interviewer asked how I would connect with coworkers outside of work

A reader writes:

Back in February, I had an interview where the last question they asked me was, “How would you go about connecting with coworkers outside of work?” It took me completely aback, because while I had prepared by studying several lists of popular interview questions, both in and outside of my field, I had never encountered any like this. I’m an extremely introverted person and connect with only a chosen few longtime friends and my family. My current job is in an office, and most of my department are similarly introverted or at least keep work socialization separate from personal lives. I’ve just never had a job where I interacted with coworkers outside of work hours.

I was afraid that answering the question honestly (“I don’t want to socialize with coworkers outside of work”) would come off sounding rude and antisocial, but I’m afraid what I ended up saying definitely sounded insincere: a long, trapped pause followed by, “Well, I would look for ways we connect with similar interests and find out if there were events we might like to go to together.”

I ended up not getting the job, I’m 99% sure because they had an internal candidate they had mentally already hired before “courtesy interviewing” me, but in the week I was waiting to hear back, I really stressed out over, “If I get this job, am I going to be expected to start giving up weekends and evenings to try and force friendships I really don’t want to have? Am I going to be perceived as antisocial or even hostile if I don’t want to hang out with coworkers outside of work?”

In all my jobs, I’ve always have good relationships with my coworkers and positive performance reviews. I’ve just never been interested in racking up friends for its own sake. I really wanted the job, and the hiring manager told me they liked me and I should reapply if another position is posted, but does it sound like culturally I wouldn’t fit? Did I misunderstand the question? What is a good way to answer it if it comes up again, and what is a good way to still be seen as friendly and engaged with coworkers without giving up the privacy of my non-working hours?

The thing to remember is that the interview is for you to learn about the employer just as much as it is for them to learn about you — and for both of you to decide if the fit is right and you want to move forward.

So the main goal in answering any interview question should never be to come up with an answer they’ll find palatable. To the extent you can, you want to have an honest conversation about what they’re looking for and how that fits with who you are, and what you’re looking for and how that fits with who they are.

So if you really don’t see yourself looking for outside-of-work events to attend with coworkers, don’t say that’s your jam. I can understand why you did — you were put on the spot and felt pressure to answer in a way they’d like — but you really, really don’t want to pretend to be someone you’re not in order to get a job … because the person who will be showing up to work every day will be real-you, not insincere-interview-answer-you.

Again, this isn’t to blame you. You were put on the spot and it’s a weird question. They at least should have explained why they were asking it, rather than acting as if of course everyone seeks out coworkers outside of work. (Most people don’t. It happens, of course, but most people aren’t seeking it out as their general M.O. or strategizing about how to do it.)

If you could re-do it, I’d suggest responding with something like this: “I’ve always found my strongest connections with colleagues are built at work, by working together, collaborating on projects, being warm, helpful and responsive, and taking a genuine interest in people’s ideas and their lives.”

That doesn’t sound anti-social, but also doesn’t misrepresent you (presumably).

But also, when you’re hit with a question that surprises you or raises questions about their culture, always always always ask about it. Otherwise you’re going to go home and agonize about what it was signaling (just as you ended up doing) and not get really important info about whether this job/manager/culture/company are for you.

So in this case, ideally you would have said (either right after answering it or later in the conversation when it was time for your own questions), “You asked about how I’d connect with coworkers outside of work. Can you tell me more about that — does the company place a big emphasis on connecting outside of work? What does that typically look like?” … and then, depending on their answer, you might even follow up with, “Have you had people who have thrived here who didn’t do much of that?” and/or “I’ve generally found it useful to disconnect from work and coworkers once the workday is over so I come back refreshed the next day. Do you think that would be an obstacle to doing well in the role?” That would give you a lot more info to help answer the questions on your mind about what would be expected of you and whether it was the wrong fit.

A lot of people don’t approach interviews this way because the power dynamics of interviews make them feel they can’t have a genuine dialogue with their interviewer. But if you’re serious about finding a job that’s a comfortable fit and where you won’t be miserable, you have to approach interviews like this — as a consultation between two people trying to decide if it makes sense to work together, rather than waiting for the employer to pass judgment on you. (Interestingly, this will also make you a more appealing candidate, at least to non-terrible managers.)

{ 242 comments… read them below }

  1. Bigglesworth*

    I recently had an Zoom interview where there was a strong emphasis on “marketing.” This was for a first-year, junior associate attorney role. I wasn’t enthralled with the position or firm to begin with, so I allowed myself to be completely honest in my answers to their questions since I didn’t really care if I got the role. The longer the interview went on, the more they liked me and the less I liked them. In the end, I withdrew from their hiring process because the firm would not have been a good fit for me.

    Interviews are two-way streets. If you won’t be a good fit for the company culture, then you’re not going to be happy working there no matter how much you like what you do.

    1. Madame X*

      I’m not convinced that was actually the question.
      However, ff that’s what they meant, then that’s what they should have asked. The question, as phrased by the OP, does not indicate that the hiring manager was inquiring about the OP’s communication style but rather how they form friendly relationships with coworkers.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Have you ever noticed your best interviews and most employer interest happen when you really don’t care if you get the job? Happens. I don’t know if it’s because you are more relaxed, natural, honest or what. The worst (at least for me) seem to be when I feel desperate for any job.

      1. juliebulie*

        My worst cover letter ever (because it was the end of the week and I needed to do two contacts per week or something):

        I am an experienced animal groomer. I do not have experience in the llama industry, but I am interested in it.

        Yep that’s the full text of my cover letter. I got the job. They were as desperate for a llama groomer as I was for a job.

          1. juliebulie*

            It was the kind of quality you would expect from a company that would respond favorably to a letter like that. It was a very bad place to work, but it was the recession so I gritted my teeth. It was so bad that at one point they asked me to falsify documents so they could make a particular sale. I said no, and at that point I was hoping they’d fire me, but they didn’t. I stayed there and kept looking and paid the bills until the company went out of business. (Twice. Long story.) The nice thing is, as bad as it was, it allowed me to put some really impressive stuff on my resume.

      2. hbc*

        I think it’s the honesty. I’m not a human lie detector by any means (I tend to be too credulous, if anything), but there’s something so off-putting about an interview where you’re only getting neutral, don’t-rock-the-boat answers across the board. I basically walk out of it pretty sure that I don’t have the information I need to make a decision, because I was given The Right answers the whole time, and not real answers.

        Now, I get someone who says, “I really don’t connect with people outside of work, unless you count LinkedIn” or “I’ll stay late when it’s needed, but if it happens more than once a month, I won’t be happy,” and I’m elated. I trust their Right answers more, and if those aren’t dealbreakers for this role, I feel more confidant that I can handle their drawbacks.

        1. Bigglesworth*

          Interesting. I hadn’t thought about it from that perspective. I’ve ever been in the interviewee role, but I could easily see how honesty from a candidate could be appealing. I know I appreciate it when my interviewers are honest about what the role requires or what they’re looking for, because I can recuse myself if needed.

          1. Problem solved*

            Honesty can be very appealing!

            I’m so important to me to work at a job I like that I always lived below my means. And with both my husband and I earning good salaries, we could both go without work for years without financial issues. That makes me an excellent tester for this theory. I’ve always gone to job interviews thinking, “You better do a good job convincing me I want to work here!” Not in an arrogant way, but to the tone of answering the connect-outside-work question exactly how Alison suggests.

            Twice I got the question, “tell me why you are the best candidate for this role”, and both times my answer was, “I have no idea if I’m the best candidate, as I haven’t talked to your other candidates. I have a proven track record on X and Y, but not even the full experience you asked in Z. Maybe you do have someone in tour pool with a history of success in all three areas and as excited as I am in tackling this job. And I’d be the first to suggest you go with that candidate if that’s the case!”

            Coincidentally or not, I got an offer both times, haha.

              1. I can only speak Japanese*

                You should be important to yourself, and that includes job satisfaction when possible!

            1. Happily Self Employed*

              I used to get the “Why are you the best candidate?” question all the time. I would typically say that “best” is relative to other candidates, but I know I am good at job tasks X, Y, Z and should be able to learn A and B quickly. This typically didn’t go over well, because (at least in the 1990s job interview culture) they wanted people who thought they were The Best, not just someone who thought they were adequate.

        2. Slightly Antisocial (OP)*

          I think that makes so much sense, that a candidate who is honest but polite is more striking than someone who is trying to say what you want to hear. I’ll have to remember this perspective for my next interview, whenever that may be…

          1. Gumby*

            You also come across as more confident when you don’t care / are more honest. My sister’s last job offer came after she straight up said in the interview that it didn’t sound like a good fit because she didn’t want a job sitting at a desk all day. I don’t know why that translated into “we must offer her this job immediately” but it did. (She didn’t take it because: desk all day.)

            1. SatsumaWolf*

              I had a friend that happened to! They actually said in the interview “let me stop you there…” explained why it wasnt a good fit for them and left the interview at that point. Next day they got a call offering them the job! They didn’t take it unsurprisingly.

        3. Idril Celebrindal*

          Absolutely it’s the honesty, in my opinion. When I’ve had interviewees who are very clear about where they’re coming from and what they are looking for, it is like a breath of fresh air, and it means that I can be confident that my assessment of them is clear and accurate. Now, sometimes that means I don’t hire them because I don’t think they’d fit in the role, but other times that has been the tipping point that made an otherwise borderline candidate into my top pick (and every one of those has been a fantastic hire).

        4. Unregretful Black Sheep*

          I’ve always tried to be as honest & open as possible in interviews, because that’s the person they’re going to get if they hire me & I’d be miserable if I was expected to be quiet & keep my head down. My last two employers both told me that part of the reason I got the job was because I was candid during the interview process. Maybe there were some gender dynamics at play, as I was a younger woman who was being interviewed by women in the C-suite so I felt more comfortable than if I were in front of old white men in suits.

          Now that I think of it, every successful job interview I’ve had since my mid-20’s has been with a woman. Hmm.

        5. Lavender Menace*

          I think that’s what it is. I feel like I don’t have a good picture of the person and who they actually are, much less whether they’d be a good fit for the role, because they told me what they thought I wanted to hear. It doesn’t help that the new roles on my team are usually filled by people who are coming straight from graduate school or from completely different jobs (that use related skills, but still are VERY different), so the candidates usually don’t actually know what I want to hear – so when they artificially try, I feel like it’s far more obvious.

      3. TacticalDeskJob*

        I’ve noticed this as well! So much so that I try to convince myself I don’t care what happens before job interviews. My best interviews have been when I can maintain that vibe.

      4. voluptuousfire*

        Yep. Years ago went for an interview for what I thought was a receptionist position. Turns out they wanted me for a different role that I had no interest in. Interviewed anyway since I was there. Did not give a whit about it. Got the job. It was when I was right out of college, so I accepted it but didn’t go for the drug testing they asked me to go for.

        What pissed me off is that I was knocked out of contention for the receptionist position because I had the experience but not the title, the experience didn’t count. Yep.

            1. Slightly Antisocial (OP)*

              I had to do drug testing for the staffing agency I started under, and again when the company hired me full time. Seems very standard for the offices where I am.

      5. Artemesia*

        The classic scene with the ‘guy who doesn’t care’ and the ‘Bobs’ in office is the perfect send up of this fact. I knew someone who thought he was about to be fired who behaved this way when confronted about his attendance — it sort of functioned as ‘negging’ is supposed to in dating ad they were begging him to stay and asking what changes they could make to make him happy by the time the conversation was done.

      6. The Other Dawn*

        This happened to me. My previous company was bought and I didn’t get an offer from the new company; I was perfectly fine with that, as I didn’t want to work for them. Since I wasn’t wanting to leave my job (none of us were), but had to, I wasn’t excited about having to look for a job. I decided I really didn’t want to go into the same part of the industry again. I really wanted to work for a vendor that serves the industry. I applied to a bunch of desired vendors, but that wasn’t working out. A company reached out to me for the same type of role I was leaving, though it was a step up, so I decided to interview. I absolutely was not excited AT ALL about interviewing, but knew I needed a job and nothing else was panning out. I went into the interview feeling like, “Well, if I bomb the interview, who cares? I don’t want to be here, but I need a job. I’ll just be myself, be honest, and be relaxed, and then see what happens.” I wasn’t nervous at all because I went in with that attitude. Turns out it was the best interview I’ve ever done and got the job. I wasn’t excited at the time, but I’m happy with my job and the company. I still feel like I want a different part of the industry, but I’m fine with being here right now. I’m gaining more experience I can use when I start applying to vendors again.

      7. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Now you made me think about it…you’re right. I’ve had the fastest offers of jobs from places where I lost interest in the job partway through the interview (the one where they made a big point of saying they needed at least one disabled woman on staff for ‘equality’ was my favourite. They offered me the job the same day and refused to accept that I wasn’t going to take it).

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      Seriously? They thought that a first year associate should be a rainmaker? How did that work out for them?

      1. Hoya lawya*

        The firm’s question is valid. All lawyers need to think about marketing and business development. It’s not a skill that suddenly you turn on like a light switch once you make partner.

  2. American Oligarchy*

    Obviously, none of this advice applies to the many people out there that live paycheck to paycheck to put food on the table or rely on job-associated healthcare to afford lifesaving medications.

    1. Archaeopteryx*

      Trading job interviews as a two-way street does apply to people In desperate circumstances to some extent. You’ll last a lot longer at whatever job you do get if you can see us out whether you’re a good fit for what they want, and whether they’re reasonable/stable/not a bucket of chaos and bees. otherwise you might be let go once they figure out that you weren’t being genuine in the interview, or you might get so stressed that you do about enough job that you get fired anyway.

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          (I like Alison said, it may even help you get the job with good employers – they may not want to hire you if it seems like you’re desperate for anything versus if it seems like you’re really making a well thought out decision.)

      1. LunaLena*

        I agree with this, and have a personal cautionary tale to go with it: I once worked for a small company that was bought out by a larger corporation, and they had some pretty draconian policies (for example, car trouble was not considered a valid excuse for being late, and there were penalties, including termination, for being late more than six times per year. Also, things like clocking a 31-minute lunch were considered “being late”). The stress induced by their policies made me desperate to get out, especially since I was extremely underpaid and had to drive over an hour one-way to get there each day with no possibility of remote work. In my desperation I ignored a bunch of red flags and took the first offer I got from a start-up, which turned out to be a move from the frying pan, straight into the oven – owner/boss flaunted employment laws and had no clue what he was doing, refused to pay me after I’d worked 12-hour days to meet a deadline that had passed before I even came on board, and then threatened to sue me for “stealing his property” (i.e. business logos and other graphics that he gave me to use because I was hired to be his graphic designer) when I quit after a month. The only thing I earned from that was a whole lot of stress and the important lesson to not ignore my gut because I’m desperate; it can always get worse.

    2. cmcinnyc*

      True, but having been there–the goal is to get off that treadmill. If you let all your ideas of job norms be formed and ruled by desperation, you make yourself easy to exploit even as your circumstances improve.

      1. Watry*

        I’m not American Oligarchy, but I get what they’re saying. When I was laid off a couple of years ago my unemployment benefits weren’t enough to cover my very expensive medication I need to live, and while I hadn’t lost my insurance, my prescription copays were extremely high.

        Now, I was lucky enough to have family willing to help, but I can absolutely imagine someone whose number one goal is to get a job, any job, at a reasonable wage before their savings run out or their unemployment ends.

        Buuuuut I also think everyone is on a spectrum of how picky they can afford to be, and Allison is mostly writing for people on the higher end of that spectrum.

        1. Watry*

          Hmmm, let me reword that last sentence: I think Allison writes with an assumption (or a reasonable inference) that most people can afford to be moderately picky unless LW says otherwise.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            I think Alison answers the question that’s actually being asked based on the information provided in the letter. In this case, none of that supports an idea that OP is at risk of starving or being homeless, but for his job. Most people are aware that that is a reality for far too many people, particularly right now with COVID-19, but it’s weird to expect Alison to reframe a question with different facts than the ones presented (and it’s also not helpful to the OP who took the time to write in).

            1. Slightly Antisocial (OP)*

              +1 Exactly. I mean, I’ve been reading the archives here nonstop for a month, and I wrote in and gave a lot of detail because I wanted help in my situation. It wouldn’t have done me much good for her to use my question as a springboard for another hypothetical situation. And if the archives were full of answers that only address hypotheticals inspired by the LWs, I wouldn’t have written in at all! It’s just a very strange complaint to make.

            2. NotAnotherManager!*

              Also, “his job” is a typo – I meant “this job”. (Normally, I leave typos be, but there is a possibility of misinterpretation between the job OP currently has and the one for which she applied.) Getting this job is described as a want, not a dire need, and we should trust OP’s knowledge/description of her own situation not project a different one.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      Well, obviously, but this letter writer mentions and current job didn’t ask for advice on how to fake an answer to a question to get a job they very desperately needed. Alison’s advice is for the question posed and not for every possible variance on a situation. The advice given here around nonprofit work is rarely applicable to my for-profit organization, nor is advice related to working at small, family-owned businesses with weird politics — but I don’t expect Alison to include a caveat that says, “This advice may not apply to all situations, including your own.” I think the readership here is bright enough to take from her advice what is applicable to their situation and leave behind what is not.

    4. t*

      The advice is still good – being honest about who you are and how you work is still important. Otherwise, you’re just going to get fired when they figure out that you’re not willing to party with them every night.

      The two way street part is also still correct – you want to understand the culture to know what you’re getting into. You might not be in a position to turn down a job at an obviously toxic workplace, but you’ll know what you’re getting into, and can hopefully come up with some coping strategies in advance.

    5. Remote Healthworker*

      I’m guessing you mean it doesn’t apply if you are unemployed and desperate? Because if you are employed and working pay check to paycheck it makes sense to follow this advice as you search while employed for sure.

      If you haven’t I also advise reading some of Alison’s other job searching articles. She does a great job laying out the different realities of searching and how you can minimize flags while not starving on the street. Here articles are grouped into categories on the menu.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I’m not the ‘OP’ of this thread but I took the comment to mean something like if you are living paycheck to paycheck so don’t have a savings ‘buffer’ or the liberty to search for the “dream” job, but although currently employed you need to move on for reasons like financial trouble at the company, a boss who has it in for you, can’t do the commute any more, need a job with different hours etc due to ‘external factors’ or any one of a number of other things that mean you need to be looking for a new job, but don’t have the luxury of being able to rule out an employer just because of a lack of cultural fit etc.

        1. hbc*

          You better be able to fake it until you make it, then. If OP got this job due to a great answer about how she loves hanging with her colleagues after work, how long do you think she holds that job if she doesn’t push through and become a social butterfly at the optional-but-not-really after hours events?

          Basically, it doesn’t matter if you don’t care about cultural fit if the employer does, and you’ll need to keep pretending you fit long past the interview.

    6. Alex*

      The question wasn’t “What magical thing could I have said that would have gotten me this job regardless of whether or not I would thrive there?”

      OP doesn’t say they are desperately in need of a job/new job to survive. And answering the ways Alison suggests aren’t going to hinder your chances of getting a job–they are going to seem genuine and thoughtful, which most interviewers would respond positively to. Interviewers can tell when you are just trying to say whatever they want to hear, regardless of its truth, and that’s not a good look for anyone, desperate or not.

    7. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yeah, I don’t love advice that minimizes the inherent power dynamic in interviews. There are certainly some people who can afford to treat interviews as a two-way street and be picky about offers – most people who already have a stable job, for instance – but that’s far from everyone. And job seekers almost always need a job more than the employer needs to fill that particular position.

      1. Persephone Underground*

        The thing is, the confidence that is communicated when you treat interviews as a two-way street can actually *increase your chances of getting the job*. Desperation is something that comes across badly, so trying to cultivate the two-way street mindset is most likely a better way to get your bills paid ASAP.

        Not unlike how my husband suddenly got asked out a lot when we were dating and he was no longer looking, so he relaxed more around women and was more confident/attractive. If you’ll do better exuding confidence and answering questions basically honestly than trying to guess what answer they want most of the time. You can’t read minds, but you can come across as someone who knows what you’re doing and what you want, even if a single answer isn’t exactly what their ideal would have been in the abstract.

        1. Problem solved*

          So much this. Even if you *are* desperate, trying to please interviewers at any cost, attempting to guess which answer will me the most appealing regardless of how fake the answer is, is more likely to lead to rejection than if you answer truthfully.

          Most of us aren’t that good of a liars, and moreover, who is to say that the answer Alison suggested isn’t exactly what the interviewer wanted to hear? Being truth to yourself will make your answer sound more genuine, and since we can’t guess the kind of answer will please our interviewer, we risk giving them exactly what they wanted to hear without sacrificing our integrity.

          And eve if the answer wasn’t ideal, they may become so impressed with the candidate’s honesty that they end up making an offer.

          It’s not like the strategy “lie in an attempt to please your interviewer” is a proven strategy to get a job. No matter how desperate you are, that’s not how we secure employment.

    8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You’re welcome to come up with creative answers and lie your way into a job seat. It’s not going to help your paycheck to paycheck issue if you are let go because you don’t fit into the company.

      But an advice blog on how to not just get a job but to thrive and be happy at work isn’t the right place for desperately seeking employment even if you have to bend yourself into a pretzel and lie through your teeth isn’t the place in that case either.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        You’re welcome to come up with creative answers and lie your way into a job seat. It’s not going to help your paycheck to paycheck issue if you are let go because you don’t fit into the company.

        My thoughts on this exactly. Suppose you come up with a magical answer that the employer expected. How’s it going to help when a few months later, you are a bad fit, you hate going into work every morning, your job is hanging by the thread, all of it is taking a toll on your health, and you’re still paycheck to paycheck?

        Reminds me of a diagram I saw on Mark Manson’s website (I don’t always agree with Mark, but I liked that one). He said that a common mistake is to assume that a bad marriage or romantic relationship is still better than no marriage or relationship at all. But, with the ultimate goal of being in a relationship you’re happy and fulfilled in, when you’re single, reaching that goal is a one-step process: 1) find a partner who is a match. Whereas if you’re in a bad relationship, it becomes three steps: 1) dissolve the bad relationship, 2) recover from the dissolution, 3) find a partner who’s a good match. Having had a few jobs where I was an awful fit, I really believe this logic applies to jobs too.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            That’s the very one I meant! I guess it wasn’t Mark Manson after all. Thank you!

    9. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Yeah, unfortunately that’s a blind spot of this blog. Alison gives wonderful advice for professionals who have dedicated skills that are sufficiently in-demand such that they have options to choose from.

      The vast majority of the workforce, especially now, does not.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I frequently include caveats about advice needing to be different if you feel you don’t have options. That didn’t seem to be this LW’s situation (as she’s confirmed again here in the comments).

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I guess my question to those complaining about the fact that not all job seekers can follow all advice is what do you think needs to be done differently? Include a caveat on all posts that says, “This advice may not apply to you if you if you are in dire straights and need not this job but any job at all. Or, really, if you’re in any other non-analogous situation.” or a “Not all advice applies to all situations” disclaimer? I feel like the readership here is bright enough to not need either of those spelled out.

        Each letter writer is sending their question in because they want to know how to navigate their own specific issues and not those of the workforce as a whole – the rest of us are just along for the read. Even if the “vast majority” of people aren’t having a specific issue, the LW is and cared about it (or wanted advice) enough to write in, even if it’s not a universal or majority problem. And, you know, it’s free.

        And, finally, when people write in and state that they are in a crappy situation and can’t afford to lose a job, Alison addresses their situation, empathizes, and often apologizes for not having a more palatable answer. Questions here range from nonprofit work to internships to retail/food service and everything in between – it’s not all high-demand professional questions. She isn’t blind to the shittier aspects of employment nor glossed over that legality/morality/reality are often not the same and not on a particular letter writer’s side, and she points out to managers who write in that they have more responsibility in situations because of that power. She’s given people advice on making the best of crappy circumstances that, for one reason or another, they can’t escape. Not sure what more y’all want.

      3. Taniwha Girl*

        I mean… it’s not that kind of blog.

        This is like going to a financial advice blog and saying “well some people can’t afford to save money” or going to a fitness blog and saying “well some disabled people can’t work out.”

        Like, OK, well this blog is for the people who want to do what they can. “Not everyone can eat sandwiches.”

      4. Lavender Menace*

        Alison gives advice to the letter writers about their specific situation. She’s had tons of answers on this site for people looking for internships, working in retail or food service, students, volunteering etc.

        This is kind of like the “not everyone can eat sandwiches” thing. No, this answer is not intended to help everyone, but no advice site can claim to be universally and uniformly applicable to everyone who reads it. This answer will apply to some people and not others, just like any questions about workplace holiday parties won’t apply to people who work from home 100%, or the logistics and etiquette of work travel won’t apply to people who don’t travel for work, etc.

        Besides, I don’t think the advice that you should be honest and evaluate a job just as much as the job evaluates you is good advice for only professionals with dedicated skills that are in-demand. I took the same approach with my first job search out of graduate school when I had very little experience. I’ve taken the same approach when looking for jobs my whole life, and I’ve always been paycheck to paycheck and working-class *until* this last job. I watched both my parents grind themselves to the bone on jobs they were unhappy in, and I saw the night and day difference when my (still working-class) mom found a job that she loved.

        1. Happily Self Employed*

          I used to follow the obsolete job seeking advice that you need to figure out what the employer wants to hear, and tell them that, even if you will end up being in a job/company that’s a terrible fit. That is literally what I was taught in job-seeker programs.

          This was despite the plentiful job opportunities compared to nowadays (mostly admin assistant), and I could have easily gotten something better at the same pay rate within a week or two if I’d taken Alison’s advice. Instead, I ended up in a lot of jobs I didn’t last in very long (or the company failed soon) and was stressed out at work and at home. I probably did myself a disservice by accumulating a sketchy looking work history.

        2. Jojo*

          My job is in contract maintenance. Very little in it pertains to my field. I find it amazing the crap some people have to put up with for job. But i love this site. Some of it does give me ideas on to deal crappy coworkers. Or how to phrase things. And some of it might come in handy if i change fields as i age. Never worked anywhere where an employer provides a kitchen or drinks and food. Just amazes me. And the sqabbles has over them. Where i work if you do not clean your mess in the break room they remove that breakroom from everyone. Company travel is common, as a carpool with company provided vehicle and gas. Stuff like that.

    10. JSPA*

      If that were true of OP, OP would presumably be hashing over how a different answer might have led the company to make an offer…not whether they would make an offer and then turn out to be a miserable fit.

      If you want to ask the first question, Alison (if she chose to answer it) would presumably answer your question. Instead, she’s answering OP’s question.

      Though frankly, I don’t even agree it’s true that saying anything and everything you think/hope someone wants to hear–sincere or not–is more likely to get you

      a) any job


      b) a job that’s a good enough match to not leave you worse than before, within weeks.

      If you’re desperate for a job, you’re nirmslly even more desperate for a job that you can keep. And should be even more invested in finding a job where they want you to succeed.

    11. Lavender Menace*

      Yes, it does – you just have to apply it judiciously. If nothing else, experienced interviewers can be pretty good at seeing through the bs, and candidates that treat interviews like a two-way conversation actually come off better in interviews.

  3. RB*

    That would have been a red flag for me. If this was your only job prospect and you really needed the job, it sounds like the kind of work place where you might need to have “preplanned” things you do in the evenings, like classes, taking care of a child or relative, etc., so that it didn’t seem like you were being antisocial if you turned down a lot of invites.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Same – have been fortunate to enjoy working with most of my coworkers and peers, but I have precious little time with my family and to myself with work and commuting and other obligations as it is. (One of the only good things about being on work-from-home is that I get to eat dinner with my kids daily and we have time to do more together in the evenings.) I do not hang out with my coworkers outside the office. Many of them are similarly-situated, though, so there’s little expectation of extracurricular meet-ups. My organization does have extracurricular outings – fielding recreational sports teams, a pub quiz team, a bowling group, just-after-work socials in the office, etc.; however, they events are truly optional and no one gets dinged for not attending.

    2. Slightly Antisocial (OP)*

      That’s exactly what I started getting afraid about! I’ve really only had one professional job–my current one–and the other ones revolved around college, so “outside of work” activities were “school activities.” I’ve never in my life had to come up with “ways to connect with coworkers outside of work” and it never even crossed my mind that coworkers would be interested in such a thing.

      I was a little relieved to hear over the phone “we went with our other candidate,” because I was picturing my life becoming, as you say, a bunch of flimsy excuses to get out of after-hours socializing. (And I am *terrible* at those kinds of excuses!)

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        I’ve never in my life had to come up with “ways to connect with coworkers outside of work”

        For what it’s worth I’ve been in the workplace around 20 years in numerous companies and I talk to a lot of people… and I’ve never heard of this as an interview question, so I think that may have been a bit of an outlier!

        The only exception I can think of is maybe if the job itself is about employee engagement and stuff like that, but even then it sounds a bit iffy.

        Amusingly I’ve had the converse experience though, where I’ve asked the interviewer about the social/cultural aspects of the company like activities etc and the interviewer was the introvert type who didn’t get involved in stuff like that — it wasn’t held against me, although I can see that that type of question needs to be presented quite carefully to avoid coming off as “work is my social life and I occasionally complete a couple of tasks that actually benefit the company”!!

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I agree – it is a super weird question that I’ve neither asked nor encountered in nearly 25 years in the workforce. I do get interviewees asking sometimes about opportunities to connect outside of work, which I can answer, but it’s not something they are expected or required to do (so I’m not wasting my interview time on it nor risking putting someone off for something that has no bearing on the job). As someone mentioned in the comments, work friendships tend to form organically, if that’s what they’re into.

      2. allathian*

        When I was a new graduate and in my first professional job, my team consisted mostly of young professionals like me. Most of us were single, none of us had children or any other family members in need of care, so we socialized quite a lot after work. Almost all of us went out for a drink or two on Friday.
        As I’ve grown older and have acquired family obligations, as have most of my coworkers in my current job, this is much less common, there’s something social organized a few times a year. It’s also OK to opt out if I can’t make it that time, or ever.

  4. Roscoe*

    I think connecting outside of work has its pros and cons. I’ve had jobs where my co-workers were (and remain) some of my closest friends. I’ve had others where it was very much I’d come in, do my job, and go home. But if there was an occasional happy hour, I’d go. I think however each person wants to do it is fine. However, I can also see how if you do have a very tight knit team, which I’ve worked on, having one person come in who never has a desire to join in can easily put them on the outs, even when its no one’s fault. But, if you have a 6 person team, and 5 of them go out all the time on weekends, and one never wants to, it can easily manifest itself in other ways. Like, its just logical to me that you are going to choose to work on projects with people you get along with better. And sometimes, the odd person out starts internalizing it more, even if there is no malice there, its just easier to work with Bob who you know better outside of work.

    So overall, depending on how the existing team is, I don’t think the question itself is unfair to make sure they get someone in the roll who works well with the others.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Same here! When I was in my 20’s and 30’s I worked a few places that were very social, though nothing was mandatory. Mostly like minded people going for lunch, drinks and sometimes people would have small parties. It was in Los Angeles, so maybe it was more of a thing there or age bracket. Some of those people are still great friends!
      But I have to admit, I look for that much less now. When the work day is done, I just want to go home. I’ve always been introverted, but is it possible to become more introverted? I mean, I’m not a recluse or antisocial, but I just don’t enjoy going to bars and parties and any more. But if I travel for work, like doing trade shows and such, I will go out after the show for a drink with my coworkers. I just don’t want that on a regular basis.

      1. allathian*

        Oh, definitely. Especially if you have a family or other things outside of work that you want to prioritize on, socializing at work simply becomes less important.
        I do enjoy socializing a lot, but it seems to me that the older I get, the easier I’m peopled out. Even when I’m enjoying myself, being around people, especially people I don’t know all that well, is exhausting. So I’ve become more fussy about if I’m willing to do it or not, knowing the cost either way.

    2. Triumphant Fox*

      The place where I made the best friends was totally dysfunctional – we become close through shared stress and the knowledge that we had each others’ backs through impossible circumstances. My life is more balanced now, but also I don’t feel I can hang out with work colleagues because I manage them.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I have friends from a job twenty years ago that was like that. We still go out a few times a year and reminisce about the horror.

        1. Triumphant Fox*

          Yes! And I wouldn’t trade that year – it gave me a foot in the door to an industry I love. I always had the BEST stories from that job, because so much happened every day and several coworkers were just bananas. It wasn’t quite a “My Boss pees in the sink!” situation or verbally abusive, more like telling the client we have a team of 30 when we had a team of 12 including accounting and the receptionist and then expecting us to meet the expectations of that 30 person team. After I left, I heard they hired actors for a few office tours they gave to clients to fill seats. It’s been really fun seeing us land in better places, gain perspective, and ask why we stayed as long as we did.

          1. JSPA*

            They…hired actors?!

            Temps, I can see. They think big, they have not grown as big as they expected to, they bring people in to do some extra work, and make sure it overlaps with client tours…it’s a little dodgy, but, eh.

            But, actors? Even from inside their own head, that should have looked risky. What if the prospective client asked one of the actors a question? Or they noticed that nothing was actually getting done, passing by the same person on the way in, and the way out? Or they asked someone for their card, or wanted to chat about their background?

    3. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Yeah, I’m friends with some former and current coworkers and not with others. That has to happen naturally and not be forced. I’m usually fine with most of my coworkers whether we become friends or not, but can’t stand to be forced to spend my own personal time with anyone from work. Sure there is the occasional work dinner, etc. which is fine, but it shouldn’t be all that often.

  5. juliebulie*

    You answered the question honestly. They didn’t ask you if you would connect with them. They asked how you would connect with them.

    For all you know, they may have asked because they wanted to steer clear of the person who enthusiastically replied “oh, I like to post a signup sheet for fun weekend activities and encourage all my coworkers to go. I also organize daily happy hours and if someone seems shy, I’ll try twice as hard with them!”

    It’s natural (and sometimes fun) to dissect all the weird things that happen during a job interview, but since you know only your side of it, you shouldn’t assume that your interpretation is correct.

    Generally, I have not spent much social time with coworkers; but the small amount of time that I have, was spent the way you described in your answer. So really, I think it was a very realistic and sensible answer.

    1. Kelly White*

      This is a great point- they may have been trying to find someone who doesn’t really want to connect outside of work!
      All I can think of is someone previously in the role who was also involved in a MLM, or wanted to start a dodgeball team, or something like that-

      1. juliebulie*

        I was thinking more like a self-appointed Morale Police who demands that everyone be happy, engaged, connected, and best friends with all of their coworkers. But MLM, dodgeball, etc too.

        I mean the way the question was worded, it did sound like they thought it was a good thing. But it could also be that the answer they were looking for was literally anything that didn’t sound like it would end in a call to 911.

    2. Slightly Antisocial (OP)*

      That would make a lot of sense, and is a good point. They didn’t give much feedback about what I said, I mentioned paying attention to where interests might intersect, and then mentioned the sorts of activities I’ve done before, so while I’ve spent the whole some worrying they wanted an extra poker buddy, perhaps they really were just trying to weed out a non-stop socialite or MLM enthusiast!

      1. juliebulie*

        If you read some of the stories on this site then you can see the terrifying vastness and variety of bad experiences. That’s why I believe that it’s best not to make too many assumptions, and just be yourself, and ask questions when you’re not sure.

    3. Smithy*

      One piece about this question I’m wondering is if it’s particularly COVID related and is perhaps more about asking “how do you build positive relationships with your coworkers at a time when you can’t just exchange morning pleasantries?”

      I work on a team that is very relationship centered and while that’s always included 1 or 2 after 5 team happy hours a year, most of it is during work hours. So taking the time to get a morning/afternoon coffee, setting up a cooking Slack channel, etc. My field is heavily relationship driven, so while I’m sure our team has a mix of introverts and extroverts, or people who don’t want friends and those who are very open to it – the larger practice of building good relationships connects to our work and is helpful to have across the team.

      That being said, I do think that Alison’s first point around asking questions to clarify would have been hugely helpful. If this is the team’s first hire during COVID times, I could see trying to include questions around “how do you connect remotely” and being more awkward about it.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        That is a good point, and it could also explain why the question sounds a little odd and thrown together, at least to my ear. It could very well be that the precautions they’ve had to take recently have brought to light some issues, or at least concerns, with morale and keeping folks connected that they haven’t run into before.

      2. Slightly Antisocial (OP)*

        I mention in a couple other comments, COVID really wasn’t on the table in mid-February where I am. So while the question itself might make more sense in the WFH society we’ve evolved into, I’m sure it wasn’t on anyone’s minds in the interview. Actually, as COVID became more of an issue, most places in the industry (and other industries, if the recent post “my job offer got delayed because of COVID-19 — will it ever come back?” is anything to go by) have gone into total hiring freeze. There’s almost no way I would’ve been interviewed if this had been a concern.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        My team has been working pretty hard to connect with their coworkers via calls or IM. I do get just-saying-hi IMs pretty much every day or small questions just to stay connected. We did a virtual happy hour with one team that is 75% introvert last week, and it was fun – we got to meet people’s pets and significant others, but it was also voluntary and limited to an hour (and the organizer sent out some questions in advance to get people talking – we ended up on a fun tangent on music and book recommendations).

        The hardest part is the people that were recently on-boarded – it is so, so much easier to do that when people can just swing by and say hi in the office. We have ended up scheduling short meet-and-greet calls, small group meetings, and pairing them with different team members to learn different things. I want them to “meet” their peers as much as possible. But it is weird and acknowledging that it’s weird and not ideal has been part of the package. This is not normal and not the way we wanted to welcome them, but here we are.

  6. Cynical B*****

    Ewww. Friendships at the workplace need to develop organically in my opinion, if they have to at all.

    Honestly, I think the question was a bit of a trap and the interviewer was looking for a specific answer that wasn’t happy hour.

    If I was asked, I’d turn the question back on them. “Does the company have organized activities like competitive llama grooming? I might be interested in that.”

    Hate hate HATE forced togetherness.

    1. designbot*

      Agreed, and I think I would have answered something like, “I don’t know that I’ve ever purposefully pursued that! I do have some real friendships that developed at work, and I keep in touch with many former colleagues to some extent or another, but I’ve never really gone in with the goal of moving work friendships to personal time. Either we discover that we have genuine shared interests we’d like to pursue together or we don’t, but I don’t think that’s entirely necessary to form productive working relationships or even lasting connections with coworkers.”

    2. juliebulie*

      Careful. You say something like that and next thing you know, you’ll be expected to be the captain of the llama grooming team. Four nights a week and all day Saturday. We’re so glad we hired you!

    3. The Rural Juror*

      That’s a good point. They need to let it be organic, not manufactured or forced!

    4. Threeve*

      They aren’t necessarily asking about friendships when they say “connecting.” Some workplaces just have a culture where people do lunches, happy hours, volunteer activities, etc. It doesn’t mean they’re trying to force everyone to be BFFs. It’s not my preference, but it’s not an outrageous overstep.

      1. Cynical B*****

        This is true. Me, I read ‘connecting’ with a deeper social meaning than may have been meant.

        I don’t personally care for activities like this, as they reward the outgoing and the extroverted. The introverted who need to leave events early because Too Many People often get derided or penalized for ‘not being a team player.’

        I’m thinking of a departmental retreat that was especially heinous.

    5. The Original K.*

      Yes. People work together 8+ hours a day. If they want to become friends, they will.

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I would’ve honestly said “I would expect the connecting to happen organically as we develop a working relationship”.

      Saying this as someone who has close friends from every job I’ve worked, and have dated several ex-coworkers. But in all of those cases, the connection came from working together. To try and force it through “team-building events” is, to me, putting the cart before the horse.

  7. Delta Delta*

    I think this is a fair question if that’s a big part of the company’s culture. If it turns out the company has a culture of socializing outside of work, it’s fair for them to know if a potential hire is a good fit. and it’s also good for a potential hire to be able to screen themselves out if that’s not their jam. I agree it would have been great for the OP to follow up to find out the reason for the question because there could be all sorts of reasons for its asking.

    1. WellRed*

      But it has the same problem as any other questions that claim to be screening for the mysterious “fit.” For example, it pretty much screens out anyone with caregiver duties (therefore also screening out people who may be a tad older). See how slippery that slope is? I say this as a 50 yo child free person who’s often up for a bit of post work socializing.

      1. irene adler*

        Yes exactly!
        If outside of work socializing is so important that it is used as a determination of whether the candidate can do the job, why not indicate this in the job description? Then I won’t even bother to apply because I have parent care duties that limit this sort of thing.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      IMO it’s a fair thing to want to know*, but a rather odd way of actually seeking out that information. Yeah, if there’s a big culture of socialising outside of work etc and you want to see if the candidate would fit with that… you could mention about that culture, talk about some of the types of things that they do outside of work and so on. “How would you connect with co-workers” etc, without any context, is a more obscure and difficult question.

      * That’s often how teams and companies end up with a “cliquey” or homogenous culture of people and not much diversity, but I expect you know that so I won’t dwell on it, although it is an important thing to think about.

  8. Phoebe*

    I would have been taken aback too. I have zero (zip, nada) interest in ‘connecting’ with anyone I work with outside of work. I don’t even want to ‘connect’ with them at work. I don’t need to hear about their kids, what they did on the weekend, their vacation and so on. Unless they are talking to me about something work related I don’t need to hear from them. This includes idle chat and greetings in the morning. I don’t volunteer anything about my own lives to them either. I would definitely not work in a place where I am expected to ‘befriend’ my coworkers. I’m an introvert too and I highly value my time alone. Good workplaces would not expect their employees to be friends and I think the OP was right to be miffed by the question. I do think the answer was good considering the circumstances.

      1. merp*

        Yeah, just reading this felt a bit hostile. I’m not someone who befriends all my coworkers or spends time with them outside work other than a very occasional happy hour, but I do think it’s generally nice to be sociable with the people I spend 40 hours a week with. And hey, sometimes people take cool vacations! Obviously people have vastly different wants and expectations and that’s fine, but I would not want to have coworkers like this personally.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I’m introverted. I’m completely remote. I work with different teams. And this never exchanging a friendly greeting thing would be way bizarre.

        Like The Man etc said: this is a far outlier viewpoint that is not synonymous with “introvert.”

      3. allathian*

        Yeah, comments like this give polite introverts a bad name. Answering a greeting should not be too much to ask no matter how introverted one happens to be.

    1. Frank Doyle*

      This is a very extreme position. You don’t like greeting people in the mornings?

      I don’t think that coworkers need to be “friends” outside of work, but having friendly and warm relationships between coworkers leads to a better and more productive workplace.

      1. Slightly Antisocial (OP)*

        Frank, I actually can tell a funny story about office greetings: when I started at my current job, my desk was the very last one in our cubicle block. After some reorganization–both physically moving walls and also people being let go–I was literally the only one in that row, and between our schedules and the way I came into/left the building, I might not see anyone else in my department for 2-3 days. Last year, desks were reorganized again, putting me in the very center of the department with people on every side of me. I won’t lie, I was daily alarmed by my cubicle neighbor who said good morning to me every day. I understand it was politeness, and this person is just the sweetest ever, but it sends my social anxiety into a tailspin of, “How long do I have to talk to her? Is ‘good morning’ back sufficient? Or is it rude? Am I going to be asked questions?” Or if they didn’t say good morning, I’d start freaking out, “Should I say it? How long is too long to wait to say it? Am I rude if I don’t say it?” So yes, some people don’t like to greet coworkers. It’s not rudeness. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I just want to focus on my work.

        1. merp*

          I say this as someone who also experiences anxiety in my own way, but these kinds of anxiety spirals aren’t the other person’s fault for saying hi. In my experience in various offices, yes, people who say good morning just are perfectly happy with a perfunctory “good morning” back, no need to have a conversation or even stop what you’re doing, and if you absentmindedly don’t respond at all sometimes, most people wouldn’t think anything of it. It would maybe be better to address the anxiety spirals than to hope everyone else ignores you entirely.

          1. Slightly Antisocial (OP)*

            Oh, absolutely! I don’t mean to put any blame whatsoever on the other person. I don’t enjoy being said hi to, but I certainly don’t expect everyone to magically know that, let alone cater to it :) And yes I’ve always said “good morning” back. I don’t even necessarily hope to be ignored, it’s just the inevitable thought process, and I know no one is responsible for someone else’s thought process.

            1. merp*

              I came back here because I worried that my comment had come off harshly and didn’t acknowledge how hard interrupting an anxiety spiral is. I hope it didn’t come across that way! And yeah, this interview question was for sure a weird one, even to me who would sometimes consider hanging out after work occasionally. I hope you find a workplace that works for you :)

              1. Slightly Antisocial (OP)*

                No worries :) I’m not sure why people keep reading my comment to mean that I totally cold-shoulder someone I describe as “the sweetest ever,” but I guess I wasn’t clear since so many people keep reading it that way! I know I have some strong anxiety issues, but they are in my head much more than they are exhibited, so they are under control. It just doesn’t necessarily sound that way of course when I’m describing the way they make me feel, as opposed to how I actually behave. (And it’s good to know that others are seeing the question as weird, and it wasn’t just my social anxiety telling me it’s weird.)

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          I’m sorry, but not acknowledging people absent a reason not to (you’re on the phone, engaged in another conversation) is at least a little rude, regardless of the reason you don’t do it. The other person can’t see inside your head to know that you’re in a social anxiety tailspin any more than you can see if not being greeted may also set off a similar spiral in them (Is OP mad at me? Is it because I pointed out that mistake in her TPS report? I did shower this morning but let me take discreet whiff…). All people have to go on is what they see and hear.

          I empathize as someone far along the introversion spectrum that I can’t see the midpoint line and as someone who will internally flog myself for not making the right decision socially – but I recognize that those tailspins are MY issue to deal with and that I can’t let my stuff manifest itself as rudeness in the workplace, whether that’s ignoring people, pointing out errors in their work in a public or unkind way, or tapping my foot impatiently when someone brings up a non-work topic that I am not interested in at all.

          If morning greetings are an anxiety trigger, that is a time to get some help, whether in therapy or an adult social skills group. That helped me immensely, and it also ended up being great preparation for parenting a kid on the spectrum who struggles with social interactions.

          1. Slightly Antisocial (OP)*

            :) I definitely never ignore a greeting. My brain just goes into overdrive of “how little can I get away with without hurting someone’s feelings.”

            The local culture of course plays a big part here: that’s why I emphasized that for most of my time at this job, I didn’t even see people on a daily basis. Very few people in the department pay any attention to anyone else’s comings and goings, so it’s just that I’m not used to someone saying “good morning” every single time I see them. And that’s also why I was uneasy about the interview question, because I would be very out of my depth to switch from a very independent role in a large office to being on a smaller, far more socially-minded team. But I loved everything else about that job, which is why I was looking for a better way to deal with the question–and I think Alison really nailed it. I’d be very comfortable taking any of those suggested statements into another interview.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Got it – sorry for misunderstanding! Frankly, your mostly head-down, autonomous set up sounds like a dream to me, but I’m over a decade into a management career, and that has… really required me to grow my people skills, if you will. :)

              I do think it’s a good sign that the hiring manager encouraged you to apply for other positions, too!

            2. Smithy*

              I think knowing yourself and how the kind of work environment you want is hugely important. My team’s work involves a lot of external facing meetings as well as internal cross department meetings and it’s incredibly common to schedule coffee’s with coworkers during work hours. Those conversations an be personal or more about work ambitions/thought-feelings, but it’s common – and during COVID-19, the emphasis on “building bridges” that was has increased from our leadership.

              If all of this sounds like nails on the chalkboard, then truly good for you to know in advance. And while I enjoy that aspect on our team, if it truly was about a large number of outside work activities (i.e. camping, soft-ball team, etc) – that would not be for me.

              So yeah – just want to highlight that this can be a range as well. All of which may sound terrible, but if you find yourself hearing “oh no, we’d never do weekend picnics” – there are also middle grounds (monthly happy hours, coffee hours) that if those also really turn you off, would also be good to know about.

          2. Jojo*

            Some people just are not with it first thing in the morning. We have one guy on my office that does not speak until he has been in at least an hour. I say hi any way. Don’t care if he answers or not. Sounds like you have social anxiety issues.

        3. Observer*

          Two things. Firstly, there is difference between what you are saying and what Phoebe is saying.

          Secondly, sometime one doesn’t mean to be rude but the behavior is still effectively rude. Refusing to say good morning is rude, even if that’s not what you intend. And let’s get real, saying good morning is not mutually exclusive to focusing on your work, unless someone insists on interrupting you when you are obviously focused on something.

          1. Jojo*

            No, he is not rude. He just does not do mornings. Just his thing. Different strokes for different folks. Workbis a public place. You have to make allowances for different personalities. After all, they make allowances for your personality.

      2. Mama Bear*

        I had a boss that expected a specific greeting every morning and good bye every evening. It became a checkbox vs a genuine thing. Of note: she never reciprocated. But that said I do greet coworkers in the hall. Maybe don’t chit chat as much as other folks, but a wave (now that they can’t see me smile) or a Hi or a nod helps people not feel ignored and you get better work support if people think you like them even a little. IMO, just be purposeful in your walk if you need to so you don’t get sucked into a conversation, or if they say, “Do you have a minute” reply with something that indicates you only have a couple of minutes to spare.

        I generally don’t socialize with coworkers outside of work. I have other friends and my “work friends” tend to be transient and situational but I’ll usually grab lunch with someone if asked.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s a pretty … outlier viewpoint. The company’s question was weird, but not wanting any contact with people at work is also pretty unusual, and will hold you back professionally in many jobs.

      1. Clark Kellyson*

        Phoebe is hardly an outlier on AAM regarding this. There are many letters and complaints in open threads about saying good morning to colleagues, or having to talk to them at work. Phoebe is hardly the first to express it. Her views are shared by a good chunk of those who comment here.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          There’s usually a small number of commenters (around 1-3, in most cases) saying this on any given post when it comes up, which is not a “good chunk” of commenters. Sometimes they repeat themselves, which can make it feel like more people than it actually is. Others generally contradict them, correctly so. (And it’s certainly an outlier view in society at large.)

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          And AAM is a very small sample group, we are heavily populated by people who describe themselves as “antisocial” and “because I’m an introvert I don’t like humans”.

          This isn’t an outlier in THIS GROUP of people, it’s an outlier in the scheme of things. This is the internet, where the minority often feels it’s easier to speak out.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            As one of those introverts who’s not crazy about people as a whole, though, I can and do muster pleasantries, politeness, and interest in my team and coworkers. I don’t know when “introverted” became a cover for being an asshole with no social skills, but, truly, not all of us feel that way. So the anti-greeting crowd is a subset of a subset.

            1. allathian*

              Hard agree.
              A former coworker of mine was so much not a morning person that she’d literally growl at me if I made the mistake of greeting her before lunch. At the time we had core hours 9-3, although she was rarely at work before 9.30. Our boss was fine with that, because she was a good performer. She’d usually answer cheerfully enough when I said goodbye for the day. I suspect that if she could choose, she’d work 12-8 pm. I, on the other hand, am often at work at 7 when the rest of my life allows me to do so.

        3. Spencer Hastings*

          I’m pretty convinced at this point that people are just making assumptions based on their own office layout. What would feel like an obligatory greeting in an open office or bullpen type of area would feel like going out of your way to talk to someone in a labyrinthine cube farm. (My situation is the latter, and I feel like I operate by different “rules” depending on whether it’s an “at our desks” scenario or a “run into each other in the hallway” or “hanging out in the seminar room waiting for the meeting to start” scenario.)

    3. Slightly Antisocial (OP)*

      Thanks, and your vehemence accurately reflects how I feel! I can fake the polite office chit-chat, but I’m just not at work to make BFFs and find people to go camping with or whatever. Remember The Sims? That question made me think of the game’s requirement, “You need +1 friend for a promotion” so you’d trap some unsuspecting NPC in your house and “Tell Joke” until it popped up with, “You are now friends!” Not what I want IRL, not at all.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is kind of from one extreme to the other, though, and a happy medium tends to make for a better work experience. I am an extreme introvert, but I think there is a big difference between expecting to give up your personal time to “connect” with your coworkers and not wanting to talk to them at all outside of work duties, including morning greetings. I manage a very large team, and people appreciate it when you treat them at a human being with a life outside of work rather than a cog in a machine.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Agree. Frankly, for me being an introvert means that I *want* to have at least friendly-colleague relationships with my coworkers, because I’m going to have to interact with them in order to do my work. If I’m going to be using up a lot of my people energy anyway, I might as well hear funny cat stories in addition to metadata schemas.

        1. Slightly Antisocial (OP)*

          Sarah, you get all the upvotes for your name and also “metadata schemas” <3 I'm also in technical services! I certainly have no problem interacting with people at work, if necessary, but my off hours are mine, all mine!

      2. allathian*

        Yes, definitely this. It also makes for a more pleasant working environment when you can relate to others on a personal level.

    5. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I chuckled when I read this, as I can (vicariously) relate!

      I’m an extrovert in a team of mostly other extroverts, and I know all about their kids (and ages of their kids, what the teacher said at the most recent parents meeting, what the kids currently like and don’t like and so on…) and what they watched on TV last night and the problems they are having with the local council enforcing a parking restriction and and and….. and then there’s the office banter with puns, ideas, wordplay, pranks (innocent, not harmful ones) on each other…

      Meanwhile my highly introvert partner works in a place populated with other introverts and apparently their greetings in the morning are often just a facial expression, they don’t talk about any of this stuff, they kind of shuffle up to each other’s desks and ask about something work-related if they couldn’t resolve it over email/IM (with someone sitting 10 feet across the office — this was before coronavirus, they’re all WFH right now and he says it’s amazing and can we be on lockdown permanently!) … all the while both looking uncomfortable)

      I said don’t you feel kind of cut off from people when no one engages on a more interactive level like that? He said no, we’re here to work and get the job done and everybody is just focused on that!

      We agreed to disagree that he’d hate working in my place and I’d hate working in his.

      There’s a niche for everybody!

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      For the millionth time, this is not what being an introvert even means.

      By all means, always be truthful and self select out of situations you don’t find suiting. That’s important. But it has nothing to do with “Good place to work” verses “bad place to work”. Everyone has their preferences, you are welcome to not work somewhere you don’t like the culture of but “Good” verses “bad” is so obnoxious.

  9. Archaeopteryx*

    I definitely agree that this is a weird and offputting question that they should have explained the reasoning for. I connect with coworkers outside of work only if we develop a genuine friendship, which takes time and compatibility. it definitely shouldn’t be a default assumption that I will want to hang out with other people just because we have pleasant conversations in the office and happen to do the same job.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      My theory about most weird and offputting interview questions is that they indicate a past Fergus in the role, an experience the company doesn’t want to repeat. Like very bizarre rules in the employee handbook about not eating your cubicle.

    2. Glitsy Gus*

      Yeah, it sounded weird to me too. I actually wondered at first f they were not actually talking about social things, but more in the “Wakeen isn’t in the office, but you have a question for him. How do you go about connecting with someone in that situation?” Which is also weird, but I could at least see asking about your thought process on that one, such as, “Well, I’d see if anyone else had the answer first. If he’s WFH, then I’d probably try email or IM, if I couldn’t reach him that way, then I’d give him a call. If Wakeen is on PTO then calling him on his cell is clearly a last resort and I’d only do that in an emergency.” That kind of thing. Again, it would make me wonder if they have issues with boundary pushers, but that was what I thought the question was.

      Asking about social relationships is weird in a different way, but yeah, this is a chance to be yourself and answer honestly, which I think OP did. I mean, yeah, I get wanting the job, but if it’s going to be social hour all day, every day there and that is going to set your teeth on edge, it’s good to know that.

  10. Falling Diphthong*

    While this could reflect a past employee who was too stand-offish for the culture, I immediately thought of people who are the other way around. Who if they have a question Thursday night will email your work address, then call your home number, then call your emergency contacts until they track you down. Or an office full of people who like work and home to be separate, and the last person in this role really wanted work to be like their family and friend group all rolled into one.

    All of which leads back to Alison and Archaeopteryx’s advice to not try and guess which direction they’re hoping you’ll jump, and say something that suggests you are self-sufficient yet pleasant.

  11. female peter gibbons*

    My first instinct would probably be to pause and say something like “In whatever way that would make them feel comfortable”. But that’s probably not what they were looking for. I would hate to be contacted by coworkers outside of work against my will.

  12. Chronic Overthinker*

    The way I viewed the question was in relation to work. If I needed to contact my co-workers outside of work I would check my contacts for a personal cell number or email and contact them that way. Otherwise I would ask the interviewer to elaborate and figure out why that is an important detail and if that works for me.

    My current company culture is all about celebrations. The offices often have holiday parties at Partners homes and invite all of the staff. It is a fun idea, though I’ve not yet participated. I was thankful for the invite though and when it is safe to do so, I will think about joining them this year.

    1. MatKnifeNinja*

      That’s how I heard it. Something is going down at the office, and how would you reach out to get help/clarification/etc? Not how you would start up bowling league night with your fellow cubies.

      I would have asked for more clarification on the question. Is this connecting with co-workers on a job related issue, or building outside comradery with office mates?

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I didn’t read it that way initially, although I’ve re-read the question with your comment in mind and I suppose it could be about that. With the emphasis on “needed” to contact co-workers, presumably for a work-related reason.

      I think if that’s what they are asking about, it could be a bit of a red flag about the company culture…

      …because if that’s the case it reads to me like “if there’s something urgent outside of work that you need to contact a co-worker about but they have gone offline on Skype [or whatever your company channel of choice is]… what additional methods would you try?”

      I once, in my previous job, got hit up on LinkedIn messaging from someone I wasn’t already “acquainted” (or whatever you do on LinkedIn to be friends) with, whom I was working with at my company in a different office to transition some out-of-hours support stuff, as I hadn’t answered the in-company message (for legit organizational reasons) so the person tried the LI “back channel”. That notification went straight to my phone, I saw it but couldn’t respond immediately so they sent more and more messages! This was on the day after Christmas Day (a public holiday here in the UK and known as Boxing Day)… when I had been online on Christmas Day with this same person trying to resolve another part of the same process (for no additional pay or any other consideration except getting the job done!).

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        I agree; if they’re asking how to contact someone about a work question, the answer would be so office-specific that I’m not sure I could usefully answer it. In some offices, everyone has everyone’s cell number and you’re all exempt/salaried so calling each other from time to time with questions is totally normal. Other places, unless something is literally on fire you see if you can figure out the answer without that person and if not, either come up with a workaround or set it aside until the coworker is in the office again. Most offices are somewhere in between those two, and I wouldn’t know before working somewhere if phone, text, email, Slack message, or some other sort of team software would be the “right” way to contact someone.

  13. Heidi*

    The more I think about this question, the odder I find it. The OP is on an interview; they have no idea who these future coworkers would be, much less whether they would want to connect outside of work. I think I would have answered along the lines of, “It depends on the coworker. I have had coworkers who are friends and we hang out, but not everybody has the inclination or the bandwidth to socialize outside of work, and I would want to respect that.”

    1. Slightly Antisocial (OP)*

      That’s a really good point and definitely part of my thought process before I felt the silence was going on too long and I needed to say something, anything. The way I worded “look for activities we enjoy doing together” sort of implied, if there *are* any coworkers who enjoy anything I do, and if we found anything outside of work we might like.

  14. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I feel like a doofus.

    I read the question, “How would you go about connecting with coworkers outside of work?” to mean: if some critical, work-related thing happened on a night or a weekend, how would you contact a fellow employee?

    As in, some idiot once called the CEO at 3 AM over a late TPS report, so the employer was trying to avoid a repeat incident.

    I’m party of one on that interpretation, I’m sure.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I can make it a party of one-and-a-half because my first thought after reading just the question was, “Well, what’s the after-hours escalation protocol?” followed very swiftly by, “Ooooohhhhh, nooooooo, it’s the ‘we’re a family/best friends’ company, peace out.”

    2. Amy Sly*

      It wasn’t my first interpretation, but that makes a lot of sense. As noted above, odd rules and interview questions tend to come from bad experiences with people who lacked maturity.

    3. SomebodyElse*

      Well answering the question with this interpretation is one way of not having to answer the question :)

      I didn’t really catch this in my first read, but on a second read, yeah I could totally see how it could be interpreted this way.

      To the OP specifically:
      My advice to the OP about this and any other weird question in an interview is to ask! “Do you mean connect as in socialize or contact, can you give me some examples of what you are thinking?”

      This does a couple of things, it gives you a moment to pause and think of an answer, it lets you attempt to get the meaning and/or context of the question, and it may help you gain some knowledge about the reason for the question.

      The other thing that struck me about the OP that nobody has touched on was this part

      “It took me completely aback, because while I had prepared by studying several lists of popular interview questions, both in and outside of my field, I had never encountered any like this.”

      You will never be 100% prepared for the questions you get in an interview. There will always be surprises. You may want to practice a little with people who throw out oddball questions so that you can get some experience handling them.

    4. Slightly Antisocial (OP)*

      I think it was the tone the interviewer had while asking it, really seemed to make it clear that it was about socializing.

      On the other hand, perhaps I baffled the panel by answering about social activities when they really wanted to know about emergency contacts! Ha! (Of course, that would be on them to clarify. They didn’t seem to think I was out in left field for immediately talking about social activities.)

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Heh here’s why I ask.

        Many years ago, I asked the following interview question: tell me about a time when you faced a tremendous challenge and what steps you took to resolve it.

        I’m not making this up. One guy said, “I fell off a riding lawnmower while it was in motion. I solved it by hanging onto the back of the seat with one hand, and I pulled myself back up without stopping.”

        I’ve learned to be more specific since then.

        1. Slightly Antisocial (OP)*

          Ha! That would be quite a challenge!

          My difficulty with that question is keeping myself from answering “well, I’ve never really been challenged.” I know that’s a big no-no ;)

          1. juliebulie*

            “Well, there was this one time when I was at a job interview and they asked me a question that I wasn’t really sure how to interpret, so I gave a warmly vague answer.”

        2. Smithy*

          I work in a field where often we have to go to partners and share “bad news” along the lines of “uh – I know our deadline is in two days, but we’ve just now heard we’re gonna need another three months – that’s cool, yeah?” While these are not conversations we want to have, these are also not external partner relationship killers.

          Based on this, I would ask a question about whether candidates had professional experience delivering bad news. One response I got was basically someone’s job calling and telling emergency contacts that a relative overseas was gravely ill or injured. A answer that certainly captured the candidate’s calm and professionalism, but also a case where I was thinking of an experience so specific to the job in question that I was missing the much wider world of “bad news at work”.

          To me “connecting outside of work” can simply be scheduling a coffee with a coworker during work hours – but again, I think the idea that the interviewer had a very narrow concept of the question is relevant.

        3. Jean (just Jean)*

          Riding lawnmowers are not standard equipment for office workers, teachers, journalists, most health care providers other than emergency room professionals, etc. However, this might hit the “good answers Hall of Fame” in an interview for an EMT or other first responder position. Quick thinking? Rescuing victory from the jaws of defeat? Sounds good to me. (Of course I have no actual experience in saving people from drowning, burning, or being trapped in vehicles on the verge of bursting into flames).

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            It really depends on the position – for some, when you’re looking for potential or thought process, an unrelated anecdote illustrating a point can be really helpful, even if you’d never encounter that specific situation in the office.

            I hire annually for a true entry-level position (zero experience required), and one of the things I ask is to tell me about a time they were asked to do something they had no experience with before, how they approached it, and how it worked out. The range of stories is incredible (though typically not life-threatening) because the vast majority don’t have industry experience yet, and all I’m looking for is that they didn’t freak out (or managed that reaction quickly), marshaled the resources they had to pull together a plan, adjusted on the fly, and either succeeded or failed with some good lessons learned. I’ve heard from Resident Advisors whose assigned dorm caught fire or flooded, a fast food worker who saved a customer from choking, someone with zero television experience being asked to run a university channel gameshow for a college organization on a day’s notice, legislative interns who had to brief on policy issues that were unfamiliar to them less than an hour before their legislator went on camera to make a statement, etc. Some of the failure stories are also the best because of what the candidate took away from it, too.

            What I’m looking for is how they react to novel situations because I can train on skills but not for every eventuality that comes with the job. I need people who can put the puzzle together themselves with the pieces I can give them in advance.

    5. Alli525*

      Yeah, that’s how I read it too. The alternative (and apparently the correct interpretation of the Q) is like, are they really asking me how I make friends? Why would that matter to the functions of my job?

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Thank you; it’s one of my favorite sayings.

          I do coordinate with coworkers via text message outside work. Helps when I’m picking someone up from the airport, or if the power goes out, or just because we’re all human. It works for us introverts… but I probably wouldn’t offer that up on an interview.

    6. juliebulie*

      Nope, apparently a bunch of us read it that way at first.

      The correct answer is, “call their mother and then go to their house and bang on the door loudly.”

    7. KoiFeeder*

      I mean, I can’t blame the company for wanting to screen out the idiot who would call the CEO at 3AM.

    8. AngelicGamer, the Visually Impared Peep*

      Joining everyone else in answering the way you would for a favorite date a la Miss Congeniality. Mine would have been “Use the company issued phone tree depending on what the problem is”.

    9. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I don’t think it’s the most likely interpretation, but I can see a possibility where this question is asked (with the expected answer that you suggested i.e. contacting them about a critical situation at 3AM etc) in a workplace where the interviewer has become so inured to a toxic culture that finding people at 3AM because of a lack of a real escalation process, is a thing that you might have to try to figure out.

      For what it’s worth I once worked in a place where a ‘key’ employee (not particularly senior, not a manager just an individual contributor, earning around $50,000 equivalent in 2015) but key to the process and with no backups etc… you know how that goes!) was away for 2 weeks on a skiing holiday in a particular large “[Swiss] Alpine resort” (can’t remember where now and the actual location isn’t important) so the senior manager had people phone around a list of hotels in the local area to try to track down the employee and ask whatever the question was!

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        I didn’t make it explicit but what I meant was that it’s possible (although I don’t think it’s true in this case) that the interviewer’s perspective has become so warped by odd ‘norms’ that they are asking something like “what lengths would you go to, to contact someone out of hours if we need an answer?”

    10. ...*

      That’s how I read it to. I would have described levels of urgency for emailing someone vs using their personal cell number. LOL. Once I got an interview question that was “What would you do on your first day?” so I answered and was saying well it seems like X and Y would be a big part of the job. And she replied back “Most people would want training first!”. Like yeah I would want training, why are you asking what I’d do if you know the answer is training. And she laughed and seemed put off by my answer.

    11. Third or Nothing!*

      I read it as “how would you relate to your coworkers in a personal, non-work related way?” which seems to be a minority interpretation as well.

  15. Anonymouse esquire*

    I agree with Allison. I think this is a chance to assess the potential employer’s culture. It’s not even as much as “oh do I have to spend additional energy socializing with my coworkers,” which is important, but also to get a feeling of whether things like bonuses and promotions are based on how many happy hours you have with the manager, etc., and whether you get more or less work/projects. Double if you’re a BIPOC or woman applying in a historically male dominated field.

    I’m a WOC in law and the outside-of-work socializations have been historically used by cishet white men as a way of excluding women and minorities, aka the dudebro associate who golfs with the partner on Saturdays just happens to be the one getting the most cases from the partner.

    1. Anon4This*

      I’m so sorry. I’m a woman working in legal and the privileged white guy trope could not be more true. I work for an firm that is truly invested in diversity from some of the highest levels of leadership, and I still hear gross comments from the “good ol’ boys” network about why they can’t give work to their golf/tennis buddies or making fun of Bob in M&A because he left early to do childcare for. Which, you know, kind of flies in the face of their whole “meritocracy” BS, too – if it’s about merit, what’s your golf handicap or leaving before 7 once a week got to do with it? Many of them are starting to retire and younger partners are less of that mold, but, like most of BigLaw, we’ve got a ways to go. I know the person in charge of attorney recruiting and development, and the good news is that some of the dudebros are starting to self-select out of OCIs because we’re “getting a reputation”. I’m sure they’ll land just fine at the other white-shoe firms, though.

      1. Anonymouse esquire*

        I wish more firms in my area would do what your firm does — actually invest in diversity from the highest levels of leadership.

        I’m in a mid sized firm in a very liberal, fairly diverse city, and the law school I graduated from had been 50% women for two decades. However, the leadership in the midsize firms and biglaw in my city (with a few notable exceptions) are still white and male as heck. What unfortunately ends up happening is that even if those firms hire women or POCs, the good o’l boys club culture makes it very difficult to retain those associates. So what happens is that the government and non-profit attorneys in my area are predominantly women and POCs, and the firm attorneys are disproportionately white male. The firms are at least aware of the city’s general liberal atmosphere to pay lip service to it, but there doesn’t seem to be any attempt to change their internal culture or leadership.

        1. Anon4This*

          I’m not going to lie, it has taken time, retirement, and a lot of effort to even make the progress we have, but the statement our executive partner issued in the wake of the recent protest following George Floyd’s murder and then again after the Bostock decision came down made me cry, both because of the message (and correlating actions they announced) and, in no small part, because those would NOT have been sent by my organizational leadership ten years ago.

  16. Shebee*

    They could have been asking because of a bad experience the company had. For example I worked someplace that had an employee who pestered everyone to friend them on Facebook, and then on Facebook constantly pestered everyone to go to her church. Maybe this question was to screen out people who do things like that.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      Then it’s a bad question, if they are expecting interviewees to challenge it with “I wouldn’t want to connect with co-workers outside of work because…” etc. Because of the imbalance of power between the interviewer and applicant, i.e. the inbuilt urge to want to “give the right answer”.

      I’d be disappointed as a manager if someone was recruiting by “setting up” candidates like that.

      I understand and agree that pestering people over Facebook to go to their church or whatever isn’t on! But I don’t think “how to connect with co-workers outside of work” would be a solution to a one-off incident like that.

      But I can understand (but don’t agree with) the impulse to be like “we got burned by this, so now we need to defend against this”. It’s an understandable but, sorry, short sighted approach.

  17. AvonLady Barksdale*

    I have a strange feeling that the question was intended to be more about connecting with co-workers about non-work things rather than actually connecting with them outside of work hours. And that’s not always easy to answer either, and if that is the case then it’s a terrible way to ask it, but I guess I have a hard time with the implication that it’s expected to hang out after work more than a few times a year and for non-work-adjacent things. Sounds to me like someone was trying to get at, “What are your interests outside of work” without asking that directly.

    Here’s my thing: I have a few co-workers that I genuinely like and have good relationships with. I have hung out with maybe two of them, and only for very specific events. So I’m personally not averse to forming friendships at the office or to hanging out outside of work and I’m not against being social with my colleagues in general. Even with that, I would feel really strange if someone put me on the spot and asked what types of things I would do to hang out with my co-workers beyond work.

    If I were asked, though, I would probably say that I look forward to a couple of lunches and happy hours.

    1. Slightly Antisocial (OP)*

      I think you might be right about that, though I haven’t had success with “trying to connect over non-work things”; on an interview I got right out of grad school, one of the interview panel was giving me a tour of the office, including her desk, and I made an enthusiastic comment about a Doctor Who knickknack she had. She *glared* at me! I know for sure it was her desk, so I have no idea why it irritated her so much that I was delighted by something she had on display. There were several other moments in that interview where I knew before they told me, we did not gel as people and I definitely wouldn’t be getting the job. It makes it hard to tell, though, if trying to connect with one person offends them while meanwhile another person is offended that you didn’t try to connect. This is why I have social anxiety!

  18. Starfire117*

    My interpretation was that they saw what was happening in the world, and saw that potentially working at home was going to become more and more a reality, so they wanted to know how you would connect with co-workers working remotely. I’d have answered something like,

    “I primarily would use their work email, but I am also proficient at Google Meets, Zoom and Slack channels as other modes of professional communication”

    1. Madame X*

      I’m not convinced that was actually the question.
      However, ff that’s what they meant, then that’s what they should have asked. The question, as phrased by the OP, does not indicate that the hiring manager was inquiring about the OP’s communication style but rather how they form friendly relationships with coworkers.

      1. Slightly Antisocial (OP)*

        Yeah, COVID was only just starting to gain momentum as a topic in our area at that time. It was in the back of my mind and I remember scrubbing my hands before the interview, thinking about it, but it just hadn’t reached that level of “pervasive issue.” Even at my existing job, the “we will never let you work from home” was still being repeated until almost the end of March, when suddenly it became *very* possible to work from home!

  19. Michelle*

    I tried “connecting” with coworkers outside of work. It went okay, but I found that most people were…different, sometimes very different, than they were at work. It was not necessarily bad, just not for me. I am friendly, warm and sociable with people at work, but after work I mostly stick with my friends and family. I might join in a outside of work birthday party for someone I really get along well with, but that’s about it.

    1. Sleepy*

      For real! I joined in a birthday party for a coworker, but I was the only work friend there and her other friends were just…rude to me and my husband. They were all very serious fitness hobbyists and made it clear they looked down on my less-than-serious fitness habits. And that is the last time I did that kind of thing.

      1. Remote Healthworker*

        Ugh been there done that. I had someone I love at work. We chat a lot!

        She invited me to her BDay and I was like – score making friends!

        Then I show up and her family is rude!!! Very standoffish with lots of glaring and scoffing. Her friends just didn’t speak to me despite several introductions. I hung out 45 mins before bailing. I could tell she was sad to see me go but I was only having a remotely good time when talking with her and didn’t want to monopolize her. It was pretty miserable.

        1. allathian*

          That’s unfortunate. Even with coworkers I genuinely like, I’m not the least bit interested in meeting their spouses, kids, or friends. I’ve been at my current job for almost 15 years and there’s never been a +1 event. It’s unfortunate that there were no other coworkers at that BD party, you could have talked to people you know from work rather than attempt to socialize with people who can’t even extend the basic courtesy of party small talk to you, knowing that they’ll probably never see you again.

      2. Must be Anon for this one*

        I had a weird situation where I started working with a coworker online, but seemed to have a good connection with them via email/chat/phone. I found out that this coworker is also my neighbor, and they like to socialize. I was invited to a pool party and everyone else were coworkers that I did not really know. I felt weird getting in the pool as a pretty fit person among not-so-fit people who preferred to indulge in certain habits a little more than me (like, will they think I’m being judgey or showing off?). I’m also technically above this colleague on our dept. org chart. It was fun but awkward, and I wish I had waited until I met them in person before accepting an invitation. I still like this person, but I think other people probably don’t want me at their parties.

  20. Madame X*

    I’m an extrovert and I also would be taken aback by this question. At work, I’m friendly and personable so as to have a pleasant working relationship with my colleagues. It may occur that a friendship naturally develops with someone that I happen to be working with.
    However, I don’t necessarily seek out deeper friendships with my coworkers and I would hope that my boss would not expect that of me either.

  21. Grim*

    I would have honestly said going out to lunch, either individually or as a team, to socialize, build repore and connect. Then I’d mention after work get togethers as time permits.
    Not a tough question, but somewhat surprising as presented during the interview.

  22. Sandi*

    I socialize often with coworkers outside of work, for example one of them is bringing his new puppy to visit mine this weekend, as we’re friends on Facebook. Yet I find this question to be quite odd. I work with tech, which has the perception of being a bunch of nerdy introverts who don’t like people. Yet it has always been common in every workplace that there are occasional gatherings at pubs after work, or coffee with a coworker who is having an unusually good or bad day. These aren’t frequent, yet they happen. I have a quiet introverted social life, but my coworkers are a welcome part of it. Having explained that I like to socialize with my coworkers, I would have no idea how to answer that question and would want more information. A few times a year I go to a conference or meeting in another city and am expected to network in the evenings, which I enjoy as those conversations relate to work and are often insightful. Every other interaction is because I like my coworkers, and those aren’t planned before I start working.

    I feel like I’m missing some sort of context (is this a job that requires networking? is it in a remote location with no other options for socializing?), and if there is none then I think it’s weird.

    1. Slightly Antisocial (OP)*

      I also felt like I was missing the context, and I was sitting right there! — which is where Alison is really right, I need to get comfortable asking for clarification. That really could have made a difference in how I answered.

  23. Please Exit Through the Rear Door*

    I’ll be honest: OP, I think you answered that question really well — especially given that you were put on the spot! I like it much more than Alison’s suggested answer, which IMO doesn’t really answer the question. (One of the very few times I disagree with Alison’s advice.)

    But I have a feeling that the job wasn’t the right fit anyway if they expected socialization outside of work. (I’m in the same boat as you; my coworkers sometimes expect this of me and I really want to just leave work at work.)

    1. Slightly Antisocial (OP)*

      Thanks, although I do think a combination of what I said and Alison’s suggestions would have made me feel more confident about it. The interview had been going really well to that point, and it is a place I would love to work. Getting some more information from them would definitely assuage the nervousness about “maybe the culture here is too social for me.” My perception was also colored by the fact that a friend of mine in the same field is always having get-togethers with coworkers, house parties, concerts, even taking vacations with them, and I wanted to run screaming from even the thought that my life might turn into that!

  24. AnotherAlison*

    I’m an introvert in a field that skews introvert, but in a company whose culture skews extrovert.

    I’m not completely surprised by all the “I would never socialize with coworkers” comments, but I have found a lot more people that I like at work than in the general population. I don’t have any common interests with my family (mom, sister), other school moms, or my husband’s friends wives. I understand why people don’t like to socialize in general, and don’t like to socialize with coworkers specifically, but I just wanted to toss it out to the group that these could end up being people you actually want to see a little more outside of work. I don’t need much social time, and having a couple work friends fills the need and keeps me from having to actively find friends. Stronger relationships have benefits at work, too. It doesn’t hurt to be open to the possibility. (I mean, I really dread being invited to do things, but when I do them, I usually have a decent time. Ha!)

    1. juliebulie*

      Same here, mostly. For a few years I was stuck in jobs outside of my usual field, and I really didn’t feel much kinship with my coworkers. Then I finally got a job back in my usual field, and felt as though I was among “my people” again.

  25. Tuesday*

    I actually wondered if it were possible that the interviewer was hoping that the OP keeps her relationships with coworkers at a little bit of a distance (after-work happy hours and some coffee/lunch outings). As we’ve seen on this site, closer relationships can cause all kinds of problems, and maybe they wanted to hear that she keeps her relationships friendly while keeping in mind the professional context. I don’t know — that’s just where my mind went. I don’t think I’d quite know how to answer, even if I were just trying to tell the interviewer what they wanted to hear.

  26. Georgina Fredrika*

    Interesting because I would have the opposite reaction! I love after-work stuff.

    It has its pros and cons (esp depending on your lifestyle) but – I made some of my closest friends at my first “real” job. It helped that we were all in our mid 20s and mostly single.

    These are the people who consistently send me the best job leads 5+ years later – even when we now live in different states!

    At jobs I’ve had since then, I’ve found socializing to be helpful in being able to navigate work relationships. People just feel more comfortable with you – which means they are more comfortable accepting your criticism as well, if need be. Ideally everyone would just take it as professional courtesy but that’s not how people are.

    I totally understand why people may not be into that/have time for that, though!

    1. ...*

      Yep, not a popular opinion but I enjoy hanging with my co-worker outside of work within reason. A lot of them are genuinely nice and fun people and its great to be around nice, fun, kind people. Would I want to hang 3x a week? Nope. Would I want to hang once a month? Absolutely! Many of my now good friends are from jobs. Heck, I dont even know if its always an age thing bc my grandma is 79 and the bulk of her social circle is people from her former job and their various lunch and cards groups.

  27. Burrell*

    Normally, I would agree with you 100% Alison, but I just don’t think this is feasible in an economy where we’re facing 10-15% unemployment. Most jobseekers do not have the luxury right now to pick and choose which jobs would suit them best — they need food, shelter, and medical care for their families. It is not ill-advised to try and present yourself as the ideal candidate in this economic climate.

    1. Slightly Antisocial (OP)*

      I don’t think Alison’s advice precludes presenting myself as the ideal candidate. Not that the current climate is anything like how it was in February, when this actually took place, but I don’t see anything in her advice that would be actively destroying my chance to work somewhere. And as many other comments point out, how do we know they aren’t trying to weed out potential socialites? I assumed they wanted a social butterfly, but perhaps the opposite is the case. I believe Alison is right in saying being honest about yourself makes you a more appealing candidate.

  28. TootsNYC*

    Or if you can think fast enough, say, “Hmmm. May I ask why you’re concerned about this issue? What is the thinking behind it?”

    “May I ask why you’re asking?”

    1. Treebeardette*

      I would sick to Allison’s scripts because it’s showing your understanding of the question and asking for clarification. There interviewer asked a poorly worded question and could be taken in many ways.
      Asking why they are asking or why they are concerned can come across as weird and confrontational when the chances are, you misinterpreted the question.

  29. Slightly Antisocial (OP)*

    Thanks all for the feedback, it does help me feel a lot more confident both with what I said and what I should have said. Something I really need to keep in mind is the “interview is a two-way street,” where I’m finding out about them as much as they are finding out about me, and I should be more comfortable with asking follow-up questions instead of just responding to what I *think* they mean.

    A friend of mine in the same field is always hanging out with coworkers, even going on vacations with them, so admittedly when the interviewer asked that question, my mind immediately leapt to, “Oh, no, they’re going to take up every evening and weekend like a codependent boyfriend!” Which may be unfair, but that’s panic for you! :) Since they did encourage me to reapply to any listings, and I intend to do so, I think I’ll try to find out more about their office culture and practice being more willing to ask clarifying questions. Up until that point in the interview, I had been doing very well at presenting myself as honestly as possible, and I felt we were all clicking pretty well. So, fingers crossed (who knows, these days), I’ll have just enough of an edge next time to get in the door, provided it’s a door I want in!

    1. Important Moi*

      I am glad you posted LW. I was looking for a place to add my thoughts.

      Not only is an “interview is a two-way street” as you said, but also it is OK not to wonder about the infinite possibilities of what you “think they mean.” You don’t know what they mean? That’s fine. You can move on. Trying to figure out what they mean can be an emotional time suck in which no definitive answers are provided. Give yourself permission not to do that.

      The collective we are often told that most every, if not all, possibilities must be considered (even here with people offering scenarios). That is not always true and this is one of those times.

    2. Holly*

      Thanks for being so responsive in the comments, I appreciate your point of view! I also wanted to mention that I noticed you use smileys :) a lot in your correspondence, which is a nice way to convey warmth over text (and it does come across!) – and it made me think that if you are the type of person who thinks about and cares about conveying warmth to others despite not desiring more intimate connections with coworkers, I think that’s just fine!

  30. BluePaper*

    Does anyone else find that they never have anything significant in common with coworkers, aside from working for the same company? I’ve never met any coworkers that shared my major hobbies or interests, so I can’t imagine how I’d connect to them outside of work. Once in a while someone will have share a minor interest with me, such as watching a TV show I watch, but that’s basically only good for small talk while waiting for a meeting to start or whatever. I’m not going to text or meet up with a coworker outside of work to discuss the latest episode of Supernatural.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      My company is big enough that I can find some coworkers who share common interests, but most don’t. Percentage-wise, most of my coworkers are men 10+ years younger than me. Generally, I connect with people based on common life things, not so much hobbies. A couple have similar life stories. Another’s son also played college baseball like mine did. Some of us grew up in the same area, went to the same college, or live in the same area now. Many of them I just know because we’ve worked here for a million years and have all that shared history. Occasionally, I find someone who likes training for endurance sports, and a lot of us like cars and bikes (mechanical engineers, ya know).

    2. RagingADHD*

      Until I started working for myself and getting clients & colleagues through my personal network, I *never* had anything in common with my coworkers.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Wait – one time my supervisor & I wound up in a hobby group together. It was awful.

  31. Alpaca Bag*

    My first thought was “I’ve never harassed a co-worker outside of work before, and I’m certainly not about to start now!”

  32. Persephone Underground*

    My first thought here was in terms of managing to connect at all during Covid remote work, such as using slack social channels or zoom to get to know a remote team, but I also feel as though that would probably have been mentioned for context. Though at the same time I mentally adjust everything for Covid right now anyway, and don’t always include that part in my explanations because everyone assumes it arounde already. “I went to a happy hour yesterday!” = online happy hour without needing to say. Same for “saw my mom…” etc.

  33. Persephone Underground*

    I also think the OP is overthinking here. Connecting outside of work doesn’t necessarily mean being friends. It can just mean occasionally going to lunch or a networking event together. It could even mean “outside of work topics” as in how do you get to know your coworkers outside of discussing tps reports- do you like to swap sourdough recipes or something? It could also just be a slightly odd question that doesn’t have to mean that much, like a ton of interview questions. Asking for more information about the question is very good advice, but I’d also add not to read too much into it. “I’m a bit introverted so don’t socialize that much outside work with colleagues, but we usually get along very well during work hours.” might have been a fine answer depending on the position. You’ll drive yourself nuts trying to read their minds in interviews if you’re not careful!

  34. LGC*

    So I haven’t read the other 155 comments yet, but…does anyone else think this is a huge jump from this question?

    Rather, I think there are multiple ways the question could have been read. LW took it as “How would you go about connecting with coworkers outside of work, because we’re an office that socializes outside of work a lot?” But it could also have been, “How would you go about connecting with coworkers outside of work, because coworkers interacting inappropriately has been an issue for us?” Or, “How would you go about connecting with coworkers outside of work, because we’re trying to get a mix of introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts and we thought this would be a good question to ask?” Or something else entirely! (I just have the letter to go off of, so I’m speculating about different interpretations.) All this goes to say that…it seems like you jumped to the worst (for you) interpretation, LW, when there could have been multiple ways to handle it.

    Also, all that said: yeah, don’t say, “I don’t want to socialize with coworkers outside of work,” but the more “diplomatic” way to say it is, “I prefer to keep work and my social life separate.”

  35. whistle*

    With questions like this, they probably want a certain answer, but you don’t know which one it is! They might be fishing for you to describe how social you will be with coworkers, but it also might be the case that they are fishing for you say that you do no want to socialize with your coworkers (like maybe they recently had an issue with cliques or something). Since you don’t know, the best course is an honest answer.

    1. James*

      I disagree. Most people are horrible at interviewing. They probably heard someone say it was a good question to ask, and decided to run with it, despite not knowing whether it actually was or not, or how to evaluate the answers.

      Never attribute to malice what can adequately be attributed to incompetence. (I forget who said it.)

  36. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    That’s a weird interview question. I’ve never been asked that. If anyone ever did ask me that question, I would find it odd and it would be a red flag. Sure, it’s nice to get along well with your coworkers, and even become friends (if that happens along the course of working together) but being evaluated in an interview on how you would connect with coworkers outside of work is strange. I might politely ask the interviewer to clarify the question and then ask a follow-up question on their expectations regarding that.

  37. RagingADHD*

    I wonder if they even do have a strong culture of connecting outside of work.

    They could have been screening for a balanced approach, in the wake of some bad fits who were too extreme in being overly involved, or letting personal friendship conflicts bleed over into work hours.

  38. nep*

    This letter and response provide such a great, important reminder.
    because the person who will be showing up to work every day will be real-you, not insincere-interview-answer-you Oh my goodness, yes.

  39. fhqwhgads*

    If I’d been asked this question in an interview, I probably would’ve thought they meant networking. I don’t think it would’ve occurred to me they meant socializing.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        The thought that they might have meant that did cross my mind. But, wherever I’ve worked, it had been up to the management to collect emergency contact info and then tell us where it can be found and when/how to use it.

  40. Sarahnova*

    I would actually consider this question as potentially discriminatory on the basis of gender, at least if socialising with colleagues outside of work is a criteria of marker of success. I am outgoing and build great relationships in work, but like a lot of women with young children I spend my evenings and weekends looking after them and am not free for socialising. Expectation of out of hours socialising generally hits women harder than men – I’ve worked with some industries that really struggled with gender parity because of the expectation for evening socialising.

    This doesn’t directly help or affect OP who clearly dodged a bullet, but I wanted to flag that for those who are in companies like this and have some capital to spend, this expectation can be a serious barrier to getting and using the right talent.

    1. Slightly Antisocial (OP)*

      I think that would definitely depend on who the interviewers are. In my case, it was two middle-aged/older women and a young man, so I don’t think it would have a discriminatory function there. If the panel is all male, or clearly young, single people, that could definitely make a difference in how it’s perceived.

  41. Freelancer*

    So I went to an interview for a temp temp job (a short term temp while they searched for longer term temp) but there was a miscommunication between my agency and the company, and the company thought I was interviewing for the 1 year position, not the 4-6 week position.

    I wasn’t aware of this and, as it was a low stakes interview, I ended up being a lot more honest than I might have been. I talked about my experience in the job-relevant fields, but also talked about the mish-mash on my CV was due to me transitioning out of that those fields into a wholly new one because that was what I was passionate about. I basically told them that I was good at the work but didn’t like it and would be moving on as soon as possible.

    I ended up as their preferred candidate for the 1 year temp cover position with discussions to carve out a new, permanent role that focused on the responsibilities I had more experience in after that point.

    I will end up working the full year due to off-seasons and now Covid-19, but they’re still offering me the new role or at least freelance work once I leave.

    My friends and family are fully baffled.

    TLDR: Be yourself. Be as honest as you can be. You have no idea what employers are thinking so don’t try to guess.

  42. Amethystmoon*

    I participate in a number of social activities that take place outside of work, but with friends who don’t work there, and have never needed to socialize with immediate co-workers outside of working hours. Not sure I would want to, as they are very different from me and have totally different interests. I understand that in some industries, it is the norm to go and have happy hours, but we are a. in a pandemic and b. not all industries do that. Toastmasters is company sponsored, but none of my immediate coworkers have any interest in participating.

  43. Jennifer Juniper*

    Anyone else think that question is fecking irresponsible in the middle of a fecking pandemic???

    Now people are going to feel like they can’t practice social distancing people because of stupid questions about being social outside the workplace. Who was the genius who came up with that one?

    1. Persephone Underground*

      I just assume in a pandemic situation “connect” means in safe ways like zoom calls, online happy hours, etc. People have to work harder to set it up but socializing =/= meeting in person.

  44. MarchwasMay*

    I generally let people know what I’m up to, and semi-invite them to participate. Since this is often theatrical stuff (attending) or SF cons (staffing), they aren’t interested. (At previous jobs, connections formed with people who at least understood what I was interested in, even if they didn’t go themselves. And once when I ran a writing studio at a college, instead of a “holiday party,” I got to take all of my tutors to see a play about language and art done at a local theater.)

    However, I did attend an interactive online theater thing last week that was really awesome — this is the last week if you want to check it out! — I may try it again this weekend.

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