How would you react if you felt that a job interview was designed to humiliate you?
That’s what happened to 22-year-old Olivia Bland. Bland had recently applied for a position with a company called Web Applications UK. After performing well during an initial interview, she was invited back for a second round–this time with the CEO of the company, Craig Dean.
This second interview didn’t go so well–at least, not from Bland’s perspective.
“I wasn’t asked actually many questions at all,” Bland told BBC Radio 4.“It was mostly him speaking at me and telling me how terrible I was at everything.”
According to Bland, Dean attacked everything from her writing style to her body language, along with calling her an underachiever.
But at the end of the interview, Dean told Bland she had done well. In fact, soon after the company offered Bland the job.
While Bland initially accepted the job offer, after giving it further thought she decided to decline. She explained why in an extraordinary email she shared on social media.
Yesterday morning I had a job interview for a position at a company called Web Applications UK. After a brutal 2 hour interview, in which the CEO Craig Dean tore both me and my writing to shreds (and called me an underachiever), I was offered the job. This was my response today. pic.twitter.com/gijDpsEVHY— olivia (@oliviaabland) January 29, 2019
Bland’s email went viral and was followed by public outrage. Dean apologized publicly via his own tweet (which has now been deleted): “I am so sorry that anyone has been hurt, it is never my intent.”
Without being in the room, it’s impossible to judge exactly just how brutal the interview really was. But Bland’s email is a remarkable example of emotional intelligence, and contains a number of invaluable lessons.
Here are two of them:
1. There’s a right and wrong way to offer criticism.
This CEO may value workers who are thick-skinned and can take critical feedback–and rightfully so. It’s this type of feedback that helps us to learn and grow.
But there’s a right and a wrong way to offer critical feedback. To have the best chance of others actually listening to what you have to say, you have to gain their trust. And that requires focusing on their strengths and positive points, first.
Additionally, using kind, tactful speech can help you communicate your feedback in a way that the recipient will see as designed to help, not harm.
2. Know your own emotional limits.
Bland used a powerful metaphor to explain her strong feelings on her interview experience, which reminded her of the lengthy abusive relationship she just got out of:
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 … I’ve been in this position before: they tear you down, abuse you, take you to the 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.
With these few words, Bland showed remarkable self-awareness. She recognized that if this is how she was treated in the interview, something worse surely lay waiting around the corner–and that this “something” would only continue to remind her of the abuse she had endured far too long already.
Remember that a job interview is a two-way street. As much as the company is attempting to learn about you, you should be learning about the company. And when the red flags go up and the danger signal flashes bright red, have the courage to say no–regardless of pay or what perks the company has to offer.
I promise you won’t regret it.
I know Olivia Bland won’t.
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A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.