Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Ask HN: How do you deal with rude interviewers?
319 points by pmoriarty 9 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 457 comments
I've had an interviewer laugh in my face when I told them my favorite language was Scheme.

Then they just walked out in the middle of the interview without saying a word when it wasn't going well, leaving the other interviewers to continue without them.

At the time I didn't say anything, and just continued the interview as if nothing happened, but in retrospect, I think I should have politely terminated the interview myself, as I don't want to work with rude, unprofessional snobs, but I'm wondering what people here would have done, and how you've faced rudeness during interviews yourself?

Unacceptable behavior for an interviewer. Ironically, that person did you a solid by showing you this wasn't the company you want to work at without already starting there and investing even more time with them. Imagine finding this out after you quit a current job, and low and behold, this guy is your new boss.

You are the candidate and hold equal power. In the thought process you had "I think I should terminate this interview." If it ever gets to a point you are uncomfortable due to rudeness, leave. Sure, in a big faang world you may never have interaction with that person, but them being on the panel has a chance they would be your boss, peer, or in your org some way.

Toxic people can ruin what would otherwise be good careers. Alternatively, this can also be a huge indicator a company tolerates and promotes this behavior. To me, while it's possible, that this was a once and rare thing that only this person has done... Screw betting my career on the least likely possibility.

I once interviewed for Qualia, and surprise surprise both the founding CEO and Product person both were quite rude to me. Unsurprised due to their very young age at the time*. Yeah, someone may not be up to your standards, but that's no reason to mock them in a high pressure/vulnerability scenario. It's particularly odd because they were using MeteorJS quite early and I was one of a very few people in the world having creating, deploying, and running a meteorJS app at that time. If you can believe it that was about 6 years ago and I still can recall their faces to this day. Not that it bothers me anymore, but that the impression sunk deep.

Their recruiters continue to reach out to me to this day, not a snowball's chance in hell.

Contrast this with a scenario at Dropbox where I was underprepared for a datastructures question (BitSet). While the interviewer was mildly taunting me, he at least was gracious enough to give hints and talk me through the solution as it ended. I knew I wasnt getting the role, but at least I learned something that day.

* not that rudeness in youth is acceptable or expected but a lack of life experience can lead to a lack of perspective or realization that life is much longer and you only get one reputation

Interviewers tend to have one of two different mentalities...

Some are trying to see you fail. They're looking for a reason to say "no". They tend to not be of any help on a problem, will often try to find ways to trick you. They also tend to have an ego problem -- you need to prove to them that you're worthy of joining the team.

The other class of interviewers are those that want you to succeed. They will answer questions, and help clarify things. Even if you are unqualified for the role, and they know it, they still want to help you along so they can see your best work. People that shut down when they get nervous tend to open up to these interviewers. They also tend to be the people that are more pleasant to work with.

>Even if you are unqualified for the role, and they know it, they still want to help you along so they can see your best work

So ~14 years ago - after about a year at Microsoft, I was encouraged to assist with interviewing new candidates. At that time, there was no official guide/rulebook for interviewing, but I was told unofficially;

"We hire people with a solid technical base, who may not know EVERY thing at the time of interview, because we really want to hire on their future potential".

"If a candidate is doing poorly, don't be rude - if they asked where they failed, tell them - because, they may very well interview again in 6-months, and if they show a significant improvement, they may well get hired then."

"Any technology they list on their resume is 'fair game' - they had better know it, and if you have direct experience in a niche technology that they list, grill them to see if they are being 'honest'"

And - we were often paired with other technical interviewers, and everyone kept detailed notes. A single veto by any interviewer during any of the multiple phone sessions (and/or eventual in-person interviews) would end that stage of the process for that candidate.

It worked well - I interviewed more than one person who didn't make the cut in the first round of tech screen calls, but 8-months later - they did - and ended-up being very valuable members of our group.

However - there were definately other interviewers that were basically trying to trick the candidate at every step of the process - they were not some of our better team members and honestly, should not have been involved in interviewing.

"Any technology they list on their resume is 'fair game' - they had better know it, and if you have direct experience in a niche technology that they list, grill them to see if they are being 'honest'"

Such a strange stance for MS to take (IMHO). I've got 20+ years experience in lots of different languages and different technologies. I've been looking for a new job and have been brushing up on skills for interviewing. I just don't think it's possible for me to be ready to be grilled by a current expert on 15+ languages that I've shipped high quality, production code. The flip side is to only list the three I can take a grilling on today on my resume? It seems like a pretty short sighted approach. Maybe they have moved on in this stance?

Grilling may not be the best word there, but if you say you worked with language X, I think it makes sense to give you some questions about it to gauge how good you are with it. Some people stuff the resume by mentioning every language that they did for a toy project once in college, and then we don't want them to be put in charge of the project which requires deep knowledge of the same language. Better to find it out in advance. That doesn't necessary means that candidate will fail and not be hired - just maybe not for the project that requires the knowledge they don't have.

Having done plenty of interviews, it's surprising how many candidates list every technology they may have touched for the briefest of moments. For me, "grilling" someone on something like a programming language is about determining if they've _really_ used it or not.

If a candidate lists multiple languages on their resume, I'll often ask them to do a compare and contrast -- what do they think are the strengths and weaknesses of the languages? What did you use language X for? Do you think language Y would have been better/worse/same to attack the same problem?

I'm not looking to trip them up, just find out if their resume is an accurate reflection of their experience.

"I used it so I wouldn't need to rewrite the 300 proprietary internal libraries and dependencies our company also paid to write and maintain in that language" is probably a valid answer for many BigCo employees.

I just had an interview with MS, they seem to have a far better approach these days.

I was surprised that they approached me because the team works primarily in C# and Go, and I've been doing JVM languages mainly, and only a small amount of Go, but the interviewer emphasised that they want people who can learn and enjoy learning.

They then asked me to choose a language I know well and describe a strength and weakness of it.

It was a really good interview experience tbh.

Does MS have many remote jobs? I’m UK based and it seems most MS jobs are in the US

I'm not sure about many, this one is though.

Interviews exist in this weird space disconnected from the reality of the work and being judged by those closest to the work. Not many real on-the-job situations would require someone, for example, to be able to recall the protocol number for a given protocol without looking it up, yet that's one of the questions that a particular very famous tech company has their recruiters ask, and you get auto-rejected for not knowing. It's unfortunate when a place becomes so large and so desirable that they'd rather force people to try multiple times to get through an arbitrary obstacle course and succeed on some combination of chance and skill vs attempting to more honestly assess if a given candidate could actually succeed in the role they're hiring for.

I hate 'trivia' interviews with 'gotcha' questions dealing with experiences their team may have recently dealt with (and probably took weeks to identify/resolve).

I would say the port/protocol memorization may be required depending on what job you are interviewing for. If its for a tech support job, maybe the ports/protocol question is pointless.

> Some are trying to see you fail.

I have no respect for such people. Not because of their lack of "niceness", but because that kind of behaviour betrays a lack of technical confidence.

That remark isn't just about interviewers; it applies to all colleagues. More generally, I tend to respect people who are smart enough to know what they don't know, and honest enough to admit it.

> behaviour betrays a lack of technical confidence.

Yes agreed. I've seen this in interviewing and in teaching. People who are insecure make it about how smart they are, people who are confident make it about helping others.

In a former role, I got the opportunity to be on the interviewer side of the table.

I considered it a privilege to have the potential to influence progress in someone else's career.

I am very much in the latter category of wanting to see folks succeed.

We had one candidate that didn't have experience in the particular technology we were interviewing for, but I could tell he was highly intelligent, just very nervous.

I asked him questions on another complex technology that he'd listed on his resume, to try and draw out some of his thinking on his problem solving skills.

He did great.

I suggested to him that he should come to us with questions, and interview us as much as we were interviewing him. I wanted to see him get the job.

He didn't… at first.

The others on the panel didn't give him their vote. We'd picked someone else that ended up flaking out.

I went back and tried to make the case that we should extend him an offer.

They ended up doing so… dude was an absolute ROCKSTAR.

Please be the one that wants people to succeed. Interviewing is hard, people.

> The other class of interviewers are those that want you to succeed. They will answer questions, and help clarify things. Even if you are unqualified for the role, and they know it, they still want to help you along so they can see your best work.

That's how I go about it. Even unprepared candidates can return someday with more experience/knowledge, or apply to a different position where they can succeed - or letting their friends/acquaintances know about the role.

Also, as we can see in this post, a bad interview experience can really taint a company's image, which can to some degree prevent people from applying

A good interviewer will have you leaving the interview feeling as if you did well, even if you didn’t.

Nonsense. Misleading people is hardly ever the right or long term beneficial approach. If the candidate is insufficiently experienced, skilled or prepared then it's not wrong to let them know (they might actually appreciate to learn why they don't get the job). This doesn't have to be done in an impolite way though.

as an interviewer myself:

a) I think as interviews as auditions rather than exams.

b) I try to find someone's edges, so that the hiring manager has better information. In other words, if I were to give a candidate full marks, I've probably failed as interviewer.

I find the Dropbox story completely stupid too. You should never be failed in an interview for not knowing things you can trivially Google, in my opinion.

I disagree. Consider: You're hiring for a data science role, and the candidate doesn't know what an array is.

Consider: You're hiring for a senior systems software development role, and the candidate doesn't know what an instruction is.


I don't think knowing what an array is would be something you can trivially Google. Sure you can look up the set of words that make up the definition, but that's not knowing what it is.

Something trivially google-able is like not knowing the syntax for generating permutations of a sequence in Python. But not knowing the idea of permutations would not be trivially google-able.

It comes down to what one considers "fundamental knowledge" that one needs to do the job. If you claim to be a programmer, but don't know what an array is, you're probably not actually a programmer. But not knowing esoteric data structure that one may encounter once in their career is not really indicative of anything.

Would you agree that what an instruction is depends on context?

Yes, ofc, he is applying for the "senior systems software development" role so there is our context.

I once interviewed a candidate who (1) picked C to solve the programming problem they were given (some other languages were acceptable, and, actually, preferred) and (2) did not know how to dynamically allocate memory in that language.

I did spot them the malloc() call (I certainly would not have wanted the interview to get bogged down for that), but yes, I did hold not knowing that against them in my evaluation.

Isn't this the case for most interviews? You could simply Google in almost all scenarios. Also, you can fail a single interview and still pass assuming all other interviews go well.

Using Google is the expected real world situation no? I think being able to figure something out you don't know is better than demonstrating something you know perfectly. You'll find out much more about someone if they can do this rather than asking them mundane syntax questions or if they pre-learned how to reverse a binary tree.

I've worked on several projects that used "Black Chamber" development.

That is, local LAN only, with no access to the internet, and no internet-capable "personal electronic devices" or cellular phones permitted in the development area.

You had whatever paper documentation you brought yourself, what was in your head, and whatever was in the /documents directory for that project.

It's a different work mindset. I've since moved to a sysadmin position, running a closed network. When programmers decided they couldn't hack being cut off from the net, they'd quit. Dealing with vendors who signed a contract swearing their product didn't need internet access to install or function, when it won't even complete the install without internet access, is more awkward. Particularly when we call the lawyers in. Because that's why we tediously explained the while "no internet" thing in the contract. That they signed. No, not even for just a few minutes. And by the way, can you explain why your installer times out trying to contact servers in three different countries? Our network admin is curious...

I've worked in these environments before (not as a programmer though).

It definitely tests your skill and you can identify who can solve problems on their own. Hopefully you have an additional network that you can do research on.

Dropbox is literally creating a vector for copying your files to the Internet...

When I interview a candidate, if they don't know the answer but say "they could Google it" I would then ask them what they would Google.

If what they Google would provide them the correct answer, I'm OK with someone who knows how and when to Google something. Those that don't think about researching themselves usually end up asking me in-person. And I usually then ask them if they have done any research themselves.

Complete side note, I really wish Meteor took off more than it did I really enjoyed working with that framework went to the conference back in like 2014-2015 at the UN building in New York and felt really productive with it. I know it's still viable and I might use it for a personal project but wonder how businesses that use it are holding up.

if you don't mind trying languages other than js, might I suggest phoenix's liveview? Its past what meteor could ever accomplish

here's the basic operating model.

you have a controller but unlike a typical web controller, you are rally controlling the lifecycle for a long lived server process thats specific to the user in a session. you get callbacks for the startup where you can load data structures into the session. You also have functions that let you write frontend components from the backend similar to server side react.

Here's where it gets interesting. The frontend maintains a long lived websocket connection. if you change a piece of data on the backend, the frontend will automatically update to reflect the changes. additionally, you can set event triggers in your html that trigger server side callbacks from which you can update that server side data.

so you might be asking yourself, "big deal, meteor does that"

The big deal of course is that you're using elixir, a mostly functional language with immutable data structures and concurrency abstractions that make node look amateur hour. Spawning thousands of one off short lived persistent sessions, one for each user, that each have a websocket connection is a trivial task for the beam virtual machine that phoenix runs on. Scaling the backend for this is trivial compared to ding it in node which is what meteor is doing. The underlying platform is just a better fit for what meteor is trying to solve. Every thread has its own heap of memory and is isolated from others. You have no such guarantee in meteor unless you dedicate an entire OS process for each user, a task that will be expensive and nontrivial)

of course, its a backend process. so phoenix liveviews can also do a few other interesting things. need to upload an image or perform a background task? have your callback send its process id to the background worker and the background worker can send a message back to your session enabling you to update your session data. the frontend will automatically reflect the change. by comparison, tailing mongodb's oplog is child's play. If you can have your data source emit events on changes, you can plug it into elixir's pubsub system and accomplish the same reactivity in a live view.

Oh yea, and fly.io already works with both meteor and live view's limitation of needing the physical machine to be close to the users for keeping the latency down.

Preaching to the choir, Elixir is my favorite language and I do in fact use phoenix, and depending on the project, live view for my projects!

How many simultaneous connections / users can a single server support?

that largely depends on your machine's specs but the limit is much higher that you are going to get in go, python or ruby (yes I know action cable uses go)

but to get a better handle, here's some interesting reading



I could tell you the result but the difference is so stark, you might think I'm exaggerating

The whole concept of "why the heck is everyone writing models twice in two different languages to build an app" has really stuck with me even though I've never used Meteor for something that wound up in production. I've seen some super wack things in prod like objects being modeled entirely differently front vs back-end and just a lot of reinventing of wheels. Great idea, I hope it catches on more broadly.

I know I'm not qualified to speak on your decisions or life, and you probably know more about the situation but - why "not a snowball's chance in hell"?

People change, they get given second chances. I wouldn't mind giving a company a second chance, especially after they probably had a real kick-in-the-nuts because of their approach to your interview, since it most likely wasn't that easy to find another qualified MeteorJS dev.

They probably didn't want a qualified MeteorJS dev they wanted someone they could abuse.

I wouldn't even interview there after hearing the story.

Fair enough. Hard to imagine a $100,000/y punching bag, maybe it's just my privilege that I haven't seen one yet.

Sure, but I'm not going to be risking anything to restore rapport. Sometimes you have to believe a snake is a snake until they go through the motions to show you otherwise.

This is so weird, I work in a niche field and relatively few people have the skills my team has. We are normally looking for someone who has a skill we don’t have. We can teach the right candidate everything we know on the job.

I interviewed on a team like this - they just weren't able to meet compensation.

It was refreshing to be interviewed like I would be a valued addition to their team with my unique skills rather than quizzed on the information.

What field do you work in?

> You are the candidate and hold equal power.

I frequently see comments like this on HN and I don't really buy it.

When every job opening has several qualified candidates, and it can take several applications to land a new job, I still think the employer has more power.

My team at my company has been interviewing people this last half year: we've extended offers to a few and so far each has chosen to work elsewhere because they found better pay.

At the very least for the last half year, I think developers may have an "upper hand".

I see this as a bad market though too. Many companies paying bad comps and making people jump through a lot of hoops to get a decent offer.

I had to get no less than 6 offers before I got one that was reasonable in my last search. 6. I had done about a dozen onsites and dozens of phone screens at that point. This was just a year ago. I expect the same this year - if not worse because of the market doing so poorly.

> they found better pay.


Then...up your pay? It doesn't take an Einstein-level IQ to figure that one out.

Developers might have an upper hand at salary negotiation, but actually landing an offer? Nah. Employers still have the power.

> each has chosen to work elsewhere because they found better pay

The candidates don't control the comp you offer. Claiming that those darned candidates have the upper hand because everyone else pays better is a bad faith argument. Not that you can tell your boss that, I'm sure.

Supply and demand, in net terms it depends on externalities, but when you're sitting down in an interview with a candidate, you're setting the tone/pace for them to bow to. If it becomes super acceptable for candidates to walk out whenever they don't "feel" like it in the interview, if you can ask the employer intrusive questions about their professional lives to dig into the culture of the company, if the candidate has the resumes of their interviewers, maybe then there's more of a tit for tat in the interview.

But how many have you interviewed and not extended offers to? If that number is larger than the number you have extended offers to then that would indicate that developers does not have the upper hand.

The advantage is not with the developer but with those (capable of) making the better offer.

>I still think the employer has more power.

This is the mentality that gets you bullied. There are more openings than qualified people, and businesses can't make money without employees. No one is doing you a favour by giving you a job, they are literally making off your back.

What happens if the interview goes poorly? The interviewer gets paid, goes home with a shrug.

The interviewee loses a day of PTO, or continues to be unemployed (and usually in a financially precarious situation).

Imbalanced outcomes means imbalanced power.

You can always put yourself in a weak position. That doesn't mean the natural balance of power is that you are weak.

At the end of the day, the company wants to hire you and you probably want to be hired. I generally urge people to think of this as a cooperation exercise and not a power struggle.

Interviewers should treat interviewees with dignity and kindness, even when the interviewee is doing poorly. Interviewees should be gracious to the interviewer, even when they have decided to work elsewhere. The first side to stop being cooperative loses.

The above does not however apply to salary negotiation.

> At the end of the day, the company wants to hire you and you probably want to be hired

No, at the end of the day, the company wants to hire SOMEBODY. That somebody is not necessarily you, hence the interview. You're being compared to all the other candidates.

Maybe this is different late in your career when you've got 10+ years experience under your belt, but there are a LOT of candidates in that "3-5 year" experience point.

> I generally urge people to think of this as a cooperation exercise and not a power struggle.

Any "adversarial interview" techniques are a big red flag, imo. They also make it easy to quickly recognise places with a toxic culture, so there's not need to beat yourself up if you fail. You dodged a bullet, plus now have an excuse to rant with your friends over a pint!

Hence, my favourite interviews (regardless of the side I was on) were the one when we had a chance to spend a day working with the candidate.

> What happens if the interview goes poorly? The interviewer gets paid, goes home with a shrug.

Yeah, and the company continues being understaffed for what they want to do, and often the interviewer is one of the people on that team who needs more people.

(no it's not exactly the same)

This completely changed due to WFH and online interviews. I can take a little longer lunch break, do the interview from my home office, then continue with my current job. The only thing is lost is my midday walk and I have to eat something quick(eg.: sandwich) instead a proper meal.

> There are more openings than qualified people

I don't believe this.

The only way this is true is if there are a lot of openings at companies that are going to pay significantly under market and can't figure out why nobody is accepting their offers, even when candidates tell them.

Based on another comment [0], maybe this is actually the case.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=31341966

I don't know if you've looked at the "Who is Hiring" and "Who wants to be Hired" threads in the last 4 months, but the "Who Is Hiring" comment count has been ~3X the number of "Who Wants to Be Hired" over that period

Layoffs and hiring freezes at big tech might change things in the next few months though

> I don't know if you've looked at the "Who is Hiring" and "Who wants to be Hired" threads in the last 4 months, but the "Who Is Hiring" comment count has been ~3X the number of "Who Wants to Be Hired" over that period

That's very easy to explain within a framework of there being lots of available workers and few available positions.

Employers post hiring ads, get responses, and conclude that posting ads works and they should keep doing it.

Job seekers post hire-me ads, get no responses, and conclude that posting ads doesn't work and there's no reason to do it.

Is that 3x the number of top-level comments, or total comments?

This answer could change your conclusion.

I do see where they are coming from. It feels like they have all the power, even if they don't. In that situation where I am going and looking for a job, they do have all the power or a lot of it in that moment that I am looking for a new job there. That in itself can make it feel like they have more power than they do. When we put ourselves in a place where we are trying to "Impress" or Prove that you are the "Better" candidate, we are already in a place of them judging us from a place of power.

Usually I feel like interviews are staged in a way to put Interviewees in a tense, or underdog sort of way. From the moment you walk in you feel like you are in their hands. I am always somewhat nervous and tense in a interview, but that could be more my mentality than anything, but I can see where they are coming from.

In an ideal world we feel equal and have the opportunity to walk out but when you really need a job or have had troubles finding one it can feel pretty powerless.

Sorry to ramble a bit.

Hiring cycles are more like a clearinghouse than a company choosing the best candidate for a position.

N number of candidates enter that month's job market, companies are able to offer N number of positions.

At the end of the hiring cycle, they make the N-to-N matches and execute the cycle.

A candidate can (and must) have several offers from different companies, just as companies have several candidates for each position.

>> When every job opening has several qualified candidates, and it can take several applications to land a new job, I still think the employer has more power.

Depends on what role you're interviewing for. C# dev? Probably. What about full-stack Javascript dev? Totally lopsided in favor of the developers. I have, on average, a dozen emails from recruiters looking for full-stack JS devs. I barely do JS work any more, but the everything is so scarce, if companies can just find someone who's mildly fluent in JS, they'll hire and train you - its that bad in the Midwest where I live. The entry level roles are pretty competitive, but anything mid to senior level there aren't enough people to go around right now.

You just have to know your market and when you have leverage. When you have leverage, you can really take advantage. Don't like the people interviewing you? Wait a day or so. You like a company? Use your leverage to get more vacation, higher salary, play companies against each other to get more for yourself.

Knowledge is power, simple as that.

What? JS is a rare skill?

Not rare at all. The missing link is that FE roles are frequently lower paid and kind of boring, so there's a lot of turnover.

It really depends on your reputation and specialized skills.

It's easy to name a bunch of names that everyone on HN has heard of, and you can bet anything that in job negotiations they are the ones who have the power. Companies have to come courting them, not the other way around.

That is quite rare though

They do hold more power, but in terms of the basic interview session, it's equal in that either party can end it for their reasons.

Overall, people seeking work have less overall power and a generally poor position, unless they have saved or earned enough to not require the work.

Yes, I have politely ended a couple of interviews and the interviewer is always shocked, because I think most people think the interviewer is in the power position.

They may be a gatekeeper for the job, but you are the gatekeeper for your time. Hiring a person is a mutual decision. Since job descriptions are usually quite vague on some important details about the team and company, applying for the job is simply expressing interest in the job, not a confirmation that you would take it if offered.

My experiences are similar. And I always end nicely regardless of what transpired. I like to find and maintain high ground in these kinds of interactions.

You just never know who you may find on the other side of the table!

> When every job opening has several qualified candidates

Every applicant also has several qualified companies they can work for.

It's not totally equal, but if your mindset is not peers meeting to see if there's a good fit, your interviewing experience is going to be worse than it could be.

The employer has more _risk_.

How so?

Think about how much a bad hire costs a company.

Not only does 6-figures of cash get burned, but you're back at square one needing to find a new hire, not to mention your project now being behind schedule because you expected work from someone, and now the existing team has to go through another interviewing spree.

Any hiring decision is a major risk for both parties. In many cases it's the employee who takes on the most risk, unless it's a very senior role or an early stage startup where every hire is business critical.

The employee may have left a job where they were relatively secure - maybe they even relocated for the role. Now they're back on the job market and their employability has taken a major hit. Not to mention that being fired is often a very traumatic experience with all the health consequences that entails. Seems a lot more serious than a project being pushed back a couple months.

(btw, "bad" according to which criteria? a lot of the time when I hear this phrase thrown around it's a smokescreen for unrealistic expectations or an exclusionary team culture)

6 figures is not spent if you hire someone who doesn't work out.

If that were true companies would give out huge raises to keep employees. They don't.. they prefer that people leave and new people get hired by them.

No one wants a bad hire because it taints their brand at the org. Having someone else recommend someone means someone else takes the blame. Referrals get hired quickly.

If you pay someone $200K/year and keep them on for 6 months before letting them go, that's $100K spent.

And if you used an agent, you might be on the hook for several months' salary too.

think about the 6 figures it costs you when recruiters damage your brand due to them alienating qualified candidates with stupid coding interviews and treating them like idiots who will work hard for shitty compensation.

I once had a guy in an interview panel pour out a packet of salt and chop it into lines with a credit card at an interview with a major tech company you've heard of. It was like a nervous habit or something. This was back in the late 1990s. I was like WTF.

Ya, you really have to pay attention to red flags, you'll be working (stuck) with them for at least a year, possibly more, and you will depend on them for your livelihood and family's survival.

That’s weird, but like you say, it seemed like a sort of nervous habit.

Not during interviews, but sometimes I close my eyes when I want to focus intently on what the speaker is saying. I used to twirl my pencil.

I try and give both interviewers and interviewees the benefit of the doubt.

Walking out without saying anything seems pretty rude, but I don’t know all the circumstances. Laughing in your face seems much worse. It’s a two way interview. If it doesn’t feel right, hopefully you’ve got other options and don’t need to proceed. Or get an offer (if it isn’t going to take 5 more rounds of interviewing, you’ve already committed time to the interview, consider whether it’s worth taking it to completion) and then raise concerns and listen to how your concerns are addressed.

In case you didn't realize, but cutting-salt-into-lines is usually a behavior more associated with cocaine usage than nervous habit

I assumed the OP was using "salt" euphemistically. I've never heard of coke-heads chopping-up sodium chloride!

I've never done cocaine but have cut sugar into lines for fun (but not at work, and definitely not in an interview)

> you'll be working (stuck) with them for at least a year, possibly more

Why is that? Do you mean it looks bad in the CV if you leave too soon?

>Why is that? Do you mean it looks bad in the CV if you leave too soon?

That's one thing, also life happens where it's more beneficial to stay someplace to keep the income coming in than it is to spend hours off the clock finding and preparing a different job. Say a medical problem, or you need to pay to fix damage to your house, or a spouse lost a job, etc.

Are you sure it was salt? Cocaine sounds more like it. He was

1. Either trying to kick a cocaine habit, and was still going through the motions with something that looked like cocaine

2. He was going to offer the coke to OP and see if he was a culture fit.

Exactly. I was in an interview with a data engineering consultancy, and the CEO goes on a weird rant about "there's givers and takers in a company, which are you?" and then proudly told me about firing a couple of people that week.

Was a very useful interview for me, and I've told a few old colleagues who were approached by the company also about it, so it saved them time too.

Agree generally, though that the other people in the room didn't try to acknowledge what happened, apologize, etc, is the biggest problem to me.

Any company might have a random asshole pop up into a chance encounter. What that random asshole does is less telling than what everyone else around them does to address it.

This is my favorite answer in reading the comments. I might add that person that laughed and walked out may have been a plant to incite a reaction from the interviewee. If that would have been me (and the rest of the interview was going well) I probably would have just laughed and said something after he left to the affect of ‘made someone laugh today - check’.

I have social anxiety disorder, which I deal with in the workplace by putting on a "Customer Service" persona. So in any interview, I consider the interviewer as my customer and I want to make them happy. In an interview for a previous job, the Lead Architect was very aggressively putting me through several technical questions and at one point he told me I was completely wrong in one of my answers. When I politely tried to explain why I believed my answer was correct and offered to demonstrate on my laptop, he got angry and stormed out of the interview, leaving his two embarrassed looking coworkers to continue.

It was a bad experience, but the other two interviewers were very nice and I really wanted to work for this non-profit, so I sent a follow-up email apologizing for upsetting the Lead Architect so much, saying that I thought it was just a misunderstanding, that there were multiple correct answers, and provided some documentation to further explain why I answered the way I did.

I got a job offer that afternoon, and two weeks after I started they fired the Lead Architect. That same week, I went out to lunch with the team, where one of the interviewers told everyone about how I made the Lead Architect look so stupid during the interview and that I was so incredibly nice about it that they knew they had to hire me. Turns out it was a workplace where everyone highly valued politeness and the Architect had been antagonizing and bullying everyone for years. Ended up being one of the friendliest places I've ever worked.

Brilliant story. Lucky they had the balls to get rid of him, few companies would.

Thank you for sharing your story. I found it educational and will work to emulate some of your described behavior.

I bet that lunch made you feel great!

Aww man thanks a lot for your story! Kindness is really the only way to treat people, including yourself. And you totally owned it!

I think I will apply your train of thought in future interactions with difficult people.

Customer service persona, I like it.

The way you handled that should be taught. Great job it sounds like success will follow you wherever you go.

What a nice turn of events! You literally killed the Lead Architect with kindness haha

As it says in the Bible (I'm not 100% sure what 'heap burning coals on his head' means):

«“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.»

It sounds like the incentive is still to “punish” the “enemy” - and that kindness is the worst punishment.

In other words, cause them suffering by being super nice to them.

Be nice with the intention to harm.

This is so twisted.

In my book kindness means literally wishing good from the depth of my heart.

Bad and rude interviewers imply even worse colleagues, supervisors and managers. Its a measure of the overall company culture and not simply just their professionalism.

Its ok to continue the interview but its also ok to finish, leave and never return. They're as much under investigation for fit as you are. Hold them to your standards.

You got a glimpse of what working with them would be like in future. I'd say you found them lacking. Can you imagine a code review with that person?

I'm always drawn between leaving on the spot or staying and dropping out of the process later. In practice, I prefer to stay. Waste their time, try to do as well as you can, practice interviewing, gain experience. And then professionally and politely drop out of the interview process. Just because the interviewers are unprofessional and unpolite doesn't mean you have to be.

All that assumes that the interviewers' behavior was "just" rude, if the cross line like sexism, racism and similar thing the solution is standing up and leaving. Their is only so much you can learn from abusive people.

Asking “Hey, where did bob just go?” is not rude. Leaving an interview where you have been purposefully insulted and treated poorly is also not rude right? Why burn your time when you know you won’t accept any offers. Just seems like there are better ways to spend time.

Playing dumb, if you can with a straight face, isn't rude in response to rudeness, IMO. And it can be quite effective. It's one thing to insult someone; it's quite another to have to explain how and why you were insulting them. "Huh? Whaddaya mean? I'm not sure I get it..." works well on overly offensive jokes too. Usually. Some real jerks will double down though and happily explain in excruciating detail.

If they play dumb you can say, "this seems like a good time to ask, what is the company culture like when people have technical disagreements?"

That is a great questions for candidates to ask and I wished more of them did. Another one I like is "How does your organization change course when they realize they are on the wrong one?".

Agreed although I’ve had interviews that taught me quite a bit about the company and the interviewer. This then became useful career information for industry practices and useful skills to develop.

Leaving doesn't have to be rude. If there's no reason to work on your interview skills, you can simply say "I appreciate your time, but I don't think I'm a good fit for _company name here_." You don't have to give any further reason. You are the boss of your time and effort, so don't waste it if you don't have to.

Invert that phrase. "__company__ isn't a good fit for me". Be clear that you are leaving on your terms.

The interviewer may still tell people that you gave up halfway through, but if anyone else is listening or the interviewer is accidentally honest, it is more likely to trigger change by emphasizing that the company is losing you rather than you are losing the company.

I think that's a valid approach, too. It might just depend on the interviewee which is better. The inverted phrase is a bit more direct and dominant (which I don't think is bad), so I don't think it fits everyone's personality. That said, my recommendation is simply to be polite and leave, and do it on your own terms.

>"I appreciate your time, but I don't think I'm a good fit for _company name here_."

I would also suggest this; it signals to the other interviewers that they just lost a potential candidate because of John Doe's behavior. They might take action, but they need to understand the consequence of having that guy on the team, or at least in the interview room.

Would "I don't think your company is a good fit for me" be better wording (to show it's not your skills but their culture), or would that be too aggressive?

Too narcissistic.

And perfectly fitting in such a situation. Being polite and professiobal avout breaking an interview of doesn't mean you cannot be "arrogant" doing it.

Not at all. It is what it is.


Anytime I have brought colleagues in to interview a candidate, during the introduction, I'll note that "Bob from devops will be joining us, but he may get called away" based on the circumstances however I would not appreciate a coworker stepping out without an explanation for the candidate as that would reflect horribly on the organization in my opinion.

We'd also expect Bob to say something like "Oh crap excuse me, sorry, the server's on fire" as he leaves.


"Waste their time"

You would waste your own time, too, with this approach.

Sure, but if there are n interviewers, I get to waste n minutes of the company's time for each minute of my own wasted. For some panel interviews I've been in, this can be a significant multiplier that makes it worth it even if spite didn't already.

Often when interviewing for a job the interviewee has the time...

One of my regrets interviewing is not walking out on a all day 10+ hour in-person interview.

I was asked to show up at 8am, but I was not told I would not be leaving the office until 6pm.

Also, I was told it was a direct hire - when I got the offer for something like $35/hr in a major city as a mid level programmer, I sorta lost it on the recruiter. No vacation, purely contract work through the recruiter.

More or less lied to during the entire process. I guess some candidates are happy to get a job and just put up with it? It has to work sometimes...

I open discussions with recruiters - typically Exec Recruiters who are normally cold/warm-calling on LinkedIn - and the conversation goes like this:

* "We have this amazing CTO / CIO / VP Role."

* "What's the pay range for this role?"

* "We pay market rates"

* "I'm currently making $X at my fancy FAANG role. Can you beat that?".

* "Oh. Nevermind".

It's helped, but there are still false promises made.

I think this really comes down to the equity grant and whether or not you think that you can personally move the needle. If you're a junior engineer getting your second job, it's a little bit of a scam to be sold on equity. You probably aren't so good at programming that you'll carry the entire company to success; you're being hired because you're a warm body for cheap. But if you're the CTO or VP of Engineering and you're good at that kind of role, then you certainly have the opportunity to build a team that can do better than the average startup, and thus your equity could really be worth something.

"I guess some candidates are happy to get a job and just put up with it? "

Sadly yes and they don't have a choice, but anyone accepting that shit who do have a choice are lowering the standard for everyone else.

I had a weird case where the team absolutely loved me, and had even extended verbal offer, but a surprise final interview with a low-level executive cost me the job.

Similar story: I once went through all the rounds with a company, it was obviously going great, then the recruiter mentioned all candidates need to get the thumbs up from some VP big shot so I needed to talk to him. Well, they scheduled the interview while he was driving, obviously in a convertible. Neither of us could hear each other, and there could clearly be no information exchange. I figured we'd just re-schedule, but the recruiter got back to me to let me know it didn't work out, and they wouldn't be moving forward. Crazy times!

I would have had to move across the country and they recently laid off 1000 (50%) of their staff, so in retrospect I figure I dodged a bullet, but wow!

I've found that the more rounds of interviews there are or the more people involved, the greater the chances of one person causing the whole deal to go south. I have been in similar situations. Six straight interviewers said to hire me. The seventh one said no and that was that.

My co-founder from a past startup and I were once pitching a well-known investor. He put his feet up on the table and pulled out his phone.

My co-founder paused, and very calmly said something like "X, if this isn't a good use of your time then tell us so we don't waste ours, either". He immediately put his feet down, his phone face down on the table, and politely paid attention the rest of the pitch. He obviously didn't invest but we walked out of there with our heads held high.

I had something similar where the staff member at a Vc firm welcomed us with “there’s just been another meeting called in the office next to me, you guys go ahead with your pitch and I’ll just keep and ear out for what’s going on over there”

We could’ve pitched to ourselves on a blank zoom call and come out more confidente. The worst part, we spent a bit of time on that presentation and really tried to make it less boring.

Fuck you Icehouse ventures.

Should have just walked out. If you take the role of someone who will be humiliated like that, then you will be treated that way. You made the most of it by using it as practice, but you also painted yourselves as people who were desperate for scraps. Remember, you are the prize, not them (to an extent). Don't lower your value in their eyes.

To be honesty, it meant a lot to us to be there and in the moment I just wasn't able to process what was actually happening.

The NZ startup funding scene is bare and so the guys with money now think they're gods.

But very true, ultimate beta move.

Don't be too hard on yourself. As long as you learn from it and use it for the next encounters, it is a net gain. What happened with your startup btw?

Yeah encouraging more founders to hop on a flight to california.

Ah yeah, I remember that guy that was supposedly the investor's expert that we met right after lunch.Obviously his meal was copious and also helped with large servings of alcoholic beverage, so after 15 minutes of our explanations (we were sitting in front of him at his desk) he started snoring audibly with his head down on his chest... We looked at each other and waited for a solid minute before trying to wake him up with some gentle coughing.

Sounds like a "shit test", as in "how much shit will these people take." It's a blunt way to understand if someone will be pushed around. I don't know if this was his purpose, but you don't want to invest in someone who will get pushed around and taken advantage of.

you also don't want to take investment money from the sort of VC egotist who thinks running a "shit test" is a standard operating procedure. treat people with respect or just don't schedule the meeting at all in the first place.

Hehe, that's such a macho way of thinking.

I have a little tingling sensation that we could use more women in positions of power in tech.

We might benefit from slightly different ways of thinking about working with fellow human beings.

(In case that wasn't clear, I agree with your point. I'm just a bit sad about the language and mindset you're describing!)

You think women don't do shit tests?

>Hehe, that's such a macho way of thinking. I have a little tingling sensation that we could use more women in positions of power in tech.

If you look up the origin of the phrase "shit test", you will find a lot of irony in this statement :)

Yes, I knew about it when I wrote the comment. I guess men are just better at this!

The majority of references I could find were on Urban Dictionary and other ‘how to not be a beta’ type sites. Hardly reputable sources or places that stand up for women.

To me it sounds like a fomo investor trying to hedge their bets.

i've found alot of people do this and it's accepted in alot of places but others find it really rude.

When i worked at Tesla everyone was on their laptops answering emails/ working in meetings. I don't think it takes your full attention to listen to someone, but i guess it's a bit different if you were just pitching him and not a room full of people.

> I don't think it takes your full attention to listen to someone

I disagree to this with every fiber of my being. If you're multitasking doing something that requires anything beyond mechanical tasks then you're not really listening.

I challenge you to actually try and listen to a person with a completely silenced mind. It's surprisingly hard.

"If you're multitasking doing something that requires anything beyond mechanical tasks then you're not really listening."

I often listen to podcasts and videos on 2x or even 3x speed because the speaker talks so slow.

When they talk slow and the amount of information they're relaying is relatively low or mostly familiar, my mind tends to drift and I can actually multitask relatively well.

It's when I speed up the rate at which they're speaking that it becomes more difficult to multitask, until at last I really need to concentrate in order to follow what they're saying and then my focus remains glued to the speaker.

That said, I do think it's rude to focus on anything else when one is interviewing someone. They should have your full attention, or you shouldn't be there.

"Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren't adding value. It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time."

What worked in some of my previous orgs:

- During a retro decide to have a quota of meetings left early/skipped as a team action/working agreement. - Keep inviting people as you are, but mark everyone as optional. - No phones, no laptops (unless they're for taking notes)

yeah, but sometimes i do need to be vaguely aware of whats being discussed.

Rapidly changing from topic to topic but having everyone in a conference room while everyone is working is highly effective. People can jump in and give input on the topic they were half listening too. How many times someone has said "Oh, i have a supplier for that" or "I wrote a script for that".

The above example is really off topic from "He was on his phone while we were pitching" but i think it applies to the fact that smart people are actually really good at multi-tasking, bad a social ques and norms but you shouldn't take it as a sign of disrespect.

Walk out of a meeting is one thing. start doing other work in the meeting is different

The wording is a bit confrontational.

I'd just ask if this is a good time. Otherwise, we can reschedule.

Then, I can decide later whether I will actually reschedule.

It is never a good idea to add shading like that.

The advice to not add "shade" seems to be predicated on some perceived power differential, but everyone's time is equally valuable. Regardless, I don't see any shade. It's just direct and to the point.

"Shade" is subjective. It is better to ensure there is no shade at all.

> perceived power differential

Not really. It is game theory.

You earn nothing by throwing shade apart from emotional satisfaction.

It is only beneficial to go above and beyond to ensure nobody feels any shade to anybody. You never what you will need in the future.

> everyone's time is equally valuable

Trying to repeat a tautological statement is a shade, IMO.

Game theory without taking human memory and emotion is flawed.

If you never see the person again and you've held your head high you will feel more confident.

If you play game theory the emotional damage might haunt your next interview.

This is why having developing high EQ is important.

Getting revenge emotionally is a passing pleasure with no real benefit. There is only possible downsides.

This is why high EQ people are generally more successful.

I dont think it is shade, it is direct and to the point.

The wording might be, but it's hard to convey the tone, and in my opinion, my co-founder's tone was both forceful and polite. I wouldn't have been able to pull it off myself.

Or not confrontational enough.

The first thing you need to understand is the interview process goes both ways. They're not just trying to figure out if you have the skills to do the job and figure out if you're a good fit for the team, you should also be figuring out if the company is a good fit. Usually you have to pick out context clues to figure out if the company culture is going to be a fit, and if you don't, you ask those questions and gauge their answers.

When they directly insult you during the interview, that should be the end. If you're willing to tolerate abuse during the interview process, you should expect the culture to persist and you advertise that you're okay with it.

Respect of my time and the time of those around me is important to me. I had a recruiter that didn't understand this concept. He was representing a major media company that seemed like it'd be interesting to work for. But since the recruiter advertised to me that he couldn't care less about my time, I took that as an ongoing issue at the company and I ended the process.

It's just not worth it, especially when you have other potential opportunities that may still be interesting. Respect is important and if they can't respect you at the interview, they will not respect you in the job.

You are exactly right. When I was younger, all I could think was: I need to impress them! Now I think, this company needs to impress me. If their culture is abusive or even uninspired, I am not joining them. It's hard to find a decent club though sometimes.

To add some personal context, I'm the same where as I get older the company needs to impress me with a good work environment. But not because my resume is better or that I'm financially better off. It's because I've learnt from personal experience that a crappy work environment is not worth tolerating. (Same goes for personal relationships).

And the above is why ageism exists.

Nope. That's simple experience.

One can arrive at that place earlier in life, and will given mentors and a robust set of early experiences.

I was the same way. Interviews were very intimidating. Imposter syndrome didn't help. It took time for me to figure out the power dynamic in this process, and to learn that, as a candidate, I have more power than I previously assumed.

And the crazy thing is, knowing that power dynamic means you can, likely, command more compensation.

It’s unfortunate that most interviewers do not think that the process is two way. The normal interview setup is also very one sided. For a 1 hour session, the interviewer has like 55 min to ask the candidate questions, and leaves only 5 minutes at the end for the candidate to ask them questions.

As a technical interviewer and team lead, I liked to spend the first half of the interview on technical questions and answers, and maybe some discussion on that, then the second half just having a conversation. I've rejected candidates who were technically sound, but would not be a good fit for the team (they would likely fit in somewhere, and I'd be willing to admit it was a mistake if I just read things wrong or they had a bad day). I also spend some time on who I am, what I expect, etc. This interview style doesn't seem super common, but I feel I've been pretty successful in my recommendations to the hiring manager following this, and the hiring mistakes have been pretty minimal.

I think the worst interview process I've been through is when I did 8 interviews at a company, 6 of which were technical, and then was not hired (overqualified apparently...I'm old enough to start encountering ageism and all that). Such a monumental waste of time.

There should be no need to wait for permission to ask pertinent questions.

The interview process should be a conversation, not an interrogation.

If it isn't, I probably don't want to work there.

I will simply ask.

If time comes up, I let them know I have the time needed and would not have asked if I didn't.

Do they have the time needed? If not, why?

Answers to that can make sense and can bias the session toward a more productive exchange.

I agree 100% with your statement. I see a job interviews as dating. It has to work both ways, you will be spending most of your day with them, you need to determine what you expect from them and what negative behaviors you are willing to compromise based on your needs.

For whatever reason, companies do not think this way. I usually get the rude comments with the 'we passed on you' email or voicemail.

In many difficult social situations, including this one, it helps to have a canned sentence ready to deploy.

"Gentlemen, it's clear to me that we're not a good fit here. Let's not waste anymore of our time"

Say it 10 times in front of a mirror or something and just push the mental button when you need to.

I can't help being reminded of the "Choice" PSA from The Stanley Parable:

"If you find yourself speaking with a person who does not make sense, in all likelihood, that person is not real. Allow the person to finish their thought then provide an excuse why you cannot continue talking."


Might want to practice it as "folks" instead of "gentlemen" so the occasional woman doesn't trip you up.

I would just leave out the world altogether. There's no need to address them. They know who you are talking to.

It doesn’t have the same power if you don’t say who you’re addressing. Yes, it’s logically obvious you’re speaking to the people in front of you, but this isn’t computer logic, it’s human interaction.

Exactly. If it didn't fill some communicative function, the vocative case would have fallen out of use a long time ago.

For my part, I prefer "amigos" in all but the most formal contexts, except ... that's arguably not gender neutral either.

Or just say, "everyone"

This is all just flow and it depends on the speaker. Having a bit of a lead in can help some people. Gets in the way for others.

Another suggestion I've heard for this is "you all".

Yes very common in the south. The funny one is, "all you all."

No one in the south says "you all", that's Yankee talk. It's "y'all".

Exactly right. I was using the voice dictation and it didn't type the short form.

Or just say, "everyone"

This is all just flow and it depends on the speaker. Having a bit of a lead in can help some people. Gets in the way for others.

It bears repeating

Dang it!

Not sure how that happened.

The medical comedy show ‘Getting On’ covers this in the most cringe worthy way, with a senior female doctor addressing a group of juniors (male and female) as ‘gents’.

Perhaps "Motherfuckers" is the way to go.

There is no gender neutral term (is there?) for "gentlemen".

"My noble friends"?

"Good people"?

Does not quite feel the same. Perhaps it is my linguistic habits too ingrained


[Not an English native] Isn't that a little too informal? Bugs Bunny came to mind.

Is "ladies and gentlemen" somehow out of fashion?

In the modern world gender neutral is more than "both genders".

Some women get pissed at being called a "lady".

It is a minefield, but better than using low English phrases like: "folks", or "guys" (that is a gender neutral slang term in my world)

Always use high English when talking business. Formal language every time.

Fuck the cunts!

For my next magic trick...



The point was to not look like a dweeb!

Yeah, and at the same time avoid the "gentle" part. Being rude disqualifies them as gentle

But using “gentlemen” (if gender appropriate) in that situation qualifies you as polite and considerate. It’s not about them.

+1 on the practice. I don't have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times I sounded like an ass and didn't communicate my message clearly enough because of the heat of the moment.

Yep -- even a single preparatory iteration makes a huge difference for many tasks.

> It's clear to me that we're not a good fit here. Let's not waste anymore of our time

IMO this effectively terminates all possibilities. IMO it might be more effective to say a break in the convo adding something tailored to what you're feeling/observing.

"I'm getting the sense that something's off here. "

Distracted/Disinterested - "Is there something more pressing you need to attend to?"

Rude - "Can you tell me about your company values and how you treat eachother?"

Superiority - "Can you tell me a bit about how CompanyX mentors and develops new talent?"

etc -- put it out to them assuming the best, but implying you're now interviewing them about their qualities.

This is such a good response. Rather than shutting everything down and walking out, which could itself be perceived as rude/arrogant, you allude to what you’re perceiving and start a conversation about it while assuming good intent on their part.

I used that once a few years ago with a very rude CTO/VP Eng. They had given me a "coffin" problem (e.g. expected to fail) during the interview. I was working on it overnight while sitting with my elderly mother-in-law in the hospital. I spoke with them that next day, with 0 sleep, but still gracious and apologetic that I'd not finished every element of the problem. I didn't tell them why.

They didn't like the not finishing part. I got an email later on saying thanks but no thanks. I asked them if they wanted to see the work they asked me to do. That piqued their interest. They then asked if I was still interested.

I said, "No, I think we are done here."

Assholes are a major red flag. You really need to avoid them. Your life will be much better without them. Look up the companies on glassdoor, search for the people you speak to ahead of time, see if there are any major issues. You'd be surprised at how easy some of these are to find with careful digging. Though you need to be adept at filtering disgruntled people seeking reputational revenge versus specific critiques.


Perhaps have a harsher/rude version in case you see someone not respecting your time and are being rude.

"Folks, it's clear to me that I don't want to work here. I don't want to waste any more of my time".

OP's approach is punitive enough and really is all you need in most situations. Although sinking to rudeness can be a natural and spontaneous manifestation of anger, it's rarely worthwhile. When facing a rude or angry person you further lose because they managed to pull you into their own personal hell.

Such disagreeable situations call for calm and playful assertiveness. You catch the opposite party off guard by politely calling them out and exposing them for being an asshole. You leaving thereafter also strips them of the opportunity to correct their immediate behavior and thus, robs them of a chance to demonstrate that it was, in fact, a misunderstanding. That can be quite frustrating, since most rude people really like to project the veil of being decent human beings and hate the idea of someone thinking less of them.

There’s no need to match their rudeness. Take the high road. Your karma is your own.

Maybe, but I'd probably finish the interview anyway. It's good practice for learning how to calm down after you've been upset/slighted/abused, and you've already likely allocated the time.

I might make a quick crack like: "Wow. Must be important. Anyhow, let's get back to what we were doing." in order to see what the reactions of others are and whether I get an apology. But I might not. Shrug.

However, the probability of my taking a job there would be close to zero after that. It's just a huge red warning flag.

Having sat on many panels I'll suggest there might be reasons why someone might seem rude. After a great curry the night before I once had to interview holding back what we call "Gandhi's revenge" around here. The scowl on my face probably terrified the poor kid, and then I made a dash for the toilet.

Practice interacting and being in a professional conversant situation without reading too deeply into what you think is going on for the other person. Accept the situation on face value with the best and worst interpretations in mind, but not in effect. That's good for negotiating too. If you feel on the defensive because of an implied power relation, or misunderstanding, hold that thought, wait and see, it could get interesting.

Since you allocated the time anyway, make the best of a recon opportunity. If the interviewer is being rude, the fact that you are unruffled makes you the bigger person. Smile politely and you may unbalance them. Save any grand decision for the end.

I disagree. It’s unnatural to ignore nonverbal communication. If you had to take a shit and you were talking to the CEO of the company, wouldn’t you do your best to hide that scowl and be polite?

> It’s unnatural to ignore nonverbal communication

In my experience, most people do pay a lot of attention to nonverbal communication… and they're really awful at interpreting it. Basically taking any vague body motion as evidence in favour of their preconceived ideas :/

My communications got noticably smoother when I made a conscious decision to ignore the majority of nonverbal communication; and if it seemed like somebody was trying to say something, I’d explicitly say “Hey, I get the impression that you’re <angry/sad/etc>, am I reading that correctly?” and go from there rather than assuming.

> and if it seemed like somebody was trying to say something, I’d explicitly say “Hey, I get the impression that you’re <angry/sad/etc>, am I reading that correctly?” and go from there rather than assuming.

I like this and am going to try it!

Why not just be open about it?

Yeah, I would just say I have a bathroom emergency and excuse myself.

Any human being should understand.

Finna shit my pants g2g

"I think I'd be a perfect culture fit for this company".

So many people will fit here :D

One can very easily say "sorry I don't feel well" and walk out immediately.

That is extremely unprofessional behavior from that interviewer. But how did the other interviewers respond? I think that the "correct" response really depends on that:

  * Other interviewers don't say anything -> ask what's up, and whether this means the interview is over. Point out that you don't feel comfortable continuing like this.
  * Other interviewers show they are "on your side", i.e. as confused as you and don't endorse that behavior -> continue the interview, and maybe later try to figure out what happened. Consider it a yellow card (in Football speak). Make sure that you don't ever work with that specific person.
Of course, this is all easy to say from the comfort of my desk!

Is it really all that unprofessional? We're completely missing context here. Maybe I'm just too forgiving of people's quirks, but I've definitely had people smile/chuckle when I've said my favorite language was Haskell and that's led to interesting conversations rather than uncomfortable silences. People laugh at all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons: the fact that the interviewer had any reaction at all to an obscure language seems like a positive thing to me.

And leaving when the "interview wasn't going well", makes me picture OP struggling at the whiteboard and somebody not wanting to interrupt him. Sometimes people have to leave. To me, this fits into the category of devs often being unthinking rather than actively rude, and those are completely different categories to me.

I feel like we too often ascribe malice to people for what are often just cultural differences.

"leaving when the "interview wasn't going well", makes me picture OP struggling at the whiteboard and somebody not wanting to interrupt him."

They were interrupting me constantly during the whiteboarding. That was actually one of the other things I didn't like about the team. They wouldn't give me time to fully answer their question before butting in and telling me how they would do it. Half the time I felt like they were solving it for me. When I expressed my dismay they told me they didn't actually want a solution from me but were just trying to determine whether they could work with me or not, because that's how they came up with solutions at their company.

In any case, they clearly had no problem with interrupting me. So when the person who had laughed at me later just got up and walked out during the interview (after the whiteboarding) without saying a word, it did seem kind of rude.

I've been in lots of interviews throughout my life, and never once did anyone act remotely like this.

Of course, I could have misinterpreted them, and maybe their laughter was good-natured (it seemed condescending to me). Maybe they had some good reason to leave in the middle of the interview, but they could have just excused themselves.

I only whiteboarded once as a junior role. It was actually kind of fun, but they gave me a skills appropriate question, had some good feedback, and let me do the whole thing in pseudo C code.

I had good feedback too! It was a sort of take on a sorting/search problem with a ton of inserts if I recall. Each loop I had, I was reallocating the size of the array by 1 or so. They pointed out, hey, we actually know the size up front right? Let's just allocate the perfect amount right up front.

The better other interviews I had weren't whiteboarding as much as talking through a problem. One is the famous "Urinal Algorithm". you walk into a bathroom with 10 urinals. Where do you stand? No right or wrong answer there. Now you walk in as a second person.. where do you stand?

A second was a sort of "Whats the minimum number of steps you can take to determine where an element is in an array?". you know getting 'hotter/colder' like the kids game, but you can jump around. It's not stated in all algorithmic terms, but you can figure it out with a bit of grasping around and its important for me to see someones process than it is to memorize an algorithm.

it forces a junior person to think through a problem, with some guided help and as a more senior person now, i see that's more valuable in assessing if a junior person can fit in with your style of teaching.

"When I expressed my dismay they told me they didn't actually want a solution from me but were just trying to determine whether they could work with me or not, because that's how they came up with solutions at their company"

I would say that has a certain logic, too and maybe all in all you were just not a good fit for that company culture. Not that you lacked skills, but simply that your social norms are not compatible with that company (the company seems special, though)

It seems both parties should have ended the interview more early.

To me, this fits into the category of devs often being unthinking rather than actively rude, and those are completely different categories to me.

I want to address this quote because I’ve been this guy, and I’ve had to train myself out of habits like these. When one acts without thinking the results are often quite rude. Not thinking through your actions and the impact those actions will have on others is itself rude!

Now, I don’t mean to ascribe malice here either, but you can be quite rude without malice. Intent matters, and its worse with malice. But simply being “absent minded” is also rude! Good people acknowledge it, apologize and move on. Some people dig in their heels and won’t concede. YMMV. :)

I was immediately more successful and worked less when I decided to be a nasty person. I kept a nice moat around my tecnhical work and always exuded confidence.

Once walked out of a big meeting in frustration with a bunch of upper microsoft partners. The head of ops said something like "Well the only guy who actually knows what's going on just left. so the meeting is over" (at a fortune 500).

I was an asshole. the whole team was assholes. We burnt out after about 18 months and 4 acquisitions.

I don't want to be that person anymore

Yeah, I’ve been that guy too. I agree it isn’t pleasant. Sometimes I feel driven to be that way by the actions of others. Thats when I know its time for me to step back, reassess, apologize if necessary, and try to move forward.

But god damn do other humans make it hard.

"how did the other interviewers respond?"

The others completely ignored it and acted like nothing unusual was happening... though I did sense that one of them was uncomfortable when the interviewer who had laughed at me just got up and walked out.

There is likely something else going on that the OP wasn't in on.

The person who was rude might have been in a situation where he didn't want to hire someone but was compelled to, so his reaction might have been an unskillful projection of not wanting to go through the process. The others could very well have been mortified to the point of inaction or pretending it didn't happen. There's no way they could justify the behavior of their colleague.

In any case, yeah, it's a sure sign of a toxic environment. That said, if the OP was in the right head-space, he could have used it as an opportunity for humor to take the edge off and help him and the others feel better.

When meeting people for the first time, I will often say something quirky just as test. Their reaction is great info to have. There are so many different reactions that a rude response is a major red flag and I'm done or wary from then on.

Good responses are, on one side of spectrum, they think it's funny and interesting. In the middle (also good responses) they or ask why or politely disagree. On the not so good, they politely disagree but think you're stupid without saying it. Then, out of all those response options, if they pick being rude, then you have a very strong indicator.

Out of curiosity, can you give some examples of quirky test things you say?

It should just be part of the conversation... it's typically contrarian to what the conversation is discussing, or opposite of your stereotype.

If they're discussing alternative music, I say "uh, i like Taylor Swift". If they're discussing cars, I'd say I love minivans ("they're so useful!").

After reading the OP comment, saying my favorite language is Scheme is one I might try when talking programmers haha. In this case, I don't know anything about Scheme, so I'd see their reaction and just say I was just joking.

Hello I like Taylor Swift and Minivans can we be friends?

An interview is a two-way street. Presuming you're the candidate, the organisation is selling itself as much as you are you. The key difference is that there tend to be more candidates than positions --- the employer has a superior BATNA (best alternative to negotiated agreement).

That said, I've had several interviews I'd concluded I wasn't interested quite early in the process. In one case I wrapped relatively quickly, and immediately told the recruiter I was not in the least interested. In another, the situation wasn't hostile, but was so bizzare I continued the interview simply to try to understand what the heck was going on.

It would be extraordinarily rare for an interview to pose a direct threat, so continuing with a viewpoint that the experience is simply practice doesn't hurt. I've also had other staff who'd interviewed me and then left that position contact me with other offers, so from a networking perspective, the experience can still be useful.

There were other opportunities I should have passed on but did not. Having additional options is extraordinarily useful. Those are among my regrets.

I'd like to hear more about the bizarre interview, if you're willing to elaborate.

Interview had been made by a founder, who wasn't present to interview me. I'm not sure they even existed.

Interview was conducted by a recently-hired, recently-graduated (and very fresh-out-of-school) developer.

The business prop just didn't make sense.

After about 15--20 minutes, I was just trying to make sense of the situation / why they were even at the firm.

I watched for further developments from the company for a few years, I'm not aware that anything ever came of it, so at least this one time my sense that this could never pan out was in fact correct.

(Stupid ideas often have a much longer runway than seems remotely possible, especially when money also gets stupid.)

I don't recall the name of the company any more.

They were in search space, and are neither alphabetic or waterfowl-inclined.


[morbid curiosity piqued]

Yes, what was so bizarre?

I had a tech lead and manager interview me for an internal position. The tech lead was on her laptop the whole time. The manager asked her if she had any questions. So she asked me something. I started giving my response and she went straight back to her laptop. When I was done answering, she didn't say anything or even acknowledge my answer. There was a long pause and the manager picked back up. I finished the interview.

Before I could decline the position in the system, they called me and offered the job. I said something to the effect of "thanks but I'm don't think it was a good fit. Good luck in the search". Then he started pressing me for why I'm turning it down. I told him I didn't think I would get enough support/growth from the tech lead if they can't even take time for the interview (also it made me think the team might be overworked).

Then the manager called my current manager. Both managers couldn't understand why I turned it down. How? How can they not understand that even after I explained it?

So in summary, I finished the interview and declined the offer. I would have withdrawn my application but didn't get to it fast enough.

If at any point in time, you decide that the company is not a good fit for you, you can end the interview by saying: "Thank you for the opportunity, I don't think I'm a good fit for this position"

No need for any further explanation, no need for excuses, just simply pack your stuff calmly and leave.

Other unrelated career advice (after 15+ years of experience):

1. Don't participate in any abusive/toxic behavior (even if all employees are doing it)

2. Document abusive behavior (emails, texts, etc) with screenshots whenever possible (especially if it involves you)

3. Try to quit professionally whenever possible (provide no feedback or very little ad give a notice), in cases where you _know_ you absolutely can't mentally/physically take it anymore, then leave immediately (i.e NEVER put your health in danger, all the legalities, logistics, etc can be dealt with later; even in extreme situations)

4. Never overwork yourself, your compensation has nothing to do with your effort.

5. Don't constantly criticize the code base, especially if you are new, you don't know the history yet and many people have emotional attachment to their code.

6. If you want to play the office politics (for whatever reason, e.g raises, extra vacation time, etc), find out who are the _bigger_ decision makers and make sure they are aware of YOUR contributions. Don't burn the midnight oil, thinking they will care, that's not how it works; they need to constantly hear your name and ideas.

7. Office romance is NOT worth it _most_ of the time; however if you are going to take this route, make arrangements to be able to leave the company if necessary.

8. Don't talk behind other people's backs, don't partake in excessive drinking or become _too_ attached/close to your coworkers (especially with their family lives). Always maintain a healthy boundary, even if you genuinely think some of your coworkers could become your life-long friends.

9. Use spaces instead of tabs.

All very good advice. I would add:

10. Your workmates are not your friends. Your friends are your friends.


11. The way a company shows it appreciates you is mainly, not only, through money. (Related to 10) Having fun "team building" activities in otherwise non working time is not them showing appreciation.

You aren't there to fix them or help them hide their faults to future candidates.

Mainly you want to leave a good impression on the other people in case you meet them elsewhere in the future and only show a lot of initiative fixing something like that if you are being hired in a role that actually focuses a bit on those soft skills.

Personally, I once got far too involved in discussions with HR at a place where it clearly wasn't going to work out and they are high enough volume that it never mattered.. but I would prefer to have practiced the skills of never showing my hand and continuing along to learn more about their part of industry.

As a younger guy, I used to really try hard to impress at interviews, regardless of the poor behaviour of the interviewers. Once I got a bit more senior, my tolerance for squirm-inducing tactics reduced drastically. By this time, I had conducted a few interviews myself, and knew what was appropriate and what wasn't.

The minute I suspected any kind of inappropriate questioning, I used to just get up, thank them for their time and walk out. If you're getting stupid questions thrown at you, the interview is pretty much a lost cause anyway, so why waste time?!

A little later, I discovered an even more enjoyable way to end a "lost cause" interview, that can repay to the interviewer some of the discomfort they caused you.

Once you sense the interview is going south, and the interviewer is unnecessarily enjoying putting you under pressure, as a final resort, request that someone from HR be called to observe the interview. Even better if you have the HR reps number, so you can call them directly! Say that you feel that the methods being used in the interview are inappropriate and unnecessarily pressurising. It's no good sending an email after - you need to strike before the interview is over, while the iron's hot.

It really changes the mood in a beautiful way, and lets you get your own back on power-tripping trash bags. You obviously won't get the job, but that's probably for the better, given the trashy people you'd be working with!

Note: I worked in finance, where horrible interviews are sadly quite common.

This is hilarious. I can think of a few situations where it would've come in handy. Thanks for sharing.

I'm in semiconductor design not software but we write a lot of scripts.

One of my good friends is an analog custom layout expert in Cadence Virtuoso and its built in scripting language SKILL is a version Scheme / Lisp. If you told him that your favorite language was Scheme he would probably try to hire you just for that.


Wow. So in the past I used to tell myself "it's the Cadence RESEARCH Systems that has something to do with Scheme" (they used to make Chez Scheme before Cisco bought them), but now you're telling me that both Cadence RESEARCH Systems and Cadence DESIGN Systems have their own Scheme dialect. That is in no way confusing! :)

I really only faced rudeness when I was a junior engineer and didn't know better. I was brought in for a round of interviews and there was rudeness in two of the early interviews. I quickly lost interest in the company. (One interviewer was very rude about my working solution, and another interviewer was rude to a junior member of the staff.) When the recruiter followed up with me, I didn't have the maturity to give a frank report about the staff.

~20 years later, I should have politely left after one of the sessions. I should have found the hiring manager, told him that "I don't see myself working out well here," and then given much more candid feedback to the recruitment agency.

But also, from that experience, I've learned to guide candidates more if they don't give me the answer I'm looking for. Specifically, if a candidate writes what I think is a sub-optimal solution, I'll say something like "can you make it faster?" or "can you make it more robust?" I never expect a candidate to read my mind the first time, especially if the candidate is feeling overwhelmed.

If I was in your situation, I probably wouldn't have walked out right away. If I was turned off the company, I'd have stayed until a break between sessions. If I was still interested or curious, I'd have discussed this particular employee with the hiring manager or HR rep.

I've only "walked out" of an interview once; it was a phone screen and it very quickly was obvious that I wouldn't be happy there. I told the interviewer that I really liked their product, (I really did,) and I wished them luck. (I really did wish them good luck too.)

Not sure how it is now, but in investment banking interviews, interviewers definitely used to be rude or obnoxious sometimes. To an extent, this was a deliberate move to test a candidate's reaction. If the pressure rises when the market goes south on the trading floor or when preparing an important presentation for a merger, temper might rise as well, and there is little time for niceties. Dealing with it reasonably graciously is an important qualification for working in that kind of environment.

Now, I'm not advocating being an asshole. But when working with top people in high pressure environments it certainly helps if you can deal with assholes. It is a bit reminiscent of Postel's law: Be strict in what you send, but tolerant in what you accept.

In this case, it could be that there was some other important meeting the person had to attend, and didn't want to interrupt the interview process with an explanation or goodbye.

If you conclude that this is not the environment you want to work in, fair enough, and concluding the interview politely at that point would certainly have been an option - it seems that the organisation and you were not a good fit anyway.

One good way of dealing with that sort of rudeness is to confront it directly, being extremely polite. "Excuse me???" with a directed look. "I'm not sure I understood you correctly, but did you really mean to imply..."

Watch the walkback.

Yes, or just ignore it. Experience with non-neurotypical people, or other cultures, can help you learn how to just shrug things off that you could otherwise perceive as rude. And then you can shrug it off even if it was intended to be rude.

I think the intention though is to confront it rather than just ignore it to either help the interviewer realize its not acceptable, or just make them less likely to do it again.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact