employer offered me a job, then made me interview again, then made a new offer, then yanked it — what’s going on?

A reader writes:

I’m hoping to check some professional norms, because I am a bit baffled by what went down in a recent interview process.

I applied for a job, went down for an interview, it seemed like it went reasonably well, and I was asked to come back for a “working interview” on very short notice — six hours, unpaid. I had told them that I had to leave at a specific time to make a different pre-existing appointment. On my way out after it was over, the head of the office (who is in his 70s or 80s and does seem a bit vague, to be honest) said “OK, we want you to join us! This was great!” … so I sent a standard follow-up/thank-you note the next day. Heard nothing for a week and would have written the place off except that they had seemed like they wanted to hire me, so about 10 days later I sent a brief, cheerful follow-up that included an apology if I’d misunderstood their interest in me, and wished them well.

Eventually I got back a terse note saying they were interviewing lots of people and they wanted me to come back for yet another working interview, full day, to make up their mind, but that this would be paid. I did not confirm how it would be paid, which was my mistake (I should have been more assertive in advance). I did the 10-hour day down there, found out that another person in the role they were hiring me for had quit with very little notice (so double-understaffed now) and they couldn’t tell me why (yikes).

At the end of the day, the director offered me the job, said they would have no problem matching my current salary, confirmed a schedule that might work, etc. etc. He said he would send me the formal offer and employee handbook that same night. I tried to get more information about what would happen if I didn’t accept the job, as far as getting paid for the 10 hours I worked, and he refused to answer. He emphasized that they wanted to make a decision quickly (as do I, my current job is horrifyingly toxic!).

No email that night. No email the next day. I sent another brief, professional query, and I got back an informally written, non-detailed, offer for 30% less than we had discussed, stating that I could eventually raise the salary if I was working enough. I asked for more details about the working interview I’d just had, and plans for staffing to increase efficiency … and got back a semi-form letter stating that I “had not been selected for the job” and that I would be sent a check for the working day — but at a rate about half what our profession considers standard.

Needless to say, I’ve dodged a bullet, but what the heck! Is it normal to go from verbal offer to poorly written inconsistent email offer to “you have not been selected”? Was I too pushy about the pay for 10-hour day? (And is there anything I can do about it at this point?)

Nope, not normal. None of it is normal.

Saying “we want you to join us,” then going silent, then saying they’re interviewing others without any acknowledgement of where they’d left things previously is not normal. But okay, let’s say the head of the office just didn’t mean to be quite so enthusiastic and his wording was sloppy. That’s not great, but that can happen.

But then offering you the job, naming a salary, telling you a formal offer was coming, then going silent, and then eventually sending an offer for a third less than the figure they’d offered earlier … not normal, not okay. (One caveat: You said they’d originally said they could match your current salary — any chance they said that without realizing or remembering what your current salary actually was, and so didn’t realize their eventual offer was so far from it? Still weird, but that could explain that part of it.)

And then, after you asked for more details on their written offer, sending you a rejection form letter?! It’s bad enough to pull the offer just because you asked for details (very bad), but to do it via a form letter that (once again) doesn’t acknowledge that they’d already made you a job offer? That is weird bordering on pathological.

Also, asking you to do a paid 10-hour working interview without telling you what “paid” means is a problem. Yes, you should have asked (in the future, ask!), but it’s weird and unprofessional that they didn’t bother to explain. And then refusing to answer when you asked directly once the day was over?! No. (Also, I don’t know what that first six-hour working interview consisted of, but if it was truly a working interview — meaning you did actual work — it should have been paid too.)

You’re right when you say this is a bullet dodged, and it’s good that you learned all this about them before you accepted a job and started working there (if they ever stopped retracting their offers).

You asked if there’s anything you can do about it now. You definitely shouldn’t want this job, so there’s nothing you should (or probably can) do on that side of things. On the payment for the working interview, since you didn’t agree to a rate beforehand, you don’t really have standing to ask for more, unless what they paid you was less than minimum wage. You could certainly point out that the payment was well below market rate for the work, but everything you’ve seen of these people so far says they won’t care.

I’d write it off as a lesson to negotiate a rate in advance next time, be glad you’re not working there, and move on.

{ 137 comments… read them below }

  1. Choggy*

    Hi OP, I hope you sent them a bill for the 10 hours you worked, make sure it was for at least the same wage as what you were asking! It sounded like they tested how far they could push you in the first interview, no paid work, so rolled the dice to see if you would bite a second time, and unfortunately for you, you did! Hard lesson learned here. You should never do work for free to get a job, unless it’s a structured (unpaid) internship for experience/reference purposes.

    1. Cobol*

      It’s going to be a nightmare to get paid, but it’s pretty easy to report them to the state.

      My guess is they should have paid you for the first 6 hours, and have done this to many others as well.

    2. Choggy*

      I said it more tongue in cheek to see what they would do…not with an expectation of payment. I think the OP learned a lesson far more valuable than money. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. A healthy skepticism is a good thing!

      1. Cobol*

        I don’t really think OP is trying to get paid, but reporting something like this is more likely to prevent it from happening again, as opposed to a Glassdoor review.

        1. Happily Self Employed*

          Agreed. Your state may differ, but California is fed up with wage theft and will happily throw the book at an employer who stiffed you. I have filed two claims with two employers (one for unpaid overtime, one for a similar situation to yours) and won both without needing a labor attorney. The OT claim they didn’t dispute so I just got a check, yay. The paid interview kinda thing they disputed, and the only hitch was that I got a last-minute lowball settlement offer the DOL pushed me to accept. Turned out the DOL had to pay a last minute substitute judge for my hearing and was hoping they could get out of it. But she was great and just happened to be an expert in the “internship” excuse he was trying to use.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      They don’t even have the right paperwork on file either…so they aren’t withholding taxes or paying them through payroll most likely. *shivers*

      I’d report them to the state regardless of getting paid or not. These slimeballs deserve a visit from the DOL if the DOL decides to care, often they don’t care, sigh but for someone you’re not even bound to, I’m game for throwing them under even a maybe-the-dol-is-bored-bus.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Agree; they’re deliberately exploiting people, and they may end up exploiting someone really desperate and milking even more free work out of them than they did from you. They definitely need to be reported.

      2. TardyTardis*

        That reminds me that I was fired one time for asking for a pay stub (though I was pleasantly surprised many years later when it turned out they had paid my Social Security during that time after all).

      3. Eva Luna*

        I am guessing that they didn’t ever get any I-9 documentation from you, either, so you may want to consider reporting them to Homeland Security and/or the Department of Labor for that. How do they even know you are authorized to work in the U.S.?

  2. SugarFree*

    How bizarre! I wonder if they were trying to avoid going thru a temp agency and instead decided to have applicants do the work under the guise of a ‘working interview’.

    1. Mockingjay*

      Well, if you don’t care about the quality of work, I suppose random applicants could fill in.

      OP, I would write this place off in a hurry.

    2. The Original K.*

      I’ve posted here about an interview I went on where the executive director wanted each candidate to work for a WEEK, unpaid, as part of the interview process. She had known the person in the role was leaving for months (she was going to grad school* and the hiring manager had written her a recommendation) and hadn’t started to fill the role until days before her end date, didn’t want to hire a temp, and also didn’t want to lose time having the role sit empty. I refused. I did not advance in the process.

      *When I said “Good for her” re: the incumbent going to grad school, the hiring manager grumbled “Well, it isn’t good for ME.”

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, maybe. But that’s a ton of work to go through to get free work. It’s much more likely they’re just incompetent; this kind of incompetence is not uncommon.

    4. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Yup, I worked somewhere that used to do “working interviews” for front-line staff, and the first thing someone said when the possibilities of working interviews came up in a meeting was “Oh great, so when we’re having trouble filling a shift, we can schedule a bunch of working interviews and get it covered for free!”

  3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I don’t know whether these people are just absolutely clueless and disorganized, or if this was some grand strategy to manipulate you into accepting a lowball offer. Either way, none of it is normal.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Exactly, though from the description, I’m not sure these folks have the wherewithal to create a grand strategy of manipulation. The longer I’m in the working world, the more I realize that a lot of seeming malfeasance is just plain incompetence.

      To OP, I am so sorry you’re stuck in a toxic job, but I could almost guarantee that this one would be no better. Maybe a different brand of toxic, but not a great place to work. I hope you find something nontoxic soon!

  4. Lovecraft Beauty*

    What the actual hell is a “working interview”? Like, I get a skills test, I get asking a candidate to do a small presentation if it’s a public-speaking role, I can even see asking a teaching candidate to do some classroom interaction, but this term sounds shady af.

    1. Mighty Mouse*

      Depends on the industry. One day unpaid working interviews are kind of standard in veterinary medicine. It’s supposed to help you see how the practice operates, but usually they hide the bad stuff while you’re there.

      1. Katrinka*

        It’s illegal, no matter what the industry. If someone is doing any work, they are to be paid. If it’s an observation where the candidate does no work, then that’s OK to not pay. The law is very clear on this.

        1. TheMonkey*

          Sure, but when literally every practice does it, it doesn’t leave you a lot of options, really.

      2. Offers Are Weird*

        OP here – I’m a veterinarian! I guess maybe I should be glad they couldn’t hide ALL the bad stuff while I was there :-).

        1. Mighty Mouse*

          I’m a veterinarian as well and have worked at several smallish clinics in various areas of medicine. I never had an experience that wasn’t weird or awful (like my 13 hour unpaid working interview that involved one meal and I didn’t get back to my hotel until after 10 pm) and I chalk it up to small businesses prevailing. I’m completely shocked they offered to pay you! Most of my interviews didn’t even cover part of travel costs.

          1. FormerVetTech*

            I worked in veterinary medicine as a CVT for 10 years and I never got paid for a working interview nor did my clinic pay for working interviews. And we were a specialty clinic! I think if anyone had asked to be paid they would have been laughed out of the practice. Veterinary medicine absolutely does not follow professional norms. Definitely the most toxic place I worked and it was still considered one of the “good” places!

          2. Offers Are Weird*

            I was talking to one of my friends about wacko interviewing experiences and she said she interviewed at one clinic that told her she was replacing a dearly beloved veterinarian who had died in tragic circumstances. Except…the “dead” veterinarian was very much alive…and texting with my friend DURING THE INTERVIEW. She has now and forever won all interviewing horror story competitions, in perpetuity, so say we all.

            1. allathian*

              Well, at least the “dead” veterinarian wasn’t texting from beyond the grave! That would have been some story for the yellow press.

          3. Junior Assistant Peon*

            Why would a veterinary clinic need to pay travel or recruit non-local candidates unless it’s somewhere very remote, or a searching for a candidate with an unusual specialty?

            1. Mighty Mouse*

              It’s really common these days for vets to move for jobs, especially in more niche industries. I found my very restrictive non-compete agreements (up to 25 miles) led to this. One practice did pay my travel costs which was awesome.

        2. HK*

          Oh, OP, you’re a vet! That makes this whole thing make so much more sense, unfortunately.

          I’m a tech and was feeling like I totally missed something reading Alison’s response because I’ve never once heard of a practice paying candidates for a working interview! I feel less weird now, thanks all for confirming this is (for better or worse) the norm for vet med. Thought I totally missed something.

          Also, sorry that your current practice is toxic :-( way, way too common in the industry.

        3. Sleepless*

          Oh wow, I had no idea there were so many of us here! Most AAM letters are a little foreign to me, but I was nodding along with this one thinking, “oh, this is totally a vet or a tech.”

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I was told once at an interview that I would have to work for free for three days and at the end they’d tell me if I was hired and how much I’d be paid. First time I’ve just upped and outed without pretending to be interested (I already had my doubts before the interview given how crappy the premises were despite an address in a swank part of town).

      3. HK*

        Glad someone mentioned veterinary medicine- I’m a tech and was feeling like I totally missed something reading this because I’ve never once heard of a practice paying candidates for a working interview! I feel less weird now, thanks all for confirming this is (for better or worse) industry norm.

      1. Madtown Maven*

        Restaurants, for cooks and chefs to show their skills. It should be paid work, however, with a rate that’s agreed upon ahead of time.

    2. Kiki*

      I’ve had one before that seemed relatively above-board. It was a for a job that didn’t require any previous experience, but did need candidates to be able to be very detail-oriented and logical and okay with monotony. It was four hours long. The first hour was showing you the ropes, the next 2 and 1/2 was doing work simulations (there was also a half hour break). It was paid at the same rate you would make at the job. I personally perceived it as a win-win as a person who didn’t have a job lined up yet: even if I didn’t get the job, I was still paid for that morning. I also got to see if I really liked the kind of work I’d be doing and what the vibe of the office was like. But I could see it being more challenging for someone who already had a job.

      1. The Original K.*

        I had one for a job I ended up getting and accepting – it was training on one of the systems that the person in the role would use (which was old and temperamental and not intuitive), and a skills test. Maybe two and a half hours altogether, paid at market rate. I had the same thought you did: “even if the job doesn’t pan out, at least I’m earning a bit of money.”

    3. A Person*

      It’s pretty rare, but an old company I worked for did something like this, even for multiple days. However, you were paid, and at a pretty fair rate (I think generally slightly higher than the job rate to take contractor taxes into account). You weren’t expected to pull super long hours. Most of the time it was also a set “project” that wasn’t even work we’d use.

      Honestly it was pretty great from both sides – being able to meet and interact with your future teammates, seeing what the day to day might actually be like. Especially useful for new grads where you don’t have work history and they have the time. Unfortunately it also does tend to put up a barrier for more senior people who might not want to spend 3 days of vacation working for another company.

      1. JessaB*

        Oh no, I’d have a fit if I ended up with a contractor’s 1099 the extra work I’d have to do for my taxes for ONE day? Nooooo.

    4. jen hen*

      I had a working interview (unpaid) for my current job – I’m an employee at a large municipal venue. It was about 4 hours. maybe a little longer. At the time, I had no idea that getting paid for a working interview was even a “thing”, so I didn’t ask.

      It wasn’t really “work” that they’d find economically beneficial and felt like a really long skills assessment. I had to come up with a short marketing plan for an upcoming concert series (they didn’t use it, just wanted to see what I could come up with in the allotted time), take a picture of the facility and upload it to their Facebook page, and a couple other tasks in that vein. They also had me completely tour the facilities (on foot, in the Southern US, in August – thankfully they didn’t hold all that sweat against me) and took me out to lunch somewhere nice after.

    5. Anon for this.*

      My prior (super toxic) job would have people come in for “working interviews”. However, my boss (the owner of an, obviously, super tiny business) had awful hiring practices in general. The one good thing was that, to my knowledge, he did pay these people for their time spent, but it was still really awful as he didn’t hire a number of them.

      As part of the hiring process, he had a five-page questionnaire/”test” that every applicant had to fill out that basically consisted of prior mistakes made by past employees, e.g., “what is the difference between USPS and UPS.” Every level had to fill it out too, from admin assistant to attorney.

    6. starsaphire*

      If I was interviewing as a chef, I’d expect to come in and cook a “test meal” for my prospective employer(s). They’d provide the ingredients. I’d provide the labor, then stand and watch them eat it and critique me.

      Occasionally misused, yes, but definitely not shady. Totally normal.

    7. another Hero*

      Every kitchen I’ve ever worked in but one required a stage (pronounced like French) before hiring, to evaluate skills. I think I was paid for one of them once (in maybe six baking jobs?). Of course, kitchens are notoriously abusive workplaces – I’m not saying it’s a good practice for job candidates, but it’s very common in baking.

      1. another Hero*

        Most of my stages were in the 2-5-hour range, with maybe one shorter and one longer – rarely full work days – but I definitely was producing stuff that would be sold (not to would be odd and wasteful)

    8. GS*

      This was standard when I worked in landscaping: come in for a day (paid but often under the table) to see what you can do. In reality it was more like a probation; I was never declined a job after a working interview.

      In an industry where it’s normal for only 2/3 of new hires to show up on the first day, I see where they’re coming from. Why bother to do the paperwork unless someone’s proven they can show up?

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        When I worked on golf course crews in college, you were a full employee on day 1, but the vast majority of new hires only worked a day or two. It wasn’t really necessary to have a probationary day – almost everyone who didn’t work out stopped coming in on their own, and very few needed to be fired.

    9. Dove*

      Restaurants do these, although it’s apparently called “staging” within the industry. They’ll have a candidate come in and do anything from a bit of prep work to demonstrate knife skills, all the way up to ‘partial or full shift, to demonstrate their ability to handle the work load’. It is, to my knowledge, fairly recent that stages are paid *at all*, and they’re often paid in cash when they are paid.

      My understanding, from lurking in industry threads, is that line chefs generally agree that it’s a gross practice and stages should absolutely be paid if you’re going to ask someone to do anything more than a really basic skills demonstration (so, if you’re having them do prep for you *as* their demonstration, it needs to be paid), but also that it’s going to be a while before it becomes routine for that to happen.

    10. Lurker2209*

      I work in childcare and we do a 2-3 hour ‘Play Interview’ to observe job candidate’s interactions with children. It’s not really a full working interview, but we do expect candidates to actually interact with the kids and not just observe. But we can’t give them any actual responsibilities until they pass a background check anyways; they don’t count towards child:teacher ratios or anything.

      You learn a lot from a play interview with kids that you can’t learn from a regular interview. But 2-3 hours is plenty. Just long enough for the kids to adjust to a new person and give them a chance to have real interactions. I can’t imagine asking someone to come in all day!

      1. Artemesia*

        I hired non-tenured but full time college professors whose primary role was teaching as well as tenured faculty; both were required to teach a regular class in their area of expertise. It wasn’t free work in the sense that they were not teaching a class not already covered — the regular faculty member would give up her class and observe along with the committee. And they were also expected to give a professional or research presentation to the faculty (depending on whether they were tenure or non-tenure track candidates). I’d never hire anyone to a job that required performance without seeing the performance. Lots of people can sound impressive telling you what they ‘would do’ but you don’t know until you see them actually do it.

        1. mgguy*

          Was just thinking the same thing. Teaching a lecture and 1-2 research seminars are par for the course in a lot of academic hiring. Of course, it’s usually a 1-2 day affair that involves a lot of just acclimating the candidate to the area and the like. I was amazed that I DIDN’T have to do one for the tenure-track job I’m starting in the fall-I was prepared to do it but after my initial in-person everything pretty much shut down and there wouldn’t have been a class for me to teach.

    11. Fancy Owl*

      I had two unpaid “working interviews” when I was in college. One was in a pizza place where the owner watched me take a pizza. It only lasted about an hour and you got to take the pizza you made home with you so it felt like a fair deal considering how much a large pizza cost. The other was at this shady restaurant/ice cream place where the owner wanted me to work an unpaid 6 hr shift in the ice cream parlor and I was immediately put to serving paying customers with no training. The other women I was working with was in the same boat. We just guessed at how we were supposed to make things, the owner didn’t check on us at all, and the stuff we were making was super expensive! After about 2 hours I’d had enough and realized I could just leave, so I found the owner and told him I was going. He was mad because now he was half staffed for the parlor for the rest of the day but I was like, “bro, you aren’t paying me” and walked out feeling relieved I’d dodged a bullet.

    12. MissDisplaced*

      This used to be really common in creative fields.
      I once worked a whole day at a big advertising agency as so they could “try me out.” I was supposed to be paid, but I never was. I hated the place and never went back. I think it’s a way to get free work out of people, honestly. I won’t do them anymore.

    1. Marny*

      Yup. My first reaction reading this letter was , “This is exactly what Glassdoor is for.”

    2. Oddish*

      Yes, this. Give other applicants a heads up about what how this company treats its candidates. This is exactly what the interview review feature on Glassdoor is for and why I check it for every company I apply to.

    3. irene adler*

      Not disagreeing with this.
      I have noticed some companies ‘pushing back’ on some Glassdoor reviews. They write things like “we’re sorry you misunderstood [some aspect of the hiring process or some company policy]. We always comply with the law regarding [process or policy at issue]. Please contact HR so that we can follow up and make this right for you.”

      I guess it is supposed to make readers think the review is not accurate. But they never truly address the issue indicated. Telling.

      1. juliebulie*

        If anything, it just makes them look worse. You know that they’ll always be making excuses for their problems instead of addressing them.

        1. san junipero*

          Yeah, I honestly tend to judge companies that respond to reviews, unless it’s OBVIOUSLY an unusual misunderstanding or misdirected anger or something like that. Especially when a company responds to every review, or all the bad reviews — I instantly strike those companies off my list.

  5. A Simple Narwhal*

    Woof, wow what a bullet dodged!

    So frustrating though, I hope OP finds a new job soon!

    1. Happy Lurker*

      Dodged a bullet was my first thought too.

      Best of luck getting out of your current toxic job OP.

  6. Andy*

    There is a war going on between director and other people. They are fighting over who will control the hiring and ultimately parts of company.

    The person you talked with promised things without caring about consequence or ability to see them throught.

  7. Valegro*

    You dodged a huge bullet! I took a job after similar interview experiences (including 2 days of unpaid working interview and wanting two more) and it was a nightmare. I was desperate and the pay was a bit more than what my internship paid so I took it. Such a mistake.

    Another place I interviewed told me to expect an offer and asked me to get a professional license in their state which cost $250 at that time. I asked the owner to pay the fee because I was broke and she responded by rescinding the “offer.”

    1. irene adler*

      For me, your second example is an excellent strategy for getting the other party to ‘show their cards’. If they are being genuine, they’ll commit funds to support their position. Or, they’ll fold before making any kind of commitment -as you discovered.

    2. CW*

      The second one was not an offer, it sounded more like a scam. You dodged a bullet there as well.

  8. TiredMama*

    This so bad and I am so sorry you went through that crazy experience. Hoping you find a non-toxic workplace soon!

  9. Heidi*

    This reminds me of a Sherlock Holmes mystery where a guy was “hired” to do long hours of menial work by this totally shady company. But they were really trying to get him out of his office so that they could sneak in and rob the bank next door or something. Not that this is what’s happening with the OP. But it just sounds so bizarre and pointless to do your hiring this way.

      1. starsaphire*

        Yes! Loved that one.

        There was another one, too, where a girl was hired for something odd, and they wanted her to sit in a chair with her back to a window or something — and it turned out she was standing in for a dead or missing girl with similar hair! I can’t remember the title of that one either, though.

        I’m just glad I’m not the only one whose mind immediately jumps to mystery stories when something weird happens. :)

        1. Tangerina Warbleworth*

          “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches”. Both that and “The Red-Headed League” are in the first short-story collection “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”. My favorite was always “The Speckled Band.”

          Raise a glass for the Sherlock Nerds!

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I haven’t read all these yet but now I’m dying to (my complete Sherlock collection is in storage).

            1. Quill*

              They’re in public domain now, so gutenberg to your heart’s content!

              I also recommend the Raffles stories because they were literally Doyle’s brother in law writing AU fanfic.

          2. Arts Akimbo*

            Eeee, I am living for this thread! I thought of Copper Beeches while reading the post! Forgot about the Red-headed League, and now I want to go read!

            Growing up my favorite was “The Sussex Vampire,” because I was a baby goth!

          3. Perbie*

            Speckled band made no friggin sense!!! I first read it in high school and had had two pet snakes for several years. With the big reveal i just went “….wat?”

          4. Laowai Gaijin*

            Yay, ACD canon nerds!

            (P.S. to the OP: Your current workplace may be toxic, but that one is FULL OF BEES!)

    1. history geek*

      Only didn’t they pay him quite a bit and the guy also weirdly liked the work.

  10. Jennifer Strange*

    Wow…that sounds like a dumpster fire. Sorry there isn’t too much you can do, OP, but I second you mentioning this on Glassdoor. It’s not perfect, but it could help another job seeker down the road.

  11. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    I ran out of fingers counting the number of red flags in your letter. Count this as a learning experience that nothing about this is normal. And make sure in the future you ask questions in advance, and don’t worry about ruining your chances because of the questions. Any reasonable company would not refuse to hire you because you were asking questions and looking out for yourself. And if they do count it against you, it’s not a place you want to work.

  12. RecoveringSWO*

    Since you’ve already cashed the check for the 10 hour working interview, I would submit a wage claim for the 6 hour working interview. It’ll tip the labor department off about their issues and you’ll get a little compensation. It’s not like you need to preserve your relationship with them…

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      I would not do this without first asking the employer for compensation.
      The OP can always say that they believed that they were being interviewed, but ended up being required to do actual work and legally need to be compensated for it.

        1. Sacred Ground*

          Yes, and? They’ve earned it. They should be reported for an abusive and illegal practice, one they’ve clearly made routine. They’ll keep doing it until it costs them. They should be nuked. From orbit.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        They have to first ask for compensation anyways. That’s a box to check on the DOL and they will kick it right out of the queue if you don’t confirm, under penalty of perjury that you asked for the money owed.

  13. Bex*

    LW, please also consider posting your interview experience on a site such as GlassDoor or similar. This kind of behavior is unequivocally unprofessional and others considering should know what might be in store. Considering you invested 16 hours total, and received pay for roughly 5 hours of your time by industry standards, this is predatory and might really take advantage of those new to the workforce or desperate due to current job market.

    1. ThePear8*

      I was just about to suggest this! Yes, I absolutely think OP should post this on Glassdoor so it can help warn other potential job candidates

  14. 2 Cents*

    OP, I hear you want to jump ship from your current toxic workplace, but it sounds like a bullet dodged because this new place would’ve been horrible! Please, please wait for a company that’ll treat you correctly. In the meantime, at leas type know what toxicity to expect at your current job.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Out of the frying pan into the fire. OP you know your current work place is toxic. Don’t jump to another one just to get out of the current bad situation. If there are so many red flags it looks like May Day in the Old Soviet Union that is not a place you want to work.

  15. Jennifer Juniper*

    I’m guessing that they’re doing this as a way to get out of hiring people. They’re holding these so-called “working interviews” as a way of trying to get free work out of people.

  16. learnedthehardway*

    On the plus side, they showed you they were wackadoodle and you don’t have to work for them. So don’t feel like you lost anything here – you definitely avoided jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

  17. juliebulie*

    The one thing that didn’t seem like a red flag to me was when the employer wouldn’t tell OP why someone quit. OP said “yikes,” but there are plenty of reasons a person might quit that they wouldn’t want other people talking about.

    Although in this case, it probably had a lot to do with the fact that this employer sucks. Hell, they suck even when they’re not your employer.

    1. Dove*

      If the employer won’t tell you *anything* about why someone quit, then it’s a potential red flag. If they’re not even able/willing to go “we aren’t in the habit of sharing details like that, but it was amicable” or some other vague platitude that at least makes it sound like the person didn’t flee the country without leaving a forwarding address in order to get as much distance between them and this employer as possible…well, either they’re in the middle of a lawsuit about it or they’re really bad at providing necessary information.

      Neither’s a good sign.

  18. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    I’m betting that this was a political struggle that OP unfortunately got caught in. I was unknowlingly caught in one myself nine years ago: colleagues and GrandBoss wanted to hire the internal candidate, who had no experience. Boss went and advertised on the professional listserv and found me, with lots of experience. GrandBoss was mad because, even though it was entirely in Boss’ purview to do so, such things Are Not Done, as listed in the invisible contract that rules a Jesuit university

    So I was hired, and no one in that unit would talk to me because they all hated my f*cking guts, because I wasn’t the internal hire THEY wanted. It just got worse from there, oh, the stories.

    OP, count your blessings. If these people treated you like a pawn in their giant chess game just in interviewing you, imagine what it would be like if you worked there.

  19. Elizabeth West*

    The next time an employer asks you to work an unpaid “test” day, tell them you’d have to charge an audition fee equal to your consulting rate. :)

  20. Offers Are Weird*

    OP again – So, thank you, everybody! It hadn’t occurred to me that I could put this on Glassdoor, but it’s a great idea. I also really appreciate Alison’s clarification that it’s the total reality disconnect between “We offer you this job” and “You have not been selected” that’s just crazypants. It feels like being gaslit or like either they or I don’t know what an offer actually means. It turns out when you’ve been working in a really toxic environment (and sadly a lot of vet clinics can be very toxic) it’s hard to maintain any sense of reality or normality or boundaries.

    I’ve had other working interviews run the gamut over the years. I went one place as a relief vet and ended up feeling super guilty because they paid me relief rates, but were treating it as a kid-glove interview and trying so hard to not overschedule me with clients that I *know* they lost money on me. I ended up not accepting their offer, but on the other hand, if I ever have a classmate interested in working there, I’d happily recommend them – it was genuinely a good clinic, just didn’t work for where I was at the time. But, in a final twist: right after I emailed this question to Alison, I did end up accepting an offer from another hospital, that’s matching my current (very good) salary to work far better hours than I have in years, and seems like a genuinely good environment. I wouldn’t call it a dream job because I don’t think that’s a fair burden to put on any place, but it seems functional, honest, and supportive, and that’s more than I can say for many vet clinics. I have some really dysfunctional behaviors learned at my current horrible job, and it’s going to be a real effort to unlearn them. But, took the first step, and GAVE MY NOTICE!!!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Congratulations, I’m glad that you have a happy ending after these dirtbags!

    2. FormerVetTech*

      Hooray, that’s so wonderful to hear! As a former vet tech, I hope this new place is as wonderful as it seems. I know supportive clinics exist out there, it’s just so hard to find them. But the fact that they’re actually paying you well is a GREAT start. I moved out of veterinary medicine into an office environment about 5 years ago and was completely shocked at real professional norms. Unfortunately a lot of what Ask A Manager covers just doesn’t take in the veterinary world. Wishing you nothing but the best.

    3. Pilcrow*

      Congrats, OP!

      Jumping off from this: “I have some really dysfunctional behaviors learned at my current horrible job, and it’s going to be a real effort to unlearn them.”

      Has Alison written anything about how to recover from a bad job, correcting those bad habits? Did a little searching and got hits on recognizing bad jobs, how they warp the sense of normal, and such, but I didn’t see anything about the actual recovery. Maybe an ask the readers post?

      1. Offers Are Weird*

        I would love that. I am actually working on this in therapy too. It’s just crazy what a bad workplace can do to you, especially if you already have trust issues which I will admit I do. I would love a thread to share war stories and recovery tips.

      2. Melody Pond*

        Yes! Another vote for a toxic workplace recovery post! And congratulations, OP, you deserve it!

      3. anon nonnie non*

        I would love this too. It took a few years of therapy to get over my last workplace. I still struggle from time to time. The anxiety was paralyzing at times

    4. Sara without an H*

      Yay! Congratulations! Good salary, reasonable hours, and decent people would be a “dream job” for a lot of people. The place you described in your post, assuming they ever got their act together enough to actually hire you, would have driven you nuts.

    5. beanie gee*

      CONGRATS! I really hope the new place is not just functional, but an enjoyable place to spend a good part of your life!

      At least that last interview process will give you a good story the next time “bad interviews” comes up as a conversation topic!

    6. blaise zamboni*

      Yay, congratulations! Thank you for sharing with us. I hope the next place is a great fit and better experience than your current job!

      I do think you should share your experience on Glassdoor as well, that could be really helpful to future applicants. I’m so dismayed to learn that vet clinics are often toxic workplaces. I guess I’m not surprised, but still…disappointed. Can you, or other vet techs who have chimed in, maybe come back on the weekend threads and share some tips for pet parents to identify clinics that treat their people well (if that’s possible)? Or just share about your industry in general? I’m fascinated, in a horrified way.

      1. Offers Are Weird*

        It’s just such a weird industry in general. There are some common problems that can affect nearly all clinics – veterinarians mostly go to school because we want to care for animals, and many of us are extremely type A people pleasers as well – so we can be massively insecure, and we can be very easily manipulated and guilt-tripped by management. In the corporation I’m leaving (VCA) that kind of manipulation was such a common theme in management that I think they really are trained to do it – example, the doctors/staff say “we don’t want to work with Petco any more – they are awful clients, they refuse to provide adequate care for the animals they sell, and they are awful in how they treat us”; the first response is always “But if you don’t do it, the animals will be even WORSE off! How can you abandon them?” – or, we are pressured to be open more hours and on holidays etc, by telling us that our patients need us and implying we are selfish for wanting actual downtime (yes, emergencies happen after hours – but in our area, emergency care is not hard to come by – GPs do not have to be open 7d/wk, but it makes the corporation money if we are). I don’t know that you’d be able to identify a good clinic by talking to the people who take care of your pets, because that’s basically the only part of our job that we actually like :-) – and it’s what we’re there to focus on. I would certainly never unload to a client about all of my frustrations.

        Outside of corporate pressures to always be more and more profitable, it’s just a tough industry. It’s at the toxic intersection of money and emotion. People love their pets and want the best care for them and also frequently can’t afford it. Most of those people are great and realistic and we can manage well despite it. The rare ones lash out at us in horrifyingly abusive ways. Support staff are criminally underpaid and burn out fast. Vets freak out because we are human beings in an exceptionally hard job, and we are insecure and judge each other and judge ourselves even more so – in a single day I have to be an anesthesiologist, an emergency doctor, a surgeon, a behavior analyst, an internal medicine specialist, a radiologist, consult on oncology, and also manage my support staff – so in general it takes phenomenal emotional intelligence to just make it through the day maintaining an even keel, and when you fail, it’s really hard to come back from. It doesn’t surprise me that most clinics are kind of crazypants. I love being a veterinarian – it is the most rewarding thing in the world to be able to take something that is wrong or sick or painful and FIX IT!! And the majority of my clients are just fantastic human beings and I love them and their pets too. But honestly, I think every clinic, no matter the size, needs a therapist on staff full time anyway. At the best of times it’s an incredibly tough field. At the worst it’s just utterly horrifying (and thus the suicide rates of veterinarians and support staff :-/).

        1. Partly Cloudy*

          I used to work in the vet med field (non-medical staff) and have a lot of friends who still do, and I just wanted to offer my virtual support and hugs. I feel everything you wrote here. I wish you the best at your new clinic and THANK YOU for doing one of the hardest and most emotionally draining jobs out there. :)

    7. pcake*

      Congrats, OP, both on the new job and for not taking the job at that truly exceptionally bizarre company.

  21. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’ve seen so much shit…this should be more horrifying to me but I’m like “oh one of these scumbags.”

    Being on the financial side of things, when I hear “they quit without notice”, my mind-brakes slam on full speed and I go “oh…dear.”

    “Working” interviews are scams, I refuse to believe anything else. It’s too much trust in strangers and easily manipulated by the other side. they don’t have a contract, they don’t need to pay you, you were never on their books, they can say “who dat tho?’ if you do try to collect.

    Never work a day for anyone without filing new-hire paperwork. No W4, no I9, no-worky. And even then they can screw you but it’s at least less likely.

  22. AMT*

    Is a “working interview” a real thing? I can’t imagine encountering it outside of a highly dysfunctional environment, even if they do pay you. That’s a lot of a candidate’s time to waste, especially if the candidate works full-time already.

    1. Frenchie*

      It is. I did a two-day working interview for my current position. They paid my full daily rate plus travel and per diem. I’ve been in the same job, with one transfer, for seven years.
      The two days gave me an idea of how the organization operates, and they were able to see my skills in action.
      But, my profession is one that often contracts freelancers by the day or by the week (even by the hour).

  23. Prof. Space Cadet*

    I wish I could say I’m surprised, but there are places that think this kind of behavior is okay. About a decade ago, the partner of a grad school classmate had a formal offer yanked by the national office of a very well-known nonprofit less than 12 hours after they made it. She was literally minutes away from submitting her 2-week notice at her current job. Their only explanation was that “The assistant ED did not mean to authorize this hire. We unfortunately need to go in a different direction” — they didn’t even say “we’re so sorry to have gotten your hopes up” or “please keep in touch about future positions.” The organization has a excellent public reputation (I guarantee that multiple AAM readers have donated to them), but to this day, the episode leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I hear the organization’s name in the news or on social media.

    1. anon nonnie non*

      I had an offer yanked (like 12 years or so ago) after they found out I left 2 jobs in high school and college without a 2 week notice. At the time I didn’t think much of them because the jobs I left were very part time, and I was also quite young when I held them. They also had nothing to do with the job I applied for. I was so stunned. Then the place sent me a check for my first week of work and benefits book. To this day I am not totally sure if the background check people ever told the HR dept my offer was yanked and I was marked as a no show. I didn’t have much professional experience so I never thought to ask the HR dept if my offer was in fact “yanked”.

  24. batcat*

    I had a working interview many many years ago for a restaurant near my home.
    It was a ‘free trial’ serving at a little place but the owner said I could keep my tips.
    Well, it was a disaster. The owner was drink, took all the tables (so no tips) but made me do all the work WHILE making fun of me to the customers. The customers were clearly uncomfortable and surprised by her treatment of me, but not surprised she was drunk.
    I just walked out and went home.
    I had only considered the job as it was on my street, and as a single mom, less time from home would be a good thing.
    all the nope on free interviews.

  25. LGC*

    …looks like Alison is trying to kill the rumors of WTF Wednesday in favor of Weird Old Guy Wednesday. I’m all right with that.

    But also, the one thing I can’t get over is…are unpaid nearly full day interviews common for that field? It feels a bit sketchy, but I could just be sheltered.

  26. CW*

    There were too many red flags here. Glad you got out of it. Even if you had gotten an offer and accepted it, it would have been a nightmare to work for them. The employer sounded confused, disorganized, and flaky. Even before COVID-19 there were employers who did this. Hope you find a good job soon and have a straight-forward hiring process.

  27. Black Horse Dancing*

    OP, if you know any colleagues who wish to practice in the Southwest/rural vet work, I know many sareas who would welcome you!

  28. Rubydoo67*

    I can relate as I experienced something very similar a few years ago. A total of 8 interviews, in person, Skype and phone. I was flown across country to HQ to meet the big wigs as final interviews. They completed a background check and then…….they ended up reposting the job and hiring someone else (while still stringing me along and doing the background check, gathering references, etc). Kept telling me to be patient, so and so was out of town and that’s why it was taking so long. Bunch of b.s. I spoke in depth with the HR person to find out what happened. Feedback on me was great except one person felt they should hire someone with more experience in “X”. Their own HR recruiter told me I should be glad it happen as it really speaks to what a company is truly like internally. She was right and she left soon after, too. I really, really, really wanted that job…..but would be unemployed now if I had gotten it. It was in Travel/Tourism industry. Sometimes these things are blessings.

  29. boop the first*

    Fighting for 10 hours of pay? More like 16 hours of pay. How is it inappropriate to have an unpaid internship where you don’t actually get to learn anything, but we’re supposed to believe that a 6 hour shift “interview” passes the bar? I was extremely wary that my introduction to my last job was a working interview, and while the situation did turn out to be pretty strange and incompetent, even **I** was paid for that day. To think that there was a passing bar even below that deathtrap is a little devastating. Imagine being the poor staff who had to train so many random passersby only to never see them again. No work would ever really get done!

  30. Johnson*

    This company sounds like a massive dumpster fire. It’s been mentioned above, but you need to be paid for all 16 hours. I’m assuming they designated you an IC for the work you did? Of did they pay you under the table?
    Honestly, working interviews are a pain because of the paperwork involved. My company can do them, but we’ve shied away trying to use solid interviewing skills to identify good fits.

  31. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    I’d be tempted to show up bright and early on a Monday with a big happy smile and say I was so glad to get their phone call offering me the job–then watch what they did. Might not actually DO it (too Erin Brockovich) but I’d be tempted.

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