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When the Interviewer Abuses Your References

When the Interviewer Abuses Your References

Alison Green | Ask A Manager

A reader writes:

After a 45-minute phone interview with a small non-profit in another state, I was invited to interview in-person. The interviewer contacted me two days prior to the interview to request that I provide the following to her, in less than 24 hours:

- Phone numbers for four references, who were then subjected to their own 45-minute interview prior to my in-person interview. (Two of them have since indicated they cannot be a reference for me again as they were offended and put off – I would have warned them but I had no idea that would happen!)

- A complete executive level communications plan. (I provided 10 pages).

- Two writing samples on a topic of the interviewer’s choice, written in two different styles.

To comply with these demands, I had to rearrange my work schedule, already crammed by the planned out-of-town interview. I lost business, and a lot of sleep.

When I reached the interview, they informed me that I would be in back-to-back 35-minute interviews with SIX people, one of whom was the prior holder of the position. Then I would lead a strategy session. After all that, they told me they’d let me know in two weeks.

After three weeks, they told me the position was no longer available. I found out they kept the prior person, who was, unsurprisingly, a rather unpleasant interview who spent the group session literally making unpleasant faces in response to my answers, although I tried to be as tactful as possible.

I guess all you can do is laugh, but I have two questions:

1) Do you think this was some sort of shock-and-awe interview system, that I failed?

2) Is there a way to reassure my references this won’t happen again? Or should I just try to develop new ones? I really feel awful!

For that matter, if I can throw in a third question, should someone request my references prior to the interview again, is there a way I can tactfully find out whether they’re planning to ambush them prior to even meeting me?

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