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I work in New Mexico, USA. My position is supposed to be one of a team of four, but we have never been fully staffed in the two years I have worked here. This is because we have high turnover due to an over-wide job description and we struggle to hire or replace due to my boss's absurd interview practices. A few of the things he has done:

  • Asks me to review candidate applications with him, then tosses 75%+ of the applications because "as hiring manager it's my responsibility to find the PERFECT candidate." We typically only get three or four applicants per opening!
  • Put in 1pt font in his email signature "wear a red tie to the interview" then berated a candidate who showed up without a red tie for "lack of attention to detail".
  • Scheduled the interview for 13:30 then got upset when the candidate arrived at 13:15 but waited in the lobby as instructed by the receptionist rather than find my boss's office to start the interview fifteen minutes early.
  • Asks dumb trivia questions in interviews then rolls his eyes or sighs if a candidate admits they don't know. We're talking stuff that is either totally irrelevant to this position or stuff that is relevant but understandable to forget, such as minor acronyms.
  • Emailed a candidate at 3:00 scheduling an interview for 9:00 that morning because "the perfect candidate is always available." This was his top pick for the position at the time and he acted like he dodged a bullet when she turned down the interview.
  • Straight up lies to candidates about the job description, expectations, compensation, etc. When I called him on this he said the job sucks so bad that no one will accept an offer if he doesn't lie.
  • Gets frustrated when there are technical difficulties with Zoom, etc., even on his end, and takes it out on the candidate.
  • Says he doesn't mind this interview treadmill because he gets to take a half day off work to interview candidates.

Is this grounds for going over my boss's head to his boss? To HR? I don't want to job hop right now as I have other obligations.

EDIT: The prevailing theme in the responses is that yes this behavior should be escalated to someone. My company has an anonymous HR tipline, is it worth putting in there?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Jan 4 at 18:33

7 Answers 7

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Anyone that behaves like you describe here is, put bluntly, a complete asshole and should be removed from their position ASAP.

Is this grounds for going over my boss's head to his boss? To HR?

Yes, and yes. Your boss is a danger to your team's future.

However, I think the chance of your boss responding in any way positively to being called out on his behaviour is somewhere very, very close to zero. There is a distinct chance they will take that out on you - be prepared to deal with the consequences.

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    If this is the way your boss acts, then if you bring this up to your boss’ boss - who may well know how they are already - then you can put your own job at risk. If you really don’t want to job hop, don’t poke the bear. I would want you to reconsider that however because this guy is toxic af and it’s unlikely he’s the only member of management that is.
    – mxyzplk
    Dec 26, 2021 at 22:36
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    I would talk to his manager's boss and slowly ease into the conversation trying to gauge the level of awareness he has of the boss' odd behavior and interview style e.g., don't go in complaining about the boss' behavior from the start. Ask probing questions, "I'm concerned that we never are fully staffed here. It seems like we throw out a large % of applicants... how involved are you/have you been in the review and interview process in past?" "Are you aware of the high number of applicants that are dismissed? I've reviewed many of them and thought many were worth an interview?", etc.
    – JeffC
    Dec 27, 2021 at 23:19
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    @JeffC YES! This is a brilliant strategy and very wise. You can question issues with the process, rather than complain or throw your boss under the bus. That will always go over better, and you can hopefully tell whether your manager's boss is covering for him or frustrated by it.
    – wildbagel
    Dec 29, 2021 at 14:14
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Does he actually want to find an actual employee?

There are potential business reasons for an employer to search for potential employees without any desire to actually hire anyone. For instance, the US government requires businesses to search for local candidates for a position before allowing them to look for foreign candidates that would come to the US on a work visa. Similarly, if a business received Covid bailout money from the US government, they were required to pay back the loans unless they made attempts at filling the positions emptied by Covid-related layoffs.

As such, I would consider having a discussion with your boss about whether or not he actually intends to fill the position, or if he's just doing a bad-faith job search for the sake of fulfilling the letter of the law, before you go over his head to complain about it to his boss. It's entirely possible that he's been instructed to do this sort of thing by his superiors, after all.

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    This, because if you are aware that this is the case you can make it a lot easier on a) yourself and b) any applicants (by bullshitting them early on so they don't waste much energy on your company)
    – Hobbamok
    Dec 27, 2021 at 10:04
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    IDK, that sounds like a lot of pageantry for a perfunctory letter-of-the-law search vs ego gratification of a maniac. Dec 27, 2021 at 15:12
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    Never attribute to conspiracy that which is adequately explained by malice. Dec 27, 2021 at 15:45
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    I agree but am trying to imagine the conversation: "of course we want the right candidate, aaand, that might take ... another year? Two years? Never? OBVIOUSLY we'd hire the right person tomorrow, obviously (loudly into the mic), but our team working just as it is now for the forseable future, that would be ... acceptable? Gothca boss -- loud and clear". Dec 27, 2021 at 15:53
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    @DanielR.Collins But never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity. Dec 28, 2021 at 11:21
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Yes this is a slam dunk case for going over your boss's head.

The behaviours you describe are all unprofessional and harmful to the company. You might consider talking to the boss himself before you escalate, unless you have already done so. But I'm not sure I'd recommend that.

I also can't guarantee that there won't be consequences if you go over his head. Maybe update your resume just in case. If you actually can't change job then just keep quiet and let your boss dig his own grave. Maybe try to get out of interviewing yourself.

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I wonder whether your boss is crazy like a fox.

If your firm is such a bad place to work, then he needs to find a real supplicant. The behaviour which is unreasonable and absurd by any normal standard, may be a way by which he hopes to detect such a candidate by their reaction to it.

So I wouldn't go over his head unless you have strong reasons to believe he is utterly at odds with the general standard of management in the company.

I've personally never encountered a manager who was of a lower standard than their own superior. They are either better managers in that they compensate for the flaws of their superiors, or they are worse only in that they represent some aspect of their superior's agenda in a purer form than may be apparent from dealing directly with the superior.

The only time when going to a superior is likely to be effective, is when a brand new manager is causing a generalised rebellion (either in terms of numbers, or in terms of perceived key people) where formerly peace was known to prevail, or in large organisations where there are strong controls to disrupt patronage and corrupt practices in the hierarchy and where managers do not hire their own subordinates into the organisation in the first place (so your particular problem would not arise).

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    "I've personally never encountered a manager who was of a lower standard than their own superior." You are clearly very young, have worked at very few companies, or are, in fact, a unicorn.
    – JeffC
    Dec 27, 2021 at 23:21
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    @JeffC, I can't claim any of those. My remarks have to be read in context, as concerning the culture of the management hierarchy, not as concerning the possibility that superior managers may for example have better technical or intellectual skills than their subordinate managers. The manager as described by the OP is not fumbling a task or struggling to grasp a complicated situation, he's intentionally setting out to be a swine towards candidates, and that speaks to the likely culture of those above (even if, as I say, the subordinate manager represents it in purer form).
    – Steve
    Dec 28, 2021 at 19:50
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Your boss is on an insane power trip. If he ever got the team filled he'd turn on you. The best way to stop these is to replace them, the second best is to get out of the way by finding a new job (or transfer to a different department).

Anonymous isn't anonymous enough, especially in such a small team, so you have to resort to cleverer measures. Report this as an interviewee.

Send a complaint about the red tie thing from a throwaway email, claiming to be an interviewee. Do not claim to be a specific candidate- that will bite you in the ass if they find out- so stick to complaints that affect multiple applicants.

Wait a few weeks for a response, do another from a different "applicant" if you don't get one. Eventually they will connect this to the lack of hiring and investigate- at that point they're more likely to pay attention since it's their findings and they get to pat themselves on the back.

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    I'm not sure, but I would expect that the responsible department might only process objections from rejected candidates if filed under their name. In several places I have applied, there was a formal procedure to object to a rejection if one has evidence of unfair treatment. I've always considered this a purely theoretical option, but then I've never seen interview practices like the OP describes except in a Monty Python sketch (at my employer the person from HR and the equal opportunities representative would surely raise a concern).
    – gerrit
    Dec 27, 2021 at 11:47
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    I'm not sure this logic follows. There is only a modest chance that a candidate rejected for perceived unfair reasons, and aggrieved enough to complain about it, would decline to identify themselves and to be available for further questions from the person they feel it is useful to make the complaint to. Two such anonymous complaints in a series would set alarm bells ringing that the complaints may actually originate from one person, and that they are therefore somehow confected. Even in the absence of proof, the manager may immediately make the connection with his disgruntled subordinate.
    – Steve
    Dec 27, 2021 at 13:49
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    The red tie thing, if the 1pt font is true, is absolutely a hiring discrimination minefield, since it's essentially measuring vision. Dec 27, 2021 at 16:45
  • Also, I would be very careful to send anonymous messages to someone you know. I used to have a colleague who did that. He signed a highly negative comment on a public article from another colleague with a fake name, yet we recognised his writing style. In the interest of peace, we never confronted him with it, but it was not helpful for the team atmosphere, to say the least.
    – gerrit
    Dec 28, 2021 at 10:15
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Step 1 is to update your own resume. The answers saying to report the boss are accurate, but incomplete. Start looking for other opportunities, and be prepared to leave once the bridge is burned with your current boss.

Then, yes, make sure the company knows WTF is going on. The behavior you are seeing is not normal. If you don't want to deal with working for a boss you've filed a complaint about, you can just explain everything in your farewell email or exit interview. The fact that you are even asking makes me think you are wildly underestimating just how bad some of this behavior is. You are working for a maniac. You are in a terrible situation. Have an exit strategy.

His job is absolutely not to find "the PERFECT candidate." His job is to keep the team functioning. If it's super short staffed (and the boss is spending half his time interviewing rather than helping at all) then the boss is burning you out and you may just need some warm bodies because the current situation is unsustainable.

"wear a red tie to the interview" is a cheap trick. It doesn't select in any way for programming ability. It does select for people who already own a red tie. Introducing arbitrary biases like that will filter out certain groups of people in ways that HR would probably be livid about. How many women own red ties? How many people who recently immigrated from a place where Western business suits aren't common have a collection of ties in various colors? And beyond that, I'd hesitate to accept an offer from any boss that I know intentionally hides information to try and make other people look bad, so it filters out the talented people who have other options and aren't desperate for a job. Those are generally the people a company would want to hire.

"Asks dumb trivia questions in interviews then rolls his eyes" -- Unfortunately, that is pretty common. It's stupid, bad interviewing. It's power trip BS. But also pretty common, and not necessarily the end of the world.

"the perfect candidate is always available." Objectively an insane assertion. You just filtered out a bunch of parents and whatnot. Again, HR would be livid and that's the kind of BS that can open up the company to lawsuits. Selecting for "not currently busy" is a terrible heuristic for being qualified to do a job.

"Straight up lies to candidates about the job description, expectations, compensation, etc." Another one that HR would be livid about. Offering somebody one job, then making them do a job that isn't what they thought they signed up for has legal and financial implications. When the confused new employee tells you to F off and quits, it generally doesn't count as quitting for unemployment purposes which means the company is on the hook for unemployment payments. Look up "constructive dismissal" for the ways a company can effectively fire somebody by making their job terrible when they don't want to technically fire that person. Actively churning through people and putting the company at long term financial risk related to many of the people you intentionally churned through really really ought to be career limiting in any kind of sanely run org.

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    "Selecting for "not currently busy" is a terrible heuristic for being qualified to do a job." He didn't say "the qualified candidate is always available", he said "the perfect candidate is always available". If that's interpreted as a statement about what constitutes "perfect", it is quite revealing. Dec 29, 2021 at 4:22
  • It's simply asserting that for them, a "perfect candidate" means someone desperate enough to be willing to tolerate arbitrary requirements and abuse, and be always available for the company. Someone who's very qualified but able and willing to refuse something is apparently not considered a good fit - for example, they might also refuse to work very cheaply.
    – Peteris
    Jan 3 at 16:24
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Yes, bring it to the next in line over your boss. Pay attention to how this gets addressed too, if brushed off they might not actually want to fill that position. How do you feel about being short staffed for two more years?

I know you don't want to find a new job right now (nobody does) but IMO this behavior is enough to at least get the resume up to date and start browsing openings.

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