Receiving a job offer is usually something to celebrate. But this was different for 22-year-old graduate Olivia Bland, when she was offered the job of Communications Assistant at Manchester-based travel software company Web Applications UK, it was anything but an humiliation!
After a distressing interview experience with the company’s CEO, Craig Dean, Olivia decided to reject the job – and boldly detailed the reasons why in a letter that has since gone viral on Twitter.
Posting on the social network, Olivia wrote: “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.”
Olivia’s powerful letter, in which she described Craig as “a man who tries his best to intimidate and assert power over a young woman”, has been liked more than 37,000 times and retweeted over 8,000 times, proving just how much her bravery has resounded with people. The CEO has since posted an apology on Twitter.
Speaking to Cosmopolitan UK about the interview – which was her second with the company and was for a job she had “high hopes” of getting – Olivia detailed how she felt uncomfortable from the start.
“I went into the interview room and [Craig] didn’t stand up to shake my hand for a really long time. He was on his phone, and told me he was just looking through Spotify for a second.”
According to Olivia, the CEO proceeded to list various bands and song names that sounded familiar to her. “He mentioned The 1975 and I said, ‘They were in Manchester last week, I’m not really a big fan but some of my friends went’, and he said, ‘Well you must be somewhat of a fan because it’s on your playlist’.
“I realised he was looking through my Spotify playlists. It was very bizarre,” Olivia tells Cosmopolitan UK.
The interview then began properly with Craig reportedly asking Olivia personal questions like ‘are your parents still together?’. “I didn’t see why that was important or relevant,” she says.
During the interview, Olivia claims her potential future boss looked through her CV and said: “You’re an underachiever.”
“I’ve only just graduated, I graduated with a first class degree,” she notes.
Olivia felt the manager “was trying to crack me, but I held it together really well until he pulled up the test that I’d done in the interview the week before.”
Olivia had been tasked with a proofreading exercise and a written exercise, which the CEO addressed in the interview. “He read it line by line and told me everything that was wrong with every single line.”
At first, the graduate took it as constructive criticism. But when Craig apparently began saying things like, ‘What I’ve just said now off the top of my head is so much better than what you’ve spent 45 minutes writing’, she says it felt like unnecessary degradation, and she began to tear up.
“It was so uncomfortable. He’d brought two other girls into the interview room with him just to watch. It was so humiliating because they weren’t asking any questions, they were just there to watch me being embarrassed.”
At the end of the interview – after reportedly giving Olivia the advice that she should “keep it together in a professional interview environment” because he’d noticed she was getting emotional – the candidate claims the CEO told her his ‘cruel to be kind’ approach would actually do her a favour in the long run.
“One of the things he said to me was,’You’re going to think that I’m an arrogant prick, but I’m not. I’m actually being very kind to you by teaching you things that you need to know about yourself’,” Olivia tells Cosmopolitan UK.
When she left the company’s offices, Olivia burst into tears.
“I felt like I wasn’t good enough. I felt like, what was I doing applying for these jobs? Maybe I should just do something simpler.”
So she was surprised when, a short time later, Web Applications UK’s office assistant (who is also Craig’s wife) rang Olivia to offer her the job. The graduate accepted it verbally – “I didn’t think I could say no,” she explains – but when she woke up the next day Olivia knew it would be a mistake to take the job.
So she rejected it. But instead of making up excuses about ‘a change of circumstances’ or ‘another role’ like many would do, Olivia decided to be completely transparent about the reasons behind her decision.
“I’m tired of taking rubbish from people, especially men who think they have this kind of authority over people, and who like to make people feel small,” she explains.
Having just moved back home to Manchester from the south coast, where she endured an abusive relationship, enough was enough for the 22-year-old
“I had too long of it on a personal level, I don’t want to go through that on a professional level – and I don’t think it’s something that we should let slide anymore. I just thought I’d rather be honest with them and maybe they can learn from it,” Olivia says.
Initially, she wasn’t going to tweet about her empowering letter, but the more she thought about it, the more Olivia realised that if she had experienced something like this – so many others must have, too.
“I didn’t want to stay quiet about it. I wanted to make the public point that it’s okay to say no. You don’t have have to take an opportunity if you feel uncomfortable about it.
“Obviously I’m in a very lucky position where I can say no, because I know that not everyone can turn down a job. But you don’t have to work for people – or be with people – who abuse their positions of power.”
After Olivia’s post received so much traction on Twitter, Craig Dean posted a statement in which he apologised for the “hurt” that had been caused, insisting it was “never [his] intent”.
I am so sorry that anyone has been hurt, it is never my intent. I have sat watching the messages pouring in all night and humbly submit this sleep-deprived and anxiety-driven message:
pic.twitter.com/8fb0njtzYF– Craig Dean
(@UncleThargy) January 30, 2019
The CEO’s statement read thus:
“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 fo 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.”
Olivia, meanwhile, has received an influx of responses from people who have had similar experiences in interviews. She’s also been contacted about numerous other roles she could apply for, which the job-seeking graduate says could be the “silver lining” she takes from the ordeal.
“I’ve had so many women saying to me, ‘I wish I had the power or the strength to do this’,” Olivia tells Cosmopolitan UK. “I think it’s about time they realise that they can have the power and the strength to do those things.
“It’s important for people to say when something’s not right, because everyone has stayed quiet for too long.”
Cosmopolitan UK has reached out to Web Applications UK for comment in relation to this article.