potential employer sent me weirdly patronizing “interview tips” before the interview

A reader writes:

I was asked to come in for a face-to-face interview with a potential employer. Along with the confirmation email, a two-page document was attached, titled “Preparing For Your Interview.” The top of the page read:

“When preparing for your interview, it’s important to remember first impressions count. You want to arrive timely with some knowledge about the organization, and present yourself in a manner that inspires confidence in your abilities. Below are some additional tips.”

This document contained advice on prepping for the interview, covering the usual topics: how to research the company online, what to wear (and what not to wear) to the interview, arriving early, bringing an extra resume, etc. The information is certainly good advice for any job seeker, but this is something that I would expect a college career counselor or a government unemployment office to hand out, not a professional recruiter hiring experienced employees. One part that seemed patronizing was this instruction on asking questions:

“You will be asked “do you have any questions?” during your interview. This is your opportunity to learn more about the position. Be prepared with three questions that will help you learn more about what the position will entail and what your responsibilities will be. What do you want to know about the role? This is your opportunity to find out.

Your three questions should not include inquiries about dress code, benefits, or pay. Once you have asked three position specific questions, you may ask about benefits, dress, and pay, but not before!”

The second page covered their expectations of employees. Here’s a sample…

“Expectations of every Chocolate Teapots, Inc. employee:
(this applies to internal and external customers, vendors, suppliers, contractors, and other business associates of Chocolate Teapots, Inc.):
Welcomes and greets in a friendly manner, in person or over the phone.
Takes opportunities to assist customers, staff and others.
Listens with attention and shows interest; provides good eye contact and body language
Goes the extra mile to meet others’ needs.
(The expectations continued…)

Again, not bad information, but I’ve never had a recruiter send me a document like this before an interview. (To be clear, this wasn’t an external recruiter either; it was someone at the company itself.)

The role I’m applying for is not an entry-level position nor an internship. I’m a professional with years of experience in this field. Providing this tipsheet seems rigid and condescending. In regards to the instruction on asking three questions, I feel it’s my time to ask questions, and I will ask what is needed to make my own decision about the company; just like they will about my candidacy. The order in which I ask questions is my prerogative, and, of course, they may infer what they will from that. I’m not giving demands on how many questions they may ask me before I get the inevitable “tell me about a time you dealt with a difficult person” question.

Am I off-base in my approach to this, and thinking this is maybe well-intentioned but not a wise choice in recruiting experienced candidates?

Nooooo, you are not off-base. This is weirdly patronizing/infantilizing and overly rigid.

I mean, I’m all for leveling the playing field and making sure your candidates aren’t missing out on some kind of secret playbook that some will know about and others won’t. And if you were interviewing for a very junior position, this might come across differently for that reason. But someone with years of professional experience doesn’t need to be told that first impressions count, or that you should arrive on time.

If that’s all it was, though, then fine. A little eye-rolly maybe, but not the worst thing in the world.

Same thing with the document about expectations of employees. They appear to be rather basic expectations, and that might tell you something interesting about their culture (or how high their bar is for performance), but fine, okay, it’s not that different than companies that send core values and such ahead of time, to try to help familiarize you with how they operate.

But their instructions on asking your own questions pushes this across the line into ridiculous. You’re absolutely right that it’s your time to ask questions, and they should welcome you asking whatever you need to ask to make a good decision about the job and the company, just as they will with you.

“Once you have asked three position specific questions, you may ask about benefits, dress, and pay, but not before!” is especially … ugh. You may ask whatever you’d like to ask, in whatever order you’d like to ask. It’s certainly true that the questions you ask and how you prioritize them may reflect on your judgment … but that’s fair game and it goes both ways, and it’s not to anyone’s benefit for them to try to micromanage the process to death like this.

You know, I could see them thinking up something like this if they were getting a bunch of candidates flubbing the candidate-questions portion of the interview … but that’s something you typically see for positions that don’t require a ton of professional experience. If that is indeed what led to this document, it doesn’t make sense for them to be using it at all levels. And even at very junior levels, there’s no need to talk to people in such a condescending way. “We’d rather focus on your questions about the work itself before we get to things like benefits and dress code” is far better than their scoldy language … and frankly, it would be even better for them to just provide that information up-front if they’re getting a lot of questions about it.

Anyway, yeah, I think you’re right that it’s probably well-intentioned, but that it might reveal some pretty weird stuff about their culture or how they think about their candidates/employees. Or who knows, maybe it’s one person in the recruiting department who missed their calling as a third grade teacher and doesn’t realize how this is coming across.

I’d go to the interview but keep your eyes wide open for other signs that they might have a weird perspective on the adults they work with.

{ 336 comments… read them below }

  1. LuckySophia*

    “Or who knows, maybe it’s one person in the recruiting department who missed their calling as a third grade teacher …”

    Pure gold!!!

      1. 8DaysAWeek*

        I used to, also. I had a manager that would literally come after me and my work (I wrote training manuals at the time) with a red pen. Had to print all my work out (not use MSWord’s built in commenting tools) and go through it and mark it up using a red pen. Then sit down with me and review the work with me. I was an adult, not a 15 year old writing a school essay.

        1. Justin*

          This is our copy editing process at my job. A lot of being marked up and then fixing it, letter by letter.

        2. Kathleen_A*

          My boss prefers red ink on paper, too – and she’s several years younger than I am, so I don’t think age is a factor. But hey, whatever works is OK with me.

          1. TK*

            Yeah, I guess I’m not seeing what the egregious error is here. Editing and proofreading written work happens in almost all office-based workplaces. Having your work edited doesn’t mean you’re beign treated like a student– it’s a normal part of the job when you produce professional written work. And many, many people feel much more comfortable marking up drafts for edits on paper than on a screen. I print out things to edit them all the time, depending on the circumstance and the type of editing that needs to be done. I don’t understand why this is so patronizing.

            Sure, some people can be overly picky about language, and sometimes it’s worth sitting down with the author and sometimes it’s not– but the basic model seems totally normal to me.

            1. Emily K*

              I think the patronizing part is sitting there and going through each correction with him instead of just giving him the edited document and letting him know he can come to you with any questions about why certain edits were made or suggested.

              1. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

                This. Standard editing is the person does their markups and hands it back to you. No sense wasting time to “go over it”, especially since most editors change at least one thing to have “done something”

              2. Kathleen_A*

                It’s pretty common around here that someone (OK, mostly my boss!) wants to go over every edit individually. This is tedious and probably unnecessary, but to me, it doesn’t come across as patronizing. It seems to me that the person (OK, mostly – but not invariably – my boss!) just wants to make sure that I see and understand each and every change.

                I also take it as an opportunity to explain, when applicable, why my original way is preferable to her suggested way.

                So mostly it’s OK. In any case, there’s no point in getting bent out of shape about it because people who do this are almost never going to change.

            2. yet another library anon*

              I’ve been told that professional corrections in red ink can be seen as hostile?

              1. Eukomos*

                Interesting, I mark students’ papers in green ink because I want to reduce the unpleasantness of getting edits as much as possible, but that’s because they’re kids. I would expect adults to be able to handle corrections in red ink.

                1. BookishMiss*

                  I use purple, but I use purple for everything I hand-write except Formal Business Correspondence.

                2. Kathleen_A*

                  I mostly edit electronically, but when I do edits on paper, I use green. It’s just a bit less…aggressive.

                3. selena81*

                  but wouldn’t that just mean that your students are now going to associate green ink with failure?

              2. katelyn*

                my feeling is that red is easier to see for most people. Corrections in black or blue can blend into the standard type and make it easier to miss that one added comma.

                Green, pink, purple, etc. all fill the same purpose, but it’s often easier for offices to buy pen packs that have black, blue and red in them, so that might be why it’s still default?

            1. Oxford Comma*

              It’s easier to see corrections with red ink and it’s easier to spot typos and errors on paper.

            2. Jadelyn*

              As I recall, I think there’ve been studies that showed that reading on paper activates different areas of the brain than reading on a screen. When I’m doing my final check on things, I’ll usually print it out and review that way before I finalize the digital file and send it out.

              1. Oxford Comma*

                Yes, that’s correct. You catch more things on a physical piece of paper than you do on a monitor.

          1. Zephy*

            My bestie works for a newspaper and the whole office refers to the editor doing her job as “Janice bleeding all over the proofs”

        3. Elitist Semicolon*

          I think the key part of this comment is “Then sit down with me and review the work with me.” Paper and red ink are fine, and walking through a more complex edit or change is fine, but insisting on taking half an hour to explain, “put a comma here” or “capitalize this” can be condescending. It assumes that the person on the other end can’t understand that the carat with the comma above it means “put a comma here” and the lowercase a crossed out and the uppercase A written in means “capitalize this.” The last time someone did this to me, it took them twice as long to point out and explain all the fourth-grade level changes than it would have taken me to make the changes if they’d just handed me the paper and said, “here are my corrections. Let me know if you have any questions.” To do that to someone who is well above entry level indicates a lack of confidence in their abilities and judgement.

          1. Spencer Hastings*

            Plus, in the adult world, a lot of editing is not “correction” — since having a comma or not (for instance) can be a matter of style or taste in many cases, it’s even more insulting to have it all explained to you as if you were wrong and needed instruction.

          2. Kathleen_A*

            To me, it doesn’t sound patronizing. A little tedious? Sure. Unnecessary? Sure. But when this has happened to me, which occurs fairly regularly, it’s because the person is simply very detail oriented and precise – and wants to make sure I’m aware of all that detail and precision.

            That may not be the case with 8DaysAWeek, of course.

        4. That Work from Home Life*

          When you are doing content writing of any kind this isn’t weird at all. I’m a textbook editor and my company is now remote so MS comments/editing tools are the norm, but when I was in-house getting feedback marked-up by hand wasn’t uncommon, nor was reviewing it with your supervisor. I’m a supervisor myself now and sometimes I have to sit with (digitally–so screen sharing) my editors/writers and go over their work with them. It’s not even about the quality of the work most of the time, but about cementing shifting project expectations and workshopping best practices. It’d be a big red flag to me if someone I managed had an issue with this approach.

        5. TootsNYC*

          I’ve worked in editing. And once I had a colleague who wrote everything up in firm letters with a bright red pen. He was also rude and pushy, and he always set people’s teeth on edge.

          I finally went to his boss and said, “Look, can you make him use a blue pen? Because I see people getting really pissed off at his corrections, because it looks so scoldy. Even if he changed the color, it would help.”

          She did have him switch–though he forgot now and then.

          1. SWMT*

            I finally went to his boss and said, “Look, can you make him use a blue pen? Because I see people getting really pissed off at his corrections, because it looks so scoldy.”

            To which I hope the boss said, “those people need to put on their big girl pants and worry about things that are important,” not ink color.

        6. iglwif*

          I find people who insist on paper edits irritating (because then who has to go through the document inputting all those edits? That’s right, ME), but it’s also true that some people don’t type fast enough to make onscreen editing efficient for them, some people genuinely do see errors better on paper, etc., etc.

          But sitting down with you and reviewing the work seems … unnecessary.

          (My current job does everything on Google Docs, which is GREAT because we can literally have discussions about edits in the comments in real time. But since I’m remote, it’s entirely possible that there are people who would prefer paper edits but can’t work with me that way because of my remoteness and I just never hear about it. Either way, win for me lol)

          1. selena81*

            I think maybe some people got burned on electronic edits because they tried to do so 20 years ago: when it really was less work to just print out a page and add in the occasional comma or extra sentence with a colored pen.
            But with modern document-sharing tools it’s become very very easy to make corrections and discuss said corrections if needed.

    1. SophieChotek*

      LOL – exactly!

      Though even my third grade teacher gave us credit for more brains! She was awesome – and so creative!

  2. Murphy*


    I wonder if this is coming from one particular person who has HAD. IT. with bad interviewees and is sending out their personal tips. Because as company policy, this seems really weird.

    1. Mirea*

      That was the first thing I wondered as well. Then I wondered if it was an industry that hires kids for certain roles (like mine, retail grocery, is a first job for many high school kids) and figured if it’s good for some applicants, it’s going out to all of ’em.

      If not, I don’t know. It’s kinda bananas and a bit control-freaky.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      That’s how I read it. Or they are sick of getting the same questions from potential candidates. But I don’t understand giving advice on how to interview – you’d think they’d want people to weed themselves out that way.

    3. President of the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club*

      That was my thought too, and part of me hopes you get the job and it turns out to be actually an amazing place to work and you get to hear all the stories about the job candidates who led them to create that document. But part of me also suspects you’ll get to the interview and find out that the whole place is just totally bizarre. But it’s weirdly intriguing enough that I would definitely do the interview.

    4. Smooth Operator*

      My guess – recruiter was tired of his/her candidates being rejected by the hiring managers for petty reasons and he/she put this together so hiring manager couldn’t use any of these excuses.

      Jaded Former Recruiter

    5. designbot*

      that’s also how it read to me, especially the part about “we’re not answering any salary questions until you ask three REAL questions first!”
      Also I’d love to see how that person reacts in a state like CA where you now have to disclose salary range to any candidate who asks.

  3. Iron Chef Boyardee*

    Is there a chance this was only intended to be sent to candidates for lower level positions and was sent to the letter writer by mistake?

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Yeah or it was created by a sparkly HR person with junior candidates in mind, and then just got rolled up and is used for everyone now. I could see someone thinking, “more convenient for us to only have one document!!” and then sending it to everyone, not realizing what a poor impression this sends to senior candidates. We had a couple people like that at my old job, enthusiastic but poor judgement and especially around professional nuance. It definitely can reveal org culture though.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, along the same lines, when I started my current job, I got a sheet of “cubicle etiquette” along with some other dumb stuff, and tried to figure out how to delicately ask if I would be sitting in a cube. (I was coming from an open office and hoping for a private office. Which I got!)

        But it makes sense that they just had one set of folders for new people.

      2. JJ Bittenbinder*

        sparkly HR person

        I’d already imagined the document written in Comic Sans, but now I’m picturing it in sparkly, purple gel pen.

        1. AKchic*

          You leave my sparkly purple pens out of this.

          Granted, I use only blue or black for official documentation, but all of my notes and non-sharable writings are in fun colors. I even color-code my writing because it can help me keep things sorted.

          1. JJ Bittenbinder*

            I mean no disrespect! I have a very specific type of pen I prefer, and it only comes in blue or black, so I might just be jealous.

            1. AKchic*

              I’m somewhat picky about my pens, but I’ve got to have colors. Sparkle is only an accessory.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        That was my take on it (I admit I tried to be charitable) – that this is a document somebody wrote years ago, that hasn’t been opened in years, and gets attached to every email interview invite, because “it’s the standard procedure here”.

        1. selena81*

          Seems to happen mostly with medium-sized orgs: big enough that they’d want some standardization to the recruiting process, small enough that they haven’t split up their recruiting efforts wrt the specific roles that need to be filled

          Anyway, you need to go see for yourself LW: it may be a sign of a patronizing infantile culture, it may just be one patronizing idiot in hr.
          May i suggest using one of your alloted 3 questions to ask for clarification on the matter.

    2. Sara without an H*

      It’s been my experience (I work in higher ed) that it’s quite easy for documents to get saved in the Standard Pre-Interview Packet, and then not reviewed for aeons. Then some HR dogsbody sends it out without checking to see if it’s both current and appropriate.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Oh yes. We realized at one point that we were sending out a form asking people how good they were at WordPerfect.

        1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

          I love Wordperfect! It’s the “Reveal Codes” option that makes it a must-have for me.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Not going to lie, this made my day.

          How did you find out? Did a candidate say something?

      2. Genny*

        This was my first guess too because I can’t compute a company 1) thinking this is needed for senior roles, 2) drafting it, 3) clearing it, and 4) sending it to applicants. It sounds more like common sense got automated out of the process somewhere along the line than the company being incompetent enough to think this document was helpful for senior positions.

        1. Can't Think of a Name*

          I agree, this was probably written for entry-level candidates and sent by mistake/not checked, or the interviewer had just HAD IT with unprepared candidates. BUT I will say, that just because a person is experienced and has been working for years, doesn’t mean they know how to interview. My dad does consulting for laid off executives, and he’s always floored by how many basic interview skills they don’t know because they haven’t had to look for a job in over a decade. And I’m talking the basic stuff like “don’t be late, bring copies of your resume, etc.”

          1. T. Boone Pickens*

            Yeah I came here to say something similar this is probably geared towards more entry level positions and the LW got caught in the shuffle. There is a non zero chance that they recently hired a bunch of entry level folks. If I received a document like this before interviewing for a senior role it would give me a little pause and I’d make sure to try suss out any micromanaging tendencies.

          2. Anax*

            Idle curiosity – is it still recommended practice to bring resume copies? I’m in IT in a tech-heavy area, and all my interviewers had my resume up on their tablets or laptops.

            (I’d only done one interview before this – got a lucky job right out of college, stayed for five years – so my skills are a tad fuzzy too.)

            1. Emily K*

              I always bring a few copies but I only give them to the interviewers if they don’t have a copy (digital or print) in front of them. Most of the time they stay in my folder, but it’s like the old umbrella – better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

              1. Lurker*

                I always bring copies too. Even if the interviewer doesn’t need it, it’s helpful to have for my own reference since I don’t have it memorized. (I usually review it on my way to the interview, or as I’m waiting to be seen.)

            2. Kitryan*

              I just had an interview where the resume I had was from Indeed and it didn’t have the candidate’s notes on certain positions saying that they were a consultant. The indeed resume made him look like a job hopper. Knowing that they were not intended to be long term positions actually made a big difference. I’d bring a couple copies formatted the way I want it to any interview.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Similarly, if you’ve been referred by an external recruiter who passed your resume to the company, bring copies of your resume – it’s safe to assume the recruiter doctored your resume before passing it along.

              2. Persephone Mulberry*

                Aaaaand this type of issue is why I always override the Indeed “resume” with a PDF attachment.

              3. LJay*


                We use Indeed for hiring and the Indeed resumes are awful. I much prefer when a candidate brings a copy of their actual resume with them.

                I always bring a few fresh copies of my resume with me when I interview as well. Just in case the person conducting the interview doesn’t have it for some reason or their candidate management software chewed it up or I accidentally uploaded an old copy or something.

          3. selena81*

            I’ve heard that about rich/middle-class kids who hit the jobmarket in the middle of economic upturn: never had to really interview because everything was through word-of-mouth and who-you-know, and a bunch of internal promotions after that.
            When the recession hit that made for a flock of newly-jobless 50-somethings without basic interview skills. All of them flabbergasted that meaningful occupation had suddenly become so elusive.

    3. Erin*

      Sorry but lower level candidates have a right to ask how much the jobs pays before accepting the position or even interviewing. Let’s say the candidate makes 12/ hour at their current position in fast food they should know that the position for such and such firm only pays $11 so they don’t waste their time, and they can make an informed choice.

  4. animaniactoo*

    “You asked me to prepare three questions, and I have some other questions based on our conversation today, but I’d like to start with one of the 3 I did prepare: What is your goal in sending the ‘Interview preparation sheet that I received – why do you think this is a good strategy as part of your interview planning and can you share any information on how it has impacted your hiring process?”

    1. College Career Counselor*

      This is gold. I’m not sure I could manage the neutral tone to pull it off, however. And presumably, you’ve kissed goodbye your chance at getting an offer if you go this route. But it would be fantastic to find out the rationale.

      1. darsynia*

        Given that my first instinct would be to want to tell them ‘no thank you’ on the interview and refer to the patronizing nature of the document as the reason, this is at least more professional than that, haha.

      2. Goopthink*

        I don’t think it is the kiss of death.

        If this is the work of a rogue employee or rogue department rather than organisation-wide lunacy I can imagine the question getting a smirk and a tick. And if it’s .org wide, bullet dodged.

      3. Observer*

        Perhaps. On the other hand, if the other suggestions about how this came to be part of the packet are in the ballpark, they actually might react well.

        To be honest, I don’t think this question is a joke – I think it’s a serious question (although I think I would have a hard time not using a WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?! tone of voice.) And how the interviewer(s) respond will be important information.

        1. animaniactoo*

          I had to reword 3 times to coach it more professional and less sarcastic. Because while sarcasm is my middle name, the goal is actually to make them stop and think and dig for information in as professional a manner as possible.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      I think that’s a really good question if the job is in HR. Or if the applicant has a degree in industrial/organizational psychology.

    3. Foreign Octopus*

      Honestly, if this wasn’t a job I needed, then I would definitely ask this because it’s just so strange and I’d want an answer (mainly so I could share here).

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I would be more tempted to ask “Are you aware that the interview preparation document that was sent to me is very condescending and ridiculous?” I know this is not a good idea, but I don’t know if I could go to this interview with any type of good attitude based on their assumption that I’m a clueless moron.

      1. designbot*

        I keep thinking of some version like, “How do you view the relationship between management and staff here overall? Do you feel like the interview preparation document is typical of the attitude towards staff?”

    5. Observer*

      I’m glad I decided to read the comments before adding my $.02

      I was going to offer pretty much the same question: “Could you tell me the thinking behind this Interview prep sheet?”

    6. AKchic*

      Yes. This.

      I am that kind of snarky bish that would print that thing out and bring it to the interview with me for reference too. Because I want it known I didn’t really see the point, I want to know if there is a point, and I also want it see if the person who sent it to me is the same person interviewing me and what the reactions are. Just how organized is the organization interviewing me. They’ve already insulted my intelligence, so let’s see what they do now.

      Granted, I’ll be candid and say that hypothetical me is in a seriously adversarial mood and realist me would probably sit around wondering just what in the world happened to prompt the organization to send that kind of email in the first place.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        Between this and the sparkly purple pens, I have to say, I do think you are my spirit animal.

    7. Hiring Mgr*

      It seems kind of overly snarky for what is pretty clearly just some boilerplate document for entry level folks that they probably just give to anyone. It’s silly, but why not just ignore it rather than go for some “gotcha” moment

      1. Jadelyn*

        Because misusing this thing like that could well be losing them solid candidates, and if it was a mistake or a thoughtless addition to a general pre-interview packet then bringing that up might be doing the company a service.

      2. Thankful for AAM*

        I dont think it is a gotcha moment to ask, id like to know if it reflects their general approach to managment or if it was just an old thing that started as an entry level handout that is now handed to all for reasons unknown.

    8. Thankful for AAM*

      That’s just what I wanted to say but you said it so much better. I so hope the OP finds a way to ask about this!

  5. Erin*

    What I’m reading into this is that this is like a result of either A) The person in charge of this stuff has bizarre ideas, maybe stemming from bad advice from someone, on how to go about hiring or B) They’ve had so many terrible candidates that they’ve come up with this odd system to try to weed them out.

    Either way, I’d considered it a red flag about the people in charge.

    I think it would be interesting to go on the interview though and see what happens! If everything else appears normal and this is the only weird spot it could still be a decent job opportunity. Please do update us if you decide to go through with it.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Came here to say this too, Erin. Normally I’d say ‘Eh, this person is oddly paternal about their interview process, but it’s all common sense stuff.’ Except it sometimes isn’t common sense.

      I’m in corporate staffing and can definitely relate to your second point. Even people with 10+ years of experience are their own worst enemies during in-person interviews. For example, a VP candidate was declined last week because he dropped F-bombs during his interviews with some of our C-suite interviewers. Never thought we’d need to tell candidates not to swear during interviews, especially at that level, but there you go.

      1. animaniactoo*

        However, I’d actually say that you gained useful information about that person: Even with their years of experience, they do not know enough to clean up their mouth and are likely to carry that into other places you don’t want it to be in.

        Therefore, it is more benefit to you to assume that experienced candidates know what they should and should not be doing and let them show they do or don’t.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Right. You would expect a person’s interview behavior to be sort of like “company manners,” trying to be the best, most professional version of themself in order to leave the best possible impression. A person whose interview behavior isn’t that is flying one of two red flags. Either they’re not used to modifying their behavior to make it appropriate for the context, or they HAVE modified their behavior, and their day to day self is even less professional than this. Neither is a good sign. I’m actually somewhat relieved when candidates behave badly in interviews, because it saves us the trouble we would have to go to if we hired them and found out about their lack of professionalism after the fact.

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I’m not saying we didn’t gain useful knowledge. That was not the point I was making. My point was – and still is! – that some things related to interviews are not necessarily ‘common knowledge.’ I would expect an executive-level candidate to know better than to drop F-bombs during an interview but, alas, he did not.

          1. animaniactoo*

            Or, it is common knowledge, and he had the chutzpah not to care or think that it would affect his candidacy.

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          In one of my previous jobs, the COO had atrocious (for our culture) language. He came in to speak to a group of new hires and in the course of 10 minutes dropped 3 f-bombs. That was within their first 90 minutes of being employed at our company. Brilliant man, who happened to be from the UK, where their norms are different.

          So, he found his place to wow (because he truly is quite brilliant), so I’m sure you’re right that the guy in Goopthink’s example will, too.

            1. Helena*

              Depends on the industry and the audience – there’s the advertising “I’m so creative I can get away with swearing/turning up hungover” trope, and the entrepreneurial “tell it like it is” trope. And the temperamental but technically brilliant surgeon/designer/academic.

              But yes, in normal corporate UK business culture it’s not ok to swear, especially in front of junior team members or clients. You would probably get away with minor swears as part of general office chitchat (oh shit, bloody hell, crap, arsey), but definitely not f or c words in a formal talk or pitch.

      2. AKchic*

        I see so many f-bombs dropped by upper-level applicants… but they are all in construction/oil or other “rough” work that it’s expected. It’s still very much 1950’s class and gender wars some days.

      3. Oh So Anon*

        Being very paternalistic about the interview process is in and of itself a red flag. Like, could you expect an employer like that to react in good faith during salary/benefits negotiations, or would they just think you’re uppity for even asking?

        1. Jennifer Juniper*

          I was taught to never, never, never ask about salary and benefits during a job interview. I was supposed to wait and find out once I was on the job. Asking questions about salary and benefits was a sign of selfishness and ingratitude, not to mention being extremely impolite.

    2. a heather*

      We had an applicant once who spent way too much interview time chatting with us (3-4 people, including the hiring manager) about getting drunk and being hungover and not being particularly clean with his language as he did so.

    3. Angel (the LW)*

      Hi Erin! Yes, I did go to the interview, and, well, this may be anti-climatic, but it was a normal interview. In fact, it was quite pleasant. I didn’t meet with the HR recruiter who sent the confirmation; I interviewed directly with the person the role reports to. She seems like a great manager with a good team. Overall, this looks like a fantastic opportunity. I considered asking about the sheet, framing it like: “On my email confirmation for this interview, I got a sheet of interview tips. Wow, I’d never got one of those before from a potential employer!” My idea was to play it as benign and see how she responds. However, as the interview progressed, I completely forgot about it and it never came up in conversation. She didn’t specifically ask me for my “three questions.” So… yes, a normal interview. It was probably for the better that I didn’t ask about it. I’m thinking, as you and other readers have said, that this is just a case of an HR department that has dealt with poor candidates in the past. The weird vibe doesn’t seem to carry over to the rest of the company, at least not to this team.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        If you get the role, you can always bring up the interview list when you’ve started and point out that it made you question the company’s culture, and suggest that perhaps it not be provided to candidates above entry level.

        I keep a whole list of interview tips, but I only give them to people who ask for them.

      2. DyneinWalking*

        Please still tell them. It likely scares off some good candidates, so I’d assume that quite a few reasonable people at that company would be glad to know. Just frame it as this weird thing you encountered during the hiring process that of course is a bit of a red flag and that they’d of course want to remove. Other readers here have offered good scripts for that.

  6. Keyboard Cowboy*

    Woah. My Tech Giant does this! Seriously, we send everybody a couple pages of “Interview Tips” and a PDF copy of “Cracking the Coding Interview”. I don’t think we require a certain order of questions from the candidate… but to be honest, when I saw those attachments on the email with my interview schedule, I never opened them. :|

    Or at least, that’s what I got. Maybe they figured since I was coming in “entry level” I probably needed it. But they also hired me after a year and a half at a different Tech Giant….

    OP, it’s probably a form letter, especially if it’s a big company. I’d suggest you don’t take it personally.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Oh she shouldn’t take it personally. but it should be at least an orange flag of how they treat employees. Its very infantilizing. If they must micromanage everything including the order of questions, that seems like they don’t trust their employees to be able to think for themselves.

    2. anon interviewee*

      I had an interview with a Tech Giant recently (starts with G and ends with oogle) and they sent me a lot of detailed interview info, including on what to wear (not a suit, not jeans either). I didn’t find the tone to be patronizing, though (unlike the pay/dress/benefits line the OP describes). I have over a decade of experience and consider myself to be a savvy interviewer, but it’s still helpful to know what a company is looking for. And in a way, it’s helpful to the company too – it puts people on more of a level playing field with their preparation, and if you don’t follow their advice on dress code or research the company as they suggest, that is telling.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        If it was specific to that org and different from what a reasonable person would expect (like not wearing a suit, which is pretty common interview advice) I guess that’s helpful. What’s odd about this example is it all sounds quite generic and exactly what a reasonable person would anticipate, except for the annoying part about the questions.

        1. somebody blonde*

          I can see sending this if a company hires internationally a lot. My tech company sent me something similar before my in-person interview- I think they send it to everyone because we hire from many countries and don’t want people to be at a disadvantage if they’ve never been to an American interview.

      2. Keyboard Cowboy*

        Funny, because I interview plenty of folks in suits as well as in jeans and hoodies… I wore a suit to my interview. Shrug.

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          Yeah, I’ve read so many accounts of tech startups which would nEvEr EvEr hire someone who wore a suit to their interview because “that clearly shows that they just don’t get us” and I think that’s pretty bogus. If you care less about my skills and qualifications and more about whether I’ve cracked some internal code that I haven’t been privy to, well, I guess we’re not right for each other.

          1. SusanIvanova*

            Everyone at my very first Silicon Valley interview said “you do know you won’t need to wear a suit, right?”, but it was 1992 so there was no Internet or everpresent Steve Jobs In Jeans pics around, so it was just friendly advice in a “oh gosh, I bet she doesn’t know” tone. And they hired me, so there’s that.

          2. Helena*

            I think if it’s an entry level job, fine. If it’s a senior job, and you haven’t noticed that nobody in the industry ever wears suits… maybe that says a bit about how you fit in to office culture in general. Which doesn’t mean you’re a definite “no” – if you’re a developer it may not matter if you “fit into office culture” or not. But if you are a project manager, or account manager, it probably does matter more.

            Equally I know I would be horrendously judged if I turned up to an interview NOT wearing a suit – it would seem like I wasn’t taking the interview seriously. Because everybody, everybody wears a suit for interviews in my profession, so it would be a super-weird thing (and would make a massive statement) to do to turn up in anything else. We actually don’t wear suits day-to-day (and doing that would also be weird – medicine likes conformers!)

          3. Data Point*

            In law school, I interviewed on-campus with top New York and Silicon Valley firms. I wore a suit. I got callbacks from virtually every New York firm, but next to no Valley firms. A classmate told me to drop the suit. Lo and behold, the remainder of the Valley firms offered me a callback. So yes, it is part of the cultural fit out here.

          4. anon interviewee*

            I think that’s exactly why this company just comes out and tells you in advance not to wear a suit. They don’t want you to feel the need to wear one, nor do they want that particular thing to be an internal code for one to crack (or not). They simply say no need to wear a suit, and also recommend that you don’t go as casual as jeans. I also interviewed at this company about a decade ago and they did not give explicit dress code advice back then, so they’ve clearly realized that it makes sense for everyone to be on a level playing field in that respect.

    3. The New Wanderer*

      Can confirm that Etail Giant does this as well (and the role I interviewed for was very senior). However, I also didn’t think the tone was nearly as patronizing. It was more like they were covering things you may have read about their interview process to clarify what to expect. Like, mentioning that the dress code was business casual (aka suits would be out of place) because that’s not expected everywhere. And that you *will* be asked about some specific company information (also provided), so you aren’t guessing whether or not that will be on the quiz.

      I wonder if the OP’s company heard that Big Giant companies are doing this and just didn’t get that the content wasn’t entry-level basic but more specific to the Giant company’s particular processes.

    4. Spreadsheets and Books*

      Very large media conglomerate does this too. I was really taken aback by it when I got it because it was all really, really basic advice, like being able to speak to your resume and writing thank you notes. Nothing job-specific, but a few field-specific notes.

      It didn’t deter me from taking the job. It’s my third week and I’m really happy to be here.

      1. Alfonzo Mango*

        Don’t write thank you notes!

        There was a big discussion about the practice on here a few weeks ago! (lol)

    5. Madge*

      My cousin works for a company that is sort of a career rehab company. They hire the long-term unemployed, people who are reskilling, etc. I could see them sending a letter like this to all interviewees.

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      My family has a copy of Cracking the Coding Interview – my son had bought it for himself and I gave it a read too – it’s very different from what OP is describing! And I think it is very cool that you send copies of it to candidates!

    7. Jam*

      I’ve been interviewing with a tech company and although they haven’t done this exact thing they do seem very into proactively providing information about interviews. Maybe it’s just because I’m not a senior person but if I got a document like this from them I’d appreciate it as a gesture of goodwill — and maybe as a confirmation that they’re not following some bizarro rulebook.

  7. AES*

    If first impressions count, maybe they should correct the grammar of “You want to arrive timely”…

    1. the Viking Diva*

      merriam-webster dot com says it’s an adverb too, meaning ‘opportunely’. The example is “the question was not timely raised in the state court” from US Supreme Court Justice W. O. Douglas (US Supreme Court). That use doesn’t quite fit here but hey, I learned something today.

  8. Game of Drones*

    I’m inclined to think someone in HR meant well. Maybe they’ve had experiences with ill-prepared in the past.

    I’ve interviewed dozens of candidates and had everything from a guy who asked me at the end of the interview if I though he’d get the job to a woman who complained about the heat in the interview room. And worse.

    1. cartoonbear*

      Those examples don’t seem extreme to me? Especially the one about the temp in the room? If it was super hot in a room, unusually so, I would think it completely okay to say, “Wow, it’s warm in here, is there any way to take the temperature down a bit?” People in interviews are often dressed more warmly and nervous, it would be super inconsiderate to have the temp up to 80.

      1. Game of Drones*

        Well, it wasn’t that hot in the room, at least I didn’t think so at the time. But you raise some good points. I always suffered through discomforts like that. Maybe it’s my generation?

          1. Game of Drones*

            Don’t complain about room temp? Good! I mean, it’s only for an hour. Unless, of course, you felt faint. Then, I guess complaining about heat is reasonable.

            1. SS Express*

              We don’t make generalisations about generations (or other groups) that aren’t supported by actual evidence. I’ve known people of all ages to complain about the temperature, and I’ve known people of all ages to suffer through things that could easily be fixed with a reasonable request. Honestly I know which type of employee I’d prefer!

        1. EtherIther*

          … It seems odd to judge someone for not wanting to be uncomfortable during an interview? I mean, perhaps not the best thing, but certainly not appalling…

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            Because you are in the junior position during the interview, so you have no standing to ask for or complain about anything. I was also taught to always refuse water or coffee if the interviewer offers it, because it is a weakness to accept anything.

              1. Jennifer Juniper*

                Thanks for the correction, Alison. That advice was from a job interview video I saw in 11th grade in 1990 or 1991.

              2. EtherIther*

                Well thanks for giving me comfort that it isn’t the case! everywhere I’ve want enjoyed working has always treated me like an equal as a person, even when I was at the bottom of the rung, and it’s always meant a lot to me.

            1. Sorrel*

              Wow. I would never say that the interviewee was ‘junior’. (Well, I suppose it’s technically true, you’re usually interviewed by your potential manager) but they’re not your manager yet. Be respectful yes, but you can totally show weaknesses (although accepting things is not a weakness)

              It’s a two way business transaction – you need to work out if you want the job just as much (if not more than) they need to work out if they like you. I would say the power dynamics are only slightly tilted in the employers favour as they were the one who organised it.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      If you’re attracting a bunch of ill-prepared clueless candidates, then it’s either the kind of job you have open and this type of stuff is expected, or there’s an issue within the company (marketing, job descriptions, no phone screens to weed out the duds, etc.). I’ve never worked for HR but I’m sure there’s a certain amount of clueless you have to deal with when interviewing. But using a document like this for people who aren’t interns or fresh out of college (and even for them it’s extreme) is completely ridiculous and uncalled for in most places.

      1. Game of Drones*

        Sadly, there are still parts of the country where job seekers have to be told how to behave properly.

  9. Big10Professor*

    I dunno…we mention all the time here that people from different class backgrounds might not automatically know this stuff. I don’t think it’s such a big deal to have a standard document they attach when they set up an interview.

      1. Samwise*

        Nah, every single bit of it is not total crap. Most of it is quite useful, as the OP states. I think the three questions part has an awkward and condescending tone, but overall it’s pretty good advice.

    1. Washi*

      Yeah, I actually thought for a second that this was about my last job, where I created such a document to send to candidates for AmeriCorps positions (which are very much entry level.)

      But ours had a bit of a different focus – it encouraged candidates to skim through a particular section on the nonprofit’s website, told candidates that there would be some role play exercises and behavioral interview questions and what we were looking to get from them, and also told candidates that at the end we would ask if they have any questions, so they should be noting down if there’s anything else they want to know. It was really helpful in being able to compare candidates to each other because we didn’t have to wonder if they were just freaked out by the role playing, or had never thought to look at the employer’s website before.

      This guide seems overly rigid (3 questions! In this order!) but also maybe not even very helpful?

    2. dealing with dragons*

      That’s more or less the gist of what Allison said though – the general idea of the document is fine; especially for junior positions where they might not have the experience. The part that’s over the line is the condescension especially in regards to “ask at least three non-dress, salary, or benefits questions before you ask any of those”.

    3. BRR*

      I was thinking about this and I think there’s a middle ground between this guide and requiring thank you notes to move forward. The employer can also present a lot of this is a less condescending way. They could publish their benefits and send an annual report with the email saying “here’s a little more about us.”

    4. Anonym*

      Yeah, that was my take. I think they could be trying to do something to level the playing field on interviewing skills/resources and just executing poorly.

      I’d find it a little odd to receive, but be glad that someone who didn’t know these things would have a fair shot. And I would look for signs of how this fits into other aspects of the company, good or bad.

    5. Game of Drones*

      I agree!

      In the community in which I now live, such a document is very much needed.

  10. Ella*

    To me it reads like something that was created for the interview process for interns/entry level candidates, and it somehow ended up getting sent to all candidates, either accidentally, or because someone didn’t fully think through how it would read to non-entry level candidates.

    I don’t think I’d consider it a definite red flag. More of a yellow flag to keep an eye out for other signs the company is condescending to experienced employees.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Although any bad interview practice is an automatic orange flag to me, because it also means the best candidates are probably turned off and will go to their other options first if they have them.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Agreed. The only legitimate reason I see for sending something like this is having to deal with a large amount of ill-prepared and clueless interviewees, but even that tells me the problem is more with the company and their hiring practices than the interviewees.

        1. Ella*

          If a company had a large number of intern or entry level positions I could see sending this type of FAQ as a significant positive for a company. I look favorably on companies who have a real commitment to diversity in hiring, and sending out interview guidelines to people who could reasonably be expected to need that sort of help is something that could level the playing field and ensure they’re not ruling out good candidates who have never had the opportunity to learn business norms. It reads as condescending when sent to people applying for higher level positions, but it would be a shame to rule out an entire company over what could be a simple mixup or one overeager HR person.

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            Obviously I wouldn’t rule out the company, I would just see it as an orange flag, as I said – something that would make me pause and reflect if there are other similar signs of micromanagement, not being thoughtful about communications, or “one size fits all” rote thinking.

          2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

            A document like this could be helpful in the situations you mention, but not worded the way this document is worded. It’s not just condescending for those applying for higher positions, it’s condescending in general. This to me falls under the “it’s not what you said, it’s the way you said it” type of issue.

        2. LJay*

          Might just be the type of position.

          I hire warehouse workers, and plenty of them never ask any questions about the job, even when I probe for questions.

          And some don’t have any sense of interviewing norms. They’ll show up way early. Or late and not think it’s a big deal. Level of dress I see is all over the place – from suits to dirty jeans and logo t-shirts.

          Same when I hired for an amusement park. A lot of people there were high school kids interviewing for their first job, and the most common reasons I got when I asked why they applied for the position were, “Uh, so I can have some spending money,” or “My parents told me I needed to get a job and this looked fun I guess.”

          A guide like this would be great for those types of positions. And I don’t think there’s an issue with the hiring practices if it is needed for those types of positions.

          The problem comes when HR is sending the same guide to everyone from the entry level warehouse worker to the professional accountants.

    2. Green great dragon*

      Yep, sounds like a good idea in principle which has been sent to people who clearly don’t need it, probably because it’s easier to do that than figure out the exact level at which you should stop sending it out. The only thing that gave me pause was the ‘three questions’ which seemed terribly prescriptive.

      But I would say better to send it out unnecessarily than not to send it out at all and miss out on good potential hires who just didn’t know these things.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        “But I would say better to send it out unnecessarily than not to send it out at all and miss out on good potential hires who just didn’t know these things.”

        I agree. And honestly, I’m not sure I would want to work with someone who gets all “how very dare you! Don’t you know I’m too senior for this!” in response to being sent some overly-basic interview tips. (Although the three-questions thong is definitely misguided.) If you don’t need them, you don’t need them – there’s no need to take it as an insult. And perhaps they just want to avoid being seen to offer help/advice to some candidates but not others?

    3. Oh So Anon*

      And may also be a yellow flag that they don’t want experienced employees to, well, understand their rights and responsibilities in ways we would typically expect of experienced employees.

  11. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    If it were me, I’d think the email was actually sent by a brand-new junior employee in HR who was told to attach those tips to emails, and shrug it off for now. With your experience, you can suss out if the employer is actually as condescending as this in the interview.

  12. Elle*

    To be completely honest, if I received something like that before an interview for a position that wasn’t entry or intern level/set up by a recruiter, I’d have a hard time not only canceling the interview but also explaining why I was doing so. I might be overly prickly (I’ve been freelancing for four years now and it’s definitely had an impact on my soft skills, which didn’t come naturally to begin with) but wow, that’s so condescending that it makes me genuinely question their culture and judgment when hiring.

    1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

      Agreed. I think receiving this would automatically make me assume the cultural fit was not for me, and I’d be seriously considering cancelling the interview (and telling them why).

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      I’m surprised how personally so many commenters seem to be taking this (people saying they would turn down the job over this, really?) I agree that the 3-questions part is ridiculous, but OP, if the rest of the advice doesn’t apply to you then it doesn’t apply to you. Maybe just consider yourself lucky that you come from a position where these things seem obvious and normal to you and move on. It’s not meant as a personal insult – and honestly, I know some people with “years of experience” who would also think they don’t need this advice when trust me… they do.

  13. Amethystmoon*

    The company I work for sends out such tips to everyone who interviews. Granted, I have never had a senior-level position, but I have heard it’s pretty standard.

  14. AdAgencyChick*

    Does this position pay way below market rate? I’m wondering whether the hiring manager is reacting to a slew of disappointing candidates…and they were disappointing because she has champagne tastes and an iced-tea budget.

    Not that this is an appropriate way to react to getting a bunch of less-than-stellar candidates, btw.

    1. JHunz*

      If they’re expecting people to go all the way through to the candidate question section of the in-person interview without discussing the position’s salary? Probably.

  15. Lauren19*

    Ugh, there’s a department in my company that does this. To be fair, the far majority of people they hire are entry level and don’t have corporate office work experience. So sending to them is not a problem. The problem is when those recruiters are helping out other departments hiring more senior people and they still do this. That can seem REALLY off base.
    OP, I echo Allison’s advice. Pay a lot of attention to the team you’d be working with. That will tell you how intentional this was. Good luck!!

    1. Yet Another Loser*

      Senior persons may have no idea how to apply for a job and how to behave in an interview.

      Particularly the best. They never applied, they were invited for jobs.
      When discussing the job, they asked the questions, starting from the salary.
      They may be completely out of touch when the situation changes and they have to apply for a job.

      The best applications are written by the miserable losers who spend years polishing their applications and attend all CV and interview courses obliged by the local employment office.

  16. Triplestep*

    There’s a retail website for furniture and home goods that is very popular with recent college grads and people of that age group; They publish advice just like this right in their “careers” section. I applied to a job in my field anyway, but was not surprised to get an almost immediate rejection. I don’t think they were looking for someone my vintage. I later discovered via Linkedin that the position went to a former Dental Hygienist. My field is Building Trades.

    1. JJ Bittenbinder*

      I do believe that I’ve been rejected by that very same company twice. And I’m of a certain vintage as well. ;)

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          Nailed it!

          F*ckers. (Although I’ve since not only gotten a fantastic job, but also read that they pay pretty poorly, so it’s all for the best, at least for me).

  17. LaDeeDa*

    Holy cow– between this and the other letter about the weird interview questions… I am beginning to wonder what kind of people are companies hiring to recruit and interview?!?!
    Most of our recruiters have degrees in HR, with the exception of our recruiters who are recruiting high-level engineers- those recruiters are all engineers, but they have their SHRM-SCP.

    1. This kind of people*

      In my field, I have met very few people with HR degrees who were in charge of hiring. OldJob’s HR dept was the finance lady who had zero HR experience. Her main HR purpose was to process new hire paperwork and put in the request for background checks. Reference checks, the interviewing process, posting job ads were the sole responsibility of the hiring manager and his/her team.

      Different OldJob was a small biz where the department head of whichever department interviewed you. If he/she liked you, you then met the owner in the same day. Neither of those people had HR degrees. In fact, my old dept head was a licensed real estate agent and I didn’t work in any field related to real estate.

      1. LaDeeDa*

        I think this is why HR has such a bad reputation. I had a position open on my team- which requires a degree in organizational development or organizational psychology – my CEO tried to get me to hire one of his favorite engineer who is “a people person” I stated to him “What you are telling me is that anyone can do my job, that my degrees and my 20 yrs of experience aren’t necessary.” He honestly apologized and said he never really knew what went on HR or why/how we do the things we do, or what kind of education we all had. I told him that’s why we are the HR experts and you are the expert in — his field—.

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          Similar issues with library science. “Oh, my friend looking at graduate school. Shes’ so quiet and reads all the time that I know she will be a great librarian. Can you tell me some stuff I can tell her about library school?”
          “OK, then. Everything you think it is, it ain’t.”

          1. Call of Dewey*

            Yes- I get this all the time! And so many cover letters that open with “I just love books!” Which is great, but doesn’t really tell me if you can conduct a reference interview or have customer service skills.

    2. Antilles*

      Your company is far and away the exception. In a lot of industries, the people doing the direct interviewing aren’t HR specialists, aren’t specialized recruiters, and very often don’t even have any formal training in interviewing/recruiting.
      Instead, the people doing the hiring are typically people directly involved in the project flow – the Director of Engineering, the VP of IT, the design project manager, the company owner. HR might be involved in setting up the logistics and coordinating with candidates, but they aren’t really involved in the nitty-gritty of the actual recruitment/interview process.

      1. Antilles*

        (Just to be clear, I actually think your company is being smart in training employees on recruiting and best practices for hiring and etc…but it definitely is far from the norm)

        1. LaDeeDa*

          I’ve worked for a lot of different companies- and every company I have worked for has had HR recruiters, or outsourced recruiting. Most recruiters I have known have their SCHRM-SCP or -CP, if they did not have a degree in HR.
          Our recruiters do the recruiting and the initial phone interviews, but the in-person interview is handled by the hiring manager and usually a panel.
          I am sure a lot of it depends on what industry and what kind of jobs the recruiters are filling- and how big of a company. In North America we have over 20,000 people… I currently work for a technology firm, almost all our employees have advanced degrees, with the exception of administrative staff.
          I do think companies and people need to stop thinking just anyone can be in HR because they are a “people person” HR used to be employee relations, and it was mostly the things you described- new hire paper work, etc. It isn’t the case now. We handle organizational development, business development, talent development, succession planning, etc. Just being transactional is old school and isn’t the way most HRs function at large companies now. In fact, most companies don’t even call it HR anymore, they call it Talent Management or something along those lines.

          1. JJ Bittenbinder*

            You’re fighting the good fight here—sincerely. I’m more HR-adjacent than actual HR anymore, but the public perception of it drives me bonkers. Starting with the fact that people think just saying “HR” is in any way descriptive of an individual person’s role. OK, you’re saying “HR people are all useless!” (something I hear a lot on job boards). Do you mean all of them, really? Recruiting, Benefits, L&D, Employee relations, HR business partners, Occ Health, Leaves administration…? They’re all useless?

            I usually get crickets, and maybe an admission that the person thought that “HR” = Recruiting.

            1. LaDeeDa*

              LOL I am HR adjacent too– Talent and Leadership Development, although my team now handles all performance management, succession, hi-po identification and development, diversity & inclusion, Learning and Development, compliance training, and we work really closely with talent acquisition to make sure they are well versed in behavioral interviewing techniques and have worked with them to eliminate unconscious bias.
              I see why people think HR is a joke.. what other departments in a company are you ok with non-experts running? If they think HR is a PITA, it is their fault– they created it.

              1. JJ Bittenbinder*

                Ah, we do very similar work, you and I.

                I’m also very weary of reading “HR is not your friend!!” whenever someone is considering going to HR for an issue.

                The finance manager is not your friend. The facilities person is not your friend. The marketing and communications director is not your friend. But none of these are painted in the same, evil, scheming light that HR is.

                Preaching to the choir, I know…

                1. Where’s My Coffee?*

                  Yep. People don’t get that “HR” encompasses a variety of professions and degrees, non e of which are “being your friend.”

                2. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

                  I think the difference is that some people think “I’ll go to HR, they’ll be on my side,” which isn’t necessarily the case. If I have a question about my benefits or need to change my direct deposit, the HR person is there to help me. That’s something where there aren’t usually “sides.” Conversely, we might ask facilities for help, but people seem less surprised to be told “I can’t do anything the HVAC” or that they can’t have a better cubicle.

                  Yes, HR should be on your side if you’re dealing with harassment. That doesn’t mean they’re going to help you if your boss is micromanaging. And if Fergus thinks the boss is unfairly giving the best assignments to Tangerina, JR may well stay out of it, and they can’t simultaneously be “on Fergus’s side” and “on Tangerina’s side,” even though both Fergus and Tangerina work for the company.

  18. Akcipitrokulo*

    I wonder if they have had bad experiences with inexperienced interviewees, and then someone decided to include it with every interview email so as to be fair?

    Which, yeah… but can see that instead of being deliberately insulting.

  19. GeorgiaLibrarian*

    I think I’d send back my own list of appropriate interviewer behavior. “Interviewer will arrive promptly and properly introduce him/herself to the interviewee, giving their full name and position title.” Interviewer will provide interviewee with a bottle of water. There will be no questions about what kind of tree, dog, wild animal the interviewee may imagine themselves. Etc, etc.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Lol good point. These things (like “be on time”) are so standard that they probably apply equally to the interview-er.

    2. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

      GeorgiaLibrarian, I love this! “Interviewer will not ask interviewee how much she is making at her current job.”

      1. Autumnheart*

        “Interviewer will not fish for sensitive information by asking about domestic partners, children, living arrangements, religious fellowship, social media profiles, or anything that could reveal a status that falls under federally protected classes”

  20. LaDeeDa*

    I wonder if the recruiter who sent that was someone who does typically recruit interns or entry-level positions and doesn’t understand that it is inappropriate for someone more senior. I wouldn’t completely write off the company, but I would be looking for other indicators that there might be issues…

  21. DG*

    The only thing that is really out of place here is the question ordering.

    Regardless of professional level, setting expectations with candidates is critical to leading a diverse and inclusive recruitment process. Business norms differ across cultures (what to wear in particular), and this is largely not unreasonable. The expectations of employees lays out what the culture is like, or what it is supposed to be like. Also, I’ve been a recruiter for years – I have historically had far more issues with experienced candidates being late than I’ve had with entry level candidates.

  22. Temi*

    for a tech company who hires based on strong programming or engineering ability and not so much on how to read the room, these instructions are actually a sign of inclusion. A person on the spectrum will appreciate these guidelines and follow them to the letter.
    No, these pointers were not for the letter writer, but for the developer who breezes through a code test and now has to sit down with HR to show they can fit into an organization, it is actually helpful know what the expectations are.

    1. Rose*

      Yeah, I only see positives here pretty much. I mean, it can’t hurt? They must have had enough candidates who didn’t know this stuff if they took the time to create a form letter. It wouldn’t raise any flags for me.

    2. gmg22*

      I was thinking along these lines when I read the comment above about Tech Giant and their standard interview prep paperwork that is similar to what the OP described. Someone who can ace the actual job skills required but might stumble over some of the social graces of the interview process could find this very useful.

      Still, they need to work on the “but not before!” wording. That is indeed more third-grade-teacher stuff.

  23. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP — Please, please go and give us an update on how it went. And I hope your Three Proper Questions will all relate to organizational culture.

  24. JudyInDisguise*

    I’ve actually heard this over the phone, almost verbatim, from a recruiter (scripted), but I’ve never received anything like this in writing. I’m beginning to think weird interviews are the new normal.

  25. CupcakeCounter*

    So I received a packet from the recruiters at a position I just interviewed for last week. I found it helpful but it was VERY different from what OP described.
    I was sent a link to the main website, a copy of the job description, information on dress code, where to park and who to ask for, and a note that they use a particular interview style. One of the odder things they mentioned was that questions pertaining to actual position should be asked of a particular interviewer since they were the hiring manager and if I had any questions about the broader aspects of the company, culture, etc…to ask those of this other group of interviewers. While it made sense I still found it a little weird that would think a candidate applying for a position that required a decade of experience wouldn’t know to direct specific role-related questions to the hiring manager vs the HR group.

    1. This kind of people*

      To me, it sounds like the company you interviewed at is very organized! I would appreciate a document like that! I personally would’ve loved a document that says who to direct specific questions to and wouldn’t find it odd, especially if they have names attached to it.

      For example, “other group of interviewers, Bob Smith, Jane Doe, Homer Simpson” Direct all questions regarding X.

      “Hiring Manager, Sheldon Cooper” Direct all questions regarding Y.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        It was – I didn’t get the job (which I’m okay with as I was on the fence and as much as I liked the company and a couple of the people I didn’t feel the HM and I clicked at all and one portion of the position was going to be a real hardship for my family) but would jump at the chance to interview with them again.
        The only reason I found the “direct your questions to” line odd was because in previous communications it was clearly outlined who the HM was, the group of people I would be meeting with and mini-bios about them and their role in the company. I totally see how that might be helpful for a entry-level role, but for a Senior level role in Finance, I’m not going to ask the HR rep about very detailed aspects of position such as LIFO vs FIFO for their inventory valuation.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I always confirm an interview with the information that you’ve described, minus the who to ask questions of, since we’re all in the same room, we can figure out who answers what on our own, you don’t need to ask anyone specifically. I can see that if they’re having different panels or something, then it makes sense to say that “Session 1 is for these questions, Session 2 is for those questions” though.

      We have a weird building so I need to give detailed instructions or people get lost all the time, I learned that by my third interview! I also remembered how nobody told me that it’s a secure building, so I tell everyone that too because it took me a minute to figure out where the stupid buzzer was for my interview, haha.

  26. Clementine*

    If every large company that had some odd behavior was eliminated from consideration, I doubt there’d be any left. Just be glad you know this stuff already, make sure to research the company well, and see how the interview goes.

  27. PB*

    If you ask me, this company didn’t go far enough. They should have also included instructions in the job posting about how to write a resume and cover letter, including gems such as, “Proofread! Make sure you update the name of the company in your cover letter!” Or, “Resume eight pages long? Consider editing!”

    I kid. These tips are so condescending.

  28. Rose*

    There are enough people out there who don’t know these things or read AAM that I can only see this as helpful. Sure it’s condescending to you, but it’s not for you in the broad sense. Kick a*s at the interview OP, you’ve got this! You already knew the stuff in the letter!

  29. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    LOL This reminds me of the OTT job postings that say “If you are lazy and do not show up, don’t even bother!!”, it’s so ridiculous and does more harm than good in their hiring process.

    If I ever got this tip sheet, my response would be to cancel the interview, I have no patience or time for this nonsense.

    1. This kind of people*

      But this document could have been the result of ONE misguided person who the OP wouldn’t be interacting with on a daily basis. What if you had cancelled the interview but the rest of the team were lovely people where you would’ve seen a good fit?

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Then I would never know because I wouldn’t be working there.

        I’ve never had a problem receiving job offers and can safely say I’ll never accept condescending nonsense from anyone to get one. If the one misguided fool among them is that close to the new hires, they need to reel it in or they lose out on candidates for it.

  30. That Girl From Quinn's House*

    This is the big red flag to me:

    “Expectations of every Chocolate Teapots, Inc. employee:
    (this applies to internal and external customers, vendors, suppliers, contractors, and other business associates of Chocolate Teapots, Inc.)”

    So they’re setting behavior standards for people they have virtually no control over? The contractors repairing the roof, the mail carrier, the Internet Service Provider line repair technician, the truck driver who empties the dumpster out back, all must follow the same rules as Chocolate Teapots Inc employees? This is weird and disturbing.

    1. gmg22*

      And customers! Everyone who orders a product from Chocolate Teapots, Inc. BETTER be abiding by OUR expectations. Um, okay …

    2. Samwise*

      Really? We see letters right here on AAM about what to do with obnoxious/rude clients, customers, contractors, etc. Of course Chocolate Teapots doesn’t have any actual control over folks who are not employees, but for sure I have worked places where my working life would have been so much better if there were such expectations and managers or supervisors stood up for the low-level employee who was the target of a non-employee’s bad behavior.

      It’s not weird and disturbing. It suggests that perhaps Chocolate Teapots doesn’t think a client is so important that they can behave badly, which is A-OK in my book.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        There’s nothing wrong with having basic behavioral standards for customers, outside contractors, but having ones this specific is strange: Welcomes and greets in a friendly manner, in person or over the phone.
        Takes opportunities to assist customers, staff and others.
        Listens with attention and shows interest; provides good eye contact and body language
        Goes the extra mile to meet others’ needs.

        So if the mail carrier doesn’t welcome or greet the receptionist in a friendly manner using good eye contact and body language, and doesn’t listen with attention and show interest, the mail carrier can no longer deliver the mail to their building? That is what is strange.

        1. LJay*

          What would you consider a mail carrier?

          I would not consider them a an external customer, vendor, supplier, or contractor.

          They’re talking about people that are being paid by the company to do something necessary for the company.

          And yeah, I think it is reasonable that if the rep that comes and fills the vending machine is not pleasant to interact with when someone approaches him for a refund or whatever, that they don’t pay his company to fill the vending machines anymore and find one who will not be unpleasant for their employees to interact with.

      2. Data Point*

        “Of course Chocolate Teapots doesn’t have any actual control over folks who are not employees”

        Sure they do. It’s called “vendor qualification.”

        Granted, it’s strange to apply this to customers, but they are probably seeking to put customers on notice that abusive behavior to staff isn’t acceptable.

      3. LJay*


        They’re setting the standards for the people who hire those contractors.

        The person who contracts the company that does the pest control or whatever needs to make sure that the pest control employees are pleasant. And if they’re not, the person who contracts them better have a talk with them and let them know their contract is in jeopardy if they don’t act appropriately, and terminate the contract and replace them with people who will.

        You can’t control how outside vendors act. You can control whether they’re allowed to interact with your employees and make money by vending to you.

    3. The New Wanderer*

      I glossed over that at first, but you’re right, it is particularly weird. Made me wonder if they include this with all their contract negotiations so their expectations are clear to all vendors, suppliers, and contractors. Not really sure how they enforce this with customers though.

      All in all, I’d have to vote it was good intentions carried out badly. When it’s done well, it can be very helpful.

    4. lulu*

      That’s not what they mean. I read it to say: employees are supposed to do these things (e.g. welcome and greet in a friendly manner, in person or over the phone) to everyone including internal and external customers, vendors, suppliers, contractors, and other business associates of Chocolate Teapots, Inc.
      It certainly could have been worded better, but that’s the only way it makes sense to me.

  31. It’s All Good*

    What the what? I’d be tempted to go, I would go with the goal of not being interviewed, but finding out more about what their motives are in sending this out. (Unless you got the PDF on April 1)

  32. irene adler*

    One time, a recruiter sent me a TED talk to view prior to my interview.
    It wasn’t directly about interviewing.
    It was something about how to present a positive image to the world.

    Had something in it about making large gestures to convey one’s passion and interest. Large gestures like spreading one’s arms out wide to the side (like an exaggerated hug).
    Tried it.
    Felt like a dope.
    No job offer either.
    Where do they get this stuff?

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      I’m guessing that TED talk was only for men. They probably perceived women making large gestures as being selfish, greedy, or emasculating.

  33. CastIrony*

    I must be the only one who wishes for this kind of insider info. Then again, I hope to leave retail/food service next year or so.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You’re on AAM, so you already know all these things.

      Be prepared. Don’t wear hot pants and a tank top to the interview ;)

      1. CastIrony*

        I guess that’s true, but I like having a guide so I can prepare better and know what questions they will ask.

        1. lulu*

          It doesn’t list what questions they will ask though.

          As other people noted, this can be useful for an entry-level position, for someone’s first office job, but it is condescending to send it for positions that require more experience.

        2. LaDeeDa*

          Companies won’t usually send you the exact questions, but they may tell you the style of interviewing they do- behavioral, case, competency based, situational, etc. If you ever get that information or see it listed on their website or on Glassdoor you can Google those styles to see what they are.
          And remember– Alison has her free interview guide right over there :)

          1. CastIrony*

            I even asked the question that impressed everyone before, and only one interviewer was impressed. I also did not get the job.

            **is petty**

        3. JJ Bittenbinder*

          You might not find information as specific as you are looking for, unless it’s a large/well-known company, but Glassdoor can help tremendously if you look the employer up and click on the ‘interviews’ tab.

          Best of luck to you!

  34. JJ Bittenbinder*

    Wow, I used to run a career group for high school students with intellectual and learning disabilities, and my materials assumed a higher level of understanding of workplace norms than this “guidance.”

  35. Spoon & Cherry*

    I agree that the tone of this document is terrible HOWEVER I disagree with most people that it’s a bad idea. In the name of equity, it’s important to remember that just because you have the credentials and experience even for a senior position doesn’t mean that you understand the culture of position or of interviewing in general. I’ve been the host for my fair share of interviews and I’ve found a noticeable difference in cultural norms when I interview immigrants. My US city has a very large refugee population – a lot of these new citizens are highly qualified but just don’t know how to navigate our (very white, male-dominated) systems! This particular cheat sheet should be redone without the condescension but overall I think it’s a great way to level the playing field.

    1. It's Pronounced Bruce*

      I agree in spirit, although the execution of this is still ham-fisted, and bits of it indicate that equity is not the intention. Especially the bit about how to ask questions. It’s one thing to say, hey, the norm is to arrive before the given time* and to dress in xyz way, it’s another to say “we expect you to ask questions in this prescribed pattern and will hold it against you if you don’t.”

      *This is one of those things people call a no-brainer that is, as you point out, not universal. I was recently reading expat workplace stories and someone from an unspecified country talked about how shocked they were when they started a new job by showing up to a 9am meeting at 9:20am and people were upset with them for it. It’s plenty typical for things to not actually start until 5, 15, even 30 minutes after the given time in some places.

      1. It's Pronounced Bruce*

        (That second part is preempting folks whose reaction is “but everyone knows to be on time,” S&C, in agreement with your point– not refuting it!)

      2. LJay*

        And also, I’ve run into the opposite a lot where people think that if arriving a little early is good, arriving a lot early is better and shows their dedication and interest.

        The problem is that I don’t have time in my day to interview them 45 minutes earlier than they were scheduled, and in my workplace there isn’t reception or anyplace else where they can sit without being disruptive to workflow.

        (And no, it’s not transit issues or anything. They all drive a vehicle in, and when asked are able to go wait elsewhere. They just do know that they shouldn’t be late, but nobody has ever told them that being really early isn’t great either.)

  36. Samwise*

    Eh, my guess is someone prepared it for internships and entry-level positions, because candidates were flubbing the interview in these ways — it does have the advantage of giving everyone the same reasonably good basic info, which as we know not everyone has, such as first gen college students.

    And then someone decided that it was so helpful, they were going to give it to everyone, for any position.

    Or even, someone in HR had been sending out a bunch of these for interns and entry level and just appended it to your email without even thinking about it. Or a new hire or an intern is taking care of this stuff and they had no clue it wasn’t appropriate for your level.

    So I’d assume it’s either a mistake, or well-intentioned but not well thought out, and would not worry one little bit about how many questions I asked or in what order.

    1. lulu*

      I agree, I actually don’t think it’s a red flag unless maybe you are applying for a job in HR, and even then if you are hired you’d have the opportunity to get them to revise it to adjust the tone.

  37. Boba tea*

    this sounds very similar to a document i received after i got an interview for an internship at Target! I got a 2 page document from the recruiter and some notes from the person who arranged the interview along the same line. Lots of stuffs are similar to what OP had, one part was about a 30 second commercial about yourself…they want to you to say you loveeeee their company. at my 3rd interview, i didnt make it. i didnt think much of the document though that’s the first time i got something like that. they arent that useful as they repeat the stuffs i already know but i can see how professionals with experiences find this patronizing.

  38. Merpaderp*

    I also found the directions on asking questions, uh, eyebrow raising. That aside though, I wonder if this document, including the asking questions bit, was put together with the intent of reducing socioeconomic disparity in hiring? Because it is a bit basic, I’m further wondering if they put it together intending it to be for more entry level jobs and decided to use it for all jobs, maybe for well intentioned reasons, maybe for cynical ones.

  39. His Grace*

    I would definitely go into this interview with a very healthy dose of skepticism. Though if you ran for the hills screaming bloody murder, I would not blame you either.

  40. LMAO*

    LMAO I’ve worked with this recruiter!

    I thought it was weird too (I’m senior as well), but I literally just ignored it. My guess is that it’s just a silly company policy that someone higher up in operations was like “Send this to everyone.” I don’t think it’s a red flag because everyone has t send it to EVERYONE (and not just a thing your specific recruiter did), but I do think it’s really stupid. REEEeeeally stupid.

    I hope someone at the company see this so they stop doing it. I wonder how many people have turned down working with them because of it!

  41. B. J. Salinger*

    While I understand everyone thinking that it’s patronizing, I do not think it should be taken as such. The advice is obvious and common sense, but there are a variety of reasons the company would think it reasonable to send such informational package. It doesn’t hurt anybody, so I don’t understand the fuss.

    1. TootsNYC*

      the other thing is, an information packet can be sort of like a wedding gift registry.

      It’s not aimed at any one specific person. It’s not personal.
      There are a lot of different eyes on it, and lots of different people.

      So you might be offended that there’s an $400 video game console on there–but the bride or groom’s colleagues may be banding together at $20 to $30 a pop, and they may think it’s way-cool to buy the couple a game they can play together.
      My MIL was a bit insulted that the bride seemed to be trying to control her choice of spatulas to give as an add-on, but the bride is also being told to register for smaller things.

      Ditto with this. Maybe they send it to everyone.

  42. Anonforthis*

    A couple of years ago, before I landed my current role, I was working with an external recruiter who not only sent me something very similar to this, but also insisted on having a long (1 hour+) prep conversation before the interview he had set up for me. Which would have been fine if I were someone new to the workforce, but I’m an HR professional with 20+ years of HR experience, during which I’ve either conducted or participated in literally hundreds of interviews. So yeah, the hour+ long conversation and the little handout with interviewing tips was really not necessary. As it turned out, the company cancelled the interview because they had decided to fill the position internally. Oh well.

    1. Catalyst*

      I also got one of these from a recruiter recently! I thought it was very odd given that I am just below Director level, so it’s not like I don’t know how to interview. I just assumed they sent it to everyone regardless because they have probably been embarrassed by a candidate in the past.

    2. DashDash*

      I’ve also gotten these from recruiters! A personal favorite included in bold, italicized, and underlined: “If you are interested at the end of the interview, ask the hiring manager for the job!” (Least favorite? The one that specified “wear panty hose [sic]” and “Smile!” twice.)

    1. Me*

      Perhaps something like… there’s a lot of info out there good and bad on interview prep if you’re interested in what ABC, Inc looks for, you can find information at http://www.abcincinterviews.com. And then just have the info there. Or provide a link to an outside source that’s actually good.

      There a lot, so very lot, of people who are most certainly not entry level and haven’t got a clue. I’m reminded of the time a woman showed up for an interview in what can best be described as the misses casual wear with her long hair clipped back in baby barrettes. As a woman I wanted to shake her in a loving wtf are you thinking way for undermining her very relevant and long career. This was for a department head role in an industry that doesn’t always take woman seriously to begin with. She lost the job before she even opened her mouth.

      I have interviewed more candidates who did not know what they should be doing than those who did and none were fresh out of school, never employed etc.

      1. mark132*

        For me I like expected dress, so a line like “we do business casual dress, so please don’t wear your suit.” Also info on the interview format length etc. Even structure it as a FAQ if you want to be cutesy.

        q: “What should I wear to the interview”, a: …
        q: “What are our benefits”, a: (note I would LOVE this).

  43. Asperger Hare*

    This would be absolutely amazing and autism-positive if it was for every company. However, you’re right – it’s probably not right for you and your role.

    1. Kendra*

      Can you explain how you mean? Do you mean entry level? I also have aspergers, but I’ve been working for 10+ years so I know what the rules are now. I’m not really part of the community though so it’s an honest question.

      1. Koala dreams*

        I’m not Asperger Hare, but I think they mean it would be great if it was common practise for companies to send out clear lists of their expectations of interviewees with the interview invitation, so people didn’t have to worry about the unwritten rules. Many (not all) people with autism have a hard time figuring out these kind of rules so it would level the playing field. Alas, we don’t live in that world so the situation in the letter comes across as very odd.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          Agree. It’s especially useful if someone is changing fields or going from nonprofit to for-profit or otherwise facing different unspoken rules. I’m pretty experienced but I still run across plenty of threads here along the lines of “Of COURSE you do X; it’s just common sense!” and no, it is not common sense to me because X isn’t really a thing in my field or even just in my workplace (HR is not involved in interviews here at all, for example, which I realize is slightly weird).

        2. Asperger Hare*

          Thank you – you put this better than I could have!

          Yes, this is what I mean. If a company sent this list to me, it would indicate to me that they were acknowledging and accepting of things like autism and would allow me time to get to grips with those unwritten rules.

  44. Another worker bee*

    FWIW after 10 years working, I appreciate being told what to wear and what format to expect for interviews! This list was a little in excess of that, though

  45. Mother of Cats*

    I work at a nonprofit that serves long-term unemployed, and I think this document is beneficial to job seekers. A lot of the tips are common sense, yes, but not everyone (junior or senior) is familiar with them. This levels the playing field. I’d rather offend the OP by sending these guidelines than lose out on an awesome job candidate because the latter said/wore/did something “off” that dissuaded the hiring manager.

    1. MommyMD*

      I kind of feel like an awesome candidate would already know to be on time, dress properly, and ask appropriate position-related questions though.

      1. Me*

        Nope. For example people of a lower socio-economic class often have no idea how to dress, how to speak , or what questions are relevant. Not because they are dumb or incapable of doing the job but because of their environment, it just not something they’ve been exposed to. This also applies to cultural differences and I’m not just talking different countries kind of cultural – what flies in a small town/rural county, would likely not be acceptable in a more urban area.

        Whats obvious to you is obvious 99.9% because you have been explicitly exposed to it at some point in your life.

        1. mark132*

          I don’t think this is necessarily unique to one socio-economic class. I’m firmly upper middle class, and I had the grand total of zero formal classes on what to wear to an interview, how to act, and what questions to ask.

          I likely had more informal training on it, as well as other experiences in my life that helped prepare me. But I still wouldn’t mind a class on it.

          1. Me*

            It’s not which is why I said for example :) It is absolutely sociological fact on a large scale that the lower income group you are in, the less you are exposed to these type of things. Studies exist to support this. Of course there are going to be individuals who are low-income and have been exposed and upper income who have not. Sociology looks at groups not individuals.

      2. Mother of Cats*

        I put together practice interview events and teach interview prep. Not every person has the benefit of being educated on workplace/interviewing norms. It’s like the whole “thank you” email issue – I had to talk my sister, who graduated in engineering from UC Berkeley, into sending her interviewers thank you emails. I also work with immigrants who would appreciate the guidelines listed in the OP’s letter. Some people just don’t know. As someone who works with long-term unemployed and the underemployed, I think the document is beneficial.

  46. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    They: “we expect every employee to provide good eye contact and body language!”
    Me: (stares them down, flips them off, leaves)

    I’ve had two incidents in my whole career that came close.

    Several years ago, a corporate recruiter set up an interview for me with several people at his company, gave himself as the only contact, his cell number as the only contact number, and sent me several emails all along the lines of “and don’t be late” “make sure you are 15 minutes early” etc. Then went to lunch right before he was supposed to meet me, and was not answering his phone. Showed up an hour later. (The interview still took place without him.)

    My very first US job, I was set up with a job interview by a caseworker who was assigned by the org that had brought me in to work with new immigrants and to help them find work. In the middle of explaining to me what the interview process would be like, she said “give me your hand”. I did. She turned my hand around, looked it over, and let go of it saying “okay your nails are clean…” My jaw is still on the floor 20+ years later. I was 29 years old and the interview was for an entry-level programming position.

        1. LaDeeDa*

          Since you aren’t from the US I am assuming it was motivated by some racism or some sort of bias??!! EEEK.

  47. mcr-red*

    If you don’t want people asking you what the pay range and benefits are…THEN POST THE PAY RANGE AND BENEFITS IN THE JOB POSTING. I’m sorry, that is the most ridiculous part of that whole insane “tip” sheet. As much as they are interviewing you for the job, OP, you are also questioning to see if the job is something you want to do. And pay range and benefits are factors into you deciding if you want to take this any further!

    I have had a few times where I have gone in for job interviews – only to find out the job I’m interviewing for pays less than or the same as my current job (and considering how bad my pay rate is, that is really saying something.) Or, one other memorable time, was for overnight hours, which had I known that, I never would have applied. If I had known any of this ahead of time, I wouldn’t have wasted my time or theirs! And if I wasn’t “allowed” to ask at the interview or until I asked other questions first…. /eyeroll

    1. TootsNYC*

      they didn’t say “don’t ask.” they essentially said, “Ask about other stuff so it looks like you’ve got some interest in other aspects of the job as well.”

      1. mcr-red*

        Again, though, I find it bizarre that they want to dictate the order in which you ask. Because if I ask you, “So what’s the salary/benefits/hours for this job?” and your answers are all, “Less than what you’re making/less than what you’re getting/worse than your current ones” then I DON’T CARE ANYMORE about learning more about the potential job, I’m done. And in general, every interview I’ve been to, they tell you about the position – and presumably you’ve read about the position that you applied for, ask some questions about how your skills line up with what they want, etc. and then ask for your questions. My question about salary/benefits/hours is going to be first, to see if at this point, I want to pursue this any further or say, “Well thank you for your time.”

        It just seems like they want to play a game with all of their candidates, and I would think good candidates are going to find it all very off-putting. So have fun with your bad candidates, job!

        1. mark132*

          I know what you mean, I wouldn’t lead with questions about salary/benefits, but I would want to know salary ranges and benefits before showing up.

    2. TootsNYC*

      but yes, I agree–salary and benefits are important, and candidates should have a pretty good idea about them before they even apply.

  48. nnn*

    I find it really weird that employers actively want interviewees to ask questions and are unhappy with a situation where the interviewee doesn’t have any questions.

    For example, instead of instructing them to think of questions about what the position will entail and what their responsibilities will be, why not…tell them what the position will entail and what their responsibilities will be?

    I mean, yes, also be ready to answer any questions, but the possibility exists that you’ve effectively communicated all the information the candidate needs. Why get pedantic about going through the motions?

    1. TootsNYC*

      I apparently do a pretty good job of anticipating all the questions people might have, so when I get done talking, lots of people will say, “You answered all the questions I was going to have, like what is the deadline pressure like, how do you handle staffing, what’s the most important skill you’re looking for…”

      I don’t hold it against them, because I deliberately and with forethought HAVE answered every question I could think they might want to know. I think it’s my obligation to do so.

    2. Me*

      I can only speak for myself, but an interview is in a way about getting to know each other. In a non-interview setting, if I’m asking you questions to get to know you and you don’t do the same, I take it that you aren’t interested in a mutual relationship. Same goes with interviews. You simply don’t know everything about the position, culture or work environment. It’s not hard to ask why the position is open (don’t you want to know?), what the interviewer likes most about the company etc.

      Now, this does depend on the job. If it’s a basic level/entry level job, I don’t care as much. Certain jobs like retail, it would be a bit ridiculous to expect any deep questions and I don’t think I’d care if there were none at all.

      1. nnn*

        That’s ironic, because when I don’t have many questions, that’s often because I’m so interested in the job that the answers why the position is open, what the interviewer likes about the company, etc. aren’t going to affect my interest in the job.

        1. Me*

          You’d be interested in a job where the culture could be toxic as all heck? Those type of questions are the very slight chance you have to look for those things.

          To each their own, but I always want to know why someone is leaving.

          1. LaDeeDa*

            I usually ask
            “Tell me the kind of person who would compliment the team.”
            “What would you say will be the biggest challenge (or obstacle) this role will face in the first few months?”
            “Can you give me an example of the corporate culture and how that directly impacts your team?” This is a good one, because you know right away if there is some bad corporate culture- I have found that because it isn’t the “usual” question that people are ridiculously honest. If it is bad culture, I then follow it up with “how they work to overcome it or shelter the team from it.”

    3. LaDeeDa*

      It isn’t just about the position and if you can do the job- in fact if I have someone in for an in-person interview I know they can probably do the job based on their education and past experience. It is also about being a good fit for the team, and about what is important to you in a company, in a manager, and in a team. I do my best to describe the role, the expectations, my style as a manager, and the dynamic of the team- but I want to hear what is important to you.

  49. TootsNYC*

    They may have developed this because they are seeing this deficit in entry-level employees, and then they just send it out to everybody.

    At least their advice is sound!

    I actually agree that it’s wisest to ask about dress code, benefits and salary AFTER you’ve asked questions like, “What’s the part of this job that previous people have struggled with?” or “Who will be the primary audience for my work?” or “Tell me a little bit about the communication among the teams.”
    It just makes you look better.

  50. Rory*

    I actually had a similar experience and then had the HR person meet with me to prep me for the interview as well, which was baffling and condescending and had raised so many red flags.

    The interview ended up being the only time in my life where half way through, I politely stopped the interviewer, told him that I didn’t feel this was a good match and there was no reason for us to continue. He had up to that point spent half an hour basically yelling at me how I wasn’t good enough for the job.

    Hilariously, apparently me shutting him down was the right answer and he wanted to go on to the next round and was baffled when I made it clear that I had zero interest ever working for him.

    Anyway, yes, this reads like a massive red flag to me.

    1. JSPA*

      NEXIVM did interviews?
      (too soon?)
      Negging is the reddest of flags, whether in relationships or job interviews. Good on you for leaving.

  51. DataGirl*

    I have received documentation that sounds just like that before an interview (including acceptable hair styles and nail polish colors- apparently only harlots wear red polish) but that was from an external recruiter who had a vested interest in you doing well at the interview. It’s definitely weirder coming from the company itself.

  52. voyager1*

    I think that this is good to do, it shows the company cares. I also think it is good to send to everyone in name of being fair and equitable.

    But I would like to point out that the LW might want to rethink the idea that people in unemployment offices need this over anyone else. Not everyone who ends up unemployed is uninformed on how to get a job. Sometimes people just lose jobs because the company shudders or the plant closes. LW might want to rethink what think about class and stereotypes of people who aren’t as privledged. Sorry if that is harsh, but that part I really pinged on.

    1. Angel (the LW)*

      I have been on unemployment before, having been laid-off from a company after 8 years, so I’ve been there. As I attended classes and went to job fairs, I was often given tips in emails about interview best-practices, etiquette with recruiters, and so forth. I don’t believe my statement is way off the mark.

  53. ITKat*

    I’ve gotten something similar from an external recruiter – he was taking over from a very experienced recruiter I’d worked with many times. I think that the New Guy just had come on board to replaced Experienced Guy, and because they hire for all levels, he just wasn’t using common sense on when to send it out – and sent it to me, who has been in the field for over a decade at a high level.

    I just took it as amusing and moved on.

    It’s possible that the internal recruiter may be inexperienced and just didn’t apply judgement on when to send the tips – or works on commission (happens even with internal recruiters) and wants to cover all bases. Like someone else mentioned, I wouldn’t read too much into it either way, and just disregard it.

    If you accept a position, it might be the right time then to offer some professional feedback on their recruiting process, however….

  54. alphabet soup*

    I’m interviewing with a big management consultancy right now, and they sent similar materials to me. Some of was culture-specific and some of it was more general interviewing tips (such as “relax and be yourself and make it a conversation,” etc). I didn’t find it patronizing. As someone without an MBA, I appreciate learning about their interview culture (which would be more obvious to someone with an MBA).

    I also got the sense that they send these materials to all applicants regardless of experience level in order to be inclusive and fair. If you selectively send these materials to only the candidates you think will need them, you run the risk of having some candidates who are more prepared than others and thus have a slight advantage. Seems like the safe bet is to send the materials to everyone and more experienced candidates can self-select out by simply not reading them.

  55. pcake*

    I think sending out such hints is counter-productive. If I am interviewing people who really don’t know such business or social norms, I’d like to know it. I don’t want to remind them to be on time, dress appropriately or look up the company. I’d want to see if they do these things on their own. After all, this wasn’t an entry level position.
    I don’t think I’d send these out for entry level people, either. If they don’t know enough to arrive for an interview or work on time, I’d rather find it out at the interview than after they’re hired.

    1. Luna*


      Absolutely agree. If you have to *tell* a candidate to be, at the very least, on-time for an interview, that tells you a lot about the candidate to begin with. It’s not like the real world and job is the first place a person has ever been required to be on-time or even early.

  56. MG*

    The “three questions” section would be a bit less strange if it were coming from a different source (for instance, a handout from a career center or something like that) — I wonder if whoever wrote the document adapted it from websites or other “interview tips” materials and didn’t think about how this advice would come across when it came directly from the company.

  57. Luna*

    Some of those tips seem weird. Why should I bring a second resume along? I already sent you all my documentation, if you don’t have that for the interview, that is not my problem. Everything was sent to you, leaving the ball for that swing in your court.

    And depending on what position you apply to, asking about it is pointless. If I have already worked at hotel reception, I do not need to ask what said position entails because I have already worked it. And why shouldn’t I ask about dress code initially? Especially if payment was mentioned previously by the employer.

    Yeah, shaking my head at this entire thing. Observe what it looks like at the interview, and if it feels off, write ’em off as just not something worth working at.

    1. ArtK*

      Bringing an extra copy of your resume is reasonable advice and has been around for quite some time. Stuff gets lost. Sometimes the resume doesn’t make it to the interviewer — I’ve seen that happen when someone has to sub for the interviewer at the last moment.

    2. SWMK*

      Why should I bring a second resume along? I already sent you all my documentation, if you don’t have that for the interview, that is not my problem.

      Unfortunately, if you want the job, it is your problem.

      Documents get misplaced. Individual messages get buried in the e-mail tsunami. If you place the onus on the interviewer to spend time finding documents, she may not read your resume at all. That places you at a disadvantage vis-a-vis the other candidates.

      1. Luna*

        Given that most of the people I interviewed with never seem to have read my resume, despite it lying right in front of them during the entire interview, it actually makes me question if a resume is even important. If they don’t read it, why bother sending one?

  58. Autistic Farm Girl*

    “Make good eye contact”, get the F out of here with that advice. So many people don’t have good eye contact for many different reasons! And it doesn’t mean that they’re aren’t listenning.

    If eye contact was a requirement to communication we’d never use the phone!!!

    1. Luna*

      I laughed at and agree with your comment!

      I can keep eyecontact for a bit, but I can’t hold it for very long. It feels awkward, and I notice my gaze tends to keep slipping to the mouth — because that’s something that’s moving.

  59. JSPA*

    Assuming you’re not desperate for a job, any job; give it to them as a friendly, helpful head’s-up:

    “I thought you’d want to know that you’re mistakenly including an instruction sheet for entry-level, first-time interviewees in the information packet for your more advanced positions. I didn’t take it personally, of course, but if someone did, it would reflect oddly on the company.”

    If they get defensive or argumentative, that’s very important information. With luck they’ll look nonplussed, laugh apologetically, or roll their eyes and say, “don’t get me started on that three questions line, please? Just ask me whatever you want, however you want, so long as I don’t have to explain why that’s there.”

  60. emmygm*

    Just going to throw this out there as a counterpoint o what most of the comments seem to be saying. My employer (one of the provincial governments in Canada) sends a document similar to this to all external applicants, regardless of seniority level. Our interview structure is a bit different than the private sector(we used an adapted form of competency-based interviews) that can put external applicants at a disadvantage. The document is used to ‘level the playing field’ for external applicants and isn’t intended to be patronizing to anyone. Maybe that’s their intention here?

    1. Oh So Anon*

      I’ve seen this type of stuff from federal as well as provincial public service job competitions, in a couple different provinces. The ones I’m familiar with do a really good job of not being patronizing, though – they manage to provide a 101 for the interview process that works for not only summer students but seasoned workers new to the public service.

      The big difference between those guides and what the OP is describing is tone. There’s more of a focus on what to expect from the process rather than what you should not do – the latter comes across as scolding.

    2. Nikara*

      I was coming in to say the same thing- Applying for local government jobs in the US, and I get similar types of attachments to interview requests. The idea is to create an equal playing field for every applicant on the type of advice they get before the interview.

      The one I recently got was clearly super out-of-date, but the advice was still okay. The funniest part was that it included information that “The first question will be one of these three things”. I prepared carefully for those three questions. None of them were actually my first question. It actually threw me off a bit.

      If you are working for a government organization, outdated, sort of out of touch generic advice of this sort is par for the course. I’ve come to expect it, and be amused, not offended.

  61. Jo*

    I initially read the title as ‘Potential employee sent me weirdly patronising interview tips’ and thought it was an interviewee sending an employer tips on how to carry out an interview. Although in this case, that might not be a bad idea…

  62. Mark Roth*

    “Don’t ask what we can do for you, this is all about what you can show us you could do for us!”
    That’s really what I see from these “hints!”

  63. Where’s My Coffee?*

    Didn’t we recently have a complaint letter that employers weren’t giving people training in very basic professional norms? And now we’re complaining that an employer is? Or should we only do this for positions below a certain pay level or prestige? Hmm.

    Don’t get me wrong—I find this very eye-rolly. But still…you can’t have it all ways.

    1. Luna*

      I agree that certain workplace norms should be explained. But I think having to suggest to canditates the absolute basic of common decency — being on time, or even a bit early, for an interview; not coming in wearing your worst torn jeans and sequin scarf (unless that IS a common attire while on the job); and other stuff that really shouldn’t have to be explained — is just going a little too far.

  64. Rectilinear Propagation*

    In addition to some of the suggestions given (it’s for entry level and they send it out to everyone now, it was sent by mistake, they send it out for senior candidates in case they haven’t job hunted for a while or in case they aren’t familiar with the local corporate culture) they may also be sending it to everyone to explicitly counter the bad interview advice out there.

    For example, I’ve read recently that you shouldn’t bring extra copies of your resume to an interview. So they may be trying to help people who have been given tips that would hurt them when interviewing at their company.

    I’ve also seen this sort of thing before, a packet of interview tips that comes from the company itself, but the part where they tell you when you’re allowed about pay, benefits, and dress definitely wasn’t in there. The dress code one is particularly weird. First of all, it already discusses what you should wear to the interview so why be coy about what they would wear at the job? Secondly, I’ve never even heard about companies being touchy about dress code before. I know most of them think that it’s crass to bring up the fact that you’re there primarily for the money but how is asking about clothing offensive to the employer?

  65. RubyMoon*

    Wow. Just…wow.
    Even if this was mainly aimed at entry level folks, the tone is condescending enough that it would probably severely chafe my willingness to suffer these fools. It really smacks of the “people are so desperate to work here they’ll put up with anything” mentality. Which drives me daft.
    And the section about questions would just flip my switch. Seriously? Who the glarbleflobbing hoopdoodle do they think they are?

  66. Overagekid*

    When I interviewed with my currently employer, the recruiter sent me pretty much this exact email.
    I think for some recruiters, it’s just pretty standard to send this type of advice to everyone, regardless of level.
    Some of it did help me, but I can definitely see how it would be patronising to more experienced candidates.

    I’d put it down to the interviewer automatically sending this document to all interviewees and not really registering how it comes across to some.

  67. Checkert*

    So, my current job sent something very similar to me for my interview, despite the fact that I was an experienced hire not fresh out of school. We’re talking 15 years, 20 jobs, a military tour and government job in. HOWEVER, my employer is notoriously incredibly hard to get hired into, has very high standards, and has a strong ‘corporateness’ culture (i.e., I have observed a noticable language, behavior, dress, and behavior here that I haven’t seen elsewhere). It was not meant nor taken as infantalizing because the interview process here is different than many others: you need to study, you need to practice, you need to be prepared. The email out was to see if you can fit their culture, not to make it seem controlling or hand-holding (for example: mine specified I needed to wear nearly ‘business formal’, putting it as wearing what I’d want to be seen wearing by, say, a partner). I think in cases like this where the process is unique and they recognize how few make it through, giving that information and advice was invaluable to me.

  68. lnelson in Tysons*

    Having done a lot of interviewing before landing this job, often the recruiters from placement agencies sent a document with tips on interviewing, listing some of what OP mentioned. It seemed to be a “one-size” fits all regardless of past experience. Fresh out of school, been around for awhile or first time looking for a job in 20 years. I take it for that. At least for a written document.

    I am not so amused when a recruiter is trying to pump me up like a cheer leader. A good recruiter will tweak the information in relation to the role and candidate. So, if they know the client really wants someone with XYZ software experience, be clear about your experience with XYZ software.

    It’s one thing to remind the candidate about being on time if there have been issues in the past about that. FYI, the one time I thought I was going to be late for an interview, I called ahead when the train broke down and I didn’t know when it would start moving again.

  69. Peter J. Mostachetti*

    I have seen this before… It’s usually an organization that is either heavily populated by hourly, low wage workers or that transformed from warehouse/manufacturing type work to include more robust corporate functions (HR, Comms, etc.). They have failed to transform their culture, or create separate talent workstreams for professional vs. hourly. You tend to see similar clues in their time off/vacation policies, and bonus structures.

  70. londonedit*

    I’ve applied for a few jobs through industry-specific recruitment agencies, and I’ve always received some version of this. Maybe not quite so patronising, but I’ve absolutely received a ‘preparing for your interview’ document that talks about being on time, looking smart and preparing questions to ask at the interview. I tend to just give it a little eye-roll and assume they send the same bumph to everyone regardless of the level of job they’re applying to. I wouldn’t get all ‘don’t they KNOW I’m not entry level??’ about it. It might be useful to someone, you never know.

  71. dreamingofthebeach*

    I would probably take the time to come up with mexactly three questions ahead of time and knowing me, would gear them to digging in on why they felt the need to send that mess to me :) … and then I would be exiting myself out of this one.

  72. The Other Dawn*

    One of the audit companies I applied to earlier in the year has a page on their website that talks about the interview process, who you’ll meet, how to prepare, resume tips and other useful information. I felt it was well thought out and useful for anyone applying for a job there, although it’s likely geared to new graduates since they tend to hire many that are fresh out of school. What the OP describes, though, is way overboard, condescending and rigid.

  73. Samwise*

    This is Robert Half/Office Team. I got the same document. Don’t take it so personally, they work with hundreds of thousands of people, and many are immigrants who don’t know about American business expectations. Or the autistic, who rightly think business culture is stupid and wrongly refuse to do it. Temp agencies are for people who have trouble with work and need help. This is help. If it’s not for you, don’t use it.

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