I have had a couple of experiences and would like some suggestions as to how to set boundaries when I am feeling uncomfortable as to the tone and type of questioning during an interview.

I recently had an experience where the interviewer does a 3 minute get to know you and then decided to start blitzing me with technical questions that were out of context for me.

If I am going to be joining a company, I hope to be among respected colleagues, if not future friends that I hope to work with for many years to come and I need an effective, professional, dignified way to stop the process when I feel I am not being treated respectfully during an interview process.

This may not sound like much but setting boundaries does not come easily to all human beings and I happen to be one of them.

I have had interviewers become argumentative (i.e. the person did not like the fact that I mentioned PHP and Ruby on Rails in the same sentence) which is quite a culture shock to experience and have never experienced anything like it in past industries I have worked in.

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    What do you have in mind for vetting? In your first example, 5 minutes into the phone interview you knew this wasn't a company you'd work for. That sounds like pretty good vetting to me. – Dan Pichelman Oct 31 '18 at 16:40
  • @DanPichelman, I think you are right. I guess I just need the courage to say to end the conversation. Perhaps you can offer a suggestion on what to say, that I could practice. – Daniel Oct 31 '18 at 16:47
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    You may be significantly limiting your career prospects if a few impromptu technical questions during an interview is a red flag for you (although perhaps that's acceptable for you). You should always be prepared to answer technical questions during any type of interview (unless you were explicitly told it's non-technical with non-technical interviewers). – Bernhard Barker Oct 31 '18 at 17:25
  • @JoeStrazzere, thank you for that comment. That has always been my biggest challenge in life in general, knowing when to set boundaries like that. – Daniel Oct 31 '18 at 21:18
  • @Dukeling, I have read answers to other posts you have provided in this forum in the past. So your thoughts are well-received. I have no problem with impromptu technical questions, imagine a customer comes to you and says "help! where in the dom is the id stored?!" My response is, calm down and lets start by providing me with some context. I admittedly did a poor job of asking for that, although I did try and got nowhere. So if you are my customer and I cant figure out what you are asking, what are we doing? Put some context to the question, otherwise, its akin to fraternity hazing. – Daniel Nov 1 '18 at 3:05

In my opinion, interviews exist to answer the following questions:

  1. Is there a technical fit between the candidate and the company?
    1. Does the candidate have the needed skills?
    2. Does the company have the ability to best make use of those skills?
  2. Is there a social/communications fit?
    1. Will the candidate be able to communicate effectively? Will he understand assignments and be able to raise issues when needed?
    2. Will the company listen to the candidate, treat him with respect, and value his input?
  3. Will this relationship benefit both sides, and will it grow?

As soon as you reach a "no", your vetting process is complete and you can comfortably end the conversation.

One way to do that is to wait for the interviewer to pause for air and announce
"You know, this job isn't for me. Thanks for your time". You don't owe them an explanation.

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  • Dan, this is perfect, I will keep what you wrote above in my notes. It will come in handy for years to come IMO. – Daniel Oct 31 '18 at 18:22
  • Just as an aside, where I believe I excel or I am comfortable are in interview questions that are thoughtful such as "Explain to me some of the benefits of Redux"? As opposed to, "quick, where in the DOM is the users' id stored!? Go!" The latter gets a WTF reaction from my brain and immediately shuts down. – Daniel Oct 31 '18 at 19:49

Unfortunately, some companies are very aggressive and arrogant in interviewing candidates. The only way I know of to vet companies before the interview process is to check out glassdoor.com and other similar websites to try to find out what their interview process is like before you talk to them.

I guess I could have said, "no, I did not understand this initial phone call to be a technical interview"?

There's nothing wrong with this. If you aren't prepared for and aren't going to do well in a technical interview, probably your best bet is to just inform them that you aren't prepared and didn't expect it, and that you'd like to reschedule. I believe that will give you the best chance of having a better experience.

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  • Thank you dbeer. I appreciate your answer. I did try looking up this startup on Glassdoor, unfortunately, they do not have a presence on Glassdoor. Nevertheless, your answer is helpful. – Daniel Oct 31 '18 at 17:14

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