employer rejected me, then sent a list of everything I did wrong

A reader writes:

I’m a younger person who is job searching for something full-time for the first time. Haven’t been having a lot of luck of course due to the state of the world, but I recently got an interview where I made it all the way to the final round and was rejected.

At first, the company was really professional about it. They were kind enough to let me know I’d been rejected and thank me for my time. But then, about three days later, I got an email from one of the interviewers (a different one than the one who sent the formal rejection email, the final round had been in front of a panel).

The email body text said, “Hey, here’s some tips for future interviews” and attached was a Word document with a super detailed list of everything I’d done wrong, including that my answer to the question “what’s your favorite book” was too pretentious (note: the job wasn’t for a library or any other book related field). Although he’d been part of the final round interview panel, he hadn’t been
present during previous interviews and this was the first communication I got directly from this guy.

Here are all the comments from the document. It was a financial / stock company but the job wasn’t directly connected to stocks (copywriter position writing some ads/website update):

I can tell you are not passionate about stocks. Every member of this company has been passionately investing in the stock market as a hobby for years. You had basic technical knowledge and that’s it.

In general you seem to lack passion. Your answers are very thorough and well thought out but lack passion. What are you passionate about? I couldn’t tell.

You were clearly nervous throughout. You lack confidence.

When asked about an issue you had overcome, you mentioned something that had happened in a job not related to our industry

You didn’t seem to have an interest in company culture. We mentioned we are a company with lots of events and training workshops and you didn’t ask any further questions there.

Your response to the favorite book question sounded pretentious and insincere. Les Miserables simply isn’t a book people read for fun.

You weren’t enjoying yourself at all. We’re a friendly company and you were tense and nervous the entire time we talked to you. You let your nerves show.

Is this normal? It’s left me feeling really terrible. According to him, I did -so- many things wrong. It’s killing my confidence.

Hearing that I lack passion is really scary. I’m scared it will affect me in the job search going forward. It’s not an issue I ever thought I had, but now it is something that worries me daily.

Please do not let this guy shake your confidence! He is a jerk.

It’s one thing to offer a rejected job candidate a few tips that might help them with future interviews. A few. That can be helpful. But sending someone a full litany of criticism like this — when they hadn’t even asked for feedback! — is a jerk move.

Plus, the criticism itself is subjective, overly personal, and rudely framed, and his desire to send it to a stranger who hadn’t solicited it says more about him than it does about you. (It says he’s an asshole. Imagine working with this guy.)

And enough of this is laughable that it calls the rest of it into question too. Les Miserables “isn’t a book people read for fun” and you’re obviously being pretentious and insincere? The fact that he wrote that with a straight face and thought it was valid feedback means you can ignore the whole email. He’s told you who he is. (An asshole who also doesn’t read.)

To be fair, maybe it’s true that you didn’t seem passionate enough for them. If they only want to hire people who have been investing in the stock market for years as a hobby — excuse me, passionately investing — and that’s not you, that’s okay. That means this job wasn’t the right fit on either side. That’s not a failing on your side; it just means you and the job didn’t match up. But you were qualified enough to be invited in for an interview, so clearly someone saw enough in your materials to consider you a viable candidate. It’s not outrageous that you were there.

As for the rest of it … it’s hard to put any weight on it since so much of it is obviously ridiculous. Maybe you did seem nervous. A lot of people are nervous in interviews. For many jobs, that doesn’t really matter. Did you feel nervous? Did you feel like your nerves got in the way of how well you interviewed? If so, it’s worth working on that (repetitive practice often helps). But if you didn’t feel particularly nervous, please don’t let this guy rattle you into thinking you’re coming across badly. He sounds like someone who wants to see a very specific type of swagger from candidates (probably male swagger, among other things) and that’s about him, not some universal interviewer preference.

It’s also pretty odd that someone you hadn’t been communicating with throughout the process and who doesn’t seem to have played a key role in the interviews decided to send you unsolicited feedback of this nature. That … is not normally done. (In fact, it might be interesting to forward his feedback to the person who rejected you and ask if the feedback represents the employer.)

Frankly, he sounds like someone who enjoys making other people feel bad. That’s not someone you should take advice from.

If you’re genuinely worried about how you might be coming across in interviews, it’s worth doing some practice interviews with people whose judgment you trust and asking for feedback (ideally someone with some experience hiring, if you can swing that).

But what this guy did wasn’t normal or okay, and it sounds like he’s working out some issues of his own on you.

{ 1,098 comments… read them below }

  1. Shenandoah*

    LOL at this fucking guy.

    OP, get your beverage of choice, get on a Zoom call with your buddies, perform a dramatic reenactment of this letter, and then roundly mock him. In a couple of months/years, this will be a hilarious story to recount – “The Time an Asshole who Doesn’t Read Sent me a Bananas Email.”

    1. KayDeeAye*

      I hate this guy. (A strong word, I know, but I mean it.) Not only was he gratuitously rude – who in the freakin’ world criticizes a job applicant’s answer to a softball question such as “What is your favorite book?” Who who who? – but I’m going to come right out and say that he enjoyed writing that. He went out of his way to make someone feel bad, to make them feel small, and for no reason other than the fact that he wanted to, and he’s patting himself on the back for it.

      What a smug jerk. May he have his favorite book be derided as “Wow – I thought that was a piece of worthless trash”; may he be told that he needs to be “more passionate” about, say, irrigation systems; and may he also be told that his confidence comes across as arrogance.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        You know his favorite book is either Atlas Shrugged or Infinite Jest. That or something by Chuck Palahniuk. All of which I would gladly deride. (Palahniuk is a good writer, it’s just SUCH a bro answer to say Fight Club or Choke is your favorite book.)

        1. Fricketyfrack*

          He would also be one of the ones who loves Fight Club because punching stuff is awesome, bro, and miss any kind of deeper message about manhood and violence as a socially acceptable outlet for emotions.

          To be honest, I suspect a lot of men who say Fight Club is their favorite book only watched the movie and maybe downloaded a copy of the book to their Kindle and never touched it.

          1. the one that got away*

            As someone who deeply loves the book Fight Club and considers it one of my favorite… I would be so suspicious of anyone who lists it as their favorite book. I think my immediate follow-up question would be “why”. Because I can talk about all the stuff I love in it, but most of the guys who list it are just enjoying the punching.

            1. wittyrepartee*

              Right?! It’s not my favorite book, but it’s a really good book. Apparently Palahniuk shocks the heck out of men who love Fight Club when they find out he’s gay.

              1. LabTechNoMore*

                Hm. Come to think of it, a big part of the reason teenage me loved Fight Club so much were the strong homoerotic undertones in the book and movie. The social commentary on toxic masculinity was completely over my head at the time, but I definitely understood the queer angle.

                Anywho, veering back on topic, the singling out of your favorite book as “Too Pretentious” just means the interviewer felt personally threatened by your intelligence. They’re just one of those types that delights in telling others that they’re wrong in order to prove how smart they are. (Also echoing Alison’s mention of bro-culture, because often gender and race play into who these types will target.)

                If there’s anything constructive to take away from their obnoxious feedback, it’s to ask a question or two about company culture (e.g. “Tell me a bit about how the company has changed and grown since you started.”) and signal something specific about the company that made you interested (e.g. “It was refreshing to hear about your unique approach to Llama Grooming in your company blog!”). And possibly rehearse your answers a bit more to help with nerves – but if you truly think your nerves were a problem. Again, might just be interviewbro was making a mountain out of a molehill, for any one of these issues. The problem with terrible feedback is its can be impossible to tell the difference between legitimate criticism and “I’m desperately trying to rationalize why I don’t like this candidate of $marginalized_race_or_gender, and grasping at straws.”

            2. ForwardThatSHHH*

              Im a Chuck fan. And will readily admit that I started reading his books because of the movie fight club. I even like the movie better then the book (mostly because im a big David Fincher fan) But being a fan you notice all the people that say who like it are very not genuine and dont know anything about what the book is really about. With that sad my favorite chuck book is Survivor.
              But on topic. If I got this letter from an employer and he wasn’t the HR Rep for the company i would forward that email to the HR Rep.

        2. staceyizme*

          Puh-leeze! This guy doesn’t have a favorite book! He probably quit somewhere after “See spot run!” and never bothered to look into the felicities of any of the fine arts since grade one! He was much too busy refining his techniques in bullying others gratuitously and trying to make one and all as small or as miserable as possible so that he didn’t suffer quite so much by comparison.

          1. Joan Rivers*

            What he said is absurd, so don’t think about it.
            WHY he said it is interesting, though. Something is wrong w/him.
            Did he see your car outside w/a bumper sticker? Any possible “grudge” he could have?

            He’s piling on and reaching for excuses, that’s clear to anyone who would read his insults.
            And then it just ends. No conclusion that sounds professional.
            Did he sign his name? Title?
            He may have access to your address and personal data, so contact the company and tell them you’re forwarding his email and need a reply from them. He sounds hostile.

        3. SophieJ*

          “A**hole might not be the right word, but it’s the first word that comes to mind.”

          (I literally remember nothing else from that book other than if he had used that turn of phrase one more time I would have… well, choked him probably.)

        4. Qwerty*

          His “correct” answer was probably whatever trading book is currently the rage. Because it shows passion for the industry! Back when I was in trading, the appropriate answer to any book question was Flash Boys and it was practically seen as a crime to not read it. However we had a good culture and decent HR so they put our favorite book / recent book question on the Do Not Ask list since there were strong opinions about the answers which weren’t relevant to the job.

          1. JM in England*

            The way I read it, whatever book you choose is going to be wrong in his eyes…..

          2. TardyTardis*

            My favorite trading book was “The Bombardiers” and I learned some excellent lessons from it, like I was never going to be a trader like that (but I also learned that sometime just using Wallet Fu to get something you really wanted at work wasn’t a bad idea for some things).

        5. Anomalous*

          I am reminded of this quote from John Rogers:

          “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

          1. Rock Prof*

            Ugh, I was a teenager Ayn Rand fan. I even read her non-fiction! I was insufferable for sure. Luckily, I think it was my version of teenage rebellion from my fairly reasonable parents.

            1. Sweet Christmas*

              My best friend in high school went through a long, annoying Ayn Rand fan stage. I remember we drew our senior book report project out of a hat, and I drew The Fountainhead. We were allowed to trade and she was *so excited* to trade with me. (I got to read Notre-Dame de Paris/The Hunchback of Notre-Dame instead, which was way better.)

        6. Jonquil S*

          See, my gut said his favorite book is some kind of business-guru thing, like ‘The Four Hour Workweek,’ or ‘Get Sh*t Done,’ and he thinks reading for pleasure is a waste of time that nobody actually does–just because he personally can’t fathom enjoying it.

          Like…I dunno, like the kind of guy who’d rather listen to a podcast or read a power-point because “you get the information faster.” The dude recommending the local elementary school teach more expository writing, and wonders aloud why you never read “important” writing (like… business memos) in Freshman Comp.

          Maybe it’s just my sector, but, for better or worse, I’ve never met anyone who’s actually read ‘Infinite Jest.’

          1. TardyTardis*

            The Four Hour Workweek only works because…the author has a wife to take care of those tawdry little details like children, food and laundry.

        7. Wandergrrl*

          Okay, as someone who’s favorite book is legit Infinite Jest, I take issue with this. Yes, it’s a long book, but not terribly difficult, and in no way should be compared to Ayn Rand. It’s a brilliant book, full of compassion and human suffering and strange beauty. Sorry, totally not on topic, but as a DFW junkie (who is a compassionate human being who would NEVER send such a shitty email to a job applicant), I could resist commenting.

        8. Coffee Bean*

          My mind initially read “Infinite Jest” as “Infinite Jerk”. Kind of appropriate for Jerkwad interview feedback guy.

      2. Postdoc*

        Yeah. I could see maybe telling an applicant than answering “50 Shades of Grey”or something else that is not work friendly would be a bad answer, but a classic? All of his criticism boiled down to “You enjoy different things than me.”

        Helpful feedback would be something like “You may want to reconsider wearing jeans to an interview.” All this feedback boiled down to is the guy giving it is a jerk.

        1. Rachel in NYC*

          But this did remind me why I hate the ‘what’s your favorite book/most recently read book’ question.

          It’s just so judgy. Beyond that it assumes you are a reader…

          1. SophieJ*

            We used to do this question, but it was more open (“What is your favorite book, movie/TV show, or band/song?”) We wanted to give the applicant a chance to talk about something they genuinely enjoyed without assuming they were a reader/movie buff/music person. I can’t ever recall not hiring someone based on the content of that question, though I can recall not hiring someone based on their inability to answer it – though by that point it was already apparent anyway, this was more a “nail in the coffin” kind of thing.

            1. Ismonie*

              I would feel very uncomfortable answering that question. None of your damn business unless we are friends are my favorite book, movie, band etc. Way too much room in that for gender/race/dominant culture/dominant religion based fuckery.

              1. allathian*

                Yes, this. I’m a very private person. I do understand that sometimes people get hired at least partly because they share a hobby with the hiring manager, but I don’t want to talk about the things that matter to me outside of work until I’m comfortable with someone at work, and maybe not even then. I hated the advice at college to put hobbies and interests in your resume. I did include things like the time I volunteered as an exchange student tutor at college for the first 10 years or so after graduation.

                Half of my coworkers probably don’t know that I’m a sci-fi fan. I don’t hide it but I also don’t make a big deal out of it at work. I did say something to one coworker, who is very into LARP, including writing scenarios for games.

                My favorite piece of media varies, so I’m unlikely to give the same answer twice.

              2. somanyquestions*

                Yes, this. It can be framed as “just trying to get to know them” but it’s not RELEVANT and it’s far too easily abused. Interviews are inherently about judging someone, and people should not be judged by their favorite entertainment when that has nothing at all to do with the job.

                1. Jennie*

                  So I _do_ like talking with applicants about their interests outside of work, but it’s not because I’m judging specificities or anything like that. Couldn’t care less which book is their favorite, or whether they prefer triathlons to cooking. It’s more to give them a chance to talk about something they know well/something they’re ideally not nervous about at that moment. If I’m judging, it’s things like ‘how energized/interested/engaged does this person seem’ and it’s always one data point of many for the interview. But I’d push back that there’s nothing relevant to be gained from questions like that.

                2. Paulina*

                  (response to Jennie, out of nesting)

                  A flaw I see in that approach is that people from very different and often marginalized backgrounds and interests may have difficulty expressing their enthusiasm. You know you’re not judging them, but they don’t, and it’s often far easier to show enthusiasm if you expect to get positive responses (and potentially do get positive reactions while you’re talking).

              3. Hemingway*

                Totally. It does not matter at all to the job. And I shouldn’t have to explain my interests or habits to my coworkers.

            2. Danish*

              As part of what I think is autism-related and KNOW is anxiety-related issues, I have never once not in my entire life been able to answer any question about what my “favorite” piece of media is. I remember breaking down in stress tears trying to fill out some stupid cosmo quiz in the 6th grade, even.

              And like… I do and have love(d) many books/shows/media to a very passionate degree, but “favorite” seems like such a grand, loaded term for something that just doesn’t have the same gravitas in my life, that I just freeze. It’s like if you asked me my favorite soup – I LIKE soup, and I like some soups better than others, but I don’t know that I have a “favorite” soup because it’s just a food item. Alternately, all media titles drop from my head as soon as I’m asked. In that moment I have never read a single book, seen a single movie, it is the first time I am hearing about the concept of “music”. Sometimes it sends me into a spiral of panic and self depreciation because can’t EVERYONE answer that question???

              Anyway, I don’t know that my issue is common, but I honestly cannot name a single question I would be more stressed about trying to answer than this one. Also I don’t think you would learn anything about me or my work-related skills by whatever title I eventually vomited out.

              1. Crooked Bird*

                I just got done reading an old thread on Slate Star Codex where several people on the spectrum mentioned having this exact issue, and I wished I could reply to them there (it was far too old!) so I’m happy to find it discussed elsewhere today! It really struck me that the problem seemed to be that there was something being lost in translation. Or like an unspoken social convention that no-one thinks to make people aware of. Because fundamentally, I honestly think that when people ask that question *they don’t really mean it.* They really mean “name a book/whatever that you like very much.” Most often the only real point (especially when the question’s asked to children) is to obtain a specific title as a jumping-off point for discussion. “Favorite” is just the easiest way people can think of to get there.

                If I’m honest, I don’t know what my favorite book is, and I love to read. I know what it was when I graduated college, because I made an actual decision on the matter back then, but it’s been almost 20 years. I think if someone asked me, I’d probably say, “Well, I really like X.” (And possibly add “and also Y.”)

                Do you think if you deliberately pretend the question was really asked as “name a book you love”, that it would help?

                1. cord taco*

                  Whoa, I had/have this exact issue, and so does my daughter. Neither of us are on the spectrum (as far as I know), though both of us have some anxiety. When I get a question like this, I rephrase it in my head as “just name any book you like and are willing to talk a bit about”. I have also given my daughter the same advice, and that no one actually cares what your answer is. She and I take the question too literally, and then there is the feeling of giving the wrong answer or “lying” if we name a book we like but is not the book we like better than all other books (an impossible question to answer).

                  That’s if someone is asking you this question in a social situation. In an interview situation, I think of this question as “which book do you like and are willing to talk about that will either seem neutral or balance the presentation you want to show the interviewer?” Either way, Les Miserables is a perfectly good answer, and that interviewer was a jerk, OP.

                2. Been There*

                  I also go through periods of time when I’m just not really into anything.
                  Right now I’m really into BTS, but I’m not sure I would feel comfortable mentioning that in an interview. There is still (sadly) a stigma attached to liking boybands as an adult.

                3. Danish*

                  Oh, interesting! How serendipitous haha. I have really only started to piece together bits of Things I Do with stories from other people on the spectrum to be like “oh huh,” so it’s… Validating that this is a familiar issue.

                  And yeah like intellectually I can understand that they probably don’t actually mean my FAVORITE book, and even if they did theres no reason to stress over it because if I lie or flub or name some random book it’s not like they’re going to interrogate me to PROVE it’s my favorite. Just 100% something my brain gets stuck on when asked. Like I used to get indignant over “well just say any book you like” because if that’s what they want, why don’t they just say THAT but. I have come to learn that especially in verbal communication being Absolutely Precise is just not really done and we can all fake it.

                  Thank you for the suggestion!

                4. cord taco*

                  @Been There, I’m a huge BTS fan, but also wouldn’t mention that in a job interview, because yes, there is too much judgment about it.

              2. wittyrepartee*

                Oh, I just answer with whatever I’m feeling right then. Not a universal favorite, just the one that pops into my head at the moment.

              3. Panda Bandit*

                I have social anxiety and I completely blank out when someone asks this question. It can help if you internally ease off the pressure on yourself. The answer doesn’t have to be your favorite FAVORITE of all time, maybe it’s one of the top 10 books you’ve enjoyed. Or in the top 100, if you’re a voracious reader. :) I tell people that I don’t have an absolute favorite and then name a book I liked and tell them it’s in my top 10.

                On a day when you’re feeling calm you can always make a list of movies/books/etc that you’ve seen/read and then make a separate list of the ones you liked. Then you have something to refer to if you know this question is coming up.

                1. Danish*

                  Yes, that’s a good idea. And honestly if phrased as “have you read anything interesting” or even just “what’s something fun you do” I can answer THAT question at length. There’s just something about FAVORITE BOOK, ANSWER NOW. NOW!!! that locks up my brain

              4. French Cusser*

                I feel that way about colors – I like color! All of them are great!

                What my favorite book or movie or song is can vary from day to day – it’s not fixed in stone, never to change.

                But yeah, it’s kind of a dumb question.

                And I have read ‘Les Mis’ for fun. No one made me. LW has just had a run-in with a glass bowl, we are all agreed, right?

                1. kitryan*

                  I think that the next level pretentious (kidding) Les Mis question is, if you reread, do you skip the sections on sewers and/or linguistics. (I haven’t read it in a while but I loved those sections). I have a weird weak spot for authors who just info dump on semi related topics in the middle of the book. This does not extend to Moby Dick. I bounced off of that one so many times when I hit the first whale section.

                2. Nerfmobile*

                  This will be a nesting fail, but it’s a reply to kitryan about Moby Dick. If you have the desire, Moby Dick is MUCH better as an audiobook! The discursive nature really works when it’s narrated and just kind of sweeps you along, instead of having to slog through it.

              5. kitryan*

                I had ‘what have you read lately’ as an interview question and despite being a person with a spreadsheet of all the books I’ve read in the past 10 years who reads in excess of 200 books in a year, I completely blanked and basically forgot the names of any books at all. After a seeming eternity, I remembered one, but amusingly it was one of the series of cozy mysteries about a chef I’d been reading which isn’t really representative of my usual (SF/F, less cozy mysteries, or non fiction of the ‘learn all about topic X’ variety). I did get the job and after working for/with the interviewer for a while, I think he was mostly using the question to see ‘can this person engage in unscripted conversation’.

                1. Jennie*

                  ^ Exactly this!! just ‘can you chat about something like a reasonable-ish person’, the content doesn’t matter AT ALL (so long as it’s SFW). I realize not every interviewer is coming from this approach, there are totally judgy folks out there, but my goal is to talk about something that’s not the job itself for a moment.

            3. Blj531*

              Oh god. I got that as a first question at a large panel interview in my first round of public’s defender interviews.
              It sucked. I have no favorite book! I l or too many things! My current fave was YA! People had never heard of the book! The whole tone of the interview got weird and I hated it. Please don’t do this.

              1. AntsOnMyTable*

                I read a lot. Definitely 200-300 books a year. And I have tons of books that I love. Plus I am lousy at titles. So I use to really struggle when people asked me what my favorite book was and I often couldn’t just name something I enjoyed because, once again, lousy with titles. I also read mainly sci-fi/fantasy and I think those tend to be more maligned even with all the shows and movies in that genre. I finally have an answer though because I love the Murderbot series which is a very easy name to remember.

            4. Claire*

              I hate these questions with a passion. I don’t HAVE “a” favourite anything! I could do you my top 10 right this moment, if you have a couple of hours to spare and provided you can accept that it will be quite different a few hours from now.

              I don’t think that’s what interviewers are looking for though.

          2. GothicBee*

            I work in the library science field and *every* interviewer asks this question and yet every time I interview I still immediately forget what book I’ve been reading due to nerves. I’ve learned to just fall back on saying the name of a favorite book that I remember well enough to fake it.

            Also, I agree that it’s not a great question in general. I think it’s okay in a field like library science where you pretty much have to be a reader in some regard, but for a field that isn’t specific to books/reading, I think a more general question would be better (assuming you’re going to ask a question like that at all).

            1. Library Ninja*

              I’m a public library person, and we reworded the favourite book question to “what’s a book, movie or video game you’ve experienced lately that you’d recommend to a patron?” for front-line staff, and for collection librarians, changed it to something about current publishing trends to try to focus on what we actually wanted to know. Not only should it not be about judging people’s favourites, asking generally bookish people to pick one can make for some hard choices!

              1. marion librarian*

                This question is always asked in library interviews and even though I expect it, it always trips me up! I can’t decide on my favorite book!

              2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

                Similarly, we’ve changed our interview question to some variation on “Could you (recommend/sell/tell me about) a piece of media that you’ve enjoyed?”

                The goal is to see how someone will react when a patron asks them that any variation of that question (which still happens with a bit of frequency in the public library world). Our goal isn’t to judge the specific piece of media you mention, however – we’re trying to see how you both engage with a common question we get from patrons, and how/when you disengage from the topic.

              3. aflaten*

                Asking book lovers to pick their favorite book is like asking Mrs. Duggar to pick her favorite child.

          3. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            Yes, and I’ll just put in something I read recently and it’ll be SFF or YA and people will be like I’ve never heard of that or Why are you reading a book for children and I’ll feel embarrassed

            1. LunaLena*

              My usual response to “why are you reading a book for children” is “well, by that reasoning, no adult should be watching Disney or Pixar movies either.” I honestly hate the attitude that it’s not okay for adults to enjoy something intended for children (I’m a gamer and anime fan, so I’ve heard it a lot). It’s so limiting, not to mention assumes that kids are some kind of lesser entity who are Beneath Us Sophisticated Adults. Just because it’s intended for YA or children doesn’t mean it has no artistic merit or is poorly written.

              Besides, James Holzhauer became a record-smashing Jeopardy phenomenon by reading children’s books. Maybe I’m trying to become a millionaire on Jeopardy too.

              1. Pibble*

                Yeah, children’s and YA books tend to contain some really important and insightful social commentary, while also being well paced and entertaining – kids won’t read boring books just because they’ve got an important message, so authors in those genres have to make their books compelling.

              2. Boop*

                I love YA books! The genre has really exploded in the last 15 years, too, there are a ton of really good books available now. I read Crown Duel every couple years, at least. The only authors I “follow” (read: buy every book they write as soon as it’s available) are YA authors: Sherwood Smith and Tamora Pierce especially.

                Anyone who says anime is for kids has never watched Trigun, or Cowboy Bebop, or Castlevania. They are NOT child-friendly; Castlevania was especially blood-drenched. (I’m sure there are even more examples but I’ve gotten behind in my anime watching since the only stuff you can find online is dubbed.)

                I think a question like this is more about how you explain why you like the book/movie/TV show/Broadway show/graphic novel and passion you show, not so much the material itself. Although you might not want to mention how much you love “See Spot Run” anyway.

                1. Casper Lives*

                  Tamora Pierce! I should go reread her books. I enjoyed them so much as a tween/teen. I had every quartet.

                2. Lalala*

                  Crown Duel is solid. I’d also suggest Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, etc– Turner is *fantastic.*

                3. 'Tis Me*

                  Squee for Tamora Pierce! And Casper Lives, she’s still writing more books set in Tortall – if it’s been a while since your teens, you may not have read the two Trickster books about Alanna’s daughter? And she’s working on the second of the Numair chronicles currently (I only read the first one this year and loved it). I can’t seem to acquire her books on Becca Cooper – one of George’s ancestors and a Provost – on ebook in the UK so I’m not sure if she’s finished with those… They’re on my to read list though!

                4. Julia*

                  Tammy is finished with the Beka Cooper series, it seems. I follow (?) her on Patreon (I send a few dollars every month) and she is currently working on book 2 for Numair.

              3. The Neverending Childhood*

                I didn’t have kids. When I passed the children’s section in the library some years back I thought, “What a drag; my mom got to read all the books we brought home from the library and I’m missing that!” Then the light went on in my brain. Ever since then I’ve interspersed kid’s books in my reading to my heart’s content. Reread some childhood favorites, caught up on many of the “how did I miss this?” ones, and found some wonderful new treasures.

              4. Luke G*

                I’m honestly convinced I missed out on a significant scholarship because, after doing well enough on the qualification exam to reach the interview stage, I said my favorite book was “The Hobbit.” I explained that it got me into fantasy which, in turn, has led to many other beloved books, hobbies, and friendships- in a way, reading it when I did shaped my life, but the interviewer seemed unimpressed.

                Sometimes I feel like I should have listed a classic… but nah. no regrets.

              5. Environmental Compliance*

                I’ve responded with “I read it as a young adult and loved it – I wanted to go back and reread it again because it was such a good read then. And it’s still a good read!”

                I tend to get on reading kicks as well, so chances are if you ask what I’m reading right now it’s something that people will say is ‘weird’. Right now it’s the Hollow Kingdom series. Why? Because I can. Also trying to remember what the book title was of a book I read when much younger that was about a white horse? unicorn? definitely unicorn. and something about princess towers. She was orphaned? her and her sister sent to live with…. a distant aunt? or something like that, discovers mystical horses of the sea…. I can picture the book cover and not the book, of course. I feel like rereading that as well.

            2. Koalafied*

              Oof, yeah, not sure I’d want to admit, “I spent my holiday re-reading all 64 books in the Animorphs canon.” (Similarly, I’ll decline to admit how many single-serving bags of Doritos I consumed yesterday.) Sure, maybe by some miracle the interviewer would know the books and have a soft spot for them and connect with me over that, but the risk of someone outside of any kind of literary field not understanding the joy of consuming YA fiction like mental junk food is too much.

              1. Little Old Lady*

                Animorphs rule! I love those books, although I did not like the way they ended, so I made up my own ending. I am 65

              2. Anomalous*

                Doritos only come in single serving bags, even those huge ones that they sell at Costco.

            3. pnw dweller*

              and YA fiction is good without the word porn. My 70 something mom, on the other hand, will tell anyone within five minutes of knowing them that 50 Shades of Gray is her favorite book and book to movie. I download so many books on my Kindle I couldn’t tell you the title of the book I’m currently reading. So my fall-back is Pride and Prejudice, making me pretty pretentious too. But I also love the modern day P&P in Bridget Jones’ Diary (and the movie too; and, though I think it’s in the follow up book, the Colin Firth interview makes me cringe and laugh every time I read it). Books should inspire, and as long as you’re reading Silence of The Lambs because it’s good fiction and not to get tips on how to make a person coat, book choices shouldn’t be judged.

            4. Lily of the field*

              One of my top five book series is technically a YA book series; it’s the Books of Pellinor series by Alison Croggon. I ABSOLUTELY recommend!! It will forever remain in my favorites, to be read and reread forever!

              1. jp in the heartland*

                I have always loved Madeline L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time series. Still do and I’m in my 50s.

          4. voluptuousfire*

            Yes! Or if your favorite books are trashy romance novels? Some people read to escape vs. work-related stuff.

            1. Jaid*

              Ah, Chinese gay romance novels. Founder of Diabolism (novel, audio play, TV series – “The Untamed” on Netfix, a cartoon, and manga…) FTW.

          5. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a “favorite book” question in an interview but yeah, it strikes me as a poor question unless figuring out the personal tastes of the applicants is important. I am perfectly capable of waxing lyrical about how my favorite book is The Last Unicorn and how the character of Molly Grue hits so differently for an adult than it did when I was in elementary school, but I can’t see how that gives them insight into what kind of worker I’d be that they couldn’t better get by asking questions about my work history.

            Mostly recently read would probably make me bluescreen while I tried to remember what order I’d read my most 5 recently read books in unless I’d been reading a book while waiting for the interview. I read a lot of books, and some of them stick with me better than others. (Also, some of them have titles I’m not sure how to pronounce and I may not remember who they’re by! I read books like some people watch tv – some of it I care about specifically and some of it just seems interesting enough to stick with as I’m surfing through things.)

            1. Rosalind Franklin*

              When I ask those types of questions, what I’m really interested in is figuring out if you’re the type of person I can stand working in close proximity to for 40+ hours/week for potentially years. I don’t care what you answer, I’m looking for “can you reasonably talk about something you’re interested in and not make me want to leave the room?”

              1. Anonapots*

                While I love your user name, I still don’t think the favorite book question is really appropriate for an interview that isn’t directly related to books. It kind of reminds me of the Barbara Walters tree question.

              2. Dionna*

                Can you explain how these questions get you there in a way that other questions which don’t involve asking people to share their personal tastes with complete strangers don’t? Or is it that being able to filter for class/race/gender using these questions is part of what makes it possible for you to “stand working” with someone?

              3. Hemingway*

                But what if I’m interested in something very strange or even inappropriate for work, then you’re just making up an answer, so it doesnt even reflect this to be true.

                And I love working with certain people that has nothing to do with us chatting. They can be great exmployees without having to be super interesting.

                1. Jennie*

                  Sure, everyone has things they don’t want to talk about at work. But like, are you really ONLY interested in very strange/inappropriate things? There’s no need to be a total open book, but I would be concerned about hiring someone who cannot or is entirely unwilling to make basic small talk about out-of-work things, for the positions I hire for.

                2. Koalafied*

                  There’s a decent-sized middle ground of small talk between “work-related” and “inherently personal.” It’s talking about the weather we’ve having lately, how has your day/week been going, did you have a good weekend, have you seen the cherry blossoms in bloom yet? etc. Stuff that can be answered with as much or as little personal information as someone feels comfortable sharing. Questions specifically about their favorite X or how they spend their time outside of work don’t leave any room for someone to keep their personal life private without lying.

            2. Luke G*

              I liked the Last Unicorn cartoon well enough as a kid but never really ~appreciated~ it until I was older and understood some of the deeper themes. And yeah, the scene where Molly Grue demands to know where the unicorn was, when she was young and beautiful, instead of when she’s just “this?” Oof.

            3. TardyTardis*

              I keep a spreadsheet (I think I started in 20o3) and right now would have to vote for A MEMORY CALLED EMPIRE by Arkady Martine. It’s a book I have to slow down to get all the good parts and not just zoom through. And I’ll probably pay too much for the sequel.

          6. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            I got asked my favorite tv show in an interview when I was just starting out and very inexperienced with interviewing. I was caught off guard and answered honestly that “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was my favorite show. That caught them off guard. Needless to say, they did not offer me a second interview or the job. But, hey, they got an honest answer!

            1. SeluciaMD*

              Well, if that’s the reason they didn’t hire you then you didn’t want to work there anyway. I 100% know that Joss Whedon is a tool (and as a fellow BtVS lover) I get that his association now puts a tarnish on things he’s been affiliated with, but Buffy is a fantastic show on so many levels. If you answered that in an interview I was conducting? It would definitely be in the plus column!!!

              1. 'Tis Me*

                I also get the impression that even though he was a tool, the actors who worked on the show had a fantastic connection to each other and were really proud of what they achieved. So I think continuing to love the show is OK?

            2. Sweet Christmas*

              What, why? Buffy was a fantastic show; it was also one of the most popular shows on television. I feel like if you’re interviewing someone in a certain millennial age bracket the chances of Buffy being their favorite show are VERY high, lol.

          7. Clisby*

            It also assumes you have a single favorite book – which, to me, is a strange idea. I’ve read a lot, for my entire life, and I can’t single out one as a favorite – it can vary based on my mood of the day. If you asked me to list my 25 favorite books, I could do that.

            1. Anonapots*

              This. Because of COVID and limited socializing, I have a lot of time to think about things like, “What IS my favorite movie or book? Do I have one? Is ‘depends on the genre’ an appropriate answer?” But yes, for me I have a lot of favorites for a lot of different reasons and some of them I haven’t read in over 30 years, but they’re still books I love.

              1. mrs__peel*

                I’ve had to think long and hard about my favorite things because I have a seven-year-old neighbor who grills me mercilessly about them. (“My favorite food is mac and cheese! No, wait, it’s pierogies!……. can I change my answer again?”)

            2. onco fonco*

              Yeah, I would have to answer that there are too many genres that I love for different reasons to be able to pick just one book. Though I’d then go on to briefly describe a book I do love – one of my top 10 or so that I can reread a hundred times and always, always enjoy.

            3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Yeah, I could probably rattle off a good twenty names of books, or albums, saying “that’d defo be in my top ten”.
              I can name my all-time favourite film though, Stranger than Paradise directed by Jim Jarmusch and starring John Lurie. I saw it by accident, because the film we wanted to see had already started, the time had been wrongly listed, I loved it but my date hated it. The very next evening I went back again, alone, to watch it again. I’ve probably seen it at least 20 times.

            4. Between the Ferns*

              “It also assumes you have a single favorite book”

              For God’s sakes, pick one of the 25 books you most like and discuss that. It’s not rocket science, and they’re not looking for “Truth” with a capital T. They’re looking to see if you can have an intelligent discussion about a book, and the reason they’re asking is to see whether you can carry on a conversation if a client asks you a question like this.

          8. Tisiphone*

            I don’t have a favorite book. I *do* have the last book I read because there’s always a Book in Progress, and many of them are good. Most aren’t the kind of thing that would determine if I were a good employee or a bad one.

            The letter writer dodged a bullet. Besides a complete subjective opinion about a classic novel, the rest of the feedback seemed to indicate a workplace that would get all huffy if someone tried to have a life outside work.

          9. Esmerelda*

            Normally I’m not a fan of the favorite book question (ice breaker questions are just so awkward anyway, and this one in particular does assume people read). I admit I have asked it as in interviewer – I work in publishing though so it makes more sense than in some contexts. The book they give as an answer doesn’t matter, but if they say “I don’t read,” then they’re honestly not a good fit for us because my department is really all about books and at least a moderate like for books is needed, otherwise you’ll hate the job and quit (let’s be real, no one works in publishing for the pay). It flabbergasts me that other industries ask about the fav book though, and then actually judge people on the answer.

          10. BHB*

            I hate the question too, mostly because my favourite book is one they likely won’t have heard of, and so then the next question is “what’s it about?” and trying to concisely explain the basic premise of a Jasper Fforde book is not particularly easy..

            And then there’s all the implications of what you like to read. Does it matter if you’re only into pulpy mills & boon rmances? What if you only read erotic fanfiction? Does mentioning that a “classic” is your favourite book look snooty (as in the OP)? If you mention you’re a big fan of Harry Potter is that going to reflect badly on you because of JK Rowling’s transphobia? If you mention something relatively bland and popular, is that *too* bland and doesn’t show enough personality? I appreciate I might be overthinking it a little, but the question can cause a whole world of problems and issues.

          11. Librarian of SHIELD*

            When I was involved in hiring, I would sometimes ask “what’s the last book you read, and did you enjoy it?” But that’s because I’m in a bookish industry, and I was purposefully trying to hire people who could get into conversations about what makes books enjoyable to them and to others. In a non-book related job, I’d never ask that because it wouldn’t be relevant to the work.

        2. XF1013*

          Yes! This reminds me of the point that Alison makes sometimes about diversity in hiring being good for the company, because a diversity of perspectives can lead to innovative solutions and help to avoid blind spots and so on. This guy’s tone of “you enjoy different things from me” sounds like he doesn’t want to hire anyone who isn’t just like him, which is self-defeating on top of everything else wrong with it.

          1. Koalafied*

            Yep. I strongly dislike being asked about my interests outside of work because they’re largely 1) weird 2) low-brow. The truth is my current job takes so much out of me that my main pastimes outside of work are watching TV and trying to keep up with the endless household chores cycle – or when I was younger, that I spent a lot of time dating and partying – but this definitely feels like a question where you’re expected to have an Interesting or Cultured answer, because who hires the “I like to watch TV and party” person?

            I work really hard at my job and I want to be judged on the merits of my work that results from that hard work, not whether I have any energy leftover after work to do something socially respected with my time. And as a hiring manager/interviewer, questions like these don’t give you any information useful enough to be worth the substantial risk that you’ll just unconsciously use it to hire people who remind you of yourself or seem like someone you’d be friends with (and hence the issue from a diversity standpoint). Want to know if someone can make pleasant small talk in the office? Start the interview with, “How has your week been going?” or “Have you lived in this area long?” or some other normal open-ended small talk question that people can answer with as much or as little personal detail as they feel comfortable sharing. Don’t ask a question that requires them to divulge personal interests or behaviors that can lead to you Othering people who have totally different life contexts than your own.

            1. allathian*

              I hear you. After work I don’t have energy left over for anything other than chores, spending time with my husband and son, watching TV, and reading. Even if I probably don’t work as hard as you do. A couple of near-burnouts have made me realize that I can’t work as hard as I used to anymore. Still, I’ll do the best I can and want to be judged on my professional merits, my ability to work well with others and my expertise, rather than anything to do with my private life.

        3. Gray Lady*

          It’s worse than “you enjoy different things than me.” It’s “real people don’t enjoy serious literature so you must be lying.” It’s cynical and narrow-minded.

        4. Marzipan Shepherdess*

          And why should he assume that her favorite book HAD to be one she read only “for fun”? There are so many wonderful books that do NOT end happily and are not perky/merry/peppy, but which enrich our lives immeasurably and to which we return over and over to refresh ourselves at their wellsprings of wisdom. (Of course, I doubt that this insufferable prig would know anything about THAT!)

          1. SeluciaMD*

            Right??? One of my all time favorite books is “Wuthering Heights” – and that is 100% tied to my experience reading it in high school. I read it in my AP Lit class and HATED IT the first time through. And then my teacher sparked a debate about some point in the book that I got really invested in, and I went back and reread the whole thing that night to arm myself for further debate (I love a good debate LOL) and it was a completely different experience the second time around. So I love that book not necessarily because of the story or because it’s a “classic” but because of what it taught me about how literature can be viewed and interpreted and it fundamentally changed the way I thought about books.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              making me want to reread that now. But I have no idea where it is, in amongst all the books heaped up in my bedroom.

          2. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

            This! Catcher in the Rye is one of my favorite books, and I first read it in 9th grade English class. I also read The Great Gatsby in that class and loved it.

          3. Danish*

            My upthread comment about how being asked my “favorite” book can send me into a stress spiral, complete with crying, feels pretty ridiculous in light of the like six paragraphs I was set to sit down and write you here about books that had a huge impact on me (Girl, Interrupted and The Mezzanine), and I think that alone shows the weakness of the question. I learned a lot about myself and about what kind of media I enjoy from those two books, but I wouldn’t say they’re particularly impressive-sounding or “fun” books. Nor do I think I should have to get into my personal relationship with media and self expression just to answer a throw away get to know you question in an interview, so…

          4. Flossie Bobbsey*

            This was my exact thought. There are plenty of books at the top of my list that I read because they were assigned in school. I don’t have enough time in life to reread all of them for fun, at least not in full, but I’m still allowed to say they’re among my favorite books.

        5. Between the Ferns*

          Helpful feedback would be something like “You may want to reconsider wearing jeans to an interview.”

          I disagree. “Don’t wear jeans to an interview” is kindergarten-level stuff. Interviewing for jobs in finance involves a lot of subjective, more nuanced judgments. And frankly, I think some of this interviewer’s feedback was useful. (Not the book part, really.) That’s not to say every interviewer will share his judgment that the LW lacked confidence or passion, because some of these judgments are subjective and different audiences will disagree with them. But some will, and it is a data point for OP.

          1. LutherstadtWittenberg*

            His comments were not useful; they were certainly subjective. They seemed petulant, puffed-up and arrogant. He’s a tiresome writer as well, so I dearly hope he doesn’t work in Communications.

        1. Aquawoman*

          Absolutely. He is the kind of narcissist bully who enjoys tormenting people for sport.

        2. onco fonco*

          YES. He did. None of this was helpful feedback, it was a nasty man on a power trip. Ugh.

          1. LunaLena*

            It probably dropped a coconut on him because a five ounce bird can’t carry a one pound coconut for very long.

          2. Mike*

            Well, the swallow would have to be laden with *something* for it to be able to poop on him, you know.

      3. CheeseWhizzies*

        He really sounds like an emotionally abusive bully. Not that bright, either. What does being nervous in an interview have to do with the OP’s actual job?? Or the books that they like to read?

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Yeah, you are right that he is not that bright. He doesn’t think anyone reads classic literature for fun. He expects a younger person without a lot of job experience to have a years long hobby of trading stocks and to be passionate about it. And he actually tells OP that they are a friendly company in the context of a mean, nasty, abhorrently rude letter. Nope, as long as this dude is there, this company is not friendly!

          1. Sparrow*

            Honestly, this guy’s emphasis on ~passion would make me feel like I’d dodged a bullet. I think the “we want people passionate about our work” attitude generally means they want to feel like people are there because they love the work, not because they’re being paid (which, as we’ve seen many times, can easily lead to underpayment and exploitation of employees). I’m just there to earn a paycheck; I don’t need to be passionate about the job to do it well.

            I probably would forward his email to the hiring manager as Alison suggested, because it’s very possible no one knows he’s doing this and wouldn’t be thrilled about it. I would also 100% be drafting a snarky reply to this guy letting him know why his criticisms are, frankly, ridiculous. Obviously I’d do that in a new window with his email address nowhere in sight and I wouldn’t send it, but writing it would make me feel better!

            1. jojo*

              So true. Someone just out of school is not going to be doing much stock trading for the obvious reason that they are busy trying to pay off student debt while paying rent food. Possibly while nor having a job yet.

        2. Qwerty*

          He is probably used to hiring roles for trading positions, where some of this stuff comes into play and interview dynamics can get weird. It requires a lot of confidence in your decisions (or at least appearing confident), living and breathing the finance industry, etc. He’s is definitely a grade-A jerk, but it isn’t unheard of for those types of interviews for there to be mind games like telling a candidate their correct answer is wrong then seeing how they defend it.

          I loved my coworkers when I was in finance, but I also did a lot of work to get them to mingle with other people and prevent getting sealed in their bubble of like-mindedness. Guys like this are a big part of why I left the industry.

          1. Qwerty*

            I should clarify that the mind-game interviews were normal only for the trading jobs where people were buying/selling stuff on a split second decisions. Other roles at the company should be having normal interviews (my company did not let traders join interviews for non-trading roles for this reason)

        3. Anon for Today*

          I mean, I interviewed someone who was so nervous she left damp marks on the chair. It was truly a bizarre interview and I should have listened to my gut because she ended up being a nightmare. Now, I’m assuming the LW was just your garden variety nervous, which isn’t unexpected, IMO.

          1. pancakes*

            People perspire for many reasons other than nervousness. The chemically-induced menopause I was put into by medications that help keep my cancer in remission causes terrible hot flashes that people would likely never, because of my age, think to be menopause-related. You shouldn’t assume the way people’s bodies behave is a direct reflection of their emotional state.

      4. Black Horse Dancing*

        Agreed. Favorite books are favorite books. I’d only really judge if someone said Mein Kampf.

      5. chewingle*

        “He went out of his way to make someone feel bad, to make them feel small.” Absolutely. The fact that he included the book in here is enough proof, but more…he didn’t provide anything actually constructive or anything positive to balance out the negative. It was all there for the sake of being mean. I’d love for OP to follow Alison’s advice and send it back to the actual interviewer.

        1. Anonapots*

          I really want this, too. It is absolutely appropriate to bring this to someone’s attention, if only to make sure he doesn’t sit on anymore panels until he learns some more professionalism.

      6. hiptobesquare*

        One of the most cathartic things I have ever done was read a horrible email I received aloud to a group of supportive people.

        The oldest member of our team, a devout Italian Catholic, had words to say. I’ll never forget.

        Highly advise.

        1. Virginia Plain*

          Similarly, years ago a friend read me a letter she’d received from a recently-ex boyfriend she’d been with a while, fairly involved relationship of the late teens/early twenties model. She was quite upset as it was, basically, mean.
          I read it back to her, systematically taking it apart point by point, noting everything he was unreasonable or cruel or patronising or just plain wrong, taking the p!ss out of the writer and showering my comments liberally with insults and swear words. She said it made her feel much better and remembers it to this day – for what I said not what the ex said.
          My headline reaction to this guy, as to that guy, is, what a wanker.

      7. Fried Eggs*

        Pretty sure this guy’s thought process went something like this:
        1. Les Miserables? That’s a literary book. This jerk thinks he’s smarter than me because he’s a writer.
        2. But he can’t be smarter than me. I’m God’s gift to stock trading.
        3. Maybe he just said Les Miserables to sound smart. Yeah, I bet that’s it.
        4. Better let him know I saw right through that ruse. Yeah, that’s a good plan. I’ll have the last word and prove I’m the smart one.
        5. Actually, this little punk could probably benefit from my interviewing wisdom. I’ll share more of it. I’m such a generous guy.

      8. The Rules are Made Up*

        Like what did he expect her to say? What’s an acceptable non pretentious book? Eat, Pray, Love? Or perhaps a book about passionately trading stocks. Everyone make way for the Literary Lieutenant.

      9. Canadian Cate*

        OP, I totally agree that this jerk enjoyed writing this feedback and making you feel small. An entire lifetime ago I spent 2 years in the financial sector working directly with clients after finishing an MA in History. I knew nothing about investing, but I learned it on the job. Don’t let this jackass make you feel badly. His letter speaks volumes about his shortcomings, not yours.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        Yes. It could be that you look like the woman who broke his heart — his comments sound personal for him. Assuming you didn’t say something insulting to him, or get into a parking lot spat w/him earlier, the only explanation to me is that he’s got a PERSONAL issue.

        Please ignore his specific critiques. But remember his actions and maybe forward his comment to the hiring person, and tell them you’re forwarding it to the CEO or whoever. And ask for a response.

        Because this seems like harassment from a guy who used your address for a job interview to insult and harass you emotionally.

    2. FormerTVGirl*

      This is a fantastic idea. OP — nothing takes the power out of something like this like a drunk dramatic reading with friends, I assure you. This guy sucks, and Alison’s comments about this being more about HIM than about YOU are right on. Some people are nervous in interviews, and usually that’s OK. I have hired those people, and they’ve gone on to kick butt in jobs. You got this, OP!

    3. Empress Matilda*

      I did exactly that with the nine-page dress code I was handed at my retail job.

      I mean, this was a million years ago (ie, long before Zoom calls were a thing!), but I definitely shared it with friends at a party for mocking purposes. It was very cathartic.

      1. Keen in KeeneNH*

        Nine pages?! What did appropriate dress even consist of at that job (and why didn’t they just issue everyone uniforms?)

        1. Empress Matilda*

          Right? It was ridiculous. Highlights included:

          ~no visible tattoos
          ~no covering up tattoos with bandages
          ~only one ring per finger (engagement/wedding ring combos excepted)
          ~only one piercing per ear for women (lobes only, no cartilage piercing on ears or anywhere else. And no piercings at all for men)

          It also covered things like length of fingernails, appropriate number and width of bracelets (again, this applied to women only because the appropriate number of bracelets for men is obviously zero), appropriate fabrics for clothing, messy hair, and on and on. It was…really something.

          1. Littorally*

            That’s completely bananas. So, what, if you have a tattoo or unapproved piercings already, you’re just automatically disqualified?

          2. Hats Are Great*

            Did you work at the Disney Store in the 90s? They had a CRAZY-strict dress code, down to the shades of makeup women had to wear.

        2. Qwerty*

          I’ve dealt with a 4-5 page dress code once. These super detailed dress codes seem like a reaction to people saying “this technically is not prohibited”, so the company decides to give detailed list of what is explicitly allowed vs excluded. It’s why I get annoyed when people say “if you can’t wear leggings, try [brand that is basically leggings] because they aren’t technically leggings”.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      I second (third?) this suggestion. This sort of melodramatic nonsense is exactly what dramatic reenactments are for. This isn’t constructive feedback, this is a jackass with a very narrow view of what the right candidate looks like (apparently, someone passionate who doesn’t get nervous at interviews?). I do this up NYT’s “What is a Photocopier?” style and have fun with it.

      I also call BS on his complaint about not using an industry example for overcoming a problem – this is one of my favorite interview questions because it highlights people’s problem-solving abilities and (in a good response) shows that they can generalize across disciplines. I have gotten some great examples over the years, and the best ones aren’t necessarily something that would happen in the job I’m hiring for – just that someone hit a wall, didn’t throw their hands up in the air and give up, marshaled their resources, and focused on a solution.

      1. Grand Admiral Thrawn Will Always Be Blue*

        I think he just threw that in there to add as much as he could. Massive jerkface.

      2. carrieuoregon*

        That was almost what made me maddest…the example wasn’t from our industry?????? Was that part of the question? That was simply petty beyond words to include that.

      3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        I had never seen the NY Times “What is a photocopier?” sketch until you mentioned it, and I googled it.

        Thank you, thank you, kind person. This made my day.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Please to share! It’s one of my favorites and cracks me up every time I watch it. (It’s a dramatic reading of an actual deposition transcript from a real case, too, which make it even funnier, IMO. You couldn’t make that up!)

      4. Sparrow*

        Yeah, I was annoyed by that, too. It sounds like OP’s skill set is highly transferable, and so they’ve probably done very similar work in many settings and have highly relevant examples that were just from a different context. I’m not sure this guy actually understands the position OP was applying for.

        I’ve also asked similar questions in interviews and had a similar experience. Actually, the best answer I can remember getting was from someone whose professional experience was almost exclusively in a completely unrelated industry. (We hired her and she was great, btw!)

    5. ElizabethJane*

      I’ve been in the workforce long enough that I have no patience for this sort of bullshit so I’d be tempted to attach this to a response to the polite rejection and be like ‘You know what, thank you for your time also I’m glad you rejected me because this dude would get punched in the face if I ever saw him again”.

      Admittedly that would burn a bridge but also… this guy needs a punch to the face.

      1. On to better things*

        This email alone would screen him out of my consideration, never mind whatever the interviewee may have clocked but let slide in the actual interview. Someone new to the workforce would be understandably shaken, but years later will understand how very Not Done this is.

    6. Another workerbee*

      Bonus if you can sing the letter in the style of the musical.
      “Passionate about stooooooooooooocks!” Wave tricolor, etc.

    7. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      It’s also fun to run a letter like that through a translation program, English to Dutch to Swahili to Urdu to Japanese and back to English … or whatever languages you prefer. I used to use that on our mission statement and it was always a huge improvement!

    8. RDG*

      This is for sure excellent dramatic re-enactment fodder. My best friends and I have special voices we use for these and everything.

      Also, for what it’s worth…I’m pretty regularly involved in interview panels at work, and I’m pretty sure I’d get laughed out of the room if I brought up any of these as reasons not to hire someone. Mayyyyybe “nerves” and “lacks passion” are valid criticisms, but only in extreme cases, like if the person couldn’t get a sentence out or was texting during the interview or something.

      All that is to say that I can’t imagine using any of this information as criteria for a hiring decision, let alone as such KEY criteria that I would feel the need to follow up with a candidate about it unsolicited. You are 100% fine, OP, and this guy is a bully who likes to feel important. It’s super unlikely this will hold you back in any other job (most of which hopefully won’t be making their hiring decisions based on favorite books – ??).

      1. 'Tis Me*

        He does sneak im noting that her answers are thorough and well thought out, so no, her nerves and lack of passion for stocks are not hindering her ability to answer well.

    9. Elsewhere*

      I’d be in deeper trouble. My favorite book is a travelog of Wales written by a 13th century priest named Gerald of Wales though right now I’m reading Herodotus’ The Histories, a book on Roman emperors.

      1. Charlief*

        Yeah mine is moby dick. I can give a series of impromptu lectures on it from: why the chapters on the whaling industry that is just figured isn’t (only) about whaling: to how Ishmael and queeqeg’s relationship follows a standard erotic romance template (forced marriage in odd circumstances! Fighting monsters! Saving life’s! Inexplicably taking clothes off for reasons!) to why moby dick speaks to me as a religious text to the chapter on why you can never really see a whales because they are dead when they are hauled out as why that is the most beautiful and profound thing about people… you get the idea…

      2. LutherstadtWittenberg*

        I read about Proto-Indo-European linguistics for the kicks. That one guy on the panel hates me!

        I can’t wait for his passionately worded email about The Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Fall of the Kingdom of Prussia!!!

    10. laowai-gaijin*

      Seconding this advice. Have some fun with it. Maybe read it in the voice of Judge Whitey from “Futurama,” or, ooh, Zapp Brannigan!

    11. wee beastie*

      What Shenandoah says. +1000.
      Definitely do a dramatic reading cause it will be hilarious. I want to do one myself because this is comedy gold. This is email is made for a Saturday night live sketch.
      He calls your love of Victor Hugo pretentious but wants someone “passionate about stocks” and hobbyist investing? A thing which young people rarely have the cash and privilege to participate in! I bet he quotes Gordon Gecko to his buddies and has no idea that movie was meant to be anti-capitalist.
      His critiques are all purely subjective, unhelpful, unwarranted, mean, and stupid. And they are almost entirely not related to the job itself! Copywriting and marketing for a stocks/investment co depends on good communication skills, creativity, and attention to detail plus awareness of trends in marketing online for websites and ads. His critiques are down to whether he liked you on the flimsiest superficial basis. He can’t chug a beer with you and laugh about December’s Airbnb IPO, so you are right out. I mean, who has “fun” at a job interview? And why does he care that you recognize he and his company are fun? Oooh, I think he secretly wants to date you and this was a way to talk to you. He’s so gauche that’s only explanation I can think of. He probably read The Game and misunderstood what Neil Strauss meant by “negging.” I bet if you asked him for advice, he’s turn it into a date. Which is profoundly gross. (Unless you are not a female, then he’s just a garden variety bully.)

      Do not listen to a word he says except as an object lesson in how not to treat another human being.
      Incidentally, I’ve never not hired because someone was nervous, especially if they are young. I look past it because I assume it is situation specific to job interviews. I will take nervous with thoughtful and thorough answers over confident but empty every day.
      Seriously, you made it to the final round. You clearly were not so excessively nervous or lacking in passion, or you wouldn’t have made it through the first interview.

    12. EngineerMom*

      OMG, the best response ever!

      I’m now picturing my VERY theatrical in-laws doing this over Zoom, and it’s making my day.

    13. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      There wasn’t one single point on his list that I thought was a valid thing to criticize someone you’re interviewing for. Not one. This guy is a douche. He’s a Bro. Did anyone else get some very misogynistic mansplainy vibes or am I overreacting?

    14. Kate O'Brien*

      OTOH he is giving you feedback about how to be a better candidate during an interview.

  2. MommyMD*

    This guy is a pretentious absolute jack ass. Forget about him. Good luck in future interviews. He is the stereotypical jerk who puts people down to make himself feel important. I guarantee you half his coworkers dislike him.

    1. Artemesia*

      no kidding — if he had asked me about music I’d talk about opera and thus be a pretentious person because we all know no one really enjoys opera.

      This is an assault — he likes to make women feel like dirt. It isn’t like you asked for feedback. Assume you dodged a bullet. And I like Alison’s advice to send the feedback to the hiring manager asking if this was his sense of how the interview went as well. I don’t see that you. have anything to lose there and he might.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          From the dude’s behavior, and reading it as women who have dealt with this kind of man for years. But indeed, she is in fact a woman.

          1. Infiniteschrutebucks*

            Yeah, the whole “you weren’t enjoying yourself” reeks of the same tone and implication as “you should smile more”. Having well thought out and thorough answers that you clearly articulated well is…evidence of passion about something and having self esteem and confidence. I wonder if he expected the male candidates to both have thorough and well communicated answers and to deliver those answers in a tone and with facial expressions that conveyed the proper amount of passion/confidence to satisfy his personal opinion of what that is. When I’m interviewing candidates who are clearly a little nervous I tend to think they are more passionate because it’s obvious they really want to make a good impression. Someone who came in with a bunch of casual swagger would give me pause about how much they actually cared and how easy they’d be to work with.

            I’d be tempted to forward this feedback either to HR or the actual hiring manager and ask if this is reflective of their thoughts, and whether it is a standard practice for the organization. I’d also be tempted to consult my friend who is an employment lawyer on the wording of that communication to convey to them that a lot of this language feels sexist and you’d like to know if the male candidates in the process received similar remarks.

            Also, I read Les Mis for fun a few years ago. He’s an abject idiot.

            1. Sciencer*

              “Someone who came in with a bunch of casual swagger would give me pause about how much they actually cared and how easy they’d be to work with.”

              So much this! I’m not in a hiring position but I review applications for the academic program I run, and materials that exude arrogance give me serious pause. Confidence is awesome and we work hard to foster that in our students, but arrogance typically translates to closed-mindedness and an unwillingness to try anything they might not be amazing at. Poor fit for our program, and poor fit for a lot of jobs as well.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                Re “casual swagger”, I had to interview a 21-year-old guy for an intern position once. Bit of back story, it had to be in my (shared) office. There were two desks and a guest chair. The candidate I’d brought in before that guy, went straight for my chair and left me the guest chair, which I thought produced an odd dynamics. So with this one, I walked in first and sat in my chair and offered him a seat. This dude sat in the guest chair, and immediately slouched way back and spread his legs, so that he was kind of reclining in front of me. I had to talk to that man’s crotch for a half hour. It did not warm me up to him as a person. It also made me think he’d be a nightmare to work with.

            2. Cruciatus*

              My mom read Les Mis too. In the original French. I wonder what this guy would think of that!

          2. EngineerMom*

            Allison, that’s so interesting! I assumed the interviewee (the OP) was a man, interviewed by an insecure man-child who thinks his personal opinion is the biggest, best thing since sliced bread.

        2. Jennifer W*

          Because no man sends this kind of mansplaining BS to another man. And if LW was a man he wouldn’t have to ask if this was inappropriate because he’d know it was because it would likely be the first time he’d heard such condescending garbage whereas women deal with micro versions of this nonsense on the daily.

          1. staceyizme*

            Agreed! While women are equally capable of being jerks, this utterly reeks of the more classically “old boys” club type of posturing.

          2. Campfire Raccoon*

            My husband thinks this guy was negging, and will 100% be emailing the OP to ask her out.

            1. ShowPony*

              That was my thought. She replies indignantly, he takes that as an opening to be like, “oh you’re feisty, let me take you out to dinner.”

              Gross gross gross.

              1. Empress Matilda*

                Ew. I hope you’re wrong, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

                OP, please know that if he does ask you out after this, you have our full permission to yeet him into the sun.

                1. Robin Ellacott*

                  Also, please come back and tell us so we can send him Bad Vibes even harder than we’re already doing. (and definitely report that to his company if it happens!)

              2. Lil Fidget*

                This was 100% my thought. Why is this guy even thinking about a rejected applicant this far after the interview? And looking up her contact info and reaching out? I bet he was hoping she’d respond in some way that he could see as an opening.

              3. Unemployed in Greenland*

                Ohhhh …

                … but she could indeed reply, go along with the dinner – and then email him a point by point critique of his attempt at a date. Wheee!

                1. Good Vibes Steve*

                  Oh, I wish I could witness that!
                  I mean, LW: definitively don’t do that. But the satisfaction I get out of just imagining it is wonderful.

              4. Ellie*

                Yes, it was my first thought too. She clearly made an impression on him. Total jerk move but I bet that he’s hoping she will contact him and ask for coaching.

            2. BigTenProfessor*

              This was my read as well, and even if it isn’t, it’s messed up that we live in a culture where multiple people saw that pattern.

            3. glt on wry*

              Totally agree. My first reaction was that he was a PUA (and, not coincidentally, a POS) who’s also relying on undermining her confidence to prevent her from reporting his “feedback” to other members of the interview board.

            4. TootsNYC*

              at the very least, he was sexually attracted and knows he doesn’t have a chance, especially since she won’t be working there, so he has to convince himself and her that she isn’t worth being attracted to.
              Hence all the shit about her not having “passion.”

              OP dodged a bullet–can you imagine how he’d be if she’d gotten the job there?

            5. Bluesboy*

              Ok, it took me a moment to understand this.

              I read the ‘will 100% be emailing the OP to ask her out’ as relating to your husband, so…I had a moment of confusion!

              1. Campfire Raccoon*

                Sorry for the confusion. I was in between phone calls and wrote it like I’d have said it – rather than in a way that would have made grammatical sense. The pitfalls of not being able to put the emPHAsis on the correct syLLAble. lol.

          3. urgh*

            “Because no man sends this kind of mansplaining BS to another man” Oh, I beg to differ. I can believe women tend to hear shit like this more often than men, but believe me, it happens to men too. I am a man and I have heard crap like this many times. You’re too nervous, too quiet, not passionate enough, etc. There was a guy who phoned me and gave me this long speech about how I had to sell myself. And I was once interviewed by a woman who told me she wouldn’t hire me because I didn’t show enough passion for the job.

          4. Between the Ferns*

            Because no man sends this kind of mansplaining BS to another man.

            Not true. I am a man, and I had a very similar first interview in finance and received a similar critique (without the book question). It helped me in future interviews.

        3. Artemesia*

          I have this odd skill in which I can draw conclusions from the evidence before me and the context. This is such classic sexist scolding and negging that I am surprised you can’t see it? Should we assume you are a dude?

          1. FYI*

            Come on. I’m just saying that it was an assumption that wasn’t explicitly stated. I just like to avoid making assumptions about LWs, that’s all. I like to read letters without projecting one gender or another, so as to avoid stereotypes. To me, the feedback can then be more useful and broadly applied.

            1. Spencer Hastings*

              Yeah, also being a woman and being read by others as a woman are not coextensive.

            2. CoveredInBees*

              Women have experienced this kind of treatment from men, and only men, probably starting around age 12. And at age 12, it is just as much ADULT men treating them this way. For people long on the receiving end of this behavior, the letter being a man talking to a woman hovered somewhere between subtext and text in the letter.

              1. Mimi Me.*

                I was 6 the summer my uncle told me that pretty girls shouldn’t read if they want to catch a husband. My aunt smacked him on the back of the head. Hard.

                FWIW, my husband loves that I read and calls me the smartest person he knows. :)

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  My husband is deeply suspicious of people who don’t read. Your uncle’s attitude was… not uncommon where he’s from, and it made dating a bit of a challenge until he got to college. We have wildly different taste in books, but, between the two of us, have a decent library.

            3. Ellie*

              Yes, it’s generally valuable to avoid jumping to conclusions or projecting.

              At the same time, some problems are strongly gendered.

              If someone wrote it saying that they were getting catcalled outside their office, for example, it would be reasonable to assume that LW was a woman.

              Most women I know, myself included, have encountered behavior like OP. People might be annoyed at you for not seeing it because it seems you’re not aware of that problem.

              While the answer “he’s a jerk” applies regardless of OPs gender, it matters that this is something that affects women disproportionately, and usually comes from men. It’s something men should be conscious of so they can check their own assumptions and behaviors as an interviewer.

            4. ceiswyn*

              Avoiding stereotypes is one thing; avoiding obvious common patterns of prejudice and discrimination is quite another.

              You might want to reflect on why you didn’t see it.

              1. AndersonDarling*

                As a woman, I immediately identified with the misogyny in the letter, but I didn’t conclude that the Letter Writer was a woman. Men experience similar belittling treatment by other men in power, especially men who don’t fit with standard gender roles. I don’t assume that women are the only ones who receive this kind of treatment.

                1. Sweet Christmas*

                  Same, I came to say this, and I study gender. I recognized the pattern and was not surprised to learn LW was a woman, but I also did not assume she was a woman, either.

              2. urgh*

                I’m a man and I didn’t see the obvious gender thing because I have been treated like this many times.

              3. LTL*

                I’m a woman and I didn’t see it. I’m glad that others have mentioned it because it’s informative but I don’t think it’s fair to get on FYI’s back because he didn’t see it right away.

                We do not aim for perfect knowledge, we aim for continual learning and open mindedness.

            5. Tobias Funke*

              I like to read letters without some of the main information in them, so I can twist what’s in there to make the “point” I want to make.

          2. Bluesboy*

            I never know how to respond in the comments when a problem really seems strongly gendered, but the genders involved aren’t actually made clear in the letter.

            Part of me wants to make the assumption, which can lead to more specific advice. At the same time, we are responding to a person, we might not have the correct gender, and making that assumption can be damaging. An example would be a man experiencing spousal abuse, where by assuming the victim is female we may easily offer inaccurate and unhelpful advice, even though that assumption is correct the majority of the time. The same is true, for example, when we assume someone is cisgendered.

            As Alison has said, the LW is a woman, so you are right, and honestly, I read LW as a woman too. But I don’t think it’s necessarily fair of you to be sarcastic with FYI for raising the question. I say this as someone who has noticed and appreciates your comments, which are salient and well thought out, but in this specific case I think you are being a little harsh.

        4. Boof*

          I’m going to agree we should be open to other possibilities, but this letter reeks of a cis-man giving a bunch of unwanted advice to a younger woman on how she can better appeal to his very specific tastes
          Something about the emphasis on being more passionate and friendly being the most important things and not technical knowledge

      1. HR Survivor*

        I second the LW forwarding the jerk’s e-mail to the person who sent the formal rejection letter? I’d love to be a fly on the wall when HR deals with the jerk.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Artemesia, your post here caused me to think about Alison’s advice to ask the company. I think I’d have to ask the company if they ordinarily send critiques out like this to everyone or do they just send it to the women.

        1. the one that got away*

          I would do it. This guy is representing the company and using the company’s email address.

    2. Sue*

      Yes, his big ego compels him to pick on job applicants…I’m sure his coworkers know his game so he has to kick down to the least powerful people. Actually pathetic behavior so don’t let let it affect you OP, this is on him.

    3. TX Lizard*

      Also, why is he so invested in a rejected candidate that he’s still thinking about it enough (DAYS later) to type, save, attach, and send this BS?
      Like dude, why is OP taking up so much space in your brain? Something’s going on there.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, I think Alison really hit the nail on the head with her very last sentence – he’s having some issues with himself and using OP as a convenient punching bag.

        1. Van Wilder*

          Maybe he had a professor who bullied him for his poor understanding of Les Miserables.

          1. Empress Matilda*

            100% he did not understand Les Miserables at all, and thought Jean Valjean was just lazy and incompetent and should have just pulled himself up by his bootstraps.

            1. On to better things*

              He probably tried to watch the movie because “Wolverine was in it!”, got mad it was a musical, and turned it off in a huff.

            2. Katie*

              He thought Jean Valjean should have invested in the stock market, instead of stealing that loaf of bread.

            3. BookWyrm*

              I knew someone in college who thought Jean Valjean should’ve obediently served his five years in prison and Javert was a good man who was just doing his job.

              anyway he’s an investment banker now

      2. Threeve*

        I wouldn’t be shocked if this turned out to be something kind of predatory. Like, if LW actually followed up in good faith, would it turn into “oh, maybe I can help you improve your interviewing skills over drinks, sweetie.”

        1. TX Lizard*

          I was thinking some jerk who was recently given a single iota of authority, and is frothing at the mouth for a chance to wield it over some woman for daring to exist in his finance-bro bubble.

        2. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

          I wondered about that, too. Break her down by giving a detailed list of her ‘faults’, then offer his ‘support’.

          Bullet dodged, OP!

          1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

            Yes, indeed – the OP did indeed dodge a bullet…or at least a job stuck working with a professional jerk like that! Moreover, he’s probably in a position of sufficient authority to make decisions that would affect her. OP, consider yourself lucky that you’re not spending 35-40 hours a week with this nutcake, subject to his whims and arrogance.

        3. Still Working From Home With Kids*

          100% predatory. I got the uh-oh feelings reading this and wondered if it was his own weird way of creating a “connection”.

      3. TootsNYC*

        now that it’s been confirmed that the OP is female, I think it’s sexual attraction.

        1. TootsNYC*

          if OP were male, I’d think it was something like feeling threatened by a youngster.

    4. Expelliarmus*

      On the note of future interviews, I would really love to hear an update after you secure a job and/or report this guy’s email, OP!

      1. Instructional Designer*

        Yes! I hope she reports it and I would love to hear what happens. But OP will probably not know what they do about it, if anything. They’d probably just write back and say they’re sorry and thanks for informing them and leave it at that.

        1. Expelliarmus*

          Yeah, that’s true. But if OP’s next employer is much better, I would love to hear about it!

  3. Foreign Octopus*

    Well, this is horrible.

    I’m sorry you had to receive this email, OP. Please take comfort in the fact that, like Alison said, someone looked at your CV and thought you were a good enough fit to be invited for an interview and, not only that, make it all the way to the final stage. That says to me that you’re qualified and interview well but, as with a recent letter here from someone who hired from a pool of exceptional candidates, you lucked out, probably by a small margin.

    This guy is a jerk. Please don’t let him take up any more space in your head.

    Throwing this out to other commenters and Alison herself, would OP be served in anyway by forwarding this email to his contact at the company and flagging it for them?

    1. Just Me*

      I would do it, especially if it’s a larger company. There’s always the possibility of a candidate coming back around – especially one qualified enough to get to a final round – and this jerk’s behavior could cost them really good employees. As a hiring manager or search committee member, I’d want to know.

    2. Another health care worker*

      Answering your last question: the employer isn’t going to reverse its decision and hire LW or anything, but forwarding this email to the actual hiring manager could result in a definitive rebuttal of this jerk’s “feedback.” If I were the hiring manager, I’d be mortified to see this and would rush to reassure the LW that it was ok for them to enjoy Les Miserables. It sounds like that would set this LW’s mind at much greater ease. (This is setting completely aside the wish to expose the jerk for cosmic purposes.)

      1. selena*

        It would be great if there’d be a resolution like that: a semi-official rectification.
        I wouldn’t hold my breath though if i were OP, but it is still a good idea to tell his contact at the firm what happened. Feedback-guy’s behavior was not just unproffesional, but outright rude and outside proffesional norms.

    3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I think it depends on the read he got from the company.

      Personally, I think I might send it back, thanking them for being communicative about the position closing, but saying that receiving all the unsocilited feedback was a bit much.

      It’s worth noting that if the whole company has this culture, they may just send a defensive note back about learning to take criticism.

      1. Zephy*

        Your last point – if OP forwards this tripe back to the hiring manager and that IS the company line in response, that will be pretty definitive proof that OP dodged ten thousand bullets in being rejected by this company.

      2. RunShaker*

        Yes, send it to person that OP has had the most contact, hiring manager, & ask as suggested if this represents the company’s feedback. I’m wondering, hoping the hiring manager would be mortified.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yep — it’s kind of buried in there but I suggest toward the end that the OP could forward it to the person who rejected them and ask for clarification about whether the feedback represents the employer.

      1. Lizzo*

        OP: 100% do this. If I were the hiring manager in this situation, I’d be MORTIFIED that anyone associated with the hiring process was doing this to candidates.

        And once you’ve sent it off, feel good that you may have dodged a bullet of (potentially) having to work with this jackass.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Pretty sure my HR head would flat-out remove someone from the interview process permanently if they did this to a candidate, plus having a counseling conversation on judgment and professionalism.

          1. Malarkey01*

            YES. If I found out someone did this they would be barred from ever serving on an interview panel again, and honestly I’d have some severe thoughts about their overall judgement.

            It won’t help LW, but might help so many more applicants and might result in some karma for this idiot.

          2. HR Survivor*

            Long ago, when it was a common practice with a lot of positions, my boss, the head of personnel, used an established staffing agency for hiring administrative positions. She had a good relationship with this agency and, in fact, I had been hired through them. The payroll person was leaving and the agency sent over two or three candidates for my boss, the finance director, and the accounting manager to interview. the candidates were all women and one of them was relatively young and attractive. Before a hiring decision was made, my boss got an angry call from her contact at the staffing agency. The accounting manager (recently divorced) had called the attractive candidate and asked her to come over to his place at night to go over her qualifications. The accounting manager was removed from the hiring process, which was started over, and subsequently terminated. My boss had to spend a lot of goodwill to maintain her relationship with the agency. We wondered what kind of an idiot would pull that a stunt like that. P.S. he was replaced by a woman.

          3. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I think my HR would scream ‘WTF were you THINKING?!’ at this dude in decibels loud enough to crack bricks.

          4. ElizabethJane*

            If I received word that someone on my team did this there’s a good chance we’d both be fired – him by me and me because the degree to which I would fly off the handle would most likely warrant a firing.

            1. Lizzo*

              SAME, though I would also relish the opportunity to be completely cool and collected when questioning him, and to watch him try and squirm his way out of this one. He probably pulls this kind of crap all the time and gets away with it. OP would be the perfect person to blow his cover…he’ll never expect it, since he clearly thinks OP is a lesser individual and has zero power in this situation. :MASSIVE EYE ROLL:

            2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

              I mean, I would feel sad that you were fired, but I’d also slow clap and cheer you on as you walked out…?

          5. Software Engineer*

            I hate interviewing people, maybe I should do this to get banned from interviewing! Haha

            But obviously yeah you should forward this to the hiring manager because it’s SO far over the line. We’re such a relaxed and cool company! Except for the part where we nitpick and criticize every single thing about you! A very cool and relaxing thing to do!

            Everyone is nervous during interviews, JFC. I wouldn’t send something telling someone off for being nervous even if they cried during the interview (… this has happened! So awkward!)

        2. Reluctant Manager*

          Yes. Save other candidates from being interviewed by this guy. If I found out one of my colleagues did this they woukd never sit in another interview.

      2. Foreign Octopus*

        Welp, my reading comprehension hit an all-time low tonight :/

        It is, indeed, in there.

      3. Paloma Pigeon*

        I think OP should definitely forward it. There are a lot of conversations about how ‘fit’ can mask racist/classist attitudes and this document sounds tone deaf – I’d absolutely want to know as hiring manager, because if this guy is sending this feedback who don’t work for the company, what on earth is he doing to the people who do? Huge flags all around.

        1. LKW*

          Agree agree agree! This dude reeks of “old boy network” and “this is how it’s always been and always will be.” If I were the hiring manager or HR, I’d want to know that I had a potential problem on my hand. I’d want to know that I had someone who decided there is one, and only one, way to do the job successfully so I could either coach them, minimize their influence or simply get rid of them.

        2. Sweet Christmas*

          That, honestly, is how I interpreted this letter. It has the stink of “you don’t fit my conception of a person who should work on this team/in this field, so I’m going to justify my aversion with some bs.”

      4. Sennnnnd iiiiiit . . .*

        Another vote in favor of OP forwarding it! I am also itching for OP to ask not only whether this personal evaluation reflects the employer as a whole and but also if Mr. Jerkburger is indeed the standard channel for delivering such feedback, instead of Mx. Formal Pointperson.

      5. TootsNYC*

        Or send it to HR and say “Thanks for everyone’s time during the interview process; I appreciated your consideration and professionalism. I’m glad you found a candidate you are happy with, even if it wasn’t me. I did receive some communication from one of the interview panel that surprised me, however, and I thought that perhaps you would want to be aware of this sort of thing. I’ve forwarded it below. Again, thanks for your help during the process. I wish you all the best.”

        Because surely the HR person would want to know what sorts of things were being sent out about the interview process–no?

        1. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

          This script is great because it shows you know it’s inappropriate and assume the issue will be handled. Particularly given the job is a no-go at this point, OP, you lose nothing by acting assertively here – no need for the feigned ignorance tactic sometimes suggested when you are interacting with the other person regularly.

          If I managed someone who behaved this way in a hiring situation, I would immediately remove them from any interactions with prospective colleagues (or subordinates, yikesyikesyikes!). It is not only that there’s a “being a jerk for the sake of it” vibe as other commenters suggest, but I find it hard to ignore the suspicion that there is specific prejudice at play on top of that.

          Plus, rejecting someone for not liking the same things you like or performing differently than you might in a scenario like a job interview is a shitty way to make hiring decisions, since a team made up of cookie cutter employees is a demonstrably poorer team than one with a variety of strengths and weaknesses. A giant “No thanks” to someone who doesn’t understand that. I’m sure working with them is a nightmare in general.

        2. Loredena Frisealach*

          That’s an excellent script! The OP would honestly be doing the company a favor if they aren’t a bro shop, as the interviewer would likely attempt to nix anyone who is even vaguely diverse from being hired, even if he didn’t normally sent out negging letters.

    5. Kate R*

      This was my thought all while reading the letter, and I’m glad Alison included the suggestion. I’ve never been a hiring manager, but if I found out someone on my committee was sending this kind of feedback, I’d be horrified and would seriously consider removing them from the hiring committee if possible. First, their judgement seems questionable, so how can I trust their opinions in terms of hiring? And second, they could be burning bridges with good candidates who just weren’t good fits for the current open position.

    6. Retro*

      If I were the main hiring contact, I’d certainly want to hear this feedback. I’d like to know if someone on the interview panel were giving out unsolicited feedback/advice that could put the company in legal jeopardy and also whether there a great big jerk on the interview panel who would put off strong candidates from joining the organization.

      I think the company’s response to OP could also provide useful info on whether OP should even consider this company in the future. It’s very possible the company won’t outright say they have given the jerk a stern talking to and will give a vague answer indicating that the situation will be dealt. But if the company comes back and say “Yes, we agree with all this feedback.” that’s a great big red flag that OP can run away from.

    7. KHB*

      I’d forward it, with a tone of “I just wanted to let you know I got this, because I thought it was really weird.” It sure sounds to me like this guy has gone rogue in contacting the candidates, and the hiring manager would probably want to know that somebody’s out there doing this stuff on the company’s behalf.

      In the end, though, they’ve rejected you, they’re not going to change their minds, and they don’t owe you anything further (nor do you owe anything to them). So you want to make sure you don’t sound like you’re trying to get your foot back in the door to dispute the rejection or anything.

    8. NowWhat?465*

      I work at one of the top places in my field for both brand and pay. We have candidates that all the time aren’t our final pick, but were so so so close. Sometimes they come back later that year when another role with the same title/duties opens up; other times they come in years later for a completely different role a few levels higher.

      OP, it may not do anything for you, but the company may be grateful to know that this happening so they can put a stop to it. If you made it to the final round, there’s a good chance he did this for all the other final round candidates too. If they double down and agree with this “feedback” you can know that you dodged a bullet and don’t want to work for that company anyways!

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        And if he DIDN’T do it for all the final round candidates, they could potentially be in legal hot water for hiring discrimination.

    9. MsFieryWorth*

      I would absolutely want to know if someone on a hiring team at my company did this. I hope they do forward to the hiring manager or HR contact, this email is atrocious (and factually incorrect, Les Miserables is a great book!).

      1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        I read Les Miserables half a dozen times as a teen. It is edge-of-your-seat stuff. In his lifetime, Victor Hugo was a huge celebrity, because that book is MASSIVELY entertaining. It was the Game of Thrones of its day.

    10. Eye roll*

      Let me join the chorus of people saying “forward it.” This guy apparently only wants people who have swagger, never speak about unrelated jobs, have disposable income for investing, and read only from his approved list. He’s a walking HR problem with one email.

    11. Kittens&Ponies*

      I would love for her to forward this email to the person who rejected her so that jerk can be told off, and hopefully not send any more rude unsolicited feedback to future candidates. I would also love an update if she does!

    12. Allison in Alaska*

      I fully support making the other members of the interview panel aware of this guys comments to you (via forwarding the email), but you’ve got to dummy up!!! I’d reply directly to the email and just add in all the other interviewers/panel members email addresses, and then succinctly *thank the group* for “their” future interview tips. Promise to give the future interview tips the consideration they’re due, and thank them again. I guarantee you’ll blow up this guy’s day when the other panel members read your email and are aghast that you thought the future interview tips were from the group as a whole. Obviously, you don’t really think that… but I’d advise you to play it thankful and ever-so-dumb in this situation. You won’t get the job, but you will mess up his day. Call me petty, but that’s how I’d play it:)

      1. old biddy*

        I really like this idea. cc the HR person too if they were involved in the interview. The few times I asked for feedback on an interview the HR department shut it down by saying they have a policy of not giving feedback

        1. BookWyrm*

          Was told that as well, makes sense to head off potential situations like this at the pass

    13. Clem Fandango*

      Send the second email to the first person who sent a polite rejection, and include a link to this post. OP isn’t going to be hired at this company (and at this point doesn’t want to be, probably). Osrry this happened to you, OP, and so early in your career. This isn’t normal. I hope you find a good job soon, in a place where you are appreciated.

    14. learnedthehardway*

      Yes, OP, PLEASE DO forward this to your contact person in HR / Recruitment. In fact, forward it together with a link to this Ask a Manager post.

      I would pay to be a fly on the wall when this gets brought up with Dude-Bro’s manager.

    15. miss chevious*

      I would send it to the company in the most professionally passive aggressive way possible. Something like: “I write because Interviewer Dickbag was kind enough to send the attached interview feedback to me, and I was wondering if I should expect feedback from the other members of the panel, or if this was something he did on his own initiative. Thank you again for the opportunity to discuss the Llama Grooming position with you and best of luck filling the position.”

    1. Jessica*

      Well, of course he had a point about people not reading it for enjoyment. That’s probably why it never enjoyed any publishing success in France or abroad, when published or later. In fact, that might explain why Victor Hugo’s entire attempted writing career was such a failure.

      I heard once that someone thought it might do better as a musical, but obviously nobody would have gone to see that for enjoyment.

      OP, I know how demoralizing everything is when you’re job searching, and I am sorry you encountered this fool. Be assured that his opinions have NO validity, and when some time has passed and you have a job, this will be a hilarious story in your repertoire.

      1. Anonymous Mouse*

        I heard that Victor Hugo, who, was of course, a complete failure, had another novel about a disabled guy living in Notre Dame, but everyone thought that it was stupid, because disabled people don’t live in cathedrals, and when someone suggested that it might one day make a popular animated movie made by the future biggest movie studio of all, they were soundly scolded for their fantastical thinking and sent into exile….

      2. Slipping The Leash*

        Also explains why they made a musical out of it that ran on Broadway for about 600 years. This guy has major issues and his opinions are entirely ignorable. It’s not you!

        1. TeapotNinja*

          I have a feeling the Dude Bro would quite enjoy the Michael Bay version of Les Miserables.

          Mr. Bay, PLEASE do not get any ideas!

      3. Dream Jobbed*

        Oh please, next they’ll be trying to tell you that there are three movies versions of one of his lesser known works spanning from the ’20s to the 2000s. I would laugh, but Man Who Laughs at that?

      4. Thursdaysgeek*

        While I just can’t get into Victor Hugo, I understand he is considered a saint by some in Vietnam.

        1. Works in IT*

          If you skip the Battle of Waterloo section, it is a LOT easier to read. Nothing against the Battle of Waterloo, it’s just not written in a style that I personally care to read about actual historical non fiction events, and maybe you are like me?

          1. Aerin*

            When the movie came out, I saw a piece where someone was encouraged to try to read it again by skipping one part, and I knew instantly it was the Battle of Waterloo. Also you can skim the first 70 pages–the main takeaway there is that the Bishop of Digne is a really good dude.

          2. Good Vibes Steve*

            Also feel free to skip the bit exploring the sewage system of Paris circa 1830. Unless that’s your thing, but I think Finance DudeBro would have **Opinions** about your choice of entertainment.

          3. Good Vibes Steve*

            Also feel free to skip the bit exploring the sewage system of Paris circa 1830. Unless that’s your thing, but I think Finance DudeBro would have **Opinions** about your choice of entertainment.

            1. armchairexpert*

              How can you NOT read it though? It has passages like this:

              “Here, the stump of a bottle confesses drunkeness, a basket handle tells of domestic life; here, the apple core that has had literary opinions becomes again an apple core; the face on the big sou freely coats itself with verdigris, the spittle of Caïaphas encounters Falstaff’s vomit, the louis d’or that comes from the gambling house jostles the nail trailing the suicide’s bit of a rope, a livid fetus rolls by wrapped in spangles that danced at the Opéra last Mardi Gras, a cap that has judged men wallows near a rottenness that was one of Peggy’s petticoats; it is more than brotherhood, it is closest intimacy. All that used to be painted is besmirched. The last veil is rent. A sewer is a cynic. It tells all.”

              What fool wouldn’t read that for fun? That’s, like, the definition of fun reading!

              1. LutherstadtWittenberg*

                It’s the definition of my fun…reading it aloud to dudebro strapped in all Ludovico-like.

          4. Clisby*

            The only way I made it through Moby Dick was to skip the chapters on whales. My husband was horrified.

    2. many bells down*

      I mean, personally I think it’s a boring slog of a novel but if someone says it’s their favorite maybe they’re just smarter than me, I don’t know. People like different stuff and I don’t know why that’s such a word concept for some folks to grasp.

      1. Batgirl*

        I wouldn’t call it light reading but my tastes are very specific; aren’t everyone’s? I side eye the idea we are all supposed to like the same thing. Are we supposed to all look the same too? No, don’t answer that one.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          You could say “no one reads that for fun” to anyone who reads any book about any single subject that you are not interested in. This guys is an asshat.

        2. designbot*

          I have the distinct impression that everyone who works at that company probably does look very similar. Very masculine, probably tall, almost certainly white. They probably all have similar manners and are well connected. But don’t get me wrong, that couldn’t possibly be selection bias because people with enough money to invest in the stock market as a hobby must come from a pretty well off background. Nothing to see there…

      2. CSR no more*

        I saw the musical several times and there were always so many questions I had… so many plot holes that didn’t make sense to me.

        So I read the book, which actually had some nail-biting moments even though I knew how things would end up.

        1. Forrest*

          I read the whole book for my MA (in English, though!) and the humour is GREAT. The chapter titles are things like, “on why you should always arrest the victim before the perpetrator”. The snarky narrator isn’t quite as pervasive as in Austen, but it’s still good fun.

            1. TootsNYC*

              This reminds me of Dav Pilkey’s hilarious chapter titles in the Captain Underpants series.

          1. Ev*

            When I first read it, this is what I couldn’t stop telling people about – Les Miserables is long and sad and angry and occasionally very difficult but also So. Very. Funny. People will tell you about Waterloo or the barricades but they mysteriously leave out the bit where Valjean has to come up with a complicated comedy heist scheme to break out of a convent just so that he can enter the convent again (and also there’s a Find the Lady game with a dead nun).

            It’s not a beach read, maybe, but every time I’ve read it, I’ve done so solely for purposes of enjoyment.

      3. UKDancer*

        It’s not a novel I enjoyed very much and I don’t care for the literary style but then we’re all different and like different things. There’s nothing wrong with having that as your favourite book and plenty of people do enjoy it.

        I think it’s a silly question to ask people but as long as you answer with something worksafe (not 50SoG) and can speak intelligently about why you like it, it shouldn’t be held against you. Also he’s a complete jerk.

    3. Pretentious Reader*

      As someone who just last month finished my latest reread of Les Miserables and is thinking about rereading it again soon, I snorted. I could easily see myself saying that it was my favorite book. (I’m overly cautious with my other top picks since they’re YA fantasy and a Japanese light novel series with a cute wolf girl on the cover.) Of course, I’ve been thinking of doing a reread of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Brothers Karamazov lately, so I realize my tastes lean towards that sort of book, but most classics are classic for a reason.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I read Les Miserables, but then found out my 1000 page version was abridged. I haven’t been able to bring myself to read the whole unabridged version. Oddly enough, the abridged version had the whole chapter on the history of the Paris sewer system, but left out key plot lines.
        I can recommend Toilers of the Sea, it has the wit of Victor Hugo but not the breadth.

        1. Ama*

          I have read both the abridged and unabridged version, but yeah the unabridged version took me three tries, ironically it was the Battle of Waterloo section that kept defeating me (300 pages of battle details for one paragraph at the end where one main character meets the father of another main character).

          1. Pretentious Reader*

            I hate the Waterloo section, I think I read it through once and have just skipped it every other time. I say there’s no shame in skipping through one of Hugo’s digressions if it’s not engaging you.

        2. Nea*

          Only tangentially related, but during the toilet paper shortage some folks were talking about which book should be… repurposed. I asked if Les Miz really needed that sewer chapter.

          1. Forrest*

            The entire second chapter of my MA dissertation was about that chapter, so I say yes.

          2. AndersonDarling*

            I have so much joy at this moment. I never thought I would be able to bring up the topic of Victor Hugo’s description of the paris sewer system in any kind of relevant discussion. And here I am 23 years after reading it!

          3. Spencer Hastings*

            In the same vein, one could turn “Toilers” into “Toilets” of the Sea… ;-)

        3. Lizzo*

          With your mention of the Paris sewer system in the preceding line, I misread that title as “Toilets of the Sea”. Probably also a witty read.

      2. New Job So Much Better*

        On “The Brothers Karamazov”– that’s one book I recall actually enjoying in college. May also reread it!

        1. Artemesia*

          The section on the Grand Inquisitor is simply amazing and one of my favorite reads of all time — I have the small version that includes just this excerpt. We read it in high school and it was a revelation then.

        2. Gray Lady*

          That’s one of my favorites and that’s definitely the kind of book a narrow-minded non-reader (as opposed to a non-reader who understands that not everyone is like him) would disparage as something “nobody actually likes, they just claim to”.

      3. AnonEMoose*

        I hear you on the caution aspect. One of my favorites is “American Gods,” by Neil Gaiman. I love it, but not everyone does, and it’s not an easy book to define; just looking at the awards it won will tell you that.

        I think if I were job hunting now (which thankfully I am not), I’d go with it even though it could be considered “weird.” On the theory that some people also consider me weird, and if they react badly to my choice of reading material, I’m probably not going to be a good fit there.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            Up to a point, maybe…the show and the book are VERY different. Though I do like Ricky Whittle as Shadow and Ian McShane as Wednesday.

            Of course, I’m the kind of person who, when reading the part in the book when the character introduced himself as “Mr. Wednesday,” thought “Yep, I know exactly who that is…”

            1. Anne Kaffeekanne*

              Same here! That was the moment I realised I was really going to like this book. (Of course I then managed to miss Low Key for about another 300 pages, shame on my Scandinavian literature degree)

              1. BookWyrm*

                I missed it because my only contact with Norse mythology was reading about it and my inner narrator pronounced that particular name as two things that ideally fit like round pegs in round holes

                1. Anathema Device*

                  I was *so* mad at myself for missing Low Key, so I’m glad I’m not the only one. I think if I had read it out loud (or heard it via audio book) I would have picked up on it.

            2. TootsNYC*

              I haven’t watch the TV show yet. I’m a little scared to.
              I want to reread the book at least once before I do.

              But my point was just that people would be familiar with American Gods, and you’d seem more hip

    4. Richard Hershberger*

      There is a certain sort of anti-intellectual who, believing his taste to be universal, concludes that anyone reading a “difficult” book (or watching a “difficult” film or listening to “difficult” music) is simply showing off. I see this a lot in self-publishing circles. Self-publishing dominates the market for commercial genre fiction–the modern version of the old dime novels. Many people in this circle essentially deny that literary fiction is actually a thing. They know it exists, of course, but it is all fakery.

      1. Artemesia*

        reminds me of Hallmark movies which tell us repeatedly that ‘real people’ don’t enjoy wine and all that fancy fussy french food but love a hot dog from a stand and a beer (not that some people don’t prefer it of course, but that EVERYONE secretly much prefers this to a ‘fancy meal in a good restaurant.’

      2. Melanie Doormat*

        I see this in science fiction and fantasy communities, too — the notion that all litfic is the same, and no one actually reads it for pleasure.
        (I don’t care for the genre myself, but I worked at Borders for a long time, and people are definitely reading and enjoying it.)

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Certainly some parts of fandom, but not all. I doubt that the people who voted for N.K. Jemisin’s Hugos dismiss literary fiction. Or, going back a few years, Gene Wolfe’s. But yes, there are many who really just want action adventure stories and happen to like an SF setting.

      1. Sis Boom Bah*

        Me too! Also insufferable! And I enjoyed it! I’d read it again right now if given the chance!

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        Oh, yeah? I read Dante’s Inferno (after reading the Niven/Pournelle version). That is even more insufferable. As is my bragging about it now. So there!

        1. MI Dawn*

          So which translation did you read, hotshot? My favorite is the Dorothy Sayers translation because of her wonderful annotations, and keeping to the ABA BCB rhyme scheme of the original. (Seriously. Some of my favorite reading is the Divine Comedy, though Paradise is a bit boring…)

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            True confession: This was in high school, which was, well, let’s just stick with “a while” ago. I think it probably was the Penguin Classics, which seems to be by Robin Kirkpatrick.

        2. Just Another Zebra*

          I mean, not to brag, but I’ve read the complete Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English multiple times /s.

          But really, I was a Literature major. I enjoy lofty, high-brow literature as much as YA popular fiction. Asking me what my favorite book is varies based on my mood/ day of the week/ what I ate for breakfast.

          1. HR-Occam's Razor*

            I read the Monster at the End of This Book at age 5!
            Grover’s journey to that final page had me sitting on the edge of my booster seat.

          2. AnonEMoose*

            I haven’t read the whole thing, though I do remember really enjoying my Chaucer class in college. The very first day, the professor told us “If it looks like a dirty joke, it’s a dirty joke. If you think it might once have been a dirty joke, it’s a dirty joke. If you think there’s a faint possibility that maybe once, it was a dirty joke…IT’S A DIRTY JOKE.”

            And I can remember laughing so hard there were tears running down my face while reading “The Reeve’s Tale”. Much to the confusion of my roommates, who knew I was reading homework.

            1. Sleepless*

              I can’t remember which of the Canterbury Tales we officially read in high school, but I remember reading the Reeve’s Tale and the Miller’s Tale and laughing hysterically. I couldn’t figure out why we hadn’t read them in class, just for fun. You want teenagers to enjoy classic literature? Let them see the stuff that was right up there with Porky’s or Animal House.

          3. Charlotte Lucas*

            Chaucer was my major author for my MA. I’ve read Canterbury Tales, House of, Fame, etc., multiple times. And Beowulf in Old English. Loved every minute of it.

            Also have read Trollope’s Barsetshire Chronicles more than once.

            Could never finish the DH Lawrence novel on the reading list for the program. Luckily, it never came up.

      3. Anon For This*

        I read it when I was twelve or thirteen, in a fit of special-interest after discovering the musical. :) No idea at this point whether it was abridged or unabridged- I’m guessing abridged, given that it was normal-paperback sized, maybe half again as fat as one book of Lord of the Rings?

      4. allathian*

        I haven’t read Les Miz, but I did read other books by Victor Hugo in college, including Notre Dame de Paris, in French. I took French as an elective and I took as many courses as I could fit into my degree. I definitely read it for fun.

    5. Robin*

      Yup! This specifically tripped me up too. Different people like different things, and just because someone has different taste doesn’t mean they’re being intentionally pretentious.

      Also I read Les Miserables for the first time at 13, and re-read it multiple times in the following years. My first hotmail email address was a reference to it. I can sing the whole dang musical. OP has great taste in literature, and this guy can pound sand.

    6. CatCat*

      Right? The question wasn’t, “What’s a book lots of people read for fun?”

      It was what is OP’s favorite book. Maybe it’s fun for OP, not that anyone’s favorite book has to be “fun.”

    7. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      Maybe this was one of those trick questions where the only correct answer could be a book about stocks/fancy derivatives to show you’re passionate enough about the subject that you read about it all the time. Potentially acceptable second place answers would be biographies about stock investing/hedge fund titans.

      Being well rounded and liking anything else beyond stocks is a sign you’re not passionate!!! /s

    8. Joielle*

      Right?? Personally, if someone asked me that question in an interview I would probably immediately forget the titles of every book I’ve ever read. And every book in existence.

      1. Nea*

        “I don’t have favorite books so much as favorite authors. I couldn’t possibly pick just one of their work.”

      2. TootsNYC*

        my husband used to ask new acquaintances to name their 10 favorite movies. Talk about putting people on the spot!

    9. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      Adding Les Miserables to my To Read For Fun pile just to spite this guy.

    10. Queer Earthling*

      Nobody reads Les Miserables for fun? Tell that to the massive fandom on Tumblr, complete with massive amounts of fanfiction.

      1. Rosebud*

        I scream-laughed when I got to the reveal that the pretentious book was LES MIS of all thing. I was instantly transported back to 2013 and the massive amounts of Les Amis fanart I saw without searching for it every single day. This bro thinks his art preferences are the world, I guess. This dude is not really in the know!

      2. Bibliothecarial*

        No kidding! When the interviewer said “pretentious” I thought “House of Leaves” or something like that. Not something I and apparently half the AAM folks have read for fun!

    11. NotAnotherManager!*

      Seriously – it’s such a taste-specific thing. I personally find the Tolkien series to be a cure for insomnia, but tons of people love it and it’s spawned a bazillion blockbuster movies, so what do I know. And how am I supposed to know what someone thinks is pretentious versus thinking my reading preferences are simplistic/bourgeois?

      1. AnonEMoose*

        I was about 12 the first time I read “The Lord of the Rings,” and I remember feeling vaguely pissed off. I had the flu so was home in bed, so started reading it. I remember being kind of bored and tempted to stop reading, but I HAD TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED. And I was peeved that I couldn’t just put it down.

        Might be about time for another re-read, come to think of it.

    12. GothicBee*

      Imagine being the kind of person who thinks it’s unrealistic to read Les Mis for fun but expects you to have a *passion* for stocks.

    13. Reluctant Manager*

      Yes–we’re passionate about stocks but Hugo is pretentious. Next time say American Psycho.

    14. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

      He judged your favourite book, which is insane. He can throw the rest of his criticisms in the bin too.
      I can’t even with this guy. He’s judgemental about what people read and he thinks you were the pretentious one in that conversation? No.

    15. Dittany*

      Seriously. I get that the book isn’t to everyone’s taste, but there’s a huge, passionate fanbase that would beg to differ.

  4. Morticia*

    My favourite bit is where, after he has been a completely hostile jerk, he talks about how they’re a friendly company. Egads, if you were going to have to work directly with him, you dodged a major bullet.

    1. Artemesia*

      I sort of glossed over that — but yeah — this is not the public face of a ‘friendly’ company — it is the perfect expression of a bro culture that rejects women.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        Maybe I’m just too cynical…but I keep thinking that this will be followed up with an offer to “mentor” the OP, quickly followed by hitting on her.

    2. Thanks, I hate it*

      Right? And I know EXACTLY what he means by “friendly,” too. He means a culture where white hetero men can yuk it up over beers or golf or video games, and anyone who is quieter or not into any of the above is a “snob” or worse.

        1. Ro*

          The correct response according to my lawyer father is “yes I can take a joke. Maybe I don’t get it. Could you explain it to me?”

          Make them explain what is funny to them, it gets awkward quickly because they need to explain their racist/sexist/homophobic/just down right rude joke. Also gives you more ammo if you need to complain to HR later (note: this doesn’t always work it depends on the company).

      1. Nea*

        I noticed that he seemed really into the whole “training and events” thing. As if it was what supposed to be what any employee’s life outside of work revolved around.

        1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

          And by events, we mean happy hours. Or chili cook offs because we’ve heard stories that those are suitably competitive.

        2. Expelliarmus*

          I took it to mean that maybe they have guest speakers or something, but it’s far from a general red flag for job searching if OP is not crazy about that kind of thing.

    3. I'm just here for the cats*

      That just rubbed me the wrong way. This guy is the same guy that after a woman has ignored his advances says “What, I’m a nice guy. Why won’t you give me a chance/ talk to me/let me buy you a drink? IM A NICE GUY!

      If someone says that they’re a friendly company, Or a nice person, or a good landlord or whatever they most likely aren’t.

      1. LKW*

        No, he will never call himself a nice guy. He’s the kind of person who brags about his successes and then doesn’t understand when a woman doesn’t get all hot and bothered. It’s more, “Have you ever had (expensive drink)? It’s the only thing I’ll drink. I know others like (less expensive drink) but I can tell the difference. Do you want to see if you can tell the difference? I think you’re a girl who can tell the difference but maybe you’re just not as sophisticated as me.”

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Yup, trademark red pill, PUA, mansplainer….

        (Don’t look up the first two terms unless you want an ulcer)

      3. Arts Akimbo*

        He’s the guy who gets rejected on a dating app and then messages the woman a screed about how he’s the greatest thing who would’ve ever happened to her if she hadn’t been so stuck up (with added profanity).

        1. 'Tis Me*

          And how he doesn’t even know why he swiped to match with her in the first place as she’s fat/ugly but he thought maybe he’d give her a chance even though he can do so much better?

    4. selena*

      That tells me this mail was not a spur-of-the-moment bad decision: this jerk has been putting soooo muuuuch thought into finding the perfect wording to destroy job-hunters confidence and paint them as the unreasonable and unproffesional ones. (source: I can be nasty when i want to, and the kind of true nastiness on display here takes quit some rewriting work to get right)

      There is no doubt in my mind he has done this to many other candidates, and that he sits in these interviews twisting his evil moustache ans making mental notes of how best to turn that interviewee’s answers into something negative.

    5. TootsNYC*

      that’s the other half of the negging: “If you would just change yourself, we (read “I”) would like you.”

    6. Empress Matilda*

      My favourite bit is the griping about how nervous she was. Yeah, people are nervous at job interviews, dude. So what?

      Not to mention if he’s half the jackass in person that he appears to be from this letter, it’s no wonder that people are nervous around HIM, specifically. If I knew I was going to be mocked for my reading tastes, or for not displaying enough passion for the stock market, I would be pretty nervous too!

    7. MassMatt*

      That jumped out at me, too, along with the fact that he’s attacking someone for being nervous in a job interview. What? The “no one reads Les Miserables for pleasure” comment was the cherry on that crap sundae.

      One of the first comments had the best suggestion, get some friends together, have a few drinks, and do a dramatic reading of this ridiculous letter, puncture it with satire. In time, his comments will be inside jokes you can all share.

    8. allathian*

      If The Wolf of Wall Street or even Wall Street are anything to go by, the whole financial sector is toxic. Bro culture is by definition toxic to anyone who doesn’t qualify as a bro.

    9. Elbe*

      100% THIS

      It’s like, “Tell me you have no self awareness without actually telling me that you have no self awareness.”

      What he really means is that the company only hires people that the management team would be friends with outside of work… and that’s basically people who are exactly like them. And he’s too dumb to realize that being friendly only to people who have certain traits is different from being friendly in general, and it’s actually quite the opposite. Most people wouldn’t want to sign up for that version of “friendly”.

  5. Fantine*

    I love Les Mis. Granted, it’s the musical, but the story is still there. What a uncultured dweeb.

    I second forwarding the email to your main contact at the company.

    1. Daffy Duck*

      I love it also. Beautiful music and fun to sing along. I agree the guy is just a jerk, probably one of those who looks down on folks who read, enjoy music that isn’t top 40 pop, and like history.

    2. selena*

      I don’t like most ‘difficult books’, but asking for a favorite book (at an investment firm!) is a stupid question anyhow and Les Miserables is a perfectely acceptable answer

      1. Gumby*

        It is much better than my answer which would be hems and haws and then an explanation that if I chose one favorite books then all of the others would feel left out so… (Also the reason I don’t have a favorite color, song, animal, etc. There are very few categories where I have chosen one *favorite* out of the many and varied choices.)

    3. Anon for this*

      The musical is great! I haven’t had the time/desire to read the book, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think people can’t enjoy it, it just means that, shock and amazement, other people have different priorities than me.

  6. Office sweater lady*

    Wow, I would definitely find it interesting to forward his email back to the professional person who rejected you just to see what they’d say. It sounds like a company that uses “culture fit” as an excuse to discriminate, too.

    1. Jam Today*

      I was thinking this same thing, but I’m also older and more established in my career and could take a risk like that. His behavior is incredibly unprofessional, and really reflects very poorly on his company.

    2. Anonymous Mouse*

      It’s the sort of email that could go either way. You could burn YOUR bridge with that company in future, or torch HIS.

      1. Kirsten*

        Though if the email is indicative of the company culture, I would be less concerned about burning my bridge there. It would clearly not be a good fit.

      2. Van Wilder*

        I think you’re safe if you forward it with “I got this feedback from Joaquin – I appreciate any feedback and wanted to know if you had anything to add to his notes” instead of “Just so you know – Joaquin sent me this and I didn’t think you would like it.”

        1. TootsNYC*

          I thought of that as well. Pair it with one of those “If you had any feedback for me that would be useful, I would be so grateful for your time. Here’s what Joaquin said, and I wonder if you had any other insights.”

        2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          I wouldn’t do it like that, because it sends a message that the OP is ok with the email from this guy. I think Allison’s suggestion of asking if this is representative of the company’s position would be better. If she wants to keep it a little lighter, ask the above and then add on, “if not, I would appreciate any feedback you can offer if you have the time.” But really, I would not approach it in a way that suggests the OP is ok with the email this dude sent.

    3. MechanicalPencil*

      Yes, please forward it back to the main contact and then update us.

      Honestly, the dude lost me at the first point. You haven’t been passionately investing in stocks, so you have a different perspective to write from. That might actually be a good thing for their customers. What a thought.

      1. Slipping The Leash*

        Hard to have been passionately invested in stocks when you’re on the hunt for your FIRST JOB. How exactly was she supposed to fund that?

        1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

          I wondered about that too. Guess you need a rich family to be passionate enough to interview?

        2. emmelemm*

          That was my immediate thought, too. This is a person just starting out in the workforce. With what money exactly should they have been playing the stock market up to now?

        3. Anon Today*

          Yeah, investing is a HOBBY?!?! Not for most of the world, very much including those of us who can afford to invest. I mean, Warren Buffett reads annual reports to relax but hobbyist investors are very much a niche.

        4. TootsNYC*

          also, she made it to the FINAL ROUND!
          So her lack of experience with stocks didn’t seem to bother a whole lot of other people at that company.

        5. Empress Matilda*

          I was going to say. If you’re specifically screening for people who invest in the stock market as a hobby, then you’re specifically screening for people with a lot of disposable income. Which leads to ALL SORTS of questions about diversity and equity, which any half-decent HR person might want to know about…

          1. the one that got away*

            Disposable income PLUS willing to throw it away, instead of those of us who just shove that income into index funds, which outperform stock picking anyway.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      I would totally forward this back to HR or whomever was your initial contact! But I don’t give a flying fig about this industry either, so I wouldn’t care if I burned that bridge. Wall Street types… jeesh! I guess his idea of a classic novel is “ The Art if the Deal.”

  7. Dream Jobbed*

    Ummm, I read Les Miserables for fun. I was backpacking in Europe for three months and took the book because I knew it would take me awhile to get through it. Loved the musical, and this seemed like the next step. (English translation however.)

    PS For fans of the musical, did you know Eponine and Gavroche are siblings?

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Also ‘favourite’ X can mean lots of things to different people.

      Invisible Man by Ellison is one of my favorite books – in the sense that it was memorable and persepective-changing. Ella Enchanted is ALSO one of my favorite books. They both evoke different feelings, but they’re both favorites.

      1. Artemesia*

        Favorite book would elicit from me a book that endures and merits re-reading i.e. not something you ‘read for fun’. e.g. War and Peace, or The Brother’s Karamazov or on a lighter note most of Jane Austen.

    2. Nessun*

      Eponine and Gavriche are siblings? That’s so cool to know! (And also more worth knowing than any of the “information” the jerk interviewer sent back to OP)

    3. HisotryLlama*

      I did! But it’s because I’m slightly obsessed with the musical :D They are mentioned in some of the early iterations of the musical. I’ve also seen a couple of iterations of the shows that hints that one of the Les Amis guys is Gavroche’s brother.

      1. Ryn*

        Yeah, both Gavroche and Eponine are cared for by the Thenardiers, right? I think that’s how I put that together.

        1. Jackalope*

          They are the Thenardiers’ biological children (along with another child who was cut from the musical but Wikipedia says her name was Azelma?? I don’t remember).

          1. Elenna*

            Yep, Eponine, Gavroche, and Azelma (who was cut from the musical) were the Thenardiers’ biological children. Azelma is between Eponine and Gavroche in age and went to America with the Thenardiers at the end. IIRC they also had two more kids in the book, younger than Gavroche, who were kicked out when they were super young and were mostly taken care of by Gavroche. Feel free to be sad about the implications now… IDK if the book says anything about what happened to them, this is from my vague memory of the Wikipedia page.

            1. Cubicle_queen*

              Yes, they had 2 boys, younger than Gavroche. Mrs. Thenardier sent them out to be taken in by somebody else (like a “work for room/board” situation). They had all the details on a piece of paper and as soon as they went out in the street, the wind swept it away. So they had no idea where they were supposed to go.

              What I remember is Gavroche “took them in” out of magnanimity but didn’t actually realize they were his brothers. He helped them stay a night in a hollow elephant statue in the park, but they left after that first night & we never know what happened to them next.

    4. TiffIf*

      The desire to read Les Miserables in the original language is the one and only reason I almost decided to learn French.

    5. Nethwen*

      I read Les Miserables for fun, too.

      It’s so bizarre that someone thinks they can declare what another will consider fun. Then again, that seems like a normal human arrogance.

    6. Elenna*

      I did! Never read the book but I loved the musical enough to peruse the Wikipedia page for the book and a bunch of fanfiction (and also enough to basically memorize the entire musical at one point lol)

  8. Monty & Millie's Mom*

    I know this isn’t what the letter-writer was asking, but I’d be SOOOOO tempted to forward that email to whoever originally informed you that you were not selected for the position. It’s probably not worth it, but I’d personally feel a little satisfaction for maybe causing a bit of minor inconvenience/trouble for that jerk! Ugh

    LW, you sound perfectly lovely, and the fact that you made it to the final round of interviews says that you are doing just fine and you should definitely not let that guy rattle you. The kindest interpretation of his actions is that he’s clueless, but the more likely explanation is that he’s just a big ‘ol jerk and you are lucky to not have to deal with him going forward!

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      Honestly, I would do this. Just forward to the person who sent the rejection letter, and say, “I got this additional feedback as well. Thanks.”

    2. aiya*


      As soon as I read the “feedback”, my immediate thought wasn’t “is this normal” because I’ve been reading this site long enough and have gone on enough interviews to know this isn’t normal. So, my next thought was “What would I do with this information? Send it to the recruiter/hiring manager who rejected me? Post it on Glassdoor? Tell my peers to avoid this place (or at least this particular individual)?” I’m leaning towards all three.

    1. MsClaw*

      Indeed. If this is an indication of the ‘culture’ you weren’t the right ‘fit’ for, well then…… congratulations!

  9. Emma*

    I would be tempted to send back an itemized list of all of the things he did that would make him a sub-optimal coworker.

    1. Lizzo*

      Better yet, add the dude on LinkedIn and write a recommendation for him.

      (Don’t do this.)

    2. Internet Rando*

      I had the same thought – I would be tempted to give some feedback on the feedback. But dont do it. Its not worth it.

  10. MB*

    I’d 100% send this to the recruiter/person who communicated the rejection. Don’t frame it as bitterness that you didn’t get the job, The jerk interviewer grossly overstepped their bounds, is giving the company a bad reputation, and is interfering with (hopefully) how the recruiter wants to manage their processes.

    1. Anon for this*

      +1 so hard!! If for nothing else just for the satisfaction that you’ve done it, and the fodder for imagined behind-the-scenes reaction scenarios that you won’t be privy to.

    2. Mel*

      Also. How did he have access to your details?

      In my job where I’ve been invited to be part of an interviewing panel, I might get a copy of the resume in the interview – but if I then used the personal contact details to get in touch with the candidate my butt would be out the door so quickly…

      1. cncx*

        see this is where i am at- nowhere i have ever worked would allow people to contact candidates privately like that. i know i’m in europe and data protection is different here in terms of liability but still.

      2. zaracat*

        Yes, this. I would write back to the hiring manager and HR, and keep the focus not on the content of the email but on how unusual and disconcerting it was to be contacted privately by this person, and your concerns about the company’s handling of candidates’ personal information.

  11. Mary Dempster*

    Pretentious and insincere?! Les Miserables is one of my favorite books. I even prefer to read in French – god forbid I say that out loud in an interview. My absolute favorite author is one most American’s haven’t heard of, and he’s only Canadian (Roberston Davies FTW). Also my favorite foods are mozzarella sticks and foie gras (not together… but ooo, maybe) and my two favorite movies of all time are Midnight in Paris (pretentious? maybe) and Wet Hot American Summer (shall we say – not pretentious as all?). This guy is one-note, and expects others to be as well.

    Also everything he said about you was personal and not related to your professional experience, so that says mountains about his outlook. Which is wrong

    1. Kimmybear*

      Love Robertson Davies. Favorite book…too many to choose from but the ones that really stuck with me would probably fall into what this jerk considers pretentious.

    2. StripesAndPolkaDots*

      Robertson Davies is outstanding. Which reminds me that it’s about time I re-read Fifth Business.

      My favorite book is Lolita. Ny husband’s is Moby Dick. I’m betting this guy wouldn’t like our answers either.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        Mine is A Handmaid’s Tale. I’m sure that would peg me as a feminist killjoy.

        I mean, it’s not exactly the wrong conclusion to take. But I am entirely a delightful joy until someone starts being sexist (or racist or homophobic, etc).

        1. RB*

          Oooh, that’s good. I would have loved to see his reaction to that book. I think it would be a good test of how employers feel about certain woman-related topics so I’m going to use that if this ever comes up in an interview.

      2. Elenna*

        Mine is the Protector of the Small series (specifically Squire) by Tamora Pierce. Somehow I don’t think This Freakin Guy would be very impressed…
        (For those who don’t know, PotS is about a girl who decides to be the first girl openly training for knighthood in 100 years. Strong feminism themes, for obvious reasons. The protagonist, Kel, is basically who I want to be when I grow up, never mind that I’m older than she is already…)

        1. Elenna*

          Oh, and if I didn’t want to name a YA novel, I’d probably go with Lord of the Rings, which I absolutely adored in middle school. Pretty sure this asshole would also consider that “insincere”, presumably because he can’t imagine anyone actually reading long books for fun… Joke’s on him, LoTR is way shorter than a few of my favourite fanfiction series.

        2. TootsNYC*

          Tamora Pierce’s best, most consistent, most believable character.
          Excellent, excellent example of why YA fantasy often has the best writing.

        3. 'Tis Me*

          Kel is wonderful. To paraphrase her “Of course I don’t enjoy getting beaten up! But knights are supposed to be chivalrous and protect those who are weaker than themselves or in need. If we don’t start living by that now, when do we? What, we suddenly get our shields and THEN care about stuff we’ve turned a blind eye to for the previous 6 years?” – she just so utterly lives by her principles, and she’s a natural-born leader, and so determined…

          And I really love the way that Tamora Pierce explores sexuality and attraction, and how this fits into relationships. It’s not something YA usually addresses so frankly (and I’m not ready to include my 6 year old to Alanna largely because of it… She was thrown to discover my brother isn’t married yesterday because he’s a father and how does that even happen outside of marriage?!! I tried to flub it as commonlaw marriage even though it’s one of those things where people believe it’s a thing even though legally it isn’t but my husband wouldn’t let me get away with it…) but in 3 or 4 years, the matter of fact approach to the idea that girls/women experience attraction and desire and enjoy doing the do will be a useful informational seed for her.

    3. Robin Ellacott*

      I love this – as I was reading I was thinking what would I say is my favourite book? And it may well be Fifth Business. So shout out to you and your alias.

      1. Mary Dempster*

        The Deptford Trilogy changed my life. My whole outlook. I reread it constantly. His writing still stings my heart in the best possible way.

    4. Artemesia*

      oh I love Robertson Davies — read his trilogies decades ago and was disappointed when I got to the end of them. Wonderful books.

    5. Mary Dempster*

      Oh wait wait, one of Davie’s best quotes also lines up for this interviewer – “The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.”

    6. Richard Hershberger*

      Robertson Davies: Never heard of him. Just looked up a bit about him. I’m in! Could you recommend one book to introduce myself to him?

      1. Mary Dempster*

        The Deptford Trilogy – the first of which is Fifth Business, which many people here mentioned. They’re all pretty astounding though!

      2. Business Librarian*

        I think the Salterton trilogy is the easiest to get into, and I adored Leaven of Malice. I am a blue collar to white collar transplant, and A Mixture of Frailties spoke to my heart. The Deptford trilogy is much deeper, but no matter what he writes, he’s an excellent observer of human foibles.

      3. Canadian*

        “Murther and walking spirits” is my favourite – and there are no typos in that title. I don’t love a lot of CanCon but I love Davies.

      4. Robin Ellacott*

        I’d look at a description of the general world each and see which attracts you – a university setting? etc. My first Davies was Fifth Business, in 2nd year university, and it’s still my favourite. Phrases and ideas from that book resonate with 40ish me as much as they did with 20ish me.

    7. dowsabel*

      Funnily enough, I was just wondering how I’d answer that question and What’s Bred in the Bone is definitely a contender. I haven’t reread it in years and I really should. I recommend it all the time.

      I’m in the UK and Davies was very popular here when the books were being published but his star seems to have fallen a bit since his death. It’s a real shame because his books are wonderful. I find them deeply involving and satisfying. They would be perfect lockdown reading.

    8. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

      My favourite three books are a) an allegory for the Vietnam War, which would make him do his nut b) a fantasy novel based on Chinese legend that was written in the 80’s that has not aged well re: author’s depiction of female characters and c) the first Harry Potter book

      Also Les Mis is an incredible book, but even if it was trash it’s nothing to criticize you about.

    9. Clisby*

      Oh, gosh, I love Robertson Davies. The Salterton Triology, the Deptford Trilogy. I should reread them.

  12. Smithy*

    I know it doesn’t feel like this now – but OP, please see this email as a sign that this rejection was for your benefit.

    That being said, as much as I’m sure that commenter will join Alison in saying this guy was a jerk, I think it’s fair to own how reasonably hurtful it would be to receive an email like this. Before your next interview, I’d just recommend taking the time to perhaps practice a bit over Skype with a friend just to put yourself in a new/different head space.

    1. Junk Food Junkie*

      Totally agree! LW, I would take this so much more seriously if the feedback were along the lines of…. “We could tell you were still wearing your pajamas,” or, “We didn’t appreciate how you were making fun of our company in one of your interview questions,” or “You didn’t answer any of our questions and instead tried to sell us on a pyramid scheme.” But this? This isn’t feedback…it’s a power trip.

    2. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

      Agree! It’s completely fair to need a minute to move on from receiving something like this OP. Hopefully the stream of outrage among the commenters shows you how completely abnormal and not okay this letter is.

      For context, when I’m hiring I would consider a question such as the book one part of the “easing into the interview” section along with “tell me about yourself” and the only thing I pay attention to is whether the person I’m interviewing starts to relax a bit so I can move on to something more specific to the job.

      There are many ways people display confidence, passion and the other more ephemeral traits the letter mentions, and it’s a poor interviewer who doesn’t recognize that. If a co-interviewer mentioned this type of thing while we debriefed, I’d shut them down immediately.

      So many completely normal behaviors (mentioning experience from elsewhere when mentioning a challenge? Normal!) were mentioned by this person. They are wildly off base.

  13. HBJ*

    Wow, so a fun to read book is only that if it meets his definition? Fun guy.

    I basically listened to a dramatized version of the audio book of Les Mis on repeat in high school. I had whole sections memorized. (There was an amazing and hilarious back and forth between Marius and Enjolras that I bet I can still recall if I tried.)

    1. Elenna*

      Haven’t read the book yet, but I pretty much memorized the entire musical a few years ago. I don’t remember all of it anymore but I can still sing some pretty big chunks from memory. LW, ignore this feedback, it comes from an idiot.

  14. Anonymeece*

    I really do kind of want you to take Alison’s advice and send it to the person who sent the rejection. I bet you money that this guy has no authority to be sending these types of emails and I would kill to be a fly on the wall for when they saw it.

    To LW particularly: agreed, this guy is absolutely a jerk! Consider this – you made it all the way to the top! That’s a huge accomplishment in and of itself, and shows that you can’t possibly be as bad at interviewing as this guy was saying. And the book thing? That’s just ridiculous. It just means you have good taste, including the good taste to not listen to this guy.

    1. Myrin*

      And three days after the official rejection to boot! I’m willing to bet this guy didn’t act on behalf of the company in any way (and probably, like you say, doesn’t even have the authority to do so).

      1. Momma Bear*

        Yeah, funny that. One would think that after the interviewee had been formally rejected that would be the end of communication from the company. I suspect he went off script.

      2. Dasein9*

        My suspicion is that nobody on the hiring committee was listening to his “critique” so he sent it on to the candidate because he needed the attention.

    2. JessicaTate*

      Me too. I hadn’t thought about it until Alison threw that suggestion in at the end of her response, but with that idea out there… I would 100% forward it to the person who sent me the original, professional rejection.

      I don’t think I’d ask a question about “does this represent the company” or whatever (because I no longer care), I’d just lob that ball back over the net and walk away. Something like, “Dear Jane, Thanks again for taking the time to interview me, and for your update on the status. I also wanted to make sure you had a copy of the feedback that Bob sent me directly. It didn’t look like you were copied on that. All the best with your new hire.”

  15. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Yikes someone is jealous he didn’t read Les Miserables the whole way through. He couldn’t just watch the movies or the Broadway show? Why does he have to take that out on you, OP?!

    1. 'Tis Me*

      I bought a copy of Les Mis, got it home and realised it was just the second half. Have never got around to reading it as a result. Have just considered that it has to be available via Project Gutenberg…

      1. Jaid*

        …How did it come to be split in half? Is it divided into volumes, like say, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire?

  16. Stephanie*

    Heh, I am trying to imagine my overly cautious MegaCorp allowing me to send any candidate feedback, let alone candidate feedback like that. I think you dodged a bullet, OP.

  17. RoseC*

    Please, please foward this on to the rest of the committee- if they agree with his commentary, then you swerved a really awful place to work, and if they’re totally unaware of this, he might be treating coworkers like this too. It’s not your responsibility to give them a heads up that their employee is the worst, but it could help someone else out too. (what if he’s sabotaging people’s interviews by thinking these are legitimate reasons not to hire someone and “voting” as such??)

  18. Jean*

    I would absolutely send that email and list to your contact person at that company as an FYI. And post a detailed review in the “interviews” section for this company on Glassdoor. Behavior like this is inappropriate and should be exposed and shamed.

    1. knxvil*

      +1 for posting on Glassdoor–this guy needs to have the pretension tables turned on him. Just imagine how useless his comments probably are in actual peer reviews of his coworkers and consider him a bullet dodged!

    2. Esmeralda*

      I would not post on Glassdoor until you were sure this wasn’t just some jerk taking it on himself to “help”. Too risky to the OP until they’re sure.

      1. pancakes*

        Risky how?

        A company that gives jerks like this a role in the hiring process is a company that makes palpably bad choices. I think it’s a perfectly fair thing to point out to other prospective candidates.

        1. EchoGirl*

          That’s assuming they made the decision with full awareness of his jerkiness, though. Some people do go about life like this in general, but others are really good at putting on a front that they’re completely different, and if he’s only recently started doing interview panels, this could be the first time he’s done something like this, so there wouldn’t be any previous incidents for the company to be aware of. I feel like I’d try to at least give them a chance to make it right before assuming they’re condoning the jerk’s behavior.

  19. Momma Bear*

    Holy cow. What a jerk HE is! He thinks way too much of himself/company. Who is he to say that Les Mis isn’t something one reads for fun? Maybe he doesn’t, but you obviously do. There was no reason to knock your honest answer. It’s a good answer!

    Don’t let him get to you and be glad that he showed you why you don’t want to work there. There was no reason for this mean and unsolicited email. He sounds like a peach….a rotten one!

    1. Elbe*

      He might as well have said, “I can’t imagine that other people can be different from me. I’m going to assume it’s a personality flaw because I can’t grasp anything other than my own reality.”

      It’s a huge sign that the company only hires a specific type of person.

  20. SillyLittlePittyPat!*

    Just in case the email writer (Not the Op) is representative of the company, the OP lucked out of what sounds like a toxic workplace! Either that, or, the email writer wants to continue with a toxic workplace and is actively tanking applicants to get what he wants. (Only recommending ‘bro type’ people.)
    Either way, Good luck OP!

  21. aggie*

    This guy was being a jackass and you should forward his communication to HR or the hiring manager so that the organization knows what he is doing. As a hiring manager, I would shut this down so quickly, profusely apologize to you, and formally discipline the person.

  22. Coco*

    It’s totally okay to not be passionate about your job. I think it is normal to not be passionate about your job. It helps to like it, your coworkers, or certain aspects of it, but loving or burning for your job is not a necessity.

    This person is either a jerk or clueless about dealing with interviewees. I would hate to have to work with him.

    Part of me would be would be tempted to forward his email to the official person who let you know you had not been selected with a ‘thank you for your feedback’. But that would not be a good thing to do if you don’t want to burn any bridges.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      It always makes me laugh when people say that you HAVE to be passionate about working for their company. What do they want you to do, throw yourself on the floor and beg to work there? I’ve had jobs that I really enjoyed and did well at, but I wouldn’t have said that I was super passionate about any of them.

      1. Ashley*

        This to me is a good screening tool. I don’t want to work anywhere where I need to be that passionate some nonprofits aside.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Yeah, some companies do stuff that no reasonable person would be passionate about. And having worked for nonprofits, you can be TOO passionate about their work. Which can lead to exploitative treatment of staff because, y’know, it’s all for the mission.

      2. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

        Exactly! Like… I’m an accountant. I do journal entries, pay bills, analyze financials. I don’t need to care what your company does. I work for a manufacturing company now, and I care exactly -2 about manufacturing and machinery. Debits and credits are debits and credits, period.

      3. CircleBack*

        I work in an odd niche industry most people haven’t heard of, and my company usually hires outside the industry for most roles. It was such a nice change of pace to be told in interviews that everyone assumed I hadn’t heard about the company before applying, and they assumed candidates rarely ever knew what they do. I was so tired of feeling like I had to pretend to be passionate about companies as a job candidate lol

    2. Myrin*

      Also, like. Stocks.. I mean, I certainly don’t want to deride anyone who has a personal passion for this kind of stuff but it’s certainly not one of the top ten or even top fifty industries my mind would go to when being asked what kinds of jobs attract people who are really passionate about the subject matter.

      1. Littorally*


        I work in investing, and there are a couple specific departments that tend to draw the market geeks — copywriting not among them! — and outside of those, most people are financially fluent enough to manage their work and beyond that, have varying mostly-low levels of caring about hobbyist investing.

      2. Not Australian*

        “Oh, yes, I’m passionate about stocks. In fact I’m a keen gardener generally, and night-scented stocks are my favourite … ” Pah!

    3. ThatGirl*

      I was semi-passionate about my last job (baking supply company). I now work for a sink and faucet manufacturer. I mean, water is great, but I wouldn’t say I’m passionate about faucet design. They hired me anyway.

    4. Stained Glass Cannon*

      Having passion for your job can be a wonderful thing…when it’s how you ACTUALLY feel as opposed to how OTHERS SAY YOU SHOULD FEEL. Yes, I am shouting here, because there is a vast difference between truly, innately having passion for your job, versus other people telling you that you have/should have passion, and that difference is called a cheap and nasty way of taking advantage of people.

      OP, don’t ever accept criticism about your lack of passion for a job. It is always, always a way of manipulating you into doing something that benefits others and disadvantages you.

  23. Emyla*

    I think that you should be thankful that you did not get hired. The fit just wasn’t there. They are looking (or he is anyway) for a very specific type of person and if you aren’t that type of person, working there must be miserable. I don’t think that his letter says anything about how well you interview, or how likely you would be to get a job somewhere else. Best of luck in your job search!

    1. No Sleep Till Hippo*

      I think you mean “working there must be Le Miserable”…

      I… I’ll show myself out.

    2. Greige*

      Yeah, just think. This guy made it through their hiring process. That shows you how well they know what they’re doing.

  24. juliebulie*

    I was once criticized for not being nervous enough in an interview. Post-interview feedback is often useless. An unsolicited list of nitpicks is even worse than useless. And yeah, definitely share this with your contact person. The company might not approve of its non-HR/HM employees reaching out to job candidates.

    1. Marthooh*

      Wow gosh, juliebulie, most of us here in the Ask A Manager comment section send each other unsolicited lists of nitpicks as a hobby. I don’t think you really fit in with the comment culture here; you didn’t even ask about our annual unsolicited nitpicking event!

  25. pensive*

    I can’t believe he dinged you that hard for being nervous. Unless it seriously undermined your confidence, or made it so they couldn’t get information from you – yeah, people get nervous in interviews. I once interviewed a candidate for an engineering position who talked A LOT when he was nervous. When the 3 interviewers met to discuss how he did, someone said, “Well it wasn’t hard to get him talking” and someone else said, “Oh silence was his enemy”. And you know what – we hired him.

    I found that getting generic interview questions on line, printing them out and putting them in a fish bowl, then sitting at home, pulling one out at random and speaking the answer aloud really helped. So then when someone says “What was a challenge you had to overcome” – you’re know what story you’re going to tell and you’re not nervous about how to put it in words. It’s not memorizing, it’s just getting comfortable with what you want to say.

    1. Allie*

      If an interviewee is nervous I try to redirect them. But I have said yes to plenty of people who were nervous and they have all been perfectly fine hires.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      People get nervous because something is of value/importance to them.

      On the very few times I have trained a person who was not nervous, that person ended up being a disaster at the job.

      I have to laugh, OP wasn’t passionate enough, so perhaps that translates to she did not care enough.
      But she was nervous and that can translate as she cared too much.

      This guy should not be in charge of anything. Ever.

  26. Polecat*

    “We’re a friendly company”
    I do not think that word means what you think it means!

    Absolutely forward this to the professional person.

    1. Robin Ellacott*

      I also was struck by how he complains he never got any sense of OP or their passions, but with the one personal preference mentioned (favourite book) he was like NOPE you are WRONG about your own tastes, you lying snob!

  27. Kelly L.*

    This is negging. I’m not sure if he’s trying to manipulate you into begging for the job, or manipulate you into a date, but he’s way out of line here. Sorry you had to receive this, and consider it a bullet dodged.

    1. Another health care worker*

      I had that thought as well. He wasn’t really supposed to make individual contact with you at all, but he made it happen for whatever personal purposes he has.

    2. LizzE*

      I thought of something similar. This was done with the intent to knock the LW off any pedestal perceived by the interviewer. It is grossly manipulative and forces the LW to second guess themself and worsen their self-confidence.

      1. TootsNYC*

        My theory is that he was sexually attracted to her, she didn’t get hired, he can’t get that sexual urge out of his head, so he decided to write and tell her everything that was wrong with her so that she knows he doesn’t care, and to convince HIMSELF that she isn’t worthy.


        And just think what that says about what he’d be like if she had gotten the job.

    3. anonymous 5*

      I was coming here to say this too! And I definitely got the “pick-up artist” vibe from this negging, not just the gratuitous insult list. OP, you definitely dodged the bullet in not working for this company (and in not going out with him if he shows up in the next couple weeks…). But I’m also 100% with everyone who recommends sending this to the guy’s supervisor.

    4. Batgirl*

      Yep. Classic negging. I’d actually be warily awaiting some kind of follow up offering to coach or … something. Ew.

    5. Tehanu*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if he came back with an offer to meet for drinks to help her in career, and how good he would be for her. Ugh. This guy is an ass. I am sorry you received this email, bullet dodged. Send the email back to the company. Ugh.

    6. PeanutButter*

      Yep. Scrolled all the way down to see if anyone else got this vibe. My “he’s trying to get into her pants” alarms went off by the middle of the second numbered point. Letter writer, definitely forward to the person who originally sent the rejection, I can guarantee you aren’t the first person he’s tried this on.

    7. boo bot*

      Yep. Either he’s trying to manipulate the OP into a date, or he’s trying out his negging technique on them just for practice.

    8. RS*

      I came here to say exactly this. This guy isn’t the hiring manager, he was part of an interview panel – yet he took it upon himself to reach out to the rejected candidate with his “helpful,” unsolicited feedback. Why? This feels like a maladroit attempt to engage in personal dialogue the the OP.

    9. dowsabel*

      My thoughts exactly. Nothing about this is genuinely helpful, it’s designed to undermine the OP’s confidence, not give them actionable advice.

    10. Chyll*

      My first thought was negging as well. I’m surprised he didn’t offer up some of his precious time to meet the OP for dinner help her “fix” the issues in this BS list he made.

      In other words, he is absolutely ridiculous, OP, not you! You progressed through what sounds like several rounds of interviews so you obviously impressed them!

      I’d be very wary about this guy’s advice as he seems to have some sort of ulterior motive behind his comments. Self-reflection after an interview is important, no matter how successful an interview seems to go, but Alison is absolutely right to suggest doing this with a trusted person.

    11. cncx*

      yes, he’s negging! my first thought. I thought date too because he stepped out of line to communicate privately.

  28. HisotryLlama*

    I’d be hella impressed someone read Les Miserables! It’s not called “The Brick” for a fun reason! I adore the musical and I couldn’t get through the book (yet).

    Gonna echo everyone else on here and say don’t listen to this pompous jerk.

    1. Batgirl*

      I would be too! I’d ask them what they liked about it and maybe give it another go if they sold it. People really liking something isn’t pretentious!

    2. Serin*

      Yes yes yes, this is what I came to say.

      If this guy ID’d the OP as male, this is insecure competitive behavior, and if he ID’d the OP as female, he’s probably convinced he’s filled her with irresistible desire.

  29. Lance*

    Among everything else: he’s complaining that you brought up an issue you overcame in an unrelated industry? So on top of everything else, he just doesn’t want anyone swapping industries at all?

    This guy is ridiculous on a lot of levels.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      This was my thought too. There’s a lot here that’s hilariously rude and ridiculous on a personal level, but also he just sounds like a bad interviewer!

  30. Imogen*

    Hello! I’m a person who is about to graduate from uni, so I’m looking for jobs again and understand where you are coming from. A year and a half ago I applied for a part time job at *famous UK supermarket*, and did one of those silly online assessments. They came back to me, did not invite me for an interview but did send me a terrible 6 page document with ‘feedback’ about how I did. One of the points boiled down to the fact that I wasn’t interested enough in making them money! Do not let this get you down, this is a red flag that maybe they’re a company best avoided. Good luck on your further job search!

    1. SMH*

      I love that it didn’t occur to them that you were interested in making yourself money hence the need for the job.

    2. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

      Would love you to give me a hint about this UK supermarket! Is it one of the three cheap ones with four letters, or an upmarket one?

      1. embertine*

        Judging by the way they apparently think their staff are mindless drones living only for The Company, it’s one with five letters.

  31. Robin Ellacott*

    This is so bizarre and spiteful that it’s genuinely shocking. Please don’t take this unprofessional idiot’s “feedback” to heart.

    It’s normal to be a little nervous in interviews. It’s normal not to have fun (?) in interviews. It’s normal to give examples from other fields when answering questions. It’s normal to apply for a job in field you don’t have an all consuming passion for. And it’s normal to enjoy challenging books!

    Also, good heavens, this place sounds awful to work in. All those events you are supposed to be excited about, what sounds like a pretty aggressive and bro-y culture, not to mention people in power who enjoy belittling others.

    I bet your next interview will feel like a breath of fresh air. Good luck!

    1. The Rafters*

      Actually, I can tell someone will be hired because one particular interviewer will somehow get the panel and interviewee laughing. I hear that, and know that the candidate will be offered the job. So I guess with the right people, interviewing can be fun.

  32. Seeking Second Childhood*

    I like to think I’m fairly normal and I’ve been reading a chapter or two of Les Miserables at a time for …longer than I want to admit. For no other reason than I want to see what is behind the musical I love so much. Is that fun? Sounds like it to me. HARD but fun, kind of like what some athletes say about competing at their extreme abilities. If you told ME it was your favorite book, I’d get sidetracked and ask what translation you recommend, because maybe it makes all the difference.
    Forget that glass bowl! I have a huge admiration for someone who has finished this book and was detail oriented enough to appreciate it.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      I feel the same way about William Faulkner. It is about as far from an easy read as a read can be, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth reading.

    2. TiffIf*

      The translation does make a difference! to me any way–I have tried a few different translations –I can’t remember which one it was that I really disliked (I would recognize the book jacket if I saw it–it was a big hardback edition) but I think the Signet Classic edition is a good translation–I’ve owned both a print copy and the ebook version of that translation.

    3. Sylvan*

      It’s a slog, but it’s also kind of entertaining to get lectured by Victor Hugo about whatever his opinion of the day was?

    4. the one that got away*

      Recommendations I’ve seen are go with the free one on Gutenberg or buy the Fahnstock-McAfee or Donaugher translations. Don’t buy Denny.

  33. Workerbee*

    I would want to forward that email to the contact and even their CEO, saying something like, “In looking for my first full-time position, I was excited to be chosen to interview for this great position with a great company. I know that rejections happen while on the search for the best fit for all concerned. However, I was taken aback by this unsolicited email I received from Person X, who had not been present until the final round. Is this representative of your corporate culture?”

    …but this might not be the best advice. :)

    1. Momma Bear*

      If OP sends it, there should be a short and to the point email with it.

      “Thank you for the opportunity to interview with your company and for the follow up that I was not selected for the role at this time. However, I am confused by the correspondence I received three days after that last communication. I received the following unsolicited feedback from a member of your interview team. I bring this to your attention as it does not display the friendly culture described in the interviews.”

      Or whatever. This guy is such a toad. I wouldn’t even ask the company how to work on those “deficits”. If I did any work on my interviewing it would be with a career advisor or a trusted associate.

    2. Non non*

      You could write: “… I just wanted to ask if this is official feedback from the company or just this individual’s personal view of how I did during the interview. …”

  34. zinzarin*

    I would definitely forward the email to the hiring manager for this position, but frame it as innocent follow up, not a tattling heads-up.
    “Can you provide more insight on how I can/should work on these things?” vs “Just want you to know this guy is sending this kind of thing out.”

    1. Julia*

      I agree, but I wouldn’t ask for more insight on how to work on these things. LW has already been given feedback and doesn’t really want more. I’d frame it the way Alison suggested, as “really enjoyed meeting all of you and want to work on improving myself as a candidate so just wanted to clarify whether this feedback represents [the employer]’s thoughts about my candidacy”

      1. zinzarin*

        Asking for that feedback is simply the cover story. The real reason we’re showing them the list of feedback is so that they naturally conclude “wtf?” about the list. Asking for additional feedback/context is the way to tattle without looking like you’re tattling.

        1. pancakes*

          It’s not a good cover story, though – it would reflect poorly on the letter writer, and needlessly so. There’s no need to try to be coy about this email being a strange and unexpected choice on the employer’s part.

  35. Jean Marie Downing*

    Do people read Les Mis when it isn’t for fun?

    It isn’t exactly in the typical high school curriculum and unless one was majoring in French Lit, I’m not sure I could see it showing up in many university courses either.

    My main takeaway was meeting a character I that wasn’t in the musical and hoping that he at least might make it. Nope.

    1. hbc*

      Huh, it was in my high school curriculum. Maybe not as common as The Great Gatsby and a top five of Dickens (Great Expectations in my case), but most people I know got to it that way.

      I guess it depends on how you define “fun.” I’ve got a ton of books I’ve read because they’re so widely known and I want that cultural reference, even if I’m not really enjoying them.

      1. KittyCardigans*

        It was in mine, too—an abridged version. I think it was just a passion of my ninth grade English teacher’s, though, because I don’t think either of my younger siblings read it when they went through. (No Dickens at all, FWIW.)

        I loved Les Mis enough to read the unabridged version and beg my way onto a chorus field trip to go see the musical a few states away. “Fun” may not be my first thought when it comes to Victor Hugo’s writing, but I still associate it with pleasure—the satisfaction of finishing a lengthy narrative and the greater satisfaction of understanding those cultural references you mention. But honestly, it doesn’t matter whether OP herself finds it to be on the escapist fun or meaningful/rewarding side of the spectrum, because “favorite” can encompass any of that!

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      The implication the email writer is trying to convey is that a book like that is only read if required for a class, or to try to impress people. The implication he actually conveys is that *he* wouldn’t read a book like that unless required to, or to try to impress people.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I started with Hunchback of Notre Dame and worked my way up to LM. I read it with a friend who was very passionate about literature and was much better about pondering themes and locating little nuggets of ironic gold. It’s kind of like watching Walking Dead with a friend, after a chapter you can discuss theories and delve into the flaws of the characters.

    4. Scott*

      It was assigned to me in High School, and my High School sucked, so…

      I quite enjoyed it though, actually.

    1. Scott*

      Finance-Bro – yes, this is exactly the term I was struggling to find in my own response!

  36. Julia*

    It’s speculation, but he could be new to hiring. Sometimes when you’ve been doing something for a short time – long enough to start to feel confident but not long enough to actually know what you’re doing – it can be easy to judge other people very harshly for stuff that is actually quite normal (e.g. for being nervous in an interview, or giving answers to situational questions that don’t relate to this industry).

    He may not have been doing this long enough to realize that 1) sending his list of critiques is Not Normal Or OK and 2) the stuff that’s getting on his nerves about you is actually stuff he should expect to see from plenty of candidates who would be a good fit at his org.

    If he’s just learning how to hire, that would also explain why he’s peripheral to this hiring process rather than spearheading it. If that’s the case, I bet with a bit more hiring experience he’ll realize that just because his current coworkers all invest in the stock market, doesn’t mean the new copywriter needs to in order to be good at the job.

    1. Nom*

      Agree- this feedback is truly wild. The wildest one was he expected the example to be within the industry. I’ve done a fair number of bad interviews in my day and I know how lucky I am to get an answer to that question that’s about work at all!

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      No, I disagree with you about this particular person.

      In general, yes, I completely agree that many (most?) of us reach and hopefully grow out of a zone of “some experience, but not enough” when learning a new task.

      In this specific incidence, what he said paired with him sending it (versus discussing it with more experienced colleagues) is so over the line that I’m having a hard time justifying an application of Hanlon’s razor.

  37. EEB*

    I just want to 100% cosign the feedback from Alison and all the commenters. I have some experience with hiring, and this feedback is ridiculous. Obviously his comment about your favorite book is particularly bizarre, but I also want to mention his comment “When asked about an issue you had overcome, you mentioned something that had happened in a job not related to our industry.” It is very, very normal to use an example from a non-industry job to answer this type of question. That’s especially true if you’re interviewing for an entry-level role (which I’m guessing this is, since you said you’re looking for your first full-time job). I’ve interviewed entry-level candidates who answered this type of question with an example from their academic or even personal lives, since they didn’t have much work experience yet, and that can be fine. The question is generally meant to assess your approach to problem-solving, not your industry knowledge.

  38. TX Lizard*

    If they only want to hire people who invest in stocks as a hobby, they are only going to get people with disposable income to gamble.
    Also, it’s very normal to talk about previous jobs in an interview? Unless they specifically asked for an example/experience related to the industry, I don’t think that’s necessarily an issue (unless you gave an example from like, your third grade lemonade stand, or something else that wouldn’t have been appropriate anyways).

    1. bunniferous*

      Your first sentence indicates to me that that interviewer is definitely classist!

        1. kt*

          Yeah, this is on purpose.

          You know people without disposable income for options trading are just not “passionate”.

    2. Zephy*

      If they only want to hire people who invest in stocks as a hobby, they are only going to get people with disposable income to gamble.

      This stood out to me, too, even aside from the sheer ridiculousness of the rest of it.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Let’s say I am serious investor. This is the very type of company I’d avoid. I don’t want my finances to be an extension of someone’s HOBBY.

  39. zebra*

    OP, please don’t obsess over this email too much. This is 100% a him problem and it really has nothing much to with you. Can you imagine having to work with this guy every day? Phew, bullet dodged! The mere fact that you made it to the final round means that you’re doing a lot of things right.

    I definitely second everyone else encouraging you to forward this email to whoever your main recruitment contact was. You can ask if it’s company practice for panel members to send unsolicited feedback that’s rude, personal, and irrelevant. If this guy went rogue and did this all on his own, they’ll want to know about it so they can put a stop to it. And if you get back a response that indicates they don’t see any problems with that email, then you’ll know that this company is 100% dysfunctional from top to bottom and there’s absolutely no way you could have been happy working there.

  40. Veronica*

    The same feedback from someone who’s not a jerk:
    You had basic technical knowledge about an area for a marketing job! This is a plus.
    You answered in a thought out manner and didn’t just jump to the most exciting response? Thank you!
    You were nervous in a high stakes situation of a panel interview? You aren’t an actor. I don’t care.
    You bring ideas and experience from outside our industry? Diversity!!
    You weren’t interested in all the company events? I will note that this is not a way to recruit you to join us.
    I have not read Les Miserables but I will ask you to join my team for team trivia for one of the many company events!
    You were nervous but managed to still answer thoughtfully. Practice more.
    Thank you for interviewing with us and I’m sorry we couldn’t extend you an offer. Best of luck!

    1. 'Tis Me*

      If even the jerkface who emailed her had to concede her answers were thorough and well thought out, then I don’t know if she needs to practice more even. I might change the last point to “it was clear that you were nervous, which is very common at this stage in your career. That you were still able to answer so clearly indicates you prepared well. Your nerves may well pass with time and experience; if not you may well learn masking techniques that work better for you. Please don’t feel in any way discouraged by our rejection – i5 wasn’t at all personal!”

      Otherwise, <3

  41. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    OP, we’re all about updates around here so do follow up if you get a reply!

  42. Mommy Shark*

    I have a very strong feeling that Letter Writer is a woman. I just don’t believe stock dude here would send that kind of feedback to another dude.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I think you’re right! Otherwise known as “not a cultural fit”.

    2. Pippa K*

      Yup. Tell you what I’m passionate about: avoiding overconfident men who think they can use their workplace power to demand “correct” emotional and cultural performances from (usually) women junior to them. And I agree with Kelly L above, who points out this isn’t feedback, it’s just negging.

    3. PeanutButter*

      Especially because I’ll eat my hat if he didn’t send that message with the end goal of manipulating her into a date.

    4. Artemesia*

      FWIW. I had lots of undergrads over the years and many were well connected to the financial industry. Generally my most mediocre students ended up in stock brokerage positions. It made me very careful in hiring my own financial management. There are a lot of financial organizations that are bro culture and misogynist. And in companies where that is not valued, there are still likely to be guys like this.

    5. Batgirl*

      I’ll eat my hat if they aren’t a woman. Sure I could be wrong; dudebros are jerks to other men and they believe in all that alpha/beta nonsense. Still I’m getting enough flashbacks that I feel pretty confident making the bet.

    6. AndersonDarling*

      I was coming here to say that as well. The feedback is misogynistic drivel. If the OP is female and the interviewer is male, then then the recruiting director needs to hear about this.
      If a dude went out of his way to insult a female that was just visiting the business, that is a burning red flag. HR needs to know that it is happening. The freak may have sent the same petty emails to other female candidates.
      OP, please let them know this happened to you! If any of the comments were constructive, then there could be a real reason for sending the email, but these are all petty insults disguised as “advice.” It’s gross, gross, gross!

    7. Koalafied*

      TBH, I also feel like 90% of the people who would write, “They were kind enough to let me know I’d been rejected and thank me for my time,” are women. Being pleasant and gracious and describing rejection as “kind” is exactly the kind of attitude women are socialized to have in in the US. When we encounter unpleasant situation and emotions we have a lifetime of conditioning telling us we’re the ones responsible for smoothing it over and making it pleasant, and American men just don’t get that same message drilled into them from childhood to nearly the same extent. A typical/decent man who doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder is more likely to describe the rejection using words like “fair” or “appreciated” or “polite” than “kind.” (There are the 10% who buck the trend, so you should of course allow for the possibility that your hunch is wrong, but in a society with strong gender differentiation and deep social disparities connected to gender, it can often be very relevant to the situation at hand.)

    8. Lyra Silvertongue*

      Searched for this comment. Yup. You’re too nervous, you don’t have enough confidence, you don’t really care about this field, you’re stuck up? Perhaps not gendered comments on their own but stack enough up and eventually you’re just criticizing someone for not being what your usual candidate, a man, is like.

  43. Batgirl*

    Jinx! I love it when Alison says what I’m thinking: in this case “male swagger”. Saying that you generally lack confidence based on one meeting where people can be relied upon to be somewhat nervous is a ridiculous stance and so, so often levelled at women. The only other time I heard it, I was taken under the dinosaur’s wing (it was work experience – a type of internship) and his coaching involved me being directed to indulge in sexual banter with his horrid ageing friends (I was 15). On day two I was doing a better job than he was without having to project confidence all over the place to achieve that. You can safely chalk this up to not having the right style of gumption; which is more pretentious than anything you could possibly like to read.

    1. Another health care worker*

      Also, not for nothing, when women DO show up immediately projecting lots of confidence, that is criticized too. It’s a classic sexist no-win.

      1. AnotherLibrarian*

        Yes, this. I have been both told I am too “nervous” and told I am too “certain of myself.” This is a trap that women can’t win and it drives me nuts.

      2. Batgirl*

        Talks too much, mouthy, bragging (and yes, “pretentious”) overly familiar, flirty (oh hell no I was not) …yada yada yada.

      3. JessicaTate*

        Right?!? I was thinking that too. I’ve been called ALL the negative words when I came in confident and self-assured, etc. Aggressive, adversarial, overly assertive, b****, and that’s just the beginning of the alphabet.

        Absolutely a sexist no-win. If LW is a woman (I get that sense, but wasn’t 100% sure from the letter), you’re doing fine. Don’t let the dude-bros get you down, friend.

      4. pancakes*

        Yes. There is a tweet I saw yesterday from a woman who had a job offer from Rolling Stone magazine withdrawn because she tried to negotiate salary. She asked for $10k more, was told there was no room to budge, and when she said she’d accept the original offer they told her it was withdrawn.

        1. Another health care worker*

          And yet women are told we get lower pay because we don’t negotiate!

      5. Elbe*

        Exactly. Ultimately, they’re looking for excuses to hire only men who are exactly like them and they’ll twist things to end up with that result. They didn’t want to hire her, but her responses were thoughtful and good so they had to rely on “cultural fit” BS like a lack of “passion” and “confidence”. If she had behaved different she would have been “too emotional” or “too invested in the job” or “pushy”.

  44. Ups and downs*

    My fave book is the count of monte cristo (55 hours unabridged, maybe 1000 pages). Ive read it 12 times. Actually I have read it more than that I just stopped counting after 12. I have mentioned that fact in various interviews and not one person told me it was pretentious. Its your favorite book how is it pretentious? I would consider this a bullet dodged. Good luck OP

  45. VinegarMike*

    This guy sucks and honestly feels like he’s using negging MRA strategies in a professional setting. Maybe it’s on purpose, maybe he’s just independently discovered this way to be an asshole. But his opinions are trash either way and they should be treated that way.

  46. Myrin*

    I’m particularly boggling at the “When asked about an issue you had overcome, you mentioned something that had happened in a job not related to our industry” thing – surely he must’ve been aware that this OP is searching for her first full-time job? What experience in the financy industry, exactly, was she supposed to recount?
    But also, just because an experience was acquired in a different field doesn’t make it useless! I’ve learned so much about myself at my part-time jobs in a kitchen and as a shelf-stocker and how I approach problems in one job isn’t materially different from how I approach problems in another job, it’s just that the problems sometimes (but not always, surprisingly!) differ. Yeesh.

  47. Djuna*

    I would forward that email to your main contact at the company, with nothing more than a simple JFYI.
    If someone I worked with and trusted to sit on a hiring panel sent a mail like that I would want the hiring manager (and possibly HR) to know about it. He needs to be kept faaaaaaaaaaaaarrrr away from the hiring process, and someone needs to have a quiet “what the hecking what, dude?!” conversation with him.
    OP, disregard his nonsense, love the books you love (and never apologize for it!), and try not to let this knock your confidence.

  48. cabbagepants*

    “I can tell you are not passionate about stocks. Every member of this company has been passionately investing in the stock market as a hobby for years.”

    Am I… the only one who finds this kind of hilarious, bordering on Poe’s Law territory? Like something I’d expect to read on Reddit’s WallStreetBets subreddit, or Vincent Adultman from Bojack Horseman.

    LW, I am so sorry you had to deal with this guy, he sounds like he has his head screwed on backwards.

    1. PeanutButter*

      Even the bros on WSB would rake someone over the coals for wanking about being “passionately investing”. Their whole schtick is that the stock market is a casino.

        1. Ryn*

          oh I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one screaming STONK LINE GO UP in my head the whole letter

          1. cabbagepants*

            Once I read the “passionately investing” but my brain refused to NOT read it as stonks.

          2. cabbagepants*

            Once I read the “passionately investing” bit my brain refused to NOT read it as stonks.

        2. PeanutButter*

          I would never make it in day trading, because alas, my hands are made of only the finest tissue paper. XD

    2. Cat Tree*

      If we could include images in the comments, this thread would be full of stonks memes. That’s how serious I would take this guy.

    3. pinyata*

      I also found “passionate about stocks” to be hilarious. If this happened to me, “passionate about stocks” would become an inside joke with friends for the rest of my life.

      1. TX Lizard*

        Catching up with friends after a bad Tinder date: “He was, you know, ~passionate about stocks~”
        Friends: “ohhhh, ew”

        1. Ryn*

          bless you cabbagepants you are bringing this comment thread to life for me. thank you for your memeing service.

      2. Cat Tree*

        I desperately hope that “passionate about stocks” becomes the next big thing on this website. It’s such a convenient shorthand for a specific type of jerk.

    4. EastCoastGabby*

      Not sure how his insistence of “hobby stocks” is any less pretentious than his interpretation OP’s choice of favourite book.
      I also once received feedback from an interview that told me I wasn’t passionate enough (for a job with a university that I was a chair to a volunteer org for… which was particularly infuriating) and it really really sucks hearing something like this but you should keep in mind that this feedback has a lot to do with the person sending it – it’s not just you!! Good luck out there!

  49. Salt & Vinegar Chips*

    This guy is a jerk and I would bet no one else knows he sent the email. That said I think if you look through all the Asshole crap there may be a few takeaways from his meanspirited email.

    – Lacking passion was his main concern for the first two, I don’t think you need to completely lie here but its nice to hear a interviewee that has interest in the business that is more than getting the job. It makes it seem like you are genuinely going to try and learn more and bring more to the job if your hired.
    – Being nervous and tell about a time at another industry this guy was just being a jerk, most people are nervous.
    – Company culture interest this is a big one that you should be asking about in all interviews, this is the one area I agree with him on.
    -Favorite book there should be no wrong answer here but in the future if you say a book that could only be understood by someone with over a 3rd graded reading aptitude add a little pre note for the idiots that you always loved Paris or you secretly love regency novels.
    -The not having fun in the interview can go both ways, I wouldn’t expect everyone to have fun in an interview but if my interviewee wasn’t smiling occasionally and seemed like they wanted to run from the room I would be hesitant to offer them to work with me all the time.

    1. ADHSquirrelWhat*

      The problem with taking anything away from this email as valid is the question of “is this person’s opinion on the subject worth listening to.”

      Given their opinion on other things – like the fact that the LW used a non-industry answer for the problem-solving question and omg liked a non-standard book – I wouldn’t TRUST this person’s beliefs in how someone came across. Sure, maybe there needs to be more interest in company culture. Then again, maybe there was plenty of interest, but precisely how email-guy wanted to hear it. Or only about a part of the culture that email-guy isn’t into. Or doesn’t understand. Or maybe email-guy just felt threatened by someone smarter than him because they read big books. Who knows?

      Taking feedback like this and saying “there might be something worth paying attention to” is saying that each piece can be taken separately. But they can’t – this is all the same person’s opinion about the same interaction. They don’t get the benefit of the doubt on the few things that maybe might be valid had they come from someone else – because they didn’t. They came from someone with an agenda that is not in the LW’s best interests. Taking ANY of it seriously is giving the email-guy too much credit. Far better for the LW’s peace of mind to fling the entire thing out the window as garbage than try to parse it into useful and not.

    2. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

      Yeah I can see your points here.

      OP you were being interviewed by complete dipshits – it happens.

      Don’t take the negativity on and being exposed to the world of dipshits (especially when you haven’t been in the working world too long) is a pretty uncomfortable experience.

      They probably took your book preference as some kind of indication of your copywriting style.

      You def dodged a bullet here but like Salt & Vinegar Chips says there is something here you can take that will serve you in the working world later (whether in interviews or dealing with dipshit colleagues)

      1. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

        By take away I don’t mean agreeing or taking on his idiocy, it could be a recognition of one of these fools when you see one, maybe if necc tailoring a style to fit those who can’t even spell Dunning-Kruger when you really need to (and sometimes at work needs must). But enjoy your reprieve and look forward to the email being posted on twitter or reddit throwaway – it certainly sounds legendary.

      2. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

        By take away I don’t mean taking on what this dipshit says, more like take a recognition when you meet this type of character again in the working world, or colleagues who can’t even spell Dunning-Kruger.

      3. LutherstadtWittenberg*

        It was only the one guy speaking out of turn, not the entire panel, who sent this useless nonsense to OP. And it is useless. She needn’t pay attention to any of it. He was a pretentious dudebro trying to put her down, or worse, neg her.

  50. Ryn*

    LOL sorry Les Mis is ~too tough~ for you Josh. If my little theatre kid ass could get half way though it in 6th grade, you can handle it, I promise.

  51. Dan*

    I had an interviewer like this once. He was kind of a dick the whole way through the interview (the hour-long lunch with him was really insufferable, TBH). When we got to the end of the interview, I *almost* asked, “I have my choice of offers. Why should I choose working with *you* over the much nicer people that I’ve interviewed with elsewhere?”

    These guys spent like $1k on my interview expenses, and I’m not sure how wise it is to drop that kind of money just to immediately turn off your candidates. Why even bother?

    1. Cat Tree*

      They might be looking for someone who feels so bad and undeserving that they are easy to manipulate. If they convince someone that it was a huge favor to give them this job, they won’t ask for more money and they’ll work constantly to try to impress the boss.

    2. cabbagepants*

      I don’t know how but companies manage to be blind to their own terrible cultures or missing stair personalities.

      Realizing that Tim is an a**hole who should be kept hidden in the back until the ink dries on the contract would require self-reflection and admitting to themselves that the problem is with Tim and not the junior engineer who’s “just too sensitive.”

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Which is worse, companies that are unaware of their problem employees or those that know, yet choose to do nothing about it?

        I left a job with a company of rhe latter type. HR even acknowledged that they knew ProblemColleague was a problem after I cited them as a major reason I was leaving. Two other colleagues are in the process of getting out as well and each of us contribute significantly more than ProblemColleague; for example, I had to rescue a major project they completely dropped the ball on, which had cascading impacts on *my* work.

        1. EchoGirl*

          The latter, no question. The former problem can pretty easily be corrected (by making them aware), the latter is much harder.

  52. Moose*

    My first thought was “send this to the employer.” If the rest of them are even somewhat reasonable, they’d probably want to know that a team member is sending this ridiculousness on their own. I love Allison’s suggestion of asking your main contact/whoever rejected you if that feedback reflects their thoughts.

    1. Secretary*

      Yes! And definitely don’t thank anyone for that feedback.

      Maybe: “I received this email after the initial rejection. Would you mind letting me know if this feedback reflects the thoughts of the [company/entire interview panel/organization]?”

  53. Temperance*

    I think you should almost be grateful not to work there, because that guy sounds like a pompous douche and I guarantee that working with him and joining his team of bros would be a friggen nightmare. Spending all of your non-work time hanging out with human cans of Red Bull is another layer of Dante’s inferno, trust.

    This whole thing honestly reads like an attempt at a neg. Like he wants you to follow up and beg for the job.

    1. Zephy*

      “human cans of Red Bull”

      You owe me a replacement coffee AND keyboard, this is brilliant.

  54. Spellerific*

    I would absolutely reply to this person and thank him for his feedback, copying the person who sent the official rejection to you.

    1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      This! Neutral but says everything it needs to in the most polite way possible.

    2. Irish Reader*

      Oh that is a BALLER move. Love it. That guy can NOT be allowed to get away with this.

      I hope OP contacts the company in a way that she is comfortable with, but also that this douchebag doesn’t get creepy and find a way to retaliate.

    3. Lizzo*

      Only disadvantage to this is that dudebro would have time to come up with an excuse for his actions. Better to use the element of surprise and just forward along to the hiring manager.

  55. The Magic Rat*

    I guess I’m in the minority but I would *love* to get this letter from any of the jobs that turned me down over the years. Regardless of whether the specific criticisms are “valid” I’d still desperately love to know where the misalignments were so that I could use that information to learn to better read future interviewers.

    1. Lacey*

      But this guy is not having the kind of reactions that future interviewers are likely to had. He’s a faulty yardstick.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. This was not a nice email. This was a dig at someone he feels is inferior to himself. Unnecessary and unprofessional.

    2. Lonely Aussie*

      Yeah, nah, passion fingers was straight up rude. There’s nothing constructive in it.

    3. The Vulture*

      But if you use this jerk’s feedback to “align” yourself, aren’t you aligning yourself to jerks? Like, it’s not good feedback because if she, or you, took it all to heart exactly, she would just be doing exactly what some jerk thinks is the right thing, that another jerk might also like (but guess what! These jerks often move the goalposts/turns out they actually DON’T like it when you are confident – so pretentious!, etc)

      Pleasing Interview Jerks is a no-win – if you do it, you now get to work for/with a jerk, yay. Plus, we have no indication this guy had the final say, or that these things were at all important to everyone else/whoever was making the final call, likely this is just cranky nonsense brain-spew about what he didn’t like during a process for a decision he didn’t make.

  56. Lacey*

    OP, you will be ok – don’t let this jerk make you think you won’t.

    I have often been mistaken for being shy or nervous in interviews and while I’ve learned to interview better so I don’t give off that impression, it also didn’t stop me from getting my first 3-4 jobs as a young adult.

    Also, you’re a copywriter and if you’re passionate about great copywriting that’s going to be way more important than being passionately interested in every industry you could possibly write for. I don’t write, but I do design ads. I’m rarely passionate about the industries I design ads for. But, I’m passionate about getting them a great ad. All that means is being good at my craft and researching theirs – which you did!

    Plus, this guy is super out of touch to think that a person just entering the workforce is going to have the ability to trade stocks as a hobby or job experience related to their industry. As Alison, more or less, said, this guy is too stupid to take seriously.

    1. TX Lizard*

      Great point about being passionate about your craft, not necessarily the subject matter. Also, maybe an advantage! Sometimes the very passionate, knowledgeable people can’t step outside that bubble to relate to/draw in new or less knowledgeable customers. They get too excited and caught up in the jargon and the nitty gritty.

  57. Lesgle*

    I just came here to add another name to the list of people who read Les Miserables for fun. And, as someone who hires people for a living, I can tell you, OP, that this guy is a d-bag. Put absolutely ZERO stock into what he says. Save the email so that once you land an amazing job, you can tell the story of the illiterate tool who doesn’t understand basic human interaction.

    Know that we’re all on your side cheering for you, and we’ll be excited to hear about your successful job search in the future!

  58. AnotherLibrarian*

    Wow. This is both awful and bizarre. As many others have said, this reflects poorly on him then it does on you.

    Having said that, I can see how this would totally mess with your head, OP. That’s okay. It’s okay to be hurt by this. It is okay to grieve for a little about the situation and it is okay to be angry. Anger and hurt are both intertwined and valid responses. I would be hurt by this sort of email and I’ve been in the job world a lot longer then you. Do some practice interviews (they really do help) and know that you were good enough to get to the final round, which means despite what this jerk said, you were qualified. I am so sorry this happened to you.

    1. Secretary*

      Yes to this!!

      You were in the final round. If they were going to rule you out based on your interviewing skills, they would have done it earlier. By the final round it just means they probably found someone who was a better fit.

  59. Esmeralda*

    The email sounds like it was from someone who had NO input into the hiring decision. As a hiring committee chair, I would be horrified about such a wrong headed email, it does NOT make our department look good and I’d hate to think we’d lose out on good candidates if it got shared around. I’d want to know about this, so that I could kick it to my boss, who would then kick this guy’s ass.

    I wonder if you could let the person you were communicating with previously know about it, but in a back handed way: respond directly to this jerk’s email and cc the other person. Body of your message is thanking him for the advice, you will keep it in mind in future interviews, he’s so kind to help out someone just embarking on their career, you appreciate how friendly everyone at Llama Studios was, blah blah blah.

    What do others think of this response? (In our department, staff are explicitly told and reminded that correspondence related to the search must be go thru the committee chair)

    1. Zephy*

      I wouldn’t get too flowery with it, just reply and CC the hiring manager with “Thank you for the feedback.”

    2. Cat Tree*

      I’ve been on interview panels, and if one of my coworkers offered up these reasons to not hire someone, we would all think very poorly of the coworker, not the candidate. We don’t actually ask about favorite books, but if we did and someone said the candidate’s answer was too pretentious, that person would not be included on future interview panels.

    3. SMH*

      I want to respond to him with ‘How pretentious.’

      Probably not the best option but wow he does think highly of himself.

  60. irene adler*

    Thinking that letter needs to be given full publication on Glassdoor.

    (Assuming OP has no further interest in working at that company)

        1. EchoGirl*

          But could his employer reasonably have known he was likely to do something like this? Without more information that even OP doesn’t have (like his general workplace behavior or if there are previous incidents), it’s hard to say.

  61. The Prettiest Curse*

    Does this a-hole not have anything better to do with his time other than send out snarky feedback designed to destroy people’s confidence? OP, you did not do anything wrong. You are doing a hell of a lot better than I did when I was just out of university!

  62. Scott*

    That guy sounds exhausting. I feel like he sucked away some of *my* mental energy away just reading his comments third hand. You dodged a bullet!

  63. CarCarJabar*

    This guy reeks of misogyny and also is probably pretty terrible at hiring people. Employees can be great at their job without oozing passion. I am not passionate about dairy cows, but I sure can tell you how to make them make you money. (I am pretty passionate about ice cream though, so that helps).

    1. Elbe*


      And what this guy oozes is massive insecurity, “Your answers are very thorough and well thought out… Your response to the favorite book question sounded pretentious and insincere. ”

      I’d bet money that she came across as very smart, even if she was nervous. And it made the guy insecure that she could be more intelligent than him or the dude bros he wants to hire. He felt threatened and wanted to put her in her place. Going on and on about how she “lacks confidence” seems like projecting to me.

  64. Naomi*

    So, so many things wrong with this feedback. For example, I don’t see why he should fault you for giving an example from an unrelated industry–that’s still part of your work history and it doesn’t seem like the specific industry was relevant to the question. You weren’t enjoying yourself? It was a job interview, not a party! Is he pouting that you didn’t sufficiently appreciate the company’s “friendliness”?

    And “what is your favorite book” is usually a softball getting-to-know-you question! There aren’t really supposed to BE wrong answers; an interviewer who makes it a secret test of whether you’re [adjective] enough to work here is doing it wrong. I have to wonder what answers would have been acceptable; if you’d gone in the opposite direction and named a light beach read, would he have complained that it was too frivolous?

    All of this reads like he was deliberately looking to find fault with you–especially since he sent it completely unsolicited. So I don’t think you need to take anything he says seriously.

  65. KelliFromCanada*

    Please don’t take this interviewer’s criticisms seriously and allow him to dent your confidence. Everything he said is crap. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying real literature; people are rarely “passionate” about stock trading; if all you showed interest in is the social events they wouldn’t have been impressed with you; and finally, everyone is nervous in interviews! And his fellow interviewers may not have even agreed with his criticisms, or even known about them!

  66. Ellen Fremedon*

    “Les Miserables simply isn’t a book people read for fun.”

    Thank you, that reminds me I need to write up today’s chapter for the Tumblr readalong. It’s my eleventh readthrough and I feel like I finally grok Waterloo this time, thanks to some of the great discussion in my several Les Miserables discord servers. After work, I plan to write some Les Miserables fanfic and read another chapter of my new Hugo biography, and this weekend I have a groupwatch of a musical bootleg and a concom meeting for my Les Miserables convention.

    (OP, you sound like a great candidate, and your interviewer clearly has no idea what people do for fun.)

    1. LetterWriterRudeemail*

      Hi, I’m the OP, and it’s amazing to know there are people like you on the internet who are as passionate bout LM as me :) thank you!

  67. Person from the Resume*

    I don’t care about Les Miserables. I wouldn’t read it for fun. That was still a jerky response.

    But the most obvious ridiculous response is saying that interviewees shouldn’t be nervous in interviews and the only reason an interviewee would be nervous is because they lack confidence. Interviews are an acknowledged nerve-racking situation. Reasonable nerves are to be expected.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Also, the Richard Jordan and Anthony Perkins movie is the only adaptation that gets it right. It’s not a bloody romance.

      1. Ellen Fremedon*

        There just aren’t any English-language adaptations that get it right, though the musical does a lot better than some.

        My favorite adaptations are the 1925 six-hour silent film, which includes almost every plot point and character and does an amazing job with conveying the characters’ interiority, and the Italian ten-hour miniseries from 1964, which has a budget of ten lira and a piece of string but is willing to let characters monologue and really uses Hugo’s language well–even the scenes it adapts very heavily are almost entirely made up of repurposed bits of other chapters.

        I’m also fond of the French miniseries from 1972 that starts with Book III–it only covers Valjean’s backstory in flashback, but the Paris plotline is remarkably well done–and I like what I’ve read of the Arai manga, which leans into Hugo’s visual imagery as much as the 1964 I Miserabili leans into his language. And I’ve not seen it yet, but I’ve heard fantastic things about the Shoujo Cosette anime series.

        Also a fan of the 8-bit side-scrolling musical-based street fighter game Arm Joe, a thing that really exists.

  68. redflagday701*

    Agreed with commenters above who mentioned negging. My first guess is that the OP is a young woman and the interviewer concocted these tips as a plausibly deniable way of connecting with her one-on-one, with the ultimate goal of getting into her pants. Very gross! (And even if that’s not the case, very gross!)

    1. Momma Bear*

      OP should NOT accept any further correspondence from him. Let him filter straight to trash and block him on everything else. OP owes him nothing.

    2. MRAs are the worst*

      Wow, yes, it sounds like an interview-based “neg” from some creep who thinks her lowered self-esteem will make her want to impress/please him :(

  69. Fiona the Baby Hippo*

    LOLLLL at the “friendly company” line. Friendly people don’t cut people down! It’s as simple as that!

    It reminded me of my mostly boring job working at a self-serve frozen yogurt store. Most of our job was either being at the register or replenishing those little hoppers of toppings. I grabbed two mostly-empty hoppers to refill and the owner yelled at me for ‘not making it a nice experience for the customer’ by taking away two options rather than doubling my trips. My friend happened to be coming through the line at the time and was intially trying to find a way to say hi. She texted me later that night to say, “It’s also not a nice experience for customers to have to watch employees get yelled at?!” it’s amazing how self-interested and stupid people can be ! (while being 100% confidnet they’re right)

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      For what it’s worth, I find it WAY worse to see someone yelled at than to have to wait (or forgo) a topping…*

      *Can also apply to a variety of things. Watching people get yelled at is terrible!

  70. Greige*

    Ugh! This takes me back to my job-searching days in the last recession, how I would always wonder, how does THIS guy have job?

    Having been on the other side of it, part of me wonders whether this troller has some beef with whoever was selecting candidates, and this is his way of expressing it? I have to admit, the stress of hiring doesn’t bring out the best in me, but you never take it out on the candidates. That’s just cruel. Besides, “Never kick a dog because it’s just a pup…”

  71. James*

    “Your response to the favorite book question sounded pretentious and insincere. Les Miserables simply isn’t a book people read for fun.”

    This tells me they’re a highly judgmental group. Classics are classics for a reason–they are good books. And you’re hardly alone. I’ve got a friend in radio who loves this book, even tried to teach himself French to read it in the original version. For my part, I routinely read really old books (like Francis Bacon, “The Meditations”, and the like) for entertainment. They’re still around for a reason: They are good books.

    Criticism from someone who gives feedback like this isn’t worth listening to.

  72. ArtK*

    LW, I think you touched a nerve here. This guy probably has a very narrow life with no interest in culture and all he does is trade stocks. He simply can’t understand why everybody doesn’t feel the way that he does. Then he turns that around (because it couldn’t possibly be *him* who is out of the norm) and blames someone else.

    Alison’s advice is good. If you truly are concerned about how you present yourself in interviews, do some practicing with people who will give honest feedback. Forward this to the recruiter so that they know what this jerk is doing to their reputation. Then, as the song says, “Let it Go.” Take some time to read a difficult novel and don’t think about this jerk one bit longer.

  73. Crazy Plant Lady*

    I would personally love to respond and ask what his feedback would have been if I had given my real answer for my favorite book – Fifty Shades of Gray with [insert obscure title of self-published erotica] as a close runner up for second. But I like to respond to jerks by being a jerk back to them just to see how they respond. Obviously this would not be professional or recommend. But it’s fun to think about.

    OP – You did nothing wrong, but you’re super lucky not to have to work with this ignoramus every day. Good luck with your job search!

  74. MEH*

    I second all the comments about this guy being a jerk and you dodging a bullet, but I can’t get past the fact that he called you pretentious for citing Les Mis as your favorite book. I hate to think what he’d do if I bust out any one of my favorite books: Amrita by Banana Yoshimoto; Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni; The Coffin Tree by Wendy Law-Yone; Katherine by Anchee Min. They’re all Asian women and I am one as well. That probably wouldn’t have gone down well at all.

    Don’t let this guy get to you and I would also consider sending the response you got to the interviewer who sent you the polite rejection.

      1. MEH*

        What a jerk is right! My guess is anything that is on the NYT Best Sellers List, but nothing too weighty. Whatever the contemporary equivalent of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is.

      2. Velawciraptor*

        American Psycho or Fight Club, both of which he’d refer to as a “feel-good romp.”

        1. Wintermute*

          Hey, you beat me to my joke! but yeah, basically, these guys think the book American Psycho is a restaurant guide and either didn’t get the movie was a satire or spent the entire thing daydreaming about being Bateman and missed the point.

    1. The Vulture*

      Well, yes – somehow I don’t think he’d appreciate my completely not at all pretentious romance novels, either! (if anyone is interested: Courtney Milan is entirely perfect as far as I’m concerned & now I pretty much only read books by her or authors she recommends on her webpage.)

      1. MEH*

        Well, there has to be SOME pretention in it, but not too much. Gotta be like Goldilocks and make sure it’s just right.

    2. Save the Hellbender*

      Also, if OP had responded with a book that wasn’t literature, or was for kids, like Confessions of a Shopaholic or the Mysterious Benedict Society (both great books, as is Les Mis IMO) I’m sure he would have had an issue with those too. The only right answer is his favorite book.

    3. Elenna*

      Yep, like I said above, I can’t imagine he’d like either of my possible answers – either Lord of the Rings, or Protector of the Small (a YA fantasy series about a girl who’s the first girl to openly try out for knighthood in 100 years). That’s because he’s a small-minded asshole.

  75. Goose*

    I am a hobby investor. Anyone who describes themselves as “passionately investing in the stock market” would make me full body cringe. Don’t trust a word this d**k says and please let us know how your main contact reacts to his comments.

    1. RunShaker*

      I work for an investment firm & depending on position in the firm, you can’t trade as a hobby. If the employee has access to insider information & other pertinent trading information , firm will have these employee listed as access person so there are restrictions & rules that have to be followed in reference to trading. This makes me cringe as well.

    2. CheerfulPM*

      This and it also reeks of classism and generational wealth. If LW is young and looking for her first job out of school, then she likely doesn’t have any expendable income to be passionately investing. This company seems discriminatory if they’re looking for people who fit that mold.

      On another note, I also once got lectured by an interviewer. I had a year of collegiate sports coaching on my resume and when he asked me why I stopped doing that to head for the corporate world, I honestly answered that the lifestyle of weekends on the road and the compensation were not sustainable for me. He proceeded to spend the final 10 minutes of the interview telling me to follow my passions and dreams regardless of the pay.

    3. Call Me Dr. Dork*

      I work at a financial company, and one of the recent themes has been “Investing should be boring. Really boring.” The “passion” in this case probably leads to crappy investing results along with being a neg-filled dillweed.

  76. Oh. No.*

    This is his definition of how a “friendly company” works? Wow! They sound like a fun bunch.

    1. Secretary*

      It WOULD be really interesting if the OP forwarded that letter back like Alison mentioned… I’d really love to see an update with the company’s response.

  77. Soylent but deadly*

    Per Barnes and Noble dot com, V.Hugo’s Les Miserables has sold over 20 million copies. So somebody’s reading it. It’s fairly widely recognized as one of the world’s greatest novels, been made into major films at least twice and adapted into a stage play to great success.
    On the other hand, a company that employs someone who would send that email to a young candidate may NOT have the “friendly work culture” it thinks it does. I would be sorely tempted to forward that email to the person who sent you the “official rejection” email. The ass hat may be rogue and doing harm to his employer’s reputation without their knowledge.
    Good luck on your search!

  78. Batgirl*

    Talks too much, mouthy, bragging (and yes, “pretentious”) overly familiar, flirty (oh hell no I was not) …yada yada yada.

  79. FYI*

    It’s the LW’s first full-time job, and this jackass only wants people who have been passionately investing in the stock market for some time? Uh, sorry, not all of us had extra cash laying around to buy Tesla when we were eating ramen noodles. Unreal.

    1. Batgirl*

      I have a friend who calls this type of thing “public school boy confidence”. As in how British private schools are confusingly called private. She knows a few guys who are often (wrongly) confident about how easy it is to do things the way they did.

  80. Martel*

    The very first “real” office job I ever interviewed for (i.e. not retail or freelance or seasonal) I was no nervous my eye actually started twitching mid interview. I was sitting there trying to answer questions about a time I faced a workplace challenge; while in the throes of involuntary muscle spasms that made it look like I was trying to wink out a message in Morse code.

    They still hired me. I’ve been at this company for 5 years now. Reasonable employers expect nerves, especially from younger grads. I’m so sorry this guy was such an ass to you, please know just because someone wears a suit to work doesn’t mean they actually know anything about anything.

  81. Veryanon*

    I’ll agree with everyone else that this guy is an arrogant and rude jackass. I have interviewed literally hundreds (probably more like thousands) of people in my career. I have NEVER shared unsolicited feedback with a candidate. If a candidate asked me for feedback, I kept it very general and only if I had something constructive to share. So I would agree that you can pretty much take anything he had to say with a ginormous grain of salt.
    I will also vote for practicing your interviewing skills with a friend or someone you trust.
    I’m sorry you had such a terrible experience; there are just jerks out there who enjoy acting this way toward people who are new to the working world, especially if those people happen to be women. :(

  82. Sabine the Very Mean*

    He did this because he couldn’t sleep for three days knowing he didn’t but-actually you or mansplain you the way that would have really satisfied him so he chose this route. Just think about what those three days were like for him. Here he is, all passionate about stocks and R.L. Stein’s entire catalog (I can only guess), and this OP saunters in with her “experience” in copywriting (but stocks!).

    This guy sucks so much that thinking of his life makes me laugh in pity. Do the same, OP. You’re awesome. I’d hire you to write copy for my niche industry without even knowing about your favorite movie.

    1. Secretary*

      Yes to this! For all you know the interviewers had an argument about who to hire and you were a major contender! Maybe he was on the side of not hiring you and the other interviewers were telling him his opinions of you suck. Then he wrote you a mansplainy email because no one would listen to him in the interview room.

  83. cwhf*

    Wow. What a miserable excuse for a human. This speaks volumes about him and nothing about you other than he thinks he can unload his irrelevant negativity on you and hopes you will let it mess with your head. Fully ignore him other than to mock the heck out of his “feedback”.

    Please please please forward this back to the person who sent you the rejection to see if this represents the company. If it does not, they need to be fully aware what this asshat is up to (I assure you are not the only one to get nasty unsolicited feedback from him is my guess). If it does, you have dodged a bullet the size of Jupiter. There is no downside to sending this to them. Yikes.

  84. Mingodingo*

    The boy who bullied me in junior high made fun of me for reading Les Mis (which I also love, despite it having been a little heavy for 14-year-old me). Maybe he grew up to be your interviewer?

  85. TX Lizard*

    I also hate the general idea some industries subscribe to that if you aren’t doing the work (unpaid) in your free time, you aren’t passionate or competent or deserving of employment. Whether it’s “passionately investing in stocks” or programming or whatever. Bleh

    1. Ellen Ripley*

      Yeah. God forbid you needed to spend most of your time doing something to put food on the table and the rest having some fun and maintaining relationships; you should have psychically intuited you’d have an interview in this industry in ten years ten years ago and spent time and money you didn’t have learning everything about the industry as a hobby with no way to know if your time would ever be anything but wasted. Such a privileged, blinkered expectation…

      I used to work in tech and a lot of startups fell into this trap – you needed to already be obsessed with their particular tiny niche to get a job there, even if your job was something like HR or finance that didn’t really require it. Then there were the companies that were leery of anyone who was already a fanboy of their product, fearing that they just wanted to work at Cool Co but didn’t really have the intestinal fortitude to do the scut work. So basically you couldn’t win.

  86. Metadata minion*

    I keep meaning to read Les Miserables, and now I think I’m going to bump it up the list just to annoy this dude :-b

    And I will be reading it FOR FUN rather than out of any obligation to read Great Works of Literature. It seems like the sort of thing I’d enjoy; there just keep being other shiny things to read and I forget about it. Hrmpf.

    1. Exhausted Trope*

      OMGoddess, send him a chapter by chapter review of the book and show him how fun it is to read! (I know it’s not worth your time, but I’m angry and I need vengeance.)

    1. Veryanon*

      He’s either single, or he married someone whose life he makes completely miserable by constantly negging them. But I’m leaning towards single, because he sounds too insufferable to be married or have a significant other.

  87. Not Australian*

    ‘Les Miserables simply isn’t a book people read for fun’?

    Oddly enough I was asked this question some years ago and gave the same answer; similar response, but politer – counter-rotating eyeballs etc. – and “But have you actually *read* it?”

    Little voice inside my head replies “Of *course* I’ve read it, you idiot, I’m writing fan-fiction of it … ”

    This interviewer’s idea of fun clearly does not accord with mine…

  88. GreenDoor*

    This guy is an a-hole-and-a-half.
    Any recruiter that spends time giving candidates feedback wouldn’t frame it in an opnionated manner such as this. They’d phrase it as “We were looking for a lot of experience with X, which you dind’t seem to have.” Or “Your answers stressed A but in our office culture B is more important. ” Or “While you you have a lot of professional experience with Z, you haven’t supervised anyone and we’re looking for someone with experience managing Z.”

    This guy wasn’t looking to give you meaningful feedback. He was just looking for an opportunity to go on a power trip.

  89. Exhausted Trope*

    OP, it’s awful that you had to be on the receiving end of this sorry excuse for a human (I know that’s harsh but he did this not because he truly wanted to help, but because he wants to provoke and make you feel bad, so he is a sorry human).
    But please please please “forward his feedback to the person who rejected you and ask if the feedback represents the employer.”
    I imagine they’d be very interested. Perhaps shocked.

  90. PolarVortex*

    Never let anyone judge you for your reading choices! I’ve read Les Mis as a kid. Honestly my favorite book and the book I most recently read are pretentious. But dollars to donuts I’d throw out some very offbeat book if someone asked me what I’ve recently been reading, which my work did during my interview, and I actually fail-blurted about a book I was reading without thinking it through that it wasn’t work appropriate.

    Echoing what the people said here, the guy who sent you this has all the charm, personality, and emotional intelligence of a used tissue. (And that might be insulting to used tissues.)

    As people said too: this is your interview war story. You can collect them, I have a few fun ones from when I was job hunting during the economy crash of the late ’00s.

    1. Veryanon*

      Yep. It’s funny how the older I get, the less men feel compelled to act like jackasses to me in interviews. Middle-aged me has learned to give off a vibe of “Do NOT f**k with me or waste my time” that 20 and 30-something me could have used many times.

  91. Forrest Rhodes*

    Oh, my lord. What a doofus. What a toad! (With apologies to all the doofi and toads I’ve met in my life—this one makes them all look good.)

    This worm deserves exactly no further thought from you, not for one single microsecond. None of his silly little rants have anything to do with you in the slightest.

    The dogs bark, and the caravan passes. This is one dog that your caravan will quickly leave in the dust.

  92. Sawbonz, MD*

    What an idiot.
    For the record, the last book I read was some kind of guide to the “Real Housewives” franchise. Would love to hear how he would have address that. I assume there’s an appropriate “sweet spot” between that and Les Miz?

  93. kt*

    I’m going to be totally contrarian and say, wow, what a gift! hahah!

    Seriously — this is funny yet illuminating at the same time. First, I realize you can only think it’s funny if it’s not about you — but OP, *this is not about you*. This *really* isn’t about you. I’m going to steal from Tara Mohr and quote, “Feedback doesn’t tell you about yourself. It tells you about the person giving the feedback.” In this case, 1000% so. The only thing that it tells you about you is apparently the dude was interested enough to write this to you, but then again mostly tells you about him and how much time he has and what he prioritizes and how he thinks about things.

    So put on your zoologist hat and look through the window at this strange animal: he’s very concerned about passion and the appearance/communication of passion. He’s very concerned about how he looks and whether the books he likes sound like the sort of books he should like to project the image he wants. He’s very concerned about the appearance of confidence. He’s pretty narrow-minded about transferrable skills; you’ve got to have passionately traded stocks to work at the company, you have to have lessons learned from that industry not lessons from other industries. You need to ask questions about stuff he cares about.

    I think that’s really interesting. Do you have the same values as he does? Are you concerned primarily with the performance of passion and confidence, or might you be concerned about doing good work, being competent, being a good person? Does his concern with the performance of confidence lead to true friendliness, or is he signalling his company is a little piranha-tank of smiling and laughing piranhas waiting to shred you to bits once you turn your fin? And would you go out of your way to write this stuff down and send it to someone? What feeling is he trying to create for himself? Probably a feeling of security or superiority. I bet you wouldn’t feel better having sent this to someone, which again says a lot about him. What are your values? What do you know to be true? I think contrasting your own values with this dude’s will help you see how you can and should see this email as a mirror this guy held to himself.

    I don’t know if I’d send it back to the company. But I definitely think it’s an interesting event that you should work into a little story you can produce at company happy hours at your future job, because people will be, like, whoa.

    And I’m going to guess that with 80% probability you’re female as well as young, and since it’s a writing position he probably feels you’re not technical, compared to his large technical…endowments. (Sorry, I’m a woman in a STEM field, I just feel like I’ve felt this vibe before.) Not everyone is a jerk. You’ll find a company in which people are actually friendly, not fake friendly, and you have a lot to bring to the positions you’re looking at and you can stand secure in *your* value and character without being knocked off-base by some guy working out his own issues at you.

    1. Not Australian*

      “I’m going to guess that with 80% probability you’re female as well as young”…

      Ding ding ding!!!

    2. RunShaker*

      omg, the “Feedback doesn’t tell you about yourself. It tells you about the person giving the feedback.” I have department head that keeps preaching that feedback is a “gift” and needs to “flow both ways.” He talks great talk but his actions are exact opposite. Mansplaining & misogynistic. I’m saving this quote.

    3. AhabsWife*

      This is a master class in behavior studies. “So put on your zoologist hat and look through the window at this strange animal.” Love this.

    1. Trek*

      Ditto. I have wanted to reach out to a few applicants to help them on a few items i.e. resume formatting/editing and or dressing for the interview, really small things that could help them. But I always thought that would be pretentious of me so I never did it.

  94. JillianNicola*

    Throw out this entire man. What the hell.

    As a former English lit major, the Les Mis line hurts me to my core (my guy I read Beowulf for fun and I’m trying to teach myself Old English, fun is subjective, thanks), but this line really stood out to me as well:
    “When asked about an issue you had overcome, you mentioned something that had happened in a job not related to our industry”
    Was she … just supposed to make something up if she hadn’t worked in that industry before?? Bananas.

    1. Batgirl*

      How exactly can a Saxon legend about monsters, dragons and pagan origins be described without using the word fun?!

    2. Allison in Alaska*

      On the Beowulf front, have you read the Maria Dahvana Headley translation that came out in 2020? It’s astonishing. Highly recommend. It’s the most fun I’ve had with a classic in years.

      1. JillianNicola*

        I haven’t but it’s on my list! Good to know it’s recommended. I read the Seamus Heaney version in college, and I’m quite fond of that version, but I love the lilt of the original Old English.

  95. Wintermute*

    Maybe I’m reading a LITTLE too much into it, but “passionately investing privately” strikes me as a huge indicator they are looking for a very specific type of upper-class finance bro, since that’s not exactly something you can do without some capital, and “passionate” to me implies higher risk trading than buying stocks with strong fundamentals and holding them for the long term– day trading type stuff or speculative investing on off-exchange penny stocks and that sort of thing.

    Add in an undercurrent of anti-intellectualism and the desire for someone (in a job not in sales or anything related thereto) for someone that is completely confident and shows no hint of nervousness and has only industry-relevant experience, and the picture I get is they want finance bros and nothing but.

    I don’t think it’s discriminatory in the legal sense in a way you can prove, but it is a giant, magnificent red flag that the discrimination would go deeper.

    1. TX Lizard*

      Yep. Gotta have lots of disposable income to invest “passionately” (or at all).

    2. Esmerelda*

      I was thinking along these lines, too. An top of possible wealth/class and anti-intellectualism discrimination, I wonder if there was ageism at play. The OP says they are younger, and the guy said he was looking for someone who had been passionately hobby investing for years. (If that’s really what they wanted, then they should have put it in the job description requirements!) Someone who is younger probably doesn’t have the means nor the years yet to be investing “for years.” It felt like a terribly rude way to tell the OP that they should know their place in the world and stick to it. Like, “this young little whipper snapper comes in thinking they can get this job, well, I’ll show them!” I think he needs to learn the old adage of if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything.

    3. Elbe*

      Exactly. They want to hire only a specific person and they’re looking for “culture fit” reasons to excuse that.

      And the preference for hiring this type of person is exactly why the financial industry is such a mess. It’s full of people who don’t really know the value of the money they’re gambling with. They’re not open to other view points. It is a massive red flag.

      I think that this guy was trying to tear her down, but he actually revealed so, so much about his own shortcomings in the process.

  96. Bob's Your Uncle*

    I work for a pharmaceutical company, imagine how bad would it be if our employees had to be *passionate* about controlled substances.

    You’re not the problem here, OP, this guy is.

  97. Hedgehog O'Brien*

    WOW. This idiot. OP, do not take anything this person said seriously. The fact that they felt it was OK to tell you that you lacked confidence and passion after meeting you for 30 minutes in an interview situation is mind-blowing. Also, Les Mis is my favorite book and I read it for fun, so it is too a book people read for fun.

    In all seriousness, I would absolutely consider sending this to their HR/Hiring Manager/whoever you had been corresponding with and ask if this feedback was representative.

  98. Ana Gram*

    I’m reading The Book of Margery Kempe right now. Sounds pretentious but I’m reading it in modern English because I haven’t read Middle English in so long that I can’t do so easily any more. So it’s not pretentious, I guess? I’m not sure. But I am sure this guy is an ass.

    1. Prawns in the curtain rail*

      Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of my favourite stories, and I have read it in Middle English as well as modern translations (which I collect). I tend not to mention this in all-purpose public settings, for obvious reasons, so it’s always a joy to see other people casually talking about reading medieval literature for fun. Yay! I don’t think it’s any more pretentious than reading the latest Hari Kunzru, the most recent N.K Jemisin, and Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi, all of which are also currently on top of my bedtime reading pile, along with David Abulafia’s literally monumental history of the world’s oceans. I call it being a well-rounded reader, at least until the cat knocks the pile over one night, and I die under an avalanche of books. :-D

    2. history geek*

      Oh man The book of Margery Kempe is amazing read because damn I wish I had half the self confidence she did.

  99. Health Insurance Nerd*

    Oh LW, on behalf of hiring managers everywhere, I am so, so sorry that you experienced this. Echoing everyone else to say:

    This is NOT normal
    This is NOT Ok
    You are/were NOT the problem

    Please accept this for what it was- a bullet dodged, and a big ole jerk on some kind of weird power trip disguised as “helping” trying to show you how “cool and important” he is.

  100. Esmerelda*

    I’m laughing and cringing, and I’m sorry you got that email, OP. He is ridiculous.

    I think Alison and other commenters have established that you can ignore those specific points of unsolicited feedback (ugh) from that guy, but if you do want interview practice, I’d totally second the suggestion to do practice interviews with someone (someone you trust to give honest, kind feedback, and hopefully someone who has some kind of knowledge of how to interview well). One of my good friends and I do practice interviews whenever one of us is job searching (we’ve done this for the last five years or so) and the practice has helped my confidence level IMMENSELY. We take the role playing pretty seriously – the last time she interviewed for a job, I did research on the company, found out the name of the interviewer, etc., and when I called her for the practice interview, I was Jane from the Accounting Department, thanking her for coming in today. You certainly don’t have to take it that for for it to be effective, but I think it does help to picture yourself talking to the real interviewer.

    1. kt*

      Great comment :) And if you can’t find someone right away to do practice interviews with, I actually started by recording my voice on my computer: I’d rehearse saying the answers I had for common interview questions. Even that was super-helpful because I knew what I wanted to say, I had it *written down in front of me*, I have been a professor and speaker for years, and *still* I got flustered or started to ramble or said many “uh”s as I figured out a way to say things naturally and concisely. Just practicing with an external “listener” (my computer) was a fine start.

      I might have another interview coming up — time to do it again….

  101. West*

    This sounds very sadistic if you ask me. OP, you dodged a bullet. This was a huge red flag.

  102. Trek*

    Ditto. I have wanted to reach out to a few applicants to help them on a few items i.e. resume formatting/editing and or dressing for the interview, really small things that could help them. But I always thought that would be pretentious of me so I never did it.

  103. No Sleep Till Hippo*

    I’d bet a dispassionate Bitcoin this guy’s favorite book is The Game. (Or maybe The Art of the Deal?)

    That said, I’d LOVE to get him in a room with my best friend, whose far-and-away favorite book is The Brothers Karamazov. He learned Russian specifically so he could read it untranslated. I mean, he *is* pretentious about it… but in a fun way :)

    Echoing the other comments here begging for a followup, OP – I’m dying to know how the recruiter reacts to this drivel. I’ll have the popcorn ready.

  104. A tester, not a developer*

    I’m picturing him pronouncing the book title as “Less Miz-er-ables”.

  105. Aiowyn*

    OP, this is not someone you should take advice from. This guy reminds me of the time I interviewed for a position and the first two people seemed to really like me and so they brought in the owner. He asked me some normal questions but I could tell he wasn’t satisfied with my answers. Finally he asked me why I like my best friend. I have the sweetest best friend ever and talked about how caring and selfless she was. He proceeded to tell me that that wasn’t the reason I liked my best friend and nobody actually likes their friends for those reasons. I responded that I do like her for those reasons and she is legitimately the most caring person I know. He then continued to argue with me about. I regret not walking out of that interview.

    1. Esmerelda*

      Whoa… That’s messed up. Was it supposed to be some (very twisted and terrible) way of seeing how a job candidate handles a disagreement? Or was he feeling jaded and angsty because his best friend is not the most caring person knows? Maybe he didn’t have a best friend and he’s lashing out at anyone who does? My brain is just trying to make sense of this.

      1. Aiowyn*

        Yeah, it was weird. I think he thought I was fake and he was trying to get me to reveal my “true self” in front of the two managers who liked me. The dynamics he had with the managers below him were weird too.

  106. justsaying*

    OP, please take Alison’s thought and do forward this to the person who actually sent you the official rejection letter. No one should be reaching out in this sort of inappropriate, rude, unprofessional way to you, and I’m sure his company would love to hear about it.

    For what it’s worth, I’m also assuming that you’re a woman, and this feedback came from a man – and that he would never offer something like this to a male applicant. If my gender identity assumptions are wrong here, I apologize, and please ignore. If not…please, please definitely send this to the person who officially rejected you.

    1. Hemingway*

      I agree. They should know about this. I’m sure you would never apply back here and warn others off.

      But also, can you imagine working with/for this type of person??

  107. Victor Hugo's niece*

    AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH (screaming into the abyss!!!!) I saw the blurb on twitter and nearly broke the sound barrier clicking to see whether this letter writer’s experience was as awful as I thought. You are totally an awesome person who likes awesome books and is here to WRITE not be a BROKER.

    Holy smokes I’m still reeling. You will dine off this story forever. You will laugh one day at the jackwagon who told you about your passion. Keep your head up, you’ll be amazing.

  108. Archaeopteryx*

    Please forward this to the hiring manager; they should know he’s doing this to people. You may not be the first.

    But yes Lmao at this knuckle-dragger (sorry, “passionate recreational investor”) and his ridiculous high horse. With apologies to Clueless, “You’re an a-hole who does read” is the new “You’re a virgin who can’t drive.”

    1. Archaeopteryx*

      And please don’t change your book answer in future interviews! Not only is Les Mis not REMOTELY pretentious, the point of that question is usually to a) break the ice a bit and b) see how you talk about something you know well and enjoy- how clearly you communicate, how you share enthusiasm, and to see how you act when more on your element. It’s not to critique how long/short/basic/obscure/whatever your fave is.!

  109. That'sNotHowYouSpellThat*

    This email was ridiculous! There’s no way this company rejected you for what he said and getting unsolicited feedback is not normal. There is nothing wrong with being nervous during an interview (especially with a panel) and as others said, there’s no right answer to the book question. Maybe a few wrong ones haha (saying you read serial killer biographies, for example)
    See how you felt about this interview before the email and what feedback you would have given yourself, if you can at this point. That’s more important than this guy’s opinion. I find that’s the most helpful thing I can do right after an interview.

  110. Lattes for all*

    Many moons ago, when I was looking for an internship, I applied for a unpaid position at a magazine.

    I never got an interview. However, the internship coordinator sent a mass rejection email (with everyone’s email addresses included) full of “tips” on what us “losers” did wrong. Yes, he actually called us losers.

    The whole thing was so ridiculous that I just laughed it off. I’ve never given it a second thought until I read the OP’s letter. OP – have a good laugh and thank your lucky stars you didn’t end up working for this turdburger.

  111. Jubilance*

    A piece of advice I was given that I will pass onto you: Feedback is a gift, you get to decide what to do with it. You can use it or you can stick it deep in a closet, or you can even through it away.

    This is feedback that I’d definitely throw away. Don’t let him get you down.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      There is one part: It’s a what-not-to-do-or-say guide.
      Our words can cut, OP, as you are so aware right now. One thing you can do is live your life in direct opposition to what this guy is doing. Your chance will come and it will probably come up pretty soon, where you can share a few words with a stranger. You may never know, but you could be that one uplifting conversation that person had all day or even all week.
      Make that your act of defiance against this dude.

  112. Thomas Merton*

    Please do send the email to the rest of the interview panel. They deserve to know what this schmuck is doing, if they don’t already.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      If I were OP, I’d have to do it in the morning at this point. I would not trust myself at the end of the day not to include a link to this post here. Just in case someone might miss one or more talking points about all. that. is. wrong. with this email.

  113. staceyizme*

    What a petty, petty, petulant jackass of a human being this god-impersonating, gaslighting buffoon of a “manager” is! Cross his “feedback” off of your list and consider the source! I’d be very tempted to reach out to his company’s HR with some ingenue-inspired “oh, dear! was I really THAT awful?” drivel of prose in an email copied to the other hiring managers (if indeed you possess their contact data) and abjectly grovel your way into a parody of an apology that shames them into assuring you that “no, it’s NOT normal to have character assassination as normative follow-on to a job interview”. Then, share the experience on glassdoor and other such beacons of sanity so that others may be warned of the peril of hoping for humane treatment in this gothic novel of dysfunctional organizational culture.

  114. Firecat*

    11 years out of school and I laughed out loud at this guy several times!

    Your example was outside of our industry… Nah duh? It sounds like OP is a new grad and if this is an entry level role then of course?

    OP you are not pretentious, and frankly I doubt there is a baby to find in this bathwater. Throw it all out and try not to give this ass a second thought.

    However, I think OP should know that these Jerks are pretty darn common in the financial sector. I once worked on a retail sales strategy team (read sales analysts not salesmen) who rejected someone because there answer to “We are doing an office Starbucks run what do you order?” Was “I don’t like coffee so any hot Tea would do”. They thought that made him a pretentious snob.

    If you want numbers jobs outside of the finance industry try looking for these titles in any industry:

    Business analyst
    Operations analyst
    Data analyst
    Financial analyst
    Financial specialist
    Data specialist

    1. New Job So Much Better*

      Add entry level jobs in the mortgage industry. Loan Processor , Credit Analyst, Production Assistant. Usually all will train.

  115. Save the Hellbender*

    CLEARLY, OP, the most useful “tip for future interviews” is that you need to go back in time and use the time you spent reading Victor Hugo to PASSIONATELY INVEST IN THE STOCK MARKET.

  116. Fern*

    Fuuuuuck this guy. That is not constructive and it’s been repeated by many commenters, I just wanted to join in and say this is not at all how this works and don’t let him get in your head. He is an ass.

  117. TPS reporter*

    Bravo LW for coming to AAM for advice at the beginning of your career. This is 10000000x better than listening to Captain Mansplain and his ilk. Good luck to you! This blog will steer you well.

  118. Elle by the sea*

    What a colossal fool this guy is! OP, please don’t let your confidence be crushed by this buffoon. Just laugh at him and be happy about dodging a gigantic bullet.

    Well, I would certainly write a reply that they would never forget, but of course, I don’t recommend doing that. Just have a good laugh and forget about it.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I would absolutely write (and NOT send) a reply listing out everything he did wrong as an interviewer.

      “You wore a navy-and-purple tie with a light green shirt. No one wears that color combination. It was a pretentious choice. Also I don’t like navy.”

      “You offered me a cup of coffee but did not offer me any creamer. Clearly you are not detail-oriented or passionate about hospitality.”

      “You didn’t seem interested in being a team player. One of your colleagues walked by and greeted you, and you didn’t even notice.”

      “On your desk, you have three framed photos of children. One was of a little girl and two of a boy. From this I conclude that you value you son more than your daughter, and therefore that you are a terrible father to both of them because you put too much pressure on him and don’t pay enough attention to her.”

  119. Tiara Wearing Princess*

    It’s not you, it’s him.

    What an asshole.

    Teeny tiny dick syndrome.

  120. Nea*

    At the end of the day this jerk is a glass bowl
    And that all you can say for the words of this man
    Don’t struggle, just ignore
    There’s no f-s you should be giving
    One more thought spent on him, what is it for?
    Your own life you should be living

  121. bmorepm*

    yes, PLEASE forward this guy’s feedback to the company and follow Alison’s advice, and then update us. I am hopeful they will assure you he does not speak for the company and apologize profusely…if they don’t, you were lucky not to move forward there. I am SO sorry this happened to you….who thinks to themselves, wow this individual seemed nervous, let me pile on with a bunch of unsolicited, subjective feedback, and make her feel worse?

    As someone who has terrible nerves in interviews and presenting, period, that I’m constantly trying to work on, I truly empathize with you. I am not sure that being nervous means anything other then this is an important opportunity and you care about it. If someone can’t see past that, they lack foresight and empathy.

    1. Elle by the sea*

      Forwarding the feedback email to the company would be an interesting exercise but most likely a futile endeavour. I get the impression that in general it’s not just that one person – it’s the culture of the entire company that is rather problematic. I have received nearly as condescending feedback as this a couple of times and after following up on it, they explained to me that they all agreed and they actually wanted to be helpful. Oh well.

  122. Sara*

    I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a gender dynamic here. The same type of men who send “helpful’ critiques to women on the radio about how their voices sound are also prone to taking a harshly critical tone toward younger women and then cloaking it in the guise of “helpfulness.”
    But even if that’s not in play, what he did is completely inappropriate, and the OP would be justified in forwarding the note back to HR or whoever was handling hiring and letting them know it made them feel uncomfortable and seemed inappropriate. Whether OP feels comfortable doing so is of course for them to decide.

  123. Kate*

    He’s an asshole, but real talk, if Les Miserables if your favorite book, finance may not be the field for you : )

    1. Mental Lentil*

      It’s like I say every Christmas season: if you like men with beards, the color red, and stories about the redistribution of material wealth, man, have I got a great little book for you to read.

  124. Batgirl*

    You know I’ve only just realised but the handful of times my confidence has been criticized, it’s always been by people who were trying to take it away! As in they were a) excoriating me for kicks, and b) had a personal agenda. I’m quite in love with myself so it’s always been pretty amusing to hear. Has anyone ever had this said to them constructively? I may just make it in to my latest red flag.

    1. PeanutButter*

      I have had it said constructively, it was always in the context of “You are the expert on this, you have knowledge these other people are trying to learn from you, you got this!” feedback from mentors about presentations/speaking up in meetings, etc.

    2. LKW*

      If I’m prepping someone for a meeting or presentation I’ll tell them project confidence and that they know more than they think they know. I also let them know I’ll be there if they stumble and that about 90% of the time people will just go with whatever you’re saying if you say it confidently.

  125. Look forward*

    I conduct interviews almost every day and this ahole does NOT know what he is talking about. This guy is the idiot in the room riding on daddies or mommies coattails and never has been told the truth that he cant get a job with out them. Pay zero attention. I like a candidate who is a bit nervous it is very much a nerve producing to go to an interview. Pay no attention to man who get no attention at work and has to resort to emailing people random;y

  126. Properlike*

    I’m *SO* glad Alison answered my question of, “Is it appropriate to send this back to the hiring manager/interviewer and asking if it’s accurate?” Because it’s a great opportunity to use polite confusion and, assuming everyone else is decent, hopefully send a little embarrassment their way. (Trouble for him would be the icing on the cake.)

    1. Essess*

      Exactly! The company management needs to know what this person is doing behind the scenes! There’s no way this was appropriate.

  127. Nanani*

    Anybody else reading the complaint that LW dared to use answers from a job outside the industry, and thinking BroDude wanted to see that job filled by his buddy he was trying to recruit from another financebro job?