I was rejected because I told my interviewer I never make mistakes

A reader writes:

I was rejected from a role for not answering an interview question.

I had all the skills they asked for, and the recruiter and hiring manager loved me.

I had a final round of interviews — a peer on the hiring team, a peer from another team that I would work closely with, the director of both teams (so my would-be grandboss, which I thought was weird), and then finally a technical test with the hiring manager I had already spoken to.

(I don’t know if it matters but I’m male and everyone I interviewed with was female.)

The interviews went great, except the grandboss. I asked why she was interviewing me since it was a technical position and she was clearly some kind of middle manager. She told me she had a technical background (although she had been in management 10 years so it’s not like her experience was even relevant), but that she was interviewing for things like communication, ability to prioritize, and soft skills. I still thought it was weird to interview with my boss’s boss.

She asked pretty standard (and boring) questions, which I aced. But then she asked me to tell her about the biggest mistake I’ve made in my career and how I handled it. I told her I’m a professional and I don’t make mistakes, and she argued with me! She said everyone makes mistakes, but what matters is how you handle them and prevent the same mistake from happening in the future. I told her maybe she made mistakes as a developer but since I actually went to school for it, I didn’t have that problem. She seemed fine with it and we moved on with the interview.

A couple days later, the recruiter emailed me to say they had decided to go with someone else. I asked for feedback on why I wasn’t chosen and she said there were other candidates who were stronger.

I wrote back and asked if the grandboss had been the reason I didn’t get the job, and she just told me again that the hiring panel made the decision to hire someone else.

I looked the grandboss up on LinkedIn after the rejection and she was a developer at two industry leaders and then an executive at a third. She was also connected to a number of well-known C-level people in our city and industry. I’m thinking of mailing her on LinkedIn to explain why her question was wrong and asking if she’ll consider me for future positions at her company but my wife says it’s a bad idea.

What do you think about me mailing her to try to explain?

Don’t do that.

Not only did they reject you for this job, but it’s very likely they won’t consider you for jobs there in the future. Emailing an interviewer to “explain why her question was wrong” (!) will only make it worse.

There a number of problems with how you approached this hiring process, but the biggest is that you were arrogant and snotty to one of the interviewers. And not just any interviewer, which would be bad regardless of who it was, but to the hiring manager’s boss! No reasonable employer would hire you after that; if you’re rude and snotty to someone several levels above you, it’s just too damning about what you’ll be like to work with day-to-day.

You told your interviewer that maybe she made mistakes as a developer but since you “actually went to school for it,” you didn’t have that problem? Aside from how rudely insulting that was, that made you look incredibly un-self-aware. Everyone makes mistakes, whether they went to school for a subject or not, and the best of them embrace those mistakes as ways to learn. The only people who think they don’t make mistakes are people who are oblivious to weaknesses in their work, or too arrogant or insecure (and those are often two sides of the same coin) to acknowledge them. Managing someone who’s convinced they don’t make mistakes is a nightmare — and it’s an absolute non-starter in hiring, since you’re announcing that you’re going to resist feedback and be unable or unwilling to learn and grow. That on its own would have torpedoed your candidacy, and that’s before we even get into the snottiness.

But let’s talk about the snottiness too, because it’s coming through so loudly in your letter that it’s likely it came through in your interview as well. You clearly have disdain for the director — “she was clearly some kind of middle manager,” “it’s not like her experience was even relevant,” her questions were “boring,” she made mistakes because she’s inferior to you … come on. If even a fraction of the disdain that comes through in your letter was detectable  in your interviewer, that’s the kind of thing that will get you put on a “never interview/never hire” list.

And now you want to contact the interviewer — not to apologize for how you came across or to say you realize you should answered her questions differently — but to tell her why she was wrong? All that would do is get your name bolded and underlined on the “never interview/never hire” list. It will confirm that their initial assessment was right. Do not do this.

For what it’s worth, loads of people work their way into management positions without a degree in the specific subject they’re overseeing and excel there (and that’s certainly true in technical career paths). It’s also not weird or unusual to interview with the boss’s boss. It’s really common.

I’m not sure what your work life has been like up until this point — I’m guessing you’re either early in your career and don’t yet understand how work works, or you’re further along but have been oblivious to how much interpersonal skill deficiencies can hold you back — but this should be a wake-up call that treating people with contempt and arrogance won’t get you the results you want.

Read an update to this letter

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  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Please do not name-call letter-writers here (which includes “YTA”), no matter how wrong you think they are. I’ve removed some comments doing that, and I’m asking for it to stop.

    Also, I’ve seen some discussion below about whether this letter is fake. I have no idea — don’t know, but also don’t really care as long as the response will be useful to people. (But letter-writer, assuming you are real, the fact that so many people are questioning that is a sign of how off-base your thinking here is!)

      1. duinath*

        if lw doesn’t consider this his mistake but more a misunderstanding, it’s hard not to think there’s actually been lots of mistakes in his past… and he simply didn’t handle them or learn from them. now is the time, lw. some introspection might do you good. it can be valuable to learn to consider the possibility that the person you’re talking to knows more than you, or has an interesting perspective.

        1. Spero*

          Yep! And let’s take his own admitted mistake in this letter as an example: his assessment of the grandboss. He believed she was ‘some kind of middle manager’ and when she stated she had technical experience he doesn’t seem to have asked her about it at all – he just assumed it was not as good as his, at least ten years out of date, and that she hadn’t gone to school as part of it. When he later finds out from LinkedIn that she actually worked for and was promoted by industry leaders who he seems to respect…he apparently doesn’t connect that THEIR assessment of her performance may be more reliable than his own snap judgements since they employed and promoted her. Does any of this make him reassess whether his assessment of her technical experience was incorrect? NOPE not at all, he just doubles down on that she is inferior to him and therefore wrong.

          1. JustAnotherCommenter*

            What kills me about it too is that assuming her knowledge is 10 years out of date is just straight-up assuming she’s a terrible boss.
            No decent manager who leads a technical department lets their technical knowledge fall too far by the wayside, usually you still need to have a certain degree of current knowledge in order to lead effectively.

            1. NerdyKris*

              Or as my boss always says “My job is to hire people that know how to do these things”. Management is a skill, not something you get because you’re the smartest person in the room.

            2. Miette*

              Seriously though! The fact OP thinks hands-on, practical, real-world experience is less relevant than going to school for something is also pretty telling. I know all my grad school projects were so SO representative of the actual work I do… /s

              If you are a real person, OP, I do hope you take Alison’s advice to heart and do some self-examination.

            3. Rosie*

              like! often times the director in technical positions is an SME in at least one area under their purview and has a good working knowledge of the rest!

              1. weedlord bonerhitler*

                A good PM’s job isn’t to know how to do everything, but it’s absolutely to know enough about how to do anything that they can tell when someone’s bullshitting.

                1. Shay*

                  Many times, you don’t even need to know what someone is talking about to know if they’re deep in bullshit territory or not

        2. NerdyKris*

          Of course. Anyone who thinks they never make a mistake or are never wrong are always the ones who do it the most, because they’re blind to the fact that it’s happening.

          1. Observer*

            Of course. Anyone who thinks they never make a mistake or are never wrong are always the ones who do it the most, because they’re blind to the fact that it’s happening.

            Exactly. Which is one of the reasons why it’s such a useful question.

          2. Beebis*

            Maybe it’s like my one coworker that is allergic to admitting he made a mistake even though no one would get mad about it. I’ve said “it’s amazing that I can make a mistake and admit to it but Dude never makes mistakes, they just somehow happen to him”

        3. anycat*

          my boss’ boss and i actually interviewed someone and asked this question once and we got the same answer – I never make mistakes. We both looked at each other and decided then and there to not move forward with them.

          we’re human, we all make mistakes. it’s about what do you as a result.

          1. MassMatt*

            I have had this happen too, and it’s a HARD pass. Especially since one of them had a spelling mistake on their cover letter. I would have let it go, but not after hearing “I never make mistakes!”.

            Trying my best to be kind and not pile on for this LW, really Alison said it all. I hope this LW is early in their career and it’s not too late to change, I was young and snotty once too; now I’m older and at least somewhat less snotty.

            Sounds as though LW severely underestimated the interviewer based on what he found out on Linked In.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              As an aside, I clearly recall my elementary school music teacher saying, “I never make mistrakes!” on purpose, to get a laugh out of us.

              It was really good modeling that adults do mess up now and then (in big and small ways), and of not taking oneself too seriously.

            2. No Yelling on the Bus*

              In this situation, I’m the grand boss. I have no terminal degree (although I went to a very prestigious grad school before dropping out) and people often don’t understand what I do or what value I bring in – it’s an organization where half the people are technical experts. People who work with me know I’m a highly skilled generalist with exceptional soft skills and solid enough technical skills. But it’s really clear that people who don’t know me well approach me with an attitude of, “So what do you even DO here?” Then during or after the meeting they’ll check out my LinkedIn and be like “OH. She’s a technical expert. And also a manager. Ohh.” I also have a friendly demeanor that (certain kinds of people) associate with “not being a serious professional / not being smart”. I have had these assumptions made about me through my ENTIRE career. It used to really upset me and now it just makes me laugh – I don’t even feel the need to assert my credentials anymore. They’ll learn. Like LW did.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                Do you notice any gendered differences in people’s assessment of you?

                I am completely unsurprised OP is male.

          2. Hot Flash Gordon*

            Yeah, I’ve heard the same answer too and it just makes me think they’re super un-self aware or a liar.

            1. Mongrel*

              Don’t forget arrogance. They may be one of those people who genuinely believe it and are just so tiring to deal with.
              Every discussion turns into a gaslighting session about how it was someone else that caused the issue or that it wasn’t an issue and you must be mistaken.

          3. Bunny Lake Is Found*

            I’m kind of shocked that there are so many people wandering around the working world that just believe that a) they never make mistakes and b) think that saying “I never make mistakes” is the best response to this question. That question is obviously teeing up “and how did you handle it”–who would think the interview equivalent of “N/A” helps them showcase their excellence as a candidate?

          4. sometimeswhy*

            Yep. That is a disqualifying response in my interviews, regardless of how otherwise-qualified the candidate is. Unless it’s an intern. If it’s an intern I can probably disabuse them of that over the course of the summer and if I can’t, they stop being my problem.

        4. Some Dude*

          In general, if you think everyone around you is an idiot, you might be the common denominator – this has held true from multiple people I worked with who thought they were right about everything and everyone else was just dumb. They were wrong about a lot of things, but they couldn’t allow for that mentally, so had to make it other’s problems.

          I’d also say that treating everyone with respect no matter their role is incredibly important, but doubly so with people who can make hiring decisions about you!

      2. linger*

        Not sure that it’ll help him as an example, though.
        Q: “How did you respond to it?”
        A: “I completely doubled down! and then went public about whether I should correct the person I made the mistake about.”

        1. Festively Dressed Earl*

          It would help if that was followed with “After I recovered from the public telling me how wrong I was, I realized I was overdue for some serious self-reflection. In order to address my overconfidence/lack of self awareness/attitude towards women/etc., I took XYZ actions to address that and I think I’m better because of it, although I’m still a long way from perfect.”

          1. Violet Rose*

            Agreed! I think there’s value in talking about a mistake you handled badly, if you can give a clear explanation as to why it was the wrong approach, what you learned, and what you would do differently in the case of a do-over

        2. Ace in the Hole*

          Depending how it goes after this, it could be more like:

          “…and then I reached out to people whose professional judgement I respect to ask for advice. Their feedback helped me realize what a serious mistake this was, so I worked on improving my self-awareness and communication skills by [insert actions here].”

      3. Abundant Shrimp*

        Hahaha oh my god isn’t that right! LW, I cringed through the entire letter. I have only ever interviewed people as their peer and that would’ve been my “if he somehow charms the rest of the panel into getting hired, I’ll start looking” kind of answer from a candidate. Everyone does make mistakes, and that is fine! No one wants to work with someone who does make mistakes, never admits them, and when called on them, doubles down saying it cannot be a mistake because they went to school for it! what the hell were you thinking? Would you want to work with someone like that?

          1. Katie*

            There’s a word for this! I just learned about it. Fremdschämen. Embarassament on sometime else’s behalf. German has such useful words. Like kindergarten and schadenfreude. And fremdschämen.

    1. Elbe*

      So many letters come from people who have to work with someone like the LW that it’s nice to have one where someone that arrogant and rude was successfully screened out at the very beginning.

      1. Busy Middle Manager*

        Not even arrogance. What I’ve seen in 20 years in corporate America is that people who “never make mistakes”:
        1) don’t do enough to make mistakes. Sit in meetings all day, what’s to mess up?
        2) Do work below their skills levels
        3) Don’t deal with the messier situations (living through this now, there is no way to make all sides happy so half the people think you’re doing it all wrong)

        1. Sparkle Motion*

          Those are all possible. There are also those who:

          4) Are in complete denial about the number, types and severity of their mistakes.
          5) Pin all mistakes on someone else because they’re obviously never the problem.

          1. Joie de Vivre*

            My supervisor is a 4) and 5) person. They are bad enough that even when there is physical evidence they are wrong- they still deny it.

            Yes, I am looking for another job.

            1. allathian*

              Ugh, I’m so glad I don’t have to work with anyone like that. In my org, or at least my department, if anyone tried to blame their errors on someone else they’d be shut down pretty quickly. And if a candidate answered like the LW, they wouldn’t get past the first interview.

        2. JustAnotherCommenter*

          I agree with your overall point, but I’d counter the “Sit in meetings all day, what’s to mess up?”

          Having to deal with the fallout of someone who spoke up about a topic they shouldn’t have, provided incorrect info when they should have said “let me find out”, overpromised, told stories out of school etc etc etc in a meeting is rough.

          1. Health Insurance Nerd*

            I have to wonder if we work for the same company in the same department, because I had this same coworker- did nothing all day but would come to a meeting and just absolutely derail the entire thing with nonsensical commentary and their two cents, to the point where I had to start turning off my video because I lost the ability to control my face.

            1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

              I’ve sat through meetings with people who never made mistakes because they were too busy pointing out the mistakes that others made. All fine and good if they have constructive suggestions but no, they don’t have any.

              1. Ashley*

                The co-worker who loves to point out every minor typo but misses the bigger picture of their failure to complete some important task and the ramifications of that.

                I know someone who loves to say, if you aren’t making mistakes you don’t have enough to do. There is definitely a point where an acceptable level of imperfection is preferred to avoid analysis paralysis.

        3. Anne Elliot*

          This was my immediate thought as well. If you’ve NEVER made a mistake, you’re not trying hard enough. Not just in the work world, in whatever endeavor you’re talking about. I hear that and I think, “Never took a risk, doesn’t want to learn, may not think creatively, possibly fearful, possibly lazy.” So aside from considering why you shouldn’t have said the honest part out loud, it’s also worth considering why that is actually, objectively, a bad answer to that question.

          1. Anne Elliot*

            Also: I work in a very fast-paced, high-volume sector; deep in the regulatory, “eff around and find out” weeds. You have to make a decision and move on, multiple times a day. In my office, you’re going to make mistakes. I would not be open to hiring a person who seriously thought they never made work-related mistakes because I would think, “You’re going to make mistakes here and I don’t have time for the complete spinning out / melting down of a person who thinks they’ve never made one.” Course correct and move on. If you don’t have the self-awareness and self-discipline to do that, my office is not for you.

            1. Observer*

              I would not be open to hiring a person who seriously thought they never made work-related mistakes because I would think, “You’re going to make mistakes here and I don’t have time for the complete spinning out / melting down of a person who thinks they’ve never made one.”

              OP, if you’re reading, THIS is the big takeaway you need.

          2. Tupac Coachella*

            This. In my work with first year college students, inability to think of an example when asked “what did you do when you failed/made a mistake in the past?” was a red flag that they were going to struggle, no matter how strong their GPA. At best, they were risk averse and afraid to think critically, especially if “right” and “wrong” answers were kind of grey. At worst, they were, as the kids call it nowadays, “delulu” and would likely blame others for any mistakes instead of learning. Either way, college is a new situation where some type if challenging situation will pop up (as it should! experiencing challenge in a safer environment is one of the purposes of college!), and no experience with risk meant that this student would need a lot of support when it did, provided I got the chance-many of them would throw their hands up and leave at that point, unfortunately.

        4. Wilbur*

          I think those people are also the ones who get promoted because they get attached to projects and are involved enough to be viewed as gaining experience but don’t screw up.

        5. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

          Regarding 2 and 3 – The advice I was once given about choosing a doctor probably applies here. Look for the one who is right and succeeds somewhere between 70 and 80% of the time. They’re willing to challenge themselves and step up, and they’re good enough to back up handling their claim to knowledge and expertise.

          If you find tsomeone who never has a bad outcome, stay away. They’re either a liar, or not trusted with anything more complex than taking care of a hangnail.

          1. OrigCassandra*

            Or — and this is a thing that many doctor-rating systems are unfortunately making worse — they flatly refuse to take on difficult or terminal cases.

            1. münchner kindl*

              I was so shocked when in the beginning of the Doctor Strange movie, he refused to accept patients because there was a chance of failure which would have messed up his perfect statistics – and after his accident, other doctors refused his case for the same reasons.

            2. Hannah Lee*

              Not just the rating systems, but also reimbursement rates.
              If someone is getting paid the same Medicare/insurance reimbursements to taking on difficult cases that their local peers are getting for doing run of the mill treatments, at a certain point they may say “what am I, stupid?”

              Sure I’d like to think that someone who is skilled and could help someone suffering from a complex condition would choose to do that, if they had enough baseline compensation, wealth that it wouldn’t be a hardship for them. But sometimes, after years of being the go-to person for hard stuff, while everyone else is doing run-of the mill and taking Fridays off to golf, you might just burn out on being the go-to expert. (A friend has an eye specialist who did just that … he hit his mid-50’s and peaced out on the super complex stuff. Still treats her as a continuing patient, but no longer takes the referrals for new complex patients, with a few exceptions he decides to pick up for whatever reason)

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        Agreed. The grandboss specifically told him that she was interviewing for soft skills, communication skills etc. The question that she asked was specifically designed to test for those skills.
        By giving the answer they did, OP threw their chances of getting this job into a dumpster and proceeded to set the dumpster on fire. What an unforced error.
        OP, use this as a learning experience and move on.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          “Oh, hang on, I need to email you with suggestions about new dumpsters–yours were ten years out of date.”

        2. Bruce*

          And OP should keep listening to his wife, she sounds like a good influence. Maybe ask her more about why she thinks contacting the grand-boss is a bad idea…

          1. Emily*

            Bruce: I’m a bit confused. I didn’t see anything about a wife in the letter. Did I miss something?

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              It’s towards the end of the letter, which you may have missed if your eyebrows were up in the stratosphere with mine:

              I’m thinking of mailing her on LinkedIn to explain why her question was wrong and asking if she’ll consider me for future positions at her company but my wife says it’s a bad idea.

              1. Emily*

                Insert Clever Name Here: Thank you! I even re-read the letter and still missed it, hahaha. I am going to blame it on being completely gobsmacked! I really hope LW listens to his wife and to Alison.

                1. Jules the 3rd*

                  What, listen to women?!

                  It would be extremely good experience for him to do so, but it would also require a level of flexibility and reality-checking that the letter seems to indicate is not likely.

            2. MassMatt*

              Towards the end of the letter LW says they were going to write the interviewer to tell them their question was wrong, etc. and said their wife said that was a bad idea.

        3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          And a telling moment in OP’s post was when he went to ask what the problem was with his application. He didn’t ask “what was the weak point in my application?” but “was it the interview with the grandboss?”. He knows that was the pain point, that he didn’t answer that question the way they wanted. But his takeaway is that they are wrong for wanting anything but the answer he gave, he even wanted to reach out again to explain to the grandboss why she was wrong for wanting what she wanted! Total lack of humility despite sitting opposite somebody who’s clearly higher up the career ladder than him. I can’t help feeling that the fact that she was a woman had something to do with it.

          1. WriterDrone*

            I’m hung up on that and him thinking the only reason they didn’t hire him was because he said he never makes mistakes. He’s lucky they even went through with the interview after he immediately questioned why the grandboss was there and I would also focus more on soft skills after he started with that even if that wasn’t my original intent because it could have been a blunder but definitely turned out to be an indicator of what a pain OP would be to work with.

      1. aspirational yogurt*

        Same! Though I’m also picking up some great responses to use for future interviews. Plus, I love the insights about mistakes in the workplace, like Anne Elliot and others have suggested. Socking away for myself!

      1. Lazy Cat's Mom*

        I also thought this was a fake letter. Maybe someone was cosplaying Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory? But even he acknowledged he was wrong once or twice.
        I hope this is a fake. I just can’t imagine someone going through life never hearing they were so arrogant.

        1. Siege*

          May I introduce you to a vast swath of white men in tech.

          As a woman formerly in technical roles (though never in Big Tech) I can absolutely assure you this letter is as real as any other here: there are men this clueless and arrogant because they have been told by the society we live in that they are better than everyone else, and that has been reified over and over again by education in a career path that presents itself as difficult and completers as special when the difficulty drops a very great deal if you’re a white man and goes up a lot if you’re anything else, and by working in a job where – it’s a safe bet – almost everyone looks like you and has similar interests, proving once again that you are exactly as special as you think.

          1. SPDM*

            My now-husband interned at a company where I worked when he was a graduate student (before we met). At a conference, another male grad student came up to him while he was standing next to me, a person wearing a company name badge, ignored me like I was invisible, and badgered my husband about how to get an internship at the company.

            I did not give him an internship. (He also eventually got kicked out of grad school for nonperformance and sexual harassment. So.)

            1. Paula*

              In response to men making assumptions…
              When I worked at a F100 company, I attended the Grace Hopper conference and had a conversation with the senior engineer who was managing our company’s pavilion. This was a woman with 25 years of experience as a network engineer, and a further 12 years of experience as a sales engineer. The pavilion had been having bandwidth issues with the conference center’s internet, so someone was dispatched to help them out. As soon as the conference technician arrived, he ignored the woman in charge of the pavilion, plus the 4 other women working there, and instead went up to the man who was clearly in his mid 20s and asked what he needed.

            2. Rainbow*

              Pleased to learn you can now get kicked out of grad school for sexual harassment, rather than it being almost a requirement for men when I was there (as a woman).

          2. Khatul Madame*

            I agree that even if this letter is fiction, it is rather credible.
            However, just “men in tech” would suffice. This is specific to gender, not race.

            1. Lydia*

              Except it’s really not. White, cis-het, men are the apex of privilege and, with that, often comes the apex of arrogance and bad behavior. That doesn’t mean it’s ONLY white guys, but it does mean that when we imagined what this person looks like, we probably collectively pictured essentially the same guy.

              1. SharkTentacles*

                Yeah, you don’t need to condesplain white privilege to Khatul Madame. Her comment is accurate.

                People can speak from their own experience, which may contradict your assumption that bad behavior scales with demographic privilege.

                1. Michelle Smith*

                  It’s not an assumption and the hostility being shown in response to the accurate depiction of the frequent displayer of this kind of attitude just confirms the truth.

                2. Siege*

                  It’s weird to me that you’re choosing to mansplain my experiences with white men in tech versus, say, H1-B visa-holding men in tech. My experience, per my first comment, is that this is white male behavior, and that fact DOES matter. Other men can be misogynistic jerks in their own right, but I have never experienced nearly the level of That Guy from non-white men, even the ones I’ve known in tech.

                  Sorry I refuse to spread blame equally across a gender when it’s a gender and race combo issue!

              2. Dog momma*

                I worked in health care as an RN, there are plenty of men (MDs in my experience) like this LW, or worse, who are not white. 42 yrs in various aspects of nursing.

            2. Siege*

              It’s actually both! Non-white men may be arrogant and misogynistic, but it has a totally different feel than the behavior in this letter. This is extremely specific and relies on the unique combo of privilege white men in the west are afforded by default.

              But if you would like to point me to a Stanford CS graduate from Africa who acts this way, I will change my opinion. You may struggle to find one who’s been admitted to the program, of course!

              1. SharkTentacles*

                I’m obviously not going to name specific individuals in an internet comment section. The guy I work with who talks like this is neither white nor a Stanford CS grad from Africa.

                Everyone has different experiences. The guys you’ve met who most resemble this clueless dude clearly are white, but it can’t be extremely specific and unique to whiteness when several of the guys on my personal top 10 That Guys are POC.

          3. Maglev to Crazytown*

            As a woman in STEM, I have gifted fellow women coworker friends mugs with the quote “God grant me the confidence of a mediocre white man.” Google it for just ho MANY products are out there with that slogan… clearly NOT a one-off.

          4. Gozer*

            Confirm. There’s enough ‘I never make mistakes’ people I’ve denied a job here in IT and generally they’re white guys.

        2. House On The Rock*

          I doubt this is fake because I’ve worked with men like this and I’ve interviewed a few who, while not quite this bad, came close: assuming from the start that they had the job, bad mouthing others, talking down to me because I was a woman (even though I was the decision maker in hiring!), asking inappropriate questions, etc.

          We want this to be bizarre cosplay, but truth is weirder, and more depressing, than fiction.

          1. Elio*

            All the “It’s a fake” stuff is weird to me because there are plenty of dudes who are this arrogant.

            1. Em*

              I thought this might be fake because it is a weird combo of extreme arrogance, yet taking the time to ask for advice from a column run by a woman? Actually interested in her opinion and not just assuming he is correct as usual? To me, that doesn’t track. Could be real but I’m taking it with a massive grain of salt.

              1. Scarlet2*

                Some letter writers are obviously writing in because they expect to be told they’re 100% right. He was probably hoping he could show Alison’s answer to his wife to prove emailing the boss to tell her how wrong she was and ask for a job was the greatest idea ever.

              2. Lexie*

                I can think of two possibilities.
                1) He’s not asking for advice. He’s asking for confirmation he is right so he can show people that Ask a Manager agrees that he is right and everyone else is wrong.
                2) His wife actually wrote it hoping that hearing it from someone like Allison might get through to him.

              3. Lenora Rose*

                Sometimes with guys like this a sufficient role of authority trumps “woman” – especially if they are appealing to the person to back them up, an for some reason assume they will. (Remember the letter writer who as much as said “I thought as a fellow manager you’d agree with me”?)

                It’s also a version of “My one {black/gay/female} friend disagrees with all of you that this is bigoted behaviour, so it obviously isn’t.”

              4. Bunny Lake Is Found*

                But it is also possible the wife flagged the gender disparity between the LW and the grand boss and the LW thought “Nope, it is just grand boss is wrong, I will get a professional female to confirm this for me to show that both wife and grand boss are wrong.”

                Like, never forget the LW who wrote in about creating “too exclusive” of a working environment who later told Alison she only wrote in because she assumed a blog called “Ask a Manager” would side with the manager. Or the guy who “ghosted” his girlfriend of 3 years who was then going to be his boss. Some people aren’t actually looking for advice, they are looking to have their own view point reinforced.

              5. Ellis Bell*

                Oh taking advice from a woman is easy if you assume the woman is going to agree with you. The real test is accepting a woman disagreeing, or even arguing! with! me!

              6. rebelwithmouseyhair*

                I’m just remembering a manager who wrote in and who admitted in an update that she had assumed AAM would show solidarity since they were both managers.

              7. EtTuBananas*

                I think there’s 2 possibilities:

                1) LW does not realize this blog is run by a woman (it’s called “Ask a Manager” and unless you read it frequently you have to do some digging to figure out the writer is a woman). Posts where it’s more obvious she’s a woman (like when she posts about her cats or personal life) don’t usually reach the level of virality needed to be covered on Reddit, Buzzfeed, etc. Plus, as someone who writes a lot for the Internet, I can tell you that most people are world-class skimmers, and it often takes many, many touchpoints for people to realize basic info, like the byline of the article they’re reading on Inc.

                2) LW has some of the trappings of a more equitable mindset, in that he can identify a source of expertise in a woman on the survace, but he’s still chockablock with internalized misogyny.

          2. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

            Long ago I had a neighbor who, while very smart, thought he knew better than everyone else about everything. He interviewed at my place of work, and someone else got the job. So, of course this white dude sued my workplace for racial discrimination.

            But the court was sane, and the lawsuit was dismissed.

          3. JJ*

            At a previous job, myself and a fellow senior dev (male) used to tag team interviews, where they were explicitly told I would be their supervisor.

            The number that talked down to me, as you’ve said, or actually didn’t talk to me (answering all questions at him even if I asked them) was staggering and depressing.

            Made a great immediate ‘no’ pile though.

        3. Ama*

          I have worked in and adjacent to academia for years — I have run into plenty of people with attitudes similar to the letter writers. A lot of them are undergrads who were the smartest person at their school all the way through high school and who have never been challenged or told they weren’t qualified for something. Then they get their first B or aren’t the person picked for some select student program and it has to be everyone else’s fault they failed.

          In fact this guy’s attitude remind me of some of the students who did IT support for the last grad school I worked for. They were about as dismissive of the (all women) administrative staff as they could possibly be. Once I had asked for a specific program to be installed on my computer and one of them installed a program with the same functionality but not from the developer I had asked for “because this one’s better.” I explained in detail the technical reasons why it was not better for my specific needs and you could tell it hadn’t even occurred to him that I knew enough about computers to have opinions about how they worked.

        4. Three Flowers*

          In addition to tech and academia, I present White Man Hubris* in the outdoor rec industry. I was once in an interview very much like this as a peer to the position. The candidate had been my seasonal assistant and was absolutely awesome in that job. Unfortunately he clearly thought he was a shoo-in for the FT role, and was so arrogant and obnoxious in the interview that I literally apologized to my boss afterward because my prior enthusiasm felt like a massive error in judgment, even though she also knew him.

          * yes, white men, in that industry women and POC categorically don’t last unless they are willing to do twice the work for half the credit. I could tell such stories about mansplaining and public disrespect, but they would all sound like rage bait.

        5. Len*

          I assure you there are many men like this. As soon as I read that he was a man and they were all women, I knew where this was going.

          I had a coworker who was like this. Everything was someone else’s fault. no one was as good as him, and he told everyone so. At a *party* with all sorts of colleagues with advanced degrees, he went on and on about how university is a waste of time, and how his two year program was really far superior. The secondhand embarrassment nearly killed me.

          He was particularly condescending to women and immigrants. He ended up getting a different job in the same area, never getting that promotion he was sure he kept getting passed on because of diversity hiring.

      2. Despachito*

        This is what I thought. This is so textbook wrong on so many levels it must be fake. Or else I am losing all hope in the mankind.

        1. Ashley*

          It restores a bit of faith in humanity that the hiring manager and boss stopped it at their company. There will still be hiring managers who may think this is awesome, because there are bananapants hiring managers, but the number that won’t accept it is hopefully growing.

        2. Starbuck*

          “textbook wrong” well, we are all here reading the textbook, as it is – but not everyone does, and clearly this guy doesn’t! It sounds wild to us because we all know better here, but I’ve totally met this guy before.

        3. Observer*

          This is so textbook wrong on so many levels it must be fake. Or else I am losing all hope in the mankind.

          On the other hand, there is the boss who has a clue, asked the right questions and acted upon the information she got. So that’s on the plus side.

          1. MsM*

            I have a funny feeling she didn’t need to ask too many questions before she figured out this wasn’t going to work.

          2. Hannah Lee*

            And the boss even played fair, by indicating “this is the part of the interview process where someone in senior manager is going to be assessing your soft skills”

            She wasn’t tricksy – she said “pay attention, these are the goal posts, focus on aiming for them” and he totally blew past it out of hubris, with a possible side of misogyny.

        4. Anne Cordelia*

          That’s like the letter from the guy who deactivated his coworker’s caps lock key, because he was SURE that she would then see the Truth and realized how much better it is to hold down the shift key.

          1. kupo*

            Once, when pairing up on something, a coworker apologetically explained that he’s “one of those people” who uses capslock. I didn’t know there were people who thought it was incorrect to use the keyboard as designed until then, but I figured he’d been chastised or poked fun at before and that’s why he felt the need to explain.

        1. Saxenian*

          I would dearly like to know whether the people making this comment have ever spent any actual time in Silicon Valley.

          Nearly every serious figure in entrepreneurship and venture capital makes the comment that in Silicon Valley, unlike in other regions, failure is not merely tolerated but encouraged and is considered legitimate business experience. It is no career killer. This helps to explain the wild success of Silicon Valley.

          On the contrary, it is in places like Europe where you get one shot at founding a company and if you fail, your career is over, which accounts for why Europe lags so far behind the US in terms of new business creation.

          1. Jamoche*

            I live in Silicon Valley. They exist here, especially during boom times. They’re never at the top tier companies, and if they start their own company it generally fails, which they blame on everything but themselves.

          2. Inksmith*

            You do know that Europe is made up of multiple countries with their own identities, right? It’s not a monolith that you can speak of as though it’s all one country.

            1. Rainbow*

              These people don’t tend to know that, no. The number of things I’ve heard that “Europe” does… most recent was how “we” speak English (it transpired they meant UK English).

          3. Lucy Van Pelt*

            I think there’s a perceived difference between “Failure,” which is cool, and making a mistake, which is not. Failure in the tech sense is taking a risk, and being correct up until the moment when the market, the universe, or some larger force proved you wrong. It is putting up a good fight, even if you eventually lose.
            Making a mistake is just that. You, personally, were careless or had bad judgement.

      3. NerdyKris*

        Eh, I can believe it. I’ve definitely worked with people like that. Both in school and at work.

        We had a guy come in last year who promptly insulted me (IT department), the HR coordinator, and the guy telling him how the machines worked who’s been here for 25 years.

        I imagine this might be a relatively recent graduate who hasn’t had much job experience.

        1. Worldwalker*

          He’s definitely fresh out of college. He doesn’t know it’s common for a grandboss to be part of an interview panel? He hasn’t had many interviews. He thinks only very recent tech skills are relevant? His own skills haven’t existed for 10 years yet. I’d venture to guess that his experience to date is internships, retail, or McJobs, and this is part of his first “real world” job search. And if he doesn’t get a clue, he’d better practice up on saying “do you want fries with that?” because he’s not going to get the kind of job he’s looking for when he insults the hiring manager’s boss!

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

            I can’t remember the last full interview loop I had that didn’t include a grandboss, if not higher.

            1. MassMatt*

              IME most places that are successful start with being thorough when they hire, involving supervisors, coworkers, etc. and seeing if they are a good fit as well as having the skills and experience they need. That LW thought having a grandboss in a meeting was odd (and disparaged her skills and experience, to boot!) shows a lack of experience.

              He also blew a chance to learn about how the role fits into the larger department and the direction of the company.

            1. Irish Teacher.*

              And I very much doubt retail or fast food managers would employ somebody who showed disrespect for them in the interview either.

              And those jobs require extremely good soft skills, which probably contributes to the disrespect they get, because so many people seem to think that being able to multitask, remain polite at all times, remember orders, tell people what to do and maintain order while allowing the customer to believe they are in charge, etc are easy.

              My impression from the letter is that the LW would struggle far more with those jobs than with more technical jobs. You don’t do well in them without good soft skills and an ability to admit mistakes (heck, there are times when you have to admit mistakes you haven’t made in order to ask a customer to do something without giving offence: “oh sorry, I forgot to mention customers aren’t allowed in that area” or “oh, I’m afraid that line has been discontinued. I’m sorry. I didn’t make it clear enough,” when you actually told them and there is a huge sign saying it right in front of them.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                Yeah, there’s a reason I am gently pushing my kid towards at least one summer of retail or fast food employment. Anything were they get to deal with the general public, and get to see a lot of different kinds of people. I feel like his school experience may be a bit of a geeky bubble. It has been racially diverse, but economic / technically (ie, they all play Minecraft and Roblox) similar.

          2. tangerineRose*

            I also think this is a recent graduate. How could someone with real world experience in tech really think they’ve never ever made a mistake? Tech is not a forgiving medium. You might not notice a bug for years, but sooner or later, someone’s likely to trigger it.

          3. Ellis Bell*

            I would honestly be surprised if this person had managed to hold down any customer service or retail jobs. That’s the storm-eye where soft skills get polished into high shine. Whenever I’ve encountered people with zero soft skills, who think their hard skills are More Than Enough, they’ve come from money, or at least enough money that they’ve never had to work on the hard end of a customer complaint.

        2. Polly Hedron*

          But the interviewer asked him to explain the biggest mistake he’d made in his “career“, which sounds like he has had previous professional jobs.
          If so, I wonder how he got those jobs and how he got by in them.

      4. Csethiro Ceredin*

        I don’t know. I once interviewed a younger man who behaved exactly like this, as well as addressing answers to the (equally horrified/amused) male manager interviewing with me, who is older than I am but in fact reports to me.

        He argued about the questions, and once said “I’m not going to answer that, but I’ll tell you this instead…” when asked a normal interview question, and went into a long convoluted boast about knowing best.

        He kept saying he was an “alpha dog” and has to tell his boss when they are wrong (from his proud stories, his bosses were not wrong). And so on.

        Then he called furiously when he got the rejection email.

        1. tangerineRose*

          “He kept saying he was an “alpha dog” and has to tell his boss when they are wrong” That’s not someone you want to work with.

          On the other hand, I feel like part of my job is to bring up concerns, for example, if a new plan is being discussed with us, if I think of something that might be a problem, I think the right thing to do is to politely mention it.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            except for the parenthetical part of that sentence:

            “from his proud stories, his bosses were not wrong”

      5. Totally Minnie*

        I’m a woman who has interviewed people for jobs, and I would 10000% believe that this is real. The things a certain subset of men will say to a woman when they resent the idea of her being in authority over him are absolutely gross.

      6. Stopgap*

        Do we need to do the “this must be fake” thing every time a LW is in the wrong? Do you think unreasonable people don’t exist?

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Nah, it’s that unreasonable and misogynistic people don’t usually write to a woman for advice. I could see this in reddit/AITA, easily, but it’s a surprise in AAM.

      7. New Jack Karyn*

        The only ‘fake’ thing I might believe is that the interview happened, but the guy in question did not write the letter; someone else wrote it from his POV. One of the interviewers, or even his wife–to show him how far he had gone astray.

        But I don’t think it’s fake; I think the actual guy had this interview and wrote the letter.

      8. hbc*

        I had an employee who *unprompted* told me he never makes mistakes. My response: “Look, I’m not one to dwell on mistakes or rub noses in it or anything, but that’s ridiculous. Did we not just find two weeks worth of shipments that you forgot to process in the system?”

        Never underestimate people’s ability to ignore what they don’t want to see.

      9. Middle Aged Lady*

        I have interviewed someone similar. Young, just out if school, he was condescending to the (all-female) hiring committee, trash-talked his boss (some of us knew the boss) and handled issues with a coworker by keeping tabs on her productivity and tattling on her.

    2. AnonInCanada*

      Definitely this! This is one sure-fire way to not just burn a bridge, but napalm the ground it was attached to. The sheer arrogance of this letter was so off-putting that I’m surprised he’ll ever get another job if he continues with this attitude!

    3. Khloe*

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. And the fact that he made a point to bring awareness that he was interviewed by “females” shows his misogynistic and patriarchal thinking. He’s gonna ruin his career with this attitude.

    4. TG*

      Wow – I wouldn’t hire you either and I’m surprised you made it so far in the interview process. How dare you belittle anyone let alone the person who would be your grand boss.
      This should be a huge wake up call that you should treat EVERYONE how you’d want to be treated.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      My jaw it is on the floor. My face it has flames up the side. My eyebrows they are in the next zip code.

      1. Cat Tree*

        My eyebrows kept going higher and higher, until they circled entirely around my head and landed back in their original position.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          Right?! I was like, “Oh no. Oh. Nooooooo. Ohhhhhh NO. OH! NO!”

          In addition to his actual wrongness, his ongoing and complete certainty that it was impossible for him to be wrong was incredible.

          Thank you, Ms. Manager, for assessing his soft skills.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Seriously! Can you imagine the letters we’d get from every single one of his coworkers and his manager if they hadn’t decided to assess soft skills(/self awareness/misogyny)?

          2. Fiachra*

            The way it lays bare the logic of the finger-pointer is kind of fascinating.
            “Professionals don’t make mistakes. That’s for people who didn’t go to the right schools. I’m smart and professional, therefore I did not make a mistake. It’s someone else’s fault.”

            1. No Yelling on the Bus*

              Hm. That IS fascinating. ………… hm. We have some finger pointers over at my place of work….. this is giving me insight into that. It definitely aligns with another trend of “in grouping” (and out grouping). If you’re in the “in group” you can’t be pointed at. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm. My brain so does not work this way – it’s helpful that you laid it so bare.

      1. RunShaker*

        My jaw is still on the floor. this OP would benefit big time if he spends couple of hours reading all letters on this site. But then, I wondering/thinking this OP won’t take Alison’s advice. He also pointed out how all interviewers were female. That was telling (OP telling in a bad way). I hope the OP sees the light.

        1. Michelle*

          I was waiting for Allison to mention the “oh and they were all—“ *barely disguised sneer of contempt* —“women.”

          On the plus side, now I know what my ex-husband’s up to, after all these years!

          Whoever vetoed this guy should be taken out for beers and cake by the staff who would have had to work with him. I think we can all agree to make an exception for “gifts shouldn’t flow upward” for this.

        2. SpicyCrawdadAmoeba*

          Combined with the rest of the letter, it does give off a vibe that “clearly these women don’t know what they’re doing wrong, which is why they need me and my significant expertise.”

        3. sparkle emoji*

          Nice of the LW to put that upfront to clue me in that I’d want to toss my laptop at the wall by the end.

        4. The Rafters*

          OP won’t unfortunately. How many letters have we seen here where the comments are 99.9 percent telling LW they are misguided, only to have LW write back and tell us why we’re all wrong and they were right all along.

          1. works with realtors*

            I honestly hope we get that, because the 9 month cruise isn’t pumping out enough drama right now.


        5. Miss Muffett*

          If he hadn’t gotten the interview, he definitely woulda been the guy that said, How dare you not interview me? I am definitely the most qualified person for this job!

      2. Cat Tree*

        The only reason I know this is real because I have a close family member who is exactly like this. He just does not take any feedback ever.

          1. Quill*

            He may be one in a hundred (and not in the good way) but he’s disproportionately remembered so you don’t have to deal with him again.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        YEP. Exactly why the grandboss did the interview. To make sure the person wasn’t an AH.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        Grandboss made the right choice asking that particular question. I wonder if she asks everyone or if she sensed OP would have this sort of reaction.

        1. lyonite*

          The thing is, it’s a really normal interview question! I got caught by it the first time I was asked it, because I hadn’t prepared with an example, but I definitely didn’t go with “no mistakes, ever!”

          1. hcm*

            Not only is it a totally normal interview question but also it’s totally normal to be interviewed by the grandboss? Why is he acting like it’s so out of the ordinary?

            1. Michelle Smith*

              Even in my one stint in food service, I interviewed with and was hired by the franchise owner lol. It’s so common in so many fields.

              1. Irish Teacher.*

                Yeah, now that I think of it, I was interviewed by…at least my grandboss for retail. (Depending on whether you consider the manager, deputy manager or supervisor my direct boss.) Now, I think this may have been because the manager was transferring to a different branch, so the district manager interviewed me, but still. Not weird at all.

                1. Rainbow*

                  I’d be low key upset if my grandboss weren’t involved in the interview process. I think it’s really important to meet them, especially if they’re in a department head type role.

            2. tangerineRose*

              That’s another reason I think he’s new to this type of workforce. Although it sure isn’t the way I’d handle something that I wasn’t used to that didn’t seem like a big deal.

          2. Middle Aged Lady*

            My first thought was he made a mistake not looking up common interview questions and prepping his answers to them.
            OP, you have some growing up to do.

    2. Llama lamma workplace drama*

      As someone who has worked with arrogant asshats like this before I’m thankful those employees were spared the experience of working with this tool.

    3. pope suburban*

      I wish I could believe that this was not real, but sadly, I have met and worked with people this tone-deaf. I want it to be someone doing a bit, or writing in pretending to be their insufferable coworker, or writing a letter to try to illustrate a point about the way men tend to be treated differently to (meaning worse than) women, but…I just can’t be totally certain. And that depresses me a bit, frankly.

    4. iglwif*

      I blinked my eyes so hard my eyelids eventually went inside out. My eyebrows have reached the back of my neck.

      What the absolute WHAT.

      Genuinely impressed with the grandboss for not bursting into laughter and ending the interview then and there.

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      Right? Who wants to go halfsies on a winch for our collective jaws? Because mine is heading to the center of the earth.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Seriously! Does her gender and managerial position make it impossible for her to have a degree in the field?

        1. Instead of giving someone a real smile… we send an emoji*

          Well tech is famously a field where only official education is useful.

          1. tangerineRose*

            Yeah. What made him think she didn’t go to school for this? You know, it’s been legal for women to be educated in the tech field ever since… Maybe it’s always been legal.

            And plus, as you say, some people can become excellent at tech without formal education in it.

    6. Coffee Bean*

      I did the same thing, but it came out of my mouth in slow motion, because I was so astonished by the combination of extreme arrogance and lack of self awareness. It came out as Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Wowwwwwwwww. . .

      1. SarahKay*

        Same here. The Wowwwwwws just got longer and longer as my eyebrows headed upwards and my jaw steadily dropped.

  2. Veryanon*

    Oh boy. LW clearly doesn’t realize how pompous and mansplain-y he sounds. Yikes!!!!! I wouldn’t have hired him either. Yeesh.

    1. ferrina*

      It’s kind of nice when someone tells you who they are in an interview. Really saves a lot of time that you get to spend not dealing with his nonsense.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        For REAL. That all-women hiring team probably heaved a huge sigh of relief when they rejected him.

        1. Festively Dressed Earl*

          If Alison did a ‘worst interviewee’ Ask the Readers, I bet we’d hear from the people who interviewed this guy.

          1. Beboots*

            I would definitely love to contribute to a “worst interview” ask the readers post… I definitely have a tale to tell about a person who I in my head call “the Red Flag Candidate”, who definitely did me the favour of showing me the red flags – presumably while they were on her best behaviour, trying to get hired. I don’t know what they would have been like if they were to actually work for me. This person is the one who, unsolicited, sent me a bunch of back up documents, including an internal performance management document about herself at her last job which included the language “[candidate’s name] needs to learn to see her supervisors and managers as allies and not enemies” in one of the areas for discussion and improvement.

            1. Csethiro Ceredin*

              Wow, that goal really speaks for itself, but I’d love reading more about it in a “worst of” thread someday.

            2. Irish Teacher.*

              I’ll bet she read that as “candidates name needs to realise that her supervisors and managers are always on her side because she is so completely awesome and they are all in awe of her amazingness and her only flaw is that she doesn’t realise how much they all admire her.”

            3. Not the real Sheldon Cooper*

              I had one of those candidates. We were walking through his resume and discussing what his responsibilities were, why he moved on, etc. He was fairly inexperienced, so I was probing into his answers to help figure out his level of skills. Anyway, the third position back (which seemed like the most applicable), he told me alllll about the company. Included in his grievances was that they cared about his punctuality and didn’t consider traffic a valid excuse/thought that he should plan for morning traffic. Red flag #1. Then, he went on to tell me that his manager was often late too and that he felt singled out. He took it upon himself to monitor her arrival times and track them in a spreadsheet. Red flag #2. And finally continued (all this was unprompted btw beyond asking about his experiences in the role), that his grand boss attended his review and listened while his manager was pretty harsh on him. He then decided that was a great opportunity to share his spreadsheet with the grand boss in sort of a gotcha type way. Grand boss didn’t give him the pat on the back he thought he deserved. I lost count of the red flags. Needless to say, he didn’t get another interview.

            4. iglwif*

              Ooooh I have a good one!

              We asked this candidate why he was interested in the job. His reply focused primarily on how much his current manager sucked.

              This sounds bad, right?

              But it’s actually worse, because this was an internal candidate, at a company with <300 employees.

            5. Rainbow*

              Ooh I have a candidate for this! My much more senior colleague and I left the interview room together and he just wordlessly shook his head at me in utter disbelief at what had just gone about – we both later learned in a different part of the interview it had gone even more pear-shaped.

        2. learnedthehardway*

          And OP – for the record – the fact that it was an all-women hiring team is irrelevant. ANY decent hiring team looks at soft skills.

          But the fact that you noticed and attributed negative things about an all-female hiring team says some very not flattering things about your attitude towards working with women.

          So bullet dodged in more than one way, on the company’s part.

          1. tangerineRose*

            I’m female and work in tech and have worked with a number of men in tech who are willing to say “I don’t know, but you might try ” or “I don’t know, but you could ask “. Then again, these have generally been guys who are well known to be experts (and they are), and have a lot of experience, are confident, and also tend to be fairly mellow.

            The times I’ve had to deal with someone who didn’t know what he was talking about who wasn’t willing to admit it have been extremely frustrating. That kind of thing really wastes my time!

      2. Civil serpent*

        Exactly! The best interview response I’ve heard this year came from a man who, in summing up why he was a perfect fit for the job, said that he is “smarter than the average bear, and has a high IQ.” He the decision pretty easy for the interview team.

        1. NerdyKris*

          To be fair, most humans should be smarter than the average bear. I’d be a little concerned if they weren’t.

          1. The Rafters*

            A national parks ranger said that they had to stop using a certain type of bear-proof container b/c people couldn’t open them, but the bears could.

            1. MsM*

              I believe I’ve also heard something about there being considerable overlap between the capabilities of the smartest bears and the least intelligent humans.

        2. BeenThere*

          The next time I get a candidate like this story I am going to picture them with a picnic basket. Then I might be able to make my face behave in the interview.

    2. GingerNP*

      Yes, I definitely heard “It’s worth noting that I am a Man and therefore am innately more capable than all of those womanly women with their feminine emotions and natural lack of equal brain power and I was subjected to an INTERVIEW with them where they got to JUDGE me”…
      He didn’t have to say it for it to be really loud.

      1. Scylla*

        I got more “everyone is so woke these days, they didn’t like me because I’m a man and men can’t do anything these days without being ripped apart for it” vibes from that, but either way not something “worth noting” to us. This obviously would’ve been obnoxious regardless of everyone’s genders.

        (Also….yeah this guy did NOT need to tell us he was a man being interviewed by a woman. My guy. My dude. We could tell.)

        1. NoNotNan*

          “Worth noting, I’m not fit to work in mixed company, I lack all self awareness and ooze misogyny. I am definitely going to ask women to do tasks I deem beneath me without any authority to delegate and in return for their loyal collaboration, I will entrust them with my man knowledge so they can some day boss other women around on my behalf.”

        2. MigraineMonth*

          Maybe there has been, sometime in history, a woman who brought this energy into an interview with the man who would be her skip-level boss. Maybe.

          But I would have been willing to bet large amounts of money on the genders if the LW hadn’t told us.

        3. Irish Teacher.*

          Yeah, I got “I don’t know whether they were prejudiced against me because I was a man or if they were just bad at interviewing or something.”

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            But only if they’re laughing alone with salad. (They are, however, allowed to try to drink water.)

      2. sparkle emoji*

        How dare they consider things like soft skills, when you are the Most Correctest Man, you don’t need soft skills, duh /s

      3. La Triviata*

        Back in 2017, some clever young man who worked at Google sent around – to all staff, I believe – that there was no point in trying to train women as engineers, because they were intrinsically unsuited for that. He made comments about the “ideological echo chamber” that were trying. yeah. I believe his remaining time was measured in nanoseconds.

        1. Raven Mistress*

          Well, yes, if you prove that you’re unwilling to respect and work with half the human race, that DOES rather limit you in the 21st century workplace!

          1. Phryne*

            Unfortunately, for a tech company like Google I’m quite willing to believe the ‘this opens us up to lawsuits if not shut down instantly’ motivator was as least as strong as ‘we do not tolerate disrespect towards women or minorities’. But hey, at least the result is the same.

        2. tangerineRose*

          “I believe his remaining time was measured in nanoseconds.” Good! That man sounded horribly sexist plus horribly uneducated. Does he not know that there have been quite a lot of female engineers?

    3. Annalee*

      Engineering manager here, and yeah, it’s worth calling out the gendered aspect specifically, because yes that very much matters here. The LW didn’t get hired because the LW was being misogynistic.

      There’s no gender configuration that would make this behavior okay, but I can say without a doubt that the LW’s application was Dead On Arrival the very second he asked a senior woman in tech why she was interviewing him for a technical position since she “clearly” couldn’t be technical herself.

      He had maybe five seconds to recover from that with a profuse apology, but instead he doubled down and then went on to question her technical skills and imply that she was a bad engineer because she hadn’t gone to school for it? (and apparently he didn’t even know where she went to school because he didn’t look her up until afterwards).

      That’s not just “this person would be a nightmare to supervise.” That is “if I hire this person I will have trouble keeping women on my team.”

      Also Alison, a quick note on being a manager without the related degree as it pertains to tech specifically: this isn’t just true because there are many paths to management and the skills are transferable. This is true because many non-managers in tech do not have a related degree. It’s just not a requirement for most tech jobs. So a manager in tech without a CS degree is likely to have just as many years of direct technical experience as a manager in tech with a CS degree.

      In tech, “well you don’t have a CS degree so you can’t possibly be technical” pretty much always means “well you don’t look like an engineer so you cannot possibly be my peer or my better.” The problem isn’t that it’s elitist; it’s that it’s pretty much always some combination of misogynistic and racist: it’s not a standard that people (even people with tech degrees) hold white men to in our industry.

      1. iglwif*

        THANK YOU. All of this.

        I worked for a really great, very niche software firm for a while. On the very good, very friendly dev team, 0% of people had CS degrees — they were just smart, nerdy people who liked to code and were good at it.

        1. Jamoche*

          I may have been one of the first people at my first company to have a CS degree – because it hadn’t existed that long. It was also teaching skills more suited to mainframes, when desktop computers were just becoming a thing.

          1. And So it Begins*

            That sounds like my now-retired stepdad – he was in IT from the early 70s and didn’t have a degree. It wasn’t a problem until the end of his career, and even then we all suspect ageism in disguise.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        100%. My husband is a network engineer who does not have a degree but is in management. Roughly half his coworkers (peers and reports as well as his bosses) have degrees and half don’t. I’m pretty sure no one has told my husband that he doesn’t look educated or like he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But I’m sure that his female peers have experienced that.

      3. CM*

        This this this. I have a CS degree. I am a woman. I worked with so many of these dudes who could not fathom that I could possibly have the same skill set as them. I still remember one guy who was mansplaining a very basic concept at length, as a prelude to the project we actually need to talk about. After a series of, “Yes, I’m familiar with that, we can move on,” type responses from me, I finally said, “Seriously, I understand, I have a master’s degree in computer science, this is something very fundamental that I learned early on, and I’d like to move on.” He responded, “Oh, you have a degree. Well, in SCHOOL you might have learned… and your TEACHER might have taught you that…” (I was not able to get up and leave due to our respective work roles, but I took out a pen and started conspiciously doodling until he was done with his explanation.)

        1. Enai*

          I would’ve been furious. I hope either he learned some professionalism or, better, that you didn’t have to deal with him ever again.

        2. BeenThere*

          This is when I break out my document the event file. It’s great a diversion to note down the day, time, attendees and the basic facts.

        3. AWomanInTech*

          One of my fave stories is I was a supervisor in a software support call center. A new hire hit a complex issue he hadn’t seen before, so I went over to his desk to help out. Over a share with the user’s computer, I opened Command Line to do some stuff. He said, genuinely shocked “I didn’t know a GIRL could use command line!!”

          Like. My dude. I am your boss.

      4. Twix*

        “this isn’t just true because there are many paths to management and the skills are transferable”

        There’s also the fact that being a technical person and being a manager of technical people are totally different (albeit related) skillsets. I’m a senior software engineer specializing in complex industrial mathematical modeling. Nobody I report to has the background to understand the work I do on a technical level. (In fact, neither do any of the other technical people I work with.) That’s why they hired me. But my boss understands enough of what I do to be great at her job, which is not understanding all of the technical details of our software. People who manage technical people need to know enough about the technical side to support and assess the people reporting to them, but it’s foolish to assess someone’s suitability for a role based on whether they have job skills that aren’t actually needed for that role.

        1. tangerineRose*

          “There’s also the fact that being a technical person and being a manager of technical people are totally different (albeit related) skillsets.” Exactly!

      5. Anax*

        Yep, all of this.

        I would also add – I think it’s often pretty well-understood in tech that CS degrees vary WILDLY in their actual usefulness.

        In say, chemistry, school curriculums will vary but there are typically some basic linchpins you expect any chemistry major to have taken. They probably have a basic understanding of lab safety and techniques, some college-level math, some organic and inorganic coursework. An English major has probably read some books and written some essays.

        In CS… it’s a total grab-bag. A ‘normal’ curriculum doesn’t really exist yet – and the prestigious universities which have had CS programs for decades often have programs which are decades out of date. There’s really no technology, language, framework, or specialty that someone with a CS degree ‘typically’ knows.

        Every employer I’ve had knows perfectly well that a CS major is almost meaningless; all it shows is that you got through college, and you might have a bare-bones understanding of a few coding terms – in the way I, as someone who did not major in chemistry, sorta remember how combustion works based on my high school science classes. That’s it.

        (Speaking from experience here – I graduated from a ‘public Ivy’ in 2013, and other than a 101-level class in Java, we literally dealt with nothing more recent than 1970. I took more math and electrical engineering classes than anything, and the skills I learned are completely irrelevant to my professional life. That’s unfortunately not terribly uncommon. Community colleges and smaller schools often have much more useful curricula, from what I’ve seen – but that’s no guarantee.)

        1. OrigCassandra*

          There’s also the thing where the pedagogy literature in CS is incredibly impoverished, partly because standard-issue CS academia looks all the way down on something as squishy and human as (ugh) teaching.

          (I say this as a college and graduate instructor in a discipline that’s a step over from CS. I don’t teach CS or software engineering! I do teach technology rather regularly.)

          Like, folks who remember the recent ructions over phonics vs. whole-language — that got settled by actual effectiveness research. An evidence base. Reading pedagogy has a huge one; math, a substantial but less-huge one. The evidence base for CS pedagogy is just plain pathetic! Partly, of course, it’s that there hasn’t been time to accumulate much of one, but part of it is quite simply that too many CS people don’t think they need to learn to teach.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            A late response here but I so appreciate a pedagogy critic! I teach phonics and the amount of “it’s not for every child” crap I hear is rage inducing.

        2. JK!*

          CS programs teach fundamentals — how OSs work, how processors work, how to be mindful in your programming, etc — not languages and frameworks. You will work in a variety of languages for your classes, but learning a specific language or framework is not the goal. These are easily learned on the job or on your own time.
          By the way, it sounds like we may have studied in the same program.

        3. TigressInTech*

          I’m currently studying for a graduate degree in a CS program that’s ranked within the top 30 in the US and I asked one of my professors (one of the heads of department at the time) how on earth you would standardize or subdivide the CS curriculum beyond the basics, since the field encompasses *so many* subjects, and he essentially said that there isn’t a good way to do it without making arbitrary divisions (and thus arbitrary limitations) within the major. Essentially my takeaway from the conversation was that the variability and huge breadth of the field is why most tech jobs have a coding interview at some point in the process.

      6. Observer*

        That is “if I hire this person I will have trouble keeping women on my team.”

        To be honest I would amend this to “I will have trouble keeping reasonable people on my team.”

        Because reasonable people don’t like working with people who are THIS misogynistic, nor who are this arrogant and sure of their infallibility because they “actually went to school” for whatever it is. (Even plenty of people who are themselves sexist are going to have a problem with this guy.)

      7. DrMouse*

        Thank you for calling out that gender is relevant here! I agree that no gender configuration would make this behavior ok, but knowing that the interviewers were women…… sure painted a picture of *exactly* how bad the belly flop was.

      8. CallMeDr.Dork*

        I am another female developer who is completely self-taught (starting with Fortran 77 for undergrad research). There are plenty of other non-CS devs out there, and I was happy to use up my political capital to hire another ex-scientist to replace me when I retired. It was extremely frustrating to try to explain to the other interviewers that being able to rattle off hashing algorithms was not as useful in my job as being able to solve logic problems, research data sources, and work well with the multiple project managers who gave us tasks. I honestly don’t know how these guys think when they dismiss the input of the senior person who has held the role that is being hired for…

      9. Blue Horizon*

        Re: it’s not a standard that people (even people with tech degrees) hold white men to in our industry.

        Yep. White man here with a long development career behind me, although I’ve moved on to other roles now. I do not have a CS degree. I studied applied mathematics with a large experimental component and did some pretty high spec research coding along the way, using mostly self taught languages. I’d also been coding as a hobby since I was a child.

        I was always completely up front about this and would use myself as an example for why a formal CS qualification wasn’t needed in the industry. Based on some of the other anecdotes, you might think it would be a career risk for me to do that – but it wasn’t, because I was never challenged on it. Not even once, and not even when I was a new grad stumbling my way through and making the various rite-of-passage mistakes that all of us do.

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      I could not BELIEVE how he came across–I kept rereading bits to make sure it really was as tone deaf and arrogant as I thought it sounded.

      1. Ink*

        This is LW’s account. It should be skewed toward him, the interviewer doesn’t have much of a voice. If there’s *anywhere* LW should come off favorably it’s here, and yet I knew why he was rejected before getting halfway through. That’s an arrogance problem so massive I’d advise LW to find some pretty intensive training on those darn girly soft skills to go along with the rest of his attitude adjustment. They tend to come up here alongside inability to be *promoted*, and the LW is so much worse I feel like on his way to an appropriately misogynistic company he might blacklist himself from enough places to severely limit the rest of his career. It’s better for everyone for him to get sorted and never inflict this interview or the subsequent workplace misogyny on anyone ever again!

    5. KayDeeAye*

      My favorite part is where he says “I told her maybe she made mistakes as a developer but since I actually went to school for it, I didn’t have that problem. She seemed fine with it and we moved on with the interview.”

      OP, my friend, she was “fine with it” because if she was by some miracle even slightly inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt, that little exchange killed any chance of that. She’d given up on you, and at this point she knew for certain that the only reason to go on with the interview was to be polite. This is one of those things we call a “soft skill.”

      1. Bitte Meddler*

        I am 1000% sure that she only continued the interview just to see how big of a train wreck it could be. And for hilarious anecdotes to share with her team and her friends in the future.

        1. KayDeeAye*

          Oh, there will definitely be some epic “You wouldn’t believe this guy!” stories coming out of this interview.

          1. House On The Rock*

            Yep, at a certain point (probably pretty early in the interview), she was in it for the chance to share stories about how unbelievable this candidate was.

            OP, no one is “fine with” being told they are not qualified and/or sloppy at their job, especially by someone who is seeking to work for them!

      2. davethetrucker*

        I’m reading this in the school pickup line and I absolutely cackled, open-mouthed, as some teachers walked by. Switched to sheepish grin immediately, but man, that was the best laugh I’d had all day.

      3. sparkle emoji*

        Yep, that “fine with it” reaction was her mentally switch-flipping from “interviewing a serious job candidate” mode to “watching the chaos unfold” mode.

      4. EmmaPoet*

        At that moment, I think she switched to, “I really want to see how deep he can dig this hole, just out of morbid curiosity.”

      5. Lenora Rose*

        Yeah, I half suspect the “she was interviewing for things like communication, ability to prioritize, and soft skills” was also meant to be a broad hint that “The other interviews showed you knew your technical stuff but were a jerk about it”.

        I commend this woman’s poker face if he thought he was acing it.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Given that OP thought his interview with the skip-level manager was going great, I have massive doubts that he did as well as he thought he did in the previous interviews, at least at convincing anyone he would be a good report or teammate. This level of contempt and entitlement is hard to hide.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            I suspect so. I get the impression this is a person who either doesn’t register other peoples’ body language at all, or who thinks a look of vague shock and horror is a neutral woman’s expression because it’s what he sees so often.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              who thinks a look of vague shock and horror is a neutral woman’s expression because it’s what he sees so often


            2. On Fire*

              “… or who thinks a look of vague shock and horror is a neutral woman’s expression because it’s what he sees so often.”

              Okay, I’ve read every comment, but this was the one that made me snort.

        2. Saint Dorothy Mantooth*

          I thought the exact same thing! I can definitely picture the previous interviewers saying “This guy meets the requirements on paper, but we’re getting a bad vibe. Grandboss, can you meet with him and confirm?”

      6. SPDM*

        I, a woman in tech, was once told by a woman interviewing for a senior research job–in a group dinner with multiple junior women researchers–that women weren’t as good at science and math. We couldn’t get up and leave so we just faked another hour, but boy howdy, that person was DOA before doing another 10 hours of meetings the next day. Head of the unit: also a woman.

        It’s entirely possible to let something ride for another hour just to see how bad it gets….

      7. BlondSpiders*

        I don’t think I could ever be composed enough to continue. The best I could manage is a forced smile and a bright, “OK, I think we’re done here!”

      8. Phryne*

        I had such a very clear visual Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly doing this tiny little pursing of the mouth, an almost inaudible ‘hm’, and a single stroke on a notepad.
        That, my bud, was the moment your interview ended. The rest was just for show.

    6. CB212*

      He “asked why she was interviewing me since it was a technical position and she was clearly some kind of middle manager”

      Me, reading: oh, well he didn’t say all that out loud of course!

      ….She “told (him) she had a technical background ”

      Me: oh wow no he literally said it just like that apparently?!

      1. Csethiro Ceredin*

        Also if he thought his boss’s boss would be “just some middle manager” the position he was applying for was presumably a fairly junior one, which makes the thinly veiled contempt even more startling.

        1. GoogleMeThis*

          If he’s never made a serious technical error before, I can guarantee he has next to zero experience in the field.

          I worked for Google, and everyone who’d been there for 5 years had a story about a massive screwup that they shared. The time they accidentally wrote a DDOS attack on their own service. The update that shut down an entire data center. The optimization that ensured the query would never return results. TBH, you weren’t considered an experienced developer until you’d taken down a service affecting at least 10,000 people.

          1. BeenThere*

            As a backend engineer who works on services this makes me chuckle. I was terrified to join my team because of things like taking out 50,000 customers or worse. Then I watched and saw what happened and the strangest thing people kept their jobs and we had a postmortem. It is one of the nicest places I have worked because everyone has to be humble and recognize how hard it is to change and maintain these systems.

            1. OrigCassandra*

              Bop over to YouTube and look for Forrest Brazeal’s #HugOps Song.

              It’s incredibly charming, and all about exactly this. I play it for several of my tech-heavier classes. There’s always a CS major or two who look… relieved.

          2. Worldwalker*

            In my first programming job, I managed to crash the main computer system in the middle of hourly data collection. Irreparable error; that important data was lost. But that didn’t approach what my boss did, when, doing direct disc access, he wrote data to first the boot block, then the map file, and had probably gotten well into the file headers by the time the OS tried to read the garbage and crashed. He’d bricked the system pack on our PDP-11/34.

            If you’ve never failed, you’ve never done much at all. I’m guessing this guy always aced his college assignments, blissfully unaware that they were written to be completed in the allotting time, and that the real world isn’t like that.

            1. HaterofMainframes*

              27 years in IT here. unix admin.
              i have a problem answering the mistake question myself too.
              In those 27 years i somehow managed to avoid breaking something that’s worth remembering. So i wouldn’t know what qualifies as “biggest”. Restarting a test system by accident, because the focus was on the wrong shell? but nobody even noticed, it was well after hours. Forgetting to apply permissions? fixed 5 mins later by testing. didn’t brick anything, must’ve been sheer luck though i developed some sort of defence mechanisms over the years so i can do production systems updates at 3 in the morning while being drunk without destroying anything.
              i’ve got colleagues who made it to tech news tickers and one even made it to a newspaper headline, but somehow all this fame eluded me, until now at least.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                The level of screwing up is often dependent on factors like company culture, speed of the release cycle, potential for harm, type of development (services, webpages, mainframes, etc), processes in place to catch issues, and of course how many people could be affected.

                Services tend to be held together with silly string and putty, so in an environment with low potential for harm and a fast release cycle, you can release some pretty outrageous stuff onto the world before it gets rolled back an hour later.

                That’s a far cry from safety-critical systems. No one laughs about that time no one caught their error and their bug crashed a plane.

          3. Blue Horizon*

            I’ll put my hand up for the accidental DDOS. I was debugging some pre-existing networking code, and what I THOUGHT was a simple flag check turned out to be triggering a connection status ping several layers deep. I added a call to the ‘flag check’ as part of a failure handler on the connection status ping and all hell broke loose.

            In some ways I think the sum total of your mistakes and failures defines you as an engineer. I always used to look forward to asking the question of the really experienced ones, because their ‘mistakes’ tended to be the really subtle ones that got all the stars to line up and made it all the way through the many layers of test automation, reviews, and fail-safes into production. The debriefs on those are absolute gold. Stop just one problem like that before it happens and you can save days or weeks of incident response time.

            1. GoogleMeThis*

              I once wrote a multi-threaded web-crawler for a college research project, tasked the 40 computers in the lab to run it, and cost the college thousands of dollars in internet usage (and locked up those computers right before exam week) because no one thought to teach me throttling.

              To make me feel better, my CS professor shared the story of the time they assigned building an email client to their classes as an overarching project for the term. Unfortunately, they kept having to extend deadlines because the college’s email server kept going down that term. One student noticed that it always seemed to happen right before projects were due and wondered if they were causing the outages.

              “Of course not,” my teacher replied. After the student left, though, they couldn’t stop thinking about it. There were students in the class. You couldn’t bring down an email server with 30 connections, right? Except the connection code was written a bit inefficiently, so actually there were 4 connections per student, but again, you can’t bring down an email server with 120 connections.

              After some investigation, the professor learned that the IDE maintained all connections even after the code stopped running/crashed instead of closing them, meaning 4 connections per student per time they ran their code. In other words, the professor had run a DDOS attack on the college’s email server multiple times that term.

          4. Azure Jane Lunatic*

            The tiny open source project that I’m affiliated with recognized that we were having a problem with confidence in beginning developers. Sometimes it came naturally, sometimes it came as a result of the culture of scathing criticism of errors that sometimes comes with open source. So my amazing friend Ricky suggested we compile a list of various errors that existing contributors and other project-affiliated people have made, to show neophytes that a) it’s not the end of the world, and b) it is in fact possible to be a talented and respected developer and still have oopsed the entire bug database.

            1. GoogleMeThis*

              Oopsing the bug database isn’t great, but I worked at a company wehre one of my colleagues accidentally deleted the entire production database. The one no one had backed up.

      2. ccsquared*

        You know what’s generally easy to find these days? People with the requisite technical skills to do the job.

        You know what’s harder to find? People with the requisite technical skills to do the job who are also empathetic, self-aware, and humble enough to know that there’s always things to learn, no matter how qualified you are.

        When I was a manager, I only hired the latter, and this guy wouldn’t have made it past the screening interview if he showed up with the kind of energy in this letter.

        1. iglwif*

          Yep. In the software company I worked for recently, hiring for technical roles was 90% focused on those “soft” skills you list, along with curiosity and imagination. You can teach people sooooooooo much technical stuff if they’re smart and curious and want to learn it. It’s a lot harder to teach a grown adult empathy, humility, self-awareness, curiosity, or imagination.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          I consider seamless communication to be my “special sauce”. There are a lot of developers who can write a binary search or a webpage, but it’s far rarer to be able to a) listen to what a stakeholder says they want, b) figure out what they actually want, d) choose a technical solution that correctly weights developer time, reliability, user experience and stakeholder satisfaction, and e) explain that choice to management and all stakeholders in a way they will understand.

          The secret is that non-technical people don’t want you to dumb it down for them when you explain a solution; they want you to start with their issue and priorities and give them the details they need to evaluate if the issue is resolved in a way that aligns with their priorities.

    7. Mo*

      One of the real problems today is people thinking that having a degree in a subject means they know more about the field than experienced people without a degree. I had a neighbor with a degree in interior design, but zero taste and no color sense. She’d complain about astonishingly beautiful homes because they didn’t follow the rules she’d picked up in her classes.

      Understanding how the world works counts for so much more than having learned a version of how it might work. But there’s a large swath of America that refuses to believe it. Don’t know about the rest of the world.

      1. Bitte Meddler*

        Oh, that’s not a new problem. This has been going on since the invention of college degrees.

    8. The Other Sage*

      I’m am glad on behalf of the co-workers of that manager that he showed so bluntly who he is.

    9. Fiddlestixx*

      One note I particularly enjoyed was “I am a man and was interviewed by all women.”

      Well, one, we all already knew that you’re a man.

  3. Ronny*

    I really hope the LW can sit with Alison’s response and update us in a few months. From his own recounting of the interview, I wouldn’t have hired him either. If he can learn from this, then hey, he’ll have a great answer to this same question next time!

      1. MigraineMonth*

        We’ve seen some pretty remarkable turnarounds in letter updates, so I’m not ruling it out. On the other hand, we often don’t get updates, and occasionally we get one like the update from the Leap Year Birthday tyrant where absolutely none of the advice was taken to heart.

    1. Mrs. Weaver*

      And if it sounded that bad from his own POV, image how bad it would sound if that interviewer was writing the letter!

      I have to wonder if the recruiter and hiring manager really loved him as much as he thinks they did, given the utter lack of self-awareness in the rest of the letter. If they were on the fence, it would make sense for the grandboss to want to interview him as well, especially on the soft skills that would seemingly show lacking in the previous interviews. It’s one of the things I love about the team I’m on right now. My grandboss hires for soft skills as well as tech ones. It makes for a much nicer team to work with.

  4. Dr. Rebecca*

    *wince* Ooooooh, buddy. For someone who “doesn’t make mistakes,” that entire process was a WHOPPER on your end.

    1. Sparkle Motion*

      There were so many obvious mistakes in that interview–and then in his processing of it afterward–that he clearly just lies to himself about all the other mistakes he (never) makes.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        Like a slow-motion train wreck in a movie, where you’re screaming at the characters to slam on the brakes. A cascade of OH NO.

        1. Jam on Toast*

          It wasn’t his fault. The brake design was bad. And the train tracks were laid incorrectly, probably by someone who didn’t have a degree in civil engineering. And the signal system was also down that day, because…some reasons…..

          So, as anyone who is not a female middle manager can see, the trainwreck wasn’t his fault at all!

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      I mean, if this was his first mistake, it can’t be denied he went all in, deep end, head first, ass on fire.

    3. Dittany*

      Somewhere, ten years later, Future Him is looking back on this incident and resisting the urge to curl up like a pillbug.

      1. Llama face!*

        “the urge to curl up like a pillbug”
        This description so perfectly describes the moments when my brain randomly decides to review all my past embarrassments in depth (usually late at night).

      1. President Porpoise*

        My dad once worked in government, and was on a level where a certain woman was often providing feedback on his work and his team’s outputs, etc. This was not a low level role, and my dad is an extremely intelligent guy with a solid scientific background he certainly needed to do the work he was hired to do. This was years ago, so I may be omitting forgotten details, but he always seemed to believe that this woman was a “diversity hire” (his words) who clearly didn’t have the necessary background, mental fortitude, whatever to even understand the Very Important thing he was doing.

        Guys, she was a fucking colonel. She absolutely was 100% qualified and capable. It was so offensive that he was so stuck on her gender, even just to me – his daughter. And my dad is not subtle. I have no doubt that she clearly saw his disdain.

        1. tangerineRose*

          It’s really sad that people will act like someone’s a diversity hire when usually they’ve had to work harder than everyone else to get to this level.

        2. Garblesnark*

          My dad ALSO couldn’t stop complaining about diversity hires long enough to learn anything from them!

        1. Hills to Die on*

          But to actually say it out loud and not think there’s a problem. It’s just impressive. Like, in the bad way.

          1. ferrina*

            My ex has risen to the challenge multiple times. There are definitely people out there who just cannot imagine themselves as anything but the main character, and of course, the type of main character who cannot do wrong (but can absolutely be a victim to other people’s cruel set-ups, like this grandboss who dared to ask a normal interview question!)

            1. BigLawEx*

              Sometimes (from this and previous comments) I think we have the same ex. Mine has NEVER made a mistake. Everything is everyone else’s problem. He went to an Ivy and therefore is always right.

              There are people like this. I met and married one. They are like this in public, in interviews, in work/intimate relationships. There are entire YT channels dedicated to people like this. Fortunately?! they’re not common, though not quite rare either.

              The ONE difference is this guy wrote in, so **maybe** he’ll change his ways…

                1. ThatOtherClare*

                  Not the OP, but I can think of a few reasons:
                  1. They might have been young and naive and impressed by his confidence
                  2. Some people can hide their worst traits for literally years until they feel their partner is ‘trapped’ and won’t leave, at which point they pull a Jekyll/Hyde act
                  3. They might have the type of arranged marriage where they didn’t get to meet him first or didn’t get much say in the matter
                  4. They might have become pregnant and were forced by their community to marry the father and were only able to divorce once his abuse crossed a specific ‘red line’

                2. ferrina*

                  1. Bad start = no concept of what love/respect is. I was raised by really toxic parents and never had a healthy model of love or respect. I was literally told “we mock because it’s how we show love”, while my accomplishments were minimized because “eh, well it’s easy for you, so it doesn’t count” (I was in the top 3 for pretty much any academic assessment at my school, but it didn’t count because I was a naturally fast learner and capable of quickly assessing and applying knowledge). Of course, when I did something I considered difficult it wasn’t praised because “it’s not that hard” (I have a learning disorder that impact executive function)

                  2. love bombing. He went all in on being the sweetest guy ever, caring about me, listening to me, giving me gifts, etc. When my family of origin refused to help me, he stepped in with money and a listening ear. An abusive person can pretend to be sweet and normal.

                  3. fostering co-dependence. He reaffirmed that my family was messed up, then offered himself and his (secretly messed up) family as a paradigm of normal. Look how loving they are! You could have all this! We won’t ask anything of you, but our feelings will be deeply hurt if you ever push back on us (i.e., set boundaries). We will accept you, though of course we recognize how deeply flawed you are, unlike us.
                  I had a lifetime of being told I was difficult and awful; these people didn’t tell me I wasn’t awful, but told me I still didn’t deserve such treatment as my family of origin (think the Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame)

                  4. lack of options. There were several points early on where I almost left (or did leave for a short while then came back). But it was a recession and I had no money and no support system. My career was up in the air. I had moved to a new city for the boyfriend career and didn’t have any friends that weren’t also his friends (later I recognized this as an isolation tactic).

                  So I convinced myself that it wasn’t that bad. And the badness creeped in over time. It’s one thing that is bad, then you brush it off because “he didn’t mean it”. He apologizes (a little too much) then you move on. Then another bad. And he didn’t mean that one either. Eventually the apologies stopped and the Narcissist’s Prayer began.
                  Finally I got to the point where I had recovered enough from my childhood to see what was going on and to leave. But it took many years.

          2. S*

            Yeah, people like this definitely exist, but the question is whether a real person would tell their side of the story in a way that made them look this bad. Could happen, of course, but I’m skeptical.

            1. Rainy*

              You have to have some kind of suspicion that maybe you are coming off poorly in the situation before you go to the effort of trying to make yourself look good.

              1. Starbuck*

                Right but this guy clearly doesn’t value the opinions of women, so them disapproving of him doesn’t mean he did anything bad, it just means they’re wrong about him and they’re the ones making a mistake for not recognizing his skills.

            2. Ms. Engineer*

              As female with an engineering degree these men exist.* I actually laughed when reading this letter and wasn’t surprised with the number of people saying “this can’t be real.”

              LW relayed the contents of the interview. LW’s is asking for the steps to move forward in the hiring process since the interview didn’t work. This is so on brand.

              *How real this letter is irrelevant. The advice is where the value is.

              1. 1-800-BrownCow*

                Female engineer here as well and I completely concur! My thought reading this was “thank goodness it was a panel of women interviewing him because many guys like OP seem to make it through the interview process with a panel of men successfully” and I’ve had to work with the *I’m perfect and never make mistakes* type way too often. And you can bet that as a “girl engineer” (yes, I’ve been called that), my degree, for whatever reason, is not as good as theirs so of course, they think they know how to do my job better than me.

                1. Dina*

                  I’m not an engineer but I was a technical writer for many years. These guys definitely exist.

                  I loved it when a female engineer called a meeting because I knew it would be over in 15 minutes without the other 45 being taken up with oblivious mansplaning.

            3. NerdyKris*

              I’ve listened to a person insist everyone was out to get him while carefully explaining how he was letting a stalker into the building to stalk an employee because she “deserved it”, and upon getting written up for it, proceeded to shout in front of HR’s door to the entire office that he was going to make that woman’s life even worse now that he knew she complained.

              So yeah, there are people like that.

                1. Enai*

                  I can’t express how glad I am that he was fired, NerdyKris. I hope the poor target of the stalker also got better protection.

            4. Observer*

              ut the question is whether a real person would tell their side of the story in a way that made them look this bad.

              That’s the easy part. Because people who act this way simply do no understand that they are acting badly. And this letter tracks with that thought process.

            5. Writer Claire*

              I supervised someone like this, and he actually did say these things out loud. He wouldn’t take feedback, tried to talk over me in status meetings, and generally thought he was god’s gift to software development. I ended up firing him after repeated problems. He was young, however, and hopefully he’s learned some self-awareness since then.

              If I were interviewing the OP, I’d pass on hiring him too. OP, I hope you are listening hard to Alison’s advice.

            6. Bitte Meddler*

              This dude could be my ex, except my ex dropped out of college.

              He was once stabbed in the meat of his shoulder above his armpit by an old man (60’s? 70’s?) after my ex FOLLOWED HIM FOR SEVERAL MILES because the old man had turned in front of him — not endangering Ex, but just annoying him.

              Ex told me the story as I was driving home from work that day. At every point in the story where he was trying to make Old Man out to be The Bad Guy, he was actually damning himself because *none* of his actions made sense to a reasonable person.

              With each new unbelievable thing he told me he’d done, I tried to say, “Why would you do *THAT*??” but he just yelled over me: “I’M *TRYING* TO TELL YOU!!”

              Zero self-awareness.

              To this day, years later, he still thinks everything he did that day was right and correct.

              He is a 6’2″ whyte dude who genuinely believes that he has never made a mistake and that all of his failures in life have been caused by other people. It is both amazing and frightening.

              So while I *want* to believe that someone who witnessed LW’s behavior wrote in pretending to be the person who did the behavior, I’m willing to bet that the LW really is that entitled and clueless.

          3. Siege*

            I would like to introduce you to the database class I taught in 2015 that had so many near-indistinguishable white men (medium height, medium build, various shades of short hair generally in mid-brown, same “I’m a techbro in training” wardrobe) that I could not tell them apart except for the one who actually talked to me about a mutual interest he was using for his database project.

            For this class, I assign a final project. The students build a database that meets various criteria, I go in and delete parts of the data (this is really typical for databases over time to lose some of the data), they use the data to answer various questions, no problem. It can be any database on any topic as long as it meets the requirement, because it would be boring for me if everyone was doing a database on, like, classes they are taking, and I like students to engage with the project.

            One student did a database of his dating life. With ratings. With other details that were completely unnecessary to give to your teacher in a classroom setting. He did not do that project for his final, but I still have never figured out if he was so clueless that he thought it was appropriate to rate and describe women and then give it to his teacher or if he was baiting me to try to provoke a stronger reaction (I am a woman). Either way, it was just such a demonstration of That Kind Of Guy.

            1. OrigCassandra*

              I want to say you taught Mark ZuckerJerk…

              I once had a student turn in an assigned screencast where his desktop background photo was clearly visible. I’ll be polite and say it was a… pinup. Yep. A pinup.

              Had to go get advice on what to say back, because I hit the flames-on-face fury zone immediately and I know better than to respond to a student when I’m in that place mentally.

              It all turned out well, though. Student thought it over, admitted to himself I had a point, apologized sincerely. I still hear from him now and then, and he’s doing fine.

          4. Writer Claire*

            My comment got eaten so shorter version:

            I supervised someone like the OP, and he did say things like this out loud. He also refused to take feedback, talked over me in status meetings, and believed he was god’s gift to software development. He was not, and eventually I had to fire him.

            However, he was young, so perhaps time and experience have helped to give him some self awareness.

          5. Stopgap*

            He thinks he doesn’t make mistakes. He doesn’t have the self-awareness to realize how he’s coming off here.

        2. Rainy*

          I went to grad school with a This Kind Of Guy, but they’re everywhere.

          “Often wrong, never in doubt,” as one of my supervisors used to say.

        3. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          Yup, I worked with someone for several years who openly behaved and talked very similarly to LW. They were somewhat more circumspect with executives, though. Not to the point of brownnosing, just respectful and courteous in ways that teammates and direct supervisors apparently weren’t deserving of.

        4. Lora*

          I too have met this kind of guy, but these kinds of guys will never write to AskAManager in the first place.

          1. Quill*

            Eh, I had a thesis course with this kind of guy, if they’re not aware that A Percieved Authority is part of a demographic they don’t respect, they will definitely appeal to them. A possible course for this guy asking without knowing is asking an aquaintance who was like “I dunno, maybe write into this advice columnist”

        5. Worldwalker*

          My long-ago neighbor in the next apartment, who was thoroughly convinced that he could just slack off at work and slag off his boss because he was so brilliant and important that he couldn’t be fired.

          Surprise: He was fired.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Good question. It is a variant of Poe’s Law, but for AITA bait where the answer clearly is “yes.”

      2. Hlao-roo*

        There have been letters in the past from people who were similarly off-base in their thinking, and in a few cases they have written back in with updates after they realized their mistakes. I’m thinking in particular of the “is the work environment I’ve created on my team too exclusive?” letter from July 25, 2017. That letter-writer doubled down in her first update, then realized she was not cut out for management and her earlier behavior was self-destructive (in the second update).

        There was also the “my wife says my relationship with my coworker is inappropriate” from May 17, 2022. No update but the letter-writer commented as “Oblivious OP” and from the comments I can see he was started to take the advice and comments to heart.

        Hopefully this letter-writer will also reflect on his behavior.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Link to work environment is too exclusive letter:

          Link to relationship with coworker letter:

          Other “are people really like this?” letters (yes, they are):



            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Whom I hope has a very happy birthday this year and if, god forbid, they still work for the moron who wrote in AND doubled-down, takes their mandatory, free day off to find a new job.

              That is one of the few letters where I really, really struggled to be kind and constructive to the LW. They’re tied with the one who’s best employee quit to go to their graduation because they refused to actually manage their other employees and wanted to give that poor woman a lecture about it after she no longer worked there.

              1. tangerineRose*

                If I remember properly, the manager seemed to think that taking time off for a concert was more important than taking time off to go to graduation. A very odd point of view.

            2. Not Totally Subclinical*

              I really want there to be a Happy Birthday Leap Year Employee post on that day so that we can all wish them happy birthday on the correct day.

          1. Link*

            That last one about the paycheck made my brain malfunction with that LW’s audacity. This one is topping it.

          2. CrazyCatLady*

            Thank you for posting these. I was thinking of the one where the person was “fired for taking initiative”. saves me from the search

        2. Irish Teacher.*

          I was reminded of the guy who bullied the woman assigned to train him and wrote in to ask whether he should tell her boss she was being too sensitive. Like those, he updated to say that he had done some soul-searching and had therapy and now realised that yes, he did bully her.

          1. Festively Dressed Earl*

            Therapy might be a good idea for this LW too. I really want to believe that people can see the error of their ways and change.

        3. Bitte Meddler*

          All of these past LWs here and elsewhere in this thread, plus today’s LW, have a whiff of, “I made my bed and you expect me to *lie* in it?? How absolute dare!”

          1. Chanel No. π*

            I’ve seen this on other, now-defunct forums. Etiquette Hell, for instance. I stopped reading/posting there because too many of the OPs did not have a legit etiquette question. They came in to say “Someone hurt my feelings. Convince me they’re a big jerk and I’m totally right!” And the My Very Worst blog. Three subs: My Very Worst Date/Job/Roommate. It got shut down because the site owner got tired of people not realizing they were the bad date, employee or roommate.

            But what none of those sites had was a direct response to OPs from the site owner. Certainly there was no one like Alison, to tell them their BS was BS!

      3. Tio*

        I have managed a person like this.

        We had an error rate report. The goal was under 5%. She was good at her job, all her monthlies were under the 5%. Sounds great, right? Wrong. because whenever she’d get the report, she’d want to litigate every. single. mistake and explain why it wasn’t a mistake or wasn’t her fault, etc. And she was succeeding by the KPI measurements! If she hadn’t been hellbent on arguing about every little detail she would’ve been in a much better spot. But because she wanted to argue, every time and every detail, she became known as difficult.

        Could this particular letter be ragebait? Maybe… but these people are real.

            1. Miss Muffett*

              Makes you wonder what daily life with this dude is like. Seems like a lot of people in the comments are describing this kind of person as their Ex… Wonder if he will also be one soon!

        1. Wendy Darling*

          When I was a teaching assistant I had a student like this. He was getting the highest possible grade in the class AND we dropped the lowest quiz grade, but every time he got any points off anything ever he was there after class arguing with me about why his answer was actually correct.

          He was not correct AND he was already doing so well in the course that his grade could not get any higher, but it seemed like he couldn’t cope with possibly being fallible. Also he was an engineering major, which I knew because he told me about it every single time he talked to me.

          I have since left academia and become an engineer and we’re not all that guy, but he’s definitely out there. Grinding my gears.

      4. ampersand*

        My first thought was AAM is being trolled, and my second thought was: unless maybe my ex-husband wrote this? At which point I was reminded that people this clueless DO exist.

      5. korangeen*

        Yeah that’s what I was wondering. You couldn’t possibly be truly this openly disdainful toward management in an INTERVIEW and write about it in a letter to an advice column called “Ask A Manager” and fully expect her to be your side… right??

        1. Rainy*

          I’m pretty sure it was the LW from “is my team too exclusive” who said that they thought, when they wrote in to a forum called “Ask A Manager”, that Alison would be on their side since they were the manager in the situation.

          1. EmmaPoet*

            “Letter-writer (LW): Because I disagree with your points and I don’t want to constantly defend myself. My ex employee made me look bad and I thought that as Ask a Manager you would side with a manager.”

            You are correct, it was in the first update when Allison wrote back to them. Which, wow. The lack of clue was painful.

            1. Enai*

              Which made the “I got a clue, went to therapy and now am much happier in a different role” updates so much nicer. This LW really gave me back some hope for humanity: we really _can_ change for the better!

        2. Siege*

          These people believe so firmly that they are right that everyone will agree with them, in my experience. They do not consider nuance in any interaction, because the only “nuance” they need is “I’m right, of course.” I will bet you cash money that if OP had any introspection about the site he was writing to, it was tempered by the fact that Allison does generally give very even-handed advice and is often less blunt than I would be (which is why she gives the advice and I don’t) in favor of seeing people’s problems as real ones that need to be solved. If he considered any of the letters, it’s rare to find one with an answer like this, but it’s so much more likely he just googled for workplace advice and decided the top result is the best choice, because the universe conforms to his expectations. Rainbows are formed by light bending around this man’s ego.

        3. Museum Teacher*

          If you truly believe that you’ve NEVER made a mistake and that you should email your interviewer to scold her, then yes, you could indeed write this letter with a straight face and the sincere conviction that you’re absolutely, positively RIGHT (’cause YOU never make a mistake!)

          1. iglwif*

            I genuinely can’t tell whether LW thinks he never makes mistakes at all or whether he thinks he never makes mistakes in his coding work.

            Obviously neither is plausible, but even if he only believes the latter, it’s so, so telling that he doesn’t think non-coding mistakes would be relevant … to the interviewer specifically tasked with evaluating soft skills.

      6. Overit*

        Oh, I have known several people like that.
        I actually quit a good job I otherwise really enjoyed due to a boss just like this. Absolutely insufferable on a daily basis. I also saw her deliberately and quite unnecessarily ruin a coworker’s career. She was then SHOCKED when she encountered that person at a social event and that person walked away from her. She followed her around the room telling her how she was wrong to be angry. I stepped up to try to deflect and distract her, but she got mad at me, then proceeded to try to tell everyone else in the room why she was justified in ruining former coworker’s career.

        1. I Have RBF*

          Wow, that boss was a piece of shit. A person whose career they trashed had the good sense to walk away from them, and then they compounded it by trash talking the person and justifying what they did to the victim to everyone else in the room?

          I’m glad you no longer work for that jerk.

          1. Overit*

            Insufferable Boss became aware after the social event that many of us were furious. (Wrongfully, of course.) She set up a surprise “group therapy” session with a “therapist” so we “could get over our unnecessary feelings”. Of course, she attended the session and proceeded to lecture all of us with the same lines of justification she was spouting at the social event. Then she asked us if we all “felt better and were willing to get over it already.”
            All except the Resident Bootlicker got over it by leaving.

        2. davethetrucker*

          I know we don’t deserve them, but I so badly wish for more details about this. How the career was ruined, what social event it was, what (if anything) the ruined coworker said before walking away…it sounds like a great story.

          1. Overit*

            Sorry, but if I give details, it could be identifiable.
            I will say that the coworker said, “Please do not talk to me,” then walked away. She was quite dignified. No one would have held it against her if she had thrown her drink in her face.

        1. Office Plant Queen*

          I have an MBA and I avoid briging it up because I don’t want to be one of Those People. I’ll still mention it if it’s relevant. Most of the time it’s not

          1. MsM*

            The one time I have ever emphasized my MBA in an on-the-job setting was when trying to convince the PhDs on our board that I was the subject matter expert on the thing they were trying to override me on, and they should grant me the same deference they expected in their areas of expertise. Sadly but unsurprisingly, it did not work.

    1. Myrin*

      Oh, I absolutely know people whose internal thought processes I’m quite sure sound exactly like this letter. (Also, Alison has asked in the past not to speculate about that since even if a particular letter is fake, it might help someone in a similar situation.)

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      Yeah, while I’m not saying these people don’t exist (they do, I’ve met them) I get the sense most of them wouldn’t deign to write in to an advice column. They would think it beneath them.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        I think he wrote to have AAM tell him that of course he is correct and yes he should tell the manager why she was wrong and he was right.

        1. Shopping is my cardio*

          Either that or his wife urged him to write since she seems to have a better handle on things.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Ooh, good call. Clever people who are being ignored know when to appeal to authority.

            1. Irish Teacher.*

              That occurred to me too, that he was planning to show his wife how Alison agreed he was totally in the right.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I am a bit reminded of juice guy, who was told by his supervisor, supervisor’s boss, girlfriend, and sister that he was in the wrong. So he appealed to AAM to overrule them.

          All the feedback OP is getting–from the hirers, from his spouse–is negative. It takes a Miles Vorkosigan to look at that and conclude “So maybe everyone is wrong except me.”

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Well, if the issue at hand was dealing with, say, the Cetagandans, Miles would have a point. Or really any situation where his immediate superior gave him the wrong orders. But love life? Yeah, he had issues, though he eventually worked through them.

          2. Hlao-roo*

            Juice guy! Letter #4 of the “my boss treats me like I’m not very smart, I got in trouble for taking someone’s juice, and more” post from May 31, 2017. He also commented a number of times as “Andrew” to try to convince the comments section that he was not a thief.

            1. Worldwalker*

              Oh, I’d forgotten that one. That was when I first started reading AAM. That guy! He didn’t understand that the definition of thief is someone who takes things that aren’t theirs, and posted over and over again that he wasn’t a thief, even though he took something that wasn’t his, because he didn’t lie about it. There are some definite similarities here.

              1. Irish Teacher.*

                The odd thing, to my mind, was that the write-up he was objecting to didn’t even seem to be saying he deliberately stole it or was a thief. It just said “I saw the orange juice on the table and took it” or words to that effect. It was a completely matter-of-fact description of events and made no assumptions about whether he deliberately stole it or genuinely believed that it was left out for anybody who wanted it.

                It seems like the defensiveness was more of an issue than the taking of the orange juice. Had he said, “oh gosh, I’m terribly sorry. I didn’t realise that it belonged to somebody. I thought it was just left there for anybody to drink. I’ll give you the money to give to whoever owns it,” it probably wouldn’t have been an issue at all.

                But the whole evasive, “but I can’t believe that I took it deliberately since I didn’t lie and claim the cleaner took it and surely a thief would do that” was firstly really odd, since surely he knows whether it was a genuine accident or not, secondly, comes across a bit like he is protesting too much and makes people more likely to think he might have known full well it wasn’t there for the taking and thirdly, makes it sound like he thought trying to get the cleaner in trouble was a reasonable thing to do and no worse than stealing an orange juice (there are a lot of food thieves in workplaces. I hope very few of them try to frame innocent people).

        3. Garblesnark*

          Yeah, to get a script for how to tell off the unqualified rando with decades of high level experience who is just “some middle manager.”

      2. lost academic*

        Sure they would. They are looking for vindication. It’s Very Important that People On The Internet agree with them repeatedly.

      3. blood orange*

        I think they do when they go on this rampage – “I must increase the ranks of people who say I’m right!”

      1. raktajino*

        Exactly where my mind went too. I suppose that one also could have been a long-running troll but at the very least it was well-written enough that the author didn’t seem aware of their ridiculousness.

        The guy who ghosted an ex, moved out of the country, ended up working for her and was confused as to why that didn’t go well for him also sounded both real and absolutely unhinged.

        1. AnonORama*

          Also the person who didn’t understand why her employee was pissed that she hadn’t been paid due to the boss’s (LW) mistake, and the one who thought she was in the right for not letting an employee (who had overcome a ton of obstacles) to attend graduation. they’re out there, for sure.

    3. juliebulie*

      Yeah. It’s just bizarre. I don’t know if I’ve ever not interviewed with a grandboss before. And I certainly wouldn’t diss a prospective grandboss to her face.

      Everyone makes mistakes. It is how people learn. I don’t trust people who claim not to make mistakes.

      Obviously the LW is wrong sometimes. Like for instance, when he wrote this letter.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Everyone makes mistakes. It is how people learn. I don’t trust people who claim not to make mistakes.


        I make mistakes every day. I’ve made several little mistakes (typos) writing this response. The reason you don’t see them is that I go back and fix (most of) them. I sure as hell don’t double down and say “It’s the keyboard’s fault! It puts in typos! I meant to do that!” or other such nonsense.

        If you “never make mistakes” it’s because you never do anything, and never try anything outside your narrow comfort zone. No, I don’t mean that an orderly should try brain surgery, but trying new things just outside your prior experience is how you learn and grow.

        In my field it is a given that you don’t know everything – it won’t all fit in anyone’s head, and changes very rapidly. The biggest strengths that someone can bring to my type of job is an ability to learn on the fly and an ability to make, own and fix one’s own mistakes. Both of those things go hand in hand.

        You can’t rely on being spoon-fed everything by college professors, it doesn’t work that way. What a good college education gives you (even if you ended up dropping out for money reasons) is the ability to learn on your own – how to research, synthesize and integrate new information.

      2. She of Many Hats*

        I haven’t “hooo boy” and “he didn’t” and “reallly” so quickly and so hard about an AAM letter in a long time. I think Leap Year Girl and “She Wasn’t Nice Enough re: Screwed Up Paycheck” were the last times saw that level of clueless determination to Be Right.

        I’m gonna guess after reading any of the comments, he’s considering writing all our bosses to tell us how wrong we are.

      3. Worldwalker*

        I suspect that he is a very recent college graduate, possibly looking for his first career job, and is getting hit upside the head by a clue-by-four labeled “reality.”

      4. tangerineRose*

        I found it especially annoying how he acted like she hadn’t had formal education in tech, thought her tech experience was out of date, and seemed to think she was not as good as him in general.

        Managers don’t need to know every detail of tech. And someone who’s great with tech is not always good at managing.

        Plus, her tech experience probably gives her a lot more insight into the company’s software than his brand-new inexperience gives him.

    4. lost academic*

      Nope. I know people particularly in programming who absolutely have the attitude about their management that they perceive to be inferior technically to their own skills, even for those who clearly rose through the technical ranks (at a particular company where that’s the only way).

      We have this idea that in this day and age this many catastrophic ways of thinking can’t possibly persist but they absolutely can, do, and they are supported in plenty corners of the internet and there are still plenty of companies that don’t shut down these attitudes because they aren’t as open as this letter and because there’s still this idea that we all need to put up with certain personality issues because someone is ‘good at what they do’ and I don’t need to opine lengthily on why that’s terrible for overall productivity and long term success.

      And…. I don’t think this is an early career person. Not that early anyway. This feels like someone who’s gotten away with a lot of things and hasn’t been adjusted.

      1. Potato Potato*

        +1 to not thinking this is an early career person. It very much reads like a guy who’s been around for years and everyone in his current job has given up trying to correct

      2. juliebulie*

        A lot of those people eventually end up in management positions, their specific technical skills rusting for lack of demand. I don’t know if any of them grasp the irony.

    5. Ms. Murchison*

      Right? Gotta be impressed by AAM’s commitment to the “take the letter writer at their word” rule to write an answer this straight to a letter that resembles a creative writing exercise with the prompt “the absolute worst stereotype of a software developer.”

      1. ferrina*

        As someone who has worked with many software developers….this guy could absolutely be real.
        (obviously #notalldevelopers, and most of the people I’ve worked with have been absolutely lovely, but man, some have been really awful)

        1. Ms. Murchison*

          Oh I know. I am a software developer. But it’s the way the letter is written that sounds more like someone intentionally writing ragebait than this type of guy looking for advice. But in the spirit of the AAM rules, I’m hoping that someone benefits from the straight response.

          1. I Have RBF*

            IMO, the letter is absolutely real. Yes, the guy is a stereotype, but stereotypes of know-it-all brogrammers come from there actually being a lot of know-it-all brogrammers.

            1. Worldwalker*

              There are all too many people who seemingly try to live down to stereotypes. Even, perhaps especially, seriously negative ones. And of course, those stereotypes didn’t come from nowhere to begin with; there were people who inspired them. You shouldn’t expect someone to act in stereotypical fashion, but you also shouldn’t disregard it when they do.

    6. Admin Lackey*

      I hear you, but this reminds me of one of my all-time favourite AAM letters – CEO’s Wife Ruined My Job Prospects. I’ll post the link in a follow-up question.

      We’ve also had a number of clueless letters where the person admitted that they weren’t a regular reader, searched for workplace advice looking for validation and then wrote into AAM. It’s absolutely possible that this one is real.

    7. IndependentTeacher*

      Definitely possible, because he’s a little cartoonish, but I also have at least 2 co-workers who are exactly like this, so I’m willing to believe it.

      Example: I’m a teacher and we were discussing issues with cell phones and student attention. A variety of people shared their perception that phones are a bigger problem post-pandemic than ever before and it’s become a classroom struggle. BOTH of these colleagues (in separate discussions) immediately insisted that they have NEVER had a problem with phones in their classroom and it must just be a case of bad classroom management from everyone else.

      So actually I believe that a real person can indeed be that clueless.

      1. Devious Planner*

        I would have laughed out loud at those colleagues of yours saying they “NEVER had a problem with phontes in their classroom”… I feel like I should have one of those electronic parrots that just lives on my shoulder and shouts out “Put your phone away! Put your phone away!” on a 5 minute loop. It would save me time and effort.

        1. Anon for This*

          When I first went to parents’ night at my kid’s high school, I noticed that all the classrooms had big wall hangings with numbered pockets. It took me a while to clue in that these were intended for students to park their phones in at the beginning of class.

          (And nonetheless, my kid still manages to be distracted during class, because the school laptop has access to Wikipedia and Youtube.)

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            Yup. I put blue tape on the corner of each desk, with a number on it. Kid’s cell phone goes in the pocket with the same number as their desk. Never a problem with one going missing, either.

          2. tangerineRose*

            At one point in high school, with no laptop or cell phone, I was distracted by interesting bits in the history book in front of me while listening (somewhat) to the history teacher. It’s not that hard to get distracted.

    8. E*

      I’ve worked with guys like this, they absolutely exist and can’t comprehend that they do indeed make mistakes. They also love to interject themselves into everything and offer opinions because of course they are superior to everyone! Also are frequently men that have problems with women out ranking them in any way.

    9. Keely*

      I worked with a guy just like this. He had zero experience in our field, but threw a tantrum on his second day that we wouldn’t let him do high level work. I’ve also worked with a woman like this who thought taking 7 years full time to complete a BS meant that she had the qualifications of a doctor. Not exaggerating a bit.

      1. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

        When I was doing my doctorate, I had a student try to challenge me because they had been in school just as long as I had and were a year older. Which, yes, OK that’s true. Problem is, they were still taking 2000 level classes as a sixth year, 25 year old undergraduate…and I was *teaching* that class as a 24 year old doctoral candidate.

    10. Melicious*

      Halfway through, I was thinking “this is a joke right?” If it wasn’t, Dear LW, you are SO in the wrong people think this is a joke.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Note to Self: try not to live life in a way that makes people ask “You’re joking, right?”

    11. StarryStarryNight*

      Got the same feeling. Nobody can be this blind to how they come across, right? (Then again…)

    12. Pizza Rat*

      I was thinking troll as well, but then I remembered someone I worked with several years ago who could be this guy.

    13. Expelliarmus*


      I wonder if the person who wrote this actually sent this to someone they know who actually reads AAM and THAT person sent it to Alison to get some kind of poetic justice at watching their (relative, acquaintance, friend of a friend, whatever) get skewered by Alison and the AAM commentariat.

      Again, I know this is really reaching, but it would explain why it was sent here despite it being very clear that there’s no way Alison would endorse this OP’s behavior.

    14. supervising librarian*

      My brother. I totally believe this letter. AND he would totally trot this scenario out at a family dinner expecting everyone to agree that he was the “wronged” party.

    15. Just Want A Nap*

      I’ve worked with too many people like this to think it’s ragebait.
      I’m one of the QA people who gets set on people like this and I can promise you they do not take feedback well.
      If you do have to work with someone like this, document everything. Keep local copies. BCC your supervisor and their manager.

      1. Observer*

        I’m one of the QA people who gets set on people like this and I can promise you they do not take feedback well.

        Oy! You have my deepest sympathies!

        If you do have to work with someone like this, document everything. Keep local copies. BCC your supervisor and their manager.

        Definitely. People will go to some pretty significant lengths to maintain their illusions.

      2. Never the Twain*

        Yeah, they don’t tend to ask for advice either though. I’m 90:10 towards classing this as ragebait.

    16. DramaQ*

      I’d love to say it isn’t but after over a decade of working in academia and science in general sadly this type of person exists. . .in droves.

    17. Rory*

      I have been on the hiring committee with this guy interviewing and because he was an internal hire, we had to have a feedback session. This is exactly what he sounded like, to the point where I’d wonder if it was the same person.

    18. ResearchQueen*

      Yeah, the thing that has me absolutely convinced that this is fake is that of all the questions the interviewer presumably asked him, he zeroed in on this one, clearly problematic exchange about mistakes. If the letter was real, I’m not sure he would have known which question he answered badly enough to flunk the interviewer. That said, it’s certainly a perfect impersonation of a certain type of guy we’ve all met in the workplace.

      1. Observer*

        the thing that has me absolutely convinced that this is fake is that of all the questions the interviewer presumably asked him, he zeroed in on this one, clearly problematic exchange about mistakes. If the letter was real, I’m not sure he would have known which question he answered badly enough to flunk the interviewer.

        Except that I’m not sure that he DOES know. See, he thinks that he “aced” the other “boring” questions. And he absolutely does not recognize that he probably ended his candidacy by asking her why she was even interviewing him. On the other hand, she had the audacity to argue with him over his answer to this one question.

        So obviously, in his mind, that’s the whole story. I mean, in his mind the *question* was wrong and *all* of his answers (including this one) were perfect. But since she argued with him! that must be the whole reason this “some sort of middle manager” refused to hire him. And of course everyone else LOVED him.

    19. Advenella*

      There was someone my company interviewed within the last year that was exactly like this. Different field, same arrogance. They did not get an offer, and I’m glad, as their scheduling demands were off the wall, too.

    20. Laser99*

      Every time a real/not real letter debate kicks off, I think of the person who did not believe anyone born in a leap year had a birthday every year. Or the boss who made the assistant leave the note on the bereaved employee’s relative’s grave. Or the manager who wouldn’t give her employee time off to attend her own graduation. These people absolutely, 100% exist.

    1. Oregon Girl*

      we knew it was going to be bad when he wrote (I don’t know if it matters but I’m male and everyone I interviewed with was female.)

      could this be reverse sexism? oh my…..
      (sarcasm font)

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Yeah there was no misandry from these interviewers; they asked the most legitimate of questions and wanted the most basic of skills… but if OP has managed to get job offers with this attitude before, then I’m guessing it probably was a bunch of dudebros (not men, exactly) who gave him the job purely on the basis of gender.

    2. Yeah...*

      I know women like this too.

      I told a friend her “demeanor” (shall we say) is like this LW’s and that there are people who would choose not to work with her for this reason. She lectured me for 20 minutes on why it is good she is the way she is.

      I like her as a friend, but we will never work together.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I think I saw the Devil ‘nope’ out of this one. Even he can’t defend this level of ignorance.

    1. Purple Cat*

      Except he’s thinking the only mistake he’s made is NOT writing the grandboss to tell her she’s wrong.

      1. ferrina*

        “I’m perfect, so my fatal flaw is letting your imperfections stand in the way of my awesomeness”.

        Said without irony, not realizing he sounds like a Disney villain.
        (and yeah, I’ve totally met That Person before)

  5. Ell*

    My eyes kept getting wider and wider as I read through. Here for the entertainment value and the thoughtful answer from AAM.

  6. GwenSoul*

    I wish I could go one day without making a mistake! In my work, relationship building is super critical and being able to acknowledge, correct and laugh about mistakes is a key part of building those.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Some time back I concluded that if every book I read was GREAT, that meant I was staying in too narrow a niche. Healthwise, I will push myself when hiking with my spouse, who can rescue me, and I will carefully not risk any mistake if it’s me and the dog, since I need to get us out of any pickles.

      If you believe you never make mistakes in some realm, I would posit that if your self-assessment is correct, then you are staying within a very safe and narrow range of familiar possibilities. (But more likely, you’re just terrible at taking feedback because whatever you’re doing must be the right answer, and you will brazen anything out before admitting you’re wrong.)

      1. Smithy*

        Absolutely all of this.

        I’m in institutional fundraising, and used to work somewhere where our team had a 100% success rate with securing institutional grants. Now….what that meant in practice is that we had a culture where failure wasn’t an option. Data about new funding opportunities would never be shared until we were almost positive it was secured. While this helped in terms of the “no failure” aspect, it also meant that huge chunks of your time and work were hidden and kept on the quiet. So our team got a reputation for “what do they do all day” or “how long does it take to do XYZ task???”

        The reality of our work, is that if you’re not including the reality of risk – means that inevitably we will make mistakes. Even if just the mistake of continuing on one relationship for too long when it’s becoming obvious the process won’t end well. But that job of “100% success” just repeatedly taught how bad a culture of “no mistakes” was in fostering a place where everyone was right or infallible. All it generated was a culture of fear, lying and not learning.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This comes up in medical treatment. The key to a clinic having a high success rate is for it to only take those patients whose problems are well understood and easy to treat.

          1. Smithy*

            Sigh. Yup – lots of ways you can put your fingers on the scale to juice the numbers.

            In my recent job, we’ve just started trying to better systematize stats on our work – and I really pushed to collect data in a certain way that for one area of work that could be interpreted as a “low” success rate or a high ROI. My position was that if we started doing this with that understanding and pushing for that education – that if one year the “success” rate is 10%, the next year its 16% and the year after that it’s 19% – while none of those numbers look good standing alone, a pattern of increased success does stand out. If the numbers are 10%, 8%, 12% – then overall you see relatively steady results in a tough area of work. And if it’s 10%, 7%, 5%…..then that’s something else. All to say – you can still use these figures to tell an effective story about how much work is required to achieve that.

          2. Sasha*

            IVF clinics are notorious for this – yes private clinics often have amazing success rates compared to NHS (public) clinics, because they only take young women with good ovarian reserve. Anyone else they take on is pushed to use donor eggs. Whereas the NHS clinics take everyone who comes to them.

            There are also different ways of reporting “success” – you may get a lot of positive pregnancy tests, but if lots of those fetuses are genetically abnormal and miscarry, you are still no closer to parenthood. Numbers of live births are far more useful as a measure, but far less reported.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        I had this guy call me a few days ago, I swear.

        He had ordered online and hit send before he got everything he wanted on the order. TOTALLY normal, happens all the time. But.

        He calls up and insists I cancel the order, that “your system is broken” and “sent the order by mistake.” Not the first time I’ve heard that, so I have to call the store and cancel the order; unfortunately not before they’ve started on it, thus wasting out product.

        When I get back on the phone with the guy, he proceeds to order the EXACT same thing. Every single thing. When I express puzzlement he says “well, I also wanted a medium cheese pizza!”

        “So, you didn’t want to cancel? You just wanted to add on to the order you placed?”

        “Look, cancel, add on, whatever you INSIST (me. I insisted on this, apparently) on calling it!”

        So naturally this means we’ve wasted thirty dollars worth of food because this guy wouldn’t admit he’d sent the order too soon. What could have been a quick fix turned into ten minutes of fretting, pouting and wasted food. But hey guy, you couldn’t possibly have been wrong!

        1. Bitte Meddler*

          Gah! I’m so sorry my ex caused that much waste! :-D

          Ex, to Spectrum internet when he moved out of my house: “I need to transfer internet service from Address1 to Address2 on X-Day.”

          Me, on X-Day: “Why do I not have any internet?”

          Ex: “I don’t know. Call Spectrum.”

          Spectrum: “Because Ex canceled the service at your address and moved it to his.”

          Ex: “I DID NO SUCH THING! I told them to *move* the service to my new address.”

          Me: “And what, exactly, did you think would happen after the service was moved from my house to yours?”

          Ex: “They should have known what I meant!”

      3. Watry*

        Oh, that first sentence is a help to me right now, thank you. It feels such a waste of money when I get a book and then don’t like it or don’t even finish it (and before it comes up, my local libraries are not great).

    2. Nightengale*

      No kidding! I’m a pediatrician now but my first career was teaching. I have described teaching as standing up in front of people all day and making mistakes, with the hope of not making any really terrible ones and learning and repairing from them moving forward.

      Doctors make mistakes too. There are lots of checks in place to prevent medication errors but no checks in place to prevent saying the wrong thing.

    1. Robert Sigley*

      This is one I wrote a few years ago, to be sung more or less to the tune of “Beautiful Dreamer”:

      The moral high ground, as a matter of course,
      Is often found under a moral high horse.
      And its ultimate source, we then find without fail,
      Lies under that morally high-lifted tail.
      (Yes, you can get loads from an uplifting tail!)

      So, what follows from this uplifting account?
      From a high horse, there’s no graceful dismount,
      Just a high probability that you will find
      You’ve landed right in what your horse left behind.
      (You’ll be smelling as high as that horse’s behind!)

  7. Elbe*

    “she was interviewing for things like communication, ability to prioritize, and soft skills. I still thought it was weird to interview with my boss’s boss.”

    He thinks it’s weird that someone would screen for soft skills…then immediately demonstrates why it’s important to screen for soft skills.

    1. tree frog*

      This letter writer sounds like someone who is way too emotionally invested in his elite coding skills and has disdain for everything else. It’s nice to see a hiring process that doesn’t reward this attitude because from what I hear, a lot of them do.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Maybe I’m not reading closely enough, but I’m also not positive why OP is so sure only this question is what sunk him, although it does seem plausible. But he could have also legitimately not been he strongest at some other point in the process? I’ve been sure I’ve aced questions/interviews and even made it to the final round even to not be selected multiple times. This could have also been the icing on their decision not to move forward with him.

        1. No Longer Working*

          His first words to the grandboss were “Why are you interviewing me?”. That could have killed his chances right there. Who asks that of a superior?

          1. I Have RBF*


            If I get an interview with my would-be grand-boss, that tells me I have a better chance at the job.

            One of the things I look for is a grand-boss who is invested in the team’s success, and them helping interview is a good sign for that. Plus it allows me to ask them soft skill stuff like “What is the typical career progression at this company?” and “How are pass-downs from upper management communicated to the front-line employees?”

          2. Csethiro Ceredin*

            It’s so odd that he found this shocking, too! I usually sit in on interviews with the hiring managers who report to me.

            1. None The Wiser*

              Exactly! I do the same!

              *Especially* when we are hiring for entry-level support roles that report into multiple groups!

        2. Hapless Bureaucrat*

          But he never makes mistakes! Ergo he must have been perfect in the other interviews.

          More seriously, someone that convinced of their own rectitude generally has a hard time telling if their opinion of their skills is off in other areas, too. I say as someone who used to manage an employee of this type.

        3. Ama*

          You know, it strikes me that the interviewers may have already had some concerns about his soft skills and that’s part of why the grand boss said what she did. They may have been thinking “well his resume is solid but his responses when we scheduled the interview were a little off-putting, let’s make sure we sound out whether he’s just a little brusque over email or if we’re right to be concerned.”

          1. Observer*

            You know, it strikes me that the interviewers may have already had some concerns about his soft skills and that’s part of why the grand boss said what she did.

            I think that you are probably right.

        4. Roland*

          He thinks the other people “loved him” so clearly it must be her… /s I mean I’m sure she did strongly veto hiring him, but who’s to say if his read on the others is right since he doesn’t seem to understand basic interactions. Like when he said “She seemed fine with it and we moved on with the interview” – uh no, she wasn’t “fine” with it as in it was a good answer OP, she just realized there was no reason to dig into your answer because it had become clear you were a No Hire. She continued the interview only out of politeness.

    2. gmg22*

      And it demonstrates the fallacy of believing that the only “mistakes” that can be possible are very particular ones relating to technical aspects of one’s job.

    3. Blue*

      Right, like… the reason she moved on after this answer was that the response was so catastrophic that it did not require any follow up.

      1. Elbe*

        Exactly. What would you even say to someone who doesn’t understand that it’s very bad outright insult your potential grandboss during an interview? Or that it’s not possible for anyone to never make a mistake?

      2. iglwif*

        And that she did not have the emotional bandwidth right then to sit there with a straight face while he dug the hole deeper and deeper.

    4. Antilles*

      The part of that sentence which got me was that he thought it was weird to interview with the grand-boss. I am 15+ years into my career and every single job I’ve ever had applied for included meeting with the grand-boss.

      Every. Single. One.

      Including when I was interviewing to be a summer intern, met with the grand-boss as part of that process, then literally never saw him again for the three months I worked there since he worked on a different floor.

      1. iglwif*

        Same. This is incredibly standard! Makes you wonder how many job-interview processes this person has actually experienced…

      2. Sparkle Motion*

        Same here. I’ve always been interviewed up and down the chain of command and sometimes across departments. One time, I even had to interview with my future admin.

      3. el l*

        Wise senior management is very careful who they intake. Because – as this letter shows – culture matters.

      4. Lizzianna*

        Right? I’m a second line supervisor, and I don’t require an interview for every position, but at minimum, I require a briefing and approval on all the hiring my team does, and I require an interview with candidates in positions I’ll be interacting with.

      5. BaconPancakes*

        I thought it was strange that he was interviewing with two peers but not his own supervisor. Interviewing with a grandboss is so… standard!

    5. Amber*

      What are soft skills? I’ve seen it referenced a couple times in various posts and am not sure what it is.

      1. Potato Potato*

        Soft skills are interpersonal and emotional skills. So, stuff like knowing when to talk in a meeting, or how to calm down and react politely if you’re passed over for a promotion. They’re “soft” because these skills are more difficult to measure with numbers

        1. Oh yeah, Me again*

          Also would include good manners, etiquette, being able to pick up on, and adapt to, the organization’s culture and customs. Extra points for being able to pick up on those things, analyze the value, and help ADJUST the culture to make the workplace better!

      2. Dr. Rebecca*

        Flexibility, emotional regulation, the ability to take on advice/critique without throwing a fit and apply it even if you disagree with it, modulation of tone, situational awareness and appropriateness, etc. Things that don’t fulfill your job requirements, but that make working with you easier and more pleasant, while also improving your work overall.

      3. Hrodvitnir*

        Interpersonal skills. Ie: the ability to work with other people, a skillset that is impossible to measure quantitatively, hence: “soft”. Or at least that’s my interpretation of why – there is certainly some gendered baggage around the word.

      4. Poly Anna*

        Basically, people skills (verbal&non-verbal communication, a sense of workplace
        and industry norms etc) and personal effectiveness skills as relating to working with others (resilience, reflection, willingness to learn etc).

      5. Debmadun*

        Soft skills are the qualities and skills that are not really taught in a classroom. Teamwork, communication, reliability, time management, initiative, punctuality, collaboration and discretion all come under this umbrella term. They’re the skills that make you a good employee and colleague rather than your practical skills like a degree, CPD, experience or specific technical expertise.

        Employers are now looking specifically for good soft skills as most technical aspects of a job can be taught. It’s hard though to teach someone not to be a d**k.

        1. Rara Avis*

          I would argue that they are absolutely taught in the classroom — they’re just hard to quantifying in the grading systems many schools use. But Social/Emotional Learning is big in schools at the moment — teachers understand how important these skills are!

      6. Hlao-roo*

        The following posts have some good information on soft skills:

        “which matters more: skills or personality?” from May 14, 2014

        “how to coach an employee on soft skills” from January 14, 2016

    6. Corrigan*

      Leaving all of the other stuff aside, it’s also not even weird to interview with your grandboss? I don’t understand his confusion over this.

    7. Sparkle Motion*

      Also why is it weird to interview with your grand boss? I’ve always been interviewed up and down the chain of command and sometimes across departments.

      1. sparkle emoji*

        Yeah, the extreme reaction to that and the mistakes question read as inexperience to me. LW both of these things are normal. Having the grandboss in the interview has been the case probably 50% of the time for me and I’ve yet to have an interview without some version of the “tell me about a mistake/failure” question.

        1. iglwif*

          I just had an (internal) interview yesterday and was not asked that question, and I was quite surprised. I had noted down several examples to talk about.

      2. Bitte Meddler*

        Same. Except for my very first office job as a front-desk receptionist, I have *always* been interviewed by the hiring manager and their manager, at a minimum.

        The higher up the corporate ladder I climb, the more people I have to interview with.

        My most recent job search had me interviewing with the hiring manager, their manager, the C-level person overseeing that function, an intern who had recently been converted to an FTE, and two of the peers of my hiring manager. Oh! And the head of a department that the hiring department works closely with.

        And, sandwiched in there was a “soft” interview with the C-level’s admin, as she escorted me from the lobby to the first interview, then the next, and the next, and so on, until she walked me out the door while asking what I’d thought about my day at Company. (“Long day for you! How’d it go?”)

    8. LCH*

      also.. it is really normal to interview with a panel that includes the dept head (or whatever) as well as people from outside the dept depending on where you interview. really, really normal.

    9. learnedthehardway*

      What gets me – as someone in recruitment – is how far out of touch it is to be surprised that the second-line manager would interview him!!!

      It’s EXTREMELY common for the grand-boss to interview the finalist candidates for roles. If there are going to be 2 interviews in a selection process, it’s practically guaranteed that the second one will be with a more senior person than the hiring manager. And the more senior exec WILL be looking for not just technical skills, but also business acumen, communications skills, relationship management, personality fit, etc. etc.

    10. Bitte Meddler*

      She was throwing him a lifeline! And he was offended and affronted by it… and so then drowned.

  8. Borealis*

    The rigidity of this LW’s thought process seems more like he is having challenges reading the social situation. I know that it comes across as disdain and snottiness to Alison (and that seems like a reasonable understanding of how the interviewer would have taken it), but anyone else reading this person as a bit bewildered by a social situation that doesn’t make sense to them, not just disdainful?

    1. Ex-Teacher*

      The thing is, perception matters. You may be 100% right that this LW just doesn’t realize how social situations work.

      Unfortunately, this is the natural consequence of not being able to adequately do that- this person with input on hiring has decided that this apparent disdain is a representation of how this LW would conduct themselves in the role (probably a fair assessment) and decided that this conduct is prohibitive in hiring them.

      Hopefully this response will be a clarifying moment for LW, that they will realize that maybe reading social situations is an area of weakness in their professional skills and can reflect on this to improve.

    2. Elbe*

      I dunno, disdain and snottiness sound pretty spot on to me.

      Genuine confusion generally isn’t associated with mocking your interviewer’s role, mocking her education and experience, and being so convinced that you’re right that you want to write an email to correct HER.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        Yeah, if he had just asked “why are you here?” to the grandboss and then “oh okay,” when told why, that would indicate poor social skills or not understanding the situation. And maybe there’s a bit of that in here, but instead of accepting the reality when he’s told how it is, (“I’m your supervisor’s supervisor and I screen for soft skills.”) he’s dismissive of the necessity of this action and immediately questions her credentials or the need for her to ask questions like that.

        Even if interviews with the grandboss were a thing that literally only this company and no other does, coming into a new job with the attitude of “your processes are stupid and your leadership is not qualified” isn’t going to work out and is entirely the wrong way to do this.

    3. HonorBox*

      While it is possible that someone can not understand social cues and situations and some of the aspects of this situation lead me to believe there’s more than that going on here. The comments about how weird it is for the grand boss to be part of the interview, the judgment about her qualifications, and the presumption that emailing her to explain why her question was wrong are more snotty than they are not understanding the situation.

    4. CommanderBanana*

      Maybe, but does it matter? I’m still not going to hire someone who behaves like this an interview, whether it’s because they’re ‘bewildered by a social situation’ or they’re three racoons in a trench coat.

      1. Elbe*

        ^ This. The why doesn’t matter, really. Not in a hiring context.

        Even if it were true, we know that the LW responds to “bewildering social situations” not with curiosity and a willingness to learn, but by lashing out, treating others poorly, and doubling down on his own (very flawed) perspective. There’s not a lot to work with there.

        1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

          Yes this, exactly. If he was genuinely bewildered, he chose to leap to a LOT of assumptions about it. And even side from interpersonal and collaborative skills, why would an employer want a technical expert whose first instinct was to do that?

          1. Enai*

            So long as the companies’ health benefits include keeping current on my rabies vaccine and various dewormers as a preventative, I’m in.

    5. Butterfly Counter*

      Disagree. People who have a hard time with social situations don’t make a lot of the leaps OP did. For example, assuming the grand boss didn’t have the relevant technical skills to evaluate him and assuming his schooling was better than hers. Those assumptions are both disdainful, not socially awkward, IMO.

    6. ThisIsNotADuplicateComment*

      No. Direct quote from the letter “I told her maybe she made mistakes as a developer but since I actually went to school for it, I didn’t have that problem.”

      There is no way for that comment to be made from bewilderment and not distain. Maybe without that comment you could argue otherwise, but it’s too far over the line.

    7. RagingADHD*

      He didn’t have to read anything. He knew she was the boss’ boss. They literally told him so. Assuming your potential skip-level boss is inferior to you and doesn’t know what she’s talking about isn’t a “challenge reading social cues.”

      He just assumed her experience was irrelevant because …well, for no good reason really. And he assumed she made the wrong decision because he didn’t like it.

      That’s a pretty good fit for the definition of disdain the last time I looked it up. Now, there are an awful lot of arrogant know it alls out there. Most of them at least attempt to hide it when it could cost them a job. So in that sense, maybe he does have challenges with his filter.

      But that doesn’t change the fact that he was making a bunch of ignorant assumptions about his own superiority.

    8. Andie Begins*

      I dont know that I would classify a job interview as a social situation, but if I did I wouldn’t go out of my way insult anyone’s intelligence if was having trouble reading the room. Perhaps sit quietly and make a nice comment about the weather.

    9. ecnaseener*

      I truly don’t see any evidence that that’s the issue. He asked explicitly why this interview was taking place and was given a direct answer. If genuine confusion was the issue, at that point it should’ve been all cleared up.

      I can’t even come up with a way to explain the main event of the story with “he just didn’t understand the social situation.” He was asked a direct question and understood it just fine.

      1. Borealis*

        Y’all have all convinced me that there’s too much here for it to be bewilderment. I guess my next question is… how do people “get over” arrogance? I’ve met very few of these folks in the wild and have definitely never successfully helped someone see a new view on their own competence/place in the world, so I wonder how to help.

          1. Mrs. Weaver*

            Yes. And they’re more likely to tell people they didn’t get the job because the interviewer was “intimidated by my superior skills and education” than they are to learn from the situation.

        1. Enai*

          I think unless those people decide on their own that they don’t want to be Like That, they’ll keep on keeping on. Maybe seeing someone else be incredibly and unjustifiedly arrogant to someone they care about can make them decide to try to be better, but you? You can’t improve their personalities for them.

        2. Aerin*

          It generally takes a lot to get through to them.
          – Called out by someone they respect
          – Make a huge mistake that they can’t possibly blame on anyone else
          – Lose personal relationships because of their behavior
          – Get undeniably shown up by someone they looked down on

          And even then, a lot of times it still won’t get through to them. They have to make the connection that their behavior was the problem, and then be willing to do the work to change.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            This. I am recovering from arrogance. It was pretty bad in my 20s, until a friend called me out on it. I was being a condescending jerk, and not for the first time. That moment was a sea change in how I approached social interactions.

            It took a lot of years of observing people (who I respected) interact with others–teaching, parenting, customer service–and taking that on board to develop the people skills I have now. But it was that one remark from my friend that woke me up.

        3. RagingADHD*

          The path to humility is through humiliation. Not the kind where people are cruel to you. But the kind (like this) where you have to come to terms with your own failings.

          Some people choose the path of acknowledging the truth that they are fallible human beings and make peace with it – that’s growth.

          Others retreat into denial, the failings and losses get more significant, and then they have another opportunity to choose. Choosing humility and growth feels like death at the time. Nobody likes it.

          But there’s so much relief in letting go.

    10. Jessica*

      My kingdom for people to stop excusing open, enthusiastic misogyny by trying to armchair diagnose it as neurodiversity.

      He assumed the grand-boss couldn’t possibly have an engineering degree. He assumed she couldn’t possibly be “technical.” After she corrected him, he dismissed her technical background as irrelevant. After researching her background, he remained convinced there was no way she knew what she was talking about.

      It’s possible that his misogyny was exacerbated by some form of neurodiversity, in terms of not reading the room, but neurodiversity doesn’t cause misogyny.

      1. Sleve*

        Neurodiversity doesn’t make someone a misogynist, nor is it an excuse. However, the approach to dealing with misogyny is different based on whether the misogynist is neurodiverse or not, and if so, the type of neurodiversity. So it is technically always a relevant question to ask when workshopping ways to help a person do better.

        Speculating just for gawking and admonishment purposes, though, is unusually rude for the AAM commentariat.

    11. sparkle emoji*

      LW says at the end “I’m thinking of mailing her on LinkedIn to explain why her question was wrong and asking if she’ll consider me for future positions at her company but my wife says it’s a bad idea”. “Let me tell you why you’re wrong” reads more like snottiness than misunderstanding. Additionally, the fact he’s not taking his wife’s opinion seriously tilts it further into the snottiness realm for me. If he was genuinely unable to read social cues, he’d be thankful to get guidance from someone who can, but he’s not. He isn’t curious about what happened, he wants to be right.

    12. myfanwy*

      It’s not just perplexity, though. It’s an absolute faith in his own correctness, even when everyone is telling him he’s wrong. Someone who doesn’t understand a situation can still approach it with humility – it’s perfectly possible to say ‘I don’t understand this, but I realise there may be a good reason for it’. He may be struggling to read the situation AND he’s disdainful about it.

    13. Sleve*

      To me it reads as a guy with way more than the standard male normative alexithymia who’s totally unaware of his own motivations in anything he does and says, and who has supressed all memory of his mistakes because they make him feel bad. Not bewildered, straight up blind to the emotional component of any and every social situation.

      1. Moira's Rose's Garden*

        Just a note that the gender differences in alexithymia are of such a comparatively small effect size, it’s probably not accurate to call it “male normative alexithymia”. Socialization that mucks around with your ability to identify and express a wide range of feelings aka toxic masculinity, has a much larger effect on observed gender differences in emotional expression & identification.

        Alexithymia also doesn’t translate to missing the emotional components of any and every social situation. In fact, there might be a tendency in the other direction –

        ” In the multivariate analysis, highly alexithymic individuals appeared to report subjective deficits in emotion recognition and regulation as well as increased impulsivity; however, their empathy skills were intact, and even the proneness to experiencing empathic distress with others’ suffering was increased among alexithymic individuals” (Guam et al Frontiers Psychiatry 2020).

        (I have up-close and personal experience with close family members who have this diagnosis. I understand that it can be contributory to lots of interpersonal difficulties. That’s why I think it’s a bit of a problem to use casually & without precision. If we think someone hasn’t quite worked out how they feel about something, we can say that, without suggesting anything more.)

    14. Worldwalker*

      He might have been bewildered, but if so, his response should have been to ask questions, not insult people.

    15. e271828*

      This is something LW should already have become aware of in the course of their extensive training and education, and it is theirs to manage, not anyone else’s. If LW doesn’t realize that a job interview involves interviewing, for the job, with multiple managers and even team members whose relevance may not be clear in the moment, they need to revise their understanding of the job-seeking process.

      If an adult walks into an interview and behaves like this, no allowance can be made for “bewilderment.”

    1. Metadata Janktress*

      I had to scale back to skimming the first time I tried to read this because I was cringing so hard with embarrassment on behalf of OP.

  9. The Happy Graduate*

    I honestly can’t believe this is a serious email and not a bad AITA post on reddit…

    But if it is real, it’s fascinating to get such a view into another person’s seemingly regular way of thinking.

  10. Midwest Manager*

    I’ve interviewed candidates like this before. My favorite “They did not just say that…” answer was to the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?*” The candidate legitimately replied “I’m going to be your boss by then.”

    Um, no.

    *I now ask a better version of that question: “What are your long-term career goals, and how do you see this role fitting in to them?”

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      I was interviewing job candidates and greeted one as he was coming in. (The office didn’t really get visitors.) I said, “Oh hi, are you Steve?” And he says, “Yes. You must be the receptionist.”

      No, sir, I would be your boss.

      1. RVA Cat*

        It’s something when a 21st-century candidate sounds like an early-season Pete Campbell from Mad Men.

      2. Csethiro Ceredin*

        Ha, solidarity.

        I had one greet me with “any coffee, sweetie?” I’ve never enjoyed my subsequent “let me introduce myself, I’m the COO” speech more.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          “Down the street at the Starbucks where you can pay with money you did not earn here, lamby legs.”

            1. Csethiro Ceredin*

              Oh I wish I had thought of anything this hilarious! I was so stunned I just stared at him and then said No.

    2. Cat Tree*

      Oh, I want to share too. I always ask candidates about a time they had a professional disagreement with someone and how they handled it. One guy actually told me outright that he had a shouting match until he “won”. I’m amazed that either he could not think of a single time that he resolved a disagreement civilly, or he thinks his approach was a good one. Weirdly, some others on the interview panel (who had their own sessions so didn’t hear this question and response) loved him as a candidate. He had some other red flags during my interview so as a group we decided not to hire him.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        I’m an academic, so we often get CVs. One guy included titles and summaries to all of the op-eds he’d written in to his local paper that were published. Let’s just say they were very helpful and informative in our interviewing process.

        1. Three Flowers*

          Laughing so hard at the guy who pads out thr publications section of his CV with his entire letters-to-the-non-academic-editor oeuvre!

      2. Garblesnark*

        We interviewed a guy like this middle of last year. One of the panel members, whose opinion I never just go with, called him “a real salt of the earth guy” and recommended him for hire.


    3. Elbe*

      That’s awful but hilarious. Did this person not know that in order to climb the career ladder, they first have to be hired? Who in the world thinks that that’s a good answer?

      It’s really not hard to convey personal ambition without directly threatening/competing with the person you’re trying to convince to hire you.

    4. ThatGirl*

      My husband interviewed someone who, when asked about disagreements with her manager said she just went ahead and did what she wanted to do anyway because her manager was wrong. No self-awareness there. And the candidate doubled down when asked the same question by a different group.

    5. I Have RBF*

      See, if I was answering that question with that angle, it would be “I’ll be doing your job since you’ll have moved higher up in the organization.”

    6. Switz4219*

      Oh lord, it wasn’t an interview situation, but in my previous job, I did a lot of reviewing of people’s work, for various reasons. Think something like quality assurance or internal audit, but for specific roles within a department. So I didn’t have direct reports, but did evaluate people and was able to be the interim manager/officer on duty.
      I once sent a guy some feedback on something he’d done wrong, and he sent me back an email telling me I was wrong, and also suggesting that I educate myself on that particular process before offering criticism in the future. Oh boy. So I decided to meet with the guy. We’d never met in person before, so I asked him about his background. I then told him about my background and described my current role. Including the part where I edited and wrote procedures…for the process he had suggested I educate myself on. THAT was a good time.

    7. Old Enough to Know Better*

      Had a candidate for a (very) entry level position tell me in all sincerity that he wanted to have his own company by then.

      Bless his heart.

  11. Red_Coat*

    “Clearly some kind of middle manager” How was that clear, since you didn’t look her up until after her interview?

    1. Myrin*

      I was actually confused by that part – so OP simultaneously knew that she was a director/his would-be future grandboss but also thought of her as a middle manager? How does that work?

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        My guess is that OP took “not my direct boss” and “not a C-level executive” and came up with “middle manager”.

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        I mean, at large companies there are lots of levels of management. Directors at my current job are very much middle management. There are plenty of things to latch onto in this letter without that one.

        1. Myrin*

          Ah, got it. I’m not a native English speaker and although I’m fluent, titles tend to trick me, and my language’s word which is related to “director” basically always means the most high-ranking person.

            1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

              Job titles in English are also WILD. Things like “Director” and “Senior Vice President” can be anything from the top/top few people to someone fifteen steps down the chain who’s met the CEO twice for five minutes total.

      3. MisterForkbeard*

        For a lot of individual roles, your grandboss is a middle manager. I think that was probably pretty reasonable assumption to make, and it sounds like she introduced herself as no longer technical in the interview.

        The guy is a jerk, but this doesn’t tweak my spidey senses

        1. Observer*

          My issue is not that he assumed that she’s a middle manager. It’s the dismissive and vague use of the term that’s an issue. And that he uses it to conclude that she MUST be irrelevant to his technical role.

          1. The Disembodied Voice*

            Yes, this – the idea that middle managers are useless thumb-twiddlers. It’s this sort of bizarre idea that the world has which reminds me of Elon Musk’s whole Thing – that tech companies have the genius visionary at the top and the genius developers doing all the coding, and everyone in the middle is just a waste of space.

    2. Elbe*

      It’s so weird that he expresses such disdain for her role, even though she would be two levels above him. If she’s “just” a middle manager, what does that make him?

      1. Sparkle Motion*

        In his view, he’s a talented tech bro with an actual education. While she was just a pencil pusher with no actual valuable skills, who worked her way out of the steno/WP pool. Well, until he actually looked up her credentials.

      2. FitPro not Fitspo*

        I can’t help thinking that the word “she” may be playing a role in OP’s odd assumptions and reactions.

    3. Purple Cat*

      Directors (as one myself) are pretty much the definition of “middle-management”. Not C-Suite, but not rank and file either. But I hold no disdain for that. He didn’t realize that she was *actually* qualified until looking her up and saw her track record.

      1. Red_Coat*

        I suppose that’s possible! In my office ‘Director’ and ‘Associate Director’ are all basically subject matter experts, so assuming that someone who has one of those titles is “just a middle manager” didn’t pass the smell test for me

        1. ferrina*

          Same. I’ve worked with more Director/etc. that have direct SME experience than those that don’t. And some of them are RIDICULOUSLY GOOD at their subject. I knew one woman who was a fabulous developer, ingenious product designer, and incredible manager. Utterly incredible.

    4. Observer*

      “Clearly some kind of middle manager” How was that clear, since you didn’t look her up until after her interview?

      Well, “some kind of middle manager” is such a fuzzy and contemptuous term that it clearly was not intended to convey her *actual* role, but rather that she’s just some irrelevant woman who is inserting herself into a situation that’s “none of her business.”

      Of course the fact that he made that assumption without having any clue as who she actually was was not exactly something that a “real” professional, as he considers himself, should have done. But he’s not exactly a shining example of self-reflection.

      The truth is that this whole comment section will be hard for him to read, but I hopr it gives him the kick in the pants he needs.

  12. Antiqueight*

    Actually struggling to believe this letter is for real because omg wow, talk about a cluster ****. I am impressed that anyone could be this obtuse.

  13. Falling Diphthong*

    OP, your wife is correct. You should listen to her.

    I suspect you are someone who is really, really good at logic-based tests, and has carried the school attitude (98 is better than 97, so 98 wins) into a work realm where the criteria is more “So we’re going to take everyone who scored above 85, figure they’re trainable in the tech, and consider who is easy to work with–pleasant demeanor, open to feedback, good at explaining their reasoning, good at teaching other people their skills.

    There are actually very few jobs, even in tech, where your brilliance will be the only thing that matters, and soft skills are just for middle managers. They can find people with both.

    1. Not Jen from the IT Crowd*

      Yeah, before my current career break I was a manager in tech, and did my fair share of interviews to employ technicians of varying levels. Definitely wouldn’t have employed this one, and I can just imagine how he came across in the interview!

    2. Lacey*

      Yes. I have come across people with this attitude a few times at work and they’re almost always younger people who were high-achievers academically and have not yet figured out the difference between school and work.

    3. Tpacc*

      The biggest issue that I have in managing a group of people is never their skillset, this can be taught and coached for the most part. Their attitude and ability to get along with their coworkers is WAY more important. I spend far more time managing personality conflicts than I do technical things.

    4. Ludwig*

      It’s not even just tech. I’m a writer, and I would argue that I’m in the 90s on all those soft skills and in the 80s on “level of writing brilliance” (on a good day!). Editors come back to me because they are going to edit me one way or the other, and a few extra rewordings of a few awkwardly-long sentences is well worth it to them to have me always be on time, pleasant, and willing to adjust to their needs.

    5. AngryOctopus*

      This, so much!!
      LW, if you got a 97 on the test, that’s good. But if someone got a 92 AND spoke honestly about a mistake they made and how they fixed it, that person will win every time over someone who blithely says “I don’t make mistakes”. Hell, I went to school (undergrad and grad) for biology and last week I either plugged the electrodes in backwards or ran the gel too long and ended up with a gel of nothing. Mistakes happen!! If you tell someone you’re interviewing with that you never make them, they’re immediately going to clock you as 1-difficult to work with and 2-a liar. And that sound you hear is the scratching of the pen as the put a big X over your candidacy.

    6. Productivity Pigeon*

      When I was interviewing recent graduates for positions in management consulting, we always ended up asking ourselves two questions:

      1) Can we bring this person to a client meeting?
      2) Would we want to spend an evening before a big deadline with the person?

    7. goddessoftransitory*

      You know what this guy should go into? Mad science. Every mad scientist I’ve encountered in literature/media has this exact attitude (and a trust fund, usually.)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Both scientific brilliance and artistic brilliance are so often portrayed in fiction as ivory tower endeavors carried out by loners.

        In actuality, revolutionary scientists and artists were deeply embedded in their respective communities, exchanging ideas with their peers, tapping into the zeitgeist. But for some reason that story doesn’t resonate with us like “Ogg locked himself in a tower, and there his brilliance revealed to him the Truth that eluded his comrades.”

    8. Observer*

      There are actually very few jobs, even in tech, where your brilliance will be the only thing that matters, and soft skills are just for middle managers. They can find people with both.

      This is true. But I think it’s a mistake to assume the the OP’s assessment of his actual technical skill are as good as he thinks. For one thing, I’d be willing to be that he’s very bad at reading people’s reactions – I’m not so sure he aced the questions the way he thinks he did, nor the other interviews. Clearly he didn’t get that Prospective Grand-Boss was utterly unimpressed by him. Secondly, anyone who thinks that they have *never* made a mistake because “I’m a professional” is not someone whose self assessment can be relied on.

    9. The answer is (probably) 42*

      Oof, I completely missed the fact that this guy has a wife. I know that this letter is a small snapshot of a person and maybe this guy has redeeming qualities, but my knee jerk reaction is oof, that poor woman.

  14. Old Hampshire New Hampshire*

    Alison’s “Don’t do that” has to be THE most understated piece of advice she’s ever given. And everything else she says? Hell yeah, with flashing colourful lights and Taylor Swift on loop.

    I wonder how many times LW’s wife tried to give him the same feedback and eventually encouraged him to write in here because she just couldn’t anymore.

  15. chocolate lover*

    The arrogance doesn’t even ooze, it explodes out of this letter. Did they mean to post this on reddit AmITheAs@hole? Cause WOW.

    1. don'tbeadork*

      No, because he knows he is decidedly NTAH, no matter what the rest of us think. He is wrong, but, well, that’s just our opinion and he Went to School and Doesn’t Make Mistakes so he can’t be.

  16. Red*

    Oh I’ve worked with guys like this before. They ‘never’ make mistakes becuase they either refuse to accept something was their fault or the rest of the team fixes his part before it ever gets to a point where anyone can really ‘see’ the mistake. Worst people in the world to work with. I’d rather have the boss who yells at me or the coworker who slacks and knows it before I ever want to work with a guy like this ever again.

    1. Yup*

      This! Being wrong to them is a failure and not a learning opportunity, so they are never wrong, and will go to the ends of the earth to prove it. Like this–calling everyone who rejected them to prove *he* was right and they were wrong. Energy vampire!

    2. Lacey*

      Yup. Mistakes are annoying, but not as annoying as someone who won’t admit to and fix their mistakes.

      I have a coworker right now, we tell her she made an error and she insists we asked her to do the thing in a way that’s wildly inconvenient for everyone but her.

      Even that I wouldn’t mind as much if she’d fix the mistake on her own, but someone else always has to do it.

    3. Elbe*

      Agree 100% Coming up with elaborate justifications about why you were right all along is a great way to never learn, never grow, never understand other perspectives, and make yourself absolutely impossible to work with.

      People like the LW are convinced that they’re rock stars, but the reality is that they’re some of the worst people to work with and the quality of their work is usually not good.

    4. ferrina*

      Someone that can’t admit their mistakes to themself is someone that will never learn. And god forbid you dare to point out that they made a mistake- you clearly are the problem and will be attacked.
      Usually I’ve seen it go hand-in-hand with narcissism. Run for the hills.

  17. My Reasons Are 3-Fold*

    My eyes just kept getting wider the more I read. Whoa.

    I think it’s worth it for the OP to reflect on whether he would have/has treated men differently. Maybe not, but if so, that’s also something to be aware of and work on before any other interviews.

    1. Porch Gal*

      Yes, the parenthetical “I don’t know if it matters but I’m male and everyone I interviewed with was female” jumped out at me as well.

      1. HonorBox*

        Same. As I read on from that point, I kept going back to that line. I would guess all of the rest of us would say that their genders didn’t matter, except for the fact that it obviously mattered to him and has impacted his read of the situation.

      2. Three Flowers*

        Yeah, and not in a “can I be more cognizant of how imposed gender roles at work affect my demeanor toward others?” way. Holy victim complex, Batman!

    2. ferrina*

      You could have stopped at: “I think it’s worth it for the OP to reflect”
      His lack of self-awareness is incredible. Has he done any form of self-reflection ever?

  18. Anony-nom-nom-nom*

    Oof. I’m getting the same vibes off this guy as the “I don’t respect my manager’s degrees” writer from about 8 years ago. YIKES.

      1. EmmaPoet*

        What that person totally failed to grasp is the 20 years of experience those people had, which included the things they needed to know to climb to those jobs. Also, wow, that person sounded like a delight to manage.

    1. EAinW4*

      This might be my favorite letter of all time. Even better than the guy who wanted to “borrow” the CEO’s assistant.
      Can’t wait to share it with some middle managers!

  19. Darury*

    I’m a professional and I’ve made mistakes that I was sure were going to result in me packing a proverbial box on my way out the door. I immediately escalate to my manager, explain what happened and took responsibility. The key is to admit when you’ve screwed up and do what you can to mitigate it from happening again.

      1. ferrina*

        Ah, school. The thing that famously tells you every single thing you ever need to know and prepares you for every real world situation. /s

        1. Juicebox Hero*

          Yes, it’s like “the back” at a retail establishment. The exact item that you want is always in “the back” no matter whether you glimpsed it once 6 years ago or it doesn’t actually exist. If that rotten stupid jerk of a clerk would just go in “the back” and open their eyes they’d find your one true item, but they won’t because they’re nothing but lazy slackers.

          I got mad enough once to tell someone that we don’t put much stuff in “the back” because we want it out on the sales floor so we can sell it and not get hassled about our sales numbers. She wasn’t impressed with my logic.

          1. Chirpy*

            Yes, the performance of “check the back” because customers will not believe that you know for sure there’s nothing back there otherwise (because they’re likely the 5th person asking today and there’s been no freight magically appearing).

        2. Jopestus*

          University. The place that proves you can read and write, but nothing else.

          I am serious. I went trough uni like many others did and oh boy there were some characters.

    1. Garblesnark*

      Yes! Usually I lead with “I have made a mistake.” And saying or typing those words is the hardest part almost every time.

  20. starsaphire*

    Giving a LOT of benefit-of-the-doubt here, but here goes:

    The reason that the grandboss was in on the final interview might have been because you rocked the first round of interviews, but your lack of self-awareness raised a red flag, or at least a yellow one, and the grandboss (as she said herself) was called in to evaluate your soft skills. Sounds like she found them lacking.

    This is definitely a time to reflect, reassess, and maybe contemplate developing those soft skills. As your own words point out, it was the lack of soft skills that lost you this opportunity.

    Best of luck down the road.

    1. ThatGirl*

      That’s possible, but it’s also not unusual for a grandboss to be in on last-round interviews just in general – to assess culture fit/soft skills and just to pass a gut check. Even if there are no yellow flags.

      1. Analyticoal Tree Hugger*

        Agreed. Every interview process I went through in my latest job search included (or would have included) an interview with the grandboss at some point.

        For the record, my sample size is pretty small (maybe a dozen).

      2. Bagpuss*

        Yes, where I work, for many roles the first round will be HR plus the person who will be the immediate manager and second round will include a more senior person – the department head or, where they would be the line manager,their boss.

        It’s partly for a second opinion a, partly to assess the elements other than the narrow issue if their technical knowledge / skills, partly to consider how they would fit generally, not just with their immediate team.

        It’s possible that in OPs case grandoss was involved because of yellow flags or it could just be the normal process for the company which is hiring

    2. CrazyLlamaDrama*

      It’s possible, but I’ve also seen it be really common for skip levels to be part of the interview process as just a routine thing.

  21. ENFP in Texas*

    Based on this letter, I wouldn’t have hired you, either. So many screaming red flags…

    “I was rejected from a role for not answering an interview question.”

    No, that’s not why you were rejected. The fact that you THINK that is why you were rejected is part of the reason you were rejected.

    1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

      Yup, was going to say this.

      The contempt with which this is written is either a result of hurt feelings or a natural result of someone whose soft skills really are an impediment to his getting hired. Either way, it wasn’t failure to answer, it was answering with essentially, “what me? Be human? LOL” that did him in.

      But hard agree that he has a phenomenal answer for the next time he gets this question in an interview, because this is a whole constellation of mistakes!

  22. borealis*

    I was rejected from a role for not answering an interview question.

    OP, your letter indicates pretty clearly that that was not the reason you were rejected. There were multiple reasons, and it would help you in your future job search to reflect on that.

  23. Seashell*

    If people who went to school for something never made mistakes, there would be zero medical malpractice claims and no disbarred attorneys.

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      This!! The reason why life-and-death professions – surgeons, airline pilots – have exhaustive checklists, usually cross-checked with another person, is because EVERYONE makes mistakes.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      CQEs agree that people make mistakes.

      (Certified Quality Engineer requires a rigorous training & testing from ASQ, the now-international American Society for Quality.)

  24. mcm*

    ooooh, as someone who works in tech-adjacent work but on the soft skills/communication-based side, my blood is now boiling!

  25. Parcae*

    At least now the LW has a great answer to the “talk about a major mistake you’ve made in the past” question.

    I’m not being snarky here. (OK, maybe I’m multi-tasking.) If the LW can reflect on this experience and make improvements in his approach to work, I think this could be a great example to use in the future. He’d want to gloss over some of the more outrageous details, but in general, someone in a technical field discussing how they realized they were lacking in soft skills and what they did to improve them? It demonstrates humility and self-awareness. Great stuff.

    1. Oh yeah, Me again*

      IF (!) this letter is real, the writer is right up there with the Cheap-ass-roll lady; the my-best-worker-quit because-of-no-time-off-fo-graduation boss; Mr. She’s-insubordinate-expecting-to-be-paid; and the You-only-get-a-birthday-holiday-on-leap-year person! (I believe not one of them ever repented, despite the overwhelming comments)

  26. Ashley*

    Okay, two theories. 1) This person has a very skewed view of things (lack of experience, neuro divergence or personality disorder, who knows) and thinks that the way they are presenting themselves here is what competent people are supposed to look like. It’s not hopefully they’re learning that now. 2) This is written by a separate party who is quoting the person who behaved this way and is hoping to show them this to help it sink in for them that they’re getting in their own way. Of course there’s also the significant chance it’s just rage bait but I like thinking of other possibilities.

    1. Ludwig*

      Yeah, the rigidity stood out to me. Yes, it reads disdainful and lacking in empathy, but if the LW is genuinely baffled, I really hope we can offer some helpful insight into both the nature of interviews and the nature of mistakes!

    2. Chauncy Gardener*

      Oh there are totally real people like this out in the wild. An ex boyfriend of mine went to military flight school. Was up in a plane with an instructor (male). The instructor told ex-BF to do something and ex-BF ARGUED WITH THE INSTRUCTOR IN A MILITARY AIRCRAFT. The instructor took control of the plane, landed it and kicked ex-BF out of flight school.

      For some people., their arrogance knows no bounds.

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        If it weren’t for those pesky regulations, the flight instructor might have immediately activated your ex’s ejector seat right then!

    3. Not Jen from the IT Crowd*

      Yeah… no. I’m neurodivergent, as is my husband and as are a few people I know. We’re not a-holes. I’ve also known a couple of people who are ND and a-holes and who use being ND as the excuse for it, and it’s not. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

    4. Cee Es*

      It’s possible that OP tried to present what “competent” looked like in his ideal. There are YouTube personality talking about some pretty skewed views of the profession. There has been also pretty bad people who rose to the top as well and OP tried to replicate them.

  27. Joey*

    This strikes me as a form of creative fiction by the OP, but in any event- how is it weird to interview with your manager’s boss? That is very common!

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      OP didn’t know it was a thing, and OP is never wrong.

      That’s not just sarcasm–it’s a good illustration of how this OP has managed to never notice he is wrong.

      I’m reminded of a past letter from an OP who dismissed his coworker as obviously not knowledgeable about, say, astronomy, and when informed that she had actually switched over into this job from astronomy, maintained that he was still right because he had not been told that background before.

      1. Nightengale*

        Yup it was paleontology


        Someone brought in a possible fossil, mentioned planning to ask the coworker about it and the LW said that fossils weren’t in CW’s “background.” Although the manager then took this as accusing the LW of accusing the coworker of falsifying a resume and made a formal verbal warning. Which is also a pretty rigid and unproductive way to address this.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          I think it drove the point home that if you assert that someone’s background is not what they say it is, you’re calling them a liar. If you *know* they misrepresented themselves, let the chips fall where they may.

          But if you don’t know that, and just opened your yap, you’re starting something no one wants.

    2. Lacey*

      Yeah, I’ve only had a couple interviews where I didn’t.
      In one it was a small business, so the manager was the owner.
      At the other, I guess they just trusted him to build his team – but after I was hired I had to have introductory interviews with EVERY department head in the company.

    3. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      Yup, this is standard practice in my unit for all final candidates to interview with our unit leader – who in most cases, will be their boss’s boss.

  28. Calyx*

    It reminds me of an interview I did for a “teapot marketer” over a decade ago. He was fairly senior and had done good work in the industry. He came recommended by some of my colleagues. I was a rising star female leader who’d been hired to build up a new function in a fast-growing company. I say that not for self-aggrandizement but for context. I’m also pretty femme-presenting and would have appeared to this guy as considerably younger than he was.

    I decided to do a team interview with one of my other teapot marketers, also female, also very senior and competent.

    The guy smirked all through the interview at every question we asked, pausing to roll his eyes before each answer. When I asked him to describe his preferred style of collaborating with his manager and team, he snorted and said “I don’t need a manager.” Nothing else. Just that. When my teapot marketer asked questions he answered in a very condescending way. I said something like, “L is a PhD in teapot marketing with ten years experience, plus international [blah blah], so I’d expect you to look to her as a mentor for this role,” he just looked at me and said nothing. He had no questions about the role.

    For the next several years, he continued applying for openings on my team. His ex-colleagues in the company would ask me why I didn’t hire him, and I told them. He did not get a callback on any subsequent job openings.

    The company grew 100x while I was there. I was very pleased that I had never inflicted that pusillanimous little pill of a person on any of my colleagues or customers.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      I have had a very similar experience.

      I interviewed someone who did not have all of the required skills necessary for the job. He acted just like the LW, telling me he wouldn’t answer my questions because he had so much more experience and education that I would not be able to understand his answers and perhaps I could find someone more senior so he could have a “real” interview. After the interview, he contacted HR and suggested that I be demoted into the open position so they could put him in my spot. When that effort failed, he called me repeatedly and left long voicemails explaining how I made a huge mistake because he could help me learn how to do my job correctly…and yes, he tried contacting me on LinkedIn to explain that I didn’t know how to interview people and that’s why I didn’t realize he was perfect for the job.

      I saved his voicemails for a pretty long time to play them for people who didn’t realize how arrogant and deluded some people can be.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Wait, so you interviewed this exact LW? (Please tell me yes because I want to believe (though I know better) that he’s the only one of his kind out there.)

        1. Sparkles McFadden*

          I am feeling philosophical today so this may be too long. Apologies.

          People like this aren’t particularly rare. They rely heavily on external “proof” of their value like, degrees and awards. For them, it’s not “Wow, that class was so challenging and I learned so much” but rather “I finished the final first and got a high score so I must be the best.” This is likely why the LW considers mistakes to be unacceptable. Mistakes, for him, are tangible proof of not being the best.

          This LW is heavily invested in proving the interviewer wrong because the rejection is an attack on the LW’s entire view of the world and himself. If the interviewer isn’t accepting his proof, that means she’s questioning his value, so he must show her why she is wrong. The guy I interviewed who was like this kept showing me letters of recommendation that he brought with him, and said I needed to read the letters (his proof of his value) instead of boring him by asking what he called “Silly questions.” He couldn’t answer my questions so he had to prove my questions were wrong. It’s a sad way to go through life.

          1. Aerin*

            That’s the thing that’s ultimately so infuriating about these guys. They think they’re extremely special and elite, but they’re so, so common, even if they truly are as skilled as they think they are.

          2. Sasha*

            Oh god I had a colleague like this. He was actually slightly senior to me, but not my line manager, and he kept on insisting on showing me his cv and letters of recommendation, because I wasn’t acting sufficiently impressed by him. Such a weirdo.

            He was also vocal in his opinion that women simply didn’t have the cognitive abilities to manage a professional career and should stick to babies and cooking. This had significantly more impact on my interactions with him than being forced to look at his (entirely unremarkable) CV did.

        2. Trufax only - no lies ever!*

          Yes, indeed, there’s just one such person out there. Unfortunately, he can both teleport and shapeshift, as well as speak every language in current use, so he annoys and baffles a large number of people every day.

          I believe he is a cryptid that actually feeds on a very limited and specific sort of negative emotions.

    2. ferrina*

      “I don’t need a manager.”

      I just…..I just can’t….
      It would have been more diplomatic to say “I have problems with authority”

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Amazingly enough (or not, depending on your perspective), that’s already an AAM letter. First letter of the “employee says he has a problem with authority, coworker is praying for me to have a baby, and more” post from February 12, 2019.

          1. Corporate Lawyer*

            I think you’re really onto something here! Starting a business forces you to confront things you’re not good at, you’re guaranteed to make mistakes, and you’ll face a lot of rejection by VCs and other funders and potential clients/customers. Someone whose self view is based on “I’m always successful, I never fail, I never make mistakes” wouldn’t be able to withstand the stress of starting a business.

  29. soontoberetired*

    I am a developer and I make mistakes after more than 30 years. I worked with someone who could not admit to making mistakes even after we met on issues caused by this person’s mistakes!!! this person skated through the last of their career on a reputation made in their early days. They were shit at the time of retirement.

    1. Evil Queen of Dysfunction*

      Ah, I had a late great friend who had an expression “hitting a home run on Tuesday does not make you the hero on Thursday.”

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I worked with someone who could not admit to making mistakes even after we met on issues caused by this person’s mistakes!

      OP, when you say “I never make mistakes” people hear the above.

  30. Critical Rolls*

    Uncharitable, but my first thought was “Oh, no, someone got suckered into marrying this tool?”

    LW, the fact that there is already discussion in the comments of whether this is a real letter because can someone genuinely be this arrogantly clueless? should be telling you what you need to know. You are so far in the wrong, right is over the horizon and several time zones away. Take this opportunity to stop and do some serious self-reflection, because the behavior you’re displaying is career-killing.

    1. Female Engineer*

      The work environment and marriage environment are different. His wife is just as likely to be happy in her marriage as she is unhappy.

      I know lots of married “technical” men. That’s not really the issue here.

      1. Ellen*

        The issue is that the letter-writer comes off as arrogant, condescending, probably narcissistic (I’ve never encountered an “I’m never wrong” person who wasn’t a narcissist), and *unable to admit that he’s ever wrong*. None of those traits is any more appealing in a marriage partner than it would be in an employee/coworker.

        The misogyny also apparent in the letter (given that the OP seems to be a man married to a woman) is just the icing on the cake of this disaster.

      2. Expelliarmus*

        Considering his wife warned him against his planned course of action and he dismissed her before writing here, I’m not so sure. Also, I find it hard to believe that general sexism and disdain for people (not him, apparently) who make mistakes do not seep into his personal life one bit.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      Me as well. I imagine the only reason he hasn’t been driven out of town by an angry mob is he has a spouse who spends most of her time running interference between him and–life.

    3. Aerin*

      I was surprised to see the mention of the wife too, mainly because my impression was of an 18-year-old who was top of their coding boot camp.

      1. KateM*

        An 18yo can easily be married if he comes from a background where it is important to get married if expecting.

        1. Sasha*

          Or just where marriage is expected instead of dating. I know a few people who got married during college, because pre-marital sex was off the table culturally.

  31. BethRA*

    Somewhere, a hiring manager that popped into AAM on their coffee break is giving thanks for a bullet dodged.

    1. Honey Badger just don't care*

      Oh please let the ‘clearly middle management’ Grand Boss be a reader and pop in to give us the skinny!

      1. Elbe*

        That would be amazing. I think it’s more likely, though, that the LW will show up and try to argue with everyone in the comments.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          Oh man, it would be the ultimate fan fiction if both the LW and the GB were to both weigh in, wouldn’t it?

  32. Momma Bear*

    We had a Director who made it very clear that you never try to b.s. her for anything because she had probably had the job of everyone at that table at one point or another. Even if she didn’t know 110% your thing, she had a very good idea of how that thing should be done. Incredibly smart woman. Even if this interviewer hadn’t done the exact job LW did, it didn’t mean she was clueless or stupid. I’m glad Alison called him out on his arrogance because…wow. I bet she couldn’t File 13 his resume fast enough.

    But now he has a response to her question, should he choose to think about it, acknowledge this error, and actually mitigate it.

  33. UKDancer*

    Yikes. I almost always ask people I’m interviewing to tell me about a mistake they made professionally or a major conflict they encountered professionally and how they fixed it. I don’t mind what it is as much as wanting to see how they rectified the situation and what they learnt from it. It’s critical when I recruit people that they are people who can learn and overcome a problem or error. Mistakes happen but growth means learning from them.

    Also I’m not a technical expert but I work with technical experts and so I’m often the interview panels for expert jobs to make sure they recruit someone who can actually deal with non technical people and not sound like an arrogant twerp. Imagine I lead the section that provides the llama grooming supplies and manages the llama shampoo contracts. I usually am on the interview panel for new technical llama groomers. I am not a llama groomer but my team works with them. So I don’t need to know all the technical details but I need them to be able to interact with me and my team when there’s a problem.

    1. I Have RBF*

      I almost always ask people I’m interviewing to tell me about a mistake they made professionally or a major conflict they encountered professionally and how they fixed it. I don’t mind what it is as much as wanting to see how they rectified the situation and what they learnt from it. It’s critical when I recruit people that they are people who can learn and overcome a problem or error. Mistakes happen but growth means learning from them.


      In my field, you don’t get to be senior until you’ve made your share of mistakes. No mistakes? Then obviously you have never tried anything outside your comfort zone, or you have and just ignored them for someone else to fix. Either one is bad in my field.

      Just sitting here and thinking about it I can think of a couple of doozies I’ve done, and the gyrations involved in fixing them. It goes with the territory – Murphy’s Law is alive and well in tech.

    2. londonedit*

      Absolutely. I’ve always been asked questions in interviews about times when I’ve had to deal with a difficult situation, or placate an angry author, or when I’ve made a mistake. Answering ‘I don’t make mistakes’ or ‘None of my authors have ever been angry’ isn’t going to get you anywhere in my job, because so much of it is about author management and managing expectations and dealing with situations where the author can’t stand the cover design or they refuse to send their proof corrections back on time or whatever. Interviewers know you’ll have come across these situations and they want to know how you deal with them.

      It’s also absolutely standard in my industry to be interviewed by senior staff members, especially at second interview stage. Usually a first interview will be with the person who’d be your immediate line manager and probably another member of the team, and then a second interview would be with the line manager and their boss. It’s totally normal for a more senior person to be involved with making a final decision at second interview stage, even if they wouldn’t be your immediate boss on a day-to-day basis.

    1. RVA Cat*

      I can’t help wondering if this is the first time he’s had *consequences* for his mistakes? There’s a whole lot of entitlement coming along with that arrogance.

    2. Bert*

      ah, the warcry of the female worker that constantly fails but it’s always “some random white guys fault”

    3. Sasha*

      I wouldn’t necessarily assume that – the worst overt misogyny I’ve experienced is from men who came from (multiple different) cultures where women were automatically seen as inferior, so who the hell did I think I was trying to tell them what to do (I was their boss, or training program director).

      White men may be equally as misogynistic, but most of them know to keep their trap shut when their boss is female, and limit themselves to just bitching to their colleagues.

  34. RCB*

    I read this letter and kept saying “We’re being pranked, right? Absolutely no one can be this clueless, right?!?!?!?!” So, OP, assuming that this letter is indeed real and not some sort of prank, then let us all assure you with absolutely no doubt that our reactions alone tell you why you didn’t get the job, because this letter is clueless job applicant entitlement demonstrated better than I’ve probably ever seen it demonstrated before.

  35. Ashley*

    Leading theory: the wife wrote this, quoting him, to try to prove to him that he is getting in his own way and generally coming across like an ass.

    1. Princess Pumpkin Spice*

      I support this theory 100%. Even if it is just fanfiction, I think OP’s wife deserves a badge of honor for putting up with this daily.

    2. Expelliarmus*

      To be fair, there was an OP some years back who was highly encouraged by his wife to write in so that we could prove her point (the “my wife says my relationship with my coworker is inappropriate” letter).

  36. Long Time Lurker*

    (I don’t know if it matters but I’m male and everyone I interviewed with was female.)

    OP you know it matters or you wouldn’t have included it.

    1. litprof*

      It certainly seems to matter to him! He must feel extra confirmed in his rightness because he thinks that women couldn’t possibly know anything.

    2. Purple Cat*

      Ironically, it doesn’t matter, except it obviously does to him, because he’s clearly sexist on top of being arrogant.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        This! I was wondering where LW was going with that…and that fact (hopefully) wouldn’t have changed the outcome, though the fact that LW felt the need to point it out says a lot.

      2. SansSerif*

        One question he needs to ask himself is “why did I assume the grandboss didn’t have technical knowledge or education?” Did he have any substantial reason … or was it just that she was a woman?

    3. Myrin*

      Now to be fair, OPs include that sort of phrase pretty often (and mostly using the exact same phrasing, too) and sometimes it matters, sometimes it doesn’t.
      (I agree that it probably mattered here – although this OP sounds like… a lot in the kind of way where I wouldn’t be surprised if he were an equal opportunity… “lot” – but the mere fact that it was mentioned isn’t suspicious by itself.)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I suspect it mattered as to who was expected to perform social smoothing so no one felt awkward.

    4. Fikly*

      It only matters in that he assumes that the women are incompetent by default and they rejected him for being a man, no other reason.

      1. Sparkle Motion*

        You mean like assuming his potential grand boss was just middle management and uneducated in his field? That was a red flag for me.

    5. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I read it as a stand in for “they were all silly women who were intimidated by my brilliance.”

  37. Too Many Birds*

    In addition to the obvious red flags…why on earth does he think it’s odd to interview with the person who would be your boss’s boss? Every job I’ve had has included the grandboss during at least one stage of interviewing.

    1. Poison I.V. drip*

      I’m the chief of my department and I often sit in on interviews. HR requires three people to be in on the interview panel. Sometimes the three people who do the interview are obvious choices. Sometimes they’re not, like when HR decides the panel should have a particular makeup. To presume, as the candidate, that you know the interviewing process better than those who enforce the rules shows incredible naivete. The panel is whatever it is, just get over yourself and give the best interview you can.

  38. litprof*

    WOW. Setting aside his arrogance and rudeness for a second, does this guy have any understanding of how learning works? Learning is essentially a process of making mistakes and fixing them (until we make new, different, “better” mistakes the next time). Unless he’s claiming to have known everything from the moment he was born, he has made plenty of mistakes (as has every other human on this planet). Sounds like the one thing he did right was to be so transparent about his ridiculousness that he spared the folks he was interviewing with from hiring him.

    1. Elbe*

      My concern is that his take away from this won’t be to do some self reflection, but will instead be to misrepresent his attitude during his next interview.

  39. Evil Queen of Dysfunction*

    When I was a college instructor, I was interviewing with my “partner” (whole different issue there) for graduate students to be part of the team we were putting together for our program.

    Since it was summer, a lot of these interviews were phone calls.

    We had one guy, well, I am thinking this letter could be from him. (this was 14 years ago.) I asked a lot of behavioral questions, since we were building a team, they were “tell me about a mistake you made and how you addressed it” and “tell me about a problem you had on a team and how it was resolved.”

    EVERY. SINGLE. ANSWER. ended with “and they realized they were wrong and I was right.”

    Despite my partner’s protests, Reader, I did not hire him.

  40. Ludwig*

    Yeah, LW does feel a bit more like a person who is genuinely bewildered by social norms than just disdainful… but to attain adulthood without any serious convos about what it looks like to make mistakes, even if you only consider “technical error in code” as a mistake rather than, say, a social interaction snafu… It feels like this person is poised to learn a lot about how they’re coming across to others, and I hope it makes things a little less opaque for them.

    1. Rainy*

      The “I’m male and everyone I interviewed with was female” kind of puts disdainful back on the table, for me.

    2. ThisIsNotADuplicateComment*

      I said this above but I do not see how you can read “I told her maybe she made mistakes as a developer but since I actually went to school for it, I didn’t have that problem.” as anything but disdainful. Bewilderment would not include the incredibly rude jab at his would-be grandboss.

  41. Amber Rose*

    Oof. LW if you read this, something to think about: Everything about how you handled the interview was a mistake you made. A significant one. You are not free of mistakes.

    If you disregard Alison’s advice/commentary here, you will be proving her right about how people who refuse to acknowledge mistakes are unmanageable and non-starters for employment.

    Please do some serious reflection on your own behavior for you own sake.

  42. Poor Boy Sammy*

    I love it when LWs are the issue and completely unaware.

    Reminds me of the leap year birthday girl’s former boss. Oh and her true birthday is this year.

    Anyway. Stay humble, LW.

    1. Evil Queen of Dysfunction*

      Leap Year Girl has no idea how many people wish her happy birthday around the globe.

        1. Wordnerd*

          I believe it is possible you are thinking about how Graduation Day Quitter found the original post and responded, not Leap Year Birthday Girl. I may be wrong, but they’re similar enough to maybe be confused.

      1. Elle*

        I literally think about her every time I think of leap year, now. I don’t give a fig about celebrities but if I could meet leap day birthday girl and ask her about that job, I would get pretty excited.

  43. Old Cynic*

    I’ve made a lot (A LOT) of mistakes in the past, and learned from them, but I don’t think I could resurrect one to answer this question if I got it.

    1. Ell*

      The grandboss’s question?? you should probably work on that if you’re interviewing anytime soon since it’s a very common interview question.

      1. UKDancer*

        If it helps the sort of answer I look for is something like:

        I made an error with X which had the consequences of Y. I looked at the issue and discussed with those affected. I fixed the situation and then evaluated the cause of the error and put in place mechanisms to avoid it happening again. I made sure I smoothed things over with the people I annoyed / went on a training course to improve my knowledge so I didn’t repeat the mistake / wrote a step by step manual to capture the learning and avoid the situation repeating.

        It doesn’t need to be deeply technical and I usually am less interested in what the issue was and more what you did to fix it and learn. If the issue involved dealing with other people I also want to know how you fixed the personal relationship issues.

    2. samwise*

      I always have one ready. It was BIG. Expensive. Embarrassing. Fortunately, I discovered it before anyone else did, informed my boss, explained why it happened and what I would do going forward. Could have been fired; boss said, you came to me with it and clearly have learned from it.

      Never made one that egregious again. And I do talk about it as an important lesson.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Yeah, I made a big mistake the week before I went to a conference. I expressed to a friend there that I may be looking for work since I effed up. She, a recruiter, told me that everyone in the field makes mistakes, and if they don’t they aren’t actually doing anything. I got back, finished fixing the fallout, and worked that job for several more years before the Covid layoffs. She was right.

    3. Purple Cat*

      As long as you don’t start off with “Gosh, I’ve made so many, I don’t know where to start” you’re okay. Just say something like “that’s a good question…” while you rack your brain for an appropriate example. But honestly, if you’re actively interviewing it’s a standard question you should have studied up some answers to.

      1. I Have RBF*

        I actually always laugh when the question comes up. “I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, I’ve done my fair share of mistakes. My usual process is to own it then do my best to fix it, even if I need to loop in others to help.” Then I provide an example.

        Yes, I try to reduce errors with process. But no matter what the process level is, mistakes still happen, and you just own them, fix them, and try to make sure you don’t do that one again. There are plenty more new and unusual mistakes to make…

      2. Username Lost to Time*

        That wouldn’t be so bad of an opening response to the question. The formula is 1) name a mistake, 2) describe how you reacted, and 3) describe why it won’t happen again. So if you want to apply the formula to two or three mistakes within your allotted response time, that’s not a trainwreck response. It means you’re seasoned.

        I always thought it was a relatively simple interview question, but damn if it didn’t expose a serious area for improvement for the LW.

    4. Jennifer Strange*

      Keep in mind, it doesn’t need to be super interesting or anything. It could just be “I accidentally emailed an event invitation to someone with the same first name as a major donor. I alerted my boss to the error and we ended up letting them attend the event too, but I learned my lesson about letting email addresses auto-fill and always double-check before hitting send.” The main thing to focus on is how you addressed it in the moment and the steps you took to keep it from happening in the future.

    5. Antiqueight*

      I struggle to remember or explain things I have made mistakes about but I have some in my notes so I can give examples. Eventually a discussion with a HR person suggested that if necessary I could make something up if I wanted a nice clean narrative. They weren’t going to be checking but they needed to know I knew how to deal with one. Presumably even my invented narrative would tell them more about how I handle mistakes than this OPs response…

    6. Nea*

      Been thinking about that angle myself. I’d probably answer it along the lines of “I fortunately don’t have the kind of job where mistakes are all that visible or embarrassing for the company so I can’t think of one big one. That said, I can’t say I’ve never (x or y common mistakes in my field) and I handled preventing repeats by (blah).”

    7. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      It might help to reframe the question in your head. They don’t actually care what you got wrong; they want to know how you handle problems, how you respond to feedback, and so on.

      So if you can’t remember a precise example you could pivot your answer towards those factors. Maybe you’d say you can’t think of anything in particular but you try to avoid errors in the first place (detail your processes) and prefer problem-solving over excuses. Maybe you’d talk about the likely consequences of errors and therefore the actions that would be needed for each type (misprint v data breach v shredding original certificates).

      But really you should spend time preparing an example of a human error (where you were the human factor) and the steps you took to correct it and learn from it.

    8. AngryOctopus*

      I don’t think people are usually looking for you to tell about a terrible horrible work-altering mistake. Usually in science it’s either something like “I dropped all the plates of the 10 day assay after I added the reagent but before I read them” (not that I’ve ever done this, not me, no way) or “I read something wrong in the literature and did some pointless experiments before I realized” or other not world ending errors. What hiring managers are looking for is for you to say something like (say, for the first example, not that I’ve done this) “I told my boss right away that screwed up and dropped all these plates. I wouldn’t have data for the X meeting on [date], but I planned on restarting it ASAP dependent on Factors A/B”. It’s the immediate letting them know, plus the plan to follow up. You don’t even need a plan to have it not happen again (It was just clumsiness on my part plus the format of the assay that meant you lose the plates when you drop them, and you can’t really plan to stop that. Sh*t happens). You just need to have admitted your wrongdoing in a timely fashion and made sure you prioritized the fixing of it.

      1. Nina*

        In that scenario – ‘dropping plates like this was too expensive a mistake to have happen again, so I suggested changing the layout of the bench so that the plates didn’t have to be carried over the floor to be read, and could be stored in a carrier in the incubator and slid in and out, making them easier to handle and less likely to be dropped.’

    9. YetAnotherAnalyst*

      I don’t know if this would help you at all, but I know when I think about mistakes I’ve made as a broad category under stress, I end up remembering a lot of non-work mistakes, because those were definitely the more memorable ones. So what I do now is think about a few different categories of mistakes, that are specifically work-related:
      – times I’ve misunderstood what a stakeholder was asking for
      – times I’ve misjudged the level of effort on a task, or misinterpreted the priority
      – times I didn’t plan ahead and created unnecessary crunch time for myself (or others?)

      My actual deliverables have very few mistakes (in the sense of inaccuracies), because we’ve got a pretty robust system of documentation and peer review. But I’m pretty sure everyone on my team has messed up the planning/prioritizing/communicating side of work with some frequency!

    10. Garblesnark*

      The thing that gets me about the question is like.
      I have absolUTELY made mistakes. I have made numerous mistakes. Some mattered, some didn’t. But the wording of this specific question does throw me off a little. “What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?” suggests that I can quantify and rank all my mistakes, somehow. And some of them have discrete dollar values, but others are just unknowable opportunity cost.

      I’d probably couch my answer by saying “I genuinely don’t know if this was my biggest mistake, but the one that comes to mind is…” and then describe the issue, why it happened, how I addressed, and how I prevented it from happening again. And I know the part that comes after the couching is what matters. But I do think “Describe *A* mistake you made” would be much kinder than “describe your biggest mistake.”

  44. Ell*

    The people who work for this company dodged the biggest bullet of all time and probably don’t even know it.

  45. Honey Badger just don't care*

    Not only does the OP sound condescending and snotty, but there’s a huge misogynistic vibe to their letter. How can all these FEMALES possibly judge meand reject me? Let me mansplain to them why they are super wrong, and I am right. Always right! ALWAYS!!! They just slammed a door in their own face with the company, with the recruiter, and with anyone in the network of those people they hugely insulted. To quote Vivienne in Pretty Woman: “Big mistake. Big. HUGE.”

  46. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    Oh, (not so) sweet summer child – sigh!

    Your offhand comment -“(I don’t know if it matters but I’m male and everyone I interviewed with was female.)” provides a major clue as to why you failed that interview. And you’re as oblivious to that as you are to all the OTHER mistakes you made! (An especially ironic note since you claim never to have made a workplace mistake.)

    Your interviewers have all experienced being treated contemptuously and having their competence challenged by men – before they turned 18. They’ve all experienced it since then and have no intention of hiring anyone who exudes conceit, arrogance and lofty superiority. And spoiler alert: neither does any other interviewer with half a brain!

  47. samwise*

    We had a candidate once who said they never made mistakes. I chuckled, said, well, everybody makes mistakes, please talk about a mistake made at work and how you handled it. They insisted that they never made mistakes at work, they took a lot of care to always be correct.

    Afterwards. the committee spent a LOT of time discussing that answer– it was very concerning. The candidate was otherwise excellent, so we recommended them to the hiring officer, with a directive to probe the candidate’s references for attitude and actions around making and acknowledging errors. The person was hired, but I have to say that answer colored our interactions with them going forward. And they did not stay long.

    1. RVA Cat*

      “If you never make mistakes, why are you looking for a job like a mere mortal instead of hanging out on Mount Olympus with the other gods?”

  48. lost academic*

    Anyone else also see “I told her maybe she made mistakes as a developer but since I actually went to school for it, I didn’t have that problem. She seemed fine with it and we moved on with the interview.” and immediately think “Yup, she’s fine with it because you’re done. You are already never getting hired.”

    1. Lisa B*

      OH yes. That was the proverbial nail in the coffin for her. I can almost hear the polite “I see, thank you.”

    2. Not that other person you didn't like*

      My best advice for interviewing people is to let the candidate tell you who they are and then listen to them. He told her who he was and she certainly didn’t need to argue or probe further.

    3. AngryOctopus*

      Yes, as I read that I thought to myself “Oh, she seemed fine with it because she just put a mental X through your candidacy and checked out”. The fact that LW didn’t see that is pretty concerning in and of itself.

    4. HonorBox*

      She definitely seemed fine with it because she is mature and wasn’t going to let a nowhere interview devolve into an argument. She has a hell of a poker face. But she was absolutely done with the interview at that point…rightfully so.

      1. Danish*

        I also have been quietly admiring the grandboss’ apparent poker face, since LW didn’t say “and then her eyebrows raised into her hairline and she very slowly said I…..ssssseeeeeeeeeee”

    5. Sparkle Motion*

      Yeah, I might have asked a softball question or two just to fill out the half hour. But mentally, I’ve just made a giant red circle with a slash through it on your resume.

    6. Hybrid Employee (Part Human, Part Wolf)*

      Yeah, if I had gotten that answer, the interview would be over. If it’s in the first 15 minutes I might throw out a few more questions for the sake of politeness, but if it comes after that I’d be saying “Well, I think that’s everything, have a good day, we’ll let you know!” and throwing out the resume on my way back to my desk.

  49. Amber*

    This guy is so much smarter than everyone, doesn’t make mistakes, but isn’t smart enough to see how all this comes across. Yikes! This middle manager just saved this company in more ways than one.

  50. Ms. Murchison*

    Did anyone else just see a bunch of the first comments change order? When I first loaded this page, it was Lurchy and then Skoobles, then after them all the posts that are now before theirs. Weird.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Alison is likely monitoring the comments for this one because it’s guaranteed to blow up the comment section. Comments would be posted chronologically after they’re screened.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Sometimes AAM will change timestamps on some of the earliest comments so that the ones that appear at the top of the page offer constructive advice (or are not derailing or are not mean, etc.).

    3. Antilles*

      If comments get flagged for moderation, it remembers the time they were ‘posted’, but they don’t appear. Then when they get released, they appear at the proper time in the timeline.

      So if you posted at 2:01, you may have been the first comment, but if it got flagged then it wouldn’t show up till, idk, 2:30 when Alison gets to look at the queue so posts at 2:02, 2:05, etc all are visible. Then when it gets released, it suddenly appears where a comment posted at 2:01 should be (near the top), making it seem like stuff moved around.

  51. NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys*

    I’ve had to fire people with this *exact* problem before. They are, as Allison notes, a nightmare to manage, and were generally quite incompetent technically as well as interpersonally. If somebody ever came across to me like this again? And *especially* if they were aggressively idiotic to somebody so senior to them? I wouldn’t even bother finishing the interview. I’d thank them for coming, throw their resume and ask HR to mark this person as “never interview again”.

    1. Snarl Trolley*

      “generally quite incompetent technically as well as interpersonally”

      Exactly this. The arrogance/insecurity coin Alison mentions *always* ends up meaning the person is skipping technical steps because they think they know better than the manual, etc, or actively hiding/ignoring any real mistakes. Just a mess all-around.