Bad Job Interview? How To Know What Went Wrong
Q: Is asking an interviewer, "Is there anything you would change about the organization," inappropriate? A previous employer was not a pleasant fella to work for, and the organization was chaotic. After putting up with that for 10 years I wanted to assess whether or not I was setting myself up for the same issues with this new employer. The interviewer said she "was not prepared to be interviewed, and would rather not answer those questions." Did I offend her?
You might have, but she was utterly in the wrong.
It's ridiculous for an interviewer to think that after poking, prodding and scrutinizing a candidate, the candidate isn't entitled to do their own prodding right back. This interviewer clearly looks at interviewing as a one-way street, which it isn't, and apparently has no appreciation for the fact that it's to the employer's advantage to have a candidate rigorously evaluate whether the job would be a good fit for them and somewhere they'd be happy.
If that interviewer would be your manager, you should consider this a big red flag.
Q: Any advice on how to "save" an interview when the hiring manager indicates your question is offensive? At a recent interview, I was asked if I had any questions about the position and I responded with, "Why is this position available? Is is because of company growth? Someone left or was fired? Restructuring?"
I thought it a logical question but the hiring manager frowned at me and told me quite firmly that she found the question inappropriate and she was not going to answer it, as it wasn't any of my concern. I was stunned into silence and felt the interview, which had started out great, was doomed to end on a bad note. What is the best way to handle a situation where an interviewer indicates that you have offended them (and particularly when you haven't said anything offensive)?
The best way to handle it is to run. You do not want that job, and you certainly don't want that boss.
I'll tell you what's offensive: Hiring managers who act as if you should be grateful they're even talking to you and who have the arrogance to respond so rudely to a perfectly reasonable question. And hiring managers who forget that this is a business discussion about a potential business arrangement, not some one-way transaction where they pass judgment while you bow and scrape in front of them.
Seriously, I don't care how much you thought you wanted the job up until then -- a manager who not only doesn't see why you might want to know why the position is open, but who also goes so far as to chastise you for asking, is a manager who is going to be a nightmare to work with. That is a manager who doesn't know how to manage, who doesn't understand the first thing about attracting and keeping great employees, and whose default posture is apparently not only to deny you reasonable information but also to imply there's something wrong with you for wanting it.
Red flags do not get any redder than this one.
(As a side note, this reminds me of a friend who had the audacity to ask what salary would accompany the job offer he was receiving, and in response, the manager making the offer muttered "vulgar" under his breath. Guess what that guy was like to work for? Bad.)
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Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization.