2

Recently I've had an initial interview for a new job in my dream sector of aerospace after completing their coding test task. I strongly believe I did a great job on the test task (but I acknowledge that may be my own impression). During the interview I started having some doubts about the company. Still, I agreed to meet in person. Then, after having digested the experience over a weekend, I gained a strong negative impression and didn't want to meet in person anymore. I still thought I should, though, because I shouldn't let my emotions rule over what should be rational decisions. The meeting was postponed and now I was asked to give some alternative date suggestions and it's second weekend after the initial interview. What I am looking for advice on is whether I'm simply overreacting, whether I should decline any more meetings, or how to decline.

Here's a list of reasons why I struggle with doubts:

  • the meeting was only over phone with a single manager, even though we could have used a videoconferencing tool. This isn't a strong argument I'd say, but it definitely helps to make a good impression if you can sense visual body language.
  • when asked how they handled the pandemic, the answer was "badly". They did switch to remote as much as they could, but apparently the productivity suffered. Shouldn't the health of employees be above productivity?
  • when asked about meeting deadlines, he said they always have some missed, because it's so frequent in aerospace. I mean I understand the difficulty of work in aerospace, but shouldn't this already be factored in?
  • related to the above, I asked about stress. The manager claims to be fairly successful in shielding away customer-induced, deadline-related stress away from employees, but I didn't gain that confidence given the fact that there always are missed deadlines.
  • when asked about benefits, the manager chuckled, saying that I perhaps got "spoiled" by multinational corporations, and didn't offer anything that I can remember in exchange. Note that an existing, solely national company offers quite fancy benefits, so I consider this a silly excuse.
  • when asked whether they'd agree on my salary requirement, he said that it depends on whether I'd be willing to lower it. Note that such salary was already agreed upon at another company (multinational one, though), even though it's closer to senior positions than junior ones (which is where I'd put myself anyway). This was said after being told that the company is doing really well (especially with aerospace and from-abroad contracts). He also said that we would discuss that during the in-person meeting.

Some more things to note:

  • it's a smaller company with 30-40 employees, located in central Europe.
  • the initial interview was scheduled on Friday afternoon at 4pm and then rescheduled to 2pm within an hour. I was told it's strange to schedule meetings for Friday afternoon, but I don't have an opinion about it myself.
  • it is strange to be asked to give meeting dates myself first for them to select one; it is also strange to require an in-person meeting even though it's been agreed I'd work full-remote and having to travel for about 3 hours one-way to reach their offices.
  • I'm easily manipulated in spoken language compared to written one, because I struggle with saying "no", I try to remain mature even when treated really unfairly, and trying to be as kind as possible. I do work on this, though, and I'm already quite assertive in text.

Last week and today I've been having stomach cramps just from thinking about this. It's my dream to work in aerospace, but I have such strange and sketchy impression that I'm strongly leaning towards declining anyway. But I need to know whether I'm overreacting and should give the meeting in person a chance, or whether my gut is giving me valid signals. Does the interview process above sound normal? Since this is mostly based on impressions and not factual data, how should I decline in case you suggest to do so?

6
  • 4
    Half of these are innocuous (Friday meetings?) and the other half are questionable (no benefits?), but none of them are unambiguous reasons to back out before finishing the process. Sep 20 '21 at 11:00
  • 2
    Why do you consider Friday afternoon an issue? Did you tell them how you define the term benefits? Maybe the said nothing, because they consider it standard, what they provide. Sep 20 '21 at 19:03
  • 1
    "Shouldn't the health of employees be above productivity?" While the health of employees is a concern of an employer, this is a weighted scale instead of an either/or. If the cost required by optimal employee health ends up making the company unprofitable, then it isn't sustainable. Sep 20 '21 at 20:02
  • 3
    If you know of any jobs with high salary, good benefits, low stress and chance to leave early on Fridays without anyone noticing, I'm interested too.
    – ojs
    Sep 21 '21 at 8:04
  • I really don't understand why people struggle with reading the note about Fridays. I said I was indifferent about it, but it was pointed out by someone else. I didn't know why. Clearly it's not a problem, so I can keep on not caring about it. Secondly, the whole point of a job search is to find a place with a good salary, good benefits, and low stress. So I really don't understand what's the big deal. Some of you obviously struggle with text comprehension, because the post was about the bigger picture, not individual notes.
    – bremby
    Sep 22 '21 at 10:32
27

You do seem to be over-reacting. You've asked questions and had some very honest answers - this would be a huge positive for me.

Some of your points suggest you may prefer a larger company with more formal processes though so maybe this company isn't right for you? If you'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt for now, here's some notes on why I don't think they've said anything too alarming.

the meeting was only over phone with a single manager, even though we could have used a videoconferencing tool. This isn't a strong argument I'd say, but it definitely helps to make a good impression if you can sense visual body language.

I wouldn't read anything into the communication medium of choice by a single member of staff. Maybe they are very concerned about privacy and prefer to limit their use of video, or their camera or microphone broke, or they're very traditional but the rest of the company happily use video.

when asked how they handled the pandemic, the answer was "badly". They did switch to remote as much as they could, but apparently the productivity suffered. Shouldn't the health of employees be above productivity?

I see such a bluntly honest answer as a positive. I don't see anything in it that suggests they don't care about their employees well-being - they just wish they could be more commercially successful while working remotely.

when asked about meeting deadlines, he said they always have some missed, because it's so frequent in aerospace. I mean I understand the difficulty of work in aerospace, but shouldn't this already be factored in?

It depends on the type of company. Some places will prioritise focussed work on the correct areas over highly accurate planning. So long as the staff aren't routinely asked to work extra hours to make up for poor planning, companies like this can be more fun to work for.

related to the above, I asked about stress. The manager claims to be fairly successful in shielding away customer-induced, deadline-related stress away from employees, but I didn't gain that confidence given the fact that there always are missed deadlines.

If the company treats deadlines as targets rather than commitments, it'd be quite possible to be both fairly relaxed and fairly bad at hitting dates.

when asked about benefits, the manager chuckled, saying that I perhaps got "spoiled" by multinational corporations, and didn't offer anything that I can remember in exchange. Note that an existing, solely national company offers quite fancy benefits, so I consider this a silly excuse.

when asked whether they'd agree on my salary requirement, he said that it depends on whether I'd be willing to lower it. Note that such salary was already agreed upon at another company (multinational one, though), even though it's closer to senior positions than junior ones (which is where I'd put myself anyway). This was said after being told that the company is doing really well (especially with aerospace and from-abroad contracts). He also said that we would discuss that during the in-person meeting.

He was honest with you about the benefits on offer. You have a choice to make between your dream job or higher pay and better benefits. Again, I'd view his candour as a positive.

7
  • 10
    Good point spotting the honesty. That's definitely a big plus!
    – meriton
    Sep 20 '21 at 11:43
  • 2
    @bremby I obviously didn't hear the tone, but the language does not sound negative or mocking to me. It sounds more like someone pointing out that he believes your previous experience of benefits is better than his understanding of industry norm. Given that your interviewer sounded bluntly honest in other answers, I'd consider the possibility that you're seeing insults where none were intended.
    – simonc
    Sep 20 '21 at 12:34
  • 2
    A brutally honest answer is not always good. Answering the question "How did you handle the pandemic?" with "Badly" is still a bad answer, even if is brutally honest. I can think of other examples of brutally-honest that are bad.
    – zmike
    Sep 20 '21 at 14:36
  • 6
    @zmike For who is it a bad answer? For a candidate it's a good answer because it doesn't pretend they handled it well plus it tells them that at least some people in the company understand that it was a bad response Sep 20 '21 at 17:21
  • 1
    @mattfreake Yes, you're right. An honest answer from an interviewer would be good for me as a candidate; so if I don't like the answer, then that is bad for the company/interviewer. And in this case, the interviewer said they handled the pandemic badly - that's a good answer for me, bad for the company. I'd be reluctant to to work there knowing they handled it badly, even if they did make an effort.
    – zmike
    Sep 21 '21 at 2:23
17

The majority of the points/doubts you list are paper thin, and at times border on the nonsensical (They scheduled a meeting for a Friday afternoon? The monsters!), probably the only two that are of any note are regarding benefits and salary. It does sound very much as though if you go there you aren't getting any "fancy" benefits and you probably won't get your salary expectation either.

There's no real value in addressing the other points - because what the rest of the "doubts" tell me, more than the actual details themselves (since they are irrelevant) is that you're trying to justify to yourself not continuing in the process. But you know what? You don't need to, "I don't want to" is all the reason you need for yourself. The job-search police aren't going to put you on trial and ask you to justify why you didn't pursue something.

In your position I'd go to the in-person interview, you've got nothing to lose really and that way you can at least make the most informed decision you can. Going to an interview commits you to nothing more or less than going to the interview. If it still doesn't "feel" right afterwards you can withdraw then

Does the interview process above sound normal?

Yes.

3
  • The thing about Friday afternoon meeting was a sidenote, and I clearly said I'm indifferent about it. I just pointed it out because someone else mentioned it to me. And I'm pretty sure most of the points are not clear-cutters, but the point of the post was to see whether I might be missing something else. The biggest blocker still is the salary, but to add on top of that, they also seem to be hiding that from me. It's just weird, you know?
    – bremby
    Sep 20 '21 at 11:57
  • 2
    @bremby It's not "weird" that they want to keep final discussions around salary until the in-person interview, it's pretty common, and they aren't exactly hiding anything - they've already indicated that it's likely to be lower than your expectation.
    – motosubatsu
    Sep 20 '21 at 12:20
  • 1
    +1 for the doubts being an attempt to justify not continuing. If I was the OP I'd try and understand the real reason they don't want to continue (fear of change? fear the reality of their dream-job won't match ideal?) and decide if that is valid Sep 21 '21 at 9:55
5

Attending a second interview does not commit you to taking the job. It means that there are still open questions that need to be resolved before making a decision, and from what you write, you do have such open questions, because various small things have made you doubt that it is the right decision for you, but the signals were somewhat indirect, and might have harmless explanations.

Spending a day of your time to make certain before giving up on a dream job seems a good use of your time.

If you do go to the interview, have a plan how to get more information about the doubts raised. Here are some tips:

the meeting was only over phone with a single manager, even though we could have used a videoconferencing tool

"When people are working remote, how do you communicate with them? Are meetings held remote, too?"

They did switch to remote as much as they could

... and just how much was that? While I am visiting their offices, I'd probably ask to be shown my future office, and take note of the proportion of occupied seats while walking through their offices.

when asked about meeting deadlines, he said they always have some missed, because it's so frequent in aerospace. I mean I understand the difficulty of work in aerospace, but shouldn't this already be factored in?

Not necessarily; sometimes customers set unrealistic deadlines without consulting with the company. But I wouldn't press this, because ultimately, what affects you are not missed deadlines, but how the company reacts to that. Some companies will pass on the pressure (with interest) to their workers, others will see it as perfectly normal, and nothing to concern their people with (or anything in between).

The manager claims to be fairly successful in shielding away customer-induced, deadline-related stress away from employees, but I didn't gain that confidence given the fact that there always are missed deadlines.

Good question! I'd try to also ask a future colleague. To arrange that, I'd probably say something like: "While I'm visiting the offices, would it be possible to meet with a few team members to get a feel for how we click?" and then sneak in a few questions about work conditions when talking with them.

when asked about benefits, the manager chuckled, saying that I perhaps got "spoiled" by multinational corporations, and didn't offer anything that I can remember in exchange

That sounds fairly clear: There are no benefits to speak of. I'd factor that into my decision.

when asked whether they'd agree on my salary requirement, he said that it depends on whether I'd be willing to lower it. ... He also said that we would discuss that during the in-person meeting.

Do discuss that with them. (Or if you are certain that you won't go lower, you could tell them now, and see whether they still wish to continue)

I'm easily manipulated in spoken language compared to written one, because I struggle with saying "no", ... I do work on this, though, and I'm already quite assertive in text.

Don't make a decision in the meeting. If pressed, say something like "I'm still waiting to hear back from other companies I am interviewing with".

That is, you don't have to say "no" in person, you can absolutely do so in writing.

And if you do decline, you don't have to state a reason. You can, if you want, but it's totally fine to just write "I have decided to decline your offer".

1
  • Thank you for your comments. I'd like to make it clearer that they are not willing to agree to my salary expectation, that's why it's formulated exactly the way it is. They want me to lower it. However, they haven't said how low, and so I don't even know whether I'd be wasting my time going for that in-person meeting.
    – bremby
    Sep 20 '21 at 11:55
1

Interviews are a two way exchange. If they aren't feeling you, or you aren't feeling them, then neither party should commit to the job. That's the whole point of the interview process.

Gut instinct matters a ton when it comes to interviews. If your gut says there's something sketchy, bail, because it probably picked up on even more than you consciously did.

2
  • Your point about my gut picking up on subconscious signs is exactly what I thought of. That's why I made this post in the first place - I guess none of my points is a clear reason to decline, but I just wasn't sure if there was something that others might pick up on just from the description. Thanks for mentioning it. :)
    – bremby
    Sep 20 '21 at 11:52
  • 6
    Gut instinct really matters so little for things that you do infrequently, and for most people, these include interviews. I would also say that unless you've sat on both sides of the table, you shouldn't really trust your gut instinct on these things. Sep 20 '21 at 11:59
-1

should give the meeting in person a chance

I can see no reason, whatsoever, that you would not go to the interview.

Of course, obviously, go to the interview to learn more. (Even if you had firmly decided to not work there.) Yes, of course go.

it is strange to be asked to give meeting dates myself first for them to select one;

It's completely normal. I have never done any other procedure on either side.

it is also strange to require an in-person meeting [for a remote job]

As was mentioned in the comments, it's inconceivable you will get a job without a real meeting.

Also be aware that if you have a "1000% remote job" it is a 1000% certainty that from time to time you will have to go to the office. It might be once a month, it might be a few times a year.

having to travel for about 3 hours one-way to reach their office ...

If you have to travel a LONG way for an interview (ie, a plane flight) they would pay for your travel costs. Three hours is not really a big deal in Europe, I'd say, it really would not be ab-normal if they did not offer to pay for your train ticket (or similar). It would be polite if they did, but, really, it's just a cost for you of doing business (just like you need computers, suits, etc).

You seem to include an unrelated issue/question:

I'm easily manipulated in spoken language

Unfortunately, sorry for the "tough love", but you will struggle in business if that's the case. Of course, "we were all young once" and you grow out of it. But you "can't" take part in business and jobs if someone can "manipulate" you. You'll end up manipulated.

I struggle with saying "no", I try to remain mature even when treated really unfairly, and trying to be as kind as possible.

All of these issues should be utterly irrelevant to the workplace.

You're not discussing a marriage here. It's not high school.

  1. do your work
  2. take the pay and go home
  3. as soon as possible, move to a better job or a job with more money, if you want to
  4. be "business-polite" at all times
  5. you work so you can live, you don't "live to work". it's only a job to make money.
2
  • @bremby, "it is a 1000% certainty that from time to time you will have to go to the office." Fattie makes a good point. Everything they've said indicates that they don't like remote work. So expect to be pulled in frequently into in-person meetings, or best case scenario, expect to be treated like a second class citizen because of your remote status. If I were you, I would ask for another remote interview, before I'd go to this final interview, so as to clarify those other points. Also, I would ask to speak to my future colleagues over video conferencing (not just the manager). Sep 20 '21 at 23:21
  • And even if they agree not to have you come into the office more than once a year. At the end of the negotiation, I think you should include a clause in your contract that makes them pay you a lot of money every time they require your presence. In other words, make sure that the cost is significant to them. Make them pay for your hotel room, travel cost, travel time, weekend hotel, etc. This way, if they don't need you, that's great, but if they go back on their word, you can be compensated for it. Sep 20 '21 at 23:33

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .