18

First, I must add here that I have been working as a software engineer for six years now and haven't experienced anything like this ever before. I applied for a senior software engineering job at a very large (and extremely popular) firm. They liked my application and called me in for an actual interview at their office.

The interviewer, when he first saw me, greeted me very pleasantly and guided me to the room in which the interview was conducted. When the interview began, he asked very common questions in an interview like, "What's your experience?" and whatnot, among many other questions. For the first ten minutes, the interview was going smoothly and I was answering all of his questions nicely.

Then, he asked an extremely strange question "Don't you wear glasses?" I do wear glasses, but I wasn't wearing them over to the interview. I had forgotten them in my apartment while I was leaving quickly for the interview in the morning.

To his question, I replied, "Well yes, how do you know?", and he smiled and said "You clearly were introduced to a computer at a very tender age and afterwards, you've been using computers very rigorously on a daily basis. It is quite obvious to then deduce that your sight must have been weakened."

Like anybody else, I was baffled by this strange line of sayings and thought to myself that he was new in this whole business. I got very nervous by him and anybody would have gotten so really. He had the gaze of an owl and would stare into your eyes while you talk, in a way that would make anybody feel uncomfortable.

Ofcourse, minor sweating began and I stuttered to say, "Well good.", I couldn't think of anything else.

After that, he was very quick to say "Well, the interview for you so far has been quite pleasant it seems and you were enjoying your time...atleast in the first half (he laughed and grinned when he said this, and it just made me angry and I felt as if he was making fun of me). But you do suffer from Aspergers, and I am sure you realize that you'll have to communicate and above all; guide a team of people in a professional and a motivational manner. I don't think you'll be able to do that, but I am still uncertain. In your application, you mentioned that you're very experienced and skilled in XY, and it is quite the coincidence that we've been working on a new project lately but it requires somebody with a thorough knowledge of XY to solve some issues we're facing in it. That's why we even put this job out in the first place, so I'll bring over the entire team in the next interview that you would be working with if you get hired, for you to give them a lecture on XY. I'll see how you do, and if you do well, then there are happy days for you to start dreaming about."

The truth is that I do have Asperger Syndrome, but I do not think it has affected me in any way in my career. I don't know how he figured that out, but I replied "OK sure." And he smiled as the interview ended.

NOW, the problem is that I am too nervous to do that. The interviewer is too personal with me and thinks of me as his best friend or something. I can't do anything infront of him now, and I want to ask the manager (if I get a chance to be introduced to him) to give me another interview with somebody else but that will never happen and is absurd.

I really want this job and I am sure any programmer in my place would too. But the interviewer is too extreme to deal with. Should I just tell him that he has made me nervous and I can't do what he's asking me to do BUT that I'll still be very confident with the team if I get hired? or something else? Either way, I am just really confused.

  • 6
    Don't get rattled. Focus on the task at hand! Drive on! – Frank FYC Sep 11 '15 at 2:10
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    Someone who wears glasses and has friends with aspergers can likely have a very good guess... I regularly notice the slight squints a glasses wearer will do, and the involuntary movements of the face and often hands on the face. Similarly someone who knows (well) others with aspergers will be fairly good at noticing the verbal and social cues... I'd never guess as your interviewer did, but several times I've privately noted it in my own mind before discovering officially. People with aspergers act differently to 'normal' (as in typical, not correct) people, and it's fairly easy to pick up on. – Jon Story Sep 11 '15 at 3:19
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    If you want the job you need to follow the rules. It is creepy to say "I don't think you'll be able to do that" and "happy days for you to start dreaming about". He could have just said the next step in the interview process is for you to present XY to the entire team. If the team interview is negative then just leave but give it a try. – paparazzo Sep 11 '15 at 6:49
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    I would guess that for both the glasses and Asperger's comments, your interviewer had done some online researching of you beforehand. Do your profile pictures generally show you wearing glasses? Do you mention your Asperger's on any of your social network sites? – David K Sep 11 '15 at 14:06
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    If you're too nervous to give a talk on XY to the team then you're completely unsuitable for any sort of management position. – TheMathemagician Sep 11 '15 at 14:46
24

The interviewer is simply using a technique to see if you are able to deal with unexpected situations and if you can still work under pressure.

...I am sure you realize that you'll have to communicate and above all; guide a team of people in a professional and a motivational manner. I don't think you'll be able to do that

He's trying to put you into a negative frame of mind here. However, this is inconsistent with:

I'll bring over the entire team in the next interview that you would be working with if you get hired, for you to give them a lecture on XY.

If he was truly unsure, he would not be taking the entire team out of their current work cycle just to listen to you talk about XY. He would only do this if he is pretty sure you are the right person for this.

As far as his odd questions regarding your glasses and Asperger's, if he is particularly adept at psychologically profiling candidates, then he would be trained to look for specific behavioural patterns that indicate different conditions. If the organisation is as you say, very large and popular, then they would have hired the best person to screen potential candidates.

Really, the best way to treat this is as a test. By folding at this stage, you are yielding to the psychological pressure that the interviewer is applying to you. Ignore it as best you can, and stick to your path. Prepare your talk on XY, confident that you are competent with this particular topic. Good luck :)

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    It could be a test, but something about being told "your sight must have been weakened" and then "you do suffer from Asperger's syndrome" during an interview seems a little too personal and creepy, whether it's true or not. If the psychological test is only for the interview period, perhaps this is fine. But suppose such psychological games extend to the day-to-day work life. Who wants to work in that atmosphere? – Brandin Sep 11 '15 at 6:14
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    @Brandin for me, impromptu amateur medical diagnosis goes way beyond 'creepy' into 'unprofessional and inappropriate', but that's just my opinion – AakashM Sep 11 '15 at 7:39
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    @AakashM I still think this answer is a good approach based on the question. Treat it as a test and do well. But if you get a job offer... I would want to know what was really going on with those questions before taking their offer. – Brandin Sep 11 '15 at 9:04
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    I don't agree with this answer. It might be the way to best ensure the candidate gets the job, but that doesn't ensure the best outcome for the candidate. It establishes that the candidate will allow that person to do grossly inappropriate things that obviously make them very uncomfortable without doing anything to try to fix it, which is not how you should approach work in general. – Kai Sep 11 '15 at 15:09
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    If this happened in the US, the interviewer definitely wasn't the best, he was immature, untrained, and a real potential liability to his own company. You don't dig for personal medical information during an interview. That's just HR 101. That being said, if this wasn't in the US, then I wouldn't know the legality of his actions. – Stephan Branczyk Apr 15 '16 at 10:59
14

Interviews are two way - they give you an insight into how the company works. There's a pretty good chance that this kind of presentation approach is not unusual for this company - otherwise, the interviewer will have to explain having a whole team listen to a candidate. There's also a pretty good chance you'll be expected to face this situation more in your job after.

Given your discomfort at doing this once, are you sure you want a job where you could be expected to be doing this on a regular basis?

11

What the interviewer did was very inappropriate, and I think it would be possibly beneficial for future candidates if you mention it to your point of contact at the company. Asperger's can be considered a disability, and pointedly bringing it up in the interview is very questionable, in my opinion, as what he did might make it look like he may have possibly been discriminating against you, whether he actually was or not. Furthermore, if you don't volunteer that information, which you did not, it is none of his business, and not at all polite to bring up. Part of the interviewer's job is to also impress on you that this is a company that you'd like to work for, and in that he's epically failed, by doing something in the least I consider very impolite.

9

As someone with Autism I want to tackle this from a different prospective

The truth is that I do have Asperger Syndrome, but I do not think it has affected me in any way in my career. I don't know how he figured that out

If you don't believe it has affected your career so far, either you are remarkably well-adjusted or aren't aware of how much it has affected your career and interactions with people. I believe it is the latter. The differences between you & I compared to others are striking and obvious for those who know how to spot them. If you're a typical person with Aspergers you talk differently, you form your thoughts in a way drastically foreign to those around you (and visibly so), and you interact differently. You write differently.

That experience you describe I've experienced a few times. My so-called condition sticking out like a sore thumb and people asking or knowing. My daughter's godfather, although he has no formal training, can tell if someone has autism or aspergers after a few moments (and tell whether its the former or latter).

As per the task you find difficult and am nervous about, " 'll bring over the entire team in the next interview that you would be working with if you get hired, for you to give them a lecture on XY.' " Things I find help me:

  • Ask for a smaller audience,
  • Prepare well
  • Ask who will be there so you can taylor your small talk (both from an experience level and maybe to learn more about them, I find it easier to present if I know the backgrounds of those I'm around)
  • Ask for some time before your talk to meet them. It is easier for me to present to those I've first had the opportunity to get casual with.
6

I am sure you realize that you'll have to communicate and above all; guide a team of people in a professional and a motivational manner. I don't think you'll be able to do that...

you mentioned that you're very experienced and skilled in XY, and it is quite the coincidence that we've been working on a new project lately but it requires somebody with a thorough knowledge of XY to solve some issues we're facing in it.

I'll bring over the entire team in the next interview that you would be working with if you get hired, for you to give them a lecture on XY. I'll see how you do

Leaving aside the Sherlock Holmes/Greg House/Sheldon talk in the story (which could be colored by your nervousness, the crux of the issue is this:

This is a role that requires communication skills AND knowledge of XY. The interviewer is asking you to demonstrate this by giving a talk on XY to his team (as they are struggling with it). As someone who says they are capable of the job and knowledgeable on the subject, this should be a relatively simple way of demonstrating both. If you are too nervous to do this, then sorry, but despite whatever your technical skills, you do not have what they are looking for in this role. Being unable to do this doesn't give any sign you'll be confident with the team.

For example, I am a senior technical manager and resource. As part of interviewing I will expect to be quizzed on technical knowledge, how I work as a (line)manager, and often have to do presentations as part of interviewing to show I am happy dealing with people at the required level. Sometimes this will be communicated during the interview (i.e. with no prep, or time to prep as part of the interview), and I expect this, and am capable of doing it as I often have to take charge spontaneously in team situations. You need to ask if you can do what they are asking, if not this role is not for you.

2

From your post, it looks like he was making a (poor) impersonation of Sherlock Holmes. This type of behaviour happens when someone has not been trained or is inexperienced in interviewing - some people impersonate what they think is appropriate, to the extent of impersonating fictional characters.

My advice is to have confidence in your skills. If you have the qualifications & experience to do the job, then you can do the job, regardless of whether you have Asperger's (or indeed regardless of your skin colour, whether you use a wheelchair, whether you are a vegetarian or any other irrelevant information).

1

Another possibility... Most people find public speaking scary.

Your interviewer might have been a psych major. One common tactic to induce stress in experimental subjects is to inform them they will be asked to give an impromptu speech to peers (or upperclassmen) simply as a means of inducing stress. Then they ask you to complete a survey or some such, to see how stressed subjects answer.

There may not actually be a presentation arranged; he may merely be giving you a maximally stressful situation to see how you react.

(It didn't work on me; I already had my joke picked out and an idea of what I wanted to say. I was quite disappointed when the speech was "cancelled.")

  • thanks for your answer -- note that this question is over a year old. Feel free to contribute to newer questions as well. – mcknz Jan 7 '17 at 1:29

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