candidate read all their answers from a script, I don’t want to talk to people while they’re driving, and more

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

1. Candidate read all their interview answers from a script

Last month I had a video interview with a candidate that caught me off guard. It was a second round interview — they had already completed a phone screen with HR — and I was tasked with asking some deeper questions and providing some more technical context to the role.

It became clear quite quickly, since we were on video, that the candidate was reading from prepared notes on their screen. And not just quick references to projects or previous work, but actually reading it like a script. Even when I tried to ask some follow-up questions that they could not have prepared for, they gave a brief answer before reverting back to the script.

I’ve experienced this with candidates before but never to this extent; it felt less like a conversational interview and more like a performance! I was tempted to interrupt and ask them to ditch the notes, but second-guessed myself. They were clearly nervous, and I didn’t want to make it worse. But should I have said something?

I would have. You were looking for a conversation with real back and forth, not pre-written answers read aloud to you. Otherwise you could have just sent over written questions and asked for written responses — but you didn’t because you presumably need to get a sense of what the person’s communication skills will be like on the job (when they presumably will not be able to always rely on prepared scripts). Moreover, you don’t have any way of knowing who wrote those answers — anyone could have written them, in which case you’re not getting anything useful from the interview.

I’d recommend saying something in the moment like, “It seems like you might be reading from a script. Can you set aside the notes so we can have a more natural conversation, since we’ll need to do that all the time if we work together?” (Obviously it’s fine for someone to glance at notes when they want to refresh their memory on something specific, but that’s a different thing than reading scripted answers.)

You do want to make accommodations for disabilities (including things like anxiety if they rise to that level), but scripted responses are a tough one to pull off, since you generally do need to assess communication skills. In theory, accommodations that will significantly change the interview process should be discussed ahead of time (as opposed to the candidate just changing something fundamental without talking with you first to make sure it won’t prevent you from evaluating them for the job, as it did here).

2. I don’t want to talk to coworkers while they’re driving

How might an organization go about barring employees from taking work calls while driving, and is this a reasonable thing to ask of staff? If there is no official policy, is it OK to politely end a call with a colleague if they get in their car? It makes me deeply uncomfortable to see/hear colleagues while they are driving, out of concern for their safety and the safety of everyone around them. (To be clear, I’m only bothered when my colleague is the actual driver, not just a passenger.)

An organization could have a policy that people can’t take work calls while driving because of safety concerns. You’d want to be clear that you were banning hands-free calls as well, assuming that’s the case. You’d also need to make sure managers didn’t undermine the policy by pressuring people to be on calls while they needed to be driving somewhere.

As an individual employee in an organization without that policy, when you don’t want to continue a call with someone who’s driving it’s okay to say, “Let’s finish this when you’re not driving.” If the person assures you it’s fine, you could say, “I’ve read too many horror stories to be comfortable with it” or “The statistics on accidents even with hands-free calls are really scary. Let’s pick it back up later today instead?”

3. I failed the marshmallow challenge

At our new office building’s housewarming, my great-grandboss also showed up. I ended up in a party game team with him, my grandboss, and her colleague. I’m a low-level manager myself. We had to do the marshmallow challenge where you build a tower with marshmallows and spaghetti.

I started full of confidence, telling the others what to do and all (cringe!). When the time was almost up, the tower was wobbly, but it held and was reasonably high. Then I wanted to add one more spaghetti strand to make it even higher. Everyone told me not to. I did it anyway. The whole thing collapsed.

This was the first and only time I met the great-grandboss. I don’t get a chance to work with my grandboss that often either. Will they think I’m an obnoxious, recklessly ambitious risk-taker, and have I just destroyed my chances to move up in this part of the (rather large) organization? What do you think?

Assuming you’re at a reasonably healthy organization, it’s just meant to be a fun game, not something where people are likely to draw unflattering conclusions about your work habits. Of course, if your behavior was really over the line — like getting so competitive that you became hostile or threw a tantrum after not winning — that would be concerning, but otherwise people are likely to just figure it was all in good fun (and a more reasonable amount of competitiveness can be a part of that).

As long as your team mates were laughing and didn’t seem annoyed, this shouldn’t be a big deal, although you might be in for some ribbing. There are some people who read ridiculous signs into pretty much anything (see last week’s cranberry juice example), but they are not the norm.

Read an update to this letter here

4. How much should I tell my employee about why I’m rejecting their significant other?

I am hiring for a role on my team. One of my team members suggested their significant other for the role. Since they would be in the same position with no authority over the other, there’s no technical rule against this in our company policy. Both understand that this could hinder their ability to move up in our department, however, and are still interested in moving forward.

On paper, they are a good candidate. But something in their phone screen gave me pause. They mentioned that they would only be able to work a specific shift, not the one we are hiring for. When I asked if that was a deal-breaker for them, they said it was, but that they knew their partner would be okay with moving to that other shift. This made me think my current employee might be put in the awkward position of helping their partner or covering for them in a way they wouldn’t for other people on our team. We are working from home currently, so this candidate would also likely be leaning on their partner for work help by default, and that sounds like a bad position to be in.

I am giving them a full interview out of respect for my employee, who is fantastic and I very much want to keep happy. But when I do reject them, I’m curious how much detail I should give the candidate and current employee. I especially don’t want my employee to be bitter about how things went, but I understand that from a privacy standpoint, it’s also not their business. What is the right balance of information to give here?

It’s fine to just say you had a competitive applicant pool and you hired someone who was a stronger fit. But you want to, it should also be okay to explain (to either or both) that you’re hiring for the X shift and they’d said they weren’t available for it. If your employee says they themselves could have moved to that shift, you could respond, “I appreciate that, but I’m not looking to switch people around; the open position is for that shift.” You could also point out that if you were open to moving shifts around, you would have wanted to screen all the candidates with that in mind, not just make an exception for one person.

Your concern that your current employee might feel pressured to cover for their partner is a reasonable one since the partner introduced it into the conversation, but I wouldn’t get into that with either of them when you have easier, cleaner explanations to use.

5. Finally meeting my coworkers face-to-face

I’ve worked at the same place for almost five years. In January, I switched teams while we were all still remote. Since then, I’ve only met one person from my new team in person, though I’ve frequently had Zoom meetings (we don’t usually use video due to bandwidth issues). The team I joined has been together for the most part for four years with only minor changes and works together well. Several people have already started going back to the office, but I haven’t yet because my desk hasn’t been moved from my old team’s area to the new one yet.

How do I form relationships in person with these folks who I’ve only met virtually when I go back in the next couple of weeks? I’m not super new anymore, so it seems weird to be like “I’m the new engineer!” … it’s been seven months. Do I wander around and try to introduce myself? Do I put a note up that I’m in the office and hope people will come by to say hello? Do I start showing up in the conference rooms for meetings that are hybrid that I’ve only attended virtually? I’m really at a loss here. I’m sure it’s one of those things that will seem silly in a couple months when it’s behind me, but right now it just seems so strange!

You can do any of those things! They’re all fine. And when you do meet someone face-to-face for the first time, you’ll just say, “It’s good to finally meet in person!” or “It’s nice to finally put a face to the voice” or any of the other somewhat trite but very useful phrases designed for exactly this situation. Your coworkers will say something similar, and that will be it!

As for forming relationships, you can say things like “Now that we’re in-person, I’d love to pick your brain about Work Topic X if you have time sometime” or suggest coffee or so forth. Of course, that’s assuming that people in your office seem comfortable sharing physical space; adjust accordingly if they’re not or if you’re not. (I’m talking about Covid here, not speculating that you otherwise work in office of hermits.)

{ 419 comments… read them below }

  1. Voice of Reason*

    OP2: That’s not something for you to worry about.

    You’re obviously free not to take or make calls while you’re driving. But you have no standing to tell a coworker not to use Bluetooth.

    1. Kella*

      I think it’s also reasonably within OP’s control to decide they don’t want to continue a phone conversation with someone who’s driving. That’s not telling their coworker they can’t use Bluetooth. It’s deciding you don’t want to be a participant in them doing that. It would probably be crossing the line to say “You really shouldn’t be talking on the phone while driving, you know” before hanging up. But just, “Can we resume this conversation once you’ve finished your drive?” isn’t overstepping.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep. It’s anyone’s right to decline to participate in something they don’t feel comfortable with. They’re not telling the coworker what they can do in general; they’re saying they personally aren’t up for being part of a phone call they don’t consider safe.

      2. Voice of Reason*

        Respectfully, that’s a distinction without a difference. I would have a serious problem with a coworker who tries to police my use of Bluetooth in any way.

        1. Chc34*

          This is a weird hill to die on because in my mind it’s no different than, say, trying to have a call with a coworker who is clearly eating and instead being like “Sounds like you’re busy, I’ll call you back later!” That’s not policing their eating habits, it’s deciding to continue the conversation at a different time.

          1. Lacey*

            Absolutely. Even if it weren’t dangerous (and I understand that it is) people can’t really focus in the same way, so it wouldn’t be crazy to say, “Let’s wait till later!”

            I used to have a client who would call me while he was driving, with his windows down, and he’d be trying to take notes. It was terrifying, hard to hear, unproductive, and he never remembered what we talked about later.

            1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              Yeah, this is I think the salient point- I occasionally have hands-free conversations in the car, but my attention is on the road, with maybe 10% left for conversation. That’s fine when my mom is telling me about her day, not fine in a work context. Driving and talking on the phone is one of those things where both can’t be done well simultaneously, and it’s reasonable for you to want your colleague to neither drive distracted nor bring their D-game to a work conversation.

            2. lilsheba*

              when I worked in the hell that was credit card customer service I got an amazing amount of people calling us while driving, when they had to dig out their credit card and read info off of it. It always made me anxious and I would literally ask people to pull over first. I do NOT want to be the one to hear you crash and die.

            3. myswtghst*

              Exactly. I totally understand how busy some of my colleagues are, and why they try to do this, but it’s almost never worth the time we spend on the phone because it’s rarely a productive conversation and they are never as good at multitasking as they believe themselves to be. Unless I’m seeking a yes/no answer to a relatively simple question, I would much rather reschedule to a time when we can both focus (and I can share my screen if needed).

            4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              I had a friend call me at work, she wanted my kids to go to a birthday party after school. My kids were staying on at after-school day care because I was working late, and they’d be doing their homework then, there wouldn’t be time for that once I got home. Also, my friend wasn’t on the list of people who were allowed to pick my kids up. She said brightly that I could call the school. I started to explain that normally the school required a signature, and I didn’t have time to call because I was very busy, hence the staying late, but then she suddenly said “oops I nearly had an accident there”, so I said no way was she picking my kids up from school in her car.

          2. Smithy*

            This is immediately where my mind went – but mostly because they’re situations I most commonly encounter with my mother as opposed to work. Essentially, moments in her day where she’s in the mood to multitask (drive and chat, eat and chat, etc.), and there are times when I’m more or less interested.

            To play an extreme version of devil’s advocate, should the person in question have a job with a significant amount of driving where that represents the bulk of their time not otherwise in meetings/engaged. Therefore not taking calls while driving pushes someone to work more after hours. However, in those situations, presumably there are ways to make those calls as quick and functional as possible and then attempt to schedule longer meetings less frequently when they can be done outside of the car.

          3. quill*

            I often can’t hear very well if someone is making a pone call while in a car, period. Over the speakers I pick up traffic noise much more strongly than anyone’s voice, and that’s not taking into account the extremely spotty cell service when someone is on the highway. (The primary culprit of “calling me from where it’s impossible to understand you” is my mother, and while I understand she needs to do something to entertain herself while a passenger on the highway…)

            For a work call I’d want to be doubly sure that the person I’m talking to can actually pay attention to the conversation (including making notes or looking something up) so I’d object to both 1) listening to them chew into the microphone 2) trying to have a conversation with a colleague who’s in the car.

          4. Allison*

            That’s what I was thinking. “Oh, are you driving right now? This isn’t urgent, let’s chat when you’re off the road” or “can you pull into a parking lot real quick? I’d hate to distract you while driving, but this is time sensitive” seem like perfectly reasonable things to say.

        2. MassMatt*

          You are oddly fixated on this “policing my use of Bluetooth”issue when the letter doesn’t mention it at all. Talking on the phone (using Bluetooth or not) significantly distracts people from driving. If LW does not feel comfortable contributing to coworkers distraction while driving, that’s up to them. You can have your “serious problem” with them if you want. Whatever that looks like.

          1. Quickbeam*

            I was a medical advisor for a state DOT. I did refuse to take calls from people driving. Daily. Pull over or call me when you are at your destination. It’s certifiably unsafe.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          This is a bizarre take. You have the right to decline to talk to someone whenever there are conditions that make you disinclined to have the conversation at that particular time, whether it’s because they’re simultaneously carrying on a separate conversation with someone else in their car, or stuck in a wind tunnel where you can’t hear them easily, or doing something you don’t want to participate in (whether it’s distracted driving or catcalling pedestrians every five minutes while you’re trying to discuss the Jones report). It’s not about policing anyone; it’s you choosing not to have the conversation at that particular time.

          1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

            It’s not about policing anyone; it’s you choosing not to have the conversation at that particular time.

            Some people don’t think that other people have the right to set boundaries or have preferences where they’re concerned.

          2. Curious*

            On the one hand, I think that OP2 is indeed “policing” the people who are engaging in communication while driving. I don’t think that “policing” depends on whether or not we approve of the behavior being policed.
            On the other hand, I think that OP2’s policing is entirely appropriate — both on ethical grounds and because of the potential for shared liability for a crash.

            1. Pippa K*

              Surely policing would be “you can’t do that,” rather than “I’m not going to join you in doing that.”

              1. Elsajeni*

                Well, the OP does also ask if their organization could ban taking calls while driving; I think it’s fair to say that they would like to police this behavior. But I also agree with the general thrust in this thread that it’s not “policing” to say “oh, you’re driving — I’ll call you back later” and hang up, any more so than saying “oh, it’s getting late — I’ll call you about this tomorrow” is policing how you manage your schedule.

          3. Apw*

            I agree with AAM that you are always free to decline a conversation. In doing so, be aware that the other person is not necessarily obligated to reschedule the conversation with you. As a single mom in a senior role with lots of meetings, I often take advantage of driving time to take calls. This helps me extend my day. If someone was unwilling to take that time because they felt their judgment of my choice outweighed my own, they would go to the bottom of the priority list for a rescheduled appointment. Honestly if I’m taking it from the road it likely wasn’t my highest priority meeting to start with, it was more likely something I was fitting in.

        4. A.N. O'Nyme*

          OP doesn’t want to be on the hook (either through court or just in their own mind) for whatever damage or death you cause if you do get in an accident. What you do is your prerogative, OP didn’t say anything about controlling someone else’s Bluetooth use.

        5. Dark Macadamia*

          This is fascinating. If someone doesn’t want to continue a call while you’re pooping, would they be policing your use of the toilet?

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            But, what about my freedom of speech to broadcast the grunts and plops over the airwaves whenever I want? /s

            1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

              Two words for you, Keymaster:

              Podcast. Gold.

              (I’m not sure if my comment is meant to be a joke or not…).

          2. Lego Leia*

            This is where my mind went, too. I declined to follow someone into the bathroom IN PERSON to continue a conversation. I did not see my self as “policing their bathroom usage” so much as respecting boundaries. If I don’t want to talk to someone when they Y, and Y is not directly a work thing (like, in a meeting together), then I don’t have to. That’s my boundary, and I get to enforce it. Can’t stand work convos in the break room? Or outside while you smoke? Or while you do something personal? Then I don’t have to talk with you then.

        6. Observer*

          I would have a serious problem with a coworker who tries to police my use of Bluetooth in any way.

          Refusing to have a conversation with you while you are driving is not “policing” anything, much less your use of bluetooth.

          1. MassMatt*

            …and, how is the LW even supposed to know whether they are using tech (Bluetooth or not) for a hands-free conversation vs: just holding their phone? Hands-free is still a distraction, but I see people driving while holding their phones all the time.

            1. Observer*

              Sure. Agreed 100% But even if you did know for sure that someone is using Bluetooth, that doesn’t mean you are not allowed to make a choice.

        7. Kella*

          I am not in any way controlling *your* behavior by making a decision to change my own. As others have said, it’s really no different than deciding you want to call back later cause they’re in a place with a lot of background noise. People get to decide when and where they take phone calls. If the thing you want to avoid is someone *judging* your decision to talk on your cell phone in the car, even if they never say anything to that effect, that’s not something that’s in your control. People get to have opinions and they get to change their own behavior accordingly.

        8. Caroline Bowman*

          No one would be policing you, but they’d be declining to converse with a driver on the phone. By insisting that they should do this, are you not in fact trying to… police them?

        9. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          To use an analogy: I reluctantly accept that there are people who will refuse to get vaccinated for non medical reasons. I can still refuse to be around them.

          That’s not policing their views. It’s merely a single consequence.

        10. JB*

          You can engage in whatever dangerous activities you like, but you cannot force someone else to be an unwilling participant in them.

          If someone doesn’t want to be an auditory witness to your potential car accident (with all the trauma and guilt that could bring) they are well within their rights to refuse to continue the conversation, the same way they would be if you wanted to keep talking while audibly using the toilet engaging in sexual activity, etc.

          1. Allison*

            Or in line at the store! If someone’s talking to me on the phone but they’re, say, checking out at the grocery store or picking up at the pharmacy, I’d rather they put me on hold, or hang up and call me back when they’re done.

        11. RagingADHD*

          You are perfectly at liberty to have a problem with it. That problem is yours, not your (hypothetical) coworker’s.

          Your personal feelings on the matter have no more bearing on your coworker’s right to decline, than their feelings have on your right to use Bluetooth.

          If calling while driving is legal and within company policy, it’s your choice. But you have no right to police your colleague’s opinions or preferences.

        12. NeutralJanet*

          I mean, I would have a serious problem with a coworker who passionately insisted on driving unsafely and took it as a personal insult when anyone gently suggests that that’s a bad idea, so I guess you and I would have mutual trouble working together. I’m pretty confident that I would get to claim the moral superiority in that conflict, though, being as my “objectionable” behavior is legal in all jurisdictions and virtually certain not to cause anyone’s death or severe injury.

        13. Jenn*

          Plus, I get pretty bored while driving and a phone conversation is way safer than most easy distractions in the car.

          1. Amaranth*

            I have a bit of pause at ‘distractions in the car’ because I think of those as inherently bad things, but I agree that on a long drive or when you are feeling tired, having someone on the phone can be helpful. Trying to concentrate on the substance of a call and think through work problems while simultaneously maintaining awareness of traffic, however, is a skill many, many people do not have.

        14. KTC0516*

          I agree. I am in sales and travel frequently for work, including lots of driving. Driving and talking on the phone is an almost daily part of my job; there’s no realistic way around it if I want to make all my appointments on time and be available as my customers need me to be. I’d be annoyed and whatever this person wanted would drop to the bottom of my priority list.

        15. Librarian1*

          Okay, maybe you should rethink your use of bluetooth then? Honestly, I wouldn’t want to be on a call while someone’s driving not just because the call is distracting them from driving, but because the driving is distracting them from the call. If I’m talking to someone I want to know that they’re actually paying attention to me.

      3. Jessica*

        I have one friend who won’t talk on the phone to anyone who’s driving. She’s not annoyingly sanctimonious about it, she just tries not to do it. I don’t call her while driving, and though I haven’t completely given up talking on the phone while driving, her example reminds me that it’s a bad idea and probably contributes to my doing less of it. I appreciate her as a good influence.

    2. Hazel*

      But the OP isn’t telling other people what to do. They’re saying that they are not comfortable talking with other people while those people are driving. And they’re hoping their company would ban taking calls while driving. And they might be in a role where they have standing to make this rule – we don’t know from the letter.

      1. Panhandlerann*

        Exactly. And they might be someone in a position of authority where the other person feels pressured to be on the call with them, even though the other person doesn’t really feel comfortable talking while driving.

    3. Not playing your game anymore*

      Would you say you don’t have the right to try to dissuade someone who’d been drinking from getting behind the wheel? “While 80% of drivers in the U.S. think using a hands-free device while driving is safer than using a hand-held phone, studies have, unfortunately, indicated that this simply isn’t true. According to the National Safety Council, 24% of all call crashes involve cell phone conversations, hand-held and otherwise. In fact, some research even suggests that talking on the phone through a hands-free device is more dangerous than driving drunk! “

      1. Voice of Reason*

        “24% of all call crashes involve cell phone conversations, hand-held and otherwise”

        And 73% of statistics are made up.

        To answer the question, though, there’s a big difference between Bluetooth and DUI. One is legal, and the other is not.

        1. BluetoothIsn’tMagic*

          That will make a world of difference to someone who’s slammed into by a Bluetooth-using driver, I am sure.

          Everyone has the responsibility not to endanger others unnecessarily.

          1. Retro*

            It will make a world of difference insofar that a civil judgement from a DUI isn’t usually dischargeable in bankruptcy and a judgement from any other collision usually is. :-) But I don’t think that’s what you were going for.

            I applaud OP2’s stance. As a teen I was in the car a lot while my parents were on work calls and it wasn’t a good experience. More speeding, more braking, weird sharp turns, etc – I could feel the distraction.
            If the conversation was difficult, unpleasant, or stressful this got worse.

            1. Kal*

              My parents were very cautious about using phones while driving, even well before there was publicised stats on how dangerous it was. Usually, if a call needed to happen, one of us passengers would be deputised to be the one actually doing the speaking on the phone, so the driver could concentrate on driving. So even aside from the safety aspect, I can’t imagine someone can have actually productive work calls while driving. Either their driving sucks and is dangerous cause they are focusing on thinking about work, or their conversation sucks and is useless because they are focusing on driving. Humans are not the multi-taskers we often convince ourselves we are.

              Very, very few things are so urgent that they can’t wait until you can either get to your destination or you can find a place to safely pull over. And almost all of those very few things involve emergency services being on the other end of the line, not work.

              1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                “Humans are not the multi-taskers we often convince ourselves we are.”

                Super relevant to many questions submitted, honestly.

                1. Amaranth*

                  My daughter gets frustrated with me that I can’t always remember what she just told me in the car when I’m really focused on traffic, but she says if I can’t focus on two things at once she’d rather the traffic win.

              2. quill*

                This is why shotgun’s seat is job is navigation / fiddling with stuff / secretarial if you go on a road trip. Driver picks the music, passenger gets to make the radio work.

          2. John Smith*

            My organisation has a complete ban on phone calls when driving, even if using hands free and for a very good reason.

            I’ve refused to get in a car with someone who regularly makes phone calls when driving at work and – for once – was supported in my stance by HR when my manager tried to write me up for it.

            As to the OPs question, surely it’s a simple case of the employer introducing a rule of no calls allowed while driving? If anyone starts jumping on the free speech bandwagon, they can be reminded that they can talk at any other time.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              I fully applaud your stance. I’m the same. You wanna chat on the phone in your car? You do you sis, but I ain’t getting in it.

            2. Lily Rowan*

              But how many of us can get our employer to implement any kind of rule on our own? That’s much harder than individually declining to talk to someone while they are driving.

        2. allathian*

          Depends on where you are. Where I am, talking or texting on the phone while driving is illegal. It’s sort of a dead letter, because cops have better things to do than flag people down for talking on the phone. That said, if someone gets into an accident and it can be proved that they were on the phone, they’re liable for reckless driving and their auto insurance has to pay up for the other party’s damages, whether or not they were actually guilty of causing the accident.

          1. UKDancer*

            In the UK it’s legal to use a phone hands free but you can be prosecuted if you are distracted by doing so. My company does have a policy that employees not make or receive calls while driving because they are concerned about the fact it does increase risk. You are 4x more likely to be in a crash if you are using your mobile phone while driving according to research in the UK.

            I think it’s fine for the OP to say “I can hear that you’re driving, I’ll call you back when you get to your destination.” It may be legal to use a hands free phone but it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. It certainly is I think fine for the OP not to want to talk to someone who is doing so.

            1. Regular Reader*

              +1. My company also had that policy. I ended a call, politely, more than once when I realised someone was driving. Sometimes the driver phoned back and apologised, sometimes they argued even though it was company policy.
              I’ve even heard of companies with a policy of ending ANY call when they realise the caller is driving regardless who is phoning in.
              There was also some debate in the UK about Corporate Liability if an employee was the cause of an accident whilst driving on company business and making calls even using hands free. Don’t believe this has ever been tested in court.

              1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

                My current company has that policy. You’re not to take calls while driving – if you get a call coming in and it’s one you think you need to answer promptly you have to pull over at the next available safe location and call back.

        3. Well...*

          NPYGA cited their source. You could easily find the origin of that statistic and verify that it’s not made up? Unlike you stat which which has no source, so using the two as if they have equal weight is a false equivalence.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I think it’s meant to be an example of the sort of reasoning that Voice of Reason will be reasonably reasoning with.

        4. Observer*

          there’s a big difference between Bluetooth and DUI. One is legal, and the other is not.

          So? Reasonable people recognize that things that are legal may still be unwise, unethical, and / or unsafe. Insisting that this is not relevant is hardly making you the “voice of reason”.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Hands-free driving is still unsafe and distracted driving.

            It’s legal to drive while talking hands-free in my state, but I won’t have a work-related discussion with a colleague while they’re driving. I need their focus, yes, but when they’re behind the wheel I’d rather they focus on driving without hitting someone – or worse.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              I’m massively biased, I admit.

              The guy who smashed his lorry into my car at 70mph was found later to have been talking on the phone at the time.

              During a work phone call especially a part of the mind has to be diverted to sounding professional/the task or problem being discussed/etc regardless of whether one’s hands are physically on the wheel or not. That’s attention not on the road, least in my massively biased opinion.

              Listening to the radio et al while driving doesn’t have the same problem as it’s purely passive.

              It’s for these reasons that I’ll flat out refuse to talk to anybody who is driving when I call them – and why my mobile phone lives in the passenger side footwell when I’m driving. Out of reach.

            2. Observer*

              Hands-free driving is still unsafe and distracted driving.

              Exactly. Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it safe or a good idea. I have no idea why “but it’s legal” is seen as such a winning argument in these types of situations.

              1. nona*

                It’s only legal until enough people have died from it. And then legislation will pass to make it illegal. Everything starts out as legal until there is an incident big enough to drive political will to make it illegal.

                There was a point in time when driving while intoxicated was also not illegal.

        5. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          You seem oddly determined to die on this particular hill. You certainly have that right, but I really hope you will carefully consider the points that been raised in these comments (including reading the article Alison posted), as someday your life (or someone else’s) may literally depend on it.

        6. JB*

          It’s also legal to hold a work conversation while you’re on the toilet, but I’m hanging up on you if you do that, too.

          (Quite aside from the fact that there are many places, both in the US and elsewhere, where it is NOT legal to drive while using BlueTooth. Because it’s dangerous, whether you want to acknowledge that or not.)

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Was coming to say this. It’s not legal everywhere – and if you do it in those places you’ll know what real “policing” of your Bluetooth use looks like, because it’s not what you describe.

            1. Curious*

              That is an excellent point! While folks are quick to use the term in online fora (and I think that the term is broader than some others do), the real, physical thing — being pulled over by a cop– is much more impactful, by a quantum leap.

        7. NeutralJanet*

          Many statistics are indeed made up! Some aren’t, though. Did you check the source cited and see that it was not based on any real data?

        8. NotAnotherManager!*

          Boy, you would hate my organization, then, because they do ban work-related calls while driving, regardless of method of connectivity. It was strongly recommended from a risk analysis they had done based on non-made-up studies that distracted driving is dangerous and not worth the risk of a lawsuit if someone discussing company business doesn’t have full attention on the road and causes an accident. (This is particularly important in horrific DC traffic where your risk of being in a car wreck is higher than the national average.)

        9. Uranus Wars*

          Actually in the state my mom lives in Bluetooth/hands-free is illegal, not sure how it’s enforced.

        10. SheLooksFamiliar*

          ‘To answer the question, though, there’s a big difference between Bluetooth and DUI. One is legal, and the other is not.’

          It’s also legal for me to refuse to talk to you while you’re driving. For that matter, it’s legal for me to scold you for doing it, which is not something the OP even hinted she would do.

          You don’t like people who disagree with your take on this issue? Fine, but don’t argue against a point no one made.

        11. A commenter*

          In many places, neither are legal. There are a couple states banning even handsfree use of cellphones while driving, and many cities do as well.

      2. Dancing Otter*

        It sounds more like VOR would object to someone trying to stop *them* from driving drunk.
        One’s right to do as one chooses stops short of endangering others.

    4. Eden*

      I would really suggest reading the article Alison posted there. I’m on the author’s side – you can do whatever you want on your own time but I won’t be a part of it.

    5. Caroline Bowman*

      I think if OP2 doesn’t feel comfortable being on the phone with someone who is driving, then they do in fact have standing, at least 95% of the time. If their grand-boss calls them from the road, then perhaps not, but in general, it’s quite reasonable to arrange to speak at a different time.

      The last company I worked for where this was something that came up frequently had a wonderful grand boss who said ”no one may ever, during working hours, speak on their cell phones while driving. If they do and they’re caught, the most severe legally-allowed consequence will apply. No bluetooth, no hands-free, nothing. Clients who don’t like it may certainly speak with me about it” Considering that many staff were on the road for quite substantial periods, this was a big commitment, but he stuck to it. Not worth the risk to anyone’s life, nor the lives of other road-users.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      “SEE” them when they’re driving?!
      These people are taking video calls. I know no place where drivers are allowed to watch TV.
      My company has a policy against distracted driving on company time — we do not want to be cited in a court case for why a driver was looking at a video screen when they struck and killed someone.
      Phone only, OP still can still say “it sounds like you’re in traffic, I’d rather reschedule for a safer time.”

      1. SarahKay*

        I wonder if OP is using ‘see’ in the metaphorical sense, along the lines of “I could see they were up to no good”? That might make more sense; as you say being on a video call while driving is such a spectacularly bad idea that it seems unlikely.

        1. KateM*

          I definitely have SEEN someone being on video call while driving. True, it was a lecture and he was one of students, but that just means that most of time I wasn’t aware that he was driving while listening, only when he switched his video on to participate in discussion.

    7. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I’ve absolutely told staff, coworkers, friends, family etc that if they’re driving when I call I prefer they don’t pick up. Even on hands free. If they do pick up and it’s obvious they are in the car I’ll say ‘let me know when you’re not driving and I’ll call you back’

      That is in no way me legislating their personal use. I can’t help what they do the rest of the time but I won’t talk to them while they’re driving. It scares me to do so.

    8. GMan*

      It takes two people to have a conversation. If one party is not comfortable having the conversation, then the conversation should end. You’re right to say that OP2 can’t tell a coworker not to use bluetooth, but by the same token the bluetooth user has no standing to force OP2 to have a conversation with them.

    9. lost academic*

      My last firm had a strict policy of absolutely no calls, work or otherwise, while driving. Many of our clients (largely oil and gas companies) had similar policies which was one of the big reasons it started. People had been fired over it. The policy is entirely legal.

  2. Sami*

    For OP2: (and anyone else who needs to quickly wrap up a phone call) “Let me let you go.” Add before or after a quick word or phrase and you’re done. “Talk to you on Tuesday. Bye.” “I’ll send the report tomorrow.”

    1. Anon in midwest*

      Yes, or something like, “I’m going to have to let you go, my spouse is calling”

      Easy white lie to get out of any uncomfortable calls

      1. JustAThought*

        I would leave family out of any reason. That can be viewed as unprofessional to take family call over work call. Just ask to jump off call.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Agreed — saying that in the middle of a work call will seem odd, unless you explain it’s an emergency.

          And none of this works on scheduled phone calls; if the OP has a scheduled call, starts the conversation, and realizes the person is driving, it would be odd to cut things off that way. In those cases, they’ll need to be straightforward using wording like in the post (or if they really don’t want to, they could claim connection issues, I suppose).

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            If I can hear car sounds I’ll say they are making the call too hard for me.
            I’m really still stuck on the “or see” phrase which implies video. That’s so wrong.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              I’ve called candidates for scheduled phone interviews, only to find out they’re in a car. Once they confirm they’re behind the wheel, I tell them, ‘I’m going to reschedule our call for when you’re not on the road, I’ll email you later today with times…’ I don’t ask, I tell them I’m rescheduling. They usually find a place to park, or agree to reschedule. They understand why I’m doing it, too. A phone interview requires some thought and engagement, leading to distracted driving.

              When someone digs in their heels, I tell them the truth. A long-ago candidate hit someone during my phone screen, thankfully just a minor fender-bender, but I vowed, ‘Never again.’

              1. Love WFH*

                Talking on the phone while driving makes your driving less safe — this has been established by research. I was running the Skype for the daily standup meeting when someone joined from his car. I told him he could catch up later, and hung up on him. If I’d tolerated that, we might have had more people trying it, and it’s not worth risking an accident to participate in a 15 minute status meeting.

              2. Librarian1*

                I can’t believe someone would conduct an interview, even just a phone screen, while driving! Why wouldn’t you want to be 100% focused on the call?

          2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            I just say, “Sounds like you are driving so I will just catch you later. Bye!” and hang up. I’ve never had a coworker respond with anything other than, “Thanks, I’ll be back ____. Bye!”

        2. quill*

          I was taught that “there’s someone on the other line” was the unquestionable white lie that ended a phone conversation no matter what.

          1. Jessica*

            I would find that rude in at least some circumstances. The person you’re not talking to isn’t always more important than the person you are talking to.

            1. quill*

              This was before caller ID when I learned it, so you never knew if the person on the other end was your parents, your boss, or a telemarketer.

          2. SheLooksFamiliar*

            And I was taught to say, ‘I’m getting a long-distance call.’ Both white lies make me think, ‘You’re on a call with me *now*, that’s why we have voicemail.’

            I don’t think there’s a need to tell even a white lie, just say you won’t carry on a business call while the person is driving. Tell them you’ll reconnect with them later, or ask them to call you back when they’re stationary.

  3. Anonariffic*

    I read the heading for #3 and was very suddenly visualizing an interview situation where the hiring manager put a marshmallow on the table and promised *two* marshmallows if the interviewee could resist eating it until the end of their meeting.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          It’s a link within one of the answers on that post (assuming you saw the same link I did, which didn’t obviously include anything about cranberry juice).

    1. A Girl Named Fred*

      I thought it would be something like the game “chubby bunny”, where you have to put more and more marshmallows in your mouth until you can no longer pronounce “chubby bunny.” I am SO glad that I was wrong!!

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Ha, I don’t know, I was very invested in what catastrophe could have occurred there before I actually read the question.

      1. Well...*

        Hah me too! I wondered how someone would fail that challenge. The only way to win is not to play?

        1. Wendy*

          “Thanks, I’m excited to be interviewing here with you tod–ooh, marshmallows! *Chomp*”

          Which, I admit, would probably not reflect well on the interviewee :-P

        2. Countess of Upstairs Downstairs*

          I googled “Chubby Bunny” thinking it would be super funny, but one of the results on the 1st page indicated that sadly, there’s been 2 recorded choking deaths related to the game.

          I guess that’s one way to fail the challenge.

      2. a tester, not a developer*

        A lady died at our local fair during a chubby bunny contest. If someone suggested it as a team building exercise it would go over very poorly.

    2. MassMatt*

      So many marshmallow challenges, the only one I’d ever heard of is they one you mention.

      Building a tower with marshmallows and spaghetti (dried, I assume) is odd, is this a thing for team building now?

      1. Cinderella Sparklepants*

        I have heard of all of those things, but my mind also went to the one with the toddlers getting a second marshmallow. It was good for a laugh.
        In response to MassMatt, though, I have done spaghetti and marshmallow towers as a team-building exercise. It was reasonably entertaining.

        1. Usagi*

          OldCompany had one too, where we had different departments mix into teams as well. Due to that, every team had at least one mechanical engineer, and most also had architects. We saw some truly amazing spaghetti/marshmallow towers that day.

      2. metadata minion*

        That one’s been around for a long time, but I mostly associate it as a thing you do with teenagers and frame as being vaguely educational.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yeah I think i did something like this in school. Might have been toothpicks instead of spaghetti.

      3. EmKay*

        The marshmallow and dried spaghetti tower was a BIG hit in my workplace, but I’m an admin on a team of engineers, so… and boy howdy were they ever competitive about who won!

      4. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I had to do it once as a group exercise at a job where we had a consultant come in and help us with team building. Some of what she did with us was useful but man, oh man, I HATED the marshmallow/spaghetti tower. Our job had nothing to do with design or architecture (it was political in nature) and I am not at all talented at that sort of thing. I basically shut off during that exercise, and when we had a post-mortem, I told them all that (nicely). Just not my thing, and also I don’t think this particular challenge is even interesting. Like, when I took art history in HS we had to build a gothic cathedral out of foam core, and even though I was lousy at that too, it was a fun group activity, especially seeing what the other, more talented groups built. But spaghetti and marshmallows? Pretty dang boring.

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          The point of the marshmallow challenge is to show the value of collaboration, not technical expertise.

          That said we had something like it (with different materials) as part of a teambuilding retreat with some annoying consultants. My group crushed everyone because I spoke first, told everyone my idea (which was bizarre and almost gaming the system) and asked everyone to pretend we doing something else so no other team could copy us. Then we implemented my (solo) idea right before the end. That success gave me confidence to criticise the next exercise about the value of cooperation by saying how one person would be much more effective.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Well, sure, I get that it’s team building, but the challenge also showed me the value in having a common goal to work towards that we’re all invested in. I was not at all invested in this goal. :-)

            1. Mannequin*

              Ok but there are gonna be lots of times in your work life you are gonna have to work towards a common goal that you may NOT be invested in, and that doesn’t mean you can shut down or not give your all because you aren’t interested.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Presumably you were the leader of that group and the others all demonstrated collaborative spirit by falling in with what they recognised as a great idea!

    3. Wendy*

      Same! This was a famous pioneering psychology study, that concluded children who were able to display delayed gratification in their early years then went on to get better jobs, earn more money, etc. later in life.

      Of course, then someone finally went back and corrected for socioeconomic status and whaddya know, it turns out the kids who were dirt broke and couldn’t always count on a reward (or food in general) being there later also tended to be less well off as adults :-\

      1. UKDancer*

        I’ve always thought that experiment was deeply suspect. I mean did they screen out people (like me) who don’t like marshmallows? I’ve always thought it really depended on whether you viewed a marshmallow as a deeply enticing reward. I can well imagine if you’re from a background where food is uncertain you may not want to wait around whereas if you know you’ll be fed properly you may be less interested in the reward.

        1. metadata minion*

          Yes! I’ve also seen one that shamed people for being more eager to take a piece of cake than a piece of fruit, because it showed “lack of self-control”. What if I *want cake*, do not consider that desire shameful, and am soberly deciding to eat it? And I happen to adore most fruit if it’s actually good, but I’m guessing the fruit in the study was the kind of sad cafeteria fruit I’m probably not going to eat even if you don’t give me cake as an alternative.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            And then there’s me who would be trying to figure out if the cake has ‘real’ frosting or something that’s going to taste like Crisco. I’ll take an under-ripe banana over bad frosting.

          2. Butterfly Counter*

            From what I remember reading the research surrounding this study is that they did ask the kids what type of treat they preferred before the experiment so that they had THAT prize waiting for them.

            The test most people are familiar with was one that was videoed and often shared in classrooms (that I even show in classes myself) had the treat as marshmallows. It’s a really cute and fun video.

        2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          It’s been awhile since I’ve studied it, but my recollection is that coverage of the research has been very suspect, while the research itself was more careful about the positioning of the findings.

          Walter Mischel, the researcher, has argued against ‘personality theory’ and holds that systems and situational cues matter more. He also expanded on the marshmellow experiment with more nuanced questions (for example, I think he found that if you taught children ‘strategies’ to manage their temptation, they did better, which suggests that the positive outcomes from children who were able to wait has to do with skills they were taught — rather than an innate ability to delay gratification).

          But the study made such a splash in popular culture it’s been misrepresented a lot.

          1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

            Just checked some of my recollections and adding an interesting finding from the original research: children who had recent experiences of being lied to by adults were also more likely to take the treat rather than wait.

            1. UKDancer*

              That would make sense. You’d have to believe you were going to get the second marshmallow if you waited. So I suppose if you were a child with significant experience of being lied you, you might well consider it better to take the first one as there might not be a second one.

          2. BigHairNoHeart*

            Thank you for saying this. Behavioral research is so valuable, but I find that almost whenever a study gets too popular, this tends to happen. The further you get from the actual publication of the findings (academic journal article–>major newspaper–>facebook post–>someone commenting what they heard on facebook once a year ago…) the more things tend to be extrapolated. But of course, part of the problem is that academic journals are often behind paywalls, so going back to the original source isn’t always feasible!

          1. I'd Rather be Eating Dumplings.*

            ‘Marshmellow’ test is just a nick-name. They used a variety of treats to control for what people are talking about.

            1. Tessie Mae*


              If you’re not asked what treat you prefer, the testers would think you’re just managing the temptation. Then again, if I thought I was being subjected to that test, I might just name some treat I don’t like, so I could easily pass. ;)

          2. LarryFromOregon*

            Some of the vegan marshmallows are actually quite good. They also toast well over a campfire.

            Not sure about pairing with raw spaghetti for biking, though…

      2. Harper the Other One*

        And of course kids with conditions that cause impulsivity (primarily ADHD) are terrible at the marshmallow test, but they can be quite successful in later life – especially if adults work on teaching them skills to manage impulsivity as opposed to just assuming they’re doomed not to be successful.

      3. DataSci*

        Yeah, the original marshmallow study was deeply problematic. In addition to kids who have experienced food insecurity, it also flagged kids who did not have reason to trust authority figures.

        Of course, my son has ADHD and would have eaten the marshmallow before the tester finished explaining the scenario, so yeah, I’m inclined to take a dim view even toward the “executive function is the sole arbiter of success” line that the test asserts.

      1. Bilateralrope*

        I could see someone arguing that they are taking the marshmallow now because they are trying to control their weight, so they want to remove the temptation of the second one.

        Thus taking one instead of waiting shows better self control.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I absolutely expected this!

      So, umm, LW, it could be worse? If the grandbosses were not eating marshmallows and you were like “to hell with it, marshmallows NOW nom nom nom” and thus your team lost?

      My favorite variation on the marshmallow test was the kid who broke into the desk drawer where he deduced the mother load of marshmallows awaited.

      1. Venus*

        My favorite variation was the kid who sucked on it a bit, so the marshmallow wasn’t completely consumed.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Put marshmallows in front of my IT team and they’ll either a) vanish amid a cloud of sticky teeth or b) end up in the car park being set alight on the end of chopsticks.

        Then eaten.

    5. Lacey*

      Haha, yes that’s what I thought it was too! I was baffled, both that it would be used in a work setting and that a grown adult would find a marshmallow irresistible!

  4. Delta1Juliet*

    I have to disagree a bit with Alison on LW1. I’ve had my fair share of interviews and I’ve often just been read questions from a script. If this is okay, why isn’t having a script of your own?

    1. Heidi*

      I think that some companies use scripted questions so that every candidate gets a similar interview experience, which I think is reasonable. And having notes for common interview questions isn’t so bad, but it sounds like this candidate was trying to shoehorn their script into the answers in such a way that it didn’t really fit the question, which is not great.

      I’m guessing if this happened to me, I’d just think, “That was weird,” and hire a different candidate instead of calling it out. I’d be worried that they’d flounder without the script and it would be soooo awkward.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      As Heidi points out, some places make a point of asking everyone the same questions. But when you ask your interviewer your own questions, do they read from a script when answering you? I’m guessing they don’t — and that if they did, you’d find that concerning.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        This is very much what happened when I was interviewing for my now job about two and a half years ago – they even acknowledged the scripted questions saying they were asking all candidates the same questions so they could judge us all against the same metrics (and because HR made them used the scripted questions). But all the questions were open-ended experience questions, and they didn’t use a script at all when answering my questions to them.

    3. JustAThought*

      The interviewee wants the job where the interviewer just reads scripted questions. That may mean the interviewee may need to reply off the cuff to get that job. It reminds me of advice I got years ago—dress for the job you want in an interview.
      The point being, the one already in the company may get away with something, regardless if fair or not. Do what you think gets you employed, not what you think you can get away with once there.

    4. Drizzle Cake*

      Because the questions need to be pre-planned to ensure they are consistent. Because a question is shorter than an answer.

    5. SS Express*

      There’s a pretty big difference between an interviewer planning their questions in advance (common, expected, often necessary to ensure a fair and effective recruitment process) and an applicant preparing scripted answers to questions they haven’t even heard yet (not the norm, does not meet expectations, and often makes it difficult to assess their suitability for the role).

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes definitely. My company requires me to ask every applicant the same questions as part of ensuring a fair selection process. Obviously you follow them up with probes that are relevant to what the candidate says.

        While I expect the candidate to have done some preparation so they know which are their best examples of what I’m asking about, I don’t want them to sound like they’re reading a pre-prepared script to me. They need to sound somewhat as though they’re thinking about and responding to what I’ve asked.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I wrote above that in the interview for the job I now have they used scripted questions, but there were a few off the cuff follow-up questions asked as well. I honestly liked the fact I was answering the same questions (at a different time) than the people I was interviewing against – it made the playing field feel fair.

    6. Tech worker*

      I thought reading from a script wasn’t a good idea, but a friend told me it worked well for them during video interviews so I tried it out and I got many job offers by thoroughly preparing answers to potential questions and reading off the answers. While it’s true that communication skills are important and the candidate reading from a script makes it harder to assess that, expecting candidates to ad-lib answers on the spot often results in overindexing on candidates who are good at BSing on the spot even if their actual abilities relevant to the job aren’t great, and losing out on candidates who are otherwise very skilled but not as eloquent on the spot (at least for jobs where communicating eloquently on the spot isn’t an important skill).

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I suspect the difference is that you did it naturally enough that your interviewers couldn’t tell you were reading from a script (and that it would have been an issue had they realized it).

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*


          Having a script for every likely question that you can use without it appear you are just reading is a great thing. Many people cannot pull it off.

          And beyond the issue of appearing spontaneous, if someone reads scripted answers that don’t really fit, regardless of how natural they sound, that’s a total disaster.

      2. Birch*

        A useful tip for situations where you would actually be helped by reading from a script, e.g. when anxiety glues your mouth shut during interviews: write the script and rehearse it, but don’t read from it in the moment. During your interview prep, write out a bunch of questions you think will be asked and write out your responses as if they were a script, then run through it a few times out loud. You can even highlight or bold certain bits to serve as notes during the interview. Having already spoken through the script a few times will make it physically easier to speak on those topics, it helps you organize your thoughts, and you may end up kind of absorbing a few useful turns of phrase–it will make your speech more fluent even when you don’t end up saying exactly what’s on the script. You’re just activating a pathway that’s already been created, which gives you extra cognitive resources for improvising around your answers, instead of having to worry about coming up with a good core answer on the spot which is pretty taxing. Sure, not every job involves PR level communication skills, but IMO literally everyone should be able to answer questions like “what are your goals for the next 2 years” on the spot in a conversational way, without a script–because some of the interview questions are things you should be thinking about on a regular basis, especially if you’re actively interviewing. If you have to rely on a script for that kind of thing I’d start worrying you don’t actually know or understand the answer, which is useful information for the interviewer.

        1. cabbagepants*

          Yep, this is a key way that I prepare for interviews, especially the bit about bolding important parts of my answer. I’ll adapt my answer based on the tone and flow of the real interview but I will still have the most important parts I want to work in.

        2. BigHairNoHeart*

          Great suggestion! This is what I usually do for interviews and other work situations where I need to plan out what I want to say without having to rely on a script.

        3. Sparrow*

          This is how I prepare for interviews. I also find recording myself (audio, not video) and playing it back is hugely helpful in refining my responses.

      3. JB*

        This makes me think you were interviewing very, very poorly before. ‘Read from a script’ and ‘eloquence on the spot’ are not the only two options and neither of them are what you should be doing.

        Reviewing common questions and coming up with or even rehearsing answers to them is how you’re supposed to be prepping for interviews. You’re just not supposed to bring those notes in with you to read from.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          Or you do bring notes but they’re not full on sentences, they’re bullet points to jog your memory.

      4. Lacey*

        When I was job hunting I read in some of Alison’s advice that people should find interview questions for the type of job they’relooking for and practice the answers to them.

        I googled the questions, wrote them down, wrote out my answers, and practiced saying my answers in a pleasant way several times before the interview. And then I also brought notes of anything too detailed to remember off the top of my head (mostly specific numbers for projects & some questions I had about the company/job).

        It worked really well. I didn’t have to BS anything to rack my brain to remember. Because even though they didn’t ask all of the exact questions I’d prepped for, prepping for those questions had all the relevant info at the top of my brain and I didn’t feel put on the spot at all.

        1. Caraway*

          Yes, this is exactly what I do, too! Beyond thinking of common interview questions, I also review the job description (or hiring ad) and come up with questions I think they’ll ask me based on that. Like, they are hiring someone to manage files, so they’ll probably all about my file management experience, strategies I use to manage files, etc. I suspect I got this idea from Alison’s interview prep guide, and it really, really works!

    7. GNG*

      I guess there’s no interview police saying whether reading from a script is “Okay” or not.

      You said you had your fair share of interviews, but you didn’t say if you got hired for every job you interviewed for. Assuming there were jobs you didn’t get, I’m guessing you wouldn’t actually know whether you were rejected because you read from a script during the interview?

      1. GNG*

        Oops just realized Delta1Juliet didn’t actually say if they read from a script or not. Feel free to disregard if not relevant.

    8. Observer*

      I’ve often just been read questions from a script. If this is okay, why isn’t having a script of your own?

      It’s generally not considered great practice to just read a bunch of questions off a script either. But in the case of the OP, the issue is worse because the script was used even for questions and followups that the candidate DID NOT HAVE A SCRIPT FOR. If all the interviewer is allowed to ask are the questions on the list, then the script is not going to be majorly limiting. But when there is a need for something that has not been prepared, you run into problems when you stick to a script only.

    9. Adam*

      The simple answer is because an interview isn’t a symmetrical situation. One party is doing assessing and the other party is being assessed, so they have different rules. As an example that goes the other way, a candidate would be fine asking the interviewer if they have kids (so as to understand how the company is with family matters) and in many places it’d be illegal for the interviewer to ask that of the candidate.

      1. metadata minion*

        “a candidate would be fine asking the interviewer if they have kids”

        Is that actually the case? If I were the interviewer, I would find that a strange and intrusive way to go about finding out our family leave policies. I don’t actually have kids, but that’s not because my employer makes that seem like an unmanageable decision, and I’d be happy to talk about what our formal benefits are and give anonymized examples of people who’ve taken leave, rearranged their schedules, etc. because of kids or other family obligations.

        1. Cordelia*

          I would find it very odd if someone I was interviewing asked me if I had kids – ok it’s not illegal, in the way it would be if I asked them the same question (at least where I live) but I think it would be highly inappropriate. Not only is it a sensitive subject for some people, it is not the best way to find out about the company’s family-friendly policies, and would come across as very unprofessional and unboundaried.

          1. Minerva*

            I have been asked by a candidate considering an international relocation who then asked about schools and the availability of child care. It was phrased more like “I’m not sure if either of you have young kids, but I’ve heard X about schools in this area (hours, starting age, special programs)

            As this was a great candidate, sharing some personal info about schools and that the company had been understanding during the pandemic, in a way I was comfortable with, seemed like a reasonable way to connect with him. (Things like that school starts younger here than in the US but that it’s age appropriate, and about an optional program my daughter attends that I really value)

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        I don’t think it’s true to say only one side is being assessed–the candidate should definitely be assessing the company as well.

        But there is still an enormous and clear difference between scripted *questions* and scripted *answers.*

        I would think in a good interview the questions should not all be scripted and they should be more conversational as well, and ready to change course depending on the answers they are getting. But I know there are some places that are strict about asking everyone the same questions.

        1. F.M.*

          “But there is still an enormous and clear difference between scripted *questions* and scripted *answers.*”

          Yes! When I write an exam for students with a short answer section, I write out the same set of questions for all students; but if students showed up with their answers pre-written and copied them out, or all gave me the same answer, that would be a sign of something going wrong. Even when it’s an open-book exam, anything longer than a few words is looking for an answer that shows how that particular student reacts to the question and deals with it. Not for a pre-written answer they’re quoting, whether they wrote it themselves or not.

      3. pleaset cheap rolls*

        Yes, the asymmetry is for sure a part of it, but it’s also that a good answer requires knowing the question. A scripted answer often won’t quite hit the question.

        Toward the end of an interview it might be time for the applicant to ask questions. Going off a script for that is nowhere near as bad as the same person giving scripted answers. And conversely, obviously scripted answers by the hiring side would look bad.

      4. DataSci*

        “One party is doing assessing and the other party is being assessed”

        Um, no.

        A good interview goes both ways – the candidate is also assessing the company and the position to determine whether it’s really someplace they want to work. And while it wouldn’t be *illegal* for a candidate to ask me if I have kids, it would be extremely weird. If they asked something like “How is the company about handling things like flexible schedules to accomodate childcare, or taking sick leave for kids’ illnesses”, I’d happily volunteer that information. But making it personal is weird-bordering-on-creepy.

    10. Good Vibes Steve*

      That’s just being prepared for the job. If I’m interviewing someone, I will have thought through what I need to know, wrote it down and asked in order. But that script doesn’t mean it’s not a conversation – I will add probing questions, skip some questions when they’ve been answered in the course of another etc. If an interviewing sticks to the exact script without accounting for natural flow, they’re a bad interviewer. If an interviewee sticks to a script in the same way, they’re a bad interviewee. the existence of the former doesn’t mean you must be the latter.

    11. Sutemi*

      I’ve often prepared questions in advance, on both sides of the interview. Reading your own questions from your notes would make a lot of sense to me, those are key things you want to ask and are often 1 sentence long. That is different than answering questions from a script.

      1. Myrin*

        That’s exactly it!
        Also, it makes a huge difference – on both sides, I think, although moreso on that of the interviewee – if your counterpart can actively tell that you’re reading from a script. I attended a symposium last Thursday and none of the speakers had their scripts memorised or spoke without ever glancing at their papers, but there were those where I felt like I was attending “Reading Hour With Professor [Name]” and they were vastly less engaging and much harder to concentrate on than those where cadence, speed, tone, and pauses made it seem like they were just telling me a very sophisticated and well-articulated story.

    12. ecnaseener*

      That’s an odd equivalency to draw. It’s very common for the questions to be prepared in any sort of interview — I suspect you don’t have a problem with a reporter having written her questions down ahead of time? Thats kinda how interviews work…interviewer is in charge of asking questions to elicit the info they’re interested in, and they can and should prep most of their questions ahead of time. Interviewee answers the questions and does 90% of the talking, and not by reading a script verbatim.

    13. Koalafied*

      The same reason the teacher writes the test questions before distributing the test, but students taking the exam have to answer them from memory. The purpose of a question is to assess the person being asked, not the asker. When it’s your turn to ask questions you can absolutely read ones you pre-wrote, and it will be the interviewer’s time to answer off the cuff.

    14. No Tribble At All*

      What happens when your script doesn’t match up?

      Interviewer: so, tell me about your background with X technology
      Me: my greatest challenge at work is responding to customer requests

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This reminds me of some political debates.
        Moderator: “So tell me about your position on Syria.”
        Candidate: “I want everyone who wants to work to have a job.”

        Memorably, in ’16 one primary candidate got flattened when an opponent kept driving him into his prepared script over and over again, until the scriptedness was very obvious.

        1. Retro*

          Pete Hoekstra – US Ambassador to the Netherlands – said something (untrue and islamophobic), then called it fake news that he’d said that, then called it fake news that he’d called it fake news that he’d said that. He apologized but refused to clarify what the apology was for. When the press secretary (?) tried to move things along, a reporter wouldn’t have it: “This is the Netherlands, you have to answer questions.”

          It’s a very satisfying watch.

      2. Trotwood*

        A friend of mine interviewed a guy who was reading from prepared scripts just like in the letter, and when she tried to ask him follow-up questions about his scripted answers, he just said “I’m sorry, I can’t answer that.” Needless to say, he did not get an offer.

    15. Retro*

      I think you’re welcome to bring a script/list of your own questions as well! That’s not the same as bringing a scriptt of answers at all.

      Maybe if you’re applying to be a politician – or their press secretary – then it would make sense to read of a script, stick to the script, and not be too concerned with whether your reply is also an answer – but that’s a pretty niche industry and the rules that apply there, don’t necessarily apply elsewhere.

    16. JB*

      Because it makes sense to have scripted questions, it does not make sense to have scripted answers. As described in LW1, what happens when the interviewer asks further probing questions about your answer, or something else you didn’t put in your script?

      I’ve certainly read my own pre-written questions for an interviewer at the end of an interview. Because they’re questions.

    17. FYI*

      It’s just such a crappy power dynamic. Many companies now require video interviews — where they force candidates to submit videos of themselves answering pre-set questions. In other words, not engaging in a conversational back-and-forth AT ALL. But god forbid a candidate create pre-set answers.

      1. MassMatt*

        I hate that trend, it makes me wonder if the employer is compiling an enormous collection of video answers that they never even watch.

        Conversely, some advice I was given for interview prep (whether live or virtual) was to record myself answering some common interview questions and play it back. It was a great help for improving eye contact, posture, and cleaning up “umms” etc. It was not fun to do but really helped me prepare.

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          “it makes me wonder if the employer is compiling an enormous collection of video answers that they never even watch.”

          What possible reason would there be for this?

          1. PT*

            They use AI to filter the interviews and only watch the ones that the AI scores highly based on facial expression, tone of voice, keywords, etc.

            1. Koalafied*

              While some of the big players who love throwing money around might be doing that, I can guarantee you that the vast majority of employers don’t have money to spend on that kind of thing. Hiring has to be taking up a pretty huge number of staff hours for the cost of an advanced AI service to be more palatable to management than having staff watch their own applicant videos – especially given that everything is SaaS, these days, so it’d be an ongoing expense. Most companies/organizations don’t even have enough roles for the hiring burden to be that substantial.

      2. Observer*

        Please. The companies doing this are not worried about scripts – they don’t understand enough about interviewing to even realize that this might be an issue. And people like the OP are not engaging in this stupid practice.

        Trying to justify on foolish practice by linking it to a totally unrelated and equally foolish practice doesn’t get you very far.

    18. Just a Cog in the Machine*

      I have prepared questions when I’ve interviewed, to make sure I ask the same/similar questions to everyone and so I don’t forget what I wanted to ask. But even then I’m not “reading them from a script.” I may reword the question based on something the interviewee has already said (so they don’t rehash something they already said or so they can maybe expand upon something they touched on, and so I don’t look like I haven’t been listening to them when they think “I already said this.”) I also will ask follow-up questions that may not have been on my prepared sheet based on what they have told me.

    19. feral fairy*

      I think the issue with candidates reading all of their responses off a script is that it shows questionable judgment since it is pretty far from being the norm in a standard interview. Whether or not that norm should exist is a different debate but as it stands, preparing responses for an interview is very different than reading them verbatim.

    20. Here we go again*

      Asking questions off a script is different than answering them from a script. A lot of employers have mandatory questions on an interview form that the interviewing manager has to ask and fill out. Plus as a candidate being interviewed I write down a list of questions that I have, so I don’t for forget to ask.

  5. lemonade*

    In the answer for LW#1, I’m curious about asking for accommodations ahead of time. As someone currently in treatment for something similar, I’d be very worried that asking for accommodations for a mental health reason would ruin my chances. Like the nervous interviewee, I’d be far more likely to use a script (though I’d probably memorize it). How common would it be for an interviewer to agree to such a request?

    1. allathian*

      Most people, whether or not have an anxiety diagnosis are more likely to be nervous at an interview than they would be performing the job day to day. And even with disability accommodations, in most jobs asking to only speak from a script would be an unreasonable accommodation, because there aren’t scripts available for most situations. The one exception is probably call centers, where CSRs, especially those who handle only outgoing calls, are expected to stick to a script and are often penalized for deviating from it. Obviously it’s harder to stick to a script if you’re responding to incoming calls.

      If someone’s really so paralyzed with anxiety during an interview that they need the questions ahead of time to be able to answer, I think it should also be okay to simply stick to the script when you’re doing the interview, even if it shows in the answers. That said, there’s nothing in the letter that says the candidate asked for any accommodation.

        1. BubbleTea*

          I did this once, due to some issues I was having with aphasia at the time (caused by a fluctuating but mostly controlled medical issue). At the end of the interview they kindly told me I hadn’t needed to be nervous and maybe next time I wouldn’t need the questions in advance because I wouldn’t be so anxious. They hadn’t been told it was a reasonable adjustment and just assumed it was nerves. I did not get the job.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          The organization my spouse works for has been doing video interviews for about five years now, and 45 minutes before your interview starts you get an email with the ten primary questions the interview panel will be asking. You get some time to organize notes and make sure you have an example for each – and then off to interview.

          (Yes, they also email links to the platform they will be using, specify that you are somewhere quiet and private, and that they want the video on for the interview.)

      1. FemalePhenotype*

        Needing a script in an interview isn’t needing a script for a job, though. While I’ve never used an interview script, I’m autistic and my on-the-fly thinking is abysmal. If asked a question I’m not expecting or don’t fully understand, even just in casual conversation, I literally can’t speak for a moment. I’ve always come across terribly in interviews but got hired after blowing people away on skills tests because despite being a stammering idiot in high-pressure social situations I’m very good at what I know.

        I can cope fine in my day to day job because 99.9% of the time I’m asked questions that I know how to answer. “Tell me about a time you handled a disagreement with a colleague” is vague and confusing. “Why is the system [doing X] instead of [doing Y]?” is clear and has a correct answer.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Legally, they have to enter into a conversation with you about what accommodations would work, but they don’t have to agree to whatever you suggest. If part of what they’re assessing you on is communication, using a script isn’t a good idea, but they could do other things, depending on what the disability required.

      That said, is it a good idea to raise? Just because you have the legal right doesn’t mean you won’t be subject to discrimination, unconscious or otherwise, and it’s not always easy to prove, so it’s a calculation each time. But just going ahead and using a script isn’t a good idea; it’s likely to just get you rejected.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      As someone with an absolute smorgasbord of mental issues and an interviewer:

      I wouldn’t have an issue with someone asking ahead of time what sort of questions I’m gonna ask. Believe me I understand how much of a relief that can be to have a bit more time to feel like you’re giving accurate answers and not panic driven stuff.

      However – reading from a script and only from a script, not being able to modify the answers if I ask clarifying questions, being unable to say anything that isn’t on the script would sadly not qualify someone for the job. I’d worry about asking questions at work. However, I work in IT at the level where you do not have a script for problems and are expected to think on your feet (even if the answer is ‘go to stack overflow’) so it can be highly dependent on industry.

  6. Kim and Kanye 4EVA*

    Those are some high stakes marshmallows, OP #3! But I completely agree with Alison. It was just a fun game and not a metaphor for LIFE ITSELF. Sometimes a marshmallow is just a marshmallow.

  7. GNG*

    #3 – I think it’s always useful to reflect on our own behaviors at work, but I think you’re catastrophizing a bit here. You did not “fail” the marshmallow challenge and you did not “destroy” your chance at moving up. No reasonable bosses will extrapolate your role in this game to promotion decisions. I doubt the bosses will even remember what happened at this game a couple weeks from now.

    Going out on a limb here: That said, these games are usually about teamwork and collaboration. If anything, you might reflect further on how you behaved when others told you not to add the last spaghetti and why you didn’t listen to your teammates’ suggestions.

    1. kate*

      I have to agree with you, GNG, and join you out on that limb. I strongly value collaboration and teamwork, and if I had a coworker who did not listen to the team in a silly game, it might (maybe even just subconsciously) make me less enthusiastic about having to collaborate where there is more at stake. Not that I think it should be held against anyone in promotion decisions, but if OP3 wants to be seen as a team player, it just may be worth considering.

      1. Nikki*

        Agreed! I’d a teammate ignored everyone’s advice and caused us to “fail” a task, even a silly one, I’d be a little annoyed. It doesn’t reflect super well on you as a team player.

    2. Minerva*

      Joining you here on the limb. We use this kind of activity in youth programming and part is reflecting on what this says about leadership and collaboration, what went well and poorly. It’s deliberately a task people aren’t drawing on experience for, so they shake up the leaders and followers. It’s about reflecting on how you collaborate, and learning about yourself. It might be an aberration but it might also be something that gives you insight into how you fall down in more important collaborations.

      If you are asked about it, learning from your mistakes and how you would take that lesson forward makes for a great behavioral interview answer. I’d say be sure that this isn’t a revealing moment before you dismiss it.

      1. cubone*

        Yes, I also was part of a hiring panel that used this activity in an interview circuit (it was for floor fellows in a university dorm, so not as weird as it sounds and not the only piece they were asked to do).

        We didn’t make a single note of who did or did not have a successful tower. It was entirely how you went about solving the problem, how you interacted with others, who took the lead and who supported (a good position to be in too!), suggested alternatives, etc.

    3. Managing to Get By*

      Not just not taking in their teammates suggestions but also telling everyone how to do the exercise before that. That wouldn’t necessarily keep them from ever getting promoted if they worked on my team, but it would give me insight into what they needed to work on for their development and might make it take longer for them to get a promotion, depending on how this behavior is expressed in their actual work.

      I have someone on my team now that is less experienced than their teammates but often will tell other teammates what to do (not always correctly) and will push back when more experienced teammates give them advice or direction, and each instance I’ve seen of this the teammate is correct. It’s been a very painful process improve their performance, they don’t understand why they’ve not been promoted yet when others in their position were promoted more quickly.

      However, my team does analytical work. On the sales side, someone with these tendencies would probably excel, at least at places where I’ve worked.

    4. A Feast of Fools*

      I failed an interview process that had a “game” like this as one of the interview steps.

      It was for a 2-year rotational position. There were a half-dozen positions open and we were interviewed as a group over two days.

      One of the exercises was to get assigned to a team, then build a tower out of random crap on a table within a timed period and, in the end, have it be able to support the weight of dictionary placed on top. We had a budget and the pieces of crap had costs. We were told not to go over budget.

      My team members hemmed and hawed, not even being able to decide who should do what (someone needed to come up with a design, someone else needed to cost out the design, etc.).

      I asked everyone if it was OK if I delegated the tasks since it seemed no one had a preference (yes, that was fine). Then I tried to get conversations going about alternatives to the first-draft design since it went over budget.

      With just tens of seconds left on the clock, I pretty much just started telling people what to do, though with “soft” language like, “What if we just taped the paper plate to the top of those two toilet paper roll cores?”

      Our tower held the dictionary and it was under budget.

      I was told I didn’t get the job because I wasn’t collaborative enough or a team player, as evidenced by the tower-building exercise.

      At no point had any of us been told that the point of the exercise was to talk things through and that even a team who didn’t produce a tower would still “win” because they’d all talked the process to death while the clock ran out.

      While the rejection stung at the time, it helps that I’m a regular reader of this site and knew that it was a good thing I wasn’t chosen. I would go bonkers working for a place that valued talking over doing. Like, we can do both, but if we aren’t producing anything how are we going to stay in business?

      It would also drive me bonkers to be given objectives / goals to accomplish, and then get penalized when I accomplished those goals but not the double-secret ones.

      1. GNG*

        Ugh that sounds super frustrating! In my field, we use serious games for learning and evaluation. I’m head desking right now because it sounds like your interviewers didn’t use the best practices, and their approach is a bit misguided.

        Generally speaking, we recommend that the participants be given a pre-briefing which includes providing information on the point of the exercise. Additionally, in quite a few situations (not all), we recommend that the evaluators based their assessment and evaluation on both participant behaviors during the game AND their comments during the debriefing afterwards. There are many other things to consider but these two important things didn’t seem to be in place during your interview.

        Using serious games for high/moderate – stakes evaluation, such as an interview, requires quite a bit of knowledge and experience in the psychometrics of serious gaming. We don’t usually recommend it unless the interviewers have expertise themselves, or can rely on the expertise of a behavioral scientist and/or a psychometrician.

        Also typically, it’s pretty predictable that participants will be angry, frustrated, tricked, and annoyed when none of these things are put in place.

  8. Drizzle Cake*

    #4 “ But you want to, it should also be okay to explain (to either or both) that you’re hiring for the X shift and they’d said they weren’t available for it.”

    I don’t think that actually is okay. The partner said this to you and may not expect you to repeat it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s no entitlement to privacy on this sort of thing; it’s fine to discuss how interviews went with others on your team or why you did/didn’t choose someone, particularly if a staff member recommended a candidate.

      1. Drizzle Cake*

        I’m not talking about any technical or legal entitlement to privacy. Just that I think it would be wise to be more circumspect and not get drawn into talking about specifics.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m not talking legalities either; I’m talking about what’s generally considered normal and fine to do. A candidate shouldn’t have an expectation that what they said in an interview won’t be repeated to others on the team (especially when he specifically cited someone on the team in explaining why he could work a different shift).

        2. Observer*

          I’m with Alison here – there is no ethical expectation of privacy here. In addition to what she’s said, keep in mind that Candidate Spouse knows that Employee Spouse is involved in the process and has essentially formalized it in the way they responded to the question about schedule.

    2. hbc*

      In general, I wouldn’t go about repeating back impressions from interviews, but this is a pretty clear case of it being of legitimate interest to the employee. I’d probably tell anyone who referred a candidate that there was some major, published aspect of the job that Candidate said they wouldn’t or couldn’t do. “The hours didn’t work for them.” No harm done–unless Candidate was lying to Employee, which I would feel zero guilt about exposing, and not just because Candidate’s lie about why they didn’t get the job would probably throw me under the bus.

      Then there’s the fact that the candidate explicitly raised the employee as part of their plan to work at the place. That’s huge! I think the Employee deserves a chance to either explain how they wanted to move shifts anyway, or hear that a candidate that they referred was trying to make unauthorized changes to their schedule.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Unless Candidate was lying to Employee, which I would feel zero guilt about exposing.
        This. I feel like often a “reasonable presumption of privacy” is waved around where none exists because someone just realized people to whom they’ve told different things might be comparing notes.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      What about: we choose the candidate who was the best combination of qualifications and excitement to work the specific hours/shift we were hiring for.

      This way you aren’t saying which candidate said they didn’t want the stated shift (that employee’s spouse said weren’t what they wanted), but it can also explain why other candidates didn’t get the job as well.

    4. RagingADHD*

      If somebody wants to keep their schedule secret from their partner, applying to work at the same job, on the same team, would be spectacularly stupid.

      1. biobotb*

        Particularly since they explicitly said the partner could/would switch with them. How would you keep that secret if they were hired?

    5. NeutralJanet*

      I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that what you say in an interview won’t be repeated to other people—in fact, I would assume that my interviewer was planning to discuss my answers with other people on the team. This goes double in this case, when the partner is specifically citing another member of the team. If OP were considering changing the shift of her existing employee, surely she would want to give the employee a heads up and verify that that was actually okay!

    6. fhqwhgads*

      It’s a hypothetical anyway. There’s the assumption the already-working-there spouse will ask why interviewing-spouse didn’t get it. Frankly OP didn’t need to move the spouse forward as a courtesy. The second that spouse said “yes” to the dealbreaker question they took themselves out of the running and it’d be perfectly reasonable if the recommending spouse asked to repeat that.

      1. linger*

        It’s possible Candidate and Employee had already talked about what made sense for their combined scheduling as a couple, which would lead to Employee changing shifts if Candidate were hired — but if they intended that to build in more scheduling flexibility than for other candidates and so strengthen Candidate’s case, then Employee should have been more pro-active in raising their willingness to change schedules in that event. Without that being established, in advance, with the interview panel, Candidate simply nuked their eligibility.

        1. linger*

          Just noticed OP4’s followup, and — yep, it looks like Candidate’s move wasn’t a surprise for Employee.
          But Employee failed to have the conversation about whether this shift exchange could actually be a viable solution for the company.
          And even if it were, it would create an unfair advantage for Candidate (since presumably Employee wouldn’t be prepared to swap shifts for another, better candidate), which makes it something OP4 is right not to consider.

          1. linger*

            And then a more detailed followup adds that the position is hard to fill, and there are currently no other candidates.
            This detail may change the advice, because now it could be that Employee and Candidate are trying to help OP4 solve a problem that they are all aware of. If this proposed solution isn’t actually practical, that’s the end of it; but if it could work, then there aren’t necessarily any red flags here.

  9. Drizzle Cake*

    #5 Talk to your teammates! Maybe you could arrange to be in on the same day as some of them so you can meet more purposefully.

    1. GNG*

      Yes! It really isn’t that hard to say a super quick “Nice to finally meet you in person” to your teammates. You already have an established relationship with your teammates, and you’re just adding a tiny piece of social interaction with people you already know.

      If you want, you can tee yourself up for this ahead of time: in the team meeting before you go back, make an announcement that you’ll be on site and you look forward to meeting everyone in person. Or you can send an email, or put it in the Teams/Slack chat to the same effect.

      But don’t say “I’m the new engineer” because you’re right, at 7 months you’re not new, and it wouldn’t be an accurate statement. Saying it like that would create confusion because now your teammates would mistakenly think you’re actually a whole other brand-new person joining the team.

    2. OP5*

      Thanks folks; it’s one of those things that I’ve built up in my head over the last couple of months to be a bigger deal than it probably will be. In our team meeting this morning, I told everyone where my new cube is and that I’ll be moving things over tomorrow afternoon if they want to stop by :)

      1. anonymath*

        Good luck!

        At our workplace (before we went back home a couple weeks ago) teams were arranging to meet up/take a walk/take a meeting together in a conference room. It was pretty informal but people were being pretty good about explicitly suggesting things as we’re *all* finding a new normal.

      2. Daisy-dog*

        Definitely understand. I started my role in April 2020, so I have yet to meet 95% of my co-workers. Though my company will probably not be back in the office until early next year which will be ever weirder.

        One tip that I will also need to consciously do: Don’t try to carry on with your same work pace in the first few days there. Build in more breaks to walk around or to allow someone to approach you if they want to say hi.

      3. CM*

        Your coworkers want to meet you too! You’ll be doing them a favor if you stop by and say, “Hey, I wanted to come by and meet you in person, now that we’re all back,” and you’ll have a natural opening for a conversation about the transition back to the workplace. I’d knock on a couple of people’s doors each day until you met everybody.

      4. Mimi*

        I’ll be honest: it’s weird. I’ve met a few of the people that I only interacted with via video, and didn’t recognize all of them, and it was awkward, and then it was over and I’d met Ferdinand. It will almost certainly be less of a big deal than you’re making it out to be. (I did introduce yourself as, “Hi, I’m Mimi,” but I think most people recognized me, what with how they all knew each other before.)

        1. OP5*

          Yeah, they’re all definitely going to know it’s me (one of two women on the team…and not the one they already know) before I have any idea who they are haha

      5. Cat Tree*

        This is a really common concern in this situation. In a couple of weeks I’m returning to the office from maternity leave, preceded by over a year of working remotely. I’ve been there for years so I’m on the other side of this, but it’s a huge department with tons of new people.

  10. Retro*

    LW4 – one more reason not to mention your concerns about how hiring the SO will impact your employee, is that your employee might (justifiably!) disagree: your employee may well prefer any negative impact to the current impact of the SO being out of work/working a job they hate/etc.

    I would not mention it. Otherwise you risk it being all the employee hears.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      It does risk coming across as a problem to solve. Which if your employee offers to solve it for you, the block on candidate’s hiring is removed, whew!

  11. Two Chairs, One to Go*

    OP4: Please do not do another interview if you know you will reject the candidate. I know you think you’re being kind to your employee, but you’re not. You’re making it seem like their SO has a shot when you know they don’t because they can’t work the schedule required for the job.

    As a side note, I had a short job where 2 people on staff were husband/wife and it was really weird. Plus what happens if you’re both laid off? Bad situation all around.

    1. Qwetry*

      That’s a fair point.

      “You’re/They’re not hired because they can’t work the shift” may also be inconsistent with interviewing them after finding out they can’t work the shift.

    2. Eden*

      Yes, I was about to make this comment. It’s actually not respectful at all to interview someone you KNOW you don’t want to make an offer too. When the SO or current or employee ask why you are rejecting and you give a reason that you clearly knew about from the phone screen, they’re going to be rightfully annoyed you wasted their time.

      1. Wendy*

        The way I read it, the OP didn’t find out for sure the spouse couldn’t work the right shift until mid-interview. I’ve certainly gone for interviews where the job listing said they wanted someone for certain days but it turned out not to be a deal-breaker – in my case, they were particularly looking for someone who could do Sunday mornings but would be willing to work around that for an exceptional candidate.

        1. ecnaseener*

          But the LW definitely said they’re going to do *another* full interview with the candidate. That’s what people are warning against.

      1. mf*

        Right? Imagine being the candidate in this situation, having spent all this time prepping for the interview and dealing with the jitters that go along with it, only to find out you never had a shot in the first place.

    3. OP 4*

      OP 4 here, unfortunately this is a company culture thing here. If someone is referred and they are at all qualified, we will give them a full interview as a show of respect. But I agree, and I wish I could go back in time and not set this expectation with both of them. Lesson learned, and I’m going to push back on that in the future.

      1. Two Chairs, One to Go*

        I guess I don’t understand what is a full interview? A phone screen, great, but it sounded like you move forward with another interview, even if you know they won’t be hired. If I understand that correctly, I’m glad you will push back on that policy in the future.

      2. Rayray*

        Maybe your company needs to think more about what respect actually is. Intentionally wasting people’s time and giving them false hope is dishonest and disrespectful. You have a valid reason for not proceeding further and it should be acceptable for you to do so.

        1. NancyDrew*

          Sheesh. This literally comes down from the top sometimes, it can’t be helped. I’ve had to interview probably a half-dozen candidates over the years that I had no intention of hiring but they knew someone in the C-suite. This was when I was at a VP level and ran a team of 25 people — still had to do it, couldn’t say no. (I mean, technically I could, but that would be a lot of capital burned to no end.)

          Welcome to capitalism.

  12. Anonymouse*

    It sounds like the interviewee already had the questions.
    You cannot change the questions, according to HR, since you have to ask all the interviewees the same questions.
    But you change the order of the questions. And make them work to find the answers.
    Any thoughts on spearing the marshmallow on the strand of spaghetti and roasting it over an open flame? Or adding chocolate and a graham cracker on the spaghetti strand for ‘smores? I guarantee the boss of all bosses will remember you.
    Bring pizza the first day. It breaks all the ice.

    1. Liz*

      Could it be possible that OP1s interviewee had asked for accommodations and been provided the questions beforehand, but that this was handled via HR so as to avoid discrimination by the panel?

      Someone else had asked about how accomodations work in light of this, and I can see this being a challenge that can occur while navigating a possible solution. Either the panel knows the interviewee has a disability and is accessing accommodations, or they don’t know and are confused as to why the interviewee is reading prepared statements.

      As an aside, it seems cruel to try and trick somebody by changing questions around just to make life hard for them. If someone is already sufficiently challenged by interviews that they have to know the questions beforehand and prepare accordingly, I don’t see what can be gained by trying to sabotage their interview. If the role requires a person who can think on their feet in interpersonal situations, then I believe you have a right to stipulate that and refuse accommodations accordingly, or just don’t hire them. This seems a far more honest solution for everyone involved.

      1. foolofgrace*

        Could it be possible that OP1s interviewee had asked for accommodations and been provided the questions beforehand, but that this was handled via HR so as to avoid discrimination by the panel?

        If the interviewee had asked HR for the questions, the hiring manager would have to have known about this because they’d have to provide the questions to HR. It would be pretty obvious during the interview which candidate had the questions. Discrimination not avoided.

      2. LW1*

        The interviewee did not have the questions in advance at this stage, though I frequently provide a few frequently asked questions before an in-person interview (especially for early career positions). If they had requested that accommodation, I would have gladly given it! That would have been easier because at least I would have also been prepared for the situation and been able to adjust accordingly; this one caught me off guard.

    2. Mannheim Steamroller*

      Spearing the marshmallow and roasting it is a great idea — today is National Toasted Marshmallow Day!

      1. OP #3*

        Really?! Then it was meant to be, surely. I love the suggestion to toast the marshmallows. If I could go back in time I’d absolutely go for that!

    3. Guacamole Bob*

      Probably not allowed in most office buildings for fire safety reasons, but it is absolutely possible to toast a marshmallow over a tea candle.

        1. Clisby*

          My siblings and I loved doing that when we were growing up. Sadly, my parents moved to a new house with an electric stove and we had to settle for s’mores.

  13. Jansi the Virtual Assistant*

    #4. I find it a bit strange that the employee suggested the fiancée knowing that they did not want that shift. Or did they not discuss this together at all?
    Also, as been already said, the risk of layoffs.

    1. Eden*

      Well, I agree that the risk of layoffs makes this not ideal for the couple, but it’s not any of OP’s business. If OP let that influence their hiring decision it would be really inappropriate. Luckily they have a good reason in “you are not available for the shift we are hiring for”.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      It sounds like they DID discuss it, and came up with the solution of the current employee switching shifts.

    3. OP 4*

      I’d think that they spoke about it together and before the phone screen took place. The employee texted me immediately after the call to confirm that they would be willing to switch shifts. I also thought, that would be really difficult if they want to go on vacations at the same time, etc. We’re a small department, and we usually try to avoid overlap in vacation days.

      1. Irish girl*

        How small is the department? Even if you hired someone else you could have overlap due to people being out sick. And yes them both being out at the same time and not having adequate back up or having the resentment they cant have the same time off is a big consideration. It is odd to me that they want to be on different shifts but to each their own in their relationship.

        1. Anon Mouse*

          I feel like the desire to be on different shifts could be a childcare or eldercare thing? Also, I feel like maybe who is open to which shift could be a private medical issue (e.g. partner needs time for medication to be effective after waking up before starting work), or just a morning vs night person issue. I do think that when employee referred partner, THEY should have raised at that time “hey partner cannot work this shift but I can, how do we proceed.”

          If the employee’s partner could be a candidate except for this, you might explore this a bit more. However, it sounds like the employee’s partner just isn’t a candidate, so I would drop this. I more wanted to put this in your head for future situations – that the preference really might be a situation that is none of your concern and is more about “how does their household run most comfortably and equitably.”

  14. Daffy Duck*

    #4: Anyone else think red flags when the interviewee comes right out and says they can’t work the shift being hired for AND sig other would work it instead? Of course, I’m assuming the shift was stated in the job description, it is a less desirable time, and these are both full-time positions. It certainly comes across as entitled and I would worry this person is difficult to work with/bossy.
    “I’m not interested in nightshift, but Jane can do that and I will work her dayshift hours” may be the worst possible interpretation. With part-time jobs, where often folks are trying to cobble together multiple jobs to survive on I would likely give it much more leeway.

    1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      I agree there are definitely red flags here. In particular, I would wonder whether the spouse knew that the interviewee was volunteering them to change shifts, and if they really would be okay with it. If that offer was made without the spouse’s knowledge or consent, that would raise some red flags for me about the dynamics of that relationship and how they might play out on the job.

    2. WS*

      Yeah, if current employee Jane had said “Barbara can’t work the shift you’re hiring for but she could work the 7-4 shift and so I would be available to work from 3-11 instead because then all our other obligations are covered,” that’s an okay option, assuming it’s very similar work. Barbara just dropping it in the interview is definitely not quite right.

    3. WellRed*

      Huge red flags. Both of them are already showing what’s going to happen if spouse is hired. Maybe they’ll randomly swap shifts, for example. Or whatever.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Like the couple who interviewed for the 1 job opening and they would decide themselves who show up each day.

        OP your job is to staff your team with the right people. If someone is not available for the shift you are advertising for, then they are not the right person for the job. The spouse’s blithe “Oh my spouse will switch” shows they are out of touch with office norms. YOU decide who works what shift, not the married couple.

        1. not a doctor*

          Can anyone link to that one? I did a search but can’t seem to find it, and I’m deeply curious.

          1. NeutralJanet*

            It wasn’t actually a letter or standalone post, it was included in one of Alison’s compilations of the weirdest resumes people have ever seen—link in reply

        2. NotJane*

          It reminded me of the post about a couple on the same team who decided to *switch jobs* with each other.

          I find it almost impossible to believe that the employee and candidate couple did not discuss the shift issue. I’m assuming that the employee knew the open position was for a shift their partner couldn’t work before recommending said partner and thought it would be okay because they (employee) could work that shift.

          Which is a red flag for me, because they’re basically making scheduling changes/decisions for the team that aren’t theirs to make. I’m not going to ascribe motive, because it was probably more oblivious than malicious on their part, but if I were OP, I’d take this as an insight of what it might be like if they worked together.

      1. Myrin*

        I think you misread – Daffy says that if the jobs in question were part-time, asking about shift changes would seem more reasonable to her than in this situation, where presumably both positions are full-time.

    4. Bilateralrope*

      Yes, there are red flags. Things that are probably worth remembering if this candidate ever applies to another position at this workplace.

      But “I can’t/won’t work the shift you’re recurinting for” goes beyond a red flag. It’s such a big deal breaker that it justifies ending the interview on the spot. Making it very clear exactly why they aren’t going to be hired is probably better for the candidate than any politeness that comes from delaying the rejection.

    5. BRR*

      I didn’t care at all for his answer. While it’s technically allowed at that employer to have spouses on the same team, this is an example of why it might be a bad idea (not a bad idea in all scenarios, but there are things to be careful about and this is one). Having one person “volunteer” their spouse would be a no go.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      I did think “You know, the way to skirt all the drama lurking in this relationship is to just not hire this person.”

    7. MassMatt*

      Good catch, yes I dislike when someone volunteers somebody else (even a spouse) to do something.

      In addition, this is assuming the spouses have the same skills and that the jobs on the different shifts are interchangeable. Maybe Bob the current employee is the only one on the day shift that does the TPS reports. Maybe the night shift needs a llama groomer. Saying that Bob will switch shifts may not get the work done.

  15. GNG*

    To me, it read as the candidate being presumptuous that LW would just readily accept whatever they planned in their head. This would make me not want to hire them, regardless of whether they’re Current Employee’s SO or not.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      Agreed. It really wasn’t appropriate for the candidate to offer up switching shifts with their SO. They need to be doing this interview completely independent of their partner’s status as a current employee of the company. It makes me think that they would have a hard time acting separately from each other, especially when it came time for sick days, vacation, etc. That could be a weird dynamic for the office, especially for other employees, if they see these two as being so tied together. It’s expected for them to a unit outside of the office, but their relationship as partners doesn’t belong INSIDE the office.

  16. Julie*

    I have anxiety and prepare answers ahead of time. I had a bad interview where I choked and gave a terrible answer, and I could see one of the people interviewing me grade me as the interview continued. My notes help me get back on track when I feel myself struggling to answer. If it feels like answers are rehearsed, work on the questions and the way they are delivered. You can do a lot of things to make it feel like a conversation and less like an interview. I had a zoom interview recently where it really felt like they were into what I was saying so it helped me drop that wall I put up sometimes to help with the anxiety. I also had one where it felt like they were just asking question after question, so I struggled because we didn’t connect.

    There’s so much stigma on mental health issues, and the response to number 1 has me feeling very uncomfortable. I would never feel comfortable enough before an interview to talk about my anxiety and see how they could accommodate it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Preparing answers ahead of time is great! I recommend it in all my interview prep advice. The issue is reading off scripts, and sticking to scripts even when they don’t directly speak to the questions being asked. That’s a different thing.

      But some employers do, as a matter of course, ask candidates ahead of interviews if they’ll need any accommodations so they can have that conversation. It’s up to you whether to disclose anxiety (and I agree there’s a stigma on mental health that you have to factor in), but it’s not in any candidate’s interest to just go ahead and decide on their own, with no discussion, that they’re going to rigidly stick to pre-written answers that they will read like a script and refuse to deviate from. That’s just going to get the person rejected.

    2. WellRed*

      Interviewers take notes in interview. Why do you assume they were “grading” you? I guess to an extent, we all get graded in interviews.

        1. Another Michael*

          For what it’s worth, I’d consider a numbered sheet a generally good thing. To me that means they’re evaluating candidates on a pre-established rubric, which is a great equity practice and one that means interviewers hone in on essential job skills rather than their own perceptions of competence.

          1. MassMatt*

            I thinks it’s a good practice too but I think the commenter was just saying it increased their anxiety.

    3. FD*

      I feel like this is the difference between just reading off the PointPoint Presentation and having some cue cards with points you want to hit, maybe a few phrases you want to use, and a few likely questions you want to be ready to address.

      The first will sound stilted and staged most of the time, while the second gives you the freedom to be an engaging presenter, even if behind the scenes you’re actually doing a lot of prep work.

      1. Julie*

        Sometimes if my anxiety is bad and I’m feeling like it’s not going well, I want out as soon as possible. So I may skip all the little notes I have to say in order to just be done.

        Also, sometimes interviewers don’t give the opportunity to expand on answers and are rapidly firing questions without commenting on answers.

        1. FD*

          I hear where you’re coming from. I have (sometimes pretty intense) anxiety myself and have helped coach a lot of family members and friends with anxiety on interview prep. That said, this is probably a case where the answer is closer to “Hey, this is something you might need to practice a lot in advance to get used to handling unexpected questions under pressure” instead of “You can reasonably expect your interviewers to allow you to read off a script in the interview.”

  17. Annie*

    I think I would disagree with the advice for question number one, because I don’t think people who do well in interviews will necessarily be good at the job and vice versa, most interviews are very badly designed and ask the same handful of questions for a diverse range of positions and job duties.
    For example, I was once asked in an interview what I would do if I went to the fair with a group of friends and got lost, 20 years ago this question would’ve been good for assessing a candidates organisational skills, approaches to preplanning and how they cope in stressful or difficult situations, but these days I would just put a message in the WhatsApp group chat or call a friend Who attended with me, and the only thing that shows you is that I’m able to use a cellphone.
    I also think that the chances of being rejected for an interview are much higher when asking for accommodations than failing an interview because you’re reading from a script, some here have said that reading from a script didn’t harm their chances and although it may seem unprofessional, people with disabilities do have to make that calculation every single day, it would be nice to live in a world where that wasn’t the case but unfortunately, it is.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Your argument is basically that because some interviewers ask dumb questions, interviews are totally useless in determining fit?
      I disagree. I think interviewing *can* be done well and often is. I think most jobs genuinely require the ability to hold a coherent conversation (even/especially when you might be nervous or frazzled)

      1. Annie*

        My argument is that the correlation between doing well in an interview and doing well in a job overall has not been proven, there are people who are very good at answering interview questions but Will not be good at the job itself.
        Besides, the only reason a person would be nervous or frazzled is because they don’t know whether they will get the job or not, once they have the job they have no reason to be nervous anymore.

        1. MassMatt*

          “the only reason a person would be nervous or frazzled is because they don’t know whether they will get the job or not, once they have the job they have no reason to be nervous anymore”

          Wrong on both counts, but especially the first.

        2. ecnaseener*

          My point about being frazzled is that you *will* be frazzled at some point in most jobs. Clients/coworkers/bosses will yell at you, or you’ll realize you messed up big time, etc etc etc, and you need to be able to communicate clearly and calmly in those situations or you’ll make it worse. (This isn’t true for every job but certainly most jobs.)

    2. Observer*

      I was once asked in an interview what I would do if I went to the fair with a group of friends and got lost, 20 years ago this question would’ve been good for assessing a candidates organisational skills, approaches to preplanning and how they cope in stressful or difficult situations, but these days I would just put a message in the WhatsApp group chat or call a friend Who attended with me, and the only thing that shows you is that I’m able to use a cellphone.

      Not necessarily. It could easily be a different issue that the interviewer is looking to address – How do you respond to unexpected minor set backs? “Call my friend and figure out where we are in relation to each other” or “Use google maps to find the exit” etc. say that you are probably a functional adult who deals with normal setbacks in a reasonable fashion. On the other hand, some responses would be a red flag to me, such as someone expressing how annoyed they would be with their friends over this even if that person then indicated a reasonable course of action (eg pulling up a map of the fair.)

      Without knowing more about the place you were interviewing at, it’s hard to know whether this was a reasonable question or not. I’m just saying that unlike a lot of other questions we’ve seen, this one is not necessarily so stupid.

    3. Rayray*

      I agree with you. I think there’s a lot about interviews that help assess a candidates qualifications, skills, and personalities but I feel like it’s almost become a game at this point. Someone who knows how to be charming and give the answers the interviewer wants to hear can so very well. Someone could be incredibly skilled, dependable, and have potential to really grow and help the company but if they’re more timid or nervous, they get passes for the guy who was able to be more “on”.

      Again, I absolutely do thrive their is weight to interviews but it’s so damn hard for some of us to get past them no matter how skilled we are. Hiring is all about getting past the system anymore. There’s so many expectations of what to do wand how you’re supposed to answer questions. When you’re actively job hunting you have to seek all
      The advice you can and it’s all
      About making sure you word Everything just right or you’re deemed not good enough.

  18. rudster*

    Is LW4’s desired shift the same one as the SO’s? I don’t think that they are necessarily plotting anything underhanded. Significant others who are both on shift work would have perfectly good reasons to want specific shifts (either the same or different ones), whether to be able to enjoy their off hours at the same time, or to split child care duties more efficiently, or maybe to ensure they both get enough alone/me time.

    1. Eliza*

      It sounds like the current employee is on shift A, LW4 is hiring for shift B, and what the SO wants is for the current employee to switch to shift B so the SO can take shift A if hired.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      And THAT should never come from anyone except the manager. OP has a functional team on one shift and is building the other.
      People are not LEGO bricks.

  19. JustGrad*

    OP5, I don’t have fantastic advice, but know you aren’t alone! My partner started his grad job in January and goes into the office for the first time tomorrow and is pretty anxious about it. Plan everything you can ahead of time, have a lunch, your clothes, any documents you might need in a bag. Less to panic about the morning of.

    1. OP5*

      Thanks, you’re definitely hitting on some of my anxiety! None of this is new to me except the team, so I’m probably displacing a lot of my general anxiety about heading back to the office onto meeting my team in person!

  20. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    re: driving

    Even leaving aside considerations about whether a person should be talking on the phone whilst driving, I think it’s reasonable to say that their attention will be divided. You simply can’t pay 100% attention to the call *and* 100% attention to the road. So any call more complex than, “Hey, Wakeen, have you been to the printers yet?” isn’t going to be a particularly productive conversation.

    I think it would be completely reasonable for LW to decline to engage in longer phone calls with a driver on that basis, and to push for a company-wide policy along similar lines. For example, pull over if the call is going to take longer than a minute.

    I also note that in the UK we have some driving offences for non-drivers which can be applied where a driver committed an offence because someone else made them do it – eg if a truck driver is done for inattentive driving while they were on a call to work, the boss can get an equivalent ding on their own personal record. This recognises how power balance can lead people to make bad choices, and spreading the blame accordingly. (If you want to Google this, you’re looking for “aiding and abetting”, “causing or permitting” and “inciting” offences.)

    1. Nonny-nonny-non*

      A few years back I had a meeting scheduled with the new site leader to talk him through some of the intricacies of my department. He phoned in and I could hear that he was driving so I asked if we should reschedule, and he assured me that no, he could listen while driving. I was dubious, but since he was too new for me to feel comfortable refusing point-blank (i.e. I didn’t know how he’d react or how reasonable a person he was) I continued the call and took him through what he needed to know.
      We finished the discussion and then he said “Blast!” “What’s wrong?” I asked. “My exit was three miles back; I obviously wasn’t paying enough attention….”

        1. Nonny-nonny-non*

          Very yikes indeed. But it’s now my go-to example of why I won’t speak on the phone to someone who’s driving.

          1. Myrin*

            Just out of curiosity, what was he like apart from this instance? As in, did this situation kind of “foreshadow” other yikes-y stuff going on with him or was he mostly fine?

            1. Nonny-nonny-non*

              In fact he was (and is) a very reasonable person (every time I read a bad-manager story here I am grateful all over again for what a good manager he is) and would have been fine if I’d point-blank refused to continue the call.
              At that point, though, he was only about two weeks into the job – and his predecessor almost certainly would have taken a refusal fairly badly, hence my reluctance to push the point.

              1. Observer*

                I’m really not surprised – the fact that he acknowledged that he wasn’t paying enough attention is a good sign.

    2. H2*

      Your first point as what I was thinking, too. Even safety issues aside, if two people are having a work conversation that one of them is not really paying attention to, do they really need to be having that conversation? If it’s important, the driver can pull over, and if it’s not important, then maybe it could wait (or, I suppose, be answered very quickly).

  21. photon*

    Am I the only one who thought about a totally different marshmallow test?

    Now I’m hungry :D

      1. PhyllisB*

        The only marshmallow challenge I’ve participated in was we made two lines facing each other and tossed marshmallows at each other to catch in your mouth. I failed THAT one spectacularly. Of course so did everyone else.

    1. Overeducated*

      Haha yes, I thought it was going to be “I failed a test showing I could delay gratification”

  22. Damn it, Hardison!*

    OP 5, I joined my current company in January, and didn’t meet my coworkers in person until this month. I expected the first day back to be awkward, but it wasn’t! Everyone was so friendly, including people who aren’t even in my department. People stopped by my desk to introduce themselves, and a group invited me to lunch. I think everyone was happy to see their coworkers, including the new ones. Good luck!

    1. OP5*

      That’s great to hear! Everyone was friendly when I joined the team back in January, so I’m hoping that carries over into the real world too. Congrats on the (not so) new job :)

    2. ThatGirl*

      Similar for me – I started my job in January, went into the office for the first time in May, and have been there a couple days a week since then — and there are STILL people I haven’t met in person or have only met once. We all just acknowledge the weirdness of it and say things like “it’s nice to meet you in person finally!”

      (Also, with masks on in public areas, it’s hard to recognize people I’ve only seen on Zoom, so that’s another layer of slightly awkward funny.)

  23. MSB*

    I can’t even imagine having enough time to get everything in my day done if I couldn’t take the odd call while driving.

    1. Observer*

      I can’t even imagine having enough time to get everything in my day done if I couldn’t take the odd call while driving.

      Replace “driving” with “pooping” and tell me how reasonable it is to expect people to go along with it.

      If you schedule is that insane, that’s a problem, not a justification for cutting safety corners. Just as lack of time is not an excuse to skip pre-flight check lists etc.

    2. cubone*

      is this a unique requirement of your job in some way? Like you’re a travelling salesman or something? Because I did a job with 85% travel and drove thousands of miles in my local area, was either in the car or at events all but 2-3 days a month at most. I took tons of calls IN my car but I never took a single one while driving. It’s a matter of prioritization… if where/why you’re driving is more important than the call, you can’t take the call til after. If the call is more important than the driving, then you pull over. If both things are the priority, then neither is.

      In other words: “don’t half-a** two things, whole-a** one thing”

      1. MSB*

        I’m a single parent, it’s just been hard. But I get what you’re saying for sure. I try to avoid it but it’s really hard balancing all the demands on my time right now without feeling like I’m failing in all the ways if that makes sense! But you’re right.

        1. Observer*

          I get that it’s hard. But think about this – It’s NEVER good for a kid to have their parent get badly hurt or killed in a car accident. But the harm to the child is exponentially compounded if the accident happens to a parent who is their only or primary caretaker.

          Which is to say that basic safety needs to be a higher priority than almost anything. You’re going to drop some balls – that’s to be expected. And it’s FINE. No one is perfect. And all of the people who seem to have EVERYTHING 100% together generally are either eating themselves (or their families) up, in ways you can’t see, or they have a lot of support that you don’t. The one ball you shouldn’t drop is the basic safety one.

  24. Canadian Valkyrie*

    I work in a field where no phone calls while driving is standard practice at least with clients. I’ve had clients be on the phone while I’m driving and in they’re just running late and are literally pulling into a driveway, it’s usually like “I’ll stay here on the phone but in going to be quiet until you let me know you’re safely inside”…if it’s a client who thinks they can chat with me while they drive, I’ll just point out that talking to me really just isn’t the same as talking to a friend, because our work together requires more than just passive attention, and that due to X and Y reasons, it could risk their safety in ways that they might not have thought of so we’ll have to reschedule.

    I think an org could implement similar tactics for staff to staff calls with some nuance — if your just calling a colleague to see if they’re still coming to X meeting this morning or because they’re going to get coffee and you want to catch them and make sure they get you a drink, that could be left on the table. But you could frame it as I do with clients and be like “the kind of engagement we need in meetings or conversations like X or Y require a level of attention that could compromise your safety while driving. Given that, we’re asking staff not to do meetings or A and B typed chats while driving”

  25. MMMMMmmmmMMM*

    I’m sorry, but how are all these people writing these scripts? Are they just finding random interview questions online and writing their answers and hoping that they’ll be asked them in the interview? That just seems like… a ton of work.

    1. Canadian Valkyrie*

      Not gonna lie, I have done this in the past. And if was soooooo much work. Unlike the person OP interviewed I did NOT actually read them off. But I got such severe anxiety about interviews in the past that this over the top investment felt like the only option.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Some places either give the interview questions in advance, or give an idea of the types of questions that will be asked to help a candidate prepare, but I’m sure people also just do some wild googling.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        The organization my spouse works for gives you the questions 45 minutes before your interview starts so that you can jot some notes down – but there is no way you’re writing an in-depth script to ten questions in 45 minutes.

    3. FD*

      I have had an interview where the questions sounded suspiciously canned. So I later Googled, “Interview questions for [position x],” and they were in fact just reading off those questions.

      My *guess* is that the person must have been writing scripts for the most likely interview questions. You could probably guess at least a good number of those. For example, it’s a good bet that with a customer service job, you’ll get asked, “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer.”

      The problem is 1) most humans don’t sound natural at all when reading off a script so this will sound stilted rather than like a real experience the person had and 2) it will likely make the person *less* likely to cope with any unexpected questions.

      A better solution, in my experience of coaching friends and family for interviews, is to teach them a method they can use to respond to questions, such as STAR for behavioral questions (explain the SITUATION, describe the TASK you were trying to perform, describe what ACTION you took, and describe the RESULTS of your action).

      1. Curious*

        I would think that being able to choose the right canned answer is a skill that would be useful for a customer service rep in many cases …

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      There are a good number of questions you can expect are likely to be asked in your interview, and yes properly preparing for an interview is indeed a lot of work!

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        To clarify: you should not just read out a script word for word to answer a question in an interview, but you absolutely should try to come up with good answers to potential questions (like concrete examples for
        “tell me about a time when…”) and have some notes on hand to refer to.

    5. cubone*

      I would be curious for the OP to confirm, but I would bet that the answers were only like 60% “good” at most. You can prep for a few common interview questions (eg. “why you’d leave your last job), but “guessing what the questions will be” is a terrible prep method most of the time.

      1. LW1*

        It started with some basic “tell me how you got interested in this industry, why are you interested in this position specifically” and then went into more job-specific questions, but it was really difficult to even ask questions after a few minutes because everything went back to the script.

  26. Lexie*

    OP2 I used to work at a company that had a no phone use while driving policy. It was apparently dictated by our liability insurance policy. The insurance piece wasn’t something that was widely known (as evidenced when someone tried to change the policy to hands free was allowed and got shut down) but it could be your company has something similar that most people may not realize.

    1. MMMMMmmmmMMM*

      its also possible (if in the US) that there is a state law regarding talking on the phone while driving. I believe this is the case for Minnesota.

    2. Meep*

      I wish our company was responsible. Even if it is was for insurance reasons. I am the LW whose bosses expected me to drive interns around that they were paying extra to take the bus. The VP used to try and call me when I was driving home because it was “free work hours” in her mind. I conditioned her not to by turning my phone on airplane mode when I drove.

  27. blink14*

    LW #2 – my old employer put a policy into place that you couldn’t take any calls, work related or not, while driving during work hours, whether that was in a personal vehicle or a company owned vehicle. This was around the time that Bluetooth was becoming a more common basic feature in cars. I occasionally used my car for work related errands – I was never reimbursed for mileage either.

    This had been happening more frequently at my current job, especially with most people either totally remote now or on a hybrid schedule. There’s no policy against it, but it often doesn’t make for the great call quality, so I have noticed less people are doing it, which is good. I think it’s one thing if you’re a passenger, and sort of the same if you’re driving and mostly just listening, but to be having a full on work convo is a little weird and potentially dangerous when it hasn’t been the norm.

  28. jas*

    #1 surprised me! I have anxiety and I write a script for most non-social phone calls when I’m really struggling (it was every call for my first like, 3 years of adulthood). Even something as basic as calling the doctor’s office or pharmacy, I’ll write out “Hi, this is [name], calling because [reason]”. I never have for a job interview, that’s just. Too many scripts to write and I wouldn’t think it was the most efficient use of my prep time, but it didn’t seem totally out of left field to me for someone to do so until Alison pointed out all the issues with it.

    1. FD*

      Yeah it makes a lot of sense to do that for, say, calling the pharmacy because you can be pretty sure of how that’s going to go and frankly, if you sound stilted, it doesn’t actually matter.

      I can sympathize with the anxiety-brain response of I MUST ANTICIPATE ALL OF THE POSSIBLE CONTINGENCIES FOR THIS STRESSFUL SITUATION, but I think this is a case where feeding the bear is a little counter-productive.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      There’s definitely no reason not to do that with calling the doctor or pharmacy or whatever if this has you questioning that at all!

      In those cases 1) they are not actively trying to judge you on things like communication and 2) you are the one who knows the reason you are calling and can prepare your script accordingly (though hopefully if they ask an important question you didn’t anticipate that doesn’t through things off too much) as opposed to in an interview where you can prepare for a lot of possibilities but ultimately don’t know exactly what information they will want from you.

    3. LW1*

      I fully support writing out answers to common interview questions & rehearsing as part of your prep! In this case, I could see the candidate as they literally read the answer from their screen, and their prepared answers did not allow for any meaningful follow-up, as any attempts I made to get clarification or ask for specifics were just reverted back to the script.

    4. Gloucesterina*

      I think it’s fair to say that there’s a difference between using a script as a resource for interacting with people vs. using the text as a substitute for engaging with the person and/or the specific question asked, no?

  29. Falling Diphthong*

    Soon, hiring managers will be receiving individual marshmallows from candidates, with a note offering them a second marshmallow to be delivered at the interview.

  30. Firecat*

    #4 you should treat this like any other candidate rejection. Of your employee is actually ready to work with a significant other they won’t ask for more details.

    Trying to leverage his real to get her run, press forore detailed etc. From either of them is a sign they should not be working together.

  31. Work calls*

    My company has a policy against business calls while driving, and I have personally enforced it on my team a few times. Has not been a problem and I appreciate the boundaries it sets, that we are not expected to take work calls 24/7.

  32. Gigi*

    For OP 5, what I said after meeting a coworker in person for the first time: “I can’t believe you’re so tall!” I’m confident you’ll do better.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      That’s real though, I have such skewed expectations of people’s physical makeups based on zoom. Heights can be a shock!

    2. Eurekas*

      During the “Vaccinated employees, etc. don’t have to wear masks” part of the summer, I was in more than one awkward conversation about “So and So” looking so different without their mask. In once case, a co-worker said something to me along the lines of “It’s so weird to see your face”–she didn’t mean my face was weird-looking, just that she was so used to seeing only half of it.

      (Retail, grocery, high turnover even before the Pandemic, so, yes, I had many co-workers who I’d never seen not wearing a mask).

  33. TechSupport*

    LW2 – as much as I hate to do it, I’ve taken calls in the car before. Sometimes it’s out of necessity. If the call can be rescheduled, great! Otherwise it may just be needed. I took a call a few years back while stuck in gridlock on a major highway because of a 7 car pileup (driver was speeding and swerving between lanes, not on the phone, for the record).

  34. 2e asteroid*

    I had a work call during a road trip a while back. I conscientiously found a place to pull over right before the call, pulled out my laptop, and got started.

    A few minutes into the call, I jostled the laptop and accidentally honked my horn. I said over the phone “Oops, don’t worry about that, I just have my laptop balanced on the steering wheel.” My co-worker, who hadn’t realized I’d pulled over, was terrified!

  35. Firecat*

    #2 This really depends on your state and company. If you live in a state where it’s illegal, you’ll have a lot more room to refuse calls. I do think you may have to spend capital though if you are making it difficult for someone to talk with you if they regularly do so while driving.

    I think folks in DC, CA and NY have an understandably knee jerk reaction to how terrible it is to talk on the phone, but that’s because they regularly drive in traffic so bad that even having a passenger talk to you can cause a wreck. I would never talk on the phone when I lived in ME for example. It wasn’t uncommon for me to have to shush the car during certain parts of the commute.

    But honestly in rural MO and IA your biggest accident causes are tractors, wildlife/farmstock and facing asleep at the wheel.

    Talking on the phone through hundreds of miles corn fields is safer then getting bored and nodding off.

    1. Former Young Lady*

      Those wildlife and livestock are a lot easier to avoid if your mind is on your driving. By all means, listen to music or chew gum to stay awake and alert! But if you and I are on the phone discussing the intricacies of a contract, I need you to be fully focused on the contract — not multi-tasking, even in a cornfield.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Right. My husband chats with family on the phone for long drives to stay alert – light conversations, nothing brain intensive. A work conversation is different.

    2. Jennifer Juniper*

      Ummm….isn’t that what the radio’s for? People do have Sirius XM nowadays.

      Or you can simply pull over and take a nap.

  36. V*

    Many years ago my group was merging with another and we were split into mixed teams to do the marshmallow build. My team lost. And far from losing gracefully, the other team members opted to start a marshmallow fight. I was frankly too chicken to engage.

    Our new overall manager, who was just now meeting both of the merging groups, was appalled and read us the riot act on the spot. Could not have done more to cement good relationships in the merged group, though unfortunately united against her.

    1. Girasol*

      It’s this sort of scenario like this that I thought of. As a woman in IT I’ve been in too many “team building” events that end up as a way to sort the winners from the losers or the men from the girls. If it’s already a collegial team, a game might be fun, but if there’s any competitiveness, interpersonal problems, or new people in the group, team building games can get rather vicious and divisive. Alison is assuming it’s the first situation – a friendly game to practice collaboration skills – but I’ll have to admit I was thinking what OP did. I would have been concerned that a game loss would mean a certain amount of battling my way up from the bottom of the pecking order in staff meetings again.

  37. NewYork*

    I do not think the issue with the marshmellow tower is that it fell, but I would need to know more. Was OP ordering others around, then would not listen to them? If that is not what your organization wants, that would be problematic.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yeah if the LW took a leadership role, h0w they executed that role overall matters more than the outcome. Now I agree with Alison that it shouldn’t matter a *ton*, this isn’t a work team, but if there were huge red flags around how they interacted with others like a short temper then that might linger. But I don’t think it should be a determiner of itself for work consequences, explicit or implicit.

  38. Nanani*

    #2 – Don’t forget that being in a car does not automatically mean driving it. Hard to say from such a brief letter but like, passengers exist.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      The letter ends with “To be clear, I’m only bothered when my colleague is the actual driver, not just a passenger.”

    2. Observer*

      Yes, the OP mentions that. They explicitly state that they don’t care if the person is a passenger, only if they are the driver.

  39. Meep*

    LW2 – My former manager used to call me while I was driving to and from work. My car is new enough that it has Bluetooth built-in. With that said, she would use me either as therapy or talk to me for the entire 40-minute drive about work. I stopped because I wasn’t being paid for those hours and it was never urgent.

    I would definitely take the approach for safety but also mention that you value their time and want to give them time to decompress after work. Not continue to work.

  40. Arctic*

    Removed. Do not repost things that I have removed for being off-topic! (But to answer your point: When a website links to an article within the text of another article, it won’t necessarily be a precise example of what the sentence containing the link is talking about — it’s just something somewhere in the neighborhood of related. That’s pretty standard across the web.)

  41. OP 4*

    OP 4 here, some context I now realized that I missed is that we historically have a hard time hiring for this position. We often don’t get many candidates to choose from, and internal referrals make up a lot of our employees. By not hiring SO, we’re potentially leaving that role vacant for awhile longer. As I replied to someone above, the employee texted me almost immediately after the phone screen with the candidate to confirm that they’d be fine with switching shifts, so they’re well aware that SO is suggesting this. I’m glad to hear there isn’t a huge privacy concern here and it won’t come back to bite me if I’m frank with my employee about not hiring their SO, and they’d still be hirable in the future if my current employee moves on.

  42. CommanderBanana*

    This is why I really dislike “team-building” exercises that are competitions. On paper, they seem fun, but there’s always that one (or more) person who gets WAY too intense. Not saying the LW was that person, but something about those events seems to bring out the worst in some people.

    Re: LW and hiring someone’s SO, you’re dodging a bullet. It also doesn’t make sense that someone who can’t work a certain shift at all is applying for a job working that shift.

  43. So sleepy*

    LW#5, FWIW, I’ve been around forever and I’m at a point where I honestly wouldn’t recognize some of the people on my team I didn’t see super often in the office (despite working with them for YEARS). I also can’t remember who is really new, who has been around since like April 2020, and who was actually hired in 2019 that I just didn’t really get to know then. They are probably just as worried about what you’ll think of them – I also know tons of people who have significantly changed in appearance and are dreading having to face their former colleagues that have never seen them with their natural hair colour (or grey), or have lost/gained a fair amount of weight. I’m looking forward to meeting the people I’ve gotten to know but haven’t met in person – not so much looking forward to wayward comments on my appearance from people I knew before!

  44. corinne*

    LW 5, I would encourage you to pursue any or all of the strategies you mentioned. (Except maybe the note – I would encourage you to be more active about it, rather than hoping people will come to you.)

    I’m sure you’re not the only one who would like to develop/strengthen team relationships after so much time apart. I personally would love to see those kind of actions from team members, especially those I haven’t met before. What a good way to strengthen your bond with your team–and perhaps set a great example for others who are wondering how to go about it!

  45. Jennifer Juniper*


    I was relieved when I realized this marshmallow challenge did not involve stuffing your mouth with as many marshmallows as you could. Children have choked to death doing that challenge.

    Whew. Glad you’re safe!

  46. Don't Shoot the Messenger*

    I have to drive for work frequently, long distances (like 5 hours one-way). If I couldn’t take calls from the car, or make them, I’d never be able to accomplish all of the work I needed and instead of “let’s talk tomorrow”, the likely response would be “let’s talk about midnight” or “let’s talk in three weeks” (yes, I have an insane schedule).

    I do always warn the person on the phone that I’m driving, so if I am not responsive to something right away, it’s likely because I needed to concentrate.

    Let’s hope one day we have a nationwide, built-out train system so we can safely work and travel at the same time!

    1. Observer*

      Please. You still have the option of pulling over. That you choose not to do so is on you (and your employer for allowing it.)

      1. Don't Shoot the Messenger*

        I think you misread my note. I can’t pull over for an hour-long phone call and still make it to my next meeting

  47. Lauren19*

    LW2 – I think it’s fair to express your concern, but also be aware that in some roles that may be the only time the person has. I work for a sales organization where our reps (pre-COIVD) were constantly on a customer visit and unable to talk, or driving from one customer to another. It was VERY common to do calls in the car, and the reps really didn’t have a ton of time in their days to be sitting still and talking.

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