company wants references from “coworkers you didn’t get along with”

I’m off today. This was originally published in 2016.

A reader writes:

I’m currently interviewing for a new position with a company that works remotely. Over the past two weeks, I’ve had 10+ video calls with every member of the small team, along with a bunch of unpaid work tests that have included everything from client proposals to personality tests. It’s starting to feel like a full-time job just interviewing with them. I was willing to do all of this because the company is one that I know well with a social mission that I really believe in. I was even willing to accept that they are paying a good $20k below what is normal.

I was told that it was down to me and one other person and they were planning on making a decision this week. Today I got an email asking me to send one to two references in each of five categories. One of those categories is “coworker(s) that you didn’t get along with.” They say they want all of these references to get a complete picture of who I am and how I work, but this feels like a weird ask to me. There haven’t been many coworkers that I’ve had problems with and most are far in the past (5+ years) and were fired from their jobs. They aren’t people I’d want talking to a potential future employer on my behalf, even if I did have a way to contact them and ask if they’d be willing. I have plenty of great “normal” references and a solid work history with a portfolio to prove it, which seems like plenty to base their decision on in addition to the many phone calls and tests.

Am I off-base for feeling uncomfortable with what they’re asking of me? Is there a way that I can provide standard references and address my concerns of feeling uncomfortable without turning them off too much? I’m worried that I might have wasted a lot of time with this whole process.

What the actual F.

Seriously, this is ridiculous. 10 video calls over two weeks is absurd — it’s disrespectful of your (and their) time, and it’s indicative of a company that has no clue how to hire — and not even enough of a clue to realize that Something Doesn’t Seem Right About What We’re Doing. And now five to ten references, over five different categories? And names of coworkers who you didn’t get along with?

No. That is not reasonable.

References are valuable. And sure, in theory I’d love to be able to talk to a dozen people who worked with a candidate, with a whole bunch of different vantage points. I’d also like to have a video reel of the highlights of their last two years of work, a transcript of every time they got frustrated with a manager or a coworker, and a live blog of their last performance review meeting.

I can’t have those things because hiring doesn’t work that way. You will never know absolutely everything that you could know about a candidate. You do your best, based on a reasonable number of interviews, work samples, observations, and discussions with a handful of references. If you don’t feel like you have enough to confidently move forward with someone after doing that, they’re probably not the right candidate — or you need to seriously revisit your hiring practices. It’s not okay to put the burden of weak hiring practices or shaky confidence in your own judgment on to the candidate, and make them pay the price in the form of dozens of hours of interviews and exercises and tests, or to ask them to place an unreasonable burden on people they know.

You can never look under every single rock. Asking to be put in touch with coworkers who you didn’t get along with is just … ugh, it’s just not okay. They have to know it’s going to cause you a tremendous amount of discomfort (and the coworker too, I’d assume), and since they have no way of judging what happened between the two of you, they have no way of knowing how much weight to give whatever that person might say to them.

And really, it’s so very unreasonable that it’s worth you refusing. This is not a company you should continue placating. I’d seriously consider telling them, “This seems like overkill to me. This is exponentially more information than I’ve ever been asked for before by an employer. We’ve already had 10+ video calls and I’ve completed numerous tests for you. These aren’t reasonable demands to make of job candidates. I was interested in working with you despite the below-market salary, but I’m alarmed enough by these practices that at this point I’m withdrawing my application.”

But if you are absolutely committed to continuing, then I suppose you could say: “Hmmm, I’ve never really had any significant problems with coworkers, but I’m providing names and contact information for a variety of people who can speak to my work.”

(Or maybe you can just give them my contact info as one of your references so that I can give them a piece of my mind? No? Fine.)

{ 191 comments… read them below }

  1. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

    Did we ever get an update to this? I’d love to hear what happened.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      We didn’t get an actual update as far as I can remember, but there was a letter the following week where someone got contacted randomly on LinkedIn asking for a reference for someone who had worked at the same company once but OP didn’t actually know her, then it turned out they also asked the IT guy who started right after she left and only knew of her from deactivating her account. There was a bit of joking in the comments on that one that this was the same company and that was how they were going about getting those references, although sadly it probably wasn’t.

    2. Nikki M*

      This reminds me of a super bizarre question a board member of an organization asked me when I was acting as a reference for a candidate for their organization. She asked, “What would [candidate’s] enemies say about him?” I’ve given references for almost 20 years and have never encountered a question like that. I had no idea how to respond except to say, “Well, I wouldn’t know if he has enemies or who they are, so I couldn’t possibly imagine how to respond.” This, among many other bizarre questions (and a 70 minute reference call…my lord!) confirmed to me what Alison says in her response above: they had no idea what they were doing or how the hiring process works. My reference took the job, but I continue to wonder what he got himself into. Yikes.

      1. Susan+Ivanova*

        They’re lifting that from various places, ranging from FDR (“I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made”) to Doctor Who, to more that you can find on TVTropes (but as you aren’t my enemy, I won’t post a link) – but it’s one thing to judge a political leader by his political enemies, and it’s another to think it applies at a personal level.

        1. Zelda*

          J. Michael Straczynski summed up the brouhaha about a controversial episode of _Babylon 5_ by saying, “There are some poeple you *want* to offend.” There’s a real thing there.

          The trouble is, what on EARTH would make anyone think that those “high-quality enemies” would tell the objective truth about the situation? There’s a real thing there, but it is 100% inaccessible via the method this employer was trying to use. Ridiculous.

      2. Phryne*

        I think ‘what would your friends tell about you’ is a fairly commonly used one, so I guess she thought she would give that an ‘interesting’ twist without thinking it over properly?

        1. Indigo a la mode*

          Or they were trying for a (reasonable) “what might someone critique him on?”, tried to make it cute, and ended up with bizarre? Maybe?

      3. But what to call me?*

        Just… the assumption that *of course* the candidate must have enemies. Is this a thing most people have?

        I’d be a bit concerned about working for an organization where having enemies is the norm.

      4. Government Contractor*

        Ha, that does remind me of a question one of my friends was asked in the background check process for my security clearance. “Can you say anything negative about her?”

        My friend’s response: “She’s always right.”

      5. Vio*

        I can’t imagine many adults would really consider themselves or be considered by others to *have* enemies. If someone asked me about my friends or co-workers enemies I’d probably express surprise at the idea that they even had any

  2. Judge Judy and Executioner*

    I would have loved for Alison to have been this person’s reference. After 5 interviews I don’t even know if I would have still wanted the job!

    1. The Original K.*

      A friend of mine dropped out of a process after 5 interviews with no end in sight. He told me, “they may not be sure about me but I’m sure about them.”

      And for the OP, all this for $20K below market value? Absolutely not.

        1. The Original K.*

          Yeah, $20K below market value is a deal-breaker unless that amount is still substantially more than I currently make. I’m not particularly mission-driven. As long as I work somewhere that’s not actively harmful, I’m good.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            At that point dancing for nickels down at the pier would be less effort and rake in more cash.

        2. Warrior Princess Xena*

          The best intentions in the world do not make working in a hot mess of bees less miserable.

        3. Asenath*

          If I’m working for an employer, I want to be paid the going rate for my work. If I support their mission, and they can’t afford to pay me the going rate, I might volunteer for them – after hours; after I’ve earned what I need from my regular job. Or donate to them. $20,000 a year is a LOT to essentially donate to an employer – especially if their hiring practices are so bad that it makes you wonder how they run the place.

          1. learnedthehardway*

            Yes – hard agree!!! And I would argue that by working for social-mission-oriented companies at significantly lower than market wages is – overall – a bad thing. While there’s a good argument for a trade-off between work/life balance and compensation that justifies slightly below-market salaries, being heavily below market perpetuates the inaccessibility of those roles for people who are not privileged enough to have the economic resources to allow them to take this kind of pay cut.

            ie. paying well below market means you only get people who don’t need the money to be employees.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              I would add the caveat that it does depend what the market rate is. I work in tech, so $20k under my market rate is still a really good salary and well above median income in my area.

              1. The Original K.*

                Yep – this was my point above. If Im changing industries and $20K below market rate for that industry still puts me ahead of what I was making before, that’ll do.

              2. one L lana*

                Once you hit a certain salary threshold where you can afford your basic needs, I think mission is basically a perk. I make slightly below market rate in my role, but I’m fine with that because I have other things I value (strategic input, autonomy, flexibility) that I wouldn’t get with a similar title at an organization that can afford to pay me more. I’d put “believing in the mission” in that category too.

                But the company has to hit that threshold. You can’t eat mission (or strategic input, or flexibility).

            2. Phryne*

              Everyone in education works below their market rate, sometimes well below. Maybe because of the benefits (long vacations, depending on country), maybe because of a calling. But if everyone had your attitude, there would not be enough people to teach. I’m not a teacher, but the college teachers I work with earn much much less than they could on the free market in commercial ventures. They earn well enough to live on and raise a family on, they just won’t get rich.

              As for other kinds of non-profit, if they draw market wages they get burned on social media for spending the money on themselves rather than aid. A no-win situation.
              Personally I am not driven by high income. I want to earn enough to live on comfortably, but I don’t much care beyond that. And very little could ever convince me to work in a commercial business, certainly not more money.

              1. zuzu*

                Education, particularly at the most poorly-paid level (K-12), is heavily female.

                Are we surprised it’s so underpaid?

          2. Juliet*

            Yep. You can’t take a tax write off the amount you are underpaid. Wouldn’t that be nice, though?

          3. Cedrus Libani*

            Also worth pointing out: if the employer doesn’t pay market wages, it’s nearly certain that you’ll find yourself lacking the support you need in other areas.

            I’ve spent time in “skunkworks” settings, where the actual budget was a rounding error on what would have been needed to do it right, and what’s impressive is that we managed to do anything at all; I learned a lot, and I have no intention of ever doing that again. Turns out that I value doing good work. I’d take that over a super-exciting mission that I can only flail in the general direction of.

            FWIW, in my last job search, I interviewed with a non-profit. They had hired some poor kid straight out of college to do a very difficult technical job, by himself; that didn’t work out, so they were interviewing fresh PhD grads (e.g. me), even though in a saner world they’d be interviewing PhDs with 20+ years of experience. And they wanted to pay no more than $60K, even though in that saner world they’d need to add a zero. Even if I was a trust fund baby and the money was no object, nobody likes being set up to fail – and that’s what was going on there.

        4. LadyJ*

          Laughs and then bawls in non-profit! Also mission statements are nice and all BUT how many companies actually follow them

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I have many terrible things to say about Facebook, but I think we can all agree that it followed it’s motto “Move fast and break things” a little too well.

        5. Jack Straw from Wichita*

          I say this as a person who is DEEPLY invested in a variety of social causes – social missions don’t pay my mortgage or buy me groceries.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      That sunk cost fallacy is vicious. Eventually you have to recognize that it’s pulling you under. (The position already pays way under market!)

    3. MigraineMonth*

      Are they just counting on the sunk-cost fallacy to keep job-seekers continuing to interview? Like, “I’ve already spend 10 hours trying to get this job, might as well spend another 5”, and later “I’ve already spent 20 hours trying to get this job, it would all be wasted if I didn’t spend another 10.”

      I guess all having gone through such a ridiculous experience would help the employees bond over how terrible it was?

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I suspect that they’re just really bad at hiring. The pay isn’t good, so they are probably skewing towards inexperienced or under qualified applicants. If they were bad at screening and got a string of people who were also toxic personalities, I could easily see how they hit on “let’s do multiple rounds of interviews and get references from people who don’t like them!” as a solution.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        There’s probably no clever strategy behind it; just incompetence. However they will be accidentally screening for people with poor boundaries and together with their poor and thoughtless management skill, it’s quite a toxic soup brewing.

  3. Just Your Everyday Crone*

    Co-workers I didn’t get along with are either absolutely horrible people, or people whose style clashed with mine but who are fine as people and whom I wouldn’t want to insult with a phone call saying, “so Crone says you two didn’t get along.”

    1. Ann Ominous*

      That’s a really good point! How would that conversation even go? The person gets off the phone wondering if Crone hated them all along and was just really good at hiding it, because you can’t trust this company to deliver the message tactfully.

    2. Lacey*

      Yes! There are coworkers I clashed with a bit, but when they or I left the company it was on good terms. I’m not calling them up to say, “So I need a reference from one of my worst coworkers and that’s you!”

      1. Wine Not Whine*

        One of the very few people from OldJob who come to mind in this context…is now an upper product VP at NewJob.

        I didn’t know this at the time I applied. Imagine if they had asked me to supply what I consider a silly, negative reference, and I’d agreed to do so – and given *her* name? AWKWARD!

        (For the record, 1. she and I have no real reason to interact here, being in completely unrelated divisions; 2. there’s a high likelihood she wouldn’t/doesn’t remember me anyway; and 3. I have absolutely nothing against her and wouldn’t refuse to work with her. Our disharmony had much to do with the toxic conditions at OldJob. But, still.)

    3. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

      My issue would be that the one person who leaps to mind probably doesn’t even remember me. She was a manager, and thankfully, not mine–I did have to work with her and I had to do what she said because she was so high above me, but I wasn’t her direct report. She was VICIOUS to the people under her–one assistant took time off for a funeral, and this woman CALLED THE FUNERAL PARLOR during the service and asked the person who answered, and I quote, “is this an important funeral, or can [assistant] come back to work?” (No prizes for guessing which industry this was in.)

      So she’s the colleague I hate the most, but I doubt she has any clue who I am. I can’t even imagine what that reference check phone call would be like.

        1. A. Tiskit & A. Taskit LLC*

          This is a tie with the letter about the manager who barged into a subordinate’s chemotherapy session after having threatened to fire another employee if they didn’t tell the manager where the employee was having chemo. That subordinate wound up getting fired anyway for disclosing that information…yes, after having had their job threatened if they DIDN’T disclose it.

    4. marvin*

      I’m just thinking of all of the wonderful choices I would have. Would you like to talk to the coworker who sexually harassed me? How about the one who regularly tried to manipulate me into doing his job for him? The one who wanted me to literally shine his shoes? So many people who I can’t wait to get back in touch with.

      1. Sabina*

        The co-worker I reported for showing up drunk? Who later wrecked a company vehicle while drunk when supposedly in recovery? They didn’t like me much, if I recall.

    5. Loulou*

      right! I have coworkers I don’t get along that well with because our styles and viewpoints don’t mesh…and it’s hard to see how specifically citing them as a coworker I don’t get along with would IMPROVE our working relationship. I find this too absurd to even entertain as a possibility!

      1. Isabel Archer*

        “I find this too absurd to even entertain as a possibility!” would have been the OP’s ideal reaction to the employer’s request.

      2. Susan+Ivanova*

        I have one that I disliked because he put all his skill points in Bluff – he could talk your ear off about his skills, but I spent two weeks waiting for him to write some code in an area where I had zero experience before doing it myself. One day, one google search, zero to working.

        Weird thing is, it wouldn’t have surprised if he’d put me down as a reference because he is just that clueless. After that two week wait I told my manager I would never work with him again, and he was upset because he “wouldn’t get a chance to show off his $area skills”!

        I would just decline to be a reference, they could draw their own conclusions.

    6. Mme. Briet’s Antelope*

      I can only think of one coworker I didn’t get along with and it was because he was a ravening sexist, I technically outranked him on the team despite being hired later (and being much younger), and I refused to do his work for him and (politely!) called him out when he tried to get away with doing a shoddy job or leaving it undone entirely. Oh, and then refused to violate ethics rules to help him get a promotion.

      So no, I don’t think I would want to give him as a reference, actually.

    7. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, in my 8 years at my current company there have been exactly 4 people that I just don’t like working with. But I think (hope) that they would be surprised to learn how I feel about them. I try to remain professional in any case so there is never outright conflict.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This. The people I don’t care for working with don’t know it, so why would I have a reference checker call and announce it?

    8. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I think the people I “didn’t get along with” at work would be pretty surprised to hear that I felt that way about them. I don’t see any value in stripping of the veneer of plausible deniability and outright identifying someone as a person you find difficult; what positive outcome can that possibly provide between you?

      1. Mints*

        Plausible deniability is my whole strategy with difficult coworkers. I don’t think they would be completely shocked I find them difficult to work with, but the worst thing I’ve said to them outright is “I’m not sure what you mean” or “I don’t think this is what [uberboss] wanted, but I can check”

    9. kilo*

      Right? This was my first thought. How does that reference request work? “oh hi, yeah, aah, … long time no see…. so I’ve been asked to provide a reference for someone I didn’t get along with, and I always thought you were a massive jerk. So will you be give a reference for me please?”

    10. ferrina*

      Let’s see, the coworkers I didn’t get along with. Well, there was…

      1. The person who was determined to dislike me no matter what. She did the exact opposite of anything I suggested (even when I was leading a project). It didn’t matter how nice I was, she hated me. When asked by the boss, she said “Well, nobody likes ferrina. It’s just your personality, and there’s nothing you could do to make me like you.”
      2. The guy that claimed credit for anything I did. Even if he had no idea what I was doing.
      3. The person that screamed at me when I didn’t respond to an IM after 20 minutes (because I was in a meeting). She also liked to ask me to review things, then if I gave her changes (no matter how minor), she berated me and told me I didn’t know what I was doing, but then passed off the (sometimes factually inaccurate information as “ferrina reviewed it and said it was fine, so blame her.”

      None of these people would have been remotely honest and would have gone out of their way to sink me. Some things they would not share…
      Person 1 was so determined to hate me, that she ignored the fact that, yes, most people loved working with me, and a few months prior I had been tapped by the Director to lead an failing account that had an unhappy client because I was the one who could talk down the client and make the account successful again. After I left, she took over the account. She promptly failed, and the team manager who let her abuse me was fired.
      Person 2 had constantly poor performance issues and people actively avoided working with him (his name became synonymous with “Odious Quagmire of Resources”).
      Person 3 caused several people to quit, including twice in 3 years her entire department had to be restaffed because everyone left to avoid her.

    11. Richard Hershberger*

      I have worked in my current job going on thirteen years, with literally two other people: my boss and the secretary. I get along fine with both. There is one person from my previous job I could plausibly track down, but we got along great. In fact, he was the reference that got me this job. Going to the job before that, there are three people I am in semi-contact with still, but that is because we got along great. So I guess I am stumped for this requirement.

    12. The OG Sleepless*

      I mean, the first person who came to mind was a coworker whose work style was fundamentally different from mine, and we clashed over little things all the time, but we were relatively fond of each other as humans. It would really hurt either of our feelings to get a phone call like that.

    13. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      Another perspective: I’m long gone from Toxic Job, but even while I was in it, I would have LOVED to have given them the contact info for The Toddler (whose unit I wasn’t even in) who surveilled me, then skibbled around screaming at my supervisors about what time I came in, that I never did anything, etc. Anyone who called him would have eventually just hung up on his rantings and thought “No WONDER she wants to leave, sheesh.”

    14. Science KK*

      My last coworker I didn’t get along with told everyone at our workplace she hated me and I hated her. The reason she I thought I hated her? She refused to do parts of her job and I would call her out and tell higher levels of management about it.

      She was supposed to present at an event something she had been working from home on for probably 6 months, but had to do an all nighter to submit her proposal and last minute changed her mind about going to the actual event.

      Yet every STILL says “Yeah you and her butted heads!”

      To my knowledge no one has seen anything she was supposedly working on during that time.

      She’d definitely jump at the chance to speaker to an interviewer about me though, I guarantee it.

    15. Ricama*

      Yeah there is that. Come to think of it, the only people I didn’t get along with were eventually fired for being terrible people.

    16. JustaTech*

      And an even better question: why would a prospective employer *want* to talk to the guy who was fired for being racist? (I didn’t like him very much at all, he was also sexist, but I don’t think he ever noticed that I didn’t think much of him.)

      Then there was the guy who desperately didn’t want to be in our group who was very challenging to train and mess to the point of being unsafe in the lab. Again, I’m not sure he ever knew how much I didn’t like working with him (because I was one of the few that would, other people straight up refused).
      Or the lady who I was inexplicably intimidated by, to the point it annoyed her. What would she say “JustaTech really wanted my approval”?
      Or the really nice guy with a serious lack of social skills who was a total fire hose of words? I profoundly hope he never noticed how much he annoyed literally everyone who worked with him (because then it would have crossed into bullying). (I never said anything but I sure sighed hard when I saw his number on my phone.)
      Or Dr I Have A PhD Therefore Am Above Doing Any Lab Prep Or Cleanup? Again, not sure he noticed how much he annoyed a lot of us. (I’d still be willing to work with him again, now that I’ve learned a lot of boundaries and would have a higher position. He’s an arrogant ass, but not a jerk and good at his job.)

      Like, most of these people either didn’t know or care that we didn’t particularly get along, or have shown such a lack of professional behavior that their opinion is pretty useless.

  4. Person from the Resume*

    Not that I’ve not gotten along with a lot of people, but if you didn’t get along with someone why would you have kept in touch enough to have contact information.

    It’s a red flag that they think you have list of coworkers you didn’t get along with. That expectation indicates that their office is full of drama and unprofessionalism.

    1. Mary Anne Spier*

      That’s what I was thinking. There have certainly been coworkers that I haven’t personally *liked*, but I think I can say I have gotten along with just about everyone I have worked with. What does that say about the org that they expect you to have a list of mortal enemies in your wake?

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yes, this! I’ve been in the workforce for 20ish years now, and I have people I haven’t liked, people with very different working styles, people I often disagreed with on substantive matters, people who were widely regarded as difficult to deal with, people where small talk felt forced and socially awkward because we just didn’t click, and so on.

        But asking for a reference from someone that you “didn’t get along with” implies a degree of obvious friction in your interactions, visible to both sides, that borders on unprofessional. I don’t think I really have anyone like that in my work history?

        1. ferrina*

          I’ve got ex-coworkers where there was friction, but they were also the office Toxic Wastepits, and no one got along with them. One of them was openly verbally abusive to everyone, so yeah, there was some friction (No, you cannot speak to me or my team that way; yes, all of your requests must now come through your manager because you do not get to speak to us that way).

        2. one L lana*

          I really don’t think I do either — even though my husband could certainly name plenty of coworkers who annoy me, who I don’t respect, who I was happy to see leave, or who, at some point, I disagreed with in a serious way that led to a loss of trust.

          But I generally believe that I’m paid to get along with people. And in a situation where “grit your teeth and be professional” isn’t an option (discrimination, harassment, the various -isms), ideally that’s a job for HR, but I sure would not want to give that person’s name as a reference.

        3. sdog*

          Yes, and actually, this would kill professional relationships that I continue to have with these individuals. I’m assuming they’d know that they were listed as someone who didn’t get along with me, and that would undo all the hard work I put into not letting my dislike show during work interactions with them.

      2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        I am still known for being able to work effectively with a particular previous coworker who rubbed everyone the wrong way. Including me, but I was actively ignoring their most obnoxious traits because I figured “Working well with others is part of the asterisk job”. The down side to this was I got paired up with this coworker a lot. I am pretty sure this coworker did not know my actual feelings about them, and that’s OK. (I also don’t miss this coworker, and that’s also OK.)

        1. Baby Yoda*

          Same here, but I would not want this person to find out she was one I felt I did not get along with. She does not know that.

    2. Lacey*

      Yeah, that’s the other problem. I don’t have the contact info for most of my coworkers, whether we got along or not. For a while immediately after I could have used their work email, but they changed jobs too, so now where are they? I don’t know.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I’m now picturing the hiring manager lovingly updating the spreadsheet of every person they ever hated working with and that person’s current job, employer, and contact info.

      2. soontoberetired*

        Right, who keeps track of people they no longer work with if you weren’t friends? I have someone I worked with who I know hated me for some reason> she’s retired now, I don’t know where she is and I don’t want to know. Strange thing is, I worked with her husband later and got along great with him.

      3. JustaTech*

        I barely keep up with the people I *did* like!

        I do have a very short list (three people) of the people that we are informally to never hire back: the two guys who got drunk (on company time and money), got in a fist fight, and one of them ended up in the hospital, and the one person who responded to minor lab issues by staying at work until 3am weighing every single centrifuge insert down to the fractions of a gram.
        But the only reason I have that list is because they were before my time and I didn’t know their names, just their terrible reputations.

    3. Falling Diphthong*


      Plus what if you never told this person that, in your view, the two of you had beef? One aspect of being professional is to hide how intensely annoying you find Fergus. Suppose it *is* professionally useful for you to keep a bridge open with Fergus, based on his position–telling him “you’re one of the most annoying people I’ve worked with–how would you like to embark on a series of interviews on my behalf?” is likely to torch that bridge.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        Yes, ideally you should AVOID having confrontations with coworkers you don’t ‘like’ but dislike for relatively mild reasons (ie, they use an annoying email signature, not that they’re a misogynistic troublemaker). Part of being professional is not ranting about the email every time you need to email them for the TPS report.

      2. ferrina*

        Ooh, I had a manager who I absolutely hated. She never had any clue, and she thought that we were besties. I certainly wouldn’t open that can of worms now.

      3. coffee*

        If you hadn’t already told them, asking them to be a “worst reference” would be a good way to START beef I guess?

    4. Antilles*

      I think you’d end up just awkwardly reaching out to people via LinkedIn. Then on the other end, they would either (a) completely ignore your message or (b) politely decline to be a reference, vaguely citing how long it’s been.

    5. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Exactly! I’ve had jobs where I end up with a coworker’s number in my phone because I needed to contact them about something related to our shared work, but if it’s not somebody I intend to keep in contact with, I delete their number once we no longer work together. I’ve got two or three candidates for “coworker I didn’t get along with,” but no way to contact them because I don’t typically stay in contact with people I don’t like if I don’t have to.

    6. Just Want A Nap*

      seriously, if I remember them and not getting along with them, it’s not one I’d keep in touch with.

    7. turquoisecow*

      Yeah the list of former coworkers I keep in touch with is limited to people I liked. The only person I could conceivably give as a reference in this case would be someone I currently work with, and I’m definitely not giving that!

    8. Ellis Bell*

      This is exactly where my mind went too; that this is a company of drama llamas. I have to admit it would peak my curiosity enough that I’d have to turn it around a bit: “Why in particular do those sort of references apply with this job? Is it particularly conflict driven?” or “I’m not sure I know what you mean, could I speak to any former employees about their conflicts here, as an example of what you’re looking for?” But that’s my idle curiosity. The sanest move is to just run.

  5. Boom! Tetris for Jeff!*

    A friend was interviewing for a law firm and had interviews with EVERY SINGLE person there, which I think was ~13-15 people. This was pre-Covid, so a lot of these were in person. I think the firm started small and wanted everyone to feel involved in the hiring process, but then grew and didn’t adjust their practices. Despite the weird and exhausting hiring process, my friend got hired and is happy at that company.

    1. Shira VonDoom*

      the (phone, because it was Dec 2020) interview I had with my current firm for an assistant position was the most chaotic interview I’ve ever had, LOL. 4 people on the phone, half of them talking over each other at times.

      it turns out I LOVE the job, and it’s a small firm (3 partners) that’s very left leaning, so culture fit actually DOES matter…but yeah. it was a wild interview, LOL

      1. Delta Delta*

        Both of these sound like peak law firm behavior. Turns out lawyers are super good at being lawyers but are complete tire fires when it comes to hiring and business decisions. Source: me, a lawyer.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*


          When I was firm-side, the best firm I worked for entirely cut the lawyers out of the staff hiring process (and HR actions, other than providing any feedback they had) and supervised the attorney-hiring process very closely by a highly-competent person who was impossible not to like. I loved that person – they could sweet-talk an attorney out of doing something dumb/illegal without them even realizing it.

    2. turquoisecow*

      My husband worked for a tech startup and when they interviewed they often had a series of interviews with managers from other teams, so Husband would interview people from other departments and people in other departments would interview people he wanted to hire. The idea was that since they all worked closely together it was helpful to get everyone’s perspective on new hires, and also since they were very bad at firing people they started doing this. They were all virtual interviews, though, and the ones with other department managers were usually very short, like maybe 20 minutes, so it was usually like a day or half a day or something like that of nonstop virtual interviews where the different people would pop on and off to talk to the candidate. They never had the person go anywhere physical as far as I know (and that would have been a waste since the managers were all spread out).

      They got bought out by a larger company and that kind of forced them to consolidate the process a lot.

      1. ferrina*

        I worked at a start-up that generally had an okay interview process, but there was one role that they were trying to custom build. They weren’t really sure what this role would do (they knew it would run a certain program, but they weren’t really sure how the program would work). They didn’t know what key skills were needed. So there were 4 different layers of interviewers you had to get through across 6 different teams.

        I was one of the interviewers, and I felt so bad for the candidates. Every month there was a new one we interviewed. We interviewed candidates with 10 years experience and a PhD, a candidate with 20 years experience who was well-known for ground breaking work, and a new grad. A year later, the position was still unfilled (though I did end up poaching the new grad for a position on my team)

      2. MigraineMonth*

        The last time I interviewed, the hiring manager decided the second interview would include people from departments X and Y that our team in general worked with. Except he was clear from the beginning that I was being hired to specifically to work with department Z, because that matched my background.

        The second interview ended up being an hour of awkward small talk, which was apparently sufficient to get the job.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      When I was first hired by a law firm, the head of HR was one of those people who felt candidates needed to show commitment by coming (in person) to multiple rounds of interviews. It was absurd, and I even got to skip a round because I’d interned and knew many of the people already – still had to go back twice.

      One of my favorite attorneys refused to participate in the interview and sent the interview feedback form back with the comment – “I’ve worked with NAM! for nearly a year and am not going to learn anything from an interview that I don’t already know from working with them. Please hire immediately and on an expediated basis, I have a case I need them for.”

  6. The New Wanderer*

    That is a very scattershot approach to hiring and it comes off like they don’t actually want to commit to hiring anyone. It also raises the question of whether everyone who currently works there also went through that terrible process (I doubt it), or if the process got increasingly bloated over time because now everyone wants a say or thinks this or that test is necessary, and no one is filtering out the excess or checking in on how unreasonable it is for candidates.

    Probably the best thing both final candidates could do is use some version of Alison’s provided response. “Your interview process is excessively lengthy and requires too much effort for a below-market salary, and tacking on a request for 5-10 references is unreasonable. I’m out.” Or one better would be, “I’m taking the competing offer from the reasonable organization that kept the interview process focused and pays market rates.”

    1. Cat Tree*

      It is weirdly commitment-phobic of them. They’re not marrying this candidate! At some point they need to just take a leap of faith and if they chose wrong they would have to manage that employee to help them improve.

      1. ferrina*

        Or let them go! I’ve had a new hire let go within a month because he very much didn’t work out (had also lied about his qualifications on his resume)

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, an exhaustive (and exhausting) interview process is never going to be able to replace actually managing employees once they’re brought on.

  7. RJ*

    I would use Alison’s script and just withdraw from the process personally, OP. This is far too much information, far too many interviews and all for a below range salary at a company with a ‘great’ mission. If they submit incoming candidates to such scrutiny, I can’t imagine how much of a nightmare they’d be to work for and with.

  8. soontoberetired*

    It amazes me how much job hunting has changed since I started in my industry in 1987. No background checks, I am sure no one called a reference. I last actively looked in 1992 and itwas still pretty much the same. when did things get so weird? 10 interviews? I’d have ducked out after number 4.

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Except that this isn’t normal, it wasn’t normal in 2016, and its even less ok today.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Exactly. I’ve been through some bad hiring processes, and I was already at WTF by the time I hit the end of the first paragraph of this letter. This is not normal, and OP has already spent way more time on this than I would have.

    2. Antilles*

      This letter isn’t even remotely the norm. This is just one way-off-the-rails company. More normal standards are this:
      -The prevalence of background checks varies greatly by industry. In some industries like finance, background checks are universal; in other industries, they either do a very generic background check or none whatsoever.
      -Every company asks for references, but plenty of companies (maybe even the majority?) don’t actually check them. Even if they do check them, it’s often an extremely cursory check.
      -There was a thread here in the comments recently where someone asked how many interviews you took to get your current job and most of the answers were between 2 and 4.
      -Most people would duck out well before the 10th interview, particularly if we’re talking about a job paying $20k (!) below market rate.

      For what it’s worth, my guess is that the company recently had a zero-effort hiring process, hired someone who failed spectacularly, and is now reacting by wildly over-correcting to “we’re never letting that happen again! dig as deep as possible!”.

      1. soontoberetired*

        That makes more sense. I know my company has an HR Screening, then an interview with the hiring manager(s) and then possibly a meeting with the team. Everyone goes thru a background check now regardless of position. My own team hasn’t hired someone straight out of school in years – internal transfers or contract employees have filled in positions that have come open.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        You’re right, this does feel like one of those job ads written based on a bad experience with a previous employee, like “We’re looking for an office manager who doesn’t spend their entire workday buying crochet frogs on Etsy, get into a feud with our pen supplier, or hold their breath until their face turns purple when they don’t get their way.”

        Instead of thinking about what they actually need in an employee, they just want someone who isn’t the same as Susan the Drama Queen who they just fired.

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          LOL, this is reminding me of “housemate wanted” ads from my college days. The joke was that you could tell what problems the outgoing housemate caused, based on the requirements for the new housemate.

      3. londonedit*

        Yeah, it’s 100% not normal and never has been. In my industry there are no ‘background checks’, you just give the names of a couple of references and that’s it. I’m not sure if mine were even contacted for my current job. And phone screens are uncommon – usually you apply for a job and the first stage is an in-person (or perhaps still on-video these days) interview. I’ve never had more than two interviews for a job – usually the first interview will be with the person who would be your direct boss and perhaps another member of the team, and the second interview would be with the direct boss again plus someone slightly higher up (I’m in publishing, so it’d be for example the editorial director of the wildlife list and the overall head of the non-fiction department). There’s usually a short editing test as part of the first interview but that’s it.

  9. Falling Diphthong*

    One to two references in each of five categories.
    I laughed out loud when I got to this phrase, alarming my cat, who is now knocking nouns off surfaces in retaliation.

    (Practical advice would be that there comes a time when the sunk costs are not worth it, and asking you to track down a few people you didn’t get along with 5 years ago and asking them to be references for you is that time.)

    1. NotRealAnonforThis*

      “….knocking nouns off surfaces…”

      This visual gives me great joy today!!!!

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I think I only got asked for references in multiple categories when I was applying to work at a youth summer camp, and that was because they wanted both professional references and references from people I’d worked with in childcare type activities. Both of which I found pretty reasonable!

      1. Asenath*

        I think I had a job that wanted a personal reference and two work references, in a context where it wasn’t yet standard to get a good conduct certificate from the police if you were working with vulnerable people, and the “personal” reference was intended to assure them that you were not a known bad criminal, or someone who just hadn’t gotten caught yet, but was known in the community to be trouble.

  10. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    The fact that they want multiple people you didn’t get along with is a screaming red flag. They assume that everyone has multiple work enemies – which probably means that **they** have that, day in and day out.

    1. ferrina*

      I suspect it’s more like work frenemies, likely with passive aggressive tendencies or a restrictive power dynamic rather than outright aggression or lying. It’s interesting that they think “people you don’t get along with” will still speak meaningfully toward your strengths and weaknesses. The coworkers I didn’t get along with were almost universally liars and gaslighters, who would not miss an opportunity to tear someone down (either to claim credit for themselves or be “revenged” for some perceived petty wrong).

  11. ScruffyInternHerder*

    Boy. The 2016 answer reads as though its the 2022 answer…does the answer get more emphatic through a 2022 lens, or just repeated? Forget the 10 interviews – how many unpaid projects have they had you waste your time on? For less than industry standard pay? And not a little, $20K is a LOT of coin!

    I am curious what the company is considering “didn’t get along with” though. Past and current coworkers I’ve “not gotten along with” over my career include three fairly broad categories:
    Sexual harassers and other such creeps
    Conspiracy theorists and their ilk, for whom I have no time
    People who do not know my specialty, yet try to explain to me how to do my job, typically making abundant errors in doing so

    Generally speaking, I get along with just about everyone. Sometimes their methods of doing their work may conflict with mine, but that’s nothing for me to get too torqued about.

      1. coffee*

        I feel like the interviewing company could have used a Decision Coach at some point before the tenth interview!

  12. Mr. Shark*

    I’m sure there are people that I didn’t get along with, but I certainly can’t remember their names and certainly didn’t take time to get their contact information.

  13. Delta Delta*

    If someone I worked with and who I actively disliked had a new job call me, I might be tempted to say whatever I could to encourage the hiring, just to get that person away from me.

  14. Aphrodite*

    Oh my. I’d love to be the “reference.” I can imagine the conversation:

    Interviewer: Hi. I’m from KnowNothing Corporation. Jane Warbleworth has applied for a position here and gave your name as a reference.
    Reference: Who?
    Interviewer: Jane Warbleworth. You worked with her at MacMe during 2009-2011.
    Reference: [silence] Oh. Yeah. I sort of remember her.
    Interviewer: She said you were someone she didn’t get along with. Can you tell me why you didn’t get along?
    Reference: [silence] Didn’t get along? We didn’t get along and she listed me as a reference?
    Interviewer: Oh yes. We specifically asked her for a co-worker with whom she didn’t get along. Reference: Okay, who is this, really?

  15. Warrior Princess Xena*

    Love how salty Allison got with this one! I wish they had been provided with contact information just so we could have a transcript of Allison reading these crazy people the riot act.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      This one is so on-point and pointed that I’m sending it to my head of HR, if for no other reason to let her know that she runs a damn good recruiting program (by doing none of these things). Also, she’ll get a good laugh out of it.

  16. Moo*


    I could certainly tell stories about coworkers I didn’t get along with (such as the guy who sat next to me, constantly told me I was doing my job wrong even though he didn’t know what I did, ate while talking on the phone to customers, and talked me into giving him rides home because I didn’t know how to stand up for myself yet – after I quit he got fired and they found a hit list of coworkers in his desk. Puzzlingly, I was one of the few people NOT on it). But I definitely do not keep in touch with them…how on earth is one supposed to approach this reference thing??

    1. EngineerGradStudent*

      Exactly! This made me think who I could possibly reference in such an instance and the first thing that came up was the guy who was fired for repeated safety violations at work (and, the reason we did not get along was because I actually brought up the safety violations with him/bosses). How in the world am I supposed to hunt that person down?

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        And even if you did, how reliable would that reference be? Really? Resentment does not make for objective judgement.

    2. Sandi*

      I worked with someone who was known as Mister Suspicious. I would never want him to be reminded of me in any context! People worried that he would come in one day and hurt people, so in a way we “didn’t get along” although mostly I wanted to be completely unmemorable to him. I think I got on relatively well with everyone else.

      I think for many people the person that they didn’t get along with is the problem employee for everyone. So it wouldn’t really help evaluate the candidate, because that person rarely has self-awareness and it is extremely unlikely that they have an understanding of how to evaluate others. Asking for coworkers with whom I had a disagreement would be the better wording, but the best way of addressing this would be to ask for specific examples of how I dealt with disagreement or asking my references if I worked well with others.

  17. Slow Gin Lizz*

    Man, I know others have said this, but I also would reallllllly love an update from this LW. Did they ever respond to the reference request? Did they use Alison’s script? Or did they actually send a list of coworkers they didn’t get along with? My AAM fanfic brain is coming up with all kinds of wild theories!

      1. Gerry Keay*

        Just read the comments section of any AAM post with more than 400 comments lol. Once a post gets controversial enough, there’s always some good speculative fiction going on if you look for it. Usually framed with words such as “I bet” and “I wonder” and “My mind immediately goes to” or my favorite, “I know we’re not supposed to armchair diagnose BUT” for your control+f delights.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        First open thread of August 2018, following a letter where someone was shown out to the car park instead of the third interview she was expecting. Someone wrote a response to that.

  18. Bernice Clifton*

    I think this request is based on this company doing a bad hire in the past where they didn’t check references, didn’t check them thoroughly enough, or just learned after the fact that the hire had trouble getting along with people in previous jobs, or some combo of all of the above. The job equivalent of breaking up with a drug addict who stole from you so you ask your next date to take a drug test.

    Either way, this strategy isn’t going to work the way they want it to for all of the reasons Alison mentioned, and it could turn great candidates off.

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      This is a good point. A lot of bad hiring practices come about when people start thinking “Jedidiah was the wrong hire in these specific ways, so how can we screen for those specific traits in people?” It’s like when you see a sign that says something like “do not feed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the squirrels” and you’re like, someone clearly did that once and it must have turned out poorly.

    2. irene adler*

      Exactly! I interviewed at a company where they recently terminated a bad hire. So they felt that if EVERYONE interviewed the candidates, they would surely not suffer a repeat bad hire. This was explained to me -up front.

      They scheduled me to interview with 17+ people – all in one afternoon. All by remote (thank goodness!).

      Five no-showed – including the HR person! No explanation. I was asked to wait many minutes while they got the next interviewer to log on early and conduct their interview.

      One group of three did not have any questions for me. Reason: they didn’t want to ask me something another employee had already asked. They felt that was being considerate and be less stressful for me. But they wouldn’t end the interview either. So I had to keep the interview going for the entire allotted 30 minutes. I had lots of questions prepared- which I asked. But these three didn’t know much about the position itself. And they weren’t into giving lengthy responses.

      Never heard back from them. But their same job ad shows up every year or so.

  19. I Keep the Souls of my Enemies in my Bottom Drawer*

    There is a (sadly) not tiny part of me that would want to recruit my friends to be my “didn’t get along with” references. I’m pretty sure my college roommates could handle it, because 25 years later we’re still in touch, but there were definitely times when we didn’t get along very well. How, exactly, we’d spin a boyfriend moving into our room over his college’s spring break to be remotely work-related, I have no idea, but if I really, really wanted to work in this bees’ nest I’m sure we’d find a way.
    Knowing my roommates, though, they’d figure out a way to get me that job just for the stories from that place.

    1. MM*

      My instinct was to get a friend to make up a story that would get more and more melodramatic as it went along–a minor disagreement over a filing system (or something) escalating into the Hallmark Story of how I completely changed her approach to life, relationships, and everything, and how she credits me with revolutionizing her personality. After that comes maybe guru or cult territory. Just to see how long it would take until the reference-checker tapped out.

  20. no longer working*

    One person I didn’t get along with was a liar. Another was volatile and I always expected to see his name in the news one day that he did something violent. There are reasons why we let some people in our past stay in the past.

    IANAL, but isn’t it said that you don’t ask a witness on the stand a question you don’t already know the answer to? Doesn’t that go for references, too?

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Well, not exactly – companies calling references are trying to get an understanding of your work quality. But even so you wouldn’t want to go looking for references that are almost guaranteed to be negatively biased, just as you don’t usually ask for references from people who are almost guaranteed to be positively biased, like family and friends. You want references who can give a more or less objective, professional opinion on the person’s work.

      1. no longer working*

        I meant that the interviewee should have an idea of what the reference would say about them, not that the person doing the inquiring should know how the reference will go. I was addressing the craziness of having someone you didn’t get along with be a reference for you. You have no idea what they are going to say!

  21. Aggretsuko*

    “Oh, sure, here’s my bully’s phone number, she can tell you all about the time she tried to get me fired.”


    I don’t think these people actually want to hire anyone, they just want to drag this out for a year.

  22. Moved On*

    After interviewing with at least 10 different people and waiting on various team meetings they claimed they needed to have to discuss, I had a company tell me they couldn’t decide between me and another candidate and wanted to speak to references. Okay, that’s reasonable. I get that. But then after they went through the reference check the stalled further saying they had other candidates they wanted to finish processing. Okay, that’s annoying, and it’s making me think twice, but do what you have to do.

    A few days later I get contacted by a recruiter about this exact position. The company was actively soliciting recruiters to find new applicants after the fact. They didn’t actually have anyone else actively in process. I accepted another offer and withdrew my application. They were clearly not that into me.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      I was lost at 10+ video calls. OP can’t even remember how many there were offhand.

      I would have dropped out after three or four. This company is ridiculous.

  23. Currently Bill*

    Huh. I’d’ve suggested waiting it out and seeing if the other person in contention pulls out first.

    Think of it as playing “Bad Reference Chicken.”

    1. Hope*

      Yeah, I’m betting that they got down to two candidates because all the others pulled out over the really long interview process – nothing about being the two best candidates!!

  24. DramaQ*

    I would refuse. I’ve been in the workforce for 14 years so of course there are people who I did not get along with. That has no bearing on my performance as an employee or even how I would get along at a new job. There are lots of reasons you can not get along with someone from mild annoyance to this is why I am looking for another job. It’s none of their business.

    To me asking for references from people I did not get along with is gossip mongering. It’s looking for juicy information before I even walk in the door. It indicates to me this is potentially going to be a place full of drama and they are testing the waters to see how I handle it. Big old NOPE on that one.

    Asking me how I handled a difficult coworker is one thing. I am not naming anyone and I can give you job specific examples that will reflect my performance. To actually CALL that person and be like “Hey so and so says you did X and she hated it what do you think?” is bizarre. No way you could expect honest feedback from anyone who gets a call telling them so and so put you down as someone they couldn’t work with. You start off on a hostile defensive footing.

    If you can’t get a picture of how I will perform after 10 interviews then don’t hire me. You don’t need to talk about me behind my back.

  25. Joanna*

    What, are you applying for a security clearance or something? This hiring process is ridiculous.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      Like Alison said, they really have no idea how to hire. They need to make up their mind, but they are waiting for some magic pebble to show up and tell them that this is the one and that is not the one.

      As we used to say, “sh1t or get off the pot”.

  26. Covered in Bees*

    Wow, the last thing I want to do is remind the person I had major conflicts with that I exist. She’d get in contact to berate me for listing her as a negative reference, damaging her professional reputation, and who knows how she’d escalate after all this time. This company expects people to put their safety at risk dredging up past conflicts? Heck no.

  27. learnedthehardway*

    The whole company sounds like a dysfunctional dystopia (double “dys” for emphasis), between the ridiculous recruitment approach and the bizarre reference request. It sounds like they are terminally unable to make decisions or delegate, and like they either have a truly terrible culture or make really bad hiring decisions regularly.

    Personally, I would bow out of the process and tell them why.

    If I think about the people I “didn’t get along with”… I don’t keep in touch with people I truly abhorred or thought were unethical, abusive, etc. And I can’t imagine asking someone I was civil to (but privately thought was out-to-lunch) to be a reference for my ability to handle interpersonal conflicts! (The fact that they don’t know I think they were an idiot is a testament to my ability to remain professional, and I’m not going to spill the beans now!)

    1. londonedit*

      Yup. I suppose I’m lucky in that I’ve never had any serious problems getting on with the people I’ve worked with, but I’ve only really kept in touch with the people I did get on with (because why would you bother keeping in touch with people you could take or leave?) If I was pressed, I’d have to suggest the horrendous micromanaging boss I worked with a few years ago, who would probably say I was a dreadful person (because I, like everyone else who worked for her, could never get anything right according to her constantly shifting standards), and the arrogant arse I worked with who refused to do half his job because he deemed it beneath him. But I was professional enough in my dealings with him that I don’t think he’d even realise I thought he was an idiot, and it would be very weird for someone to ask him for a reference as he was quite junior to me and couldn’t really speak to my work at all.

    2. cncx*

      this is where i am at, i am still linked in contacts with someone who was literally the main reason for me leaving a job, and we’re cordial and greet each other at industry events. I actually don’t know what she would think if i cited her as an enemy because like you said, I’m cordial and professional.

  28. Whattheactualeffisright*

    100% agree with Allison. And as someone who has wanted a particular job so much as to tolerate abusive, dysfunctional behavior, my advice is to take her advice and withdraw. Walk away. Don’t work there. Huge red flags. They are out of touch with how things normally work and their approach suggests a lack of empathy and compassion – they cannot see things from your side at all. They would have lost me at 10 interviews but a reference from a bad coworker you don’t want to keep in touch with? What the F is right. All the coworkers I haven’t gotten along with were dysfunctional people that lacked self awareness and integrity. You can’t form any useful judgment about a person based on biased, unreliable witnesses lacking in character – and there would be no way to know that this is who they are from a phone interview in which they’ve been empowered to take you down.

  29. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

    I had a bonkers process for an INTERNAL transfer a few years ago. I am happy in my position, the people are great, but they have absolutely no idea how to hire. Things have only recently started to improve in that regard, and it’s entirely down to market pressure. Our stupid, drawn-out process has always lost us candidates but with the new pace of things and the number of offers good candidates can get, it became untenable to keep being idiots.

  30. DivergentStitches*

    It’s also asking for candidates to inject awkwardness into their current work situations.

    Maybe I don’t get along with Ben because he hogs all the easy Salesforce tickets. But he doesn’t know I don’t like him very much because I’m professional with him. So I can’t use him.

    Maybe Kathy annoyed me because she took my charity donations off my desk and gave them to a different charity. Maybe she doesn’t care for me either. But she’s in HR and it would be extremely awkward for me to say to her, “hey, this company where I’m interviewing wants to talk to someone who doesn’t like me. Can you help?”

    How bizarre.

  31. SJ (they/them)*

    It’s so interesting reading this in a 2022 context. My how times have changed! (Not that the interviewer behavior was ever normal or okay, just the whole vibe of what a job seeker can or should be expected to put up with seems very different now.)

    1. SJ (they/them)*

      Also, just because I haven’t seen it mentioned yet, that the employer would even ask this shows such a deep lack of awareness about racism, ableism, cisheterosexism, etc in the workplace. “People you didn’t get along with at work” becomes incredibly fraught as soon as you’re not imagining yourself interviewing only standard-issue white guys! aaaahhhh.

  32. Felis alwayshungryis*

    Define ‘don’t get along with’. Being a generally pleasant and agreeable person, I’ve never had a coworker I actively couldn’t work with. I’ve had coworkers I could be cordial and work fine with, but because we had very different worldviews I wouldn’t say we ‘got along’.

    And there was the person (who I’ve used a lot in ‘give me an example of a time…’ interview questions) who came across as really abrupt and abrasive at the start, and I’d have definitely said we didn’t get along, until I realised that it was just her communication style, and when you expected her to just be direct and not sugarcoat things, she was actually really helpful and a pretty cool person.

    What a stupid and invasive process.

  33. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    Looking up this original post in 2016 led me down one hell of a rabbit hole…WTF 2016? Some of the most iconic stories on this site all seemed to have spawned in that wretched year.

    1. Oui oui oui all the way home*

      Isn’t 2016 the year the Large Hadron Collider accidentally launched us all into a new dimension where society is banana crackers and a U.S. President was elected who tried to overthrow the government? That could explain the WTF stories at AAM from 2016.

      1. Felis alwayshungryis*

        Bowie, Alan Rickman, Harper Lee, Prince, George Michael, Muhammad Ali, Leonard Cohen…

  34. Just the Flax, Ma'am!*

    Who on earth keeps in touch with people they DIDN’T get along with on the job?!

    It sounds to me as if the interviewer(s) really don’t know how to evaluate a candidate and were grasping at anything they could think of to learn more about their interviewees, not realizing that they were chasing away the very people who could do the job best! Add that to the low salary and – no. Just no! (What do you want to bet that half a year down the line that job posting will STILL be unfilled and the Powers That Be at that company will be wondering why on earth job seekers aren’t flocking to their organization?)

  35. buddleia*

    I wish there was an update to this one and it looked something like, “After I wrote into you, I came to my senses and decided not to continue interviewing with this organization. Despite all the work that I put into interviewing there, I decided that I couldn’t work for an organization (despite believing in their mission) that treated me this way during the interviewing phase. What would actually working for them be like?! As you know, Alison, I DID send them your contact info and you did rip them a new one. Thank you so much for that. Right after you hung up with them, I emailed them to say (paraphrased), that their hiring process was ridiculous, that I would be withdrawing and to have a good day. A week later I got an interview for another job and will be starting next Monday. The hiring manager and I hit it off, it’s 100% remote, has a 50% pay increase, full benefits and is basically my dream job. Best part? I only had to do ONE virtual interview with a panel of three people, ONE written assignment and give THREE NORMAL references.”

  36. Khatul Madame*

    This organization could use a decision coach from yesterday’s post. Except they will never come to a decision to hire her.

  37. Juliet*

    I work in HR and though I pride myself on being a diplomatic personI really strive to “get along” with everyone. But I’m sure due to the nature of my job, after 15 years, there is quite a list of people who wouldn’t have nice things to say about me. I have to grow pretty thick skin. Do you want a list of people I’ve written up or fired? How about ones who have tried to sue me? The one I had to take a restraining order against? (And no, I’m really not a terrible person. But when your job is dealing with the life cycle of employment, you get to see a LOT)

  38. Goldenrod*

    Boy, things have sure changed since 2016!

    I guess it depends on the job category, but with the current shortage of candidates, I doubt these goons could get away with being this picky now. Most people would drop out after the third round!

    I could see it if this were a “dream job” in a glamorous field – or if it paid a WHOLE lot…but this doesn’t sound like that.

  39. Anonymouse*

    Go Wednesday Addams.
    Most of the people who did not get along with me are dead or they never found the bodies.

    1. Little Bobby Tables*

      I was going to say the same thing. See if you can come up with the best stories of how people you don’t like have died under suspicious circumstances.

  40. Generic Name*

    OMG. I’m like the OP in that I normally get along well with my colleagues. The two that I didn’t really, let’s say “mesh with” were basically sexually harassing me. They are annoyed I spoke out, so I’m sure they’d love to offer a “reference”.

  41. Nina_Bee*

    Why on earth would someone you don’t get along with ever agree to do anything for you in the first place (or vice versa)? I wonder if that practice of getting those references ever works for them.

  42. McS*

    I am a hiring manager and I call references. My response would be a very honest “In the interest of respecting my references’ time and in the interest of you getting their honest review of me, I can only provide references who have enthusiastically agreed to do me (and you) this favor.” I have my doubts about how often they get one of the didn’t-get-along references on the phone and what they really learn if they ever do.

  43. it's-a-me*

    Alison, this is off topic, but I hope everything’s going ok with your ‘family stuff’. This isn’t a request for info or anything, just thinking of you and hoping nothing bad’s happened. We all enjoy these blasts from the past so I hope you take all the time you need.

  44. El l*

    “I will give you my enemies email. Because if you call them, you will only hear the sobbing of a spirit broken by me. I. crush. them.”

    Seriously, the best response is, “No, I will not assist this unusual request. I have provided more than enough to make a decision. let me know when you’ve made it.”

  45. asdf*

    Umm as a minority in my field, I can guarantee the majority of coworkers I haven’t gotten along with are racist sexist jerks. How would putting a prospective employer in touch with these people, as references, not result in discrimination?

  46. Not at State*

    A friend of mine interviewed to be a foreign service officer in college. As part of his security clearance process, he was asked to provide the names of someone who disliked him or did not get along with him.

  47. Darsynia*

    All I can think is, how would a coworker feel if you went up to them and said, I’m interviewing and they wanted a reference from someone *I don’t get along with!*

    This is asking you to alienate or at the very least, disappoint and concern current coworkers! How is this possibly a good idea! I almost wonder if it’s a ‘gotcha’ question, like ‘would you throw your current coworkers under the bus for a job opportunity’ to find out how you’d treat them when they’re YOUR coworkers! I can’t stop using exclamation points!

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