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Woman's "Humiliating" Job Interview Goes Viral After She Calls Out CEO's Behavior

Refinery29 logoRefinery29 1/31/2019

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When 22-year-old graduate Olivia Bland applied for a job at the Oldham-based company Web Applications UK, she was so horrified by the line of questioning and the "brutal" tone of her second interview that, after being offered the role, she turned it down. Bland's eloquent email response to the job offer, which she shared on Twitter, has gone viral, attracting worldwide attention, hordes of empathetic comments and, luckily, new job offers.

In her letter, Bland said she was left "feeling so upset that [she cried] at the bus stop," and described her interviewer, the company's CEO Craig Dean, as "a man who tries his best to intimidate and assert power over a young woman". Her response has received over 93k likes and 28k retweets at the time of writing, suggesting it's an experience many can relate to.

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Bland accused him of behaving in a way that mirrored her abusive ex by tearing her down only to build her back up again, with a job offer. "The two hours I spent in that room with Craig Dean yesterday felt like being sat in a room with my abusive ex -- it was two hours of being told I'm not good enough, and detailing exactly why."

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today program on Thursday morning, she said that considering it was her second interview (the first one went very smoothly), her "expectations were quite high and I expected to do well." She continued: "At the end of the interview he told me I had done well, despite calling me an underachiever and attacking my writing and the way I sat and all my characteristics... My arms were wrong and the way I sat was wrong. It was a very personal attack."

Dean also quizzed Bland about her childhood and if her parents were still together. "It was all very bizarre. When I walked into the interview room he was looking through my Spotify account and playlists, which was a bit invasive."

While Bland initially accepted the job because she didn't think she could afford to turn it down, she changed her mind the following day over email. She hasn't secured a new job since but admitted she's "had quite a lot of offers" since her tweet blew up.

"I understand the points he was trying to make and that he wanted to see how I reacted under pressure and to criticism, but I don't think it's acceptable to take it that bit further and make it a personal attack," Bland said, adding that she thought the CEO crossed the line. "He was trying to demonstrate his power over me and he had witnesses in there to watch me being interviewed to basically show that he could humiliate me."

In response to Bland's account, Heather McGregor, professor at Heriot Watt University and former professional head hunter, described the interview as "inappropriate" but told the Today show that applicants' public social media accounts should be considered fair game for scrutiny. "Less acceptable is asking personal questions."

Craig Dean, Web Applications' CEO, has since apologized on Twitter. "Hearing someone is in pain is heartbreaking; hearing that they feel you are the cause is devastating. When that person explicitly asks you not to respond, you have to respect that, and I shall continue to; even if it means the accusations go unanswered.

"I have no desire to see anyone hurt; and can only apologise if anything I've done has had that effect; it was not my intent. I care deeply for the plight of all people particularly those looking for new opportunities and striving to better themselves.

If allowed, I will apologise directly. If the goal of everyone else is to punish me, my family, and friends, without defence, then it has succeeded. This is a hurt, and lesson, that will stay with me."

Read the full text of Bland's letter below: 

I would like to thank you for the offer, but I have decided to decline.

The interview process yesterday was very uncomfortable for me. I understand the impact that Craig was trying to have, but nobody should come out of a job interview feeling so upset that they cry at the bus stop.

I'm very aware of what Craig was trying to do, and what he was trying to get out of me. I'm also aware that by sending this email, I am failing his tests and proving that I am not the right fit for his company. There is something very off to me about a man who tries his best to intimidate and assert power over a young woman, and who continues to push even when he can see that he's making somebody uncomfortable to the point of tears. I also think that he's very strategic in placing other people in the interview room, who have no part in the interview process, just to heighten the feeling of power he gets over someone else's humiliation.

All of the things that I mention in this email will be ignored, and things will carry on as usual at Web Applications UK. I'm also half-anticipating an email back from Craig himself explaining, line by line, why everything that I have stated in this email is wrong. If you have any consideration for a young girl's feelings, I would ask you not to bother.

I have just moved back home to Manchester from Brighton after escaping a year and a half long abusive relationship. The two hours I spent in that room with Craig Dean yesterday felt like being sat in a room with my abusive ex - it was two hours of being told I'm not good enough, and detailing exactly why. And to top it off, there came the job offer, which I suppose is supposed to make up for all of the nasty things he said before hand. I've been in this position before: they tear you down, abuse you, take you to breaking point, and then they take you out to dinner or buy you a present to apologise and make it seem like they're the nice guy. This job is supposed to be the present. I don't want it. I'm not going through that again, in any capacity. I suppose I'm supposed to feel privileged to be good enough for the job. I don't. I don't want to line up with somebody who gets a kick out of attacking young women, calling them underachievers, and making them visibly uncomfortable. That's not somebody that I ever want to work for, and none of the "perks" of the job could possibly tempt me.

I would also like to make it known here that there are a number of reviews about your company and Craig online, all saying very similar things to me. I'm sure that this isn't the first email of this nature that you've received, so you're probably already aware. I'm also sure that this won't be the last.


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