Random Rants Thursday – Are we living in a ‘can’t say no’ culture

Do we live in a society/culture where saying ‘no’ or ‘I can’t’ is perceived as a bad thing? Bad to the person to whom you are saying no and/or bad because you feel bad for saying no? Has it always been like this, or did I miss a memo?

A few recent experiences

Job Hunting:

While most of my efforts in securing a job have been through networking, I am applying to some jobs via LinkedIn or a company’s website. Because I hate wasting time on things that will not pan out, I carefully read a job’s description and ensure that I have about 90% of the required qualifications and most of the preferred qualifications before submitting an application. You do not understand how frustrating it is when an interviewer is like “but you do not have experience in X, Y, and/or Z”.

A couple of reasons for my frustration:

  1. X, Y, and/or Z were not mentioned in the job description.
  2. You read my resume and saw that I did not have experience in X, Y, or Z. Why even invite me to interview if I do not have the experience that you all of a sudden need AND was not mentioned in the job description?

To me, this seems like a complete waste of time for everyone involved – the interviewer, the hiring manager, and other folks participating in the interview (e.g., team members, senior management, etc.). While this is not a problem for the hiring company, it is tough to sneak around and do these interviews during your current 9-to-5 job.

Reason for this rant: Recently I interviewed at a pharma company and had to deal with this back-and-forth BS. My experience with this company:

  • Interview 1: Screening conversation with HR (eg salary considerations, work authorization, information about the next steps).
  • Interview 2: One-on-one interview with the person who would be my boss.
  • Interview 3 (over three days): Give a 60-min presentation and speak with 23 folks.
  • Interview 4: Follow-up interview with the person from Interview 2.

During Interview 4 is when this “oh we need someone with more experience in blah, blah, blah” started to come into play. C’mon! Do you mean to tell me that the major expectations of the job have drastically changed within 1.5 WEEKS (Interview 2 – 4)? If that was the case, then maybe a new job listing should have been posted to inform applicants about these changes BEFORE they interviewed. The funny thing, the person could not give any concrete examples of the new expectations and qualifications for the role.

Long story short: I think the company (or more specifically the team director) had no idea what they were looking for. It reminds me of going to the kitchen to get something to eat when you are not hungry so you try a little bit of everything. Even after speaking with individuals from the team (and looking up their LinkedIn profiles), I did not see many skills and qualifications that they had and I did not. To be perfectly honest, I think that I had more experience in project management and building relationships than several of the recently hired team members. Ok, I have not worked in biomed for a few years, but I’m quite sure I could relearn many of the concepts in immuno-oncology (hell, I have a freakin doctorate in molecular oncology and immunology). Perhaps, I was overqualified for the role or too old. As someone who constantly self-deprecates himself frequently, let me give my ego a slight boost. πŸ˜‰

Maybe the person was trying to spare my feelings by not telling me that they were not going to move forward with my application . . . without actually saying that. According to my application portal, I’m still “under consideration” for the position. I get that you want the right person for the role, but do not pull a bait & switch and make it seem like I applied to a job for which I’m unqualified.

While this was a rant, I will say that I did appreciate that the company does all the salary conversations during Interview 1.

Hanging out:

At this point in my life, I pretty much consider “maybe” as a no when making plans with other folks. If someone over the age of 30 says maybe I’ll come, that means they are not coming . . . at least to me. πŸ˜‰ I guess saying maybe instead of no avoids the awkwardness of explaining why you cannot (or do not) want to attend something. Once, I give a friend a flat-out no response about attending a party (note: it was not a mean no). She was like you could have been ‘nicer’, said ‘maybe’, or given it more consideration. Why should I say “maybe” or “say that I’m going to get back to you” (another nice way of saying no) if I’m 100% sure I am not going? Is “maybe” supposed to be the new nice “no”?

I’m type of person who prefers someone giving me a direct no response rather than straddling the fence with a whole bunch of maybes and possibles. Just give a MFer a straight answer. Do not get me wrong, I understand “maybe” and “let me get back to you” responses when folks have a lot of things on their plates.

One more job hunt rant:

Recently, I was referred for a Position X, applied, and received an email from HR scheduling an interview. On a Friday evening at 6:45 pm (for a Monday interview), I received a call saying there was some confusion and that I would be considered for either Position Y or Position Z instead of Position X. I was not too upset because I honestly did not feel super qualified for Position X. Actually, there is a side story regarding Position X.

Because Position X’s job description was so VAGUE, I decided to find folks on LinkedIn who had the same job and set up a chat to learn more about the day-to-day of the role. Around 2 pm on that Friday, I had a chat with a person who was in Position X. Is it a coincidence that HR called me about the confusion on that SAME Friday 4-5 hours after my chat with the person in Position X? I have a feeling that the person to whom I spoke contacted the hiring manager or the team leader/director? Within the first few minutes of our phone call, the person in Position X said it was “interesting” that I received an interview for Position X. To be perfectly honest, I could not get a straight answer out of him about what was the day-to-day of Position X. Maybe I am being paranoid.

Back to interviewing for Position Y or Position Z instead of Position X: I arrive at the interview only to learn that it is more of a chat about working in this particular industry (instead of the company) because the company just hired a bunch of folks for Positions Y and Z. So over the weekend, the place hired a bunch of people for this two roles?!!! Remember that HR sent me the job descriptions for open Positions Y and Z around 6:45 pm on Friday.

Here’s the thing again, instead of wasting our time, why not say we are not hiring at the moment. Ok, so the informal chat was only about 30 minutes, which is not a big deal. I was annoyed because I spent a large chunk of the weekend preparing for the interview. Time that could have been used to pursue other career opportunities or watch 90 Day Fiance. πŸ˜‰ Also, I declined an event over the weekend to prepare for the interview . . . I guess I should have given my friends a maybe response. πŸ˜‰

While some folks might think this response is cold, but this is the PERFECT message for someone like me:

There was no time wasted for both parties aside from me tailoring and sending a resume.

Raising the youth:

I cannot say too much about this because I do not have kids. I have been noticing that parents cannot or do not want to say no to their children. Actually, I can have an opinion about this as a childless individual because I teach undergraduate courses. Many of my students often feel like they are entitled to a grade . . . even when they do not put in the work for the grade. Also, they do not want to take “no” for an answer when they do not receive the grade that they think they should have received. Or, they are shocked when I will not budge in raising a grade. Typical requests:

  • I do not understand why I did not get an A.
  • I came to all of the class meetings so I should get at least a C.
  • What is the problem with bumping me from a D to a C+ or a B-? It’s only 15+ points.

Honestly, why can’t people just say no when necessary?!!!!

Question(s) for the Day?

-How do you deal with indirectness (eg maybe responses)?

-Do you think society is moving to a point where we are too nice at the expense of reducing directness, avoiding conflict, and/or not being seen as the bad guy/gal?

Social Media Plug:


  1. as a guy that used to do the hiring, I know the frustration at both ends. If you smoke, should you be applying at a place that sells running shoes and promotes a healthy lifestyle. I was always someone that hired not based on need but on who applied, if they were a perfect fit I would find room, too many times I turned down people that were perfect, and when I needed them, no longer available…..but yeah, and seriously a lot of times you don’t what you’ve got until they start working and interacting with customers and other staff, and then you find out they aren’t a good fit……and yes kids, omg, is it a culture now? I live near a school and kids are just rude, not all, and I don’t remember being like that, but talking to teachers, and life after COVID has been awful for them…..kids, their parents……and seeing the intolerance among kids now is worrisome, I thought my generation would eliminate that, but it’s back?…okay now I’m ranting


  2. So many thoughts on your post! For starters, I work in recruiting for a large company and both your candidate experiences are appalling! Especially after a 60 min presentation and 3rd and 4th interview? I agree it sounds like they are just coming up with and excuse that the job changed rather than just say no. Calling Friday for an interview Monday, also a no. I’m sorry this happened to you, i would be very annoyed. Regarding saying no, I do it all the time. Perhaps people are turned off? I tell the kids, coworkers, friends, family, whomever. πŸ™‚ I’m sure you grade your students accordingly, but i do have issue with teachers who give high praise all semester, my kid has an A and then on the final project (after multiple check ins with high praise) give a B and drop my kid down to a B+ by 0.02 tenths of a point. (89.48 when 89.5 is an A-) i may need a whole blog post for that one, as it is super annoying. Anywho, keep saying no. Why waste time?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Geez, how much was that final project worth? πŸ˜‰ If someone is right at that 89% mark, I probably would bump them up to an A if they have had a decent performance in the course.

      To make it worse with the first place, they keep stringing me a long saying we are going to make a decision next week or we are just lining up a couple more interviews. At this point, I’m probably way down on their list. Why not say something like although we have not settled on a candidate just yet, we have decided to go in another direction or something similar in HRese? Oh, I forgot to mention this in my original post, but my interviews were held in the middle of April.


  3. I prefer directness as well and severely dislike when people beat around the bush instead of just being honest about their intentions. If I invite you and you don’t wanna come, just say no thank you. If you don’t like something I’m cooking, say so. If an activity or movie I recommend is not up your alley be honest about it. As a person with chronic illness I have had to learn to be very direct with people. I never say maybe if I sincerely want to go. What I say is I will be there if my health cooperates and am able to. And if I can’t show up I always send an explanatory text and apologize. And if I knew all my heart I don’t wanna do something or go somewhere, I just say so upfront. Thanks for thinking of me but I’ll pass.

    I just can’t launch into a tirade about hiring practices as someone who is both experienced horrible interviews and run around, and someone who has interviewed people who had no interest or ability in the job I was hiring for. I have a very different experience because I I am a civil servant, but a lot of your points and issues hit home for me. Sorry you have to go through this whole process. Just another reason why I can’t wait to retire and get out of this ridiculous rat race.


  4. So sorry to hear you’re getting a run around with job interviews. As a “low level professional” (I don’t know what else to call myself, I need some skills for my job but didn’t require my college degree and I’m not salaried) I would’ve expected the process to be better for more professional positions but I guess not!

    I think “maybe” responses are the most frustrating when you’re trying to get an accurate head count for an event. I thought Facebook was supposed to make party planning easier than mailing out invites but when I used to have it and post for cookouts the number of “Maybes” was ridiculous. I understand maybe people responded initially and had to check their calendars later, but I was always having to re-post and try to track people down to know if they were coming or not.

    I’m fortunate in that the kids I coach are great and no entitlement issues there; they know if they want to run faster and earn medals they have to work for it. That said, my department at work is dealing with a bunch of people who came from another company who seem to question every single policy we have and fight us on it. My supervisor had a huge vent session over it and said she doesn’t know what their end game is. It honestly sounds like they need to just go into business for themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the process is difficult/annoying at all levels. One example, when I finished graduate school, most entry-level medical writer positions only asked for a PhD and maybe 1-2 publications. Now, most of the positions want at least 2-4 years agency experience. Like how are you supposed to get all of this experience during your graduate studies? It always circles back to needing experience in X, Y, and Z, but it’s tough to get those opportunities if no one will provide those opportunities.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Job hunting sucks. But I thought there were a ton of jobs out there?
    When you can’t get a direct answer, I guess asking several times until you get an answer helps.
    I’m famous for circling back during a conversation if my opening question still hasn’t been answered or needs some clarification.
    My wife is a teacher and give’s no mercy to the entitled. She’s an equal opportunity ball buster!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Part of my struggle with job hunting is that I’m making a career transition (higher education -> pharma). I would like to return to my biomedical roots (I have a doctorate in molecular oncology & immunology), but it’s proving to be super difficult because I have been out of the industry for about 4.5 years. I like your advice about circling back multiple times regarding getting an answer. I’m kind of bad with that bc I’m not a fan of going back and forth a bunch of times.


      • That is a tough move. In the Boston area biotech companies are everywhere and they can’t find enough people. There must be a lot in NYC also? I’m sure you don’t want to move to Boston though. Middlesex Cty, NJ keeps advertising here about all of their opportunities. We don’t plan on moving to new jersey though.


      • Yup, Boston is like the Mecca for biotech/pharma. Unfortunately, I’m moving to Virginia (primarily because of a family situation) not too many biotech companies there.

        To be honest, I think many places cannot find enough people because they set their expectations really high. A lot of places want folks who can hit the ground running and there is limited bandwidth to train people. However, if a job is open for more than 6 mths clearly an employer should lower some of the barriers to entry.

        LOL speaking of high expectations: When I was job hunting towards the end of my postdoc (~2016), I saw one listing that asked for 10+ years of experience using CRISPR/CAS9 technology. Ummm. While the technique was developed in the early 90s, most laboratories were not routinely using it for gene editing until the mid 2010s. A couple of things: 1. Maybe the 10+ yrs was a typo. 2. Maybe they already had a person in mind for the position but had to post it to stay in compliance with the EEOA.


  6. I so understand the frustration with people unable to say β€œno thanks” to an invitation. I asked the question, and it really helps to get an honest answer, so I can move forward with the planning! Also agree with the grading issues, and those interviewing tactics may give an insight into how performance reviews are handled as well…

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL regarding performance reviews. I once had a supervisor who was like I do not like to give top scores because I want my direct reports to work towards a better performance for the next period. This confused me because I’m like if you think that I did exceptional work, then mark the exceptional box. However, I do know that some supervisors/HR teams do not like a lot of exceptional marks because the employee might request a higher salary and/or a promotion during the next review season.


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