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Walking out of an interview (stackexchange.com)
265 points by DanielShir on Aug 29, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 248 comments



My answer on this depends on whether we want to be an emotionally supportive group for people who make a badge of honor out of being socially and professionally inept, or whether we want to give advice which will actually move careers forward.

A company which is not a cultural good fit for you, and the employees thereof, can still be very valuable allies. I would not act to antagonize them absent substantial provocation. Not being like you is not a substantial provocation. Most people in the world will, after all, not be like you, and you'll end up not working for approximately all companies in the industry. That's OK.

You've already got the day blocked off in your calendar. Smile. Firm handshakes. Thank them for taking the time to interview you. Heck, they're giving you free live-fire practice for your next interview, make the most out of it. You should never say a word of criticism about the company to anyone but your primary point of contact and you should be darn circumspect with how you word it to him. (I like something along the general lines of "Thanks for your time and allowing me to get to know $FOO_CORP better. We're really in the same boat: I only want to work at employers where I'd do my best work, and you only want to hire people who'd do great things at $FOO_CORP. Having had the opportunity to hear you guys out a bit more, I don't think we're a great mutual fit. I will keep my ears open for you in case any of my friends would be a good fit for your position.")


This is spot on. I can't even fathom why somebody would needlessly burn bridges like this. The fact that we live in boom times and enjoy near-unprecedented demand for our skills is no excuse for this type of myopic behavior.

What really surprised me was that the OP's candidate was a referral. It's one thing to risk burning your own bridges, but it's completely inconsiderate to possibly tarnish the reputation of someone who spoke up on your behalf. Speaking for myself, unless this was a close personal friend, I would be very reluctant to ever subsequently recommend this individual again.

Without delving into anecdotes, I've witnessed a scenario quite similar to this one. A candidate who was referred (as a "rockstar") struggled with the technical interview, and subsequently walked out. It goes without saying how he, and to a lesser extent the individual who referred him, were viewed in the aftermath.

TLDR; Please don't do this. It's completely unnecessary and possibly inconsiderate.


Did the candidate really risk burning bridges? If he said "fuck you, fuck this, fuck everything, I'm out" then clearly that's just a shitty way to go about it. If he said something closer to "Thank you all for your time. You're doing fascinating work but I don't think that this would be a good fit. I really enjoyed meeting you all and maybe I'll get a chance to work with some of you on a future project." and they decided that was burning a bridge then that is a bridge worth burning.

As an interviewer, I'd have a higher opinion of someone willing to cut an interview short if they realise it's not really going to end well and as a candidate, as long as the company hasn't spent money to fly me out somewhere or something, it's an option I like having on the table for an all-day interview since there's not much point in tiring oneself out if it's not going anywhere.


>>If he said something closer to "Thank you all for your time. You're doing fascinating work but I don't think that this would be a good fit. I really enjoyed meeting you all and maybe I'll get a chance to work with some of you on a future project." and they decided that was burning a bridge then that is a bridge worth burning.

That is certainly not the impression I got from reading the OP :

"At one point when he was asked to move to another conference room he decided he had enough and said that he was done with the interview and wanted to leave."

"When he went to leave the lead jumped into the elevator with him and asked him why he didn't want to continue"

We're forced to interpret a 2nd hand retelling of the events, but everything points to this individual leaving relatively abruptly. Why else would someone feel the need to run after him into the elevator?


We have way too little to go on to actually decide which way the candidate went. We have one side of the story second-hand filtered via our own interpretations. Thing of it is, given just what we know I could spend ages listing out credible ways it could have gone given what we have.

Assume that the candidate did give something closer to my latter statement. Perhaps the lead wanted a better explanation of what made the fit so poor. Perhaps the lead actually could not comprehend anyone not wanting to work there. Perhaps the lead didn't believe the explanation given. Any of these could feasibly lead to the same account we're given, as could simply leaving abruptly or literally saying "fuck you, fuck this, fuck everything".


Yes, we may not have all the facts. For all we know the entire story is a fabrication.

However, my point is simply that based on the only available account we have, there's nothing to indicate this candidate was particularly diplomatic.


And my point is that there's nothing to indicate that this candidate was particularly undiplomatic so it's rather senseless to attack them for burning bridges. This is a situation where, given sensible people, bridges will only be burned with the particularly undiplomatic route.


Agree to disagree, I suppose.


I'm with you. The comments diverged towards debating that particular case: "I think he was rude"/"we can't tell if he was…", but the point you're making is about the more general question: excusing yourself from further interviews is not necessarily burning bridges.

"I'm sorry but I don't think it's worth both of our times to continue. I just don't think I'd be a good fit here. It's nothing wrong with you or me, it's just that we don't have the same vision on some things. I really appreciate the opportunity, etc."

If the guy had three hours of interviews already and 3-4 more in the afternoon were planned, plus a lunch, I don't see the problem. It's very easy to end up doing interviews and realizing that the position is not what you had in mind: maybe there's more travel, less hands-on, you'd be working by yourself on the project, etc. You can often easily tell that's not what you're looking for.

Of course, I wouldn't leave in the middle of an hour-long interview and I wouldn't give the impression that I'm rushing out either.


> If he said something closer to "Thank you all for your time. You're doing fascinating work but I don't think that this would be a good fit

We can be almost certain this is not what he said, because the lead had to run after him and ask him why he was leaving. It's really quite challenging to leave unexpectedly without giving an explanation and leave a pilot impression: "Thanks but I gotta go" doesn't cut it when you clearly already booked the whole day for the interview.


As I said somewhere else in this thread, it's easy enough to think up plausible scenarios given what we've heard so far. One that fits the possibility of saying that quote is that the lead wanted to clarify why it was not a good fit (a situation I have been in a few times before from both sides0.

More to the point, however, is that I was presenting a spectrum, with the-only-thing-worse-is-to-bomb-the-office bad on one end and about-as-well-as-leaving-early-can-end-without-bribing-everyone good on the other end and suggesting that bridges would really only expect to be burned near the worse end of the spectrum.

Or, even more of a key point, we only have a fragment of a second-hand telling of a single account of an interaction that really doesn't mean a whole lot and yet people still see the need to take sides and attack one party or the other from this position. This is so many levels of ridiculous that I couldn't help but try to inject some perspective.


Based on the company's behavior in the story, the candidate saw no need to maintain a bridge with such toxic people. So what positive results would have came from wasting more of your time and their time?

I don't understand the deferential view towards the company doing the interview, as if a company itself could never be considered rude, myopic, inconsiderate or wrong.

Also it doesn't sound like a referral (the OP doesn't work there), just a recommendation of the candidate's skills and experience.


Some of those people at that company will be at different companies in the future. When in doubt, don't burn bridges. Don't be rude. Don't be a Prima Donna. Someday the tech economy will be very different, ask anyone who lived through 2000 - 2003, when a lot of people had to get out of the industry because there were NO JOBS.


>> Some of those people at that company will be at different companies in the future.

If you live in a big city and apply for positions to a broad set of industries, there's a decent chance you'll never encounter anyone you've had a bad experience with. If you're focused on working in a smaller community/field, then you do have to spend more time managing your reputation.

>> When in doubt, don't burn bridges. Don't be rude. Don't be a Prima Donna.

I have a different piece of advice:

Always be professional, polite and respectful. If you've acted appropriately and people are still offended or outraged, then that's really their problem.

>> Someday the tech economy will be very different, ask anyone who lived through 2000 - 2003, when a lot of people had to get out of the industry because there were NO JOBS.

I lived through that bubble, I don't know that it's really that different.


So having some respect to yourself, your time (and time of those doing inteviews) is now seen as being rude, prima dona and burning bridges? Interesting.

Is economy being different ten years ago valid reason to pretend that you like what you don't really like, waste time and engage in ass-licking? Because, you know, thing may turn up differently someday?


You're creating a false dichotomy here. No one is saying you should go around 'asslicking' as you so colorfully put it, no one is even saying you should be sucking up to them, just be polite.

But are you seriously condemning being polite? Just be a decent human being, don't act like you're better than everyone while ditching an interview.


From the sound of it he could have been more graceful about it. Speaking to the manager and thanking him instead of just walking out.

Maybe this guy is such a super genius that everybody will forgive him for being a socially ignorant ass. Those of us mere mortals though should probably learn to be at least a little considerate and not burn bridges wherever we go. People are not robots - they don't like being treated as such even if it is "logical."


Exactly. The vehement, cowardly servility in favor of employers' feelings on display here is nauseating.


There are ways to avoid wasting your time without being a dick. That is clearly not what this guy did.

If you consider making up a white lie about a sick relative or pulling one person aside and very politely saying this isn't for you 'ass-licking' - then sure, sometimes you need to lick some ass. Most people just consider that kind of behavior part of being a civilized human being though.


If we take the interviewee's story as truthful, then it sounds like a lot of the interviewers in the room could bear to learn the same lesson here - don't belittle candidates because you never know when or where you'll see them again.


I take it with a gigantic grain of salt.

It's too vague to be helpful. For example, the "dogmatic principles" criticism. The interviewers could have asked "Is security a good thing?", and he could have answered "No". Or the interviewers could have asked a silly question like "Tabs or spaces?" and berated him for answer answering "Spaces". Context is absolutely important.

And if we take the story as truthful, he just went up and said he's done with the interview, without explaining the reason to the room. He pretty clearly didn't explain to the room that he did not feel that he was a good fit, and did not want to further waste anyone's time. That's the only logical explanation for why the lead had to track him down in the elevator, to understand why the interviewee decided to end it.


I am pretty sure, that the candidate would get no detailed reasoning why he was rejected if he were get no offer. Why do you think he owes explanation?


...which is completely irrelevant to the way you should conduct yourself.


"Someday the tech economy will be very different, ask anyone who lived through 2000 - 2003, when a lot of people had to get out of the industry because there were NO JOBS."

This is such a great point. You never know when you might need some help from someone or a favor from a buddy. I can say I double clutched a few times on burning a bridge or two and I always find out later I'm glad I didn't.


The 2008-2010 was even worse than the 2000-2003 fallout, and I had to resort to contracting, but you'd need to be pretty desperate to accept a job at a highly toxic environment.

Remember, companies need employees just like employees need companies. It's a two-way street.


>Some of those people at that company will be at different companies in the future. //

And some of them may well have far more respect for the guy leaving when he knows he's not going to fit in than staying and 'wasting everyone's time'.

It doesn't sound to me like he was rude or prima-donna-ish. But then we are only getting one side.


Toxic people? How do you know that? You're hearing the story from one side -- someone who obviously didn't like the culture and most likely the people working there. We have all been in situations where one person takes the reaction of someone completely different than another.


Yes, I'm assuming his story is accurate. Otherwise we are just debating hypotheticals.

I think that if you conclude that the company is not for you, and you feel that the interviewers have been less-than-nice, you are saving everyone otherwise-wasted-time by leaving early. I don't see how you are under any obligation to go through the motions in a process where you do not want a successful outcome. It's not rude to realize the company is not a good fit for you and save time.

In fact, why should any interviewer be offended with a candidate who has made this decision and leaves early? They've already decided they will not accept any offer from you. The only reason to be offended is if you cannot fathom than anyone would not want to work for you.


You're absolutely spot on. The reality is that candidates ending interviews prematurely is incredibly rare. If it happens then something has failed within your interview process. The only way you will know this is if the candidate clearly explains his reasoning for ending prematurely.


I'm not saying I wouldn't leave early and agree that it wouldn't be rude to do so, but I find it a stretch to call the company toxic because of this.


Now they're toxic? For expecting him to have side projects or being primarily concerned with his programming skills, or expecting him to code a certain way? Those expectations may be silly, and ultimately a disservice to the company itself, but they're not toxic.


>> I can't even fathom why somebody would needlessly burn bridges like this.

Your ability to "burn bridges", so to speak depends on how small the hiring community is and where you are in your career.

Myself, I've gotten all of my jobs in the past decade by referral/reputation. I don't have a mortgage to worry about, etc., and I live in a big city so the notion of "burning bridges" isn't as big a deal as it might be for someone starting out. If you burn a bridge for doing something that is justified, and you do it politely and professionally, so be it.

It is quite possible to terminate an interview politely and professionally, and most of my peers (including myself) who have gone through the hiring cycle actually appreciate it when someone cuts it short, because most of us want to spend time recruiting people who actually want to work with us. I'd actually respect that candidate even more, to be honest.

>> What really surprised me was that the OP's candidate was a referral.

This is one area where you generally need to go through all of the motions, even if it's painful - I'm willing to allow my own bridges to burn, but I would never burn someone else's bridge. I've had an interview like that before, and had I not gone in under someone else's word, I would have cut short the interview as politely and professionally as possible.

Having said that, it is worth noting that the OP recommended the person because they were a "no-nonsense" kind of person. They can't regret referring that person for demonstrating the exact behavior that got the referral in the first place.


The only bridges that were burned were from the candidate to the company. In other words the company made the mistake. Not the candidate.

Having a blanket policy on not walking out of interviews is ridiculous. The manner in which one walks out makes all the difference. The rockstar you mentioned probably walked out the wrong way. Namely sulking, pouting and not saying anything. The right way is to be polite, clear and concise. It's exactly what the company does when they think it's not working out.

Think about this from an employer's perspective. Someone cutting the interview short actually piques my interest. This is especially true if they pass all the technical interviews. I'd probably follow-up with them and see if they were interested in contract or part-time work. On the other hand I don't look too highly upon candidates that just sit through all the interviews by default. I want someone who will speak up, be confident etc.


I like programmers who are smart and bring their inventive ideas to the company. That may include some healthy arguments at times as well. That's not the same as somebody who's constantly combative and seems to have no clue that we need to keep the company running in order to continue receiving paychecks. The later is also the type of person who rudely walks out on an interview. No thanks.


You have broken the world into two groups: healthy arguments and constantly combative. But there is no hard criterion to separate the two. And you spuriously assign anyone to 'constantly combative' who cuts an interview short, when this doesn't at all mean that someone has no clue and likes fighting for no reason.

So consider the possibility that you are assigning people to 'constantly combative' when you simply don't like their smart and inventive ideas and healthy arguments. Perhaps one healthy argument too far hurts your ego and becomes 'constant combat' without being any less healthy in reality.

That incentive structure is all it takes to make a whole dept. or whole company act in an essentially delusional and inwardly-focused way.


I think it's more that I just don't like assholes.


Your comment made me think of this point: it's not uncommon for companies to ask to be prepared for a full day of interviews but based on how the early interviews go, you get more or less interviews at the end of the day.

This is no different but reversed in "favor" of the candidate.


I think the length of the interview is important. If it is, say, 15 minutes to an hour long, then sure, stick around and see what happens.

All-day interviews can be draining/horrible experiences, especially when it has sunk in that you aren't getting the position, don't fit in and so on.


I can't even fathom why somebody would needlessly burn bridges like this.

I don't think any of us can actually say if any bridges were burned or not, unless we were there. Ending an interview early is not - by default - an instance of "burning a bridge". It the situation is handled courteously and gracefully, no harm is done unless the person on the other side is a huge asshole. And if they are a huge asshole anyway, there's no point worrying about the bridge.


I would not act to antagonize them absent substantial provocation.

Nothing indicates that the person did anything to antogonise other than requesting to end the interview due to his perspective on the company changing. For all we know, his request to terminate the interview was a polite one.

If an individual or organisation considers this antagonistic then I would argue that they are an ally not worth having.

Whilst I understand your point about 'heck you've got nothing to lose by putting up with it for a few hours', I would argue that day long interviews are a massive drain on energy and time and in this industry both are immensely valuable to a developer. Whilst this may be a shock to an organisation who are obviously not accustomed to individuals standing up to them, decent organisations would learn from this and possibly review their interview process.

A developer sitting throughout the interview and providing polite feedback afterwards on why they won't be pursuing the role would be lost in the noise and most of the people who need to understand their motivation won't even hear it.

I think the developer did the right thing.


One important thing to keep in mind is that in day-long interviews, you interview with a LOT of people. Make a good impression, and those people could provide networking opportunities later, even if you don't take the job.

I've interviewed people who, though they stayed the whole interview, ultimately declined the position. I still have much respect for them because I could see that they are capable and motivated, and were I to encounter them again (which is likely in this industry), I'd be more than willing to put in a good word for them if it would help. Now if someone had up and left halfway through? Well, human nature and emotions are tricky things. Are they within their rights? Of course. Will it strike at my ego or make me feel rejection? Absolutely. Will it form a low level resentment, no matter how minute? Unfortunately, yes. Anyone saying otherwise is simply deceiving themselves. Am I in the wrong for this? Yes, but it happens anyway.

You're dealing with humans, not machines. Maximize your advantages by being polite and civil and bending a bit even when you don't have to. It's a small world in tech.


And yet it is routine for companies to act in a rude way toward interviewees - and I do not see anyone on HN calling that out as burning bridges. Perhaps programmers are machines while the companies are people?


Companies who treat people poorly develop a reputation, same as anyone else. You ignore reputation damage at your own peril.


Google is unrepentant in spite of the thousands of terrible reviews online of their (often, not always) disrespectful way of treating people. Nothing happens while those don't reach mainstream news.


>> You're dealing with humans, not machines. Maximize your advantages by being polite and civil and bending a bit even when you don't have to.

Absolutely. Having said that, everyone should have a sensible threshold at which they stop bending.

>> It's a small world in tech.

It really depends on whether you're trying to keep your employment in a specific category (i.e., SF Web Startups) vs. a tech job in any industry in a large city. In the latter scenario, there's actually a good chance you won't encounter anybody you've met in your "previous work lives".


Why is your ego struck by politely leaving in the midst of a series of interviews but not by a polite post-interview rejection? Where do you draw the line?


An in-person rejection is going to have a much stronger negative impact than will a distanced rejection.

It's not about drawing a line in the sand. We're not talking about "fair" here. We're talking about human social nature, and all the quirks that come with it.

There are ways to gracefully exit partway through an interview, I'm sure. But it's much more perilous than is a polite, distanced rejection after a short cooling off period. YMMV.


If we are working in coldly psychopathic "rational economic actor" companies that will lay off our expendable employees whenever it raises the stock price, isn't it hypocritical for us to expect such prospective employees to pretend that we are in a human relationship? Shouldn't we expect them to treat us with coldly mercenary objectivity?


The company, yes. The employees you meet within the company, no. They're going to move around a lot, and it's always nice to be on someone's "cool guy" list when you encounter them at a different company, or as a client.


>> I think the developer did the right thing.

Agreed.

From the OP:

>> I gave him the highest recommendation having worked with him in the past as a no-nonsense guy that cuts through the bull and tackles real problems directly.

What he did sounds completely within character and it sounds like he did it rather diplomatically.

I've never had that happen to me while hiring but I would respect the person even more for telling me it wasn't a fit and reducing the amount of person days it was taking to recruit someone who didn't want to work for my company.


I strongly disagree. Perhaps he should have made up an excuse and be less confrontational. But it's not OK to let people abuse you. If you don't respect yourself nobody will.


Exactly how was he abused? He lists a few reasons:

1) He was criticized as being wrong for not following very dogmatic principles to the letter of the law.

2) He was also concerned that nobody really seemed to care much about his relevant business experience and really only judged him intensely on his programming skills, which he felt was only one aspect of his software development experience.

3) It was an open floor plan where everybody wore jeans, t-shirts and sandals.

4) The vast majority were in their early 20's with the oldest person and lead developer being 30.

5) They expected him to be involved in side projects and code for fun when he wasn't in the office.

Which of these are really abuse? Only #1 seems in any way negative, and that sounds more like a slightly bad interviewer than any sort of abuse. Honestly it seems like the OP felt that he was interviewing poorly and decided to walk out instead of being rejected. Now that's a perfectly natural human response; everyone wants to be in control of their own destiny.

But is it a professional response to some sort of abuse? No, it doesn't really seem like it.


You conveniently skipped:

0) It was an all day interview where everybody was given chances to grill him.


True I did leave that out. My mistake.

Personally I wouldn't consider that abuse either. IMHO a good interview is supposed to be hard. How else can you differentiate good candidates from bad? Perhaps others disagree.


A good interview doesn't just filter out bad candidates - it also persuades good candidates, who will undoubtedly get other job offers, that they want to work for you. It shouldn't be a courtroom-style grilling - it should be difficult but fun. Honey to catch your flies instead of vinegar.

I'm not saying this was a problem with the interview described as there isn't enough detail in the original post to say what happened really.


>> everybody


> But it's not OK to let people abuse you. If you don't respect yourself nobody will.

Plus, it was a one-day interview. I've been in job-interviews like this one, where mid-way through the whole thing I was realizing that I would not be a good fit for them, but in my case I could afford to be patient because the interview wasn't going to last more than a couple of hours anyway. But a one-day thingie where for at least 6 hours I would be reminded of me not being worthy for the guys trying to hire me would utterly depress me. I'm scared shitless of depression (pardon my French), so I'd just run away.

And a second thing. Once you get through more things in life which a 20-something man hasn't confronted yet (divorce, leaving your parents behind etc.) you begin to value honest no-bullshit decisions like this one. There's no gain in playing actors.


> And a second thing. Once you get through more things in life which a 20-something man hasn't confronted yet (divorce, leaving your parents behind etc.) you begin to value honest no-bullshit decisions like this one. There's no gain in playing actors.

I think that that's the main reason that it matters that all these guys were in their 20's. I wonder if any have had kids, a family, anything that's more important to them than their work. If I were slated to interview at a company for an entire day, and I knew for certain that I wouldn't be joining them after only a couple of hours, I would without a doubt make the decision to go home to be with my kids.

One thing I would do that this gentleman did not do, however, would be to speak to the principal about my concerns alone before walking out. Seriously, he forced the guy to follow him to the elevator to get an explanation. That's terribly insulting, regardless of the situation. Give the guy a chance to prove your impressions wrong.


But a one-day thingie where for at least 6 hours I would be reminded of me not being worthy for the guys trying to hire me would utterly depress me

If I had 3 person-days of top developer attention aimed at me over the next six hours, I'd make the most of it. I'd find out exactly what it takes to succeed at that company, and if I really wanted to work there, I'd go home and learn those things better.


Guy did not to work there so he walked out. What's the problem?


> But a one-day thingie where for at least 6 hours I would be reminded of me not being worthy for the guys trying to hire me would utterly depress me.

I've been on interview loops before and if it's clear that it's not a good fit we cut the loop short (sometimes by the third/fourth interviewer). This cuts both ways - there's no point in dragging the process out for both sides if it's clear what the resolution is going to be.


> But it's not OK to let people abuse you.

Yes of course. But what specifically in this story do you think constitutes abuse? The situation could at worst be described as a lack of tact by some of the interviewers. If your bar for abuse is that low, you're going to have a bad time in this industry. Or any industry for that matter! Pulling the ripcord because, surprise, a few 20-something engineers don't have flawless social skills is simply a mistake. Far better to figure out how to navigate the situation to mutual advantage, as Patrick's straightforward algorithm demonstrates.


> If your bar for abuse is that low, you're going to have a bad time in this industry

It shouldn't be like that. Tech industry must grow up.


It's not just tech. If you're not able to take criticism during an interview, or deal with a company culture that appears to be different from your expectations, you're have to have a difficult time getting job in any industry.

The only remotely questionable thing in that entire account was a criticism for "not following very dogmatic principles to the letter of the law". And even that may not be completely questionable, considering that we don't know the question the interviewer asked, nor the answer that the interviewee gave. Without context, this is pure hearsay.


And yet companies quite naturally will judge unfavorably any criticism given by an interviewee.

The subtext is that if you don't accept an unequal and mildly-to-moderately abusive relationship with you on bottom, you don't belong in the industry.


You do realize that, in the vast majority of all interviews, regardless of industry, the interviewee went to the company and asked for a job? They're hardly in a position where that kind of criticism is warranted, especially as an outsider who wants to be hired.


I've never gone to an interview "asking for a job". I've gone to a few interviews to see if we could mutually benefit from me working with them. I have a good idea of my worth and I have the technical skills and background to demonstrate that giving me money in exchange for the use of my time is a net positive to an employer.

The servile mindset is not necessary, and a company that would get pissy if you did what they would if they decided you weren't what they wanted to hire is a company with (no, not 'for', not really) whom self-respecting people need not work. Our time spent living is more valuable than catering to people desperate for asymmetric power-trip relationships.


How do you know that the interviewee wasn't contacted first?

Does 'hardly in a position' dictate what is a reasonable and polite way to treat people?

If company needs programmer and programmer needs job, the relationship is more or less symmetrical. If the company doesn't really need a programmer that much, I guess you are right that the programmer is not in a position to do anything except lick boots.


>If company needs programmer and programmer needs job, the relationship is more or less symmetrical. If the company doesn't really need a programmer that much, I guess you are right that the programmer is not in a position to do anything except lick boots.

Only if there's one programmer for the job. If there are many equally skilled programmers applying and interviewing for the position, then the company absolutely has the power.

And to be clear, I never said that the interviewee should be willing to take abuse or insults. However, it is perfectly valid for an interviewer to see how the interviewee handles constructive criticism of their work. That can tell a lot about an applicant, especially on how they might fit in your company's culture.


Only if there's one programmer for the job. If there are many equally skilled programmers applying and interviewing for the position, then the company absolutely has the power.

The programmer may have multiple job openings to choose from too, as well as (presumably) an existing job.


My litmus test is, could I witness a person I cared about being treated like that. If not, then I probably shouldn't be there.


You know, your comment really hit me for some reason. I'm working at a place now where the boss is really quite rude to some of the junior devs. It's gotten to the point they are afraid to ask questions for fear of his response. As a senior I see this and make an effort to talk and sympathize with the junior guys but feel powerless to stop my boss acting this way - he is very defensive and argumentative whenever I bring this stuff up.

So your comment about watching people being treated a certain way really hit home. Perhaps it's time for a more frank (and private) discussion with my boss, or even a new job.


Get a good job offer first. It'll be him asking you why you consider leaving. If the talk goes bad he suffers his own inflicted wound and perhaps will learn a lesson, while you land on your feet.


Tech industry must grow up.

Seriously! No more running around the office in sandals. Damn kids!


I wouldn't call it abusive as such, but I would expect to be told upfront if an interview is going to take more than a couple of hours, and would consider it fair game to leave if I haven't been.


I read the question again and I don't think he was "abused". The strongest event, prior to him abruptly (and as he describes it, ineptly) ending the interview, was He was criticized as being wrong for not following very dogmatic principles to the letter of the law.


It all depends on context. I've had an interview where someone raised his voice nearly to the point of shouting, while leveling criticisms at me. You'll have to take my word for it that I did nothing to provoke this; it was clear to me at the time that I was dealing with an angry person who enjoyed his perceived sense of power over me. I didn't walk out, but god knows I declined further interviews with that company.

So if it was like that, then sure, walk out. If hypercriticism seems to be part of the culture, you owe it to yourself to cut it short. What's the reason for staying? You wouldn't want to do business with that kind of company, period. I think @patio11 and others are imagining a much more civil exchange, but the story struck me as describing a toxic environment.

TL;DR Don't stick around toxic environments.


There really is no point in continuing an interview in an environment you find toxic. Allies? I don't think so; this guy clearly felt that the people he had spoken to were damaged, and I doubt he'd want them to be allies of any kind. Be polite, sure. But I'd get out, too, if I really felt this way.


Say your next product was in a domain that would solve a direct daily problem for the lead dev at this shop. By needlessly being judgemental (the people were "damaged"? Is that really how you go through life?) you've lost the opportunity to sell him your product. In other words, you've prevented yourself from furthering your long-term strategies / from implementing your overall vision for no reason.

More simply, there is no possible benefit in acting this way.


> More simply, there is no possible benefit in acting this way.

I agree that what you suggest is prudent, but the statement is false. For many people, simply avoiding certain kinds of annoyance is a benefit.

If avoiding certain annoyances keeps someone from reaching his stated goals, then obviously it's a bad strategy. However, often it doesn't.


It may be gratifying, but you've constrained your future options without gaining anything decisive.

By not dominating the thoughts and feelings inhabiting your mind, you are being held hostage to primal instincts. Merely avoiding annoyance is not worth it when the cost is high.


Don't confuse self-respect and primal instincts.


> It may be gratifying, but you've constrained your future options without gaining anything decisive.

My point is that you don't know that. Different people have different goals and metrics for success. Avoiding dealing with annoying people may rate much higher for this person than for you.

Too little self discipline is a problem, where "too little" means not enough to allow you to do what you consider important. This doesn't mean that more is better. Discipline is a tool, not an end (unless that's your personal definition of success).


Ok, look at this: lead dev sees that your product solves their problem, but refuses to buy it, because you walked out of the interview. And this somehow makes makes more sense than leaving interview at a company that you think is wrong fit for you?


Damaged? Which behavior of the interviewers qualifies them as damaged?


Damaged as in mentally imbalanced or unstable. I've interviewed with people who fit that term.


If I asked you, "please define 'damaged'", would you then answer my original question?


Absolutely disagree. To anyone reading this: if you're interviewing with my group and you realize partway in that you're not interested, please, by all means, tell us immediately. The last thing we need to do is to waste time interviewing someone who doesn't want to work with us.


You should never say a word of criticism about the company to anyone but your primary point of contact and you should be darn circumspect with how you word it to him.

Maybe my question is "socially and professionally inept", but why is realizing that you're not going to fit into a company automatically a criticism?

I'm not talking about the guy who walked out in the example or the way the poster described the situation. I'm asking a much more general question and I'm genuinely interested in an honest answer.

To me it seems quite legitimate that one could come to a realization that there are irreconcilable incompatibilities between oneself and one or more aspects of the job. I consider that a case of "it's not you, it's me".

Are you really objecting to the fact that it might be interpreted as "I've got better things to do with the rest of my day"?

I'm trying to understand the reason why you're so emphatic about this (e.g. couching it in terms of "antagonizing").


Consider the probability that one's opinion vis-a-vis the company's culture is likely to come out in any comment about that company's culture (in particular, Ctrl-F on this page for "toxic", now guess how many of those folks would avoid showing their cards given five seconds to speak on the matter). Consider the probability that the people who do fit in with a culture actually value what that culture values and their participation in that culture, probably rather highly.

Also, with specific regards to everyone but your primary point of contact, I suggest noblesse oblige. There are particular company cultures which do not cause me to vibrate with sympathy. That's neither here nor there. No junior engineer at those companies has the power/authority to meaningfully change core bits of the company culture in response to my feedback. It's like complaining to a Delta clerk because my flight got canceled due to the weather: no gain whatsoever (the thunderstorm and the flight schedule are both beyond the clerk's ability to control), turns this into a you-versus-me situation to no purpose, and sucks up mental cycles that could better be used asking the obvious follow-up "Well, that's too bad. What are our options?"

Your options, vis-a-vis a young engineer at a company whose culture you would not be a good fit for, include "Make a decent impression on him such that, when he moves to a different company in three years, if your name comes up in conversation he says 'Oh yeah, I met him once. Nice guy.'"


I suspect it's automatically a criticism if the words coming out of your mouth are "I only want to work with smart people" or on interesting problems, or whatever. I further suspect people will say more or less precisely that without realizing it. "oh, I didn't mean to call you stupid, you're just not as smart as me, that's all."


A company which is not a cultural good fit for you, and the employees thereof, can still be very valuable allies. I would not act to antagonize them absent substantial provocation.

You know.. that's true. Very true. But I think it should come with a caveat... any random person you interact with could one day be a valuable ally, yes. But the odds of any given person blundering into your life in a significant position to aid (or harm) you, late down the road, by happenstance, is very low. This is my observation anyway.

I don't go out of my way to antagonize people, or burn bridges, but I also don't go out of my way to pander to people or kiss ass just to maintain a "bridge." And while you never know what you don't know, I have zero reason to believe that any relationship I've damaged through this attitude, has ever had any negative consequence subsequently in my life. The world really is a big place, and you meet a LOT of people over a lifetime... there's a steady stream of new relationships coming along, displacing the old ones.

Again, this isn't to say one should go out and wantonly burn bridges for no reason, and it's not to say that one never benefits from a happenstance encounter with someone from a different part of your life. But I do think we should question how important it really is to worry about burned bridges - especially if your intuition tells you that the person is question isn't likely to be a future ally anyway.


"They're not important" as a rationale for being selectively discourteous and/or unprofessional will put you under the adage of "Beware the person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter" in the eyes of those who you deem are worth keeping an in-tact relationship. Would you want to work with or for someone who you know will only treat you fairly and respectfully while you remain valuable to them?


"They're not important" as a rationale for being selectively discourteous and/or unprofessional will put you under the adage of "Beware the person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter" in the eyes of those who you deem are worth keeping an in-tact relationship

No doubt, but that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying "treat people the way you feel is appropriate, based on your standards, principles, etc., and don't go out of your way to kiss ass or bend over backwards to appease people, just because they might be valuable to you someday because, among other reasons, that probably won't happen anyway."


That's true, but these people were by no means random. The very fact that he was interviewing there (especially via a referral) indicates that they were in the same industry.


I completely agree with your reasoning, and how we as adults should be able to keep emotions and thoughts in check. However...

Where this particular situation differs is that this was an all-day interview. I've been at these and they are taxing on the mind and body, to say the least. If you know you aren't a good fit, there must be a good way to end the interview part-way and explain the differences. While I don't agree with getting up and leaving, I think it is wrong to waste people's time with a fruitless prospect.


Depending on who you are, this advice can be anything from perfect to the worst possible thing you could try to do. I'm guessing that it is perfect advice for you, and it is not bad advice for me, but I know a lot of people for whom it is bad to truly terrible.

The issue is that we have to work with the limitations that come from the people we happen to be, not the people we wish we were. If something has happened during an interview that makes you actually angry, and you stay in a stressful situation for several hours following, it is extremely likely that your anger will come out in a bad way. If this is your situation then leaving, despite being bad, is the least harmful thing that you could do.

Yes, it is convenient not to get angry. Yes, it is wonderful to keep a professional face and pleasant demeanor no matter what may have happened in the interview. But we are humans. We have human limitations. If your limitations have been exceeded, the sooner you recognize and cope with that, the less likely you are to do something you will really regret. And getting space is one of the best techniques available to us. If that means leaving the interview, so be it.

Now you may agree and immediately say that this is a personal limitation that should be fixed ASAP. I strongly disagree. I recommend reading First, Break All The Rules. We're talking about a personality trait here. In adults, trying to change your personality is usually a lost cause. For most people it is FAR more effective to find ways to structure your environment so that you play to your strengths rather than your weaknesses.

So try to keep an even keel. Avoid argument. And if, in the stress of an interview, you get angry, try to get space. If need be, ask if you can have a few minutes alone in a room to collect your thoughts. But if you can't get that, and fear you'll do something you regret, you're probably right. In that situation, exiting the interview may be your best remaining option. (But note that best does not mean good.)


I couldn't disagree more with this appeasing attitude. Companies have known to cut interview short when they realize the candidate is not a good fit, in the guise of not wasting everyone's time. Why can't the interviewee reciprocate when s/he has found out it's not a good fit?

Why make false lying pleasantries when honest feedback is more helpful? Even if you have blocked off the day for the interview, it would still save time on the company's part to not continue the interview.


If we want to give advice that will insulate people from making a poor networking decision, stick to: "go through the motions for the entire process."

Because the negative reaction from the interviewer isn't to any perceived rudeness in the way you decline. The reaction comes from the fact that you declined at all; the part where you effectively say: "I don't want to work here and no plausible amount of money is going to change my mind."

I have both cut an interview short and I have stayed through an entire interview and then politely declined to discuss an offer.

Even when I went through the entire process up to, but not including the negotiation over compensation, I was still given looks of shock and dismay. I was still treated as if I'd had three heads and told them their baby was ugly. It was essentially the same reaction as when I'd cut an interview short.

So unless you're going to go all the way through the motions, including haggling over an offer and then stringing them along until you have (or fabricate) some other, better opportunity, I don't think it really matters.


I take your point, and I certainly wouldn't burn any bridges, but surely there is a way to politely draw an interview process to a close without offending the people concerned?

I once interviewed for what I thought was a PM role, and started getting asked lots of in-depth business analyst questions about pricing derivatives. After the first couple of questions, I interjected and said that I had been told the role was X, they clearly want Y, and that's not me. They agreed and I wished them good luck in their search.


Your first sentence implies that the interviewee wasn't acting professionally. I didn't get this impression from the post. It sounded like he just politely tried to end the interview process. Without more details and perhaps both sides of the story it's a mistake to label his behavior as inept.

You make a good point about moving careers forward. Gaining a useful industry contact is probably worth putting up with just a few hours of unwanted technical interviews (which are good, free practice like you said). This is true even if the culture is not a good fit. However the company was hostile and rude. They should have calmly and casually abided by the interviewee's request then followed-up with a non-confrontational email. The company's behavior during the interview process (when they should be on their best behavior) makes me highly doubt their value as a useful industry contact going forward.


What confuses me is why he didn't ask them their opinion. Why didn't he say:

At this point, I'm concerned I'm not a fit for your organization. Much of my time has been spent enhancing my business knowledge in lieu of coding, and that doesn't appear to be valued for this position. I don't work on open source projects and my free time is spent broadening other horizons, not coding. Do you still think I'm a good fit for this position?

Even if he wasn't technical enough for their coding position, maybe there was another position - PM, team lead, consultant, etc. - that he would have been hired for.

I'll may get flamed for this, but I see a guy who spent who got insecure about his technical skills for a heavy coding job he shouldn't have applied to (or been recommended for). I see this all the time. This doesn't mean you can't provide value if you're not a coding ninja; I'm not, yet think I do a pretty good job of it. But I also don't compete with recent CS grads for coding jobs at Google.


I find this attitude moderately disgusting and I would decline to do business with anyone who thinks about the world this way.

The reason is: it shows a worldview where everything is about your personal advantage and not making things bad for yourself. It comes across as selfish and petty. That final paragraph is just kind of gross.

I want to do business with / hire / socialize with people who care about the good of the world, hopefully more than they care about their own small situation. It's hard to describe what that looks like -- it is different for everyone -- but it almost certainly does not look like this.


I didn't read it that way at all. That last paragraph seemed very polite and respectful, and keeping up a polite relationship will almost always be mutually beneficial to both parties. I find it hard to see politeness to be petty even if it is done out of a certain self interest. It might be an apples-orange comparison, but I think seeing this kind of shmoozing as petty would be like seeing doing public service to bolster a resume or something as petty; yes, there's a motive other than some absolute purity of heart nonsense, but denying the ends and means as petty because the motive isn't sacrosanct seems like the actually petty line of thinking to me.

I also care about the "good of the world," but I think aligning self-good and global-good is a perfectly acceptable reason for doing things.

TL;DR: No, you shouldn't always act out of self interest, but you shouldn't have to deny self-interest in order for something to be considered "good."


Your first paragraph so much describes the dilemma I have with answering many "soft-tech" questions online! Nicely put.

Knowing how to say "no, thank you" politely isn't difficult and is always worth it regardless of which side of the desk you're on.

The position I currently have is not the one I initially interviewed for. After being phone screened and then flown halfway across the country for an in-person interview, about 3 hours in I told the people interviewing me that the position they were describing did not match the job description that I responded to. Their response was to send me to another group whose needs matched my skills perfectly and we turned out to be a great fit. I'm still there years later.


I don't understand why someone cannot walk out in a peaceful way that both sides understands.

You tell the other person you've decided you don't want to work there, due to whatever reason, and in the interest of not wasting their time or effort it would make the most sense to stop the interview.

Why would anyone take offense to this? I'd appreciate someone not wasting my time once they've made their decision...


Yeah, this is basically the behaviour of a nut. It would be different if this was a multi-day interview process where the candidate has to come back (possibly flying in) several times over a period of weeks. In cases like that, it can certainly make sense to end the process after the first day if it really isn't going to be a good fit, because there is a significant future time investment that you can avoid by doing it.

In this case though, you're saving yourself a few hours (which you already had blocked out in your schedule) at the expense of alienating the people running the interview as well as the person that referred you. Not only that, but stalking off in response to a difficult interview where you are challenged is a huge red flag. That's especially true for a senior position where you're looking for the skills required to lead a team.

I see some people in this thread and in the original defending this guy's "right" to leave at any time. Sure, of course he has that right, but so what? I have the right to do and say all kinds of things that I choose not to do or say.

I'm pretty much always on the side of people who say that you shouldn't waste any of your precious time on Earth, but in this case that's exactly what this guy did! He would have to be outrageously productive to get enough work done in the few hours he saved to make up for the damage done to his (potential) network.

Not only that, but even at a company where he didn't care for the atmosphere it would beggar belief for there not be a few people at least that he'd like to work with in the future.


Yeah, this is basically the behaviour of a nut.

Now, that's not fair.

The candidate may have had a weak stomach, or lacked a sufficiently preternatural sense of cool to people-skill his way out of each and every awkward social situation. But that doesn't make him a "nut."


Actually, there is no need even to be "fake" (answering something generic). Try to find a good, real, reason to stay in good terms. There is always one. Be genuinely interested in them as people and as a company.

In other words, always look how are you going to get new friends / allies. People are good in general (there are some jerks but that is beside the point).


Well put and great advice!

I would ask the OP, Would you like it if someone did this to you? Has anyone ever walked out on you?


we want to be an emotionally supportive group for people who make a badge of honor out of being socially and professionally inept

Unwarranted assumption. If this interview was as bad as I think it might have been, it is not at all inept to cut it short. It's done all the time here in the US; interviewers cut short day-long interviews when they realize the candidate is not going to work out. There's nothing wrong with politely abdicating.

"I don't think we're a great mutual fit. I will keep my ears open for you in case any of my friends would be a good fit for your position."

That is a perfect thing to say while you're cutting it short.


Lets get this straight- this was a completely incompetent interview. It should not take a full day. A half day is a bit extravagant, but acceptable because a company wants to be conservative. Taking someone from programming question to programming question tells you right there that the company is incompetent in its hiring process, which means it isn't going to hire good people, which means you'll not be working in the best environment.

Seriously- if you're asked to write code in an interview, your interviewer is incompetent at the job he's been tasked with. This means whether you pass or not, the interview is capricious and a waste of time. It also tells you a great deal about the management of the company.

Being asked the write code is what junior programmers do when they are put into this situation, gleeful at the chance to try and make a candidate squirm and still full of enough hormones to see a potential new hire as a challenge to their position. Anyone with experience in software development knows it is not a performance art and that this kind of challenge is all about the interviewers ego, not about producing useful information. You can figure out what you need to know simply by talking to the candidate (and if you can't, you shouldn't be interviewing.) It really is a tragedy that this kind of cargo cult questioning has become so common, but it is also why companies are so messed up. Bad hiring processes produce bad teams.

But of course, the problem with bad teams is they don't know they are bad.

Patio you are being judgmental towards this guy based on your projections of your own inadequacy (e.g. feeling the need to be deferential to people who are abusing you.)

Politely leaving an interview with a company that has proven to you that, not only is it not a good fit, but they are incompetent at interviewing is not "socially inept", it is actually quite the opposite. It is the meek nerd who is afraid of what others think of him who will subject himself to abuse only to avoid an akward situation or confronting someone.

If people's skins are so thin that they cannot handle you canceling the interview, when they are clearly in the wrong, then that's their problem.

You can't limit your life by other people's insecurities.

The idea that an interview is some sort of power affair where the meek come and beg for the charity of a job is silly.

Showing integrity by not wasting people's time-- whether it is by having a quality interview process, or by leaving one that is a waste of time, should be honored. And anyone who gets upset that someone else exhibits integrity, well, are they really going to be much of an ally in the future.

Also, for what its worth, I've worked in software for 20+ years, and worked for a lot of startups. Only once have I worked with someone at one company and then worked with them again at a later company, and it was a complete coincidence. When I have gone looking for work, I've tended to limit myself to 5 interviews because that would give me 4 offers and a callback.

To do 5 interviews in short time (because I didn't want to have to answer an offer when I still had interviews that hadn't yet happened) you can't be doing all day interviews! That would be 5 days right there, and by the time I went to the 4th one, I'd already have 2-3 offers waiting for an answer!

Doing the all day interview is, itself, an indication that the company is only looking for desperate people.


An all-day interview gives the potential employee a chance to learn a great deal more about the company, than they would have in a standard length interview. In this case, it's worked perfectly. The potential employee has seen/heard enough to know he won't fit in. There's not always enough time to work that out in a normal interview time frame.


I once declined an offer over email and promptly got a conference call back from them where the CEO was incredibly hostile, the purpose of the call seemed like the CEO just wanted to publicly berate me and tell me that I was making a bad move.

Afterwards I realized that its entirely a subconscious alpha dominance thing. There's this unsaid very primal, tribal power trip that goes along with the interviewee vs employer relationship.

As the interviewer you want to be holding the power card - you sit in a position of power and have other people dance around and do what you say in order for you to be able to judge them and make them prove their worth to you in order to join your tribe.

Its really one of the few times we get to break down our democratic social structure and revert back to this primitive social order in adulthood, so its a pretty important ritual for alpha-types.

When someone comes in and disrupts that natural boundary it becomes offensive as they've unconsciously told you "I don't respect you as a leader" in front of your staff and team. The interviewer then needs to re-affirm their ego and dominance over the tribal unit in a public display.

If you look at all these articles floating around about judging candidates and "top grading" and you look at it from this tribal alpha-dominance perspective it really breaks down some of what we assume is necessary in hiring. I think the whole system is based around some silly ancient ritual that we haven't been able to shake from our culture.


This is a very interesing note. It is undubitably a real phenomenon. A counterfactual case, however, might exist. Consider a similar non-hierarchical situation. For example, the relationship between a host and guest (at a private party). Where you were the guest of honor. As the guest of honour, you are not at the dis-advantage of power. In fact, just the opposite. But, the same question can be asked..."If you were the guest of honor at a party and the party sucks, is it OK to leave early?" If so, how would you handle it?


That is very interesting, I definitely think you're right about it in the context of the article's scenario. By abruptly leaving the party early the guest of honor is essentially telling the host "I don't respect you".

It may be more a simple social etiquette thing than a hierarchy thing, but the fact that the host has leadership representing their group here probably infuses it with some level of asserting dominance in response to public disrespect.

Basically walking out on an interview is a great way to disrespect the interviewer, and you probably shouldn't do it if you don't want a fight ;)


More than half of the interviews that I have had involve having to impress someone with the ritual.

Unfortunately the interviews that require something of a skill test or the chance to have a chat about something that isn't complete BS are extremely rare. A lot of interviews are nothing more than listening to someone talk about how good they are and agreeing with them.

Quite a few times I have interviewed people I have cut it short and told them why, then thanked them for there time. Most people are appreciative of straight talk.

I have spents hours stuck in an interviews listening to three different people telling me about their degrees, experience, how great their skillset is, how great they are, how working there is the greatest thing ever and failing to talk about the job.... I have spent far too many hours in meetings like this. It is a great indicator company culture. Life is short enough as it is, I don't care how much you want to pay me.


Interesting note. I think it is subconsciously embedded in many interviewers' minds that they are doing the candidate an favor to provide an opportunity for a job. The attitude could be condescending. Although it is true in some scenarios, it is completely ridiculous in others. For example, if you are looking for a teammate to strengthen your team, please TALK to the candidate.

As a team lead, please be careful to decide who are good interviewers and who are not. A bad interviewer, which doesn't mean a bad person or anything else, could drive a good candidate away.

I was once contacted by a company which was in urgent need for a position. The interview went well with the first two interviewers. The third one was young and aggressive. He was almost mad when I disagree with him to a technical question. When I knew he was one of the 4 team members including the position, I already decided not to join them before the interview was ended. They gave me an offer. No surprise, I didn't accept it.


Hackers should realize that if they want to go into business for themselves, they will encounter this alpha dominance ritual All. The. Time. If you cannot cope with this ritual, then learn how or your startup life will be hell.

You will find this all the time from procurement department "buyers", aggressive technology managers, and virtually everyone who makes spending decisions. If you are prudent enough to structure your business model so you do not have to land every single sales opportunity to survive, then it is pretty easy to come through this ritual with respect on all sides.


Yea basically this frames how I see all business relationships and negotiations these days. Sometimes its overt, many times its very subtle and subdued. People want to feed their egos, they want to feel important, have some power. You try to tip that and they get upset


Having been on both sides of interviewing, one thing I see is that the interview process can be a very intense power play. The interviewers are usually on a power trip judging and deciding someone's fate. When the interviewees not playing along like walking out or even declined an offer, the interviewers are really surprised and upset. It's a direct attack on their power position.


Interesting analysis. A good employee/employer relationship should by about mutual respect rather than hierarchal dominance.


How bizarre. Who else was on the call?


The whole situation was really bizarre. All the sr mgmt was on the call and it was not a small company at all.

For context this wasn't a normal hiring, partly an acquisition of something I was involved with (but didn't own) and the reason I turned them down was because they were, er, unfriendly people and their business model was an unethical borderline scam (though my rejection email was as non-specific, gracious and cordial and Dale Carnegie as you can get).

But there was definitely more to fuel the alpha-dog fire that I started than a normal rejection...


Could it have been that they already turned down all the other candidates, thinking you were a slam-dunk to join once the offer was made?

I've seen situations like there where everyone is quick to reject all candidates except their top choice, then have to go back to the drawing board when that choice doesn't work out.


There were no other candidates... the role was being invented for me. It was weird.


That's not so hard to figure out. As the hiring manager you are told by upper management that there's no budget for a new hire. But we need this guy you plead. He's awesome, will be worth his weight in salary, etc.

The politicking gets done, and then the hire (you) fails to materialize. What happens to the hiring manager then?


If only it was that simple haha


I think a situation like this is better handled one on one--wait for a natural break, pull the interview lead aside and explain politely that you appreciate the time and consideration but think it is just not a good fit culturally. Then the lead can explain it to everyone else and excuse them from the rest of the interview process.

Announcing any kind of surprise or unwelcome news can be problematic in a group situation. When people have an emotional response, they want to express it, and in a group situation the mutual reinforcement can quickly scale up the emotion.

This is why it's generally not a good idea to quit by standing up in a staff meeting and announcing it to everyone at once (unless you're trying to make a scene :-)). It's much smoother to tell your boss first, so that they can help manage the emotion of the team.


From what I can tell of the story, he was never left alone with 1 person at any time. He was ushered from room to room, meeting groups of people the whole time.

Personally, I think the culture sounds great. But if he didn't, there's no point in wasting his whole day there. He was polite in telling them that he didn't think he'd fit and there was no need to waste anyone's time.

Had this been a 2-hour interview, instead of a whole day, I'd say stick it out and be friendly. But not a whole day.


There's usually a lead for an interviewing process like this, and I don't think it would be that hard to say something like "hey can I have a word for a minute" as you're transitioning between groups.


Even if there is, that doesn't mean he'll know who the lead is. I have been in interview where I have gone from person to person with no one in two consecutive sections. As far as I could tell there was no one person to discuss sensitive issues with.


Wow, interesting, thanks. What did you think of that process--did you end up hiring on there?


Never left alone with 1 person? I find that hard to believe. And who's doing the ushering? How hard would it be to ask to speak with the hiring lead or really anyone?


I debated doing this once. I was still in college interviewing for an entry level position where the company found my resume on some job site and invited me for an interview.

I arrived at the place and was told to go into a large conference room. In the room were about 30 other people all staring at each other wondering what just happened. We were all given a coding test in Java (Java was no where on my resume and I had zero experience with it). After answering what I could with C we were broken up into teams and started a Jeopardy style game on Java and XML. I can't imagine they gained any insight into any candidate with this game since so many different people were answering questions.

Once the game was finished we were then kept in our teams and given engineering problems to work out as a group and then had to present the solutions to the "judges". Every team was pretty much told their answers sucked, I can only compare the feedback to something out of the TV show "Apprentice."

I left the interview completely dumbfounded as to what just happened. People had flown in from out of state to be there for the interview and were blind sided by this horrendous group interview that felt like it took place solely to stroke the ego of the guy leading the whole charade. I also remember the head guy preaching to us that Java was the future and if we didn't learn it we'd be left behind.


I had something like this happen to me, except it was a bait and switch -- they lured you in with some interesting job, but it turned out they were interviewing 75 people for 8 jobs.

At the end, they offered everyone (as in "ok, everyone, you're all a good fit for position EY535353-1") for some horrific job debugging JCL or something to everyone for like $18/hr (this was in 1999), and didn't hire anyone for the good gigs. By that time, the whole crowd was getting unruly, and we basically stormed out.


Years ago I went in for some job where they were advertising a salary of something like GBP35k-40k. I met with their tech guy, got passed up to the CEO and everything is going well.

CEO says something like "You'd be a great fit. Just take this coding test and go complete it in that meeting room over there. And BTW, we can only afford to pay you 25k." "I thought it said 35k." "Yes, but we can't afford that and no one will come for interviews if we say 25k."

I took the test and sat in the meeting room by myself for a few minutes, then went back to the CEO and said I wasn't interested. He kinda shrugged and said fair enough, and gave me a coffee cup with their logo on it for my troubles.

I think they ended up going public a few years later. It might have actually worked out OK for me in the end, ironically enough.


> BTW, we can only afford to pay you 25k." "I thought it said 35k." "Yes, but we can't afford that and no one will come for interviews if we say 25k."

How scummy. That should be an immediate dealbreaker. They've been lying to you even before you knew about their job posting. So you gotta ask yourself if that kind of behaviour will get better, or worse, with time.


I once had a job offer for a certain salary, and I accepted, and when I went in to sign the paperwork it was for less than that.

I should have objected then and there, but I wasn't mature enough. I went through the motions silently stewing, and on the trip home decided I hated the company's guts and told the recruiter I was done. I guess I quit before my start date.


They go public and then "BTW, that x% of the shares we promised was diluted to .001x%".


This is an extreme case but in the realm of "fresh out of school kid interviews in mega-corp IT department." Just know that when you have no work experience and are interviewing basically to be a person at a desk you will be subjected to some level of impersonal group weeding.


I remember being sent to an interview for a PHP developer, only for it to transpire that the company was actually after a Perl developer. The recruitment agent had sent me along anyway, having helpfully added a couple of lines to my CV.

The strange thing was that after I explained what had happened (after 15 or so minutes of initial interview fun) and said something like "Thanks for taking the time to see me, and sorry it couldn't be more productive," the interviewers were suddenly really keen on me; I was standing halfway through the door, answering questions for a good few minutes until I worked out how to leave, much to the interviewers' reluctance.

Had I more sense at the time (I was 18 or 19 then), I would've sat down the extra ten minutes and tried to work out if we could've done business together one way or another. So whilst there are definitely times to leave early, nowadays I wouldn't be too hasty in doing so.


Same exact story. I actually got to the third interview simply because the lead dev liked my general knowledge and the HR liked my character. Once I talked to the CTO, his first question was "So you're not a Perl programmer, why do you want this job?" I was quick to answer that I fully know now that the job wasn't for me, but if there was anything that he had in place for me, that would be great. He didn't, but we talked for about 45 minutes. It was pretty much the only time I left impressed and happy, knowing that I will never return to the place of current interview.


Why limit yourself to PHP? Be upfront with what you don't know, and if they are still interested, see if they seem nice to work for.

Good developers have an easier time producing good things in a language they don't know than bad people in a language they do know.


I can't speak for the parent, but having been in that same boat, I'll answer for myself.

Why limit yourself to <language_x>?

It isn't about limiting myself to the language as it is being able to hit the ground running with it. I was mistakenly given an interview where they were looking for a Ruby developer, and had been referred to them. Only problem was that I didn't know Ruby as intimately as I do other languages. The position was fairly high paying, and one assumes an expectation of proficiency that I wouldn't be able to deliver on.

Could I have learned the language? Sure, almost certainly -- but the question is really whether or not I can learn the language faster than they can realize how inefficient I'm being and (rightly) fire me? Even if I'm upfront about it (which I was), I'm still not willing to gamble unemployment on whether or not I'll get up to speed within their expectations when I could easily justify my salary somewhere in a language I'm more familiar with.

Edit: I should also add that since that time, I have spent more time with Ruby and figured out that I don't really like it. Not going to get into a language debate or anything, it's a fine language, but it didn't fit the way I naturally think so, had I taken that job and learned quickly and all that, I'd have found myself programming in a language that I didn't really love, which could have lead to less job satisfaction as well.


Why ask children "Why can't you run?" when they just learned to walk? You have to start somewhere and it's really not easy to learn several languages at the same time, especially not your first. Eventually you'll want to run/learn more languages, but there's a time and place for everything.


I left an interview early too, with Google in fact. I told them I obviously did not fit in their culture at least for that very position (SRE) , as we had divergent views, and that I wanted to abort the interview process. No need for them or I to lose time if I was going to refuse anyway.

The guy (technical person) was shocked, as if this was impossible. He also insisted more than 5 times to continue with the process, which, I refused.

Later on, they contacted me, telling me that they marked me as "failed interview process" (ie: do not hire in the future).

That told only one thing, that indeed, I wasn't a fit for that culture - probably at any position then.


Google sees itself as the only tech company in the world, that people who wanna work there desperately want so and have nothing else to do in life.

That's the vision I have after looking at their hiring process.


Funny thing I even believed in it. After having failed the last interview I looked around and realized that there are many companies that do things that I consider more interesting than what Google does.


Some companies outside the software industry are much worse.

At least around the time I graduated college, the recruiters for Caterpillar were obnoxious. At a job fair, I overheard a situation where someone apparently didn't meet the minimum GPA requirement and the recruiter was publicly and loudly berating the person for wasting his time. I talked with some of my friends who were in the engineering school and they said that this was fairly normal behavior for Cat recruiters.


I'd really like to hear more of this story as the incredibly vague description of an SRE I was recently contacted about sounds like something I could potentially be very interested in.


SRE jobs at Google are something like a 15 month (or so, i forgot the exact number) job (after which they can decide to put you in another position, fire you, or put you there again but in a different team).

you need to have problem solving skills, program easily in different languages, solve performance issues in the code, or, anywhere they pop up really, and so on.

The interviews focuses on problem solving and optimization, you can find them by, heh, Googling around ;-)


I'd like to know more too. Steve Yegge gave a data point about SREs in his recent liberal/conservative software rant: he said SREs are extremely conservative, and that he finds it normal given their duties. So it follows it's not a good position for a liberal dev.


That was a good read [1].

It certainly would seem logical that an SRE would be software conservative.

I seem to be a macro liberal who holds specific conservative positions. Perhaps not surprisingly, a friend and fellow engineer who I believe I've done some of my best work with would seem to be a complimentary opposite.

1: https://plus.google.com/u/0/110981030061712822816/posts/KaSK...


Couple of years ago I used to get at least one Google interview request a week, until I figured out how to get myself off their cold-call list:

"Thanks, but I couldn't work for a company that requires me to have written permission to install Windows on my development machine."

Ayep. I'm not a good "cultural fit" either.


"failed interview process" sounds to me like it might mean that they recognized this as an example where the google interview process had failed them. Are you sure it means "do not hire"?


From the conversations I had, pretty sure, but, they did make it vague enough.

What I understood from it, is that I failed their interview process (which technically, is remotely valid: I did not want to go further with them).

Of course, in my view of things, they failed (or well, they just weren't what I expected)


marked as "failed interview process" ... wow! I can imagine a near future where this would damage your credit report too.


Fortunately this did not happen in the US :)


It seems weird that HR would go out of their way to tell you you are permanently blackballed, when they have enough trouble responding to people who they are open to hiring in the future, and since it is such an obvious embarrassment and legal risk to have a policy of telling candidates they are blackballed.


It might have been easier for the interviewer to fill out his evaluation form with "Did not answer the provided questions" (or similar) rather than "Not interested in working for us".

HR might not have got the full story.

Still weird that they'd make a point of saying he wasn't welcome to come back and try again.


Professionalism cuts both ways. Any company employee that reacts negatively in ways similar to what is described here (when the interviewee announced he was leaving) would display what I consider to be extremely unprofessional behaviour. The fact that this reaction seemed to have been shared by a number of employees is perhaps a symptom of groupthink. The best feedback ever I got when we were in the process of hiring was from one of my very laid back employee, who is often dismissed as "unimportant" and has a way to put people at ease, and who got some unique insight into what a prospective employee would be like.

I see this type of interview a typical "alpha male hehaviour competition" where existing employees are trying to assert in advance their worth to a potential future colleague (to put it nicely).


Assuming the accounting is correct, I think the guy was OK to end the interview politely (without throwing a fit or making grand statements) and leave.

It was also not surprising they were shocked and upset, but that in itself doesn't mean he should have refrained from ending the interview, or that he was unprofessional.

I have thought of walking out myself, I think most have.

For example one interview the manager presented a long monologue about how stupid he felt people from a certain well known outsourcing country were. It wasn't even so much that he was racist, it was that that his stories showed he was closed minded, judgmental and reactionary. I doubt these personality factors were limited to his opinions about national origin. I continued the interview and declined the subsequent offer, citing another better offer. The other offer was for less money but was a project I wanted to work on more, the diatribe wasn't really relevant and only would have been if the offers were similar or his was for more interesting work. I chose not to give him feedback about his rants because I wanted him to keep doing it so other candidates would have the same warning. Him not saying what he really thinks certainly isn't going to change his actual personality.

In other cases I see the interview to the end out of curiosity and to have a good story to tell, but also because you never really know what is going to happen without seeing it all the way through. I may find out more about their business, I may make some contacts talking to people there. Or maybe it is a wash out, but having flown across the country I am going to make it to the end of the day's interviews.


I walked out of an interview, furious, probably two decades ago at "major cellphone company". HR advertised for an RF engineer position, which I had the education and experience for. I can totally sympathize with being rude because I'm normally very calm and I was Barely, just barely able to keep under control. So I burned 10% of my annual vacation days to come here, and drove half way across the state for hours to be bait and switched into a 1st level high school dropout call center support job at about a fifth my current pay? I'm thinking are you F-ing kidding me? I just barely kept it civil and made sure they understood perfectly why I was walking out of the interview. I saw in the bathroom mirror on the way out that I was blazing red in the face so I must have been quite the sight. The HR woman who screwed up the job req and ad and phone interview was more embarrassed than I was, and I actually got along excellently with the technician dept team lead, because we were basically at the same level at different companies (I wasn't mad at the individuals, solely at the situation).

What HR meant by RF engineer was by RF they wanted a call center guy to handle dropped call issues and by engineer they wanted to never pay overtime. Um, sorry HR lady, thats not really what I went to school for, nor is it anything like what I was doing at that time for about five times the annual salary, admittedly with a very similar job title.


Technical jobs present a unique opportunity for HR to screw up. Once, HR sent us a candidate for a data warehousing job because the guy used to work at a warehouse.


What I find interesting here is the contrast in expected behavior for a company and for an interviewee. Most companies won't tell you why they're rejecting you if you interview with them. Most of them won't even send you a rejection email! Yet most people commenting on SE point out that you should explain why you're cutting the interview short and leaving.


This is what I'm getting from the responses as well. People seem to have forgotten that interviewing is a two way street, you are interviewing the company while they are interviewing you. There is not really a lording of power situation, presumably you both have something the other wants. Interviewing is not you showing up begging for a position. You are not really required to give any more consideration then you can expect from them.

Most companies won't hesitate to cut an interview short when they've decided they don't want you, why should you feel that you can't do the same?


We seem to live in a culture where deference towards corporations and power is the norm.


I've gotten feedback when I interviewed on why they did not extend an offer. Its emotionally difficult when interviewing to put yourself out there, but getting feedback does help you understand how the interview went down better.


Facebook is great about this, but they shattered industry norms with their practice. It is one of the classiest ways they exemplify their top to bottom belief in sharing information with everyone, in product and in corporate.


What are you talking about? I did a phone interview and two on-site interviews, and the only feedback I got was a generic form letter that my background was not the right fit, which clearly isn't the whole story because there's no need to pay for a plane ride if my resume isn't what you're looking for. I'm guessing either they've changed policy here or you or someone you know happened to get a nice interviewer.


What are you referring to? The first time I interviewed there, I got zero feedback. The second time, I didn't make it past the phone screen (which has never happened to me before so I thought it was remarkable/funny.) and got the old "didn't think was a good fit" line.


If you want to compare, then imagine that you're in the middle of the interview and the interviewer suddenly tells you “get lost, here's the elevator”.

Saying “thanks but no, thanks” after the interview without telling the reason if perfectly fine for both a company and an interviewee.


The candidate didn't do the equivalent of "get lost."

I have been flushed from an interview process halfway through. (Apparently I failed the personality test for Capital One. Fair enough.) They had a car take me back to the airport. I didn't mind. The guy I was riding with (who was also flushed) was really pissed about it, though.

A company really should solicit feedback from the candidate during the process. The candidate can say "I don't think this company is going to be a good fit," and then the company can decide if there's anything more worth talking about. Maybe there is, maybe there isn't.


If you want to compare, then imagine that you're in the middle of the interview and the interviewer suddenly tells you “get lost, here's the elevator”.

This happens. The reverse isn't unreasonable either.


A lot of companies schedule interviews with a natural break in the process partway through -- basically you do phone screens, with people not progressing beyond those, and the in-person interview can be split to morning, lunch, after-lunch; senior people (or larger groups, or people with more constrained schedules, ...) meet with candidates after lunch, and if someone is a no-hire based on the morning, the candidate doesn't know about the afternoon phase and is told he can go home before or after lunch.

Personally I think it's important to sell no-hire candidates on the company, since even no-hires might be hires in the future (for different roles, or if they add skills), or might be referrers of other, better candidates, or might end up working for a vendor or customer, or just might make negative social media postings about you which dissuade other candidates. So doing morning interviews, lunch (which turns into "selling the company's mission to the candidate", ideally by a senior person who isn't overly busy, not a random HR drone), etc. for the no-hires.


That's basically how my last company did it, and it worked well. I'd say that your description is how it should be done.

What I was trying to say, probably in too few words, is that many places don't do it that way and I have little sympathy for them. =)


While I agree with you, I believe this is partially due to legal pressure - companies can open themselves up to litigation if they give too much information.


and then you send a Data Protection Act Subject Access Request (in the UK anyway), where they are legally required to divulge every single piece of information they have relating to you, including internal staff emails, feedback forms, etc.

(and you're guaranteed to at least get something, as if they don't have any stored information on you then the door is wide open to discrimination suits)


There seems to be a double standard in the comments here.

Companies regularly cut short interviews (speaking from personal experience). They've all been polite about it and explain why, usually saying "it's not the right fit". There are some companies that ask between multiple interviews if the candidate is still interested in talking to the next person.

A candidate should be allowed the same ability to "walk out". From the OPs story I got that he cut his interview not during a round but before the next one was to begin (the reason for moving him into another room). Thats the perfect time to do it. The reason the candidate gave is sufficient, he doesn't wish to waste anyone's time. The response of the company in this case is actually arrogant and unprofessional.


That is not a double standard, most people here are just making pragmatic judgements rather than moral ones. Should the power relationship between employee and employer or between VC and portfolio company be perfectly symmetrical? Maybe. Is it? Usually not, though of course that depends on current market conditions.


It's always okay to politey and professionaly not waste people's time. Don't come across as judgemental, angry, or anything similar or you risk burning bridges you may not even realize you have.

From the brief description, it sounds like the guy was showing a bit too much emotion in leaving. Also - just because an interview process seems harsh doesn't mean the company is harsh - the interview is one thing, the job is often quite another - results tend to speak for themselves regardless of culture (and as long as you aren't a snob or jerk to your co-workers) If a seasoned, experienced professional doesn't get that, maybe they aren't a good fit...


The problem here isn't the interviewee; it's the interviewer.

This is exactly why we do phone screenings and brief initial interviews. If something like location, development technique, interior design or dress code isn't going to work out for someone, you should be able to flush some of that out in a 15-minute phone screen, and the rest in a 30-60 minute initial interview.

By the time you're bringing someone in for a full day, the interviewer should be at well over 75% sure the person is a do-hire. Don't waste your team's time or effort on someone you're not going to go with (unless you're stress-testing your interview process...).

As far as walking out: there's so much data here. For the company, they've either got a dysfunctional interview process or some seriously difficult fellow developers. Both those problems need to be addressed.

For the interviewee, there's the information on how the team responds. If there's a problem, and they want to solve it, they need to be more pro-active about it. "Can we break now and continue later?" Also, "Can we get a post-mortem from you?" At the very least, it's a good time to break for coffee or beers around the corner.


> He could feel sudden hostility from everybody in the room at the time.

Sounds like he made a good call here. With a professional interviewer, the worst you might get is "perhaps you could help us by explaining why you feel that way?" Who would seriously want to bully someone into staying to be interviewed for a job they didn't feel they could do? Personally I would thank him for his honesty.


Is it usual to have a team of people interview someone, rather than a lot of one-on-one or two-on-one sessions? This reduces the number of developer-hours used in interviewing. I don't think that adding a 3rd or more interviewer will add anything, and it can be intimidating for candidates, adding noise to your search for a suitable one.


In a couple of decades of occasional job interviews, I've done mostly 1:1 and a handful of 2:1.

I've only done one 4:1, which was actually lunch in between all-day 1:1 interviews, and which didn't feature any technical questions just random social conversation. It was definitely still part of the interview, though.


You'd only need to do this in the scenario of an all day (or longer) interview, which in itself is something you should not enter into without some pretty good feelings developed from the preliminary/phone interview.

In this case it sounds like a fairly conventional "business" type guy didn't like the idea of working in a open environment with a bunch of kids wearing jeans. But that kind of basic "what's your work environment like" information should have been known or ascertained by him before accepting an invite for an all-day on-site interview.

In rare cases you may realize during the final screening that there's some fundamental incompatibilty, but if you do your due diligence in the preliminaries this really shouldn't happen.

Having to walk out of a final interview means that both sides executed the initial screening poorly.

Edit: typos


I am a programmer with 10+ years exp who wares a tie every day to work. Reading though that though I see a lot of red flags that have nothing to do with the dress code. Honestly, using a custom ORM solution is a sign of incompetence. Frameworks seem easy and fun to people that don't understand them, but after a few years I think about such things a series of trade-offs not an interesting problem.

A few moths ago a coworker with ~5 years exp wanted to write their own simple graphing library to get around a few problems, everyone in the office said have fun do it on your own time, but don't add it to the code base. He had fun and it was a great learning experience, but the idea of working where most people where at that point has little appeal.

PS: 15 years ago there where a lot of great reasons to write your own framework, now days not so much.


"executed the initial screening poorly."

My worst interviewing experiences have all involved HR initial screening. "The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can't. Not without your help. But you're not helping."

My best interviewing experiences have all had no HR involvement at all (ex-coworkers introduce my soon to be future boss to me at lunch, met my future boss at a industry get together, etc)


People seem to think its fine to walk out of an interview early ... but how do they feel if the interviewer ends the interview early, or your "full day" of interviews is cut to just 1 or 2 hours because they just didn't think it was a good fit?

I'm guessing some of you would be pissed because you took the whole day off for the interview only to be kicked out early.

On the other hand, if I was on an interview loop, and the person left before it was my turn, I'd be grateful ... now I have extra time to do meaningful work.


> People seem to think its fine to walk out of an interview early ... but how do they feel if the interviewer ends the interview early, or your "full day" of interviews is cut to just 1 or 2 hours because they just didn't think it was a good fit?

Uh this happens a lot. In fact, when I was looking for my first entry level job in a new city this was semi-common. Many interviewers or hiring managers will get hostile at you for the smallest things, like failing to get the catch in a puzzle question or because they dislike something about your resume. As soon as that one person would leave the room, it was usually followed by someone from HR coming back and politely telling me the interview was over. As a worker you owe a potential employer nothing and have the right to leave at any time you wish, regardless of how intimidating some people will be when you say you want out.


I've had this very thing happen to me. I was surprised when it happened as it was a first for me. That said, I think it's becoming more commonplace, particular in small to medium size companies who are very sensitive to wasting their own developers' time.

If it's becoming accepted practice for companies to dismiss interviewees early, then I see no reason that interviewees should not be able to do the same (politely and professionally, of course)


I wouldn't be pissed at all. I can take the rest of the day to gather my thoughts and not feel like they wasted any of my time with other interviews that weren't going to lead anywhere. I'd actually appreciate the fact that they were upfront instead of stringing me along.


I think that since a company is deciding on the structure of the interview day they have a responsibility to be transparent about the process beforehand. This is a different situation to the person being interviewed.

For my current company the invitation to the interview says that if they like you then you will be invited to continue to another stage of the interview after lunch (they deliberate/discuss while you have lunch).


It's 100% fine to end the interview early as the OP did. The interviewers/hr will end the interview early the moment they're sure it won't work out.

The fact that the interviewers acted rudely is a great sign that it's an awful place to work. Would be nice if the company were named so others can avoid interviewing there.


Companies with all-day interview affairs have no qualms about cutting the process short at lunch time. Why should an interviewee not be able to do the same? It must be handled delicately and gracefully, but that hopefully goes without saying.


An interview shouldn't be a position of superiors grilling an inferior. If you find yourself in that kind of interview you're unlikely to be finding a great working environment.

From that I'd suggest an interview should be a meeting of equals - they want the right person, you want the right company, both sides have an interest in figuring this out. Companies have no hesitation cutting short a day long interview process if by mid-morning the feedback to HR is that this is going to be a no-hire. Nor should candidates feel bad about cutting short an interview if it's clear early it'll be a no-accept to any prospective offer.

Honesty helps all parties. Analogy by anecdote:

I have always felt that an interview is a fair dialogue. Back in 1997 (yes I am THAT old) I was interviewed for a tech support position near London, for a massive multinational which had a completely failing tech service desk catering to tens of thousands of desktops. At the end of the interview the interviewer - who'd be my prospective boss - asked the question "does that sound like something that appeals to you" after describing the job.

My answer was honest: "no not really, but I wish you all the best in the search."

"Why not?"

"Well, I might have interest in leading a team like that because it sounds like there's a real problem to be solved in servicing your internal customers, but it doesn't sound like it's a process I'd enjoy working in, as it is".

This being London in the late 90s where there was a massive IT shortage (a bit like Silicon Valley and engineers today) I got a call back from my agent (fancy name for recruiter) who asked what I'd done. Apparently they'd called him back and offered me the job of running the Service Desk and fixing the problems that made me not interested in working on it.

I ended up with a much higher paying job offer, my first management experience (eventually building the team to over 40 people from the 6 I started with) and they ended up with someone who finally solved their problems, turning first line fix around from 17% to 70% in about six months.

Interviews aren't there for you to say yessir nosir. They're a back and forth between equals trying to find the best for both parties. This guy is absolutely right to call it a day early, if he feels it's not the right fit.


A a good friend of mine interviewed with one of the current powerhouses of technology when they weren't quite so big.

After successfully navigating a few rounds of technical interviewing they gave him one of those famous brain teaser type questions. He responded by asking the interviewer to explain how the question would be relevant to his work with the company.

The interviewer immediately explained that he clearly "wasn't a good fit" and ended the interview.

I tend to feel they were both "right".


Everybody's talking about burning bridges but it's a bad analogy. Bridges like these won't always catch fire even if torched and then again some burst into flames even if you didn't even touch your matches. The guy in the question seems to have just walked on the bridge.

Sounds like the guy just spoke directly. Some people can't take that; I don't know how much more neutrally you can give the message "I'm done with the interview" than saying pretty much just that. If you want to sugarcoat it then doing so still won't change the message: it just makes it a slightly more difficult for others to express how badly they take it.

I don't know the exact words used in the situation but he seemed polite yet firm. I would expect such language from anyone who's used to not waste people's time, including his own. While he doesn't want to be rude, he also can't control what can be considered rude by others.

There's no question whether such behaviour is allowed: of course the guy can just go and decide to abort the day. Nobody lost anything there: no money, no time. If he has seen life at all, he must have already learned that no matter what you do you will piss off somebody anyway so it's best to not anticipate too much what others will think of you.


The take away here is that you should always lie or people will get pissed. The truth is "fuck you guys" but the best answer is, "excuse me" followed by "something came up I have to leave" followed by later saying "thanks for theopportunity, but I'm no longer available"

^ now that is smooth. No burnt bridges, still let's you eject.


I have walked out on meetings, presentations, interviews and etc. I'm even audacious enough to tell the referral up front that if its a waste of time I'm walking out so be sure that its not.

Half the time, the reaction is that I've lost 'face'. The other half of the time, I'm praised for my efficiency or speaking up.

You broadcast what you what want. If you want to work with no-nonsense cuts through the bull and tackles real problems directly people, than keep doing what your doing.


It's not the cultural norm, so if you ditch an interview, you had best go out of your way to be extremely polite about it. You might be better off just slogging it out to avoid burning bridges.


Tech companies should learn to respect people. It's not OK to take that kind of interviewing behavior as a rite of passage.


If I spend more than 50% of the time in an interview solving puzzles I'm not working for you. I may suck as a programmer, but if that's what you do in an interview, you suck at interviewing people.


If I don't spend enough time in an interview doing puzzles, I'm not working for you.


Puzzles in interviews are worthless unless the potential job involves doing those same kind of puzzles. If you want to see how someone's mind works, you could, say, talk through solving a real-world problem as if you were pair-programming. But don't use puzzles are brain-teasers. They don't tell you anything practical.


If the puzzles are "why are manhole covers round?" I agree.

If the puzzles are "given a list of N integers, positive and negative, find the consecutive subset with the most negative sum" then I want to see how they come up with an answer.


During a break go to the font desk and tell the receptionist, "I'm here today for an interview today, can I please ask to see someone from HR". Wait for the HR rep. "Hey, I spoke with the first couple interviewers and it seems like it won't be a good fit. I would hate to take the next interviewer's time". They will understand and everyone will be happy at the end.


I've been on the other side of this. An interviewee had a killer competing offer that I couldn't match. He was so apologetic, as if he was worried he'd insulted me. I had to assure him that I took no offense and wished him well. Don't know why anyone would take something like this personally.


I've been that interviewee before and I was much the same. For me I realized it has to do with viewing the time spent in the interview as some kind of unspoken contract. You both felt good about the interview but you aren't accepting. Feels like you're letting them down.



I think I'd have done the same, he sounds like he did it pretty politely rather than just getting up and doing a runner. An all day interview where you've decided half way in it just won't work is not just a waste of your time, but a waste of a companies.

However, the way the room reacted doesn't surprise me. Companies like to create loyalty which can occasionally turn a bit wolf-pack. Still, a shake of the hand and a 'thanks for coming, sorry it didn't work' is always classy and always a good idea.



1) When a natural break occurs, ask to speak to one of the members of the interview team privately.

2) Explain your concerns and be prepared to listen.

3) If you still want to leave, thank them, and leave.


Good answer. One thing overlooked in this discussion is that, if things went this far bad (scene in conference room and embarrassing elevator conversation) then something went wrong. This implies there's room for improvement in the way the interviewee handled the situation.


The fact that you leave early is not rude, but the way you do it might be. He should find the lead developer (or whoever was in the lead of interviewing him) and tell him that he feels he won't fit into the culture, thank him for the interview and then leave.

Leaving without a word is in fact rude (“I'm done, show me the elevator” doesn't count, especially if lead developer had to jump the elevator to ask what's wrong and why he's leaving).


Interviews are complex, but I view part of the process as negotiation. One of the principles of being an effective negotiator is knowing what you desire to be the future relationship between the parties. Typically in the technology space, I don't like burning any bridges.

Thus, I start the interview process out by saying that I value and appreciate directness and honesty in all of my dealings. In keeping with that, if at any time I feel I have enough information to know that this will not be a good fit, that I will be honest about that and we can part on good terms and not waste each other's time. I also ask in return that they be up-front and honest with me (don't bring me in for interview after interview just as a charade when they know they're giving the job to Fred anyway).

I've used this tactic a handful of times and it has never failed to get a positive response. On a negotiation level, it may also give me a slight edge because I broached the topic first and raised the possibility of not seeing the process through to the end, something many interviewers forget is a possibility.


I see a lot of comments about how you shouldn't burn bridges. I agree, I still think this was right thing to do. I would excuse myself politely and walk out as well.

Maybe person should ask to talk to lead dev or whoever, explain him that he doesn't believe he would fit, thank him for opportunity and leave. In other words say, it's not you, it's me ;) and still leave and enjoy rest of the day.

I generally don't believe in daylong interviews, I don't see the point in multiple rounds, everyone on the team talking to you endlessly. It is a waste of everyone's time and energy, to me personally it shows how people are uncertain in their decisions and need support.

One more thing, this is opportunity for company to leave a good impression on you as well as you to them, them being disorganized (often the case) doesn't really help much.


There are companies who do the same: schedule a whole-day interview, and then escort you from the building part-way through, with no explanation.

Is it rude? Yes.


I'm sympathetic to the guy who walked out of the inteview, though I'm not sure it was a good idea.

A lot of this probably has to do with your experience. I once had an interview for a position that was right up my alley. I have an MS in Industrial Engineering and I've worked at large manufacturing companies as a developer, as well as smaller startups that create optimization software for manufacturing, shipping, and production systems.

I went to an interview for a company almost precisely in this business area. They asked me to code a singleton, traverse a binary tree, then do it without recursion, add a leaf to a binary tree, prove that the dual of the primal is the primal of the dual, prove various long term outcomes from markov chains, swap two integers without creating a third integer, write various outer joins, convert a sql table to a binary set of indicators (is this a common thing?), and print all possible permutation of string using recursion.

At no point did anyone ask about, or even show the vaguest interest, in my background or experience. It wasn't super well coordinated, they pretty much just kept moving me from one developer to the other - so of course I was much more exhausted and drained than perhaps my interviewer of the hour realized.

My interviewers were younger, and generally looked fresh out of their CS degrees, so I'd guess that they were quite a bit sharper where it came to markov chains, hessian matrices, and b-trees. I didn't look like I was clueless, but I came off as rusty, and I did stumble with things that I would have done much more easily with an hour hitting my old text books.

It was eye-opening, and frustrating. I was polite and stuck with it, and I kept trying, because I actually wanted the job, and I thought that they could use someone like me, because while they were very talented, my few questions to them suggested that there were areas where I could bring some experience that they didn't have in house.

I didn't get an offer, but I am glad I stuck through it. The one thing I wish I'd done is politely explain to the hiring manager what I just wrote here - that I think their hiring process might be filtering out an area of talent that could be valuable to the company.

Actually, that's probably the advice I'd give the dude who terminated the interview. Rather than ending it abruptly, ask the hiring manager if he'd be willing to confer for 15 minutes or so. Explain why you think it's going badly, and what your concerns are. If you disagree, that's fine - then you can end it on better terms without appearing to leave in a huff.

And while this is off topic, I would like to point out one more thing - this is the sort of experience that often comes to my mind when I hear about companies complaining about a lack of available talent, and it's one of the reasons I'm skeptical (though this interview was years ago, when hiring wasn't on fire the way it is now).


From my experience the hiring process hasn't changed much, at least not in the US. I recently changed jobs so went through several interviews and most were as you described - a series of technical questions with zero interest in my background or personality.

I could understand this approach for more junior guys straight out of college, but when hiring senior developers I'd assume the company would want to know a bit more about the candidates soft skills, past challenges and so on.

It actually put me off continuing the process with two of the companies (though I didn't walk out of the interview!) because it made me feel like all they wanted was a 'coding robot' and couldn't care less about the person behind the computer monitor.


A day long interview is a good signal the company is full of bull already.

What's wrong with meeting the guy, talking to him and then inviting to work one day at the company? Just give him some tasks, see how he manages it. If it doesn't work out, you got 8 man-hours for free.

They wanna judge people based on how they dress, what they do on their free time, etc. Not everyone is on their 20's, or wanna be a geek all day. Some software companies act like model agencies thinking they are the coolest the place in the world. It's embarrassing.


"If it doesn't work out, you had 8 man-hours for free."

Setting aside the legal, ethical, and tax implications of such a proposal, why should a talented developer be expected to donate a day of unpaid labor?


They were going to waste his whole day with corporate ego trip already. Why not make some productive use of his time then? At least if it doesn't work out, the candidate got some experience, learned how they work on the company, etc.


I remember I had an all-day interview once that was very similar to the one described in the original question. It was at an IT Department at a big university. It was brutal and I almost left. They asked me all these ridiculous brain-teaser PHP questions I was expected to answer off the top of my head. I never got lunch. I thought I had just wasted a day, but they hired me anyway. Later I found out that kind of interview was required by the evil bureaucratic HR department and everyone hated having to do them.


"A day long interview is a good signal the company is full of bull already."

Totally agree.


Could you point what was his expectation culture wise and the company's situation? What exactly he didn't like except the wrong questions?

I wish I left some interviews early :)

In the end it's important to leave on a good impression for future connections but probably those people (in your friends company) were arrogant immature kids in the first place and they don't care about good future connections anyways. In this case don't waste your time. Same for the interviewers - please let the people know early on and save their time instead of being "polite" and dragging them into meetings multiple people (usually with the same dumb questions) or even stretching interview process into multiple days!


I think it's a rather silly question.

When you receive an invitation to dinner, is it polite to save your host money by leaving before dessert? No. By default it will be rude and it would be up to you to find a nice way to do so.

Likewise I feel if an interview is scheduled for all day and you accept the invitation, then it's up to you to apologise if you want to leave early. So long as you explain that you don't want to waste their time, then no one should be narkey about it. But if you make it sound like you don't want to waste your time, then I think they have a right to be a little miffed at you.


Think about it from both sides of the coin. An interviewer will never say out loud "You just failed that question, we're no longer interested in interviewing", even though failing one question could definitely break you.

I think interviewers purposefully don't tell you how you've done in your interviews because it avoids any bad feelings/burnt bridges, and having to explain why they've done poorly. IMO this goes both ways, if you walk out of an interview, you better be okay with burning that bridge and explaining to a heated person on the spot why you're walking out.


An interviewer may not say you've failed, but it's common practice to cut an interview short when an interviewer believes the candidate is not up to snuff. I've been at more than one company where any interviewer is allowed to "cut him loose" when a candidate is obviously unqualified.

Why would it be different the other way around? The key is, of course, being polite and graceful about it. But I don't buy the argument that this is burning a bridge. There are plenty of fish in the sea, and it's unlikely that cutting an interview short is actually going to cause you problems in the future.


I suggest that one's time isn't so valuable that you can't spend half an hour of unnecessary discussion. (In the case of the OP, I see that we're talking about more time than that.)

You never know who you will meet again in your future, or who your interviewer knows that you will meet in your future. It's a small world.

You want to be well-remembered. Walking out goes against that goal. Anything short of direct hostility, I suggest sucking it up and going through it to the end.


It sounds like he may have made his exit in front of the other candidates. I can see the company being frustrated by that as it would naturally be likely to make the other candidates view their potential new employer less favorably.

If he was certain that leaving early was the right thing to do, it would have been better to choose a moment when he could tell one of the interviewers quietly, and exit without causing a noticeable scene.


> "He was criticized as being wrong for not following very dogmatic principles to the letter of the law."

What does this even mean?? He didn't respond correctly with their secret handshake? He didn't drink his cup of coffee with exactly 2 creams?

Is this a social thing, or a programmer thing? Did he use an unconventional coding style?

This line really sticks in my craw, confuses and somehow bothers me... I would love an extrapolation.


This question is totally loaded. Whether they like you or you like them (which is what the first half of the description discusses) is irrelevant.

The question could be evaluated more objectively if it were just left to the headline: "Is it rude to leave an interview early if you have already made your decision?". The answer is no, of course not, as long as you're don't do it rudely.


It's very rude if you just leave without fully explaining to people why you want to walk out. Even if you guys are indeed unfit to each other, the interviewers will still feel bad wondering what they did wrong. We are all human, we all want to improve ourselves, so make sure you both have an understanding instead of not giving them any chance like that.


There are cases, when I can imagine walking out: when the candidate is already decided upon, but there is a need for legal-theatre, and you wind up being a decoy candidate in a mock candidate selection process. It happens quite often actually.

The moment you understand your situation, it is fair game to treat them in equal manner.


I think I would have raised all of my concerns during the interview, instead of on my way out. Nothing wrong with not fitting in, but maybe the interview drill was just that, a drill.

The fact that someone followed him to ask questions tells me company seemed interested in him despite his opinion of how the interview was going.


This might be overly simple, but it seems like the root of the problem on both sides is just the scheduling of a day-long interview at a place that's so obviously a bad fit for the candidate.

It would be better for all involved to have a more casual meet-and-greet, tour of the office, initial conversation beforehand.


If one side can end interview half way, the other side can too. Don't see any problem of that.


This is the kind of thing that gives programmers a bad name of being anti-social buffoons. In a programmer's mind they're simply being logical or efficient. Just because it's logical doesn't make it sensible.

This could be handled much better by somebody with even a shred of social skills. If he didn't think it was a good fit he could have requested to talk to the lead or hiring manager and expressed his concerns. They may mutually agree to end the interview. Perhaps if the company really wanted this guy they would start figuring out ways to possibly make it work. Or they may have ended with a handshake and parted ways on good terms. Just declaring "I'm done" like this brainiac and asking for the door shows that, though he may be a smart programmer, he has zero social skills.


Time is valuable. Why waste everyone's time if you know it's not going to work? I think the key is to do it respectfully and explain why. It's actually helpful for the company to hear the reasons.


I'm guessing Facebook


Facebook has plenty of people >30, which was one of his criticisms of the job. It's probably mainly late-20s early-30s at this point, unless you're in a non-technical group like user operations.


Gracefully leaving earlier saves time for the interviewee and the interviewers.

What exactly is the upside of staying longer in this case?


For some reason, I imagine Walter White leaving this so called interview. No clue why. lol


Just look at your phone. Tell them you have personal emergency and you'll have to reschedule the rest of interview. Say goodbye, leave, never call. If they call tell them you accepted another position. That's what interviewers do and that's what they consider polite.


Walking out isn't rude. It's a reality check for the HR and management that something isn't kosher.

I've walked out of interviews after finding the usual bait-n-switch techniques regarding position description, expectations, travel requirements, compensation, work conditions, .. just to name a few.

Do I expect HR/management to get a clue - not really, it's not my job to further their problem solving ability.


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I think you should read the guidelines. This is certainly not the kind of venue where throw-away comments such as yours are welcome.




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