Inc has asked me to write an article about things NOT to say in a job interview. I thought stories would be more fun than a list. Have you ever thoroughly embarrassed yourself in a job interview? Or interviewed someone who embarrassed himself? Send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or write a comment.
100 thoughts on “Wanted: Your embarrassing interview stories”
At my last job, my boss & I once interviewed someone for a horticultural technician job & my boss had asked her what her hobbies were. She said that she practiced interpretive dance & proceeded to get up from her chair & dance around my boss’ office! We were pretty embarrassed for her. Needless to say, she was not hired!
“Needless to say”? Sounds pretty awesome to me.
I also think that’s awesome! I’m assuming that she knows that people think it’s embarrassing, but I think it’s great that she was confident enough to go for it anyway.
I think the boss should be embarrassed for asking that question!
Honestly though! I like to be candid in interviews, but I also don’t want to answer any question in an interview with “eating burritos, playing slots on my phone, and reading about exercise while lounging in bed in sweats”. It’s not relevant, so why ask it?
I once interviewed a candidate who was new to our area. I asked if she was familiar with an educational site downtown, to which she replied, “oh yeah, it’s by all of those bars! I’ve done that drunk walk a TON of times!” I was speechless.
I interviewed for a Disability Compliance Specialist position, and in preparation for the interview, discovered a website on the topic created by the interviewer. I made a point during the interview of volunteering that I was a fan of the website and had previously used it several times. Later, I learned that the site had just been put up. Needless to say, I did not get the job.
I had an interviewer ask about my education including my kindergarten experience. It was just plain weird.
I interviewed with a physician’s office. The physician asked me if I intended to have any more children.
Ughh. A perfect example of how interviews are an opportunity for candidates to evaluate the employer as well.
I have been asked “how many more years do you plan to work?”
As a reader from Germany, I am not sure what is so crazy about asking such a question. Can someone explain?
It’s illegal to ask someone if they plan to have more children. It’s protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act
I interviewed someone one snowy February morning last year. Out of 5 scheduled interviews that morning, this person was the only one who didn’t cancel due to weather. She was a couple of minutes late, though, so I made my way up front to ask if our receptionist had heard from her. The front wall of our building (including the door) was all glass, so it was easy to see a woman hurrying through the heavy snow towards our front door, resume folder in hand. The only problem? She didn’t see the glass through all the snow and ran into it full speed. She was a total pro, though. Even though she was obviously flustered, she laughed it off and aced her interview. She got the job.
Not so much what NOT to say… but I was impressed she was able to remain so professional throughout the interview.
During an interview the applicant volunteered that she had moved to the area to take care of her father. After the interview was over and she was on her way out the door, I asked her how much longer she intended to work? Stupid…Stupid. Needless to say, her son called my boss and told her about my blunder. Learned from that mistake. And Oh, yeah we hired her…
One other time I was interviewing an applicant after lunch and it was really warm in my office and I actually closed my eyes during the interview. The applicant asked if I was alright!?! How embarrassing!!
In my previous life I was a full time corporate recruiter for a decent sized company. This of course meant multiple interviews every day, but even out of all of those interviews there is one that I will probably never forget. It was a pretty classic case of over sharing on the applicant’s part. I was conducting a phone interview with a potential field tech applicant and had gotten to the part where I had to delve in to why he was fired from his last position (reason he listed for no longer working there). He then went in to a story that could have been from a tv show.
Apparently, his boss’s son was living in the applicant’s basement (I have no idea why) and started to have an affair with the applicant’s wife. Because of this the applicant was getting a divorce from his wife. The applicant said that during all of this the other employees at the company were taking his side and getting mad at the boss for what his son had done. So the boss (who was also the owner of the company) fired the applicant. (I guess to make the other employees like him again?)
I don’t know if this was embarrassing for the applicant, but I was unbelievably thankful that this was a phone interview because I am almost positive I was embarrassed enough for both of us. After this very awkward over share, I finished up the interview and closed his application (there were some other reasons for passing, but this kind of pushed it over). Now this has become one of my go to examples when explaining what is acceptable to share and what is not during interviews. I’ll never understand why he wouldn’t just say he was let go due to personal reasons between him and his former boss. Maybe the interviewer might try to dig in to that a bit more, but you still don’t need to put your whole drama filled life story out there. There is a time and a place, an interviewer is not your bartender.
I have a similar story, but it was done on paper.
We have this terrible skills aptitude test that we give out for financial positions (it was created by the hiring manager and I nixed it as soon as I got the chance). The last question of the booklet is “Why should we hire you?” One applicant went into detail about how her husband had committed suicide in the last year and she really, really wants a job to take her mind off everything.
I felt terrible but…. 0 points out of 5 on that one.
I was once interviewing an applicant for an accounting position. I asked what the applicant did regarding loss prevention and theft, and she said, “I don’t know, I just feel like people are basically honest, you know?”
Next candidate, please.
I recently received my professional degree, but I am also a seamstress. It’s a fun topic of interview conversation when they ask about hobbies because I am usually wearing a blouse or skirt or suit I have made. However, I got into it because of costuming, cosplay, and anime and comic cons. I don’t mind couching my reason for getting into sewing in terms of a costume (people assume I mean Halloween, I don’t specify) because they understand it was a long time ago, almost eight years.
I had an interview with a firm that I really enjoyed until the interviewer really kept pushing me on the seeing and comics thing. He asked if I had been to comic con, and without thinking I blurted “Which one?” I have been to dozens. He seemed entertained and said that was interesting information he wanted from someone when asking about hobbies, but I was mortified. I’m not embarrassed about my costumes our cosplay, but people in my field tend to dial down on uniqueness that is too far out of the box. I will share it with people in moderation after I get the job when it seems appropriate, but it honestly isn’t something I like to advertise.
I didn’t get the job, even though we developed great rapport and I had a good feeling about them. I don’t know if comic con is why, but I would not be surprised if they decided I was a little too weird for them.
Why are interviewers asking about hobbies? Is this common? I’ve never had one do that with me.
I’ve never been asked these questions either. People in my industry are in it for the passion though (it doesn’t pay well, moving up takes yeeeeears, and there are very few jobs) and they’re all similar people: extroverts who love nature and drinking. I don’t have social anxiety, but I’m an introvert who doesn’t drink (migraines). I think they assume a lot about candidates because of who generally does this work, so I think my answer would be quite surprising if I ever actually was asked this question.
I once interviewed for a job as a diversity trainer. “Why do you want the job?” they asked. “Well, I’ve hated every diversity training I’ve ever been to.” I went on to explain why that was relevant but I had already talked myself out of a job.
Boy, that could have been a great intro to an explanation about what you would do/ had done differerently.
FWIW, I’ve only been to one good diversity training. One. That trainer? Awesome.
Oh, please tell us about the good one! I’d love to hear about it. (–Dr. Doll, over here from Ask A Manager)
It was a long time ago. The facilitator was just fantastic, though.
First, English is not my native language, so sorry if I make some mistakes 😀
I was recruiter for both corporate and non-corporate area, but I was also part in recruitment processes while searching for a job. While I was on the side of applicant, I had 2 awful experiences, after each of them I was sure I don’t want to work for that company and that they for sure will not elect me.
First exprience was for a company about which I heard good things , but I also read some comments on websites that actually were not OK. Those recruiters were not prepared at all, they didn’t know what they want to ask me, they were giggling and acting like they didn’t know who should ask me questions and I felt it was so unprofessional. Before that when one of them called me for the interview she was quite bored, she forgot to mention that they will test my business english. When I got out, I said that I don’t want to work for them(they said the answer would be given in 1 week, they gave it in 2 months)
Second one was so old style, she started asking me things from secondary and high-school and why I decided not to go back home(a small town and my current city is one of the biggest in the country where I studied and have more opportunities). I felt like she was telling me: what on earth are you doing here, being somebody from the province? Then she was continously saying that that specific job is awful, that people didn’t resist and that I will not make it. While giving me hypotetical situations, besides the fact she wasn’t clear, when I was saying something she was saying no, it’s not possible (but she wasn’t specific). So I said I wouldn’t return there if they call me.
On the other side, as recruiter, one of the guys I interviewed was so unprofessional, he didn’t know why he was there, he was answering with jokes. A 40 minutes’ interview was done in 10 minutes.
Another one was while interviewing for a NGO. I had some specific requirements that are restrictive because there are rules for the programme. I had a girl that was not in the target and nobody checked those things when they had called her (I was in charge just with the interview and somebody else checked the CV). I felt embarrassed when I cut the interview and she was so mad, she started yelling and said we were unprofessional. I wrote her afterwards an email and it was better but I spoke with the other guys explaining that it was not ok to neglect some aspects)
I interviewed a candidate and the interview went OK, but at the end I ask about his hobbies and he told me he liked going out with friends, travelling and over all he liked fucking !!!! We didnt hire him but now he is also known as “the fucker” 🙂
I was just about to graduate. One of my first interviews (I was really nervous and had no idea what to expect):
Interviewer: Why should we hire you?
Me: Uh… I live like 5 minutes away.
I love that. It’s the perfect reason to hire anyone!
I believe Xerox (don’t hold me to it) did a study and found employees who lived closer stayed longer.
My first ever interview and the individual interviewing me was one of those who asked extremely weird questions. One question in particular: “What is the color of a lemon?” And no, apparently it’s not yellow.
Safe to say that I did not end up working for this company.
In case it ever comes up, what is the right answer??? I’m dying to know. 🙂
That one worked for me once! It was shift work, right after a bad storm. I made it in but they were really understaffed so I played it as “I can snowshoe here if I need to”
An interviewer once asked me whether was a loner. It was too good an opportunity for a one liner. My response was “How much do you want to borrow?” I didn’t get the job. Probably just as well.
Ha ha. I would have hired you 🙂
I am an HR Director. As I led an interviewee through the door of the room where we would talk, he gestured with is arm, bowed his head a bit and said “age before beauty” – then turned flame red
Ooops. I’m sure he was mortified, as he should have been. Stilly, I’m laughing.
I wonder what he would have done if you had responded as Dorothy Parker did once. Someone pulled the “Age before beauty” on her. She sailed through the doorway while saying “Pearls before swine.”
No, not appropriate for an interview, of course…but a great comeback in the right context.
I’ve only had interviewers embarrass themselves in front of me, honestly.
I’ve seen everything from the meltdown from the potential co-worker when I asked about workload issues, the hiring manager who admitted that he hadn’t read my resume, and the screaming jerk who responded to my perfectly intelligent response with a straight-faced “but you’re a city boy, what do you really know anyways!”
These things should make people in the hiring industry embarrassed, but everyone wants to find fault in the job candidate
I guess finding fault on the other side of the table doesn’t sell articles. It’s much better to write another article where the job candidate wore the wrong clothes, said the wrong thing, didn’t say the right thing, couldn’t read your mind, didn’t give you the ‘purple squirrel’ vibe, etc.
As an HR Manager, I sat in on interviews with hiring managers I didn’t care for nor think were very good at the process. I had a couple who were outright racist. The thing was, they were expats to the USA and they hated “Americans.” But I’ve had interviews that I shut down because the hiring manager said something inappropriate or downright embarrassing. If we must place blame, there’s a lot to go around.
There is tons of blame to go around!
Applicants really want to know if they’ve done something wrong. Hiring managers who are really outrageously bad don’t read articles.
Are you nuts? Of course stories from the other side of the table are great. I’d love to do an article with stories about bad interviews from the candidate’s perspective.
My editor has asked for this story, so that’s what I’m working on.
As an HR advisor who has worked with so many terrible/ignorant hiring managers – I have more outlandish stories about the interview panel than about bad candidates!
I was a Trainer at a large manufacturing company, they were planing a large hiring initiative from 2000 employees to 8000. They wanted to train the first level supervisors on how to properly conduct interviews. The training was a two day class and the most asked questions were; why it was that they could no longer ask candidates how many children they had and what type of transportation did they have.
We ended up developing interview guides for all positions in the company, which supervisors to utilize.
My first ever interview for my first ever job was with the children’s librarian who had known me since I was 5 or 6. They were looking for a page, so basic front desk, shelving, etc.
Her: So, can you tell me about any weaknesses you have?
15 year old me: Well, I don’t really like people all that much.
Didn’t get the job, shockingly enough, but I was hired in the adult services department a few weeks later and worked there for 5 years during high school and the first year of college.
My first ever interview was also at a library (15 yrs old), and the octogenarian librarian asked: “why should I hire you?”
Me: “I love books and I love to read and I can read a book in 3 hrs”
Her: “….that’s not going to help me. Do you know how to work a computer?” (1987)
Me: “no but I can figure it out!” Sold. All of the librarians were elderly, very sweet, and hadn’t been able to figure out why the computer wouldn’t turn on–they didn’t realize that the cables were the power cords.
They also very sweetly explained to me why being a good reader was actually not the best response to that question.
This is the best! You helped them and they helped you.
Back in college when I was a shift lead at Pizza hut, a guy came in with a tshirt and jeans for his interview, which was fine by me. The hat kinda pushed it over the edge. That hat said “take this job and shove it up your ass” on it…..he literally went thru the entire job interview wearing it. I’ll never forget that. It clearly was his favorite hat as it was worn often, dirty and sweaty etc….. When he was talking about his work ethic during the interview I about started laughing. I actually turned to the manager after the interview and said “might as well hire him, it’s not like we are interviewing for geniuses here, they just need to put sauce, cheese and pepperoni on a premade crust!”. He wasn’t hired
I briefly worked at Pizza Hut right of college. This was the entire interview:
Him: So I see you have a degree. Why do you want to work at Pizza Hut?
Me: Because I need to pay for grad school.
Him: Fair enough.
I often hear from candidates – when asked “why should we hire you?” – that “the job sounds easy”, “it’s pretty basic stuff” and “I’d have no problems”… While their direct supervisor, who also completes these tasks, is sitting beside me on the panel going red.
I interviewed for the midnight shift as a police dispatcher and was about to be hired – had a great reference and a great rapport with the Lt. who interviewed me. I was the only candidate. At the time, though, I was already working three part-time jobs, and did not want to quit any of them. I was a grad student in need of money! I guess my passive aggressive way of turning down the job was to ask, “Would it be a problem for me to sleep – but just briefly! – during my shift?”
A panel of three interviewed a gentleman for a training position within the organization.
Panel: Do you have any questions for us?
Job Applicant: Yes, if you could be any kitchen utensil, what would you be and why?
Awkward silence follows and applicant waits for an answer.
Panelist A cannot take the silence and pressure, then blurts out: I would be a food processor, because you could use it for so many different things.
Panelist B: I am not answering this question.
Panelist C: Well, I would be a spatula. What would you be?
Job Applicant: I would be a knife! (holds up hand.)
The panelists then realized that the applicant was between them and the door. It was awkward and somewhat creepy. The applicant did not get the job.
Mine isn’t too embarrassing but it was a definite foot-in-mouth moment. It was my first interview since an industry downturn had left me redundant. Officially I’d been redundant for about five months when I was interviewed but in reality there had been little to no work (and therefore no pay) at my former employer for 18 months. In my interview with my current company, they asked me what I had been doing in the last five months and I said, ‘Not much really. Watching Netflix, eating and job hunting.’ Honestly, I *had* actually done those things but it wasn’t a good answer to give! I’d also studied a relevant course online with Stanford Uni and got a Statement of Accomplishment for scoring over 95%, I’d been doing volunteer work, and other things that would have been a waaaaay better answer than the one I gave. I’m glad they still hired me, even if they did think I was lazy!
i was interviewing for a librarian job, and they asked me what book I considered essential for a school library. I blanked – I could not remember the name of a single children’s book! I stammered for awhile, and then thank goodness one of them changed to subject. I addressed it n my thank you letter, attributing it to nerves and ousting many children’s books that I consider important. I ended up getting the job anyway.
Must I just list one? Oh there are a few to choose from. There have been applicants that have applied for driving positions that have shown up, either smelling of alcohol, or stating that their license has been currently suspended, but once they pay the fines to get it back, they’d like the job. Uh, no…
Then there was the young guy who applied and then stole money from his father-in-law (who he told that he got the job here) and then the cops showed up looking for him! And THEN he called and asked if I had made the choice to hire him yet – which I didn’t… but I got his updated contact info (staying with a friend) so I passed it onto the officer.
There was also a guy last summer who was qualified for a sales position, but in the interview he stated that he REALLY wanted a supervisor position (which was not available at the time). I explained this to him and he refused to leave my office until MY manager had a say. My manager was on his lunch break at the time and I could not get rid of this guy. While he was sitting across from me, an employee called my office and described a guy that I had interviewed earlier (same guy) and begged me not to hire him. The guy showed up about 45 minutes early before his interview time, and while waiting, went from staff to staff saying “when I’m your supervisor…”! I hung up the phone and asked him to leave or I would have him escorted out!
My worst and most memorable interview was the transitioning woman-to-man who saw our job ad in a dream, and followed the stars here to apply for it, moving 18 hours away from home! He wanted to bring his ‘pet wolf’ to work with him and was upset when I said no. But I think the deciding factor in it all was when he made a comment how ‘he didn’t like breasts on himself but sure liked them on other women and there sure are ALOT of women that work here!’ He didn’t get the job!
It makes life interesting, I guess!
As far as for my own blunders… I have allergies and sometimes the strangest things in the air set them off and I am a snotty mess. I remember going to a job interview and I started reacting right away. I don’t know if it was perfume or dust or what, but instead of excusing myself and taking an antihistamine, I kept just blowing my nose on the same yucky tissue in my pocket. I’m sure I looked like I had the most contageous headcold from hell. The poor recruiter would watch my hand everytime I would reach for my pocket. I did not get the job and I’m sure he was grossed out. I did not get a final handshake at the end either!
We JUST had a candidate last week who was epic. She had the right experience, but she was sooooo awkward that no one could imagine working with her. She interviewed with 4 people and one of them asked what she liked to do in her spare time, the other asked how she expresses creativity. She replied scrapbooking to both (much more relevant to the first…) Except she then pulls from her bag three large scrapbooks she has put together, and flips through them, carefully showing the interviewer the work. Like she prepared this long speech and brought the books and was clearly anticipating the question and thought her scrapbooking idea was brilliant. Once she left they all stood around for a “debrief” and stared at each other, then burst out laughing. Best of all, the hiring manager IS an avid scrapbooker and she was the most flabbergasted of all of them!
Our recruiter was so embarrassed, but apparently she was fine on the phone screen…
My foot-in-mouth was during an interview for my first internship in college, with a now-defunct tech magazine. One question the editor asked was how I’d respond if a web developer said “We did the back end of this site with ColdFusion.”
At that time there was a software program called “ColdFusion,” but I’d never heard of it. I was so nervous that I mentally blanked and substituted the Cold War-era pop culture context of “cold fusion.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t fall for that,” I said confidently. “If they did anything with cold fusion, they would be too busy trying to take over the world, not talking to me.”
Thankfully, the editor thought this was hilarious, and I recovered by making a joke. Fortunately, I got the internship. Whew!
I had a part time on campus job interview and it was my first ‘serious’ interview I ever had. I was concentrating so hard on answering the right questions that I was completely taken aback when they asked a ‘fun’ question – what character from a movie would you be, and why?
I mentally blanked for several moments. As the silence stretched on, I blurted out ‘the Gladiator from Gladiator. Because he’s awesome.” Imagine a tiny girl in a business suite picturing herself as Maximus, the savior of Rome. It was too awkward at the time but now I can laugh about it. Didn’t get the job but re-applied Junior year and got it (had a much better answer prepared this time!).
Following the advice of many people I left the year of graduation off my résumé. I put it back on after this interview:
Said by the interviewer while she was looking at my fifty-year old face: “Oh my God!? When did you graduate?”
She was clearly expecting a much younger person. And, no, I did not get the job.
I was at an interview for an entry-level journalism job, and the interviewers were making conversation whilst we got settled in. They asked me what I liked to read and I blurted out that I read the Daily Fail (no typo!) “for comedy value”.
I was instantly mortified, but it was too late. I’d had insane nerves and just completely panicked, but it’s one of the worst things I could have said in an interview for a journalism job! I didn’t get the job – in a way it was lucky there were other mistakes I made, so at least it didn’t fall down to just this one error.
Just to add, it’s bad enough to admit to reading that site, but what’s worse is that I came across as sarcastic and a smart ass. I really wasn’t. My brain had turned to alphabet soup and I was just speaking gibberish to stop the nerves from overwhelming me.
You were kind. I call it the Daily Hate!
I interviewed with a couple who travel with a 28 foot trailer around the region, running a pop-up jewelry fundraising store for hospital auxiliaries. We agreed to meet at McDonald’s since I felt it wouldn’t be appropriate to go to one another’s home. During the interview several McDonald’s customers sat at booths near us, and were clearly listening in to the interview. One customer was whispering things under her breath in response to my answers to the interview questions. I couldn’t figure out exactly what she was saying, but it did not sound good and she was kind of a little crazy sounding. It was a serious distraction. Another customer introduced herself to my potential employers after she overheard our interview was complete, and asked them to interview her as well. (They declined, and hired me, but it turned out to be much too physically demanding and so it was just a summer gig to get me by on my real job search).
Lesson: If you must interview in public, find a quieter location with more respectful patrons! (We don’t have coffee shops here.)
I’m in HR, so I’ve had a lot of interesting interviews. This is my favorite. Years ago, back when people were just starting to focus on “culture”, I asked an applicant what kind of company culture she worked best in. She said “culture?…. American. ” I just smiled and rephrased the question.
I was interviewing a technical candidate one time and partway through the interview I asked him to describe a time he had faced and satisfactorily resolved a particular type of technical challenge. He got a sentence or two into his explanation, paused, and then said: I could try to explain this to you, but you probably wouldn’t understand my answer.
I was the only woman to interview him and none of the men got an answer like this. We didn’t hire him.
I also interviewed a man one time who was talking about the challenges of managing an overseas, distributed team. He was doing fine until he started talking about how it was sometimes hard to understand his Chinese colleagues. He demonstrated the challenge by using his fingers to draw the skin of his eyelids away from the center of his face to make them more slanted and then started speaking in a fake pidgin accent. He also didn’t get hired.
Oh dear. I think on the first candidate, I would have maintained as neutral a face I could have, except for raising my left eyebrow, and asked him to try anyway.
For the second candidate, wow. Something along the lines of, “Are you for real?!”
I had a similar one. I was intervewing with a highly experienced and qualified head of facilities for a buildings engineer. One of her questions was ‘what would you do if I told you I thought I was suffering from sick building syndrome’. Saying ‘joke, joke’ couldn’t really rescue the response of ‘nothing, you’re a woman’.
I was working for a startup company. We’d just hired someone at the director level who had spent most of his career in politics. He referred a political colleague for an open position. This person was cocky, gave non-serious answers to our questions, made bad jokes, and sat back in his chair like he was in someone’s living room. He all but put his feet up on the desk. As we ended the interview, we let him know he didn’t get the job. “Oh, wait, that was a REAL interview? But Joe referred me — I thought the job was mine!”
On the other side of the desk, I once interviewed for an admin position. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was just coming down with a terrible, horrible cold. All I knew was that I was extremely exhausted during the interview and was finding it difficult to concentrate and give meaningful answers, let alone sit up straight in the chair. When it became clear the interviewer was not impressed and was moving on to other candidates, I blurted out, “No, wait, I’m REALLY good at my job! Honest!”
The year I turned 16 I interviewed for a summer receptionist position at an insurance company that was in a large mobile home on a small lot (very common in my area). It was my first interview ever and I felt very uncomfortable – I can’t give specifics as to why, I just didn’t like the man interviewing me. When I left, the current receptionist asked me how it went – I told her that the owner was a ‘weird little man’.
To make matters worse, when I wrote my thank you note, I couldn’t think of anything nice to say about the interview so I mentioned that since the mobile home was a double-wide, business must be very good. *facepalm* Shockingly, I didn’t get the job.
Being in HR myself, I have an absolute TON of funny stories about candidates, but I suppose I should tell one about myself because yes, bad interviews happen to HR people themselves too. When I was right out of college in the 90’s, those Lee Press on nails were all the rage! I had on a nice, professional looking set with a french manicure (I felt very cool) when I went to an interview. During the interview, I was nervous and was picking at that awful glue around the nails… when one of my nails popped right off and hit my interviewer right in the face!! I was mortified. We laughed it off and I apologized but needless to say, I did not get the job!
I used to be a programmer at a university library.
The library was interviewing applicants for a distance librarian position. Since it was a faculty position, the interview process had two parts–1) the candidate meets with administrators and potential colleagues for a traditional interview, and then 2) the candidate presents a lecture on a self-chosen topic on something pertaining to educational technology, and then is graded by the audience.
Because of my (perceived) knowledge of technology, I was asked to attend the presentation and ask questions.
There were about 25 audience members in the room, but the candidate was a recent grad from a prestigious university and a confident speaker. She gave a well-prepared presentation on a certain type of educational software. I didn’t want to be a jerk and ask a bunch of random technical questions, so when it came time for Q & A, I asked something easy instead about the user experience.
Her reply? “Uh…I don’t know. I’ve never used it.” (Followed by several seconds of dead silence.)
I felt terrible for blowing her presentation, but how could she not prepare for a question like that? For a faculty position? I thought she might at least explain and say something like, “Well, the software is $50,000 and my library/university didn’t own it, and they don’t allow trials” …or anything. But no, just silence.
Afterwards, back in my cubicle, I still felt bad and looked up the software on the internet…sure enough, they had a link to a free trial version right on the homepage. I bet she never made that mistake again.
But she didn’t get the job.
My third and final interview for a company for a mid-level position was the most uncomfortable experience I’ve ever had in a professional setting (and I’ve been through some stuff). I don’t do well with passive-aggressiveness – I prefer real talk.
I have an MA in Burrito Studies. I have obtained the specific job skill of Mexican Food Creation software to help with getting more work in my industry. This position was a company that focused on Burritos, but needed someone who could work directly with the Creation software without doing any of the things Burritos Study people usually do. The CEO was my third interview and he was obviously not interested in taking me on because he didn’t trust that I’d be happy being focused only on one aspect. Now that’s fine, but don’t call me in for a third interview and passive-aggressively snark at me about my intentions for the position and say rude things under your breath. ALSO. Do not use one’s status as a military spouse against him/her and say, because of one’s loyalty to one’s spouse, he/she could neeeeever be a team player, and we only hire people who don’t put their spouse on a pedestal (what the damn hell?). When he barked at me “How do I know you won’t up and leave for a Burrito Studies job in a few years?”, I answered “Well I’d rather stay with a company where there’s opportunity to move up”, to which he replied by laughing at me. I walked out. I was done. The Creation software specialist e-mailed me to let me know I didn’t get it, to which I said thanks, but I’m really okay with it (she was in the interview the entire time and didn’t say a damn word, even when he said something so rude to her I almost fell out of my chair). A few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from the Burrito Studies expert who was hoping someone with a similar background would get hired on. He explained that the CEO hired someone who was totally not qualified because he was single, male, didn’t want children, and had no ambition whatsoever (and likely to stay in that position for a long, long time). I was pretty happy I wasn’t offered that job.
And I will never put up with such a horrible interviewer ever again.
Jamlady, please forgive me if I come off as clueless, because I’m lost, what are “burrito studies?” I’ve not heard of this before. Is this real and is it really about studying food/cultural creation or is it a type of software? I am genuinely interested.
Haha no it’s my cover for my real job. I wish it was a real thing! I’d go back to school for that in a heartbeat.
First, I’ll leave the story about the worst interview I’ve ever been an interviewer for. We were hiring a co-op for an engineering position. We had many applicants from the surrounding universities and were doing phone interviews. One of the candidates got himself down a bad path when we asked him to discuss how he handled working with people who were hard to get along with. He told us about how he failed a class because the professor was not from the US, was very liberal, and didn’t like him, so he had to take the class again. His answer made him sound like a racist/nationalist redneck who struggled academically and blamed the professor, which wasn’t a good start. We asked him what the class was, and it turned out it was a math class. This left us wondering how a professor’s nationality and political views had any weighting on the student’s grade in a subject where the answer is either right or wrong – we’re talking about undergraduate level math here, not anything fancy. We were pretty sure this wasn’t the guy, but decided to wrap up the phone interview politely. In the course of us wrapping up the interview, he managed to drop an f-bomb, getting himself even more firmly on the “no” list. At the end, we asked him why he wanted this job, and his answer was “So that I can make money and take a break from school.” That may be honest, but we want to hire people who say things like “I want a chance to apply the knowledge I’ve learned,” or “I took such-and-such class and found it really interesting, so I thought your industry would be a good chance to try out working in the field.” There are many ways to answer this question, but “I want money and I don’t like school” isn’t one of them.
I had an interview a couple years ago that started with 8am breakfast with the head of the department – which I found out was going to be part of the interview when she picked me up from the hotel. It really just threw me off for the rest of the day. During lunch, the two people who took me out spend the time talking about their respective partners/families, not with me, and the entire department (about 30 people, of which I was only expecting 5 or 6) came to my presentation. Basically the entire day was spent throwing me off my game, and it was just an incredibly uncomfortable experience all around.
Second, I’ll leave my funny/embarrassing interview stories. Funny enough, I actually got both jobs.
1) I was interviewing for a co-op job while I was in college. The job was 2 hours’ drive from my university, so I gave myself plenty of extra time to drive down for the interview. I arrived 45 minutes before my interview, and I decided to get gas so that I’d be ready to drive home after the interview. Great idea – except that I locked my keys in the car. I called AAA, but their estimated time of arrival would make me late for my interview. I was stuck with two choices – call the employer and let them know that I was a flake who locked my keys in my car and might be late, or cross my fingers and hope that AAA would make it early and I’d get to the interview in time with the employer being none-the-wiser about my flakiness. I opted for the first option and left the HR person at the company a voice mail saying that I might be late because I locked my keys in my car at a gas station. I actually ended up making it to the interview 5 minutes early because AAA came through in the end, but I assumed that they wouldn’t hire me because of the voice mail. This worked to my advantage – because I thought I had no shot at the job, I was relaxed during the interview and must have done an ok job, because I got an offer and started my first co-op there.
2) I was doing a phone interview for my first job out of college. A question came up about what I do when I don’t agree with a decision that a team makes, and I started answering about a sorority event. As I began telling the story, I thought “oh crap, don’t tell this story. This is about a food fight. And a sorority. You’ll sound like a drunk person.” But it was too late – my mouth was already telling the story while my brain tried to keep up and delete out any references to “food fight.” The interviewer pressed for details because I was being vague. I remember saying “It was a food fight” and thinking “this is over.” My answer was about how I tried to persuade my sorority to not have a food fight with a fraternity, because it wastes food and only leads to trouble, and how I was unsuccessful and what I did about it. But really, who tells a story about a sorority food fight in an interview?
It must not have hurt me too badly, because I made it to the on-site interviews.
I do a lot of nerdy and creative work… the kind of thing where you go down the rabbit hole to the ‘zone’. I’m also just rather quirky in general. So, I had to do a panel interview as well as create a program for my interview. After making it through the firing squad, I was furnished with a laptop, some documents, etc and one of the people from the panel sat in there with me doing his own thing. So… the worst happens. I start humming, to myself (not loudly) and sort of went to the zone where I’ll hmm about things and make a sound effect or two (yep, I’m that person!) I’m usually genuinely happy and interested in what I’m doing.
Give me some credit here for being a weirdo, I worked at home 90% of the time for 5 years. I didn’t realize it at the time because I wasn’t aware that I did that around people. In the industry I work most of us are a little “off” and goofy – I think we’re like that so we don’t cry or scream at other people in frustration. Anyhow… I got the job!! I came to find out, as I befriended people and got along instantly with the team that my interview ‘babysitter’ made a huge push for me because I was “weird”. He told me that immediately after the interview he was excited and knew the second I was sorta bopping my head along to what I was doing that I’d be a perfect fit. The rest of them were all suit and tie wearing weirdos too. I’m never going to let it happen again though.
On the way out of the interview the director is walking me to the lobby after a tour around their office. Earlier, we had started talking about a professional organization we both belong to in our field. Someone ended up joining us and talking about something travel related, to which my soon-to-be boss replied ‘Oh I was just [on the other side of the country] in Orlando!’. I’d also recently been to Orlando. So I excitedly said “I was just there recently as well! It was great.” Well, evidently our professional organization had their big ‘thing’ in Orlando (my employer at the time never sent us off for professional development, and I certainly couldn’t afford to when they weren’t near me). The director says ‘OH! Did you go to see [speaker]!?” …..
I replied without thinking “No, I went to see the mouse!” and then I remember what she said after was positive and funny but everything was going a little blank inside as I tried not to die of humiliation. So – sang to myself, listened to nonexistent music that I bopped my head to, and told everyone I’d just been to Disneyland instead of something relevant – still got the job.
I had just interviewed a rather nice guy and was thinking of passing him on to the next round of interviews when I received an email from him early the next day. Thinking it was a ‘thank you’ email I opened it and began reading. I’ll paraphrase but the gist of it was ‘baby, I’m so sorry for what I did. I didn’t know she was your sister, you’re the only one I love…’ It read like a Barry White song. Apparently his significant other’s name was also Amy and he had unfortunately sent it to me instead of her. My coworker and I debated on whether or not to reply back to him. Ultimately I decided to replay back at least to let him know she didn’t receive the email. I’d have felt bad if he didn’t get a job and lost his girl at the same time.
He didn’t get the job because he mis-addressed an email? Or because you’re offended on the other Amy’s behalf? That seems terribly unfair, i.e., judging him on a personal matter that has no relation to the job.
I’m thinking he failed the “pays attention to detail” requirement.
I went to an interview while I was getting over a bad cough. Some time toward the end, I coughed into my arm and a small piece of phlegm shot out and landed right on my forearm. I don’t know if the two interviewers saw it, but I wiped it off , hoping they wouldn’t notice. I didn’t get the job.
I havent had many out there interviews while being the Recruiter… However, I have had a crazy interview that I was subjected to: it was about 3-4 years ago (that’s how traumatizing it was, where I still remember it)… I was in the final reaches of the interview process where I was to be interviewed by the owners and some shareholders. I was interviewing for Office Manager by an interview panel of 6 people.
Somehow, during the duration of this interrogation it progressed into 1. How ambitious I was and would I seek take one of the people’s jobs I was reporting to (she was in the room, I had no desire to take her job), and 2. the topic of drugs, most notably why I had never done Marijuana.
Suffice to say, after that interview, they never called me, I never bothered follow up, and got another job, the next day with 1 interview, 30 minutes after saying goodbye to them.
I was interviewing for a senior account manager position in the consumer electronics industry (the industry I’ve worked in for about 15 years). The interviewer asked a lot of cliche questions that might have been appropriate for a fresh-out. I had already decided that I wasn’t interested in working for this person. So when I was asked “What is your biggest weakness?” I decided to answer truthfully — Oreo cookies. We both got a good chuckle out of that, but I think because it wasn’t one of the canned expected responses, I was disqualified. Just as well!
Years ago, when I was brand new to staffing (and HR), I participated in an interview where the question, “What are your weaknesses?” was asked. The candidate was very qualified, unfortunately, her answers to the question disqualified her. I should say, the first answer, “Not understanding statistics,” was what disqualified her. As an engineer trying to resolve quality problems, that put into question her qualifications in all. But the second answer, “Chocolate,” is where the mortifying part comes in.
She was somewhat overweight and while this did not figure into the equation whatsoever, the QA Director, aka Hiring Manager, looked over his magnifying glasses at her and responded, “Yes, I can see that.” Ouch.
Ouch is right!
I spent many years in teen retail, hiring kids in their teens and early 20’s for part-time jobs that most of them had no intention of keeping for very long. I got lots of humorous answers to interview questions from kids who just didn’t know any better.
Me: “Why do you want to work here?”
Teenage girl: “Because no one else will hire me.”
Me: “If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?” (for a clothing sales position)
Guy in his early 20’s: “I wish I could fix up cars.”
Me: “Why do you want to work here?”
Guy in his early 20’s: “Because I have ‘alternate’ sources of income but I need something that looks legitimate.”
Me: “What did you like best about your last job?”
Guy in his late teens: “The registers were so easy even the Mexicans could use them.”
For the record, I did hire the first girl.
My husband emailed me a job part of which included the supervision of housekeeping staff. I replied back stating: “I can’t even keep our own house clean- how the heck would I know who to supervise real people who know what clean means!”
I received a reply email from the company informing me that I had included the HR department in my reply. Just for kicks I emailed back: “So I wouldn’t get the job?”
I work in HR for a large, high profile company so we get all kinds of people coming through the door. Some of the more memorable exchanges from interviews:
“What are you looking for in your next position?”
“I just want a job that pays me well where I can do the least amount of work possible.”
“What caught your eye about this position?” (Assistant to a high profile executive)
“It seems like the kind of job I could write a tell all book about in ten years.”
I once received a personalized follow up message via LinkedIn from a candidate who had applied to a position. He expressed how excited he was about working for the company and that he would really appreciate the chance to prove himself. I liked his resume and writing, so I called him immediately. When he answered he had to ask me twice what my name was and where I was calling from and then told me he didn’t know anything about the company. This was approximately 3 minutes after he sent that message…
Once I was interviewing for a bank teller position (with my own bank!) the summer after graduating college (it was 2008, so the economy had TANKED), and I was hoping to get this job and be able to quit my terrible part-time job as a hostess at a bar/grill. They asked me where I saw myself in 5 years. I answered honestly. My honest answer had NOTHING to do with working at a bank and it was in fact pretty random and out there as it involved using a foreign language in another country to train for an unrelated job.
Yep, didn’t get that one.
When I walked into an interview once, this huge, 4-foot wide glass-framed picture fell off the wall and fell into a million pieces. I couldn’t think of anything funny to say because I was in the country of my 2nd language and American sarcasm doesn’t always translate. Then I learn that the language requires speaking all day on the phone in my foreign language, which I’m not comfortable doing, I am only comfortable working in it, talking to coworkers, writing emails, but not speaking in it all day long – and that was totally not what was in the ad. He asked why I applied if I wasn’t comfortable speaking on the phone all day in Czech – I was like, that wasn’t the job description I applied to at all. The interview lasted about 10 minutes.
Yey, a new one going on 🙂
Currently I am searching for a new job due to some reason (actually for around 4 months I’ve been doing this) and right today I went for an interview for a company that has the same area of work like my former employer. Everything went smooth and at the end I wanted to know more about the current recruitment projects they have (more detailed that on the website) and the HR lady said something like…”besides the positions for those people who were ”stolen” by (my) former employer” and I was like : 😐 even though she sounded funny, other people might think that either they don’t pay well, either the atmosphere is not the right one or something else is not ok there. I guess with somebody else it wouldn’t be ok to say this, I was ok and I applied for HR job, but you shoukd be careful with this
One of the most embarassing things was when I went for an interview for an outsourcing company. I first applied for a back office position and I even talked with the girl that was actually leaving and suddenly, when I was there, the HR girl told me that actually she has something else for me, a somehow call center position in a foreign language I hate to talk (do I have to mention that I also hate phone talks?). She said I should get out from my comfort zone and they called some girls for a simulation. When I had to really make the phone call, I told them I cannot do that, I was blocked and I realized I would hate each day of my life if I work there. Also that HR person was so much insisting that they offer me some I don’t know what benefits, I guess because she was not satisified with my financial expectations (even though it was quite a low one)
I guess if you want to redirect a person, you should ask her by phone, not there. I felt so embarassed, I told her I feel sorry that I made her lose her time. After I got out I felt so sick, I was on the point to faint (then I realized how bad I hate that language and even more, how much I hate call center stuff)
I just interviewed for a really nice part-time position. It was a very humid day. For some reason, I was extremely thirsty. The receptionist was nice enough to offer me a bottle of water. Before the interview began, I drank some of the water. Once the interview started, my mouth became really dry. I had a Kleenex and wiped my lips a few times during the interview. Apparently, some of the Kleenex or a little piece of something was on my mouth. During the latter part of the interview (tour), the people noticed it and never said a word. I saw it once I got on the elevator. Hmmmm.
This has got to be the most embarrassing interview story ever.
About a year ago, I applied for a job at a magazine I was so not qualified for. Surprisingly enough, they set up an appointment with me and decided to give me a shot.
Knowing that I was on the lower end of the qualification spectrum, I decided to take extra time to prepare samples of my work, get dressed professionally and even skipped my morning college class in order to be early. Despite all that, I somehow managed to forget something really important: putting on my contacts.
I’m -4 in each eye, which means everything further than a foot away is blurry to me. But it’s okay because I took my glasses with me.
So I get to the appointment, both ladies greet me very nicely, and it’s a bit awkward at first because I wear a hijab (muslim veil) and I can tell they’re a bit surprised because they hadn’t expected someone like me to walk into their office.
But anyways, they sit me at a table ask me a few questions, 10 minutes later the interview is over and they walk me to the door.
And here’s where it all went wrong. When they seated me for the interview, there was no space to put my glasses, so I put them next to my thigh on my seat.
Apparently, the GLASSES HAD SOMEHOW ATTACHED THEMSELF TO MY JEANS and were dangling off my pants as I was walking out.
One of the ladies pointed “there’s something on your pants” as I was walking out and then helped me get it out.
IT WAS SO EMBARRASSING.
WHO HAS GLASSES STICK TO THEIR PANTS?!!
One of the ladies was really nice about it as she helped me take them out, but the other one (and I don’t blame her) looked like she was so weirded out.
It was embarrassing beyond explanation >.<
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