Job interviews and "the Man upstairs"

My wife recently filled in for a week as an assistant/secretary etc. at an office where we know several people, including the top dog, who is some kind of regional manager-type for the company. This fellow was conducting an interview with an applicant one day, and as they were making their way to the exit and the end of the interview the applicant still seemed undecided. So the manager asked him, “So do you talk to the man upstairs?” My wife knew what the guy was really asking, but the applicant was clueless for a brief period, and then kind of exclaimed "Upstairs? Oh, you mean God! Um, uh well, … " “Well, you just talk to him and see if this is the right place for you.” I’m paraphrasing my wife’s version here, of course.

To me, that would be an instant signal that the job was not meant for me, or vice versa. And that is exactly what the question was for. This guy doesn’t want people working there who don’t believe in God. knowing this fella, I would make a much stronger statement about what kind beliefs he wants the people who work there to have, but my wife is more forgiving than me about these things.

My question is, it seems that the question dances very close to if not over the line of what is allowable in an interview. A person’s religious beliefs have absolutely no bearing on the kind of work done at this place. And I think that the manager has phrased it on purpose to seem harmless and encouraging or something.

Does it seem that way to you?

Sounds like he needs a talkin’ to from the HR person upstairs.

“So do you talk to the man upstairs?”
“Yes, and he told me to watch my back around you.”

“Oh, Bob in Accounting? Yeah! Cool guy! You’d think he’s really conservative, but when he gets a few drinks in him…well, let’s just say: I’ve never seen someone injest so much seamen in my entire life! It’s amazing he didn’t have to get his stomach pumped!”

I recently had someone ask me (not really in a job interview, but still in a professional context) “What church do you go to?” Geez, why don’t you just ask if I am a Christian? :dubious:

As to the OP, I think it was a bad idea. I suspect his motives were what you think, but you can’t prove that he wasn’t just saying what he would do.

I wonder if it would have been effective to have trumped his holiness.

“So do you talk to the man upstairs?”
“Are you asking if I talk to God?”
“Well, yes”
“God isn’t a mortal man and he doesn’t live upstairs. He’s the Supreme Being and he’s everywhere, including here in the room with us right now.”
“Of course he is! That’s what I meant!”
“I’m not sure I want to work for somebody whose faith is so weak.”

No. And I’m an atheist. It just sounds like the same bullshit advice and platitudes that I hear from Christians all the time.

For example: I am looking for a job right now, and living with my parents sometimes while I do it. I was talking to Mom’s cleaning ladies one day, since I’m home when they’re there, and explained my situation. I made a joke about being a directionless bum.

Their reply was, “God doesn’t make junk! Just listen to Him and He’ll tell you what to do!” And I know they know we aren’t religious people.

I really think most of them don’t think about the law when they do it. It’s just second nature.

Another example: my last job was at a law firm that was traditionally Jewish, and over 50% of the lawyers are still Jewish. Strangely, about 100% of the secretaries are fundamentalist Christians. One of them started sending out really offensive glurge to everyone in the firm–real fire and brimstone, accept Jesus or burn in hell kind of stuff. Not only is this highly offensive, but it’s also against firm policy to be using company resources to promote religion. When confronted, she said the rules just never occurred to her. All she was thinking about was sharing the Good News.

I should add that most Christians I know don’t do this and would never violate the rules like that. But I’ve met a healthy minority of them that just don’t think about the rules, the law, or even common courtesy before they speak.

Jeez, even a mild-mannered girl like Mary Richards knew 35 years ago how to reply to that!

Several of the employee of this office are quite close, and socialize after hours, go on vacation together etc. There was more than one picture of the Virgin Mary (the one with glowing heart?) on an office wall, but nothing like that in the common areas. And every time I’ve been there Fox News is on in the TV in the conference room. So perhaps such a presumptuous question is not that surprising.

But she had spunk.

Of course, Mr Grant hated spunk.

Yes. It is as inappropriate as asking marital status, how many kids you have, and sexual orientation. The correct response is pretty much nailed by Mary Richards; “What an inappropriate question!”

On the other hand, I would be grateful for the tip-off that this isn’t a company/boss I would want to work for, not being good Christian folk myself.

Oh yes, all of these questions are inappropriate and illegal. But when they get asked, often it’s just because the person is an idiot with a harmless purpose.

When I got interviewed at law firms, I was often asked if I was married. By lawyers, who definitely know better. I would usually reply with a teasing, “I thought you weren’t allowed to ask that!” and then I’d ask why they wanted to know. Usually, they were highly embarrassed. They weren’t thinking about trying to weed out singles. They were just wondering if I was interested in moving to X town because my spouse was from there, or if I needed to be told about benefits and events that applied to spouses.

Similarly, at some traditionally Jewish law firms, I was asked if I was Jewish. All of them had a majority of non-Jewish lawyers, so they were certainly not looking to weed out non-Jewish applicants. But again, they were often just curious if that was what attracted me to the firm, and I have a very non-Jewish last name, but that doesn’t always mean you’re not Jewish, so they were wondering.

This guy didn’t even ask an illegal question. He just made a religiously-motivated comment. It’s a totally ineffective way of weeding out non-Christian applicants, at least on his end. I doubt that one in 100 people would volunteer, “Well, gosh, you know, I’m a non-believer” to that. And even I wouldn’t take it to mean, “Don’t bother taking the job if you’re not Christian.” It’s just religiously-based advice that doesn’t mean anything re: the job. IMHO, that is.

I’m not sure this would be a company/boss I’d want to work for, either, and I am good Christian folk myself, or at least I can pass for one in bad lighting. I think I would have reacted with the same clueless surprise the applicant did. What happened next would depend on my mood. I like Little Nemo’s response about God being everywhere (I might also throw in something about how God is hardly a man); DiosaBellissima also had a good one. I think in reality my response would be a slightly chilly “Thank you very much. I’ll give that due consideration.” On my drive home, I would ask God what would possess the man to make such a silly remark.

Is it just me or does this sequence, “So do you talk to the man upstairs? . . . Well, you just talk to him and see if this is the right place for you,” come across as
slightly patronizing? In reality, I have prayed about finding the right place (in addition to sending out tons of resumes and doing research), but I don’t like the implication that I don’t know my own mind. Then again, I may be rather touchy.


Somehow I missed that the first part of the comment was a question. D’oh! Not that it changes my response any.

Yeah, I’ve had that experience, too, when the interviewer asked an illegal question out of basically making conversation. It’s still not a good idea for them to do that - I could be litigious!

Actually, it would be pretty effective at weeding me out, if he really wanted me to work there (and who wouldn’t? I’m a great worker, when I’m not surfing. :smiley: )

On reflection, I bet the intent was to signal to the applicant the type of envorinment and people he’s to be working with. “We’re all believers here.” And I would take that as a signal that the job/company was not for me. For some, I’m sure it would be an attraction, until they realized they were all devout, “old timey” Papists, I mean, Catholics.

I’d take it as a fair warning that the job wasn’t for me. The last thing I would want would be for someone to be making comments like that all the time. I only have to put up with my brother-in-law one week a year, I couldn’t imagine working with him.

It sounds to me like this was a very sneaky and deliberate ploy. He pulls in a jokey question as you’re leaving, in the pretense it’s not really serious, and not really part of the interview. Caught unwares, you answer it. You might call it the Columbo Method of questioning :slight_smile:

That way he thinks he’s covered if called on it. I doubt the law would see it that way though.