening? The reason people imagine they would do something different is so they can pretend it wouldn’t happen to them. You don’t get special training for dealing with co-workers masturbating at you, it’s just not in the Code of Conduct / HR manual.

      At least they fired him and didn’t try to…I dunno, train him to call after he is done? Sadly, I have seen enough people who should have been fired immediately, coddled and sent for training and crap. And I can imagine some poor trainer being saddled with the guy with vague instructions about teaching Phone Etiquette, and then you have to deal with those shenanigans all over again. And then you’re in your boss’ office asking how many times Pervert has to do this before he has violated the terms of the PIP sufficiently to clean out his desk, and you get a stupid answer about confidentiality.

    1. Troutwaxer*

      Are you the same “Critter” I met back in 2000 or so at the Brushwood Folklore Center in Sherman, NY? It was one of those “Bob” things…

  58. NoWhiteFlag*

    If you really still want to pursue this, you can ask any former coworker(s) that you would not otherwise ask to be a reference for you. At this point, the responses are fairly irrelevant. They just want a response. They appear to be clueless about what they need in an employee and don’t really sound like an organization that has respect for people. They are being disrespectful of you and the other candidates.

    Are you sure that you haven’t just fallen in love with their mission statement? Unless this is the Save the Cockroach Foundation, I can’t imagine these people being particularly effective. Any policies or programs that they would create would reflect the same dysfunction that they are exhibiting in their hiring practice. I hope that they are not dealing with vulnerable populations, they sound like the stuff of nightmares.

  59. MD*

    I have nothing to add other than to say this is easily the single funniest comment thread I’ve ever read here (to be fair, I’m relatively new to the party)

  60. Unegen*

    Honestly, not that I condone enabling this ridiculous excuse for a hiring process, but if for some reason you have to have this (what sound like a) road apple of a job….


    Or rather, if you can swing it, contact the most creative and trustworthy of the good references you can potentially provide, tell them what the situation is, and ask them to pretend they didn’t get along with you. You know, either:
    1) Provides some reason that actually makes you sound like a decent employee. “Fergus? Yeah, we didn’t get along. I like to chitchat at the water cooler for an hour a day, but he was just focused on hitting his sales targets. Go figure.”
    2) Make them sound like ridiculous people whose opinions should be discarded. “Fergus? He had the gall to object to me stealing people’s lunches out of their desks. I got fired because of him! HE IS DEAD TO ME!!!!1!”

    If this works, buy those references a beer. Or something. They earned it.

  61. Cat steals keyboard*

    Surely this is the kind of thing normal referees could comment on?

    If it was worth sticking with this horror show, which it’s not…

  62. Stonkle*

    All of my co-workers who obviously didn’t like me were kind of unhinged. Like the one woman who hid pieces of glass in her desk so that after she was fired I’d get cut while I looked for missing employee cheques (really). Or the woman who cried daily and regularly tried to complain to me about her husband’s genitals. I can’t imagine a) contacting those people again, or b) what use their opinions would be to a hiring manager.

  63. Rusty Shackelford*

    “People I didn’t get along with? I’m afraid there aren’t any survivors for you to talk to.”

  64. One of the Sarahs*

    Dear AAM commentariat, I love you all. I’ve laughed and laughed at people’s comments, and been horrified, but then adored people for their responses, and generally would be a terrible reference for you all because I think you’re great!

    Huge thanks, Alison, for creating this community, and putting in the work to keep it so awesome. I think this a lot, on so many threads, and I never say it enough – thank you!

  65. Joanna*

    It also puts unsuccessful candidates at risk of bullying and blackmail at their current job. A sympathetic, friendly current coworker or past coworker who still has connections there likely would be discreet and not get you in trouble at your current job. There’s a very high likelihood that someone who doesn’t like you would use the knowledge that you’re seriously job hunting to harm you, perhaps blackmailing you that they’ll tell your boss if you don’t do what they want

  66. Knitchic79*

    Oh Knitchic? Sure I remember her! We were co-workers until she got promoted and then she got all full of herself. Expected me to show up on time and work instead of making dozens of personal calls a day. But boy did she get pissed when I used her number to sign up for a bunch of “chat lines.” Sure hope she’s lightened up since then!

  67. Milton Waddams*

    Welcome to my life. There’s a certain type of HR department where the perfect day is one where they take home a hefty salary, nobody gets hired, no HR decisions get made, and someone gets a promotion from this blameless inertia. Unfortunately, many C-level folks don’t realize what a poisonous impact this can have long-term on a company. If they’re hired gun MBAs rather than company founders, they may not even care, so long as it doesn’t impact their future transfer prospects. Really toxic stuff.

  68. Lady Phoenix*

    I think after 2 weeks of video calls, I be go “Eff this shite” and moving on to the next job. This job is having you go through too many hoops to get this stupid job. You are not a lion at a circus, you should not be jumping through fiery hoops of possible death. Run and don’t look back.

  69. AJ*

    “Here’s one person I didn’t get along with. I don’t have current contact details but perhaps you can check with Interpol. Last time I heard, they were looking for him too.”

    (True about Interpol looking for a former colleague who sparked my spidery senses but not my colleagues who thought he was a ‘great guy’. I think he knew I could see through his mask and was nasty to me because of it.)

  70. NicoleK*

    WOW. And I thought logic assessments (which had zero to do with said job) or personality assessments were bad.

  71. Fire*

    Let me just say, I’m so, so very glad my non-freelance work is in a field where if you get an interview, you’ve pretty much gotten the job. Staying in the job is another matter… but it’s not hard to get one.

    (I’m a bike courier. It’s pretty easy to get hired but it’s not unusual for people to realize they really, really can’t handle it.)

  72. MW*

    This mystifies me. How would they even tell that your reference *is* “someone you didn’t get along with”? I think most people could find referees they get along with who would be willing to pretend they don’t get along, or exaggerate the smallest disagreement. You can rely on most referees to be honest about roles and work, but I think it’s really going too far to ask about personal relationships like this.

  73. boop*

    Damn, all this for the privilege of losing $20,000 a year? $20,000/year is an entire full time job.

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