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.
Bland accused Dean 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."
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.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme 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, a 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 apologised on Twitter, saying he had "no desire to see anyone hurt; and can only apologise if anything I've done has had that effect; it was not my intent."