Bad Interview is Legal, but Unprofessional

By Lindsey Novak

August 23, 2018 4 min read

Q: I recently had a phone interview where the interviewer (who would have been my boss) was so unprofessional I didn't know how to respond. She was rude, sarcastic, insulting, and inappropriate. She was the one who chose to interview me after seeing my resume, so I question her motive after seeing her behavior. Maybe in speaking to me she became jealous and feared me taking her job since my educational and work experience is impressive.

First, she asked me what courses I had taken. When I named some of them and asked for detail, she wasn't able to answer. She then insulted the company I had worked at for 10 years, and laughed sarcastically about it going down the tube. She criticized my experience there, commenting on the company's reputation as if I had worked at a used car lot where everyone was unethical. I was so angry I felt I had to defend the company, telling her it was a good company the entire time I worked there, and that the company was brought down financially because of a lawsuit it lost. Her tone was haughty and arrogant, and with every comment, I justified my professional experience.

I know someone at her company who gave me the backstory as to her being in over her head in the job. She also went to a low-tier for-profit college and is grossly under-qualified and inexperienced for her job title. I rushed to get off the phone so I wouldn't lose my cool and insult her in return. But I thought about writing HR and her boss so the company knows how unprofessional she is when interviewing. I would love the job but never would I work for such a jerk.

A: "No laws were violated based on the description of the interview," according to Nancy Noall, shareholder at Roetzel & Andress, Labor and employment group (Cleveland, Ohio). "Absent details suggesting that the applicant's race, sex, or other protected status played a role in the uncomfortable interview, the applicant does not appear to have had her legal rights violated. There is no law mandating civility generally during the stages of employment."

Perhaps the candidate wants revenge and is discouraged to discover that such an unprofessional boss would be her boss. On the other hand, seeing this potential boss' true personality show itself is a blessing in disguise. Many people leave good jobs to accept what they think will be a better job, only to experience frustration and misery over the job change.

If all the candidate wants is revenge, acts of revenge are as unprofessional as this interviewer's behavior, as well as a waste of energy. But if the motivation to write a complaint letter is to warn the company of potential trouble with the employee, a well-documented, non-emotional statement describing the interview that took place may cause the head of HR to issue a written reprimand to add to her personnel file. Noall says that even if HR or this employee's superior is moved to investigate her behavior, she is not likely to get fired over one incident. The complaint can serve as a warning of potential problems to come. Noall adds that absent blatantly illegal comments or questions (NANCY-can you add a few questions that may not be obviously illegal), or detailed complaints from a source known to HR or the employee's superior, upper management is unlikely to remove her from this job.

Email career and life coach [email protected] with your workplace questions and experiences. For more information, visit and for past columns, see

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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