interviewer asked me about a political argument I had 10 years ago

A reader writes:

I’ve been looking for a job for a year and finally accepted a hybrid role at a medium-sized start-up. I’ve been here for a week and a half. It’s fine but things are pretty disorganized and my manager keeps making comments about me in a leadership role soon, which I realize more and more that I do not want.

During the time between signing and starting, I was contacted by another company (I had sent out over 300 applications and was still in the mode of saying yes to every interview; I realize the respectful thing would have been to withdraw) and kept getting invited back for more interviews. This second company pays 30% more, is larger and more established so I will have an opportunity to learn process missing from my mostly freelance resume, has more robust product, and is fully remote. No brainer! Until.

The hiring manager of this second company emailed to say he wanted to meet to discuss an offer. About half an hour before the meeting, he said we would not be discussing the offer because they hadn’t completed my references. Instead we would be discussing feedback from the interview process. Weird, right? After a perfunctory questions, he brought up:

1) a response of mine from the interview process (that I truly do not remember) where it seems the perception was that I don’t deal well with conflict and just do whatever I want

2) a time I had a “heated political conversation” … 10 years ago when I was in school. (A person on the hiring committee went to school with me, so I assume he was the source. The hiring manager did a bad job convincing me otherwise. I asked the hiring manager for more details about this decade-old conversation and when he couldn’t provide them, I asked if I could contact my former classmate to clarify. He said no because he had not cleared talking to me about the anecdote with my former classmate.)

The interview made me uncomfortable and confused. He seemed reserved and “diplomatic”: at the end of the call he kept saying if there were to be an offer, if you were to join the team…

A few hours later, when they had completed my reference checks, (I checked with them and they all said the person they spoke with — not the hiring manager — specifically asked about conflict with me), he emailed saying the way I had approached the meeting and my references had made him confident I’d be a good team member and when could I meet to go over the offer?

Is this a huge red flag? I’m sort of starry-eyed about the comp and how good the role could be for my career progression. What questions should I ask when we “go over the offer” (literally who knows what this meeting might be)? I’m worried about coming off confrontational.

Because I was out of work for so long, I need to stay at my next job for at least a couple years (also, I am so sick of job searching) but I worry that I’m moving something okay for something … maybe bad?

Yeah, I’d be put off too.

Why are they even setting up a meeting to make an offer when they haven’t finished your reference check?

And then, rather than rescheduling the meeting once he realized the references weren’t done, he decided to use that call to dig into his apparent reservations. To be clear, if he had reservations, he should talk to you about them before making a decision — but then why had he already set up the offer meeting in the first place? I suspect the reservations were somewhere in the back of his head and he initially hadn’t planned to follow up on them, but then when he had a call with you and no offer to make, he figured he might as well ask. It comes across weirdly to you as the candidate, but okay, I can see how he got there.

But asking about a “heated political conversation” from 10 years ago?! If it was heated because you were saying things that were, say, racist or homophobic or otherwise bigoted, I can see why he’d be concerned about bringing you into their workplace. But otherwise … really? That’s A Lot. And I’m not thrilled about you taking a job where the manager might already have a chip on his shoulder about you, and might be likely to see every minor conflict through an already biased lens.

As for whether these are huge red flags … well, they’re not green ones, that’s for sure. I don’t think you’re in “run like hell” territory, but it would be smart to get more information.

One thing you could do is simply ask him head-on in the next conversation, “I was surprised when you asked about a political conversation from a decade ago, and I wondered if you could tell me more about the concern on your end so I’m not walking into a situation where I might not understand all the dynamics in play.”

But in your shoes, I’d want to gather a lot of intel about what this manager is like, from sources other than him. Can you work your network to find people who have worked with him and get the low-down? If that’s impossible, you could try asking to meet a few people on the team, although that’s not as reliable (since people currently working for him generally won’t be as candid as people who aren’t). What you learn from doing that is likely to either make you feel more comfortable moving forward or make it clear that you shouldn’t take an offer from this guy.

{ 149 comments… read them below }

  1. ecnaseener*

    I would also try to think back on this classmate / ask your network about them too. Assuming you’re right that it was them, you’re potentially walking into a situation where your coworker is predisposed to dislike you and the manager is prone to taking their grievances overly seriously. (Or maybe not, maybe this person was just sharing what little they remembered of you and didn’t mean for it to be a Thing at all – in which case the manager is prone to take things way too seriously.)

    1. AngryOctopus*

      Yeah, it feels a bit like the manager pressed Former Classmate for *anything* about OP, so they recalled this conversation and the whole thing just got overblown by the manager.

    2. A Significant Tree*

      It sounds like the hiring manager is very concerned about conflict in general, as evidenced by bringing up a potential attitude problem* and (ancient) history of disagreement with OP and then having the reference checkers ask about OP and conflict. I could see where a former colleague might have chimed in that they had a vigorous debate with OP 10 years ago during a discussion of candidates and that was the one example the HM could use to talk about conflict. But I think the fact that the HM called you almost immediately after finishing the reference checks to let you know that an offer was pending after all indicates that however conflict-averse the HM (or the team) might be, you’ve successfully addressed their concerns.

      * Not that the OP has an attitude problem but if their interview response was originally interpreted that way, that suggests that the idea/risk/fear of conflict looms large in this group.

      I agree it’s still a yellow flag, but it does sound like the HM believes you’ll be a good fit. So for OP, I think it would depend on how you feel about the hiring manager’s approach to all of this. Did you feel deliberately ambushed or put on the spot, or did it seem more like the hiring manager was just taking the opportunity to truly understand your thinking or your approach to conflict? Did the HM use the 10 yr old argument purely as an example to base a discussion off of, or did they dwell on it and ask multiple pointed or detailed questions? Ultimately, is this someone you feel confident you could work for?

      1. Mango Freak*

        IDK, since the former classmate is on the hiring committee, my assumption is that they made a weird stink, and the hiring manager felt like they had to gather a ton of evidence in order to overrule this person’s weird high school(?) grudge.

        My big concern for LW would be how much influence the former schoolmate would have on their worklife. Would LW be working with them? Reporting to them? Not see them much but promotions or approvals flow through them? What is their DEAL?

        1. learnedthehardway*

          That is where I went with this, as well. The other person on the hiring committee brought up this “heated argument”, scared the hiring manager (who sounds like they need someone with a really strong ability to manage relationships effectively), and the recruiter is doing damage control to reassure the hiring manager and make sure that the OP’s candidacy is not derailed by someone because of a political difference of opinion.

          There did seem to be some miscommunication / disorganization regarding the stage the org is at wrt their hiring decision – that might be a mistake by the recruiter or it might be that they were given wrong information at first and had to reframe the conversation.

          I don’t see it as a red flag, but rather as a yellow flag. I WOULD, however, want to know just how involved that person from the political discussion 10 years ago is with the role – how important of a stakeholder are they are when it comes to things like performance reviews, etc.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        I wonder if there’s been a lot of interpersonal conflict on the team in the past and the hiring manager is swinging waaaaaay the other way in trying to avoid that.

        1. HolidayBrush*

          That’s a good point.

          I wish the letter writer had mentioned personal growth (like “I’ve got obvious skills now at handling disagreements without losing my cool”) — they’re so focused on time elapsing and the exact details of the situation that they may have missed a chance to offset the very real data point that they made themselves memorably unpleasant.

    3. Petty_Boop*

      I could see it being a “I don’t remember much about OP, except this one time he and a coworker kinda got into it over the Dems vs. MAGA thing,” and the interviewer taking that little snippet and running with it. I don’t think (unless there was other history between them) that I’d assume any malicious intent on the part of the former classmate.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Ten years ago, it’s unlikely to have included MAGA, although it might have included predecessor groups. The political landscape has shifted so much in the past ten years that I would be inclined not to even give it an ounce of that. The hiring manager is apparently not of that opinion.

        1. Petty_Boop*

          That was just an example to illustrate how the convo could’ve been taken and run with. I could’ve said “Dems v Repubs” or “The Tea Party vs whoever.”

        2. Cleopatra, Queen of Denial*

          Trump has definitely been a factor for more than ten years — long before he was a presidential candidate, he was denying the validity of Obama’s birth certificate. He had fans long before MAGA was a thing.

          1. Brain the Brian*

            Yes, hence my reference to predecessor groups. I remember quite keenly his rise in popularity before it coalesced around the phrase and associated organizations.

        3. Accuracy*

          I hate to break it to you, but roughly 20-30% of the electorate is MAGA and half of the electorate is willing to vote for a MAGA candidate.

          If you’re banning her because she said something pro-MAGA, you’re out of the mainstream now.

          1. Brain the Brian*

            I think you’ve nested under the wrong comment. Nowhere did I suggest that MAGA folks were uncommon today.

      2. All het up about it*

        Yes, this! We are creating a lot of puzzle pieces here. And the OP too! Did old school chum just mention it casually, not thinking it would have impact? Or did they mention it as a purposeful “negative” of a potential candidate? Or where they actually trying to stump FOR the candidate and use it as a positive, where the hiring manager turned it around.

        It’s weird, but also – we’ve talked before that sometimes interviews are tailored to not make the same mistake as who was LAST in the role. So maybe the extra questions/weirdness is not about OP and concerns about their conflict issues, but about how the person who just left handled conflict.

        Or this is actually one of those “tests” where they expose the OP to conflict and see how they respond. If so weird and gross, but holy moly, how can we tell?

        Good luck OP!!

        1. Paint N Drip*

          “maybe the extra questions/weirdness is not about OP and concerns about their conflict issues, but about how the person who just left handled conflict”

          That was my exact thought. I understand the hiring team’s impulse to do so and it honestly doesn’t bother me, if OP feels that they can successfully clear that bar then perhaps it’s a neutral data point. But for me, it makes me wonder if the organization may be conflict-averse in general which miiiiight indicate some other issues that maaaaybe I don’t want to work with every day.

      3. ecnaseener*

        I wouldn’t assume either, but it’s a real possibility, hence I suggest asking your network about this person and thinking about what you know of them.

      4. HonorBox*

        Yeah, I was thinking this too. I know several people who take somewhat innocuous comments out of proportion, so it is more concerning about how the hiring manager interprets information versus the classmate. Add this to the inquiries about conflict from an answer the LW doesn’t even remember specifically, I’d be wary of how this person manages and what kind of relationship you’d be walking into…

  2. Ashley*

    It seems perfectly reasonable to ask him to expand on bringing up a decade old unrelated conversation. However, if it’s truly unrelated (and wasn’t about a topic relevant to the org, like you were anti whatever the org deals in), I’d imagine they won’t react reasonably to the q either. Be prepared for that. I’d take it as an additional sign to run away and appreciate knowing now vs after starting but some folks might be uncomfortable with the idea of triggering more weird.

    1. Random Dice*

      Just because something is heated does not mean it was wrong, or unjust.

      “I college, I got into a heated argument with a drunk guy that actually, yes my dude…
      …Nazis *are* bad.
      …Women deserve equal pay for equal work.
      …Gay people are humans.
      …Trolling is not something decent people do.”

      But the fact that this guy went about this whole thing this way is a very bad sign.

      If he’s going to be the manager of this position, run away far and fast.

  3. Specks*

    What kind of heated political conversation? If you are extremely honest with yourself, did you conduct yourself in a manner that was aggressive, offensive, patronizing, sexist, racist, etc? I can see him asking if a team member brought up that you raised some major red flags as to your stability and decency by your behavior, even 10 years ago. Could it have contributed to a concern they seem to have gotten at the interview that you run roughshod over people? Are you calm and respectful when you disagree? Regardless, I have to say that asking about it without clarifying why it was concerning and if you still hold some of the problematic beliefs or behaviors seems wishy-washy and useless. I’d be concerned that this manager is too diplomatic to give straightforward, honest feedback or address sensitive issues, and would keep an eye out for that for the remainder of the process and during your digging process with potential contacts who could give you the down-low.

    1. jasmine*

      Honestly I’m not sure that it matters how OP conducted themselves a decade ago. If the hiring manager did have a specific concern, he should have asked questions to address the concern directly.

      Also OP you definitely don’t need the hiring manager’s permission to contact your former classmate.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I imagine that for most of us, if you went back a decade and took an example from outside of work, you could find something that made us look bad, if not in the video footage then in someone else’s telling of their memory from their own perspective.

        Maybe we were heated and cutting when we could have been calm and collaborative. Or maybe we were heated and cutting because we were out of patience with a dumb argument. Or maybe it was like the letter from earlier this week about a very brief very mild joke which set one person off on a lengthy rage bender while everyone around him was like “Huh. This is a you thing.”

        1. SpaceySteph*

          Yeah I am of the same opinion. I am old, so 10 years ago I was a working adult already, but this OP was in school and I know I’m not the same person I was in college and would hate if something I did in college was held against me now.

        2. Margaret Cavendish*

          My bet is option C – I imagine OP’s classmate said something like “we liked to get into political debates when we were in school together.” Which is a totally normal thing that undergrads do all the time. But the manager went straight to OMG POLITICAL. Which would be why he didn’t have any further information – he never questioned OP’s classmate or his own assumptions, he just took his first thought and ran with it.

          1. Clorinda*

            I also suspect there might have been conflict issues with the previous person who held the position and the whole team is gun-shy, because so much of the interview process was weirdly focused on conflict.

          2. Quill*

            Yes. Over a decade ago when I was a teenager I had friends that I would debate politics with in a very devil’s advocate / scoring Debate Points way. I have changed. My friends have changed. Politics has changed.

        3. Hannah Lee*

          I argued very emphatically and vigorously with college classmates on a particular subject back in the day.

          And now, because I’m older and hopefully wiser I realize that I was absolutely 100% wrong, and the way I presented my position was not great, including some idiotic and narrow minded “facts”, even if I had been right on the main point. Like if I could go back in time to one particular evening when I was particularly up on my high horse about it, drag myself out of the room and tell me to knock it off as I apologized to the other people there, I absolutely would.

          I would hate for some hiring manager to hold that against me when evaluating me for a position, particularly the indirect way this manager brought it up, and the way it seems to assume people’s opinions, approaches to debate or conflict are fixed throughout their lives (as opposed to a growth mindset that assumes people change, can improve over time)

      2. ferrina*

        And the example was a single instance from high school. None of us are at our most professional in high school! It’s pretty normal to get into a heated debate, or make a couple inflammatory comments, or generally make some bad decisions in what you say. Assuming OP wasn’t a bully and wasn’t a teenage walking HR nightmare, I’d be hard-pressed to care. High school is where you’re supposed to experiment with your identity and learn what you stand for- a heated political debate doesn’t sound like any kind of issue to me.

        1. Zephy*

          I assumed “school” meant college, but if you’re right and it is high school – woof. High-school Zephy didn’t know shit about shit and had a lot of opinions that Grown Adult Zephy no longer shares. If an interviewer ever asks me about stuff I said as a child I’m walking out.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Saaaame of High School Insert Clever. I shake my head at that poor girl.

            1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

              Geez, I don’t even have the same political views that I had five years ago. Amazing how new facts can change things. Which is why this interviewer worries me, a lot!

            2. JustaTech*

              Yeah, even if some of High School JustaTech’s opinions haven’t changed, the way I express them (or don’t) sure has!

              I’d hate for an interviewer to think that the one time I deliberately stirred the pot in high school history class (because I was irritated with my classmates and also 17) has some kind of on-going bearing on my professional behavior as an adult!

              1. Quill*

                I picked a LOT of verbal fights at 17 and while some of them I was factually correct about, I was very seldom tactically correct.

          2. Mgguy*

            Looking at myself, almost 20 years removed from high school now, I have opinions that have changed, yes. I also have opinions that are fundamentally the same, but in high school they were rather absolute and college, graduate school, and the real world has taught me to see and appreciate a LOT of nuance that I wouldn’t have been capable of back then.

            I was pretty sheltered in high school at a school public school that reflected the demographics of the city I lived in…and for the most part we were a pretty homogenous group of kids. The college I went to was in some ways even more that way, although graduate school was a whole different ball game. Exposure to life, people, and other things outside the bubble I lived in then has changed my mind on a lot of topics, or made me realize that most subjects have a lot of “gray” in them that I just wouldn’t have been equipped to handle then.

            I came across an opinion paper I’d written for my Freshman high school civics class not too long ago…reading it was painful and I’d hate for someone to hold something I wrote in 2003 against me!

            1. Irish Teacher.*

              I have opinions that have changed, yes. I also have opinions that are fundamentally the same, but in high school they were rather absolute and college, graduate school, and the real world has taught me to see and appreciate a LOT of nuance that I wouldn’t have been capable of back then.

              Same. Some of my views have changed, but my general social justicey outlook remains the same, but yeah, teenage Irish Teacher really believed things could be solved if people would just stop discriminating and going to war and stockpiling weapons and just spend money on fighting climate change and housing the homeless instead.

              And I’m sure I said some things that were so naive, they were offensive because I really had no idea that things like abuse and rape were common. I thought their incidence rate was…probably on a par with being killed by a serial killer or something

              1. Jessica*

                ” teenage Irish Teacher really believed things could be solved if people would just stop discriminating and going to war and stockpiling weapons and just spend money on fighting climate change and housing the homeless instead.”

                In fairness to Naive Past Irish Teacher, she might be right! It’s not like we’ve tried that.

                1. Lenora Rose*

                  I’m with Past Irish teacher (and past me); where present me sees the issue is the actual willingness of folk in charge to work to do so and to challenge corporate interests, even in the face of overwhelming visible public support.

          3. Lenora Rose*

            Heck, never min high school, First Time In College Lenora Rose had some Opinions that Adult Lenora Rose would disavow in a heartbeat.

            I’d be just as confused if someone brought up the 20+ year old incident where I got in a shouting match with another volunteer while off-shift but while wearing my volunteer t-shirt (She was on shift). It was a one time thing, I apologized and took responsibility for my part of the incident the next day, and I have done volunteer work for that organization literally every year since 1993 with that being the sole incident of its kind before or since. If my hiring depended on my behaviour in a single incident well over 2 decades back, that would be very much beyond a red flag to me – even if that exact person was on the hiring committee.

        2. Warrior Princess Xena*

          I said so much stupid stuff in high school, because I was 14 and pretty stupid! I would really not want 14-year-old me to be compared with 24-year-old me, especially as I’ve done a tremendous amount of growth since then.

        3. ThatOtherClare*

          A perspective from the other side: I’m in a weekly online board game group with ‘that guy’ from high school. You know, the one who could be set off into a heated political debate at the slightest provocation? He entered the real world, got married, started a small business and grew into a standard adult with standard dinner party/book club levels of political opinion. He and his wife are excellent board game companions.

          It is possible for the people who you annoyed in high school to actively enjoy your company as an adult. Anyone reluctant to believe this – well, I’d be worried that they haven’t done enough growing up since high school themselves.

    2. An Honest Nudibranch*

      I mean like, as much as I would generally consider evidence of bigotry or extreme rudeness to be fair game for whether to hire someone. . . I can’t imagine using a *decade old* conversation as a factor unless it was particularly egregious. Especially because people are not going to reliably remember the tone and content of what they said to a random classmate ten years ago. People’s opinions and behaviors can change quite a bit in that timeframe.

      Honestly, if the hiring manager thought something during this 10-year-old conversation was a red flag (again, thinking things along the lines of “intense bigotry”). . . then the hiring manager should be asking questions about how OP would handle that concern *now,* not trying to relitigate an old argument that’s likely distorted by memory by now.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I could imagine a hiring manager wanting to avoid creating a partisan divide in either direction, for many topics. So I’d probably ask (reluctantly, hesitantly) I’ve been in a situation where I couldn’t avoid hearing political rants — literally and figuratively from the other side of the aisle. I’d rather have that again.

        But also a question for OP about her current new position: Why just leave before talking to your manager about not wanting a management/leadership track? Some companies do value individual contributors and product experts, and if that’s what you want, ask away!

        1. An Honest Nudibranch*

          I guess my point is that if the hiring manager’s concern was something like “would this person go on workplace-inappropriate political rambles?,” that “what LW said in an out-of-work convo 10 years ago” is a really unreliable way to judge that. People’s opinions change over the course of 10 years, and most people understand that “college classmates outside of class” and “at work with coworkers as a captive audience” are pretty different contexts with different boundaries.

          E.g., it comes across as a hiring manager who either doesn’t know how to filter well for the traits that actually matter to them, or who puts too much weight on singular anecdotes.

    3. Peanut Hamper*

      Who’s to say it was even political? That’s the interviewer’s interpretation of a conversation that he was not privy to. A lot of people call someone’s opinion “political” as a way of saying they don’t like it.

      1. Nah*

        Yeah, it’s quite concerning to me just how much “hey can we maybe not murder black people in the streets” and “I think children killing themselves is bad, actually” have become especially hot button “political” issues lately. (They really always have been, but hopefully you get what I mean. ^^”)

        Not saying that OP was even discussing something like that! For all we know, it could’ve been a quibble over if their classroom should use a recycling bin or not! Or even that both OP and Classmate discussed climate change once and that’s really the only memory Classmate has of OP.

        I’d definitely recommend you bring it up when talking to the hiring committee. A quick “I was kind of taken aback to be asked about a conversation I had before even graduating high school, could you perhaps elaborate on that? I’d like to know if you have any concerns about me before considering this offer”, probably with an added “How would this office handle a conflict like that in the future/how has it done so in the past?”

      2. Quill*

        When I was in high school there were plenty of subjects that were “too political” to tell someone they were factually wrong about, which just meant that the factually wrong people were guaranteed an audience for shouting/complaining/being wrong because there were “both sides” being heard

        Some that haven’t changed:
        – human rights are for all humans, including queer ones
        – it is scientifically observed that humans are causing global climate change

    4. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I really agree with this question, because the answer involves such a wide range of possibilities.

      I also am super curious because I think it’s quite strange that the manager just expected LW to remember a convo from a decade ago. Is it because the manager is unreasonable, or is it because the LW said something particularly egregious like “Z Group of People don’t deserve rights”?

      If so, I would want to be very clear as a hiring manager that they’re not bringing that attitude into my workplace. However, I would bring up the example and ask how they approach working with people from Group X and so on…not “do you remember a heated political convo from 2014” but then refuse to provide any more details.

    5. Catherine*

      Well, this can go the other way too — as a queer POC, if I’m in a “heated political discussion” it’s because I’m reminding the other party that I too deserve basic human rights like marriage and healthcare. OP might not be the one who was “aggressive, offensive, patronizing, sexist, racist, etc” in this discussion.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        I made a similar comment up above and as a fellow POC, this is exactly what I was thinking about. “Political” always has at least two sides. Saying that someone was in a political argument does not mean that they were on the wrong side of history.

        1. Specks*

          Yes, absolutely. But if OP knows that to be the case, I’m assuming they would’ve mentioned it. Because bringing that up as a potential issue would be a whole parade of red flags. I would never go into a workplace where someone questioned me about defending my basic humanity. The fact that they seemed to actually remember the conversation (again, making an assumption since they didn’t say “I had no idea what they were talking about”) and it wasn’t about defending human rights, it makes me wonder what on earth it was.

          Again, the manager’s way of bringing it up is not helpful and not a good sign. But depending on what it was, maybe not weird to be concerned as a hiring manager.

          1. Anon Y Mouse*

            On the contrary, since OP says “I asked for more details about this conversation”, I was assuming they don’t remember it specifically at all. They just know that at some point in high school they might have been in a conversation which fits this description. (Which, as per commentariat, isn’t at all uncommon.)

            This is making me slightly worried about how I’d fare in the same circumstances. I was vocally anti-abortion in high school, a view I have now changed (and did so very soon after). But I currently work for a church organisation. I could see someone putting those two facts together and thinking “she probably hasn’t changed at all.”

      2. Paint N Drip*

        Good point, and this angle would be good data for OP to dig into, in terms of taking the job. Is ALL conflict (even, hey you need to treat me like a person) equally unacceptable? Is everyone who might ever have a dissenting opinion going to be deemed “aggressive” or “argumentative”?

    6. Rincewind*

      I have distinct memories of a time I told a Black classmate in college that I had been frightened at a bus station because I was the only white person there. She pointed out that she was the only Black person on the van (we were traveling to an event) and I actually doubled down and said that it wasn’t the same thing.

      I still keep up at night cringing over that. And she’d be within her rights to question me as a job candidate NOW over that opinion from 15 years ago. I’d have a good response, though!

  4. XF1013*

    Was this some kind of test? The hiring manager seemed so invested in how you handle conflict, and was so unwilling to let you dig deeper into the accusation, and was so quick to be satisfied after your conversation, that I wonder if he was only testing you to see how you’d react in a situation like this. Perhaps a prior employee really flew off the handle or something? Alison’s advice to learn more still applies.

    1. Beth*

      Even if this was some kind of test, it’s a weird hiring practice and not one that would make me feel good about the company. Does the hiring manager expect their hire to have to deflect accusations calmly on a regular basis? Is there a lot of conflict in the company culture?

      1. Standard Human*

        Yeah, I’m torn between this and the Margaret Cavendish response — that either the manager is hyper-reactive about a hint of political conflict (or conflict with the former classmate) — a yellow flag — or that the manager is doing the thing with early weird behavior to filter out people who won’t tolerate abuse/push back against outlandish acts. Which is a red flag for the LW, because they do need to tolerate this job for a couple of years.

    2. Myrin*

      That was actually my very first thought, mostly because of this part: “he emailed saying the way I had approached the meeting and my references had made him confident I’d be a good team member”. If that is really what he said and not just a summary by OP, that sounds like those stupid “Heheee, I was trying to trick you!” tests to see how you behave under unexpected pressure or somesuch. Meh.

      1. ferrina*

        Yeah, this feels like a weird trick test. This is a horrible management technique, and I would never want to work under a manager who thought this was okay. If you wanted to test conflict resolution or on-the-spot pressure, behavioral interview questions and a role play are the way to go.
        And yes, I know the manager would say “but it’s not the same if you know it’s a role play!” And you know what? The adrenaline is still adreneline. I once did a role play where I was yelling at my colleague (it was a training). My colleague knew it was a role play, we had done a gentle walk through of what I would say and how long it would last (about a minute), she was senior to me and used to customer service, and she still got that flight-or-fight response.

        The only thing the manager was “testing” was how this person would respond to an irrational manager. And there’s only one reason for that test.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, that was my thought too. I don’t think it’s the only option, but…it’s something to consider as a possibility.

    3. r.*

      Honestly if it was a test it’d be even more of a red flag, because it was so badly done.

    1. Lea*

      Unless the op said something very racist im of the same opinion. Who remembers specifics of a conversation a decade ago??? And then brings it up?

      Very weird behavior and I would probably run

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        There’s no evidence that this former schoolmate doesn’t like her. There’s no evidence that this conversation even happened. It is 100% the interviewer’s interpretation of things.

    2. ceiswyn*

      Agreed. Like, yes, I had political arguments with people during high school and university. That is because I am a human being.

      Where all my fellow human beings at?

  5. periwinkle*

    This brings to mind a (former) friend from college with whom I’d reconnected a decade later. Just randomly over the next 15 years, I would make a comment and she’d accuse me of being inconsistent because I’d had a different opinion years earlier.

    “I finally found jeans that fit just right!”
    “[meaningful pause] Oh. I thought you said you’d never wear jeans.”
    “When did I say that?”
    “Sophomore year.”

    We were both around 40 years old at the time.

    OP, run. I finally did, after years of trying to justify offhand comments made decades earlier.

    (also, Talbots flawless fit jeans are still awesome)

    1. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

      “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

    2. Curious*

      I have a friend like this.

      I’ve taken to (lightheartedly) saying “I am allowed to change my mind.”

    3. ferrina*

      ugh, flashbacks of several people in my life who would take a passing comment and hold onto it FOREVER. If you said you like tulips, you would get tulips for all occasions. If you said you wanted to try a different flower? Mutiny. And it was worse if you said something like “Sure, I’d love to do pub trivia. What day is it? I can check my schedule” then it turns out you can’t make it.

      1. Artemesia*

        my father got chocolate angel food cakes for his birthday all his life because he once complimented one; my mother was distraught when he said, he’d love to try something different this year.

    4. Quoth the Raven*

      My ex was the same. We were together for 16 years and he’d call me out for being “inconsistent” or “flaky” after I changed my mind about opinions I had when I was 19. We were in your mid-30’s at that point. It drove me mad.

    5. Anonymel*

      OMG this is my Stepmom! I’ll say, “going to X Friday night” and then we change plans and she’ll say with this weird accusatory tone, “I thought you said you were doing X Friday night!” “Anonymel has a phobia about clowns” “I never said that. I said I don’t like them.” “NO you said you were afraid of them” “Well maybe when I was 4?” It is EXHAUSTING talking to her about ANYTHING. I finally decided to keep any convos as bland as possible because anything I say can be used by her to basically imply I’m a liar.

    6. 1LFTW*

      I had a former friend like this. In her case, it seemed tied to her need to believe we were closer than we were. She knew absolutely everything about me, you see, which meant that if I expressed an opinion or preference that was contrary to that, I must be the one in the wrong.

      She was exhausting.

    7. HollyTree*

      my grandmother will attempt to hold me to things I said and did when I was FIVE. She seems to think that because it takes her six decades to change her mind on anything, that everyone else is the same.

      1. Nah*

        “When I was five I also said I was gonna be an astronaut veterinarian painter. Things change sometimes, funnily enough!”

  6. radish*

    Besides this, have there been any other red flags at all? Can you find reviews online about the culture or anything? I think at least the decades-old argument question would raise concerns for me about this guy’s judgment.

  7. mcr*

    This is 100% speculation on my part, but here is what I imagined happened: hiring manager was enthusiastic about you. He told former classmate about you, who recognized your name. Former classmate for whatever reason doesn’t remember liking you, perhaps because of this political argument incident, and tries to get the hiring manager to reject you. Hiring manager really wants to hire you, but questions whether they missed a red flag based on former classmate’s reaction and also wants to not be dismissive of the person’s concerns. So, hiring manager calls you in to try to “clear the air,” in their mind.

    Not saying it was handled well, but frankly I could totally see this happening with good intentions at my own relatively non-dysfunctional organization.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Good intentions, but it still says nothing good about how the manager will handle conflicts.

    2. Czech Mate*

      I was thinking exactly the same thing. This is all very odd, but it’s also worth reflecting on what you remember about your interaction with the classmate all those years ago. Politics aside, do you feel like you’ll be able to have a good working relationship with this person if you were at the same company (or, at least, a cordial relationship if you ran into each other at work events)? Those online exchanges in the early 2010s could get pretty intense and there are some folks I avoid in the real world as a result.

    3. Margaret Cavendish*

      I was thinking something different. Hiring manager was enthusiastic about OP, reached out to former classmate. Former classmate kind of remembered OP, but nothing specific other than they used to have political debates when they were in school together. My guess is FC didn’t even use the word “heated” – that was an extrapolation by the manager after hearing the words “political debate.” Then the whole thing just snowballed from there, which is how he got to the point of calling OP with half-formed questions about somebody else’s imperfect memory of something that happened a decade ago.

  8. DisneyChannelThis*

    10 years ago would have been 2014, so if in the US politically would have been in Obama’s second term (2009-2017), with the 2nd election being in 2012. Ebola policies were a big deal, immigration was still a big deal, racking my brain to what else was even happening back then. If you remember what the fight was about, consider if that might be a reflection on this job’s workplace – ie if the fight was about LGBT+ rights this place maybe doesn’t have good DEI, if it was about raising the drinking age maybe this place has a boozy culture etc.

    All that doesn’t really matter though, I wonder if the hiring manager was looking for reasons not to hire you and overblew someone’s benign comment (“No I don’t know OP well, the only memory I have of college with OP was when we got in a fight about politics” type deal).

    I’d be cautious about taking this job and lean against it. Maybe the compensation is so much higher than normal because they can’t pay enough to make people want to work with these folks.

    1. Mango Freak*

      Some political topics are enduring. (“Political” can mean “social justice-related” after all–it doesn’t have to be about specific legislation or a literal politician.)

      2014 was also when Black Lives Matter got national attention. It was the year Michael Brown and Eric Garner were murdered by police: arguments about that were not exactly gentlemen’s debates.

    2. Festively Dressed Earl*

      Looked up a year-in-review out of curiosity, and the hot-button issues then were very familiar. Gun violence, police brutality, environmental disasters (Flint Michigan, anyone?), LGBTQI+ rights, healthcare, racism, violence against women, Russian malfeasance, personal liberty vs. protection from deadly disease.

      Given that the same topics are workplace minefields today, how closely is OP going to be working with former classmate and hiring manager? If the hiring manager will also be OP’s manager and/or the former classmate works on the same or a related team, I’d pass this up; it seems that classmate has nursed a grudge for years and possibly passed it on to the hiring manager. Has OP met their direct manager and coworkers yet? That’s the most important intel to have, hands down.

    3. amoeba*

      “ie if the fight was about LGBT+ rights this place maybe doesn’t have good DEI”

      Well, or.. exactly the opposite? I mean, we have no idea which side of the conversation the LW was on, and the one case where I do see the hiring manager’s behaviour as kind of justified would be if they got into a homophobic/racist/whatever rant at high school. Honestly, this might be a thing I would mention 10 years later if that person was up for a job at our org.

      Probably not but the fact that LW doesn’t specify the conversation at all does make me wonder a bit…

  9. We're BtWBH*

    In May of 1970 I was active in the Student Strike. I’m sure I had many arguments about our country’s participation in the Viet Nam War. I’d be flabbergasted if an interviewer brought up any of that in an accusatory manner.

    1. Pam Poovey*

      When I was in college I yelled at a girl that her dad should not be a pharmacist because he refused to prescribe Plan B. I stand by that, so if an employer somehow knew and tried to grill me about it they might not be the place for me.

  10. Stuart Foote*

    Nearly all the people I went to college with have different political opinions now. For that matter, most politicians have evolved on their positions now (remember that Obama claimed to be against gay marriage as late as 2012). Holding anything from college years against anyone is insane behavior, even if the person in question was in fact acting inappropriately (which doesn’t sound it was the case here since the LW doesn’t remember the conversation in question).

    1. Petty_Boop*

      Obama actually supported gay marriage before he then declared to be against it and then he came full circle back to Pro same sex marriage again. *Shrug* Evolution and growth, I guess!

      1. Stuart Foote*

        Yeah, that was why I made sure to say Obama “claimed” to be against gay marriage. Kind of a cynical decision to claim his faith wouldn’t allow him to support gay marriage, but I guess he first ran for president only four years after “values voters” re-elected Bush II.

        1. Petty_Boop*

          Ah my apologies. I didn’t pick up on the nuance. I just remember back then when I was like “what?” and then “wait, what?” and then “hold on now”…..

  11. Dandylions*

    This is so bizzare. Who cares about a dumb political debate in high school or college? Political debates are so rare in the workforce. I’ve never even been a part of one even though I had them often in school.

    And the last 10 years has brought a lot of change and education to huge swaths of the population from #MeToo to BLM and more. Chances are high someone’s mind has changed on any topic that would have been “controversial” 10 years ago as well.

    If they were concerned about specific behaviors they should have dove into that. Tell us about a time you strongly disagreed with someone at work, how did you approach it? What was the outcome?

    That would tell them a lot more about if someone runs roughshod over others then, tell me about a time you argued “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” during an impromptu debate in the dorm lobby.

    1. Nah*

      Heck, for all we know they got saddled in a debate class together* and Classmate brought it up in a positive light because they remember LW had strong speaking skills or could organize a compelling pitch in a pinch!

      (*oddly, we had these classes at middle school but not high school, my only memory is little fifth-grader me was told to argue on the side of Why Video Games Are Evil And Destroying The Youth™ and hated every minute of it.)

      1. Rincewind*

        I had to argue against Creationism at a Christian private school. That was NOT a fun day.

  12. Spring*

    There are so many unknowns. If OP can’t get enough information to be comfortable accepting the offer, maybe stay in their new job and see how it goes.

  13. J!*

    Wait, he brought up a vague point from a conversation he’d had with your former classmate, then failed to clarify because he hadn’t gotten the ok from that person to talk with you about it directly? So not only did he act on information that was shared with him (maybe in an offhand way, maybe seriously, we don’t know), there’s no way for you to engage with it because it would only discuss it vaguely?

    That seems to be a bigger issue for me. I wouldn’t want to work for a boss like that.

    1. ferrina*

      Oh no, imagine if he got a complaint about you.

      “I got a complaint from someone about something. No, I can’t give you details. But I need you to change.”

      Nope nope nope. Run.

      1. Margaret Cavendish*

        “Fergus told me that Valentina told him that you didn’t say hi to her in the parking lot one day last year. Do you have anything to say about that?”

      2. Mana*

        Leaving your current job after just starting a week ago is going to burn the bridge with that company, and potentially with others who might hear about it. I wouldn’t do that for another opportunity that I had doubts about. It’s too risky.

    2. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

      This is what I’m thinking about. He apparently thinks he would’ve needed permission to pass on that person’s anecdote; he didn’t ask for that permission; he passed on the anecdote anyway; then he doesn’t want to go back and clear up with the ex-schoolmate the (according to him) betrayal of confidence, so he tells you you can’t talk about it. Messy.

  14. JJ*

    One question is whether the hiring manager would be your manager at this company? I’m not clear how much this person would affect your day-to-day life if you took the job? Even if they are a bit odd, does it really matter?

      1. Festively Dressed Earl*

        Thanks for clarifying! I’ve been interviewed by managers I didn’t report to in the past and was hoping for OP’s sake that they’d be reporting to someone else.

    1. kikiteapot*

      yes that’s generally what “hiring manager” means, they are the manager who is hiring an employee to work on their team.

      1. Shrimp Emplaced*

        Totally didn’t know that this means different things in different companies — my last longtime gig, the hiring manager was responsible for hiring all writers and editors, but didn’t directly manage any of them.

  15. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    So Hiring Manager asks about a dialog from ten years ago. OP tries to understand the reasoning and thereby discovers the potential source. HM denies classmate is the source. OP asks to meet with classmate and HM states he can’t because classmate doesn’t know he shared the story.
    Why is he obfuscating? HM is concerned OP will blow up under pressure. HM panics, lies about things easily proven, snitches on himself anyway and then pretends nothing happened.
    THAT is the information OP needs to process.

    1. Nah*

      Manager: “Sally told me in confidence that you would loudly proclaim some questionable ideas about gay rights you got from your parents unprompted in the hallways back in tenth grade and is worried that you haven’t changed your viewpoints, or at least wants to know you’re quieter about them and won’t go off on a transphobic rant at the water-cooler. Rather than find a way to rephrase her concern and make it bigger-picture, I’m going to just ask about this specific incident exactly then deny who told me about it.”

  16. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    School is the appropriate place & time to have heated political conversations…

  17. Spicy Tuna*

    “And I’m not thrilled about you taking a job where the manager might already have a chip on his shoulder about you, and might be likely to see every minor conflict through an already biased lens.” – 100% THIS!!!!!

    Years ago, I got a job through an acquaintance contact. I was underemployed at the time and the job seemed like a great opportunity (it actually was!). However, there were all kinds of behind the scenes dynamics that had I know about them ahead of time would have given me pause.

    For example, I had just gotten my MBA. The hiring manager hated people who went to the university where I got my MBA, so he was against hiring me from the start. After I was hired, the guy who I reported to told me he was against hiring me because he thought I wasn’t qualified (spoiler alert, 25 years on, I am WAY farther along in my career than he is).

    Literally the ONLY reason I was hired was because the managing director LOVED my acquaintance contact who referred me. That was it. The MD had horrible prejudices against people – he didn’t like short people, fat people, or people who dressed in loud colors (we had a regional meeting and in front of hundreds of people, he called out a plump woman wearing a red suit for wearing a red suit while being overweight). He overrode everyone else’s objections because I was a referral from a tall, slender, well dressed guy who he irrationally loved.

    I was at that job for one year and it did end up being a gigantic career boost for me, plus I made great contacts that I used multiple times in the future to get my foot in the door at other companies, but the personal dynamics left a lot to be desired

  18. Apples and Oranges*

    I think what could have happened is something like this: hiring manager feels good about OP, wants to hire him, and schedules the meeting. Then the person on his team who is the old classmate brings up something concerning: “I knew that you in high school. He used to be really hotheaded. One examples is this political conversation.”

    Combine that with one answer to an interview question that raised maybe a yellow flag in the same vain and now they aren’t completely comfortable making an offer without a bit of follow up. In fact I would guess that this might not even have come from the hiring manager—it could be that someone above him insisted on it. So instead of an offer meeting, they backpedaled and decided to use the meeting for clarification, are satisfied with his answers and his references and then move forward.

    Honestly I could see something very similar happening with one micromanaging boss I had where even when I was the hiring manager would get very particular about things like this and insist on follow up.

    1. LunarTaffy*

      Gotta admit, having that kind of asshole be the driving force behind your hire would have certainly poisoned the well for me, if I had been in that department.

      It must have been an extremely year for you, I’m glad you made it through and found success anyways!

      1. LunarTaffy*

        Oops, I meant “extremely difficult”.

        Stupid fingers are lagging behind my brain this morning.

  19. Peach Parfaits Pls*

    People who aren’t sensible are unpredictable; the manager’s questions about the decade-old conversation point to someone not sensible. I’d say that flag is a shade of hot-cheetos-orange at least.

  20. Momma Bear*

    “I asked the hiring manager for more details about this decade-old conversation and when he couldn’t provide them, I asked if I could contact my former classmate to clarify. He said no because he had not cleared talking to me about the anecdote with my former classmate.”

    This seems very odd. So the HM is dragging up something LW supposedly said 10 years ago in an interview but doesn’t want LW to talk to the one person that may have been the source? Is HM the kind of person to play games and triangulate people against each other?

    Bearing in mind that interviews are a two-way street, I’d do some digging on this guy, especially if I was expected to work closely with them. This kind of behavior doesn’t sit right with me.

    1. Llellayena*

      Yeah, I’d be reaching out to that former classmate for intel on the hiring manager. He doesn’t get to “let” you contact someone you already know. If you had known this person worked there before you applied, you could have reached out for a contact then, why is it different now after you’ve interviewed?

      1. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

        yep…the “let” part is the real kicker here. regardless of origin (old political comvo, or anything else). I had a grand-manager eho said not to talk to finance. About a financial process i eas supposed to create. Wut? i did anyway and the assignment wrnt thru 11 drafts. Somewhere around #5, I brought in my direct manager who was like *WTF is his problem”.

  21. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    This person either has extremely questionable judgment, or is a monster boss from hell feeling out your potential as a good target for his narc abuse. Either way, I would trust your gut on this and stay far away. If he’s this inappropriate at the interview stage, imagine what he’s going to be like once he perceives that he has power and control over your actual livelihood.

  22. quercus*

    I feel like this is a Schrodinger’s manager here: could be good or bad.
    Worst case, he’s disorganized and seat-of-the-pants, fixates on minor issues, and is either conflict averse or far too conflict-seeking.
    Best case, while a little understandably clumsy with the call since he doesn’t hire every day, is praiseworthy in that when he identifies a potential concern (based on the interview and some admittedly vague feedback from another party), does the work to gather more information (from references in this case), lets the person involved address the concern directly, and is willing to take this information and change his mind/let the concern be put to rest.

    So, like Allison said, see if you can gather more info yourself, but I don’t see this as necessarily bad.

  23. Mango Freak*

    There are so many I knew in high school who voiced terrible opinions–and when I saw them at our 15-year reunion it didn’t even occur to me to assume that they were the same. (Some of them, of course, later opened their mouths and said terrible things again. Some did not! Some people’s terrible or wonderful things were a total surprise, because in high school I’d had no idea they had any political thoughts at all.)

    Anyway I think this is about the former schoolmate making a stink, and the hiring manager either handling it poorly or not totally having a choice.

    1. amoeba*

      Huh, interesting. I mean, maybe it’s because we graduate high school a bit older here (18-20), but well.. if I remember somebody being a racist, raging homophobe or whatever, yeah, I’ll definitely still be wary around them 10 years later. I mean, sure, people change! But unless you’ve clearly shown that, I’ll assume your basic character has staid the same.

  24. Insert Pun Here*

    Asking someone to account for a private conversation that happened ten years ago seems bonkers, regardless of the content of the conversation itself. A piece of public writing? Sure. A public speech? Absolutely. A private conversation? You’re lucky if I remember even the slightest hint of what might have been said.

  25. TheBunny*


    I had a similar “quirky” interview process years ago and quickly learned the quirks of the process reflected the company.


    1. WTF*

      I just had a weekend job interview that was a trial of how much BS I would tolerate. Ha! None.

  26. Sparrow*

    I am definitely curious to know more about the nature of the political argument! I can understand why the hiring manager would be concerned if the “political argument” the former classmate referenced was something like “I went to school with LW shortly before same-gender marriage was legalized and they passionately argued against marriage equality, so I’m concerned about how they’d treat our queer employees”… but even then, this would’ve been a weirdly vague way to try to ask about it when I can think of much better ways the hiring manager could have addressed those concerns. And if the political argument being referenced was more in the vein of “we disagreed over how tax dollars should be allocated in our community” or arguments of a similar nature, I don’t think this should have been brought up at all.

    1. An Honest Nudibranch*

      Ya. Like bigotry is one of the concerns where I can see someone wanting to check up on it even if the evidence is old if it was intense enough. . . but asking about a convo from a decade ago is a weird way to go about it. A remarkable amount of workplace bigots will tell on themselves if you ask them about DEI or by putting things on their public social media profiles, and it can show up on reference checks.

    2. Nah*

      Heck, they could have totally agreed on an issue at-large but Classmate is concerned OP is still too hot-headed and hasn’t learned not to chew someone out in the hallway for mixing up the recycling at lunch/when it’s actually appropriate to have a serious conversation about a subject.

  27. DramaQ*

    Not quite the same but I have a coworker who works at a different company that I was interviewing for and they really pressed him for stuff about me. He couldn’t really answer some of what they asked but they would not let up so he danced around it instead and gave me a heads up it might end up a sticking point. . .which it did. It was really weird how hyper focused they were on that ONE thing which was how I handle management. It made me wonder what type of managers they are. I think I dodged a bullet. My coworker and I did not have the same manager and he told them he couldn’t speak on that, they weren’t thrilled with his answer. I am going to guess the former fellow student was being pressured by the hiring manager to give his opinion and the HM wouldn’t let up. All the person could remember was they once had a political discussion with the LW. For all we know it could have been a debate in class where you’re assigned a role. I know I don’t remember every interaction with someone I had 10+ years ago. The HM then drew their own conclusions and ran with it.

    Especially since the HM refused to elaborate when pressed. I would be hesitant to work there because it sounds like anything you do or say could be taken out of context and blown out of proportion. While you shouldn’t discuss politics at work that is fairly easy to avoid I’d be concerned about what other types of conversations he could decide he needs to grill you on to determine if you are “still a good fit” for his company.

  28. Head sheep counter*

    Come at it from another angle…. could they be telling the LW that they are a conflict riddled organization? Or are recovering from having someone be a driver of conflict? Thus the weird hang up on this.

    Or heavens the opposite where they are a extremely conflict avoidant organization.

    I think I’d need to get some more information about the existing organization if there’s time and the luxury of choice.

  29. TAH*

    You are most definitely in “run like hell” territory!! RUNNNN!! And don’t look back! This manager will go on to make your life hell or eventually hire you, if you take this job. However much the 30% is is not worth it, trust me!!

  30. musical chairs*

    I try not to take the existence of a question or an inquiry as an indicator of how much it matters to any one person. I really think it’s easy for something to be overstated by virtue of having been stated aloud. They may have just been doing due diligence, following one thread through to the end. There is a reasonable universe in which the hiring manager is being responsible in asking you about it directly. Same thing as using the word “if” in relation to your offer considering they hadn’t finished checking references yet.)

    The hiring manager asking you about personality-related questions where a) you’re unaware of how you came off as generally insubordinate and b) this make me think they thought of these situations as parallel questions asked as assessments of your fit within your team. Either they decided that your old classmate’s concerns were overblown or they decided they may be valid but they don’t care enough to pull the offer. Seems like you were able to clear up their concerns. You may need more information than you have to figure out if this will keep coming back to you. I think you have a lot of data in the fact that you have an offer in your hand.

    All that said, I’m Black in America and my hackles went up reading this. You don’t say what country or political context you’re in. You don’t need to, I’m not asking. But if I’m your old classmate, unless I’m feeling really petty, the only 10-year old political conversation I would bring up on a hiring committee is one where that person’s stated beliefs or approach to conflict could expose my team to legal liability. Just saying.

    I do not want to speculate, I’m not calling you to account. I don’t know you. But you know the context here and if that’s the context, you may just be reaping what you’ve sown, however fair/unfair that may be today.

  31. 2 Cents*

    Assuming the “heated discussion” wasn’t racist, bigoted, etc.—isn’t that what college is for??? To have a difference of opinion and to figure out how to express that? I’m concerned that the former classmate and/or potential manager don’t get that. If you can’t voice differing opinions WHILE LEARNING, when can you?

    OP, I’d wait for something else.

  32. HonorBox*

    Caveat: My opinion changes if the heated discussion included some words/content that make it more problematic.

    It is really difficult to project “heated political discussion” from college (or high school) into the workplace. Especially when you consider that the discussion could have occurred in a classroom setting. Or when you consider it as part of some campus club. Or even in the confines of a dorm room where these kinds of conversations can, and do, happen. That’s sort of what college is for. And that heated political discussion could have led the LW to have a change of opinions over the last decade too. We don’t know. I think I’d be far more worried about how someone handles herself / himself in a work setting versus a college setting. Yes, there are things you can learn about someone in any setting. But if that’s one single example and it happened a decade ago, I’d be really hesitant to use that as evidence of anything. If the comment from the person on the committee was just that the LW got into a heated discussion, there’s not even enough information to know why. Did the LW have to shout down someone who was spewing racist/sexist/bigoted statements? We just don’t know. And again, citing this is really hard to use when making a decision.

  33. toolegittoresign*

    A lot of folks here are assuming it was the content of the political discussion that the former classmate took issue with, but there are also a lot so ways to be made uncomfortable with the way a political argument is conducted. If a person I went to college with 10 years ago was interviewing and I strongly felt they were argumentative, stubborn, hot-headed or could over-react when challenged, yeah, I’d probably mention it. It sounds here like it was taken in conjunction with the answer that seemed to suggest an issue with conflict. As we know from the letters here, it’s normal for people to disagree at work but problems arise when people don’t handle conflict well or can’t ever either see the other side of the argument or admit that they’re wrong. Not saying any of this is the case, LW, and not sure the extra meeting was warranted.

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