Recently, a friend of mine had a Skype interview for a job she had applied. She had received an email, telling her that a laptop with a camera was preferred, and that the interview would be just a couple of minutes, as she had previously had another interview.

During the Skype interview, she received an Excel file, and was asked to do some kind of short assignment, so to speak. Normally she was familiar with Excel, and what had to be done for that assignment. However, she was caught off guard because she wasn't told there would be any Excel assignment to do from her laptop, and she was actually using a MacBook which didn't have Excel installed.

The assignment was basically about summation, and she explained with her words what had to be done, but the interviewers did not seem to be pleased with the fact that she didn't actually do it in Excel, but merely explained it (although she did explain that she didn't have Excel installed, because she wasn't told).

To me, this doesn't sound quite right; at the very least I'd expect to be told what to prepare for an interview. What is your opinion on this?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Jim G., Monica Cellio Dec 19 '16 at 1:00

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 3
    The question would be better if the friend herself had posted (e.g. "Did I do something wrong?"), or if the interviewers had posted the question (e.g. "Did we do something wrong?"). As it stands now this is more or less a mild rant. – Brandin Dec 18 '16 at 15:30
  • 1
    Replaced "ethical" with "reasonable", which seems to be what you're really asking. – keshlam Dec 18 '16 at 16:13
  • Apologies if the mismatch is due to my changing the title. Revert if appropriate – keshlam Dec 18 '16 at 17:35
  • 1
    I don't like the word prepare. To me that would be subject / type of questions. – paparazzo Dec 18 '16 at 18:03
  • I've put this on hold. Whether something is reasonable is a matter of opinion. A question about how to handle this situation would be a better fit for our site. Thanks. – Monica Cellio Dec 19 '16 at 1:01

In general, there's nothing wrong with giving a candidate something a little unexpected in an interview. It can help determine how they think on their feet and how they react to changing circumstances. As noted in the comments, this isn't a question of ethics in any way though.

However, this particular example just seems a bit stupid, or perhaps just a miscommunication. Not everyone has Excel installed on every machine they own, so getting grumpy if it's not installed doesn't really teach you anything about the candidate, and the whole point of an interview is to determine if a candidate is the right person for your company.

  • 24
    It does, however, teach the candidate something about the company. – Blrfl Dec 18 '16 at 13:45
  • Granted, though I would tell a candidate that tools will be available but they should feel free to bring their own, to keep the exercise focused on their skills rather than what they happen to have or not have on hand. Unless the company is specifically looking for nonportable expertise in a specific version if a tool, demanding the task be done with that version is going to result in discarding many good candidates. Not in the company's best interest. Then again, not all interviewers are competent. – keshlam Dec 18 '16 at 17:40

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.