loose cannons, interviews from the toilet, and other stories of ridiculous job candidates

A couple of weeks ago, I asked readers to share the weirdest or worst behavior they’ve ever seen from job candidates. The entire thing ended up being hilarious, but here are 12 of my favorites:

1. The winner of them all

Listed in the “interests” section of a managerial candidate’s resume: “shitting.” Candidate called us shortly after applying, apologizing up one side and down the other because he’d just realized that his teenage son had made an unauthorized edit to his resume.

2. Loose cannon

I worked at a very small nonprofit with only about 8-10 employees, several of them part-time. We desperately needed an IT person as the internet exploded upon us about 15 years ago. During a group interview of a young, techie, candidate, the ED asked him “how would your current supervisor describe you – in a couple of words?”

His answer: “Oh, I guess, ‘loose cannon’ ” – didn’t get the job…

3. Blame my wife

I asked the candidate to clarify something on his resume; he told me that if I had been paying attention, I would know the answer. It turned out the confusion stemmed from the fact his resume contained several major errors. (He was applying for a copy editing job.) When I pointed that out, he said, “Oh yeah, my wife mentioned that too. I told her to fix it, I guess she didn’t.”

I stood up and said that the interview was over. He asked why, so I took 30 seconds to explain that I would not hire an editor who submitted a resume knowing it contained errors and blamed someone else for his carelessness. Then I walked out. (Not helping his case: he addressed all his comments to the only man in the room, who wasn’t the hiring manager, and the comment about his wife was said as though she was an incompetent secretary.)

4. Close encounters

Apparently an interviewee was given the advice to sit on the same side of the table as the interviewer. Once I entered and sat down across from her she got up and moved to the chair right next to me. It felt so awkward and too close..not only that she could see my notes and files in front of me. I felt like I couldn’t take the notes I wanted because she was literally right at my elbow.

I should have asked her to move but I was so new at recruiting, interviewing and hiring at the time I just kind of froze and tried to work with it.

5. Multi-tasking

I phone interviewed someone once for a low level PR position who sounded as though he was in an echoey room when he answered (this was a scheduled phone interview). Initially I brushed it off as maybe a cell phone issue or that he was in a lobby somewhere or a cafeteria. Well after about 15 minutes I figured it out when I hear the loud woosh of a toilet as he’s explaining the outcome of a project he worked on. I interrupted him and said “excuse me, was that a toilet?” He claimed he was near a public restroom and apologized for the interruption, but I was skeptical. And then –another woosh, but this one was louder almost as if the phone was held near the toilet. Then a minute later as I’m fumbling trying to end the interview, and as if on cue, I hear water rushing from a faucet. Needless to say he didn’t make it to the in person interview.

6. Not interested

Because I used to get about 500-600 applicants every time a file clerk was posted, I started putting one prescreening question.

The question was “Rate your interest in the following job duties: Filing”. It was the only job duty listed, since it was the only duty of the job. The only options were “Interested” and “Not Interested.” I could usually weed out 2/3 of the applicants because they would put “Not Interested.”

7. WTF

While working in HR, I had a gentleman come to my desk and request an application. After I explained that we did not have applications and he could apply from our website, but before I could offer him the use of one of our computers, he stormed out the door.

About five minutes later, one of the security guards came and asked if we had just had a visitor. It turned out that after leaving our office, this person had been so mad about not being able to get a paper application that he peed all over our elevator. The elevator only went to one floor, which means somehow he managed to pee, finish, and zip back up before the elevator reached the bottom floor.

8. Hole in one

One of the interview questions for a student position was “Tell me about one of your biggest accomplishments or successes, at work, school, or in your personal life.” Response: “Hole in one while golfing.” I prompted to expand on that, maybe this was the result of lots of hard work and practice? Nope. Proudly explained that it was during only the third or fourth time playing, and had never happened since.

That was one time I really wanted to give constructive interview skills feedback.

9. “Campin, huntin, fishin and fightin”

I have a few!

* I had was interviewing a candidate for a fundraising position. I asked him to tell me about his previous fundraising experience. This 22 year old human told me about how he sold candy in second grade to fundraise for the school, but he didn’t earn enough to receive a prize but he did “get a few buyers.” I felt bad for him, but also astonished.

* I also used to hire entry level candidates for CSR position. One of the standard questions I had to ask was the standard “tell me about your greatest strengths” and he responded “Campin, huntin, fishin and fightin”

* Same job as above, a candidate had previously worked for a rival company but left. I asked why. It was because she had punched someone at work, but as long as she sitting next to individuals that didn’t make her angry she thought she could handle coming to work. Big of her.

10. Finger guns

Flew in a candidate for a sales position. He would be working out of state (where he lived) so spent the day with being shown various parts of the company, meeting with the local sales team, etc. At the end of the day, he was to meet with three of the owners and the COO for the more formal part of the interview process.

As he was waiting in the front office to be called into the meeting, the woman behind the front desk asked how his day had gone so far…small talk. In the most condescending tone ever, he called her Honey and told her he didn’t have time to chat because he was preparing for a meeting with “the big boys.”

The woman? The majority owner. She was waiting for the meeting to start and was looking for a pen or something at the front desk.

What she didn’t know at that time is when he’d been introduced to me as the IT hours earlier he said, “so Chicklet, I guess you’re the one who’s going to be taking care of me.” And then cocked his fingers like a gun and did the little shooting gesture at me while making clicking noises with his mouth while winking. It’s really hard to describe but you all know that gesture! He thought it was charming. It wasn’t.

Spoiler alert: he wasn’t hired.

11. Frank Underwood

As I was leaving my term-limited position in a government agency to move to a new opportunity, I helped to interview potential replacements through a fellowship program (candidates all have terminal degrees). My boss (who would be theirs) did a formal interview, then sent them to me for a more casual/candid follow-up. Most candidates kind of ran together because they all had the usual “what’s the day-to-day like” type of questions, but there was one candidate I will never forget.

He sits down in my office, has a few questions about whether he can work weird hours from home instead of 9-5 in the office (answer: no, the point of this position is for you to contribute your expertise and all gain experience working in the govt), and then says: “So, tell me what the politics are like in this agency.”

Me: “Well, given that this is a short-term fellowship, you’re generally shielded from this because of the nature of the position. Like any workplace, there are occasional interpersonal politics, and of course there are certainly governmental politics that can affect higher level decisions, but that’s not usually going to have a huge impact on your work.”

Him: “The reason I’m asking is that I think of myself as a sort of ‘Frank Underwood’ type so I want to know how to influence decision makers to my benefit.”

Me: uhhhhhhhh………. (Internal monologue: So, your plan is to come into a small government agency on a short term fellowship, and murder your way into the presidency??!?! This is NOT a good fit for your goals, son!)

Him: [tented fingers, intense stare]

Me: [Short pause in case he wanted to turn and speak to camera with some dark folksy metaphor.]

Me: “OK, well, thanks for your time. Let me show you out.”

(He was asked to withdraw his candidacy from the program.)

12. Not that kind of achievement

One of my coworkers once received a super long cover letter that included the fact that the candidate had been proudly celibate for several years.

{ 329 comments… read them below or add one }

    1. Charlie

      I loved Frank Underwood, but I’m savoring all the awkwardness in these stories like a fine wine. Even the one with the interviewee coming in and sitting directly next to the interviewer was delightfully awful – what do you even say?

      Reply
      1. Koko

        It’s like the kind of thing they would do on a hidden camera show – when you violate an unspoken social norm nobody has any clue what to do.

        Reply
      2. nofelix

        Yeah I was wondering that. My best guess is something straightforward but non-confrontational, like “For these interviews we’re conducting them facing each other. Please could you take this chair and I’ll sit here?”

        Reply
  1. AnotherAlison

    . . .I figured it out when I hear the loud woosh of a toilet as he’s explaining the outcome of a project he worked on.

    Lol. The phrasing here is too much. . .I suppose the project required a lot of “paperwork.”

    PS – These are all fantastic.

    Reply
    1. De Minimis

      Did anyone else wonder if #1 and #5 were the same person?

      “Well, this explains the interests section…”

      Reply
  2. De Minimis

    Also, Frank Underwood would never be so foolish as to announce his plans at a job interview. “How can I best manipulate people here for my benefit?” At least be a competent schemer!

    Reply
      1. De Minimis

        Now I’m paranoid that everyone may fancy themselves to be Frank Underwood and are just more savvy about not telling people. I better watch out at the train station tonight.

        Reply
        1. Katie F

          If studies I’ve read are to be believed, approximately 12% of people have sociopathic tendencies, so…

          Reply
    1. Mallory Janis Ian

      We once had a new front desk receptionist who asked one of our directors, “So, who do I need to be nice to to get ahead here?” Uh, everyone?

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        A basic workplace skill is figuring out the answer to that question; asking is not allowed. And always assume the office manager or head AA has incredible power; often they do. Sometimes it is just access and resources but sometimes their opinion is actually directly sought about now employees and their promise.

        Reply
        1. Audiophile

          This is so true.

          Even if they’re not the office manager or AA, you should still be nice and professional.

          Reply
      2. Patrick

        I once had a new employee tell me “this industry is just about who you know” and then detail his plans to make a bunch of connections and leave the company within “two years max.” Somehow he ended up lasting almost 2 years, and when he got fired his mind was blown (apparently he thought he was getting promoted when the head of the department called him into a private meeting at 4 on Friday!)

        Reply
  3. Not Karen

    Brilliant!

    #6 Reminds of this scene in Psych:
    Lassiter: Hey you, what are you doing?
    File clerk: I’m a file clerk… I’m putting files away.
    Lassiter: And you have to do it right there?
    File clerk: This is where the filing cabinet is.

    Reply
      1. Ixnay Edfray

        When I was an undergrad in the mid-90s I was on the staff of the student newspaper. We had a student who was a very occasional writer and would hang out in the office all the time, before, between and after classes. His favorite activity was playing a game called Oregon Trail all.the.time. Hours a day.

        He asked us for help on his resume and he insisted on putting every imaginable software in a very long list (he was a computer science major) and included Notepad and BBEdit and a good 40 other programs. We surreptitiously added Oregon Trail to the list but never found out whether he caught it or not.

        I feel guilty to this day.

        Reply
    1. AdAgencyChick

      ME TOO! I’m dying laughing, and yet I have so much sympathy. Hope that kid lost the car keys for at least a month.

      Reply
      1. Annon

        As a young 20-something my father and I were butting heads on where I was applying for full time work. He got me an application for a law enforcement type agency. I was so mad while filling it out, that when it asked why I left one of my jobs (dishwasher at 16), I put “dishpan hands”. Papa was not amused. He also stopped getting random applications for me. Thank goodness.

        Reply
    2. Lily in NYC

      My dad had a great sense of humor, but if I had done something like that to him it would have been all over for me.

      Reply
      1. CM

        OMG, I almost fell out of my chair laughing at this one, and sent it to all my friends. Normally I would share this kind of story with my son, who would find it hilarious, but I’m afraid it would give him ideas. (However, it might explain to him why I keep my computer password-protected.)

        Reply
  4. Katie F

    I never cease to be amused by ‘male candidate/intern/etc treats a woman like this is 1952 and he’s about to proposition her, finds out she’s the hiring manager/CEO/his boss’ stories.

    On the other hand, who is teaching these guys that this behavior is okay?!

    Reply
      1. Artemesia

        A major party presidential candidate just told all us wimmins yesterday that if we are sexually harassed we just just give up our career or our job and go do something else.

        Reply
          1. Katie F

            To be fair, that particular Presidential candidate ALSO was rude to a baby today. Equal-opportunity, right there.

            Reply
      1. CMart

        I suspect by and large the people around them coddle them. Their family of origin likely taught them to think/act like that, they probably sought out spouses who has similar values, and like most people they probably surround themselves with like-minded friends.

        Reply
        1. Katie F

          I guess that’s true. Like the grown men I went to college with who had never done their own laundry or dishes in their lives.

          Reply
    1. NacSacJack

      I’d pay good money to see the look at his face when he walked into the meeting with the “big boys” or to read his side of it, “Alison, I really screwed up, how do I ….”.

      Reply
      1. Pwyll

        In my experience, these are the people who dig their heels in rather than admit an error. “She should have told me who she was, so I was entirely justified in my behavior. They’re also really badly run so I’m glad I didn’t get hired.” Etc., etc., ugh.

        Reply
        1. Katie F

          “honestly, if someone that important is at the receptionist’s desk, that seems like their problem, not mine.”

          Reply
        2. INTP

          “I’m not sexist, I just addressed her as the secretary because statistically it was the most likely possibility!”

          Reply
          1. Observer

            The problem wasn’t that he treated her like the secretary. The problem is that he treated the secretary rudely.

            There is a story from about 200 years ago of a well known, prominent Rabbi (Rabbi N) who was traveling, and wound of overnight in a fairly distant town. He went to the one inn in town and asked for a room. There was no room because a REALLY important Rabbi (Rabbi C), in the estimation of the inkeeper, was coming and was going to need a room. He did allow the Rabbi in, but was rude and didn’t treat him with basic courtesy.

            The important Rabbi shows up and sees Rabbi N and gets all excited. “Rabbi N! To what do we owe the honor of your presence? I would be so honored if you joined me and my disciples in supper and some discussion tonight!” And on, and one while the innkeeper is ready to sink through the floor. Insulting important Rabbis is NOT a good thing. And, this Rabbi is REALLY important – it’s not just that that Rabbi C was making a big deal. The inkeeper had actually heard of Rabbi N as one of the true greats of the generation.

            So of course, he goes over to Rabbi N to beg for forgiveness. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t know who you are.” etc. And the Rabbi responded “I could easily forgive you for not knowing who I am and treating me like a regular person. But your behavior was inexcusable! You shouldn’t treat ANYONE that way!”

            Reply
        3. A Bug!

          “It wasn’t even sexist! I assumed she was a secretary because she was sitting at the secretary’s desk, which is a perfectly valid assumption; it had nothing to do with her sex. She entrapped me by not making it clear that she wasn’t who she appeared to be, and it’s unfair that I lost the position because of her manipulation. My first thought was to go to HR, but if it’s a woman I’d expect her to be biased against me out of solidarity. I found the CEO’s e-mail address online; should I e-mail him? I suspect that this isn’t the first time this woman has done this, it might be part of an ongoing plan to sabotage male candidates, so I think the CEO would be very interested in knowing that’s going on.”

          Reply
          1. Nina-Marie

            wow – its like you have zero’d in on the collective mentality of this country all in one paragraph!

            Reply
      1. Marillenbaum

        I feel like “firm handshake and some gumption” guy would know it’s important to treat everyone with respect, because with hard work and (wait for it!) gumption any one of those people could become the boss one day, and THEN where will you be?

        Reply
    2. Lia

      The most sexist guy I’ve ever worked with was was in his mid-30’s when we worked together, about 5 years ago. I’ve worked with plenty of much older men from the mid 1980’s to today who couldn’t hold a candle to his piggish ways.

      Reply
      1. Augusta Sugarbean

        Same here. The most chauvinistic person I worked with in the military was younger than me (early 20s). The older men who were career military were smart enough to move with the times.

        Reply
            1. sstabeler

              yes- but frankly? if you’re able to keep your sexism to yourself, and it genuinely doesn’t show, then I’m not sure it really matters. (on the other hand, it would be extremely difficult for it not to show in some form or another- if nothing else, you’re likely to be slightly biased in how you treat people.)

              Reply
    3. Lucky

      “On the other hand, who is teaching these guys that this behavior is okay?!”

      Movies.
      Television.
      Books.
      Magazines.
      Academia.
      Their dads.
      See also, institutional sexism, western culture, religion.

      Reply
      1. Katie F

        It just seems so strangely… retro, you know what I mean? I’m always floored to realize people still HOLD these assumptions. Or even just that someone interviewing to be HIRED wouldn’t realize that you should be nice/deferential to EVERYBODY.

        Reply
          1. Unegen

            Well, a population’s intelligence does get represented with a bell curve. You’ve always got to remember that there actually are people that fall to the left.

            Reply
      1. Susan C.

        Somewhere out there in the wild wild web there’s someone who replaces the dialogs in Dilbert strips with actual quotes of the guy. It’s downright art, I swear.

        Reply
        1. disconnect

          Teh goog search term is “mra dilbert”. If you actually click through and read some you’ll probably want to bleach your eyeballs, so tread lightly.

          Reply
  5. Jeanne

    These are all great. The last one is so unexpected that it’s funny. I would have wanted to interview him just to see what else he’d say. The casual sexism in a couple of them is sad. And I would have called the police for pee in the elevator man. Gross.

    Reply
    1. Myrin

      And, thinking back to the original thread, wasn’t the OP for that reprimanded because the peepetrator complained that she had been rude to her and that had led him to whip it out?

      Reply
      1. Anonymouse

        That was me. I didn’t get written up, but they did talk to me and said they thought I had provoked it…by telling him we didn’t have paper applications.

        Reply
        1. Artemesia

          ” What would you have told him, since we DON’T have paper applications? How exactly should I hand it the next time someone asks for one? Perhaps I should schedule them for an immediate interview with you?”

          Reply
          1. Anonymouse

            This was a boss who one day threw all of his stuff off of his desk onto the floor and screamed at the other person in my position (a woman, if it matters) to come pick it all up. Reason wasn’t in his repertoire.

            Reply
            1. eplawyer

              And that, kind folks, is how the sexism persists. Because the woman MUST have provoked the man into peeing in an elevator.

              Reply
    2. Coolb

      We found a poop in our elevator once. Never occurred to us to think about candidates who may have been in there.

      Reply
  6. AthenaC

    #12 – Although I have known many people who are inordinately proud of remaining celibate (I was raised Catholic and all my friends were extremely devout), I can’t say I have met anyone with the poor judgment to think that was an appropriate topic for work.

    #10 – Oh my. Actually sounds like one of the partners at my old firm. And one of the reasons why I left.

    Reply
    1. Coolb

      I don’t think it’s an appropriate topic for all kinds of circumstances. I had a friend who decided with her fiance to remain “pure” throughout the engagement. Fine, more power to em. But the groom, at both his cameo at the bridal shower, and during his toast at the wedding referenced it in excruciating detail. It was so not our business or even slightly interesting to hear about. Ugh.

      Reply
      1. TL -

        It confuses me why people think other people care about their celibacy or lack of it. My brother’s ex-fiance made a point of telling me only 2 things over their two years of dating. 1) She was still a virgin and 2) I wasn’t going to be a bridesmaid.
        I didn’t care to know the first, and while the second was rude, I also didn’t care that much. And as these were our only two actual conversations, I’m not sure where she got the impression that I needed to know either of them!

        Reply
    2. Chaordic One

      It seems like a response that is kind of similar to people who say things like they’ve managed to quit doing drugs or stop drinking.

      Reply
  7. BTownGirl

    I have a feeling Francis Jr. isn’t actually caught up on House Of Cards? Because everyone knows you save your propensity for flinging your mistress into the path of a subway train for once you’ve gotten the job and you’re in the getting-to-know-you stage with your new coworkers. It’s called ETIQUETTE, people.

    Reply
    1. Mike C.

      That and the show is called “House of Cards” for a reason. We don’t know just how the American version will end, but it’s not going to be good for Frank.

      Reply
      1. BTownGirl

        Agreed! I saw the original PBS version years and years ago, so I don’t remember how it ended, but…yeeeeeaaaahhh. At least Frank could list under “Leadership Skills”: “Helped mentee conquer drug and alcohol addiction. He, quite literally, cannot do drugs anymore.”

        Reply
      2. Adam

        I find Underwood to be one of the most reprehensible characters I’ve ever seen in fiction, yet I continually find myself rooting for him just to see how long he can keep this magical scheme of his going and make that inevitable flick of the cards all the sweeter (unless the writers somehow pull a fast one and he gets away with it all. I’m not putting money on it, but it’s not completely off the table).

        Reply
        1. BTownGirl

          As I said to a friend once, “He’s so evil, it’s kind of…hot.” Then I immediately hated myself hahahaha!! I can’t wait for the next season :)

          Reply
          1. Wendy Darling

            He’s evil but the thing is he is really, REALLY good at being evil. And he’s also very charismatic. So he’s got that competence-is-sexy thing plus the charisma of the sociopath. I actually like him least when he’s having moral scruples, honestly. If you’re gonna be as horrible as Frank Underwood you need to own it.

            Reply
              1. the gold digger

                The thing that keeps me watching the show, even though it has completely gone off the plot line of the British original version, is I want to see Frank get what’s coming to him. I don’t have to like a character to become invested in a show, but I do have to care. I hate both Frank and Claire and want them to get their comeuppance. (But even though I hated the guy on Breaking Bad after only one episode, I didn’t care what happened to him so stopped watching.)

                Reply
                1. BTownGirl

                  It’s funny, I watched the whole thing from the beginning again when I had the flu and Claire was SO different in the first two seasons. I wish they’d kept her more nuanced and conflicted, but I suppose her going Full Loon was more realistic!

              1. BTownGirl

                Girl preach! I bow down to anyone who can get through a whole day of evil doin’ in an ivory sheath without winding up with coffee stains dribbled down the front!

                Reply
                1. BTownGirl

                  If I had to wear stilettos 24/7, the show would be called House Of Hobbling. No can do either haha!

    2. Grey

      [blockquote]I have a feeling Francis Jr. isn’t actually caught up on House Of Cards? Because everyone knows you save your propensity for flinging your mistress into the path of a subway train for once you’ve gotten the job and you’re in the getting-to-know-you stage with your new coworkers.[/blockquote]

      I don’t know about the other guy, but [b]I[/b] wasn’t caught up on House of Cards.

      Thanks.

      Reply
      1. BTownGirl

        Dude, we’re now several seasons past that incident. Sorry for the spoiler, but go catch up – it’s SO GOOD!

        Reply
        1. Grey

          So much TV, so little time. Now that you can buy/rent/stream just about anything. The choices are endless and a show can be years old before you finally get to it. I just finished watching all 5 seasons of Friday Night Lights.

          Reply
          1. BTownGirl

            You’re tellin’ me! Honestly, I still haven’t gotten around to Breaking Bad. I loooooooove Friday Night Lights!! I blubbered through 96% of the episodes, but that’s beside the point :)

            Reply
      2. Singa

        That season went live on Netflix in February 2014. I think the statute of limitations on spoiler alerts has passed.

        Reply
  8. Blue Anne

    I’m wondering if maybe #2 didn’t really understand what that phrase implies. Maybe he thought it would describe him as a powerful, get things done kind of person? I’ve genuinely had a boss say “loose the hounds!” when escalating a client in collections to me.

    I’m picturing this guy finding out months later what it really means and having an OH GOD NO moment.

    Reply
    1. MoinMoin

      My thoughts also. Reminds me of a friend that told his girlfriend at the time she was “homely.” He thought it meant like girl-next-door pretty or something.

      Reply
      1. Lily in NYC

        Ha! I always argue with a friend who uses the term “mousy” as a compliment. She refuses to believe me when I tell her no one wants to be told they are mousy. She insists is just means “cute”.

        Reply
        1. BeautifulVoid

          Heh, I’ve had this same exact argument with someone. Except he’d just described my (female) friend in all these glowing terms and then didn’t see why I wasn’t crazy about being referred to as “mousy” in the next sentence. Dude, no.

          Reply
      2. KimberlyR

        My dad (who is NEVER wrong *eyeroll*) and I had a long-standing debate about this! He called me homely once in high school and I was justifiably insulted. He kept insisting it meant “like a girl who is cute and reminds you of home”-I think he was thinking of girl-next-door. I literally pulled out the dictionary and showed it to him but he insisted he was right and I was wrong. I guess the dictionary was wrong too. So at least he wasn’t trying to call me ugly…

        Reply
      3. Artemesia

        for me the term was ‘notorious’ which I thought (at way too advanced an age) meant ‘famous’. I stepped in it big time with that.

        Reply
        1. many bells down

          I was called “infamous” in my high school yearbook. I was a drama geek with about 12 friends. I still don’t know how I was “infamous” and I’ve no idea if whoever wrote it thought it meant something else.

          Reply
      4. SusanIvanova

        Only if you’re British, and even then it’s more about being warm and friendly than about looks.

        Reply
      5. AGirlCalledFriday

        OMG, a guy I was dating said the exact thing to me once! New Zealander, but his parents were British. It made for an interesting conversation!

        Reply
    2. Tomato Frog

      A friend was at a wedding where the best man alienated the bride’s family by calling her a “diamond in the rough.” He thought it meant, like, a diamond in the wilderness or a diamond among pebbles.

      Reply
      1. Kiryn

        …I’d always assumed that’s what it meant too. I blame Aladdin.

        Though calling her a valuable gem hidden among worthless rocks is still an insult to her family and not something one should say at a wedding.

        Reply
        1. Unegen

          Yeah that’s not what it means, either. A diamond in the rough is a diamond that has just come out of the ground: it’s a dirty rock that doesn’t look like much; it’ll be great once it’s cut and polished. Calling someone that means they’ve got potential if they or you or someone puts work into developing them. Not exactly what you want to call your bride, in front of her family or not.

          Reply
    3. the gold digger

      My boss is not a native English speaker. He told me once that I was very verbose. I argued with him that I was not and he finally got insulted and said he was trying to give me a compliment – that I write well. I explained to him that “verbose” is not complimentary.

      Reply
    1. Stephanie

      I feel like that person would also use Walter White or Tony Soprano as icons if asked for examples of good businessmen.

      Reply
  9. Snarkus Aurelius

    I’ve worked in politics and government for over 15 years, and thanks to shows like the Scandal, West Wing and House of Cards, I’ve unsuccessfully had to correct a lot of misconceptions over the years.

    No, you don’t get to create a piece of legislation and have the president sign it by the end of the week.  I get that that process needs to be whittled down to 40 minutes of screen time, but reality doesn’t work that way and thank goodness.  Please go back to your civics class and review what a dictatorship and checks and balances are.  (Hint: they’re not plot devices.)

    No, you don’t serve at the “pleasure” of anyone.  We don’t do that around here.  If you take pride in your work, that’s great.  Please demonstrate it and don’t talk about it.  You’re making the boss uncomfortable because she thinks you have a crush on her.

    Yes, the West Wing frequently glossed over, you know, all the legally mandated stuff when it comes to the federal budget and spending.  You need acts of Congress to do a bulk of that, but I know that the average TV watcher doesn’t care about that.  Please don’t bring such simplistic, uninformed suggestions to staff meetings.  Also go read a book on how the budget works.  It’s boring, but do it anyway.

    Yes, things on TV go a lot faster.  That’s because all the incompetence and BS that occurs in reality is cut out for the aforementioned screen time requirements.  If either of those elements made it onto paper, you’d be watching a Ken Burns-style 36 hour long episode about how Susan personally hates this initiative but is acting otherwise and has been holding everything up for the last two years under some obscure law from the 1930s, which we all find out later doesn’t apply.  

    No, no one ever talks that fast in real life.  My boss hates A) talking because she does it all day with external parties and B) prefers to spend time walking in silence because she needs a mental break.  Don’t pepper her with questions on unrelated matters.  She has enough on her mind, and chances are good she has no idea what you’re talking about.  Don’t pile on.

    If you sleep with someone related to the job, great.  Please don’t drag the drama to the office.  I guarantee you that no one cares.  Almost 95% of Americans over the age of 18 are sexually active.  That you bedded some lobbyist isn’t an accomplishment.  It’s gross that you’d bring it up.

    Reply
    1. Blue Anne

      Eurgh. That doesn’t surprise me at all. Happens in all fields, I guess.

      I grew up with my criminologist parents making similar complaints. They had a lot of problems because kids watch CSI, study forensics, and then graduate into a field which is 1) way more boring than expected and 2) already completely saturated.

      For the record, Homicide and Law & Order are *pretty* accurate, except that everything takes way longer than shown. The Wire is also very accurate, it was my dad’s favorite show.

      Reply
      1. AMT

        I think a lot of people don’t realize that to get one of those cool jobs in forensic science or psychology, you typically have to actually get a science or psychology Ph.D. and then specialize. There are undergrad and grad programs that claim to offer programs in forensic whatever, but they’re just trying to profit from the success of those shows and their grads aren’t necessarily getting jobs in their desired field. There are lower-level jobs in those fields if you reeeeally want to be a lab tech or photograph crime scenes, but yeah, they’re saturated.

        Reply
        1. Chocolate lover

          For years, I had students telling me they were interested in doing CSI related careers – so they wanted to major in criminal justice. I had to educate them about the need for scientific training.

          Reply
          1. sstabeler

            yeah, Criminal Justice isn’t going to get you a CSI job.(from what little I know, it’s more useful for an actual cop. best bet would be either a generic science degree, or a Forensic Science degree.

            Reply
            1. Unegen

              Amusingly I’ve heard that a Criminal Justice degree isn’t even good for applying to be an FBI agent. The FBI wants computer people; they figure they can teach you the criminal justice part once they accept you.

              Reply
        2. LibbyG

          At the college I work at they renamed to concentration on auditing “forensic accounting.” Enrollments shot up!

          Reply
      2. neverjaunty

        The courtroom scenes in Law and Order are ridiculously inaccurate, and not just in the ‘cut out the dull parts’ way. I mean, look, I get skipping over authentication of documents because it’s boring, but I’ve seen high school mock trials that have better cross-examination than “seasoned” TV prosecutors.

        Reply
        1. Pwyll

          THIS! We used to watch Cops and Law & Order and point out everything that was wrong, and why, as a therapeutic way to study for the bar exam.

          Reply
        2. Bend & Snap

          My lawyer said The Good Wife is the closest thing he’s seen to an accurate portrayal of practicing law.

          Reply
          1. Megs

            I haven’t seen The Good Wife, but Better Call Saul is the most realistic lawyer show I’ve ever seen. At least the law practicing parts.

            Reply
          2. the gold digger

            It is not, however, an accurate portrayal of living in Chicago in the winter. Pretty Italian high heels? Beautiful tailored light wool coats?

            Try fur-lined snow boots and a big fluffy down jacket with a hood where ugly does not matter as long as it is warm.

            Reply
          3. eplawyer

            Get a new lawyer. Trust me, you don’t suddenly change tactics because of newly discovered evidence in the middle of trial. You don’t depose experts after trial has started. You don’t file a lawsuit then schedule depositions the next day. And for god sakes, you do not have a half dressed female investigator solving all the cases and finding the crucial piece of evidence at the last second.

            Reply
            1. sstabeler

              one exception- actually, it’s stupid not to change tactics where there’s newly discovered evidence. If the other side has discovered it, you at a minimum need to discredit it. If you discovered it, then if it’s going to be used, you have to let the court know, and the trial will be stopped for a few days to give the defence a chance to prepare. (it’s why surprise witnesses- that is, a witness that is dramatically revealed at the last minute- are a very good way to get a mistrial, Contempt of Court charges, or both. You’re not actually allowed to conceal witnesses.)

              Reply
        1. Blue Anne

          Dad said it was pretty accurate on a lot of the cop work, and a lot of the “you screwed up this process and now we can’t nail the guy” stuff. He was in the NYPD. But, as someone mentioned above, less accurate on the courts!

          Reply
      3. Jubilance

        Shows like NCIS and CSI that pretend to use scientific testing are the bane of my existence. I’m known for shouting “That’s not what an FTIF spectrum looks like!” at the screen, or “HPLC doesn’t come back that fast!”.

        Reply
        1. neverjaunty

          They’re also the bane of the courts’ existence for a different reason – now jurors expect TV-level forensics for everything and are suspicious that there’s “not enough evidence” otherwise. I’m aware of one sexual assault case where the defense was consent (i.e. the defendant admitted they had sex, he just said it wasn’t rape) and the jury acquitted because DNA testing hadn’t been done.

          Reply
          1. Stephanie

            One of the interesting things I picked up from the OJ FX miniseries was that the jurors found the DNA evidence too complicated, which is such a 180 from today where jurors expect cases to be solved from one random hair found at the crime scene.

            Reply
          2. Observer

            Sounds like a bad lawyer though. DNA testing would not have any relevance to the question of consent anyway.

            Reply
        2. Elizabeth West

          I screamed at the TV when watching The Bone Collector because the forensics and police procedures were so awful and exaggerated. Especially the part where he sent a rookie into the pipe ALONE and then told her she had to cut off the corpse’s hands. UM NO.

          Reply
        3. SusanIvanova

          Halt and Catch Fire is set in the same place and time of computer history that I was a part of as a young female software engineer, and it really was not like that at all.

          Reply
        4. Lisa

          I’m finally watching Criminal Minds, and all I can think when they’re at a crime scene is “Where are your booties?! You’re contaminating the scene! And stop walking all over the place…learn to walk a proper grid!!!”
          NCIS elicits the same reactions…”Yes, Gibbs, I know you need my results, like, yesterday, but that still isn’t going to make this analysis come back any faster.” Or, “How do they get such perfect ridge detail every time they lift a print? Oh, right – because this is TV Narnia!!!! A magical place where my evidence is either perfect or non-existent.” And can someone teach the team to use a scale when taking photos?! Jeez, the way they do it all willy-nilly, the blood drops could be 2mm or 2ft!

          *end rant*

          Reply
      4. Artemesia

        The new show “Brain Dead” does the best job of showing how and why politics doesn’t work as any I have seen. The art of the poison pill is demonstrated in exquisite detail (of course there are zombies involved, but you really don’t need them to explain the obstructionist behavior.)

        Reply
      5. Snarkus Aurelius

        When I had jury duty, we spent an hour listening to the forensics expert explain why getting fingerprints off a surface wasn’t always easy. CSI was cited many times.

        Reply
      6. Tex

        This is going to get buried, but …. there is an Australian show on Netflix called “Dreamland” that is a satire about a government agency for major projects. I can’t speak to the accuracy of the government agency party, but it’s a dead accurate portrayal of major construction projects and the way they go wrong.

        Reply
        1. jesicka309

          Ahh, it’s called Utopia in Australia. Excellent show! I especially love the discussions of a ‘fast train’ – I watched that episode then 2 days later ‘fast trains’ and whether we should have them were in the news, as they do every 6 months to get Australian feeling good about progress.

          Reply
        1. Mike C.

          Yeah, I’ve heard this more than once. I’d certainly be swearing that much if I had to deal with the public on a regular basis like that.

          Reply
    2. Marillenbaum

      THIS THIS THIS. I deal with a lot of Congressional interns, and there is a staggering amount of cluelessness about how legislation works. That’s okay–they’re here to learn!–but I think the shine came off rather quickly when they realized just how un-glamorous the work really is.

      Reply
    3. Bowserkitty

      Soooo….how accurate is BrainDead, then?

      At least in terms of politics between lobbyists. Not the scifi aspect.

      Reply
    4. CMT

      Do you have any recommendations for books about the budget process? I work in a closely related field, close enough that I have a pretty good handle on how things work, but I’d like to learn more about the details. I’m sure there’s tons of stuff I don’t know.

      Reply
      1. Pwyll

        Do a Google search for “CRS Budget Process”. The Congressional Research Service has a few publications on the process, and they’re incredibly detailed and awesome.

        Reply
    5. Pwyll

      To this day I continue to be amazed by the people who think the West Wing walking and talking thing is real life.

      That said, at the highest levels people really do serve at the “pleasure” of the President, and I’ve heard the phrase used in that way in real life. But unless you’ve got the word Secretary in front of your name, you don’t serve at any anyone’s pleasure. Eww, gross.

      Reply
      1. doreen

        Is it really only at the highest levels that people “serve at the pleasure”? I work for a state government, and anyone in a non-civil service job “serves at the pleasure of the appointing authority” . Which is not necessarily the governor- it could be the head of the agency.

        Reply
    6. SJ

      I work for an organization’s president (not government), and he’s often very unrealistic and demanding, so a coworker and I like to tell each other sarcastically that we serve at the pleasure of the president. :)

      Reply
    7. the gold digger

      The shows where someone gets on the ballot by simply deciding to be on the ballot? Instead of spending six weeks going door to door in the district to get 400 to 900 valid nominating signatures from adults who are legal voters? There is nothing at all glamorous about a political campaign. Nothing. It is sheer tedium punctuated by the stress of having to raise money.

      Reply
  10. Myrin

    For some reason, I can’t stop laughing about #4. I’m picturing OP getting up and sitting down at the other side of the table and the candidate picking up her stuff and following her yet again and the mental image of the following a merry-go-round/chase just makes me cackle.

    Reply
    1. Myrin

      Also omg I just realised that the caption to that one read “Close encounters”. I’m losing it here right now. Alison, you’re a comedic in your own right!

      Reply
    2. Megs

      That one reminded me of one of my favorite interviewing stories: the applicant who, while walking back to the office from a lunch interview, got into the same rotating door section as her interviewer on accident. Oh my.

      Reply
      1. Lily in NYC

        Ugh, I went the opposite way in one of those doors that revolve automatically on my first day of work when my boss was giving me a tour. I made such an ass out of myself.

        Reply
    1. the_scientist

      I have silent tears running down my face at my cubicle over #1, so apparently I am also 12. And honestly, if I received that resume and it was (otherwise) good….I’d probably accept it.

      Reply
    2. De Minimis

      I remember when it was originally posted, I am still laughing about it. I will think about it at random moments and have to try to hold back laughter.

      Reply
  11. AdAgencyChick

    So #3 not only demonstrated he’s sexist, he blatantly admitted that he expected *his wife* to fix errors on *his* resume when he is applying for a job that requires *him* to notice and fix other people’s errors?!

    Dead. I am dead. Pick me up off the floor. DEAD.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      In the 1990s, there was a Congressional scandal involving how representatives were overdrawing and using their accounts at the House bank. One congressman made his wife apologize because it was all her fault. (Trying to find his name again but I haven’t managed it.)

      Reply
          1. Agnes

            It was a ginned-up scandal. It had a been a minor perk of the office, and someone decided to make a thing of it.

            Reply
            1. the gold digger

              Perhaps, but the taxpayers get tired of paying for Congress’ gyms and haircuts and overdrafts. It is not a hardship to be a representative of the people. It is a hardship to be a single mother with three kids, cleaning offices at night for minimum wage and not being able to afford to go to the dentist. It is a thing when our elected employees benefit themselves at our expense.

              Reply
  12. irritable vowel

    Frank Underwood…I’m dying. (Not literally, please don’t push me onto the Metro tracks.)

    #1 (or should I say #2): this is why I’m glad I don’t have children. That and the ability to sleep in as late as I want on the weekends.

    Reply
  13. Dr. Ruthless

    This doesn’t rise to the level of any of these, but I got (several!) cover letters with the salutation “Dear Sirs.”

    Nope. Noooooope.

    Reply
    1. Temperance

      I would drop those into the round file, personally. ;)

      My favorite thing ever was when some jerk called wanting free legal advice, and when I shot him down, he demanded to speak to my boss, “the real attorney”. Of course, he did this by asking where HE was. I loved replying that he was speaking to an attorney, and letting him know that my female boss was not going to help him, either.

      Reply
    2. Joanna

      I work in an area of banking where we deal with stacks of letters from lawyers making enquiries on behalf of their clients. It absolutely astounds me how many of them address letters to our department “dear sirs” as though the entire department was male. Women have been working in banking for a long time!

      Reply
    3. Jadelyn

      I get those all the time still, and honestly unless I’m desperate for candidates for that position they go right in the nope pile. Especially since our entire HR team is made up of women except for our VP, and a huge proportion of our managers are women…there’s actually a decent chance that a given candidate may not speak to any men during their hiring process at all. So if you’re going to start off presuming a gender imbalance that we’ve taken pains to NOT have in our organization, you’re not going to be a good fit.

      (Honestly, people, please just stick with “Dear Hiring Manager” if you don’t know the person’s name. It’s gender-neutral, it’s not super stuffy and overly formal, it’s not inappropriately casual, just go with it and save the fancy stuff for after you’re hired.)

      Reply
    4. Chaordic One

      There just isn’t a good salutation for cover letters out there.

      “Dear Sir” or “Gentleman” are definitely dated, sexist, stiff and formal but they do imply a level of respect. “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Hiring Team” come off as awkward at best.

      OTOH, I wouldn’t let the salutation influence me, unless it is something like, “Hey, jerk!”

      Reply
        1. starsaphire

          “To Whom it May Concern” isn’t out of the question, either. Personally I prefer “Dear Hiring Manager” for cover letters and “Dear Sir or Madam” for most other business letters.

          I took typing class in school, back when they taught it on typewriters, and even then we were taught to use “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom…,” never “Gentlemen” or “Sirs.”

          Reply
        2. JessaB

          I think in the future any salutation* that actually acknowledges a more and more irrelevant gender binary is going to become unacceptable. I think “Dear Hiring Manager,” is probably going to become the default.

          * I can never write or say “salutation” without going “salu-WHAT?” giggle.

          Reply
  14. Lauren

    A good friend of mine once interviewed for a high-level administrative state agency job in Sarasota, Florida. (She was their second choice, only behind someone with several years of specialized experience so she interviewed very well.) They had candidates coming in apparently with no time in between so she saw the one before her leave and the one after her arrive. The latter one, a woman probably in her thirties or forties, had dressed in shorts, tee shirt, and sandals!

    Reply
  15. Mena

    My boss’s boss asked me to interview someone he knew from a previous role for an open position on my team; he acknowledged the guy was over qualified but he wanted a shot. In the interview, I asked, “What is it about this position that caught your attention?” just to get things rolling.
    He responded, “My wife ways its time I get a W2 (meaning salaried job).” It went downhill steadily from there.
    The kicker is that he WASN’T over qualified … I needed someone that could execute and he lacked the actual execution experience.
    (Happily, that boss and her boss are in my rear view mirror!)

    Reply
  16. neverjaunty

    I commend LW #11 for respecting the narrative and giving the candidate the opportunity to monologue into the camera.

    I also love the thing where he thought “be silent and let THEM say something next” + steepled fingers was going to be a barn-burning winner. No, fool, you just look pretentious.

    Reply
  17. Aurion

    …I have actually never seen anyone do finger guns in real life. I’ve seen mentions of it on Tumblr, without any explanation of what it’s actually supposed to mean. My phone isn’t cooperating right now and I don’t want to Google it at work.

    What does finger guns actually mean? From the visual alone I’m picturing a wink-wink-nudge-nudge type of obnoxiousness that I would immediately be biased against, but I may be misinterpreting.

    Also, these stories are hilarious.

    Reply
    1. SJ

      you’re right — it’s like a wink-wink “ayyyyyy!!!” kind of thing that you do at someone. I LOVE finger guns, but I’m always 100% joking with them. Men will do them to be cute or flirty.

      Reply
      1. Myrin

        Yeah, I love them as well and do them all the time (although without any “pewpew” kind of noises and without generally exaggerated movements), mostly at my sister though, who makes them right back. We use them in a kind of “Ahaaaaa!” situation, usually. But also sometimes to mean “You’re right” or “Look at you”.

        Reply
    2. Joseph

      Finger guns aren’t a euphemism for obnoxiousness, they are an actual hand motion.
      1.) Make a fist with your hand.
      2.) Stick your pointer finger straight out.
      3.) Move your thumb so it’s on top of the fist and then make it into an “L” shape.
      4.) Look at your hand from the side, it should look vaguely like a gun.
      5.) Now point at something, and make a click/bang sound with your mouth. For extra lameness, you should also wink at the same time.

      Reply
        1. RatintheSugar

          I think it’s like, a reference to the term”hotshot”? Or, like, a wild west cowboy who’s quick on the draw or something?

          I obviously have no idea.

          Reply
        2. Student

          There’s no recognized single meaning, other than “I am pretending that I am holding a gun”. It’s a completely context-dependent hand gesture. It can range from genuinely cute, to attempt-to-be-ingratiating, all the way down to threating-real-violence.

          In this context, it was an attempt to establish dominance, likely overlapping heavily with flirtation.

          Reply
      1. Aurion

        Okay, so it actually is a bit more exaggerated than how I pictured it, but…is it supposed (“supposed”) to be charming? Flirty? Cool? Wink-wink-nudge-nudge? What’s the meaning behind it? Because my first impression of that image is “this person is a tool”. I may be biased.

        SJ above says the intention is to be cute/flirty. Hmm, maybe my cute-radar is malfunctioning.

        Reply
        1. SJ

          I should specify: men ATTEMPT to be cute/flirty with it, when they’re doing it seriously, but they always come off as sleazy and gross.

          Reply
          1. Windchime

            Yeah, it’s kind of what I imagine the stereotypical “used car salesman” from the 70’s wearing plaid pants might do.

            Reply
          2. JessaB

            I think the last time the finger gun looked anything decent was Mal McDowell in Blue Thunder, so I seriously date myself here.

            Reply
        2. Creag an Tuire

          That’s a somewhat exaggerated version, but yeah. Unless you are Arthur Fonzarelli (or Literally Joe Biden), don’t do it.

          Reply
        3. Observer

          Eh, this person IS a tool. I mean “Chicklet” to a stranger and “I’m too IMPORTANT to be polite because *I* get to talk to the BIG BOYS, unlike you little girl.” aren’t things that reasonable people say.

          Reply
    3. Augusta Sugarbean

      Have you seen the movie version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell) is more or less doing that the whole time – even if he isn’t doing actual finger guns, his whole “I’m awesome and you know it babe!” persona can be represented by finger guns. Shorthand, if you will.

      Reply
  18. Edith

    #4. Oh that takes me back to high school. My dad and I flew up to tour the Ivy League school I was interested in. The tour ended with a sit-down meeting with a recruitment officer, but my dad and I were the only ones on the tour that day so it was just the three of us in a room with a huge conference table. Both because it seemed awkward to sit next to the recruiter and because I had a really bad cold at the time, I left two empty chairs between me and the recruiter. My dad was incensed and thought it was incredibly rude of me not to sit right next to the guy.

    Although maybe Dad was right after all– I didn’t get into the school!

    Reply
    1. Angela

      Oh gah. This reminds me of a college entrance interview I had with a local alum. He was not very friendly and really intimidated me. I attended a very large public high school; he asked me, “In a school that big, do you ever feel lost?” To which I answered, “Not really, our halls are color-coded”. I did not get in to that school.

      Reply
  19. Whats In A Name?

    Though not as good as any of the ones above, I once had someone bring in a set of Cutco knives into his interview as a gift. The interview was for a sales job. And NO, he was not a Cutco salesman hoping to wow us with his presentation.

    Reply
      1. Whats In A Name?

        I heard it was an awesome job, actually. Just a little freaked out by the knives to an interview thing.

        Reply
  20. RVA Cat

    # 1 – Dang, Ser Davos can’t catch a break can he? Here’s hoping that Tormund Giantsbane is the hiring manager….

    Reply
  21. MsMaryMary

    Everyone has a friend, acquaintance, or relative who complains that job interviews are impossible and the reason they are unemployed/underemployed, right? Now I’m really wondering if they act like some of these fools. I might start asking, “Well, did you compare yourself to Frank Underwood in the interview? Or any other sociopathic fictional characters?” “Do you blame typos in your resume on your wife? Or has your teenage had access to slip some profanity in your resume?

    Reply
    1. Megs

      I have at times seriously wished I could figure out something that this that’s been sinking me, although it’s hard to imagine reading an interview guide and going “oh, maybe I shouldn’t act like an a-hole to the front desk – that never occurred to me before!”

      Reply
      1. Coolb

        That’s the thing isn’t it, if they were clueless enough to exhibit the behavior they won’t see themselves in the story. I tell my managers that their employees rarely go home and say “Self, I was a loser today. Maybe I shouldn’t act like a d**k at work.” That type always seem offended to be caught out.

        Reply
  22. Anon for this One

    I missed the original thread, so I’ll share this here:

    I was a PhD student and we were hiring new professors in a science field. The professors, in addition to teaching responsibilities, run labs in which the PhD students work on their thesis research. Part of the interview was conducted by a panel of students. On student asked the candidate what he looked for in a PhD student for his lab.

    His response: “I prefer Chinese students because they work harder.” Thankfully the chair of the department took student feedback seriously.

    Reply
    1. Callie

      Haha. Also as a PhD student–I was a TA and I taught a curriculum development class. We were using a text that is perhaps better known in education generally than in our specific field of education but it is still pretty well known (lots of school districts use it). Our department interviewed three people for an open tenure track line and one of the tasks while they were on campus was to do a presentation to my class and then spend some time with individual students and give them feedback on the unit projects they were working on. Only one of the three asked the search committee chair what text we were using and what my syllabus said for the day; the other two showed up, shrugged (one made a comment that it was “just a TA’s class” so it didn’t matter), and talked about themselves instead of giving students feedback.

      The one who actually asked what we were doing in class and made his presentation fit (and gave students actual feedback) was the one who got the job.

      Reply
  23. Nina-Marie

    OMG – I just had a terrible day at work and sitting down and reading these made me cry laughing!!! Toooo Funny – I’ll have to remember that line – “I’m a Frank Underwood kind of guy” LOL!!

    Reply
  24. MissDisplaced

    “So Chicklet, I guess you’re the one who’s going to be taking care of me.” BANG BANG!

    Oh, so very funny. Right out of Mad Men.

    Reply
    1. Ruffingit

      Right?! I just have to wonder who the hell these people are – transplants from the 1950s? Also, how did they get far enough in their careers to qualify for any job with this sort of attitude toward women.

      Reply
  25. De Minimis

    So help me, I’d be tempted to hire someone who listed “Campin’, huntin’, fishin’, and fightin'” as their strengths. They might come in handy.

    Reply
    1. Nanc

      I thought the same thing! What if there’s a natural disaster or a zombie apocalypse and we’re all stuck at the office? Campin’, huntin’, fishin’, and fightin’-guy would be an awesome survival resource.

      Reply
      1. the gold digger

        We were on vacation, renting a cottage far away from town. The power went out for two days. No power, no water because the water was from a well and came via an electric pump. I thought a lot about how I really need to develop my survival skills or I need to become really good friends with people who can hunt and fish.

        Reply
    2. SusanIvanova

      I read Dick Francis’ autobiography many years back – before he wrote mysteries featuring jockeys, he was a top jockey, and before that a WWII pilot. There’s one bit I remember from when he enlisted; they asked what skills he had and he said “huntin’, shootin’, and fishin'” – of course it works much better with a British accent ;)

      Reply
    3. Clever Name

      We’re going to be hiring a temp field biologist position next summer. The fieldwork is boring and crappy. I just might hire someone who said this. ;)

      Reply
  26. Fluffer Nutter

    I now feel soooooo much better about my worst interview SNAFU’s. Not even in the same galaxy as these fine folks.

    Reply
  27. stevenz

    Now Alison, I know you’re entitled to your opinion, based on years of experience, but I have 10 and 11 tied for first because they’re unbelievable. #10 should get the electric chair but that may be too good for him. #11 should be on every government watch list there is.

    Reply
  28. Lisa

    Reminds me of an interview I had back in 2008…when asked if I had any questions, I know one of mine was “Is the coffee good here? Because if the coffee isn’t good then I can’t work here.”

    I got the job, but I think it was because the interviewer knew I was joking. And also probably because I didn’t steeple my fingers and give him a “your move” death stare…

    Reply
  29. FD

    #6 just still makes me laugh so hard. It’s a file clerk job, yet 2/3 of the applicants list themselves as not interested in…filing.

    I certainly understand that filing isn’t exactly inspiring, but you’d think they’d at least give the answer the employer should want to hear!

    Reply
    1. Tweety

      I think they should have been given more options such as slightly interested, very interested and definitely not interested etc.

      Reply
      1. Clever Name

        But why? Why would you consider someone for a job they admit to only being “slightly interested” in?

        Reply
  30. Ruffingit

    PLEASE tell me what happened with #10 when he was introduced to the majority owner in the meeting with “the big boys.”

    Reply
    1. JessaB

      And at that point they probably already failed, because the answer is “the receptionist, the admin, the librarian, the cleaning person, and the mail clerk.”

      Not just because “be very, very kind to those below you on the org chart (although in most companies the librarian would not be)” is important, but because these are the people that actually get stuff DONE that you’re going to need at some point. These are some of the most useful people in the company and on their backs the bosses, and other staff get their jobs done. And they very often if they’ve been there for awhile carry the institutional memory of the place.

      Most people who have to ask that question are likely to have ignored those people already.

      Reply
  31. tab

    “I had was interviewing a candidate for a fundraising position. I asked him to tell me about his previous fundraising experience. This 22 year old human told me about how he sold candy in second grade to fundraise for the school, but he didn’t earn enough to receive a prize but he did “get a few buyers.” I felt bad for him, but also astonished”
    -i don’t get it. Whats so bad about this?

    Reply
      1. Myrin

        Unless you work for the recent OP’s employer who wanted everyone to tell details from their childhood – that candidate would fit right in there, his entrepreneurial spirit clearly showed in second grade already!

        Reply
      2. hbc

        *Unsuccessful* experience from eight years old. That’s what sealed it for me. I could possibly spin something out of a good experience: “I haven’t done much, but I have a personality that is naturally suited to it. Even when I was a kid, I turned up the charm and persuasion to get the highest awards for one of those silly candy-selling fundraisers.” But in this situation, just say “No experience.”

        It’s like applying for a childcare job and saying, “I had a project where we took care of an egg like a baby, and I got marked down for losing the egg, but I still managed to pull a C.”

        Reply
      3. Tab

        Ok, sure. But he was giving an honest answer to the question. He was 22, not a seasoned professional. I guess what I’m trying to say is that a some of these examples aren’t that bad and I wonder why they’re here. Folks have a hard time finding jobs and lack interviewing skills and I don’t think ridiculing them publicly for it, for doing something like giving a less than relevant answer to a question in a job interview, is cool. That’s a really specific story and if I was that guy I would probably know it was me if I read this blog and be mortified. And it’s not just this one – I see examples of this sort of “let’s call out people who did stupid things like wear flip flops to job interviews – who does that?” – with no thought toward the fact that the reason someone might wear flip flops to a job interview/take a call in the bathroom/etc might be because they have no other options. It’s mean. And I don’t believe you are a mean person.

        That guy who blamed his wife for not proofing his resume can bugger right off though.

        PS – you can totally delete this comment; I don’t mind if you don’t post it – i just hope you see it. thanks. you give really good advice.

        Reply
  32. Milton Waddams

    2: Refreshingly honest — someone who would never hide problems. Unfortunately, that comment on-the-record is no good in an office with a CYA culture. I can only hope that he ended up somewhere better.

    3: A good choice — “management by subcontracting” is a huge problem in many companies. You don’t want that introduced to a healthy culture if you can avoid it.

    4: I think I would have enjoyed the novelty — after all, we are basically two people addressing the same problem. I suppose I would not have felt uncomfortable taking notes, because having the candidate understand my thought process helps them address any concerns I might have.

    5: Is there any chance that he was temping as a bathroom attendant? :-)

    6: This is just bad HR — filing is a tool, not a passion. My guess is that many of the rejects were simply being honest, while many of the forwards were trying to present themselves as eager beavers who just love the smell of photocopier toner.

    8: I’d be proud too — clearly the interviewer is not a golfer, nor someone who believes that success is a mixture of skill and chance.

    10: That’s just awful — sounds like someone watched too many episodes of Mad Men.

    Reply
    1. Amtelope

      Re #6: if the job is 100% filing, you’d better be interested in filing, not necessarily in the sense of “this is my life’s passion,” but in the sense of “I am interested in doing this job for some reasonable amount of time” (versus “I need a job, but I am planning to spend a lot of my time at work looking for something more interesting to do than the thing I was hired to do.”) There are people who like filing. If you want a filing job, it’s in your best interests to at least pretend to be one of them.

      Reply
      1. JessaB

        Not to mention depending on the job filing is not just sticking papers into folders. It could be anything from that to managing a room full of evidence boxes, or museum specimens. Some filing systems are incredibly complicated even just for paper, and involve not just filing papers but making sure all the applicable papers are present and in the agreed upon order or even knowing that you have to make a copy of this because it goes in three different places.

        And while museum specimens/evidence boxes are usually managed by people with degrees in the subject matter or in the case of evidence sworn officers or city clerks, the actual physical making sure item x is in box y doesn’t necessarily have to be.

        Reply
    2. UnCivilServant

      2: We have to make a record of changes made and for certain levels require buy-in from impacted parties. In IT, a ‘loose cannon’ could very well cause a lot of problems for end uers and unintended consequences for rogue modifications. This is a very bad trait to have in the role.

      3: Also, if you’re applying for an editing position and din’t personally edit your resume, how can you expect to do the job? Lastly, it proves poor management of delegated tasks due to a complete lack of follow-up.

      4: I would not agree on it being a positive. I’m trying to have a face-to-face discussion in an interview, not a shoulder-to-shoulder one where most of the candidates nonverbal cues are obscured by the positioning.

      5: I keep hearing such a job exists, but it just strikes me as creepy and inappropriate to even have such a position. Given the relative rarity of the post, it’s more probable that the initial assumption was correct.

      6: I agree. Filing is not something people have a passion for and most people who claim an ‘interest’ are just answering what they think the employer wants to hear. Honesty is important. I’d be more interested in the candidate who said “I understand that the job duties may not be the most exciting in the world, but I am going to carry them out to the best of my ability”

      8: Nothing to add.

      10: I don’t think that behaviour can be attributed to the media. Pretty much every study shows very poor correlation between fictional depictions and real-life. (Some categories actually show a negative correlation)

      Reply
      1. SarahTheEntwife

        I agree that it can be annoying that you have to demonstrate Great Passion for job duties when “I am totally willing to work hard at this even if it’s not my life purpose” is really all the job needs. But there are people who like filing! I’m a librarian, and my particular area of expertise basically boils down to really complicated filing. I find it geekily fascinating, and I even like doing more basic organizational stuff as it’s somehow kind of meditative. I did a bunch of short-term office temping right after college and if it paid enough to live on I would totally do it long-term — it turns out that “sweep in and fix this company’s backlog of paperwork like the world’s dorkiest superhero” is something I’m really good at and find incredibly satisfying.

        Reply
  33. Photoshop Til I Drop

    #1 I can’t fathom having the nerve to mess with my parents’ livelihood. My backside would have been black and blue if I pulled something like that.

    Reply
      1. Zweisatz

        No, that doesn’t mean a child deserves physical punishment because no child ever does. A stern talking-to is justified though.

        Reply
        1. Observer

          A stern talking to?! Seriously?????

          That’s a good way to turn a normal kid into a psychopath. I’m not really being flippant. I’m not necessarily saying that corporal punishment is the solution. But, if the best you can do in response to behavior this egregiously out of line is a “talking to”, no matter how “stern”, you are giving a clear message to the child about their behavior. And, it is NOT a message that encourages any of the character traits or behaviors that make for a decent person.It does encourage behavior that is self-centered to the point of narcissism and utterly irresponsible.

          Also, this was NOT a child. Yes, it is to be expected that teen agers don’t always act with the best of judgement, and their impulse control is not always all that it should be. But this goes WAAAAY beyond that.

          Reply
  34. Big McLargeHuge

    I read #10 and all I could think of was Shooter McGavin from Happy Gilmore…and it makes this read so much more hilariously.

    Reply
  35. Katie Richardson

    From a HR friend when asking about his career path during an interview: ” I am legitimately upset that I’m not a wizard”

    Reply

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