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I've had a lot of interviews over the past 5 years and never had such an experience with an interviewer.

I had an interview yesterday and we started by chatting casually about the work. He would ask a question, then I would answer, then he would say "Oh, that didn't answer my question, let me rephrase". This literally continued for all of the questions.

Then we got to a technical question, coding, and after I completed working on the code he said "Other candidates would have gone through the problem much faster and to be honest - your code is messy".

Is being a jerk a new interview technique to test candidates emotionally or did I mess up really bad?

  • 62
    There are now 40+ deleted comments on this post and nearly all of them are users sniping at other users. The question isn't "can you be rude to other users, try below!" it is "What does it mean when an interviewer is rude?" - if this is confusing, take some time to read the be nice section of the help center. – enderland Apr 7 '17 at 20:04
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    Did the phrase "Oh, that didn't answer my question, let me rephrase" come out as rude during your interview, norbertpy? What formulation would be less rude for you? – Kos Apr 8 '17 at 5:03
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    I have an honest follow-up question to the OP: what cultural norms are you referencing, and what about these lines seems rude to you? As someone from outside US, this sounds like something very polite, although negative. – Max Yankov Apr 9 '17 at 13:06
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    Without context/tone, this might go through as useful feedback. Being a jerk / bad interviewer would be ignoring you or asking useless questions / lecturing / being prejudiced/biased about your professional background. – pmf Jan 23 '18 at 9:20
  • When he said you did not answer the question, did the follow up question made it clear to him and/or you? Ex. "How are you?" "The weather is nice outside." "That did not answer my question. I asked how are you feeling?" "Feeling great, thank you." – Dan Jan 23 '18 at 16:32

10 Answers 10

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We can't possibly know what drove this person to make those comments. Maybe he is simply a jerk on a power-trip. Maybe the company has a strategy of making you feel like crap, and thus feel super lucky for getting an offer from them, for a smaller salary than you requested.

Overall, I would say that you should always try to separate the interviewer's behavior from your own self-image. You don't know what's driving them to say those things, so don't automatically accept their criticism on yourself as an honest assessment of your talent and performance (although some criticism might be warranted, and you should be open minded enough to recognize and act on objective advice to improve).

Remain self-confident, and keep your self-worth in mind. In this particular case I would add that you should also consider yourself lucky for not having to deal with such BS on a daily basis.

Personally, I would have called this person out by the end of it, but that's just me. For yourself, consider how you might respond to such an interviewer in the future, and do not regret not getting an offer from them.

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    Two other possibilities were he was testing your reaction to stress or he was personally upset about something unrelated and it bled over into this. In any event, I personally would probably pass on an opportunity after having to deal with someone one like this at the interview. Jerks don't stop being jerks. – HLGEM Apr 5 '17 at 18:08
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    @HLGEM - thought about the idea of "testing reaction to stress" as a possibility. A truly idiotic and self-defeating one, because the reaction could very well be the candidate, who can handle the stress, has no desire to work for jerks, but a possibility. – PoloHoleSet Apr 5 '17 at 18:49
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    I think the "stress test" scenario is very unlikely. If I were to do something like that to someone (I wouldn't, but bear w/ me), then I would, at the very end, explicitly apologize and explain that my behavior had been a strategy to see how he'd react to different situations, etc. Clearly, that did not happen, so the simplest explanation wins: either a tactic to "low-ball" people or just a jerk; maybe just a jerk/bad day – code_dredd Apr 6 '17 at 3:59
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    you don't need to be a jerk to make someone feel super lucky. Instead you can spam social networks about difficult to pass interview complains. – GameDeveloper Apr 6 '17 at 6:51
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    @PoloHoleSet It would be slightly passive-agressive in nature, but at the end of the interview, when asking questions, I'd explicitly ask whether this guy will be my manager in any sense. If they answered yes, I'd probably simply say "Ok, goodbye." – yo' Apr 6 '17 at 10:52
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This behaviour is highly unprofessional and likely indicative of the workplace culture at this company. If he's comfortable behaving this way in front of total strangers during a job interview, I highly doubt that he behaves any better with his colleagues (and particularly his subordinates) in the office. I would definitely not be accepting an offer after an interview like this - I'd rather remain unemployed than work for this guy.

It's sometimes easy to forget that the interview process goes both ways. You need a job to pay your bills, yes, but also they need someone to do this work. Otherwise, they wouldn't be hiring at all.

I wouldn't explicitly confront this guy about his behaviour - I strongly suspect that doing so would only be met with denial or mockery. However, I would make it clear at the end (in a polite manner) that I am not interested in continuing with the interview process. Something like "Thank you for your time, but I am no longer interested in pursuing this job opportunity. Good day."

If he asks why, I would probably say something like "After concluding the interview process, I'm not convinced that this company is the sort of workplace I'm looking for." And leave it at that.

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    I need a job, it doesn't have to be this one. – Leliel Apr 5 '17 at 22:14
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    Never say you need a job. "I have shitloads of savings, and could practically retire right now, so I'm taking my sweet time to find an enjoyable job with great people". – Kaz Apr 6 '17 at 1:45
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    @Kaz Reminds me of a certain story... – Nic Hartley Apr 6 '17 at 5:26
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    @alephzero How is that unprofessional behaviour. It is to let them know that you no longer need this opportunity and hence they needn't process your application any further. They would probably say"we will let you know" but you can just say "Sorry, i have already made a choice not to pursue this application further". – Max Payne Apr 6 '17 at 10:19
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    @alephzero There is absolutely nothing unprofessional about politely informing someone that their behavior was, in your judgment, unprofessional. That is, in fact, the professional response to unprofessional behavior. (Then go to a site like glassdoor and describe your experience.) – David Schwartz Apr 6 '17 at 20:35
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You will see this from time to time. Don't sweat it.

Assuming that you are competent and can do the job well, I would take rudeness as a hint and run.

I like to tell stories, so here are a few that may help you understand that everyone goes through these kinds of insults.

Background: I am a retired systems internals engineer and consulted to Digital Equipment Corporation and wrote quite a few important components of their operating system. I often wrote in assembly and machine code. As well, I was an expert for quite a few operating systems for other computer companies throughout the years consulting for others such as IBM, Wang, and Microsoft, as well as all the major telecoms, pharmaceuticals, the World Bank and the IMF transferring more money each than the Federal Reserve. I worked for DEC Labs, Bell Labs, and BT labs. I worked as a consultant for 30 years and was asked to do computer forensics for recovery, discovery, and systems compatibility. I was often asked to testified in court and my testimony often caused the opposition to either quit or compromise. As well, I was given many failed projects to fix or work on including one that earned $250 million per month. I do not say this to brag. I say this so that you know that I brought resources to the table and incapable was not in my vocabulary.

One place gave me a test to take and then told me I did not have the aptitude for the job or even within IT. I had just come to them from DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) as a request to help them.

Another gave me a test and because I stated that because I would never create a FAT file system for Windows NT that I was incompetent. This company failed six weeks later.

After more than a year of replacing Microsoft Mail with Exchange Servers for large global organizations with Microsoft as the customer, I was told by an IT manager for a bank that I was not qualified to run their Exchange Server. I did not call them. It was suggested that they call me by Microsoft.

New management for a company told me that I was not a strong technical employee. I was recruited as one of the worlds 5 top DEC experts. All the while I consulted to DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) to fix customer issues when they could not figure it out. I consulted to DEC as a world expert of their systems and operating systems helping development teams sort out details they did not understand. I wrote assembly and machine code routinely for DEC, had written several components of their OS, and routinely performed high profile large scale installs and upgrades for the companies customers selling more equipment as a result than any salesman they had. I even worked for DEC Labs and Bell Labs at the time.

One kept calling me in for an interview. I had already met with two VP level managers who specifically wanted me to fix the problem and knowing my reputation only called me to do the work. The local IT manager clearly had infrastructure issues that forced him to reschedule 7 times each time commuting 40 minutes there and 40 minutes back. At the end, without an interview, he declared that I was not a strong enough candidate to take on the task. The local IT manager was fired soon after.

One interviewed me and told me I was not qualified for the position, however, his boss insisted on interviewing everyone. So he went to get his boss, who turned the corner and said, "You're hired!" after seeing me from the end of a long hall. Why? Because I worked for his previous company fixing their global e-mail system which could not deliver e-mail within 24 hours. I did this in just three weeks by fixing and then replacing their e-mail system globally for Microsoft.

I was a "friend of the bank" to The World Bank and the IMF who had recently hired a new IT manager and told him to call me without delay to fix a specific problem. He did call and told me that I charged too much and hung up. I priced myself at half my normal rate. He was fired after just one week as a result.

I worked for a global telecom where I managed the hardware and portions of development for a project that earned $250 million per month. One member of the team changed teams that later merged as a result of a merger between company subsidiaries. I was to be offered a management position in charge of the project and the former team member refused to offer me the package. I was a consultant, he was an employee. He told HR I refused the offer and took my job. Then he stole personal software from me. Then he said he was separating the wheat from the chaff and tried to sever my contract. Meanwhile, I continued to manage much of the project, travel for the company, and spec and build systems for dozens of projects along with offering development expertise winning awards. In the end, he was fired for fraud and an audit could only find 40% of the equipment he purchased. Keep in mind that equipment purchases were always into the many millions of dollars. I continued to consult to the company fixing high profile failed projects for 6 years and became good friends with the CEO and Chairman of the Board because of my performance.

I came in to an organization as an expert of DEC systems and Ross Systems to solve an upgrade issue that was a complete show stopper. If you do not know Ross Systems, it is extremely complex and huge and requires a ridiculous amount of detail to understand. After three weeks diagnosing code and fixing quite a bit of it for Ross Systems who asked me to take on the take for their customer, Ross Systems rolled my code into place for all of their customers. One other consultant who I previously hired to manage the business aspects of an association and had no technical expertise at all came into the office and told them I was incompetent. Really? I just fixed their airport management system which managed several airports and got them out of a serious legal jam.

I could go on and on. And you get my point. As long as you are professional, knowledgeable, and competent, do not let what people say affect you. Just be confident in your worth and never over-sell yourself so that you can always take on a new task with assurance of success. Just do good work. Plain and simple. That is how I succeeded and had a wonderful work life that I would not ever trade. A friend of mine often said (in latin), Do not let the bastards get you down. I suggest the same for you.

[Edit] In response to comments. My point was to create a contrast that makes the jerks stand out. Without the contrast, who was to say the jerks weren't right? Without quite a few examples, how can I convey that this is actually common? I was blessed to come into IT at a time where mainframes were king and mini mainframes the all new rage. There was really no PC at the time and hardly no software packages to buy. You had to write it yourself. Oracle did not exist for example. You mostly had to write your DBMS yourself. I was also blessed to come into an amazing environment that allowed me to get into the details of how systems work and break things if necessary. That in turn allowed me to understand how to fix things which I spent the rest of 30 years doing. Lastly, working in D.C. allowed for some amazing opportunities not found anywhere else with government, many NGOs, associations, corporations, telecoms, the Internet, etc. There are plenty of things I suck at. Believe me! I was blessed to find a niche for myself that matched how my limited brain works. Otherwise, I am the absent minded professor type that cannot find his glasses on his head or his house keys in his hand. Cheers!!

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    Thank you so much for sharing that with us. Such an inspiring and empowering story. – norbertpy Apr 6 '17 at 6:02
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    Your personal story is fine and interesting, but turned your answer into a wallpost, with the same concept repeated over and over again. I feel it would be better by only using a couple examples and removing the rest. – BgrWorker Apr 6 '17 at 6:39
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    @BgrWorker: this is not a wall of text. – souser12345 Apr 6 '17 at 9:15
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    While I am clearly not an expert of your level, I worked and still work miracles. (...) In interviews, I do say my CV speaks for itself, and if they want to be asshats, they do not pass in my side of the interview. The rest is just business. – Rui F Ribeiro Apr 6 '17 at 11:52
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    @Agent_L : I disagree. The post makes the author look like an egotist. Let me be clear about this: I think the poster's intention were entirely honourable and not egotistical - but the effect makes him look like an egotist. Shorter would have got the point across just as well. – Martin Bonner Apr 6 '17 at 14:17
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"Oh, that didn't answer my question, let me rephrase". This continued for all of the questions.

I don't think this is rude at all. It seems like an honest attempt to assess what you know. As for the fact it happened with every question, perhaps you were misinterpreting his questions, or you went off on a tangent, or maybe the two of you were just on a different wavelength.

If he actually thought your answers were bad or that you didn't know the answer, he wouldn't bother to rephrase. It would be a waste of time for both of you.

"Other candidates would have gone through the problem much faster and to be honest - your code is messy"

This, on the other hand, is unproductive. I don't know what he was trying to achieve by saying this. "Be faster and less messy" is a fairly meaningless statement on its own. That hasn't helped you.

Highlighting what they perceive as your deficiencies is not necessarily a bad thing, if phrased delicately. If they tell you to work on a specific aspect of your programming, that gives you something to work towards, whether you get the job or not. Comparing you to other candidates does not help you. You have no control over who else has applied.

If your code did not meet his standards, whatever they were, he probably should have just concluded the interview and thanked you for your time.


I would like to reiterate what others have said: if an interview leaves you feeling uncomfortable, the place probably isn't for you. Don't be afraid to turn jobs down. You deserve to have a job you enjoy.

16

Other candidates would have gone through the problem much faster and to be honest your code is messy

My reply would be:

I hope you will make an offer that is commensurate with my speed and the quality of my code. If we disagree then you'll have to find someone who agrees with your offer.

He is using a strategy that doesn't work. If you are good at what you are doing and confident then his strategy will backfire. With that remark, he would have to pay at the top of my range to make me start with the company, and we would both know that he lost.

If you are not good at what you are doing and not confident, then best case he gets an employee who isn't very good, and who has been set up for failure.

I'd take the opportunity to practice making high demands. You don't want to work for them for cheap, so think what salary would convince you to start despite this guy's behaviour, and ask for that.

PS. The logical explanations are:

  1. The interviewer has no clue.
  2. The interviewer is a jerk.
  3. The interviewer is an idiot who thinks this is a good interview strategy.
  4. The interviewer didn't like your name, your looks, your gender, your race, your haircut, your age etc.
  5. The interviewer is a C class employee who is afraid of hiring A or even B class employees.
  6. (The most likely) The interviewer has a mate whom he promised the job, so everyone else needs rejecting.
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    Am I missing some sarcasm here? Interviewer says "you suck at coding" and you respond with "I hope you will pay me accordingly"? – user812786 Apr 5 '17 at 19:37
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    @whrrgarbl Not the full story. The response says: "interviewer says 'you suck at coding' when in truth they mean: 'not bad at all - but this guy looks like his confidence can be shaken and we may get him for 20-30% less'". It is, of course, the precisely wrong strategy for a good coder with a healthy self-confidence who just may be a little introvert. It may also be a strategy if the interviewee is really weak and the interviewer fears a complaint by the candidate and wants to make sure that he can reject the candidate for incompetence. Only the interviewer (and possibly the OP) can know. – Captain Emacs Apr 5 '17 at 19:54
  • @whrrgarbl: "I hope you will pay me according to the quality of the work". If he says that my coding sucks then we both know he is talking nonsense. – gnasher729 Apr 5 '17 at 20:52
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    My first thought on an answer to the question was that it means I would not take the job. Using the job for negotiating practice is creative. – Patricia Shanahan Apr 5 '17 at 23:51
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    If the interviewer effectively says "you suck at coding", the most straightforward interpretation of that is that he actually believes it. While that is a guess, it is less wild than other guesses. – Kaz Apr 6 '17 at 16:15
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I had an interview where the guy who would have been my boss was so rude during our interview. He kept getting up and walking out in the middle of my answers to "check on something" or to take a phone call. He insulted my education, "well, if you went there, you must not have been able to get into my school". He insulted my work experience, "Well, if you were working there, I'm not sure you can hack it around here". Almost everything else out of his mouth was a backhanded compliment or an outright insult. He bragged the many hours he had to work "to keep projects on track" with the incompetents he had working for him and so on.

I had already interviewed with his boss and a VP and HR, I was supposed to talk with him for an hour, then go out to lunch with him and the rest of his team. After 20 minutes with him, I was sure I'd never want to work there, so the next time he ducked out to check something, I left. I walked out of the conference room, dropped my visitor badge in the box, got in my car and went to lunch by myself. The recruiter called me and asked, "How did it go?". I told her everything. She was angry. Not with me, she apologized to me, telling me, "You're not the first one who has said he was rude, though you are the first one to walk out."

The point is that you should not take this personally and be glad that you discovered this before you got hired. Think about what it would be like to work for this guy. UGH. You may or may not be "qualified" for the work in his estimation, but there no excuse for rudeness.

  • Interesting cautionary tale, I never had it that bad. You did the right thing. Will that guy get the hint? – Rui F Ribeiro Apr 7 '17 at 9:36
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Well it means that if you go over there you are going to have a very bad time. I am currently working in a company where when i was interviewed I was interviewed by a man who was very rude and did not understand anything that i was saying. The money they offered was good so I went to their place. Later on I find out that i have to work with the same guy. I have never been in a place more stressful than this in my life. I would advise you to run away while you can and never look back

  • One of my interview questions is always who I will be working with, and before accepting the offer, being shown around. – Rui F Ribeiro Apr 7 '17 at 9:45
7

Interviews are not a favour, are just a business proposition between two parties. Due to the dynamics of power at play, people often forget that.

Do not get intimidated.

If people are rude, tell them they did not get past on your interview (in more kinder terms).

Depending on your personality and/or the interest on not closing doors, tell them either:

  • you are no longer interested on the position;
  • something better came up;
  • or give some other more personal excuse.

Why would I recommend answering with a white lie, instead of telling you are not happy with the interviewer performance unless the behaviour or situation is not utterly outrageous/out of ordinary?

  • not closing doors, people do move around a lot on our industry;
  • not hurting sensitivities when being referred from someone inside;
  • not coming on a bad light;
  • out of character for some candidates/cultures;
  • closing easily and quickly a conversation without being asked too many questions.

The answer also pretty much depends on the situation, the context, the culture and the people involved.

As an example for further contextualisation, once I had an "interview" with an Italian lady who asked me my salary point blank, and when I was not happy it, she indulged me into explaining it was to see "if I was fit for the position". I told her the interview was over at that point.

Another time, in my 2nd shortest interview, I was being interview by a firm which had pending legal problems, and I told them I did not feel comfortable with the situation. They thanked me for my honesty, and wished me good luck.

Some other time my judgment failed me, and I told a good friend who got me an interview that her interview RH person was an idiot, and I would not consider working in a place employing someone like that. The friendship suffered with it.

All the other situations I had, including an outrageous interview with an out of touch IT manager from Gibraltar, or with people lowballing the salary from the get go, I either had the luck of them not coming back, or give one of the above excuses when they insisted on following up with the interview process; it is quicker that way.

The one time I insisted with someone interviewing me for an expat position that they were lowballing me, they tried to reason with me for forty minutes - it is not worth the effort.

Life is too short to work with people whom you do not feel comfortable with. If an organisation lets someone more shady be the face to the outside world, it could be a good hint their culture is not the best match for you.

  • Why give them excuses? Tell them you aren't interested in working for someone whose behavior is so unpleasant. Phrase it nicely if you want, but why lie? – Wildcard Apr 7 '17 at 2:12
  • @Wildcard added to the answer – Rui F Ribeiro Apr 7 '17 at 9:14
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    Would it be burning bridges if you just say that: "During the interview i noted down some red flags, and I do not wish to pursue this application any further. Thank you for your time and i wish you luck in finding the right applicant" That is to the point, honest and reasonably corteous in my view. – Stian Yttervik Apr 10 '17 at 8:55
  • @StianYttervik i am not so sure they want to be "reminded of their place", and I am quite sure I do not want to lose time with the ensuing conversation. – Rui F Ribeiro Apr 10 '17 at 16:52
1

It really depends on the way he said it. However, both ways you shouldn't worry. If you had messed up really bad he would have reacted very differently, jerk or no jerk If he was being dead serious, then he is just a jerk. Sometimes however, I have been in interview situations where the interviewer would harshly criticise my work and I could easily see that he was just trying to see how I would take that criticism, which is a very important aspect of a potential employee. So no I wouldn't worry.

-3

i have experience such like interview. now a day i take interview. so i know what it mean. let me share it.

u have to work under pressure work under huge stress always u have to be more quick and client never satisfied and u have to go with ur solution. what people thinking about you it will not affect your, u are stick with ur own coding

these are some general scenario in busy IT office. so they are just testing you how u can manage manner, stress, confident

bcoz lot of programmer are good but best among of them are who are more than those.

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    Frankly, I have no idea what you're talking about. – scaaahu Apr 8 '17 at 3:40
  • @scaaahu Its pretty clear that samad is suggesting that the interviewers behavior is a stress test. That said I don't agree with the answer. – WetlabStudent Apr 9 '17 at 10:32
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    @MHH I think the OP of the answer is stress testing the readers of this answer. – scaaahu Apr 9 '17 at 11:32

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