job candidate read all his answers from notes, predecessor won’t clear out their office, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Job candidate read all his answers from prepared notes

I recently conducted a Zoom interview that did not go well. The candidate’s answers weren’t spectacular, but the delivery was the bigger issue. He wears glasses and I could see a reflection of his screen in his lenses, showing a document with content (as opposed to a blank document to help light his face). He answered most of the questions by obviously reading prepared answers — his eyes tracked from side to side and his delivery went flat compared to our unscripted pleasantries. I was pretty shocked and it got worse when I asked him more oddball questions. I figured if I could ask an uncommon interview question, he’d be forced to abandon the script. Instead, he asked for a minute to “think” about his response and then took two to three minutes to quite obviously search in his document, only to answer with a prepared script that didn’t really answer the question. I knew I wouldn’t advocate to move him forward in the process, so I asked if he had any questions for me (spoiler alert: they were not good) and wrapped the interview about 20 minutes early. I submitted my evaluation as do not recommend for concerns about judgment, ethics, and ability to do the job.

I feel fairly confident about the evaluation I submitted, but I’m questioning whether I handled it appropriately in the moment. For context, I’m not the hiring manager; I would be this person’s peer. In non-pandemic-times, this would have been an on-site interview day with four one-hour interviews back to back and it only takes one interviewer to give a hard no before we’ll remove a candidate from consideration. While on the call, I was too shocked to address it but is there anything that would have been appropriate to say in the moment?

I’m a big fan of addressing interview weirdness in the moment if you can. If you wanted to, you could have said, “It looks like you might be reading from notes. Can I ask that you put those away so we can have a less scripted conversation?”

But sometimes you learn more by just letting something weird unfold than by asking for it to stop.

2. My predecessor’s stuff is all over my office and they won’t clean it out

I was recently promoted (yay!) and am in the process of transitioning jobs with my predecessor, who has also been promoted. The predecessor has been in the role for over a decade and seems to be having a hard time letting go. I am already official in my new role and my predecessor is official in theirs, but they haven’t moved to their new work location in another state yet.

My predecessor is currently working from home, and I am working on site, splitting time between my former location and my new location while I transition roles. I will be taking over my predecessor’s office in the new location and have discovered that they are a bit of a pack rat. Over time, they have amassed a huge amount of both non-critical work-related and personal ephemera in their office. It is dirty, disorganized, and bursting at the seams with unfiled papers, binders, books, personal decorations, shoes, etc. When I visited a few weeks ago to start the transition, they commented that they would “try” to clean out the office before they leave for good, but their belongings are still all over the office. I don’t want or need most of their items. I am eager to get the office cleaned and organized and make it my own, but don’t want to insult my predecessor as I will need to continue to work with this person. The mess is stressing me out. How would you approach this?

It’s your space now and it’s reasonable to expect to be able to use it. I’d just be very matter-of-fact and direct about it: “I’m having trouble using the office as is, so could you pack up anything you want to take with you by (date)? After that I’m planning to clear everything out to make room for my own things.” And then if it’s, say, a week before that date and nothing has changed: “Just a reminder that on (date) I plan to clean everything out of the office, so if you want anything that’s still here, make sure you get it before then!” And then when that date comes, put everything in boxes and stash them somewhere out of the way. (You could even just go straight to the boxes now — you’re not throwing anything out, just moving it out of space you now need.)

Of course, you shouldn’t have to box this stuff up yourself, but if your predecessor isn’t showing up to do it, it might be the only way to reclaim the space. If they’re close to leaving the state and the boxes are still there, you’ll need to say, “Do you want to get these boxes before you go or should I throw them away? There’s not room to keep them in here long-term.”

It could also be useful to loop in your boss. Depending on how practical she is, she might be willing to tell your predecessor to get it done or at least assure you she’ll have your back if they freak out.

3. My awful former boss keeps contacting me

I am second-in-command at a small organization. My former boss retired after 15 years, and she was almost universally despised by staff and many outside the organization for her abrasive and often insulting leadership style. (For example, when I asked for her support and coaching to apply for the job she was leaving, she told me that she did not think I was capable … and that I “couldn’t be a good mother” to my children if I took it! After that awful conversation, I chose not to apply.) Most of my colleagues also struggled under her, but I was simultaneously her “favorite,” the person she relied upon most, and the person she was hardest on.

Several months after she left, she texted me saying that she would love to talk, and I ignored the text. Later, she emailed me to congratulate me on a work success, and another time to wish me a happy birthday. I have twice replied politely but have not followed up on her multiple requests to catch up. She knows that I am not the type of person to blow someone off, but she’s not taking the hint. This person gave me professional PTSD. I don’t want to talk to her at all, but she keeps trying to reconnect. However, I also feel like it’s unprofessional to ignore multiple emails to my work address. How can I get her to stop asking?

You have a couple of options: Ignore completely or do the slow fade. You’re really not obligated to respond to social messages just because they’re sent to your work address, so you can ignore her email overtures if you want to. If you ever encounter her face-to-face and she asks about it, you’ve been busy or your spam filter has been catching a lot of outside emails or so forth. But the other option — which might be easiest since you won’t have to feel weird about outright ignoring her — is the slow fade: take days to respond and then send a short and breezy message that your schedule is keeping you busy, can’t make any plans right now, etc. (With the pandemic, you could also just say you’re not seeing anyone outside your family — or, if you’re working from your office, outside of your office and family.) You might have to do a few months of this, but she’s probably going to move on once more time has gone by.

4. How can I tell our amazing new HR person how much I appreciate her?

I work for a large company that recently hired a new executive VP of human resources. Her introduction to the company included the usual eyeroll-inducing “We are family! We’re here for you!! Rah-rah GO COMPANY!” But here’s the thing — she’s delivered.

We were the first company in the state that went 100% work-from-home (with full IT support). We’re not even considering returning to the office until the second quarter of 2021. We celebrated Pride month as a company for the first time ever. We’ve had numerous campaigns to benefit local businesses during Covid. Pay rates for female employees were reviewed/adjusted. This week is our open enrollment period — where we get to chose a medical plan with lower deductibles and an increased company HSA contribution — without a premium increase! What?!

I want to shout from the rooftops that she is amazing and is making a huge difference. How do I let her know that we see her, we hear her, and we appreciate her? I’m just below the level where it would be acceptable to message her directly — or am I? This is so far removed from my normal HR experiences that I’m not sure how to give her the shout-out she deserves.

You’re never too junior to tell someone in HR that their work has made a difference for you! That’s feedback people love to hear. Tell her! Send an email explaining how much you appreciate the work she’s been doing and why, and tell her it’s made you a happier and more loyal employee (two metrics HR people and their bosses particularly care about). That’s the kind of email people keep and look at when they’re having rough days.

5. Holidays and giving notice

How do holidays factor into giving notice? If I gave notice on Nov. 23, would “two weeks notice” make my last day Dec. 7, even though we have the Thanksgiving holiday (two days off) in that timeframe? These are company holidays; I am not taking vacation.

A reasonable company won’t typically exclude holidays from your notice period. They might ask if you’re able to add on an additional few days if they need the time for a smooth transition, and it’s a gracious thing to offer if you’re willing to, but there’s no automatic expectation that those days off won’t count toward your notice period. So typically if you gave two weeks notice on Monday, Nov. 23, your last day would be Friday, Dec. 4.

{ 354 comments… read them below }

  1. Casper Lives*

    #4 Aw that’s lovely! It’s nice to read something, well, nice right now. I hope other companies go that direction.

    1. Malarkey01*

      I LOVE when I get emails from people that appreciate work I’ve done. It can even have a bit more significance when it comes from people I don’t closely know or work with but who are affected by my work. It’s a great gut check on what things have meaning or are going well, and it’s so often the case that I’ll hear 20 complaints if something isn’t working (and rightly so I need to know), but when things are working I have no idea if the silence is because it’s great or just okay or people don’t care one way or the other.

      I don’t think anyone will ever receive a compliment about their work and think ugh why is Jane from sales bothering me, weird.

      1. Ice and Indigo*

        And from a self-interested point of view … well, hopefully this person is too professional to play favourites, but if there ever is a time when you need to take an issue to HR, it surely can’t hurt to have them remember you as ‘the nice one.’ Don’t do it to suck up, obviously, but if you meant it, letting them see that you’re an appreciative person who doesn’t always think the world’s against them is no bad thing, right?

        1. Eeyore's Missing Tail*

          I wouldn’t view it as playing favorites. Maybe it not a good thing to admit, but it’s a lot easier to help someone who I’ve had more pleasant interactions with than the person who throws a fit about every little thing. Both still get helped in a timely fashion, but it’s easier to help the nice person first.

          I deal with a lot of problems. I made a special folder that holds just compliments or genuine thank you emails. It helps when I’m having a rough day. And I can only imagine how hard it could be if you’re up the chain in HR.

      2. Artemesia*

        I still remember a letter from a parent with a child with a difficult reputation whom I taught in high school. That was over 50 years ago. I remember someone who sent me a note of praise early in my last career — I thought of that person fondly for the rest of her life. Repeated praise comes across as sycophantic and insincere — Eddie Haskel to use a dated reference — but a single note like the OP describes will lift her day and be remembered (and be a good move on your part to build relationships). But once.

      3. MassMatt*

        I agree, write that email, I was struck by the LW’s thought that they had to be of a certain rank to do so. This person probably put in tons of effort to make this a better workplace, with real and tangible results that are making a difference to rank and file employees, it could only be a great thing for them to hear about it.

      1. Not A Girl Boss*

        I agree. I mean, its still nice to do if you don’t feel comfortable with the cc.
        But the specific praise is really general feedback for HR initiatives, and its good for the larger company to know that they’re moving in the right direction in terms of HR. And its one of those things the HR person will probably feel awkward forwarding, but is valuable information for performance reviews.

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        Typically, yes, but it’s okay if you don’t feel comfortable doing that. In my organization it would mean cc’ing member of the executive team, and that’s Just Not Done at my level unless you have guidance to do that from your manager for a specific work-related reason.

        From the fact that OP thinks she’s too junior to email the head of HR, she would probably feel pretty uncomfortable emailing the HR person’s boss. She’s unlikely to ruffle feathers with a positive note of thanks, but I can understand the hesitation.

        1. No Sleep Till Hippo*

          If I’m writing a compliment to, say, a customer service rep who helped me (or some other situation where it wouldn’t be possible or appropriate for me to cc their boss), I’ll often add something at the end like, “If you could do me a favor and forward this to your boss as well, I’d really appreciate it. I want to make sure they know what a great job you’re doing.”

          That way they can decide whether or not they want it passed on – and if they do, it makes it clear that they’re not just blowing their own horn or trying to look good/suck up/whatever. Maybe that could be useful in this situation?

          (Having worked in many flavors of customer service myself, I have thought A LOT about how best to show my appreciation for a job well done. :) )

    2. Sara without an H*

      We hear so much at AAM about incompetent or indifferent HR people, it’s refreshing to hear about someone who is actually doing the job at a high level. OP#4, go ahead and write that email. Trust me, your HR rep will appreciate it.

    3. cubone*

      I told my HR person how much I appreciated her support of me (helped me switch teams) and that I thought she was bringing so much to the org, and the look on her FACE, my goodness. It was sort of heartbreaking – HR professionals clearly are not usually on the receiving end of compliments.

    4. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      OP #4: once, when I started a new job on Monday, that Saturday my husband had to go to the ER, and ended up staying in the hospital for more than a week. He was on my insurance. The HR staff person who handled health insurance enrollment went above and beyond in getting everything set up so his ER and hospital stay were covered. I sent her the most beautiful thank you e-card I could find, with sparkles and roses and pretty music, and gushed like crazy in the message. I figured that even if she hated sparkles and roses and guitar music, she’d at least understand my message and how hard I was trying to make it extra nice.

      The point is, always thank people when you feel like it. It’s a valuable way to spread good will, even if it’s ignored.

  2. Asco*

    OP5 – I think a convenient related note is that when hiring during the holidays, the start date is sometimes delayed so you don’t start at a time when many others are out of the office or the day before a holiday or what have you. So you maybe be able to give a smidge longer notice to the current employer (not forgetting that more notice means you could be walked out early if they don’t want to keep you around.)

  3. VictorianCowgirl*

    Alison, for #1, I worry that it’s it possible this candidate was very anxious and doesn’t do well in interviews, so wrote out their answers ahead of time trying to prepare. Knowing how much this looks like “fake it till you make it” interviewing or someone lying about their credentials, it’s the a way an interviewer be able to tell the difference, and would it be a dealbreaker either way?

    I could just see myself in my younger years doing something like this; while I was always extremely competent and just fine once in the job, interviews made me so nervous I couldn’t think…

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this. Some people get very anxious when they interview and it doesn’t mean that they’d necessarily be bad at the job. In this case, it depends on what job you’re interviewing for, if it’s someone doing data entry who doesn’t necessarily have to collaborate with others a lot, it shouldn’t be a problem even if they have social anxiety, etc.

    2. lazy intellectual*

      Pretty sure I did something like this on my very first interview of life. It was a phone interview so the interviewer couldn’t see me, but I’m sure she could still tell. For some context, I have social anxiety and tend to get Very Nervous in interviews.

      It was objectively an awful interview – I wouldn’t have hired myself. I’m going to go ahead and assume this was the case in Letter 1. I agree with the LW’s decision not to hire him, since as she said, the answers were bad anyway. But I hope the poor job candidate eventually shapes up when it comes to doing interviews. (I wouldn’t go as far as assuming he has “bad judgment” altogether, but he has ways to go when it comes to interviewing.)

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s certainly possible, although the LW said the answers were bad anyway. But the thing is, if you’re reading a script, I have no idea if you wrote them or someone else did. If someone else did, I’m not really interviewing you at all. That’s an argument for asking them to stop using the notes rather than letting it play out.

      But in this case, I think the LW was right to conclude there was an ethics issue too — saying “let me think for a minute” while you’re looking up something scripted to read (which you think the interviewer doesn’t know about) isn’t really above board.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        As the name suggests, Great Answers to Tough interview Questions had the majority of the book dedicated to questions, so I suppose you could type them out to crib from, however the idea was to tailor your answers to your own personal experience.

        Admittedly, when I was new to the workplace, I also had a list of questions and answers I used to take with me to interviews, but I tried not to read from them, just use them as a memory jogger.

        1. Mel_05*

          I think it’s one thing to have some memory joggers jotted down. I’ve brought a short list of topics I want to make sure I cover with me. But it’s not something I would be able to read from, with the except of some questions I want to make sure I ask them about the company/job.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Yeah, I’ve definitely taken notes with me to interviews so I can remember my best answers to the “tell me about a time when…” questions, but like, they’re bullet points, and I glance at them, I don’t read straight from the page. (I also jot down my own questions to ask, like you – I’m prone to drawing blanks otherwise.)

            1. starsaphire*

              I do this too. Just bullet points, so that I can look up, make eye contact with the interviewer, and say, “Well, there was this one time…” but if they looked at my notes they would just see “* Tell Larry story – inspiration/ethics”

              Plus, I always have my list of questions that I want to ask too — and if they’re addressed during the interview, I draw a line through them.

              Then, when they get to “Do you have any questions for us?” I can look at it and say, “Well, you’ve answered most of them already,” smile, “but I do have one more…”

              That way it looks a lot more like I came prepared, rather than that I’m scared out of my skin and pressing my hand against the table so it won’t shake visibly.

            2. Glitsy Gus*

              I do this. I get easily flustered in situations like interviews. I’m fine in real-life situations, but something about interviews throws me off. Having a little bullet point list to help me center my thoughts makes a huge difference. Half the time I end up not even needing it, but knowing it’s there if I get stuck helps a lot.

              That said, there is a big jump from writing out a sentence or to that covers “where I see myself in 5 years” (lord I hate that one) and a full on script. It may just be fear of failure, but yeah, it doesn’t show great decision making. I think it would be fine if you noticed it, especially on the odd ball questions, to just say, “you know, it’s pretty clear you’re reading from a pretty extensive script. I’m really looking for an off the cuff answer so we can have a real conversation here. Could you put it away for a bit? That would at least open the door for the applicant to explain a bit if there is a major reason why they feel they need it, like anxiety or what have you. It may not fix the issue, but it would at least give context.

        2. Sasha*

          I get bad interview anxiety and tend to ramble, so I prepare and memorise answers to common questions so I keep to the point. It’s part of my usual interview prep, like researching the organisation. Don’t most people do that? Surely nobody comes up with “why I want to work here” answers on the spot?

          But I don’t read them out word for word off a sheet! It’s an A4 sheet with bullet points, and either I memorise it (for a face to face interview), or keep it on the table with my CV (for a phone interview).

          1. ceiswyn*

            I come up with basically all my interview answers on the spot. Obviously I’ll have done some thinking ahead of time about, for example, why (and whether!) I do want to work there, but if I don’t have some kind of memorised stock answer I’m a lot more able to tailor my answer to the question they have actually asked and the things I have learned about the interviewer and the job since the interviw began.

            In any case, all my interviews are in more of a conversational format, with give and take, than some kind of oral exam. Giving memorised answers in a conversational interview would come across as stiff and a bit odd.

            1. Zombeyonce*

              See, I can’t think on demand. I am fine in regular conversation, witty and charming even on occasion, but when people ask me to come up with a particular answer (tell us about time when, what’s your biggest weakness, even what’s your favorite TV show), suddenly I’ve forgotten my life history. I have to heavily prepare for interviews or I just sit and stutter, trying to come up with a story. If I get a question that I haven’t prepared for, I generally end up building off of a story I already told or, if I have to, making something up completely. My memory is incapable of working under pressure.

          2. Curiouser and Curiouser*

            I definitely prepare for interviews by coming up with questions about the company and maybe a couple notes in my head for a “why I want to work here” question – but I feel like I answer most interview questions on the spot. I definitely don’t prep full answers in advance because I feel like it would make me sound stilted and more like I’m acting than actually having a conversation (which is what I feel like most interviews are).

          3. oof*

            Allison’s interview prep guides recommends you to do this specific kind of interview prep. Write out the possible questions and your answers to those questions (whether they are in bullet points or a complete sentences), and then practice saying them out loud until you sound natural and confident.

            The purpose of it is so that you aren’t scrambling to come up with answers on the spot, as it can be particularly hard to jog your memory about specific events (e.g. if the interviewer asked about a time you had to deal with a difficult client, and the last time you had this experience was 2 years ago, then it may be hard to recall all the details in a coherent way in the heat of the moment). The purpose of this isn’t so that you memorize and regurgitate your answers like you’re an actor in live theatre, it’s to help facilitate a more productive conversation between you and the interviewer.

        3. Artemesia*

          Everyone is different but I never gave speeches from scripts — always from outlines. I know what I am talking about but the outline kept the flow going as I might forget a point or the sequence of points I want to make.

          If I were preparing for an interview, I would have notes in outline form with key points. e.g. Difficult challenge: Johnson case, IT project, firing Fergus

          in other words notes to remind you of the examples you thought about as you prepared. By organizing the notes this way you have prompts but are speaking naturally.

          Trying to read from a script will always come across badly and it doesn’t work that well in a speech either unless you have a teleprompter and are very practiced at using it.

          1. Loz*

            This is 100% what I do. I know there’s going to be a raft of out of the box (scripted, if you will :) ) questions, so I will have some example answers ready. I have a 35+ year career to draw answers from and even just from my current job I have a huge portfolio of examples for every canned situation. The key is to use those notes to guide you to the most relevant as you perceive it from the conversation thus far and deliver it accordingly. If the questions get interesting and off script (mine or theirs) – bring it on! This is where individuals and companies make a difference and you get to know the real situations and they know your capabilities.

            Interestingly, I recently self-selected* out of a $1000 per day year-long contract because for this. They were hoping to fill the key position a) in one 45 minute interview b) by asking only canned, behavioural questions (tell me about a time you were stressed, tell me about a time you were inclusive at work).

            *Not exactly self-selected but I expressed my disbelief that a project of the magnitude and complexity they were hiring for could be fulfilled by a team of candidates picked in this way. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why they didn’t hire me, but I wasn’t going to take it if offered.

        4. Not A Girl Boss*

          I read a great book on interviewing my senior year “Landing the Internship or Full-Time Job During College” by Robert Peterson. I think it is solely responsible for getting some jobs that were really stretch jobs for me.

          The big message from that book was about rehearsing telling stories about challenges, success, etc, that speak to your strengths. Then when the interview time comes, you can focus on how to tailor those stories to the specific question rather than how to tell the stories in the first place.

          I keep a bullet list of available stories, but don’t need more than a few words because I’ve rehearsed (out loud) the stories well enough not to need to read from a script. As a result, I consistently get interview feedback that I came across as “very confident.” Reading verbatim from a script would cause the opposite.

      2. Green great dragon*

        Seems like a good place for a few probing questions – ‘tell me exactly how you went about doing that’. Not for LW if the answers were bad anyway, but if the answers were good and you weren’t sure if they were the candidate’s own.

      3. Sparkles McFadden*

        The coding section of our IT department used to give a test, and, sadly, some the candidates would have their phones half hidden, trying to copy pieces of code. One guy was overheard in the bathroom, calling someone for help. The hiring manager later said “I don’t know what’s worse. Cheating to get a job you obviously cannot do, or the fact that they’re not even good at cheating.”

        1. Khatul Madame*

          The worst is thinking that the hiring manager/interviewer is too dumb to see through their lame tricks. If you cheat in my interview, respect my intelligence and make it good.

          1. Not A Girl Boss*

            We refer to this as “thinks they’re playing chess when they’re really playing checkers” and I do find it so much more offensive.

          2. Environmental Compliance*

            That was my response when I caught a student cheating in hilariously obvious ways – including turning in a lab report with blue hyperlinks (thanks, Wikipedia!) obviously written much above their intro-to-chem level, pulling out another (old) lab notebook to copy into theirs….when the labs aren’t even the same lab, and they’re doing it right in lab in front of me.

            1. Anonymous at a University*

              +1 If you’re going to plagiarize, students, at least don’t turn in a paper with “” listed on the bibliography, the website that you copied the whole thing from printed at the bottom of the page, or as a PDF that still has someone else’s watermark on it.

              (And also, like, have some taste. Why in the world are you plagiarizing this typo-riddled comment on the Huffington Post? It’s not even good!)

        2. AnonEMoose*

          It reminds me of watching “Homicide Hunter,” and Lt. Joe Kenda saying, in reference to a suspect “If you’re going to lie to me, at least have the decency to be good at it.”

      4. sunny-dee*

        I simply do not see that as an ethics issue. Ethics define moral principles – if this person as autism or severe anxiety (or sleep deprivation or a stutter or just interviews poorly) it’s hardly a breach of morals to look for an answer to a question. Especially since he probably was thinking during that time, and wildly hoping he had an adequate answer. It may be poor professionalism or poor performance, but it’s not a moral lapse.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            There’s been a ton of sympathy here over the years to people who get anxious in interviews. The issue is the attempt to deceive the interviewer and prevent them from knowing that he’s reading scripts (and in a job that, as the OP says elsewhere, requires the ability to speak off the cuff).

        1. MassMatt*

          First, please stop with the armchair diagnosis.

          Second–I would say reading off answers is a POSSIBLE moral or ethical issue–who knows where those answers came from, or who wrote them? The bigger issue is that the interviewee said “let me think” when asked a question that did not fit any of the prepared answers and proceeded to leaf through their answer list for a couple of minutes. That’s really not “thinking”.

          1. sunny-dee*

            I’m not diagnosing anything. I’m saying that there are DOZENS of reasons other than dishonesty for this behavior.

            And that’s not really “thinking” to you. This person obviously does not think well on his feet. That may have been his (horrible) way of trying to find an answer.

              1. Sunflower*

                If this candidate thought the notes were necessary than why wasn’t he upfront about the document or said ‘let me scan my notes’. Maybe he is anxious and I have sympathy because I also tend to ramble and I’d do a lot better in interviews if I had my pre-planned questions and answers in front of me..but that’s not how most interviews work. I don’t think I NEED notes- but if I did, I would ask to use them, not hide it. He knew the requirements of the interview. He didn’t follow them and was dishonest and deceitful quite honestly. I have sympathy for him and maybe he didn’t realize how this looks but part of being in the working world is considering all actions have consequences regardless of how they affect you or your intention.

                1. Not Me*

                  “If this candidate thought the notes were necessary than why wasn’t he upfront about the document or said ‘let me scan my notes’. ”

                  This is like saying “if you couldn’t hear me from where you were sitting, why didn’t you say something”.

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              But if the candidate doesn’t bring up any of those reasons to you then it is still, in fact, armchair diagnosing. You can invent what-if scenarios for any aspect of poor interview performance you like – if you give the candidate a skills assessment and they flunk it, well, maybe they have anxiety and can’t recall information under pressure, if they turn up an hour late and never apologise maybe they were having a panic attack in their car and were too anxious to acknowledge their lateness, etc etc. (And does every candidate get this treatment or just ones whose behaviour is sympathetic to this group, which is heavy on the anxious introverts?) But unless you have evidence to back it up then you can’t treat speculation as reality. You have to interview the candidate that’s in front of you, not an imaginary theoretical version of the candidate whose every action is justified by a sympathetic diagnosis that you’ve given them.

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                You can “what if” to eternity, at the end of the day, the role requires the person to think on her feet and she has to leaf through notes before coming up with an answer, she’s out. An anxious person would not do well in such a situation.

      5. Legend*

        Removed. Again, do not armchair diagnose here. Per the commenting rules, we can’t diagnose based on anecdotes on the internet and these statements often stigmatize people with those diagnoses (as frequently pointed out in frustrated comments by people who actually do have those diagnoses). – Alison

      6. Llama face!*

        Weird. This really seems to me like hearing hoofbeats and going straight to zebras with the assumption that, because he had prepared notes, someone else wrote them for him. I’m not a manager but how often does that actually happen?

        I see people are really split over the dishonesty factor in how he phrased it but personally would have considered “let me think about it” to be a figure of speech not a lie.

        Now, if the actual job required him to be able to quickly think on his feet to come up with solutions or be a very good conversationalist in stressful situations that would be different and his performance in the interview could be disqualifying on those bases.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Sorry if that was unclear — I’m not assuming that at all. I’m pointing out that one of the problems with doing this is that it makes it impossible for the interviewer to know either way.

          1. Llama face!*

            Thanks for replying Alison. I am just finding it odd that you (and others) would even consider it a likely possibility.

            Serious question: Is this something that you/other managers have run into on a less-than-rare basis in your experiences with hiring?

            It just seems so utterly bizarre to me that it would be a common enough issue to be given any weight. But of course we learn every day on this site just how bizarre the working world can be so maybe I’m being naive.

          2. Not Me*

            “There’s been a ton of sympathy here over the years to people who get anxious in interviews. The issue is the attempt to deceive the interviewer and prevent them from knowing that he’s reading scripts (and in a job that, as the OP says elsewhere, requires the ability to speak off the cuff).”

            Your comments aren’t exactly vague on whether you think it’s an attempt to deceive the interviewer.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Correct. I think reading from a script while trying to hide it is, in fact, an attempt to deceive your interviewer. If it wasn’t, there would be no need to hide it.

              1. Not Me*

                The number of reasons someone could be reading from a script or notes in an interview clearly includes a list of disabilities most wouldn’t want to share in an interview. Assuming malicious intent instead of someone being differently-abled or nervous is a huge leap.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I’m not assuming malicious intent, as I’ve said repeatedly here. I’m saying that he tried to hide that he wasn’t participating in a key element of the interview (speaking without a script).

                  Agree to disagree — I’m out for the day now!

        2. Zebra*

          Yeah, that seems like a red herring. People are capable of memorizing scripts, too, so it’s never possible for an interviewer to know.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Yes, people are capable of all sorts of things. Memorising scripts and reproducing them in such a way as to sound like you’re speaking naturally is basically as good as speaking off the cuff in many situations. Depending on how many scripts you can memorise and how many different scripts you might need.

    4. Viette*

      Yeah, but “let me think about that” and then going through the script to find some answer that didn’t even address the question? It would be bad enough if they lied/pretended they were thinking and just looked elsewhere in their notes — which, if they wrote, they should as prompts at most, not as a script — but they didn’t even come up with a good answer.

      They probably would have been better off being nervous and flustered. There are ways to work with anxiety during interviews to best showcase yourself and your skills, and this is not one of them.

      The interviewer is completely right to pass on this candidate. They didn’t give a good interview. They didn’t show their ability to converse well about their skills and how they suit the job, and when pressed they doubled down. Maybe they did that because they were super anxious, but it’s not like the interviewer can get anything more from them than what they gave… which was a bunch of stilted, awkward, sometimes irrelevant answers.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        But you gotta give him credit for his persistence and follow through. I mean, even though he knew he was tanking (and trust me, he knew), he kept going reading off that page – that bullheaded tenacity may one day take him places. Not OP’s place, but places.

      2. KayDeeAye*

        I agree. Reading scripted answers isn’t ideal and would definitely rub me the wrong way, but I might be able to forgive a little bit of that, particularly if the interviewee seemed especially anxious. I’m not sure that I would, but I might, depending on other factors.

        But reading nothing but scripted answers? No. Reading scripted answers that don’t actually answer the question? No. No, no, no, no, no.

        I would probably feel sorry for the poor applicant, but I can’t hire someone if I can’t get at least some feel for what their communication skills are like.

        1. Joielle*

          Yeah, I can almost understand reading scripted answers if you have a script for the actual question asked. “Why do you want this job?” “What are your top strengths and weaknesses?” “Tell me about a time when you handled a difficult client” – there are a number of very common interview questions for which you could well have written an exact answer. I don’t necessarily see a huge difference between memorizing an answer and reading it from a document.

          But when you’re asked a question you don’t have a scripted answer for, and yet you read an irrelevant prepared answer anyways… yeah no, that’s no good. It’s rude to not even attempt to answer the question asked.

      3. Alianora*

        Yes! I’m thinking of two different candidates I interviewed recently.

        One of them was clearly very nervous. She stammered and blushed through her answers. But she made an effort to answer the questions in good faith.

        The other one was reading off some notes. She didn’t come across as nervous, but she didn’t answer the questions. It was very mechanical.

        Guess which one I recommended we hire? The one where I actually got some sense of who she was as a person.

        1. Orora*

          For me, it indicates that the person might not be good at being flexible. If I’m looking for an employee who can roll with the punches, this person wouldn’t be a good choice for me. Even if the answer wasn’t great, someone who tried to answer the question asked will be a better fit in my organization than someone who can’t deviate in even the smallest way from what they already know.

    5. Malarkey01*

      While I’m really sympathetic to anxiety around interviewing, I think a better approach would be to write out sample answers and practice or even role play them with a friend until you felt more comfortable. Before an interview I always have a few days where I run through different scenarios and work out how I’d phrase common things, examples I’d use, etc. I look like a nut walking and driving around talking to myself but then feel prepared and able to have an interview where I send both professional but conversational.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        Yeah, I felt a lot calmer in interviews after I started writing out answers and occasionally mock-interviewing with friends.

        Even if none of my questions came up, just exposure to that kind of thinking really helped.

        It also allowed me to practice some key behaviour and phrases. I tend to ramble when nervous, so I would practice stopping and asking “does this answer your question or would you like me to expand?” — that sort of thing.

        1. Sasha*

          Yep, I ramble, and my husband taught me “make three points and then shut up”. It works really well! And stops that thing of talking for ten minutes around a question and never actually answering it.

      2. Roeslein*

        Yes, I’ve often had to interview in languages that are not my first (or second, or even third) language, so I write down answers to all the questions i can think of and look up any vocabulary I need to make sure I know how to say what I want to say in an intelligible and grammatically correct way. But much like a presentation, the idea is to use these notes to practice until you are comfortable and then adapt them as appropriate on the day – I would never read off the notes in the actual interview!

      3. londonedit*

        This is what I do. I know I’ll need to have examples of successes, challenges I’ve faced, things I’m particularly proud of, etc, so before an interview I’ll spend some time writing notes about all of those things, as well as anything else I can think of that I particularly want to bring up in the interview, some brief notes on the company I’m interviewing with, and a few general questions that I might want to ask the interviewer. Then I spend some time reading through the notes, practising some answers out loud, maybe condensing my sample answers into bullet points (I’ve always used this technique to revise before exams – I write out longform notes, then condense them until I can write out bullet points from memory without having to look at the longer page of notes). On the morning of the interview, or on my way there, I’ll read through everything again so it’s fresh in my mind. But I wouldn’t take a notebook into an interview and read verbatim from it – and it sounds like that’s effectively what this guy did.

      4. Mel_05*

        Absolutely. I started doing that after reading some advice on AAM about looking up questions that are likely to be asked.

        I wrote out the questions, wrote out my answers, and then I practiced saying my answers. It really helped me feel confident in the interview. And having thought through all that made me much more prepared for the few questions I didn’t anticipate.

      5. Birdie*

        I really, really dislike role playing but I’ve starting recording myself answering questions so I can listen back. I’ve always outlined and practiced talking through answers, but listening to that practice has been super helpful. I find it much easier to take in the responses impartially that way and judge what I need to think through further/refine and what answers are already pretty strong. It helps me feel more confident going into the interview, as well.

      6. kt*

        Yes — and I have to say that when I was embarrassed to role-play with a friend, I just recorded myself on video or via voice recording on my phone. It was really useful to listen to myself and work out where I was going off the rails on answers I was ‘sure’ I had totally down based on my written-down answers! Highly recommend to everyone.

    6. Mystery Bookworm*

      I think that’s not unlikely — but unfortunately this is just one of the imperfections about interviewing. I think how much an interviewer should probe for that will depend a lot on the role.

      Practice with friends is definitely helpful for this.

    7. EventPlannerGal*

      This person didn’t even successfully fake it. They didn’t check their setup to see if their notes would be visible, they haven’t figured out how to read them in a natural way, and when the interviewer went off-script (which an interviewer is almost guaranteed to do) they couldn’t come up with a single independent answer and just repeated bits of their script that weren’t even relevant. If you’re going to fake your way through an interview then at least do it well, you know?

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        Pro tip if you’re going to do this and wear glasses – put the text in white on a very dark background. It’ll be a tiny bit less obvious.

    8. Forrest*

      The fact that some people don’t/can’t perform in interviews is definitely a weakness of the format, BUT they’re still there for a reason: employers need the information they get from them, which is partly about what people are actually saying, but also about how they say it, the details they add, the opportunity to probe and see how people think and what they say when they are reacting spontaneously. When it works, those things tell you a lot about someone’s attitude and motivation, and also things like integrity, command of detail and truth. If someone is simply reading pre-written answers, then you’re not getting all that extra information: you’re getting exactly what you’d get if you’d emailed them a list of questions and they’d emailed back, and that really dramatically reduces your ability to judge the candidate.

      If you don’t get the information you need from the interview, you can’t just assume it’s there anyway and hire someone. If it’s clear that there’s a specific problem that might be rectified on another day (like a bad computer connection or a terrible cold), it might be worth scheduling another interview if your recruitment system lets you do that–but fundamentally you can only hire on the information you’ve got, and if the candidate’s nerves prevent you from getting the information you need, you can’t just pretend you did get it!

      1. Thistle Whistle*

        Yes. Once you are past the lowest levels of a job then interviewers are often looking for the ability to problem solve and think on your feet. Having to come up with an answer on the spot is a good way to show this. It sucks until you get a few interviews under your belt and so get used to it but it is a skill you can improve on.

      2. allathian*

        Yeah. I tend to ramble, especially if I’m nervous. Last time I interviewed in person, I had a tiny post-it note stuck on my wrist, inside the sleeve. It said “don’t ramble”, and because I could feel it all the time, the reminder stuck and I didn’t ramble. Or at least not as much as I might otherwise have done. I didn’t get the job, but the interviewers were pleasant and it was a two-way discussion, rather than just them asking questions.

      3. Koalafied*

        I have to agree with this. I’m a pretty anxious person myself whose mind can go completely blank in response to a “tell me about a time” question I wasn’t prepared for.

        When I’m on the interviewer side of the table I try to go out of my way to put the candidate at ease and make the conversation feel more friendly – starting with a softball or two, giving positive non-verbal feedback (good eye contact, occasional nodding) and working my way up to the harder questions. I do that to try to minimize the effect nerves will have on the situation – but ultimately I do need to ask hard questions and hear good answers to feel confident about making a recommendation or offer. All I can do is try to make them feel more comfortable, but if they’re still too nervous to answer well, I can’t get that confidence.

      4. Dust Bunny*

        Also, for some jobs, you’re going to have similar situations once you actually work there. I’ve had a bunch of jobs that involved sort-of interviewing clients, and if I couldn’t do a job interview, I couldn’t really do that, either.

    9. hbc*

      For me, if you are unable to handle a normal and foreseeable aspect of an interview, you should give the heads up to the interviewer beforehand. “I have claustrophobia and won’t be able to be in a small conference room or office for the interview.” “I currently have some throat issues being treated, so I will need to either write out my responses or whisper them to someone who will repeat it back to you. Which do you prefer?” “Interviews make me extremely nervous in a way that doesn’t show up in my day-to-day work (which my references can confirm.) I usually read off my pre-prepared answers to standard questions when they’re asked, but I can go off-the-cuff when needed.”

      I know a lot of people are reluctant to give information that could theoretically be used against them in hiring, but the people who are all “I wouldn’t want to hire a weirdo who gets anxious all the time” are not going to be the people who are tolerant of an interview like the LW described.

    10. Cat Tree*

      It depends on the job level and how many other candidates I’m interviewing. If it’s a young person just out of school, I would give them more chances. Although in that case I would probably do some things to help them relax and see if that helped.

      But ultimately, if I’m interviewing 4 candidates I’ll just choose one who used the opportunity to demonstrate their skills better by having a real conversation. I really do feel bad for nervous people (I’ve been there), but I can’t base my decision on pity if I can’t get a real feel for the candidate.

    11. LW1*

      I definitely agree that it could be preparation but that also means he might not be able to fill this role (public speaking is a requirement). Senior leadership will often ask tough questions in a public forum, and not being able to answer would be a significant issue. When I said I asked more ‘odd-ball’ questions, I didn’t ask anything unrelated to the job, just things I thought he wouldn’t have prepped. For example, if this were a llama care position, ‘tell me about a time when you didn’t know what was wrong with a llama who was clearly sick and how you moved forward to help them feel better.’ I appreciate the impact of nerves, but I also wonder if he wasn’t taking advantage of the remote circumstances to keep a cheat sheet in view.

      1. EPLawyer*

        If the role requires public speaking then you were right to not recommend. An interview is a form of public speaking. iI the candidate can’t even do it without reading from notes, they are not going to handle the job well. Regardless of the reason they had to read then notes, they demonstrated they don’t have the necessary skills for the job. There is a very noticeable difference between reading notes and speaking from notes.

      2. Uranus Wars*

        I think if you need what you describe here you made the right call. Maybe saying in the moment, “hey, can we have a conversation without notes?” would have worked, but it actually sounds like it played out just like it needed to. If you need someone who is ready off-the-cuff this person doesn’t sound like he is going to fit the bill.

      3. I edit everything*

        A question like “Tell me how you’d prepare for a public presentation that ends with a Q&A” might have been useful both for interview purposes and getting at what was going on in the moment.

        You definitely made the right choice, and I hope the candidate gets better at interviewing and finds a role he’s a good fit for (which your position would not have been). Best result for both of you.

      4. Koalafied*

        At a previous job I juggled both marketing and office manager duties, so I was constantly in impossible situations where something (or things) urgent needed to be dealt with in the office, which meant I couldn’t work on marketing projects and had to push things back, cancel things, or deliver mediocre content because I didn’t have time to do any better. One of the questions I asked all the people I interviewed to replace me was the Impossible Scenario: Telling them to imagine they had x, y, and z marketing tasks to finish today, some of which involve hard deadlines to get assets to vendors, but when they arrived in the morning the office printer wasn’t working and the Comms director needs to print materials before going to his 12pm meeting with a legislator, and they got a call from the boss who needed to have a flight originally booked for next week moved up to that day due to an emergency (or some variation on this, with a full day of work planned, deadlines looming, and two unexpected emergencies arising that needed to be dealt with immediately). Then asking: walk me through how you would handle this.

        I had no right answer to the question in mind. I just wanted to 1) gauge how they reacted to the possibility of a day like that happening, 2) convey that days like that would inevitably happen, and 3) see that when confronted with an impossible problem, they had some schema/strategy for deciding on an imperfect solution and wouldn’t just be paralyzed with indecision or give an unrealistic answer like, “I’d work extra hard and get it all done.” Once I was gone it would be up to whoever filled my role what they would prioritize and what they would let slide, and it didn’t necessarily have to be what I would have prioritized, but no matter what that role needed someone who could make those kinds of tough calls, who could be comfortable with imperfect solutions.

      5. Khatul Madame*

        Yes, he was taking advantage, and it’s quite possible he didn’t even prepare the cheat sheet himself.
        You could have called him on it in the moment like Alison recommends, ended the interview early, or stuck it out, but bottom line, you made the right call in rejecting him. Don’t overthink it.
        I hear the posters on neurodivergence maybe being a factor, but TBH after many years interviewing in tech I’ve learned to tell cheaters from people with Asperger, anxiety and other conditions that affect how one interviews.

    12. Kiki*

      I struggle with anxiety and have a lot of empathy for this interviewee if it turns out that was the case for them, but trying to pass off reading a word document as “thinking” in the way this interviewee did just seems like a pretty substantial miscalculation in judgement. I personally didn’t even think of it as an ethics issue– I assumed the employee prepared this document themselves and I even am someone who brings notes to an interview– but just monotone reading irrelevant passages from a document to an interviewer seems disqualifying for me. Perhaps for some jobs it wouldn’t be and maybe if the interviewee had prefaced the interview with, “Hey, I have some notes with me that I’ll be referring to, is that alright?” this whole thing would have seemed less odd, but they didn’t.

      I honestly think the kindest thing to do would be to provide honest feedback if the candidate asks for it. I understand the desire to give the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes it’s okay to draw boundaries and not move forward with a candidate who didn’t come across well in the interview.

      1. LW1*

        If we’re defining ‘young’ as in one’s first job or two out of college, then no. He had a handful of years of experience in this type of role. Our organization would have been a lateral move in title but moving from a smaller player in the industry to a much larger one.

    13. Emma*

      Yeah, to me this reads as taking a perfectly sensible jobsearching technique and going way overboard.

      When I’m job searching, I maintain a big document of examples, STAR stories etc that are relevant to the jobs I’m applying to. When I’m filling in applications or writing cover letters, I save time by pulling examples from the document and then adapting them, instead of writing from scratch. And part of my interview prep is to review those examples as well as any others I have that didn’t make it into the cover letter, but that I think might be relevant at interview.

      It sounds like this guy thought he could skip the “reviewing examples so they’re fresh in your mind” step by just… having the document in front of him, which was ill judged but I can see how he got there, especially if extreme nerves, inexperience or, uh, arrogance was involved. And of course, pretending that that’s not what he was doing was a bad idea and shows a further lack of professional judgment – I hope someone points out to him that this “shortcut” will seriously damage his chances.

    14. MissDisplaced*

      I guess my answer to this might depend on how qualified the candidate was. If they really looked great on paper, after the first scripted answer, I probably would’ve said something in order maybe put them at ease a little and to speak more freely and not from scripted notes. But if they were only s0-so applicant, I suppose you have your answer about them.

      There are also factors perhaps as well: such as age, experience and maybe language fluency to take into account. If any of those apply here, and they still seem well-qualified, you might want to give them another interview to be sure.

      1. virago*

        “There are also factors … such as experience and maybe language fluency to take into account.”

        Re: fluency:

        The OP has weighed in (as LW 1) and mentioned that the job opening calls for answering tough questions from senior leadership in a public forum, so I’d assume that language fluency wouldn’t be an issue for anyone who has made it to the interview stage.

        Re: experience:

        LW 1 said the interviewee “had a handful of years of experience” in the kind of role for which they were interviewing, “but moving from a smaller player in the industry to a much larger one.”

        So I’m guessing that the note-reading was a tactic to relieve the interviewee’s anxiety (“This job is really a big deal! I’d better not mess it up!”) that unfortunately turned out to be counterproductive.

        I empathize when it comes to anxiety. As with other commenters, my anxiety-related responses tend toward rambling or blanking out. But reading off a script doesn’t work either!

    15. Threeve*

      I think doubting his judgement and ability to do the job are fair enough, but labeling him with “questionable ethics” (and possibly blacklisting him at the company) is a bit much. If LW point-blank asked if he was reading and he denied it, that would be one thing, but that isn’t what happened. No reason to chalk this up to dishonesty when anxiety or misinformation about how virtual interviews work could just as easily be the issue.

      1. Reba*

        I thought that the characterization of questionable ethics was rather strong as well. But then again, saying “let me think” and then… not thinking but rather searching for more scripts to read *is* effectively denying that he is reading. Just not as direct as it could have been, I guess.

        1. sunny-dee*

          Except there’s no reason to assume he wasn’t thinking. It’s obvious he has some kind of interview anxiety – he probably was like, “okay, do I have an answer for this? yes, maybe … will this work? kinda, I mean, it’s close….”

          That’s not a great thought process and is justifiably disqualifying, but there’s no reason to assume 1) he’s not thinking or 2) he’s a dirty rotten liar just because he flubbed an interview and was so deadset on reading from his notes that he couldn’t answer off the cuff.

    16. Some Lady*

      I have been impressed by people using notes *effectively* in interviews. Having jotted down things that might be pertinent examples, major points, and questions you want to ask so that you can reference them in the moment is a sign of preparation. For my work, most people would use notes at meetings and presentations, so there’s no reason to be totally off the cuff in an interview. And since interviews are high pressure, people frequently can’t think of everything in the moment, and that doesn’t necessarily indicate anything. But it’s only helpful if these things are helping you have a meaningful conversation. Use prepared notes to have a thorough conversation? Great! Read verbatim and not really answer the actual question asked? No.

      1. LW1*

        I agree its possible, but it would be pretty….abnormal in our industry. Like if you’re an engineer and had to bring in a sheet with the specific lines of code you wanted to include in an interview exercise. To the point that I think most interviewers in person would ask you to put away your notes and, if you refused, would likely end the interview on the spot.

        I didn’t ask him about it (hence why I wrote in) but as an interviewer, the only time I would think that was appropriate would be if the candidate had a list of questions they wanted to make sure they asked after all the interview nerves/adrenaline hit.

    17. RupertsBear*

      I was about to comment and say just this. This interviewee may not be a great fit, but it’s not necessarily “unethical” (??) to make notes on what you’d like to talk about in an interview, nor is it unethical to refer to them. It’s an interview, not a closed-book exam! The interviewee may have poor working memory (I certainly do; thanks, ADHD!), may be very nervous or anxious, or something else. If I were this interviewee, and I was told after the fact that bringing notes in was “unethical,” I’d feel like I was being punished for not being neurotypical.

      It may be that LW1’s company needs someone who can think quickly on their feet, who doesn’t need notes, who never seems nervous, etc. I’d argue that this interview didn’t necessarily give the interviewer enough information to say for sure that the interviewee isn’t capable of that, but of course there may have been better candidates for the job. I just don’t agree with totally discounting a candidate based on this.

      1. Littorally*

        That’s not what the LW is describing, though. Nobody is saying it’s unethical to have notes or to refer to them. The LW described reading from a wholly pre-prepared script, which is a very different thing.

    18. John*

      Agree with this, and would like to add that as someone who struggles with both ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder, spontaneous answers can be incredibly challenging for me. While I don’t usually encounter difficulties in daily conversation with people I know well, or with leading presentations and Q&A sessions I’ve prepared for, interview questions represent the combination of the worst elements of conversation for me. While I definitely understand that some degree of cognitive and emotional fluidity are necessary for customer-facing roles, preparing a set of expected questions and potential answers/topics for follow-up is a fairly common way to for people with neurological or memory issues to remain on-task and focused during high-stakes conversations. I actually need to write a conversation outline just to talk on the phone with my bank, or to order a pizza, otherwise I get anxious, and forget how the conversation has flowed to that point.

      All that said, it sounds like the person in #1 may not have been an appropriate fit for the interviewer’s team regardless. Just wanted to point out why having a “script” ready for tough conversations like an interview does not necessarily indicate unsuitability for a role overall.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        But “ preparing a set of expected questions and potential answers/topics for follow-up” is not at all what this person was doing. You’ve put “script” in quotation marks like it’s a figure of speech but from the OP’s letter it is a literal description – he was reading out completely pre-written answers and when asked a question that didn’t fit, he couldn’t adapt what he had or come up with a new answer at all and just read out a chunk of his script that he thought might be close. He was literally reading from an actual written script. You’re talking about a completely different thing.

        1. Autistic AF*

          There’s so much information in my brain that it can take me a long time to pull a suitable example, remember how it went, make sure it correlates to the question, etc. I use written scripts (that I write myself based on my own experiences) and practice them until the fundamentals have moved past my poor short-term memory. I don’t think anyone here is saying that this specific interviewee was great, but there are a lot of ableist generalizations being made from there.

  4. WoodswomanWrites*

    #4, that would mean a lot to your VP of HR, I’m sure. If she is still relatively new, you may want to copy her manager as well even if it’s the CEO. That might be an extra pat on the back to include her boss.

    1. I Herd the Cats*

      Totally agree. It’s also strategically valuable input for the company; HR’s doing these great new things and you, an employee, really appreciate them. If nobody mentions the good stuff, the company doesn’t know directly how you feel about it. Maybe behind the scenes, these changes are costing the company more money in some way, or someone in the C-suite sees it as an experiment, or not that important to the organization. That kind of positive feedback (preferably from multiple employees) that it IS important provides context for keeping these changes in place.

      1. Amy*

        Thank you for this input! I hadn’t considered that the changes might be experimental and could be rolled back if we don’t speak up.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s pretty uncommon to roll something back simply because the employees haven’t voiced positive reactions. As long as you don’t get a pile of negative reactions, we tend to assume “no news, is good news.” on the engagement side.

          They gauge it more by participation in these things they are doing. If nobody shows up to your events, then that’s when they start saying “this is an unnecessary expense we don’t need.” But you don’t need to stand up and say “I certainly love these rainbow sprinkle donuts you bring in for Pride!” ;) Just show up and eat the donuts, they’ll draw the right conclusion.

          That aside, it’s still nice to say you appreciate someone and the work they’ve done. I just don’t want this misinformation out there that you need to take on the baggage of thinking that they’ll stop them because you simply didn’t gush at them enough.

  5. allathian*

    For #3, blowing off might just be what the awful former boss needs. She’s retiring, and assuming you’re happy burning bridges and won’t need her as a reference in the future, it would be very tempting to tell her like it is. “Do not contact me. You were a bad boss and an awful human being, and I don’t want to hear from you ever again.” I’m not saying you should do it, but it would be awfully tempting to do so. She has no power over you now that she’s retired.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You never know when you might need someone as a reference or when a reference checker might ask her about you outside the formal reference-offering process because they know she worked with you. It would be momentarily satisfying to say but ultimately not in the OP’s interests to do it. (That said, sometimes other things trump professional considerations; they’re not the end all, be all.)

      1. Malarkey01*

        You also never know who talks to who in your professional circle. I’ve been shocked as I’ve gone through life how many people know so and so from church, the PTA, the volunteer gig they have, etc.

        1. Mel_05*

          Yes! Or what random professional connections you’ll have. I’ve worked over a large swatch of my state and it’s been amazing how people I wanted to blow off have connections to several of the jobs I’ve worked.
          Thank goodness I was polite to them anyway!

          1. Artemesia*

            you never want to do something that will become part of the gossip in a professional community. A nationally prominent person in my field (and politically) borrowed a colleagues hotel room to prepare for a speech at a conference as he was commuting and didn’t have a room at the conference hotel. He read some private material the colleague had left in the room and talked about these personal matters. Decades later that is a story still told in the field as an example of what a glassbowl this guy is. (and yes he is, I have my own set of horror stories about him as I worked closely with him)

            You don’t want to be the person whose story comes up when cocktails are going down at the next professional conference.

        2. MassMatt*

          …and someone who was a bad boss might well interact very differently with people at conferences, a local charity, professional organizations, etc. So while you might assume their reputation is uniformly terrible, it might be that everyone else thinks this person is terrific and puts great stock in their opinion. I had a terrible boss who left abruptly under a cloud–he falsified his own timesheets, and then stole materials to start a rival business. I was amazed that so many people asked what happened because “he was so great”. I just smiled and nodded, and kept my mouth shut. I would never use him for a reference, but for years we were in the same industry, and word gets around.

          1. Xenia*

            Even setting aside malice, some people can be massively incompetent in one field but very good in another. A great example is that I’ve met a several skilled, talented, highly-trained people who are abjectly terrible managers. They can perform surgery or run a high level analysis or build an amazing building, and they’re nice people to know personally, but their management skill are just nonexistent.
            It’s always best not to judge fish on their tree-climbing ability.

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, that’s of course true. I guess it’s just that I’m from an area where when people retire, they really retire. As in, you’d be out of touch with local professional norms if you expected retirees to give you a reference of any kind. Some retirees might agree to give you a reference if you had an exceptionally good relationship, but it’s certainly not expected, and it would be very unusual for a potential employer to call retired former bosses outside the list provided by the candidate.

        That said, it seems to me that references are much less important here than they are in the US, which is strange in a way, because it’s much harder to fire people once they’ve passed their probationary period. To be fair, our standard is 4-6 months, or a maximum of half of a fixed-term contract (so if you got hired for a 4-month project, the probationary period would be 2 months).

        1. WellRed*

          So if you work for someone who retires and need a reference from that job, who do you use? Especially if it hasn’t been that long since they left? Or any other host of scenarios!

          1. allathian*

            In my case, I was able to use my current manager as a reference. I know it’s not often recommended, but I work for the government in Finland, and they can’t fire me for cause unless I do something truly egregious. Letting my boss know I’m interviewing didn’t affect my standing at my current job. Besides, my org is really big on career development, even if my job is such that I can’t really advance. When I asked my boss to be my reference, she agreed. Sure she said she’d hate to lose me, but I’ve no doubt that she gave me a fair reference. If anything, since I interviewed for the other org, she’s been keener than ever to ensure that opportunities for professional development come my way. To be fair, I interviewed for that other job not because I’m particularly dissatisfied with my current one, but because it would have provided opportunities that simply aren’t available at my current job. The main advantage would’ve been a larger team and with about a dozen people with the same job description and especially a manager who has subject-matter expertise in my field.

            I’ve been in my current job for 13 years and I’ve had my current manager for a little over a year. I might have asked my former boss for a reference, but she’s working for another organization now and she’s no longer in management. She’s a pleasant enough person, but she wasn’t a particularly good manager. Granted, I wasn’t the perfect employee when I worked for her, either, but I’m thriving now that I’m working for my current manager, so I think she gave me a better reference than my former manager would have done. I have no doubt that my former manager would have been fair, in spite of our occasional disagreements she’s not vindictive, it’s just that I’ve come so far since she left that her assessment would have reflected who I was when she managed me, rather than who I am now.

          2. Pink Dahlia*

            I’m in the US, and I’ve had bosses retire and move to AZ or FL and become unreachable. I’m old enough that my retired bosses did/do not use social media or cell phones, so once they’re gone, they’re gone.

            I just list the name of my boss and the company, and let anyone calling find out on their own that the person is not there anymore. If it’s an expected norm to keep track of your former bosses, it’s one I don’t plan to adhere to. I don’t have time for that. You get the name of who was there when I left, and anything that happened after I was gone is out of my hands.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              That’s certainly your prerogative, but be aware it’s a choice that could make your job search harder. If you’re up against another finalist who can provide reachable references and your stance is that it’s not up to you to find yours, that can matter.

              1. Environmental Compliance*

                What I’ve done is keep my actual references updated, but for when I have to list supervisors I have just listed what I have for them – I haven’t gone back and checked every single supervisor to make sure they’re still in the same title from 7 years ago, and for some I kn. Hopefully that’s good enough?

                Not sure if that’s what Pink Dahlia is referring to, but I think that when it’s the mandatory “list all your supervisors from when you started working til now” histories, it’s very different than “please submit 3-5 references we can talk to”, and FWIW I read PD’s as option 1 rather than option 2.

                1. Environmental Compliance*

                  Whoops – * some companies I know will redirect to HR for any of those types of inquiries.

        2. doreen*

          I wouldn’t say it’s the norm to expect a retiree to give a reference or for employers to call a former retired manager in the US – it’s more that you never know who knows who. Like maybe the manager you told not to contact you, who you told she was a bad boss and an awful human being is someone I’m in contact with even after she has retired- a friend, relative or former coworker of mine. If I can see from your resume that the two of you worked at Teapots Inc at the same time , I’m going to ask her ” Do you know allathian?” You don’t really want to give her a reason to speak badly of you.

        3. Not playing your game anymore*

          As opposed to my Ex boss who wrote a lovely letter recommending me for an award 20 some years after I last worked for her. She talked about hiring me straight out of school then mentioned several high points of my subsequent career… I mention this only because I had no idea she was keeping such close track of former staff.

          So yeah.

    2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      I would be very tempted to do this also. If that seems like a step too far, OP could just set up a filter to send her emails straight to the trash, so they don’t even have to see them. Unless there’s some practical reason for wanting to stay on her good side, dealing with her attempts to make contact sounds like a lot more trouble than it’s worth, tbqh.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        Looks like Alison and I were posting at the same time, lol. And I see Alison has pointed out some very practical reasons for choosing politeness, so I stand corrected! :-D

    3. Jane Plough*

      Another option would be to address it directly but in a less confrontational manner so as to not risk the reference or give ex boss ammunition to harm your reputation. Reply once to say that you aren’t interested in connecting socially and that you wish her well, hope she understands etc.
      I would favour this over the slow fade recommended by Alison (partly since it seems like the OP has already been doing the slow fade and it hasn’t worked, or at least that the OP is still worried about being contacted again). And it would allow the OP to ignore any follow up emails since they can be satisfied that they’ve been clear on the situation from their end.

    4. Trillian*

      There’s also the option of letting her know (provided it’s true), that everything is going swimmingly, team is flourishing, the new boss is extremely supportive of the team and their ambitions. Subtext: she is not missed At. All.

    5. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      I’m getting the vibe that Former Boss’ MO was abuse/reward repeat. She kept OP under her control by alternately making OP a “favorite” and a failure.
      And Former Boss is STILL trying to do that.
      OP, you probably aren’t the only one. She liked playing Master and Commander and now her human chess pieces are out out of her control. Be polite, disinterested and slow fade the hell the out.
      She probably won’t get bored, but she will lose her power to make you waste energy thinking about her.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        So that part of the letter stumped me. In my experience when a boss seemed to ask my help with projects they would then generally throw me the next big opportunity/project or encourage me to apply for a promotion, etc. Almost as a mentorship…this former boss sounds like she was just, well, mean and unpleasant. “Here, I am going to rely on you but also tell you not to apply for a job I’ve been asking you to help me do for years”

        1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

          “tell you not to apply for a job I’ve been asking you to help me do for years”
          because then you will be equal to me.
          And that is unacceptable.
          I can’t control/manipulate you if you don’t report to me. I can’t in turns flatter then crush you, make you dependent upon me for your view of your success at work.
          Former Boss is a textbook abuser/manipulator.
          OP, you don’t have to go nuclear. Just fade out and she will lose interest.

    6. Sparkles McFadden*

      It would be satisfying for about five minutes. The slow fade is satisfying in perpetuity because you banish the person without drama.

    7. Laura*

      I got offered a job. Between that time and I started, I found out a retired woman I volunteered with at church and my new manager were buddies from another volunteer job. New manager found it out by the mutual friend on Facebook.
      Don’t burn bridges if you can avoid it even if it would be personally satisfying. Be the better person.

  6. Karia*

    #1 – four hours of back to back interviews? Is this usual in certain sectors? It sounds a bit gruelling.

      1. Jean*

        I just did this a couple of weeks ago. A 30 minute interview every hour between 9:30 AM and 4:30 PM. It was exhausting, but we did them all remotely over video call, so at least I could take stretch/bathroom/snack breaks in between pretty easily.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        Been there, done that, got the t-shirt when interviewing for academic library (faculty level) positions. It was…. tiring!

        1. anonnonaanon*

          Same, but I’m the rare extrovert faculty librarian who often finds lots of different interviews energizing. But then I crash HARD once I get back to the hotel.

        2. Sara without an H*

          It is, indeed, tiring, especially when the day ends with dinner with the search committee. The candidate is usually worn to a frazzle at that point.

      2. Nye*

        Or even multiple full days, plus meals, plus one to three seminars / classes / etc! Academic interviews are grueling.

    1. Turquoisecow*

      My husband’s company does something like this. Usually by video (even pre-pandemic), since the team is scattered, but their usual procedure is that first the hiring manager would interview the candidate, then bring in several others – I believe both would-be peers as well as other people on the manager’s level. Each person is designated a certain amount of time to ask the questions and talk to the candidate, and then they have a shared space (I think it’s a Google program) where everyone puts their notes on the candidate and it’s reviewed afterward.

      I’m not sure if anyone has complete veto power or if the hiring manager ultimately can bring someone on even if everyone else doesn’t approve, but they find it useful because a) they often work closely together and also b) sometimes the peers or other managers have perspective on a particular skill the candidate has which the manager might not have. It’s a tech company so often the hiring manager doesn’t have as much knowledge about the skill as the candidate, but others do and can quiz them more directly.

      It seems like a rather grueling process to me, but I think for technical jobs in smaller companies it’s helpful (this is a startup that was recently bought out by a larger company, the former startup operates somewhat independently within the larger operation.)

      1. allathian*

        I’ve been involved several times in hiring a peer for myself, and it was always a panel of interviewers, in person. While the final hiring decision was obviously always up to my boss, it was great to be appreciated and involved in the process. The last time this happened, we had two candidates who had about the same experience and were in other respects about equally strong. My boss told me that she made her final decision based on my body language and general demeanor during the interviews. With one candidate, she said that I seemed a bit wary, and with the other, we seemed to hit it off immediately. If the other candidate had been hired, I would have done my professional best to get along with them, but the one we hired was just so easy to work with. I’ve honestly never had a better coworker.

      2. SomebodyElse*

        This sounds similar to my company. Typically the interview group ends up aligned on the same candidate. I’ve only been involved with one where there were totally diverging opinions. (A rarity that we had 3 very strong in their own way candidates (a great problem to have!)). As hiring manager I did get final say, even over my boss’s opinion. I did make my case to the group, and at the time I think they understood my reasoning and there weren’t any major objections.

        So far so good, the candidate as turned out to be a good hire after their first quarter. But yes, it’s always a bit nerve wracking when there are differing opinions on the right candidate. I mean it’s nerve wracking anyway to hire, due to the unknowns and the complete PITA-ness if it turns out to be a bad hire. But when you don’t have that alignment to begin with it feels like you’re out there by yourself.

      3. Birdie*

        Yeah, in my field I would generally expect at LEAST: an interview with a panel that would include peers or colleagues who would work closely with the person being hired, one-on-one interview with the hiring manager, one-on-interview with office leadership.

    2. TechWorker*

      My worst job hunting experience was ~5 hours of back to back interviews/problem solving. (Eg, sit by yourself with a problem for 10 minutes then explain it to the interviewer). The fact they gave me 25 minutes for lunch (most of which was spent in a queue to buy food from their canteen) was a key factor in deciding I didn’t want to work there.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        The fact they gave me 25 minutes for lunch (most of which was spent in a queue to buy food from their canteen) was a key factor in deciding I didn’t want to work there.

        Double ugh; the least they could do is give you an hour to procure some disappointing fast food and clear your head!

    3. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I recently had several back to back interviews for a position in biotech, and in my previous life in academic libraries the interviews were often scheduled for most of the day (one memorable one started with breakfast at 7:30 with the library director and concluded at 10pm that night after a delightful dinner.) My experience has been that the higher the position, the longer the interview.

    4. Diahann Carroll*

      I once did a three-and-a-half hour back-to-back interview with a tech-adjacent company. I was going for a project proposal manager position, and since I would be working cross-functionally in the role, they wanted me to meet various key players on different teams and tour their facilities. It was a lot, and I ultimately accepted a position with a software company that also had me interview for nearly three hours, but they had the decency to spread those interviews apart and put them on different days.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        I’m pretty sure some people would object to the interviews being spread over different days since it would take more time out from their “regular” life/job.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Maybe, but that’s been the way it’s been at most of the companies I’ve interviewed with or worked for. Several hour interviews all on one day isn’t the norm in my experience. People are just too busy for one thing and trying to get everyone available on roughly the same day just isn’t always feasible, especially in my current company (we end up rescheduling Teams meetings all the time because of this).

          1. pleaset cheap rolls*

            “trying to get everyone available on roughly the same day just isn’t always feasible”

            Hmmm, so maybe that’s why it’s more common, and not consideration for applicants. In this case, they were able to pull it off.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              Consideration is relative. Frankly, during my last job search, I didn’t have the time to be away from my desk for hours at a time to interview with a new company in secret, so having my interviews be broken up on different days and conducted entirely by phone was very considerate of my needs. I would have probably felt less considered if I actually had to travel somewhere and use PTO to go to an in-person interview. Other people would probably prefer to have all of their interviews on one day so they could just get it all over with in one shot. It’s going to differ for everyone.

          2. DataSci*

            This is highly field-dependent. In many software-adjacent fields it’s totally normal for interviews to be a few hours to half a day (spending half an hour to an hour with one or two people at a time – the interviewers aren’t spending four hours with you!), and I’ve never had a place ask me to show up on multiple days for a single round of interviews. (Which I wouldn’t do. If they can’t get organized enough to find a day that works, and instead will ask me to take time out on THREE DAYS, I’m not interested.)

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              Of course it is, and I haven’t worked in software long or software-adjacent companies prior to this one (I was in law, insurance, and transportation).

    5. Mynona*

      Two full days of interviews and a job talk plus dinner at the end of the first day (when your day starts at 4am for a 6am flight…). This is typical final-round interviews in my field. My last experience with this was particularly awful. There were a lot of short interviews with people who didn’t read my application ahead of time, so I had to repeat the same introductory spiel over and over and over again. It was extremely unpleasant.

    6. LW1*

      We were hiring for a fairly senior role in tech and this is the final round. They do try to break up the day a bit – every interview is supposed to end a few minutes early to offer the candidate a bathroom break, trip to the kitchen or just a second to breathe. Lunch is also provided.

      Unfortunately this process didn’t even stick out to me as overly lengthy when I went through it because it’s similar to other hiring in our industry.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Ooooh senior level and he didn’t know not to read his notes. Fine he may be asocial, or whatever, but by that level of his career, he should know better.

    7. Kiki*

      I once did a set of interview like this. I did actually like it because:
      1) I only had to make one trek out to the office instead of four
      2) the hiring committee did a great job of setting an agenda: each interview had a clear intention and there were organic-seeming breaks.

      But I did collapse into a heap on the floor and sleep for 12 hours once it was done (I’m an introvert who can and will be very charismatic when needed, it just drains me like little else.).

    8. Long interview*

      I went through something like this recently. I had to give a 30 minute presentation (which took me hours to prepare) with 30 minutes for questions plus three additional hour-long panel interviews. I had some breaks in between, but it definitely was grueling.

      I ended up not getting the position, and honesty feel a little bit of resentment at how much work I had to do for it.

    9. Artemesia*

      for my first professional job I had two days of interviews followed each day by dinner with future colleagues — so it was like 8 am breakfast interview through to 10 pm final dinner interview often with no scheduled time for breaks at all. Just going to the bathroom meant the next half hour interview got cut short or put the schedule off.

    10. Cat Tree*

      It’s a little on the long side, but doesn’t seem that weird to me. We do interviews surg multiple team members, not just the hiring manager. So if the candidate talks to 3 or 4 groups of 1-2 people (typically 4-6 peopletotal), anything less than half an hour is kinda pointless. We typically go for 45 minutes, which lands closer to 3 hours. Otherwise it’s hard to truly get to know the candidate.

    11. This is Jeopardy!*

      I did this for my current position. I have been working from home, and could have logged back into my old job for half the day afterwards but I had taken a full day of PTO just in case. I’m glad I did. I was wiped. I took a nap. On the plus side, besides the phone screen, that was it for the interview process so I didn’t have to keep taking time off and going back in for second, third, or forth rounds.

    12. Roeslein*

      I’ve done this several times for both academic and consulting jobs. You usually speak to a mix of people including senior managers, peers, and HR. I think it’s pretty normal in fields where candidates may live far away and/pr might not be able to take time off and travel to the office several times. Less relevant these days, obviously, since you don’t need to travel or take the entire day off for a Zoom interview.

    13. HQB*

      I’m in a senior engineer position at a government contracting firm, and this is very similar to my second (and final) round interview.

    14. Just stoppin' by to chat*

      Karia – Yes this is coming in some industries, like Tech. It’s sometimes referred to as an interview loop, and can sometimes last even longer. I’ve been through “loops” with as many as 7 interviewers, although my last loop was only a few since I was an internal candidate.

    15. Jubilance*

      I did this a few months ago as a candidate – I needed to meet with 4 different people, and by luck of scheduling, I had 3 sessions back to back to back and then a break before my final session. It was grueling, but I was also happy to get it over with and it helped to stay “on” and in interview mode.

    16. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      I came here to say the same thing – four hours of interviews is excessive and unnecessary for a low level position. CEOs etc I could see it but not for any other level. If I was told I had to do that for a lower level position, I’d back out immediately.

  7. Seal*

    #3 – Something similar happened to me with a former mentor. At first I was flattered that someone of her stature in our profession would take me under her wing. It took me far too long to realize that she was only interested in me because she felt she could use and manipulate me to do her dirty work and that she had burned quite a few bridges in our profession over the years. Due to the nature of our work, I couldn’t effectively distance myself once I realized what was going on, which was incredibly stressful. After much unnecessary drama and more than a little nasty and petty behavior on her part, she finally retired, but still tried to stay in touch with me. I flat-out ghosted her and never responded to her emails or and always let her phone calls go to voicemail, which I never returned. This went on for a year before she apparently got the hint. I’m sill kicking myself for having gotten played by her in the first place but have NO regrets about ghosting her after all that.

    1. Workerbee*

      People like that are professional at being manipulative, to say the least. They count on other people not being horrible people themselves and responding like non-horrible people to them, and use that as much as and as long as they can. It was never on you. She chose to do what she did. The fact that you were able to realize what was going on, regardless of when you realized it or that circumstances outside your control prevented you from getting clear away, is entirely to your credit. I hope you can take heart someday about that and unhook any last remaining tendrils that make you feel like you “should have” done anything other than what you did.

    2. Sara without an H*

      I don’t know that OP#3’s Awful Boss is actually being consciously manipulative. (It’s possible, of course. There are people like that.) I once worked for a woman, “Kate,” who was verbally abusive, hypercritical, and absolutely closed to other viewpoints — but I was her favorite and she thought of herself as my mentor. Looking back, I think she honestly believed she just had high standards for herself and everybody else.

      I worked my way through library school at the university branch library she ran. (Salary wasn’t great, but the benefits package was actually very good.) She gave me all kinds of (unsolicited) professional advice, not all of which was bad, and passed on to me her personal copies of the Chronicle of Higher Education, so that I could look for professional jobs. (Note to non-academics: CHE is the industry paper for higher education.)

      Whenever anybody left this place, we always discreetly threw a party for them off site.

      Given what OP#3 has said about her Awful Boss, I wonder if AB honestly thought she was being a good, tough mentor and now wants to keep in touch with her protegee. And she may be finding it harder to adjust to retirement than she thought.

  8. Artemesia*

    The stuff has been left in the office a long time — I would give her one weekend max and then just pack the stuff up without comment. Put papers in boxes, books in boxes and other objects protected with newspaper in. boxes together — and if possible store them in another room or closet. If you think it is politic then give your boss a heads up in a sort of fait acompli way — ‘I need to have use of the office and Tangerina hasn’t been able to get her things, so I have boxed them up for her move. Where should I put them until she can pick them up?’

    1. Thistle Whistle*

      Sometimes the stuff gets so bad the person just can’t see their way through it all so ignores it. Someone forcing their hand is sometimes needed.

      A former colleague was a hoarder who had 18+ inches of papers covering his desk, even his keyboard sat of several inches of paper. The space under and around his desk was paper covered too, up to the height of the desk. Nothing was organised as landslides of paper were common. He also had many packing cases of papers. He insisted he needed all of it. Oh, and there was food remains through it all and it had been flooded a couple of times. It was rank.

      Well, he went off sick for a while and at that point we needed to move office. Those left donned gloves, got a roll of industrial shredding bags and went to work. By the time he came back to the new site he only had about 4 small boxes of stuff. He then went through them and cut it down to 3 as he ‘didn’t know why we kept some of it as it was out of date”. He had been so overwhelmed by 20+ years of crap that he couldn’t see how to clear it but once all the worst had been done (anything unhygienic or saved electronically was chucked) and the rest was rough sorted, he could see his way to sorting his personal stuff.

      OP box the stuff and move it to the corner of the room. If you rearrange the furniture a little then you can justify the boxing by saying you needed to do it to move the furniture. Everyone wins.

    2. I Herd the Cats*

      As the office cat-herder and manager I’ve been tasked to “help” people move their offices, and clean offices out after their departure. In my experience, most people with jam-packed offices of the type OP is describing just …. don’t see it and can’t do it on their own, unfortunately. (There are exceptions; I’ve worked with people whose offices seem insanely cluttered to ME, but there’s an organizational system in place and the offices aren’t actually dirty, and those people tend to pack and move their stuff so it’s juuust how they want it when they unpack.) I’ve resorted to the box-it-all-up strategy several times, and fortunately we have a “purgatory” room I can put the dated, labeled boxes in. A couple of times a year there’s a purgatory purge. I’ve had staff come back (literally) years later asking after their stuff, and one particular interaction with an academic who was FURIOUS that I’d boxed up and (eventually) disposed of a set of enormous bound manuals he’d stashed on entire wall bookshelf in another part of the office, because we had to have that space, which I told him multiple times after he’d left. People are weird.

    3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      If you are feeling especially petty, take a note from the Crimean War and pack up all left shoes in one box, and the right ones in another.

    4. Helen J*

      I agree. I would just pack the stuff and stow it somewhere (corner, another room or closet). You should have to do it of course, but that’s probably the only way it’s going to get moved in an appropriate amount of time.

      1. Ashley*

        Although at this point if it is my office I would personally rather just pack it up so it is done and people don’t start messing with stuff I am bringing in. In theory there are papers in there you may need for your role and you can make sure you keep those if you do the packing.

    5. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Since OP’s company has multiple locations, they have to have somebody who’s a facilities manager or something along those lines. Enlist their help – for sure you can get boxes and tape, and you may very well be able to get somebody else to take care of the job entirely.

    6. BlondeSpiders*

      I would be furious if I was expected to clean up 20 years’ of another person’s junk before I could use an office that was rightfully mine. This could take many hours! They are probably hoping someone else will kindly box it up for them. A more effective suggestion might be, “please clean out your office or everything will be thrown away.”

      I say this as a person who is an extreme pack rat, just moved from a house I was in for 10 years, and is very angry with myself for the amount of junk I allowed myself to accumulate over the years. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone else.

      1. lemon*

        Same here. If it were me, my method of “packing” would just be indiscriminately throwing piles of things into boxes and leaving it at that. I wouldn’t take the time to sort anything or pack anything with care.

    7. Been There, Done That*

      You have to be careful with people like this. A lot of times this stuff is PERSONAL even though it isn’t personal. I work with one. You can’t get rid of anything even though it is outdated (think typewriter from the 80’s that you can’t get ribbon for), 30 vases packed away “in case we need them” but we aren’t allowed to use them, hundreds of unmarked keys to who knows what, etc and if you do, you will pay in some way, shape or form. If you will need a good relationship with this person, you will want to handle this the right way otherwise they WILL remember this and can and it will interfere with your relationship. Good luck!!

  9. Isabel*

    Tell them if you feel the need, just be under no delusions that if later down the line you need their help on an individual, confidential level (as opposed to this case where their can be publicly credited), they’re there for the reputation of the company and wouldn’t do you have favours. Then again, that’s probably a good reason to get in good with her early.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t get the sense the OP is looking for favors in exchange for passing on genuine praise to a coworker. Not everything is transactional. (And of course the HR person needs to do her job in the future, like anyone else; it’s not odd that she wouldn’t be bribed to perform differently because someone was once kind to her.)

    2. Juliana*

      Wow, I can’t even define what I find so completely off-putting about this mindset – I’ll just say that I hope to never work with you.

        1. Amy*

          Oh my goodness, right?! I’m the OP and YIKES – it never even entered my mind that I should be nice to this person so she will help me in the future. I guess some people do think like that (obviously..) but wow.

          1. Artemesia*

            Generally speaking these kinds of graceful niceties do bank good will and that is reason enough to do them. George HW Bush whom as far as I can tell never really accomplished much in particular was noted for his ‘little notes’ and so when he wanted to run for President had legions of people who thought well of him. Nothing wrong with doing the things that will provide a little grease to future professional interactions. Doesn’t have to be insincere — but it is a benefit of being a considerate person.

            1. London*

              You* say transactional fishing for favors, I say banking good will ;)

              (*not you specifically, a general “you”)

      1. Xenia*

        To a certain extent, being nice to people will open doors. When I was in high school, I made a point of being friendly with the cafeteria staff and the janitors. Later, when I did some community service hours by cleaning the cafeteria, the janitors were super helpful in pointing out where all the supplies were. But there’s a big difference in being kind and helpful to others and deliberately doing ‘nice’ things to ‘save up’ for some sort of favor. Being polite to the janitor wouldn’t have meant that they’d have done my community service for me–it just made it easier for all of us to do our jobs.

        When people are polite, thankful for good things, and constructively critical about bad things, they are simply more enjoyable to work with. That again isn’t some sort of favor trade, that’s just part of working with other people.

    3. Helvetica*

      I find it sad that you think no one could ever say or do anything good to another without it being transactional in a practical sense. I am someone who has given such positive comments, also to people above me because I always find there is a lack of positive feedback and an overabundance of negative feedback, probably even more so on a high level. When I do it, I don’t have “delusions” that this will somehow negate their role in the company or their attitude towards me. Not everything has to be viewed with cynicism.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes. I think it’s not necessary to view everything in a transactional manner. I think in general if you are in a position to give someone positive feedback you should. Everyone, regardless of seniority can need that. I was chatting in the lift last year to my former uber boss (a very high powered woman who will probably wind up running the company) and she mentioned she had an interview for a more senior post in another company. I let her know how inspiring I’d found her leadership on particular tasks and what I’d learnt from her. She emailed me after to say how it had helped her feel more confident going into the interview to know that her leadership style worked.

        I have no expectation that she will do me any favours as a result but it cost me nothing to say something supportive and it helped her. So that’s all to the good.

    4. Fried Eggs*

      “HR is there to serve the company, not you” was a valuable lesson for people to learn, but it doesn’t mean HR is looking for an opportunity to stab you in the back at every turn.

      In functional workplaces, having employees who feel happy and secure IS in the best interest of the company.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        THIS. My current company’s HR department is fantastic. They’re very transparent about (almost) everything; they spearhead a lot of much needed diversity initiatives in our company for women and minorities (we’re in software where both are kind of scarce); and they’ve gotten us really good, affordable benefits and tuition reimbursement that is above the norm (if I get accepted to the MBA program I’m applying to next year, I’ll end up paying nothing for that degree out of pocket).

        The HR rep who recruited me was also very special, and I told her before I officially onboarded that she needed to be cloned and put into every HR department across the country. She really is that great, timely, and professional.

  10. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    OP2, congrats on your promotion.

    Your predecessor is being inconsiderate and gross. This office is probably a health and safety hazard – years of dust and dirt, dead bugs and mouse poop, mixed up with piles of paper.

    Ask your manager when it’s going to be cleaned out so that you can move in. It’s the company’s responsibility to provide you with a clean, safe and usable workspace.

    If they want you to do it yourself, push back! Tell them it looks like a job for professionals – you can’t personally box up and move 10 years worth of work detritus, and then do a professional-level cleaning job.

    1. MK*

      Eh, there is nothing in the letter about the space being dirty, much less the health and safety hazzard you describe.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Quote: “dirty, disorganized, and bursting at the seams with unfilled papers…”
        The results of that clutter level depend on the location and whether or not predecessor has food in there.
        One predecessor’s office was entirely paper clutter so the only issue was dust affecting my allergies. But I’ve also cleaned out co-workers’ spaces who did snack and spill, and I was delighted that my building has pest control because a former company had mouse issues even when we were tidy.

        1. Artemesia*

          I moved into an office like that once — brown recluses!! there were brown recluses in the clutter.

        2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          I’ve had to clean out small storage spaces (ex: pull out what was stored, tidy up, put it back.)

          Black widow egg sack and a mouse skeleton.

    2. WellRed*

      Dirty us not synonymous with health hazards, dead bugs and mouse poop. Talk about reading into things not in the letter.

      1. MassMatt*

        I agree that “health hazard” is probably a stretch unless food is involved, but the pile is not just papers, LW mentioned shoes. Health hazard? Probably not. Gross? Almost definitely!

    3. Formerly Frustrated Optimist*

      Came here to say exactly this: The company needs to be telling their staff member to get their stuff cleaned out, or the company needs to get it cleaned out for you.

      No way should you, as a new person in this role, be tasked with taking care of this.

    4. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

      Personally the clutter would drive me bonkers enough that I would pack their stuff and clean the office myself (on company time).
      Get a whole pile of bankers boxes ordered (25-30). Inform your predecessor and anyone relevant that cleaning day is going to be _____ (a date of your choosing), and do it. They’ve had plenty of time to do it themselves so doing this is beyond reasonable.
      Resist the natural urge to sort or recycle unneeded papers and just box every item that belongs to them. When you’re done, write their name on each box and numbers them (1/25, 2/25, etc.) so no one can accuse you of losing anything, and stack the boxes in the hallway.
      The place you stack them should be somewhere that is absolutely not your problem and a bit the problem of whoever should have handled this.
      I completely understand not cleaning out their crap on principle, but if clutter drives you absolutely bug nuts like it does me, this might be the easiest way to deal with it.

    5. Momma Bear*

      I’d ask HR what the protocol is for handling someone’s personal items to return them to them or their families. People die, people get arrested, people leave suddenly…usually it involves the manager and an HR rep to document the items and then ship them to the person’s last known address. I’d give the person a deadline and if they miss it, then ask HR to inventory and ship items to them. The team approach means that there is an accounting, and that should not be on you. If they cannot provide you this space, they should find you an appropriate alternative. It is impacting your job.

  11. Lady Heather*

    OP2, if you have a strong “my mess is clean. Your mess is filthy” thing going on (I do!), use disposable gloves.

    Is it overkill? Probably. Will it help? Probably.

    Gloves help me clean up because I’m less focused on the “I don’t want to be/shouldn’t have to be cleaning up another’s mess”. It helps a ton.

    1. NotsorecentAAMfan*

      Gloves yes! Not necessarily disposable either. Any unpleasant cleaning task is so much easier with them

      1. Delta Delta*

        I’m picturing someone coming into an office wearing pink dishwashing gloves like battle armor and I’m enjoying the mental picture.

      2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        I’d rather wear real gloves than flimsy disposable ones. I always put my finger though the tip of nitrile gloves right when it is impossible to stop and replace them.

        On the other hand, I don’t want to try to flip though papers while wearing rubber gloves, so pick your poison.

          1. Kippy*

            Yes, I keep a pair of cute gardening gloves in our file room to use when I’m shifting files or digging through old folders. Also great for protecting your hands from paper cuts or torn nails.

    2. Lontra Canadensis*

      I have disposable gloves to use if I’m working with my own files all day – not because of yuck, but because the paper sucks every bit of moisture out of my hands and leaves them miserably dry. I don’t like the gloves, but they’re better than mummy-hands. Also fair punishment for letting filing languish. ;)

    3. Artemesia*

      definitely gloves. As I noted above, the office mess I moved into had brown recluse spiders hiding in the worst of it. There is no such thing as ‘cluttered, piled high for years’ and ‘clean’. People who hoard and clutter and it sits there for years have filthy offices and roaches and mouse droppings are the least of it. Yes, someone can have temporary clutter as they work on a complex project, but if piles have been growing for years — no cleaning is going on either.

  12. Brusque*

    #3 i disagree that fading out would be a good idea. Due to their nature and overall behaviour such toxic people often have no social net they can rely on and also burn their bridges quite regularly. So if they get any answer at all they latch on and don’t let go because it’s all they have and use that as a legitimation that they’re not too bad after all because someone still allows contact. It’s better to make a clean cut and just block them if possible or let the mailprogram sort their mails out and never ever respond again so they get the message clearly.

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      I’m a huge proponent of the slow fade. Wait a week (or two) before responding and when responding just do one generic breezy, “Hey: I’ve been really busy, [insert one innocuous high-level detail here], hope you are well. Best,”

      1. Artemesia*

        This. And the next time you wait 3 weeks. And after that you don’t respond again. There is zero upside to be confrontational or ‘firm’ about not wanting to correspond —

  13. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    Re OP5’s question, this depends where you live / work.

    In my country, a calendar month is the standard notice period (sometimes a non-calendar month, but that’s unusual).

    And it’s expected that you don’t take leave during your notice period – unless you negotiate that. “Leave” doesn’t include “public” holidays though.

    1. Anna B*

      Most answers here depend on what country you live in but it’s not practical to say that in every response. The site assumes a US framework.

  14. Forrest*

    About ten years ago, one of my friends was in a temporary job covering the day-to-day duties of someone more senior who was on secondment, and had their office for several months. Said senior person didn’t clean it out: fair enough that they left their books and files in their, but they also left some personal stuff like photos AND literal rubbish like empty coke cans, nearly empty packs of tissues, sweet wrappers, post-it notes with “Tuesday week???!” etc. My friend asked them to clear it up but they never responded. So my friend, amazingly and passive-agressively, got a box and put all the stuff scattered on the desk and actual workspace in it, along with labels saying where it was: “coke can, left hand side of desk in front of photograph”. I am still in awe at this.

  15. Poopsie*

    LW 2, if you have one have you spoken to your Facilities team as they may have somewhere they can store the boxes. I know my employer has a small storage area for just this issue as we often have people going on secondment, sabbatical, long term sick leave and maternity leave, and they pack up their desks so they can be used whilst they are off but then they don’t have to take all their work stuff home either, and it’s kept safe for their return.

    If that is an option it totally shouldn’t be your issue to deal with but unfortunately it sounds like at the best solution might be for you to pack it all up and give it to Facilities to keep somewhere for your predecessor. That way you get your new office cleared out but don’t have to worry about throwing their stuff out and it’s out of your hair.

  16. Tamer of dragonflies*

    OP 2, I didnt see it mentioned,but it might be a good idea to send your predecessor an e-mail giving them notice that you plan to evict them on the specified date.That way,theres proof you gave them a chance to clear out and you can shut down any gripeing they try when they find all their stuff boxed up and sitting in storage, or worse the dumpster.

  17. MK*

    Eh, there is nothing in the letter about the space being dirty, much less the health and safety hazzard you describe.

    1. Me*

      While the health hazards assumption may be a bit much the letter literally specifies dirty: “It is dirty, disorganized, and bursting at the seams with unfiled papers, binders, books, personal decorations, shoes, etc.”

    1. Felis alwayshungryis*

      Dear Alison, I’ve just been awarded a contract position, taking over from another contract staff member, but now they are saying they should have been awarded an extension to their contract and won’t take their lunch out of the desk drawer. Is this legal?

        1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

          Apparently you can type emojis into your comment but they get lost somewhere. So my blank response above was actually 3 “laugh until you cry” faces.

    2. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*


      Also, that’s an entire SNL skit, right there, that will be funny on 1/21/21.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Eh, I work in archives and this is super common. I cannot tell you how many times we’ve gotten donations that are literally somebody’s office shoveled into boxes and signed over to us. In our case, it’s doctors’ professional material or “keepsake” files from scientific and medical institutions–we once got eight Rubbermaid bins of correspondence from a psychiatric institute/Pasteur institute (lots of telegrams that had accompanied animal heads sent in for rabies testing). Covered in coal dust.

      In this specific instance, yeah, I’d give this person until X Date and then box it up and send it to them. Their mess, their problem.

      1. Miss Demeanor*

        O/T and don’t want to derail further than this, but it might be interesting to have a post inviting archivists (and maybe museum workers) to share the weirdest/grossest/most boring thing they found in their collection (that wasn’t acquired unethically). Because we’ve all seen some shit.

        1. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

          Not an archivist, but I worked for a company that handled expired pharmaceuticals and we would get the weirdest things sometimes.

          I think the best was a hyper-realistic silicone butt, which we found out was used for people to practice giving shots. The facility manager at the time put it in a place of honor in his office, but was told to get rid of it when we were purchased by a Fortune 500 company years later.

          1. UKDancer*

            I think the silicone bottom is brilliant. I would have kept that as well. It’s too hilarious for words.

          2. Tidewater 4-1009*

            When I worked in clinical device consulting someone sent us a prototype of a female condom. Interesting!

            1. HQB*

              Female condoms are not very common, but they’re pretty widely available. I wonder how similar the prototype you got was to the versions on the market today.

        2. a username*

          Former archivist here, most boring thing is honestly just boxes of papers. Lotttssss of those. Okay, obvious aside – most boring but still unexpected would have to be a literal box of rocks. It was labeled “rocks” but I thought surely not… I became that “I don’t know what I expected” meme. ha!

          Weirdest or grossest I’d have to think about. You get pretty numbed to weird or gross when working with special collections, my barometer is probably off. :)

        3. Environmental Compliance*

          Does it count if I was inventorying a science building at my college in order to transfer everything out to a brand new science building (of course the year I graduated)? Because I found so much weird crap, including two-headed pig fetuses, giant shelf mushrooms, and ancient chemical bottles.

        4. not owen wilson*

          Also not archiving, but I worked in my university department’s stockroom during college and helped clean out a couple offices while I was there. One had a typewritten account of how he escaped Nazi Germany by climbing out the window of his jail cell while the guards were distracted and making a run for it. He was a retired professor and sounded like a very cool person. I wish I would have met him before he passed away!

      2. Mel*

        Some people just can’t clean, even to their own detriment. Had one faculty member in the same office for over 30 years. In about year 25 there was a burst pipe and a flood that required her office to be gutted and she merely shoved everything to the center and threw a tarp over it. Once the room had new floors walls and paint she just shoved all the rusty file cabinets and water damaged cartons back to their old locations. It took her six months to dig her personal stuff out from the mess when she retired. But she still couldn’t trash things. On her final day she went from office to office handing out mementos to coworkers. I got a dead plant. Once she was gone we hauled a small dumpster into the building and tossed everything.

    4. madge*

      My very first thought. My second one was that maybe Alison is the only one who can fix said situation.

    5. juliebulie*

      I was in a similar situation a few years ago, it took the guy six months to clean out his old cube (stacks floor to ceiling of ancient software packages and manuals, products we don’t sell any more, etc.). Our boss nagged him mercilessly but I think it took the threat of “throwing all that stuff out for you” to get him to move. (He threw away very little. I am talking like Windows 3.1 manuals and other stuff he didn’t need to do his job.)

      When he retired less than a year later, he had no trouble clearing out his new cube. So he just didn’t want to clear out the old one for ME.

  18. Build Trust*

    If this is a large enough organization, a member of the Facilities Team or Housekeeping should do this. It is actually an issue related to abuse of office space.
    It is not this individual’s job to pack.

    1. MusicWithRocksIn*

      I’ve worked at some pretty large companies, but never anywhere with someone who would come pack up an office for you. I think most places this is gonna be on her to pack up. Unless there is an intern…

      1. ThatGirl*

        I mean, I’ve seen HR pack up workspaces before but generally it was when someone was laid off or fired and walked right out – not in case of a promotion.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      I worked in a large office building for a major corporation. When moving, you were expected to pack personal things and Building Services would move major items and clean the office. If you were leaving, you’d pack and they’d have it delivered.

      I saw one person refuse to move. She was told she’d have to take an office on the other side of the building due to a re-org. When asked how many boxes she needed, she said “None. I’m not moving.” This happened every day for weeks. Her boss talked to her, and she said “I am staying in this office. I am not packing. You cannot force me to move.”

      On her moving day, Building Services sent two of the largest men I have ever seen in my life. One of them said “Pack, or we will pack for you.” She said “Go away. I am not moving.” The two men proceeded to grab stuff off of her desk and shelves and put them in boxes. She screamed and threw things. They’d pick up the things she threw and put them in the moving boxes. She finally said “OK, I will pack.” The men said “Nope. Too late” and continued throwing her stuff in boxes.

      It was a wonder to behold. People stayed late to watch the entire move.

      1. IndustriousLabRat*

        WOW. Just wow. Did they then deliver her boxes to the parking lot, rather than what was originally going to be her new office? That’s fireable!

        1. Sparkles McFadden*

          Nah. Some VP thought she was was invaluable. The non-mover got kicked out when the VP did.

      2. BadWolf*

        She screamed and threw things. They’d pick up the things she threw and put them in the moving boxes.

        The visual of this cracked me up.

      3. Observer*

        I’d love to know who arranged this? Obviously firing her would have been the sensible route, but since that was apparently not possible, this was pure genius. And someone must have warned these guys.

        Also, it sounds like she had some reputation for folks to stay and watch the show.

    3. GothicBee*

      That’s what I was thinking too because my workplace has a facilities office that would handle this kind of thing, but I work at a university and they tend to be very specific about office space, so I’m not sure if that’s part of the difference in how my workplace handles it.

      And to be clear, at my workplace you’d still be expected to pack up your own office space, but they would not want you to pack up the previous employee’s belongings if they weren’t doing it themselves.

      1. Build Trust*

        At mine they are likely to have a Security Team member overseeing the pack up too, especially if it was contentious. It’s really just about CYA for the company I’d think to not let this task come near another employee who just had the bad luck to be assigned to a workspace with a squatter.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      Of course we all know this isn’t our job to clean out.
      But I’ve often found in these cases it can be faster and much less hassle to take a day and just do it yourself. Pack up all their crap into boxes, set boxes outside your office door in the hallway and send them a note to pick up the boxes by end of day. If they don’t claim their stuff, it will get thrown away by the janitorial staff — problem solved/not your problem anymore.

    5. MassMatt*

      I have only ever seen this in cases where an employee quits abruptly or is let go. And in those cases it wasn’t someone from “facilities or housekeeping”, it was the person’s manager, or whomever they dragooned into doing it. Maybe if the person promoted had some kind of office assistant (rare in my field, senior VP or higher) they might have their underling do it.

      The more time passes, the more obvious it is that the person who moved on does not care about the stuff left behind. If these were essential work products, or even items of sentimental value, they would have taken them with them by now. Make a deadline, get your boss to back you up, and stick to it. Or if possible, say you can’t work in Bob’s old office as it’s still filled with his crap and you will need to work elsewhere.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        In a previous job, we moved offices to a different building. This move had kept on being postponed several times, and it eventually happened while this one coworker was on sick leave, so the rest of us had to pack her stuff up for her. She was out sick a few more weeks and during this time, the work stuff got unpacked but her personal stuff was left for her. She expected everyone else to unpack her personal stuff and didn’t touch it herself. For all I know it got thrown out when that building was vacated in 2014.

  19. Maltypass*

    My manager once interviewed a guy who read off notes – it was especially weird as we are in retail and being able to speak to people spontaneously is non-negotiable, plus the interview was like 15 mins – and he responded to to the (polite generically worded) rejection with an email screed that he was clearly a diversity interview given the company is mainly women. It was.. Something

  20. Kiki*

    #4 I think telling someone how much you appreciate the work they’ve done and how much it’s helped you is almost always appreciated. Especially with HR where a lot of people take great work for granted, it really means a lot.
    I think the two main pitfalls to avoid are coming across as condescending or coming across as angling for something, but it sounds like OP is quite genuinely appreciative and without an agenda, so I wouldn’t worry much about that here.

    1. CM*

      For OP#4, I think where it can get weird to send a message like this is if it seems like you’re complimenting their work performance and saying “You’re doing a good job!” to someone more senior than you. But if you express it like you did in your letter, focusing on how her actions have made a positive impact on you and you really appreciate it (and as Alison noted, it’s made you a happier and more loyal employee), you’ll be fine. For stuff like Pride month and adjusting women’s salaries, you could also note that these issues mean a lot to you personally and you’re happy to work at a company that aligns with your values, or something like that — that is something she’ll be able to use if she’s challenged by others at the company who don’t like her changes. Not that she’ll necessarily pull out your email, but she’ll be able to honestly say that she’s received feedback from employees that they’re thrilled about the changes and it’s made them happier to work at the company.

  21. NotsorecentAAMfan*

    If I’d just gotten a promotion and a new office I’d be all excited to decorate and make it my own (as I’ve recently been doing with a newly established home office) so I would be super annoyed to be stuck with my predecessor’s (dirty) hoard. Alison’s script sounds perfect.
    But I’m betting you’ll end up having to throw out the boxes. Or maybe temporarily (ie permanently) store them in some basement storage area if that exists?

    1. Artemesia*

      Once you pack them up then it isn’t your decision to throw them out or not if you can store them somewhere other than your office. The corner of the copy room, the closet, the store room etc. Then someone else who is annoyed they are taking space will be the person who has them pitched. Make sure they are labeled with the former employees name and get them out of your office. ‘I don’t know Fergus, the boxes were moved to the storage area, so you will have to talk to the AA about what happened to them.’ You shouldn’t have to pack them up but you will have to if you want your office.

    2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      The places I have worked, cleaning out your office was…frowned upon. You inherited the previous person’s stuff and you were supposed to keep it because it was related to your job and must be kept for future use. Even the stuff that was obviously trash like old cough drops and photos and mugs.

  22. I'm just here for the cats.*

    For the #2 letter. If I understand, the person who was promoted is moving out of state to another office. Perhaps the haven’t come into the office to clean because of COVID? If they’ve gone to the other state at all they may feel that it’s not a good idea to come into the office. Someone else should clean out the office and send the other person her stuff is fedex

    1. The cat is not amused*

      I had a manager who left behind an office full of stuff (they had transferred to a new location). This was the first time I had been asked to pack an office. Got a bunch of boxes from the loading doc, and contents of each desk drawer was put in its own box, then all the drawer boxes put in one big box (labeled ‘desk’). Each cabinet drawer got its own numbered, labeled box.

      I never found out if the manager found it useful, they never said a word. When I was in the new location for a meeting a few months later, I saw that the boxes were all stacked in a corner of the new office.

  23. Emotional Spock*

    As a teacher, I’ve moved classrooms a few times and have had to take over the rooms of colleagues who have left. Generally, the rooms were a mess. Seemingly they had just “raptured” out of there. I’d spend a day or two literally tossing out 10-20-30 years worth of classroom debris. I’d get dirty, sneeze like crazy and be sore from all the lifting and carrying.
    When it last happened at this stage of my career, I told my principal that my new room was a disaster and asked what she could do about it. I said that I couldn’t begin my duties until the room was cleared out.
    Next thing you know a swarm of custodians came in and cleaned it out in about an hour.

  24. The Other Dawn*

    OP4, yes please email the HR person to tell her how the changes have boosted your happiness and morale with the company. It’s very uplifting to get such an email, especially after you’ve made changes and aren’t sure how they were received.

    I was hired into my current job to make changes and although people knew that, it was still daunting coming into an established company that has many people who have been there 10+ years (one person has been there 40 years!). Thankfully I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback, not only from my manager but from my own team members and others outside the department.

    1. Momma Bear*

      Also, see if you can figure out who she reports to and cc them or send them a short message, too. Public praise is great.

  25. AvonLady Barksdale*

    OP 4, listen to your own instincts here– they’re good. I once attended a harassment training that was so great, I emailed the in-house counsel who ran it. Those things are usually a slog, she made it engaging and interesting, and I figured she didn’t hear that kind of feedback too often. My note was very short, her response was really appreciative, and I felt good about making someone’s day.

  26. The Other Victoria*

    Is anyone else thinking of the caller on Frasier whose phone anxiety was so bad he prepared for every aspect of the conversation on notecards?

    1. Recreational Moderation*

      Just caught a Monk episode the other day in which Monk sat at a table in front of a dozen or so stacks of cards with individual responses (organized by topic, of course) that he could use on a social phone call with a woman. Still makes me laugh.
      I’d forgotten the Frasier instance until you mentioned it!

  27. I'm just here for the cats.*

    I feel bad for LW2 as I’ve been in similar situation. The person before me left before they could fill my position so I did not have anyone to really show me the ropes. I came to a mostly clean but disorganized (to me) office. I’ve since organized it and have finally gone through years worth of papers, most which were recycled. But there were some gross this GS, like something gooey spilled in the file cabinet and coffee and crumbs in the keyboard.

  28. irene adler*

    I feel for the candidate.

    Interviews are hard. Answers are a struggle for me because I don’t think fast on my feet (yes, I do know the material; I just freeze up). Thinking on one’s feet, I am told, is an absolutely vital skill for a successful interview. Cannot get a job without this skill.

    I suspect reading the responses seemed like a good way to convey proper responses. Instead, they should practice delivering interview responses so that written notes are not needed. Maybe even join a Toastmasters group to help with the speaking ‘in a normal fashion’ aspect of interviewing.

    Hopefully this candidate will find the resources to enable them to properly interview.

    1. LW1*

      I definitely agree but there’s also an expectation for the role to be able to think on your feet. It would not be uncommon to get questions like “what’s the market for Uber in Thailand.” Do we care if you get it right? Do we know the exact answer? No. We just want to see how you deal with ambiguity and roll with what you’re given. It’s a fairly senior role and he had a few years of experience in the same title job.

      I also had the ethical concern that even though prepared notes would never be acceptable in person, he thought that he could use them in a virtual environment to his advantage. The fact that the answers were sub-par anyway was just another nail in the coffin.

      1. irene adler*

        Clearly this role ain’t the right fit-for all the reasons you state. And because he couldn’t interview without the notes.

        You made the right call on this.

      2. sunny-dee*

        he thought that he could use them in a virtual environment to his advantage

        Or he was nervous or he has autism or a million other reasons. I just don’t think this is an ethical issue. I definitely think it’s a sign that he’s not a good fit and that he doesn’t communicate well.

        1. Weekend Please*

          I think it depends. Was he told he cannot use notes or is that the unspoken norm? If he was told that he is not allowed notes or told he can have one page of notes or something like that and decided he could get around that because it is virtual, I can see it being an ethical issue. However if it is simply the expectation (which seems more likely) I agree that it isn’t really an ethical issue. You can be disappointed that he doesn’t seem to understand industry norms, but unless he was asked if he was using notes and lied I don’t see it as inherent dishonesty.

        2. New Jack Karyn*

          “prepared notes would never be acceptable in person” seems to be a standard in that type of role, at that level. This wasn’t a few bullet points of things to remember to answer common questions. It was reading from a script, for a role in which that could not happen.

          He knew better.

          1. Littorally*


            The number of people in the comments here who are conflating rigid adherence to an exact script with interview notes is really baffling to me. Like, y’all, respond to what the OP actually described, not whatever fantasy is in your head!

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Ugh! True about interviews, but I have a Grandboss like this who constantly will throw in random questions and tangents you (of course) did not put into the presentation because you didn’t think it pertained directly to what was being presented at the time. It drives people nuts. Worse, she demands the answers immediately, and they are usually complex answers. I personally think she does this on purpose to sow chaos or test people on how well they think on their feet, but I hate it.

      1. irene adler*

        It probably gives Grandboss a visceral thrill to trip up folks. Makes ’em think, “Look, MissDisplaced isn’t so smart. But I sure am to ask such questions!”

        There’s a special place in Hell awaiting these people.

      2. AnonPresenter*

        I’m not sure if you’re commenting solely on interview presentations, in which case I agree with you that is super obnoxious. (the first ‘but’ is throwing me off)

        Departmental presentations on the other hand I would expect an answer like “Fergus knows more about llama grooming – I can check with him and get back to you”. Often in presentations in our department the “random” questions are asked to the room in general, not solely the speaker. Grandbosses are expected to have a larger view of the department, and don’t always know the specific domain of expertise of their grandreports. Domain experts are expected to pipe up when questions like those are raised during talks.

  29. Tired of Covid-and People*

    #2: Office hoarders, ugh. There is no way to know if there are bugs or mouse poop under all the mess, because you can’t see under anything! It is impossible to clean with a hoard, so yes, it gets pretty dirty. People say there is a method to their madness, they know where everything is, etc., but my experience has been that this is not true. These same people were always losing something or looking for something or worse, leaving documents out that should have been secured (personnel actions, performance reviews, etc.). These is zero need to hoard documents in today’s environment. At some point, a hoard is useless because it is mostly unknown or outdated and useless items, but it somehow gives the hoarder a sense of security.

    I’ve been in the position of inheriting a hoarded office, and since I’m the opposite, it was tough. I approached it by cleaning one little area at a time if the person was still around, and doing a wholesale dump if they were gone. OP, the office is yours now, so do what you need to feel comfortable and work effectively. Hoarders have no right to occupy former work spaces. They often forget about the hoard once they are out of it. Good luck!

    1. Tidewater 4-1009*

      “These same people were always losing something or looking for something or worse, leaving documents out that should have been secured (personnel actions, performance reviews, etc.)”
      You just described my former boss. :D He thought he knew where everything was too.

  30. Erin*

    Please tell the HR person that you appreciate everything they have done! I don’t work in HR, but, I do know how it feels to make positive changes that benefit the org, and to not have any feedback whatsoever.

    While it sounds like the HR person simply knows it is their job to do the kinds of things you describe, it is always awesome to get sincere feedback from an employee (at any level!) that my contributions have impacted another person in a positive way.

    A team member sent me a DM last week about a document that I created for myself to make my job easier. I shared it out with the team bc the doc was addressing a specific pain point that had surfaced. This woman completely made my week by reaching out to tell me that I made her job easier with my document! I know, silly, right?! Also, previous to this interaction, we didn’t know each other well (huge org/teams shuffling around during wfh) and now we are more acquainted. Win-win!

    1. Beth*

      Not silly at all — we should take any chance we get to let people who have done good things for us know what a difference they make. I’m delighted your colleague told you!

  31. Beth*

    LW #3 — in your position, I’d probably do a slow fade while privately gloating. (“You want to see me again? IN YOUR NIGHTMARES, bwahaha! It’s not worth it even if I poisoned your coffee!”) I would happily glean all the balm I could find in that manner.

    But that doesn’t work for everyone, and you deserve to do exactly what works best for you. I hope your job brings you joy now, and sweet relief.

  32. RagingADHD*

    OP1, this was very wierd and would certainly give an impression of poor judgment and poor fit for a lot of jobs that require thinking on the fly.

    But ethics?

    Why would you say this showed a lack of ethics? It’s not unethical to think through your answers to potential interview questions. It’s not unethical to use notes. It’s not unethical to try to be discreet about referring to your notes.

    It is profoundly wierd to read them word for word, and even more wierd to think that it sounds natural, or that anyone would take it as a normal conversation.

    But it’s not unethical.

    1. D3*

      This was my thought, too. Calling it an ethical concern is overkill that could harm the applicant down the line if they ever come back to interview with the company. What a bizarre leap to call it an ethical concern!

    2. sunny-dee*

      Thank you. I was coming to say this very thing.

      And, as justified as the OP is in passing on the candidate, that makes the OP come off as rather judgmental, honestly.

      1. hawk*

        But it’s literally LW1’s job here to be judgemental, and to judge/assess if the candidate was a good fit. It’s a professional judgement though, not personal.

    3. GothicBee*

      Yeah, I did find it weird to frame it as an ethics issue. I guess I can see if you feel strongly that he was lying by saying “Let me think about it” and then scrolling through the document just to read off an answer. In that case it seems obvious he’s not really thinking about it, which is questionable, though I could also see an argument to be made that he was thinking about it and trying to find an answer in his prepared script (albeit unsuccessfully). And my first thought wouldn’t be that he was reading what someone else had wrote, unless something about the phrasing made it seem like that.

      However, it’s definitely an issue of poor judgment.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If he was trying to give the impression that he was speaking off the cuff while secretly reading from notes and trying to hide it, that’s the ethics issue. If he was being open about it, still weird but no ethics issue.

      1. sunny-dee*

        What would you rather he say? “Let me read from my prepared notes”? “Let me think” is a filler phrase, as he was trying to find an answer. To leap to “he’s a liar and should never be hired because of his lying character” is an incredibly unkind leap to make. The guy interviewed poorly, his answers were bad, he’s a bad fit for the job. All fine. That’s what interviews are for. But the immediate attack on his character is just needlessly harsh. Unless there were other indications that he has ethical lapses, which the OP doesn’t indicate.

        Would your answer be different if you knew he had autism or general anxiety? I suspect yes. So, why are you attributing to malice what could easily be attributed to incompetence, immaturity, or fear?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Of course it’s probably not malice. But it doesn’t matter what’s behind it — if he’s trying to be deceptive about what he’s doing, that’s prohibitive. If he needs an accommodation, that’s a different discussion, but it’s one he didn’t have.

          It would be fine to say, “I have some notes here to jog my memory, give me a moment to look through them.” It is not fine to try to hide that he’s reading off scripts through an entire interview.

          If someone is 100% reliant on scripts and doesn’t explain what’s going on, for all the interviewer knows someone else wrote those answers for him. If they try to hide what they’re doing and hope that the remote format lets them get away with it, I’m comfortable calling that an ethics problem. Not the biggest ethics problem the world has ever seen, but it’s deceptive.

          1. sunny-dee*

            Not proactively saying “I am going to read from a script” is not the same as hiding it. He had notes that he read from. Did he lie about having notes? Nope, because the OP never asked.

            There are a lot of assumptions here. 1) he actively lied / hide his notes, 2) someone else wrote the notes, 3) he was trying to use the virtual format to be extra deceptive. There is simply no indication of any of that. He had notes on screen. That’s it. Maybe he was doing all of those things – maybe not. Maybe he thought the notes would help and instead they tanked his presentation because he over-relied on them.

            Given the extreme latitude for other situations, I guess I’m baffled why this one just goes hard-core immediately to “he’s a liar who cheated and thought he could get away with it.” All because he used the phrase “let me think about this.”

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              My read of the letter is that he was trying to hide it. If that’s not the OP’s sense, than I’d agree that it’s not an ethical issue, just a judgment one.

              But also, there’s nuance here. “This is an ethical problem” is different than your characterization of “he’s a liar who cheated and thought he could get away with it.”

          2. LW1*

            This is the logic I followed when I called it an ethics issue. Also, to clarify, in my feedback on him as a candidate I didn’t check a box saying “ethical concerns” – I wrote a much more detailed version of “his answers were below expectations and he was obviously reading off of prepared answers.” We can’t know if he wrote the answers or not and his inability to respond to questions on the fly contributes to my suspicion that he can’t do the job. For a candidate with a handful of years of experience applying for a relatively senior position, none of the questions were unreasonable. To borrow Amazon’s terminology, I wasn’t a ‘bar raiser’ in the interview process, but rather specifically looking for demonstrations of bias for action.

    5. Lady Meyneth*

      It could be unethical if the notes were made by somebody else and the candidate was just reading off them. Sure, that’s out there. But since this person refused to go off script even for questions that weren’t there, and didn’t elaborate outside the notes, it’s valid to wonder wether their responses were even their own experiences.

  33. Esmeralda*

    OP #2: Go straight to the boxes. Your predecessor is not going to move any faster if you’re nice and give deadlines for them to come in and get their stuff out.

    Start with your office manager/admin for their help in getting boxes, strapping tape, and markers/labels, AND to ask them where you can put the filled boxes. (They should NOT stay in your office)
    Then let your boss know you’ll be packing up the office.
    Then email your predecessor letting them know you’re packing up their stuff and where to get their boxes.

    Get that stuff out of your office asap.

  34. Bopper*

    I would ask someone in facilities to box up the predecessors stuff immediately.
    “As Pat is working from home, I need someone to pack up their office so I can move in. Pat can go through the boxes at their leisure when they can come in.”

  35. Theory of Eeveelution*

    Re: #1, I’ve been in a couple interviews where my interviewers were reading from scripted questions. Could I have likewise asked them to put their notes away? Doesn’t it reflect badly on them that they couldn’t have a “candid” “conversation” with me?

    I guess I don’t find interviews to be either “candid” or “conversations.” I don’t see the difference between reading from notes, and memorizing same notes beforehand and reciting them during the interview.

    1. bleh*

      Some of us get nervous in interviews in ways that don’t affect work performance. Notes help with that. Don’t punish nervous introverts please.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s not an introvert thing! (Introversion = needing time alone to recharge. It’s not shyness or trouble speaking off the cuff.)

        Notes are fine. Reading answers like a script and being unable to go off that script is a problem. At that point, anyone could have written your answers and I don’t know who I’m actually “interviewing.”

        1. sunny-dee*

          That’s an assumption, though.

          Reading notes = bad because it (obviously) demonstrates poor communication skills and a poor understanding of what the role requires, both in knowledge and execution.

          Reading notes = CHEATING is an unfair leap because there’s no evidence of that aside from you assuming that someone else wrote the notes. It may be true, but more often than not is not true. I mean, you could make the same argument for absolutely any written asset: I can’t know who wrote this cover letter; I can’t know who wrote this resume; I can’t know who contributed to this portfolio. (And, yes, I worked for a place where a hiring manager refused to look at portfolios for writers because how could he know what they actually contributed to a project.)

          1. Next*

            Pretending that you are not reading directly off of prewritten answers (“Let me think . . .”) instead of mentioning that you are using notes is deceptive.

            It is especially deceptive given the circumstances LW1 describes in the updates: a role that involves public speaking, which interviewee would know because he already has that role in another company.

            The fact that deception is possible in all kinds of ways in a job application doesn’t mean you have to give it a pass when you do see it.

            It’s definitely bad judgment, the kind that is leaking into ethics territory. In this particular low-stakes case, whether its “bad judgment about ethics” vs. “ethics problems” is splitting hairs. Dude is untrustworthy, doesn’t really matter what you label it. LW moves on to better candidates.

    2. Metadata minion*

      I’m pretty sure every interview I’ve been in as an interviewer, we had questions written down and prepared ahead of time so we could be consistent between candidates. I would also not be surprised or concerned if the candidate had prepared questions for me about the position/organization/etc. But I expect *answers* on both sides to be relatively unscripted, as well as followup questions and things like that.

    3. Temperance*

      It’s definitely not the same thing. Reading verbatim from notes shows nothing about the quality of the candidate, or their fit for the job. Preparing answers to common interview questions ahead of time is much different; that shows that someone cares about getting hired.

  36. Minnesota*

    I have more compassionate read on #2 than much of the commentary. This is from the perspective of a 60 year old who, literally, walked out of my office the day before vacation in March and have not been back since because of COVID. For me, going back to pack up stuff that I have done without for eight months would not be worth the health risk–to me and others. I would apologize for the mess (because who knew that anyone would find my drawerful of shoes and stash of personal stuff) and ask the new office owner to pack up my stuff and ship it to me or store it onsite. If the former office owner hasn’t done that I guess it is reason to be irritated, but just box everything up and move on.

    1. 867-5309*

      This is my thought… though rather than shipping, I would just say I was packing up the items so I can get settled into the office and they’d be waiting when the person was ready to pick them up. Practical meets kindness.

  37. 867-5309*

    OP5, I had a candidate do this once also. We were not on video and it was clear he was reading from a script, so much so that when I asked any tangential question in an attempt to dig more deeply or get a more conversational answer, he repeated, “Well, I mentioned before… and stated the same thing, verbatim, that he had just said,” which did not answer the question. When someone is over-reliant on a script, it is impossible to dig below the surface of that script and does not prepare the candidate for success since not all questions can be thoroughly thought-out in advance.

    I understand interview anxiety and the necessity of solutions for someone who might be neuro-atypical, but would suggest outlines, practicing with friends and possibly even hiring a career coach, if finances allow it. My partner is in a highly scientific field (think – chemist in a lab) and found he wasn’t getting past the first interview despite excellent credentials. The coach helped him understand how he was answering questions too formally and gave him tools to be better prepared for off-the-cuff questions.

  38. Anon OH*

    Op #4: As someone who works in HR, it can definitely be a thankless job so I bet she’d be ecstatic to receive such positive feedback! Just reading everything she’s been able to accomplish in what sounds like this last year is amazing. I’m excited that your company has someone like that on their team and they realize the importance in the things she’s helped put in place (often since HR is a cost center, there’s not always the support from the top for this stuff). Someone else pointed out including her boss on the note as well and I think that’s a great idea so they know their efforts are appreciated and they can hopefully continue to support her initiatives for the company for years to come.

  39. disappointed*

    OP # 1, and Alison, respectfully – love your blog, long time reader! … this seems a bit ableist to me. I don’t believe you would have seen it without the glasses. Additionally there could be some social things/anxiety/etc. that mean notes are helpful. This really rubbed me the wrong way as someone with several disabilities and I would encourage folks to ask themselves why this behavior concerns them versus asking the candidate to stop.

    1. Littorally*

      Notes are one thing. Rigidly following a script even when it means giving a nonsense answer to a question is something else. The LW also made note of behaviors she observed apart from the sight of the screen in the candidate’s glasses.

      I would encourage folks to ask themselves why this behavior concerns them

      LW and Alison have both given reasons why the candidate’s behavior is concerning. Disabilities or no, the candidate has to be able to do the job.

    2. LW1*

      I think this an important point. I’m disabled myself and would not want to perpetuate ableist hiring practices. But I do have have some qualms with your comment. We’re known to be an inclusive & diverse workplace (one of the reasons I picked it as a queer, disabled woman) and I have a number of coworkers who are neuro-atypical. If the candidate has asked for accommodations for a disability, we have processes in place to provide those. Being disabled myself in no way immunizes me from being ableist of course, but I have spent a good deal of time learning about our processes to try to increase fairness in hiring and build diverse teams.

      That all being said – I don’t agree I wouldn’t have noticed without the glasses. I had my Zoom window on a fairly large monitor and it was easy to see his eyes tracking from one side to the other. Furthermore, I try to start every interview with some chitchat to put the candidate at ease (or at least, as best I can). We spent the first 10 minutes chatting about a mutual interest he listed on his resume. While he was dynamic & engaging for those first ten minutes, his answers became monotone and scripted as soon as he started responding to my questions.

      Furthermore, this is a relatively senior position in a large organization. He had 5 years of experience in this particular function, a few years of experience in lower level positions, and a relevant graduate degree. Public speaking in front of executive audiences and ability to adapt under pressure are both requirements for the job. Without an accommodation request, it would be pretty much unthinkable to try to bring notes into one of these interviews (think an engineer who wanted to copy lines of code during an interview exercise). With his level of experience, I find it highly unlikely he wasn’t aware of these norms.

      1. Zebra*

        This seems overly simplistic TBH – there are plenty of reasons why neurodivergent people (in general, not saying he is) don’t disclose at that stage. The stereotypes that persist mean that many people aren’t diagnosed until well into adulthood, or at all (it’s often expensive, and women and POC are particularly underdiagnosed, or misdiagnosed with other things like bipolar). In addition, accommodation requests are often not taken (as) seriously with these conditions.

        None of the factors you mentioned – including this fellow’s lack of suitability, which I don’t think is in question – preclude you from internal bias. That’s not a bad thing in itself, but if your reaction is to defend the status quo then it becomes problematic. Having “a number of” ND coworkers sounds no better than “I can’t be racist, I have black friends!”

    3. Nacho*

      Agreed. I know it’s strange, but I don’t see why it shows them as a bad candidate, and I especially don’t see why it shows a lack of ethics.

  40. Tidewater 4-1009*

    #2, I had a job in hospital administration for almost 10 years. Around the time I started there were physicians who left the office and left some stuff behind, usually books and papers and some bookends.
    One of the secretaries had their stuff boxed up and put it in corners, in the library, out of the way, and notified them to come and get it.
    It was still there when they laid me off last year, after almost 10 years.
    Don’t wait around on your predecessor. Ask for help from your boss, support staff and housekeeping to get the stuff boxed up and your office cleaned up, and have them moved somewhere out of the way and out of your office. Notify your predecessor to come get it or have it shipped, and go on with your life. :)

  41. AMT*

    #5: I once gave two weeks’ notice at a job and my supervisor told me that since weekends didn’t count, I really had only given ten days. She actually made me revise my resignation letter to that effect, though it didn’t actually have any impact on anything (and she couldn’t force me to extent my notice period, of course). If this had happened today, I’d have told her she could take my resignation letter or leave it, but at the time, I was just out of college and didn’t know anything about professional norms.

  42. Nacho*

    I don’t see the problem answering questions from notes. I interviewed with over a dozen places last month, and they all asked me a lot of the same questions, with only slight variations if any. Before every interview, I’d come up with answers tailored to the job at hand, Since I was only interviewing for customer service positions though, I never needed more than one or two different answers per question. Pretty much everybody asked me about a time I went above and beyond and a time I made a mistake, for instance, and telling them about the best customer service call I ever made where I spend an hour helping a pair of assholes find a new hotel was the right choice for almost everybody I interviewed with. Either I was going to read those answers from the script I’d prepared, or I was going to memorize them and recite them. I certainly wasn’t going to come up with a new example for every job.

    1. Madame X*

      The letter writer made it very clear that the candidate was reading an entire script rather than referencing a few notes. He was applying to a job with public speaking as a major component, so it would behoove him to be able to demonstrate in the interview that he can speak freely without the need of prewritten answers and that he is able to think in the moment and speak off the cuff. He also showed a serious lack of judgement when asked questions that he did not have a prepared script for. He never deviated from what was previously written down, even if the answer he read did not answer the actual question.

  43. Stay-at-home Boss*

    I think it’s in poor taste to give notice then take a substantial amount of leave if you are crucial to the operations of the business. It sounds like OP is taking the usual two days for Thanksgiving, which still gives OP plenty of time to tie up loose ends and ensure a smoother transition. I had an employee who gave two weeks’ notice right before Christmas, so she only worked for a few days, then was on leave the rest of the time. I only had two employees at the time, so I was blindsided. Since then, I learned my lesson and added several more employees. We now have the best team of people I have ever worked with! Honestly, with that employee, there were multiple red flags (racial and political comments, breach of confidentiality, etc.), but I wasn’t ready at the time to grow and find a better team.

  44. Laid-off for Christmas, More Than Once.*

    Re. #5: I’ve never worked at any company that had the slightest compunction about letting people go over the holidays, and you shouldn’t feel bad about giving notice during that time, either.

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