my boyfriend thinks only bad candidates prepare for interviews

A reader writes:

I (24F) graduated from college two years ago and was lucky enough to fairly quickly find a job in my field. I’m currently still working there, while also attending graduate school part-time. My boyfriend (26M) is currently in his last year of college and has started looking for his first post-college job in his field (tech).

Last week he was invited to several interviews at different companies in his field in our area. A few days before the first interview, I asked him how his interview preparations were going and indicated that if he needed someone to bounce his thoughts off, I’d be happy to help. At this, he scoffed and said “Why would I be preparing for my interviews? People don’t do that, at least not unless you’re not really qualified and are trying to think of ways to make yourself look better than you really are … I’ve never prepared for an interview in my life and I’ve never applied for a job I didn’t get!” (For context, all of his previous jobs have been part-time jobs in retail or food service). I disagree pretty strongly with the idea that only bad candidates need to prepare for interviews, but I didn’t feel it was my place to push so I gave a few brief suggestions on how I generally prepare for interviews and left it at that.

Well, now he’s had all of the interviews he had scheduled and has received rejections from all of them. He says they all went terribly and that he was embarrassed about them, but doesn’t seem to think his lack of preparation played any part. By no means do I consider myself to be an interview or job searching pro, but I do feel like I could help him find some resources (such as your free guide on how to prepare for an interview!) that would give him a better idea of how candidates should prepare for professional interviews, help him improve his interview skills in general, and overall help him become a better candidate.

How can I point him in the right direction in a way that comes across as helpful and supportive instead of seeming like I think I’m better than him or am saying “I told you so”? Is that possible, or am I better off continuing to leave it alone and let him figure it out for himself?

Oh dear.

Does your boyfriend have a pattern of thinking he knows best even in areas where he’s inexperienced and of ignoring evidence to the contrary? Or does he just have a weird blind spot about job searching? I know you’re not asking me for relationship advice, but if it’s the former, that can be really rough to live with long-term. On the other hand, he’s also right around the age where life tends to knock a lot of humility into people, if they pay attention. (Maybe a bit past it, actually, but not outrageously so.)

The thing that concerns me the most isn’t that he believes no one prepares for job interviews — that’s a weird thing to think, but people think all sorts of weird things when they’re new to the professional world. What worries me is that after bombing the interviews, he still doesn’t think preparation might help next time. That’s an odd digging-in of the heels, especially when someone he likes and respects (you) is making a rational argument for a different approach, and I wonder what’s behind it. Does he think he knows best and hate being wrong? Is he conflicted about moving into professional jobs or afraid of failure, and so he’s self-sabotaging?

If your question is really just how and whether you can point him in the right direction while still being supportive … I do think you can do that in general, but might not be able to do it with him specifically, depending on what’s behind this. The approach I’d take is to lay out what you’re seeing — not just “hey, preparing for interviews helps and is actually a thing you’re expected to do,” but “the way you’re approaching this is surprising to me, seems like self-sabotage, and I wonder what’s going on.” It’s a more intimate conversation, and it’s probably the one that would help both of you the most.

Beyond that, you could show him articles like this and this, which make the point that preparing for an interview is both normal and smart. (There’s also my free guide to preparing for a job interview if you do manage to convince him.) And you could ask if he’d be willing to try an experiment and prepare for just one interview this way, and then decide for himself afterwards if it was worth doing or not.

But if he’s not open to that, then you’re at the limits of what you can do as a concerned partner, and it’s up to him to figure it out from there.

{ 382 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    When commenting, please remember that the OP presumably loves her boyfriend (so be kind), and knows him far better than any of us can from this one little slice. No “dump him” comments, etc. People have flaws. What’s in this letter may be the tip of the iceberg or it might not be — we don’t know.

    1. Friday afternoon fever*

      Hello! As AAM’s profile has grown I’m sure the amount of moderation needed has definitely increased and I just wanted to say thank you for all the time and effort you put into keeping the community kind and constructive and informative.

      1. Lissa*

        Yeah, I think the sticky comments are great, because they give an immediate signal as to a line of thought that has been pretty extensively covered. I can see how it’s easy to read this and think “I must inform the LW of her boyfriend’s flaws and that I think she should dump him!” and not read the comments to see it’s been said dozens of times in dozens of ways. (or whatever else might be taking up all the airspace.)

  2. BirthdayWeek*

    I too work in tech. I believe this fellow is confusing preparing (learning about the company’s target users, or researching what makes them different from their competitors) with qualifications (knowing a certain programming language).

    Best of luck to this guy. I’m also 26 and I would be baffled thinking I know it all when it comes to interviewing and job hunting,

    1. EBStarr*

      I work in tech too and I hella studied for my interview for the job I have now! Not just researching the companies but actually cramming from a book.

      Depending on what part of tech boyfriend is looking for jobs in, it might be somewhat of a rite of passage to brush up on or outright learn new things for the interviews that you will not actually need in your day-to-day life (writing a heapsort algorithm from scratch comes to mind!).

      1. EH*

        Also in tech, and I second BirthdayWeek and EBStarr above. My last several interviews, I did way better when I prepared. I could tell from the reactions of my interviewers, too, that they preferred it when I knew what I was talking about. Even the super-chill Burner guy in cargo shorts and flipflops (who was the head of a team I’d be working closely with) definitely liked it when I had a specific answer when asked why I wanted to work at that particular company. Having prompt and intelligent answers to common interview questions is a must, regardless of what kind of tech gig you’re going for. Competition is fierce where I am, and it seems like it is almost everywhere these days. Gotta stand out from the crowd — in a good way.

      2. lyonite*

        Since he’s just graduated, I assume he has some friends/former classmates who are going through the process at the same time and have already found jobs? It might be helpful if he could talk to some of them and find out what they did/didn’t do that worked. While it seems likely, based on what OP is saying, that the problem is his lack of preparation, there could be other issues, like he’s applying to jobs that are too senior for his skills or something.

      3. Tammy*

        Thirding this. My first position at CurrentCompany was a database administrator role. Before my first interview, I spent some time reading about my company and what they do, understanding the background of the people I was to be interviewing with (yay LinkedIn for helping with that), and so forth. That way, when I sat down for the interview, I was able to respond with meaningful insights and the interview was much more of a conversation.

        For example, the interviewer who was to be my first boss here mentioned “we have our database systems set up in configuration X for historical reasons”, and I was able to say something like “Wow, I bet that makes doing A, B, and C really hard! Did you solve that problem with a solution Q or solution R approach? I’ve had some good successes implemention solution R in a similar circumstance, and it worked well there because…” The conversation was very positive, and my boss told me later that being prepared in that way was definitely a part of why I was hired, even though I had less direct experience with solution R than some of their other applicants.

        I can understand “don’t spend a lot of time learning trendy programming language Z that you’ve never worked with before just for the interview” being a sound approach. After all, there are a zillion programming languages and trendy tools, the first principles translate pretty well between all of them, and picking up a new language or tool gets easier the more of them you’ve used. But preparing yourself with all the insight you can get about what the company does and how it does it? Priceless.

        As a hiring manager, I’ve never made an offer to someone whose first question when I finished my part of the interview was “can you tell me a little about what CurrentCompany does?” It’s not hard to find that out, even for small companies. If you aren’t invested enough to do even a modicum of legwork, how are you going to convince me I should hire you?

        1. iglwif*

          As a hiring manager, I’ve never made an offer to someone whose first question when I finished my part of the interview was “can you tell me a little about what CurrentCompany does?”

          Oh gosh, so much this. There’s no excuse for not at least looking up the company’s website and learning what you can. (Though admittedly some companies’ websites are … a bit unenlightening.)

          1. whingedrinking*

            Even in that case, though, you can say something like, “On your website, you say your mission is to zizzulate frumpquats for the community. Can you tell me a little bit about what that looks like in practice? How would my role specifically relate to that mission?” rather than just, “So what exactly do you guys, you know, do?”

            1. Even Steven*

              You win the day for best phrase – zizzulate frumpquats! I want a job where I get to do some of that! :)

          2. Jadelyn*

            Seriously, you just completely lose me if you ask “what do you guys do?” Do a bloody ten-second google search from your phone in the parking lot before the interview! Find the “About” page and skim it! It’s not that hard!

            1. JulieCanCan*

              100,000,000,000 %

              Asking what it is that a company actually does while you’re interviewing for a job at said company will only show the interviewer how astonishingly lazy and ill-prepared you are, and that you’re OK with that.

              You’re essentially begging them NOT to hire you if you can’t lift a proverbial finger in preparation before the interview.

            2. RJ the Newbie*

              Well said! I know from my personal experience at one large architectural firm and one large engineering that if prospective employees didn’t know what projects we were/had on, your interview would end very quickly.

          3. Just Elle*

            This made me smile thinking back to my first ‘real job’ interview. It was working for a beer company, and the hiring manager asked for tasting notes on my favorite beer. I wasn’t yet 21, and when I stammered out that he probably didn’t want me to answer that, the poor HR guy had a nervous meltdown and told him not to ask the question anymore.

            After I got the job, my manager explained that was absolutely the most important question he asked people in interviews. Anyone who isn’t invested enough in the company to have tried the product they make, doesn’t belong there. Also, sometimes he got snooty replies like ‘I only drink craft IPA’ in which case… they also probably don’t belong there. He wanted people who were passionate about the products they were making, not the ones they planned to make once they got knowledge from our company and ditched.

            1. KTC*

              Family have a story of my uncle being asked whether he drinks alcohol or not at an interview with a alcohol production factory. Lots of people apparently answer no because they don’t want to think what if they drink on the job, steal some of the products etc. What actually happens is they rejected anyone who says no because their experience was that those that don’t drink cannot usually cope with the environment, the smells etc.

        2. Emily K*

          Coming from a nonprofit background, I can’t even imagine applying for a job without looking up what they did! What if you are morally opposed to what the company does, or they have a bad reputation/crappy product? And you just wasted precious hours of your life putting together an application for a company that you would feel gross and ashamed to work for??

          1. TechWorker*

            To be fair I know lots of tech companies that are vague about what they actually do* to the point where grad applicants might reasonably ask that question.

            *reasons inc ‘we do all our work for a single client and you probably wouldn’t apply to them’ or ‘we’re a hedge fund but we want to pretend we’re a software company who do financial research’ or ‘we make money on betfair but prefer the term ‘sports consultancy’.

        3. Lavender Menace*

          Yes. I hire people for my research team and in this day and age, it’s more weird when candidates haven’t done any prior research and seem to be uninformed on my team’s members and backgrounds. We have a public-facing website (admittedly not great, but it does have our bios and some resources on the kinds of work we’ve done) and we all have LinkedIn pages, so while I don’t expect you to have memorized the backgrounds of everyone on the team, I do expect people to at least have some sense of what we do.

    2. TheAssistant*

      There are even whole websites dedicated to prepping for technical interviews! I’ve dabbled on CodeSignal as a way to test my retention of coding skills – it is both free and easy to use.

      1. OP*

        Thanks for this – I’m not in that field so I had no idea about prepping for that side of things, I’m not sure if BF knows about websites like that or not but if not I’m sure they could prove to be very useful.

    3. Aveline*

      Husband has been a c-level tech officer with a global position in the industry leader in the marketspace, he’s been a CIO, he’s worked for a fortune 50 company. He’s KNOWN in the industry. He still prepares for interviews. Not in the same way a first-timer needs to, but he still does research and prep.

      To not prep at any level is ignorance, stupidity, or arrogance. I don’t know what, but it is a character flaw. Maybe a temporary and fixable one but still.

      OP’s boyfriend has an issue beyond just bombing the interviews: tech people talk. If he’s in a niche position or in something where there aren’t thousands of people vying for a position, his nonchalance will get noticed.

      1. Aveline*

        Also, every single attorney and judge I know worth their salt preps before hearings and trials. I know none of them that assume “I’ve done this for 40 years and am the expert, so I don’t need to prep.”

        I also knew a nobel winner who was the world expert on a topic. Let’s call it teapot glazing. He would sometimes give student lectures or public talks. Even though he knew the topic like the back of his hand, he’d still review his “teapot glazing in X” notes each and every time before he spoke publicly.

        If you want to understand the importance of prep, go read the pre-show routines of some of the world’s greatest actors. Almost all of them do homework ahead of time and prep work immediately before performance. Winging it isn’t an option.

        True experts, true professionals always prep.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Itzhak Perlman practices every single day. The guy is one of the most amazing, well-known violinists in the world, and yet he still has to play his violin every day. Just sayin’.

          1. SigneL*

            I remember what Casals (cellist) said, when asked why he still practiced at the age of 90-something – “I think I’m making progress!”

            1. AnnaBananna*

              Aww that’s adorable! I probably would have included a ‘finally’ in there somewhere with a wink-nudge, but that’s just me. And I’m not a cellist. ;)

          2. Jen S. 2.0*

            I follow Hilary Hahn (Grammy-winning violinist who started as a child prodigy) on social media. She practices ALL! THE! TIME!, and prepares for every show, hard-core.

            Related funny: a few weeks ago, she freaked out a little bit backstage after performing because she wasn’t sure what to do for an encore, and she ended up going back out on stage and playing a piece she’d already played in the show, but with different phrasing (…which she had practiced…) so it felt like a new piece. The audience went wild at her ability to play the same piece different ways, but she was upset because she hadn’t prepared anything.

            The good people aren’t just out here winging it on talent alone.

        2. sam*

          Not just prepping as in learning about the company, but people should prep as in “rehearse”.

          When I had to start interviewing again after ten years at the same job, I sat with a headhunter who put me through a ‘mock’ interview with one of their colleagues, and they gave me lots of feedback not just on what I said, but on things like how I sat (I was WAAAY too defensive, among other things). It’s not just about knowing your subject area, but about having good responses for when you *don’t* know something, and being able to appear warm/friendly/the right level of calm and relaxed (aka like someone people would want to work with).

          The thing is, your resume got you in the door for the interview – you’ve passed whatever “baseline credential” test you needed to pass. By the time you’re talking to people, maybe they’re trying to suss out whether the stuff on your resume is ‘real’, but what they really now want to know is if you’re someone that they want to see and spend time with every day. And you could absolutely be that great person, but interviews can also turn a lot of people into nervous automatons or other…unpleasant things.

          1. TootsNYC*


            It should be about more than the company. It should be about you.

            Write your scripts. Identify and verbalize your strengths. Get practice talking so you’re just more relaxed when you do it, which makes it easier to think on your feet.

        3. iglwif*


          Professional solo musicians practice for hours every day. Ensemble musicians do that *and* rehearse together. When you show up for rehearsal, as well as being on time and ready for downbeat at the stated time, you’re expected to have done enough individual practising that you’re not dragging the group down. If you hear an orchestra play or a choir sing a 5-minute piece of music, you’re hearing the result of hundreds of person-hours of individual practice and group rehearsal. Tiny bits of choreography? Onstage schtick of any kind? “Spontaneous” flashmob? Add more hours. None of this stuff happens through innate talent alone!

          Athletes, too: pro athletes work out and practise drills on their own, practise with their teams, watch tape of their own play and opposing teams’ play. They have worked single-mindedly for most of their lives to get where they are. They have game-day rituals for mental preparation, too. They don’t just show up five minutes before puck drop (or whatever) and coast along on talent. AND they practise dealing with media and the public, because that’s part of their job too.

    4. AMT*

      You hit the nail on the head. Beyond your actual qualifications, most interviewers are going to also want to know why you picked their company in particular (which involves researching the company) and why you think you’d be a good fit for the specific role (which requires thinking carefully about how your experience meshes with the job description). If you don’t do any preparation, how can you answer those questions — and even more importantly, how do you even know you’re even interested in the job?

      1. Busy*

        Yes. My boyfriend is in tech, and even aside from all of that, they likely will have you do something to PROVE your qualifications. When my boyfriend interviews, he studies for weeks. And as someone said above, there are hundreds of websites devoted to this.

        With that said, how irritating is it when someone shows up for a working meeting of any kind with no preparation? You spend most of the time explaining and waiting for the other person to catch up, look up information, come to an understanding, and then maybe you can get to the actual “meat” of the meeting.

        Interviews are a lot like working meetings. Part of brushing up before an interview is that you can show up prepared to talk about something specific. It is a meeting where you are expected to actively contribute honestly and effectively.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          With that said, how irritating is it when someone shows up for a working meeting of any kind with no preparation?

          This is a good example, and I wonder if it might resonate with anything from his classwork? (Possibly not from the retail positions, which don’t have many meetings.) If you have any sort of power in the meeting, and a person who could have prepared is instead asking everyone else to wait while they look at whatever it is for the first time, it inspires you to avoid working with them in future wherever that’s possible. A job interview is like the epitome of “if you could avoid working with this person in the future…” situations.

      2. rogue axolotl*

        I’m wondering if the boyfriend is considering research into the employer as part of his no-preparation stance, because it doesn’t really fit into his argument that the only point of preparation is to think of ways to mislead the interviewer. I know some people who are naturally brilliant at interviews and don’t seem to need to prepare much if at all, but (1) it doesn’t make sense to me why anyone would pass up the opportunity to get more information about the employer before an interview, and (2) I’m a little mystified about why the boyfriend hasn’t reconsidered his stance after it was revealed that he is not, after all, a naturally gifted interviewee. Hopefully he’s just embarrassed and will come around.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          It might be helpful to ask him what he thinks preparation means. With a sincere tone of voice, of course. OP, you could try something like, “Well what does prep mean to you?”
          My husband was very fond of saying, “Before two people can have a discussion they need to define the terms used in the discussion.” If I am talking about Thing I call a “widget” and every single person on earth calls Thing a “gadget” I am not going to have meaningful conversations with people interested in gadgets.

          Likewise, if prep is for liars/cheats then that is not the type of activity you are advocating for, OP. You are not saying he should lie and cheat. You may need to say this out loud. “I don’t mean that you should cheat, you can make it on your own merits. But you need to be able to tell them what those merits are.”

          Suppose I have applied to be a Gadget Cataloger (I have gotten over the word widget and moved on.) I need to be able to let the company know why it is to their advantage to hire me over Sue or Bob or Jane. No, I don’t automatically know why it is good for the company to hire me, I need to learn/research about the company and perhaps learn about the people in the company.

          1. AMT*

            Great point! He may define “preparation” as “thinking of ways to weasel out of tough interview questions” rather than “thinking up examples of relevant work you’ve done so you can show off your skills.”

      3. Jennifer*

        I honestly can’t stand the “why do you want to work here” question, particularly when I was out of work. Many people apply when they see a job listing matches their qualifications and the salary range is something they can live with, then research the company after they get called for an interview. I was applying for dozens of jobs a week. Your company isn’t that special. But of course, you can’t say that. More reason to prepare.

        1. Friday afternoon fever*

          It’s annoying but I see its value in screening out people with hopes or expectations that don’t actually match the role

        2. Else*

          I like it better when they ask “what interests you about this job?” – very similar, but more open to talking about what it is about this particular thing that makes you think it’s somewhere you’d be able to really contribute. You can throw in a few nice things about what you’ve heard about the company, or not, depending.

        3. Tammy*

          I’m not usually the first interview a candidate has with my team, But I’ll usually say something like, “as you may know, the key facets of this role are A, B, C and D. Can you tell me a bit about what part of that excites you?” I’m not a huge fan of the phrasing of “why do you want to work here?”, but I think asking an applicant what interests them about THIS job, as opposed to others they could apply for, is a valid question. If the answer is “I’m unemployed, I need work, and this is work”, I’m going to probe into whether they’re going to look for something more interesting/engaging and bail as soon as they find it.

          It’s not so much about my company being all special; it’s about me not wanting to invest the significant resources it takes to hire and train someone who’s going to be miserable and looking for something else as soon as they get here. That’s not cost-effiective for the company, and it’s not emotionally healthy for the new hire or their teammates.

          1. Jennifer*

            I get your point, but hiring someone that may not stay for a long time is a risk you take when you’re hiring anybody.

            Most people are not going to say “I’m unemployed, I need work, and this is work” but for someone that’s been unemployed for a while, that’s probably what they’re thinking.

            1. Tammy*

              It’s not so much about them not staying for a long time. As you point out, that’s always a risk. But I don’t want to hire someone for a job that’s going to make them miserable and unengaged – that’s not good for anybody. Given a choice, I’ve found better outcomes result for all concerned if I’m hiring someone who has some degree of interest/excitement in the work may team does.

          2. Traffic_Spiral*

            “I’m going to probe into whether they’re going to look for something more interesting/engaging and bail as soon as they find it.”

            Nah, job-searching’s a pain.

            1. Emily K*

              It’s significantly less of a pain when you already have stable employment, though. Then it becomes a fun aspirational activity with low stakes…more like looking at luxury apartments and fantasizing about living there than desperately trying to find a new place because your current lease is up in less than a month.

          3. Emily K*

            Yes, I’m a big believer in dynamic/conversational interview styles, where the questions are tailored to the position and I ask follow-up questions, butmy first interview question is always the same no matter what role I’m interviewing for: “To start off, why don’t you tell me how you found out about this job and what attracted you to it?”

            We don’t have to be your top choice or your dream job. But I’d like to know that there was *something* about the job description or our organization that registered as a positive and made them feel it was worth the time investment to put together an application.

            I don’t actually care how they found the job 99% of the time, but I like to phrase the question that way because it will often help draw out not just what they are attracted to in your particular role, but also some information about the overall goals of their job search, like, “I was looking for a job in XYZ, and I came across your ad on the XYZ Association’s job board,” or “A former coworker who knew I’m looking to move into XYZ work saw your ad and forwarded it to me.” Because what attracted them about *our* open position might be that we use an uncommon software program that they happen to be certified in, or that the role blended X & Y disciplines that are usually separate roles and they would love the chance to do both, but what they’re looking for *in general* might be an organization where there’s room for advancement because there isn’t in their current role, or they’re a department of one at their current job and have realized they would really rather be wearing just one or two hats than the six or seven they wear now.

          4. Calpurrnia*

            I really like this phrasing. You’re kind of preempting some common interviewee questions, and you give them a chance to say something like “A lot of people might find X and Y boring, but it’s actually one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about (past experience) because (what they like about it, what makes them good at it, etc) and I’m hoping to move more in that direction with my work.” That isn’t an answer that the “well I need to pay rent, and your paychecks contain money” crowd would reasonably come up with, so it helps to differentiate the people who want THIS job from those who want A job.

            I think I said something kind of similar in my interview for my current position, about how my best days at my previous job were the ones I got to spend heads-down and deep in the weeds of spreadsheets, and particularly when I was figuring out how to build something to solve a generalized problem systematically instead of building a specific solution for every individual problem when it came up. Since they’d discussed earlier in the interview how they were hoping to hire someone who could be a leader in their efforts to automate some analytical problems, it was really right up my alley. A question phrased like this helps find those people.

        4. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

          You would be shocked how many entry-level people answer it with their unfiltered internal monologue. As in, say something very stupid that would mean they don’t really want the role or the company or the department and might leave within a year. I used to work in a trendier part of my industry, but in a less glamorous department with more of a logistics focus than the popular representation of my industry. We always had to screen for why you want to be here, and particularly in this group/role (just a general department assistant with some minor special skills). We used to get done with 75% of an interview and then these dodos would say “I want to go to grad school” “I want to move to xyz city next year” “I’m really interested in film but they’re not hiring” (yes like in reality bites), “I want to know about moving internally to teapot rockstars”. YOU HAD ONE JOB.

        5. seller of teapots*

          I have been doing *a lot* of hiring this past year, and I have found it to be a really useful question. I am not under the illusion that people are applying to our tiny company because they think this is some sort of dream job, but I do want to gauge their level of interest in our particular market, or this particular role, etc.

          Basically, I don’t need to hire super fans, but I need to hire people who have some sense of what they are getting into and find that it resonates with them.

          1. Shad*

            I’ve tended to acknowledge that yeah, a part of it is wanting any job, but only briefly, and then move to some aspect of this particular job that I can honestly claim to be excited about.
            Because really? I want a job because I need money to live in the world. Most of my biggest passions are not the kind of thing that can earn one a living, so I don’t really expect my work to make me passionate, just keep me content!

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I like the insight into spending a few hours boning up on the company vs the same time boning up on qualifications you don’t have. Add in the pop culture version of job interviews (which seem to rest on hitting on some obscure connection no one could have guessed beforehand) and his previous interviews being retail-esque (where a good rapport with the hiring manager suggests the ability to form a good rapport with customers) and I can see this.

      For where you are now–you can’t get other people to do sensible things that would help them in their job search*, be they your parent or kid or sibling bf/gf or friend. If he wrote in, I think people could provide oceans of interview advice. If anyone not him wrote in… I think offering your opinion, once, then backing off is the adult interaction way to go.

      *And of course half the time on this blog, the concerned person trying to give a loved one what they believe to be sensible advice actually has no idea of norms now rather than 40 years ago, or norms in this field vs their own field.

      1. Emily K*

        Add in the pop culture version of job interviews (which seem to rest on hitting on some obscure connection no one could have guessed beforehand)

        Oh my gods, this just reminded me of a commercial I was getting at one point basically every time I watched Hulu for several weeks, possibly months. It was an ad for a working adults degree program and featured a young woman being interview by a stuffy old man and woman, and went something like:

        Stuffy old man: International business. This is complicated stuff.
        Young woman (nervous): That was my major.
        Stuffy old woman: There are concerns about your readiness. Why should we hire you?
        Young woman (pauses): Your practices are not compliant with industry standards, your overseas operations are giving you standard currency exposure risks, and your biggest competitor is beating you to market.
        {{Stuffy old man and woman exchange a look}}
        Stuffy old man: When can you start?
        Young woman: Monday.

        It came on ALL THE TIME and annoyed me for so many reasons:

        1) Where are these “concerns” about her readiness coming from? Why isn’t the shadowy group behind them interviewing her? Why was she even brought in for an interview if you don’t think she is ready?

        2) Everything she criticized was sort of obvious business school 101 cliches AND ALSO she really had no way of knowing whether the business was following best practices or not accounting for risks.

        3) They went from some unseen group of people having “concerns” to offering a job on the spot, in the interview?

        1. Lily in NYC*

          It’s nice to see someone else over-analyze commercials! I remember the one you refer to and you are so right. I get irrationally annoyed that people love the “what are you wearing” “khakis” “she sounds hideous” commercial – because it makes no sense! If an angry woman picked up the phone to confront a romantic rival, the last thing she would say is “what are you wearing”. I realize this probably makes no sense to you if you don’t live in the US.

    6. sfigato*

      I have interviewed a lot of people (though not in tech), and it is almost 100% a deal-breaker if a candidate clearly doesn’t know much about the organization or position. They don’t have to know all the nitty gritty, but they need to show that they put some effort into learning what we do and what we are looking for. If they are so careless as to not be prepared for a job interview, what are they going to do when they meet with clients?

      1. BirthdayWeek*

        One question we ask our interviewees via the initial phone interview is, ‘Have you checked out our website?’ If their answer is No, the interview begins to wrap up.

    7. Jen S. 2.0*

      This is a best-case scenario read, and I appreciate it, because I hadn’t thought of this scenario. I 100% agree that you can’t make yourself qualified for a job where you aren’t by cramming for a couple of days beforehand. If that’s what he thinks other people are trying to do, okay, he’s got a point.

      But it doesn’t sound like it. Interviewers like it when an already-qualified candidate comes in knowing about the company’s background; the company’s work, philosophy, and products; the market; the competition; and the future with regard to what the company does … and being able to describe how your own background fits into all of that. This is a sign to them about what type of prepared, knowledgeable employee you will be.

      Moreover, he will suffer by comparison to equally qualified candidates who *have* done all of that. The best people are qualified AND don’t show up knowing bupkus about the company and its current state of affairs. This will be a tough lesson for him.

      I often note that — especially in social media culture — a lot of folks seem to believe that other people truly just magically get everything right on the first try, wake up looking perfect, have all the information at their fingertips, have perfectly-behaved kids; never feel anxious or hopeless or depressed; have perfect happy relationships; get As in everything without trying, never have hangovers, stay thin while stuffing their faces and never exercising, et cetera, et cetera (and, by extension, that something is wrong with someone who *doesn’t* get it all perfect with no effort). Nope. People put a *lot* of effort into having things look perfect in public (…or online…), and they only publicize the end result, not the effort and the mistakes (or, crucially, they only show the funny mistakes). This dude may well get shown up by someone who IS putting on the effort, and who will show up to to the interview looking perfect in public.

    8. TootsNYC*

      The other part of “preparing for an interview” is simply getting comfortable with the things you want to say, not JUST learning about the company.

      -anticipating common questions
      -examining your own experiences and skills, and figuring out how to talk about them effectively.
      -being comfortable with thinking on your feet.

    9. Archaeopteryx*

      And besides researching the company, you want to prepare good examples for all of the “Tell me about a time when you did X or were challenged by Y” questions that good interviewers ask. I’ve definitely had to ask for a minute to think when asked some of those in the past, and I wished I’d had a good example ready to go!

    10. The New Wanderer*

      My husband and I also work in tech (different fields). We each have 20+ years of experience and we still prep for interviews. My prep steps are mostly to review the relevant research, the company and its projects/products, and answers to standard questions per Alison’s guide. His are primarily reading up on and practicing coding exercises. You should never go in cold to an interview and assume your background is enough to carry you.

    11. Wendy Darling*

      I work in tech and most of the people I encounter prepare HARD for interviews, especially the programmers. I’ve known people who took time off their current jobs to cram algorithms and data structures to prepare for interviews.

      I don’t think that’s a GOOD thing (programming interviews are messed up) but I’m shocked that someone in tech thinks only scrubs do interview prep!

    12. I Heart JavaScript*

      I’m also in tech. If anything, tech interviews skew even more heavily towards studying/prep than other industries.

      I’ve worked in retail, finance, and now tech. Of all the interviews I’ve done, the tech ones were the ones that most needed study time. You need to be able to pass the tech screens, the white-boarding exercises, interviewers asking about domain knowledge, etc. Tech interviews can touch on just so much and most people don’t do everything they’ll be asked about all the time, so you need to spend time prepping.

      If he really doesn’t think you should prep for tech interviews, how does he think the author of Cracking the Coding Interview has made so much money? It’s such a well known book that a lot of people will just use the abbreviation (CTCI) and others will know exactly what they mean.

  3. H.C.*

    I think this might be influenced by his previous experiences being exclusively food/retail, where “interviews” tend to be a bit more cursory, along the lines of “can you do X & Y?” and “this is your starting rate & hours; if that works for you, when can you start?”

    But yeah, most jobs outside of those industries (particularly any in office settings) will require some research, preparation & developing soft skills.

    1. Yabba*

      I’ve run into this with my partner, actually. He’s been a massage therapist for years and whenever he interviews at a new place, it’s just “Can you do massage, are you an obvious idiot? No? You’re hired!” It took a while for him to get why I got nervous and studied up before interviews for research positions. And the few times he’s applied for jobs outside his field, he’s been frustrated at the amount of stuff hiring manager require. But…he’s older than this person’s boyfriend has had learned that if he keep bombing something, he probably needs to prepare more next time.

    2. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

      In my experience, those interviews are, “Can you Work from X to Y Z days a week? Do you have a pulse? No pulse? Hum, we wanted someone with a pulse but you pissed clean. OK, you start tomorrow?”

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I know the job ad says must have pulse, but given the applicant pool we can maybe be flexible if you have at some point had a pulse in the past…

      2. Sapphire*

        I remember an interview at a sandwich shop where they weren’t going to hire me, but then the hiring manager asked if I had a car and a clean driving record. I said “Yes.”

        “Great, we need a delivery driver, how soon can you start?” Even if I didn’t have a pulse, they probably still would have offered me the job.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          To be fair a zombie or vampire with a clean driving record could absolutely deliver sandwiches.

    3. FTW*

      Agree. Many candidates estimate how difficult it is to tell a concise and clear story that communicates value, where the other person has no context and background.

      Equally difficult can be explaining/supporting what you are interested in, what your key skills are, and address any question marks on your background in a way that is positive and reflects an understanding of the position/company.

    4. OP*

      I think this was a big part of it, for sure. After giving him a few days to cool off I asked him what surprised him about the interviews or what went differently than he expected and he said that he was taken by surprise when he was asked to do technical tests and to answer questions that required more thinking. I think he expected interviewers to see his degree as *proof* that he had the qualifications they were looking for and that interviews were just formalities intended to make sure you’re not an idiot. I don’t think he necessarily was thinking about the fact that ALL the applicants will have the degree, so interviews are intended to sort out the great from the good or the minimally qualified, which is definitely naive but not necessarily a cardinal sin.

      1. elemenohp*

        I’m a non-tech person who works in IT, and it sounds like he really doesn’t/didn’t have an understanding of the tech interview process at all. Skills testing is incredibly common (probably ubiquitous) for tech roles. On my team, developers take a pre-interview technical test online before HR even decides to bring folks in for an interview. Then, at the actual interview, applicants are expected to whiteboard solutions (maybe that’s what he meant by answering questions that require more thinking?). And our process is a little less intense than others. I’ve heard that some places expect applicants to participate in all-day hackathons as part of the interview process.

        I know the issue is that he doesn’t see the value of prepping, but it sounds like he would *really* *really* benefit from it. It’s not an issue of needing to brush up on technical skills. It’s an issue of needing to learn the professional norms of his field. Maybe framing it that way would help? I don’t know…

        If he’s able to move past the resistance, others have recommended good sites to prepare for tech interviews. also has an interview prep module that, as the name suggests, is totally free.

  4. Stephanie*

    Oh. Oof. I would prepare for interviews, but not rehearse my answers enough. I definitely didn’t realize how much I rambled (or just gave way too much information) until I rehearsed with friends. I’ve been helping out with intern interviews and am now realizing how tough it is to follow long-winded answers. I think most people have a blind spot when it comes to self-perception, especially something like an interview that’s not particularly natural.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      I didn’t really realize until this job, when I was on the team doing the interviewing, how highly some manager rank the preparation of applicants. Clearly my boss was looking for applicants who had spent a lot of time (at least an hour? Two?) looking through our website and our print materials so they would be conversant in our programs, use the right names for things, have an excellent sense of our mission, etc. TBH, I was probably one who didn’t do much homework on that stuff myself. She sees it as a proxy for how disciplined and conscientious they are in general, and how much “above and beyond” they’re willing to go.

      1. MCL*

        When I was a rookie interviewee I made the mistake of not doing any research about the well-known company I was interviewing for (a very brand-recognizable major food manufacturer). One of the questions I was asked was something along the lines of, “What do you know about our company?” or maybe “What about our company attracted you to apply here?” Anyway, it was clearly a question designed to show how much research I had done about the company. I had done NONE, and it showed. I bombed that question so hard, and although it was a tough lesson to learn it was a really important one: time spent preparing for interviews is an important part of the process!

        1. R.D.*

          I had that exact experience. Magically my interview ended fairly quickly after that.

          It still took me a bit to really understand what it means to prep for an interview. My first reaction to the letter was extreme annoyance at the boyfriend, but then I remembered my interview skills at 23 and how they had not improved when I was job hunting again at 24.

    2. Ro*

      You used the word “rehearse” and that rang a bell for me.

      Maybe he is confusing preparing vs. coming off as “rehearsed” or inauthentic.

      The point of preparing and rehearsing is not to sound rehearsed, but comfortable in the interview. Maybe explain it to him using the analogy of his favorite performer. Nobody, no matter how talented, steps on stage without preparation. And the truly prepared don’t even come across as rehearsed, but just natural. That should be his goal. Rehearsals and practice is where you get flub up, realize you don’t have a good answer for common questions, etc. and the stakes aren’t high at all since it’s just practice.

      It might also help to remind him that the interviewing process is sometimes very far removed from the actual work you’ll be doing in that role. (i.e. lots of jobs require to be able to do technical work, but not necessarily talk about, or explain who you are as a person, or talk about your achievements, etc.) So you practice before interviews because in most cases, the test to see if you’ll be right for the job isn’t actually doing the work (although sometimes that will be part of it, but only if you pass the earlier interviews).

      1. Not a Blossom*

        I think this is terrific advice. I hope it gets through to him, because this is a weird hang up that is likely going to be problematic for him in the future. I would say that there is more to preparing than just rehearsing, but if the OP can use the rehearsing analogy to open the conversation, perhaps she can then broaden it.

      2. Bee*

        Also, regardless, he’s going to be rehearsing for these interviews. Would he rather do that by blowing his shot at a bunch of other jobs, or by practicing ahead of time?

    3. MissDisplaced*

      I’m older, and thus have been on many, many interviews and got many jobs. I’ve prepared for most of them as best I could, and sometimes over-prepared for a number of them. And yes, there were a few that came up so quickly, I didn’t prepare much at all.
      I feel that the ones where I prepared somewhat is where the sweet spot lay, and where I got most offers, though it probably also didn’t get me some jobs I may have liked, because there were a few times they asked me things and I felt I really oofed-it on some answers. However, I’ve also learned not to over-prepare, if that makes sense, because I don’t want to waste so much time on something you’re not sure you’re going to get either, and sometimes you may come off as too perfect and pat (as in not ‘real’). But beyond basic interview skills, I will generally take at least an hour or so to research the basics of a company I’m going in to.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        “Because I don’t want to waste so much time on something you’re not sure you’re going to get either” – this is definitely something I’ve struggled with, personally – if I wasn’t sure the job was the right fit for me, or if I felt like my chances were low, I haven’t prioritized hours of interview prep because I felt like it was a long shot that the job would pan out, and then all that time would be wasted. However, I’ve been trying to move away from this mindset since you never know, maybe this would have been the perfect opportunity if I’d been prepared! I think an hour or two is probably never wasted.

  5. CatCat*

    “He says they all went terribly and that he was embarrassed about them, but doesn’t seem to think his lack of preparation played any part.”

    I’m so curious about why he thinks the interviews went so terribly and why he felt embarrassed.

    Can you point him to the college’s career services office? I mean, even if they’re not the greatest, I cannot possibly imagine that their advice would not include preparing for an interview. Maybe he needs to hear this piece of info from more people.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      If you’re in the US, anyone looking for work can go a free Career Center (search for yours on and get advice and support from people who aren’t his girlfriend.

      If I were puppet master in this case, I’d get him into a job club or interviewing workshop ASAP so that he can see other people of his age/experience (and those beyond) all preparing and thinking about maximizing their job search efforts. Peer pressure/peer example is a marvelous thing.

      1. OP*

        We’re not in the US and I have had bad experiences with college career centres (albeit at a different college) that make me hesitate to recommend him to a career centre, but I do think there could be value to encouraging him to talk to someone in his field with more experience (maybe even hiring experience) and might be in a better position to offer advice that he might take.

    2. Myrin*

      Yeah, I’d be really interested to know where that disconnect is coming from.

      Unless he realised after the fact that he accidentally wore bottomless trousers to all of these interviews or something similar, I can’t imagine what other than his own unpreparedness could have been a source for embarrassment here.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Well, to be fair, you could have thought you were adequately prepped on the facts of the job / company / your experience and still be embarrassed if you felt like you came across as nervous, sweaty, were rambling, spoke too quickly and in a high pitched voice … ask me how I know :P

        1. Baby Fishmouth*

          Oh god this is me. I practice and prepare like crazy, and yet my physical reaction to normal interview nerves is super embarrassing. Sweaty, red face, speaking too quickly…. I have it all.

        2. TootsNYC*

          but if he can identify those as the cause of “feeling embarrassed,” then our OP can point out: Preparing for interviews can mean practicing your answers so you’re NOT rambling.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Nothing like prepping for the next interview while on the CURRENT interview. Ugh.

          OP, you could ask him to give an example of one the lesser embarrassing moments and ask him what he would like to do differently.
          When he is done explaining, tell him, “this is what interview prep looks like”.
          Going the other way, ask him one thing that he thought went well. Then point out, “Okay since you know it went well, you can use that again or use a variation of that again if that question comes up.” This is also interview prep.

    3. Forrest Rhodes*

      I feel your pain, OP. Trying to help one’s partner out with something like this is like trying to teach someone you love how to drive a stick shift; sometimes it’s better if the information comes from a less-connected source, no?
      I’ve read iffy comments here about college career centers; is there perhaps a former prof whose suggestions your BF would hear more clearly? Or maybe a mentor-type person that BF already knows, who’s been in the business for a while?
      Best of luck to you both!

    4. rogue axolotl*

      My guess is that he thought he was an interview expert due to his retail experience, then realized that interview norms are different in office jobs, was embarrassed about being out of sync, but has yet to acknowledge that his own stubbornness played a role here because then he would have to recognize that he blew quite a few opportunities. In any case, his behaviour doesn’t seem terribly mature, but hopefully with time he’ll take it as a learning experience.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Or, if he heard the phrase, “Well, you SHOULD know!” a lot as a kid or teen. That phrase kills inquisitiveness so fast. And it can shape a person’s view of how the world works. For example, “People should know how to interview.” I guess it’s in our genes at birth????

        It’s been so long that I had almost forgotten. OP, have you read interview advice from someone who is NOT Alison. OMG. I used to read perils (sic) of wisdom like these:

        **Be sure to wear a purple shirt for interviews on Tuesday. Interviewers will hire more people wearing purple on Tuesday than another other color.

        **You have to pretend to be older/younger than what you are because interviewers don’t like old/young people. So be sure to act like someone you are not.

        **If you go out for lunch do not order a drink, you don’t want them to get the wrong impression.
        If you go out for lunch be sure to order a drink to show you are one of the group.
        [How do I order a drink/not order a drink AT THE SAME TIME?]

        No wonder he thinks these people are cheating, this is crappy, superficial advice with no gain. No I don’t want to be hired because I am wearing a purple shirt, am younger/older or drink/don’t drink. If this is how a company hires, don’t hire me. I don’t want to work there.

        You might want to introduce Alison’s idea that he is interviewing them also. He is finding out if he really wants to work there. Interviews are a two way street. He is not sitting there begging for a job. He is discussing the possibility that he and the employer will dovetail well and have a mutually beneficial relationship.

        1. OP*

          I think this is a good point too, I think he had the perception that prepping for an interview was either a sign that you didn’t really know your stuff and were trying to cram learning all kinds of technical knowledge in the night before OR you’re somehow trying to game the system by figuring out what combination of purple shirt/meaningless keywords would give you an edge and mask the the fact that you’re not actually qualified. Of course that’s not what good, true interview prep is about but I can see how someone could get that misconception if they’d never done it before and got all their info from high school guidance counsellors clueless about the real world and inaccuracies portrayed on TV.

  6. k8*

    depending on what he’s trying to do in tech, he should be at the very least whiteboarding 1-2 algorithmic questions every day . . .

    1. JustaTech*

      I wonder if he knows that? Like, did he have tech-based internships in college?

      My husband is in tech and has been an interviewer for years (he just got an award for it). Many years ago I was prepping for interviews in my technical field (biotech) and he desperately wanted to help me prep.
      “So, what kind of questions will they have you whiteboard?”
      “Uh, none? It’s a lab job. ”
      “But, how will they know that you know how to do stuff?”
      “They’ll ask me questions about what I’ve done before and my general understanding of the science and technology?”
      “But, but, what about the hands-on?”
      “Oh no, you can’t go into the lab, that’s a safety violation. It might be a trick question, though!”

      He was so, so confused that I wasn’t going to be asked to do math problems in a biology lab interview.
      But if he didn’t talk about the kinds of interviews he does I would think that no one would ever ask you to sit down and solve problems in an interview.

  7. stefanielaine*

    OP, I know this isn’t Hax and you’re not asking for relationship advice but GIRL, RUN. RUUUNNNN.

      1. Antennapedia*

        I got two paragraphs in and was like “Girl, sometimes you just have to throw the whole man away and start over.”

        1. OP*

          For a variety of reasons I don’t necessarily think this is the answer for me now, this comment had me dying laughing! I have definitely been there and without additional information and context I can see how my letter would lead to that conclusion.

    1. Jake*

      I’m not sure that’s fair. Many of us had blatant misconceptions about how the working world works at that stage in our life.

      The is little indication that this is a widespread issue.

      1. tangerineRose*

        I agree with Jake. Of course, if this is a widespread issue, it would be very hard to live with.

      1. Antennapedia*

        It’s not the OP’s job to fix the fact that her boyfriend seems to think he knows more than he does. Especially not at 24.

        1. Lance*

          True, it’s not her job… but she still, clearly, wishes to stay in a relationship with him, and help him. This entire letter is her trying to figure out how she can do that, so, as Alison effectively suggests above, we should stick to that.

          1. Artemesia*

            I firmly believe that you cannot help a partner, particularly with his career, unless he actually asks for your help. It is easy to slide into a Mommy role and end up with a nagging/resisting dynamic. If he is embarrassed about his failed interviews and WANTS her help then passing along Alison’s materials is a good idea. Better to not be personally coaching but rather putting him in contact with resources. Adults manage their own careers; trying to manage a partner’s career is a guaranteed slide to misery in a relationship. You don’t want to be his Mom; it sort of kills the romance. So give him the URL and that it helped you and step back and let him figure it out. And ‘I told you so’ kills any chance to be helpful and unfortunately being right means any further suggestions feel like ‘I told you so.’

            1. rogue axolotl*

              I tend to agree–it’s not the LW’s job to find the gentlest possible way to persuade the boyfriend that he’s wrong about this without bruising his ego. To be a mature partner (and employee), he needs to be able accept his own failures with less defensiveness than he’s showing here, and that’s on him. That said, I do appreciate that it must be hard to watch him self-sabotaging like this.

            2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

              There is a point where if it starts affecting HER life she is well within her rights to speak up. If they live together and she is paying all the bills because he can’t get a job she has a right to speak up. Heck, if he even talks about it all the time and she is expected to listen to him complain about not getting these jobs when she knows it is his own fault, she can’t be expected to just hold her tongue. Both of these situations would also kill the romance. When you are in a committed partnership your career can affect your partners life, and they do have the right to voice their thoughts and feelings on the parts of it that affect their life.

              1. TootsNYC*

                also, watching him be an idiot about his job search will kill the romance pretty quickly as well! I find that admiring my partner is a HUGE part of the appeal, romantically, sexually, etc. It’s easier to put up with socks on the floor if I can admire my partner’s business acumen.

                So, I personally would be watching to see whether he grows at all, especially since she’s not actually married to him.

        2. Jake*

          That’s part of a healthy relationship, helping each other become better.

          Just because the lesson wasn’t learned immediately doesn’t mean it won’t be.

        3. Archaeopteryx*

          In his mid-20’s this kind of ‘adult immaturity’ isn’t a cardinal sin. It’s more about how he reacts to this lesson than about the fact that he had to learn it. Does he continue to dig in, shield his ego, get bitter or slough off your input? Bad road. Does he struggle a bit but come out the wiser? We’ve all been there in some way or another.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Please don’t do that here. We have only a tiny piece of the info that the OP has, and I don’t want the OP to feel she has to defend her relationship to us.

      1. stefanielaine*

        Whoops – I posted before your request and I don’t think I have the power to delete my comment so if this isn’t where you want the comments to go, please delete with my apologies.

    3. Doodle*

      Nonsense, and really, unhelpful. We know absolutely nothing about their relationship. We don’t know if he’s like this with respect to everything (and even if he is, that’s not enough to say dump him) or just re interviewing/professional jobs.

      Who has not done stupid stuff or been ridiculously wrong or pigheaded? If that’s all it takes to make someone unworthy of a relationship, we are all of us going to be lonely lonely people.

      1. Adam Ruins Everything*

        To be fair, Alison, you addressed the relationship part of this issue before you even got to the work part, while acknowledging that it wasn’t what she was asking about. You may not have been as harsh or as presumptuous as some of these comments, but you did take it upon yourself to give her advice she didn’t ask for, which probably encourages commenters to do the same thing.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t have a problem with people addressing the relationship part of this. I’m asking people not to be unkind about or it tell her to end a relationship they know little about.

          1. Aveline*

            Yep. There’s a huge difference between asking if this is indicative of his general personality (i.e., Is he always someone who wings it? Is he defensive? Does he think he’s better than he is?) and saying DTMFA.

  8. MusicWithRocksInIt*

    Wow. I agree that if this is a one off then that’s one thing, but if this is a pattern for him or if someone who knew him would be totally unsurprising by this – then maybe you should be writing to someone for relationship advice?

    Maybe if you could manage to take a quick survey of his peers in a casual environment it could prove how off-base he is? Like if you are ever hanging out with a group of people he respect or is close to (in your age range, not family!) ask around how they prepare for interviews. If he realizes he is the only one with this idea it might sink in better. Although if he will believe his dude friends and he won’t believe you, I go back to maybe you should be looking closer at the dynamics of this relationship.

    1. submerged tenths*

      GREAT idea! Subtly exposing that his peers *DO* prep for interviews might just change his perception enough that he won’t bomb the next one — even if he doesn’t want to take LW’s advice on how to prepare.

    2. rogue axolotl*

      Actually, I would argue that the boyfriend’s problem here isn’t actually that he doesn’t understand the value of interview prep, and I think any attempt to belabour the point or prove him wrong is likely to backfire, as tempting as it may be. At this stage, it doesn’t sound like a knowledge or understanding gap, but a resistance to owning up to his mistake (or more troublingly, a resistance to admitting that the LW is more informed than him on this topic).

  9. T. Boone Pickens*

    Yikes! I feel for you OP. What a tricky spot to be in. I’m not sure where your partner got this idea stuck in his head but he’s dead, dead wrong. Alas, you can lead a horse to water…Your instincts are spot on with going with something like the AAM guide to interview prep.

    This isn’t directly transferable to you but I own a recruiting firm that primarily recruits in the legal space and I did executive (C suite) recruiting for 5 years before that. I do interview prep with every single one of my candidates before they go out for an interview. We’re talking CEO positions, SVPs, BigLaw, everything. I would occasionally get push back from candidates who told me they didn’t need my help or were, “Really good at interviewing”. My response to them? “Nobody should ever be good at interviewing. You know who’s good at interviewing? Unemployed people.”

    1. CeeDee*

      This made me gigglesnort:
      My response to them? “Nobody should ever be good at interviewing. You know who’s good at interviewing? Unemployed people.”

      I knew a person who must have been great at interviews. He kept getting jobs that he would get let go from months later.

      In any case, OP, my experience says that you should probably leave well enough alone, but also encourage him to keep applying to jobs to get more interviews and learning from his past ones. It’s not on you to train him how to do an interview.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      “Nobody should ever be good at interviewing. You know who’s good at interviewing? Unemployed people.”

      HaHaHa!!! That is so true! Back in 2014, I went on SO MANY interviews (like 3 per week) that I felt like it was nothing. I didn’t even get nervous anymore. Plus, in 2009 I had gone on even more when I was unemployed for 2 years (not as much to interview for back then sadly). But there is always something that can throw you.

    3. Argh!*

      Thanks for that last comment! I had an interview recently and have been second-guessing myself because I didn’t expect some of the questions. (One was “What did you do to prepare for this interview?”)

      That last sentence will be my happy thought for the day.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        I have a theory that it’s actually the job interviews you don’t care as much about, where you do the best.

        It’s like the ones you feel (on paper) you really, really want, and you over-prepare and are so nervous because you really want it and get all stilted and weird. When you’re not as sure you want a particular job, you tend to be more relaxed and loose, and IDK it projects as more confident maybe?

        How did you answer the “What did you do to prepare for this interview?” question? Were you honest, as in you went to website, recent news, Bloomberg, financial reports, Glassdoor etc.? I mean, I’m not sure what else one would do if they meant it as ‘where did you get company information’ kind of thing.

        1. Argh!*

          I had researched them extensively on the web, including looking up the people whose names I could find to see their backgrounds.

  10. jb*

    If he is like this in other areas of his life (not just the not preparing, but also the thinking he knows better than other people [you] who have had more success than he has), that fits into a particular, and very concerning, thought/behavior pattern that has been getting a lot of media attention lately. I’d be wary of this kind of thing becoming a pattern.

    1. OP*

      It’s not a pattern that I’ve seen overall, really. I was taken by surprise by his attitude towards this. I have to admit I had a moment of “OMG not this again!” panic because I’ve dated other people in the past who had this mindset towards everything and it was definitely a problem. This is a fairly new relationship so only time will tell if he’ll start showing me more of this side of himself as time goes on, but at this point I’m reasonably confident it’s a case of immaturity and ignorance of professional life and norms that he’ll have to work through. We all have things like that, especially when we’re young, I’m sure I’m a little immature or ignorant in other aspects of my life too.

  11. Will "scifantasy" Frank*

    I feel like this almost needs to be written to Captain Awkward, Dr. NerdLove, or even Dear Prudence, because the real problem here isn’t the job hunt part, it’s the relationship part.

      1. Will "scifantasy" Frank*

        That’s as may be. But what I’m focusing on here is that the question is more “how can I handle this relationship issue,” not “how can I handle this job issue?”

        1. Just Employed Here*

          Someone below suggests sending him this thread. I think that should do the trick :-)

          And I for sure would rather have to send an AAM thread to my hubby than a relationship column one…

      1. LaurenB*

        Or, he might just need to fail spectacularly at something once, be allowed to get over the bruise to his ego, and fix things himself. It was one week of poor interviews, not months of stubbornly holding on to an untenable position. Yes, being able to admit that you were wrong is a good character trait, but it was his own interview he bombed; it wasn’t a wrong inflicted upon the OP.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yep. There is a difference between a relationship tester and a relationship deal breaker.

          This isn’t just about him removing his blinders, it’s also about OP responding in a gentle yet thought provoking manner. This happens often enough in relationships where one person gets set on a particular idea and the other person sees a different path.

          OP I have to assume he is with you because he thinks you are smart/clever. He thinks you add to his quality of life. Leverage that. Think about what he admires about you and use that in stories and examples to show him how he can do that himself.

    1. MLB*

      You’re making a whole lot of assumptions here based on one thing. There are plenty of people who write into this blog who are new to the working world and ask questions that we think should be obvious when we’ve had more experience. Just because he didn’t follow her advice doesn’t mean their relationship is doomed.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I completely, wholeheartedly agree with you and I am stunned at some of these responses. I didn’t come into adulthood fully formed and neither did my partner. I can think of a ton of things that I thought I knew but learned I didn’t. That happens even now and I’m 40 damn years old. Always learning.

        Maybe I come at this from a weird perspective because my partner is younger than I am, has only held a handful of corporate jobs (he’s in academia now), and gets strange advice from some people that I try to correct. Sometimes he listens to me, sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes we fight about it. Sometimes he listens to what I have to say and he seeks out my advice, and in workplace situations there have been so many times when he hasn’t taken my advice and I’ve turned out to be right and now he knows. I think we’re not only a normal couple, we’re pretty healthy, especially in this respect.

        The guy is clueless and stubborn. Woe betide any of us who have never been at least one of those at some point in our lives.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I had my husband with me for almost 30 years. There was a point in our relationship where things stopped being a contest of who had the best talking point. We learned each other’s skill sets and we learned when each of us needed to step back.
          He said, “Pick the color for the house siding. I am not good with color and you are.”
          I said, “Pick the tractor. I don’t know much about tractors, but you understand engines and mechanics.”

          It takes time to get to this point in a relationship, this does not happen the first year or even in the first few years. It happens slowly. And it takes bumping heads a few times to find out where the other partner actually does excel. One head bump does not mean pack the bags and leave.

    2. KayEss*

      Eh, I can see why she sent it here. When someone digs in on a completely bonkers viewpoint, even the most reasonable people have a tendency to go, “what if actually I’m wrong and he’s right?” So I’m sympathetic to the impulse to ask Alison whether or not this is really a thing in the mysterious hothouse that is “tech.”

      However, I’m not sure the issue is really even the relationship… at least as it pertains to the guy. The problem is that the LW is trying to be very involved in managing the entire process of his success (or failure), as well as his feelings about it. Which is natural on some level–we want the people we love to succeed, and most of us want to helphelphelp when they’re obviously struggling–but just going to get more and more frustrating for everyone involved. For the relationship to have its best chance at survival, she needs to step WAY back from the whole process–offer advice/resources once or twice if he seems receptive, as Alison said, but otherwise just LET GO. Do her own thing. Take up a hobby or a fun class with the time she’d otherwise spend obsessing over his job search. Seize opportunities for her own career advancement with both hands and without reservation. Yes, it stings to see someone wallow in self-inflicted bad circumstances and be unable to help them because it’s a situation where they have to help themselves! But he’s a (presumably educated and talented) grown man–he’ll either figure it out or unfortunately reveal himself to be someone she doesn’t want to stay involved with. Alison’s right that we don’t have enough information to make a prediction on which of those two things it will be.

      (That’s assuming that her livelihood doesn’t rely on him finding a job OMGRIGHTNOW… and I wouldn’t lock in any serious plans that depend on a continued future with him until he has demonstrated that he can function long-term as a professional in his chosen field. So like, don’t co-sign any mortgages or move halfway around the world with him until he has a steady gig.)

      1. Jasnah*

        Or it could be that she knows a website that gives trustworthy work advice and he doesn’t, hence why she wrote in for a check *for him and also for her*.

        According to her own words, all she has done is ask if he wants to bounce ideas off her, he said no, she explained what she does to prep, and “left it at that.” I don’t think she’s done an undue level of emotional labor on this, I think she has done an appropriate level of support that one would expect from a loving partner. So I think it’s a little premature to suggest she take up a hobby to occupy her time.

    3. Someone Else*

      I don’t think we know enough to know that. She said he was embarassed he bombed the interviews. So his lack of admitting maybe he should’ve prepped could be a (short-term) defense mechanism while he’s feeling crappy about doing so poorly. He might know he needs to do something differently, but admitting it might feel like an even bigger failure than what already happened. And that has nothing to do with their relationship. It’d be true either way, it’s just that we’re hearing about it from his significant other who wants to try to help. But I don’t think the advice would be different if this were just a friend or a sibling. His reaction to his approach to interviews is his reaction. There’s nothing to suggest he’d be different if it weren’t coming from the SO.

  12. CaliCali*

    I think you have the right attitude and instincts, OP. This statement:

    “People don’t do that, at least not unless you’re not really qualified and are trying to think of ways to make yourself look better than you really are …”

    Says to me that he somehow feels that preparation is a form of cheating, and that hiring is a complete meritocracy based solely on qualifications rather than how you present yourself and, frankly, sell yourself. But like it or not, interviewing well IS a necessary skill to cultivate, and he’s going to need to humble himself and recognize that his inherent intelligence and qualifications, impressive as they may be, won’t be enough.

    1. Lance*

      Agreed, on all points. I wonder if it would help at all to liken it to sales, where they may see a good product but still need to know more about it to make a decision; or perhaps see if he’d be open to any sort of mock interview with someone in the field that he trusts, so he can hear it from other sources after the fact?

      1. KWu*

        I think people who have a “preparation is a form of cheating” might also overlap with a “sales are slimy” kind of mindset, so that comparison might not help in this case (even though I agree that interviews are a forum for both the company and the candidate to sort of mutually be selling themselves).

        1. Someone Else*

          I usually associate “preparation is a form of cheating” with people who were way above grade level in school and generally didn’t need to try. It’s that whole “anyone can get an A if they study; if you’re really smart you get an A without studying” mindset. So part of the disconnect for this guy MIGHT be that he’s forgetting that the interviewer doesn’t know him. Even if there is a “test” component to the interview, he’s NOT going to look better for winging it. He’ll just look unprepared because he is unprepared, and for the less quantitative aspects of an interview…the analogy falls apart. There is no intrinsic value to his abilities. His purpose in an interview is to communicative his worth to the interviewer, not to maintain some only-exists-in-his-head standard. His problem may have less to do with him being stubborn or thinking he knows more than he does, but instead might be more that he’s just approaching what interviewing is from a completely wrong angle. How to get him to rethink that without bruising his ego? I’m not sure. But I wonder if what he’s actually trying to do in the interviews is just totally wrong to begin with, and the prep-aversion is a symptom of that, rather than the whole of the problem.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I told a friend in college that I stayed up every night until 11 pm studying, then I just made myself go to bed on time. Friend said, “Eleven pm? Wow. You must be stupid to have to study like that.”
            I shrugged. “I am an average person. If I want to excel, I must apply myself and work hard. I can’t put my hand on a book and have the information seep up my arm to my brain. That does not happen that way for me. Some people it does. Not me.”

            Yes, there are plenty of people out there who believe that studying telegraphs weakness or lack of understanding.
            Friend never got a job in their field because jobs did not come easy like the course work. Life is totally a mixed bag of luck and hard work.

    2. Jessie the First (or second)*

      That is an interesting take! And, for the people above typing DTMFA, it puts the boyfriend’s attitude in a much nicer light – it’s the kind of thinking that indicates he’s naive and clueless about the professional world, as opposed to, say, an obnoxious jerk who thinks he knows all.

      And *why* he thinks he shouldn’t prepare for interviews is pretty key to figuring out whether you can help him, OP. A stubborn “I know better than everyone and am All of the Expert” really can’t be helped, and you’d only frustrate yourself trying. Someone who is just naive and perhaps a little rigid in their understanding of professional norms could possibly be persuaded. A trip to the college career center (I know, they are infamous for bad advice, but the idea that interviews should be prepared for is so basic, they’d have that down) could help in that case, because he might be willing to hear their advice.

    3. Blueberrie*

      Yep, this is how I saw it. This guy thinks if you have the technical skills and can go in and explain how to do a thing, that that will be enough. You only need to “cram” if you don’t know how to do the technical skills.

    4. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

      So, I don’t work in tech but I went to a school in a tech-adjacent major, and I agree with this. Often my coding classes became a pissing contest of who knows the most coding languages, who’s the fastest to get the code debugged and the assignment done, all with the unspoken idea that the person who knew the most was the alpha and would be the first to get a job. This had nothing to do with interpersonal skills, interviewing skills, or anything else that employers look for. If he doesn’t have tech interview experience, I could understand why college culture could make it seem like walking in and saying “I am proficient at this laundry list of things” is all they need to hear in order to hire him.

      1. nonegiven*

        The pissing contests I remember were who wrote a functional main program module with the fewest lines.

    5. irene adler*

      I’m wondering if he thinks that the interview question-and-answer thing is some sort of phony ‘dance’ where unimportant questions are asked and the answers are some type of canned response complements of ‘interview prep’. Hence, nothing is really learned by the interviewer. Therefore, he wants his answers to be as candid as possible to give the interviewer a true insight into who he really is.

      Unfortunately, this usually ends up with verbose responses with no clear point. Or not being able to think up timely and succinct answers to those classic open-ended questions like “Tell me about yourself” or “tell me about a time when you failed to meet a deadline” or “can you explain [insert skill or technical term]?” or “what kinds of things are you looking for in a job?” or “walk me through your resume”.

      1. Kramerica Industries*

        Yes to this “phony dance” mentality. Especially in a STEM field where things are largely quantitative to begin with, I think he wants to believe that his skills should speak for themselves and he shouldn’t have to sell himself.

        OP, I’d go for an empathetic angle. “I used to be really bad at answering questions like ‘Tell me about yourself’ too, but then I found it was a lot easier for my skills to shine when I wasn’t fumbling through my thoughts”. He needs to see that “preparation” isn’t a dirty word.

    6. Dr. Pepper*

      This was my interpretation too. Perhaps he thinks that he’d come off as too stiff and “fake” if he has ready, practiced answers, and that if he’s natural and answers everything spontaneously it’ll sound more honest.

      He may also feel like prepping would jinx himself in some weird way. I’ve come across some odd superstitions especially in young men. Usually centered around sports, but it bleeds into other areas too.

    7. Yet another Kat*

      I think as an addendum to this, I’ve met and worked with people in tech (especially younger ones) who have the mentality that only hard skills “should” matter, and presenting yourself/your ideas is a soft skill. It’s incredibly frustrating to interview people with this attitude, and I hope OP is able to convey that to her bf.

      Perhaps one way to frame this might be that interviewers are looking to see if he has the skills to lead a meeting or advocate for a specific solution, which would involve preparation in a work environment, and an interview is just another version of that. An interviewer may judge how capable he is in preparing to communicate his ideas, by how well he prepared to communicate his qualifications in an interview.

  13. Jaguar*

    For tech in particular, interview tests are pretty standard, especially at major companies like Amazon, Google, etc. They’re typically questions of a certain difficulty that you can figure it out, but if you come prepared (as many candidates do), you’ll do significantly better on them. They aren’t just testing how much you know the programming concepts covered in them (the questions are all heavily covered online and many of their candidates come prepared, expecting the questions already), they’re also testing how seriously you are taking the application – they want the candidates who have studied the questions beforehand instead of the ones that are just breezing in.

    Whether or not they should be doing that is a question in itself, but the fact is that they’re doing it. Not preparing for tech interviews decreases your chances with a lot of companies.

    1. Keyboard Cowboy*

      FWIW, I work and interview at Big Tech Company. We don’t want you to know the question we’re asking. (We actually ban interviewers from asking questions if they get out, ie, if candidates could have learned the solution ahead of time.) In fact, if you know the answer by rote and don’t tell us, you get an immediate rejection in our writeup for poor ethics. And we can typically tell by the pace vs the understanding (if we ask you for big-O and you guess, or know it instinctively) if you have the answer learned by rote.

      But whiteboarding is nothing like real coding. Practice whiteboarding, practice solving “toy” problems, practice pseudocoding and talking through your way of thinking, that’s the kind of prep you should be doing.

      1. Jaguar*

        Really? That’s interesting. I know a few people who have gone through interviews and gotten jobs with Microsoft and Amazon in Seattle, and they were both given the impression that the interviewers are basically expecting them to have worked on the interview questions already. Maybe it was bad interviewers.

          1. Jaguar*

            Well, the friends said that – particularly at Amazon – the interviewers were swamped with work and had to get the interviews done in addition to their existing responsibilities, so I could imagine that using the existing, leaked interview questions might be a time saver. This is wild speculation on my part, though.

            1. Keyboard Cowboy*

              When I interviewed at Amazon I did run into questions I’d heard before and they didn’t really seem to care. One interviewer literally asked me FizzBuzz. Where I work now – not either of those two, but definitely one you’ve heard of :) – we definitely avoid asking known, leaked questions.

        1. hbc*

          A lot of times when companies get really big, they know the rules but not the spirit behind the rules, and sometimes they only know what someone else told them about the rules. Person A came up with programming questions to see how interviewees could reason, Person B documented that Some Questions (or even These Specific Questions) should be asked, and now Person J is testing for prepping ability rather than reasoning ability and not knowing that it’s even a problem.

        2. Anon for this*

          I work at one of those companies and do hiring for my team, that’s generally not true for the one I work at. In fact, when interviewees ask I am intentionally vague/high-level about what they will get, and I’ve had to point-blank tell people that we don’t reveal questions before the interview.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        That is good to know. I have worked in IT at several Big Non-Tech Companies, and, starting from mid to late 00s, trivia questions from interviewers and the candidates knowing the answers by rote have been almost an industry standard. And I really cannot stand that. It tells the interviewer nothing about the candidate, other than the candidate is good at memorizing things. I have already posted this on this site before, but, at my OldJob, a teammate told me about how he interviewed multiple candidates that were all sent by the same consulting company, using the same list of tech screen questions. They all aced the tech interviews. Then one day, on a whim, my teammate decided to switch the order of questions and asked a candidate question 7 right after 5. The candidate happily gave him the correct answer to question 6, which had not been asked yet. It is really refreshing to know that there are Big Tech Companies that recognize how flawed this approach is, and do not use it.

      3. TechWorker*

        Side question, keyboard cowboy – Dyou think ‘wrote up this difficult algorithm’ is a good interview q cos it shows how people think or because it’s a reflection of the work they’ll be doing?

        I’ve interviewed comp sci grads who rave about loving algorithms and thinking about algorithmic complexity, which – don’t get me wrong – is important, but is a very very tiny proportion of the job*. (I’d describe it more like ‘know enough to know when something is going to be awful and you should redesign and/or google the problem’ vs ‘spend lots of time thinking about algorithms’. The fact that so many companies care about this in hiring can’t help the impression that’s all software engineering is about.

        *disclaimer – at places I’ve worked. Possibly more algorithmic stuff depending on business context elsewhere, idk.

        1. Keyboard Cowboy*

          For me, I like to ask a problem that has a simple solution if you think about it the right way, and has a lot of “part 2” questions you can ask. Being able to come up with an algorithm is one thing, but like you said – not that much of the job. So I make sure to also ask questions like, how would you solve this problem differently if the scale of the input was huge, terabytes? What if the constraints changed in some way? More importantly, I like to give the question in extremely vague terms to see how candidates do with requirement gathering.

          That is – we try to evaluate whether someone can write code, as a pretty central part of the interview, but we also care about being able to identify and work with constraints.

          As for the importance of being able to evaluate complexity, I rather check that candidates can look at their own solution and figure out complexity, than that they have complexity memorized for a bunch of structures and sorts. It’s important to know how to figure out which solution is the best one and when your solution is just bad.

    2. Tara R.*

      If he is in fact a programmer, I highly recommend “Cracking the Coding Interview”, and there are many other resources online as well. Some people spend hours a day practicing for tech interviews while job-searching! I don’t think that level of obsession is healthy, but it’s definitely not “bad candidates” who prepare for things.

    3. Anon for this*

      My husband works at Big Tech Company as a software engineer. He got interviews and offers from multiple Big Tech Companies, and he seriously studied beforehand. Not because he isn’t a competent coder, he is (some of these companies were recruiting him to come interview). But because some of the questions that are asked in this type of interview can be more academic than practical, and coding on a whiteboard in front of another person, explaining while you go, is a very non-natural situation. At one company, he got some riddle-type questions, which also aren’t a typical coding situation.

      Now he interviews people and he definitely wants people to be prepared. But no, he doesn’t expect people to have looked up the questions beforehand, HR will actually alert them not to use certain questions that have “leaked” out into the public.

  14. gecko*


    Particularly since he’s in tech, he really needs to be preparing. Solving technical problems on a whiteboard, while people are watching you, is not easy OR natural. There are a ton of guides online to preparing for technical programming interviews in particular–while mostly they’re no longer as wild as Google’s old interview process, they’re still pretty notorious.

    I think what I’d probably do is email or text him some resources saying, “here are some resources that I think are helpful to professional / white-collar job interviews, use em if you want, and I won’t bring it up again unless you ask me directly.”

    One last thing–avoiding “I told you so” is a noble pursuit, but don’t worry about appearing like you know better than him. You do. If his ego needs him to be more expert than you in every little thing, then he’s a naive jerk who needs to take a deep breath. If you’re just worried that’s what his ego is like, and you’re trying to protect it, don’t; that way lies death to your own ego, and you want that sucker alive and kicking.

    1. Observer*

      I think your second paragraph is a bit unfair. There is a difference between not liking to be told “I told you so” and always needing to know best (or better than a significant other.) And there is a difference between providing resources and even pointing out mistakes and saying “I told you so.”

      No doubt the OP’s BF is wrong, but OP is correct to try to avoid “I told you so.”

      1. KWu*

        I read it as, “don’t worry so much about coming across as gleefully rubbing in the rejections just because you are more knowledgeable and want to help by sharing resources, because you are.”

        1. gecko*

          You’re right, and I’m totally unclear. I wanted to validate OP’s instinct to not say “I told you so” as sensitive probably right, while mentioning that it’s really very ok to know more about something than a male partner does.

    2. OP*

      I’m not so much worried about protecting his precious ego as I am concerned that there’s a risk of sounding too condescending or controlling, especially when the problem is only sort of my business. In my experience many people tend to ignore advice coming from someone who clearly and firmly thinks they’re superior, so I feel like avoiding that might be a more effective approach.

  15. lyonite*

    This reminds me of when I was in grade school and I told my mom, in all seriousness, that studying for tests was like cheating, because it was supposed to show what you already knew. (Oddly, that didn’t go over well.)

    1. Gumby*

      I wouldn’t say it is cheating, but I am highly sympathetic to the idea that you should already know the stuff when a test comes along and not need to cram. I did not study for tests until college. But you have to know yourself and your learning style. I have good long-term retention and I knew that I had learned the material rather than memorizing enough to get through the next quiz or whatever. (Also I am a complete nerd and did things like read my history textbook out loud and record it so I could then listen to it again while I was doing chores. Not because of a test, just as my normal approach to that classwork. In my defense it *was* an AP class.)

      OTOH, I absolutely would prepare for interviews because I am not as comfortable with that type of interaction, there is far less predictability as to what will be included, and I interview much less frequently than I took tests in high school. Thank goodness.

      1. Liz T*

        lyonite didn’t say anything about cramming; they talked about studying.

        Tests you’re not supposed to study for are given without notice. ‘Popped,’ if you will.

      2. Jen S. 2.0*

        To me, there is a big difference between studying for a test and cramming. Studying for a exam to me is, in the days before the exam, reviewing the reading, reviewing your notes, checking a couple of concepts or tidbits you’re not sure about, practicing any skills or techniques you’ll have to show, and resolving any unanswered questions. You’re not learning the information; you’re reinforcing and checking and applying what you already know.

        Cramming is trying at the last minute to learn most of the information almost 100% from scratch.

        Neither is cheating (and in fact I am surprised to read here that anyone thinks it is!), but if you are studying and not cramming, you usually have a lot less work to do for the exam, and usually retain the information much better.

        Note: in college, I never skipped a class, but I often slacked on the reading. So, I often was reading a lot of the text for the first time 2 days before the exam, but I was comparing it to my notes, which I took while listening in class. Reading most of the book for the exam probably looked like cramming to my roommates, heh.

        1. Jasnah*

          I think this is splitting hairs on a process that gets the same result with different levels of effort.

          All tests are supposed to test your knowledge, which relies on you remembering that knowledge.
          Whether you learned it 3 weeks ago and remembered it until the test, or you learned it last night and remembered it for 6 hours until the test, does it really matter? At the time of the test, you knew and remembered that information.

          Some people prefer to commit everything to long-term memory over the course of the year so that they don’t have to refresh as much before the final exam. Some people prefer to focus on what they need to know NOW and would rather refresh at each stage. If the important thing is whether or not they pass the test, why does it matter which approach someone takes, as long as it works for them?

          1. Jen S. 2.0*

            I agree with you! As long as you get the results you want, do what works. I didn’t say either is more valid; I just noted that one lasts longer.

          2. Lavender Menace*

            Yes, of course it matters! The purpose of classes is to teach you information that you hopefully retain for the long-term, not just to make people jump through meaningless hoops for the heck of it. People are more likely to retain and understand information if they study and learn it over the course of several weeks than if they try to cram it all in 4-6 hours before the exam. It’s not supposed to be all about performance on the test; the important thing is not just whether or not they passed the test, but whether or not they learned and encoded the material.

            1. MentalEngineer*

              Precisely! And a well-designed test will be built so you can’t cram for it effectively. You might have to use multiple skills at once (the dreaded word problems in math!) or apply a general concept or framework you’ve learned in a context that hasn’t been covered, or other things like this. Problem is, well-designed tests are hard to pass unless you know the material (though pretty easy if you do!), so we don’t make students take well-designed tests, just tests that will produce the appropriate grade curves.

    2. plant lady*

      Okay, yeah, I’m totally with young lyonite and with gumby on this one. Throughout school, undergrad, and gradschool, I rarely studied for any exam. There were a few, here and there, that required a LOT of memorization where I brushed up on things the few days beforehand, and usually in college and grad school I’d flip through my notes from the class a few times the week of the exam (especially for essay tests, so I could remember specific examples from early in the term that might be good to reference on an open-ended prompt.) But man – if you can’t remember a majority of the content by the time you take the test, how on earth will you remember it in real life once the class ends – and if you say “I won’t”, then why are you even taking the class??

      1. lyonite*

        Honestly, I don’t think it was really a deeply-held viewpoint or anything. I just wanted to spend the time watching cartoons.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      It’s been pointed out to me that when tests allow for an open book, that open book is not going to help you. The test is based on how well you can apply everything in that book.
      This type of thing can lend credence to the idea that “either you know it or you don’t”.
      Unfortunately, we live in an era where it is impossible to know everything. Some employers may be testing to find out what you do when you don’t know and you need to know.

  16. OhGee*

    Just….send him this thread. It’s not even about whether you’re qualified, it’s that interviewing is a nerve-wracking, high pressure situation for most people! It’s easy to make a misstep. At minimum, preparing in advance helps many people feel less nervous in interview settings.

    1. raktajino*

      In a way, it’s sort of like taking a basic first aid class. You’d think the skills were pretty obvious (stop the bleeding with pressure, don’t move a victim) and when they’re more persnickity they’re at least simple on their face. Yet the bulk of the class is usually spent practicing those very basic skills, to the point that you feel utterly silly. You practice not because you’re too stupid to put on a band-aid, you practice because in an actual emergency people FREEZE. The practice is to make the motions more ingrained in the hopes that you can push through the panic and do something useful.

  17. Llellayena*

    Oh…my. Maybe start by asking him what seemed to go wrong in the bombed interviews. A few leading questions “did they ask you what you knew about their company?” or “what questions did you ask them?” Then follow with “If you could do the interview again, would you change anything?” His answers could lead you to offer your experiences “when I interviewed, I knew enough about the company going in that I could ask things like X and Y. That let me know if the job was a good fit and kept the interviewers interested in what I was saying” That way you’re saying “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DO INTERVIEW PREP!” without sounding like “I told you so.”

    1. gecko*

      I actually kind of disagree (and above, I said I though OP should send him some additional resources). I think that’s OP getting way too far into job coach territory. If it turns out he still doesn’t trust what OP has to say, it sounds kinda shredding to do this dance around his ego.

    2. Marni*

      I had the same thought as Llellayana. Rather than use the potentially loaded term “interview prep,” maybe just compassionately encourage him to tell you about the interviews he had, what did he think went well and less well in them, what might he do differently next time. If a series of interviews cause him to hone his ability to interview through trial and error, that’s a valid process. It may take longer than if you were willing to work with the coach or read resource materials, but it hopefully ends up in the same place.

  18. ag47*

    I think the BF is missing the fact that he is competing against other very qualified candidates for a limited number of jobs. In retail and service jobs, there number of available jobs isn’t so narrowly defined and you’re not so much competing against other candidates (in my McDonald’s days, there was always room for another part-time employee since turn-over was so high).

    In grad school, we had on-campus interviews during recruiting season. Most of my class was supremely qualified for these jobs but we were all preparing like crazy. Everyone was doing intensive research and mock interviews with their friends. Why? Because we knew we’d be competing against our supremely qualified classmates for a limited number of jobs and one so-so answer could knock us out of the running. It’s not so obvious that the candidate pool is equally qualified as you outside of the OCI context, but he should assume it is.

  19. Rez123*

    I wouldn’t be too quick to turn this into a relationship thing (unless obviously he is always like this). My bf of 7 years is a lovely guy. But for some reason when it comes to work he is overconfident that is borderline arrogance. He is not like this in any other aspect. Everytime he applies for a job he is absolutely certain he will be hired. There are several jobs he hasn’t gotten an interview or not been elected and he believes that they made a mistake. But this only occurs in regards to job hunting.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Some work environments encourage this type of behavior. It’s considered a desirable trait. I wrote a letter at work the other day with talking points 1-4. Each point read as, “NSNR nailed this point.” In other arenas my letter would have been a sledge hammer. My boss loved my letter and congratulated me.
      I would not speak that way in any other situation. It’s expected at work under certain situations.

  20. animaniactoo*

    OP, in blunt terms – your bf is a dumbass. Maybe in just this one area, maybe in a lot of them.

    I find it very concerning that you did not feel that you had enough standing to reply to his initial assertion with a strong statement of your own belief “That’s not my experience or my understanding. I’ll be curious to see how it works out for you. For your sake, I really hope that it does!” and that in the followup to all of this, you still feel a need to be “helpful and supportive” – but not necessarily *challenging* or *assertive* in contradicting his wildly wrong view. Sometimes helpful and supportive is detrimental when it means that you can’t disagree firmly.

    Less “confrontational” ways to deal with something like this is to ask him where he’s getting his sense that only bad candidates prepare for interviews, suggest to him that he do some research, offer to show him some stuff you’ve seen. Do it with the positive attitude that of course he would have been perfectly capable of all of this on his own, you just mention it because your experience is so different from his – and you have been on the kinds of interviews that do not resemble retail/fast food style and therefore have a some insight into what THOSE kinds of interviewers are expecting to see from a good candidate.

    But honestly, I’m concerned that you feel that you have to be so gentle in countering him (particularly when he is not being gentle himself here) and if that extends to more than just this subject, I encourage you to think very hard about why that is and what kinds of dynamics it can set up – search just as hard for the drawbacks of it as the benefits. Look at future scenarios and how it might play out when it’s time to decide things like whether you’re going to invest in your company’s 401K, or how you choose where you’re going to go on vacation.

    Note: I’m not saying that your bf is irretrievable. I am saying that you may be putting yourself into positions that will frustrate you with him and your life with him in the future when you disagree about things. And that it could be worth it to look at adjusting your approach to disagreements in general.

    1. Marthooh*

      Yeah the BF is being a bit assish about this, but most of your comment is unnecessary catastrophizing. The particular thing they disagreed about was the BF’s job search, which is only tangentially OP’s business. As OP said, it’s not her place to push him on this.

      1. animaniactoo*

        I agree that at this point it’s only tangentially her business in lots of ways. However, I don’t think that having different information and not feeling comfortable asserting that information (without having to be “right” about it or “win” with it) pretty confidently/firmly in an intimate relationship is a good thing. It’s more about the ability to positively register the opinion/difference than whether or not to push him to act differently. As far as catastrophizing and being potentially unnecessary – I was pretty careful to qualify that it may be limited to just this issue.

    2. Parenthetically*

      you still feel a need to be “helpful and supportive” – but not necessarily *challenging* or *assertive* in contradicting his wildly wrong view

      For these and many other reasons in this letter I would love for this LW to write to Captain Awkward.

    3. OP*

      I don’t feel like I HAVE to be gentle with him, but I do feel like this is only tangentially my business (it could affect me financially if we stay together long term, but this a fairly new relationship, we don’t live together or have any sort of financial dependence on each other at this point), so not necessarily my place to be overly firm. If it were a situation that more directly affected me (where to go on vacation, which apartment to move into together, whether or not we should get a dog) I would absolutely feel comfortable being more confrontational if the situation required it. In this instance though, I feel like there is a real risk of coming on too strong and having him take the stance of “this isn’t YOUR job, why are you trying too hard to control the situation?” which would make any further discussions about it all the more difficult. For that reason, I feel like the better approach is one that comes more from a place of support. For what it’s worth, I do think this issue stems more from a naiveté on what professional interviews and jobs are really like and a misplaced expectation that a college degree is the golden ticket to a good job, as opposed to pure stubborn arrogance.

      1. Parenthetically*

        This additional info helps me frame this a little better — I can understand why, in a newer relationship, you’d be more likely to be hands-off about stuff like this. I still think it’s something to file away for the future, since his response to your influence really matters to the future of your relationship, but framed like this it’s a lot less red-flaggy. Let him sink or swim on his own. :)

      2. animaniactoo*

        Gotcha. I was thinking it was a more established relationship and I can see why you’d hesitate to “push” even in registering the opinion that you think he’s wrong about it. He doesn’t know enough about you to be able to evaluate how solid your judgement is, and you don’t know enough about him to know how well he’d receive that firmer opinion yet.

        The main thing is – even at that stage, you can register the contrary opinion pretty firmly while then stepping back and saying “You do what you think is best, and I hope it works out for you.” Because then you’re not super invested or trying to manage or control the situation – you’re just being clear about your own view of how the process works. If doing even that much is going to break the relationship in its infancy, you are likely better to find that out sooner than later.

        I hope you’re right about the naiveté! Good luck to you both.

  21. sblue*

    Do you think he got bad advice or some kind of boasting from his friends telling him that no one prepares for interviews?
    I’ve just finished my interviews for residency and a quite a number of people would tell me that they never prepared for interviews for residency, and not to bother and just be yourself. I was really unsure if they didn’t really prepare for interviews or they were trying to act cool or discourage the ‘competition’.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Yeah good point, I did have a lot of “too cool for school” friends who would humblebrag about not studying, not preparing, how things kind of just fell into their laps because they were so cool or whatever. Most of them were lying, but that did take me a while to figure out.

    2. The PhD Is Purely Decorative*

      I worked at a university that promoted a culture of, “we’re the best school on the West coast, so employers would be lucky to hire our grads.” Many of their grads were ill-prepared for interviews (and jobs), which surprised me because they were super smart and looked great on paper. Perhaps the OP’s bf comes from a similar place.

      1. Qwerty*

        So much this! I’m always surprised when recruiting at how poorly candidates from well respected schools do in the interviews. My last company eventually gave up on them in favor of some smaller schools where the students were always really well prepared for interviews.

      2. Hope*

        It sometimes amazes me how good someone can look on paper, but when they show up for the interview, it goes poorly because they’re unprepared or weirdly entitled, acting like they already have the job and the interview is just a formality.

        There are really only a handful of people who are capable of “winging” an interview, and even they usually have the sense to do some basic googling of the place they’re interview at.

      3. Rez123*

        Yes! I went to grad school after working for several years. I didn’t go to a fancy school or anything but even there they were going on and on about “you have masters” “as masters students” “with master degree”. I personally knew that is was all BS and just took it as a slimy sales pitch. But I know many of my classmates were from foreign countries (as am I, but still a similar western country) and I really think they bought it. They wanted to stay in Europe and now that we graduated I’m a bit concerned that they believe their masters to be a key to everything.

    3. Jen S. 2.0*

      Moreover, it frankly does not matter whether someone else did or didn’t prepare, or is lying about it, or whatever. If YOU need to prepare, that is what matters. Someone else’s method might not be your method, and nothing is wrong either way.

      I also have known a lot of people who look on the surface like certain things that others struggle with were all magic and just happened. Sometimes they humblebragged about it, and sometimes the work was just what they did and no big deal. Indeed, sometimes it was a thing they just naturally did well. But most of the time, if you dug a little deeper, there was plenty of prep happening.

      Sometimes they don’t even think of it that way. Examples: The person who doesn’t stress about job interviews is the one who one day offhandedly says, “oh, well, I try to review my resume every couple of months and keep it updated; a college professor recommended that and I’ve always done it.” The thin person who eats like a horse one day says, “I mean, I don’t even think of power yoga as exercise. It’s how I clear my head and stay centered. I don’t feel right unless I get to a class 5 days a week.” The person in class who seems to know everything ahead of time is like, “I enjoy the topic, so I enjoyed doing a lot of extra reading.” The person who never seems to study in their very difficult major waits years to say, “Well, this actually is both my dad and mom’s field; we always talked about it at dinner.” Any one of those people wouldn’t call how they gained their ability “prepping.”

      Now, sometimes they know good and well that they busted their caboose, and they are invested in making it all look like a cinch in public. But mostly? Just because it looks like magic doesn’t mean it was.

    4. OP*

      He’s not very close with many people in his program so I doubt (but can’t be sure) he’s had school friends giving him advice or boasting. He has a long commute (lives far from campus) and works a lot of hours (as a waiter) outside of school to pay for school so he’s never been very involved in campus life. It is possible though that he’s seen or heard of classmates getting jobs and wrongly assumed they didn’t work/prep as hard for them as they actually did, in the same way you might wrongly assume that someone stays naturally skinny without much effort because they only post pictures of them on the beach and not their long hours at the gym.

  22. Didi*

    As a hiring manager for several years, I think this attitude is more common among male applicants than you might think. I’ve noticed a definite pattern of very polished and prepared young female candidates vs. less polished and less prepared male candidates. Even with older friends I’ve helped with job searches, the women seem to work harder to prep for the interview, while the men seem more willing to let their accomplishments speak for them rather than trying to sell themelves into a job..

    1. LilySparrow*

      The trope about Ginger Rogers having to dance backwards in high heels didn’t come out of nowhere.

    2. Liz T*

      I’m still mad about the time my now-husband got into a playwrights lab that rejected me, not because he’s not a great writer but because I took pains to look nice for the interview and he…did not. Like he actively looked less put-together than he generally does.

      Appearance has nothing to do with writing ability. But it still rankled. Maybe I was mad at myself for putting in the effort.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      We had a six-month undergrad co-op at my former company and I interviewed a number of the students for the position. Nearly always the young women came in prepared, polished (for undergrads!) and usually with some other experience (internships or summer jobs) under their belt. The guys… not so much, at least in my area, though some in other areas were good. I called one guy who didn’t even bother to change his voice mail. It answered with “Hey, Hit That.”
      Uh Huh, probably not the best idea if you’re setting up job interviews.

    4. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      I’ve worked for many men who have this approach to life. Sure I’m qualified for the job, of course I can do all of those core duties, I can even hit those growth targets!

      A year later, they’re still insisting they’ve got everything under control even after it’s become apparent to everyone else that they’re lacking the subject-area knowledge and critical thinking/common sense to succeed in the job, that they are struggling with the core duties because they didn’t even realize that what seems like a simple task has 5 secret steps behind it that they also need to be doing but are not, and they’ve missed all the growth targets because they were completely overwhelmed and also didn’t have the background to spot that quadrupling sales was physically impossible when sales had been declining for the last year.

    5. Fishcakes*

      This happens in grade school and college as well. Men and boys been socialised to believe that they don’t have to try; they can coast and get what they want because they deserve it. It’s done them a huge disservice, and until this is corrected they will fall further behind.

  23. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Ah young tech males, how delightfully cocky they can be! This may be the humbling experience he needed to rewire himself.

    I wonder if he’s aware of what he needs to do to prepare. My preparation is all mental exercises to keep my nerves in check.

  24. bunniferous*

    My take is after a few more bombed interviews he might be ready to listen. But it probably will need to come from someone besides the girlfriend. It is not really her JOB to try to convince him he needs help-although if he actually becomes a bit more aware of his need for help she should absolutely help him if he will let her. If he is a great boyfriend in other areas maybe she needs to detach from this one.

    On the other hand if this is a Serious ™ relationship that may be eventually headed to permanency, she does have a vested interest in his career success (or lack of.) In that case if it were me I might want to suggest a little couples counseling if only because his approach to things could be better addressed by a third party.

    (Is he the first in his family to graduate from college, I am wondering? So many of these type things are things that some people assume as a given where some of us are starting from square one. )

    1. bunniferous*

      Upon rereading this, this does sound a bit sexist -but I am coming from the direction of her not feeling she has to be responsible for his success or lack of. He should be responsible for his own dang self.

      1. LawBee*

        I didn’t get the sense that she feels responsible for his success – just that she’s trying to find a way to help him, which is nice and admirable in a partner.

    2. Half-Caf Latte*

      To your point about the seriousness of the relationship and her interest in his success:

      OP, it might help to gently point out to BF that preparation might increase the likelihood that he successfully gets a local job, i.e., where you/your grad school are located? Having to go long-distance because he bombed all the local tech interviews would really stink for the relationship long-term.

    3. Parenthetically*

      I think it’s less about having a vested interest in his success and more about the… at least mauve-colored flag it is in my mind that she didn’t feel she was able to push back against his flagrant wrongness here with her greater experience? A strong predictor of relational longevity in a heterosexual relationship is a man’s willingness to accept his female partner’s influence (from Gottman — a good study from my read). After a few bombed interviews, if he doesn’t go back to her and say, “Babe, you were right, I should prepare for interviews,” THAT’s a much more red flag, IMO.

    4. Rez123*

      I agree that it might need to come from someone besides the girlfriend. I know that whenever my bf or my dad gives me career advice or link me an open job. It annoys me and immediately gets me to “don’t tell me what to do” mode. My bf actually has good points and is never too much, aggressive, over the top and comes from a good place. It just gets me this “don’t tell me what to do” reaction. It doesn’t come in any other aspect of our relationship. I think that job hunt feel so personal since it’s rejection of you as a person as well as a professional. it’s tied to independence.

    5. OP*

      He is the first in his family to graduate from college, actually. And none of his close friends are in college/college graduates either. I do think there is an element of “I am about to have a college degree, and everyone has been telling me my whole life that a college degree is a ticket to a great job, so getting one should be a walk in the park” at play. This is a fairly new relationship (just over 6 months) so he wasn’t around when I graduated and so wasn’t privy to all of the “extra” things I did throughout my degree to help improve my chances at finding a job after graduation, things like seeking out relevant internships/summer jobs, seeking out and developing relationships with mentors in my field and networking.

  25. tryingToCode*

    Oh, tech. The weird mix of bravado and, at the same time, imposter syndrome is something I’ll always find interesting in this culture. I’m not immune to it, though. I won’t work for a FAANG company that cares more about me answering CS trivia in an interview than having the capability to learn, which I kind of think is where he’s coming from.
    What his logic sounds like:
    * If he feels he has the qualifications, he should be able to answer the technical questions.
    * If he needs to study, then he feels like a bad candidate.
    * Implying he should dig into the company and position beforehand implies he’s a bad candidate.

    But *everyone* should brush up on the tech stack of a place before going into an interview. They should have it spelt out in their listings what they use. Doing research like that shows you actually want that job rather than applying to anything. It also lets you have real questions for the interviewers about how they operate (Since you are using BitBucket over something like GitLab, does that mean you integrate with other Atlassian projects? How often do you update your Angular framework now that they’ve been moving towards frequent releases? Your x product seems like it’s been in the news a lot lately; has that sped up development milestone expectations at all?)

  26. Matilda Jefferies*

    From the perspective of someone who is old enough to be your mother, I’m going to give you some motherly advice.

    Honestly, I would let this go. You’ve offered to help, and tried to help, and it’s pretty clear that he’s not going to accept your help. You can’t force him to prepare for job interviews – this is something he’s going to learn on his own terms. Or not learn, if he’s going to keep being so stubborn about it. But either way, it’s his responsibility. He’s an adult, and although we can all agree here that he’s making a dumb mistake, it’s his mistake to make, and the consequences are his as well. It’s hard to see our loved ones fail, especially when it’s so preventable! But I just don’t see any outcome here that includes you talking him into letting you help, and him being at all happy about it.

    You’ve done what you can, and he knows you’re available if he changes his mind. Leave the rest up to him from now on. Easier said than done, I know…good luck!

    1. Marthooh*

      Hah, I just posted pretty much the same advice. You said your say, OP, he doesn’t need to hear it again.

    2. LilySparrow*

      Yes, me too. The “old enough to be your mother” vote is trending toward “let it be.”

    3. Doodle*

      +1. For some years (I’m sorry to say!) I would “advise” my husband on applying for fellowships because they could help him with promotion (he’s an academic), “encourage” him to start working on the promotion process, find out the due dates and so forth. Now, if he had done those things, it would have made a big difference to our family economy, because he would have gotten big boosts in salary and thus better retirement funding as well. So it was haaaaaaaard to stop “advising” — but it was not effective, he was not ready to move ahead, and it was making us dislike each other. Not worth it.

      OP, decide if this is the hill you want to die on. I’m older than your mom! and I think it is not.

    4. Snowglobe*

      Another one old enough to be your mom and I also agree. Let it go. He will have to figure this out on his own.

    5. Frank Doyle*

      Yes, agree. I am also (technically) old enough to be OP’s mother — I’m also an engineer married to another engineer, so it’s a battle of know-it-alls up in here all the time. Say one last time “I think preparing for the interviews would have helped. I can help you figure out HOW to prepare if you like” and then leave him be. He’s not going to listen to you, or if he is, he’s going to have to wait a while to do anything about it so that it feels like his idea.

      Another trick I’ve found is to somehow trick him into reading the same shit I read that made me a goddamned expert on something. He won’t believe me telling him something, but he’ll believe the primary source I used. Shrug. I probably do the same thing to him right back. The secret to a long marriage is just to be chill about it. Because we will both be know-it-alls till we die, probably.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      My friend said he and his wife were having some bumps in their relationship.
      We talked a bit.
      Finally, I said, “If something goes wrong during the day, do you race home to talk it over with your wife?”
      He grinned and said, “Yep, damn straight. I can’t wait to hear what she has to say. She is THE person whose advice I want.”
      Relationships grow and change. Couples learn to lean on each other. They learn to find comfort in each other’s words. This is not an instant thing, it takes time and it takes bumps like this to get there.

      [Bumps is an understatement, meaning things that seem hugely challenging in the moment.]

  27. Marthooh*

    Just stand back and let him trip over his own misconceptions. If you involve yourself in this frustrating job search, he’s likely to remember the frustration more than any help you give him. Techsters are usually good at analyzing processes and finding online resources, so he doesn’t really need you for this — he just needs to figure out that the problem is him.

  28. Justin*

    I used to not prepare for interviews too. And I used to get not-great jobs (not dissing those industries, as those weren’t mine in the first place).

    I dunno. He is both at the age where people become humble but also the age where people can choose to double down on “what worked before.” So I’d send him this thread, and hope he’s mature enough to take note.

  29. Rebecca*

    Maybe approach it like this – perhaps the OP could phrase it like “since the last interviews didn’t go well, could we try interview prep (with Alison’s guide, for instance) for the next interview just to see if it makes any difference?” That avoids the whole “I told you so” discussion and avoids criticism, but also points out a possible solution at the same time.

    1. Just Employed Here*

      I … would stay out of that interview prep, if I were the OP. Unless he specifically asked me to help him.

      Otherwise it risks becoming something she told him to do and then told him how to do it, as well.

      1. Matilda Jefferies*

        Yep. And let’s say that he does accept her help for next time, and they do a ton of prep, and he still doesn’t get the job. Now his original position is validated, because it looks like there wasn’t any point after all. And not only that, but there’s a chance he could blame the OP, either because she didn’t help enough, or because she helped in the wrong way, or because she “forced” him to do it, or whatever.

  30. robot*

    If he’s looking for software engineer type roles in tech, there are specific kinds of preparation that are useful to do. Technical interviews in software are very problem oriented and practicing them on a whiteboard is really helpful. If his university doesn’t do them as part of a senior thesis-y class, which is something mine did, a great resource for understanding how to succeed at them might be someone a year ahead of him he respects who has already gone through the process of getting their first job in the field..

    One way you could bring this up, if you’re familiar enough with his classmates, might be “Remember Rebecca? She got that job at Microsoft right out of college. Why don’t you ask her about how her interviews went and if she did any preparation?”

  31. Language Lover*

    Hopefully, this is his one blind spot because someone like this all of the time would be tough to live with.

    We walk around with so much information in our heads that it can be difficult to, when asked a question in an interview, pull up the “perfect” example/response and deliver it in a clear, succinct manner that impresses interviewers. Preparing ahead of time, like coming up with examples of how one addresses X and an example of what happened when one did Y, will put those responses at the top-of-mind for easier recall.

    That’s why people study for tests. Even smart people study for them because it’s not just about knowing the information, it’s about being able to pull that information from the brain in order to answer questions in a specific time limit.

    But at this point, you may be limited in how much you can help him, especially if you feel like he might be sensitive to admitting he’s wrong in this instance. I’d make the studying for a test comparison and maybe give him Alison’s pamphlet. But practicing might be better done with someone he doesn’t have such a close relationship with.

    Good luck!

  32. J*

    I feel like preparing for interviews is a lot like studying for a test. Some people need to study a lot in order to do well, others do not need to study much at all. J
    If you’re never studying, and always failing, it may be time to consider that you need to be studying.

    1. MLB*

      I think that’s part of the problem. He’s gotten every job he’s applied for so he thinks he doesn’t need to prepare. What he needs to realize is that corporate interviews are a lot different than a retail/food service interviews, and at least a minimum amount of prepping is necessary.

  33. claudia grace*

    I work at a tech job in a non-tech role, and my husband is a software developer who’s thrown on a lot of interviews and coding reviews. And while I don’t know where the letter writer and boyfriend live, or what part of tech he’s involved in, the standard for the industry is both a technical challenge aspect to the job as well as a culture-fit type of interview. The technical challenge can include both an actual coding challenge as well as in-person questioning in order to see the thought processing that the candidate goes through. Like “how would you build this network system…” or something like that.
    If he’s not studying up on relevant languages, algorithms, or other industry-relevant tech information, that’s a HUGE problem. College will not completely prepare him for what employers are looking for. Not only that, but when someone acts like they know it all because they graduated from xyz university, but can’t back it up, that becomes very apparent quickly. Even if they do know stuff, the culture fit is so crucial. If the boyfriend is coming across as arrogant in interviews, he’s unlikely to be successful. The arrogant know-it-all tech bro is a common stereotype, yes, but there are plenty of companies out there that don’t want that guy on their team and won’t hire candidates who come across this way out of concern that they won’t adapt their methods to what the company is doing/what they need.
    If your boyfriend won’t take your advice, perhaps he needs to go to places online where he can talk with other tech folks (there are a few subreddits I can think of), or go through a third-party recruiter, who’d be able to give him feedback on his technical skills and his soft skills.

  34. MLB*

    I wouldn’t say I told you so, or offer advice. You’ve done that and he scoffed at the thought of it. Be supportive in listening to him, and maybe start asking questions if he doesn’t seem to be getting it. Something like “What do think went wrong? or What could you have done differently to make it go better?” Maybe if you get him thinking about it he’ll realize that your advice to prepare wasn’t crazy after all. In general there’s only so much you can do if someone is unwilling to listen to reason and thinks they know it all.

  35. College Career Counselor*

    Please tell your boyfriend that people do prepare for interviews all the time! Or, at least they should (just coming off several phone interview screens for a university position, and it’s clear which candidates have not prepared).

    I _teach_ people how to interview, and I still prepare for interviews that I go on. Please encourage your boyfriend to do one or more of the following:
    1. connect with his career services office for a mock/practice interview and feedback session (hopefully they do that)
    2. use interview stream to practice (if his college has an account)
    3. look up sample interview questions online and PRACTICE (out loud) his responses to them
    4. Allow you to record his responses to standard interview questions so that he can hear his responses
    5. Check out behavioral interview questions and the STAR method for information about how to respond to “tell me about a time when” questions–can also be useful for contextualizing your answers to non-behavioral interview questions.

    At a minimum, he should be able to communicate his interest in the position (you’d be surprised how many people can’t do that beyond “I’d like to work here/I need a job”), discuss his experience, and outline how he operates/will operate in a professional environment. I can’t begin to speculate on the rationale behind why he thinks that only the ill-suited bother to prepare for interviews, but conveying your interest, enthusiasm and qualifications for the role effectively, concisely, and professionally takes practice and effort. The good news is that everyone can improve in this aspect of self-presentation.

    I wish him good luck!

    If he thinks it’s all on his resume, that’s not enough. The resume gets you the interview. The interview is where they decide whether they want to work with you for 40 hours/week.

    1. Doodle*

      Yep, I had a freshman go to our career center for a mock interview just this week so that he’d be ready for an interview for an on-campus job. (Gotta love a kid like that!)

  36. Nicelutherangirl*

    “Oh dear” is right. Using that logic, only potentially bad spouses would go to premarital counseling, and parents shouldn’t attend birthing classes or parenting classes. Alison gives great advice about how to figure out the underlying issue that’s driving his attitude about interview preparation. If he has that same attitude about preparing for anything beyond job interviews, her advice about having the important intimate conversation about what’s really going on with him will continue to be very useful.

  37. LawBee*

    I don’t think there’s much you can do, really. He’s got this idea in his head based on really incomplete information, and it’s going to take a big shake-up for him to change it. I’d maybe email him the link to Alison’s guide (if it’s a link? I’m not job-searching so I haven’t actually looked at it), and if you want to phrase it as “hey, they’re clearly missing out on a great guy, you’ve just got to figure out how to tell them that!” that might help. He’s probably gone through school without having to sell himself like you do when you interview. Pushing too hard though runs the risk of him getting entrenched because he’s embarrassed etc.

    Maybe phrase it as “these are the stupid hoops we have to jump through but once you’re in, you’ll blow them away” – he’s embarrased, which often leads to defensiveness, so go ahead and soothe that ego a little. :)

    Best of luck to him!

  38. Jules the First*

    This is going to be unpopular, but I totally get where the boyfriend is coming from. When I was his age, I didn’t prep for interviews either and I didn’t see why anyone needed to (needless to say, I got my first few real jobs through personal contacts after bombing literally hundreds of interviews). With hindsight, I now see that it was mostly that I didn’t understand what actions one actually took to prepare for an interview – so he might find it very helpful to get a list of concrete actions to be taking (not “research the company” – that’s too vague; more “read the company’s annual report from last year”; “look up your interviewer on LinkedIn”; “write out your answer to these three questions”).

    If I’m being honest, I still prepare less for an interview than I should, but I can get away with that now because what I do is pretty specialised and very much in demand.

    1. MLB*

      I understand what you’re saying, and everyone is different. I prepare because I’m really bad at interviewing so if I have some knowledge in my head beforehand, I’m less likely to sound like a bumbling fool. She provided advice and he disregarded it and failed. It’s up to him to figure it out. Unless specifically asked, I think OP needs to stay out of it.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Might be unpopular, but I’m right there with you. I don’t think he’s right and I do think he’s clueless, but I’m not going to vilify the guy for being wrong and clueless, especially when I’ve been there myself.

      1. Adam Ruins Everything*

        Yeah as crazy as this particular foible is, most people did dumb things career-wise at that age. Interviewing for retail/food service jobs was, in my experience, essentially pass-fail. Part of the issue is probably not realizing how different interviews for office jobs are, in that respect. I know there has been a lot of conversation on AAM about how you have to understand how different college is from work (no credit for trying, etc.) There’s a similar gap between the jobs this guy was used to and the jobs he was looking for.

    3. OP*

      I think this is also good advice, especially the part about not knowing what actions one actually takes to prepare for an interview. I mentioned this in another comment too, but since I wrote this letter he actually came to me one day and said “So… when you say you prepare for an interview… what do you do exactly?”. I suggested he practice some of his technical skills, which he admitted he realized pretty quickly he should have done (he naively assumed they wouldn’t do any technical tests because he has a degree and thought they’d take that at face value that he had the necessary technical skills) and described some of those specific less technical interview prep activities like reading through the website, looking interviewers up on LinkedIn (he didn’t have an account but we set him up with one) and brainstorming scenarios he could use to answer common “Tell me about a time when…” questions. I think he thought “interview prep” meant “teaching yourself all of the qualifications (programming languages, etc) that you should probably already have if you’re going to be any good at the job” and not “rehearse/practice the skills you already have and figure out how to verbally show that you have them in a limited time”. I think offering more specific advice was helpful, which I hadn’t done originally because those things are obvious to me and I didn’t want to seem condescending.

  39. Combinatorialist*

    When I have disagreed with my SO about the way to approach things, or when he said some in-all-ways-privileged, naive comments, it has really helped me get him to see things a different way to first lead off with why he feels that way. Some of his ideas that seemed totally dumb and crazy to me were coming from a long history of family thinking that way and when I pointed out evidence that it really wasn’t true that everyone thinks that way, he was able to consider things more. But really digging into his biases and feelings and fears and addressing those first usually helped a lot.

    Another thing that has helped me is setting a boundary with supporting him through the thing he is insisting on doing a way that I think is dumb. A couple of times I have said “I think you are approaching this a totally wrong way, but you are entitled to make your own decisions. I see what you are saying and I disagree, but I respect your ability to manage your life. Since I don’t want to continue to have these conversations where it doesn’t feel like you are listening to my advice at all or you are just arguing with everything I say, can you find another outlet to talk about your feelings about X? If you ever want to discuss how I would approach X, I’m available for that conversation.” Usually he would come around after a few days of tabling the conversation and things were better for not continuing to argue when he wasn’t ready to hear what I was saying. But even if he never came around, I was better off continuing to sink emotional energy into a ship.

    You can also ask for things you need. Like if you are financially supporting him (or will be if he doesn’t get a job), you can say things “I really need you to get a part time job in retail, or whatever, while you look to settle your career” or “I really need you to make sure our habitat is liveable and we have food available. We can rebalance responsibilities when you get a job” or “I really need to be your girlfriend and not your career counselor or your emotional counselor right now”

    1. Koala dreams*

      I agree with you, and I think it can be nice for both of you if you decided to drop this issue for the time being. It’s very stressful to be looking for work, especially with all the different advice out there, and it can be good to have some down time where you talk about other things. If the boyfriend later changes his mind, he can ask you for advice. Some people just dislike getting told what to do and want to do things their own way.

  40. SlackerMom*

    PO, I think you can point out to your boyfriend that one purpose of an interview is often to see if the candidate will fit into the company culture. If you know nothing of that, it can put you behind other applicants. Please remind him that as a college student he prepared for tests by studying. Think of the interview as a test if that’s easier.

  41. Snark*

    There’s a certain type of fellow – it’s almost always a fellow – who has gotten by on his native intelligence and charm and basic capability for so long that he thinks he gets to play the game on a cheat code, and then the chair leg of natural consequences lays him out cold, seemingly out of nowhere. DONK

    And his temptation is to go, “but no, I know better! When chair legs get swung at me, I-” DONK

    “NO! My head is hard enough, I will gumption my way through this head-thwonking and-” DONK

    And his loved ones are like, “maybe dodge the chair leg, honey,” and he’s like “No, dodging is for-” BADONKADONKADONKADONKADONK

    And at long last he goes, “Actually, I have a better idea, I should dodge that chair leg.”

    And the loved ones go, “Great idea, honey,” then go lock themselves in the bathroom and facepalm themselves. THWAP

    Remain patient, OP.

    1. animaniactoo*

      I see you’ve met my husband’s occasional attitude and retreat from said attitude.

      His method of doing this involves blatantly stating that he never said [wrong thing], he said [right thing] all along, while I tell him he’s a liar and to quit gaslighting me. He gets to have attempted to save face and we both get to know he was wrong.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        I’m very thankful my husband has grown out of Head Thonking Syndrome. He still sometimes trips over it when attempting to do very basic home repairs, which is mostly just entertaining. Let’s bring over both types of screwdrivers, just in case. Nope, just Philips? Ookay. Sure, but the other similar unit needed a flathead, but it could be different on this one. Oh, it needs a flathead? Weird. Can’t unscrew it with a Philips? That’s unfortunate.
        And then EC gets to chuckle and hand over the flathead that was in her back pocket all along.

        1. Darren*

          Ah, silly man, you always grab the flathead, then when you are wrong you can make it work anyway :) since you can undo a phillips head with a flathead screwdriver. It just takes a bit more effort.

    2. Ali G*

      This made me laugh! And I agree – I think the OP’s BF is suffering from the natural consequence of skating through life so far. That’s not to mean that he’s a bad person – a lot of the time we don’t even realize that’s what’s happening until, well, we get DONK’D.

    3. Sloan Kittering*

      Agree and chuckled, although I think we can acknowledge that the reason it’s mostly a dude who is getting by on “native intelligence and charm and basic capability” is that … we tend to extend far more benefit of the doubt on those factors to pleasant-seeming young white men.

    4. Hope*

      Hah, I see you’ve met my brother.

      So many times, I (and other members of my family) have sat on the sidelines boggling as he insisted on learning something the hardest way possible. He’s a good guy, I just wish he’d listen to any of the advice he asks for but then ignores.

    5. iglwif*

      That … basically describes my experience in high school math class. DID YOU KNOW that doing the homework, even if you don’t get marks for it, helps you learn new skills and understand what you don’t understand yet and need to ask questions about?!


    6. Not So NewReader*

      “Doc, it hurts when I slam my head on the wall. I don’t know what to do.”

      We do have to be patient with our loved one’s learning curves. It can get painful to watch. When it gets painful to watch, “Hon, if you want help with that, I will be in the den.” Then go be in the den.

  42. Elizabeth West*

    Oh dear.
    He really needs to get out from under this. Apologies if someone has already posted this, but I wonder if maybe it’s coming from anxiety about applying for jobs that are a step up from the work he’s done in the past? I know when I’m feeling anxious about something, I tend to run it down and snark at it. Interviews are a big one because you never know what they’re going to ask you. All the lists in the entire internet can’t possibly cover everything. (You’ve all seen me do this here whenever I post about having an interview!)

    OP if this is the case, you can share this with him about me. Tell him I find that preparing for something actually makes me LESS anxious about it. If he gets thrown for a loop in an interview, he can always say, “That’s an interesting question,” to buy himself a few seconds to think about it. If he flat out doesn’t know, he can steer it back to something similar, like “I don’t know much about X system, but I know it’s similar to Y. I used Y for point-of-sale at Oldjob and we used its blue function to help us with our inventory.”

    As a matter of fact, I had a phone interview this morning, with a company in BigCityNearHere, and I based a lot of my questions off their job post and also off the company’s website. For example, I asked what “compiling reports” was all about, because I was worried I’d have to make spreadsheets (that’s hard for me because I don’t math–and I wouldn’t have to, yay). I typically use a combination of questions from Alison’s prep guide and stuff that comes up in my head when I’m reading the job description and company website. I write it down and take that with me to the interview and then write notes as they answer my questions. I also rehearse my answers to common questions in advance. Alison’s guide is a big help and it’s free.

    Preparation will improve his results; really, it will. It’s like rehearsing what you’d do in an emergency. The zombie apocalypse is soooo much less scary if you know you’re all ready for it, LOL.

  43. Amber Rose*

    I think it’s a good sign he’s aware that the interviews went bad, and is embarrassed by them. If he came out of that whole thing arrogant and insisting that they were the ones who screwed it up, my comment would just be: that’s it. You’re probably not gonna change his mind.

    Since he’s more self aware than that, a combination of links, interview guides and even this post from someone he cares about may be enough to nudge him out of this ridiculous idea he’s got about interview preparation.

  44. LilySparrow*

    I’ve known perfectly intelligent people who didn’t understand how many things in life are skills, rather than some innate quality. Taking standardized tests is a skillset. Good communication in relationships is a skillset. Managing is a skillset. Interviewing is a skillset.

    Many of these type of “invisible” skills are things some folks pick up without being formally taught. They don’t remember expending effort to intentionally learn it, so they think it’s easy or just “comes naturally.” Nope.

    In your position, I wouldn’t pursue trying to convince your partner of anything right now. This smacks to me of the sort of issue that he needs to process internally and come to grips with on his own. If you keep pressing the issue, he’s likely to get defensive and double down.

    I’d just wait until he mentions applying for something new, and then mention this great free book on interview skills that you know about, or offer to help him prep — if he wants to.

    You led the horse to water. He refused to drink. Don’t drag him, it will just make both of you angry and tired.

  45. UtOh!*

    Hi OP, I don’t think you need to walk on eggshells here, tell him in no uncertain terms that he should have prepared for the interviews, period. He can be stubborn or in denial but you trying to be the nice, supportive gf is not going to help him (or you) make him understand that yes, he *does* need to make sure he has his ducks in a row when interviewing for a job in the real world. I am married to a man who at times will not take what I say at face value, until he gets confirmation from a (male) friend. Perhaps, if needed, enlist the help of a friend to confirm what you have said is true and that yes, for him to get a job, he needs to change his thinking and quickly. Healthy relationships at times do call for honesty without the intent to embarrass, just to inform.

  46. anna green*

    I can totally see where the boyfriend is coming from, if I remember my days as an inexperienced newbie. I know that I know my skills so why should I need to prepare? But the difference is that preparing for an interview isn’t about learning skills or programs or anything like that. It’s about practicing how to talk about what you already know.

  47. Gabriela*

    I work with college students and this idea is not really that uncommon (that if you’re smart and capable, you don’t have to prepare for interviews). Ideally, the boyfriend would realize after bombing a round of interviews that he does indeed need to prepare more, but that takes a certain amount of emotional maturity and humility and it takes some people longer than others to develop those. Hopefully he sees his peers who do prepare successfully land job offers and it clicks.

  48. Dankar*

    OP, I had this issue with my partner when he first started law school. We argued about the best way to be successful with work outside of the classroom: how to learn content, how to make best use of study and prep groups, etc. He disagreed with my advice, so I let him do it his way. He bombed a really critical course in his area of focus and it was a jarring wake-up call.

    Now, the next semester, I started the discussion again. This time I said, “You did it your way and it didn’t work. Now it’s time to try it the conventional way. You don’t have anything to lose by switching it up.” He listened, changed his approach and was much more successful going forward.

    I don’t know if your partner will be as open to (constructive) criticism like this, but I don’t think you’ll do him any favors beating around the bush. Tell him he gave it a shot, but you were more successful with your approach and would he like you to assist him with strategies or show him resources for future interview prep?

    For what it’s worth, law school and job hunting was an incredibly humbling experience for my partner, who had an incredible work ethic, but had never been challenged at that level. We’re stronger than ever now, and when we talk about what he was like before then, he usually remarks about what a difficult person he could be! We all have flaws, and you shouldn’t listen to commenters saying he’s irredeemable or that your relationship is doomed. Only you have all the info about him and only you can make those kinds of determinations. Good luck!

    1. OP*

      I really appreciate this comment and the hope that it gives me both that he can grow from this and that we can get through it as a couple. I can understand why people are jumping to the “dump him, he’s an idiot” conclusion from the limited information in my letter but I do think that it’s an issue of naiveté, ignorance and a little bit of fear and not one of blatant arrogance or an inability to admit that he can be wrong. I wasn’t born knowing how to prepare for an interview (and I’m sure I still have things to learn about it!) and I’ve had many wonderful mentors teach me along the way. I’m hopeful that with time he’ll figure it out.

      1. Bulbasaur*

        I’ve been reading through some of your clarifications and I don’t think you need to be worried. Lots of people are like this when they are starting out in their career (although not me, of course *nervous cough* hey, is that a rare white heron over there?) The question is what they do when their unrealistic world view collides with cold hard reality. Do they double down and blame it on the world, or do they take a step back and examine their assumptions? It sounds like he is trying to do the sensible thing, which is a good sign.

  49. Close Bracket*

    That’s an odd digging-in of the heels, especially when someone he likes and respects (you)

    Not odd at all. Lots of people find their self image to be threatened when they are wrong and dig in to avoid admitting they were wrong.

    In particular, I have noticed in my own relationships (woman who dates men) that my boyfriends reeeeeeaally did not like it when I was right about things, period, and especially in an area where they considered themselves to be experts. Example, the aerospace engineering major who specialized in space missions who didn’t think my physics/astronomy majors were relevant. Another example, the fellow who fancied himself a skeptic who believed whole heartedly that fluoridated tap water was not relevant to dental health and didn’t want to hear it from me that he was wrong (I probably shouldn’t have burst out laughing, but still). I could go on. People don’t listen to women; men in particular don’t listen to women; men especially don’t listen to women who they date.

    1. Name Required*

      “especially when someone he likes and respects (you)”

      None of the examples you gave indicate that any of those partners particularly respected your opinion. So yes, in relationships where there is mutual respect, this would be an odd reaction. We have no idea whether this is a case of OP’s partner not listening to his female partner from this one example; he could have an equally reactionary attitude towards males with the same advice. We don’t know. For what it’s worth, my husband has never treated me like your male partners did in the examples provided and wouldn’t respond like OP’s partner did to her suggestion. It’s unfair (and I don’t think particularly helpful) to say that all men ignore the opinions of women.

    2. plant lady*

      I would just like to say that LOTS of men DO listen to women who they date, and I don’t want you to assume or feel that if you are attracted to men and identify as a woman, that you have to resign yourself to this! Better men exist! You can find one!

    3. Argh!*

      Yup, being a smart woman is a bit threatening to a lot of men. In this instance, the guy is older but “behind” LW in his career advancement. Even if he isn’t like the “typical” know-it-all guy, career insecurity could be especially difficult to handle, and advice from a younger person in general, and a woman in particular could be tough to take.

      Also, career advice is the “outside” domain, and relationships are the “inside” domain, and some people just don’t like to mix the two.

    4. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      I see you’ve met my dad, who will dig his heels in and insist that an apple is obviously a banana, rather than admit that he was wrong when he said we weren’t out of bananas.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      I call this behavior from smart men the Sheldon Cooper effect.
      They may be smart, but they don’t respect that anyone else, especially those close to them, may be smarter about certain things.

    6. Ali G*

      When my husband starts to stray down this path, I have a code phrase along the lines of “Well you are the one who likes to remind me that part of the many reason you fell in love with me is because I am smart, ambitious and independent. So maybe you could pause for a second and think that I could quite possibly know what I am talking about.”
      That usually gets him to stop and think about what he’s saying and then sheepishly realize how he’s been acting.

      1. LilySparrow*

        We’ve condensed our code phrase to “Yes dear, of course you know best.”

        Said meekly enough it puts all the hair up on the back of his neck and he will pull up short and start paying attention.

  50. ArtK*

    OP if you want to share this anecdote, feel free: I’ve been in tech for 45+ years. I always prepare for interviews. Both with general stuff like practicing answering questions to doing as much research about the company and interviewer as I can. As others have said, in a competitive market, it only makes sense to be as prepared as you can be. Tech skills are only a fraction of what interviewers are looking for.

  51. HP*

    I had the opportunity last year (twice!) to return to my alma mater and impart whatever knowledge I had gained the last 15 years. Even talking to these students who proactively sought information about managing a career, there was confusion, anxiety, etc. I think it’s natural – especially for that first “real job” coming out of college to not know how to navigate — and that’s okay! Quite honestly, I still find myself learning new ways to navigate my career and intend to do so until I retire!

    Is there an opportunity to “debrief” why and what he felt they went poorly? e.g. it didn’t feel comfortable/natural, didn’t have good answers to questions, etc. Then the conversation can be more about how you can tell a succinct and compelling story about your skills/experience instead of “preparing for the interview.” If he’s embarrassed, it may take a while – but could frame it as, “How about next time, we try to minimize or even eliminate getting embarrassed in this situation again?”

    Will he listen to friends (that have recently gone through the interview process)? Sounds strange, but sometimes our “closeness” to someone makes it harder to have constructive conversations. Maybe gently enlist their help?

    I believe ultimately, the person has to want to make a change for this to work. I’m reminded by a quote from Jacob Braude: “Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.”

  52. BethRA*

    OP, for what it’s worth, my partner sometimes has the hardest time taking advice from me rather than other people, unless she’s asked for it first. I can say “I think you should” or “have you thought about” multiple times and she won’t take the suggestion – but hear the exact same thing from a friend or colleague, and suddenly decide to listen. It bugs sometimes, but despite that we’ve been happily married long enough to be your parents.

    Some people have a hard time admitting their wrong (especially to themselves), sometimes people need to work through things for themselves, and sometimes when we’re looking for support it’s hard to hear advice (not that I’VE ever been that stubborn. *cough*)

    Shorter: you probably can’t get him to change his mind about this, and until and unless he’s ready to look for advice, you’d save yourself some aggro by not trying.

    Good luck to you both.

  53. Kathenus*

    I had a bit of a different take on the boyfriend’s reaction. If he both said that the interviews went poorly, and that he was embarrassed, I wonder if he just isn’t willing to say that lack of preparation might have been part of the reason. I could totally see where he does possibly get that, and might act differently next time, but is just trying to save face (possibly even subconsciously), but not compounding one failure (poor interviews) with another (not taking advice on interview prep). I agree with Alison’s statement about this being an age where life can smack you upside the head with life lessons. It’s possible he has gotten the message, at least in part, but just isn’t ready to say so yet.

    1. Adam Ruins Everything*

      Agreed. “Digging in his heels” was Alison’s read on the letter, not what it actually said. The letter said he “seemed” not to realize his mistake.

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      So agree. Even if I realize that someone else was right, it’s not super likely that I would admit it – but I may well have learned my lesson! Perhaps OP will notice that her boyfriend starts spending more time in prep even if he never gives her the satisfaction of acknowledging it :)

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      I agree. “What? No, I was definitely still right, the interview just went badly for… some other reason!” sounds way more like a case of denial than a genuine failure to understand what happened. Alison’s advice is great if he continues to act like this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts low-key prepping the next time an interview come along.

    4. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I’m sure this is exactly how I would have reacted at that age. Also it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out what preparing for an interview really meant. I would not be surprised if he actually does prepare for the next one but keeps it quiet.

  54. Colorado*

    Maybe I’m a little more blunt in my relationship and am also married but I would reply after the embarrassing interviews, “dude, you’re dead wrong and you need to prepare”. Sometimes people need an “I told you so” too. Show him this question to Alison and the entire thread. If he still balks after reading advice from hundreds of active working professionals, then he has a serious ego issue or is living in a state of denial. If that’s the case, I’ll pull a Dan Savage and say DTMFA.

  55. somebody blonde*

    I think a lot of this has to be the food service/retail experience, because it’s true that you can get away with no prep for those interviews. I think the nicest way to point this out is to say that you know he didn’t have to prep for those, but that in your experience, office job interviewers expect you to have prepped at least an hour or two, and maybe he should practice the things that caused the interviews to go badly.

  56. Antilles*

    As a sports fan, I find the whole theory of “not preparing for interviews” interesting.
    By all rights, you would expect professional sports drafts to be the most clear meritocracy in the world. The ‘companies’ (teams) are picking ‘job candidates’ (draftees) to employ in jobs based heavily on physical talent, where performance is clearly recorded in measurable statistics, and where your previous successes and failures in college were literally broadcast nationwide. So it would definitely seem like interviews would be kind of useless; doesn’t the film tell you what you need to know?
    …Except everything I’ve ever heard and read from scouts, GMs and coaches emphasizes that the interviews are often critical pieces of the puzzle – depending on who you read, the interviews might even be the *most* critical piece of the entire process. And accordingly, player agents spend long hours preparing potential draftees for interviews, running them through fake questions, and so forth.

  57. Serin*

    OP, I agree with you about what’s needed before an interview, but I think you will be less frustrated and have a better relationship if you now decide that the lesson from this situation is that it doesn’t work well for you to give your boyfriend career advice.

    It’s very common, even in good relationships, for there to be one or two subjects on which one partner just cannot listen to anything from the other partner. People learn from their parents, “If I listen to someone close to me on this issue, I will let myself in for being controlled,” and they bring that attitude into their marriages.

    It’s likely that he’s heard you, and it’s likely that the next time he has an interview he’ll do some prep beforehand. It’s also likely that if you mention that, he’ll say, “Yeah, my brother suggested that,” and you’ll have to go facepalm in another room.

    And the next time he’s job-hunting, your input will be, “You’ll do great. They’d be lucky to get you.”

    1. TootsNYC*

      the lesson from this situation is that it doesn’t work well for you to give your boyfriend career advice.

      I agree. My husband doesn’t look for work the way I would. But I have to remember that I am his wife, not his job coach.

  58. Grack*

    Is it possible that he thinks of preparing for an interview like studying for an exam, where you’re reviewing material like coding languages? He’s not “cramming” on his qualifications, so why would he need to prepare?

    In actuality, it’s like being set up on a blind date, where you want to google the person and check out their social media before you meet them in person.

    It’s not HIS material he’s reviewing for the interview, it’s theirs.

    1. XX*

      To be honest, I would find it really creepy if a guy showed up to a blind date revealing he knew a lot of information about me that I hadn’t told him and our mutual friends/acquaintances would’ve been unlikely to tell him. I get that it’s normal to do it, but it would be really weird even in interviews for interviewers and interviewees to reveal they had looked up the other individual extensively (unless one or the other was fairly well-known or unless the searching was specifically constrained to professional work). “I saw on your Facebook profile that you’re a single parent to two daughters” would probably not fly at a blind date or an interview.

  59. MaryAnn*

    I largely agree with the people saying “let it be,” with a caveat.

    I had a similar problem with my partner early in our relationship. He was having a really hard time finding jobs and kept bombing interviews, and when I would try to dig into why, he would completely shut down. He absolutely refused to let anyone proofread his resume or cover letters, or to let anyone help him prep for interviews–and he would agree now that it was just a combination of youthful stubbornness and shame that these soft skills didn’t come naturally to him.

    I largely stuck by the “I’m going to ignore this because you need to learn the lesson yourself” advice, which is good advice. But I also had that more intimate conversation about self-sabotage that Alison alludes to her in her advice, and if your boyfriend’s blind spot is causing larger communications issues in your relationship and/or his general attitude is making you miserable, I highly recommend doing this. Hopefully you’ll both find it easier to talk about pretty much everything else once you’ve had this conversation.

    Good luck!

  60. Qwerty*

    1) Does he see this as studying for a test? It feels like the school mentality that an exam should test what you know, so cramming right beforehand is seen by some as “cheating” or misleading them on what they know.

    2) Does he have hobbies that you can use for comparisons? For instance, athletes prep for races/games by doing warm ups the day of and changing their workout routine in the weeks leading up to it. You often see pro football players tossing the ball back forth on the sidelines to make sure they are ready to jump in the game. If he had a new pair of hiking boots or running shoes, he’d break them in before wearing them on a long hike or race. Interview prep is similar – just warming up the mental connections.

    3) Interviewing and the professional world is basically its own language and culture. Think of it like comparing American English and British English. It’s technically the same language, but there’s different words for the same things (elevator vs lift) and many customs are different.. An American travelling to Britain would probably look up the differences beforehand so they don’t accidentally offend someone.

    4) Tech companies expect you to practice! There are so many books dedicated especially to to tech interviews! I think Google even wrote a book about their process. If you can get him to look up anything about the tech interview process, he’ll see so much content giving him practice sites. Entry level jobs in tech especially lean into algorithms and the prep materials talk about all the hidden things that they are checking for (like how you go about problem solving is more important than getting the right answer. We’re looking for teachability)

    1. Qwerty*

      4b) Tech recruiters also like hearing that candidates try and prep. My current job asks them about what sites they use (like HackerRank, Codility, etc). It shows us that the candidate is willing to learn and cares about keeping their skills sharp.

      If it makes him feel better, even very experienced people in tech prep for interviews. Not only that, but usually they expect to do terribly in their first couple interviews and use those to figure out what skills they need to freshen up on.

    2. Argh!*

      Wouldn’t a tech company be looking for someone who did a lot of prep before going live with an application? It would seem second nature.

      OTOH, this could explain some of the tech where I work!

  61. MuseumChick*

    I wonder if someone in his life (dad, favorite uncle,) gave him this (terrible) advice and because he trusts them he stuck with it? This just feels to me like terrible advice you would get from your older relative who hasn’t had to look for a job since 1978.

    My advice: Tell him he’s wrong. “Sweet I see where you are coming form but once you go beyond retail/food services in your career interview prep is a very normal thing. There is this website called Ask A Manager that explains it.”

  62. Ginger*

    Until he recognizes that *he* is the common denominator in all his interviews going poorly, he’s not going to listen to your already-offered advice.

    But right now you’re trying to solve a problem for someone who doesn’t want help. You are carrying the emotion burden on his behalf of solving *his* problem. It’s not your cross to bear… he needs to first recognize he has a problem then if he asks for help, then your good intentions will be needed.

  63. Jennifer*

    It’s possible he may just be a bit naive about the job searching experience and a few rejections will make him take your advice seriously. Live and learn. If he continues to get rejections and doesn’t seem to connect that with lack of preparation, you may want to revisit this topic.

  64. agnes*

    I think you should leave it alone. He isn’t asking for your help or advice. He’ll figure it out eventually.

    1. Name Required*

      Agree. And if you’re considering a long-term, serious relationship with this person, seeing how he figures this out on his own will tell you a lot about his emotional maturity and ability to adapt. The experience of failure is an incredible teacher, and one we all have to encounter at some point.

  65. Olive Hornby*

    I think you’re doing all you can do as a supportive partner. You’ve offered him help, given him advice, reached out to Alison. I think when he’s ready to look at it from a different way he’ll so say. Insert horse and water adage here.

  66. BadWolf*

    In High School, I totally thought it was stupid to study for the the big standardized tests (ACT, SAT). Thankfully I did well, but many years later, I can see the value of at least some review and a practice test. Not because I would learn stuff from scratch, but getting used to the “easy things” — like “Hey, this what the logic questions look like” vs discovering that while taking the test.

    I suspect I felt somewhat similar to interview prep. But I’ve had some blunders that probably would have not happened if I did more formal prep. For example, the classic, “Tell me about a weakness.” In an early (still in college) interview, I had a total mind blank and literal said, “I’m sure I have them but I can’t think of something specific.” Had I at least practiced a little, I could have had something to say instead of drawing a blank on formulating something.

  67. Jennifer*

    Also, getting rejected isn’t unusual, even if you do prepare for the interview, especially when you’re this young and inexperienced. If he does take your advice later and doesn’t immediately get a job, that may not be a reason for alarm.

  68. Argh!*

    I think you can ask about the actual questions in a way that’s non-threatening, non-mommying. “Did this latest interviewer ask you something the others didn’t?” … “How did you answer?” … “Would you say something different if the next person asks you the same question?”

    That itself could be his preparation / coaching. His arrogance is a bit worrying, and it sounds like he’s already been dismissive of your ideas, so letting him figure things out on his own is probably the best bet.

    Good luck!

    1. TootsNYC*

      him being dismissive of her ideas could be arrogance.
      But it could also be that this is not the type of relationship he wants with her.

      Looking for work is really confidence-fraying. It might be hard to have the person who is your source of emotional support be involved in a “critique” way.

  69. Lady Blerd*

    Here’s a personal anecdote that maybe OP can share with her boyfriend. About 6 years ago, Big Boss wanted to clear out some people. Most of us were in long term contracts (that had to be renewed annually at that time but it was mostly a rubber stamp) but it was his prerogative to have our positions open for competition and he did so, mine included. I went as far as dressing up for my internal interview. Later the lead interviewer straight up told me that saved my employment with my performance because going in, he didn’t think he’d keep. He’s a bit of an ass but I digress. I generally don’t prepare for interviews but that’s because I’ve been reading so many articles about job searches over my adult life so I know how it’s done and had canned answers prepared for the typical day in the work life questions that we often get asked in HR Admin job interviews. But when I initially got that job, I was told to read up on some of our rules and regulations, which I did, and that greatley helped me ace the exam portion of the hiring process. Maybe it’s the Gen Xer in me but when it comes to interviews, I never assume I have it made.

  70. Editor Person*

    I wonder how much he does know that OP was right and is embarrassed to admit it. I can be lousy about actually verbalizing “you were right” or “I’m sorry” but I do silently pledge to do better. That was something my parents drilled into me, for better or worse, that if I was really sorry about my behavior I would stop whatever it was.

    In this case, gently offer to help for the next round and see how he reacts then. That will be the telling behavior.

    1. OP*

      I definitely think this was the case. In the time since I submitted the question he has definitely opened up a lot more and started probing for help a little bit. He hasn’t come out and said “you were right, I should have prepared” but I think when he indicated right after the interviews that he didn’t think his lack of preparation was a factor it was a case of being in denial/not being ready to admit that he might have just blown some good opportunities. I have largely kept myself out of it but he has come to me a couple times since and said things like “So… when you said you prepare for interviews… what do you do exactly?” and “I was talking to my friend Tony from school, he got a job at Company Y and he said they asked him to do Technical Test X in his interview. Maybe I should practice that before my next interview.” I shared some more interview prep materials with him and offered to help him research the companies/interviewers before. Only time will tell if he goes for it or not but I do think he’s more receptive to preparation than he was last time.

      1. Editor Person*

        That’s good! From someone who is also guilty of this, that is tantamount to an apology. A verbal one might be coming once he’s interviewed/got the job/is generally more confident, though I wouldn’t put huge money on it.

  71. Enginerd*

    Tech interviews can be nutritiously brutal and difficult to prepare for because you need a combination of technical knowledge, creativity, and interpersonal skills. They need to know that you can play nice with the team but that you also know your stuff and can think outside the box. I’ve gotten questions ranging from describe everything that happens with a computer between when you push the power button until the login screen or how would you fix this error in a radar system you’ve never seen before and only this schematic to go on.

    There’s a reason the big companies actuality pay videos to help you prep for the interview. Show him the videos Google and Amazon have it’ll be a good place to start and you don’t need to preface it with anything just send him The link and ask him if interviews are really like the video.

  72. Mimi Me*

    Ooooh…I feel your pain. My husband has done this and it was SO frustrating to sit there knowing that I literally had the resources he could use to prep for a job interview but none of the power to get it through his thick skull that he needed it. I got crafty though. I took all the reading material out of the bathroom and printed out Allison’s guide and left it in there. I knew he’d eventually get bored enough to read it. He did…and then started doing his own prep. LOL!

  73. GCox*

    Allison, I just want to give you kudos for being one of the best advice columnists out there. Not only do you give solid advice in your (extensive) area of expertise, but you’re humble enough to recognize that further advice isn’t solicited or necessarily welcome. I really, really like your column for both of those reasons.

  74. AKchic*

    Yikes. My husband did much the same thing when he was younger, and we were just starting out in our relationship. He wanted to go to college. He got suckered in to a for-profit, low-value, non-transferrable 18-month place that I warned him against. He believed the hype of the recruiter. I was just the “new girlfriend” and both of his parents (non-college educated, and neither approved of me) were encouraging and very much “don’t listen to this silly girl”. Well, this “silly girl” worked in HR and knew how little value his “degree” would be.
    He did his 18 months, racked up $60k in debt, and guess how many jobs he’s had with that degree in the last decade? That’s right – none. I got him one interview as a favor, offered to help him prepare for it and he declined the help in preparing because he’d never needed to with any of his other jobs (all retail, where he excels). He did not get the job, which he would have been a great fit for had he done any kind of interview prep.
    He is nearing 40 and still works retail, and is bitter about not making more money or having any kind of career, but when I try to discuss possibilities with him, he automatically gravitates towards going back to school and getting into tv/radio (which was his dream as a 16 year old, and is impossible in our area, and the area he’d prefer to move to, which is just as small and I refuse to move to).

    You may not be able to help him understand his career options. This may be something he needs to figure out himself, and for some people, they never get it, at least not from those closest to them. For others, they do self-sabotage because they are scared of the unknown and feel more comfortable working in places they’ve already been, but can’t articulate it, so they reach for the new, but will never leave the familiar (which is what I’m sure is my husband’s case).
    For the interpersonal issues, I can’t give you advice on that because you didn’t ask. If you aren’t financially connected to your boyfriend, don’t get financially connected anytime soon. Let him figure out his career issues on his own, unless/until he actually asks you for advice. Otherwise, let him sink/swim on his own.

    1. $!$!*

      At 18 My husband got suckered into a for profit college that is now defunct (vatterott college) but he DID listen to me and dropped out after a semester. We paid off that $10k loan and were grateful that he didn’t finish. His parents were the same as your in-laws and uneducated. A direct quote from his mother was “any college loves a homeschooled kid” and “any college will get him a job”

  75. voyager1*


    Pointing him to a mock interview would be the best thing you could do for him. Some university career centers offer this service.

    If that doesn’t work then yes leave him to his own devices.

  76. shannon*

    Hi LW! My husband & I both work in tech, which tends to emphasize some pretty “hard” skills, regardless of whether you’re an engineer or another role (like a designer or product manager). 100% of the many, many interviews we’ve had (both as candidates & interviewers) involved some sort of practical component where the interviewee was expected to code, design or otherwise work on the fly. It would be silly not to prep for those interviews like you would for any other test. While I believe all interviews require solid prep, I think this is especially true in tech. It’s not uncommon for engineers to study books of potential test questions & formats, and take practice tests like you would for the SAT.

    1. TootsNYC*

      prep for those interviews like you would for any other test.

      That’s another phrase to toss out there.

  77. Mrs. Wednesday*

    LW, I had a different response to your letter than you may have expected: How are you doing in all of this? I suggest you step back for a bit and see how *you* feel about his rejecting your solid experience, etc. I say this because you’ve offered appropriate, helpful advice. He’s chosen to not take it. In fact, he’s dug in on it. You’re actually being very nice by continuing to put lots of your good stuff into figuring out how to help him even more. But if that dynamic goes on, it would be pretty natural for you to feel some resentment.

    No slam about your boyfriend but it seems pretty likely from all you’ve said that he’s massively scared and fronting like wild to hide it. He’s never landed a career job. That’s a huge hurdle. My guess is that it will be desperation that eventually changes his behavior. I should clarify that this is based on my belief that people usually act like dogs OR cats when under stress. He seems like a cat so…leave him be and he’ll come out from under the bed when he’s ready. (Dog people,. OTOH, love being given direction and guidance when they’re stressed.)

    If you really feel like you have to help, maybe just leave Alison’s guide laying around, and let him find it and come to the info in his own time. Like a cat!

  78. TootsNYC*

    Could you point out the whole “a choir rehearses” concept? Or the frequent advice to “role play different scripts so you feel comfortable” advice people are given for difficult conversations?

  79. Kiki*

    There’s a really delicate balance with career advice and significant others. Obviously you want to help your SO however you can, but there’s a thin line between giving advice and nagging in this scenario. Even if your advice is 100% correct (and we all know you were correct), you have to allow your partners to make their own mistakes and figure things out on their own.

    On the flip side of that, you also have to make sure you’re with a partner whose decisions and thought processes you respect. Everyone messes up sometimes, but if your partner is constantly making poor choices about work or school, even when you offer guidance, it may be time to end things. Theoretically love concurs all and money shouldn’t matter, but I’ve talked to too many women whose partners are constantly making poor choices about their careers and negatively impacting the financial well-being of the whole household.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Yes, I find it important to be able to admire my partner. It’s easier to forgive the mistakes we all make when I’m not convinced he is making fundamental stupid and egotistical mistakes.

      My husband is horrible at looking for work, and negotiating, and writing a resume, etc.

      I can’t help him–I get too invested, and I have no power (nor should I), so it just makes me frustrated. Plus, my words have a bigger and different weight.

      This is a burden on our marriage. I don’t think he knows, but it is.

      So if I were the OP, I’d be keeping my eyes open to see if he learns from this, even if *I* am not the one who “teaches” him. Because I’m not married to him yet.

      With a husband, given that there is a legal relationship intended to last a lifetime, I might say, if I thought he wasn’t learning anything here, “You must go to this job coach person and have two sessions about preparing for an interview. This is a serious thing that your wife is asking of you.”
      Because I think my husband deserves to know where the potential cracks in our relationship are.

      But I also have to let go, because I’ve done things like that, and nothing has happened. I have to remind myself, I didn’t marry him for his job-hunting skills.

  80. Hallowflame*

    It sounds to me like OP’s boyfriend has completely misunderstood about 70% of what a job interviewer is looking for in a professional-level job interview. The hiring manager already has your resume, so they already have a good idea of what skills you’re bringing to the table before they even pick up the phone. Most of the actual interview will be about verifying that you are an adult that can get themselves dressed and groomed appropriately and can make it to an appointment on time, and assessing your manner and character through those annoying “tell me about a time that you failed” questions.
    Yeah, they’ll ask a few technical questions to make sure you aren’t BSing your qualifications, but they really want to know what kind of employee you will be to manage, and what kind of longevity you will have with the company. No one wants to hire the guy with an attitude problem, or invest extensive training and development in an employee that plans to move on in a year or two.

  81. gsa*

    I browsed this today: “guide to preparing for a job interview”. Nice work Ms. Green. It is a bunch of stuff I either already knew or made complete sense. Nice to have it one place. I just received a job offer, that I have since accepted.

    I hope all of the commenters, suggesting she bail, are perfect. Otherwise, you risk your SO bailing on you…

      1. Parenthetically*

        If he did and this is his response, she should absolutely dump him. Jeezy creezy this guy.

    1. Deb Morgan*

      This is a good example of someone getting defensive when people are trying to help them. OP, if you think this is the response your BF is going to have, you should probably leave it alone. He can figure his own life out.

  82. NotTheSameAaron*

    sounds similar to this recent post

  83. TootsNYC*

    Another framework to use to present this:

    The job hunt is sort of like selling your home.

    Maybe compare it to staging a house for a quicker sale.

  84. DaniCalifornia*

    Yikes! I hope maybe his initial reaction is just that, perhaps when he thinks about it he’ll take OP’s advice.

    Reminds me of a friend who graduated and wouldn’t take anyone’s advice on their resume/job search. Not their partner who had been in 2 career jobs, not parents, no one. Couldn’t get any interviews. Finally took a networking contact that someone introduced to them to bluntly say “WTH this resume is AWFUL. Fix it.” Then they fixed it. Even when they started getting interviews though they went right back to being stubborn about preparing, asking questions about culture and SOPs regarding benefits. They argued that it wasn’t good to ask questions about vacation/salary/benefits and when they finally did get a job…didn’t let their boss know that they were getting married that year. When most new jobs would be understanding if you said “I accept your offer, by the way I’m getting married so I’ll need XYZ dates off if that works for you.” smh

  85. ManderGimlet*

    I would approach with a half/half angle:
    On one half, discuss, from a relationship perspective: what you felt like when he dismissed your suggestions and how you now feel unsure of how you can help as his girlfriend. If he made YOU feel dismissed, especially if you think he was unintentional in any rude behavior, tell him! This isn’t about him not taking your advice, it’s about the ways in which he reacted to you giving it and what your expectations are as his partner (again, assuming he was immature or inconsiderate in your earlier discussions but in a non-malicious way, otherwise ignore. If he was a dick start to finish, well, dtmfa).
    On the other half, provide resources you like and find helpful and then walk away. You can’t force him to read or listen or agree or follow up, but you can monitor what happens and decide from there how much you want to invest in his job search.

  86. Krakatoa*

    I feel like he hasn’t figured out the difference between a job that just requires a warm body and a job where they generally care about the quality of who they hire. Some people new to the market mistakenly believe that there’s no difference and just think they can coast wherever (especially if they coasted through college). Sometimes, the only way to get through to people is to let them learn lessons the hard way.

  87. Ella Vader*

    I thought Alison had a particularly insightful and compassionate suggestion here, and I’m surprised that few commenters are responding to it.
    “The approach I’d take is to lay out what you’re seeing — not just “hey, preparing for interviews helps and is actually a thing you’re expected to do,” but “the way you’re approaching this is surprising to me, seems like self-sabotage, and I wonder what’s going on.” It’s a more intimate conversation, and it’s probably the one that would help both of you the most.”

    If I were watching a partner or particularly close friend dealing with something like this, I might try finding ways to have roundabout bigger-picture conversations, first. And trying really hard not to sound like I was asking rhetorical questions or expecting specific answers. “What would you most like to do next, if you weren’t getting a job in this field and you had money to get by on?” “Do you ever think about going to grad school / law school?” “What would you think about moving somewhere else?” “Are you looking forward to how our lives are going to change when you graduate, or does it seem weird to think of? I know I’m going to miss the things we do with your friends on campus.” Then I might ask questions to see whether they’re making a conscious choice to choose that kind of job, and whether the first round of interviews has made them want to re-think. It might be a good thing if they come away from the rejections feeling like a bad fit with corporate cultures – that can help them figure out something different to try.

  88. Lobsterp0t*

    How sad that patriarchy has set this situation up so that he is entitled to undeserved ego cushioning and a sense of arrogance in the face of failure.

    You might be unable to deliver any of Alison’s good advice or your own wisdom, since he might be unwilling to hear it. Funny that he has less professional experience than you but feels better informed about professional norms.

    I would suggest considering the potential ramifications of this in terms of things like living together and pulling his weight. If he continues to reject solid and evidence based advice and therefore remains un-or under-employed, I’d be cautious of hitching my wagon to his in a financially impactful way. The attitude he has now is the kind that can easily snowball, with a little push from loyalty and excusing from a partner, into a really pervasive overall taking advantage type of situation.

  89. Sandy*

    Some people have made a similar point but I will say this; it can be really hard to mix personal relationships and work advice. Sometimes friends, family and SOs don’t want advice, only sympathy and they get embarrassed and defensive when the former is offered. They just want you to listen, not fix it. So I guess the point is to figure out what he wants from this situation. I don’t think it’s entirely invalid to not what a ton of career advice from your SO(especially when the job hunt is long),assuming you aren’t an arrogant jerk about turning it down. I would suggest the AAM reading to him and then probably leave it. Snark is right that sometimes…you gotta learn these things the hard way(I mean, you DON’T but generally speaking you still do anyway at first).

  90. West Coast Reader*

    Really appreciate this letter and the comment thread. I have a similar issue where the guy I’m seeing is working on building an app, except he has no idea who his target audience is or what they want from an app like his. He got his friends to test it out, but none of them are his target demographics. He just wants to build it and get a business cofounder to figure it out for him.

    This is a classic textbook What Not To Do When Building a Startup. I’m honestly baffled by this approach, but it’s not my time that I’m wasting. It’s great to see all the perspectives on how to handle a situation where your partner is doing something in a way that you do not agree with! Thank you. :)

  91. Krackln*

    I had a partner like this, totally clueless about the realities of job-searching and unwilling to heed any of the conventional wisdom out there about how to find a job.

    It was very tiresome for me trying to help him and I often felt like I was the one job hunting, not him. It was a stressful enough experience that it started to affect my performance at work and strained our relationship quite a bit.

    Say your piece about the right way to job search and interview and then as much as possible let it go. He is an adult, there are plenty of resources out there for him, and if he chooses to continue not taking advantage of them he has only himself to blame. You are in a relationship with him, true, but this really isn’t your burden to bear.

    The closest I want to get as far as relationship advice is not to make any long-term decisions like moving in together or combining finances or anything like that until he finds a job and has been in it for awhile. We don’t have enough information from this letter to really know what this guy is like and it’s likely he is just young and clueless, but it’s always possible there is something more problematic going on. That was the case with my partner, and living with him was a bad decision for my career, my finances and my emotional-wellbeing.

  92. LQ*

    I don’t think I saw this mentioned but I’d also suggest pointing out that it’s annoying and frustrating as an applicant when you go in and the interviewer hasn’t even glanced at your resume or done anything to prepare for you. That doesn’t mean they don’t have the skills (they have the actual job), but clearly really great future bosses stop and take time to prepare for the interview. You want to bring to the table what you want back. If I expect my future boss to have taken time to prepare, then yeah, I should take time to prepare myself.

    And if I don’t take time to prepare, I don’t know that I deserve a boss who prepares.

  93. Not A Manager*

    @OP – I just re-read your letter after reading the comments here. I see you wanting to be helpful in your boyfriend’s interview process, AND not come across like you’re (God forbid!) criticizing him, AND wanting to phrase all of your comments in the softest manner. You’re doing a lot of logistical and emotional managing right now, for someone who doesn’t really seem to want that.

    My advice: You’re not his mommy. You don’t need to manage all this stuff for him. I think you should say something like, “Best of luck on your next round of interviews. If you want to look at some materials beforehand, here are some resources.” And then back off.

    I also suggest that you not make additional life commitments until you see not only how he handles the issue of finding employment, but also how he handles your not managing his experience all the time. Don’t sign a lease together, or make Big Future Plans. The transition from “college sweethearts” to “adult partners” isn’t always easy, or even wise. Just let this all coast for a while.

  94. Cece*

    When I was in my early 20’s, I dated a guy like this. In his case, he didn’t feel like he needed to know anything about the product he was hired to sell. It was maddening. Like Alison said (paraphrased), life tends to beat people up when they’re being dumb. I didn’t stick around to find out if he learned his lesson, but I hope he did.

    In any event, if the OP’s boyfriend hasn’t learned from this experience, there are bigger issues in play.

  95. Rainy days*

    I sympathize a bit. My husband isn’t good at interviews. It’s not so much that he doesn’t prepare, as he doesn’t quite…get in the head of the interviewers and figure out what will sound good to . I’m not in the room with him so it’s hard to pinpoint the problem, but there’s been moments where he’s told me “I said X in the interview” and I’ve told him, “FYI, I probably wouldn’t hire someone who said X.” It doesn’t seem to have much impact, but hey, it’s his career. He’s a great worker so he’s been able to advance within companies once people see the quality of his work, luckily. There’s a big difference between someone who is bad at and interviewing and someone who is bad at professionalism, and hopefully you ended up with the former, OP.

  96. NextSteps*

    I read this post through the lens of my own experience as a woman on the autism spectrum who works in tech. My experience with autism is a conjoined twin with anxiety. Several years ago, as a recent master’s grad returning to work, I struggled mightily with interviewing, in particular with communicating my credibility in a way that was socially appropriate. My interview mannerisms were described as “intense” by a former manager and body language as “ready to tackle” by a friend of mine. I bet I talked too much in the interview, too. It was easy for me to dismiss advice and observations thinking that sexism could be the only explanation for why my behavior didn’t fit the situation, when really my “social thinking skills” needed an upgrade (phrase attributed to _Social Thinking at Work: Why should I care?_ by Michelle Garcia Winner).

  97. Game of Drones*

    Last time I interviewed, I did not sit down and formally prepare, but in the time between getting the call to set up an interview and the actual interview, I mentally rehearsed answered to common questions. Over and over. While I did housework. While I drove to work.

    Got the job!

  98. Bowserkitty*

    in a way that comes across as helpful and supportive instead of seeming like I think I’m better than him or am saying “I told you so”?

    You’re a better person than I am, OP. I love the “told you so” dance.

    I like to think he will come around eventually, but I know a lot of people also don’t like admitting when they’ve been wrong about something! Is there any chance maybe he’ll start prepping in private just to save face? lol

    1. CoveredInBees*

      You can always do the “told you so” dance in private after being understanding and supportive with the other person. I’ve totally done this because I WAS RIGHT.

  99. LilyP*

    If he asks for advice or it comes up in conversation a good place to start might be asking what he thinks “preparing for an interview” means. But unless he’s asking you for advice I’d try to say “not my circus not my monkeys” to the whole thing. As an entire adult he has plenty of options and resources available to him to figure this stuff out. If him being unemployed does cause financial problems for you I’d address those directly and leave the question of where he gets the money entirely in his court unless/until he asks you for advice on it.

    But. You say you didn’t feel like it’s “my place to push” and that giving him advice might seem “like I think I’m better than him” and that feels off to me. I think in general partners should be able to give each other well-intentioned advice and disagree with each other without it being a Huge Fraught Thing. I don’t know this from one letter, but if those feelings are coming from how your boyfriend typically reacts to you saying things, that’s a red flag. And if they’re not, maybe giving him advice on this won’t be as bad as you’re worrying!

    1. LGC*

      But. You say you didn’t feel like it’s “my place to push” and that giving him advice might seem “like I think I’m better than him” and that feels off to me. I think in general partners should be able to give each other well-intentioned advice and disagree with each other without it being a Huge Fraught Thing.

      Cosigning this! Like, it almost seems like the LW is more invested in her boyfriend’s happiness than her boyfriend is. (She is certainly more invested in his job search, which speaks more to him than to her.) And – yeah – she should definitely interrogate where that’s coming from. I’d actually be inclined to agree with the LW that it’s not her place to “push” (because honestly, she can’t fix her boyfriend if he doesn’t want to be fixed), but the bit about not wanting to seem better than him makes me feel like she’s painting herself into the background for him.

      That said, I think he’s allowed to sulk for a little bit after things blew up in his face, and it’d be awkward if he came back from another bombed interview and was immediately confronted with interview prep advice. But also, if there was a point where LW had to avoid rubbing it in her boyfriend’s face, she is well past that now.

  100. Wintermute*

    I’m going to say that in my opinion it is a balance. The jobs I’ve done the most prep for and tried the hardest for tend to be my worst interviews, the ones I could take or leave tend to be my best. There is certainly a point of over-preparing, and coming off as stilted, but I’ve never done NO prep. At the very least you need to be quick to hand with anecdotes or stories for key skills that they’re looking for, and to do that you have to commit their pre-requisites and job description to memory. What I don’t do is practice specific answers to questions to the point I have a pre-memorized statement because that leads to shoehorning your prepared answer into their question rather than composing a tailored answer. I do spend a little time thinking about how I’ll answer particularly tricky questions I anticipate, though.

    Once I even managed to convert being a few minutes late with major car trouble into a major selling point, because I knew they were looking for someone with the ability to quickly digest technical specifications and learn an esoteric technical business. I mentioned I had to take an uber because my car’s transmission was at low pressure, then briefly described that I wasn’t really a transmission guy but based on wikipedia and some websites it sounded like a pressure issue caused the car to go into “limp mode” which disables the top gears and is designed to help you get to a safe place before the thing totally breaks. I said I should have known there was trouble when my cruise control stopped working because apparently that’s controlled heavily by your pressure transducer, which I hadn’t known before.

    Because I knew what they were looking for, a problem solver, with the ability to quickly digest technical information, enough mechanical aptitude to put together new information and concepts in a logical way and the ability to apply abstract system knowledge to solving concrete design challenges, I turned what could have been a major red flag into a showcase of how my talents matched the job and how I was already able to do what they wanted under high pressure of a job interview you had to get to RIGHT NOW.

    I suppose my point is that you can certainly over-prepare, and the boyfriend isn’t wrong in that trying to claim knowledge based on a few days of research is likely to backfire on you if they decide to dig into your technical knowledge. But your job is to sell yourself to the company in the interview, and to do that you need to know what they’re looking for. Some of that you can learn through their company website, but won’t BE in the job description. Maybe from their website you can learn they’re part of a lot of green and sustainability initiatives and you can mention you believe in their mission, maybe they have ethics statements that indicate you should showcase how you’ve made challenging ethical choices in the past, but that’s not in the job description.

    Maybe through glassdoor you can find out they value hierarchy and deference to authority and you can highlight a time you navigated a delicate matter between two bosses and it was a big success, or temper your answers to “what would you do if your boss told you to do something you knew was a bad idea?” to be more deferential than you may otherwise be. A company values a lot of things they don’t put in the job description, those things you can learn through their website, glassdoor, and word of mouth.

    At the very least you should be well versed in their requirements to the point you can take any question thrown at you, and match it with an answer from your experiences that checks the boxes they want ticked.

  101. SG*

    Just to give my two cents (a bit late to the party), but I recruit for a large company in campus recruiting. Feedback that comes up constantly? “They didn’t know about our dept…they didn’t do any research on the company…etc.” It really does matter to people that they hire candidates that are interested in the dept.

    Also, a shocking number of people don’t review their own resume before coming in and then can’t speak to their resume.

  102. CoveredInBees*

    OP, I don’t know if anecdotes might convince your boyfriend but my husband has an ivy-league CS degree, 15+ years working on cutting edge tech, and is constantly headhunted by big names in tech. So you could say that he’s strongly qualified. When he was interviewing for jobs last year, he prepped for days.

    Not only knowing the company and their business but also for the practical interviews because these interviews tend to ask you about your knowledge in a different way than you’re used to, especially if you’re fresh out of school. Just like you get better at the SAT the more you practice their questions, regardless of how well you’ve already done in math or English, practicing the technical questions helps you organize your thoughts and knowledge ahead of time. A book he recommends is “Cracking the Coding Interview: 189 Programming Questions and Solutions.”

  103. RVA Cat*

    This strikes me as maybe a Fixed vs. Growth mindset thing. Boyfriend has bought into the Fixed mindset that he can wow them in the interview with his natural brilliance and charisma alone – and if he doesn’t, that reflects on Who He Is instead of How He Did.

  104. KoolMan*

    Hahahahaa !! In tech you get murdered in interviews even if you are prepared, so not preparing then be prepared to be jobless for ever !!

    1. TellMeMorePlease*

      Can you say more about this getting murdered? How do you gauge your own performance during? After? I’m switching sectors for tech jobs.

  105. Akcipitrokulo*

    I xan think of two approaches tha *might* work…

    He’s finishing college. Although he is pretty expert at what he does, he will prepare for exams or oral presentations? This is similar – you know your stuff, but you run over how you’re going to present it to best effect.

    Second is that while you know a lot in your field of expertise, you don’t have expertise in this company; preparing for what they want in particular (at the very least, reading their “about us” and “company history” pages) – these are areas which are outside current knowledge, but will be expected to know.

    Good luck!

  106. Akcipitrokulo*

    Also, if the company has won an award or has an accreditation… like we’re a Benefit Corp (b-corp) … that’s a great thing to know!

    – why do you want to work here?
    – well, I think I’d be suited because x, and also I noticed you’ve got b-corp accreditation and that is something that appeals to me

    … would go down VERY well with us because we worked hard to get it :)

  107. Perpal*

    Some ways to think about interviewing that might help him

    1) the more money you want to make/responsibility you want to have, the more you have to prep. My job filing papers at a law firm? No interview, no prep. Looking to get hired as an academic physician? 45 minute talk about my research; yes these talks can be “recycled” but it’s still hours, if not days of prep, depending on how you’re counting it.
    2) you’re trying to figure out if you want to work there, so if you research the place you’ll be able to get more out of the visit as far as deciding if you like it.

    As others have said, maybe this is just a temporary block for him; overall OP can’t control it. If he asks for advice give it, if he gets irritated and just avoids the subject may be best to stay out of it. (and if he just digs his heels in and this ends up being a chronic issue of “I know best and will studiously ignore reality and requests from loved ones that conflict with what I want” then maybe rethink how this looks for a long term relationship.)

  108. insert pun here*

    OP, you’re getting a lot of good advice here. I thought it might be useful to hear from someone who largely doesn’t prepare for interviews. These are the things that allow me to do that:
    1.) 98% of the jobs that I apply for are at competitors, so I already know what they’re doing and can speak intelligently about, at minimum, how it appears to an outside observer. This is probably the most important thing on this list.
    2.) The nature of my work generally does not require me to demonstrate technical skills in an interview.
    3.) My position is very clearly defined, and most of the positions I apply for would have me doing largely the same work. I have been doing this work for over a decade, so I can talk about it, intelligently, for a long time.
    4.) My job involves a fair amount of public speaking and presentation, and I feel comfortable talking to a group and answering questions extemporaneously. I am well practiced in things like “I’m not sure, but one option would be…” and “I’ve never done that, but here’s a similar thing…” etc.
    5.) Because my industry is small and relatively self contained, I know most people who interview me by reputation at least; many of them are people I’ve known professionally for years. (And vice versa.)

    I have done more preparation for interviews where 1, 3, and 5 didn’t apply — but these jobs are rare for me. But on some level I am basically doing the preparation for an interview all the time. If that weren’t the case… I would absolutely spend more time preparing.

  109. Kitty*

    I won’t say dump him, but I will say that you come across as very tentative (with your boyfriend at least) in this message. I would get in there and tell him honestly (and kindly, sure) what you are seeing. Treat yourself with respect and grant him the respect and opportunity to hear what you think. If he’s worth it, he’ll react in a mature way.

    The tone of my first post was much more critical.

  110. CleverGirl*

    I had a friend who didn’t prepare well (or possibly at all) for interviews. He had a PhD and was having a hard time getting a job (it had been almost a year since he finished school). I was shocked and didn’t understand why. Then he told me about a “terrible interview” he had where they asked him what he knew about the company, and he started talking about it and had gotten that company confused with another company with a similarly spelled name! I was shocked that he didn’t even google the company and go to their website and read their mission and such before the interview. But at least I understood why he wasn’t having luck getting a job.

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