columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues--everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.

A reader asks:

I had a weird situation today when interviewing a candidate and I was hoping to get your read on the situation.

At the end of the interview, he asked us for an on-the-spot evaluation, saying something like, "So, what do you think of me so far?"

I nearly did a spit-take because it caught me off guard and quite frankly really rubbed me the wrong way. Fortunately, my boss came up with something about how he had strong analytical skills, which is important to our company.

Does this tactic come off weird to you or am I'm totally overreacting? Why on earth would someone ask that? There's no way we're going to say, "Well, you seem really accomplished but we think you might be full of hot air, and you also don't seem like a team player" to a candidate's face!

And any advice on how I could respond in a noncommittal manner in the future if a candidate asks this?

Green responds:

I've had job candidates ask me this too, and I don't like it either.

It's fine for a candidate for say something like, "Do you have any reservations about my candidacy that I could address for you?" That's different than saying, "Tell me your assessment of me, right now, on the spot." It's saying, "Do you have any concerns that you're comfortable discussing right now?" That can lead to useful conversations, like "Well, we do ideally want someone with more experience in X, so I need to think about how that would play out" -- and it also allows the interviewer to honestly say, "No, I think we have everything we need right now."

But asking "What's your take on me?" puts the interviewer on the spot. It's overly aggressive, and it makes a lot of interviewers feel uncomfortable. Most people don't want to announce on the spot if they don't think someone is a strong candidate, and often the reasons you have reservations aren't ones you're going to be up for discussing (like you think the candidate might not be smart enough, or they creeped you out, or they seemed difficult to get along with). Plus, some people prefer to have time to process their thoughts about a candidate, talk with other people who may have also met with the person, and generally pull their thoughts together before coming to any sharable assessment.

So it's a bad idea.

As for how to respond if this question comes up, I usually say something like this: "I usually like to spend some time reflecting on an interview before making any decisions, but I certainly enjoyed our conversation." That said, if the candidate is strong, I don't have any problem telling him or her that. It's when the person is weaker that it's tough to be put on the spot, with no time to gather your thoughts or consider your wording.

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Published on: Jun 10, 2019
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