Interview Ethics: Sabotaging A Job Candidate, With A Kavanaugh Hearing Flashback

Frequent commenter and old friend Vinnymick flagged this one, thus proving that someone took my recent appeal for out-of-the-way ethics topics seriously. He pointed me to a Washington Post article, which lays out its topic thusly:

“While browsing Twitter recently, I came across a post that suggested an innovative interview technique: Take a job candidate out for a lunch interview, then secretly ask the server to intentionally mess up the candidate’s order. The purported goal: to see the candidate’s true nature. “It’s easy to say how you would handle when things go wrong, [but] hard to fake your reaction as it happens,” the post concluded.”

Or, as another type of sabotage, have an old high school colleague of the interviewee sit down at the table and accuse him of sexual assault. Then observe how he reacts to that!

The Kavanaugh debacle came to mind immediately, in part because so many who rationalized the Democrats’ abuse of Justice (now, judge then) Kavanaugh was that it was a “job interview.” No, it wasn’t, as I repeatedly had to explain to people (but, you know, when progressives are in the process of a Trump-related freak-out, you can’t explain anything to them(, in a real, fair and professional job interview, the interviewer hasn’t already decided that he or she doesn’t want to hire you, as nearly every single Democrat regarded Kavanaugh before the hearings began . In a job interview, you are being interviewed by your potential supervisors and those who you will be working with if you are hired. The Supreme Court doesn’t report to the Senate, take orders from the Senate, or work with the Senate. In a job interview, there is a presumption of good faith between the job seeker and the interviewer. No, the Kavanaugh hearings were a transparent effort to sabotage the  judge’s nomination from the outset.

Now back to the article’s hypothetical: Of course pulling a stunt like the one described is unethical. An earlier Ethics Alarms essay on “silly job interview ethics”—it’s pretty good, I must say, and I had completely forgotten that I wrote it— recommended that if an interviewer starts abusing you, and this is abuse, excuse yourself, saying, “I’m sorry. I was under the impression that I was applying for a position with an organization that respected serious professionals, and that would never exploit the interview process for its own amusement at the discomfort of someone who expected fair and courteous treatment. I apparently was mistaken.”

I added,

I think the use of odd interview questions is a symptom of an arrogant and essentially untrustworthy corporate culture. There may exceptions, but I don’t believe it’s worth the gamble. If the interviewer starts messing with your emotions and confidence, tell him or her to cut it out, or better yet, leave.

This applies to the sabotage example as well. My father told me, “Son, in a job interview, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. If the interview makes you wonder if these are people you can trust or will enjoy working with, or if it suggests that the organization isn’t one you will be proud to work with, then walk away. And tell them why.” As I advanced in my career and had more to offer, I began interviews by answering  the question, “why do you want to work here?”with the answer, “I’m not sure yet that I do. That’s what this interview is for from my perspective. I know I have the experience, talents and abilities to  excel in this job; my only question is whether this is an organization that will allow me to excel and provide a rewarding career experience in the process. Presumably, you can convince me it is.”

If they didn’t like that answer, I could be pretty sure that I didn’t want to work there.

If I were ever sabotaged in an interview, I would announce the withdrawal of my candidacy, but not before using all the considerable rhetorical skills at my disposal to tell the interviewer exactly what I thought of my treatment. Democrats and progressive opponents of Kavanaugh have tried to argue that the fact that the judge gave the Democrats exactly the rebuke they deserved (as did Senator Graham) proved that he did not possess sufficient “judicial temperament.” Baloney. It proved he wasn’t a patsy, a doormat, a weenie, and a punching bag, and his anger was appropriate and deserved. The only difference between what I would recommend when a job interview is abusive and what Kavanaugh did is that he didn’t tell them to take their job and shove it, and that was the right response because:

  • That’s what they wanted him to do, because this wasn’t a job interview, it was a partisan inquisition, held in bad faith.
  • The conduct of the Senators didn’t reflect on the job or the likely job experience in any way, because the Supreme Court was the organization he would be working in, not Congress.

5 thoughts on “Interview Ethics: Sabotaging A Job Candidate, With A Kavanaugh Hearing Flashback

  1. I like that advice. It is the way I approach interviews. Whether they know it or not, they are interviewing me as much as I am interviewing them. Some like our service mission; some like the fact that we employ people from other countries; some like the foreign language skills our employees have; very few of them like what we pay, but they also understand that that happens when our clientele is poor. They also come to learn that our work culture is very friendly and strikes a good work-life balance. That can be hard to convey in an interview, but we are pretty up front with people. Money is always important, but, if a candidate is looking for something else, and money is the trade-off, we are clear about that. Because, as your dad said, they are interviewing me as much as I am interviewing them, whether they know it or not.

    -Jut

  2. I walked out of one interview when I found out that they were interviewing me for a different position to the one I had applied for and weren’t willing to reschedule an interview for what I was interested in. I did not state my opinion of their bait and switch (who knows, it could even have been because a moron assumed that I had mistakenly written down the wrong position in my application letter without checking with me, and not deliberate at all).

    On another occasion, I found out at the interview that, for reasons locked in by the firm’s remit and founding charter, the firm had a requirement that employees live in a particular suburb but the agent who lined up the interview had concealed that despite knowing it. I was polite to the interviewer as it was not that firm’s fault, but I did suggest that they reconsider their choice of agents.

  3. “I think the use of odd interview questions is a symptom of an arrogant and essentially untrustworthy corporate culture. There may exceptions, but I don’t believe it’s worth the gamble. If the interviewer starts messing with your emotions and confidence, tell him or her to cut it out, or better yet, leave.”

    Like this approach of Heineken?

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