Should I Call My Boss Out For His Bad Interview Behavior?

A career expert tackles five reader questions from “Can I ask for a cost-of-living raise?” to “Are ‘Do Not Hire’ lists legal?”

This week, career expert Alison Green (aka Ask A Manager) tackles five workplace questions from a manager with an unfortunate habit to asking for a change of scenery (and title) at work.


1. Should I Confront My Manager For clipping His Fingernails During A Job Interview?

Yesterday, my manager and I were conducting interviews in his office. During the first interview, he was clearly restless, and about midway through he ruffled through his desk drawer for something. I didn’t see what he grabbed, but quickly figured it out when I heard the unmistakable sound of a fingernail clipper. He hid his hands while he was doing it, and stopped after clipping two nails, but I’m still at a loss for why he decided mid-interview was the appropriate time to do such a thing. Other than doing a double-take when I realized what was happening, I didn’t do or say anything. We’re conducting more interviews next week–should I say something ahead of time to indicate this is clearly not okay? I felt horrified for the person interviewing!

It depends on what kind of relationship with you have with him. With most managers I’ve had, it would feel pretty natural to just say, “You weren’t clipping your nails during that interview, were you?” But if you didn’t say it right off the bat, it’s going to be harder to say it now–and I also suspect that if you did have that kind of dynamic that allowed for that, you would have already said it and wouldn’t be writing in to me.

Another way to look at it is that it’s good to let your manager be as much himself as possible during an interview, so that candidates get truth in advertising and are making fully informed decisions. Some people wouldn’t care at all if their interviewer did this; others would find it boorish and rude. You want people to self-select out if they’re not going to work well with your boss anyway–so if this is at all representative of his style, it could be a good thing to just let him go for it.

2. Can I ask for a cost-of-living raise when I’m moving to a more expensive city for personal reasons?

I am looking to relocate to a different city for personal reasons–honestly, because I am a young professional who has never lived outside of my current city today and I figure now is the best time in my life to do so. My job can be done remotely, and most of my team is remote, so I don’t have any hesitation about not being able to bring my job with me.

The city I am looking to move to has a much more expensive cost of living than where I am currently. What is your advice in terms of requesting a cost of living increase? Since this is a personal decision and not a relocation move for my job, is it fair and/or OK for me to request a salary increase?

Nope. You’d be asking your company to increase their expenses because of where you want to live. If you move for work-related reasons, it’s reasonable to talk about a cost-of-living increase. But if you’re just moving because you want to, you can’t really say “and it’s going to cost you more every month!” (Just like you probably wouldn’t want your company to ask you to take a pay cut if you moved somewhere cheaper.) I’d look at it this way: The ability to move wherever you want is a perk of this job, but you need to factor in how well your current salary will work in whatever city you’re thinking of choosing.


3. Can I Create A ‘Do Not Hire’ List?

Is there a legal way to put an applicant on a block list due to them coming late to a previous interview with no reasonable explanation, being very rude, not showing up at all, or not showing up because they believed the interview was for the following day, even though they received a confirmation email with the specific date and time?

You mean an internal block list, where your company has a way of tracking that this isn’t someone eligible for hire in the future (as opposed to trying to block them from work with other companies too)? Sure, having an internal “Do Not Hire” list is legal and very normal; companies do it all the time. You’re allowed to look at someone’s behavior and decide you don’t want to hire them, now or in the future.

4. How Should I Ask An Internal Hiring Manager If She’d Consider Me For A New Role In Her Department?

I’m currently an admin assistant and work at one of our regional offices. I interviewed for an internal position in finance a month or so ago but was unsuccessful due to lack of finance experience. I received feedback from the interview that I “couldn’t be faulted” but they went for someone with more experience.

Fast forward a month or so, and another entry-level position position has arisen in finance. I’m still interested in working in that department but don’t know how to circumnavigate this. A coworker I confided in recommends that once the job becomes common knowledge, to phone the hiring manager and ask if they feel I should reapply, although they said that they might not be able to give a clear answer, but may have some comments on whether I should. I would prefer to do this via email myself but don’t know which method is best or what exactly to say–how do you feel I should approach this?

Yeah, I’d use email to at least initiate the conversation–because that will give the hiring manager some time to compose her thoughts and figure out how to respond, whereas if you call her, you’re going to put her on the spot and you’re much more likely to get a “sure, go ahead and apply” answer (even if she doesn’t think you’d be the right candidate) because she wants to be nice and she feels blindsided, whereas if you give her time to think about it, you might get a more nuanced answer.

I’d say this: “I really appreciated your talking with me last month about the X position. Our conversation made me all the more interested in working in finance. I noticed that you’re currently hiring for Y and I’d love to throw my hat in the ring. Before I do, I thought I’d check with you first to see if you think it might be a good fit. I’d love your thoughts (and won’t be at all offended if you don’t think it’s quite the right match). And of course, I’d be glad to talk in person if that’s easier–I just didn’t want to blindside you with the question if I called you or popped into your office without warning!” (That last part is there so that you’re not signaling “I’m someone who uses email for even sensitive conversations” but rather “I am thoughtful and willing to talk in whatever way is easiest for you.”)


5. Employer Says They Were Trying To Contact Me, But I Haven’t Seen Anything From Them

I received an email from an employer who I submitted a resume to a few weeks ago. The email read that they attempted to contact me a few times and, since I had not responded, they were assuming that I was not interested. This was the first time I have heard from this employer. I checked everything on my email and phone from the last month and saw nothing from them. I replied to the email saying that I am indeed interested. Also I called and left a message because no one answered. I have still not heard from them and am confused about when and how they tried to contact me. Is it possible that they are being dishonest? Should I call again or wait to hear from them?

It’s very unlikely that they’re being dishonest; they don’t have any motive to be. If they want to reject you, they can just reject you; they wouldn’t need to come up with a cover story about why.

It’s more likely that they did indeed try to reach you and were using the wrong contact info for some reason, their messages went to spam (have you checked there? Does your spam auto-delete messages periodically?), or who knows what else.

I’d check that everything is working as it should, start checking your spam folder regularly if you’re not already (at least while you’re job searching), and if possible provide them with a different means to contact you by (like a different email address from a different provider). Beyond that, though, there’s not really anything you can do; sometimes this kind of thing happens.


This article originally appeared on Ask A Manager and is reprinted with permission.

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