I am being made to re apply for my job as it was a short term contract. In the interview, one of the interviewers brought up a complaint (that was not previously relayed to me) to question my competency in an aspect of my role.

Are they allowed to do that? It seems somewhat unprofessional. The interviewer is my line manager and would have had plenty of opportunity to raise this with me.

How should I respond to a complaint like this?


4 Answers 4


Are they allowed to do that?

Yes. Their interview, their rules. They haven't broken any law, although it may make you feel uncomfortable.

It seems somewhat unprofessional.

Yes. It is unprofessional. Ideally, you should be told of complaints as soon as possible in order that you can put them right.

How should I respond to a complaint like this?

In the interview? You need to explain why you think the person complained, how you would have handled the complaint at the time, and what you would do to make it right and stop the problem happening again.

After the interview? There's no point in arguing with the interviewer. They set the rules - not you.

It may be worth speaking to your manager and asking if there's any way you can help address the complaint now (if it's not too old), or you could go back to the original complainant (if you know who they are) and try to resolve the issue.

Finally, consider if you want to work for a company which behaves in such a manner. An interview is as much a chance for you to test the company as for them to test you.

  • 4
    I believe I would have also ponted out that the issue was one that had not been brought up to me previously. You can't fix an issue you don't know you have and pointing out that you were not told can mitigate some of the why is this still broken reaction. But it has to be done in a matter of fact tone not sounding defensive. Something like "You surprised me with that, I was not aware that was a problem. But since you bring it up, this is how I will go about fxing the issue..."
    – HLGEM
    Jun 18, 2014 at 15:43

Since this is the first you've ever heard of this complaint, go into fact gathering mode. Ask for time, date, location, participants, witnesses and a description of the incident or incidents. Then deal with this incident as appropriate. For example,if the incident never happened because you were doing something else that day, say so.

Treat the complaint as an opportunity to display your ability to cope with unexpected situations, think of your feet, get to the bottom of a story and come up with a resolution or conclusion. If you screwed it, be straightforward and say you screwed it.

If you do it right, the incident is just an incident even if you admit that you screwed it. If you handle the complaint the wrong way, the complaint is going to be more than just a complaint and the incident will be more than just an incident in your management's eyes.


If the problem were that serious or had the potential to be repeated, I would think you'd hear about it sooner rather than later. Sometimes people forget and the interview may have prompted the manager's memory. It is unprofessional and a poor use of what we know about human psychology. Delaying feedback (esp. punishment) isn't as affective.

You need to consider how you want to go about working with this company. One important aspect of any job is to know how and when you'll be evaluated. Most annual review processes are an absolute waste of time (Aubrey Daniels). Let your boss know you are open to feedback, so he shouldn't hesitate to tell you when you're not doing things correctly so you can fix them.

In this particular case, the manager wants to show everyone he is doing his job (Which apparently is finding fault with you.) and is trying to get some advantage should you ask for more money. How can you ask for more money if I just indicated your lack of skills?


I'm going to try to explain this from the manager's point of view. I'm also going to assume that the complaint was something fairly minor, the sort of thing nobody would fire you on the spot for but that might stick in someone's memory. Let's say that you forgot to tell somebody when a particular thing was ready, and they had to ask around to find out it was ready. A small complaint.

For me, when someone does something minor wrong like that, I try to mention it to them right away. But I'm a busy person and I don't always get around to doing that, especially for something minor when I've got a lot on my plate. If too much time goes by before I get a chance to talk to them, bringing it up will make it seem like a bigger thing than it is, so I let it go and just try to remember to react quickly if it ever happens again. Especially if the person is a contractor who is only here for a few more weeks, I'll just let it go. I've got a lot of stuff to do and making a contractor into the ideal employee is optional work: the contractor is doing ok, so I just make a bit of a face and move on.

But then, the contractor applies to be renewed. And I'm tasked with joining the interview. And I remember that time when people weren't notified and that was a problem. So I ask about it. Maybe to you it sounds like I'm complaining about it. Whatever. I bring the subject up. Am I allowed to? Of course. I can bring up any subject I like. What should you do about it? You should react as though you're in a job interview not as though this is a regular day at the office. You have two routes you can take - choose carefully.

Route 1: agree with the interviewer and talk hypothetically about "next time":

There was an incident about a month ago where I was juggling many projects at once. A task was completed on time but I neglected to inform the relevant stakeholders. Unfortunately as you say, they had to ask if it was done or not. The incident embarrassed me and I've developed a checklist to make sure that never happens again. I also have arranged for X to backstop me on this so that if I have to head out for the day before a task is finished, X will send out the announcement that day rather than the stakeholders having to wait until I come in the next morning.

Route 2: argue with the interview and stick up for yourself

It is true that some stakeholders thought I didn't take steps to notify them of a recent task completion. The fact is that X was notified and agreed to pass word on. When I got in the next morning I discovered X had not done what was agreed and as you know I got the word out very quickly once I learned what had happened. I'm sorry you feel that's still an outstanding issue between you and me: I dealt with it by talking to X and didn't feel the need to loop you in on it. I do apologize for that.

You have to be very very careful when telling an interviewer they are wrong. Pretty much the only time it's ok is a case like this where their observation of something that happened may not be complete. Be sure to include an apology for leaving them in that situation of not knowing the whole story. In general I would go for the first approach, though there may be times the second approach will work.

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