interviewer was bothered that I didn’t ask any questions, boss is on personal calls all day long, and more

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

1. Interviewer was bothered that I didn’t ask any questions of my own

I recently completed a fourth interview with a company. The interviews consisted of a 30-minute screening interview, a 40-minute screening/informational interview with one of the higher up directors, an hour-long interview with that same director and another director, and a fourth hour-long interview with one of the previous directors and an even higher up director.

All of the interviews were pleasant and informative, but during the first three interviews I was able to gather all of the pertinent information I needed about the job, culture, and proposed role. During that stage I had also done a bit a research into the company’s expansive and well-designed website, which left nary a stone unturned in terms of providing information on the company.

At the end of the fourth interview, the director asked me if I had any questions. I replied honestly that I did not. He seemed caught off guard and questioned me on this in a polite but pointed manner. I was unsure how to react in the moment so I explained that the previous conversations I had were very helpful and informative and that I did not have additional questions at this time. I visually referenced the director from one of the previous interviews hoping she would confirm that we had talked extensively about questions I’d already posed, but she was silent. How should I have responded to this?

Ideally you’d always have at least a couple of questions ready, even if you feel like you already know everything you need. Not asking any questions can look like you’re not being thoughtful enough about the job (and maybe aren’t terribly invested in this particular job, although obviously doing four separate interviews should be a counterweight against that). And really, when you’re considering spending 40+ hours a week with this company for the next several years of your life, there probably are additional things that would be interesting or useful to know, even after you’ve gotten the basics out of the way.

I sometimes hear people say, “I ask questions as we talk, so I really don’t have anything left to ask by they time they formally ask for my questions.” And if you’ve really been asking your own questions during that meeting (not just in previous ones), that can be fine. But otherwise, yeah, some interviewers will be a little taken aback if you don’t take advantage of the opportunity, so it’s smart to always have some questions ready to go.

Also, it’s fine to repeat a question you asked someone else in an earlier round. You can frame it as, “I asked about this in an earlier conversation but I’d love to hear your perspective on it too.”

2. My boss prioritizes constant personal calls over her job

My team and I all work remotely. Our supervisor prioritizes everyone within her personal life over her employees. She has two grown sons and spends her whole day on the phone with them. They call her nonstop and she prioritizes their calls over a business call with me or the other team member. I’ve had to sit there listening to them talk about a mattress being delivered, a drive from point A to point B, even her putting me on hold while she calls her 28-year-old to get up for work. She has put me on hold because she needs to call a friend about something. Or a friend will call and she will take their call and put me on hold. I’m not talking about emergency/urgent matters, I’m talking about the mundane everyday issues (i.e., grocery list). I should say, she doesn’t just do this to me, but also my coworker.

She has worked with the company for 20+ years. I have been with them two, so my standing is essentially nothing. I am 63 years of age and plan on retiring within the next four years, so looking for a new position isn’t really optimal. I have disconnected the connection when she has left me on hold for more than a minute. I once tried to talk to her about the situation but got “you don’t understand, I’m a single mother.” She has uttered the phrase “you don’t understand, I … (fill in an issue we’ve all faced)” more times than I can count. How do you deal with a person such as that? What do you do with a supervisor who feels her private life is a greater priority over your job-related issue?

She’s being rude and neglecting her job, but it’s probably not going to change. If it causes actual work problems, you can raise the specifics of that — like, “We’ve had two clients storm out in a huff because we needed your input and you were on a personal call — how can we handle this differently in the future so that doesn’t happen?” But if it’s just that she’s being rude to you and the other team member … well, you’ve tried to talk to her about it, she wasn’t open to hearing it, and there’s not a lot more you can do.

In theory you could escalate it to someone above her, but there’s no guarantee that will solve it and you risk the situation blowing up into something worse. If you’re ever asked for feedback about her, it’s definitely something you should raise. But otherwise … your boss is rude and inattentive and isn’t likely to change, so you’ve got to decide if you can live with that or not. Sometimes there can be liberation in just accepting that this is how your manager is and you don’t need to keep searching for solutions because there aren’t any. Other times knowing that’s the reality can make you want to jump out of your skin. You’ve got to decide where on that spectrum you fall.

3. I can’t give my employee much notice for schedule changes

I co-own and co-manage a very small business: it’s just me, my spouse, and a full-time hourly employee, “Joe,” who has worked for us for four years. Our work requires us all to be outside the vast majority of the time, so it’s weather-dependent but we keep a list of “indoor projects” to keep Joe productive when it’s not safe to work outside.

Our policy has always been to set Joe’s schedule as far in advance as we can, usually months in advance. I ask Joe to provide four weeks notice for time off requests. To date, I’ve never scheduled him to work more than 40 hours per week, Monday-Friday, but he does sometimes work up to 45 hours/week of his own initiative to finish projects, which I appreciate (we pay overtime).

Last year we had a few work bottlenecks due to unexpected weather events that prevented us from being outside. My husband and I made up the missed hours ourselves by working overtime on weekends and during the week before and after the weather to meet the deadline, and it sucked. We didn’t ask Joe to help more because it seemed unfair to change his schedule at the last minute. This year, I’d like to institute some kind of expectation that mandatory overtime or weekend scheduling may be necessary during key periods (generally just once or twice a year), but I’m still stumped on how to fairly change Joe’s schedule at the last minute. What if he already has plans? I could probably give him a two-week heads-up like, “Big deadline X is coming up in about two weeks. If we can’t work due to rain around then, we will all need to work overtime or weekends to make sure that we meet the deadline.” I could also offer him some extra time off after the deadline is met. But again, what if he already has plans (either pre-approved time off or just regular after work/weekend plans)?

For some additional context: in our industry, the norm is for full time employees to work 45-55 per week. When my spouse and I worked as employees in this industry, we found that many hours unreasonable for a long-term career since work is also really physically demanding, so we’ve tried to have more reasonable expectations in our own business … but we’re the only job in this industry that Joe has had so I’m not sure he knows this.

If once or twice a year he might have to work overtime with two weeks advance warning … that’s not really a big deal! If it were constant, that would be different (and you might need to pay a premium to make it worth it to the person). But you’re talking about something very occasional, and not terribly last-minute. It should be fine to just explain this is what to expect going forward. If it does turn out that Joe has unmovable plans for that period, he can tell you that and you can work around it as you’ve been doing — but much/most of the time, it’ll probably be fine.

One thing I’d look at though: Do you really need four weeks notice from Joe every time he needs time off, even for just a day or two off? Maybe you really do, but that’s a lot to ask unless there’s a very clear work-related need for it. If you’re asking him to be open to schedule changes with less notice then that, ideally you’d be open to it from him as well (within reason).

4. Asking for a copy of the job description

I have an interview in one week, and I foolishly forgot to save the job description before it was taken offline. Does it look really bad to reach out to my interviewer and ask for it? Should I just try to remember what I can based on what I put in my cover letter?

Nah, it’s fine. I mean, obviously it’s better if you remembered to save it, but it shouldn’t be a big deal to say, “Would it be possible to send me a copy of the job description since it’s no longer online?” And that’s definitely better than going into the interview without being able to review the details about the job.

5. How do big theme parks manage staff?

I recently returned from a trip to Disney World and while it was fun and magical and all that, I couldn’t stop viewing it through a management lens and a mind-boggling HR and logistics perspective. There are SO MANY employees. They appear to work pretty independently and not closely supervised, yet they are all towing the strict-bordering-on-cultish company line (calling everyone “friend,” maintaining a happy demeanor in the face of rude and cranky people, greeting little girls as “princess,” etc.), people are herded through lines efficiently, and every parade and show starts right on time. How is this accomplished?! What kind of interview process determines if someone is suited to be relentlessly happy all day? How do you give Cinderella a performance evaluation? How would you know if one employee out of hundreds (thousands?) isn’t fulfilling their responsibilities? I am incredibly curious about Disney World in particular, but I guess this would apply to managing any sort of large entertainment venue (other theme parks, stadiums, etc.) the thought of which thrills and terrifies me in equal measure.

Everything I know about this comes from reading the absolutely fascinating book Inside the Mouse: Work and Play at Disney World, which I highly recommend if you have these questions (this recommendation isn’t sponsored, but I do make a commission if you use that link). But I’m also going to throw this out to commenters who have worked in theme parks and are willing to share their experience.

{ 449 comments… read them below }

  1. All hail Mickey*

    Former Disney and Six Flags employee here!

    For Disney, they really push the whole Disney magic thing. People that want to work there usually LOVE Disney and want to keep the magic going, so it’s not a hard sell to keep up appearances. But even in interviews, they focus on customer service and personality. They can train for jobs. As for accountability, there’s a lot of team leader level positions. In places like hotels and shops and restaurants, there will be managers just like the outside world. For rides and attractions, you are working with lots of other people and everyone has a responsibility. And Disney tracks everything. There is so much data on lines and timing and boarding. If there is a broken cog in the machine, they will find it out. There are videos and people always around. The company is great at building the scenery to hide real life.

    1. Julian*

      Also former employee of the mouse. First of all: I had a terrible experience working there. They were awful about staffing us with enough people, including enough to cover bathroom breaks. At one point a coworker got sick and the union had to step in and tell them they could not wait 45+ minutes to send us to the bathroom after we asked.

      There are several different management levels in the area I worked (attractions.) First, there are the front line employees, the majority of the ones you see everyday. Then there are the trainers, then team leads. Both positions came with a $1 raise each, when I worked there several years ago.

      There is at least one shift lead at all times and they coordinate breaks, keep an eye on ride times, handle any escalated issues, and make calls like if a ride needs to go down for maintenance.

      There might have been a position above shift lead called coordinator, but honestly I don’t know if I’m remembering that right.

      Above them are area managers. For my area, which was one part of Magic Kingdom, we had roughly 10 area managers that worked different days, but there were usually 3 of them on duty at any one time. I found in our area they were often detached from the day to day operations, and liked to do the fun stuff but not necessarily the hard stuff. They would step in to really escalated issues, though, to their credit. I vaguely remember *their* boss got replaced in the time I worked their, but I don’t remember much about the exact structure beyond that.

      Overall, I found the environment very cliquey. It has a strong gay culture but not really a trans one. Maybe two cowokers used my pronouns consistently. Professional norms got weird and twisted. The team leads didn’t like me because I had to go to the bathrooms frequently (IBS) and messed up their schedules. They were mostly fairly young (early to mid twenties), and while 99% weren’t overly hostile, they would speak to me differently and exclude me from social conversations. Nothing too consequential but it added to the negative experience.

      I talked to my favorite area manager about accomodations and he basically warned me I could lose my job if I asked for too many accomodations, so I asked for none.

      It was a rough time. I left just before the pandemic hit, which I’m grateful for. It definitely spruced up my resume and helped me get my next customer service job (work from home, text chat help. Not perfect, but I can use the bathroom whenever I need and don’t spend 2+ hours commuting to and from the company town!)

      So yeah. The perks were nice but I was too tired to use them much. I

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I would never, ever go to a Disney theme park specifically because of the way they treat their employees. I’ve read enough articles at this point about vastly underpaid Disney employees sleeping in their cars. And it’s not as if this hugely profitable company couldn’t afford to pay their employees more. The amount of employee abuse that people are willing to overlook because of Disney-related childhood nostalgia is disturbing to me.

        1. Julian*

          I mean, I still go sometimes! Not usually to that area of the park, though. I’ve heard that quality of life is highly dependent on those area managers.

        2. Hate it here*

          Disney culture is toxic AF
          I’m not saying, “burn it to the ground”
          I’m saying, “they can absolutely afford to be better to their employees, and the choice not to is gross”

          1. Justhereforthis*

            ::Gets popcorn for impending debate on whether or not Disney is toxic and should be canceled and people should stop going to Disney Parks::

            1. Nina*

              Look, I hate Disney for what they did to Star Wars, I hate Disney for platforming Wernher Von Braun on kids’ TV, and I hate Disney for what they do to their staff.

              I don’t get the nostalgia (didn’t have TV as a kid, don’t have TV as an adult, was never allowed to watch Disney movies because the ones available when I was in the right demographic perpetuated misogyny, the songs are annoying) and I have vivid memories of being bullied aged maybe six because I could read very very young but had somehow never heard ‘Disney’ said out loud. The Y looks like a P. Screw that guy, and screw all the older kids who should have known better than to make a big deal for hours out of me saying ‘Disnep’ one time.

        3. lilsheba*

          THIS right here!!! I have heard way too many stories of employees being super sick and not being allowed to go home or even to the hospital! And yes they are not paid enough to live and have to live in crappy living situations or in their cars. I will forever boycott disney and encourage my family and friends to boycott them also. They value the “customer” over their employee’s well being.

    2. Allison K*

      I’ve worked as an entertainer and a freelance stage manager/event manager for many corporate events, including some held at Disney or organized by Disney, and I’m managing an event right now at a theme park in Dubai. It really all boils down to very clear expectations, and having a layer of our management that follows every rule to the letter and cheerfully reports to their management but also runs interference for the entertainers. So I make sure that my assistant stage managers are texting in the exact start time and exact end time of every show…while also making sure the entertainers are doing what’s appropriate for their show based on the time of day and attendance. So park management must have a show start at 17:35, but it’s a quiet time of day and there’s six people in the audience, so I make sure the magician is doing close-up magic and not shrieking like there’s 1000 people there. Happy audience, happy entertainer, happy management.

      Most of the regular park employees who interact with visitors are Filipina/o and come from a strong service culture (with a history of colonialism). They are generally excellent at following the rules and great customer service, while also having a common language most visitors don’t speak (Tagalog) so it’s easy to solve problems without insulting a visitor.

      For Dubai in particular, almost every employee all the way up to the top of corporate is a guest worker of some kind. Most visas are dependent on employment. Higher-level workers are here to make money and not pay income tax while living in a safe place, and are strongly invested in doing a good job and following ALL the rules, of the business and the state. Lower-level workers are here to work a better job for better money than in their home country, and their families depend on remittances, so they have an even greater level of investment in following rules.

      Disney feels pretty much the same. While they can’t actually deport you if you break a rule, the workers are strongly invested in staying with the company, and for the Florida location (my experience), working there is so location-specific you might well have to move if you’re fired.

      So generally, invested workforce who want the gig and have a strong interest in following all rules to the letter, and enforcing rule-following on their coworkers, plus a management layer that understands the needs of the corporation while supporting the needs of the workers.

    3. Lizzie*

      This is very interesting! I was in Orlando last fall, not Disney, but Universal, and I was also amazed at the precision, etc. of how the parks ran, especially the rides. Like when you’re in line, ask how many in your group, and then direct you accordingly, so you can sit together, depending on how many seats in a row, etc. And then you get off, and more staff is directing you off, and out, and so on. I was very impressed by how well everything ran!

      1. cabbagepants*

        Keeping these logistical aspects running smoothly is given a lot of importance and they have teams of industrial engineers to keep things running on time.

      2. Bonnie*

        I wonder what your impression would have been if you’d also been to Disney – we enjoyed Universal, but what Van Wilder below mentioned was glaringly obvious to us: at Disney, everyone is all-in on the “magic.” At Universal, rides were efficient and employees in a few areas seemed to be having a great time (Jurassic Park was notable), but it was clearly much more of a rote job than an experience they were all super bought into bringing to the guests.

    4. Van Wilder*

      I read a fascinating case study about Disneyland in business school. Most of the characters and ride operators are college students doing a semester-at-Disney thing. The application process is super competitive. So everyone is probably really on board with the Disney magic.

      The case study was more about the interpersonal politics of the young people that work there. How in the social hierarchy, characters are highest and ride operators/other are lowest. There was a big scandal when Cinderella dated a mere street sweeper because he was so below her station, even though in the real world, he was pre-med at a prestigious university and she was a community college student (not saying that the “real world” hierarchy is ok either, just pointing out how things can be very different in the bubble.)

      1. MigraineMonth*

        The fact that *Cinderella* is the one hanging out with the “riff-raff” is cracking me up. That’s a real reverse Cinderella story!

      2. BlueSwimmer*

        I know a young woman who worked at Disneyworld and her social media was a constant flood of her taking photos with the characters and being all dreamy-eyed about them like they were stars.

        I mean…you are an adult. They are your co-workers. The worship factor was weird to me.

      3. Aerin*

        That’s interesting, although in my experience that “hierarchy” really only mattered to the people in Entertainment. We lowly attractions folk only really knew them as the people who ignored us at the Inn Between, except for the one cool Ariel. Although maybe it’s different in Florida; there was no college program in California when I worked there, so there wasn’t really much interaction between departments.

        When I was there the funniest dating scandal was that our best Jack Sparrow quit because he’d been dating an Aladdin who cheated on him with a different Aladdin and was too heartbroken to stay on.

    5. Bonnie*

      Ok it’s so funny that this was the first comment, because we’ve never been big theme/amusement park people but went to Disney over Christmas and discovered that my daughter loves roller coasters like her dad, so we went yesterday and got them season tickets to Six Flags. I was absolutely boggled at how abysmal the customer experience was at Six Flags – I realize it’s a much smaller regional park, but it felt to me like… if the management at Six Flags so much as took a single trip to Disney, they’d find so many straightforward and reasonably simple crowd control and convenience solutions that would make everyone’s life so much easier.

      1. LW5*

        I think this is why it stuck out so obviously to me the whole time we were at Disney World — I’ve been to many amusement parks, and NONE of them run the way Disney does. While my kid was focused on the princess magic, I was marveling at the HR magic.

        1. lemon*

          It’s because Disney has the money to have an army of industrial engineers making sure that everything is optimized to the Nth degree. Defunctland has a really interesting YouTube documentary on Fastpass that gets into this. It was really eye-opening to see how much thought the company gives to those kinds of logistics.

      2. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

        This stands out to me as well. I live in the Bay Area and our local theme park is Great America (Cedar Fair) (we have a Six Flags closer but I have never visited because I don’t believe in using animals as entertainment). And it’s fine, but all you have to do is go to a Disney park once, to realize it can be leveled up. I guess the difference is money!

      3. Another one L Alison*

        I was at Disney World last month. I hadn’t been since I was a kid but had been to parks like Six Flags and Universal more recently, and MY GOD does Disney know what the f they are doing. Really nothing else compares.

      4. Aerin*

        I went to Magic Mountain with a friend of mine who worked Indy/Thunder. At a certain point we were like “We’re taking our lives into our own hands, aren’t we?” Soooo many bad safety practices.

        And bad design! We were waiting in the only line of the day for one big coaster, I think it was X, and we calculated its hourly capacity as 280. That’s very slightly better than Peter Pan. For comparison, most of the coasters at Disneyland move about 1200-1500 per hour, and people-eaters like Pirates and Small World do north of 2000.

        We spent months randomly shouting “TWO HUNDRED EIGHTY!?!” at each other.

    6. Jaq and Gus Gus*

      I’m a former employee and have family who are current employees of the Mouse, and +1 everything above. When I was being interviewed, I distinctly remember there being multiple steps and lots and lots of customer service related questions, and I wore “subtly” Disney-themed jewelry and interview clothes even to the phone interview because I was so eager to get it right. I was 18, so how subtle I really was is… likely not at all, haha.

      I was in the Disney College Program in Florida. I worked in the gift shops, and I had a total blast, but didn’t make enough to stay after my program ended, especially with rent as high as it was in Celebration and with no car. My family member works in the California parks, and was initially hired into food service before being let go because they hired her into a position she wasn’t actually qualified for (think hiring someone with only grocery store bakery experience to be a sous chef) on the basis of her personality. She tried again after a while and is in merchandise now and really loves it. It’s definitely a job you do for the love and not the money, though. I don’t know exactly how much she makes, but another relative works at Wal-Mart and makes more.

      Also, as to “how do you give Cinderella a performance review”: my roommate when I worked there was a character actor, and she was evaluated on, largely, how convincing she was. When she was in costume, did she act like the character and did she autograph correctly and so on. So an actor playing Cinderella in meet-and-greets would be evaluated on speaking and acting like Cinderella, whether she answers questions about her evil step-mother appropriately, her autograph consistency, etc; an actor playing Cinderella in shows is evaluated on her acting and dancing and singing.

    7. Aerin*

      I worked attractions/guest control at Disneyland and DCA in the mid ’00s. I’m also a giant logistics nerd, partially because of my experience there. I could happily write reams on the topic, but trying to keep it concise:

      It doesn’t run like an office. It’s half assembly line, half theater. There are scripts and procedures and checklists for absolutely everything. We did all this yesterday and we’ll do it all again tomorrow. Because there are countless moving parts, everything *has* to work together seamlessly. If something messes up, it gets noticed immediately and dealt with just as quickly, because the show must go on. So operations are left pretty much entirely up to the lead on duty, with oversight from the area manager.

      Also, it’s a literal dream job for a lot of people. (Definitely was for me!) So the people I worked with took our jobs and our responsibility to create an experience for our guests very seriously. We felt *ownership* of our little cog in the machine, and took tremendous pride in running it well. Especially when we were in a position where people could literally die if we messed up. (I worked in Adventureland and started about a year after the incident where a guest died on Big Thunder, so we all felt the weight of that responsibility in a very, very real way.)

      Performance evaluations were not a thing, mainly because merit raises were not a thing (union contract, pay was strictly by seniority). There would be coaching and write-ups for poor performance or breaches, but beyond that you would just keep on keepin’ on. (Though Cinderella and other entertainment cast did get regular notes.)

      If you had a pulse and passed the background check, you got hired. Interviews were more like a sorting hat to determine personality and preferences. You’d figure out with the training and the first couple of months if you could hack it or not.

      Projecting cheer all day wasn’t really all that hard. There’s lots of things that feed into it, like that sense of pride I mentioned before. But mainly? It’s just *fun.* You don’t call a little girl princess because the company dictates it, you do it because she will smile and giggle and make sure her mom heard that she’s a *princess!* Instant gratification. That’s why some people have worked there for decades, because those moments of pure joy are addictive as hell.

      (Yes, this is the concise version. :P)

    8. irritable vowel*

      I grew up in Central Florida and several of my friends worked low-level jobs (popcorn vendor is one I remember) in high school. There are other theme parks there now (Universal, etc.) but at the time, Disney was THE major employer in the area. I remember being in a women’s restroom in Lake Buena Vista that must have been on a Disney-owned property (probably a restaurant) and seeing a list of guidelines for makeup/jewelry posted on the wall by the sinks. My impression was that the regulations for staff appearance are similar to the military, and I think the culture of all-in for the organization is also similar. I read Inside the Mouse in grad school and found it fascinating.

  2. Mango Trees*

    Depending on the work culture, I like to throw a fun question out there.

    The one I use the most frequently is, “Would you rather be caught in an alien invasion or a robot uprising?”

    I use it as a test to see if I would enjoy working there. If they have fun with the question, then I think I’d like working there regardless of the answer. If they didn’t like it, if they answered bluntly, or if I gathered from the interview up until that point that they aren’t the type to be asked that question, I pass on it in my head. I value a healthy working culture where people are serious about the work they do, but also are pleasant people to be around and can have a bit of fun (not to mean there’s anything wrong with other types of working cultures, this is just my own personal preference).

    I’ve also asked that question to candidates I’ve interviewed also (with approval from admin of course!), to see if they’d fit in with our company culture.

    1. Sabina*

      Wow, I clearly work in a very strait-laced environment because I cannot imagine asking anything like that! People would think I had genuinely lost my mind.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I’ve trained in improv comedy, and I’d still probably freeze up if an interviewer asked me something so totally irrelevant to the position and my skills. In the middle of a high-pressure situation such as a job interview is a terrible time for fun personality quizzes, in my opinion.

          I know I’m overthinking it, but apocalypse scenarios in particular tend to be based on society’s worst fears. What does it mean that we’re obsessed with zombies (where the winning strategy is isolation and guns) rather than floods (where the winning strategy is preparation and teamwork)?

          In that context, it’s pretty weird to ask “would you rather live through colonization or a slave rebellion”.

          1. Janeric*

            Ah, my friend in overthinking, I thought the same. But also “thank goodness it isn’t zombies”.

        2. BlondeSpiders*

          IDK. As a total sci-fi geek, I think I would be totally delighted by the question. As long as it was appropriately introduced!

          “Ok, this is a weird question, but…..?

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            Besides, it’s easy. You hope for both the aliens and the robots to show up at the same time, and direct them to Venus to have their fight there. See, nothing to it.

            Then when the winner comes back, you direct them to fill out the environmental impact statement for their invasion of us.

      1. NYWeasel*

        My workplace would *love* that question, so I think if it’s being used to screen out poor fitting workplaces for Mango Trees, then it’s probably a very useful tool for them in their job search. If the people leaders disapprove of the question then clearly they won’t create a culture that fits what Mango Tree is looking for.

        1. Cj*

          it’s one thing for mango tree to use the question to screen out places they won’t want to work. it’s an entirely different thing to screen out people that they don’t want to hire, which is what they also said they do.

          1. Nina*

            If Mango Trees works at a place where being able to respond to unexpected zany curveball questions immediately, convincingly, and while maintaining a veneer of professionalism is important (I can think of a few such workplaces), then yeah, asking an unexpected zany curveball question in the interview is probably an important screening tool.

      2. ThatGirl*

        During my interviews for my current job, they asked me a question I’ll never forget. I don’t remember who asked it! But I remember the question:

        “A penguin shows up at your door wearing a sombrero. Why is he there and what does he want?”

        The answer didn’t really matter, I’m sure they just wanted a glimpse of my thought process and personality. But it showed me that they weren’t above some occasional silliness, which I liked.

        1. Alexander Graham Yell*

          Okay, I’m going to be asking a LOT of people this question! I’ll add it to my (very short) list of favourite questions, that currently starts and ends with, “What happens if you send a werewolf to the moon?”

          1. Freya*

            My favorite curveball question like this has always been “What are three uses for a standard red brick?”

            1. ThatGirl*

              When I was a kid, I witnessed a friend of mine get hit in the head with a chunk of brick someone had found on the playground so unfortunately that’s where my mind takes me…

                1. Decima Dewey*

                  1) door stop 2) pest control 3) point of comparison if you want a rough idea of something’s weight and there isn’t a scale available.

            2. compton's cafeteria patron*

              My mind immediately went “throw it at the cops” which would, uh, not be a great answer in an interview setting.

          2. Reluctant Mezzo*

            Easy. They stay a wolf permanently. Or a human permanently.

            Well, unless they go to the dark side. They’re on their own then.

        2. Cj*

          they show up wearing a sombrero because they are lost in mexico, and what they want is to help get back to the pole.

    2. Lulu*

      The question I always have on deck is “why are you here? what drew you to this company or role initially, and what keeps you coming back every day?” Similar to yours, it’s a way to judge the atmosphere of the place. Are they all angry and resentful? Do they care enough to fudge it a little bit? Do they seem genuinely excited? Is there too much vocational awe walking around the place? I always get appreciative comments for that question (except when it’s fallen completely flat, which was actually helpful information for me about how soul crushing the place must be). But it’s a little more work related than invasions and uprisings. coming from public sector, I’ve definitely had it drilled into me that all questions must be work/job related.

      1. coffee*

        I’ve also asked a similar question at an interview (something like, “What do you most like about working in this team?” or “What do you most like about this work?” or something) and they took it quite badly! Definitely didn’t expect the interview to be a two-way process, and thought I was too junior to be asking them that. I didn’t get the job.

        1. Lulu*

          Once when I asked that question, the entire search committee (10 people, way too many) answered something along the lines of “I was out of work for a while, and this job opened up, and it has benefits, so….”. Alright, I get the idea. I’m entirely fine with being frank about living in a capitalist society and needing to work for food and shelter (and I dislike it), but omg I also want to not hate 40 hours of every week.

      2. GammaGirl1908*

        This! I try to have a question in my back pocket that I can ask everyone. It’s usually something like, “What drew you to working here?” or “ What has your experience working here been like?” Everyone will have a different answer, and it gives them a chance to talk about themselves and their experience. It also doesn’t put any pressure on me to have something brilliant to say.

      3. Emilia Bedelia*

        Seconding this! In my last job interview process, I was legitimately having trouble getting excited about the work, so I asked a variation on this question of everyone I spoke with, and it went over incredibly well. I heard some really interesting and different responses from everyone, and it gave me a fresh perspective that ultimately led me to take the job. I phrased it as something like, “I’ve asked everyone this question because I know it’s very personal and I want to hear different perspectives. It’s important for me to be passionate about my job and the products that I work with. What do you find interesting or compelling about [this company and products] that gets you excited about working here?” Some people gave answers that totally did not resonate with me, but hearing several different opinions made the difference.

        Also, if you ask the same question to multiple people and get different answers, that can be a red flag. For example, if you ask what the 5 year roadmap looks like, and your manager and their manager have radically different answers…that’s not a great sign.

      4. a clockwork lemon*

        I had an interesting interview yesterday where my interviewer would actually be reporting to me! He asked if I had any questions but most of my questions were about the nature of my particular position, which he wouldn’t be able to answer because he’s a junior, so I blurted out “Do you like your job?”

        I think he was a little taken aback but it actually ended up being a great question because his answer was YES. He was able to tell me in very specific terms exactly what he enjoyed about his role and I walked away from the conversation feeling like he and I would be very well-matched for working together as a team.

      5. irritable vowel*

        This is really only a question you can ask and expect a truthful answer from in a one-on-one interview, though – if you ask it to a group, everyone’s response is going to be what they want other people in the group to hear them saying, not necessarily what they actually think. And if it is an honest answer, you have no way of knowing that.

    3. Double A*

      I would be very thrown off by that question as either an interviewer or interviewee unless you provided some context like, “This is a fun hypothetical question to get to know you.”

      And then what you would learn about me was I need to know allllll the parameters around a hypothetical before I can answer so I would, in turn, ask a lot of questions. Are these global events or localized? What information do we have about the aliens thus far? What kind of robots? Do we know their power source and if so what is it? Do we know why they are uprising? If so and they have a good point, is there an option to join them? And so on.

      1. Observer*

        The problem is that even with that introduction, there is a really good chance that all you will get to know about someone is that they know nothing about science fiction / a certain genre of comics.

        Your questions do tell me something about you, some of which may be relevant to how you will do on the job. But the single biggest thing I can tell from your questions is that you’ve read / watched a lot of this stuff. Which is generally not really relevant. And it’s quite possible that someone who is actually a lot like you might not ask those question, not because they are different to you, but because aliens have never been an interest of theirs. Which is not really useful information unless being a comic / science fiction fan is important to your organization.

        1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

          Fair, but I think a lot of this is covered in the original comment:

          Depending on the work culture, I like to throw a fun question out there. The one I use the most frequently is, “Would you rather be caught in an alien invasion or a robot uprising?”… if I gathered from the interview up until that point that they aren’t the type to be asked that question, I pass on it”

          I feel like some of the responses are reacting as if Mango Trees always asks this exact question regardless of context, when it seems clear from their wording that this is an example only…

          (Oh, and for the record: alien invasion every time. “Robot uprising” is basically “tech bro id gone wild!!!!” which is too depressing. Aliens might be able to teach us something new and cool.)

          1. Ellis Bell*

            Thank you for this. I get so bugged when people only read the most eye catching line in a comment and jump all over it.

            1. GythaOgden*

              It is possible for people to disagree with the general premise though! I get the idea behind it and love sci-fi, but I actually wouldn’t want to work somewhere where everyone was like that, because I’d lose out by not having had the breadth of contact I’ve actually had working in a non-dude-bro nerd environment.

              Even if it looked like the culture was OK with it, this is still an interview and it’s still a bit of a leading question. And people *are allowed to have dissenting opinions*.

            2. Cj*

              but firefighter also left out an important part of what the op said. they said if they don’t like the question or answer bluntly they pass on it in their head. which I took to mean pass on the job, not pass on asking the question.

              1. Hlao-roo*

                I also think that the “I pass on it in my head” phrase is using “it” to mean “the job,” but I inferred from the part that Firefighter (Metaphorical) bolded (“if I gathered from the interview up until that point that they aren’t the type to be asked that question”) Mango Trees would not ask the question and would pass on the job in their head.

                1. Cj*

                  yeah, I agree they meant pass on the job in all cases. I was just highlighting the part firefighter didn’t quote period.

                  I’m generally a fun, positive, likes to joke around person, but using it to weed out either a job or candidates you are interviewing is going to get you about the least diverse team I can possibly imagine.

          2. I'm a Boring Person*

            I’ll be honest, unless you want to work for PlayStation I can’t think of any work culture that it would be appropriate to ask “alien invasion or robot uprising”.

            1. londonedit*

              Yeah, I’m thinking through the interviews I’ve had and I can’t think of one where a question like that would have felt appropriate. We’re not a particularly stuffy industry at all, and my most recent interview felt like a collaborative chat, but I still wouldn’t have thrown in a curveball ‘So, robot uprising or alien invasion?’ question. It just would have been completely out of context and I don’t think it would have left a great impression.

              I usually like to ask the interviewers something about their own roles – I’ve had great success with questions like ‘What are you most excited about working on in the next few months?’ followed by ‘And what do you think the biggest challenges will be?’ People love talking about the books they’re excited about publishing, and that warms them up a bit so that when I ask about challenges they’re more likely to give an honest answer.

              1. UKDancer*

                Yes I’d find that question a bit unusual and wouldn’t quite know how to answer. I do tend to ask something along the lines of the greatest challenges of the coming year and what success would look like for me if I were appointed to the job.

                I also usually ask the manager for the post how they’d describe their leadership style and what feedback they’d found most helpful to develop it.

              2. Alanna*

                Yeah, I trust people to know their own industries, but I’m also in a casual industry where interviews tend to be chatty and any kind of off-topic “would you rather” would be very odd. As an interviewer, it would make me feel a little bit like my time was being wasted — you’re not going to learn anything meaningful about working with or for me, and I’m not going to learn anything meaningful about you, by asking that.

            2. Eldritch Office Worker*

              Eh it wouldn’t bother me if a candidate asked that. I might answer and then ask them *why* they asked that, hoping they can vamp something about assessing culture on the spot, since they opened that door. But it wouldn’t be like “wow inappropriate” to me.

            3. Pippa K*

              As a social scientist I kind of love this question (although not necessarily in an interview context, except maybe in the general ‘getting to know you’ dinner meetings that academic interviews usually involve.)

              Anyway, I love it because it potentially leads people to talk about their views of crisis, power, communication, threat, uncertainty…. I could go on at length here! I immediately thought “ok, aliens for sure, because of the challenge of learning to communicate with them, figure out their goals, negotiate with them (or join them…maybe these aliens are here to eat billionaires and provide universal health care and clean energy.) My spouse, on the other hand, would go for the robot uprising, because he likes figuring out how tech works and wants to know if he could adapt or reprogram them.

              Gonna steal this question for general social chat among my friends and colleagues – few of whom are sci-fi people at all, by the way, but all of whom like thinking about things this question might touch on.

            4. S*

              Emergency management. People tend to respond better to drills when they’re ZOMBIE!drills rather than boring old earthquake drills, and you can incorporate all the things you need to practice if you schedule it right. A good emergency services/emergency management team should be able to take that question and run with it in a work-relevant way.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                I worked at a tech company that would periodically take some of their services offline to test our backup systems. The team that took the service offline would submit a ticket to the normal system, but they would add ridiculous scenarios as the reason. The data center was invaded by purple monkeys riding Segways. The server rack was accidentally teleported to the moon. One of the engineers pricked her finger on a spindle and a thick wall of brambles sprang up around the building.

                My first time triaging tech issues, I was EXTREMELY confused.

                1. Adultiest Adult*

                  I’m laughing out loud here, and I think I love this so much because there’s some logical element to the illogical situation, and that makes my left-brained self happy. I’d much rather have a question like that than aliens or robots, largely because I don’t know anything about either! Also, I feel like your company with the server rack on the moon would have figured out one of our critical points of failure most recently: the electronic keypad locks that the first person in uses to access and set up the clinic will not work in a power outage, and who the hell has the manual keys? LOL (For the interested, this is the reason I now have more keys than a janitor in my work bag–at least we learned from experience!)

            5. Emilia Bedelia*

              Ok, but maybe they DO only want to work for PlayStation or Blizzard or somewhere where this would actually work.

              I think this is an extreme example, but I do think that a slightly more personal or “fun” question could go over better in a lot of environments, and if having a fun culture is really important to you… you should make sure that the company meets your expectations.

              Personally if I wanted to ask a “fun” question I would say something like, “If you were organizing a fun work event, what would it be?” I feel like a lot of companies love to talk about fun work culture so I’d try to reference back to that. This would also give a good gauge of what kinds of activities you might expect – if I hear the word “minigolf”, I know that place is NOT for me.

            6. Lucky Meas*

              If you work for PlayStation, you can tie it to the Horizon series and say “both, at the same time” :)

          3. Smaller Potatoes*

            Since my company specialises in machine safety the answer is easy. Anyone interviewing to join us will literally be working to prevent the robot uprising!

          4. Observer*

            Depending on the work culture,

            I saw that. What I am trying to point out is that the culture where this would be appropriate or informative would be extremely narrow and specific. And doesn’t really include things that are generally considered important for a healthy workplace.

            Furthermore, it doesn’t even really give you a good sense of the things you say you value in the rest of the post I was responding to. Even in a culture where you could ask the question without looking seriously weird.

            I realize that you don’t always ask the same exact question. But the example you choose here is all I have to go on. And this one tells you so little about the work culture (outside of whether they are into science fiction or not) and the things that you say you care about, that I have to doubt whether you are asking the right questions.

            1. Maureen*

              I agree. It would be so out of left field it would make things awkward.

              I like to ask questions for which I can’t find answers online, like the one suggested above about how workplace celebrations are organized. But zombies and robots or whatever? Get the job, and THEN ask that question.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        Your response would make me think I’d like to work with you, both because you seem smart and thoughtful and because I would get the impression yourself also give me clear and accurate information.

      3. nnn*

        That’s exactly what I was thinking – I’d need to know more about the specifics of the aliens and the robots.

        I’m also wondering if OP has specifics of the aliens and the robots in mind

    4. Observer*

      I value a healthy working culture where people are serious about the work they do, but also are pleasant people to be around and can have a bit of fun

      So do I. But I cannot imagine any of the people I work with asking that question. And I suspect that if someone asked that in an interview, people would really think that they had lost it.

      More importantly, I think that this question screens for a very narrow subset of the population, and only a subset of the kinds of people you say you want. Because you need a certain science fiction-y, possibly geeky, bent to be able to have fun with the question. Not because someone is unpleasant! or even unable to have a bit of fun. But because it requires a certain knowledge base to *be able* to actually have fun with it. For someone without it, they first have to think something like “What’s a possible alien invasion scenario and what’s a possible robot uprising going to look like? Wait, what does that even mean?” So, you’re going to get a lot of stumbling that has nothing to do with the ability to have some fun or the lack thereof.

      1. Beatrice*

        Yep, going to wind up with a pretty homogenous group if you give that question a lot of weight.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, this seems like the kind of thing that gives “culture fit” a bad name (since it mostly screens for people who are similar to the interviewer rather than people who fit with the company’s goals/values).

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I wouldn’t think they had “lost it” but would take it as an attempt to turn back the dreaded “what animal would you be” type of question on the interviewers… which, if I hadn’t asked questions like that – would really put me off. I would be thinking what else would they try and “one up” or “no u” us about if they had the job!

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          If someone asked the animal question or something similar, I think that’s a wide open invitation to come back with an aliens vs robots question.

        2. Queen Ruby*

          I once had an interviewer ask me the animal question. He called me a couple days later to let me know I didn’t get the job, but he would like to have dinner with me sometime. He presented it as a networking/professional thing, and mentioned discussing future opportunities at the company he worked for. The company was doing cool stuff and I could see it being a good fit for me at some point, so I was ok with meeting up with him. I can’t believe I was so naïve.
          It was VERY MUCH not a networking/professional dinner. I won’t get into the gross details, but suffice it to say, if anyone ever asks me the animal question again, I’m OUT!

          1. zinzarin*

            I really hope that you contacted the company after the dinner to report that the interviewer–as a representative of the company–used the interview process to sexually harass you.

          2. Ginger Cat Lady*

            Please tell me you reported it to the company you interviewed with. That’s SO inappropriate they should know he did this to a candidate.

            1. GythaOgden*

              Absolutely. Did this myself once after someone made a racist comment about other applicants to me during an interview. Unlike this incident, it wasn’t directed at me, but it left me absolutely dumbfounded and as soon as I got home I rang the recruiter that had got me the interview.

              1. Maureen*

                I’m sorry that happened, but good for you for following through and reporting the experience. That’s how the necessary fighting back against that bs starts.

      3. MsM*

        I am a total geek who would have a blast debating that question in a social setting, and I still can’t see a lot of scenarios where I wouldn’t downgrade my opinion of an applicant who asked something like that in an interview. It would make me question their understanding of professional norms and whether I can trust them to not goof around in situations where that’s not going to go over well. And if they’ve really got nothing substantive they want to know about the company or the position (including a more direct inquiry into what the company culture is like if that’s what they’re trying to suss out), let’s not waste either of our time and just end the interview.

      4. a clockwork lemon*

        I’m a huge sci-fi fan and am generally very involved in/aware of “geek culture” and I’d find the particular question to be really offputting on either side of the interview.

        It seems like what this all boils down to is the “bring your whole self to work” debate. I don’t want to bring my whole self to work! I actually don’t want my coworkers to think of me and immediately associate me with being the lady who asked about the robot uprising in an interview. If it comes up organically once I’ve already got a job, that’s a different thing but in general I prefer to keep all my weirdness out of the workplace.

    5. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      So, if the person being interviewed didn’t share your niche interest in all things zombie and robot, you’d pass on them? It’s a good way for candidates to weed out working for someone with rather an adolescent mindset.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Since OP is also using it in interviews, it screens out a lot of potentially good candidates who could bring some other perspectives to the table, it’s certainly going to ensure a specific culture. Whether that culture is going to be a diverse one, with different creative input to broaden the perspectives of the people they serve or ensure their customer base is broad enough to sustain people’s jobs is another matter entirely

          Cultural fit has, in the past, been seem as a double-edged sword, particularly when it touches on non-work issues like these. It doesn’t get any better when the culture you’re screening for is the one you happe to be a part of.

          1. Be Gneiss*

            but it’s a question the commenter is asking as a *interviewee* so they are welcome to use any criteria to decide if they would want to work at a company, including whether they like the color of the interviewer’s tie or if the music in the elevator is annoying or literally any other factor, including ones you think are childish.

            1. Antilles*

              As a candidate, sure.
              But Mango Trees said they’ve asked the question to candidates too and I feel like that’s 100% a wrong way to handle things:
              I’ve also asked that question to candidates I’ve interviewed also (with approval from admin of course!), to see if they’d fit in with our company culture.
              Maybe you think that’s a smart way to hire, but to me, that seems like you’re going to very much narrow your candidate pool and limit things. It’s probably legal to use “must be a fan of sci-fi and superhero movies” as part of your hiring criteria (presuming you aren’t also filtering out diversity), but outside of very specific roles where such knowledge is applicable like “showrunner for a Marvel movie”, it’s definitely not getting you the best hiring pool.

              1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                I agree, coming from the hiring manager it’s just going to throw a candidate off.

        2. Grammar Penguin*

          It’s also pretty rude to change people’s words to attack something they didn’t say. They described an “adolescent mindset” which is not the same as calling someone childish.

          And right now, y’all can call me rude, idgaf, but that’s a really stupid question to ask in a job interview unless you don’t actually need or want an actual job.

          1. Moryera*

            Is that not the same thing, though? The only difference between “childish” and “adolescent mindset” is that in the second one we’re specifying the age range of the child.

            1. Silver Robin*

              Childish vs childlike I think is the difference that might be in play?

              Childish – immature, emotional dysregulation, petty, negative connotations
              Childlike – immature, naïve, unaware of norms, imaginative, head in the clouds, connotations depend on context

              “Adolescent mindset” seems to be more along the lines of “childlike”, meaning the person asking comes across as inexperienced in the norms of being an employed adult. Folks can have a relaxed environment, even a goofy one, but still want to be certain they are working with adults capable of dealing with things as adults.

              (I actually do not have an opinion on the interview question at play; I just see the conflation/confusion between child-ish/like a lot and thought separating them could be useful here)

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I like sci fi and I have encountered this “childish” attitude before, and yeah, I’d probably like to avoid it in a boss.

      2. Ava*

        id imagine that any good natured answer (“gosh, i dont know, scifi isnt really my thing!’) would be just fine as an answer. the bad answer is like, “what are you talking about. thats stupid.” I doubt they are demanding a well thought out explanation for the zombie v robot preferance

        1. Buffy Rosenberg*

          The candidate interviewing doesn’t know that though! They don’t know whether they’re supposed to give a thought out answer, or treat it as a joke, or push back on it, or show they aren’t phased and stick to their talking points, or something else.

          It is such an unusual and not-work-related question that no matter how you frame it, people will be wondering what the “right” answer is, or could possibly be.

      3. andy*

        I think that OP is meant to be the candidate when asking the question. He is gauging whether the workplace fits him.

        1. Wildly Madly Sleeping*

          The comment specifically says that he has used this both as a candidate interviewing for a job, and as the interviewer.

      4. Jenna Webster*

        I’d also turn this around, since the person who wrote it originally says they ask it when they are being interviewed – it does seem to present a somewhat adolescent mindset, and I think a lot of workplaces, including my own, would see it as a red flag. That said, it makes more sense for an interviewee to ask it to find out if he would be comfortable being themselves in that organization. I don’t get interviewers asking it unless they are looking for someone with this particular mindset.

        1. alienor*

          it does seem to present a somewhat adolescent mindset

          Why? There’s a multibillion-dollar film and TV machine out there with adults making media about aliens and robots, largely for other adults. Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Octavia Butler, Philip K. Dick, Ursula LeGuin – all adults who wrote sci-fi and speculative fiction. It may be a more relevant question specifically for jobs in those industries, but there’s nothing inherently adolescent about being interested in aliens and robots or wondering what other people think about hypothetical situations that involve them.

          1. Grammar Penguin*

            Context matters. I’m interviewing you for a job I need filled, I’ve scheduled a limited time for this interview, I offer you the chance to get more information about the job or the company, you only have a few minutes remaining and THIS is what you’re asking me? This is how you want to spend the last few minutes I have available for you?

            Maybe you think this means I’m too serious or something. That’s fine. I’m thinking you’re nowhere near serious enough to be reliable. Next!

            1. alienor*

              Of course, but I’m not saying it’s a great question for any and all situations including job interviews – I’m saying that someone’s not “adolescent” because they enjoy robots and aliens, and that enjoying those things doesn’t mean they can’t be reliable. (I say this as someone who is 50+ years old and a manager at a large corporation, so with a long history of seriousness and reliability.)

              1. MigraineMonth*

                I think the reason that it comes across as adolescent to me isn’t that it’s sci-fi, it’s that the question is kind of clique-ish and unprofessional. I’d feel the same way about a question about favorite quilt designs or architecture.

                As an example, I once interviewed for a software dev position where they asked me about my comfort with machining tools and building things from blueprints. (Apparently corporate mandated those questions.) It definitely made me question whether the company was a good match for me because they were screening for things that had nothing to do with the job (and likely filtering out more women as a result).

              2. Buffy Rosenberg*

                I enjoy lots of things that I wouldn’t use an interview question to ask about, or ask a candidate about.

                No one has said anything about enjoying robots or aliens.

                1. alienor*

                  Not so sure about that. I’m seeing a lot of weird aggression and hostility in the comments towards a question that may come across as a bit odd given the situation, but at the end of the day is pretty innocuous. It’s “robots or aliens,” not “eat babies or kick puppies,” you know?

          2. Colette*

            It’s not that aliens and robots are childish in themselves, it’s that asking that question is assuming everyone is interested in a narrow set of “fun” questions, and it’s not using your interview time wisely. The same would be true if you asked “would you rather go skiing or scuba diving” – it’s just not relevant to the job, and you’re screening out people who might do the job well.

          3. nodramalama*

            I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the scifi genre is childish. I think people are suggesting that deciding if someone is a good cultural fit for a workplace or vice versa based on their engagement of a rogue sci-fi hypothetical is a childish way to approach work and interviewing.

            I love playing hypotheticals and would enjoy the conversation with my friends, but I would not want that curveball in an interview

        1. Shiny*

          This is clearly the most important comment in this thread to date. Though, it really just adds in another wrinkle–if you choose aliens, what if they are zombie aliens?

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            If humanity has succumbed to a zombie virus, which would zombie-you rather face – aliens or robots?

            (aliens, obviously. robots don’t have meaty brains.)

    6. Beatrice*

      I think I am pleasant to work with and fun, but I really don’t enjoy nonsense hypothetical questions in interviews. Why don’t you just ask them how they express themselves creatively at work, or something they’ve done to have fun with their team?

      1. Snow Globe*


        Maybe it depends on how it’s prefaced, but if I invite questions and that’s what you come up with, I’m …. really not sure what is going on and why you are asking. Are you ok? Are you bored with the interview and trying to confuse me? It’s just so out of left field that I wouldn’t get that you were just trying to see if I like to have fun.

        1. londonedit*

          That’s exactly what I was thinking. If I put myself in the shoes of an interviewer (and I have sat in on a few interviews where my boss was leading and I was there to chip in with a few questions and give a second opinion afterwards) I think my reaction would be ‘What? What the hell does that have to do with anything? Are they even taking this seriously?’. I don’t think I’d immediately think ‘Oh, excellent, this is a cool person who wants to see whether we’ll be fun to work with’. And that’s not because of the sci-fi subject matter – I think I’d react the same to any completely left-field question.

          1. Observer*

            Yes. The problem here is not that it’s science fiction, but that it’s a totally niche interest. And worse, it’s totally out of left field. Which makes me think that even if @Mango Trees chooses a different niche to ask about, they are still going to wind up asking a question that is so out of left field that it’s not going to tell them anything useful.

          2. Myrin*

            Yeah, I wouldn’t even say I’d necessarily find the question inappropriate but rather completely baffling (in an interview context, that is).

        2. Phoenix Wright*

          Yeah, this is something you discuss with people you’re hanging out with socially, not in the middle of a job interview. If someone asked me that question, I’d assume they are trying to make fun of me or something similarly unpleasant. Even though I love sci-fi stuff, this would seem very inappropriate in that context.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        Agreed – so many of these “creative problem” questions come with a lot of baggage that ends up being quite problematic from a diversity perspective.

        In the robot vs aliens question, you’re advantaging people who know something about science fiction, versus people who do not have any interest or knowledge about science fiction. It’s going to take someone who has an extremely high degree of creativity, ability to think on their feet, etc. to do better than an okay candidate who lives and breathes sci fi. (That okay candidate probably has had that debate before or at least given the subject some thought.)

        It’s also entirely possible that you’re biasing in favour of male candidates who grew up in English-speaking environments in middle to upper middle class neighbourhoods.

        Granted, I am personally relying on some real assumptions in making that statement, but I would consider it a real risk that this question would disadvantage certain candidates in ways that you didn’t anticipate doing.

        I know that on standardized testing, there have been similar issues. Eg. there’s a story that the US SATs had to be revamped in part because some math or logic questions relied on a knowledge of football. This biased the test against anyone who didn’t follow the sport – which turned out to be particularly women and other minority groups.

        You’d do better to either set a test with full information and parameters and tell candidates to confine themselves to that information to answer the question OR to ask them for an example of the most creative thing they have come up with in a work environment.

    7. WS*

      I think that is an awesome question and I would love to work there…but it’s not one I would ask in my current workplace, even if I would enjoy having more nerds here.

    8. MK*

      “pleasant people to be around and can have a bit of fun”
      There are plenty of people who are pleasant and fun, but aren’t interested in science fiction or enjoy hypothetical questions. There are also plenty of people who don’t find this either pleasant or fun. Look, you can screen jobs however you like, but don’t delude yourself that you are screening for pleasant and fun, you are screening for quirky, nerdy and those who are like you. It’s a pretty problematic way to hire.

      1. Elle Woods' Pink Sunglasses*

        This exactly. To give an opposite example – “Would you rather guest star on Bachelor in Paradise, RuPaul’s Drag Race, or Physical 100?” would totally filter for trendy, pop culture embracing Gen Z/Millenials. As one of those, I find that pleasant and fun, but I’m sure there’s people who would find it basic/annoying/whatever they’d like to call it.

        1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

          I am a millennial, though almost certainly not trendy, and your question would definitely get a blank look and possibly an internal flurry of panic, and if I’m really lucky I’d manage a “I’m afraid I’m not familiar with those, are you able to give me a brief overview of each of them?”. more likely I’ll only manage an “ummm?” and feel very awkward.
          I do feel that the aliens vs robots questions is a bit niche, and definitely needs a good segue to not be really jarring in the context of an interview.

        2. londonedit*

          I really must be an ancient Millennial, or at least not very trendy, because the only one of those I’ve even heard of is Drag Race. I definitely think it’s a mistake to use a question that’s going to be so subjective! It’d be like asking everyone who their favourite football team is and screening out all the Liverpool fans (hang on a minute, that I could get behind…)

        3. My Cabbages!*

          Are…are the concepts of “aliens” and “robots” all that niche though? I get that not everyone will be into the particular tropes, but I think everyone will know what an “alien invasion” and a “robot uprising” refer to. It’s not like asking about Cybermen vs Borg.

          1. Silver Robin*

            The concept is not, but the tropes and judgement criteria are. Different direction: would you prefer Ancient Egypt or Ancient Rome? Are those pretty widespread concepts? Absolutely. Do you think about them often enough to have a cogent answer when asked out of the blue? Probably not; most people are not considering the possibility of time travel and where they would choose to go on a regular basis. Some of them because they are instead considering robots vs aliens!

            1. My Cabbages!*

              See, I don’t see that as any different, or as a problem, because the question clearly isn’t meant to assess a person’s knowledge or the feasibility of their plan. An answer like “Egypt, because those sarcophagus masks show that their makeup was on point, and I could learn to get that perfect smoky eye” would show that a person could adapt to unexpected questions and come up with some creative thinking on the fly, which I think can absolutely be valuable information.

              1. Observer*

                You are still assuming a significant amount of information, though. And enough thought about the subject that these things would be top of mind.

                I happen to know what those sarcophagus masks are, but it’s soooo far from my life that if you asked me a question like it’s quite probable it would not even come into my mind to think about it – or most of the things I happen to know about Egypt. Same for Rome.

                Again, these are questions that assume a fairly high level of familiarity – not just “learned about it school years ago” level of familiarity, but mid-term memory level familiarity – of a really niche subject.

                This question is even worse than the science fiction question in some ways. Because someone who actually knows that much about both cultures could easily give a very heavy non-fun answer, not because they aren’t “fun” or don’t like to have a good time sometimes, but bigger aspects of those cultures would be in their minds.

                1. My Cabbages!*

                  Maybe this varies with industry or culture, but I would find it pretty off-putting if a candidate couldn’t find a single thing to say about a not-particularly-obscure topic if it didn’t directly apply to their work.

          2. Elle Woods’ Pink Sunglasses*

            Lol I can’t name a single friend of mine who hasn’t seen at least one of these three reality shows (Physical 100 is super new but SUPER trendy right now) so it was the same level of niche to me. Based on the responses, it seems like I might be a zoomer to y’all though. I was thinking about “would you rather be a youtuber or a tiktoker?” as an alternate sitch but figured that would actually be too young!

      2. TechWorker*

        Just to be clear – they are not using it to hire, they are asking it when they are in the hiring process! Which is rather different. If your screening process is ‘I want to work somewhere with people like me’ well that’s maybe going to put you out of the running for a lot of jobs but it’s also your choice to do so.

        1. Zweisatz*

          “I’ve also asked that question to candidates I’ve interviewed also (with approval from admin of course!), to see if they’d fit in with our company culture.”

          1. Green great dragon*

            Yeh. This is the old issue about ‘fitting into company culture’ leading to a lot of similar people who think in similar ways, which is not the best way to make good decisions.

            Of course a company can choose to prioritise culture fit over getting the best people and diverse approaches. And it can work, at least short term. I still don’t think it’s a good idea.

          2. DarthVelma*

            If this is the company culture, include me out. I’m a huge scifi and fantasy nerd. And I have spent my whole life having a certain subset of male fans either call me a fake fan if I didn’t know everything about their niche interest or call me a b*itch when they realized I knew more about it than they did. I’d rather have dental surgery without anesthesia than work in a company full of “that” guy.

        2. GythaOgden*

          It still strikes me as bizarre, and I’m one of the geekiest geeks to walk the earth. The number of workplaces where it would be at all professional to ask is also fairly small. Many otherwise good people to work for who enjoy the stuff at hand would be screened out simply because they don’t really want someone who can’t separate fantasy from reality.

      3. andy*

        While I do not like the question much, if op is quirky and nerdy, it might be actually good test whether op will fit in. If you are quirky and have choices, the “will you accept my quirkiness or will I be odd one out constantly excluded” is something you want to know in advance. A

        1. Observer*

          Which is fine if you are an employee with options – and you recognize what you are *actually* screening for. Because “I can be quirky and nerdy here”, which is what this question might screen for, is very different than “I want to be around people whoare pleasant people to be around and can have a bit of fun“, which is what they say they are looking for.

          Also, they say that they ask it as an interviewer – and that is NOT fine. At least not if you want a healthy workplace. It’s one thing to have a workplace where people who are quirky and nerdy can be comfortable but a very different thing to have one where someone needs to be quirky and nerdy to have a good chance of being employed at the company.

      4. amoeba*

        Or, you know, ever if you are nerdy, interested in SF, and enjoying hypothetical questions, this might still seem weird in an interview. I’m a nerdy scientist and would 100% be up to discussing that at lunch with my colleagues. But in an interview? I’d honestly think it was either some kind of weird psychological “trick”/interview tactic to make yourself seem interesting or you were one of the people who base their whole sense of self on “being quirky”. Or you were really out of touch and had no idea how interviews work. Neither of those would make a good impression.

        1. Observer*

          Exactly this.

          I’m not a big science fiction fan, although I do enjoy it, and I don’t think people would call me geeky or nerdy. But I could see having a really good discussion about this over lunch or the like. And I could even see it being a pretty good “team building” exercise in the right circumstances.

          But in an interview? “Fun questions” are a bit odd in that context, to start with. Ones that are this out of left field? What do you even do with it?

        2. katkat*

          this! being fun, quirky and pleasant to work with, doesn’t mean that you like to have this kind of conversation with your interviewer.

      5. MuseumGal*

        Yeah, the only person on my team who would give an actual answer to this as a hiring manager, as opposed to just “don’t know, not something I’ve ever thought about”, is also by far the most unpleasant and difficult person I’ve ever worked with. I think asking more probing questions into the culture and team dynamics would get a more helpful answer about what that person would actually be like to work for/with. All this tells you is whether they find this very niche kind of question fun.

    9. Storm in a teacup*

      Whist I agree about the work culture I think there are better ways to find that out rather than asking this question.
      Some sample questions I feel always let me know about a person:
      How would your friends describe you?
      Or How would your work colleagues/ peers describe you? Would that change if they were your junior or seniors?
      Can you tell me about a time where you worked somewhere with a great culture? What did you like about it?

      Ps alien invasion – assuming though that the robots haven’t been programmed for emotional thought patterns or for ethics

      1. Shurik*

        Except you’ll get bland, noncommittal answers given with the intent not to offend co-workers, not actionable information. “I would describe Jane down the hall as lazy, diffident, and vacuous” isn’t going to sell the company of engender the interviewer to Jane.

        1. Observer*

          That’s not necessarily true. For one thing, people “tell on themselves” surprisingly often. And they don’t always realize it.

          But also, those “bland” answers designed to “not offend” can be extremely telling.

          The most memorable example I can think of was a funeral I was at. Someone got up to give the eulogy. Lots of praise for the person, but not a word about their role as a parent and spouse. That silence was telling and reflective of their life.

          But even taking something less extreme. Say you ask about a “great culture you once worked in” and the person responds with a description of what many of us would call a bro-fest, that would tell you a lot about that person, whereas the person who talks about the boss who was fair and had high standards and therefore they really learned a lot, is telling you a lot as well. Of course, you can’t take just ONE answer, no matter how good the question, but assuming that it fits with everything else you are seeing, it does give you some clues.

        2. Buffy Rosenberg*

          You’re not getting meaningful answers to the robots/aliens question either because a lot of people won’t know what they’re supposed to be answering. Unclear and irrelevant questions get you pretty pointless information.

    10. GythaOgden*

      That sounds a bit weird tbh. I work for someone who enjoys sci-fi stuff (and got my reference to Firefly when I compared myself to Kaylee when dealing with our franking machines) but it might narrow things too much. Being in a diverse workplace doesn’t just mean social identity; it means being among different people who have different backgrounds and different perspectives. My team is three over-40s white women, but we’re all very different people when it comes to how we work and serve the building, and the reason the last 9 years have flown by is because that diversity of personality and interests means we each have a defined role.

      Literary agents have come under fire for asking stuff like ‘Who’s your favourite Doctor?’ etc in their submissions forms, because it necessarily narrows down the sort of people who apply. To be specific, my late husband was a big Doctor Who fan, but since his death I can’t watch any of it without getting triggered. (Which is weird, because I still love virtually everything else he introduced me to. Just not Doctor Who.) People often answer that question with the first Doctor they saw on TV, through nostalgia goggles rather than actual appreciation for an actor’s work. What if you say Christopher Eccleston and the agent wants you to say Jodie Whittaker, and thinks you’re (internalised) sexist if you don’t? (I was excited for a female Doctor but, aside from one or two episodes, thought she wasn’t written for very well, and was disappointed; Chibnall left the series soon afterwards, so I’m not alone.) Quite apart from that, it shouldn’t matter. Agents should be trying to draw a diverse pool of talent, and not restrict entry to the fiction market to those who can answer such narrow shibboleth questions.

      If I’d worked with only those people who responded well to that sort of question, I’d have missed out on a lot of good social interaction. I completely agree with looking for a diverse, affirming workplace; mine is the British public healthcare org, so there’s huge diversity and programmes to match. Buuuut…this sounds like you only ever want to work with a very narrow set of people, and that really feels like you’re erasing the potential of working at a genuinely diverse workplace rather than simply feeling out the culture.

      As the Bletchley Park museum put it, having a diverse staff is what gave the British strength. But diversity isn’t just about social identity; it’s about a range of different perspectives all bringing their thoughts to the table. It’s not diverse to go too deeply into finding people who are of one single subculture, because that doesn’t get you the best commercial or organisational results.

    11. Ed*

      Just jumping in to say I would move anyone asking this question into the NO pile immediately.

      And would move myself into that pile if I was ever asked it during an interview.

      1. alienor*

        I might move them into the NO pile if it was their only question, and if it came as a left-field “Do you have any questions about the company/Yeah, alien invasion or robot uprising?” But if they had the right skills for the job, asked a couple of pertinent job- and company-related questions, and then threw that one in as an interesting extra, I wouldn’t be fazed at all.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I feel like one person’s “interesting extra” is another person’s “doesn’t understand professional norms”. I wouldn’t automatically reject someone who asked a curveball question, but it would definitely have me questioning their professional judgement that they thought an interview was the time to ask it.

          1. arthur lester*

            I think that’s the point of OP saying they ask the question, though! They don’t want to work somewhere that a goofy hypothetical question would be considered that intensely in poor taste.

    12. AJL*

      I am fascinated by the wave of negative responses here – some are almost offended by the concept of the question! I am an attorney who started at a big firm and then moved in-house to a health system, and I would be delighted to get this question. It doesn’t require any knowledge of sci-fi, but does encourage creativity and thinking on your feet and would show how someone works through an unexpected question. Those are all really valuable skills in my line of work, on both sides of the interview table.

      1. Wildly Madly Sleeping*

        I am fascinated that you think it a useful method of finding out those things, rather than by using literally any of the much more appropriate interview questions mentioned. I wonder if you share certain characteristics with “Mango Trees” which lead you to think in this way.

        Given how many people have a strong negative reaction to this (frankly bizarre) question, it would seem unwise to rely on this to provide meaningful insight in any way.

      2. L-squared*

        I’m in sales. I’m (in my opinion) fun. I have to be adaptable and able to think on my feet. And yet, if I was part of an interview, and someone asked me that, it definitely would change my opinion of them. Maybe its because I”ve been asked asinine questions like that in interviews, and I hated them. So while I understand that interviews are a 2 way street, if you are going to use your time to ask me something like that, I think I’d question your judgment.

        That wouldn’t make someone an “absolutely not” for me, but if them and someone else were close, and you were getting to those intagibles of who I’d rather work with everyday, I feel like that person would be dinged

        1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          Yeah, we’re interviewing right now — and we are a very geeky team, who could probably have a great aliens vs. robots discussion over lunch or something — but if a candidate asked me that, my assessment would probably change to, “They seemed great generally, but asked me this completely out-of-the-blue question at the end of the interview. I was a firm yes up until then, but now I’m wondering about their judgement and if they’re going to bog down work meetings trying to make them ‘fun.'”

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Just as an aside, I would never heavily weigh a candidate’s behavior in an interview as an accurate litmus test of how they would behave in professional meetings. The context is so, so different.

            1. cardigarden*

              A different aspect of this: an old skip level of mine was a phenomenal interviewer (very charismatic in limited doses), which was why he was hired, but he ended up being an empty suit and terrible to work for. So yeah, candidate interview behavior isn’t necessarily an accurate litmus test of how they will be actually on the job.

          2. MsM*

            I also feel like it could have the exact opposite effect in terms of conveying “we’re a fun bunch who don’t take ourselves too seriously,” since I can easily see myself overthinking my response post-interview: “Why did they ask that? Did I get too in the weeds? Is it some kind of weird test where they just reject you if you don’t pick the same answer as the CEO?”

      3. Janel Jarvis*

        I’m also really surprised at how hostile the attitude in this comments section is to this question. I feel like that means it’s really effectively serving Mango Trees’ purpose—anyone offended by this level of whimsy and specificity probably won’t be a great fit for them to work with!

        1. Critical Rolls*

          It’s a context problem. There are plenty of people who have explained that this would be a fun debate their team would totally enjoy, but it’s not appropriate in an interview. Randomness is almost never going to add anything valuable to the interview process. Introduce it as a candidate and interviewers could understandably question your grasp of norms, whether you’re taking the process seriously, and be put off by being caught flat-footed. Introduce it as an interviewer and you’re in the realm of “what animal would you be” cluelessness.

          Folks spend a lot of time on this site talking about how the primary purpose of work is exchanging labor for compensation, not socializing. This question makes the social fit — not the culture fit, but the “could I get a beer with you” social fit — of the company a disproportionate priority.

          1. Colette*

            I agree – this prioritizes “would we be friends” over “would we work well together to achieve common goals”.

        2. L-squared*

          To me I don’t think it does that at all. I think someone can be great to work with, and also be turned off by that question. But to me, its one of those things that is way too risky in terms of getting a job. If its so polarizing, is it really that all the people turned off are stick in the muds? Probably not. But if it is this polarizing, it may just be best to avoid it.

        3. Gerry Kaey*

          I don’t think it’s the whimsy people are offended by as much as it is the likelihood this question feeds into hiring biases around similar identities and interests that aren’t actually relevant to someone’s work capabilities, specifically because sci-fi has a reputation of having lots of white male gatekeepers making it unpleasant for everyone else.

          1. Clovers*

            It may be more nuanced than the whimsy, too. While the asker might think of it as a general, “do you yes-and a silly question” reaction, I might be thrown by it less because it’s “nerdy” or whatever but because to me it seems to be phrased so passé- the “robots/ zombies/ pirates/ bacon” internet era, circa 2005-2008, which I’m nostalgic for but isn’t a vibe I’d expect to encounter nowadays. Not to be mean to the question, it can still lead to a cute discussion, but just saying if someone reacts less than enthusiastically it might not be because they’re too square.

        4. My Cabbages!*

          Yeah, I think it must serve it’s purpose because I can tell by some of these comments that I would very much not enjoy working with several of the people here.

          Not because I want to be surrounded by people who share my interests, but because they seem to subscribe to the idea that work is to be 100% fully professional at all times and any non-business-related interactions are inappropriate. Which would make me miserable in a workplace.

          1. Ellen Ripley*

            I think it’s more about professional norms *during an interview* than during everyday work situations. As several others have said here, most people could enjoy discussing this around the lunch table.

          2. nodramalama*

            I think that is unfair. I love hypothetical conundrums- my friends and I have spent hours debating these kind of questions. I would be fine debating this at lunch at work, or even in a team meeting as a ‘fun’ activity. But interviews are high stress environments that usually are not ‘fun’. that question being thrown out of the blue would really throw me off- I would seriously wonder what that question has to do with the job and why its being asked- what answer is the person trying to garner?

            It reminds me of workplaces that ask you “what’s your coffee order”, and there are secret connotations to the orders. It feels like a trap, not a ‘fun’ question.

            1. My Cabbages!*

              Maybe we are picturing different tones of voice? I can see it being an issue if it were asked in a serious voice as though expecting a serious answer. But in a light-hearted tone after a serious professional interview, and I would find it to be a fun and pleasant way to connect to the interviewer/interviewee on a more casual level, and a signal that this wouldn’t be somewhere I’d be expected to be totally buttoned-up at all times.

              1. Critical Rolls*

                I wish you would take on board that keeping this type of curveball out of the interview setting does not mean being “totally buttoned up at all times.” Listen to all the people who have explained why this will not accomplish what you want it to in *many* cases.

              2. Nodramalama*

                We seem to be talking across each other. Asking normal interview questions and not throwing out random hypotheticals doesn’t mean the interviewer is buttoned up. It means they’re interviewing.

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        Whereas this is the sort of question that would get me a call from a senior attorney expressing concern about the candidate’s judgment and professionalism. Not because they’re not fun or interesting people but because they value their client relationships and want to make sure someone working on their matters can read a room aren’t going to be making silly jokes around a client embroiled in a stressful litigation or deal.

      5. KToo*

        Exactly – I have a feeling that the OP doesn’t really care about the answer being true to any genre, but being able to work though an unexpected question and come up with any answer at all, have a bit of fun with something that isn’t high-stakes, and show a bit of creativity. Not everything has to be so serious all the time. If I were asked that question as a candidate I’d love it since it would show that the company culture isn’t just ‘giant stick up its butt’.

        1. Observer*

          Except that it totally does not accomplish this goal.

          The issue is not that the question is not serious enough. It’s that it REALLY doesn’t tell you anything. Sure, there are some exceptions, like the commenter (@Qwert) who used to work with robots, so a question like that *could* make sense depending in the rest of the interview. But outside of that, these questions absolutely don’t screen for flexibility or the ability to deal with the unexpected.

      6. Qwerty*

        1. It contains a dog-whistle
        2. Mango Trees uses it when they are the *interviewer* to check if candidates fit the “company culture”

        As a woman in tech, this read immediately to me as “do you fit our dude-bro culture?” Many many woman get barred from geek spaces unless they are able to answer the trivia at the door.

        People aren’t objecting to the idea of a fun question, but the specific scenarios that Mango Trees laid out. I used to work with robots so I’ve had a lot of candidates insert a question at the end about the robot uprising *after* asking their normal interview questions, and it goes over pretty well because there’s an obvious connection. I’ve also seen ND people get screened out by a manager who wanted to ask “fun” questions and get a stony response as the candidate’s brain gets stuck on “how is this relevant” so they were rejected due to “culture fit”

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          nod. like I’m not saying I wouldn’t debate this online for hours, but in a context where having health insurance is on the line my brain would mess up HARD.

        2. David*

          Agreed to all your points, though I do enjoy the thought of being asked this, & instead of taking it in the “Haha, shared dude-bro culture moment!” direction, going with the media-analysis take on it.

          “So, you’re asking me whether I would rather be facing colonial fears of being colonized, or an elite panic over a slave revolt? Great question. I’d go with the robot uprising, because my dream is to work my way up the ranks until I find the perfect opportunity to turn class traitor. Every robot uprising needs its robot John Brown. Would this position involve interacting with the C-suite, by any chance?”

      7. Observer*

        It doesn’t require any knowledge of sci-fi, but does encourage creativity and thinking on your feet and would show how someone works through an unexpected question.

        That is absolutely NOT true.

        For one thing, if you do not have any knowledge of science fiction, you don’t have the tools, vocabulary or context to answer that question. The fact that you don’t eve realize this is a perfect example of why so many people have such a negative reaction!

        There is also a fair bit of research (among other placed from Google) that questions of these sorts of questions absolutely do not screen for these skills.

        *Effectively* “thinking on your feet” and “working through an unexpected question” actually DOES require domain knowledge. It also requires that the question or challenge is relevant.

        Do you really think that someone who answers this question with “No idea, I’ve never thought about that” is going to react that way if opposing counsel pulls a metaphorical rabbit out of his hat? Or the head of HR walks in and says “One of our HR staff just told someone that there is nothing we can do if someone hassles someone of ~~Protected identity X~~ unless they explicitly say that it’s because of that identity. The behavior is gross on it’s own and everyone else knows EXACTLY why they are doing it, even though they never used the word. Help!” (That assumes that the HR department in the company is supposedly mostly competent and the Head of HR is a reasonable person, of course.)

      8. MigraineMonth*

        I did interviews for a company that pioneered asking “thought questions” such as “How many golf balls could fit in a school bus?” or “Why are manhole covers round?”

        We were no longer allowed to ask any thought questions, because there was zero correlation between candidates that answered that question well and candidates that were able to do their job well.

        The company also had to rewrite their “culture fit” metrics to be “how well does this candidate represent company values” because it was filtering out women, older people and black, Latino and indigenous people.

      9. Insert Clever Name Here*

        I’ve been on a few interview panels and while it would make me raise an eyebrow if a candidate asked that question…meh, whatever.

        My negative reaction is to MangoTree asking it when THEY ARE ON THE INTERVIEW PANEL as a screening for culture fit.

      10. nodramalama*

        I don’t like it because if I was in an inteview and got this question out of left field it would feel like a trap to me and I wouldn’t be sure how to answer. Do they think there is a right or wrong answer? Is this a ‘fun’ question or are they testing my strategic skills? Is the culture at work really sci fi focussed?

    13. JSPA*

      That’s going to work better in places that trend classic geek (which is to say, not just geek but geek-bro / tech-bro).

      Seems like it could be hecka awkward in, say, equally intellectually-rigorous fields like health care or urban planning–or anyplace else where disasters create actual real-world damage–not just in places that are intrinsically uptight. “I’m passing on my opportunity to ask about real world scenarios of same” could land as pretty significant insensitivity.

      If your job never deals with actual people having actual crises, it probably lands better. Or maybe if it’s crisis all the time (EMS?) it might lighten the mood. But between those extremes, it seems…potentially iffy…for reasons that have not much to do with job culture or humor.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I’ve had similar questions in front line education in demanding neighbourhoods. We deal with crisis quite a lot. That said, it had nothing to do with how we dealt with emergencies, it was more subject specific as in if we had enough imagination and fiction genre knowledge.

        1. Observer*

          t was more subject specific as in if we had enough imagination and fiction genre knowledge.

          See, that’s the point. That is exactly what that kind of question screens for. Which is obviously important for jobs where you need that kind of knowledge. But totally not relevant for most of the rest of the world.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        People who model actual disasters–like health care and urban planning–use zombie outbreaks as a test model. It’s much easier to get friends and family to volunteer to come in and be extras if you tell them they get to spend the day lying around as a victim of a zombie outbreak.

        1. Observer*

          Even there it’s actually quite context specific. Since Sandy, New York has been doing a lot of disaster preparedness work. And I’ve been fairly involved with a fair bit of it. It turns out that using a “zombie apocalypse” model would have absolutely no resonance for a lot of the populations we deal with. At all. And even thinking about our staff in general, if a call went out asking for people to volunteer and ask their friends and family about volunteering for a zombie outbreak, a LOT of them would have no idea what on earth you were talking about. Yes, including American born folks.

          Having said that, if I were interviewing someone for a role related to this kind of planning and modeling and I knew that they were somewhat interested in science fiction, I might ask them which they would prefer with their “disaster response hat on”.

          But that’s a very niche kind of situation, and only gives you useful information because of how narrow it is how well you can directly connect it to the field the person is working in. It is NOT going to tell me anything about how any other potential employer / employee is going to react to an unexpected event that is actually relevant to their job.

    14. Corporate Goth*

      My blunt answer would be me, having fun with you. I have a dry sense of humor. Robot uprising, obviously – go for the battery pack.

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

        Is it human robot tech? Then I’d go robot uprising- we could, presumably, figure out what the tech is based on and find it’s weakness pretty quickly. If it’s alien tech, all bets are off. Same with aliens- we’d be spending a lot of time to figure out their weaknesses for long term success, even if traditional methods worked in the short term.

        This question would really hit me differently depending on my mood- if I go in pissed because I take to take off work and there was a terrible interview process and then this questions come out of the blue? I’m probably going to hard Nope! on answering this. If I’m in a good mood because the interviewer has respected my time and been friendly, I’d probably down to play. But yeah, context is everything here. And I don’t think you can universally ask this question/be asked this question and expect a coherent, game on type answer.

    15. Liv*

      As a hiring manager who doesn’t take herself too seriously – god I would be so put off by a candidate who asked a totally random ‘fun’ question and would assume you just don’t understand professional norms. There are other, less annoying ways to get a sense of company culture – even just asking something like ‘It’s important to me for there to be a cultural fit with the team I work with, can you tell me a bit about yourself outside of work’ would be so much better than bizarre hypotheticals.

      I cannot think of a work context where this would be appropriate unless maybe you were interviewing for a video game company that makes sci-fi games. Just so bizarre.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This. I would happily engage with this sort of hypothetical with anyone on my team, but in an interview within my rather buttoned-up (and known to be uptight) industry? I have concerns.

      2. Vanellope*

        Agree with this, it’s not that I wouldn’t have fun debating this with my friends (or potentially even around the water cooler) but when I’m interviewing you and ask if you have questions I mean “about the job” or “about the company” or even a direct question about the culture, but not this coded “if you’re too uptight to converse about this now then I’m throwing the whole company away” deal. I do work in a conservative industry and while we’re not super buttoned down day to day, at interview time it is understood to up your game a little, professionally.

    16. Dust Bunny*

      I would say this describes my department’s culture but there is no way this would be a productive question to ask in an interview here. I could see asking it maybe if this were a creative role (game company, maybe?) but for every job I’ve ever had “culture where people are serious about the work they do, but also are pleasant people to be around and can have a bit of fun” was pretty much assumed, but we didn’t need to weed people out because they couldn’t come up with science fiction on the spot.

    17. DataSci*

      I’m in tech. I like science fiction. I think an interview is a very weird place for this question. You’re using your valuable question asking time for a weird icebreaker? My response would probably be something like “Um, why do you ask?”

    18. I should really pick a name*

      I worked at a place where the occasional nerf gun fight broke out, but if someone asked that question in an interview, I’d be concerned that they weren’t very serious about the position.

      There are better ways to find out if the office culture has a fun side than a complete non-sequitur.

    19. Baron*

      I’m pretty straitlaced, but if you otherwise seemed like a good candidate, I would probably be a bit taken aback in an amused way, have a laugh, and ask follow-up questions. I suspect that’s what you’re screening for.

    20. Not a regular manager*

      I work at a company with a fun culture – we have retreats, we make time (for those that want to) for chatting, joking, sharing lots of gifs, talking about personal hobbies and interests, virtual and in person events, etc. But, if someone used the 5-10 minutes they had with me at the end of an interview to ask this question instead of about the role, questions that will tell you about my company’s commitment to DEIB, what our management of COVID has looked like, how we handle work/life balance and specifically examples of what that looks like, why I’ve been at the company so long and what keeps me here even through two rounds of layoffs last year (tech), etc, I would be taken aback. I definitely would not reject someone from the role for it, but I would be digging in with their references a little more than I might have otherwise.

      It sounds like you’re asking this question thoughtfully, but I’m not sure it’s actually giving you the information you’re looking for (and intentionally throwing interviewees for a loop to see if they can hang is going to be tougher for some people than others, nothing to do with whether they’re fun people at work or not – I would hope you treat their answer the way I would treat you asking the question. Not disqualifying, but just something you might dig into more if you don’t feel like you have the information you need outside of it.)

    21. MurpMaureep*

      My current director is a pretty fun and funny guy and our senses of humor generally mesh…but I wouldn’t have felt comfortable asking him this in our initial interview.

      That being said, I’d probably be intrigued if someone I was interviewing asked this of me, assuming they seemed overall smart and experienced. I can see this going both well and poorly – well would be the person is with it and we bond over a shared love of nightmare sci fi scenarios, poorly is I decide they are a stoner who is stalling for time.

    22. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      “a healthy working culture where people are serious about the work they do, but also are pleasant people to be around and can have a bit of fun”

      All of these things are true about myself and my team and would not be evoked by that question at all, because the serious part means understanding context. I think in most cases, at least the sense of humor or approachability of the interviewer should be evident from the conversation about the job.

    23. LB33*

      I have no problem with off the wall questions like this, but whether or not to use them might depend on how much you need/want the job.

      If you can afford to be extremely picky and can wait for the exact right opportunity, then go for it and use every screening tool you have. On the other hand if you’ve been out of work for a few months and just need a job to keep the income flowing, you may want to be more cautious

    24. Fluff*

      Because I am a happy geek – If you ever are in Greensboro, NC, check out the restaurant Burger Warfare. Yummy and Robots. Robot decorations everywhere. It is on Battle Avenue (they really thought this through).

      And I am one of those who would probably talk far too long on that question.

    25. ThisIshRightHere*

      The day before I started at my current job, the guy leading my orientation called to ask me 3 nonsense questions of which I can only recall “what superpower would you pick?” (Teleportation, obviously) Besides the fact that this guy who was way junior to me and on a different team was in no position to “screen” me in any way, it just came across so incredibly weird. I asked why he asked, and he said it’s just something he likes to run by new employees. But it did seem very much like I was being quizzed and that there would be some slight consequence for a “wrong answer.” If it were an interview and I really wanted/needed the job, I’d try to think up an impressive answer but be irritated. If I were the interviewer being asked this, I’d humor the question but be irritated.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        That is incredibly weird and presumptuous of the person who did this. Worth a chat with their manager, honestly.

        That said, obviously, the important superpower is time travel.

    26. Miss Muffet*

      I used to work at a children’s hospital, where “fun” is a big part of the culture, for obvious reasons. But I would have been super turned off by this kind of question. I would never want to ask a candidate something this oddball and i think i would have a hard time hiding a confused look on my face if a candidate thought this was appropriate to ask me.

    27. What She Said*

      Interesting how many commenters are focused on the Syfy piece of this. To me that means you’re missing the point of the question. It’s not for everyone and that is okay.

      Personally, love the penguin in a sombrero question someone else mentioned. I’d invite him in and ask if he brought tacos.

  3. Fabian*

    #3 – it seems odd that the only two options being considered are “tell Joe he must come in for mandatory overtime” and “just don’t even ask Joe at all”.

    Surely there’s an in-between option where you just ask, “Hey Joe, it’s optional, but if you’d like to earn a bit of extra overtime pay and you don’t have existing plans tomorrow, I’d love some extra help.” Why not make it optional and let Joe decide for himself? Many, many workers will voluntarily opt-in to overtime if they get paid extra for it.

    1. Oh, Possum*

      I know, they claim to have worked with him for four years but don’t appear to know how Joe would react to any of their proposals. Haven’t they ever talked to him before?

      1. JSPA*


        Does he really have no opinions?

        “Joe, we ended up really exhausted last year because of X and Y. We’re brainstorming options. Would it be welcome, or a deal-breaker, if we set things up so that when the weather is extreme, we can try to call you in even during your scheduled vacation, and offer a bonus of some sort, when that happens?”

        Maybe Joe goes to Costa Rica for a month, or cares for his disabled granny while his sister visits her BF in Germany, and it’s 100% impossible. (He doesn’t have to explain what he’s doing that makes it impossible–only that it’s impossible.)

        Maybe Joe is also getting older, is also ground down, and he spends the first 3 days of any week off, recovering.

        Maybe Joe’s been wishing the job paid more, and would be 100% up for double overtime.

        Maybe Joe has been wishing the job paid more, and would be up for an extra 50 cents an hour, baseline, and regular overtime, in return for committing to more hours.

        Maybe Joe has a weather knee, doesn’t like working inside, or in general doesn’t want to be “kept busy” when it rains, and would happily take two floating days off when the weather is bad, in return for working massive overtime when the weather is halfways decent.

        Maybe Joe actually hates the heat, and would happily work in slush and graupel and mud season, provided he can take the hours from 1 to 4 PM off, whenever the heat index is highest in July and August.

        You can’t know until you ask!

        So, ask.

        1. mlem*

          As much criticism as this comment section gets for its “fanfic”, I think this is a great presentation of various possible outcomes that support your point (that talking to Joe openly is key).

    2. Green great dragon*

      I came here to say this. The whole approach seems weirdly formal for a 3-person operation. Ask him! Be flexible on when it’s done, if possible – maybe he’d rather work extra each weekday.

      And try to be flexible in return. If you’re open to Joe realising that it’s going to be miserable weather all week so this is a great time for him to book that mid-week spa deal/paint the kitchen/spend the day on the sofa that sounds like a win for both of you compared to making him book 4 weeks out and then being out during perfect working weather.

      1. Hanani*

        It does seem very formal, but I appreciate that the OP seems to be consciously working against both their field’s tendency to use you up and spit you out AND the hyper-small-business tendency of poor boundaries/lack of policies/we’re faaaaaaamily with employees.

        So asking Joe, and adjusting their formal policies accordingly, seems like a good move.

        1. LtBarclay*

          Yeah I suspect the formality is a result of trying to NOT be the overbearing, oversharing, bad-at-boundaries small business owner we hear about all the time, so I applaud it. It honestly sounds like they really thought things through. But, they do need to talk to Joe about the possible changes, because maybe Joe is itching for more overtime pay, who knows?

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            This was also my impression – they are bending so far over backwards to keep from being the bad no boundaries small business that they’ve gone overly structured. Maybe time for a quick chat about this change to make things move more smoothly going forward.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I thought the same thing – my parents ran a small business with a couple of employees when I was growing up, and it was far less formal. If they needed help for a shift due to excess work, they just called people to ask if they were available to come in. (If not, it was a long night, and the free child labor was called in to help with what we could.)

        I would also revisit the four-week notice requirement except for absences over a certain length, like a week or two of pre-planned vacation. Life happens, and sometimes you need a day (and sometimes, that day is not convenient with you or your employer). I find when I can be more flexible with people, they can also be more flexible with me.

    3. rew123*

      This. Are these policies really necessary due to the nature of the business or does lw just think this is how it is? All this could be discussed with the one employee. four week notice, schedules in advance, 2 weeks considered last minute, mandatory potential overtime that needs to be instituted etc. seems very rigid for 3 person company.

    4. EPLawyer*

      I think LW is stuck on we have never asked him to change his schedule in 4 years so this is a HUGE change. Instead of realizing this is quite a normal thing to do and probably not as big a deal as they think.

      But yes, TALKING to Joe is probably key.

        1. rayray*

          Yeah, even as someone who is quite shy and has had social anxiety struggles my whole life, I am surprised at how many letters are written in when it’s simply a matter that could be solved with communication and actually speaking to someone.

          On the flipside, every workplace I have ever worked at has had communication issues, so I guess it’s just a human issue all around.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          In fairness, it’s also true that many AAM solutions are “omg, why are people talking about that at work”.

    5. Gan Ainm*

      Yes! It sounds like you’ve had a good relationship with Joe, so explain the realities of the situation and the industry, offer him a little more flexibility in return, if you know which two times a year this will happen then give him the heads up and recommend he not to plan a big expensive vacation those weeks, and off you pop.

      Also fwiw I read the letter slightly differently from Alison (I think) and I read it as “two weeks notice that we MIGHT require OT, depends how much the weather messes with our big deadline”, vs “two weeks notice of a schedule change / definite OT.” Which means it might be a little more last minute than I think Alison might be envisioning, but still not a big deal for most people if they were already warned that was likely to happen.

    6. Sloanicota*

      I was trying to figure out why they couldn’t offer Joe flexibility to not come in during rainy days and make up the hours in the crunch time. I know some set-ups don’t allow for that, but that’s how my bosses have always done it for me, and I’m satisfied to work that extra weekend if I got to take the next Monday off instead, if it’s only once or twice a year.

  4. rgs*

    Re #4 – I did this once and my husband showed me how to procure the job description using the “way back machine”! If you still have the link to the page where the job description was posted, you can input it here: … then navigate to a period when it was still active on the calendar and if there’s a “snapshot” from that date range, you should be able to see it.

    Obviously I agree with Allison that it’s not a disaster just to ask for it but thought I would share this tip.

    1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

      I JUST learned about the way back machine yesterday in a training at work!!!!

    2. Not a regular*

      Also sometimes just googling will pull up the job description on other sites which may have pulled from the original if you don’t have the link.

      1. Your genderqueer dad*

        Yes this! This is how I was able to view my job description a year after I had started (for reasons) and going through HR was too complicated…

    3. Deborah*

      Yes! I came here to recommend the Wayback Machine, too! You can use that same site to save a snapshot of a site for many webpages, using the ‘save page now’ widget.

  5. Please Remove Your Monkeys from My Circus*

    #4: Not a park employee, but I was a Disney (Store) castmember. Onboarding is detailed, thorough, and propaganda-rich. (There were multiple written tests, and an automatic-fail question involved being able to correctly spell Pinocchio.) Management/oversight is omnipresent even when it isn’t visible to the casual observer, and there’s continual emphasis on culture buy-in. Vocabulary is dictated and strictly enforced, even among peers with no supervisory role over each other. I made some very good friends there I’m still close with 20+ years later, but also: the comparisons you sometimes hear to it being a cult are…not altogether inaccurate.

    But the thing that I will be irritated about until I die: during my tenure, the costume (Disneyspeak for a uniform) for female-presenting castmembers (Disneyspeak for employees) included khaki Bermuda shorts. With both ankle socks and sheer nylons. Nylons AND socks, at the same time, because apparently the sight of bare shin skin would prevent people from buying overpriced snow globes and movies on VHS in those giant plastic cases for their obnoxious children. Not that I’m still traumatized by the experience. Ahem.

    1. Mister_L*

      When I read the word costume I first thought of a full body costume until I read your “translation”. Just saying, cults tend to have a special vocabulary.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Every workplace has special vocabulary, let’s not go too far down the rabbit hole here.

        1. MurpMaureep*

          Unless one is following a white rabbit who is late for a very important date (yes I know Alice was appropriated by Disney, but I couldn’t help myself).

      2. Clisby*

        I just read it as an old-fashioned usage. “Costume” used to mean “outfit.” So you might have a bathing costume, a riding costume, etc. I’ve seen it used that way in a number of novels set 1800s through early 1900s.

        1. Wahlee*

          In this case, it really means “costume,” as all Disney employees are “Cast Members” and are essentially playing a part at all times when in view of customers/guests, aka “On stage.” It’s a big part of Disney culture.

          1. Nina*

            More cynically, it also helps support the narrative that everyone is being hired as an actor, not a (cook, cleaner, retail worker) and so can be rejected/fired based on their appearance, which would absolutely not fly otherwise.

        2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          While that’s logical, I think with Disney it truly is a costume in the theater sense. Disney parks are a giant stage production — every single person working is part of the cast, and cast members have costumes.

    2. debbietrash*

      I worked at Canada’s Wonderland (theme park in the GTA) for a summer years ago. I worked at a food station in the kid zone, and befriended one of the female custodial staff in my zone. Spring and fall all the custodial staff wore khaki pants and a butter yellow button up (each type of job — food, rides, entertainment, etc — was colour coded by the uniform). In the summer they got switched to white shirts and what can only be described as banana yellow overall clown shorts. Why not khaki shorts? Why? It still baffles me to this day.

    3. Red*

      “automatic-fail question involved being able to correctly spell Pinocchio”

      I think it says a lot that I immediately wondered if that could be considered disability discrimination, especially if an applicant had dyslexia.

      Then again I have a strong dislike of Disney as a corporation and a culture, especially given the frequent articles about employees being homeless because they’re paid so little.

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        I don’t have dyslexia and probably couldn’t properly spell Pinocchio correctly the first time even if getting a job depended on it.

    4. The Person from the Resume*

      Management/oversight is omnipresent even when it isn’t visible to the casual observer

      I think this a key answer to the LW’s question who said “they appear to work independently.” Appearances can be deceiveing. How can a guest tell the difference between the lowest level employee and a manager? Many of these employees are young, but they may have a year or two under their belt and may be management. And higher and higher level managers are only a phone call away, I’m sure hidden away behind some castle wall or something.

      1. Julian*

        Higher ranking cast members actually have different costumes! It varies by area, but there were separate costumes for grunts, coordinators, and managers. Managers were the most distinctive, they dress like traditional managers, button downs and slacks or dresses. You are correct that we’re weren’t that independent from them, we had to rely on coordinators to send us to break, dispatch the ride if we weren’t going fast enough, and determine which position to send us to (though the computer program told them where to send us and when). We did follow our individual positions fairly independently, but mostly because there were a strict set of rules and procedures for each position. This was for both safety and efficiency, and was great until the guests got mad at us for following the rules.

        In our area at least one area manager was supposed to be walking through the area at any one time. The other 2+ on duty were back in the office. I don’t know what they did, really, besides fill out incident reports and watch the guest flow numbers. I met someone who was above them once, but yeah, beyond the area managers it got murky.

    5. morethantired*

      I worked at Sephora in the early aughts and they also used this lingo. Our uniforms were “costumes.” We were “castmembers.” The sales floor was “on stage,” the stock room and such was “back stage.” Our managers were “directors.”

    6. thatoneoverthere*

      Oh man, did the park employees have to wear nylons? I cannot imagine wearing nylons in Summer in Florida!

      1. Jaq and Gus Gus*

        I worked at WDW in 2015 and nylons were allowed but not required for the female costumes. Which, thank god, because I cannot so much as *look* at nylons without causing a run.

      2. Julian*

        A lot of the costumes were designed to be worn in hot weather, but it’s still Orlando in the summer. My costume had a little like, flap, on the back of the shirt? I could not tell if it worked or not. But there was also the crowd control costume that had long pants and vest, and let me tell you that was a sweaty first day in late April, and worse on July 4th when we were drafted from our areas for extra crowd management.

    7. Jonquil*

      The “cast member” terminology tells you everything you need to know I think. Because it’s applied to everyone including the janitors and the shop assistants and the people running the rides. They hire people for their ability to perform the magic of Disney, not just do the job.

  6. Jo*

    #3. Talk to Joe. Maybe he would happily take on extra work at short notice if it means overtime pay. Maybe he has rigid responsibilities that mean he’s not flexible.
    But if he’s worked for you for 4 years and you don’t already have some idea about his situation, you really need to just ask. You may find him much more flexible than you fear.

    It wouldn’t hurt to be a bit more flexible in return for short periods of time off.

  7. GingerCookie*

    #2, I feel for you. When dumb stuff happens at my work place, I just make it work for me. My boss loves to give inspirational talks, and she is a sweet heart, but i dont give a crud. So I just sit in the back of the all-staff room, whip out my romance thriller (always keep my readers clipped to my blouse), and see what’s going happen next. If I was remote I would wip out my yarn and knit and have a nice little meditative disconnect. If it slows down business that’s my boss problem she should stop giving inspirational talks. They say if u can’t beat them join them, but no, if you can’t beat them then you act like a cat and make your own entertainment… if possible.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I’m so fascinated by this office culture you have where you can get away with reading a book while your boss is talking, but you feel you’d have to be remote to get away with knitting!

      1. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

        I was struck by that, too, but then I thought — reading is silent and doesn’t disturb/distract/get noticed by anyone else, whereas knitting involves getting the project out of a big bag, finding your place, and then the (soft) clicking of the needles and the switching the project over to work the other side. People will notice the movements associated with knitting but not with reading.

        And with reading, if you’re in the back, and you slouch down a little bit, the speaker won’t even notice that all she can see is the top of your head.

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          also maybe the book is on her phone? I spend a lot of time wiggling in meetings as I am performing listening and it’s hard.

  8. Double A*

    For letter #2, it seems to me that your bossing is indicating that, if you want, you can have a pretty relaxed stroll to retirement in a few years. ait doesn’t sound like she’s managing you closely. Do your job competently during your hours and don’t do extra. Ease into those retirement years.

    I do think for my own sanity, I’d just disconnect when she cut me off for a personal call. Then send her a chat or an email that you’re working on something else while she takes another call and please call you back at her convenience (this also serves to document how much this is happening). It might be worth it to have a holistic conversation about this but then again if you just start doing it, what is she going to do, discipline you for working instead of listening to her deal with her personal life?

    1. EPLawyer*

      LW already disconnects if the hold is more than a minute. There doesn’t seem to be any reperecussions for doing so. She can keep doing it for her sanity and as you said — stroll into retirement.

      1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

        She said she has disconnected, she should just do that more consistently.

    2. Cait*

      As soon as I read that she had to call her 28-yer-old son to get him up for work, I knew there was no way she was going to change. Someone who thinks she’s a “single mother” to two fully grown adults is a new level of deluded. So I agree, coast through these last few years and learn to accept that, if you lose business because your boss needs to talk to her friend about her grocery list, so be it.

      1. Dust Bunny*


        Somebody who is still stuck on being a “single mother” when her kids are way into adulthood (but apparently not raised to be functioning adults) is not gonna reform.

    3. mlem*

      Yeah, no more waiting — if she turns away or puts you on hold for something clearly personal, disconnect immediately. Either leave a chat/email/note that the boss can get back to you when she’s done with her personal conversation, or just fade; work on what can be worked on and set aside what needs interaction.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I think personally at first I’d wait about a minute before disconnecting and sending the chat message (just in case it is somebody else from work and they need to bring you into the call). But if that doesn’t change things (or the calls get worse) then yup, I’m disconnecting in like ten seconds and moving on to something I can do independently instead.

        And if people above her ask why we’re loosing business – point them to the chats and let them know that manager is just constantly unavailable or distracted, so you’re doing the best you can in that situation.

    4. Delta Delta*

      Exactly this. I worked with someone who would always interrupt every work conversation for her own personal stuff, so I’d just stop as if the conversation was over. I’d go back to work or hang up or whatever I was doing before. It was clear to me our work project was never going to be as important as that text from her friend who also has a dog, and I wasn’t about to sit around like a lapdog and wait for her attention. more than half the time she wouldn’t rejoin our earlier conversation, and I ended up getting more work done that way.

      I suppose the bonus of sending a chat that says “I hopped off while you called your son to wake him up” is that management can probably see it, and you’ll have a nice long thread of nothing but that.

    5. Mockingjay*

      “How do you deal with a person such as that?”

      Email. Seriously, Double A has the right idea. Do your job, follow-up with email, and let the rest go. Heck, come back and entertain us with Boss’s Tales of Woe. Treat it as watching a live soap opera.

    6. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      If they’re video meetings and you have enough external monitors that you can park the Zoom/Teams/whatever meeting off to the side, you can also just turn off your camera and mic, then post in the meeting chat that you’re going to work on something else and she should use the “raise hand” feature (or whatever) to let you know when she’s done and you should pay attention to the meeting again.

      I’ve done this a few times when I didn’t feel like waiting for the person I was meeting with to get organized enough to find whatever it is they needed next (or when I was training them on how to do something, and so the next logical step for them was 5-10 minutes of independent clicking on stuff and typing now that they knew what steps to take before they’d have more questions for me), but I also didn’t want them to interrupt me much later in my day so I wanted to wrap it up in the same meeting. (These are usually peers, but I suspect this tactic would also work with a supervisor as long as they are obviously doing something else already when you go off camera and muted.)

    1. Corporate Goth*

      Came here to say that! I’m not sure if the online version of the Disney Institute covers the same material, but the in-person, pre-Covid version definitely did. Hiring, onboarding, general training, specialized training, behind the scenes, and more.

      They had us sing “It’s a Small World,” an awful earworm of mine. They pointed out that the song isn’t going anywhere – if you hate the song, maybe you shouldn’t work at Disney. Maybe 8% of people who apply are hired.

      In another case, they asked us to reach as high as we could. Then immediately asked us to reach higher. One guy stood on a chair. The instructor promptly asked why he didn’t do that the first time.

      There are four – five now, I heard, but four then – core values that all feed into each other and are in a specific order. For instance, safety permeated everything and took a huge priority; you could theoretically be mildly rude to someone if it kept them from being injured.

      Disney has *thought* about it with serious effort and intention, down to studying how long it takes for change to fully permeate. It’s a whole ecosystem. And yes, that feeds the cult aspect a bit, but also keeps the ecosystem and its logistics functioning.

      1. bamcheeks*

        “Corporate” “Goth” and “Disney” are all such incredibly distinct identities and I’m in awe of you for vibing with all three.

      2. Melewen*

        I still remember the four core values from when I went through training 20+ years ago: safety, courtesy, show, efficiency (prioritized in that order). I worked at the top of the waterslides at Blizzard Beach, so it was especially emphasized that we could be “rude” if we saw a potentially dangerous situation.

        The onboarding also very much emphasized that guests come for the experience, and that they might only be able to come once in their lifetimes, so it was important to make it special for them. We were putting on a show. Hence calling employees “cast members” and uniforms “costumes” — as soon we walked into the public areas of the park, we were on-stage, regardless of if we were at our post or not.

        It was a great summer experience overall (though the college program could be it’s own AAM thread), and I even worked seasonally for a bit after. But yeah, working at Disney is still a JOB, even if you love Disney.

  9. Ahdez*

    #2 – I would start cutting the call if she put me on hold and sending a chipper message about wanting to get some work done on X project and for her to give you a heads up when is a good time to keep talking.

    On the other hand, at my workplace it’s pretty common for us to ask for a minute to attend to a personal issue during an internal meeting (i.e. the doorbell ringing, picking up a phone call to see if it’s urgent). If it were multiple times every single meeting it would definitely be annoying, but I guess the level of rudeness depends a bit on company culture.

    1. mlem*

      That’s 100% normal at my company, too, but there are key factors: Infrequency; relative timeliness/importance; and track record of mutual respect. “Sorry, be right back! [delay] Sorry about that, the cat was barfing on my personal laptop” or “oops, the new stove just arrived an hour early, I’ll call you back” are excused as an obviously urgent occasional/rare situations … but it’d get old if I was doing that multiple times per meeting, every meeting, every day, because why haven’t I taken steps to prevent the interruption if it’s that regular?

  10. Anblick*

    LW1: I gathered this advice basically from reading this blog! I always plan my interview questions and my go-to ones if I don’t have anything I want to ask specifically:
    -What differentiates a good candidate for this role vs a great one?
    -Can you describe just a general overview of what a day in this role looks like?
    -Do you have any other questions for me that we haven’t covered?
    I interviewed to get a promotion at my company last year when my old department was made redundant and I went from hourly to salaried (pay increase: about 46% plus bonuses) and I am now considered management. (btw: thank you so much Allison, you really helped me and a lot of other people!)

    1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

      I also ask what I like to think of as “what did the last one die of?” (or, if you’re being nice, “Why is this position vacant?”)

      Also, what does a week or a year look like?

    2. Smithy*

      I work in a sector where it’s not uncommon to have 4+ interviews, and so more practical questions are going to be exhausted by the time you get to the later rounds. Therefore, I think that versions of asking the person you’re talking to for their individual/specific perspective on the role.

      Therefore – what would a successful candidate’s work in this role look like after one year, TO YOU – is a question that can be asked in every interview provided at least one person is new. If you have one or two interviewers who are in the room who were there before, so it’s a question only directed to the new person, it’s also a chance for them to compare how they answered differently after the fact. And shows that you’re not on autopilot because you remembered who you asked that to the first time.

      That’s also a question I genuinely find interesting to hear about from different people at the junior, peer, supervisor, and more senior level.

    3. Clorinda*

      I guess that if you really think all your questions have been answered, you can reframe one of the answers back into a question.
      “I understood you to say that the policy regarding cats is that if a cat is in your lap, you are not permitted to make any sudden movements or loud noises, am I correct in this interpretation?”

    4. smallness*

      Yep – I’ve used “What, for you, would differentiate a good person in this role from a great person in this role?” in multiple interviews, and it always goes over well.

  11. Jen in Oregon*

    At the end of the fourth interview, I think my only question would be “How many more interviews before y’all poop or get off the pot?”

    1. Lawyer*

      I work in Biglaw. A screening interview followed by a half day interview with four people, then lunch, is common. In the UK a full day is common. In banks it is similar, except that for new analysts and associates everyone interviews in the same day.

      1. Skippy*

        I long for the days when organizations would do a screening interview, followed by a half day or full day of interviews! That used to be the standard in my industry, but now it’s three, four, or even more different interviews dragged out over weeks, which is a real pain if you already have a job.

        Either way, by the last interview, it does get harder and harder to find good questions to ask, so I absolutely feel for LW2.

      2. WantonSeedStitch*

        My workplace is similar. Phone screen with HR, then 4-6 interviews of about 45 minutes each over the course of a day. It’s not about making it to the next round of interviews as it is getting perspectives from people who would be working with the candidate in various capacities: direct manager, often their manager, peer, sometimes a direct report, and sometimes colleagues or internal clients from other teams that work closely with the role.

    2. SJ*

      Goodness yes, there are very few roles where you should need this many rounds and generally it comes down to poor planning or indecision.

      In the current climate asking candidates to spare that much time is counterproductive, it leads to people dropping out or (usually correctly) feeling you don’t value their time.

      As for being put out that people have asked all their questions by round 4, just weird to me.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        By round four, I’m starting to suspect the company doesn’t know what they want in this role.

        1. alienor*

          Last time I was looking for a new job, the record was seven interviews with one company, and then they ghosted me after the seventh one. I was not impressed at all!

      2. amoeba*

        Yeah, for some reason it feels different that a whole or half day with multiple interviews in one. The latter is quite common in my industry. Probably because it eliminates at least the waiting times between the rounds? I already find those excruciating, cannot imagine having to do that five times. Also, would be nice to have an idea from the beginning of how many rounds there are going to be. Otherwise I’d just be hoping for a decision to then get… yet another interview invitation.

    3. Smithy*

      In my sector it’s very common.

      Screening interview, supervisor interview, panel interview, and then usually one or two others. I’m not going to stand up and say how much I love it, but just that in some professional worlds its common and the usual questions to ask at that stage are to repeat ones, but ask them directed to the specific person interviewing you. How that person defines a strong candidate in the role, how that person defines success in the position, etc. Normally across the interviews they’re not with the same people at all times, so repeating questions makes sense.

  12. Inkognyto*

    I worked standard fun Park in Minnesota in the early 90’s. Think ‘six’ flags but not part of that. It’s been renamed now. I can talk about this as the processes have changed and it’s not the same park.

    My interview was all math questions, why? I also aced it which felt good to get 100 accounting questions right, having no background in it but just being good at math.
    I was in ‘cash control’.
    I was 18 just after high school, everyone else was 19+ in accounting and coming back for year 2+. I started mid way through the season (end of June).

    I was told if I didn’t hit certain marks I’d be placed in other depts based on other questions, but this was a high priority fill.

    I came in anywhere from 2-5pm and worked until my portion was complete. It was easily a 50-65+ hr a week job. I had a uniform that was a bland 1 color polo shirt and kahki pants. There was always at least 2 out of 3 clean ones in there. We locked our wallet (with ID) into our locker. They wanted no one on site with any $.

    I wasn’t allowed to show my badge (we kept it in our pocket). This dept counted ALL of the money and the bags that came in from the various portions of the park. The various portions that did the prize areas would bring in bags after their shift with the money counted. We would verify the amount. If it was wrong adjust it. The paper for the amounts would be handed to mgmt to deal with for errors etc.

    Everything was hand counted 2x by 2 people.
    Those machines that count bills? We did check with those 1x but bills especially new ones can get stuck together so the machines while accurate are not 100%.

    I prob cannot do it now but then I could count a stack of 100 bills in under 10s accurately for years.

    Checks (cuz it was the 90’s) were also all totaled up and verified by 2 people. (Handwriting so we had to be sure).

    We could not tell anyone which dept we worked for at the park.
    Mostly no one asked because they knew we existed and could get in trouble for that.

    This is before good camera tech. There was oh 20+ cameras watching us. But we were ‘ghosts’.
    The early camera’s would burn the image of objects into the lenses. So if a machine or desk was in a spot for years, a faint image would still show even if it moved. The guards showed us because they had a question what were doing sometimes in some spots. We had to explain it.

    Cash pickups at the front gate were exciting and stressful. If too much money was up there, someone would have to go get it.

    1) They gave you a plain backpack
    2) Security guard would shadow you 10-20meters.
    3) DO NOT run, walk, and make sure not have security fall behind.
    You could glance around and see them but don’t like stare at them. You are to act like a visitor
    4) If someone asks you a question like you work there, lie, and be like. “I don’t work here, see no badge” and state something to get away. I had one person ask me directions once. I feigned I did not know and said I was going to the bathroom. I would smile while I walked like was having a good time.
    5) Under no circumstance drop the backpack. Listen to anything security tells you do.
    6) knock on the door at the front gate back door
    7) get the cash they’d show you the slip amount etc.
    repeat on reverse with 1 exception.
    Cash pickup would happen each day sometime with a hired armored truck.

    any employee going back to the employee area would get stopped and held up by security. Cash control was right there in the back. The armored truck would be sitting there.
    The break area was actually in the middle of the park so often you’d get stopped coming back from that area. It was an area that served food for guests on 1 side and employee’s on the other with a discount for us.

    I got stopped there once coming back with like $60k in a backpack. It was stressful. The security guard didn’t crowd me but was nervous as I had lots of other employees by me, and I wasn’t supposed to talk to them and they were talking to me, I was trying to be polite. He got on the radio and security let me through after like 5 min with an escort. The cash pickup could take 10-15min while as there was all kinds of things that had a process for. When I got inside I was like “Oh glad I got let through and the mgr said was telling security to let me through and the armored guys didn’t want too. Until she stated that there was a ‘cash pickup of at least $30k’ from the front gate being held up by their truck.

    The other fun part. The Arcade. Oh yeah. This was done after park closing no security guards.
    Depending how busy it was and 2-5 people would go to do this.
    1-2 would open ALL of the doors with the keys.
    The rest of us would grab some cash bags and dump the coins (all quarters), from the bins. We took a golf cart over to put the coins in as it was heavy.

    Including going over there and coming back we got 1-1.5 hrs to do this more on weekends as the machines would sometimes go into the overflow bin so you had to dump 2. You could empty it with 2 people in 25-30 min, 20 min if you rushed. 3+ 15 min easy.
    Then you’d play video games. The machines were open you’d just reach inside and hit the count up a bunch and play. We’d usually all get on the 2-4 racing games etc. Play for 20-30 minutes close all of the doors. Then we’d race back through the park in a golf cart.
    The coins would be counted in the coin machine counters.

    It was an interesting summer job. I learned a lot about how to handle money and do accounting.

    later I got a Fast Food job in my early 20’s. I mostly cooked, sometimes running a Cash Register.
    I often accurately hand counted my drawer in under 2 minutes. The mgr was baffled. I told them to count $ for a summer for a theme park. “But I do it here every day, and I said you count a few drawers. I’d count six figures daily”

    I cannot do this now. But then it was all about the correct grip and slip of the bill edges through the hands.

    1. uncivil servant*

      That’s super interesting! I worked in games (including the arcade) at an amusement park where I made change. Even during a busy shift I could barely clear $1000 on whack-a-mole or the like and the cash counting process was so intense. I cannot imagine how that would scale up to deal with tens of thousands of dollars.

      Once, when I was cashing out late at night and we were all tired, the cash lead and I both counted two rolls of $2 coins as $50, instead of $100. And you know once you make a mistake once, you tend to double down on it so we kept counting it the same way. They had security on the phone ready to start a theft investigation when one of us realized the error. I’d been working there all summer and had never lost money so there really was no room for trust in the system.

    2. urguncle*

      I worked the front gate at an amusement park and LOTS of people paid for their tickets in cash. We were supposed to ask for a cash out every 2-4 hours, but one holiday was exceptionally busy and I couldn’t get a supervisor to come in and let me cash out. Finally after about 8 hours and 0 pee breaks, I had a chance to count and cash my drawer out and it was over $40,000. So I stuffed that all into one of the little Naugahyde cash pouches and gingerly walked it over to the counting room. Came back and worked another 8 hours before cashing out a drawer (with credit cards) well into the 6 figures.

    3. SJ (they/them)*

      I grew up going to that park before it changed names and I’m still weirdly sad about it, it was never the same after.

  13. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

    A close relative of mine works for Disney Cruises! He oversees training which is like three-dimensional chess – hospitality & crew members from all over the world have to have up-to-date training certificates (some of these have to be renewed frequently, I think sometimes every six months?) or the ship don’t sail. He doesn’t do people management of crew/customer-facing roles, so I can’t speak to that, but I am so mind blown whenever he tells me about the complexity of the job. Like, from every hospo worker needing to have responsible service of alcohol training, working with children checks etc, to all the crew members being qualified to operate their… bit of the machinery… and they all have to travel from their home country to the place the training is delivered to the ship. Amazing.

    1. Jules*

      I have a friend who does this for Disney Cruise Lines, too! Listening to her explain her job – even the routine stuff – is really interesting. Wonder if they know each other…

  14. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP2 (boss and personal calls) – I know how it is to work with someone like this, although in my case she was a peer rather than my boss. Not sure if she ever said “you don’t understand…” but I could easily picture it. She had 3 adult offspring all of whom had clearly been brought up to be dependent on her for even the silly smallest things. She was quite overbearing but also they seemed to want her to do everything for them… It is really quite a codependent sort of thing. They need her as they’re too inept to deal with things themselves but also she needs to be needed…

    I think this is actually easier to deal with as your boss than it would be with a peer. Why do you need those calls with her? Is it to get agreement / approval for things? If so, carry on as you would if she wasn’t there due to an actual emergency or whatever, move projects forward with your colleague and involve the boss less. If they are regularly scheduled meetings ask when is a good time to reschedule them to (for the series, not just ad hoc) as that time slot doesn’t seem to be working.

    If she has so much time to spend on all this and is only the manager of 2 people I’d be wondering if the position is really needed… perhaps she should be laid off and then she’d have all day to deal with trivia!

  15. Creating Magic*

    #5 – “Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney” by Lee Cockerell (Executive Vice President, Operations, for Walt Disney World for over ten years) is an excellent book covering the leadership principles employed at Disney.

  16. UKgreen*

    If I were Lw1 I’d probably ask why the company feels it needs FOUR rounds of interviews…

  17. Never The Twain*

    Re. the aliens vs. robots thing, I’d probably want to know more about the aliens – rightly or wrongly, I’d see robots as uniform, but aliens could be anything, and as we’ve sadly seen recently, it’s too easy to lump all non-PLU*s into a generalised bundle of others-to-be-feared – in fact, it’s pretty much dictionary xenophobia.
    Also, I’d be interested to know at what point and why the questioner saw the interaction as an ‘invasion’.
    So yeah, it could be a useful starting point for finding out more, but the questioner better be ready to play their part in the discussion.

    * People Like Us

    1. Area Woman*

      This is how we do it sometimes! It doesn’t have to be a dissertation from the person getting the question. It can totally be a dialogue. I have a colleague who asks how one would prepare for a zombie apocalypse. We don’t hold it against a person if they can’t really answer if they seem like they weren’t prepared for that kind of question. But if we can’t start chatting about a show, or a hobby or a silly plan because the person is so flustered, that is good information to have. They might not be very adaptable.

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        HR was VERY explicit that we weren’t to delve into hobbies or non-work interests (can introduce potential for bias) when interviewing applicants. I would be flustered if someone asked me about something I’ve been coached to avoid in interviews because I’d be wondering if my hobbies would be a plus or a minus to the person asking.

        FWIW, it’s also why I don’t particularly care for the example of Zombies v. Aliens. Despite me being a huge sci-fi fan, it has real potential for screening for dude-bros who have probably never experienced toxic gatekeepers in the fandom. And as someone mentioned above, it screams dog-whistle to me, and if a candidate asked it of me, I’d have some concerns.

        1. Relentlessly Socratic*

          And, of course, I meant *robots v aliens. Zombie uprisings are a different genre altogether.

  18. JSPA*

    #2, unless someone is going to fire you for performance metrics, or get on your case for not blowing the whistle, this isn’t a problem for you, it’s a problem for your boss’s boss (if they even care).

    Look at it this way: some time per day of your job definition is currently, “doing sudoku and wordle or scrolling pinterest on my personal phone, with my video off, while on hold with the boss.” You’re getting paid to do it.

    I know, I know, you have pride in your work, and you have customers you hate to disappoint. But you simply can’t care more about this than your company does. If you are worried it will reflect badly on you, tally up how much time you spend on hold, and make a spreadsheet (not on a work computer). If anyone asks why you’re not getting more done, “I am on hold for roughly 2 hours of every day with my boss, and don’t have the standing to hang up on them, so I made a spreadsheet to confirm the extent of the problem” should cover your ass.

    Also, once you’re no longer trying to make your boss be different–and again, this is NOT YOUR JOB!–your boss may be more amenable to hearing, “I know that things can really blow up on the home front; how long do you want me to hang on hold while you’re dealing with a crisis, as opposed to hanging up, so that you can call back when more convenient?”

    You could also try, “when I’m on hold, do you want me to work out alternative options, so that I can give you a choice of solutions, once the crisis is averted, and you get back on our call?”

    In contrast, if your main focus is, “how rude / I’m being disrespected,” you have no way to a better situation, and you WILL hear, each time, about how the shopping list issue was in fact a crisis.

  19. Nobby Nobbs*

    I worked backstage at a (non-Disney) amusement park for a while. For a company that had a contract with them, which was the best of both worlds: higher pay AND access to the on-site employee cafeteria! The thing that always stuck out to me was how much smaller everything looks from the employee’s perspective, sort of perpendicular to the usual optical illusions. And it was always a little thrill to touch the (properly locked out, safety first!) tracks and supports of the roller coasters, after a lifetime of not being allowed to do that.

  20. Whyblue*

    #1 – I actually find it helpful to ask different people the same question to see if the answer varies. It’s part of my due diligence. It can be very telling if upper management and middle management have a different take on things, or the reason why a previous employee left changes suddenly, etc. If someone remarks on me asking the same thing again, I smile and tell them that I consider that due diligence – so far, no one ever took issue with that, and I would want to screen out anyone who did.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yep, I find having at least one question that’s consistent from interview to interview very helpful. Mine is typically about culture, which is pertinent to my role as well as just my personal happiness. Other’s may have something else they want a 360 perspective of (teams, hours, management style, internal initiatives, etc), but it’s good to think about what you really value in a workplace and ask a few people for their experience.

    2. Sloanicota*

      I think part of the subtext there was also “you’ve got some facetime with this higher up whose availability is limited, this is a big opportunity to get their insights” – a bit of ego from the guy, maybe, but it’s a hierarchical org, it’s also possible this guy has the best/most complete insight into things no other employee has the full picture on. So yes, repeat a question.

    3. Antilles*

      Agreed 100%. Especially when it comes to a question about company culture or working styles, it’s important to get multiple perspectives.
      Sometimes you’ll get a noticeably different response that raises a red flag – the upper manager talked about employee flexibility and work life balance, then when you ask that same question of a more junior employee, there’s some awkward hesitation that tells you how the company really feels.
      Other times, you’ll have multiple people give similar responses (framed slightly differently by personal style), which can help indicate that it’s not just corporate speak but something the company actually practices.
      Either way, it’s quite useful to ask the same question from various people.

    4. Sara without an H*

      Ditto. I spent 35 years in higher education, an industry in which it’s not unusual for interviews to take up to two days. I learned early on that asking the same question of different audiences could be illuminating.

  21. Onward*

    #2 — The “single mom” line she gave you when her two boys are grown adults… oh, brother…

    It reminds me of a coworker of mine who would often equate needing to take care of her teenage sons with people who have toddlers at home.

    Just creating more man-babies for people to deal with later on – like with needing to call a 28 year old man (!!!) to get up for work. My mother does the same thing with my now 31 year old brother though… Infuriating.

  22. FashionablyEvil*

    #2–I had a boss who was flaky and what really helped was reframing my expectations. I never expected him to be on time to our meetings so if he was, it was a pleasant surprise! I always made sure I had a list of mission-critical items I needed his input on so I could prioritize those, but otherwise, I just let him flake. Also recommend the “disconnecting after a minute and sending an email” route too. Basicall

  23. idk*

    #4: I’ve had this happen to me before. I’ve found that if the job is posted on other “job boards” besides just the company website, such as Glassdoor or Indeed, that posting is usually still around even after it closes on the company site. I just googled “position company town state” and I was usually able to find the job description.

  24. L-squared*

    I worked at Disney. The big thing to understand is every role is very managed, but also very different. In the parks, each area is like its own department. some, like attractions, are very closely managed, others, like custodial, are much more independent. But across the property, it can be like almost different companies. The experience my friends had as a lifeguard at a waterpark was very different than someone working merchandise at a resort.

    As someone said upthread, most people who work there, love Disney. So if you are in a role you like, its actually pretty easy to be happy. Even cynical people by nature tend to feel good about making kids smile.

    Another thing though, there is lots of communication. So many people have radios so any minor thing can get dealt with VERY quickly.

    1. Fern*

      Years ago I went to a professional development opportunity by someone who works for Disney’s HR/training area. I work in higher education, but the idea was to learn about customer service from a different industry. One thing that stuck out to me was that everyone is called a cast member, even if they aren’t performing. Is this true? I found the uniformity that everyone believes they’re part of the “show” and are all part of a guest’s experience whether they’re Mickey Mouse or the guy serving churros interesting (both good and bad interesting, if we’re being honest).

      1. FroggerMan*

        Yep, every public-facing employee for Disney is a “Cast Member”! Actually, this even extends to those working the Disney Stores in your local mall. They’re that dedicated to the Disney Magic.

      2. doreen*

        My daughter worked at a World of Disney store ( not the same as the Disney store, World of Disney is run by the theme park division ) and everyone was part of the show – employees were cast members, uniforms were costumes, you don’t work on the floor or in the stockroom you’re either onstage or backstage. Which makes a certain amount of sense for the theme parks- after all, for some people it’s a once in a lifetime trip and just like Cinderella is expected to act a certain way even if she’s having a bad day, the retail/food service employees are expected to do the same. Which doesn’t mean they have to tolerate inappropriate behavior from customers but it does mean that some employee behavior that is acceptable at some other retail/food service/theme parks won’t be accepted at Disney.

    2. LW5*

      This makes a lot of sense, thinking of all the different parts of the park and resorts as departments — that I can wrap my brain around. Still wouldn’t want to manage one of those departments myself though!

  25. I don't mean to be rude, I'm just good at it*

    I take my son and his friends to Dorney Park two or three times a week. The boys run all over the park and I find a park bench to read a book and phone surf.

    The major difference that I have noticed in employee behavior; the people at Dorney rarely have smiles. Many people look sullen, not necessarily unhappy, but I imagine there is little joy in their day at work.

    If I were to consult with Dorney management, my major focus would be to change this part of the culture of the park.

    1. blueberry gone plaid*

      This is likely because Dorney is a seasonal park that can’t afford to keep year-round employees on. When your jobs are seasonal, it’s much harder to find experienced, mature candidates, and so the majority of seasonal theme park workers are very young. Many are just looking for a job to fill their breaks between schooling, and aren’t necessarily coming there because they’re passionate about theme park work. The turnover rate is probably very high as well.

      None of this to say that being unfriendly or unhelpful is acceptable- it absolutely isn’t! But I’ve noticed the same thing at regional theme parks and been disappointed.

      Honestly, as a former Disney employee who spent years in their customer service sector, I’ve found that Disney totally reset the bar for what I consider to be excellent customer service, and I’m often disappointed across industries when others feel the service was perfectly satisfactory.

      1. Nina*

        I’m from New Zealand, and we have, among other things, a very high minimum wage relative to median wage, and no tipping culture. None. Zero. Doesn’t happen. So people working customer service roles are wayyyyyy less dependent, moment-to-moment, on doing whatever it takes to make the specific customer in front of them happy right now than they are in the US. If the service is truly egregious, some people might consider leaving a TripAdvisor or Google review, or maybe mentioning it to a manager if they can find one.

        When I was in the US I was fascinated by the customer service. Waitstaff in diners (I went to Dennys, don’t judge) were crazy attentive compared to what I’m used to, and honestly I didn’t like it at all. I felt hovered over. They refilled my coffee, repeatedly, without being asked.

        I’m probably rambling but even baseline US customer service is so intense compared to many other countries, I think I would actively die if I went to Disney.

        1. Jonquil*

          I’m from Australia and it’s the same here. American customer service is wild, and even like, people on the street are unusually friendly and demonstrative. I went to Disney for the first time in my late 20s, not having really grown up enmeshed in Disney movies or anything and I was absolutely blown away. It is the most amazing experience. Just the level of thought put into the littlest details, it really is another level.

    2. The Eye of Argon*

      (Wow, when I was a kid, going to Dorney was a once-a-year calendar event. I can’t imagine being able to there multiple times a week! Young Me’s mind is seriously blown.)

      The thing is, for the park employees, it is just another day at work and even ostensibly fun activities get boring after a while, and customer service jobs grind you down – most customers are neutral, some are great, but it only takes one stinker to ruin your day. It’s loud, it’s hot, and it’s chaotic.

      By “change the culture” I’m not sure if you mean “change things so the employees are happier” or “employees should look happier.” I don’t know what park management could do about either. From reading this blog, the things that really make employees happy are better pay and more tangible benefits. With so many, mostly part-time seasonal employees I don’t know what management could do by way of increased wages, time off, or better shift coverage because their eye will always be on the bottom line.

      And trying to enforce forced happiness would quickly make them very very very unhappy indeed.

    3. MsM*

      My primary memory of Dorney Park is that I got a horrific case of sun poisoning there, so all I can think is, “yeah, I don’t blame them for not being smiley.”

    4. Queen Ruby*

      Ah I remember having a season pass to Dorney when I was in high school….the good old days lol
      I think part of it is that Dorney hires a lot of kids. I don’t know if this is still the case, but they used to be able to hire as young as 14 years old. So employees are young, inexperienced, it’s usually hotter than hell in the summer, and let’s face it, Dorney has busloads of annoying people visiting it most days lol. If I had to work there, I’d definitely look miserable.

    5. Nonke John*

      “Many people look sullen, not necessarily unhappy, but I imagine there is little joy in their day at work.”

      If you don’t want people being gretzy (or at least sullen) at you, you’ll probably need to go to an amusement park in…I dunno, the South or something. :) Germans who had something to smile about didn’t come over to PA three hundred years ago, and even the more diverse Lehigh Valley of today retains their standoffish cultural heritage. (I’m from Vera Cruz, with one of those surnames that sound, to most English speakers, like a cupful of jello salad slamming into a concrete pavement.)

      And the commenters above are right, I think: Dorney is a seasonal job, even for those who really like it and return for a few years. It’s not a year-round way of life like Disney.

  26. Snarky Librarian*

    Time to dust off my Disney memories! I was a cast member at Disney World in the early 2000s. I was in college at the time and my roommate worked there and helped me get a job. It might be different now, but my training started with 2 full days at Disney University. Every single person that started at the same time I did went through the training together. They hit us HARD with the lingo (uniforms were costumes, etc) and really indoctrinated us with the idea that we were helping provide a magical experience for the guests. It was actually a lot of fun, and we all felt like we were doing something special.

    You don’t see the supervisors, but they are there. I got pulled one night to work at a different park and unbeknownst to me, my manager followed me there and was hiding in the bushes watching me to do an “observation.” I found out about that at my next performance evaluation because he told me and let me know I was getting marked down because I stopped for 2 minutes to watch the fireworks. Yes he timed me. That was pretty creepy for a 18 year girl to hear that her 40 something male manager was hiding in the literal bushes, watching her.

  27. You Can't Pronounce It*

    LW 3: I don’t see anything wrong with requesting OT once or twice a year, especially with 2 weeks notice. However, requiring 4 weeks to request time off seems excessive. Life happens.

  28. thatoneoverthere*

    Unless its been specifically covered I like to ask about training. This can tell you alot about a company and their expectations for you. I worked somewhere (very briefly bc it was a dumpster fire), that didn’t do any training. They were so upset that I hadn’t grasped the job on like day 2 or 3 that I got screamed at.

    If they can tell you we do XYZ for training, or there is a class you will take, or you shadow etc. That is a good sign IMO.

    Other questions to ask-
    1. What do they like about working for XYZ company?
    2. Can they describe the culture to you?
    3. Can you tell me what the procedure is for PTO? Can I flex my hours for appointments etc?
    ** I like to ask this question to see their reaction. Some people may disagree, but this can tell you alot about your future boss. Are they going to be the type that gives you trouble for asking for time off? Are they a reasonable person who knows you have a life outside of work? You can tell alot about someone by their reaction to this.

    1. KToo*

      The training one is a good question. I was hired at one place where I didn’t know the industry at all; deep knowledge of the product wasn’t mandatory for my role, but knowing at least the terms was necessary. Their training on the first day was to have me sit at a spare little table they had placed in a back hallway and read 2 of their promotional company fliers. The other woman and I who were hired into the newly created roles were also not trained on their new computer system that had just been implemented and no one at the company really knew how to use it except one person who was not at all tech-savvy so would tell us to skip whatever parts she didn’t know how to do. We were expected to take all the old paper files and enter them into the new (and not properly working) systems – all without knowing how to use the system or being familiar with the language used/needed.

      We both quit within 2 months.

  29. Anon too*

    Not a Disney employee, but a 30+ year critical care nurse in a pediatric hospital with 10 years in leadership there. At some point the leadership/management training began to draw heavily from various Disney executive training philosophies and books, as did the general system-wide culture mandatory culture training.
    While “happiest place on earth” images make good media copy to donors and the public, it sets unreasonable expectations on the frontline of patient care. Management sided more and more with unreasonable family expectations and against medical realities, at times placing staff in physical danger.
    Hiring and promotion practices insidiously changed and we were overwhelmingly staffed by a homogeneous group of Disney princess physical-type employees who often received promotions ahead of more qualified and experienced peers At times this was via appointment, bypassing the required interview process.
    Finally, this image>>substance philosophy started to show more and more when I could not get safety issues resolved. Even after taking them to the top, alone or as a group, with well documented evidence of better practices, it was the proverbial brick wall.
    By no means was the poorly applied Disney management training the only culprit in my situation, but it always makes me sad when I see an environment with such a strict facade and wonder what is lurking behind the scenes.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Agreed! The purpose of Disney is for people to have a good–magical, even–time. The purpose of a hospital is to heal people’s health conditions. Very different goals!

    1. The Eye of Argon*

      Good lord, in what universe do you base the running of a hospital on the running of a theme park??

    2. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      Yes, let’s staff and manage our hospital according to amusement park practices. Brilliant. What could possibly go wrong.

    3. Ginger Cat Lady*

      There’s a whole book about this! It’s “If Disney Ran Your Hospital” and anyone who manages people at my hospital had to read. It…didn’t translate as well as they hoped.

  30. ecnaseener*

    #2, I think as much as you can, try to separate out the work impact of this behavior from your personal opinions on her parenting. Not that you’re wrong – it does sound ridiculous – but the impact on you is the same whether she’s calling her grown son to make sure he gets to work vs. calling her friend about groceries. Just pretend everything falls into that second category, for your own sanity & for the sake of not letting her sense your contempt. (And because it *is* ultimately all the same category; she’s calling an adult in her personal life for a non-emergency.)

  31. FroggerMan*

    Interestingly, a lot of former Disney “face characters” (like the princesses, Peter Pan, etc.) and “mascots” (Winnie the pooh, Olaf, etc.) starts blogs, tiktok pages, and youtube channels after the fact. They usually detail things like the casting process, the training, the day-to-day of what their roles actually entailed. It’s a fascinating rabbit hole to go down.

    The most interesting thing I learned: the Princesses have the most rigorous training, including wig maintenance and cosmetic training, since they have to do their hair and make-up identically every time. I don’t know if it’s true anymore, but Disney also had their own in-house cosmetic line just for face characters for Maximum Consistency.

    1. The Eye of Argon*

      I remember one former character player (he played the tall characters like Tigger and Goofy) did an Ask Me Anything thread on a message board I used to read, and it was fascinating. There was stuff I’d never have thought of in a million years. Like everyone who played a given character had to practice signing their autograph with the costume’s gloves on over and over until it matched the “real” signature perfectly. Because part of the Disney illusion is that it’s not some random mook in a Tigger suit signing his autograph; it’s the One True Tigger and he always signs his name perfectly.

      Other stuff was kind of gross, like he described the costumes’ interiors as “a pair of underwear on suspenders” and after a few hours in the Florida sun they got pretty ripe (urk). In fact it could get so hot that players had to be swapped out as often as every ten minutes to prevent heatstroke, but they were never allowed to say Tigger was going on break. They had to have an in-character excuse like Tigger had to go for his bouncing lessons or Pooh was taking a honey break.

      He hinted at the shenannigans the (young and restless) employees got up to out of public view, but unfortunately didn’t go into specifics.

    2. LW5*

      Fascinating! I would love to talk to a former princess — like, how weird is it to know that you are in thousands and thousands of families’ photos?? I could see that being one of the most rewarding roles though, if even half the kids are excited and starstruck to meet them as my daughter was.

  32. PsychNurse*

    I have the same questions about Disney! Also, every employee is the best worker I’ve ever seen. I got my NAIL done at a Disney salon and it was the best manicure I’ve ever had, as far as technical skill goes. They hire so so well.

  33. JustMe*

    LW 6 – Slightly off topic but still funny–in the 70s my mom was an 18 year old hippie who wore short skirts and thought it would be “fun” to be Snow White at Disneyland. She went to an interview (same as any other job interview) with absolutely no prep, and her two boyfriends waited for her in the waiting room and apparently caused mayhem. When asked why she wanted the job, she said something to the effect of, “I want to be Snow White!” The interviewer ended the interview very quickly and told her on no uncertain terms, “Don’t call us; we’ll call you.” She still laughs about how it must have been one of the most unprofessional interview they’d ever seen.

  34. Yesterday’s Bingo*

    My interview question is usually “what was a recent project your team worked on?” so I can get an idea of the practical day to day assignments.

    (also, I’m team aliens. Getting to know a totally non-human culture, even if they’re aggressive, would be the anthropology lesson of a lifetime!)

  35. K8M*

    I worked one summer at a famous Ohio theme park, in the water park section as a lifeguard. It was the hardest job I’ve ever had. We worked 12 hour days, 6 days a week for just over minimum wage, with a $1 an hour bonus at the end of the summer if you completed your contract (this was not a common outcome). The turnover was huge, and very few people made it through the whole summer. I lived about 40 minutes from the park, and I chose to drive in everyday rather than live in the really crappy dorm situation. I feel like this is the only reason I made it the whole season.
    Daily supervision was also a very high turnover position, so we were under constant turmoil. One of the things that I still remember 22 year later is every single word to every “beach themed” and Jimmy Buffett song that was played in a constant loop. I hate them all.
    I did buy my first car at the end of the summer though.

      1. The Eye of Argon*

        …and I’m sitting here wondering what Jimmy Buffet song rhymes with Shmedar Joint. I blame the time change ::facepalm::

    1. thatoneoverthere*

      My friend worked at Shemdar Joint and described exactly what you said. It was awful, but at least you got the bonus at the end of the summer. He missed most weekends of his freshman year of college bc he wanted that end of season bonus!

    2. g39d*

      I worked at a famous Ohio theme park as well for 4 summers. My first summer was in one of the stores and it was the only place in the park that sold cigarettes – we charged $4 a pack and it made people furious at the time.

      The final three summers were as a lifeguard in the water park with the last summer of that being a supervisor. I hated it an d loved it. I probably worked 70ish hours a week but you did not get overtime since the work was seasonal. It was incredibly boring at times but you did work with a people your own age and I was good friends with everyone. The downside? At one point they told us 1 out of 7 lifeguards get skin cancer and now 18 years later I have had stage 1 melanoma which is directly related to 4 straight summers shirtless (I am fine/treated).

      To answer the original writers questions… everything about theme parks is layered in management. With ours you had the overall rides boss, a water park boss, multiple mangers, and then supervisors who oversaw a “crew” of lifeguards. There were frequent walk arounds by everyone above you so that if your lifeguards were not acting professional they would talk to you about it and you were incentivized to correct bad behavior before senior managers caught it. There are built in rotations, rides and lines are well timed, and cameras are everywhere. Breaks and shifts are very well scheduled and generally everything is slightly overstaffed (there were times I’d be sent home as we had too many people and the park wasn’t busy).

      1. g39d*

        Also to add a comment… the first two summers they had two cds for music: a general beach theme and beach boys greatest hits. The third summer they reconverted the water park to an australian theme. I hate all the music.

    3. Sharkey*

      I worked at that Ohio theme park’s Minnesota location for a single month in the summer of 1988. I was in the Merch department, which meant working in stores, watching out for shoplifters and accepting wet money that people took out of their shoes. And lo, these many years later, I still know the songs that were on the soundtrack. At one point, I could name the song that would be played next, but thankfully my brain has forgotten that level of detail.

      1. thatoneoverthere*

        I worked at Hard Rock Cafe in the early 2000s. At that time they had alot of their music play on a loop. I can’t watch Rocky Horror Picture Show anymore due the shear fact I heard Time Warp 7+ times a day for a year.

    4. alex (they/them)*

      I have frequented a famous Ohio theme park for most of my life, and have noticed the park being constantly understaffed, even more so recently. :(

      1. K8M*

        PreCovid, a lot of the workers were college students from other countries who could spend their summer earning more than they would back home and not need to work during the school year. They weren’t able to do that due to pandemic restrictions so there was a huge staffing issue for the last couple years. On top of that, the job sucks. I wouldn’t recommend it to my own kids today.

    5. Grogu's Mom*

      I worked at the same park a couple decades ago for a summer during college. There are some people who loved it and thrived, and others who hated it and gave up the bonus to leave. My sister and I both worked there the same summer, shared a dorm room right outside the employee entrance (1 min commute to work!) – she hated it and left, while I loved it. I think the difference was in our jobs. She worked retail, first at an outdoor pin cart in the hot sun, and then finally got moved inside after many requests. Whereas I worked the kiddy rides. I was training to be a teacher at the time so I needed experience with kids (and parents) and to combine that with amusement park rides was awesome. I didn’t (and still don’t) drive so I needed a place that had an easy commute, and this park fit the bill.

      It was definitely something I only could have done as a young person. The hours were very long, lots of split schedules or even open-close schedules during the busiest days. And the work was monotonous, so much so that I dreamt I was doing my job, every night all night. Load the kids, start the ride, run it for 60 seconds, stop the ride, unload the kids, load the kids, start the ride…. I joked that I worked 24-7 since I was doing it in my dreams. But it wasn’t so bad with the kiddy rides because there were 13 of them and we cycled through every half hour, so at least you had a different view even if the majority of them were some time of vehicle that moved around in a circle. And you got to watch little kids experience pure joy, what is better than that?

      I ate almost exclusively from the vending machine and employee cafeteria to save cash, there was no air conditioning so it was well over 90 or even 100 degrees in the dorms even at night, and the employee who cleaned our bathrooms was awfully mean (she had a hard job). On the other hand, I spent all my free time experiencing the rides, shows, etc. for free, laundry was just a quick uniform switch-out in the morning, and I really did buy into the culture there that we were the best, fastest, cleanest park staff out there. I would stop and pick up trash if I saw it when off duty, always worked to be as efficient as I could without compromising safety in any way, and was really proud of my job. We took field trips to other local parks to see how much better we were than them ;)

      I do think things have changed a lot since I worked there. Pay has a lot to do with it. When they got rid of the $1/hour bonus for finishing the contract, it seemed like a really poor decision. They increasingly hired international workers who were expecting to see a bit of the US in their free time and then quickly realized they were working 12+ hours six days a week and were stuck in the least desirable jobs so they unsurprisingly were less than enthusiastic to be there after a while, and the occasional trip to Cleveland didn’t really make up for that. Management does make a big difference, not as much in terms of supervision but in terms of setting the tone and getting people excited about the work. I’m really glad I did the job and still love the park fwiw!

  36. Anon pour ce poste*

    About the boss in letter 2: Yes, she sounds absolutely neglectful of her job. Alison’s advice is spot on.


    I’ve known another employee who was in constant contact with her adult daughter. The daughter was constantly calling and the mother would drop everything to deal with it. (Even about simple things like the daughter getting frustrated because she couldn’t break change to take the bus.) Our coworkers would laugh at/judge her behind her back… Eventually I learned from the mother that the daughter had a previous suicide attempt. The mother lived in fear every single phone call that the daughter would escalate again.

    So yes, it could be that the mother is coddling her sons. Or maybe there’s something behind the scenes that made her this way. Keep an open mind.

    1. SereneScientist*

      I understand your point and we should always keep in mind that we never know all that goes on in another person’s life. However, this point is ultimately less relevant because LW2’s question is how to deal with the behavior because it’s causing her problems in the workplace. “Being more understanding” doesn’t change the impact of her boss’s behavior.

  37. Miaow*

    My go-to interview question for the interviewer is, “if offered this position, what can I do to make your job easier?” That one always gets a smile and usually a genuinely helpful answer.

  38. ZSD*

    Two things about Disney:
    1) One of my high school marching band instructors would always tell us, “Get hired by Disney!” by which he meant, you’re on stage as soon as you’re anywhere near the marching field. He got hired by Disney as a young man because as soon as he walked into the building for his interview, he greeted everyone. “Hi! How are you today?” “I love your shirt!” He smiled at everyone and was pleasant to every single person. As soon as he walked into the room for the actual interview, they said, “You’re hired.” So that’s at least how they used to hire.

    2) My cousin-in-law used to be a performer on the Disney cruises (she was Mulan one night, Pocahontas the next, etc.) She said that while the performers were putting on their makeup, all the other women would be crying because their dream was to be on Broadway, and here they were stuck on a cruise ship acting like a princess. (This isn’t really about hiring, but I thought it was an interesting tidbit about the backstage life of a Disney cast member.)

  39. Art3mis*

    I worked at Six Flags Great America outside Chicago in the mid 90s. People maybe aren’t as happy as at Disney and I thought Disney was a lot cleaner in general. But there’s a lot of training that goes into what they do. At the time we had leads, which were wearing the same “costumes” as “regular” employees, and then supervisors had different outfits. They were around, but they were more backstage and not as noticeable as the every day employees. Like someone else said, every area is run like it’s own little company. Rides, games, retail, food services, etc. it has its own structure and training. And at the time it was seen as a cool place to work, so they didn’t lack for employees. They even had a foreign exchange program and some folks even got college credit for working there, though I’m not sure how that worked. It was a big operations. SFGA is a seasonal park and they are generally starting to hire and train people now, be open on the weekends soon, and then be ready for full week operations once the summer gets going. I’m sure staffing and training works differently for parks that are open year round like Disney and don’t rely on seasonal staff.

    1. BadWolf*

      Our local amusement park (seasonal) also had a foreign exchange program — they always had the employees’ home country on their nametag.

    2. miss_chevious*

      When I was a kid it was my goal in life to be an operator of one of the rides (the Demon was my favorite, but I would have been happy doing the Eagle as well :D) and get to do the safety announcements (this was before they were all pre-recorded). It just seemed very cool to pre-teen me!

  40. Lily Rowan*

    I’m relieved to read the 10 questions for interviewees at the link, because I had a recent interview where I really only had one or two questions, and that’s because it’s a new position at the place I already work! So a lot of the things I would normally ask are either TBD or things I know already.

  41. Art*

    “Do you really need four weeks notice from Joe every time he needs time off, even for just a day or two off?”

    Tell me you’ve never worked in a hospital or other job that lives and dies on coverage without telling me you’ve never worked in a hospital or other coverage-dependent job

      1. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, uh. “What if this situation were completely different, would coverage matter more then?” …

    1. Totally Minnie*

      The question Alison posed wasn’t “does any employer ever need four weeks notice for an employee to take time off?” It was “does this specific LW need four weeks notice when their employee needs time off, given the nature and specifics of the work they do?” Maybe they do! But maybe they don’t, and reducing that time frame could make things easier for both the LW and Joe.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Thank you!

        Too often I see commenters who think Alison’s advice is meant to apply to everybody when mostly it’s meant to apply to the situation described by the letter writer. And on the flip side, I see commenters who think that because whatever issue a letter writer brings up isn’t an issue for them, it shouldn’t be an issue for anybody.

    2. doreen*

      There are coverage-dependent jobs that don’t require four weeks notice for a day off – but they are either jobs where people aren’t given their schedule 4 weeks in advance or 4 weeks notice is required not to be scheduled for a particular day but you can get a day or two off on less notice by trading shifts with someone.

      But even if it’s a three person landscaping business the LW might need four weeks notice depending on what sort of services they offer and how far in advance they book – they might book less one-time business for the third week of April if they know Joe is taking time off that week.

    3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      That sort of place wouldn’t be writing in to ask whether it would be okay to tell an employee that he’d have to work overtime at the busy season. LW isn’t modeling their staffing on a hospital, just like the hospital isn’t modeling its staffing on a store that’s open 10-6 Monday-Saturday.

  42. Justme, The OG*

    As a former theme park employee here (Sea World, late 1990s) my opinion is that they really don’t! There are layers upon layers of bureaucracy and management and they didn’t care as long as the park was

  43. MakinBiscuits*

    Related to LW1 – what questions are appropriate for an internal position? Have a full-day finalist interview coming up for an internal position that I’ve been shadowing for the past few years. I know the culture and demands of the job … I’m sure I could ask some surface-level questions, but I don’t have any genuine fact-finding questions I need answered

    1. Justme, The OG*

      This is a great question, and one I’ll also need an answer to this as I’m up for an internal promotion soon.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      If it’s a higher level position or a new subject area, you can talk about additional skills needed/helpful for the role or inquire about professional development opportunities for that role. You can ask the interviewer how they define success for that new role v. your current one. If there is a project or type of work you want to take on in the new role, you can ask what opportunities there might be for that (or, more generically, growth opportunities in general).

  44. AnonymousToday*

    #5: Former amusement park staff member here. I was a ride operator for two summers. We were not a Disney-size park, and we were seasonal, so it’s a bit different. I’m sure from a management perspective it wasn’t quite as crazy, but basically there are quite a few supervisors for each division and we were broken up into small teams by area. They were pretty strict about discipline and people definitely got fired for various reasons while I worked there. I was actually a team lead my second season, where I was responsible for handling the position rotation, training new team members on different positions at rides, and generally handling any issues or escalating to supervisors as needed. We also had a lot of young, foreign employees who were generally happy to be spending time in the US improving their English. As far as being happy all the time, it definitely is tough to try to keep a smile on your face. Disney probably has a lot of employees who really want to work there. Our park was mainly a summer job for high school or college students. We also had quite a few teachers who worked it as a summer job. They were mainly supervisors since they were generally older and had worked there longer. Some people had worked there for years because they genuinely just love working there. It definitely has its ups and downs (pun intended). We got free access to the park on our days off or if we got off a shift earlier in the day. It was a lot of hours though, anywhere from 50-70 hours per week with no overtime (thanks seasonal labor rules) at barely above minimum wage. I think they’ve increased the pay quite a bit in recent years, but it was pretty low when I worked there. I was excited to get a $0.25/hr raise when I was promoted to team lead.

    1. AnonymousToday*

      Forgot to add, we had secret shoppers too. Anyone coming through could be secret shopping you and reporting back to management, so that also is an incentive to be on your best behavior.

    2. ItBetterNotBeACactus*

      How hard was it to deal with people trying to get on rides when they shouldn’t? Too short? Too large for the belts/seat? Unsafe clothing/accessories? The one time I was with a friend who sometimes didn’t fit in a seat (and they didn’t have the sample seats at the ride entrance), we would bail ourselves, but I’m sure that doesn’t happen all the time.

      I do have fond memories of our local park that let my disabled (physically and mentally) cousin ride twice in a row. He could transfer himself mostly at the time with a little assistance from the person riding with him and he loooooved the roller coaster. I don’t know if they’d do the same now, but it was nice at the time (sorry for the people waiting behind us!). (Also, we came up through the disabled access, so the ride attendants weren’t making a judgement call, we were self-identifying and to be frank, it was obvious in my cousin’s situation).

      1. Forrest Rhodes*

        When my younger brother attended college in Orange County, CA, summer employment for many of the students was at nearby Disneyland. His most frequent assignment was at the Autopia, getting passengers onto and off the the low, small, self-driven cars that resembled go-karts.

        The ride was very noisy, rough, and bouncy, and the park required that before onboarding any obviously pregnant person, the workers made sure to inform the person about the ride’s possible dangers to the pregnancy. (Okay, I know, reproductive discrimination; but it was the 1970s, and actually, I think the rule made sense.)

        He said the job was mostly great, but his worst moments came when hugely and obviously pregnant women would look him straight in the eye and say, “No, I’m not pregnant, I’m just fat.” All he could do was politely escalate to a manager and let them deal with it, but hearing that particular lie so many times always made him sad—he felt that a baby’s safety was much more important than five minutes in a go-kart.

      2. AnonymousToday*

        There were times I would have to call a supervisor to deal with a guest who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Some parents would berate us or swear at us because their kid was too short (usually this was when it was a very small difference). They would not accept that the guidelines are set by the ride manufacturer and park to ensure the safety of their child. There are many times they would say that their kid rode the same ride earlier that day, which certainly is possible if someone else was measuring. The most frustrating is when the supervisor would end up letting them on after I said they couldn’t, but I would rather err on the side of caution than have an incident due to letting someone on who didn’t meet the requirements. We also had a ride that was not very forgiving for larger people (overweight and/or tall). It was an overhead harness and for some people it just wouldn’t lock because it couldn’t come down far enough. That was always awkward, but those situations were less difficult because people obviously understand that they can’t ride if it doesn’t lock. I did feel bad if they had waited in a long line. We had a sample seat but it wasn’t always the best representation because it doesn’t demonstrate where the seat actually locks.

      3. Grogu's Mom*

        For me back in the early 00’s it was not too hard. I was on kiddy rides so it was a bit of kids being too short to ride but mostly it was older kids too tall for the ride (around 9-10 years old). I was pretty young (early 20s) back then so I think the world was just a much more black-and-white place in my head back then, rules were rules and had to be followed, so I had no problems conveying a firm no. Nowadays I’d probably fall for every excuse in the book! You did feel for the kids who were scared to go on the bigger rides but too tall for the milder ones.

        The one time I can remember I had to speak to someone multiple times was a man who lit up a cigar(!) while watching his kids go on a ride. I asked him twice to put it out since smoking obviously was not allowed in the park. Not knowing much about how cigars work, I then approached him a third time with “Now, sir, I really must insist that you put the cigar out right now.” But he explained that he had put it out and cigars just produce a lot of smoke for a while afterwards, so I was a bit embarrassed!

        Parents would carry their kids in if they weren’t able to board themselves (or I’d pop them in myself) so disabilities like your friend’s were easy to accommodate. I do remember the handful of times we had an adult who was short enough to meet the height requirement join the queue, and there was always a bit of cognitive dissonance in letting adults onto the ride, but each time it happened they had the BEST time and I quickly realized that they didn’t get to go on the roller coasters, etc. so I was glad to help them have the time of their lives on the faster, zippier kiddy rides (we had a whip-type ride and mini bumper cars, for instance).

        Oh, also NOBODY follows the instruction to wait until the carousel has come to a complete stop to get off the horses because it takes forever, and that used to annoy the crap out of me, but there was nothing I could do about it except keep repeating my spiel over the intercom louder and louder, which in hindsight was probably obnoxious of me!

  45. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP 2: So what happens immediately after your boss deals with the grocery list or the failure-to-launch sons or whatever? Does she apologize – even perfunctorily? It sounds from your description like she treats it as no big deal – but does she actively try to solicit sympathy from you too? Also, are these always inbound calls, or does she initiate personal calls in the midst of business discussions too?

    Getting a handle on why she’s doing this may help you deal with it, in the ‘your boss is a jerk and isn’t going to change’ sense, or practically as Alison says in the ‘what should I do when customers bail on us’ sense. It may be that she’s just rude, unable to prioritize, and overbearing – she does this to everybody, so try not to take it personally if you can.

    But if she puts you on hold in order to place a call – “Oh, I forget, I need to talk to Regina before 2:30” or “Oh my son just texted me, I need to call him back” – then this is probably a sign that she’s trying to avoid work in general, or specific topics/tasks/problems she’d rather not deal with. Is this her way of trying to foist her work on you?

  46. Aunt*

    For OP2, when faced with annoying people who won’t change in the past, I’ve made it into a game, which then takes the sting out of it. For example, create a Bingo game and the squares could say things like “advised son on the purchase of carrots” or “talked for more than 5 minutes about her bunion”, etc. You might find yourself looking forward to her socializing!

  47. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    I used to report to a VP who was similar to the boss in letter 2. Constant, grating personal calls all day every day with her multiple adult children, on max volume speaker phone. She’s in prison now. Long story. And yes, I did testify against her and did it gladly.

    Also, LOL at “I’m a single mother.” Lady, you don’t get to keep using that as an excuse when your kids are well and truly grown. I’m a single mother too but I don’t subject my coworkers to a running narrative of all my personal business. Sheesh.

  48. Darkangel*

    I worked for six flags for 7 years around 15 years ago. it’s a summer student job, so a first job for a lot of teenager and yougn adult.

    The pay was great (my park was unionized), way higher than working in retail, but the hours were long (12h shift) and standing on a metal platform under intense summer sun can be rough. But the ambiance was great and we made friends for life. Honestly, the best summers of my life!

    It was not as strict as Disney parks. We had a team lead and a supervisor per sector, in charge of discipline and assuring safety, solving issues with clients, training employees, making sure we were following company policies, etc. One manager to manage the supervisor, and there were one coordinator to fill empty spots in the morning and dispatch extra employees on ride that needed some. Above that it’s park directors. There was more than 400 employees.

    The hiring process consisted of a multiple choice questionnaire given at an auditorium, and a single interview. Question were about how autonomus and proactive you were, if you could follow safety rules, how you would deal with difficult clients, etc, all in the context of given situation that happens frequently during the job. Since it’s a first job for most people, you don’t have a lot of experience to share! So it’s really about your skill and motivation : responsability, common sense, communication, etc.

    The first summer you are on call and just get send where ever needed, wether its ride operation or park cleaning or watching the parkings. You would learn the basic then and get assigned a role the second year.

    Most people quit after a few years when their studies are done and it’s time to find a job in their field. So there is alway new staff each year. We had to week ends of training in spring each year before park opening. Even if you have been operating the same ride for years, you needed to be re-certified each year.

    Hope that helps clarify!

  49. Nonnyss*

    My cousin was a child actor on the Disney Channel (not a big star you would know), and she said when they have auditions, they’re filming you even in the waiting room, because they want kids who always look happy.

  50. Lisa*

    I was amazed at how Disney gets people from other countries to work there! We stayed at Coronado Springs which is “Mexican” themed and every person — minus the cast member who checked us in at the desk — was from Latin America. Each person who works at Epcot World Showcase is from the country they work in. How do they DO that?

    1. Melissa*

      Yes I’ve wondered that too! If you go to “Japan” in Epcot, they are absolutely Japanese. Do they send scouts to all these different countries to recruit?

      1. ThatGirl*

        From what I know as someone who married into a Disney Family (fans, not castmembers) – a lot of (all of?) the World Showcase pavilions are actually sponsored by tourism boards in the countries they represent. So, yes, they do have recruiters of a sort in Norway or Japan or Mexico.

      2. urguncle*

        Likely similar to how they recruit for English language teachers here. Targeting younger, unattached people who are interested in spending a few months to a couple of years in a foreign country, getting some experience on short-term work visas and then they either go back to their home country or find a way to stay long-term.

    2. thatoneoverthere*

      Yes they do send scouts to the different countries. They hold hiring events. My BFF is from Norway and worked at the Norway pavilion for a few years. She was in the restaurant. She worked quite alot, but made a ton of money. It was when we were in college so my boyfriend (now husband) would drive down during breaks and get into Disney for free with her passes. This was early 2000s, not sure how it all works now.

    3. just a library girl*

      you get asked where you are from and that gets put on your name tag. if you are from a specific country like norway, you’ll probably be asked to work at epcot.

  51. NeedRain47*

    I worked for the Disney Catalog back when people had to make phone calls to order stuff from catalogs. It was the worst job I’ve ever had as far as how employees were micromanaged, given zero autonomy, fired for being one minute late, and so forth. They also made sure to keep everyone’s hours down so they didn’t have to pay for benefits. And yes, we were expected to call everyone “guests” and give them a magical phone call even if they were trying to order a warner brothers cartoon product. Now I hate Disney.

    I lived in So. Cal back in the early 90s, and at the time you could work at DisneyLand and make enough money over the summer to save some, a friends’ sister did this while in college. By the late 90s the pay had depreciated so it wasn’t a better job than any other exhausting customer service job, but had higher expectations.

  52. BBB*

    #1 while it does change anything about the advice for the future, can we take a moment to acknowledge that 4 rounds of interviews is a lot and the idea that you should have follow up questions in every interview is kind of ridiculous? I would think showing up four separate times would show your interest more than restating ‘tell me about the culture here’ questions lol

  53. BlackLodge*

    RE Letter # 5, I just finished a very entertaining book called FantasticLand by Mike Bockoven. It’s about a fictional amusement park in Florida whose employees get cut off in the wake of a hurricane. Think Lord of the Flies meets The Warriors. CW for violence and gore, though.

    1. Cyndi*

      The podcast Pseudopod ran a great short story a while back called “The Happiest Place On Earth,” about Disney continuing to run during the apocalypse.

    2. Retired Accountant*

      Carl Hiassen’s Native Tongue is a very entertaining skewering of Florida theme park culture.

  54. Angstrom*

    Many years ago I had a friend who had worked at Disneyland in California. At that time it was a popular venue for senior prom parties. He said it was common for kids to go to the park the week before and hide alcohol with the expectation of retrieving it the night of their party. Of course, the staff was well aware of this and knew all the usual hiding places. The found bottles were considered an unofficial fringe benefit for those who enjoyed cheap booze.
    Side note: many parks have underground vehicle-sized tunnels for dealing with trash removal, concession resupply, repair crew access, etc. It minimizes having to move service vehicles through the park while it is full of guests.

  55. AA Baby Boomer*

    .Ref: My boss prioritizes constant personal calls over her job

    She’s disrespecting your time. I have a suggestion, but I’m not sure if it would work. I had a friend years when “call waiting” first started. I would call long distance and she would put me on hold, while she took other calls. This is the time you had land lines only. I got fed up with her; and every time she put me on hold I would hang up. It worked; she thought an issue with the service.

    I’m wondering if you could do the same thing with the phone? with zoom meetings, lose your connection?

    Another I want to share; I shared an office with another admin that was my supervisor. She did the same thing; the all the time. Her husband (not sure if it was the current one or the ex). He would get ugly and clearly state he that knew she was on the phone with friens, etc. We had connecting offices with our Dean. One day he had called multiple times. I got fed up and called out to her loud & clear, XXXX why is your husband calling my extension. He’s called XX times today. It was loud enough for the Dean to hear and the calls to my extension quit. Her facial expression was -priceless.

  56. Cyndi*

    I like to think I’m not much of a sucker for conspiracy theories (though I guess everyone likes to think that) but honestly I will immediately, uncritically, believe anything anyone tells me about the behind-the-scenes of Disney attractions. Even the creepypastas about, like, employees getting sealed permanently inside costumes, or the parks having secret underground jails for unruly visitors, I’m like “yep! Sounds plausible.”

  57. squirreltooth*

    I’ve worked in two theme parks, Knotts Berry Farm and Disneyland. I interviewed for Disneyland first and got turned down because I wasn’t overtly cheerful enough—they do look for this right from the start and it seems prioritized even above problem-solving and critical thinking, which, fair enough! It helped me prepare for the Knotts interview; I turned my peppiness up by a million degrees and was hired that day.

    Both parks did intensive several-day training stints even before training us in our actual roles. Most of it was focused on guest relations and how to handle specific situations that come up a lot. (Such as guests asking about infamous ride accidents, what to do if a fight breaks out, etc.) I was a rides hostess (aka ride operator), so from there we were assigned our specific ride and trained on the ins and outs, including guidelines on how to interact with guests that were specific to the ride. For example, I worked on the Disneyland RR, and you had to be smiling and waving whenever the train was visible to the public!

    It’s very common to have secret shoppers come through to make sure everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and state inspectors will also visit the park on the down low. (Apparently once I was fantastic with an inspector’s kid and got a special commendation because they complimented me by name.) But supervisors and shift leaders are constantly around to make sure everyone’s ship-shape, and it’s easy for both guests and cast members to not notice them because you’re distracted by Mickey or Snoopy walking by. Part of the magic, I guess!

    For crowd control specifically—I actually did a lot of this at Disneyland because one of the rides in my area broke down for the season and in the shuffle the newbies ended up working a lot of parades. It still astonishes me how much they have it down to a science, especially since almost no one is permanently assigned to these roles. We were all just brought over from other areas and told where to stand and how to direct the park. In a pinch, they’d even occasionally send people over from the offices (so like HR or hiring or accounting or whatever) to do crowd control. We moved a lot of benches around and forced one-way traffic in multiple lanes to avoid stampedes and chaos. Again, I think this is where the magic comes in—no one is noticing the cast members in bright yellow shirts literally rearranging the landscape because you’re too busy looking at Pirates of the Caribbean. Kind of cool psychology, I guess.

    1. squirreltooth*

      Oh, and I also want to add that I went to Disneyland Paris a few years ago and the cast members are NOT like they are in the US. For someone who was trained to be smiling and cheerful and guest-focused, it was wild to see cast walk around scowling and not in a real hurry to help, haha. But I’m glad they account for the different culture!

  58. merida*

    OP #1 – if you need another question idea! When there’s enough time, I love getting to know the interviewer(s) a little bit and asking if they would mind briefly sharing a bit about their background/career path and how they came into the role they’re in. I truly am interested and want to get to know them, especially if I think I may work with them. Hearing a bit about their career path can help me get a sense of their personality and their work priorities and passions, which helps me see if I’d be a good fit there. Plus I think it can be really fun and encouraging to hear how people got started in their industry/role!

    1. Greg*

      Came here to post exactly this! First of all, it’s always a good fallback if you can’t think of anything else or feel like you’ve already asked everything, since everyone will have a unique answer. Second, people like talking about themselves!

      Another good one, especially if it’s a senior executive, is to ask about their management style.

  59. Sara without an H*

    OP#2: Your boss isn’t going to change. If you don’t want to look for another job, you’re going to have to find ways to work around her.

    Can you shift more of your communication to email? If so, you can try “Here’s the situation. If I don’t hear from you by 3:00 p.m., I will do X.” It will also give you a record of what you’ve told her, in case she ever claims you didn’t keep her in the loop.

    Oh, and if her personal phone calls ever cause a problem with customers or higher ups, DO NOT clean up after her or try to shield her from blow back. Protect your own hindquarters, but don’t exert yourself to cover hers.

  60. Hi, I’m Troy McClure*

    It’s so ridiculous that we essentially have to make up fake questions to look more interested, even if the interview has satisfied what we wanted to know. If you’re interviewing for a job, you’re interested enough. As I call these silly standards, “Dance, peasant, dance.”

    1. RagingADHD*

      I mean, you could look at it as an opportunity to start building a positive relationship with senior leadership that could serve you well if you did get / accept the job. (Or even if you didn’t).

      When you’re meeting with people above the hiring manager’s level, it’s not even about whether you’re interested in the job. It’s certainly not about performing. It’s about connecting.

  61. Rach*

    #5 – It’s also worth noting that some of the Face Characters and Performers at Disney are part of AEA (Actor’s Equity Union – union for theatre actors/stage managers) so they have to follow those rules as well for certain shows etc.

  62. RagingADHD*

    LW1, when you’re meeting with really senior leadership in an interview process it’s always good to ask about long-term, strategic stuff.

    “How do you foresee [industry trend] impacting [hiring department’s] value to the company?”

    “Where / how would you like to see [role or department] move the company forward?”

    “In your experience with [company], how have you seen people in this role contribute to developing new ideas or strategic initiatives? What approach do you think has been the most successful?”

    Stuff like that. Not only does it give you different insight about your long-term prospects, it demonstrates an understanding of their priorities and concerns, rather than focusing on your own (or the role’s) priorities and goals. It gets you talking about the way that role fits into the whole organization.

    1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I also ask super senior folks about their legacy/vision – what they are trying to build and the long term impact they hope to make. This kind of question has landed really well for me

      1. RagingADHD*

        That’s a really good one, as long as someone can deliver it with a light touch and avoid sounding like they’re brown-nosing.

  63. Maureen*

    Regarding the Disney letter, back when I watched the original “Roseanne” (I cannot stand Roseanne Barr now), one of the episodes feature a regular character getting a job at a local theme park and the cult-esque training involved. It’s pretty funny in its unsurprising accuracy; “Springtime for David,” Season 8, ep. 19.

  64. bean*

    Former mouse employee here, granted only as a college intern. The place is a cult, hard stop. You literally go through a class on Disney History called “traditions” that seemed frighteningly similar to an indoctrination to me. They don’t treat their employees good or pay a liveable wage, and it weeds out the people with decent expectations for their employment. At least at the park level. So the reason everyone’s so into the guest experience is usually because they’ve drank the kool-aid and believe that using a two finger point will truly change the world.

    Of course, I’m clearly biased. I had a lot of health issues while I was working there, and a lot of them were caused by the heat and conditions in my location and Disney’s refusal to do anything to mitigate it. But a lot of people I worked with left the company years ago, and still make it their entire personality, and that’s generally why the “Disney Service attitude” is so prevalent in the parks. They rely on people who themselves eat at disney, shop at disney, work at disney, play at disney, vacation at disney, spend their free time watching disney… you get the idea. They’re a giant corporation that brainwashes people into thinking they’re a way of life.

  65. Samwise*

    Back in the late 70s/early 80s, my brother worked at a restaurant at Disneyland. He had to shave off his beard and cut his hair; he would shave right before heading to work as five-oclock shadow was real. He had a good laugh at the managers who got excited about hiring the clean cut looking kids who were, unlike my hairy brother, snorting coke in the back and stealing.

  66. librarymouse*

    I worked at Disney! Specifically in the Entertainment department of WDW – the answer for us was that everything was run like an all day theater productions. Everyday we would be assigned one of many “tracks” that scheduled our day (8-8:45 prep Mickey costumes, 8:45-10:15 laundry, 10:15-11 prep Minnie costumes, etc). And a lot of middle management.
    I worked “backstage” so I can’t speak to having a positive attitude all day, but there is a huge emphasis on customer service. We knew that for most people, a single visit to WDW represented years of planning and saving, so giving them the best show possible was of utmost importance.

  67. Zardeenah*

    Borderline OT, but the cast members at Disney calling child guests prince and princess drives me nuts. I have a boy and a girl and whenever we went to DL the staff would almost always call my boy princess and my girl prince.

    I get that they’re trying to be cute and personal, but let me tell you it makes strong (and not really great) memories when a favorite character gets it wrong.

  68. just a library girl*

    #5: I worked at Disney. You go through rigorous training and they are very adamant about the culture and adhering to their rules. You report to your “location” in the morning, so you do see your supervisor at some point in the day and you are relieved regularly for breaks, also seeing your supervisor again.

    Disney World in particular uses a points system for callouts and such.

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