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

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager and I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

Remember the letter-writer who wondered if he was rejected because he told his interviewer he never makes mistakes? Here’s the update.

Thank you for answering my question.

I read some of the comments, but don’t think people really understood my point of view. I’m very methodical and analytic, which is why I said I don’t make mistakes. It’s just not normal to me for people to think making mistakes is okay.

I did follow your advice to not mail the grandboss on LinkedIn, until I discovered she seems to have gotten me blackballed in our field. Despite numerous resume submissions and excellent phone screens, I have been unable to secure employment. I know my resume and cover letter are great (I’ve followed your advice) and during the phone screens, the interviewer always really likes me, so it’s obvious she’s told all her friends about me and I’m being blackballed.

I did email her on LinkedIn after I realized what she’d done, and while she was polite in her response, she refused to admit she’s told everyone my name. She suggested that it’s just a “tough job market” and there are a lot of really qualified developers looking for jobs (she mentioned that layoffs at places like Twitter and Facebook), but it just seems too much of a coincidence that as soon as she refused to hire me, no one else wanted to hire me either.

I also messaged the hiring manager on LinkedIn to ask her to tell her boss to stop talking about me, but I didn’t receive a response.

I’m considering mailing some of her connections on LinkedIn to find out what she’s saying about me, but I don’t know if it would do any good.

I’m very frustrated by this whole thing — I understand that she didn’t like me, but I don’t think it’s fair to get me blackballed everywhere.

I’ve been talking to my wife about going back to school for my masters instead of working, but she’s worried it will be a waste of money and won’t make me any more employable. I’ve explained that having a masters is desirable in technology and will make me a more attractive candidate, but she’s not convinced. If you have any advice on how to explain to her why it’s a good idea, I would be grateful.

I can’t advise on that — it really depends on the career path you want — but I can tell you that under no circumstances should you contact the interviewer’s connections on LinkedIn to ask what she’s saying about you.

First and foremost, it would reflect terribly on you. You’d come across as someone with no boundaries and who can’t take no for an answer — to the point that you’d seem scary, as in a potential safety concern for the interviewer. It would almost certainly get you immediately eliminated from any hiring process those connections are involved with in the future. People do not interview people who respond to rejection this way; to the contrary, they do everything they can to avoid contact with them.

Second, you’ve latched onto this theory that the interviewer has gotten you blacklisted because you’re not getting job offers. But were you getting offers before that interview? Perhaps you were and didn’t mention it, but otherwise this is just a continuation of what was happening, not a change. And even if it is a change, the interviewer’s response to you makes plenty of sense on its own; it is a tough job market and there are a lot of really qualified developers looking for jobs.

Additionally, even if the interviewer did tell some of her connections about her experience with you, she’s allowed to do that. Trying to go after her for it won’t make the situation any better; it will make it worse.

Ironically, the thing you’re accusing the interviewer of doing to you (blackballing you in your field) is something you’d be doing to yourself if you pursue this.

Last, you do indeed make mistakes. I know that because literally every human on the planet makes mistakes (do you truly believe you are the one human ever to have lived who doesn’t make mistakes?), but also because you’ve made so many of them in this situation and can’t see them — so there are undoubtedly others you can’t see too. It’s worth spending some time thinking about that rather than reflexively denying that it could be true.

{ 1,175 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A reminder to please keep comments constructive. Do not be a jerk to any letter-writer, including this one. If you can’t control that impulse, then please simply don’t comment on this post. Thank you.

    commenting rules

  2. Caramel & Cheddar*

    “It’s worth spending some time thinking about that rather than reflexively denying that it could be true.”

    LW, I hope you take this to heart, because this kind of update where it’s clear the LW hasn’t learned anything is always unfortunate to read. I hope we get a second update from you in the future after you’ve had some time to reflect and, hopefully, land a job as a result of your changed attitude.

    1. Archi-detect*

      heck graduating to saying that they are very methodical and analytic and catch nearly mistakes would be a massive improvement. The nope, never not even once would instantly weird me out too.

      1. Willow Sunstar*

        Yeah, I have to wonder if LW came from the type of home where even 1 mistake was treated overly harshly (been there, was on the receiving end). If so, some kind of counseling could be good. Generally in interviews, questions like “tell me about a time when you made a mistake, and what did you do to fix it?” are pretty common. Just come up with something small like a typo that admits you are human and can deal with it.

        1. Anon Again... Naturally*

          I think you hit the nail on the head, espeically given this line: “It’s just not normal to me for people to think making mistakes is okay.”

          Honestly, LW, working with a therapist is probably the best investment you can make in your career right now. I am in a technical role myself, and whenever we’re hiring we’re reminded that it is MUCH easier to teach technical skills than soft skills, and soft skills are essential for all jobs.

          1. Star Trek Nutcase*

            A big part of me agrees with LW about “people thinking making mistakes is okay”. I’ve worked with people who believed that and showed absolutely no concern about effects of mistakes or make any realistic effort to avoid future ones

            BUT reality is all humans “do” make mistakes. Being willing to recognize and effectively handle one’s mistakes is very important. And that is what an
            interviewer is trying to get a handle on by questioning the applicant. Unfortunately, LW can’t or won’t accept that. We all have blindspots with respect to ourself; this appears to be his.

            1. Lacey*

              Yes. There’s a WORLD of difference between thinking mistakes are ok and thinking making mistakes is ok.

              We have to correct mistakes when we catch them, they’re not ok.
              But we’re ALL going to make mistakes and as long as we’re not careless and we make corrections – that’s normal!

              1. MCMonkeybean*

                “Mistakes” is a wildly broad term and there are definitely infinite things that fall under that umbrella that are in fact objectively okay.

                1. Dahlia*

                  Yeah, this. If I spell something as “oaky” instead of “okay” in an email, that’s a mistake and it’s fine. It’s okay or it’s oaky but either way it is not a particularly big deal.

                  If I use salt instead of sugar in a recipe, it’s a mistake and it’s okay.

                  I’m making a quilt right now and if I put two colours next to each other I don’t like, it’s a mistake and it’s okay.

                  Sometimes making mistakes is just okay.

              2. Worldwalker*


                Mistakes are not okay, and should be avoided as much as possible and corrected otherwise.

                But making mistakes is unavoidable. For example, I just found out a couple of days ago that for over a year, I have not been sending something to someone who should be getting it. Ooops! Mistake! I can’t change the past, but I can correct it going forward. That’s a thing people do.

                This LW, on the other hand, since he never makes mistakes (and I’m pretty meticulous myself, but somewhere along the line, I didn’t pick up on this) wouldn’t change. He didn’t make a mistake! He never makes mistakes! I would guess that he’d either berate the person who brought it to his attention (C-level) or continue on without changing anything. Neither one would contribute to career longevity.

                And that, LW, is why you didn’t get hired: Nobody wants to work with someone who would do either of those things.

                1. Erin the Brit*

                  Einstein: “anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”.

                  Not because I’m correcting your mistake, of course (:P), just cos I do like that Einstein quote and saw this as an opportunity to share it :)

            2. not nice, don't care*

              Making mistakes is ok when part of a practice of identifying causes or patterns and fixing them. Making mistakes and blithely moving on is not ok.

            3. Audrey Puffins*

              No, it is absolutely okay to make mistakes. It is such a normal thing to do that to be a maker of mistakes is not in itself a problem. If you are prone to rushing things and making lots of mistakes, or if you are hostile to having your mistakes pointed out, or if you refuse to fix your mistakes once they come to light, then that’s where it becomes not okay. And that’s why the interviewer was asking this question in the first place – making mistakes *is* absolutely okay. And knowing what a person’s attitude is to mistakes is a *vital* thing to know when hiring someone.

            4. Imnotagirlimashark*

              This, very much. There’s a distinct difference between making mistakes and being glib or careless about them, and making a mistake, owning up to it, and learning from it so you never make the same mistake again. Mistakes are a part of the learning process. I’m a senior partner in a law firm and I still occasionally make mistakes, but never the same mistake twice – and I’m very open with my team (including our interns) about the mistake and why it happened, so that I’m not the only person who learns.

              Saying you never make mistakes is a red flag because it shows a lack of introspection. As another commenter pointed out, referring to LWs methodical process as a way of minimizing mistakes is a good start, but it doesn’t cover any ability to course-correct. Managers want to know that you have coping strategies – if you do make a mistake, how will you fix it? Will someone else need to fix your mess? And if you can’t acknowledge that a mistake might happen, then your coping abilities are probably non-existent.

          2. MassMatt*

            I want to push against the “no mistakes ever” from a different angle—even extremely high quality organizations, take your pick just from technical fields: NASA, Bell Labs, high end chip manufacturers, etc—have an expectation that mistakes will be made. Virtually no advancements are made without mistakes along the way.

            The best organizations expect some mistakes to be made and have processes to catch them and learn from them. If no mistakes are being made the chances are good that production is under capacity in either volume or technical difficulty—i.e. the organization’s letting fear of failure get in the way of innovation and pushing boundaries.

            I’m trying to be kind and constructive, but the fact that you don’t understand this and think someone of respected stature and experience in your industry (enough to supposedly blackball you from it) is herself mistaken, and think you are superior based on your undergraduate degree (!) shows how much you still have to learn.

            Read Alison’s last paragraph again. You made a RAFT of mistakes in this very interview and its aftermath, and still are not seeing them. Instead, everyone else is wrong. Developing a persecution complex and conspiracy theory in which someone is telling people not to hire you is not going to improve your prospects at all, quite the opposite.

            Thank you for the update, I hope you will take what Alison and others here say to heart and re-examine your approach—it will be hard. But if you do, maybe you can have a better update later.

            1. starsaphire*

              Agreed. Even Adam Savage says, “Failure is always an option.”

              A lot of our greatest technological advances come from mistakes or accidents (see: vulcanized rubber, for one).

              1. Inkognyto*

                Making mistakes is how we learn.

                You learn faster by making them. They are okay. the key is to catch them before you finish your task, especially in a professional environment and before you submit the work as done. But if you don’t correct that issue and move on and your brain connects the “Oh don’t do that again because this issue happens” verse never seeing the issue to begin with because you have never seen the problem caused by it.

                1. Zelda*

                  This was on my cubicle wall for years:

                  Progress requires curiosity, risk-taking, and failure. Making a mistake leads to the question “Why was that wrong?” and by answering this question, we are better able to develop new insights and eventually succeed. You’ll need to fail regularly to do well.

                  -Chad Raymond, Salve Regina University, 2013

                  If you don’t make mistakes, it’s because you’re not innovating; you’re just rehashing the same old stuff.

                2. amoeba*

                  Yup. I put a quote on the front page of my PhD thesis, by Jules Vernes: “Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.”

                3. Cinn*

                  We used to have a saying when I worked in R&D. “You’ll spend most of your days finding out what doesn’t work.”

              2. Estrella the Starfish*

                I believe post-its came about when someone tried to develop a really strong adhesive

                1. Dina*

                  Yup – my grandfather worked at 3M and they had families test some ideas for that adhesive. One idea was a bulletin board covered in that stuff – which turned out to be a dust trap! But they learned from that mistake too.

              3. goddessoftransitory*

                And penicillin! If Fleming hadn’t accidentally left a lid loose on a petri dish, the world would be a very different place.

            2. Lizzianna*

              Beyond this, there are multiple studies that show environments that don’t recognize and encourage communication about mistakes are actually less safe than those where mistakes are discussed and acknowledged openly.

              If people are afraid of making mistakes, they spend their energy covering it up or avoiding blame, which can make it harder to fix. Having an environment where people can quickly identify mistakes, work to fix them, and figure out how to prevent them from happening in the future.

              I say this as someone who has worked in disaster response in situations that, if they go wrong, could get very dangerous very fast – I would not go into the field with someone who said they didn’t make mistakes.

              1. Mel*

                Beyond this, there are multiple studies that show environments that don’t recognize and encourage communication about mistakes are actually less safe than those where mistakes are discussed and acknowledged openly.

                That’s a big part of why I ask people to tell me about a time they made a mistake in interviews. If a candidate can’t admit to even a minor, interview-appropriate mistake then I can’t trust that they’ll be kind to their coworkers when they inevitably make a mistake. I think it’s morally wrong to inflict a jerk like that on my team and even from a purely cold-hearted financial perspective, it’s much worse for productivity to hire someone who makes the rest of the team afraid to openly admit to mistakes than to hire someone who *gasp* occasionally makes completely normal mistakes.

                And in all honesty, the rest of the reason I ask about mistakes in interviews is that I just don’t want to work with someone who has so little self-awareness that they can’t even admit they’ve ever made a mistake.

              2. Irish Teacher.*

                Yup. I commented below about a situation that made major news in Ireland, where a supervisor made a mistake when supervising a national exam. There were procedures to deal with this, but he didn’t say anything so they couldn’t be implemented in time and the whole exam had to be postponed, so every equivalent of 12th grader across Ireland had their exam schedule changed at the last minute, all the supervisors had to give up their Saturday off, families may have had to change weekend plans, etc. All of which could have been avoided had the guy just sent a messenger to the office to say “I made a mistake. Contact the Department of Education and let them know.”

            3. BlueCanoe*

              Agreed. There are different types of mistakes – in the realm of “hard skills” like typos, miscalculations, etc. and in the realm of “soft skills” like responding poorly to rejection, as Allison points out.

              I could maybe believe that LW hasn’t made any major mistakes in the form of miscalculations, but for them to say they just don’t make any mistakes at all shows a strong lack of self awareness, imo.

              I hope LW takes this as an opportunity for self-reflection and learning.

              1. allathian*

                Indeed. The letter is full of mistakes the LW is refusing to acknowledge.

                I’m willing to concede that the LW might never have made a hard skills mistake in a situation where it mattered, but the whole letter shows a profouond lack of soft skills.

                1. LisTF*

                  LW seems like the sort of person who is absolutely brilliant at the technical aspects of the job. Like genius perfection level. He may be 100% correct he makes no mistakes at that aspect of performance. But it seems he has no insight or self awareness and would be an absolute nightmare to interact with in an interpersonal capacity. I mean this in no malicious way. I genuinely believe the LW doesn’t see the issues and his reaction is the only way he can logically make sense of the reaction others are having to him. The recommendation for personal therapy is a good one. It will likely help both personally and professionally.

            4. President Porpoise*

              I’m in a compliance leadership position for a huge manufacturer. When we’re reviewing our reported policy/regulatory violations and I see that a site (particularly a high volume site) is reporting no incidents at all – well, at that point I assume that we’ve got a culture issue and people are either hiding issues, afraid to report issues, or can’t recognize issues. I start asking questions and digging deeper into what they’re doing. I don’t think “Gee, they’re perfect! Let’s have them train everybody!”

              People make mistakes and if someone is purporting to be perfect, I think they’re full of BS – bad actor or no.

            5. KayDeeAye*

              I love how they “don’t think people really understood my point of view.” Oh, we understood just fine. We just disagree with you.

            6. Worldwalker*

              NASA: the Mars Climate Orbiter. Literal rocket scientists made a mistake and crashed a billion-dollar probe into a planet.

              People. Make. Mistakes.

              1. Rebecca Harbison*

                Heck, that was a cultural error because NASA scientists use metric units (and asked for that in input and output) and Lockheed Martin engineers use Imperial units, and testing didn’t catch the error.

            7. A Person*

              Another example is elite sports. In tennis “unforced errors” and faults in serving are tracked as a statistic – and even the best players make them! Part of the reason is they’re trying to hit the ball hard and close to the line – they could probably make less errors by gently tapping the ball into the middle of the court, but that would make it easier for their opponent and they wouldn’t win games. “Never making a mistake” can be a sign that you’re too risk-averse and don’t push yourself or try anything challenging.

              1. Zelda*

                Martina Navratilova herself calls that approach of being too safe as “playing not to lose instead of playing to win.” Not making any unforced errors is a huge *strategic* mistake.

            8. Media Monkey*

              you can read the book Black Box Thinking for how the approach to owning and a culture of being expected to admit your mistakes has improved safety in the airline industry by leaps and bounds.

            9. Scout*

              I honestly don’t think my work is correct, until someone finds a mistake before I go to production.

              Mistakes happen and are a part of life, it’s not the mistake that is an issue, but a person’s ability to take responsibility and correct the mistake that is important. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to look into other people’s code, because “They never made mistakes”

              The best boss I ever had, commented that the users don’t remember the mistake, just how long it takes to get it corrected.

              This poster, needs to accept that he makes mistakes and during an interview state how he goes about to determine what the mistake is and how to fix it, is what a healthy environment is looking for.

          3. Nebula*

            Yes, I’m in a data analytics role, and I was told by my boss on my first day that there were other candidates with better technical skills than me, but they hired me because my communications and relationship-building skills stood out. I managed to get up to speed on the technical stuff (use of a specific software) enough to do my job in my first few weeks by doing online training courses and learning through use; you can’t do that with soft skills in the same timeframe.

          1. Willow Sunstar*

            It’s not like someone in an interview (and given the economy we have, where everyone needs a paycheck unless they have won the lottery), is going to go “yeah I made x mistake at work that cost us millions of dollars and I was fired for it.” People are all trying to put their best foot forward. No one is going to admit to the interviewers things that are career-destroying if they can help it.

            1. Antilles*

              Sure, but there’s a huge range between “completely trivial typo” and “career-destroying mistake” though, which pretty much everybody encounters on occasion.
              Missing a deadline. Over-promising to a client and needing to have a tough conversation. Saying the right thing but in the wrong way. Misunderstanding a request and heading down the wrong track. Stuff like that, where it’s a relevant enough mistake to be noticeable but you focus on what you learned and move forwards.

              1. Kristin*

                Accidentally reply-alling to a massive email thread…underestimating the effort needed for a project and realized you couldn’t meet a deadline…sending an email to the wrong person…ordering the wrong size binders…accidentally setting the break room coffee machine on fire…there are normal work mistakes you can talk about and describe how you learned not just to avoid future mistakes but how to constructively recover from them. That’s what the interviewer is looking for in these questions, not to hear “I am a robot”

                1. Worldwalker*

                  I am a robot! Eat a small rock every day! Add glue to your pizza sauce to make the cheese stick!

              2. Elitist Semicolon*

                Not all typos are trivial, as the member of staff in my school district who ordered 400 “Llamaland Pubic Schools” keychains can tell you.

                1. pagooey*

                  Aw, you never forget your first pubic/public. No matter how hard you try, even.

                  And yes, I’m a tech writer and editor and would HAPPILY purchase said keychain. Maybe Alison could add merch to her list of book titles?

                2. Willow Sunstar*

                  Yes, if you do data entry for a living (which I do), typos are probably the most likely mistake you are going to make. But yes, other small things can be talked about also.

            2. Lea*

              I’m pretty sure I’ve used mistakes like ‘not knowing my audience’ and learning to better target my words to the environment for a speech in interviews before. There are lots of potential errors lw can mention!

              Hell he can put this linked in nonsense although I probably wouldn’t admit to that. Maybe ‘I even considered escalating until I learned a lesson’ or whatever

              1. Rainbow*

                “I was asked this exact question in an interview when I was straight out of undergraduate, and in my nervousness and eagerness to impress I couldn’t think of anything in the moment, and I said I don’t make mistakes! Of course, that was a terrible answer and I did not get the job, but after reflecting on what happened there for some time, I have realised that my perfectionist tendencies led me to say such a thing. Although being something of a perfectionist often helps me in my work, for example [whatever], it also can make reports that are already a very high standard take longer, or even run the risk of something I would never wish to do, like cherry-picking. Since then, I have worked a lot on optimisation rather than perfectionism, particularly when I’m working with others! For example last week I… [etc]”

                1. Danilo*

                  “Perfectionists” are, to me, the people who lack the self awareness that they really aren’t. When prompted about what they have ever made perfect, it’s nothing, and they talk about stressing over irrelevant details and wanting things to be better.

                  I want things to be better, I think all of us do. So if we exclude the silliness, they are just like everybody else, but unaware of the compromises they make.

            3. CLC*

              That’s not what they are looking for either. It’s more like “I took a certain approach to X because of Y and in hindsight I realized I could have been much more effective if I had done Z.”

          2. Antilles*

            Yeah, the point of the question isn’t checking whether you’re human who can make mistakes. The question is intended to probe *how* you address mistakes once you make them and what you learned from them.
            Unless that typo had some actual consequences, mentioning that you once used their instead of their isn’t really answering the question.

            1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

              “their instead of their”

              That is the most hilarious possible place for that typo!

            2. Worldwalker*

              My attorney will be contacting you regarding compensation for injuries sustained while rolling on the floor and the cost of experimental ass-reattachment surgery. “Their” eh? :)

          3. Will Work for Chocolate*

            @bmorepm, fixing typos might be an appropriate response to this question, depending on the type of role the person is applying for. In this case, it looks like the LW is a “developer” (I’m assuming for software), in which case a typo (even a small one) could have a major impact on the progress of a project.

            1. Betty*

              Can confirm, I had a developer working on something where as the first step of a complicated process, we had to connect with another system. In testing, it looked like the system wasn’t responding to us; turns out he had a typo and so was effectively shouting into the internet void. Caught it, whole process started working again

              1. MigraineMonth*

                I once had to fix a significant bug with considerable system effects. The bug fix required inserting a single character.

            2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

              I think that would fall under “actual consequences”. A missing or extra zero, not/now reversal, != rather than ==, etc.

              A colleague once trained a statistical model to predict something – but they swapped 1 vs 0 for what the target they were predicting represented in the code, so all the insights were swapped. We caught it in code review before they made a presentation, because we have systems in place that assume everyone makes mistakes!

            3. Indie*

              I just want to say that with modern development tools typos are very improbable, but even if you do have one, you discover it within 5 min of running your code. On the scale of errors a software developer can make, a typo is so trivial, I’m going to laugh you out of the building if you tried to pass it as a response. What’s more important, you can’t do much to prevent typos except learn your tools. The point of this question (at least for software devs) is to see how you approach the big ones – what in the process made this mistake possible, what you did to make sure that that type of mistakes was caught early one (or completely eliminated), how you grew as a professional as a result of it.

              1. Worldwalker*


                It’s not exactly a typo — the code wouldn’t compile if it was just a typo — it can be perfectly valid code that doesn’t do what you expect it to do.

              2. DyneinWalking*

                I guess that depends on what you consider a “typo”?
                Bugs can be single-character mistakes, like a misplaced semicolon or bracket. Heck, I’ve made actual typos – wanted to set a variable to a new value within a loop, but had a typo in the variable name so I just set a new variable. Usually that results in a blatantly wrong output so it’s easy to catch… but I’m sure that sometimes, a typo like that slips through the cracks.

                1. Indie*

                  Ok, even if you use untyped languages, most modern tools will warn you if you are working with a variable you haven’t used before. If they don’t, that again is in the realm of “discover it withing 5 min or running your code”. Especially if you are getting “blatantly wrong output”. The only lesson you learn from that type of mistake is to look more closely at what you’re typing, not exactly something that shows how you’ve grown as a professional. Remember, we are discussing appropriate answers to the question about mistakes. In an interview. Where you want to show off your experience and skills. Find something that does not involve misplaced brackets and semicolons. Heck, even misconfiguration issues will do. “After we discovered that it was just the dev configuration being used, I improved the automated build and deployment process to make sure that the appropriate configuration files are being published without manual intervention”. Or “after I obliterated the prod database as an intern, I worked on improving access security across environments on all my subsequent assignments”. Or, if you insist on using the typos, “we adopted the code review/ automated testing / automated linters/you-name-it to make sure that untested code did not make it to the main branch”.

                2. Scout*

                  One of my best typos was using 0 ( zero ) as opposed to O ( letter O ).. It compiled and ran other than showing me the first item in my list as opposed to iterating through the index. Taught me to always use multiple letters for an index-counter.

              3. Kathy*

                lol, as a senior software developer, this is false. I’ve fixed many bugs of both my own and other people’s that were essentially typos. An especially common source of this is having multiple variables with similar names and using the wrong one, but stuff like missing brackets leading to something that compiles/lints/typechecks fine but has different meaning also comes up.

                (also as a senior SWE, a SWE that makes no mistakes is indeed not moving fast enough/breaking enough things, and if OP is a new grad they will quickly learn that production software engineering is very different from writing code in school, in almost every way.)

                1. Indie*

                  I am going to write this here for a third (or fourth?) time, but ok, I can see how “isAuthorozed” and “isAuthenticated” can be mistaken and cause problems. Tell me what you did to make sure this type of situation did not happen anymore and what lessons you learned from this experience? And how is this pertinent to the position you’re interviewing for?

                  This is why I said that this type of mistake does not rise to something that should be mentioned in an interview.

            4. Worldwalker*

              I once spent an entire afternoon chasing a problem that turned out to be a misplaced semicolon. You’d better believe it can be bad.

              1. Justout*

                Hell yeah.
                if (a == b);

                … not going to end well. Without the semi-colon, it would be fine (as long as a never equalled b).

                1. Indie*

                  That’s exactly the type of thing you should discover within 5 min of running your code. Also, automated test are a thing for a reason, so with proper testing this is exactly the non-sequitur it should be. I could understand misconfiguration issues (keeping the dev server in production or using the wrong authentication provider for that particular environment), but a misplaced semicolon is not something that rises to the caliber of a mistake that you LEARNED from. And honestly, if you answer that question with the misplaced semicolon example, I would consider it just as ridiculous as “I don’t make mistakes”.

          4. Ms. Murchison*

            Co-signed. Replying to this question by talking about a typo would be a red flag, and suggest to the interviewer that all of your mistakes are pretty devastating.

          5. fidget spinner*

            Maybe this is a question for Alison, but what is an appropriate response to this question?

            The LW is extremely out-of-touch, don’t get me wrong! I’ve probably never read something so un-self aware. But I would also struggle with how to answer this question.

            Of course I make mistakes, typically minor ones related to my ADHD. So misplacing things, typos, forgetting to complete something (which is actually very rare), and I can’t think of a more serious mistake I’ve made at work. It’s more like… my entire life is a bunch of minor mistakes.

            I just honestly don’t know what someone is looking for when asked this question. I would’ve thought talking about my minor mistakes was fine, even though I’d fear it would make me un-hirable because of ADHD symptoms, lol. But apparently, I’d need to talk about a more major mistake?

            1. MCMonkeybean*

              I think the biggest thing to aim for is something where after you made the mistake you learned from it and changed something to make sure it didn’t happen again. So in your list what stuck out to me was maybe forgetting to complete something–you could say you had in the past struggled with multi-tasking and as a result X fell through the cracks but once you realized you immediately did Y to remedy the situation and then set up Z process to make sure it didn’t happen again in the future.

              1. Ellie*

                Or if the mistake isn’t relevant. Someone saying they try hard, but often run late in the mornings is completely irrelevant to my hiring them as a software developer. It literally doesn’t matter.

                A software developer saying they never make mistakes at all is a huge red flag though. All software code is reviewed, and the reviewer raises comments that should be addressed before the code gets rolled out. Someone who says they never make mistakes sounds like someone who is not going to be a positive part of that process. I once had to work with someone who pushed back on every comment that was made, minor things, like abiding by the coding standards, and major things, like ‘fix this potential memory leak’. He pushed back on everything to everyone. It was so, so draining.

                There are mistakes and then there are mistakes that are an opportunity to learn. OP should consider how he’s coming across because it might not be how he’s intending.

            2. Hillary*

              I usually phrase it as when something went wrong versus when you made a mistake, but it’s basically the same. When I ask the question, I’m looking for self-accountability and grit.

              Everyone makes mistakes – employers are looking for people who acknowledge that about themselves, don’t get into a blame game, and use their resources to fix whatever happened.

              Finally, I want to see mistakes. I run a startup – we’re not exactly doing break things fast, but it’s close. If someone isn’t making mistakes they’re probably too cautious for our culture.

              You don’t have to answer the question with a literal mistake. It can be volunteering for a project and figuring out you didn’t know how to do it, so going to someone to teach you.

              1. linger*

                One reason everyone makes mistakes is that in almost any real-world workplace situation, outside the closed box of classroom exercises which this OP has more experience of, we have incomplete or imperfect knowledge and still have to muddle through somehow. We can make the best possible decision for the knowledge we have, and still find we were wrong in the light of knowledge added after the fact. Any such belated realisation can make for a good answer to the interview question. Bonus points for improved processes to prevent similar errors in future (e.g. improved awareness of what counts as relevant additional knowledge, and where to find it, which may be as simple as crosschecking with another individual). But you can’t extend your error-checking routines indefinitely and still get stuff done in a timely fashion. Delaying action while you search for certainty, beyond when the action can be meaningfully taken, is also a mistake.

                1. Sleeve McQueen*

                  one time at my agency someone ordered the Wrong Computer on behalf of a client. Once they realised it was the Wrong Computer, they tried to return it but couldn’t because it was early in These COVID Times and they’d changed the return policy for like germ reasons or something and the fact that it had been opened was a problem. Everyone on the team faffed around for so long that by the time I got involved and emailed and said, “I know this is not what your policy says, but is there any way around it?” they were like “maybe if you’d got in touched with us earlier” and then we had to eat the cost of the computer. I really need people who will tackle mistakes head-on and deal with them or flag them while they can still be fixed instead of just hoping it will go away somehow.

            3. Lisa*

              They’re not really concerned about what your mistake was (it could be major or minor, either) and really interested in what you did to fix it and ensure that mistake wouldn’t happen again. So, think of an example of a mistake that fits that, where you put a system in place or did something else that would either reduce the likelihood of repeating the same mistake, or would ensure that a similar mistake would be caught before it had a negative effect.

              To give a very simple made up example, let’s say there’s a report you’re supposed to run every Friday, and one day you got busy and forgot to run it and as a result X happened. But, you added a calendar reminder for Friday morning so you wouldn’t forget and also trained someone else on how to run the report so that if you are ever unavailable on Friday the report can still be run.

            4. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

              An example I might use would be forgetting a small task and needing to be reminded, with the resolution that you now add all tasks, no matter how small, to your tracking system (JIRA or whatever). What they’re really looking for here is how you learn from your mistakes and move forward!

            5. RP*

              My exact mistake doesn’t matter here, but the format of my response is, “Once, I accidentally (Messed up something). It was an easy mistake to make because the system at the time didn’t have any checks to make sure it never happened. I quickly found I could not fix it myself, so I went to my manager and let him know what I had figured out doesn’t work. We worked together to find the solution, which unfortunately (what it cost in manpower or money to fix). Once the immediate fix was done, we documented the issue to ensure a record existed of what happened. We also figured out the root cause and implemented process steps to prevent a recurrence. We also provided feedback to the software vendor that an “are you sure” pop up should be added, given how significant the cost of a mistake was.” I’ve shown here that I recognized my error, owned it despite a significant cost, and taken responsibility for seeing the fix through right up to understanding why it happened and what could prevent it in the future.

              I was a temp when I made that mistake. I was sure I’d be let go at the end of my contract. Instead, they hired me several months ahead of schedule. I think my handling of that mistake is why.

            6. Lizzianna*

              I usually ask this, or about a significant project that “didn’t go according to plan.”

              I’m looking for resiliency, someone who will take accountability, and who has a growth mindset.

              In our line of work, mistakes happen. I want to hire someone who acknowledges this, is willing to learn from their mistakes, and build systems to prevent them from happening again.

              So if you had a time that you forgot to complete something, that would be a mistake, but you mentioned that’s actually rare. Why is it rare? Have you created habits or routines to prevent that from happening? That’s what I’d focus on.

              So in your case, I might say something like, “In college (or in my early career), I missed a couple of deadlines because I didn’t prioritize them well and ran out of time to complete them (or whatever happened). I’ve learned that it’s really important for me to keep a calendar and to take time each week to ensure I know what deadlines are coming up and block out time on my calendar to make sure I get them done. Since I started doing that, I’ve been able to keep my workload organized and meet the deadlines on the projects I’m working on.” You could even add in the beginning, “The mistakes weren’t anywhere near catastrophic, but I realized it was something I needed to get a handle on as I matured and moved up in my career.”

              1. tiffany*

                I often use this question instead – and the other thing I’m looking for is self awareness.

                Sometimes a project won’t go to plan for reasons outside of the candidate’s control (I mean, some of the letters about dysfunctional workplaces here illustrate that) but so many times I’ve had people who describe something very normal (like someone at the Director level changing their mind in light of new information) and they describe an incredibly adversarial “fix” (like grilling everyone about requirements in writing and down to an unuseful level of granularity beforehand in an industry that requires flexibility). And when I prod further about how well that worked they often admit that it didn’t, but that they still didn’t change tactics

                A good answer is one where someone is able to describe an issue (and the level of complexities to someone outside of the situation), talk about the things that were under their control that they could have done better, talk about what they did do to navigate external difficulties, and what lessons they learned going forward.

            7. arachophilia*

              Here’s an example I have used and that interviewers have liked. I work in a communications field (I’m being intentionally vague, since the actual field I work in is pretty small), and a missed step in identifying the audience for a particular document cost a pretty substantial amount of money to the person I was working with. I should have done my due diligence (and so should the other person – I wasn’t the one person who was responsible, and I was pretty early in my career) and found out who would be reading the document so that it could be tailored appropriately. I didn’t (and neither did anyone else) – we all thought it was a going to be received with rave reviews.

              Here’s what I learned – that the step to find out who we’re writing for is not something I will ever skip again. That I use this as a cautionary tale when I’m teaching others about my work. That I remember the devastation that caused, and the potential consequences to people’s livelihoods, and so I created a checklist and guidance to make sure that I (and my team) always always always know our audience. And in the 17 years since I made that mistake, it has never happened again.

            8. Not my monkeys*

              I’d refer to something like the time I released an application update to a trading desk at the place I worked that had a bug in it that calculated the price of just about everything incorrectly. How it got through testing, I have no idea, but it did.

              The users weren’t happy when they noticed the problem. It took me the best part of an hour to find the problem. When I went back to the users to explain what happened I just said to them “well, technically speaking, I screwed it up”, promised them a fix and delivered it within a couple of hours.

              Consequences of the mistake – a desk trading more or less blind. Not good, but it happens. They weren’t happy with the situation but appreciated my honesty, and within a day or two it was forgotten.

            9. Jacinta*

              The last time I was asked this question, my response was pretty much as follows:

              *laugh* There have been so many! Probably the biggest was a few years ago. I was working in a tiny company of about 7 of us that didn’t have a separate test environment from production, including for the database. The manager asked me to delete a few hundred thousand rows from the database. I painstakingly hand-crafted the SQL in a little script (we also didn’t use ORMs or have transactions enabled, I know!), as a select and manually checked that it only yielded the rows I needed. There was a bit of iteration, testing with count(), limit 1 etc. When I was ready, I commented out the limit 1 *and* (by mistake!) the “where” clause. Having run the select command a few times I expected the script to return pretty quickly. When it took a few seconds, I realised that I must have messed up, and hit ctrl-c. I opened the script and saw my mistaken commented out “where” clause. I felt so sick.

              I immediately turned to our devops person, and said, “I’m so sorry to interrupt you, I’ve made a huge mistake and it’s probably going to take your afternoon up to fix it. Could I get you a coffee?” He suggested we both go get coffee, while I told him about it. So we did, and I did. Then we worked together to restore the lost data. And it didn’t take the whole afternoon.

              We enabled transactions, started moving towards an ORM, and got a development database to play with after that.


              The main thing isn’t really what mistake you made. The thing is:

              1. How long did it take you to recognise that you had made a mistake?
              2. When you recognised that you had made a mistake what did you do to fix it?
              3. When you realised you couldn’t fix it yourself, how long did you wait before you told someone else?
              4. When you told someone else, did you admit it was due to you making a mistake?
              5. Did you make sure you told the right person about it? And help where possible to undo your mistake?
              6. Did you take responsibility in later conversations about this?

              No one thinks you should be dramatic about making mistakes. Saying things like “I’m the worst person” isn’t helpful. Likewise lying about how you came to find that there was a mistake (“I just happened to notice”) isn’t helpful. Waiting to see if anyone else notices before admitting it isn’t helpful. Mistakes happen. Own up straight away, so that the damage can be mitigated before your mistake becomes permanent.

              1. Kathy*

                I literally just made this same mistake yesterday! a missing “where” clause in an “update” statement in a data migration meaning that we were updating the entire column to a single value!

                we do have transactions but no test copy of the prod db and no ORM. unfortunately since we’re a node shop I’ve been unable to convince anyone to move toward an ORM since the extant Node ORMs are not great. but I’ve at least been tasked with setting up a blue/green deployment of the prod db.

            10. Ineffable Bastard*

              I will tell you one of mine that might be appropriate for an interview: when I was helping to coordinate a study and research group, I forgot to schedule the auditorium for a symposium. The mistake was discovered half an hour before the event, the professor responsible got really stressed. We would have to scramble to get it done in a different college in the same uni and it would make the event late, so it was a pretty big mistake.

              Our department secretary checked another auditorium in our college and it would be used by a professor who used to teach his classes there but would not mind changing. He ceded the space, I printed signs and placed them pointing the new location for the symposium, which started on time.

              The professor talked to me later about not relying on my memory only. Lesson learned, I stared using checklists and calendars, helped with other events, and a few months later the professor told another person that I was the most organized person she knew. I even got a team to lead in a couple projects.

            11. Bob*

              “One of my mistakes was misunderstanding the question “Tell me about a time you made a mistake”. I thought the question was to learn about a mistake I made in the past. I have since learned the question is a standard phrasing for “I’d like to hear how you learn from your work life mistakes and reduce the likelihood of the same mistake. Please describe with an example.””

          6. davethetrucker*

            It would, however, be a vast improvement over, “maybe you make mistakes, but I don’t, because I went to college.”

            1. Worldwalker*

              I do wonder how many more, and how much more advanced, degrees the prospective grandboss has then the LW does.

              There are some people for whom the only thing they learn in college is how to pass tests. All the things they should be learning, like how to learn, flies completely past them. I’m wondering if this LW is one of those people.

            2. Irish Teacher.*

              Hmm, I’m now wondering if the LW is from a background where going to college is unusual and a pretty major accomplishment, like attended a school where a very small number of students went on to college. It would explain both his assumption that an undergrad is something special and beyond what your boss’s boss might have and also perhaps the focus on not making mistakes, if he was always “the bright kid, the one we’re hoping will get into college.”

          7. Margaret Cavendish*

            Very true. But it doesn’t seem that OP can admit to even that kind of mistake! There’s another skill at play here, which is understanding the point of interview questions, and responding appropriately even if it’s not the literal truth.

            I’m not advocating lying. But if OP really truly believes he never makes mistakes, that’s still not the correct answer in an interview. The correct answer is to identify *some* kind of mistake, no matter how small, and talk about that. Saying “the only mistakes I make are occasional typos” is certainly not ideal, but it’s a step above “I have never made a mistake in my entire life.”

            1. SopranoH*

              Right, OP can’t really say they never made a mistake. Telling a hiring manager that you’ve never made one is a pretty cringeworthy mistake.

        2. Orv*

          Either that or they internalized, from media, the raging Mr. Spacely type of boss that fires employees the first time they screw up. When I started my first job I fully expected to be fired the first time I screwed up.

      2. Aeryn Sun*

        Saying “I’m great at catching technical mistakes because I’m very methodical/analytical, but here are some places that I’ve struggled” is just fine. While a job might be technical, very few jobs have ZERO places for other soft skills, and maybe you catch every single tech mistake ever (unlikely but hey maybe) but maybe communication was a struggle on a project, or an incorrect assumption was made so you needed to go back and redo something. Specific coding/development mistakes aren’t the only kinds of mistakes.

        1. blurghhh*

          agreed– I think OP may be thinking about “mistakes” in a very literal and narrow way. Like he never submits buggy code because his process prevents most mistakes and enables him to catch and fix them before publishing.

      3. Quill*

        Yes. OP, what you are demonstrating by saying “I never make mistakes” is not reliability, it’s “If I ever DO make a mistake, I will immediately make it everyone else’s problem by blaming them, refusing to take responsibility, refusing to believe that the mistake actually exists, or doubling down.”

        And at least where I work in a lab-heavy STEM field, mistakes cost time but doubling down costs health risks to your coworkers or the public.

        1. Sparkles McFadden*

          Yes, exactly. During an interview, people are trying to gauge what it would be like to work with the candidate on a daily basis. Someone who “never makes mistakes” is someone who will not take direction, accept responsibility, or be able to handle any kind of feedback. The LW is currently blaming a past interviewer for his failure to get a job so, yeah, this is someone who will insist nothing is his fault.

          1. HonorBox*

            I’ve worked with this person. Mistakes as simple as their own misunderstanding / misinterpretation of a conversation where there could very well have been room to misunderstand was immediately blamed on the other person.

            As you said, interviews are set periods of time during which the interviewers are trying to get as good a picture of the person as possible. Saying that you have never made mistakes, or similarly, that you have no areas of weakness, is telling those on the other side of the table that you’ll be difficult to work with.

            1. Allonge*

              Me too! Some mistakes I pointed out were met with ‘do you think I am lying?’ No, I think you don’t know how Outlook works.

            2. Lacey*


              Plus, this person thinks he doesn’t make mistakes. So he probably wants to work with people who have similarly high standards.

              Guess what those people will have no tolerance for?
              Someone who makes a mistake and can’t admit it.

              I’ve got high standards myself – so when I make a mistake I’m extra conscientious about owning it, apologizing, and fixing it.
              And when others do the same, I’m sure to be gracious about it.

              This is how we make sure mistakes get handled. Not by having a bunch of people who can’t admit they made them.

            3. not nice, don't care*

              There is a manager in my workplace who is constantly losing staff to other departments/employers because he treats mistakes (except his own) as nuclear meltdowns. Mistake-makers are then treated like children who need a babysitter, and entire workflows are upended, as if that will stop human nature.

              1. AngryOctopus*

                That happened to me! An experiment didn’t come out as planned. The real solution is to do it again. Instead my boss spent an hour long meeting going over the failed data to “try to figure out what I did”. Anyone in science knows that can be a fools errand! It only succeeded in making me mad that he was calling me out and wasting everyone’s time. And when I went back to repeat, I realized I grabbed the wrong plate type. And guess what I didn’t want to tell my boss, because of his previous reaction? I didn’t want to tell him I figured it out because I didn’t trust what the reaction would be. I already felt demeaned by what happened before. Not trusting people and allowing that mistakes happen means they also so t want to tell you they made any!

                1. Grenelda Thurber*

                  I used to share an office with a guy like your boss. He wasn’t my boss, thankfully. Any mistake made by anyone on our team resulted in a tantrum, as if that person had made the mistake AT him, intentionally. He would send vicious emails and copy the entire team, just roasting the mistake maker, including our interns. I hated sharing a space with him, it was like sharing an office with my father having a bad day. Oh, but if he made a mistake, it was funny. He’d just laugh and shrug. I was really glad when that office situation changed.

            4. MigraineMonth*

              This can also leak into the culture from management processes.

              I used to work for a software company that was very metrics-heavy. Basically, every bug that you wrote but someone else found would count in their bug-finding score (good) and in your bug-writing score (bad). You could move it to someone else’s bug-writing score if you could prove it was mostly caused by their code instead. If no one found the bug and it was released to customers, everyone got penalized. We had a lot of “blameless” post-mortems that dissolved into finger-pointing.

              If your metrics dropped below the Xth percentile for your class, they told you to resign but still enforced a non-poach and non-compete against you. That couldn’t even be overridden by a direct manager; one of my teammates who was handling the majority of mentoring and inter-team communications got cut because they hadn’t fixed enough bugs that month and we all suffered.

              1. Annie*

                I worked in a manufacturing plant, and there were definitely penalties if you found errors in the operation that you were working on, even if the error wasn’t yours. So rather than flagging down an error, they would pass the part on to the next operation and let someone else find it. The key was that no matter what they didn’t want to be “responsible” for the issue, because if it was found at their operation, the metric would show that it was stopped there and not worked on.
                That would work against their totals for the day and their completion percentage. So it all became the blame game, rather than anyone taking responsibility for their own work.

              2. Grenelda Thurber*

                Ah, the ol’ “Squid Game” management strategy. Not the best way to encourage teamwork, and a great way to get rid of your best people.

                1. MigraineMonth*

                  It turned me into a nightmare to work with, too. I’m pretty horrified by how I spoke to others in email.

                  Getting fired from that place is the best thing that ever happened for my career.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          LW, what would happen if you did make a mistake? Imagine you copy-pasted some code and didn’t replace all occurrences of the foo variable with the bar variable, so the code doesn’t work exactly correctly, but it was pushed out in a rush and the issue wasn’t noticed until users found it in production. So, there were some mitigating circumstances, but ultimately, you made the mistake. How does imagining that make you feel?

          Do you feel panicked, defensive or angry? Do you automatically want to blame someone else for not catching it, or deny that it could ever happen? Does it conflict with your self-conception or identity?

          Any of those reactions are *really* going to hold you back in software development, particularly denial, anger or blame-shifting. You need to get a handle on that if you want to keep any job you are hired for.

        3. Rainbow*

          For example, by having trouble getting a job right now, and it being the fault of a woman you met briefly?

          1. Worldwalker*

            Part of the vibe I picked up from the original letter was “They’re women, so they can’t understand a technical field.”

            And if that came across at the interview, too — which, given the letter, I do not doubt — that’s another reason they didn’t hire him. It’s unlikely that he’d take direction from a female manager or work effectively with a female co-worker.

            1. Nebula*

              He also dismissed his wife’s advice (as relayed in the original letter) not to contact this hiring manager on LinkedIn and look where that’s got him.

              1. eater of hotdish*

                Isn’t it funny how all the people in LW’s life who need to be told they’re wrong seem to be women?

        4. MCMonkeybean*

          Yes! Not admitting to a mistake is a million times worse than making one. That’s why companies (and individuals) who are too punitive about mistakes are so short-sighted; it’s really important to foster an environment where people are not afraid to speak up if they realize they’ve messed up so the problem can be addressed quickly!

      4. TechWorker*

        It’s also possible (not saying this is definitely true) that OP hasn’t made many mistakes because he has not been that challenged. I met people at uni who were very smart and did say things like ‘good programmers don’t write bugs’. Their experience of programming was also: small self contained projects that only they were working on, where they could spend lots of time thinking about it, & had perfect context. Spoilers: programming/software engineering in the real world is not like that! Even if you are the most methodical and logical person in the world you *will* write bugs because the chance of you having perfect context on something that hundreds of people are contributing to is near zero. And yes there’s lots of checks and gates and testing for that reason – but assuming you will never make a mistake is a bad assumption.

        (And this is indeed a bit more nuanced than ‘I don’t make mistakes’. If the thing I was doing was ‘a math gcse’ then yes, I don’t make mistakes. If it’s ’a complicated job with lots of moving parts’ – everyone makes mistakes)

        1. Orv*

          I remember seeing it pointed out once that any code contains a lot of assumptions about the world, some of which are bound to end up being false eventually, so even code that’s bug-free when it’s written doesn’t necessarily stay that way.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Legacy code can be bug-free in the narrow technical sense, but that doesn’t mean it’s good code. Maybe it was good code at the beginning, maybe every decision along the way was sound based on budget/time/workforce constraints, but no one could say it was good now.

            It could be an unreadable mess with no tests. It could be impossibly to change or extend without rewriting half the codebase. Or bug-free but non-performant. Over-optimized for one set of hardware and now needs to be run on a different set of hardware. Multi-threaded for no apparent reason. Maybe the architecture is poorly designed, or it’s too tightly coupled to the DB.

            The great thing about hindsight is that, looking back, it’s easy to see where the mistakes were! “I was scrambling to get Version 6 out for a client, but I really should have taken time afterwards to add testing for all the new features.” “I optimized without running timing tests, so I optimized the wrong part of the code.” Even, “I got caught up in the hype cycle around Linq2SQL, it would have been wiser to go with a more established DB communication pattern so I didn’t have to go back and replace it all when it was deprecated two years later.”

            LW, this is the kind of reflection that’s necessary to grow as a developer. You have to be able to admit when you made a mistake, miscalculation, assumption, or even a gamble that didn’t pay off. Otherwise you can’t learn.

            1. Orv*

              Yeah, I once worked with some C code that had hard-coded the assumption “an integer will be 2 bytes.” This is obviously wrong now, but the person who wrote the code was writing it back in the 1980s as a proof of concept and had no reason to believe it would ever be run on hardware different from what they used. It was one of those situations where we were comparing a new algorithm to an old one, so we needed to run the old code as a point of comparison.

        2. Worldwalker*

          Many years ago, I talked to the principals at a tiny software company (not much bigger than my solo business) about some software they had over-promised and not just under- but never delivered. Their explanation was “this is a lot harder than it was in college.” (they were three friends from college who had a good idea and decided to team up and produce it)

          Indeed. College projects are designed to be completed in the designated time, all necessary information is available, and so on. In the real world, it’s all open-ended with no proof that what you want can be done, let along when, sometimes specs change, and you’re likely working with extremely incomplete or just plain missing information about something critical. Reality is not like college. It’s much, much messier.

          1. RC*

            I love this *nods in carbon dioxide removal/other techy climate “solutions” that are somewhere on the spectrum between limited case studies to fully hypothetical*

      5. Kay*

        A client interviewed someone who claimed they never made mistakes and have never had to write off any costs as a loss. In their industry it is either impossible, or they are spending so much money (time) to review things that they are losing more money in the time they are wasting and lack of work they could be doing.

        The fact the applicant didn’t understand this when they said it demonstrated they are either lying, or in no way can handle the kind of workload needed of an employee in the industry. Either way, it cost them the job.

        LW – your wife knows that the problem is your behavior and a masters won’t change it. She doesn’t want to waste money on something that won’t help the situation. Please seek therapy or open your mind so you can lead a better life!

        1. Worldwalker*

          You’ll note that what he actually asked for was not advice on how to improve his interview skills and/or attitude — it was how to convince his wife he was right.

      6. JB*

        You can still use the methodical and analytic angle to say that when issues are raised you identify where they came from and how address them. You are saying you make mistakes, but also that you learn from them to improve yourself and your performance, which is more important for the interviewer to know.

      7. Ellie*

        I mean, I can believe that OP is very methodical and analytical, and may not ever make mistakes that would be caught by that process. But there are other kinds of mistakes! I used to have an excellent proof-reading technique and I don’t recall ever sending out a document during that period with a mistake in it. But I’ve made plenty of mistakes that were based around not having the right information, not double-checking with a source, getting someone important offside and other general stuff like running late for meetings, etc. OP, the interviewer probably wants someone who is aware of their weaknesses and has strategies to work around them. You are taking the question too literally.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if you are interviewing differently after this experience, and that that is the reason why you aren’t getting any offers. You seem overly defensive. See if you can turn your attitude around to be more positive before you try again. In my part of the world it is incredibly difficult to hire developers, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to hire just anybody. I have to be confident that they not only have the skills (or we can train them), but that they will be a good cultural fit within my team. I’m not going to hire someone who appears overly negative or defensive, or can’t admit that they make mistakes. It’s almost certainly your attitude that’s holding you back.

        1. Ellie*

          I should also mention that I have a degree, a masters and a diploma. Although I enjoyed them all, and learnt a lot, I don’t believe the masters or the diploma has made any difference to my career at all. The bachelors was essential, but everything else is less important than showing you have the skills and the right attitude. I’m sorry but your wife is likely correct. My company paid for the masters and the diploma, I would have been pretty angry if I’d paid for them myself.

    2. BadMitten*

      Yeah. And I know it can have a negative connotation/stigma, but I think the LW should consider seeking out therapy to learn how to better deal with conflicts like this. It’s the opposite of productive.

      Also if the person was badmouthing LW, why would he be getting interviews? The more logical conclusion is his cover letter and resume are good, but he does badly in interviews. Nothing analytical about his thinking here.

      1. Venus*

        I noticed this too!! If the OP is getting interviews but no offers then it is absolute proof that they aren’t blacklisted. People who are blacklisted don’t get interviews.

        1. J!*

          Right?! This response is a pretty huge red flag, and the underlying attitude must surely be shining through in the interviews.

          1. djx*

            (Almost) never making mistakes is possible in certain very high-stakes domains. Safety in large commercial air flight is an example. Even there is happens, but so super rarely.

            But in general mistakes are necessary in two ways: one is for learning and growth. And the other is that perfection is a waste of time.

            I had a class on records management in which my professor managed records for a company that ran nuclear power plants. They could not tolerate any errors in those records. And she said to me that using the same near-perfect processes would be terrible idea for my small nonprofit – perfection was not worth the cost of achieving it.

            1. Not that other person you didn't like*

              Also, in these domains, it’s not that the humans in them never make mistakes, but that the processes in place help mitigate those errors. So yes, they’d naturally hire for meticulousness / conscientiousness etc. but also have multiple checks and reviews and systems that weed out errors (side eyeing Boeing right now).

              1. Aeryn Sun*

                Exactly, in fields where mistakes can mean life or death there are usually multiple reviews to make sure everything’s fine. Even at my previous job where it wasn’t life or death, we would QA each other’s work to make sure there were no errors because we knew our clients were very particular. Errors always happen.

                1. Kristin*

                  yep, in that case you say “I made this mistake, this is how we caught it, it really drove home the importance of QA/checklists/etc and how vital it is for a team to trust each other” or whatever

              2. Warrior Princess Xena*

                I second this! No one person can be infallible 100% of the time. That’s what review and QA are for.

                1. MigraineMonth*

                  Also, there needs to be planning for what happens if all the systems do fail. Part of the pre-surgery checklist is “what do we need if everything goes wrong?” (e.g. 8 units of blood in the room in case we nick an artery). Part of every flight is the safety briefing and flotation devices.

                  Depending entirely on the ship to be unsinkable has, historically, been a terrible idea.

                2. NotSoRecentlyRetired*

                  Third this! I spent over 20 years as Software Quality Engineer for government contracting companies. Reviewed code for missiles, satellites, radar systems, etc, and the test equipment that tested the systems.
                  If the bug/error wasn’t found by us, then hopefully it’s caught in software tests or system testing, which is witnessed by SQE (who also verified that the test procedures verified the requirements). Nobody is perfect; sometimes I’ve made mistakes, too, but the job of the team is to make certain that the important portions of the system work. Double or triple independent (sub)systems to make certain that the system doesn’t fail.

                3. Texan In Exile*


                  That makes me think of the TED Talk Atul Gawande gave about the birth center in India where they had adopted checklists (this talk is about coaching, but includes references to the checklists that his team developed and were part of the larger strategy), including the backup plan for no electricity.

                  Also, his Checklist Manifesto is great. Checklists are the key (as your team knows).
                  He talks the audience through a series of images of a baby being born – and then the baby stops breathing.

                  Because of the checklist and the backup plan, the nurse knew what to do. “She didn’t have a mechanical suction because you could count on electricity, so she used a mouth suction, and within 20 seconds, she was clearing out that little girl’s airways.”

                4. Margaret Cavendish*

                  Out of nesting, but I want to recommend another excellent TED Talk – Chris Hadfield, What I Learned from Going Blind in Space.

                  “There’s an astronaut saying, in space there’s no problem so bad that you can’t make it worse.”

              3. Sedna*

                Yes, absolutely this – the systems are specifically built in a way to catch the inevitable errors that come from being human and working in a changing environment! Errors often come from people insisting that they /can’t/ make mistakes and ignoring or bypassing those check systems (see crew resource management, checklist implementation, etc etc).

              4. Boof*

                beat me to it; most of the high stakes fields have multiple error checking steps to account for the inevitable human error. Even machines malfunction and break down eventually!

              5. Raktajino*

                My dad was a Boeing machinist and I was talking to him recently about how he dealt with just that! Yes, you can make a mistake in so many steps leading up to the cutting or drilling that are irreversible. There’s just a lot of QA steps to catch the error! Even people working on the fighter jets and NASA contracts made mistakes, they just had longer checklists and even more QA.

                One of the reasons he retired was the change in philosophy from higher ups that reduced and discouraged QA. He didn’t foresee MAX exactly but was not surprised one bit.

                1. RC*

                  I just read a book about that culture change at Boeing following the merger… it’s fascinating and horrifying how they went from owning their mistakes when they happened (one of the older planes in the 80s I think; everyone was shocked when the CEO or whoever was like “this was our fault, and here’s how we’re going to fix it, now,” plus way more due diligence in development), to the absolute denial that was the MAX development and crash response.

              6. Beth*

                Yes, mistakes happen even in high risk fields where extreme precision is a life-and-death issue! In fact I’d say it’s especially those fields that need to plan actively for mistakes to happen–mistakes are human, and they need to implement sturdy enough processes to prevent those human moments from causing disaster.

                In most fields, though, the consequence of an average mistake is that we lose some time to redoing the work. If our mistake impacted others, we may also need to apologize and rebuild trust. Neither is an end-of-the-world consequence, and both go better if you can own your mistakes.

              7. Worldwalker*

                Which part of Boeing? The part that flies planes into the ground (who ever thought the MCAS system was a good idea?) or the part that launches spacecraft with helium leaks that are now stranded in orbit because more leaks developed?

            2. Aww, coffee, no*

              I used to work in an avionics (the cockpit instruments bit of a plane) repair workshop, booking in the units for repairs.
              Some of them were definitely arriving with us because of mistakes – not necessarily huge or dangerous mistakes, but definitely mistakes. Airlines do all they can to minimise them, with checklists, etc, but humans are human.

              (My favourite item was a display unit sent in with a fault of “stiletto heel broke screen”. The airline requested *warranty* repair…. umm, no, I don’t think so!)

                1. Aww, coffee, no*

                  I really enjoyed it; learnt a lot about planes, and also about just how careful and safe the major airlines are – at least those flying in or out of the US or Europe. Not surprisingly it was very much an ‘err on the side of caution’ industry. I like flying and have no qualms about it anyone, but if one was nervous that would have been a very reassuring job to have.

              1. PresidentBob*

                When I was in the Navy, my job was fixing Com/Nav for various airplanes. There were a few that our repair was scraping out dried coffee that spilled through (one particular box was a flat surface with some buttons that sat next to the pilot, after a few times the buttons would stick) or splashed on/ruined components. Luckily the planes had so many redundancies one box with a coffee spill won’t crash the plane but jeez. Of course the “reason” was never “I spilled the coffee I shouldn’t have had in the cockpit, let alone resting on equipment” but “it just stopped working, dunno.”

              2. Kit*

                That warranty request is hilarious… and Fraction Hawkeye best Hawkeye! (Yeah, I love your username.)

            3. Wendy Darling*

              Also I don’t even think people never make mistakes in those domains. I think they have extremely well-developed systems to make sure that when people do make a mistake it’s caught, by them or by someone else, before it has a major impact. In the case of commercial aviation, there are checklists and things are cross-checked by multiple people.

              I’m a software developer and when I make a mistake with a business impact (which I have done multiple times, because I am a human) the focus is less on why did I mess up and more on what are the process/procedure failures that allowed for me to mess up in that way without anyone else catching it. We have unit tests and integration tests and pre-production testing environments and code reviews so that we catch mistakes before they go into production.

              I don’t believe any developer who says they never make mistakes. I miiiiight believe that they do not have mistakes reach production, but realistically anyone who says it NEVER happens to them either hasn’t written enough code that went into production or is blaming their mistakes on other people.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                If I have zero bug reports or change requests from a service I created, I assume no one is actually using it.

              2. Grenelda Thurber*

                This! I’m now wondering if OP is looking for his first job after graduation. If someone told me they never make mistakes in an interview, I’m pretty sure I would burst out laughing, or respond with something like “Oh, you sweet summer child. You don’t even know what you don’t know.”

              3. M*

                Yuuuuuuup. There’s industries out there where the acceptable error rate is close enough to zero that a job candidate who claims not to make mistakes in the first place is *maybe* plausible. (I’m thinking, like, commercial pilot, where there are so many layers of fail-safe and standard procedure that it would, indeed, be possible to have a pretty close to error-free track record.) Developer? Absolutely not, they’re either extremely inefficient or extremely inexperienced, and either way they’ve just told me they take feedback atrociously.

                1. Expert Paper Pusher*

                  Even in industry where the expectation is a near-zero error rate, a response that acknowledges those fail-safes and SOPs and says, “I put such-and-such in place to identify mistakes before they have impact, so I can’t think of a mistake that had to be fixed after the fact” would be much more positively received than “I don’t make mistakes.”

                  LW, you mention being methodical and analytical, but what are the specific steps you make to prevent mistakes? Interviewers are likely looking for someone who is willing to accept direction and constructive criticism. When you answer these kinds of questions, could you give an example of something you fixed before it was a problem because of the way you approach your work? What about how you worked to fix a mistake, even if the root cause of the mistake was not your fault? You may not think of either of these examples as mistakes, but explaining how you deal with them can still be valuable as part of the interview process.

                  As an example, consider if a boss had a mistake in their instructions to you that effected the intended parameters of the project. If your response is, “My understanding of the project was [whatever the boss had said], but if the client wants [actual intended parameters], here’s how I can fix it”, that shows you as a team player in a work place. Most people would not be interested in working with someone whose response would just be, “It’s the boss’s fault. I didn’t make a mistake, and it’s unacceptable than the boss did.” instead of working to fix the problem.

            4. CowWhisperer*

              I think processes to avoid catastrophic mistakes are more common than that. In medicine, administering the wrong dose or the wrong med could be fatal. Similarly, surgery can go horribly wrong. I work in education and have worked with students who had severe violent behaviors that required restraint or seclusion. Both of those techniques have been fatal for students.

              The solution has been continual education of best practices and authorizing everyone involved to stop a situation where someone is potentially making a dangerous mistake. This includes calling out when you need help.

              I was working with deescalating a young elementary student who was hitting staff when she grabbed one of my arms then slapped me across the face hard twice. I broke her grip by lifting my arm and said, “I need a tag-out!”. I walked backwards until I was out of line of sight while another staff took over.

              Later, I debriefed with staff that I was afraid I would slap back -and at the same time I was embarrassed that a kid made me that mad. My coworkers said that we train because humans get mad when attacked – and removing yourself is the right choice.

              The LW needs to learn we all make mistakes. To err is human – that’s why we keep an eye on each other.

              1. Lizzianna*

                I heard a really good quote the other day, I think it was from a first aid class, “In times of crisis, we don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”

            5. Orv*

              I would be very suspicious of any pilot who said they never made mistakes. That’s impossible and the fact that they don’t recognize them means they aren’t learning from them. Cautionary tales are a huge part of pilot culture!

            6. iglwif*

              (Almost) never making mistakes is possible in certain very high-stakes domains. Safety in large commercial air flight is an example. Even there is happens, but so super rarely.

              Yes, and the reason it’s rare is that in these kinds of domains the stakes are SO high that it makes sense to spend enormous time, effort, and money on processes that minimize opportunities for error. Like extensive training, and comprehensive checklists, and redundant safety checks, and …

              It’s not because the people involved are some kind of non-mistake-making superhumans — it’s because someone recognized the inevitability of human error and did their best to design processes to minimize the consequences of any individual error.

              And as you say, that level of error-avoidance just does not make sense in every situation! When the stakes are “someone could die”: yes, absolutely. When the stakes are “we might have to ship a new build sooner than planned because this one’s a bit broken”: meh, maybe not. When the stakes are “there might be typos in some of my emails”: absolutely not, don’t be ridiculous.

              1. Media Monkey*

                but also owning your mistakes. if you make a mistake and don’t admit it and it is found when the black box is checked the consequenes are severe.

              2. Snoodence Pruter*

                Yes. I don’t want to hire someone who over-optimises every step of every process. I want someone with a realistic idea of what counts as good enough given our priorities, timescales and budget constraints.

        2. Irish Teacher.*

          And they like him during the interview, so clearly they had not heard anything bad about him at that point, but it just so happens that she contacts them between the interview and the offer point even though it is highly unlikely she could know he was being interviewed by them. That is not credible.

          1. bripops*

            I’ve met plenty of people personally and professionally who I like a ton but would never EVER want to work with. It’s possible the LW is running into that, or honestly it’s possible they *don’t* like him and he just doesn’t realize that polite friendliness doesn’t mean they want to immediately extend an offer letter. Especially in the cases of people who don’t take rejection well, sometimes the path of least resistance is to smile and nod and say whatever to get them out the door. The kind of sabotage he’s describing would take more time, effort, and spite than most people have and I really don’t think it’s likely.

            1. anonymesque*

              Yeah, the way this person self-describes doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in his read of other people, either.

              Most likely, he’s still coming off as arrogant and clueless in interviews, and so the same thing keeps happening.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                I agree. I’m betting his resume is good enough to get the initial interview, but his behavior in that interview is so off-putting he’s not getting a second interview.

                Further evidence that he’s not reading people well: in the previous letter, LW was sure everyone except the big boss loved him and that the big boss was “fine” with him saying he shouldn’t have to interview with her because she had no technical knowledge.

                1. Snoodence Pruter*

                  I wonder if he expects everyone to be as blunt and judgemental as he is himself. He thought it appropriate to suggest that his prospective grandboss shouldn’t be interviewing him at all, and that she only made mistakes as a developer because she was less professional and educated than he was. So maybe ‘polite’ reads as loving him, because if they didn’t love him, they’d be actively rude and unpleasant.

              2. Llama lamma workplace drama*

                When I am conducting interviews as a lead software developer I have absolutely recommended hiring people who had weaker programming skills than another interviewee if I thought the person with weaker skills would be a better fit for the team. Nobody wants to work with someone who comes across arrogant and condescending.

                1. Freya*

                  As a dance teacher, I don’t look for amazing dance skills in staff. I can teach dance skills, but I can’t teach people to be friendly or to find ways to help out at class. I will always take a solidly average dancer who turns up every week and helps pack the chairs away when we’re done over a rockstar who doesn’t want to talk to anyone they consider beneath them or talks through the explanation and then asks what we’re doing.

              3. Project Maniac-ger*

                Yeah I’m concerned that if this person saw nothing wrong with telling their potential manager they are incorrect on something they’ve got 10 years of experience, they’ve made similar missteps and are not getting hired due to their inability to interview well.

                OP, now you’ve got something to say when (and it’s when, not if – this is a very common question) the mistakes question comes back up. “I used to be a poor interviewer and after doing some research, consulting with other professionals, and practicing, I have improved!” And that answer shows you learn from your mistakes and get better, which is what interviewers want to hear.

              4. Worldwalker*

                If you have issues with one person, it’s a them problem.

                If you have issues with everyone, it’s a you problem.

                1. AngryOctopus*

                  This. If everyone you have a phone interview with rejects you, then 1-you likely have a great resume/cover letter, because they are choosing to phone screen you, and 2-your behavior on the phone screen is off-putting enough that the interviewer declines to move you along in the process. This is a you problem, LW, and I know it’s hard to hear, but you’re the common denominator in all these rejection situations. You could benefit from a career center, where they can do mock screens/interviews with you. You have to *actually really for real* be open to taking on their feedback, but they can help you understand how you’re coming across to people, and they can help you fix it. I hope you can sit with all this advice, which I know is really hard to take on, and realize that with some willingness to hear hard truth and be open to change, you can land a job and be a good colleague.

            2. sparkle emoji*

              Yeah, I don’t think he has good people instincts and is making some assumptions that aren’t grounded in reality based on his misreadings of interviewer reactions.

            3. Irish Teacher.*

              Yeah, I just meant his read of the situation where they were completely impressed with him during the interview but he didn’t get the job because she blackballed him doesn’t tie together.

              1. Worldwalker*

                Yeah. If she blackballed him, his resume would have gone straight into the trash. He never would have made it even to the phone screen.

                Sparkle, I think you’re right that he’s not reading interviewer reactions correctly. He certainly has an extremely high opinion of himself — if he’s seeing everything through that filter, a simple “thank you for interviewing with us” could come across as wildly enthusiastic when it might really be a polite dismissal.

          2. CowWhisperer*

            In the original letter I found his statement that everyone prior to the grandboss ‘loved’ him.

            I’ve interviewed on both sides a lot. I’ve never fallen in love with a candidate. I’ve thought some would be a nice staff addition. A few were very poor fits. Most had strengths and weaknesses that were about average and would do well enough.

            So, yeah, I’m not as certain as he is that he’s God’s Gift to companies until a woman blacklisted him.

            1. Zweisatz*

              Yeah, especially because I would be warm to interviewees who were NOT doing well too. It’s just a matter of being polite and, as an employer, keeping your options open. That means however that you cannot deduce from the interviewer’s tone if you’re a shoo-in.

          3. Spero*

            I mean…he THINKS they like him in the interview. Do they? Most interviewers are pretty good at faking that things are going well for a 30 minute convo, just to get through it. I’ve had sooooo many interactions where someone felt I really liked them just because I was smiling and asking them questions about themselves, and they never realized I shared nothing about myself and that my comments towards them were things like ‘that’s so interesting’ or ‘oh wow’ rather than ‘that sounds great for this role’ or ‘that would be a great fit’

        3. House On The Rock*

          Yes, this was my thought too! I do a lot of hiring. If someone I trusted reached out to me to warn me about someone, I almost certainly wouldn’t even do a phone screen. And if I did, because I wanted to see for myself, then I’d base my decision to move forward on how the phone screen went. So if LW is getting initial calls, he’s almost assuredly doing something in the call that is a deal breaker for the hiring manager.

        4. The Other Katie*

          I was surprised to learn a few months ago that some people use “blacklisted” to mean “didn’t get the position I want”. So I don’t use this term anymore.

        5. PB Bunny Watson*

          I do believe the reason the wife doesn’t think an advanced degree will help is because of his attitude. And she’s absolutely right. An advanced degree will not make a difference if the LW maintains this attitude.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I disagree; I think additional formal schooling/an advanced degree will make LW’s attitude worse! If undergrad degree makes him immune from making mistakes, what god-like powers would a masters grant him?

            1. Orv*

              Agreed. I’ve known people who I liked who became absolutely insufferable once they got a PhD.

            2. A Person*

              LW’s degree being an undergrad qualification makes the insistence that he doesn’t make mistakes because he “went to school” in the first letter even stranger. Loads of people have a Bachelor’s degree, especially in an office environment – it doesn’t make you special or uniquely well-qualified.

          2. Annie E. Mouse*

            He mentioned in the OP that the wife was a reader. I wish she was a commenter!

            But yeah, if you’re unemployable because you’re condescending and have no self awareness in an interview, taking on the debt of an advanced degree isn’t going to help anyone.

      2. Baunilha*

        This. It’s most likely that OP’s arrogance and snottiness were coming through in the interviews.

        1. Middle Aged Lady*

          Yes, the first big mistake the LW made was thinking it was weird that grandboss was in the interview, and asking her why she was there, and calling her ‘some kind of middle manager.’ I would not hire someone with that level of arrogance about the grandboss who questioned the company’s hiring practices.
          The second mistake was saying ‘I never make mistakes.’
          Soft skills are important. The LW neess to get to the heart of why they lack them. A masters degree is not the answer. Soft skills are the answer.

          1. Elle Woods*

            Agree. The nearly complete lack of self awareness that LW has about their attitude and behavior is astonishing.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            A masters degree is only going to make this worse, in my opinion. LW, it’s not going to make you more hirable in most programming jobs; you’re just going to be further in debt and have more of the formal education that you think is so important and the rest of the field… just doesn’t.

            1. not nice, don't care*

              The dude’s poor wife, who doesn’t support him on his quest… I wonder what her educational level is, and what he thinks of it.

          3. Lacey*

            Yeah, that made me think the OP doesn’t have a lot of work experience. Because I’ve always gotten excited when they get to where they’re bringing in the Grandboss – that means I’ve got a real shot at it.

            1. Hiring*

              So true.

              As a hiring manager, we only slot Grandboss in for an interview when the candidate WILL be hired unless they bomb out in that last interview.

            2. ceiswyn*

              Absolutely! Grandboss is the final evolution of the interview boss fight. If they turn up it means your technical qualifications have been found sufficient and they’re doing a final check for soft skills and team fit.

              A very sensible final check in this case. Based on the lack of insight and basic respect for others’ capabilities in LW1’s letters, I wouldn’t be hiring him either.

          4. Worldwalker*

            Like, has he ever even had a job before? Any kind of a job? Decades ago, when I got a job as a hourly employee at Radio Shack, I interviewed with the district manager! For what was basically a McJob.

          5. policywank*

            This is precisely why I like to tell people that everyone should have to wait tables for tips for a minimum of two years at some point with no access to family money. You learn good soft skills and a lot of humility or you starve. While it might have been nice to have my parents be able to hand me a junior executive job in the family business when I was 22, I’ve been a lot more adaptable in the world because I had to find a way to pay the bills.

            1. Katie Impact*

              I’m glad I don’t have to be in that situation, because I probably *would* starve, but at least at this point I’m self-aware enough to say that. If there are things you’re bad at, you have to either work on them or work around them, but both of those options require actually knowing your own weaknesses. OP doesn’t yet seem to be at the point of acknowledging that they have any, and nothing else is going to change until that does.

      3. Hamster Manager*

        Agreed, LW doesn’t seem great at reading situations (see: him completely missing the many missteps he’s made here) so I have to assume he’s mistaking “normal professional friendliness” in the interviews for “they really liked me!”

        A person who is VERY good at doing friendly banter with clients I personally dislike and wouldn’t work with if it was up to me

        1. PresidentBob*

          Some people are like that. I had a buddy who never realized or accepted, no matter how often we told him, that every restaurant server we had wasn’t into him or what we were doing. She’s laughing at your joke and continuing banter because you’re the customer. She does not want to meet up later, she does not think you’re really cool and wants to hang out later. Of course, it’s possible there were genuine reactions, but there were so many where it was obvious to the rest of us that is was purely part of the job.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            I can’t remember if it was here or another site, but I remember reading a woman’s post about trying to convince a friend of hers that a stripper he had seen in a club was not actually into him or desperate to date him. He was truly, utterly convinced that this woman was totally interested in him, personally, because she had given him the boa she was wearing.

            This was one of those cheap feathery things that come ten to a package from Party City. She undoubtedly handed them out like mini Hershey bars, because every single guy she gave one to thought “she really likes me!” and tipped accordingly.

      4. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Came here to say exactly this. If the grandboss had been badmouthing him to all her industry contacts, he wouldn’t be getting many screenings or interviews. The explanation that fits the evidence best so far is that the LW is actually not doing awesome in the interviews and is misattributing politeness and professionalism as an indicator of his interview performance, rather than just the basic amount of nice that’s required to work with other people.

        LW, you come off as someone who is difficult and potentially unpleasant to deal with. You did in the first letter and you do in the update. Obviously, I don’t know you and you may have many wonderful qualities. Based on the attitude you show in the letters, I would absolutely hate working with you. Please, please open your mind to the possibility that different people are different and that you’re not always right. It IS a tough job market and you are making it SO MUCH HARDER on yourself.

    3. Saint Dorothy Mantooth*

      Yes, LW, please do take this to heart.

      I get the sense that you’re brushing off statements like “everyone makes mistakes” by assuming that, as a high performer, you hold yourself to a higher standard. And while you may indeed be very strict and rigorous with yourself, your two emails to AAM have also demonstrated a mistake-riddled tendency to jump to conclusions, which then creates a chain reaction of follow-up mistakes that you seem to be refusing to acknowledge.

      -It was a mistake to assume that a potential grandboss shouldn’t have been involved in your initial interview; that practice is in fact very common.
      -It was a mistake to assume that her technical experience was out of date and that she was simply “some kind of middle manager” without knowing anything else about her.
      -It was a mistake when, after discovering her technical credentials on LinkedIn, you failed to take it as an opportunity to recalibrate your impression of her and acknowledge your incorrect assumptions.
      -It was a mistake to even ENTERTAIN the idea of messaging her to further criticize her interview questions–which, again, were very common.
      -It was a mistake to assume that she’s blackballing you with no evidence other than the fact that you’re not getting job offers–when it appears you were also not getting job offers before this and the likeliest explanation is that your behavior is the common denominator in all these scenarios.

      It’s difficult to be confronted with your shortcomings, LW, especially when they’re being pointed out by strangers on the internet. I understand the impulse to go on the defensive and insist that everyone is simply misunderstanding you. But I do hope you will take this opportunity to consider the way you form your opinions of people (and of yourself) in professional spaces, and face up to your shortcomings as a self-improvement exercise.

      Good luck.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        This is good, clearly and specifically pointing out not technical mistakes, but mistakes nonetheless.

        1. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

          It’s pretty telling that the end of the update was not asking Alison *if* going back to school would make him more marketable, but rather asking for her to convince his wife that he was right. Dude is so blinded to any possibility that he read a situation wrong that he just assumes experts must agree with him. And, I would guess, he’s thinking Alison can use woman’s magic or something to “soothe his wife’s pretty little head”…ugh.

          1. Itsyourpersonality*

            Something that has really stuck with me is that he mentioned that LW mentioned that he was a man and the interviewers were mostly or all female and that up until this director everyone loved him.

            I can’t help but think that if these women (and not knowing if subsequent phone screen interviews are women or men, but assuming the pattern continue) picked up on how arrogant and threatening he comes off in his original letter and this response they are probably being overly nice out of fear for their safety. I know as a female I’ve been in that situation and I will be overly nice to a man in that situation in person or on the phone.

            1. Zweisatz*

              That’s a wild jump. possibly picking up on some sexism or simply arrogance, sure, possible. But nothing in these letters indicates to me that LW would be a threatening presence.

              1. Allegra*

                I don’t know. If I were on the other end of it, the repeated contacting on LinkedIn would feel threatening to me, coupled with the fact that this person’s created a whole narrative where I’m the villain, and they already took the step of contacting the HR person to “ask their boss to stop talking about me”. With full details of their perspective, I don’t think the LW is intending any kind of physical harm to this person or likely to do it–but from the other end, those actions would probably be enough to have me giving their name to my building security just in case.

        2. Lea*

          Yes! She probably thinks he’s going to waste a bunch of money on a degree when he really just needs to work on his personal skills and he’s shutting her down and talking
          Down to her

          1. Cherub Cobbler*

            Yes, dude seems to have forgotten that grandboss specifically told him that her interview would cover soft skills. There are courses in soft skills, even free ones.

        3. GoogleMeThis*

          She’s also right about the masters degree. I have a masters in CS, and it is both less useful than 2 years of experience programming and far more expensive.

          If you decide you want to go into research/teaching, go for a PhD (most of which are funded by the school). If you want to go into programming, a masters won’t help you get most jobs. It will just rack up debt while you delay this issue.

          1. Llama lamma workplace drama*

            Even a BS in CS isn’t all that important. It will help you get your first job but after that it’s your years of experience that will get you the next job. Almost nothing I learned getting my programming degree has been useful in my 24 years of programming. I learned more about real world applications of programming during my first year working as a programmer than I did in all 4 years of college.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              Unfortunately, there are some jobs in the US that only hire those with CS or Math degrees, even though they aren’t actually necessary. Which doesn’t mean it’s necessarily worthwhile financially to go to a four-year college, but it is a factor.

              (I blame the US immigration process; a company can’t sponsor certain visas (H-1B, I believe) unless they prove that there aren’t enough people domestically to fill the job, and one way to do that is to ignore everyone in the US who doesn’t have a CS or Math degree.)

      2. Emmy*

        This was a fabulous response! Not all mistakes are technical, and both letters show a complete lack of awareness of their own behavior and how others are receiving it. The LW needs some serious self-reflection and possibly a reality check of how the job market works. I get TONS of “no” responses before I get a yes, despite my numerous degrees and certifications within my field. That’s how life works.

        1. Worldwalker*

          Back when these things were all done on paper, there was a joke that you weren’t a “real” writer until you had accumulated enough rejection letters to wallpaper your office.

          Of course, then there was Robert Heinlein. The first story he submitted for publication was “Lifeline.”

      3. Middle Aged Lady*

        I made the ‘mistake’ of commenting without scrolling down far enough to see your replay, which said what I was thinking and expanded on it much better.

      4. H.C.*

        ^^^ co-sign on all of this, not to mention that you are actually fueling your own self-fulfilling prophecy. If potential Grandboss didn’t have you on the radar following the initial interview & rejection, she certainly has a story to tell others now that you called her back and accused her of blackballing you in the industry.

        1. Worldwalker*

          I would love it if her side of the story showed up on a “What’s your wildest interview story” thread here on AAM!

          “We had this guy who thought I was ‘some kind of middle manager’ and my skills were out of date … And then he emailed me … and then wrote to AAM!”

      5. TeapotNinja*

        I think the number one mistake is not understanding that there’s more to being a good employee and a team member than just executing tasks without issues.

        This is especially true in any creative industry where you can’t plan for everything, and mistakes are inevitable. You try and avoid the big ones by planning well and mitigating risks, but you can absolutely not avoid small ones. Ever. It’s how you recover from the mistakes is what makes you the superstar.

        Additionally learning from your own and others’ mistakes is, by far, the best way to learn beyond basic skills.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I’ve worked in software development for over 10 years, and the largest mistakes, the ones that derail projects and require months or *years* to cleanup and fix, aren’t bugs. They’re communication issues. The client needs a tire swing. They describe its essential parts (tire, rope, tree) to the developers. The developers work for months, finally presents the client with every element they requested: a tree with tires tied all over its trunk.

          If you dismiss all communication issues as “soft skills”, “non-technical”, etc, you are *failing at a large part of your job*. Perfect code that doesn’t do the needed thing is worse than buggy code that does.

      6. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        I agree with all of this. The LW seems to be viewing “mistakes” as technical errors. Errors in judgment also count.

        I’d also add that if *everyone* is misunderstanding you, that is evidence that you have some work to do on communication. Like, the whole point of communication is to share information, ideas, etc. with someone else. If most people misunderstand what you’re trying to communicate, that’s not a them-problem.

      7. Britality*

        This is a great reply, and kind.

        LW, I hope you take everyone’s advice to heart about these “soft” skills re: mistakes, but I also want to point out:

        “…there are a lot of really qualified developers looking for jobs (she mentioned that layoffs at places like Twitter and Facebook), but it just seems too much of a coincidence…”

        There’s an extraneous “that” before “layoffs”. It’s the smallest thing, and certainly not something that would have any real repercussions with hiring managers or colleagues, but just another tiny, tiny example that we all make mistakes, even in areas we are extremely skilled.

        Good luck with your job search.

    4. tinyhipsterboy*

      Honestly, Alison’s response was a lot kinder than I think LW deserves. Not that he should get meanness directed at him, but goodness, he desperately needs a blunt reality check, it sounds like. :x

        1. Worldwalker*

          True. He certainly makes mistakes like everyone else does. But they learn from theirs, and he doesn’t. Not a good person to have in your company — or even in the next cubicle.

    5. Artemesia*

      the key point you need to take home is that YOU are blackballing yourself by this campaign. I would never interview you if I heard from you about this; I would find you potentially a danger to my organization as this sounds like the behavior of someone deeply disturbed. If you would contact linked in contacts like this, what might you actually do in person if we hired you?

      And if we interviewed you and didn’t hire you would you than be a danger to us. You need to get some therapy and absolutely cool your jets. You come across as a person it would be unwise to engage with in any way — certainly unwise to hire.

      1. Some Words*

        I didn’t want to be the first to say it, but I agree. LW’s responses to this whole process and situation are far from typical, expected or in the realm of normal.

        This will be an ongoing problem without self reflection and significant change. Professional assistance may be required.

        1. nonono*

          LW reads as either satire, a narcissist or someone having a break from reality and it’s really hard to judge which. If it’s not the first, nothing is going to change until they realize they need help, at which point it will probably be too late at this point.

      2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        And if he did get hired somewhere, I’d be very curious how he would react when he’s told no. Or they go with someone else’s idea. In my work, we often have to balance resources, scope/quality, and timeline. A couple years ago, executive leadership decided to pause a key component of a giant, interconnected project I was leading. In my opinion, that piece was a key component in the other pieces working how we intended, and I expressed my disagreement clearly as discussions were happening. But once the decision was made and it was final, I stopped arguing my case. I still don’t necessarily agree with the decision (though, obviously, I don’t know about all the competing priorities they were having to balance). But I 100% accept that they had the absolute right to make that call.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          So who’s to say that this person wouldn’t continue to push and escalate whenever he thinks that managers or executives made the “wrong” decision?

          1. Worldwalker*

            He’s already doing that when the “wrong” decision was not hiring him. Which, if nothing else, proves that was in fact the right decision.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              It’s not unfair to think that however a person comes across in interviews is only a tenth of what they’ll be like to work with. I can just imagine that most people do that math and it comes out “nah.”

        2. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

          Furthermore, people like the letter writer simply existing in the company can make situations like this so much worse. A former component of mine had a guy who would not do good work if the project wasn’t something he completely agreed with, and it resulted in the ED being wary of assigning *anyone* to projects if they didn’t originally support it. It took more than just getting rid of the problem employee; the board and some of us higher level employees had to have a come to Jesus meeting with her to explain that she was in charge and the employees would run whatever play she called (and the board members reminding her that making those calls was literally her job).

    6. Not on board*

      It’s possible that MAYBE the LW doesn’t make mistakes in their work – as in catches them before the project is finished because they are very methodical.

      But they’ve clearly made plenty of errors in their assumptions and the way that they talk to people. I actually feel sorry for this person because life is going to be very difficult for them if they keep up this attitude and refuse to take a good hard look at themselves. Not enough to ever want to work with someone like that, and I certainly feel worse for their wife.

      1. Monster Munch*

        I never have typos in my presentations and reports. By this, I don’t mean literally never – I have discovered a couple after time – but I do mean I have a high, even very high, standard of typoless writing, and coding, and whatever else I do.

        This does not make me a ****ing infallible Jesus. It just means I’m good at that one particular thing, and if that isn’t obvious to someone, then…..

        1. Not on board*

          I’m confused by what you’re trying to say here. Are you saying that even though you do one specific thing with no mistakes that you still make plenty of other mistakes? Or are you saying that the fact that you don’t make typos in your presentation means that you would tell an interviewer that you don’t make mistakes?

        2. Snoodence Pruter*

          Same. I just have the knack of spelling correctly. I almost always spot errors as soon as they’re made, and I’m known for putting out work that’s free from typos.

          That doesn’t mean I’ve never sent the wrong document to somebody, or skipped a QA step by accident, or left a piece of work too late because I lost track of time, or failed to check for something because I didn’t know that bit of the process could even go wrong, or…

          The most meticulous human on earth is still human. If LW thinks he’s never had an ‘oh shit’ moment like that, then he’s not avoiding mistakes, he’s failing to see his own mistakes. That’s much more dangerous than someone who messes up more often but knows it and will be open about it.

      2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Great point. The answer to this question could be about the processes the LW has put in place to ensure that *final* products are error-free. It doesn’t fully capture what the interviewer was asking, which would involve taking accountability, flagging errors rather than trying to cover them up, and continuous learning. But it would still be a lot better than “I don’t make mistakes.”

    7. Csethiro Ceredin*

      The thing is this is a common interview question for a reason! And a good answer would show that the person owns their mistake, tells the appropriate people about it, and takes steps to make sure they don’t make the same mistake again.

      Even it it were somehow true, “that’s never happened to me” is just not a good answer.

    8. Former professor*

      I’d also add that you will get way more out of a masters’ program if you believe that (1) you will make mistakes because (2) mistakes are a critical part of the learning process, so the advice to pause and really figure this out is important no matter how you move forward here.

    9. Lea*

      Honestly if I were that manager I would be this close to calling the cops preemptively from the way the lw seems obsessively focused on this person!

      The worst thing she possibly could have done is tell some friends about this guy, and the more comes off like a crazy stalker the more likely that word will actually get around that he should be blackballed for real.

      1. Bitte Meddler*

        Unless the OP threatened the manager, there’s nothing actionable here for the cops.

    10. not nice, don't care*

      As someone who is analytical and rarely makes mistakes, I also absolutely depend on rechecking my own assumptions and biases often. Blindly assuming infallibility is not a great characteristic in an employee or a spouse.
      I hope LW can be truly analytical enough to check themselves, but it sounds like as far as their career is going, they have already wrecked themselves by calling out people involved in their field.
      As for making mistakes, hell yeah I own them. I have enough capital to also model acceptance of normal mistakes to junior colleagues who sometimes make things worse by trying to hide or deny mistakes.

    11. JSPA*

      Jumping to just one (out of a constellation) of possible explanations is objectively a mistake. Even if it were the most likely explanation (which it of course isn’t), it would still be one among many.

      So LW, there is one mistake you can recognize, for and by yourself, by application of pure logic.

      Even if you think it’s a 90% chance and the rest of us think it’s a 0.001% to 10% chance (opinions will differ), you are presumably aware that you are not an omniscient being, and you simply cannot ascribe 100% causality based on mere percentages.

      Start from there. And perhaps seek trained outside guidance to further detangle “I tend to only visualize one casual explanation and proceed on that basis, though I intellectually know that there are multiple possible explanations.”

      I tend to function that way, and it took real work to detangle how to proceed in ways that made sense with all the reasonable possibilities, rather than defaulting to one targeted response for the reality that I was most intensely visualizing.

      Sometimes I still have to make a whole dang list, to check if my “obvious” response is going to be way off-base (or upsetting or derailing) in one of the alternative cases.

      Yes, I also have higher degrees. But getting my head around “the clarity of your vision doesn’t prove that what you’re imagining is what’s going on” was worth more than those degrees, both in the workplace and in life.

    12. Tiger Snake*

      And honestly, I like to think I fall in a similar bucket to LW. That’s *why* my go-to answer for questions like this itself is a detailed and methodical as it is:

      “My first job involved work on [thing], which means that errors had a very real chance to result in someone dying. I learnt to be very methodical and analytical, because even though there were extensive peer review processes mistakes could have still been very costly. I take pride in making very few mistakes that I don’t catch myself before submission, and try very hard to learn from those I do so that they aren’t repeated.”

      1. Nodramalama*

        I still think this is way too technical of a definition of mistake. You’ve never missed a deadline, failed to priotisie something, explained something badly, had a miscommunication with instructions, got on badly with a coworker, used the wrong language? A mistake is not just, you ticked an incorrect box which led to the wrong shipping amount. It can also be an error in judgment, a misreading of a situation, a scenario in which you did not act optimally.

        1. Tiger Snake*

          The simple answer to your question – and trying to be vague here – is that my work is not simply ‘ticking a box’. In order to create something to be released that wasn’t going to be fatal, I had to always meet the deadlines and had to understand not just the request but the underlying reason for the request perfectly (what people think they want isn’t what they actually need). Methodical meant methodical from start to finish with people, process and product. It covers all parts that you’re referring to.

          But you’ll note that we’re now having a conversation. My answer was detailed and clear enough that you can ask follow up and expand about what you’re looking for. An interview shouldn’t be the same as me answering questions on a piece of paper. Its a conversation. The interviewers should follow up, the interviewee should be open and engaged so that can happen. And you’ll note that my answer is allowing that to happen, because I’m being clear instead of shutting it down.

          And yes, in the interview, because that’s what you’re now asking; I can certainly talk about times where the need for safety meant that I had to push back on *changed* deadlines because they were just plain unreasonable, and where I’ve had to deal with frustrated coworkers who don’t like being told “no” because they didn’t understand that would kill someone. And I’ve certainly had situations where we’ve had to have several rounds of back and forth to get onto the same page of what the actual need is, rather that understanding immediately.

          None of those I would consider mistakes. Because there was still a usable outcome and no one died. They’re parts where the process has friction, caused by either me or the other party – but recognising and dealing with friction is not a mistake, its life and a part of being a good coworker.

  3. Oof*

    I wonder if when the OP says they do not make mistakes, they mean they do not make mistakes that end up in the finished product. If that’s the case, OP, then you can highlight how you catch issues before they become a problem. Everything else though – please take a breath, let go of your blackball theory, and start your process again fresh.

      1. Domom*

        Ding ding ding.

        The OP seems a bit delusional. It’s odd to think you don’t make mistakes; also it would worry me that the OP would be inflexible. If OP is already doing everything “right” why would OP listen to a boss’s request to change something? OP seems very difficult to coach for sure

        1. Lenora Rose*

          NASA uses checklists and double-checks extensively for EVERYTHING because experts with decades of experience working in life-or-death situations… make mistakes. Making sure there are redundancies and that everyone, no matter who, gets their work checked by a second, third, and umpteenth eye is why we have had so many launches and so few of them went the way the Challenger did.

          1. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

            Yes! Or see the Checklist Manifesto by Dr. Atul Gawande, showing the strong positive impacts of using checklists in the medical setting to catch mistakes! Because even in life or death jobs, humans gonna human!

      2. Archi-detect*

        which is why I would be so put off in an interview- everyone has met someone who doesnt make mistakes, they just happen around them, and if pushed it really isn’t their fault because ___ did ____

      3. iglwif*

        Came here to say this ^

        Someone who thinks they never make mistakes is not going to be good to work with, but someone whose mistakes are always someone else’s fault is worse. (Source: BEEN THERE, DONE THAT)

      4. soontoberetired*

        As someone I worked with always insisted. This person, after a meeting to discuss an issue which was a result of something this person did, said to me when I asked for them not to put in a fix until it was their oncall week – “I never make mistakes”. Yeah, we just spent an hour discussing the screwup you made which we pulled until you fix it…………….

      5. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, this person reminds me of my brother, so I’m unfortunately pessimistic about their chances of improvement. It’s both frustrating and sad.

    1. pally*

      This was my thought as well. Work product errors are caught before the work product moves to the next person.
      Might serve to define what the interviewer means by “mistake”. A mistake one caught and corrected or a mistake one missed and was fixed by someone else. If the latter, how did the OP respond to the situation?

      I would think that the OP could admit to making mistakes that have always been detected via the method the OP uses to conduct their work. Said mistakes never move to the next step.

      Then talk about how they would handle the situation should a mistake ever be found in their work product (things like: thanking the person who found the error, updating their method for how they conduct their work to detect what got by, stepping in to correct the error themselves and not leave it to others, not blaming others or refusing to admit they’d made an error).

    2. No screen name*

      I think it is also possible that the OP never makes mistakes, if they are sufficiently methodical and reflexive. But that may mean that they are slow – there’s a real trade-off there. For many jobs in tech, failing early and often is helpful, because you learn from those mistakes. So never making mistakes is actually not necessarily a plus and may show a lack of flexibility and reluctance to experiment that is not a good fit for the jobs they are seeking.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        I think their definition of mistake is far too narrow. As noted, they made mistakes aplenty in these two letters alone, they just weren’t in the technical part of their field.

      2. Double A*

        Yeah I have students who never make mistakes. They also fail my class because they don’t finish it. That’s unacceptable and a huge mistake.

      3. Antilles*

        “I think it is also possible that the OP never makes mistakes, if they are sufficiently methodical and reflexive and never trying anything new.”
        FTFY. Nobody is perfect at every single thing the first time they do it. If you’re actually attempting to expand your skillset, take on more challenging projects, and learn new things, you are absolutely making mistakes because that’s flat out part of the learning process.

        The only question is whether you have the self-reflection to realize your mistakes and the wisdom to learn from them.

      4. Monster Munch*

        He made a ton of quite large mistakes in the interview and letter to Alison???

      5. Nodramalama*

        We know he makes mistakes because he has made many of them in his own story. A mistake is not just a technical error. It encompasses a whole range of behaviours and interactions.

      6. goddessoftransitory*

        This. Technically speaking, the ideal employee in the LW’s version of things is Bartleby the Scrivener–who never made a single mistake. Because he never did anything and then died!

    3. metadata minion*

      And in that situation, it can often be an important professional skill to learn when it’s more important to send out a final draft that might have a minor typo or two than to delay the work. What errors are no really not something that can ever see the light of day, and what’s not a big deal if you have to go in and fix later?

      I’m a library cataloger. It requires meticulously following complex rules. And yet one of my favorite examples of why we need humans looking at records (rather than the facepalm-worthy tendency of administration to suggest we let AI do it) is that I once found a record that had been edited by the Library of Congress and Oxford University and neither had noticed that “Germany” in the title was spelled with two rs. Because humans make mistakes. We’ve gotten books from major publishers with the wrong cover on them, or where something has clearly gone terribly wrong in the bindery and entire chapters are missing.

      And I have made similarly embarrassing mistakes myself. I once billed someone for $500k in library fines because I put their student ID number into the amount field. And to go back to my original point, after the bursar called me and I apologized profusely and reversed the charge, I put more double-checks in place for my billing workflow. Because a random typo in a catalog record could go decades without anyone even noticing, but I can’t risk billing someone an incorrect-but-still-plausible amount and have the person pay it because they assume they just forgot what it was for and don’t want to be a bother.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        One thing I’ve been trying to do in my organization is to get people used to seeing drafts of things that are still rough. Because it’s better for me to get a sense early on if my approach is missing the mark, rather than spend a lot of time polishing something that doesn’t meet the needs of the person requesting it. At first, it was really difficult. I’d give the explanation of what I was trying to do and why, and we’d still get into wordsmithing. Like, no, for now, just tell me if the structure is right and I’m covering the things you need! But there is a fair bit more openness to this now :)

        1. MigraineMonth*

          In software development, we have a similar problem. We have tools to make user interface mockups *that look like they’re hand-drawn*. This is to keep the users looking at them from 1) focusing on the color of the buttons rather than what the button is supposed to do, and 2) thinking that the mockup is an application/website that has already been developed.

    4. feline overlord's chief vassal*

      This. Does OP use TDD (test-driven development) or BDD or the like? It’s not to everyone’s taste but these are ways to be both methodical and productive. So then the right answer becomes “I handle making mistakes by catching them before they get committed to the repo, so they don’t cause a problem for anyone else.”

      1. MigraineMonth*

        LW could (and should!) talk about TDD or BDD when talking about technical processes, but it really doesn’t work as an answer to “Tell me about a time you made a mistake or something went wrong at work and how you handled it.”

        That question is really looking for the LW to 1) identify a mistake, 2) take responsibility for that mistake, 3) handle he mistake in a professional way, 4) take steps to prevent it in the future. He needs to achieve 1 & 2 to have an acceptable answer, *particularly* if it’s for someone specifically evaluating his soft skills as grandboss was.

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, especially as a mistake doesn’t need to be technical in nature – can be an error in communication, accidentally insulting/alienating somebody, misjudging your audience, whatever.

    5. Ostrich Herder*

      I agree with this! Also, it’s easy in technical fields to think “mistakes” are just “deploying code with a bug in it” and not the broad range of crazy stuff that makes your workday harder.

      On the slim change you see this, OP – there are all kinds of mistakes that a person can make that are totally plausible and reasonable, even for a very meticulous person, and may not even register as “mistakes” to you. Maybe there was a miscommunication, and you worked on something that was a higher priority when really you should have been focused on something else, and you learned that you needed to get really clear information on what was most important. Maybe a project got out of scope because you were really focused on making it the best version of itself, and you learned that sometimes “good enough” really is good enough, because your time and focus are finite. Maybe you disagreed with a colleague because you didn’t have all the information, changed your mind once you knew more, and learned that you should always try to figure out WHY you disagree with someone. None of these are mistakes that make it to a final version of a project, and all of them are things that have other contributing factors (miscommunication, perfectionism, lack of information.) But they’re still mistakes and can still go a long way towards telling your interviewer how you react and learn in the workplace… Which is, of course, why they’re asking about mistakes.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Yup. A mistake can be a thing that was sub-optimal. It doesn’t have to be a real screw-up to qualify as a mistake.

      2. ferrina*

        The mere fact that OP said in his first letter “I don’t make mistakes”, got called out for it (big time), then came back and doubled down on saying he doesn’t make mistakes is……something.

        If he’s not making a mistake in his communication or thinking, then is he just thinking that he is right to argue with the commetariat about whether he is perfect?

  4. ScruffyInternHerder*

    I’m actually a little bit surprised we got an update on this one. There appears to have been little personal growth since the initial letter (which came off as arrogant and snotty and mansplainy), which is why I’m a little surprised over the update.

    1. Silver Robin*

      I am not surprised, actually. In the sense that the arrogance that came through in the first one absolutely tracks with needing to respond to be thoroughly told he was wrong. And now we have another woman who is obviously wrong and needs to be convinced: his wife. Your mansplaining note is entirely on point and it is only a matter of time before Alison is next on his list of “women who should be smart enough to see that I am the smartest bestest guy”.

      It reminds me of the Birthday LW who wanted to be validated for not giving his report her birthday off because it was Feb 29 and there was no Feb 29 that year. He was told that was patently absurd, give her Feb 28 or Mar 1. He came back and doubled down *hard* that he was right and everyone else was wrong. Same vibes here.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I’m not surprised either. I actually read the original letter just now before I read the update and thought to myself, I bet the OP hasn’t learned anything and is going to double-down on his correctness in his update letter. Was disappointed to see I was right, sigh.

        Also agree with your comment about his wife. OP, it’s really disheartening that you treat your wife this way too, as someone who needs to be convinced that you’re right.

      2. SALC*

        I noticed that the manager the LW is arguing with was female, which isn’t that common in software

        As a person who interviews developers (because I am one also) you would be surprised (or maybe not sadly) by how often the only time I get “she/her” pronouns in an anecdote from a candidate is in response to asking about when they gave a peer feedback and the story is like “she didn’t know anything, she didn’t know how to do her job, I had to tell her…” and you have to take dig to try and get a vibe off whether the coworker was incompetent or you’re interviewing a mansplainer

        1. Margaret Cavendish*

          Right, and if you do interview someone like that, how likely are you to take the time? If you have Schrodinger’s Mansplainer there, plus two other candidates who are knowledgeable and empathetic, this guy goes straight to the bottom of the pile. No point in digging into the motivations of a questionable candidate, when you already have two excellent ones to choose from.

      3. Lisa*

        Until LW mentioned a wife, I was convinced it was my ex writing in. And writing to arrogantly defend himself would totally be his MO. So no, this doesn’t surprise me at all.

      4. goddessoftransitory*

        Or the intern who wanted all his teacher’s corrections as “suggestions” because “harsh feedback” hurt his feelings.

    2. Domom*

      It’s an argumentative update. OP had to reply to explain that OP is right (not Alison, not OP’s wife and not the interviewer). It’s the same reason OP wants to reach the linked in contacts; OP doesn’t make mistakes. If OP just explains why they’re wrong, then OP wins. OP doesn’t understand it’s effectively doubling down on a mistake. How insufferable

      1. sparkle emoji*

        It makes me even more puzzled they reached out to Alison in the first place given this pattern of not trusting women.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          It’s admittedly a small sample size, but every piece of advice LW has reported as coming from his wife has been completely correct. Your life might get a lot easier if you listen to her, LW. She seems to have a better grasp on this whole “soft skills”/”not pissing people off” thing than you do.

      2. TWB*

        My ex was like this. I lost track of the number of times I told him “If multiple people around you are all upset with you, at the same time, for the same reason, that is the clue that YOU are the problem, not the rest of us.”

        His responses, to this day are either:

        “Everyone else is just too sensitive/can’t take a joke/needs to lighten up” or

        “If everyone just did what I told them to, the way I told them to do it, I wouldn’t get angry and say crappy things.”

        Both those things equal “Everyone else is in the wrong.”

        It’s like that Principal Skinner scene from the Simpsons where he questions himself about possibly being out of touch, and then determines “No, it’s the children who are wrong.”

      3. Worldwalker*

        It’s interesting that between Alison and the commentariat, not a single person has agreed with him, and yet he keeps insisting that he’s right.

    3. Manic Sunday*

      I was at first, too, until I remembered that people who are this insistent that they never make mistakes and everyone else is out to get them … those people can’t let criticism go unanswered. See: the LW’s compulsion to message the hiring manager and *demand* that they somehow stop the CEO’s [imaginary] blackballing activities.

      1. ferrina*

        Good point.

        And amazing irony that the OP is totally blind to how much of a mistake he is making by reaching out and arguing with everyone. But of course, OP doesn’t make mistakes, he’s just deliberately antagonizing people because… I don’t know, I guess in his mind if he argues long enough then we’ll all see how brilliant he is? It didn’t work in middle school, and definitely doesn’t work as an adult.

      2. Zombeyonce*

        This LW seems like the kind of person who will keep sending in updates showing how they were wronged, but never actually figure out that they’re doing it to themselves. I hope we don’t see another update from them unless it’s that they went to therapy and started to see themselves and the people around them more clearly.

    4. Beth*

      I was astonished also — and the LW definitely shows no signs of the kind of personal growth that the first letter showed he needed (and still needs).

      It’s such an amazing concidence that as soon as any potential employer actually meets this jewel in person, they decide that they will hire someone else.

    5. Richard Hershberger*

      There was a lot of discussion in the comments of the first letter if this could possibly be real, or was it a hoax. I personally go with “real,” because I have known people like this. But nothing in this update would be persuasive to someone in the “hoax” column.

      1. Squishy*

        Having not read the original at first, I read the update and immediately assumed it was a hoax. It feels like watching an episode of cringe sketch comedy but without the comedy.

      2. CupcakeCounter*

        We have a person on my team that is like this. He admits he makes mistakes though, but they are never his fault. Its ours for not training him on every possible outcome. And if it is something he’s been trained on, its not his fault because there are too many possibilities and his workload is so high he didn’t have time to look at all of the possible outcomes and if the team we support had simply done it right in the first place, then he wouldn’t have had to do it at all.

        He wants a promotion.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      Arrogant people like this are always going to come back to explain to you further why all of you are wrong and they are right. Clearly, the commentariat is just not grasping his brilliance and needs it explained to us again, more slowly with even more cringeworthy details.

    7. MissesPookie*

      Agreed. They DO make mistakes- reaching out as they have is a BIG one and shows immaturity. If they weren’t blackballed before, they may be now labelled a troublemaker.

    8. Turquoisecow*

      Same, but it doesn’t seem as though he’s learned anything since then, so if we were going to get an update, this is about what I would expect.

    9. Adam*

      I’m not. He seems to have a desire to PROVE he was right and nothing is his fault, so he has to keep digging that hole deeper and deeper because he’s just so sure he can show us how wrong everybody is snd he’s one who is right. My teenage daughter is very much the same way.

      1. ShovelDoor*

        Right? The thing is, most people grow out of it after their teenage years. But not this chucklehead.

        1. Zelda*

          The comment section is already quite clear that we think this LW has Issues. I don’t think the direct insult improves anything for anyone.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I do rather enjoy when people double down on their stubbornness. Though the most satisfying is when someone is awful but DOES learn from it.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          My all-time favourite posts are the ones where the LW is in the wrong but listens to Alison and the commenters and changes their perspective.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            My favorite type of these is the one where the manager (who wrote in) complained that her older, more experienced report said that she was running her team poorly. I think it was in an exit interview, and not to her face or in front of team members.

            She really struggled a lot to hear that she really was making a lot of mistakes, and not being a good leader. She eventually took some time out of the work force and got therapy and treatment for a drinking problem. I really hope we hear back from her again, and that she’s on a healthier path.

            1. Mysty*

              I think I know the one you’re talking about! The OP felt threatened by the person and basically gave her all the “bad” work while taking the work meant for her and giving it to other members of the team. It took a couple updates because the team was disbanded and let go and she still hadn’t learned anything, but yeah, OP did eventually realize “It’s me, hi, I’m the problem.”

          2. EmmaPoet*

            Same here. I do genuinely like seeing people try to do better, it’s not as amusing as a trainwreck, but it’s very satisfying.

      2. Always Tired*

        Not at all. I saw the headline and my eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas. I knew he was back to double down and continue the train wreck, and I was not wrong.

        Dudes like this also claim to never be emotional like anger and distain aren’t feelings. I can absolutely see how interviewers would recognize it in the first round, and decide that whatever OPs qualifications, they aren’t worth working with such an exhausting personality.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          For my New Year’s Resolution this year, I gave up schadenfreude.

          Oh well, there’s always next year.

          1. Late to comment*

            That’s why you should only give up things for Lent even if you aren’t Catholic. There’s much less commitment that way.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      The quote (probably apocryphal) about the Bourbons after being restored to the post-Napoleon French throne was that “They have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” This seems to apply here.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Yet I somehow don’t think this guy’s going to also have a key role in influencing the clothing fashions of the West, like they did.

        I hope he’s only like this about work stuff and not in his personal life, too. It would be sad for him to have to destroy his marriage to learn a lesson.

    2. Zero Calories*

      Right? And if you can’t learn something (anything!) from being raked over the coals by Alison and 1,300+ commenters, then I fear it’s a lost cause. Sadly.

    3. Specks*

      Yes… my man got raked over the coals with people pointing out all his mistakes in the first letter, and came back with: here are the many mistakes I’ve made since by ignoring all your advice and learning nothing. See, I do not make mistakes, I’m perfect and all these women must be out to get me.

      It would be funnier if he wasn’t one of the many entitled, angry men out there whose story is “this person only gets hired over me because of their color/sex, the world is so unfair and I must lash out and make it go back to the 1950s”. OP, I really hope you actually read all these comments and take them on board this time and learn, instead of getting more angry, defensive, and holed up in your shell. You need classes in emotional intelligence, not graduate school right now.

        1. Kara*

          If someone has an actual answer, I’m interested! I definitely struggle with both of those.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            I improved my soft skills by paying attention to the people who got good results, and didn’t seem to be overly stressed out all the time. I listened to people who told me when my attitude was not appropriate for the situation. It’s been a long road, and I’m still not great at it, but I’m a lot better now. (I had a LOT of room for improvement.)

            Specifically, I noticed the times I thought to myself, “Wow, I would have brushed that off, and said something snarky. AwesomeCoworker responded with kindness, and their interaction went very smoothly! Huh.”

          2. just some guy*

            I think that’s why a lot of us are here! I’ve learned a LOT of interpersonal skills from AAM, Captain Awkward, and their peers.

        2. New Jack Karyn*

          Maybe? I think that soft skills can be learned, even as an adult, but I’m not sure they can be explicitly taught.

          1. Jackalope*

            They definitely can, it’s just that many people don’t know how to teach them or don’t think it’s needed. Just like any other skill, you break it down and figure out what the steps and component parts are and then teach them bit by bit. For example you might try working through how to use kind or respectful vocabulary, or what signs show that someone is on the edge of crying and how to respond to that. You could work through what might cause someone to be upset in a situation and then how to respond to the underlying issue. Or ways to say no and set boundaries that are firm but kind, and won’t blow up relationships you need to maintain. Etc. I’ve had some training in that area in different jobs and volunteer work and some of it was definitely helpful.

        3. Keyner*

          This is really different for different people. Yes to therapy, particularly the grueling kind of therapy that gives you workbooks and homework as you make a conscious effort to reprogram your brain. You also may, as I did, discover that you actually had soft skills all along, but you need to reduce your stress, medicate your mental health issues, eat meals made of plants, and actually sleep at night before your brain chemistry stops getting in your way.

          Establishing psychological safety does it for a lot of people, which is to say that my divorce and subsequent remarriage to a person who does NOT actively hate me have vastly improved my social skills as well.

  5. Stoney Lonesome*

    Oh man! I’m so glad we got an update on this one.

    With all sincerity, if you are reading this OP, maybe invest in therapy. I think it would pay off for you much better than a masters. Your behavior is not the behavior of a well-adjusted person.

    1. Sassy SAAS*

      Yeah, another degree isn’t going to fix any of the interpersonal issues OP clearly has. It’s only going to exaggerate the sense of superiority OP already has. There’s more to being a desirable employee besides ability to do the work, and while OP may excel in their work, working with them seems like it would not be an enjoyable experience. Time to look internally at what you can do to make yourself a better employee, OP.

      Even if the interviewer has mentioned that they wouldn’t hire OP to any of their network, I can’t blame her! Now she’s rejected an applicant who is convinced that she is working to blacklist him from an industry as a whole. I guarantee that hiring manager is more concerned about her safety right now than OP’s employment opportunities.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        That hiring manager is more concerned with about a million other things than with OP. Doing her job, her health, her family, her friends….OP is just a teeny tiny fraction of what she’s dealt with in 2024 and unless she herself is a terrible, terrible person, I doubt is spending any time whatsoever telling all her professional connections about OP.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          I have come across a candidate or 2 over 20 years who I personally would never ever consider for any position I was hiring for.

          And I may have made a comment about one of those candidates, or even other candidates to a friend, a family member or someone in my professional network at some point over the years. But … those comments were always anonymized, with no details about the candidate’s name or other identifying characteristics. They were in the form of anecdotes, like “can you believe someone came to interview for the new company spokesperson job at our medical tech company today wearing a purple bike helmet and clown shoes?” or “oh boy, did I have a bad interview today … the guy was combative and spend the whole time badmouthing his previous employers and ex-wives. He looked so good on paper but … what is wrong with some people”

          Hiring managers have other things to do besides dedicating themselves to destroying the lives of job candidates they choose not to hire. One meeting with one candidate is a blip in a day, week, month, year, lifetime.

          1. SHEILA, the co-host*

            Agree. I can nearly guarantee that the hiring manager, if she’s given any thought at all to this encounter since it happened, maybe told one or two other people about “this guy that claims he’s never made a mistake” as a funny story.

            This guy may not make a lot of errors in his coding and development work, but he’s making them all over the place in his interpersonal interactions and other soft skills.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          I agree that she probably isn’t spending her time doing so, but I don’t think it would make the grandboss a terrible person if she did tell others her experience interviewing LW.

          This isn’t about an established professional lashing out against someone trying to get into the field, it would be someone warning their network about LW’s discriminatory behavior. Remember that grandboss’ company had a hiring team of mostly women; another company might not realize LW’s level of misogyny until after hiring him, which would be detrimental to the company that hired him (which would be liable and would have to take action against his discriminatory conduct) and all of his female coworkers who would have to put up with him in the meantime.

          Of course, that’s unnecessary now. LW contacting people on LinkedIn accusing grandboss of blackballing him is doing all the necessary signaling to his network that no one should touch this candidate with a ten-foot pole.

        3. Ink*

          She *wasn’t* talking about him. If he continues to veer away from obnoxious and toward scary that might change O_O

    2. BeeCee*

      I’m appalled how OP wrote back to AAM.

      OP’s partner is correct on the education may not make OP more employable.

      I pursued graduate level education in a STEM field. The education pays off for some but not for others. Think of the education as a chance to get connected with like-minded people instead of purely learning the hard skills. OP could fail to get connected with people that may lead to opportunities because they’ve a “my way or highway” mentality. In a work setting, plenty of work is done in a team and multiple teams.

      1. SHEILA, the co-host*

        That’s a really good point too. This guy is going to be a terrible teammate, both in coursework and at a job.

        1. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

          Literally just did a full-body shudder at the idea of doing any kind of group project with this person.

        2. Overit*

          He would be a nightmare in any group projrct. And IRL group project = a lot of work life.

        3. JB*

          If you can’t take accountability for what is your responsibility, the good and the bad, then you’re not a good team player. In the update the OP still blamed the interviewer without considering that this may be a pattern based on their own behaviour, an unhealthy dynamic in any kind of relationship and they’re doing it with their wife too.

      2. not nice, don't care*

        I’ve been on multiple hiring committees where the same person applied for each job, including entry level positions. Lots of credentials, lots of experience on paper, but in person just full of themselves and not pleasant to interview, let alone trying to work with them. No amount of additional degrees can counteract that.

        1. BeeCee*

          As someone who worked closely with academia, I confirm how some faculty members were horrible to work with. The culture could be toxic. The faculty unknowingly passed the toxic traits to their graduate students.

          In addition, lots of independent work is involved in the thesis work. The students were encouraged to rebut every single thing, which could be seen as aggressive to some.

          I pointed out to my boss how those people weren’t team players and didn’t adopt new tools for the work. My boss shrugged and said, “It is what it is.” The faculty members have tenure. Addressing my comment does not get their career further.

          Indeed, some people find it very difficult to leave the academia even if they want to.

      3. anonymous anteater*

        came here to say basically this. Having the technical skills is probably not the thing holding the letter writer back, so investing into another degree will not help. Doubling (Tripling?) down on ‘I never make mistakes’ coupled with this bizarre theory about the interviewer makes it appear like the letter writer would be very difficult to work with. You cannot make up for a lack of soft skills with hard skills.

    3. Sloanicota*

      I agree that if you submit these two letters to a therapist and ask for help navigating this situation, they would probably be able to help a lot.

    4. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I was thinking therapy too, but I don’t think that therapy works very well if you think you never make mistakes. If, however, OP, you really want to learn how to improve your soft skills, therapy would definitely be the way to go. And you really do need to improve your soft skills; it seems like, sure, you probably don’t make many technical mistakes, but you definitely have made a whole layer cake of interpersonal mistakes here, as per your two letters. Interpersonal mistakes are just as – if not more so – important as technical ones.

      1. SHEILA, the co-host*

        And actually understand the need for change, which is dubious at this point.

        1. Some Words*

          Oh I don’t know. Some people find the need for a steady paycheck a pretty strong motivator.

      2. Hamster Manager*

        I think OP would reflexively mine therapy for more proof that he’s 100% right 100% of the time. He’s shown a total lack of ability to self-reflect in these letters, no therapist can make someone reflect who doesn’t want to.

    5. underhill*

      To get anything out of therapy you need to start with the baseline desire to work on yourself, and it sounds like OP has zero intention of doing that.

    6. Lenora Rose*

      I’m in the camp of those who think the OP needs to recognize his actual issues before therapy will help. If he approaches therapy with his current mindset, he’s not going to learn and grow, he’s going to be one of those guys who misappropriate therapy terms to explain why they’re right and everyone else stinks; basically himself as he is but with more language to support it.

      1. underhill*

        “my interviewer is a toxic gaslighting narcissist because she told me everyone makes mistakes!”

      2. BeeCee*

        I imagine OP would rage quit the therapy because the therapist wasn’t “analytical enough”.

    7. Anonymouse*

      I agree with therapy 100%. Talking these things out with an unbiased third party is very helpful. I also think that the OP’s letters/actions indicate some neurospicy-ness. The spiraling thoughts, catastrophizing, and rigidity of thought make me think there is something else going on with the OP (ask me how I know).

      I hope the OP takes Allison’s and other’s advice to heart. And that we get another update. :)

    8. sparkle emoji*

      Even career coaching could get him part of the way(I agree therapy is best but as a compromise?) LW, you don’t trust our advice or your wife, so find someone you respect like a career coach and then listen to their input even if you disagree. I’m sorry but you have bad instincts about some of this and could benefit from having a person knowledgeable in your field give you a gut check.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Though Alison is someone very much worth respecting on this issue and he basically dismissed all her advice…

  6. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

    “but also because you’ve made so many of them in this situation and can’t see them — so there are undoubtedly others you can’t see too. It’s worth spending some time thinking about that rather than reflexively denying that it could be true.”


      1. MyStars*

        While the work product itself might be flawless, and necessarily so in some fields (I do like a brain surgeon with a low error rate), the social intelligence needs development. Focus on developing communication skills that will match your technical skills in excellence. Without that, you will never get the chance to demonstrate your quality technical work. in a tight job market, the person who is going to be difficult to get along with is dropped early in the process. I am neurodivergent, and a lot of the soft skills are like a second language to me — and I still “speak” many of them with an accent — but putting work into them has improved my career trajectory.

  7. Savor The Peelies*

    Having recently had to job hunt as a developer, I can tell you two things:
    1. It is, in fact, a hard market out there. The mass layoffs really made a mess of things.
    2. Soft skills are VITAL for a software developer. The stereotype of the lone genius who gets away with being a jerk? Not actually someone people want at their workplace. Learn some humility, get therapy for this perfectionism thing, and then approach interviews with the understanding that there are a lot of qualified devs out there looking for work and soft skills are a good way to make yourself stand out.
    Best of luck. Job hunting is miserable and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, but I’m also not sure right now that I’d wish you as a coworker upon anyone either.

    1. Excel Gardener*

      I wonder if part of the reason they’re latching onto the “blackball” theory is that they’ve never personally experienced a tough job market and so can’t believe that this is what job hunting is actually like for most people. The tech job market over the past 15 years or so until recently has been very unusually good so many developers under a certain age are probably getting their first taste of what a normal job market is like.

      1. Savor The Peelies*

        I can certainly see that happening, having gotten my first two jobs in the tail end of that boom and then having to get my most recent one when it was a little more challenging. It’s a miserable and anxious feeling, so I guess I can understand panicking and latching onto an easy explanation, but also….big oof.

        1. JustaTech*

          Yeah, many of my friends are in Big Tech and back when the job market there was super hot they could be incredibly difficult to talk to about my job hunt in a different field because they simply had no experience with a job market where jobs weren’t thick on the ground.
          They weren’t being rude, they just didn’t get it.

          1. Chili*

            Yup. I used to be an attorney and the legal market in the US (especially markets with many BigLaw firms) went to shambles in 2009 and took a long time to recover. I struggled to even get interviews. My software engineer husband, meanwhile, was contacted by multiple recruiters (including those inhouse to big companies) and didn’t realize that this was not everyone’s Linkedin experience.

      2. OrigCassandra*

        There’s also a lot of fluff in the mainstream and tech press about So Many Jobs Going Unfilled! So Much Opportunity! Come Work In Tech For A Guaranteed High-Paying Job! I don’t recall offhand whether OP is a new grad, but if so, people at the school he went to are likely to have perpetrated similar uncritical boosterism.

        (I talk pretty frankly about boom-and-bust cycles and layoffs in the tech-adjacent courses I teach. It’s horrifying, how many computer-science and engineering students have clearly never heard a non-booster voice before.)

        1. crtchqn2*

          12 years ago when I was in college, the T and E of the STEM field did have this attitude that Tech is always booming and that it was the best field for stability. Added with a superiority complex in men dominate environments, I am not shocked at all that there is a disconnect between the current job market and the attitude that OP has.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          Having lived through the dot-com bubble bursting and graduating right into the Great Recession, all I can say is: HAH.

          Also, I don’t know if this is the case for all fields, but tech job descriptions are just… impossible. “We want to hire you to be our [database administrator, system architect, web designer, web developer, application developer, mobile app developer, and help desk support for our 100-person company]. The pay is [less than any of those individual positions].”

          1. OrigCassandra*

            Oh yeah, I DEFINITELY talk about purple squirrel/unicorn syndrome. “Full-stack developer” is some BS, I tell you what.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              I love the ones that are for a “back-end developer”, but the list of technologies you should be familiar with include full-stack and then some. They leave you wondering what job you’re going to end up in if you are hired.

              (Not that it matters, because your resume will be automatically screened out if you don’t have both keywords “Spring” and “React”.)

      3. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Excel Gardener, that’s an excellent point. I was part of a team handling RIFs some years ago, software engineers included. Many of these men and women were hired during the Glory Days of Telecom, when you could suck at building software but get a generous offer because of the demand. These folks had never experienced a bad job market, and would not accept that the company was losing customers and millions in revenue.

        They also did not accept that their own mediocre performance rating was a deciding factor. A lot of those folks angrily insisted they were targeted because their boss always hated them, their code was superior and therefore embarrassing to the boss/grand-boss, they just kept their head down and didn’t socialize with the ‘popular’ team members, and so on.

        Our outplacement company reported that a lot of our former employees were not getting past the first interview with new employers because they insisted they were fired for being great at their job and showing up their boss, etc. It won’t be a surprise that these folks resisted interview coaching.

        1. IT wars*

          I still deal with fall out from this behavior. We have older engineers who will blame everything on user error or tech support being lazy. More than a few times I’ve had to CC management to have the engineer actually look at a problem we escalate. I don’t care about someone’s ego. If something stops working check yourself and take a look.

      4. Not a lawyer butt*

        Hear, hear.

        Speaking as someone with two master’s degrees and who works in tech, I can definitely tell you that me knowing exactly where my limits are and acknowledging that even methods and analyses can be wrong – and displaying a willingness to learn on the job – were a bigger factor than the two degrees (though they didn’t hurt either, but there is the caveat that I’m not in the US and education is much cheaper here)

    2. Anonym*

      Another voice confirming #1 – good friends who are developers have been talking about how much tougher it’s gotten this past year.

      And your #2 is so important. Soft skills and the ability to take feedback and take in where you can improve are important in every job. There is no job that doesn’t benefit from the person in it being willing and able to learn and improve. And in every job search, you will be up against candidates who have those skills and are open to learning and improving.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        The agency I work for has IT people who are lovely! They are friendly, good at explaining, and helpful. It makes a huge difference, especially as I work in communications, which has become tech-adjacent over the years (web content doesn’t just write itself). So, I need them on my side.

        Soft skills are so important!

        1. IT wars*

          Exactly, it’s easy to by the “haha user R dum” type of tech but the reality is most people are smart but no one can know everything. I had someone on the customer service team, who I worked with regularly because we also provide support for our customer portal, tell me she was really dumb. I reassured her that it wasn’t the case and that she has helped me several times for customer issues because there is no way I can memorize all the industry regulations to give customers the right information and handle the tech issues with a corporate IT. I have found being kind and even joking with people defuses angry people.

          The only thing that will ever get under my skin is someone being needlessly antagonistic. Don’t come at my team because corporate won’t let you use your personal laptop to access our network from a coffee shop WiFi with no VPN needed or even a password.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      Soft skills all the way! We would hire someone with lesser experience and more personal skills! I can train someone quickly on technical skills, but an individual needs to learn soft skills through their own experience.

      1. Justin*

        I honestly hate that they’re called “soft” (just like “soft” sciences) because they are so damn important.

        Signed, a “soft” scientist (education doctorate) whose career has flourished because of “soft” skills (the things that make me a great teacher instead of just a subject expert)

        1. Ophelia*

          Oh, absolutely. As someone in a STEM field who has a “softer” degree (that still required plenty of science and math, but isn’t, like, “pure” science), my career is what it is because I am a quick, adaptable, learner with strong management skills. My ability to build basic climate models has…never come up. LOL.

        2. Katie*

          I’m a “hard” scientist (physicist) that also hates the soft/hard thing, or at least how it’s used. Ironically, in material physics, soft matter is generally more difficult to understand than hard matter. (Think jello vs a rock).
          I always took “soft” sciences to mean that they don’t have hard line easy rules and laws that hard sciences do. Physics is comparatively easy compared to education, because electric charges always behave in a simple, predictable way but the human brain is much more complex and variable. Unfortunately, people often take “soft” to mean “easy.”

          1. Ariaflame*

            Well, at least until you get into the quantum and then it’s down to likelihoods. But yes, I find solving physics problems much much easier than the ‘soft’ stuff because it’s much more clear cut.
            I’m still working on my soft skills, which alas I did not inherit from my maternal grandfather who was excellent at them.

            1. JustaTech*

              As a biologist who in college caught years of (well meaning and friendly) ribbing about how biology was a “soft” science.
              Yeah, it’s “soft” because it doesn’t have a bunch of rigid equations like physics. It’s a lot less soft when your study subject bites you (lizards).

              (Obligatory XKCD 1520 “Degree-Off”)

          2. LCH*

            this is a great analogy. soft skills are freaking difficult to acquire if you don’t naturally have them.

        3. Not Just an Admin*

          I hate this too. I teach school leavers and always tell them that they are not “soft” skills, they are “essential” skills. And they can be taught to some extent as I teach them. How to play nicely with others, time management, organisational skills. It’s about employability.

          I wouldn’t hire this guy. I bet he is patronising, arrogant and radiates arrogance in interviews. He us blackballed himself.

      2. Savor The Peelies*

        Yeah, I can’t speak from a hiring side, but I’ve gotten 2/3 (and potentially 3/3) of my jobs over people with more experience and technical know-how, because I’m a largely pleasant person and people don’t find themselves groaning internally at the thought of working with me every day.

        1. TheAvidPedestrian*

          In my previous field of property management, I zoomed up the ladder from “office aide” of a small subsidized property to site manager of a much larger property and regional trainer for the parent company *because* I had decades of front-line customer service experience and the ability to explain sometimes complicated gov’t requirements in a way lay-people could understand. In my new field (HR compliance with a tech company) I am the only person on my team who is NOT being *required* by my manager to run my email communications through CoPilot…again, because I didn’t start out in tech like my colleagues did. I’m “encouraged” to use it still, but not REQUIRED. And my manager has said on multiple occasions that she’d put me forward for a promotion into management based on my people skills, because learning the tech stuff for the job can be done much more easily than over 20 years of customer service skills I already have.

        2. NotJane*

          Exactly! I have a ton of routines and processes to keep me on track with my “hard” skills because I know I can easily make mistakes (thanks, ADHD!) but I joke that my “soft” skills keep me employed. I’m an upbeat person, I don’t create drama, I help lighten the load for my extremely busy and stressed bosses, etc.

        3. Margaret Cavendish*

          >>OP is right (not Alison, not OP’s wife and not the interviewer)

          …nor the hundreds of people who have commented trying to help him. Everyone else in the entire world is wrong, and that’s just the way it is apparently.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            In the original letter, I wrote that the OP should look into being a Mad Scientist, because that’s exactly the mindset shown in movie/TV versions of the lone genius tampering in God’s domain, while every single person he knows tells him this is a terrible idea.

            The fact that it is, without exception, ALWAYS a terrible idea never seems to hit.

    4. many bells down*

      Yup. A friend of mine recently had to let one of these types go. He would berate people when they didn’t do things “his way”, despite them having more experience with the codebase than him. He was especially difficult with one of the female senior programmers, and when she told him not to yell at her, he went to HR and said she was “bullying” him.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Also? We need to get away from the idea that if you’re technically competent but a horrible coworker you are still “good at your job.” You are not, in fact, good at your job. The whole “brilliant asshole” thing needs to die.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          I’ve worked with a lot of developers, and the ones who are “brilliant assholes” are generally not as brilliant as they think they are either. If we can’t understand your explanation, it’s not because you’re brilliant and we aren’t. The actual brilliant tech people also shine with the ability to communicate, never condescend, and are always learning from others (and their own mistakes).

          1. gmezzy*

            This this this. And also they often write code in isolation, which can mean that other devs can’t pick up the work afterwards. I’m dealing with this right now, where a skilled but hard to work with principal dev left the team. His code was very elegant and technically good, but it’s hard for new team members to get into it and parse out what he did. We’re likely to refactor a lot of the slickest work he did just for that reason. If he’d been a better team player earlier, we would be able to move faster now.

            1. CommanderBanana*

              Yupppppp. And the thing is, I’ve found out that a lot of those types of people are not even actually that good at the technical part of their job. They’re just good at making people think they are by being condescending and so difficult to work with that they get left alone. I’ve had a few of those coworkers leave and we found out that they weren’t actually doing that much work or what they did was unusable.

          2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

            Yep. At my current job what got my grand boss to recommend that I (as an IC) contribute to the presentation to the CEO (at a company that narrowly missed being Fortune 100) wasn’t my tech skills but my skill at presenting and tailoring the material to the audience (especially in a way that acknowledges non-technical people are just as smart as technical people).

            1. MigraineMonth*

              I’m always a bit shocked when a non-technical person thanks me for “dumbing something down” for them. I’m tailoring my explanation and leaving out details that don’t matter to them, not explaining it like they’re six.

              “We can make that a free-text field, but that will make reporting on the data very difficult” is the level of detail the person who makes decisions based on the reports needs to know. Just like I want them to tell me “we need to collect X data” instead of dropping a 20-page document on me whenever there’s a change to regulatory requirements!

              1. ThursdaysGeek*

                I really don’t like the term “dumbing down” because I’m not smarter than the person to which I’m explaining something technical – we just have different areas of expertise.

          3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

            Unfortunately some people view obfuscated code as job security. If nobody else can understand it, they think they’re irreplaceable.

          4. MigraineMonth*

            I’ve only known one “brilliant jerk”, and they were actually friendly and pretty easy to work with. They just had zero political savvy and said their exact opinion of managerial decisions. They were good enough at other soft skills and on the technical side that they kept their job, but their foot-in-mouth syndrome definitely kept them from ever being promoted to management or allowed in any meetings with customers.

          5. IT wars*

            I have a degree in IT. The most useful class I took in college was public speaking. The professor had a guy go, “I don’t need this class. I’m going to code”

            The professor said, “the most Valuable coder will be the one who can translate geek to corporate and back again.” If a coder can’t translate for their leadership team then you will have some executive fall for a vendor’s buzzwords.

          6. Nameless*

            “The actual brilliant tech people also shine with the ability to communicate, never condescend, and are always learning from others (and their own mistakes).”

            This is so true, and is why (in my experience) the real brilliance in any tech org is all on the Product team.

        2. H.C.*

          Zero tolerance for “brilliant jerks” is one of the few key points I applaud from the (in)famous Netflix Culture slideshow deck – hopefully the company actually walks the walk on this too.

    5. iglwif*

      Yep. I was laid off from a tech-adjacent job earlier this year and have had ZERO luck finding anything new–which I have to believe is some combo of the tough job market literally everyone is talking about and my lack of up-to-date job-hunting skills. It sucks and it’s frustrating and demoralizing, but it doesn’t mean someone’s personally sabotaging my job search.

        1. iglwif*

          Maybe someone in the industry has discovered that I’m not a big fan of AI and is telling everyone O_O

          (This is also a joke) (But only the telling people part, it is true that I am not a fan of AI)

          1. Freya*

            Don’t get me started on the people who uncritically want to put AI into positions of control over things that need checks and supervision!

            Like the dude who suggested that we should get AI to do payroll because that way he’d get paid on a public holiday when the accounts department isn’t working… without taking into account that banks don’t do business transfers on public holidays, so he wouldn’t get the money anyway, and any AI strict enough to be safe to give even a modicum of control over finances wouldn’t have accepted his timesheet with the errors on either! And also, what AI the accounting software currently has (which isn’t true AI so much as pattern matching software) can’t tell the difference between BP (fuel) and BPay (bills like electricity and other utilities) in the bank feed, and continues to suggest accounts that are obsolete in the auto-fill nearly a year after the last time they were correctly chosen by a human!

            1. iglwif*

              ::DEEP SIGH::

              And that’s not even getting into the horrifying environmental impacts of adopting AI tools on a large scale.

      1. Savor The Peelies*

        Fingers crossed for you! I was laid off last year and it was so miserable to job hunt for so long. Really hope something good turns up for you soon.

    6. oof*

      I’ll amend that too: the market is flooded with competent developers and then some. NO ONE has to put up with your attitude anymore. It is not a neutral characteristic nor is it some sort of marker of high intelligence. It is a negative.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I’ve never seen a job market tight enough that LW could get hired at a tech company. Maybe he could bluff non-technical people into thinking he’s just so gifted he never makes mistakes, but that’s completely out of touch with how developers see themselves and their work.

        Relevant XKCD: https://xkcd.com/2030/

    7. AB1*


      Was able to catch up with a family member who is in tech and wowza….the recent layoffs and the imploding of that 1 bank in California spooked folks, ALOT. It became incredibly competitive overnight. Family member talked about their general game plan if they were laid off or they needed to jump ship. Unsurprisingly, it included networking and not burning bridges, aka using soft skills…

    8. The Other Sage*

      2. So much this! I feel that I could work with a mediocre coworker who respects me, wile I know I couldn’t with a competent one who is condescending. The first one can and will most probably grow, the second one would be a waste of my potential and of my sanity.

    9. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I am not in the software field, but generally my understanding is that the successful “lone genius who gets away with being a jerk” is usually less of an actual jerk and more someone who has enough experience and skills that they are comfortable with enforcing some reasonable boundaries – things like “you are not paying me for on-call, so you do not get on-call”. A lot of people find push-back “rude” or “abrasive” even when it’s really really not! That is not the same as “no soft skills”.

      1. gmezzy*

        That’s certainly some people, but there are others who are good technically but terrible at collaboration. This can be good for the short term, but over time the code base becomes something that others can’t work with.

      2. Venus*

        The “lone genius jerk” as a strong employee was very much a thing 20+ years ago when tech was newer and a lot of them were self-taught. Thankfully all the ones I’ve known over the years have retired, specifically the last one retired three years ago. Sadly for the jerks of the world and thankfully for the rest of us, there are a lot more people who have strong skills.

        1. JustaTech*

          Yeah, there was a whole book about “lone genius jerk” tech employees (The Naked Coder on the Third Shift), but among other things, the move to open offices means that one’s ability to get along with the people sitting around them is much more important than it was when everyone had an office that they shared with maybe one person.

          I’m not a fan of open offices for a lot of reasons (hello COVID), but if you have one, then you really do need to lean more heavily on “can get along with other people” as one of your hiring criteria.

          1. Moose*

            LOL wait are you talking about The Nudist on the Late Shift? If so, this is the most Not Wrong incorrect book title ever. Cuz, you’re not wrong. That is basically the book title. It’s also… not.

    10. Double A*

      I’m a teacher and the absolutely worst quality a student can have is perfectionism. They will plateau at a random ability level and then never learn again until they get help with the underlying issue causing their perfectionism.

      1. youragonyaunt*

        I did not originally go to therapy for this but spent a lot of time unpacking with my therapist how my need to be seen as ‘the smart kid’ in childhood had carried over into the workplace and my dislike of being challenged by my work or making mistakes at work because I was absolutely convinced that a single mistake was going to tank my career and make all my co-workers hate me. I’m still not fully there yet but I am getting a lot better at admitting when I don’t know something (“can I double check that/look into that and get back to you?” has become a staple in my work lexicon) and I only have the occasional minor freakout over mistakes, instead of paralyzing spirals like I used to have.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        And the pressure they put on themselves can be unhealthy!

        When I was a trainer for new employees, I worried the most about the perfectionists.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        I’m worried my nephew is developing this. He’s so smart, but he melts down when he gets something wrong, and I’m not sure how to encourage more of a growth mindset.

        1. I Have RBF*

          As a recovered perfectionist, it’s hard, but not impossible.

          The thing is to change how you view imperfection. Is it a catastrophe, a moral failing, or something that unmakes you? The answer should be “No”. Getting yourself to the point where you are willing to fail then fix it is the hardest part.

          Getting to the point where you can say “I’ve done my best to fix the obvious errors, and that’s good enough for this point in time, it’s time to turn it in.” is another milestone. I still fell a pang of guilt when I have to back down from something and say “It’s good enough for now, I’ll fix more when it comes up later.” But I can do it.

    11. JB*

      Big Bang Theory to a degree deconstructed the socially unaware genius trope, Sheldon gets fired in the third episode because of how he talks about his new boss unaware he’s talking to his new boss (he gets the job back, but it’s implied to be because his boss has a crush on his mother, who was visiting in the episode, rather than genuine development on Sheldon’s part), and both he and Howard are far more familiar with the university HR representative than she would ever want. In the last season when Sheldon needs support from his intellectual peers he has problems because of how many he’s annoyed through his blunt and patronising manner.

      You don’t need to be overly social, but socially aware takes you far.

    12. Tiger Snake*

      ” The stereotype of the lone genius who gets away with being a jerk? Not actually someone people want at their workplace”

      I know of exactly ONE person who got away with that. In a cast of literally thousands of developers.

      Except, when you say ‘genius Jerk developer’, you don’t mean ‘like MD House’, you mean: ‘When management tells him he has to dress nicely and wear a tie, he puts on the t-shirt that has a tie painted on the front for that day. When they told him to wear shoes instead of crocs, he said “No, I don’t think so.”‘.

      The reason HE got away with it when no one else did was because his list of achievements in IT are of the level he has his own wiki page. A LONG wiki page. THAT’S what being the genius IT person who doesn’t have to follow the dress code means.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yes, this. I’ve seen talented developers get away with saying “no” to management directives or wearing sweatpants to customer meetings. Being rude to QA or acting like you’re God’s gift to coding would not fly, though I imagine the code reviews would get downright vicious.

  8. T*

    I feel like it is also ironic that he feels so hurt that she might be talking to her own connections about a bad experience she had, but that immediate reaction seems to be to respond by talking to all her connections about the bad experience they think they had with her. She at least would not be operating on conjecture.

    1. M*

      I couldn’t help but notice this too. LW, I hope that you do reflect on some of the things Alison and the commenters are saying, even though they are hard to hear. But if nothing else – drop this idea of continuing to reach out to her connections.

    2. Artsygurl*

      I also find it so odd that he thinks the director would spend time and capital worrying about someone she had a brief encounter with months ago. I am sure the OP is basically a non-entity to her, she probably does not remember his name and could walk past him on the street and not even realize. It might sound mean, but I doubt he is even worth blackballing unless he did something more egregious then he mentioned in his two letters. He massively flubbed his interview by being snide, arrogant, and dismissive, but she works in tech so I doubt if he is the first nor the past candidate to do this to her. Now if she finds out he has been contacting HR, reaching out to her colleagues on LinkedIn, or going down some unhinged conspiracy rabbit hole that she is responsible for him not getting jobs then yes he might get blackballed because frankly this behavior is so far outside the boundaries of normalcy, I would worry about his ability to function in the workplace.

      1. Alan*

        Yes! It takes a particular kind of arrogance to assume that people are spending energy blackballing you. Many years ago I was in therapy for anxiety and my therapist said something both encouraging and a little insulting: “People aren’t thinking about you as much as you think they are. They’re thinking about themselves.” The interviewer moved on to other stuff immediately, and certainly didn’t take the energy to carry on some sort of vendetta.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          My roommate has anxiety and will ruminate about something she’s said or done and how I must be judging her. I have to remind her that I’m actually a very self-centered person and didn’t even notice whatever it was.

        2. J_crane*

          I would like to use the phase I learned on here, “you are letting them live rent free in your head.”

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Or maybe a part of himself DOES realize that, but acknowledging that this director has not spent an iota of time or thought on him is more devastating to him than the notion that she’s spending tons of time and thought blackballing him. The latter means he’s Super Special and needs lots of spotlighting because of his power. The former means he just messed up. Which he never does.

  9. Dumpster Fire*

    OP, you’re not employable at this point because you’re arrogant, have a bad attitude, and nobody will want to work with you. A master’s degree is not going to change any of that, unless it makes you more arrogant.

    By the way, if you have to pay for a master’s in any sort of technology, you’re not nearly as good as you think you are. Listen to your wife.

    1. Savor The Peelies*

      Ooh, this is a good point. I can point anecdotally to exactly one developer I know who was helped by getting a master’s degree….because he was getting caught in automated filtering because he got his bachelor’s before computer science was a major that existed at his university, so it was showing up as the wrong thing in the system and getting him binned. Having that on his resume helped, but I do believe his employer paid for it.

    2. Sally Fieldmouse*

      if you have to pay for a master’s in any sort of technology, you’re not nearly as good as you think you are

      Do you mind explaining what you mean here? I just started my first year undergrad in a tech-related program so this sort of thing is probably useful for me to know.

      1. JP*

        Presumably that someone worth their salt would be able to get employer assistance to pursue further education, rather than paying out of pocket.

        1. Judge Judy and Executioner*

          While I was in an IT department my employer paid for 80% of my masters degree through their tuition reimbursement program. I would have never gone back to school without having a substantial portion covered because I couldn’t afford it.

      2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        Either you get a research/teaching stipend from the university, or your current employer covers your tuition and you go to classes in the evening & on weekends.

        If you can’t get either of those things, then the university or your employer don’t think you’re that great.

        1. Excel Gardener*

          I’ve never heard of masters students getting stipends that fully covered tuition, even at prestigious programs. PhDs are a different matter.

          1. AFac*

            It depends on the field, the department, and the university. If the ‘working degree’* for the field is a Masters, they’re more likely to support students. My place offers support for Masters students for a set number of years. There are also some universities that don’t like offering terminal Masters and so won’t support students.

            (*A ‘working degree’ is the level that most companies in a field like their workers to have for the majority of their jobs that aren’t very entry level and have some independence and decision-making component . You can also limit your job possibilities if you have a degree higher than this level because companies might assume you’re too experienced for their job offerings.)

          2. Rose*

            My husband got all costs covered and a stipend for his masters in computer science. I know a lot of people who have in science and engineering fields.

          3. Prof*

            This. Universities I was a grad student at actually explicitly did NOT support Master’s students even with Teaching Assistantships, much less fellowships. You had to be a PhD student (this was biology related). So, your mileage may vary….

            1. Monster Munch*

              Yep. Just for additional info, I work in science and in my field you would ~always be paid for a PhD, and only sometimes for a Master’s.

          4. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

            I think (at least back in my day) the large state universities had many masters students as TAs, RAs, and AAs. My husband was an administrative assistant in the Dean of Engineering’s office while getting his masters. It was also possible to be a TA in like math where there were so many more undergraduate students than there were graduate students.

          5. MisterForkbeard*

            I’ve got a couple relatives that did this for their, actually – but it was ~15-20 years ago. Times might be different now. But then they were both double-major summa cum laude for their bachelor’s degree, so they certainly had the credentials for it.

          6. Katie*

            My tuition was covered during my masters with a teaching assistantship. The stipend was pretty low, but it also covered full in state tuition. I went a local state university for physics. Technically, they only covered the in-state portion, so anyone coming from out of state had to pay the difference.

          7. Higher ed*

            It depends on the field. I have a fully covered humanities MA and got a teaching stipend. I would, generally speaking, not recommend paying for a humanities MA.

            1. Blank*

              Same, my humanities MA was stipended and came with TA work, enough that I was able to live away from my parents and pay down the principal on some of my undergrad loans.

          8. Zero Calories*

            My son is currently getting his Masters covered at a prestigious university (with a top 3 program in his field) through a graduate assistantship program 100% free. Not only is his tution fully covered but he gets a fairly generous housing/living allowance. I mean, he’s not getting rich but he’s able to pay rent and eat. He teaches two classes in his undergrad specialty in exchange for this. This is definitely a thing.

          9. Charlotte Lucas*

            I got one for an aMA in English (Lit). Almost everyone in my program was a TA or RA, and we worked for the university for tuition waivers. We also got stipends, because homeless, underfed grad students are a PR nightmare.

            Who do you think teaches all those Freshman Comp and Intro to Lit classes?

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              *an MA

              But I acknowledge that an academic degree and a professional one are two different animals when it comes to who is willing to pay for what.

          10. Annie*

            Depends on the institution. I got a stipend that covered my master’s and then some, but this was a while ago.

        2. yo*

          Let’s not act like everyone in master’s programs who isn’t fully funded is a dumb chump, though – plenty of competent people pay for master’s degrees and derive substantial benefit from them. Not all, but plenty.

          1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

            That’s not what I was implying. It’s certainly not a binary.

            And there is absolutely nothing wrong, and a whole lot right, with getting education just for the sake of education.

            I was just explaining the comment about “you’re not as hot as you think you are”.

          2. Flor*


            I did a master’s in IT (one specifically geared to people whose undergrad was in different fields) after graduating with an undergrad in English lit in the middle of a recession. I have now been working as a developer for the last decade thanks to that master’s.

            1. Flor*

              I would add that I do think, in this instance, the LW’s wife is right and a master’s won’t make him more employable; I just object to the blanket statement that anyone who pays for a master’s in tech must be bad at it.

      3. Jules the 3rd*

        It really, strongly, depends on the field and the school. My experience from watching about fifteen CS / math students seek advanced degrees: public schools will subsidize or cover MSs, many private schools will not.

        Employers may support MBAs but not usually MS. Employers will usually cover certifications and language classes. PMP (project management) is a very useful certification, and it is full of soft skills, but no programmer actually *wants* to be a project manager.

        (I PM’d all my projects in grad school because I was least opposed to the role, and the teams were so relieved that someone else was doing it that they actually all did their tasks, on time! It was a miracle.)

      4. Pescadero*

        …at tier 1 research institutions – grad students in tech degrees generally do not pay for graduate school. It’s covered by funding from the adviser and the student working as a research or teaching assistant.

        When I was a student in engineering – I did not know a single US based engineering grad student that was paying for their graduate degree. 100% were completely funded.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          I know a few people with MSs in tech fields from Columbia, Georgetown, Stanford, Duke: All were student funded. There were some tuition discounts at Duke but no stipends.
          I know a ton more people with MSs in tech fields at public universities, in CA, NY, NC, VA. US students generally got free tuition + a stipend.

          Check your sample pool. It may be biased.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      And why pursue an MIS or other master’s in technology unless you’re planning to pursue a management track, which the LW clearly disdains?

    4. londonedit*

      Spot on that absolutely no one is going to want to work with this guy. No one wants to hire an arrogant, condescending person who genuinely believes they’ve never made a mistake in their life. Can you imagine? It’d be hell.

    5. Excel Gardener*

      “By the way, if you have to pay for a master’s in any sort of technology, you’re not nearly as good as you think you are.”

      Um this has not been my experience or the experience of many people I know in tech. I know good PhDs are often funded, but I’ve never heard of someone getting a funded masters.

      1. Dumpster Fire*

        I know of literally dozens of people (friends, colleagues, classmates) who had their master’s degrees in engineering, computer science, and math paid for by the companies that funded their professors’ (advisor/chief investigator) research efforts. And, in most cases, that included a stipend to pay for living expenses.

        IMO, if you need to go into debt to get a grad degree in one of those fields, you’re much better off getting a job and eventually either convincing your employer that a master’s would be worth the cost to them; or realizing that you’re making a decent living with your bachelor’s degree and that’s OK too.

    6. anonymouse*

      Yeah, non-technical person who has worked in tech here–LW’s wife is right. I think the only time an advanced degree is helpful in the tech space is if you’re gunning for C-suite.

      1. Excel Gardener*

        That might be true for most devs, but I’m not sure this is true across the board. For instance, a graduate degree is very helpful and almost required in data science (as distinct from data analytics). I’ve also heard it can be helpful if you want to work on the cutting edge in certain specialties.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          Came here to say this! Most data science jobs I’ve had require at least a master’s, and usually about half of us have a PhD.

      2. MisterForkbeard*

        I’m not sure I’d agree with this. There are a few places where it can be genuinely very useful, especially in the data sciences field. I’ve also seen this be very useful in other complicated fields like software and tech security, or if you want to focus on something like privacy technology.

      3. Jules the 3rd*

        LW’s wife *is* right, but not because an advanced degree is only helpful in C-suite.

        I know a ton of people with BS / MS / PhD in comp sci or math, and it’s helpful if:
        – you want to teach
        – you want to architect
        – you want to drive standards and strategy across an industry, not just one company

        LW does not need an MS to stand out for developer jobs.

        The Internet Architecture Board currently has 13 members, 7 with advanced degrees, plus Russ White with 30 years experience and a lot of patents.

      4. MigraineMonth*

        I disagree. An advanced degree is pretty much required if you want to work in research or academia.

        It probably isn’t going to help LW land a regular developer job, though, unless he figures out soft skills and learns how to network.

    7. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

      Well, I got a masters, but then again CS was a total career pivot for me. Having that definitely helped me get a dev job.

      Someone in a reply to a different comment suggested this guy get therapy for his perfectionism. But he’s not a perfectionist, he’s delusional that he’s incapable of mistakes.

  10. Astronaut Barbie*

    Anyone else think the wife is trying nicely to talk him out of paying for a masters degree because she knows its not his education that’s holding him back, but rather his attitude and superiority complex?

    1. Kitano*

      Yea, I’ve never heard of tech being a field that requires a master’s in the first place – it’s one of the last holdout sectors where experience truly can substitute for a higher degree, especially if the company has proprietary systems workers need to specialize in (AWS, Azure, etc.)

      I’m sure this OP has many redeeming qualities, but they are living life with their head in the sand and it’s got to be frustrating for their loved ones to watch.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      It’s also my experience that a masters in Tech isn’t all that valuable. Experience easily trumps it and tech is all about the next reinvention of the wheel.

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yup. And receiving a master’s degree will only add to his superiority complex. (Signed, someone who has an Ivy-league master’s degree in a totally obscure subject that I like to mention randomly when I do something stupid or when someone comments about how smart I am. Like, if I manage to figure out how to get some piece of computer equipment working and someone comments that what I did was brilliant, I’ll say, “Well, you know, I do have a master’s degree in three-legged racing from Princeton, so obviously I’m smart!”)

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        Haha, whenever I do anything patently stupid (like turning on the faucet while my own [clothed] arm is directly under it…), I look the other person in the eye and cheerfully say “I have a doctorate!!”

        1. MigraineMonth*

          There’s a College Humor “gameshow” called Well, Actually where geeks compete to be the most pedantic about nerdy subjects.

          The last question is about real life (e.g. “Which of these foods will not go bad if left out of the refrigerator?”). The person who answers the most geek culture questions correctly rarely gets the practical question correct.

          1. Florence Reece*

            This is the most Um, Actually thing to do so I can’t resist but I do apologize:

            Um, actually, CH is now Dropout and the show is called “Um, Actually.” (Part of the bit is that you have to ‘um, actually’ before your response. Sorry again for my lack of restraint.)

            The real life questions at the end are always great. The geekiest contestants are the least prepared for sure lol.

            1. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

              Darn, your answer was more comprehensively correct than mine. I get no points.

            2. MigraineMonth*

              Lol, both true and contextually perfect. Shiny point for you!

              (Shiny points count exactly the same as regular points, they’re just ineffably different.)

      2. AngryOctopus*

        I had a joke with a friend in the lab—he couldn’t snap together the plastic racks we used on the bench top. He jokingly said “I have a PhD from Harvard. Why can’t I do this??”. I held out my hands, he gave them to me, I snapped them together, we looked at each other, and I said “who’s got a degree from Harvard NOW??”. The next day on my wall appeared a photocopy of his degree with his name scratched out and mine written in. I treasured it and we still joke about it.

        1. amoeba*

          “And this is why I have a PhD” is certainly a phrase I’ve used a lot (ironically!) in real-life situations like that one… (also, this now sounds horribly braggy still, but well – in my field, pretty much literally everybody has one, so not really a thing to brag about, anyway!)

    4. davethetrucker*

      I’m a big fan of the wife. My sense in the first letter was that she knows whom she married and exactly how to handle him. This was confirmed in the second letter. She’s got finesse. He doesn’t even see what she’s doing. Major props.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Unfortunately, it seems this poor woman can lead him to the water of reality, but he still won’t drink any.

  11. Ari*

    Or…everyone else can pick up on your arrogance in believing that you’ve never made a mistake. I wouldn’t hire someone with that attitude, because they are not teachable. You’re doing this to yourself, LW.

  12. CityMouse*

    I just read this going “Oh, no”. I seriously doubt LW was blackballed for a bad answer in an interview, but what they’re doing now can definitely get them on many “do not hire” lists. Any job seeker out there, this is a cautionary tale.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Yeah, the idea that the interviewer cared enough about that answer that they are calling all their contacts to talk about it is ridiculous. That was probably one of 10 interviews, and the only memorable discussion was with the selected candidate.
      This is a bad case of Main Character Syndrome.

        1. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

          For sure. He’s dug himself in and just keeps digging. As a professor of mine once said to a guy who was getting deeper and deeper into a sexist, nonsensical argument that was not even responsive to the question the prof had asked: “Perhaps you might consider putting down the shovel.”

        2. MigraineMonth*

          She won’t have to. He’s contacting her entire network with nonsensical complaints just because he didn’t get a job he wanted!

        3. M*

          *Particularly* if he starts contacting her random LinkedIn connections. I’m gonna guess a roughly 50% hit rate on the people he speaks to promptly calling up Grand-Boss to get the fun ranty gossip.

        4. Snoodence Pruter*

          Yes! I’m tearing my hair out here. LW has to STOP. The idea that this woman would have cared enough to blackball him after one bad interview is fairly surreal. She didn’t hire him, moved on and probably barely gave him a thought from that day onward. But if he keeps harassing her and her connections with demands that she stop doing something she never *was* doing? That’s the kind of thing that she might actually start talking about. It’s abysmal behaviour, and I would never, ever hire someone who’s this inclined to imagine malice out of nowhere and escalate situations beyond all reason. Imagine the havoc he could wreak as an employee if someone above him made a decision he didn’t like.

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        ^^^this. I am a hiring manager, and one time about 2 years ago some dude was pissed that we didn’t hire him (he had, like, 15 years experience applying for a job requiring 1. 2-3 yrs experience and 2. was an entirely different job from what his resume showed indicating that he did even know what job he was applying for).

        He replied back to us: You must either be insane or stupid.

        Now, I remember the reply, but I forgot his name in about half a day with all the other interviews. I am sure he thought he told us off, but we rolled our eyes and went on with our day. No one for even a minute thought about him beyond that.

        1. Tio*

          I know someone who tried to start a fistfight with an employee of mine at a past job. I would never hire them, and I have warned *companies I’m at* that I would not stay on if he were hired, but that’s about as far as it goes. I wouldn’t email a bunch of places about him. And I hate him A LOT.

          1. JustaTech*

            The two people on my very private “do not re-hire” list are the two knuckleheads who got in a fist fight with *each other* in a way that very nearly scuttled the opening of an entire site, and were utterly unrepentant about it.
            And those are *former employees*, not candidates!

            Of all the candidates I’ve interviewed that we didn’t hire the only thing I remember about any of them was that you shouldn’t take a candidate to a really exciting restaurant for lunch because everyone will spend all their time looking around and not talking to the candidate.

        2. GrumpyZena*

          This is what I came to say:

          Dude, that woman forgot your name the moment she left the room.

    2. Clearance Issues*

      yeah I’ve seen so many “they have the technical skills but weren’t great in the interview” interviews that they blend together. If they reach out after for feedback, that’s one thing, but reaching out and assuming you’re being blackballed when it’s a tough market and you lack people skills? NOW you’re on the “do not hire list.”

    3. Helen Waite*

      I’d be surprised if interviewers didn’t add people to an internal Do Not Hire list, but it usually stays internal.

      At worst, the OP is the topic of the interviewer’s turn during a round of Funny Interview Stories with no names being given, if names are even remembered.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        There’s only one person I ever put in the effort to reach out and warn others about and he truly was a mess. Spent the entire interview staring at my norks and claimed he’d been unjustly fired twice for ‘false claims of harrassment’.

        Better believe I told my mates about that guy.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yup. None of my hiring manager colleagues are going to call me to tell me about someone giving a bad answer to an interview question. A number of them are going to tell me about someone who is accusing them of blackballing them and badmouthing them in the industry. The first is a normal part of interviewing; the second is kind of batshit.

    5. Bumblebee*

      All I could think of reading this update was the episode of Friends where Chandler is paranoid that Kathy is sleeping with her co-star in a play, to the point where he accuses her of it. She gets mad at the lack of trust, he does some self-reflection, and goes back a few weeks later to apologize:

      “Well, good news, she wasn’t sleeping with him!” ….She is now.

      OP, the grandboss was NOT talking about you to her field after your original interview. However, after all the contact after, she very well may be now.

  13. Ann O'Nemity*

    The LW’s mistakes are piling up! I’m just worried they lack the self-awareness and humility to take any constructive advice at this point.

    1. RunShaker*

      +1000000…LW you are making mistake after mistake on what you’re doing and not fixing it at all. The director (grand boss), hiring manager, or anyone for that matter are talking about you. You are not being hired due to your soft skills and you’re not following Alison’s advice. There’s nothing else to tell you that hasn’t already been said by Alison and rest of commenters.

    2. Beth*

      No sign of it in the first letter, no sign of it now. I suspect the letters were written in the expectation of being told that he’s being treated badly and is totally wonderful and entirely right in everything and that it’s everyone else who sucks.

    1. Kiv*

      Not the biggest fan of assuming someone is neurodivergent because their behaviour is so bad.

      1. Silver Robin*

        +1, dude is high on his own fumes and that is entirely distinct from brain configurations

      2. geek5508*


        That get’s old real quick. I know way more a*****es than I do neurodivergent people

      3. Tio*


        The person I most recently worked with that was like this was not in any way neurodivergent. She just refused to accept anything was her fault. And everything she did well should have been met with a small parade. We used to have an error report and the KPI for the team was under 5% errors. She was always under, usually one of the top performers. She would have been great if she had just kept on rocking on! But every time it came out (MONTHLY) she wanted to come in and argue that every error wasn’t an error or wasn’t her fault if it was. She never exceeded her error margin! But that wasn’t enough!

        In any other setting though she was a perfectly reasonable person. If she had been able to let go of her perfection complex she would have been a star.

  14. Squirrel!*

    Buddy, you aren’t getting hired because of the attitude you so clearly have and refuse to see. Additionally, my partner is in tech, and refuses to get a Master’s because he says it’s a waste of time/money and employers don’t care about them. He’s been employed in that sector for almost two decades now, and participates in hiring and interviews for his current company, so he is aware of these things.

    And for our younger friends in STEM in college right now, this update is why soft skills are a Big Deal.

    1. Magpie*

      Seconding what your partner says! I’m a software engineer and can say with certainty that tech companies could not care less about what degrees a candidate has. They care about whether candidates can pass tech screenings and whether they would work well with the rest of the team. My Fortune 500 company has several engineers on staff who don’t even have a bachelor’s in comp sci. They’re self taught and are so great at their jobs that they beat out candidates with degrees. If the LW interviewed with me, their attitude would immediately move them to the no pile because I would have some serious concerns about how well they’d work with the rest of the team.

      1. many bells down*

        My spouse never finished his BA; he got hired out of college in the 90’s when programmers were in super high demand and never went back. 30 years later he’s a tech director and gets regularly scouted by recruiters. He’d probably have a lot more trouble if he was starting today, though.

        1. BeeCee*

          Yes, he’d have lots of trouble starting today. There are tons of stories of people who never pursued post secondary STEM education in the 1990s who became hugely successful in tech. But the time has changed.

          In early 2000s, I spoke to a high school dropout. He liked computers and built a business around helping people to go online in the late 1990s. Over time, he realized how larger companies did not take him seriously. Then he pursued Computer Science at a local university as a mature student and graduated 2nd in the class of 100+ students. He basically self-studied lots of course materials and had an aptitude of problem solving before entering the program. He got a job offer from big tech before he graduated.

          It really sounded like he hit something *hard* in the 2000s that his attitude needed to change to go somewhere in his career.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            Doomed to repeat history seems like a really frighting and accurate descriptor for a lot of the tech consort. They still rapturize over Gates and Jobs without realizing that A) those two are the HUGE exceptions and B) every single thing about the field and job market is different than when they started out.

    2. worktorule*

      depends on how much inherent privilege an engineer has whether or not they need advanced degree. my workplace talks a good game but historically refuses to promote or give raises and bonuses to engineers without a degree or those with an unrelated degree. the only ones not affected by this rule are the white men. they’ll hire anyone who can pass the tech screen, but they won’t support them or pay them even if they’re more productive and competent than degree havers. tech is an incredibly biased space and no amount of magical thinking can make it otherwise

      1. Magpie*

        Based on my 20 years of experience in the tech field, I think that’s a problem with your specific company, not with the industry as a whole. At my current company, my manager and her manager are both women with degrees in fields unrelated to tech. They’ve moved up the ladder and are highly respected in our organization.

    3. JustaTech*

      I think the whole Master’s/PhD thing really depends on what the degree is in, what kind of work you did to get it, and what kind of positions you’re looking for.

      I have a couple of friends who have PhDs in Computer Science who have moved on to industry and they’re either doing the same kind of really advanced research, or the thing they built for their PhD is the thing they’re still working on, just now in a corporate setting. But they’re very niche jobs that really do require that kind of very advanced knowledge.

      My husband is in Big Tech and he says most of the people he works with who have Master’s got it to address gaps/differences in undergrad degrees from different countries.

    4. store brand werewolf*

      LW, you’re right that the commenters here don’t see your point of view, or understand the nuances of what you’re going through. Someone better equipped to see the full picture and understand both your strengths and shortcomings is someone close to you. To that end, I highly recommend taking your wife’s advice now and in the future. She sounds level-headed, intelligent, and understands your situation better than we could.

  15. Czhorat*

    WHen I saw this update I was SO hoping he’d say “the tough love in the response and comments made me rethink my position and see it from a different perspective”, but he instead doubled down and are seeing themselves as a complete victim.

    I feel bad for him; they’re clearly flailing and I don’t think he’ll find their way outl

    1. Managing While Female*

      Yeah, certainly not without some honest self-reflection and humility which… doesn’t seem likely.

    2. juliebulie*

      I feel bad for his wife. Imagine being married to someone who thinks they never make mistakes.

      1. Czhorat*

        Yes, he has to be exhausting to live with.

        Also, this gets lost with all the other nonsense, but asking an advice columnist to convince his wife that the family should incur a major expense AND loss of his income is … a choice.

        1. Silver Robin*

          RIGHT? What a choice indeed. First letter it was grandboss (woman) who was wrong and unable to see how incredible he is. Now it is his wife. Two is a coincidence, but I would not be surprised if a third update – should we get one – would be yet a third woman who just needs to be convinced of his obviously superior intellect.

          1. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

            Perhaps he will write to some other business advice columnist asking him–the other columnist–to explain why Ask A Manager Allison is wrong.

            Pure fanfiction, I know. But it’d fit the pattern of how LW has acted thus far.

            1. Wolf*

              Captain Awkward usually labels such questions as “Youre asking me “Who is right here, and why is it me?”” and I just love that phrasing.

      2. Princess Pumpkin Spice*

        I came here to say this. Having been in a relationship with someone just like OP, it is exhausting to navigate. His poor wife.

        And OP – not all mistakes are earth-shattering disasters. Buying 2% instead of whole milk could be a mistake. Grabbing hamburger rolls instead of hot dog rolls could be a mistake. Sending an email to Sean F instead of Sean K could be a mistake. A computation error, a typo… these are all mistakes. Saying you never ever never ever and I mean never make any mistakes at all no matter how big or small? Come on.

        1. MsM*

          As long as neither the hot dog nor the hamburger rolls can be described as cheap-ass, I suppose. Otherwise, it’s unforgivable.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            Cheap-ass rolls are better than fancy ones for bratwurst. In this TED talk, I will…..

      3. goddessoftransitory*

        I mean, the best case scenario is that she “manages” around him like he’s a toddler because it’s the only way to get anything done in the household, which is exhausting enough. But I would bet much of her time is spent apologizing and smoothing over the ruffled feathers of just about everyone they encounter in their day to day life.

    3. Green Mug*

      I wonder why he bothered to write in a second time when he didn’t follow any guidance from the first letter. You can’t help but feel bad for someone stuck inside this mentality.

      1. Tio*

        To add more context and updates that will surely show us that we were off base and he was right, of course.

      2. Sparkles McFadden*

        He’s writing back to explain why he isn’t wrong. This is what he does, everywhere, all the time. He started the update by saying he didn’t think anyone understood his point of view. It’s why he can’t get hired. The interviewers can tell he’ll spend half the day explaining why he’s right about everything.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, in the first letter, he reports that he told the grandboss that there was no reason to interview him because she was a middle-manager with no technical knowledge. She corrected him in the moment that she did have a technical background; instead of admitting that was a mistake, he dismisses it as out of date and therefore irrelevant. After the interview, he looks her up and discovers she worked *as a developer* at two industry leaders. So he asks Alison how he can make up for this huge, insulting blunder, right?

          Nope, he wants to tell her–a woman with an established career, and more experience than him, who he wanted to work for–that her interview questions were bad. He’s not content with having argued with her during the interview and insulted her to her face; he wants the last word and for her to admit that she’s wrong as well.

          Are we really surprised he’s coming at Alison–a woman with an established career, and more experience than him, who he asked for advice–with the same energy?

  16. Czech Mate*

    Related to the “I’m very methodical and analytic, which is why I said I don’t make mistakes.”

    When you’re engaged in a project, do you build safeguards for yourself, or set up systems in which you will check your own work? In that instance, you can say, “All people make mistakes, but I’m also a pretty methodical person, so whenever I’m working on a project, I always have xyz checks on myself to ensure that I catch my own mistakes so that the client always receives an error-free report.”

    Something like that will make you seem more normal (because yes, as Alison says, everyone makes mistakes) but will also get to the heart of what you’re saying, which is that you make sure your final products are free of errors.

    1. Cloudrabbit*

      This comment deserves so much attention!! Yes!!

      This letter hits me a bit more than others. My masters is in risk management in high-risk industries. A huge part of that is human factors – the study of how and why ALL humans make mistakes. It’s not a skill issue – it’s a scientific truth that people make mistakes. I would personally never hire someone who was so misguided as to believe making mistakes is something you can avoid by being analytical. Pilots and surgeons are both incredibly analytical and very intelligent as a job requirement – they also make mistakes so regularly that there are complex safety systems created to catch all mistakes they make.

      1. Czech Mate*

        Absolutely this. I think OP isn’t realizing that a mistake doesn’t have to mean “A serious error that results in having to retract a statement/document whatever.” Depending on the industry, it could mean, “As a human I can of course hit the wrong keystroke or forget to hit save (or whatever it is), and so these are the ways that I use systems/processes to ensure my work is accurate.”

        1. Double A*

          I mean, did the LW at any point while typing this hit the wrong key? That was a mistake. I’m sure he then just availed himself of the little “mistake fixer” delete key. Explaining how you catch mistakes during the drafting/reviewing/whatever process is what people are talking about when they ask you about how you handle mistakes.

            1. Double A*

              I mistakenly thought this was directed at me.

              Then I realized my error, and I laughed heartily.

              See, embracing your mistakes makes for a fuller, more joyful life!

          1. youragonyaunt*

            I just had this happen at work; my co-worker was sending an email newsletter and despite her writing it and me and one other person reading it, we all somehow didn’t notice that a letter was missing from the very first headline, turning an actual word into a nonsense word. Amazingly no one died or was fired, our boss just sent an email to remind us to plug things into a spell-checker before they go into our email client and we all moved on.

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

          Reminds me of Gattaca, where somehow (spoiler alert?) a normal human is able to never click the wrong key just through his passion and dedication.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            That film is the perfect example of why redundancies and double checking are so important–even genetically superior humans cannot avoid glitches, accidents, and general chaos.

    2. RagingADHD*

      Simply saying, “It’s very important to me that I don’t let any errors slip into my work product, so I work very methodically,” would give a completely different impression of the candidate. It would also give interviewers a chance to ask follow up questions about work processes (if that’s what they wanted to know) or to ask the candidate to speak more holistically about how they handle other types of screw ups, working on a team, etc.

      LW may be interpreting the question too narrowly, but the response “I don’t make mistakes” is self-defeating not only because it sounds arrogant to the point of delusion, but because it shuts down the opportunity for other lines of questioning.

    3. JB*

      Or something about adapting to fix where mistakes can occur, showing initiative to identify what’s gone wrong and implementing steps for lowering the chances of it recurring. Problem solving is important and when your approach is that it can’t come from you because your system is watertight, it’s not a good impression.

  17. londonedit*

    Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. It just kept getting worse the more I read. Alison’s response is far more compassionate than mine would have been – it doesn’t seem as if the OP has done any real reflection or work on themselves. Why bother writing in if they were just going to double down on the arrogance?

    I agree that absolutely no good at all will come from emailing anyone else. I’m amazed the original interviewer a) responded at all and b) was polite with it. She sounds like a class act.

  18. BJMN*

    This person almost certainly did not black ball you in the entire industry. But they may try to do so now after sending them and their coworker absolutely unhinged DMs on LinkedIn accusing them of doing so. Self fulfilling prophecy.

    1. anon here*

      +1. Classical irony: by trying to do something, you bring about the opposite. This is a very good example of a phenomenon that can be hard to identify off the cuff; going to store it in my back pocket to explain it to my kids (along with “putting your keys somewhere special so you’ll be able to find them and therefore not being able to find your keys because they’re not in the usual places”).

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yeah, and DMing that person’s professional contacts to ask them what she’s being saying about you will almost certainly blackball you, OP. I hope you will absolutely not do that and do some extreme soul searching to dig deep and realize that you need to change your attitude entirely or you will only continue to alienate people and have a very difficult time professionally and personally.

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      My boss and I interviewed a guy who was just like this, and the guy did what this LW wants to do. Our candidate called HR and said I didn’t know what I was doing and asked for my job. He called people in the industry to complain about me. He sent me messages on LinkedIn, explaining why I am bad at my job and if we’d hire him, he’d help me. Finally, he started contacting my network to tell them that whatever I was saying about him was wrong. He did no damage to me and, on the plus side, I had many pleasant phone conversations with people I hadn’t spoken to in far too long. Every one of those people added the guy’s name to their corporate “Never hire this person” list, and my boss notified security because the guy sounded so unhinged.

      I never said anything to anyone about him. I had a hard time remembering his name. We just called him Perfect Guy, because he just kept telling us he was perfect for the job.

      LW, no one blackballed you. You’re blackballing yourself. If someone else had blackballed you, you’d never have gotten any response. The fact that you’re at least getting to the phone screen point means you’re tanking it in the interview.

      1. K in Boston*

        I’m sorry, he…asked for your job? I know we don’t give identifying details here so I’m not really asking, but I have SO many questions.

        1. Sparkles McFadden*

          Yes, the candidate told HR I had too little experience to be a manager, and he was far more qualified, so he suggested that I be demoted into the open position and he be made the manager. The HR rep who did the initial screening actually asked my boss what he thought of that idea. My boss said he didn’t think much of the idea – but he said that very loudly and with a lot of swearing.

          We hired a great candidate who is was not that guy.

          1. K in Boston*

            Wow. To be honest, I’m kind of impressed at the chutzpah of that dude to suggest such a thing…but also kind of horrified that your HR rep even entertained it. I’m guessing (hoping?) they were new and just not confident in their judgment yet. In any case, happy you ended up hiring a great candidate instead of Perfect Guy.

      2. CupcakeCounter*

        Your last paragraph is key here.
        LW is getting past the screening software, getting to the recruiter, then scoring an in person interview. NONE OF THAT WOULD HAPPEN IF HE WAS BLACKBALLED.
        Things go south after the in person interview.

        LW – that means they are responding to nothing except your personality in the interview. This is a YOU problem.

    4. LCH*

      yeah, i got to the part of the story about contacting her on LinkedIn to tell her of his assumption and was like, ohhh nooo….. cringe cringe.

  19. Less Sexy More Librarian*

    Good heavens. This man is so blind to his own faults it boggles the mind. He’s a walking red flag. I’d love to see these “great” resumes and cover letters. I have a sneaking suspicion they ooze arrogance.

    1. Sassy SAAS*

      I love that OP mentioned they followed Alison’s advice, so therefore nothing could be wrong with the cover letter/resume. While Alison’s advice is awesome (it worked for me and for many others!), if the person behind the paper isn’t worth hiring, no amount of excellent resume/cover letter is going to change that! OP is incapable of seeing themselves as the problem, so everyone else must be out to get them and are actively sabotaging them!

      1. anonymouse*

        man. specified this in the OG letter (I believe by saying “female” and “male”)

        1. MsM*

          And thought it was very important that we know everyone he interacted with (and has refused to listen to) in this scenario is female.

      2. br_612*

        Yeah, in the first letter he said “I don’t know if it matters but I’m male and everyone I interviewed with was female.”

        I guess technically that’s biological sex and not gender identity, but I think it’s pretty clear what he meant.

    2. Bilateralrope*

      The resumes and cover letters are getting the LW to the phone screen. So it sounds like they are working.

  20. thoughtful*

    I think you make a good point on the technical end. I suspect he’s made mistakes with soft skills and collaboration with co-workers and that might be what he needs to focus on in answering a question like that

  21. Melissa*

    I work in mental health. I would LOVE to get this person into my office. I just have so very many questions for them.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      That’s funny!

      It kind of reminds me of that episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine when the abnormal psychologists were fascinated by Gina. “Complete overlap of ego and id!”

      1. Ally McBeal*

        My favorite scene from that whole show. Sometimes I fantasize about that happening to my mother.

    2. Bilateralrope*

      If the LW has something you can diagnose, you might be able to help them while you enjoy whatever questions you’re asking.

    3. ariel*

      Agreed – OP, I would encourage you to consider talking with a psychologist or other mental health worker, or other kinds of training and feedback that might help you develop a more informed sense of self and self-awareness. You may also benefit from seeking opportunities that help you development more compassion (volunteering, meditation, Tara Brach’s podcast, reddit, etc). Neither of these may seem like important skills but they will help you be more open to the ways of others, even if you function differently. Let’s say you are the world’s first error-free human being – you still did not need to be rude and dismissive in an interview and hunt down the alleged, perceived wrongdoers to tell them they’re wrong. That was unprofessional and deeply uncool on a personal level.

  22. Occam's Razor*

    Often the simplest explanation is the most likely one.

    Explanation 1: A single person (even someone high up in the field) has called every single business you could potentially interview with to blacklist you.

    Explanation 2: You continue to be arrogant and dismissive in interviews, and no one wants to hire you because you’re coming across as very difficult to work with.

    Yes, people do get blacklisted in fields. But I think you’d have to do something truly terrible to receive that treatment, not just be a bad interviewee. Though now that you’ve made accusations and demands of her and the hiring manager, now it has escalated to being worthy of being blacklisted in your industry. You need to do some major work on yourself to get rid of what is clearly coming across in your interviews.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      100% agree. To add, blacklisting people takes social or political capital. It’s not free. Nobody’s going to waste their social capital on blacklisting someone after one interview.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        For realz, tho. And it’s not like the hiring manager or her manager are sitting around with nothing to do all day but think up schemes as to how to ruin OP’s life. Presumably they have lives too and OP was merely a blip, a minor supporting character, in their own lives. OP, you are not the star of the show, you are merely a cast member in a cast of billions. I promise you that these people are not thinking about you nearly as much as you are thinking about them. And they are definitely not wasting their precious time trying to take you down after one not-so-great interview.

        And as others have said elsewhere, after your behavior post-interview, they certainly would be within their rights to mention to their professional contacts that you might not be the best hire anyone could make, but I seriously doubt they are going to bother doing that proactively. And even if someone else asked them, “What do you think of Fergus? Do you know him at all?” They probably would just say, “Oh, yeah, we interviewed him but we thought that Jane would be a better fit so we didn’t hire him.” Good people will give interviewees and job seekers the benefit of the doubt and I don’t think they would say anything negative about you even if asked. After all, they could always chalk up your answer to your being nervous in the interview, or very young and immature, or socially clueless or whatever. But since they can’t speak to your actual work or work ethic, they probably wouldn’t say anything that their professional contacts would find worthwhile anyway.

        If you stop behaving as if you’re the star of the show and everyone else is just a supporting character, I promise you will find far more satisfaction in life than you have now.

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

          Not even a supporting character. Merely an extra or at most a guest star.

          1. allathian*

            Or even an NPC! I shivered reading this letter because the LW seems so profoundly unpleasant. I wouldn’t want to work with him and I don’t blame the interviewer for not hiring him, either.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      For someone who is “very methodical and analytical” the LW is jumping to lots of conclusions with no supporting evidence. One big piece evidence is that he’s getting to the phone screen point at the very least. If someone decided to blacklist the guy, he’d never get contacted at all.

      1. Occam's Razor*

        That’s an excellent point! By his own admission, his resume gets him to the phone screening, the phone screening gets him to the interview, and then the interview is where is all goes wrong. If he was blacklisted, the phone screening wouldn’t even happen.

      2. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

        The only other possible explanation is that the big boss is such a heavy hitter in the field that everyone looks up to her and wants to pick her brain about connections/hiring. Which makes the OP’s original question about why she was involved in interviewing him to begin with even more nonsensical.

        1. Cherub Cobbler*

          You mean the grand boss he mistook — oh wait, he doesn’t make mistakes — for a middle manager with out-of-date skills?

  23. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    Anyone getting shades of — February 29 birthday letter.

    I am not wrong, I am never wrong, it’s everyone else not understanding the situation.

    Sir, not everyone is loving you in the phone screen I can tell you that. The fact that you want to go after this CEO for perceived wrongs that you can’t even know for sure even exist says way more about you than employers want to deal with. You have decided — without any proof other than you weren’t hired for a job after an interview where the CEO was present — that this CEO is dedicating her life to ruining yours.

    Please please get some real therapy to explore why you are so obsessed with this CEO and the fact you never make mistakes. Not someone who will just tell you what you want to hear.

    1. SereneScientist*

      Yes, shades of the Feb 29 letter indeed. Obviously no armchair diagnosis here given how little info we really have, but I’m kind of surprised by how….obstinate LW is that everyone else must be wrong and out to get them? It’s a remarkably navel-gazey way to move through the world, not understanding that most people have far more immediate concerns and things to attend to at work than blackballing an odd interviewee, which is the kindest thing I could say about him.

    2. Manic Sunday*

      The idea that this CEO (or any CEO, or anyone with a full-time job) has enough time and energy to proactively blackball someone based only on a lousy interview is ludicrous. This LW’s inflated sense of their own importance in other people minds … it passeth understanding.

      1. Runner up*

        Agree 100%. I work in law and semi-regularly hear complaints from applicants or former employees complaining that someone is blackballing them. I haven’t met many people who would even consider expending that much time or energy on someone else’s career. I also think people seriously underestimate the difficulty of trying to put together a vast conspiracy spanning an entire company or industry…

      2. Tio*

        Plus… if the CEO HAD blacklisted him, he wouldn’t even get a phone screen to begin with! What scenario does he think is happening here? That the company was told about him, decided to do the phone screen anyway just to see, and then despite them “loving” him in the phone screen, not going forward anyway? Or does he think that they’re wasting their time phone screening him, and then calling this one specific CEO/company they have no idea he interviewed with and asking for their opinion? This doe not make a lick of sense no matter what way you slice it

        1. Prof*

          My thought was he figured the lowly hiring managers loved him, but when his name got to the higher ups, the evil CEO has influenced them and therefore he doesn’t get hired. Which…yeah…this story just went from bad to worse.

          1. Tio*

            He does mention the CEO “emailing” about him, but another thing I wonder – does he think that all the tech CEO just know each other? Hang out together? Friday night Important Tech People Dinner? Or does he think that this CEO literally sat down, browsed through linked in for tech company CEOs, and then messaged each one individually? (It kinda sounds like he does) Like the CEO has that kind of time or investment in a single person, and everyone would also listen to them. Plus, none of these other companies are competitors? Because the last thing I would do even if I WERE that petty as OP thinks the CEO is, is to warn my competitors. Let them have at the bad eggs! lol

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        This. I’ve been hiring for 15+ years, and I have not once in my career called my professional network and told them not to hire a specific person, regardless of how terrible the interview was. I would also never mention a specific candidate name in a war-stories-over-drinks conversation. Unless someone worked for me and I had a decent amount of directly observed data, I would not recommend for or against anyone. No one has time for that.

        1. SHEILA, the co-host*

          This! I have given a “I would really think twice before you hired this person” sort of reference, but that was after actually being contacted for said reference, not just out of the blue.

          Also, I will add that I was not on this person’s reference list (I told them I was not comfortable being a reference), but it was for a government job with a security clearance so all former bosses were contacted regardless of who was on said reference list.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            I have 100% said “oh, I wouldn’t hire that person” when asked directly about someone who applied somewhere, and then I had *reasons*–in one case it was “very very disorganized in the lab, which is bad for a chemist, because many things were left open and unsecured, and also set a fire in a biohazard box due to improper waste disposal, which resulted in a 3 hour evacuation of the building. He did not seem to internalize what he did wrong and didn’t really clean up his act. I would not hire him for a position working in the lab”. In one case it was “I was in grad school with him and he never actually did any work, mostly asked others for “help” but did nothing, and also he said I referred him for this job when I didn’t, so I wouldn’t move forward”. Both based on actual experiences with them. And honestly, if they needed a patent researcher and someone to mine literature, the first guy would have been great. Just a disaster in the lab.

    3. Less Sexy More Librarian*

      Yes!! That letter gets me every time. What an absolute nut job of a manager.

    4. Silver Robin*

      100% the birthday letter was the first thing I thought of I read through this. Definitely one for the lore

    5. iglwif*

      Yes I was also thinking “Is this person friends with Leap Year Birthday LW?”

      I feel like I have a pretty clear sense now of this person’s vibe, and it is a vibe I would never want in my workplace.

    6. The OG Sleepless*

      I also thought of the one who took over a project of her boss’, lied about having her permission, and got fired: the one who called them Betty and Veronica. She never did understand what she did wrong. Something about calling her boss “conniving” came to mind when I read this update.

  24. Manic Sunday*

    I would like to thank this LW for generously providing more evidence that our previous assessments of them have been correct.

    Seriously, OP, every single contact you describe making with everyone involved in your job search sounds like it has hurt you, and I hope you can learn to do better in time to salvage what remains of your career.

    1. Madtown Maven*

      And it’s not that the contacts have hurt the LW, it’s that he is hurting himself because of his arrogant presentation, communication style, and assumptions. This person needs a hearty serving of humble pie and maybe a psychiatrist. There are big reasons he thinks the world is conspiring against him, and it’s not because the world is conspiring against him.

      1. Manic Sunday*

        Agreed–by “every contact,” I mean every action he has taken to reach a person (as opposed to the people themselves, in the address book sense of the word “contact”).

    1. Venus*

      A lot are neurodivergent and it results in them being more cautious about their interactions with others rather than less. It is possible to be both neurodivergent and a jerk, and the results can be ugly. Acknowledging the problem and getting help to develop soft skills would be ideal.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      It’s especially rough if someone who is neurodivergent is raised by people with no tolerance for deviation and mistakes.

      A therapist is most likely to be helpful if he can go in and say, “Can you help me work on X skill?” LW’s wife might be able to provide some initial guidance on that.

      I hope LW sees this and talks it over with her. From the two comments he’s made about her feedback, she seems to understand stuff pretty well.

    3. Space Needlepoint*

      Attending therapy would require the LW to be open to the idea he needs help.

      Neurodivergent or not, he’s still responsible for his behavior. Until that sinks in, I wouldn’t count on his getting whatever help he needs.

      1. ShovelDoor*

        Thank you. You’d think this would be obvious. Neurodivergent people process information and make choices differently, but we still process information and make choices. This guy is choosing not to listen to his wife (someone he ostensibly loves and trusts enough to spend his life with), his hiring managers (who have more experience supervising his field than he does) or AAM (an advice column he decided to write to—no one made him do that). No ableist excuses for why neurodivergent people can’t be responsible for our own behavior.

  25. SereneScientist*

    I honestly didn’t think we’d get an update from this LW because their posture is so absolutely at odds with how Allison and this community generally looks at work and other things. LW, you seem really convinced that the world is out to get you or wrong you in some way. It’s incredibly easy in your position to commit some serious attribution errors like believing that these potential employers are sabotaging you somehow, rather than your personality, working style, or misguided beliefs about mistake-making being the real contributing factor. Deny it or double down however you please, but at some point, even you need to acknowledge that doing the same things over again and expecting different results is simply not realistic, even for someone as “perfect” as you.

  26. woops*

    yikes! just…. yikes. any way we can get the poster’s name who thinks they’re being blackballed from hiring? we hire a lot of developers, and i want to be sure they aren’t one of them.

    1. Manic Sunday*

      If your employer is actually interviewing candidates and asking the right questions about their “soft skills,” you should be fine.

  27. duinath*

    lw, it seems like you’re spiraling. if you’re not getting offers, i don’t think it has to do with this one interviewer, and you might consider working on your resume or your interviewing skills.

    you still do not have any real reason to think this is about you saying you don’t make mistakes, and i think that is framing you need to let go of. it is not helpful, and in fact seems actively damaging to you.

    your interpersonal skills, as you’ve described them, need work. that is something you can focus on, and i believe it is something you can improve on if you put in the work. we’re none of us perfect, we can all improve in some ways, and i think you will be happier overall if you improve in this area, even outside of work.

    think less about how you can convince your wife, and more about why she feels the way she does. try to see her point of view, and go from there.

    i wish you luck.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Boy do his interpersonal skills need some work. In the original interview he actually asked why the CEO was sitting in on the interview because it was a technical interview. I would have dinged him right there unless he turned out to be a unicorn and the company would absolutely collapse unless we hired him.

      The CEO has the right to sit in any interview they want. Most don’t because they are busy, but they have the right to be there. Starting off questioning why your ultimate boss is present is a huge waving red flag.

      1. All het up about it*

        I went back and read the original post and oh boy! Glad I did. I had forgotten the details of the interview that probably had way more to do with the non-hire than just saying “I don’t make mistakes.”

        This is just a WOW! for this Wednesday morning.

    2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      This was a wonderfully thoughtful and eloquent message. Thanks for phrasing it this way.

    3. Irish Teacher.*

      This is a really compassionate and helpful response and I hope the LW reads it and takes it to heart.

  28. Optimus*

    The arrogance continuing to radiate from this letter-writer is *blinding.* Everything is being done TO him, as far as he is concerned; he takes zero responsibility for insulting his interviewer and has concluded that the only reason he isn’t a shining star of a candidate for other roles is that he is a victim of the interviewer he insulted.

    OP, you are doing *backflips* to avoid seeing that you have a responsibility not to be a jerk to interviewers, not to stalk them and their connections on LinkedIn, and to accept that it’s a tough job market and all you can do is your best until the stars line up. If you get a master’s degree and continue to roll into interviews and insult your interviewers, you STILL won’t get offers, because no hiring manager wants to have someone that arrogant on the team. If you don’t want to accept that, that’s fine – but just because you’re giving yourself a Super Special Pass to be snotty, that doesn’t mean you should expect the rest of the world to give you the same Super Special Pass.

    1. Double A*

      Refusing to examine your role in a situation that is not going the way you wanted is ALWAYS a mistake. Always.

  29. Garblesnark*

    I have recruited. I have supported a team of recruiters. I have been close to dozens of recruiters.

    I have never known a recruiter who had time to blackball a candidate, like is being suggested here, over answering a question wrong.

    Further, LW, if you were blackballed, you would not be getting any interviews.

    1. BigRed*

      Your last thing is the key thing for me. Nobody is wasting time interviewing people they know they are going to reject, it makes no sense.

    2. Awkwardness*

      This were my thoughts too.

      I was not convinced he was blacklisted after the first incident, but after the update – very likely.
      OP does think far too much of himself if they really believe hiring managers have nothing better to do than to blacklist a candidate because of one misstep. But the way they cannot let go and take every “no” as directed at them, they are proving themself to be too much drama for almost every workplace, no matter how competent they were.

      1. Awkwardness*

        Further, LW, if you were blackballed, you would not be getting any interviews.

        This is one very methodical and analytical observation, one that OP is not able to make. Oh, the irony!
        One would want to cry.

  30. oof*


    Except…. yeah, we all saw this as a likely outcome.

    OP – I actually have a few similarities with you. I am a great candidate for lots of jobs. I look good on paper and I interview wildly well. I have been in my chosen field for over 20 years and I’ve got both broad and deep experience. And I often have applications with rockstar refined resumes and cover letters go into a black hole, or even when recruiters/hiring managers/headhunters call me to ask me to apply for a position that I really am a great fit for, I have PLENTY of phone screens that fizzle. And I DO know why.


    Hiring is about the job, the team, the company, and a little bit, it’s about what I can bring to the table, but it’s not about ME. There are so many things I know and DON’T know about what’s going on with their process, their needs, and I recognize that I have a very small amount of control over all of it. I know much better than to think it’s about me in particular if I don’t get a call back. And since I’ve done plenty of my own hiring at many levels, I can definitely tell you that even if a candidate really turns me off, I do NOT have the time to go ‘blackball’ them around. I’m lucky to remember their name if they are off my radar no matter the impression they left. Except if someone tracked me down and said the things you’ve said you did on LinkedIn, I’d definitely remember that and also assume you were at best paranoid and worst kind of unhinged and a potential threat.

    So… just stop. Because it wasn’t about you but if you keep going down this road, it will be, in a very different way.

    1. No creative name yet*

      YES! When I’ve been the hiring manager, I’ve realized that you can have multiple perfectly qualified candidates, none of whom did anything “wrong “, but you still have to choose just one. It would help him a lot to realize that it might not be that employers are rejecting him personally because of some perceived fault, but simply about them choosing someone else that fit slightly better even if they were both equally qualified. As a job seeker, it’s been helpful to remember that and not take it personally and not fixate on that one thing I said in the interview, etc.

      1. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

        LW, I sincerely hope this helps you let go of the “blackballed” part of your concern. Truly, on the hiring side, we might do 30+ phone screens a week. I don’t remember the details of any given interview 5 minutes after getting off the call, and I have so many back-to-back calls that even if I wanted to reach out to my entire network about a weird interview, I wouldn’t have the time.

        If that’s not enough to convince you, let’s take at face value that this hiring manager did reach out to some contacts (which again – very unlikely). Is every one of their contacts going to put that much weight on the opinion of one person who talked to you for one hour, if everything else about your candidacy is as incredible as you say? This one hiring manager simply doesn’t know you well enough to have that big of an influence on other hiring managers’ decisions, unless every other hiring manager in your network is very close with the one who you believe blackballed you.

        One thought, if you’re getting interviews but not offers – could there be something working against you with your references? A good reference checker will be able to draw out red flags from references without the reference even realizing they’re saying anything negative. You come off as having a lot of confidence in yourself and a lot of skepticism of others, which is the type of thing references could indicate to reference checkers without realizing they’re essentially saying you’re hard to work with.

    2. ShovelDoor*

      I’m way more outwardly insecure than LW, but thank you for laying this out. I appreciate the perspective and I’m going to try to remember it. You’ve helped at least one person today.

  31. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    You may make very few – but not zero – mistakes in your specialised field, but from your letters you clearly make a lot of mistakes when it comes to soft skills.

    Take AAM’s advice and please don’t dig yourself deeper into this hole by again contacting the grandboss.
    Just move on, stop trying to find if you were blackballed – you probably will be if you keep this up – forget her and her company. Just keep doing your very best in applications and interviews.

  32. Productivity Pigeon*

    Hey LW, I’m sorry you’re having issues finding a job.

    If you don’t believe Alison’s read on the situation, can I make a recommendation?

    I think you should find a GOOD career coach/counselor and/or leadership coach and approach that with a very open mind.

    They will be able to tell much better than we can online how you come off in a professional setting and can help you determine where things might be going wrong.

  33. Justin*

    I know my resume and cover letter are great (I’ve followed your advice)

    (Not to discredit Alison’s guidance, but, logic leap #1)

    and during the phone screens, the interviewer always really likes me,

    (#2 – they might, but they might just be friendly and not rude)

    so it’s obvious she’s told all her friends about me

    (Tim Allen confused grunt)

    and I’m being blackballed.

    (head asplode)

    I really hope LW is like 17.

    The funny thing is, I actually WAS blackballed within a specific company after I did poorly at an internship and I had no idea. It turned out it was because my undiagnosed neurodivergence had grated on them (they just found me offputting). So I would have been jusified in making similar assumptions! But I only found that out years later by accident.

    The only way to get yourself blackballed legitimately is to Keep Acting This Way.

      1. Justin*

        I applied there for an adult internship, didn’t get it despite being qualified (not like this guy, it was basically just being a certain year in school and a certain degree and they had tons of these people every year), my parents asked around (not to get me a job) and found out. Which is a privilege for sure, though not as much of one as to just get me jobs. My mom was upset, especially since I’m Black and anything like this can really harm things.

        Turns out that magazine fell to pieces and is basically AI now and my career is great after the diagnosis, so, (shrug).

        1. Silver Robin*

          That sucks that it happened to you, but I am also glad your career is going well regardless!

        2. All het up about it*

          Fascinating. Glad you are doing well. Thanks for sharing. Though I think being placed on a no-hire list at a singular company is WAY easier to accomplish then what the OP here is alleging, though as you say, it can still be damaging, especially if it’s based on something that the employee has recognized and improved on.

          1. Justin*

            Right. One company is less important, though had I pursued that field they were a big enough name (let’s call it “Athletics Drawn”) that talking to my supervisors there would have been an issue. Their assessment of me as a person (even moreso than as an intern) was REALLY mean at the end of that summer.

            But I’m a teacher and an author, not a journalist, so.

    1. Tio*

      Given that OP has a wife, probably highly unlikely they’re 17. And sadly I have seen enough people like this that I’m betting they’re not.

  34. lyonite*

    OP, if you’re reading these comments I suspect you’re thinking (again) “these people know nothing; they don’t understand me!” But the thing is, even if you’re right, you are getting a clear indication from a large group of people, several of whom work in your industry, that the way you’re approaching this is off-putting. Whether or not you think it’s right or just, you would do yourself a favor to adjust your attitude for your job hunt.

    1. skipjack*

      And more to the point, anyone you interview with is also going to know very little about you!

  35. KMFDM me*

    “I don’t make mistakes!” *Proceeds to detail a litany of mistakes he’s made in dealing with this single rejection.*
    My dude, the fact that you don’t see these massive soft-skills errors as ‘mistakes’ is an obvious reason people don’t want to hire you.

  36. Doctor Fun!*

    I must say, I’ve never seen someone so thoroughly pantsed by their own hubris as this person.

      1. BikeWalkBarb*

        I don’t know how many times I’ve looked up “petard” to remind myself that it’s an explosive device and the hoisting is abrupt and violent. Found a lovely piece about the Shakespearean origins that suggests this may also have been a subtle fart joke at the time, which makes me love this even more. I’ll drop it in a reply.

        1. allathian*

          It’s probably fake etymology, but “to fart” is “peter” in French and thus, someone who farts is a “petard.”

          Can’t wait for the link to show up!

  37. Unkempt Flatware*

    I actually think this is time to take a leave of absence if you can afford it, OP, and seek some counseling. I think you need to take a step away.

    1. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

      I somehow think the OP is on a leave of absence—and will be for a long time—regardless of whether or not they want to be.

  38. I should really pick a name*

    You do make mistakes.
    Your initial letter was about a big mistake that you made.
    Messaging the hiring manager to ask her boss to stop talking about you was a mistake. If she has been talking about you (and I have my doubts), why would she stop just because you’ve asked her to? Especially with no acknowledgement that you insulted her in your interview.

    You make mistakes, you just don’t recognize them as such. Being able to recognize and learn from mistakes is something that good managers value.

  39. ticktick*

    I’d highly recommend the book “Mistakes Were Made (but not by me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Lies” by Carol Tavers and Elliot Aronson – for LW, to help him see where he may be going wrong, and for the rest of the commentariat simply because it’s a fascinating read.

    1. Mizzle*

      Seconding this recommendation! I found this book very useful, both to understand my own behaviors better and those of others.

    2. OrigCassandra*

      Ooooh, thanks! On my to-read list.

      I’ve had a couple of students who were not as bad as OP, but in that vicinity — and they took some hard-but-predictable knocks at the start of their careers. If this book helps me work out how to help future such students better, you will have done me and them a mitzvah with this recommendation.

  40. Happily Retired*

    Well, if he had not been blackballed before, he certainly is now (at the company he applied to.)

    A hiring manager decides not to hire someone, most likely because they are concerned about soft skills. Happens often. Applicant pushes back (from the original post: “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…”)

    Applicant is now on the “no way on Earth” list at the company.

    Now applicant wants to start badgering other people in the industry and ‘splaining his take on things. If he does this, his reputation is now cemented as “that guy with great tech skills but co-workers would probably be trying to murder him by his third day of employment.”

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      Grin, do you honestly think that it would take 3 days? I’m thinking the 1st or 2nd. (Not counting the day(s) of HR paperwork etc.

  41. Nonanon*

    Oh LW, you do very obviously make mistakes, as shown by your reactions to the whole ordeal.

  42. GladImNotThereAnymore*

    I would ask the LW if he ever has used the backspace key – if so, he has made a “mistake” that needed to be corrected. If he has, then his fundamental premise is flawed.

    1. Val*

      Came here to write this same thing! You might fix it afterwards LW, but if you’ve literally ever used the backspace key, that means you made a mistake, and that’s okay!!

    2. Beany*

      Suddenly I’m getting vibes of that Star Trek OS episode where Kirk out-logics an “infallible” machine. (Specifically “The Changeling”, but he’s done similar things in other episodes.)

    3. Hey Now*

      There are actually writing/grammar mistakes in the letters themselves. It’s not the OP’s field, obviously, but it’s still a sign that they do in fact make mistakes. I wish that could be a humbling realization…

  43. Paris Geller*

    You’re not getting hired because of your attitude. Fix that first before you spend money on a degree.

  44. …..and Peggy*

    I refuse to believe a person can be THIS lacking in self-awareness. I was literally agog at their OP, and the update is just…..more of the same. I can’t imagine any business would want to hire this guy with the attitude he has displayed here. The condescension just drips off my screen!

    1. londonedit*

      I can well believe it, and I can believe it even more from one of those ‘tech bro’ types. I don’t work anywhere near tech but I’ve worked with people (OK, with young men in particular) who had absolutely zero sense of self-awareness and absolutely no sense of how to act as a valuable team player. All they wanted to do was bulldoze their way into a more prestigious job, and they didn’t really care how they got there. Anyone (i.e. me) who asked them to do something they didn’t want to do (despite it being part of their job) was brushed aside as they’d only deign to do tasks they believed were worthy of the status and role they wanted. None of that is how things work. They were terrible to work with. They didn’t last long, and when they left, there were trails of destruction in their wake that took months to fully unpick.

      So yeah, I can believe it.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      I’ve met people who were this “self-assured” and who lack self-insight like this. It’s painful to witness. They don’t get far.

  45. Off Plumb*

    I feel like this is what happens when STEM folks neglect the humanities and social sciences. Since citing human nature/common sense isn’t working, perhaps it might be helpful to look up some psychology publications? The references and further reading sections in the wikipedia page for cognitive bias could be a good start. Maybe also check out growth mindset vs fixed mindset.

    I am not being snide or sarcastic here – there are very important things that you seem to be ignorant about, and I suspect you’ll be more open to scientific and academic sources than to random commenters on AAM. Your life and your job search will improve if you can recognize how your human brain actually works.

    1. AFac*

      I support a liberal arts education for everyone, including STEM majors, but I’d also say that any STEM major who hasn’t made a mistake (never! ever! at all!) doesn’t deserve the degree. Making mistakes is how you learn. Making mistakes is how a field advances. If you only do things that work 100% of the time, you’re not actually doing anything. If you’re writing the exact same code every single time with no advances or new material, we can just replace you with AI.

      1. amoeba*

        Yup. Error culture is such a big part of STEM. Learning from past mistakes is such a central tenet. And I mean, I’m not a computer scientist, but from the coding I’ve done, bug fixing and code testing etc. are also really, really important there.

        If LW believes it’s possible for a human to never make mistakes, he clearly didn’t pay much attention in his STEM education in the first place.

    2. Shellfish Constable*

      As someone who works in the medical humanities, a hearty “Yes! Thank you!” to your first sentence. Our medical college is actually overhauling their entire curriculum to include humanities, public health, and bioethics because, like many med schools today, they got tired of turning out arrogant jerks who were smart on paper but dumb on people. Not only are jerks excruciating to work with and/or train, *they are bad doctors.* They, too, think they never make mistakes, up to and including actionable malpractices. Mastery of science/tech don’t mean jack if you’re impossible to work with, because if you’re impossible to work with you might find — as OP has — that you’re not working anymore at all.

      OP, without doing some serious self-reflection that includes getting dropkicked by both your job search and this comment thread, as well as therapy and/or a “why soft skills matter” bootcamp, this situation is never going to change. As many others have pointed out, you have blackballed yourself. Please work to gain some perspective before you do literally anything else, including applying for more jobs.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Ireland actually changed the way of applying to medical degrees (so it is now different from virtually all other degrees) because having the places in medical school decided solely on whether or not the student gets top grades in a minimum of 6 subjects ended…pretty much how you would expect. With people who would make excellent doctors missing out because they got a B in French or something and people who got straight As but no people skills or really interest in or aptitude for medicine getting the places.

        So there is now some kind of aptitude test for medicine as well as the Leaving Cert. grades.

        1. Shellfish Constable*

          That’s so interesting! Yes, a lot of U.S. schools have changed their protocols, as well, including being less concerned with grade point averages (although that’s still an important litmus) and more concerned with things like — wait for it! — their behavior in interviews. I’ve known several students who didn’t get into med school on their first try because they sounded/acted like OP. There are just too many brilliant AND “good with people” would-be physicians to give a space to someone who is only the former.

  46. Maggie*

    Are your phone screens going great or are the people on the other end just being polite and friendly? And moreover, do you actually know what being polite and friendly sounds like?

    1. Shellfish Constable*

      And are they being polite and friendly in an effort to end the call right quick? Like the Southern/Midwestern passive-aggressive, “Well, I’ve taken up enough of your time today, thanksomuchgoodbye” and then striking OP’s name off a list with an exuberant flourish?

    2. Garblesnark*

      Really and truly, the LW keeps advising how other people feel about him when that is completely unknowable from his position. The level of overconfidence needed to say “everyone I meet on a phone screen likes me” is mind boggling. Everyone you meet on a phone screen is being reasonably pleasant, because not being reasonably pleasant slows down phone screens, and they have to do dozens of these today.

  47. Busy Middle Manager*

    White collar job market is brutal right now, many duplicate or fake job postings, many places not serious about hiring at all, hence the great first rounds and crickets.

    As per people not understanding your POV, they do, they just disagree.

    Also in software and there is always something that could be further automated, shortened, made more efficient, shared with different people, made more readable, there has to be some missing feature or column or the occasional incorrect math somewhere, even if you’re extremely diligent.

    There is also the whole “if someone never makes a mistake, they aren’t going outside their comfort zone” thing.

    It also shuts down the conversation. Even if it were technically true, you shut down the rest of the conversation, when discussing some mistake could have led down many interesting roads.
    You may need to reframe what you think a mistake is. It can be a lost opportunity to make a connection at a key stakeholder for example.

    1. PotsPansTeapots*

      Also in software and there is always something that could be further automated, shortened, made more efficient, shared with different people, made more readable, there has to be some missing feature or column or the occasional incorrect math somewhere, even if you’re extremely diligent.

      Thank you! And not just in software! I write for my job and while I tend to think most of my work is pretty good, there’s always more SEO I could incorporate, a more elegant way to rephrase something, etc. There’s never perfect, there’s just good enough. I work hard to improve my skills and raise my own standard for what “good enough” is every day.

  48. Ami*

    Along with all the other red flags, does the OP realize that he might get himself in legal trouble if he continues messaging grandboss’s contacts on LinkedIn? This is a restraining order waiting to happen.

    1. Czhorat*

      I honestly think they’d be more likely to just block him, though going around the block to talk through other people might cause some other issues.

      In all liklihood though, all he’ll do is make him look unhinged and kill any chances he has of tetting hired anywhere.

    2. Managing While Female*

      At the very least, he’s making himself look bad and hurting any future chances, but his paranoia and borderline obsession with this idea of the interviewer blackballing him is making him seem scary.

  49. Poison I.V. drip*

    “I know my resume and cover letter are great (I’ve followed your advice) and during the phone screens, the interviewer always really likes me, so it’s obvious she’s told all her friends about me and I’m being blackballed.”

    I’d like to point out that the post hoc fallacy is, by definition, making a mistake. That is all.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      He followed her advice on the resume and cover letter, but not the advice in her answer to his original letter. Why not?

      1. anonymesque*

        I’m guessing he read the resume/cover letter advice before writing his own, so taking it on board wasn’t threatening to his ego in the same way it was to be told how badly he’d messed up the interview and how to contain the damage.

  50. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    It’s very easy to never make mistakes when you never accept feedback.

  51. mirthblaster36*

    This sounds like it is verging on paranoia and I hope LW sees someone who can help work through it. I understand (and have seen, repeatedly) how the frustrations of a job search can lead in this direction, but this person seems particularly oblivious to the world that exists outside of their own head. If I encountered this attitude in a job applicant I was tasked with evaluating it would be a major negative factor for their candidacy.

  52. Yup*

    “If you have any advice on how to explain to her why it’s a good idea, I would be grateful.”

    I’ll take doubling down for $500, Alex.

    Also sexism for $300.

    1. The OG Sleepless*

      Right? “And by the way, can you explain to my wife why SHE’S wrong too?” LW’s wife, if you’re reading this, girl, we sympathize.

  53. Chairman of the Bored*

    Do not pay out of pocket for a technical masters.

    If an employer wants you to have it they’ll pay for it.

    If they won’t pay for it then either they don’t value it or you’re not a good candidate for them, with or without the degree.

  54. Salted French Fry*

    This reminds me of the cheap ass rolls letter with the ‘everyone is out to get me’ paranoia. Hope they get help.

    1. Ginger Cat Lady*

      I don’t think this is “everyone is out to get me” so much as “nothing is every MY fault, so it must be everyone else doing it and it’s all just so unfair to me”

  55. Bilateralrope*

    One bit jumps out to me:

    >and during the phone screens, the interviewer always really likes me

    I’m doubting the truth of this line. I’ve got no doubt that the letter writer believes it. But I worry that the letter writer is confusing basic politeness with someone liking them.

    LW, what I suspect is happening here is that arrogance you put out during the phone screen is putting people off. The same arrogance that I’m seeing in your original letter and this update.

    As for the masters degree, I don’t think that will help. You’ll still have the attitude that is causing you problems and you won’t have a job history that might convince someone to overlook it.

    1. inksmith*

      And, I mean, I’ve interviewed loads of people that I’ve liked. The fact that they’re not a good candidate for my job doesn’t make me not like them – it just makes me not hire them. I still like them (though they probably like me less after I’ve not hired them!).

      Actually, I can’t remember ever interviewing anyone I actively disliked – most of the time, there wasn’t enough time for me to develop feelings of like/dislike one way or the other. So I’m friendly to everyone, because I want them to have a good experience interviewing with us, and to put their best foot forward. Still doesn’t mean I’m going to hire them if they’re not a good enough candidate, or I have a better one.

      1. Garblesnark*

        I have rarely interviewed someone I really disliked, but I’ve interviewed a few people where I thought things during the interview including “this is going to make a great story for the group chat” or “I would not like to work with this person” or “what a remarkable thing to say to someone who you’re hoping will hire you” or “that is a really boring story.”

        Even so, that doesn’t stop me from being reasonably nice and friendly to them. I’m aware that part of interviewing is image management for the company, and snapping at people or hurrying them out when there’s not a safety threat doesn’t fulfill that goal.

  56. TA*

    Oof. I’ll be wanting an update from the wife in a few years, because I guarantee LW doesn’t think he makes any mistakes in his marriage either.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, I was rather shocked to read that he was married! But unless he changes his tune, I doubt he will be for very long.

      Some women find a certain type of arrogance in men very attractive (I don’t). Most of those quickly lose interest if they don’t have the financial success to back that up, though.

  57. Megan*

    This is a “bless your heart” letter. And I am glad AAM addressed the ‘I don’t make mistakes’ part of the letter, since the LW made many, many mistakes in this process, as AAM pointed out.

  58. GwenSoul*

    I wish the job market was the way it was 10 years ago when a pulse and semi competent skills were all you needed. Soft skills were a nice bonus but are the winning edge over other equally competent developers. Even if you think you don’t make mistakes, knowing that this will a make you come off as arrogant means you should use another example.

    If this is your first foray into a tough job market in can feel super disheartening, but don’t go the masters route! I have so many friends who did who regret it because it just added debt with no real payoff.

    1. GwenSoul*

      or maybe your biggest mistake was soft skills related! “I assumed the customer wanted X and instead of verifying I did X when they really wanted Y”

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      “I wish the job market was the way it was 10 years ago when a pulse and semi competent skills were all you needed. Soft skills were a nice bonus but are the winning edge over other equally competent developers.”

      For the sake of coworkers and even managers, I certainly don’t! I’ve worked with too many people who only brought technical skills and arrogance. No thanks!

  59. Mia*

    Wow…as someone in the technology field it is definitely a tough job market right now, especially for developers because a lot of the jobs are going offshore. I have a masters degree and honestly it’s the certifications that have done more for me than the masters. I’m glad I got the masters but I don’t know how much it will help with a job search in the current environment (I got my masters 10 years ago).

    This guy sounds like a piece of work. I feel for his wife.

  60. CommanderBanana*

    I don’t know if the interviewer is or isn’t talking about you, LW, but if you continue engaging in this sort of behavior you will end up blackballing yourself.

  61. JP*

    I hope this person is just engaging in a creative writing exercise and is not for real, because oof.

    1. Savor The Peelies*

      Unfortunately, tech is riddled with these sorts– enough that people are actively looking to avoid hiring anyone with this sort of attitude.

      1. Reb*

        I was raised by one of these types. I almost became one of these types. Having a master’s means nothing if you’ve no people skills or job hunting skills.

        1. Too Many Birds*

          “I was raised by one of these types. I almost became one of these types.”

          There is a whole novel in these two sentences.

    2. KayDeeAye*

      Yeah, just wow. Like W.O.W. I feel sorry for this person – I really do – but golly gee willikers, they really need a major attitude adjustment.

    3. Shoot another shot, try to stop the feeling*

      A lot of creative writing exercises have been posted here lately.

      1. Doctor Fun!*

        whew, tell me you’ve had a very limited, very calm set of work experiences without telling me

        1. esra*

          Haha one of my letters got posted to the Best of Reddit Updates recently and a few of the comments were like, this can’t be real. I wish, guys.

          In this particular case, it seems like OP is at a point where they’re facing some harsh realities, and unfortunately it can be human nature to dig in rather than step back and look at things more broadly.

      2. Excel Gardener*

        I’m not sure about this one in particular, but as a long time reader I agree there are more letters feel like they might be fake the past few years.

    4. Potato Potato*

      I don’t believe they are, because I went to school with some of these types. I also worked with one until he left (thankfully). I’m also a developer, and I love the job but hate some of the culture

      1. Czhorat*

        I work i a tech-ish field, and I’ve met multiple versions of this guy. The ones who think they’re special because of their technical expertise, but don’t get that the technical stuff is only part of the job – and often the easiest part.

        The more successful people aren’t usually the technical wizards, but the people who are good at collaboration, who can show a bit of humility, and who can communicate with non-technical people in a way that is respectful and clear.

        This guy sounds like he’d be terrible at all of that, but that’s a not uncommon thing in tech fields.

    5. Excel Gardener*

      Probably half my friends work in tech and engineering, and most people in these fields are lovely people, but I’ve also met and heard second hand about people who are exactly like LW, they do exist.

    6. ScruffyInternHerder*

      I’m not in the tech field at all, but there is plenty of this sentiment in my field, right down to it being directed towards women who “don’t belong” in their roles because of X, Y, Z imagined reasons. (I am referring to the LW’s original letter in which he spends too many words complaining about a “woman middle manager” who was participating in his “highly technical” interview and whether or not her experience could possibly be relevant…)

    7. Managing While Female*

      Mm. They are, though. I’ve had to “manage” a few of them and, I’ll tell you, it’s actually impossible to manage anyone who is unwilling to admit to any mistakes.

      1. Annie*

        I’ve been a woman in technology all my life. I have lived this with many of a certain type of man.

    8. Busy Middle Manager*

      It’s not that outlandish. I think OP just doesn’t grasp what “mistake” is. I think they mean they think to give an example where they added three zeroes to a number and it ended up costing the company 4X the tax that they then needed to petition the IRS for, or something of that scale.

      In reality, a mistake can be something as vague as “I had the chance to become friends with a big potential customer but fumbled the meet and greet” or “some of my codes became too hard for others to read because I kept cobbling on additions”

      1. Sloanicota*

        Or “I fumbled an interview and came across as very unlikeable and hard to manage”

      2. Tally miss*

        That’s the sense I got too, but maybe in the future his mistake can be talking about how he learned that only focusing on technical parts of the job and putting no importance on interpersonal aspects was an error.

    9. what was my name again*


      Honestly one of the scarier letters in a long while. The paranoia and misplaced frustration expressed here is the sort of powder keg that leads to tragedy.

      I’d recommend the OP look into therapy but obviously I’m just not analytical enough to understand why he’s justified. blech.

      1. Managing While Female*

        Agreed – plus the inability to self-reflect (or admit mistakes!!) and the underlying, seething misogyny is really frightening.

    10. worktorule*

      im in a protracted hr mediation with one of these. he likes to knowledge hoard and set back our schedule by writing incomplete tickets which i worked on based on the information he provided in the ticket (he refused to answer my follow up questions) and then had a literal screaming tantrum at me because his subsequent tasks didn’t work the way he wanted them to because it wasn’t in the requirements (and he didn’t review my PRs despite being asked to multiple times). he has finally admitted that part of the problem is my manager (‘but he gets his work done so fast!’ yes, because he violates our working agreement and does no testing and no follow up and the rest of team has no velocity bc we’re constantly called off our work to fix whatever mess he’s created) but im still required to keep showing up to these mediation meetings where he engages in gendered abuse. he has literally used the phrase “i don’t make mistakes!” on multiple occasions. these men are very real and very enabled in this behavior in tech

    11. Hosta*

      People are this ridiculous. Not many, but I’ve met folks who really do think about themselves this way.

    12. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

      I have met multiple real live humans who were exactly this ridiculous, in this same way.

      I even briefly dated or was friends with some, before I realized the extent of their aggressive ignorance was great enough to make them psychologically dangerous to me ( due to unintentional gaslighting and blame-shifting when reality didn’t align with their imagination) and distanced myself.

      This is a real way people are, and not even all that uncommon.

      1. Sloanicota*

        People are this ridiculous, but I admit I doubt someone like this would write this series of letters. It’s almost too self aware for someone who would make these mistakes. That said, it doesn’t really matter if it’s real or not as long as someone learns something.

    13. Tobias Funke*

      Nah, I definitely dated this person when I had no self esteem. They’d dropped out of college three times (disclaimer: this means nothing to me except for putting a delightfully fine point on the absurdity to follow) and felt the need to denigrate my master’s degree as being “all soft skills” and stated they could “get that license without the degree or studying for the test.” Also, they could “do my job tomorrow” with no training.

      There are so many out there. So, so many out there.

    14. Garblesnark*

      The thing that has me doubting this being a troll is the way he describes the grandboss redirecting him in the interview when he says he doesn’t make mistakes.

  62. kalli*

    People don’t think mistakes are okay. They just understand that they happen and figure out how deal with them, work to prevent them, and understand that they aren’t always anyone’s fault.

    I made a mistake in entering a bunch of data because nobody told me that when there were two entries in the one box that one entry was actually meant from the box before. The person reviewing my work added that to the instructions memo for the next lot of data. I made a mistake. I did ask about it and I didn’t get an answer, because the person responsible for telling me what to do hadn’t really told anyone what to do before and hadn’t ever looked at the data as someone who hadn’t seen it before to think to mention it, and was also very busy and prioritised speed over correctness. We talked and figured out why our numbers were different. Everything that went wrong in that could all have been prevented if they’d just said ‘they wrote stuff that didn’t fit in the box below as well as what was meant to go in that box’ and had bothered to tell me what formula to use instead of telling me to figure it out based on abbreviations they’d all cooked up with people I’ve never met or talked to. I’m still very good at data entry, but data has to have the correct parameters to be useful and I’m not a mindreader, so I didn’t have them, so I made mistakes. There is no way I could have prevented those mistakes because I did everything I was meant to to prevent them (asked questions, made notes, checked my work).

    To say I don’t make mistakes would be stupid.

    That’s why you’re not getting interviews. ‘I do my best to prevent mistakes and to catch things before they cause issues’ = good. ‘I don’t make mistakes’ = unrealistic.

    One way to not make mistakes is to not rely on things that aren’t in evidence, like assumptions…

  63. Indolent Libertine*

    LW, you are not employable right now because you’re an arrogant jerk. An additional degree won’t fix that, therefore your wife is correct that it would be a waste of money.

    I know all I have to go on is the tiny slice of your life that’s contained in these two letters, but I really urge you to examine (among other things) how much time you spend “explaining” to the women in your orbit that they’re wrong when they disagree with you.

  64. Ridiculous Penguin*

    I used to teach college and while I didn’t teach STEM classes, I did teach a class all students were required to take and a good number of them were international students in computer fields.

    Many of them were from India, and based on conversations I have had with both other professors from India and people in the workforce from India, it is absolutely a cultural thing to try to argue your way into what you want and to never admit that you are wrong – even when there is copious evidence to the contrary.

    I cannot express how frustrating it was to deal with these students (almost all of them were men; I am a woman; and the gender dynamic made it even worse). I had to get their international advisors involved on a regular basis to remind them that universities in the US don’t operate the way that they do in India. It wouldn’t surprise me if this person comes from a different cultural background.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      There are also company cultures where if you are in tech and admit you don’t know something, you lose standing.

      I try hard to change that at every place I work: freely admitting when I need help, apologizing when I mess up, and being a good worker that others respect. That makes it easier for other to allow themselves to show their imperfection, and together we make a much stronger team.

    2. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

      I have a family member whose ego is very very invested in them being the Smartest and the Most Right; they are in fact quite bright and know a lot of things in the field(s) that interest them! But they are horrible to interact with and have torpedoed almost every personal and professional relationship they’ve had. Do not recommend.

  65. Irish Teacher.*

    It is very unlikely that the interviewer told all her friends that you answered a question badly in your interview. That’s just…not that interesting. And even if she did, it is highly unlikely it would get you blackballed. It was a pretty easy mistake to make and most people would probably just assume you panicked and either couldn’t think of a mistake or were afraid to admit to one. It is highly unlikely they’d even remember your name.

    Unless there is way more to this that you’ve told us and you did something really egregious, it is almost impossible that you were blackballed because an interviewer may have told her friends, “hey, wait until you hear the silly answer one of my interviewees gave today.” At most it would be a funny story and I can’t imagine she would even mention your name; why should she?

    The reality is there is absolutely no way to tell if an interviewer “really likes you.” You can sometimes get an impression. Sometimes the length of the interview gives you a sense that they are seriously considering you. Sometimes how they engage with you indicates you are getting on. But…you could be completely off-base. And also an interviewer could genuinely like you and decide you weren’t right for the job or you could leave the interview with the interviewer genuinely intending to employ you and then the next candidate who comes in afterwards could turn out to be even better.

    Getting a job isn’t primarily about how good your resume or your cover letter is or about how much your interviewer likes you. It about which of the possibly many candidates is the best match for the job they are advertising for. And there is absolutely no way of knowing from outside what they are looking for. The example I always give here is of the principal who told me he was rejecting anybody with experience of teaching at college level (the school was one that had a lot of students with additional needs and/or behavioural problems and he felt that somebody used to teaching adults who had chosen to study a particular subject at college level would find it difficult to come down to the level of a 14 year old with a 7 year old reading level who hated being at school and did the bare minimum). For most teaching jobs, that would be a plus, but for that specific school, it was instant rejection.

    If 120 people apply for a job, it is very likely that at least 20 of them will have a good resume and cover letter and will be liked by the interviewers, but there is only one job so 19 of that 20 will be rejected and often the difference will be something invisible to you, like “x just happened to have worked on a very similar project to the one we are thinking of launching” or “y just happens to have an additional qualification in an area we are about to branch into” or “z’s reference was somebody I previously worked with and who I know is really hard to impress so if they say z is a good choice, he must be exceptional.”

    Not getting jobs doesn’t mean somebody has given you a bad reference or that you have been blackballed. It just means there was one other candidate in each case that either had something you didn’t or that the interviewed liked better. It could even be bias on the interviewer’s case.

    Also, the issue isn’t whether mistakes are OK or not; it’s that they are inevitable. I think you are still misunderstanding what a mistake means in this context. You seem to be assuming a mistake means doing a part of your core job wrong or overlooking something that was easy to notice had you double-checked, but those are not the only mistakes. As Alison said, you made a number of mistakes here, from assuming your interviewer was not a developer (that was a pretty major mistake) to the answer you gave to the question.

    Some mistakes are unavoidable. For example, if a student asks me for permission to go to the toilet, I have to say “yes” or “no”. Either could be a mistake depending on the context. If I say “yes” and the student is lying about going to the toilet and is really going to skip school or going to look for another student he is bullying, then I have made a mistake. If I say “no” and the student genuinely needs the toilet or is sick, I have made a mistake. I can make an educated guess based on my knowledge of the student, the time of day, etc, but there is no way of being right all the time. Even if I know a student is a bully and has been known to ask to go to the bathroom in order to pick on students, well, they will still genuinely need the bathroom sometimes.

    It’s not that it’s OK if I make a mistake and give them an opportunity to bully another student; it isn’t. But there is no way of entirely preventing this from ever happening.

    And yes, teaching is different from being a developer, but I bet there are situations when you have to decide whether to believe somebody or not or which project to prioritise and sometimes you are going to be wrong. A mistake doesn’t necessarily mean you were careless or lacked method.

  66. Ginger Cat Lady*

    Dude. No one’s “blackballing” you, you are doing it to yourself with your arrogance and cockiness. Stop blaming this poor woman for your mistakes. You’ve made SO MANY mistakes in this situation already.

    1. (Mostly) Professional Lurker*

      Ooooooooooohhhhhh boy. I’ve been coming to this site every day for years and this is the very first time that I have had to actually step away from a letter, take a sip of water and a deep breath before coming back to it. LW it is ironic that you think you never make mistakes when (assuming the letters are copy-pasted exactly as originally written) you appear to have made a minor typo in your letter. “she mentioned that layoffs in places like Facebook and Twitter” when I’m assuming you meant to write “THE layoffs in places like…”. Surely you can see this minor typo as evidence that you DO make mistakes, even ones as minor as a single mistyped word, because quite literally everyone makes mistakes. LW please heed this advice to drop this vendetta against this woman because you are blackballing YOURSELF from your own industry currently. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that your wife seems unconvinced that a master’s degree will make you that much more employable. I think she sees your issue far more clearly than you do. You need to do some introspection and learn some humility and soft skills like, yesterday. Best of luck to you.

  67. Everything bagel*

    LW, if you want to go back to school, may I suggest a course on empathy and humbleness? And women’s studies and/or history? Because, wow. You really need to take some time and discover what it means to be a team member. If you ever get a job, you’re not going to get along with every coworker – and that’s ok. But you still have to be civil and not degrading. Allison even pointed out in her pinned comment on the original post that you are so off-base that people literally thought that it was fake. Welcome to the real world of employment where it’s not just about you.

    1. Deborah*

      I would NOT want to be in a Women’s Studies or honestly ANY class that has discussions, with this guy.

    2. Too Many Birds*

      While this is very good advice, as an erstwhile History *and* WGS prof, having this man in my class would make me want to take to the sea.

  68. TKC*

    Man, you told a senior manager in your field that you don’t make mistakes because you actually went to school for this when you only have an undergrad degree?

    You think anyone believes that an undergrad degree makes you immune to mistakes? I mean, no amount of education does that, but I assumed this was someone with a PhD or something who had never had work experience outside of academia. That would still make you wildly out of touch. But a bachelors? It’s hard to overstate how truly unwarrantedly arrogant that must have come off.

    I only have an undergrad degree. There’s nothing wrong with this, and it doesn’t make you less than anyone. But the idea that that particular education makes anyone uniquely competent is… laughable.

    I’m sure your interviewer has a good story to share, but I find it very doubtful she uses your name. More of the “some guy once had the gall to mansplain my field to me in an interview” variety of story to her friends and family. Do not contact anyone on LinkedIn. That will make you look utterly unhinged.

  69. History Nerd*

    I’m curious, LW, if you don’t ever make a mistake, how do you learn new things? Do you know how to do something the first time you try?

  70. Garth*

    The rule is that we believe the OP, so since this OP doesn’t make mistakes, I’m going to suggest intentionally making an error of some kind so you can see how the rest of us live, and on top of that it’ll make you more relatable to the hiring managers out there

    You’ll see how even though people can screw up it doesn’t really matter because they can learn and move forward.

  71. Lusara*

    I looked back at the original post and this paragraph stands out:

    “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.”

    Then it was followed up with:

    “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. ”

    I’d suggest the LW do some research into what soft skills are and how to improve them.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        The original letter filled with so much sexism from the part where he said “(I don’t know if it matters but I’m male and everyone I interviewed with was female.)” Um, it didn’t matter to them, but it apparently mattered a great deal to LW.

        The lack of self-awareness is beyond stunning. Nothing seems to be LW’s fault. Oh, my.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      I’m just imagining being across from This Guy in an interview and smiling as I slowly draw a line through his name in my notebook.

    2. The Kulprit*

      Sometimes we have to speculate what went wrong in these letters, sometimes we see ones like this.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      “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. ”

      Oh I’d forgotten about that line. Okay OP I’m going to be blunt here – you absolutely have no business working with other people until you get this bias out of your head. You seem to have an idea that women don’t know technology and are not as knowledgeable as you and/or anyone without a recent qualification in comp sci has no business in tech hiring.

      I don’t have any qualifications in computer science. Never have. If you’d used that line in front of me in an interview (and I headed up the IT department) I’d have actually called it off right there. Belittling other people in an interview is a HUGE mistake.

  72. Juicebox Hero*

    I’m very methodical and analytic*AL* myself. Close to $15 million passes through my hands every year and I’m singlehandedly responsible for collecting, banking, disbursing, and otherwise babysitting it. I have next to zero management oversight. I’ve never been off by more than a nickel. The three sets of auditiors who check my books annually love doing mine because of my accuracy rate.

    I make so many mistakes every day. I made some doing today’s deposit. Careless mistakes. Transposition errors. I misplace stuff. I miscount cash. What do I do when a report is off or a deposit doesn’t balance? I grumble a bit, then I find the errors and correct them. I know the most common types of mistake that I make and how to fix them. If it’s not that, I try things until I find what works and then I sit back and feel all proud of myself for solving the mystery.

    On the very rare occasions when it’s been something I can’t fix myself, my bosses have been super understanding and helpful because they know and trust my work and that everyone goofs up. Because of that, I want to do as well as I can for them.

    If I had an implacable boss for whom mistakes are an unforgivable sin, that goodwill would dry up like thin spit on a hot stove and I’d be job searching instead of looking for the $.03 discrepancy in that $600K deposit.

  73. SPB*

    Oh my God!
    I’ve seen developers lose any chance of getting hired after being rude to the admin who called to schedule an interview. I can’t imagine being so rude and dismissive to someone who would be your boss’s boss and think you still had a chance! The general disdain and willingness to disregard what women (the grandboss, the hiring manager, his wife, Alison…) tell him make it seem like it’s probably a nightmare to work with him. Or be married to him.

    1. Always Tired*

      Right?? Back when I was a receptionist in the financial sector, the interviewers always checked in with me about how the candidates were while waiting. One guy was an absolute pill, and all I said was, “Well, he wasn’t the kindest, but I assume that was nerves.” and that was that for his candidacy.

      I remain shocked that we keep hearing about his wife, tbh. In that he even hears what she says, or that she puts up with this behavior.

      1. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

        When I was working retail (Apple Store) to pay for school, we had a guy come in for his interview. One of my coworkers didn’t realize he was waiting for our boss, and went over to see if he needed help. He literally responded “I’m here for an interview, so most likely it will be me helping you pretty soon.” We tried to tell our boss about it, but he shut it down by saying it wasn’t technically part of the interview and thus unfair to hold it against the guy and hired him.

        1) dude was an absolute nightmare to work with (condescending to everyone else, straight up lied to customers causing tons of returns—that he refused to process so it didn’t affect his metrics—you name it).

        2) that boss helped inspire my username

      2. Lusara*

        I worked at one place where we fully included the receptionist in the applicant discussions. It’s amazing how many people we thought were good candidates were really rude to the people they didn’t think mattered.

        1. I Have RBF*


          My favorite people in the office were often the receptionists/security folks. They knew when all the weird shit was about to go down, plus they were genuinely interesting people. The only reason I didn’t know all of their names is that I’m really bad with names.

  74. I should really pick a name*

    I think some time ago someone mentioned that part of the recipe for a large amount of comments was when the LW doubled down.

    This seems to support that theory.

    1. Relentlessly Socratic*

      I guess we can say you made no mistake about it.

      I’ll see myself out.

  75. Alex*

    If you are a developer and have “never made mistakes,” you’ve never worked on anything challenging. Making mistakes is how things are built and improved.

    The more likely explanation here is that you HAVE made mistakes, but have blamed them on others and not owned up to them. Your letter is an example of that–you didn’t get the job, it must be That Interviewer’s fault for asking bad questions and not understanding how awesome you are, not anything you have done. You aren’t getting interviews now, so it must be That Interviewer’s fault for blackballing you, not the misguided behavior and attitude you are showing.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Right! Debugging is such a core skill in development! Reading this makes me want to send the LW a rubber duck…