must I hire a qualified candidate with a ton of baggage?

A reader writes:

My department recently created a new position. A colleague from another department got wind of this and asked when I planned to advertise the vacancy. I’m in no actual hurry to fill the position, so I said “hopefully by the end of the year.” He let me know that his wife is very qualified for the position and that I should consider her. Note, I haven’t even written the job description yet, so it’s impossible for him to know whether or not his wife is qualified for it. A few days later, he asked if I’d advertised the position yet and said to keep him posted because he wants to make sure his wife gets in. A day or so after that, he handed me her resume and assured me again that she’d be the right person for the job (remember the job doesn’t even exist yet).

Here is where I should tell you that this particular colleague has been an unkind, uncooperative, disrespectful, manipulative pain in my backside the entire time we’ve worked together. As a department head, I would never accept any professional advice from him, least of all give him input on my hiring decisions. If I hired his wife, I absolutely would not put it past him to utilize their relationship as leverage for the various unprofessional and underhanded enterprises he occasionally undertakes.

The wife emailed me a day or so later and informed me that she already has a job, but is considering changing fields and asked for an appointment so that I could tell her more about the [non-existent] job to help her “determine if it would be a good fit” for her. Lol. I was half-amused, half-incredulous and had 30 minutes to spare, so I accepted the appointment. The entire interaction was very underwhelming. She’d ask me vague questions like “so, what all does your department do?” and expect me to expound for her. She didn’t dress professionally, obviously hadn’t browsed the website before coming in, etc.

I did eventually post the position, the wife applied, and it turns out she is actually an intriguing candidate on paper and has perhaps the most relevant experience of all the applicants. I haven’t begun interviewing yet, but my initial instinct is not to touch her with a 10-foot pole (because of the husband) and that instinct is reinforced by the “informational interview” we already had.

On the one hand, perhaps it isn’t really fair to allow my opinion of the husband to impact the wife’s candidacy. But on the other hand, she involved her husband in her candidacy from the very beginning, relying on his inside knowledge to reach out to me about a not-yet-advertised position, and receiving my direct contact information from him (normally, she’d be routed to HR) so I don’t think she can reasonably expect her candidacy to be evaluated in a vacuum. Hiring her could turn out fine. But it could also be a complete disaster, and I’m very concerned about the latter coming true (and have good reason to believe it could). Where do you stand on this?

I stand on the side of not hiring her.

You already have a bunch of information about her that says she’s not impressive. People can be qualified on paper and still have undesirable traits that take them out of the running, and it sounds like that’s the case here.

Frankly, the situation with her husband would be reason enough not to hire her, even she were impressive on her own. You’re entitled to decide that it would be too messy to hire a colleague’s spouse. You’d be entitled to decide that even if your colleague were a lovely person and easy to work with — because there’s potential for tension and problems, like if things didn’t work out and you had to let her go. But add that you already know him not to operate in a professional way, and to have been inappropriately pushy about trying to get his wife hired, and you have a ton of reason to decide you don’t want to risk the problems that could result.

On top of that, she had an opportunity to impress you and she didn’t prepare or take it seriously. Now, maybe that’s not her fault — maybe her husband misrepresented the situation to her and told her that you were eager to hire her and that you wanted to woo her or something. But even then, it’s not especially impressive that she handled the meeting the way she did.

And you’re allowed to factor in what your experience with her has been so far. You’re not obligated to only consider her formal application. Insider connections like this are a double-edged sword for candidates — they can provide an in, but they can also provide additional data that makes the hiring manager realize they don’t want to hire the person. She and her husband chose to use the connection, and that means they get everything that comes with that — more of your time and an advance meeting, yes, but also the bad impression that she left you with.

If the problems with her husband weren’t in the mix, I’d say you should go ahead and interview her — because who knows, maybe you’d see a different side of her, and also it’s helpful for your colleague to feel like she at least got a hearing. But if you’re already sure you don’t want to hire her — and it sounds like that’s what your gut is saying — it’s fine to just decline to interview her and explain that you concluded after the last meeting that she’s not the right match with what you’re looking for.

If you get push-back from your colleague, and you probably will, you can say, “I was glad to meet with Jane when you suggested it, but she turned out not to be the person I’m looking for. I can’t really discuss a hiring decision with a candidate’s spouse.” And if he pushes after that, consider saying, “If I were still considering Jane, this would make it almost impossible for me to hire her — because if I were to hire a colleague’s spouse, I’d need to be certain we were all going to have good professional boundaries.”

{ 255 comments… read them below }

  1. Ginger

    Have you ever seen that commercial where a woman drops a contact in the toilet, finds out she’s out of contacts and starts to reach to pick up the contact all while music in the background that sings “DON’T DO IT, DON’T DO IT”…

    That’s what played in my head while reading this letter.

    1. Ali G

      Yeah this is the workplace version of yelling at the people in the horror movie “DO NOT CHECK OUT THAT STRANGE NOISE IN THE BASEMENT!!!”

      1. Fergus

        DON’T GO IN THE BASEMENT!
        DON”T OPEN THE CLOSET!
        DON”T GO INTO THE WOODS!
        DON”T HIRE THE CO-WORKER’S WIFE

        YOU WILL REGRET IT

      1. OlympiasEpiriot

        I had the line “You come looking for trouble, honey don’t you come alone” from the song linked in my username on this comment.

        :-0

        4 out of 5 dentists agree…

        You better RUN!

    2. Phoenix Programmer

      Op can not hire the wife is she likes but I am not getting all this indignation directed at the wife. She wasn’t a horror candidate from the tales from the crypt….

      Her husband certainly seems to be but wife no indication so far. Certainly not warranting comparison to a toilet contact.

      1. Wendy Darling

        I think the comparison is not to the wife but to the badness of the idea of hiring the wife given the entirety of the situation.

        1. boo bot

          Yes, I was reading it as a holistic, “Don’t run upstairs! Why would you run upstairs? RUN OUT THE DOOR!”

      2. Quackeen

        She wasn’t a horror candidate, but she also wasn’t a good candidate. She put the onus on LW to sell the (non-existent, at the time) position to her, didn’t do any research or dress/behave professionally, and was all-around underwhelming. While I agree that this isn’t toilet contact/basement killer level, it’s also not ‘bend over backwards to accommodate her’ level, either.

      3. Ginger

        It has nothing to do with a toilet, I was referencing the soundtrack to a specific, well-known commercial.

        And it’s really not about the wife either. It’s about the PITA co-worker who is widely overstepping boundaries, harassing the OP about his wife’s candidacy for a position that wasn’t even fully formed yet on paper let alone ready to be filled. Then it is compounded by the wife’s lack of preparation and mysteriously perfect resume that turned up after the posting was created. The biggest red flag to me is that the OP is concerned the husband will use the wife to get things he wants that are not all on the up and up.

        The whole situation is hot mess in the making. Even if that particular coworker recommended someone other than his wife, if I were the OP, I wouldn’t trust him. His behavior outside of this recommendation is not one that I would want to duplicate in the form of someone he advocates for.

    3. Elizabeth West

      What played in mine was the song Ride like the Wind by Christopher Cross, but in my head it changed to “Run like the Wind,” LOL

      Also, HOLY SHITBALLS from Deadpool 2.

  2. Artemesia

    PLease listen to your gut here and also cover yourself with your superiors in case end runs ensue, which they will. I did not interview a top candidate because of experiences others in the organization had had with him, his very unprofessional email handle, his persistence in hassling the AA daily about when he would be interviewed. When we didn’t interview him he complained to the CEO about age discrimination (the two people I hired for this role were a 55 year old woman and a 60 year old man). So glad we dodged that bullet.

    You have already interviewed her and were not impressed; let your superior know that and also why you are concerned. And then give the annoying employee as little information as possible when he pushes and annoys. But make sure your superiors have your back. Just the fact that he works there and is unprofessional makes this hire a no go. You don’t need to hire a person who looks good on paper when you have ample information about what a bad idea this would be.

    Even if the employee were excellent, hiring his wife would probably be a bad idea; in this case, it is a terrible idea.

    1. Lil Fidget

      Yes, take excellent notes that are not “married to a pain in the ass” that articulate credible reasons why she was not hired, OP!

      1. Phoenix Programmer

        If OP is worried married to PITA won’t fly she is probably better off interviewing wife tbh. There are not really other conrete reasons not to hire in the letter that I am seeing.

          1. pope suburban

            Agreed. It has been a long time since I’ve been to an informational interview, but even as a soon-to-be-grad, I made sure to dress appropriately and at least try to have some questions. I’m sure they weren’t scintillating ones, but I wasn’t even in the workforce yet; now, I would have a lot of fairly specific things I’d want to know. Informational interviews still feel to me like someone is doing me a favor, so I’d put my best foot forward accordingly. That she didn’t suggests that she maybe feels entitled to the position (Lord knows what her husband has told her about the job or the company or her personal fitness for the opening; this is by no means only on her), or that she’s not taking it terribly seriously, or that her working style might not be a good fit for the position/department/company. That happens sometimes. It doesn’t make her a nightmare, but it does mean she’s probably not a good hire.

            1. PersonalJeebus

              The OP was there, they are the one making this hiring decision, and they found the interview and the candidate underwhelming. When you are the one conducting a similar interview, you will be entitled to judge it whatever degree of -whelming you want.

              It sounds like “casual” is the opposite of what the OP was hoping to see from this candidate. That’s their prerogative.

    2. Sara without an H

      Artemesia has good advice. You’ve given the wife more than enough of an opportunity to show why she would be a good fit for the position — and the results were negative. Brief your boss, then go out and hire someone who’s really fantastic.

      1. Phoenix Programmer

        I am not understanding how one informal info Interview for a position without a job description was “more than enough of an opportunity” to exhibit skills/fit for the position. That’s not how these interviews typically work.

        I am ears for why people feel this way though.

        1. Smarty Boots

          They aren’t the same as an interview, but they aren’t as slack-a$$ as this candidate approached it, either. Candidate did not dress professionally, had not done any homework (such as check out the website), did not have reasonably good questions.

          It wasn’t an informational interview in the sense of, I want to find out about this industry or I want to learn about the work that the interviewee does — it was to get info about an actual position that might open up and to show the person hiring for that position that you are a good fit or good to keep in mind at least.

          It was networking-plus: and if I’ve networked with someone at say a professional conference and they come off as vague and unprepared, I’m not going ahead with their application unless I have a super good other reason to do so. Which the OP does not have in this situation.

          1. Jack

            Yes. My impression of this candidate was that she showed up thinking “go ahead, try and convince me to apply for this job.” The lack of effort makes her come off like she was doing them a favor by offering to consider whether it would be a good fit for her.

        2. PersonalJeebus

          You keep describing the interview as “informal,” but it seems that is not the kind of meeting the OP intended to conduct. Informational does not necessarily equal informal. In fact, candidates attending informational interviews should NOT assume they are also informal.

          The only informal informational interviews I’ve had were with people I knew personally, so there was no first impression to be made, only information to be exchanged. One’s spouse knowing the hiring manager personally is not the same, and it’s not sufficient reason to approach the interview casually (especially when the spouse and the hiring manager are not on warm and friendly terms). And it’s definitely not justification to treat the hiring manager as if they were the one recruiting/wooing you. The husband-wife team in this scenario made the initial approach here (pretty aggressively) and the candidate should have been prepared to make a good impression.

        3. JulieCanCan

          Why is it an “informal” informational interview though? I think that’s where there’s a disconnect – I don’t recall (honestly I don’t) the OP mentioning that the Informational Interview was specifically “informal” so the fact that the wife went in and didn’t try to impress is pretty bad. That, on top of everything else this situation entails, is definitely enough to give the OP the details necessary about whether this is someone she wants to hire. I’d go as far as saying the wife should be going above and beyond to impress, just to assure the OP that the wife isn’t assuming she’s got any advantage in the hiring process. If I were the wife, I’d want the OP to know that my relationship with the husband/OP’s coworker will not play any role in my performance or efforts both before being hired and after, if I was chosen for the role.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Yes—this is super helpful and concrete advice on how to deal with not hiring someone who has not been impressive in person (and comes with terrible baggage in the form of her spouse).

    4. AKchic

      I was just coming here to say “loop the boss in” but also to say “loop HR in” as well.

      HR should be aware that the pushy coworker is trying to foist his spouse on to other people, because if he’s doing it now, he will probably do it again, so HR should be aware. This pushy coworker needs to be reminded of proper hiring protocols. He cannot network a job for his wife, and perhaps there is a nepotism clause within the P&Ps that he is choosing to ignore (“I didn’t know it was there, honest!”) that he can be reminded of.

  3. A-nony-nony!

    Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if her resume had been embellished (possibly by her husband) in order to make her appear to be the perfect candidate.

    It seems a bit coincidental, to me. But I could just be cynical.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.

      Funny how the woman who could not ask one specific question about the job suddenly has a resume that is laser precision specific to its requirements. OP, you are getting played.

      1. mark132

        I was wondering that as well. That had my shenanigans detector beeping. If the OP does interview her, I think thoroughly reviewing her resume with her would be a good idea. etc.

      2. MusicWithRocksInIt

        Did the resume she submitted when she applied match the resume her husband gave you before you talked to her? This smells fishy and I wonder how well they match up…

        1. HiringManagerOP

          Good question about the two resumes. I did not read the one Husband gave me; I glanced at it, saw what it was and handed it back to him. The one that was submitted for the vacancy was quite, shall I say, keyed to the job description. But I didn’t get the sense that it was embellished. I haven’t contacted her references, but her past work experience would be a very not-smart thing to lie about.

          1. Else

            People do it, though, all the time. Normal people don’t do that, so they tend to assume that nobody else does, which lets some sketchiness succeed.

        1. Nameless Wonder

          “Ersume”: a resume that is so embellished that it leaves you saying “errrr…” in the interview.

    2. Lil Fidget

      I was surprised that her resume looked so strong to OP after such a lackluster interview, but then I thought “well, she had a leg up over every other applicant, with both an informational interview and inside assistance from her husband – her resume certainly should have been better than everybody else’s!”

    3. animaniactoo

      Not just you. I had the same suspicion. I’d want to compare the first resume the husband passed over with the final submitted for the official application.

      At best right now, I think OP could interview her as a peace-making formality and ask her about the discrepancies between both resumes (assuming they exist).

      Otherwise, feel free to decide that the whole process has made you rule the candidate out as lacking professional boundaries and having too much “gumption”.

      1. Oxford Comma

        I concur with animaniactoo, compare the two resumes.

        You know, if she’d come in for the informational interview and knocked your socks off, that would be one thing. But she didn’t. I wouldn’t even bring her in for an interview. It’s a waste of your time and her time.

      2. Smarty Boots

        Nah, no need for a courtesy interview. That’s a waste of everybody’s time, when you are sure you are not going to hire her.

    4. Lynca

      I don’t think you’re being cynical. I think you’re being cautious given how hard the husband was lobbying for his wife to get a shot at this job. It wouldn’t be the first time someone embellished or flat out lied on their resume to get a job.

      1. Doug Judy

        Exactly. I can put anything I want on my resume to match a job description. Doesn’t mean any of it is true or grossly over exaggerated.

    5. epi

      I see where this is coming from, but I question whether a pair who were so tone deaf and inappropriate throughout the rest of this interaction would be capable of just inventing a truly great resume.

      I’ve met people at every level, in some very specialized fields, many of whom were treated like a big deal and maybe they were on paper– that in person just made you say, “her?” Plenty of people manage to be the stowaway on a career making team or project while really contributing not much. Sometimes the right resume line can carry a person quite far. It’s easier to realize people around you care about a project or opportunity than to make it up out of whole cloth.

      At my last job I worked with a deeply unimpressive research assistant who was treated like the golden child despite not being able to tell us what his own undergraduate thesis was really about in the interview. He was exempted from the tasks that were actually core to being an RA in that department, and praised for doing stuff any tech could have done (but doing it worse than a tech would have). It was a combination of gender bias, an impressive but irrelevant credential, and a boss who truly did not understand the skills involved in our job.

      Reading this letter, I put the wife down as one of those people: rising for no reason. There are enough foolish or odd bosses out there for this behavior from her and her husband to basically work out. The OP just isn’t one of them.

    6. Phoenix Programmer

      I think it’s rude to suggest that because she fluffed the info Interview she is lying on her resume. There is no evidence for that.

      I could have easily been wife in this scenario. Apparently my companies are really lax about these interviews. I would have totally shown up in casual nice with generic questions before reading this thread – that’s how my current and previous companies have handled these meetings prior to the formal application.

      My resume would also be tailored once the job description was up. Isn’t that normal? Allison recommends this approach.

      Sure my titles and years would match but my accomplishments would be tailored to highlight skills specific to the role.

  4. Serious Sam

    How much material on the application can be verified? How much could she have been coached by her husband to emphasize, or even exaggerate her experience in all the key areas?

    1. Artemesia

      None of this really matters because she should not be interviewed. Period. She had her interview; she didn’t shine; there are plenty of reasons to not hire a spouse. End it. Don’t engage or you get people shifting the goal posts and suddenly you are having to defend not hiring her. End it now and don’t budge.

  5. Anon From Here

    LW, you have the gift of knowing more about her than about any other outside candidate you might screen. Take the information you have and run with it.

    Run far, far, away.

    1. Iconic Bloomingdale

      Ditto. Under no circumstance should you hire this employee’s wife. You have valuable insight regarding her and the overall situation. Use it to your benefit and steer clear.

  6. Dust Bunny

    I wouldn’t go near this. No way, no how. The husband situation was a bad start, and the weak meeting (if her husband gave her so much information, why didn’t she know what your department did?), and . . . nothing about this feels good.

    If she’s really a good candidate, she’ll have to make her own case for it, and so far, she hasn’t.

  7. CmdrShepard4ever

    I think OP should interview her just for show, to make things easier on OP. If the husband is unprofessional they might get upset with OP for “not giving the wife a fair shot,” even though OP did and the wife did not impress them. After interviewing the wife you can say upon learning more she was not the right fit. The husband will probably still get upset, but maybe less so if he thinks his wife was given a shot. I want to be clear I don’t think OP is responsible for managing coworkers feelings, but I think it can make things easier for OP.

    1. Lil Fidget

      I always have mixed feelings about pro-forma interviews, as they are wasting the other person’s time and presumably raising her hopes when you already know you don’t want to hire them. However, I know they happen often, and this is the kind of circumstance where they usually crop up.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius

        I work in government, and I was forced to interview someone who I didn’t want. He was an ex employee who left on very bad terms. I had to interview him because, according to HR, he was qualified on paper therefore he deserves a fair shot and he could appeal.

        They didn’t want the headache so I interviewed him against my will, but he still didn’t get hired.

        Sometimes it’s best to give the appearance of a fair shot. It sucks, I know, but if this is a public institution, there might be HR regs that have to be followed.

        1. TootsNYC

          one other things this interview could do for the OP is to provide extra info to use to explain why she isn’t a viable candidate.

    2. Anon From Here

      I tend to agree. Also, if her resume is a little fictitious, as A-nony-nony! suggests above, it would also maybe make the fictions obvious.

      1. EddieSherbert

        This is also my thought – it’s weird she had such a lackluster informational interview, when she evidently should know A LOT about the topic/skills you talked about, so that might be worth investigating in an interview… but only *IF* you feel like there’s a chance you *would* hire her. You should also feel 100% secure in saying NOPE and not giving her a second thought!

    3. Observer

      No, don’t do that. The more you do and say the more attack surface you provide to someone who is looking to pick. Why would you do that?

      1. Venus

        Totally agreed – do *not* give her more hope. Shut her out from the start, by not giving the husband any information about the hiring timelines (because he shouldn’t be able to know about the process if it is done fairly), and hiring someone before she gets sent a refusal response. The further she gets, then the louder her husband will complain when she is cut.

    4. irene adler

      If it was necessary to interview, I would prepare a bunch of questions that allowed her to demonstrate her competence in actual job scenarios. Or some sort of skills test. Idea is to give her a chance to show that she can actually do the job.

      She may decide that these are too much for her and withdraw her application.
      Or these questions might disqualify her right off when she cannot come up with answers.

      1. Matilda Jefferies

        Although that could backfire if she actually is qualified on her own merits, and can easily answer the questions/ demonstrate the skills. Then OP is stuck with the task of explaining why she didn’t hire this obviously qualified candidate!

        I’m also on the side of noping out of her candidacy right now, before it goes any further.

    5. Antilles

      The husband will probably still get upset, but maybe less so if he thinks his wife was given a shot.
      I disagree. This guy’s behavior thus far makes me think it’d go the exact OPPOSITE way – if OP brings her in for an interview then doesn’t hire her, he’s going to be even more impossible. He’ll be mad that OP “wasted wife’s time”, he’ll push for wife to get a group interview because “it’s just a personal thing with OP”, he’ll claim it wasn’t a fair interview, he’ll push for them to delay the decision and give wife another chance, etc.
      I think it’s much easier to just cut this off here and now.

      1. Bostonian

        Yup. I’m with you on this one. The way he’s acted so far, I don’t think interviewing her would make him feel better about her not being hired. Not one bit.

      2. PB

        Agreed, and his wife *was* given a shot. Even if her resume was good, she blew the informational interview. As we say here at AAM, every interaction in the hiring process counts. That informational interview doesn’t just get wiped away because it was informal.

        1. boo bot

          Yeah, I think the follow-up from the husband is not, “Well, thanks for giving her a shot,” but “But she was good enough to interview! She must be qualified!”

      3. Lady Blerd

        It might be a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. I would do the interview just to confirm the previous impression and to see if the wife can elaborate on her resume.

      4. wheeeee

        I agree – hiring decisions, including which applicants get interviewed, shouldn’t be made on the basis of appeasing the applicant’s clueless, unreasonable, pushy spouse.

    6. Psyche

      I think the only two reasons to interview her would be if someone higher up insisted on it or if she is the absolute most qualified person to apply. If she is the best on paper it could be hard to justify why you didn’t even talk to her. If there were more qualified people then it is easy because you can cite the informational interview and the more qualified candidates.

      1. Artemesia

        Don’t start down the road of ‘justifying’. The OP has the information she needs and already did the interview. Don’t get caught up in ‘justifying’ why you aren’t hiring her.

        1. Antilles

          Agreed. You don’t need to justify it to him. And IF anybody with authority asks for an explanation (unlikely), the answer is very straightforward: “Actually, I already did an informal interview with her. While her resume seemed excellent on paper, she did not have a good grasp on our industry and I just don’t think she meets our needs.”
          Then you leave it at that…and odds are it won’t go any further – a firm ‘no’ from the hiring manager is usually accepted since it’s your department and your future employee.

    7. MLB

      I 100% disagree. LW has essentially let co-worker bully her into considering his wife. He needs to be stopped. LW needs to trust her instincts and move on. Any additional consideration of the wife will only add more fuel to his fire and continue the bullying. She needs to provide a simple reason that she is not moving forward with his wife – being direct and firm – and move past this. Rinse and repeat if he won’t let it go.

      1. wheeeee

        No reason is necessary. “We have decided not to interview her.”
        “Why?”
        “We have decided not to interview her.”
        (repeat repeat repeat)

        I would also make sure that others involved in the hiring process and involved higher-ups be informed about his pushiness here, because he sounds like he’d have no problem complaining to others that his wife wasn’t given a fair shot.

    8. CatCat

      An interview “just for show” could actually make things harder for the OP. A fake interview is no way to manage having a challenging colleague.

      Aside from just wasting a bunch of time so Husband maybe will feel that Wife got a fair shot, what if the Wife knocks it out of the park at the interview? Then where is OP?

      OP actually has a great explanation right now for not moving forward with Wife that do not entangle Husband: Wife asked to meet with OP about the job, OP agreed, and Wife dropped the ball at that interview.

      OP should not give Wife a second bite at the apple!

      1. Oh no, not another Jennifer

        Yes. I agree. Do not interview this woman. She may take the next interview seriously and then the OP will have to explain why she will not be a good fit. Take her out of the running now and avoid that future headache. The husband will be upset. But you will only have to deal with him instead of potentially dealing with both spouses.

    9. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      I don’t think the OP should interview the wife for most of the reasons listed below. I also think the early not interview was a mistake.

      I’m a believer that all things* are fair game to be considered in a job posting through interview process. In this case the OP has already shown preferential treatment to this candidate by having that not-an-interview, and she was underwhelmed with the candidate. The OP should continue on with the search with the others in the pool.

      *Hopefully this is obvious but stating loud and clear in case it wasn’t, I was speaking about non tangibles; good fit, all interactions with a candidate, social media, and any outside factors about the candidate. I was not referring to things specifically outside the legal and quite frankly ethical factors such as age, religion, orientation, etc.

    10. Melly

      In my organization, we have to rate candidates using a numbers system based on the requested qualifications, and then assign a range for each. Anyone who meets the qualifications of those you want to interview has to be interviewed (say, the score is out of 20, and you want to interview someone who scored a 16 – you then have to interview everyone who scored a 16 or higher because they are presumably as or more qualified than your preferred person). So, if it were me, I would be required to interview Mrs. PITA.

    11. Smarty Boots

      Nope, courtesy interviews are a bad idea. You are wasting everyone’s time, plus if you interview her, you have to explain and defend why you are not going to hire her. Just don’t do it.

  8. Akcipitrokulo

    Other people’s mileage may vary, but I tend to think that superstars are brilliant to have – but perfectly competent people who play nicely with others are better.

    If husband didn’t have history of stirring things, or if he did but had kept nose out of the hiring, or if he had behaved as he did but at interview she’d proved interested and engaged…

    But all three together don’t bode well…

    I’ve seen couples working in same department work well. But only because they both had an absolute understanding of boundaries; they arrived and left in same car, but from the moment they stepped through door to moment they left you couldn’t tell they were a couple.

    So not against it – and if you feel she could be a particularly good fit despite the above – then it’s OK to move her to interview stage to confirm one way or the other.

    So don’t feel bad if you do decide to interview despite misgivings – you may find out something you hadn’t thought of – but don’t feel you have to either, because the baggage is enough to say no thanks.

    1. Akcipitrokulo

      (For the record, I’d be a hard “no” in your position. I don’t need this hassle in my life.)

      1. Troutwaxer

        You might do better with a soft no. Something like, “your wife was in the top five candidates, but not the best person for the job because of X, Y, and Z.” (That’s if you interview her at all, which I would definitely avoid.)

        1. Akcipitrokulo

          I meant hard as in “there is no way I’d have them” rather than the delivery :) which I agree, a softened message is good.

        2. Artemesia

          As soon as you say ‘because of X, Y, Z’ you have given him ammunition for endless argument and suddenly you are the defensive one explaining to higher ups why you didn’t hire her.

          1. Wehaf

            Not only that, but it is inappropriate. He should not be privy to internal hiring considerations regarding his spouse.

    2. KR

      Very well written comment and good point that there are probably a lot of other competent people who aren’t going to be married to annoying coworkers and make you feel icky about hiring them. This situation is filled with angry bees. Don’t approach.

    3. AnotherGenXDevManager

      This is why I have been glad that my most recent positions have all had a clause that family members (any family relation, including spouses) cannot report up through the same chain of command. Job prior to the current one was three levels – so I could not hire an employee’s son, but said son could work for another manager, whose only shared manager between him and my employee was our VP. But not for another manager that reported to my manager, or who reported to his manager.

  9. sheworkshardforthemoney

    I’ve seen this several times over the years. The resume is wonderful. The person is not. In the end you are hiring the person, not their resume.

    1. Dr. Pepper

      This reminds me of a phrase an old horse trainer I knew used all the time. “You don’t ride the head.” Too many people select a horse based on how “pretty” it is, or how sweet its face looks. Well, you don’t ride the head, you ride the whole horse, and the prettiest head in the world won’t make up for crooked legs or a sour disposition.

      1. MuseumChick

        This is a great way of thinking about it. The common phrase “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” also applies. In the case the cover = resume and the contents of the book = the person.

        Open, this person is a book with an interesting cover but not a great plot line.

  10. Hey Karma, Over here.

    Funny how the woman who could not ask one specific question about the job suddenly has a resume that is laser precision specific to its requirements. OP, you are getting played.

    1. Phoenix Programmer

      Not really?

      During the info interview stage there was no job description. Afterwards there was. It’s not surprising that wife asked general questions at the informational interview.!

      1. Flash Bristow

        I can understand asking for more info about day to day tasks in the role (which didn’t exist at the time!) but asking “what does the department do” does rather show both ignorance and disinterest. I wouldn’t be surprised if she is under his thumb and didn’t want the job (after all, she already has one) but he wants her at work with him so he can control her more…

        All of this says “run away” to me. For op but also for the wife, actually! None of our business, but I do hope my instinct is wrong.

  11. Snarkus Aurelius

    For over ten years, I’ve been involved in interviewing and hiring. Despite all the job advice out there, I STILL see applicants who not only do NOT check out our website but openly and comfortably admit that they didn’t. Bonus: a handful of those positions were for a webmaster!

    I don’t know what to do with that. I just don’t.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.

      You send them back to high school to impress all their friends with “I never read the homework, but I always ace the quizzes.” Bully for you, Sparky. Rock on with that.

    2. ThankYouRoman

      My favorite thing was when people had phone screens. Where the manager lays out what the company does and what the position is. Then invites the person for an in person interview.

      Then upon arrival are like “yeah I still don’t get what you do…” despite the phone interview and saying they looked at the website. We’re not that complex, doh.

      1. Matilda Jefferies

        I actually did go to an interview like that, with only a basic understanding of what the company did. But it was a pretty complex and unique organization, and I went in saying “I looked at your website, and I understand X and Y, but I’m still confused about Z. Can you tell me more about who is buying the teapots, and how they use them?”

        So it’s definitely possible to go into an interview not knowing things about the organization! But the key is to demonstrate what you do know, and then ask specific questions about what you don’t. You really can’t go in going “eh, I didn’t look at the website, so I really don’t know what you do. Tell me everything!”

        1. Kendra

          I had an interview that went about like that a couple weeks ago! They asked me to say what I knew about the company and they filled in the gaps, and my answer was pretty much “From looking at the website, I understand you scan and image broken teapots so people know how much it costs to fix them, but I don’t know what technologies and setups you use to do so and what kinds of work I’d end up doing if I worked here.”

        2. Akcipitrokulo

          Phone interview for current job showed I’d got completely wrong end of stick about job… but that I had researched and was listening during and getting where I’d misunderstoid. Which is positive!

      2. chickaletta

        I was that candidate. During the phone screen, the manager started describing the position right off the bat and threw in a lot of proper pronouns of inside projects, programs, and software to describe the job. Like, “This position is responsible for maintaining the Mickey Mouse documentation for the Fantasia project using the Wizardry app, while keeping it in line with the Purple Standard and maintaining contacts within the Outer Realm. The biggest challenge for us right now is the Pirate Project because it uses the Cookie monster regulation…” I felt like those Peanuts characters when the grown ups talk… I still had no idea what the department did by the end.

      3. ElspethGC

        My dad works for an oil refinery as an analytical chemist. That’s literally all the company does. Everything involves oil in one way or another. Everything. The number of grads who show up to interview for the graduate scheme and weren’t aware that it’s an oil company is *bizarre*.

        “So, I see you did your year in industry at *other oil company*, can you tell me a bit about what your work there involved?”
        “Oh yeah, I did X and Y, but I didn’t really enjoy it that much. I’m much more interested in Z (that is completely unrelated to anything that happens at an oil refinery) and hope I can develop those skills further.”
        “…you can’t. Because we don’t do that. That is a completely different industry.”
        ^ an actual transcription of what my dad says happened in one interview with a recent graduate. The man didn’t even realise that he’d applied for a company that worked with oil, right up until the interview, which was *on site* at the refinery.

    3. InfoSec SemiPro

      One of the best candidates we’ve ever had (and yes we hired them, they’re an awesome colleague as well) showed up with a little portfolio of background research on the company, on the department, on all of the public talks from the members of the department on our approach to our industry. Being able to have fairly in depth discussion about specific things in our industry and how our company handles them in an interview was So Good. “I noticed that you have a theme about cool fire teapot glazing in your team’s talks starting in 2010, how does that play out with the Glaze Act of 2016? It seems like it would mean having to use tighter temperature controls than industry standard but allows you to produce deeper colors in the blue range, is that true?”

      So much better than hearing “I really want this job and I think I’m perfect for it!” kinds of enthusiasm.

    4. SusanIvanova

      There was one time I *did* read the website – but the team I interviewed for was made up of a recently acquired company whose product wasn’t even mentioned on the website.

      The people interviewing me were totally sympathetic that I didn’t know what the team did. I got the job, it was a great team, but that website issue was representative of the team’s relationship to the entire company. It wasn’t even tiny teapot vs industrial-sized carafe differences – it was teapots vs tea harvesting equipment, and the tea harvesters only understanding of teapots was “well, the tea gets in there somehow”.

  12. Hey Karma, Over here.

    The best person for the job is not a person with emotional and financial ties to a coworker who mistreats you. The best person for the job is the person who wants to be there for the work itself.
    This woman will NEVER be that person. Interview her for the sake of office harmony. Waste her time and yours, once. Husband does not get to harass you for this, ever.

  13. Ashlee

    I also say don’t hire her. The husband was pushy, the wife was pushy and presumptuous by asking for an interview (before you even posted the position) and didn’t prepare or dress for it.

    May I ask for an update after you hire someone? I’m sure they husband and wife will go off the rails if you don’t hire her.

    1. Psyche

      I would give asking for the informational interview a pass since we do not know what the husband had told her. For all we know he told her that he had talked to the OP and she said she would be happy to talk about the position. For me, the red flag is not being prepared for the informational interview.

  14. pcake

    OP, is there a way you can claim that the company doesn’t hire relatives or spouses in the same department? That would make it easier on you, because the husband is going to be a pain in the butt if you say his wife’s not a good fit.

    And I agree with the others – the woman didn’t seem to know a thing about your company or the work, so I expect her husband doctored her resume to suit your needs. If you do decide to interview her, I’d definitely go heavy on the technical questions that she probably can’t answer.

    1. A-nony-nony!

      If that isn’t an actual policy, the husband will certainly know that and it might just make him escalate it even further. Sticking with the generic “not a right fit” is probably going to be LW’s best bet.

    2. HiringManagerOP

      Actually, there are many spouses of employees hired here. For our organization, recruitment can be complicated because we are in a somewhat less than desirable work location overseas. 100% of our executives are expats who have relocated for this job, and to offset the recruitment issue (and to save on compensation package costs) we actually have a policy that favors spouses (since they already speak English, are US-educated, may have some familiarity with our US clients, etc). As a matter of fact, all applicants thus far have been spouses. Whoever I hire will be some current employee’s husband or wife

      1. serenity

        Oh my, that seems to complicate things a bit for you. That’s a very limited pool of applicants if employee spouses/partners are basically your only choice. Good luck, OP, and send an update when this all plays out!

      2. Detective Amy Santiago

        With that information, I definitely think you should not take her husband into consideration when making your decision.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago

            Because he’s already employed there and employee spouses pretty much make up the available candidate pool.

    3. MeganTea

      Unless that’s the company’s actual policy, the time for OP to say that s/he doesn’t hire spouses would have been when the husband first approached them. If OP now “discovers” a policy that doesn’t actually exist, the husband could figure out that OP is lying. Best for OP to simply say wife is not the best candidate for the position and decline to discuss further.

    4. Cacwgrl

      I was just about to comment about how glad I am that we have a policy that states that it is illegal for employees to influence hiring of spouses/family in this way because I see too much of this action as it is.

      To slightly white-knight for the wife, I would bet the husband sold her on the job, told her how it was made just for her and may have convinced her to just try it out. I’m not at all saying that justifies anything, but I would bet that’s likely what happened here. Still wouldn’t hire her.

  15. The Original Stellaaaaa

    I think OP needs to take this process a little more seriously. IMO you don’t interview unworthy candidates for your own amusement, or just because you have a little free time that day.

    Listen, the husband was inappropriate from the beginning, but OP shouldn’t let situations like this drag on to the extent that she starts to forget what’s really going on here. She’s actually starting to think that the wife could be a good candidate after all this nonsense. Shut it down.

    1. fposte

      I think she’s taking the process very seriously; she’s just making a mistake along the way. She’s bending over too far backwards to make sure her dislike of the husband isn’t interfering with her search, and in the process she’s leaned past the very legitimate indicators that this woman would be a bad hire even if she had nothing to do with an unpleasant colleague.

    2. KR

      Well, to be fair to the OP they had no way of knowing the candidate was unworthy when they agreed to the interview. For all they know the spouse could have walked in, rocked the interview, and totally impressed OP.

      1. Murphy

        Exactly. It also was more of an informal chat than an interview (though the wife should have taken it a bit more seriously).

    3. Akcipitrokulo

      It was an informational interview – which does tend to be a “sure, if I have time I’ll do this person a favour” (my understanding, which may be faulty).

  16. AdAgencyChick

    “because if I were to hire a colleague’s spouse, I’d need to be certain we were all going to have good professional boundaries”

    I hear trumpets blaring as angels sing this along with Alison.

  17. Observer

    In thinking about it, it seems to me that the comments about her resume possibly being “embellished” ring true to me. What makes you so sure she IS a “qualified” candidate?

    1. Troutwaxer

      Agreed. This is seriously pinging my bullshit detectors. I’d strongly suggest checking the resume carefully.

    2. HiringManagerOP

      It’s not obvious to me that she’s a “qualified” candidate. However, the previous jobs she’s listed (which I could easily verify, and hope she wouldn’t be stupid enough to lie about) are somewhat more relevant/similar to the position for which I’m hiring than the work experience that the other candidates have listed. So if my department focuses on teapot management and the specific position is about testing acid levels in the pottery clay, and she has some microwave management and toaster oven management experience on her resume, I think “oh, cool. She may have some relevant transferable skills there” but not “omg, she’s obviously a shoo-in for this job.” The other candidates haven’t mentioned experience with kitchen appliances, but that doesn’t mean that one of them wouldn’t just as qualified if not moreso than Wife.

  18. Narise

    I wonder if the wife didn’t come across as enthusiastic for the job because her husband is pushing her to work for the same company and she doesn’t want to. She may want to change jobs but not work for the same company as her husband. Maybe she does not want that boundary crossed so she is coming across as unprepared so you won’t interview/hire her. Either way I would not hire the wife and I would not spend time interviewing her either.

    And if there is any push back from the husband document and loop in your boss and/or HR. You don’t want to be putting up with his comments for the next few months as to why you didn’t hire his wife.

    1. HailRobonia

      Was she blinking a lot in the interview? Maybe she was blinking Morse code for “please don’t hire me, this was my husbands dumb idea.”

    2. Hekko

      I thought that too. She may be actually a good candidate (good resume), but isn’t really willing (bad interview) – both her and OP are basically just trying to get the husband off their backs. With the wife also wanting to preserve the marriage.

    3. CatCat

      I was thinking the same thing. From her informal interview, it sounds like she does not want to work for the company.

    4. A-nony-nony!

      I had the same thought, as well. She might be going through the motions to keep her husband happy, but isn’t really into it herself.

    5. ThankYouRoman

      And maybe she showed up under dressed and vague because she indeed is trying to sabotage the whole thing.

      That’s where my mind went to in all this.

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

      I came here to say this! The wife’s odd actions seem like something one would do in response to the pushy “email them! go meet them in person! have you applied yet?” going on at home. She’s going through the motions. I’m willing to bet money that she does not want this job, or any job at her husband’s workplace.

  19. Amy Farrah Fowler

    Run Away! Like seriously, Monty Python level with Sir Robin’s minstrels. Run. Away.

    They have both shown you that they will use the connection to circumvent the hiring process and you were unimpressed after meeting her. Your impression is a valuable thing in the hiring process. Presumably you have discretion/understanding of what you need in the role, and you want someone impressive.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      I can’t agree with this one hard enough.

      I had a situation that an employee, who was a pot stirrer and had several instances of causing drama, in our company was soon to be laid off. I was getting hints that people thought my group should hire him because we had an open position. The manager of the group came to me and was dancing around the subject (I think trying to feel me out on the subject) and my response was basically this;

      “It’s your group and you are in charge of hiring, but really think about this person. Yes it sucks that he will be out of a job soon and it’s ok to feel bad about it. But do you really want to invite that known drama into your group? You know you can hire someone in and teach them the job, and yes, you may hire someone who causes drama. But you definitely know that this person will sooner or later. ”

      The manager agreed and then said something like, people here are expecting me to hire him just like we did with the other guy who was in the same situation. And to be fair there is a lot of pressure to hire in folks who are about to loose their positions through no fault of their own (downsizing and reorgs). I agreed, and reminded the manager it was a risk when we did with the other guy, because if things hadn’t worked out then I would have been the cause for this person losing their job, and the other guy had zero history of drama in their long career at the company. Eventually I told the manager that, again, it’s her team and under normal circumstances they would have the final say on the hire, but with this employee I would and the manager would have to make a case and convince me he would be a good fit.

      Really the only reason I said that last bit was so the manager would feel like she didn’t have to hire the person under feelings of obligation.

    2. Phoenix Programmer

      I think this is fine – but OP could have not wasted wife’s time if simply being wife meant she would be disqualified.

      I am not understanding OPs flabbergasted response to wife’s info interview questions those felt normal to me.

      1. Elspeth

        Well, the OP is the hiring manager, so I’m sure she knows what informational interviews are like in her industry.

  20. HailRobonia

    In my loony-toons imagination of this situation, the “wife” is actually the colleague in drag (a la Mrs. Doubtfire) trying to double his salary by doing two jobs. I’d name this movie “Mrs. Doubthire.”

  21. AnotherAlison

    I was involved in a recent hiring process where my initial read of a candidate’s resume was “eh”. We didn’t have a lot of candidates, so my management wanted to move forward. I did an informal lunch interview with the candidate and had a slightly better take on his experience, but I told my managers that I didn’t personally click with him and had some reservations. I felt that he was not completely respectful of me and bulldozed me when I tried to speak in the interview. He went through the whole process and everyone else wanted to hire him, then a major dealbreaker was uncovered. The major dealbreaker was something the candidate did in the previous role, but it was highly correlated with the personality traits I was worried about (but no one else was). So, my take is to trust your gut. You weren’t impressed. Don’t move forward with it hoping the red flags will turn out to be nothing.

  22. Lena Clare

    I’m not going to try and improve on the already excellent advice that you have been given by Alison (and always trust your instincts!), but it’s so funny that we were talking about this today in work.

    Our admin assistant used to be a hiring manager in her previous place of work and she was telling us all the horror stories that plenty of candidates bring upon themselves when trying to find a job and in interviews. One guy apparently answered *every* question with a terse “my skills are transferable” and refused to expand you that answer or give actual examples.

    Anyway, I’d say it’s unbelievable the lack of insight that some people have into their own behaviour but apparently it happens so often it’s statistically significant!

  23. SheLooksFamiliar

    Corporate staffing here, OP, and I think your internal threat detection system is serving you well. Hire this person and you will have lots of frustration from either or both the husband and wife. He’s manipulative and pushy, she’s underwhelming and possibly not really interested in your role, and I think they’re already up to some shenanigans – her resume is suspiciously well crafted, yes? Trust your instinct and pass. That’s the easy part.

    The hard part will be preparing for more shenanigans from the husband once he hears about your decision. Plan your response to him, and don’t agree to reconsider her just to get him off your back. With some people, if you give them an inch they think they’re a ruler.

    Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if he tries to work his wife back into the interview process through a side door, or if he talks to someone senior to you in hopes of overriding your decision. I hope he doesn’t, but plan your response in case he does.

  24. Lady Phoenix

    You are that girl in a horror movie that I scream to not go in the closet/basement/anywhere not outside. (We DID just have Halloween)

    Do not hire this woman. Tell your collegue to back the eff away. And stand firm by your decision.

  25. ShwaMan

    A good rule of thumb: If you’re not 100% confident in a choice or otherwise uncomfortable, don’t hire them. CYA with notes to yourself on why, of course omitting the marriage aspect.

    I’ll take someone who is a good fit personality-wise and is trainable and coachable over a strong resume any day.

  26. Boo Hoo

    I read yesterday that 85% of marriages end in divorce when they work together. Could be not entirely accurate but at least you can tell yourself your helping them out in the long run. Ha

  27. restingbutchface

    Honestly, she isn’t acting like she really wants the job. I’m probably overthinking it but it sounds like she did the bare minimum to show her husband she did try out his great idea – maybe she isn’t enthused at the idea of working at the same company as her spouse.

    Either way, it’s a hard no from me :)

    I suspect how her husband reacts will demonstrate why you had doubts.

    1. Troutwaxer

      I would never work for the same company as a relative. I don’t have great social skills, and one of the ways I deal with that is to compartmentalize my life. (And I’ve also pledged to myself that I will never run for office.)

    2. Kate R

      That was my read too. Don’t hire her because she doesn’t even want the job. She really hasn’t been the pushy one here. She sent one email asking for an informational interview and then didn’t prepare for it at all (maybe she was hoping the OP would decline?). Given how pushy the husband has been to the OP, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s being similarly pushy to his wife at home. Saying she’s currently employed but “considering changing fields” seemed a lot less enthused to me than say, giving a reason for wanting to switch fields. She’s barely even faking enthusiasm about a new position.

  28. CommanderBanana

    I really can’t believe you’re considering hiring this woman! Given how intrusive and pushy her husband was, do you think it would be better once you hired her?! What if it doesn’t work out??

    Do NOT hire this woman! Trust your gut! This situation is a red flag wearing a suit of red flags waving red flags outside of the Red Flag Store where all red flags are on clearance!

  29. AnonEMoose

    You know her spouse is a problem, and you weren’t that favorably impressed by her in person. And if you did hire her, I would anticipate that she will give her spouse (intentionally or not) ammunition to undermine you.

    In a different context, I have recent experience with someone who looked good on paper, but was a bit difficult to deal with…and then turned into a complete dumpster fire. This person created problems for me at a point when I really, REALLY didn’t need them.

    Trust your gut, OP – do NOT hire her, and as other posters have said, make sure you get to your superiors with your side of the story first. Make sure they are aware that Colleague was strenuously advocating (translation: being a pushy pain in the ass) about Wife’s candidacy. That, as a courtesy to Colleague (translation: to get him off your back), you met with Wife and were not impressed with her apparent level of interest in the position OR her experience as described.

    And that for these reasons, you decided not to proceed further with her as a candidate, and felt that, as you had already spoken with her, a further interview was not necessary/appropriate.

    You know your own company’s culture best, but in my experience, there’s a lot to be said for getting your side of the story in first, especially if you can do it without overtly pointing fingers at Colleague or actually saying that you expect him to attempt to do an end run (because I completely would expect that).

  30. CatCat

    Don’t waste your time or her time by interviewing her if you’ve made up your mind. She already had an opportunity to impress you with her candidacy and she dropped the ball on that. That’s good for you, not bad because it frees up your time to focus on the fresh candidates.

  31. Essess

    Don’t do it! Both he and his wife have demonstrated unprofessional behavior and lack of boundaries and this is BEFORE you are locked in to keeping the person. It will only get worse once you are locked in if you hire the wife. Can you imagine the involvement of the husband if you have any performance review issues with the wife? Or if the wife has any concerns/complaints it sounds like the husband will be right there adding in his voice.

    1. MissDisplaced

      Trust your gut instinct. Don’t touch her.
      And let me remind people it’s never such a great idea to have a husband and wife at same company if at all possible.

  32. Detective Amy Santiago

    If she really looks good on paper, I’d bring her in for a formal interview and see how she performs there.

    But like others suggested, it does seem possible that her resume isn’t 100% accurate, so I’d really dig into her experiences and ask a lot of situation based questions in the interview.

    I would also refuse to share any information with the husband now that she has formally applied.

    1. Essess

      I would tell the husband *once* that now that his wife has applied, it is not appropriate for him to be involved in the hiring process and that it will be a breach of confidentiality if he tries to involve himself in the decision process. Then if he actually backs off, there might be a chance of some professional boundaries and it MIGHT be possible to consider the wife. If he pushes back or argues or ignores those instructions, then that tells you what it will be like after the wife is hired and you know that it would definitely NOT work out.

      1. J.B.

        Excellent point, and if he interferes make sure your boss knows of the original discussion of confidentiality and that he interfered.

  33. Lilo

    If it were just the bad husband, that would be one thing, but the “fluffy” issues like she displayed at the informational interview overcome a good resume any day. She had her chance already and blew it.

  34. Vixy

    A person I’m social with outside of work has a great resume. She looks wonderful on paper. All the right things, right degree, right experience, etc. Until you start asking her former coworkers about her lack of work ethic, her whining, her inability to take ownership of issues (i.e. it’s every one else’s fault for her ineptitude), the list goes on. Then you notice she stays at positions roughly a year – because in my industry that’s usually the amount of time leadership realizes that this is an issue and they’ve exhausted all their corrective actions.

    Trust your gut. She didn’t wow you in the informal which was a meeting she should have taken with the same seriousness as a formal interview.

  35. Leela

    Oh man, no way if for no other factor than her e-mailing you just because her husband could get her your e-mail is a very big red flag about how she’ll behave once in the role. You don’t want someone feeling entitled to that level of access with you, I speak from experience! I’d be surprised if she somehow developed professional boundaries after being hired.

    Also if her husband is your colleague and not your employee, that gives me an additional layer of pause because I’m picturing nightmare scenarios where you need to have a difficult conversation with her about something, she runs to your colleague, and now he’s looping in a manager and you have to deal with that. Not that it would go that way but that’s what’s running through my mind!

    Also also: IMO intriguing on paper has turned out to mean far less for my good/bad hires than paying very close attention to their behavior surrounding job seeking/interviews. Trust your gut!

    1. Boo Hoo

      A part of me wonders if that is more husband than her. “No hun, Jane wants you to email her, just send it, totally fine.” Wife could really think it was totally fine as husband encouraged it. If I was in her shoes and my husband said to email someone I would.

      1. Leela

        I wondered that too. Still, the total lack of preparation (What does your department do?) doesn’t give the impression that she’s that in touch with professional norms for an informational interview makes me wonder if she’d have cared either way about whether OP had ok’ed contact or not.

    2. Phoenix Programmer

      Not really. It’s utterly normal to use a connection.

      If wife had pestered op repeatedly for an informational interview that would be one thing. Simply reaching out once? Nah.

      1. Leela

        It’s normal to use a connection but OP here wasn’t really a connection, and I could be wrong but it seems more like she’s asking for a job than just “hey! these are my skills in general, I’d love to keep in touch about future opportunities!” I’m also guessing here but it sounds like the wife e-mailed OP at her work address, something that she did not obtain from OP, and it wasn’t a linkedin conversation where it’s more accepted to reach out to someone without them ok’ing contact.

        1. Phoenix Programmer

          Connections don’t have to be 1st degree. This really is normal in a lot of businesses. From updates it sounds normal in OPs business too.

          I have passed on several friends to the hiring managers for informational interviews. It’s not inappropriate of the friend to email the boss after I pass along the email. Of course I check withy boss first – but if I failed to do that then that’s on me and boss should let me know. Not get mad at friend for crossing a line they could not know about.

          In this situation after wife reached out OP accepted reinforcing this was fine and normal behavior. It’s not ok for op to be mad that “the process” is circumvented while letting it be circumvented and not approaching the one who is actually going around it all – the husband.

          1. Higher Ed Anonymous

            Phoenix Programmar, I have to ask: what makes you think the wife is not being given the benefit of the doubt here? You seem to think that OP should bend over backward just in case she possibly could be a good candidate, and you’re all over these comments insisting that OP is mad, using the wife, being unfair, etc. I really think the situation is a lot different than “Unfair!!!” can sum up.

  36. Troutwaxer

    I wonder whether it’s possible to turn this into an opportunity, in the sense that Husband has done a lot of stuff that you don’t like. I’d take the time right now to make a list of all the stuff he has done that caused you problems over the years, including whatever fallout came from his behaviors that you had to clean up. And I’d have those ready for your bosses and The Husband, and if it’s appropriate at some point, or as a last desperation move, you can say, “I hate to bring personalities into it, but I’ve had previous issues with Husband – here’s the list – and this is one of the reasons why I won’t be hiring Wife.”

    Whether this is a good strategy depends on lots of social stuff at your work environment, of course, but if you get the opportunity having it fresh in your mind would be useful.

    1. AnotherAlison

      I would see it as an opportunity to address problems with the husband, but I see it as a separate issue from the wife’s candidacy. You could bring up with management how he was inappropriate during this process, and how it is the latest thing in a series of things.

      I just don’t quite see how the husband being a PITA reflects on the wife, other than the fact that she didn’t stand up to him and let him butt into her job search. My husband and I have opposite personalities (and experience, and types of jobs). We don’t work together, but if we did, your experience with him would be wildly different from your experience with me. I also work with a few married couples, and I wouldn’t judge one by the other. (If anything, it can be one of those things people shake their heads at. “Jane is so nice, but Steve is pain.”)

      1. AnonEMoose

        Because the husband has already created issues for the OP in the workplace, I personally would be seriously concerned that his wife would become his “eyes and ears” in the OP’s department. (Intentionally or not…he could still learn a lot just by “casual” conversation with his spouse.)

        And as other posters have stated, if the OP needed to provide difficult feedback to the wife, it’s pretty clear she would not be able to count on the husband staying out of it. It’s not so much about the wife herself, but about the drama that could easily come with her, whether or not she intended it.

  37. Laurelma01

    Question for others. In this situation as the hiring manager, do we have the freedom to tell the spouse the first time they bring up his wife something along the line of: “Please tell your wife to apply once the position is posted. In order to keep all candidates on an even playing field, I am not free to discuss this further with you or accept her resume from you. She must follow the same procedures as all of the candidates.”

    If the co-worker pushes, can we state to them “that you will not discuss it with them, and any more inquiries / contact outside the normal applicant process will remove her from consideration. That you are unwilling to co-workers spouse for this very reason.”

    I’m wondering if the husband is pushing the wife for this position, hence her lack of interest and preparation for the meeting. If that’s the case, I feel sorry for her.

  38. Yikes Dude

    I feel like “informational interviews” can be confusing in terms of how seriously you should take them. I know that there have been times when my boss agreed to get coffee and was off-put by how the person was treating it like a formal interview. But I’m sure the reverse happens just as often. In this case, there is a lot of other factors, but someone coming off a bit tepid or unfocused during an informal meeting by itself isn’t always a red flag.

    1. Observer

      She came off as far more than “a bit tepid or unfocused”. She’d clearly not made any effort at all. That’s a really bad sign.

    2. McWhadden

      I think there are about a billion reasons not to go forward with this particular candidate. But I agree on this, in general. I’ve known several people who have complained about people treating them like real interviews (dressed in suit, prepared detailed questions, presented resume), and I’ve known others who feel the opposite.

      It’s pretty tough to get just right.

  39. Phoenix Programmer

    I am really surprised at Alison’s and the commenters reading on this situation. It’s extremely ungenerous towards the wife.

    It’s fine to not hire her because of the relationship – but frankly her info interview was not a flag to me? There was no job description at that point. So of course she asked generic questions. Alison is also very adamant that Info Interviews are not the time show of your skills and try to win the job – it’s time to get info about the role in an informal setting. It feels like Alison, the commenters, and OP are docking the wife for doing just that.

    Frankly the suggestions that she is lying on her resume is rude and unwarranted.

    My read on the situation is that OP is at BEC mode with husband and was frustrated with husband for going around the hiring process. But instead if shutting it down and directing him to use the process she got mad at the wife for – what exactly? Not wearing a suit to an informal informational interview and being upfront about her intentions? Considering an industry change and interested to know more about the department? How utterly entitled can she be – except oh wait – that’s exactly what info interviews are for.

    Choose bot to hire her – fine – but there is no evidence she is the ogre the commenters are making her out to be.

    1. Jules the 3rd

      I agree with this. Especially given the info OP gave in the later comments, where hiring spouses is the norm for this company.

    2. Phoenix Programmer

      I also want to clarify that Alison is not treating her like an ogre. I was specifically surprised by Alison’s suggestion that wife fluffed the info interview. Wife’s take on the info interview seemed on par with Alison’s advice for them to me.

      The rest of Alison’s advice was spot-on as usual but I am surprised at commenters suggestions that wife did horrible things/lied on her resume/is a candidate to run from.

      1. epi

        You’ve mentioned this a few times and I think it comes down to whether you would really consider this an informational interview. I definitely would not.

        In a true informational interview, the person who wants information has (or should have) no expectation of getting a job out of that encounter in the near future. They’re there to learn about the company or the industry. This is why it’s often seen as rude or presumptuous to treat them like job interviews.

        In this case, what happened was more like when people stay in touch because they might want to work together one day, or the company is exploring making a position for that person. The wife certainly treated it that way– she contacted the OP to find out if the job would be a good fit for her! There was a real job she might be considered for. She behaved like she was being recruited, with no justification.

        Lots of people are a little more casual when they are the one being pursued, or they are just keeping in touch for the future. You can’t treat every interaction like a final round interview in that case, and obviously you can’t ask focused questions about a job with no description. But it was presumptuous and weird of the wife to act like she was the one being pursued here. And it’s very odd for someone who is married to a staff member, and has relevant experience, not to be able to think of smarter questions than “what does your department do”.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yes, this is where I come down as well. This wasn’t an informational interview in the real sense of that term, where you just want to learn about the industry. This was someone asking to meet because she was interested in a job with the OP.

          1. Phoenix Programmer

            I guess my company just runs these more casually because we take informational interviews about specific jobs from time to time and we don’t expect candidate to come in suited up with a couple hours of research under their belt. They are informal “What would the job entails? Tell me about your department. How does this role fit in?” Are the usual questions.

            It’s good to know my experience (this company and top 10 bank) are so off the mark with these and it’s should be treated more formally when a job is on the table.

            1. Jennifer Thneed

              So, your job candidates are encouraged to learn more about the job before applying? That’s really nice, but it strikes me as exactly the thing most companies don’t want, because it usually involves calling a very busy hiring manager and assuming that they’re entitled to special treatment because they made that phone call.

              And now I need to ask: have you either requested or given one of these interviews yourself, in your present workplace? If you haven’t, please go talk to people who have about the process. You might find out that these are not actually as casually-done as you are telling us. And it really does sound like your company does something very unusual, almost a pre-interview interview. That’s a lot of people’s time (=money) they are spending on the process.

        2. PersonalJeebus

          Let’s say this had been an informational interview in the usual sense, i.e. gathering information about the company, the industry, etc. Yes, you can ask general questions in that type of interview. But you should still at least take a few minutes to look at the company website and Google the person you’re interviewing with, so that the interview can be a good use of your own time. Also, the OP has said this person showed up in a sundress and flip flops. That’s inappropriate for even a casual interview. A suit isn’t necessarily required, but you should at least aim for business casual. If you’re interviewing outside your usual industry, you err on the side of more formal and more conservative, just to be safe. I work in publishing (mostly casual environments), and I wore a skirt suit to an interview I once had at a design firm.

          Phoenix Programmer brought up a polo and khakis as their informational interview attire of choice, and in many fields that can be fine–but it’s important to note that a sundress and flip flops are not the feminine equivalent of a polo and khakis. (I’ve worked in offices so casual, that outfit could be acceptable for women in summer, but I wouldn’t have chosen it for a first meeting; I only dressed down once I was familiar with the office culture.)

    3. HiringManagerOP

      She’s not a BEC to me at this point. If anything, I was over-correcting any potential prejudice from my dislike of her husband by engaging with her outside the formal hiring process in the first place. One thing that I’d mentioned to Alison when I first submitted this question is that it’s possible that I was looking for things not to like about the wife after what I considered a flippant and presumptuous meeting request. So yes, thoughts of “You wanted me to take time out of MY day to regale YOU about a position that hasn’t even been posted yet in order to help YOU determine if it’s a good fit for YOU? And you couldn’t even glance at the website? And you showed up to our professional workplace in the middle of the day in a sundress and flip flops?” were dancing in my head. But “what all does your department do?” as opposed to “so I understand you focus on teapot design and have recently expanded to kettles as well. Will you be incorporating french presses at any point?” is not merely a generic question. It’s the mark of someone who hasn’t exerted the least little bit of effort in learning about the organization they supposedly want to join.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago

        So I’m of the opinion that if she looks good on paper, you should at least give her a formal interview, but I do admit it gives me pause that her husband works there and she still couldn’t be bothered to understand what your department does. She should have gotten inside info from him on that!

        1. valentine

          HiringManagerOP, why did you reward the flippancy and presumptuousness? Leave it be and set boundaries with your colleague.

        2. Jennifer Thneed

          My opinion is that the interaction between them personally is part of the resume. A resume is the information you choose to give a hiring manager about you. Being there in person is another way to give information about yourself. So, she looked good on paper (and we can’t know who wrote the resume; could have been a professional paid to do it) and didn’t look good in person. These are both legit bits of information about the person.

          (I’m seeing it like that young person in the UK who was rude on the train – to the boss’ wife – and thought it shouldn’t have been counted against his candidacy because it wasn’t during the official interview.)

      2. Phoenix Programmer

        I get the sense you expect a lot more from candidates from these informational interviews then is typical. The whole point from the candidate side is to get general information to determine if you would be interested in the role before you spend time researching the company and market trends etc.

        The point from the company side is do a favor to either a) someone with a great resume or b) a connection 1st/2nd degree connection.

        If you are not interested in taking the time to do that – fine – many mangers don’t. But don’t feel slighted that Wife treated it like an informal informational gathering meeting. That’s – exactly what this was. Her behavior was normal and not flippant or entitled at all to me.

        1. Smarty Boots

          Nope, gotta disagree. Even with a real info interview, coming in with no advance prep and vague questions and inappropriately informal dress (the meeting was at the office, right?) — is not good. And she’s not an undergrad who might not know professional norms — she’s a working professional who wants to find a new job, and yet she did not bother to treat it seriously. It was a networking opportunity and she wasted the opportunity. I’d “next” her pronto.

        2. HiringManagerOP

          “The whole point from the candidate side is to get general information to determine if you would be interested in the role before you spend time researching the company and market trends etc.”

          Maybe what is “typical” is something that varies between fields. But I could not disagree more that informational interviews are meant to take place “before you spend time researching the company.” I’ve done informational interviews before, both when I was a student/new-grad trying to gain insight into a particular field and as a seasoned professional, trying to learn about a particular company, department or non-vacant position. And in ALL cases, they were meant to supplement what I already [thought I] knew. Why? Because if I ever did find myself interviewing formally with said individual/organization, I would want to be remembered as a bright person who asked good questions and seemed genuinely thoughtful and interested in the subject matter. With this lady, I very much got the impression that she expected me to convince her to take this job (which hadn’t even been posted). Had any of her questions been even remotely well thought out, I wouldn’t have been so irritated. Taking time out of a busy executive’s schedule so that they can tell you what you could have learned from a google search is not respectful at all, and does not paint a potential candidate in a good light.

        3. OlympiasEpiriot

          I have to say, the few times I’ve done informational interviews, I didn’t have to have HiringManagerOP’s reaction because the people involved didn’t turn up dressed inappropriately and already knew something about my field, my firm (mostly from the website, to be sure), and the general geographical area. I don’t think we have high expectations.

          I mean, I’m a tunnelling engineer. I wouldn’t go to a diamond cutter and sit myself down in the middle of a work day and say “So. What do you do?” That’s weird AND entitled (and tone deaf).

          1. Phoenix Programmer

            Sounds like most places agree.

            Glad this thread came up because showing up in a polo and khakis asking generic “Tell me about your department. What do you envision the role entailing.” Is exactly how I would have treated it because those are how my two companies ran/run them for open roles.

          2. fposte

            I’d also say that “informational interview” is a bit of a generous retrospective casting of that encounter. This was somebody pursuing a specific job opening at the company, not just general information about careers in the field; it’s not really an informational interview in the usual sense.

    4. Ann O'Nemity

      Even if we take the husband out of the equation altogether, an underwhelming interview is enough to reject a candidate. The candidate had an opportunity to impress the hiring manager, but didn’t. She came across as entitled, showed up in unprofessional dress, and was uninformed about the department. Why does the hiring manager owe her a second chance?

      I’d also argue that the “informational interview” was more of a quasi job interview. Informational interviews are usually about learning about the industry, not a backdoor to a job. What the OP described was more like a pre-interview for a job that had yet to be finalized.

      1. Phoenix Programmer

        Yes it seems my two companies were outliers in this. Info Interviews were exactly this – an informal casual discussion either over the phone or at a coffee shop to learn more about the role. Sounds like most places run it more formal!

        1. J.B.

          I think this may also be a field/age issue. I’d cut a student a lot of slack for not knowing what to ask. If I’m in civil engineering and looking for a coder, I also don’t expect them to know a great deal about the industry and want to hear about transferable skills. Her request and the vagueness of it seems misplaced for someone with experience already in the field.

          1. Ann O'Nemity

            Right, circumstances matter. I, too, would have different expectations from a student. I’d also have different expectations if the information interview was with someone who was simply interested in my field and wanted to learn more about it. The candidate in the OP’s case was angling for a specific job. And even if the job description wasn’t complete and the position wasn’t posted, it seems a lot more like formal job interview than the informational interviews I’ve had.

        2. AnonEMoose

          I think part of the distinction might be someone seeking to learn about the company or industry in general, vs. an actual job being a consideration. So it wasn’t really what I’d consider to be a typical informational interview, but something between that and a first-round interview. Personally, I’d have erred on the side of treating it like a job interview, and dressed and acted accordingly.

          As it was, the wife created (intentionally or not) the impression that she was either not that interested in the job, or that she felt she was being recruited. That may not have been entirely her fault. But I won’t fault any hiring manager for taking “what would it be like to work with/manage this person?” into account when considering a hiring decision. And this, plus her spouse being…difficult…are two marks in the “negative” column. Maybe that’s not entirely fair, but it’s reality.

        3. Jennifer Thneed

          It’s not about formality, it’s about content. The formality issue here was just another example of the wife being underwhelming. But you’ve been arguing about content: job-specific as opposed to industry-general.

  40. MissDisplaced

    I wouldn’t touch her with a 10-foot pole!
    Even if she does happen to have the required skills, it was incredibly presumptive to contact you asking for a meeting before the job was even created, based on her husband’s “insider” information.

    And let’s just consider that it is never a good idea to have husband and wife at same company if possible.
    Yes, it happens, but it’s still not ideal and comes with issues. And double that if the guy is a real PIA already!

  41. Jules the 3rd

    OP, I think the details you left out, about ‘overseas company’ and ‘we usually hire spouses for the language fluency’ make a pretty significant difference to the story. Your company is limiting the hiring pool pretty severely, and that should be part of your hiring decision.

    I think your concerns are valid, but you need to look at this candidate in comparison with the whole picture.
    1) Are there any other candidates that might be able to grow into the position?
    2) If no, do you need this position filled, or is it just ‘it would be nice’.

    If you have no other candidates and need the position filled, can you really afford to throw away a candidate? Sure, you may have to step up your management skills to limit and prevent drama, but look carefully at all the alternatives before you rule one out.

    That said, if you have any other candidate who might be able to do the job, I’d give them a preference over this one. Drama does suck.

    1. HiringManagerOP

      It’s not my company that’s limiting the hiring pool; it’s the lack of local human capital/quality that does that for us. That aside, the job was created to answer a very specialized need, so anyone I hire would need fairly rigorous onboard training. And there are certainly other candidates that might be able to grow into the position, just as Wife would have to do. She has some good relevant experience on her resume, but it’s not anything so compelling that it would be absurd to pass her over. And because it’s a brand new position, we won’t “miss what we never had” in terms of filling it. I’d honestly rather do without the additional staff person, than hire someone who brings a ton of drama with them (even if the employee herself is a perfectly professional and likeable person)

      1. J.B.

        And that suggests that when you do interview, spend time focusing on the skills you are looking for and trainability, and take good notes.

      2. Jules the 3rd

        If ‘no employee’ and ‘other applicant’ are real options, then yeah, I agree, pass on the interview and hire. I was concerned that the pool might be so small that you didn’t have any realistic alternatives.

      3. Detective Amy Santiago

        I don’t really understand where you’re getting the “brings a ton of drama” part. Are there marital issues at play? Something else going on behind the scenes? I don’t get a sense from your letter or your follow up comments that the wife has actually done anything remotely resembling causing drama and I don’t think it’s fair to paint her with the same brush as her husband.

        1. fposte

          I think it’s fair to predict that her husband has difficulty separating his professional life from hers in a way that will make having her in the office a drama even if she were great, and her interview indicates she’s not great.

  42. iglwif

    I’m hopping on the DO NOT HIRE THIS PERSON bandwagon too, OP.

    “Competent, trainable, and plays well with others” has it over “Looks like the best of the bunch on paper” like a tent, IME.

  43. virago

    HiringManagerOP has also pointed out that the candidate was basically phoning it in during the informational interview:

    Asking “What all does your department do?” as opposed to “so I understand you focus on teapot design and have recently expanded to kettles as well. Will you be incorporating french presses at any point?” is … the mark of someone who hasn’t exerted the least little bit of effort in learning about the organization they supposedly want to join.

    1. HannaSpanna

      I remember an informational interview that I did when I was just out if uni, where,yeah, I kinda did ask stupid/basic questions. But, I didn’t have the experience I do now, so can forgive myself, and would do it differently next time.
      A ‘phoning it in’ info interview is a yellow flag if the person really should know better. (Also, sounds like the questions she asked could have just as easily been answered by her husband.)

  44. Accidental Trainer

    I wholeheartedly agree that this should be avoided at all costs and I’m a wife who has been hired at my husband’s company – twice. The latest time he told the president of his division that I was to be considered on my own merits and hired or not because of what I bring to the position, not because of him. He ran the other way from getting involved. Which makes it easier to stand on my own in my job. I made sure people knew he worked there in the interest of transparency. They hired me anyway! :)

    This situation feels so off to me that it’s hard to believe she would be a good fit, and for that matter happy, in the role. I would probably interview her to see if it would really work, but it’s fair game to ask how she will manage the role and the family ties. The you can say you gave her a fair hearing and your decision, either way, is backed up by data.

    Tread carefully, these situations can go bad fast. Both spouses must be professional and be willing to act appropriately when they work for the same organization. It’s not always easy.

  45. Volunteer Enforcer

    I thought Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time from the theme tune of Baretta.

  46. Q

    I have a hard time believing this woman is as perfect for the position as her resume and husband claim. Is it possible she falsely tweaked her resume to match the requirements listed in the job ad? The other point, husbands and wives working together, can work if they’re mature, professional people. I have had the joy of working with couples that were nightmares to work with, and the fact that their spouse was there encouraging their horrible behavior made it that much worse. Don’t do it, one jerk is enough. You don’t need jerk+wife in the mix.

    1. Phoenix Programmer

      I feel these suggestions that Wife lied on her resume are rude and unwarranted.

      She took the info interview too casually. There are variations on how these are handled. I could have easily done the same thing – my company and past company are apparently oddly casual about these too. That doesn’t make Wife a liar.

  47. PersonalJeebus

    I’m going to take a wild guess that the wife does not want the position as much as the husband wants her to have it. Maybe it comes with more money and/or prestige than she’s getting now, or maybe he just likes the idea of sharing a workplace with his wife, or maybe (as the OP speculates) he is hoping to use his wife’s presence to his advantage at work.

    The wife is not the one telegraphing enthusiasm about this. Aside from her casual approach to the interview (which could easily be attributed to mismatched expectations of how informational interviews should go), she said from the start that she has a job and is only *considering* changing fields.

  48. Carlie

    Nope on even interviewing her in my opinion. Take away all the issues/questions about the resume, her clothes, her prep, her interpretation of what kind of meeting it was, and so on. What are you left with? A person who told you they were happy in their current job and would have to be lured away from it with something more interesting, who didn’t have even the idle curiosity to find out what your company does, and who didn’t seem to care much to talk to you to learn more. Nope, nope, nope.

  49. KC without the sunshine band

    No. No. No. No interview. No nothing. If the spouse is this much trouble now, there’s no telling how bad it will get when the wife is involved. No way would I go down this rabbit hole.

  50. Snickerdoodle

    I just came here to scream “WHY ON EARTH ARE YOU EVEN CONSIDERING HER WHEN ALMOST LITERALLY YOUR ENTIRE LETTER IS ABOUT HOW MUCH SHE SUCKS?!” into the void.

  51. Erin

    Even if you know for a certainty that the employer is DYING to hire you and in fact wants to woo you, you should STILL be putting maximum effort into the hiring process. That’s professionalism.

  52. DirectorsAreADimeADozen

    Hah, I am dealing with this situation now, except the husband is a prospective vendor whose wife has applied to us in the past. I agree with all the advice above about the wife having screwed up the initial meeting, as well as with the suspicion that the resume is too good to be believed. Neither of these folks has behaved professionally.

    “I’m sorry, I can’t discuss your spouse’s candidacy with you, it’s not professional, and it would violate our nepotism policy,” is what I say every time something like this comes up. With the vendor, the third time was the charm– “I’m not interested in hiring your firm, you haven’t respected the boundaries I’ve set around your wife’s application with us– you’ve undermined my confidence that you will listen to what we want as a customer. Further conversations won’t be productive. Good luck in your other endeavors.”

    I agree with the folks who’ve suggested that you 1) tag in your boss and 2) tag in HR about putting this guy off. He sounds like a nightmare.

    Good luck, OP.

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