was I wrong to be put off by interviewing on Bring Your Kids to Work Day?

A reader writes:

I wanted to get your thoughts on an interview situation I was in a while ago. This experience sticks out in my memory as Not Good, but I wonder if I’m being a stick-in-the-mud.

A while ago (pre-Covid), I had an in-person interview that ended up coinciding with Bring Your Kids to work day. (They did not warn me ahead of time.) While I was waiting in the building lobby to go up to their office, I noticed lots of people and little kids wearing company t-shirts as they boisterously made their way to the elevators. When I went upstairs to their office, there was a general atmosphere of “party” and it took a bit to hunt down the receptionist person to let them know I was there. I was nervous for my interview and having so many distractions going on didn’t really help me get into a good mindset.

When it was time to do the interview, we went into an office that had a door, so that kept the noise down, and luckily my back was to the door (which had a window in it) so I couldn’t see people walking by. After the interview, they offered to show me around the office, but I politely declined, figuring that since there was so much extra activity going on, it wouldn’t really represent what the office was normally like.

Is it too much to expect to be able to attend an interview and not have a circus going on at the office where you do the interview? I understand that offices can be busy, but this was beyond the normal hustle and bustle. It really added to my anxiety about the whole process.

I did well enough in the interview and they called me to move on to the next stage of the process. However, I decided the combination of the strange style interview and a less than calm atmosphere for my interview left me not feeling great about the company.

(The interview was conducted by two people: one of them asking all the questions, the other just typing the answers on their laptop. They asked me to tell them both a positive and negative about each job AND manager I had for the past 20 years. It felt like being grilled down to minute details and like nothing I had ever before experienced in an interview, and not a two-way conversation)

It’s not that I’m against Bring Your Kids to Work Day, because I also have kids and have in the past brought them to work occasionally when it was appropriate and we had a great time. I never conducted an interview with it going on though! It just seems like it’s unnecessary to interview candidates on the same day as that. Am I a curmudgeon and this should have been totally fine? Maybe the rapid fire one-way interview made the family activities just seem that much worse. I didn’t get any info myself from my interviewers, and could only judge the company based on the general atmosphere I saw.

I think this was just an unfortunate confluence of events.

The person scheduling your interview may not have realized it would be Bring Your Kids to Work Day, or they didn’t realize how loud and disruptive it would be (it’s not like that everywhere!), or it was the only day where everyone’s schedules lined up.

But even when interviewers make every attempt to ensure a distraction-free environment for interviews, things can go wrong. I once interviewed someone with a loud protest going on right outside my window (not against my organization! this was D.C., where protests are common). I was once interviewing someone when a fire alarm went off and we had to evacuate the building. Stuff happens, and to some extent you’ve got to try to roll with it.

I don’t know that you’re a curmudgeon necessarily. It’s understandable that you felt distracted and thrown off your game, and it sucks that that happened. But the “how could they have thought this would be okay?” part of your reaction is probably a little misplaced, and you might be assuming that clearly anyone would have reacted as you did, when in fact I don’t think everyone would. It’s okay that you felt thrown off! But it’s also worth knowing that it’s not a universal reaction.

If you hadn’t been turned off by this company for other reasons, I would have encouraged you to go back and do the second interview because it probably would have been on a quieter day and you might have ended up feeling better about things. But it sounds like it wasn’t a match regardless — but not because of the Bring Your Kids to Work scheduling.

{ 295 comments… read them below }

  1. HiHello*

    I feel a demonstration/protest outside is very different. Outside circumstances are very difficult to predict. Something within the office is usually known ahead of time. This would have throw, me off as well and I would not like it.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Just for context for the OP; I would not have cared at all about the kids and the noise of “bring your kids to work day.” Would have barely registered to me unless it was so loud we had to shout in the interview.

      If the kids were left without adults and were damaging property (as I think I saw in an AAM post), that might have put me off the company in general. If you cannot manage the kids, I am going to assume you are not going to manage the adults when there are conflicts.

      1. TodoList*

        This part about ‘you are not going to manage the adults when there are conflicts’ doesn’t seem like a very fair conclusion to draw from the OP’s letter.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          That part isn’t addressed to the OP, they are saying if the kids were very rowdy that is a conclusion they might have drawn in OP’s shoes.

    2. Applesa*

      I used to work for company located in Rockerfeller Center. The day of my interview, Justin Biber (at the height of Beiber fever) was on the Today show, so HR gave me a recommendation to expect traffic and alternate doors to the building.

    3. tamarack etc.*

      I think it’s perfectly reasonable for the candidate to base their decision on this, though the interview itself would weigh heavier in a case like the OP’s.

      This said, personally it’s the kind of thing I welcome and like to go with the flow – it’s good to see how things go if they are a little outside the norms and not on their best behavior.

    4. tangerineRose*

      I worked at a daycare center when I was a teenager. I would have adored bring your kid to work day. However, giving positives and negatives for every manager and job for 20 years sounds just painful!

  2. Someone Online*

    I think this is important information to know about the work culture of this office. They are a place that has busy Bring Your Kid to Work Days. You don’t like that type of work culture, so probably not a good fit between you two.

    1. EmmaPoet*

      Good point. Interviewing is a two way process, and LW discovered that this was not the company for them.

    2. Mona Lisa Vito*

      I agree with this! At a previous job we would have interviews scheduled on days where we had different (fun!) events in the office, and the mentality was, “this is part of our company culture, so we are just making that clear to candidates from the start.”

    3. The Eye of Argon*

      It was a happy accident that the interview happened on BYKTWD. The OP learned right off that it was a workplace where they have events like that, and combined with the off-putting interview it helped let them know that this wasn’t the place for them.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, if I interviewed at a place where BYKTWD was a noisy, crowded zoo with organized activities it would put me off the company. It would tell me that they decided noisy crowds focused on kids was okay in the office culture, and I’m a quiet person who doesn’t like crowds and chaos. Some people thrive on high energy activity and lots of things going on, but I don’t.

        Of course, working remotely I have less of an issue with it now. I can always turn the sound down and minimize the screen.

    4. Smithy*

      Absolutely – and if anything, the Kids to Work Day may have helped amplify the other yellow flags from interview into red flags.

      Had the interview been in a “perfect” environment, but still all of those questions – you might have been more inclined to dismiss them as odd but ok. Which may not have helped you see larger issues. I went through 4 interviews at a nonprofit, which I will now admit was for an organization where I wasn’t a good fit with the mission. But at the time I hated my job and everyone I met with seemed really nice and was easy to speak with. And again, I hated my current job and I’d been interviewing for months.

      I was offered the job but the CEO wanted to speak with me, and this genuine employment angel was the only one who said “I don’t think you actually want to work here, I don’t think you’re a fit – but everyone likes you, we all know you can do the job – but you need to decide if you’re a fit.” And he was right, I declined the offer and it was for the best. But honestly, sometimes those cultural red flags are for the best even if they don’t mean anyone did anything wrong.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Wow, good for that CEO to recognize this and tell you so. It might have been to his advantage too – he didn’t want to hire someone who would be a bad fit – but it’s nice of him to say so and help you make the right decision for you.

    5. Essentially Cheesy*

      This varies so much even as the culture in the workplace changes.

      We had one HR manager that was very committed to Bring your Kid to Work days, and they left, and we haven’t had once since – and I am not sure that’s entirely related to Covid protocols either.

      My work office culture has changed so much over the 15+ years I’ve been here, among a lot of other things. If I’ve learned anything – it’s that everything changes. A lot.

      1. Essentially Cheesy*

        In fact – the day that my current manager was having her 2nd interview at the end of 2019 – we were having our Ugly Sweater Office Party. Guess who was working at the front desk with my silly elf sweater with bells on. I told her that we were having a holiday party and everyone’s attire wasn’t typical so I think she understood – she ended up taking the job, anyway!

        She is actually moving on to a different job at the end of this month but it’s not because we were running around like silly elves that day.

    6. marvin*

      I think this is a smart way to look at it. This isn’t the kind of thing that would necessarily bother everyone. Personally, I think I might find it kind of helpful to have a distraction from worrying about the interview.

    7. OP*

      Hi! OP here. It isn’t that I’m against a Bring your kids to work day – I think it’s great that they do that. I just didn’t expect it to happen during my interview. They didn’t give me a heads up either – so suspect it was something that didn’t register for them when they scheduled it.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Which might indicate that it’s the kind of office culture where they don’t anticipate and/or it doesn’t register for them that something like that might bother somebody. I’ve worked in places like that where it’s an unconscious expectation that of course people will just roll with any little oddities that pop up; and then I’ve worked at places where, if they know something is coming down the pike, they try to let everyone know as far in advance as possible, even if it’s just a little minor thing. I think a roll-with-the-punches culture isn’t a good fit for you, and it’s good that you got to see a demonstration of that on your interview day.

        1. Flowers*

          I wonder if there’s an “in between” of being comfortable with changes within an otherwise stable framework. Once I’m in a situation, like at work, I can deal with noise or roll with the punches. But if it’s a brand new or temporary situation, like trying to check out at a store, or a job interview, and something like that happens, I easily get thrown off.

        2. The Rural Juror*

          I feel this! Our reception and office manager are both a little oblivious to these types of considerations. One occurrence I can think of was my team booking the biggest conference room at the front of the office, right across from the reception desk, for a team member’s retirement/last day brunch celebration. The receptionist watched us bring in donuts, mini quiches, juice, sparkling cider for a toast, the works! They even asked what we were planning and we let them know all about it as we were setting up. Then 20 minutes into our celebration, the fire alarm went off and we had to file out of the building…5 flights of stairs down! Most of us took our plates with us because it was just sudden and an odd situation, so luckily we got to finish our donuts when we got down to the street level.

          Turns out it was a scheduled fire drill. Now, I get that you can’t go around telling everyone there’s a fire drill, because then some folks will be stubborn and stay behind. But it turns out reception already knew it was going to happen and what time it was scheduled for. They could have told the three people setting up to delay for 30 minutes and it wouldn’t have ruined our (very casual) celebration. The way it shook out, it totally disrupted what was meant to be a nice gesture to a retiree who was really loved among the team. The good news is that we also had a more formal celebration later that week and they had a nice sendoff.

          This is a pattern of “just not thinking about stuff” from the team of reception/office manager. It’s unfortunate, because I can think of several instances of it being a problem and our higher ups don’t seem to care to make an effort to influence the situation. Luckily, the retiree had a good sense of humor and we had a nice chat with everyone while we waited for the go-ahead to go back inside. Not everyone is as non-frustrated about the pattern, unfortunately. Me, I’ve just come to not expect much :(

          1. HoHumDrum*

            Not to derail, but I would argue the receptionist did the right thing. I feel like the thing most offices do where they warn about fire drills so everybody plans their day around it and is sitting there with a coat on ready to go at the appointed time is actually not good safety practice. I’ve worked places where people will just straight up not participate in the drill if they’re busy, which makes me nervous. But I also had to some years back learn a lot about some infamous workplace fire related deaths and concede that I am probably a lot more anxious than the average person about taking drills seriously.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              The receptionist could’ve made up some excuse other than “fire drill” like another meeting or the AV crew needed to service the equipment and the buffet would be in their way and/or get knocked around.

            2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              I totally agree. I was at a shop once, looking at kitchen tiles, and they had a fire drill. The sales assistant rushed us out, and we waited while she then rounded the staff up. One guy was still operating his forklift truck out the back, because he “couldn’t see a fire”. He was duly informed that had the fire broken out in X place, he wouldn’t have seen it and could have been trapped in the warehouse full of stuff that would give off lethal fumes if it caught fire.
              Thinking further back in time, my maths teacher was so long-winded, telling us that that bell was the fire alarm, and not to worry, we just needed to all get up and leave the building, that another teacher barged in and shouted “fire! get yourselves out the building now”!
              And that stood us all in good stead when I set my bacon rolls on fire during my Cookery exam (my greatest claim to fame at that school).

          2. MigraineMonth*

            Could be worse; one of my coworkers was trapped inside the office during the last unscheduled fire drill. The bright side is that my manager was able to leverage the incident to pressure the facilities people to add a door assist for accessibility.

            1. daffodil*

              This kind of thing is arguably the purpose of drills — you learn about the problem when there’s no actual danger!

        3. Joielle*

          Yeah, I agree. My workplace is definitely a “roll with the punches” kind of place. We do our best to keep people in the loop but we’re chronically a little understaffed and sometimes people and schedules and events aren’t perfectly coordinated. We don’t do bring your kid to work days, but this is on par with the kind of thing I could see happening at my job. Of course, I would have said something like “So sorry, when I offered this interview date I didn’t realize it was going to be so busy! It’s usually pretty quiet around here.” But also, if a person doesn’t like having to deal with random disruptions occasionally, they aren’t going to like it here.

        4. DisgruntledPelican*

          It also could just be an indication that the person scheduling the interview doesn’t have kids and so BYKTWD isn’t really on their mind.

      2. Former Bureaucrat*

        It would not register for me as the kind of thing that made it a bad day for an interview, especially since the interview was being conducted in an office with a closed door.

    8. No Annual Contract*

      I did a round of interviews (with an interview committee) this past October on guess what day? Halloween, of course! We traditionally have a costume parade on Halloween and some people really get into it. It’s actually one of my favorite work days of the year and I’m not even really into Halloween. We debated on whether to change out of costumes for the interviews or to just wear them anyway. We decided that wearing them was a good way to give job candidates a realistic peak at our culture. If this made someone uncomfortable then they probably weren’t a good fit. Please note: All costumes are definitely required to be “work appropriate and we never require anyone to participate so this isn’t an issue.

  3. Clobberin' Time*

    It really added to my anxiety about the whole process

    I wonder if the LW is sort of seizing on the Bring Your Kids To Work activities as a concrete focus for her anxiety about the whole interview process, especially given that she felt grilled by the interviewers.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      That’s a really good point. That kind of commotion is so likely to stand out in your memory, and aggravate your existing feels, that it might just be a sort of scape goat for an overall unpleasant experience.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Good thought.

      There’s a science thing where if you take someone into a now-empty classroom where a high-stakes test just took place, the person will start to feel anxious. If you ask them why, they backfill a reason–and it’s never “Gotta be scent–were people recently working up an anxious sweat in here?”

      There seems ample reason to not continue with the company… but I don’t think the Kids At Work is part of it.

      1. allathian*

        One of my friends worked at a movie theater multiplex when she was in college. And she told me that when she walked into a theater, she could tell whether the last showing had been a horror movie or a comedy, without even looking at the schedule, because of the feelings the room induced in her. There’s some scientific evidence that human chemosignaling is real.

    3. ferrina*

      That would make sense to me. The interview LW described was really weird (why do you need to know about every manager going back 20 years? what on earth are you hoping to learn?).
      The BYKTW sounds distracting, but not a major interviewing issue. I wouldn’t deliberately schedule an interview for that day, but I wouldn’t avoid it either (because scheduling interviews can be tough). But it is something that’s loud and noisy and easier to point to than “the interview was really weird, something really didn’t feel right and I can’t quite put my finger on what it was.”

      1. AnonInCanada*

        > (why do you need to know about every manager going back 20 years? what on earth are you hoping to learn?)

        Maybe the candidate’s age in a roundabout way? If someone were young (i.e. under 40) they would likely not have that kind of work history to go back 20 years (unless you count the babysitting/lawn mowing/paper route job you’d have as a kid.) Rather callous of the company, if I do say so myself.

      2. Just Another Tired US Fed*

        I would only think it was weird if the interviewer’s kids were in the room where the interview took place.

        I’m old, I remember the first event of this type, and it was Bring Your Daughter to Work Day, held annually.

        Things sure do change.

      3. 1LFTW*

        why do you need to know about every manager going back 20 years? what on earth are you hoping to learn?

        It does seem kinda… defensive, now that I think about it? Like maybe they’ve been burned by grievance-driven people in the past, and they think asking this question will get someone to say, “Well, 20 years ago was that jerk Sarah at the pizza joint, who tried to write me up for being late. Boy, did I show her! Then 19 years ago was Head Lifeguard Mike, the bastard…”

        I say this as someone who literally can’t remember who my manager was 20 years ago. I remember the job, but it was retail. There was turnover.

    4. OP*

      Hi! I’m the letter writer (and super excited that my question was posted. :)

      I think you’re right. There was just so much that was “off” about the whole interview process when I think back to it. It was a combination of everything that was going on at the time. I’ve never done an interview where I wasn’t able to ask some questions and have it be more of a back and forth. This was the first in person interview – the initial phone call/ screen had seemed way more normal.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Alison glossed over your points about how the interview was conducted but I definitely feel like that is a bigger issue here. The questions about each and every job and manager for 20 years of job history is pretty ridiculous even before taking into account that they didn’t let you ask questions of them. I suspect you dodged a bullet here but they could have been new interviewers who just didn’t know how to ask the right questions.

        1. English Rose*

          Yes I agree, this sounds like the interviewers had a script and were not allowed/felt they couldn’t deviate from it. I’d have been there all day if they’d asked me all those questions about all previous jobs.
          Probably all for the best.

          1. GrooveBat*

            Or else they were just really bad at interviewing. Which would be problematic if they were to be LW’s immediate supervisors, but if they were “screeners” I’d be less concerned.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yeah, I would be pretty put off by that – in the last 20 years I’ve had around 10 jobs, and some of them had really crappy managers. I would be hard pressed to be nice about some of them, and others I couldn’t say a bad word about.

          1. OP*

            It was definitely hard to come up with constructive things to say. They really pushed hard on certain areas and asking about specific traits of my managers, and the jobs. It all felt really surreal. Every once in a while I try and google to see if I can figure out what style interviewing that was and if it’s recommended anywhere but come up empty. I suspect it’s something they made up. (This was a medium sized startup)

              1. OP*

                Thanks for putting a name to it. As a candidate it was awful. I wonder if anyone else has been on either end (candidate or interviewer) of a Top Grading interview process and can speak to its benefits?

  4. Czhorat*

    Another factor to remember is availability, particularly of management. It could be that that was their one open window within a week or two. If it were, flip the question:

    “Am I wrong to be upset that the hiring company postponed my interview for Bring Your Child to Work Day”?

    When reasonable people could be irritated by either result then you probably don’t have clear wrongdoing, but a situation with no perfect choices.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I think the solution is to present a series of options and indicate that one of those days is bring your child to work day and the office might be a little extra chaotic, so people can make the choice themselves. Personally, I think that kind of environment would interrupt my anxiety and put me more at ease. OP is the opposite. There are ways to let people make that choice themselves.

      As Alison said, it may not be avoidable, but I don’t know that it’s automatically no-win.

      1. Czhorat*

        That’s a very reasonable point.

        “Next Tuesday we can see you, but it’s BYCTW day and it gets a bit crazy. If that’s OK with you, great. If not, we aren’t all available until a week after the following Monday.”

        I can see most hiring manager not thinking this is an issue, however. Especially given that they had a private office with a door.

        1. CarlEatsShoes*

          They probably just didn’t even realize it was BYKTWD. I’m in my 40s (and have kids!) and have always worked in an office – and I have no clue when BYKTWD is. Completely off my radar.

    2. Michaela T*

      I was thinking the same thing, I would rather interview ASAP personally but everyone’s different.

    3. ferrina*

      It would be great irony if the interview was for a role where you had to manage quickly changing circumstances.

    4. Enginarian*

      We have “bring your child to work day” and they put them all on a bus and we are not sure when they will arrive at our location. They are here for an hour, but I would need to cancel interviews for half a day to make sure there was no overlap. Not something I would do.

      How you deal with this type of interruption is good information for the interviewers.

  5. Happy meal with extra happy*

    Assuming it wasn’t just a free-for-all of children running everywhere and screaming at the top of their lungs, this would have been a positive for me of the atmosphere at this place. I do like places where there are events and some degree of socialization.

    1. Rainbow*

      I love socialization, but not when it’s random children running around. I would probably nope out of being in work that day tbh :’)

      1. ferrina*

        If it was my children you were hiding from, I wouldn’t blame you. I love my kids, but working around them is nigh impossible. They go from Adorable to Bouncing Off Walls to Squabbling to Sweet/Sensitive to Talking About ROI all in about 4 minutes (yes, my 6yo loves trying to calculate ROI. He’s surprisingly good at understanding overheads). It’s….a lot. I sometimes feel bad for people that are just shopping in the same store as us!

      2. Spero*

        I would love this – for one scheduled, predefined day. Even before I had my own kids I loved a previous office’s BYK day.
        If it was a RANDOM day with this environment, NOPE NOPE. The next place I worked had a random assortment of children in office several times a week, and that was frankly awful (not the least, because of the nature of the work there were things that weren’t appropriate for children to hear/see and we had to look over our shoulder before discussing normal work things).

      3. Just Another Tired US Fed*

        This organization conducted the event strangely. When I participated, there were organized events for the children, including a lunch. There was no running or chaos.

        1. Perfectly Particular*

          This idea is the same at our workplace, but in reality, with about 100 kids on site, it does get kinda chaotic. And then after lunch, they shadow their own parents. No running/yelling, but not much work gets done in the afternoon as everyone is introducing kids to their coworkers, showing off their projects, etc.

  6. Deborah*

    I was thinking, from the title, that this would involve being interviewed by a kid. Now that would be a problem!!!!

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Exactly where I thought this was going–and I would say that was a bad idea and the interviewers should not have their kids in the room.

      But the office being more boisterous than LW expected is just a minor “Yeah, this feels like a poor fit for you” thing.

      1. CarlEatsShoes*

        Me too! I was waiting for the kids to have been involved in the interview – which would have been truly bizarre!

          1. Citra*

            My kids are in their late teens now and I still hate that little brat, and his useless parents.

    2. KrisC*

      I would love to be interviewed by a kid. Adults rarely ask important questions like “Do you think Batman or Godzilla would win in a fight?” or “What’s your favourite dinosaur?”

      1. ferrina*

        Is the next Google interview technique? After asking how many ping pong balls fit in a 747, they now want you to demonstrate your thinking by gaming out the Batman vs Godzilla battle.

        (also: Deps on the terrain. Most of Batman’s close-combat/urban equipment would be useless; he’s need to focus on subduing the Godzilla, likely using the environment. Though if he had some of Scarecrow’s fear gas that he had confiscated….)

        1. Avery*

          I feel like, as with the (in)famous Google interview questions, this is a question where what matters isn’t the response you come up with, but how you arrived there. What’s important isn’t who wins, but the thought you put into how the battle would play out and the strengths and weaknesses of both combatants.

        2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

          For some reason, my mind jumped to the inevitable discrimination law suit when a candidate is an immigrant from a place where these characters are not a part of the culture, and/or whose religion doesn’t allow superhero movies. But I suppose if someone simply isn’t interested in this kind of stuff and doesn’t have any proper explanation for not knowing what Batman and Godzilla can or can’t do, then it would be OK to just not hire them based on that…

          I also wonder how an interwiew by kids would work for a job that actually includes working with kids, and if that’s ever been done.

          1. ferrina*

            Yes! Teaching settings will do working interviews- It’s really normal for daycare workers to do a working interview before being hired. The goal is to see how they interact with kids and if they can quickly build trust with the kids.

            I’ve also heard of some groups doing traditional interviews with kids, like youth pastors being interviewed by current active members of the youth group.

          2. WorkingRachel*

            “If that’s ever been done”–yup. I work at a democratic school, and our typical interview process includes students, who are included on our staffing committee, which handles hiring. So, definitely highly unusual, but at least one organization does it! (I’m actually not sure if our sister schools do it the same way.) We do it both because we think students deserve the opportunity to participate in decisions that affect them, and to gauge whether the candidate can respect the kids in the way that we need in our staff, without condescending to them or trying to control them. (We do let candidates know beforehand that there will likely be students as part of the interview panel. And sometimes no students are interested and it ends up being an adults-only interview.)

      2. bumblebee*

        You joke, but I once had an interview where I was asked (by an adult) “Who would win in a fight between the Invisible Man and a regular person?”

        1. linger*

          Not if “Batman Meets Godzilla” is a ca. 2 minute animated short consisting mostly of credits.

          1. Citra*

            He may not “win” in that instance because it’s an unfinished fan thing, but unfinished fan things don’t count.

            Batman. Always. Wins.

      3. Tau*

        Before the last federal election, there was actually a little series on German TV where our leading candidates for chancellor got interviewed by children (“Kinder fragen Kanzler:innen” by Late Night Berlin – unfortunately, although the interviews are on Youtube I couldn’t find English subtitles or a translation). After watching it I was convinced that such interviews should be made mandatory for all candidates to such positions going forward. The whiplash of going from “what would your name be if you were a dragon” to hard questions about immigration policy and party scandals and the way the kids refused to be put off by obfuscation or weasel answers has to be seen to be believed.

        1. Jen*

          The Youtube auto translation to English seems decent. At least most of the statements seem coherent. I can’t actually verify how accurate they are, but so far I’ve heard questions about Putin and immigration.

    3. Clisby*

      That’s what I thought! I was imagining a couple of kids in the interview room with the interviewers occasionally shushing them.

    4. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I thought this too! Where I live, Take Your Kid To Work Day is only done when kids are in Grade 9, so while I definitely would have found it weird to have a random teenager in the room if I was the one interviewing, at least it wouldn’t be disruptive.

    5. Bookmark*

      I actually did get interviewed by my coworker’s ~10 year old kid during bring your kid to work about a decade ago. But crucially, the interview was just for a project the parent had set the kid up with and asked in advance if people would be OK being interviewed. It was pretty cute at the time, and my (now former) coworker dug it up and sent it around not too long ago. Kind of fun to see a blast from the past version of yourself.

  7. Ro*

    Sorry this was so upsetting for OP, but to add to what was said, I feel it would have relaxed me and put me at ease! I think getting to see a slice of life like that in the organization would have made me like it more.

    1. Same*

      Exactly this. It feels like more of an anxiety issue than a workplace issue. But the actual interview sounds awful. I could pick out a positive and negative of every workplace and manager I’ve had for 20 years, but that seems like a pointless exercise and I question the value in that interview approach

      1. Ahab*

        The value is that it tells the interviewers what kind of situations/management styles the candidate thinks are positives vs. negatives, and the amount of depth a candidate gives can give a fair amount of insight into their thought processes. Since most managers (and people in general) are better at teaching job skills than at coaching soft skills, evaluating how well a candidate will fit into the culture of an office is at least as important as evaluating their job skills.

        1. Rainbow*

          I’ve only been in the workforce 6 years and I’ve had 8 managers (not my fault by the way! I changed jobs a few times, and otherwise it was either them leaving or me moving within the company). I hope they allotted a lot of time for this question… and also for the third to last guy, I’m really struggling to find a positive

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            One company I worked for for not quite three years I had five different managers. Which one to pick? The best or the worst? I’m not going to go over all of them, I’ve even mostly forgotten their names!

        2. Rosalie*

          Or you could also just ask people what kinds of management styles they do well with and what kind they do poorly with.

          This is honestly a terrible question. I’d have to look at my resume to see remember who my manager even was 20 years ago. The odds that I’d even remember what annoyed me about them is pretty minimal. The odds are even lower that what annoyed me about a manager 20 years ago, when I was 20 years younger and in a much different place in my life and my career, would have any relevance to what management styles I do well with today.

          Not to mention the fact that 20 years is so far back that I’d assume the purpose of the question is to allow the company to engage in discriminatory hiring practices based on age (in one direction or the other).

          1. Ahab*

            “Or you could also just ask people what kinds of management styles they do well with and what kind they do poorly with.”

            That’s another question to ask. It’s not quite as good as getting actual examples, though. A vague question like that is easier for a candidate to make up answers that they think the interviewer wants to hear.

            “I’d have to look at my resume to see remember who my manager even was 20 years ago.”

            You should have a copy of your resume with you during the interview.

            “The odds are even lower that what annoyed me about a manager 20 years ago, when I was 20 years younger and in a much different place in my life and my career, would have any relevance to what management styles I do well with today.”

            If you are giving things that annoy you rather than things that negatively impacted your work, that is a valuable answer from the interviewer’s standpoint. If you are able to say that you were new to the workforce in that job and now understand how the thing that you thought negatively impacted your work had more nuance that you appreciated at that time, that is also a valuable answer to the interviewer.

            “Not to mention the fact that 20 years is so far back that I’d assume the purpose of the question is to allow the company to engage in discriminatory hiring practices based on age (in one direction or the other).”

            If the job is on your resume, you should expect the interviewer to ask questions about it. A resume is a marketing tool for you as a candidate, not a legal document. If a person is worried about age discrimination, they can leave off older jobs that no longer reflect what they bring the table as a candidate either skills-wise or attitudinally.

            Those might have been questions that you would find difficult to answer. However, they elicit some good information about a candidate, which makes them good questions, not terrible questions.

          2. Emmy Noether*

            Yes! Just ask what you want to know and maybe one example, don’t go fishing for 20 minutes to maybe find some kind of pattern in the person’s work history.

            I’ll happily openly tell anyone I cannot deal with micromanagers. You’d also find this out if you asked me about all my past managers, but it would take a lot longer.

          3. amoeba*

            I mean, you could also ask about specific examples from managers you’ve had before, but, like, let them chose one or two examples, not make them go through all of them?
            This would also make the question wildly different for each candidate – for me, it would be fine as I’ve only had four and all of them for several years, so no big problem. Other people in our organisation have had three different line managers in one or two years because of reorgs, so I imagine it would be a massive hassle for them.

    2. Pidgeot*

      Agree – it would have made me see that the company had a number of working parents and given me a favorable impression that they were likely to be good to work for [as a working parent].

    3. Hannah Lee*

      Years ago I interviewed at a large insurance company in a nearby city.

      It happened that my interview time was right when they were doing a kick off for their United Way campaign for the year, with a big to-do outside, involving 100’s of employees holding hands, encircling the building … and blocking every entrance to the building, the parking lot, etc for 30 minutes or so, with balloons, music, a film crew.

      Though I’d scoped out the drive, parking, entrances a few days before, I hadn’t accounted for arriving at 9:30 for a 10 am interview, having to circle the block a few times to understand what was happening, stopping a couple of times to try to flag down people to ask if I could break the circle to just get into the parking lot, being shut down and having to park blocks away and walk back, finally getting into the building 10-15 minutes after the interview time. (Cell phones weren’t common then and I didn’t have one)

      While the actual event might have been a net-positive, the combination of multiple employees adamantly refusing to drop hands and break their human chain for at most 20 seconds so an interviewee could get in, plus the person I interviewed with showing ZERO humor or even willingness to understand why I was delayed getting in to her office let me know that was NOT a place I’d want to work. She managed to convey she was offended and disapproving of the fact that I was amused by the whole thing.

      Despite stable pay, decent benefits, the evidence of it being a soul-sucking place seemed clear to me.

      1. AthenaC*

        I have had it happen before where:

        1) Something unexpected / a problem happens
        2) I am amused (because why not? I have to solve the problem anyway; I might as well laugh about it)
        3) Other person is irritated and thinks I am strange
        4) My amusement is compounded by the other person’s reaction

        Not gonna lie, I particularly enjoy the situations where we are peers / co-volunteers / something where the other person has no authority over me so they are stuck with their discomfort.

        In any case, sounds like you were right about the signals you got about the work environment.

  8. ScruffyInternHerder*

    Honestly, I’d have used it to do a little bit of looking at how things are done within the company (having been at companies that both handled TYKTW day well and poorly – well meaning well organized with appropriate activities and poorly meaning that the VP brought his kids in without warning and with no plan other than “the front office girls would figure something out to keep them busy”. Also, it was a very bumbling move by a VP who typically wasn’t bumbling.)

    I’d have been a little concerned that it was scheduled for that day though. I currently work in a firm that uses TYKTW day as both “here’s what Mommy/Daddy does all day” for the little ones and “here’s what we do around here and here are some very very shallow toes into the career pool type classes” for the teens, but all around makes the day a huge event with the thought that our next ::fill in the job titles:: may currently be here in middle school, why not show them our best now?

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Kingdom for an edit button!

      My concern stemming from how freaking busy everyone here is on TYKTW day. I don’t know if anyone would have the proper bandwidth for interviewing someone!

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I discovered that “There is hot chocolate there, and you can drink it whenever you want” was the primary thing young kids had absorbed about their parents and what they do at work all day.

      1. HoHumDrum*


        Tbh I do actually have very fond memories of take your kid to work day (though I’m old enough I went back when it was take your daughter to work day), though that may be because my parents worked in government so there were lots of kid friendly things to highlight. It didn’t make me eager to get into their jobs per se, but it did make me proud of my parents and that they worked to help other people.

        1. GeorgeFayne*

          It’s so funny – My parents have two very different occupations (Accounts Payable and a Body Man). So on TYDTWD (now TYKTWD) I would spend the first half of the day at my mom’s office, printing and collating and learning about office work (I’m old enough to remember the VERY LOUD printing room with the dot matrix printers) and then would spend the afternoon at the auto body shop with my dad, sanding down bondo and helping put doors back together. I didn’t think it had much of an effect on what I wanted to do (I started college as an Elementary Education major) – but cut to X amount of years later and I have been working office jobs for the past 16 years. I have the same aptitude for it that my mom does, it seems. I guess I’ll have to see if I end my career working on cars.

    3. Antilles*

      TIL that Bring Your Kids To Work Day is an actual thing that exists. Prior to this post (and the accompanying comments), I’d never seen or even heard of anyone who’d actually had a major day like this where everybody brings in their family while people are actually trying to work. Just sort of assumed it was one of those things that was once a thing decades ago and just remains in the cultural knowledge even though it no longer happens.
      Maybe it’s industry specific – in my industry, that sort of “let’s develop the next generation into Future Engineers” events pretty much always happen through various hands-on demonstrations at their school like Concrete Canoe or whatever.

      1. mlem*

        “Take Our Daughters to Work Day” started in 1992 and was originally intended to counter girl-specific gender-role pressures. Individual companies vary in how much they ignore/tolerate/accept/embrace/celebrate it.

        1. DataSci*

          Reading between the lines, it seems like you’re objecting to boys and non-binary kids being included in the day. As a former girl, I agree that the original was needed thirty years ago. As the parent of a (Black) son, the latter is what’s needed now – exposing ALL kids to career options doesn’t take away from the girls.

          1. Valancy Snaith*

            I’m pretty sure the above commenter was just describing the genesis of the event and saying that not every company on Planet Earth is involved. I think you’re the only one picking a fight “reading between the lines.”

          2. Coconutty*

            There aren’t any lines in that comment to read between. They’re literally just sharing a bit about the origin of the tradition.

    4. CTT*

      On the flip side, back when my office hosted this sort of thing, participation varied by year and some years I had no idea it was even happening because there were no kids on my floor – I could see someone scheduling it for that day and not realizing that this was a year people were really going to embrace it.

  9. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

    I would have preferred this to the interview I did on Halloween where both interviewers were in costume and full face makeup and seemed offended that I was just wearing regular business casual clothing. I did not get that job.

    I agree, I think they just didn’t take into consideration it was Bring your Kids to work day, at least they didn’t have kids in your actual interview. But it gave you enough information to feel that place wasn’t for you. And that’s ok! I interviewed at a place and backed out because I didn’t like the office. It was old and very cluttered and had horrid lighting. Sometimes we decline for on the surface is kinda frivolous reasons, but I think it’s our intuition telling us that job wouldn’t be a good fit.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      I would have preferred this to the interview I did on Halloween where both interviewers were in costume and full face makeup and seemed offended that I was just wearing regular business casual clothing. I did not get that job

      It sounds like you got some useful info about the company.

        1. Robin*

          So glad I was not drinking when I read that, I would have had to wipe my keyboard down.

          Clearly a better fit for the employee who trick or treated at the important client meeting!

    2. Cat Lover*

      I had a work shadow with my current employee (this was 3+ years ago) on Halloween. We gave her a heads up that we would be in costume though. She thought it was hilarious.

      1. Cat's Paw for Cats*

        I would have found it hilarious too. I guess I lead a dull life because I find these kinds of events to be charming. I would have been left with a very positive impression of the company.

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Sometimes we decline for on the surface is kinda frivolous reasons, but I think it’s our intuition telling us that job wouldn’t be a good fit.

      An excellent point!

    4. Cait*

      My dad once went to an interview on Halloween and the woman interviewing him was dressed as a deep sea diver, complete with fishbowl on her head. He couldn’t understand a word she was saying, and kept having to say “Excuse me?” every time she asked a question. Finally, my dad said, “I’m sorry, I’m having a really hard time understanding you with that fishbowl on your head. Can you please take it off?”, to which she replied (through a slightly raised bowl to allow only her mouth to escape), “No! They’re coming around to judge the costumes any minute and if I don’t have it on they won’t know what I am!”. Suffice to say, he did not accept the position when offered.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        That’s hilarious! As someone who doesn’t like to dress up for Halloween but does love seeing other people’s costumes, I’d have found it very hard to keep a straight face in that situation.

  10. Ugh*

    This would have been a great opportunity to show flexibility and on-the-moment thinking, OP.

    Take advantage of it next time, and remember the world doesn’t just revolve around you & your convenience.

    1. chocolate lover*

      I don’t know that everyone could “take advantage of it.” As someone who needs some time to process information and can be over stimulated by loud and busy environments, I would have been more anxious and stressed than I normally would be at an interview. Some of us don’t adapt that quickly, though it sounds like OP adapted well enough because they were invited to the next round. Though it also sounds like they had other doubts/concerns about the interview process anyway, so it was probably not just about the noise and disruption.

    2. Mockingjay*

      I think this is a bit harsh.

      Interviewing is serious business; changing jobs means your livelihood can be at stake. Even in the most professional, cordial atmosphere, interviews are stressful. I concur with Alison that sometimes stuff happens on the same day that you are scheduled and you roll with it, but let’s not diminish how the LW felt during the process.

    3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      This is unkind and unfair to the LW. Workplaces should not be made up entirely of people whose life motto is “lighten up, Francis.” Maybe she was interviewing to be the compliance officer.

      I don’t think the company messed up here, but it’s just not a good fit.

    4. marvin*

      Eh, that assumes that the LW’s main objective here was to make a good impression, but I think they actually had a pretty good outcome from this. They got enough insight into the company to determine it wasn’t a great fit for them. If making a good impression means ignoring your own boundaries and preferences, you can easily end up in a job that makes you miserable.

        1. ecnaseener*

          One of two main objectives, I’d argue, the other being to figure out if it’s a good fit on both sides. If it’s not a good fit, faking it to make a good impression (beyond what’s prudent for future networking) is a bit pointless.

        2. Hannah Lee*

          *A* main objective. Not *The* main objective.

          And it sounds like OP did manage to make a good impression, since they were invited to continue on to the next round.

        3. marvin*

          Assuming that you aren’t desperate for a job, I think it’s better in the long run for both sides to give an accurate impression of what working with them will be like. Particularly when it comes to personality fit, it’s not in your best interest to position yourself as someone who is up for anything that you don’t actually want to put up with regularly.

        4. allathian*

          Sounds like you’ve only interviewed when you’re desperate to get a job, any job. But in my experience most people who are interviewing are looking to change jobs, and they can be a lot more picky.

    5. ecnaseener*

      The world doesn’t, but your own major life choices probably should! LW was happily in a position to screen out jobs where they don’t like the culture, so that’s what they did.

    6. AngryOctopus*

      To be fair, I think the real issue is that the interview sounds like it was super one-sided and they weren’t that interested in letting OP ask questions about the job/company. That rubs me the wrong way FAR more than people taking their kids to work. However, I get that OP seems to have some interview anxiety and the atmosphere didn’t help them. But all that information just lets them know that This Place Is Not For Me. There’s nothing inherently wrong with TYKTW, and nothing wrong with having an interview on that day. But it can make for an atmosphere that isn’t for everyone, and you shouldn’t have to try to roll with it to make it seem OK. You get through it, and mentally check the place off your list.

    7. Observer*

      and remember the world doesn’t just revolve around you & your convenience.

      That’s overly harsh and really unfair.

      While I do think that the OP is over-reacting, the essential idea that interviews should be conducted in a way where the interviewee is treated with some consideration and thought to their ability to actually manage in the situation is not unreasonable. Being put off by having to find the receptionist who had to check them in and by a lot of noise going on during the interview is hardly a sign of major self-centeredness.

    8. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Not all jobs require flexibility and thinking on your feet. Mine certainly doesn’t, and I’ve noticed that I’m not as good at thinking on my feet nowadays, possibly because I never have to do it at work. Thinking things through at leisure, and taking my time to check every last comma in a text, though, I’m a dab hand.

      OP doesn’t think everything revolves around her, she was wondering what Alison’s take would be on this strange interview. Given that the interviewers didn’t explain anything about forgetting it was not an ordinary day, and that they asked some weird questions, I think OP had reason to feel that something was off in the company.

  11. Female Dragon Rider*

    I get why seeing so many kids in the building might have thrown you off but factoring that into your thoughts on the company seems odd. We didn’t do Bring Your Kids To Work at my company but we had kids in the office for snow days or power outages at schools. Not often, maybe 3 times a year. They’d take over a conference room and be generally pretty loud (I once got into a debate with a little girl over animated movies because I said How To Train Your Dragon was my favorite and she said I couldn’t like it because it was a boys movie; I was ready to kick her into next week, insulting my favorite movie like that :P). What if kids were in the building for that? Clearly it’s not typical for a business but it would happen from time to time. The weird one-way interview makes sense to turn you off to the company; I’m just not sure why this would factor in.

    1. ferrina*

      That’s a little different than a planned event. I’ve had to interview someone with my toddler on my lap because she was home sick (my toddler approved of the candidate. He ended up being a great hire). In that case my choices were very limited; interview with the kid, or try to reschedule for a couple weeks later.

      For a planned event, you usually have more choices in advance. But not always- some calendars just don’t line up, or are really packed. If it was an easy thing to avoid, I’d avoid it, but I wouldn’t give myself a headache to try to find another time.

  12. Daniel*

    This feels like a great example where being thrown off your game was totally reasonable, and I don’t feel like the company is really at fault for anything. There are just too many valid reasons for an interview to have to take place on a particular day, and this sounds like it came down to bad timing.

    I do wonder how it would have gone if you went to the second interview.

    1. OP*

      I was pleased that I was invited back for a second interview, as it shows I was able to handle both the noisy/chaotic environment and the strange way they conducted the interview. Several threads have commented that I might have anxiety about interviews – and while I think I get a standard level of nervous about interviews I usually do quite well. I always treat interviews (whether I’m the interviewer or the interviewee) as a conversation between the two of us to determine if it’s a good fit. That approach has served me well over the years!

      It’s interesting to see that a lot of commenters feel that BYKTWD would be a great sign for them and put them more at ease during the process. I think also reading all the comments that the fact that the way the interview was conducted was actually more off-putting than the fact there were kids there. (No kids were in the interview room – Maybe the interview would have been more fun if there were!)

      1. DisgruntledPelican*

        I think people are talking about anxiety because you said “it really added to my anxiety about the whole process.”

  13. Kit*

    When I was a kid I participated in “Take Our Daughters to Work Day” (it was a feminist thing at the time!) with my dad, who was an immigration officer, and many people had to do visa interviews with me sitting there. In retrospect that was probably super weird for them. Foreigners answering questions about the purpose of their visit while a little girl plays with Canadian flag lapel pins.

  14. Nathan's Mom*

    “I didn’t get any info myself from my interviewers, and could only judge the company based on the general atmosphere I saw.” As someone already pointed out, interviews are a top-way street. Why did you not get any info from your interviewers? Did you ask?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Interviewers aren’t always great at answering those kind of questions. They should be, but the number of generic and unhelpful answers I’ve gotten to questions about culture is high.

      1. ferrina*

        Eh, I agree with the frustration, but I don’t blame the interviewers. Lots of people don’t have the vocabulary to describe culture, and it’s a nebulous thing to try to describe. It can also be subjective: I could say it’s collaborative because I meet with other departments all day for fact-finding (but find solutions and do tasks on my own), but you think collaboration means brainstorming and doing the task in tandem. Or one boss I had was enamored with our workplace because it was merely terrible, and she had previously worked at a despicable hellmouth of malodorous, malicious despair and doom. Perspective is everything.

        Some people are good at describing culture, so it’s worth an ask. But have a back up plan.

    2. londonedit*

      Yeah…I can understand feeling like they didn’t get to see a good representation of the company on a ‘normal’ day, and I’d have hoped the interviewers would at least make some mention of ‘Sorry about the disruption; it’s bring your kids to work day and it’s always a bit chaotic!’ or whatever. But at the same time, did the OP ask about the usual company culture? Also, it sounds like they had the chance to come back for a second interview, where I imagine they would have been able to see the company without a load of children being present, so I’m a bit surprised that they didn’t take that chance and instead wrote it off altogether based on the one experience of the place. Of course, sometimes one interview is enough to know it’s really not the job for you, but in this case it sounds like the OP wanted more from their interviewers and I can’t help but think that a second interview might have been a chance to evaluate their first impressions and see whether they were correct.

      1. GrooveBat*

        Yeah, that was my take as well. The second interview would have given the LW the opportunity to see the company on a more “normal” workday.

        I’m not a big “rah-rah kids are great!” person by any means, but I would have tried to use the situation as an opportunity to show I can be flexible and roll with less-than-optimal conditions.

        1. GrooveBat*

          PS Of course, I am one of those weird people who actually enjoys job interviews, so this wouldn’t have thrown me.

    3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      The LW mentioned “rapid-fire” questioning, so it seems like there was not as much back and forth as an interviewee might expect.

      1. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

        Yes, she specifically said that it wasn’t a two-way conversation as she would have expected.

        1. starsaphire*

          That was my take too, and that alone would have been enough for me to walk away.

          The kids in the office were a distraction, for sure, but the point of the whole story was buried in that one paragraph: the fact that the interviewer bombarded her with questions that didn’t seem relevant, and wouldn’t let her get a word in, would have been enough for me to nope right on out.

          Sounds like she had the right gut response, she’s just focusing on the small issue instead of the big one.

      2. Yorick*

        But LW opted out of the tour of the office they offered to do, where some questions might have been answered and the unstructured nature would have allowed for asking questions.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          If I’ve been bombarded with questions like “tell me a negative and a positive about your first job 25 years ago” and not gotten a word in myself, I too would turn down an office tour, kids or no kids. If it’s been an hour of them firing questions at me, I don’t need to know more about the job. I don’t want this job.

          1. Rosalie*

            I wouldn’t have wanted that job either. There’s no need to ask questions if you already have enough information to make a decision, and it sounds like the LW did.

    4. Lady_Lessa*

      With the set up of one person asking the questions and another (presumably silent) recording them, the LW may not have had a chance. Especially with the type of questions.

      Almost sounds like a legal deposition.

      1. OP*

        That’s an excellent way to describe how it felt! The second person didn’t talk at all – but just typed. They even explained this in the beginning – “So and So is going to record our answers, so I can focus on asking the questions”. Before they started, it seemed like that wasn’t a terrible idea, but given that the questions were so … strange, not sure that setup was truly necessary.

        I think you all are correct and the real issue was in how the interview was conducted, not the fact that it happened to fall on BYKTWD. I didn’t get a sense that my interviewers were open. I don’t think either one would have been a person I reported to (it’s been too long at this point for me to remember for sure) and the whole thing just felt like some kind of weird exercise I had to suffer through. The offer for the tour at the end felt perfunctory and given the extra activities going on with the kids, it didn’t feel like I’d really be able to get good info.

        I didn’t immediately turn down the 2nd interview – I think we were in the process of trying to schedule it with back/forth emails when I decided to Nope out of the whole process based on how I was feeling about everything at that point.

  15. Purple Cat*

    I don’t think you’re “wrong” about your feelings (they are what they are) but it does seem like you’re holding on very tightly to your feelings about being wronged.
    The two issues that I see are:
    1) They didn’t warn you it was Take Your Kids to Work Day. You should have gotten a heads up. More than likely it just wasn’t top of mind for your interviewers so they forgot to pass that info along.
    2) It *does* dramatically change the tone of the office (for better or for worse) to only be able to go in and interview during such an event. If it was a job I was interested in, I would definitely ask to come back on another day to get a better sense of the “true” office atmosphere.

    1. Cmdrshpard*

      “If it was a job I was interested in, I would definitely ask to come back on another day to get a better sense of the “true” office atmosphere.”

      OP was invited back for a second round interview, I highly doubt it would have fallen on another bring your kid to work day, so they would have been able to get a sense of the “normal” office. OP declined more so because of the way the interview went.

      I think if OP declined a second interview had the first one gone great and they really liked the job, I would think OP was overreacting to the BYKTW, and would suggest they do the second interview. The real major issue was the interview itself besides the kid thing.

  16. KrisC*

    This one really sounds like just a bit of a mismatch. Personally, I would have also been taken aback but I love kids so I’d probably end up giving off the camp-counsellor energy that is practically in my blood after years of volunteering as one.

    That being said, I think turning down a tour regardless of circumstances (you know, barring DANGER) is always a bad move. As an interviewer it would make me question the candidate’s interest a little and as a candidate- even if I know it’s not a job I want, I’m always interested to see how things work. Worst case scenario, I confirm my gut instincts, best case I find out I had the wrong perspective.

    Not to sound like a School House Rock song, but knowledge is power. It never hurts to learn as much as you can in a given circumstance.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I agree that turning down a tour signals a lack of interest. If LW had wanted the job, it would have been the wrong move based on signaling a lack of both interest and the ability to deal with the occasional chaos.

    2. Flowers*

      What if a tour isn’t offered?
      No place I ever interviewed offered tours so I would think that was more typical. However a few months ago I noticed a few times that potential new hires were given tours but I don’t know the details about any of that so I can’t say for sure what was going on there….

      1. Not That Kind of Lawyer*

        I am hearing more often about tours being given after the formal part of the interview. We do it at my current job. The idea (at our company) is to give the interviewee a sense of the actual working environment and to meet the staff they may be sitting near or working with. I would love to believe my company is just trying to give the candidate all of the information they will need to make an informed decision, but I think, they just really just want to show off the new building.

      2. KrisC*

        Tours aren’t a standard for most offices that I’ve come across, which I think is all the more reason to seize the opportunity if it comes.

        I’ve found that if they’re offered it either means they’re seriously considering you as a candidate and/or are trying to entice you/show off (either reason can tell you a lot about a company) OR they’re completely out of touch with professional norms (which is a red flag that has saved me a lot of headaches).

        The job I have now I actually got to tour before I was even interviewed and I’m super grateful because it meant I was better able to understand the environment I was interviewing to be part of.

  17. JustSomeone*

    I vote yes, curmudgeon. The tone is just so…affronted. That would seem like a reasonable reaction to me if the kids were interfering with the actual interview process, like if children were running through the interview room or if the interviewers had their children with them in the interview. But the interview room was quiet, there just happened to be children elsewhere in the building, and the company as a whole was a bit amped up about that? That doesn’t strike me as something to be so offended by.

    1. JustSomeone*

      I should add that I don’t have kids myself and honestly don’t particularly like them, so I’m not among the population that finds absolutely anything involving a child to be adorable and beyond reproach.

    2. cosmicgorilla*

      Agree. It’s one thing to feel like you’re thrown off your game, to feel overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle. That’s understandable, and LW may want to search for a company that’s a bit more conservative.

      But the how dare they not have the perfect environment for my interview level of pearl-clutching here is over the top.

    3. Delphine*

      Agreed. Plus distractions occur in every office. If you’re so inflexible or if you’re not able to let something like this roll off your shoulders as a minor inconvenience, that might be something to work on.

      1. to varying degrees*

        Same. Like above I’m not particularly a kid person but I don’t get what the big deal is. It’s very possible whoever scheduled the interview didn’t remember (or if they don’t have kids didn’t think about) that the stuff was happening. Honestly I’d be a little concerned about the inability to just roll with unexpected, albeit minor surprises.

        1. Adultier Adult*

          I agree– in 99.99% of jobs- you are going to have to roll with the punches- punches may be different, but there are ALWAYS punches :)

    4. atalanta0jess*

      Same, same. I see being thrown off….we all have our things, and that’s ok. But I don’t see it as universally obvious that this is a huge deal and the company was being uber inconsiderate.

      1. JustSomeone*

        They asked if they were being a curmudgeon. I think the answer is yes. And I don’t think it’s unduly harsh to say so in response to their direct question.

      2. ?*

        I don’t see that at all! I had the same reaction—LW is asking how others would interpret her attitude and to me, she comes off as having been rather rigid and having trouble seeing that that many other people would not react the same way she did. I don’t think she’s a bad person, it sounds like she was perfectly polite, and it was reasonable for her to withdraw given her overall discomfort. But given that she went to the trouble to write in and ask, yes, I was pretty taken aback by her tone.

  18. L-squared*

    You are free to be turned off by what you like, but I feel like you are really looking at this far worse than necessary.

    I can see it being annoying. But if the person who set up the interview has no kids or didn’t really know what to expect that day, I don’t think its anyone’s fault. Its just a thing that happened. This clearly wasn’t a normal day, similar to how sometimes you may have to interview on a Friday before a holiday when there is a party, or on Halloween or something else that is a non standard work day.

    It sounds like you took it a bit worse than maybe you should have.

    1. The Eye of Argon*

      Nah, people react to stuff they way they do and it’s just their personalities. Obviously OP doesn’t want to work at a place where they do those kind of events, and that’s fine. Others would enjoy or be neutral on it, and that’s fine too. It’s a happy accident that things happened as they did, because OP learned right off the bat the sort of culture the place had and it was another piece of info to base their decision on.

      1. Roland*

        > Obviously OP doesn’t want to work at a place where they do those kind of events,

        I don’t think that’s true! She just didn’t like being interviewed on that day.

        1. OP*

          Yes! This is the question. I’m fine with BYKTWD. I’m fine with kids coming for Halloween all dressed up and adorable and asking for candy (which I always try to have the good stuff). Those things I can plan for when they happen where I work. I wouldn’t schedule an important meeting during those times because I know there’d be a lot of fun stuff going on that I wouldn’t want to either miss, or be distracted by during that important meeting.

          I was glad the interview was in a room that minimized the distractions, and as several others pointed out – I did make it through to the next round – so I was able to “roll with the punches” despite the distractions. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t see what normal office life was like. BYKTWD is a once a year type event, and it’s totally representative of that particular day (and a good sign that the company set it up) but it wouldn’t let me, as a candidate, really see what a typical work day is like. Is the office super boring and quiet normally (which would actually be bad) and that day is over compensating for that? Do people tend to talk with each other and ask questions as they come up? Confer with each other? Or does all messaging happen in Slack on the computer even if someone else is sitting right next to them.

          1. Roland*

            I think you could have seen those things in a second interview had they not had those other red flags. I totally understand being thrown off, but if you run into something like this again in the future I think it should be salvageable. Here’s hoping it doesn’t happen though :)

          2. allathian*

            Glad you came back to comment. I’m not sure if the kids would’ve thrown me off much, but the questions about my past managers would’ve been a serious red flag for me. Effectively asking candidates to badmouth their previous employers is not a good look, never mind the potential for age discrimination.

  19. Too stressed*

    Just popping in to say this would have completely de-railed me. Immense sympathy to you, Letter Writer.

    1. Amy852*

      I’m with you on this.

      I am a known curmudgeon when it comes to kids. I do NOT like children. Yes, this makes me an exception to the rule sometimes. I don’t like or have kids. The reason I don’t have kids is because I don’t like them.

      I would have walked out of this place. I would not have made a scene, berated anyone, or tried to ruin their “fun”. I would have determined it was not a good fit for me, made my apologies, and moved on to an interview at a place where adults were working.

  20. Viki*

    It’s one of those things where if the interviewer doesn’t have kids, or kids in the age range for Take your Kid to Work day (here it’s a grade nine only event), it can and does completely slip your mind.

    I only know what day it was last year because my dotted line manager, happened to mention it and then my VP sent an email to the entire team to let him know if you had a kid participating so events could be planned.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      I have kids and I always forgot. But since I’ve been working from home the past 3 years and will continue, my kids have seen plenty of my work. They both think it looks boring and have zero interest in doing anything like it. I said “well, my boring job pays for everything you have, so it’s not that bad” lol.

  21. SleeplessKJ*

    Maybe it’s just me, but I think an ability to “roll with the punches” is a pretty admirable trait in a prospective employee. Stuff happens. Flexibility is far preferable to rigidity in the workplace on both sides of the desk. So yeah I think this is an overreaction.

    1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      People are who they are in most situations. So if someone has the kind of rule-and order-oriented thinking that is beneficial in a tax accountant or compliance officer, that’s probably pretty baked in. I always said everyone wants people to have a type B personality until you need a brain surgeon.

    2. Ugh*

      I think a lot of commenters here could learn that attitude, particularly with regards to icebreakers & team events.

      1. Yuck*

        Trust me, plenty of us do roll with those things in real life! We just like to moan about them here where it’s safe to share our feelings, since we cannot do so at work. I put up with plenty of that bull crap at work with a smile and don’t let on how pathetic and pointless I find their time wasting nonsense.

  22. DomaneSL5*

    Another vote for curmudgeon. Was having kids there great, umm no. Did the interviewers sound not great, umm yeah. But hanging onto the kids at work day thing being a problem is kind of weird.

  23. Samwise*

    Alison was very nice. If I’d been your interviewer and learned that you were put off so thoroughly by this event, I’d be thinking hard about whether you are capable of handling the unexpected, your ability to roll with *minor obstacles*, your understanding that our office will go about its business and will put its current employees before someone who doesn’t even work there.

    Unless it’s one of those deadly quiet, no social interaction ever kind of places, you are going to have background noise and goings-on in many many offices. In our office, when we still did in person interviews, we have a conference room that’s pretty quiet, but still there would be the HVAC turning on (it’s loud and clanky), people talking loudly as they walk by in the hallway, people accidentally interrupting / walking in, interview panelists suddenly gets ill and has to rush out… etc.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Our HVAC was making whale noises for a while, and it was loudest in the boardroom where we were doing interviews. I definitely, at least a little, gave brownie points to the people who were able to take being interrupted by “WoooOOOOOooooooOOOnnnng” in stride.

      That said, you have kind of a strongly negative take. Mostly this was good for both OP and the company they interviewed with: they are not a good fit. The company probably didn’t even think twice about the event going on, which suggests to me that it’s so normal to have loud and chaotic things going on it didn’t even occur to them to mention it. And OP is not a good fit for that environment. That’s good stuff to know before anyone’s time is wasted. The interview process working the way it’s supposed to.

      1. Let’s be anon for this*

        I worked for a judge for a period of time, and her courtroom was in the perfect location for the noise of the subway trains (multiple floors below) to loudly carry up into the courtroom. She gave a disclaimer at the beginning of each trial/hearing that whenever the train went by, the person speaking should pause until it did.

      2. AngryOctopus*

        Our HVAC had some issue once that caused me to go to the operations manager and say “So it sounds like the HVAC has a thousand really angry bees inside”. It wasn’t that distracting once you got used to it (very white noise) but not normal in the least.

      3. allathian*

        The LW was asked to come in for a second interview, so either the company was really desperate to fill the position or the LW’s distraction wasn’t as visible as she feared.

  24. I edit everything*

    It seems like multiple letters today are from people who feel put-upon unjustly or otherwise targeted when an outside perspective sees the situation differently. It’s fine that this LW didn’t like or feel comfortable in the office on TYCTW Day, but people not involved with those activities should be able to conduct business as usual. And a candidate interview is normal. They might have even thought it would give you a unique insight into the culture of the company.

    It’s not their job to assuage every candidate’s anxiety in every conceivable way.

    1. Fishsticks*

      Agreed. I think that I do understand the interviewee feeling a little put-off by so much noise, but it sounds like the actual interview took place in a closed room where there was no direct visual or involvement in the workday events.

    2. ?*

      Yes, this is a very good explanation of how I feel as well. The interviewer presumably didn’t want to have to reschedule interviews around this event given that it didn’t affect the interview process. Yes, she could have given LW a heads up, but that wouldn’t have changed anything if she wasn’t willing or able to reschedule. I suppose LW might have been less anxious if she knew what to expect, but anticipating it could have made her more anxious, or they could have ended up in an email back and forth about this irrelevant event. Scheduling can be hard enough without anticipating every candidate’s particular comfort levels.

  25. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

    I’d be pretty put off by interviewing on a day when there was so much going on- ie: holiday party, retirement party, graduation day at a college, day before a huge project is due, etc. It definitely could come down to scheduling and no other available times, but there should have been some warning. Even if this is the type of thing they do once a year, it’s probably not indicative of what they do EVERY day, so it wouldn’t probably be a good representation of the company. And I can’t imagine that the interviewers themselves weren’t slightly off their game, adjusting to all the added distraction/special circumstances of the day. If you can offer a different day or time, or even a warning ahead of time, I say that’s warranted.

    Of course you can’t plan for the unexpected- I once interviewed after hours with the owner of a company, while a huge thunderstorm passed overhead. The roof started leaking and that was an abrupt distraction- we both had to jump up, try to find supplies (me having never been there before and him slightly befuddled because the people who would normally handle such things weren’t there), and stop the pouring water from ruining thousands of dollars of equipment. In that instance, you just plow ahead and hope for the best.

    1. turquoisecow*

      Wow. Did you get that job? I think it would be an impressive display of how well you react to crisis situations and unexpected events, if those were criteria the job needed.

      1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

        No- the owner was impressed by my skills and my ability to switch gears. I thought he seemed like a lovely man who I would have been thrilled to work for. However, I went back for a second interview that included the entire office and boy howdy, they were a real clique. They seemed really off-put by my inability to drive (the location was super close to my house and the job did not involve driving, so this literally would never have been an issue) and they all left the office together to smoke afterwards and were gesturing at me and my ride while doing so. I dodged a bullet, I suppose, but the interview left a bad taste in my mouth.

        (This is only one of two times I had a “clique” issue- another time was for a school secretary position and the principal wanted someone who had not worked in the system. His secretarial staff was…not receptive to the idea.)

  26. turquoisecow*

    It feels like OP isn’t down with more chaotic atmospheres in general and would do better with something quiet and more structured. I can see being thrown by a wild reception area, but then they mention potentially being distracted by people walking past the room during the interview. It seems OP would be happiest in a job where they have an office and work quietly with the door closed, so regardless of the presence of children, I’m not sure this was the best job.

    My current company has Take Your Kid To Work Day. The HR person has some activities for the kids to do in a conference room – I’m not sure what they are since my kid is too young to go and I’m remote nowadays. When I was last in the office the kids and some parents went off to a conference room together and then the HR person (we’re a small company and have only one took them on a tour of our office space and introduced them to everyone (there are about 60 people in the office, so this didn’t take that long) with an occasional brief explanation of what they did. Some people got into a conversation with the kids and other people just said hi and the group moved on. The HR person didn’t push people to interact if they were uncomfortable or interrupt people if they were on the phone, and the group was less than 10 kids. After that I think the parents had a choice between taking the kid home in the afternoon or having them hang out in the office (I assume they used PTO if they left) and a lot of people took the kid home since there wasn’t much for the kid to do in the office. But it was nowhere near as chaotic as OP describes.

  27. learnedthehardway*

    I wouldn’t have taken it personally – I would have assumed that the fact it was “bring kids to work” day didn’t register with the interviewers, for whatever reason. Maybe they don’t have kids, maybe they figured the kids would be occupied.

    Or, maybe they wanted to see if candidates could roll with the punches, so to speak.

    The interview, itself, sounded inept. Not focused on what your skills / abilities are and only focusing on your career history seems like a recipe for getting someone not qualified but with a really good track record.

  28. Bookworm*

    Not *quite* the same but I once went ahead with an interview that was the same day for the parade of a local sports team for a BIG (Super Bowl, World Series, etc.) win. Getting to the office was fine (going home was a pain) but the interviewer and people I ended up working with noted that I had been willing to go through the interview despite the celebration. Apparently they had at least one applicant cancel and I said while I was really happy for the team (long win drought of this caliber win and yes I was truly pleased) but I also very much needed this job. :P That I guess helped.

    While there wasn’t chaos IN the office and wasn’t really reflective of the culture, sometimes things like this can work in your favor if you handle it well or brush it off, etc. This wasn’t for you and that’s okay. As others said, this is a two way process and it’s probably best for everyone involved.

    1. BookMom*

      That also says something about the culture that may or may not be a positive, depending. I had recently started a new job when the local pro sportsball team won a national championship. We were told we could take PTO to go to the parade or avoid the chaos or whatever, but I went to work because I didn’t have time off built up that I wanted to burn. Our ED definitely gave everyone brownie points for showing up to toil instead of celebrating. I was lucky that my spouse’s office closed so he could watch our kids whose schools also closed. It felt like a trick … “take the day but you will be judged if you do.” A few coworkers who are anti sports thought this was great and they were being rewarded for having their priorities straight, though.

  29. KP*

    I really enjoy reading the different perspectives on this site. This wouldn’t have thrown me – I actually think it’s kind of cute. If anything, the kids having a good time would have put me more at ease. (And no, I don’t have kids. But for me it would be like walking into an office full of puppies. How could I not be delighted?)

    But this and the other letters today have made me realize my self-assessment of “thrives in chaos” and “adaptable to a fault” are far more accurate than I realized. I bet I drive my colleagues that love routine and stability absolutely wild.

    1. DataSci*

      I actually have walked in to a conference room full of puppies! Saying more would give away where I work, I’m afraid.

      1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

        I’m choosing to believe it’s Buzzfeed and Keanu Reeves was ALSO in the room full of puppies.

  30. Jamboree*

    The fire alarm went off in the middle of an interview once (I was mid-answer in fact) and my boss would regularly tell me that the fire alarm got me the job because I was so unflapped by it. When we got outside, in the middle of the street, I picked up mid-sentence and finished my answer and the whole thing proceeded as if I ’s perfectly normal to have an interview in the middle of Harvard Square!

    1. Alexander Graham Yell*

      We once had a fire alarm go off in the middle of an interview and the poor interviewee had to walk down 17 flights of stairs, wait, then go up and finish his interview. It didn’t have an impact on our decision, but you can bet there were a lot of jokes about “After that interview, OF COURSE we hired you.”

      1. Saltines*

        My office had a fire early one morning. Minimal damage to one area, but the entire office was covered in soot. Of course there was an interview scheduled that day. The poor woman was wearing an all white suit!

        Yeah, if I had been the one interviewing I would have gone off site for that one. Weirdly they chose to crack on with it in the office that was covered in soot, crawling with extra people (restoration services, insurance agents, fire dept investigators, and police investigators). If I remember correctly we lined the chairs with garbage bags so she wouldn’t get dirty.

        I think she got the job if I remember.

  31. Dust Bunny*

    This wouldn’t be my first choice of interview days but I wouldn’t think it was that big a deal–it’s a thing that workplaces do when they can, and now I know that it’s a thing this workplace does. So . . . a neutral? It’s a thing. It’s only once in awhile.

  32. Jessica Fletcher*

    I also would have been thrown off. An interview is your only pre-offer opportunity to see the typical office environment. You can’t get a sense of the normal environment like this.

    At my office, they do the kids’ activities in one area. Kids aren’t all over the office, which it sounds like is what LW experienced. It sounds like the day was mainly about kids. They shouldn’t schedule interviews on essentially a kids play day.

  33. Ah Yes*

    Is it just me, or have we had a lot of letters recently that have been along the lines of “here is a situation that was not absolutely ideal for me, the main character of the universe. Am I overreacting or is everyone around me an inconsiderate villain?”

    1. Really?!*

      It is not just you. I was going to say the same thing.

      I’m going offer a guess that maybe it is just a coincidence they are being posted around the same time.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Asking for a gut check on a situation to figure out if it’s normal or your expectations are out of line is super normal and healthy. Also this is extremely uncharitable to the letter writers.

    3. Fishsticks*

      I think there has been an influx of letters that definitely read as “I need a gut check on a small (or not-so-small) thing that bothered me – should it have bothered me?” But I don’t really see an issue with that.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      I mean . . . it’s an advice column. The vast majority who are people who aren’t bothered by this stuff aren’t going to write in.

    5. Curmudgeon in California*

      If I walked into an on-site interview and had to wade through the kids thing only to be grilled about my last 20 years of jobs and what I thought of each manager? I would turn down any future offers too. The deciding factor wouldn’t have been the kids, though, but the interviewers with garbage questions.

      1. allathian*

        The LW has commented elsewhere and I’m hoping for a comment here, too. After all, the LW was asked to come in for a second interview and declined. I just wonder if the presence of the kids or the interview question was the bigger problem. Talking about the kids sounds like burying the lede to me…

  34. A Simple Narwhal*

    Interviewing on “off” days can introduce a whole host of issues, and as others have said it is best to just be up front about them and let people opt-in/out to them, or at the very least know what they’re walking in to.

    A minor example I can think of is I was interviewing for my first job out of college, and I was wearing a suit while my interviewers were in jeans and tshirts. I thank my lucky stars that I decided to remain just as dressy for my second interview, because I later discovered that that first day happened to be a very rare casual day, and otherwise suits were the norm. I was so close to going more casual (not jeans, but less than suit formal) since I had felt so overdressed in the first interview, I would have felt way worse if I ended up underdressed at the second!

    In hindsight I feel like they should maybe have dressed up a bit for the interview, or at least mentioned that it was a casual day, I’m sure others thought it was a casual office and mistakenly dressed down.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yeah they absolutely should have either dressed up or mentioned it’s a casual day. That’s odd.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        That place ended up being horrible to work for, so I wouldn’t put it past them to have been trying to trick people into dressing down as a test.

        1. Observer*

          Oh, that’s gross. Even the fact that this is a reasonable guess.

          I can imagine that it was an awful place to work.

  35. ES*

    A candidate for a position I was hiring came in for her second round interviews with my boss and a couple other people. That day, it had come to light that we had experienced a data breach and we had to disclose it to our members immediately based on our breach response plan. My boss was responsible for leading the communication effort around it, right as my candidate was ready to meet with her. The candidate ended up cooling her heels in my office for half an hour while my boss scrambled. Fortunately, she didn’t mind the disruption (and was very understanding of the situation), and she joined our team and is still with us several years later!

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yeah, if an interviewer told me they were working on a Sev 1 emergency that day I would just offer to reschedule, because I know what that’s like. The interview can not be a priority, and is actually a distraction from important business. If they called me up an said they were “handling an emergency, could I reschedule?”, I would happily reschedule, because the field I am in is like that.

  36. SchuylerSeestra*

    Slightly off topic but I used to work within walking distance of the White House. My building was on the VP motorcade route. I don’t think non DC folks realize how prevalent protests and sirens are in the city.

    While I worked in the DC office, I interviewed candidates virtually for all of our US teams. Non of the conference rooms were fully sound proof, so occasionally outside noise would filter in. I remember speaking to a candidate who was very concerned about the sounds of sirens on my end. I had to explain it was a motorcade, not an emergency.

    1. DataSci*

      The siren pattern for a motorcade is very distinctive! (Old job was walking distance from the White House too.)

    2. Employee of the Bearimy*

      I remember an ad campaign for some breakfast food (maybe orange juice?) on Metro billboards that said something like, “Your 9:00 meeting is right on the other side of that motorcade.” I thought it was very well-targeted to the downtown commuter audience.

  37. Stitch*

    Where I come down here is it’s 100% okay for you to decide this workplace wasn’t a good fit for you based on the interaction, but I think you’re overreacting in acting like there was anything objectively wrong. There weren’t kids in the interview room.

    1. Sunshine*

      Agreed. And if it wasn’t kids it could have been plenty of other things, like construction or having a lunchtime interview when people are socializing at their desks. It sounds like this was a multi-interview process so there would have been other chances to get a feel for the “normal” office environment.

    2. allathian*

      Sounds to me like the question about past employers and managers was a bigger issue… Sometimes you can bury the lede even for yourself, and blame a relatively minor issue. I’m 50 and look it, but asking me to badmouth my past managers for the last 20 years would’ve thrown me off, too.

  38. Koivu*

    It’s interesting to me that this bothers you enough to write in 3+ years later. I think this shows how thrown off you are by unpredictability, which is great info to know about yourself when seeking new employment opportunities. Some people thrive in the chaos and unknown (me!), and others need more stable environments. The world needs both kind :)

  39. Pam Adams*

    I was on an interview panel on California Shakeout Day. This is earthquake prep- where you practice what to do if you’re in an earthquake. We warned all the interviewees about it, particularly the one who would be there at 10:20 a.m. (They were good sports and went under the table with us)

  40. YRH*

    I once interviewed somewhere on a Friday that did casual Fridays. Everyone apologized for they attire, which I thought made everything really uncomfortable (I was in a suit). Either just make a comment about how the office has casual Fridays or tell interviewees that ahead of time and invite them to dress down.

    1. Relentlessly Socratic*

      Did your interviewers also dress down? Or did they dress for the interview?

      Asking more out of curiosity. When I was in the office, we were all pretty casual unless there were client-facing meetings or if we were interviewing someone–then we’d spruce up a bit.

      Now, of course, I pretty much interview people in my clean basic black shirt and my no one’s business but mine Red Dwarf or Doctor Who leggings. [I’ve been remote since well before COVID…]

      1. YRH*

        I interviewed with six people, five of which had dressed down. To be clear, I didn’t care that they had, I just found the amount of attention they drew to it to be uncomfortable.

    2. Callie*

      Back when I interviewed people on casual Fridays I’d make an effort to dress up a bit more on that day so they didn’t feel out of place. But sometimes you get pulled into an interview at the last minute or it just slips your mind when you’re getting dressed. They probably apologized because of something like that. This is one of those things where assuming good intentions makes a big difference.

      1. YRH*

        That’s fair. I interviewed with six people, five of whom had dressed down (it was the summer so several were in shorts). To be clear, I didn’t care that they had dressed down, it was the amount of attention that was called to it that was uncomfortable.

  41. A Simple Narwhal*

    Agree 100% that you can decide to turn down a workplace for any reason. Some people hate the idea of a casually-dressed workplace, they’re free to decide they want to work somewhere more formal, even if a lot of people might never prefer wearing a suit over jeans and a tshirt everyday. It’s ok to have a preference! But it’s not ok to insist everyone else share the same preference as you, or be shocked that different opinions on it are out there. (Not saying that LW is doing this, but it’s always good to remind ourselves that life is a rich tapestry.)

  42. Me ... Just Me*

    I’m pretty type A but this wouldn’t have fazed me. It literally did not effect the interview in any tangible way. No kids in the conference room. No interruptions. Type A doesn’t equate to antisocial or to being anxious. Imagine a brain surgeon who was so overcome my anxiety that they couldn’t make split second choices and react in the moment?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I don’t think the LW mentioned being type A? Just that they were already anxious and this exacerbated it.

  43. GarlicMicrowaver*

    I would have taken this as a one-off cultural event rather than letting it taint my impression of the company. But it seems as though there are other feelings at play. I do think your reaction might have been a bit extreme, though, FWIW.

  44. Happy New Year*

    I am laughing thinking of the reverse of this, when one of our tech-employed children worked at a place that had a Take Your Parents to Work Day. There was quite a crowd, and I wonder if they had any interviewees that day and, if so, if they wondered why the place didn’t appear to be as cool and hip as they thought it would be.

    1. kiki*

      Wait, I love this. My parents always want to know what my work is like and if ” being on the internet” is really my job. (When I work from home over holidays, they always accuse me of not working because I’m just, “hanging out on my laptop.” I’m a software developer! I’m writing code! That is indeed most of the job (in an ideal world, anyway).

  45. Future silver banker*

    To be honest, these things sometimes aren’t on everyone’s radar. Our office recently organised a bring your kid day and I only knew of it the day before. Apparently, I was not part of the initial email distribution list, presumably because they only sent it to parents? Luckily, I was copied on the reminder email which was sent to all employees, so managed to skip going to the office that day.
    In my previous job, I interviewed around halloween and some of the staff were in costume incl. the lady who took me to the interview room – she wore a witch outfit with makeup and hat. I still joined…

  46. Vio*

    I have honestly never heard of Bring Your Kids To Work Day before… a quick google search reveals that it’s an annual thing in US & Canada (but on different days) and a few companies have recently started trying it here in the UK. It’s fascinating learning about the different things other cultures do and things we do that they don’t… It’s one of the reasons I love this site even if some of the information doesn’t apply to working here, it’s still great to learn about what it’s like in US and elsewhere.

    I can definitely imagine it being off-putting having a lot of kids around in the office and it’s certainly unfortunate that the interview wasn’t scheduled on a day when you could see what the work area is normally like.

    1. allathian*

      I’m in Finland, and we have Bring Your Child To Work Days as well. My son attended when he was 10, before the pandemic. Since then, of course, he’s seen both his dad and me WFH when he was in remote school, and also when he’s off school. But he liked meeting some of my coworkers and their kids in person. Now he’s 13, and he didn’t want to attend the first event to be held since Covid restrictions were lifted.

    2. londonedit*

      I’d sort of vaguely heard of it, but as you say I’ve never experienced it here in the UK. I’m wondering whether it would even work here in London, because people tend to work in the city centre but live further out or even in commuter towns. So unless you literally wanted to have the kids in the office for the full working day, which I imagine you wouldn’t (they’d get incredibly bored and it’d be impossible to get any work done) or unless there was someone who could come and pick the kids up after an hour or two, I’m not sure it would be that practical here. A few times colleagues of mine have brought their school-age children to the office briefly, but that’s more of an ‘it’s the school holidays and I’ve taken the afternoon off to take the kids to the Science Museum, so my mum’s brought them into town just before lunch so they can see where I work’.

  47. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    As someone who schedules one of the most complex calendars in the history of the universe and lower 48 states, that day just might have been the ONLY day available for the interviewer. Yeah bring your kid day can get loud and ornery sometimes, but this was more about availability than an attempt to poop on your interview, I guarantee it. Believe me, people will find otherways to do that.

    Just be lucky you weren’t me one day when the boss brought his son into work, and let me tell you schools in Southern California (or at least my area of it) do NOT like that day. Nevertheless boss’ son’s school made sure it was worth the time out of class by making kids interview the people their mom/dad worked with. Ever been asked how much you make by a 12 year old? “I have to ask that, it’s on my homework.” I told him to put, ‘lady wouldn’t say.’

    This was about who’s available, not let’s do this to our candidates on purpose. As for being a curmudgeon, no. You cared about doing well and this kind of threw things off. If the energy wasn’t right, it wasn’t right.

  48. Keymaster of Gozer*

    On one hand I’m not a huge fan of kid noise in general (and have deliberately made my life as free from it as I can) and would have been slightly put off by it myself.

    On the other hand though, I’ve conducted interviews during Severity 1 server outages where you could clearly hear the uproar coming from IT and my phone was going NUTS but the people coming in for interviews had driven a long way and given up their time and I felt it unprofessional to cancel them at the last minute.

    So I guess I’d tend to err toward ‘well you’ve seen them at their worst, can you cope with knowing it must get better?’

    (Assuming positive outlooks has been a key part of my therapy this year)

  49. Flowers*

    So….I have a toddler, and I would never describe myself as a “I love kids!” type of person. I want to say that while I think I’d enjoy a BYKTWD as an employee, and support it in theory, I can understand being a little bit thrown off my game. And I don’t consider myself a curmudgeon. For me it’d be the background noise and that would be the case if it was just an office party or lots of people talking all at the same time. Once I’m in a situation, I can manage it but if it’s brand new or temporary (say, for example, loudspeaker and music blaring down on me while I’m trying to talk to the cashier at a store) I am not my best.

    On another note, I interviewed on the day of the company picnic and my interviewer apologized for being in shorts, lol. I wasn’t bothered by any of it.

  50. kiki*

    It’s not wrong to be put off by it– it is something that took away your ability to fully focus. It’s just hard to say as an outsider how much this says about your interviewer and potential employer . It’s possible the scheduler didn’t realize how big of a deal this year’s TYKTWD would be. I know I worked at an office that had a TYKTWD every year, but most years nobody did it because nothing was actually arranged. But then one year a new person was put in charge and went ALL OUT. And it wasn’t really something most folks had their eye on in advance unless they had kids. So one day we showed up and there was a bouncy house, face painting, kids in conference rooms, popsicle breaks… the whole 9 yards. I was childless at the time, so I totally would have scheduled an interview on TYKTWD and thought nothing of it because it normally would mean one or two sullen teens eat snacks in the caf all day and maybe one kid sitting in the back of a low-stakes meeting. I’m known as a pretty great planner, but you can’t foresee what you can’t foresee.

  51. Observer*

    I haven’t read all of the responses, so I could be repeating what others have said.

    My take on this is that you are way over-reacting to the BYKTWD stuff. But, as others noted, if you have an issue with that kind of thing, it was very reasonable and sensible to opt out. Also, it seems to me that the way the interview went was enough to turn off any candidate with options.

    A couple of other things that stood out to me. Having a hard time tracking down the person who needs to check you in is something that I think would be legitimately off-putting to most people, regardless of the reason (unless the reason was something like a major emergency just happened and that person needed to deal with it.)

    On the other hand, the apparent angst over the presence of “boisterous” people seems a bit . . . much, for lack of a better word. Also, your comment about how it was a good thing that you couldn’t see people going back and forth seems to be more about your particular sensitivities than typical expectations. Again, it’s wise that you self-selected out of an environment that you would not be comfortable with, but it’s not really that big of a deal that they scheduled on a day that this could happen.

    What was odd to me was that you seemed really focused on how inappropriate it was to have an interview on a day like that while giving what appears to be only passing notice to the red flag of a very odd interview. What you describe is something I think would make a LOT of people, even ones who would be perfectly at home with the chaos, nope right out of there.

  52. Random851*

    I had a fire alarm go off during one of my interviews. The two people interviewing me, and I, kinda stared at each other for a few seconds then one said, I guess we need to evacuate… so we went outside and chatted (casually – not in “interview mode”) for 10 minutes, then went back in when we were
    “Cleared”. It threw off the cadence a bit, as different people were to participate in a certain order… but it was fine… no big deal. It was kind of fun and I was offered the position. Things happen in work situations and in interviews, you have to be flexible.

  53. Coverage Associate*

    I have interviewed in both unexpectedly casual situations (Halloween, interviewers in costume) and unexpectedly formal situations (London management visiting San Francisco office). It was actually the formal situation that was a turn off, but I was able to ask about it after the interview and learn that it was a strange day.

    I don’t know what kinds of disruptions I would hold against a company I was interviewing at. I think if there’s something that will make it hard to get to the interview, the applicant should be warned, like if the building is being picketed or the subway stop is closed. But I also know that some of those things sort of fade into the background if you’re in that office daily, so I can understand a hiring firm forgetting to warn an applicant, especially if those setting up the interview are actually at a different location than the interview office, which is how it is at my current firm.

    I would hope that employers are flexible about what distracts individuals that doesn’t relate to the job. For example, some people are more distracted by something visually strange (like a malfunctioning monitor in a corner or costumes) while other people are more distracted by sound (like a protest outside). Most offices have both from time to time.

  54. Wes*

    The most distracted I’ve ever been during an interview was when they let the person who was interviewing after me, who had shown up more than an hour early, sit in the waiting area directly outside the room during my interview (and she definitely could hear everything that was being said).

  55. Michelle Smith*

    I am a bit surprised by how upset the Kids at Work day thing made you, but I ultimately think you made the correct choice regardless. What happened in the actual interview was more than enough to decide this was not the place for you to work. I wouldn’t want to work there either. I would just caution you not to write off an entire organization as dysfunctional because of one event. I’ve been in offices that seemed super normal during the interview that turned out to be dysfunctional in unseen ways later, and the reverse may also be true. I worked at an office that partied way too hard and if anyone had seen that, we would never have had anyone trust us with any work ever again. But (nearly) everyone there also worked extremely hard and did excellent work. They just happened to lose their minds for one day in May every year.

  56. Moonstone*

    The Bring Your Kids to Work day wouldn’t have thrown me off; I could roll with that no problem. However, I would have an issue with coming up with positive and negative aspects about workplaces and managers from 20 years ago and wonder how something from 20 years ago would have any bearing on an interview today. That line of questioning would turn me off way more than the kids day.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, me too. And the LW was invited to a second interview, so obviously they weren’t making a terrible impression on the interviewers.

  57. Too Jaded*

    Was anyone else really worried that this was headed the direction of “a kid sat in on my interview”? I was so braced for that, the chaos described seems tame in comparison. The interview described sounds awful though, and also would pass on a company like that.

  58. lessachu*

    This sounds a lot like my old company, between the description of Bring Your Kids to Work Day (which was mild chaos) and the top grading-style interview used. So while it might not be, I will say that I would not even have blinked at to schedule an interview on Bring Your Kids to Work Day because that company regularly had events hosted in the office and if a candidate was uncomfortable with that, it was probably not a place you were going to feel comfortable doing your best work. FWIW, if you had taken them up on the office tour, you probably would have found that the non-public workspaces were a little quieter.

  59. Yry*

    I would have been thrown off by the presence of so many kids. If I’m in Professional Mode – which I would be while interviewing because I’m basically deciding my future – it’s easy for me to be distracted if a social event is going on and I would have totally been off my game.

  60. Elm*

    That sounds like a WILD bring your child to work day, so if that’s what got you, then not wanting to work there is reasonable.

    But, interviews happen when people have the availability. I’d much rather have this than show up to an interview to discover the interviewer had gone on a business trip and had some random person interview me for the wrong position instead (true story).

    They also don’t really need to tell you any more than they’d need to tell you about construction happening or it being a Diwali celebration that day. The only things they should tell you are obvious inconveniences, like if you have to park far away or if they know the elevator to their offices will be unavailable.

    I doubt they were being THIS sneaky and doing it on purpose, but it could also tell them a lot about you being a good culture fit. This may always be a more boisterous workplace, and you just happened to interview on a more boisterous day than usual.

  61. windowsmith*

    About four years ago I flew across the country for a series of same-day job interviews. Most of the individuals and teams interviewing me were personable and professional. However, when I arrived at my last interview of the day w/the head department administrator, I was surprised that the administrator had taken her ~10 y.o. daughter to work that day. Fine, there are lots of reasons someone would need to take their kid into office, but 1) she made some weird “joke” to her daughter that they would talk about how I did after the interview was over, and 2) her daughter was in the small interview room the whole time, just watching me. There were other off-putting elements of the interview, but the whole situation just didn’t set well. I was offered and happily accepted the position despite this weird encounter (after learning more about the role and confirming I wouldn’t need to work directly with the administrator), and I stayed in the position for about three years before moving on to something new. Had I learned that I would have been working directly with the administrator, I doubt I would have accepted it. Those kinds of impressions can be make or break.

  62. PlainJane*

    …Was I alone in thinking that the problem on Bring Your Kids to Work Day was going to be that the interviewer brought her kid to the interview? That would have been problematic… ;p

    As the situation was, it’s something to know about the company culture, that this is a big deal for them. On the other hand, you probably got less of a feel for the day-to-day than you would have if your interviewed hadn’t been scheduled then.

  63. Adalind*

    This reminds me of the time I had an interview on Halloween and my interviewer (and some others) were dressed up in costumes. I just found it all really amusing. I don’t remember if they offered me a job or if I declined, but it had more to do with the job itself than the “party” atmosphere.

  64. Chris Hogg*

    You say, “They asked me to tell them both a positive and negative about each job AND manager I had for the past 20 years. ”

    This, to me, is a serious red flag, which would drive me to be very, very, very cautious about saying yes should an offer of employment be made.

    But of course, that’s just me, and YMMV.

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