terrible interviewers, and why people don’t take time off

There’s a surprising number of really terrible interviewers out there: interviewers who treat interviews like a casual get-to-know-you chat rather than rigorously exploring the candidate’s skills and experience … interviewers who ask goofy and useless questions like “if you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?” … interviewers who devise terrible exercises that demean their candidates and won’t help them identify the strongest hire … and many more.

I recorded a piece for the BBC about terrible interviewers and what companies need to fix in their hiring. It’s about three minutes long and you can listen here.

Additionally, I did an interview with Marketplace Morning Report about why people avoid taking time off and what employers can do about it. It’s also about three minutes long, and you can hear it below.

{ 234 comments… read them below }

    1. Goldfinch*

      I’m a mantis shrimp, which allows me to inundate the interviewer with delightful trivia about said animal. It segues nicely into my worst quality, which is being a trivia nut.

      1. I'm that person*

        Does that mean that you punch through plate glass windows and see eleventy-jillion more colors than the rest of us ;-)

    2. Cat Meowmy Admin*

      I’m a golden retriever. Woof. Exuberant, face-licking friendly, loves everybody but protective of loved ones, slobbery when happy, loves to taste *your* food, rolling in sh*t, getting wet, then getting *you* wet, pees a little when excited, and I shed alot (I’m also a blond).
      Before my beloved cats, I’ve had 3 wonderful golden retrievers who have imprinted on me. So there ya go. “Who’s a good boooyyyy?!”

    3. John Thurman*

      One time I said I would be a Coral “because I like to imagine myself as a tiny part of something amazing…”

    4. Moray*

      I kind of wish I would get asked that in an interview.

      “I would be Animal. You know, the Muppet? Plays the drums for Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem?”

    5. Alpaca Bag*

      I’m an alpaca – kinda cute with fluffy hair, energetic, very friendly after I’ve gotten to know you, but fairly skittish until then and in new situations.

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I always say I’d be a hummingbird because I’m tired of being the largest, so it’d be cool to know what it’s like to be smallest one.

      Also because when I drink enough energy drinks, I may as well be flying backwards.

    7. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I’m whatever kind of animal has no imagination and can’t think of what animal they would be.

      No doubt I would say something really stupid if asked this question. Like “I’d be a human because that’s all I know”, or “I’d be a walrus because I’m so fat”, or something equally inappropriate and way too revealing. Maybe I should think about what the answer could be, just in case.

      1. Lynn Marie*

        Exactly! I’m ready for this one now with body language and words: surprised look w/ raised eyebrow, shrug like the shrug icon, then biggest, best smile, and “I can’t even begin to imagine” with looking straight at stupid question asker with continued biggest, best smile, continued eye contact and no more words.

    8. ampersand*

      Honey badger: ha! This would be potentially mortifying if they got the reference, unless they had a sense of humor. I would laugh at this answer…but I reference honey badger kind of a lot…

      On second thought, this might be a brilliant answer.

      1. Legal Beagle*

        I generally do GAF, but if I’m being asked that dumb of a question in a job interview…I may not anymore.

    9. Tired*

      When I was a freshman in college, my dorm mates called me Mama Honey Badger because I taught most of the boys how to do laundry, had a first aid kit, and was very vocal about people doing stupid things. I’m not sure how I could tie “teaching young adults how to iron their pleated dress pants” into a useful skill for the office, so I may need to come up with a different animal.

    10. KoiFeeder*

      I’m an eastern hognose, and that being my answer pretty much identifies me more clearly than any reasons I could follow up with.

    11. Lena Clare*

      Well thank you for introducing me to the honey badger DGAF video. That’s absolutely brilliant!

    12. NW Mossy*

      I’d be so tempted to say that I’m a hyena because I like to steal the kills of apex predators.

    13. RUKiddingMe*

      I think I’d probably say “primate” and see if they pursued it beyond that.

      It’s interesting to me as an anthropologist just how many people don’t know that humans are primates…or what a primate is for that matter. I’ve said that to people before, nor necessarily (potential) employers, just random people who ask that question (yeah, I know weird people) and a surprising number of them just say, “ohhh yeah, cool…” and move on.

      They have no clue what a primate is. They are assuming that it’s some animal they have no real acquaintance with or something and they are trying to act like they are ‘in the know.’ Of course I’m pretty petty like that. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      FWIW the “what’s your favorite planet” question probably has about a 90+% “Saturn” as the answer. Seriously anyone I ask I just do a little bet inside my head and almost always they say “Saturn.” I always say “Earth.” I mean yeah like I’m gonna live on Saturn. Earth IME is a lot more user friendly…also the most beautiful/interesting topographically speaking (Mars’s mountains and canyons not withstanding) in this solar system.

      1. Mongrel*

        I have two; Tiktaalik, important but a bit confused and Tardigrades, hardy & adaptable (and are also called Moss Pigs, which sound adorable)

  1. hermit crab*

    I think feeling like you need to preserve vacation time for an emergency (or a pre-planned leave) is another reason people don’t take it. My organization allows a pretty generous amount of vacation to carry over from year to year, so people who have been here a long time tend to have a big cushion. On the other hand, as a relative newbie I have exactly 4.12 days accrued at the moment (but who’s counting!) and wouldn’t feel comfortable going to zero. My manager does a great job modeling healthy vacation-taking habits but I feel like it’s easy for him, since I’m sure he has tons of days in the bank.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      My company lets you borrow against future time accrued. So if it’s the beginning of the year, and you want to take a week-long cruise, you can do that, even though you haven’t accrued a week’s worth of vacation time yet. It does help.

      My problem is that I’m so busy, I tend not to use my vacation time until it’s about to expire. Fortunately, that coincides with a slow season for us.

    2. Feline*

      With use-it-or-lose-it vacation time, I feel fortunate to have a separate sick time bank I had maxed out before my health emergency last December. I wouldn’t have had enough vacation time that late in the year to cover nearly the whole month. I did use over a week of vacation then, and I had that remaining because I’m doing the job previously done by 3 1/2 people and couldn’t take the time off earlier in the year. Taking time off makes things even more stressful when I return, or i miss customer-facing deadlines.

      1. Oak tree*

        I had a contract job administering FMLA for a for-profit college. Use of sick pay and (when applicable) vacation ran concurrently with FML. Leave time accrued with each pay period. The company had a strictly enforced use-it or lose-it policy for vacation at the end of the calendar year. This meant that the corporate office was desserted in December and a lot of student facing instructional staff took leave at the end of the quarter. There was FMLA case I processed where the employee was due in early January but her leave was zeroed out on December 31 and her exception request denied. The people I worked with had not had much opportunity to take leave ealier in the year because of a special project but delayed vacations until late December; I was being kept on to cover the minimal activity over the holidays. That is, until I quit on December 1st. The place was so toxic, I didn’t care if the manager was going to have to work at Christmas.

    3. Robbenmel*

      I get exactly 10 days vacation and 4 personal days for the year…that’s it. My husband has been in and out of the hospital (3 – 4 times per year over the last 5 years) and I never know when I will have to call 911 to get him in again. So far this year, I am already two days in the hole for next year. Planning a vacation isn’t a thing.

      1. TardyTardis*

        I remember doing that the year my husband needed to be airlifted because his kidneys failed. I had four weeks, but used all but two days on him–and the two days left I had a house guest. Not a great year.

    4. Overeducated*

      Yup. My employer doesn’t offer paid parental leave so you can bet I’ve been using as little as possible since day 1.

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        Same! The only way I’m getting paid time off for FMLA/maternity leave is if I have time banked.

    5. Aggretsuko*

      I want vacation time for emergencies, and also because I have to be paid for my vacation time if I get fired. That time/money would be my severance.

    6. Snarkus Aurelius*

      I’m in government, and I had a coworker who had been around since the early 1970s. Rarely took vacation until she was at risk of losing it at the end of the year because she accrued so much.

      Then she’d take all of November and December off. Annoying.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I worked at Hell Hole Central™ for…ever. Way, way, way too long. This in addition to working FT at my own business…so like two full time jobs, every day five days a week, for like 15 years.

        I had 120 days accrued vacation/PTO and I think like 26 days sick leave. Yep good (ish) leave policy, I think it averaged like a day a month or something, and you could carry it over year to year…until they decided to change it. Either take the time before December…or lose it all…

        Ooookkkkk then. I took it all at once. Oh, and then I quit…but that was coming anyway.

    7. Samwise*

      Yes, exactly. I was able to take almost four months paid maternity leave, and later when I needed to care for a family member on chemo, I took six months, most of it paid (combo of sick and annual leave, plus I continued to accrue leave while I was out because it was paid leave — that got me almost two more weeks. All because I had saved leave for emergencies…

  2. Ellen*

    I get 5 weeks paid time off. I cant use it because they just cant seem to pull things together for long enough that they can approve me getting 40 hours off in a week, asking for 2 or 3 days off leads to you being scheduled all the other days, even if you get stuck working 8 days in a row as a result. It isnt worth the hassle.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Oh agreed! People should be able to take a real vacation not just a day here and a day there.

    1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      That’s where it looks good on paper; 5 weeks paid time off! Sign me up! Oh, you actually want to use it? ooooh, that’s not going to happen. At an OldJob it was a struggle getting one day off approved. Most people chose to call in sick rather than being denied the day. They quietly alerted their co-workers that they were going to be “sick.” It was a bad, bad workplace.

      1. BurnOutCandidate*

        A year ago I got reamed out by my department director for taking a vacation that had been scheduled three months in advance. It began the day before I took the vacation day — he came into my office, closed the door, and said it was a problem — to the point where I felt bad on the day about taking it, and it was followed when I returned with another reaming — close the door and yell to the point where I cried — when I replied to a terse email he sent me saying I should have taken another day with, roughly, “In retrospect, I realize I would have been better off not scheduling the day at all, taking a sick day instead, and then charging it to vacation instead.” He thought I took the day off to play video games or something, when I had a real reason to take the day off that, for me, was infinitely more important than work. The day had been approved by my direct supervisor, and that should have been the end of it.

        1. Devil Fish*

          “He thought I took the day off to play video games or something, when I had a real reason to take the day off that, for me, was infinitely more important than work.”

          I take your point but in a workplace that hostile with a department director that volatile, staying home to play video games would be infinitely more important to me than work. (What an unmitigated asshole—I really hope you’re not there anymore, or that he isn’t.)

        2. EinJungerLudendorff*

          That guy is an absolute jack-wagon, and you were completely right to take your vacation days.

  3. Sales Manager*

    I am leading a team currently, and I am wondering why I have such an absentee problem? I have one employee that devoured 64 hours of PTO within 6 weeks. I have multiple people that fall into this category?

    1. SarahKay*

      But..this is from their PTO allowance, I assume? Is it not there to use – and once it’s gone that’s it until the next year?
      Granted, I’m in the UK, so people taking two-week vacations (= 80 hours paid leave) is perfectly normal which means that 64 hours in six weeks doesn’t seem egregious to me. But, that aside, my understanding of the US is that people get a pool of PTO for a year and this is part of their whole compensation package. Or are they also taking huge amounts of unpaid leave when they run out of PTO?

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Oh but you see int he US you are technically entitled to your leave…it’s part of your compensation, but they never intend for you to actually use it (or to pay you for it) except maybe a day or two at a time. “Vacation” is really not something Americans are really encouraged to do you see.

        Not desiring to work 300 hours a week makes one a slacker, not dedicated to the company, which of course is the most important thing in the world, and devoid of those good old fashioned “up by your own bootstraps,” pioneering, Puritan values. It’s a moral failure.

        I mean come on your manager walked to work, with no feet or shoes, through fifteen feet of snow in a blizzard, up the side of a mountain, both ways just to be here and you have the audacity to want a holiday? Bad slave employee, bad, bad, bad!

        No, I’m not in fact joking.

        1. SarahKay*

          Yeah, I believe you, sadly.
          I work for a global-ish company (we’re all over the world, but about 75% of our staff / facilities are in the USA) and we’ve recently changed our US holiday leave policy from a set amount, to unlimited leave. I have colleagues here in the UK who are envious of this but after everything I’ve read in AAM I’m saying to them “yeah, but it’s actually a way to make people feel guilty, and thus take less leave than if they had a set number of days. Trust me, 99% of them are taking less than they were before, and for sure less than the 5 weeks we’re guaranteed by law”.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            Unlimited leave is a total scam. You never reach a point where the managers kind of have to let you take time off because of how much you have saved up (because you never have any saved up) you also don’t get a balance pay out when you leave, as you would if you had a set balance that was part of your compensation. Almost everyone I know who ended up with unlimited leave ended up taking less time off than before.

    2. Zona the Great*

      For what is may be worth, I only took vacation like that when I was miserable at work.

    3. HR Disney Princess*

      64 hours in 6 weeks equals about 8 days off total. I’ve taken 6 off in a row (Friday and the following week). It doesn’t seem too bad. I guess this is assuming s/he isn’t calling off for each day, but I guess even still, if s/he has the time accrued, it’s a benefit the employee has to use. I get three weeks vacation and 5 floating holidays, I use every last one! :)

    4. PantaloonsOnFire*

      If they are being given that leave as PTO (and there are no formal restrictions about when they can use it), why is it a problem? 64 hours of PTO is less than two weeks off–which is not generally a problematic thing when taken once a year in a lump. So why should it be more problematic when taken over the course of 6 weeks, if that is the employee’s preference. If you have problems with coverage specifically, that’s something to look at formally addressing (i.e. a policy where no more than X employees can request off on the same date, or no more than X days PTO within X time). Similarly, if there are problems with meeting deadlines or getting work done because of vacations, policies and expectations can be put in place to address it (i.e: if you are planning to be away for more than a week, you have to leave your work in X condition).

      Otherwise, this is just people using the leave they are entitled to and is not the employer’s (or manager/team lead’s) business. If your company gives PTO, people are entitled to use it within whatever formal boundaries exist.

      1. Sales Manager*

        In my initial post I didn’t include all details. This particular employee referenced was given 64 hours after a 60 day period after hire. She used 48 within 2 weeks of being given that 64 hours for actual leisure. Prior to time being given there was about 40 hours of unpaid time used within that first 60 days of employment. And, since the 64 is now exhausted every incident (illness, home situation, etc) will go unpaid. And, since the 64 has been exhausted there has been 40+ hours of work missed unpaid.

        I don’t know, I do realize that my initial post seemed insensitive to people taking vacation. Vacation time is definitely not my issue. I don’t mind people taking weeks at a time for leisure or just time away. I am not sure how to manage the missing work outside of PTO once PTO has been exhausted.

        1. SarahKay*

          Ah-ha, yes, that’s a whole different thing from what I’d understood from your first post.
          Is she still getting her work done? I’m guessing not, and presumably it’s having a knock-on effect on the rest of your team also. In which case, this sounds like maybe you need to think about a PIP? Not specifically for the absences, but for the work that isn’t getting done.

        2. always a nurse*

          Some people seem to lack the ability to “delay gratification.” If they see they have 8 hours of PTO, they have to take the 8 hours, because “they earned it.” I’m not sure if they are worried that the PTO will somehow disappear, or if they just don’t think far enough ahead to realize they could wait and have a whole week off.

        3. Beth*

          If she’s used up their PTO, I would assume unpaid leave would only be approved if business needs allowed for it. If she’s absent to the point where work isn’t getting done, I would assume that would be treated just like any other major performance issue–she’d be reprimanded, it would likely get documented, and eventually if it didn’t stop, she’d get fired. Is there a reason you can’t do that in this case?

        4. pleaset*

          “And, since the 64 is now exhausted every incident (illness, home situation, etc) will go unpaid. And, since the 64 has been exhausted there has been 40+ hours of work missed unpaid.”

          Got it. Thanks for the clarification.

        5. Lana Kane*

          You’d want to know what your company’s policy is around unpaid time – is it allowed? Is it allowed, but with restrictions? Or is it completely off the table?

          If there’s no set policy around it, I’d then start looking at looking more closely at performance. In my experience, this kind of attendance situation goes hand in hand with performance/quality issues.

        6. Devil Fish*

          “This particular employee referenced was given 64 hours after a 60 day period after hire.”

          Was this something the employee negotiated or is this standard at your company? You said before that this employee was part of an “absentee problem” and not just a one-off, so if the PTO policy itself may be contributing to the issue, it’s worth considering changes to that policy.

          “She used 48 within 2 weeks of being given that 64 hours for actual leisure.”

          Was this negotiated/mentioned during her interview? 2 weeks seems like short notice to plan a long-ish vacation when you’ve just started a new job, especially when you’ve taken something like a week of unpaid time during the first 2 months (wtfsrsly). It’s weird that this was even approved without comment if it wasn’t negotiated in advance—you can tell low performers that they need to catch up on their work before you can approve a vacation that will put them even further behind.

          “Prior to time being given there was about 40 hours of unpaid time used within that first 60 days of employment.”

          Why is she still employed at your company? I know this is a harsh question but if that 60 days was a probationary period (or something similar), this kind of behavior is exactly the sort of thing that should be scrutinized during that timeframe.

          The expectations that have been set for this employee seem to be completely out of line from what you want and that’s incredibly unfair for her. She can’t know she’s doing anything wrong if she isn’t told and it doesn’t sound like anyone has told her.

          “And, since the 64 is now exhausted every incident (illness, home situation, etc) will go unpaid. And, since the 64 has been exhausted there has been 40+ hours of work missed unpaid.”

          Have you talked to her about this? Does she have something going on at home or an illness/health condition she’s managing or is she really just screwing off and ignoring work because she’s had no pushback on doing that?

          Does she seem to even give a shit about the work she’s doing or is she just there for the paycheck or for something to do during days she doesn’t take off?

          Why is she still employed at your company if it’s important that she be there and she routinely isn’t there to do the work?

          Good luck.

    5. Hmm*

      In each of my jobs (hourly office jobs with benefits in the US) I’ve gotten a certain amount of PTO for the year– usually 5 sick days and 10 vacation days. One time I asked for permission to take additional time unpaid and was told that legally, it’s not an option to do that. I need to be working full time in order to qualify for benefits, and unpaid time off = you’re no longer an employee.

      Sales Manager: if you have a protocol for approving paid time off and these employees are just using their PTO after going through the appropriate channels and nothing more, I hope you can adjust your mindset from labeling employees properly taking vacation as “absenteeism”. And if you have an issue with folks taking more than a week of vacation off at a time, that either needs to be a policy or you need to let it go. People are allowed to use their PTO.

      1. Nixy*

        To be clear, your company was full of it. Unpaid time off is perfectly legal for non-exempt employees. For benefits purposes, you have to be working a certain amount of hours “on average,” but your company can certainly keep you on benefits if they want to. I am saying this as an HR person who manages benefits eligibility.

        1. Oak tree*

          Nixy is right. I also managed benefit eligibility and saw lots of instances where an official termination was held up to extend benefits. During my spouse’s final illness, my manager came up with a plan to cut my officially required hours(40) back to the minimum (30) so I those 10 hours would not have to be covered with leave if I was absent. The longer I stayed on payroll at 30 hours, the longer I would be benefits eligible.

          1. Nixy*

            Right, the law says that if an employee is working 29 hours on average, the company is *legally required* to offer benefits. (At least in my state, your mileage may vary, I don’t have all the states memorized). However, the company can always choose to be more generous than the law requires, and can work with their broker to offer benefits to any and all employees if they want to. Their current benefits policy may state that you have to be working 30 hours on average to maintain coverage, but a week of unpaid leave isn’t going to impact that average significantly.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              I think it’s like 15 or 20 here (Washington) but I can’t remember. As I’ve said before I pay people to make sure we are compliant with the laws so that I don’t have to remember… The thing is I’m not going to screw someone over because thing happened that ended up lowering their average hours. I think that’s a pretty shitty way to be.

    6. Ella*

      Unless this is an unlimited vacation time situation or people are taking unpaid PTO, it seems like people are taking the vacation time they are due as part of their compensation package. If you need people to give more advance notice or schedule vacations so that everyone isn’t out at the same time it’s reasonable to ask for that when possible, but otherwise you shouldn’t begrudge people using all their allotted vacation any more than you’d begrudge them spending their full paycheck.

    7. Clisby*

      This isn’t an “absentee problem.” It’s people taking the time off that they’re entitled to. You say you have one employee who took 64 hours within 6 weeks. That’s one full week off + 3 days. That doesn’t sound extraordinary to me – a week of vacation, and then maybe 3 days for some family event, like a wedding or a reunion? How much PTO does this employee have left?

      If your problem is multiple people being off at the same time, then your organization needs a clear policy on requesting and getting approval for taking PTO.

    8. Wild Bluebell*

      Uhm… it’s just 8 days…?
      I’ve taken two weeks of PTO in a row, and no one batted an eye. I’m in Europe, though.

      1. Ingalls*

        Maybe Sales manager is talking about unscheduled use of PTO? We have a progressive discipline program for that.

          1. AJK*

            I worked at a place that did this. You got seven points per year. If you called in sick unscheduled, one point was deducted. Warnings and progressive discipline started when you were down to three points, zero points meant no more job.
            People used to get around it using intermittent FMLA leave, but if I remember correctly they required proof for that.

          2. Ingalls*

            After six times in six months, you get a verbal and so on. Rolling six months. If you’re sick two, three four, etc days in a row only count as one occurrence. It’s reasonable.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Yeah in Europe there are no eyes batted…in the US trying to take any time off at all, even your entitled benefits sets eyes a-twitching all over the place.

        1. Scion*

          I think you must just be working for a crappy company, if that’s your experience. There are plenty of employers in the US who are not like that.

          1. Devil Fish*

            I’m happy for you that you don’t relate with the worst parts workers having minimal protections in late stage capitalism but it’s weird that you keep stanning for US companies when other people are sharing their own experiences that are fairly typical and relateable to most people working in the US (not every company, obviously—#notallcompanies lol—but most of us have worked for at least one company that operates this way).

    9. That Would be a Good Band Name*

      It’s summer. Lots and lots of people want to take their time off in summer. Do you have an actual absentee problem or do you have a “it feels like a problem because every time I turn around someone is out” situation? I’d guess the latter. If they aren’t scheduling the time, but calling last minute, I’d look at how easy it is to actually book time off or if people are given a guilt trip for trying to use their benefits. PTO is there to be used. If you can’t use PTO, that’s the same as getting a pay cut because now you’re working all 52 weeks when you expected to work 50 weeks (assuming 2 weeks PTO, less if you get more).

    10. ArtK*

      8 days spread out over 6 weeks doesn’t seem at all excessive. Can you give us some more detail as to *why* you think this is a problem? What is your expectation from people? What is the company policy with regard to PTO?

    11. Phony Genius*

      Sounds like this is an issue of the company giving employees a generous amount of PTO, but not giving managers enough resources to get the job done when employees actually spend it.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Yeah in Europe there are no eyes batted…in the US trying to take any time off at all, even your entitled benefits sets eyes a-twitching all over the place.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Oh it’s ok they can just save up all that work for the employee when she gets back. Not like they could get it done in the employees absence, so that her vacation was actually a vacation or anything.

    12. Kiki*

      If these employees regularly use 64 hours of PTO in 6 week stints or just joined the team 6 weeks ago, that may be a problem. But 64 hours isn’t even two weeks of vacation and it’s summer. I know it’d be most convenient for management if everyone used up their PTO evenly by only taking long weekend vacations, but that’s just not enough time to do things people want (and need) to do. If you want to retain employees, you have to allow them time to do things in their personal lives, like go abroad, go on honeymoons, take long roadtrips, and visit relatives.

    13. Observer*

      Three possibilities:

      1. Your company is understaffed and is lying about actually giving PTO
      2. You don’t know what absenteeism means
      3. You don’t know what PTO is

      If people are taking PTO that is not absenteeism. 64 hours is 8 or 9 days (depending on how long your work day is.) That’s not a lot, although it’s true that in many workplaces that’s the entire allotment for the year.

      If you can’t manage when people take their allotted PTO, either staff up or take the time away, and prepare to have your good staff find better jobs.

    14. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

      That’s called a mid-length vacation and living human workers need them. I’m in the US, but work for folks in Europe, and reading this blog reinforces that I will never work for an American company again if I can help it.
      I took 10 days off for my wedding (that I had accrued, of course) to which my boss said….”congratulations.” That is how it’s supposed to work.

      Absenteeism would be just never showing up and never telling you it’s happening in advance, for an extended period of time.

  4. Leaving through the window*

    At my last job, sick time, vacation time, and holidays all came out of the same pool. I didn’t take sick days because of that. I would’ve worked on the holiday if I could. I saved vacation time in case of an emergency.

    1. Glitsy Gus*

      Including holidays, if the company will be closed on them and you won’t be allowed to work, is garbage. You shouldn’t force people to use their days that way.

  5. Finkfink*

    A friend of mine was once blindsided by the question “If you were a car, what kind of car would you be?” and ended up answering “A little zippy red one!” which apparently impressed the interviewers enough that she got the job. On the off chance I was ever asked that question, I constructed my own answer for this, referring back to a childhood in the bush with a wildlife biologist dad, involving beat-up Land Rovers, which may not look like much but can do anything you ask them to (do feel free to steal this, anyone!), but fortunately it’s never come up.

    A grad student of mine was once asked “What’s your idea of an angel?” in an interview and I thought that one was so ridiculous that it wasn’t worth coming up with a just-in-case answer.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      An angel is someone who provides a no-strings-attached cash infusion to a company to help keep it on track. No? Then I got nothing.

    2. Wild Bluebell*

      “If you were a car, what kind of car would you be?”

      A Lamborghini! Have you seen them? They are so cool! :)

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        If I ever got asked that question I hope the interviewer is ready for me when I jump up and scream, “I WOKE UP IN A NEW BUGATTI!”

      2. TardyTardis*

        Tesla Model X, but I’d have to wait six extra weeks to get it…(joke, kind of, about typical deadlines when it comes to an Elon Musk company).

    3. Eukomos*

      I could natter on for quite a while about the concept of angels, but I think the only thing anyone would learn from it is that I have a research background, and potentially that I’m very fond of Good Omens if they don’t stop me soon enough. The car question would probably trigger a rant about climate change so fingers crossed I don’t get that one, I’m sure it’d alienate some employers.

    4. Vicky Austin*

      The angel question only makes sense if the position was for a professor of theology or something similar.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          Oh, then it’s the stone cherubs at the tops of the pillars, which in the case of Stanford University’s church, were modeled after local children.

      1. londonedit*

        I was once asked about angels, spirit guides and chakras in an interview, but that was because it was for a job with a Mind/Body/Spirit publisher. Otherwise, nope.

    5. AnonForNonAnon*

      I’d love the car question – given my last name, my response would be “me”. And possibly a chance for the really terrible “have you ever been hit by a car?” “Now you have!” joke.

  6. TiredandBurntout*

    I have to balance the need for vacation against how much extra I am going to have to work before and after. My work load doesn’t change so to take a day off, I still have to get all my tasks done. Is taking a week off really worth a Saturday and week of 12 hour days (all without OT of course). There isn’t anyone else in my organization that does the work I do so there is no one to cover. It is a horrible situation and I feel burnt out and tired all the time. (I am looking for new job.)

    1. juliebulie*

      Thirded. I am pretty much slammed all the time. No one begrudges me my PTO time, but that doesn’t mean that I get to miss deadlines. So it’s pretty much impossible to relax during my time off, trying to figure out how best to finish up whatever it is that I left behind, and which overdue thing to begin next (after dealing with some “emergency” that comes up just as I’m walking through the door on my first day back in the office).

      One of my coworkers DIED last week, a full-time worker with 20+ years of professional experience in our field, and my grandboss grudgingly offered to let us use his admin (with no training in our kind of work) for 1 day per week. WHAT?? I might as well use my 9-mo nephew.

      Burnt out, check. Tired, check. Looking? I wasn’t, but I’m warming up to the idea.

    2. BurnOutCandidate*

      Fourthed. I’m at the “If I stay much longer, I am resigning myself to despair and death” stage.

  7. askyermom*

    I was responsible for the worst interview I ever saw. I hadn’t considered how intimidating it would be to have the whole team meet the candidate together; since we were all very friendly and easy-going people, I thought it would be fine. She broke out in hives and I found myself wondering at what point to call and ambulance.

    She survived, but wanted nothing more to do with us.

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I feel terrible for this, but I completely cracked up at this comment. I have done the same interview set up. Haven’t caused any hives, but definitely made people nervous.

      1. NotSureWhatNametoUseHere*

        My boss does this *routinely*. I’ve delicately suggested that maybe all of us at once might be a bit much to take, but she categorically rejected that advice. Apparently she once was interviewed, lecture-room style, by a few dozen people at once. I would have thought such an experience (which is *ridiculous*) would have made her reject the whole group-interview concept completely, but apparently it just raised her bar for what constitutes a ridiculous number of interviewers.

        1. Panel Interviewing*

          I once read that a CEO of Large Healthy Supermarket Chain was interviewed by a panel of 22 people for his job. I tried looking for the article but can’t find it at the moment.

    2. Ella*

      To be honest, while a large group of interviewers might not best practice in interviewing, it doesn’t seem egregiously bad to me. Especially if you weren’t grilling the interviewees or otherwise putting them under undo stress. I wouldn’t fault the interviewee, as the hives obviously weren’t intentional, but I think most people wouldn’t have an acute medical reaction to such an interview.

      1. Ancestry Anon*

        I agree. I think it’d be good practice to let a candidate know ahead of time if you were doing something other than a standard 1 to 1 interview, and definitely if you expect the candidate to speak to an audience-sized group, but team or panel interviews aren’t super unusual. I’m sure it was the candidate’s worst interview, or in the top 5, but not because askyermom did anything inherently terrible.

  8. Archaeopteryx*

    I’m saving up for a 6-workday vacation next year, and hopefully a day or two off at Christmas. PTO is all in one bucket, so having to call out one day last week definitely had me doing some math as to whether I needed to cancel another random get-stuff-done day I had planned later on. I’ve been here 3 years and accrue about 19 days total per year, so at times it feels generous compared to anything else I’ve gotten, but at times stingy. It’s just annoying to have to figure out if you sick enough to justify cutting back on vacation later.

  9. Junior Assistant Peon*

    One of the weirdest interviews I had was one where the guy spent 30 minutes telling me all about the company and didn’t let me get a word in edgewise. He was one of about three or so interviewers in all, so maybe he wasn’t going to deal with that position much and didn’t really care who the other people picked.

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        That was why I let him. I suspected I might be dealing with someone full of himself, and someone like that is likely to conclude that I’m a genius if I let him talk as much as possible!

        I didn’t get the job. I think he was most likely a bad interviewer, rather than trying to administer some weird mind-game test.

        1. Jodi*

          This happened to me once at an interview. The interviewer kept going on and on, didn’t ask questions, and wouldn’t pause long enough to let me talk or ask my questions, so I did my best to demonstrate that I am a good active listener. I didn’t get the job. I found out later that the reason I didn’t get the job was because I was “too quiet.” I wonder if the interviewer expected me to interrupt? It seemed odd to me; I chalked it up to bad interviewing skills or maybe just bad people skills.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      Had this one interview once many years ago. Two people, one male and a woman. That was fine but 75 minutes into him droning on about his business vision (he was the assistant to the manager…not a stakeholder of any kind at all). Even though I was young still and nowhere near having found my voice yet, the minute he finally took a breath I said “let me stop you there…” then I got up and walked away.

  10. Kazia*

    The worst interview I ever had was one where I barely got to talk. He didn’t ask many questions (five in total) but I was in there for an hour and a half while he waffled about stuff vaguely related to the company, and what he thought about how the economy was going, and politics.

    I didn’t get offered the job, but if I had been I wouldn’t have taken it.

    1. Augusta has gone East*

      I had a similar experience. The interview was an hour long and I got to speak for about 5 minutes.
      The interviewer spoke about how he dislikes people from the country the job was in, how his daughter looks down on this job, why he thinks my country isn’t nearly as bad as a neighboring country etc. Super offensive on so many levels. The only reason I could come up for his behavior was that the job required sales skills and he might have wanted a demonstration of ‘selling myself’ when he clearly wasn’t interested.
      But frankly I just think he was rude.
      I was thinking of withdrawing from the application process because it was a ridiculous experience and also the job wasn’t what the ad had described. In the end, as I was sure I wouldn’t get it and just couldn’t bother to spend another minute on this interview process, I didn’t let them know I wasn’t interested. I got a rejection and a request to rate the interview process.

    2. Quiltrrr*

      I had one recently like that…the 2 folks had an interview guide, and by the time they got through the thing, there was no time for me to ask MY questions.

      I didn’t get the job, but I wouldn’t have taken it. Also, they had ‘contractors’ in the department for 8 years without hiring them on, and so I had no advancement opportunity whatsoever, and that’s not normal for my role.

    3. The Original K.*

      I had a similar experience once. Interview was two hours; I spoke for maybe 20 minutes. She talked about herself A LOT. I didn’t get that job either.

    4. Snarkus Aurelius*

      I had an interview that lasted one hour, 45 minutes. One question: how are you?

      Then she hired me. It was for a foreign language tutor position. She never asked me if I knew the language I claimed to speak. I did hear about the school’s LGBT policy for 20 minutes though.

      Best part? The instructor she recently hired walked in. Interviewer didn’t know her name. JFC

  11. Goldfinch*

    interviewers who devise terrible exercises that demean their candidates and won’t help them identify the strongest hire

    I will never forget my interview at an internationally-known camera and medical device manufacturer. The interviewer was haughty and mean-spirited, going out of his way to make me feel stupid for not being able to explain algebra and geometry concepts to him. FOR A WRITING JOB.

    1. irene adler*

      Ya know, just once, in a circumstance like this, I’d like to just break down crying. Not simply a few tears; talking full-out, uncontrollable, loud-enough-so-everyone-outside-the-room-can-hear, bawling. The kind that doesn’t calm down after a minute or so. Just to see how the interviewer would handle the situation.

    2. RUKiddingMe*

      Did you say “WTF would I need to know math concepts in order towrite?” Please tell me you said something to him…? Even if you have to lie to me, that’s fine. :) I freaking hate, hate, hate people like that!

    3. JSPA*

      I’d expect a writer for that sort of company to need good technical writing skills, specifically for describing optics, suppression of reflections, clarity, absence of distortion, all in technical terms, possibly translating those details directly from equations. I certainly remember sales brochures and spec sheets and manuals that were at least as heavy on geometric and algebraic concepts as most research papers (maybe more so). It can have been a gross experience for you without being at all unreasonable on his part.

  12. Coldbrewinacup*

    I interviewed for a medical credentialing position and it was so bad I remember it nine years later.

    The interviewers were the owners of the company. It was a good cop, bad cop type deal because the one guy was nice and the other was rude. Rude in the sense of hinting that I was foolish for getting a degree in the subject I did (history), telling me I was too bookish to be a credentialer (never mind that I I had experience), and letting me know it just wouldn’t work– and then the following week, they called me back and told me they wanted me to work for them despite my apparent personality flaws– but only as “on call,” so they wouldn’t have to consider me full-time because they couldn’t afford another full-time employee.

    I said no thanks. Politely, of course.

    FYI: they went out of business.

    1. pamela voorhees*

      I’m shocked by this. Shocked. Do you hear in my voice how shocked I am? So completely shocked.

  13. Bend & Snap*

    My company has unlimited PTO. It’s really nice.

    A previous company gave 6 weeks vacation but denied requests to take it, so it was useless.

  14. Aquawoman*

    My favorite interviewing moment was when I was a 3rd year law student interviewing with a Big New York Law Form and a partner told me that I’d basically have to walk on water to get the job and how did I walk on water. I told him I didn’t walk on water. I wasn’t as assertive and DGAF back then as I am now and I am proud of young me for having the presence of mind and self-knowledge to just know in the moment that that was not the job for me and that I did not need to play that game.

    1. LQ*

      Pff. I’m from Minnesota we drive and build castles on water. Next. (I’ve heard people around here describe job requirements as that. This is always my answer, we are Minnesotans, we all walk on water.)

    2. pleaset*

      Good response.

      Worth noting that to a certain extent that wasn’t a bad interview question for that kind of job.

  15. Lalaith*

    The only one of those types of interview questions I can remember getting was along the lines of “if you went on a camping trip with a group of people, what would your job be?” (like, would I set up the tents, build the fire, stuff like that).

    I was new enough to interviewing that I kinda just took it at face value. Didn’t think about anything they might be trying to learn about me. So I said I’d do the cooking, cuz I like to eat ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      I’d be the one trying to find a cell tower so that I could call the Four Seasons and an Uber.

    2. VideogameLurker*

      “I’d have gotten us lost trying to get to the campsite in the first place. I don’t go camping, you see.”

      Which of course, people in my region either agree entirely or think I’m insane, because we of the Ever Raining Pacific Northwest have lovely camping zones … In the two weeks we don’t have rain.


      1. TardyTardis*

        Drive over the mountains to the eastern side–but please bring your rain with you, we need it! (we’ll try to provide a modest forest fire for your amusement).

  16. glitterdome*

    I am just bad at interviews (the one being interviewed). I get uncomfortable and too much inside my own head.
    The weirdest interview I ever had was when I applied for a direct support staff for a group of elected officials. The interview had to be open to the public, recorded by our official record keeper (another elected position) and is subject to public record. In fact one can go listen to my interview and the subsequent discussion that was had about me if you are so inclined.

  17. Kathlynn (Canada)*

    I struggle to take time off because they never actually “approve” it. You request it, then maybe you get it off. Last year I had one day removed from my holidays sa a coworker could see her son (who she lives with) that week. This changed less than a week before my holidays, then the day after that I had to come in for at least 2 hours in order to attend a staff meeting.
    and the holidays I tried to book before that were denied (requested 6 months in advance) because I hadn’t asked the new manager who had tossed out all of the old time off request sheets without telling anyone. And something happened with my 3rd time off request to shorten it too.
    the last one I took, my boss gave me too many paid days off (I needed the time to recover from surgery, but some of it I wanted unpaid so I would have more in October)..
    I’ve also always struggled with requesting it because I never know if we will have the staff to cover my shifts. (for example the first time I was supposed to have my surgery, the person who made the schedule was going to make me work 7 days straight, one of them I’m not available on and was also one of my normal days off. Because when you book a week off it should be 9 days, out of 14 you aren’t working (basically if I don’t work Sunday and Monday and book Wensday to Tuesday off, I shouldn’t be assigned to work tgat Monday or Sunday)

    1. Clisby*

      I think a few other people have mentioned it on AAM, but I don’t get the concept of letting employees hold back paid days off and take unpaid instead. Maybe I’m missing something, but it would make way more sense to me for a company to say you have to exhaust all your paid time off before you can be approved for unpaid time off. I mean, if it’s OK with the company, it’s nothing for me to worry about – I just wonder why companies would do this.

      1. Dagny*

        I’ve seen this in industries wherein the company shuts down for a week or so during the holidays. (Manufacturing does this.) The company is forcing you to not be at work, and doesn’t have it as official company holidays for which people are paid, so the way it becomes less unacceptable is to give the employee the choice to take it unpaid.

        If you only have, say, 15 days of combined sick and vacation leave, and your company shuts down for four working days at the end of the year, it’s a kick in the pants if you are forced to drain your PTO for it.

      2. Kathlynn (Canada)*

        I get 2 weeks paid holiday/year. So I wanted no more then a week’s work of holiday pay used. But my boss used more then that.
        see, I worked Monday and Tuesday, then was off from Wensday to Thursday. Worked Friday and Saturday. I would have been happy to have been paid for 4 days off (32 hours to keep full time hours) especially since the first time I was supposed to have my surgery I got sick the day before and iirc ended up using one or two days then, since the schedule was already up. (I was lucky enough to be able to cover a few shifts, else I would have had to used a whole week).
        it’s not that I wanted the whole time as unpaid leave, just not all of it I could have claimed.

    2. Wired Wolf*

      I don’t like asking for time off because our department is so small (5 people), only 3 of whom actually know what we’re doing/have a work ethic.

      My department had an insane(ly) toxic manager who left in April, and told us in March “Now be sure to get any time-off requests in now because I’m approving everything!” So I submitted a week vacation request for May and it was approved in the work app we use, two months prior to my departure date. I get back, and go to pay some rent/bills only to find far less money in my bank account than I was assuming. My planned vacation overlapped two pay periods and I worked the day before I left, so I would still be due 40 hours worth that week. Nope, I only got 8 (the day I did work). I bring this up to HR, he goes into the employer portal and…no request. We’re able to figure out that toxic manager not only put it in as UNpaid vacation, but somehow any record had been erased in the app (not just me, she purged everyone’s requests probably in a fit of spite just before she was kicked out the door). Luckily I still had the datestamped “Your request has been approved” email that the app sent and the new department head remembered seeing the original request.

  18. Suzy Q*

    I keep waiting to be asked what kind of tree I would be. Answer: Palm, the most resilient tree. And it also gives sustenance!

    1. Augusta has gone East*

      We had this question at a team introduction. (The whole even made no sense but that’s for another post.) I said I was a Whomping Willow because when I’m sleeping I’m furiously tossing myself around.

    2. Goldfinch*

      I’d have good, strong roots in a town like Mount Rose; a solid, Christian trunk; and long, leafy branches to provide shade for handicapped kids on a hot summer day.

    3. RUKiddingMe*

      Giant Redwood: Old (though not tall…just average for an American woman), majestic, and worthy of reverence. Oh and humble.

    4. The New Wanderer*

      I have been asked this during an interview – it was 20 years ago so I have no idea what I eventually said but I remember being so surprised to be asked it as a serious question. To me, it’s exactly the kind of question that only says one thing about the candidate: whether they already planned a good response to that specific question.

  19. ArtK*

    One of my professors was retired from the areospace industry — very old school. He recited a couple of anecdotes that carried the message “never take time off.” In one of them, a colleague was demoted after taking an approved vacation. In the other one, he praised an employee who never took a day’s vacation in 7 years! Sadly, that kind of attitude pervades a lot of workplaces.

    1. Archaeopteryx*

      Aside from how burnout-inducing that attitude is – that it’s bad to take time off- it makes even less sense in today’s economy. Back when lots of jobs offered pensions and would take care of you through a whole career, maybe some people felt justified in sacrificing their personal life for the company. But people are expected to “hustle” and neglect themselves now in exchange for what? The company doesn’t hustle back.

      1. Wild Bluebell*

        Yeah, you spend your life “hustling”, and then they lay you off after 20-30 years of service, because hiring a 25 year old is cheaper…

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*

      My parents never did either. They thought taking vacations were self-indulgent too. Even when one of us was sick, they still refused. I remember being as young as five and being home alone sick. My mom even went to work sick because the idea of being home when you should be at work was “lazy” to her.

      They come from a very different generation.

      1. MatKnifeNinja*

        I see your parents know my parents. My dad had no problems not calling in sick, but we never took vacations or did “fun stuff” even when he had forced time off (car model change over-the automotive plant closes for a few weeks to set up for a new model)

        Vacations were for “rich” people who had time and money to burn. My dad made a decent enough living in a blue collar job. We weren’t destitute.

        I never ever went on a vacation as a child. The high light of the summer was going to the beach for the day. Oh the total hedonism! I’m talking 4 trips during a regular school summer vacation of 2 1/2 months.

        There was always something to do/fix at home. Your time had to be used wisely. My siblings and I worked on home improvement stuff. Car repair. Gardening. I value learning that stuff, but it took me 30 year to get it in my head, that vacations weren’t just for people making six figure income.

        My time off from work was always spent catching up with things needed to be done at home. It didn’t help that almost all my jobs would only let you take about 4 days off tops without an uproar. (Take Friday through Monday off). Take 2 weeks off to go back packing through Europe? Hahahahahahaha… Between work going nope, and your family thinking how stupid to burn two weeks on THAT, you don’t get lot of encourage to actually do it.

        Americans just don’t do true vacations well. We almost can’t. The dread when you get back, ALL of what you missed will be glaring at you, and you be staying over the next two weeks to catch up. Hoarding PTO and vacation for when you have a medical crisis and still need a check coming in. I know so many women who banked time off to extend maternity leave. You bank it for severance pay for when the company punts you to the curb.

        It takes a big leap of faith to believe your life will not derail, and you won’t need those days off in the furture. The US is the land of bootstraps and sketchy benefits that are miserly doled out. No wonder people don’t take more than a week off.

  20. Lime Lehmer*

    I might be one of those people who asked stupid interview questions. When I was the admin for a research lab, we hired both lab techs and interviewed grad students who wanted to join our research group. Collaboration and manual dexterity were absolute requirements of the job, and working in close quarters required a sense of humor.

    At lunch I would ask 2 things
    1. Organize the lunch order (for the 11 people around the table)
    2. Close your eyes and describe how to tie a shoe lace.

    Maybe they seem odd, but the first showed whether the person could interact with the team and aggregate information. The second showed whether the interviewee could describe processes and whether they had a good sense of humor.

    In a decade of interviews, there was only one person who balked at both organizing the lunch order and flat our refused the shoe lace question. She was hired over my objections and 5 months later ghosted us and left no data.

    1. Triumphant Fox*

      I actually think these aren’t that ridiculous. You’re not doing some weird reading into the symbolism of the shoelace or their choice of lunch, you’re making them do tasks with which they are somewhat familiar and getting a feel for how they handle key parts of the job – communicating processes, aggregating data – and forcing them to interact with the whole team in a way that isn’t so awkward. Having them explain a process that they should know as part of their training is probably more pertinent, but if you don’t have something standard, I don’t mind this.

    2. Ella*

      The first one would feel less odd to me if it was phrased as “explain how you would go about organizing a lunch order for the 11 people at this table” as opposed to actually making them do so. (If you are actually making them organize and place lunch orders, that is.) That way you could evaluate if the candidate could walk you through their logic and organizational skills without falling into weird role-play or “do work for free during your interview” territory. But otherwise these don’t seem that off base. They’re not unscientific personality test type things, but examinations of communication and organizational skills.

      1. Lime Lehmer*

        For clarity, we first did traditional interviews in the lab, and then took the interviewee out to lunch with the entire lab. We paid for everyone’s lunch. I hardly think getting the interviewee to talk to their potential coworkers about what kind of pizza they wanted constitutes “weird role- play” or falls into the category of ” do work free during your interview.”

    3. ButterflyHigh*

      Uhg. This seems so inclusive. I wouldn’t accept that job. Asking a women to organize a lunch seems pretty sexist tbh. That would also indicate to me that you’ll only use me as the new pack mule. Plus I have food allergies and would have declined eating out anyways. As of I was on your team, I would order for myself because I have to make sure I can eat. As for tying shoes, I would hate that too. It took me forever to tie shoes because I’m dyslexic and had issues connecting my thoughts to my hands. If someone isn’t visual, that exercise totally sucks for them.
      People are able to have a good sense of humor without being put into embarrassing situations.

  21. Jedi Squirrel*

    I would be a spaghetti tree, because who doesn’t love delicious spaghetti. And when they look at me incredulously, I would tell them that they can look up the video on YouTube of the annual spaghetti harvest.

  22. Amethystmoon*

    I probably would be a cat, which is somewhat ironic since I am allergic to cats. Likes to nap and relax in the sun. Don’t disturb me from my naps, though, or I might get a tad cranky. Likes catnip perhaps a bit too much, if you equate catnip to chocolate for humans. :)

  23. changing my name for this one*

    i used to be the store manager at a expensive but fun, hippy lotion and other body care store. when i worked there, the (terrible) upper management would want store managers to hold “hiring parties” (we were too cool to have interviews) every month, even if we had no intentions of hiring people!!!! the reasoning was that everyone wanted to work at this super cool shop, so if you found someone you liked, you could basically tell them “i have no job openings but i like you, so maybe i’ll call you when i do need someone.”

    it was the worst thing ever. I refused.

  24. Dagny*

    Here’s a short list of some fun ways companies prevent you from taking your PTO:

    Long, arduous approval processes, perhaps even giving more senior people precedence.

    “Use it or lose it,” knowing that 1) people want a few days saved up in case an emergency happens, combined with 2) limiting how many people can take PTO at the end of the year, or 3) year-end is a madhouse, so you realistically can’t take any time off.

    Telling employees that they can and should take their vacation time, but telling them that they have to “work twice as hard” upon their return to “make up for it.”

    Not allow them to untether during vacation, so that they may as well be in the office.

    Another good one: PTO accruals that also get wiped out at the end of each year, so that even if you’ve been there for 25 years and have six weeks of vacation, no one in the company can take a vacation during the first part of the year.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      “…telling them that they have to “work twice as hard” upon their return to “make up for it.”

      This shit makes me mad. White hot rage-y mad.

    2. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

      My last boss gave us a whopping 8 days of vacation to start (non negotiable) and the unwritten rule was that we couldn’t use it between February and July because it was our busy season. Plus you had to find coverage for your on call days and make them up when you returned. And don’t ask the boss because he would hold them over your head for months despite your requests to cover for him so he could feel powerful. He also had “blackout dates” that didn’t count as you making it up because he was going to be away and the rest of you were just expected to figure it out. Apparently we were supposed to be grateful he did on call at all. Or paid us for that matter. One of my coworkers was out with a serious illness for weeks (she recovered and is fine and actually did admin work during her sick leave because she felt bad) and the boss made her make up every on call shift to those who covered for her despite us pushing back. We’re pretty sure he added extra days out of spite when we both quit with his history of gaslighting and me not owing him anything.
      He also made me sit through a 13 hour working interview with one meal the whole time. I didn’t eat dinner until 10:30 pm that night. Should have been a huge red flag, but I was desperate.

    3. MatKnifeNinja*

      My sister lost 4 weeks of vacation last year because no higher up could/would approve more than one week off at a time. She got to use 1 week of her 5 weeks.

  25. RussianInTexas*

    I had one phone interview in which the girl seriously went by the exact list of “common interview questions” I was looking at the same time.
    I think it was from Monster.
    It had “what animal would you be, what tree would you be, etc”.
    It was hilarious. And unscheduled.

  26. Goose Lavel*

    I was interviewing for a senior engineer position at a medical device startup and was asked what are the similarities between a duck and a refrigerator.

    I took a moment, gathered my thoughts and talked for about 10 minutes straight on the similarities between these two.

    After I got the job. I asked them what was up with that question. They said they like to see how creative you are and how many similarities you could come up with in 10 minutes. I think I came up with 26 or 27 and they said that was the high score of everyone they interviewed. Basically had nothing to do with the relevance of the engineering work that was required.

    I was laid off after 5 weeks due to poor organization, mismanagement, poor clinical data and lack of funding of the company that they hadn’t really realized was happening while they were interviewing me. I’d left a steady good paying job for this one, but at least I did get 6 weeks severance pay. So yeah?!

    1. Close Bracket*

      Because they can both produce a few notes, tho’ they are very flat, and neither is ever put with the wrong end in front!

      Oh wait, that’s a raven and a writing desk. Never mind.

    2. juliebulie*

      Both a duck and a refrigerator might have eggs inside.
      That’s all I can think of! Dang, where’d you get 26+??

      1. Goose Lavel*

        Some quick examples – Both require energy, take up physical space, have hidden compartments, contain fluid and solids, stand on feet and have a bill ( the bill from the refrigerator comes in the mail).

        1. JSPA*

          Glossy, shed water, make a mess if they drip, have short legs (if you can see them at all) come in primarily domestic and primarily commercial variants, domestic version is often thought of as default white but actually come in a startling variety of colors, something is up if they suddenly make a sustained loud noise, have two flaps that open, contain infer hidden circulation, route tubing strategically for heat exchange, contain a pump? I like this party game (and that’s all it is)!

      1. Goose Lavel*

        Nice pay bump, interesting technology with potential really improve people’s lives. I also knew two other Engineers who worked there; they gave me the thumbs up with regards to the company.

        The two engineers I knew were very surprised by the layoff as well and we ended up working together at a much better company several years down the road.

    3. pleaset*

      “I took a moment, gathered my thoughts ”

      THIS. People, do this. Whether you intend to answer the question or want to push back, pause and think. Don’t just dive into an answer.

  27. aJ*

    I interviewed for a part-time job at a small poetry press & bookstore once, and over the course of about 37 minutes the editor/owner told me he would hesitate to hire me because I had once worked for a corporation that “destroyed culture” (I had interned at a movie studio in college) and also because he couldn’t trust that I wouldn’t “just get pregnant and leave.” He then said he would ideally hire “a young man who had only ever done manual labor to support himself as he worked on his poetry.” But none of those particular manual-laborer-poet-dude unicorns had applied, so… there I was.

    My favorite part of this offensive & illegal experience is that a few days later, his assistant called to say this dude was disappointed that I hadn’t come to the reading they had hosted the night of my interview, as he was considering giving me the job, but now that I’d failed to show interest/initiative by not attending a store event, I had really hurt my chances. They were having another event that weekend and he warned me if I didn’t show up, I would certainly not be getting it.

    I… gave him a quick & shouty piece of my mind to pass along to his boss.

    1. juliebulie*

      I would have promised to attend the next one, and never shown up.
      If they gave me “one more chance” after that, I’d probably again promise and then not show up.

      Because really, if the point of attending the reading was to show interest/initiative (regardless of whether or not that might have been your bowling night or something), then having his assistant call to nag you about it was pretty silly. Wait, what am I saying? This whole scenario is silly, the boss must have had rocks in his head, forcing himself to choose between unicorns and really desperate people with no self-esteem.

      Did he ever find a young man who had only ever done manual labor to support himself as he worked on his poetry? What if he found a young male candidate whose sterling career of manual labor was ended by a brief stint working in a bookstore just like that one? Would he hire such a person?

      But seriously, is the store still around? I hope it was sold to someone who sells books about pregnancy.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        What if the male became a parent and left? Oh wait, all women get pregnant because of course they are just waiting to get married and have kids and they manage to do it all by themselves too!

        1. Autumnheart*

          I can’t even tell you how many times I wound up on maternity leave when I least expected it. That dang parthenogenesis.

        2. Devil Fish*

          Wait is that how it works? I thought pregnancy was spontaneous and fully out of my control, like sneezing—otherwise why would managers be worried about me getting knocked up when I don’t have sex with dudes?

  28. Spooncake*

    Weirdest interview question I ever had was “if you were a pizza, what kind would you be?” I said “Ham and pineapple, because I’m kinda weird but somehow it still works.”

    Surprisingly, I actually got that job.

  29. Fikly*

    A major issue is when companies include sick days and PTO as one group of days. This makes employees (particularly ones with health issues) save their PTO for sick days.

    Also, the whole I can’t take PTO because otherwise things will fall apart at work? Your PTO is part of your compensation. When your company does not set things up so that you can take your PTO, they are stealing from you.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      “When your company does not set things up so that you can take your PTO, they are stealing from you.”


      1. Wired Wolf*

        That’s happened every year I’ve been at my job, and being that it’s essentially foodservice you’d think that the health codes would be enforced more rigidly than they are. I suspect that we have fewer fulltimers with paid leave than I thought…so anyone who doesn’t get paid sick time comes in sick (because Dog forbid the managers would actually get behind a line/break down stock), and…the last mutant flu season was hell.

  30. SusanIvanova*

    The most memorable interview question was “how do you debug code?” for an internal tool at a company that also writes operating systems. Fairly straightforward, but after every answer they said “and then what?” So I finally got to “and then sometimes it’s a bug in [$Framework that’s part of the operating system that this company also produces], so you file a bug report against them.”

    They replied with “Oh, no, $Framework is very robust, it’s never that.”

    I work on the $Framework team now. That story always cracks them up.

    (Basically, if you have never hit a bug in $Framework, you are probably writing extremely simple applications. My previous job did *not* involve simple applications.)

  31. BossLady*

    I don’t take a lot of my time off because of what Allison said, it’s not appealing when there is no coverage and you know that taking times means you’ll just have to work long hours before and/or after the vacation. It doesn’t feel like a true restful break.

  32. Bowserkitty*

    Oh my gosh, I listen to Marketplace now when I get ready in the morning for work (it streams at 8:30am where I am)! This is so exciting, I can’t wait to listen.

  33. Kivrin*

    My coworker will be supervising a position we are hiring for. She insisted on asking each candidate “If you were an animal which animal would you be, and why?”

    It seems she only asked each candidate so she could share what animal she would be, and why.

    It’s not a productive question and I’d rather ask candidates something else. I don’t need a gotcha to asses if they would fit in our team culturally or if they have the skills to do the work.

    I was once asked in an interview to answer if I was a tree, which kind would I be and why? and hated it.

  34. Ermintrude*

    So I applied for a job and had some pre-interview work to do online, including a couple of personality assessments: Pick which colour of about 20 coloured for
    spots stands out to me until all the spots are gone.
    Which famous person are you like, Martin Luther-King Jr., Jung, or Ghandi? I was thinking ‘well they’re all dead and I’m not?’ Picked Jung and found out I’m artistic, sensitive, creative, etc. I couldbe a psychologist, interpreter, etc., etc. …
    I’m going for a blue-collar job picking and packing.

    1. JSPA*

      The first is a disability test, isn’t it?
      And thus highly problematic, unless you’re picking on the basis of a color code, in which case, I suppose it could be a core function of the job.

      I suppose if they pick the colors just right, it would not (quite) automatically purge someone for the simplest one or even two variants of color – blindness…would still detect them, though).

      The second reeks of “likelihood to unionize” to me. Not to mention possibly part of a race – identification (or to be charitable, racism identification) or social background filter (strong social selection on who’s heard of Jung, vs MLK).

      These sound an odd combination of brilliant and deeply problematic.

      1. Ermintrude*

        I don’t know what the spot test was about. The instructions said to not think about associations with anything else. I don’t know how Jung relates to anything except I enjoy learning about a wide range of things scientific, creative and spiritual but I’m also wanting to get paid. *shrug*

        1. JSPA*

          The actual detection of wavelengths of light is genetically quite variable — not getting technical, but there are all sorts of subtle genetic variants as well as, say, red-green color blindness (X linked, common in men, less so in women). Perception (and ability to distinguish colors) is also partially but interestingly not entirely separate from whether or not you come from a culture that groups or separates those colours as a naming convention. If you’re from a color where all blues and greens are grouped together in the “teal-ish” zone, you (on average) don’t distinguish a particular blue from a particular green as fast, easily or reliably as someone who has a word for blue and one for green in their mother tongue. So color tests are phenotype assessments and culture-of-origin assessments, not just woo-woo personality assessments. That worries me, if it’s used for actual hiring as a “personality/fit” assessment (and even more if it’s intentionally discriminatory).

          1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            If you take it on your personal device, as opposed to a work device, it’s also testing how the color is balanced on your monitor/phone/tablet.

            1. Ermintrude*

              Years ago I went for a job with a photography company that did school children’s portraits. I was given the task of organising colored tokens according to gradations of warm to cool, and between pairs of different colours and was told I did very well.
              This latest test’s colours seemed pretty arbitrary like tmaybe they were assessing my preference order or something; if it was testing eyesight maybe it was to see if I had good working colour vision. Incidentally my father was colour-blind.
              I’d be picking stock according to data from a hand-held scanner so I’d be working with product names and positions in the warehouse.
              At least I got an anecdote to share here. :)

              1. Ermintrude*

                I realised I wasn’t clear in my description of the coloured-spot test: I was supposed to select colours as they appealed to me. They vanished as I clicked on them. I’d not done a test like it, seemed like something you’d do for a Facebook quiz.

                1. Elitist Semicolon*

                  “Choose what color you’d be and we’ll tell you what kind of tree you are!”

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Ah! I think I’ve seen that about another color family. When we bought our house, the seller (a first generation immigrant) mentioned that the house had been purple when they bought it. That’s not common in rural New England, to say the least. Neighbors later confirmed the house had been maroon.

  35. M*

    LW 1. How I think about it and how I have seen in some job postings. Some say you must have a Higher degree but at least for a masters if you don’t have one I would add at least 1-2 years of extra work experience and if you have it then apply.

    Many jobs in my sector will say a masters degree and 5-7 years of work experience or a bachelors and 7-9 years of experience. This is just an example the years vary by job. Usually if you they require a PhD you need to have that PhD or be working toward it. Something else to think about.

    And sometimes hiring managers want that extra degree while others would rather see more work experience or if you have amazing accomplishments that is better than someone with a masters and not as much work experience.

  36. Eshrai*

    I work for the government and my agency reviews your leave balances for promotions or lateral transfers. I use all my leave and never have any accrued. Many people in my area have tons of accrued time because it carries from year to year, but I like using my vacation to visit family (usually a day or two at a time) and my daughter gets sick a lot, so I use most my sick leave too. I can always explain my use at an interview but I feel I shouldn’t have too.

  37. Amethystmoon*

    If you have a coworker that makes lots of mistakes, and you’re forced by your manager to clean up their mistakes constantly, and said co-worker is obviously being protected because they hadn’t improved in 3 years but there were no real consequences (at least, that you witnessed) to their job, you aren’t going to want to take vacation time. That was actually a major factor in my leaving that particular job. I started looking after the 1st year, when it became obvious that things weren’t going to change with that particular coworker, not ever.

  38. Sour Patch*

    I was once asked during a second interview, it was a panel interview, “what animal was my spirit animal?” I jokingly replied with “A snake.” It was the first thing that came to mind and one of my friends who does prosthetic costume makeup likes to decide what animal she could turn you into. She told me I would make a great snake because of my eyes, slyness, and mystery. Needless to say, the lady who asked me that question actually cringed. Then proceeded with, “I’m assuming you’re not friends anymore?” I said, no we’re still really good friends.

    Stupid questions get stupid answers, folks.

    1. She's One Crazy Diamond*

      I’m pretty surprised a lot of companies use that terminology because some Native Americans who actually believe in spirit animals find it pretty offensive.

  39. PlainJane*

    With me, it’s always that it’s not a good time for it. At present, I have… a whole lot of backed up vacation time, but when I took a couple of weeks, it was obviously super-inconvenient.

    As for what animal I’d be, I would always answer “Pete the Cat.” :D

  40. Ermintrude*

    I want to be like Enya and live in a castle, is where I want to be in 5 – 10 years’ time.
    She is my guiding star.

  41. LaBicyclette*

    So, we actually use the “what animal would you be?” question, b/c we’ve found that it helps reveal a bit about team fit.
    It’s usually the last question we ask when we’re wrapping up (after we’ve covered everything of substance and allowed the candidate ample time to ask questions), and it never matters what animal they actually pick. We’re a creative in-house agency, and what we’re looking for in an answer to that question is someone with a bit of a sense of humor, who can explain their choices (crucial for a job where so much is subjective), and has the ability to pivot and think flexibly and not literally all the time (again, creative branding work asks for this type of thinking).
    Plus, it’s nice to have something a little silly to release the tension and reveal more of someone’s personality at the end of a more structured interview.
    It makes sense that this question wouldn’t be right for all job interviews, but over the years we’ve found it far from useless. If you’re the kind of candidate that scoffs at this kind of un-seriousness and can’t believe we would waste 3 whole minutes of your interview with this nonsense, you may not adapt well to our office culture. Pretty instructive sometimes.

  42. Stefanie*

    I had three terrible interviewers so far with my job search. One interviewer started with the tell me about yourself question and asked me how I liked working at one previous employer and my current employer. Needless to say, this interviewer was just interviewing people because she was bored. I got an e-mail from her stating that the position has been filled. One month later, I see the same job posted again and applied. I got no response and figured that it’s a fake job and there’s no such position opened.

    Second interviewer called me up for a selling/service manager position. I go into the interview with a different manager (who called me by someone else’s name) because the SM was at the register dealing with a customer’s declined credit card. The interviewer stated that the position I applied for needed 2 yrs of management, which I don’t have but I was called to interview for this position. Instead, the interviewer said that they would like to offer me a sales associate position. I declined the offer.

    Third interview. I used to work at a handbag store for 4 yrs until the store recently closed down due to the rent increasing dramatically and applied for a supervisor position at a different handbag company. I read the qualifications, and I believe I met them. The qualifications were: 2-3 years’ experience in a luxury retail or comparable retail environment. It didn’t specify what type of experience like keyholding or sales leader, but I applied anyway.

    I get a call from the SM a day later after I applied the following night. The SM called me at 9:15 A.M. and left a message. I returned her call at 9:30 A.M. and set up an interview with her later that day.
    I go in for the interviewer, and right away after we sit down for the interview, the SM says to me that the company is restructuring all the supervisor roles and that they now require 2-3 yrs management experience to be considered for this role (the supervisor role called supervisor I is basically a fancy name for a key holder or sales lead).
    I then ask the SM why she bothered to interview me. After all, if someone doesn’t fit the qualifications (even if the “new” qualifications aren’t posted on the website), why interview me then? The SM states that she wants to get to know me and proceeds to ask me questions about my previous experience at my previous employer and what that handbag company did that this handbag company doesn’t do.
    Then the SM rips right into me and says: this store is too small for you to manage, you can’t manage the way I manage, and don’t bother applying here for management until you have 2-3 years of management experience.
    I was so stunned that I couldn’t get up and walk away from this interview. After the interview, I went back home and checked the qualifications again on the company’s website. I went through all the Supervisor I positions in multiple states and even in Europe and Canada. However, none of the qualifications matched what I was told in the interview. I then wrote to the company’s customer service and told them to revise the qualifications for all of the Supervisor I positions due to what the SM said to me. Needless to say, nothing has been revised. Also, I put a review on Glassdoor in the interview section for this company so others in my area can see that you don’t apply at this store if you have 4+ years of handbag experience.

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