was this interview as bizarre as I think it was?

A reader writes:

I recently went on my first interview in my field after finishing school two weeks ago, and the interview was odd in a few different ways.

1. Although I’m white with a British background on both sides, my last name is one that one would assume is Korean or Indigenous. The first thing the interviewer (who I would report directly to) said to me after we shook hands was, “When I got your name from (mutual acquaintance), I was excepting you to be Asian! Do you get that a lot? It’s probably not very PC of me to say that.” I told her I did but also said in a polite way that no one has outright said it.

2. After she pointed out that I’m fresh out of school with no experience, she asked me to describe a day in the role. I stammered out with a smile that she stole my question, to which she laughed but then told me to answer. I was barely able to get an answer out as they don’t actually teach us what our daily roles look like in my program, just theory.

3. She asked me what I honestly thought of our mutual acquaintance, and that she knows the acquaintance well and so she’ll know if I’m telling the truth or not

4. She told me she does not do training, that’s my responsibility to learn the job on my own … and that she’ll have me on for 1-2 months and if I fit in she’ll hire me on permanently.

5. She ended the interview by telling me to come in two business days later to do some work, but she didn’t offer me a job or speak about pay, or ask me if I was even available (I’m not, I have a job I’d need to quit, but I had decided at this point I wasn’t going to take any offer from this company).

6. She didn’t give me any opportunities to ask questions.

I tactfully told her that I had another interview to go to, do have a job currently, and need to discuss this with my partner, and that I’d have to get back to her later in the day about her proposal. I emailed her that night, thanking her for meeting me and expressing that it wasn’t the right fit for me.

Is this a bizarre interview from a professional, or is this the kind of thing that I might run into semi-often? I have no comparisons to make having only had the one interview.

Nope, it’s bizarre.

It’s not uncommon to run into weird and unprofessional interviewers, but they’re often weird and unprofessional in their own unique and surprising ways. You know that Tolstoy quote from Anna Karenina — “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”? Sometimes I think that’s job interviews too.

As a general rule, you should not expect to encounter weird racial comments, requests that you describe a day in a job you don’t know much about (that’s a particularly bizarre interview question — at any level, but especially to ask someone right out of school), demands that you share your private assessment of mutual acquaintances, statements that your interviewer “will know if you’re telling the truth or not,” and blithe announcements that you won’t be trained so good luck.

Interviewers who don’t give you a chance to ask your own questions are less rare — but that’s always a danger sign. The same goes for interviewers who seem to be offering you work without discussing pay and interviewers who won’t commit to you for more than a month or two, despite the job being a long-term one. (The latter is normal when something is explicitly advertised as a temp job, and certainly probationary periods — where you can be let go without the company following its normal progressive discipline process — are common. But when someone advertises a job as a long-term one, then expects you to quit your current job for “we’ll decide in a couple of months if you fit in,” that’s a red flag.)

Kudos to you on handling this perfectly right out of school. When you’re interviewing without much work experience, it’s easy to assume that the interviewer knows what they’re doing, and so people often miss serious danger signs and end up in highly dysfunctional jobs (where they again often assume “this must be normal” and so tolerate toxicity that they shouldn’t be tolerating). But you called this exactly right.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 205 comments… read them below }

  1. Cassandra*

    I have all the curiosity about this company now. Large or small? Where is this interviewer in the hierarchy? Does she supervise anyone currently? Did OP talk to anyone else?

    Regardless, OP, well-played, and I’m glad your situation allows you to flee the evil bees.

    1. Nausicaa*

      I agree, it would be great to hear more about what this company is like… I couldn’t stop cringing on OP’s behalf.

      OP, you definitely dodged a bullet. I would even consider reaching out to their HR manager and letting them know that the interview was very unprofessional and would likely deter other suitable candidates, if that’s how she interviews other applicants.

      1. Lis*

        A person I know was called for an interview with a multi-national and when they told me about the interview my jaw hit the floor. Highlights include “You got your degree from X, is that even a real university?” One of the 5 recognised universities at the time in the country so not at all obscure. And “Oh I see you got a first class honours graduate degree from local university, I guess that was an easy course”. Definitely a good thing not to work for that manager. No HR there for the interview. All sorts of red flags.

          1. SusanIvanova*

            I haven’t seen them in the interviews with my future teams, but it’s not uncommon for them to be the one to greet you, take you to where the interview will be, and then have a 5-10 minute mini interview that covers any general questions.

            1. Squigglecat*

              Not a thing in my experience. Must depend on your field. I’ve only been to one interview where HR were there.

          2. A. Schuyler*

            I recently interviewed at four different companies, including my current employer for an internal role. Current employer had no HR presence, and one of the others was a pretty informal meeting with a potential peer, but the other two did have an HR representative alongside the hiring manager for the first round. They asked and answered some of the general cultural/behavioural questions.

          3. CanuckCat*

            I work for a big NGO and our HR team usually conducts the initial phone screen, as well as leads any testing that may be involved, and sits in on the first in-person interview. I think it varies from company to company; I’ve had some where HR was my first point of contact and some where I only met HR when I received my job offer.

          4. Tom*

            Way back, when i was a rookie IT person – i scored an interview with a company (multinational).
            First round, was with a manager of the team that had the opening, and one of those the newbie would be working with. (their comment – after they saw my science fiction themed email address: He`s one of us, consider him hired).
            Second round, with team manager and HR, to iron out rules, perks, details etc.
            So, to me – at least in one stage someone from HR would be part of the ‘onboarding’ process.

        1. LunaLena*

          Reminds me of the time an interviewer (the owner of a small company) kept trying to get me to admit that I lied about having a BA. I attended the college of arts and sciences at my university, so although I majored in biology, my diploma says Bachelor of Arts because Bachelor of Science is reserved for undergrads in the engineering school. I assured him that my diploma does indeed say BA and I was surprised about it too when I received it, but he wouldn’t let it go and kept insisting that I lied on my resume. He only shut up when I said “I can email you a copy so you can see it for yourself, if you’d like.”

          I’d already decided at that point that I didn’t want to work for him, so I didn’t actually send it. Not surprisingly, I never heard from them again.

          1. Humble Schoolmarm*

            That reminds me of my weirdest interview. It was med school admissions, but I was working part time at the public library so the doctor interviewing me decided to spend most of the interview grilling me about programs the library offered for her elderly mother. Of course, I worked circulation, not programming, so I couldn’t tell her much. A few weeks later, she saw me at the library “Oh, so you really do work here,” she snarked. No, I totally faked this glamorous job to up my chances for med school admission.
            I’m not sorry that my career took a different path, but I’m still salty about that particular interview.

          2. Artemesia*

            Very weird. Most A&S degrees are BAs and it relates to the broad liberal arts requirements for the degree regardless of the specific major. BS degrees usually are in professional schools of universities. This guy was ignorant as well as insufferable.

            1. LunaLena*

              I realize this is complete speculation, but I honestly think it wasn’t just ignorance, he was also racist. :) I’m Asian-American, but I married a white guy, so my last name is Swedish. The owner was only involved in the last part of the interview – prior to that, I interviewed with the manager I would have been working under and completed a 15-minute task to prove my abilities. She and I got along great, I was getting really positive vibes about the whole thing, and then she brought in the owner. The room I was in had glass walls, so I could see him coming over. He was all smiles as he had a word or two with other employees on his way, but as soon as he saw me through the glass, he stopped dead in his tracks and his face changed. He didn’t say much to me and let the manager talk instead, but when I mentioned my biology degree, he pounced on it and spent the rest of the interview hung up on that detail (the interview ended shortly after I offered to send it to him).

              The impression I came away with was that he wasn’t expecting an Asian girl, so he was looking for any excuse to reject me as a candidate and found it.

              1. ToCogOrNotToCog*

                I had a similar experience with an interviewer who acted as if everything I said was a lie, basically challenging me to “prove it” for every aspect including education. Thankfully it was over the phone, but my photo is on LinkedIn (and my name is very.. forgettable) and it hadn’t occurred to me that he was probably just racist.

              2. Elitist Semicolon*

                Depends on the university. At my large R1, it’s possible to get a BA in a science field or a BS in humanities majors as long as the major is housed in Arts and Sciences. The distinction has to do with how many science/math courses students take as electives, not with the major itself. What looks like an oddity is pretty common here.

          3. Kitryan*

            I have a BA and an MFA, both in the same field/specialty, also due to how the two universities organized themselves. Theater is in the college of arts and sciences at my undergrad and in the school of fine arts in my grad school. I’ve never been challenged on it though!
            I did have a grad school interview where the professor was very adversarial and tried to catch me out on a piece in my portfolio- she had designed a show I’d done in its premiere, which I hadn’t known and was asking pointed questions about it, seemingly to get me to say something wrong or negative about it. She’d also written an article recently about the caliber of undergraduates applying and was aiming to fit me into that box. The whole thing was ridiculous.

          4. Marie*

            Seriously? My Ivy League school did it the same way: majors in the arts college (including biology and chemistry) earned BAs while students in the engineering college earned BSs. The split was largely historical and had nothing to do with the rigor or content of the curriculum.

            Frankly an interviewer who has never encountered that before looks inexperienced, at best.

          5. only acting normal*

            The fact that Oxford (i.e. one of the world’s top universities) awards BA (and a couple of other specialist B# but no BSc) to all of undergraduate subjects would blow his tiny mind.

    2. Bizarre interview OP*

      The company was smallish, The person I interviewed with, and would have been working I get, is one of 4 partners at the company, so as high as you can get! She had 2 of her own employees but one quit due to sickness.

      1. Cassandra*

        Wow. Thanks for answering, OP.

        Partners/founders… can be like this, particularly at young companies. Zero HR knowledge, to the point of not knowing what they don’t know. This sure seems like a case of that. Well done you for steering clear.

      2. chickaletta*

        I knew it! As soon as I read your story I thought that’s got to be a small company, 40 employees tops. I’ve worked for a handful of small companies and I’ve run into situations like this. Unlike you, however, I didn’t know enough to run away. Those jobs for me usually lasted 3-10 months.

        Now I work for a large company and I love it.

        1. FabTag*

          Congrats on finding a job you love! In defense of small companies, we’re not all bad. The first two people who joined our company when my sister and I started it have been with us for 18 years. We hire a lot of contractors and they tend to reapply when new opportunities open up with us. Some of us have awesome workplaces!

          1. Possibly Enough Detail to be Identified?*

            Ah, but you’re a small business owner with the good sense to read AAM!
            I’m prepared to bet that a lot of small business owners go into it with not enough support/understanding/basic common sense (take your pick; between us, hubby and I have run the gamut), where blogs like this one should be part of the starter kit (along with Managing for Dummies – and in some cases you can black out the “for” as well!)

          2. learnedthehardway*

            That’s really a good track record. With small companies, looking at attrition is a really good way to determine whether the organization has a decent culture or not.

      3. Michaela Westen*

        Sorry late to this thread, but IME a job with no training = a job with no support and it is a nightmare. Being expected to do a job I have no training or experience in and no help learning it is traumatic.

    3. Antilles*

      From the outside, my guess would be a small company, solely because the offer to “come in two days later to do some work” wouldn’t fly in most corporations (even dysfunctional ones) because it’s a security risk, a potential violation of labor laws, and also very quick.
      The only way I could see this at a large company is if the interviewer herself is extremely green to the role of hiring and in that case, I’d expect a bit more oversight.

  2. Barefoot Librarian*

    I definitely think you dodged a bullet there. What a strange interview. Kudos to you for picking on up that!

    1. Oh no, not another Jennifer*

      +1000 yes. So many red flags. I don’t want to imagine how this workplace functions (or doesn’t).

  3. KHB*

    #2 reminds me of a weird interview I had once for a job at a very small business. The interviewer/owner asked me what I thought were some of the differences between working for a very small business and working elsewhere. I listed a few obvious things, and he just kept asking “What else? What else? What else?” I wish I’d had the presence of mind to say “Clearly you’ve got something in mind that hasn’t occurred to me, so maybe you should just tell me what it is, because I don’t think I’m going to guess it.”

    1. Archives Gremlin*

      I had something similar at one of my first interviews right after grad school. The person I’d be working under asked me if once I was finished with the big project, what I should do after… It was so bizarre and I’m really glad I didn’t take that job

      1. learnedthehardway*

        That’s not such a bad question, though – the person was probably looking for you to say that you would look for the next thing to do, ask for more work, pitch in to help with a colleague, etc. I would guess they asked that question to determine whether you have initiative and/or because they’ve had issues with past employees who would get a big task done and then do nothing until assigned something else, rather than letting their manager know they now had availability for another assignment.

    2. Yorick*

      I had that once too, and the question was something like, “what’s the biggest challenge for you as a teacher?”

    3. ElspethGC*

      I wonder if he wanted you to wax lyrical about how great small businesses were?

      If it was one of those “but we’re a familyyyy” places, the fact that you didn’t immediately answer “Well, the biggest difference is that small family-owned businesses are better because we all get to be one big happy family and we would all sacrifice our first-born child for the sake of the company” would probably be enough to rule you out.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Ugh. I hate it when someone has set on their own unique “the obvious thing to notice/ask” and just keeps prodding because weirdly no one is asking what they are sure is the only possible question.

      Had it with an older, science-literate school group touring a science facility. Stood before a cutaway of an immensely complex piece of equipment, and he wanted to know the “one thing” everyone noticed about it, which was pretty interesting… and no one guessed. It turned out that “it’s round” was the answer.

    5. Armchair Analyst*

      My current job interview was a panel with 3 interviewers, and they must’ve asked me at least 7 times total how I handle difficult people.
      Yeah, it’s one of THOSE jobs. I finally did say, “I’ve given you quite a few answers and scenarios with different strategies but it seems like you’re thinking of something else entirely?”
      At that point I wrote off the job but of course was desperate so….

      1. HasBro*

        If they were asking that many times/ways how you deal with difficult people, you probably dodged a bullet. Anytime an interviewer has asked me that, it’s because they have a bunch of difficult people… and ain’t nobody got time for that!

        1. Kyrielle*

          Well, at a previous job, we tended to ask for an example of a time you handled a difficult client.

          In one interview – I wasn’t in it, but I promise we ALL heard about it later – the boss asked that question. The candidate said ‘difficult how?’ and the boss said swearing at them. Candidate asked for an example (um…), so boss gave an example. I don’t recall now what it is but I DO recall that it was not racist/sexist/etc., just garden-variety rudeness.

          Candidate reported boss to our HR. But only after being turned down for the job.

          Boss stopped providing examples or asking anything more than the mealy-mouthed difficult client/person question.

          1. Queen of the File*

            Sounds like the most informative answer to that question you could get! “Show me, don’t tell me” haha.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I found out the opposite with my last Demon Boss.

          He kept playing up the eccentric personalities. The “artists” were “difficult” but you know, artists.

          I come from grumpy AF millwork and dealing with truckers. My old bosses told him I was great with all people regardless of their difficulties.

          Not a single difficult person. Sweet, hilarious, badasses each one. A few hands to hold and trigger points to avoid like normal humans. They just all required respect and some attention. I kept waiting for a difficult personality…

          Boom. Boss went full Jackhole almost a year later. I left that guy in the dust. I would have taken everyone with me if physically possible.

        3. Close Bracket*

          I was asked that by 4 different people in a 5 person interview. I was right on the verge of asking whether they needed a system engineer or a staff therapist.

      2. The New Wanderer*

        It sounds like Armchair Analyst got (and took) the job and it turns out that it’s all about handling difficult people.
        For one job, I was asked twice by two interviewers how I handled passive-aggressive people. But after the question they explained how this indeed would factor into the job. I didn’t take the job.

    6. PizzaSquared*

      While that sounds like a terrible interview technique, I have at times asked somewhat similar things. What I’m usually trying to get at is how much thought this candidate has put into changing industries/company types/whatever. I’d never expect them to be able to explain a day in the life of a job they’ve never had, and I don’t have pre-concieved answers I’m looking for. But when someone is interviewing for a job that’s very different from what they have done in the past, I’d like to get at least a sense that they realize it’s different, and have thought through what that might mean.

      1. KHB*

        But if it becomes clear that they don’t realize all the ways it’s different, you don’t just keep pressing them and pressing them, do you? Because these aren’t really the kinds of things that can be reasoned from first principles – especially not on the fly in the middle of a job interview – if there are salient factors the candidate isn’t aware of in the first place.

        I was relatively new to the working world back then, and I hadn’t had a lot of exposure to different kinds of employment environments (I was a postdoc, and pretty much everyone I knew was affiliated with a university in some capacity or other). AAM didn’t exist back then to open my eyes to the variety of workplace drama and managerial quirks that exist in the world, most of which I would never have been able to anticipate if I’d tried.

        (Although now I’m imagining answering that interview question based on some of the stories I’ve read here. “Um…if your brother ever needs a liver transplant, you haven’t got enough employees to have a good chance of finding a match?”)

      2. nonprofit manager*

        I ask people to describe the job to me all the time, particularly entry level. I work in an industry loads of people want to get into and, frankly, romanticize a bit. I want to hear them describe what they think they’ll be doing – It helps me (along with other questions) gauge if they’ll be disappointed and move on more quickly than I’d like.

    7. SusanIvanova*

      I got the “What else?” repeat when I applied at a store in a mall – my other part-time job was teaching karate, so the interviewer latched onto that and kept asking what I would do if someone came in to rob the place. I said “call security, it’s their job” (and I was obviously a skinny college girl, so what did he *think* I was going to do?). He kept escalating the situation and I kept repeating the obvious.

    8. TechWorker*

      I had that exact thing in an interview for university, where they asked me repeatedly why I *really* wanted to do the course, and when I said ‘I’m sorry I’ve tried to answer I’m not really sure what you’re looking for’, they said ‘oh no, don’t say what you think you want us to hear! Say how you feel!’ It was bizarre and stressful…

    9. Jam Today*

      I’ve had a few interviews like that, where the person interviewing me *clearly* wanted me to say something specific, and I was not saying it. One kept asking me what the first thing I would do when coming up with a new product concept was (I’m a product manager) and I kept backing up in the process after he repeated “but *before* that, what would you do?” until finally I was just stumped. In my head I was like “I don’t know, open up some sodium ion channels in my brain and connect a couple of synapses I guess.”

      In retrospect, I should have just asked that to see how he responded. They never called me back even to say “thank anyway” after I asked about the number of women in senior leadership. Had I known, I would have just swung for the fences.

    10. AnnaBananna*

      I had a v similar #2 myself actually. It was before my current role and it was a bit of a stretch interview, honestly. But I was sent by a third partner saying that I was ‘perfect’ for it (eyeroll). First thing they asked was ‘how do you see yourself succeeding in this role’ – but we hadn’t even discussed the role, there was no position description for it yet, I was sent blindly by the third party, etc. Then they asked me a non-nuanced question to a nuanced topic: ‘how do you approach performance management’ – of which I have had two wildly different professional experiences in: company/organization efficiency evaluation, and as a manager with her own direct reports doing annual reviews, the former being incredibly complex and time intensive, the other one a requirement that we all dread but get over with as fast as possible. Again, I was just picked to interview because of my background – but which part of my background?! I was so scared to have egg on my face, and the interviewer was rather snooty, that I just BSed and then ran away as quickly as I could.

    11. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve only ever worked for single ownership/small partnerships. So I would cackle at any fool who tried this nonsense. You’re not as special as you think, Dude Sir.

    12. only acting normal*

      I had a promotion interview once (so internal) and the dept manager kept fishing for me to say something *else* about my “strengths”. I was at a loss having covered everything I could think of. Turns out they were expecting me to say I was organised – which… yes I am, but not as a strength, as a *coping mechanism* for weak executive function issues (from then undiagnosed autism).

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      From 9-11 is Netflix binge time. Then second breakfast, followed by nap and lunch. Around 2:30 I like to paint a still life at my desk…

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I know it sounds outrageous. And this context even more so because the jerk boss wants no questions, wtfff.

      But I’ve trained myself in half my jobs. And only last year found out that’s not normal and most people simply can’t.

      I has two half days of training on my current job. Just a run down of daily stuff and how to do it in our branded software. The rest was all left in the air for me to figure out.

      I’ve written process documents now. For everything. Ever. The few docs I had found were 5 yrs old and outdated in most cases.

      1. Marie*

        Are you me? The engineer who was supposed to bring me up to speed quit as soon as I started (red flag). She gave me 1 hour of training during her notice period, which much later I discovered had multiple errors. In total, I received 8 hours of training during the first year and had to twist arms for every minute. Management would interrupt the training sessions, too, for “more urgent” work. There is no documentation outside of what I have created.

        It’s insane, frankly, because the job is highly technical and skilled. I can do it because I’m experienced and something of a bad ass. But it’s ridiculous that a year in, there are still some company specific technical things I am finding out (and may have been doing wrong the entire time). I would never ever run an engineering team like this.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Yeah, I’m in accounting and business operations, my entire life is just finding out company specific details, lol. I don’t need to be trained on anything else. Yet I found out the hard way that I stink at training, every time someone has been brought in to replace me and I’ve been handed the training period, it’s been disastrous. Granted that’s also due to the fact my old bosses always were the kind of people who threw things at the wall until they stuck…they lucked out with me and saw me make it look easy, so anyone who said “oh yeah, I’ve def done allllllllllllllllllll the bookkeeping stuff, easy stuff!” was given a chance and they were so horrid. They lasted less than two weeks each time after I left, whomp whomp whomp.

      2. JustaTech*

        My first professional job my boss trained me in a big, important method. Or, I thought he had trained me. (Giving a newbie a protocol and walking away without even watching once isn’t really training. Even if you ascribe to the watch one, do one, teach one training style, there’s still the “watch” phase!)

        Then I changed jobs and learned that while not totally incorrect, my boss had taught me the lazy, half-assed method of doing the process, and while no one was upset at my giant understanding gap, there was a general eye-roll about academics with lazy/incomplete/not-totally-reproducible methods.

        So now I make sure to take a lot of time training people for them to watch me and to ask me a million questions. And to have someone else test my protocols to find all the missing steps that are obvious to me.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Bless you! If only everyone did that! Especially the people who write instructions for appliances!

  4. Jennifer*

    These rude interviewers should be ashamed of themselves for taking advantage of kids fresh out of college. It seems this one just wanted to get some work done for free. Good for you OP for seeing this was a bad situation and getting out of there instead of staying and cooking dinner for 40 people.

    1. FabTag*

      I agree! I’m co-owner of a small business and everyone who works for us gets paid. We have been paying interns and we even pay job applicants who are asked to do a test assignment for us (e.g. $100 for a few hours of work).

    2. Where do y'all get those wonderful user names*

      Jennifer, that is just what I thought of when I read this article!

      LW, good call on your part. This was definitely not a situation I’d want to follow through on. Good luck to you on your job search-you will find something much better.

  5. Lena Clare*

    I wish I’d had the presence of mind you have just out of university!
    That interview was super strange, so you dodged a bullet there.

  6. animaniactoo*

    Oh, I’m so tempted to say that you should reach out to mutual acquaintance and ask them what they think of interviewer. Tell you honestly, now…

    1. Armchair Analyst*

      Could you maybe, ask a question or 2 in your update to Mutual Aquaintance? “Oh hey, Mutual, thanks for connecting me to Rude at Bizzaro, Inc., it didn’t work out but s/he seemed a little ‘off,’ is there anything you know of that might be going on at the company?”

      Idunno. I know Mutual Aquaintance would want to hear good things and if s/he is an advocate for you, then they might be able to tell you more…?

    2. AKchic*

      This was my thought too. Especially since the interviewer name-dropped. It seemed like they got your name from the mutual acquaintance? If so, perhaps a word to the mutual to ensure that they don’t drop any other names to this interviewer, as it is *not* a favor.

  7. Lynca*

    “She asked me what I honestly thought of our mutual acquaintance, and that she knows the acquaintance well and so she’ll know if I’m telling the truth or not”

    WHATTT?! This is some high school level nonsense right there.

    Good job on noting how weird this is OP and sharing this weirdness with us.

    1. Jennifer*

      “Susie has been acting REALLY messed up since she started dating Tad, don’t you think? Don’t you hate her???”

      1. knitcrazybooknut*

        “Ever since she watched that videotape three days ago, she seems really stressed!”

  8. npoworker*

    Peripherally: Can we have a crazy/weird interview stories thread? I have 2 particularly unbelievable stories from my entry level/summer after college job hunt that at the time I had no idea how horribly wrong they were.

    1. Q without U*

      I would also love a version of this from the interviewer’s side. We’ve had candidates that, years later, my colleagues and I are still talking about. These days, any time we have a not-great candidate, we end up saying, “Well, at least she didn’t talk about the illegal things she’d done to prepare for the job.”

      1. Ok_Go_West*

        Yes! I still remember the job candidate who, every time I tried to wrap up the interview gently, would deflect by talking about the soundproofing carpet on the wall in the room we were using as an interview…”Wow! What beautiful carpet! Only a genius would choose this carpet!” It went on and on. Had to put a hard stop to it.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        We just had a guy last year that didn’t answer a question. He would give non answers. “I’ve done a lot of work with teapots!” “tell us about a time you had a teapot malfunction, how’d you handle that?” “Oh when a teapot malfunctions, it’s tough. You just gotta keep going though, it gets better!”

        My boss was so confused at the end. And I was already working on a rejection letter in my mind.

        1. delta cat*

          Oh jeez, I had one of these as one of my first experiences doing interviews. “Do you have experience with teapot painting?” “I have experience with teacup painting, and that’s pretty much the same thing.” “Yes, but we work under a government grant that requires all teapot painters to have a minimum of two years experience painting teapots, do you meet that requirement, yes or no?” “Oh, teacups are so much like teapots, you work with teapots, you know what I mean.” “What you mean is you don’t meet the requirement for teapot painting experience?” “No, no, that’s not what I mean at all! You see, teacups are made of the same materials as teapots, and are both made to hold tea.” “But if the government asks if you’ve ever painted teapots, the answer would be no?” “I’ve painted ceramic teacups, and porcelain teacups, and teacups with and without handles…”
          In retrospect, I should have spent much less time on the question, but it was fascinating, all of the ways she was bobbing and weaving to avoid having to admit that no, she did not qualify to work under this particular government grant.
          The irony is that we were absolutely open to hiring someone who wouldn’t be able to work under that grant, if necessary (people who qualified were pretty hard to find). But the evasiveness ruled that person right out.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          Sounds like a bs artist.
          In the 90’s one of my long-term temp jobs was supporting a floor of programmers. A few times I was informed of a new hire – and two days later he was gone.
          These men had interviewed saying they could do programming they couldn’t actually do, and it quickly became obvious.

      3. Where do y'all get those wonderful user names*

        I’d be interested in that as well, even though I’ve never been in charge of interviewing. However, I recall the time that I had a supervisor who would introduce candidates to current employees. While speaking to me, this one candidate casually mentioned something about threatening to kill someone!

  9. Leela*

    Oof they asked YOU what a day in the role was, when they’re the ones who have the role? I assume she was….I don’t know, trying to find out if you’d read the job description? (This seems like a given although I interviewed a lot of people that were like “I’ve been on so many interviews…what do you guys do again? Although they don’t really make it past phone screens) But telling you what the role is is definitely their responsibility!

    I remember I had an interview for somewhere I was highly qualified and felt very confident about, but the interview was so, so bad. It was three people, one of them came off very cold and uninterested in even talking to me, one who was outright rude the entire time, and one who seemed to have less power and kept cringing at everything the other two said and shooting me apologetic looks. They did give me a chance to ask questions so I asked what a day in the role would look like as far as balancing the (extremely varied) responsibilities, and the rude one scoffed and went “PFFFT. Did you even READ the job description?” and smirked at me, and the cold one went “Hmmmmmm it’s almost like you’re giving US an interview” in an annoyed tone. I didn’t end up getting any offer from them but lord, I never would have taken it if they had.

    1. Kes*

      Yeah that’s such an odd question for the employer to ask, when they’re really the ones who know the answer. My best guess is they wanted to get a sense of how OP envisioned the role and see whether their expectations were aligned, but really, a better way to do that would be just to describe what the role is like and let the applicant decide whether that will work for them.

      As to your experience, it sounds like you also dodged a bullet. It would tempting to reply something like “Yes, I am interviewing you to decide whether I am interested in working for your company” since, I mean, it’s true.

      1. Leela*

        Yes! And in a way, I got what I needed to know from that question and their response. I’d never agree to work with someone who acted like a very basic, politely-asked, important-for-work question was ridiculous and I was ridiculous for asking it. Especially at the interview stage. How many times per day am I going to need to ask these people something because the answer has an impact on my job, only to be scoffed and and given a cold, judgemental “Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.”?

        The cringing one bumped into me (literally) at a craft fair a few months later. When we recognized her I said “Oh hi, how’s it going?” And she went “good…sorry…” and lowered her eyes and scampered off without acknowledging me further. I can’t imagine that anyone caught in the dynamic between those three would be able to do effective work, or retain their sanity.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      “And finally, do you have any questions for us?”
      “Yes, could you describe how the person in this role would balance the day to day responsibilities?”
      “UM, why are YOU interviewing US?”

      Yeah, no.

      Also, “Did you even READ the job description” makes it sound like the new hire would be doing all the stuff listed, no balance expected.

    3. Lucille2*

      Asking an interviewer to describe a day in the life on the job is pretty typical and something that cannot be easily gained from a job description. And, yes, you are giving them an interview too. I’m asked this question often in interviews, and I know the candidate trying to get a gauge on the day to day expectations. Are you going to be on back to back conference calls; will there be some down time to organize and come up with efficient ways to accomplish mundane tasks? Does the work ebb and flow, or are you drinking from a fire house all the time? Of course, you’re not always going to get the full truth on these questions, but a good manager will want a candidate to be comfortable with what they’re getting into before accepting an offer.

    4. Czhorat*

      The cold one is right – you ARE interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. That’s what an interview is, and unless you’re unemployed and desperate for work (or desperate to escape an untenable situation) the interview goes both ways.

      Prospective employers need to understand that.

      1. Beehoppy*

        I was asked once in an interview how I would describe a day in the life of the role. I was totally flummoxed because I was honestly going to ask them that. The position was with the county government handling internet and print marketing for one of their divisions. They also kept asking me network security related questions – sorry-every where else I’ve worked the person who handles backend web stuff is different from the person who develops content and design.

    5. Artemesia*

      Wish you had said ‘why yes, I AM interviewing you to find out if this is a place I would be interested in working.’ Might be good for them to understand that concept.

    6. TJ Morrison*

      Do you remember the begining of the avengers where black widow was tied to a chair being interrogated? It’s a little bit like that. Also, you are more observant than I originally gave you credit for.
      In reality I’d probably just answer yes.

    7. Where do y'all get those wonderful user names*

      I had an interview for a job that I was really excited about. The main thing that turned me off about the company was how the interviewer had scheduled interviews back-to-back, forcing candidates to run into each other. It’s bad enough being nervous about an interview, and such awkward interactions don’t help. I arrived at one interview where there was a room full of people, all completing paper applications for the ONE available position (after we had all submitted resumes online).

      Thus far I’ve never been wrong about such companies who practice this procedure of allowing candidates to assemble in one room while waiting to be interviewed. They turn out to be unprofessional and/or just plain inconsiderate. In fact, a former company I’d worked for went out of their way to NOT have candidates interact.

  10. Falling Diphthong*

    This does remind me a bit of an interview my then-just-out-of-undergrad spouse had with a friend of his brother’s. Interviewer was like “So, just how low would you go on salary?” and spouse responded “Not below what I’m making now, especially given that cost of living is higher here” and the interview basically continued along the parallel tracks “So…. convince to do the immense favor of hiring you” vs “I have a job I like but want to consider different options before just sticking with the comfortable status quo.”

  11. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    My first thought was that the interviewer has an issue with the mutual acquaintance and took it out on the OP. Like, maybe previous referrals have been bad, so she doesn’t trust this acquaintance anymore.

    1. Bizarre interview OP*

      Actually it felt more like she felt she was doing me a favour since I’m inexperience

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        A lot of employers feel like they’re doing inexperienced job seekers a favor by hiring them even if they’re smart enough not to say it, so that’s not so bizarre in my experience. But the bit about the mutual acquaintance is odd, as was her declaration about not training you. It came across as she didn’t fully trust the acquaintance who referred you.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        As a former inexperienced person who now is massively experienced, this is a trap. My very first boss, who hired me six months after HS graduation didn’t even pull this “favor” nonsense.

        You either want to invest in a person or don’t. There’s no “awww poor wittle new grad, let me leave you a trail of bread crumbs into the cave where all the bears are hibernating” malarkey.

    1. Airy*

      Yes, it’s got to the point where even using the term “PC” is something of an asshole flag (or at least person-with-whose-understanding-of-the-way-the-world-works-I-fundamentally-disagree flag) so it’s helpful when they show their colours right away.

      1. pleaset*

        “using the term “PC” is something of an asshole flag ”

        I think it always was an asshole flag. Just more people are aware of it.

        1. Vicky Austin*

          It wasn’t that way initially in the 1990’s. PC used to mean respectful of other people’s differences. Over the years, the anti-PC crowd has tarnished the original meaning.

        2. jolene*

          No, when it started in the UK and I was working for an incredibly inclusive leftie magazine that worked really hard to make sure everyone was referred to the way they wanted to be, that we had excellent diversity etc etc, PC was used as an in-joke by all of us. It was a way for us to make a joke out of our constant, unstinting attempts to be non-sexist/racist pro LGBTQ. It only turned negative after that.

      2. Clorinda*

        Yes, it’s like those statements that begin “I’m not racist but–” Stop right there; yes, you are. We all know what’s coming next.

    2. an infinite number of monkeys*

      I think that was my favorite part – “I told her I did but also said in a polite way that no one has outright said it.” Such a flawlessly polite rebuke. Well done!

      1. Michaela Westen*

        Come to think of it, there’s a man in my building who has a name that appears Asian. I used to see his name on packages. When I met him, he turned out to be white.
        Unusual name for a white man, but since I actually am a nice, non-racist person, I didn’t mention it.

    3. aebhel*

      I never understand what people expect when they preface something with that. “I know this is wildly inappropriate, but I have no self-control so I’m just gonna say it anyway.” Or at least that’s how it reads to me.

  12. Bizarre interview OP*

    I should clarify that I didn’t apply for this job at all, mutual acquaintance (which is a classmate of one class I took) gave her my number and told her I just finished my program. When I got to the interview she told me she was realistically looking for a (one level higher position and a different certificate program) with 5 plus years in the field.

    1. Airy*

      Making it even more of a mystery why she called you in; some sort of weird obligation thing with mutual acquaintance?

    2. Daniel*

      She only mentioned that when you got to the interview? And didn’t mention that before? Yeah, this sounds like she was trying to find someone who was willing to do the work for a lower-than-market salary. Or, she has no clue.

      Good for you for keeping it cordial during the interview and turning this down.

    3. Armchair Analyst*

      Ah. I have actually been on a similar… interview? Which seemed to be done as a favor to the career counselor at my grad school’s program or something. I eventually complained about it to the head of the career center.

  13. Snow Drift*

    This interview seemed only mildly odd when I misinterpreted the verb in the first sentence and thought LW had recently attended finishing school. Once my brain recalibrated, the interview went fully off the rails.

    1. Owler*

      It wasn’t just me, then. I was hoping to hear more and learn about the Finishing School, honestly.

  14. The Original K.*

    Wait, you would have a probationary period (1-2 months & if you do well you’ll be hired permanently) … in which you have to train yourself? What what? That sounds like you’d be set up to fail. And the “dish about our mutual acquaintance!” thing is just tacky.

    I get the “I wasn’t expecting you!” comment in interviews a lot – I’m Black and my last name is associated with another ethnicity (think something like Kowalski). I can always tell who looked at my LinkedIn profile before an interview based on how they respond to me. When it happens I say ” … Oh?” and hold their gaze. That works maybe half the time; the other half, people show more ignorance. I have lots of stock responses.

    1. Marthooh*

      A probationary period in which OP would have to train herself to do a job with no description or stated duties. I figured the interviewer had no idea how to hire or train or manage, so she came up with the simple solution of making the new employee do it all for her.

      Genius! /s

    2. Marie*

      I don’t mind training myself if it’s truly necessary, but it takes a lot longer. Think 1-2 months to onboard with training / documentation, 5-7 months without. The only real problem is when management wants the former when only the latter is realistic. Then we all have big problems.

      Those managers never have the skill set or background themselves, naturally.

    3. Former Employee*

      Sort of like Colin Kaepernick, who is biracial, plus he’s adopted.

      Someone I worked for briefly had a last name that made it seem as if she was part of one ethnic group when she was part of a different one. A coworker said it was a married name, which happened to be true. However, I found out from the manager herself that while it was a married name, the former spouse was of the same ethnic group as she, but their family name had been changed when their ancestor arrived in the US from their country of origin. (Think of someone being named Malley which is Iris when their name was originally Malinski, which is Slavic.)

  15. Rosie The Rager*

    OP, thank you for the very detailed and well-written letter to AAM. You have outlined an array of behaviors that are inappropriate, offensive, and above all red flags about the would-be supervisor.

    Although you wisely chose to withdraw from consideration for the position, I believe you can use this experience as an anecdote among your peer group, especially as I imagine others newly minted graduates will encounter similar interview ploys.

    Again, thanks for sharing your letter. It gives hope to those of us who have endured a series of inappropriate interviews knowledge that we are not alone.

  16. Laurelma01*

    Years ago I interviewed for a job as an office admin at a veterinary hospital. He was so weird. I went to a small liberal college for my degree (part-time as an adult). My school made the list of top 10 southern colleges for it’s size. 1) he kept talking about his side business and that the admin person would have a chance to make extra money but wasn’t clear what it was 2) made it clear that he expected the office manager to clean cages, etc. That animals sitting in urine wasn’t acceptable 3) the other individuals that worked there weren’t friendly at all; were just present 4) wanted me to come in and work a full day (without pay I suspect) and see how I would fit in, 5) made comments about me going to a no name college. Then we would salary etc after we saw how I performed. I called the morning of the day I was supposed to work without pay and left a voicemail stating that I wasn’t coming in. Didn’t bother saying anything else. I was just walking away. I got the impression that his staff was just tired and worn out. He was extremely hyper, and they just kind of went along with whatever he was saying. I got the impression that they had quite a few people, that came in and worked one day, without pay and either they walked away; or he was just using them. To be truthful I felt like it wasn’t even really interested in interviewing me, just wanted someone to come in and work that one day as part of the interview process. Couldn’t decide if that was the screening process or if he was using the interview as free labor; which put more of a burden on his staff.

    1. irene adler*

      Years ago my boss made some comment that he prefers to hire people who really need a job.

      This always made me wonder-why? He didn’t treat people abusively. Or ask them to do outrageous things.

      I wonder if this guy is of similar mindset. Only, he’s looking for folks who are desperate for a job, figuring that anyone who would come in for an entire day -without having discussed payment for that day- was truly desperate to be hired. And then he knew he could ask them to do any task as they needed to keep in his good graces so they would not be fired.

      To that I say: shame on him!

      1. Laurelma01*

        I agree with you. I was doing temp work at that time. I couldn’t afford to take the day off. I suspect you are correct, he wanted someone desperate.

      2. MassMatt*

        Desperate employees will take low-ball offers, and are less likely to expect raises, or leave for greener pastures. Your boss might not have been abusive or nutty but simply cheap.

        Or maybe he just had a short-sighted version of wanting “motivated staff”. But it’s great to have people motivated because they like their work, are well compensated, and have room to grow; people who are “motivated” by desperation are not likely to excel, except perhaps in putting in lots of OT if paid hourly.

      3. Gerald*

        It’s possible your boss was a caring person and wanted to help those who needed it. I had a job in highschool which was an hour a day of cleaning up someone’s home business. My friend had done it previously and told me that this guy specifically wanted to help out kids whose parents didn’t have a lot of money. For my situation, it was a great job and I appreciate him (it gave me work experience and enough money for a bus pass).

    2. Lucille2*

      The side business seems like a huge red flag. At best, it’s an MLM, at worst, not legal.

      I once walked into a restaurant to apply for a serving job. After a few questions about my previous serving job and a quick glance over my application, I was hired on the spot and asked to start for the dinner shift – which I did because I was young, naive, and needed a job. I worked double shifts through the following weekend and helped them out of an understaffing bind in the short term. Then the manager took me off the schedule rotation and told me I was on-call but not to worry because they would call me in often. They never called me and I never resigned. I wasn’t a great server, so maybe this was their way of firing me?

      1. Laurelma01*

        Did they pay you for the hours you worked? Let you keep the tips? I wonder if they were short staff temporarily, you were available and they took advantage. If you great, they would have kept you. Also I do not believe they train like the should sometimes, they expect people to pick up things right off the bat. I did cocktail waitresses as a 2nd job for years, but I didn’t get into it until I was in my late 20’s. I didn’t know thing about pouring wine at the table, etc. The customer had to show me how to do it.

        1. Lucille2*

          Yes, I was paid, and no they didn’t train at all. My experience was similar to yours. They had a coffee bar and, not being a coffee drinker, I had no clue how particular people could be about their coffee. I’m sure I was a terrible server, and it took me forever to close, but it would’ve been much kinder to just pull me aside and tell me it wasn’t working out. Also, my impression of the whole situation was that I walked in right about the time they had lost another server and were desperate to cover that person’s shifts.

      2. Laurelma01*

        I always thought the side business was some type of sales, like Almay, etc. The people in the office weren’t just kind of present. Nothing friendly about the group. After writing this stuff and see how tight he was wound up & they were just there doing their thing, low key, but no smiling, nothing came across as friendly. None of them came across as warm or approachable, including him. Am seriously wondering if he was on something. This was FL, lots of drug use in the area.

        1. Close Bracket*

          My mind went to something a lot less SFW than that. Not bc I have a dirty mind, but bc I am jaded and suspicious.

    3. Slartibartfast*

      #4 is actually fairly normal for the industry, either a half or full day. You spend so much time together in such a small space and the daily activities are so varied there’s no good way to test things out thsn with a “working interview”. As for#2, yes everyone should be responsible for patient cleanliness but not exclusively the office manager, and it would be more normal for that position to make sure someone is immediately aware than clean it themselves, but the rest is bananacrackers

  17. Matilda Jefferies*

    That is taking hands-off managing to a whole new level! “I won’t tell you what the role is or what your day-to-day is like, and you won’t receive any training, and of course you don’t need to ask any questions since you obviously know everything you need already. Oh and by the way, you can start tomorrow. Thanksforcomingseeyouthenbyyyyeee!!!”

    I actually kind of want to meet this woman, because I’m so curious about all of this. And I also want to warn everyone in the whole world to never apply for a job with her, because she’s completely bonkers. Sounds like you’re well out of there, OP. Good luck with your search, and may all your future interviews be ordinary and boring!

    1. Mrs_helm*

      Yep, reminds me of a side-gig consult I had once. Friend asked me to talk to dude who “needed a website”. Dude “had an idea for a website that’s like (popular app) but for a different market”. He wouldn’t tell me the market, didn’t have a business plan, or how many customers he expected to have. He didn’t have any back-end servers, didn’t know what database/language/service he wanted to use, nothing. Basically, he had nothing BUT an idea, and wanted someone to completely implement it. Oh, and the last person quoted him too high, but he wouldn’t tell me how much.

      I told him it was too big a job for me and wished him luck.

      1. Antilles*

        The ironic part is that in most cases, the idea itself is not particularly valuable; the implementation is what matters. Especially when your concept is basically just taking an existing idea and repurposing it – odds are that not only has someone else thought of that, they’re *already* trying it!

        1. MassMatt*

          You beat me to the punch! I know a couple people working in fields rife with this. A freelance writer I know gets “pitches” all the time for various inane or cliched plots.

          No, he is not interested in writing “Harry Potter, but in the US!!!!!” for you…

    2. Laurelma01*

      Sink or swim mentally. When you get someone unwilling to take the time to train, they get what they deserve when it comes to subpar performance. Hey …. we cannot read her mind.

      It’s easier to train someone appropriately at the beginning. People pick up when their bosses are not invested in you as an employee. I do not see how you can give someone a performance review when you do not give them training and the tools to succeed in their role. You’ll not get the support you require from them unless you make the time to work with them at the start.

  18. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Nope. Nope. Nooooooope. This is a basket of crazy angry bees. I wonder how close you are with the mutual acquaintance…why’d they swerve you like that?! They must know she’s “quirky” and never actually worked for her. Argh

  19. Myrin*

    OP, massive kudos to you, you handled this extremely well!

    Whenever I read stories like this, I always wonder very earnestly what people like this are thinking and how they’ve successfully navigated life so far. It always feels like encountering someone who is baseline human but “moved one step to the right” in basically everything they do (as in, they behave like a person but with a bizarre twist to all their actions). I’ve met some people like that but am not close enough to any of them to really get an insight into this kind of personality – does anyone have more experience with this?

    1. Michaela Westen*

      I don’t have a lot of experience with this, but the times I’ve seen it they get by by being different with different people. I expect the interviewer doesn’t treat her business partners or social acquaintances the way she treated OP. Usually IME they’re very respectful and nice towards people with power over them, and their friends and business contacts assume they’re ok until something slips and they see the crazy.
      Sometimes the deceptions wear thin over time and the truth comes out – my old boss used to put on an act of being sweet and friendly with clients and contractors when she was actually hostile, manipulative, passive-aggressive and abusive.
      After I’d been there a few years a contractor called her out in a shared email discussion and pointed out what she was really doing – trying to manipulate him.
      Unfortunately the only consequence I know of was she stopped working with that contractor.

  20. RJ the Newbie*

    Good instincts, OP. Bullet point five was what gave me a real tremor of fear. After all the intrusive questioning, it looks like she had the temerity to try to get free work from you as well!

  21. Memyselfandi*

    This made me laugh. My brother-in-law has a shortened version of a Welsh name that might lead you to believe he is Asian and is an Asian language specialist to boot. When my sister met him (she on-boarded him at their mutual workplace) she was so taken aback she blurted out, “But you’re not Asian!” with the subsequent mortification leading to romance. We have never discussed how this affects him day-to-day. I can imagine it could be pretty annoying, but he’s a laid back guy. It was just always their meet-cute story. But, he was already hired, not being interviewed.

    1. anonanners*

      I have a name that is common for black folks but not white (I am white and live in the US). While I’ve never had anyone mention it in an interview, a (black) coworker did later say that based on the name he definitely thought I was black until I showed up on my first day. I have also had people say “you’re the only white anonanners I’ve ever met!” but that was in a social context

      1. ThatGirl*

        My name is uncommon in general, and not really an “ethnic” name, but if you heard it you might think I was black or Latina. My husband’s former boss was black and she assumed he (white) was married to a black woman, until I showed up one day. That was kind of funny.

      2. Artemesia*

        I had a boss whose research dealt with race related issue and whose first name was sort of more likely for blacks than whites — it was an old family name in his family. He would get invited to be on panels at professional events and they would be astonished when he showed up white. He got in the habit of actually telling them that when he was invited. He was well known in his own field but he would sometimes be invited to add ‘diversity’ to panels in related fields where he was less known.

        1. your favorite person*

          I think his experience with his name would be a fascinating topic to listen to. I’d keep him on the panel, if only for that reason.

    2. Lucille2*

      My aunt’s husband is Japanese, and she, a woman of English descent, took his Japanese surname. Imagine Phyllis from The Office, and you know my aunt. People are very confused when they met her in person.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I started reading short stories by science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson, assuming the name was Kimberly. Nope he’s a guy. Some part of me jumped to Kipling’s “Kim” and was dumfounded to learn he’s a tall Nordic guy.
      Thankfully I was learning from articles so never embarrassed myself on the subject!

    4. Nanc*

      I have a very common English last name that also sounds like an Asian or German last name. Pronounced the same but spelled differently in each language. When I first started worked in the Bay Area in the 1970s a lot of interviewers thought I was Asian when they set up the interview. I’m a 6′ woman with red hair. I was a surprise on many occasions!

  22. Lily Rowan*

    Oh man! A lot of those pieces remind me of an old boss, but mostly she was on my mind from the start because we once had a disagreement (?!?!) about whether a certain person with the last name Park was white or Korean (they were white).

  23. Lucille2*

    OP trusting their gut sounds like the right decision. I’m assuming since OP is right out of college, this is an entry level job, and if that’s the case, then the no training comment is a bit of a red flag. However, I work in a job where our company develops and launches new products and updated software versions pretty regularly. My direct reports, who work directly with our clients who use our software, are expected to do a fair amount of self-training. We provide resources and knowledge-sharing, but during hiring I do ask candidates questions about their ability to learn new software with limited training. This is an expectation of the job which I believe is clearly outlined in the interview. I would never tell a candidate, we don’t offer any training, and we may not decide to keep you on after a couple of months. Also, this is not an entry-level job and we have only hired people who have prior industry experience.

  24. Purple Wine Mouth*

    When I was fresh out of college, I moved to a new state to find new opportunities. I felt pretty hopeless as far as prospective careers were concerned, so I was applying to anything and everything. I ended up interviewing at what I thought was a marketing/communications company, but it ended up being one of those sketchy B2B sales jobs where you basically berate people to buy a new phone contract from you. I didn’t learn this fact until the end of the first interview when the hiring manager asked me to clear the entire next day for the second interview and to make sure I bring a pair of “smart” walking shoes for the field. Unfortunately for me, I ended up drinking too much that evening with new friends (and I was desperate and lonely for friends at the time), so you can imagine the peril of driving around to random businesses with strangers while trying to maintain professionalism when you want to toss your cookies. I decided about an hour into the “field day” it wasn’t for me, but I wasn’t allowed the option of ending the interview since there was another girl with me also interviewing, and the supervisor driving us had a territory that was about 20 miles from the main office. It was pretty miserable. On the way back, the supervisor informed us that we needed to change back into heels before entering the office because the hiring manager preferred women in heels. Yuck. I had never been more happy not to receive a job offer!

  25. Anonymoose*

    My first name is one that’s commonly used in African-American communities here in the US. I’ve only met one other white girl with my same first name. When I meet people who knew my name before they met me I will sometimes see a quick initial reaction of surprise, but it’s rare for people to say something.

    One exception being the interviewer of my first job interview out of college. He was a stocky, middle-aged white man whose first words out of his mouth were, “Oh, you’re white. That’s a relief!”

    I should have had the presence of mind to about-face and walk out of that interview, but dumb 21 year old me did not want to be impolite. *insert all my eye rolls here* And yes, it WAS a train wreck of an interview from start to finish. I was not offered the job, thank goodness.

  26. Czhorat*

    “Describe a day in the job” sounds more like a question YOU should ask THEM, not vice-versa.

    The weird racial comment and invitation to gossip about your friend are cringe-inducing and inappropriate. The “come in two days later to do some work” is also bizarre.

    The “learn on your own, you’ll sink or swim for 2 months” is bizarre for someone hiring entry-level talent. A good employer should be invested in your success.

    This was weird, and not in a good way.

  27. Ihmmy*

    my current (mostly great) job asked me what an average day would look like during my interview… but I think even as they asked it the panel realized what a bad question it was. I work for a large institution so HR develops suggested interview questions that they send out. This is admin support in post secondary so there is no average day, just term and yearly cycles really. I think I started off with something like “I’m not really sure since I suspect it varies, but I imagine it could include some x, y, z and of course surprise q’s”
    They offered me the job the next business day after my interview so I guess that answer worked?

  28. mf*

    I once had a phone interview with a guy had ran his own finance business (something along the lines of investing).

    He has asked a bunch of quick fire questions, including:
    1. “If you become my employee, will you sue me?”
    2. “Are you a good writer?” (I have 2 masters degrees in writing so… yeah. Turns out he didn’t read my resume.)
    3. “How old are you?”
    4. “Married? Kids?”
    5. “Planning to have kids? Cuz I don’t want to pay for maternity leave.”
    6. “I like to call my employees in the middle of the night if I think of something that needs to be done. Will that bother you?”
    7. “Do you have thick skin?”
    8. “I’m told I have difficult personality. How well do you deal with difficult people?”
    9. “This is a contract position, so you can work out of the office for 4 days of the week, but one day of the week you’ll have to work somewhere else–for legal reasons.”
    10. “I’d like to have you start on a trial basis for 2 weeks. If that works out, then I’d hire you on. How does that sound?”

    Obviously I told him this job would not be a good fit. When he asked why, I told him that I was a woman and was not interested in taking a job at a place where women were discriminated against. (Spoiler: he did not like that answer.)

    After I got off the phone, I googled this guy. Turns out he had been arrested for insider trading during the prior year. So yeah, bullet dodged.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Omggggggg and he was still hustling prior to being locked up for securities fraud!!!!! That twist…he sounds like an episode of American Greed.

    2. AmethystMoon*

      Wow. Seriously sounds like he was looking for something really desperate. I keep my phone on DND during the night while I’m sleeping, and I’m willing to bet many other people do, too.

    3. AnonyMouse*

      Please tell me this was the exact order, because this dude had to have been totally oblivious for #8 to have followed all of the other ridiculous questions.

      1. mf*

        This was, actually, the exact order. By the time he got to #8, I was like, “Yeah, I picked up on that.”

  29. Phil*

    I read posts and comments here and thank the lord that I’ve never, ever, had to interview for a job. I don’t think I’ve ever filled out an application for a job either. I’m in the entertainment business, learned it as a teen (I’m 72), and from then on either people called me or I was referred in some way. And no, I’m not an actor but someone in the technical end. No resume either. I don’t even have to play anything because if they want me they know what I do and have seen and heard it.

  30. Bookworm*

    Some people don’t know how to interview or maybe she wanted to alienate you as much as possible. You definitely avoided a bad situation!

  31. MissDisplaced*

    Yeah, it was weird. I’m not sure if she’s just a bad interviewer or if she has some really strange notions about hiring and how it works.
    Is this a creative field?
    It is not totally uncommon for boutique agencies to want to give you a “test drive” for a day or two. I’ve done so in the past, but I won’t work for free if that’s what they think. You were right to be wary.

  32. AmethystMoon*

    I would say those are huge red flags and you probably should look at other companies. I don’t know anyone who is unemployed who would be willing to wait for “a couple of months.” Most bill collectors aren’t going to wait that long.

  33. Lilysparrow*

    My very British last name is also an Anglicized form of a cimmin Asian name.

    I used to get the “I thought you’d be Asian” comment a lot, socially. And once professionally – twenty years ago. I was surprised any hiring manager would say such a thing, even back then.

  34. MassMatt*

    OP thanks for answering questions. Any one of the things this employer did puts this interview in the at least weird category, put all of them together and it’s almost as though it was bad interview bingo. (Yes, I stole that line from a earlier AAM commentator).

    Congratulations on dodging a bullet. And credit to your instincts, trust them and continue to hone them over time. That inner alarm bell that rings a warning to you about a job or a person or situation is extremely valuable, many people don’t have it even after painful experience.

    I hope you will put a review on Glassdoor, it could help others avoid a terrible situation.

  35. AnonyMouse*

    #4 is a huge warning sign. Assuming that someone fresh out of school will be able to train themselves is crazy. Glad the OP dodged this bullet.

  36. Anoncorporate*

    I’m very thankful AAM exists – for many reasons, but particularly it has been invaluable in helping me calibrate a sense of what the normal, or reasonable, benchmark in the workplace should look like. I feel that a lot of employers purposefully take advantaged of inexperienced job candidates/employees for their own twisted agendas. Some are just incompetent, but it’s still nice that relatively young people have a resource that empowers them to manage their own career situations, regardless of what situation is.

  37. Laura*

    The “what would your day look like” question reminds me of an AMA question from a while back where the person wrote in to say that her managers weren’t giving her work to do/expecting her to go out and find it. I’m still stumped by that situation.

  38. boop the first*

    oh no
    I started a job where the boss kept telling me “we don’t have time to train anyone!” Ironically, he turned out to be the worst micromanager I’ve ever worked with. It was MONTHS before I felt like I could do any basic task well enough, and I’m a fast learning type.

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