The Edition: No. 116

Jul 30, 2019

“Just hustle so much that they can’t not give it to you.”  — Rob Nelson

Under Pressure. Signs you’re too stressed at work and what to do about it.

Unbelievable. These perfect pumps from Anthropologie are on my back-to-work purchase list.

Uncomma’ed. Tips for using commas correctly. (The one thing I wish I’d learned in high school. Sorry, Mr. Burgman.)

Unbecoming. Need brighter skin?  This is your mask. Also, this $3 sheet mask.

Unsupervised. Advice for first-time managers to help the learning curve.

Unchilled. This Madewell cardi is perfect for chilly offices and fall wear, up to size 3x.

Unwashed. Why you should clean fruits and vegetables before you eat them.

Unexpected. These hot pink smoking flats will be mine.

Underperformed. “I feel bad about giving a negative performance review.”

Last week, in a preliminary interview, the manager asked me: How do you take your coffee?

She claimed later that she could tell so much about a person from their coffee order that she often found it to be the most insightful question she asked.  My answer (I rarely, if ever, drink coffee.) apparently told her that I’m not a creature of habit and that I’m a bit of a control freak.

I’m not sure I agree with her.  But it got me thinking: How do you take your coffee, and do you think it says something about who you are as a person?

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  1. Leah says:

    What a terrible interview question. I don’t think it says anything about you– other than you aren’t dependent on an external stimulant to get your work done.

    I gave up caffeine a few months ago and it was a great decision for me. My energy tanked the first month, but has come back with vengence. I actually feel awake when I wake up.

    • kim says:

      I agree, it’s kind of a fun question in the way personality tests are fun, but that is a ridiculous interview question. I think the only thing that tells you is that the interviewer is bad at interviewing.

      But for the personality test factor – cold brew, unsweetened, and what that might say about me is I am straightforward, minimalist, and tired.

    • Tina says:

      I agree as well, the question seems incredibly presumptuous to me.

  2. K says:

    I take my coffee black at home. I take it with cream and often sugar when I’m not home.

    It says:
    Once upon a time I wanted to cut calories.
    Then I wanted to cut sugar.
    But – a lot of coffee tastes bad, so I add stuff back.

    What it doesn’t say:
    A damn thing about how I do my job or whether I’ll be a good fit.

    What the question says to me:
    I’m not sure I want to work with someone playing games.

  3. Laura says:

    However my husband makes it, with milk. Now that I’m pregnant, in bottled Frap form because I cannot with hot drinks right now (weird).

    But also, yikes.

  4. Nichole says:

    Weird question but I’ve had lots of weird questions asked of me during interviews. Questions like this make the employer stand out and are remembered – you’ve proved it by blogging about it! She likely based her assumption on her current employees but I doubt it actually has any bearing on whether or not you get a job offer. It’s a “just for fun” answer.

  5. Ruchita says:

    My preference is hot tea and I rarely drink coffee. However in warm weather I like getting vanilla iced coffees from Mcdonalds. I rarely go to Starbucks because I feel like I don’t speak the secret coffee lingo.

    I roll my eyes pretty hard thinking that this interviewer can learn about a person from their coffee order.

  6. Liz says:

    I prefer my coffee with one sugar. I think this was a useful question because now you know the manager is someone who makes up what she believes are meaningful assessments based on no evidence.

  7. Cait says:

    Does anyone else’s answer depend on the circumstances?
    I take my coffee black when the coffee is really high quality, I’m desperate for caffeine but there’s no milk, or I don’t want to be a bother.
    I take my coffee with milk when I make it at home.
    I take my coffee with milk, sugar, or fun syrups when I’m savoring a weekend cup or need a pick-me-up.

    I’m sure with that level of specificity the interviewer could draw many conclusions about me. Fortunately, I wouldn’t care about any of them because the question itself would make her lose so much credibility in my eyes.

    • HH says:

      I’m with you here 100% on my coffee preferences being circumstantial and similar to yours. If I drink coffee (and I drink tea more often), I have it black at home, a drive-thru, or when the coffee is tasty; with a flavored creamer at work because the coffee sucks; or with a little splenda and milk if I’m picking it up as a treat.

  8. Shannon says:

    At least she didn’t read you your horoscope? I mean, really.

    I drink iced coffee year-round. In my working days, I had my clothes and jewelry laid out, my bag and lunch packed, and I would grab my tumbler of premade iced coffee on the way out.

    Now that I’m home with a baby, I have a side table in her nursery with a minifridge holding premixed formula for her and iced coffee for me, a bib, a burp cloth, and a couple of granola bars. I just roll out of bed and start our day with everything laid out.

    I’m just super useless when I wake up. The fewer decisions I have to make, the better. Hopefully, though, your interviewer would conclude that I’m streamlined.

    • B says:

      Eh, she’d actually get everything she needed to know about me if she asked to do a full chart horoscope reading (Aries sun, Gemini moon, Leo rising). Why yes, I’m exactly that prance-y sales pony who gets a lot of shit done with no patience but is also very chatty and adaptable to different situations. I take my coffee with cream, no sugar and keep it coming.

      As far as that question – I think it’s silly but wouldn’t hate it as an icebreaker… but only if she’s asking for fun and making zero judgements based on the answer. Clearly not the case here.

    • Elise says:

      Maybe not the point of your comment, but SUPER smart to have a minifridge available in your kiddo’s room! Totally storing that idea away for the future.

      • Jenny says:

        With kid No. 1, we loaded up a Yeti cooler every night with the pre-mixed formula bottles. Kid No. 2 is on the way, and now I’m thinking maybe we need to invest in a minifridge…

  9. Lindsay says:

    This is a tough crowd! Maybe years of working as a barista formed some of her opinions or she is a hipster coffee snob or maybe she just likes shaking up an interview and if nothing else it’s still something that left you thinking. I always enjoy throwing in a soft ball question, partly to see how people respond and see where it might take the conversation.

    I’m a daily coffee drinker; heavy whipping cream if I’m at home and it’s my weekday coffee and usually black if it’s my weekend coffee. I use the more specialized roasts ($$$) on the weekend when I have time to really enjoy it. I always taste my coffee first if I’m eating out, depending on the quality I’ll soften it a bit with creamer. I’m not a coffee or brand snob, I love a good Costco roast but I live in the Pacific Northwest and have access to really great coffee. I’m definitely a creature of habit, make a point to enjoy the simple pleasures in my day and I am super budget conscious but don’t mind spending on the things I enjoy and can enjoy with my community

  10. SC says:

    I agree that it’s a ridiculous question, and predicts nothing about what kind of a worker you are. What the actual eff, really.

    That said, I generally prefer my coffee with flavored creamer — french vanilla hits the spot right now. Adds a bit of sweetness. Maybe that means I’ve got a bitter side that needs to be sweetened a little?

  11. TheLOOP says:

    I hate hiring managers who are focused on asking “cool” questions rather than trying to actually get to know the candidate. I witnessed a colleague do that in a group interview 15 years ago and swore that I would never be such a hiring manager.

    • Shannon says:

      I once had an interviewer ask me to estimate how many gas stations there were in the United States, without using a phone or the Internet. I BSed something about my hometown having ten gas stations and 50,000 people, and doing a ratio.

      But hey, it’s better than my friend who was asked what sort of animal she would be. Like, obviously we otter all be otters.

      • Jessica says:

        I once had an interviewer ask me how many tennis balls I thought would fit into a limo. Once I replied she said “Ok, I just thought that was a fun question and always wanted to ask it.”

        • Nina says:

          I did observe an interview that included the animal question, but also asked why. One applicant said something like a cat or sloth or whatever, so she could “do nothing all day and sleep.” It did seem an odd response during an interview when you’re supposed to be selling your work ethic.

        • Kay says:

          Both Jessica and Shannon’s interview questions seem like process questions to me that the interview didn’t understand. I used to do interviews a lot for a big consulting firm. We had standard questions that were a bit off but had a reasoning behind them.

          For example, in the case of the Jessica’s question I would rephrase it to say “How would you go about calculating how many tennis balls fit inside a limo?” What I am looking for is anything from, I would hire a mathematician to I could get a limo and try to fill it with tennis balls. I am looking to understand how the candidate solves problems, especially ones that are foreign.

          All that to say though, sounds like the interviewer read the question somewhere and didn’t realize the intent behind a question like that.

  12. Leigh says:

    I take mine with soy milk because I’m lactose intolerant, and in a mug because apparently you’re not supposed to take coffee by IV. I’m not sure what either of those facts would tell an interviewer.

    Also, I appreciate the bleak sort of humor in following a quote about hustling with “5 Signs You’re Too Stressed at Work.”

  13. Portia says:

    I’m a tea drinker, so I only have coffee maybe three times a year. Usually as an affogato, preferably with some liqueur thrown in. I think this means I have indulgent tastes and secretly wish I was Italian.

  14. Sarah says:

    I laughed so hard at the coffee story… years ago, Had a client who was just impossible. When I offered to bring coffee to one of our meetings, she told me that she would have to come with me. Her order was insane. She had an exact temperature it needed to be at, an exact amount of space between the coffee and the lid and she wanted 1/4 of a sugar and 1/3 of a dairy. Her order was like her, complicated for no reason, almost impossible to satisfy and the way she ordered it with the barista was exactly the way she treated people all around her.

  15. Rachel says:

    I take my coffee with some almond milk, or whatever milk is availble.

    It tells me absolutely nothing about myself.

    But an interview question like that tells me I would not want to work for a person who asks that sort of nonsense question.

  16. Aar1 says:

    Just to give some benefit of the doubt? Maybe how you deliver your answer could be insightful? Like if you’re cocky about drinking it black and strong, or if you laugh saying it’s basically a milkshake, those could help you learn about a person

  17. GABBY TABBY says:

    Perhaps I’m paranoid, but to me the coffee question sounds like it could be used to uncover food issues like allergies and special diets.I had a boss who believed food allergies were made up. She believed my inability to eat pizza was antisocial and attention-seeking. (I left that company, obvs.)

  18. MOnica T says:

    A variable of the coffee question is the “what kind of beer do you drink?” question, which when asking a female applicant in a male-dominated industry…I was kind of like, is this a test I can’t pass? But I didn’t miss a beat and answered “Wine.”. I got the job.

  19. Allison says:

    Oh, I find that question funny because I am the only person I work with who even drinks coffee. Everyone else is a diet soda drinker. But, I take my coffee not too hot, and with half and half (the worse the coffee, the more half gets added).

  20. I don’t drink coffee, either. The bonus is I don’t need chemicals to ‘wake up’ and it also tastes bad. Never started drinking it. I don’t like beer, either. The downside – I couldn’t drink the tea in London because it was too much caffeine.

  21. Melissa says:

    Black and without pointless interview questions that have nothing to do with how you would be able to do the job.

  22. Kristen says:

    As someone who has a chronic illness that caffeine exacerbates, I would feel deeply uncomfortable answering that question. My answer would be identical to yours because, sometimes, yes, I roll the dice and get coffee (maybe 2x a year). But then to be told it speaks to my “personality”? No. My answer speaks to my concern and regard for my health and wellbeing. But thanks for judging me on something completely out of my control and also probably violating a whole host of HR policies. Good interview question. (Not.)

  23. Cynthia says:

    I call a big BS on that!!!! Run from that interview! What a nut case!

  24. Jill says:

    Agree with others that the coffee question might have been intended as a conversation starter, a way to put the interviewee at ease. My office is full of glass, and I’ve seen nervous-looking interviewees sitting in conference rooms. I’d probably try a fun question to put them at ease. Hope it wasn’t intended seriously. Obsessed with cold brew coffee lately. Sometimes I make my own, sometimes use cold brew packets (like giant tea bags). Favorite though is a big carton for $4.99 from Aldi. A big serving of that in a Tervis tumbler straight from the freezer with a squirt of chocolate syrup and skim milk gets me out of bed in the morning (slight exaggeration, not a morning person :).

  25. Jen says:

    Oat milk latte. No clue what that says about me, haha! I will say that I do like to know my teams’ coffee orders so I can surprise them at the end of a long week.

  26. RAl says:

    Great quote (and love your blog!) – needed the lift – thanks!

    “Just hustle so much that they can’t not give it to you.” — Rob Nelson

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